Guardian of Azarath, U-233: The issue with Jen cursing Voldemort using his soul jar right now is that, when using sympathetic magic offensively, the piece of the victim one uses is generally destroyed in the process. Jen doesn't want to use up her single sample of Voldie's soul when he still has others lying around that would allow him to be reborn again. In addition, ritual magic relies heavily on the time of year, and at this point in time white magic and the Light Powers are still ascendant, so she runs the very large risk of having her ritual fail and suffering the subsequent backlash if she tries anything now. She'd wait until at least after the autumnal equinox, when the Light Powers have lost enough strength and the Dark Powers have gained enough that dark magic has the upper hand.

Besides, I have other plans for it in the not-too-distant future…

Special shoutout to Ranch14 for being Black Princess Ascendant's 1,000th reviewer! Also, this is your mandatory "squick alert". The last scene isn't exactly nice.

Disclaimer: Were multiple electives scheduled for the same time period, inconveniencing everyone who was not vital to the plot and therefore did not have access to a Time-Turner? If so, I don't own the Harry Potter franchise; it belongs to J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Press, Warner Bros., and whoever else she sold the rights to.

Chapter 15
Defending One's Self-Interests

"Finally that class is going to get fun!"

"Yes, Morag, we know. You've only said it five times since we left Runes," Jen sighed with a roll of her eyes. She could understand the Scottish girl's enthusiasm – memorizing a bunch of foreign symbols was incredibly boring if one did not also learn how to use them – but enough was enough. The whole class had been happy that Babbling would at long last teach how to activate the runes they drew, yet she did not see any of them other than Morag harping on about it.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, though? After all, Elsie showed me how to use the Futhark runes when she was teaching them to me, so this isn't something new and exciting for me. Because a sizable portion of the class apparently did not continue on with Ancient Runes in their NEWT years, it made sense that they would be instructed on the practical aspects of the class; it was not something they had to know for the exam, but it would entice some who were still debating about it to return the following year. It was probably the same reason they spent their fifth year learning Egyptian hieroglyphs, the principle language for erecting wards. Thinking on the matter for another moment, she mentally shrugged. Then again, I do have something to look forward to. If everyone is practicing turning on their rune scripts, it will give me an excuse to practice without having to sneak around on my own time, even if that does take half the fun out of it.

"There's no need to be mean, Jen," Luna chastised. "We understand that you aren't looking forward to our next class, but you shouldn't take it out on us. We weren't the ones who hired your father."

"My sincerest apologies."

Padma – who, not taking Runes, had joined up with them a few minutes earlier from the library – and Morag both snickered at the sarcasm dripping from her words, and she waved for one of them to open the door to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Stepping inside, she fought to keep her surprise from showing.

When Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody taught the previous year, the room had been organized much like all the others in the school: tables wide enough to seat two arranged in neat rows and chairs behind them facing the front of the room, where there had been a desk the grizzled man had sat at while he lectured to them. Now, however, the desks were gone, the chairs lined up against the walls, and in the middle of the otherwise empty space was a large, low-slung table, with a couple of inches of sand held between the walls reaching above the surface. Interestingly, the sand was soaked through with magic, and poking at the fabric of the spell, she admitted in the privacy of her own mind it was an intriguing setup. The grains had been charmed to stick together without needing water to moisten them, not enough to form a solid surface, but if she were in the mood, she was sure she could create a truly awesome sand castle.

Other students had already arrived and started choosing seats, naturally dividing themselves so that Lions were on one side of the room and Ravens on the other. Jen and her contingent joined their housemates, and after that it was just a matter of waiting for the next several minutes as the rest of their class trickled in and ignoring that not a few of the Gryffindors were periodically shooting her icy looks. She almost shook her head in disappointment; did they think she had not already realized they were displeased with her?

And more importantly, did they think she really cared?

The clock rang two, yet their illustrious teacher failed to appear. One minute passed, then two, and other Ravenclaws glanced at each other in concern. Before he could make an even worse impression to the assembled fifth-years, James Potter threw the door to his office open and gave them all a sheepish smile. "Sorry about that, folks; there were some last-minute things I had to do that couldn't wait.

"So," he said, clapping his hands together, "welcome to Defense Against the Dark Arts. In some ways, this is the most important class you will take in Hogwarts; Herbology and Charms and Astronomy are all well and good, and I have to give Transfiguration its due, but if you ever wind up facing someone who wants you hurt or, Merlin forbid, even dead, it is the things you take from this class that will save your skin.

"And there's the exams at the end of the year that you want to do well on, too," he added as an afterthought.

Jen did not even try to keep her eyes from rolling at that, and she easily felt the disgruntled fidgeting from the rest of her house. It's not a bad speech, she had to admit, even if only to herself, but it loses something when it seems targeted to the Gryffindors in particular. Now that honor duels are outlawed, most people go their entire lives without ever having to take up a wand to defend themselves; examined from that light, the exams that he's essentially blowing off are far more important than really learning to fight.

"Because of all that, this class is going to be a bit different than what you're used to. We'll work on learning the various spells you'll need for the OWL, of course, but most of our time is going to be spent on tactics." The sand in the platform sprang to life, forming two little sandmen, one red and one black, inside a narrow corridor. The black model crept closer to the red one's back and raised a small protrusion of sand that Jen supposed was meant to represent a wand, but then the red caricature whirled around and jabbed its own wand at the walls hemming them in. A third wall grew into place between the two, allowing the red man to escape to the end of the path unmolested.

"Now, most of our discussions will be a little more detailed than this, of course," James said with a gleaming grin as he waved his wand and dissolved the models, "but this is a good example of what we'll be doing. I have a number of real, historical scenarios that we'll run through; some of them are from the war with You-Know-Who, some are from the Grindelwald war, and there are various others from major conflicts across the globe. We'll be looking at what the valiant heroes did to defend themselves and their charges, what plans worked, and – more importantly – what didn't work.

"I know this is nothing like what you've ever done before, but I thought it would be good for all of you to start thinking about what all you can do with magic instead of going through the same things over and over again without ever considering how you'd apply them in real life," he concluded with a shrug. "Are there any questions?"

Stephen Cornfoot raised a hand, and when James nodded at him, he asked, "While this is new and exciting and all, I can't help but think it a bit… odd. It's almost like you want to prepare us to fight, but why? We're not in the middle of a war or anything."

And once again, I'm reminded that there's a reason that Ravenclaw is the house of the intelligent, Jen thought with a hidden smile. That truly was an insightful question, and it was appropriate for the third in their year to realize that something was up, even if he didn't have access to the same information that the Blacks and the Order of the Phoenix did. Now, how is Potter going to answer it?

James frowned a bit. "Not right now, at least." When the class began muttering, he elaborated, "You remember the attack on the World Cup summer before last, right? When the Dark Mark was seen again for the first time since all of you were babies?" Cornfoot, along with most others in the room, nodded. Even she, who was not a fan of Quidditch, had heard about that; it happened only a week before the start of the previous school year, and Sirius had been extremely antsy immediately afterwards. Perhaps that was the real reason why her entire family had insisted on escorting her to the Hogwarts Express. "That scared a lot of people, and it got some of us wondering if there's another war building on the horizon. I hope it was just a bunch of crazies reliving their glory days and not a prelude to something worse, but I'd rather be paranoid than be unprepared if an attack does come.

"Anything else?" No one spoke, apparently quailed by his blunt logic, and he nodded before waving his wand again. The sand shuddered and formed several buildings and a number of tiny golems in the same red and black color scheme he had used previously. "All right, then. The first scene we'll look at is from early on in the Grindelwald war, in May of 1939 to be exact. Here, the first company of the German Kampfmagier is about to begin their invasion of Poland's main magical town, located just outside Warsaw…"

"And that's all the time we have for today," James said as the bell rang. "We'll pick up with this discussion when we meet again on Friday."

He halted his little sand puppets as the Germans were just about to take possession of the Polish Ministry building; the fifth-years did not get quite as far along in the presentation as the sixth-years had the period before them, but they weren't too far behind, either, and it wasn't as if he had a strict schedule he had to adhere to. Several of the students from both houses had asked insightful questions, and that was better than them just staring at him blankly like he did with most of his own Defense professors when he had been a student.

The only bad thing about today? The one person he had wanted to speak up more than anyone else had remained stubbornly silent.

"Ms. Black?" Jenny went still at his call, and several of the blue-trimmed students glanced quickly between him and her. "Could you please stay behind for a moment?"

She resumed packing her bag, though at a slower pace than previously. Danny shot him a concerned look, and he motioned for his son to go ahead and leave. This was probably going to be difficult enough with just him and his daughter; no need to have Danny stay and see it even if he didn't accidentally make things worse.

Though it might not make much of a difference, a traitorous part of his mind whispered to him as it reminded him about what Lily had said just before he left the Longbottom's house. Maybe this is a bad idea, after all?

Before he could risk talking himself out of this, the room emptied, soon leaving only him and his daughter. She drew her wand and aimed it at the closed door, probably casting some privacy spell or another. It was a good thing she hadn't taken the opportunity to curse him; at that moment, seeing her wand in her hand, it finally hit him how much of her life he had missed, opportunities he would never have again. Praising her for her bouts of accidental magic, teaching her how to ride a broom and play Quidditch, watching her face light up as a wand chose her…

Raising her to be a Potter.

"Was there something you wanted to speak to me about regarding today's class, Professor?" she asked in a cold voice, not at all what any father wanted to hear from his own child.

Shaking his head to get rid of his uncharacteristic distractedness, he said, "No, it wasn't anything to do with class—"

"Then I have no particular reason to stay here, do I?"

She turned to move towards the door. "Please, wait. Just talk to me, Jenny."

"You know, I seem to recall quite explicitly telling you never to call me that," the girl snarled, whipping around to send an icy glare at him from her disturbing purple eyes. For the first time, James was actually glad that her eyes were not still green; he would be hurting even more than he already was if he had to face Lily's emeralds glittering so hatefully at him. Not even when they were kids had his wife ever given him the look he was now receiving. "That is not my name anymore."

"Yes it is! I don't understand why you're so against even acknowledging who you are!"

"I know exactly who I am!" she screamed back at him. "I'm Jennifer Black, heir to the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black! If you wanted to raise 'Jenny Potter', you shouldn't have thrown her away like so much rubbish! That girl is dead, and she's never coming back!"

"You can call yourself whatever you want, but that doesn't change the fact that you're still my daughter! Still part of my House!" Didn't she understand? Even if she had somehow convinced the Ministry to forge the records to make her a Black – or paid the goblins to use dark magic on her, as Augusta was so sure they had done – she still had him listed as her father. She was still subconsciously reaching out. Why then did she refuse to understand that he was willing to give her place in the family back to her?

She sneered at him, an ugly expression that should never be on her face. "In that case, if your son kicks the bucket without issue, I'll make sure to transfer your gold to our vaults with all the solemnity it deserves. That's the full extent of the interactions I wish to have with your House."

"You don't mean that," he shot back. Even as angry as she was, she could never be that cruel. Not even Malfoy's poisoned words could distort her true nature that badly.

"I think between the two of us, I know better than you what I mean." She grabbed the doorknob and yanked the door open, showing him the girls waiting outside. "Let's avoid having these kinds of talks in the future, Professor Potter."

Luna pursed her lips as she watched her two new yearmates press their ears against the classroom door. "I don't think that's going to work."

"Shh!" Padma chided, waving a hand to reinforce her demand. "I don't want to miss it."

The blonde sighed and tapped her foot for a few seconds, at which point Morag turned to the Indian girl and whispered, "I can't hear anything."

"Neither can I," Padma agreed.

"Maybe because she always uses silencing charms when she's discussing something personal?" The pair of girls looked at her and then each other before groaning in unison. "And should we really be trying to listen to what they're saying, anyway? I don't think she'd appreciate it."

Morag nodded. "Yeah, but how often does she tell us the really personal stuff about herself? And if nothing else, how are we supposed to know if we, being her friends, should run interference to keep them apart or press her to give him a chance if we don't know how they interact?"

"Other than what she said this morning about not being willing to forgive him for whatever it was he said?" she pressed.

"Oh, yeah. Forgot about that."

The door chose that moment to fling open, and the two eavesdroppers scurried back a few steps to look less like they were doing exactly what they had been doing. They need not have bothered, however; Jen was not even looking at them, her attention focused entirely on her father. "Let's avoid having these kinds of talks in the future, Professor Potter." Spinning around, the black-haired girl stormed off, leaving the wizard to stare blankly at the now-empty doorway.

Luna looked to the Scottish girl, who needed no prompting. "Okay, so we shouldn't try pushing them together to get over their issues. Got it."

The fuming heiress seemed completely unaware of them as they followed her down a number of halls leading to a disused portion of the castle. She finally threw open a random door and stomped inside to glare angrily, hatefully at the blank wall in the back. Luna could not help but remember at that point something her father had once told her about her mother, how when her mum was in a snit she would conjure vases and then hex them until she felt better. Jen had made it clear over the past year that she had a bit of a violent streak, undoubtedly inherited from her own mother, so maybe she was the same way?

It certainly couldn't hurt to try; never had she ever seen her best friend be quite this enraged.

Whispering the incantation, Luna conjured a blue and white urn on top of the desk to Jen's left, the vase identical to one in her house. It only took a moment for Jen to realize it was there, and she immediate picked it up and hurled it at the far wall before starting to scream.

"Sa fukin bata! Si touye l 'pa ta mennen toudwat tounen nan m ', mwen ta chire po li koupe ak moso lapòs nan l 'tounen lakay li nan li! Bouskile ralonj l 'anndan kè l ', li mete dife ladan l '! Vire l 'nan yon sourit ak manje l 'nan yon koulèv! Jis ban m 'yon rezon ki fè nou debarase m mond lan nan ou!"

Well, that was different, the blonde witch thought as she glanced at Morag and Padma, both of whom looked just as confused as she felt. Being amateur world-travelers, she and her father had gone to many lands and heard many tongues, but the one Jen was yelling in was not one she could place off the top of her head. Angry as it was, it was still quite pretty. I wonder what language that was. And perhaps a better question: where did she learn it?

Jen slapped one hand on her face and sighed. "Apre sa mèsi Baron la yo pa konnen kreyòl." Turning to look at them, the girl muttered, "Okay, I'm better now."

"You sure? I'm sure we could give you a few more things to throw around if you need them," Padma replied with a weak grin.

"No, no, I'm fine. I just had to get that out of my system."

Morag nodded. "Okay, good. Now what the hell was that all about? None of us could understand a word of it."

"That's… probably a good thing," Jen admitted with a reluctant grimace. "It wasn't exactly something I would be comfortable repeating in English."

"Well, from the sound of it, I'm guessing that there's less of a chance of you two reconciling than there was this morning?"

Jen snorted at Padma's droll question. "Yeah, we've definitely crossed into negative probabilities at this point. Honestly, if the 'Defense curse' you told me about is a real thing and wound up with him dead at the end of the year, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with any tears."

The other Ravens shared a disturbed look. What words could the father-daughter pair have possibly exchanged in that classroom?

Cedric sighed in bliss as the warm bath relaxed his muscles and washed all his tension away. This first week back had been just as stressful as he expected it to be, what with the teachers pushing the seventh-years even harder and faster than he remembered them doing for the OWL exams. Add onto that working with his fifth-year Quidditch co-captain, who the following year would be the sole Hufflepuff captain, on new plays and strategies for the upcoming season and organizing the Chaser try-outs, and he felt that he deserved an opportunity to decompress.

Nearby, Viola Pucey and Benjamin Adams sighed in response, as if expressing similar opinions.

The door banging open jolted them out of their half-asleep comfort, and three pairs of eyes watched an obviously furious Jen Black stalk into the prefects' bathroom. Without sparing them a single glance, she crossed the room to the lockers and changing rooms on the opposite side from the portrait and vanished behind the girls' curtain. After a moment, Viola wondered aloud, "She does know that we're here, doesn't she?"

Cedric could only shrug. While the bath was open to any of the prefects, the fifth-years rarely – in fact, almost never – took advantage of the enormous tub, and even then it was only at times when no one else would be present. He himself had been an 'early-bloomer' in that regard, as his desire for stress relief in the final weeks of fifth year immediately prior to and during the OWL exams had overridden his shyness about being seen in the buff by the older girls. Most other prefects waited until their sixth year to bathe with others around, and some individuals never shared the tub over their entire tenure.

A minute later, the subject of their curiosity exited the changing room, completely nude except for a white towel slung over one shoulder, and he was immensely thankful for the thick carpet of bubbles hiding everything below his chest from view. They were prohibited from having sex in the bath, but no rule ever conceived could stop a guy's natural reaction to watching a naked girl walk towards him. She gave the two Slytherins a quick nod and him a hint of a smile before dropping the towel onto the floor and slipping into the tub. Popping her head back out through the suds, she remarked idly, "It's deeper than I expected."

"Yes, it's more like a… What did Garraway call it?" Viola muttered to herself. "A 'pool', I think? Like a pond, but cleaner."

"Well, it certainly explains why you two implied that there was only one tub. I have to admit that I had wondered if this place was like a Roman bath or if all the prefects just got really friendly," the other witch remarked with a snicker.

Looking at the younger girl laying back with her eyes closed, Cedric was almost reluctant to ask, "So what had you so up in arms when you came in?"

"My 'father' being an utter bastard to me. Nothing new."

The three older students shared a confused look. "You think you could explain that a little better?" Adams finally prompted.

She sighed. "After class on Monday, he had me stay behind, and we… had a bit of a shouting match. He refuses to understand that I have no desire to abandon my House and join his. I have no desire to have anything to do with him, in all honesty. By the Baron, if there were a way to disown one's parents, I'd gladly do it and save myself trouble in the future."

"'By the Baron'," Viola slowly repeated, a curious frown adorning her features. "That's an unusual phrase. Most people swear to Merlin."

"It's just something my nurse said all the time when I was growing up," Jen dismissed with a negligent wave of her foam-covered hand. "The way she used it most often was probably 'By the Baron, Jen, if you were any more hard-headed, I'd rent you out as a hammer'." Once their chuckles died down, she continued, "Anyway, I want nothing to do with him or his House, and he just refuses to leave me alone."

The Snakes nodded at that, leaving Cedric puzzled at their casual acceptance of her statement. He offered, "Maybe I'm missing something, but is it possible that he just wants to get to know his daughter? You know, the one he didn't even know existed before this summer?"

"I'd consider that a possibility if the first thing he said to my Head of House after finding out wasn't that he should erase my memory and dump me back into the Muggle world," she replied in a dead tone, causing him to blanch. "After that particular rejection, you can perhaps understand why I'm not feeling inordinately fond of him at the moment, especially as his current attitude is that I need someone to come and 'fix' me."

That's… wow. As a just Badger through and through, he generally tried to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and listen to both sides of the story, but there were few things he could think of that would excuse a father saying something like that. If that's how he treats her, I can't exactly blame her for wanting to keep her distance from him. Does he blame her for being proof of his dalliance with Lestrange, which I'm sure most people would want to keep secret, or is his problem with her solely that she's illegitimate? He wouldn't be the first lord who tried to bury the issue of his bastard child even after she was already known to the world at large.

Adams nodded slowly. "Okay, I doubt anyone would blame you for wanting away from him if that's the way he's treating you, but it still doesn't explain why you were in a huff when you got here."

"Thank you, I completely lost my train of thought. Since Monday went so well, I expected him to pull something again today, and he delivered spectacularly. He's now spending the entire year's worth of class periods with that little sandbox of his, so if we want to learn the spells we need to know for the OWL – you know, the actual point of the class? – we have to come to a 'tutoring session' every Tuesday evening. Five sickles says he's going to use it as an excuse to confront me over and over again."

"I hate to tell you this, but not everything's about you." Jen finally opened her eyes at that and gave the Head Girl a flat stare, to which the elder witch smirked. "He's doing that same thing for our year on Wednesdays."

"Sixth-years have him on Thursdays."

"Yes, thank you for that fascinating detail, Adams." Both Cedric and Jen smiled a bit at Viola's dry retort. "Sure, he may do exactly what you think he's going to do while he has the opportunity, but I doubt you're his entire reason for arranging his after-hours instruction. It was probably Dumbledore or McGonagall jumping onto him for not planning to teach us anything important and instead spending the whole year on his 'here's how you properly take down a dark wizard' kick. If I ever found myself around an angry dark wizard, the first thing I'd do is Apparate the hell out of there and Floo-call the Aurors, just like anyone who isn't a foolhardy Gryffindor would do."

"…That does make me feel a little bit better about it, strangely enough," the younger girl finally replied.

Cedric nodded. "Besides, if you're that adamant that you don't want to go, you could always have your friends show you what they covered that night. It gives them extra practice, and you don't have to deal with your father. Win-win."

They were quiet after that, at least until Adams commented, "So, Black, you a Tornadoes fan by any chance?"

"Oh, Merlin, not this again," he laughed, the girls choosing to grumble instead. With the ice broken, they continued discussing much lighter topics until it was time to get out and dress for dinner.

With a sharp lurch, Rita felt herself be pulled from a sound sleep to sudden wakefulness. Had someone cast an Ennervate on her? She tried to rise from her bed, but her eyes widened in panic as she failed to move her arms or legs from their outstretched positions. A glance at her wrists confirmed her fears: someone had broken into her house and tied her to her bed frame. She screamed, "Help! Someone! Help!"

"Ah-ah-ah," a soft voice chided. "Don't bother calling for anyone to come and save you. I already laid silencing charms over all the doors and windows." The speaker stepped closer to the foot of her bed, and though the darkness and lack of glasses made her vision quite blurry, she could just make out someone in a hooded black cloak. Her rhinestone-rimmed spectacles floated over to perch upon her nose, but the improved view did little to raise her spirits.

"Do you have any idea who I am?!" she barked, hoping that a little bravado would scare the burglar away, even though she knew her being tied up and in her nightgown likely kept her from being an imposing sight. The ropes would not be an issue once she could safely change into her beetle form, but she would rather not do that where anyone could see. Being an Animagus was one of the keys to her success, and it would be much less useful if word got out about it. "I am—"

"Rita Skeeter, journalist for the Daily Prophet, muck-raker, and an overall pain in the arse. Yes, I'm quite aware of who you are." The intruder pulled down the hood of the cloak, revealing dark curls and cruel purple eyes. "Since I'm here for you, it would be a major disappointment for me to have broken into the wrong flat."

Looking at the other witch's face, it did not take long for her to place it. "Black, what an unpleasant surprise," she crowed. She knew revealing the truth about Bellatrix Lestrange's daughter would set the cat amongst the pixies, but for it to cause the girl herself to try intimidating her? That was beyond her wildest imaginings. "This was a huge mistake, girlie. I wonder how the public will react to hearing that the child of a Death Eater sneaks about at night breaking into people's houses? They'll be calling for your head before noon!"

"Oh, silly Rita. What makes you think you're going to tell anyone anything about this?" the brat giggled, pulling a pair of steel shears from inside her cloak and giving them a few experimental snips.

She scoffed. "Look, you might be able to intimidate schoolchildren with your mother's name, but I've dealt with more powerful and much scarier people than you. Untie me right now, and maybe I won't press charges."

"More powerful? Perhaps, depending on your definition of 'power'. Scarier?" Black smiled. "I doubt it." Rita felt something cold press against the smallest toe of her left foot. "Now, I have some questions, and if you're smart, you'll answer them quickly and honestly."

"And if I don't?" she taunted.

Snikt. The cold against her skin vanished, and she opened her mouth to jeer when the pain hit. She shrieked and tried to jerk her injured foot towards her, the rope holding her limb fast. Black snickered and tossed something small and pink onto her chest, and Rita screamed even louder as she stared at the tip of her own toe.

"Oh, do shut up. There are 218 bones in the human body; you've only lost one, and arguably the least useful one, at that." Rita's breath caught when she felt the cold touch of the girl's scissors return, this time on the second toe of her other foot, and Black continued, "So, are you willing to talk?"

"Please, I'll do what you want," the reporter gasped, futilely pulling against the ropes binding her to the bed. "Just please don't hurt me."

She had faced off against Ministry department heads, Dumbledore, and most perilous of all, members of the Wizengamot. She had withstood lawsuits, blackmail attempts, and character assassination. But no one had ever gone so far as to torture her before.

"Excellent. First question: who told you about my heritage?"

"Lord Parkinson. I don't know how he got the information," she lied. If she sent the girl at another lord, maybe he'd kill her, or at least send the DMLE after her. If nothing else, it'd get the bitch away from her.


Crying and wailing, she could only watch in horror as a second toe landed close to the first. "Don't lie to me, Rita dear. I'll know, and each time you do…" The metal shears ghosted up and down the sole of her foot until Black stabbed her with them, giving them a sharp twist to increase the agony even more before pulling the blades back out. "Your punishment will get worse. Now, who told you about my heritage?"

"It was in your file in the Hall of Records! I was looking for what you did to the old farts in the Wizengamot that stirred them up when I saw it!"

"I see." Black tapped her lips with the bloodied scissors for a moment. "So it was just your curiosity, and then your lack of self-preservation instincts. I was honestly expecting you to just be one little cog in a much larger machine."

What is she talking about?, Rita wondered fearfully at the strange words before she realized the truth. Dear Merlin, she's insane!

"I'm actually rather disappointed, though I suppose it's a good thing. The fewer bodies I leave in my wake, the less chance anyone will trace it back to me."

Bodies?! Her safety was far more important than her secrets; Rita forced herself to relax the tiniest bit and let her body crumple into a small blue beetle. She then shrieked shrilly as what felt like a lightning bolt smashed into her and stretched her back out to human form.

"And you're an Animagus, too?" Black's grin could have caused even a Death Eater to wet himself in terror. "Well, now, I suppose this means I definitely need to take care of you sooner rather than later.

"I told you what you wanted to know! Please don't kill me! I'll do anything!" she begged.

"Kill you? Not at all. You, sweetie, are going to help me out. You'll search for information on whomever I want, whenever I want it, and without complaining or revealing your allegiance."

"I promise. I won't let you down," she said. Anything that would get this monster in human skin to leave her alone. Then she would call the DMLE and seek their protection.

"Hm? Oh, I wasn't offering you a bargain." Black twitched her already outstretched hand, and despite the lack of wand, Rita's limbs pulled themselves back towards the bedposts. "Did you know that there are a number of books in my family's library concerning the Dark Arts? We have the classic volumes on curses and poisons, of course, but over the centuries, we've also collected more… esoteric texts." The girl smirked, and Rita grew even paler at the evil expression. "One of those was on something called 'enslavement magic'. Have you ever heard of it, by chance?"

She fearfully shook her head.

"Well, there were a number of different spells in the book, each meant to do different things to different species. There's one, though, that really caught my eye: a spell that causes the subject to shift their devotion entirely to the caster. It's not particularly subtle, unfortunately, but I suppose I'll just have to make due." Black pointed an imperious finger at her nose, and Rita's tears just fell faster.

She couldn't escape in her Animagus form, she couldn't fight, she couldn't—

Rita blinked. What was I just thinking? Shaking off the feeling – it could not have been that important if she could not remember it after only a few seconds – she turned to the young woman standing at the foot of her bed. "Yes, Mistress Jen? Was there something you wanted?"

"How are you feeling?" the girl asked, propping her hip against the footboard. "After you wrote that horrible article revealing my secrets, I was worried you had decided to turn against me."

"No, not at all!" She wracked her brain. I remember writing the article, the one telling everyone who her parents were, but why would I write such a thing? It doesn't make any sense! "M-Mistress? I don't remember why I wrote it. I know I did, but I don't remember why!"

Mistress Jen sighed and sat on the bed next to her to pat her hand gently. "There, there, Rita. The only thing I can think of is that someone got to you and put you under a compulsion charm. It would explain why your memory is a little fuzzy on your motives."

"I'm so sorry, Mistress Jen. If I had just paid more attention, this never would have happened."

"That's true, but what's done is done. No point worrying about it now." The younger witch tilted her head and looked askance at her. "How have you been referring to me in public? If you've called me 'Mistress Jen' where your colleagues could hear you and realize how close you are to me, it would explain why someone would seek to use you against me."

"No!" she immediately denied. "In the office, I never talk about you, and the few times I did after the article came out, I called you 'that Black girl'."

"Then this is still a mystery. Oh well, I'll look into this as soon as I can; you just worry about maintaining your cover." An ever-inked quill and a small roll of parchment flew into Mistress Jen's hands, and the young woman slowly wrote a short letter. "In the morning, send an owl to my aunt, Narcissa Black, asking if there's anything she wants you to look into. Include this message; it will explain to her the situation and make sure she doesn't think it's a trick.

"I also have another job for you: keep an eye and an ear on your coworkers for anything you think will be beneficial to us. Again, send it all to my aunt, as she will be your primary contact from here on out, unless it concerns my immediate safety. If that's the case, send it to me directly, and then send a copy to Auntie. Can you remember all that?"

"Of course I can!" she answered in an almost affronted tone. Did her Mistress really think she was that simple-minded? Then again, she had just been under a compulsion charm, so it made sense that Mistress Jen would be concerned for any long-term effects it could have on her. "Send that note to your aunt, along with my own letter of introduction; keep my eyes and ears open; and report anything interesting to your aunt unless it sounds like you're in danger, in which case I send the information to both you and your aunt."

"And don't let on that you're in our service," Mistress Jen reminded her sternly. "If you have to choose between eavesdropping or keeping that a secret, make sure you keep yourself and us safe. You can always look for the info later, when it's safe to do so."

She ducked her head in embarrassment. "Yes, Mistress."

The witch to whom she owed her complete allegiance stood and pulled her hood back over her head. "Oh, and make sure you have someone check your wards. You forgot to key me in when you set them up, so I'm afraid I might have ripped them apart in my haste to get here and check on you." Rita blushed at that admonishment. She had to be sure not to make a foolish mistake like that again. "Farewell for now, Rita. I'll be in touch." With a spin and a crack, the girl Disapparated away.

James has an enchanted sandbox for the sole reason that I couldn't figure out how to rationalize a holodeck in the HP world outside of using the Room of Requirement, no matter how cool it would be.

Since so many people asked me why no one ever called out Jen on swearing to Baron Samedi, here you go. All she has to do is say it's something she picked up from "Elizabeth", and no one gives it a second thought.

It's funny; I've been planning for the last scene since chapter 4 of Princess of the Blacks, but it wasn't until I was proofreading it that I realized the horrifying implications it has. Suffice it to say that Jen won't be using enslavement magics much, or possibly ever, from here on out.

Jen's diatribe (at least what I put into Google Translate): That bloody bastard! If killing him wouldn't lead straight back to me, I would tear his skin off and mail pieces of him back home in it! Shove his wand inside his heart and set it on fire! Turn him into a mouse and feed him to a snake! Just give me a reason to rid the world of you!

And thank the Baron they don't know Creole.

And a recommendation for you: stick the above in Google and listen to it. It really does have a beautiful cadence to it, despite how nasty the actual meaning is.

Silently Watches out.