Standing before the priest, listening to the soft-spoken litany, Lilith felt like a block of ice, never to melt. Her hand in the man's next to her felt numb, even though his fingers were warm and his grip softer than she'd expected. His voice rolled over her, deep and clear--the words familiar yet sounding odd coming from him.
And then it was her turn and her cold lips parted and she breathed out her response, rime choking her voice to a whisper.
A cold metal band was slid over her pale finger and the priest continued his recitation, and then...
Startled as she was turned to face the man holding her hands, Lilith looked up into dark, unreadable eyes, only to close her own as a brief, cool kiss was pressed to her mouth. Left gasping from the intensity, she allowed her arm to be tucked into the crook of his, her fingers clenching into black merino wool, and turned to face the small audience.
There was no applause, just a few nods of approval as they passed, and a cold smirk on her father's face.
Time passed, a few days. She lost track, alone except for the house elf who brought her meals. Finally, she was summoned again to her father's library.
He was not alone.
Startled, she looked up as the man seated across the desk from Cedric Frost rose to his feet to gaze somberly at her.
"I have found you a husband," he replied coldly. "You'll be wed on Saturday, no pomp, no circumstance. I'm sure you can understand the need for swiftness and privacy. He will claim your bastard and I won't be bothered by you again. This is the best I could do for you under such short notice and with your notable lack of social standing. At least he is on our side."
Only she saw the stiffening of spine and the tightening of jaw in the man who stood before her. The flash of anger in his eyes was reserved for her, too.
And her soul cried for Sirius.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, Lilith listened to the key turning in the lock, the sound as loud as a gunshot in the quiet stillness. She was home, in the bedroom of her childhood--still decorated with fairies and unicorns, all white and pink and lace. She hadn't been back here since graduation.
This wasn't home.
Nowhere was home.
As tears slid down her pale cheeks, she settled one shaking hand over her flat stomach and whispered her lost lover's name, as if saying it would make every thing all right.
Shame reddened her pale cheeks as she stood before her father, her brother-in-law's loathsome fingers gripped around her upper arm as if she would attempt to flee if he released her.
Where would she go?
"So, the slut has gotten herself pregnant," her father stated coldly, hand tightening around a crystal glass half-full of fire whisky.
"She had some help," Lucius replied. Lilith knew he was smirking even without looking at him. "Naturally, she cannot remain at Malfoy Manor in her condition. Unwed with an unclaimed brat in her. The scandal would be too much for my darling wife."
BASTARD, Lilith screamed in her head, unable to move or make a sound, fear and loss weighing her to the spot on the elegant carpet in her father's library.
"Do you have any suggestions, Lucius?"
"Actually, I do. There is someone I know has lusted after her in his shrunken, black heart. He would never dare approach you for her hand--his birth too muddled and low--but now...?"
"Go to your room, Lilith. Don't think about leaving."
Eyes swollen, throat sore from crying the day away, Lilith finally found the courage to storm into Lucius' sanctuary and fling the test results across his desk at him. "You son of a bitch," she choked out, her whole body shaking in reaction. "Damn you to hell."
Unperturbed, Lucius picked up the pink strip of paper and cocked an eyebrow at her. "I've known for two weeks, my dear. I'm surprised that I know your body better than you." As he rose to his feet, fresh tears filled her eyes. "Naturally, you can't stay here."
"I'm free?" she gasped out, a mote of hope blooming in her, which was quickly dashed by the wolfish sneer that crossed his face.
"I never said that." With a swift movement he had her caught in his arms, dragged against the hard length of his body, as he murmured, "The loss of such a passionate bedmate is regrettable, but what I gain..." One hand found her stomach and she shuddered in revulsion. "All I need is your father's permission and you will never escape the darkness."
Lilith sobbed helplessly into her pillow, the pain between her legs growing with each hard thrust of the man on top of her. Fingers clenched around the headboard to which they were bound, she squeezed her eyes shut and held on, silently praying he would reach completion soon.
For four months he'd been doing this to her, and every time she fought him until her strength was spent. Her room was warded. Unable to perform any spells within its walls, she was helpless against his power. He'd bound her for the last week, apparently tired of her hitting and scratching him.
Not that anything she did ever dissuaded him.
She watched him warily as he moved around her bedroom, a look on his face that bothered her. She'd never liked her brother-in-law, and not just because he was a Death Eater.
"Do you know why I welcomed you into my home, Lilith?" Lucius asked, his voice sibilant and soft in the quiet room.
"Narcissa needed me," she replied flatly, backing up a step as he neared her.
A smirk slowly formed on this hard, cruel lips, and a hand tugged on his cravat, baring his neck. "Her needs have nothing to do with it." The hand unfastened the buttons on his shirt, fingers moving swiftly, and Lilith's eyes widened in growing, shocked awareness. "You were always the sister I wanted, Lilith. The one with the fire."
His other hand grabbed her before she could think to flee, and Lilith hit out at him as fear flooded her with endorphins.
Her face hitting the mattress drove further cries from her.
Lilith stood trembling and lost before Lucius Malfoy, the rags of Azkaban still clutched around her skinny body. Her father was going on about something, but she'd tuned him out, focusing her attention on her brother-in-law. Narcissa was ill and it was Lilith's fault. She was here to tend her, help her care for Draco, who at two was quite a handful, make herself useful.
The look Lucius gave her made her stomach turn, though she didn't know why.
Bowing her head at her father's barking of her name, she listened to him berate her, and learned he'd only sought her freedom to save Narcissa. Her imprisonment had harmed her sister through the twin bond.
No one cared how much it had harmed Lilith herself.
"Traitor," her father hissed at her through the bars as she crouched on the floor, curled into herself. The Dementors left her alone when she had visitors--the few rare times--but she wasn't sure this was any better. How could she be a traitor when she wasn't a supporter of the Dark Lord? She was innocent.
A slap across her cheek from a wave of her father's wand made her cry out and press her lips together. She hadn't realized she'd spoken aloud.
"Precisely for that reason, Lilith. You brought shame upon our house and name and for nothing. I cannot crow your triumph in the Dark Court. I cannot defend your supposed actions with the Ministry and the populace in general. You are useless. A waste of flesh and bone. Nothing."
No trial. No defense. No one to listen. No family. No friends.
All they had was each other. Huddled together in the warded holding cell waiting for transport to Azkaban, Sirius and Lilith held each other tightly. Fear warred with love, but love was always stronger.
"I love you, Lil. Hold onto that."
"Sirius," she sobbed. "I'm so scared. We tried to do everything right. Why will no one believe us?"
"Our names," he said as if a curse. "No one truly believed we could ever be good."
"James and Lily did."
"Yeah, luv. And we lost them."
"Promise me that we'll always be together, somehow, in our hearts," Lilith begged as the door to their cell opened.
"Always and forever," Sirius swore as the Aurors dragged him away.
A hand gently cupping her chin brought Lilith out of the stupor into which she'd fallen during the wedding ceremony. The meal that had followed, the change to traveling clothes, the arrival in an inn in Paris had flown past without any meaning, as she'd allowed herself to be moved here and there like a doll.
With a shiver, she pulled away, and immediately feared she'd angered him. Neither her father nor Lucius took her stubbornness and her refusal to completely surrender well.
This man was her husband. While Muggle laws and the laws of the Ministry would protect her in the world she had known, she knew there were unspoken laws that Dark Wizards followed. Archaic laws that made her chattel, property, as her sister was to Lucius. In the world she'd hoped to live her life in with Sirius, she had say in her own life, power and freedom to make her own choices.
But that world had been ripped from her with the deaths of Lily and James Potter. Her father had taken control of her--for the first time since she was eleven--and her spirit, broken by prison, had allowed it.
As she often did, Lilith mourned the loss of her true self, the girl who had been placed in Gryffindor for her strength and courage and good heart, and cursed the weak creature she'd become.
Glancing warily at her husband, she watched him shrug out of his cloak and turn to the tea that was spread on a low table before the fire.
"I'll do that," she murmured, settling on the sofa and reaching for the teapot. "How do you take it?"
That came as no surprise, and as she fixed his cup and he settled across from her, she covertly watched him.
He was no longer the boy she'd known in school--no longer skinny and pimply. He'd grown into his face and there was strength in the arms and legs covered with well-made black wool and linen.
He was no longer poor, either, if his clothes and luggage bespoke the truth.
But, his birth to a Muggleborn--no matter how wealthy--placed him firmly beneath her family in status. She could understand why her father and Lucius thought they were punishing her by making her marry someone of no social status, but they'd never understand why none of that mattered to her.
It wasn't the man or his name or his social position that mattered.
It was the marriage itself.
To anyone other than Sirius.
Lilith had survived the months as Lucius' mistress because she'd held on to the belief that some day she and Sirius would be together again. Some day she'd be freed of her imprisonment, escape the rapes, cleanse her soul with her lover's presence.
Her hand shook as she passed him the cup, and she licked her dry lips, trying to force down the screams that bubbled beneath the surface of her skin. Focusing her attention on fixing her own cup, she tried to find a safe topic to discuss.
Her recalcitrant mind kept demanding to know what his plans were for her.
They hadn't been allowed even a moment alone. She had no clue why he'd married her.
Or, for that matter, what kind of man he'd become.
Her father and Lucius had looked upon him as her punishment--a fallen pure blood princess forced to wed a half-breed toad. A dark wizard, but one of no standing. They would expect he would lord it over her, make her life even more miserable, drag her firmly into their dark world.
But they didn't know what she did.
Or, at least, what she had known a year before.
Taking a sip of her sweet tea, Lilith set the cup down and raised her eyes to her husband's. "Why did you marry me, Severus?"
He appeared startled for a moment, then took a long drink of tea and crossed one leg over the other knee, his eyes narrowing in contemplation. "The Frosts and Malfoys are old names of the highest standing in our society. To ally with them would be the wish of any man."
"Was it your wish?"
"Of course," he replied smoothly, taking another sip before continuing, "There is the added benefit of you being a beautiful, charming, intelligent woman."
Lilith couldn't help but snort at that. "In the eyes of our world I'm a murderer, or at least an accessory to murder."
One eyebrow cocked slightly. "In the eyes of some in our world, that isn't a bad thing."
She paled. "Do you believe that? As a Death Eater, you know I wasn't a dark wizard or a follower of *him*."
"*He*," Severus kept her emphasis, "never told any of us everything. He held certain things close to the chest. There were rumors that one of light was truly one of ours. I don't think any of us were surprised it turned out to be Sirius Black." He sneered the name and Lilith felt herself flush with anger.
He dismissed her statement with a wave of his hand and a snort. "Black is the last thing I wish to discuss on my wedding night."
The fear that suddenly gripped her made her sick and angry at herself, but she forced her eyes to remain on his, trying to see past the mask. "You weren't surprised when I called you a Death Eater."
"I assumed your father or Lucius had mentioned it."
The reply was smooth but she could she that he believed he'd slipped. She pressed the point, "I knew, Severus. I saw glimpses of you. I saw the choices you faced and the decision you made. Didn't you ever wonder why Professor Dumbledore welcomed you back without question? How he knew you were a Death Eater when their identities were secret?"
That startled him and he set his cup down. "What are you saying?"
"I saw you leave the darkness and come to us, to the Order, betraying Voldemort."
"Don't ever say his name," he snapped automatically.
"He's gone. He can't hurt us."
"He'll never truly be gone, and if he knew I'd betrayed him...If any of them knew."
"If they knew, I wouldn't be married to you. That's why my father gave me to you, because he believes you're on his side. He believes the darkness in you is a punishment for me, because he knows the truth. I was never *his* follower."
Severus looked at her for a long moment, then nodded slowly. "We face an interesting future, Lilith. Everyone on the side of good, the ministry, your old friends, believes you're a murderer, and no one in that same world knows that I am."
"I did my duty to the Dark Lord," he replied flatly, "Until I betrayed him, though he never knew. I remained at his side as a spy. In the end I tried to redeem myself, but there is innocent blood on my hands. Yet, to our world, I am simply the son of a minor dark wizarding family. No one of importance. They might suspect, but no one on the side of the light can prove I'm anything else."
"And no matter how much I shout my innocence, no one's going to believe me." Lilith finally dropped her eyes as sorrow shuddered through her. "I'll always be Sirius Black's whore."
"No," Severus replied strongly. "You're my wife."
"I..." The words choked in her throat and she wanted to curl into herself but held herself still, waiting, praying.
"Arranged marriages are still common in our society, Lilith. When Lucius approached me and told me you were carrying his child and needed a husband, I jumped at the chance."
"Why?" she whispered shakily.
"Because, while I'm no prize, I knew that any other options you were given were going to be much worse. They wanted to punish you, and Lucius wanted me in his debt, and we can play those games if we wish, but I think we've beaten them already. You had nothing to do with the death of the Potters. I think I always knew that. And while I can't deny the darkness of my birth, I'm not a follower of the Dark Lord. They'll never know that, and, if he ever comes back, I'll be perfectly placed to help defeat him again."
"And until then? What about us? This marriage?"
"I'll be as good a husband as I can be." The earnestness in his voice only made her feel worse. "I'll love your child as my own. All I ask is that you try to do the same. I..." For the first time he faltered and looked away from her. "I know that you weren't willing. I know what Lucius is capable of. I'm sure he hurt you."
Lilith couldn't prevent the strangled sound that burst from her as she began to tremble. "Please, I don't want...I never want to talk about that."
"Do you hate the child?" Severus murmured.
She shook her bowed head. "It's not her fault."
"It's a girl. I've seen myself holding her. She looks like me. No one will ever know who her real father is," she said dully.
"I'm her real father."
She nodded again, her fingers twisting in the sides of her gown. "So, what do we do?"
"We begin as we mean to go on. We make a life together."
"It's not that simple."
"Nothing ever is," he said, a bit of humor twisting his lips. Rising to his feet, he reached down and gently plucked one of her hands from the silk she wore, pulling her up with it. Their eyes met again, and Lilith felt herself flushing under the intensity of his. "If we put this off, Lilith, tomorrow it will be just as easy to do so again, and then the next night and the next. I know you're tired. I know you can't possibly want me..."
No, she didn't want him. Her heart, mind and body belonged to Sirius. After falling in love with him, she'd never seriously been attracted to any other man.
But, Severus was right. The marriage needed to be real. The family they were creating needed a solid grounding. He was her future. If she divorced him or fled from him, she'd fall back under the wings of her father and brother-in-law. That was the fate worse than death.
Sharing a bed and a life with the man caressing her hand couldn't possibly be that bad. Surely she'd learn to want him.
Making her choice, Lilith stepped around the coffee table and into her husband's arms. The kiss he placed on her lips, unlike the one to seal their vows, was surprisingly irreverent, and she moaned at the pressure and sank against him. As she was lifted off her feet, the heat that swept over her made her limp and soft and she clung to him as he carried her into the bedroom and placed her on the half-tester bed hung in green velvet and brocade.
The kissing resumed as skillful hands stripped her of the silk shirtwaist dress. Her own fingers tangled in his unkempt hair, mussing it further, as she returned his kisses with growing pleasure. After so much horror and pain, just being touched with gentleness and true desire was enough to arouse her.
Maybe wanting him wouldn't be so hard after all.
As she felt him leave her and the bed, Lilith opened her eyes and watched as he peeled off his own clothes, revealing a surprisingly well-built body. When he dropped his trousers, she blushed, but looked anyway, and felt her body dampen in response.
Severus wasn't Lucius. He wouldn't hurt her.
He wasn't Sirius either, but she couldn't think of him. Not now.
Keeping her eyes open, she reached for her husband and drew him down on the bed.
Later, Lilith lay awake, her eyes staring blankly into the room lit only by the moon filtering through the curtains at the window. Her fingers automatically stroked through the soft hair on the head resting heavily on her shoulder, as her mind whirled in confusion.
He hadn't hurt her. He'd been skilled, his touch gentle and arousing, his kisses warm and passionate.
There was no comparison to Lucius. By the time Severus had moved between her legs, lifting them and wrapping them around his hips, her mind had been emptied of all but need. There had been no hesitation in him as he'd sunk into her, groans of pleasure buried in her throat even as her hands stroked his back and her hips rose to meet his and her cries spilled from her.
The orgasm had been wonderful. As she'd laid panting beside him, she'd idly wondered how long it had been since she'd had one.
And then the guilt had hit her like a sledgehammer.
She'd frozen beneath Severus' kiss goodnight, but forced herself not to stiffen as he'd curled next to her, his arm around her waist, his head on her shoulder. As her body had continued to tremble with the remnants of pleasure, her mind had begun to cry for all she'd lost.
As soon as he'd fallen asleep, tears had begun to flow.
Her eyes were dry now. There were only so many tears, and she was too much of a pragmatist to weep and wail for what was out of her reach. It was how she'd survived the last several months, first in Azkaban, then in Lucius' bed.
She'd survive this, too.
Life went on. The child slumbering in her womb proved that.
She had to put Sirius behind her and look to the future.
Severus stirred and as she felt his lips begin to slide teasingly along her collar bone and his hand glide to cup her breast, she turned and tugged his head up to meet her kiss.
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