Part 1: In Which Hermione Consults a Book.
Ye Announcemente of ye Intention to Courte should be conveyed with all Due Diligence & Solemnity to ye Respective Families, Ye Heades of ye Families shall responde with Promptitude & Circumspection. Mickle Gaiety & Celebration doth ensue.
It was a perfectly ordinary Sunday lunch at the Burrow until, in an unfortunate lull in the conversation, Lucy Weasley reached for the horseradish sauce and turned to her cousin. "Is Scorpius going to officially court you, Rose?" she enquired.
Rose nodded."Yes, although he hasn't told his family yet."
"I sincerely hope he'll do nothing of the sort!" Lucy's father, Percy, sounded horrified.
"Scorpius Malfoy?" screeched Granny Molly, ensuring everyone's undivided attention. "Over my dead body! Arthur, you're the head of the family! You tell her! We forbid it!"
Her grandchildren stared at Molly, their expressions ranging from astonished to – in Rose's case – rapidly increasing dismay. Tears welled up in Rose's eyes as she thrust back her chair and stood up.
"I'm of age!" she said in a trembling voice. "I can marry who I like!"
"Don't be ridiculous! You won't, if you wish to remain a part of this family!" Molly snapped, "A Malfoy indeed! Your grandfather will have nothing whatsoever to do with that family and neither will I! What would your poor, dear father have said?"
Vibrating with fury as she saw the tears spilling from her daughter's eyes, Hermione reached for her wand, but found her wrist seized in an iron grasp. A hand clamped over her mouth, preventing her from telling Molly exactly what she thought of her.
Rose ran from the room as Hermione attempted to free herself, but years of flying with the Harpies had given Ginny Potter a grip like a sloth.
"That was below the belt," Harry muttered. His wife hissed, "Send someone to look after Rose, for Merlin's sake! Hermione, stop struggling. It isn't worth it!"
Harry turned to his daughter on his other side. "Lils? Go and make sure Rosie's okay, will you?"
Lily nodded and followed Rose, collecting Victoire and Teddy on her way out.
"That went about as well as could be expected," Albus Potter said, calmly helping himself to Lily's Yorkshire pudding before it got cold and sunk in the middle.
Harry and Ginny stood up, seized Hermione by an arm each and Apparated straight to their house in Godric's Hollow.
"Now you can go ahead and swear to your heart's content," Ginny told her.
"Bugger, sod it and shit!" Hermione snarled, momentarily channelling her late husband. "Sorry, Gin, but your mother's a complete cow! How dare she tell poor Rose that she's not a part of the family?" She rounded on her friends with her fists on her hips. "Hold on, did you two know about this?"
Harry sighed and ran his hand back through his already scruffy hair. "Yeah, Al told us. You know he and Scorpius are still friends. Didn't you know?"
"Not officially. I knew it was getting serious between them, but she hadn't said anything about the courting bit. Oh hell! Ron really would have been furious, wouldn't he?"
"Afraid so," Ginny said, sinking down onto the sofa. "But he'd have come round in the end, you know that. Your Rosie had him wound round her little finger. Mum's going to be the stumbling-block. Once she gets an idea in her head, there's no persuading her, and Dad will do as he's told as usual."
"This isn't going to be pretty," Harry prophesied.
Ginny nodded and Summoned a bottle of elf-made red wine. "I think that this calls for the good stuff, don't you?"
It was a perfectly ordinary Sunday lunch at Malfoy Manor until, in an unfortunate lull in the conversation, Scorpius announced, in between the fish course and the roast, "I intend to court Rose Weasley."
His mother gave a little gasp and then took a sip of water to compose herself. Draco refrained from responding at all in front of the elves. Lucius aligned his fish knife and fork precisely in the centre of his plate, placed his fingertips together and nodded at the chief elf for the roast guinea-fowls to be presented. Only when the elves had popped out again, did he turn to his grandson.
"I cannot allow our birthright to fall into the hands of the offspring of a Weasley, Scorpius. If you must do this thing, then it will not be as my heir." He gave a tight little smile, as if satisfied that his reply covered all eventualities.
Scorpius was far too well brought up to shrug, but his expression conveyed his lack of surprise."Rose has a very good position at Gringotts as an Arithmancer, and even if she didn't, my income alone would be sufficient to support us."
"Your income? My dear boy, you can't expect to continue to work for Château Bonfoi if you alienate yourself from your family!"
"With all due respect, sir, it isn't up to you whether I keep my job!"
"Temper, Scorpius," Astoria murmured, and Scorpius nodded in acknowledgement of the rebuke.
He turned to Draco. "Father? Aren't you going to say anything?"
Draco cleared his throat and glanced uneasily at Lucius, then at his wife, finally meeting his son's grey eyes. "I've no complaints at all about your work. Since you joined the company, our profits have increased at a rate of twenty percent a year, as you're well aware."
Scorpius' hands tightened on the silver cutlery, and he leaned forward in his seat. "And...?"
Draco's smile was the image of his father's. "Your employment record is exemplary, and I'm hardly likely to sack the popular public face of 'Château Bonfoi Elf-made Wines', am I?"
Lucius' eyes widened, and a faint flush coloured his high cheek-bones. "Are you intending to defy me in this, Draco?"
Draco lifted his napkin and patted at his lips before replacing the starched linen upon his lap. "When I founded 'Château Bonfoi Elf-made Wines', I made sure that there were no direct associations with the name of Malfoy. Every Knut and Sickle that I invested came from my Black inheritance through my grandmother. I'm afraid that you have no say whatsoever in the running of that particular business, Father, and that includes the hiring and firing of my staff."
Lucius sat very still, breathing through his nose, in and out, before turning his increasingly strained smile to Scorpius. "Tell me, which of the multitude of Weasleys has caught your eye? Who are this girl's parents?"
"Rose's parents were both heroes of the second Voldemort war," Scorpius said, not failing to note the slight twitch below his grandfather's eye. "Her father was an Auror; he died four years ago." Another twitch: four years ago, Narcissa Malfoy had died tragically at the wands of a group of so-called Death Eaters, who had considered her to be a traitor to their ideals. "Her mother's a very accomplished witch."
Lucius sniffed. "Stop hedging, boy. Remind me, who's the mother?"
There was a distant tinkling crash as an elf dropped a handful of cutlery.
"Oh goody," Lucius said, his precise vowels lending the word a certain gravitas, "That plain-featured house-elf-bothering termagant?" His patrician face took on a far-away expression. "I see. Well, since the witch is a Mud - excuse me, a Muggle-born, we shall see how well she stands up to the Pure-blood courting rituals, shall we? The full courting rituals, as laid down in 1569." His grey eyes glittered, and his expression was suddenly that of a predator. "Including a few procedures specific to the Malfoy family. As head of the household, I must insist upon this."
"Dad, help," Scorpius whispered, but was sensible enough to say it under his breath.
"In which case, as the father of one of the participants, I'm entitled to demand an arbiter," Draco remarked. "Just to ensure that everyone acts in a completely fair and exemplary manner." Draco met Scorpius' increasingly desperate gaze with a faint smirk. "Didn't Scorpius' god-father mention that he'll be visiting England for a month or two? I suggest that you ask him to mediate, Father."
"That's nice," Astoria remarked in her sweet, rather girlish voice. "It'll be lovely to see Severus again, won't it? Do pass the carrots, dear."
"Oh bugger," said Lucius, giving up all pretence of dignity.
Ye Familie of Each Participant shall make Themself familiar with ye Rituals, Rites, Ceremonials, Covenants & Customs for ye Goode Faith & Easy Understanding of Each with ye Other. Or notte, as ye Case may be.
"Hi, Mum. I found this on Owl-Bay," Hermione's son remarked, tossing a brown-paper wrapped package in her general direction. "Thought it might come in useful."
She Summoned it with a flick of her wrist. "Thanks, Hugo. I just made a pot of tea, help yourself." She unwrapped the parcel. It was a very old, battered and musty book, with a rubbed cover.
"Ye Gentlewizard's Guide to Courtshippe & Matrimonie; being an Essential Resource for Halfe-Bluddes, Gryffyndors, Hufflepuffes & Others who are about to embark upon Pure-Bludde Society & are desirous of notte making Compleate and Utter Nyncompoopes of Themselves' by 'An Anonymous Witche of Ryte Goode Standyng. Well, thank you, Hugo, I'm sure it has great curiosity value."
Hugo snorted. "A bit more than that. Albus told me that Scorpius says that his grandfather demands that the courtship follows the most archaic and bloody stupid customs that he can find."
"And I should care what Lucius Malfoy demands, why?"
Hugo shrugged and Summoned the milk jug. "I s'pose Scorp doesn't want to be cut out of the will. I dunno, but he wouldn't have told Al if he didn't want you to know. They're Slytherins; you know how indirect they can be. That old book might give you advance warning when Lucius gets going on his diabolical plots and schemes."
"And I suppose you're going to have a good laugh about it," Hermione grumbled, but without rancour.
Hugo grinned. "Luckily for me, I'm only an 'ickle lad of twenty-two."
When Hermione raised an eyebrow at him, he gestured at the book with his teaspoon. "According to that, if I was over twenty-five, I'd be Rose's head of family. Granny won't let Granddad have anything to do with the betrothal, so he won't act as head. Dad would have acted as de facto head of our bit of the family if he'd lived. Next in line is Grandpa Granger, but he's a Muggle so he can't do it. I'm too young, and you're the only magical person on your side, so until I'm old enough, you're head of Rose's immediate family, even though you're only a humble witch. Does that mean I can tell you what to do, once I'm twenty-five?"
"You can try," Hermione told him, turning the book over in her hands; "'Only a humble witch' indeed! Never say that in front of your Aunt Ginny, young man, unless you're prepared to be Bat-Bogied for a week."
The book had a certain archaic charm, she supposed, an air of genteel smugness. It smelled of lavender and dust, the frayed edges of the pages reminded her of old lace doilies.
"I'll be able to order Rose around, though, won't I?" Hugo mused.
"No, you won't, because once she's married, her head of family will be Lucius Malfoy."
They gazed at each other with equally concerned expressions.
"Not good," said Hugo, "I wouldn't wish that on anyone, not even a pesky older sister," and Hermione could only agree.
Ye Precise & Inestimable Usefull Grimoire of Eponyma de Mallfoye; contayning Matters pertainyng to Betrothal, Matrimonie, Fornyckation & ye Lyke; compiled duryng myne Tenure as Orchystrator of Matches & Marriage Broker for ye Pure of Bludde. Ys Grimoire nott to be rede by anye Childe, Elfe, Mudde-Bludde, Member of ye Lower Orders or Personne of a Delicate Disposition.
Lucius watched the two elves as they lifted the enormous book, fully three feet across, into a wheelbarrow and conveyed it to the sloping reading-desk before the window of the library. The Grimoire had not taken kindly to having magic cast upon it as the elf currently being assisted out of the room by one of his fellows could testify - or at least, could testify once he had regained his customary mouthparts. As a Malfoy, Lucius was entitled to open and read the Grimoire, but could not recall ever doing so before, not even when Draco had asked Astoria to marry him. Narcissa had been alive then, and her steadying hand had guided the family through the intricacies of pure-blood rituals and betrothal alliances. The Greengrass family was pure-blood, of course, and Astoria herself was perfectly unobjectionable, so on that occasion, Lucius had had no cause to interfere.
Lucius stroked the cover of the book. It let out a sigh, scented with dried ink and ancient parchment. What would Narcissa have said, if she had lived to see her beloved grandson fancying himself in love with the daughter of the Granger woman? Lucius had an idea that he knew exactly what Narcissa would have said, and he firmly quashed the thought before it took root. Narcissa had been a pragmatic witch; she would have made the best of it. Lucius was forged from sterner stuff. He opened the Grimoire.
Either Famile may engage ye Services of an Arbiter to ensure ye Correcte Conduct & Gentlewizardly Behaviour of all Participants. Ye Arbiter to be chosen from ye Moste Upstandynge & Respected of all Wizards Knowne to Ye Familie Who Muste Notte be Drawn too Far to Ye Darke or Unhynged or a Lecher or a Drunken Sott or be Otherwyse Rendered Unsuitable.
Lucius Malfoy waved a languid hand and the decanter floated across the room to refill his guest's glass. "At least I still have something to offer you," he said rather petulantly, "unless the Château Bonfoi elves have taken to brewing single malt when not engaged in viniculture."
"None of our vineyards possess either the appropriate climate or the peat-filtered water," Severus Snape replied. Over the years, his voice had gradually regained its silken cadences until one would hardly know that his throat had been all but ripped out by an overgrown viper. "Why the forsaken expression, or the self-pity?"
"My grandson has taken it in his head to fall in love with a witch," he said. "An extremely unsuitable witch."
Snape sipped his Ardbeg. "Really? Is she a floozy?"
"I almost wish she was! I'd have Draco and Astoria on my side in that case. No, she's a Gryffindor, damn it, one of the offspring of the Golden Trio."
"The Potter girl?" Snape twirled his glass, making the amber liquid glint in the light of the many candles.
"No, the other one. The Mu-Muggleborn's daughter."
"Old habits die hard, do they not?" Snape's voice was as smooth as the whisky. "Do you forget that I'm the son of a Muggle or do you prefer to ignore that inconvenient fact?"
Lucius grimaced. "Yes, well, you don't flaunt your more unfortunate heritage. You never attempted to introduce legislation that would have resulted in my elves being thrown out of their ancestral home or develop this - this preposterous composter spiderweb thingy in a society that was perfectly happy and stable as it was."
"If you mean computers and the World Wide Wizarding Web, Lucius, you might remember that Château Bonfoi has a powerful internet presence, and Owl-Bay is now the largest marketplace in the Wizarding community worldwide. The Granger-Weasley woman's CPU shielding spell is possibly the greatest innovation since the invention of the wand – although, I'd rather not make her any more insufferable by telling her."
Lucius made a dismissive gesture. "All ephemera, my dear fellow, chaff blowing in the wind. Now, our old traditions, on the other hand, are well worth our time. Let's see how well the insufferable witch deals with them!"
"Courting and marriage rituals. Since Scorpius is set upon this little upstart of a witch, this newcomer, this ingénue, I insist that the thing is done properly. With due respect. Dignity. Tradition. Don't snort, Severus; it is unbecoming, particularly in someone with such a patrician proboscis."
"So how do I fit into this plan of yours?"
"Draco requested you as arbiter."
Snape snorted again "Bloody marvellous. What do I get out of it?"
"My undying gratitude? A bottle of the Ardbeg single malt?"
"Unlimited access to your library and your whisky stash might just do it."
"You mean you'll agree? Just like that? Have you been away from Slytherins for too long, old chap?"
"It's been too long since I had a damn good laugh," Snape said. "I shall be interested to see who has the last laugh, too."
"Oh bollocks," Hermione said, "with knobs on."
"Yes, bollocks are usually associated with knobs," Hugo agreed.
The trouble with having grown-up children, Hermione had found, was that she could no longer shock them. Not so long ago, Hugo would have been horrified by the idea of his mother even thinking about sex.
"Malfoy has appointed an arbiter," she said. Hugo peered at her over the top of the medical textbook propped against the toast-rack.
"Is that a kind of go-between?" Rose enquired from behind the Daily Prophet's business supplement.
"A mediator, apparently, who is someone who ensures that neither side tries to take advantage."
"To ensure that Malfoy squeezes every possible advantage he can, you mean," Hugo muttered.
Much as she loved Scorpius, even Rose appeared to view Draco with caution, and she trusted Lucius about as far as she could Accio him. Ron had created a deep suspicion in his children of the older Malfoys. Hermione had done nothing to counteract her husband's indoctrination – after all, she had been tortured in Malfoy Manor while Lucius stood aside and did nothing. She regretted her lapse in judgement now. If Rose wanted to go through with this courtship and marriage, Rose's closest relatives needed to develop a reasonably cordial relationship with Scorpius' father and grandfather, or else risk a large rift developing between the happy couple right from the start. Scorpius loved his family quite as deeply as Rose loved her own.
"Listen," Hermione said, unrolling the scroll and weighing down the end with the marmalade, "'Dear Mrs Granger-Weasley, it is incumbent upon me to inform you that my father and I have engaged an arbiter to oversee the ongoing courtship and prenuptial arrangements between our families. He will contact you privately to schedule a preliminary meeting. If you decide to contract your own arbiter, kindly provide details at your convenience. Yours sincerely, Draco Abraxas Malfoy.'"
"Oh, Draco Malfoy. I thought you meant Lucius," Rose said, turning the page of her newspaper. "That isn't so bad."
"Why?" Hugo asked.
"Scorpius's Mum and Dad aren't set against me. It's only Lucius who's horrified at the idea of a Gryffindor half-blood marrying into the family."
"Yes, well, 'only Lucius' is the head of the family, and he's a very dangerous wizard," Hermione said shortly.
"Anyone would think you didn't like him, Mum." Hugo closed his book and glanced at the clock on the wall. His hand pointed to 'Late for work again unless you Apparate NOW!' while Rose's declared 'On schedule as usual' and Hermione's wavered between 'Going to work' and 'Taking the day off, damn it.'
"Go on and don't forget your sandwiches," Hermione said.
Hugo nodded, grabbed his trainee-healer's green-striped robes and his lunch-box and Apparated away to St. Mungo's.
Rose folded the newspaper and handed it over to her mother. "I might try some arithmantic projections for the Weasley and Malfoy families and see what happens if I link our futures together," she remarked, Summoning her briefcase. "Want to see them?"
"My Arithmancy's a bit rusty, but I'll take a look out of interest. It'll be too general to be able to separate out individual destinies, though."
"Yes, Mum," Rose sighed, giving her mother a quick one-armed hug, "I am a professional Arithmancer, if you remember?"
Hermione laughed and waved her away. "Go on, Gringotts awaits you, darling. Have a good day."
"I might be late back. I've got explain to my boss why I can no longer handle the Château Bonfoi investments. Goblins aren't as bothered by conflicts of interest as they should be."
Hermione glanced down at the back page of the Daily Prophet. A dashing, blond wizard poured himself a glass of wine under a banner proclaiming "Betrothal? Marriage? Birth? Two-hundredth birthday party? Celebrate your own very special day with a bottle of Château Bonfoi's Premier Cru Elf-made Champagne, from our recently acquired vineyard in the heart of France's Champagne region. 'Château Bonfoi Elf-made Wines', supplier of magical wines for magical people!" Scorpius Malfoy gazed seriously at her, raised his glass with an understated, elegant inclination of his head, and took a sip of champagne. In the background, a particularly wizened-looking elf held up a bottle, examining it critically before replacing it and scowling at the camera.
Hermione looked up from her desk as her business partner ambled in, a mug of coffee in one hand and a sheaf of brochures in the other. "Hermie, love, you busy?"
"I am if you insist on calling me that."
"Hermie-wormy," he pouted, making kissy noises, "don't be an old grouch. Look what the advertising agency has come up with now! You do know they're the people who dreamed up that excellent campaign for Château Bonfoi wines, don't you? I wonder if we could get the gorgeous Scorpius to pose for our ads, or whether he's exclusively theirs?"
"He's straight," Hermione said, "and no, he wouldn't work for us, conflict of interest. He's going out with my daughter."
Malcolm Baddock, ex-Slytherin and co-founder with Hermione of 'The Distinctive Charms Agency Ltd., Curse-Breaking, House-Warding and Custom Spells', rolled his eyes. "Darling girl, did you really think you could keep that a secret? The goss is he's going to formally court her. True or false?"
"Yes, it's true."
Malcolm cocked his head, reminding her of a small, bright-eyed bird, perhaps a robin something sharp, and dapper, certainly, and rather inclined to pick up worms. "You don't seem pleased. Don't you like him?"
"He's lovely," Hermione admitted, "I just have problems with the rest of his family."
"Hm, yes, Draco was a bit of a prick in school, wasn't he? He's better now, though, surely? And Astoria is reasonable; all the Greengrass girls were pleasant, if slightly vapid."
"Ah. Yes, I see your point. Rather lethal, that one."
"Still stunningly handsome, of course," Malcolm said as he wandered towards the door, "Getting even better with age."
"Oh, really?" Malcolm looked back over his shoulder. "I always thought he had a suspiciously close relationship with Professor Snape, but there you go, shows what I know. You're the one with the special connection with the Malfoys! There's an elf to see you, by the way, wouldn't tell me what he wants."
"Why didn't you send him in instead of keeping him waiting?" Hermione called after his retreating back.
"He seemed happy enough; he started polishing my desk so who was I to stop him? Go on through, she'll see you now."
Hermione had the feeling that she had never met the elf before, yet he was somehow familiar. He pattered to a halt in front of her desk and peered up at her from beneath tufted grey eyebrows.
"How may I help you?" Hermione enquired. The elf was wearing a clean white sheet, toga-fashion and little leather sandals.
"Tha'd best not," he growled.
"Elfs that tha'd 'elp soon ends oop 'omeless, tha knows, right in t' shit."
Hermione took a moment to translate this.
"I only give clothes to elves who want them," she declared.
He folded his arms. "Nowt t' do wi' me what tha does, 'oman, as long as tha dun't give 'em t' ma elfs, like; way oop, lass."
"Nobody actually says 'tha knows' or 'way oop, lass', at least, not within three sentences," Hermione declared.
The elf sniggered. "'E said tha weren't stupid," he muttered as if to himself, but his bulbous eyes gleamed with amusement. "The boss says 'e got t' come t' see thee... yes, all right, my master says he'll Floo here tomorrow at nine, to speak to you about the betrothal of your daughter and Scorpius Malfoy."
"Hold on, are you a Malfoy elf?"
The elf drew himself up to his full three feet in height. "I am not! I associate with half-wits and dullards as seldom as possible, thank you very much. I am, like my master, the last of an impoverished but highly educated and once-noble northern English line, to whit, an elf of impeccable lineage, who, having fallen upon hard times, is now making the best of a bad job and working for the estate of 'Château Bonfoi Elf-made Wines'. Not that we have an actual Château, mind you, but that's what happens when you employ advertising agencies."
"You're in the background of the posters! Just behind Scorpius!"
The elf sniffed. "Nice lad, if a tad inclined to preen in front of mirrors, but it's in the breeding, I suppose. He's got a reasonable nose for a wine, I'll say that for him; give him five more years' training, and he'll be a useful pair of hands around the cellars. Right, job done, message acknowledged, the awd bastard'll be here at nine on the dot. Look sharp, don't keep him waiting. He's your arbiter so you'll want to stay on his good side. If you can find it, of course."
Hermione opened her mouth to ask who the hell his master was, but with a pop, the elf disappeared before she got the first word out.
"Weird or what?" Malcolm called from the other office. "I've never heard an elf so disparaging of its master!"
"Kreacher was," Hermione said, "and he almost got us killed. Damn, haven't I got an appointment at nine?"
"A house-warding at nine-thirty. I'll handle it; you can do some curse-breaking later on to make up for it. You know what I always say, I'll deal with the customer service, you stick with the dangerous stuff, and we'll be fine."
"Thanks. I think."
"Pleasure," he warbled, "service with a smile! Distinctive Charms Limited; you're distinctive and I'm charming. How about that for an advertising jingle?"
"Malcolm? Shut up."