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Stories from the Vault
The Exchange - Act Two, Scene One
Act Two – Scene One
June 19, 1923
Sirius Black, latest of many men in the Black family to hold that name, was born in the thirty-seventh year of the reign of Queen Victoria, born, in fact on the day that monarch was invested with the title Empress of India . The oldest son of Phineas Nigellus Black and de facto head of the Black family, Sirius was a driven man.
His father was a brilliant wizard, able administrator, and had done much to bring Hogwarts to its place as the preeminent school of magic in Europe (if not the world), but Phineas Black was a miserable businessman and the accumulated Black fortune had been pissed away in a series of bad investments, uncollectable loans and questionable expenditures. In the years after Hogwarts, Sirius had started to rebuild the Black fortune while fostering the influence such fortunes bring.
Along the way he’d married, and with Hester had raised three children.
One of whom almost died this morning.
Funny thing, how almost losing a child put everything in his life into a starkly different perspective.
Maggy had found him in his study and he had been popped away to the cottage. His only pleasure that day had been stepping over the now dead body of Arben Dolohov on his way to rescue his daughter. He’d stopped the bleeding and did his best to patch the collapsed lung. He then secured the room, taking care to lock away both Arben and Lycoris’ wands, as the Aurors would have to investigate.
He’d moved Lycoris to her bedroom in the cottage and then called an old friend for further healing care beyond his first aid. Moving her to St Mungo’s was out of the question, as was taking her home to Grimmauld Place. Egged on by Aunt Elladora, Hester had not had a civil relationship with her daughter in the last decade.
Now it was time to wait; wait for the investigator to arrive, wait for the healer to finish stabilizing Lycoris, and while waiting, ponder all the things in his life that he should have done differently.
He waited for almost three hours; the Aurors arrived, conducted their perfunctory investigation and left, taking the body of Arben Dolohov with them. The healer was working all that time.
A quiet cough interrupted his pondering.
“Master Black, the healer is finishing up and wishes to speak with you,” Maggy said.
Sirius nodded in reply and Maggy disappeared in the manner of well-trained house elves.
The healer closed the door behind her and walked to the kitchen, carrying a tray of medical tools. She set the tray down beside the tap and began to rinse and dry the tools.
“She’s sleeping at the moment,” the healer began. “Her left lung was collapsed, but thankfully nothing major with the heart. I had to do some vascular repair in her abdomen and both legs; she’s not going dancing anytime soon. That’s the good news.”
Sirius met the healers gaze.
“So now for the bad news?”
“I’ve tried to minimize it, but there will be permanent scarring on the abdomen and legs. In addition, the late Mister Dolohov cast a withering curse on her face that, had he lived, would have blinded her. Because he died soon after casting the curse, it did a fraction of the damage intended. I was able to save her sight, but she’ll have permanent dark marks around her eyes. I did what I could, I’m sorry that I couldn’t do more.”
“I called you because I believe that you’re the best,” Sirius said.
“The fact that I owe you a substantial amount of money had nothing to do with it?” the healer asked with a grin.
“That’s joyfully incidental,” Sirius replied.
“I left a list of potions that she should take for the next week, after which I’d like to see her again,” the healer said.
“Of course,” Sirius said. “On behalf of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, I thank you for saving my daughter’s life.”
“That’s why I became a healer, Sirius,” she said. She put the last of the tools into her bag and after a moment’s hesitation lifted on her toes to place a kiss on his cheek. “I’ll see myself out.”
Lily opened her eyes and then squeezed them shut again. Everything hurt, from her scalp to her toes. With effort she pushed her eyelids open and tried to focus on the room. A man was sitting next to her bed. Some unfamiliar part of Lycoris’ memory informed her that the man was her father.
“Hello, Daddy,” she said, her voice rough.
“Good morning, daughter,” he said warmly.
“How long have I been here?” she asked.
“A day,” he replied.
“I’m not entirely certain, he’s either at the morgue or at his manor house, being prepared for burial,” Sirius said with some satisfaction.
“Well, it seems all those lessons you gave me when I was a slip of a girl paid off,” she said.
A long moment of silence passed.
“I’m sorry this happened, after I threw Dolohov out of my house, I never thought he’d come attack you,” Sirius said. “I should have warned you.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“No, the Aurors have already closed the investigation. Your wand had mainly defensive spells, while his were all offensive, including the killing curse. I’m curious, how did you dodge that at such close range?”
“I didn’t, I stopped it with an iron skillet,” Lycoris replied, pulling the strange memory forward. “I think it broke the skillet – which is sad because I liked that skillet.”
“Did you know that the skillet would block that curse?” Sirius asked.
“I thought it would, but I’d never had occasion to try it in real world conditions,” Lycoris said.
“I’m quite glad you’re alive,” Sirius said.
“Me too,” she replied. “Even if everything hurts. How bad do I look?”
“You look like a woman who was beaten and cursed by a dishonorable blackguard.”
Sirius stood and fetched one from the dresser across the room.
“Oh, keen,” Lycoris said sardonically. “I look like a sugar skull.”
“It’s a new world folk custom – some of the Spanish speaking cultures in the new world celebrate what they call ‘the day of the dead’ which among other things includes make-up that looks a bit like I do right now.”
“Just after Samhain,” Lycoris said, “It’s something I learned when I was conducting research for my ritual magic independent study. I think the marking looks exotic .”
Sirius made a disapproving noise.
“Daddy, don’t worry, I was never a beauty to begin with, goodness knows Mumsy told me that often enough growing up; maybe now she’ll stop trying to marry me off to any wizard who can shave. Does Mumsy know?”
“I told her late last night,” Sirius said.
“I’d really rather not see her until I can move a little faster; she and great Aunt Elladora will no doubt tell me how all of this is my fault,” Lycoris said.
“She’s already said that to me, last night” Sirius said. “I corrected her, at length and with much volume; I don’t think either Hester or Elladora will be visiting any time soon.”
“So, there is a bright side to this after all,” Lycoris said, closing her eyes.
“I’ve got to go now,” Sirius said. “Maggy will be caring for you for the indefinite future.”
Sirius stood and brushed hair out of Lycoris’ face. He bent down and placed a kiss on her forehead.
“Get better,” he commanded.
“I’ll try, Daddy,” Lycoris responded in a sleepy voice.
Sirius extinguished the light as he closed the door.
When Lycoris next woke she heard Maggy in her bedroom.
“Does Mistress wish to eat?” Maggy asked.
“Mistress would very much like to pee, and then think about breakfast,” Lycoris replied.
With some effort, she managed to sit up, rise from the bed, and shuffle to the commode, stumbling a few times as she did so. Afterwards she washed her hands and then her face, which was quite tender. She was wearing a fresh nightgown, a new one she’d bought in anticipation of her now-cancelled wedding.
“In the kitchen, Mistress,” Maggy replied.
Lycoris looked at the table which was spread with a simple breakfast.
“Have I told you recently that you are the best elf in the world?” Lycoris asked.
“A time or two, Mistress. More eating, less talking,” Maggy answered.
Lycoris made quick work of the breakfast and then sipped her cup of tea.
“Now talking,” Maggy said.
“Bossy elf,” Lycoris replied.
Maggy gave a curtsey.
“I thank you for coming when I called,” Lycoris said. “I would have died without you.”
Maggy said nothing in reply but nodded her head as her eyes swelled with unshed tears. She then gulped and said “you, Mistress, are a daughter of the house of Black, and I am a servant of the house of Black, I was glad to hear your call.”
“Thank you again,” Lycoris said.
“I was less glad when I got here,” Maggy continued. “You are Mistress-who-is, may I ask what happened to Mistress who was?”
Lily’s eyes went wide with this question. She thought carefully how to answer.
“Death came for her,” she replied.
“Have you come to harm the house of Black?”
“No, I’m here to set some things right.”
“You are Mistress Lycoris Black, I will keep your secrets,” Maggy said.
“You are a wonderful elf,” Lycoris said.
“You are lucky to have such a good elf,” Maggy said with a sly smile. “Will Mistress have her bath now?”
Lycoris ran her fingers through her hair, trying to gauge whether she could go another day before washing her hair.
“I think that’s a good idea,” she said in reply.
Unbetaed. JK Rowling owns Harry Potter but against the remainder of the universe, this story is mine. Copyright 2020 firstname.lastname@example.org all rights reserved.
Lycoris is Lily, Lily is Lycoris. We'll shed some light on how that works in the next chapter.