Madeleine Yaxley wasn't top of her class in anything, but she was the first to start getting attention from the males around her. Boys were not slow to take notice of her full bosom and nicely-rounded bottom. Grown men watched her, too. They would smile and wink and compliment her long, dark hair or her poison-green eyes, but that was never where they were looking.
Madeleine would be the first to tell you that she was a bit of a flirt. The quickening of the pulse. The blush and stammer that she took as her due. She loved the attention. Well, most of it.
Years later, she would always swear she did not remember his name. He was one of her mother's paramours, and she thought of him only as "the Creepy One". After she started at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it no longer seemed useful for Madeleine to keep track of the names of her mother's endless string of short-term lovers, since they were usually gone by her next school holidays.
Cartimandua Venuti-Yaxley was in her mid-thirties, and was considered by many to be one of the most beautiful witches in Britain. She had the same dark hair as her daughter, but her eyes were blue rather than green. She had been tragically widowed as a young mother, some said. Others said that she had killed her husband, or that he had run off with another woman (or man), never to be seen again. Wizards love to gossip, and one should never believe half of the wild rumours one hears.
The Creepy One infested Madeleine's home during the summer holidays following her third year at Hogwarts. He was pale and fair-haired and thin, and he stared at Madeleine all the time, though he never spoke to her. Not until one night in August.
She awoke in darkness from a dream of drowning to find a weight pressing down on her chest. She squeaked and flailed. Hands came out of the darkness to pin her wrists to the mattress, which only caused her to redouble her struggles.
"Shhh!" hissed a hoarse voice. "You don't want to wake your mother, now, do you?"
Holding her in place with a forearm across her chest, he clawed the blankets off her and began fumbling with the buttons on her nightgown.
"What are you doing?" she demanded breathlessly, trying to push away his groping hand, but to little effect.
One button gave way, and he plunged a hand into the gap, pawing at her breasts before impatiently grasping a handful of the thin cotton and ripping it open from throat to navel. She lay, frozen with shock, as the chill night air and his hot breath washed over her skin.
"Oh, God! Maddy, you are so beautiful!" His exclamation was muffled as he buried his face between her breasts.
"Get off me!" she squeaked, horrified. One of his hands was groping toward the waistband of her knickers.
"Hush, now, Lovey," he murmured. "Be a good girl. You'd want me to tell your mum what a good girl you are, wouldn't you?"
She didn't answer, but lay still for the moment, mind whirling. Can I reach my wand? she wondered. She thought it was on her nightstand, but she wasn't sure, and it was very dark in the room.
The hand around her right wrist tugged her arm, jolting her out of her thoughts as he pressed her hand between his legs.
"See what you do to me, Maddy?" he whined. "You're a good girl. You don't want me to suffer just because you're so beautiful, do you?"
Icy fear was flooding her body. She didn't think she was strong enough to fight him, wandless. Would he hurt her if she tried to scream? Had he locked the door behind him when he came in? If she didn't do something fast, he was going to do that thing to her that men did to women.
As his fingers worked their way down into her knickers, her mind came sharply into clear, cold focus. She had a sudden, very specific memory of placing her wand on the nightstand.
The fingers of her right hand clenched around the bulge in his pants, and as he closed his eyes and moaned, "You're so hot, Maddy!" he didn't notice her left hand flash out to snatch her wand.
"No, you are!" she replied, jabbing him rudely between the legs. "Incendio!"
There was a flash, a shriek, the acrid smell of burning hair, and he was off her and out of the room. As she slammed the door shut, sealing it behind him, she could hear a string of muffled obscenities and water running in the bathroom down the hall.
She leaned her back against the door and sank down to the floor, drawing her knees up tight to her chin. Long past the time her heart stopped pounding, she remained there, staring into the darkness.
The next morning, he was still there.
Idiot, Madeleine thought, glowering at his tentative smile as the house-elf brought her breakfast. Her mother wasn't up yet, and Madeleine was not sure what she should tell her when she did appear.
While she was staring at her eggs and trying to decide, the Creepy One came around behind her chair and squeezed her shoulder. She jumped.
"Maddy, I just wanted to apologise for last night," he said in a confidential tone. "I don't want you to have the wrong impression of me. You're just so lovely that my senses deserted me for a moment; that's all. I do hope you weren't thinking of mentioning it to your mother. I don't think she would understand. It can just be our little secret, okay? You like secrets, don't you, Maddy?"
She looked up at him, feigned innocence shining from her wide, green eyes. "I love secrets," she said, smiling. Then she tilted her head to whisper in his ear. "You know what I love best about secrets?"
"What?" he asked bending close, answering her smile.
She drew back and gave him the coldest look imaginable. "Telling them."
He barely had time to wipe the drop-jawed expression from his face when Cartimandua descended the staircase.
"Good morning, Mother," Madeleine said pleasantly. "Sleep well?" She cast a glance at the Creepy One, assiduously studying his plate. He looked distinctly green, and there was a sheen of sweat standing out on his forehead.
"Very well, Sweetie," her mother replied, yawning and stretching elegantly. "You?"
"You know, I had some funny dreams, and then something woke me up, and I just couldn't get back to sleep."
"Oh?" said her mother distractedly as the house-elf set a breakfast tray in front of her. "What was that, Dear?"
"That crup shite at the end of the table," Madeleine said merrily. "Would you believe he thought I would let him get into my knickers?"
Cartimandua stared at her daughter, then at the man who had shared her bed for the past three months.
"Well, that's ridiculous!" he burst out. "The things kids will say! Clearly she's jealous of your time with me, Manda. I wouldn't pay her any attention. She'll just have to get used to the fact that I'm in your life."
Madeleine laughed. "Why don't you ask him to explain the blisters on his bollocks, Mum?" she said. "That should make a good story."
Cartimandua had not looked away from her paramour. "Show me," she said, a dangerous note in her voice.
He went red. "Now, Manda! Show you my --? At the breakfast table? In front of your daughter?"
"Show me," she hissed.
He rose, red-faced. "I am a sixth generation pure-blood wizard. I do not have to take this kind of shit from women and children!" he declared.
"Maddy, go upstairs," said her mother, not raising her voice. "I'll have Squeaker bring up your breakfast," she added as an afterthought.
There was a hardness in her mother's voice which Madeleine could not disobey. She went.
She was reading -- or trying to -- when the knock came at her door. Hurriedly, she shoved the steamy Freya Lovelace novel under her pillow. Her mother no longer approved of Lovelace's books since the popular author had stopped writing "proper characters" and begun casting Muggles in her leading roles.
"Come in," Madeleine called.
Cartimandua entered and sat down on the edge of the bed. For a long moment, she studied her daughter.
"You do believe me, don't you, Mum?" Madeleine asked uncertainly. "He really did try to --"
"Did he hurt you, Baby?" There were tears in her mother's eyes.
Madeleine bit her lip. "He -- tried. But I stopped him."
Cartimandua heaved a deep and shaky sigh, and patted her daughter's knee. "Good for you."
"What did you do to him?" asked Madeleine.
"Never mind that." Her mother shook her head, looking down at her hands, clenched in her lap. "He won't bother you ever again."
"Okay," she said uncertainly.
"I'm sorry, Sweetie," Cartimandua said, looking into her daughter's eyes once more. "I've seen the way he looks at you, but I didn't think anything of it. I've seen you as a little girl for so long --" She sighed again. "But you're not a little girl any more, Madeleine. You're a woman now, and that means there are some things you need to understand."
"About men, you mean?" she asked.
"About men. And about life." Cartimandua took Madeleine's hands in hers, facing her daughter on the bed.
"Maddy," she began. "You are so precious. And I'm not just saying that because I'm your mother and I love you," she added with a half-smile. "What I mean is that you are a beautiful pure-blood girl. That's not so common as you might think, and it's understandable that men will take notice of you. You have your whole life ahead of you, and you are in a position to make an excellent marriage. But in order to do that, you have a responsibility to keep yourself pure. Do you understand what I mean by that?"
Madeleine blushed and dropped her eyes to the coverlet, tracing the quilted design with a finger. "You mean, as in sex."
"Yes, I do," her mother said firmly. "Look and me, Madeleine."
The girl looked up into her mother's eyes.
"You are a lovely girl. So was I at your age; I know how it is. Boys are going to notice you. Men, too. You're going back to school in a couple of weeks, and I won't be there to watch over you. You will need to watch out for yourself, so that one day you can honour your husband by presenting yourself to him, pure and perfect, as I did for your father." Cartimandua's eyes grew sad, as they always did when she mentioned Madeleine's father. "Promise me, Madeleine."
"I promise, Mother."
The two women embraced.
"I love you, Maddy. It gets lonely here when you're at school."
"I know, Mum. I love you too."