Disclaimer: see previous chapters.
The day when Aoife’s second youngest daughter came to visit was mild: the sun was shining, the songbirds were singing, and Aoife was reading about the civil suit between the Dursleys and Ms. Figg in a local newspaper.
And then, with a sound that signified Apparating two women appeared in Aoife’s front yard: one dressed like a typical pureblood British witch, the other – not. “You!” the pureblood witch all but shrieked. “Where’s the child?”
There was a tone in her voice, not quite a threat, but of a definite unpleasantness in her voice and Aoife sighed, as she got onto her feet: she really hated killing humans with her bare hands, it was so messy!
And then the witch’s companion snapped her fingers – and the world froze. Or rather, time did, for everyone in the world, save two.
“Hello, Helen,” Aoife pleasantly told the third woman.
“Hello, mother,” Helen replied.
For few moments Aoife silently observed her half-human daughter. Although a wizard’s daughter as well as a half-succubus, Helen was a squib, without an access to either kind of magic. Considering, though, that she had her mother’s intelligence and her father’s thirst and capacity for knowledge, Aoife was not surprised to see Helen learn yet another type of magic, time-related – but it had cost her, as Aoife could see in her eyes.
“Daughter, you’ve aged well,” the succubus said instead.
“Liar,” her daughter said almost fondly. “Mother, I feel old, I am old. My lifestyle has given me an unnaturally long life, but on the inside? I’m butter spread over too much bread.”
“You and your fondness for Tolkien,” Aoife said in an identical tone of voice. “If you’re feeling old, then why are you here?”
“To prevent you from ripping my companion apart, drinking her blood and eating her still-live organs – and then using the remainders as toys for the baby,” Helen said dryly. “Believe me; giving her a chance will be better for both of you.”
Aoife looked at Helen with narrowed eyes: Helen was her daughter, which meant several things, good and bad. “Go on,” she said instead. “I want to hear more.”
“There is nothing more I want to tell you mother, not right now,” Helen said firmly as she walked and stood next to Aoife, before snapping her fingers – and time came back.
“Helen!” the witch blinked, recovering her bearings very quickly for a human. “Don’t do that!” she paused. “Oh. I can see the family resistance now. Mrs. Ambroise, you aged really well for someone who has a daughter about my age,” she pointed to Helen.
Aoife raised an eyebrow. The witch was moving from annoying to amusing, and that was not good.
For the witch.
“And who’re you?” Aoife asked, unable to keep notes of bemusement from her voice.
“Bellatrix Maria Anna Celestine LeStrange, nee Black,” Helen answered instead.
“Bellatrix LeStrange is fine, or Mrs. LeStrange,” the witch added quickly. “I am for traditions, of course, but four names are a bit over the top, especially when dealing with-“ she paused.
“Us,” Helen finished for Bellatrix with a look of long suffering. “Mother, Bellatrix wants to see the baby, if you please. I promise she won’t do him any harm.”
Aoife nodded thoughtfully. Helen may have prevented Bellatrix’s murder moments before, but the look she gave the witch when talking of potential “harm” reminded Aoife of her own look, one that she usually wore before she tore out someone’s kidneys. “Very well,” she said grandly, “come on in.”
* * *
Regardless of her daughter’s unspoken promise, Aoife was surprisingly reluctant to let the witch see her charge, but the witch’s behavior surprised her: “Aw, he’s adorable!” Bellatrix exclaimed before biting down on her lips, clearly surprised at her own reaction.
Aoife raised her eyebrow again. “Don’t you have any children of her own?” she asked, curious.
“Alas, no. She is married to Rudolphus LeStrange, you know, and he’s not much into children,” Helen answered instead as she sat down in the kitchen and watched the unfolding scene with something not unlike amusement.
“Ah yes, Rudolphus LeStrange, the last descendant of Gilles de Retz, the infamous marshal of France,” Aoife nodded thoughtfully. She knew him only passingly, but enough to realize that that was man not to be trifled with at all and stayed far away from him, until the king of France took him down.
“You forgot about Rudolphus’ brother, Rastaban,” Bellatrix spoke up, reluctantly.
“Oh yes, Rastaban LeStrange,” Aoife snorted disdainfully, “how could we have forgotten about him? You were supposed to have married him instead, Andromeda told me.”
“You talked to Andromeda?” Bellatrix twitched, clearly bitter regarding her sister. “Are you an m- muggle lover?”
“No, not particularly,” Aoife said airily, choosing not to misinterpret Bellatrix’s statement – this was more fun. “I’m not really into politics – family and friends are all I care about, really.”
“Spoken like a true Ravenclaw,” Bellatrix said bitterly as she sat down on a chair. “This whole country could fall apart but if it isn’t in their personal space, they do not care.” She paused and added. “So how did you meet my sister?”
“It was official business,” Aoife shrugged, telling the truth for once. “We were waiting in the same line, talked a bit, and I decided that Andromeda Tonks is a formidable woman, capable of building a bridge from the heads of other people if it would bring her closer to her goal.”
“Yes, yes, I heard that from your daughter before,” Bellatrix said dismissively, “that Andromeda should’ve been a Slytherin instead of a Ravenclaw-“
“And you, Bellatrix etc. LeStrange nee Black should’ve been a Hufflepuff instead, considering your unwavering loyalty, your unshakeable fealty, and your earth-like stubbornness,” Helen shot back – clearly this was an old argument between the two.
Bellatrix turned red. “Don’t you start, Helen Ambroise, or whatever your married name is! All Blacks went to Slytherin-“
“Your mother, Druella, went to Beauxbatons, France,” Helen said mildly.
Bellatrix’s face began to twitch and she looked torn before crying and casting spells around, so Aoife decided to step in: Helen had been right – this was more fun than mere murder.
“Helen, stop,” she said firmly, receiving a grateful look from Bellatrix that vanished as Aoife continued to speak.
“I think I see Helen’s point, Mrs. LeStrange. Tell me, did she ever talk about the elemental affiliations of the wizards?”
Bellatrix’s face began to twitch once more, albeit in a different fashion: Bellatrix was merely thinking, this time. “Yes, yes she had,” she said, rather miserably. “I don’t remember what it was about, but she had.”
“Fair enough,” Aoife nodded wisely. “Mrs. LeStrange hence lies the root of your barrenness: you may be of an Earthen nature and thus naturally predisposed to fertility, but your husband, like almost all of his family members starting with Gilles de Retz, has sold his soul into thralldom to Mephistopheles and as such he is your supernatural opposite. Any hope of a child between you two must be done in the same way he and his brother were conceived: highly magical, highly illegal, and just as lethal to you as it was to your late mother-in-law.”
Bellatrix turned white, then red, and then opened her mouth, but Aoife beat her to it:
“Oh, and one more thing: your sister, as a Ravenclaw, knew about this tidbit – well, its’ more edited version, at any rate – and that’s why she preferred to marry Ted Tonks...among other reasons.” The succubus declined to explain that Ted Tonks was actually a doppelganger from the Unseelie court and the reason why she had ran into Andromeda Tonks in the first place – there was already plenty information for the witch to process.
“...Yes, I believe you,” Bellatrix finally said with a bitter chuckle, “Andromeda really was the smartest and the most determined out of three of us. Of course, considering that our other sister is Narcissa, who has no more personality than a china doll, that is not much of a contest.” She paused and looked at Helen. “You didn’t know this?”
“No,” the half-Fae shrugged. “Contrary to what you may think, my mother and I are not particularly close – due to personality similarities.”
“Fine,” Bellatrix said, not quite convinced of Helen’s response. “I’ll talk to you later.” And she Apparated away.
“Well! That was fun!” Helen said brightly. “Thanks for the pitch mother; I knew I could count on you for something like this.”
“Of course you did,” Aoife sighed wearily. She did raise Helen from birth, and the results were mixed, and usually not very pleasing. “You sure you won’t stay around?”
“Not this time,” Helen smiled brightly, “maybe next time.” And she was gone as well.
“Next time?” Aoife said thoughtfully. “That sounds promising.”TBC