“I don’t like it.”
“I’m sorry, miss, but this is the dress—“
“I know,” Elizabeth scowled, looking down at the witch who was stooped next to her examining the hem of the garment. “But I don’t like it.” She emphasized the last four words, letting the syllables come out condescendingly slow.
The seamstress was a meek woman, and her voice was thin when she replied, “I’m sorry, miss.”
Before she could offer anything more than her apologies, Elizabeth cut in. “I want it fixed. Now.”
“But, miss, we don’t have time!”
“You’re a witch, aren’t you?”
“Well, yes, but—”
“But what? Fix it.” Elizabeth was frustrated, and she knew the woman could feel all of that negative energy directed towards her. She knew she was being a snob, but the seamstress was feigning incompetence—and they both knew it would only take a bit of spellwork to fix the dress. She looked at her reflection again, and knew she was right. It needed to be perfect.
The dress was for the celebration, held in her honor, the following day at Malfoy Manor. Draco had shown her the guest list, going through names to give her context. As far as she was concerned, everyone she needed to impress was going to be there. Perhaps, most importantly, the evening would allow her to have her first private audience with Him since her marking, and she needed Him to feel confidence in her. How could she be expected to do that if she didn’t feel confident in herself? The dress would help. The dress she could control.
Still looking at herself, she began to list the changes she’d like to see: “I think it should be black, but stunning black—not dull black. Perhaps something embroidered and jeweled at the neckline or waistline for emphasis. A classy amount of skin, as this is a cocktail dress. Something that feels powerful, in terms of silhouette.” The witch was listening intently, eying the cream colored A-line cocktail dress that she had been instructed to make for Elizabeth. The woman who had ordered it had said the girl should look pure, even innocent. The dress the girl was describing now sounded nothing like that.
“Miss, you’re sure? That’s very different from the original order.”
Elizabeth turned from the mirror, and nodded icily. The seamstress looked a little weary, but began to move her wand with a shaky hand. She could feel the material transforming on her, but she didn’t allow herself to look until the witch said that she was finished.
Elizabeth turned back around on the pedestal that had been placed in her bedroom at the manor, and looked at her reflection in the large mirror that leaned up against the wall. The satin cocktail dress was midnight black with a thin line of diamonds stitched into the waistline. The neckline was just shy of plunging, and the dress was fitted to her body, stopping at her knee. She looked a little older than she was, and she felt powerful and mature.
“You’re dismissed,” she said, smiling at her reflection.
Elizabeth careful stored the dress in a garment bag, and placed it in the armoire in the bedroom, where she had unpacked her belongings after her arrival. She had reluctantly returned to her plain dress and tights. A knock came to her door, and she called out to indicate it was all right to enter. Draco was there, as he was most days, staring into the room with eyes on fire. Every time he looked at her in that bedroom, she knew he had was thinking about her in that bed, in this house, and how he felt about it.
They had spent many of their days discussing his progress with the vanishing cabinet, and had even gone to Knockturn Alley to see the mate. The library at the Malfoys offered a small collection of books on magical objects, and they had been researching the mechanics of the cabinets in an effort to see how they might repair the set. She felt confident in this plan, though Draco did continue to think of different ways in which they could get to Dumbledore. She kept reminding him that the necklace had been a bust, and that they should focus their energies on this plan, which was much more direct and didn’t hinge on people they couldn’t control acting in the ways they hoped they would. When she’d make this point, he’d scowl and then reluctantly concede—until he came up with another option.
She felt strongly that this was driven by fear of failure, which she could understood.
“Yes, though it wouldn’t have taken nearly so long if it hadn’t been for that witch.”
“She did look a little kicked when I saw her escorted out by the house elf. What did you do to her?”
“I didn’t do anything to her,” Elizabeth objected, moving towards the doorway and closing the distance between them. He never entered the room unless she explicitly asked him to, and she wondered whether this was an instruction that had been given to him from his father or if he was worried that if he came into the room he wouldn’t want to leave. “I just told her what I wanted, and that I expected to have it.”
Draco chuckled, pushing a strand of her hair behind her ear. It had fallen into her face as she walked across the room. She let his hand linger on her jaw for a moment before leaning back against the doorway, opposite him.
“Did you need something?” She asked.
“I came to tell you that my parents have gone out for the evening. They said dinner would be prepared for us, and that we should relax as tomorrow will be very busy.”
“Dinner will be served at seven, I assume?” She asked, and he nodded in response, allowing her to pose the next question on her mind, “What should we do with the next hour then?”
He smirked a bit in reply, and she could see the thoughts spinning in his mind. He hadn’t tried to kiss her since she had slapped him in the common room before break, and he had been very reserved—not just in his reluctance to enter her room, but while they worked together as well. Perhaps that was just who he was at home, she considered, but she suspected it was based in something else that he hadn’t shared with her.
“I could think of a few things,” he muttered, bringing his hand back to her jaw. She didn’t pull away. She had spent a lot of time thinking about his hard lips on hers by the fire, and how angry he made her.
“What might those be, Master Malfoy?” She smirked a bit, using the title the house elves used.
He took a step forward, closing the gap between them, smirking as he did. “I was told to keep my distance, but I’m not sure I can do that if you’re going to call me master.”
After dinner, they found themselves in the drawing room sitting close to the fire. Draco had arranged cushions on the floor after Elizabeth complained of a draft, and their legs were tangled together, competing for space under a blanket.
“What will tomorrow be like?” She asked quietly. Her eyes were on him, but he was looking away from her and into the fire. The light danced in his eyes, and he felt far away.
“Everyone will arrive early in the day, and the men will separate from the women for a light meal and the hunt. The women will stay here, along with any children. I’m not quite certain what the women do, though I think it is mostly talking.”
She sighed, knowing she would be relegated to this group. “I’ll be with them then?”
“I assume, though Aunt Bella may have different plans for you—she doesn’t often do well with sitting and talking, and I can’t imagine you doing well with it either.” He didn’t look from the fire, but he smirked. He was thinking of her.
“You’ll hunt? That doesn’t seem to suit you.”
“It’s my duty.”
“What happens after the hunt?”
“We dress from dinner, and then there will probably be cocktails while the Dark Lord holds a few private audiences.”
“He doesn’t attend the hunt?”
Draco shook his head, “Only on rare occasions. My father has said that he use to participate often when he was younger, before the fall, but since then, no.”
“Is that when we’ll have our audience?”
“He’s asked to meet with just me as well.” She said softly, and Draco finally turned towards her. His expression in that moment was unreadable. He didn’t say anything until she continued with another question. “After? We’ll dine, I assume?”
He nodded slowly, breaking eye contact and turning his eyes back to the fire. Whatever had come over him had passed. “And then there will probably be dancing. That’s the part you should be most worried about, I think.”
She raised a brow, “Really?”
“That’s when the men make their moves. That’s when the power plays come.”
She let the silence stretch between them for a while, turning her eyes to the fire as his were. The flames danced in front of them, and she could feel herself growing more and more comfortable with him. Then, she asked the question she’d been holding back since he’d kissed her in the doorway, since they’d broken apart for dinner, since he had begun to move his legs against hers under the blanket like he knew her body.
“Draco,” His eyes came to her but she kept staring straight ahead as he had. “What did you mean when you said you were told to keep your distance?”
He was quiet for a moment. “When we arrived, my father told me to keep my distance—to be respectful and productive, but to keep my hands to myself. He had heard rumors that I’d been courting you at school, and he said that it couldn’t continue.”
She turned her eyes to him then. “Don’t I meet the Malfoy family standard?”
“It’s not that.” His eyes met hers and his stare startled her. “The Dark Lord said you’re not to be touched.”
The following morning happened just as Draco said it would. As the men prepared to leave, the women gathered near the fountain in the courtyard to see them off. The men who had otherwise seemed ordinary upon their arrival had transformed into huntsmen, huge on their black horses. Black hounds huddled around, a few howling into the cold Wiltshire air. Elizabeth had wrapped herself in a woolen winter cloak, and had chosen to keep close to Draco and Rhett, who had arrived with his parents. Hera was there as well, and was standing near her father towards the back of the group. They kept exchanging glances, and Elizabeth realized that, for her friend, this was just another holiday. This was normal.
Before mounting his horse, Draco leaned over to Elizabeth and said softly, “Wish me luck, darling.” His gloved hand came to her jaw again, and she smiled despite herself.
“Don’t call me darling.” She replied, walking away from him but not breaking his gaze until he was forced to look away to direct his horse. She watched his retreating figure until he disappeared beyond the yew hedge.
Narcissa found Elizabeth in the crowd as the women moved back into the entrance hall and into the drawing room. “Did he seem nervous?” She asked politely.
“No, though he rarely does.” She said, smiling toothlessly.
Narcissa nodded, pursing her lips in a way similar to how Draco did when he was mulling something over. She was about to say something when Elizabeth saw Bella coming towards them, moving against the flow of women. It was the first time she’d seen her that day. Bella kissed her sister on both cheeks, holding her hands tightly, before turning towards Elizabeth and embracing her briefly. The gesture seemed odd for someone like Bella, but Elizabeth accepted it nevertheless. She was fond of her, the way she expected she might have been fond of a sister (other than Evelyn).
“I’ve come to steal you away,” the older woman admitted, placing her hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder. “We’ve got a bit to discuss before this evening. I hope you’ll excuse us, Cissy?”
“Of course,” Narcissa nodded, smiling in a tight, polite way and moving away from the pair towards the center of the drawing room, where she began to say a few words of welcome while Bella took Elizabeth’s arm, and steered her away. She didn’t say a word to the younger woman until they had entered into a large bedroom near the main hall, where an anteroom was prepared with two chairs and a blazing fire.
Bella gestured towards one of the chairs, and Elizabeth seated herself on the edge, watching as Bella summoned a house elf with a flick of her wand and ordered refreshments. She too seated herself, then, and proceeded to cut right to the chase.
“As you know, the Dark Lord has requested a private audience with you this evening, and I thought it might be beneficial for us to spend some time together discussing what this audience may entail.”
Elizabeth nodded curtly, relaxing into the chair. “Is this audience you’ve alluded to separate from the one that I’m meant to have with Draco?”
Bella nodded, “Yes, there are a few topics he’d like to discuss without my nephew present. He’s been particularly guarded about this, I’ll admit.” Her tone took a dive that conveyed her frustration, but she continued on. “But, He has made it clear that He has great hopes for you.”
“I have suspected that,” she admitted, looking at her hands and wishing she had a cup of tea—or something stronger—to distract herself with. “Based on your letters and His.”
“He’s written to you?”
“Only on a few occasions.” Bella’s face said more than she could have possible said aloud, and Elizabeth tried to ignore the expression. “I feel as though I’m held above Draco, and perhaps other younger members, but it’s unclear why. Draco was furious about it to be honest after we received letters following the cursing of Katie Bell.”
Elizabeth blushed a little self-consciously. She felt she could be candid with Bella, who she recognized as a high ranking member of His inner circle—if not the highest-ranking member—and who she respected as a mentor. As she was also Draco’s aunt, she knew that she had hopes for his success as well. (Though she knew better than to acknowledge that the main reason for the direct correspondence was that He was contemplating killing her sister and brother-in-law; she would never betray Him.)
Bella nodded, smiling. “Draco will take issue with your ranking above him; that doesn’t surprise me. He is like his father and his uncle frankly. It’s easy for pureblooded men to feel as though they should outrank the women around them. But the Dark Lord doesn’t feel that way. He recognizes the power in women like you and me.
“As for why he feels this way about you, I know it stems from multiple places. He has indicated that he can sense a power in you, and that he intends to focus our energies on fostering that power—mine and His. He also feels as though there is a kinship between the two of you. Those were his words. He refused to elaborate, but I expect that he will later this evening with you.”
“Well then,” Elizabeth conceded, pausing as a house elf arrived and deposited a cart with tea and small plates arranged on it. The plates were covered in cheeses, crostini, nuts, fruit, and dried meats. She continued as soon as the house elf excused itself. “I look forward to meeting with Him.”
“You should. Very few in your position have been received this way, and He has repeatedly honored you. I want to stress this to you—as I recognize you’re unlikely to know the ways in which these circles have historically moved.”
While the women continued to socialize in the drawing room and the men hunted, Bella and Elizabeth practiced sensational magic. Once Bella felt as though she had made progress, they also practiced some wandless and nonverbal magic. Bella was satisfied by the time they heard the heavy footsteps of men in the entrance hall, and said that she would report to Him that Elizabeth’s letters had been accurate in tracking her progress and that, with continued work, she may be very competent in all areas by summertime. She felt that, depending on how the conversation that evening went, she may expect to be offered a few private lessons by the Dark Lord himself.
The whole experience was humbling, and she parted from Bella quietly to return to her room and dress for dinner.
She was preparing to exit her room when a familiar knock came, and the door opened to reveal Draco. He was wearing dress robes that had been tailored so well that they seemed to move with his body. The hunt had brought ruddiness to his cheek that made him look slightly more rugged—slightly wilder—and she felt something clench and churn inside of her.
“You look good,” she said quietly, smiling a bit as he reached forward and put his hand on her jaw. The gesture was familiar now, and there was a piece of her that relied on—and reveled in—the familiarity that had arisen from this private time together in this place outside of Hogwarts, where they existed separate from the people they had to be within those walls. This rush of feeling caused her to add, “Perhaps we should stay here in this room, hidden away for the rest of the evening?”
“I wish that were an option.”
They both knew it wasn’t, and she took the arm he offered her and allowed him to escort her to the ballroom. She said few things as they walked, still feeling the quiet weight that she’d carried with her since her conversation with Bella.
“Nervous?” He asked just as they approached the ballroom. Laughter and music could be heard, and warm light spilled into the dark hall.
“Perhaps,” she admitted, “I think it’s more than that though.”
His look was quizzical, but she didn’t have time to elaborate. They were at the doorway and eyes were turned towards them, a few people turning to Draco near the door to shake his hand. Her arm left his, and the feelings dissipated. She was floating near his side until she saw the crowd part and Hera coming towards her. She took steps towards the friendly face, and noticed an arm outstretched towards her.
“Hurry, drink,” her friend joked. “These things are miserable sober.”
She nodded, taking a large sip of what was definitely straight Firewhiskey. “Where were you this afternoon? I had to listen to my mother talk to these women without anyone to shoot knowing glances to.”
“I was with Bellatrix.”
Hera nodded. She knew they corresponded regularly, but she didn’t know much more beyond the rumors that were floating about Draco and Elizabeth’s work. They were all rumors, and Elizabeth had refused to confirm or deny anything, though she knew her actions didn’t do much to conceal the truth. Hera knew they were working on something—she just didn’t know what. She was sure the girl would be shocked if she did know, and she wasn’t certain how her friend would take it. She’d hold off as long as she could. At least until the cabinet was functional.
“Where’s Rhett? I thought for sure he’d be hanging off of you.” Elizabeth changed the subject, motioning towards the strapless cocktail dress Hera was wearing. It was black like Elizabeth’s, fitted in the bodice and flaring out from the waist. It was much shorter, and the heels she had paired with it were much taller.
“I thought he’d be hanging off me too,” she admitted, “But I haven’t come across him yet. I swear everyone I’ve ever met is in this room.” She was right; the ballroom was full of people. The men were wearing rich dress robes, and the women cocktail dresses in every style imaginable. Conversations flowed as easy as the Firewhiskey, and she noticed Narcissa and Lucius had found their son, and they stood in a small group on the other side of the room with another couple and their daughter. She wondered if this was a girl that Draco might be interested in—might have already been familiar with. She wondered if this was a girl that Draco was allowed to touch rather than stealing moments with hesitant hands and angry kisses.
He caught her staring, a small smirk coming to his lips, and she turned away after holding his gaze for a moment. Rhett was walking towards them, and soon they were in conversation with other people, and she was received with niceties and smiles. People came and went from their circle, eyes alighting on her, as some were familiar with her name or her work. A few congratulated her on the cursing of Katie Bell. One man looked at her critically, whiskey on his breath as he said, “I had no idea the girl who accomplished that cursing was so beautiful.”
She smiled coyly, replying, “I’m happy to admit I’ve got as much brains as I’ve got beauty.”
“Then you must be the brightest witch in your year.” He continued, leering a bit and leaning towards her. She realized then that these must have been the plays Draco warned her of, and she noted too that this must have been mild as she was sure this man knew just as Draco did that she wasn’t to be touched. Her eyes drifted to Hera, who wasn’t untouchable. Rather, she was scowling openly at a man who was standing next to her and cupping her backside. Rhett looked like he was about to throttle the man, but as it was clear he was outranked he held back.
Elizabeth was relieved to see Bella coming towards her. She didn’t even feign sweetness when she caught sight of the man she was talking with, a look of disgust settling on her face. “Excuse us, Rookwood. Miss Castell has been summoned by the Dark Lord.”
Bella led her out of the ballroom and down the hall, into a bedroom chamber similar to the one they had shared earlier that afternoon. The anteroom was prepared in the same way with the Dark Lord seated with his back to the door and Peter Pettigrew hovering nearby. Elizabeth gave him a look of disgust; she hated the way he always lingered around, sniveling and gross.
“Thank you, Bellatrix,” His voice came smoothly across the room, and he rose to greet her as she moved to the side of his chair. “You may go.”
Elizabeth knelt before him, as Bella had told her to, and when He offered His hand to her, to place hers in His without looking up. His hand was cadaverously cold. She heard the latch of the door lock behind Bella, and the only other noise in the room was the wheezing breaths of Pettigrew.
“Rise, child, and sit. We have much to discuss.”
She did as she was told, taking the seat opposite Him and waiting patiently to be spoken to. She had habitually been an observer, and it wasn’t difficult for her to sit under his gaze and wait. She sat tall, poised to begin. She took a moment to recognize the magic in the air, and all the sensation of its power wash over her, as she had practiced earlier.
“Yes, the room is filled with rare magic—it’s my doing.”
“I assumed,” was her soft reply.
“This type of magic comes with great study, study which I intend to offer you. If you are ready and willing, Elizabeth.”
“I have looked into your mind and know that you are being truthful, but I call you here tonight to ensure that you understand the ramifications of this offering. It is not a simple gesture. Yet, when I look into your mind I know that you are capable of mastering the magic that I have mastered—that with my guidance you could lead as I have led.
“Thus, in the event that I need a successor, I have chosen you.”
“You believe that you may need a successor?” She had many questions, but it was this one that came first.
“I am immortal, Elizabeth. I do not believe that I need a successor, but I do believe that it is imperative that my line is preserved. I have done other deeds to ensure this—but you present an opportunity. Do you know the depths of your talent? Can you articulate your loyalty to me? Have I not engendered a kinship between us that displaced all others, even those of blood? I know it to be true, your mind tells me, as do your lips and your letters. You and I have much in common, and your power is of my own. Let me be a father to you, and you an heir to me.”
It felt right, then, to kneel before him again, and to place her hands in his lap, holding his hands again. “My Lord, thank you for this honor.”
“Do not kneel before me. Rise, child. You shall be my sub-equal, stationed at my right hand as Bellatrix is stationed at my left.”
She did as she was told, her face flushed and her heart rate increased. She knew not how to thank Him. For so long she had yearned for a father who wanted to raise her, to nurture her—and here was this man, this powerful man, who wished to do that for her.
“You do not have to thank me. It is an honor to take his place.” The Dark Lord said softly, reading her mind. She could feel his presence there, in her mined, and she allowed it, relishing it.
“You will continue to work alongside the Malfoy boy, and will report regularly to Bellatrix what you have accomplished. If you feel that you need to contact me directly as news may upset her, particularly if the boy is floundering, then do so. I will guide Bella in her responses, and will arrange for lessons—most likely in the summer when you are away from the school, and when I anticipate many of my current projects will have reached their goals. You can plan to make your home with me or my followers moving forward, as you have this winter; I assume this will suit you as I heard of your dismissal of your aunt.” His face twisted into a smile, and she felt pride. She nodded. “I will introduce you to my followers this evening, and will establish you in their circles. And, when the time comes, I will arrange for your betrothal.”
He nodded, his gaze penetrating. “As any father would. It is the goal of all pureblooded families to continue on, and I expect you to do the same—with a man suitable to your rank.”
“You will do all of this—for me?” She asked softly.
“I will take care of you.”
His face was solemn, and she believed Him. She believed every word, and her heart hardened with determination to serve Him and pride of place. She wondered still why it had been her, but she didn’t ask. Instead she trusted. He would tell her when the time came. He would guide her. He would care for her.
It was not until very late in the evening that all the guests had gone. Elizabeth could still feel herself glowing, thinking on her private audience with the Dark Lord and His introduction of her. He did not yet venture to call her His heir outright, but He did use words and phrases that emphasized the importance of her role in His plans for the demise of Albus Dumbledore and the conquering of the Wizarding World. She could still feel the eyes on her, the ones that had followed her all evening, as different men and women had tried to find excuses to introduce themselves (and, very often, their sons). When she wasn’t with Bella, she had kept close to Hera and Rhett, who helped her navigate the crowd and had kept her supplied with drink.
She hadn’t seen much of Draco after their private audience, which had mostly been a discussion of why the previous attempts had failed. Draco had insisted beforehand that he didn’t want to discuss the cabinet until they had successfully repaired it; until then, it was just a theory, and he knew that theories would not be tolerated. The Dark Lord was curt and at times dismissive of Draco during their audience, which she was certain was particularly humbling for him in front of her. As the meeting went on, she noticed the way his knuckles tightened around the arms of his chair. She wished she could reassure him, to tell him that it was safe to have this conversation in front of her—that she didn’t think less of him because of it—but she didn’t want to show that side of herself to the Dark Lord. It was too vulnerable. So she sat steely in the chair beside Draco, only speaking when spoken to.
She had begun to undress when that familiar knock came to her door again. Picking up a black silk robe, she tied it hastily over the black lace slip she’d worn beneath her dress and went to the door. She held the door open hesitantly, checking to see that it was indeed him before swinging it open further.
“There you are,” she said softly. He looked tired, though she noticed immediately he was holding a bottle of Firewhiskey and two glass tumblers.
“Invite me in.” He said gruffly, his eyes too soft to match his tone.
“Draco, would you like to come in?”
He smirked, nodding and nudging past her, briefly grazing her jaw with the hand that held the bottle.
He quickly set his wares on the floor near the fire, then grabbed the decorative pillows from her bed and fashioned them a spot near the hearth that looked comfortable enough. Her head was already floating a bit, but she felt she couldn’t deny him this time—he seemed so earnest, stooping in the firelight to fix pillows.
“Where’d you disappear to all evening?” She asked, moving towards him after pushing the door closed. She was satisfied with the sound of latch clicking into place, but wondered if she should lock it. Then she wondered what that might suggest, and decided against it.
“My father wanted a few words after our audience, and then my mother paraded a few girls past me.” His tone was bitter. “I see you didn’t save me a dance.”
“I didn’t dance at all. I was too busy being introduced to nearly everyone—particularly the ones with sons.” She rolled her eyes a bit in the hope of offsetting any jealousy. “Rhett and Hera kept me company.”
“Sweet of them,” he said shortly, pouring generously into the glasses. He picked one up, handed it to her, and held his out to her.
“Cheers,” he paused, “to the coming out of the heir of Slytherian.”
The liquid caught in her throat and she locked eyes with him over the glass rim. He was staring back at her intently, but having more success getting the drink down. His glass was empty when he lowered it from his lips. She pulled hers away, still half full, and watched him as he filled his again and topped hers up.
“Who told you?” was all she could muster.
“My father.” He was still staring at her, but his eyes weren’t cold. He wasn’t angry. She wasn’t sure what she had anticipated his reaction to be, but this wasn’t it. “It’s why I’m not allowed near you unless asked, why my father hasn’t been able to look you in the eye since you arrived—have you noticed? It’s why it’s okay for you to be apart of a failing plan.”
Perhaps that last part was said with some anger.
“I don’t know why it’s me,” she whispered, drinking more and feeling her body lean towards Draco as if they were conspiring together. Perhaps they were—perhaps that was what this had always been: conspiracy and occasional kissing.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said after a few moments, “He’s not the only one who can read minds, you know, and it’s been more than that for me.”
She hadn’t even felt him there, in her mind, and she hurried to push him out, blushing.
“I’m serious, Elizabeth. There’s something about you, I can’t—I don’t know what it is.” He finished another glass and poured again, his face beginning to flush. “My father asked me to watch you at the beginning of the year, to learn everything I could. And when you were assigned to aid me, I was furious, but perhaps that was just masking. I can see what he sees in you. The power. What’s worse, I think, is you know it’s not just magical. It’s other, larger.” He was stumbling a bit over his words then, and he broke eye contact, his eyes wandering down the length of her neck and across the robe that had started to slip open. He was right though; in that moment, in any given moment, she felt powerful. It was a feeling as though she constantly had the upper hand. He kept talking, but she stopped listening for a moment, focusing instead on the sensation of magic in the room.
“Elizabeth,” he called her back to him. Her eyes came back into focus, the sensational magic still lingering on her. “I want you.”
She felt a little shocked by his directness. She began to fumble through her response, but he cut her off, saying with all the fervor of a man drunk on whiskey, “I’ve wanted you—all to myself—for ages now. I’ve been furious with you, with myself. Rebellious against the wishes of my parents. Hasty. If the Dark Lord could see into my mind, I’m sure He would have murdered me and allowed you to take over the task, because if you are meant to be His heir, if that’s His intention, then I have offended Him with impure thoughts.” His smirk came back, and for a moment she thought about the way those lips would taste.
But the moment past, and she shook her head. “Draco, I can’t.”
He looked a little sad but not surprised, and replied, “Don’t tell me you don’t feel something for me? When you kiss me, I know. I’ve known. Since the bonfire.”
“I won’t deny I’ve felt something for you,” she took up her glass again, and tried to poise herself. The next part would be difficult for him. “But it’s out of my hands.”
“Elizabeth, I’m serious. I know my reputation, but I can—I want—to be with you.”
“I don’t doubt you, but it’s out of my hands.” Her words were slow and measured. Silence hung around them, and she felt forced to add, “He plans to arrange a marriage for me. He plans not just to select me as His heir, but to act as a father might. He plans to take care of me.”
“You can’t be serious.“
“Perfectly so.” She said simply, draining her glass and rising from him. “Which means you should go.”
He stood too, heat rising up his neck and his eyes flashing with that wild look again, as if he was briefly back to that morning’s hunt. It was the look of a man whose arm is stretched out about to grasp the thing he’s wanted.
Instead of moving to go, he took her by the shoulders and brought her to him, lips crashing onto hers in a slippery, drunken kiss. He moved so fast she couldn’t push him away, and her gut wrenched with the realization that she did not want to. She had hoped to keep hating him, to keep her distance in their work and to mock Hera for suggesting indecent actions were occurring when they were alone together. Instead, she found her tongue moving against his like it had been crafted to do so.
The kiss may have only been a moment or it may have been a year, but eventually she was the one who snapped away, breathing hard and cursing under her exhalations. Her hand rushed through her hair and she noticed that her robe was open now, the warmth of his hand still lingering on her ribcage.
He turned away, his hands grasping the back of the chair that he’d been leaning against on the floor. It teetered on its back legs with the force of his grip.
“Why! Why does He get to decide! Everything—whether my family lives, whether my attempts are worth acknowledging, whether I get to have you! Ellie, tell me why He gets to decide when you kiss me like that.”
“I decide.” She stood tall, eyes blazing. His anger infuriated her. “I allow Him to decide. He will pick a man for me, and I will be loyal to that man because I allow it to be so. Because I’ve decided.” Draco’s whole demeanor was wild then, and she knew he wanted to object, but she continued before he could. “And what would you do, hmm, when you couldn’t have me? When he picked someone other than you. What would you do when you couldn’t have me?”
His wild eyes turned dumb, and she knew that he had never contemplated a reality in which he could not have her—a world in which he could not get everything that he wanted. Those dumb eyes followed her as she walked across the room and opened the door, holding it there for him.
“Get out, Malfoy.”
Author's Note: This is one of my favorite chapters thus far, and I'm so excited to share it with you all! Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth...! Amirite?
The chapter is inspired by the Wild Hunt, which is a German folk myth. I encourage you all to read about it online (with Wikipedia being a great source, surprisingly). There is also a beautiful painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo that served as inspiration for the imagery of the men preparing to head out on the hunt. The myth seemed to work so wonderfully with my vision of Pureblood tradition, and I'm interested to see what you think of it!
Thank you to pink bunny and EmmyBacon for the reviews. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the feedback! It's so valuable to me, especially as I continue to write and develop these characters.
Oh, and the chapter image was created by me.
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