Snow was falling thickly at Hogwarts, covering the grass in a blanket of white. Well, it wasn’t really a blanket. Amaya had never understood that expression. Snow was cold and unfriendly, wet and uncomfortable, nothing like a blanket. A blanket was soft, warm, and comforting. The snow was more like the crust of a pie. It covered the green grass, but it could be cracked and the grass would peek out once more.
Amaya shook her head to clear it. She didn’t know why she was thinking so strangely today, but she supposed it was just the nerves of seeing her family once again. As much as she had wanted to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas this year, she had never been able to build up the courage to write her parents and tell them, so she would be going back home as usual.
She supposed it wouldn’t be all bad. The food at home was delicious, though the Hogwarts food was equally appetizing, and it would be nice to have a room to herself for a few weeks. She would, of course, have to mind her manners and take care to hold her posture while eating and meet what would seem like thousands of influential wizards, but for the rest of the holidays, she could shut herself away in her room and just enjoy the solitude. Until, of course, her mother barged in to ask her if she had a dress for that night or her father began to question her about her classes.
Oh, who was she kidding? The holidays would be miserable, like they always were. This year, she did have one added surprise, though. She couldn’t help but feel slightly excited, albeit very, very nervous to find out about the letter she had received early into the school year.
Amaya reached into the pocket of her robes and pulled out the crumpled piece of parchment, bearing the mysterious words of her mother, and reread the letter for the hundredth time.
You, my darling, are growing up so fast. Just think: in a month, you will be sixteen. This is now a time to begin thinking about your future.
We, that is, your father and I, are very proud of our one and only daughter. We only want your happiness. But at the same time, we have to do what is best for you, and for our family, and for this reason, we have been searching or a suitable husband for you for some time. Just this week, we have found the perfect man, and you already know him well. We want to tell you his identity in person, so that, unfortunately, will have to wait until Christmas, but we couldn’t resist sharing this wonderful news with you. Of course, we will let you approve him, but he is a wonderful boy who can give you everything in life.
I have sent this letter to Demitriov Avery as you don’t receive my letters at times. I trust that he will deliver it to you in confidence. We look forward to seeing you at Christmas and giving you the name of the boy we have selected for your approval.
The letter revealed little, and Amaya knew that she would not want to marry whoever this mystery person was. Tom was the only boy for her, and her parents would just have to understand that. She sighed, replacing it in her pocket and checking that her trunk was locked. Anabel wasn’t going home this year, as her parents were abroad for Christmas and they couldn’t take her with them, so she would be riding the Hogwarts Express alone. The thought of that only served to make her more miserable, so she quickly cast it out of her mind and instead focused on the Christmas present she had bought for Tom.
At the second Hogsmeade visit of the year last weekend, Amaya and Anabel had found an old trinket shop and decided to do their Christmas shopping there. Amaya hadn’t even thought about buying something for Tom, but she found an antique silver ring with the engraving of a snake, and it had immediately caught her eye. It had struck her then that Tom would love such a present, and she had picked it up, fully ready to pay twenty galleons for him. It had been an added bonus that the ring was only three galleons.
Amaya had wrapped the present and written him a small note before leaving it, along with her present for Anabel, sitting atop her bed. She knew that the House Elves would make sure the presents were delivered to their proper owners.
A small smile played at the corners of her lips as she imagined Tom’s delight upon opening the present. He never received very much for Christmas, as he lived in an orphanage. She was glad that she would make his day special.
The thought carried her all the way through the Slytherin common room and up the stairs leading to the Entrance Hall, where a group of students who would be going home for the holidays had gathered. She stood awkwardly to the left of the group, hoping they would leave soon. For one, it was bloody cold in the hall, and the general liveliness of the group irked her. They would all be going back to loving families and warm meals and happy Christmases.
It made her Christmas feel like even more of a nightmare.
Amaya blew on her hands in an attempt to warm them, attempting to tune out the excited chatter of the students around her. She couldn’t bear to think of Christmas in that moment.
She nearly cheered when the doors leading to the grounds flew open and she caught sight of the horseless carriages ready to take them down to the Hogsmeade station.
It seemed as though more students were going back home that year, as Amaya was unable to get a carriage to herself. Maybe it was because of the attacks, though there hadn’t been one for months. Amaya suspected that it was some sort of practical joke that was over now. The victims would be revived in the spring and that would be it. No lasting harm done.
Still, as she found herself pressed into a carriage with a gaggle of third years, it did seem as though parents wanted their children to be home for the holidays. She supposed it was better to not take chances.
Amaya came close to running off the carriage once they arrived in front of the scarlet steam engine, but had just enough self-control left to preserve her dignity and she simply walked quickly towards the train.
She smiled to herself, determined to enjoy her last few hours of peace.
“Welcome home, darling.” Amaya was greeted with a warm hug from her mother as she arrived in London. She returned the hug half-heartedly, still sore that she had to come home in the first place.
Amaya forced a smile, wishing she was back at Hogwarts eating at the Slytherin table. She knew she was complaining more than she should. There were students who would give anything to go home for Christmas and be with their families. She should consider herself lucky. But she didn’t want to just take it with a grain of salt and be done with the matter. She liked wallowing in her self-pity, as if it would somehow make everything feel better.
Still, she was tired. And hungry. Her bed sounded rather good. As did a hot bath and warm meal. Perking up slightly at the thought of the comforts she enjoyed at home, Amaya followed her mother from the station.
She was used to getting home by now. Instead of leaving through the main entrance, Amaya and her mother left through a small side door towards the back of King’s Cross station. It was a relatively empty part, so they could disapparate directly home from there. Amaya still had to use side-along apparition, of course, but she was used to the unpleasant sensation by now and barely noticed the feeling as they went home.
“Why don’t you freshen up and then come down for dinner?” her mother asked once they had arrived in the sitting room of their house.
Amaya nodded, beginning to drag her trunk up the stairs before her mother stopped her.
“The House Elves will tend to your trunk, of course,” she said, looking a bit surprised.
Amaya started. Having been away for several months, it was second nature to her to do those sorts of things herself. She nodded once more, dropping the trunk and trudging upstairs without it.
Once she arrived in her room, Amaya had the urge to collapse onto her bed and go straight to sleep, but the gnawing sensation in her stomach stopped her. Instead, she walked to her mirror. Her hairbrush lay neatly in front of it, along with a basin of water. Other than that, her room looked untouched from when she had left it in September. Only the lack of a fine layer of dust indicated that there had been people-or house elves- in it since that time.
Amaya loosened her hair from its untidy knot at the nape of her neck and shook her head so it flowed down her back. She picked up her hair brush and ran it through her locks. She was reminded of the day she left for Hogwarts, how she had sat in this very room and brushed her hair. So much had changed since then, and yet, nothing had changed. She was still as far from Tom Riddle as she could possibly get.
After she had brushed out the snarls in her hair, Amaya dipped a cloth hanging next to her mirror into the basin of water and wiped her face with it. The water smelled like rose petals, and Amaya was again reminded of the luxuries she enjoyed at home. Every detail was attended to. As much as she pretended that she didn’t need the luxuries, she knew that she wouldn’t like living without them. She could hate it as much as she liked, but it had become a part of her life and there was no changing that.
Once she was satisfied with her appearance, Amaya hung the cloth back on its hook and walked back downstairs, feeling much better than when she had come through the door. If she was forced to be here all Christmas, she might as well enjoy what she could.
If only Tom were here with her.
Dinner time with Amaya’s family was seldom a very talkative occasion. Generally, the meal was served in three courses. The first was always a soup or salad, the second was the main course, and the third was dessert. The family rarely spoke during the first two courses, preferring to save their news for dessert.
Amaya waited impatiently for the first two courses to be over. She didn’t know if her parents would announce her suitor tonight, of course, but she sincerely hoped that would be the case. As a result, she ate too quickly and her mother scolded her for bad manners twice. Amaya sighed at both of these, wishing that manners mattered as little here as they did when she was at Hogwarts.
Finally, a House-Elf approached the table and whisked away the plates for dinner. Amaya knew that they would be out with dessert in just a few minutes, but she still looked at her father expectantly.
To her delight, he did not disappoint. After wiping his lips with a napkin and sitting back in his chair, her father looked directly at her.
“So Amaya,” he began, pausing to make sure he had her attention, “I’m sure you received our letter in the fall.”
“We are very pleased about this match. He’s a lovely boy. Really, lovely boy indeed. He has impeccable manners, and he already has several connections at the Ministry. He’s going to grow to be a fine man, a perfect suitor for you. You’re honestly not going to believe it.”
Amaya felt herself becoming more impatient with every word her father spoke. She felt like lunging across the table and yelling at him to just give her the damn name, but she refrained, instead clenching her hands into fists to release her tension.
Amaya’s father looked at her mother, than smiled. “I think we’ve kept you waiting long enough. His name, Amaya, his name is Cygnus Black.”
Amaya’s mouth dropped open. She closed it quickly, then opened it again. She could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks. She had never, ever imagined something like this. The Blacks were the most respected family of all pure bloods. They didn’t take choosing marriages lightly. It seemed impossible that out of all the eligible pure bloods, Cygnus had chosen her.
She shook her head without meaning to, still at a loss for words.
“Does Cygnus know about this?” she blurted finally. It seemed as though the question had found its way to the forefront of her mind subconsciously, as it wasn’t until after she asked the question that she realized why she cared.
The entire time Cygnus had been torturing that little girl, that he had forced her to strike her down, had he known that she was to be his future wife? Had it been a taste of what was to come when she was older? She suddenly felt sick.
Her father looked surprised at the question. “Er, yes, the match was made with his approval. We asked him not to tell you though, as we wanted to do that ourselves.”
Amaya felt light headed. So he had known. His cruel smile had not just been because he vaguely knew her, but because he knew that she would be his someday. It felt so harsh, to say that she would be his, but she knew it was the truth. If she was married to Cygnus, it would always be a game of what he wanted next. She would lead the same life she had now, forced to attend parties and make pleasantries.
And how many more Muggle borns would he persecute? She knew the Blacks were active in the group of people who frequently petitioned the Ministry to take away their rights, though their work was in the background. She would be forced to scorn Muggle borns every day. The face of the poor, poor girl she had faced with derision swam hazily into the forefront of her mind. How many more would she have to see like that?
And yet, there was no way out of it. She couldn’t possibly tell her parents she refused to marry Cygnus. They would have gone to so much trouble to secure the match. She couldn’t even imagine what they must have done. Though she was from a respected family, the Fitz were not even close to the Blacks in terms of standing. The match had been highly unlikely. She had expected the suitor to be a pure blood from some mildly important family, a boy that she did not know well and that she could easily refuse.
Her mind foggy, Amaya did not realize her parents had been talking to her until she felt a sharp slap on her arm. The room fell back into focus, and she realized that both her parents were looking at her with worry in their eyes.
“Amaya?” her mother asked cautiously. “Are you all right?”
Amaya still felt like her face had been dunked in a vat of boiling potion, though her hands felt ice cold and she couldn’t think straight. But she forced a smile at her mother’s question.
“Y-Yes, sorry,” she stuttered. “It’s just…it’s just a lot to take in.”
“You’re very red,” her mother answered nervously. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”
“I’m just a bit hot, that’s all.” Amaya looked at the dessert that had been brought in front of her. Even the thought of eating made her want to throw up. “But if you don’t mind, may I please be excused? It’s been a long day and I think I just need to lie down for a while.”
She could feel her voice getting weaker, and she wondered if her shaky knees would even be able to support her up the stairs. But her mother was now looking at her sympathetically.
“Of course. Do you want some water? I can send a House Elf up to help you if you like.”
“N-no, I’m all right.” Amaya pushed her chair away from the table and attempting to stand up. She lurched forward, clutching the table for support, but she was able to stand up. She took a tentative step forward, then smiled at her parents. “See. I’m fine. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Amaya,” her father said suddenly. He waited for her to turn to look at him, then spoke again. “Just remember that your mother and I, we’re only thinking of your best interests. This match is going to secure your future. Remember that, darling, if you have any doubts. You will be happiest this way.”
Amaya managed to smile one last time. “Thank you,” she croaked. She stumbled out of the room, but as soon as she was out of sight, she sprinted up the stairs and collapsed onto her bed.
Without really knowing why, Amaya began to cry.
She knew she should be happy. Ecstatic, in fact. She should be dancing right now, cheering, loving her life and her parents. Every pure blood girl wanted nothing more than to marry into a rich family and live a life of luxury. She should be gloating about her future. There were few men better than Cygnus. Not to mention he was two years elder to her, so that he would already be established in the Ministry by the time he was of marrying age. Her future was set.
But that was exactly was she didn’t like about it. She didn’t want her future to be set. She wanted to be able to pick the man she married. She wanted to love the man she married. She didn’t want a future of parties and jewels and long dresses. Where her magic was only used for show, and when her every move was tailored by her husband.
It just wasn’t fair. Why should she get no say in who she married? Because she was a girl? Because her entire future depended on who she married?
Well, what if she didn’t want that! What if she wanted a job? What if she never wanted to marry? What if she chose to live her life as the owner of a shop in Diagon Alley? Why wasn’t she allowed to live the way she wanted!
Amaya punched her pillow, biting her lip to hold back a scream. She never asked for any of this. Never wanted any of this. She didn’t want to go against her morals for the rest of her life.
Somewhere along the way, pain and anger drifted into weariness and Amaya drifted into an uneasy sleep.
A/N: Okay, so maybe the quick update didn’t go like I planned. BUT, I still loved writing this chapter. What’d you all think? Sorry for the huge time jump I threw in there and the lack of Tom, but he’ll be coming back next chappie, as will Anabel. She suddenly has a much bigger role. Cookies to anyone who guesses why that is. This is also, if my current plan sticks around, the exact halfway point of the story :D 20 chapters is the goal right now, so expect a lot more action from here on out! As always, thank you for reading.
Note to the validators: By the end of the story, Amaya will either agree to be married of her own free will or not get married at all.