A little over an hour later, Odessa awoke and stretched gracefully. “How are you feeling?” Taylor asked, her concern evident. “I’ve felt better, but I’ve also felt much worse,” Odessa shrugged, for once acting her age instead of like an adult. “Are you hungry? We could go to the kitchens,” Taylor smiled. “I think food sounds nice,” Odessa agreed, “but remember, we could run into Draconius at any time, so keep your guard up.” “Right,” Taylor nodded as they walked down to the kitchens. They had just reached the foot of the marble staircase when the sound of a girl crying broke the peaceful silence. Both girls looked at each other, worry flickering across their faces momentarily before they headed over to the noise, with the air of disinterested spectators. They rounded the corner just in time to see a couple of younger Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw girls burst into tears and Michael Corner and Ernie Macmillan yelling angrily at an extremely bored looking Draconius. “Bloody hell,” Odessa growled through gritted teeth. “What?” Taylor asked, but milliseconds later her question was answered. Draconius’ arm shot out like a viper, grasping Michael’s wrist firmly but the rest of his body remained still. Three horrifying snaps occurred in rapid procession, leaving Michael on the floor, cradling his broken wrist awkwardly. This caused Ernie and Justin Finch-Fletchy to launch themselves at Draconius, their fury apparent. Draconius’ lips curled to form an attractive sneer as he wrenched Ernie toward him. Draconius ever so slowly and lovingly bent Ernie’s arm back until his shoulder popped out and Ernie screamed in pain as his entire arm went limp. Justin was temporarily frozen in shock for a moment before steeling himself and taking a step closer to Draconius. “I won’t defile myself by touching you, mudblood,” Draconius sneered, before turning on the ball of his foot and heading upstairs. Justin stiffened angrily but Taylor placed a restraining arm on his shoulder, “don’t do it. Help your friends.” Odessa looked down at Michael, her distaste clear, and said to no one in particular, “his wrist is broken in three places. Pomfrey will have to take all the bones out and regrow them.” “How do you know?” Taylor asked in surprise. “Because I’ve seen him do it before,” Odessa said shortly before turning away and heading to the kitchens. “Get them to the Hospital Wing,” Taylor snapped at Justin and the girls before rushing after Odessa. When she had caught up with the second year, they had reached the fruit painting and Odessa listlessly tickled the pear and entered the kitchens. Two little elves rushed forward exclaiming, “Miss Odessa, we has not sees you down here in a long time! What can we gets you?” Odessa paused then said slowly, “I’ll have a banana parfait.” A guilty smile appeared on Odessa’s face and it relieved Taylor to see that Odessa still possessed some childlike tendencies. “Can they get you anything?” Odessa asked, her manner’s kicking in. “I’ll have the same, thanks,” Taylor smiled down at the beaming elves. The two girls took a seat at one of the long tables and had only been waiting for a few minutes when their desserts arrived. Both girls dove in eagerly and ate in amiable silence. Taylor had just finished about half when Odessa’s spoon fell to the floor with a loud clatter. “What-” Taylor began to ask. “Tink?” Odessa said and one of her elves rushed over. “Is that Dora?” “Yes missus,” Tink nodded reluctantly. “Dora! When is your mistress coming?” Odessa questioned the elf, unable to completely suppress her anxiety. The elf named Dora shifted nervously before mumbling, “tomorrow night at seven.” “Oh Merlin, why now?” Odessa moaned as she bolted for the door. Taylor rushed after when she heard Dora yell, “Missus!” “Wait, Odessa, Dora was trying to say something,” Taylor said as they began to walk as quickly as possible without being obtrusive. “It was probably to try to get me to finish the banana parfait,” Odessa shrugged. “Where are we going?” Taylor asked. “ We aren’t going anywhere. I’m going to see Snape. Wait, you can go see Dumbledore, it’ll look suspicious if I go.” “What am I going to say?” Taylor pressed. “Just tell him that Claudia is coming at seven tomorrow night,” Odessa commanded as she turned away towards Snape’s office. Taylor’s mind was racing as she walked through the halls, frantically trying to figure out who Claudia was. “Starburst,” Taylor said absentmindedly and headed up the staircase, still lost in her thoughts. “Miss Meadows,” Dumbledore’s warm voice interrupted her thoughts and caused her to jump in surprise. “Can I help you?” he continued, his eyes twinkling in amusement. “Ah... Claudia is coming tomorrow night at seven,” Taylor mumbled, hoping Dumbledore understood what it meant. “Indeed?” Dumbledore said in surprise. “Professor, who is Claudia?” Dumbledore sat down at his desk, intending to explain when his door was flung open, causing the portraits to tutt in disapproval. “Headmaster-” Snape began, but stopped at the sight of Taylor. “Ah, Severus, impeccable timing as usual,” Dumbledore smiled warmly. Snape looked at Taylor closely before continuing in his normal, silky voice, “Claudia Renoir is coming to Hogwarts tomorrow night.” Snape paused and Dumbledore presented no visible reaction, so Snape continued, “Miss Renoir is Lucius Malfoy’s hand-picked bride for his only son.” Taylor almost began to ask a clarifying question when it suddenly all made sense. Claudia was chosen by Lucius, which meant her loyalty lay with Lucius and she would undoubtedly tell him that his son had gone cold. She looked up from the carpet she had been staring at, and saw that Dumbledore had reached the same conclusion. “One wonders when she planned to inform us of her arrival,” Dumbledore said quietly, causing Taylor and Snape to stare incredulously at the aged wizard, both wondering if he had finally lost his mind. “Perhaps we can keep Miss Renoir away from Mr. Malfoy by claiming hospitality reasons.” “Would she buy it?” Taylor asked incredulously. “Or, we could keep them both under constant surveillance,” Dumbledore said, though he appeared to be thinking aloud rather than talking. Then he stared very intently at Taylor. “She would be completely out of her league,” Snape snapped harshly. “Would you give us a moment?” Dumbledore smiled and gestured toward the door. Taylor exited quickly, wondering what was going on. She strained to listen, but found that one of them had cast an imperturbable charm on the room. Seconds later, the door opened and Taylor hesitatingly reentered and saw Snape with one of the most sour looks on his face she had ever seen. “Claudia will be staying with you and Draconius,” Snape told her sourly. Taylor nodded and hurriedly left the room, desperately needing a quiet place to think. Her room was out of the question, she could run into Draconius, and since Harry, Ron, and Ginny were all mad at her, the Gryffindor common room was also a no. Suddenly it hit her, the Room of Requirement! Slowly, Taylor wandered up the stairs to the seventh floor and paced by the door three times. When she opened the door, Taylor found herself outside on a cool summer day. The little area was filled with crabapples, plum blossoms, and cherry blossoms. She took a seat under one of the crabapples and transformed her turtleneck into a light tanktop. As she sat under the tree, savoring the sweet scents, Taylor found her mind turning towards her mystery of a father. As she fingered the locket she wondered just who he was and what did Draco know about him? Then an idea struck her. Could the Room of Requirement tell her who her father was if that was what she required? Suddenly excited, Taylor jumped up and rushed out of the Room of Requirement and began to pace in front of the door once more. She flung the door open in her haste and looked around frantically. Seeing nothing, Taylor forced herself to calm down and really focus on thoughts of discovering her father’s identity. When she opened her dark brown eyes she screamed in frustration. On every available surface there were pictures of Draco in muggle picture frames. Hands shaking slightly from anger, Taylor picked up one of the pictures and hurled it at the ground with all the force she could muster. This made her feel surprisingly refreshed, so Taylor smashed the rest of the pictures, taking great pleasure in the sound of the glass being crushed under her feet. She had just reached the door when taylor turned and vanished the mess with a quick wave of her wand. As she entered the hallway, the clock chimed eight o’clock and Taylor realized it was the middle of dinner. Not wanting to deal with anyone, Taylor walked slowly to her room and climbed into bed. She read a bit more of her book before turning off the light and going to sleep. Taylor awoke the next morning to someone shaking her frantically. “Go away,” Taylor mumbled into her pillow. “Goddamnit Taylor! Claudia is coming in less than an hour!” Odessa hissed. “What? I couldn’t have slept the entire day!” Taylor exclaimed, sitting up and throwing back the sheets. “Calm down. It’s five in the morning. Claudia decided to change her plans,” Odessa said quietly. “Alright, but why do I have to get up this early?” “You have to get ready,” Odessa said as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Right...” Taylor rolled her eyes and flopped back under the sheets. “Fine. Make me do this the hard way.” The sheets flew back and Taylor was doused in ice cold water. “Alright fine! I’m up!” Taylor screeched and stomped to the bathroom. After a short shower, Taylor felt refreshed and awake. Odessa threw Taylor’s robe at her and placed her firmly in a chair. It was then that Taylor saw that Odessa was dressed in very elegant slate gray silk dress robes. “I’m not sure I own anything that nice,” Taylor gestured at Odessa’s magnificent robes. “I took the liberty of ordering something for you,” Odessa gestured at the bed where a brown silk robe lay. As she neared, Taylor saw that the robe was iridescent and would change from copper to bronze. “It’s beautiful,” Taylor gasped as the let the material slide through her hands. “Of course it is, it’s a Lisu.” At Taylor’s blank look, Odessa continued, “only the hottest designer on the market.” “Why did you get me something from there?” Taylor asked. “Because Claudia will judge you based on what you’re wearing. And trust me, she’ll know immediately. Now come back here!” Odessa’s tone of voice caused Taylor to rush back over to the seat. Odessa whispered a spell and Taylor’s hair became bone straight and tied up in a high pony tail. Odessa said a few more spells before she walked Taylor to the bed and put the robe on her. “It’ll have to do,” Odessa announced and turned Taylor to face the mirror. Taylor’s jaw dropped at the sight before her eyes. Her sun-kissed skin made it look as though she’d been in the sun perfecting her tan for days and made her eyes and hair shine. The sleek high pony tail made her cheekbones and other features look more pronounced and made her look more mature. The brown eyeshadow and thick dark brown eyeliner made her eyes look mysterious and alluring and the gold lip gloss made her lips look plump and luscious. She felt like a sun goddess as she slipped on the dark brown heels. The ring from her father matched perfectly and Taylor felt like she could take on the world. “Are you done gaping? We have to go,” Odessa snapped from the door, and Taylor saw that she had done a few spells on herself. Her eyeshadow was dark and smokey and her lips were blood red causing her skin to look as white as fine china. Taylor’s self confidence dropped slightly at the sight of how immaculate and stunning Odessa looked. “Remember, keep your emotions hidden,” Odessa commanded as she checked to see all her jewelry was in place. Once satisfied that it was all there, Odessa strode out into the hall and made her way to the Entrance Hall. Dumbledore was already there looking magnificent in midnight blue robes. His usual smile and warm, inviting gaze were gone, and instead he looked like what everyone called him, the greatest wizard of this age. Draconius arrived a few seconds later looking even more handsome than usual in emerald robes. Snape whisked in just as the clock chimed six and looked no different than usual. All but Draconius gazed at the door expectantly and none of them moved when the castle doors were flung open and one of the most beautiful women Taylor had ever seen walked in. She was wearing dark crimson robes that hugged every curve on her tall frame. Her straight black hair looked as fine and soft as silk and came down to her mid-back. Her eyes looked darker and colder than even Snape’s and her smile held no warmth. “Miss Renoir, welcome to Hogwarts,” Dumbledore said courteously, but his voice lacked any warmth. “Dumbledore, I’m sure it will be a pleasure staying here. But, I do have another companion. Alexia!” Claudia crooned, watching Odessa out of the corner of her eye. The most beautiful little girl walked slowly into the Entrance Hall, her gothic lolita style dress looking sorely out of place with all the dress robes. Her eyes were identical to Odessa’s but her hair was black, but it was darker than any black Taylor had ever seen. Her pale pink lips opened and she said simply, “Momma’s gone.” Odessa dropped to her knees by the little girl and wrapped her arms around the unmoving child. “When?” Odessa demanded furiously, looking up at Claudia. “Two weeks ago,” Claudia said, her voice full of scorn. “And why was I not informed?” Odessa snarled. “Your Uncle and father thought it best not to tell you,” Claudia smirked contemptuously. “How?” Odessa spat. “What do you think?” Claudia countered. “He did it, didn’t he?” Odessa demanded. “I didn’t know cancer’s had sexes,” Claudia smiled sweetly. “The cancer was dormant,” Odessa hissed. “Auntie Claudia, may I please have another candy?” the little girl asked sweetly. Taylor almost smiled at the girl’s good manners when Odessa stood up abruptly. “What did you do to her?” Odessa asked harshly. “Nothing,” Claudia said with a satisfied smile that clearly stated otherwise. “What did you give her?” Odessa repeated. “Severus would know,” Claudia turned to Snape, “seeing as he made it.” “Dulcis Venom, the pretty poison,” Draconius spoke for the first time. “Hello Draconius,” Claudia purred as she approached him, her eyes shining with pleasure. “It’s illegal to brew that poison, let alone give it to another person. How did you get it?” Snape asked silkily. “Well that’s my little secret isn’t it?” Claudia taunted, causing Snape to arch an eyebrow in response. “Go ahead and try to enter my mind,” Claudia sneered. “Do give my compliments to Lucius, the traps in your mind truly are genius,” Draconius smiled lazily. “I didn’t realize that Narcissa had the skill to brew Dulcis Venom.” Shock flickered across Claudia’s face momentarily before she shrugged elegantly, “no matter. Severus will be making it from now on.” “And why would he do that?” Odessa spat. “Because little Alexia is addicted,” Draconius crooned delightedly. “May I see one of the candies?” Snape asked carefully. Claudia nodded and tossed one of the candies over to him. As the bright pink projectile flew through the air, Alexia jumped up and snatched it. A horrible look of satisfaction flashed across Alexia’s pretty face before Snape said silkily, “now Alexia, did I tell you that you could have the candy?” Her little face went paler than usual and Alexia dropped the candy instantly. A small, self-satisfied grin appeared on Snape’s face as he said, “just as I thought. You added draught of imperious as well.” This time, Claudia’s shock was clearly evident as she gasped, “how did you know? Narcissa said it was undetectable.” “I intentionally used a tone of voice Alexia never listens to. But, there is another ingredient added, and my guess is that it is one of the most guarded pieces of information in your well protected mind. Am I not right, Draconius?” Snape stated. Draconius nodded, “yes. Lucius has it so she cant even think what the ingredient is or else a set of traps will set off on her own mind. Your own fear surrounds that part of your mind. Has Lucius punished you often?” Draconius gently caressed Claudia’s face and Taylor felt an odd pang of jealousy. “In all the excitement we never were introduced, Claudia Renoir,” Claudia smirked, leaning into Draconius and giving Taylor a very degrading once over. “Taylor Meadows, it is a pleasure to meet you,” Taylor returned the smile bitterly. Dumbledore, who had remained silent since his initial welcoming, spoke again, “allow me to show you to your rooms.” He set a brisk pace towards the Heads’ quarters and Taylor wondered where Alexia was staying. When they walked through the statue Taylor’s eyes opened wide at the drastic changes that occurred. The room had changed from the emerald and crimson to stark black and white with a small bit of blood red. The room was decorated in a classic modern style and Taylor found it simple and beautiful but Claudia just scoffed. Aside from the decorating changes, there were also many architectural changes as well. Draco and Taylor’s rooms were still there, but there were three more bedrooms, a small kitchen, an elaborate dining room, and a direct passage outside. Odessa, Alexia, and Claudia all took closer looks at their rooms, and Draconius had disappeared, so Taylor walked into the small kitchen and began to look around. To her delight, the kitchen was well stocked, both with food and cooking supplies. She decided to have an egg white omelet with toast. She separated the yolks from the egg whites with a quick wave of her wand and began digging around for vegetables. Taylor found green and red peppers, a white onion, some asparagus, and some cauliflower. As she chopped up the vegetables, Taylor noticed Alexia was sitting at one of the barstools at the high counter, watching her intently. “Are you hungry? Do you want some?” Taylor asked, smiling. Alexia nodded and Taylor continued, “what stuff do you want in it?” “What you have,” Alexia said simply. “Alright,” Taylor said warmly and started to make the first one. “What do you like on your toast, butter or jam?” “Raspberry jam,” Alexia grinned happily. “Coming right up,” Taylor rummaged around in the fridge and pulled out a jar and the orange juice. While waiting for the omelet to cook, Taylor poured two glasses of orange juice and spread jam over some toast. When the omelet was done Taylor pushed the plate over to Alexia, who sat unmoving. “Is something wrong?” Taylor asked worriedly. “You don’t have yours yet,” the little girl said politely. Taylor cast a quick spell to cook hers faster and then flipped the omelet onto a plate. She sat down next to Alexia and they both began to eat. To Taylor’s surprise, Alexia was eating all the vegetables, even the asparagus and the cauliflower. “You’re a good eater,” Taylor smiled. “Am I?” Alexia asked curiously. “Most kids don’t like vegetables.” “Oh,” Alexia said with a somewhat aloof air. Taylor frowned at the tone, but tried to strike up conversation again, “how old are you?” “Six,” Alexia said dully. “So, is Odessa your big sister?” Gray eyes met brown and Taylor felt as though Alexia was sizing her up, then she said, “yes.” As Taylor cleaned the dishes she wondered just what secrets little Alexia was hiding. Why did alexia hesitate to say she was Odessa’s sister? Her musing were shattered by a blood curdling scream and she dropped the plate she was holding and it broke into tiny pieces. Alexia was on the floor frantically ripping the black lace dress of her tiny body and was raking her nails across her exposed skin. The long, skinny marks started to bleed and yet Alexia still continued to desperately scratch all over her body. Taylor pinned Alexia’s arms down but the cuts still continued to appear. She started to panic, wondering if she could grab her wand, when a pair of strong hands threw her away from the convulsing little girl. Taylor’s head slammed against one of the barstools and she blacked out. A/N: Please review. If you like this story please tell me! It's great motivation to get chapters out sooner...
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