A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 46: I’ve never had a Chapter 46 before (Or, Alice’s Fifth Birthday Memory)


Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.” – Jane Austen


I finally told her that I loved her, but it was too late, so what can I do?” – James Potter, the day of his graduation from Hogwarts.


I love him like a brother, nothing more.” – Alice Malfoy, lying, but of course, on the same day.


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Alice and James landed in the upstairs hallway of the Potter’s house and in his confusion at the change of memories, James let out a short, disgusted sound, resembling a curse word, that began with the phrase: “What the...”


Alice turned toward the disembodied voice, and in her impending bewilderment the new memory she had thought of at the last faded away, and she and James, still under the cloak, where now standing in an utter nothingness, instead of standing in the Potter’s upstairs hallway. She lifted her wand to take her and James to the next memory again, when she took a quick glimpse over her shoulder, to where she assumed he must be standing. She could swear she heard him still silently angry, and she wasn’t sure why. Was he counting on visiting the graduation memory?


She couldn’t see him, but she imagined that he was having a hard time holding back his emotion…be it anger or sadness. She never meant for the previous memories to be painful for him. She never meant for them to be painful for her! In the beginning, all she wanted was the opportunity to discover if James’ love was true and steadfast, but then right before she entered the book, she heard the nursery door open, but didn’t see anyone, (though heard the rustling of fabric), and she knew he was in there with her, so at the last moment her plans changed.


Instead of visiting memories that would prove to her how much he might love her, she wanted to take him to memories that would prove TO HIM how much he didn’t. She didn’t do this last minute change to hurt him, really she didn’t. She did it because it seemed to her that he had moved on by finding a girlfriend, plus it was terribly intrusive of him to hide under an invisibility cloak and to follow her around her memories, wasn’t it?


Why was the last memory so upsetting to him? It was insightful to her. It was the first time he had said that he loved her. She looked back over at where she ‘imagined’ he must be standing. He was quiet now, no more cursing or fuming. Was he upset because he felt guilty still for an accident that happened years ago, or was his remorse over something entirely different?


Did he, perhaps, still love her, and think that it was too late?


Perhaps this exercise down memory lane was serving a bigger purpose after all. Perhaps it would help James recall that he STILL loved her, not this Cassandra person. She was certain that the graduation memory wasn’t the right one to pick for their last go round. They were both there that day, and they both knew what happened. He told her he loved her and she said she didn’t love him back.


There was no earth-shattering reveal before or after, at least on her part, that would prove something different to him, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to see the painful expression on his face again. Seeing it once in a lifetime was enough for her.


She already had it etched in her mind forever.


Recalling it in her mind, as if it were yesterday, and not a year ago, he took her aside before the ceremony, took her hands, and said that he loved her now, and always had, and always would, and he asked for forgiveness for all his boyhood faux pas and indiscretions. She said the worst possible thing in return, and the biggest lie of her life. She said, “I’m sorry James, but I only love you like a brother.”


He looked taken aback, but he didn’t argue the point. He seemed too embarrassed. He smiled instead, kissed her hand and said, “Well, I had to say it, because I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t. I hope this doesn’t mean that we can’t still be friends.” Then he turned and almost ran away.


Cocky, self assured, full of himself, James Potter, ran away like a wounded puppy and Alice Malfoy, who was more like her mother than her father when it came to empathy, was bound by the thought that bringing James pain brought her no pleasure. Therefore, she did not rejoice in the fact that she had finally put him in his place that fateful day. No, instead, she felt her heart break in two pieces that day. She couldn’t witness that again. Instead, she wanted to give him a view of what she felt for him. She had the perfect memory for them to visit.


James was beginning to wonder why they had yet to enter a new memory. The old memory had all but faded around them, and then for a brief moment it appeared that she had disapparated them to his parent’s house, hence his surprise and his ‘almost audible objectionable curse word’, but that was impossible, because they were surely still in the middle of the time turner spell, standing as they were in an almost dark abyss…be it in her mind, in her book, he didn’t know which, still, they should have moved on to the next memory by now.


She had mentioned the graduation memory in the beginning, yet they hadn’t moved on at all. She was just standing there, thinking, and it almost appeared that she was ‘looking’ at him. He looked down to make sure he still had the invisibility cloak over his body, which he did. Did she somehow know he was with her?


She said aloud, “I’m not going to see the graduation memory after all.”


Frankly, he was happy not to see graduation again, but he wasn’t running this show, she was, although it was odd that she felt the need to announce it out loud. He thought for a moment that she must know he was there, but before he could question it further, she lifted her wand to say the incantation. He quickly moved to her side and grabbed a hold of the fabric of her ball gown, and they were gone. When he opened his eyes, they were back in his house, in the upstairs hallway, just as before.


He was beyond confused. He was on the verge of baffled. He was about to remove the cloak to confront ‘his’ Alice when her doppelganger came walking down the hallway, toward him, his little sister Lily’s hand tightly in her own.


He looked at one Alice and then the other. What was this? She looked exactly the same. James didn’t know what to think.



Back at Alice’s nineteenth birthday ball, Lucius Malfoy slowly opened a door on the second floor of Whitehall, to hide from his wife. This room was Draco’s study. The room was dark within, so the elder Malfoy assumed, (hoped?) he was alone. He slowly closed the door behind him as he crossed the threshold, then he turned toward the closed door, his forehead resting upon the doorjamb.


He sighed in relief. All he had to do was stay hidden, like the common coward that he was, until Alice returned to her party. He turned, stepped into the room, and walked over toward Draco’s desk, the only light to guide him being the soft glow of a dying fire in the grate, and a few streaks of moonbeams on the tiled floor. He moved to sit behind the desk, pulled out the chair, and while lighting his wand, he kicked something under the desk with the toe of his shoe.


“Ouch!”


“Draco?”


“Father?”


Lucius bent at the waist and moved his lit wand under the desk. There, under the desk, hiding much as his father was hiding, was Lucius Malfoy’s 45 year old son.


“Get out from under that desk!” Lucius commanded.


“No, I like it under here, besides, Mother’s already checked this room for me once, declared it Draco free, so as long as I remain under the desk, I’m in the clear,” he explained. “What are you doing in here, and with no lights on, by the way?”


“I was checking for intruders,” Lucius said quickly. “I thought we had some party-crashers and I wanted to catch them in the act.”


“The act?” Draco asked, amused.


“Yes,” Lucius snapped.


“Of crashing the party,” Draco concluded.


“Yes.”


“And they would crash the party by coming up here, to my study, and hiding under my desk, in the dark?” Draco asked.


“Shut up,” his father barked. He held out his hand toward his son. Draco gladly accepted. Both men stood, Draco brushing off his robes, when they heard the doorknob rattle.


“Move aside, boy,” Lucius whispered. “Let me under the desk.”

“No, it’s my spot,” Draco said back. He pushed his father, who landed on his bum on the chair. Draco started under the desk, but then he froze when he heard the sounds of his wife’s voice in the hallway.


“I’ll check for Lucius and Draco in this room, Narcissa,” Hermione said. Draco stood back up, pushed the now standing Lucius back into the chair, and he moved to hide behind the couch, which was to the side of the fireplace. Lucius moved behind the door. Hermione opened the door just a crack, flipped on the light, then ducked her head back out in the hall. “No one’s in here,” she called out to Narcissa.


Both men heard Narcissa say, “I’ll check the third floor, and you take the grounds.”


“Of course, Narcissa,” Hermione answered. Then she walked completely into the room, closed the door behind her, looked right at Lucius, (still behind the door), and when Lucius pointed toward the couch, Hermione moved to the couch, and got up on her knees on the seat to peer over top it. “Hello, Draco.”


“My father ratted me out, didn’t he?” Draco asked.


“Not really. I figured you were in here before he pointed to the couch,” she said. “I just figured you were hiding under the desk.”


“I was before he came in here and ruined my hiding place,” Draco said, standing tall and pointing toward his father who was now sitting at the desk.


“Draco,” Hermione began, walking up to her husband and taking his hand, “I’m worried. I think Alice should have been back by now. Not only is Narcissa upset, but terribly worried, too, and so is Harry and Ginny, because James is missing. Should we make sure the spell worked right?”


“Don’t worry about them,” Lucius said from his place at the desk. He pointed toward Draco’s Pensieve and said, “Why is that out?”


Draco shrugged and said, “Alice is traipsing around, looking at old memories, and it made me feel melancholy, so I was about to look at the memory of Alice’s fifth birthday when I heard you enter. It’s special to me, because it was her first birthday at Whitehall and the first one where I was her father. I put it in there a long time ago, and I haven’t looked at it since. I was just about to visit it when you rudely barged into the room.”


His father raised one eyebrow and said, “Rudely? Barged?”


“Sorry, Father, I meant when you uncouthly pushed your way into the room,” Draco said with a smirk.


“Such insolence!” Lucius snapped.


“Was learned by you,” Draco finished the thought.


Hermione smiled and said, “And you perfected it to an art form, now, let’s have a look at Alice’s fifth birthday.” She walked over to the desk and smiled. She took Draco’s hand and said, “I miss little Alice.”


“Me, too,” he said.


Draco was about to move the heavy stone basin toward the end of the desk when Lucius declared, “I get to look at my memory first. I put it in there right after her party, but back then everything became hectic, with the new baby and all, and I’ve never gotten to revisit it.” He pulled back his hair and looked deeply into the swirling liquid inside the Pensieve and was taken back, fourteen years, to Alice’s very first birthday party at Whitehall.


Alice ran down the stairs from the third floor, then down the hallway of the second floor just as her grandfather was leaving his bedroom. She skidded to a halt outside his room and said, “Grandfather, do you know what day it is?”


Thursday?” Lucius asked with an aloofness that was contrived.


Alice thought for a moment and said, “I think it might actually be Wednesday, but that’s not what I meant.”


Lucius could barely contain his smile. He leaned down toward his granddaughter and said, “Fine, its Wednesday, little Alice, and is that important for some reason?”


Not really,” Alice decided, “but it’s also the day of my birth.”


The day of your birth?” Lucius asked back. Alice always had a funny way of saying things.


Yes,” Alice said, taking the older man’s hand and guiding him down the hallway. “Five years ago, exactly, today, I was born to my mummy and my other daddy.”


Lucius hated that Alice still referred to her mother’s ex-husband as her other daddy once in a while, but she did, and Hermione said she would hex the next person who made a big ‘to do’ over the fact, so Lucius let it pass. “Why is that important?” he asked instead, playing along.


She stopped on the landing of the stairs, turned to look at her grandfather, eyes wide, mouth open, shocked, and she said, “Grandfather, my words, don’t you know about birthdays?”


Lucius wanted to laugh again, but he would cut off his arm before he hurt ‘his little girl’s’ feelings so he said, “I don’t believe I do. Explain.”


She shook her head, in an adult way, and said, “Sit down, this might take a while.”


A smile edged at the corner of his mouth. He sat down on the tall windowsill. Alice began to pace back and forth before him and she said, “When a baby is born it’s their very first birthday, but no one celebrates it, because the Mummy and the Daddy are usually too tired, like Mummy was tired after Sam was born.”


Scorpius,” Lucius corrected. “You can’t call the baby a ridiculous moniker, I forbid it.”


I didn’t call him a monkey, I called him Sam. Listen to me when I talk,” she said, exasperated.


A monkey? Lucius didn’t know what she meant, but then he realized he had said, ‘moniker.’ Deciding to ignore that, he said, “Go on, Alice.”


So anyway,” she continued, “that first birthday doesn’t count, but the next year, it does count, and it’s considered the real first birthday, and the baby gets a cake, and a candle, and with me, my mummy let me have a cake all to myself and she has a picture of me with icing all over my face and hair. It’s really funny. I’ll show it to you sometime.”


You do that,” Lucius interjected. “What happens after that?” he asked.


Alice looked confused for a moment but then she said, “Well, then you have another one the next year, and since you’re a bit older, you get presents, but you know, you’re still a bit of a baby, so at that point, who cares?” She put her hands up in the air.


Lucius barked a laugh and said, “Exactly. Who cares? Continue.”


Well,” she said, “The third and fourth ones are pretty much the same. For me, I had a small party with Mummy and I got presents and I liked that, but grandfather, this is the big birthday, number five. You know that, right?” She placed a hand on his knee and looked up at him, beguiling him with her charm.


I can think of bigger birthdays, but if you say number five is important, I believe you,” he replied.


Oh, believe me, it is, and for this birthday, I’m having a big party with everyone coming, all the relatives, and all the friends of the relatives, and even though it’s raining outside, Daddy is putting up a tent, and we’re having it outside, and Grandmother said we get to ride the ponies. The fifth birthday is commonly when you have a theme, too.”


Do tell,” he countered. “What theme are you having?”


Grandfather!” she almost yelled. “I’ve already told you this a hundred times! Learn to listen better! It’s an Alice in Wonderland party! Everyone is coming as a character from that book!”


Lucius bent down and picked up Alice. He stood her on the windowsill and he stood next to her. She placed her hands on his shoulders and he asked, “What character am I going to be again?”


She rolled her eyes. “The Mad Hatter!” Alice picked everyone’s characters for them, and she had already told her grandfather this many times, so she didn’t know why she had to repeat it.


Oh, that’s right,” he laughed. “And you’re the cat, Dinah, right?”


No,” she giggled.


Are you the White Hare?” he asked, playing along.


You should be the White Hare,” Alice said back, touching her grandfather’s hair.


Lucius looked shocked and said, “Did my five year old granddaughter really make a joke about my hair?”


I don’t think so,” Alice responded. “That’s just what Daddy told Mummy, besides, the character is called ‘The White Rabbit’ and that’s Mummy’s character. I’m going to be Alice, because of my name and my long blonde hair. Daddy is going to be the Cheshire cat, and Mummy said it’s because he smirks, but I don’t know what that means. Grandmother is the Queen of Hearts, although I don’t like that character in the book, Uncle Harry is going to be the caterpillar, and Uncle Ron is the March Hare.”


I think those two should be Tweedledum and Tweedledumber,” Lucius said under his breath. “What about James. Isn’t he coming to your party?”


Tweedledum and TweedleDEE,” she said, emphasizing the ‘dee’, “are from Alice through the Looking Glass, and that’s going to be my sixth birthday theme! And of course James is coming to my party! All of the little kids are coming. He’s going to be the Dormouse. That’s a little part in the book, but I don’t think he’ll care.”

Of course he won’t. He’ll do whatever you ask of him. That little boy is in love with you,” Lucius said, smiling, “As are we all.” He picked her up from the windowsill, placed her on his hip, and walked the rest of the way down the stairs with her in his arms. When they reached the bottom he placed her on her feet in the foyer and said, “When is this party starting?”


What time is it now?” she asked back.


He looked at his pocket watch. “It’s nine in the morning.”


My party is at one in the afternoon, so that means you have,” Alice counting on her fingers, “four hours to get ready. Did you get me a present?”


My coming to your party should be enough for you. Is that all that matters, presents?” he asked, as a joke.


Alice looked affronted. “Of course not!” she said, miffed. She even stomped her foot. “I’m not a selfish person, Grandfather. You can come to my party without a present. That’s enough for me, for goodness sakes!” She frowned at him and ran down the hallway.


He called after her, “Alice?”


She turned and said, “Yes, Grandfather?”


I’ll bring a present.”


Good, because it is kind of important, but that still doesn’t mean I’m selfish,” she said with a smile. She waved and said, “I’m off to help Mummy. I love you, Grandfather!”


I love you, Alice,” her grandfather said back, although the little girl was already gone.


After Lucius looked at his memory, he shared it with Hermione and Draco. Draco smiled after watching the tender scene between granddaughter and grandfather and said, “That was the first birthday I had with her, so it’ll always be special to me.”

Hermione smiled and said, “It was the first birthday Alice had where I didn’t feel alone. I had you, and the new baby, and even The Mad Hatter over there,” and she pointed toward Lucius. “Thank you for giving me Alice, Draco.” She placed her head on his chest, her arms around his waist.


“No, thank you for giving me Alice,” he returned. He kissed the top of her head.


Lucius walked up to the pair, placed his hands on their backs, and said, “You both could thank me, as I begot Draco, and without me, there would be no him, henceforth, no Alice.”


Draco smirked and Hermione slapped Lucius’ chest.


Narcissa stood in the now open doorway, hands on hips, and she said, “Well, frankly, I think I should be the one that’s thanked, since I was in labour with him for twenty-six horrible hours.”

The other three all jumped back in surprise. “Now,” she forged ahead, “Where is my granddaughter?”


Hermione let out a breath and said, “I think that’s a very good question.”



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