A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 39: The Chapter that wasn’t Supposed to be, (but I Wrote Because Everyone was so Wonderful)

They are much to be pitied who has not been given a taste for nature early in life.” – Jane Austen.

“I love everything about my home, but I think I love the surroundings the most. The setting…the trees, the hills, the flowers, the trees, the sky and the air I even breath. This place is a part of me and I’ll love it forever. It’s the only home I’ve ever known, and it’s the only home I’ll ever want.” – Alice Marie Malfoy

I love Whitehall almost as much as I love my own home, of course, it could be because Alice is there.” – James Potter.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Sitting upon a ledge, overlooking a bluff, with their stately home, Whitehall, below, Alice Malfoy drew her legs up under her chin and blew out a sigh. She was sad and depressed. It was March 31st, and everyone had come up to the hillside for a picnic for her birthday, yet it didn’t seem like her birthday at all.

For one thing, her baby brother was making so much noise that she couldn’t even think. He was getting all the attention, as usual, and it made her angry, and yes, jealous. Granny, Grandpa Bob, and Granddad were laughing at every little thing her little brother did. They used to do that with her.

Her mother’s best friend, Uncle Harry, was trying to organize everyone together so that they could play Quidditch, yet Alice couldn’t ride a broom, so how was that going to be any fun for her? It was her birthday, so they really should play a game that she could play.

Uncle Ron, always the one to entertain all the children, was quiet today, because he had a cold, so he was trying to teach Harry’s son Albus and his son Hugo how to play wizard’s chess over on a large rock.

Grandfather and Grandmother Malfoy were regaling everyone with tales of their recent trip to China.

Mummy was reading, of all things to do on her only daughter’s birthday, and Daddy was, but of course, trying to get Scorpius, (Known as Sam to everyone except for the Malfoy Grandparents) to quiet down. Now Sam was making Lily Potter cry. Oh, he was such a brat!

Therefore, no one was paying any attention to Alice, and it was her birthday! No one cared! She could probably wander off and no one would even notice. She looked over at everyone, the fierce March wind blowing her long blond curls this way and that, and she watched everyone for a good five minutes without one person even looking at her, so she made up her mind - she was going for a walk, and she was going by herself.

She decided to take the path that her father always took when he was a boy. It was a path that wound down the rocky slope side of the mountain. It was dangerous, slippery, treacherous and very high. Quite frankly, Alice Malfoy was terribly afraid of heights, just like her mother, but she would forge ahead. It was her birthday, and if no one else seemed to care, then she was at least going to do what she wanted to do.

She walked toward the mouth of the path, and started downward.

One person from the crowd of many watched her go. He shook his head and sighed. What did she think she was doing? She was going off on her own, down a rocky, perilous path, when she was afraid of heights, and he knew WHY she was doing it. She was doing it because she was a spoiled brat sometimes, even though that was her favourite thing to call her little brother. Frankly, in his opinion, her little brother was more of a terror than a spoiled brat.

She thought no one was paying her any attention on her birthday, and heaven forbid that someone should not bow down to the princess on her birthday. Or, he could be wrong. She could be genuinely sad about something. Either way, she shouldn’t be alone.

He decided to follow. He couldn’t let her go alone. She might fall. She might get hurt. She might get lonely. She might need a kiss. She might be legitimately distressed, in which case he would feel terrible remorse for just thinking that she was a spoiled brat, although she probably was merely acting spoiled.

He caught up to her in no time. She was partway down, when she decided to sit on a stone precipice, which jutted out from the rock face. James walked the rest of the way down, stood beside the large boulder, and watched her.

Alice sat alone on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean. The wind picked up and blew her long, blonde curls into her face. She moved her hair aside, and held it back with one hand. “I usually love birthdays,” she suddenly said, sensing his presence, “But this one fills me with dread.”

He walked upon the rock and sat beside her. Close enough to touch her if he wanted to, which he did. “Why does it fill you with dread?”

“It just does, JP, it just does,” she answered with a sigh. She had been calling him JP for as long as she could remember. She did it because it irritated him, and she liked irritating him.

“That’s a good answer,” he said sarcastically. He liked when she called him JP. He acted like he didn’t, but if he told her he liked it, she would probably stop. “Aren’t you being a bit melodramatic?” he asked.

She turned to look at him and said, “My oh my, but JP learned a new big word. Impress me with another big word, JP.” She gave him a mordant look and then turned away from him.

“How about, my sweet little Alice is acting like a sweet little brat?” he asked. “Oh wait, that’s not a big word, but that’s what you’re being. Now, tell me, why does this birthday fill you with such longing and dread, my sweet Alice?”

She didn’t answer him. Instead, she turned again, so that her back faced him. James Potter could be so irritating sometimes, especially when he was condescending to her. She hated it when he called her ‘My Sweet Alice’. She didn’t know why, but she did. Her father used to call her ‘Sweet Alice’ without the ‘My’, and she didn’t mind it then. When James said it, it was as if he was ‘marking her’ or ‘claiming her’ or sometimes, worst of all, it was as if he was belittling her, such as now.

She was depressed because she was nineteen years old. True, that was still young, but it was the very age in which she KNEW her grandparents would begin to badger her about getting married.

She finished school last year and she was taking this year off as a gap year before she started University. Her little brother, Sam (aka: Scorpius) was still at Hogwarts, this being only his third year, but he was home for the weekend. She could hear him yelling and screaming on the cliff above her. He always yelled and screamed. He was a good brother, as far as little brothers went, but he irritated her to no end.

She wanted solitude, but the little prat always followed her around everywhere. The prat beside her always followed her around everywhere, too. He was home from University for the weekend, and even though she hadn’t seen him in six months, he irritated her. He irritated her when he wasn’t around, too. It was a true paradox.

Uncle Harry told everyone last night that James had a girlfriend now. Well, good for him. La, de, da. Who cared? Not Alice. He could have all the girlfriends he wanted. He was always considered the best looking boy in school, with that head full of dark wavy hair, those dark chocolate eyes, and his above average height. Every girl always loved him, and he always treated Alice like a little sister, or more horrible, like a pet.

Of course, she treated him pretty badly, too. She was often considered one of the prettiest girls in school, although Alice would rather be thought of as smart than pretty. She always had plenty of boyfriends, but she didn’t really care for any of them. No, there was only ever one boy she liked, and she let him get away, and now he was moving closer behind her. She moved again, so that her legs dangled off the end of the rock. She hated heights, and she was scared, but he was getting too close for comfort.

When they were small, he used to tell her and anyone who would listen that he was going to marry her someday. She used to laugh about it. Then, they became best friends, not unlikely his father, Harry and her mother, Hermione. Then something shifted. A great schism occurred, and Alice didn’t even know what it was. During school, James was a year a head of Alice and in a different house. He was in Gryffindor and she was in Ravenclaw.

Even though they were in school together, they saw less of each other then when they were younger. He had his own friends. He was popular, a Quidditch star, and good looking. She was popular, too, and incredibly smart, but she hated Quidditch, (she still couldn’t ride a broom) and she would rather take a walk in the woods than fly above it.

Everything was fine until he was in fourth year and she was in third. That was when they really began to grow apart, and as they grew older, and they grew apart, they grew uncomfortable with each other. Perhaps because that was the year he stopped telling people that he loved her, and that was the year that she started loving him.

He stopped telling people he was going to marry her someday, too. He stopped acting interested in her. And she began to be more and more interested in him, and began to dream of marrying him someday, and she couldn’t tell a soul.

And they began to fight all the time. They would play awful pranks on one another in school, and their fights and pranks and animosity became known all over the school. Their relationship switched from mirroring that of when Harry and Hermione were in school to mirroring that of when Draco and Hermione were in school.

Once, a few years ago, at a school dance, she even slapped James right across the face when he told her she was making a fool of herself for dancing with a certain boy. He made her cry, tore her dress, and then she pulled back her hand and slapped him as hard as she could.

He always pointed out her faults and flaws. She thought it was his favourite thing to do. He always had to tell her what she did wrong, and call her names, such as ‘brat’ and ‘baby’ and she was sick of it.

Then, on the eve of his graduation from Hogwarts he told her that he still loved her. She was shocked beyond belief. What did he mean by ‘STILL’? She didn’t know he ever really loved her, and if he still love her, why had he acted so horrid to her for the last four years? Still hurt from the way he had been treating her the last few years, she told him that she didn’t love him in return.

What a fool she was.

He looked so sad that day. He smiled and told her that was alright. Then he told her goodbye.

And now it was too late. He had a girlfriend.

And she was getting older. She was nineteen today, and twenty was not far behind, and then twenty-five would be here, and she would be forced to marry because of that stupid, old, effing will, because if she didn’t, she would lose Whitehall to her baby brother and by golly, she couldn’t abide that. The will stated that only males could inherit the Manor anyway, so Sam could have that, no problem, but Whitehall was hers unless she remained single.

She looked down at Whitehall. It was her home, her haven, her safety net, her paradise. She couldn’t lose it, even if it meant that someday she would have to marry someone merely for the convenience of filling the requirements of the will.

She heard James shifting behind her again. He moved so that he was sitting right behind her, with his legs on each side of hers, his chest against her back. He reached around with his left hand and placed it protectively around her waist. He whispered in her ear, “I wouldn’t want my sweet Alice to fall to her death at the tender age of nineteen. That would truly be a tragedy.”

She huffed and said, “As if you would miss me.”

“I might, you never know,” he answered back. He pointed down below with his right hand and said, “Look at that view. Isn’t that beautiful?”

“Breathtaking,” she agreed. “It never fails to amaze me. I’ll never tire of it.”

He moved slightly to his side, looked at her face and said, “My sentiments exactly.” He meant her, but she didn’t have to know that.

She ducked her chin to her chest and looked down at her lap. “Let me get up, James.”

“No,” he answered.

“Yes, I want to finish my walk.”

“Not by yourself. You hate heights, and you might fall and hurt yourself,” he reasoned.

“I’m not a baby. I’m an adult now.” She moved slightly to look back at his face and said, “And as if you would care if I fell.”

“I might not care, but I’m sure someone might. Your mum and dad might be a bit sad if you splattered your body all over the rocks below,” he said with a sly smile.

She pushed against him, crawled over him, and stood up and walked down the rocky path to a smaller crag protruding out from the great stone rock face. She sat down and closed her eyes, to think some more.

Then she heard James call her name. “Alice?” He continued to call her name as he climbed down to her.

“Why don’t you go back up with the rest of the family?” she asked. “I just want to be alone for a while.”

“Why are you really wallowing in self-pity?” he asked. He took the toe of his shoe and kicked a small rock off the top of the boulder. It made a noise all the way to the bottom of the gully, the noise echoing across the gap.

“Why didn’t my parents ask me what sort of birthday I wanted?” she asked. “Every year, they’ve asked me, and I’ve always gotten what I’ve wanted, and this year, they didn’t ask, and they planned this simple, little family picnic. I mean, it might be my last birthday where everyone can get together!” She leaned back on her arms and turned her face up to the sky. “I am a spoiled brat,” she realized.

“Nah,” he disagreed, coming to sit beside her again. “You’re merely a Malfoy. You think the world owes you.”

She turned to him and hit his arm as hard as she could.

“Ouch, my sweet little Alice, that hurt a lot,” he said, rubbing his arm, “But I deserved it.” He pulled on one of her long blond curls to watch it bounce. She watched him, pulled her hair out of his grasp, and glared at him hard. He added, “The truth is, you’re actually a kind, caring woman and I wouldn’t change a single thing about you.”

She turned her face away from his, blushing, but to cover for her embarrassment she said, “Right.”

He rubbed his index finger up her arm. She only had on a short sleeve t-shirt and it was cold outside, sunny, but cold. Her skin pimpled at the touch of his finger…from the cold or his touch? He wondered. “Where’s your jumper?” he asked.

She pointed upwards, to denote that she left it on the top of the hill. He removed his jumper, right over his head, and handed it to her.

“Now you’ll be cold,” she said.

“No, I still have two shirts on, go on, take it,” he offered. She took it from his outstretched hand and brought it up to her nose first. It smelled like him. He laughed and asked, “Does it stink?”

“No, it smells good,” she said, unabashed. She slipped it over her head. He pulled her hair out of the collar. His fingers lingered on her neck, and then he spread her hair out over her shoulders. He left his hands on her shoulders. She leaned against him. He placed his left arm around her.

“I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you’re in such a rotten mood, and I’m half afraid you’ll jump off the cliff in your current depressed state, so here goes,” he began, his thumb rubbing back and forth on her arm. “Your parents didn’t ask you what sort of party you wanted this year, because they’re having a giant surprise party for you tonight. It’s going to be a masked ball, a sort of coming out party.”

She moaned. She moved away from him, backed up toward the cliff side and covered her face with her hands. “Oh, no, JP, don’t you see what that means?”

“No, I’m not as smart as you, tell me, what does it mean,” he asked.

She looked at him and said, “It means that my worst fear is happening! I thought they might wait until I was at least 21, but they mean to put me on the marriage market! It all boils down to the blasted will! You’ve heard that story a million times, and how your father saved the day with my nanny’s book! And how Mummy and Daddy married, at first a marriage of convenience, or so they convinced themselves, to satisfy the terms of the will!”

“Yes, I know, and what does that have to do with…ah…ha, ha, ha!” He began to laugh. “Alice is going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, so to speak, is that what you’re worried about, my sweetness?” he asked. He threw his head back and laughed harder. “Honey, it really is just a surprise birthday party, and nothing more, I promise you!”

She stood up. He reached a hand out to steady her and stood as well. “NO JP! I tell you, its beginning, and I don’t have a boyfriend, or anything, and no one will ever want to marry me anyway, so I’ll have to enter into a marriage of convenience, too, or I’ll lose all of this!” She reached her arms out wide.

He laughed again. “You, my dear, are barking mad. You’re only 19 years old. I hardly think you have to worry about that right now. You don’t have to marry until you’re twenty-five to inherit, and by then, someone is bound to want to marry you, maybe even sooner!”

She pushed him and said, “What do you know! No one will ever want to marry me!”

He laughed for the third time and that made her angry. “STOP LAUGHING AT ME!” she shouted.

“Well stop being one of those vapid, boring, sorry excuses for a girl, who is full of pity and a ‘woe is me’ attitude! You’re bloody beautiful! You’re the smartest girl I know, and I know someone out there, someday, will without a doubt want to marry you more than he will want life itself!” He reached for her face. He grabbed it with both his hands.

Time stood still.

He wanted to kiss her more than anything…no, what he wanted more than anything was to be that man, that man who would marry her someday.

Alice had always wondered what it would be like to have James kiss her. They had kissed twice before, but nothing romantic. Once when they were six and five they kissed and once when they were eleven and twelve. After that, they had kissed a few times on the cheek, but never a romantic, open mouth, tongue kiss.

She wanted James Potter to kiss her more than anything, no, that wasn’t true. What she wanted more than anything was for James Potter to marry her someday.

He leaned closer, and she closed her eyes.

Then his father called out, “JAMES! Are you down there?”

He kept Alice’s face in his hands, let out a breath and then cursed under his breath, and yelled up toward his father, “Yes, Alice and I are going for a walk!”

"Well, your Grandma and Grandpa just arrived with Cassandra, so come on up and entertain your girlfriend,” Harry said.

Alice felt as if someone had kicked her in the chest. The pained expression on her face matched exactly what James was feeling inside. He closed his eyes for a moment, shook his head at Alice and said, “It doesn’t matter, my sweet Alice. It doesn’t matter.”

“Go up to your girlfriend,” she said sadly. “I’m just being a silly, spoiled brat. I’ll be fine.” She brought her hands up to his wrists and moved his hands away from her face. She continued down the rocky path.

He called after her even as his father continued to call for him.

He watched her go. Fine. She could go for now. He always had tonight.

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