Kreacher had frightened Bella when she first floo’d to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. She had said her goodbyes to Charlie, given him her new cell phone number, and had trusted Harry when he had held her hand and pulled her through the fireplace at the Seattle International Airport.
One thing she could say for Grimmauld Place was that it was clean. Very, very clean. However, it was very dark. She looked at Harry and said, “James can’t grow up here.”
He had kissed her for it, and promised her that they would redecorate. “Kreacher has done his best,” he had stated solemnly. The small Kreacher had looked up proudly. “However, it does need to be modernized.”
That was putting it mildly.
Still, whenever Kreacher appeared without any warning, Bella squeaked despite herself. He was the oddest little creature. All wrinkles, big ears, and large tennis ball eyes. If Bella had to think of what an elf looked like before meeting Kreacher, she would have thought something along the lines of tall, beautiful beings the likes of which were seen in The Lord of the Rings. Clearly this was not the case.
Bella was in the bedroom, just sitting and contemplating what color would look best on the wall, when Kreacher popped into existence.
“Mistress,” the little thing said, “Mr. and Mrs. Weazzes be here.”
Bella stared at him. Weazzes. Could he mean Weasley?
“Mr. and Mrs. Weasley?” She gaped at him. What were Weasleys doing here? Her one encounter with a Weasley—the former Mrs. Potter—had been horrifying. She wasn’t certain she could stand to meet any more. “Tell them I’m not at home.” That sounded like something the lady of the house would say.
“Theys be seeing Master Jamesie in the livingses room.”
Oh, that’s right. There was a playpen set up for him in there and Harry liked it if he didn’t spend all of his time in the bedrooms. Also, Harry thought that it would be nice for him to soak up the family magics that came with the Black and Potter tapestries that were housed in that room. As Harry was also determined that Bella was not a babysitter and that Kreacher was more than capable, young James was sometimes left in his care for half an hour or so. Bella thought that this Mr. and Mrs. Weasley probably knew Harry well enough that he wouldn’t leave James alone in a house with only a house elf.
The decision was made for her.
Slipping on the teal house robe Harry had gotten her over her purple shirt and jeans, Bella made her way downstairs. They really had to find a better solution to this Kreacher-taking-care-of-James problem. They needed a babysitter, especially when Bella’s classes started next week. However, a Muggle couldn’t come in to a magical house and a wizard might be a stalker fan. It was quite the conundrum.
She came into the room to see a bushy haired witch holding James and cooing at him. Immediately, Bella’s instincts reared up. “You put him down immediately,” she demanded, rushing forward and taking James from the unknown witch. Looking James up and down to make sure he was all right, Bella kissed his forehead, and brushed back his auburn hair. Bella turned to the witch and the red haired wizard who were both staring at her in shock. “May I help you?”
The wizard was the first to answer. He gave her lop-sided grin and said, “We’re looking for Harry.”
“Well, he’s at St. Mungo’s.” Shouldn’t they know that Harry was a healer and a bit of a workaholic?
The two looked at each other. This time, it was the bushy haired witch who spoke. “We thought this might be the case, but thought we might come along and see you anyway. Harry sent us an owl that he was getting married. It’s our lunch break.”
Bella stared at them. Hard. “You’re Weasleys?” she accused.
The red haired one obviously didn’t pick up her tone of voice. “Ron Weasley,” he said, holding out his hand for her to take. “And this is Hermione. We were Harry’s best mates at school.”
Bella looked at them hard and then looked over at the mantle, which showed three pictures. The largest one was of Bella and Harry on their wedding day. The second of Bella and Charlie. The third showed a younger Harry and a red haired boy and a bushy haired girl. This must be them then. “Yes,” Bella said hesitantly. “Harry has mentioned you.”
She sat down and the Weasleys took that as invitation to sit down as well. Bella looked down at James and he curled his small hands into her long hair. “You perhaps should call when Harry is at home,” she stated.
“We were hoping we might catch him,” Hermione reiterated. “And we were hoping to meet you if you weren’t at work. We heard from Ginny that there was someone new in his life, as well. We hadn’t realized until Kreacher told us that Harry had actually remarried. I had the announcement but so much can change…”
So, Bella was somehow supposed to be fickle. “Yes,” Bella offered. “It was a private ceremony back in America. I didn’t even have time to get a wedding dress, not that it mattered. I’ve never liked parties or celebrations.” Bella’s mind turned to Alice and her ill-fated eighteenth birthday party. She shook the unwanted thought away.
Hermione eyed her and Ron just looked lost. “Harry,” Hermione offered, “had a large wedding the first time. Ginny loved it…”
“I’ve met Ginny,” Bella said coldly. “She held James and me hostage for over an hour.”
Neither of them had anything to say to that. Fortunately, when the silence became too awkward, they both left. Bella made a note to tell Harry to secure the floo, if he were capable of doing that. She didn’t want any more unannounced visitors.
That, however, was not the last time she saw Ron and Hermione.
UCL was like nothing Bella had ever experienced before. She found that being American put her somewhat at a disadvantage, at least among her peers. They didn’t take her as seriously as they did other students and the professors looked at her strangely whenever she asked questions.
Still, she was able to make a friend. Thomas was from Hammersmith and had Bella around for tea and his mother rather gushed over her until Bella mentioned that she was married. The woman barely paid her any attention after that. Then, perhaps under pressure, Thomas stopped speaking to her entirely.
It was the weekend after Bella matriculated and Harry had taken her out to Diagon Alley to celebrate. He promised her ice cream for lunch and when they were sitting at Florean Fortescue’s, the Weasleys found them again.
“Harry!” Hermione almost squealed, ambushing him with a hug. Harry quickly shifted James to another arm. “You haven’t answered any of my owls since the divorce.”
Bella looked between her husband’s pained expression and James. She quickly grabbed her stepson. He gurgled happily in her arms.
Hermione finally pulled away and Ron clapped Harry on the back. Both turned toward her. “Lady Black,” Hermione said with a bit of a curtsey and Bella just stared.
She looked over at Harry in confusion. He smiled at her, that wonderful, lost smile that promised that he knew something yet didn’t quite comprehend it.
“I’m sorry I didn’t greet you properly last time,” Hermione was saying. “You must have thought me quite rude.”
Ron looked over at Harry. “We thought that’s why she seemed so offended when we floo’d earlier. Before, well, everything else.”
“I—“ Bella began, but she looked over at Harry.
“People don’t have titles back in America,” Harry added in. “I hadn’t told Isabella about mine.”
Hermione looked between them. “So you don’t stand on formalities?”
Bella shook her head. Lady Black? She had a title now? She had to get used to Harry’s obscene amount of wealth—fortunately, he didn’t seem keen on spending it unlike the Cullens—but this was just strange.
Suddenly Hermione was hugging her, too. Bella had to shift James in her arms to make sure he wasn’t squashed. “Welcome to the family,” she beamed.
“We’re not Weasleys,” Bella said, looking over at Harry again.
“No, we’re not. She meant the ‘Golden Trio,’ but really, Hermione, you can’t pretend the divorce didn’t happen and that you didn’t take Ginny’s side.”
“She’s my sister,” Ron put in.
“I know, and I respect that, but you have to look at it from my point of view. Anyway, it doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve married Isabella.”
The two Weasleys looked at her. The conversation fortunately ended after that.
Harry was curled around Bella, two nights later, when she mused about the bedroom they were in. “Did you share it with Ginny?”
“No,” he promised. “She didn’t much care for it.”
“Isn’t it the Master Bedroom, though?”
“Hmm.” He kissed her bare shoulder. He was drawing circles on her hip, which was oddly soothing.
“Do you think of her?” Bella asked, feeling a little bold.
Harry stilled. “From time to time. I think about how she was when we first dated. How much I missed her when we were on the run during the War. Do you think of Edward still, despite the potion?”
“I think of his sisters and how they raided my closet,” she confessed. “I think of how I never felt good enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough.” She turned in his embrace. “Do you ever think you married beneath you? I’m a plain Muggle and I’m not rich—“ She was crying now and Harry was kissing the tears away.
“You’re a strong woman,” he corrected, “and you’re beautiful even though you can’t see it. On our wedding day I thought I was the luckiest man in the world. I didn’t feel that on one single day with Ginny.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were Lord Black?” she sniffled.
“Honestly?” he sighed. “My godfather was Lord Black and the title passed to me when he died. Whenever I hear it—I think of him.”
“I use it in high society, though, to be taken seriously.” He shrugged. He looked at her hard, for a moment, as if considering something. “Does it bother you?”
“A little,” she answered honestly. “But I love you. I suppose I will just have to get used to it.”
And he kissed her then, warm and long and slow.
The title didn’t just go away. It was a good month into term when Harry found her at UCL when she was putting away her books as class had just broken up. The professor was still at the podium and there were several students still in the vicinity.
“Lady Black,” he greeted her with a kiss, just loud enough so that his words carried. Somehow, Bella later wondered, if he had done it on purpose.
She smiled back at him. “Lord Black. I thought you hated titles.”
“I’ve been thinking.” He looked pensive. “I want you to have everything I can possibly give you, and I can give you this. It translates into your—studies—just as it does at my work.” She understood the subtext. Harry was Lord Black in both the Muggle and wizarding worlds. “Plus it suits you.”
Bella, feeling a little self-conscious at the other students who were watching her, looked at him earnestly. “Did, well, did she use it?”
“No, to her being ‘Mrs. Harry Potter’ was more important.” She cared more for his fame and notoriety than for social pleasantries. Interesting. It painted a fuller picture of the woman that Harry had once been married to.
She paused, trying to parse out what he was trying to tell her. “Harry, are you saying that you simply want me to be your wife and everything it comes with and not married to your image?” The idea was an important one. Bella, as she had come to know Harry, had seen how unpretentious he was. He was good at what he did—better than good. He wanted to be lauded for his merits and nothing more. He was humble. And, if to him being simply Lord and Lady Black, another well bred couple in a sea of dozens, instead of the Mr. and Mrs. Boy-Who-Lived was important to him, then that’s what she would give him. Bella nodded before Harry could answer. “I could do that.”
He smiled at her and leaned forward to kiss her again.
“Lady Black,” the sound of Professor West sounded from behind her. “Would you be kind enough to present me to your husband?”
Bella had to stifle a laugh as the man had never sounded so obsequious to her before, but she introduced him to Harry just the same.
She wasn’t surprised at all when at her following lecture two ours later, she was referred to as “Lady Black.”
With the title came a new friend, a Lady Mary Wesley, who was happy to have someone to complain to about the endless parties her mother held and the fact that her father, a Viscount, slept his way through England. Still, Mary was loyal and true, and the two were often found in the Union giggling over the exploits of Lord Byron or discussing a passage from Coleridge.
The second time Bella received an unexpected visitor at home, she was in the living room doing homework with James in his playpen. Her Muggle mobile was just out of sight behind a pile of books as she had just received a text from Mary about the model her brother was dating. Apparently she was entirely unsuitable as she was American, which made Bella laugh a little. Kreacher was nearby, replenishing her glass of water and looking after James more closely than she was.
A card was presented to her on a little silver platter. She picked it up, thinking she was in an episode of Masterpiece Theatre, and looked at it. It read Heir Draco Malfoy. She had no idea what that meant.
“Who’s Heir Draco Malfoy?” she asked Kreacher.
He gestured to the Black Family Tree. She went over to it and saw, near the bottom, the picture of a blond haired young man stitched in above the title. His parents, it seemed, were Lucius, Lord Malfoy, and Narcissa, Lady Malfoy. He must be heir to the title then.
“Yous be calling him ‘Heir Draco,’ Mistress,” Kreacher supplied helpfully.
She sighed. “Well, show him in.” She went over to James and made sure his magical train was working and hadn’t fallen over.
A step sounded in the hall. “Ah, the picture of domesticity,” a drawling voice said, not unkindly. “I hope Lord Black is greeted with such a sight whenever he ventures homeward.”
Bella stood. “Heir Draco,” she greeted, holding out her hand for him to shake. Instead, he picked it up, placed it to just under his lips and then released it. Her hand hovered in the air for the barest of moments before Bella reclaimed it. She smiled at him.
“Lady Black.” Heir Draco was a rather tall man, with hair so blond it could be called white and with pointed features. His eyes were gray.
Taking his cue, Bella sat and gestured for him to take a seat. “I’m afraid Lord Black is still at St. Mungo’s.”
“I had heard that he had taken up residency there again,” Heir Draco began politely. “I myself am a law wizard and find myself on the opposite end of town.”
“Of course,” Bella murmured, having no idea what he was talking about.
“I did find myself near Grimmauld Place and I promised Lady Astoria Greengrass that I would drop off our invitation if I could.” He held out a sheet of folded parchment.
Bella took it and carefully unfolded it. It appeared that she and Harry were invited to dine at Malfoy Manor the following week. Fortunately, she didn’t have any quizzes. She was supposed to be going out with Mary, but she could put her off. All she had to say was ‘a friend of Lord Black’s’ and all would be forgiven. Then again, Bella wasn’t sure if Heir Draco was a friend of Harry’s.
“It will just be a small party. You, Lord Black, myself, and Lady Astoria,” Heir Draco was saying.
“Is Lady Astoria a friend?” Bella asked, a little curious.
Bella smiled at him in what she hoped was a warm manner. “I hope you two will be very happy.”
“Thank you. Do convince Lord Black to come. Tell him that bygones should be bygones, and we are ever so grateful for his help after the War. Friendships should be sprung on such unlikely alliances, I believe.”
She looked at him blankly.
Heir Draco seemed to understand. “Lord Black and I were rivals at school. However, he spoke on behalf on the entire Malfoy family in front of the Wizengamot about our involvement in the War. The Americas were fortunate not to have to deal with that—unpleasantness.”
Well, that certainly explained some things.
“You will give him the message along with the invitation. I know it is the purview of the Lady of the House to accept or reject invitations, but I can’t imagine Potter marrying someone who was merely a socialite.”
He called him ‘Potter.’ How interesting. “No, I’m hardly that,” Bella agreed.
Heir Draco glanced at the books. “A scholar then.”
“I do like to read,” Bella conceded. “Do you, Heir Draco?”
He ended up having to leave once he had an appointment, but the two had discussed various Muggle authors and he had recommended a few wizarding ones to her, too. If he had guessed that she wasn’t a witch, he hadn’t said a word. True, there was no wand lying around but she had been wearing her house robe. She’d grown rather fond of it.
There were also magical bits of wallpaper hanging by magic about the room for her to later peruse. She was making over the house one room at a time.
“I like him,” Bella told Harry later. “I know you two were school rivals, but could we go?”
“You like Draco Malfoy?” Harry asked in surprise. They were sitting over a dinner which Kreacher had made. No matter what Bella did, she couldn’t get the house elf to let her cook. It did, Bella mused, allow her more time to study.
“Is that so surprising?”
Harry blinked at her behind his glasses. “Well, yes. He hates Muggles and Muggleborns.”
“I don’t think he knew I was a Muggle,” she tossed out the word as if it were beneath her. And it really was. It was the magical version of the vampire usage of the word “human.” “Well, if he asks, just tell him that I’m a survivor of Dominium de Sanguine,” she said. “That should shut him up.”
Bella wasn’t certain, but she was almost positive that her position as a survivor of having a vampire maker, remaining human, and living to tell the tale without being his blood slave was something of a feat in magical Britain. She didn’t like to be noticed, but she would be noticed and she would be acknowledged, for Harry’s sake.
“Why can’t you remain my Isabella?” Harry asked, leaning forward and kissing her lightly.
“I’ll always be ‘your Isabella.’ But I don’t want to be—inferior here. I’ve been inferior before and it’s—words can’t describe it.” Bella knew that Harry didn’t like to be a status symbol, but she wouldn’t be seen as being unworthy of him.
Harry pulled her chair closer and snaked an arm around her. “I’m sorry, Isabella.”
“It’s not your fault. Blame the Cullens.”
“Was I selfish, in marrying you?” He was looking away from her now, but she could hear the pain in his voice.
She shook her head, her hair falling around her face. “No, Harry. I knew what I was getting into. I love you.”
He looked back at her and smiled. Everything was once again right with the world.
They had to go out shopping so she would have proper robes for the occasion. Bella hadn’t been quite prepared for the press that wanted to get a photograph of the new Lady Black—or Mrs. Potter. She’d always hated shopping, but this just made it worse. “Can’t Kreacher just sew something for me?”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Harry admitted as Bella tried on the fourth set of robes. They were dark blue with sleeves that almost draped the floor and a decorative hood. “I think this one would be perfect.”
“Really?” Bella asked skeptically, looking at herself in the mirror. She did look rather pretty in them but the style was so strange.
It seemed the robe buying excursion was over. They hadn’t bothered to stay in Diagon Alley, though Harry promised to take her to The White Witch, an exclusive restaurant for purebloods, later on.
She bemoaned to Mary the very next day about it all. “And then, I’m in the society pages. There are pictures!”
“I hadn’t looked at The Times,” Mary admitted. “I’ll let it pass for your sake.”
Bella rolled her eyes. “It’s all one big joke. I’m a nobody, from nowhere, Washington State. I have this boyfriend who’s a multimillionaire who leaves me in the forest to die of exposure and Harry finds me. He seems to be an innocent doctor who just happens to send me flowers—but he turns out to be Earl Black! Apparently it’s one of the oldest peerages in England!” she complained.
“One of the oldest? It’s in the top five,” Mary added unhelpfully. “Now tell me about this multimillionaire American ex of yours so I can marry his brother and annoy my family.”
Bella could only laugh.
Bella had lost track of time the day of the dinner. She was lying on the living room couch, reading Tennyson, when Harry breezed in in dress robes. “There you are. We have just about half an hour.”
She looked between him and James, who was in a Moses basket beside her. “Just enough time then,” she groused, throwing a pillow at her husband. She got up and kissed him long and deep, before running out of the room. “Take care of James!” she called out after her and she could hear his “I will!” following her up the stairs.
Putting on the robes, Bella applied some purple eye shadow and let Kreacher put up her hair so that the hood wouldn’t be covered by it. Looking at herself critically in the mirror, she decided that she would just have to do, and, grabbing the invitation, she met Harry back in the living room. “We need to find a baby sitter.”
“I was going to ask Malfoy about that, actually. Purebloods must have a network or something.”
“Or something,” Bella agreed as they made their way down to the floo. She grasped Harry’s hand (she couldn’t use the floo otherwise as she was a Muggle) and after a terrifying trip later she was stepping out of a fireplace in a large marble hall.
Heir Draco and a beautiful witch with strawberry blonde curls were waiting for them. “Potter!” Heir Draco exclaimed. “So good of you to come.”
“Not at all, Malfoy. I was hoping Isabella would meet some witches her own age,” he admitted.
“Of course.” Malfoy bowed to her and she lifted up her hand as Harry had coached her to. Once again it was taken and left hovering half an inch below the lips before being released. “Lady Black.”
“Heir Draco,” she greeted. “Thanks again for the invitation.”
He smirked at her. It must be his way of smiling. “May I present my fiancée, Lady Astoria Greengrass.” Harry took her hand and the two women shook hands briefly.
“Shall we go up?” Lady Astoria asked, playing the hostess. “Lady Black, you simply must tell me about your romance.”
Bella blushed. “There really isn’t much to tell,” she offered.
“I hardly believe that. Everyone thought that Lord Black would never marry again, especially when he went off to America, but he comes back with a blushing bride.”
“Astoria,” Malfoy said, placing a hand on her arm. “Why don’t you tell Lady Black about how we met instead?”
That was certainly an interesting story. The two had known each other since they were children, being about only a year apart, but Malfoy had gone off to Hogwarts and Lady Astoria, because her birthday was in October, had to wait two years to follow him. They had ended up in different houses—fortunately Harry had told Bella all about them—and Lady Astoria had thought she had lost him to the pug-faced Miss Pansy Parkinson.
Bella looked at her questioningly.
“Oh! But you don’t have titles in America! I’m so sorry,” Lady Astoria exclaimed. “A ‘Mr.’ or a ‘Miss’ is someone who is a pureblood but from an offshoot from a family line. If Draco had a younger brother, he would be ‘Master’ and all of his children would be ‘Mr.’s’ and ‘Misses.’”
“I see.” And Bella kind of did in a strange way. “What was the former Lady Black?” she asked cautiously.
“Miss Ginevra Weasley, but she was considered a blood traitor.” Lady Astoria had the decency to blush. They had now come to a table and there were place names at each seat. Lady Astoria and Bella were sitting across from one another.
Bella filed away the term ‘blood traitor’ for later and said instead, “So you hadn’t lost him to Miss Pansy?” Obviously she hadn’t.
“Did you go to Salem?” Malfoy asked her during the first course and Harry choked on his water.
Bella looked at him in concern before turning again to Malfoy. He was smiling at her now. “No, I’ve never been to Salem,” she said in confusion.
“Oh,” he said, clearly taken aback. “You must have been homeschooled then.”
She looked to Harry for help.
“Isabella is a survivor of Dominium de Sanguine,” he stated, his green eyes flashing with danger. “A Muggle survivor.”
The assessing gazes of Malfoy and Lady Astoria fell on her. Feeling herself blush, she wanted to run from the room. Perhaps this was a bad idea, after all. It was then that she felt a warm, strong, male hand slide on top of hers. She looked over at Harry but he was looking directly at Malfoy.
“It’s rare to survive,” Malfoy said carefully, all attention on him. His eyes, however, held Bella’s. “It hasn’t been done for half a millennium and I don’t believe there’s ever been a recorded Muggle case…” His voice trailed off. He shook himself as if from a spell and turned toward Harry. “You are to be congratulated, Potter. A fine match, indeed. I honestly didn’t think that any witch could live up to your status of Boy Who Lived, but you seem to have found a woman who can.”
Bella visibly relaxed. Lady Astoria was now smiling at her.
“That’s not why I married her.”
“Of course not. I’m not marrying Astoria for her title, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t help appearances.”
“No,” Harry conceded. “I suppose not.”
The news broke the next day. Bella never read the papers but even she couldn’t help but notice a picture of herself in her dress robes with the words “Lord Black marries Muggle Dominium ex Sanguine Survivor” splayed on top of it. Fortunately, the reporters hadn’t found her at UCL, otherwise she wasn’t sure how she would have gotten to class. However, they were camped outside of St. Mungo’s, where she stopped by between classes to see if Harry wanted to take a walk. Where before she had been a mere interest piece, now she was news.
The receptionist actually squeaked when she saw her, though she did direct her to Harry’s office.
However, one clever reporter must have made the leap between the young American Lady Black at UCL and the Dominium de Sanguine surviving Lady Black within the week. Mary came up to her in class and whispered, “Why is there a reporter interviewing students about you?”
“What?” Bella looked at her, horrified.
“Yeah, she has these really strange glasses and is carrying around a green quill. It’s just plain bizarre.”
The witch was gone from the campus when Bella got out of lecture.
The invitations flooded in, but Bella only accepted those for Friday or Saturday nights. Lady Astoria was always at her side, telling her who was who and what was what.
It was strange, though. Malfoy was her true friend.
“I quite like you for a Muggle,” he said companionably as they sat drinking tea. Lady Astoria was chatting with a school friend and Harry was—somewhere.
“Have you met any Muggles?” Bella teased.
“No. But I have met a vampire.” He looked at her seriously.
“What was that like?”
“It was sixth year. I ended up accidentally crashing a party a professor was throwing and there was a vampire there—Sanguini. He came up to me, took my arm, pushed up my robes, and smelled me. I was in shock.”
Bella laughed. “I would think so.”
“He said I smelled like lavender.” Heir Draco visibly shivered.
Setting down her teacup, Bella replied, “Edward said something similar about me. Apparently my blood was like a bouquet of scents. Very hard to resist.”
“But he did.”
“He did. And he dated me instead.”
“Vampires are strange creatures.” Bella could only agree silently.
It wasn’t until December when reality finally hit Harry and Bella. They’d found a babysitter, thanks to Lady Malfoy, who was an unassuming witch named Miss Poppett.
“Mrs. Weasley is demanding to see her grandson,” Harry said one morning after reading a letter. “The woman was like a mother to me growing up, and I suppose it is the least I can do.”
“I thought you gained full custody?” Bella asked as she once again tried not to vomit. For some reason food had been turning her stomach this past week.
Harry sighed. “I did, but I feel like I should—“
Bella nodded. She didn’t need him to finish the thought. Harry was an orphan and to him family meant everything. He still sent out monthly checks to his aunt’s family, the Dursleys, even though in Bella’s mind they should all go to a special ring of Hell.
She brought the whole question up to Mary. “Am I being too—territorial? I mean, this woman’s daughter decided she would rather have an abortion—and I’m not talking one of those early ones—than screw up her sports career and then held me captive when she found out that Harry was remarrying.” She puffed out some air over her tea. She was trying to like it for Harry’s sake, but she was having difficulty. Bella was actually trying different blends each time she was in a café in the hopes that she would find one she actually liked.
Mary looked at her. “She’s in sports?”
“Never quite makes the cut,” Bella explained. “I have no idea what she even plays.” That, of course, was a lie. Ginny played quidditch. Or at least wanted to.
“How did she hold you captive?” Mary asked tentatively.
Bella glanced away. “She used force and I had James to think about.”
“Okay, well, she’s clearly insane. Hopefully she didn’t get it from her mother. If Harry’s determined, you’re just going to have to trust his judgment. Have you told him you’re worried?”
“I didn’t want to interfere.” And it was true. Bella didn’t want to interfere.
“Then there’s your answer.”
Bella only wore a house robe and carried James when they went to the Burrow. The place was warm and full of light and Bella sat uncomfortably around a wooden table in the kitchen.
“Is this Lady Black?” a woman, Mrs. Weasley, asked Harry.
Nodding, Harry took the seat next to Bella.
The woman curtseyed. Strangely, Bella was getting used to it. She then, however, ruined any cordiality there might have been in the proceedings. “So you replaced Ginny with a Muggle.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “I didn’t replace Ginny. You make it sound like I was having a torrid affair. I assure you Chief Swan would have had my head if that were the case.”
“My dad,” Bella put in helpfully.
“Well,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Let me see my grandson.”
Bella, however, held onto him. “James is sleeping,” she murmured.
“Hush, now, I’m his grandmother.”
“And I’m his mother,” Bella shot back.
“Ginny’s his mother!”
“Ginny,” Harry put in, “was never a mother to him. If Isabella says he’s sleeping, then he’s sleeping. Just wait until he wakes up, Mrs. Weasley.”
James had eventually awakened and Bella grudgingly let Mrs. Weasley hold him. The two women didn’t like each other in the least, but they were coldly polite to each other the rest of the evening.
The following night had been just as trying. James was left at home with Miss Poppett and Harry and Bella were at a dinner of select healers and their spouses. Here Bella was still “Lady Black,” but Harry was “Healer Potter.” It was an interesting change.
One healer wouldn’t stop staring at Bella to the point where Harry had to draw him aside and have a word with him. The pretty witch next to him came over to Bella and whispered, “Forgive my husband. It’s just we’re all fascinated by the fact that you survived.” Ah, so it was Dominium de Sanguine again. The witch, however, hadn’t finished yet. “We were hoping that you would allow us, Lady Black, to write a paper on you and how you survived.”
Bella’s head snapped around so quickly that she was surprised she didn’t hear it crack. “I—what?”
“My husband, Healer Figg, and I are researchers into dark creatures. You would be the perfect specimen—“
“My wife is not a specimen, Healer Marlow-Figg.”
Healer Marlow-Figg, who was a witch in her thirties with red hair, colored. “I never meant to say that she was—“
“I think it’s rather a racist comment. I’ve read some of your research, healer, and I’ve seen the respect you pay to other humanoid ‘dark’ creatures and even to Muggles. Now, please step away from Lady Black.” Harry’s eyes were flashing dangerously and Healer Marlow-Figg swallowed.
“Of course, Healer Potter,” she muttered, stepping away.
Bella looked at Harry incredulously. “Harry, what was that--?”
“She and her husband believe that cures for medical illnesses should be tested on Muggles as if they were animals. I didn’t want you to become their latest science experiment,” he said quietly.
She looked into his eyes and saw only honesty there. Bella nodded in acceptance.
Lying in bed a week later, Bella asked, “Harry, would you like more children?” It was a tentative question. She was afraid of the answer. Bella was still a little unsure about being a mother. She was so young, but she was a mother to James, she reminded herself. She was not Renée. She would not make the same mistakes.
“You know I do,” Harry reassured her, running a hand through her long hair. “You are a wonderful mother to James.”
“He’ll call me ‘Mom’ though, when he grows up, right?”
“‘Mum,’ probably,” Harry chuckled.
The op-ed broke the next day in the Daily Prophet. Bella had been so angry that she had arrived to her lecture still carrying it and had to shove it away so that Mary wouldn’t see.
“What is it?” Mary asked.
“Nothing, it’s just—“ She sighed. How could she explain it? Ginny Weasley had opened up and given a tell-all about her marriage to Harry. In it she claimed that he wasn’t supportive of her career, shirked his responsibility to the public as the Boy-Who-Lived, and only married Bella because she was young, impressionable, and convenient.
“There’s nothing special about her,” Ginny was quoted as saying. “I spent about an hour in a room with her and she had absolutely nothing to say. It’s clear she’s only after Harry for the fame. As a Muggle, she would have to hide her involvement with and survival of vampires. With a wizard, she can proclaim it to the world. And she clearly has.”
Mary looked at Bella expectantly. “It’s my husband’s ex-wife. Drama.”
She’d shown up at Heir Draco’s office later that day. He’d had a client, so she had to wait (the little receptionist was staring between her and a moving picture of her from one of the society receptions in The Daily Prophet. When Heir Draco was finally free after what seemed like ten hours, Bella walked in with James on her hip. She had picked him up on the way to James Street.
“Lady Black,” he said, rising. “Is everything all right?”
“It’s this horrible op-ed piece,” she said, slamming down the paper and taking the seat offered to her. “I just—I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to worry Harry. He doesn’t read the papers. And if our family were to grow—“ She looked Heir Draco in the eyes. “I can’t let her get away with it, Heir Draco.”
“I understand Potter likes to rise above all of this,” Heir Draco began tentatively.
“Yes, but she also attacked me. As Lady Black. I’m not some attention-seeking girl who was simply convenient.” She spat the last word out.
Heir Draco looked at her for several long moments. “We can’t do anything without Potter, you have to understand that.”
Bella slumped in her chair. “Yes. I suppose so. It’s just—you’re my best friend apart from Mary and she’s a Muggle who wouldn’t understand.”
He puffed up his chest a bit at that and, questioningly, touched her shoulder. “We’ll find our way out of this.”
Heir Draco and Lady Astoria had come around for dinner at Gimmauld Place later that evening. Harry, of course, hadn’t been expecting them, but with a kiss to Bella he greeted them before getting changed out of his work robes.
“There’s a stink at the hospital,” he murmured. “The Figgses are demanding that a study be done of you.”
Bella rolled her eyes. “Well, I nominate you, then. You’ve been there for all of the—side effects.”
Heir Draco was very cunning about bringing up the article, about how he didn’t believe a word of what Ginny had printed, that clearly Bella was more than just a young body that could have been gotten anywhere.
Harry hadn’t read the article. Bella handed it to him and she saw his ears go pink with anger.
“Why didn’t you trust me with this?” he asked her later that night as he undressed her. “You know all I want to do is take care of you and James.”
“I know,” Bella murmured, turning toward him. She was in nothing but a bra and a pair of jeans. “It’s just—you’re so divorced from your fame. Some of us have to live in it though.”
His features hardened. “This is not the life I wanted for you. The life I wanted for all of us.”
“No,” she agreed after she had kissed him slowly. “But this is the life we have. We chose to come back to England, to come back to all of this. You know I love you.”
“Then why an intermediary?”
“I—I’ve never been good with words. And he’s my best friend.”
“Malfoy, the best friend of a Potter. Soon our children will be growing up together.”
The thought brought a smile to Bella’s face.
Two days later Bella was dressed impeccably and James was roving around on the floor. She could have left him with Miss Poppett, but she wanted to appear as a family. Harry, running late, rushed in and planted a kiss to her waiting lips. “Sorry, Isabella. I had a patient.”
She smiled at him. “We hadn’t even gotten started yet.”
They turned to the unassuming little reporter who squeaked.
The following interview explained how they met, how Harry had healed her, how she hadn’t known of the wizarding world until Ginny Weasley had appeared and held her hostage, how they decided to move back to England where Bella could be away from her memories of the Cullens and Harry could return to his beloved St Mungo’s.
A photograph of the three of them was emblazoned on the front cover of The Daily Prophet the next morning. The edition sold out in less than an hour across wizarding Britain.
Bella was all alone and as the unassuming Muggle Lady Black, however, when Edward appeared one gray day when she was coming out of a literature lecture. He was as beautiful as ever, all hard lines and soulful golden eyes. Bella looked at him, before turning with the tide of students to walk away. He pushed toward her through the crowd and grabbed her arm. “Bella,” he murmured, so that only she could hear him. It was strange how she had come to dislike the name in favor of Isabella, which is what Harry called her.
Bella looked up at him and closed her eyes. “I’m married,” she stated. “Just like you wanted. And I thought I told you to leave.”
“It’s what I thought I wanted. But losing you—“ His eyes begged her to understand. He held up the famous edition of The Prophet.
Bella tensed. “What do you want me to say? It’s all true.”
“Our love was real.”
They were starting to gather a bit of a crowd. Bella was well known on campus and Edward was, well, gorgeous.
“Our love was nothing because you made it nothing, Edward Cullen,” she hissed. “Listen,” Bella told him, her voice low. “Surely you can hear another heartbeat.” Bella hadn’t gone to St. Mungo’s, wanting to be sure of it before she told Harry. However, now she knew. She was two months pregnant. This would be her last semester until after the baby was born and had grown up a bit. And she could live with that—because this was her family, and she loved Harry, and she loved James Sirius, and she loved this little sea monkey that was growing inside her.
Shock and then horror crossed Edward’s face.
“You didn’t think I would remain celibate, did you?” she asked bitterly. “Not even you could be that dense.”
“You’re so young. You have your whole life ahead of you.”
“Which you want me to spend with you, while still being human.”
His nonanswer was answer enough.
“You know, when you sucked out James’s venom with my blood you became my maker, did you know that?”
He opened his mouth, but she glared daggers at him.
“I had horrible nightmares for months. I would wake up screaming from them and it felt like there was a hole in my chest and I couldn’t make it better. It’s called Dominium de Sanguine and I’m the first survivor in about five hundred years. Tell Carlisle that. And leave me alone.” She pushed past him, tears stinging her eyes.
She never saw him again.
That night, when Harry came home exhausted from a grueling day at St. Mungo’s, Bella met him in the kitchen with the ultrasound picture waiting for him in his usual spot. He picked it up, staring at it in disbelief, before looking over at her. “Isabella?”
She smiled up at him and kissed him. All was right in her world.