A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 44: Back at Whitehall and the Second Memory:


A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” – Jane Austen.


Young people think that they have all the time in the world, but before they know it, time slips by, and they’re old and grey and they wonder whatever happened to their lives.” – Narcissa Malfoy.


Time is a relative thing. I feel the same inside as I did twenty, no forty, years ago. I’m the same person, the same man, with the same thoughts and feelings. The only thing that I hope is different is that perhaps I might be a better human being now than I was before. I hope I’ve learned from my mistakes.” – Lucius Malfoy.


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Narcissa Malfoy was an angry woman! This surprise birthday ball was her idea, her baby, from start to finish, and nothing was turning out as she planned, and she wasn’t used to things not turning out as she planned!


First, James Potter ruined the surprise for Alice by telling her about the party earlier today.


Then, Lucius told Alice she didn’t have to join the receiving line to greet their guests, which in Narcissa’s opinion was gauche and just plain common.


Then, when she tried to find Alice, to introduce her to a few of the single wizards that she had invited, she couldn’t find her granddaughter anywhere and no one appeared to know where she was! James Potter was sent to find her earlier and now he was missing as well.


Narcissa would not be deterred. She stared at Hermione from across the ballroom and mouthed the words, ‘Where is Alice?’


Hermione acted as if she couldn’t understand what her mother-in-law was asking. She shook her head back and mouthed the words, ‘I can’t understand you,’ back to her, even though she could understand very well. She knew if Narcissa knew that Alice had left her own party, to go exploring old memories, she would be livid. Furthermore, she knew that she couldn’t hold Narcissa off much longer.


Mrs. Malfoy had already asked Hermione, Lucius and even Draco where Alice was, and all three of them had told her different stories, and now she was pulling young Scorpius to the side, and she was whispering something in his ear.


The boy smiled at his grandmother, shook his head, said something in return, and then ran out of the ballroom.


Hermione caught Draco’s attention and motioned for him with her finger. He walked toward his wife. When he reached her he asked, “What, love?” and then handed her his flute of champagne.


“You’re mother isn’t going to be put off much longer. She’s wondering where the birthday girl is, and I think she’s just sent Sam off to look for her.” She took a drink and handed the flute back to her husband.


He took her hand, his thumb rubbing the top of her hand back and forth, and he said, “That’s alright, no need to worry for I already told our son that I would give him a brand new racing broom if he told his Grandmother that Alice was in the bathroom if she asked.” He turned to face his wife with a wicked smile on his face.


Hermione smiled back, leaned closer to him, and placed her face on his chest. She whispered, “I’m so glad you don’t use your evilness against me.”


“Oh, I use it against you all the time,” he mumbled in her ear, “And I happen to know you like it.”


She looked up at him and laughed. He kissed her cheek. He placed his arms around her, and they were about to kiss again, when Draco felt someone tap his shoulder. Hermione and Draco both turned to face the person at the same time. Hermione held her arms tightly around his waist and said, “You aren’t leaving me this time.”


“Where’s Alice? She’s missing her own ball!” Narcissa asked, perturbed.


“I thought you sent Sam to find her,” Draco said, pushing out of his wife’s arms and swallowing another large drink of champagne. Hermione held fast to his dress robes and continued to hide her face in his chest, his robes bunched in both of her hands.


“I started to ask him to find her, but before I could even ask, he volunteered the information that his sister was in the bathroom,” his mother said, suspiciously, “which I thought was odd, given that I hadn’t asked him about her yet. So then I told him that I would give him twenty galleons in addition to whatever you promised him for lying to me, but only if he would tell me the truth, and he said that you promised him a new racing broom and that he had no clue where his sister was.”


Hermione lifted the corners of her husbands dress robes and hid deeper in their depths. Her face was plastered to his shirt, and his robe was covering most of her. “And I see you, Hermione!” Narcissa added. “Don’t think I don’t. I demand to know what is going on here this evening!”


“Yes, she sees you,” Draco said, pushing Hermione away from him. He swatted her away with both hands, and she slapped both of his hands in return. He pilfered a flute of champagne from a wizard to his left, took a large swig, finished the glass, and said, “Waiter, more champagne, where is that damn waiter?” and he practically ran away, leaving Hermione alone, once again, with Narcissa.


Narcissa tapped her foot and stared at the younger woman. Hermione said, “I think Lucius should explain where she is, because it was his idea.” There! Hermione was pleased with herself. Let Lucius Malfoy take the fall. It really was his idea, and after all, he hadn’t even begun to pay for half his sins in Hermione’s opinion. She walked away and approached Lucius and said, “Narcissa is looking for you.”


Lucius smiled and looked across the room at his wife. He saw a truly terrifying look upon her face. He looked back down at Hermione, who was also smiling, and he said, “You wicked, wicked woman. My son has been nothing but a bad influence on you, and to think, I supported Draco’s marriage to you from the beginning. I shall now support his divorce.”


“Oh go on you, you love me now and you know it. Besides, Alice is gone because of you, and Narcissa is your wife, so you should handle this. Buck up, big boy, be a man!” Hermione crossed her arms and gave him a ‘so there’ glare.


“I can’t lie to my wife!” Lucius spat. “She can always tell!” Hermione shrugged and walked away.


Yes, she was his wife, and he knew she could be dangerous; therefore, Lucius looked around, to try to find a place to hide.


Back to the Memories:


The elder James stood off to his Alice’s right, mouth agape, in shock. Why was she picking the worst memories to examine? How was any of this going to prove to her that he loved her? Was she temporarily insane? Had she caught some kind of fever, and the delirium was causing her previous intelligence to wane? He saw the younger James approach the pretty, young teenage Alice as she sat on the ground, under a tree, on a cold, springtime, Saturday morning and he almost groaned in despair.


He should show himself and beg Alice to return them both to Whitehall and declare his everlasting love to her with a lifetime of servitude, because after she visited this memory, she was bound to remember how much she hated him, not how much she loved him.


He almost did that, when the younger James spoke.


Alice!” James walked toward the young girl under the tree with a purposeful stride, a new racing broom tightly in his grasp. It was April 4th, and it was four days after Alice’s birthday. Alice was sweet sixteen. James’ birthday wasn’t until August. He would be eighteen. His uncle George already sent him a very early birthday present…the broom in his hand, and with his new broom he was going to give Alice a belated present: flying lessons.


She looked up from her book and smiled. “Hello, JP. I thought you were going into Hogsmeade today.”


He squatted down beside her, still holding his new broom. He was waiting to see if she would mention it. She didn’t. The wind was merciless this morning, blowing her long curls all over the place. He reached over and plucked a long strand of hair from in front of her face, and tucked it behind her ear. He loved her hair. Frankly, he loved everything about her.


I decided I would rather spend the Saturday with you. It’s been forever since we’ve done anything together.” He placed the broom on the ground by her feet, and sat down beside her. He picked up her book, looked at it, folded it closed, and placed it beside him.


That’s not true, we spent last weekend together, at the Burrow, for my birthday,” she reminded him.


He laughed and said, “I still laugh when I remember your grandfather and grandmother’s expressions when they came to your party and it was being held at my grandparents’ house. I thought I would die when your grandfather wiped off the chair with his handkerchief before he sat down!”


Alice laughed along with him and said, “Well, he was afraid he might get ‘poor people’ germs or something. One can never be too careful.” She reached around him and picked her book back up. He plucked it back out of her hands and placed it back on the ground.


No reading, my sweet Alice. I have something better planned.”


It better not have anything to do with that broom on the ground, and that dopey expression on your face,” she heralded.


I can’t help how I look,” he joked, “and what broom…ah, do you mean this little contraption, which my Uncle George, one of your favourite people by the way, got me as an early birthday present?”


Very early, since your birthday isn’t for months,” she said. “I’m not riding a broom.” That decided, she reached past him again for her book. He captured her hand in his and refused to let go.


Listen, Alice, I would never, ever intentionally hurt you and I always have your best interest at heart, don’t I?” he asked.


She merely glared at him.


Don’t I?” he repeated softer. “I know, I know, we’ve been out of sorts the last few years. We fight as often as we get together, and I’m often bossy and rude with you, and you always have to act like the little know-it-all genius, but I still consider you one of my favourite people, and I always will. You have to know that, don’t you?”


She still didn’t answer. His thumb was rubbing back and forth against the palm of her hand, adding slight pressure, and driving her wild. She blinked slowly and finally nodded. “Well, then, I have a proposition to make, which is purely altruistic in nature,” he finally concluded.


She laughed, pulled her hands from his and said, “I wish I had never taught you that word.”


James grinned from under the invisibility cloak and looked over at his Alice, who was also grinning. They were both remembering the same thing. When she was ten, and he was almost twelve, she was trying to teach him a simple math equation, and he was embarrassed because she was so much younger than him, and so much smarter, and mostly because he really, really hated arithmetic.


At that time, little Alice said to him, ‘JP, I’m merely being altruistic here, and I have your best interest at heart, because I don’t want everyone to think you’re stupid’ and he remembered that he didn’t know what that word meant, so he not only felt stupid because he couldn’t do the math equation, but also because she knew a big word and he didn’t.


James smiled and said, “I felt like a right stupid fool because apparently not only couldn’t I do math, but I had a terrible vocabulary!”


She placed her hand on his arm and smiled. “You had to ask my mum what the word meant, I recall.”


Because I asked your dad first and he didn’t know,” James joked. “But seriously, this is just like that. I’m doing this for you, not for me.”


I don’t even know what you’re doing. What is this all about?” she asked.


I’m going to teach you, finally, how to fly, and how to conquer your fears of heights!” he proclaimed.


She looked shocked. He said, “You’re a smart girl, what did you think I meant by coming over here with a broom?”


I thought you meant to torment me before you went off to Quidditch practice or something silly like that,” she announced. She stood up and said, “No, James, please, my father, your father and even Uncle Ron, have tried for years to teach me flying, all with disastrous results. I hate flying, I hate being up in the air, I hate heights!”


He stood with his broom in hand, and said, “I happen to know that’s a lie, because you love to be up on that high hillside that overlooks Whitehall.”

Yes, but that’s solid ground! My feet aren’t dangling in the air!” she declared. “Besides, what will this prove? You’re better at this than I am, you love this more than I do, and I’m fine with that, since I’m better at everything else than you.”


After that statement she gave him a challenging glare and he threw his broom down and said, “Apologize or face my wrath!” She shrieked and started to run, and he ran after her. He chased her around a tree, and when he caught her he swung her around by the waist several times before falling on the hard ground with her on top of him.


Once on the ground, he placed her on her back, and loomed over her, his arms on each side of her body, straight out, holding him off her body at a safe distance. She was breathing hard, and he was as well.


She had the undeniable urge to reach up and touch his unruly black hair, which was falling into his eyes, so she did.


Alice remembered that she wanted him to kiss her, a grown up, real kiss, so badly that day. She really thought he was going to, but he didn’t.


James recalled that he really wanted to kiss her that day, a real kiss, a kiss full of passion and promise, but he didn’t want to scare her, so he held back. He wanted to kiss her so badly. They had kissed a few times before, but never anything serious. What would she do if he kissed her tonight at the birthday ball?



He dropped down on her, chest to chest, and leaned slightly away with most of his weight on his elbows. He placed his legs beside her body and reached to her hair with his hand. He touched it lightly.


A few boys walked by and made some lewd comments and Alice pushed James away from her and he scrambled to stand. He brought his hand up to his own hair, looked around for his broom, somewhat embarrassed, and then at the last moment, reached down to help her to stand.


Those boys are morons,” James said, as a way to excuse the remarks.


All boys are morons,” Alice said lightly, brushing off her jeans. James reached over and pushed on her arm, causing her almost to fall back down. They both laughed again, and the moment was gone.


James picked up his broom, threw his leg over it, walked away from the trees, and kicked off. He hovered a few meters in the air and said, “It’s not too late, sweetie.”


James, no,” she begged. She picked up her book and sat back down under her tree. She opened the book and began to read.


He stayed right over her head, clearing the tree, and said, “It’s beautiful up here, even no higher than this. It’s a clear, bright day, a bit cold, but Alice, you’ve never seen Hogwarts until you’ve seen it from the air.”


No,” she said.


He moved back and forth above her and called down, “Did you know that the best way to overcome a fear is to face it head on?”


No,” she repeated, without looking up at him. She turned the page of her book.


I want to share this with you. I love it, and I…,” he almost said, ‘and I love you,’ but instead he said, “and I want you to love it. Do it for me. If you love me, you’ll do it,” he teased.


I don’t love you, so there’s no need for me to do,” she snapped, although she was pretty certain that she did love him. She closed her book harshly and said, “And if you insist on bothering me, I’ll go inside and read.” She stood, turned on her heels, and started toward the castle.


James looked at his Alice again and he realized that he pressured her into flying that day, but he also tried to pressure her into saying that she loved him, when he wasn’t willing to offer her the same courtesy by saying it first. He didn’t know what to make of that. He turned back to the memory, even though he would never forget how this memory would end.

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