Dear Dad,

What to say? It's been years since I wrote you, and I wouldn't blame you if you chose to crumple this letter and toss it aside without reading it. I know Mum doesn't write, and I'm sorry to say this is the first letter I've sent you—a fact I'm sure hasn't escaped your notice. Silence is a difficult tradition to break. Nevertheless, I felt I must share an important bit of news with you, news I can't keep to myself:

I'm getting married.

Did that shock you? I apologize. Maybe I should have told you sooner. Maybe I should have written years ago, with letter after letter about my life and what I've been up to and why I chose this career over that one and how Asteria and I are doing. Then again, you never had time for that sort of thing before; what difference would a life sentence in Azkaban make?

Part of me wants to cross that out—the part that wants to keep this letter cheerful and upbeat, hiding the pain and bitterness you caused. The little boy that idolized you tugs at my sleeve. "Don't say that," he tells me. "You'll hurt his feelings. You'll make him mad."

Another part of me says to leave it. The frightened teenager who hid in his room, who scarcely dared to leave for fear of having some small mistake noticed and reported to the Dark Lord, stands behind me and folds his arms. "Leave it," he says. "'Bout time he heard the truth. He might even listen this time."

Then Asteria enters the room.

"May I read that?" she asks, then takes the parchment without awaiting permission. A soft, sad smile curls her lips, and for a moment, I'm convinced she knows I'm not alone. She sees the child pleading beside the desk, the teenager glaring from the corner. Not for the first time, she sides with the latter. "Leave it," she says, handing me the unfinished letter. "He needs to know."

"You tell him, then."

"No, dear. You need to tell him."

"Why me?"

She smiles again. "Secrets only have power when they're left in the dark. Shed a little light on them and see what happens."

Far be it from me to argue with her. Not because I fear what she'll do—I've never had to—but because, like many wives, she's usually right. So I let the sentence in question remain. The child looks at the floor, and the teenager's eyes sparkle; the child has been disappointed once again, while the teenager has won a rare victory.

I know she's right. I need to tell you the truth, as much as you need to hear it. So I suppose I should start at the beginning. I should describe my future wife to you, and be as thorough as possible.

She's beautiful. I know you can see it in the picture I included, but I need to say it. A picture can't capture who she is; it can only show a tiny moment in time, a snapshot of her loveliness. Perhaps I'm going overboard with the descriptions, but I love her.

Love. Not exactly forbidden in our circle, but not a prerequisite for marriage, either. I know I'm breaking tradition, choosing my own partner, but both Mum and her parents gave their blessing when we made the announcement. Mum adores her, and her parents insist I address them the way their daughter does: as Mother and Dad. I'm honored that they already consider me their son, but I must admit it's odd having a second set of parents. Her sister, Daphne, is polite and friendly, but not overly so.

By now I'm sure you've made the connection between the three Asterias: the one who tutored me in the Cruciatus Curse, the one who stood beside me as I challenged the Dark Lord, and the one I am about to marry. They are the same person, as you might have guessed; and different though they may seem, they are all part of the same personality.

I know you have questions, the biggest of which is, "Why did you choose her? Why would you choose a Ravenclaw, when her father sent me to Azkaban?" To answer that, I'll have to go back to the beginning. I'll have to tell you my story—our story—from the start of my seventh year at Hogwarts, her fifth. Before I start, you have to know something about that year: It was the worst year of my life.

The previous year was bad enough, trying to complete a task I was expected to fail. But Hogwarts was still Hogwarts, a somewhat safe haven with teachers who didn't yet know what I was. Only a few of my fellow Slytherins knew I'd taken the Mark, and I'd sworn them to secrecy. Potter suspected, but he just followed me around, trying to learn what I was up to. The fear I lived with was hidden behind a veil.

After the Ministry fell, however, the veil disappeared. All the terror came out into the open, manifesting itself into three forms: Aunt Bella at home, and the Carrows at school. No matter how I tried, I could never escape. One or the other was always there, scrutinizing my every move, and quick to inform me when I made a mistake. That helpful hint usually took the form of a beating, followed by a Glamor Charm to hide the bruises.

Did you know? Or did you deliberately hide from the evidence pointing in that direction?

Few people knew. I never told anyone. Mum is just now learning the details, and each new story makes her want to pay a visit to Azkaban so she can give the Carrows a taste of her anger. If you've heard about a campaign to place dementors around the worst offenders—namely, the Carrows—you can be sure Mum is leading the charge.

But Asteria knew. Of course, she didn't see everything. But she saw enough, and she knew that she'd seen only a glimpse of what was going on. Most who witnessed what she did would have assumed each incident was isolated. They wouldn't have thought there was more. Death Eaters are allies, after all. Allies don't abuse their own.

Asteria knew that wasn't the case. She claims it's a gift, being so perceptive. She used it during that awful year, and she successfully kept most of Dumbledore's Army safe from the Carrows, while building up her reputation as a talented torturer. That she enjoyed the Cruciatus Curse was one of the few lies she ever told. I don't think she ever actually performed the curse; she had become quite adept at faking it.

But I'm jumping ahead. I should go back to the beginning, when I first met her. Only then can you understand what she meant to me, and what she means to me now. I didn't meet her until shortly before the Christmas holidays, but she noticed me long before that. Unlike the other members of the DA, she knew there was more to my story than she could see. Shortly before Christmas, she found out what it was.


Sorry if that ending seemed a tad abrupt. I plan to continue it in the next chapter, from Asteria's viewpoint.