A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 43: Memory number 1: The School Dance


Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love every now and then.” – Jane Austen


If I act like the cross older brother it’s only to hide the fact that I love her so very much.” – James Potter, year four, Hogwarts, age 15


There’s an old Muggle saying that there’s a fine line between love and hate, and tonight, James Potter crossed it.” – Alice Malfoy, year three, age 13


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Alice, and an invisible James, arrived in the middle of Alice’s old room in Ravenclaw tower with a resounding ‘pop’. She wondered if anyone could see her. She walked around the old, familiar place and assumed that no, this wasn’t real, it was a memory, so no one could see her or talk to her, since they were not real, either.


She couldn’t touch anything, although she could move about, which was a bit disconcerting. She was shocked when she saw a younger Alice walking toward her. Then she smiled. She forgot how excited she was that night. At least the first part of the night was nice.


James wondered if he needed to keep the invisibility cloak on, and he decided that these ‘people’ around him couldn’t see him, but that ‘his’ Alice might be able to, so he kept it on. He was certain she didn’t know he entered the memories with her. Just then, another Alice, a younger one, approached them, and he almost gasped aloud. He had forgotten how pretty she looked that night. All he recalled from that night was yelling at her, ripping her dress, and her hand when it went across his cheek in a resounding slap.


He looked over at ‘his’ Alice and saw that she was smiling while looking at ‘that’ Alice, too. He looked back at ‘that’ Alice and he saw a mixture of things… excitement, joy, trepidation, and anxiety. She was thrilled about her first dance and James ruined it for her that night out of jealousy, pure and simple. He felt instantly ashamed.


Getting ready for the Halloween dance in her room within Ravenclaw tower, Alice Malfoy was bubbling over with excitement. Not many third year students were attending, as the dance was held for years four and up, but a fourth year Slytherin asked her to go, and she happily accepted. She would have rather gone with James, but they were in one of their ‘angry’ stages, and she wasn’t sure why. She was telling this very thing to one of her friends as she put the finishing touches on her hair.


I really though James Potter would have asked you to go, because, well, everyone knows how fond you are of each other,” Annabelle said, helping Alice tame her long curls.


I admit that I had hoped he would ask me, if for no other reason, than because we used to be best friends, but it seems James doesn’t have time for me any longer. All he has time for is Quidditch and his friends, which I used to be one of, but I guess I’m not any longer,” Alice answered reflectively. She turned from the mirror and said, “I know this sounds incredibly vain, but I feel sort of pretty, almost like a princess in this dress.”


Annabelle moaned. “Sort of pretty? Almost like a princess? Are you daft? You’re the prettiest girl at this whole school and you’re like magical royalty. That’s what makes you and James Potter so perfect for each other. He’s the son of Harry Potter, and the handsomest boy in school, and you’re the daughter of Hermione Granger and you’re a Malfoy, to boot.”


Alice sighed. “If only.”


James felt a wave of sadness course over him. ‘If only’ was right. If only he had known that Alice harbored feelings back then that went beyond friendship, if only he had known that she thought he didn’t care, if only he wasn’t such a bore and an arse back then, they might be together right now. He looked from the wistful young Alice to his Alice and he sighed as well.


Alice twirled again and said, “I do feel like a princess, though, like I said! My grandmother had this dress made special for me. James once said that silver looked nice on me, because of my eyes, so I asked her to pick out silver.”


You had her pick out silver, just for James, huh?” Annabelle asked with a laugh.


Oh, go on, you,” Alice said, embarrassed.


Alice had forgotten that. She did look pretty back then. That dress was exquisite, and she remembered that she had asked her grandmother to pick out silver expressly because of what James had once said about her eyes. How sad was that? She was excited because her grandmother sent her a dress to wear when she found out that she was invited, and it was a beautiful creation that looked lovely on Alice’s fair completion. It was silver, with jewels sewn throughout the netting of the skirt, and a fine netting overlay over the tight bodice, thin silk straps over a sweetheart neckline, with a matching silk shawl. Her grandfather sent her diamond earrings and a matching necklace for the very same reason.


She walked down the circular stairs of her ‘house’ to meet the hustle and bustle of the upperclassmen that were also getting ready for the dance. A few of the girls told her she looked pretty, a few of the boys whistled. Alice turned in a circle when she reached the bottom landing and went, “Wee!” and people around her laughed. It was sort of her own little tradition to do that when she had on a pretty dress.


She bit her bottom lip and waited by the portrait door. An older boy by the name of Adrian Harrell walked by her and asked, “Are you waiting for your date?”


She nodded and said, “Yes, I’m going with Carlos Manning, from Slytherin house. Do you know him?”


The boy’s brow instantly furrowed and he said, “Alice, you’re not going out with him, seriously, are you?”


Yes, why?” she asked, concerned.


The boy shook his head and said, “I forgot, you never go to any of the Quidditch matches, so of course, you really don’t know, do you?”


Know what, please, if you know of a reason why I shouldn’t go out with him, tell me,” she begged.


He smiled at her. Everyone loved Alice, and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, and she looked so pretty, so he said, “No reason at all. You’ll have so much fun, Alice. I’ll see you down there, but you tell that bloke that all of Ravenclaw will be watching him, so he better keep his randy little hands to himself.”


She laughed, and turned and waited. She said, “Thanks, Adrian, but I can take care of myself.”


Adrian started to walk away when he turned back. “Alice, may I ask you something?”


Alice turned to face him. “Of course.”


Why don’t you ever go to any of the Quidditch matches? I’m not just asking because I play, but you and James Potter always seemed so close before, and your parents are close, and he’s the best player around, and the captain of his team. I would assume you’d go to support your friend.”


James looked over at his Alice and thought, ‘Bloody right. I’ve always thought that, too.’ Then he heard the younger Alice’s response and he felt like a fool.


Oh, Adrian,” she began, “I inherited my mother’s fear of heights, and when JP is up there, so high, and being so reckless, well it terrifies me. I’m so afraid for him.” She laughed and said, “I inherited my courage from my father.”


They both laughed. She added, “If anything ever happened to James I would almost die. He’s more than my best friend, you know? So I always hole up inside the library or my dorm while he’s playing, read a book, pretend that the outside world doesn’t exist, and pray the whole time that he’ll be safe and come back to me.”


The older boy smiled at her and said, “Sweet Alice, I wonder if he knows how lucky he is to have you?” He touched her cheek and said, “Have fun tonight, and don’t stay out too late.”


She nodded and turned once again toward the doorway.



James found himself outside the portrait way, waiting for Carlos to come pick up ‘young Alice’, with the words of that other boy and Alice echoing through his brain. He felt like hitting something, but he couldn’t hit anything in this stupid ‘memory’ so he clenched his teeth and cursed himself instead. Of course, Alice didn’t know why James hated Carlos back in school, because just as that other bloke said, she never went to any of the Quidditch matches, (and now he knew why) so she didn’t know back then that he was James’ biggest rival. She also didn’t know that just the day before, at the last match, the bastard purposely fouled against James and tried to knock him from his broom.


James also had no clue that she cared so deeply for him back then, or that she was so terrified for him when he flew. He felt like such a git. He was lucky to have her, and back then he had no idea how lucky he was.


He was still mentally berating himself when Carlos and another Slytherin approached the portrait hole at the same time. He looked around for his Alice, and saw that she too was standing outside the portal.


Carlos was straightening his dress robes and he asked the other boy, “Who are you taking to the dance?”


Athena Hunter,” the boy said. “How about you?”


Alice Malfoy,” Carlos said, with a smile and a raise of his eyebrows.


How did you manage that?” the boy asked. “She’s the prettiest girl in Ravenclaw, and wait a second, wait a second…you sly fox. You’re taking her to get to Potter, aren’t you?”


James looked over at ‘his’ Alice. Here was his proof that he wasn’t wrong back then! Here was the proof he had always wanted that Manning had ulterior motives for taking Alice to that bloody dance! His Alice was listening intently when the young Slytherin said:


Not bloody likely, Clarkson. I hate Potter, but asking Alice to the dance has nothing to do with that and besides, they hardly even associate these days. No, I would have to be a stupid idiot not to want to go out with her. She’s gorgeous, smart, and her bloodline, her mother’s blood notwithstanding, is beyond compare. I mean, she’s an effing Malfoy! And did I say, beautiful, beguiling, smart, wonderful…”


The other boy covered his ears and laughed and said, “Fine, you’re in love, whatever. I still think you’re only doing this to goad Potter.”


Potter could care less about her,” Carlos said. “He could have asked her to the dance, but didn’t, so what does that tell you? No, they’re merely friends, if even that. Do I look okay?”


Geesh, yes already, knock on the bloody portrait and let’s get our dates and go.”


James was about ready to thrash someone or something, memory be damned, because nothing was turning out as he remembered when he looked around and saw his Alice walking down the long corridor toward Gryffindor tower. He ran to follow.



Meanwhile, back at Whitehall:


Hermione stood by the parlor doors with her husband, and he was explaining to her how the magic of the book worked, exactly as his father had explained it to him earlier. “It works in real time, so unfortunately, if it takes her an hour to visit and recall a certain memory, she’ll really be gone for an hour.”


“No,” Hermione gasped. “We can’t have her be gone from her own party for an hour or more! Your mother is already chomping at the bit, worried because Alice isn’t down here greeting her guests.” Hermione looked around and said, “Maybe we should just go have James find her and tell her he loves her and be done with it.”


“Would that have worked with you when you were her age, no, love, it wouldn’t have,” Draco argued. “She’ll have to discover things on her own, and prove things to herself. She needs to be sure, one hundred percent, just like I had to be sure with you. Give her this time. Besides, James snuck upstairs when you were beating up his dear old pop, so I bet he's visiting some good old memories with her, but without her knowledge.”


“No,” Hermione gasped again.


Draco laughed and cuddled her close, his nose on her neck. “I bet I can change those ‘no’s’ to ‘yes’s’ Mrs. Malfoy.” He whispered in her ear, “Later tonight, you and I, all alone, and you gasping, yes, yes…YESSSSS.”


She laughed, pushed him away and was about to kiss him when she looked over and caught her mother-in-law’s pained expression.


Narcissa couldn’t find Alice anywhere and she was beginning to get concerned. She heard Draco mention something about a ‘fashion emergency’ and although she didn’t quite know what that meant, she hoped it didn’t mean something was wrong with her dress. She was still in the receiving line, greeting the guests, when she noticed Draco and Hermione leaving the parlor, heading toward the ballroom. She turned to her right, said to Lucius, “It’s up to you to greet everyone yourself,” and she walked over to them.


Draco saw the determined look on his mother’s face and he pushed his wife in front of him and said, “Women and children first.”


Hermione looked back at him and said, “What?” Before he could explain he dashed away. She turned back toward the ballroom and saw an angry looking Narcissa right in front of her.


“Where is your daughter?” she asked Hermione.


“Ah…I recall Draco saying something about her dress,” Hermione stammered. “The hem might have ripped, or perhaps she spilled something on it, I don’t really recall.”


Narcissa crossed her arms and said, “I have a gift, Hermione, did you know?”


“A gift for Alice?” she asked.


“No, a gift for being able to tell when someone is lying to me, and you, my darling daughter-in-law, are lying.”


Hermione opened her mouth but no sound came out. She smiled, laughed, frowned, pursed her lips, and then said, “Oh dear, there’s Ginny Potter, I really must run and greet our guests. We wouldn’t want to appear rude, would we?” Hermione ran away. She didn’t run toward the receiving line. She ran to find her wanker of a husband. She was going to punish him for leaving her.


Back to the memories:


Alice stood inside Gryffindor’s common room, watching a teenage James as he slouched in a chair, playing with a small snitch, moving it around with his wand. His dress robes were barely put on right, his hair wasn’t combed, and she thought he looked handsome. The real James skidded right behind her, the invisibility cloak close to slipping off his shoulders. He looked at his younger self and frowned. He forgot how he used to be back then…so carefree, so nonchalant, such a little bastard.


So then I said to the professor, well of course I saw them do it, would I lie, and he bought the whole thing!” James bragged. Everyone around him laughed.


Hey, James,” his friend Will shouted as he came down the circular stairs. “We had better be off to pick up our dates!”


Ah…let them wait,” James laughed.


Who are you chaps taking?” another boy asked.


James is taking Daisy Wheeler from Hufflepuff and I’m taking Clara Merriman from Ravenclaw,” Will explained.


What?” the first boy asked. He turned to James and asked, “Why aren’t you taking Alice Malfoy?”


James shrugged and said, “Why would I take my sweet little Alice to the dance? She’s just a kid; anyway, this dance is for upperclassmen.”

Yes, well, upperclassmen could ask lowerclassmen, Potter,” Will reminded him. “Didn’t you know that?”


James looked shocked. “No, I really didn’t know. Since when? I thought only fourth years and above could attend.”

A few people laughed and a girl said, “James, if you paid half as much attention to other things as you did Quidditch and your hair maybe you would know a thing or two that’s going on here at this school.”


Another girl said, “I heard that Alice was going with Carlos Manning.”


A hush filled the room. James stood up, indignant. “NO!” he said, horrified. “You must be mistaken. My sweet little Alice would never go out with someone like that. She has to know how much I hate that prat! She has to have heard by now how he almost killed me at the last match!”


Will said, “Maybe that’s why she’s going with him, to get back at you, because you didn’t ask her, or heaven forbid, because you keep calling her ‘your sweet little Alice’. She’s not that little anymore, and almost every bloke has their eye on her, James.”


James blasted the snitch into smithereens with his wand and said, “That’s it! He’s using her to get back at me! He’s only taking her out to rattle me, or to use her, or something. That prick! I’ll show him!”


Show him later, we’re late,” Will said with a laugh.


James watched from under the cloak as his younger self ran from the dormitory. He also watched Alice as she followed. He stayed behind. The rest of the evening, as it progressed from that point, he was painfully aware of, and he wasn’t sure he wanted a reminder.


After a few moments, he found himself drawn to the Great Hall. He stood behind Alice as she watched from around a corner, just a few meters away, as the younger James and the younger Alice had one of the worst fights of their lives, and it was all James’ fault.


Okay, James, I came out here with you, leaving my date all by himself, and leaving your date by herself, now tell me, why are you so upset?” Alice asked.


She knew why SHE was upset back then. She was upset because James hadn’t made a single remark about her appearance. He didn’t tell her she looked pretty or anything. She felt like crying all over again, and even said softly, “Didn’t you even think I look pretty that night, JP?”


James looked from his Alice to that Alice and thought, ‘Yes, you looked beautiful, and you still do.’ He had to fight the urge to reach out to her. He almost did, when the Alice from the memory cried out and called his attention back to her.


What?” Alice asked, with disbelief. “I can’t believe you just said that!”


You heard me!” James said, placing his hand on her arm and pulling her away from the main doors. “I said that Manning only asked you out to get back at me! Everyone knows that, and he’s going to make you look like a ruddy fool tonight, Alice. Mark my words. Go back upstairs to your dorm, right now!”


She pushed him, hard. He actually stumbled against the wall. “Don’t tell me what to do, JP! You go back to your date, and I’ll go back to mine!” She started back toward the doors, when she suddenly whipped around and said, “You’re being a moron! You’re being cruel, even! You haven’t even mentioned if I look nice tonight, or anything!”


Seriously, Alice!” James spat. “Is that what this is about, fine, you look like a little girl playing dress up! You look like you did when you used to try on your grandmother’s old evening gowns!” He reached for her dress and said, “This isn’t you!” By accident, when he pulled his hand away, he pulled the strap of her gown, and it dangled from her shoulder.


She looked as if she was about to cry. “James Potter, you really must apologize right now, if you still want to count me as your oldest and dearest friend!”


Right now I just want to see that you’re up in your tower and away from Carlos!” He took her arm again.


She hauled back her hand and slapped his face as hard as she could. He dropped her arm, and held his face, his mouth open in shock. He glared at her, words escaping him.


She said, “Someday, JP, you will feel terrible remorse for the way you’ve treated me tonight, and you will want to apologize to me, and I might or I might not accept!”


She turned around and walked back into the Great Hall. James kicked the wall, hurting his foot, swore a blue streak, and then dashed down the hall, leaving his date inside, and leaving Alice without an apology.


James remembered the feelings of hurt and betrayal he felt that night, and the embarrassment, and now he knew some of those feelings were misguided. He now felt extreme remorse as well.


He wanted to reveal himself and hold her in his arms and tell her how much he loved her and how sorry he was, but for once, HE felt insecure. After seeing that, he wasn’t sure how she could ever love him. Now he needed some reassurance.


He looked back at her and she was frowning. She wrapped her arms around herself, looked down at her white ball gown and said, “I think this dress is prettier than that one, anyway.”


He smiled. ‘That’s the spirit,’ he thought.


She pulled out her wand to say the incantation to take her to the next memory, and he rushed to her side, so that he could ‘tag along’. She said, also aloud, “I’m not sure that memory showed me quite what JP felt for me back then. I think it just showed what a tosser he was.”


James had to stifle a laugh. She said the incantation, and he quickly grabbed her arm. In the next memory, they were both outside; it was now early spring, on a Saturday morning, during his sixth year and her fifth year. James looked around, not sure which memory this was, until he saw ‘that’ Alice under a tree, reading a book and he saw ‘that’ James walking toward her, with a new broomstick in his hand.


He looked at his Alice and wondered why in the hell she would pick this memory?

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