The Sugar Quill
Author: ilene  Story: Heart of Blackness: A Dark Romance  Chapter: Part One of Two: Ignition
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Heart of Blackness: A Dark Romance

Heart of Blackness: A Dark Romance

Written by ilene

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Part One of Two: Ignition

Rodolphus. Chalet Dustrange, Summer, 1977.

Midnight -- the witching hour -- had long since passed, yet a faint light still shone from one window of the Chalet Dustrange, the Lestrange family mansion.  (Though, truth be told, it was somewhat of an overstatement to call it a mansion.)  In the room with that window, a young wizard sat on his bed, staring dreamily at a locket clutched in his hand and the figure of the young witch in the photograph that it contained.  The witch, a woman with dark hair, a high aquiline nose, and dark hooded eyes, sat haughtily, back straight, sometimes deigning to favor the wizard gazing upon her with a slightly amused smile.

With a smile of his own, the wizard closed the locket, and hung it around his neck. He looked down at the small wooden box in his lap.  He absentmindedly leafed through a sheaf of letters written on parchment, then froze as his fingers came upon something.  Suddenly frowning, he plucked what looked like a small closed seashell from the box.

 

“No!  It can’t be…”

 

He jumped off the bed, not even noticing the coldness of the stone floor as his feet touched it.  Standing upright, he opened the shell and held it to his ear for a moment before throwing it angrily to the ground.  Not even bothering to use his wand, he stomped on it and ground it into the floor.  He lifted his foot, and looked at the dust under it with a self-satisfied smile before sitting back on his bed.

 

“I did not remember putting that in there.” he said to himself.  Then he sighed.  “Of course…that was one she sent to me…” 

 

He drew his wand, pointed it at the remains of the shell on the floor, and whispered, “Reparo.”  Then he picked up the repaired shell, and slipped it back into the box. 

 

“And besides,” he said to himself again, “I have won, have I not?  Oh, yes.  I have won.”

 

 **********

 

Rodolphus, four years earlier. Hogwarts, Autumn, 1973.

 

“Let me in!

 

I turned quickly as I heard that voice, that unmistakable voice, emanate from behind the stone door.  I quickly ran to the door and lifted the latch.  Bellatrix ran past me, panting slightly, before sitting down in one of the chairs near the fireplace.  I noticed that she was holding a piece of paper in her hand. 

 

“Forget the password?”  I asked her, trying to keep my voice cool.

 

“No, of course, not, you fool,” she said.  “Andromeda was chasing me, and I couldn’t very well say the password in front of her, could I?”

 

“Andromeda?  And why was she chasing you?”

 

Bellatrix laughed slightly, and held out the piece of paper.  It looked like a photograph, but one with a Freezing Charm cast upon it, as none of the figures in it were moving.  Then I looked more closely, and realized why; they were Muggles, four male ones, apparently crossing the street.

 

“What are you doing with a Muggle picture?” I asked.

 

“I took it from Andromeda, of course,” she said.  “That’s why she was chasing me, she wanted it back.  She said it was a picture of some Muggle band…named after some insect.  Beetles, I think.  Seems it was a gift from some Gryffindor.  Probably a half-blood.” She snorted.

 

“Or a Mudblood?”

 

Bellatrix looked at me, shocked.  “Surely not!  My sister might not have been Sorted into Slytherin, but she would not be associating with Mudbloods!”

 

“Oh, of course not.”  I said quickly, hoping to calm her down before she hexed me. 

 

“No.  No Black would…well, except that idiot Sirius, but I don’t even think he counts anymore, always hanging around that Mudblood-loving Potter.  I say it’s just a matter of time before Aunt Aquila and Uncle Orion burn him off the tapestry.”

 

“Ah, yes, that…Incendio!”  I whipped out my wand, but made sure to keep it pointed at the fireplace; I didn’t think Bellatrix would like it if I set fire to her chair.

 

“Yes, like that.”  Bellatrix said.  Then looked at me as if she’d just thought of something, then held the Muggle photograph out in front of me.  “Hold this for a moment?”

 

I reached out, and carefully held the photograph by a corner, using only the tips of my fingers.  I wasn’t quite as sure as Bellatrix that Andromeda was not “associating” with Mudbloods.  I’d even heard a rumor that she had been seen running out of the rosebushes looking rather disheveled, followed a few minutes later by Ted Tonks, a Gryffindor who was certainly no pureblood.  But I figured this wasn’t exactly the best time to bring up that rumor to Bellatrix.

 

She smiled.  “Yes, just like that.”  Then she suddenly drew her wand.

 

Incendio!”  she said, so quickly that I had no time to react until I felt the heat of the flames enveloping the photograph. 

 

“Ow!”  I yelled, dropping the photograph.  Luckily, it landed on the stone floor, and the flames quickly burned themselves out.

 

Bellatrix made a sound that seemed to be a stifled laugh. “Well, it serves you right, doesn’t it?  Suggesting that my sister would knowingly receive a gift from a Mudblood?”

 

I decided that it would probably never be a good time to mention the rosebush rumor to Bellatrix.

 

“Bellatrix, I sincerely apologize for ever mentioning such a…shocking thought,” I said. 

 

She gave me a look that I wasn’t sure was one of amusement or contempt.  “Apology accepted…I suppose,” she said.

 

I decided that a peace offering might be in order.

 

“Look, Bellatrix…I have the latest release from Runespoor,” I said.  “Rosier gave it to me for my birthday.  Do you want to borrow it?”

 

“Runespoor?  I’m not sure I like that kind of music.  That’s the one with the singing Frenchman?  Julian?”

 

“It’s Julius.  Julius d’Orange.”

 

“He’s from the house of d’Orange?”  Bellatrix looked a little more impressed, as she should be.  The d’Oranges were one of the more famous Pure families of France

 

“Yes.  And they’re really good…actually, there’s one song that I have in my pocket right now.” I reached into my robe and pulled out a small shell.  “Actually, I think this is…”  I opened the shell and put it to my ear.  “Yes, it is.  Interesting coincidence, really…this song is called ‘Incendio.’”

 

*********

 

Bellatrix. 12 Grimmauld Place, Summer, 1977.

 

Bellatrix Black lay sleepless in a guest bedroom at 12 Grimmauld Place.  She heard the soft pitter-patter of a house-elf’s footsteps pass by her door.  Good old Kreacher, she thought.  Kreacher seemed to have an uncommonly keen sense of when he was needed, even for a house-elf; he would often run to start a chore even before Aunt Aquila gave him the word to do it.  It was as if he had a special Legilimens ability.  Even the Malfoys don’t have house-elves as well trained as Kreacher, she thought.  Even if he is slightly mad. 

 

Kreacher was one of the few things about 12 Grimmauld Place that Bellatrix looked forward to whenever she was about to visit the house.  Not that she didn’t like Aunt Aquila and Uncle Orion, and Regulus was tolerable enough, if slightly dull.  And that blood traitor, Sirius, had finally run off and been burned off the tapestry, just as Bellatrix had always thought he would be.  It was just that there was very little to do there, except perhaps do some reading.  There certainly were interesting books in the study, however, books that rivaled the great library at Malfoy Manor. 

Bellatrix had told Aunt Aquila that she didn’t have to stay at 12 Grimmauld Place, that she could simply Apparate to Diagon Alley, do her shopping for her trousseau, and Apparate home the same day, but Aunt Aquila had insisted on making a full-fledged visit out of it.  And so Bellatrix lay in her bed, unable to sleep, and she knew that there was more to it than simply the nervousness of a witch whose wedding day was approaching.   Neither was it the weather outside, where rain had started to fall; the Black mansion was enchanted so that such noises did not reach the bedrooms to disturb the occupants.

 

After all, it was this very same bed that I slept in after…Bellatrix felt a shudder go through her, even though it had been three years since the events which had taken place the last time she had visited 12 Grimmauld Place.  Narcissa had been there then, sleeping in the room next to her, and her mother and father had been there as well, in the room above.  Tonight, it was only her. 

 

“Purifying flame…name without a face…face without a name…”  Bellatrix heard herself mouthing words that she’d thought she'd long forgotten.  No! she thought, resolutely clamping down her mouth.   That’s over.  He’s dead.  It doesn’t matter anymore.

 

*********

 

Bellatrix, three years earlier. Hogwarts, Winter, 1974.

 

Incendio, let them burn now…Exsanguino, let them bleed…”  I softly sang the words to myself as I inspected the seal on the letter from Julius d’Orange.  I had to admit, he had a good ear for music, even if he wasn’t exactly prompt in answering his letters.  I supposed he had his share of Owls from admirers, but I’d expected him to notice a letter from a member of the House of Black. 

 

I slowly unrolled the parchment using my wand, so as not to disrupt the seal, especially the motto, La magie n'est jamais morte. Magic never dies.   Not bad for a family motto, though I still thought Toujours Pur had a better ring to it. 

 
Dear Miss Black,

 Thank you for your Owl to me regarding the Miranda Incident, which as you know was one of the more horrifying events even in the long history of Muggle persecution of witches and wizards.  I appreciate the input regarding your family history.  It is true that little Miranda Black was not actually burned alive by the Muggles, as widely believed, but was garroted before the public burning.  I find this fact rather ironic, for while Miranda Black was captured by the Muggles shortly before her second year of Hogwarts, she was probably capable of accomplishing a Flame-Freezing Charm, and might actually have lived if not for this “act of mercy”, as it was called in the Muggle records, which I did take the time to research, tattered and inaccurate as they were.  As you can imagine, it made me laugh to read such a phrase.  I even considered using “Act of Mercy” instead of “Incendio” as the title of the song.

 

However, I do not think that the slight artistic license I have taken with this incident detracts from the truth that lies behind it.  As you well know, before the invention of Bone-Chilling Potion by Septimius Snape, there were cases of witches and wizards who were deprived of their wands and perished in the flames unable to cast the Freezing Charm. 

 

I also find very intriguing your accounts of some of the traditions of the House of Black.  Thank you for your time.  I have enclosed two complimentary tickets for a Runespoor concert -- to take place at the Summer Solstice, when I trust that you will be free to attend.  We will be performing songs from our new album to be released in the spring, as well as old favorites such as “Incendio”.

 

Sincerely,

Julius d’Orange

 

“Hmm.”  I looked down at the tickets on the table…or, more specifically, the ticket that was not my own.  I could take Narcissa, but she would probably prefer to attend one of the Malfoys’ tea parties instead…especially if Lucius was in town.  None of the witches who shared my room, silly girls that they were, cared for the music of Runespoor.  That left either Rosier, or…Rodolphus.  After all, he had been the one to introduce me to their music   I supposed he would do. 

 

 

Bellatrix. 12 Grimmauld Place, Spring, 1974.

 

“But of course it shall be held here!”  Aunt Aquila said to my mother.  “Why did you think it would not?”

 

“Well, Sister,” Mother said, looking down, “Considering the shame we have brought…”

 

“No shame of yours, Sister, and certainly not Bellatrix.” Aunt Aquila said.  “Nor of anyone on the great tree of the House of Black.”

 

She gestured toward the tapestry on the wall.  I followed her hand with my eyes.  The words on the tapestry were too small to see from here, but I still took a quick glance at the bottom of it.  I knew what was there…or, more specifically, what was not there, between my name and Narcissa’s.  My sister’s name had been replaced by a dark, burned scorch mark.  No, not my sister, no longer.  The blood traitor’s name.

 

“I just wonder where we went wrong,” Mother said.  “She never gave us any trouble…” 

 

Her voice trailed off, and I knew what she was thinking, though she would never say it.  Not like Sirius.  The ingrate had not bothered to show up in his own home over Easter vacation, and had not even dared to say to his parents’ faces that he wouldn’t be coming.  Instead, he had sent a letter to inform them that he would be staying with the Potters, instead.  At least it wasn’t that shabby half-blood, I thought.

 

“I have no idea who you speak of,” Aunt Aquila said.  She said no more, but the look in her eyes said it all.  Do not speak of the blood traitor in this house.

 

Mother looked down again, and when she raised her head, she looked as if she was trying to force herself to appear cheerful.

 

“Well, then, Bellatrix,” she said, “It is settled.  Your grand soiree will be held here.”

 

“At the summer solstice,” Aunt Aquila said.

 

“The summer solstice?” I asked.  “But my birthday is…”  And the Runespoor concert is then, too, I thought, though I knew that was a trivial matter.

 

“I know, child,” Aunt Aquila said, “but your birthday is at a time where many wizards are on holiday.  They all return for the summer solstice, however.  We will have a ball that is the grandest that has been thrown for some time, even better than…others that have been held here.”

 

I knew what she was talking about.  Andromeda’s coming-of-age ball, the ball that had taken place in winter, a great affair of glittering ice.  Some of the most eligible young wizards had been invited, and even Lucius Malfoy had returned from his studies abroad, much to Narcissa’s delight. 

 

And it had all been a waste.

 

Not mine, I thought.  The Runespoor concert is nothing, compared to this.   Even though it was somewhat galling that an invitation from the Blacks did not carry the weight it once did.  There was a time, I knew, when all wizards would have canceled their plans to attend a ball held at the House of Black.

 

I tried on a smile.

 

“At the summer solstice, then,” I said.  

 

“So, now that the date is set,” Mother said. “And we have the place….we must think about the décor, and the entertainment.”

 

“Kreacher will help out, of course,” Aunt Aquila said.  “We can ask Marissa Malkin to help out with the draperies…and of course, we need new dress robes for Bellatrix; one for drinks before dinner, one during the dinner, and one after the dinner.”  Three dress robes, when Andromeda had only worn two. I smiled again, a real smile this time.

 

“As for entertainment, what about Celestina?” Aunt Aquila continued.

 

“I thought of asking her again,” Mother said.  “But it seems she’ll be on tour all throughout the summer.  She’s making a few stops on the Continent, too.  I believe she’ll be in Paris on the summer solstice.”

 

Aunt Aquila either did not notice that Mother had said “again”, or chose to ignore the reference to my sister’s ball.

 

“Very well.  You would have thought she would have remembered that Bellatrix’s coming-of-age ball would be this summer.  Well, the Sawing Skeletons are still around; they played at my wedding.  And perhaps something for the younger ones? Regulus likes this new band, called…the Strange Sisters, I believe.”

 

I was getting an idea.  Not that the Weird Sisters were that bad of a choice, but…

 

“There’s another band, which I’d prefer,” I said.  “The one with the young d’Orange…Runespoor.”

 

“Oh, yes, I’ve heard of that one,” Mother said.  “Music doesn’t seem to be quite the profession for a d’Orange, but…they are known for being rather high-spirited in their youth, even somewhat foolish – though most of them do settle down eventually.”

 

“I know you’ll like their music,” I said.  And I had a feeling that Julius d’Orange would be quite willing to re-schedule his concert for a chance to play in front of the foremost Pure families of Britain.

 

 

Rodolphus. 12 Grimmauld Place, Summer Solstice, 1974.

 

“Nice robes, Bellatrix,” I said.  Bellatrix looked at me from the receiving line as I passed by on the way to my table, and gave me an almost-smile in acknowledgement.  She then went back to talking with her aunt, Regulus’s mother.

 

“You can’t call her that here,” a voice said from behind.  It was one quite similar to Bellatrix’s voice, but higher-pitched.  It sounded like a girl trying to sound older than she really was, which was exactly the case.

 

“Hello there, Narcissa,” Rabastan said, looking at her eagerly.  Narcissa was pretty enough, I supposed, though nothing to compare to Bellatrix. 

 

“Rabastan,” Narcissa said coolly, not even looking at him, though a crease showed on her brow to show her annoyance at being interrupted.  “Anyway, Rodolphus, we are to call her Miss Black in public, especially at such an occasion as this.”  She waved a frilly sleeve of her dress robes to emphasize her point.

 

“Well then, you must call me Mr. Lestrange,” I pointed out.

 

“And I am Master Lestrange,” Rabastan said.

 

“Actually, Rodolphus is Master Lestrange,” Narcissa said, finally deigning to look at Rabastan.  “For Mr. Lestrange, your father, is still living.  And you are Master Rabastan, for you are a younger brother.”

 

“Oh, yes, of course!”  Rabastan said, his adoring gaze embarrassingly obvious.

 

Narcissa seemed unsure whether to be annoyed or flattered at the attention.  “And when I come of age next year,” she said, “I will be called Miss Narcissa Black.”

 

I hadn’t realized that Narcissa was sixteen now; that actually made her older than Rabastan.  I sighed, pitying him a little, even though his infatuation with Narcissa could be extremely annoying, as well as hopeless.  Everyone knew that Narcissa had been trying to catch Lucius Malfoy’s eye ever since he returned from the Continent.  I also knew, from what Bellatrix had told me, that Narcissa had declared at the age of thirteen that she intended to marry the Malfoy heir.

 

I decided it was best to distract him, and leave Narcissa to go look for Malfoy.

 

“Rabastan,” I said, “Why don’t you go thank Miss Black for the Runespoor tickets?”

 

“Of course,” Rabastan said, getting up reluctantly.  He gathered up the hems of his dress robes and walked over to the receiving line.

 

As I expected, when I turned around, Narcissa had left the table, too.  I found myself alone.

 

I looked over at the stage in the middle of the room, where the Sawing Skeletons and the members of Runespoor had set themselves up on opposite sides of it. While the Skeletons were still at their musical saws, Runespoor was apparently taking a break, leaving their instruments on their stools.  I took a good look at d’Orange’s zither.  It was quite well-made, inlaid with Erumpent horn, with strings charmed to shine in different colors.

  

I recalled Mother’s words when I had told him that Bellatrix had given me and Rabastan tickets for the Runespoor concert. 

 

“Ah, the band with the young d’Orange?  If you have a chance, try to talk to him.  Perhaps he will invite us to meet him.”

 

“Why would you and Father not invite him, Mother?” Rabastan asked.  “I am sure he would love to visit Chateau Dustrange.”

 

“Nonsense, silly boy,” Mother said. “You know that the Lestranges used to serve the d’Orange family many centuries ago, before we crossed the Channel.  It would be unheard of for us to presume to invite a d’Orange, instead of waiting for him to call upon us.  It would be like Horace Goyle presuming to invite the Malfoys to his, well, keep.” 

 

Unfortunately, we had not had a chance to talk with d’Orange; there had been a disturbance toward the end of the concert, and the band members had been whisked away before any harm could befall them.

 

But I could surely talk to him here.  He had heard my name announced, and knew that there was a Lestrange in the hall.  I started to walk around the hall, trying to find him.  Perhaps he would be sitting down for dinner.  I supposed that the Sawing Skeletons would play throughout dinner – skeletons had little need for food, after all – giving the members of Runespoor a chance to eat.

 

When I did see him, however, I found that my feet froze where they were.

 

He was talking to Bellatrix, who had, apparently, been relieved of her duties at the receiving line; the large doors to the Great Hall of Grimmauld Place had closed, indicating that last guest had finally arrived.  She was looking at him animatedly, and I heard him singing something, a tune I had never heard before.  Perhaps it was a new song, one that hadn’t been released yet.

 

The way Bellatrix was looking at d’Orange was also something I’d never seen before. 

 

I suddenly had a sinking feeling, as if I was being sucked into one of the famed deadly sandpits that Egyptian wizards used to trap invaders.  I wasn’t sure why, however.  Not then.

**********

 

Rodolphus. Chalet Dustrange, Summer, 1977.

 

Rain was falling outside the window, and the wind was increasing in strength.  Yet Rodolphus Lestrange did not notice the tree branches tapping on his window.  He was too absorbed in the contents of the box on his lap.  He now took out two parchment tickets with faded lettering, as well as words written in with a quill.

 

“Runespoor...one week before the Summer Solstice,” he read.

 

He flipped open his locket, and gazed at the photograph of Bellatrix.  “Yes, yes, my love, you would probably ask, why I keep those things. After all, you were not even there!” 

 

The picture of Bellatrix smiled slightly.

 

“But you see, these were part of my plan. You see this spot here?”  He pointed to a small dark brown spot on the corner of one of the ticket.  “He must have pricked himself with his quill.”

 

“That, and this,” Rodolphus said.  He drew his wand, and pointed it at one of the paintings hanging in his room; a painting of what looked like a rustic cottage.  He whispered a few words, and the door of the cottage opened, exposing a small crevice hewn into the stone wall, and a small box contained within.  Another wave of the wand, and the box flew into his hand.

 

It looked like a small jewelry box, worked in elaborate filigree, but that was not the most notable part of it.  That distinction belonged to the latch, which was shaped to resemble a horrible, grinning gargoyle, with one sharp fang in the middle of its mouth. 

 

“You often fault me for my curiosity, my love,” he said.  “Yet if I had not been curious, then…”

 

**********

 

 

Rodolphus, two years earlier.  Chalet Dustrange, Late Summer, 1974.

 

“Well, son,” Father said.  “Now you have come of age.”

 

“Thank you, Father,” I said, “for having raised and guided me through my childhood years.”

 

“Thank you, Rodolphus,” he said.  “You have made me proud, to have such a son.”

 

I turned to my mother.

 

“Thank you, Mother, for having borne me, and nourished me when I was young and helpless. ”

 

“Thank you, Rodolphus,” she said.  “You have made me proud, to have such a son.”

 

I smiled.  Even though the words were rote, part of the ceremony, I had a feeling that she meant them more sincerely now, than she would when she would say the same words to Rabastan when he came of age.  I glanced at Rabastan, who sat in the audience, looking appropriately impressed. 

 

“Well, that is the end of the ceremony,” Father said. He looked slightly relieved as the members of the audience began to file into the next room, where Bette, our house-elf, had set up the post-ceremony dinner.  He had never been one for ceremony, unlike Mother. 

 

When everyone except me, my parents, and Rodolphus had gone, Father shut the doors with a wave of his wand.

 

“Now for the private part of our evening,” he said.  “Rodolphus, we present you with what is your due as the next heir to Chalet Dustrange.”   He Summoned a tray with two small boxes on it, which came to a stop before me.

 

“Open the one on the right first,” Mother said.  I did so, and found that it contained a set of three rings.

 

“The first ring, in the center, carries the seal of the Lestrange family,” Father said.  “It will take the place of your signature.  It also will be accepted as Gringotts in lieu of a key to the Lestrange family vault.  With the ring on your finger, you will be allowed to take any part of your heir-apparent’s portion; but nothing more,” he added, with a wink.  “So be careful.”

 

“The other two rings have been passed down in the Lestrange family for generations.  One has a yellow diamond, meant to be worn by the heir.  You will wear it until my death, then you will receive the white diamond ring that is on my hand, and will return the ring to this box for your own heir.”

 

“The other is also a diamond…a black diamond,” Mother said.  “It is meant to be worn by the heiress of the Lestrange family.”

 

“You mean…my wife?”

 

“Yes, when you get around to taking one,” Father said.  “Not that there is any great hurry, of course.”

 

Rabastan laughed out loud at this.  I shot him a glare. 

 

“Of course,” I said, but I was unable to look directly at my father.  The image of Bellatrix had risen to my mind’s eye, unbidden – not that she was ever far from my thoughts.  At this point, however, that possibility seemed to be as hopeless as Rabastan’s schoolboy fancy for Narcissa.  I had not seen Bellatrix since her coming-of-age ball, and she had only danced with me once.  Not only that, I had read in the Daily Prophet, just yesterday, that she and Julius d’Orange had been seen together at a Quidditch match.

 

“You will give your bride this ring on your wedding-day,” Mother said. “And one day, the time will come when she will receive my ring.” 

 

“These rings are more than simple adornments,” Father said.  “They are Portkeys, set to return to their home…that is, to this box.  Setting the ring upon the last finger of your left hand will transport you to wherever the box of rings is placed.  Of course, the box must never leave Chateau Lestrange, for as heir you must be ready to return to your home immediately when needed.  My ring has the same ability, as does your mother’s.”

 

I closed the ring box, replaced it on the tray, then reached for the box on the left.

 

“Not yet,” Father said quickly.  “Wait until I explain.”

 

“What is it?” I said. 

 

“As you know, the Lestranges have served the d’Orange family for centuries.   A hundred and fifty years ago, my grandfather, Rodolphus Lestrange the first, received permission from the d’Oranges to cross the channel and establish a branch of the family here.  On that occasion, he was given this box.”

 

I looked at the box.   It looked ordinary enough.

 

“You may pick up the box now,” Father said.  “But it not to be opened…not that it will allow you to do so,” Father said.  “Your great-grandfather was entrusted with the safe-keeping of this box, until a member of the d’Orange family comes to claim it.  Only a true d’Orange can open the box and obtain what it contains.”

 

The box had no apparent lock, only a latch shaped like a grinning gargoyle, with a sharp-looking fang in the center of its mouth.  However, I was sure that it was locked as firmly as the most secure vault at Gringotts.

 

 And then I did something extremely stupid.  I reached out with one finger to test the fang’s sharpness.

 

I bit back a cry as the fang suddenly plunged into my finger.  Not only that, but the gargoyle began to scream, much louder than I would have expected for charmed metalwork.

 

“UNWORTHY!  Unworthy!  You are not a true d’Orange!  Unworthy!”

 

I pulled my finger back as soon as possible, and quickly cast a crude Healing Charm on it to stop the bleeding.

 

Luckily, my father was not the type to often yell in anger. He simply looked at me with a slight smile on his face.

 

“Oh, that might as well have happened now,” he said.  “I did that too, when I was showing it to your mother on our wed…well, shortly after our wedding.  It was quite embarrassing.”

 

“And the charm was even stronger then,” Mother said.  “And by stronger, I mean louder.”

 

“So it reacts to blood?” I said.

 

“Yes.  I assume that once it tastes the blood of a true d’Orange, it will open.”

 

“Interesting,” I said.  And then I remembered something…a small brown spot I’d seen on my Runespoor ticket.  It just might be blood, d’Orange’s blood.  All I’d have to do was do a quick Refreshing Charm on it to find out.  And I was quite curious as to what was inside the box…

 

 

//
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