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Coming of Age

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The year James started Hogwarts his father gave him a coming of age gift.  It was a traditional gift, one that all Potter men were given upon leaving the family home for the wider magical world.  Though the tradition had started with the Malfoys, brought over with them from France along with the Norman invasion, by now Fleamont Potter was unaware of a single pureblood family that didn’t follow it.  Even many half-bloods did, particularly those whose parents had spent summers with purebloods, as they knew exactly how important such a tradition was.

Which was why when James came home from Diagon Alley (having gone with his mother to procure his wand), he was greeted with two muggle girls about his age.

They were perfect, sisters with golden-red hair, wide blue eyes, and just the slightest dusting of freckles across their nose and cheeks.  Fleamont had gone through some trouble to find them, venturing all the way to Cornwall, where Maxwell Prewett told him he would find a girls’ orphanage full of delightful options.  As Maxwell had recently had the difficult task of finding four girls for his twin boys, Fleamont was inclined to trust his judgement.  From there it had been a surprisingly difficult task, the large building being overrun with girls, nearly all of them viable candidates.  He started by enquiring about red-heads of roughly 8 to 14 as he was well aware that James’ head turned every time a Prewett girl passed him.  There had been no true gingers at the orphanage, but there had been several girls with reddish sheens to their hair, four of which were immediately dismissed for being too plain.  That left him with twelve possible options, including a set of twins he seriously considered, until his discreet Bride Charm indicated that both had already been taken.

The twins were dismissed, as were three more girls who he was surprised to discover were with child, though recently enough that they likely didn’t know it yet.  He was half-tempted to report the place to the muggle authorities when he was done, Merlin knew what things the poor girls had been subject to, what with the muggles’ silly taboos about pleasure.  He could only imagine that whoever was fucking them must be a brute of a thing.  In fact, he thought he would find a way to contact the muggle authorities (police, he thought they were called), if only because a third charm showed that there were two witches in the group, one of whom was no longer a virgin.  He told the witches to wait for him in an adjoining room, before going on to inspect the remaining five girls.

They had potential, all of them.  He was rather surprised they hadn’t already been adopted, as all were quite attractive for their ages and unfailingly polite.  One more was dismissed for being more than a bit slow, he made a note to see if the family solicitor couldn’t find a squib family to take her in, ensure the poor thing was well-cared for.  A bit of payment for the services the muggles didn’t know they were rendering.  The Crabbes may be willing to simply steal away muggles they fancied, even going so far as to take children from loving homes, but Fleamont was a Potter and Potters always paid their debts.

Of the four left, he kept finding himself drawn to two.  They were obviously sisters, only their heights giving away that they weren’t twins, and the elder was already experienced so he wouldn’t have to break one of them in before James’ birthday.  That was useful, as Euphemia had kept delaying his trip, not wanting to accept that her only son would be leaving them so soon.  It would take at least a month to properly train a girl himself, if he wanted to be gentle and not simply tear her as the Notts did with their girls, plus another week or so for her awakened desire to build.  James’ birthday was in three weeks.

Decided, he sent one of the girls away, leaving him with the sisters, as well as a gift for Aiden McKinnon’s boy, who would be graduating Hogwarts in June.  The poor lad would be spending the next six years training with a master Healer in Germany who was also a monk.  It was a wonderful opportunity, Master Healer Engel only rarely taking on apprentices, but he would need a girl to keep him from neglecting his studies for jaunts into town and, as Fleamont would be making the trip anyway, he had offered to find him one.

Then there was the inconvenience of having to ensure the five girls he’d be taking were all accounted for with the muggle authorities.  Laurel Bones had neglected that step when finding her daughter’s coming of age gifts and the Obliviators had presented her with a bill for all the time they had been forced to spend modifying the memories of an entire village.  It wasn’t particularly difficult work, simply a well placed Confundus charm so the orphanage matron signed the necessary paperwork to have a fake muggle by the name of Peter Fletcher adopt the girls, but it was tedious.  As was putting the three muggles to sleep and slipping the necklace-portkeys he’d had made around their necks and activating them so that they were sent to Linfred Castle and McKinnon Manor, as appropriate.  

The witches were another task, Fleamont having to explain to them that they were, in fact, witches before anything else.  They were rather offended at first, Fleamont having forgotten that "witch" was generally an insult amongst Muggles, but the tea set turning into a set of dancing teddy bears was rather convincing.  They were sweet girls, really, he decided to take them home instead of calling for Laurel.  See if Euphemia might be interested in adopting them themselves.  She had always wanted a girl, and the losses were long enough ago now that they weren’t quite so painful to think about.  Plus, the younger girl had only just turned eight and so wouldn’t be off to Hogwarts for another three years, which might help ease the emptiness that was sure to infect the castle come September.

His wife’s shock and joy when he presented the choice to her was worth the effort it had taken to side-along the two witches.  James’ sulking was less pleasant, but when Wendy, the younger girl (who Fleamont thought did look rather like Edward Darling’s daughter, when she was a child) ran to him one day, grabbing his hand and looking up at him with tear-filled eyes before asking if he could pretty please kill the spider that was sitting on her dollhouse, he was completely won over.  Sarah’s nervous request that he be the one to guide her into her coming of age in October helped as well, though Euphemia denied it, not wanting James to treat his adoptive sisters any differently than he would a sister by blood.  Fleamont rather agreed, though it was difficult to take Sarah’s obvious disappointment.  (James, strangely, was reluctant, despite his obvious pride at being asked.)  Euphemia promised to find a sweet boy, a wizard even, to make up for the poor girl’s muggle upbringing.  Augusta’s son, if he was amenable to spending a month or so with them.  He was quite handsome, as well as known for being kind and gentle, and only leaving Hogwarts this summer.  Upon seeing a picture, Sarah perked up nicely, suddenly looking forward to her birthday.

Now, however, was James’ birthday and Fleamont beamed at his son’s approval of his choices.  The girls had filled out nicely in the weeks since they’d been at Linfred Castle, now waifish instead of sickly and with a healthy shine to their hair that made the strawberry highlights stand out even more.  Both were in simple white dresses, the elder’s accented with red and the younger’s with blue.  James swore he could feel his brain stop functioning for a moment as the blood rushed to his groin.

“They’re for me?” he asked, as if he didn’t already know.

“Only one for now,” Fleamont said, gently pushing the older girl forward.  “You may have the other when you’ve learnt control and finesse, not a moment before.”

James sulked, unaccustomed to not getting everything he wanted, exactly when he wanted it.  “But it’s my birthday today.  Why can’t I have them both?”

“You aren’t ready for both right now.  You do want to be able to make it good for her, right?  Not like those cruel Nott boys, who care only about themselves?”

“What if I don’t?”

Fleamont frowned at his son, knowing for certain that he had been raised better than this.  “Then you shall have neither,” he said, “and will have to go to Hogwarts knowing nothing.”  He paused for a moment, letting his words sink in.  “And if I suspect that you aren’t careful and kind with your first gift, I will not hesitate to withhold your second.”

At that James started, staring up at his father in disbelief.

“You are a Potter, James.  A Gryffindor.  We are chivalrous, even when it is difficult to be.  I don’t expect you to be superhuman, you are still learning after all, but you will do everything in your power to ensure every girl you are with enjoys herself just as much as you do.  Yes,” he said, talking over James’ attempt to interrupt, “even the muggles.  Especially these muggles.  Am I understood?”

“Yes, Father.”  

“Good,” Fleamont said, “Now, I am going to leave the two of you alone for a bit to get to know each other.  Do not disappoint me, son.”  And with that he left, taking the younger girl back to her rooms in another wing of the castle, where a governess was waiting for her.

James turned to the older girl, trying hard to think of her as a girl rather than just a muggle.  “Hello.  I’m James Hardwin Potter.  What’s your name?”

“Rebecca,” the girl said, after a moment, “is it really your birthday?”

“Yes, and you are my birthday gift.”

Rebecca looked at him curiously.  “Am I?” she asked, “That’s strange.  Am I your maid?  I’m quite good at cleaning, though Sister Mary-Grace says my sewing is atrocious.”

James blinked at her, unsure how to answer.  “No,” he said slowly, “You’re…we’re…you are for me to learn, before I go to Hogwarts.”

“Learn what?”

“How to…please a girl.  So that the girls at Hogwarts and I can practice for when we’re married.”  James thought for a moment, then added, “And so we can decide who we might want to marry, but almost no one knows that until fourth year, at least.”

“Oh.  Well, that’s easy.  You just have to be nice.  Don’t pull their hair or put spiders in their lunch like other boys.”  Rebecca paused, chewing her lip.  “Are you going to take us back to the orphanage now?”

“What?  No, you shan’t be going back to that place ever again.”  James grimaced as he remembered the things Wendy had told him, about the visitors and how frightened she was, all the time.  He was quite glad Father had gotten it shut down.  Horrid people, to do anything to hurt his baby sister.  “And that’s not quite what I meant by pleasing a girl,” he said, trying to think of how to phrase things so she’d understand.  “Do you know anything about what boys and girls can do together?  Grown ones, I mean, when they’re married.”  He remembered the odd muggle views just in time.

Rebecca took a step away from him, a move that made him think of Wendy when she’d first arrived and shook every time they were alone together.  “You mean like the men Mrs Morris used to bring over?”  Rebecca’s face started to crumple, tears forming in her eyes.  “Please don’t,” she said, “I don’t — I don’t want to and your father said you had to be nice to me.”

“No!” James started to rush towards her, then stopped when she backed away further, stumbling over the rugs.  “Nothing like that, I swear.”  He moved away from her, sitting in one of the armchairs where she could still see him.  “Please, have a seat.  I promise I’ll stay right here.”

Rebecca slowly stood up, clutching the sides of her dress as she went to sit in the chair furthest away from James.  She could feel her heart pounding in her chest, unable to slow down.

“It’s not supposed to be like that,” James said.  He understood his father’s anger now.  He couldn’t imagine how the Notts could do anything that would make a girl as terrified as Rebecca obviously was.  “That was…what those men did to you was very, very wrong.”  He looked at Rebecca , hoping he could find a way to explain without scaring her.  “It’s supposed to be nice.  It’s supposed to be something you want to do.  Something that feels so good you don’t want to do anything else.  At least, that’s what Mother and Father told me.”  He smiled softly at her.  “I haven’t actually done it myself yet.  I was supposed to learn how with you.”

“I don’t want to,” Rebecca whispered.  She had pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them.  “It hurts so much.  There’s nothing good about it.”

James decided that he was going to look up the worst hexes he could find and track down every man who’d gone to that orphanage.  “It’s not supposed to hurt,” he said, “but if you don’t want to then we won’t.”  He paused for a moment, watching as Rebecca slowly started to relax.  “Did any of them ever kiss you?”

Rebecca grimaced.  “Yes.  It was horrid.  Scratchy and slobbery and sometimes I couldn’t breathe.”

“Well,” James took a deep breath, “what if I kissed you, just once, so you could see how it’s not the same?  Just a kiss, I promise.  If I do anything else you can scream as loud as you want and Father will come in and take you away.”

Rebecca bit her lip as she considered for what felt to James like hours before nodding, just slightly.  He smiled, getting up from his seat and walking over to her, being sure to go slow so that she could get used to the idea.  When he was still  few steps from her he asked her to stand up, not wanting to loom over her in her chair.  She was so small as it was, the way all muggles were for some reason, always looking so much younger than they were.  Even muggleborns were usually smaller than other witches and wizards their age, though no one quite knew why.  For a minute, James simply stood in front of her, smiling in what he hoped was an encouraging way until her fingers unclenched from her dress.  He carefully pressed a hand to her cheek, gently tilting her head up towards him.  Still, he had to lean down slightly to meet her lips, not wanting to tilt her head up too far lest he give her an ache in her neck.

He made sure to keep the kiss soft, just a press of his lips against hers as he stroked the side of her face with his thumb.  After a moment she realised he really wasn’t going to do more and relaxed further, enough for him to suckle slightly at her lower lip.  For long minutes he kissed her, gently moving his lips against hers, a thrill running through him when she began to respond, and lifted her arms to wrap around his neck.  He stopped when he felt the urge to grab her waist and pull her tight against him, not wanting to break his promise.  Instead he leaned his forehead against hers, enjoying how she kept her hands on his shoulders and nuzzled into his palm.

“That was nice,” she said and James was certain this was already his best birthday ever.  “Can we do it again?”

When Father returned, Rebecca was sitting sideways across his lap, one arm around his neck and the hand of the other fisted in his hair as they snogged.  He was less than pleased to be told to go to his rooms alone and gather himself before she was sent up, but when he was done after just the slightest brush of his hand he decided Father probably knew what he was on about.

Rebecca, of course, was hesitant to enter his rooms until he opened the door wide and showed her that his bedroom proper was through yet another door and she would only be in his sitting room.  He asked if she’d eaten, calling a house elf for tea when he found out she’d only had breakfast and it was now nearly one in the afternoon.  That gave Rebecca a shock, something that quite surprised James as he had assumed she already knew about magic and house elves, having been living in Linfred Castle since his father had gotten her and her sister.  It took some time for him to explain to her that they were perfectly nice creatures, that particular elf, Hatty, having raised him since he was just a baby.  He called for her again, so that she and Rebecca could meet properly, hoping it would help calm her fears.

Hatty was rather taken with Rebecca , saying she was the perfect gift for Young Master James.  He was a bit confused when she followed that up with a sly smile and “but Hatty is thinking the other is being more important.”  Before he could question her, however, she popped out and back in again, this time with one of the albums from when James was a baby.  He groaned, knowing there was no getting out of at least an hour of Hatty showing Rebecca every photo of his bare bum and toilet training incidents there was.  At least she was relaxed now, laughing and smiling as she looked through the pictures while nibbling at sandwiches.

By the time Hatty left James was positively vibrating with anticipation.  He knew his excitement must be written all over his face, but he couldn’t think of a way to control it.  Still, he forced himself to move slowly, carefully pulling Rebecca into a gentle kiss when all he wanted to do was hold her tight against him and suckle at her neck before tearing that damned dress off.

Rebecca’s quiet hum of pleasure when he tapped his tongue against hers reminded him why it was better to go slow.  He kissed her, slow and careful, gently drawing more happy sighs and gasps, even a slight moan when he kissed just behind her ear.  At some point she’d moved to straddle his waist, though he couldn’t begin to remember when, and now he had to fight against the urge to press up against her.  Instead he stroked her back and sides, eventually daring to slowly pull down the neckline of her dress so that he could kiss along her shoulder and neck.  He was rewarded with Rebecca’s loudest gasp yet, her head falling back and her fingers tangling in his hair as she rocked her hips against him, seemingly without thought.

She froze when she felt him hard between her legs.

James stopped immediately, dropping his head to her shoulder while he took deep breaths in the hopes of composing himself.  When the insistent pressure in his groin had receded slightly he pulled back and looked at Rebecca, taking in her wide eyes and how she chewed at her bottom lip.

“We can stop, if you’d like,” he said, ignoring the childish part of him that was throwing a temper tantrum in the back of his mind.  His ensuite was just through the door next to his bedroom, he could quietly take care of himself and come back to making sure Rebecca was comfortable, if he absolutely had to.  He thought it mightn’t be a bad idea even if she wanted to continue, he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep pulling back like this before he lost control.

He felt himself twitch when Rebecca hesitantly shook her head.  “It feels nice,” she said.  “Only…you promise not to do anything I don’t like?”

James nodded, kissing her quickly just because he could.  “I promise, if there is anything you don’t like or are afraid of or don’t want to do right now, just tell me and I’ll stop.  I did just now, didn’t I?”

She continued to look at him, still biting her lip.  Then she rolled her hips hard against his, making him gasp and clutch her hips tight.  Rebecca giggled, continuing to rock herself against him.  “Does that feel good?” she asked.  James could only nod, too overwhelmed by the press of her against him, even through his robes, to form a coherent thought.  Merlin, he really should have taken care of himself again because he wasn’t going to last and they hadn’t even removed any clothing yet.

When Rebecca rolled her hips at a slightly different angle, one that made her gasp in surprise, James felt himself nearing his limits.  Her murmurings of pleasure as she learnt herself only made him throb more, and when she moaned, pressing herself harder against him, he was lost.  He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her against his chest and sucking at her neck as he thrust his hips up against her.

He came back to himself slowly.  His first thought was that he must have terrified the poor girl, grabbing her like that.  That was quickly followed by the realisation that she was still sitting astride his lap, whimpering as she rocked frantically against him.  Unfortunately, he could feel himself softening and knew she’d get no release that way.

He stilled her hips, tilting her chin up to look at him when she cried out in frustration.  “Shh, here, don’t cry,” he whispered, stroking her cheek with his thumb and letting her resume her rocking despite knowing it was of no use.  “Do you trust me to do something new?  I think you’ll like it very much.”

Rebecca nodded, still whimpering and desperate.  He carefully turned her around, so that her back was pressed against his chest, her legs still spread wide around his.  He suckled at her neck, sliding his hand slowly up her leg, hoping he wouldn’t unintentionally scare her.  When he slipped beneath her skirt he groaned, finding that she was completely bare under her dress.  He thought he maybe should have expected it, knowing what she had been gifted to him for, but he still had been preparing for knickers, maybe those silky ones like Smith had brought over once to tease him with.  Instead he was touching her bare skin, carefully running his finger between her lips, searching for a spot the training books Mother had insisted he read said was as sensitive as the head of his cock.

He knew he had found it when Rebecca stiffened, before pressing against his hand.  He circled, carefully, gently, trying to discover what she liked.  It was more difficult than he had imagined, direct stroking making her gasp and pull away, but rubbing along the sides only building her frustration.  Somehow he had thought it would come naturally, his hands simply knowing what to do without his input.  Instead he found himself experimenting blindly, trying to remember every reaction while also wanting to get her off quickly to relieve the pain he thought she’d be feeling, if it was at all like when he had been stimulated for too long.

Rebecca was pressing wildly against his hand by that point, making his task even more difficult.  He felt his hand slip just a touch lower than it had before, his middle finger grazing her entrance.  He froze, opening his mouth to apologise, when she moaned and lowered her hips so that he slid just barely inside her.  Well.  That was unexpected.  Nice, he was definitely hardening again at the tight wet heat around his fingertip, but unexpected.  Cautiously, he pressed his finger deeper inside her, watching for the slightest negative reaction.

He needn’t have worried.  Rebecca was nearly incoherent, thrusting her hips so that his finger slid in and out of her, while the heel of his palm grazed against her clit.  She had her arm wrapped around him, pulling his head down to suck and kiss at her neck, her other hand clutching his arm tight, nails digging into his skin.  He thought he couldn’t possibly be any more turned on, then he slid another finger alongside the one that was already inside her.

She gasped, thrusting herself down his hand before going completely stiff as her pussy pulsed around his fingers.  James wished he could see her face, memorise what she looked like, feeling this for the very first time.  Instead he had to content himself with feeling the way her body tried to pull his fingers in deeper, how her back arched, lifting off his lap as she tried to get just that much closer to his hand.  Her clit was throbbing against his palm, something the books hadn’t bothered to tell him.  Then, all at once, almost as if she was a puppet whose strings had been cut, she relaxed, collapsing back against him.  Her panting breaths and soft hums as she continued to slowly work herself against his hand were the most erotic things he had ever heard in his life.  Better, even, than when he spied on Diggory and the muggleborn he’d taken home for the summer at one of the garden parties their mothers liked to throw.  That girl had been far from him, his view mostly blocked by Diggory’s unfortunate arse.  Rebecca was in his arms right now, each press of her hips onto his fingers also making her bum rub against his hardening cock.

He gently drew his fingers out of her, nearly relenting when she whined softly at the loss, but still concerned about frightening her if she realised he was hard again.  He pushed her gently off his lap, so that she was standing in front of him, and adjusted himself, biting his lip at how much he wanted more.  James was about to pull her to stand between his legs so that he could kiss her, when she surprised him, dropping to her knees and staring up at him as she hesitantly began to rub at the bulge in his robes.

“You don’t have to do that,” he said, though it took every ounce of willpower he had.

“I know.  I want to.”  A bit more of James’ blood left his brain.  “Can I take these off?  It’s easier that way.”  James just nodded, eyes wide as Rebecca fumbled slightly with the openings of his robes.  He only just had the presence of mind to lift his hips when she tugged at his underthings, and not nearly enough to consider his shoes, instead leaning down to kiss her, hard and needy so that she was breathless when he pulled away.

Her touch was soft, he would have said teasing, if some part of him wasn’t aware of how difficult it was for her to do this when she wanted to, rather than because she was forced to.  The reminder made him wilt, just slightly, so that Rebecca frowned and tightened her grasp.  He allowed himself to simply enjoy the sensation then, lolling his head against the back of the sofa.  He was vaguely aware that he was making noises, hums and groans he couldn’t remember himself making when he was alone, but a glance down showed Rebecca with one hand on his cock and the other beneath her dress so he decided he wasn’t particularly interested in trying to keep himself quiet.  It was…oddly pleasant, this gentle stroking and touching.  If asked, he’d have said that the toying and experimenting Rebecca was doing would drive him mad, but instead he found himself entering a kind of happy daze, where everything narrowed down to the feel of her hand on him.

Which was why he gasped and nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt something warm and wet around the head of his cock.

He looked down, staring at Rebecca, who now had her lips wrapped around him.  “You don’t —” he started to say, before she did something that made him throb and groan.  He had no idea what it was and he didn’t much care, as long as she kept doing it.

She did.  Over and over and over until he was thrusting slightly into her mouth, in spite of his attempts not to.  He could hear her whimpering, feel the vibrations around his cock, as she played with herself beneath her dress.  James found himself hoping it was the first time she’d done that, that she was discovering what she liked while she sucked his cock.  It was selfish, he thought he probably should have wanted her to have had some sort of pleasure when she was being hurt at that orphanage, but he still throbbed at the idea.

She was taking more of him in now, able to slide halfway down before having to pull back.  It was brilliant and horrible all at once and James found he didn’t like the way she gagged slightly when trying to go further.  Carefully, reluctantly, he pulled her off him, whimpering at the loss even as he pulled her up so he could kiss her.

“Nothing that hurts,” he said, unable to resist sliding his fingers into her when she was right there and so clearly wanting.  “Ok?”

Rebecca nodded, her forehead pressed against his own and her hips bucking against his hand.  “Want you to feel good,” she gasped, “like, oh, like me.”

As if James needed any more mental stimulation putting him that much closer to the edge.  He groaned, his head falling to rest on her shoulder.  This girl was going to be the death of him and it was only the first day.  He couldn’t imagine what her sister would be like.  He thought he truly might die from all the blood pulsing in his groin.

He started when Rebecca raised herself off his fingers, groaning again when she dropped back to her knees, slowly lapping at his cock.  He went back to that hazy pleasure, head lolled back and world narrowed to his cock and the sounds Rebecca made as she rocked onto her own fingers.  It was amazing, the way she managed to keep him just on edge, and he wished he had any idea whether or not she was doing it on purpose.  He didn’t think he could have done this to her if he tried, but then, he also had no way of knowing what it felt like for her.

He ran his fingers through her hair, unwilling to put any sort of pressure on her, but also unable to keep himself from touching her any way he could.  She mewled, looking up at him while she sucked his cock.  Rebecca was all big eyes and pouting lips and it was all he could do to not bury himself as deep as he could in her mouth.  As it was he thrust, just ever so slightly, and was surprised when she moaned around him rather than stopping.  Honestly, James wasn’t sure what was more exciting for him, the way she was sucking and licking at his cock, or the knowledge that she trusted him to not take more than she was willing (and eager, if the moaning was anything to go by) to give.

He thought he might be about to finish, his eyes closed tight and his head thrown back, fingers still tangled in Rebecca’s hair…and then she stopped.  Pulled her mouth off him with a slight slurp so that he was staring at her in shock and not more than a bit of pain.  So much so that he didn’t react when she climbed onto his lap again, only realising what she was going to do as she was doing it.

“No! You don — oh Merlin.”  He was throbbing, thrusting, groaning, holding her tight against him and burying his face in her neck as the sensation of sliding into her overwhelmed him.  He didn’t imagine it could be good for her, the way he was simply fucking up into her pussy, as hard and fast as he could, but he also couldn’t seem to stop himself.  He only hoped she wouldn’t be too afraid of him after to let him do something, anything, for her.

Then he was no longer capable of even subconscious thought, his hips straining upward, trying to bury himself as deep inside her as he could while his cock throbbed and pulsed.

Rebecca was resting against his chest when he came back to himself.  She was smiling, almost smug, with her head on his shoulder and one hand playing with the buttons of his robes.  Her lips were wonderfully red and swollen, her hair coming undone from whatever careful style it had been in when he first saw her.  He wasn’t sure what it was, something with a bow that allowed it to be clear of her face while still streaming down her back.  Whatever it was, its destruction combined with her swollen lips to make her look wonderfully debauched.  He’d have to remember to ask Father to ensure she and her sister always had hair bows.  Something about how it now hung loose, and slipped away when he pulled just slightly, made him think he might be up for yet another round, if given a bit of time to recover.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he whispered, gently kissing the shoulder he had bared what seemed like a lifetime ago.  “I was going to wait, make sure you were ready.”  He frowned, realising something.  “I certainly was going to ensure we were in a bed when it happened.”

Rebecca giggled.  “I wanted to.”  She looked up at him, eyes soft and happy.  “I really, really wanted to.  I never got to want to before.”

Well.  How was he supposed to argue with that?

“Are you…” he trailed off, blushing at what he wanted to ask, no matter that he could still feel her, warm and soft against his cock.  “I mean, can I do something for you?  Like before?”

She blushed, ducking her head further into his shoulder.  “I already did.  When you were.”

James stared at her.  She…there was no way.  He was certain he would have realised, he thought it must be hard to miss, if it felt on his cock anything like it did on his fingers.

“You don’t have to lie,” he said.  “I really do want you to enjoy yourself too.”  He paused, considering.  “Or, if you didn’t and you don’t want to, you can say that too and we can kiss or eat or play a game or…I don’t know, exactly.”  What on earth did people do when they were done fucking?  None of his books said anything about that.  They just went on about closeness and feelings and making sure the girl was comfortable.  Well, he supposed he was trying to make sure she was comfortable now, and that required listening now that she’d started speaking.

“I — I wouldn’t mind if you did what I did to you.”  Oh, she was somehow even more attractive when she blushed.  He’d have to see if he could make her shy more often.

“What you did to me?”  He was fairly sure he knew what she meant, but he couldn’t help seeing if he could make her blush even more.

Instead she huffed at him, big blue eyes narrowed with annoyance.  So much for that.  “You know,” she said, “with your mouth.”

Even just hearing her say that much made James twitch, just slightly.  “Is it ok if I take off your dress?” he asked.  “And go into the bedroom?  It’s much more comfortable in there.”

Instead of responding, Rebecca kissed him, hard and deep as she started unbuttoning his robes.  Well, that was new.  He thought he rather liked this somewhat more aggressive girl, even if he wasn’t sure where she came from.

It was quick work to untie the bow at the back of Rebecca’s dress, though the buttons gave him a bit of trouble and he ended up having to ask her to stand up and turn around.  He kissed down her spine as he went, enjoying the way she sighed with each press of his lips.  Lifting her dress up over her head was easier than expected and then he had a fully nude girl standing in front of him, her shoes having been lost somewhere along the way.

She was stunning, he didn’t know how his father had managed to pick such a wonderful girl without the ability to undress her.  Her legs were long and lithe, leading to the softest beginnings of hair between her legs.  There was just a touch of softness around her middle, which James attempted to suck and kiss while she stood in front of him.  She was nearly as flat as a boy, the budding of her breasts still subtle, but when he gently sucked one nipple she gasped and pressed his head closer to her.  He loved her freckles and the way her hair had a wave to it that was only really apparent when it was free like this, falling softly around her face.  He couldn’t help but slide his fingers between her legs, pressing gently into her as he licked and sucked at her nipples, even going so far as to carefully nip at one — something that made delicious shivers run down Rebecca’s spine.

When her sighs turned to whimpers he stopped, smiling up at her as he removed the robes she’d already unbuttoned.  He nearly forgot to fully take off his shoes and underthings, stumbling a bit when he stood and making Rebecca laugh.  It was a high, comfortable, delighted laugh, one he couldn’t imagine her making even just an hour ago.  Of course, he had to retaliate, and did so by picking her up and swinging her over his shoulder the way he did to Wendy when he wanted to make her giggle.  She was so small, the difference between them wasn’t as big as between his sisters.

Rebecca’s legs kicked playfully at him as she shrieked and laughed, not actually trying to hurt him or get free, but also unwilling to lose their game.  James carried her to his bedroom, lightly smacking her bum once before dropping her on his bed.  Merlin, the way she looked laying on his bed, all pale skin and mussed up hair.  He knew that it wouldn’t take long for him to be aching and hard again, his cock already twitching slightly in spite of itself.  He found himself  nearly lunging to lay beside her, pulling her against him so he could feel her skin against his as they kissed.

It was bloody brilliant.  He hadn’t thought he could feel anything better today, it already being the best day he’d ever had, but being able to feel Rebecca’s skin against his, feeling her chest press against him and her legs shift to twine with his own, that somehow managed to beat out even being inside her.  It was so much more intense, his nerves tingling at every point of contact.  He didn’t think he ever wanted either of them to put on clothes again.

When Rebecca began to thrust against his leg, softly rolling her hips as she whimpered into his mouth, he remembered what they had gone to the bedroom for.  Slowly, he kissed his way down her body, suckling at her neck and just behind her ear and the part just above her collarbone that made her sigh.  He lapped at her nipples, suckling and biting and pinching until her hips started thrusting gently into the air.  Her legs were spread wide now, her lips parted and panting slightly as she looked down at him.  He continued licking her nipples, trying and failing to keep eye contact as he moved his hand between her legs.

He just barely grazed her clit, smiling when she rewarded him with more whimpers.  He didn’t think she was desperate yet, not from just that, but he was determined to get her there before he let her finish.  He wanted her to feel what he did, that building and teasing before falling apart that she managed to bring out in him.

Which was why when he finally kissed his way down her body, softly circling her clit the entire time, he sucked and bit at her inner thighs, completely avoiding her centre.  He could feel her getting frustrated, almost glaring down at him when he pressed a kiss just at the crease where her leg and body met, then moved directly to her other leg.  She was bucking slightly now, trying to get his hand to slip lower or rub harder.  When that failed she went so far as to grip his hair and try to move his head where she wanted — a move that made him laugh against her thigh.

It was when she huffed and collapsed back down on the bed from where she had been propped up on her forearms to watch him that he finally gave in.  Pressing her thighs up gently until she bent her knees so that she was tilted towards him more, he licked from her entrance to her clit, making her gasp and tense before moaning, loud and long.  It was ridiculous what that sound did to him, making him hard almost on command.  He found himself groaning as he sucked at her clit, making her moan in return and starting a loop of reinforced pleasure.

James tried to find what she enjoyed with his mouth the same way he had with his fingers, trying all manner of things and seeing how she responded.  She loved when he pressed his tongue against the underside of her clit, moaned when he sucked gently, but pulled away with a hiss if he went too hard.  But what made her scream, forcing her hips up against his mouth, was when he lapped at her entrance while pressing his fingers inside her.  That brought her to the edge, right where James tried to keep her, babbling and desperate and wanting.

He licked and sucked until his jaw was sore, managing to work three fingers inside her and finding a spot that made her groan if he pressed against it.  He was going to finally let her fall, her whimpers starting to sound too pained for his comfort, when she grabbed his hair and pulled him up to kiss her, panting and frantic.

“Please,” Rebecca whispered against his lips, “inside, please.”  She bucked her hips up against him, moaning when his cock rubbed between her legs and making it quite clear what she was asking for.

Well.  James wasn’t about to turn that down.  He guided himself into her, still not quite trusting that he could find the way without his hands to feel where her entrance was.  He tried to go slow, carefully watching Rebecca’s face for the least sign of discomfort, but was urged faster by her hands on his waist.  After that he was aware only of competing desires to rut, hard and fast and deep, until he came and to hold out long enough to ensure Rebecca was taken care of.

She was wonderful, hot and tight and wet, better than his embarrassingly fast first time because now, despite his arousal, he was able to think clearly enough to enjoy it.  Enjoy her hips moving against his and her moans when he moved in a way she liked.

It was rather difficult to move in a way she liked.  James thought she was still enjoying herself, she was still whimpering and pressing herself closer against him anyway, but where he was growing increasingly more desperate, Rebecca seemed to only be on edge, unable to find the push she needed to fall.

He didn’t want to finish before her.  Not again.  Not when the entire reason for coming in here was her enjoyment.  He was a Potter and he was going to be a Gryffindor and he couldn’t live with the shame if his father ever found out he’d let a girl go twice without release.

He pulled out, laying on his back and pulling her on top of him when she whimpered in frustration.

“Here,” he said, settling her across his hips, “do what feels good.”

Rebecca was nearly crying now, she was so overstimulated.  He had to pull her onto him and softly rock her hips against him before she caught on.

Then she picked herself up nearly all the way off him and slammed down so fast it took his breath away.  She was bouncing on his cock, head thrown back and hair flying.  Bloody hell, it never would have occurred to him to try this.  He’d be concerned about her injuring herself if it wasn’t so obvious that it was exactly what she needed.  He tried to raise his hands to her breast, stroke her clit, something to help push her that much closer, but couldn’t manage, she was so frantic.  Rebecca was quite clearly using his body as she liked and he was just along for the ride.

He thought he might feel a bit…dirty…if it didn’t feel so good.  He quickly found himself wanting to grab her hips and thrust up into her, fucking her as deep and fast as he could.  Only the knowledge that he’d never be able to last kept him from doing it.  Instead he fisted his hands in his bedspread, bucking only slightly when he absolutely couldn’t help himself.  Merlin, he hoped she finished soon because this was almost too good.

Then she did.  Suddenly and intensely, her mouth open in a silent scream as she tensed and ground down hard onto him, once, twice, three times, before collapsing on his chest.  Her pussy throbbing around him, clenching his cock almost painfully, was too much for him and he finally gave in.  Holding her tight against his chest, he pounded into her, accidentally (though happily) fucking her into a second orgasm, this one more a soft thrum of pleasure than the shattering she had felt before.  James was a moment behind her, the renewed contractions of her body sending him over the edge.

After that it was like a dam had burst.  The next fortnight was spent in a haze of skin and sweat and arousal interrupted only by food and sleep.  Father was so kind as to excuse James from meals with the family, sending Hatty to his rooms with food at the appropriate times.  He learnt that Rebecca liked to be fucked, hard and fast and deep.  He also learnt that, while he enjoyed it sometimes, he rather preferred taking his time.

Oh, it was fun, pressing her face into the mattress and pounding her into from behind.  He quite liked taking her against a wall, her legs wrapped around his waist.  He would never turn down the way she liked to wake him in the mornings, sucking him until he was murmuring in his sleep, then sinking down onto him just as he opened his eyes.  It was only…he thought he might like something more.

Which was why he found himself in his Father’s study, two weeks after his birthday.  Father was still at breakfast, but James knew he liked to come up here after, get an early start on the correspondence and paperwork he had to do as head of House Potter.  That morning had been nice.  Rebecca woke him up like always, and he’d made her come three times before giving in himself.  A new record, he was rather proud.  They’d had their own breakfast with her sitting on his lap, slowly grinding into him until he took her across the table.  Then they’d gone again in the shower, James only barely able to keep them from falling when he came.  It had been surprisingly difficult to leave his rooms, Rebecca pouting when he gently pushed her away to get dressed.  Even telling her she should visit her sister — who hadn’t seen her for two weeks, after all — didn’t help.  She simply dropped to her knees and mouthed at his prick, saying she’d rather stay with him.  James had been forced to press her into an armchair and tell her that he was going to see his Father and Hatty would take her to visit her sister while he was away.

He thought it might have only excited her more.

“Why look!  It’s my son!  And here I thought we wouldn’t be seeing you until May, at least.”  James was brought out of his musings by his father entering the study.  “No no,” he said, as James started to rise, “keep your seat.  I’d imagine you’re rather worn out.”  He called for tea and set about preparing cups for both of them before sitting back and looking at James.  “So,” he said, “what brings you out of your rooms so soon after your birthday?”

James fidgeted, looking down at his tea as he tried to think of how to put his…not lack of interest, but…desire for something different into words.  Ideally without sounding ungrateful for what truly was a brilliant gift.

“Is…is it normal for a girl to always want to be…rough?”

Fleamont laughed, further spurred on when James glared at him and crossed his arms over his chest.  Oh, to be young and inexperienced again.

“Sometimes,” he said, reigning in his amusement in an attempt to save some of his son’s pride.  “It does depend on the girl.  All of them are a bit different and like different things.  Why?  Are you finding yourself unsatisfied by your gift?”

“Not unsatisfied exactly.”  James took a sip of his tea, again trying to find the right words.  It was just all so new and uncomfortable.  “Only, Rebecca quite likes it…rough.  And it’s fun, but…I think I might like something different.”

“Ah.  Yes, that is a common problem.”  Fleamont looked at James, proud of the new sense of maturity he had about him.  Only a month ago the boy would have been far too proud to come to his father with a question like this, preferring to get his information from the boys his age with older brothers.  “Have you tried simply doing something you think you might like?  You don’t have to be forceful if you don’t want to be, you know.”

James gaped openly at him for a moment, before remembering himself and regaining his composure.  “But you said I should make sure the girl always enjoys it!”

There it was.  Of course James had misunderstood, Fleamont forgot what it was like for everything to be  new and confusing.  Sometimes he wished he had a younger brother, someone a bit closer to James’ age, who could help him with these things.

“You should,” he said, “but not at the expense of yourself.  Try going slow with Rebecca .  You never know, she might like it.”

“What if she doesn’t?”

“Well,” Fleamont considered, “I’d imagine if she enjoys rough, she probably also enjoys when you take charge, correct?  Tell her what to do a little?”

James thought back to that morning, then nodded.  Yes, she certainly seemed to enjoy when he was forceful, whether physically or verbally.

“Then be forceful.  Dominant.  Tell her she’s not allowed to do more than lay back and enjoy herself.”  Fleamont paused for a moment, adding an admonishment he didn’t think was necessary at this point, but couldn’t allow to go unsaid.  “But James,” he said, waiting for his son to look him in the eye before continuing.  “Even when you play those sorts of games, you still are not to do anything she doesn’t want.  Tease, yes, but only as much as she can handle and never if she asks you to stop.  Understood?”

“Of course!”  James took a deep breath, then said what he’d known since his birthday he’d have to say when he saw his father again.  “I’m sorry I implied I’d just…do whatever I wanted with a girl.  I wouldn’t, I swear.”

Fleamont smiled.  He hadn’t been expecting James to actually apologise.  He’d already been forgiven, of course, Fleamont was well aware his son had simply been having one of his occasional spoilt outbursts, but it was nice to hear anyway.  “I know you wouldn’t.  Thank you for apologising, I know how difficult you find it.”  He paused, considering his son.  James clearly had more on his mind, from the way he was still fiddling with his teacup.  Drove his mother mad, that did, she was always telling him to be more mindful, that proper young wizards kept their hands still and did not fidget.  Fleamont, however, rather liked that he still had a few childish habits.  They would fade soon enough, and then their son would be a man.  He was already showing signs of it, catching himself fiddling and deliberately setting his cup and saucer on the table next to him.

“Father,” he said hesitantly, “Do you think Rebecca’s…preferences…are because of what she went through in the orphanage?  Will Wendy be the same way?”  James didn’t much like the thought of sweet, gentle, cuddly Wendy being used the way Rebecca enjoyed.  Didn’t like the thought of his baby sister being with any boys at all, actually, but he knew that would be happening regardless.  He’d have to make sure Mother picked her coming of age gifts carefully.  Maybe a wizard to start, like for Sarah.  He thought one of the Prewett twins might work.  Fabian probably, he was less of an arse than his brother.

“I don’t think so.”  Fleamont’s voice broke through James’ thoughts.  “It’s possible, of course, but James, sometimes girls simply enjoy a bit of rough.  Boys often do too.  In fact,” he waited until James was looking at him before continuing.  “There aren’t many boys your age who would object to a girl who liked that.  Makes it easier for you, doesn’t it?”

James shrugged.  “I suppose.  It doesn’t give you much time to enjoy it though.  I’ve tried, but the way Rebecca likes it…”

Fleamont smiled.  His son was so much like his mother, for all that James looked like him in miniature.  “It does go fast that way, doesn’t it?  Try what I suggested.  Take control.  Experiment.  There are a lot of ways to be with a girl, you’ve only just started to discover them.”

James nodded, finishing the last of his tea before rising from his chair.  “Thank you, Father.  I’ll try what you said.”

“That’s a good lad.  See your sisters before you go back to your rooms, they’ve missed you.”  Fleamont waited until James got to the door before saying, “And James?  What your sisters may or may not like as they get older is none of your concern.  Understood?”

“But —”

“No.  It is their business, not yours.  You will put it out of your mind.”

James sighed.  “Yes, Father.  Could you at least suggest Fabian Prewett to Mother for Wendy?”  he steeled himself, being sure to look directly at his father so he knew he was serious.  “Rebecca was terrified at first, even of being in the same room together.  Wendy’s so small, I don’t think a muggle boy would be right for her, not to start.”

“Fabian Prewett?  Not Gideon?”  Fleamont knew James had always been closer to Gideon, for all that the boys tended to fight.

“Yes.  He’s nicer than Gideon, more patient.”  James left out that he’d received owls from both boys the day before his birthday.  Gideon had complained about how Fabian was already allowed his second girl, while their father said he was still not ready.  Fabian’s new girl was reluctant, from the sounds of it she’d gone to some sort of muggle religious school before her parents died and she ended up at the orphanage.  She kept going on about how what Fabian wanted to do was bad and dirty and they’d be punished for it.  Fabian said he was quite enjoying the challenge, not the least frustrated that it had been a week and he’d still only managed to kiss her.  James thought that was exactly the kind of boy Wendy should have.

“I shall pass the note along to your mother.”  Fleamont smiled at James, proud of how much he’d grown in just a few weeks.  Oh, he’d accepted his sisters, but it had been somewhat grudging, even after Wendy had warmed him up a bit.  Now Fleamont thought he might actually see them as members of the family, not the people who were taking his place as he left for Hogwarts.

“And may I have permission to thrash any boy who hurts her or Sarah?”

Fleamont chuckled.  “Yes, brat, you may thrash anyone who hurts your sisters — but only if they show they can’t take care of themselves.  Your sisters are not weak, James.  You will allow them first chance at any boy who hurts them.”

James grinned.  “I can do that.  Bet Sarah will be terrifying, once she gets her wand.”

Fleamont privately agreed.  The girl was already showing signs of higher than average magical power, easily floating dolls and toys over to herself.  He had no doubt that with  a wand she’d be a force to be reckoned with.  If not for Euphemia’s concerns about rushing her coming of age he’d have put in a request to have her start Hogwarts in September with James.  As it was he planned to hire a team of tutors so that she might skip directly into second year.  He’d likely also have to heavily supplement her education with duelling, help burn off some of that excess magic.

To his son, however, he simply said, “Is that all?  Or would you like to look over the accounts, tell me which businesses to invest in?”

“No,” James laughed, “You already said I’ll have to start learning all that rot next year.  I’ll just go visit the girls.”  He went to leave, then turned back at the last moment.  “Oh, I did forget two things.  Could you make sure the younger girl meets Hatty?  Rebecca was afraid when she first saw her.”

Fleamont raised his eyebrows.  Somehow he hadn’t considered how muggle girls might react to house elves.  Wendy and Sarah had simply accepted them as part of being witches, he’d assumed the muggle girls would be the same.  “Yes, I can do that.  And the second thing?”

James tried to ignore the blush he knew was spreading across his face as he said, “When I’m allowed to have her, could you make sure she has a bow in her hair?  And that she and Rebecca always have bows in their hair when they’re not with me?  The big floppy ones, like they were wearing on my birthday.”

“Bows you say?”  Fleamont was rather surprised at that particular request.  James had certainly never shown any interest when his sisters wore hair bows, which they did regularly.  If he had Fleamont would have had words with him.

“Yes.  It’s just,” James was certain his face couldn’t get any hotter, “I rather like when they fall out.  You know, after you’ve started and the girl’s hair gets all messy.”

Now Fleamont understood.  He thought back, to a memory of accidentally walking in on Euphemia with one of her coming of age gifts — the first boy, who she’d kept until they decided to start trying for children.  The boy was wearing a muggle costume of some kind, charcoal grey trousers with a patterned waistcoat, white shirt, and some sort of neck piece that looked like a cross between a handkerchief and a tie.  They had already discarded the matching coat, which was now flung on a chair across the room.  Euphemia was looking at the way the boy’s tie had started to come undone with the sort of hunger Fleamont would only learn to elicit after they’d been engaged nearly a year.  Later, long after the boy had been sent back to the muggle world with highly ranked qualifications and letters of recommendation from the tutors her family had hired for him, she had admitted that part of what excited her was the disarray.  The way a boy’s (man’s, by this point) hair stood up after she’d run her hands through it, or how his tie was askew after she’d loosened it to kiss his neck.  She liked the contrast between innocence and sensuality as well, the obvious desire in the eyes of a boy wearing a school uniform or other costume, but what was truly important was the disarray.  It was initially why she was drawn to him, with his perpetually mussed Potter hair.

“Your girls shall have bows if you want them,” he said.  “White dresses as well?  With sashes around the waist, lace on the bodice.  Perhaps white gloves and shoes?”  He watched as James’ eyes started to glaze over at the mental image.  Yes, he certainly was his mother’s son.

“Not the gloves, I don’t think, but the rest…yes.  Yes, that sounds perfect.”

“I shall tell Hatty.  Off with you now, I’ve work to do.”

James grinned, dipping a quick bow at his Father before going to visit with his sisters.  Then, after he had done that, he was going to go back to his rooms and show Rebecca that slow could be just as much fun as rough.

Chapter Text

When James returned to his rooms after visiting with his sisters and parents on the first of June Rebecca was gone.  Instead her sister was sitting on the sofa in his sitting room, wearing a sleeveless white dress with a golden sash around the waist that matched the bow he could just see peaking out from the sides of her hair.  Merlin, but she was perfect.  James was convinced his heart stopped when he saw her, the same way the rest of him did, coming to a sudden halt just inside his room.  She wasn't looking at him, her attention engrossed in a picture book.  Vaguely he wondered if she could read.  He thought she must be old enough, looking somewhere around Wendy's age.  Maybe a year younger.

"Ah, I see you've found your gift."  James startled, not having heard his father walk up.  The girl did as well, quickly putting down the book and rising from her seat.  James wanted to tell her not to, that she looked a picture and he hadn't had a chance to get a camera, but with his father standing right behind him he wasn't sure it was appropriate.

"Come here, sweetheart," Fleamont said to the girl, waiting until she was standing in front of them before continuing.  "This is my son James.  You are going to visit with him for a while."

The girl dipped a curtsy to James, something he was certain Hatty must have taught her.  Then she looked at his father, brow furrowed slightly.  "What about Rebecca?  Will she know where to visit?"

"Yes," Fleamont said, "I will make certain of it.  For now, why don't you and James get to know each other?  You will be spending quite a bit of time together, after all."

"Alright."  She held her hand out to James, clearly expecting him to shake it, as she said, "Hello.  My name is Rosemary.  I like to paint and skip rope and Mrs Farmingham says I chatter too much, but I think that's just because she's old and grouchy."  She clapped her hands over her mouth, eyes wide.   "Oh!  Don't tell her I said that, she'll be ever so cross."  The girl looked truly fearful at that, making James frown.

He bowed low over her hand anyway, kissing the back of as Mother had recently begun teaching him and making her giggle.  "Hello Rosemary," he said, "is Mrs Farmingham mean when she's cross?"

Rosemary nodded, her bow flopping with the force of the movement.  "Yes, you musn't ever upset her.  Otherwise she'll cane you and you won't be able to sit without hurting for days."

"She'll what."  James' voice was deadly as he turned to glare at his father.  That governess was hurting his girls.  Bloody squib was lucky to be working for the Potters and she'd repaid them by hurting his girls.

"I shall handle it."  Fleamont looked nearly as angry as James, though he made an effort to calm himself as he knelt to be closer to Rosemary's eye level.  "Rosemary, sweetheart, how often did Mrs Farmingham cane you?"

"I don't know.  Whenever I misbehaved, I suppose.  She said I chattered too much when Hatty and Rebecca weren't around and needed to be punished so I'd learn how to be a proper young lady."  Rosemary paused for a moment, biting her lip before looking sheepishly at Fleamont.  "I think I'm probably still quite bad about chattering.  I'm sorry."

James clenched his fists, willing down his magic.  It took him several deep breaths before he was reasonably calm again, less concerned about having an accidental magical outburst.  His father was still talking to Rosemary, asking her about the times that brute of a squib had caned her.  Caned her, like a barbaric muggle.  He had to take a few more deep breaths before moving to stand next to Rosemary, carefully taking her hand in his own.

"I shall talk to her, Father."  It was the closest James had ever come to telling his father to go fuck himself.  He wasn't quite sure where he'd found the nerve.  He also didn't quite care.  The idea of the girl, this perfect, vision of a girl, being forced to bend over and accept a caning...James was rather concerned about what he might do if he saw the squib.  That his father had hired her and then not realised what she was doing only made it worse.

Fleamont started to admonish his son for his impertinence, then saw his face.  Well.  That was new.  James had often being angry, often been spoilt and moody and prone to throwing tantrums well past the age when he should have known better.  Fleamont had even discovered that he was fiercely protective, now that he had two little sisters to protect.  Had gone so far as to tell Gideon Prewett, his closest friend, that he wasn't welcome when the boy teased Wendy and Sarah about being adopted.

The anger, the protectiveness, the frustration that he hadn't known to do anything, those were all expected.  What Fleamont hadn't expected was the disappointment.  In him.  He suddenly remembered his mother, writing to him after he'd been caught brawling with several other boys.  "I am not angry," she'd written, "I am simply disappointed that you have not grown out of childish reactions."  Fleamont had never raised a hand to anyone again.  He was a master duelist, but after that letter he'd learnt other ways of dealing with his anger.

He rose to his feet and turned to leave the room, aware that his son's eyes followed him the entire way.  At the doorway he turned, unable to leave things to fester between them.  "I will fix this, son.  You have my word."

James nodded, calling out after a moment.  "Ask Sarah and Wendy about their governess too.  They mightn't have said anything."  He didn't like to think that his sisters had been hurt the way Rosemary had, but if his father had misplaced his trust in one governess it was possible he was also wrong about the other.  And the girls really might not say anything, not if Rosemary hadn't found anything wrong with her "punishments".  Bloody orphanage.  Once again he was glad the place had been shutdown.  No matter that it had caused all manner of arguments between Father and several other of the pureblood fathers, who still had young sons to procure gifts for.

He turned to Rosemary, who was now looking up at him with wide eyes.  More aqua than her sisters, he noted.  Edging closer toward green, though not quite there.  Her hair was also a bit more strawberry, though James thought he might only have noticed because he had spent so much time enjoying the way Rebecca's hair fanned out around her when she collapsed on the bed, panting and sated.  "Come on," he said, "I'll ask Hatty to bring us tea.  What kinds of biscuits do you like?"

"Chocolate's my favourite, but not with tea.  Do you have any of those ones with the swirling colours?  I don't know what they're called, but Hatty always brought them when Rebecca visited."

James laughed.  Those were his favourite too.  He was rather surprised Hatty had gone through the trouble of making them so often, even for house elves they were rather complicated.  "I'll ask her.  If not, do you like lemon?"  He moved to pull Rosemary onto his lap, frowning when he felt her wince.

"When was the last time Mrs Farmingham caned you?"

Rosemary blushed.  "This morning.  There was a new doll next to my bed when I woke up and she looks just like me, even a wardrobe full of dresses to match mine and...I'm sorry.  I do try not to chatter.  I just can't help it."

James clenched his toes inside his shoes since he couldn't clench his fists without hurting Rosemary further.  "Do you mind if I take a look?  I might have something to make it hurt less."  He wasn't sure if healing salves worked on muggles, but it was worth a try.  If not he'd call Hatty.  Everyone knew house elf magic was safe even for unicorn foals.

"I don't think you should.  It's probably not ladylike." Rosemary was blushing even brighter now and James suddenly realised why.

"It's ok," he said.  "I promise I won't tell anyone.  I just don't want you to hurt if you don't have to."  He paused before deciding to add, "If you want, I can call my mother instead."  He'd really rather not, but if it was that or Rosemary going unhealed he'd learn to live with it.

"Well...I guess it's ok.  If you promise not to tell anyone."  She bit her lip, looking around.  "Is there anywhere I can lay down?  I don't think I'll be able to hold my dress up high enough."

James nodded, leading her into his bedroom.  Hatty would just assume Rosemary had needed less time to warm up than expected and leave the tea under a warming charm.  He watched as Rosemary got situated on his bed, laying on her stomach with her head resting on her arms.  She was still blushing, trying not to look at him.  James thought he'd find it rather enticing if not for the fact that she was only like this because she'd been hurt.

When he lifted her dress a hot, harsh wind blew through the room.  He closed his eyes, breathing deeply until his magic was under control.  He took a moment to press a kiss to the back of Rosemary's head, surprising her enough that she forgot about his magical outburst.

Her bum and legs were crisscrossed with welts and deep purple bruises and angry red lines and scars.  James couldn't imagine what kind of force must have been used to make her scar.  Didn't want to imagine, really.  There were several areas that looked infected, as though she hadn't even been allowed muggle healing.  He pulled the strongest healing salve he had from his bedside table, hoping it would at least help with the worst of it.

It didn't.  Not even a little.  Only made Rosemary hiss and pull away where he touched her.  Bloody squib.  He hoped Father was smart enough to keep her away from him.  Except for the small part of him that didn't.  That wanted to take the cane to her backside and see how she liked it.  He tried to ignore that part, instead telling Rosemary that he couldn't make that better himself and asking if it was ok if he called Hatty.  She didn't want to at first, but a bit of gentle coaxing and promises that Hatty would never think less of her for showing herself to him convinced her.

James didn't think he'd ever seen a house elf look angry before, let alone enraged.  Hatty had fussed and fretted, of course, but she also looked at him after she was done healing Rosemary ("Theres yous goes, Mistress Rosemary, now yous lays there and rests.  Hatty will bring you tea.") and said, "Hatty is telling the other elves what the governess did to Mistress Rosemary.  Master James musn't worry, the elves will be taking care of it."  He almost felt bad for the squib.  Almost.

He didn't take Rosemary that night, didn't even think about how tight she would be around him.  He had Rebecca brought up to stay with them until a new governess was found, one he approved and who would be carefully watched until she'd earned his trust.  He tickled and cuddled and kissed, on her forehead, eyelids, cheeks.  He enjoyed the way she snuggled into him at night and when they'd read together, James helping her with the lessons Mother set so that neither she nor Rebecca would fall behind without a governess, but never once did he consider doing more.  It wasn't that he didn't want to.  In some ways it was torture, her sitting on his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck.  He wanted to rip the bow out of her hair and tangle his fingers in her curls as she sucked him off.  He just also couldn't imagine taking her with her sister in the rooms.  It seemed inappropriate.  Perverse, even, to feel the tight heat of her body around him while her sister was only a wall away.

Then Rosemary walked in on Rebecca riding him, the morning she was to move back to her rooms with the new governess.  It had only been a week, but James was desperate, pounding into her from below.  Rebecca had been trying to tempt him the entire time, rubbing against him any time Rosemary wasn't looking.  He'd ignored her, not wanting Rosemary to feel left out or neglected or less than, nor like she had to do anything she wasn't ready for.  This morning, however, he'd woken to Rosemary's bum pressed against his cock, her nightgown having ridden up as she slept.  She snuggled in closer to him and he found himself grabbing her waist, rocking into her.  When she frowned in her sleep he realised what he was doing and quickly slid out of bed, planning on a long shower.

Rebecca had been awake too, laying on the sofa in the sitting room in nothing but a hair bow.  He didn't bother to think, simply dropping his sleep trousers and pulling her onto him.  She was tight and wet, ready for him as she always was.  He was so lost in the way she felt, the groans as they moved together, that he didn't hear Rosemary coming into the room, only realised she was there when he heard her gasp in surprise.  He did, however, see the way Rebecca smirked at her, possessive and taunting, as he came.

He pushed her off him, hastily pulling up his trousers so he could follow Rosemary into the bedroom, where she'd run while he was recovering.  He needed to explain, make sure she wasn't afraid.  She was completely untouched and innocent, Rebecca having told him the lengths she went to to ensure her baby sister was protected.  James was terrified he'd just ruined that.

Rebecca tugged the side of his trousers as he moved to leave.  "What about me?" she pouted, fingers buried in her cunt.  For a moment he was torn, unsure whether to check on Rosemary or take care of her sister.  Then he remembered the smirk, the triumph on Rebecca's face, as if she owned him.

"Hatty will take you to your new governess," he said, then strode to his bedroom, closing the door behind him.

Rosemary was sitting on the bed, back against the headboard and knees pulled up to her chest.  She didn't look at him as he walked in, nor when he sat down on the bed.

"Are you ok?" James asked.  She nodded, still not looking at him.  "Are you sure?  Because if you aren't it's ok.  You can tell me.  I just want to make it better."  He sighed when she didn't respond, moving to pull her against him and staring when she flinched away.

"Why were you doing that to Rebecca?" she whispered.  James blinked.  That wasn't quite what he was expecting.

"Well, it's fun," he said, deciding to answer honestly.  "It feels nice, like a hug only better."

Rosemary shook her head.  "I don't think it does.  Rebecca never liked it when those men at the orphanage did it.  She always cried when they did, and after, when she thought I wasn't looking."

James stared at her.  "How did you know about Rebecca and the men at the orphanage?  She told me she always sent you to help with the chores."

"She did.  I could hear them though, when I'd take the linens upstairs.  I peeked in because I didn't know what it was and saw Rebecca.  There were three big men around her, doing things with their willies that made her cry."  She looked up, glaring at him.  "I thought you were nice.  Rebecca always said you were nice.  I didn't know you were hurting her too."

"Rosemary," James had to fight the urge to pull her into his arms, "that wasn't at all like the men at the orphanage, I swear.  When you want to do it it's different."  Rosemary was still looking at him skeptically.  "Rebecca wasn't crying this time, was she?"

Rosemary considered for a moment.  "No," she said.  "But if it feels nice then why did she always cry with those men?"

Slowly, carefully, James moved close enough to put his arm around her.  "It can hurt a lot for a girl, if she doesn't want to.  Sometimes even if she does want to, if she's not ready."  

"Why did they make it hurt for Rebecca then, if it can be fun?"  

James frowned, trying to think of how to answer.  He didn't quite know why, if he was honest.  He liked that Rebecca was so responsive, always wanting him, often even more than he really wanted to.  He couldn't imagine not wanting every girl he was with to enjoy herself, half the fun was in watching and listening to Rebecca as she grew more and more desperate.  

"I don't know," he said.  "I guess they just didn't care if she had fun as long as they did.  Some boys are like that."  He stopped, tilting her chin up so she was looking at him.  "I'm not like that.  I would never, ever do anything to hurt Rebecca or you.  I promise.  Believe me?"

Rosemary bit her lip, reminding him of her sister, when she'd first met him.  "I don't know.  How do I know you're not lying?"

"We can go ask Rebecca, if you want.  She's with the new governess now."  James didn't really want to go see her, not after the way she looked at Rosemary , but if it would help her feel safe he'd do it anyway.  It wasn't as if he was going to keep her away from her sister, even if he suddenly felt as if he'd missed something important about her.

Looking at Rosemary, he didn't think seeing Rebecca was going to be a problem.  Rosemary's arms were crossed across her chest and she was pouting in a way he couldn't help but find adorable.  "I don't want to ask her," she said, "she's been horrid all week."

"What?"  This was the first James was hearing of any problems between the sisters.  It was rather disturbing to think they'd been fighting and he hadn't noticed, despite spending nearly all day with them.

Rosemary looked up at him with watery eyes, pushing him to pull her closer into his side.  "She didn't like me sitting with you.  Whenever you left she said she was supposed to be the only one you cuddled and she didn't want to share with a baby like me."

James stared at her.  "I didn't know that," he said, "if I had I would have told her she was wrong.  These are my rooms and I shall do what I like in them."  He kissed the tip of her nose.  "And part of what I like is sitting with you.  Why didn't you say anything?"

At that Rosemary buried her head in his shoulder, so much that he almost didn't hear when she said, "'Rebecca said if I told you she'd find Mrs Farmingham's cane."

James knew he was losing control of his magic as he pulled Rosemary onto his lap and held her close to him, stroking her hair when she started to cry.  The hot, dry wind whirled through the room, upending everything while leaving them in an island of calm.  He didn't particularly care.  Father would fix the room.  What was important was that Rebecca had threatened her sister.  She had hurt her, broken her trust for reasons James couldn't begin to understand.  He would have to tell Father to send her to one of the other Potter properties with her governess.  James didn't think he could risk seeing her with how angry he was.

"Rosemary," he said, tilting her chin up so she was looking at him.  "No one is ever going to cane you again.  I'll make sure of it.  And if anyone ever does anything that hurts you, I want you to come tell me, ok?"

"Even if it's Rebecca?"

"Especially if it's Rebecca."  He paused for a moment, considering the wisdom of asking a question he knew he might not like the answer to.  "Would you be upset if I sent Rebecca away for a while?  You'd still be able to see her whenever you want," he rushed to assure her, "but she wouldn't be here in the castle.  You'd have to ask for her to come visit."

Rosemary bit her lip, once again reminding him of her sister.  Rebecca had stopped doing that at some point, when she grew more comfortable with him.  He rather hoped Rosemary kept it up even after she felt secure, he found it oddly appealing.  So much so that he had to keep himself from kissing her, reminding himself that there would be plenty of time for that and more later, once they'd settled the issue of her sister.

"Is it because she was mean to me?"

"Yes."  James thought it was best to be honest.  Rosemary would likely figure out the truth anyway, she was a bright girl.  "I don't like that she threatened you and I don't want her where she might hurt you now that you're the only one staying in my rooms."

"Am I?  I thought I was going with the governess too."

"No," James paused, "not unless you want to anyway.  But you remember how Rebecca stayed here with me at first, all by herself?  Now it's your turn."

Rosemary ducked her head into his shoulder, blushing though he didn't know why until she spoke.  "Are we going to do what you were doing to Rebecca too?  Is that why she was so cross?"

"Maybe," James said, "she did think it was a lot of fun.  But," he tilted her chin up again, "we don't have to do anything if you don't want to.  If you just want to keep sitting and cuddling like this we can."  He refrained from saying that he would be doing everything in his power to ensure that she did want to, and want to soon.

Rosemary looked at him, eyes wide and still a bit red.  Then she was pressing her lips against his, making him almost jerk back in surprise.  She started to pull away when he didn't respond, pulling him out of his shock enough to raise his hand to tangle in her hair, keeping her in place so he could kiss her back.  He was careful to keep the kiss soft, just enough to make her sigh when he pulled away.

"I'd like to stay with you," she said.  "You can send Rebecca away, if you want.  I'm cross with her right now."  Then she looked around the room and saw what his magic had done.  There were books strewn everywhere, several of them torn apart.  The windows in front of his desk were shattered, as were the ones in front of his window seat.  The window seat itself was shredded, stuffing scattered around the room.  His desk chair was in splinters, the desk nowhere in sight.  James thought it might have been thrown through one of the windows.  The only thing off the bed that appeared to have been spared destruction was Rosemary's doll, the one that looked like her that he'd had Hatty leave her as a gift, not knowing she'd be arriving in his room that same day.  It was sitting on one of the chairs by the window, surrounded by shattered glass.

"Wow.  What happened?"

James blushed.  "I'll ask Father to fix everything."  He called for Hatty, asking her to please transport them to a spare set of rooms until Father had time to fix theirs.  He was concerned about Rosemary hurting herself if they tried to walk through the wreckage that had once been his bedroom.

Once Rosemary was settled in their temporary rooms (the heir rooms, actually, that he would move into when he was married) James left her with her doll and Hatty and went to find his father.

He ran into Rebecca and her governess on the way.  How he wasn't quite sure, as the heir rooms were in a separate wing of the castle from the main family areas, having been designed to give the heir and his new family their privacy.  What he did know was that his magic rose up again, though this time he was at least able to keep it to sparking out his fingertips and wand, crackles of red that leapt toward Rebecca before fizzling out.  She tried to run to him, a smile on her face, but her governess had the sense to put a hand on her shoulder, obviously recognising the signs of an angry wizard just barely controlling his magic.  He found he was ashamed she even had to do that much.  He was eleven years old, about to go to Hogwarts.  His father had judged him mature enough to be given his second coming of age gift, the one every intelligent wizard knew was the real sign of trust.  He should have better control of himself than this.

But he didn't and when Rebecca shook off her governess' hand, wrapping her arms around his neck despite his step back, several of the sparks caught her, stinging her arms and cheeks before he was able to force them down.  It hurt, clearly, from the way she flinched and frowned at him.  As her arms were still around his neck, her body pressed close to his, he found he wasn't as sorry as he probably should have been.

"James!" Rebecca said, "Have you changed your mind?  Did you come to get me?"  She pressed herself just slightly closer to him as she batted her eyelashes.  James realised he no longer found her at all attractive, even as a useful plaything.  It was odd, knowing that only an hour earlier he'd loved the feel of her cunt around him, had almost been disappointed that she'd be leaving him so that he could coax her sister into being ready to take him inside her.  Now it was as if a candle had been put out.  Hearing of how she had treated her little sister was enough to destroy any interest he had in her, physical or otherwise.  He couldn't imagine ever treating his sisters that way and he'd only had them a short time.

He removed her arms from around his neck, ignoring her pout when he pushed her away.  "I didn't come to get you," he said.  "But since I'm here anyway, what did you and Rosemary quarrel about?  She was upset when you left.  She said she didn't get a chance to apologise."  Yes, that was an outright lie, but in this case James thought it was warranted.  He wanted to see what Rebecca would say if she thought he was unaware of what Rosemary had told him.

Rebecca laughed.  "Oh that.  It wasn't even a fight, really."  She pressed herself against him again, this time putting her hands on his shoulders as she looked up at him.  "Mary was just upset that I was leaving.  She was frightened to stay with you by herself.    I told her to stop being silly, but she wouldn't listen."  She raised herself on her toes to kiss him before saying, "Maybe I should go back.  She is my little sister.  I don't think she's ready for you like I am."

James frowned, pushing her away from him again.  "Really?" he said, "That's not what she told me.  She said you told her you didn't want to share me with a baby and that if she told me you were being mean to her you'd find Mrs Farmingham's cane."  He crossed his arms, trying to keep his magic from sparking again.  "She cried.  She didn't even cry when she told me that woman was beating her."

"Well, that's how you know she's lying."  Rebecca rolled her eyes, "She was always doing that at the orphanage, crying so people would feel sorry for her and give her things.  I tried to tell her not to, but she never listened."

He shook his head.  It was possible, of course, that Rebecca was telling the truth.  He might even have believed her, if her smirk didn't keep flashing through his mind.  "I don't think so.  I think she was telling the truth.  I think you were jealous so you taunted and threatened your little sister."  He looked at the  governess, who had pulled Rebecca away as he spoke.  "My father will be sending the pair of you to another of our properties.  Is there anywhere you like better?"

She curtsied at him before saying, "Near Belfast would be nice, sir, if it can be managed.  My uncle lives there, Mister Liam McCallister."

James nodded.  There was a townhouse in Belfast, not far from the McCallisters.  He'd have Father see about sending them there.  "You'll be leaving as soon as possible, I suggest you start packing.  We'll send a house elf with you to take care of anything you need."  And make sure the governess wasn't abusing Rebecca, but he didn't say that.  As angry as he was with her, he still didn't want her hurt.  Just away from him and Rosemary until she'd learnt that he didn't belong to her.

He watched as they walked away, Rebecca struggling for a moment before seeming to accept that he didn't believe her.  He was going to simply make sure they didn't go into the heir rooms, but at the last moment he called out, "And Rebecca?  Rosemary's already a better kisser than you are.  I bet she'll be a better shag too."  It was childish, beneath him to be taunting a muggle toy, especially in front of her squib governess.  It still felt good.  

He called for a house elf then, not wanting to run into any more surprises before he spoke to his father.  He was finding it oddly difficult to be away from Rosemary, the sooner he got this conversation done with, the better.

Father was in his study, thankfully.  James thought he would have gone slightly mad if he'd had to ask a house elf to hunt him down.  It was quick work, but at this point he no longer had the patience, worn from both his earlier outburst and his run-in with Rebecca.  He knocked twice, settling into his usual chair in the small seating area by the fire when he was called in.

Fleamont, like his son, was not one to dither when a topic was truly important.  "I assume this is about the magical outburst we all felt earlier?  You really are far too old for such things, James."

James flushed.  Yes, he was, as he was well aware.  Father saying it only made him feel worse.  "I know.  I'm sorry.  I did have a good reason though."

"Really?  And what reason might that be?  I will warn you, simply being angry is not reason enough."  The scepticism in Fleamont's voice was impossible to miss.

"I found out Rebecca threatened Rosemary with a caning."  He looked at his father, willing him to understand.  "She cried, Father.  Actually cried.  I don't think she was even as scared of being beaten as she was hurt that Rebecca would consider it."

Fleamont sat back in his chair.  Well.  That was different.  However...  "I understand that you were upset.  But James, you must learn to control yourself.  It's dangerous, the way you let your magic get the best of you.  What if it had tried to hurt Rosemary?"

"It wouldn't have."  There were few things James was absolutely certain of, but he was certain of that.  His magic would never hurt Rosemary or his sisters, no matter how angry he got.

Then he remembered the sparks and how they had stung Rebecca.  He hadn't thought his magic would ever do that either, until he was angry with her.  Suddenly his hands were very interesting. 

"Remembered something, did you?  Maybe something you're not very proud of?"

James nodded.  "Yes, sir.  I'll work on it.  I promise."

"I'm sure you will."  Fleamont smiled, reaching over to put a hand on his son's shoulder.  "You're a good boy, James.  You just need to learn to control your temper.  It's a Potter trait, I'm afraid.  We're all a bit hot-headed.  I had the same trouble when I was your age.  Worse, even.  I once accidentally turned Septimus Weasley into a flea because he was teasing me about my name."

"Really?"  James stared.  Father had never been anything other than perfectly mild, even when he was misbehaving.  He was angry at times, yes, but he was always composed.  Imagining him losing control of his magic that much...James couldn't manage it.

"Yes, really."  Fleamont laughed, remembering.  "I did a botched job of it, too.  Poor Sep was the size of a kneazle and still had his human face.  I thought your grandmother was going to murder me, she was so embarrassed."

"Bet Lord Weasley never teased you about your name again, though," James said, grinning.

"No, he most certainly did not.  I was in quite a bit of trouble though, your grandfather even took away my wand for the rest of summer.  Said that if I was going to behave like a child I deserved to be treated like one."

James nervously rubbed his arm, where his wand was tucked into its holster.  "You aren't going to take my wand, are you Father?"  He hadn't had it six months yet, but it already felt a part of him.  He couldn't imagine having it taken away until he went to Hogwarts.

"No, I am not.  Not this time, anyway."  Fleamont looked James in the eye, making sure he knew how serious this was.  "I am, however, going to require you to spend an hour a day with me, learning to duel.  And if this happens again I will have no choice but to remove Rosemary from you until I can be sure she's safe."

At that, James shrank back into his chair, almost disbelieving.  He thought he might prefer having his wand taken, he'd grown so accustomed to the little girl's presence.  She didn't actually chatter, the way that bloody old squib had told her she did, but he found that he liked when she did.  She had a musical voice, high and lilting, with just a hint of a Cornish accent.  He enjoyed hearing her hum softly as she played or read, enjoyed having her tucked into his side when he was falling asleep and sitting next to him when he ate in his rooms.  He swallowed, attempting to clear his throat so he could speak properly.  "Yes, sir.  It won't happen again."

"I hope it won't.  Now, what state are your rooms in?"

James blushed.  Bollocks.  He hoped Father didn't take Rosemary when he found out.  "I asked Hatty to move us to another set until you could fix them.  I didn't want Rosemary to hurt herself trying to walk out."

Fleamont raised his brows.  That would have required a fair bit of power.  Yes, dueling was definitely the right decision.  James absolutely had to learn control.

"She was safe, I swear," James rushed to add.  "My magic didn't come anywhere near us.  Just...the rest of the room.  And maybe some of the sitting room.  I didn't check."

"Really?  I will ask Hatty to be sure you're being truthful."  If he was that was at least something.  Normally a wizard's magic wasn't that particular when out of his control.  It would be a base to build on.

"Yes, sir."  James head was nodding so vigorously Fleamont had to suppress a smile.  His son was still a child in some ways.  It was a nice thing to be reminded of.

"Alright, that's enough, I believe you.  Be still before you injure yourself."  He did have to smile when James stopped so abruptly he appeared to make himself slightly dizzy, though he hid it well.  "What is it would you like done about Rebecca?  I assume you didn't just come here to ask about having your rooms fixed."

"No, sir."  James took a deep breath, knowing his father wasn't going to like what he had to say next.  "I think she should be sent away.  I don't trust myself around her.  We ran into each other on my way here and my magic sparked at her even though I was trying to control it."  He looked down.  Father was going to take Rosemary away for sure.  "I am sorry, I couldn't seem to help it, no matter how hard I tried."

Fleamont sighed.  This was exactly what he was afraid of.  "I'm sure you are, but that is not enough.  I will be asking Hatty to remove Rosemary from your rooms and watch over her for a few days, until we can find a second governess.  I'm afraid you aren't as ready as I thought."

"No, Father, please!"  He knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that this would likely only make things worse, prove that he was still too much a child, but once again he couldn't seem to help himself.  "I won't hurt her, I swear.  I was only so angry, I couldn't help it.  I'll ask Hatty to take Rosemary if I get even a little angry, I promise, just please don't take her away."

"I'm sorry James, but this is necessary.  If you can prove to me that you've started to learn to control your temper you may have her back in a week."

James nodded, morosely.  If he had to control his temper he wouldn't get Rosemary back until Christmas, at least.  "May I at least see her first?  I don't want her to think I'm upset with her."

"Yes, you may."  It really was terrible having to discipline James.  He'd always hated seeing his son upset.  "Cheer up, son.  We'll start our dueling lessons this afternoon, you won't have to do this all by yourself."

James just nodded again.  He didn't think dueling was likely to help much.

Seeing his bright, happy, exuberant boy staring at his knees, hair flopping into his face was nearly enough to make Fleamont relent.  If James had pouted, sulked, thrown a tantrum about how horrid his father was it would have been different.  It was what he had been expecting.  This, this quiet acceptance, was new.  He rather thought he'd prefer the tantrum, for all that the lack of it showed how much James had grown since his birthday.  

"Was there anywhere specific you were thinking of sending Rebecca?  Anywhere you think she'd like?"

"The Belfast house, if it can be made ready."  James voice was dull, something Fleamont hated to hear.  He reminded himself that this was necessary, that James would come out of it a better wizard.

"Yes, Miss Campbell is Liam's niece, isn't she?  I'll send a few house elves to ensure it's ready.  I assume you'll want an elf to go with them as well?"

Another nod.  If James didn't look so honestly miserable Fleamont would have thought he was trying to get out of his punishment by being pitiful.  Euphemia was going to make him sleep in the Master's room tonight, he just knew it.

"Did you have a time you'd prefer them to leave by?  I'm afraid it's unlikely to be before dinner, the Belfast house hasn't been visited in quite some time."

"That's fine."

Fleamont sighed.  He really hadn't expected James to take it this hard.  He hadn't even had the girl yet, there was no reason for him to be this attached.  It must be loneliness, the poor boy had always been the only child in the castle until recently.  They'd done their best, always allowing as many of his friends over as he liked, as often as he liked, but Fleamont well knew how isolating it could be being the only child in Linfred.  "James," he said, waiting until his son looked up to continue.  "It's only for a little while.  She'll be back in your rooms before you've even had a chance to miss her."

"Yes, sir.  May I go tell her now?"

Fleamont waved him off, watching as he left, wondering the entire time if this was truly the right decision.  Only the knowledge that James would be more hurt if his magic accidentally hurt Rosemary than by this temporary separation kept him from changing his mind.  When James paused in the doorway Fleamont felt himself hope that it'd be to say something that might reassure him, possibly that he understood and accepted his punishment.  That was when he knew James would be getting his girl back regardless of how the week went.  He simply couldn't accept his son looking so miserable if he had the ability to change it.

"Father," James said, "Why were Rebbecca and her governess in the Heir Wing?"

Fleamont blinked.  That wasn't what he was expecting.  "The nursery in the Heir Wing has always been where the heir's girls are kept.  It's away from the rest of the family so that they aren't frightened by magic.  What were you doing in the Heir Wing?"  James had never been prevented from seeking out the rooms that would one day be his home, but neither had he ever shown any interest in visiting them outside of his Heirship Day, which all Potter heirs had traditionally spent in their future bedroom.

"Hatty sent us to my room there, when I asked her to send us somewhere we could stay until you fixed my bedroom."  He paused for a moment.  "May I continue staying there, at least until Rosemary's allowed back?  I'd like to be able to visit, if it's alright."

"I'm afraid not."  Fleamont steeled himself against James' increasingly upset expression.  There was no point in separating them if James was only going to spend all day with her anyway.  "You may stay in the rooms, they are yours after all, but there will be no visiting.  I shall be asking Hatty to ensure you stay away from the nursery."

James nodded, going back to the rooms to tell Rosemary.  She was upset, more than he had expected, and had clung to him until Hatty had gently pulled her away.  ("It is being alright, Mistress Rosemary, Hatty is taking good care of you until you come back to Master James.")  He stayed in the heir rooms anyway, unwilling to go back to his newly fixed bedroom alone.  The week was spent dueling, James putting all his effort into controlling and channeling his magic.  When Father said he was done, that he'd stretched his magic enough for one day, he went to the library and read every book the elves could find him on magical control and anger.  It wasn't much, by the second day he'd realised that most of them were written at far too high a level for him.  Even the simplification charms every pureblood child was taught when they got their wand didn't help enough.  He tried spending time with his sisters, mostly Sarah as Wendy's exuberance reminded him too much of Rosemary.  He knew she was hurt, despite Mother explaining to her that James was only upset about his punishment, but he still found himself spending more time in Sarah's rooms than hers.  He did make a point to spend at least an hour with her every day, and used a bit of his pocket money to order her a doll like Rosemary's, that would always look like her and have a wardrobe of outfits to match hers.  It helped, a little.  

Sarah was far more open than she had been even a month ago.  It was nice, seeing how much more comfortable she was with everything, running about as if Linfred truly was her home.  Wendy had been settled by James' birthday, but Sarah seemed to take longer, despite her having had an easier time of it at the orphanage.  It had been particularly difficult for James, who had wanted to see her as his sister, but couldn't, not when she quite clearly fancied him a little.  She was a very pretty girl, with chestnut hair and soft brown eyes and just the slightest hint of olive to her skin.  If she'd arrived at Hogwarts as a muggleborn he thought he'd have been quite taken with her.  As it was, he simply found her request for him to be her first uncomfortable.  It was both a relief and a disappointment when Mother said it would be inappropriate.

Now she was his sister.  There was no doubt about it, she was his brilliant, pretty, often annoying little sister.  He couldn't imagine her the way he did Rebecca, the same way he couldn't see Wendy the same way he did Rosemary.  He found himself wishing that she would be starting Hogwarts with him, that they could pretend they were twins, for all that they were born seven months apart and looked nothing alike.  She wasn't ready though, he knew that.  In between their flying and playing, she asked about his girls.  About what it was like, how he knew he would be able to take Rosemary without hurting her.  He knew Mother had given her the training books, was talking with her about what would happen on her birthday.  He also knew that Longbottom had agreed to move in with them for a while, even before Sarah's birthday, so that they could get to know each other.  James had already written him, telling him exactly how careful he was to be with his little sister and what would happen to him if he wasn't, nevermind that James was seven years his junior.  If he had to he'd simply allow his magic to go free.  Longbottom wouldn't stand a chance against that.

It wouldn't be necessary.  He was almost certain.  The Longbottoms were a good family and Lady Longbottom was terrifying.  If she found out that her son had been anything less than the perfect gentleman there wouldn't be enough of him left for James to hurt.  Still, listening to Sarah worry and fret was almost enough to make him send another letter.  If he thought he'd be able to be even a little bit aroused when faced with his sister's uncovered body he would have gone straight to Mother to convince her that it was necessary to be less than brotherly just this one time, to ensure Sarah's coming of age was pleasurable and with someone she trusted inherently.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how he thought of it), swimming in one of the ponds on the grounds made it quite obvious that he had absolutely no interest in her that way.  The mere thought of Rosemary's smooth, tight bum, with her folds just barely visible after she'd been healed, was enough to make him retreat to his rooms.  Sarah, wet and completely nude and rubbing against him as they tried to push each other beneath the water, didn't even make him twitch.

So he found himself telling her everything he could about what it felt like for him.  What he planned to do to ensure Rosemary was taken care of.  How she shouldn't be afraid to tell Longbottom that she wasn't ready or didn't like something or wanted to stop.  Things he knew were in her books, but said anyway, just to hopefully make her a little less nervous.  He also spent some of his time with Wendy gently prodding, trying to find out how much Mother had told her and how she felt about it.  She was the age he was when Father had given him the first of his training books, but James didn't think she was quite ready for that yet.  He made it a point to seek Mother out and tell her so.  As well as ask her to please wait to explain a witch's coming of age to Wendy until he could be there as well.  It wasn't traditional, was even a bit improper, for a boy to tell a girl about what she would be experiencing as she grew.  He didn't particularly care.  Luckily, neither did Mother.  If Wendy wasn't ready before the end of summer then the conversation could wait until Christmas.  She was still young, there was plenty of time for her to prepare.  And yes, if James still felt that Fabian Prewett was the best choice when his sister was nearing her birthday, they would ask the Prewetts' permission to have him educated at Linfred for the term.  The year, even, if Wendy wasn't yet comfortable enough with him.

Still, even with dueling with Father and talking with Mother and spending time with his sisters, the week went slowly.  James found himself outside the nursery several times, once even attempted to go in.  Hatty had pushed him back with house elf magic.  It was the first time she'd used magic on him since he was a small child, and had nearly fallen out of a tree because he was running from his bath.  She had been apologetic ("Hatty is sorry, Master James, but you is not to be going into the nursery."), but there was still a part of him that was hurt over it.  Even if he did understand why she'd done it.

Which was why he was shocked into stillness when she came to his rooms in the Heir Wing the night before his punishment was over, and brought Rosemary to him.

"Jamie!" Rosemary shouted, running to him and leaping onto his lap.  "I missed you!  Hatty gave me the doll you sent, he looks just like you!  She said you tried to visit, but couldn't because you were still punished.  Please don't get punished again, Jamie, I missed you too much."  She was peppering kisses all over his face as she spoke, ending with his lips, harder and more desperate than he was expecting.  When she calmed, snuggling into him with her head resting against his chest, he turned to Hatty.

"Does Father know?"  He had to ask.  Didn't want to, didn't want to risk an answer he wouldn't like, but he knew he had to.  He was a Potter and he was going to be a Gryffindor and he knew those things meant he had to ask.

"Master Potter is telling Hatty to bring Mistress Rosemary to Master James when Master James is being done with his punishment," Hatty said. 

James closed his eyes, trying to force himself to say what a Potter and a Gryffindor would say next.  "Father hasn't said my punishment is over yet.  The week isn't done until tomorrow."  That he was clutching Rosemary tighter, one hand tangling in her hair to press her head closer to his chest while the other wrapped securely around his waist was irrelevant.  If he had to he could let her go for one more night.  He could.  He had to.  Because he was a Potter and a Gryffindor and all that rot that he really wished he wasn't right at this particular moment.

"What Master Potter is not knowing is not being hurting him."  And then Hatty popped out, leaving James gaping.

He tried to force himself to his feet.  Tried to take Rosemary back to the nursery and himself to his father where he could apologise for breaking the rules, no matter how unintentionally.  He did try.  Honestly.  But then Rosemary was kissing him, soft and slow and sweet, making them both hum and sigh.  And when she pulled back, resting her forehead against his, she said, "Jamie?  I want to try what you were doing with Rebecca.  Please?"  And James knew she would never be going anywhere but his rooms again, if he had anything to say about it.

He kissed her back, a bit deeper than before, running his hand up and down her spine and pressing her tight against him.  Asked if she was sure, if she knew what she was asking, if she was at all nervous or unsure or afraid.  Felt his heart stutter when she blushed and nodded and told him that Hatty had shown her books about what it was and how it could be.  Then she was kissing him again, wrapping her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck when he stood, so that he could carry her to the bedroom.

James placed her on the bed carefully, so carefully, almost frightened she would break.  She was so small.  He thought he might have forgotten how small, after a week with Sarah and Wendy.  A foot shorter than him, maybe a bit more, shorter even than Wendy who was half a year younger.  She looked the picture of purity and innocence, in a white nightdress and a large white bow in her hair.   James couldn't wait to see her with her lips swollen from kissing, hair tumbling from its ribbon, and eyes glazed with desire.  He found himself kissing her hard, moving them both further up the bed, until Rosemary's hands were clutching tightly to the back of his head as he sucked lightly on her neck.  It was her whimpers that brought him back to himself, the way she sounded far more on edge than he wanted her to be.

"I'm sorry," he said, gathering himself as he rested his forehead against hers.  "That was too fast.  I just...I'll slow down now."  He didn't wait for her response, instead kissing her slowly, savouring every sigh and hum.  She was relaxing, slowly, as was he, both enjoying their soft, lazy kisses.

When Rosemary started moving slowly against him, her legs parting just a little as she pressed herself closer to him, James started kissing his way down her neck.  He was gentle, just the lightest licks and presses of his lips, sucking softly when he got to the juncture of her shoulder.  He carefully exposed her shoulder, the sight of even that much newly uncovered skin making him throb just slightly.  Rosemary was sighing almost constantly now, gasping whenever he found a more sensitive spot on her body.  He loved the way she arched her neck, urging him where she wanted without needing to say a word.  He gave her what she asked for, suckling his way back up her neck before slowly making his way across her throat to the other side.  When he sucked just a touch harder on the newly explored skin she clutched at his hair, pressing him closer to her as she moaned.

It was torture, this slow teasing, when half of him wanted to simply tear off her nightdress and plunge himself inside her.  She was perfection, all soft sighs and wanting gasps, her eyes closed and lips parted just slightly as he took a moment to look down at her.  He wanted to defile her, use her, ram himself into her so that she was riding him with her nightdress hiked to her waist.  He also wanted to protect her, take her slow and soft so that he was forever imprinted on her mind.  Wanted her to think of him when she learned to touch herself.  When she went back to the muggle world and allowed her first muggle boyfriend inside her.  Wanted her to always want him, always remember his hands and mouth as much as his cock, even when her future muggle husband was buried deep inside her.

He wanted the second more.  He would have years to use her, years with her existing solely for his pleasure, until he decided he was too old or too interested in other girls to need a muggle toy any longer.  He would only have one chance to sear himself into her mind, ensure she was never able to be fully satisfied without him.  So he went slow.

Slow and teasing and torturous for both of them.  Taking care to wait until she was nearly begging before gently pulling her nightdress down just the slightest bit further.  He kissed and suckled and lightly ran his fingers up her sides and through her hair, never allowing his mouth further than the neckline of her nightdress would allow.  Until finally, finally finally finally, he sat her up and lifted it off her.  Presenting himself with yet another image of perfection.

She was pale, even more than her sister, with none of the fading tan lines he expected of a girl who had spent the first years of her life helping with muggle chores.  Her skin was smooth, soft when he was unable to keep himself from running his hands over her back and down her bum as he kissed her and pulled her into his lap.  She had none off the signs of emerging womanhood Rebecca did, no slight swelling at her chest or light covering of downy hair on her mound.  Only pale skin, with the lightest smattering of freckles around her collarbone, and soft, strawberry blonde curls that James tangled his fingers in as he kissed her.

He took his time, no longer in any rush.  She was perfect, warm and soft and gasping as he just barely brushed her nipples with his thumbs, and he would do absolutely nothing to harm the surprised joy on her face as he taught her what her body could feel.  He kissed everywhere he could reach, neck and shoulders and chest.  Slow, teasing, just enough to spark her senses, make her aware of herself and what he was doing to her.  When she began rocking slowly against him he pressed lightly on her bum, lifting her gently until she was on her knees and he could mouth at her nipples.

They were sensitive, so much so that she whimpered softly and bucked against him when he teased them with the tip of his tongue.  He soon found that he liked it, liked making her squirm and clasp his head to her.  He managed to draw out her first true moan, surprised and just this side of desperate, when he gently nipped at her, more a touch of his teeth than anything.

That appeared to be her limit.  She drew back, sitting again so she could wrap her legs around his waist and kiss him, arms wrapped tight around his neck, hands grabbing his hair.  When she released him it was to scrabble at his robes, trying and failing to open the front clasps.  He laughed lightly, stilling her hands and kissing her when she pouted.

"Shh, here," James quickly stood shucked off his robes, leaving himself as bare as Rosemary as he'd taken to forgoing undergarments after he'd first had her sister.  "Better?" he asked, suddenly feeling oddly shy as he waited for her approval.

She nodded, reaching for him and sighing into his mouth when he kissed her.   He gently laid her back, groaning softly when she was spread out beneath him, blush spreading down her chest as he looked at her.  He resumed his slow mapping of her body, working his way from her neck to her chest, suckling and kissing, trying desperately to memorise each spot that made her sigh or gasp.  By the time he made it down her stomach she was writhing, legs spread instinctively, whimpering as she looked down at him.

James wanted to tease her more.  Wanted to kiss her thighs, lick at the creases where her leg and body met, make her beg for more.  He also found he couldn't bring himself to deny her any longer, not when she was looking at him with parted lips and glassy eyes.  Later, when she knew what to ask for, then he would tease her.  For now he nuzzled softly at her centre, inhaling her scent before carefully parting her lips and slowly circling her clit with his tongue.

Her surprised gasp as her body went rigid, before pressing his face hard against her went straight to his groin.  He groaned, pressing the flat of his tongue directly to her and discovering that in this way she was not at all like her sister.  Where Rebecca hissed and pulled away when he stimulated her directly, Rosemary moaned and tugged his hair, urging him on.  He soon found himself sucking gently on her, trying to be mindful of his teeth while also giving her what she wanted.  She was babbling now, a stream of "yes, please, more, Jamie, so good", the combination of her hands clutching him, pressing him tighter against her, and her increasingly loud pleas making him moan around her clit.  She was close, he could tell, thrusting her hips and pulling his hair so hard it hurt in the most wonderful way, but for all his practice with Rebbecca, he couldn't seem to quite get her there.

He tried moving, forcing himself to ignore the way she cried out at the loss of him, tilting her hips up slightly so he could lap at her entrance.  It made her gasp, sigh, then whimper in frustration, but did little other than make her even more desperate.  Beginning to get a little frustrated himself, he moved back up, kissing her, apologising as he rubbed his fingers against her clit.  He found a rhythm and pressure that made her groan just as tears started forming in the corners of her eyes and set himself to it, determined to watch as she came for the first time.  His jaw was sore and his wrist was beginning to ache from the speed and angle he needed to stimulate her, but it was more than worth it when she gasped, eyes opening wide as her hips jerked against him, back arching off the bed before collapsing, sighing as he slowly rubbed soft circles around her.

He was still rubbing when she started to recover, enjoying how she didn't appear to be too sensitive for touch after she came the way Rebecca was.  He loved touching her.  Never wanted to stop.  The way she sighed and hummed before opening her eyes, a sleepy smile on her face, was just another perfect memory for him to store away.  He could feel her warming up again, murmuring against his lips as they kissed.  He was hard, aching, but found that he was still in no hurry just yet.  This sleepy, comfortable moment was too good to rush.  He'd never been able to experience anything like it with Rebecca, not with the way she liked to be taken, and he found that he quite liked it.

It was nice, kissing Rosemary.  Just kissing, soft and slow, as she wriggled and pulled at him until he was on top of her, his hips cradled between her legs.  He could feel the heat from her core against him, swore he could feel her heart beating against his chest.  She had his face in her hands, gently guiding their kisses.  James was surprised to find he rather liked it.  He hadn't thought he enjoyed not being in control, he never really had with Rebecca.  With Rosemary though it was less demanding, less her taking control than him deciding to temporarily give it to her.  

He was perfectly happy to do that, for now.  She was truly a wonderful kisser, despite her obvious inexperience.  If he didn't know better he'd have almost thought Rebecca had told her what he enjoyed.  Rebecca had never kissed like this though, had never been patient enough to appreciate the simplicity of sharing breath as their skin touched.  And when the kisses became more heated, when Rosemary's hips started rocking against his, he simply took back control.  There was no resistance, not even a whimper when he carefully pulled back so that he could watch her face as he slipped a hand between them and gently pressed his fingertip against her entrance.  It was a bit fumbling, James needing to glance down and start slowly rubbing her clit with his thumb before she was ready to accept even a single finger inside of her.  The shock on her face was worth it though, especially when he found the spot just inside that made her gasp, eyes wide as she clutched at his shoulders.

There was a bit more fumbling, a bit of shuffling as he found a position where he could both kiss and gently prepare her.  It took less time than he expected for Rosemary to start moaning again, pressing herself onto his finger.  When he carefully added a second, and then a third, she groaned, pushing herself harder against him.  He wanted desperately to take her like this, have her beneath him as he felt her body shift and stretch to accommodate him, but more than that he wanted to be able to kiss her while they moved together and with how small she was the two couldn't easily be done at the same time.

Instead he carefully withdrew his fingers, feeling himself pulse when she whimpered, and moved to sit against his headboard, with Rosemary in his lap.  "Are you sure?" he asked one more time, as he held himself against her entrance.  Her response was to lower herself onto him, eyes opening wide at the new sensation.

It was all James could do to keep watching her as she slowly took more of him inside her.  The feel of her body around him was almost more than he could handle, hot and wet and so tight he worried that she might be in pain.  That last thought was what kept him looking at her, watching her face for the slightest hint of discomfort.

She didn't appear to be feeling any.  Her eyes were glazed over with desire, lips parted and panting as she continued to stretch herself.  It was slow, maddeningly slow, Rosemary raising herself up before sliding down just a fraction more.  He was couldn't decide which was better, the feel of her body opening for him or the image of her, rumpled and debauched and wanting, as she moved.  Her hair was cascading down her back, bow having been lost at some unknown time earlier, and her lips were glossy and swollen from being kissed.  There was a lovely flush to her cheeks and chest, from desire now rather than embarrassment.   James had the sudden thought that he was going to enjoy one day seeing that same flush spread across the tops of her breasts.

It was at that moment that she took the last of him inside her, moaning when their groins pressed together then falling forward against his chest.  He gave her a moment, finding himself better capable of patience now that she was seated against him, taking the time to rub his hands along her back and kiss her shoulders and neck.  She was better than he had ever imagined, far better than her sister despite her complete lack of experience.  Where Rebecca was demanding, hard, controlling despite her desperation to be dominated, Rosemary was soft, a warm pile of girl in his arms, seemingly perfectly attuned to him.  She kissed him, needy and whimpering against his lips, urging him toward what she wanted even as she allowed him to gently rock her hips, forcing them both to savour the new feeling of their bodies moving together.

And when he ceded control, slipping a hand between them to carefully massage her clit, she sighed, moving just enough harder against him to slowly build their desire.  It was a gentle, perfect build, a haze of sighs and gasps.  James found himself groaning, lower in his chest than he knew he could reach, as Rosemary sucked softly at his neck.  When she came it was quiet, a muzzy fog of sensation washing over her as she pulsed deep inside.  James watched her, groaning softly at the feel of her body grasping him even tighter.  She was beautiful, her back arched and head thrown back as she used his shoulders for leverage to continue moving against him.  Her lips were parted, though she made no noise until he lowered his head to suck lightly on one of her nipples, drawing a gasp and hard thrust of her hips.

Even after, when she had fallen against his chest and was nuzzling into him, a sated smile on her face, her hips continued to move, just barely stimulating the underside of her clit.  He stilled her, needing a bit of space to collect himself, ensure he wouldn't finish before he was ready.  There was still more he wanted to do, more he wanted her to remember when thinking of him.  She pouted, trying once to move in his hands before she was distracted by him trailing kisses up her neck.  

It was difficult, keeping his movements soft and gentle, but James found that it was worth it.  Worth the way she looked at him, eyes shining with trust and happiness.  He carefully rearranged them, laying Rosemary back so that she was beneath him, her legs instinctively drawing up to cradle him between her knees.  It was a touch awkward, the top of her head reaching somewhere around the bottom of his chin when he was resting on his forearms.  He almost sat them back up, not liking the loss of her skin pressed against his.  Then she reached up to wrap her arms around his neck, pulling him down to kiss her as she locked her legs around his waist.  Her contented hum when she was able to press him just that much deeper inside her made him moan into her mouth, hips jerking forward even more.

She was tighter this way, somehow.  He found that he had to go slowly, just to ensure he stayed in control of himself.  He could feel every small pulse and throb as he edged her closer to yet another orgasm.  A small shift had him rubbing against the underside of her clit with every thrust, making her gasp.  He teased her, teased them both really, enjoying the way her body clutched at him as he dragged just slightly out of her.  The way she moulded to him, so that he felt her opening all over again when he pressed forward.  They fell into a rhythm, a private symphony of gasp sigh touch.  James felt the rest of the world fall away, his entire focus settling on Rosemary's body beneath him.  He learnt her, the pace and pressure that made her cry out.  Built her up so that she was whimpering, tears of frustration in her eyes, before he allowed her to finish, digging her fingers into his back and pressing her face into his shoulder as she tightened even further around him.

It was enough to make him lose what little control he had left.  James didn't wait for her to recover, couldn't even wait for her to finish pulsing around him.  He simply flipped her over and drove himself hard inside her cunt, making her gasp at the sensation of being filled so suddenly.  He pushed Rosemary's head onto the mattress, only barely remembering to be gentle enough to not frighten her.  From this angle he was plunging even deeper into her, something that brought forth a steady stream of oh please Jamie more yes.  He wished he had the patience to better enjoy the view of her pussy stretched tight around his cock, her body shaking with each thrust.  As it was he only just managed to rub hard at her clit, so that she came again a moment before he did.

When he was able to think clearly again he was on his back, Rosemary laying on top of him, both of them still somewhat breathless.  She barely responded when he moved so that they were sitting against the headboard again, simply looping her arms around his neck to cuddle against him.  He smiled, stroking her hair as he called Hatty to bring them food and water.  It was easy to feel every second of the two year difference between them at this moment, when she was sleepy and sated and trusting that he'd take care of her.  James found he almost felt ashamed, as though he'd take advantage of Wendy, until Rosemary kissed him softly, murmuring, "Thank you" against his lips before resting her head on his shoulder again.

They had almost fallen asleep when Hatty arrived, for all that it had only been a few moments.  James reached for the water first, pressing a glass to Rosemary's lips until she drank.  He fed her, chocolate and fruit and amuse-bouche, noting with amusement that everything Hatty had brought was bite-sized and easily fed to one another.  She clearly had a soft spot for Rosemary, never having gone to the same trouble for her older sister.  He had to admit, he rather agreed, now that he'd had both and seen just how superior the younger girl was.  Even had he not been upset with Rebecca, he thought he would still prefer Rosemary.  She complimented him, in a way her sister simply wasn't capable of.  Oh, he'd keep them both for the time being, who knew how his tastes would change once he got to Hogwarts.  But for now, Rosemary was definitely his favourite.

Chapter Text

On the morning of September 1st James found himself torn between excitement and an odd sense of loss he couldn't place.  He was going to Hogwarts, finally entering a larger part of magical society.  The night before he'd had a celebratory dinner with his family, Longbottom returning home for the week to give the Potters time alone before James went off to school.  Before he left he'd taken James aside to give him a list of the best places near Gryffindor tower to take a girl if you were worried about being back before curfew.  Called it a thank you gift for trusting him with Sarah.  It almost made up for Father refusing to pass down his invisibility cloak, insisting that it was improper for him to have it before he'd found his future wife and was officially the Potter heir.  As James had no brothers he found that a rather flimsy excuse.

Sarah and Wendy had had gifts for him as well.  Drawings from Wendy, of Linfred and her and James and Sarah.  A photo album from Sarah, filled with pictures of the family, starting with when she and Wendy had first arrived.  "So you don't get homesick," she said.  "I wanted to put in pictures of your girls too, but Mother still says it's inappropriate for them to be around young ladies who haven't had their coming of age yet."

She was right, of course, but a part of him still worried about Rosemary being lonely while he was gone.  Rebecca had arrived the same night Longbottom left, as well as her governess.  James hadn't seen her, but knew that the sisters visited when he was away from his rooms, at least as much as their governesses would allow.  He had decided to keep both of the girls' governesses, as he wanted Rosemary to stay in his rooms while he was at school.  It seemed cruel to move her, when they were almost all she knew of Linfred.  The castle even seemed to approve, extra rooms appearing in his suite the morning after he'd first taken Rosemary. 

As well, he was concerned about how well his girls were getting along.  Rosemary hadn't said anything, not when he found himself addicted to making her moan, but she had been rather more clingy since Rebecca's return.  Always slightly sulky when he came back to his rooms after they had been visiting.  He had tried asking, but Rosemary had simply shaken her head and climbed into his lap, pressing herself close to him until he was desperate for her.  It was quite a successful tactic for avoiding a conversation, much as James didn't like to admit it.

Now they were kissing again, Rosemary in his arms with her back against the wall next to the floo.  He was late, was supposed to have followed his parents straight to The Leaky Cauldron.  He had already said his goodbyes, the night before and again this morning before breakfast, Rosemary gasping in his ear as she came.  Had had her again at lunch, his Father simply smiling fondly when he excused himself early.  Still, he couldn't seem to bring himself to leave without having her one last time.  It was fast, rough, harder than he usually liked to be with her, but with his parents waiting for him he didn't have other options.  He needed to feel her throbbing around him.  When she did, tugging his hair painfully and pulling his own release from him, he kissed her softly and set her down.  James wished he had the time to soothe her through the aftershocks as he usually did, gently stroking her back and hair until she came to herself again.  Instead he tucked himself back into his robes and called for Hatty, his last sight of Linfred the two of them popping back to his rooms.  It was the first time she'd been out of them since the night she'd asked him to take her.

Hogwarts was exactly as he'd expected.  He was Sorted into Gryffindor, of course, the Hat barely needing to touch his head before confirming what everyone already knew.  Potters always Sorted Gryffindor and likely always would.  He was concerned, the first night, that he wouldn't be able to sleep by himself.  He hadn't since his birthday, the week away from Rosemary instead being spent in alternating spurts of sleeplessness and exhaustion-induced stupor.  Then Marlene McKinnon crawled into his bed, her nightdress already stripped off.

"Mother told me I should try you first," she said, "because you'll be too busy once the other girls find out that Potters are gifted in more than magic."

James didn't answer, instead pulling her against him and sucking on her breast.  It was strange, after Rosemary, to be with a girl as well developed as McKinnon.  She was taller than him, even, and her hips and breasts were already starting to give her generous curves.

She was also quite the screamer, as James discovered when he made his way between her legs, lapping gently at her clit.  It was almost like being with Rebecca again, hard and demanding.  The difference was that while Rebecca wanted him to use her, McKinnon quite clearly thought she was in charge.  She held his face against her, thrusting up into his mouth and moaning a steady stream of orders (most of which he ignored).  "Yes, harder, faster, right there, that's it, fuck me hard, that's a good boy."

He didn't like it.  He allowed her to orgasm once before flipping her over, driving himself into her cunt and fucking her, fast and rough, using her hips for leverage to slam into her until he came.  That she happened to enjoy it enough to finish again wasn't important to him, not after she'd used his mouth so thoroughly.

"No, thanks," he said, when she recovered and started to mouth at his cock.  "Try Black next, I think you'll like each other."  Sirius had mentioned on the train that he'd had to teach his first girl to scream for him.  He certainly wouldn't have that problem with McKinnon.

After that Hogwarts was a haze of girls.  He fucked every first and second year Pureblood in Gryffindor, only slightly disappointed when he was uninterested in having any of them a second time (not that that had stopped him).  Father hadn't been interested in Mother until their fourth year, despite their having fucked many times before that, to relieve tension when no one else was available.  He thought he might see if he could strike up a similar arrangement with Alice Prince.  She was a sweet girl, enough that he could see himself becoming more interested in her with time.  They weren't incompatible, really, Alice had even kissed his cheek after and told him he was much better than the other boys.  He simply found her a bit boring.  As though something fundamental was missing.

Truly who he wanted was Lily Evans, a stunning Muggleborn girl with flowing red hair and the most hypnotic green eyes he'd ever seen.  She, however, was still unaware of what happened at night and in quiet corners of Hogwarts, as were all the other first year Muggleborns.  It was an unspoken rule to play only with other Purebloods and known half-bloods before taking the risk of a Muggleborn running to their parents -- especially Muggleborn girls.  The Obliviators didn't like having to do extra work.

Which was why, when James stepped out of the floo on the first day of winter hols, he was delighted to see Rosemary standing in front of the tree, wearing a white velvet dress with red sash around the waist and red hair bow.  He kissed her softly before laying her down on the rug in front of the fireplace and nearly diving beneath her skirt, desperate to taste her.

She was perfect, even more so after three months of girls he couldn't summon more than a passing interest in.  He licked and sucked her clit, gently working his fingers into her.  It felt as though she was a virgin all over again, her body no longer accustomed to being filled at nearly all times.  James thought he should probably go slow, probably take more time to enjoy the taste of her skin and the feel of her hands tangling in his hair.  He also knew that if he wasn't inside her soon he'd finish in his robes like an untouched little boy.

Rosemary tugging at his hair, drawing him up to kiss her made the choice that much easier.  She was scrabbling at his robes again, pushing them off his shoulders so she could press her hands into his skin.  Groaning softly as she drew him closer to her, he pushed his robes out of the way and sank into her.  Both of them stilled for a moment, foreheads touching as they adjusted to the feel of being together after three months.  Rosemary was smiling, sighing as he shifted his hips slightly, moving to a more comfortable position.

"I missed you," she whispered.

James smiled, kissing her gently before slowly beginning to rock against her.  He'd rather missed her too, though he hadn't realised it until just this moment.

It was over faster than he'd have liked, nearly too fast for him to ensure Rosemary wasn't left unsatisfied.  He wished he had the control to tease her, draw out the sensation and pleasure for both of them.  Instead he found Rosemary's breath puffing against his ear as she sighed was far more erotic than it had been over the summer.  He only just held out long enough for her to reach a gentle peak, before the feel of her body triggered his own.

He stayed inside her, enjoying simply kissing her while they both recovered.  He thought he might have stayed there all night, or at least until they were ready for another round, had his robes not become uncomfortable.  Irritating things, school robes.  You'd think they'd be better built for fucking, what with finding spouses being half the reason most Purebloods sent their children to Hogwarts at all rather than simply hiring tutors.

Reluctantly, he pulled out, standing and helping Rosemary to arrange her dress before tucking himself back into his robes.  Her hair bow, which had nearly fallen out anyway, went into his pocket.  James thought she looked better with her hair loose and curling around her face, for all that he enjoyed destroying the picture of innocence she presented when it was tied up.

That was when he finally noticed Rebecca.  She, too, was standing next to the tree, clearly having been there the entire time.  James wasn't quite sure how he had missed her.  Her outfit complemented her sister's, a red dress with white ribbon under her newly emerging bust and her hair tied up with a white bow.  Her expression, however, was what caught him.  For just a split second he saw her glaring at Rosemary, jealousy and loathing sparking in her eyes before she looked up at him with an eager smile.

"James!" she said, still not seeming to realise the danger of pressing herself against him.  "I'm so happy you're home!"  She pressed her lips against his, frowning when he jerked back.  "Don't I get a kiss too?  I haven't seen you since June, after all."

James stepped back, holding Rosemary's hand in his.  "I was getting to know Rosemary."  He smiled down at the girl, enjoying the way her eyes lit up when he kissed her forehead.  Again Rebecca glared at her for just a moment when she thought he wasn't looking.  "It was only fair, after I spent all that time with you after my birthday."

"Well, you've spent three whole months with her now, and only two with me."  Rebecca moved forward again, taking his other hand.  "So now it's my turn right?  Rosemary can go stay with her governess, can't you Rosemary?"

Rosemary looked between him and her sister, chewing on her lip before lowering her head and starting to move away.

"No."  James held onto Rosemary's hand, pulling her into his side so he could wrap his arm around her.  "I like having Rosemary around.  If you want to stay with us you'll have to learn to share."  Truthfully, he had no interest in sharing his rooms with Rebecca, but after three months of Hogwarts he was slightly concerned that Rosemary wouldn't be able to keep up with him.  If nothing else, her sister was always a guaranteed fuck.

"Fine," Rebecca said, sulking slightly.  "But it's not fair, I should get as much time with you as she does."

James shrugged.  "If you don't like it you don't have to stay."  He started to call for Hatty, then stopped when Rosemary tugged on his robes.  "Yes?" he said, frowning when he saw that she looked nearly frightened, though it was clear she was trying to keep her face blank.

"She was mean to me," Rosemary whispered, then ducked her head into his robes.

"I was not!"  

James ignored Rebecca's outraged denial, instead pulling away from her to kneel in front of Rosemary.  "Was she really?  I'll be upset if you lie."  He doubted that she would, doubted that she'd need to, but there was always a chance that she was simply as jealous as her big sister.

Rosemary looked down at him with big, tear-filled eyes.  "I'm not lying, I promise.  You can ask Hatty, she did something so that Rebecca couldn't come into your room anymore."

That alone was enough to convince him.  Hatty would never keep one of his girls out of his rooms without good reason.  Still, he called for his elf, if only to find out what it was Rebecca could have done to warrant such an extreme measure.

Hatty launched herself at Rebecca the moment she saw her, pining her to the wall with magic.  "Nasty muggle is not to be going near Mistress Rosemary!" she cried.

"Hatty!" James shouted, when he had recovered enough from his shock, "Let her go this instant!"

The elf didn't even look at him, something she hadn't done since he was a small child, too young to be obeyed by anyone.  "Hatty was thinking the muggle girl is being good for Master James," she was saying.  "Hatty was thinking she is a nice girl for Master James to practice with.  Hatty is not liking being wrong, but Hatty is admitting that she is being wrong about the nasty muggle."

"Hatty!  Let Rebecca go right now or I will have to give you clothes!"  James tried again, hoping desperately that he wouldn't have to call his father.  Hatty had raised him, was in some ways closer to him than his parents.  Bloody fuck, what could anyone do to make a house elf this angry?

Luckily, Hatty relented, leaving Rebecca shaking in fear as she turned to James.  "Hatty is not saying she is sorry."

"Ok," James said, hoping to soothe her enough to talk to him.  He paused for a moment to look at Rosemary, who was clinging to him with tears in her eyes, staring fearfully at Hatty.  "Could you at least tell Rosemary you won't hurt her?  Please?"

"Oh!"  Hatty rushed to Rosemary, pulling back when she flinched.  "Hatty is not meaning to make Mistress Rosemary frightened!  Hatty is being sorry, Hatty would never hurt Master James' Rosemary.  Not even if Mistress Rosemary is kicking Master James between his legs."

"Hey!" James protested, relaxing slightly when Rosemary smiled.  "I thought I was your favourite!"

Hatty smiled mischievously at him.  "Hatty is thinking Mistress Rosemary is only kicking Master James if Master James is deserving it."

James laughed, "Alright, that's ok, I guess."  He sobered quickly, seeing Rebecca still cowering by the tree.  "Hatty, why are you so angry at Rebecca?"

She snarled, actually snarled, like a wild animal, and suddenly James understood why his parents had warned him so often to never, ever go near a house elf who hadn't been bound.  "Hatty is going to Master James' rooms after the nasty muggle is visiting Mistress Rosemary.  Mistress Rosemary is being crying and looking like she is being hurt.  When Hatty is convincing Mistress Rosemary to let Hatty look, she is having bruises all over."  Hatty threw a glare over her shoulder at Rebecca, her fingers flexing as though readying to pin her to the wall again.  "Hatty is watching Mistress Rosemary with her governess, but the governess is not hurting Mistress Rosemary."  She paused, looking up at James.  "Mistress Rosemary's governess is being a good squib, giving Mistress Rosemary biscuits and hugs and teaching her muggle things.  Is the nasty muggle who is being hurting Mistress Rosemary, Hatty is seeing her.  The nasty muggle is pinching and kicking Mistress Rosemary when the nasty muggle is visiting, and telling Mistress Rosemary not to be telling or the nasty muggle is hurting her worse."

A hot wind blew  through the room and James took a deep breath to calm himself, refusing to have Rosemary taken away when he only had a short time with her.  "Is that true?" he asked, "Was Rebecca hurting you while I was at school?"  She had been, of course, Hatty was incapable of lying to him, but he needed to see Rosemary accept it.  He was hoping it would make it easier when he had Rebecca sent away for good.

Rosemary hesitated for a moment, looking at her sister, before nodding and sobbing into his robes.  She had grown while he was away, just enough to be able to cry into his shoulder.  He wished he hadn't had to notice something so small, but still so important, because her sister had been abusing her.

"Why?" he asked, afraid to look at Rebecca in case he lost what little control he had over his magic.

------------- TRIGGER WARNING STARTS HERE --------------



"Because I hate her!" she shouted, lunging for them only for Hatty to press her back against the wall.  "She's a stupid little baby!  I had to -- to be with all of those horrid men because she was too little to help!  I was younger than her the first time Mrs Morris locked me in a room with one of them!  You know what he did, Rosemary?  He made me suck his cock, then slapped me when I cried.   And he wasn't the only one, remember?  Do you remember all those times when Mrs Morris sent you away?  That was when the men would come.  You were playing outside the first time her husband forced himself inside me.  I could hear you laughing while he licked me.  He wanted me to like it, and the worst part is I did.  You were right outside the window, skipping rope with the other girls.  I was afraid you'd hear me crying, hear him make me beg for his cock.  Made me tell him how much I wanted him inside me, how I was going to be his whore.  It felt so good too, not like with the men who came after.  He played with me so much, made me feel so empty that I really did want to feel him filling me up like a dirty little slut.  I screamed so loud you finally heard me, remember?  Remember asking the other girls what the sound was when I came on his cock?  When I was your age I had to take three of them at once, swallow their disgusting slime and feel it running out of my arse and fanny.  It was terrible, especially when they made me want it.  Made me crave how they made me feel when they fucked me.  And did precious Rosemary ever have to help?  No, of course not.  Because Mrs Morris said you were my little sister and didn't I want to protect my sweet, innocent baby sister?"  She glared, fighting against Hatty's magic.  "No!  I didn't!  I wanted you to help!  I wanted you to know how it felt to want something you hated!  It wasn't fair!  You should have been the one to suck Mr Gardner's cock, he was your teacher!  And then, when something good finally happened, I couldn't even have it all to myself!  You don't deserve any of this!  You're the reason Mum left us at that orphanage to begin with!  Everything was fine, we were happy!  Then you had to go and get sick and make Ta leave!  I hate you!  I wish you were never --"



---------------- END TRIGGER WARNING ----------------

She cut off, James' control finally slipping at the thought of Rosemary not existing.  He only just managed to pull it back before it did more than seal Rebecca's lips closed.  "Hatty," he whispered, still unsure of just how well his magic was restrained, "take us to my rooms please, and then get Father."

"That won't be necessary."  James' head shot up when he heard Fleamont's voice, pulling Rosemary tighter against him when he saw his family gathered in the doorway to the entry room.  Wendy was crying into their mother's robes, her body shaking hard enough that James would have run to her if he hadn't already had his arms full with Rosemary.  Sarah simply looked stunned.

"I'm sorry, I tried, honest," James babbled, "please don't take Rosemary away again, not now, not after --"

"Shh," Fleamont cut him off, slowly walking toward him with his hands raised.  "I know.  We came when we heard the shouting."  He put his hands on James' shoulders and kissed the top of his head, moving away when Rosemary whimpered.  "I'm very proud of you, son.  That was far more control than anyone could have expected from a wizard your age."  He turned to Hatty.  "Please take the girl to her governess until we decide what to do with her.  And Hatty," he warned, seeing the elf's expression, "you are not to harm or frighten her in any way."

Hatty hmph'd before snapping her fingers and popping them away, allowing James to relax the stranglehold on his magic.  Then he was left with Rosemary, still sobbing into his robes, and his family, most of them seeming still somewhat in shock.  He tried to ignore them, instead focusing on Rosemary.  Suddenly he felt even more responsible for her than he already had.  It was terrifying, knowing that he was all she had left in the world.  That when she returned to the muggle world she wouldn't even have a sister.  He hadn't realised how much it comforted him to know that she wouldn't be alone until it was no longer the case.

That, however, was a problem for later.  James tried to shake the thought off, promising himself that he would find a way to ensure she had someone with her when the time came, even if it meant venturing into the muggle world himself until she was settled.  In the meantime, he lifted her head from his robes, pulling out his handkerchief to wipe the tears from her face before kissing her slowly, until she calmed enough to wrap her arms around his neck.

"You," he said, "deserve to be here.  More than Rebecca, because I like you better."  He couldn't say anything about the other horrible things Rebecca had shouted.  For all he knew she was the reason they were abandoned.  He would find out, if only to punish the parents he had assumed were dead, but for now all he could do was reassure her on the one point he was certain of.

"Did Becca really have to do all those awful things because of me?"

Well.  That was one more thing he could answer.  "No."  He sighed, pulling her back against his chest, tucking her head beneath his chin.  "I don't know why that happened to her and not to you, but it wasn't your fault."  He looked at Wendy, peeking out at him from Mother's robes, hoping she knew he wasn't only speaking to Rosemary.  "Nothing that happened at the orphanage was your fault.  I promise."  He kissed the top of her head, closing his eyes and breathing in the scent of her hair.  It was different, like cinnamon instead of the seaside as it had been in summer.  Warm, comforting, so that he didn't notice the rest of the family leaving until Father touched his shoulder, making him startle.

"We need to decide what to do about Rebecca."

James hesitated, pulling Rosemary just a touch closer.  "Can we do it later?" he asked.  "I want to make sure Rosemary's alright."

"I'm ok," Rosemary whispered, though she didn't pull away from her position under his chin.  "Please.  I want to know about Becca."

He sighed.  That was exactly what he had been hoping to avoid.  There was no chance he was allowing Rebecca to stay at Linfred, or even another of the Potter properties.  He wanted her gone, out of Britain at least, preferably out of Europe.  Somewhere far, far away where she could never hope to find Rosemary again.  That would be harder to do when he was sure Rosemary would try to stand up for her sister.

Still he had to try.  He guided Rosemary to one of the armchairs in the corner of the room, pulling her into his lap.  It wasn't quite appropriate, not with Father there, but he couldn't bring himself to let her go just yet, even to sit next to him on the sofa.

"Can I assume you want her away from Linfred?"  Fleamont smiled at James, despite the seriousness of the situation.  No, keeping his girl so close wasn't something all Pureblood fathers would accept.  Wasn't even something Fleamont would accept, under normal circumstances.  It was inappropriate for a boy to be so intimate with an unrelated girl he wasn't betrothed to, no matter what they did in private.  Seeing how protectively James held her though, and how she trusted him so completely, well.  Given what she had just been through, he was willing to overlook it this once.

"I want her away from Britain."  James' voice was hard, determined, far more than Fleamont had expected.  He thought maybe he shouldn't be quite so surprised, not with the way James' magic had already lashed out at the muggle twice, but he still thought of his son as a child.  A small boy, really, who hadn't yet reached his coming of age.  Not a young wizard already off to Hogwarts, with a girl in need of his protection.

He considered.  There were fewer options outside Britain, unless he simply dropped the girl in front of another orphanage somewhere.  However, he was uncomfortable with that option and was sure his son would be as well.  She was their responsibility now, no matter how unsuitable she had turned out to be.  "The Crabbes have cousins in Germany," he offered, "I believe one of the younger boys will be reaching his coming of age soon."

James grimaced.  The Crabbes weren't known to be kind people, the German branch even less so than the English.  "No," he said, "I don't want her hurt, only away from Rosemary."

"Our mum went to New Zealand."

James blinked down at Rosemary, only barely having heard her.  "What?"

"New Zealand," she said.  "I asked once, when we were still new.  Rebecca said Mum had gone to New Zealand."

Fleamont frowned, not wanting to hurt the girl further, but also not wanting to keep her hopes up.  "Sweetheart, Rebecca might have only told you that so you would cease asking."  He didn't miss the way James glared at him, nor the tears forming in Rosemary's eyes when she looked at him.

"But she might've gone to New Zealand, right?  She can't still be in Cornwall, or she would have come to get us."

James kissed Rosemary's forehead, trying to pull her even closer to him.  "Yes, she might have," he said, glaring at his father again, "but she might not still be there.  Or she might have gone somewhere else and Rebecca just didn't know."

"Or she might be in Cornwall and just didn't want us," Rosemary whispered, not managing to keep a few tears from dropping.

"If she is then she's stupid," James said, ignoring the way his father frowned at him.  He'd say stupid if he bloody well pleased, especially about the woman who had abandoned Rosemary.  "And I'm glad that she left you for me, since she obviously doesn't deserve you."  He wiped her tears again, kissing the tip of her nose to make her smile.  It wasn't enough, he wasn't sure he'd ever feel he'd done enough to make up for the loss of the last of her family, but it was something.

"The Ollivanders have family in New Zealand," Fleamont said.  "I can ask if any of their boys are in need of a new girl."  He paused for a moment before asking, "She is acceptable in that regard, correct?  I'd hate to send her if she's only going to be trouble."

James shrugged.  "She was fine.  I don't like what she likes, but plenty of the boys in Gryffindor would have."  And plenty of them certainly would have.  He had actually been planning to gift her to one of them, before today.  Gideon, maybe, so that she and Rosemary could still visit.  Now he wasn't sure that New Zealand was far enough.

Fleamont nodded, standing up, but motioning for James to stay seated.  "It's settled then.  I shall write the Ollivanders immediately.  In the meantime, will the chateau outside Reims be far enough?"

"Yes, sir.  Thank you."  It wasn't as far as he'd like, but the property in Jaina required permission for a long-distance portkey.  It would be difficult enough for Father to procure one on short notice, let alone two.

"In that case, why don't you call Hatty to take you to your rooms?"  Fleamont smiled down at James.  For all that this was an unwelcome surprise on his first day home, Fleamont was happy to be able to see how carefully he took care of Rosemary.  It wasn't something he would have been able to witness otherwise, not without implying that he didn't trust his son.  "You are excused from meals until Christmas.  Spend some time with your girl, make sure she knows she's wanted."

That James could certainly do.  He had Hatty send them directly to his bed, kissing Rosemary the moment they arrived.  "Come on, let's lay down for a bit.  Hatty will wake us when it's time for dinner."

Rosemary simply nodded, allowing him to move them so they were on their sides, with James curled around her, not bothering to even take off his outer robes.  He was exhausted from his earlier magical outburst, and was sure Rosemary must be too, but she kept fidgeting, seemingly unable to get comfortable.  Finally she turned around, blushing as she looked at him.  "Can we..."  She bit her lip before starting again.  "Can we...not wear these?  I -- You're too far."

James smiled, kissing her before sitting up so he could take off her dress.  He had to stand to take off his school clothes and hesitated before getting back into the bed.  "Do you want pyjamas?  We don't --"  he started over, feeling unaccountably tongue-tied.  "We're only going to sleep.  I'm too tired for anything else."  He wasn't, not if the other option was having her again, but she had just lost her sister and realised her mother most likely truly had abandoned her.  He wasn't going to make her think she had to do anything more than rest.

"I like being close," she whispered, blushing again as she took his hand and pulled him onto the bed.  James kissed her once more, just enough to make her sigh.  Then he pulled her onto his chest, one of her legs wrapping around his waist, and stroked her hair until they fell asleep.

When he woke she was fully atop him, his cock pressing against her entrance as she slept.  He groaned softly, pushing himself slowly into her until the heat of her body woke him enough to realise what he was doing.  James swore quietly, reluctantly pulling himself out.  He was going to gently move her to the bed so he could go to the shower when he heard her murmur "more" against his chest.

"Are you sure?" he asked quietly.  He wanted her, was already throbbing against her, but he couldn't bring himself to take her in her sleep.  Taste her, wake her with the feel of his lips and tongue, but not enter her body when she couldn't tell him not to.  He wasn't quite sure why it bothered him, when she was there entirely to please him, but it did.  He wanted her willing, more than, really.  He wanted her to want him at least as much as he wanted her.  Which was why he was thrilled when she nodded sleepily against his chest, rolling her hips slowly against his.

He was able to go slowly now, moving them so she was under him again.  He liked this position, liked the way she looked up at him as he carefully slid into her.  Rosemary seemed to enjoy it too, smiling softly as she arched her neck, encouraging him to kiss her.

James had no objections to obliging her.  He realised, suddenly, that he hadn't kissed any of the girls at Hogwarts above their breasts.  Hadn't even considered it.  It hadn't seemed necessary, when they so enjoyed having him at their breasts and cunts.  Now, however, he found himself wondering why that was.  The smooth, pale column of Rosemary's neck was enough to make him throb, driving him to suck hard at the juncture of her neck and shoulder so that she cried out, her hands flying to clutch at his head.  It would leave a mark, he knew.  Even the lightest suckles left marks on her delicate skin.  He had always enjoyed it, making sure she always had at least one bite easily visible from beneath her dresses, and another in a place only he would see.  That the only other person to ever see her was her governess was beside the point.  Something about her drove him to claim her as his own, in a way he hadn't cared about with Rebecca.  He rather thought that might be how he eventually found his wife, when he wanted to mark her as much as he wanted to mark Rosemary.

For now though, there was no wife or even potential wife.  There was only his muggle, now his only muggle, tangling her fingers in his hair as he marked everywhere he could reach without having to pull out of her.  He tugged gently on her nipples with his teeth, loving the way it made her hips buck against his.  Nibbled her bottom lip as he kissed her, so that she moaned into his mouth.  Licked and sucked and kissed, losing himself in her reactions so that he didn't notice his own thrusts slowly becoming harder and faster until suddenly he was driving into her, panting as she tightened around him.  She was still clinging to him, arms wrapped around his back and neck while her hips worked against his, when he pushed himself deep inside her as he came.

Rosemary was smiling when he recovered enough to raise himself from her, wrapping her legs around his waist so that he couldn't move away completely.  "Stay," she whispered, lifting her head to kiss him.

James groaned quietly, his cock somehow managing to throb weakly where it was still nestled just inside her.  "I'm not too heavy?" he asked.

She shook her head.  "I like it.  It's nice.  Close."  James didn't think he'd ever tire of the way she blushed whenever admitting to enjoying something they did together.  None of the Pureblood girls blushed so prettily, not even Alice, who was the most shy even with being the oldest of the first years and so having had her boys nearly a year.  He hoped Rosemary never stopped.

So he stayed, kissing her gently until he started to harden again.  It didn't take long, never took long, with Rosemary.  They spent the remaining time before dinner moving slowly together, James no longer trying to move away from her in between.  Hatty brought them finger foods, as she had after the night their first night truly together, allowing him to keep Rosemary in his lap while  they fed each other.  He had her again that way, pressing close together so that the gentle rocking of their hips kept them constantly on edge.  It was new, this insistence on closeness.  Over the summer Rosemary had always been happy to have him any way he wanted, whether careful and gentle or rough and desperate.  James quickly found that he enjoyed it, enjoyed the slow crash of pleasure that washed over him when his focus was on the feel of her skin against his rather than the tight heat of her pussy.

In fact, he was almost disappointed when her need to always be near him waned.  Oh, he was more than happy to press her up against the wall of the shower.  Loved the way she felt even tighter when he bent her over her dressing table.  He wasn't complaining about anything to  do with Rosemary.  He just found himself missing the way she had wanted him to take care of her, in those first days after Rebecca was sent away.

Which was why he woke her up with his tongue on Christmas morning, licking around her clit until she was whimpering in her sleep.  It was something he hadn't done before, intentionally touching her when she couldn't object.  Rebecca had often woken him with her mouth around his cock, and James had been happy to return the favour.  But Rosemary was different, more shy.  As much as the idea had thrilled him, he hadn't wanted to risk scaring her, making her think he didn't care about having her permission.  Only the past week had given him the certainty that she trusted him inherently enough to take the gesture the way it was intended.

She was wonderful, even while she slept.  Responsive, even more than usual when she couldn't hold herself back.  She bucked her hips so forcefully when he sucked on her clit that he grabbed her arse, keeping her back slightly arched so that he could better taste her.  It was a lovely arse, tight and soft in his hands.  He wondered why he hadn't spent more time enjoying it before.  Then Rosemary gripped his hair, pressing him closer to her as she whimpered, and he was distracted.

The feel of her hands in his hair made him moan around her clit, drawing another slight thrust and surprised "oh!" from her in return.  He found himself grabbing her when she started to pull back, pressing her hands to his head until her fingers were tangled in his hair again.  There was something soothing about the way she gently rubbed circles on his scalp while he lapped at her entrance.  The sudden clenching of her fists when he teased the underside of her clit made his cock throb, enough that he rutted against the bed without thought.

But the best, the absolute best part of this small exchange of control, was when she pulled him away from her, dragging him up her body until she could kiss him, pressing herself against him until he slipped inside her.  He loved the feel of her, had since her first time.  James knew that eventually he would find a girl he liked being with more, maybe one of the half-bloods or muggleborns or a girl in another year or House.  Maybe even one of the girls he'd already had, who he'd like more as they got older.  But for right now, at this moment, he couldn't imagine enjoying anyone more than he did Rosemary.  Not when they fit so well together, her body seeming to wrap perfectly around his.

Especially like this, with her smiling up at him as he slowly teased them both.  He had enjoyed going slow with some of the other girls, Alice in particular.  Prince liked things gentle, romantic even, if they had been interested in each other that way.  They had spent the entirety of their Saturday together in his bed, lazily getting to know each other's bodies.

It had been nothing like this.  Nothing like the way he had to hold himself back when Rosemary sighed, eyes fluttering closed as he gently pressed forward, enjoying the sensation of her opening for him.  Alice had been sweet, was even becoming a good friend, someone he could talk to when he wanted a girl's opinion.  He could see himself spending more time with her, certainly.  But on Sunday morning, when she had kissed his cheek before returning to her room, he had almost been relieved.  She hadn't been bad, truly.  He even liked how vocal she was, enough a pureblood to moan easily despite her shyness.  She was exactly what he thought he should want in a girl, funny and smart and quite skilled with her mouth.  That didn't stop him from being oddly disappointed with her.

Possibly he just needed to try a muggleborn.  Half-blood, even.  Maybe it was the size, the way Rosemary was so small compared to pureblood girls.  Or the hesitance, the way even now, as he was moving inside her, she still blushed when he lowered his head to whisper how much he loved her pussy into her ear.  He thought it almost certainly had something to do with her hair.  He was fascinated by it, couldn't stop himself from pressing her head against his shoulder as she reached the point where he knew she needed to be taken just a bit faster.  In fact, the thought of Evans spread under him like this, her gorgeous red hair fanned around her head as her pussy started to throb, was nearly perfect.

Nearly.  It couldn't compete with Rosemary's cry as she came, her entire body tensing around him.  But then, Rosemary was right there in his bed, already building to another peak as he ground against her clit.  It was normal for him to care more about the girl in his arms than another he likely wouldn't be able to even consider having before spring.  Especially when the girl in his arms was writhing and whimpering, her cunt clenching around his cock as her body responded to their movements with increasing waves of pleasure.

It wasn't long before James was unable to hold back any longer, only a few minutes really, the sensation too much for him to take.  Still, Rosemary was already nearly incoherent, limp and panting under him.  He would have been frightened, had she not immediately nuzzled into his chest when he rolled them over, carefully easing out of her as the slowing contractions of her cunt became almost painful around his over-sensitive cock.

"Happy Christmas," he said, when his breath had slowed enough for him to speak.

Rosemary snuggled closer to him.  "Happy Christmas."



On the train back to Hogwarts James pulled Meadowes into an empty compartment.  She was good, immediately dropping to her knees to suck his cock, small enough that he was able to take her against the door with her legs wrapped around his waist.  Her cunt was tight, tighter even than Rosemary's, and she moaned loudly when he filled her.

When they were done he lowered her to the floor and tucked himself away, pulling back when she tried to kiss him.

By the time spring hols came around he'd had every first year pureblood and half-blood girl in Hogwarts.  Every last one, in all four Houses, even the half-bloods whose families didn't follow pureblood custom.  In fact, he had been the first to take every untouched half-blood girl in the school, finding himself enjoying the way he had to chase after them.  Convince them to write their parents, learn about the parts of magical culture that had been hidden from them.  Sirius had been nearly insufferable, teasing him about how quickly he was working his way through the student population.  Had even offered to show James what another wizard could do with his arse, "because only a pouf wouldn't like the cunts at Hogwarts".  Snape, the greasy little half-blood cousin of Prince's that was always hanging around Evans, said something similar.  James had hexed him for it, not caring that it earned him a detention and a stern letter from Father.  He'd accept teasing from Black, everyone knew that family had a twisted sense of humour.  He would not accept it from an uppity half-blood whose whore of a mother was notorious in pureblood circles.  

Eileen Prince was a warning to all pure and half-blood children, as much as Remus' parents were a reminder that muggles were as human as wizards.  Never, ever forget that you belong in magical society.  Do not be like the Prince girl, who forgot herself so much she was found in a muggle park, moaning around an unknown muggle's cock, while her boys fucked both of her holes.  James' father reminded him every single day he was home that he was to start on the potion the moment he became capable of fathering children, no matter how developed Rosemary was.  He knew Rosemary's governess reminded her of the same thing, that she couldn't be shy about becoming a woman, as it would be necessary to start her on those muggle pills as soon as possible.  He thought she might even check the sheets when he was at school, as an extra precaution.  

Children were a gift, even those with muggles.  James' own Great-Grandfather Hamish (who he was named for) was the son of his Great-Great-Grandfather Marc and Susan Watson, one of the girls Marc Potter was gifted for his coming of age.  Great-Great-Grandmother Ellinor was incapable of bearing children and had simply adopted all of Susan's for her own.  Hamish Potter was loved, cherished by all three of his parents, as were all of his many siblings.  James was proud to carry his name.  But an unplanned, unwanted child was why Elieen's son wasn't Severus Prince and would never inherit his grandfather's estate.

It was also why the professors turned away when James took to hexing the oily little mistake every time he got too close to Evans.  James had plans for her, plans that would be ruined if Snape somehow managed to get into her knickers first.  She was going to be the next Duchess Linfred, he was certain.  That she quite clearly loathed him with every fibre of her being was no matter.  James knew he was attractive and charming, when he wanted to be.  He would win her over, ideally before the end of the year.  And then she'd stop standing so bloody close to bloody Snape, who was her inferior in every possible way, and James could stop being scolded by Alice and Remus for hexing him.

"You are completely, barking mad."

"I am not!"  James forced himself not to cringe when his voice cracked, though he did shove Sirius for laughing.  "Father knew immediately when he wanted to marry Mother, and never looked at anyone after.  So did Grandfather and Great-Grandfather and Great-Great-Grandfather and generations of Potters.  I am going to marry Lily Evans."

Remus shook his head, looking almost pityingly at James.  They were on their way home for the spring hols and he had just finished telling them of his plans to take Lily when they returned to Hogwarts.  They were brilliant, if he did say so himself.

"James," Remus said, "Lily Evans wouldn't marry you if you were the last wizard in Britain."

Sirius laughed again.  "You're being too nice.  She wouldn't marry him if he was the last wizard in Europe."

"Close, but not quite," Alice said from the compartment door, letting herself in and sitting next to Remus.  "She wouldn't marry him if he was the last wizard in the world.  She told me so, yesterday."

"She was talking about me?!"  James grinned.  "Wonderful.  I'll have her by the end of the term, just you watch."

Alice groaned.  "Boys, honestly."

Rosemary was waiting for him again when he stepped out of the floo.  Her dress was sleeveless this time, with a skirt that appeared to float on its own, falling softly to her cover her feet.  He had to admit, she did look rather cute.

"Hello," he said, after he'd kissed her.  He had to bend down further than he had at Christmas, having had another growth spurt.  She was so small, her head not even quite coming to his shoulder.  He couldn't help but wonder if it was normal, if he wasn't failing at some key part of ensuring she was well cared for while he was at Hogwarts.  He'd have to remember to ask Mother and Father.  Perhaps it was simply their age difference or her being a muggle.

For now though, he simply lifted her into his arms so she wouldn't have to stretch so far on her toes to reach him.  It wasn't difficult, and it made her laugh.  James realised suddenly that he had missed her laugh.  Missed her voice, really.  The high, clear tones that filled his days when he was at home.  He kissed her again, just because he could.  She should have singing lessons.  It was wrong that he hadn't arranged for them before.

"Do you like my dress?" she asked.  "Miss Taylor and I picked it out especially for today."

"I love it."  And he did, he didn't think even Wendy could look as adorable, for all that he loved his baby sister.  "Did you miss me?"

Rosemary nodded, blushing as she moved to kiss him.  He was surprised to feel himself sighing into the kiss, enjoying her lips moving against his.  It was soft, of course.  Rosemary was always soft.  Gentle.  Yet he still found that he was breathless when she pulled away.

They spent the rest of the day like that, after he'd carried her up to his bedroom.  It was nice, having Rosemary on his lap or laying atop him, kissing him softly until they were both gasping for air.  He wasn't sure when they fell asleep, couldn't even remember feeling tired, only peaceful.  But they must have slept at some point, because he awoke still in his school robes, with Rosemary curled against his side.  He smiled at the silk ribbon in her hair, gently pulling it loose and putting it in his pocket before he slipped from the bed to shower.

"Mother," James asked, as he sat with her in the solarium after breakfast, "is it normal for Rosemary to be quite so small?  Even Wendy's a bit taller than her and she's younger."

"Is she, really?"  Euphemia frowned.  "Well, she is a muggle.  Have you asked her governess?"

James shook his head, speaking when his mother raised her eyebrows.  She always did hate it when he didn't give verbal responses.  "No, I didn't think to.  Don't you speak with her while I'm at school?"  She should, it was traditional for the lady of the house to look after her sons' girls, just as Father spoke with the tutor they'd hired for Sarah's new boys.

"Yes, in fact we discussed Rosemary's studies just last week."  The way she held her teacup was enough to make James duck his head and apologise for doubting her.  "Is there anything in particular you'd enjoy her knowing?  I was considering adding a language, Miss Taylor tells me she's quite quick with them, already fluent in Cornish and French from her prior schooling."

"Singing."  James smiled, imagining what Rosemary's already pleasant voice would sound like after a bit of training.  "She has a lovely voice, Mother, you should hear it."

"Singing it shall be then.  And Latin, I think.  I believe one of the Weasleys said that it was a surprisingly useful language for muggles, despite their lack of magic."

James forced himself not to shrug, instead taking a sip of his tea.  He couldn't care less what languages Rosemary spoke, as long as she learnt to sing.  "And about her size?"

Euphemia smiled at her son.  He really was quite darling when he was protective.  Oh, she wouldn't tell him that of course, boys his age were always so sensitive.  Still, she enjoyed seeing it.  He was growing into a young man so quickly, she barely had time to process it.  If Euphemia had her choice all of her children would be educated at home, so that she could watch them grow up instead of having it sprung on her like this.  It was Fleamont who insisted that being away from them would teach the children to be independent and reliable.  James was proving him right, already more grown up than he had been in September.  She had been worried about his coming of age, he had still been so spoilt a year ago.  Rosemary had been good for him, even more than Hogwarts, she thought.  

"She's still young, James," she said, "I wouldn't worry just yet.  It's not as though Hatty would ever allow her to starve.  Now, tell me about school.  You always talk to your Father, I'm feeling quite neglected."

James tried not to blush as he thought of what parts of his school life he was willing to share with his parents.  He didn't even want talk to Father about it, truly.  Father simply pulled him into his study whenever he was home, then asked questions about his marks until James found himself bringing up Sirius or Alice simply to not have to think about Binns during hols.

"You look as though I've just asked you to steal a dragon egg," Euphemia laughed.  "I was a young witch once, you know.  I was quite popular too, your father was lucky I agreed to his proposal instead of enjoying all the wizards at Hogwarts for my last year."

"Mother!"  If there was one thing James did not need to hear about, it was how many wizards his mother had shagged before she married his father.

Sarah walked into the solarium then, waving a letter about.  "Ja-ames," she said, "You've a letter.  From a girl."  She grinned at him, moving just out of  reach when he tried to take the letter.  "Is Alice your girlfriend or are you just shagging?"

"None of your business," James reached for the letter again, again failing as Sarah danced out of the way.

"I think it is my business, if she's going to be my sister.  Unless you are just shagging."  She crossed her arms over her chest, fingertip of one hand pressed against her chin as though she was thinking.  "Why would she write you then?  Does she need you that much?"

James felt himself flush.  Merlin, what had happened to his shy, quiet little sister?  He rather thought Longbottom must have been a bad influence on her.  "Mother," he said, "make her  stop."

"That's enough teasing now, Sarah."  Euphemia tried and failed to hide her smile behind her teacup.  It was so nice that James had siblings now.  "Is this Alice Alice Prince," she asked.

"Who's Alice Prince?"  Wendy asked, grabbing a biscuit from the tray and settling into the chair next to her mother.

"James' lover," Sarah's eyes were sparkling as she continued to tease her brother.

"She is not my lover," James said, "where'd you even pick up such a silly word, anyway?"

"Are you fucking Alice Prince?  Because if you are she's your lover."

"Wendy!"  Hearing his sweet, innocent, adorable baby sister say the word fuck was almost more than James could handle.  "Mother, why aren't you scolding her?"  Merlin knew if he dared to swear in front his mother he'd be plagued with the taste of a lathering charm for weeks.

"Ladies, please stop teasing your brother."  James didn't miss the amusement in his mother's voice.  "And Wendy, dear, it's not nice for young witches to use such words in public.  Please keep it to your bedroom."

James groaned, letting his head fall into his hands.  The thought of Wendy saying that to some boy in her bedroom was worse than being reminded his mother had slept with men other than Father.

"Oh really, James."  Mother truly had perfected the art of sounding as though she were rolling her eyes, without being so uncouth as to actually do it.  "It's not as if you aren't aware of your sisters' coming of age.  In fact, I distinctly remember you insisting you help me tell Wendy."

He had.  Had been there, just after her birthday, when Mother gave her the first set of books designed to teach young witches about what would happen when they were gifted with boys.  "That doesn't mean I want to think about it," he said.  The words were somewhat muffled by his hands.

"Then sit up like a proper young wizard and tell us about Alice.  We promise not to tease anymore, don't we ladies?"

James sighed.  He should have known there was no getting out of a conversation with his mother.  "She's just Alice.  We're not dating or anything.  It was just having fun."  He tried to ignore both his sisters' giggles and the blush creeping up his neck.  "She's nice, but we're just friends."

"Incompatible?"  Euphemia's question was neutral enough that James found himself responding without thought.

"Not really.  Just..." He tried to find a way to phrase the feelings he himself didn't quite understand.  "I don't know.  It felt like there was something missing."

"So who do you fancy?"  Sarah, of course.  And to think, he had wished she could go to Hogwarts with him this year.  Next year was going to be torture.  He could already tell.

"I must admit, I'm interested as well."  Euphemia smiled at him as she refilled his teacup.  "You don't have to tell us if you don't want to, of course."

Somehow he doubted that.  He gave in, telling them about Evans and how he was going to convince her to marry him, just as soon as school started again.  He might have skimmed over a few of the details of how he'd been treating Snape, but otherwise he was honest.  Which was why he was surprised when his mother didn't immediately congratulate him on having found his future wife.

"Father said Potters always know when we've found our wives.  Like how he knew about you."  It wasn't just Father either, every portrait in Linfred told of generations of Potters working to convince the witches they'd chosen to accept them.

"Oh darling," Euphemia laughed, "the most enduring trait of Potters isn't your bravery or ability to guess your wives.  Your father and I had known each other for years, after all."

"Yes, but he didn't know then.  Not until later."  James had heard this story since he was a small boy, Father had always been quite clear about how he had simply looked at Euphemia one day and known that he would marry her.  She'd had a boyfriend at the time and Fleamont had spent an entire year convincing her that he was a better choice.

Euphemia shook her head and smiled.  She was glad the girls' education in family history was left primarily up to her.  Merlin knew what kind of nonsense Fleamont would fill their heads with.  Probably stories of gallant knights sweeping them off their feet.  Euphemia was more practical.  "Potters," she said, "are hopeless romantics.  Every last one of you.  The men especially.  You are also, unfortunately, completely blind."

"Hey!"  James paused.  "Wait.  What do you mean?"  He somehow had the feeling that she wasn't talking about his glasses.

"Sarah dear, do you remember when I told you about how your father decided to court me?"

Sarah nodded, setting her teacup down.  "Mother was in the common room with her beau," she said, "Father got so jealous that he challenged the boy to a duel."  Well yes, that was the story everyone knew.  James was about to say so when Sarah continued.  "Except he wasn't really her beau, Mother had just asked him to pretend to be so Father would realise what he was feeling."

"You see, dear," Euphemia told her son, "Potter men are hopeless romantics who can't see what's right in front of them.  Your father would have spent another four years wondering why I was the only witch he wanted more than once if I hadn't decided to make him jealous."

James stared at her.  "But...all the portraits..."

At that Wendy laughed, then smiled cheekily at him when he turned to her.  "Not all the portraits," she said, "Only the boys."

That was when James realised it had never occurred to him to speak to his great-grandmothers.  He was the Potter heir, he spent all of his time talking to other Potter heirs.  And every Potter heir had to be male.  "Oh Merlin," he breathed, slumping into his seat as the full scale of what he had missed hit him.  What else might he have been missing?  What silly little details did he not know because he'd only ever spoken with Potter heirs?

"Don't be too hard on yourself," Euphemia said, reaching over to pat his knee.  "I don't believe your father has ever spoken to any of the non-heir portraits even to this day."

James was still in a bit of a daze when he returned to his rooms.  So much so that he passed right by Rosemary, laying on the sofa in only a pair of white knickers as she read a book.  It wasn't until he had been sitting in the chair across from her for nearly ten minutes, simply staring into space, that he finally registered what he was looking at.

"Merlin," he whispered, watching as a blush spread down Rosemary's chest even as she smiled at him.  It was odd, how she was somehow more alluring this way than when she was completely nude.  He quickly walked over and scooped her up, enjoying her tinkling laugh as he carried her to his bed.

A part of him wanted to simply tear off the knickers and sink into her, especially when he felt the slightly damp spot between her legs after he'd stripped off his own clothes and pulled her on top of him.  That was only a small part though, he wanted far more to enjoy her like this.  The knickers were of some sort of lacy, muggle design and nearly see-through.  He had no idea where she could have gotten them, nor did he particularly care.  As long as he could keep looking at her and touching her, sliding his hands beneath the waistband to grab her arse, he was happy.

Happy enough, in fact, that he stopped her when she moved to take them off.  She was too perfect like this, and he was in no rush.  He pulled her head down to meet his, kissing her slow and soft, savouring the way she sighed.  It took almost no time at all for him to fall into a cocoon of calm, simply enjoying the feel of her skin against his.  This time he wasn't surprised when the calm turned to sleep, Hatty waking them gently for lunch.

The rest of the week passed similarly, James alternating between chatting with portraits he'd never before paid attention to and spending time with Rosemary.  She had taken to wearing some sort of lacy knicker under her dresses, letting him slowly reveal them as he undressed her before they slept.  It was captivating in a way he didn't quite understand.  He certainly enjoyed it though, showering her neck and shoulders and lips with kisses.  Enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he was at a loss as to why he woke one morning to the sounds of her sniffling quietly on the other side of the bed.

"Rosemary," he murmured, reaching to pull her back against him, "did you have a bad dream?"

She shook her head, curling further into herself when he tried to touch her.

That woke him up fully.  She hadn't pulled away from him, never even tried, since the day she walked in on him and Rebecca.  More often than not she was the one who cuddled into him, not that he minded.

"What's wrong then?"  When she simply sniffled a bit more he started to panic slightly, running through every possible thing that might make a girl curl up and cry.

Oh.  Oh.  "Do you --" he cleared his throat, hoping his voice wouldn't choose this particular moment to crack.  "Do you have cramps?"  Merlin he hoped not.  He thought she might be a bit young, his books said she was young, didn't they?  Had Wendy already started her...that?  He didn't know what he'd do if it was, did muggles have any of those odd little tablets for this?

When she shook her head again he nearly collapsed in relief.  Bloody hell, he was going to have to make a better showing of it than this when it actually did happen.  Maybe Alice would have some advice.  Or Meadowes, her mum was a muggleborn, wasn't she?  They'd definitely laugh at him though.  In the meantime...

"Does your stomach hurt?  Are you ill?  I can call Hatty."  He thought he might anyway, if only to bring him a calming draught.

Yet another shake of her head.

"Then what is it?" he asked, relieved when she at least allowed him to put his hand on her shoulder.

She continued sniffling for several more minutes before rubbing her eyes with her hand and looking over her shoulder at him.  "Do you not like me anymore?"

"What?"  Merlin, where on earth would she have gotten that idea?  He was utterly enchanted by her, had been since the first time he'd seen her.  It was almost embarrassing, really, how much he enjoyed spending time with her when he was home.  He knew Sirius would tease him mercilessly if he knew.  The Potters were unusual in thinking both boys and girls should keep their muggles as long as they liked.  Traditional families sent their boys' muggles away when they started Hogwarts.  "Of course I still like you!"  He pulled her against him, ignoring the way she tried to pull away at first, before collapsing into him.  "Why wouldn't I?"

Further sniffles.  James leaned over just far enough to get a handkerchief from his nightstand, using it to wipe her face.  It was horrible, seeing her this miserable.  Somehow he'd thought they were done with tears after Rebecca.

"We --" she cut off, sniffling again before continuing, a blush starting to form on her cheeks, "We haven't -- you haven't -- All we do is kiss!"

James stared at her.  He hadn't even realised.  Their kissing had been so soothing that he hadn't missed anything more.

"Rosemary," he kissed her, hard, moving so that she was laying under him.  "I'm sorry.  I --" he found himself blushing as he tried to explain.  "I like kissing you.  A lot.  So much that I didn't want anything else."

"Promise?"  He hated how small and uncertain her voice was.  It wasn't right, she should never sound like that.  The same way she had when realising her mother had abandoned her.

"Promise."  He kissed her again, slowly this time, nuzzling her when they parted.  "Tell me if you ever want something or are unsure of something, ok?  I don't like when you're upset."

She nodded before smiling at him, wrapping her arms around his neck.  "Can we kiss?  I like it too."

"Just kiss?" James whispered against her lips, "Or do you want something else?"

She sighed, pressing her lips against his before responding.  "Just kiss, if you want."  She was blushing again, not quite meeting his eyes.  "I just -- At Christmas we -- as soon as you got home.  You didn't this time, not even once.  I thought you must not like me anymore.  Or met someone at school so you didn't...want to."

James closed his eyes for a moment before sitting up, pulling her into his lap.  This was a conversation he'd hoped to put off having until at least third year.

"You know I do things with girls at school, right?"  He watched her, noticed the tiny flicker of sadness that crossed her face before she nodded.  "Does that bother you?  Please," he cut her off before she could say anything, "tell me the truth.  I promise I won't be upset, no matter what."

Rosemary bit her lip for a moment before nodding.  "A little.  I know it shouldn't, I read the books that Hatty gave me, and I don't have to think about it too much, but..." she trailed off, looking up at him.  "I will, eventually.  Right?"

"I'm sorry.  If it helps, I don't think it'll be soon.  I don't like any of the girls in my year nearly as much as I like you."  Except Evans, maybe.  But he couldn't tell her that, not when there were already tears forming in her eyes again.

She nodded again, kissing him hard, desperate, before pulling back.  "Promise you'll tell me when you know?  I don't want to be surprised."

"Ok."  He pulled her tight against him, finding himself wishing  for the first time that she was a witch.

Chapter Text

"So, who all are you lot taking home this summer?"

James tried not to grimace.  It was a time-honoured tradition that pureblood boys without a betrothal contract try to find a muggleborn to take home over the summer hols.  Enough that Father had already written to inform him that the guest suite across from his rooms had been made ready.  A charming, attractive boy like James would never have trouble convincing a girl to spend the summer with him and Mother was perfectly capable of handling any objections her parents might have.  He hated the thought of it.  It didn't feel right, not after spring hols.  A betrothed, a girlfriend even, that would be different.  But tradition didn't seem good enough reason to subject Rosemary to a witch he'd be expected to shag regularly.

He did have the inklings of a plan, just the beginning of an idea that might make it at least bearable.  But Mother wasn't likely to approve, and Father even less so.  Potters had always taken the responsibility of their magically contracted muggleborns quite seriously.

"Mother's already convinced Jones' parents to let her stay with us," Sirius said.  "She wrote to tell me how proud she is that I'm finally taking an interest in the family traditions."

"So you didn't tell her you actually like Jones, then?"  Sirius had been taken enough that he hadn't been with any other girl since just after the spring hols.

"Are you kidding?  She'd poison the poor girl.  I quite like her alive, thanks."

Remus looked up from his book at that.  "How are you going to get through summer then?  Don't Blacks share their muggleborns with the family?"

Sirius flopped back onto his bed.  "I hadn't thought about that part."

Peter laughed as Remus groaned and James rolled his eyes.  That sounded exactly like Sirius.  He'd become a brilliant friend over the course of the year, always happy to hex Snape and coming up with the most wicked pranks James had ever heard of.  Filch's damned cat still glowed in the dark, a bit.  They'd become Gryffindor heroes for that one, it made sneaking around much easier.

"Are you not taking anyone home, Remus?"  James hadn't seen him with a single girl yet.  It was odd, really.  Yes, Remus' family was nontraditional, but even a few of the muggleborn boys had started shagging by now.  He was certainly handsome enough, and sweet in a shy way that girls seemed to like.  Alice had been bothering him to set them up for months.

Remus returned to his book, not looking at the other boys as he responded.  "No.  My mum, you know?  She's not comfortable with it."

He nodded.  That would make sense, he supposed.  Remus worried more about his parents than any of them, owling off apologies any time they got detention or he did poorly on an assignment, in addition to the almost daily letters they exchanged.  "Just you and your girls then?"

"Just me and my parents.  I don't have girls."

James stopped fussing with his hair, turning slowly to stare at Remus.  That didn't make any sense, not with who Lyall Lupin was.  He would never force Remus to give up his girls before starting Hogwarts, not like the Blacks or Malfoys.  "Did you not like them?"  He hoped that was the answer, because otherwise...

"I never got any."

"How?!"  Sirius was the one to ask (at a painful volume), but James was thinking the same thing and he was sure Peter was as well.  They'd all assumed Remus had been given his pick of girls, given his family.

Remus was blushing now, staring determinedly at his book.  "I just didn't.  Not everyone does."

That was true, half-bloods sometimes didn't, if one of their parents wasn't comfortable with magical tradition, but Remus' parents should not have been amongst them.  It just didn't make sense.

"But --" Sirius was obviously of the same opinion.  James cut him off anyway.

"Leave him alone."  It was painful, seeing how Remus had hunched in on himself.  It reminded James too much of Rosemary, when she was hurt.  "It's none of our business anyway."  Surprisingly, Sirius backed off, though he got the feeling it was only temporary.

As James had expected, Mother and Father were not at all pleased with his idea.  They hadn't outright forbidden it, not when they understood his reasoning, but he knew that if he followed through with it he would be going home to lectures and disapproving looks.

He wrote Father anyway, asking him to please prepare Rosemary for his arrival.  Then he set about finding O'Neill.

She was in the library, of course.  No one spent more time in the library than she did.  Rumour was that Pince had even given her permission to go in early and stay after hours.  James sat down across from her, ignoring the glare she sent him.  "My family has the third largest magical library in Europe," he said.

"So what?"  O'Neill didn't even bother to look up from her work.

"My parents have asked me to ask you to stay with us for the summer, so you can see it."

That least got her to stop writing, if only for a moment.  "Why would they do that?"

James rolled his eyes, trying to look annoyed.  "It's a Potter tradition.  We always invite promising muggleborns to spend the summer with us, so they can spend more time in the magical world, learn things that are difficult to learn when you're cooped up in Hogwarts."  That was partially true, at least.  Potters did traditionally choose promising muggleborns to take home for the summer, and they certainly knew quite a bit about the magical world by the time they left.

A longer writing pause this time.  "I can learn anything I need to know right here."

James had to laugh at that, though he restrained himself to slight chuckles.  "Only a muggleborn would think that.  Ask any pureblood you'd like, the half-bloods even.  There's a lot you don't know, that you can't know, without living with a magical family for a while."  He stood from his chair, not bothering to look at O'Neill as he said, "Think about it.  I'll owl my parents in a week to let them know.  They'll need time to decide on someone else if you don't change your mind."

It took O'Neill less than a day to decide she wanted to go.  Ravenclaws.  There was a bit of trouble with her parents, until Mother spoke to them.  Mother was always good at getting what she wanted.

Then James set himself to his next task.  One that would almost certainly be harder than the first.

"Mind if I sit here?"  He was in the library again, as O'Neill appeared to live there.


James put on his best innocent expression, the one that could even get him out of trouble with McGonagall.  "Please?  You're going to be spending the summer at my home, I'd like to get to know you better."

"Fine.  But don't move my books, I just got them in good places."

They didn't talk, that first time, instead working silently.  Took nearly a week before they were friendly, in fact.  It was still faster than he had hoped.

"Here, let me carry those to the tower for you."  James took the books from O'Neill's hands before she could protest, discreetly hitting them with a feather-light charm.

"What are you doing?"

"Helping.  I should have done it sooner, I'm sorry."  James hung his head, just a little, just enough to look contrite.  "I should have walked you back to Ravenclaw too.  Could you not tell my parents it took this long for me to remember my manners?"

O'Neill just stared at him for a moment before turning and walking in the direction of her dorms.  Strange girl.

The next week James kissed her hand as he left her at the base of Ravenclaw tower.  A week after that, her cheek.  He slowed down for a bit after that, bringing her trinkets and interesting books in the meantime.  It was tedious, this wooing of a girl he had no interest in.  Only the thought of Rosemary and the memory of what O'Neill had done to Alice kept him going.

It was nearing the end of the term when James managed to pull O'Neill into a tucked away alcove, kissing her neck and shoulders until she was grinding herself on his thigh.

"I --" she gasped as he bit softly on a sensitive spot, "I can't -- we can't -- it's wrong."

James continued suckling on her neck for a moment before responding.  "We don't have to do anything.  Isn't this good enough?"

O'Neill nodded, then shook her head when James subtly pressed his leg just a bit tighter against her body.  "Too much.  Please," she was nearly moaning now, skirt hiked up so she could work herself better on his leg, "more."

"Are you sure?"  James pulled away to look her in the eye, before slowly slipping his hand inside her knickers to press at her clit when she nodded.

O'Neill's eyes went wide at the new sensation, her breath stopping for a moment.  Then she moaned loudly enough James was sure someone must have heard them and pressed her face into his shoulder.  He went slowly, carefully circling her clit, teasing her until her pussy was throbbing.  He was careful to never quite touch her entrance, fingers dipping only low enough for the tips to feel how the skin pulled with every gentle contraction.

When O'Neill kissed him he had to fight to not pull back.  They hadn't done that yet, James simply kissing her slightly lower each night until he was licking at her pulse.  It wasn't a particularly good kiss either, O'Neill desperate and sloppy and quite obviously inexperienced.  He pulled away to trail kisses behind her ear, relieved when she simply gasped and pressed him closer to her.

"You -- you can go inside," she panted, "but just your fingers, ok?"

James nodded against her neck, carefully slipping a finger inside her, then another when it was clear she was more than wet enough.  Merlin, he didn't think he'd been with a girl who got this wet.  She was actually forming a small puddle in his hand, moisture flowing down from where his fingers were inside her.  He pressed a third finger in, gently stretching her as he used his palm to rub against her clit.  Her pussy was pulsing around him, slow, throbbing contractions that seemed to stretch wide before closing tight around his fingers.  It was almost fascinating, the way O'Neill continued to beg and whimper even after her pussy clamped down on his fingers while her clit swelled and throbbed against the heel of his hand.  In every other girl he'd tried those things had signalled a peak, and intense sensitivity once they'd come down.  O'Neill simply kept fucking herself on his hand until it happened again.  And again.  And again.  Until James, wrist sore and more than a little bored and frustrated, unbuttoned her blouse enough that he could suck on her breasts, making her actually scream his name as she came.  That seemed to be enough for her, as she slumped against the wall after, James fingers still clutched between her thighs.

When her breathing slowed and she remembered where she was she stiffened for a moment, all colour starting to drain from her face until she felt his fingers shifting between her legs when she started to push him away.  Then her eyes fell closed again as she hummed, thrusting gently against him.  Bloody hell, did the girl never stop?

By the time O'Neill had had enough it was well past curfew and James was sure his wrist would never be the same again.  But O'Neill was smiling happily, stumbling slightly as he walked her back to Ravenclaw Tower.  She moaned when he sucked at her neck, just barely managing to miss being dragged into a goodnight kiss.  It had been an exhausting, thoroughly frustrating night.  But James was sure his plan would work.  Likely far better than expected.

 On the ride back to Hogwarts James shared an otherwise empty compartment with O'Neill.  It was quite possibly the longest ride of James' life.  She never stopped.  With Rosemary it would have been fun, in fact he thought he might see what he could do to make her as desperate as O'Neill was just by existing.  As it was, the girl spent the first half of the trip with his fingers shoved up her cunt.  She finally pulled herself off after the trolley witch passed, giving James a chance to shake out his wrist.

He was barely even surprised when she dropped to her knees in front of him and started pulling apart his robes.  Nor did he object when she looked up at him with wide brown eyes and deliberately licked up his cock.  It was a fairly terrible blowjob, he doubted O'Neill had ever seen a cock before, let alone touched one, but it at least started to get him hard.  Watching O'Neill suck him, four of her fingers stuffed into her cunt, wasn't exactly a turn on though.  In fact, James thought she was quite possibly the least sexy girl he'd ever seen.  She just kept staring at him, trying to keep eye contact while she bobbed her head.  It was disconcerting.  As was the fact that the idiot girl didn't even realise he was still half-soft.

Still, it felt ok, better than not having his cock sucked, at any rate, so James allowed her to continue.  He closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the train seat and trying to imagine it was Evans at his knees.  That was a nice image.  Far better than O'Neill.  Enough that he only just realised she was moving in time to grab her hips and stop her sinking onto his cock.

"It'll be better if we wait until we're at Linfred," he said.

"But I want it now."  Bloody fuck, he hadn't thought she could somehow be less attractive.  She was though, with her bottom lip jutted out, looking at him with what she obviously thought was an enticing expression.

It wasn't.  James sucked hard on one of her nipples anyway, holding her hips tighter when she tried to thrust.  He teased her for a few moments before responding, wanting her to be completely on edge.  "There's not enough time," he said, "not unless you want us to get to London before you've finished."  There was plenty of time.  Several more hours, in fact.  But James didn't think he'd be able to  do this more than once.

Besides, it would be far better if O'Neill was still a virgin when they got to Linfred.

He tried not to groan when he saw her hesitate, still trying to press herself onto his cock.  Bloody stupid girl probably wouldn't mind if all of Hogwarts saw them at this point.  How anyone could go from prissy to insatiable as quickly as O'Neill had was beyond him.  If she hadn't been such a bitch he might even have sent her off to Peter, they'd get along splendidly.

She had been a bitch though and so James forced himself to look like he was enjoying himself as he thought of what might hold her off.  "We could try something else, if you like.  It's almost as good as shagging."

Thankfully, O'Neill nodded, laying down on the floor of the compartment with her skirt up when he asked.  James tried not to think about what he was doing as he lowered himself onto her, lining his cock up between her folds.  Slowly he ground against her, rubbing against her slit with his cock.  He had to close his eyes and think of Evans again in order to get hard enough for it to be pleasurable, but at least from this position he could control what happened better.  And O'Neill didn't care what he was doing, really, as long as it was good for her.  The selfish bitch hadn't even realised he never quite managed to get fully hard, and certainly never came when they were together.

Well, that would change soon.  By the time they arrived at Kings Cross she was so far gone Hatty had to cast some sort of elf magic on them until they got to the Leaky Cauldron.  O'Neill simply would not stop rubbing against him and sucking at his neck.  He ended up having to lift her up, wrapping her legs around his waist, so that they could go through the floo.  He only hoped that Rosemary had been properly prepared for what she would see when he came home.

As it was, O'Neill was trying to kiss him when they got to Linfred, blocking his view so that he had to press her up against the wall next to the fireplace entirely by feel and memory.  He was definitely going to need at least a cleansing charm after this.

"Please James, fuck my little cunny," she whimpered against his neck.  Ugh.  It was horrifying that she thought that was seductive.  James had never been less turned on in his life.  Not even at the thought of fucking Sarah.

He forced himself to move his robes, not needing to do anything for O'Neill, as she had already lost her knickers somewhere and moved her skirt so her cunt was pressed against him.  It took longer than he would have liked for him to get hard, every extra moment another he had to endure O'Neill's increasingly simpering pleas for him to fuck her.  It was a little disturbing, frankly, her voice going high pitched and babyish, breathy in a way that James couldn't help but feel must be put on.  

Rosemary.  He reminded himself of Rosemary, and the absolutely brilliant shag he would hopefully be getting as soon as he'd finished with O'Neill.  Hopefully.  If she wasn't upset with him.  He pushed the thought out of his mind, instead trying to remember the feel of Rosemary's lips on his, the way her breath felt against his ear as she panted.  It was enough to get him hard at least, enough that he could force his cock deep into O'Neill in one quick movement, making her cry out at the sudden stretching of her cunt.

He fucked her against the wall, fast and hard and rough, losing himself in his fantasies enough that he groaned out Rosemary's name as he came.

O'Neill twitched at that, though James barely noticed.  He waited only as long as he had to before dropping her to the ground and casting the strongest cleaning charm he dared on his groin and mouth, using his left hand to cast another on the hand that had been up O'Neill's cunt for good measure.

Then he turned to find Rosemary.  She was standing in front of the wall opposite the fireplace, wearing a white sailor dress with her hair tied up in a navy blue ribbon.  James was across the room fast enough he wondered if he'd managed to accidentally apparate himself, before the thought was pushed from his mind by Rosemary pounding his chest with her fists.

"You promised!"  She was still hitting him, her voice choked with tears despite her obvious anger.  "You promised you'd tell me first!"

"What?  No!"  James wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly enough that she couldn't keep hitting him -- though she certainly tried.  "I'm not marrying her, I don't even like her."  He ignored the shocked cry behind them.  "Didn't Father tell you?"

Rosemary sniffled for a moment before answering, her fists still resting against his chest.  "He told me you were bringing a witch home for summer and I wasn't to say anything until you came for me."

James pushed down the crackle of magic that tried to spark out his fingertips.  That was certainly not what he'd asked Father to tell her.  He pulled away enough to wipe Rosemary's tears before kissing her gently on the cheek.  "Next time I'll have Hatty talk to you.  Forgive me?"

"Next time?"  James cringed at the combination of disappointment and indignation in her voice.  He wasn't quite sure how she'd even managed it.

"I'll explain once we're in the sitting room."  He pushed her hair away from her neck, kissing his way softly up to the sensitive spot just below her ear.  "In the meantime," he whispered, "want to help me punish her for hurting one of my friends?"

Rosemary hummed, enjoying the feel of his hands running along her sides.  "How?"

"Let me make all this up to you here, where she can see."  She froze, just long enough that he pulled away.  "You don't have to," he said, "I can just call for Hatty instead."

He was looking at her, soft and earnest, and she knew that if she said so they'd go right up to the suite.  James had never made her do anything she didn't want, until he came through with that nameless girl.  And he'd apologised for that, even if it might not be his fault.  Maybe.  

No one had ever...watched them before though.  Not even Hatty.  "You'll stop if I say?"

He pulled back at that, looking hurt enough that she almost felt guilty.  Almost.  "Of course I will.  I'll always stop, no matter what."

She bit her lip for a moment before nodding and standing on her toes to kiss him.  "Can we go slow?  Like Christmas?"

James smiled.  "I'll try."  Then he was kissing her, softly sliding their tongues against each other, pulling her closer until she could feel his heart beating against her chest.  He took his time, trailing kisses down her neck, stopping to lick or suck or nibble every time she gasped or sighed.  She found herself forgetting about the girl, even as he slowly moved them until they were standing right in front of her, Rosemary now leaning against his chest as he continued to nip at her neck.

The girl was a mess.  A beautiful, blonde, whimpering mess with the beginnings of breasts and hips and no awful freckles, who was fucking herself on her fingers, calling out for James.  It was terrible.


She wasn't sure how James had managed to hear her, when she wasn't even sure she had heard herself, but he did stop.  Immediately.  Lifted his lips from beneath her ear even as she whimpered at the loss and turned her around to face him.  He didn't bother to ask, taking one look at her as she tried to hold back tears and immediately calling for Hatty.

They arrived on his bed, Rosemary no longer able to hold in her tears and sobbing into James' chest.  He asked what was wrong, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her onto his lap, but she couldn't speak, couldn't admit it.  Not just yet.  She couldn't seem to stop herself, crying while James stroked her back and hair.  

"Please don't ever make me do that again," she whispered, when she was finally able to speak again.

James didn't answer at first, instead tilting her chin up so he could kiss her.  He held her face in his hands, rubbing at the tear tracks down her checks with his thumbs.  It almost made her start crying all over again.

"What happened?"

She wouldn't start crying.  She wouldn't.  Not again.  She'd cried at Easter and Christmas and it was always awful and she hated it and James was going to remember that she was a baby and that he should be with older girls like the one in the entrance room.

Still, she couldn't quite keep her voice steady as she answered.  "She's so much prettier than me."

James stared at her.  O'Neill?  Prettier than Rosemary?  That just didn't make any bloody sense at all.  No one was prettier than Rosemary.  Evans, maybe.  It was a different kind of pretty though, nothing like the quiet, glowing beauty that Rosemary seemed to radiate, making everything around her look better than it had before.  Evans was bright, glittering, blinding, it almost hurt to look at her sometimes.  Rosemary was soft, sweet, perfect, pretty enough that he'd never bring Sirius or Peter around her, but gentle so that he could stare at her all day.  She certainly was better than simpering, demanding, far too obvious O'Neill.

"There is no one in this castle who is prettier than you.  Not even my sisters."

It was enough to make her smile, though it was weak.  "Then why did you -- why were --"

"Not because I think she's pretty."  James ducked his head, trying to meet her eyes.  "It has nothing to do with pretty.  I had to think of you to even be able to do it, didn't you hear me?"

She did, though barely.  It had gotten lost in the memory of having to watch James with someone else.  Rebecca had been bad enough, that one time, but she had been more frightened than anything.  This was different.  This made her want to cry and pull the girl's hair until she screamed.  She knew James had been with other girls, Hatty had explained it to her and James had confirmed it.  She knew that one day, when James tired of her, she would go back to Cornwall.  She just didn't like to think about it.

"Why then?"  She didn't recognise her own voice, soft and hopeless.  She'd been sad before, at Easter and with Rebecca and when she thought about it nearly this entire year had been awful.  She didn't know why this felt so much worse than any of them.  James' father had told her what to expect, she shouldn't have been so surprised and hurt.

James sighed as he tried to think of how to explain.  It had all seemed so simple when he came up with it.  "Are you ok to go to the sitting room? I'll ask Hatty to bring us tea."

Rosemary nodded, sliding off the bed.  She flinched away when he tried to take her hand.  Suddenly he wished he hadn't brought anyone home at all.  Remus hadn't and he was probably enjoying himself right now, reading or talking to his parents or whatever it was he did when he wasn't at school.

Hatty glared at him when she set down the tea, making him even more certain this was the worst idea he'd ever had.  Worse even than the time he thought trying to steal Father's wand would make a fun prank.

"It was supposed to hurt her," he started, "I didn't think it would hurt you too."

Rosemary stared at him, quickly going from downcast to incredulous then over to confused before settling on angry.  "You -- you --" she curled her hands into fists, frustrated at her inability to say the words.  "You fucked her right in front of me!"

Now it was James' turn to stare.  Rosemary, sweet, quiet, delicate, Rosemary who still blushed when he pulled her dresses off had sworn.  Actually sworn.  He wanted to take her right there, see the angry flush on her face turn to desperation and arousal.  He also was quite glad she wasn't a witch.

"I told Father to warn you about that."  James tried to reign in his desire, at least for the moment.  "He was supposed to tell you that I was bringing a girl home to punish her, and that whatever you saw didn't mean anything."  James was rather angry about that part himself.  This might have been prevented if his father had just passed on the right message.  Then he could be teasing Rosemary right now, instead of arguing with her.

"I still would've had to watch!"  Or not.  She seemed to run out of anger all at once, hunching in on herself and refusing to meet his eyes.  "I can forget, when you're at school.  Please don't make me remember, not until you're sending me away."

He was a right fucking arse.  Merlin, how could he have bollocksed things up this badly?  He pulled Rosemary into his lap again, allowing her to hit and sob against his chest until she was worn out enough to simply lay quietly against him.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't think."

"No," Rosemary sniffled, "you didn't."

He wiped her face dry, suddenly wishing he didn't have to so often.  It seemed something conspired to make her cry every time he saw her.  Just once he'd like for her to be happy for an entire visit.

"No more girls," he promised.  "No one here at Linfred until the day we marry."

"But still at school?"  He hated how miserable she sounded, no matter how little choice either of them had in it.

"I have to get married," he said.  "I'm the last Potter, I need to have an heir.  Several, ideally."  He'd known that since he was four.  Understood it since he was eight.  Sirius could refuse to get married if he liked, run around with a new girl every week.  Remus could stay a virgin as long as he wanted.  Peter would probably be alone until he died.  But Sirius had a younger brother and neither Remus nor Peter were from old families like the Potters.  In fact, he and Malfoy were the only boys currently at Hogwarts who couldn't simply enjoy themselves without considering whether this witch or that one would make a suitable wife.  James almost felt sorry for Malfoy, for all that he was a pompous arse.  He was limited to purebloods and the few Slytherin half-bloods.  James at least was certain his parents would accept any witch he liked.  Any wizard even, if their magic was compatible enough to have an heir.  "I promise I'll tell you as soon as I think I've found someone.  Even if I'm not sure enough to tell her yet."

Rosemary shook her head.  "No.  Only when you're sure."  She snuggled slightly closer against his chest.  "I don't want to think about it until I have to."

"Ok.  And I won't bring them here until we're married."  He wasn't letting Rosemary go a second before he had to.  If he didn't suddenly understand how much it would hurt her, he would keep her long after he was married, until his wife insisted otherwise.

James kissed her, being as slow and gentle as he could manage, trying to apologise with every brush of their lips.  It wasn't enough, but it did at least bring a bit of a smile back to Rosemary's face, and relaxed her enough that he could move them until they were laying cuddled on the sofa.  He pulled a blanket off the back of the sofa to cover them, for all that it was a bit warm in the suite.  It was nice, holding her like this, warm and close so that he quickly fell into a sort of half-asleep drowsiness.  In fact, he was almost certain Rosemary had fallen asleep until she spoke.

"How were you going to punish that girl?"

He cringed, already knowing this wasn't going to end well.  "I made it so she's always on the edge of coming, but can't without me inside her.  I wanted to make her watch us so that she knew just how much I hated her."

Rosemary stared at him for a moment before pushing herself away from him, stumbling off the sofa.  "That's terrible."

"She deserved it," he sat up, trying to reach for her only for her to step away.  "Really, she did.  She hexed one of my friends so that she couldn't come because she thought it was wrong for them to be shagging.  I wanted her to know how it felt."

"Not that part!"  She was against the door now, shaking slightly as she stared at him.  "Why did you have to bring her here?  Why couldn't you have done it at school?"

James frowned.  The thought honestly hadn't occurred to him, for all that it was clear O'Neill would've been happy to be fucked even before the term ended.  "I don't know.  I didn't think about it, I guess."

Rosemary shook her head, tears forming in her eyes again.  "It's because I'm not a witch.  No," she cut him off when he tried to respond, "it is, even if you didn't think so.  You wanted her to know you think she's less than a muggle like me."  She was staring at him, the disappointment and betrayal in her expression far more difficult to take than the tears.  Before he had a chance to respond, to even process her words enough to think about responding, she'd run out of the room.  He just managed to see her fleeing into the nursery.

"Rosemary!" he shouted, stunned when he was unable to open the door.  There wasn't a door in Linfred that wouldn't open for him, not since he turned eleven and was no longer a child.

"Master James is not to be bothering Mistress Rosemary."  He spun around to see Hatty standing behind him, arms crossed over her chest.

"Open the door, Hatty."


"Hatty, open the bloody door!  She's upset!"

Hatty simply glared at him.  "Master James is not worrying about that when he is making Mistress Rosemary cry."

"It was an accident!"

"It is being an accident Master James is being able to be preventing, if Master James is not being so selfish."  And with that Hatty popped out, leaving James to sink down against the door to the nursery and wonder how he'd managed make such a mess of things.

That was where Father found him, hours later after he hadn't come down for dinner.  He'd tried everything he could think of by then, pleading and begging and apologising, at one point starting to cry himself, which he hadn't done since he was six.  Even his magic refused to help, for all that he tried calling it up, if only because he was worried about what Rosemary might be doing, all alone in rooms that hadn't been used for months.

"Hatty said I'd find you here."  James didn't bother to respond, unable to look at his Father when he'd gone against his advice and destroyed everything so thoroughly.

"That girl is still in the entrance room, you know.  The curse won't come off until you lift it."

James shrugged.  He quite honestly could not care less about bloody fucking O'Neill.  He wished he'd never met her.

"Do you understand now why your mother and I were so against this?"

That was enough to make James glare up at his father.  "It might not have been so bad if you'd told her what I asked."

Fleamont shook his head, moving down to sit across from James.  "It would have been far worse if I had done that.  That girl's entire world revolves around you.  She would have done what you wanted, but it would have made her feel terrible and she never would have told you."

James stared at him.  That was the last thing he'd ever want.  "I told her she could stop whenever she wanted."

"Would you have, if she hadn't been angry with you first?"

He felt himself flush.  No.  He wouldn't have.  If she hadn't hit him he would have thoroughly enjoyed teasing her until she was as soaking and desperate as O'Neill.  Might even have asked her if she wanted to lick O'Neill's pussy while they fucked, just to really rub it in.

"I really didn't mean for her to think I think she's worth less just because she's a muggle."  He looked up at his father.  "I don't.  She's worth more than most of the girls at school combined."

Fleamont sighed.  His son really was still so young.  "I don't think you were thinking that consciously, but James," Fleamont waited until James was looking at him again, "that's what Rosemary and anyone who heard about this would have thought."

"But that's not what I meant!"

"Then why did you insist on doing it this way?"

James still didn't have an answer.  He tried, went through all the reasoning that had made so much sense just a few hours ago.  There was no reason he couldn't have asked Alice to help him.  It probably even would have been better that way, and Alice would have been more than happy to get revenge on her for the fortnight she'd spent in hospital waiting for the matron to be able to lift the hex.

Merlin.  He was an even bigger arse than he thought.  No wonder Remus had been so angry with him when he'd shared the plan with the other Gyrffindor boys.

"I didn't think I meant it that way," he whispered.  "Honest."

"I know you didn't, but this is what happens when you don't think of other people."  Fleamont's expression turned stern, enough that James found himself curling himself into an even tighter ball.  "I know you never had much practice, being an only child for so long, but it's high time you learnt to be less self-centred.  Your sister is starting school this year.  I need to trust that you'll not be so self-absorbed that you forget to look out for her, or assume she'll want to do something because it's what you would want."

James nodded.  Whatever he could do to make sure this never happened again.  Assuming he could manage to make it right this time.

"Come on," Fleamont said, as he stood up, "let's get some dinner in you.  You'll feel better after you've eaten."

"No, thank you," James said, shaking his head.  "I'm staying here until Rosemary comes out."

"I'll have one of the elves send you up a plate then.  Any preferences?  None of Hatty's specialities, I'm afraid, she's still rather cross with you."

He shrugged.  It didn't really matter.  He wasn't hungry anyway.

"I'll send up a selection."  Fleamont turned away, walking a few steps down the hall before pausing.  "James?  How long have you been living in the heir rooms?"

Another shrug.  "I dunno.  That's where Hatty sends us whenever I'm home.  Last summer, I guess?  After I destroyed my rooms."  He missed his father's raised eyebrows, too focused on trying to think of how to make things right.

Sarah was the next to find him, early the next morning.  James had slept curled up in front of the door to the nursery, unwilling to go back to bed alone.  He hadn't slept alone in that bed for over a year, had rarely slept alone even while he was at school.  He was standing, trying to stretch out the kinks in his neck and back, when Sarah walked up and slapped the back of his head.

"You're an arse."

James rubbed his head, wondering why it was girls were suddenly hitting him so often.  Crying he was used to by now, but this hurt.  "I know, you didn't have to smack me."

Sarah glared at him, arms crossed across her chest.  "You deserved it."

He thought maybe he couldn't fault her for that.  He certainly felt as though he deserved worse.

"How could you have even thought of something so horrible?  What if some boy did that to me?"

James rolled his eyes at that.  "You wouldn't have done what she did to Alice."  Sarah had grown even since spring, she was looking forward to Hogwarts as much as any witch.  Had even written him to ask which of the boys in his year he thought would be most suitable.  (He'd told her Remus, then informed Sirius and Peter that they weren't to go anywhere near either of his sisters.)

"Not that part!  Merlin, you're an idiot too."  It was hard to miss the note of disgust in Sarah's voice.  He didn't think he'd ever heard it before, never heard her anything less than adoring of her big brother.  "I'm a muggleborn, James.  What if a boy only wanted to be with me to get back at a pureblood girl?"

James' head jerked up.  He'd forgotten.  He'd honestly forgotten that his sisters were muggleborns.  Half-bloods, at best.  They were his sisters, he hadn't thought of them as anything else since shortly after they'd arrived.

But they obviously weren't Potters by birth.  Any pureblood would be able to tell that.  Neither had the uncontrollable Potter hair, they didn't even look enough like Mother to just say they took after her side of the family.  And Sarah still hadn't managed to shake the last traces of her accent, no matter how often she worked with her governess.  Everyone could call her Sarah Potter, but it was impossible to hide that she'd been adopted.

"I didn't know."  He knew it was a horrible excuse.  Had realised that the night before.  "I don't --" He sighed, trying to find a way to explain things he didn't quite understand himself.  "I don't think of you as a muggleborn, or Rosemary as a muggle.  Not really, not unless I have to.  You're my sister.  Rosemary's..." he trailed off.  What was Rosemary, if not a muggle girl for him to enjoy himself with?  "...mine.  Just mine."

The look Sarah was giving him was pitying now.  It was almost worse.  "Purebloods.  You're all so stupid."  James had to hold in a snort.  What would Sarah know about it?  "Frank's the same way."  Oh, right.  Longbottom.  "You all think that you can just ignore when someone's not a pureblood and that'll make everything fine instead of mucking it all up."

James blinked.  "But it's rude to treat muggleborns and half-bloods differently.  It's not as though they can help it."  Everyone knew that.  Unless you were a bunch of bigots like the Malfoys or Sirius' family you were supposed to treat muggleborns and half-bloods like everyone else.  Not muggles, obviously, but it wasn't their fault they didn't have magic.

"We're not purebloods!"  James thought Sarah might've stamped her foot, if Mother hadn't been training her so carefully in how a proper young witch behaved.  "We're different, even if you don't want to admit it."

"No you're not!"  James was not about to stand there and let his sister think she was any less of a witch just because she wasn't a pureblood.  "You're strong, stronger than me even.  Why do you think Father's been teaching you how to duel?"

Sarah rolled her eyes, glaring at him again.  "I know I'm strong, idiot.  Father's already written Dumbledore to ask if I can go right into your year.  But I'm not a pureblood.  I don't treat my boys the way you treat Rosemary, like they're just toys for me to do whatever I want with."  The note of disgust was back, making James cringe.  "They're my friends.  I've been taking lessons with their tutor, he's going to send me work while I'm at Hogwarts so I can keep up with muggle school too.  I asked him to take them into the village when I'm gone, so that they don't get lonely.  We had a party for Alexander's birthday last week.  Alexander's parents died, he can still remember them sometimes.  Thomas doesn't remember his family, but he had a best friend at his old boys' home Father is trying to find.  If he hasn't been adopted yet we're going to make sure one of the village families adopts him so he and Thomas can see each other again.  They're people.  You purebloods always forget that muggles are people."

James stared at her, mind reeling.  He thought Rosemary was a person.  Really.  He did.  Or he thought he did.  Now he wasn't so sure.  "I thought I was taking good care of her."  He did.  Father had never said anything, not until now.

"I know you did."  Sarah's face was soft now, more like he was used to her looking at him.  "But you're a pureblood.  Mother and Father are purebloods.  You treat muggles like they're pets.  Did you know muggles in America have been to the moon?  We watched it on the telly, the matrons woke us all up to see it.  And they can fly, from London to Paris in an hour, hundreds all at once.  Rosemary could be a pilot one day."

"I'm the world's biggest arse, aren't I?"  He certainly felt like it.  Merlin, he didn't even know Rosemary's last name.  He knew that she loved Hatty's rainbow swirl biscuits.  Knew that she had a birthmark on the inside of her left thigh, just below the crease of her leg.  She liked strawberries more than grapes, and being held close more than being taken rough.  Her voice had gotten even more musical since she'd begun lessons, now with more of that perfect, clear tone that made her sound like an angel.  She always buried her face in his neck when she came, if it was at all possible.  He loved the way she looked under him so it usually was.  Her eyes sparkled when she was happy, but just as easily dulled when she was upset.  Her favourite book was a wizarding children's story about a fairy who liked to make muggles' wishes come true.  She'd told him one part was like a muggle story, about a girl who went to a ball.  She loved it best when he held himself deep inside her, slowly building them up as they kissed.  He could name a million things about her, about her body, about the way she felt and the sound of her voice when she sighed.  But he didn't know her bloody name.

Sarah brought him out of his thoughts, crossing the hall and standing next to him so she could lean her head on his shoulder.  "Not the biggest arse.  But pretty close."

"How do I fix this?"  There had to be a way.  He didn't know what it was, but he'd find it.  It wasn't right, Rosemary all alone in the nursery.  He understood now, knew why she was so upset.  Even had a bit of an idea of how to make sure it never happened again.  But he needed to be able to talk to her.

"I don't know."  Sarah held his hand, still leaning against his shoulder.  "I don't really know Rosemary.  She was in one of the other dormitories and we never had lessons or chores together.  You'll just have to come up with something to show her you know she's a person."  She looked up at him, magic sparking from the hand that wasn't holding his.  "And if you ever do something this stupid again I'll hex you myself."

James laughed weakly.  He was sure she would.  His sister was just as terrifying as he'd expected her to be once she got her wand.  He tried to smile at her when she kissed his cheek before starting to walk away.  "Hey Sarah," he called, waiting for her to turn around.  "Do you think O'Neill -- the witch I brought home -- is she pretty?"

Sarah blinked at him for a moment.  "James, you brought home the prettiest girl I think I've ever seen.  Father made the floo room impassable for any boy who isn't you because he was worried someone might come through and take advantage of her."  She titled her head, looking at him in a way that unaccountably made him feel as though she were stripping him naked.  "Why?  Don't you think she's pretty?"

He shook his head.  "No.  I thought she was pretty disgusting, actually, until Rosemary said something.  I think she was worried I don't think she's pretty enough.  You really think O'Neill's prettier than Rosemary?"

Sarah was shaking her head now, smiling fondly at him.  "You really are an idiot.  Make sure Rosemary knows you think O'Neill's disgusting."  She turned and headed toward the corridor back to the family wing, stopping when he called after her again.

"What about magic?"  She didn't respond, brows drawn in confusion.  "In front of Rosemary."  He'd never intentionally done magic where she could see, no one did.  It was a mostly unspoken rule that you didn't do magic in front of your muggles, so that they wouldn't feel jealous or scared.  Some families did, the more traditional ones who liked to show how they were different, but Father had made him promise not to.

"I don't know.  I'm not a muggle."  She looked almost sad, enough that James found himself wondering how she'd felt, being brought into the magical world so suddenly.  "I haven't done any magic in front of the boys though.  Not yet."

Rosemary lay curled on the sofa in the nursery, finally too exhausted to keep crying.  Her entire body ached, far too much for her to consider moving.  Hatty had left her dinner and breakfast and stared at her with big, sad eyes until she had at least finished a glass of water.  It helped, a little.

"Lord Stinchcombe is still in the corridor."  Miss Taylor sat on the sofa, gently pulling Rosemary's head into her lap.  "He's quite distraught."

"I don't care."  She tried to ignore the sick feeling in her gut at the thought of James spending all night on the hall floor, focusing instead on Miss Taylor's fingers running through her hair.

Miss Taylor sighed, though she didn't say anything.  Rosemary kept her mind as blank as she could, refusing to think of how much James loved running his fingers through her hair, how he seemed to enjoy seeing it messy and tangled at least as much as when it was perfectly tied up with a bow.  It didn't matter.  He'd feel the same way about any girl.  She could have been poor Ashley Walker, with her smushed in nose and tendency to drool and it wouldn't make any difference.  She was just a silly muggle toy for him to play with until he found someone better.

"Did you know my parents are magical?"

Rosemary looked up, startled.  She'd always assumed Miss Taylor was a muggle, like her.

"I am, or should be, Lady Selwyn, eldest daughter of The Duke and Duchess of Ossulstone."  It was the first time Rosemary had ever heard her sound anything other than placid or encouraging.  "My baby sister is starting Hogwarts this year, and I have a brother just your age who will be Lord Stedeham when he turns eleven."

"Then how come you're Miss Taylor, not Miss Selwyn?"

Miss Taylor smiled, bending to kiss Rosemary's forehead.  "Because I'm a squib.  I don't have any more magic than you do.  Taylor is the name my family uses when they have to do something with muggles.  That's why I'm a governess, it's really the only job for squibs unless we want to live in the muggle world."

"Is it hard being a squib?"  Rosemary thought it must be.  She knew she felt awful every time she remembered that she'd have to leave Linfred one day, just because she was a muggle.  It had to be worse when your entire family had magic.

"Sometimes.  I have a twin sister, it was hard watching her go to Hogwarts.  It's hard knowing that if I was a witch I'd be married to a nice wizard by now, like she is.  Maybe even have a child of my own, like my niece."  She looked at Rosemary.  "But I went to university, when she couldn't.  I've flown on a plane and watched telly and been to the cinema and to rock concerts.  It's not all bad, not having magic.  And," she gently pulled Rosemary up to lean against her, "I understand purebloods and muggles both.  I think that might be why the Duke hired me, specifically, and not a squib from a more common family.  Lord Stinchcombe really does care for you, you know."

"Well he has an awful way of showing it."  Rosemary wrapped her arms around her middle, trying not to remember the girl, and how she moaned out James' name while he was inside her.

Miss Taylor sighed, rubbing Rosemary's shoulder.  "That he does.  He's a silly boy who isn't used to thinking of others' feelings.  But sweetheart," she looked at Rosemary, "he truly didn't know any better.  Purebloods aren't taught to think of muggles the same way they do witches and wizards.  Any other wizard would have simply had you sent away.  Lord Stinchcombe would not have spent all night in a corridor if he didn't think of you as far more than a toy."

"What difference does that make when he's making me watch him with other girls?"  She still couldn't get the girl out of her head.  Nor the other girls James must have been with, an unending parade of imagined girls, each prettier than the last.

"Oh love, that has nothing at all to do with you.  It was expected of him to bring a girl home this summer, so much that his father had prepared the suite across from his rooms before he even left after spring."  Miss Taylor pulled away, turning so that she was looking at Rosemary.  "He did the best he could, picking a girl he wasn't interested in.  Yes," she held up her hand when Rosemary opened her mouth to interrupt, "it would have been far better had he simply told his father he didn't want to, but you must understand that for a boy of his position that never would have crossed his mind.  I think he's probably quite confused about you, you know.  It's not proper for a young wizard to care for his muggles as much as he obviously cares for you.  Poor boy can't possibly know how to handle it."

Rosemary looked down at her hands.  It might be hard for James.  She even thought she could see how it would be.  That didn't make it any easier for her.  "I don't think I want to wait for him to figure it out," she whispered.  "It's too hard.  I can't --" she drew a deep breath, trying again to stop thinking of that girl, "It hurts too much."

"If you wish to leave I will go with you.  But Rosemary," Miss Taylor lifted her chin, holding her face in her hands, "at least give Lord Stinchcombe a chance to make it up to you.  You deserve that much."

Rosemary bit her lip for a moment before nodding.  Miss Taylor was right.  It was going to feel terrible leaving Linfred, she wouldn't do it until she absolutely had to.  Taking a breath to settle her nerves, she crossed the room and opened the door.

James fell backwards when the door opened behind him, quickly scrambling to stand and face Rosemary.  She was a mess, her face and eyes red and puffy, with her hair mussed and her dress rumpled from where she'd obviously slept in it.  He didn't think he could feel worse if she hit him.

"I'm so sorry," he just managed to restrain himself from pulling her against him.  He had the feeling it wouldn't be appreciated just yet.  "I was an arse, I didn't think about what it must have felt like for you.  Sarah explained it to me," he hated admitting that, but it was true, "I promise, I'll do better from now on.  No girls over summer, not unless we're married.  And," he took a deep breath, preparing himself for what was definitely going to cause him some problems come autumn, "no girls at school either.  I'll just have to find my wife by talking to her, like Remus plans to."

Rosemary's head snapped up at that.  That hadn't been at all what she was expecting.  "Why?"

"Because you matter more to me than they do."  It was true, though he didn't think he'd realised it until just this moment.

Rosemary bit her lip, uncertainty clear on her face.  Merlin, he'd do anything to make sure she never looked like this again.  She shouldn't be so insecure, not here, not with him.  "Ok then.  If you promise no more girls."

James thought he might collapse in relief, finally giving into his desire to hold her as tightly against him a she would allow.  "I promise.  I'm sorry I ever had any of them to begin with.  I wouldn't have, if I hadn't been too much of an arse to think of how much it must upset you."  He pulled away just enough to be able to kiss her, further relief rushing through him when she kissed him back without hesitation.  "Can we go to bed now please?  Just to sleep.  The floor isn't very comfortable."

She shook her head, making his heart nearly stop at the thought that she would want to stay in the nursery.  "I want to see the girl.  The one you were --" she took a breath, forcing herself to say it aloud.  "The girl you shagged."

James shook his head, pulling away.  "No, she's not worth it, just a useless girl I should never have brought here.  I never want you to have to be in the same room with her again.  I'm going to ask Father to send her away."

"I want to see her."  Rosemary's voice was hard, unrelenting in a way he hadn't thought she was capable of.  "I'll never get to see any of the other girls you've fucked, I want to see this one."

"But why?  She's not --" he broke off, trying to think of how to explain just how unimportant O'Neill was.  "I never would have gone anywhere near her if I wasn't angry about what she did to Alice."  The thought of Rosemary having to see her made him sick, especially when she was almost certain to beg for him the moment they walked into the room.  "Please, if you want I'll invite over Alice.  We were together once, before we were friends."  He didn't want to do that either, didn't want to have to explain to Alice why it was so important or to Rosemary why she was so far superior to any of the witches he'd been with, but it would be better than O'Neill.  Better than her having to watch a girl he didn't even like moaning his name.

"I want her to feel how I felt, when I had to watch you."

"What?  No.  I won't do it."  James pulled her close again, ignoring how she held herself stiff against him.  "I'm not letting her think I'm using you to get back at her.  She's not worth a single hair on your head.  Not even one of your eyelashes."

Rosemary laughed softly, relaxing into him.  "I still want to see her."  She looked up at him, "It's not the same as before, not when I'm asking.  Please?"

"Fine," James sighed, "but you'll have to be the one to ask Hatty to take us to her.  She'll never agree if I do.  And if anything bothers you just tell me and we'll leave."  He kissed her forehead.  "No more crying because I'm an arse, ok?"

"Ok," she laughed, pulling him down to kiss her properly.  He found himself relaxing as she pressed herself close to him, the insistent fear that she only accepted his apology to make him happy lifting slightly.  She was perfect, her lips soft against his as she kissed him until he felt as though he might float away.  

By the time she pulled away he was breathless, only the knowledge that she would be furious with him if he didn't follow through on his agreement keeping him from simply carrying her into the bedroom where he could hold and kiss her until they fell asleep.  "After this can we sleep?  Please?"  He was unable to keep the plaintive note out of his voice and he didn't particular care.  He was tired and Rosemary was in his arms and all he wanted was to feel her curled onto his chest as they slept.  He'd even sleep right here in the corridor at this point, if she stayed with him.

"Yes."  She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him again.  "I couldn't sleep either."

The girl was naked when they arrived, sitting astride the arm of the sofa and desperately rubbing herself against it.  Rosemary thought she might have felt bad for her, had she not immediately gone to James when she saw them.

"James!  Oh thank God."  The girl was crawling toward them, ignoring how James backed up until he was against the wall, pulling Rosemary with him.  "Please James, I need you, need your cock in my cunny."  She glared at Rosemary, trying to push her away as she grabbed James' hand.  "I'm so much better than her, you know I am."

James was still, seemed to be frozen, for all that he was looking at the girl with disgust.  She knew, suddenly, that he hadn't been lying when he said he didn't think the girl was pretty.  The thought gave her enough courage to push the girl away, making her fall on her perfect bum.  

"No."  She didn't give the girl a chance to respond, didn't even notice the way James was looking at her before she pressed herself against him, stretching herself as far as she could to kiss him.  She hoped the girl was watching, hoped she saw just how softly James was holding her, pulling her even closer as she sighed against his lips.  He wasn't hers, not forever, she knew that even if she didn't like it, but he was more hers than he was this nameless girl's.

James pulled away when Rosemary tried to deepen the kiss, moaning softly into his mouth.  "Not like this," he whispered.  "Not here."

Rosemary pouted, making him kiss her quickly one more time.  "I thought you wanted to make her watch."

"I was an idiot."  He was, thinking he could ever do that without ruining every other time they were together.  "Let's go to bed.  Please?  I don't --" He tried to think of what he wanted to say, what would explain how it suddenly felt wrong to use what they did together that way.  "I don't want to share that.  It should be just for us."

He knew he'd found the right words when Rosemary gave him a brilliant smile, pulling him down so she could kiss him hard, just once.  "That sounds nice," she whispered.

James kissed her just one more time, unable to keep from making sure O'Neill knew exactly how much he cared about Rosemary, how much more she was worth to him.  Then he called Hatty to take them upstairs, lifting the curse just before they left.

"Hey Rosemary," he whispered, when she was settled on his chest, one of her legs thrown across his hip so he could feel the heat from between her legs.  "What's your full name?"

Chapter Text

Cohen. Rosemary Adinah Cohen. Her favourite colour was pale yellow, like buttercream. She liked history and reading and painting, but she loved music most of all. She knew she had been ill when she was little, could remember all the doctors and needles and feeling sleepy all the time, but not what it was or why. She could remember her parents, a little. Mummy, warm and laughing, always singing. There was something with candles and songs and fresh baked bread. Tatty was even less clear, just a scratchy beard and soft eyes, holding her when she cried. Mostly she remembered Rebecca and the orphanage and wondering if parents had just been a dream she'd had.

She hadn't had many friends at the orphanage, none who were close enough to miss. Rebecca had kept her close, only leaving her when they had lessons or she was -- was with those men. Those memories still frightened her, even more now than when she didn't really understand what she'd seen. She didn't know how to feel about her big sister, not anymore. Rebecca had always been her hero, always been who she wanted to be when she was older. She almost wished she'd had to do those things too, if it would have kept Rebecca from hating her.

That thought, whispered against his chest, made James hold her tighter, the idea of anyone hurting her in that way -- in any way -- tugging on his magic. They'd spent the week in bed, kissing and talking, James asking her everything he could possibly think of. He'd woken that first day to her rubbing against him, humming into his neck as his cock slid between her folds. Stopping her had been the second hardest thing he'd ever done, after trying to kiss away the hurt look on her face when he told her he didn't want to, not just yet. He did, wanted more than almost anything to watch her gasping under him, chase away the memories of O'Neill that made him shudder and want a shower. He just also wanted to wait until he knew her, not his muggle pet. He was determined to make sure she knew she was more than that, wanted her to know that he wouldn't have been nearly so happy with just any muggle girl.

Which was why they were in the dining room of the Heir Wing, watching as Hatty brought out a towering cake with yellow buttercream and white roses that sparkled under the glow of the candles. Rosemary's hair was down, flowing across her shoulders in a way that made him want to run his hands through it, kissing her until she was breathless. He refrained only because she beat him to it, sitting in his lap and peppering his face with kisses.

"Alright," he laughed, only half-trying to stop her. "Don't you want to blow out the candles and open your presents?"

She blushed, kissing him again. "I like it here."

He certainly wasn't going to argue with that. Besides, it was fun, carefully feeding her bites of cake. They started with forks, but quickly switched to fingers when it became clear that it was easier. If Rosemary's lips wrapped around his fingers made his cock twitch slightly and his pupils dilate at the sensation of her gently licking off the crumbs and frosting, well, that was a small price to pay. Especially when she sighed softly, leaning her head against his and rocking against him just once before lifting a bite to his lips, the hint of blush across her cheeks half a shade deeper.

His concerns about having gone a bit overboard with the presents vanished when he saw the delight on Rosemary's face. There was a towering pile of them, everything he could possibly think to get her. He'd ordered more, in fact, but they wouldn't arrive in time so he told Hatty to hide them away for Christmas. It was probably a good thing, as Rosemary had to call Hatty to bring the gifts from the top of the pile to her. They were all wrapped in various shades of yellow with white accents, James wanting to shower Rosemary with her favourite colour as often as he could.

It took a long time to unwrap the gifts, Rosemary wanting to enjoy every unfolded crease of paper. James didn't help, brushing his lips along her neck and shoulder as she sat on his lap. She supposed it might have gone a bit faster if she hadn't wanted to turn enough to kiss him after every new book and dress and record. There were muggle books and magical ones, including the Famous Five and Mary Poppins and a magical history of a half-fairy family James said was where Barrie got his idea for Peter Pan. Her favourite was a history of the Potter family, one book for every century they could trace, all the way back even before the ancestor the Duchy of Linfred and March of Stinchcombe were named for. The most current book was set to update with every Potter birth and marriage, no matter where or how it took place, and was unable to be changed by anything less than death. James told her how several of his ancestors had made use of that particular restriction, secretly marrying those their family didn't approve of and simply telling them it was in the book upon their return. It was also how a handful of Potters had discovered their spouses were less than faithful, a child not appearing where they should, or with the wrong Potter woman.

There were clothes, dresses and skirts and blouses in every style imaginable. She felt herself blushing when one box turned out to hold a selection of lacy knickers, ranging from modest to nearly invisible.

James was blushing as well, when she turned to him. "You don't have to wear them if you don't want," he said. "I told Hatty to bring you anything you like, if you'd rather something else. Or anything else you want, sweets or games or different clothes. I just --" he cut off as his voice cracked slightly, clearing his throat and blushing even more. "I liked the ones you wore in spring."

That made her kiss him, even as her face grew hotter and she had to ignore the fluttery sensation in her stomach and odd desire to rub her legs together she'd come to associate with him. It was nice, seeing the slightly dazed look on his face when she pulled away. Enough that she knew she'd be wearing the knickers, if only to see him look like that again. Still blushing, she forced herself to ask the question she'd been wondering since he'd walked out of the dressing room in trousers and a soft yellow shirt.

"If I wear them, do you think you could wear muggle clothes again?" She tried not to look away, for all that the question embarrassed her. She didn't even know why it was so important, only that seeing him in something other than robes had made her feel flushed in the most wonderful way.

"I --" James cleared his throat again. "I can do that, if you want. Like this or...muggles wear some sort of stiff fabric, don't they? Jeans?"

Rosemary nodded, giggling at the thought of James in jeans held together by safety pins, like she'd seen on some of the older boys on the rare occasion when the matrons would take her year group into town. "I like this," she said, playing with the buttons of his shirt. "You'd look silly in jeans."

"Alright then. Muggle clothes whenever I'm home." He kissed her, so sweetly that it was all she could do to not cry at the thought that she'd have to give this up just because she wasn't a witch. She thought it might have been easier to watch him with that girl, at least then she'd been so hurt that leaving would have been a relief.

But she still couldn't bring herself to go before she had to. Not a second sooner. So she sighed into the kiss, memorising the feel of his arms around her waist and the way he groaned softly when she tilted her hips against his, just a little. Fourth year. James had said once that almost no one knew who they'd marry before fourth year. She would have at least three more years at Linfred and she was going to enjoy every moment of them. No more crying.

James was smiling at her when he pulled back, just as soft and sweet as his kiss had been. He couldn't seem to stop kissing her, pulling her close for just one more every time she started to turn to open more of her gifts. It took her even longer to finish the second half than the first, between the giggles and kisses and asking who Celestina Warbeck was and trying to explain The Beatles and The Carpenters. When she was done and had finished kissing James and Hatty had cleaned up the wrapping and taken the gifts to the suite, he turned her to face him.

"I have two more gifts, if you want them. They couldn't be wrapped very well."

"Really?" Rosemary rolled her hips against his, blushing even as she enjoyed the way he clutched at her waist. She didn't think she'd ever get used to being allowed to want this, ever be able to forget the way the matrons scolded the older girls when they were caught with boys. Jennifer Morris had been paddled in front of everyone, not even allowed to keep her knickers on because the matrons said immoral little girls who ran around with boys didn't have modesty anyway. If the matrons could see her now they'd paddle her for sure, maybe even send her away like they did with Violet Swale when she'd gotten into some sort of trouble with a boy in town.

She didn't think she cared, not really. It felt too good and she liked the way she could make James forget himself. Like now, pressing his face against her shoulder as she felt him growing hard under her. She pouted when he managed to compose himself, even if he did have to bite his lip when he held her so she couldn't rock against him anymore.

"Not that," James said. Merlin it was hard to say, hard to watch her face fall even as he quickly pecked her lips. "Not yet. I --" He cleared his throat, knowing that Sirius would tease him endlessly if he knew what he was about to say. "I want it to be special. You deserve special. Especially after what I made you watch."

Watching the emotions flash across her face -- uncertainty, shyness, pride, happiness, clear, painful desire -- almost made the interminable train ride with O'Neill seem quick. He forced himself to wait, needing to know she understood and accepted why he wouldn't unzip his trousers and slip into her right there, no matter how much he wanted to. Relief rushed through him when she nodded, smiling at him before cuddling into his arms.

They sat quietly for a while, James rubbing Rosemary's back and enjoying the peacefulness that seemed to surround them. It was nice, this gentle closeness. He didn't know how he always managed to forget how much he liked just being with her, even if they weren't doing anything in particular. He liked the feel of her arms around his neck, the way her eyelashes tickled when she pressed herself close to him. As much as he enjoyed the way she seemed to fit perfectly around him, enjoyed feeling her pant into his shoulder as he pressed himself deep inside her, he thought he might like this more. Rosemary in his arms, smiling up at him as he stroked her back and ran his fingers through her hair.

That didn't stop him from kissing her, pulling her tighter against him when she sighed. There was something irresistible about the way she looked after he'd kissed her as softly and teasingly as he could manage. All puffy lips and half-closed eyes, leaning her head against his as they tried to catch their breath. It was a bit masochistic, because he wanted her more now than he did even when she was rocking herself against him, but worth every bit of extra restraint he had to use to keep his promise to himself.

"Would you like to meet my sister?" he asked, once he'd managed to stop kissing her again every time they started to recover.

Sarah was tall, with chestnut brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. She was quite fun, as were her boys. There was a bit of a sticky moment at first, when they'd each kissed the back of Rosemary's hand. James hadn't been best pleased by that, puffing up like an angry cat and introducing himself as James Hardwin Potter, Marquis of Stinchcombe, of all things. It was ridiculous, and Rosemary had had quite a bit of fun by choosing the most compromising positions possible when they played Twister in the lounge later. She rather enjoyed how jealous it made him, hopefully at least a fraction of what she'd had to feel when he'd brought that girl home.

It was odd, being around boys who weren't James. All of the girls at Saint Magdalene's had scholarships to the school as well. Sometimes they'd go on day trips with the boys from Saint Timothy's, but the matrons discouraged mingling. She could still remember the sting on the backs of her hands when she'd grabbed a boy's hand to keep from getting lost.

Now she knew three different boys, one well enough to crave the feel of his skin against hers. She was simultaneously grateful and maddeningly, achingly frustrated that James at least still seemed to enjoy pressing himself close against her back as they fell asleep. It was the only time she could enjoy the feel of him, the warmth and pressure of his arms around her. The dresses were pretty, particularly because they made James look at her in a way that made her feel as though she'd run through the entire castle, but they muted the contentment that washed over her when he held her. Like she was the cat the Saint Magdalene's girls had adopted, when he stretched himself out after a nap in a ray of sunlight. It was always nice being with James, always something she missed terribly when he was away, but taking away the feel of his skin was like taking away Mr Floofer's sunbeam.

It was part of why she wasn't bothered when they spent only small amount of time with Sarah and her boys. The boys were reasonable enough, she supposed, Thomas especially. Alexander teased James rather too much for her liking, not seeming to understand that she enjoyed being fretted and fussed over. Thomas was more considerate, quickly catching on to how entertained she was by James glaring at anyone who was a bit too intimate with her while also being careful to never do anything that would make him more than mildly irritated or her uncomfortable. Unlike Alexander, whose comment about James' near constant brushes of her hand or back or thigh being compensation for something managed to do both at once. It had been Thomas who had mentioned that he'd hoped to meet with his tutor, if Rosemary didn't mind terribly having her birthday visit cut short.

She didn't, though she might have asked for a bit longer had she not also wanted to go back to the suite, where she could curl up against James' side without the interference of dress and shirt and trousers. It was a delicious, still almost forbidden thought that made her cheeks heat to fully acknowledge. So she didn't acknowledge it, not while she was curtsying goodbye to Sarah and the boys, nor when James pulled her against him after they'd gone, his eyes sparkling as he asked her if she'd enjoyed her second to last birthday gift. She certainly didn't acknowledge, even in the back of her mind, even just to herself, the feeling she got when James looked at her in the moments after he undressed her, as though Linfred could topple around them and he'd never notice.

She was so busy not thinking about things that made her feel squirmy and warm in all the best ways that she didn't register James continuing to talk to her until he kissed her, smiling against her lips at how she jumped slightly before sinking into the kiss.

"At least I know how to get your attention," he laughed, quickly kissing her again. It was adorable how she blushed, at nearly every small thing. He loved it and found himself hoping that she never stopped. He thought he might have managed to start seeing the difference between an embarrassed blush (dark, all over her face), a pleased blush (just a soft glow of pink on her cheeks), and an aroused blush (light on her nose and cheeks at first, then spreading slowly down her neck and chest), but there were more and he wanted to know all of them.

Right now there was the lightest hint of pink across her nose and cheeks, just enough to distract him with thoughts of pulling her dress off so he could watch as it travelled down her body. She hadn't looked anything like this when Sarah's boys had reached across her in that absurd muggle game, nor when the irritating one with the horrifyingly shabby muggle clothes (intentional, it had to be, the elves would never allow it otherwise) had whispered something in her ear. She didn't nibble her lip or look at either of them with eyes full of unspoken requests, no matter that she'd smiled and laughed with the other one. (Timothy? Dark, like Patil in Ravenclaw, just charming enough that James was hesitant to bring up the offer he and Sarah had agreed to make, no matter that he'd never been comfortable with leaving Rosemary alone for months on end while he was at school.) She only looked at him that way. It was far more of a relief than he'd expected, more than it was gratifying or even enticing, for all that it made him nearly forget how much he wanted to go slowly, at least for now.

Nearly forgetting wasn't entirely forgetting, however, and the thought of going slow immediately brought up the memory of Rosemary's face when he'd returned home with O'Neill. That was more than enough to make him collect himself, ignore the overwhelming urge to trail his lips over Rosemary's shoulder, just to hear the gasps it always brought out. He still kissed her once more, unable to quite push down that need, before forcing his attention back on the matter of her last gift.

It was more a gift from Mother than him, really, for all that it was his idea and the gold came from his personal vault. James still would never have arranged it without her permission. It wasn't a good idea to infringe on Mother's territory and Rosemary's education was entirely her territory. Which was why he made a mental note to share the memory of Rosemary's face lighting up when he asked if she'd like to add an instrument or two to her lessons the next time he was in the main family wing.

Part of the memory anyway. He'd have to be sure to cut it off before she jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist and kissing him so desperately he had her pressed up against a wall before he realised what he was doing. It was physically painful to pull away, move his hands from beneath her dress where he'd grabbed her bum to pull her harder against him, rest his head on her shoulder to catch his breath instead of kissing her neck like he wanted. Merlin, but she had a perfect, graceful neck. He didn't know how he was just noticing how appealing every part of her body was, not just her lips and chest and arse and glorious, mind-numbing, incomparable cunt. He didn't think he entirely cared either, as long as he was allowed to keep enjoying every inch of it.

"Jamie, please."

The words were whispered, almost too low for him to hear, but still managed to make him groan against her. Her entire face was flushed now, spreading down her neck even as he watched. James felt his resolve waver, just a little. Just enough for him to gently grind himself against her as he ghosted his lips across her collarbone. It was torture, the way she gasped at the feel of his breath against her skin. A dazzling, sublime kind of torture that made his heart race with anticipation. He could feel the cry working its way up her chest, settling in her throat for a moment before bursting out when he nipped at her collarbone.

Her eyes fluttered open when he pulled away, another breath of please, Jamie caressing his lips in the moment before he kissed her. It was heady, the way she relaxed fully into him when their lips touched. She shifted only slightly when he moved her away from the wall, seeming to trust him to not drop her. It was a thought that made him more breathless than the whimper when he had to pull away for a moment to lay her on one of the sofas.

He still wasn't going to sleep with her. He wasn't. This was not at all the way he had in mind, on a sofa in the lounge, like she was some random witch he could just bend over in the middle of the Gryffindor common room. He had more self control than this. He had to, if he was going to have any chance of keeping his promise to not have any other girls at Hogwarts.

That didn't stop him from slipping his hand between her legs, brushing the pads of his fingertips down her slit. She needed something. He was sure of it, as sure as he was of his name and his family and what those things meant for his future. They both needed more than they were able to share with kisses (no matter how brilliant) and sleeping with nothing between them. So he grazed his fingers against her clit, feeling as it swelled further with every light touch.

Rosemary knew she was tense, every part of her coiled and waiting. She was throbbing, down between her legs, her body clenching almost painfully. She was barely even aware of James' breath against her neck, teasing her with touches that were far too light. She tried pulling him closer to her, fisting her fingers in his hair and tugging until she could at least feel his lips on her skin. It still wasn't enough, the same way the light circles between her legs weren't nearly enough, but it was better.

She needed more, needed to feel his skin against hers. Needed him to pant in her ear, groaning when he throbbed inside her, stretching her just a tiny bit more. She didn't even know she was tugging at his belt, trying to get closer to him, until he pinned her hands above her head.

"Not yet," he whispered, breath hot against her neck. She could feel tears building in her eyes even as she strained against him, trying to press herself closer to his hand. Someone was babbling, she thought it must be her, for all that she was too focused on the tension in her limbs to be aware of what she was saying. It was too much, not enough, nearly perfect. Everything hurt, even as it felt better than she could remember anything feeling. The weight of Jamie's body pressed against her wasn't enough, wasn't the closeness she wanted, for all that it was almost enough to make it hard to breathe.

She felt her legs spreading further, one foot falling to the floor so she could better thrust against his fingers. Not that he allowed it, not really. For a moment she could feel him skim past her entrance, before he drew away again. It was just enough to make her sob, a loud cry that started from her belly and built until it burst from her lips with enough force to leave her trembling. The tears in her eyes spilt over, streaming down her cheeks. It wasn't enough. The feel of him so close, but somehow not close enough, made something inside her ache. A horrible, wonderful ache that was only made worse when his fingers dipped down to caress her entrance again, making her body flutter and try to draw him in.

James plunged his fingers inside her at the same time he bit down on her neck and suddenly the tension she thought couldn't coil any tighter tripled before releasing all at once, leaving her in a world of white.

"You asked to see me Father?" James was careful to keep his tone neutral, for all that he was irritated at having been summoned so early. Rosemary had been sprawled across his chest when he left, her breath puffing against him. Leaving the comfortable warmth of the bed had been more difficult than he remembered it being in spring.

"Yes, please have a seat," Fleamont gestured to the chair across from his desk, "I'll call for tea."

James stumbled slightly, having been headed for his usual spot by the fire. "Have I done something wrong?" He couldn't imagine what it might be. His marks were excellent, amongst the best in his year. He hadn't done anything since coming home, at least not anything that he hadn't already been scolded for. Since their fight James had been loathe to leave Rosemary. They'd had Sarah and her boys over for an hour or so every day since Rosemary's birthday, but he had managed to avoid hexing the scruffy one. Barely, and only because he knew it would upset Rosemary, but he had.

"No," Fleamont smiled at his son, "I simply thought it was time for you to get out for a bit. See the rest of the castle again, in case you've forgotten it."

It took quite a bit of effort for James to refrain from rolling his eyes. "I remember Linfred fine. I like spending time with Rosemary." It was a difficult thing to say aloud, for all that he knew his father would never judge him or even truly disapprove. Being around Sirius had made him painfully aware of just how different the Potters were from most pureblood families. He'd already been teased a few times for still having Rosemary at all, if some of the other boys found out that he actually enjoyed spending time with her rather than just fucking her however he pleased he'd have to duel all of them just to prove they couldn't push him around. They certainly could never find out he'd been home nearly half the hols and still hadn't had so much as her lips around him. Remus might understand, might even approve of his odd need to make Rosemary feel cared for, but he was the only one. Even Sirius would likely be disgusted by a boy who went so far as to care about his muggle.

"I know you do." Fleamont's voice brought James out of his musings. "I also know what it's like to be a boy at Hogwarts with a muggle he truly misses waiting at home."

James looked up at that. Father had never mentioned either of his girls, not even during the discussions they'd had about his coming of age and what it meant to take care of his future girls. He'd just assumed Father was like most boys, entertained by his girls, but happy to leave them with their governess when he didn't have need of them.

Fleamont smiled at the open surprise on his son's face. He'd never mentioned Charlotte, the pretty little muggle who had been his constant companion outside of Hogwarts until he was nearly seventeen. The memories were still painful, for all that it had been over forty years.

"Charlotte," he began, "was a year younger than me. She was the daughter of one of the families in the village until her parents both died in a fire not long before my birthday. We'd met before, when I was still allowed to play with the muggle children, and your grandfather thought she would be a good first girl for me. I was quite nervous, you see, and your grandfather thought a familiar face might help." He paused, remembering the way Charlotte had looked when she was brought to him, all smiles and hugs for her old friend.

"It did help, immensely. I sent my second girl away almost immediately after I'd had her, after Charlotte I found I wasn't interested in being with girls I was only attracted to physically." In that way Fleamont thought James was like him. Euphemia had always been happy to be with anyone skilled enough to tease her the way she liked. Even in their first year she'd been bold enough to walk up to the unattached seventh year boys and ask them to take her. Fleamont had been the opposite, only able to enjoy himself if he'd first made some sort of connection with a girl. It was a trait that hadn't endeared him to his classmates.

James bit his lip, trying to decide whether or not his father would be upset if he spoke. When the pause had stretched on a bit and it seemed that his father was somewhat lost in his memories he decided to speak up, if quietly.

"What did you do when you went to Hogwarts?"

Fleamont started slightly, almost having forgotten he was telling his son a story, not simply recollecting his childhood. "That was difficult," he said. "I didn't understand why, not until years later, after she'd gone back to the muggle world." He looked at James for a moment, wondering if he'd started to see why it was that he found it so difficult to see Rosemary upset, or if he was still too young. Sarah knew, had sought him out to inform him he wasn't to do anything that would make her big brother unhappy, but Fleamont thought girls were usually better about these things. Euphemia had certainly known how he saw Charlotte years before he'd been able to. Noticing that James was about to ask another question, he returned to his story, hoping he wouldn't continue getting so distracted.

"I was so upset at the thought of leaving that I asked your grandfather if I could be tutored at home." He shook his head, smiling at how young he'd been. "As you can imagine, that didn't go over well. I was informed that as his only heir I would be attending Hogwarts and doing everything I could to make a good match for myself. And I did, your mother is by far the best thing to ever happen to me." Fleamont bit back a laugh at the vaguely nauseated look that flashed across his son's face. He'd been much the same when his parents had so much as hinted that they weren't simply two adults who shared the same home. "The first year," he continued, "was difficult though. I was teased quite a bit by the other boys for wanting to talk to girls before I was with them. I believe your friend Mr Lupin has a similar problem?"

James nodded. It wasn't quite the same, not with Remus never being with girls at all, but he thought it was probably close enough. "How did you deal with it?"

Fleamont laughed, remembering how Cyril Prince had looked with pink hair and purple skin. "I hexed them, every last one, until they'd learnt to keep their comments where I couldn't hear." He grinned at his son, enjoying the open shock on his face. James so often forgot that his parents had been children once too. "I also had a best friend, your friend Mr Lupin's uncle, in fact. Lawrence was also uninterested in going through girls as quickly as he could, though it turned out his reasons were different than mine. Having someone to talk to who didn't care that I was more interested in Charlotte than the witches at Hogwarts made it easier to not beg your grandfather to let me go home."

"I didn't take a muggleborn home that summer. It upset your grandfather, but I had no desire to be with any of them, nor to make Charlotte unhappy." Fleamont noted how James squirmed. Good. The boy had made a mistake, a large one. It was good for him to feel uncomfortable. "I didn't bring home any girls, in fact, until after she'd left Linfred."

James frowned. "But what about Mother? I thought you were betrothed in your sixth year." That had been what he had always been told. They'd met in their first year, enjoyed each other's company until fourth when Father began pursuing her, then were betrothed in their sixth, engaged in their seventh, and married immediately after Father had finished his potions apprenticeship.

Fleamont sighed, trying to think of how to explain the tangled mess that was his early courtship of Euphemia. "I love your mother, James. I knew the moment I saw her sitting on Fitzwilliam Weasley's lap that I had been an idiot to not realise she was the perfect witch for me sooner." He paused, hoping his son would understand what he was going to say next. He should, Fleamont rather thought he was having a similar problem, but James was still so young. Young enough that he would have held off this conversation, if not for Hatty. Taking a breath to steady himself he continued, hoping James wouldn't hate him for it. "I also loved Charlotte. I didn't know it yet, or I never would have begun courting your mother, but I did. The thought of parading around the girl who would one day take her place was nearly enough to make me end the courtship. Your mother is why I didn't. She told me she was happy to let me keep my girl as long as I allowed her to keep her boy. Which I did, until she decided she was ready to let go of him when we were thinking of having children."

James found he couldn't move. Couldn't speak. Couldn't respond in any way to the shock of his father ever having loved anyone other than his mother. He knew his parents loved each other, there had been no need to clarify that. He had heard often of how Mother was the only girl Father had ever even considered courting, let alone marrying. How he'd almost had to repeat his first year of mastery because he spent more time visiting Mother than revising for his apprentice exams. He knew that it wasn't quite as sweeping a picture as Father had always described, Mother had seen to that in spring. But never, not once, had his Father ever mentioned being the slightest bit interested in anyone else. Mother had, had talked of her beaus and how she'd nearly married several different Weasleys, but Father never had.

Then a though occurred to him. One he thought he probably should have considered earlier, given who his best friends were. He looked up, noticing that Father had been silent for several moments. He cleared his throat, hoping his voice would stay steady. "Why isn't she here then? If you loved her, why isn't she my mother? Or...step-mother or second mother, whatever I'd call her if she wasn't my birth mother?"

"Because she chose to leave when I was sixteen." Fleamont's voice did crack, for all that he was long past adolescence. It still hurt to think about, the way Charlotte had shouted at him. Told him she hated him and wished they'd never met.

"Why?" The fear in James' voice was clear, enough that he blushed and shrank back in his seat.

Fleamont smiled, though it was more wistful than happy. He'd made the right decision, telling James now rather than waiting until he was older. It would be better for him to have some warning. An idea of the many ways in which his and Rosemary's relationship could end, even if it wasn't something he was ready to fully think about.

"There were many reasons. I don't think any one of them would have been enough on its own, but together...when she left she told me she would have rather died with her parents than spent nearly six years of her life with me." That wasn't quite the full truth. Fleamont rather thought there was one reason in particular Charlotte refused to spend a minute longer with him. But he wasn't going to say, not unless asked directly. He could already see James struggling to keep from running to ensure his girl was still safely where he'd left her. There was no need to worry the poor boy even further.

Unfortunately, his son was a Potter. A Gryffindor Potter, the worst kind when you wanted to avoid saying something that would hurt them. He was only slightly surprised when James' first words after he'd mastered himself were, "What reasons?" And then, when Fleamont hesitated, "All of them, please Father."

Sighing, Fleamont tried to think of the best way to list all the reasons he believed Charlotte had left him. He'd had many years to think of them, had spent nearly the entire time between her leaving and his wedding to Euphemia trying to decide which were more important. Had spent over eleven years trying to determine how he could prevent them with his son's girls, from the moment he knew he would be having a son. But he'd never thought of how to explain them to that son, for all that he knew it was a conversation they'd have to have.

"She had never been comfortable with your grandfather," he said, deciding to go by time. "He'd had to train her before giving her to me and I believe..." Fleamont trailed off, unsure of exactly how much detail he wanted to go into with James still being so young.

"Rebecca was angry about enjoying her first time," James whispered. He could still hear her, shouting how much she hated Rosemary. "She said it was awful to want something she hated."

It pained Fleamont that his son understood so easily what he hadn't realised until he was nearly out of Hogwarts. Rosemary had been good for him and Fleamont would never give up his daughters for anything, but he found himself wishing he'd found an older witch to be with James first. Some way of giving him a little more distance from things he was far too young to know, never mind that it was making this explanation easier.

He called for more tea before continuing, as well as some of the biscuits James enjoyed so much. They were both likely to need it.

"Yes," he said, "I believe it was something like that. I don't -- the traditional pureblood views are sometimes more idealistic than practical. Your grandfather meant well, I am sure he was quite gentle, but..." Again Fleamont found himself unable to decide how much James should know.

"I'm never doing that." James looked up from his tea, his mouth set in a way Fleamont had only seen once previously, when he'd insisted on Rebecca being sent as far away as possible. "Rebecca and Wendy were both so frightened. Rosemary and Sarah too, and they'd never had to -- I won't do it. I'll...I don't know, find a witch or choose the girls early so they can read the training books, but I'm not doing it. I don't care what all the books say."

Fleamont saw, suddenly, what kind of wizard his son would grow into. Not the details, not whether he'd be a master duellist or a professor or a quidditch star, but the core parts that would define him. That already did define him, make him able to simply set aside beliefs he'd been raised with if he disagreed with them. It was something that had taken Fleamont decades to learn. He wasn't sure he'd fully learnt it yet.

"There were other reasons as well, but yes, I came a similar conclusion." Similar because Fleamont had still considered it. It was humbling to know that his son was already a better wizard than he was. "Charlotte was also unhappy with being a muggle in a magical household. I didn't realise it until the day she left, she was quite good at hiding it. But one of the things she said was that it was a nightmare to live so close to things you could never have. As she had never been in love with me, I am forced to conclude that she was jealous of not having magic."

James only barely kept from spitting out his tea. "Not in love with you?" he gasped, once he'd managed to get some control over his coughing. "Why'd you keep her then? Wouldn't it have been easier to send her away so you could just be with Mother?"

"I didn't know I loved her." Fleamont smiled ruefully. He really had been quite blind when he was younger. "It took her leaving before I realised I felt worse than I would have if your mother wanted to break our betrothal agreement." Realising what he'd just said, Fleamont rushed to explain. "It's not that I loved your mother any less, I didn't. It was only that --"

"If you'd had to pick you would have chosen Charlotte. It's ok Father, I'm not upset."

And he didn't seem upset, not in the least. Though, Euphemia hadn't been upset either. Not when she'd found him curled up in his bed a fortnight after Charlotte had left, unwashed and weak from having refused nearly all meals. Not when she told him she'd known he was in love with his muggle girl since their first year, after she'd helped him into the bath and watched as he ate something. He'd asked, years later, when the sting was starting to fade just a little. She'd simply smiled and told him she was quite sure he loved her as well and, as she had never had any intentions of making him choose between them, it wasn't something that had concerned her.

"Were there other reasons, or were those the only ones?" James' voice once again shook him out of his memories. He hadn't realised just how difficult it would be to finally tell the story aloud. He'd have to practice, make sure he could get through it more easily with the girls. They deserved to know just as much as their brother did.

For now though, there was only James. James and the most difficult reason of all.

"No. I think the those reasons might have been bearable, at least for a few more years." He opened a drawer, pulling out a bundle of envelopes. "I think what truly frightened her enough to make her run away was that she had found out she was carrying our child."

This time James did spew his tea. He sputtered, trying to apologise as Fleamont waved away the mess with his wand. "Carrying your child?" The words were barely intelligible between his coughing, but Fleamont had been expecting them.

He opened the topmost envelope, pulling out a muggle picture of an infant with unmistakable Potter hair, though it looked like it might be lighter than the usual Potter black. "The potion for wizards hadn't been invented yet," he explained, "and the charm we used before it had to be repeated with every interaction. I was normally more responsible than most wizards my age, but I must have forgotten at least once. I didn't know until I received a letter from Charlotte telling me she was sorry for not telling me sooner, but she had to leave Linfred and was afraid she wouldn't be able to if anyone knew."

James stared at the picture. He had a...sibling, of some sort. Another one. One with Potter hair and he thought maybe the same nose. "Do you know where they are?" He had to know, even if they never met. There were so few Potters left, only his father and Great-Uncle Charlus, really. If there was even one more he needed to know where they were.

"In Canada, outside Toronto. Charlotte sends me a letter and a picture every year. Your sister writes sometimes too." Not often, not nearly as often as Fleamont would like, but he knew he was lucky to get even as much as he did. Both women had informed him in no uncertain terms that they had no interest in seeing him or his family. He pulled out another picture, this one wizarding and more recent. "You have nieces and nephews, though most of them are older than you. That's your sister, Lucy, and her husband Stephen. Olivia is seventeen, your sister says if she wants she can come meet us after her birthday." He hoped she would, but after forty years he wasn't expecting her to. "Andrew is fifteen, he's written a few times. The twins, Nathan and Grace, they're only a year older than you. And Emily is the youngest, she'll be ten in November." Fleamont knew by now not to ask if she might attend Hogwarts, not to mention that she'd be accepted in under a second and he'd be more than happy to arrange for her to visit any time they wanted.

Of course they were mostly older than him. James had done the calculations in his head and realised his sister must be in her fifties by now if she'd been born when Father was sixteen or seventeen. But there were so many of them. Six whole Potters he'd never heard of before. More Potters in Canada than there were in Britain. He supposed they were technically whatever Stephen's surname was, but they all had the Potter hair, even the girls, and that was more than enough for him.

"Does Mother know?" She did, she had to, but he had to ask anyway. If Mother knew then it was fine, he could enjoy six more Potters in peace, but if she didn't...well, he simply didn't want to think about what he would have to do if she didn't.

"She does." Charlotte wrote to her more often than she did him, oddly enough. It hurt, but he would never turn down any information about the family he wasn't allowed to see. "She also knows about the trust vaults in Canada for your sister and each of her children." Trust vaults that had never been touched, but that wasn't the point. "I expect you to ensure their branch of the family is cared for the exact same way you do Sarah and Wendy's, after I'm gone." Maybe by then one of them will have been curious enough to seek out their relatives.

James nodded. Of course he would look after his sister and her family. If Father hadn't mentioned the trust vaults he'd have badgered him until they were set up. Six more Potters. Six. Suddenly he felt very small, too small to be the only Potter heir. It was a feeling he hadn't had since the first time Father had left him to spend the night in the heir rooms alone.

"James." Fleamont waited for his son to look up. "I told you this because I thought it was time for you to know about your family," well no, not really, he'd only meant to tell him he was allowed to care for a muggle girl, but somehow that had turned into this, "but also because I wanted you to think carefully about how you treat Rosemary." That was closer, at any rate. "I didn't appreciate Charlotte until she'd left. I didn't ask what she wanted, or even consider it. If I had maybe..." Maybe nothing at all, Fleamont truly didn't think there was anything he could have done to make her stay permanently. At best he might have had a few more years. "Maybe things would have turned out differently." They wouldn't have, not in any real way, but James wasn't him and Rosemary wasn't Charlotte. If nothing else, James had already shown he was starting to think of Rosemary differently. The charges to his vault were evidence of that.

"I know." He did, though he was ashamed to admit it had taken him a year to get there. "Sarah was cross with me about Rosemary. I'm trying to do better now. We've --" he blushed, not entirely sure he wanted to admit this to his father of all people, but still feeling he should be at least a little open in return for the story that was obviously still difficult to tell. "We've not been together since I came home. I want to show her I don't think of her as a pet or a toy. Not anymore." He was still more than a little horrified to realise he ever had at all.

"That's good." Fleamont smiled. His son was truly already a better wizard than he. "Off with you now, go back to your girl. You're excused from everything except visiting your sisters for the rest of summer." There was more he had wanted to say, about learning the accounts and being more careful with his spending. They could wait. James was still young yet and the time with Rosemary was unlikely to be forever. He'd give them all the extra time together he could.

James was at the door before he thought of one thing he hadn't asked. "Father? Could you duplicate that picture for me? The one with everyone in it?" He grinned when his father sent two copies of the photo to him without question. He knew exactly where they would go in his scrapbook and on his nightstand at Hogwarts.

Rosemary was awake when he returned to the suite, curled up on the sofa with the first book of Potter history. James took a moment to simply watch her, before she realised he was there. Her hair was pulled back again, held away from her face with a golden bow the exact shade of the leafing on the Potter crest. She must have bathed while he was gone because her skin was still slightly flushed in the way it only ever got after she'd had a warm shower or bath, just a hint of pink on her arms and legs. He found himself moving before he'd ever decided to, gently pulling the book out of her hands and kissing her just to feel her lips against his.

He loved the way she smiled against his lips, immediately wrapping her arms around his neck and trying to pull him closer. Was more than happy to oblige, in fact, moving so that they were laying on the sofa, Rosemary pressed between him and the cushions. There was something about kissing her that made him feel almost as though his magic was building inside of him, growing the way it did when he had to push himself through a particularly advanced spell. Almost because it was better, all of the rush without the accompanying strain and exhaustion. It was good when they were together too, he had grand plans of enjoying her several times a day after he'd proved to her that wasn't the only part about her he liked. But this, the feel of her lips and the way her fingers tangled in his hair, was something he couldn't seem to get from anyone else. Even Alice, for all that she was so similar to Rosemary in temperament. One day, maybe, he might find a witch who made him feel the same way. Father had. For now though, he found he had no interest in looking. Rosemary was enough. Would be enough, as Charlotte had been enough for Father.

The memory of how that had ended made him pull away, nuzzling his nose against Rosemary's until he was able to speak. "Promise you'll tell me if you're ever unhappy." He dragged his eyes from her lips, noting that her eyes had a band of light green just around the pupil. "Anything you want, just ask. Even if you think I won't like it. Even if --" he drew a breath, not wanting to say this part, but knowing he had to, "Even if you want to leave. Tell me, don't wait until you hate me for it."

"Ok." The words were whispered, Rosemary's nose nudging against his own as she nodded. "Jamie, what's wrong?"

He sighed, pulling them up so that they were sitting, Rosemary tucked into his side. "I have a sister. Another one, I mean." He showed her one of the duplicate photos. "That's Lucy. She's my half-sister, I guess, but she's my sister. Charlotte, her mum, was a muggle. She didn't tell Father about Lucy until after she was born." He hesitated for a moment, unsure if he should be more specific. He probably didn't need to, Rosemary probably understood already, but he wanted to be absolutely clear. It seemed important, for some reason. "Charlotte was one of Father's coming of age gifts, like you and Rebecca. She left when he was sixteen."

At that Rosemary looked up, frowning. "Left? He didn't send her away?"

"No." James shook his head, pulling her tighter against him. "I don't think Father would have ever sent her away, he said he loved her but didn't know until it was too late. He didn't even bring Mother to Linfred until after she'd left."

Rosemary stared at the picture, trying to imagine leaving Linfred before she had to. Even thinking about it had been too hard. She would have, if James hadn't so obviously regretted what he'd done, but she thought it might have hurt more than watching him with that girl had. More than Rebecca shouting at her. Almost as much as the quiet understanding she refused to fully acknowledge that her mum hadn't wanted her enough to keep her.

"Please don't do that." James' voice cracked on the first word, but he continued anyway. "Don't just...leave. Tell me first, so I have a chance to fix it. I'll try, I promise. You can have anything you want, anything at all. Lessons and instruments and whatever else. Just ask. I'm --" he blushed, not quite used to saying what was already well known to everyone in the magical world. "I can buy anything, really. We have property all over the world, you can live anywhere you like. I can try to find your parents or you can go to university if you want. School even, right now. Hatty can take you anywhere, even if it's boarding, so you could still spend nights here if you wanted. I'll buy you a house, your own cas --"

It was a relief when Rosemary kissed him, cutting off his babbling. He wasn't sure he'd have been able to stop otherwise. It had been on the tip of his tongue to promise there'd never be any witches ever, no matter that he knew he had to marry and produce an heir. There would be at least one witch. The best he could promise was that there would only be one. It didn't stop him from wanting to promise more. Anything to keep him from looking the way Father had, as if there was a part of him that would never be completely happy.

He pulled Rosemary closer to him, unsure when she'd climbed into his lap, but grateful all the same. She was still here. He could taste her lips, hear her gasp when he teased them open, needing to be closer. He slipped his hands under her dress to feel her skin under his hands. Soft and warm and he knew he was probably gripping too tight to be comfortable, but he couldn't seem to help himself. No more than he could keep from pressing his face against her neck, memorising the way she smelt in summer. Clear and crisp, like a day at the seaside. It was probably some sort of perfume, something Hatty gave her, but none of the girls at Hogwarts had the same one so he couldn't help but associate it with her alone.

It seemed an eternity before he was able to release her. Long minutes of alternating panic and reassurances that left him feeling limp and exhausted. "I'm sorry," he whispered, forcing himself to relax his hold on her hips. He gently stroked where his fingers had been, hoping that at least it hadn't been hard enough to bruise.

That was when he realised Rosemary had been clutching him as well. Her fingers were tangled in his hair and pressed into his shoulder, holding him to her. She blushed when he pulled away just a bit, letting go of him to wrap her arms around his neck. His scalp was rather tender, now that he was more aware of his surroundings. And his shoulder ached somewhat too, as if there were small indentations where her fingers had been. He smiled, dipping his head to brush his lips against hers. Still here. She was still here.

"I don't want to leave."

Thank Merlin. He hadn't thought she did, not really. That didn't make the words any less of a relief to hear.

"I don't want you to either. Not ever." He didn't. It was a surprise to him, though he thought maybe it shouldn't be. "Have I ever told you about my great-grandfather?"

He hadn't, and she hadn't gotten that far in the Potter history books, so he asked Hatty to bring him the relevant volume. "My great-great-grandfather loved two women," he said, turning to the page with the story of Marc and Ellinor and Susan. "His wife, a witch, and one of the muggle girls he'd been given at his coming of age. Ellinor had met Susan when Great-Great-Grandfather was first thinking of courting her. He knew he couldn't give up Susan, so he decided that if Ellinor wouldn't accept her he would have to find another witch to marry. Luckily, Ellinor and Susan became best friends. They were so close that Susan stayed in the heir rooms, and eventually the master rooms, with Ellinor and Marc. When Ellinor found out she couldn't have children," he flipped to the family tree at the front of the book, "they decided that Great-Great-Grandfather would have children with Susan and they would all three be their parents. Father named me after their first son, my great-grandfather Hamish." He'd never thought much about it before, but now he couldn't help but wonder if it was his father's way of hoping James wouldn't go through the same thing he had.

Rosemary looked down at the book, running her fingers over the line that connected Marc, Ellinor, and Susan Potter. Potter. Susan's surname was listed as Potter, the same as Ellinor's. She wondered if James had noticed that, that it hadn't stayed Watson any more than Ellinor's had stayed Nott. More importantly, she wondered how Susan had managed it, watching Marc and Ellinor. The woman in the picture looked happy enough, both in the family tree and the portrait of the entire family, Marc and Susan and Ellinor and all nine of their children. Maybe she had been. Maybe knowing Ellinor had made it easier. Or maybe she just couldn't bring herself to leave before she was forced, even if it hurt.

"I don't think I could do that."

James felt his heart stop for a moment before he could force himself to breathe again. "Ok." He closed the book, setting it aside and pulling Rosemary back into his lap. "I won't make you, not if you don't want to." He'd find another way. He had no idea what it might be, not unless he could manage to magic himself a younger brother, but he'd find it. "It doesn't matter right now anyway. There's no one I like nearly as much as I like you."

That was true enough. He might find that he grew closer to one of the girls at school as time went on, or maybe he'd like one of the younger girls. Or one of the muggleborns he hadn't had yet, he still thought Evans would be perfect if she would just stop hating him. But for right now there was absolutely no one he would even consider giving up Rosemary for. Besides, he still had years before he had to worry about producing an heir. Father was older than any of his friends' parents, old enough to be his grandfather really, but wizards lived a long time. And Father wasn't one to push, nor Mother. Malfoy would need to be engaged at least before he left Hogwarts, Sirius probably too, but Father wouldn't force that on him. If he wanted to travel the world meeting witches until he found one he wanted more than Rosemary neither of his parents would stop him. He rather thought Father might even encourage it.

He pressed his nose into Rosemary's hair, drinking in the scent of her. Summer days and fresh air and waves crashing against rocks. It was fine. She was right here. They still had time.

Chapter Text

"Can I open my eyes now?"

"Not yet."  James carefully led Rosemary into the parlour, being careful to make sure she didn't trip or run into anything.  "Alright," he said, positioning her exactly where he wanted her, "go ahead, look."  

It had taken two full weeks of bothering Mother and negotiating with Father and multiple promises that he'd spend the last weeks before school started again going over his personal accounts and forming a proper budget, but the look on Rosemary's face when she saw the piano was worth it.

"I don't even play yet."

"No," James said, watching her run her fingers along the side, "but you will and you'll need something to practice on."  They already had a piano, several in fact, but that wasn't the point.  This one was for Rosemary, made by the best piano-makers in magical Europe.  It had cost a small fortune to have ready before he left, but the Mendelssohns were old family friends and anyway James had plenty of small fortunes.  He could buy her a new piano every year and still not make a dent in his trust vault, let alone his full inheritance.

Watching Rosemary circle the piano, carefully trailing her fingers around the rim, he thought he might do just that.  Maybe not a piano every year, but something musical.  Whatever she wanted to play.  A violin at Christmas, definitely.  She'd already decided on violin and piano to start and while Hatty had already brought several perfectly serviceable violins from the Potter vaults to Rosemary's music room in the heir suite, she should have her own.  He'd have to ask Father to write Ollivander, see if his cousins in Italy could have one done by then.

"Bloody hell, what's this?"

James turned, only just managing to keep from showing his surprise -- or his irritation.  Bloody fucking unkempt muggle.  Alfred or Abelard or whatever his bloody name was.  He seemed to love barging in whenever he wanted, regardless of whether or not James had invited him.  Wanker had already caused one fight with Sarah, after he'd walked into the sitting room of the heir rooms without knocking, managing to catch a glimpse of Rosemary in just her knickers.  James' magic had reacted instinctively, throwing him out of the room and sealing the door.  Sarah had been more than a bit angry, especially when he refused to apologise.  That Father had agreed to remove the memory from Boorish Tosser's mind hadn't helped.

"Sorry," Thomas ran up behind Alemond, putting his hands on his knees for a moment as he caught his breath.  "House elves popped us to opposite ends of the wing."  He glared at Alonso, who was now leaning against the entry, smirking.  "I'll give the instructions to both of them next time."

He seemed to notice the piano suddenly, straightening and walking over to it.  "This is beautiful.  Where'd you find a grand this colour?"

"Jamie got it for me."  Rosemary wrapped her arms around James' waist, beaming up at him.  "Isn't it wonderful?  I'm starting lessons in September."

Thomas nodded, circling the piano much the way Rosemary had.  "It's gorgeous.  Not nor -- I mean, muggle, right?  I don't think I've heard of Mendelssohn pianos before."

"They're wizarding."  James tried to keep the arrogance he knew could creep into his voice when Sarah's boys were around under control.  Thomas was nice enough, it wasn't his fault Adler always managed to put James on edge.  "That's their signature colour, no one knows how to make it.  It's how you know you have an authentic Mendelssohn."  James knew because Father had been trying to find the right potion and spell combination to reproduce it for as long as he could remember.  Said it helped keep his mind sharp.

"Do you mind if I try it?  I'm not very good, but I've always wanted to play something like this."

James nudged Rosemary when she looked up at him.  "It's your piano, not mine."  He was not the least bit surprised when she nodded enthusiastically and pulled him over to a place where they could watch more easily.

"Watch the colour," he whispered as Thomas sat at the bench, "I set it to change so you can see how well you're playing."

Sure enough, as Thomas worked his way through scales and onto some sort of airy, cheerful piece, the piano shifted from a blue-tinted black to a swirl of vibrant hues.  It was like watching a shifting nebula, colours blossoming in the black when he did well and fading away when he stumbled.  James had seen a master pianist once, at a concert his parents forced him to go to.  She'd played so well that it seemed the nebula was part of the music, swirling and growing and blending with the tone and mood and volume.

Thomas wasn't nearly so good, not that it mattered.  Rosemary still cheered when he finished, bouncing on her toes as she clapped.  James found he was impressed as well.  It wasn't perfect, but it looked rather more difficult than the little he could play.  Music had never been one of his interests, much to Mother's disappointment.

"Alright, we've heard the piano.  Let's do something fun."  Alejandro pushed off from where he was still leaning against the entryway.  "There's not a whole lot in here, is there?"

"It's a parlour.  It's where you entertain people you actually want to talk to."  James was aware he was being rude.  He didn't care.  It had been a nice few minutes when he'd forgotten Alban was in the room.

Alaric shrugged, making a slow circle around the room.  "Guess we'll have to make our own fun then.  Rosie, you ticklish?"

James felt his magic lash out as Alastair lunged at Rosemary, only just keeping it to crackling under his fingertips when Aleron dragged her away from him, tickling her sides.  He wouldn't hurt his sister's boy.  He wouldn't.  It didn't matter that he was the most irritating boy he'd ever known, even more than bloody Snape and his snooping, tattle-telling nose.  Sarah was already angry with him, had already barely spoken to him for a week.  He would not make things worse.

Thomas darted a glance at him, seeming nervous as Algernon continued to tickle Rosemary.  "Alex," he called, "why don't we play a game or something?  Something we can all do."

"Nah," Alfie laughed, "Rosie's having fun, aren't you Rosie?"  He smirked at James as she writhed against him

Rosemary was laughing too hard to speak, though she didn't look upset.  James clenched his fists, willing his magic down further.  Rosemary was having fun.  If he let his magic go now she'd only be frightened.  It wasn't worth it.  He could control himself.  He wasn't a child anymore.  As long as Rosemary was happy that was all that mattered.

Then one of Alvin's hands moved up to her chest while the other slipped under her dress and all James knew was blistering heat.

James groaned, flinching when even that small noise sounded like a mermaid screeching in his ear.  Merlin, his head hurt.  He felt worse than the time he'd fallen off his broom from above the goal hoops.  That had meant Skelegrow and a week of bed rest and nearly two months of being banned from flying -- not including the extra month Father had added as punishment for flying at night.  He carefully tried opening his eyes, sighing when he saw that the room was mercifully dim.  It was blurry, for some reason he wasn't wearing his glasses, but he didn't need to see to know that Rosemary was sniffling into his shirt.

"Wha --" he swallowed, trying to get some moisture into his mouth.  "What happened?"

"Ah, good, you're awake."  

James jumped slightly, holding in a whimper when the movement made his entire body ache.  "Father?"  He carefully turned his head in the direction he thought he'd heard his father, gratefully reaching out for the blurry shape he assumed were his glasses.

He was in his bed, Rosemary indeed tucked close against his side.  The drapes were drawn tight on all sides, not even a sliver of light peeking through them.  If not for the few sconces lit -- less than half of what he normally used -- he didn't think he'd be able to see at all.  Father was in a chair by his bed, seeming to be waiting for him to gather his bearings.

"What happened?" he asked again.

"What do you remember?"

James blinked at the odd question.  That was the kind of question that usually only got asked after a bad duel or quidditch tumble.  He'd had enough of both to know.  He'd barely been flying all summer though, and nothing even a little dangerous.  He'd only taken a few laps around the pitch with Wendy, teaching her how to better balance during turns.  He'd not had a single duelling lesson that he could remember.  Even if he had, Father was always cautious with them, only pushing just enough that they improved.

"I was showing Rosemary her piano," he said.  "She was looking at it and Sarah's boys came in.  The bothersome one, with the ripped clothes for no reason, then Thomas a bit after.  Thomas played for us a little, rather well actually.  Then Alton started tickling Rosemary."  He glanced up at his father.  "I was angry, but I controlled my magic, I swear.  I didn't let it do anything, even when he goaded me."

Fleamont nodded.  "I believe you.  Is that all?"

"I thi --"  He frowned.  No, that wasn't quite all.  There was something else.  What was he forgetting?

Suddenly he saw that boy's hand on Rosemary's thigh, nearly grazing her bare fanny.  His magic leapt out of him for a moment, the flames in the sconces blazing before he was able to force it down.

"I want him gone."  He yanked back his quilts, ignoring the pain shooting through him until he'd gotten Rosemary under them.  She didn't protest, didn't make a sound, even when he brushed his fingers across the top of her bum, reassuring himself she'd been properly covered the entire time.  She simply burrowed closer to him, pressing herself so close it made his ribs twinge.  It was concerning, somewhere in the back of his mind, but that could be dealt with later.  Right now he wanted Alexander out of Linfred.

Fleamont sighed.  That had been exactly what he had been expecting.  It was what he would have wanted, had anyone dared to touch Charlotte so intimately.  "I'm afraid that's not possible."

"Why the bloody fuck not?!"

"I will allow that to go unpunished because I understand that you are injured and angry."  He was unsurprised when James simply glared at him.  His son had certainly inherited the Potter temper and stubborn streak.  Sitting back in his chair, he rubbed his forehead, wishing balancing the needs of multiple children was easier.  "Your sister is attached to him.  She's locked herself in her rooms and refuses to come out until I promise I won't send him away."

"So blast the bloody doors down!"  Fleamont raised his eyebrows, staring at his son until he yielded, if only slightly.  "Sorry, Father."  The glare returned almost immediately, James sitting up despite the pain it clearly caused him.  "I still don't want him here.  Sarah can have another boy, one who knows how to behave himself."

Privately, Fleamont agreed with him.  If it had been up to him alone the boy would already be half-way across Europe.  Euphemia, however, had taken Sarah's side.  He suspected it had less to do with her attachment than it did his wife's desire to ensure their daughter went off to school without being angry with them.  That didn't make the row they'd had any easier.

"I have informed the house elves that Alexander is not allowed in this wing of the castle, nor anywhere near your suite in the family wing.  I promise you, he will not be close to Rosemary again."  It wasn't enough, but it was the best compromise he could come up with without confining the boy to Sarah's suite, which Euphemia insisted was inappropriate.  He had refrained from informing her that he was almost certain Rosemary hadn't left James' rooms since she was first brought to him.


Fleamont would have been less concerned if James had shouted.  The quiet determination with which he spoke was far more likely to cause problems.  

"James --"

"No, Father.  I won't leave Rosemary alone while he's still in the castle."  James eased himself back down onto his bed, pausing to place his glasses on his nightstand.  "If he's staying then so am I."  He rolled carefully so that his back was turned, pulling Rosemary against his chest and curling around her.

Fleamont smiled slightly, now that James couldn't see.  Rising, he went to tell Euphemia that her son would be tutored privately this year instead of looking after his sister during her first year of Hogwarts.  Perhaps now she'd believe him when he told her that James was no longer a child to simply be ordered around.

The room was still dark when James woke again.  Rosemary, however, had turned at some point and was now staring at him.

"You scared me," she whispered.

James pulled her closer, sighing when she immediately clung to him.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to lose control like that.  Did you get hurt?"

"Not that."  Rosemary pulled back, frowning up at him.  "It was really hot and Al --" she paused, swallowing hard enough he could she the movement in her throat, "Alexander got thrown against the wall and all the chairs got smashed like in your old room, but nothing hurt me or Thomas.  I just got pushed over to you and then we were here."  She threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around him and tucking herself under his chin.  "You looked like you were dead and Hatty told me you weren't, but then you didn't get up for two days."

James blinked.  Two days?  That was a long time for magical exhaustion, even if he had accidentally apparated them.  He shook his head slightly, he could ask Father about that later.  For now...he pulled away, just enough that he could kiss Rosemary.  "I'm sorry.  I'll try not to scare you like that again."

She nodded, sniffling slightly before pulling him in for another kiss.  He quickly found himself moaning at how desperate she was, nipping at his lips and twining her tongue with his the way he usually did to her.  She broke away for a moment to pull her nightgown over her head, wrapping her arms around his neck and dragging him on top of her as soon as she was done.

"Why are you being such an arse?!"

James groaned, dropping his head against Rosemary's shoulder for a moment before moving so he was shielding her as she put her nightgown back on.  Sisters.  He hoped Wendy was better behaved when she came of age.

"Haven't you and that wanker ever learnt to knock?"

Sarah glared at him, her face red and blotchy.  "His name is Alexander and I like him."  She sniffled and suddenly James realised his sister had been crying.

Sighing, he eased himself into a more comfortable position.  Merlin, his muscles still ached.  He hadn't noticed when Rosemary was distracting him, but now that she wasn't he felt like he'd flown into the side of Gryffindor tower.  "Could you sit, please?  It hurts my neck to have to look up at you."  It did, quite a lot really, but more than that he could see how Sarah was trembling slightly.  Whether it was anger or something else he didn't know, but either way she should sit.

He wasn't entirely pleased when she chose to sit at the end of his bed instead of on a chair as he'd expected.  Something about having another person within touching distance of Rosemary was making him anxious.  It was silly, Sarah and Rosemary had gotten along brilliantly, enough that he thought Sarah might like her more than him.  He still found himself reaching out until his girl was nestled against him.  It helped, a little.

"Why won't you let him stay?"  James didn't think he'd heard Sarah's voice so small since she'd first arrived.  Certainly not since her birthday.  It was almost enough to make him relent.

Almost.  Then he remembered Aloysius' hands on Rosemary's skin and had to grit his teeth to keep his magic under control.  "I don't like him.  I didn't do anything when he made rude comments.  I didn't do anything when he kept walking in here without permission, not until last time."  He shook his head.  Arlo was lucky he still had eyes after that, it had been all he could manage to keep from letting his magic rip them out.  "I wanted to ask Father to send him away after that, you know.  He was lucky he only had his memory changed."

"That was still a horrid thing to do.  How do you know Father didn't hurt him?"

James shrugged.  They'd already fought over this, nearly every day since Archibald had walked in just as he'd been about to pull the last piece of Rosemary's clothing off.  He didn't especially care if the boy was hurt, as long as that memory was gone.  Not that he'd said that to Sarah, of course.  

"Father is a talented wizard, he knows how to cast a basic spell like that."  He did, James was certain of it.  Father had to cast memory charms all the time, when one of their Abraxans got loose or if Wendy had an accidental magic outburst while she and her governess were in the village.  He'd learn how too, once he was a fully adult wizard.  It was a necessary skill for all the heirs of old families.  No sense calling in the Obliviators for something so small.

"That's not --"  Sarah made a noise in her throat, frustration nearly creating visible waves around her.  "Mother promised me Alexander wouldn't be sent away.  He's not allowed near you or Rosemary, why are you still being like this?"

"It's not enough."  It wasn't, not nearly enough.  There was no way James could go back to school knowing Acton might run into Rosemary and her governess in the village or on the non-magical parts of the grounds set aside for muggle use.  "He touched her, Sarah.  Put his hands on her thigh and across her chest.  If I touched one of Gideon's girls like that I'd probably be dead right now."  Well, maybe not dead, his magic would probably protect him.  But Sarah didn't need to know that.

"I know.  Everyone keeps telling me that, but why does it matter?"  James opened his mouth to respond, to explain why it mattered more than anything, but Sarah rushed on before he could.  "He's being punished already, he can't be in this entire wing or even most of the family wing because of how big your rooms are.  As long as he isn't around you what difference does it make?"

"It makes a lot of difference!"  James tightened his grip on Rosemary, forcing himself to exhale slowly when she turned so she could wrap her arm around his waist and lay her head on his chest.  He kissed the top of her head before continuing, the scent of her hair calming him slightly.  "He'll still be here.  What about outside this wing?  What about the grounds or the village or the muggle wing?"

"What about them?"  The dismissive tone in her voice made him bristle, even more when she continued speaking.  "Alexander has just as much right to them as Rosemary does.  It's not as if he's going to hurt her."

"He tried to grope her right in front of me!"  The drapes ruffled as a harsh wind blew through the room.  James closed his eyes and focused on his breathing until his magic was still.  "He put his hand between her legs," he said, not yet daring to open his eyes.  "He grabbed her away from me, smiled, and then put his hand under her dress."

"How do you know she didn't like it?"

James' eyes flew open, then snapped shut again when the bedpost started smoking above Sarah's head.

"Alexander told me she was laughing."  James tried to ignore the mocking tone in his sister's voice, concentrating instead on keeping his magic under control.  "You just blew up though, didn't you?  Didn't even wait to see if she was really upset."

He had, he knew he had because he couldn't not explode at the thought of anyone touching Rosemary like that.  Maybe he should have waited.  Maybe she would have been fine.  Maybe she even enjoyed Armando and his overly familiar teasing.  He'd never asked.  He should, he should ask if she wanted...something more with Abner, or Thomas for that matter.  If she wasn't his pet, didn't belong to him, then he should ask.

He was vaguely aware of Rosemary pulling away from him.  Could hear that she was shouting, though with his magic flaming up all around him he was unable to tell what about.  He thought there might be other people in the room now too, it seemed louder than it had before.  If it wasn't taking all his energy to quiet the roar of fire and wind in his ears he might consider opening his eyes again.  Right now he didn't dare.  He didn't think his magic was hurting anyone but himself, crackling and burning under his skin, but he wouldn't risk it.

Then there was a weight on his legs and a tongue parting his lips and the sensation of cold water crashing over him.  He gasped as he opened his eyes, suddenly realising he was desperate for air.

Rosemary was straddling his lap, her hands on his cheeks and her forehead pressed against his.  He closed his eyes again, using the cool, refreshing scent of her as a focal point to slow his breathing.

He was surprised to find them alone when he was finally able to look up again.  His magic had been so deafening he would have sworn the entire family was in his room.

"I'm sorry I didn't ask if Alexander really had upset you."  His voice was raspy, as if he'd been shouting, though he didn't think he had.

"Sarah's a cow."

James blinked.  He didn't think he'd ever heard Rosemary insult anyone before.  Granted, it wasn't much of an insult.  There were several other words he'd be happy to describe his sister with at the moment, none of them so polite.  

"So you didn't like it when he --"  he cut himself off taking a breath to settle his magic, "-- touched you there?"

"Of course not!"  Rosemary pulled back, frowning at him.  "I didn't like it when he grabbed me or tickled me either.  It was awful."  She shuddered and moved so that she was laying against his chest with her arms around his neck.  "I couldn't breathe and his fingers hurt my sides and he was too close.  Didn't you hear me scream?"

He hadn't, but the thought of it was enough to make a trace of red lightning race down his arms.

"Stop that."

James started, his magic quieting simply out of surprise.  "I'm sorry, did I hurt you?"  He'd never hurt her with magic before, but his arms were around her waist.  It wouldn't be surprising if she'd felt it.

"No," Rosemary shook her head against his chest, "but it got warmer and it always gets warmer when you're upset.  Which you're not supposed to do, Hatty said so.  You're exhausted and need rest."  She pulled away to look at him, the reproachful expression on her face making his lips twitch as he tried not to smile.  "No more fighting or getting upset or moving about.  You're to stay right here in this bed and be still.  Hatty even made your parents leave and won't let them in again until she says so."

"Really?"  He smiled then, moving his hands to Rosemary's hips.  "I think I know just the thing to help me recover then."  He rolled them so that Rosemary was laying beneath him, ignoring the pang in his joints in favour of sprinkling kisses across her face and neck.

"James!" Rosemary laughed, pushing him away from where he'd started moving down her chest.  "This isn't resting!  You're supposed to be calm."

"I can be calm," he said.  "Watch, I'll be perfectly calm."  He leaned down to suckle at her neck until she whimpered.  "I'll just go down here," he slid down her body, not bothering with taking her nightgown off, "and be calm."  He nudged his nose against her slit, enjoying her scent for a moment before gently spreading her legs further apart and setting himself to making her forget all about being still.

As it turned out, being with Rosemary did seem to help soothe his magic.  It was still too wild, springing to his fingertips and crackling through his hair without his permission, but with Rosemary it was different.  There was a warm glow as he tasted her, surrounding them in a cocoon of comfortable heat.  When she grasped his hair, guiding him where she wanted, the sparks he'd been trying to keep under control streamed down his spine.  He expected it to hurt, as the fire under his skin had.  Instead he found his muscles relaxing as the sparks settled into them, far better than any potion-filled bath.

He didn't notice the thin line of blue-white flames running down his arms until after he carefully slid his fingers into Rosemary.  Only noticed them even then because he was surprised enough by her strangled gasp to open his eyes.  Horrified, he started to pull them out, only for Rosemary to press herself down.  A cautious lap at her clit made her cry out, pulling his head further against her.  Carefully, he slid his fingers fully back inside her, watching and listening for the least sign of discomfort.

The flames were concentrated now, pooling in the palm of his hand.  They seemed to leap when he found the spot just inside that made her pulse around him, caressing her lips with warmth.  He raised himself from between her legs, moving so that he could kiss her while he teased, needing to feel more of her body against his.

Flames raced from his palm as he parted her lips with his own, engulfing them in light before collapsing into their skin, leaving them both panting and desperate.  James only just had the presence of mind to rub himself against her folds instead of sinking into her as he wanted.  They still hadn't, not since their fight, and this, whatever it was, was far too intense.  Even the feel of her under him, their nightclothes having somehow disappeared without him noticing, was almost too much.

It was overwhelming, even as it wasn't nearly enough.  His world narrowed down to Rosemary and magic.  The feel of her fingers pressing into his back.  The heat enveloping them, heavy and thick like the air on a humid summer day.  Her breath, hot against his ear.  The warm breeze drying the sweat he was only now aware they were both covered in.  Her scent, cool and refreshing, the only thing keeping him from feeling as though he were a phoenix on its burning day.

Then there was a crash, a roar like thunder, and the release that comes with a sudden downpour.  He was himself again.  Just James.  His magic laying quietly under his skin.


James laughed.  "Wow" was about all he could think of to describe it too.  He rolled them over, feeling oddly refreshed despite the magic he must have expended.  He should open his eyes.  He knew he should.  Rosemary was curled into him as she always was after they'd finished (or before or any time, really), he wasn't sleepy, there was no reason for him to keep his eyes closed.

Except that he'd just used more magic than he could ever remember using in his life and none of it had been anything close to under his control.  He half expected the entire suite to be burnt to a crisp or flooded under a foot of water.  It wouldn't be surprising, not after something like that.  Warily, prepared to find the bed floating on a lake that had previously been the heir rooms, he opened one eye and then the other.

It was perfectly in order.  The only difference he could find was that the curtains were now open, allowing sunlight to stream into the room.  Sighing in relief, he called for Hatty.  It looked to be mid-afternoon and they hadn't eaten.

James woke the next morning feeling better than he had nearly all summer.  His body no longer ached from his magical outbursts, there was no chance of anyone walking in without permission, and he could hear Rosemary murmur quietly in her sleep as he slid his hand between her legs.

He closed his eyes, enjoying how it made him more aware of how she felt under his fingers.  She was soft everywhere, smooth and silky and he loved how her thighs felt around his hips when he was inside her.  Her hood though was something else entirely, a velvety covering that drew taut as he teased her.  It was fascinating, the way that such a small part of her could change so much, so quickly.  

There were many small parts that he found himself noticing more in this sleepy, content state.  Her chest had changed, just slightly, since spring.  Maybe since the beginning of summer, the hint of swelling was so small he couldn't be sure.  She gasped when he rubbed gently, curious as to how far the change went.  It wasn't much, didn't begin to compare to McKinnon's already full breasts that nearly every boy under fourth year salivated over, but he found himself excited at the change all the same.

She'd become more responsive over the year too, though he didn't think he'd consciously realised it until now.  She hummed quietly when he kissed her shoulder, reaching behind her to pull him closer.  Even pushed herself back against him so that he was pressed tight against her arse, making him moan into her ear.  He would have sworn he could feel her pleased smirk as they moved together.

James dipped his fingers lower, brushing against her entrance without pressing inside.  Hearing her whimper was more than worth the self control it took to keep teasing.  There was something captivating about the way she changed as he touched her.  How her breath became unsteady and her whimpers louder and more frequent.  The way her fingers clenched in his hair, then relaxed in surprise when he brushed up along the underside of her clit.  How her opening began to flutter slightly, the movement increasing when he took more time to carefully rub slow circles around her.  How she somehow managed to move more deliberately the more he teased, while every slow grind of her body against him made it that much harder for him to remember what he was doing.

She was enthralling like this, sighing and moving languidly with him.  He found himself slowing even further, enjoying the relaxed give and take he hadn't been able to consider when a part of him was always wondering whether or not Antonio would barge in.  Rosemary was perfect against him, even more when she turned in his arms and carefully took him in her hand.  He opened his eyes then, watching her face as he slipped his fingers inside her.

Her eyes fluttered shut for a moment as she gasped, slowly working her hips against his hand.  Then she smiled, looking straight at him and parting her legs slightly more.  It made him throb, though he couldn't begin to say why.  There was something almost magical about the way he felt as they touched each other, the same feeling of being enveloped in warmth despite the fact that he knew his magic was settled in his core where it belonged.  It was as though time fell away, leaving only the two of them.  When he came it was a surprise, a sudden feeling of tightening and relaxing as he panted against Rosemary's lips.  He was far more aware of her, the way she whimpered against him and wrapped her arms around his neck when he pressed the heel of his hand harder against her.  The feel of her was enough that he didn't want to remove his fingers after she'd finished, continuing to gently work them inside her until she'd come a second and third time.

He rolled them carefully, enjoying the way Rosemary looked beneath him.  Her hair was a mess, her skin flushed a wonderful pale pink that made the freckles across her nose stand out.  She was smiling at him, her eyes sparkling as she pulled him down to kiss her.  He didn't think he'd ever seen anything more stunning.  This wasn't what he had planned, wasn't anything close to the flowers and candles and warm baths all the training books insisted were important to make muggle girls feel cared for.  Somehow he didn't think it mattered, not when Rosemary sighed as he eased inside her, immediately starting to roll her hips against him.  When she bit her lip, skin flushing just a shade darker, he had the sudden thought that he'd never find a girl he enjoyed watching more.  He thought he might be able to find a witch who was prettier, maybe even one he liked enough to give her up for, but he was almost certain he'd never be as interested in watching their every reaction.

She sighed or gasped at nearly everything, from the pleased sigh when he brushed their lips together to the needy gasp and wide eyes when he pressed inside her in just the right way.  She felt brilliant, even tighter around him than she had been at Christmas, but it was the way she responded that made him have to still for a moment so he didn't finish before he wanted.  Even that was only somewhat helpful, as it did nothing about her parted lips or half-closed eyes as she canted her hips up.  

Still, he did his best to hold out, moving only as much as he had to to make her whimper.  He sucked lightly at her nipples, startled when it made her cry out and tighten around him.  That was a wonderful new reaction, one he took advantage of until she was whimpering and begging.  He hadn't realised just how desperately he wanted her, how on edge he'd be after not having had her in over half a year, until he'd already started.  Holding back from simply flipping her over and taking her as he liked was more difficult than he was willing to admit, even to himself.  So he nipped and sucked and tasted, marking her pale skin and building her up as much as he could while he slowly moved inside her.

It wasn't quite the slow teasing he would have liked.  Certainly didn't come close to his grand visions of feeling her tense around him until she was incoherent and boneless as she had been at Christmas and the first time they were together.  But when Rosemary came it was with a low cry that turned to a sated smile as he nearly collapsed on her chest.

He wasn't aware of moving or falling asleep, though he must have as he woke again a bit later with Rosemary laying on his chest and the quilt they'd kicked off at some point once again tucked around them.  It took him a moment to realise they were both dressed in sleep clothes and another to notice his father sitting in a chair beside his bed.  He made a note to thank Hatty for both the quilt and the clothes before sitting up, smiling at the way Rosemary frowned in her sleep when he eased her fully onto the bed.  He motioned for his father to follow him into the sitting room, unwilling to risk waking her.  

"I'm sorry I lost control of my magic," he said, after he'd settled into a seat and asked Hatty to bring them tea.  "Is Sarah alright?"

Fleamont raised his brows slightly, rather having expected James to repeat his refusal to go to Hogwarts, if he said anything at all.  "Your sister is fine.  A bit frightened, but otherwise fine.  She's far more upset that we've taken both her boys away for the week."  That had certainly resulted in a tantrum.  A sobbing, shouting tantrum the likes of which Fleamont had never seen.  He was rather relieved Euphemia was in charge of the girls' discipline.  He didn't think he was quite up to the task.

"You took them both away?  Why?"  The surprise in James' voice was clear, as Fleamont supposed it should be.  Taking both boys would have been a rather drastic choice under other circumstances.

"We were unaware that she'd been allowing them run around unsupervised."  Fleamont looked at James, waiting for him to make eye contact.  "I am sorry that Alexander was able to bother you so often.  I thought it was only the one time, which I assumed was simply a case of him getting over-excited and running ahead of Sarah.  I should have paid closer attention."

"I thought you knew."  James looked down at his tea, fiddling slightly with the saucer.  "I thought you knew and just didn't think it was important.  Otherwise it wouldn't have happened so much."

Fleamont held in a sigh.  He'd not paid much attention to Sarah's boys, trusting that their tutor would see to them the way Rosemary's governess did.  It had quite clearly been a mistake and he told his son so.  "I have spoken with Mr Hayes, as well as Sarah and both boys.  They have all been warned that one more toe out of line and neither Alexander nor Mr Hayes will be welcome in any of the Potter properties."

James nodded and Fleamont found himself worrying about what could make his son so easily accept Alexander's continued presence when he had previously been determined to have him removed.

"That's fine," he said, "I only wanted him away from Linfred when I wouldn't be here because I was worried about him being alone with Rosemary.  Now that I can watch her it's not as important."

Ah yes, that little detail.  He hoped the compromise he and Euphemia had come up with would be sufficient.  James really was too uncontrolled to be away from Hogwarts.  There wasn't a tutor available who could surpass Pomona when it came to teaching magical control.

"How would you feel if Alexander was confined to a set of rooms in the guest wing?"  It had been near impossible to convince Sarah to accept that, but even Euphemia agreed that it was necessary if James was to feel at all comfortable leaving Rosemary.  "I have asked the castle to create a small suite with access to a courtyard.  He will not be allowed outside of that suite, not even on the rest of the grounds or to visit the village with his tutor unless you are home and agree to it.  Would that be enough for you to go back to school?"

"Why can't I just stay here?  Or send Alexander to one of the other properties?  The London house isn't far, Sarah could visit whenever she liked."

"It's too dangerous, James."  He looked at his son, remembering the heart stopping terror he had felt having to stand helplessly by as he was engulfed by his own magic.  "I don't think you realise how powerful your magic was.  It pushed all of us away, even Hatty.  I would like for you to have private lessons with Professor Sprout this year, as well as duelling time with Professor Flitwick.  If you'd like I can also arrange for extra Transfiguration lessons with Professor McGonagall, I know you enjoy the subject."

James shook his head.  "No.  It won't work."  He paused for a moment, trying to think of how to explain.  "I've felt anxious all summer.  I didn't even know I did until today because it was all the time.  If I have to leave Rosemary while Alexander's still here I'll just keep feeling anxious."

"If it will make you feel better I can give Rosemary and Lady Selwyn portkeys that will take them to the nursery.  It's the best I can do."  Fleamont winced internally, remembering the state of the solarium after he and Euphemia had told Sarah that Alexander might have to be sent to another property, if not back to the muggle world entirely.  "As it turns out, your sister will also be taking lessons with Professor Sprout this year."

"It's not enough."  James looked at his tea again, fiddling before deliberately setting the cup and saucer aside.  "I know you're worried, but I'll be worried if I have to go.  I can't help it."

It wasn't fair, Fleamont knew that.  There should never have been a question of Alexander being sent away.  He rather thought that if this had happened a year from now Euphemia would have insisted on it.  A boy who couldn't be trusted with Rosemary couldn't be trusted with Wendy either, to say nothing of Sarah who spent by far the most time alone with him.  It was only the combination of Sarah going off to school and Euphemia still feeling as though she couldn't be too harsh on the girls without risking them rejecting their place in the family that made this so difficult.

"You should go."

Fleamont looked up, startled at the new voice.  Rosemary stood in the doorway from the bedroom, obviously having recently woken up.  James immediately stood and moved over to her, pulling her over to the sofa.

"I don't want to leave you here," he said.  "If I stay we can be together any time we don't have lessons and you won't have to worry about Alexander.  We could go into the village if you like, or I could show you some of the grounds."

Rosemary shook her head, surprising Fleamont.  He'd rather expected her to insist he stay and spend time with her, shower her with gifts and attention.  It was what Charlotte would have done when they were still young, before she'd started pulling away any time he wanted something more than just physical.

"I don't want you to get hurt."  Rosemary glanced over at Fleamont for a second.  "You were really sick after what you did.  If you go to school you can learn so it doesn't happen again."  She glanced at Fleamont again, biting her lip for a moment before kissing James, her hands fisted in his shirt.  "Please?" she whispered, after she'd pulled away.  "You scared me.  It was like you went away and I didn't know if you were ever going to come back."

Fleamont saw the moment James crumbled.  He nodded, kissing Rosemary's cheek softly before turning back to him.

"I want Rosemary's portkey to send her to me.  I know," he continued, when Fleamont started to explain why that wasn't possible, "it's not allowed.  I don't care.  Talk to Dumbledore or the minister or whoever you have to.  If Alexander gets into the nursery it won't matter if that's where the portkey goes."

That was rather difficult to object to.  At least without drawing attention to the fact that Rosemary had only spent one night in the nursery since the week of James' punishment, which he'd prefer not to do.  Euphemia would be furious.

"I will see what I can do."  Dumbledore would likely be amenable, if only to see how the students might react to a muggle popping up in the middle of a lesson.  He always had enjoyed a bit of chaos.  Standing, he took his leaving, going to tell Euphemia that they'd reached an agreement.  He thought he might also stop by Lady Selwyn's rooms, see if she would be willing to chat a bit about her charge.  Any girl who could lead his son around so easily was worth knowing more about.

James turned to Rosemary after his father left, tilting her chin up so he could kiss her.  The way she immediately leaned into him, wrapping her arms around his neck and climbing into his lap, was heady in a way he hadn't expected.  For all that she'd refused to leave him for even a moment after Abner had grabbed her, a part of him was still concerned she'd be frightened by his magic.  Even Father seemed to be and he was a grown wizard.  Rosemary was just a muggle.  He didn't think he could even really blame her if she didn't want to be around him.

It was a thought that made him pull away, despite the way she was playing with the hair at the nape of his neck making his heart beat just a bit faster.  "Were you afraid, earlier when I lost control of my magic?"

"Of course I was!"  Rosemary frowned at him before tightening her  hold on him and resting against his chest.  "I told you that already.  It was horrid, you were shaking and everyone was shouting and your mum was trying to pull me away from you until Hatty sent everyone away."  She pulled away enough to look at him, hitting his chest lightly.  "You're never to do anything like that again, it was too awful."

It was all James could do to not laugh at the stern look on her face.  She'd probably be fierce, once she was a bit older, but right now all he wanted to do was kiss her.  Which he did, quickly, before clarifying his question.

"I didn't mean that, I know you were frightened for me.  What I meant was," he took a breath, bracing himself for the answer, "were you afraid of me?  My magic could have hurt you, the way it hurt Alexander.  I hurt Rebecca once, accidentally.  Remember, when Father took you away?"

"No."  Rosemary blinked up at him, confusion written clearly across her face.  "Why would I be?  You've never hurt me.  Not like that."

James winced at the reminder of how horribly he'd behaved at the beginning of summer.  He didn't think he'd feel he'd done enough to make up for it for quite some time.

"Father's worried.  He said Sarah was frightened.  I just probably have more reason to be scared than any of them."  He was a bit scared himself, if he was honest.  He'd never had such strong outbursts before, not even as a very small child.

"I'm not.  Not of that."  Her voice was certain, a complete contrast to the concern he knew his Father felt.  "You'd never hurt me.  I'm scared you'll get so angry you'll hurt yourself."  She wrapped herself closer to him, burying her face in his neck.  "I thought you were dead and then you'd only just woken up when it happened again and it was worse because at least before you'd stopped as soon as you brought us here.  You didn't stop last time though, even after Hatty'd sent everyone away.  Hatty said you were still weak and couldn't control yourself well enough and I didn't know what to do.  It was terrible, I thought you really were going to die and it'd be all my fault because I was the only one who could get close to you and I couldn't do anything because I'm just a stupid muggle."

James felt his stomach clench as he held Rosemary tighter.  Merlin, he hadn't thought of it like that.  He was worried about her being scared, because she was a muggle and everyone knew muggles were afraid of magic, at least at first.  He was terrified of her hating him the way Charlotte hated his father.  He even knew she'd been worried about him and was sorry for it.  But he'd never once considered that she'd be upset she couldn't help because she didn't have magic.

He held her to him, softly kissing her neck and shoulder until she relaxed enough for him to kiss her properly.  There was a desperate edge to the way she clutched at him, holding him so that he couldn't easily break away and refusing anything that could be construed as gentle.  He realised she'd been like that after he'd first woken up too.  He'd assumed it was just desire, the way he always had a hard time being careful with her, even knowing that they both preferred it.  Now he wasn't so sure.

"You did help," he said, after the frenzied snog seemed to have calmed her.  "When you kissed me, it...I don't know."  He shrugged, trying to find the words to explain the sudden clarity he felt when he realised she was on his lap.  "It helped me think, I guess."

Rosemary ducked her head, blushing.  "I didn't know what else to do," she said.  "Your mum kept trying to take me away and Miss Taylor was shouting that I could get hurt, but it got so much hotter when I wasn't near you.  I thought maybe if we were closer it would help."  She raised her eyes to him, her face reddening even further.  "I would front of everyone if it made you better."

James laughed, pressing his lips to hers when she crossed her arms and began to pout.  "I'm glad you didn't have to," he said.  "I'd have had to hex all of them so they couldn't remember and I think that would probably make Father a little cross with me."

That got a smile out of her, though it was only for a moment before her expression turned serious again.  "Then you should work hard at school so it doesn't happen again."  She glanced up at him, a mischievous smile playing around her lips.  "Next time I really might have to, if kissing doesn't work."

James nearly felt his magic spark for a moment, before he realised she was teasing.  He had a sudden vision of her in Slytherin robes, her hair tied up with a green ribbon.  It was far more attractive than he liked to admit.  Enough that he tickled her in retaliation just to get the unsettling idea that he'd like her just as much if she'd been a Slytherin witch out of his head.

Chapter Text

Rosemary stared at James, not entirely sure she'd heard him correctly. "Why would I want to do that?"

She could feel him shifting, his side and hips brushing against her front. It was the night before he left for school and she'd hoped they were going to spend it the way they had last summer. Then he'd gone and said something utterly ridiculous.

"Well," he blushed, avoiding her eyes, "Sarah thought it'd be a good idea."

"Sarah's a prat." She was. She was lovely and thoughtful, Rosemary was going to miss her nearly as much as James, but she was also a prat sometimes.

"I think it might be a good idea too."

Rosemary froze. "Are you going to send me away soon?" she whispered. It didn't make sense, he'd not even been to school yet and he'd promised he'd tell her first, but that was the only explanation she could come up with.

"What?" James shot up, tugging until she was straddling his lap and clasping her to him. "Of course not! Why would you think a silly thing like that?"

"Then why do you want me to -- to --" she couldn't even say it, it was too mortifying, "to shag Thomas?"

"I don't." She could feel him shudder against her. "But, well, you know about the witches at school and Sarah says boys are just as different as girls and..." He shrugged. "Maybe you should try. It's fair and I don't want you to be lonely."

"I don't have that to not be lonely!" She paused, realising something. "Do you? Are you going to get lonely while you're at school?" She didn't want him to be. If he was maybe he should keep...shagging all those girls. She could ignore it. She could. She'd done it all last year.

"No." The certainty in James' voice made her relax, a little. "But Hogwarts is big and there are lots of other people. I'll have homework and my friends and lots of things to keep me busy. You'll just have Thomas and Miss Taylor. And..." he hesitated, pulling back so he could look at her, "Sarah thinks you should know what it's like. With other boys." He kissed her, one of the hard kisses that were over too fast for her to respond that he seemed to give her because he couldn't help himself, before leaning his forehead against hers as he continued. "She said it's different for girls. You might just want to stay here because you don't know any better, like how she didn't want Longbottom to leave until she'd been with her boys."

Rosemary kissed him this time, smiling a bit when he made a surprised sound in the back of his throat. She still didn't kiss him very often. It was strange and new still, for all that part of her felt like she'd never existed before the day Hatty had brought her to his rooms. That was only a very small part. Most of her thought maybe she wasn't allowed, or shouldn't be, because she didn't have magic or was a girl and the matrons had always told the older girls that nice young girls didn't chase after boys or...she wasn't even sure, but it made her shy.

She liked kissing though. At least, she liked kissing James. It felt nice, warm and comfortable like cocoa on a rainy day. She'd never really thought about kissing boys until she'd kissed him, not outside of fairy tales. It was one of those things grown-ups did, like getting married and having babies. Then he'd started kissing her nose or her cheeks or her forehead and she'd seen what he did with Rebecca and found herself curious about what it might feel like. So she'd kissed him and she thought it might have been the best thing she'd ever done because it was wonderful and everything that came after was even better.

"I'll...try. With Thomas," she said, after she'd pulled away. "If you want."

James nodded, though she thought he didn't look any happier with the idea than she did. "I think you should. You should know what it's like, so you can decide. Like I'll have to, if I ever find a witch I like."

Rosemary didn't think it would matter. She couldn't imagine anything better than the way James made her feel, but maybe she just didn't know. Maybe she'd like Thomas more. Or someone else, some boy she met after James found his wife and she had to leave. That didn't make her want to think about it any more.

She moved off his lap, ignoring the half-strangled sound of protest he made until she was laying down and could pull him on top of her. "Can we be...close?" she asked, sliding her hands under the robes he'd worn to dinner with his family so she could feel his skin. "Like after you were sick. Please?" It felt funny asking, it always did, but as safe and comfortable as she always felt with his weight on top of her, it was never enough.

She sighed in relief when James settled back on top of her after shucking off his robes and slipping her dress off. He seemed to know what she wanted, kissing her softly until she fell into a sleepy haze. He brushed his lips over her shoulder then, light enough that she shivered at the sensation. She could feel the very tip of his tongue as he carefully trailed it across her shoulder and up her neck, his breath puffing on the newly moistened skin making her break out in gooseflesh. She twisted her fingers in his hair, tilting her head back and trying to tug him over to her neck. She could feel him smiling against her shoulder as he refused to be moved, instead nipping at her collarbone before swirling his tongue around one of her nipples.

That made her gasp, her eyes flying open in surprise. She didn't think she'd ever understand why that felt so good. Why it made her throb between her legs in a way that only ever happened when she was with James. It had almost scared her, the first time. It was so new, but it felt so nice, and she didn't know if she wanted it to stop or keep going forever. If she hadn't read the books Hatty had given her she thought she might have pushed him away just because of how different it felt from anything else.

Now she knew. Enough to know that the warmth spreading through her body was only the beginning. That as good as it felt when James finally bit down hard her neck before immediately soothing the forming bruise with his tongue, it would keep feeling even better. The slow throbbing between her legs as he kissed her everywhere, leaving even more marks than he usually did, was nothing compared to how he could make her feel. Was barely worth remembering when put next to the warmth of his lips between her legs, suckling on a part of her that made her cry out and pull him closer to her.

The nuns at school had always said that part of her was dirty. She'd thought it was strange because it got cleaned more often and more thoroughly than any other part of her and now she knew they were definitely wrong. Nothing that made her feel like the air before a storm could be dirty. Water was clean, it made everything look sparkly and new. James' tongue, pressing and swirling between her legs, made her feel like that. Like he was building her into a storm and when it was done she'd be as shimmering as sunlight reflecting off water.

She certainly felt like she was shimmering, after the rain had fallen and James was above her again, smiling as he lowered his head to kiss her. He was always so gentle with her, carefully slipping his hand between her legs so that the sparkly feeling didn't completely go away. She liked it when he did that, even if it meant waiting longer for the best feeling of all.

It was always a shock when he slid the first finger inside her. A wonderful shock that made her gasp against his lips as he soothed the empty feeling that always came after the throbbing. It didn't make sense, why she only felt like there was a part deep inside her that needed something when they'd been kissing and touching a while. If there was an empty spot inside her she should feel it all the time, not just sometimes. She was never able to think about it long though because the feeling was too distracting and James' fingers brushing against something inside her that made her gasp and feel even emptier always forced away any thoughts she might be having.

The best part though, the absolute best part that she couldn't imagine ever being afraid of like she had been, was when James slowly slid himself into her. He always closed his eyes tight until she could feel his skin against hers, then looked down at her with a soft smile he never had any other time. She loved that smile, almost more than how he made the empty feeling go away. It made her feel special, like when he'd looked so sad and sorry after they'd fought. Like maybe he wouldn't send her away because he'd always like her more than any of the witches he met. She told herself no one else had ever seen that smile.

She knew that other girls had probably felt the same way she did when he slowly moved against her. Maybe not as good, because he'd told her he hadn't liked anyone nearly as much as he did her, but something close. Other girls had probably heard him groan into their shoulder when they wrapped their legs around him because the feeling was too good to let him move too far away. They'd probably kissed him, the way she kissed him, slow and gentle kisses that turned messy and hard as the good feeling grew. She couldn't imagine they didn't feel the way she felt, as if waves were crashing over her and leaving her gasping and shuddering. James always made her feel that way, even the first time when he hadn't known her as well as he did now. And she even hoped they'd felt him pressing himself as close as he could get as he held them tight and panted against them. Because if those girls got to feel the way she did then he should feel that too.

But the smile. The smile was hers. She had to believe that. The same way she had to believe that he never kissed them as carefully as he always did her, once his breathing had calmed. Gentle brushes of his lips that made her wrap her arms tighter around him so that she wouldn't float away like she thought she might if she wasn't careful. Those two things weren't for anyone else. They couldn't be because she didn't know what she might do if she ever met a girl she had to share them with. She thought it might make James' magic look safe.

It was nearly two months before she finally worked up the courage to knock on Thomas' door early one morning. They'd seen each other before that, of course, Miss Taylor had arranged for them to share some of the lessons that worked better with two people. Dancing and etiquette and elocution. Even piano and singing, once Miss Taylor had discovered that Thomas played well enough to help explain things and accompany her so she learnt to sing with proper music playing. There had been talk of going into the village for bonfire night, but Rosemary wasn't quite sure about that.

She hadn't left Linfred in over a year. Hadn't wanted to, really. Everything she wanted was already at the castle. Most of it was even part of the heir rooms, including a lovely little courtyard that had appeared one day after James had first gone to school and she found herself missing skipping rope with the other girls at Saint Magdalene's. There had been a skipping rope on a bench and she'd thought maybe she could convince Miss Taylor to turn one end of it while the other was tied to a post, like they had sometimes done when only two girls wanted to play. Then she'd touched the rope. She'd nearly screamed when it moved on its own, only just managing to remember that she lived in a magic castle with wizards and those kinds of things must just happen sometimes, even if she didn't usually see them. The rope had stretched itself out and begun turning on its own, at the perfect rhythm for her to jump in. It was one of the few truly magical things she'd seen at Linfred, along with her piano and a few things in the heir rooms and some of her books. She still thought it was brilliant.

She wondered about that sometimes. Especially after James had come back and she'd finally noticed his magical tantrums. Miss Taylor was terrified of them. The first of September had been nearly one long scolding for having gone near an angry wizard when she didn't have any magic herself to defend herself with. Miss Taylor was not impressed by her insistence that James' magic had never hurt her. Had only ever protected her, when she stopped to think about it. And she knew that Thomas had never seen even the small amount of magic she had, really only her piano. She'd asked once, when she was first in his room and noticed that it was entirely muggle. Not even the bath was magical, no shower that was always the perfect temperature or tub that got bigger or smaller or deeper or shallower depending on what you wanted. He'd just shrugged and said that maybe it was because James was the oldest or the heir or the only one who'd never lived without magic. Rosemary still thought it might be a little strange that she was around so much more magic than he was. She also didn't want it to go away so she didn't say anything to Miss Taylor, even though she was bursting with questions.

Now, as she sat on Thomas' perfectly muggle bed in his perfectly muggle room, she found herself glad for the difference. It was easy to forget James here. Easy to push aside the thought that she was doing something wrong, something that would change everything when he came home for Christmas. James could never exist in the same place as this room. It wasn't vibrant enough. Didn't have the same feeling of cheerful warmth that filled the heir wing and every other part of Linfred she'd been in. This room could be one of the single rooms in the orphanage, like the oldest girls got if they stayed on after their O-Levels. It helped calm her, a little.

"No." Thomas' response startled her, both because she'd gotten lost in her thoughts and because it wasn't at all what she'd been expecting.

"Why not? You're very nice and," Rosemary blushed, remembering the conversation the morning James and Sarah had left, "Sarah said it's quite a lot of fun, more with you than with Alexander. I know you won't hurt me because we're friends and Jamie wouldn't have said I should if he thought it would hurt, no matter what Sarah told him. If I'm going to try I'd rather with you than anyone else."

Thomas frowned, moving to sit next to her and taking her hand. "That's why. You don't want to. Not really, you just want to make James happy. You shouldn't do things just because he wants you to."

"That's not why I asked!" Rosemary glared at him. Honestly, she wasn't a silly little girl who only did things because of boys, not like Millie Sanders, who'd stolen something from a shop because one of the village boys she fancied dared her to.

"Really? Because I don't think you would have, not if he hadn't told you you should."

"No, because I wouldn't want him to be upset!" Rosemary pulled her hand away, clenching her fingers into fists. She wished she had magic. It probably felt nice, having something to do when you were feeling cross. "I want to know if it's different, without magic. Sarah and Jamie think I should know what it's like with other boys, in case I feel different after, but I think they're wrong. Jamie's been with lots of witches at school and he still says he likes me best, so it can't be that I just don't know any better like they think. But maybe it's different if only one person has magic."

"Oh." Thomas pulled his hand away, blushing as he looked down at his trainers. "It might be. I wouldn't know."

Rosemary took a breath, telling herself this was a good idea. It was. She'd know if it was just magic and then maybe it'd be easier to leave one day. "We could try." She put her hand on Thomas' leg, feeling her face heat at touching him in a way that was anything other than friendly. "Then we'd both know."

Thomas nodded, looking up at her for a moment before slowly leaning towards her. He didn't kiss her right away, like she was expecting. Instead he just stayed close to her, so that she could feel his breath on her lips. It was strange. Nice, it gave her butterflies in her stomach the same way waiting for James to step out of the floo did, but strange. She found herself sighing in relief when he gently pressed his lips to hers. That seemed to give him confidence, enough to carefully cup her cheek in his hand.

He was a good kisser. She thought he was, anyway. She didn't have much to compare it to, but it felt nice. His lips were soft and he didn't push when she didn't part her lips more for him. He just kept kissing her, soft and slow until she found herself gripping his shirt so he couldn't pull away. And when she did finally open her mouth just a little bit more, she realised Thomas was a better kisser than James.

She didn't understand how, but something about the way he kissed her made her want to press herself close to him. Not the way she did with James. Not the safe, comfortable feeling she got when held her so her back was tight against his chest. That was slow, like how Thomas was kissing her. It was warm and lazy, something she could feel all the time. This was more like James' magic when he was angry. She couldn't control it and suddenly she thought she might understand why Miss Taylor was so afraid for her. This felt dangerous. Violent, even. She was pulling at Thomas' shirt and trousers, unaware of when she'd crawled into his lap, but needing to feel more of him.

"Whoa, hold on." Thomas pushed her away, holding her arms at her sides. She realised she was whimpering and tried to stop, but couldn't seem to. No more than she could stop rocking her hips against him, searching for that good feeling James gave her when he rubbed against her.

"Slow down." Thomas tilted her chin up until she was looking at him. "We have to go slow, ok? You're a lot smaller than Sarah, I don't want to hurt you."

Rosemary nodded, even as she whimpered. She felt like her body was on fire. Her dress itched at her skin and Thomas' trousers were rough between her legs. It didn't make sense, the empty feeling never came before the throbbing one, but she felt empty now and the idea of having to wait made her want to cry.

"Can we --" Rosemary tugged at the hem of Thomas' shirt. It still felt wrong to ask for what she wanted, at least when it came to this. So she pulled at his shirt, hoping he'd understand. "Please? It's too hot."

Thomas stared at her for a moment, his pupils widening as she watched. "Yeah. Yeah, ok." He stripped off his shirt, then moved his hands to her dress. "This too? You don't have to if you don't want to."

Rosemary just nodded, sliding off his lap and pulling her dress off as quickly as she could. She wasn't wearing anything underneath. She'd gotten used to going without knickers or tights since she'd moved to Linfred and the lacy ones James liked...those were just for him.

When she looked up Thomas' face was bright red and he was looking away from her. Suddenly she found herself a bit embarrassed. "Is something wrong?" She was surprised at how small her voice sounded. She hadn't meant for it to be.

"No." Thomas shook his head, though his eyes stayed focused on her feet. "I just...I forget, sometimes, that you're just a little girl. Maybe we shouldn't."

"Oh." Rosemary bit her lip. The hot feeling was fading, leaving her feeling cold and silly. "I -- I'm only a year younger than Sarah was. When you met her, I mean." She peeked up at him through her eyelashes. "I don't think that's that little."

She heard Thomas take a breath before he looked properly at her. He was still blushing, but he reached out and pulled her towards him until she was in his lap again. "Are you sure?" he asked. This time when he kissed her the hot feeling started almost immediately.

She'd thought nothing could ever feel better than James made her feel. She didn't think she was wrong, not exactly, but Thomas made her feel good in a whole new way. Her skin felt like it was burning everywhere he touched and kissed, so much that she wasn't sure there'd be anything left if he took his time like James did. She couldn't feel like this forever, it was too much. There was a new feeling spreading through her, starting between her legs and radiating out. It was like when Miss Taylor was teaching her about static electricity and her hair lifted up toward the balloon she'd rubbed on her head, only now it was her entire body.

She shook her head when Thomas started kissing down her chest, tugging him up so he was laying on top of her. When had he laid her on the bed? She pushed the thought out of her mind, instead wrapping her legs around his waist and thrusting against him. She didn't think she'd ever hated trousers before, but she did now.

"Ok, ok," Thomas chuckled against her lips. Prat. She was going to punch him. Later though, after he'd put out the fire he'd started.

The feeling of him carefully laying back on top of her after he'd removed his trousers only made the fire worse. She could feel him between her legs, heavier than James and...different in a way she couldn't place. It didn't matter. She arched her back, trying to get him where she wanted. She knew that if he could just stop the empty feeling the fire would start go go away.

"No." Thomas' voice was stern as he held her waist so she couldn't move against him. He kissed her when she whimpered which only made the burning feeling worse. "Rosemary. Rosemary." He waited until she was looking at him, holding her in place the entire time. "Slow down," he said. His voice was gentle and he was looking at her almost the way James did, but she couldn't help pouting anyway. He smiled at her, kissing her forehead as he moved his hand so he could slide a finger inside her. "It'll be better this way. I promise."

He was probably right. She liked it when James touched her like this. And -- she gasped as Thomas did something she couldn't explain -- Thomas was probably better at this too. It definitely felt different than when James did. The throbbing was faster and the empty feeling was there and her body tensed before she knew what was happening, her muscles tightening so much she thought she might have stopped breathing.

When she opened her eyes he was laying alongside her. Prat. She'd take that smug smile right off his face. She looked down, planning to stroke him like she did James, and froze.

"What?" Thomas frowned, then blushed when he followed her eyes. "Oh. Um." He cleared his throat. Opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, then shut it again.

Rosemary knew her face had to be bright red. "I...It's not bad!" She rushed to reassure him, noticing how he was squirming and shrinking a bit. "It's just...Jamie doesn't look like that."

He didn't. He was smaller, for one, and there wasn’t any hair. He looked like the boys in the books Hatty had given her. The way she looked like the girls did. Thomas looked more like the grown men in the muggle books Miss Taylor had recently pulled out, to teach her about growing up and the things she'd need to remember if James kept her after she'd started growing more.

"Oh." Thomas cleared his throat again. "Well, I am two years older than him. It's not my fault wizards are all bloody giants."

Rosemary laughed. James and Sarah were both tall. She rather liked it. It made her feel safe.

She carefully brushed her hand along Thomas, watching how he throbbed a little. "Just go slow," she said, smiling up at him. "Jamie's not this big."

"That's what I've been trying to do," he huffed. Prat. She tightened her grip as he rolled on top of her again, smirking when he shuddered and closed his eyes.

She let him take his time, now that she didn't feel like she was burning alive. It was nice, especially when he nipped at her neck as he slid against her. Something about it felt different than with James. More...wet. Good though, enough that she didn't bother checking. Thomas really was quite good at making her forget about things. Not the way James did, where the entire world fell away so she didn't care about anything except the two of them. That was quiet. It was loud, James always made her whimper at least and she'd swear he panted louder than any shout, but it was also quiet. Soft. Even when it wasn't gentle, when he'd push her against a wall or over a chair and make her scream, it was still quiet.

This wasn't the world falling away. It felt like the opposite, really. She was aware of everything, of her skin and her voice and how Thomas made her moan when he rubbed between her legs. She couldn't think of anything else because everything else was too overwhelming. She needed more, needed to fill the ache he was only making worse every time he pressed his fingers inside her.

Then he was inside her, stretching her in a way James never had. It burnt, a little, the way her skin did when Thomas bent down to suck at her neck. There was heat everywhere, on her arms and between her legs and coiling in her stomach. It built, growing into an inferno, bigger than anything she'd ever felt. It was all she could do to hold on to Thomas as he thrust into her, locking her arms and legs around him just because she didn't think she could take it if he pressed himself any deeper. Just as the fire built so high she was screaming, sure she'd die if it went on any longer, it peaked. She felt her body clenching around him, making him groan and thrust even faster. That only made her tense more, digging her nails into his shoulder because she just didn't know what else to do.

When she relaxed into herself again, no longer worried about burning up, he was still inside her. His eyes were closed and his lips were parted slightly, his forehead resting against hers as he rolled his hips, the way James' liked to do.

All of a sudden she was crying, pushing at Thomas' chest until he moved off her. She knew he was confused, could see the shock on his face, but she couldn't stop. She was sobbing, great wracking sobs like at the beginning of summer only this time she had no idea why.

"Rosemary," she heard Thomas sigh. He wrapped a blanket around her before pulling her into his lap, rubbing her back until her cries slowed to sniffles. He kissed her forehead, setting off a new round of tears that just made him smile sadly. "This is why I didn't think this was a good idea."

She nodded against his chest. He had tried to warn her. She just...she thought she could. Thought it might even be good for her, so she'd know if it was just James or magic or something else. She hadn't thought she'd feel like this after. Like she'd done something horrible that she could never take back.

"It's not your fault," she whispered. "You were -- it was good. Really good." She looked up at him, ignoring that she had to be blushing harder than she ever had before. "Sarah was right. I'm glad it was with you, it's just..."

"I'm not James."

She nodded. "I'm sorry. Do you..." she trailed off, not sure how to ask.

"No," Thomas laughed, tilting his hips up so she could feel that he was soft, "I'll have to remember that crying little girls work better than thinking of old Mrs Fitzgerald in her nightie. It might be useful."

"Sorry," she said again. If this kept up she'd blush herself to death.

"It's alright." Thomas smiled at her before kissing her forehead again. "It's not your fault and anyway, I have hands."

"Oh. Does that..." she looked at her knees so she could ask the question that had been bothering her for over a year now, "does it work? When I...I can't. Not like you and Jamie can."

"You, um, you should talk to Sarah." Rosemary looked up to see that Thomas was blushing at least as much as she was. "She let me watch, the first night, so I'd know what to do." He paused for a minute before setting her down. "You should get dressed. Use the bathroom, you'll feel better if you wash your face."

She nodded, grabbing her dress and making sure the blanket was wrapped firmly around her. She made sure not to look at Thomas as she walked past him. It didn't feel right, never mind that they'd both already seen everything there was to see.

When she came back out he was sitting at his desk, another chair pulled up across from him.

"I asked one of the elves for tea," he said. "There are those brilliant rainbow biscuits too."

Rosemary smiled, immediately grabbing one of the biscuits. She hoped Hatty didn't know what she'd done, but if she did at least she wasn't cross. She wouldn't have sent up the biscuits if she was.

"I think you need a nickname." The pronouncement was so firm and so sudden that Rosemary nearly dropped her teacup. She'd have to remember to not mention that to Miss Taylor. It'd mean hours of extra comportment lessons.


"Well, Rosemary's a bit long and I think we probably can't be just friends after that, so maybe I can be like your big brother."

"I don't think brothers and sisters are supposed to do that," she giggled. It was fun watching Thomas blush. It didn't show as much on his darker skin so when it did she knew he was really flustered.

"We can just forget we did, if you want." He was looking at her so softly she knew that he wouldn't be at all hurt if she did.

She didn't though, not really. She shook her head, feeling her face get warm as she tried to force herself to meet his eyes. "It was nice. And..." she tried to think of why it was she didn't want to pretend it hadn't happened. "I know now, that it's not just magic or because I didn't know better. It's just...Jamie. So I can tell him and he'll stop being silly about it just because Sarah told him."

Thomas' face went ashy, all colour draining from him. She started to open her mouth to ask what was wrong when he yelped, "You can't tell him! He'll kill me!"

Rosemary laughed, even harder when she saw how Thomas was glowering at her. "No he won't," she said, when she could speak again. "He's the one who told me to."

"He threw Alex against a wall for touching you! I did loads more than that!"

Rosemary clapped her hands over her mouth to keep from giggling again at how high Thomas' voice went. It was even higher than James’.

"It's not funny! I like my bits where they are!"

That was too much and Rosemary collapsed into giggles. "He won't do anything if I ask him not to," she said eventually, wiping the tears from her eyes. Thomas was too funny. "Jamie's magic only acts up when he wants to protect me. Hadn't you noticed?"

Thomas frowned for a moment, seeming to think it over. "I've only seen it the once," he said. "And I guess Alex was asking for it. He never should have touched you like that, the wanker." He grinned at her then, eyes sparkling. "So you promise to protect your big brother from your crazy magical boyfriend?"

Rosemary stilled. "He's not my boyfriend," she whispered. He wasn't. Not anything like it.

Thomas shrugged, taking a sip of his tea. "He's protective, he's not going around with other girls even though he wanted you to try being with me, he made sure you had friends even though Sarah said we're not really supposed to know each other, he bought you a magical piano, and you shag. Sounds like a boyfriend to me."

She shook her head, pushing away the part of her that wanted it to be true. "He's not. He's going to marry some witch and forget all about me."

"That won't be for years," Thomas rolled his eyes, "Right now he's yours."

"Stop saying that!" Rosemary wiped furiously at the tears that were forming in her eyes. She wasn't going to cry over this. She wasn't.

"Rosemary," Thomas put his teacup down, ignoring her glare, "he's yours like Sarah's mine. Listen to your big brother." He shrugged, smiling a bit even if it didn't reach his eyes. "It helps."

She bit her lip for a moment before nodding. "My sister used to call me Mary."

Chapter Text

"Hatty," Rosemary called, as she got out of the bath, "could you put tights with my dress, please?  Muggles don't have warming charms when it's cold out."

She hummed to herself, thinking of what she might want to see while in the village.  She still wasn't sure she wanted to be around quite so many people, she'd gotten used to the quiet of Linfred.  Thomas wanted to see the bonfire though and Miss Taylor said it would be good for her to remember that muggles had their own kind of magic.  The kind that involved trips to the cinema to see Treasure Island and promises to have pizza and stop by one of Miss Taylors' friends who lived in the village to watch something new on the telly.  It was to be nearly a full day of treats.  Thomas had been excited for it all week.  Longer, really, since Rosemary had told him Miss Taylor agreed she could go.

It was odd to think about wearing tights though.  And a hat and coat and scarf.  Linfred was always warm enough that she didn't need them, even in her courtyard in the dead of winter.  She'd had a snowball fight with Miss Taylor last year without even needing gloves.  Magic was useful like that.

She froze when she walked into the bedroom, where Hatty always laid out her clothes because the mirrors in the dressing room made her feel silly.  Alexander was laying on the bed.

"Rosie!" He bounced off, standing in front of her in two easy strides.  She was suddenly horribly aware of how much bigger he was than her.  "Did ya miss me?  I'd have visited sooner, but it took me ages to figure out where anything is in this great bloody castle."

Rosemary shook her head, backing away.  "You're not supposed to be here.  Jamie said so."

"Who cares?"  Alexander rolled his eyes, slinging an arm around her.  "We're mates, right?  We can visit if we want."

"I...I guess so."  She wrapped her arms around her chest, making sure her towel didn't slip.  "I need to get dressed though.  Thomas and I are going into the village."  It was fine.  Alexander was...maybe not her friend, really, but Sarah liked him.  He'd go away now and they could visit some other time.

"Oh, you don't want to go with boring old Thomas."  Alexander grinned at her.  "We can have much more fun here.  Watch!"

"NO!" Rosemary shrieked, as he lifted her over his shoulder.  "Alexander!  Put me down!  This isn't funny!"  She pounded her fists on his back since his arm was wrapped tight enough around her legs that she couldn't kick.

"Alright, alright."  He dropped her on the bed.  "I was just playing.  Don't be so sensitive."

She glared at him.  "I don't like playing like that.  I didn't like it when you tickled me either."  She forced herself to ignore the way she was shaking slightly, trying to make herself sound like James when he told his father he wasn't going to Hogwarts.  "Don't do it again, or I'll ask Hatty to make it so you can't come in here."  She didn't understand why that wasn't true already.  It was supposed to be, he wasn't supposed to be anywhere near this wing at all.

Alexander smirked at her, a terrifying smirk that made her edge away from him.  Hatty.  She'd call Hatty.  Just as soon as she could get her voice to work.

"That's alright," he said.  "I heard you and Thomas the other day.  You like to play different games, don't you?"

He was on top of her before she knew what was happening, pinning her arms above her head and ripping her towel away while he sucked at her neck.

"Get off!"  She tried to kick him, wriggling as much as she could with his weight on her so he couldn't get a good grip.  "HA --"

He cut off her shout by kissing her.  She didn't think she'd ever wanted to vomit as much as she did when she felt his tongue in her mouth, nearly making her choke.

James.  She thought of James, trying to picture every detail of him and praying that the earrings he'd given her would work even though she was a muggle.  Alexander's hand slipped between her legs just as she felt something in the pit of her stomach that made her feel as though she really was going to be ill.


James was sitting in the Great Hall, about to throw a roll at Sirius for being a prat (no, he really didn't want to hear the things O'Neill had said about him while they were shagging in the library) when something heavy dropped onto his lap.  It took him a moment in the ensuing commotion to realise that Rosemary was clinging to his robes, sobbing so hard he wasn't sure she could breathe.  Another moment to notice she wasn't wearing anything.  A moment after that to see Alexander.  His magic was not so slow.

Alexander was pinned to the wall across the room from him, several feet in the air and scrabbling at his neck.  Some part of James noted that the muggle didn't appear to be able to breathe.  His face was turning blue.  That was too bad.  Sarah would be upset if he died.  A moment after that thought he took a great breath, colour flooding back into his face.  He still looked appropriately terrified, at least.

There was something happening around him.  Shouting, maybe.  Remus' voice was in there somewhere, stronger than it usually was this soon after he'd been poorly.  James really would have to ask him about that soon.  It wasn't normal to need to be in the hospital wing as often as Remus was.  That could be later though.  Right now he had to take care of Rosemary.  Rosemary and what he was slowly understanding was his magic.

It was odd.  He thought he should be more angry.  He normally was, when his magic flew out of him like this.  He wasn't though.  Was barely even aware of existing.  It certainly didn't feel like it was his magic bouncing Alexander up and down like a puppet on a string.  His head was jerking quite comically.  It might be funny, if he didn't suddenly have the horrible realisation that he could kill someone like this and maybe not even notice.

That was when he felt the flames.  He was engulfed in them, a white hot blaze that he couldn't control.  He closed his eyes, breathing deeply like Professor Sprout had taught him.  It was ok.  He wouldn't kill Aristotle.  It was his magic and he didn't want to.  Not really.  Sarah wouldn't like it and he loved his sisters more than anything.  It was her bloody fault that this was happening, if she'd just sent the wanker away when he asked he wouldn't have this problem, but that didn't matter.  He wouldn't upset his sister.  His magic was his.  A part of him.  He just had to tell it to come back.

It didn't.  Not when he breathed, not when he pictured the heir bedroom at Linfred, not when he thought about flying or winning a Quidditch match.  He wrapped his arms tighter around Rosemary, bowing his head so he could breathe in her scent.  Cinnamon this time, like at Christmas.  Cinnamon and cocoa and feeling her move beneath him on a soft carpet in the floo room.  Something that made him think of ice and snow.  Skating on the ponds at Linfred.  Snowball fights with Sirius and Remus, all of them pelting Peter at once because he was too much of a git to join in until they made him.

He felt his magic recede, a little.  Rosemary.  She was right here.  He needed his magic to calm down so he could take care of her. She was still crying and he thought she might still not having anything covering her because he couldn't get his bloody magic to cooperate.  Breathe.  If his magic went back where it belonged he could take Rosemary up to Gryffindor.  She could be tucked up in his bed and tomorrow he'd take her to see the unicorns the Creatures professor brought in for the third years.  She'd love them, but first he needed his magic to Get.  Down.

Alexander dropped to the floor.  James only just managed to force his magic to slow his fall before it collapsed into him.  Mostly, anyway.  There was still a fiery dome around him and Rosemary.  He could hear a bit better now though, even if he couldn't so much see as get an idea of what was happening around him from his magic.  That was when he remembered his eyes were still closed.

He opened them slowly.  Professor Sprout always said that keeping your eyes closed helped keep your focus on your magic and he couldn't really afford to lose any more control than he already had.  Rosemary was still sobbing into his chest.  All she was wearing were the earrings he'd given her and he heard a roar as his magic flared up again.  He didn't want to think about what could have happened that would make her use her portkey without even a pair of knickers on.

She needed to be covered.  No one else could see her like this, especially not if Alexander had done what he wasn't yet willing to consider.  He frowned, trying to think of how to get his outer robe off without moving her.  Her front was pressed against him, at least.  Maybe if he arranged his arms just right his sleeves could cover the most important bits until one of the professors could conjure her a quilt or something.  First he had to get the rest of his magic inside him though.  It was too bad that didn't seem to be possible.  Especially because he was starting to feel faint.  He didn't think he'd ever felt faint before, but he also wasn't sure how long his magic had been so far out of his control.  Time was a bit fuzzy at the moment.

He reached out as best he could and tugged, hoping his magic would take the hint.  It didn't.  He could feel sweat on his forehead.  How long had he been sweating?  Had that happened the other times too?  He couldn't remember.  Mother was going to have kittens when she found out about this.  Maybe Father would be worried enough to not punish him.  He truly didn't think he could help it.  If he could he'd stop because he really wasn't feeling very well.  And he couldn't scare Rosemary like he did before, not now.  So he had to stop this.  Otherwise Rosemary's portkey could have just as well sent her to Father or Hatty because he obviously wasn't doing her any good.

There was an odd feeling then.  Gritty, like the sand that never seemed to wash off from his feet when he went to the seaside.  It didn't smell like the sea though, not like Rosemary did in summer.  This was more earthy.  Damp, still, but not sea-damp.  Mud-damp, like the grounds after a long rain.  Familiar too, though he couldn't place it.  He wasn't worried though, not even when it started pressing down on his magic.  Maybe he should be.  No one had ever done that before and he thought it would probably be disconcerting if he didn't already want his magic to get back inside him anyway.  Whatever this was, it was helping.  He could breathe a little better.  Hadn't realised he needed to do that, but now he did.  Slowly the roar of his magic started to quiet.  It was odd.  He thought there'd been more shouting before.  Now all he could hear was Rosemary crying.  The last of his magic fell back inside him, buried by the grit and earth.  He looked up.

Professor Sprout was standing in front of him.  Oh.  That made sense, he supposed.  Now that he was a bit more clear-headed he thought her magic smelt like the greenhouses.  Not the ones with the dangerous plants, the peaceful one full of flowers they sometimes asked permission to pick to send to their mothers.

He jumped when someone moved next to him, his magic sparking momentarily before he realised it was just Remus.

"May I?" he asked, holding out his robe.  "I'll just put it over her shoulders so you don't have to let her go."

James nodded, smiling a bit.  Leave it to Remus to know just what he needed.

"Ten points to Gryffindor, Mr Lupin."  

James blinked.  He'd forgotten Professor Sprout was there.  Merlin, after he made sure Rosemary was ok he needed to lie down.

"And fifteen more points for your excellent show of magical control, Mr Potter."

"Huh?"  Yes.  Definitely needed to lie down.  He didn't think he'd ever sounded so gormless in his life.  Mother wouldn't stand for it.

Professor Sprout smiled, gently pulling him up from his seat.  "You didn't kill the boy," she said, "or even injure him.  That's more than most of the seventh years could have done, if they'd been in your place."

"Oh."  James allowed himself to be led out of the Great Hall.  He barely even noticed everyone staring at him, slowly starting to whisper to each other about what had happened.  Sarah was probably there, somewhere.  He didn't think he could see her right now.

"I couldn't get all my magic back though."  That had been more than a little frustrating.  "I tried, but I just couldn't."

"You did well enough.  If you'd had a bit longer you'd have had it."  She turned away from him for a moment as they entered the infirmary, calling for Madam Pomfrey.  "I would have let you try, if I wasn't afraid of you hurting yourself.  Come on now, into bed.  You need a replenishing draught, at least."

James nodded, taking the potion when Madam Pomfrey handed it to him.  He stretched out on the hospital bed, rubbing Rosemary's back until she'd cried herself out and fallen asleep.  Then he checked to make sure she was covered with both robe and blanket and allowed himself to relax, just a little.

When he woke Remus and Alice were sitting by his bed.

"We brought these."  Alice held up a dress, knickers, and shoes.  "One of the Hufflepuff firsties is really small, they should fit."

James smiled.  He really did have the best friends.  "Thanks," he whispered.  "Could you put them on the table?  I don't want to wake her up."

"I'm awake."

James looked down, wrapping his arms tighter around Rosemary.  "You should have woken me.  How long have you been up for?"

She shrugged.  "A while.  I couldn't sleep."

It was a good thing Alexander wasn't anywhere near him or James thought he really might kill him this time.  Rosemary should never sound like that.  Dull and listless, like she'd been hollowed out.  He looked at Remus and Alice who just shrugged helplessly at him.

"You should get dressed," Alice said, when the silence had drawn out long enough to be uncomfortable.  "We'll wait outside"  She pulled Remus away from the bed and drew the privacy curtain around him and Rosemary.

He sat up, making sure Rosemary stayed pressed close to his chest.  "My friends brought you something to wear," he said.  "Want to see if it fits?"

She shook her head trying to burrow herself even closer to him.  "Can you take these off?  Please?  You're too far."

James hesitated for a moment before shaking his head.  "Not right now.  We're in the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey will probably be here soon to check on us.  When she lets us go I'll take you up to my bed in Gryffindor, ok?  No one will bother us there if I ask them not to."

She nodded, though she did slip one of her down the collar of his robes.  James let her, sliding his hand under Remus' robe so he was touching her back.  That at least got a small smile out of her.  It wasn't much, but it made him worry a bit less.  It wasn't normal for Rosemary to be this quiet.

They were still sitting like that when Madam Pomfrey drew back the curtain.  She smiled softly at Rosemary as she sat in a chair next to the bed.  "Hello dear," she said, "my name is Poppy.  I'm the nurse here at Hogwarts."  She waited for Rosemary to nod, though she didn't seem to expect any more response than that.  "Do you think you could tell me what happened?  It's important for me to know so I can make sure you're not injured."

Rosemary glanced up at him, nodding when he smiled encouragingly at her.  He wanted to know what happened too.  It would help him decide whether to have Alexander sent to one of the other properties or just throw him in the Forbidden Forest.

"I was in the bath."  James had to strain to hear what Rosemary was saying.  "Miss Taylor and Mr Hayes were going to take me and Thomas to the village for the afternoon.  When I went to get my dress from the bed Alexander was there."  She shuddered, clutching James' robe tighter.  "I told him he wasn't supposed to be there, but he said we were friends and friends could visit.  He picked me up, then put me on the bed when I hit him.  He said he was just playing, but then he got on top of me and took off my towel."

James felt his magic sparking as Rosemary buried her face in his robes again.  He forced it down, instead focusing on rubbing her hair and back.  He couldn't lose control.  If he did Madam Pomfrey would probably kick him out and he couldn't leave.  Not until he was sure Rosemary wasn't hurt.

"I tried to scream, honest.  I kicked him, but he held my hands down so I couldn't hit him and when I tried to shout for Hatty he put his tongue in my mouth.  I didn't want him to.  I didn't."

James kissed the top of Rosemary's head, carefully slipping his other hand under Remus' robe.  "It's alright.  I know you didn't," he whispered, gently kissing her shoulder when she tried to press herself even closer to him than she already was.  Merlin, why would she even think of something like that?  The Forbidden Forest was too good for Alexander.  Maybe he could convince Father to let him feed him to a dragon.  One of the small ones that liked to tear strips off their food while it was still alive.

"I know this is hard," Madam Pomfrey's voice interrupted James' thoughts of Alexander screaming as a dragon fed him to her hatchlings, "but could you tell us what happened next?  When we're done I have some hot chocolate here and then the Headmaster has given James permission to show you around Hogwarts.  There are unicorn foals out in the fields, I think they'd love to meet a sweet girl like you."

Rosemary sniffled for a moment before nodding.  Unicorns weren't enough, he was going to ask Father if she could have her own Abraxan.

"Alexander kept kissing me and trying to touch me, even though I didn't want him to.  I just wanted Jamie.  I tried to think of him, so my earrings would take me to him like he promised.  I didn't think it worked at first, but then I was here."  She looked up at him, smiling just a little, despite the tears running down her face.  "I was so frightened, but I knew you wouldn't let Alexander hurt me."

James tightened his hold on her, making sure she was properly tucked under his chin.  She was wrong.  He had let her get hurt.  He should have insisted Alexander leave months ago.  Or he should have stayed at Linfred and not trusted her safety to a squib and some house elves.  He wouldn't be making that mistake again.  Not ever.

"Alright dear," Madam Pomfrey's voice sounded oddly far away, "I just need to one more question.  It's very important that you answer it honestly.  No one will get angry with you, no matter what you say.  Do you think you can do that?"

James braced himself as Rosemary nodded against his chest.

"Did Alexander ever put his penis or anything else inside you?  Remember, it's very important and we won't be angry.  Not even a little bit."

She shook her head.  James relaxed for all of a second before she spoke.  "He -- he put his hand down there, right before my earrings brought me here.  Noth --" Rosemary froze.  When she spoke again it was so fast he almost wasn't able to make out the exact words, they were so garbled together.  "He kissed my neck.  Before I shouted, he was kissing my neck, like Jamie does."  She yanked herself away from him, her hands clawing at the side of her neck.  "Don't -- I can't -- "  James grabbed her arms, pulling her back against him.  "Make it go away."  She was sobbing into his shoulder again, the words muffled by his robes.

Carefully, he lifted her hair away from her neck.  There was a large bruise on the right side, just above her shoulder.  James felt fire racing down his arms.  It was almost black, darker than any mark he'd ever left.  He heard the windows rattle as he thought of anyone being so rough with her.  He forced his magic down as he gently unwound her arms from his neck, checking her wrists.  There were bruises there too, and likely on her hip based on the way she flinched when he grazed his fingers over it.

"Mr Potter!"  Madam Pomfrey's voice cut through his thoughts.  "Calm yourself this instant or I will have you removed!"

James nodded, gritting his teeth and reminding himself that Alexander wasn't here.  All he would do if he let his magic get the best of him right now is hurt Rosemary.  He couldn't do that, she'd already been hurt enough.

"That's better.  Now," she turned to Rosemary, "I can take care of those bruises for you, or I can teach the spell to Mr Potter.  If Mr Potter has to learn the spell it might take a little bit, while I can heal you right now.  Which would you prefer?"

The answer was him, of course, and James immediately set himself to learning the general healing spell.  The wand movement and incantation were easy enough, but it was a bit more powerful than a standard second year spell.  It took him longer than he liked to make his magic cooperate.

Madam Pomfrey looked between him and Rosemary after he'd demonstrated on a practice dummy.  "There is also another way to use a general healing spell.  It's a bit more tricky, but you certainly have the ability.  I think Miss Rosemary might appreciate it."

James shrugged, raising his wand again.  Whatever Rosemary needed he'd do.

"No dear, put your wand away.  This is a bit of a different kind of magic."  She turned him so he was facing Rosemary and asked her to hold out one of her wrists.  "Now, what you want to do is press your lips to the injury and think of the incantation.  It's better if you can cover the whole thing with your mouth, but if you can't that's alright.  The magic usually spreads out a bit anyway."

Rosemary smiled as he gently covered one of the smaller bruises.  "I didn't know wizards could really kiss it all better."

"Yes," Madam Pomfrey smiled, "I thought you might like that.  It's where the muggle idea comes from."  She nodded approvingly when the bruise was gone after James lifted his lips.  "Well done.  You're both free to leave now, no sense staying here when you could do this in a much more comfortable bed."  She handed the pile of clothes Alice had left to Rosemary.  "You should put these on, dear, they're much nicer than anything I could transfigure for you.  And don't hide away in the Tower all evening, both of you are to be at dinner.  Growing young people need to eat.  If Professor McGonagall doesn't see you in the Great Hall you'll be spending all of tomorrow with me instead of exploring the castle, understood?"

Rosemary nodded, eyes wider than James had ever seen them.  He held back a laugh.  Remus had looked the same way when James and Alice had visited him the first night he was in here.  Everyone knew to be a bit afraid of Madam Pomfrey.

The common room and second year bedroom were empty when they arrived, something James was grateful for.  He didn't much feel like explaining why he'd gotten so angry over a muggle to Sirius.  Or even Peter, for that matter.  They'd already given him a hard enough time for pushing Madeline Selwyn out of his bed the first night back.

This way was better.  He could pull Rosemary into bed with him and spell the curtains so no one could hear them or get in.  They'd probably guess who was in here with him, he'd not had anyone in his bed all term after all, but they'd leave him alone.

He tugged off his robes as soon as he'd finished putting up a silencing charm, remembering Rosemary's request when she'd first woken up.  He hesitated before taking her dress off though.  Maybe she just wanted to touch him.  She'd been wrapped up in Remus' robe and the hospital bed blanket, it might not be anything more than that.

"Is this ok?" he asked, lifting the hem of her skirt just a bit.  She nodded so he pulled the dress over her head, then slid down the knickers when she indicated that was fine too.

He was more than a bit surprised when she pulled him on top of her, immediately wrapping her arms around his neck so he couldn't easily pull away.  He'd have thought she wouldn't like this, not right away.

"Can you touch me?" she whispered, so quietly he didn't think he'd have heard her if her lips weren't right next to his ear.

"Are you sure?"  That didn't sound like the best idea.  Not yet.  Not so soon after.  He'd be perfectly happy to just lay here with her, knowing that she was safe because he'd never let anyone hurt her.

She nodded.  "I think it'll be better, if I can remember you instead.  Like the books where someone falls off a horse and has to get back on even though they're scared."

He pulled away, just enough to be able to look down at her.  She was biting her lip and her eyes were a bit watery, but when he moved his hand to rest carefully on her thigh she just spread her legs wider.

He watched her carefully, any time he wasn't kissing her.  Slow.  She needed slow.  So he gave it to her, brushing his lips across every tiny patch of skin, taking care to heal her bruises as he got to them.  He kissed all down her body, then back up again, avoiding her inner thighs and between her legs.

His magic seemed to flow out of him again, though not as much as the last time.  Instead they were just cocooned in warmth, a comfortable, safe heat that didn't threaten to burn out his core.  It made the feel of Rosemary's skin under his hands and lips seem...better, somehow.  He couldn't describe it, but it seemed like Rosemary felt it too.  She was whimpering by the time he gently slid a finger between her lips, dipping just low enough to feel her entrance.

Her eyes flew open when he lightly brushed her clit, her body tensing so much that he froze until she gasped and thrust against his hand.  That helped, a little, though he found he still couldn't bring himself to touch her without being able to watch her face to make sure she was ok.  Not until she grabbed his neck and pulled him down to her.  Then he didn't have much of a choice, not that he was complaining.

When they were done, after he'd brought her off with his hands until she shook her head when he teased her, he pulled her to lay on his chest.  Then he held her as she cried, though not for the reason he was expecting.  He listened to her as she told him about Thomas.  About how it was good and bad all at once and she wished she'd never done it.  How he was lovely and nice and made her feel wonderful, but she still cried after.  As much as James thought he would never forgive himself or Sarah or his father for allowing Alexander to stay where he could hurt her, a small part of him wondered if maybe he hadn't done worse by encouraging her to be with Thomas.  It was something that never would have happened if he hadn't pushed her.  He kissed her and held her and promised her he wasn't at all angry and didn't see her any differently for doing something he'd told her he should.  All the while wishing he'd never listened to his sister about either of her boys, not when it came to Rosemary.

He woke to someone gently nudging his shoulder, making his magic flare up as he realised no one should have been able to get through his bed curtains.  It was more than a bit embarrassing to look up and see Professor McGonagall.  Especially when he realised he'd sat up and the blankets were now pooled around his and Rosemary's waists.

"Sorry, Professor."  He could feel himself blushing as he reached for the blankets, rearranging them so they covered him and Rosemary better.  He glanced down at her, relaxing just a little when he saw that she'd managed to sleep through the movement.  "Did we sleep through dinner?  We didn't mean to, honest."

Professor McGonagall shook her head, her lips twitching slightly.  If he didn't know better he'd think she was trying not to laugh.  "The headmaster thought the Great Hall might be a bit overwhelming for your girl.  He's arranged a more quiet dinner for you and whichever friends you might want to invite."  She handed him a piece of parchment with the words "everlasting gobstopper" written on it.  "That is the password for the third room on the left in the corridor just past the Charms classroom.  Dinner will be served in an hour and you are all to be in your common rooms by curfew."  She raised an eyebrow at him, making him fidget a bit before he forced himself to be still.  "I am aware of your proclivity for sneaking about Mr Potter," she said, "please do keep in mind that you are responsible for more than yourself while your girl is at Hogwarts, and that most magical healing methods do not work on muggles."

James nodded.  There went showing Rosemary Quidditch.  He wasn't taking her anywhere near a broom, let alone a bludger.  "Yes, Professor.  I promise to be careful."

Professor McGonagall smiled then.  He nearly fainted out of sheer shock.  The running bet in Gryffindor was that she didn't know how.

"I know you will, lad.  If you run into any trouble don't hesitate to send for me."  She paused for a moment before continuing, if a bit hesitantly.  "Professor Wilder has asked if your girl might be willing to talk with the Muggle Studies students.  Only if she's comfortable, of course.  She will be in her office all weekend if you'd like to arrange a time."

James just nodded again, waiting until McGonagall had left before gently nudging Rosemary.  He wasn't going to subject her to being stared at like she was on a dragon preserve.  There would probably already be enough of that while he showed her the school.  Merlin knew Sirius' cousin was sure to say something foul.

It was for that reason that he was glad McGonagall and Dumbledore had arranged it so that most of the school was already at dinner by the time he and Rosemary had to head over to the room that had been set up for them.  Only Remus, Alice, and, surprisingly, Fabian Prewett were still in the common room when they came down.

Fabian shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets when James looked at him.  "Dad wrote me yesterday.  I'm staying at Linfred starting next term so I can get to know your sister before her birthday."  He blushed, almost as red as his hair.  "I thought if I met your girl now you might not worry so much when you're here."

Once again James found himself grateful for his friends.  Even more when they all introduced themselves to Rosemary, exactly as they would if she were a witch.  Curtsies and all.

Chapter Text

“Goldstein!  Hey, Goldstein!”  James ran up to the third year Slytherin, ignoring the stitch in his side from racing up the stairs so quickly.

Goldstein turned, quirking an eyebrow at him. “Yes?  Potter, isn’t it?”

James nodded, taking a moment to catch his breath. “Your mum’s name was Cohen, right?”

“Yes.”  Goldstein drawled out the word, the way Remus sometimes did when Siri was being particularly slow. “Why?”

“Well, it’s just,” James rubbed the back of his neck, “my girl, the one who showed up in the Great Hall?  Her name’s Cohen too.”

Goldstein sighed. “It’s a common name, Potter.  Like Black or Smith.  I’m not related to every Cohen in Britain.”

“I know.”  James tried not to blush.  He did know that, Goldstein didn’t have to act like he was an idiot. “But her sister called their dad ‘Ta’ and…”  He trailed off.  This was daft, trying to talk to a bloody Slytherin about Rosemary. “Nevermind.  It’s not important.”

“Potter!”  Goldstien called after him as he walked away. “It’s Yiddish.”  He sighed at James’ confused look, striding over to him. “Ta.  It’s Yiddish.  Short for Tatty.”  Goldstein looked him over, frowning a bit. “Why do you care so much?  No one else does.”

James clenched his fists, forcing himself to stay calm.  It wasn’t as if he wasn’t used to those sorts of questions.  He got them from Sirius every day.

“It’s…”  He adjusted the strap of his bag, trying to think of what to say that wouldn’t get him mocked even more. “She’s an orphan and I had to send her sister away last year and…I don’t know.”  He shrugged helplessly. “I wouldn’t want to not be able to remember what it’s like to be a Potter.”

Goldstein tilted his head, staring at him until it was all he could do to not fidget with his bag. “You like her.  Like a girl, I mean, not a muggle.”  He rolled his eyes when James opened his mouth to say…something. “Shut up, Potter.  I don’t mean it as a bad thing.”  He paused, looking around before pulling James into a classroom.  Only after he’d silenced and warded the door did he turn around and start speaking again.

“Have you…”  Goldstein hesitated, looking uncomfortable.  Just as James was about to ask what the wards were for, he set his bag down and dug through it until he pulled out a pocket watch. “Look,” he said, flipping it open, “that’s Ruthie.  She’s…my girl, kind of.”

“Kind of?” James asked, looking at the picture of a surprisingly plain girl that was spelled into the inside lid of Goldstein’s pocket watch.

Goldstein nodded. “We haven’t…” he cleared his throat as a blush spread up his neck. “In my family muggles aren’t gifts, they’re part of the family.  Ruthie’s my best friend.  I’ve known her since we were in nappies.”

James blinked as he tried to wrap his head around that.  The Goldsteins were an old pureblood family, not like Sarah who’d been raised muggle.  He would have asked, had Goldstein not started talking again before he had a chance.

“Anyway.  I just…”  Goldstein shrugged, looking down at the girl. “You shouldn’t be embarrassed about liking Rosemary.  My parents have loads of muggle friends.  That’s how they knew Ruthie didn’t have any family she could go to after her bubbie died.  Ta says if more wizards were friends with muggles we wouldn’t need the statute of secrecy.”  He paused for a moment before grinning at James. “Don’t go being a Gryffindor and telling everyone either though.  Ta also says it’s better not to draw attention to yourself if you don’t have to.”

James grinned back, shoving Goldstein playfully.  He wasn’t so bad, for a Slytherin.

“So Rosemary’s name is Cohen?”  Goldstein looked curious now, instead of annoyed like he had when James had asked him.

“Yes,” he nodded, “Rosemary Adinah Cohen.”

Goldstein grinned again, digging into his bag and pulling out a book. “Ta makes us all carry this around,” he said, handing the book to James, “in case we meet anyone who might not know they’re Jewish because…” he shifted a bit, looking away from James, “well, there was this thing that happened with the muggles and sometimes people don’t know.  Or they know, but not what it means.”  When he looked up he was beaming, even bouncing a little on the balls of his feet. “This is the first time any of us have ever needed it.  Ta’s going to be thrilled when I write him.”

A Compendium of Jewish Magical Culture and History?”  James looked up at Goldstein. “Rosemary’s not a witch though.”

“Oh, yeah,” Goldstein tapped his wand on the book, “now it’ll turn into a muggle book if a muggle holds it.  Oh!  And,” he dug through his bag again, this time pulling out a small candelabra.  He duplicated it, then grabbed the book out of James’ hands and riffled through it before marking a page.  

“How big is your bag?”

Goldstein laughed, handing the book and duplicated candelabra to James. “Undetectable extension and featherlight charms,” he said. “Ta put them on all of our schoolbags.  Said it meant we didn’t have an excuse for not having everything we need with us.  The only things I keep in my trunk are clothes.”

“Wicked!”  He’d have to ask Father to do that to his bag.  Last week he’d forgotten his gloves for Herbology and missed half the lesson having to run back up to the tower to get them.

“Isn’t it?”  Goldstein pulled a box of candles and another book out of his bag and added them to the stack in James’ hands. “You should send those to Rosemary as soon as you can.  Linfred is in Gloucestershire, right? It’s the first night of Hanukkah tonight, if you send them off now they might get there in time.”


“Yeah, it’s…” Goldstein waved his hands around a bit, “a holiday.  About magic and being Jewish and winning a battle.”  He tapped his wand on the first book, duplicating it too and adding a lightening charm when James stumbled slightly. “It’s in there, you can read about it.  You should read that anyway, since Rosemary’s living with you.  And you can write my dad, both of you.  He’ll probably write you first, once I’ve told him.  He can help Rosemary find a shul, if she wants, or a family to spend Shabbas with, or you can both come to my house if you’re worried about her.”

James blinked, trying to keep up with what Goldstein was saying.  He seemed to just keep going faster with every word.

“Why are you doing all this?” he finally asked, when the words got too fast for him to pick out.

“What?”  Goldstein frowned. “I thought you wanted help.”

James shook his head, then nodded. “I do, but…why do you want to?”  Everyone knew Slytherins didn’t do anything just to be nice.

Goldstein sighed, shaking his head. “Gryffindors,” he said, “you’re all so bloody paranoid.”  James opened his mouth to protest, but didn’t get a chance to say anything before Goldstein was talking again. “Did you know I go home every weekend?  Ta worked it out with Dumbledore.  In a few hours I’ll go up to his office and take the floo home, then come back tomorrow night.  And almost no one will notice, even the other boys in Slytherin, because I do what Ta says and try not to draw attention to myself.  Zhang does though, and Khanna and Singh and Sayyid, because they go home during school sometimes too.  Rosemary might, if she was a witch.  She should know that.”

They sat there for a while, not saying anything.  James tried to work through what Goldstein had said.  There was something in there, something he was supposed to understand.  He thought so, anyway.  Bloody Slytherins.  They couldn’t seem to just tell you what they wanted you to know.

“It’s important, isn’t it?” He asked, eventually. “Being Jewish?”

“Yeah.”  Goldstein nodded. “Like being a wizard.”  He stood, picking up his bag and taking down the wards on the classroom. “You should send Rosemary a present with that.  We give gifts at Hanukkah, it’d be nice for her to have one when she reads about it.”

Rosemary barely had a chance to recognise James stepping out of the floo before he wrapped his arms around her and pressed her up against the wall.  She giggled, returning his kisses and enjoying the feeling of being safe again.

Alexander wasn’t at Linfred anymore, of course.  James had refused to bring her back until he was gone.  She didn’t know where he was, other than that James’ father had sent him away from Britain.  Hatty had sealed the entire heir wing so that only she, James, and Miss Taylor could get in unless it was an emergency.  She still called Hatty to keep watch every time she bathed or changed.

Jamie was home now though.  She tried to wrap her arms around his neck, pouting when she realised he’d grown so that she once again could only barely reach when she stood on her tip-toes.  It wasn’t fair that he was so tall.  Especially not when he wasn’t even the tallest of his friends.  Fabian was even taller somehow, towering over her in a way that would have been intimidating if he hadn’t been so friendly.  Jamie being tall was nice, sometimes, but it was also unfair.  She should at least be able to kiss him more easily.

It was lucky that he was also smart enough to lift her up so that she could wrap her legs around his waist.  That was better.  It was always better, when they were this close together.  She could hear his breath hitch when she played with his hair and feel his eyelashes against her face.  It was probably silly, she’d never tell anyone ever, but she liked that whenever he could he nudged his nose against hers right before and after they kissed.  He was so tall though, she only ever got to enjoy it when they were in bed or he’d picked her up.

“Did you get my presents?”  James’ words were soft, barely a breath against her lips.  

Rosemary nodded.  She licked her lips, her tongue flicking against his they were so close.  It was nice like this, safe and quiet with a soft glow from the Christmas tree behind James.

“I have one more.”  He set her down, kissing her forehead when she couldn’t hold back a whimper. “I’m sorry it’s too late for this year.  Hatty didn’t find it until just a few days ago, but,” he rubbed the back of his neck, his face reddening slightly, “it’s not a Christmas kind of gift, I don’t think.”

He pulled her over to sit in front of the fire before calling for Hatty.  The box he presented her with was wrapped in blue, with yellow and gold stars all over it.  Rosemary found herself smiling before she’d begun to open it.  Everything James had given her since her birthday had involved yellow in some way.  It made her feel warm inside.

When she finally opened the box — having taken her time with the unwrapping — she found a golden menorah with sweeping curves branching into little cups and diamond chips outlining the top.  She thought it looked a little like a harp, if you turned it on its side.  There were small flowers crafted into the base, each with tiny gem chips for the petals.  It was obviously magical, too, with the golden colour swirling a bit in the light like her piano when she played.

“It was one of my grandfather’s, back in the 1800s.  I asked Hatty to go through the family artefacts when I remembered we’re related to the Goldsteins, a little.”  James shrugged, not quite looking at her. “We’re related to everyone, really.  She’s not done yet, I don’t think even Father knows everything that’s in the artefact vaults, but I thought you should have this.  And anything else we find, if you’d like it.  I asked Father, he says it’s alright.  The Potters have never really been Jewish anyway and Goldstein — Daniel, I mean, at school — said his family already has more stuff than people to pass it on to.”  He coloured slightly, still looking more at her knees than at her. “We can put it over the fireplace in the sitting room, if you’d like.  I know it’s too late now, but Goldstein said Hanukkah overlaps with Christmas next year so maybe we can celebrate them both together.”

“That sounds nice.”  Rosemary smiled up at him, enjoying the warm, fluttery feeling she got when he looked at her.  Hers for now.  She set the box aside, leaning toward James so she could kiss him.  It wasn’t until he raised one hand to cup her face that she realised this was something they’d never done before.  They’d kissed, soft kisses and hard ones, sweet and rough and slow and fast and the wonderful, drawn out snogs that made her feel like her body was tingling.  She’d spent nearly an entire holiday sitting in his lap while he kissed every part of her he could reach without having to move her.

But now she was wearing a dress and James was still in his school robes.  He wasn’t pushing her against a wall while he marked her neck or tugged at his own fastenings.  They were sitting, far enough apart that they both had to put an arm out for balance as they slowly tasted each other.  And when James pulled away, resting his forehead against hers as they caught their breath, he didn’t draw her into his lap so that she could feel him against her.  They simply sat, James gently caressing her cheek with his thumb.

“I’m sorry I asked you to shag Thomas.”

James was aware he’d spoken suddenly.  He felt Rosemary tense next to him, no longer tracing random patterns on his chest.  It had been bothering him though, ever since she’d first told him. “I shouldn’t have done that, not after you said you didn’t want to.”

He could feel Rosemary nod against his chest, though she didn’t say anything.  As the silence stretched he found himself slowly feeling even worse than he had when she’d told him.  It had been a good holiday so far.  Uncomfortable, as he was still angry with Father and Sarah was barely speaking to him, but Wendy hadn’t seemed to notice and everything with Rosemary was brilliant.  She loved her new violin, had even been convinced to play a little for him and Thomas.  Then he had to go and muck everything up by opening his big mouth.  He could picture the faces Remus and Alice always gave him when he did something they called “painfully noble”.  He had the sinking suspicion that what they meant was “completely daft”.  He was about to say something just to fill the quiet when Rosemary started to speak.

“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t want to.”  Rosemary’s voice was soft, almost too soft for him to hear. “Even if you’d wanted me to.  I’m not…” she paused, shifting so she could cross her arms on his chest and prop her head up to look at him. “I don’t do things just because you want me to.  Thomas thought that was why too, but it’s not.  I’d thought about it before, a little.  Thomas is nice and,” she blushed, just a hint of pink spreading across her face, “I fancied him, a little.”

Rosemary frowned at him, lightly smacking his chest when his magic sparked slightly. “Stop that.  You said yourself it was fair, you don’t get to be cross now.”

“I wouldn’t have said that if I’d known you fancied him,” James muttered.  He did try to draw his magic back in though.  It’d be awful if he accidentally hurt Rosemary.

Rosemary pulled away anyway, sitting up somewhat so that she was balanced with one hand on him and the other on the bed.  He really would have to stop finding her so adorable when she was angry with him.  One of these days he was going to do something silly like kiss her and somehow he didn’t think it would go over well.

“Why not?”  Rosemary glared at him in a way that suddenly made him feel as if he’d been hit with a spray of cold water. “You and Sarah get to go off to school and practice for getting married.  What if me and Thomas want to get married when we have to leave?”

James forced himself to swallow down the surge of anger and fear that filled him at the thought of Thomas marrying Rosemary.  She would probably get married someday, he knew that.  After he found his wife and brought her to Linfred.  Rosemary had already said she wouldn’t be like Great-Great-Grandmother Susan.  He wasn’t even sure he wanted her to be; the idea of trying to keep two girls happy was exhausting.  It was just the only way he could think of to keep her.

It wouldn’t work though and he wouldn’t put her through another situation like O’Neill.  He didn’t think he could take it.  Which meant one day she’d leave Linfred.  Thomas was…James pushed down the sudden flash of ice and fire in his torso.  Thomas was nice.  Charming.  Clever.  Exactly the kind of boy Rosemary deserved.

“You can…practice with Thomas, if you like.”

“I don’t!”  Rosemary sat up fully, making a frustrated sound in the back of her throat. “I didn’t say that!  And you can’t tell me what to do!”  She moved off the bed, quickly pulling on a dress and tying her hair up with a ribbon. “You wouldn’t know anyway, you’re always at school looking for your wife!”

James put his hand out as she moved to leave, unsure quite how he’d gone from apologising to this. “What are you doing?”  It came out as more of a demand than he’d intended, but Rosemary had shaken his hand off her wrist before he could apologise.  Again.

“None of your business!”  She turned, storming out of the bedroom before he could begin to understand what was happening.  Only when she slammed the bedroom door behind her did he move, throwing on the first pair of robes he saw and rushing out after her.  He made it to the sitting room just as she reached the door, panic overtaking him at the thought of her leaving.

Rosemary tugged at the door, frowning for a moment when it wouldn’t move.  Then she turned and James felt as though he’d been slapped by an icy wave.  

“You used magic.  On me.”

He didn’t think he could ever be so unnerved by a whisper.  It was somehow worse than the shouting.  And, possibly more importantly, he hadn’t realised he’d even been using magic until just this moment.

“I didn —”

“Open the door, James.”

He’d already done it.  Had as soon as he’d known he’d used magic.  It hadn’t even been a question, the moment he’d realised he’d actually used magic to keep Rosemary in the room it had all flown back into him.  He stood, staring, as she left the suite.

Rosemary twisted her fingers together as she waited for the door to open.  Hatty hadn’t wanted to bring her (“Mistress Rosemary should be talking to Master James!”), but she had anyway.  Rosemary wasn’t even sure why she’d come here.  She could have just gone to the nursery, Miss Taylor was good at deciphering Wizard Git.  Still, she was relieved when the door opened.

“Can I come in?  James is being a prat.”

Sarah nodded, stepping aside and opening the door wider.  Her rooms were a bit smaller than the heir suite, though still comfortable.  Rosemary sat down on a sea foam green sofa, clasping her hands firmly in her lap while Sarah called a house elf.

“What did my git of a brother do this time?”

Rosemary made to pick up her tea to give her hands something to do, stopping suddenly when she looked at the table.

“Do you want something else?”  Sarah set down her drink, squirming slightly. “Mum lets me send lists with Thomas and his tutor when they go into the village.  I thought you’d like it.  Thomas said your governess doesn’t take you away from the castle very often and,” she shrugged, just the smallest twitch of her shoulders, “I know I miss crisps and soda and sweets that don’t jump away from me sometimes.”

Rosemary shook her head, picking up a tube of Smarties. “No, it’s perfect.”  She grinned as Sarah handed her a bottle of lemonade. “Hatty makes the best biscuits, but nothing like Smarties.”

“I know!  Isn’t it awful?  I remember when I first got here I thought living in a great, big castle would mean I could eat chocolate cake for breakfast every day and have all the candy and crisps I wanted, like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”  Sarah wrinkled her nose, “I didn’t know that witches don’t even have crisps or that I’d have to learn to use six different kinds of fork.”

Rosemary giggled, remembering how confused she had been the first time she’d seen a table laid out for a full formal dinner. “I miss chips.  And beans on toast.  And Cadbury Fingers.  And pyjamas that aren’t nightdresses.”

“I know,” Sarah sighed. “Robes are fine, I guess.  Better than skirts and dresses anyway.  But I miss trousers.  And trainers.”  She glared down at her feet, which were currently clad in a pair of low heeled boots. “Even cushioning charms don’t make these comfortable to stand in for all of double potions.  And what do wizards have against knickers?  I’m always worried I’ll get caught in a strong wind.”

“I thought that was just me.”  Rosemary felt her face heat as she thought of of the drawer full of lacy knickers in the dressing room. “Because…you know.”

“No,” Sarah shook her head, remembering the start of term, “I asked Professor Sprout, when I saw the elves hadn’t packed me nearly enough.  She said only little children wore underclothes, at least normally.”  That had been a horrible conversation, no matter how nice Professor Sprout had tried to be.  Worse than the ones with Mum about boys and bodies and growing into a young lady. “After coming of age they’re only for,” she cleared her throat, hoping she wasn’t blushing, “decoration.  Or when a witch is…you know.  So boys know she can’t.”

“Oh.”  Rosemary knew her face must be completely red, but forced herself to ask anyway.  Sarah wouldn’t tease her and it was better than asking Thomas, or worse, James. “Do boys, um.  Is it the same for them?”  She looked down at the packet of crisps in her lap, unable to clarify further with Sarah looking at her. “The…decoration?  I — There are pretty ones.  In the dressing room.  Jamie…he likes them, I think.”

James wears your knickers?

“No!”  Rosemary dropped her face into her hands.  That was not at all what she meant.  Even if it was a bit funny to think about.  She chuckled slightly.  Small, huffing breaths that dissolved into gasping laughs that made her sides ache.  She shook her head when Sarah stared at her. “James.  Knickers.”  It was the best she could do to explain, given that she was barely able to breathe as it was.

Sarah started giggling too then.  Slowly, then building until they were both holding their sides and wiping away tears.  It was nice.  Thomas was lovely and James was wonderful when he wasn’t being a prat, but giggling over crisps and soda and sweets and boys wasn’t something she could do with either of them.  

“Jamie doesn’t wear my knickers,” Rosemary said, when she could finally get the words out without collapsing back giggles. “He likes when I wear them.”  It was somehow easier to say now that her face was sore from laughing.

When she looked up Sarah was grinning, a wide, toothy grin that made Rosemary have to fight not to squirm.  That smile was the same one Thomas got before he pelted his tutor with a snowball.

“And what does my git of a brother do when you wear them?”

Rosemary willed herself not to blush.  She wouldn’t.  It would only make Sarah worse.  Like when she’d talked about Thomas and all the reasons why Rosemary should try being with him.  Miss Taylor said she liked making other people embarrassed so she’d feel less embarrassed herself.  So Rosemary took a careful sip of her drink and made sure her voice was as prim as she could make it when she told her it was none of her business, but it was very nice.

That, of course, was not nearly enough for Sarah.  She pelted Rosemary with a sweet of some sort and demanded more information.  That quickly devolved into an all out sweet war, which ended only when they’d managed to up-end the coffee table and one of  the elves had popped in to scold them for making such a mess.  (“Nice young ladies is not supposed to be throwing their food!  Mistress Rosemary is supposed to be knowing better, the elves is knowing what Miss Taylor is teaching her.”)  Even once the elf left, after righting the table and cleaning up the worst of the mess, Rosemary threw a Mars bar at Sarah’s head.

“Hey Rosemary?”  Sarah’s voice was serious all of a sudden, despite the chocolate smudged on her face. “I’m sorry I didn’t go see you when you were at Hogwarts.  I know I should have.  Professor Sprout didn’t stop giving me her disappointed face for a month and Mum and Dad are still a bit cross with me.  I just…I couldn’t.”

Rosemary shrugged. “It’s ok.”  It was, mostly.  She didn’t think she could have seen Sarah then anyway.  James definitely couldn’t have.  Not when she had been the only reason Alexander was still at Linfred to begin with.

“It’s not.”  Sarah fiddled with a packet of crisps.  The soft crunching sound of the packaging filled the room for a few moments before she spoke again. “Alexander came to my room the first night he was supposed to be in the guest wing.  Dad and James forgot that he didn’t need an elf to get him around Linfred and I didn’t tell them.”  She looked up at Rosemary, her eyes slightly teary. “I didn’t think it was a big deal.  James is so protective, I thought he was just overreacting.  And then when you showed up at Hogwarts…I was too afraid to admit I was wrong.”

Rosemary nodded, not able to bring herself to say anything.  She felt slightly queasy and she didn’t think it had anything to do with the amount of chocolate she’d eaten. “It’s ok,” she repeated.  She put down her drink and what was left of the sweets in her lap. “I think I’m going to go back now.  This was fun, thank you.”  She tried to smile, though she had a feeling it wasn’t as strong as she’d have liked.

Sarah confirmed it, reaching for her arm to hold her back. “No, don’t go!  You haven’t even told me what my idiot brother did this time.”  She bit her lip when Rosemary tugged her arm away and stood up. “Please?  You can stay here tonight, it’ll be like a sleepover.  Just…don’t leave when you’re upset.”

“I’m not upset.”  That was a lie, she was, but it wasn’t entirely Sarah’s fault.  She couldn’t know no one had mentioned Alexander around her.  Rosemary hadn’t seen her since September. “I’ll come back later.  Maybe we can have a sleepover before you go back to school.”  They couldn’t, not until Rosemary could forget that Sarah had known Alexander could get to the Heir Wing and hadn’t said anything, but that wouldn’t last forever.  Maybe by summer, or even spring.  Just not right now.  She called Hatty to take her back to the rooms, ignoring Sarah’s continued attempts to change her mind.

“You know, I’m starting to understand why Sarah calls you an idiot so often.”

James glared, reminding himself that he was here for Rosemary.  He couldn’t hex the muggle, it would make her upset.  Especially if she really was thinking of marrying him someday. “My sister can call me an idiot if she wants.  You can’t.”

Thomas raised his hands, leaning back in his seat slightly. “I’m just glad I’m not splattered against a wall right now.  If I had my way Rosemary never would have told you anything.”

“I almost wish she hadn’t,” James sighed.  It hadn’t done anything except make her cry and then get angry with him for no reason he could find.  At least if he didn’t know he wouldn’t have quite the same urge to ask Father to modify Thomas’ memory.  Nor would he have to tamp down his magic every time he thought of the other boy knowing what Rosemary looked like under her dresses.  Let alone the sounds and faces she made and how her breath felt against bare skin.

“Yeah, well,” Thomas cleared his throat, “I still haven’t told Sarah.”  He shrugged when James gaped at him. “You two haven’t been back that long.  It didn’t seem like the kind of thing I should put in a letter. ‘Hi Sare-Bear, how’s school?  My new tutor said my maths is good, but I need to work on my writing.  By the way, I shagged Rosemary.  It’s ok though, because I felt like a bit of a pervert and she cried after.’”

James spluttered his tea, only barely managing to put the cup down without spilling it. “Sare-Bear?” he gasped.

Thomas rolled his eyes. “That’s what you notice?”

“You call my sister Sare-Bear?”  He just couldn’t seem to get the name out of his mind.  It was ridiculous.  The kind of thing he might call Wendy, not a young witch who was already at school.  Certainly not Rosemary. “You don’t —”  He cut off, realising what he was about to ask. “Nevermind.  I don’t want to know.”

“No,” Thomas rolled his eyes again.  He really couldn’t be allowed to ever properly meet Mother, she’d have a fit. “I don’t call her that when we’re shagging.  I’m not daft.”  He eyed James, rolling his eyes yet another time. “You can stop looking so scandalised.  It’s not as if you don’t know why I got dragged to this great, bloody castle with bloody magic and strange looking elves and paintings that follow your every move.”

James found himself unable to look away from his tea.  Hatty had sent rainbow swirl biscuits.  He wondered if she did that for everyone now, or if it was just because he was there. “Do you really dislike it here that much?” he asked, once he could get his voice to work.

“No.”  Thomas sighed, slumping back in his seat. “Not really.  I’m not stupid, I know I’d never be considering O-Levels if I was still at Saint Mark’s.  It’s the only reason I stuck around at first.”  He looked up at James, tilting his head slightly. “Did you know that as soon as I was taken to Sarah’s room she told me I could leave whenever I wanted?  She barely even introduced herself, just said that if I didn’t like it here she’d ask her mum to find me a family, but that I should really stay at least until I’d taken my exams because then they’d make sure I could go to university.”

“Is that the only reason you’re here now?”

Thomas shook his head.  He laughed a bit, a hollow, deprecating laugh that made James cringe to hear. “No, that’d be easy.  It’s not as if I see magic much anyway, not like Mary.  Reckon if I didn’t fancy your sister it’d be decent.  I live in a bloody castle, for fuck’s sake, any of the other lads would kill for this.”

“You fancy Sarah?”  James couldn’t keep the surprise out of his voice.  He’d never have guessed, not based on how they acted around each other.  If anything he’d been a bit worried about Thomas being interested in Rosemary. “Have you told her?”

“Of course not.”  Thomas looked at him a bit curiously. “Why would I?  Not a whole lot of point when she’s going to marry some posh wizarding bloke.  It’d only make things uncomfortable and then she’d avoid me.”  He shrugged, not quite meeting James’ eyes. “I’ll get over it like I did one of the girls at school before I got here and in the meantime I can at least pretend a little.  Not that different from you and Mary, really.”

James shook his head.  It was different. “It’s not the same, Rosemary doesn’t want to marry me and even if she did I couldn’t.”

“Why not?”  Something in Thomas’ voice made James look up from his tea.  He almost wished he hadn’t.  Thomas looked the way Sirius did before he hexed someone. “Because she’s just a muggle?”

“No!”  James shook his head wildly before his words caught up with him and he had to stop. “Actually, yes.  But not the way you made it sound!”  Merlin, James had never thought he’d be afraid of Thomas. “I’m the last male Potter left.  I have to marry a witch and have a wizard son.  If I don’t…”  He didn’t know what would happen then, now that he thought of it.  It had never been an option.  He was the Potter heir, he would marry and have a family, hopefully with more than one son.  He wasn’t even sure who the estate would go to if he didn’t have an heir.  Some distant cousin he might not have ever heard of.

“So you can’t marry Rosemary, but I can marry Sarah?”

James shrugged, relaxing slightly now that Thomas didn’t look like he was going to suddenly develop magic just to throw it all at him. “Yes, if you’d both like to. It doesn’t happen often because we’re not allowed to talk about magic until after we’re married, but you already know.” He eyed Thomas, trying to decide how Mother and Father might react to him. “You’d have to stop rolling your eyes so much, Mother hates it.  And honestly, hasn’t your tutor taught you not to slouch?  Father will approve as long as you’re good to Sarah, but Mother’s picky.“

“Yeah, fine.”  Thomas leaned forward, pushing aside for a moment the idea that he might actually have a chance with Sarah. “Would you marry Rosemary, if you could?”

“What?” James blinked, unsure how to even begin answering that question. It wasn’t something he’d ever thought about. Rosemary was a muggle girl, he would be marrying a witch. “I don’t…I don’t know. There’s a witch, at school, Evans. She hates me, but…” He trailed off, picturing Evans gasping as she felt herself being filled for the first time. The image turned into Rosemary, and how her eyes fluttered shut for a moment when he pressed into her. James shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Rosemary doesn’t want to marry me.”

“You are such an idiot.” Thomas shook his head, looking at James with something uncomfortably close to pity. “You think she’d give a toss if you shagged every girl in Britain if she didn’t fancy you?  Mary’s over the bloody moon about you, has been ever since I met her.  And you,” he waved his hand when James tried to speak, “you wanted to kill Alex as soon as he looked at her.  You want to kill me and I think of her as a little sister.  Or do you throw around the blokes that friend of yours, Alice, goes near too?  Don’t sit there and try to tell me you’d rather some girl who doesn’t even like you.  Why’d you tell Mary about that relative of yours then, the one who had a threesome with a muggle and a witch?”

“It wasn’t a threesome!”  James shuddered. “Grandmother Ellinor and Grandmother Susan had different rooms.  It wasn’t Grandfather Marc’s fault he loved both of them.”

“Did he?  Huh.”  Thomas sat back in his chair, taking a long sip of his tea. “I’d have just assumed he loved Susan and only married Ellinor to make his family happy.  How do you know she couldn’t have kids?”

“There are books, one for every Potter family in each generation.  Stories of their lives and what they did.  Father used to read them to me before I went to bed.”  Had right up until the night before his birthday, in fact.  His favourites had, of course, been of Great-Grandfather Hamish.

“So those stories, they said that this Marc fellow loved Susan and Ellinor both?  Did they ever say anything about Susan or Ellinor?”

“They might have.”  James flushed slightly.  He hadn’t been very interested in Susan or Ellinor, or even Marc really.  Just Hamish. “Father didn’t tell me all of them.”

“Of course not.”  Something about Thomas’ voice made James feel oddly ashamed. “Look, why don’t you just marry that friend of yours?  She sounds decent, and if Mary knows you’re only doing it so you can have an heir she might stick around.  For all you know that’s what happened with your relatives.”

“It’s not.”  James shook his head.  It couldn’t be.  Father would have told him. “I’ll find someone I want more than Rosemary, eventually.  It’s only second year, I have plenty of time.” Five whole years in which to make Evans stop hating him. “We’re not like Marc and Susan.”


James squirmed slightly, before he could stop himself. “I don’t know.  We’re just not.”  They weren’t.  They couldn’t be.  Not when Rosemary had already made it clear she wouldn’t be Susan.  “Rosemary said she didn’t want that and I don’t like when she’s unhappy.  That doesn’t mean I want to marry her.”

“I think you do.  In fact,” Thomas caught his eye, refusing to look away, “I think you’re more upset by the idea of her not wanting to marry you than you are about maybe not finding anyone you want to marry more.  You’re just too bloody stupid and stubborn to see it.”

“I think I’d know if I wanted to marry someone!” Merlin, Thomas was nearly stubborn enough himself to be a Potter. He didn’t want to marry Rosemary. He just hadn’t found anyone he liked more than her. It wasn’t unusual, no one in his year was courting yet. Most weren’t even dating. Not finding anyone didn’t mean anything, not right now.

“No,” Thomas cut through James’ thoughts, “you wouldn’t know a bloody thing.  Sarah’s right, purebloods are idiots.  Anyway,” he ignored James’ attempt to interrupt, “Mary’s about as mad about you as she can get.  I know she didn’t have an older brother when she came here, but she does now.”  This time when he caught James’ eye the frightening look was back.  “For right now, I don’t care if you admit you want to marry her or not —”

“I don’t.”

Thomas rolled his eyes.  “Sure.  Either way, I want you to think about what you’d do to a wizard who hurt Sarah.  Then I want you to imagine me doing that to you, without magic.”

James swallowed, forcing himself to not break eye contact.  That would be…yes, it would probably hurt quite a bit.  He nodded slowly, reminding himself that he had no intention of hurting Rosemary.

Of course, then he remembered that he hadn’t intended to hurt her the last time.

“Good.”  Thomas paused, raising an eyebrow.  “Aren’t you going to threaten me?”

“No.”  James shrugged.  “If you do anything to Sarah there won’t be enough left of you for me to hurt.”  He watched as Thomas froze for a moment before laughing, full, loud laughs with his head thrown back.  James found himself hoping that Sarah fancied him too.  Thomas seemed like he’d make an interesting brother.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.  She’s scary enough when I beat her at Monopoly.”

They sat quietly for a few minutes, sorting through the biscuits that were left.  Thomas, it turned out, was a bigger fan of the pinwheel biscuits one of the other elves made than Hatty’s special rainbow ones.  James had to admit, watching them spin between your fingers when you picked them up was pretty fun.  Probably even more for a muggle.

“If you want you can ask your dad to change my memory like he did to Alex.”

James startled, looking up from his contemplation of whether or not one more biscuit would ruin his appetite enough to upset Mother.  “What?”

“It’s perfectly obvious it’s bothering you.”  Thomas’ gaze was oddly piercing, despite his light tone.  “You didn’t even want Alex remembering what Mary looked like in her knickers and I saw way more than that.”  He flinched slightly when James’ magic sparked, but to his credit didn’t move other than that. “Knock it off, I’m trying to be nice.  You don’t like me knowing that much about Mary and I still feel more than a bit dirty when I think about it —”

“How often do you think about it?” James was aware he’d spoken sharply.  He hadn’t meant to.

“As little as I can, I promise.”  Thomas grimaced slightly. “I don’t particularly like remembering little girls crying while I’m shagging them you know.  So your dad can take it away and everyone will be much happier.”

“You’d want to remember though, if she’d liked it?”  Something about that didn’t sit right with James.  He wasn’t sure why, he should just agree and call Father immediately, but it sounded…off.

Thomas hesitated. “I don’t know,” he said, “probably not.  It was…bad.  Probably the same way you’d feel if you had to try shagging Wendy.”

“Didn’t stop you from being good at it,” James muttered.  That still rankled.  Rosemary hadn’t said it outright, but he was almost certain Thomas had been able to make her feel better than he could.  Wasn’t bloody fair that the wanker had two years on him.

“Was I not supposed to be?”  Thomas frowned. “It’s not as if it mattered, she still cried after.  I wasn’t even —” he broke off, blushing. “If you ever have trouble not shagging those girls at your school, just picture them crying and pushing you off them.  It’s not fun.”

“Wait, you hadn’t…”  James trailed off, biting the inside of his cheek so he wouldn’t laugh.  It only worked for a second before he had to clasp a hand over his mouth to muffle the sounds that were escaping.  Thomas’ glare made it worse, forcing him to look at the table and try counting biscuits as a distraction.  It was only somewhat successful.

“I’m so happy you find this amusing.”

“I’m sorry,” James gasped, before bursting into a fresh bout of laughter.

“Yes.  I can see that.  You seem gutted.”

James shook his head, not trusting himself to speak.  It took a few minutes, each glance at Thomas’ irritated face spurring him on further, but he did manage to calm himself eventually. “I really am sorry,” he said, wiping his eyes, “that must have been awful.  Rosemary hadn’t told me that part.”  He wished she had.  Now that he knew he couldn’t be jealous of Thomas and whatever talents he might have.  It was a bigger relief than he thought it probably should be.

“Of bloody course she didn’t.”  Thomas shook his head as he rolled his eyes this time. “She was probably too busy telling you how awful it was and how much she hated every second of it and wished it was you.”

She hadn’t been, or at least that wasn’t all she’d told him, but James was not about to admit his suspicion that Rosemary had physically preferred Thomas to him.  He’d just have to figure out on his own what it was the other boy had done and make sure he could surpass it.  In two years, when he was the age Thomas was now, she’d never be able to say that he wasn’t the far better choice.

“So I don’t want to remember it, and you don’t want me to remember it, and as much as Mary said she didn’t want to just forget about it, I don’t think she’d mind if didn’t remember since it obviously wasn’t all that great for her.  Call your dad and let’s get this bloody memory out of me so I can stop knowing what my baby sister likes in bed.”  Thomas shuddered, clearly uncomfortable enough that James was able to tamp down his magic before it moved out of skin. “It’s disturbing, really.  Brothers shouldn’t know those things about their sisters.”

James opened his mouth to call an elf before he realised the entirety of what Thomas had said. “You said Rosemary didn’t want to forget about it?”

“Well, yeah.”  Thomas shifted, not meeting James’ eye. “I asked her, right after.  She said she didn’t want to, but I don’t think that meant she wanted me to remember.  She just didn’t want to forget that it’s you, not just shagging.”

James hesitated for a moment before shaking his head. “No.”  Merlin, he hated this. “You should ask her first.  I think…I think I know why she was so cross at me earlier.  She said I couldn’t tell her what to do.”  He hadn’t even realised that had been what he was doing, but now that he thought about it…he probably had.  It was still so strange, figuring out what the difference was between a muggle girl he got to play with whenever he wanted and whatever it was Rosemary had become to him.

“So if she says she doesn’t want me to forget you’re just going to be ok with me remembering how Mary curls up so her face is pressed into the side of your neck right before she finishes?”  James couldn’t quite blame Thomas for the scepticism in his voice.  Especially not when he could feel his magic jumping at that comment.  Somehow he thought that might be why Thomas had said it.

“No.”  He forced himself to unclench his fists.  When had that even happened?  Some time ago, based on how much his fingers hurt. “But I’d rather she not be cross with me again.  I don’t like it.”  He  didn’t.  At least she hadn’t cried this time, but it was still exhausting.  He’d like to be able to go an entire visit without either of them being upset for some reason or another.

Before Thomas had a chance to respond, Hatty popped into the room, tugging on her ears.  She grabbed James’ hand, taking him back to the bedroom so fast it took him a minute to realise he’d even moved. “Ha —” he cut off as he saw Rosemary curled up on the bed.

Slowly he crept over, not entirely sure whether or not she was still upset with him.  She wasn’t crying, at least, but she didn’t look good either.  Her knees were drawn up to her chest and as he moved closer James realised she didn’t seem to be aware of his presence.  Cautiously, he sat down and reached out to run his fingers through her hair.  She shuddered once, a great twitch that ran through her entire body, before her face crumpled.  James sighed, pulling her into his lap and leaning back against the headboard.  So much for going a visit without crying.

“What happened?” he asked, once he’d wiped her face and she’d stopped sniffling and was settled comfortably against him.

She shook her head, nuzzling closer into him. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Are you sure?”  He certainly wanted her to talk about it.  Anything that made her cry couldn’t be good.  If he knew maybe he could fix it.  Or at least do something to make it better.  He pushed away the thought that he hadn’t been able to do anything about Arturo.

Rosemary nodded.  The movement was soft against his shoulder and chest, her eyelashes tickling the side of his neck.  She smelled like Christmas again.  Cinnamon and nutmeg and the air right before it snowed.  He’d have to remember to ask Hatty what it was.  Sirius would tease him relentlessly if he ever found out, but James thought it’d be nice to have something that reminded him of Rosemary when he was at school. 

When the silence stretched on, Rosemary simply laying against him, James decided to say what he’d realised he’d need to say at some point while talking to Thomas.

“I’m sorry.”  He held Rosemary’s eyes when she pulled away to look at him. “I didn’t mean to use magic, honest.  I just —”  He took a deep breath, trying to put into words the way he felt like he’d had ice poured over him every time she ran away. “I don’t like when you leave.  Especially not after Father told me about Charlotte.”

“I’m sorry too.  I know —”  She looked down at her hands, which were fisted in his shirt. “Thomas thought I was just doing it for you too.  I wasn’t though, not really.  And then you were cross because I might have fancied him, but you were with all those girls last year and…it’s not fair.”

“I know it’s not fair.”  James sighed. This was all muddled and he wasn’t entirely sure how. “That’s why I said you could be with him, if you wanted.  I don’t want you to, but…you’re going to get married too, someday.”  She was, no matter how much he hated thinking of it.

“I don’t want to — to shag Thomas!”  Rosemary was glaring at him again, enough that he tightened his hold on her in the hopes it would keep her on his lap.  He didn’t think he could take her running away twice in one day. “And if I did, I don’t need your permission!”

“I didn’t —” James groaned, letting his head fall onto Rosemary’s shoulder.  Yes, he had said that.  Again.  Merlin, Sarah and Thomas were right.  He was an absolute idiot.

He lifted his head, pressing his lips to Rosemary’s and kissing her until she relaxed against him. “I’m sorry,” he whispered against her lips when he pulled away. “I don’t — I know you don’t need my permission.”  She was right, he’d never know anyway. “I keep mucking this all up and I don’t know why.”

Rosemary smiled, close enough to him that he felt it more than saw. “I do too.  Can we forget about it, for now?”

“Yes.”  James didn’t bother keeping the relief out of his voice. “That sounds brilliant.“  He kissed her again, soft and slow, until she was limp and pliant in his arms.  The ribbon she’d tied her hair up with didn’t at all match her dress.  James pulled on it softly, smiling when her hair fell in loose waves around her face.  That was better.

“You’re giving me a house elf?”  Rosemary blinked at Hatty, not entirely sure she’d heard right. “Are you leaving?  Did I do something wrong?”

“No!”  Hatty clasped her hands together, her ears flopping around her face as she shook her head. “Mistress Rosemary is not doing anything wrong!  Hatty is being a nanny elf, she is taking care of the Potter heir and his muggles.  But Mistress Rosemary is almost being a young lady and is needing a lady’s elf.”

James blinked at Hatty from where he was sitting on the sofa next to Rosemary.  He’d never heard of that.  Father had always made it sound like Hatty would be assigned to him and his girls until he was married.

“Does that mean I’m getting a new elf too?  Why hasn’t Father said anything?”

Hatty put her hand on her hip, wagging her finger at James. “Master James is not interrupting Hatty when Hatty is talking about ladies things.  Master James can go with Master Potter and learn about the things he is not bothering to learn when he is home for summer.  Elves is not being something for the Master and young Master to be worrying about.”

He rather thought they were, seeing as how his orders technically overrode even Mother’s.  He knew better than to say that though, at least if he ever wanted a rainbow biscuit again.  Hatty had never been sparing with punishment when she thought he was misbehaving.

Hatty turned back to look at Rosemary as another elf popped in next to her. “This is being Hatty’s daughter, Tessie.  Tessie is being a lady’s elf, like Mistress Rosemary is needing.  Tessie is knowing lots about muggles because Master Potter is sending Tessie to live with a squib family when he is learning that Mistress Rosemary is staying.  She is being a good elf for Mistress Rosemary.”

Rosemary smiled at the little elf.  She was obviously younger than Hatty, something about her face and posture made Rosemary think she was probably very young, for a house elf.  She also was wearing a long sleeved dress with the Potter crest on it which was strange, but Rosemary couldn’t think of a polite way to ask why the other elves she’d seen had been wearing what looked like napkins.

“Hi, I’m Rosemary.”  She put out her hand.  Tessie glanced at Hatty before taking it.

“Hello Mistress Rosemary!  Tessie is being very happy to be helping Mistress Rosemary!  Tessie has already talked to Mistress Rosemary’s governess to learn what Mistress Rosemary is still needing to know.”  She glanced around for a moment before stage whispering, “Tessie is also knowing how to make special rainbow biscuits.  Mistress Rosemary is not missing them on account of Tessie.”

Rosemary grinned.  She hadn’t thought of Hatty’s biscuits.  She’d just assumed Hatty would keep making them.  Thomas had mentioned once that he only got them when she was visiting, maybe it had something to do with which elves watched over him.

“Tessie is also knowing how to sew and make special ladies tea for when ladies is feeling poorly because of ladies things.”  Hatty looked over at Tessie with obvious pride. “Tessie is being very good at all the things ladies is needing.  And,” she smiled at Rosemary, “if Mistress Rosemary is wanting, Hatty is still being able to visit.  Hatty is having lots of time now, with Master James at school and not big enough to be having a new Potter heir.”

That was a bigger relief than Rosemary had thought it’d be.  Hatty, Thomas, and Miss Taylor were nearly the only people she talked to while James was at school.  Fabian would probably visit, now that he was staying at Linfred until at least next year.  And Alice had started writing to her, a little.  She got the feeling the other girl never quite knew what to say, but was trying to be polite.  Miss Taylor had told her it was proper for young witches to keep up a correspondence with other girls who were friends with the same boys they were.  Something about encouraging friendship rather than rivalry.  It was all bit a odd.  

Regardless, it would have been upsetting to lose Hatty.  She was never lonely, exactly, but as time went on Rosemary thought it might be nice to have more people around.  Thomas thought so too, enough that he had talked with his tutor about applying to Oswestry for sixth form.  Oswestry instead of Winchester or Eton as his tutor had first suggested because it had recently begun to admit girls.  As much as she appreciated the thought, Rosemary wasn’t sure she was ready to leave Linfred yet, even just for the term.  Miss Taylor wouldn’t be able to go with her (she had asked) and the thought of leaving her was nearly as painful as the occasional reminders that one day she would have to leave James.

So she set herself to getting to know Tessie.  It was still a very small circle of friends, but it would have to do.

The candlesticks matched her menorah, swirling with magic and golden curves.  There was also another, oddly shaped one that matched, as well as two goblets of some sort, plates of different sizes, a large bowl, and a small pitcher with two handles.  The linens packed in with all of it were stunning, the embroidery shifting in the light.  But what drew Rosemary in was a little box filled with scents that brought up hazy memories of being held by someone in a starched white shirt while light flickered in front of her.

“I don’t know what all you’re supposed to do with it,” James admitted, “but Goldstein says it’s for Shabbas.  You’re too young to do it by yourself, apparently.  It’s some sort of coming of age thing.  But if you want, Goldstein’s father wrote,” he handed her a letter, “with a list of special tutors who can help you get ready.  There’s a family in the village even, so you can visit them with Miss Taylor.  And there are holidays in spring that Goldstein invited us to.  One of them is while I’m in school, but Mr Goldstein and Father worked it out with the headmaster, if you want to go.”

Rosemary nodded, still entranced by the little box.  Candles.  Something with candles.  A funny one, all twisted up.  And singing.  She thought there was singing.  Nothing she could remember, not really, but she thought she might be able to, if she just had a little hint.  It was quiet.  Peaceful, like sitting by the window reading a book while it snowed.  And safe.  The closest thing she could think of was curling up with Jamie before they fell asleep, his hand running through her hair as she pressed herself tight against him.

“I’d like to learn,” she whispered.  She would.  She had to.  Maybe if she learnt more she’d be able to remember.  James had looked for her parents, he’d told her when his father had thought he might have found where Tatty was.  It wasn’t Tatty though, not even anyone related to her.  Just a man who had dropped his daughter off at the orphanage the same day Mummy had left her and Rebecca.  If she could remember what he looked like maybe it would help.

And then…she didn’t know.  She couldn’t leave Linfred.  It was home now, or at least as close as she was ever going to get.  She had Jamie and Miss Taylor and Thomas and Hatty and Tessie.  They were family.  The box smelled like family.  The fuzzy memories, Mummy’s singing and the warmth of a small room filled with the scent of freshly baked bread, they felt like family.  Like something that should be shared.  She could learn.  She could learn and then she could share them with her family, even if James never found her parents.

She pushed away the sudden picture of James, all grown up like the pictures of his ancestors in the Potter family books, standing next to her as she did…something…with the candlesticks.  Something with a song and closed eyes and the heat of the flames.  That wouldn’t happen.  But something like it might.  While she was still here, before he found a witch to marry and she had to leave.  She could learn what the candlesticks and the funny pitcher and the box that smelled like home were for.  And then she could share it with James, at least for a little while.

Chapter Text

“Next year, in Jerusalem!”

James raised his glass along with everyone else, smiling at the way Rosemary seemed to glow in the light of the candles spread around Goldstein’s dining room.  He was glad Flitwick had taught him a translation charm when he’d found out James would be visiting the Goldsteins for Passover, otherwise he would have missed at least half of what was going on around him.  There was a story and singing that had been in Hebrew, Rosemary was able to tell him that much, but the Goldsteins also peppered their conversations with something else that he couldn’t begin to decipher.  Whatever it was, he was glad to have his translation charm.

He was also glad he’d read a bit of the book Goldstein — Daniel, it was going to take a bit to get used to calling him by his first name — had given him.  It wasn’t much, not between homework and his extra lessons and trying to figure out what was going on with Remus, but it was enough to know something of the order of things.  A little, anyway.  It still all seemed to go on much longer than expected.

Rosemary had been studying as well, with her tutor and governess both.  James had been stunned when she began singing something about different nights and reclining.  It was…he didn’t know how to describe it, other than that he hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her.  Her voice was even more perfect than he remembered, somehow.  Clear and bright and he’d have to remember to ask her to sing for him later, when he could stare as much as he wanted without finding Goldstein — Daniel — watching him after.

Now though, now he was being passed around to different Goldsteins and Goldstein friends who were heading home.  There were so many of them, at least to James, whose extended family was limited to Great-Uncle Charlus.  Sirius was his family, technically, and Goldstein too, really, but they weren’t close enough to have grown up with.  They hadn’t been at Christmas or when Sarah and Wendy were formally adopted.  Goldstein had six older brothers, plus a little sister only a month older than Rosemary, and two aunts and an uncle even before they got married.  It was like visiting the Weasleys or the Prewetts, an almost overwhelming chaos of people that made James want the biggest family he could manage.

And there were muggles!  Not just Ruthie and Daniel’s older brothers’ muggles, entire muggle families the Goldsteins knew from their neighbourhood.  It was strange, in some ways.  He’d never been around anyone who didn’t know what Rosemary was to him.  Having to hold back from kissing her breathless after she’d sung was something he found he didn’t enjoy in the slightest.  There was a part of him that resented it, resented the muggles for not letting him do something that came as naturally to him as magic.

Then one of them would talk to Rosemary.  Tell her how pretty her voice was and how impressed they were with her Hebrew, given that she’d only been studying a few months.  And she’d light up and James would remember why they were here.  It was important that she had this.  Goldstein had said it was like being a wizard.  For that…he’d learn to put up with the muggles and their odd views.  It was probably for the best anyway.  He’d get married eventually and then he’d stop coming so Rosemary wouldn’t have to watch him and his wife.  This way no one would miss him.  Not much worth remembering about Daniel’s friend from that boarding school who happened to know a Jewish orphan.

It was a thought that made him unaccountably unhappy so he pushed it away.  There were better things to think about.  Like how Rosemary was looking at him from beneath her eyelashes as she fiddled with the hem of her dress.  It was a surprisingly simple thing, really just a tube of fabric with sleeves.  But the fabric had tiny slashes in it so that he got glimpses of her arms and shoulders and upper chest and there was a small cord around the waist showing that she wasn’t quite as straight up and down as she had been only a few months ago and the hem was short enough by muggle standards that he’d seen a few of the older ladies shooting her disapproving looks and…really, James had been dying to take it off her since she’d first walked out of the dressing room.

He moved to do so now, stepping close to her so he could feel her breath on his lips.  There was something exhilarating about the way she closed her eyes the moment he tilted her chin up.  How her breath sped up, just slightly.  The feel of her hands clutching his shirt and the tiniest whimper she made when he held his lips just above hers.  Teasing her was excruciating.  He could never remember if he loved it or hated it, even as he rubbed his thumb against her waist and nuzzled her nose with his own.  Rosemary was beyond perfection when he teased her, a heady combination of innocence and desire that always made him want to see how far he could push her before she broke and forced him to do exactly what she wanted.

It was that exact combination that also made him want to give her everything, just to hear and feel how much she appreciated it.  Torture and thrilling anticipation all at once.  He never would have thought he could feel anything like it.  He certainly hadn’t with any of the girls last year.  Even Sirius and McKinnon, for all their talk of the power of taking charge, had never managed to describe anything close to what he felt just standing here, feeling Rosemary’s muscles slowly tense under his fingers.

“We shouldn’t,” she whispered.  

Her lips were so close James could almost feel the words as she spoke them.  He knew she was right.  They shouldn’t.  They weren’t the only ones staying at the Goldsteins’, there were also magical cousins and muggle friends.  And while Mr Goldstein had ensured they had a room to themselves (much to one of his muggle friend’s obvious disapproval), it shared a wall with the room Mr and Mrs Levy were staying in.  The muggle Mr and Mrs Levy, not Daniel’s aunt and uncle.  This wasn’t the suite at Linfred.  There weren’t multiple rooms and twisting corridors between them and the nearest people.  More importantly, the Goldstein townhouse was in a muggle area and therefore didn’t have the freedom from wards that prevented underage wizards and witches from doing magic.  If it was James would cast a silencing charm and be done with it.

Instead he leaned just a touch closer to Rosemary.  Just enough that she could feel the press of his lips as he said, “We can be quiet.”

She shuddered, the movement carrying through her body to his own.  At that moment James realised his teasing had perhaps been a bit too effective.  He was only just able to control himself, enough that the groan that slipped out as he pulled Rosemary closer to him was almost inaudible.

Almost.  Rosemary clearly heard it, whimpering softly in response before parting her lips for him.  He forced himself to slow down, savouring the taste of grapes and chocolate lingering in her mouth.  He thought her hair might be softer than it was in winter, though he couldn’t imagine why.  It felt that way though, like silk between his fingers as he cradled her head.  Hatty — or Tessie, more likely — had changed her scent again too, to something she hadn’t used before.  Fresh, like rain and the brook on the far end of the Potter property.  He wasn’t sure he’d have even noticed it if he hadn’t spent the past three months wanking with a handkerchief charmed to always smell the way she did the last time he saw her.

Now he drank in the new scent, memorising it even as he pressed soft, closed mouth kisses to the sensitive spot behind her ear.  They couldn’t do much.  He wouldn’t risk upsetting the Goldsteins by accidentally horrifying the muggles.  But he could still tease.  He could innocently glide his lips along Rosemary’s neck until she was humming in pleasure, then nip just at the spot somewhere around mid-way down where the slightest sensation made her writhe.  He could definitely do that.

And if she responded by tilting her head back so that he could trail his way around her collar to the notch in the front where he’d been taunted by flashes of skin all night, well, he wasn’t going to complain.  Not when she gasped so prettily when he teased the uncovered skin with the very tip of his tongue.

There were few things James thought he enjoyed more than the quiet sounds Rosemary made when they were together.  It was a bit strange, really, most of the other lads seemed to prefer when girls were loud.  Rosemary was rarely loud, certainly not compared to some of the girls at school.  It was better, somehow.  Every tiny whimper and sigh felt like a grand accomplishment.  Like something only he could do.  If she whispered ‘more’ — as she did just now when James brushed his lips behind her ear — it was because she was nearing the limits of what teasing she could take.

That never meant that James stopped teasing.  Not entirely.  It would be a terrible waste to not try drawing out more of those gentle pleas.  He did, however, carefully turn her so that he could unzip the back of her dress while he tasted her skin.  They hadn’t had time to be close like this since winter, James had only just managed to stop at Linfred long enough to get changed into something suitably muggle before they had to floo over to the public bath of some sort near the Goldsteins.  If he’d thought about it he probably wouldn’t have taken Goldstein up on the offer of staying over, but Mr Goldstein had said the dinner would last well into the night and he wouldn’t be able to side-along them back to Linfred until after the start of the holiday.  Staying until they could walk somewhere Tessie could discreetly pick them up had made sense.

Now, feeling Rosemary’s breath hitch as he slid his hands along her bare sides, he wished he’d been less practical.  If they’d left after dinner they’d be at Linfred by now and he’d be able to do more than carefully nibble at Rosemary’s shoulder.  That would leave a mark.  A tantilising mark that would excite him for days as every small impression he made on her perfect skin did.  As much as he knew they were lucky Tessie had thought to pack only dresses with reasonably high collars for Rosemary, it did bother him a little that the marks would be hidden under her clothes until they were back at Linfred.  He ignored the part of him that said he was really bothered that she was walking about without any visible sign that she was his.

Not that it mattered.  One of the few advantages to muggles and their incomprehensible taboos was that none of the many boys who had been at dinner had looked twice at Rosemary.  It didn’t entirely stop James’ slightly irrational need to leave a mark dangerously close to the collar of her dress, but it helped.  A little.  As did the way she moaned quietly at the sensation, grasping behind her so she could pull him closer to her.

That moan was nearly his undoing.  Her moans always were, they happened so much less often than sighs or soft whimpers.  James had to take a breath to gather himself, one hand splayed across Rosemary’s middle as he rested his head against hers.  When he was slightly more sure of his control, he set about ensuring that the same could not be said of the dream of a girl in his arms.

He slowly slid his hand down her body, taking care to barely skim over her skin.  It had been a disappointment for James to go to Hogwarts and discover not all girls enjoyed gentle sensations the way Rosemary did.  The way he did, if he was being honest.  There was something about feeling almost more from the lack of sensation than actual touch that made him throb.  Especially when Rosemary responded so wonderfully.  Teasing her like this, keeping his hands just a hair’s breadth above her body, never failed to draw out a near constant stream of whimpers and mewls.

And when he stopped teasing, when he plunged his hand into the plain, white, muggle appropriate knickers she wore beneath her dress and rubbed hard against her clit,  she always stiffened for a moment before collapsing against him.  This time, however, she also gifted him with a low groan that he wished desperately he could have first heard at Linfred.  As it was he was forced to close his lips over hers in order to muffle the sound.

Rosemary’s eyes were bright when he pulled away.  Determined and filled with something he couldn’t place, but knew he’d not seen before.  Not on Rosemary anyway.  He called for Hatty.  It was almost unforgivably rude, but he’d make his apologies to the Goldsteins later.  They would understand, even if they didn’t quite follow the same pureblood traditions.  And if they didn’t, well, he’d worry about that when the time came.

Right now all he cared about was the intensity in Rosemary’s eyes as she pulled him on top of her.  He couldn’t remember Hatty arriving, let alone transporting them back to their bedroom.  He didn’t care.  Not when Rosemary was kissing him.  Kissing him, not simply responding when he kissed her or putting careful pressure on the back of his neck like she did when she wanted a kiss.  She was nibbling at his lips, exploring his mouth with her tongue, running her nails down his scalp.  He could only remember one other time she’d done anything close to this, after he’d used up enough magic to injure himself after the first problem with Sarah’s muggle.  This did not at all feel the same.  That had been desperation, the way he’d had to grip her tight to remind himself she was there after finding out about Charlotte.  This…

This felt like Christmas his first year.  When he’d wanted her so badly he’d been unable to wait.  Now Rosemary was the one suckling at his neck, making him cry out in shock and pleasure when she bit down on his shoulder.  He could tell by the satisfied smirk on her face when he stared at her that he would have a mark in the morning, if not already.  The thought made him groan and shove her dress up her hips for reasons he could not begin to understand.

She was…James had always wondered if maybe Rosemary’s gentle submissiveness had been part of what he found so addictive about her.  If perhaps he didn’t want  girl quite as submissive as Rebecca, but still more than Alice.  Now, with Rosemary pulling him out of his trousers despite his complete inability to recall when she’d managed to get his flies undone, he was absolutely certain that was not the case.  She was brilliant, amazing, utterly shattering when she responded to his touches.  He loved the way she felt around him, craved the sound of her gasping in his ear.  The smug glimmer in her eyes when he groaned as she stroked him was, if not better, at least wonderful in its own way.

“Roll over.”

James whimpered slightly at the request.  Moving meant losing the warm grip of Rosemary’s hand around him.  It meant no longer feeling the press of her legs around his hips.  It meant not being able to look down at her the way he loved to do, watch the way her lips parted and her eyes fluttered closed when he slid inside her.  There were reasons James preferred having Rosemary spread out beneath him, even if she was tighter around him when she was bent over a table or chair.

Still, he found himself on his back somehow, with Rosemary smiling softly at him while she carefully played with his cock.  He thought he should probably remember his shirt and trousers coming off, almost thought to ask before she did something with her hand that made his hips buck as his breath caught in his throat.  He gave up thinking then.  There was no point in trying, not with the way Rosemary was distracting him.  He only hoped that she felt at least half as good as he did when he sucked and bit and licked at her skin the way she was doing to him.

The sensation of her lips wrapping around him made him jolt almost fully up, for all that he knew somewhere in the back of his mind what it was.  Still, she’d never — and he’d never cared, not when he could instead feel the way her hips worked against his as they moved together.  Now he couldn’t look away from the sight of her slowly engulfing him, her hair pushed to one side so that it tickled his thigh.  When she reached his base, never having seemed to struggle even slightly, he groaned and flopped back onto the bed.

He couldn’t stay there.  He tried, tried closing his eyes and enjoying whatever that marvellous thing Rosemary was doing with her mouth was, but he had to see.  Had to watch as she pulled back before teasing the underside of his head with the tip of her tongue.  It was awkward, almost painful, trying to keep his weight on his elbows and he wished there was some way he could be propped up enough to see himself being swallowed down by this absolute vision of a girl.  His girl.  At least as long as he could have her.

Then he was propped up, a pile of pillows cradling his upper body.  He didn’t know if it was Hatty or Linfred or his own magic and he didn’t care.  All he cared about was that he could now reach out and gently tangle his fingers in Rosemary’s hair as she sucked him.  He was careful not to put any pressure on her, but he had to feel her.  And if she moaned around him when his hands spasmed after she did Merlin only knew what, well, that was even better.

“You can press down a little, if you want.”

Rosemary knew she was blushing as she said the words, could feel how hot her face was and could only imagine how she must look.  She didn’t care.  Something about the way James’ hands clenched and pulled slightly at her hair made her need to press her thighs together.  She wanted to feel more of that, wanted to know what made him lose control, just a little.

Jamie always made her lose control.  He knew just how to touch her so that she was gasping without even realising.  Sometimes it felt like the sounds were coming from someone else, she was so focused on how he made her feel.  She wanted to do that to him.  Wanted him to feel so good he moved without thinking and wondered where the sounds falling from his lips were coming from.  She knew what he looked like when he was in control.  Knew how his mouth hung open just a little when he felt good, but not so good that he was holding her close and moving his hips in that way that made her clench and throb between her legs.  That was nice, just thinking about it made her feel giddy and light, but it didn’t seem fair.  She should get to see what he looked like when he lost control.  And Jamie should get to know how it felt when someone else was making you beg for more when you didn’t even know you’d opened your mouth.  She pushed away the thought that one of the girls at his school might have made him feel that already.  That didn’t count.  He hadn’t felt it with her and he was hers, at least for a little while.

So she let herself moan when James’ hips thrust, just a little.  Let herself enjoy the way he tickled the back of her throat, so much better than the rubbery things Tessie had brought her when she’d stuttered her way through asking if there were any of the practice toys like the training books Hatty had brought her what felt like a lifetime ago said she should use.  (Tessie had been thrilled at that request, “Mistress Rosemary is finally being like a young lady!  Hatty and Tessie is worrying that Mistress Rosemary is never being ready to be a young lady!”)  The practice toys were uncomfortable, too heavy and unyielding against her lips, and they tasted a bit funny.  James tasted the same as when she kissed his neck, marking him the way he loved to mark her.  (It was oddly satisfying.  She’d have to make sure he had more before he went back to school.)  He wasn’t as big as some of the practice toys, the ones she still hadn’t managed to do more than barely wrap her lips around, that Tessie said were charmed to be as big as he’d get when he was grown.  He was big enough though, a pleasant weight on her tongue and pressure at her throat that she found herself craving for reasons she couldn’t understand.

Maybe it was the way James was whimpering, his hips thrusting shallowly as whispers of “Oh Merlin, Rosemary” fell from his lips.  Maybe it was the way he looked at her as she teased him, holding her mouth just over him so he could feel her breath.  Maybe it was how the slight tugging on her scalp when James clenched his fingers in her hair made her moan, low in her throat where she didn’t know she could make sound.

Or maybe it was how James dragged her up, nearly throwing her on the bed and ripping her dress in his desperation to be inside her.  Yes, she gasped as he entered her in one almost harsh movement, she thought that might be it.

Because James had definitely lost control.  It might only have been for a moment, only until her gasp reached his ears and he seemed to realise he might have hurt her, but she had managed to make him forget himself.  It was even better than she’d thought it would be.  Never mind that now he was holding himself carefully still, panting as he tried to collect himself.  It was only the first time.  She could get better.

“I’m sorry,” James whispered, “are you ok?”

Rosemary nodded.  It hadn’t hurt, was really just surprising.  And she liked that she could still feel him so intensely, could still enjoy the sensation of being opened and filled.  She had been worried, after Thomas, that James wouldn’t press so perfectly against her the way he always had.  It might have been silly, the training books said it was, but she’d been worried all the same.  Now, close enough that she almost thought she could feel James’ heartbeat against her chest and between her legs, she was relieved to know it had been for nothing.

She shook her head when James went to move his hands to her hips from where they were pinning her wrists above her. “Don’t.  Please?”

James stared at her for a moment, hesitance clear on his face.  She was almost sure he was going to refuse, was going to go back to teasing her in that way that she loved, but that didn’t let her feel him the same way.  Then he slowly drew back, making her whimper at the loss of him even as she felt her heart speed up in anticipation.

She didn’t bother trying to hold back the cry when he snapped his hips forward, once again filling her in one hard stroke.  She loved being teased.  Loved the way Jamie looked at her when they were slowly rocking their hips together, seeming to exist in a timeless bubble of comfort and warmth.  She wasn’t sure anything could feel better than that, none of the many ways they’d been together so far had.

But this, this stuttering cadence of slow and fast and careful and rough made something deep inside her tighten with need.  It wasn’t better, exactly, just…very different.  Different enough that she didn’t blush, didn’t feel the least bit embarrassed or shy or ashamed about the way she was moaning and tugging her hands free so she could claw at Jamie’s back.  Especially not when it seemed to just make him go faster, his own moans mixing with hers as he crushed their lips together.

Something was happening, something different from the slow build and throbbing need she usually felt with James.  Different even than the sudden, coiling, bursting she’d felt with Thomas.  Something that made her grip Jamie’s hair tight, pulling him close so that she could feel his teeth grazing her neck.  Distantly she could feel that her hips were starting to get sore from the combination of hard thrusts and holding herself as wide open as she could.  She whimpered when James pulled away, gasped in shock when he flipped her over, all of the gentleness he usually treated her with gone.  This time when he shoved himself inside her it almost did hurt, in an oddly wonderful way that made her flutter around him even as she yelped.

James stilled, his hands tense on her hips and she knew without looking that his eyes and jaw would be clenched tightly shut as he tried to recompose himself.  She didn’t want him to recompose himself.  Carefully, she pushed herself back, inhaling sharply when the movement made fire race down her spine like when Jamie’s magic had still been a bit wild.

James’ strangled part-gasp, part-laugh only made it better.  He pulled her up, holding her against his chest so that she was sitting astride his knees.  The movement seemed to drive him just the tiniest bit deeper inside her, enough that that her head fell back against his shoulder as she moaned.

“What do you want?” he whispered, as he rubbed slow, teasing circles between her legs.

How she was supposed to answer when he was distracting her like that she didn’t know.  If she even had an answer, which she wasn’t sure she did.  She wanted…more.  More of the warmth that spread through her when he rocked his hips just right.  More of the way he groaned in her ear and bit at her skin when he forgot himself enough to not be perfectly careful.  More of feeling like she was the only one who could bring out this other side of him, this slightly wild, uncontrolled side that paired so well with what she’d felt of his magic.

“I —” she licked her lips, gasping when James brushed over one of her nipples.  Rosemary didn’t think she’d ever understand why that felt so much better than it did before, but it was enough to almost make her forget what she was going to say.  Almost.

“Mo — oh,” she moaned, her hand clenching where she’d tangled it in the back of James’ hair. “More, please Jamie.”  That the words had come out as a breathless plea didn’t matter, not when he thrust hard while pulling her down onto him so that her entire body tensed.

“Like this?”  He did it again, groaning with her when she tightened.

“Ye —” Rosemary nodded, then immediately shook her head.  No.  Not like this.  This was…she didn’t know how to describe it.  It was fire and tension and throbbing and she desperately needed to know what would happen if they kept going, but it wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t her hips and thighs burning in a wonderful way.  It wasn’t James biting down on her neck and letting his weight settle on her so that she could feel every bit of him. “No — I…”  She didn’t know and it was awful and frustrating and she was horrified when she heard herself whimpering over something that felt so good.

James nipped at Rosemary’s neck, continuing to rock his hips as he tried to think of what she needed.  It was obviously something different, but she was so tight and hot and perfect around him he couldn’t begin to think clearly.  Hadn’t been able to think clearly since she’d dragged him on top of her.  If not for the time he’d spent learning to control his magic he didn’t think he’d have been able to hold back at all.  He’d already lost control twice, even if only for a few moments.  Had forced himself into her without any thought for whether or not she was ready, never mind that it had made her gasp beautifully.


He looked down, watched as Rosemary writhed in his lap, trying to push herself harder against him.  Groaning softly himself, he pushed her down again, gently pressing her face to the bed.  Holding himself back enough to watch her face as he began fucking her with as much force as he dared was harder than reining in his magic when he was angry.

Then she moaned, louder than he’d ever heard her before, and pushed herself back against him.  James closed his eyes in relief, allowing himself to give in to the need to drive himself as hard and deep inside her as he could.  He’d taken her rough before, had bent her over desks and chairs and rutted up against walls.  But not often, not at all since he’d started thinking of her as something different than he had when she’d first arrived.  It hadn’t felt right.  She was too delicate, too important to throw around and fuck like she was one of the training dolls he’d had before his coming of age.  He still didn’t know what she was to him, but it was more  than that.

Now, looking down at where he was sliding into her, her entrance pulsing every time he pulled back, he wished they’d tried this sooner.  This was brilliant.  The only problem was that she was too far.

Reluctantly, James slid out of her.  He kissed Rosemary when she keened at the loss, not bothering to be careful as he turned her back over and shoved pillows under her hips.  She needed to be — yes.  James groaned against Rosemary’s lips when he pushed himself back into her.  It was a bit awkward, having to be tilted down at an angle like this, but being able to feel Rosemary’s nails dragging down his back and digging into his hair as he fucked her as deep as he could was worth it.

Rosemary lifted her legs as much as she was able, ignoring the burning in her thighs.  They’d hurt far worse after her earliest dance lessons, back when Madame Dubois said she had to work harder to make up for starting so late.  Right now she needed more, more of Jamie gasping and moaning when she scraped at his scalp.  More of the deep fast hard that made her skin burn even as she broke out in gooseflesh.  More of — oh yes that — when he thrust a little deeper, brushing something that ripped gutteral moans from her throat.

James seemed to notice, shifting so that her legs were hooked around his arms instead of wrapped around his hips like she usually wanted.  She didn’t want that now.  Didn’t want soft careful close, no matter that this was almost as frightening as it was good.  James was fucking her, hard and fast and rough in a way she hadn’t even realised she wanted and while the heart-pounding, muscle-straining, grasping scratching biting wasn’t something she thought she’d want all the time, she definitely wanted it now.  Wanted the way James bit down on her shoulder, hard enough to hurt, as he slammed himself into her.  Wanted his groans and babbling and oh Merlin Rosemary fuck low and hot next to her ear.  Wanted the pulsing and clenching deep inside her, the shocks and bursts that coursed through her now that he was pushing so far into her with every move.

Wanted the knowledge that James wasn’t holding back, wasn’t carefully in control of himself.  That when she cried out in shocked pleasure as he pulled her head back and bit the side of her neck it spurred him on that tiny bit more.  She let herself moan as loud as she felt like she had to, let herself lose control a little too.  Everyone at Linfred knew what she and James did together.  She could be loud, could let out the cries and pleading that built in her chest right along with the heat simmering under her skin.  And if that made James growl against her lips as he tried to bury himself even deeper inside her, she certainly wasn’t complaining.

Because what had started as want was quickly turning to need and the sound of James’ voice was nearly as good as the feeling of him pushed hard and deep.  She was on the edge of something, something new and brilliant that she thought might leave her scattered into a million tiny pieces.  Something maybe a little like the terrifying intensity with Thomas, only she wasn’t really afraid.  She’d burst, shatter from the heat and pressure and yes more please, and then Jamie would take care of her.  He’d pick up all the pieces and shower her with slow gentle close until she was put back together again.  She knew he would.  But first she needed more.  Needed harder and faster and — oh yes right there just like th

James collapsed, completely boneless after what had felt like an eternity of tension and release as Rosemary tightened around him, her arms around his neck just as much as anything else.  He could feel her chest rising and falling against his, her panting matching his own.  He lay there for a moment, until he was able to force enough strength into his arms to roll them so that Rosemary was laying atop his chest.  He was only a little bit surprised when she was still mostly incoherent.  That had been…he didn’t know how to describe it.  Brilliant.  Amazing.  By far the best shag he’d ever had, including with the bewitching dream of a girl currently in his arms.

He hadn’t thought he liked rough, not much.  It was fine, he wouldn’t turn it down, but it didn’t compare to drawn out teasing and lazily shifting so that the pleasure built into a comfortable haze.  Wasn’t worth not getting to see Rosemary writhing and whimpering as he drew out as many sighs and peaks as he could manage before holding back became too hard.

But that…Merlin, he’d do that again right now if he thought he could move at all.  It couldn’t just be the rough or the way Rosemary had shown a delightfully demanding new side he’d have to see if he could bring out more often.  He’d had enough girls at Hogwarts to know he wasn’t interested in any of that just on its own.  Nor could it have been how deeply he was buried inside her — though that was another thing they’d have to try again.  Collins liked that too and the only girl James had less desire to be with again was O’Neill.

Maybe it was just Rosemary.  He ran his fingers through her hair, smiling at how she snuggled closer to him.  It would hardly be the first time he enjoyed something more with her than anyone else.  He enjoyed everything more with her, that was the entire problem.  There was not a single girl he’d been with who he’d consider giving her up for.  Only one girl in all of Hogwarts who he thought he might, and she wouldn’t even sit next to him, let alone anything else.

James mentally shook his head.  It didn’t matter.  There was plenty of time for him to find a wife, five whole more years of Hogwarts and even after, if he didn’t meet anyone there.  As long as Rosemary wanted to stay with him he wasn’t going to rush or fret over it.  Not when he could instead enjoy this, Rosemary sighing softly and looking up at him with bright eyes that slowly closed when he moved to kiss her.

It was too soon for more.  She had to be at least a little tender after that and he didn’t think he could be ready again quite this quickly.  That didn’t stop him from pushing gently until she was under him again.  She was just too tempting, her lips swollen and red and her hair spread out on the pillow.  Combined with the marks forming across her neck and shoulders and chest and the mischievous, pleased way she was smirking at him and she looked thoroughly, happily shagged.  James had to kiss her, had to brush his thumb over one of the bites on her neck.  There wasn’t any choice, not when she looked like that.

And once he’d done that, he of course had to take advantage of her contented sigh to deepen the kiss.  Especially when she responded by wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him closer.  Maybe slipping his hand between them to gently brush over her newly peaked nipple was a bit unfair, but no more than the way she moaned into his mouth and canted her hips against his.

That didn’t stop him from being surprised when she reached down to guide his newly hardened cock to her entrance.

“Are you sure?”  He had been rough, far more than he ever had been with her.  As much as he enjoyed the teasing, he truly hadn’t expected anything more than touching and kissing until they were sated.

Which was why he hesitated, even when she nodded.  He would stop if she showed the slightest amount of pain, of course he would, but he’d always prefer that she never feel it to begin with.

“Please?”  Rosemary tilted her hips, drawing him just the slightest bit inside her.  He didn’t think he’d ever get tired of how her eyes fluttered shut at the sensation. “Slow this time.”

James nodded, carefully pressing himself inside, watching to make sure she was ok.  He needn’t have worried.  Rosemary only sighed happily when he was fully seated, pulling him down so that he was fully laying atop her.

Still, he went slow.  Slower than his usual teasing, even.  He was almost grateful for the fear of hurting her because otherwise he didn’t think he could have kept up the sighing murmuring close that was more soft kisses and careful shifting than anything else.

It was worth it.  Worth the way Rosemary looked up at him with adoration written clear on her face.  Even more when he moved so that one of her legs was hooked around his arm.  That made her gasp and arch her back, pulling him closer to her.

He could press more deeply now, could reach far enough to make her shudder beneath him.  It wasn’t like before, wasn’t nearly so overwhelming.  Rosemary wasn’t clawing at his back and he didn’t feel the need to pound into her until she clenched around him.  The sighs and gasps were enough.  The way her hands grasped the back of his neck, drawing him down so that he could feel her panting against his lips, that was enough.  Enough that when she tensed, surprise and pleasure mixing as she tightened and pulsed, he was able to continue, gently guiding her through it.

She was limp after, only responding when he moved to pull out, grabbing his hip so that he stilled.  He should stop.  Should move them so that she could curl against his side as she fell asleep.  He hadn’t reached the point of pain, he could stop now with only a bit of discomfort.

But she was there, spread out beneath him and lifting her hips so that they both groaned.  Merlin, this girl was going to be the death of him.  He sat up, pulling her with him and turning so that they were sitting against the headboard.  As much as he wanted this, he didn’t think he had the energy to keep holding himself up.

Besides, this way meant that he could watch as she lazily ground against him.  She was mesmerising like this, with her face and chest flushed and her lips parted slightly.  He drew her closer to him, enjoying that he didn’t have to bend uncomfortably to draw out a quiet sigh when he nipped at her lower lip.  There were times her small size thrilled him for reasons he couldn’t explain, but it also had its drawbacks.  The contortions he’d become quite good at bending himself into in order to be as close to her as he liked while still having her laid out under him were definitely at the top of the list.

This though, this was almost as good.  Especially when he slid Rosemary’s leg just slightly higher around his hips, holding her so that she could feel how deep he was.  That elicited a groan that made him throb, her head falling back and presenting him with an image he knew he’d spend many hours trying to recreate once he was back at school.

Not now though.  Now he had her in his arms, writhing and gasping on his lap as he sucked lightly at her skin.  He didn’t mean to tease, not truly.  He found that he was anyway, simply because he was in no hurry for this to end.  He wanted more of it, more of Rosemary moving languidly with him.  More of the feel of her on and around and against him, drawing him into a pleasant daze that felt like it could go on forever.

It didn’t, of course, though he couldn’t say how much time had passed.  He only knew that Rosemary’s cries mingled with his own when he tensed and clutched at her, unable to do more than allow the waves to wash over him until he was left breathless and weak.

Rosemary appeared to be in the same state, slumped against him with her eyes closed.  Neither of them were able to do more than twitch in surprise when a pitcher of water and assortment of finger foods appeared on the bedside table.

Both of them blinked at it for a moment before bursting into tired laughter.  House elf magic was a mystery, but he appreciated it all the same.


James grumbled as he rubbed at his eyes.  It was early.  Too early, after the late night he and Rosemary had had.  He wasn’t sure when exactly they’d fallen asleep, but it had been after dawn.

That didn’t change the fact that Hatty was standing beside the bed, whispering about Father wanting to see him.  Bugger.  He turned to Rosemary, gently kissing and nuzzling her neck until she blinked sleepily at him.  Normally he’d have let her sleep.  The lessons and family meals Father insisted on meant he often wasn’t there when she woke up, but last night had been…he couldn’t let her wake up alone. As it was he was having even more trouble leaving her than he had after their first time together. He kept picturing her looking just as sleep mussed and content as she did now, wearing nothing but the Potter courtship necklace. Platinum, because he could never give her anything less. It was more difficult to push the thought away than he’d like, difficult to not curl around her and fall back asleep to the slightly painful fantasy.

He was, of course, still in Father’s study 15 minutes later, showered and dressed and only mildly irritated.  Irritation that vanished when Father handed him a letter to read.

“They’re coming, truly?”  He hardly dared hope.  It was horribly sudden, just over eight weeks’ notice for a visit that would last twelve, but that didn’t matter.  Not for family.

“That depends on you.”

James blinked, looking up from the letter to stare at his father.  Why in Merlin’s name would it depend on him?  Father was the head of House Potter, he was the one who made the final decision on who was or wasn’t allowed entry, no matter that he usually deferred if one of them had strong feelings about it.  And James certainly wasn’t going to object to meeting his sister and his…nieces and nephews, he supposed.

“I —” Fleamont stopped, aware that he was unsettling James further.  This was proving more difficult than he’d expected. “I made a mistake, with Alexander.  I shouldn’t have given in to your sister, not when it put Rosemary at risk.”  He shouldn’t have, he knew that even as he’d done it.  Quite frankly, he’d been expecting James to refuse to return to Hogwarts, or at least shout at him a little.  The quiet demands for her protection and polite distance at Christmas had been far more difficult.  He was still unaccustomed to his son having mostly grown out of temper tantrums.

James shifted, hoping it was discreet enough to not appear as squirming.  He was still upset with Father, though it had muted from what it was.  They’d never discussed it.  James had intentionally avoided all interactions with his father that weren’t necessary.  He wasn’t ready to talk about it, not without alternately shouting and blaming himself.

“I’d like to not make the same mistake again.”  Fleamont also would like to finally clear the air between them, especially if they were to meet Lucy and her children, but he recognised the way James’ mouth was set.  If he tried to push the issue now it would only get worse.  Instead he focused on the visit — and a reality James clearly hadn’t yet considered. “If you are at all uncomfortable with three wizards you’ve not met staying at Linfred I will arrange another property for them.  The London townhouse, perhaps.  Or,” he hesitated, knowing that this option was likely to upset James, “we can ready one of the properties for Rosemary and Lady Selwyn, just for the summer.”

At that, James’ head snapped up. “No.”  That was not an option. “This is Rosemary’s home, she deserves to be here as much as anyone.”  She did, though he wasn’t sure when he’d started thinking of Linfred as her home rather than a place she was staying for a while.  It didn’t matter.  He wouldn’t send her away, not for anything, not when he would have to stay here and play host as his father’s only heir.

Unfortunately, that didn’t help him decide what to do about his sister’s visit.  He couldn’t have them here when he was still at school, his magic unsettled at just the thought of it.  It was difficult enough now, when he knew Thomas and Fabian would both watch out for her.  But he also couldn’t ask that they stay at another property.  It would be treating them like strangers, or family they were ashamed of.  Like they weren’t good enough for Linfred when James would never think anything of the sort, at least not without meeting them first.

And that wasn’t taking into account Father.  James looked back down at the letter, at the way his sister’s handwriting tended toward spiky, the way his did even after years of penmanship lessons.  He couldn’t be the reason Father couldn’t welcome her and her family to the home they always should have had, if Charlotte hadn’t felt like she had to run away.

“Can they wait?  Just a little, just until after exams.”  He could come home right after the last one, Father could arrange it.  He didn’t need to take the train, no matter how traditional it was.  It would be nearly a month less time with them, but it was the best that he could do.  

Fleamont nodded.  That was a request he had been expecting.  He’d already begun drafting a letter that asked if their arrival could be put off until after Hogwarts let out for the year. “And what else?”  He didn’t for a moment believe simply being at Linfred would be enough for James, not after Alexander.

“I want new wards around the Heir Wing, as strong as Linfred will allow.”  That would be nearly as strong as the ones on Hogwarts and Gringotts, he knew it.  The castle had always indulged him, and he rather thought it might like Rosemary too. “And —” he hesitated. “Can I ask Rosemary first?  She should get a say.”

He stood when Father agreed, promising to inform him of their decision before the holiday was over.  Rosemary was probably still in bed, warm and sleepy and pliant so that he could curl around her for a few more hours’ sleep.

Still, he hesitated at the door.

“Father?”  He waited until they could look at each other fully. “I know you didn’t mean for anything to happen to Rosemary.”  He did, it just didn’t help.

Fleamont smiled at his son, knowing that it was weak at best. “That doesn’t change anything, does it?”

“No.”  James shook his head. “It doesn’t.  I wish it did, but…”  He looked down, hating the way he felt guilty for still being angry and angry at having to feel guilty and guilty about being angry about feeling guilty and a whole tangled mess that came back every time he thought about how many times his father could have just sent Alexander away. “I’m not ready.  Not yet.  I’m sorry.”  He was, especially when he saw how hurt Father was, but it didn’t make him any more able to forgive Father and Sarah.  He still wasn’t quite able to forgive himself, wasn’t sure he ever would be, and if he’d had his way Alexander would have been gone months earlier.

So he closed the door, going back to his bed and the girl waiting in it.


James grinned at the delight and wonder on Rosemary’s face as she carefully raised her hand to pet her new horse.  Abraxan-Friesian cross, really, but she looked enough like a regular muggle horse, other than the colouring. “Her name’s Daphne, would you like to ride her?”

“I don’t know how.”  Rosemary’s eyes never left her horse.  It was a good thing James loved seeing her enjoy his gifts, otherwise he might be a little insulted.

“You don’t have to.”  She was getting lessons, James had already arranged for them, but that didn’t matter for now.  Potters had been raising Abraxans for generations, he’d learnt to sit a horse before he could walk. “All you have to do is sit in front of me.  We can ride through the grounds until lunch, then Hatty or Tessie can bring us a picnic.”

He watched as Rosemary hesitated for a moment before nodding.  James did his best to calm her obvious nerves, helping her into the saddle and keeping Daphne at a gentle walk until she relaxed and learnt to move with the horse.

She was a natural, of course.  He knew she would be, from the way she’d always moved so perfectly with him.  It was why he’d originally wanted to give her a full Abraxan.  She’d probably be a brilliant rider, and if the winged horse races allowed squibs there was no reason they shouldn’t allow muggles who lived with wizards.  The only reason he hadn’t was the fear of her falling from a height that muggle medicine couldn’t help.

Daphne was as good a compromise as he could come up with.  Striking Potter Abraxan colouring, shimmering white with a gold mane and tail, but the body shape and more docile temperament of a muggle Friesian.  He couldn’t wait until summer, when Rosemary would be good enough to go on some of his favourite trails with him.  As extensive as Linfred was, there were many areas you could only get to by horse or house elf.  Even apparition was too dangerous.

For now though he stayed reasonably close to the castle.  Rosemary had never been outside the muggle-designated parts of the grounds before and anyway the best part wasn’t far.  Just enough to be out of sight of the castle, and give Rosemary time to pick up the basics of horsemanship.

James smiled as the willow leaves tickled the top of his head.  This had always been one of his favourite spots on the estate, and judging by the look on Rosemary’s face as she took it in, she liked it just as much.

He grabbed her hand though, when she slipped off her shoes and made for the pond.

“No, it’s far too cold.  Trust me.”  James shuddered, remembering the shock that had frozen his limbs so much Hatty had to pull him out.  The pond was home to a particularly strict nymph who took it upon herself to see that no Potter children skivved off their lessons by making the water painfully frigid until July.  He didn’t want to think of what might happen if Rosemary tried to go in it when she couldn’t take potions to warm her up after.

“Here,” he pulled her over to where Tessie had already laid out a blanket, “if we sit quietly I might be able to show you something.”

James sat very still, leaning back against the willow’s trunk with Rosemary tucked against his side.  He couldn’t guarantee anything, but he was the Potter heir and the Linfred creatures had always — yes, there it was.  Just the slightest flicker of movement, barely discernible from the movement of the willow branches in the breeze.  It grew as they watched, until a branch of bowtruckles was darting about on the branches and leaves above their heads.

He sucked in a breath when the sprite that shared the tree also flew out, hovering right in front of them.  S’tara was shy, more than any of the other sprites at Linfred.  She’d only come out for James a handful of times, after he’d started leaving her berries and maple leaves when he visited the tree.

Even now she only hovered in front of them for a moment before hiding behind a bowtruckle.  She continued, flitting from bowtruckle to bowtruckle, only allowing them to see her in sparkles of light, in the dance James had learned to expect from her.  He watched, pressing down on Rosemary’s hand when she seemed like she would reach out.  He’d take her to Av’bal later, he was confident enough to land right in your palm, preening and waiting for compliments.

S’tara wasn’t like that, even for James.  She disappeared before long, scattering something in his lap and taking the bowtruckles with her.

“What was that?” Rosemary breathed.  She looked exactly as awestruck as James had hoped, her eyes bright and glowing.  He had to kiss her quickly before answering, it was required.

“The green ones were bowtruckles, they’re kind of like magical bush crickets, and the sparkly one was S’tara, she’s a tree sprite.”  He looked down, curious as to whether she’d left daisy roots or mistletoe leaves, and immediately froze. “Don’t.”  He stilled Rosemary’s hand when she went to pick up one of the sprite wings.  They turned to dust if touched by anything without magic.  Some of the older families still used them to see if newborn children were squibs.

They were also nearly impossible to get, needing to be gifted by the sprite who’d shed them in order to work.  James and his father had spent a day going around to the various sprites every spring almost since he could walk, hoping to replenish the family stores.  Sprite wings were a vital ingredient to several of the strongest protection and dark creature repelling potions, the kind Father had practically bathed James in until he’d started learning to duel.  

S’tara had always refused to give hers away, even after she’d been the one to get Hatty when he’d almost drowned in the pond.  Now his lap was covered in them, enough that they had to be from every molting S’tara had had since his grandfather was a small child.  He had no idea what had changed, couldn’t begin to imagine, but he was not about to question it.  Wendy wouldn’t be going to Hogwarts for two more years, this many wings should make more than enough potions to last until then.  Enough to save for his own children, probably.  He had Hatty bring an assortment of S’tara’s favourite treats when he called her to collect the wings.

“Why couldn’t I touch them?”

James cringed.  This was why she and Thomas hadn’t been shown anything outside the non-magical parts of the grounds.  Watching the way her face fell almost made him wish he hadn’t brought her.

It wasn’t right though, that she was confined to such a small part of Linfred, even if Father had said it was far larger than the orphanage she had once lived in.  This was her home now and if it wasn’t so dangerous James would have insisted she explore as much as she liked even when he was in school.

So he tried to distract her with kisses and chocolate and strawberries and stories of the games he used to play here with Hatty, back in the other lifetime before they’d met.  It wasn’t perfect, but it would have to do.

Later, when all that remained of the picnic were a few crumbs of a lemon cake Mrs Goldstein had sent the recipe for, he told her the story of Wilereykos.  How it had been here longer than his family, had in fact been the reason his ancestor decided to build the family home here.  James had heard the story many times, from his father and many times great-grandfather both.  About getting lost in a storm and taking shelter under the tree until it passed.  How Great-Grandfather had woken to sun streaming through the leaves and a single bare branch laying on his chest.  Most importantly, how Great-Grandfather had taken that branch to an ancestor of Ollivander’s, becoming the first Potter able to afford a wand, back when having one was still a sign of status and wealth.

That wand was still in the family vaults.  James had tried it before going to Ollivander’s, as had every Potter before him.  It was as much a tradition as first trying a series of wands from the branches Ollivander collected from Wilereykos every year before moving on to different woods.  James had not been chosen by any willow wand, nor had his father.  Mother had a wand from Wilereykos, though she hadn’t known it until old Mr Ollivander gleefully informed her and Father at their wedding.  It was a bit silly, but James had always hoped, just a little, that his own wife would have a wand from Wilereykos, the same way he had hoped being named for the last two Potters to wield Great-Grandfather’s wand would make it choose him.

Looking down at Rosemary, her eyes closed as he ran his fingers through her hair, he found himself wishing yet again that she were a witch.  She would be brilliant and mesmerising and he couldn’t think of any reason a willow wand wouldn’t want her.  He’d even ask Father to let her try Great-Grandfather’s wand, if she’d ever shown the least sign of accidental magic.

She hadn’t though, not in the two years she’d been at Linfred.  Hatty or Miss Taylor would have told him immediately.  And she’d had plenty of reason to, between Alexander and O’Neill and their fight at Christmas.  He pushed the thought out of his mind, along with the image of a boy with perpetually messy strawberry blond hair holding Great-Grandfather’s wand as magic swirled around him.  There was no use wishing for things that could never happen.  He’d learnt that after Father had sat him down and explained why his frequent requests for a brother or sister were so painful for Mother.

Besides, there were so many better things to do beneath a willow tree than mope.  Like pull Rosemary into his lap and kiss her until her lips were swollen and they were both a bit out of breath.  Or carefully tease the slowly fading marks on her neck so that she clutched his head to her, her fingers tight in his hair.

“Someone will see,” she whispered, when he tugged down the collar of her dress to nip at her shoulder.

“No they won’t.”  Hatty would tell them if anyone came near and he’d put up silencing and invisibility charms the moment they arrived.  Father had asked him to, in case Wendy wandered over with her governess.

He lowered Rosemary onto the blanket, pushing up her dress as he moved over her. “I promise, no one will see.  Trust me?”  He watched as she bit her lip before nodding, grabbing his shirt and pulling him down to her.  Merlin, he loved this new, demanding side to her.

They hadn’t done anything like that first time, not yet, but there were little changes that thrilled him.  The way she leaned into his touch more readily, gasped just the tiniest bit louder when he did something she liked.  How she wasn’t afraid to clench her fingers in his hair or dig them into his skin.  That when he’d teased his way down her body, trailing his lips and tongue and teeth over all the places he’d learnt made her pant with need, she hooked her legs over his shoulders and let her hips thrust against his face the way she’d previously only done when he’d teased her awake.

Most importantly, how she moaned quietly and arched her neck as her eyes fluttered shut when he slid into her.  He loved that, more than he’d loved anything else he’d ever done with a girl.  She looked the picture of desire, her hair spread around her head and her skin flushed.  He’d nearly lost control of himself more times than he’d like to admit in the past week.  It was why he’d taken to making sure she’d come on his fingers and mouth at least twice before giving in to the need to feel her wrapped around and spread out under him. He was always more than a little worried that image alone would be enough to undo him.

Which would be a waste because then he’d miss the way she opened her eyes and smiled at him, pulling him down until they were pressed as tightly together as they could be.  She never seemed to care that that put her about on level with his shoulder, just nuzzled into him as she rocked her hips.  Another change he loved, her new willingness to take what she liked rather than waiting for him.  Not much, he sincerely hoped she’d never turn into McKinnon, but enough that he’d learnt a few new ways to tease her.

Ways he used now, forcing himself to use slow, deep strokes that made her gasp against his skin.  He drew back, just a little, just enough to look down at her and press his lips against hers as he rolled his hips.  He wanted to memorise every detail of this.  The way her mouth looked as she panted, her lips glistening slightly from their kiss.  How her hands gripped his shoulders, the slight pain making him move just a little faster.  The feel of the breeze on his back and how it rippled through Rosemary’s hair.  Her sighs and moans, definitely those, both drawing him closer to the edge and making him want to hold out until she couldn’t take any more.  The slightly salty taste of her skin when he nipped at her, unable to keep himself from leaving just one more mark.

And how she looked at him, her face soft and relaxed as she started to recover, her arms lifting lazily to wrap around his neck.  That was enough to make him twitch against her, making her giggle and pull him down for a kiss.

He was glad that the kiss hadn’t led to more than soft sighs and gentle touches when Hatty popped in to say that Mother was on her way to speak to them.  They were already dressed, had been for some time and were talking about whether or not Rosemary wanted to go to the Goldsteins’ for some holiday that involved ice cream and staying up all night, but still.  The last thing James wanted was to see his mother when he was drowsy and content from being with Rosemary.  The idea alone would probably be enough to handle any embarrassing problems at school for the next year.

Rosemary, for her part, looked terrified.  James suddenly realised that she had never met either of his parents, not properly.  The only times she’d been in the same room with them had been after something upsetting, and then she’d never said a word.  That was perfectly normal, was exactly as it should be, in fact.  He would have been insulted if they’d distrusted him so much to check for themselves that she was well cared for, especially after he’d made it quite clear that he was willing to break any rule to ensure she was safe and happy.

That didn’t explain why it felt wrong, why he found himself asking Hatty to change Rosemary’s dress and his muggle clothing to something more closely resembling what they’d wear if she were a witch he was bringing home for the first time.  They should both be in robes, technically, and the grounds were not at all a place he’d arrange for his mother to meet a witch, but there was only so much he could do with Mother springing this meeting on him out of nowhere.  Hatty, wonderful Hatty who’d always known what he wanted before he did, snapped her fingers and produced a table and chairs, as well as a full tea set so that at least they looked more like they were at one of Mother’s garden parties rather than having a picnic on the ground like children.

“It will be fine.”  He kissed Rosemary’s cheek, brushing a tendril of hair out of her face.  It would be.  He knew that Miss Taylor had been instructing her on pureblood as well as muggle etiquette since she arrived.  He’d been roped into several of the lessons and spent many hours smiling as Rosemary paced around their rooms, ranting about having to learn when it was appropriate to use your wand at the table when she didn’t even have a wand and never would.

At any rate, there wasn’t much time to worry, Mother arriving and telling them to keep their seats just as he finished raising Rosemary’s hand to his lips in the hopes of making her smile.  There was tea and polite chitchat that Mother never allowed anyone to skip, even if all she had to say after was barely enough for a sentence, Rosemary getting through as beautifully as if she were a witch and relaxing with every passing moment.  He could see her, one day when they were both grown, flitting from guest to guest as Mother did, charming everyone without any magic at all.  It was a thought that made his stomach clench with disappointment.

“James, dear, I know Rosemary is a very pretty girl, but do at least try to pretend you are paying attention to the conversation.”

James flushed, realising he had been staring and Rosemary was clearly trying to keep herself from giggling at him.  At least she was blushing in the way she did when she was embarrassed, but pleased, a rosy glow that he tried to bring out as often as he could.

“James, really.”  Mother’s voice was more teasing than scolding which was in itself enough to make him snap his eyes to her.  Mother never teased about manners.

He cleared his throat, forcing himself not to look at Rosemary. “I’m sorry, Mother, what were you saying?”

“I was simply inquiring as to whether or not you and Rosemary had any thoughts about her schedule.  With the riding and singing and instruments it is a bit much and you’ve begun preparing for your coming of age as well, haven’t you dear?”

James raised an eyebrow.  That was not what Mother had wanted to speak to them about and they both knew it.  If Mother wanted to know about Rosemary’s schedule she would ask Miss Taylor, the same way that Father asked Mr Khatri when he wanted to know about Thomas.  She certainly hadn’t spoken to Rosemary before adding Latin and, more recently, Greek to her lessons.

Still, he played along, listening as Rosemary spoke of how she and Miss Taylor were managing her growing list of supplemental instruction.  There was no point in doing otherwise, Mother would get to the point of her visit in her own time and not a second sooner.  James had tried pushing, before he realised it only resulted in the conversation being dragged out longer.  Mother was nothing if not an expert at prolonging pleasantries.

He only just refrained from choking on his tea when she asked if Rosemary had started her menses yet.

Mother sighed, in the way he knew meant she thought he was being childish. “It was a simple question, there is no need to act as if I asked something scandalous.  I know you are both a bit young to be worrying about such things, but Sarah began hers before she left for Hogwarts and Rosemary is —”

“Stop!”  James absolutely did not need to know a single thing about his sister’s menses.  He had only recently come to terms with eventually having to deal with Rosemary’s, and that only after a year of teasing from Alice and Meadowes. “Merlin, there was no need to tell me that!”

The sigh was back, along with a slight shake of her head.  Bollocks.  She hadn’t needed to resort to that since he’d thrown a temper tantrum at Lady Longbottom’s annual charity gala.  He had been six.

“Are you quite finished?”

“Yes.”  James looked down at his tea, unable to make eye contact just yet. “I’m sorry.”

“Good.  You know I don’t like it when you men are silly about these things.”  

She did, he knew that, had since he’d first run screaming away from his childhood tutor when they’d begun his lessons on properly caring for his future girls as they grew.  That didn’t mean he wanted to think about them.

Still, he forced himself to pay attention to the conversation.  Even if he very much didn’t want to.  There was talk of where Rosemary and Miss Taylor were in her lessons, and then something about special baths that he didn’t understand.  Mrs Goldstein had sent a letter to Mother so he assumed it had something to do with being Jewish (he’d look at his book or ask Goldstein later), but that still didn’t explain why Mother was here.  Miss Taylor handled Rosemary’s Jewish education, as she did all other aspects of her life that required interacting with muggles.  If there was something she needed Mother would simply ask Miss Taylor to acquire it.

“Now, I was wondering if you might be willing to join me for tea once a week while James is in school.”

James was glad he hadn’t been drinking, Mother would be horrified if he choked twice in one conversation.

“I beg your pardon, Your Grace?”  Rosemary glanced at James, seeming just as confused as he was.  Mother did not have tea with muggles.  She did not speak to muggles.  She barely thought of muggles except as needed to ensure Rosemary was receiving the best quality education possible.  She most certainly did not socialise with muggle girls too young to have come of age even if they were witches.

“Please, dear, call me Duchess.”  

Fabian wasn’t allowed to call Mother Duchess.  Longbottom only was after Sarah had moved on to muggle boys.  James wondered if he’d fallen asleep and this was all an unusually realistic dream.

“I —” James watched as Rosemary faltered for a moment before sitting up even straighter than she had before, looking directly at Mother, and smiling. “Thank you, Duchess, that sounds lovely.”

Merlin she was beautiful.  Meadowes wouldn’t have managed so gracefully and certainly not any of the muggleborn girls, even the ones who’d spent summers with purebloods.  Alice would have done better, wouldn’t have had the moment of hesitation, but she was a pureblood Prince.  It was unfair to compare her poise to any girl below seventh year.  James would have to buy something nice for Miss Taylor, and ensure she received a hefty bonus and raise.  He doubted anyone less than a Selwyn could have taught Rosemary so well.

Of course, after they’d finished up the closing pleasantries and watched as Mother was taken back to the castle by her personal elf Rosemary began panicking.  That was fine.  There was no one to see but him.  She could panic all she liked when it was just the two of them, especially since it allowed him to discover that tangling his fingers in her hair made her immediately melt into him.  That was a wonderful discovery.  One that distracted him enough to forget to wonder why in Merlin’s name his mother had suddenly taken it upon herself to arrange weekly teas with a girl younger even than him, muggle or not.

Chapter Text

James blinked at the girl standing across from him.  This was unexpected, to say the least. 

“I thought you hated me.”

Evans huffed, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “Everyone knows you’re the best in our year at Transfiguration and McGonagall said if I don’t manage reparifarge by next lesson she’s going to have to find me a tutor.”  She crossed her arms, sulking at him. “It’ll probably be you anyway, I just thought I’d ask first and get it out of the way.  If you don’t want to you can just say so.”

“No!”  James shook his head, then rushed to clarify. “I mean, yes, I can help.”  As if he would turn this down.  Evans was talking to him.  Actually speaking to him, not glaring at him or defending Snape or calling him an arrogant prat.  He’d help her face a bloody werewolf if that was what she wanted.

Which was how he found himself spending an hour every night sitting in an empty classroom with Lily Evans, transfiguring matches to needles so that she could turn them back.  It was brilliant, everything he’d thought it’d be, Evans even occasionally going so far as to lean over his shoulder as he demonstrated the wand movement.  If not for the disapproving glances Remus kept shooting him and the odd pinprick of guilt that sometimes niggled at the back of his mind he’d be perfectly content.

Even better, McGonagall really did ask him to tutor Evans, for the entire rest of the term.  Which meant more hours in empty classrooms, an increasing number of them as exams drew nearer.  And with each one Evans seemed to grow just a little more friendly toward him, her smiles coming a little more easily.  When she sat next to him at lunch, chattering away with McKinnon and Meadowes, James thought he might die of happiness.

Snape, of course, was furious which made it even better.  Bloody slimy, greasy, unkempt Snape was finally being put in his place.  Yes, Evans — Lily now, she’d actually asked him to call her Lily — still glared at him when he openly attacked the little mistake.  He quickly learnt to keep the more vicious pranks quiet, enough that he could pretend they weren’t his doing.  She smiled though, just a little, at the smaller ones, like when he transfigured Snape’s robes to form great bat wings that lifted him up and flew him down the corridor.

Which made it all the worse when a month before exams Sirius of all people made him realise why Remus and Alice had pulled away from him so much that he’d actually felt unwanted visiting Remus the last time he was poorly.

It was a scene strikingly similar to the one last spring, with James trying yet again to get his hair to lay flat while Remus read a book and Sirius and Peter did anything at all to put off their Charms homework.  He had to go meet Lily soon, she’d asked for help with the latest essay.  Then he heard Sirius’ question and the niggling guilt all pooled in his stomach.

“Have you asked Evans home for the summer yet?  Bet she’ll be better than a Veela, once you show her what she’s been missing.”

He felt, more than saw, Remus’ outright glare.  Heard him slam his book shut and stomp out of the room, muttering about selfish gits who don’t care how much they hurt people. Frowned for all of three seconds before he realised.

Rosemary.  Somehow in all these weeks he’d completely forgotten about Rosemary.  He had been thinking of asking Lily to go home with him.  Was going to when he saw her in a few minutes, actually.  But he’d promised Rosemary that he wouldn’t, that he’d not bring any girls home until they were married.  He’d been so proud of himself, he hadn’t so much as looked at a witch all year, even with the teasing from every boy except Remus and Fabian.  There was no way he could ruin that by showing up at Linfred with Lily.

“No.”  James licked his lips, hoping the sudden dryness in his mouth would pass. “I’m not taking anyone home this year.” 

He couldn’t.  Not this summer.  He’d…he’d have to tell Rosemary when he got to Linfred.  Lily was talking to him now.  She liked him, even fancied him a little, he knew.  She was going to be his wife.  Rosemary couldn’t be that, no matter how much he might want it.  It was only fair that he tell her he’d found the only witch he could imagine ever wanting at least as much as he did her.  It would be hard, the idea of losing her so soon was almost enough to make him tell Lily he was feeling ill, but she deserved that much.  He’d set her and Miss Taylor up in a nice house, make sure they had more than enough gold to last until Rosemary had finished school and university and anything else she wanted, and then, when school started again, he’d begin properly courting Lily.

The thought should have made him happy.  Thrilled, elated, jubilant.  He should want to shout it from the top of Gryffindor Tower.  And he thought he would, later.  After he’d gotten through the initial pain of telling Rosemary and watching as she walked away from him.  But for now, shrugging off Sirius’ shocked questions and leaving the dormitory for the table in the back of the library where he usually met Lily, all he felt was empty.

Even seeing Lily, bright and smiling, going so far as to give him a hug when he arrived, didn’t help his mood.  He tried, he really did.  Lily was bubbly, vivacious, happiness seemed to radiate off her like a halo.  Until now every moment he’d spent with her had seemed like a small slice of perfection.  He just couldn’t seem to shake the image of Rosemary, smiling up from under him, playing with the hair at the back of his neck the night before he returned to Hogwarts.

“James, when are you going to ask me over for summer?”  Lily’s question snapped him out of his thoughts, as much from shock as anything.

“What do you know about that?”  It was second year, yes, but every selected muggleborn knew as well as the purebloods that you don’t talk about the coming of age traditions with muggleborns who don’t already know.

Lily rolled her eyes. “I grew up with Sev, remember?  His mum told me all about shagging in every dark corner in the castle.”

James felt his jaw clench at the mention of Snape.  He’d have to see if he couldn’t convince her to stop hanging around with the unwashed Slytherin.  It wasn’t fitting for the future Duchess of Linfred to be seen with someone so far beneath her.

Then his brain caught up with his ears and he stared. “You knew?  All this time?”  Merlin, how come no one had told him?  How many boys had she already shagged and why hadn’t they said anything?  Everyone in their year knew how much he fancied her.  She knew, even when she still hated him, he was sure of it.

“Of course I did.”  Lily looked perfectly unconcerned with his surprise. “Mrs Snape wasn’t about to let me come here without knowing.  She gave me her old training books and told me to take my time deciding on the first boy because some of you don’t get your second girl until after first year.”

“Who did you pick?”  The question came out more sharply than he’d have liked, enough that he shrank slightly in his seat. “Sorry, you don’t have to answer that.”

Lily blushed, ducking her head so that she looked almost as small and vulnerable as Rosemary.  He pushed away the comparison.

“I haven’t, yet.”  James swallowed down the hope rising in his chest. “I was thinking of asking Lupin, but you know how much Alice fancies him.  It didn’t seem like a nice thing to do.  And then…well, there’s no one else who seems like they’d be nice.”  Lily looked back up at him.  Her cheeks were flushed, a lighter pink than Rosemary’s, though it still clashed with her hair.  She nibbled her lower lip for a moment before continuing. “I was wondering…well, you’ve been so nice all year.  Not like last year.  And Marley said you’re,” she blushed more, “talented.  So…do you think, maybe…”

James forced himself to think of Mother, determined to ignore the way he twitched at the suggestion.  He couldn’t.  Not yet.  It didn’t matter that Lily’s face fell when he told her.  He was a Gryffindor.  He could handle this temporary disappointment.

“Why not?”  Lily’s voice was quiet, small even.  James didn’t think he’d ever heard her sound small.  She was always so confident, fearless.  Everyone knew Lily Evans could probably face down a full grown mountain troll without so much as batting an eyelash.

Except now that confidence seemed to have disappeared and James found himself scrambling to restore it.

“It’s not you!  I want to, I swear.”  He did, more than anything.  Merlin, the thought of Lily Evans panting and writhing under him, of her only ever knowing what it was like with him…he was very glad for the billowing Hogwarts robes.

“Then why?”  The insecurity was mostly gone, at least, now she just looked curious.

James looked around, more aware of how many people were in the library than he had been. “It’s…can we go somewhere else?  I don’t — I’ve only told Remus and Alice.”

Lily peered at him for a moment before nodding, both of them gathering their books as they stood.  James almost dropped his when he noticed Lily’s wand, seeing it closely for the first time.  Willow.  That was willow, he’d bet his inheritance on it.  He shook his head at her questioning look.  There’d be plenty of time for that later.  Time for him to explain Wilereykos and how he’d always hoped to marry a girl with a wand from the Potter tree.  Right now they needed to find a more private place to talk.  Some place he could tell her about being the only witch he’d consider giving up his muggle for.

They ended up on the seventh floor before they found anything that wasn’t occupied.  A surprisingly comfortable room, really, with a fireplace and plush rugs and squashy armchairs.  Even a table with a tea service spread out.

“Think we found a professor’s sitting room?”

“Without a locking charm?”  James shook his head. “No chance.  Lounge, maybe?”

“No, McGonagall sent me to get Kettleburn last term.  It’s not even on this floor.”

James shrugged, walking into the room and settling into the one of the chairs.  He tried to think of how to begin, how to explain what was surely going to sound mad, if Lily really had gotten a pureblood education on coming of age.

“Do you remember that girl who showed up before Christmas?”

“You mean the naked muggle girl who popped in in the middle of dinner right before your magic exploded and you nearly killed some boy?”  Lily shook her head at him. “Yes James, I remember that.  The whole school remembers that.”

James felt himself flush.  That was a reasonable point, he supposed.

“She was one of my coming of age gifts.  The second one.”  He looked down, fiddling with his teacup as he tried to put together the words that might begin to describe Rosemary. “We’re…close.  I like her, as a person, not just a muggle.”  That was the first time he’d said that to anyone.  Everyone else had just figured it out on their own.  It was a bit terrifying, saying it out loud. It also felt inadequate, somehow. Too little to explain whatever it was Rosemary made him feel, even if it was already more than he knew he was allowed.

Lily tilted her head, looking at him in a way that made him squirm despite his attempts not to. “That’s not normal, is it?  Sev said his mum got disowned because she liked her gifts too much.”

“That’s not why she was disowned.”  It wasn’t, not that that was really the point. “But no, it’s not common.  My family though, we’ve never been that traditional.  Father doesn’t mind that I like her.  He was cross with me, actually, when I upset her by taking O’Neill home last summer.”

“Are you betrothed then, is that why you’ve suddenly stopped shagging any witch who’ll have you?”

“What?”  James shook his head.  Betrothed to Rosemary?  That was absurd.  She didn’t even have parents to arrange a betrothal with, let alone magical ones. “No, of course not.  It’s just…after summer I promised her I wouldn’t be with any other girls.  Not until I get married. I —”  He swallowed, forcing himself to say the next part despite the way Lily was staring at him. “She’s important to me.  I hate seeing her upset, especially when it’s because of something I did.”

Lily laughed softly, looking down at her tea. “It’s funny, you know.  I thought you were an arse until a few weeks ago.”  She smiled at him, colour spreading just over the tops of her cheeks. Embarrassed, he thought, maybe pleased. It was hard to tell when he was so used to thinking of Rosemary’s blushes. “Now I want you to help with my coming of age.  I think I might even like to try courting.  But you can’t because of some muggle girl you can’t even marry.  A muggle girl who somehow managed to make you stop being an arse.  It’s not really fair.”

James closed his eyes, picturing Rosemary, every detail of her he could recall. “It’s not forever,” he said. “Just until next year.  I was —”  He opened his eyes.  He couldn’t say this without looking at Lily.  She needed to know how serious he was.

“I’m going to tell Rosemary I’ve found my wife when I get home for summer.  If you’ll have me.”

Lily stared at him, entrancing green eyes wide with surprise.  He found himself moving toward her, grasping her hands in his own. “Please, you don’t have to agree to the betrothal or even courting right now.  Just say you’ll wait until September so I can be your first.”

She nodded, smiling shyly for a moment before gently pressing her lips to his.  It was perfect.  Soft and sweet and when he lifted his hand to run his fingers through her hair she shivered beautifully, pressing closer to him.

He ignored the small voice in the back of his mind telling him it wasn’t perfect.  That it was good, certainly, better than any other witch he’d kissed, but still fell short of kissing Rosemary.  It didn’t matter.  Rosemary wasn’t a witch.  She would never be a witch.  Lily was, if not perfect, at least a witch he would have no regrets giving up Rosemary for.  He’d always said, after all, that she’d be the perfect Duchess of Linfred.

Lily tugged at his hair, pulling him up so that they were both standing, bodies pressed close together.  He could feel her breasts against his chest, not anything as big as McKinnon’s, but there all the same.  When he shifted, accidentally bringing himself to press against her centre, she moaned softly, pulling him tighter against her.  Rosemary flashed through his mind, making him freeze for a moment before shoving all thoughts of her as far away as he could.  Lily was going to be his wife, that was all that mattered.  Merlin, he wished there was a bed in this room.

Then there was, a massive canopy bed in colours nearly exact matches for the Potter red and gold that adorned all of his school things.  He moved Lily toward it, carefully pressing her down when it was in reach.

“Tell me if you want to stop,” he whispered as he crawled over her.

She nodded, breathless, before pulling him down.

There was something intoxicating about kissing Lily, something that drew him in and held him down, making it so that all he could think about was having more of her.  He found himself kissing everything he could reach, her neck and chin and arms and lips, while she gasped and writhed under him.  When he slid his hand under her thigh, wrapping her leg around him so he could better rock against her, it was all he could do to not open their robes and slide into her right then.

He couldn’t though.  She’d never done this, never felt what it could be like.  She needed to be prepared.  Teased, until she was so ready for him it hurt.  James was not about to let his future wife’s first time be anything less than the best he could give her.

Instead he slid open the first clasps of her robes, laving her collarbone with his tongue.  That certainly drew a gasp from her.  He did it again, adding a few small nips just to see what she would do.  When she moaned, really almost a whine, he felt himself throb in his robes.  A more enthralling sound couldn’t exist in the world.  It wasn’t possible, men would die if they heard anything better.

Lily’s entire upper body was flushed and slightly damp by the time he made his way down to the clasps at her waist.  He’d licked and sucked and nipped at every part of her, each new sound and shudder forcing him to wrestle back his control. The sides of her breasts were delightfully sensitive. More sensitive, even, than her nipples — which he’d lapped at for more than a little while when he saw how it made her breath catch in her throat. By the time he was done nipping and teasing at them he’d accidentally left a few small marks.

Now he took a deep breath as he reached the fabric blocking his way to the part he was most looking forward too.  He nuzzled against her, enjoying the scent that greeted him just as much as the groan his movement drew out.  He could see Lily’s fists clutching the sheets, feel how her legs were trembling slightly on either side of him.  When he drew his hands up her thighs, spreading her just a tiny bit more so that he could mouth at her through her robes, her panting turned to a pained whine.

He smiled.  That was what he wanted.  For Lily, his Lily, the girl he’d spend the rest of his life with, to be desperate for him.  He opened the last clasps.

She was wearing knickers.  White, little muggle girl knickers with flowers on them.  He glanced up, seeing her face flush further.

“I didn’t think it’d be today.”

James chuckled, lowering his lips to suck slightly at the damp cloth. “It’s ok.  I should have expected them.”

He should have.  Lily was a muggleborn witch, not a muggle gift for him to use and send away.  It wasn’t her fault he’d gotten confused and forgotten the difference.  He slid the fabric down her legs, throwing it to a corner of the room when she was free.  She’d not be needing those again. Not when he planned on spending every spare moment for the rest of the term buried deep inside her.

Looking at her, James felt his heart stop.  She was dazzling.  Pale skin and bright hair, vibrant green eyes of a shade no muggle could ever have. It was too striking, likely a sign of the beginning of a new magical line. Something inherent in her magic, the way messy hair was inherent in all children born to Potter magic. It was just another thing that made her so captivating.  He thought he might go blind if he kept looking, she was so overwhelmingly radiant.  He had to give himself a good mental shake to move again, tickling her with the tip of his tongue until he learnt how sensitive she was.

The answer, it turned out, was both very and not at all.  Her entire body tensed when he first touched her, shuddering through the new sensations, but she didn’t push him away.  Pulled him closer, actually, digging her hands into his hair and moaning continuously as he swirled and flicked his tongue.  Everything from soft breaths to hard sucks made her throb and pulse.  Within minutes he’d worked three fingers inside her and was pressing up against the most sensitive spot he could reach.

That was when he found out how the regular throbbing of her body differed from the squeezing that made her arch her back and hold him tight against her.  He kept massaging and lapping, trying to guide her through and prolong the sensation as much as he could at the same time.  For once he was grateful to O’Neill for having built up his endurance.

James nearly fell when Lily dragged him up, kissing him deeply as she bucked against him. “Now, please, I need —” she cut off, keening when her erratic movements had her rubbing along his covered length

He gently disentangled himself so he could throw off his robes.  No need to worry about him being ready, he had been since they were still in the library.  He held himself over her, pausing just long enough to ask if she needed a potion.  He didn’t, not yet, but Father would skin him alive if he didn’t ask.

When she shook her head he allowed himself to give in to what he’d been wanting for nearly two years, entering her in one almost rushed movement that made them both gasp.  He opened his eyes, unsure when they’d ever closed.  Lily was trembling under him, her eyes squeezed tight as she pressed her hands to his arse to pull him in further.  James groaned, long and loud like he never had before, at the sensation.  She was so hot, molten, hot enough that he wondered if he wouldn’t just combust from how good it was.  And when he gathered himself enough to move, unable to stop the deep, hard thrusts, she tightened, pulsing the way she had around his fingers.

It was too much.  Far too much, more than he’d ever felt before.  He wasn’t going to last.  There was no way, not when Lily’s hair was fanned out around her exactly as he’d always pictured.  Not when she was shouting his name, planting her feet on the bed and thrusting with him so that every movement was twice as hard.  Not when she was spasming, her breath caught as her body grasped and pulled at him, seeming to want him so deep he’d never be able to bring himself back.  He felt his jaw clench, his eyes squeeze shut, white spots flashing in front of him as his every muscle tensed so long he thought he might break.

Then it was over and he was opening his eyes to a face full of shiny ginger hair and Lily’s eyes sparkling at him as she grinned. “That was so much better than I expected.  No wonder the girls are all chasing after you.”

James laughed, more a single huff of air than anything.  He was too exhausted for more.  It was.  So much better.  Better than any — no.


Fuck.  Fuck fuck fuck fuck Merlin fucking Godric what had he been thinking?

James scrambled off the bed, his magic flying everywhere to bring his discarded robes and shoes and glasses to him.  He threw them on, not bothering to make sure the clasps were done up right.  He needed to owl Father.  Right now.  Immediately.  Nothing mattered more than —

Lily was sitting up, gripping the sheets to her chest as she watched him.

“I’m sorry.”  James forced himself to look at her, forced himself to meet her eyes even as they began to water. “I’m so sorry.  I know — I understand if you hate me.  I shouldn’t have — I didn’t —” he tugged at his hair, trying to find a way to explain that he’d made a horrible mistake without making her feel even worse. “It’s not you.  It has nothing at all to do with you, not really.  I just…Rosemary.”

He closed his eyes as Lily flinched, turning away from him.

“I really am sorry,” he whispered, one last time.

“Go away.”

James nodded, not bothering with his books.  He could send a house elf for them later.  He paused at the door, just for a moment. “Tell Snape he can hex me, I won’t fight back.  Just as long as it’s not deadly.”  It couldn’t be.  He was the last Potter heir and even if he wasn’t, he had to get back home to Rosemary.  If she’d even have him after this.

Chapter Text

The last month of term was spent mostly in the hospital wing.  Between Snape and Sarah the only places James was safe from hexes were Gryffindor and the few lessons shared with Ravenclaw. He didn’t bother hiding out.

Sirius was livid, more because James told him he wasn’t allowed to go after Snape than anything.  Peter thought it was hilarious, perfect, popular Potter being snubbed by nearly every girl in Hogwarts and not even protecting himself against the least liked boy in school.  Remus and Alice just shook their heads and gave him mournful, disappointed looks.

There were exams at some point, though he barely remembered them.  If he didn’t come in dead last he’d be happy.  Remus was in twice, both times in a separate room at the end of the ward.  Lily visited once, at nearly the end of the term.  She’d hugged her shoulders and refused to look at him as she told him she’d asked Snape not to hex him anymore after summer.  He found he didn’t really care.  Didn’t care about much of anything except the note from Dumbledore approving his permission to floo home after the last exam and the parcel from Father that arrived the day before.

The floo home felt like it lasted hours, for all that he knew it was barely a minute.  He clutched the parcel in his pocket, hoping to Merlin and Godric and all his ancestors that it would be enough.  That he wouldn’t lose Rosemary over the biggest, most idiotic mistake he’d ever made in his life.  The only thing giving him a slight bit of hope was the realisation he’d had at some point between rounds of healing in the hospital wing that if he’d not made this particular mistake he would have sent Rosemary away before discovering that he wasn’t at all willing to give her up for Lily.

It took everything in him not to rush to Rosemary the second he stepped out of the floo.  He needed to touch her, needed to gather her up in his arms and hold her as tightly as he could.  Memorise the way she felt if she was going to reject his apology.  The last time he’d held her had been short, just a quick hug before he dashed into the floo, once again late for the train because he couldn’t bring himself to leave her.  It wasn’t enough.

He couldn’t though.  Not when she didn’t know.  It wasn’t fair to her and he’d already done more than enough things that weren’t fair to her.  So he held himself back.  Walked over to her like he was going to face a dementor, with each step realising that she wasn’t looking at him.

“You’re sending me away.”

The words were barely a whisper.  He almost didn’t hear them even though he was standing right in front of her.

“No, I’m not.  I —” he was cut off by Rosemary lifting her head to glare at him, tear tracks streaking her cheeks.

“Don’t lie to me.  You promised.”  She jerked her head away when James lifted his hand to dry her face, going so far as to take a step back. “Alice writes to me, she said you were spending all of your time with some girl you said you were going to marry.” If James had thought it was difficult to face Lily after he’d hurt her, it had nothing on watching all the same emotions flash across Rosemary’s face. “You could at least be honest,” he’d never realised she could sound so scornful, “I didn’t think Alice was right when she said you might be too much of a coward to tell me yourself.”

James flinched.  Not a coward maybe, but for the first time he thought that might almost be better.  A coward would have been too afraid to just jump into bed with Lily because of what? Because she was a witch and Rosemary wasn’t? How had he believed that mattered?

“I’m not marrying her and I’m not sending you away, not unless you want to go.”  He took a deep breath, meeting Rosemary’s glare as well as he could.  He wasn’t a coward, unfortunately.  He was a Gryffindor and a Potter and he would face this no matter how much it hurt. “I did something worse and I am so, so sorry.  I —” he faltered, not wanting to say the next part even though he knew he had to. “I asked Father to set up a house for you and Miss Taylor, in case you don’t want to stay after I’ve told you.”

Rosemary blinked at him, her hands unclenching just slightly. “What’s worse than finding your wife?”

So many things.  James smiled sadly.  She had no idea.  He reached out for her hand, enough a coward to need at least a small touch in case his apology wasn’t enough. “Can we go to our rooms?  I think we should sit.”  And if she always held tight to him when Hatty or Tessie moved them about the castle, well, he was too much of a coward to reject that too.

He held out the parcel when they were settled on the sofa in the sitting room.  It wasn’t wrapped very well, just plain paper around a gold Inkasia’s box, but he’d wanted to do it himself and it was harder than it looked.  He clasped the twining platinum and gold chain around Rosemary’s neck before she had a chance to stop staring at it.  Even if she rejected him, he wanted her to have it. He wouldn’t be giving it to anyone else and no one would understand what it meant in the muggle world anyway.

“There are charms on the pendant,” he tapped it with his wand, activating them, “so that it cools down if I’m ever lying to you and warms up if I’m anything more than friendly with another girl, even if I’m on the other side of the world.”

Rosemary blinked at him a moment before standing and taking a step away. “James, what did you do?”

“I shagged Lily Evans, a girl in my year I thought I wanted to marry.”  He reached out, grabbing Rosemary’s wrist as she started backing away from him, shaking her head. “It was a mistake and I knew it the moment it was over and I’m so sorry, I barely even know how it happened, just that as soon as it had I knew there couldn’t possibly be any girl I wanted more than you.”  He stood up, pressing his hand to Rosemary’s cheek, cupping her face in his palm so he could tilt her head to look at him. “Rosemary.  No other girls.  Do you understand?  Not ever.”

“I think…” she took a step back, far enough that he felt his legs start to give away. “I think I need to talk to Miss Taylor.”

James closed his eyes, wishing on his magic for her to stay.  All he needed was one more chance.  One more and he’d never do anything to hurt her again.

“It’s late,” he whispered, and it was.  Well past midnight, his last exam had been astronomy. “Stay here tonight and you can talk to her in the morning.  Please?”

“Jamie,” his eyes flew open when her voice broke, “I can’t.  Not — it hurts too much.”

“Not with me, we don’t have to sleep together.”  It was the only thing he wanted right now, but if he was honest with himself he knew he didn’t deserve it. “You can have our bed and I’ll stay in the Lady’s room.  Or you can stay in the Lady’s room, if you’d like.  It’s going to be yours anyway, if you stay.  Just…please, stay here, in our rooms.”  She didn’t have to, he wouldn’t dream of forcing her, but if she went back to the nursery he’d never be able to keep himself from camping outside it again.  He needed to have her near, even if he couldn’t touch her.

Rosemary nodded, gently pulling her wrist out of his grasp and turning toward the Lady’s room.  She hesitated for a moment before turning back and kissing his cheek, then going into the room and shutting the door.  James wasn’t sure if he should be hopeful or expect her to have left before morning.

The sun had barely risen when Rosemary tiptoed out of the heir suite and knocked on Miss Taylor’s door.  It was too early to be polite, but she couldn’t sleep and, anyway, Miss Taylor liked watching the sun rise while she sipped her morning tea.

“Rosemary, love, I thought you’d be —”

Rosemary glanced up, surprised to find Miss Taylor staring.  Yes, she probably should have washed her face and combed her hair at least before coming over, but she didn’t think she looked that bad.

“Where did you get that necklace?”

“Jamie got it for me, because he was a lying arse.”  She frowned down at the necklace.  She’d forgotten she was wearing it, if she hadn’t it would already have been flung out a window.  Stupid necklace.  All she could think of when she looked at it was some girl wrapped around James, feeling all the things that he’d promised only she would get to feel.

“I think you’d better come inside and explain.”

Rosemary tried not to glare or roll her eyes as she walked into the nursery.  Obviously.  That was why she’d gone to Miss Taylor to begin with.

“Just because you are upset is no reason to be rude.”

Apparently she hadn’t been successful.

She waited while Miss Taylor called for tea, trying her best not to fidget or otherwise look impatient.  Her lessons lately had focused on poise and self-control, two things both Miss Taylor and the Duchess were strict about.  Miss Taylor said it was important to master both as well as she could now, before she got a little older and her changing body made it that much harder.  The Duchess just said proper young ladies do not fidget or show excessive emotion around those who aren’t close family.  As Rosemary didn’t have any close family she chose to listen to Miss Taylor.

“Now,” Miss Taylor handed her a cup of tea, sweet and milky exactly as Rosemary liked it despite both her and the Duchess’ disapproval, “why don’t you tell me what Lord Stinchcombe did that made him decide to give you that necklace.”

Rosemary forced herself not to throw down her teacup and saucer, for all that she wanted to. “He fucked some stupid cow at stupid Hogwarts, the stupid arse.”

“Rosemary!”  Miss Taylor stared at her, hand pressed to her chest. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, little miss, but that kind of language is not appropriate for a young lady.”  She looked at Rosemary, raising an eyebrow when she crossed her arms and threw herself back into her seat.  The seconds seemed to tick by, each longer than the last as Miss Taylor simply watched her, her expression slowly shifting from disapproval to disappointment.

“I’m sorry,” Rosemary sighed, sitting up properly.  There was nothing worse than Miss Taylor’s disappointed face. “I’m just so — how could he do that?  He promised!”  She glared down at the necklace for a moment before yanking it off and throwing it on the table. “And he gave me that, a necklace to remember that he lied.”

Miss Taylor picked up the necklace, turning it over and gasping softly.  Rosemary looked curiously at her.  She hadn’t looked at the back.  Had barely looked at the front.  She couldn’t, not without the images of different girls curled up in bed with James.

“Did he tell you what this was?”

Rosemary shook her head. “He just put it on me and said it’d tell me if he was lying or with anyone.”  As if that would help.  What good was it to know he was a lying arse when she couldn’t do anything about it.  Couldn’t even hex every witch he’d been with fourteen ways to Sunday because she wasn’t a witch.  She couldn’t even throw a decent punch.  It wasn’t ladylike.

Miss Taylor was staring at her now, looking a mix of shocked and sympathetic.  It was an odd combination, especially when she smiled and added reassuring to the mix. “This is not just a necklace, love.  Nor is it just to apologise for what Lord Stinchcombe did.”  She shook her head, putting the necklace back around Rosemary’s neck. “I’m sorry, he probably thought you knew.  I never brought it into your lessons because I didn’t think it was relevant.”

“What is it then?”  Rosemary picked up the pendant, looking at it from all angles.  It looked like Jamie’s initials, a little.  If they were extra loopy and tangled together.  There was a stamp or engraving of some sort on the back, she thought it might look a little like the symbol on the front of all the Potter history books.

She looked up when she realised Miss Taylor hadn’t responded, watching as she rummaged through the bookcases until she found something in particular.

The Young Witch’s Guide to Courtship, Betrothal, Engagement, and Marriage Customs.”  Rosemary did a double take when the title sunk in, not caring that she was almost certainly going to be in comportment lessons all summer over that slip. “Miss Taylor?”

Miss Taylor just hummed, opening the book and flipping through the pages.  When she handed it back to Rosemary it showed a full page drawing of what looked like her necklace, only pure silver instead of interlaced silver and gold.  The drawing was captioned “Betrothal Design, James Hardwin Lancelot Avitus Potter, Marquess of Stinchcombe - Ancient and Most Gallant House of Potter”. She ran her fingers over it, want filling her in a way she couldn’t remember ever feeling before.  Jamie was an arse sometimes, but she’d still marry him in a second if she could.

“My necklace is different.”

Once again Miss Taylor said nothing, only smiling as she flipped back a page. There was her necklace. Exactly her necklace. A perfect match, front and back. Captioned “Courtship Design, James Hardwin Lancelot Avitus Potter, Marquess of Stinchcombe - Ancient and Most Gallant House of Potter. As presented to Rosemary Adinah Cohen.” Rosemary wasn’t entirely sure she was still breathing.

“Lord Stinchcombe is more than sorry, love.” Miss Taylor set the book down, sitting next to Rosemary on the sofa and taking her hands. “He’s asked you to court, which is far more important for a Potter than most other boys. He’s done it properly as well, there aren’t many wizards who would go through the trouble of asking their paterfamilias to commission jewellery with the family mark for a courtship necklace, not at first. Any witch or wizard worth thinking about who sees that necklace is going to know that Lord Stinchcombe has every intention of making you the next Duchess of Linfred.” She grinned, a wide, mischievous grin Rosemary hadn’t known Miss Taylor was capable of. “You won’t even need the old fidelity charms, not with that necklace. Any witch who tries to so much as peck his cheek is going to quickly find herself lacking for friends.”

Rosemary swallowed, clutching the pendant tight in her hand.  Jamie was going to marry her.  He’d as much as said so, to the entire world. She didn’t need to want, didn’t need to wish every single day that she was a witch so that she’d at least have a chance.  


“How will anyone know I’m wearing it?  I’m never around witches or wizards except here and with the Goldsteins.”  And she didn’t need to worry about Rachel Goldstein, as soon as Rosemary had shown her Alice’s letters she’d promised she’d get all seven of her brothers to kick James’ arse.

Miss Taylor opened her mouth for a moment before shutting it and frowning. “That is a good question.  Normally you’d tap your wand to it and — I wonder.  Tessie, could you come here please?”

Tessie popped in a moment later. “Yes, Lady Selwyn?  What can Tessie be doing for — OH!”  Tessie bounced over to Rosemary hopping from foot to foot and clapping her hands when she saw the necklace. “Master James is finally seeing what is being right in front of him!  Oh, the other elveses will be being so happy!”  She beamed up at Rosemary. “Is Mistress Rosemary wanting Tessie to help her make Master James’ gift?”

Rosemary glanced over at Miss Taylor. “Um, yes please?  I don’t really know what’s supposed to happen.”

“Oh that is being easy, Mistress Rosemary is not worrying about it.”  She snapped her fingers and the book Rosemary had been looking at flew over and settled in front of her, open to the same page it had been before. “Mistress Rosemary is seeing her necklace, yes?”  Another snap of her fingers and the blank page opposite started glowing faintly. “And the elf light?  Mistress Rosemary is holding her necklace, closing her eyes, and thinking very hard about Master James until Tessie is saying she is finished.  Tessie is doing the rest.”

Rosemary did as she was told, clutching the pendant in her hand and shutting her eyes tight.  She thought of James, the way his face lit up every time he saw her as he came through the floo.  How he’d spent the entire night sitting in front of the nursery last summer.  The awed way he’d looked at her the first time they were together, when she’d finally managed to take all of him inside of her, the slight burn barely worth noticing under the overwhelming sensation of being filled.  His pockets, always full of ribbons he’d gently tugged from her hair while they kissed or cuddled or even just sat together.  His fingers twisting inside of her, reminding her how good it could be after Alexander, even though she knew he was terrified of hurting her more.  His ridiculous hair, and how she could tell when it was rumpled from running her fingers through it even if no one else could.  The way he’d stared at her at Pesach, focused completely on her as she sang.  And her quiet wish from Christmas, the one she never thought would come true, of him standing beside her as she lit the Shabbat candles.

She gasped as a feeling went through her, like a wave crashing over her and fire flickering over her skin all at once.  It was terrifying and exhilarating and just as she thought it might be too much Tessie said she was done and it all collapsed into her, leaving her wide-eyed and panting.

“Here you goes, Mistress Rosemary, yous is just needing to put this on Master James and everything is being finished.”  Tessie held out a necklace like hers, with her loopy initials twisted together into an intricate design instead of Jamie’s.  When she glanced at the book she saw that the blank page had filled in with an identical picture. It was captioned “Acceptance Design, Rosemary Adinah Cohen. Created with the Assistance of Tessie, Designated Lady’s Elf to the Heir’s Consort.”

She flipped over the pendant, surprised to see there was a symbol of some sort on the back in the same place the Potter symbol was on hers. “I’ve never seen this one.”

Miss Taylor raised her eyebrows and leaned over, looking just as surprised as Rosemary.  As well she should be.  She was a right tyrant when it came to memorising the many symbols and crests and other ways wizards had of identifying themselves and their families.  Rosemary supposed she should be grateful for that now that she was going to be a Duchess one day (a Duchess, almost like in a fairy tale), but it had been mind-numbingly dull at the time.

“Congratulations, love,” Miss Taylor laughed, “you’ve just created your own line.”

“What?  How?”  Rosemary stared at the pendant. “Does that happen often?”

Miss Taylor kissed the top of her forehead, making her glow with warmth.  She loved when Miss Taylor did that.  It didn’t happen often enough. “No it does not, not even for pureblood witches.  It means you and Lord Stinchcombe are going to have a big family, so big that one of your daughters will need to branch off to help manage everything.”

“A big —” Rosemary looked up, disbelief slowly fading as Miss Taylor’s expression didn’t change. “Does that mean they’ll have magic?”

“At least a few of them.”  It wasn’t hard to see the wistful flash across Miss Taylor’s face, not when Rosemary knew she probably had the same one. “Squibs are very rare, you know, even when one of the parents is a muggle.  All of your children will probably have magic.” She tweaked a lock of Rosemary’s hair, which had recently started growing into loose, reddish-gold ringlets instead of the strawberry blonde waves Becca had had. “They’ll also have one of your traits linked to their magic, like how all Potters have rumpled hair and all Selwyns have a ring of violet around our pupils. Your children and grandchildren will likely look quite similar, I’m afraid, until your line becomes distinct from the Potter one.”

Rosemary smiled, looking down at the pendant with her initials.  The pendant that had been made with magic and her memories.  She was going to marry James.  She was going to marry James and have a big family with messy hair and maybe her eyes or colouring (but hopefully not her freckles) and if that meant being the only one without magic…it would be worth it.  More than worth it.

James shifted, rubbing blearily at his eyes when he felt a weight on his chest, only to smear fingerprints all over the glasses that were still on his face. “Rosemary?”

He must still be asleep.  That was the only reason Rosemary would be laying across him with that smug smile on her face.  He sighed, pulling her closer against him.  If he was dreaming he may as well enjoy it while he could.  There wasn’t much chance of Rosemary ever being in this bed again, not after what he’d done.

“I’m still cross with you.”

James froze.  That was not what Rosemary in his dreams would say.

“I’m still cross with you and I don’t think I can —” he felt her take a deep breath before starting over. “I keep thinking about the girl.  I can’t — not until I can stop.”

She was still there when he was brave enough to look down.  Rosemary.  On his chest.  In his arms.  Smiling, even if it had faded a little.

“I’m still cross, but…” she ran her finger across his chest.  Nudging something he definitely wasn’t wearing when he got in bed. “I’m staying.”

Chapter Text

“I want you to tell me what happened. All of it.”

Rosemary wasn’t sure what had driven her to ask that question. It had been a lovely hour or so since she’d come back to their bed. An hour of lazy kisses and delighted laughter when she’d told Jamie to look at the back of his pendant. She’d very nearly given in to the building need to be closer to him, to feel all the things he’d taught her she could feel and that she’d never again have to share with anyone else. Then she’d remembered the girl and the request had burst from her without thought. Somehow she didn’t think this was what Miss Taylor had meant when she’d told her to be sure to talk with Jamie about what he’d done. She was about to tell him she didn’t mean it, that it wasn’t important, when he spoke.

“She asked me why I hadn’t asked her to come here for summer.”

James was barely able to whisper the words.  Almost couldn’t get them past his lips.  He knew, somewhere in his head, that there was probably a way to make it sound like Lily’s fault.  Like she’d teased him until he didn’t have a choice.  Sirius would know how.  And Rosemary would probably believe him, it was obvious from the way she refused to use Lily’s name that she already hated her.

He couldn’t bring himself to do it.  It wouldn’t be lying, not exactly.  He could do it while telling enough of the truth that Rosemary’s necklace wouldn’t change.  There was so much of him that had felt entranced.  That had felt the world fall away, Rosemary and Linfred and everything that wasn’t Lily Lily Lily.  He didn’t understand it, not now that it was over.  How could he have ever forgotten Rosemary?

Except he had.  He had, the same way he had all but promised Lily he’d marry her.  Right before he’d ruined her first time. No, none of this was Lily’s fault.  It was his.  His for not stopping long enough to think.  His for taking advantage of her, even if he hadn’t meant to.  His for not realising that he already had the perfect girl at home, enchanting and talented and far more forgiving than he deserved.

He still couldn’t say the words.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, pulling Rosemary closer to him and pressing kisses to the top of her head. “I can’t. I—”

He sat up, moving so that she was sitting astride his lap, facing him.

“I want to forget it ever happened. It was stupid and it hurt everyone and if I could take it all away I could.” He cupped her face in his hand, enjoying the soft feel of her skin as he stroked along her cheek with his thumb. He wished he could do more than kiss the top of her head and touch the few places that weren’t covered by her nightdress. He wanted to kiss her breathless. Taste every part of her and slip his fingers inside her to remember how she felt. Show her how sorry he was with his mouth and hands since he couldn’t think of how to do it with words.

But he couldn’t. Not yet. Not until she was ready. He didn’t deserve to. Shouldn’t be allowed to touch her, really. If he was a brave Gryffindor and gallant Potter he’d keep himself to gently kissing her hands until he stopped feeling slimy every time he thought of Lily.

He wasn’t as brave or gallant as he’d like. He couldn’t bring himself to turn down the soft kisses Rosemary graced his lips with. Couldn’t stop himself from holding her as closely as she’d allow.

Rosemary nuzzled against Jamie’s palm, doing her best not to think of why he was being even more careful with her than usual. Why he’d not said anything when she kept on her nightdress, even going so far as to pull on one of the nightshirts he never wore without her saying a word. This was so peaceful. Their pendants bumped against one another when she pressed closer to him, a silly little reminder that he was hers. She should be happy. She was happy, mostly. She didn’t have to spend the next two years or longer waiting to be sent away.

Except that the reminder of their courtship was also a reminder of what James had done and as she brushed her lips against his she couldn’t help but wonder if that girl had done the same. Maybe he’d held her tight and close so that she felt like nothing bad could ever happen as long as he didn’t stop. Maybe she’d gasped when he’d pressed his tongue against her. Maybe she’d let him do some of the things the training books had mentioned, but that Rosemary couldn’t think about without blushing. Maybe maybe maybe. Hearing Jamie talk about it couldn’t be worse than the maybes she couldn’t get out of her head.

She kissed him one more time, soft and slow and trying to remember every touch and sigh. Then she slid from the bed, squeezing Jamie’s hand even as she shook her head when he started to follow her.

“I can’t,” she said. “I still want to court,” she wasn’t sure anything would ever make her not want to court and she had to say something to help the panic she could see rising in Jamie’s face, “but I think I’m going to go to the Lady’s room. I can’t stop thinking about that girl and…”

She closed her eyes for a moment, biting her lip and willing herself not to cry. She didn’t want to cry over that girl. She wanted to be happy and enjoy being courted and everything it meant even if she only really understood the small parts of it Miss Taylor had explained before she’d come to give Jamie his necklace. Going to the Lady’s room didn’t mean she couldn’t be happy. She could read the courtship books and maybe that would help her forget enough to not feel like she was going to cry even when she was happier than she thought she’d ever been before.

James was off the bed and gathering her against him before he knew what he was doing. He shouldn’t, he should let her go, let her be as angry with him as she wanted, but he’d never been able to watch her cry.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered again, over and over for all that he knew it would never be enough. “I think…” he swallowed down the sudden lump in his throat. “I can try to tell you, but if I can’t…there might be a way to show you. If I ask Father.” He pulled away, just enough that he could gently wipe her eyes so that she could look at him. “Only if it’ll help. I — Rosemary, I can’t…” he shook his head. There was no way he could find to explain how terrified he was of hurting her more. How he’d rather watch her shag Thomas than accidentally make things worse by doing what she asked. He allowed himself one small kiss, barely even worth noticing if he didn’t feel so much like he didn’t deserve it, before leading her out of their rooms. He wouldn’t ruin them by telling her how much of an arsehole he’d been in the same place he’d once fed her chocolates and strawberries after learning how perfectly they fit together.

 Rosemary curled into Jamie’s side on the sofa in what he’d called “The War Room”. Apparently generations of Potter heirs had come here when they’d had a row with their consort. The magic was supposed to be soothing. Maybe it was, maybe that was why she felt the need to press herself as close to him as she could while he tried to tell her of how he’d thought he’d marry the girl he’d shagged since the first time he’d seen her. Or maybe she just needed to feel his hand carding through her hair and hear every squeak and crack of his voice to convince herself he truly was sorry. That he did want her, and not that other girl. The girl he called captivating and enthralling and the perfect Duchess of Linfred.

He stopped when he got to a bed appearing. Rosemary glanced up to see him shaking his head, his eyes squeezed shut.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered and Rosemary felt as though she were watching herself like something on the telly. She reached for her necklace, closing her eyes and forcing herself to take a deep breath before moving to take it off. He’d made a mistake. She wished she could hate him, it would make it easier to go to the nursery and ask Tessie to take her and Miss Taylor wherever he’d set aside for them, but she didn’t. Wasn’t sure she could, even if this was worse than him having been with the girl to begin with.

Then he was kissing her, hurried and desperate, his fingers tangling in her hair and his other hand pulling her tight against him as he moved so that she was beneath him.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered again, this time next to her ear before kissing and nipping across every part of her that wasn’t covered by her nightdress. “I was an idiot and I never should have — every girl at Hogwarts that would have me and I kept wishing you were a witch, I should have known.”

He kissed her again, a deep, longing kiss that made her wish she could just stop thinking about that girl because this was wonderful and she’d missed him and if she could stop thinking about it she could have all the things she’d been wanting for months.

Except that she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Especially not when Jamie mentioned other girls, lots of them from the sounds of it, and she couldn’t help but wonder if Thomas would do that, or Fabian. If all boys were so thoughtless or if it was just wizards or maybe just Jamie because if he’d stopped at apologising she might have been able to forget long enough to properly enjoy being able to snog him again.

She pushed gently at his shoulders, smiling slightly when his eyes went wide and he nearly threw himself to the other end of the sofa, babbling apologies. Prat. Her prat, even if he was thoughtless sometimes and she wasn’t quite sure if she wanted to kiss him or hit him right now. She moved so that she could lean against him, taking his hand as she said, “I want you to show me, if you can. Not —” she took a deep breath, bracing herself for what she knew would likely hurt both of them, “Not just her. All of the girls.”

James shook his head, unable to think of anything close to how utterly horrifying that idea sounded to him. That was…it was cruel. All it would do is hurt. There was nothing good that could come of it, no more than him watching her with Thomas. Merlin, he wasn’t sure what would be worse, Lily or someone like McKinnon or Jones who meant nothing to him and who he hadn’t even enjoyed. At least Lily he could explain, had a reason for why he’d had her. McKinnon, Jones…everyone else, really, except maybe Alice and Meadowes, was just because he could.

She was worth so much more than them, was the bloody standard he’d been measuring them by even if he hadn’t fully realised it. He couldn’t — the idea made him sick. And her insistence, the certainty that she couldn’t see anything worse than what she’d already imagined, it had to be wrong. Of course it could be worse, James had been there and looking back it was all so much worse. No wonder Remus was always giving him such disappointed looks, even before he’d met Rosemary. James couldn’t imagine showing sweet, kind, sensitive Rosemary who made him leave treats for the bowtruckles as well as S’tara in case they felt unwanted how much of a tosser he’d been during his first year at school.

“Alright,” he finally agreed, “but not yet. Let me…let me see if Father can make something.”

Something that would at least help her understand how little the witches had meant to him. He wasn’t sure how to do that, maybe some combination of spell or change to the standard pensieve, but Father was a Potions and Runic Master who still sometimes worked with the Unspeakables. Every time James had asked for something he’d been able to manage it.

“And,” he brought her hand to his lips, hoping it would help him steady himself, “you have to let me show you happy memories too, memories of us. One for every bad one.”

He thought he could do that, nearly every memory he had of Rosemary was happy and there was only a year of girls to go through, plus Lily.

Rosemary nodded, snuggling back into James’ side. She could do that. And she could wait, even if she didn’t want to. This could be enough.

“How long do you think it’ll take your father to make what you want?”

James laughed slightly, kissing the top of her head. “Before your birthday, hopefully.”

Rosemary grinned, he was a prat, but he did usually know what she wanted. At least when it didn’t involve witches.

“Come on,” James stood and helped her off the sofa, “this isn’t a place for courting couples who aren’t having a row. We’ll —” he swallowed, closing his eyes for a moment, “we’ll come back when Father’s done. Right now, if you’d like, there’s…well, there’s more to a full pureblood courtship than just the pendants, if you’re being courted by the Potter heir.”

Rosemary didn’t bother answering, instead calling for Tessie to take them back to their rooms. She was still cross and she wasn’t at all sure how long she could push away the thoughts of all those other girls, but if James’ smile and kiss to her fingers meant anything she was going to quite enjoy whatever else being courted by the Potter heir meant.

Jewellery was what it meant, in part. James forced himself to kiss the back of Rosemary’s hand instead of her lips as he asked Hatty to bring all the parcels that had arrived from Inkasia’s. He picked up the one wrapped in an unusually smooth fabric that reflected the light. Platinum and Maricoxi hair, with just a hint of extra magic. He handed it to Rosemary, gesturing for her to open it when she looked curiously at him.

The fabric was larger than it looked, flowing from slightly larger than a handkerchief to a full length cloak with hood when James carefully pulled it out from under the Inkasia’s box. He stood, motioning for Rosemary to do the same, then wrapped the cloak securely around her.

“You’ll wear this for the courting ritual,” he explained, “and all the others except the final bonding and wedding. It’s charmed to always fit, no matter how much you grow. If —” he hesitated, unsure if he should say the next part, but unwilling to be less than perfectly truthful after what he’d done, “If you were a witch you’d wear this any time you went out instead of a normal cloak, even in summer. Maricoxi hair is always the perfect temperature and resistant to most dangerous spells and creatures, at least in Europe.”

If she went to South America it’d be near useless for protection, but that was what the next gift was for. He picked up the Inkasia’s box, pulling out the wrist cuff inside. Platinum and gold twisting around rubies, there wouldn’t be a witch in Britain who didn’t hate her a little once they found out.

“I want you to promise me you’ll wear this all the time. Even in the bath or when you go swimming or it’s just us.” James couldn’t quite keep himself from kissing her quickly, just once. “It has protection and healing charms woven into it so that you can go anywhere on any of the Potter properties you want, even when I’m at school. If you’re ever in more danger than it can protect you from it’ll take you right to me or Father, no matter where we are.” Protection and healing charms that had been nearly as expensive and painful to have added as the next benefit.

He wrapped the cuff around Rosemary’s wrist, then handed her his wand. “Wrap your cloak around the handle, yes, like that, now hold the tip to the bracelet and think of me, like you did to make my necklace.”

“But —”

“I know. Try it anyway.”

He watched as she did what he asked, ignoring the way she looked at him as though he’d gone mad. According to Father he had, but Father didn’t know what it was like to worry about whether or not your future wife would grow to resent not being a witch.

Besides, the look on Rosemary’s face when she opened her eyes and saw a cuff on his wrist and a cloak around his shoulders was more than worth the exhaustion of having pieces of his magic extracted.

“It’s not for everything,” he warned, relieved when she didn’t look as disappointed as he thought she might, “only Potter family rituals, like our courtship. One of my ancestors designed it after he had a squib son. It’s —” he shook his head, raising Rosemary’s hand to his lips yet again. “It’s the closest I can come to giving you magic. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with you not having magic,” he rushed to add. He didn’t, not the way Malfoy or sometimes he thought maybe even Peter and Sirius did. “I just…I don’t want you to hate me like Charlotte hated Father.”

Rosemary shook her head, smiling as she raised herself on her toes to kiss James. It was things like this that made it so easy to forget how much of an arse he could be. “I could never hate you,” she promised.

She couldn’t, certainly not over something neither of them could do anything about like magic. She couldn’t even hate him over shagging that girl, as much as part of her wanted to.

Yes, feeling what it was like to have magic flowing through her like she had when making his necklace was exhilarating in ways she couldn’t describe, but she didn’t need it all the time. Jamie was going to marry her. She didn’t need to be a witch for that. Didn’t need to be a witch to never have to leave him and Linfred. That was enough. She would make it be enough, make sure she appreciated every moment and ritual with Jamie, all the things she never thought she’d have. She didn’t need magic too.

“Jamie?” she asked, after she’d handed him back the wand she couldn’t use and they’d sat back on the sofa, a pile of boxes still on the table in front of them. “How come we can court now? Why didn’t you ask before?”

She’d always thought he couldn’t marry a muggle, that if he could he would have already asked her. Especially after finding out about his father and Charlotte.

“It’s —” James shook his head, kissing her knuckles. She almost wanted to tell him he didn’t have to, that he could kiss her any time he liked, but for some reason the soft brush of his lips against her fingers made her stomach flutter nearly as much as a proper kiss. “No Potter has married a muggle in over three centuries,” he explained, “not since before the Statute of Secrecy, and none of the ones who did were heirs.  I didn’t think we were allowed.  Father always made it sound like I had to marry a witch, so did my tutor and all the training books.  I thought...”  He looked up, meeting and holding her eyes as he spoke. “As soon as I left Lily I went to write Father.  I asked him to find out who the estate would go to if I married a muggle and couldn’t be his heir.”

Rosemary stared at him, forcing herself to shove aside the rush of anger and pain that flared up every time he said that girl’s name so that she could process what he’d said. “You’re not the Potter heir anymore?”  Miss Taylor hadn’t said that.  In fact, she and Jamie both seemed to have said the opposite.  If marrying her meant Jamie had to give up Linfred, almost give up his family, she wouldn’t let him.  She’d tell him about Thomas and his mad idea about Marc and Susan and Ellinor.  Rachel or Alice would probably agree, if she asked them.

“No, I still am,” James said, “or I couldn’t have given you that necklace.  I didn’t know that though, not when I asked.  It’s — I can’t just marry you like if you were a witch, I have to get permission.” 

From bloody everyone.  If it was just Mother and Father and Sarah and Wendy that’d be fine, they’d never stand in his way.  Sarah was probably going to be thrilled, once she stopped hexing him long enough for him to tell her.  But he also had to convince the sister and nephews he’d never met and Great-Uncle Charlus which was going to be a nightmare.  He wasn’t even sure that was all, Father still had to go through the rest of the family ritual books to see who counted as a Potter.  He may well have to ask Sirius or Fabian or even Snape.

Rosemary was worth it though.  More than worth it.  He had picked platinum for her instead of silver or even goblin gold for a reason.  Only the Potter heir and his intended were allowed platinum in their jewellery, and most chose not to.  It wasn’t usually worth the risk of upsetting the goblins for, not when goblin silver never tarnished.  He wouldn’t give her anything less though, couldn’t even consider it.  She was perfect.  She had to have platinum, nothing else would do.  And he wouldn’t risk people like Malfoy and Sirius’ awful cousin thinking she wasn’t worth every privilege and luxury and right of House Potter.  She was going to be a duchess, would be Lady Potter-Cohen as soon as the betrothal was official, and he was going to make sure everyone knew it.

He picked up another parcel, handing it to her. She was going to be a duchess and that meant the full set of courtship jewellery. Every single piece. Dozens of different ways for them to show they belonged to each other, since she couldn’t go to Hogwarts where everyone would see. Each another unspoken apology, each a promise that he’d never again hurt her the way he had. Some of it even muggle, cufflinks to match her earrings and a wristwatch alongside the pocket watch when she pressed his wand to her box of hairpins and clasps. He couldn’t help but smile at the magic somehow knowing that he wanted — needed — both.

The buttons and robe closures were second to last, immediately whisked away by Tessie to be added to all of their clothes. Then he was kneeling in front of her, feeling more than a bit silly because he wasn’t at all sure Meadowes hadn’t lied to him about this custom. She had reason, she was far more Lily’s friend than his, but he had to try anyway. If he was wrong he would only look a little odd, if he was right…Rosemary’s sudden intake of breath when he presented the ring box to her told him he was right.

“The magic for this one has to wait until we’re in front of people,” he explained, sliding the ring onto the middle finger of her left hand. Not traditional according to Meadows, but when Goldstein had found out he’d insisted. The design was traditional, dating back to an ancestor around the time the Statute of Secrecy was enacted. Twining gold and platinum bands and hands grasping a heart-shaped ruby to match everything else; it had once belonged to Great-Great Grandmother Susan. “You’ll make mine during the ritual. It’s the entire ritual, really. Just us and close family so that the family books and courtship books of other families can be updated. I thought you might like to do it the day before your birthday. My sister and her family will be here and we can ask Thomas and Miss Taylor too.”

Rosemary only realised she’d stopped breathing when James looked up at her for a response. She swallowed, trying to remember how to speak when every part of her was a wordless cacophony of disbelief and joy.

“The day before my birthday?”

James blushed, his free hand rubbing against his trouser leg. “I’d hoped we could spend your birthday alone.  If you want.  We don’t have to, it’s your birthday and I understand if you’re still too cross with me, especially if it takes Father a while and you can’t see the memories until close to it, I just thought it might be nice, even if we don’t do anything, we could just sit if you like, I only —”

Rosemary kissed him, cutting him off. It was cute that he rambled when he got nervous. She liked listening to him, almost as much as she liked the way to stop him. The way he immediately relaxed against her, raising his hand to cup the side of her face, his thumb stroking across her cheek. She thought she might be able to spend all day just kissing him, enjoying the warm, fluttery sensation that it always spread through her. Even when they pulled apart the soft, adoring way Jamie looked at her made the fluttering grow.

“That sounds nice.”

And then she was kissing him again, sliding off the sofa and into his lap. She almost forgot all about that girl and all the other girls and what they might have done with Jamie. It wasn’t the same. She was sure it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. Not when Jamie was looking at her like that, holding her the way he was, like she was precious and treasured and he wasn’t sure what he’d done to be so lucky as to have her. She pushed away the images. That girl wasn’t worth thinking about.

Thomas shook out his hand, wincing slightly at the sting. Bloody hell, that had hurt more than he remembered. He must have gone soft, being cloistered up in this bloody castle with Mr Khatri watching over him even when they went into the village. And what the buggering hell was Mary shouting at him for? She had to have known he wasn’t just going to let James bloody Potter treat his baby sister like some slag he could stick his knob in when he was bored. Bloody Potter. How dare he come waltzing in here with Mary on his arm, like he hadn’t been going around with some witch at that school of his. Thomas drew back his arm for another punch, almost falling over when Mary darted in front of Potter so that he had to jerk back to avoid hitting her.

“Stop it!” She was fuming, glaring at him in a way he hadn’t thought she was capable of.

He blinked, glancing over at Sarah who was staring at Potter and Rosemary like they were bloody fairies or vampires or something that didn’t already exist in this bizarre world he’d found himself in. Just standing there, staring, instead of drawing that wand of hers and hexing her twat of a brother the way she’d said she had all term.

Potter managed to stand up. Thomas felt himself smile when he saw the bruise already forming on the wanker’s cheek. Arsehole. He wished he wasn’t so obviously out of practice, before he could have beaten a poncy little git like Potter bloody without breaking a sweat.

Mary stopped glaring at him long enough to turn to Potter, worry lining her face when she reached up to touch the bruise. She called for that house elf of hers, glowering at him over her shoulder while the elf rubbed some sort of lotion over Potter’s face. Bollocks. Bloody magic. It took the fun out of everything.

Potter stopped Mary when she tried to stomp over, looking angry enough that Thomas almost took a step back before he remembered that she was half his size and almost certainly had never so much as slapped anyone in her life. “It’s alright,” he said, looking at Thomas rather than Mary, “I deserved that.”

“Of course you bloody did, you tosser. Mary’s not some sort of sodding concubine.” He turned to Mary, ignoring whatever it was Potter was trying to say in his defence. Arsehole. “You don’t have to stay here, I’ll ask Mr Khatri and we’ll go with you and Miss Taylor and you can go to a regular school and be normal and then meet a nice boy who doesn’t care that you’re not a witch. You won’t be alone, I promise.”

Mary’s glare turned to exasperation before she shook her head and smiled at him. “You’re a prat.”  She held out her hand, showing off a ring that looked oddly like a more posh version of the one his roommate back at the home had nicked to give to a girl he fancied. “Jamie doesn’t care that I’m not a witch. He’s courting me, so that we can get married one day.”

Thomas stared at her, looking between her and Potter as the words sunk in. 

“I thought you weren’t allowed.”  At least not for real, he was still sure there was more to those ancestors of his than the blind idiot thought.

“So did I.”  James smiled down at Mary, pulling her close against his side.  Bugger.  He couldn’t punch someone who looked at his sister like that, full of adoration and gratitude. “I didn’t care.  Not if it meant I could marry Rosemary.”

Sarah squealed, high pitched and painful in a way he just knew she was going to hate later tonight, when she remembered and wasn’t too excited to notice.  She launched herself at James before throwing her arms around Mary. “You’re going to be my sister!  I knew something must have happened when he didn’t even try to stop me and Snape hexing him,” she glared around Mary at James, “I almost wrote so many times, but I didn’t think it was the kind of thing to put in a letter and now —” she hugged Mary again. “You are making him grovel, aren’t you? You should, he deserves it. Make him wait on you hand and foot all summer. No getting into your knickers until he’s properly made it up to you.”

Thomas rolled his eyes as both Mary and James blushed — though James’ looked rather more guilty. Sarah enjoyed teasing people too much.

Which wasn’t to say he disagreed. Tosser had nearly broken Mary, made her spend the last fortnight sobbing in Thomas’ room because she couldn’t stand to stay in hers. He bloody well should grovel at her feet all summer. Thomas had half a mind to see if Fabian could help him get back at the wanker for being so bloody selfish. Fabian was Potter’s friend, but he seemed a decent bloke and he had sisters himself, even if they were older. Thomas thought he could probably talk him around.

Later though.  Right now Mary was happier than he’d ever seen her, joy seeming to glow around her as she showed off the ring and buttons and jewellery that marked her out as James’ intended.

Marked her out.  He glanced sharply at James, raising his eyebrows.  James held up his own wrist, revealing emerald cuff links and bracelets to match Mary’s.  When Thomas looked a bit closer he could see that James’ shirt also had buttons like the ones down the front of Mary’s dress, they just blended better than on the white.  Not quite as obvious as a ring though, was it?

“I’ll have a ring too,”  James’ voice was low, just loud enough for Thomas to hear it, “before the end of summer, and it’s all much more obvious on robes, especially school ones.”

Good.  Sarah had come home at Christmas fretting over how half the boys wanted her just because she was a Potter, while the other half ignored her because she was an adopted Potter.  That school sounded like a mess of drama, everyone trying to make the best match for themselves and not caring who they hurt in the process.  Who thought of getting married at eleven anyway?  Or even thirteen.  He’d been thirteen when he got here and as much as Sarah had made him feel light headed, he never would have thought of asking her to marry him.  Wizards were an odd bunch.

James tilted his head toward Sarah’s library.  Thomas glanced at the girls, making sure they wouldn’t be missed before following him in.

“Rosemary needs a family, before we can get betrothed.”

Thomas blinked.  What the buggering hell did that have to do with him?  It wasn’t as if he could adopt her, no matter that he thought of her as his family. “Guess you’ll have to bring her sister back then, eh?”

He was surprised at the trace of red light that crackled across James’ arms at that.  From what he’d heard Rebecca had been a right piece of work, but it hardly seemed her fault.  She was just a little girl, barely older than Mary.

“Rebecca will not be coming near Linfred.  Never again.”  James looked nearly as angry as he’d been when Alexander was still here.  He closed his eyes, the light falling back into his skin as he breathed slowly.  When he spoke again his voice was measured, as though he was only just managing to control himself. “I have to pick people to be part of Rosemary’s family, a new one, since she doesn’t have one of her own.  Magic can make you related for real.  At least, it can according to our family books.”  He frowned, the tension falling from him as he seemed to think of something. “I don’t know how it works for muggle things.  You’d be her family to us though, so you could stay here forever if you want, no matter what.”

“What do I have to do?”  Thomas didn’t even have to think about it.  Mary was his little sister.  If she was getting a new family he was going to be a part of it.

“Nothing, just a quick ritual.  All you have to do is stand still.”  James’ shoulders dropped as he smiled. “You have no idea how glad I am you said yes.  I need help thinking of who else to ask, if you’d said no I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

Thomas smiled, digging through Sarah’s desk for a pen and paper.  Mary was getting a family.  He was going to make sure it was the best damned one he and James could come up with.

James frowned at his reflection.  Maybe he should wear robes.  They were what he’d have worn if Rosemary was a witch.  She wouldn’t be in robes though and he  didn’t want her to feel out of place if she was the only one in muggle clothes.  Was a suit enough?  What did muggles wear to formal dinners?  He should have asked Thomas, or maybe his tutor.

What was Father playing at anyway, asking him to bring Rosemary?  He was going to properly introduce her to the family, of course he was, but he’d wanted it to be a little at a time.  Not the entire bloody lot at once, even the sister and nieces and nephews he’d never met — in full dress robes, at that.  He shook his head and asked Hatty to bring Thomas’ tutor to him.  He knew bugger all about muggle customs, it was time to start fixing that.

In the end the suit wasn’t enough, not when Mr Khatri found out that he’d otherwise wear his most formal dress robes.  The muggle equivalent at least wasn’t too far off, the coat falling to cover his bum.  Mother may have been fine with shirt and trousers when it was just him and Rosemary, but he didn’t want to think about the fits she might have if he showed up to a formal dinner so inadequately covered.  And the tie wasn’t so bad, really.  He wasn’t sure why Thomas complained about it so much.  It had nothing on the stiff-necked robes he had to wear whenever Father paraded him around the Ministry.  The tie could at least be loosened a little.  Mr Khatri said the studs and cufflinks should technically be pearl, but on that point James didn’t particularly care.  He was courting Rosemary.  He would wear the emerald studs and cufflinks, as well as the pocket watch and one of the armbands.  It wasn’t his fault muggle clothing wasn’t well adapted for wizarding courtship traditions.

He took one last look at himself, convincing himself it would be fine.  He looked...well, actually, he thought he looked a right prat.  He’d thought that the first time he wore muggle clothes too though and now he hardly blinked at switching into shirt and trousers when he got home from school.  He’d adjust.

Rosemary was waiting for him when he walked out of the dressing room.  Suddenly his own clothing didn’t seem to matter anymore.  No one was going to notice if he looked ridiculous or not, not when he was standing next to her.  For every part of him that felt absurd in the muggle costume, ten more parts thought she was something out of a fairy tale.  He had been worried the traditional Potter rubies would either clash or blend too much with her colouring, enough that he had considered sapphires or one of the other, less traditional options.  Now he was glad he hadn’t.  Nothing could compare to the way his heart raced at the sight of her in Potter gems.

He was in front of her so quickly he thought he might have apparated, just barely managing to stop before he’d swept her up in his arms and kissed her until she moaned. He wanted to. Merlin, he wanted to. She was a vision in Potter rubies, somehow even managing to surpass the perfection of when he’d first walked in to see her in his rooms.  Just looking at her made his mouth dry. Bloody dinner.  He’d barely been home three days. He’d not had nearly enough time with Rosemary all to himself, not between apologising and telling Sarah and Thomas and now this dinner he’d really rather miss.

But he was still the Potter heir.  He was grateful for still being the Potter heir, truly.  Which meant he needed to be down in the entry hall to greet his relatives.  Right now.  With his intended. No matter how much he’d rather do nearly anything at all as long as it involved only the two of them. He called for Hatty.

The group that greeted them in the entry hall was a bit of a surprise.  Mother, Father, Sarah, Wendy, those were all expected, obviously.  He hadn’t known that Thomas and Miss Taylor would be there as well.

“I thought Rosemary might like to have more familiar faces.”  Father’s explanation was low enough that James was fairly certain he was the only one who heard. “I know you would have preferred a more casual introduction.”

James nodded.  He would have.  Far more casual.  One of them at a time, ideally.

“I wouldn’t worry.  Your mother says she has prettier manners than most of the girls at your school.”

She did.  He’d known that since spring, known that she could easily pass for a pureblood if given the opportunity.  She was already chatting with Mother, looking every bit the aristocrat he planned to make her.  She truly was perfect.  It was embarrassing that it’d taken him so long to realise.

“You knew before it was too late.  That’s all that matters.”

James looked up, startled.  He hadn’t meant to say that last bit out loud.  Father was smiling though, despite James’ flush.  He nudged James toward where Rosemary was standing, allowing him to go be with his intended while they waited for the announcement that Lucy and her family were arriving.  His intended.  James wasn’t sure he’d ever get tired of thinking the words.  Maybe when they were replaced by his betrothed or his fiancee or, one day, eventually, when they were fully grown, his wife.  Wife.  Yes, he rather thought that had a nicer ring to it than intended.

It wasn’t long before Lucy arrived, the entire family in a coach pulled by Potter Abraxans.  Getting permission to fly a team of Abraxans from Toronto to Gloucestershire had apparently taken Father weeks of effort, but both he and James had insisted on it.  Potters had returned from long periods away from Linfred by Abraxan coach for centuries.  Anything less would have been insulting.

His sister was a Potter through and through, that much was obvious just by looking at her.  Dark brown hair, styled so that the Potter mess looked intentional, and thick tortoiseshell glasses to correct the notoriously terrible Potter vision.  She was old enough to be his mother, acted rather like a mother, actually, when she took his face in her hands to kiss the top of his head instead of accepting a kiss to the back of her hand like a witch closer to his age would.  It didn’t matter.  She was another sister, another Potter, and James was able to introduce Rosemary as his intended.  There was nothing that could make him happier.

Well.  Maybe one thing.  A bit more tact on the part of his eldest niece would have been nice.  Her sudden pronouncement that she’d only come because her beau was an English exchange student who’d been sent to apprentice with the Ministry was less than welcome.  James found himself wondering just what kind of education his relatives had been receiving over there in Canada, that a grown witch of eighteen could be so rude.  To her credit, Lucy did apologise and scold her for it, but still.  It had a rather dampening effect on the rest of dinner.  One that even the older boy, Andrew’s, intrigued questions about the estate and family history couldn’t quite dispel.  James was relieved when they retired to the parlour.

That relief was unfortunately short-lived when he overheard Rosemary speaking to his youngest niece, a girl of about Wendy’s age.

“Oh no, I’m a muggle.  Miss Taylor teaches me here at Linfred.”

It was such an innocent statement.  Rosemary was a muggle and she was educated in the castle.  As of course she should be.  Even the Weasleys could afford a governess for their girls rather than having to send them to muggle schools.  That didn’t make James’ pulse race any less as he prepared to defend his intended from any untoward remarks.

“Really?”  Emily didn’t sound at all disgusted or concerned.  James allowed himself to relax slightly. “My granny and nan and pop-pop are muggles too.  They don’t really like magic though, especially Granny.  Is it different here?”

That was when James remembered his sister was a halfblood.  Her children were halfbloods.  Halfbloods with a muggleborn father, from the sounds of it.  Getting approval to be formally betrothed suddenly seemed much less difficult.

Nathan, one of the twins, was looking at him a bit oddly when he brought his attention back to the conversation he was having with the pair of them. “You’re courting a muggle?” he asked, “Where’d you meet her?  Mom said you have way more laws about staying away from them than we do.”

“She was my girl, for my coming of age.”  James had to force himself not to let his irritation show when both Nathan and Grace looked horrified. He’d best be getting used to that. Horror was likely to be one of the better reactions once he went back to school. “You know,” he continued, “like your grandmother.”

He was vaguely aware of both of them glaring at him before the teacup in his hand shattered.  He barely had a chance to be surprised by that, barely had time to blink at his hand in shock before he was on his arse with the twins’ wands pointed at him.

“You take that back!”  Grace looked furious, magic crackling through her hair.  That was definitely the Potter temper.  If only he could figure out what he’d said to set it off.

Father, Lucy, and Rosemary were all rushing over and James had the sudden realisation that he’d allowed himself to be taken by surprise when his muggle intended was in a room full of witches and wizards.  He scrambled to his feet.  That was unacceptable.  The twins were family, he wanted them to feel welcome, but Rosemary was beside him now and being able to defend her mattered more.  If his new relatives didn’t understand that they could piss off.

He pushed Rosemary behind him, ignoring her protests.  He’d explain later.  He wasn’t worried about her anger nearly as much as her safety.

“He called Granny a whore!”

James found himself staring at Nathan’s outraged defence. “I did not!”  He looked at Father, knowing that he at least would hear him out. “I only said that she was your girl, like Rosemary was mine.”

“She wasn’t!”

“I’m sorry,” James willed his father to know just how sorry he was.  Nearly more sorry than he’d ever been in his life. “I thought they knew.”

And he had.  Why wouldn’t they?  It wasn’t as if being a wizard’s girl was anything to be ashamed of.  Charlotte would have received the best education possible, more than most muggles could dream of.  If she’d stayed Father would have set her up with her own portion of the estate.  It would only have been right, since she was the mother of his child.

Lucy and Father were talking to the twins now, as well as the rest of the family, who had come over in the midst of the commotion.  James felt Rosemary’s hand slip into his own.  He squeezed it, trying to wrap his head around the idea that anyone could think so poorly of coming of age gifts.  It occurred to him that if they thought Charlotte being his Father’s girl made her a whore, then they must also think Rosemary had once been his.  He had to tug her into his side and breathe in the scent of her hair to calm his magic at that.

“Are all wizards so brainless, or is it only Potters?” 

James groaned softly.  Thomas’ voice had broken above the chatter, drawing everyone’s attention to him.  It wouldn’t be so bad if Thomas wasn’t one of the least diplomatic people James had ever met. 

“Do you really think The bloody Duke of Linfred would let his only son,” Thomas nodded toward James and Rosemary, “marry his muggle coming of age gift if we were just, I dunno, well kept slags?”

“Mr Morrison!”  Mother’s voice was sharp across the tension.  When he glanced at her he saw that her hands were over Wendy’s ears while Miss Taylor’s were over Emily’s.

Thomas winced, smiling sheepishly in the direction of the younger girls. 

“Sorry,” he apologised, “but it’s true.  Mary wouldn’t be marrying into the family if she was just a...what they said.”  He turned back to the twins, his eyes dark in a way that reminded James of his threats should he hurt Rosemary. “And if you say anything like that about my sister again, there won't be enough magic in the world to put you back together.  You know what muggles can do.”

He shouldn’t enjoy the flash of fear in the twins’ eyes at those words.  He shouldn’t.  They were family.  He should want them to feel safe and welcome at Linfred.  It was their family home too.  He didn’t care.  Not when they’d suggested such an awful thing about his girl.  His intended.  The future Duchess of Linfred.  He nodded gratefully at Thomas.  He’d have to make sure he didn’t get in trouble with Father or his tutor for that threat.  It was well deserved.

Especially since the twins appeared to have inherited the Potter stubbornness as well as the temper.  James had to hold back a sigh at their crossed arms and mullish expressions.  He’d seen that look on Sirius’ face before.  It never meant anything good.  Nathan at least was slightly less tense.  He might see reason, if James could just apologise.  Grace though...Grace looked like Sarah, when she’d gone into his room after the first mess with that boy of hers.

Not that he could blame her, not once what she was saying caught up to him.  Merlin, if that’s what Charlotte had told her family being a Potter’s girl was like no wonder none of them had wanted to visit.  He was amazed that they’d come now.  He looked around, relieved to see that Mother and Miss Taylor appeared to have taken Wendy and Emily from the room.  They shouldn’t have to hear such awful things.  He didn’t want Rosemary hearing them, come to think of it.  He quietly called for Hatty.  Father would understand.

Rosemary was back in the heir suite before the twins’ words caught up with her.  They — that was —

“Is that what people think?”  She looked up at James, hoping she looked less shaken than she felt. “That we — that we’re like Rebecca and the men at the orphanage?”

“No.”  James held her tight against him, lowering his head so that he could say the words in her ear. “No one who matters thinks that.  The twins are just,” he shook his head slightly, the movement ticklish against her neck, “they’re confused, I think.  They could never think that if they knew us.”

She hoped not.  The idea of what she and Jamie did being compared to what had made Rebecca so angry made her feel like spiders were crawling down the back of her dress.  If that was what the nuns at school had thought no wonder they’d always said it was dirty and sinful.

It wasn’t though.  It was…she didn’t know how to describe it.  Like cocoa and jumping over a hurdle on Daphne and getting a song just right for the first time all at once.  It made her feel special and warm, in a way that nothing else did.  Not even being with Thomas.  She loved Thomas, maybe more than she’d loved Rebecca, but he didn’t make her feel the way Jamie did.

She pressed her lips to his, enjoying the way he knew exactly how to kiss her so that she felt like she was made of light and air.  Jamie always held her so carefully.  No matter what they were doing, whether she was cuddled against him on the sofa or begging for harder faster deeper, he was always careful.  Always held and looked at her like she was a gift he didn’t believe he was lucky enough to get.

Nothing about this could be like Nathan and Grace thought.  Nothing about it felt dirty or wrong.  Jamie treated her like a princess.  He always had, even at the beginning.  She whimpered as he pulled away. Jamie was still being cautious around her, still holding back even when she tried to press for more. It was maddening, really. Sweet, so perfectly Jamie, but maddening.

“Can we —” she looked down, playing with Jamie’s cufflinks. She could say it. She could. She’d said it before. “Can we be close? Please?”

James closed his eyes, forcing himself not to leap at the chance to feel Rosemary’s skin against his again. “Are you sure? It’s not — it’s not just because of what the twins said?”

Rosemary shook her head. “Please?” she asked again, “I miss you.”

James’ eyes opened at the way Rosemary’s voice cracked. “Of course,” he whispered, giving her one of the few soft kisses he’d allowed himself over the last few days.

She looked just as perfect wearing only her courtship jewellery as he expected. More, even. And from the way her eyes widened and darkened when he slid back on his armband and added one of the cuffs after she’d undressed him, he rather thought Rosemary might feel the same way. Keeping himself to running his hands along her back and through her hair after she settled herself on his chest was harder than dragging his magic back inside himself when it had gotten out of control. It was worth it. Worth the way he was able to fall asleep easily, even with questions about the twins and his family and what Charlotte may have told them spinning around his head.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” James asked again. “We can wait until Father’s finished so that you can see the memories first.”

Rosemary shook her head. She still wanted to see the memories, but more than that she wanted to do the ritual. She wanted to be courting, properly and publicly so that everyone knew. She wanted Jamie to have a ring to match hers and she wanted the Potter family magic to recognise her as his intended. The other girls were…she could ignore them for a little while longer. She kissed Jamie, enjoying the way he sighed and relaxed into her, like he was grateful just to be allowed to touch her. One kiss and then it was time to call Tessie.

There was something about Wilereykos that always calmed whatever worries or fears James had.  From the time he could remember, he’d go sit under the branches and feel like generations of Potters were telling him everything would turn out fine.  Looking at Rosemary, kneeling with him next to the willow tree as they prepared to make their courtship public, he was glad for the comforting influence of his ancestors.  Otherwise he’d be a be a ball of nerves, especially with Andrew and Emily forming part of the circle surrounding them.

None of the other Campbells had chosen to attend.  James let Wilereykos brush away the tingle of frustration and fear that brought.  It was ok.  They’d only been at Linfred a week.  He had plenty of time to convince Lucy and Nathan to approve his betrothal to Rosemary.  For right now, all that mattered was the courtship.  Rosemary smiling at him, her eyes sparkling more than the ruby fairies holding her hair back.  He’d have to see about commissioning her a set a of hair ribbons with the Potter crest on them.  The rubies were pretty, made his mouth dry and his palms sweat with how lovely she looked in them, but they weren’t nearly so easy to gently pull out of her hair.

He was pulled from his thoughts by a sudden breeze swirling through Wilereykos’ branches, bringing with it the scent of salt and seaweed and splashing in the cold surf.  It was familiar, comforting somehow.  Like laughing with Rosemary as they played one of the muggle games she liked, or running into the castle with her when they got caught in a sudden storm.  Then warmth, not quite enough to be stifling, mixing with the breeze so that he had a sense of lighting candles under the stars, feeling overwhelmed with wonder at something that hinted at history longer than even the Potters’.

Rosemary was glowing, magic surrounding her as she held his wand to her ring.  James wished he could find the words to describe her in that moment, to express even a small portion of how magnificent she looked with magic spinning around her.  If he could he’d make it so that she could always feel this, always be surrounded by magic that somehow made her even more irresistible than she already was.

The magic coalesced, collapsed into a glowing ball above their hands before bursting into a shower of sparks that formed his courtship ring.  When James looked up he realised that the enchanting glow had nothing to do with magic at all.  It was just Rosemary.  His Rosemary.

He kissed her, tangling his fingers in her hair and not caring that his family was watching.  They were courting.  Formally and publicly.  They were allowed a bit of gentle kissing while his magic settled.  He let his teeth just catch on her bottom lip, just enough to draw out a sigh as she relaxed into him.  Who the bloody hell thought it was a good idea to expect newly courting couples to chat with their families after the ceremony?  Rosemary was perfect, letting her arms be guided to wrap around his neck and easily pressing against him when he put his hands on her waist to pull her closer.  All he wanted to do was take her back to their rooms and spend the rest of the day doing exactly this.

James pulled back.  Bloody traditions.  They were clearly invented by bitter old hags who’d never known how hard it is to separate from your intended.  He let his head rest against Rosemary’s, not yet ready to open his eyes and share the moment with the world.

When he managed to force himself to open his eyes, Rosemary was smiling at him.  He kissed her again, sulking when she giggled and pulled away.  She stood, tugging on his hand until he followed.  Surprisingly, no one was quite looking at them, instead talking quietly amongst themselves while house elves set out lunch.

Mother turned, smiling at their clasped hands. “We thought we’d give you some time to adjust.  Potter men always have a hard time with the courtship rituals.”  She winked at Rosemary. “I had to stop Fleamont from taking us back to his rooms when we started our public courtship.”

James forced himself not to grimace.  Why did Mother always insist on saying things like that?

Miss Taylor was the next to come over, curtsying for James before pressing a kiss to Rosemary’s forehead.  He tried not to show how uncomfortable both gestures made him.  The first because Miss Taylor was going to be family soon, one of the people he’d picked for Rosemary’s family, and the second for no reason he could explain.  It just felt…wrong, having someone touching Rosemary right now.  Even Miss Taylor, who was the closest thing she had to a mother.

“Ah, pardon me, Lord Stinchcombe.”  Miss Taylor smiled at him, realisation and understanding lighting her eyes. “It’s been so long since my sister’s courtship, I forgot about that part of the ritual magic.”  She put out her hand, stopping Emily and Wendy from running to hug them. “Not just now girls, James and Rosemary are going to be a little sensitive for a while.”

James frowned, reaching out for his magic.  It felt the same as always.  A bit lighter, faster to respond, but that always happened when he was happy.  It was just a courtship ritual, nothing should be affecting his magic until the betrothal, at least.  Probably not until the wedding and bonding, since Rosemary didn’t have any magic of her own to need settled with his.

That didn’t stop his magic from lashing out when Thomas came up behind them and hugged Rosemary, ripping him away and shoving him up against Wilereykos’ trunk.  He pulled it back immediately, even before Thomas had hit the tree, but it still left him shaken.  He wasn’t angry, not even a little, and Thomas was a friend, someone he trusted enough with Rosemary to make him family.  There was no reason for his magic to react like that.

“Jesus, mate, it was just a hug.”  Thomas was rubbing the back of his head, looking at James like he’d lost his mind.  Which, if he was being honest, James rather felt like he had.

“I’m sorry,” he looked at Rosemary, surprised she was pressed against his side rather than checking on Thomas, “I didn’t mean to, honest.  I don’t know what happened.”

Father looked over from where he was making sure Thomas was ok. “It’s my fault, I should have remembered.”  He shook his head, his expression rueful. “Especially with how protective your magic has always been.  Lady Selwyn isn’t the only one who hasn’t seen a courtship ritual in too long.”  He patted Thomas on the back, telling him he was fine, before joining Mother and Miss Taylor in front of them.

“It’s the ritual magic,” he explained, “it makes you protective and more than a little possessive, just for a while.  It was to help courting couples want to spend time alone, back when they might not know each other before the ritual.”  Father turned to Rosemary, his expression apologetic. “I’m afraid you’ll bear the brunt of it, having to feel the emotions without magic to help you let it out.”

“Is that why I’m so —” Rosemary’s hand clenched slightly in his.  He glanced over just in time to see her shake her head in frustration. “— so…jumpy.  Like Daphne when I’m trying to get her to cross a stream.”

Father nodded sympathetically. “Yes, that sounds about right.  It’s only until the magic settles, you both should be back to normal in a few days.  Until then, you are excused from lessons and family meals.”  He held up a hand, stopping James when he started to call for Hatty. “After your courtship celebration.  If centuries of Potters have had to do it, you do to.”

James glowered.  Bloody traditions.

Chapter Text

Rosemary smiled, pressing back against James.  This was such a nice way to wake up.  Jamie curled around her, softly kissing her neck and shoulder.  She wondered if there were special privileges for muggles betrothed to pureblood heirs.  Maybe she could stay at Hogwarts with Jamie, or at least visit sometimes.  She was going to miss this when he went back to school.  Especially the part where he grasped her hand in his, so that she could feel his bracelet against her wrist as he nipped at her shoulder.

“What would you like to do for your birthday?”

Rosemary sighed, parting her legs and pulling Jamie’s hand between them.  This.  She wanted to do this.  All day.  She wasn’t sure what had changed, whether it was the courtship ritual or missing him or just growing up, but suddenly she needed to feel him more than anything.  It had been building for a while, probably since that very first time, if she thought about it, but she’d only really been aware of it since spring.  And now it was almost overwhelming, a pressure in her throat and chest and stomach and between her legs that the training toys never quite took away.

“Are you sure,” he asked. Rosemary just nodded, guiding his hand so that his fingers were pressed against her entrance. The muffled sound he made against her neck when he felt her brought a smug smile to her lips, enough to stave off the blush that wanted to creep across her face.

She turned, whimpering slightly because that meant losing Jamie’s fingers pressing inside her.  It was only for a moment.  Just until she could pull Jamie on top of her and then — oh.  Yes.  That, right there.  She moaned, wrapping her arms around Jamie’s neck and burying her face in his shoulder.  It wasn’t quite enough, wasn’t the full deep yes she really wanted, but the press of his fingers was so wonderfully close.  Enough that she was soon crying out, the sound muffled against Jamie’s lips as he gently coaxed her through the waves and aftershocks.

James was smiling down at her when she was a little more awake and coherent.  He brushed her hair out of her face, dropping kisses on her forehead, nose, and lips. “You know,” he said, “this is probably the last birthday we’ll be able to spend all to ourselves until we’re grown.  Mother and Father are going to want to spoil you with gifts, now that you’re part of the family.”

Rosemary hummed, enjoying the way his lips felt on her collarbone.  He was probably right.  The Duchess — Mother, she’d said Rosemary could call her Mother, if she liked — was already decorating a suite of rooms for her next to Jamie’s in the family wing.  It had been difficult to restrain her laughter at that, especially when Jamie and Father were clearly holding back theirs as well.  It was a sweet gesture, but Rosemary had no intentions of using those rooms, ever.  Jamie never used his rooms in the family wing anymore and Mother still hadn’t noticed.  Neither of them saw any reason to change that now that they were properly courting.  Not that Mother needed to know that.

“Don’t stop,” she whispered, when James moved away.  She pouted when he chuckled, quickly dropping another kiss on her lips.

“Are you sure?” he teased, slowly inching his way down her body. “Even for this?”  She gasped, then flinched away when his lips wrapped around her nipple.  He immediately pulled back, gently massaging away the slight pain as he looked at her in concern.

Rosemary blushed, not quite able to meet James’ eyes.  She’d been more sensitive than usual since shortly before he came back from school, sometimes even too sore to lay on her stomach.  Miss Taylor said it was nothing to be embarrassed about, just a sign that she was growing up.  She’d also said Rosemary should be sure to tell James so that he’d be careful with her, but the idea of it made her want to sink into the ground.

It was silly.  She knew it was silly.  Jamie knew everything about her.  How she liked irritating her violin teacher by asking to play jigs and reels, as well as how she liked to be touched.  He noticed the changes in her almost before she did, the same way he hadn’t noticed that his voice had stopped cracking quite so much until she pointed it out.  There was no reason for her to be shy about something as unimportant as a bit of tenderness around her chest.  Rosemary knew that.  That didn’t make her any more interested in talking about it or any of the other small things she’d noticed while he was away.

It was a relief when James smiled at her blush, kissing her softly and whispering that he’d be more careful in her ear.  She’d have to learn how to talk about it.  Miss Taylor and Mother had both told her how important it was that she and Jamie talk about growing up and all the new things it would mean.  But today was her birthday and all she wanted was to keep feeling the lovely things Jamie was doing as he made his way down between her legs. They could talk later.

She gasped, grasping his hair and pulling him closer when he flicked his tongue against her.  Prat.  He seemed to love doing that, seemed to love starting with tiny licks and sucks that made her throb.  Seemed to love taking his time.  Making sure she was writhing, her hands clenched in his hair or around the sheets, before he’d do anything else.  It would probably be frustrating if it didn’t make the feeling when he finally slid a finger inside her so overwhelmingly good.

And then, because he was Jamie and sometimes she forgot he could be anything other than wonderfully, maddeningly teasing, it started over.  Gentle touches and slow, deliberate movements so that by the time he carefully pressed a second finger in alongside the first she was whimpering and shaking, her body pulsing with the need for more.  She rarely remembered the third, when he was like this.  Wouldn’t remember it this time either, too overcome to think as she tugged him up so that he was pressed against her, his palm rubbing while his fingers continued caressing something inside her that made her hips thrust erratically.

She needed more.  Needed Jamie, slowly sinking into her and chasing away the deep ache he’d caused.  It was too much, this throbbing, pulsing, quivering that made her feel like a wave about to crash.  She needed more so that the too much wouldn’t make her heart stop beating, the way it felt like it would as Jamie groaned next to her ear.  More to take away and she thought that maybe didn’t make sense, but then the wave crashed and her back was arching and Jamie was biting into her shoulder and all she could do was follow the feeling until she collapsed.

When she opened her eyes Jamie was beside her, his face pressed into a pillow as he panted.  Rosemary realised his hips were moving slowly against her at the same time she noticed the almost pained whimpers he was clearly trying to hold back.  She pulled gently on his hair, kissing him and swallowing his groans as she pulled him closer.  Her breath caught in surprise when he immediately tangled one hand in her hair while his other arm wrapped around her waist, holding her against him as he rubbed himself between her legs.  Jamie was never like this.  Was never this desperate just from watching her.  Had never been this desperate full stop, until she’d learnt how to tease him the way he did her.  It was…she found she couldn’t hold back the self-satisfied smile when he tensed and thrust madly before relaxing on top of her.

He was sheepish when he slowed his breathing enough to look at her. “Sorry.”  A blush spread across his cheeks. “It’s been — I’ve.”  Rosemary realised he wasn’t quite meeting her eyes, the blush suffusing into his face as he stammered. “I normally — at school and…” He shook his head, looking up just long enough to press his lips to hers, mumbling “I missed you.”

Now she was blushing too, torn between pleased and embarrassed as she ran her fingers through his hair, picturing him laying in his bed at Hogwarts with his hand wrapped around himself. She pulled him closer, sliding her tongue along his lips just to hear the ragged whimper she’d learnt it always drew out.

Both of them froze as James began sliding against her again. Rosemary looked down between them. That was different.

James was blushing as he pulled away from her, a brilliant red that Rosemary didn’t think she’d seen before. He stammered for a moment before closing his eyes, seeming to steel himself before calling for Hatty.

“Oh!”  Hatty clapped, skipping from foot to foot.  Rosemary didn’t think James could get any redder. “Master James is needing a potion!  Hatty is getting one right now.  Hatty will tell the elveses to be putting potions and towels in Master James table!”

No, he definitely could get redder.  Rosemary clapped her hands over her mouth in the hopes of stifling her giggles when he groaned and covered his face with one of the pillows.  She wouldn’t laugh.  She wouldn’t.  It would be horribly unkind.  She’d be mortified if he laughed at her when Tessie had to start putting…other things…in the loo.  She was lucky, really, hers was much easier to hide.

But Hatty was going on about Master James growing up and how she could remember when he was just a baby and the time he’d run into one of his father’s meetings with a nappy on his head.  It was very. very. hard.  not to laugh.  Rosemary sent Hatty away, hoping James couldn’t hear the giggles in her voice.

“I should have called Tessie.”

Rosemary did have to giggle at that, turning so she could trail her fingers across James’ chest. The strange need to touch him all the time was new too, another thing she couldn’t place the start or source of. “Tessie would have been worse,” she said.  Rosemary loved her, but she was more excitable than any other elf at Linfred.

“At least she’s never seen me in nappies.”

The aggrieved grumble in James’ voice was more than Rosemary could take.  She burst into unrestrained laughter, unable to stop even when he lifted the pillow away from his face to mock glare at her.  The sudden movement so that he could attack her sides with tickles was not at all unexpected, even if she was laughing too hard to even attempt to prevent it.

When she could begin to breathe again she was pined to the bed, Jamie holding her wrists down by her head.  His eyes were sparkling as he watched her, glittering with mischief and happiness.  She tugged one of her hands free, pulling him toward her.  It was impossible to not want to kiss him when he looked like that.  Like there was nothing else he’d rather be doing than laying together in their bed.

He broke away, grimacing, when their slow slide against each other was interrupted by the sticky between them.  Rosemary stopped him when he moved to use the warm, slightly damp towel Hatty had left on the bedside table.

“Can I…?”  She blushed, gesturing between them.  It was a little amusing when he just nodded, his jaw dropped slightly and his eyes wide.  Probably would have been funny, if she wasn’t too busy willing down the heat in her face.

She frowned slightly, trying to decide how to go about doing what she wanted when the sticky had mostly dried on their skin already. Shrugging, she gently pushed Jamie so that he was laying on his back, a slight thrill running through her when she realised he was looking at her the same way he had the first time she’d been brave enough to try taking him in her mouth. Like she was something extraordinary he wasn’t sure what he’d done to deserve.

The training books had said she might not like this, that there were spells if she didn’t.  Sarah thought it was awful, she’d whispered that she wished the potion made it go away, like the witches’ potion did for them.  Alice had never mentioned boys in her letters and Rosemary was far too afraid to ask.  Now she wished she had because she and Sarah disagreed on almost everything when it came to boys and it would be nice to have another opinion and she couldn’t very well ask Miss Taylor and she was working herself into a state, bracing herself to be kind if it was terrible and…

It was…a taste.  A taste she found she didn’t care one way or another about, although what she remembered of the texture would probably leave something  to be desired.  She wondered if it would be different if it wasn’t dried on Jamie’s skin.  She’d have to find out.  For now his barely breathed oh Merlin was more than enough to make her want to try it again.

Then maybe she’d ask him to use that spell.

She reached for the towel, gently cleaning them both off before sliding up to kiss him. Her birthday had barely started, really, and she was looking forward to spending the rest of it exactly like this. Jamie and quiet sighs and the soft way he looked at her when she pulled away.

“We should do something special,” he said. “It’s your coming of age, that’s an important birthday. We should celebrate it properly.”

“Does that mean I’m getting a pair of muggle boys?”

The question was teasing, really, she knew she wouldn’t be getting muggle boys. There really wasn’t any need for them. She wasn’t expecting Jamie to flip her over, pining her hands above her head and covering her body with his own as he nipped and bit at her neck, leaving a new line of marks. “You are not.”

Rosemary shivered at the growl in his voice.  She’d forgotten about the possessiveness the courtship ritual had brought out in them both. It was easy to ignore in their rooms, easy to forget how even Sarah getting too close had made her fists clench. It had been awful to try controlling when they were around people, but here, alone in their rooms…there was a large part of Rosemary that enjoyed it.  Enjoyed the way Jamie couldn’t seem to quite hold back as well as he normally did.  Especially when he pushed his hand between her legs, shoving three fingers into her so hard that she keened, her back arching against him.

James froze at the sound, rushing to apologise as soon as he realised what he’d done.  That was…he pressed his forehead against Rosemary’s, forcing himself to slow down and catch his breath.  The gentle way her body was pulsing around his fingers, seeming to want to draw them further in, was not helping.  He carefully pressed up, searching for the spot that made her gasp. 

“Sorry.  I’ll — the magic.  I’ll be more careful.”  He gently circled his thumb so that she pulsed against him.  That was better.  He could feel her body relaxing, not drawing quite so tight around his fingers.  

He stared when she grasped his wrist, holding him still.

“You don’t —” A dark blush spread across Rosemary’s face.  James reminded himself that if he kissed her breathless she wouldn’t be able to explain why she’d stopped him. “I liked it.  Before you stopped.”

“Are you sure?”  He swallowed hard, dragging his magic into submission when she nodded.  He would not lose control.  Not like this.  Not in any way that could hurt her. Rosemary was too important.

He went slow, at first.  Carefully working his fingers inside her as he bit and sucked at her neck and chest and shoulders.  He couldn’t bring himself not to, not to make sure she was more than ready before he sped up.  

But when he did, when he held her down, fucking her with his hand and letting himself dig his teeth into her skin…Merlin, she was glorious.  It was all he could do to not grab her hips and drive himself into her.  As it was he dragged her up, tugging her onto his lap so that he could tangle his fingers into her hair and pull her head back.  There was something about how she looked, grinding on his fingers with her lips parted and her hair cascading down her back, that made the urge to mark her even worse.  He barely noticed her throbbing around him, too busy savouring the taste of her skin.

Rosemary collapsed into James, enjoying the way his fingers still felt inside her.  Not quite the delicious sensation of being filled, but close enough that she continued rolling her hips.  It was nice, the way gentle waves of pleasure continued to wash over her.  Pulling away when it became a little too much almost hurt more than the over-stimulation.

“Was that ok?”

Jamie’s voice was soft, a whisper of his breath brushing against her cheek.  She nodded, humming as she settled herself more closely against him.  She felt so warm, sleepy and safe and oddly snuggly.  All she wanted at the moment was to sit right here.  Stay cuddled against Jamie’s chest with his arms wrapped around her.

Luckily, she had the best intended in the world.  One who kissed her nose before arranging them so that they were sitting against the headboard with a fluffy duvet wrapped around them.  It really was too warm for the duvet in summer.  Normally they slept with a sheet or light blanket, but right now the extra heat and weight was perfect.  Rosemary nuzzled against Jamie’s neck.  Warm.  Warm and sleepy and safe.

She wasn’t sure how long she drifted off for, or even if she had at all.  What she knew was that when the drowsy feeling started to wear off Jamie was rubbing gentle circles on her scalp with the pads of his fingers.  His eyes were closed and there was a soft smile playing around his lips.  Rosemary let her eyes fall shut again.

“What do I get for my coming of age?”

She felt James’ laugh, more than heard it.  A low, short vibration under his ribs. “Anything but two muggle boys.”  He paused for a moment before adding, “Or two wizards.  No boys at all.”

Rosemary smiled, kissing Jamie’s collarbone since she was too lazy and content to move any further.  That was fine.  She didn’t want any boys at all.  Only Jamie. “It feels a bit silly. I can’t do any of it, can I?”

She couldn’t see how she could. Maybe she could marry Jamie without being a witch, but she still couldn’t get a wand. There would be no magical surge for her, nothing to need settled and helped to grow. No trip to Ollivander’s. She didn’t have a family so there wasn’t a name she was now responsible for. She could go off to school, she supposed, but she didn’t really want to. Thomas did, would likely be off to Oswestry for sixth form, but Thomas didn’t love Linfred the way she did. For Rosemary the idea of leaving her courtyard and music room and the sprites and bowtruckles was nearly as awful as the idea of leaving Jamie. She never had understood the muggle Wendy, so willing to leave Neverland and Peter.

James smiled as he kissed the top of Rosemary’s head. “It’s not just that,” he said, “not really. I thought it was, but it’s…it’s more than that. It’s why Father couldn’t force me to go back to Hogwarts, not if I hadn’t agreed. It’s why I really should have waited until at least today to start courting you.” Would have been required to, actually, if she were a witch. But then, if she were a witch he’d not have met her until September or Mother and Father might have adopted her like they had Sarah and Wendy and everything would be different.

“You’ll see,” he said, “when you see Mother and Miss Taylor again, probably also Mrs Goldstein and Mrs Levy. Coming of age is important. And…” he hesitated, unsure of how she might react, “there’s a spell, if you’d like. For…if you want to — I could be your boy.”

Rosemary blinked, regretfully moving far enough to see that Jamie was blushing, more than he had even when he’d needed to call Hatty. “That’s not how that works.”  He knew that.  He’d read the same training books she had.

“It —” James looked away, playing with her courtship necklace. “It makes things how they were before.  Father found it for Wendy.  She was fretting about her birthday, because of the orphanage.  He thought you might…since we obviously already…I know how to cast it.”  He looked up at her again, the insecurity in his expression making Rosemary wish she could find a way to do more than stare at him. “You don’t have to.  We don’t have to at all, if you’re not ready.  Just because it’s your coming of age doesn’t mean —”  He shook his head. “I can wait.  Even past summer, if you need to.”

Rosemary was the one to laugh this time, taking advantage of James’ surprise to kiss him until he hummed with pleasure.  Past summer.  As if she’d let him go back to school without a summer’s worth of memories to remind him why he’d asked her to court.  She smiled as she pulled back. “That’s still not how it works.”

James rolled his eyes. “I know it’s not like the old stories about virgin sacrifices and collecting blood for potions.  Father made me read those parts of the training books out loud to him.”  He grimaced, shuddering slightly. “It’s just…so you can feel it again.  Like the first time.”  He was ducking his head again. “Like I said, we don’t have to.”

They didn’t.  Rosemary knew, if she wanted to just sit like this all day Jamie would never complain.  If she wanted to forget about the spell, he’d never bring it up again.

Except…there was one thing that still disappointed her, just a little.  A tiny thing that really shouldn’t bother her, but had almost from the beginning.  It was silly.  She loved that memory, loved remembering the way Jamie had looked at her when she climbed in his lap and told him what she wanted.  There was just one thing she would have changed.

“I want to.”

She tried to stay calm when James looked at her almost the same way he had that very first night.  The spell might not even work on her.  Not all magic did.  Even Hatty and Tessie hadn’t been able to do more than bring down her fever when she caught a bad flu in early spring.  So it probably wouldn’t work.  That would be fine.  She would still be able to enjoy her birthday.  It wasn’t as if anything with Jamie could ever be bad.

She gasped at the odd, tightening, clenching sensation as the spell took hold.  It was barely a moment, she wasn’t entirely sure anything had actually changed, but it was unsettling enough that she shook her head when Jamie asked if she was ok.

That, of course, nearly sent him into a panic.  He called for Hatty and Tessie, gently laying her on the bed and tucking the duvet around her.  Rosemary giggled, smiling fondly at him as she pulled him on top of her.  It was nice how protective he was.  She kissed away his protests, arching against him until he groaned.  She was vaguely aware of the four slight pops as Hatty and Tessie arrived, then immediately left.

It didn’t feel like the first time.  She didn’t feel overwhelmed with new sensations as Jamie mouthed his way across her chest and shoulders.  That didn’t make it any less enjoyable.  In fact, she thought it might be better.  It seemed better, now that she wasn’t half-incoherent just from the feel of his body against hers.  Now that she was aware enough to appreciate how he touched and looked at her with something like reverence, even as he so obviously tried to hold himself back.

“Potion,” she whispered, just remembering that it was still on the table.  Mother and Miss Taylor would be horrified if they knew he hadn’t taken it immediately, let alone nearly forgot.  Never mind that Rosemary didn’t have to worry about that just yet.  Mother, Miss Taylor, Mrs Goldstein, Hatty, Tessie, and every single one of the training books had all been very clear about potions and the pills she’d have to take eventually.

Jamie groaned, reaching for the potion and quickly taking it before returning to teasing her.  She arched her neck, letting herself fall into the sensation of his lips on her skin.  His back and shoulder under her hand.  His hair twisting between her fingers.  His breath puffing softly near her ear.  And him, impossible to ignore as he carefully rocked against her.

He slipped, just a little, pressing against her entrance for a moment before he pulled away.  Then he soothed away her whimpers, brushing back her hair and kissing his way down her chest.  He was careful to be gentle with her, barely teasing the slight swells that seemed to take every touch and amplify it, like the electric violin Thomas had said she should ask Jamie for for her birthday.

It was strange how he somehow managed to tease her so that she was languid and content, even as every new touch made her gasp or whimper.  Strange and brilliant and Rosemary couldn’t decide if she desperately wanted more or could stay gasping at his breath against her forever.

Probably not the second.  There was a roar filling her ears, though the only real sounds were the ones she made as Jamie did wonderful things between her legs.  She could feel the wave building, feel the beginnings of the throbbing, grasping ache.  She wanted it, wanted to feel the wave crashing over her. Needed to, even though she knew it would only be part of what she wanted.  That was ok.  Jamie wouldn’t stop until she wanted him to.  She could have this and then —

Rosemary nearly sobbed as James pulled away. “Wh —” The question was cut off by him kissing her, slow despite her pressing herself as close against him as she could.  Kissing wasn’t enough.  It was lovely, kissing Jamie was always lovely, but she needed —

Jamie teasing her with his fingers was as unexpected as it was welcome.  She dug her fingers into his back, light flashing beneath her eyelids as her body tensed so much she couldn’t breathe.  Couldn’t consider breathing, couldn’t remember that breathing was a thing she should do.  Not until the tense pulse throb passed, concentrating all at once before vanishing as if it had never existed.

He was still sliding his fingers against her when she found the energy to open her eyes.  She sighed, weakly lifting her hips to meet his hand.  It was better, now that she could breathe again.  She wasn’t sure she could move, let alone say anything to let him know how nice it felt, but from the smug look on his face she didn’t need to.  Prat.

Her prat though.  Her wonderful, arrogant, far too satisfied with himself prat.  Who kissed her until she was panting again and looked at her like she was the most precious thing in the world.  Rosemary smiled, closing her eyes and enjoying the things Jamie made her feel.

The lazy, content feeling was back, this time without the rushing, pounding need.  It was just Jamie.  Jamie and her and a comfortable warmth as he touched her.  She felt like her courtyard on summer afternoons, sun streaming in and chasing away the usual chill of the stone benches.  The grass tickling her feet as she and Jamie had chased each other across the grounds, staying just out of grasping distance until she’d changed her mind tackled him to the ground.

She gasped, her eyes flying open for a moment when he gently pressed the pad of his finger against her entrance.  It was barely anything, just a teasing glance.  A light, testing pressure that made her whimper when he did it again.  He tried to distract her, sucking light bites onto her chest and shoulders.  It only worked a little.  She was still far more aware of his hand and what he was doing with it than she could ever remember being.  Even the first time there had been too many other sensations for her to really be able to pinpoint a single one.

Now she could.  Now she could feel the way she slowly pulsed, seeming to beckon him in.  The faint stretch as he slowly, carefully, ever so gently worked a second finger inside her.  She hadn’t realised how much that particular part of her had changed.  Not until he added a third and she found herself moaning at how full she felt.

She didn’t remember it being this intense last time.  Didn’t remember wondering how it could possibly work.  She pulled James away from her chest, kissing him as softly and deeply as she could manage.  The sudden awareness of just how much she had and still did trust him to take care of her was almost overpowering.  Would be frightening, if she hadn’t felt the magic of the courtship ritual. The rush of joy and contentment and deep, unwavering devotion when his magic had moved through her, showing her just for a moment how happy he was.

The quiet wave that broke over her came as a surprise.  She gasped against Jamie’s lips, pressing herself onto his fingers as the gentle flutters overtook her.  She could feel his smile as he pressed and rubbed and twisted, soothing her even as he built the wave higher, so that she was shuddering against him.

She shook her head when he pulled back, moving to sit against the headboard as he had the first time.

He hesitated, uncertainty flashing across his face as she pulled him back on top of her. “It’s easier the other way.  You can go as slow as you want, like last time.”

“I know,” she forced herself to meet his eyes, despite the blush she knew was filling her face, “but it’s not the same.”

It wasn’t.  Wasn’t at all like feeling Jamie carefully ease himself into her, always watching to make sure she was ok.  Wasn’t what she thought of when she thought of being with him, even though she liked everything they did.  It bothered her, for no reason she could explain, that the first time she felt him inside her hadn’t been like this.  Hadn’t been the shared breath and nuzzling noses and soft slow close that she’d always loved.  She wanted to know what it might have been like, even if they weren’t the same as they were then.

She saw the moment Jamie gave in, nodding once before kissing her as he set himself against her opening.

It was slow.  So wonderfully, horribly, agonisingly slow.  Rosemary found her sighs turning to whimpers before he was halfway, tilting her hips up in the hopes of getting just a little bit more.  Jamie wasn’t having it, despite the difficulty he was obviously having holding himself back.  He kept his hands pressed to her hips, holding her down on the bed so that she couldn’t do more than pout and whimper as he worked himself ever deeper inside her.  She loved it, loved the way she could feel as he stretched and opened her, filling her in the way she’d craved since spring.  Loved how he seemed to glide more inside her, making the feelings even better.  She loved it all, even if she thought she might go a little mad if he drew it out any longer.

Then his hips were pressed against hers, the fullness going just that little bit further and making her moan.  Rosemary opened her eyes to see Jamie looking down at her, his face and eyes soft, filled with something that made her breath catch in her throat.  She smiled, pulling him down so that she could kiss him as her body readjusted to having him inside her for the first time.

This was what she had wanted.  Jamie nuzzling and kissing her, carefully shifting her leg so that he could press himself deeper the way she liked.  Slow and sweet and gentle, being pressed so close together it felt like their every movement was shared.  It was a hazy, leisurely feeling, like they could stay this way forever and be perfectly happy.  She could feel Jamie’s heart beating under her hands and against her chest.  Hear the way his breath stuttered when he shifted in just the right way.  See the way he looked at her, his gaze filled with all the things she’d felt as his magic and her memories had created something out of nothing.

She was more than a little surprised when the hazy, leisurely feeling built into warm, gasping, arching and didn’t take Jamie with her.  Surprised, but not at all disappointed.  Because that meant more of this.  More of Jamie marking her and sliding their hands together and resting his head against hers as they moved.

Later, after Jamie had managed to coax her through one more gentle yes good more before falling himself.  After they’d fed each other the finger foods Tessie brought up for them, the smiles and memories leading to Rosemary cuddled against his chest as they gasped through soft slow sated.  After the warm bath, both of them almost falling asleep they were so comfortable, and the much needed nap, and the sudden, overwhelming need for deep fast harder that surprised them both.  When they were curled up on the sofa, reading through the Potter family courtship books, trying to decide which of the betrothal rituals they might want to do (and which ones Rosemary could do, without magic of her own).  Rosemary realised that she hadn’t once thought of any other girls.

Chapter Text

James closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of Rosemary’s hair sliding through his fingers.  She had such soft, fine hair.  Nothing at all like the thick, impossible to tame mass that Potters were all afflicted with.  Just soft curls that shifted in the light, going from golden to ginger as if by magic.  Soft curls that he couldn’t seem to stop running his fingers through.

It was the first time they’d been out of their rooms since their courtship ritual and he was finding himself not quite able to keep his hands off her.  He wasn’t sure if it was still the fading vestiges of the ritual magic or simply a natural result of his ever-present fascination with her, but it had made the ride across the grounds less pleasant than it might have been otherwise.  Also rather longer, as he had to slow them down long enough to kiss her hand or brush back her hair what felt like every few feet.  Rosemary had finally laughed and climbed in front of him on Godric (the horse James had been given for his eighth birthday, not the Hogwarts founder he was named for), tying Daphne so that she was alongside them.

Now they were lazing on the banks of one of the deeper brooks that ran through Linfred.  Rosemary was laying with her head resting on his chest, reading through one of the Potter family books.  It was warm and peaceful and the picnic Tessie had packed had left him nicely drowsy. He was considering plucking the book out of Rosemary’s hands and putting up charms so that no one would bother them. He’d been careful since her birthday, forcing himself to go back to chaste touches unless she pressed for more, but today she was wearing a dress with the smallest hints of Potter red and it was driving him mad.

Decided, he pulled the book away from her, drawing her closer when she turned to protest. This was a brilliant way to spend a summer afternoon. Rosemary immediately relaxing against him, even as she complained against his lips that he’d lost her place. Soft breeze tickling their skin, aiding the shadows of Linfred’s many birch trees in keeping them cool. The feel of Rosemary’s courtship buttons as he ran his hand down her back, thrilling him in a way that was probably more than a little silly. One of the hair ribbons he’d commissioned (glittering red shot through with platinum threads and laced with protective charms thanks to Maricoxi magic) was already tucked away in his pocket from when he’d been unable to keep himself from pulling it loose while they were eating. It was better than quidditch, better than duelling, better than anything he could think of that didn’t require privacy charms.

Then the twins rode up on the horses Father had given them for the duration of their stay and James and was torn between irritation that he hadn’t put up the charms immediately and relief that they’d not been doing more than kissing a little. The idea of anyone happening upon them when Rosemary was flushed and breathless from being teased brought magic to the surface of his skin, even if they were both still fully clothed. The twins in particular.

He tried to push away the irritation.  Nathan and Grace were family.  Family he had never expected he’d be able to meet.  They were two more Potters, even if they were technically Campbells.  Those things were important.  Family was always important.  He could take the time to politely greet his relatives.

Even if the way Grace was looking at Rosemary made his magic flare up in a way it hadn’t since Alvin had left.

It was strange, finding himself edging toward outright disliking his new relatives.  James had thought they’d have an immediate connection, that he’d spend the summer laughing with them the way he did his friends at Hogwarts.  The twins, especially, had been built up in his mind as instant companions of the sort he’d wanted before Sarah and Wendy were adopted.  The Prewetts and Weasleys were like that, and James rather thought the Goldsteins might be too.  They all seemed to enjoy being around each other, even if they bickered constantly.  James had pictured a Potter version, a room full of messy hair and thick glasses joking and telling stories and maybe playing some of the muggle games he’d learnt to enjoy. They could watch as Father used magic to illustrate the family history, making images twist and dance in the fireplace the way he’d done for James and Sarah and Wendy. Rosemary could play for them and James could enjoy being able to show her off. It would be loud and chaotic and James would have loved every moment, the same way Fabian and Gideon and Goldstein all obviously enjoyed their families, no matter how much they complained.

Instead Olivia had barely appeared for meals since the dinner the first night the Campbells had arrived.  Father had set her up with an apprenticeship in the ministry in the same department as her beau, but as far as James knew she’d never even thanked him.  Lucy and Stephen were at breakfast, at least, but then disappeared to sight-see, usually taking the twins with them.  The twins themselves were near nightmares. They’d still not forgiven James for telling the bloody truth the night they’d arrived and he’d likely made things worse with his curiosity about twin bonds. Growing up with Gideon and Fabian for best friends had made him fairly well versed in the different types, but he’d never met boy-girl twins before. Pureblood twins were nearly always identical, when they survived at all. He’d hoped that it would be a common interest, something to talk about other than Charlotte or Rosemary or coming of age in general. They way they’d glared and told him to fuck off had quickly put an end to that.

The only Campbells James thought might be somewhat tolerable were Andrew and Emily and he’d barely had a chance to meet Emily.  Lucy usually tried to take her on the daily sight-seeing trips, despite the girl’s protests that she wanted to stay with Andrew, who spent most days in the library or talking with Father.  James wouldn’t have minded so much if the glances his sister shot at Rosemary didn’t give him unpleasant ideas about why, exactly, she wouldn’t leave Emily with them.

And it wasn’t as if they hadn’t tried!  James had, for the entire week between their arrival and the courtship ritual.  Rosemary had, putting on her nicest dresses and being so charming he thought even Malfoy would have to grudgingly accept her.  Watching her disappointment when Emily was tugged away from their conversations had been the reason James insisted on taking lunch in their rooms or on the grounds.  They deserved time away from his decidedly unpleasant relatives.  James needed the time to ensure he didn’t hex the lot of them.

The week away had been an all too short reprieve.  If Father hadn’t insisted they try wandering the quieter parts of the grounds to see how the magic was settling James would have stayed in their rooms all summer.  He had half a mind to leave now, make some excuse and ride somewhere they could go back to quietly enjoying each other’s company.  Linfred was large, there were plenty of areas they could disappear to for a while.  Father would be upset, he’d been trying so hard to make them all get along, but it would save Rosemary from having to try to converse with a girl who quite clearly had no interest in being near them.

When Grace failed to hide a disgusted sound in her throat at James lifting Rosemary’s hand to his lips he decided he’d had enough.  It was just a bloody kiss to her fingers, the kind of thing even Mother wouldn’t scold him for doing in front of Wendy. He was willing to hide what they were to each other for the sake of the Goldsteins’ muggle friends, they would be Rosemary’s family as soon as he heard from the others he’d chosen to ask.  He would not hide from a witch who should bloody well know better.

He stood, offering his hand to Rosemary and making a point to tuck a stray lock of her hair behind her ear when she was in front of him.  Grace could leave if she didn’t like it.  It would save him the trouble of retacking the horses.

She didn’t, of course.  Nothing in James’ life could be so simple.  He was beginning to resign himself to it.  Instead she had the nerve to smile at them, as if they’d had a pleasant discussion.  James forced himself to breathe in the slow pattern Professor Sprout had taught him.  He would not hex his niece.  He wouldn’t.  She was family, even if she infuriated him.  If Fabian could share a sitting room with Gideon even after Gideon charmed his bits to turn unnatural colours then James could simply walk away from Grace.

He was surprised when Nathan rose and asked if he could join them.  James rather thought he was incapable of doing things that would irritate his sister and Grace was now glaring at him nearly as much as she did James and Rosemary.  That alone was enough to make James consider accepting.

He glanced at Rosemary before shrugging, attempting to keep his expression as neutral as possible.  It was up to her, really, she’d had a much harder time with the ritual magic than he had.  He’d found it unexpectedly appealing.

“If you want,” he said, “but we only came out to see how the magic is settling.  Courtship magic is fussy, you know.”  James couldn’t quite keep the smug tone out of his voice at the last words.  As inconvenient as the heightened emotions were, he still felt a spike of elation every time he looked at his ring.  Especially after reading in the family books that stronger bonds were thought to make the magic take longer to settle.

Grace’s derisive snort made it clear that their ritual magic still wasn’t fully there.  James just managed to keep from blasting her into the brook, instead reminding himself that he needed to get used to such small things before he went back to school.  Rosemary was not quite so controlled, moving to do James wasn’t sure what before he pulled her against his side.  He found her more attractive than he probably should when she was angry, but Grace was a witch.

A witch with an obviously terrible sense of propriety and self-preservation who simply shook her head and smirked at Rosemary’s reaction. “You must be happy,” she said, smiling at James in a way that somehow managed to look worse than a glare, “Granny said purebloods are very good at tricking muggles into thinking they’re loved. Does she know you’re going to throw her away for a witch? Or did you plan on making her a whore again?”

Only the effort needed to hold Rosemary back kept James’ magic from doing something that would likely have been irreparable.

“Grace.”  Nathan’s sigh was long suffering in the way only a sibling’s could be. “You promised.”

“I did not.”  Grace’s unapologetic tone had James gritting his teeth as he struggled to calm Rosemary and keep his magic contained at the same time.  “I said I wouldn’t be rude.  It’s not rude to tell the truth.”

Gryffindor.  Grace would definitely be a Gryffindor if she went to Hogwarts.  It was the first time James wished Potters were a little more Hufflepuff.  Sarah was merciless when she thought someone was being an idiot, but at least she knew better than to provoke a wizard whose magic was sparking.  James could feel it rising, the air around him heating as he tried not to lose his grip on Rosemary.

“She’s not worth it,” he breathed, as much to himself as to Rosemary. “Come on, you can’t ride Daphne like this.”  He managed to turn her around, pulling her tight against his chest and stroking her hair, hoping that he could calm her the way she did him.  He intentionally did not look anywhere near Grace.  He couldn’t, not without risking hurting her worse than magic could fix.  

“We’ll go see S’tara and the bowtruckles and I’ll tell Hatty to tell Father the magic’s still settling and we’ll spend the rest of the day in our rooms.  We still haven’t decided on a betrothal ritual, we could look through the books again.”  James kissed the side of Rosemary’s neck, focusing on the scent of rushing water and breaking waves.  He tried to make his voice as soothing as possible, tried to ignore the way his magic was roaring around him, creating a visible aura he was just managing to keep from spreading.  The twins were arguing, their voices getting louder and more shrill, but he blocked it out.  Grace wasn’t important.  Rosemary was.  He could do this.  He would make sure Rosemary was calm enough to ride or at least be popped back to their rooms, and then he would tell Father that Grace wasn’t to be anywhere near them.  Not if she couldn’t keep her comments to herself.  It wasn’t safe.  Either his magic would lash out or Rosemary would and James was honestly more concerned about the latter.

“They’re not courting!  There’s no such thing as ritual magic! He’s raping her and she thinks it’s ok!”

James was barely aware of Rosemary wrenching herself out of his arms.  Could only stare as she leapt at Grace with all the fury of an insulted Veela.  Didn’t even blink when she tackled the other girl to the ground, pulling her hair and clawing at her face.  Was too numb to be more than distantly curious when her courtship bracelet sparked, sending Grace’s wand flying toward the brook.  Only when Nathan stopped shouting at him (how long had he been doing that?) and moved to pull Rosemary away did James react.  His magic more than him, really, pushing Nathan away and dragging Rosemary to him.  James himself was still a bit stunned.

That was what Grace thought of him?  He knew she thought coming of age gifts were something awful, but somehow he hadn’t put together that that meant she also thought he was awful.  She barely knew him, had barely bothered to try to get to know him.  Which wasn’t surprising if she thought he was — that he’d — that he could ever — James closed his eyes, tightening his hold on Rosemary.  Nathan was saying something to Grace, hopefully something that would ensure she stayed far, far away.  Rosemary turned, wrapping her arms around him and pressing herself close.  He focused on that.  On the way she smelled like sea salt and gentle breezes.  How he could feel the back of her necklace under his fingers, platinum and gold twisting together to show everyone exactly how important she was.  His own courtship pendant, pressed between them, with the crest that would belong to the new line they would create together.  A whole new branch of the family, more Potters than there had been in generations.  Adding curls to the Potter mess would probably be cruel, but maybe they’d have Rosemary’s aqua green eyes, the colour nearly striking enough to be magic. And freckles, he definitely hoped they had her scattering of freckles across their cheeks and noses.

It was that thought that relaxed him, at least enough to notice that Rosemary was muttering against his chest.  He chuckled slightly.  His intended was simultaneously adorable and utterly terrifying.  It was probably safer that she wasn’t a witch.  

“Mother would take away your wand if you ever used it to hex family.”

Rosemary glowered at him, a look that was strangely close to a pout. “Only if I got caught.”

That was enough to relieve the final bits of tension that were coiled in James’ muscles.  He laughed, pulling Rosemary into a kiss when her glower turned to a sulk.  It was…well, not fine.  James would have to speak with Father about this, probably Mother as well.  There were sure to be lectures and he didn’t want to think of what Grace might tell her mother about what happened, but Father was fair and there really weren’t many ways to punish Rosemary.  It wasn’t as if they could take away her broom.  Come to think of it, James wasn’t quite sure who was responsible for her now that she neither was his girl nor had been formally accepted by her new family.  Him, maybe?  Merlin he hoped not.  That sounded rather too close to how the Blacks treated their girls for James’ comfort.

He was distracted by the sound of Nathan clearing his throat.  James sighed, resting his head against Rosemary’s for a moment before looking up.  Grace was gone, thank Merlin.  Nathan was standing a few feet away, shuffling his feet and not quite looking at them.  It occurred to James that he’d never really seen them together, not until now.  He’d only been around them at meals and Mother would never allow something so uncouth as obvious public displays at her table.  James found himself wondering what courtships were like in Canada, if a boy a year older than him still blushed at a long kiss.  Even Remus just rolled his eyes when Sirius “forgot” to spell his bed curtains closed.

Nathan opened his mouth, closed it, then seemed to gather up his nerve before looking at them. “Sorry about Grace,” he said.  James was rather surprised to see that he looked like he might actually mean it. “She’s not usually a bitch, I swear.  She’s just really close to our gran.”

Rosemary scoffed, not bothering to turn around to face Nathan.  James ran his hands along her back.  He got the feeling that if she had magic it would still be rippling around her hands and arms.  Not ready to get on a horse yet then.

“I…”  Nathan shook his head, running a hand through his hair.  The gesture was so familiar James found himself relaxing almost against his will.  Rosemary glanced over her shoulder at his change in posture, smiling and leaning further against him.

“He looks like you,” she whispered, low enough that Nathan didn’t seem to hear.

She wasn’t wrong.  Nathan didn’t have glasses or the usual pitch black Potter colour, but his brown hair still refused to lay flat and the way he held himself was more James and Fleamont than Lucy and Stephen.  James sat back on the picnic blanket, though he kept Rosemary safe in his lap.

“Would you like tea,” he asked, “or biscuits?  I was going to call Hatty, she can bring anything you like.”

“You should try her rainbow biscuits,” Rosemary added, “they’re brilliant and no one else knows how to make them. Not even other house elves.”

Nathan smiled, dropping onto the corner of the blanket opposite James and Rosemary. “That sounds great, thanks.  I haven’t had a chance to do any of the things Andrew said the tour books said about Linfred.  Mom’s always wanting to see Bibury or the V&A or something.”  He looked down, tracing the decorative edging of the blanket. “I’m sorry about her too, actually.  Dad and her fought for weeks over coming. Dad didn’t think it was a good idea.”

James shook his head.  It wasn’t Nathan’s fault.  He wouldn’t have had a choice in the matter if Father wanted to take them all to Canada, and being the Potter heir meant Father usually listened to him.  It was just… “Why did she even want to come?  She obviously wants nothing to do with us.”  That was one of the things that had been bothering him most.  It almost would have been better if they’d come to Britain and stayed in a hotel.  At least then Linfred would still be peaceful.

Nathan rolled his eyes. “Olivia,” he said, his thoughts on the matter clear from his tone. “Her boyfriend asked her to come with him for this apprenticeship his parents set up for him and Mom didn’t want her running off to Europe to live with a guy right out of school.  Dad said they should just not give her the money to go, but I don’t think Mom’s ever said no to Olivia in her life.  It’s annoying.”

James laughed, feeling a small touch of connection with one of his relatives for the first time.  Nathan sounded just like Fabian, when he was complaining about his older sisters. “Grover Macmillan is courting her, isn’t he?  They’re an old pureblood family, nearly as old as ours. He’d have just gotten her an international portkey himself.”

“I dunno about courting,” Nathan said, “but he’s her boyfriend, yeah.  And that’s why Mom said we all had to pack up and come here for the summer.  Everyone knows Grove’s family is loaded.”

“Not courting?”  James frowned, trying to think of whether or not he remembered her wearing a courtship necklace. He’d just assumed they were. “Does Olivia know Macmillan doesn’t plan to marry her?”

“What’s getting married got to do with anything?”  Nathan was looking at James like he’d said something ridiculous, which was odd because James wasn’t the one confusing everything. “Olivia’s just graduated, Mom and Dad say she’s way too young to be thinking of getting married. That’s why they didn’t want her chasing Grove around.”

James and Rosemary exchanged a glance. “Not here,” she said, “Jamie’s been thinking about it since first year.” The tinge of sadness in her voice had James kissing the juncture of her shoulder and neck without thought for what Nathan might think. “Alice too,” she continued, “Even Fabian and Sarah talk about it, a little.”

“She’s right.” James wished he’d been thinking about it a little less, actually. He might have made fewer mistakes with Rosemary that way. “All of Macmillan’s cousins at Hogwarts are courting or betrothed, Bertram’s even engaged and his fiancee only just took her OWLs. If Macmillan hasn’t asked Olivia to court…” He trailed off, not entirely wanting to think about it. There was no good reason for Macmillan to have not asked by now. Especially not if he’d invited her all the way over here for the summer. “She needs to talk to him. If word gets around that she’s come to Britain without being courted…it’s not going to be good for either of them.”

“Why?  It’s just a bunch of ridiculous pureblood stuff, it doesn’t mean anything.”  Nathan said ‘pureblood’ the way Sirius’ cousin said ‘mudblood’. “You all need to get past those old ideas. We already have, back home.”

James knew from the way Rosemary stiffened that Miss Taylor had set her to reading the Potter courtship books even before they’d started looking at betrothal rituals.  Didn’t mean anything?  He couldn’t quite wrap his head around it.  No wonder none of them understood.

“It means...everything.”  James shook his head, trying to think of how he could possibly explain the feeling of magic swirling around him as he and Rosemary performed the courtship ritual.  How what had started as confidence had turned into absolute certainty that he’d never consider anyone else.  And that was the least of the rituals, the one that people from other families went through four or five times before finding someone they wanted to be betrothed to.  Father said the full bonding was like becoming a single entity.  Separate people, but one unit.  There was a reason courtships couldn’t be forced.

He looked at Rosemary, trying to imagine not courting her.  They could date, plenty of people at Hogwarts did, when they weren’t sure of how they’d like each other.  But he didn’t much see the point.  How would it be different from what they’d had?  Courting meant they were recognised by the family magic.  The rituals were as much protection as they were a way for the couple to show their intentions.  For a pureblood to not use them…it just wouldn’t happen.  Even Sirius had talked about trying to find a way to properly court Jones, before he’d taken her home for the summer and…well, something had happened that James was still too afraid to ask about.

“They’re not just silly rituals.”  James was speaking mostly to himself, trying to work through the traditions he’d taken for granted. “They make sure no one is using love potions or being married off to someone they don’t want.  One of our ancestors found out the witch he was seeing was his half-sister because the courtship ritual refused to take.  If Macmillan forgets to take his potion Olivia won’t be able to claim support from his family unless they’re at least courting.”

Nathan scoffed, suddenly looking more like his sister than James was comfortable with. “Didn’t stop your dad, did it?”

“What are you talking about?”  The abrupt topic shift made James frown, then frown more when he realised what Nathan was saying. “Your nan ran away, Father didn’t even know they were going to have a baby until she’d already left.  And anyway, you’ve all had trust vaults since you were born.  You can ask Andrew, he was there when Father made me go over the accounts.”  They also hadn’t been courting, but James had no desire to get in that fight again.

“Bullshit.”  Nathan glared at James. “Gran said your dad married her, then chickened out and sent her away when his dad got mad at him.  The money’s just to shut us up, that’s why we never touch any of it.”

James stared at him, trying to wrap his head around yet another revelation.  Everything was — how could anyone even think that? “That’s not possible. No,” James talked over Nathan’s attempt to interrupt, “I don’t mean Father and Grandfather wouldn’t have done that,” though they wouldn’t have, James was sure of it, “I mean it’s not possible. The magic wouldn’t take. Potters can only get married once, unless their husband or wife dies. And Mother and Father are definitely married, otherwise I couldn’t be Father’s heir.”

“Why would Granny lie?”

“I don’t know.” He didn’t, couldn’t imagine any reason to tell a lie that big, but she had. He’d looked up Charlotte in the family books, after Father had told him about her. They were very clear on her having been his girl. “Maybe…I don’t know, maybe she was ashamed of running away. You all should have been raised here, you know. Your dad doesn’t have an ancestral home so you would have had your own wing of the castle.”

“No,” Nathan shook his head, “I didn’t even know you had a castle until Andrew told me. Gran never said much about your dad, except that he was a pureblood whose father didn’t want him marrying a muggle. Andrew’s the one who went and looked up everything he could find. He even wanted a traditional coming of age, but Mom and Dad refused.”

“Why do you all hate coming of age so much?” Rosemary was looking curiously at Nathan as she asked the question James had been about to ask himself. It had been bothering him since the Campbells had first arrived, but there hadn’t been a chance to ask.

Nathan, for his part, looked just as confused. “What do you mean? It’s barbaric. Dad says there’ll probably be a vote to ban it next election.”

It might, in hindsight, have been better to wait until the ritual magic had settled. The surge of panic at the thought of never having had a chance to know Rosemary kept James from responding for a long moment — and when he did it was barely a gasp. “Barbaric?”  He pulled Rosemary closer to him, calming slightly when she laid her hands over his and began running her fingers over his ring.

“Well yeah.”  Nathan glanced between them, seeming to realise what he was saying. “I mean, maybe things have worked out alright for you two, but it’s not like Rosemary’s had much of a choice.”

Not had — “What do you — how — I —” James nearly growled in frustration as he tried to take in Nathan’s response. How was it even possible to think those two things at once?

“Look,” Nathan was speaking in a tone that suggested he thought James and Rosemary were both a bit daft, “Rosemary was your coming of age gift, right?  And you knew that,” he looked at Rosemary, “because his father told you.  Like Dad says, you couldn’t have said no.  They’d have just sent you back to wherever they got you.”

A glance at Rosemary showed James that she was just as baffled by Nathan’s interpretation of coming of age gifts as he was.  Maybe other families were like that, but Father never would have stood for it.

“Jamie’s never made me do anything,” she whispered, seeming too shocked to speak any louder, “he wouldn’t.”

“Right,” Nathan scoffed, “and you really wanted to have sex at, what, nine?  And start courting at eleven.  Of course you did.”  He looked to James, raising an eyebrow. “And you really would have kept her around if she kept saying she didn’t want to, maybe even for years.”

“Yes.”  James didn’t even have to think about it. He would have, he was sure of it.  He might have tried kissing her a little more deeply, pulling her a little closer to him so that she could see how good it could feel, but he never, ever would have done more than that without knowing for certain that she wanted to.  Father would have killed him, if nothing else.

Nathan rolled his eyes. “Uh huh,” he said, “sure.  But did she know that?”

Yes,” Rosemary glared at Nathan, shaking slightly under James’ hands, “because he told me.  You don’t know anything, I like being with Jamie.  I —” she blushed, one of the embarrassed blushes that made her entire face dark red, “asked him because I wanted to.  And I want to court and get betrothed and engaged and married and have a big family and everything else.”  The look she gave James before turning back to Nathan was one of the adoring ones, the kind that made him want to do anything at all to make her happy. “If I didn’t the courtship ritual wouldn’t have worked.  That’s what it’s for.  Even I know that and I’m not even a witch.”

James quickly swallowed down the chuckle that wanted to rise out of his throat.  Rosemary knew that because Miss Taylor had told her, he was sure of it.  He doubted she’d have known a month ago.

Nathan raised an eyebrow at them, clearly unconvinced. “No little girl wants those things.  Not normally.  Mom says that’s what the training books are for, to make you want things you wouldn’t even know about otherwise.”  He shrugged. “I don’t really care, I don’t have to live here.  But you’re all still a bit twisted.”

“I thought you said Andrew wanted a traditional coming of age,” James said.  He was proud of himself for managing to keep the irritation out of his voice.  And for recognising the way Rosemary’s muscles tensed enough to gently tighten his hold on her so she didn’t lunge at Nathan.

“Yeah,” Nathan said, “one of his friends was a pureblood.  Mom banned us from going over once she found out he’d been showing Andrew his books.  Like I said, it’s unnatural.”

“That’s not —”  James stopped, suddenly realising something important in what Nathan had said. Everything he’d said, actually, from the moment they’d started talking about Olivia and Macmillan. “How many purebloods go to your school?”

Nathan blinked at him for a moment before answering. “I dunno, a few?  Maybe ten, if you count the whole high school.  We’re mostly half-bloods and muggleborns, Dad says the purebloods usually get shipped over here.”

James nodded.  That was what he had been expecting.  He looked at Rosemary who was already looking at him in confusion. “Were you just scared at first because of Rebecca, or did the people at the orphanage or at your school tell you things too?”

She flushed slightly, giving James his answer before she’d said anything. “The nuns said it was dirty.  Some of the older girls said they were wrong though so I wasn’t sure.  Not until…”  James smiled when she trailed off, kissing her quickly before thinking through what he thought he might have finally started to understand.

Muggles.  The Campbells were more muggle than magical, really, and it sounded like Canada — or at least the part they were from — was too.  And muggles didn’t think the same way wizards did, not about this.  It was why he couldn’t so much as hold Rosemary’s hand at the Goldsteins’.

“Come on,” he pulled Rosemary over to the horses, gesturing for Nathan to follow.  They had to see Father.  Maybe he could figure out a way to sort this whole mess out.

Father was speaking with Andrew in the library when they’d gotten the horses back into the stables.  He rose when they walked in, looking at Rosemary with the expression of combined disapproval and amusement he often had when scolding James about a prank McGonagall had written him about.

“I don’t suppose you’ve come to tell me about the rumour I heard of young ladies brawling on the grounds?”  Father shook his head, though James could see the smile playing around his mouth. “I know the magic is hard for you, sweetheart, but it’s really not nice.  I expect you’ll be in for lectures from Euphemia and Lady Selwyn both.”

Rosemary flushed, hanging her head slightly.  James fought not to let his expression change.  He knew she wasn’t that contrite. He wasn’t sure she was sorry at all, actually.

“I know,” she said, sounding for all the world like a chastised little girl, “I’m sorry.  It’s just so hard. I didn’t know magic could be so powerful.  Is Grace alright?”

Fleamont waved his hand, dismissing her concern. “Nothing a bit of dittany and bruise balm couldn’t fix up.”  James didn’t miss the flash of irritation that crossed Rosemary’s face as Father turned to gesture them toward a circle of comfortable armchairs he liked to use with company. “Come, have a seat.  I imagine you must be here for something other than a scolding.”

James hesitated, glancing at the circle and then at Father.  None of the chairs was close enough that he could continue at least holding Rosemary’s hand and he wasn’t sure it was a good idea to test the courtship magic that much right now.  Not after what Nathan had said. Luckily, Father seemed to understand, smiling indulgently at them and magicking two of the chairs together.

“Your mother and I were the same way,” he said. “Made going to lessons rather difficult, even a fortnight after the ritual.  I nearly switched into divination because of it.”

“So it’s true then?  There really is such a thing as courtship magic?”  Nathan seemed more surprised than James thought he should be, given that he and Rosemary had just told him that.

“Of course there is, dumbass.”  Andrew glanced at Father, apologising for his language before turning back to his brother. “Why do you think I keep telling Olivia to make her stupid boyfriend court her properly?  Just because none of you wanted to take the comparative magical cultures class or join the ritual club doesn’t mean they’re pointless.”

Father was sitting at a table near the circle before Andrew had finished speaking, calling for a sheet of parchment and his best ink.  James would bet his trust vault that he was writing the elder Macmillans.  Good.  The Duke and Duchess of Brockloch were nearly as traditional as the Blacks, for all that they usually voted with reformers like Father. They’d make sure their great-grandson started treating Olivia properly.

“Carry on,” Father glanced at them, “I’ll only be a moment.”

James watched as Nathan and Andrew bickered about courting and courtship rituals and how important they were.  There was no point in trying to tell Father about the way the Campbells viewed coming of age while he was trying to write the Macmillans.  Besides, maybe Andrew could talk some sense into the rest of his family.  He seemed to actually know something about magic, which was more than James could say for any of his other new relatives.

When Father sat again Nathan and Andrew were still arguing.  Merlin but Nathan was stubborn.  Not as much as his sister, but probably at least as much as Sarah.  It made James’ head hurt just watching Andrew trying to talk sense into him.

“There’s more than just the courting,” James said quietly, just loud enough for Father to hear him.  Let Andrew and Nathan continue fighting if they liked. “They have the worst ideas about coming of age too.  Nathan called it barbaric.”

Rosemary nodded, her hand tightening around James’. “Grace said that — that,” she shook her head, tears filling her eyes even as she looked rather more angry than anything. “They all think I didn’t want to.  Nathan didn’t even believe me when I told him I did.”

“Nate!”  Andrew was staring at his brother in something near to disgust, seemingly having heard their conversation. “You thought that and you hung out with them anyway?  What the hell is wrong with you?”

That was a fair question, by James’ standards.  He wasn’t sure he ever wanted to see Grace again, but at least she didn’t associate with people she thought took advantage of muggle girls.  Nathan was a mystery to him.

Especially since he didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong, simply shrugging and saying he didn’t care as long as he didn’t have to do it.  James wasn’t at all sure what to do with that.  Other than never, ever leave Rosemary alone with him, that was.  Or Wendy or Sarah, for that matter.  Maybe not even Emily and Grace.  Merlin knew what a boy who had that reaction to taking girls against their will might think was acceptable.

Father interrupted what was sure to be a new argument between the brothers, asking Nathan why he thought what he did about coming of age.  James wasn’t sure what hurt Father more, the knowledge that Charlotte must have contributed to his views (if only by not correcting him) or the nonchalant way in which he said it.  As if he wasn’t calling nearly everyone at Linfred a rapist.  James found himself pulling Rosemary against him without any thought at all about propriety.  Sod propriety.  He needed her closer right now, simply holding her hand wasn’t enough.

What James found most interesting was Andrew’s reaction.  He shook his head almost through the entirety of Nathan’s explanation, frustration clear on his face.  Why was made clear when he turned to Father, after Nathan had finished speaking.

“We don’t all think that,” he said, “a few of my friends had traditional coming of ages, and a bunch are courting now.”

“Yeah,” Nathan scoffed, “the purebloods.  You know Mom and Dad don’t like it when you hang around with them.  They put stupid ideas in your head.”

James couldn’t quite help but wonder what Canada was like that Nathan could say ‘pureblood’ with that tone. Twice now, without even seeming to realise he was in an ancestral pureblood home, talking with his pureblood relatives.

“They’re not stupid.”  Andrew didn’t sound angry so much as resigned.  James got the feeling this was not a new  argument. “You’d know that if you ever bothered to pay attention to more than hockey and quidditch.  Over a thousand magical societies in the world and nearly all of them have something like the coming of age and courting rituals.  We’re the strange ones, not them.”

It probably shouldn’t have been surprising that Nathan wasn’t swayed by that, not when it was clear Andrew had said it all before.  That didn’t stop James from being surprised at the vehemence with which he insisted that just made all the other cultures backwards.  He couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that Nathan could be enjoying Hatty’s biscuits and complaining about his sister one moment, then calling James and virtually all of magical Europe perverts the next.  Even Sirius wasn’t that moody.

Father was watching the argument with an expression James couldn’t begin to make sense of.  He would have expected composed, confused, maybe even angry or disappointed, if Nathan was impolite enough.  Instead he just looked blank.  It was disconcerting.  Father was always controlled, always made James wish he could manage his temper so well, but he wasn’t blank.  Even Rosemary was looking at him in concern, and she’d only been around him a few times.  James found himself wishing he hadn’t brought Nathan.  It didn’t seem to be helping anything and now something was wrong with Father.

Abruptly, Father stood, the movement startling enough that Andrew and Nathan stopped fighting.  He walked over to one of the many bookcases, pulled out a thin volume, and handed it to Nathan.  James recognised it a moment before Father spoke.

“This,” he said, “is the first book of lessons in Potter family rituals.  I read it to James when he was three.”  He walked back to the shelf he’d gotten the book from, selecting several more before going back to Nathan. “Each of these is designed to teach about our culture and history and rituals.  All but one were used by James, Sarah, or Wendy.  If James will allow you into the nursery, you can see that Rosemary’s books are exactly like Sarah and Wendy’s, with a few additions from the Goldsteins.  The last book is for a boy your age, the one James will be using in a year.”  He held up his hand, forestalling Nathan’s attempt to speak. “I am not asking you to agree with any of them.  You are more than old enough now to make up your own mind.  I only ask that you go through the books enough to see what our views are for yourself, rather than listening to what others tell you about them.”

He hesitated for a moment, seeming unsure whether or not to say whatever it was he wanted to say next.  Only when Nathan looked as though he was going to speak again did Father place a hand on his shoulder, and then it still took him another moment before he said anything.

“I never intended to hurt your grandmother.”  James wrapped his arm tighter around Rosemary at the sound of his father’s voice. “If there was anything I could do to take away any pain I might have caused her I would do it in an instant.  I hope you know that.”  He shook his head slightly, glancing at where Rosemary had curled herself into James before turning back to Nathan. “I truly did love Charlotte, far more than I was willing to admit at the time.”

“Now,” he straightened and suddenly he was Father again, not a horribly sad wizard James couldn’t quite bring himself to look at, “if you will all excuse me, I have correspondence to see to and the accounts won’t sort themselves.  James,” he turned, smiling softly at the sight of them, “you and Rosemary are free to stay in your rooms for the rest of the day, but I’d like you to try visiting with Sarah and Thomas tomorrow.  You can’t stay cooped up all summer, it isn’t healthy.  Growing bodies need fresh air and sunlight, even if they end up covered in freckles as a result.”

James tried to smile, but he couldn’t help feeling it wasn’t quite strong enough to be convincing.  Father should never have looked like that, as though it would take more than a hundred lifetimes for him to move past Charlotte enough to be fully happy.  The idea that that could have been him and Rosemary left him feeling as though he’d faced a dementor.  It was almost unthinkable, for all that he knew the only reason it wasn’t was that Rosemary was more forgiving than he could ever deserve.

She slipped into his lap the moment Father left, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face against his neck.  He knew exactly how she felt. Somehow the last few minutes had made everything feel foggy. Indistinct and more than a little frightening. Emotions shouldn’t be catching, he didn’t think, but he thought maybe Father’s might have been.

Nathan was saying something.  Asking to visit the nursery, maybe?  James shook his head, lifting Rosemary with him when he stood.  They needed to get back to their rooms.  This wasn’t close enough, not nearly, not with the magic and Father’s sadness and Grace and Nathan’s accusations.  The only thing James wanted more than feeling Rosemary’s skin against his was to never, ever see Father look the way he had today again.

“I’ll ask Hatty to take you to the nursery,” he said, as he walked toward the door. “You can pick out the books, but...that’s it.  When you’re done with them just give them to a house elf, they’ll put them back.”  He didn’t want to do that much, didn’t want Nathan anywhere near their rooms with what he thought of them, but Father would never have suggested anyone go near the heir wing if it wasn’t important.

He tried not to think of how Nathan was looking at him as though James had hurt his feelings.  Andrew could explain, probably.  If Nathan even thought to ask.

Rosemary stared down at her teacup, avoiding Miss Taylor’s eyes.  She wasn’t sorry.  Not even a little bit.  Grace had been horrid and the only thing Rosemary regretted was that magic made it so easy for witches to heal.  If she looked up Miss Taylor would know that for sure.  She always seemed to know when Rosemary was truly remorseful and when she was just trying to avoid being scolded or punished.  And with the way the courtship magic was still affecting her, making her anxious simply because James was sitting outside the door instead of in the nursery with her, she’d probably end up saying something she’d regret.  It was better to be admonished for poor posture and manners, at least then she might look apologetic enough to appease Miss Taylor.

“I must say, I am surprised and not a little disappointed.”  Miss Taylor’s voice was light, almost conversational.  It made Rosemary want to sink into the floor.  Nothing good came of Miss Taylor sounding like Mother. “I did think you knew better than to be so impulsive, to say nothing of shortsighted.  Did it not occur to you that Miss Campbell will still be at Linfred for nearly another month?  I doubt she’s going to take well to having been beaten by a muggle girl three years younger than her.”

Rosemary hadn’t thought of that, actually.  Suddenly the memory of Grace’s scratched up cheeks was less satisfying.  Even if she did deserve it.

“I have spoken with Mr Khatri,” Miss Taylor continued, “he has arranged for Mr Morrison to exchange his fencing lessons for bartitsu.  You will join him.”

The biscuit Rosemary had been holding dropped back onto the plate. “I’m sorry?”

Miss Taylor smiled, further confusing her. “You, love, are a muggle who will be spending the rest of her life surrounded by witches and wizards.  I would much rather you not get into these types of situations again,” the look Miss Taylor gave her made it clear that was not the last Rosemary would hear of that part, “but Lord Stinchcombe is his father’s only heir.  He has been trying to protect you from what that means. I think it is a mistake.” She set down her teacup, placing her hand over Rosemary’s. “James and his father have done everything they can to keep you safe from magical harm, you needn’t ever worry about that. But they are purebloods and Gryffindors and they don’t think about anything that isn’t magic. If you are ever going to be able to do all of the things you will have to as the Duchess of Linfred, you will need to learn to, as they say, ‘hit once and hit hard’.”

“Hit on —”  Rosemary stopped herself before she could finish the sentence.  Repeating things out of shock was not something Miss Taylor appreciated. “I’m not being punished?”  The words were out before she’d had a chance to think about them.  Maybe she did need to work on her self-control.

“Oh you are most certainly being punished,” Miss Taylor laughed, “What you did was reckless, pointless as Miss Campbell surely has not changed her mind, and completely unbecoming of a young lady, especially one who is courting the only heir of one of the oldest and most influential magical families in Britain.”

Rosemary shrank back in her seat.  She shouldn’t have asked.

“Mr Prewett has agreed to assist with lessons in subtlety and planning, one hour every day except Saturday, beginning tomorrow.”  Miss Taylor gave Rosemary a look that had her quickly cutting off her objections before they’d started. “Consider any discomfort you might feel as a result of the magic settling part of your punishment.  You are a muggle, Rosemary.  You can’t go about openly attacking every witch or wizard who provokes you.  What would you have done if Miss Campbell’s magic had lashed out, or her brother’s?  Do not," she added, before Rosemary could answer, “say that Lord Stinchcombe’s magic would have protected you, or your bracelet.  You don’t know that.  Wild magic is not at all the same as controlled magic, it cannot be as easily defended against. They could have been just a hair too slow and then where would you be?”  Miss Taylor reached out to cup her cheek, her expression softening. “You could have been seriously hurt.  Muggles and squibs have died when caught in a witch or wizard’s uncontrolled magic.  You must learn not to let words get to you, not when the person saying them could maim or kill you with little more than a twitch of their wand.”

Rosemary looked down at her tea again, this time for an altogether different reason. “I’m sorry,” she said.  And she was, even if not for the reason Miss Taylor probably thought she should be.

“I know you are, love.”  Miss Taylor pushed the plate of rainbow biscuits toward her. “Now tell me, how did it feel to pull that intolerable girl’s hair?”

James ran his thumb across his ring, reassuring himself it was still there. Going into the village had been Sarah’s idea and she’d spent a good portion of the morning arguing with Rosemary over what James should wear. The largest part of the fight had involved their courtship jewellery. Sarah had insisted they wear none of it, Rosemary had refused, and in the end James had listened to Thomas who’d suggested hiding it somehow.

Rosemary had sulked the entire walk from the edge of Linfred to the village. James couldn’t say he blamed her, not when he couldn’t shake the feeling that they were doing something wrong by hiding. It felt like saying the Campbells were right. That what they were was twisted and shameful when every part of him knew it was something to be celebrated. Having to drop Rosemary’s hand when they got close to the village didn’t help.

The village was interesting, at least.  Thomas seemed surprisingly well known, several of the shopkeepers greeting him by name.  He shrugged when asked about it though, only saying that he and his tutor often chose to do lessons in the park so they could have lunch or dinner at the pub.

It was around the fourth greeting that James realised Rosemary seemed to be as unknown to everyone as him and Sarah. “Do you not like the village?” he asked. “I could ask Miss Taylor to bring you more often, if you’d like.”

He was rather surprised when she immediately shook her head, her nose scrunching in a way that made him wish he could kiss her. “I like the music shop,” she said, “and the cinema and Mrs Levy, but the girls aren’t very nice.  Some of Thomas’ friends tried to introduce me to their sisters, but all they did was make fun of my accent and call me a snob.  Then Miss Taylor was cross with me because I laughed when one of them tripped over a football and tore her dress.”  She shrugged, smiling up at James. “I’d much rather be at home or with the Goldsteins.”

Bollocks.  Now he wanted to kiss her even more.  Bloody muggle customs.  Luckily, they arrived at the music shop just then and he was distracted by listening to her chatter about all the instruments and the new music she was working on.  There were several other instruments she was quite obviously desperate to try, which James immediately made note of.  Mother probably wouldn’t allow another lesson just yet, but in another year her coming of age lessons with the Goldsteins and Levys would be finished, or at least less intensive.  That should be just enough time for him to commission a flute from the satyrs.

He cringed slightly when she gazed longingly at a set of bagpipes.  There had to be something he could do to pay Alice back for sending her that record of Highland folk music.

“It’s nice to see a lad looking out for his sister.  Best be working on your boxing now, you’ll be beating the boys away from her in a few years.”

James jumped slightly, having not heard the shopkeeper come up behind him. “Beg pardon?” he asked, wondering what in Godric’s name the old man was on about.  Sarah wasn’t even on this side of the shop.

The shopkeeper nodded toward Rosemary, who was looking through sheet music. “She’s a pretty little thing, your sister.  Won’t be long before lads are fighting each other to get her attention.”

Lads fight — James focused on his ring to keep himself from snapping. “She’s my —”

“Cousin.”  Thomas seemed to appear out of nowhere, cutting James off from what truly would have been a stupid response. “They’re cousins.  Third cousins, really. Third cousins twice removed, isn’t it Potter?” Thomas didn’t wait for James to respond. “Potter’s family took her in when her parents died even though they’re barely related. Awful nice of them, I think.”

“Potter? You’ll be from up at the old estate then. That explains the accent.”  The man patted James on the shoulder, smiling while James tried not to look as lost as he felt. “Been a long time since we’ve had a young Potter around, not since my da was a lad. I’d best warn you, the older ladies are likely to pinch your cheeks off if they know who y’are. Everyone still talks about the fireworks up at the castle the night you were born, almost like magic.”

James waited until the shopkeeper was back at the counter, sorting through something, before turning to Thomas, unable to do more than stare in confusion.

“I know.” Thomas rolled his eyes, shaking his head slightly. “He’s right, the old ladies are awful. Every time I see one of them they ask if you’ve gone off to school yet or when your dad’s going to let you visit. It’s like you’re bloody pop stars. What were you going to tell Mr Fletcher, that Mary was your girlfriend?  Have you gone daft?”

“Intended,” James muttered, blushing. “I didn’t mean to, it just slipped out.”  It had, something in him needing to correct the assumption.  He supposed they should just be glad he’d managed to keep his magic from sparking.

They should probably leave before the shopkeeper said something else, actually.  James would rather not have to tell Father half the village needed obliviating because he’d overestimated how much control he had.  He went over to where Rosemary was still searching through music, seeming to be trying to decide between several selections.

“You can just buy them all, you know,” he said.  Truly she could buy the entire shop if she wanted, building and all.  Or not her, technically, not until they were properly married, but James certainly could and it was really the same thing.  It wasn’t as though he would ever say no if she asked for something.

Especially not when she always seemed so surprised and pleased, as though she hadn’t even considered asking.  James forced himself to only lightly return the embrace as she threw herself at him and kissed his cheek.  It was helped slightly by the sudden thought that perhaps she truly hadn’t thought to ask.  He tried to think of the last time she’d asked him for anything outside their rooms — distracted temporarily by having to fumble with the muggle money he’d asked Father to exchange for him and Sarah’s exasperated response when he nearly gave the shopkeeper a note that was apparently far too large for a boy his age to be carrying.

Rosemary rarely asked for anything in general, and nothing that could be purchased.  He glanced ahead at where she and Sarah were chatting, debating whether to stop at the sweet shop before or after the cinema.  Sarah asked for things, she’d pestered Mother and Father for weeks until they agreed she was old enough for a faster broom.  Wendy was always wanting a new doll or book or game.  But Rosemary barely even asked to go riding or visit the sprites.

“Thomas,” he asked, “how often do you ask Sarah for things?  Gifts, I mean.  Books or a new football, or whatever that muggle sport is.”

Thomas just stared at him for a moment. “Never.”  He looked sideways at James, as though he’d said something odd. “She’s a girl, Potter, she’s supposed to ask me for things.”

James frowned at the slightly bitter tone to his voice.  It wasn’t as though Thomas didn’t have an allowance, a rather generous one based on the accounts.  If he wanted to buy something for Sarah he could.  Rosemary preferred to give James things she’d made because, as she said, she didn’t know anything about magical gifts, but Sarah still loved muggle things.

“Rosemary never asks for anything.”  He kept his voice pitched low enough that Sarah and Rosemary couldn’t hear.  This wasn’t something he was ready to talk with her about just yet. “Not even for Christmas or her birthday.  She doesn’t even hint.  I thought maybe it was a muggle thing, but if muggle girls are supposed to ask boys for presents...”

Thomas shrugged, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his trousers. “We didn’t get gifts at the home.  I dunno about the orphanage, but it probably wasn’t that different.  Sarah never really talks about it so it can’t have been nice.”

“Sarah asks for things though, all the time.  So does Wendy.”

“Sarah and Wendy were adopted.”  Thomas was looking at him as though he were a bit slow now, an odd combination of bewildered and pitying. “It’s different for us.  We’re not really part of the family, are we?  Not even with you and Rosemary courting and me being her brother soon.  We’re not Potters.  We’re still off in separate rooms with Mr Khatri and Miss Taylor.  I’d never even seen your parents or Wendy before that dinner.  It’s like we’re just in a more posh orphanage, really.  A strange one, where we’re expected to do things I’d have been paddled for at the home.”

James couldn’t help the frown that pulled at the sides of his mouth at Thomas’ explanation.  Linfred wasn’t supposed to be like another orphanage.  That was the entire point.  It wasn’t a family, not really, but the Potter books always said muggles should feel comfortable and wanted.  And there was something else wrong with what Thomas had said, something that niggled at James’ nerves until he was he was hit by it like a well aimed bludger.

“Expec —”  He stopped, tugging at Thomas’ shoulder and gesturing for the girls to go on ahead of them.  He looked around for a moment before finding a narrow alleyway to pull Thomas into.  

“You know you don’t have to do anything, don’t you?” he asked, as soon as they were out of sight and hearing.  “Sarah would never have forced you, even if she had been born a Potter.  Mother and Father would call the aurors on us themselves if we even tried.”

Thomas had to know that.  He had to know it because Rosemary had to know it.  James felt as though he might be ill at even the thought that she’d only wanted to that first night because she’d thought it was expected of her.

“That’s the whole reason we’re here though, isn’t it?”  Thomas didn’t look nearly as horrified by that statement as James thought he should. “I don’t mind, Potter, it’s not as though it’s a great burden.  Maybe if I didn’t fancy Sarah or if she was horribly ugly or something, but as it is it’s not bad.  I’ve a castle to live in with my own rooms, a private tutor who’s obviously better than my old teachers, and sometimes a girl I fancy wants to shag.”  He shrugged. “It’s better than being adopted by perverts or people who beat me or having to find a way to support myself next year without any qualifications.”

“No.”  James shook his head, running his hands through his hair as he tried to think of how to explain how terrible everything Thomas had just said was. “That’s not the reason at all, not for Potters.  Or, it is, but not the way you think.  Haven’t you read the training books?”

“Training — oh, those magical health books, you mean?”  Thomas laughed, shaking his head in a completely different way than James had. “I knew all that long before I came here.  You learn a lot, growing up with a load of other boys.  The moving illustrations were useful though.  Don’t think I’d have been able to find everything so easily without them.”

“Not those training books, wanker.”  Merlin, he could at least take this a little more seriously. “The other ones, the ones that talk about the rituals and what they mean.”  The entire bloody one about coming of age traditions.  The one James had always assumed Rosemary had meant when she’d said Hatty had given her the training books.  He tried not to think about the fact that Rebecca had obviously not had the first clue about coming of age.  It just…hadn’t occurred to him then.  Not when she was so eager after that first hesitant kiss.

Now, seeing Thomas look quizzically at him and hearing him talk about expectations…James wished he’d paid more attention.  He found himself sinking down against the wall as he tried to process how this changed everything.  Did Rosemary even really want to be with him?  Could she, if she’d started off thinking that she was expected to...he didn’t want to think about it.  She’d be looking for him by now, with Sarah.  He wasn’t sure if he could face her.

He had to though. Had to go to the cinema and the sweet shop and everything else Sarah had been looking forward to for weeks. He allowed himself to be helped up by Thomas, nodding vaguely when he said…something. It was all more than a little foggy. He tried, picked up sweets for Wendy and attempted to look interested when Thomas and Sarah explained the rules of football, but by the time they got to the cinema Rosemary was darting him concerned glances. The cinema would probably have been his favourite part, had he not been so preoccupied. As it was, Rosemary curling up against him in the darkness only made him feel guilty. It was as though the twins and Thomas were playing in a loop in his mind, Nathan saying Rosemary couldn’t have said no, Thomas talking about expectations, Grace…shouting. Just shouting because he couldn’t seem to think the words.

Yet he also couldn’t bring himself to push Rosemary away or stop brushing his fingers along her sides. When they walked back to Linfred he clutched her hand in his, trying to memorise how it felt. He’d have to ask her as soon as they were back in their rooms, not knowing was already driving him more than a little mad. If she thought the same thing Thomas did he’d call Father to end the courtship immediately and move back into his rooms in the family wing. She could stay in their — in the heir wing until she was adopted, the Goldsteins would probably be thrilled to have her. And then they could start over. She would be a muggle girl he fancied instead of his girl and he would find out how muggles courted to make absolutely sure she knew the difference and it would be fine, they’d be courting properly again before he knew it because that was the only outcome he could imagine that didn’t make him feel as though he couldn’t breathe.

He was not at all surprised that Rosemary knew something was wrong when they got to their rooms. Especially not after he forced himself to step away from her attempt to embrace him.

“Jamie,” her voice was small and uncertain, very nearly frightened and he found himself closing his eyes against it, “what’s wrong?  I don’t mind if you don’t like muggle things, I don’t really like the village anyway and I’ve still not seen all of Linfred, not even most of it —”

He stepped forward, quieting her. He hated hearing her sound like that, as though she were afraid of being abandoned. She hadn’t in over a year now, not since O’Neill. “Could —” he swallowed, trying to get a bit of moisture into his mouth, “could you show me which training books Hatty gave you?  The ones that made you —” another swallow, this time with heat he could feel rising in his cheeks, “want to...try.”

“Why?”  Rosemary moved closer, frowning when he backed away for a second time. “Jamie, what’s wrong?”

“Please,” he hated the way his voice decided to start breaking again, “just show me?  I’ll explain after, I promise.”

Rosemary peered at him for a moment before nodding.  James followed as she went to the nursery, every step feeling longer than the last.  It couldn’t have taken more than two minutes for her to find a book and hand it to him, but he would have sworn it was hours.

He nearly collapsed in relief when he saw that it was the book on coming of age.  It was almost too much to believe, he found himself opening it just to be sure it was what he thought it was.  The full coming of age book, not even only the wizard or witch half like he’d started with.  The book that spent an entire section on how important it was that everyone want to and why, a section James hadn’t appreciated nearly as much two years ago as he did now.  Thank Merlin for Hatty.

James looked up to see Rosemary watching him, her expression a mixture of confusion and worry.  Almost before he knew what he was doing he’d gathered her up in his arms and pressed her against one of the nursery walls, kissing every part of her he could reach.  

“James,” Rosemary laughed, pulling away slightly so that he had to switch to kissing her neck instead of her lips, “what happened?”

“I thought,” James kissed her again, unable to stop himself, “Thomas made me think the twins were right and —” another kiss, deep enough to draw out one of the moans he loved so much, “I never want you to think you have to do anything. Anything at all, even if I want to. If I get upset just…I don’t know, slap me. Or call Hatty or come to the nursery or tell Father or —”

Rosemary cut him off, kissing him gently before looking at him in a way that made him never want to look away. “You’re a prat,” she said, “I knew I didn’t have to because you told me. Hatty didn’t need to give me the books for that part.”

“Even —” he had to ask, had to be sure, but that didn’t make it easy, “even though you knew you were one of my gifts?”

“But I didn’t, not at first.”

James found himself gaping openly and unable to stop. How had she not known?

“I —” she blushed, burying her face against his neck. “I thought you were my gift. Hatty didn’t know I was confused until I asked why I still didn’t have magic.”

At that moment James realised none of the training books said anything about age or being born with magic. It didn’t need to be said, not to wizarding children. But Rosemary’s favourite book had been about a girl who seemed to be able to do a wandless, wordless leviosa. James found himself laughing, kissing Rosemary when she pouted.

Merlin, he didn’t know it was possible to go from terrified to happy so quickly. It was probably a good thing Rosemary had put on knickers for the trip to the village because if she hadn’t James wasn’t sure he’d have been able to put her down and return to the chaste touches he’d promised himself he’d keep to after the ritual magic had started to calm. Not when all he wanted to do was feel her and taste her and reassure himself that she truly did want everything they did together.

But she was and he did, even if he perhaps allowed himself to kiss her a little longer and deeper than was fair. He couldn’t help it, no more than he could help kissing her fingers when she clasped his hand to lead him out of the room.

It wasn’t until they were sitting together on the sofa, going through some of the books Father and Miss Taylor had assigned them to prepare for the new roles they would take on once their betrothal was official, that James remembered about Rebecca. How she’d known nothing, not even what being his gift meant.

Rosemary’s hesitation when he asked the question was really all the answer he needed. “I don’t know,” she said, turning so that she was leaning against him. “She always seemed happy when she visited, not like at the orphanage.  She said that you were nice.  I think...”  Rosemary bit her lip for a moment, the gesture making him smile for all that he wasn’t getting the answer he wanted.  “I think she fancied you, but I don’t know if she thought she had to.”

James nodded.  That was the answer he’d been expecting, even if he didn’t like it.  They’d done this all wrong.  All this time James had thought that asking and making sure and being careful and considerate and giving muggles anything they might need or want was enough.  He was a little ashamed that it had taken him two years to understand that it applied to everything, but he and Rosemary were courting now so those were mistakes he could live with.  He never would have guessed that the muggles thought the choice was only in when or how they were with a witch or wizard.  Merlin, what if one of them didn’t even fancy boys or girls?  That was part of the reason you had to ask.  Father still muttered about how unfair it was that the Prewetts had expected Gideon and Fabian’s older brother to be with girls for his coming of age instead of just giving him boys like he’d asked.

Father, oh Merlin. James nearly stood up, before remembering Rosemary.

“Ja —”

“I have to tell Father.”  There was very little he wanted to do less, but he was a Potter and a Gryffindor and that meant he had to. “I don’t think — Charlotte never got the training books, I’m almost certain.” No one had except Rosemary. He should have realised, should have thought about it before. Hadn’t he told Father he’d get his sons girls early so they could read them? He’d forgotten, somehow. Rebecca had been so willing and neither Thomas nor Alexander seemed to mind, after Rosemary…he hadn’t realised until now just how differently she’d been treated than any of the others.

Rosemary’s eyes widened for a moment before she shook her head. “Why?  It’ll only make him sad.”

“Wh — because he deserves to know!”  James turned so he could grasp Rosemary’s hands, hoping that for once he could find the bloody words he wanted.  “I hated myself when I thought you didn’t know you had a choice.  It was awful, like all of my favourite memories of us had been ruined. I was afraid we’d have to stop courting because you hadn’t known.”

“That’s why you shouldn’t tell him!  It doesn’t help anything, only hurts.  It’s —” she paused for a moment before making a frustrated sound in the back of her throat.  “I don’t remember what it’s called, but the Goldsteins were talking about it at Shabbat before you came back from school.  It’s better to not say anything if all you’ll do is hurt someone.  Even if it’s something really big, if they can’t fix it there’s no point.  It just hurts.”

“Rosemary…”  James hated the helpless tone in his voice. “If it was you and me I’d want to know.  Even if I couldn’t fix it, at least I’d know why you left.”

“But it’s an awful reason.  And it’s not his fault, not really.”  She was looking at him with a pleading expression he’d never seen before.  Merlin, he’d give her anything she wanted, but he couldn’t give her this.  After the rest of the day, he thought a crucio might hurt less.

“It doesn’t matter.”  He wished it did because the way she was looking at him now was almost as bad as when he told her he’d shagged Lily, but it didn’t.  “I have to tell him about Thomas, at least, so he can make sure Wendy’s boys get the training books.”

He knew she understood when she nodded, kissing his cheek before pressing close to him and calling Tessie.  They both knew Father would immediately realise what Thomas thought about why he was at Linfred likely meant about Charlotte.

Father was taking it rather better than expected, in James’ opinion.  He wasn’t sure he’d have been able to simply close his eyes for a moment before calling a house elf to bring him a glass of firewhiskey.  He’d nearly had a breakdown in a muggle alleyway even with the memories Rosemary had used to create his courtship set flashing in front of him every time he put a piece on.

When Father opened his eyes again, he looked at Rosemary.  He kissed the top of her head, smiling softly when James’ magic sparked.

“I am so very glad Hatty gave you the training books,” he said. “If I had known they might be what made you feel differently than Charlotte, I would have given them to you myself.”

James smiled, enjoying the way Rosemary blushed.  Then Father’s words caught up to him and he had to take a moment to process what he thought he’d heard.

“Did — Father, have you never cared if I married a witch or not?”

“Caught that, did you?”  Fleamont smiled, shaking his head fondly. “James, the only things you have ever needed to do to please me are be happy and respectable.  You were the one who decided that meant marrying a witch.”  He paused for a moment before adding, “I wouldn’t mind if you paid a little more attention to your studies than playing pranks.  Especially as you will soon be taking up the responsibilities of being the Potter heir, at a younger age than I did.”

James nodded absently.  He knew all that, the fuss about accounts and learning the various ways the estate supported itself.  He wasn’t particularly looking forward to having to attend meetings with Father and take additional lessons on the workings of the Wizengamot on top of his regular schoolwork and, hopefully, quidditch.  He was quite honestly dreading being by far the youngest confirmed heir at Hogwarts.  Sirius was sure to take the piss.  But it came with being betrothed and the only thing he wanted more than that was to never have to tell Rosemary he’d done something that would hurt her again.  Besides, Father had always said he would get the invisibility cloak when he was confirmed as heir.

What bothered him was the idea that he’d not been told he had to marry a witch.  He could have sworn he was.  He would go to Hogwarts and find a witch who caught his interest enough to court. Ideally a pureblood, but that wasn’t required as long as the witch could be trained in proper pureblood manners.  No one had ever said muggles were an option, or squibs, for that matter.

“Why did you always say I would marry a witch, then?”

Father raised an eyebrow and James realised he and Rosemary had been talking.  He must have been in his own head more than he thought.

“Where would you have met a muggle, other than your girls?”  Father shrugged slightly, taking a sip of his firewhiskey. “I didn’t think it was likely they would stay forever, not after Charlotte, and you know far more witches.  It made sense to assume you would marry a witch.  Or wizard, but you never showed any of those inclinations.”

James flushed, remembering a time before his coming of age when he’d been slightly curious about a section in his training book.  It had been…interesting, but the idea of trying it with Sirius or even Remus was not appealing in the slightest.  He’d rather shag O’Neill again.

“So if I had asked to court Rosemary last summer, or over Christmas or Easter, you wouldn’t have minded?”  He wouldn’t have, he had still been blind then, but it was in part because he’d thought he wasn’t allowed.

“James.”  Father leaned forward to cup the back of his head.  “I would find a way to change the family magic for you, if that was what it took for you to be allowed to marry whomever you pleased.”

Chapter Text

Rosemary wriggled, trying to press herself even closer against James’ chest than she was. It was still far too early to wake up. And even if it wasn’t, it was summer and Shabbat and that meant she could stay in bed as long as she liked. No lessons, not even the ones with Fabian, and they weren’t at the Goldsteins so there wasn’t shul to go to. Just Jamie and bed and warmth, just enough to feel cosy and safe. Like when Jamie’s magic sometimes wrapped around them while they were together. It would be perfect, if she could stop feeling like he was too far when she was right on top of him.

“Why are you awake?” Jamie’s voice was rough and slightly choked with sleep.

“You’re too far.” She wriggled again, gasping when the movement had Jamie pressing against her. She honestly hadn’t meant to do that.

She was about to press down, enjoy the feel of him sliding into her, when he moved, rolling so that they were on their sides, then gently pushing Rosemary until she was facing the same way he was. His hand slid between her legs, carefully teasing her before she had a chance to protest.

Rosemary could feel his magic, just a hint of extra warmth filling the room. Something about it was soothing. Miss Taylor was always worried about Jamie’s magic, but Rosemary had never been able to think of it as dangerous. It made her feel safe. One of the best parts about her bracelet was being able to feel just a little of Jamie’s magic all the time, if she concentrated.

Right now she didn’t even have to concentrate. She could feel it gently twining with the rest of Jamie’s magic rising around them. A slight heat, not enough to be uncomfortable, spreading from her wrist to wrap around her, making the soft circles he was tracing around her even better. She found herself reaching behind her to pull him closer, needing more than the gentle nips and licks he was pressing to her shoulder the same way she needed to feel him rubbing against her.

James refused to cooperate, continuing with slow, lazy movements that made her whimper and pout as often as gasp and sigh. It was all haze and warmth, hands skimming across her skin and murmurs whispering in her ear. He was saying something, probably trying to soothe her because somewhere in the fog of magic and flame she knew she was near tears from how much closer she needed him, but if there were actual words she couldn’t make them out.

Somehow the gentle peak he brought her to only made things worse, further muting everything that wasn’t touch and need. He was so close, his fingers languidly moving inside her even if he’d angled his hips away so that she couldn’t press back against him. She could feel how close he was, thought she might almost be able to reach out and touch the magic moving around them like currents made of heat shimmers instead of water, but he was still too far and she had neither the words nor the physical ability to express it. The best she could manage was more whimpers, quiet, desperate sounds that tore out of her with every new touch.

She was vaguely aware of Jamie moving her, bending her leg forward slightly while his other hand continued to work inside her. He seemed to be fumbling, pulling away so that she cried out and blindly grasped behind her, before pressing himself tight against her back and whispering apologies against her ear. There was more fumbling, a few muttered curses, and then he was gone again, no longer wrapped around her and warding off the worst of the awful feeling of distance.

Rosemary thought she might understand a little of the danger of Jamie’s magic then, though not at all in the way Miss Taylor seemed afraid of. Jamie’s magic was safe and warm and comforting and she didn’t think she could ever be afraid of it. But right now, like this, with magic caressing her and making her even more aware that Jamie had moved away, even for a moment, she could see herself going a little mad from the conflicting need for more and less.

Then Jamie’s hands were on her, carefully turning her around and pulling her so that she was as close to him as she could be. He fumbled again, this time keeping one hand running along her arm and side while he pulled her leg over his hip. She could feel him against her, knew that he was trying to position himself, but she couldn’t seem to do anything more than try to wrap her arms tighter around him. She was too hot and he was too far and the magic in the room was so thick she thought she might choke —

And then Jamie was slipping inside her, his hands grasping her bum to pull her onto him while he softly kissed her between murmured words she couldn’t quite make out. His magic was soothing again, brushing against her skin so that she gasped and clutched at him. She still couldn’t speak, still couldn’t begin to explain what had happened, but he wasn’t too far and she no longer felt as though she was burning up. The heat was still there. Warm and pressing against her, now mixed with what almost felt like a gentle breeze making sure she was kept comfortable.

Now she could enjoy the almost liquid way Jamie was moving against her. Rolled hips and lazy strokes and limbs intertwined as a quiet hum built in her throat. She opened her eyes, moaning softly when he pressed just right inside her. Jamie was smiling at her, his face still more sleepy and relaxed than alert.

“Better?” he asked.

She nodded, closing her eyes again and making sure she was as close to him as she could get. “Don’t stop.”

He didn’t, not until she’d clutched and gasped and whispered his name, the feeling of him spilling inside her still new enough to make her breath hitch. It was…nice, she thought, as they drifted back to sleep. Warm and just a little more wet in a way that probably shouldn’t be noticeable or pleasurable, but made her sigh happily all the same.

When she woke again Jamie had propped himself up on one elbow to play with her hair as she slept. She smiled, still a little more asleep than awake, and pulled him down to kiss her.

“Are you ok?” Jamie’s smile held a tint of concern after they pulled away, not quite fully reaching his eyes.

She nodded, blushing as she tried to think of a way to explain what had happened when she wasn’t sure herself. The only thing she knew was that he’d been too far and it had kept her from being able to sleep. Which was silly because they’d always slept tangled together somehow, from the very first night she’d spent in his rooms. Last night shouldn’t have been any different.

She felt better though. Better than she had since the courting ritual. Her skin didn’t itch the way it had for weeks and she didn’t think she’d try to claw Grace’s eyes out if they were in the same room anymore. Jamie looked more relaxed too, less like he was fighting to keep his magic under control.

She’d thought they were better before. She’d managed ok when Sarah had run her hands through Jamie’s hair to make it look how she wanted before they went to the village and James had barely twitched when Thomas forgot and gave her a hug. Now she wondered how they’d managed to make it through the village without something happening. Something more than what had happened, anyway.

“Does the magic feel better to you? Less…”

“Twitchy?” James suggested, “I think so.” He reached out to play with her courtship necklace, his expression softening further. “It’s almost too bad. Now we’ll have to go to teas and lessons and everything. Mother and Father won’t just leave us alone for the summer when you have to learn how to be Lady Potter-Cohen and I have to prepare for being Father’s confirmed heir.”

“Really?” They’d spent last summer allowed to do nearly anything they wanted, aside from a few lessons with Miss Taylor while Jamie was doing his summer assignments.

James smiled, moving so that he was more fully atop her before answering. “You’re not my girl anymore. It’s like how Sarah and Thomas can do whatever they like, but Fabian still has to go to lessons with Father.” He looked down, expression pensive for a moment as he rubbed his fingers over her pendant. “I don’t — I don’t know how this part works, exactly. I know how it would work if you were a witch, but you already live here. I think Mother and Father and Miss Taylor will probably try to follow the traditions as much as they can.” His grin when he looked up again was a bit rueful, but it was there. “That means lessons. And visits and introductions and a bunch of other rubbish.”

“But you’re only home for a few more weeks!” Rosemary knew she was pouting, and that Mother and Miss Taylor and Mrs Goldstein would scold her for it if they could see. She didn’t care. Jamie was almost never home. “I don’t get to go to school with you, why do we have to do lessons now?”

“I don’t want to.” James sighed, looking as upset over the whole idea as Rosemary felt. It helped, a little. “I don’t think Mother and Father will let us skive off though. You, maybe, you’ll be able to do lessons all year, but Father’s going to want to make sure I’m ready to go back to school as his heir, I just know it.”

“Can I at least visit you at school then?” It would be easier to not spend every tea and lesson sulking if she at least knew they wouldn’t have to wait for holidays. Even last year it had felt like ages between each one.

She had expected for the answer to be no. Seeing James hesitate gave her a bit of hope, even when his response was uncertain.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ve a cottage in Hogsmeade and I’ll be able to go into the village next year, but not for very long. It’s only a few hours a month, really. Not even a full day. I don’t —” he blushed, kissing her so quickly she barely had time to feel it before continuing, “I’m not sure it’d be enough time. McGonagall doesn’t let you go the next time if you aren’t back when you’re supposed to be.”

“Ask? Please?” A few hours was better than nothing. Better than having to wait through September, October, November, and then most of December before barely two weeks of seeing each other. It had been hard enough before. Now, after the courtship magic and Grace and Nathan and Lily and everything else…she hoped Mrs Goldstein had been right when she told Rosemary that the next year leading up to her birthday would be busy.

Luckily, Jamie nodded, agreeing almost before she’d had a chance to finish the question. “Of course.” He kissed her again, slow and sweet and soft, so that she had to think for a moment when he smiled and said, “I don’t want to wait that long either.”

There wasn’t much talking after that, at least not anything that could be described as conversation. It was still Saturday. If they were going to have to start lessons and teas and whatever else as soon as it wasn’t Saturday anymore, then Rosemary was going to make sure they made the most of it.

As it turned out, the answer was, in fact, no. Or at least “no for now.” James had reasoned and argued and pressed and eventually ranted and sulked and pouted and still the answer hadn’t changed. It was a little unbalancing, really, he couldn’t remember the last time Father had outright refused him anything. And the worst part was he couldn’t even be upset at the reasoning. Not when it was worry that Rosemary wouldn’t be safe around some of the more traditional families.

He had agreed to keep James’ lessons to once a week, at least, and ask Mother and Miss Taylor to do the same. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more than they might have had.

Which was why he was only sulking a little about sitting in the study with Father and Andrew, going over some of the more nuanced workings of the Wizengamot instead of taking Rosemary to see more of Linfred. She still hadn’t even met any of the portraits, not really. The ancestors were polite enough to not visit the personal rooms unless asked and even then they didn’t tend to talk to anyone who wasn’t family.

For now though he was stuck trying to remember the difference between muggle and magical parliamentary rules and which parts of the Wizengamot used which. He wasn’t sure he had ever been more bored in his life.


He blinked, realising that was likely not the first time Father had said his name. Bollocks, what had they been talking about?

Father shook his head as he patted James on the shoulder. “If you promise to read section four of Black’s Rules and part two of Erskine May, we can switch to duelling until your mother’s tea is over. What do you think?”

James didn’t have to think, he just nodded gratefully. Reading he could do on the grounds or in their rooms with Rosemary, she was sure to have something from Mother or Miss Taylor she had to go over. Besides, duelling was far more interesting than parliamentary procedure. He ignored the way Andrew was frowning. Andrew was completely barmy, he loved lessons like this. When James would leave to do something fun like a normal person, Andrew would stay behind and pester Father with questions. It was mind boggling.

“I thought you weren’t allowed to use magic out of school? How are you going to duel?”

James blinked for a moment before the question registered. Father appeared to be having the same trouble because he didn’t say anything either.

“How would anyone know? Linfred is the family seat.” It wasn’t as if the Ministry could track every under age witch and wizard in Britain. That would be an impossible amount of work.

“What’s that —” Andrew stopped for a moment, his brow furrowing. “You mean you can do all the magic you want, as long as you’re here?”

James glanced at Father who looked just as confused as he was. Had none of the Campbells done any magic at all since they’d been at Linfred?

“The Trace doesn’t apply to magical estates such as Linfred,” Father explained, “nor to areas with large magical populations like Hogsmeade or Godric’s Hollow. There aren’t enough people at the ministry to keep track of all underage magic, they rely on parents to make sure children aren’t using magic inappropriately.”

“Does the Canadian Ministry really watch over all of you?” James tried to wrap his head around the idea. How was he supposed to learn how to be the Duke of Linfred if he couldn’t use magic outside of school? It wasn’t as if Hogwarts taught proper duelling or how to manage the wards or all the specialised potions and spells Father had slowly been teaching him so he could one day manage the estate.

Andrew was looking at them both a bit oddly now, as though they’d said something he hadn’t been prepared for. “Of course they do. It wouldn’t be fair if the purebloods could do magic, but not muggleborns or half-bloods who live in muggle areas, like me.”

That was the Weasleys’ argument for why they didn’t allow their children to do magic at home, but James had never understood it.

“How do you not forget everything over the summer then? And how do those pureblood friends of yours learn their family magicks?” James loved the Weasleys, they were always great fun at parties, but everyone knew they weren’t who you called for complicated magic. Powerful, but not complicated.

“What family magicks?”

Once again James found himself glancing at Father. This time his expression was concerned rather than confused and James couldn’t blame him. Andrew and his siblings thought of themselves as Campbells, but they were Potters by magic. How could Lucy or Charlotte have not told them that? What if one of them had one of the family gifts?

Father took Andrew by the shoulder and led him to the chairs by the fire. Probably a good idea, if Andrew was as much a Ravenclaw as James suspected this might make the poor sod faint. Ravenclaws loved learning new things, but James rather thought that sometimes their excitement was more dangerous than useful. Goldstein’s older brother had gotten so worked up he’d ended up in the hospital wing after he was pleased by a potions study he’d been reading.

“Why don’t you tell me what you know about magic?”

Andrew shrugged, not seeming to know where the question might be leading. “It’s genetic, I guess. We’ve got some sort of inherited genetic mutation. Muggleborns are probably random mutations, maybe the same one or maybe there are a bunch of different ones. A few of them might be related to squibs.” He shrugged again. “I stopped taking muggle science year before last so I don’t really understand most of it, but one of my teachers thinks magic has something to do with physics. I think. I...may have been reading under my desk when he said that.” He glanced up at Father with a slight blush as he finished.

James wasn’t sure it mattered what Andrew had been doing because he’d only understood about a third of that. From the looks of it, Father understood even less.

“It’s a muggle thing,” he explained, “Thomas was complaining about the revision he had to do. I think it might be kind of like potions and healing and alchemy. Maybe we should call Mr Khatri.”

Father shook his head, looking a little dazed. “It’s irrelevant, I think. The Unspeakables still haven’t found where magic comes from and I know they liaise with muggles.” He gave James an appraising look that James just knew was going to end badly for him. “Perhaps you should learn some of this muggle science. The Unspeakables are working with muggle researchers more and more and you should be able to understand their funding proposals.”

James tried to keep the grimace off his face. Brilliant. More lessons.

“Regardless,” Father turned back to Andrew, “that was not what I was asking. What do you know about the different types of magic?”

James knew what Andrew’s answer was going to be before he said it. He’d just realised that not once when studying with Lily had she mentioned types of magic. Which was odd and he should have thought it was odd because knowing what kind of magic you were working with made transfiguration loads easier, but he’d just assumed she knew. Everyone knew about different kinds of magic. Miss Taylor had even taught Rosemary about it, so that she’d understand the Potter rituals.

Father, however, looked more than a little stunned at Andrew’s shrugged, “There’s just magic, I guess.”

“Just…” Father seemed at a loss for words, which was a little frightening in itself. He stood, pacing for a moment before calling for a house elf to bring him a glass of wine. James thought that might be a bit of an overreaction. It wasn’t as if the muggleborns at school struggled that much, even without the coming of age rituals.

Then he thought of what Father had recently begun teaching him about soul and mind magicks and rather wished he was old enough to ask for a bit of wine himself.

“Magic,” Father explained, relaxing back into his seat, “comes in forms. There is ambient magic, the magic that exists in the air around us, given off from all living magical things, some more complex magical objects, and as a result of spell casting. Natural magic, the magic within living magical things that becomes ambient magic. And family magic, the magic that builds over time as a magical family devotes its time and energy to studying magic, that is sped up by having family traditions or rituals and a family home.” Father leaned forward, ensuring Andrew was looking at him. “There is more than one reason I have asked for you and your mother and your siblings to come to Linfred every year since I first learnt of your mother’s existence. Linfred is your home, as much as it is mine or James’, and your magic will never be as strong without its connection to your ancestors.”

Father had left out a fair bit. The parts about how those three divisions of magic were further subdivided and how some magic was a mix of different subdivisions. How Linfred wouldn’t matter if Stephen had been a pureblood and had his own family home to raise his children in, would matter less even if Lucy had only been sensible enough to have a magical bonding. The risks of not connecting with the family magic if you had a family gift, of never being fully in control or potentially losing your magic entirely. Looking at Andrew, pale and wide-eyed, James couldn’t blame him. Ravenclaws didn’t have the constitution for finding out you could have been permanently incapacitated because your muggle grandmother didn’t understand enough about magic.

“What does —” Andrew licked his lips, then took a sip of his tea. When he spoke again his voice was at least a bit more steady. “What does connecting with our ancestors mean? Is just being here enough? Should we all be talking to the portraits? Are there rituals we should be doing? If I do rituals at home does that mean I’m starting a new kind of family magic, or is it still Potter magic?”

Father held up a hand to stop Andrew, laughing slightly as he did so. “One at a time, there’s only one of me, I’m afraid. You simply have to exist at Linfred, nothing more. More time is better and the portraits never turn down company, but there have been Potters who were only brought to the castle a handful of times for important rituals, back when the family was larger.”

James pushed down the shiver of excitement that crept through him at the thought that there might soon be so many Potters that had to happen again. Would happen again, maybe not in his lifetime, but within his first grandchild’s. Too many Potters for Linfred to handle all at once without overly straining the family magic. A Linfred without empty rooms or entire wings sealed off because there was no use for them. He couldn’t even picture it properly. It would be brilliant, more than enough to make up for the troublesome courtship magic that still tickled a bit, even if not as much as it had before. Mother’s tea should be over, or close to, and the magic was tugging at him to find his intended and stay as near to her as possible.

Father, luckily, seemed to notice. He gave James another of his indulgent smiles and shoo-ed him and Andrew away saying he had to write a letter to the Hogwarts board.

James was slightly surprised when Andrew continued with him toward Mother’s solarium instead of going off to the library as usual. He was even more surprised that the normally placid boy appeared to be fuming, even going so far as to mutter to himself.

“Are you alright?”

Andrew startled slightly before waving James off. “I’m fine, just angry that no one ever thought to teach any of this before. What if we’d never come? Mom and Dad think the courting rituals are stupid and I’ve fought with them for years about coming of age, but this is permanent.” He tugged at his hair, a gesture James was coming to realise was as much a part of being a Potter as the hair itself being perpetually messy. “I’d thought my magic felt a bit funny since coming here. I thought I was just nervous. I didn’t know it was growing because there’s all this pureblood stuff no one ever thought to tell me. It’s not right, I should have been told.”

“You’re here now.” James patted Andrew shoulder, unsure what else to do. “Everyone’s magic will be fine. That’s all that matters.”

“No.” Andrew straightened somehow despite James not having realised he was slouching. “It’s not. There’s too much we don’t know because the purebloods take it for granted and everyone else thinks the traditions are backwards or pointless. I am getting every fucking book on family magic and rituals out of the library and forcing my family to understand them. And I’m going to start with making sure Em is properly taken care of.”

James couldn’t help but laugh. “They’re Potters,” he said, “You’ll need more than books and logic to convince them. Or have you not noticed the stubbornness comes with the hair?”

“Then I’ll be more stubborn.” He glanced at James, “They almost permanently weakened my baby sister’s magic. I love my family, but no one hurts my baby sister. Not even them.”

James found himself grinning as Andrew stalked off to Emily’s room, for all that the Campbells not understanding magic truly was dangerous. He’d never had a chance to see the Potter protectiveness first hand before. He hoped he looked like that when he was protective over Rosemary or his sisters. It was impressive.

James closed his eyes in the hopes of calming both his nerves and his magic.  It would be fine.  Rosemary was with Remus and Fabian and Sarah and Thomas.  Fabian and Sarah were both excellent duellists, Thomas was at least as protective as James himself, and Remus was level-headed in case Fabian forgot Thomas and Rosemary were muggles.  The twins were with their parents and would be away until tomorrow.  Hatty and Tessie were both keeping an eye out.  She had her bracelet and her earrings and would be sent to him immediately if she was in the least bit of danger.  Nothing more threatening than a pixie would be allowed anywhere near her.  She was perfectly safe.  He could focus on the meeting which was at least as important, if they wanted any chance at all of being betrothed before summer was over.

One more deep breath.  In.  Hold.  Slowly out.  It would be better if he didn’t have to wear full formal robes.  The black set off the courtship jewellery nicely (nearly the entire set, every piece he could reasonably wear at the same time without looking over-eager), but the heavier fabric always made him worry about tripping over his hems.  There was nothing for it though, he couldn’t very well walk into this looking like a child.  He had to look like James Hardwin Lancelot Avitus Potter, Marquess of Stinchcombe; first and only son of The Duke and Duchess of Linfred, soon to be named official heir to the Ancient and Most Gallant House of Potter.

It was bloody terrifying.  Merlin and Godric, what was he thinking?  He wasn’t ready for this.  Father hadn’t been ready for this when he was over a year older and he’d only had to worry about being heir.  One of the oldest Houses in Britain, another that was nearly as old as the Malfoys, the eldest daughter of a family as well respected as his own even if she was a squib, and Remus’ parents were hardly to be trifled with no matter their relative lack of power.  Lyall Lupin had fought bloody werewolves.  The man was nearly a legend, especially after he married Remus’ mum.

“You will do fine.”

“No,” James shook his head, not quite able to return to the breathing exercises Professor Sprout had taught him no matter how hard he tried. “I’m going to mess it up.  I’m going to mess it up and then the Goldsteins will take her away or we won’t be able to perform the betrothal or she’ll be stuck with a family less than she deserves or —”

“James,’" Father turned him and pushed a bottle into his hands, “take this and then breathe.”

James swallowed the potion without thought, not bothering to think what it might be until the racing thoughts in his head quieted and his breathing slowed.  Calming draught.  He’d needed a bloody calming draught, like a child with a nightmare.  How was he going to be heir if he couldn’t even get through a simple meeting with people who mostly knew and liked him?

“None of that.”  Father bent so that he was looking James in the eye. “Every Potter since the invention of the calming draught has needed one before his first meeting as heir.  For a daring hero, devoted father, or chivalrous suitor, call a Potter.  For a cool-headed strategist —”

“dear Merlin, call anyone else,” James laughed at the old joke.  “How did you know?”

Father shook his head as he straightened. “I think every Potter since the invention of the calming draught has also felt a bit ashamed at needing one.  We are Gryffindors, we dislike showing weakness.  James,” Father waited for him to make eye contact, “it is not a weakness.  It is never a weakness to want to do best for your family.  The weakness is only in allowing your pride to get in the way of using every tool at your disposal to ensure you are, in fact, doing your best.  Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.  Now, the only one you truly need worry about is Nicolette Prince, and she can easily be replaced with a different matriarchal line if she proves difficult.  The Goldsteins will back you.”

James grimaced at the idea.  It was true, but Rosemary knew Alice.  He wanted her to have at least some connection with her new family, not just have a bunch of strangers shoved on her.  Even if it did have one key benefit.

“Do you think I made the right choice,” he asked, “including Alice?  I thought about asking the Greengrasses, but she does like Alice and I don’t know if that’s more important than...”

“That is not my decision to make.  You are her intended, the only person who might better know her feelings is Thomas.”

Which was exactly why he’d asked for Thomas’ help and he knew that, but it didn’t stop him worrying that Rosemary would be less than thrilled with her new sister.  He had been hesitant to include a sister at all, other than Rachel Goldstein — who came with the Goldstein family and he was 100% certain he wanted to include them, Thomas, and Miss Taylor.  She was the founder of a new line though and that was something none of the other families could help her with.  She needed a sister who could help her learn the traditions Potters had never had.

“Maybe I should have asked the Prewetts.  She likes Fabian well enough and everyone knows Molly would love a you —”

“No,” Father cut him off.  “It is too late for that.  You have selected the families, now it is time to finalise the arrangements so that the ritual can be performed.”   He smoothed the shoulders of James’ robes, somehow managing to make the fabric not feel quite so constricting.

“Father, I —”

“Yes, you can.”  He kissed the top of James’ head, careful not to disturb the circlet that was somehow managing to keep his hair slightly tamed.  “You are ready for this.  There is only one last thing you need.”

James could only watch as his father tapped his wand to James’ robes, changing his childhood crest and adding the deep red trim that signified a young man of the Potter family.  The trim he hadn’t thought he’d be allowed until at least fifth year, betrothed or not.

“Go on,” Father said, when James continued to stare at him, “you’ve a meeting to attend.  Go get your intended a family.”

Rosemary tried to keep the pout off her face when she saw a group of people standing beneath Wilereykos.  Jamie and Miss Taylor had kept her busy for the last two days, with visitors and trips to the village and “girl time” with Sarah and Wendy that Jamie suddenly insisted she must need.  She’d hoped her betrothal gift would involve just the two of them.  It was nice seeing Alice and Remus and the Goldsteins, but Jamie was going back to school soon.  She wanted him all to herself, even if it was a little selfish.

“Smile,” James whispered, “we’ll spend all day tomorrow alone in our rooms if you want.”


James nodded, bringing Rosemary’s hand up so he could kiss her fingers just above her ring.  They’d not had nearly enough time together while he was setting up the ritual.  He’d lock them away in their rooms until he had to go back to school if he had his choice.  Most everyone else would have as much time with her as they liked once the term started again, James had to make do with holidays.

But Olivia had finally agreed to a courtship which meant they had to go to the Macmillans’ and there were lessons and teas and Father wanted them to start attending family meals again now that the magic had nearly fully settled.  And he still had to convince Uncle Charlus so they could perform the betrothal which itself was going to take time to set up, even with Father and Miss Taylor’s help.

And right now there was this.  Rosemary’s new family gathered under Wilereykos ready to bring her under their family magicks.  James had to keep himself from skipping like a house elf in his excitement.  This was going to be the most wonderful surprise.

He led Rosemary to the centre of the circle that had formed while they were greeting people.  It was supposed to be a star and there should have been runes, technically, but it had taken a few changes to make the Potter family ritual compatible with the other families’ magicks.  The Goldsteins in particular had taken up most of the past two days.  There was one benefit, which was that Rosemary looked completely bewildered when Mr Goldstein, Miss Taylor, Mr Lupin, and Alice stepped forward.

“This is your gift,” he explained, “a new family.”

“Jamie, wh —”

James shook his head, bringing both of her hands to his lips. “Just let them do the ritual.  It’ll make sense then.”

He hoped it would anyway.  He wasn’t quite sure how this worked, especially with a muggle.  True orphans were rare in the magical world, there was always a distant cousin at least to keep children within the family.  There hadn’t been a Potter who needed to use this ritual in over a century — James had needed to spend a fair amount of time talking to her portrait to make sure it was set up properly.

Whether or not he’d done it right would be clear in a moment.  He stepped away from Rosemary, trading places with Thomas so that he was standing in the ring around them.  That had been another problem.  Thomas had no family magic of his own and he was a muggle with no magical ties so he couldn’t begin creating it.  Finding a way to make sure he was recognised as Rosemary’s brother had required several owls with an arithmancer and help from one of Father’s contacts with the Unspeakables.

It would be worth it though.  All the effort and research and time spent pouring over dusty old scrolls with Father instead of exploring the grounds with Rosemary would be worth it.  He could feel it as the magic built.  The ritual was going to work and then Rosemary would have a family of her very own.  

Rosemary ran over to Jamie as soon as the ritual was over, ignoring Mother and Miss Taylor and Alice’s grandmother’s attempts to remind her of how a proper young lady should behave.  She jumped at him, wrapping her arms and legs around him as he stumbled slightly before regaining his balance and kissed him as deeply as she dared with so many people around.  She was going to be in etiquette lessons all September for sure, maybe even October and November.  She didn’t care.

“Thank you.”  The words weren’t enough, even whispered against his lips while she held his face in her hands, but there really wasn’t anything else to say.

“It’s alright then?” Jamie’s voice had an undercurrent of anxiety that Rosemary couldn’t understand.  Of course it was alright, she had a family.

She could feel him relaxing when she nodded, kissing her once more before setting her down.

“Come on then,” he said, “we should make sure you know how everyone’s related to you now.”

That was when Rosemary realised her new family was all waiting patiently for her.  She pressed her face against Jamie’s side, trying to push down the blush she could feel rising through her cheeks.  Maybe she should have listened to Mother and Miss Taylor, at least.

Miss Taylor who was now Mum and Rosemary had found herself leaping at another person at that hesitant request.  Mum.  She could barely remember having a mum and hadn’t thought she’d ever have one again.  Becca had always been clear when couples visited the orphanage: no one wanted two girls who were too big to be dressed up like dolls, but not big enough to do all the chores without help.

Now she had Mum and Ima and Mother (though Mother still felt more like the Duchess than anything).  Abba because Mr Goldstein said he wouldn’t take Tatty from her memories.  Uncle Lyall and Aunt Hope — who was a muggle and had been Uncle Lyall’s girl and Rosemary couldn’t wait to spend more time with them and Remus. A grandmother, if she wanted, and she thought maybe she might because Mum couldn’t access her family’s magic on her own so Alice’s grandparents were the only ones she was going to get.  Thomas, of course, and Rachel told her she wouldn’t enjoy having so many brothers once she got used to them, but Rosemary didn’t believe her.

And two sisters.  Jamie had hesitated when taking her to Alice, the only one of her new relatives he seemed unsure about.  Rosemary wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about it either.  There was a part of her that didn’t think she’d ever be able to forgive Alice for knowing Jamie in a way Rosemary didn’t want to share with anyone else.  It wasn’t Alice’s fault, she knew that, but there was a small part of her that was angry anyway.  The pureblood tradition of girl friends of a boy trying to become friends themselves made more sense now.  It was hard to hate Alice the way part of her wanted to when she knew her properly.  Especially since Alice would never intentionally hurt anyone.  She was sweet and kind and loyal and Rosemary forced herself to remember all of those things as she was introduced to her new sister’s family.

James found himself moving so that he could wrap his arms around Rosemary from behind as they watched Olivia and Macmillan’s courting ritual.  It was different from the Potter one, with actual spells and a length of the Macmillan tartan.  It was also held at night, when the temperature at Brockloch was allowed to dip below what was considered comfortable at Linfred.  He wished someone would have warned him of that, and that he wouldn’t be allowed to cast so much as a warming charm the entire night.  His robes were comfortable enough, but Rosemary was in a dress and that didn’t seem fair.

He wrapped his cloak around her when she shivered, not caring that Mother would surely scold him for it later.  Bloody Macmillans.  He guessed from their poorly hidden surprise that they hadn’t expected Rosemary to come.  Whether that was because she was a muggle or because the globe-trotting branch of the family didn’t seem to know the first thing about even their own family’s customs he couldn’t say, but both options irritated him.

The ritual was ending, at least, having taken far longer than the simple thing his family preferred for a courting.  It wasn’t as though the Macmillans were like the Potters, Bertram had courted four girls before getting engaged.  Which was more what this felt like, with all the extended family and friends gathered rather than just the couple’s close relatives.

The reason for that became clear when Olivia and Macmillan came out of their ritual-induced daze, stared at each other for a moment, and announced they wanted to do the betrothal and engagement right then.  Father, Rosemary, and Andrew were the only ones besides James who seemed the least bit confused or surprised.  Macmillan’s great-grandparents just smiled and shook their heads, saying they’d expected that.  Apparently most Macmillans knew immediately upon finishing the courting ritual whether or not they wanted to be married.  Hufflepuffs.

James shuffled, pulling Rosemary so that she was pressed tight against his chest with every layer of robes he could discreetly open without being rude wrapped around her.  He should have insisted she wear her cloak, no matter that she wasn’t a witch. If the Macmillan betrothal and engagement rituals took even half as long as the courting one they wouldn’t be back at Linfred until dawn.

He ended up being wrong about that.  The betrothal ritual took until dawn.  After that Father had apologised and sent him, Rosemary, and the younger girls home, thank Merlin.  James was a bit surprised Emily had been allowed to go.  The poor girl was nearly asleep on her feet, but Lucy hadn’t allowed her to go without at least Andrew’s supervision before, and rarely allowed even that.  He hoped this meant his sister was starting to feel more comfortable with them.

Or perhaps she just didn’t know the Potter rules for wizards and witches who hadn’t yet completed their OWLs being left unsupervised overnight.  That was probably more likely, as much as he disliked it.  It would lead to a fight for sure, when Lucy came home and found Emily in a room in the heir wing.  Which was ridiculous because Wendy was staying in the room next to hers, but so far Andrew hadn’t seemed to have been successful in changing his family’s views.  Somehow James doubted that telling her that the heir wing and nursery in the family wing were the safest places in Linfred, even safer than the master suite, would help much.  Especially if she found out that Sarah was sharing Thomas’ room.

He tried to put it out of his mind.  That would be Father’s problem to deal with, or Andrew’s.  James was tired of the lot of them.  He’d tried, Rosemary had tried, Father had tried, Andrew had tried, even Sarah and Wendy had mentioned trying to talk to Grace.  If they wanted to continue being rude that was their problem.  James was going to enjoy his last weeks with Rosemary, which right now meant tracing his fingers along the back of her courtship necklace as he’d gotten used to doing while they fell asleep.

They were woken far too early by the sound of James being proved wrong twice in less than twenty-four hours.  He groaned as he tried to throw up a silencing charm, only for it to barely manage to dampen the sound of his sister’s shouting.  Bloody Potter temper.  Bloody Linfred, not letting the heir suite keep its semi-permanent silencing charms up while there were younger children in the wing.  They’d have been able to sleep through a mermaid screeching through a sonorus with those.

He should go see what was happening.  They were in the heir wing and that meant he should go.  If nothing else, he should make sure Sarah and Wendy were safe in their rooms.  Emily too, technically, but if Lucy was shouting there was no chance of that.

James sighed, reluctantly getting out of bed and pulling on a nightshirt and robe.  He would check on Sarah and Wendy and that was it.  Bloody sisters.  He wouldn’t have these problems if he were still an only child.

He wasn’t quite prepared for the sight that greeted him when he opened the door of the heir suite.  Lucy shouting, that was obvious, but he never would have imagined she’d be angry enough to make the air crackle around her with magic.  It was just a bloody wing.  Really Emily and Wendy both should have been in the heir suite proper until they were old enough for wands.  Lucy was risking her more, letting her magic run wild enough that Andrew had pulled his sister behind him and surrounded them with a shield of some sort.

Sarah and Wendy were peaking out of their rooms, thankfully behind where Father was trying to calm Lucy.  James shooed them back in, gesturing to Wendy who was starting to look frightened when Sarah shook her head at him.  Linfred should make a door or corridor connecting their rooms which meant he was done.  Father was here, Andrew could take care of Emily, no one could say he’d not acted like a Potter or a Gryffindor.  James could go back to Rosemary and see if house elf magic could block out Lucy’s shouting.

Unfortunately, that was when he finally started to make sense of what, exactly, she was shouting about.

Somewhere in the haze of James’ magic he was aware of Hatty popping in and taking Emily somewhere.  Hopefully to the nursery or another part of the heir wing.  Even if James and Lucy brought the rest of Linfred down around them with their combined magic the heir wing would make sure no one was too badly injured.

He didn’t want Linfred to be destroyed though, or even badly damaged.  Potters had been living in the castle for over two thousand years, dating back to when it was still a simple hillfort.  James would not be the reason it had to be rebuilt.  He would breathe and pull back his magic and try not to think about what Lucy had suggested Emily was in danger of.  Who she was in danger from. The air around him flashed for a moment before he could push the thought away. Breath. He could do that.  If he could keep from killing Antoine he could certainly do this.  All he had to do was breathe.

Then he was being pushed back into his rooms, the door slamming shut in front of him with a ward he knew he’d never be able to breach.  The shock was enough to make his magic collapse back into him as he tried to figure out what the bloody fuck had just happened.

He didn’t get chance, barely had a chance to process that he was in his sitting room, when two doors appeared on either side of him, Sarah, Wendy, and Thomas tumbling through one and Emily through the other.  Rosemary stumbled out of their bedroom wrapped in a sheet and looking confused which made James’ magic spark again until he realised what could have made every child in the heir wing with less magical training than him be forced into the same place.


Tea.  He needed tea.  Everyone needed tea.  And biscuits.  And Rosemary needed something to wear and Emily and Wendy needed to be calmed from the hysterics that were sure to hit once they stopped being confused and Sarah needed to never, ever find out why Lucy had apparently gone completely mad because then her magic would start and they really couldn’t afford that right now no matter how much he wanted the reminder that he still had two sisters who would never think something so awful of him or Rosemary and Thomas would probably be fine, but James himself needed a calming draught because this was mad, he was thirteen, he was not remotely prepared for this, wasn’t supposed to need to be prepared for it until he’d at least taken his NEWTs, even Father had never considered —

James grabbed the calming draught Hatty was pushing at him.  That was…a little better, at least.


James pulled Rosemary against him, absently noting that Hatty must have changed the sheet to a modest nightdress.  Or Tessie, possibly.  He hadn’t realised she was there too until just then.

“It’s alright," he said.  It wasn’t, but no one else needed to know that. “It’s just…Father and Lucy are having a bit of a row.”

He glanced around the room, trying to think of what he should do.  Emily and Wendy were both staring at him with wide eyes, somehow managing to make him feel both older and younger than he was.  Rosemary had the expression she often used around the Campbells, that he’d learnt meant she knew she couldn’t show what she truly felt.  He kissed the top of her head, drawing in a breath of summer storms and waves crashing against rocks.  If Miss Taylor had begun teaching her the duties of being his betrothed she was probably the only other person who knew what might be happening.

Sarah was the one who truly worried him.  She was curled into Thomas in much the same way Rosemary was curled into him, except that Sarah never did that.  Not with Thomas, not with anyone.  Where James felt a bit like he was missing a limb without Rosemary within touching distance, Sarah and Thomas were rarely closer than the distance needed for a polite handshake.

James was about to go over to them to do…something when Miss Taylor came through yet another new door.  He nearly collapsed in relief.  Thank Merlin.  Mother would have been better, everyone said she was an even better duellist than Father, but Mother would be in the family wing, likely with the twins.  Miss Taylor was at least an adult.  She could take care of Emily and Wendy and maybe Sarah and James could have a nice little panic attack he would never admit to anyone.

Sure enough, Emily and Wendy were soon sat in a corner with Miss Taylor, listening to a story about the time her sister and mother had gotten into such a large argument they’d had to rebuild an entire wing. James allowed himself to be pulled to the opposite corner, where he sank into a sofa and tried not to think about what might be happening right outside the suite.

“Is Dad going to die?”

James’ head snapped up at Sarah’s question.  He should reassure her, tell her that Father was one of the best duellists in Europe and could more than handle a witch who’d never made the international rankings.  It was the truth, Father was more than capable of handling himself in a duel.  The problem was, James wasn’t sure what was happening was a duel.

“I don’t know.”  He shook his head, trying not to think about how wild Lucy’s magic had been. “Not in a proper duel, but…”

They all flinched when the walls reverberated with excess magic.  Suddenly a group of house elves popped into the centre of the sitting room, syphoning magic so quickly that it created a visible glow.  The walls trembled one more time before seeming to become more firm than they had been before.

“That’s not a duel,” Sarah whispered, curling further into Thomas.

“No.”  James pulled Sarah and Thomas down onto the sofa next to him and Rosemary. “It’s not.”

James leapt to his feet when he felt the magic around the sitting room change.  There were only two reasons that would happen and — he raced to Father as he came through the door, jumping at him like he hadn’t since he was a small child.  He was babbling, crying into Father’s robes and oh Merlin Sirius could never find out about this, but he couldn’t seem to stop, not when Father was holding him just as tightly, whispering reassurances he could only half make out.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  His voice was choked with tears and Father probably couldn’t understand him at all, but he had to say it.

Father gently pushed him away, holding him by his shoulders and tilting his chin up before asking, “What in Merlin’s name for?”

“It’s my fault.  I should have sent Emily to the family wing.”  He’d even thought about it, but the idea of her all alone on the other side of the castle had made him sick with worry and Hatty had already taken all of them to the heir wing.

“No it’s not,” Rosemary said, her voice small and quiet behind him.  “It’s mine.  That’s why they don’t want Emily around, isn’t it?  Because of me.  If I was a witch they wouldn’t care.”

Father shook his head, pulling Rosemary so that she was standing shoulder to shoulder with James. “I want both of you to listen to me,” he said, “it is not your fault.  Either one of you.  Thomas is here and Wendy will be having her coming of age soon.  Even if you weren’t courting they would have found out and been angry.  It has nothing at all to do with you.”

“But —”

“No.”  Father interrupted Rosemary’s attempt to argue. “You are a lovely, talented, charming girl who has helped my son become a better wizard than I could have ever hoped.  Euphemia and I  are very much looking forward to watching you grow together.  If Lucy and her family cannot see that, that is their problem.  Not yours, not James’, not even mine.  Understood?”

James watched as Rosemary hesitated.  For once the way she chewed her lip when she was nervous or considering something didn’t make him want to smile.  That she even had to think about it was awful.  James wished there was anything he could do to make her less insecure about being a muggle.  He didn’t care, not really, not once he knew Father didn’t.  Maybe once she started spending time with Mrs Lupin.  He’d have to ask Mother to invite her for tea before he left for school.

“Father,” he asked, after Rosemary finally nodded, “where’s Lucy?”

He knew it had to be bad when Father didn’t reply for a moment.  When he shook his head, looking down at his feet, James wondered whether he might have had to injure or kill her to protect Linfred.

“When I tried to send her to another of the properties she said she wasn’t a Potter and was taking her family and going to the Macmillans’.”

That was almost worse, dear Merlin.  James could feel Rosemary’s hand clenching in his as they both realised the implications of saying something like that when surrounded by magic after attacking the head of the family in the family home.

“She doesn’t know what it means, obviously,” Father said, “I’ve written the Macmillans to explain it to her.  In the meantime…I haven’t thought of what to say to Emily.”

James couldn’t blame him, was rather glad everyone except him and Rosemary had fallen asleep. It would have been a difficult enough thing to explain to a pureblood, let alone a girl who had never heard of family magic.

“I’ll tell her.”

James peered slightly around Father, surprised to see Andrew standing in the doorway.  He’d expected that Lucy would have taken him too, since he’d been right next to her.

“She’s my baby sister,” he said, “I should be the one to tell her.  I can explain it so she knows Mom didn’t mean to.”

“And that I won’t keep her — keep either of you — from going back to your parents.”  Father smiled slightly, in a way that almost seemed worse than tears. “You can still come back any time you want, no matter if you’re Potters or not.”

Andrew shook his head before Father had finished. “I won’t be going back, if that’s alright with you.  I know,” he spoke over whatever it was Father was going to say, “she’s my mom and family’s important, but…she lost control of her magic.  It was attacking everything, even me and Emily.”

“Every Potter has lost control of their magic from time to time,” Father said what James had been thinking “it’s not your mother’s fault she was born with the Potter temper and protective instinct.”

Andrew crossed his arms, his expression set in a way that was uncomfortably familiar. James had the feeling it was the same one he’d worn when he’d refused to go back to Hogwarts after Aleksei. “I bet you’ve never lost control so much you’ve attacked James though,” he said, “Or Sarah or Wendy.  Even just now, I saw it.  You pushed us all out of the way.”  Andrew turned to James and Rosemary. “And Nathan said you didn’t hurt Grace, even though she deserved it. I’ve seen your magic spark when you and Rosemary are touching and it doesn’t bother her at all. My mom’s magic tried to attack Emily when she was the one it was supposedly trying to protect.  I can’t — what kind of mother’s magic tries to attack her own kids?”

James looked away at the hopeless way Andrew’s voice cracked.  He had a point.  He’d never seen Father lose control of his magic until now, hadn’t even realised that was what had happened until Andrew had said it, but he never would have thought to be afraid of it.  Father was…Father.  James had duelled him without the least bit of fear.

He pulled Rosemary with him into their bedroom.  Andrew looked near to breaking down the way James had and he wasn’t sure he could watch that.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week after what James had started referring to as “Lucy’s Outburst” in his head seemed to pass in a bit of a fog.  Sarah had taken to trailing after Father like a shadow any time he was home, always with Thomas by her side holding her hand.  James still wasn’t quite sure how she’d known what was happening, only the heir and his partner or intended was supposed to know how the magic of the heir wing worked.  He might ask, someday, when his brain didn’t feel as muddied.

Emily and Andrew were still at Linfred.  He wasn’t quite sure how that had happened either, he’d fully expected that Emily would want her mum.  Instead she’d moved into a room that had formed next to Wendy’s, connected by a shared sitting room.  She’d refused to leave even when Lucy attempted to storm the castle, instead showing up in James and Rosemary’s sitting room with Daisy, the house elf that had been assigned to her.

That had been…an experience.  James had asked Linfred for a window to see what was happening, unwilling to simply sit and wonder as he had before.  He’d have gone down himself if not for Rosemary and Emily.  Waiting up in a tower like that muggle princess in one of Rosemary’s books made his magic itch.  He didn’t think he was bred for it, as a Potter or a Gryffindor.

He’d had to though, watching as the Macmillan elders tried to keep Lucy back.  He couldn’t make out what they were saying, hadn’t thought to ask Linfred for an open window, but he hoped it involved how she was very near to accidentally starting a blood feud.  This was why Potters brought home muggleborns for the summer, at least partially, and why Father was always hounding the Hogwarts board to create a formal system of introduction for them.  Too many feuds and wars had begun because muggleborns didn’t understand that magic influenced everything, even when you weren’t actively using it.

James wasn’t sure how the Canadian ministry could function without knowing that.  Andrew made it sound like they used muggle laws, but muggles didn’t have magic that could make any non-magical agreement worthless.  Magic didn’t care if you’d signed a scroll or not.  If Lucy had known that she would have made sure she’d been properly bonded instead of having only a muggle wedding.  Then they wouldn’t be in nearly this big of a mess.

They were though and James couldn’t bring himself to be sorry about it after Father had adjusted the wards so that the remaining Campbells couldn’t get even into the village.  Andrew wasn’t and Emily didn’t appear to be, even while Lucy was outside Linfred.  She’d simply sat and talked with Rosemary as though she were there for a normal visit.  If they weren’t bothered by it — and Father had insisted they both have weekly sessions with specialist healers the way Sarah had had when she first arrived and Wendy still did — then James wasn’t going to allow it to ruin the rest of his summer.

Besides, it had one large benefit he hadn’t expected: Emily had taken a near immediate liking to Rosemary.  He probably should have considered it, Rosemary was closer in age to her and Wendy than she was to him and Sarah, but somehow he thought of her as older.  Older than Wendy in particular, who still seemed so much a little girl despite James knowing that she would be having her coming of age in only a few months.

Even now, sitting on the banks of one of the nearer brooks that ran through Linfred with all of the younger family members (and Fabian), it was hard to think of Wendy as little more than half a year younger than Rosemary — and only two months younger than Emily.  Rosemary had nearly all the grace of Alice, thanks to Hatty and Tessie and Mother and Lady Selwyn.  In some ways James thought of her as older than Sarah, or at least more a pureblood witch.  Sarah had taken to running about in Thomas’ clothing, even Mother giving up trying to convince her otherwise as long as she dressed appropriately for the occasion.  She was his sister and he loved her, but she was definitely not a pureblood witch.

Emily was quiet, insightful, wickedly funny when she wanted to be, and had caught on to the lessons Mother had begun giving her as though she’d simply been waiting to be allowed to act as the Potter she was.  Rosemary was…it wasn’t entirely fair for James to compare anyone to Rosemary because to him she was magic embodied, but she’d impressed Alice’s nan which was a difficult thing to do.  Rachel Goldstein was probably smarter than any of them, Thomas included, and carried herself in a way he’d learnt to associate with witches you wouldn’t want to make angry.  Wendy still carried her favourite doll with her everywhere she went.  He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, for all that he did enjoy the way she looked up to him.

He’d asked Mother, earlier in the year when he worried that maybe her coming of age should be put off.  That happened, sometimes, if the witch or wizard was afraid or unsure or otherwise unready.  She’d smiled, told him he was a good older brother, and then dismissed his concerns by reminding him that Fabian was a pureblood wizard who knew how important a proper coming of age was, especially for a witch.  He’d accepted it at the time because Wendy’s birthday was nearly a year away and he’d thought that was plenty of time for her to grow a little.  Now, watching Fabian gently lead her away as Emily began asking questions about coming of age, he wasn’t so sure.  Fabian was one of his oldest friends, James trusted him more than Sirius even, but Wendy was his baby sister.  He couldn’t see how she could possibly be ready for her own coming of age if she couldn’t even be around while another girl asked questions.

He was drawn from his thoughts by Emily asking him something he didn’t quite catch and realised he was somehow the only boy in a group of girls.  Remus, Andrew, Daniel and Elijah Goldstein, and Thomas had all gone off to play one of those muggle sports Thomas enjoyed.  Cowards.

Alice, Rosemary, and Rachel were all giggling at him, though Rachel at least had the decency to try hiding it.  Sarah looked slightly cross for reasons he didn’t understand until Emily’s question registered.  As well as the way she kept glancing over at Thomas.  James was blind sometimes, but even he knew that asking if someone else’s boy could be your first while looking at a boy like that meant something more than simple curiosity.

He was torn between honesty and giving an answer that wouldn’t put both Sarah and Thomas in an awkward position.  Sarah could say she didn’t fancy Thomas as much as she liked, it didn’t change the way magic was crackling around her fingertips.

Emily would find out though, from Mother or her governess, possibly the training books if she truly did want a coming of age.  He wasn’t sure whether or not Mother had discussed it with her yet.  Either way, it didn’t matter.  Thomas wasn’t Sarah's boy anymore.  Hadn’t been since he became Rosemary’s brother.  He was family.  Rosemary’s family, not Emily’s, not technically, but family all the same.  Who he shagged wasn’t anyone’s business but his own.

That didn’t make the way Sarah stomped off to join the match any easier.  James thought she might be running into Thomas a bit harder than the others.  As if it was his fault a girl fancied him.  It wasn’t as though he was likely to agree.  James bent to kiss Rosemary, enjoying the way she hummed against his lips in surprise.  Thomas was smarter than he was.  He’d never shag Emily if he thought it would upset Sarah.

“Emily’s right, you know.”

“Hmm?”  Rosemary looked up from where Jamie had fallen asleep in her lap.  She’d not noticed Emily had left to join Wendy and Fabian until Alice spoke.

“Thomas,” Alice said, “He is rather fanciable.  I wouldn’t mind trying him, if you think Sarah wouldn’t kill me.”

Rosemary rolled her eyes.  Where was all this interest in Thomas coming from all of a sudden?

“He is.”  Rachel glanced over at him, her cheeks flushing. “I’d…you know…if Ta would let me.”

“Why won’t he?”  Rosemary had been curious about that since she’d first met the Goldsteins.  Every family’s coming of age tradition was a little different, she knew that.  But she hadn’t quite figured out what the Goldsteins’ even was.

Rachel shrugged as she answered, “Mum and Ta say it’s too special to do just for a little magic boost that will even out before we’re twenty anyway.  They said sharing it with someone you know and care about is better than with a random person you’ve barely even met, especially the first time.”  She peered at Rosemary for a moment, watching as she ran her fingers through Jamie’s hair.  “Is that true?” she asked, “I’ve been too afraid to ask Michael or Gabriel.”

“I don’t…” Rosemary looked toward Thomas, flushing slightly as she remembered how that had ended. “I don’t know, really.  The only other boy I’ve been with is Thomas and I don’t think it’s supposed to be that bad.”  She thought that boys would probably stop trying if girls always cried after, at least if Thomas was anything to go by.


Rosemary jumped slightly at James’ mumbled answer. “I thought you were asleep.”

“I was.  You girls talk too loud.”  He sat up, pulling her to sit between his legs as he continued answering Rachel. “It’s much better,” he said, “I don’t know how to explain it, but even the first time with Rosemary wasn’t as good as it is now.  And that was still better than any of the other girls I’ve been with.  Er,” he glanced up, “sorry, Alice.”

“Don’t worry,” Alice waved him off, smiling, “it was a bit like shagging my brother, if I had one.  You’re wrong though, nothing can be better than Avery.”

Avery?”  James’ voice squeaked a little on the name. “You’ve shagged Avery?”  He looked over at Rachel, the protective spark in his eyes making Rosemary shiver, just a bit. “If you go anywhere near Avery or Mulciber I’ll write every single one of your brothers, I don’t care how much you hex me.”

“Not that Avery, you prat.”  Alice looked offended enough that Rosemary thought she’d ask Sarah to tell her who Avery was later. “I’m not Marley, I don’t fancy being mounted like an animal.  His brother, the one your awful friend kept taunting because he joined the choir.”

Rosemary stifled a giggle.  She didn’t have to ask about that one, nearly every letter Alice wrote included some complaint about James and Remus’ friend Sirius.  Apparently he was arrogant, entitled, brutish, and far too capable of getting out of trouble with a few words and a smile.  Rosemary couldn’t decide if Alice wanted to hex him or shag him.  Maybe both.

“He's an Avery.”  James said the name in a way that made it sound like he meant ‘axe murderer’.  “You can’t possibly fancy him.”

“I don’t,” Alice huffed, “but he’s a sweet wizard.  Nothing at all like his brother, you shouldn’t treat him like he is.  He can’t help his surname any more than I can.”

You aren’t a Slytherin.”

Alice shook her head, laughing. “I don’t know if you’ve met your niece, James, but I come from a family of Slytherins and she may as well board the Express in green robes.”

The expression of complete horror on James’ face when Rosemary looked up at him made her think that maybe she should ask Mum about these Houses.  They didn’t at all seem like the ones at her old school.

Rachel was looking between Alice and James like something had clicked into place in her head.  It was the same look she had when they were studying with Abba or Ima, right before making a comment or asking a question that earned her a proud smile.  Rosemary would have asked, if Rachel hadn’t then given her a look that was half-sympathetic, half-concerned and made her picture Jamie and Alice tangled together, Jamie smiling down at Alice the way he did her.

She reached behind her, interrupting whatever it was Jamie was saying to Alice to pull him down for a kiss that was far deeper than was proper when they weren’t alone.  He tried to pull away at first, after he got over his surprise and before she scratched her fingers along the back of his neck the way he liked.  Rosemary held back a smirk as he groaned and nearly collapsed into her.

She twisted, turning so that she was straddling his hips, digging her fingers into his hair.  The bite she left well above his collar line made him gasp, but he didn’t stop her so she left another on the other side.  Hers.

Alice and Rachel had left, giggling to each other almost as soon as she’d pulled Jamie down.  Good.  She hadn’t planned this, had thought they’d just enjoy a day on the grounds, but that was before she remembered about Jamie and…everyone. Especially Alice.

“Make it so no one can see us,” she whispered, nipping along the underside of Jamie’s jaw and rolling her hips slowly against his.

“Here?!” James pulled away, staring at her with wide eyes. “Now?  Everyone's —”

Rosemary cut him off, pressing her lips against his so that he groaned and whimpered. “Please?”

“We could just go to our rooms.”  James kissed his way from her collarbone to just under her ear; soft, fluttering brushes that made it hard to think. “No one will miss us, not until supper.”

She shook her head.  Jamie always made it hard to think, but the image of him and Alice made it hard not to.

James pulled away further.  Then more when she moved to unbutton the top buttons of his shirt.  He flicked his wand into his hand, doing something that made everything around them quieter.

He pushed her hands down when she raised them to his shirt again.

“What’s wrong?”

Rosemary rocked her hips against his, hoping that she didn’t look as ridiculous as she felt. “Nothing.  I just…want to.”  She still couldn’t say it, but that was normal enough by now.

“Rosemary.” James tone was somewhere between concern and amusement. “You hate being together where people might see. You make me put up charms in the sitting room now that Thomas and Lady Selwyn can come in. What’s wrong?” He brought her hands to his lips, a gesture that made her want to cry for no reason she could think of. “Please? Then we can go to our rooms or stay here or whatever you’d like.”

Rosemary bit her lip, trying to think of how to explain without sounding silly. She couldn’t even explain it to herself, really. Thinking about Alice and Jamie just made her…she wasn’t sure. It felt like when Grace had said that awful thing, combined with when Jamie had brought home that girl and when he’d told her about…spring. Breaking his promise. She wanted to push it away, wanted to pretend it had never happened, but she also wanted to see it. See Jamie with every girl he’d ever been with so that at least she’d know. She wanted to hurt Alice and Jamie and everyone, only she didn’t and she wasn’t sure where that left her. She wanted to claim Jamie, make sure everyone knew that he was hers, even more than the courtship jewellery already did. That was the only one that wasn’t all mixed up, but it was also overwhelming and frightening and she was more than a little ashamed of how violently she felt about it.

In the end she was only able to shake her head and whisper “Alice”, letting the tears fall as she curled herself up against James’ chest.

Alice.  James sighed, rubbing Rosemary’s back as she cried.  Of course it was Alice.  He’d spent the entire summer trying to avoid reminding Rosemary of the several dozen mistakes he’d made, then he’d gone and ruined it with one comment. He hadn’t even thought of what answering Rachel’s question would be suggesting. He should have, especially with Alice sitting right there, but he hadn’t. This was why he had been hesitant to make them family. Maybe he should have gone with the Greengrasses, at least he’d never shagged any of them.

It was too late for that now though. He pulled Rosemary away slightly, kissing her neck and shoulder when she whimpered. “Come on,” he said, “let’s see if Father’s done with what we asked.” He should be, the last time James had checked he’d said it was nearly ready. And really James had already let this go far too long. He’d just been too afraid to break the fragile peace they’d settled on at the beginning of summer.

Rosemary stared into the shimmering, swirling blue-grey liquid of the pensieve. James had said it would let them watch the memories he put in like a normal pensieve, but also feel what the person whose memory it was had felt at the time. Father had showed her how to test it, letting her watch the memory of James trying to heal her when she first met him. It had worked, all of the embarrassment and fear and confusion at anyone caring that she was hurt flowing around her as she watched herself like something on telly.

Now James had put his own memories in. Of him with all those girls, every single one, and Rosemary wasn’t entirely sure she still wanted to watch them.

Except she did. She didn’t, not at all, but she did. She had to. It was a confusing, painful, urgent need, even as it was everything she never wanted to think about. When given the choice between knowing and imagining…Rosemary took a deep breath, grasped James’ hand, and forced herself to look at the memories.

It…wasn’t as bad as she’d thought. It was awful. Worse than watching him with the girl he’d brought last summer, worse than thinking she was going to be sent away. If she’d only been able to watch, without feeling how little interest Jamie had, it probably would have been unbearable. It did seem to be unbearable for James, who had turned away after the second girl, his eyes squeezed tightly shut. She couldn’t stop though, not when the anger and jealousy was laced through with reassurance that he didn’t want anyone but her.

Even if it did also make her realise that Jamie was a complete arse when he was at school. It was hard to imagine Thomas or Remus or any of the Goldstein boys going through girls the way he did. Especially when he didn’t seem to even like any of them. She wasn’t sure how Alice put up with him.

Alice had been the one she was most worried about, other than that girl. They were close, she knew that, and James looked at Alice almost the same way he did her. She’d ended up turning to stare at him in shock when the first feeling she noticed was boredom.

He shrugged sheepishly. “I’d forgotten that part.”

Knowing that made it much easier to watch as he had Alice far more times than he did anyone else. An entire day, it looked like, with naps and chatting about classmates and schoolwork in between. All with a slowly building comfort that reminded her of complaining about dance lessons with Thomas.

“She’s a lot like you,” James explained, “I kept thinking that maybe if we tried again…” He shook his head as Rosemary felt herself being wrapped in warmth, the sensation she’d quickly realised meant he had been thinking of her. “I never fancied her. Not even a little.”

The lack of interest in everyone else made it that much harder when she was hit with an overwhelming wave of infatuation and desire as she watched James kneel in front of the girl and beg her to wait for him. It throbbed between her legs and in her chest, making it hard to breathe or think. For a moment, just a moment, she felt a glimmer of warmth. Then she was shoved, hard and sudden, so that she’d have tumbled to the floor if not for her James steadying her. More desperation, a fierce, all consuming need that made her sob and push him away, unable to hear the apologies he was frantically trying to whisper in her ear.

It was frightening, dangerous and uncontrolled in a way that made her have to curl up and turn away. James was frightening. She’d thought she wanted to see him lose control, but he’d clearly lost control with the girl and Rosemary wanted no part of it. It was nothing at all like her Jamie, even the times they’d scrabbled at each other’s clothes and gripped each other hard enough to leave red marks that took days to fully fade. It felt like the unbroken Abraxans she’d sometimes been able to watch after a riding lesson.  Wild and maybe fun if you were completely mad and had a death wish, but far more likely to kill you than anything else. The sudden wave of horror was a relief, calmed her enough that she could watch James nearly leap away from the girl as though she were poisonous.

She took more pleasure in the girl’s expression of shock and pain than she probably should have, but she couldn’t find it in herself to care. Not when the girl had dismissed her, acting as though she didn’t matter just because she was a muggle. Hadn’t Alice said she was a muggleborn? Rosemary felt bad for her family, having to live with a girl who said ‘muggle’ like what she meant was ‘useless rubbish’.

Panic followed the horror. Regret. Anguish, self-loathing, fear, each so thick she thought she should be able to see them in the air.  All interlaced with suffocating heat wrapping itself around her, certainty like she’d never felt, and something else she couldn’t seem to place, but that soothed away at least some of the emotions she’d been subjected to before.

She was shaking when they came out of the memory, overwhelmed with whatever it was he’d felt with the girl. Part of her was tempted to push James away when he wrapped his arms around her, still afraid of how very nearly violent he’d been. The rest of her sank into him, needing to remind herself that her Jamie had never come close to treating her that way. Seemed to do everything he could to avoid it, in fact, even when she thought she didn’t want him to.

“Jamie?” She tightened her arms around him, hoping it would make up for the tremor of fear even she could hear. “That — please never…not like that. I wouldn’t like it.”

James pulled away slightly, staring at Rosemary before pulling her as close against him as he could. “Why — of course not.”

Merlin, the idea of treating Rosemary like that was horrifying. He wished he hadn’t done it to Lily. He hadn’t realised how crazed he’d been until just now, how little attention he’d paid to her rather than how tight her cunt had been around his cock. He wasn’t sure he’d have even noticed if she’d asked him to stop, not with how intent he’d been on fucking her. It was something he never, ever wanted to experience with Rosemary.

“Can I show you a happy memory now? At least one, we can save the rest for later if you want.”

He paused a moment when Rosemary nodded, trying to decide what to pick. Spring, he thought. The night they’d gone to the Goldsteins’. It was one of his favourite memories, nearly as good as their courting ritual. And it had a little of everything he wanted to share with her, from how she’d made him desperate in a completely different, far better way than Lily to how he felt like he stopped breathing for a moment when she moaned quietly after he slid into her. How he’d been completely mesmerised by her singing and filled with an unaccountable sense of pride whenever someone complimented her. Hopefully enough to show her how much better she was than any witch.  Rosemary was perfect.  Always had been.  Alice was sweet, Meadowes was fun, Lily was like a bloody siren she was so alluring, but Rosemary was perfect.

The memory did help, enough that Rosemary could let herself be pulled against James when it faded. Let him tilt her chin up for a kiss filled with adoration and more than a little apology. Enough that she could offer to show him a memory of her own. Nothing special, not like his. It wasn’t a favourite, wasn’t how she’d been with Thomas. Just how she’d felt about Alice, before.  She couldn’t think of any way to tell him and a part of her was terrified about showing him because the feelings were so big and overwhelming and she hated having them, but…it felt important, somehow.  Like seeing the memory of Jamie and that girl, no matter how much it hurt.

She was not expecting him to blink for a moment before laughing and pulling her tight against him, kissing away her pout.  It wasn’t funny.  It was horrible and she was glad it was gone.  There was absolutely no reason for him to be laughing.

He was still laughing when the memory ended.  Prat.  Rosemary was going to ask Hatty not to give him rainbow biscuits for the rest of summer.  She’d get her own and eat them all in front of him and see how he liked it when she laughed.

“That, darling,” he said, kissing her again, “is exactly how I felt about you and Thomas.”

Rosemary had to smile at that, relaxing into his hold.  It was a little funny.  Then the rest of what he’d said caught up to her and she pulled back.


James blushed slightly. “I was trying it.  Thomas gets to call you Mary and the Goldsteins all use pet names and I don’t want to call you Rosie…do you not like it?”

She shook her head, her nose scrunching. “It sounds like we’re in one of those old films.”

“I’ll just have to keep trying then.” James kissed the tip of her nose before moving to her lips, giving her a long, lingering kiss like he hadn’t since before summer. She’d missed those. Missed him kissing her whenever he liked. The gentle touches and longing glances were nice, they made her blush all over, but she wanted Jamie back. The Jamie who wasn’t afraid to touch her, didn’t treat her as though he might do something to send her running away. She wouldn’t. Not now, not when she seemed to be getting everything she’d ever wanted.


She hummed, nuzzling closer against his chest.

“You know —” James cleared his throat, then tried again. “You know you don’t have to…claim me, right?  Alice wouldn’t — she’s not like that.  And she’s happy for us.  She was really excited about being your sister.”

“I know.”  The words were probably too soft for James to hear properly, but she did know.  Had known even before the memory.  Knowing didn't change how she felt.

James pulled away, tilting her head up so he could look at her. “I mean it.  She really is like having another sister.  And anyway,” James grinned, kissing her quickly, “you’ve already claimed me.  School robes are designed to show off courtship jewellery. Anyone who doesn’t know about us already will before the train gets to Hogwarts.”

“Didn’t stop that cow before,” Rosemary muttered.  Perhaps she wasn’t quite as over her anger as she thought. At least not with the girl. Stupid cow.

“That —”  James sighed, his mischievous grin replaced by guilt. “Lily.  It wasn’t her fault, you know.  She didn’t know about you.”

Rosemary pulled away from James, staring at him incredulously.  She hadn't meant for him to hear, but now she thought she might be glad he had. Didn’t know. Somehow all the peace and happiness of feeling what Jamie felt with her disappeared with that one comment.

“You told her.  When you were —” she shook her head, forcing back the tears that always wanted to come when she thought of the girl, “When you promised her you’d just — just throw me away so you could have her.  And then she kissed you anyway!”

She hadn’t thought about it before, had forced herself not to think about it because it hurt and she really did want to court and get betrothed and everything else.  Now she wished she had magic so that at least all the anger and fear and betrayal would have somewhere to go.  She wanted ice to spread around her the way heat did around Jamie.  She wanted to feel energy sparking from her fingertips the way she’d seen it sparking around his.  Something physical, something Jamie could see and feel besides her jerking away when he reached out to her.

Maybe Mum had been right, maybe she should have insisted on talking about all of this before.  Maybe she should have let herself think about it instead of pushing it away until it built into something frightening and overwhelming. Something that wanted explode out of her all of a sudden, when she’d thought she was fine.

“You were going to send me away.  You promised you wouldn’t, that we could be together until you got married, but you were going to send me away just because that girl talked to you!”  She closed her eyes, clenching her fists and trying not to say anything else.  Mother said it was best not to speak when you were angry because you’d say something you’d regret and Rosemary wasn’t sure she'd ever been more angry in her life.

“Rosemary, I —”

“Shut up!”  She didn’t want to hear it.  Couldn’t, not right now.  There was nothing at all James could say that would take away how much she wanted to hurt him and that cow and anything else she could.

She flinched when she felt his hands on her shoulders.  When had he gotten that close?  Her eyes were still closed, she couldn’t bring herself to open them.  Jamie would look hurt and upset just like he sounded and all it was doing was making her even more angry.  He didn’t get to be hurt.  Not over this.

“It’s my fault,” he whispered, “all mine.  Lily didn’t do anything.”

Rosemary’s eyes flew open as she shoved him as hard as she could, enjoying the shock on his face as he fell on his arse. He could have said anything, anything at all, and she didn’t think it’d have made her as angry as that.

“I know it’s your fault!" she shouted.  It felt oddly good to shout. “You’re the one who fucked her!  You’re the one who was going to just get rid of me like I’m not a person.”  She hated the way her breath hitched when she thought of being sent to some house with Mum so that James could court that girl instead of her.  Or worse, expected to just stay and act like him shagging some girl didn’t matter because it was only one and he thought he was going to marry her.  Angry was easier.  Angry didn’t make James move slowly toward her like she was a spooked horse.

“Then why —”

“Because it was her fault too!”  There.  The anger was back.  Good.  She wanted to be angry. Wanted to shout so that James flinched away. “You told her!  You told her you couldn’t, you told her about me and how you’d promised, and she didn’t care!” She hadn’t, Rosemary had seen. Alice would never do that. Neither would Sarah or Rachel, they’d never even think of it.  “Neither of you cared!  You both knew and you did it anyway like I was nothing!  I hate her and I want to hate you too, but I can't!"

And then the anger was gone.  All of it.  Flying out of her all at once, leaving her hollow as she wrapped her arms around herself.

“Why do you keep defending her?” she whispered. That was the worst part. She was awful, a horrid, selfish, cruel girl to do that to anyone and James just kept defending her. Calling her Lily like he’d go running back to her as soon as he was at school. Even Daniel still got called Goldstein unless his brothers were around.

“Do you —” she closed her eyes, shaking her head as she tried to keep her voice steady. “Do you still want her?”

She wasn’t looking at him, couldn’t bring herself to after the things she’d said, even if they were all true.  Especially because they were true.  There was a long moment when she wondered if it had been too much.  If he was going to go back to that girl who looked at him like he was a prince who’d come to rescue her.

Then she was sobbing against his chest, not sure either when she’d started crying or when he’d carried her to a sofa.

The first thing he said when she managed to calm down was, “I don’t want Lily.  Not even a little.  Not anymore.”

Rosemary nodded, curling tighter into him.  She’d gotten taller over the summer.  It was harder to fit completely curled in his lap than it used to be.  Somehow that made her feel smaller, less safe.  It made asking the next question harder.  Like the answer would be worse if Jamie couldn’t tuck her under his chin.

“Why —” she swallowed, forcing down the tears that wanted to come back. “Why did you forget about me?  I felt it, in the memory.  You remembered and then you made yourself forget.” 

That had been harder than any of the rest, feeling how much he didn’t want to think about her.

James sighed, moving so they were laying on the sofa facing each other. “I think…I think maybe the Campbells might have been a little right.  Not about us,” he rushed to add, “not like that.  But I think…I told myself it didn’t matter because you were a muggle and Lily was a witch I was going to marry.  I thought as long as I made sure you had a house and your mum and could meet a nice muggle boy it would be fine because that’s how wizards are supposed to treat their girls.”

He leaned forward, pressing a soft kiss to her forehead and wiping away her tears. “I was wrong,” he said, “and…I knew I was wrong, but I didn’t want to admit it.  That’s why I couldn’t think about you.”

“You were going to send me away,” she whispered, hating how small her voice sounded.  “Even before that.  You — you promised her you’d be with her after summer.” It was awful, terrifying how quickly he’d thrown away the one promise he’d made her. Just a kiss, a silly little kiss from a girl Alice said had hated him before. She couldn’t help but wonder if he’d do it again, give up their courtship because that girl smiled at him.

“I was wrong to do that too,” James said, shifting so that he was just a little closer.  “To even think about it.  Especially like that, like you were one of the Abraxans instead of a person.  I…” 

He looked down, no longer meeting her eyes.  

“Sarah told me purebloods treat muggles like pets once.  I thought I was doing better, but I wasn’t.  Not really.  You know I hexed boys who treated Sarah like she wasn’t a pureblood this year?”  

James laughed, a hollow huff that made Rosemary want to wrap her arms around him and tell him it was ok, that he could call her darling or snookums or something equally ridiculous and they could go back to talking about silly pet names.  Except it wasn’t ok.  She didn’t want to do this again. Couldn’t do this again, really.  It had to be now.

“I hexed boys for Sarah,” he continued, “but I didn’t think there was anything wrong with how I treated you even though if I treated a witch like that Father would murder me.  Rosemary?”

She looked up in surprise at the sudden shift in his tone, then had to fight not to look away again.  As angry as she still was, she never wanted to see Jamie looking as miserable as he did now.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to treat you like you didn’t matter.  I know that doesn’t help, but…”  He hesitated for a moment before kissing her, one of the soft, drawn out kisses that made her breath catch in her throat. “I’m going to do better,” he promised. “I never want to treat you like you’re worth less because you’re a muggle again, not even by accident.  Will you let me try?  Please?  If it’s not enough I’ll do something else, anything you want.  Just…please don’t end the courtship.”

Rosemary shook her head, smiling softly and pulling James back toward her when he started to move away. “Prat,” she said. “I never wanted to stop courting.  I just…I’m still angry.  And scared.  And it still hurts, a lot.  I don’t — I want to be happy.  I am happy.”  She looked up at him, hoping that he could see that she was, even if she was also the other things. “I want to be happy all the time, but I don’t know how to be happy and everything else.  I tried and…look what happened.”

“Can I do something?”  Jamie grasped her hand, pressing their palms together so he could interlace their fingers. “I mucked everything up, I’d like to fix as much as you'll let me.”

“Don’t shag anymore girls,” she said, moving so that she could curl alongside him.  She’d meant it as a joke, mostly.  The way Jamie looked at her made it clear he didn’t take it as one.

“Of course not,” he promised.  He let go of her hand to gently stroke down her face, smiling when his thumb brushed against her earrings before pulling out her necklace. “You know I wouldn’t have given this to you if I wasn’t sure, right?  It’s…you’ve read the history books and the courtship books.  Did you notice anything?  Or did your mum say anything?”

Rosemary smiled, snuggling in closer.  Mum hadn’t needed to say anything.  Rosemary wasn’t stupid, she’d seen the pattern before she’d finished the second Potter book.  It was a sweet, selfish bit of information that probably would have let her stop worrying about the girl and any other girls without having to watch the memories and get into a row, if she were a witch.

“Potters never court more than once,” she said. “Most of the other families do, but Potters and Prewetts have always married the first person they’ve courted.  That’s why you usually have the betrothals so soon after the courting.  But,” and this was the part that made her nervous, “no Potter heir has ever courted a muggle before either.”

“That doesn’t matter.”  James turned so he could look at her, his gaze so intense she found she had to look away for a moment before he tilted her chin back up. “I don’t care if you’re a muggle or a witch or a squib.  You are worth more than all of the witches I know put together.  That’s why I picked platinum for your jewellery.”

“Platinum?”  She was barely able to breathe the word, not quite believing it. “I — I thought it was silver.” She’d assumed it was silver. Hadn’t even bothered to ask once Mum had explained the different types to her. Silver was normal enough, it was what most people used unless they wanted to make a point. She might have expected gold, if she’d thought about it. Sarah would probably get gold, so that people knew her intended didn’t care that she was adopted and probably a muggleborn. Platinum had never crossed her mind. Maybe it should have, with how Mum had reacted to it, but it hadn’t.

James smiled, pulling her close and kissing her until she was more focused on the feel of his shoulders under her hands and his fingers running through her hair than the terrifying, unbelievable, brilliant revelation that she’d been wearing platinum courtship jewellery all summer. Suddenly Father’s concerns about her going to Hogsmeade and Mum’s insistence that she learn to defend herself made more sense.

“I never would have given you silver,” James said, when he’d nuzzled his nose against hers and pressed their foreheads together. “Even if you were a pureblood witch, it always would have been platinum for you.  I never considered anything else.”

“What —” she swallowed, trying to get her thoughts together after Jamie had so thoroughly muddled them. “What were you going to give that girl?”

James stilled.  Long enough that Rosemary found herself reaching for her pendant, just to be sure.

“Gold,” he said, finally. “Pure gold, without the crest before we left for summer.  I was going to give her gold with the crest when school started again.”

Her pendant never changed.  Not even a little.  Not even for a second.

“Jamie?” she asked, “Could you tell a lie?”  

It was cruel to ask, as well as almost unforgivably rude.  She knew that.  Jamie obviously knew that.  He still just smiled sadly at her before saying, “I want to marry Lily Evans.”

The sudden, painfully freezing cold that made her gasp and shake uncontrollably more than overruled the pain of hearing the lie.  It was also well worth it, especially when she saw how Jamie’s magic had lashed out, almost smothering them in blankets and warmth while he anxiously clutched her to him.

“Are you ok?” he asked. “Merlin, I’m sorry, I never thought — I’ll owl the jewellers and have them adjust the magic.  It’s supposed to change with how big the lie is, but it shouldn’t nearly kill you!  It’s not even supposed to hurt a little!  Do you need me to call Hatty?  Or one of those muggle healers?  Does Tessie know how to take care of you when you're hurt?”

James was calling for Tessie and Hatty and probably every elf at Linfred before Rosemary could tell him that she was fine.  The cold had only lasted for a moment.  His magic had more than fixed it, even before the pile of blankets and quilts and duvets had flown at them.

“Jamie.”  She rolled her eyes at how he didn’t seem to hear her, too busy rubbing briskly up and down her back and arms. “Jamie.”  She tried one more time before kissing him hard, dragging her nails across his scalp and nipping at his bottom lip so that he shivered against her.  There were probably other ways to get his attention, but that one was the most fun.

“I’m alright,” she promised, after she’d pulled away. “It was only a second.”

“Are you sure?  Do you need tea?  You should have tea.  And soup.  And a warm bath.”

Once again he was moving before she had a chance to respond, slipping out from underneath the blankets to a tea service Hatty or Tessie must have brought when he called them.  Only after he’d given her tea and soup — curling his arm around her and insisting on helping her eat — and drawn her into a bath where he refused to do more than carefully wash her, then tucked her into bed — with a flannel nightdress and heavy quilts — and asked a house elf to light a fire in their fireplace did he start to calm down.

“I really was alright,” she promised again.  She was, even if it was also nice to be fussed over.

“You might not have been.”  He pulled her closer, kissing her forehead. “I needed to make sure.  I — your lips turned blue.  Only for a second, but Rosemary…”

Rosemary sighed, letting James fuss over her some more.  It was only fair, she supposed, after she’d fussed so much last summer.  Besides, now it involved lovely things like soft kisses and Jamie’s fingers carding through her hair.  They should still talk.  She still wasn’t at all sure about that girl, even with the shouting and the apologies and her necklace and finding out he’d given her platinum courtship jewellery.  But right now Jamie’s fingers and the warmth of the room and the shouting and maybe, just a little bit, the cold from her necklace were all combining to make her pleasantly sleepy.  They could talk later.

Chapter Text

“How did it go?” James asked, looking up from where he and Rosemary were going through one of the many books the Goldsteins had given them on Goldstein family rituals and raising a Jewish family.  They’d become far more insistent on him studying the traditions since he and Rosemary began courting.

Andrew flopped onto the grass next to them, sighing heavily. “I think we’ve avoided an international incident,” he said, “but your godfather still wants to talk to Emily and we’re going to have to see someone from the DFS.  He said he’ll try to make sure it’s someone who’ll keep it out of the papers, at least.  Grandfather’s trying to secure a magical agreement.”

“They can’t do anything about it though,” Rosemary asked, “can they?  Mum said as long as the Potter magic recognises you that’s all that matters.”

“No,” Andrew said, “they can’t, but it’ll be hard to convince my parents of that.  I told them they should have a bonding, as soon as I learned about it, but they kept saying it was a meaningless pureblood tradition.  They’re not going to accept that not having one made Grandfather our magical guardian, no matter how much people tell them.”

James could believe that.  According to Robert Macmillan, Lucy still didn’t believe in family magic at all.  Rob liked logic and order and rules, James could only imagine how ready he was for the Campbells to leave.

“You could still go back,” James said, for what was probably the hundredth time, “you know Father won’t stop you, and there are rituals we could do so you’re still Potters if you want to be.”

He was not at all surprised when Andrew’s response was yet another stubborn “no.”  Neither Andrew nor Emily had changed their minds for even a moment.  James couldn’t imagine it.  If anything happened to make him not a Potter, or a Potter but not considered family to the rest of them, he’d do everything he could to fix it.

“I thought she’d done it on purpose, you know,” Andrew said, almost out of nowhere. “Right when it first happened, I forgot that she didn’t understand and thought she’d finally had enough of us.  We’ve —” he cut off, staring at the sky when James looked over at him. “Em and me, we’ve always liked magic too much.  Olivia and the twins, they don’t mind hiding from our grandparents.  They like hockey and television and all kinds of muggle things — and we do too, we just also like magic.  And Em can’t really control hers yet, not like the twins could, and that makes our grandparents uncomfortable, especially Gran, so Mom and Dad just kind of left her with me and then get upset when she doesn’t want to spend time with them.”

James found himself tearing at blades of grass, unable to look at his…nephew or brother, maybe, now.  Relative of some sort, at any rate.  The idea of having to hide from everyone, not just the people in the village or the Goldsteins’ muggle friends, but even his own family, was too awful to think about.  Wondering if your mother left you on purpose was even worse, so much that he almost wished Andrew hadn’t said anything, for all that James had been wondering why he and Emily were so willing to stay at Linfred.

“I want to stay here,” Andrew continued. “I want to be able study without worrying that Gran will see my books.  I want to learn about the different kinds of magic and talk to the portraits and finally get to learn about being a Potter from Grandfather instead of having to ask my friends and their parents.”  He glanced over at James, blushing slightly. “I started going by Potter at school, you know, back when I first found out.  Mom cried for a week when Olivia tattled.”

“You were all Potters,” James said, “technically.  Father asked to check the Hogwarts book when he found out your parents weren’t bonded.  You were all there under Potter.”  He wondered what the twins were listed as now.  Or if they were even in the book, now that they were Canadians without Potter magic.

“I know,” Andrew grinned, throwing a handful of grass at James, “that’s why I used it.  It’s just dumb, is all.  Mom cried for a week over a name, but everyone knows the twins never stopped sharing a bed and no one says anything because they don’t mind pretending to be muggles.”  He froze, looking awkwardly between James and Rosemary. “Sorry. You’re probably going to have twins like them, aren’t you?  Strong family magic needed to start a new line and all that?”

James nodded, waving off Andrew’s apology.  That wouldn’t be until he was out of Hogwarts, at least.  Father would probably kill him for even talking about it before he’d taken his NEWTs.  There was plenty of time to think of a way to make sure the twins were celebrated as they should be without drawing attention to them when they were around muggles.  He was more interested in Andrew finally talking about something other than rune patterns or old Wizengamot hearings — and maybe also the pleased blush spreading across Rosemary’s cheeks, but that would have to wait until they were in their rooms.  For now he could only smile and run his fingers along her bracelet as they continued to listen to Andrew.

Thoughts of how similar Andrew’s complaints had been to his own flitted through James’ mind as he tried to convince himself Father understood the muggles in the village more than Sarah did.  His ring wasn’t hidden this time, none of his or Rosemary’s courtship jewellery was, and he was holding her hand as they walked in from the winding path that led to Linfred.  It was nearly as frightening as it was a relief, for all that Father was with them and could obliviate anyone if necessary.

The rest of the family split into groups, Daniel and Elijah with Remus (who was looking less peaky than usual), Sarah and Thomas with Rachel and Alice, and Emily and Wendy with Fabian.  Andrew, James, and Rosemary were left with Father, who was taking them around to the various investments the estate held in the village.  Really only James needed to go, but Rosemary accompanying him was a forgone conclusion and Andrew was, as usual, curious about everything.

The music shop keeper’s face lit up with understanding when James and Rosemary followed Father into the shop. “Ah,” he said, his gaze falling to where James and Rosemary’s necklaces were peaking out from under their clothes, then to the rings on their hands, “I should have known.  My apologies, lad, Da always said to look for the gold.”

Once again James found himself blinking in confusion.  At least this time Rosemary and Andrew looked confused along with him.  None of them had a chance to respond though, the shopkeeper telling Father he’d be just a moment and going through to a back room.

“Sarah made us hide the jewellery,” James explained, when Father gave him a questioning look. “She said it wasn’t muggle.”

Father chuckled slightly, his eyes sparkling as he patted James’ shoulder. “You needn’t worry about that here,” he said, “the villagers know a little of our customs, enough that you won’t be bothered if you behave properly.”  He gave James a warning look, though his eyes continued to sparkle. “Properly, James.  Imagine your mother is watching.”

James grinned, pulling Rosemary so that she was in front of him and he could wrap his arms around her as she laughed.  Proper was far better than nothing at all.

It was almost surreal, how much different this trip was from the last.  At every shop and home villagers would notice their necklaces and immediately leave to find a parent or grandparent or great-aunt or uncle who had known Father when he was a child.  Every one of them cooed over James and Rosemary, then nearly smothered Andrew with attention when they found out he was Father’s grandson with Charlotte.  James wasn’t at all sure what to make of it, other than that his cheeks were just as sore as he’d been warned they’d be.

“Everyone thought I would marry Charlotte,” Father explained, his voice wistful as they walked to another house on the outskirts of the village. “I kept my ring and pendant hidden until after she left and I waited to introduce Euphemia until we had been married for some time.  It was as much a shock to them as it was to me when she ran away.”  He smiled softly, reaching out to cup the back of Andrew’s head. “You should visit when you can, you and your sister both.  You belong here at least as much as you do at Linfred and there are still a few friends of your great-grandparents alive who would love to meet you.”

Andrew’s embarrassment was amusing, for all that James found himself feeling…odd about the entire thing.  It was clear that for all the older villagers were happy to meet him and Rosemary, Andrew was who they considered their own.  It didn’t seem right that James would be the one to inherit the local properties (nearly the entire village, really) when Andrew had a far closer connection.  He would have to speak to Father about it.  Rosemary as well, if he was going to give up such a large portion of the estate.  Perhaps they’d keep the music shop.  It would make a nice gift for Rosemary, a start to the estate her new line would have.

Rosemary couldn’t quite hold back her laughter as James struggled yet again to make the ‘chet’ sound.  He just looked so funny, like an offended kitten, especially with how his hair stuck up at all angles.  It didn’t help that when he glared at her he only increased the resemblance.  She shrieked as he put aside the book on aleph-bet and pounced on her, tickling her sides as he scattered kisses across her face.  They should study more, Jamie would be going back to school soon and he probably wouldn’t have time for much with the extra lessons he’d been set.  Rosemary pulled him closer anyway, deepening the soft kisses his teasing had led to.  He didn’t have to learn Hebrew right this second.

She hummed as James sucked gently at the side of her neck.  They couldn’t do more than this, not without spells.  She’d have to remind him, probably, he’d had more trouble remembering lately than he had in spring.  For now though, this was nice.  She could feel his necklace, the twisting platinum and gold sliding easily under her fingers as he kissed a line along her own.  It always gave her a small thrill to feel their jewellery, whether she was playing with his necklace or his cuff was pressed against her thigh as he slid his hand between her legs.  She’d think it was silly if James didn’t look at her in a way that made her blush all over when she wore only her jewellery before they got into bed.

“I wish I didn’t have to go back to school,” James said, nudging his nose against hers.  

She tried to smile, even though she didn’t really want to.  Jamie had to go back to school.  Andrew was starting this year and next year would be Wendy and Emily and then he’d be taking his exams.  There would be at least three more years of slipping into the nursery because sometimes their bed felt too big.  She just hoped that by next year Father would feel safe enough to let her stay in Hogsmeade.  At least then they’d be able to see each other a little more often.

She’d be busy this year, at least.  Both of them would be.  They’d sat down with Mum and Abba and Father and Grandmother Prince to decide on schedules, Rosemary probably wouldn’t even be at Linfred often enough to miss him.  There were weekends and holidays with the Goldsteins, one day and night a week at Snowdonia Manor, weekly visits with the Lupins until she got to know them better, and that wasn’t including lessons.  She didn’t think she was at Linfred at all for most of October.

Jamie’s schedule wasn’t much better, not with all the extra lessons Abba and Father wanted him to do.  It hadn’t been hard to see the relief and gratitude on his face when Abba had insisted they leave room for him to take a full day off every week.  Privately, Rosemary thought he was trying to get Jamie used to taking Shabbat, even if he hadn’t said when the day off should be.  Ima and Abba liked Jamie, she was sure they did, but her summer reading had included a lot more about Jewish families than it had before.

“Mr Goldstein convinced Father to let me join you for the holidays,” Jamie said, increasing her suspicions. “and he promised to put a silencing charm like the one here around your room as long as we don’t spend the entire visit up there.”

That made Rosemary smile for real.  None of the other Goldsteins’ rooms had silencing charms.  Not even Michael or Gabriel’s old rooms, and Michael had a newborn son.  If Abba had agreed to put them up on her room he must really want Jamie to go.  Which meant seven whole extra days.  They’d be at shul for most of them, but it was better than nothing.

The vial was filled with a swirling, silvery mist that formed small clouds as she watched.  She blinked up at Alice, not quite sure what to make of it.

“They’re memories,” Alice said, “of James.  I wanted it to be a kind of new sisters gift at the ritual, but most of the girls are still cross with him so I had to explain it was for you, and then they…” she trailed off, looking down at her hands. “I’m not speaking to some of them anymore.”

Rosemary could only stare for a moment as she tried to make sense of what Alice was saying. “They’re —” she swallowed, ignoring Mum’s voice admonishing her for her slip in poise. “They’re memories of Jamie with other girls?”

Alice barely had a chance to nod, didn’t have a chance to finish saying “yes”, before she was stumbling back from the force of Rosemary’s hug.  She shouldn’t care this much, Mum and Mother would both say she was being silly, that all of the other girls weren’t important as long as he still chose her in the end.  The training books said nearly the same thing, as did Hatty and Tessie.  Even Ima had told her that she shouldn’t hold what Jamie had done before his promise against him.  That didn’t make it any easier for her to remember just how many girls knew what he looked and sounded and felt like.

“It’s not all of them,” Alice warned, “and they’ll still be able to remember, a little.”

Rosemary nodded.  She knew that, remembered from when she’d put her memory into the pensieve Father had changed.  It would be like her memories of Mummy and Tatty, fuzzy and hard to put together and only there if she tried really hard.  They wouldn’t though, because Jamie had only been with any of them once and so they had no reason to.  Rosemary squeezed Alice tighter.

“Why?” she asked, when she’d pulled away.  It was such an odd thing for a pureblood girl to have done.  Even Rosemary hadn’t thought about it.

Alice smiled, her face full of more understanding than Rosemary could have expected. “It’s a Prince tradition.  No one is invited to our weddings unless they give up any memories they have of being with the couple.  Most of the matriarchal lines have a similar tradition,” she rolled her eyes slightly, something Rosemary knew she’d never do if her grandmother was around, “only wizards think they can be with half of Europe without their future wife being a little jealous.  The matriarchal lines are more sensible.”

Rosemary had to grin at that.  She hadn’t known matriarchal lines were so different from patriarchal ones like the Potters, but the new knowledge made her look forward to lessons with Grandmother Prince a little more.  That was one tradition she was definitely going to keep for her line — including her wedding to Jamie.

“I didn’t —” Alice hesitated, which was in itself enough to make Rosemary worry.  Alice never hesitated. “I couldn’t get a memory from Lily.  I tried, that was why I didn’t give it to you sooner.  I didn’t think you’d mind missing any of the others, but Lily…”

Rosemary did her best to not show her disappointment. “It’s alright,” she said. “I didn’t expect her to want to do something nice for a muggle anyway.”

The conflicted look on Alice’s face was nearly enough to make Rosemary wish she’d not said anything.  She’d forgotten for a moment that Alice and the girl were friends.  Or had been, she wasn’t sure if they were anymore.  The girl was probably one of those witches Alice wasn’t talking to.  Rosemary didn’t put it past her to be rude about helping a muggle, even if she was a muggleborn.

“She’s not that bad,” Alice tried, “truly.  She’s lovely to everyone at school, even my cousin.  I think she might be the only other person who talks to him without being cruel.”

Rosemary didn’t respond.  She didn’t want to talk about the girl.  Didn’t want to hear Alice defend her the way James had.  Everyone thought Lily Evans was brilliant and wonderful and perfect, even Sarah.  She was so gifted and pretty and she shouted at Sirius and defended that boy no one liked so she must be kind to everyone.  Only Thomas and Remus seemed to notice that she hadn’t been kind to Rosemary when she’d gone and kissed Jamie even after he’d told her about his promise.  She had a sinking suspicion it was because she was a muggle.

So she kept quiet.  Alice wouldn’t listen any more than Sarah had.  She’d just tell her more about how Lily Evans was friendly and vivacious and from the sounds of it the best witch since Morgana.  Rosemary pushed away the wish for magic.  Jamie was courting her and she could do a little magic for the Potter rituals and the Goldsteins and Princes were working on getting her bracelets tied to their family magic too.  She didn’t have to be a witch.

Even if it would be nice to be able to hex Lily sodding Evans’ face off.

Thomas’ hand was clammy in hers as they approached the boys’ home with Mother.  It was reassuring, in a peculiar way, a reminder that she wasn’t the only one who couldn’t quite get past the fear of being left back in a place like this.  She squeezed, looking up at him and hoping that her smile wasn’t as shaky as it felt.

It was just a building.  Just a chaotic, overwhelmingly loud building full of orphaned boys, playing and fighting and generally being nothing at all like Jamie or Remus or the Goldstein boys.  Rosemary hadn’t realised wizards were different until now, not in that way.  She wondered if she was different too now, if maybe that was why the girls in the village didn’t like her.

“It’s hard to believe I ever lived here.”

Rosemary nodded, flinching away as one of the boys barrelled through the corridor as though he were on fire. “Do you think we could go back?” she asked, “If we wanted to?”

He shook his head. “Not here, not to a place like this.  I think I’d go mad.”  His eyes widened for a moment before she was spun around to press against his chest as he cuffed a boy she hadn’t noticed coming up behind her. “Tosspot,” he muttered. “Make sure I never complain about Linfred again, yeah?  Somehow this place is even worse than I’d remembered.”

“No Oswestry then?” she teased.  She didn’t truly mind Thomas going away for sixth form, not when Hatty or another elf could bring him back for visits nearly any time they wanted.  It was just so easy to make him apologetic and protective and big brotherly.  She couldn’t quite help herself.  She might have nine older brothers now (plus Andrew and Fabian), but Thomas was her first and favourite.

Sure enough, he sighed and kissed the top of her head. “I’ll be back as often as I can,” he promised. “I might not even board if there’s a house close enough to buy.”

“It’s ok.  I’ll probably be too busy with my new brothers to miss you.”  She grinned, darting into the room Mother beckoned them from before he could respond.  Still, she caught his grumbled “cheeky brat” as he followed her.

There were a dozen boys in the room with Mother, each of them somewhere around Rosemary’s age.  Surprisingly, they were all sitting quietly around a table instead of hanging from the light fixture as she’d half expected.  It still took her a moment to remember they weren’t going to rise to greet her.  Another moment to think to put out her hand as she introduced herself instead of curtsying as she would at Linfred.  She was sure it was a bit awkward, even if the boys didn’t seem to notice.  She’d not worked on much muggle etiquette since Mum had seen her necklace.

It was difficult trying to think of what to talk about as they tried to get to know each of the boys.  Thomas did well enough, chatting about football and rugby and the village near Linfred.  Rosemary couldn’t think of anything other than books, half of which she had to remind herself were wizarding.  She didn’t think it should be this hard.  It wasn’t as though she was left entirely alone for months, she spent plenty of time talking to Thomas and Fabian and the Goldsteins.

Except that with Thomas she could talk about Linfred and their lessons and James and Sarah.  With Fabian there were stories of his family and pranks he and his brother had pulled and arguments about the Prewett family traditions compared to the Potter ones she knew.  The Goldsteins were nearly anything and everything, but it was always a debate, always a series of questions that led to more questions that eventually led to everyone laughing over a story of some sort.  None of them seemed to help her with talking to muggle boys who weren’t Thomas.

Which made it rather more difficult to decide which of the boys she might be able to be friends with.  She found herself watching more than talking, seeing how they responded to Thomas and Mother and each other.  She mentally dismissed two of them immediately.  Emily would never put up with boys who were as convinced of their own intelligence as those two.  She’d find something in the library to hex them with and then make it look like accidental magic.  (Emily was quickly becoming Rosemary’s favourite Potter besides James.)

Three more were either too stupid or too passive, not the sorts of boys Emily would enjoy spending time with.  That left seven when Mother suggested they take a walk around the grounds.  One nearly ran over Mother and Rosemary in his excitement to leave.  A glance at Mother and Thomas showed that they were in agreement that he was entirely unsuitable.  Rosemary toyed with her pendant, trying to remember if there was a bracha for boys who knew how to behave themselves.

It was a little easier being outside.  She found herself talking about the grounds at Linfred, the way the air crisped in autumn so that she and Mum sometimes took her literature lessons outside just because Keats was so much more appealing when sitting under a tree blazing with gold and russet leaves.  The clearing that filled with butterflies in spring, so many that it seemed (had to be) that they were there by magic.  How light sparkled off the grass when it rained.  The hill that was perfect for sledding after it snowed — and it seemed to snow any time you wanted at Linfred.  She was chattering without realising, barely even aware that she was talking to anyone other than herself.

Thomas smiled at her when Mother went to evaluate the boys magically. “I’ve changed my mind,” he said, “I’ll probably go live in the village, at least, after I’ve finished uni.  But you,” he tapped her pendant, “you have to be the next Duchess of Linfred.”

“She’s perfectly safe, you know.  Mum’s with her, and Thomas, and she has all of those charms and protections you put on her earrings and bracelet.  She could walk through a dragon preserve without worrying.”

James pressed his lips together, staring at his Transfiguration textbook.  He knew that.  Sarah didn’t need to remind him.  It wasn’t as though it was his fault the bloody ritual magic still wasn’t fully settled.  He’d thought it was, it should be and he’d not felt anxious or jealous when Thomas hugged Rosemary for days now, but he’d still spent the entire morning reading the same four lines.  She shouldn’t be away from Linfred or the village.  It felt wrong, as though a piece of the castle was missing.  He didn’t understand how no one else seemed to feel it.

“How long does it take to pick a pair of boys, anyway?” he asked, not bothering to hide his irritation.  It wasn’t as though anyone was unaware of it by now. “Ask for the ones the right age, leave off the ones who aren’t attractive or intelligent, choose two, and come home.”

He forced himself to relax his jaw when Father chuckled.  It wasn’t funny.  Mother had taken Thomas and Rosemary straight after breakfast and now it was nearly time for lunch.  He was prickly in a way he hadn’t been since right after their ritual, how he was going to manage going back to school was a mystery.

“You know why we chose to do it this way,” Father reminded him, “it was partially your idea.”

“I said someone should go, not Rosemary!”  He’d thought it would be Sarah and Andrew, perhaps the new tutor or Emily’s governess.  Not once had he imagined that Rosemary would be away from Linfred without him for Godric knew how long — and to visit a bloody orphanage, at that.  She should never be near one of those places again.  The idea alone set his teeth on edge.

“We have discussed this,” Father said, “Thomas and Rosemary can understand the boys’ position better than any of us.  They will also be spending by far the most time with them, and Rosemary is a better judge of Emily’s preferences than anyone except Andrew.”

“Who doesn’t want to think about what they’ll be doing to his baby sister,” Andrew called out from where he was sitting on the other side of the room.  James couldn’t help but grin.  Andrew had been perfectly comfortable with the tradition until Emily had announced she wanted a proper coming of age.  He’d been looking up castration and impotency hexes ever since.

The sound of Rosemary’s voice had James jumping to his feet before he remembered that they wanted the boys to not feel overwhelmed.  He sat back down, ignoring Andrew and Sarah’s barely hidden laughter, and attempted to look…if not casual, at least not as though he were ready to claw his own skin off.

Mother’s knowing smile as she led two boys into the new library told him he hadn’t entirely succeeded, but also hadn’t done so poorly that anyone outside the family was likely to notice.  Rosemary followed them, immediately going to James and pressing a soft kiss to his cheek.  The tension in his muscles disappeared so quickly he might have fallen over if he hadn’t had Mother’s posture and comportment lessons drilled into him since he could stand.

“Never go away for that long without me again,” he murmured as he twined their fingers together, “it was awful.”

Rosemary smiled softly at him, squeezing his hand. “You’re being silly,” she said, before glancing at Mother and giving him a quick kiss while everyone else was being introduced to the boys.  He clenched and relaxed the fingers of his free hand to keep from pulling her closer. “but I missed you too.”

He was distracted from his need to kiss her again by the boys being brought to him.  It was clear from their expressions that they were curious as to what Mother meant when she introduced him as Father’s heir and Rosemary’s intended, but other than an attempt by the first boy (Kenneth, he thought) that was quickly aborted after a glance at Rosemary they managed to hold their questions.  He found himself impressed almost against his will, only Emily and Andrew had caught on to pureblood etiquette so quickly.  Perhaps Rosemary had been the best person to send to choose them, even if he still didn’t like it.

That feeling increased when they moved to the dining room for lunch and neither boy did more than flinch slightly before staring at the house elves who’d brought in the food with wide eyes.  Then again when they watched James for a moment before mimicking his movements — with a bit of gentle correction from Mother and Father when they had trouble.  When they immediately launched into a barrage of questions after Father asked if there was anything they’d like to know about Linfred or the family or what their lives would be like there James grinned and kissed Rosemary’s cheek.  They were perfect.

The letter was perfectly clear, as much as James hated it.  Bloody Uncle Charlus.  He’d known from the beginning that he would be the most difficult to convince.  He just hadn’t thought it would take longer than summer.  James wanted to be betrothed now, not in however many months or years it might take to convince the old tosser that he wasn’t confused and wouldn’t “come to his senses” if Rosemary was taken from him for a time.  He’d been confused before, when he’d tried to convince himself he could ever find a witch who could come close to replacing her.  Now it felt rather like the first time he’d held his wand, when he’d realised that no amount of holding Father’s wand while he was guided through how to control his magic would ever compare to the feeling of his magic combining with his wand’s to create something far better than either of them could be alone.

“I will speak to Charlus while you are at school,” Father said. “We will have this sorted by Christmas, next summer at the latest.”

James shook his head.  That would be an entire year of courting, longer than any other Potter courtship.  He looked up at Father, making sure his voice was as firm as he could make it. “I won’t go back to school without being betrothed.”  

“James,” Fleamont sighed, rubbing at his forehead.  Of all the traits magic could have picked for Potters to inherit, why did it have to be the insistence on digging one’s heels in.  Even the Malfoy tendency toward arrogance would be easier to manage. “It will only be a few more months.  You are courting, with platinum and the full complement of Potter jewellery.  No one will think any less of you or Rosemary if you have to wait a little longer to be betrothed.”

“But they will.”  James’ voice was smaller than Fleamont had expected, enough that he looked up. “If she was a witch it would be ok, but she’s not.  I don’t — It’ll be like O’Neill all over again.  They’ll think I’m just…trying to make her happy or something, that it’s not important because she’s not a witch.”

The worst part about James’ statement was that he was possibly right.  Lyall Lupin had complained of witches trying to change his mind right up until the day he and Hope were married.  But Lyall was not a Potter and the Lupins were not an old enough family to have the lavish courting traditions to draw on that Potters did.  Fleamont couldn’t begin to predict how the other families would react.  It was the reason he had hesitated to allow Rosemary away from Linfred, even with all the protections James had given her.

“I will write the other families,” he promised. “I will remind them that the start of a new line is never a thing to be trifled with, no matter the background of the founder.”  The history books were filled with stories of families interfering in such courtships, most often because the founder was a muggleborn or half-blood.  They all resulted in the destruction of the interfering family.  Magic would do as it liked, no matter how wizards felt about it. “And I will ask that their children behave appropriately if they wish to continue doing business with the Potters.  The Goldsteins and Princes will back me.”

“What if Uncle Charlus never agrees?”  James was twisting his ring as he spoke, the thoughtful look on his face making Fleamont uneasy as he considered the question.

It was entirely possible that Charlus would never give his permission.  He was the most traditional of the Potter family, had been even when Fleamont was still a boy.  He was also an old man. 

“Charlus will not live forever,” he told James, “I am surprised he has lived this long, if he is alive when you leave Hogwarts it will be due to sheer stubbornness.”

It wasn’t the way James shook his head that worried Fleamont, nor even the determined expression, so like the one he had had the last time he’d refused to return to Hogwarts.  It was the deep breath he took before speaking, as though he was gathering himself for something.  Fleamont found himself tensing the way he would if he were preparing to fend off a particularly nasty curse.

“I think you should adopt Andrew.”


“But —”

No.”  It was not an option.  Andrew was a wonderful grandson, Fleamont was delighted to have both him and Emily, no matter how unfortunate the reasons.  In other circumstances Fleamont would designate him as James’ successor, should he die without heirs — something that Rosemary’s crest made unnecessary, much to Fleamont and Euphemia’s relief.  That did not make him Fleamont’s heir, a position he had looked forward to watching James take up since the first moment he’d held him.

“Father,” James sighed, sounding far older than he should, “Andrew enjoys learning about the estate.  He likes all of the lessons, picks them up more quickly than I do, and the people in the village all like him better.  He’d make a better heir than I would anyway.”

Fleamont set down his tea, moving to kneel in front of James’ seat. “No,” he said, “he would not.  You are my son —”

“I still would be!” James interrupted. “That’s the best part!  Andrew’s older than me so if you adopt him I wouldn’t have to be disowned and then I could just get your permission to marry Rosemary.”

“That is not the point.  James,” Fleamont waited until James was looking at him, Potter stubbornness still set in his face, “I told you I would change the family magic for you, and I will.  You are my heir.  You don’t —” he shook his head, smiling slightly as he thought of how his father had once told him something similar when he’d hesitantly asked what would happen if he never found a witch he wanted to marry. “You will understand when you have children.  An heir is more than an accident of birth. You will find yourself willing to do nearly anything to ensure yours is able to take his proper place.”

James hesitated slightly before nodding, though the stubbornness did not fade. “I won’t do it without Rosemary,” he said. “I don’t think I can.  It’s — She’s —” he sighed, his fists clenching for a moment. “I don’t know how to explain it, but it couldn’t be anyone else.  Not even if it wasn’t real.  It feels like she’s a part of Linfred. Don’t you feel it?”

Fleamont laughed, patting James’ knee as he stood.  That part James would have to understand on his own.  Hopefully soon, Fleamont had found out that girls preferred the words to pretty trinkets or time spent in bed only after Euphemia had aimed a bludger at his head and asked when he was going to say it.

There was one thing James was right about, though Fleamont only thought of it after his son had gone to inform Rosemary of their delayed betrothal.  He couldn’t imagine anyone else as the next Duchess of Linfred.  It took barely a minute with the girl to see how much she loved the castle and its grounds, more than anyone save James and Fleamont himself.  And the castle seemed to love her as well, always snowing when she mentioned wanting it to, producing butterflies and baby rabbits and deer friendly enough to eat from her hand.  The entire new muggle wing had sprung up without Fleamont having to ask after she’d suggested a place where the boys could stay and adjust to magic before Emily’s birthday.  It reminded Fleamont of old stories in the family books, ones he’d always thought were exaggerated.  If James hadn’t understood himself by his fourth year Fleamont would have begun nudging him in the right direction, if only because the castle had clearly already chosen its mistress.

A mistress who was trying not to sulk as she listened to Jamie tell her why they couldn’t be betrothed before he left for school.  It wasn’t his fault.  He’d already been willing to give up his inheritance for her — twice now — she shouldn’t make things harder by sulking.  Even if she wanted to.

“Father promised he would fix it,” James said, running his hand through his hair, “but if he doesn’t…I won’t wait longer than fifth year.  Andrew has to be adopted by then anyway so —”

“No.”  Rosemary looked up from where she’d been staring at her ring. “We could — we could be like Marc and Susan and Ellinor.  You could ask…someone.  Maybe Rachel or Alice.” 

Except that Alice was an heiress herself and needed a daughter and Rachel’s favourite stories were of dashing princes and princesses woken up by kisses.  There would be someone.  Someone who could be a friend, who Rosemary wouldn’t hate for wearing her necklace.

“You don’t want to be like Susan, you said so yourself.” 

She had, but that was before the girl, before Thomas put the idea in her head, before she’d felt how awful it would be to leave. 

“And,” James sat next to her, pulling her against his side and running his fingers through her hair, “I don’t want you to be either.  It’s not right, you belong here.  You shouldn’t have to watch someone else be the Duchess of Linfred just because my uncle’s a blood purist, old wanker.”

“I would anyway if Father adopted Andrew.”  How James hadn’t noticed that was beyond her.  It was the entire point.

She barely heard James’ muttered “bugger” before he was standing, pulling her off the sofa and calling for Hatty.  Then they were in the floo room, her dress having been changed to something like she’d worn when Mother had surprised them at spring and her cloak draped around her shoulders.  Another moment of confusion, she thought she might be wearing nearly every piece of her jewellery with no idea how it had happened, and she was pulled tight against Jamie’s chest and they were rattling through the floo and Rosemary was going to murder James as soon as they were back at Linfred because now they were stepping out into an unfamiliar entry hall and she had a horrible suspicion what the impulsive, stubborn, hot-headed, Potter prat had decided to do.

Rosemary loved Jamie being impulsive when it resulted in him doing wonderful things to her when they were supposed to be going down to supper.  She decidedly did not love it when she was struggling to keep up with him without looking like the muggle orphan she was because he’d decided to do something rash and brave that she would probably find sweet when she was telling Rachel later, but right now only made her want to scream.

She stopped, digging her heels in until James turned to look at her. “Slow down,” she hissed, “you look like the boys at the home who didn’t know not to run indoors.”

James blinked at her for a moment before pulling her against him for a harsh kiss that might have made her forget that he was an impulsive prat if not for the fact that she could hear portraits whispering behind them.  The portraits at Linfred never whispered like that, not where anyone living could hear.  Mother would never allow it.  She said gossipy portraits were a sign of poor breeding or artwork that was bought rather than commissioned and therefore didn’t respect the family as they should.  Either way, it wasn’t tolerated at Linfred.

“You are perfect,” Jamie whispered after he’d pulled away, “and I am going to make my uncle see it.”  He straightened his robes, pulling out his wand to do something that perfectly pressed their clothes, shined their shoes, arranged Rosemary’s hair, and made their jewellery gleam in the torchlight.  He turned to the portraits, looking more like Father than Rosemary could have ever imagined. 

“I am James Hardwin Lancelot Avitus Potter, Marquess of Stinchcombe,” he said, “my father is the Duke of Linfred.  If any of you tell my uncle that we are coming, I will see to it that every painting involved is sent to Hogwarts.”

Then he was escorting her down the corridor as he had the night the Campbells had arrived.  Rosemary focused on pushing off the giddy daze that had come over her when she’d heard Jamie call her perfect.  And maybe a little on how she might get him to sound like he had when talking to the portraits again.  It sent lovely shivers down her spine.

James thanked Merlin he’d been spending more time with Alice and the Goldsteins as he walked into Uncle Charlus’ study with Rosemary.  He wasn’t sure he’d have been able to understand what Rosemary had so quickly caught on to if he’d only been around Sirius, who hated all things to do with his family duties, and Peter and Remus who had only a vague concept of what those duties were.  Once again he had a vision of Rosemary in Slytherin robes, this time with the underlying thought that he should perhaps begin preparing himself for the possibility that his heir wasn’t a Gryffindor.

He ignored Uncle Charlus completely as he helped Rosemary out of her cloak, then magicked two chairs together, led her to a seat and kissed her hand before sitting himself.  He was a Marquess, even if only by courtesy, in any other family that would mean he never had to ask anyone other than Father for anything.  The Potters simply believed in family over title, something he’d always appreciated before.  Bugger that.

“Hello, Uncle Charlus,” James mimicked a posture and tone he’d watched Father use with irritating Ministry officials, “I’ve come to introduce you to my intended.  I thought it would be easier than sending out poor Ardeo to request your recognition of the match yet again.”  He turned to Rosemary, lifting her fingers to his lips and hoping that Lady Selwyn had taught her the order of precedence well enough that she’d know not to stand. “Rosemary, my heart,” he held back a grin at the barest flash of disapproval that crossed her face, “this is my Great Uncle Charlus.  Uncle Charlus, this is Rosemary Adinah Cohen, recently adopted by Lady Artemis Selwyn, Mr and Mrs Meir Goldstein, and Mr and Mrs Lyall Lupin, and made sister to the Duchess of Snowdonia’s only granddaughter.”

Merlin that was a lot of words, even in its shorter form.  They’d have to find an easier way of introducing her for formal events.  Particularly since he wasn’t sure it had worked.  When he finally deigned to look at Uncle Charlus it was to find the man watching them with a look that seemed more like Father attempting to negotiate a contract than the anger James had been expecting.  He wasn’t entirely sure what to do, other than stay quiet and hope looking like Father would be enough.

Uncle Charlus spoke after a moment. “That is a lovely job you’ve done making your pet muggle look like a witch,” only Rosemary’s squeeze of his hand kept James from responding or allowing his magic to lash out, “but it does not change the fact that she is not fit to be Marchioness of Stinchcombe, let alone the Duchess of Linfred.”

“That will be a problem then, as I’ll not accept anyone else.”  James forced himself to recline in his seat, hoping he gave off the right air of disregard.  Father made this look so easy. “Which do you disapprove of more, Uncle Charlus, a muggle Duchess of Linfred or a half-blood with three muggle grandparents taking my place as heir?”

“You would not give up your title,” Uncle Charlus leaned back in his own seat, waving James off, “you are a boy, playing at being a man.  In two or three years, when you are more sensible, you will find a witch and realise all this talk of marrying a muggle was simply childish nonsense.”

“Why would you think so?” As soon as they were back at Linfred James was asking Father for more lessons in comportment.  Keeping his tone light was excruciating. “Grandfather Marc never lost interest in Grandmother Susan, no matter that he’d married Grandmother Ellinor.  We are both descended from a muggle, Uncle.  One more will not make a difference.”

“It is not the same.  Miss Watson was a tool, not a wife.  Keep the girl as a toy if you like,” once again James found himself focusing on the feel of Rosemary’s palm against his to keep from reacting, “but remember that she is only that.  I can assure you, your great-great grandfather never forgot.”

James grinned, remembering the family books.  He’d read through them after talking with Thomas at Christmas, then again while he was in the hospital wing.  It was how he’d known to send Hatty to the family vaults. 

“I’m afraid you didn’t know your grandparents as well as you thought you did,” he drawled, enjoying the momentary irritation that showed on Uncle Charlus’ face before he controlled himself. “Grandmother Susan was a Potter.  I don’t know how, but she was, and I have given Rosemary her ring.”  He lifted Rosemary’s hands to his lips once again, making sure the platinum caught in the light. “It’s interesting, isn’t it, that Grandmother Ellinor’s ring was silver?”

Watching as Uncle Charlus fought to maintain his bearing, James understood why Slytherins enjoyed scheming and plotting so much.  This was great fun, when it wasn’t terrifying and overwhelming and making him feel like a world class ponce.

“A simple act to appease a useful muggle who might otherwise have decided to leave,” Uncle Charlus finally said, after he’d managed to recompose himself. “It did not mean anything.”

James had to laugh outright at that.  As if any Potter would so misuse the family rituals. “Really?  And what would you say if I told you that not only is my courtship not an act, but that it will lead to the beginning of a new line?”  He took off his pendant, handing it to Uncle Charlus so that he could see the engraving.  Anyone who had the slightest knowledge of family symbols would be able to see that it was new.  The Star of David entwined with a sword was more than a little distinctive.

“I would say that you are a very lucky boy, to have such strong magic.”  Uncle Charlus passed the necklace back to James, seeming a moment away from throwing it before James shifted in such a way as to draw attention to the insignia on his chest that declared him Marquess of Stinchcombe. “I am sure that when you find a more suitable wife she will be the founder of a new line as well.  After all, the magic could not have come from the muggle.”

“Is that so?”  James lifted one eyebrow, glad that he’d practised the movement in the mirror after he’d seen Father use it.  The mirror had laughed at him, but it was a useful expression now. “Tell me, Uncle, when was the last time a courtship that showed the strength for creating a new line did not end in marriage?”

The answer was ’sometime in the 15th century’ when Guinevere Weasley and Lucien Malfoy were so afraid of their families’ disapproval that they chose to poison themselves rather than risk being separated.  It was the cause of the blood feud between the two families and part of why Potters so rarely failed to give their consent to a match.  Family was more important than blood or title or gold.  Without it the other things could not exist.

Uncle Charlus knew that.  James knew he did.  He had to.  Yet somehow it did not stop him from once again dismissing James with a wave of his hand. “It has happened before and it will happen again.”  He glanced at Rosemary for a moment, his lip curling, before turning back to James. “I shall never give my consent to you marrying a muggle.  They do not belong in our world, no more than we do in theirs.  You will thank me for this one day, when you are being bonded to a proper witch.”

He wouldn’t.  There were very few things James was certain of, but one of them was that he would never thank bloody Uncle Charlus for anything.  

“Very well,” he said, rising from his seat, “I see that you are unwilling to see reason.  I do hope you can accept a halfblood Duke of Linfred, Uncle.  That is what you will have if I am not allowed to marry Rosemary.  It will either be Andrew or a fifth cousin somewhere in Scotland that Father found.  Horribly dull boy, I’ve been told, barely even able to manage a simple lumos.”  He kissed Rosemary’s cheek after he’d helped her into her cloak, enjoying Uncle Charlus’ obvious disapproval nearly as much as the soft way she looked at him. “If you believe he is more suitable then that is what I shall have to accept.  I’d only thought you might have some sympathy for me and my intended, given your own marriage.  After all, it is why neither you nor your son will ever inherit Linfred.”

At that moment James found himself both despising his own inability to know when not to speak and thanking every ancestor he had — but especially Great-Grandfather Hamish — for Father’s duelling lessons.  He was certain the second was the only reason he and Rosemary survived the first, the hours of practice honing his reflexes enough that he was just able to shield them from whatever it was Uncle Charlus threw at them before Rosemary’s bracelet took them back to Linfred.

Merlin, what had he been thinking?  Everyone knew not to mention Aunt Dorea, even Emily.  He ignored Mother and Father’s startled questions for a moment, checking to be absolutely certain nothing had come close to injuring Rosemary.  Idiot, he was a complete idiot.  Sirius couldn’t have been so senseless.  Mother and Father were going to kill him — and they’d likely be easy compared to what Lady Selwyn would do to him for being so thoughtless as to put Rosemary in danger.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked, running his hands along her sides for a fourth time, then calling for Hatty and Tessie just in case.  This was why he shouldn’t try to act like a Slytherin, he quite obviously didn’t have the temperament for it.  At least if he’d simply blown up at Uncle Charlus like he’d wanted to he’d have gotten laughed at before he could say anything so undeniably stupid.

Only after Hatty and Tessie had both told him Rosemary was perfectly fine and he’d kissed her long and soft enough to reassure himself of the same, did James remember that his parents were still in…whatever room this was.  He’d not paid attention.  The Ladies’ Parlour, from the looks of it.  Bollocks.

He turned slowly, trying not to wince when he saw that Mother and Father both were decidedly unimpressed. “Er,” he said, then immediately clamped his mouth closed to prevent any other non-word sounds that would further irritate Mother until he could formulate a proper sentence. “I might have made Uncle Charlus a bit cross.”

“I gave you far too many parents,” James said as he dropped onto the sofa.

Rosemary set aside her book on Potter history, smiling at where James’ was laying with his head in her lap and playing with his hair. “What did Abba and Ima say?”

She held back a laugh when James groaned and raised his arm to cover his eyes.  He could be so dramatic sometimes, not that she’d ever tell him.  Grandmother Prince said it was best to let boys think girls were the emotional ones. It made them easier to manage.

“They gave me homework,” James voice made clear exactly what he thought of his punishment. “Four feet on what I did wrong, why, what I could have done instead, and what I’ll do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  With sources.  There’s an entire pile of books in my bag I have to read parts of.  McGonagall isn’t that bad!”

Rosemary did laugh at that, just long enough for James to move his arm so he could sulk at her, before she thought of something. “When do they want it by?”

“Not until after I’m at Hogwarts.  It would’ve been before, but Mrs Goldstein said it wasn’t fair to punish you when you hadn’t done anything.”  He leaned up enough to kiss her, twisting so that he could cup her face and gently brushing his thumb across her cheek in a way that always made her feel as though she was balancing her sled on the very edge of a tall hill.  

“I don’t think they like that we do this.”  Jamie’s voice was soft all of a sudden, quiet so that she had to concentrate to hear even though his lips were still just above hers. “Mr Goldstein muttered something about keeping my hands busy before Mrs Goldstein stopped him.  I don’t think I could stop though, not just for them.  Not unless you wanted to.”

She shook her head, just enough that she could feel Jamie’s lips brush against hers.  She didn’t want to.  Not even a little.  Ima and Abba would be happier if she did, she was slowly understanding that they thought she was still too young, but Rosemary didn’t agree.  Neither did Eli or Daniel or Rachel, even if only Eli had a girlfriend he was serious enough about.  Maybe if she were a witch, maybe if it was just any boy, but not this.  Not Jamie.  She leaned forward, nudging James’ nose with her own for a moment before tasting his lips.

The complete lack of expected desperation was her first hint that this was maybe something different.  Something new.  Something she would remember, the way she did last summer when Jamie’s magic had sparked and glowed between them.  She felt like that again, like everything was fuzzy and muted, even as she was more aware of his lips and hands on her than she’d ever been.  She’d swear she could feel every slight wrinkle and dip along the skin of his lower lip as she brushed across it with her tongue.  When they fumbled slightly as they shifted so that they were laying on the sofa, she knew it was at least a little because their lips never parted and Jamie never took his hand from her face.

Was it possible to taste a feeling?  Because Rosemary thought she might be able to, thought that this tasted of raspberries and chocolate and a fizzy drink Hatty had made them after their row about the girl.  Bright and sparkling, shifting through new flavours that made her think of tropical islands and Wilereykos still glistening from a recent rain.  A special drink, Hatty had said, for starting over and celebrating and sharing, that none of the elves would ever make for just one of them.

Jamie’s lips moved from hers to the underside of her jaw and under and behind her ear and down her neck, each soft brush leaving behind a tingling shock.  She’d somehow never noticed before that his fringe fell to tickle her skin when he kissed her.  Now she tracked his movement down her chest by the feel of messy hair and warm breath and magical buttons with delicately carved initials being slid through muggle cotton.  JHLAP, linked and curved so that the letters looked like an intricate design topped by the suggestion of a crown, creating something special and new and only for her.

This was only for her.  She’d know it even without Jamie’s memories, without feeling how the girls felt more like chores than anything.  Nothing that felt so much like magic glittering around them as she clasped his hands could ever be shared with anyone else. 

She pulled him up from where he was trailing his tongue between the beginnings of breasts that she was just starting to be maybe a little bit proud of.  It felt nice, might make up for the embarrassment and sensitivity, but she wanted Jamie close enough that she could slide open the buttons with her initials carved into them.  

There was something new about the way his back and shoulders felt as she ran her hands over them.  Something about the way his chest pressed against hers that made her feel over warm in a way it hadn’t before.  Combined with the way everything felt soft and different, laced with something she couldn’t find a name for, but that made her think of bowtruckles and their bedroom filled with magic, Rosemary found herself almost afraid when Jamie settled against her after they’d slipped off their clothing.

It was overwhelming, the strange sense of this somehow being different, as much as Jamie’s magic had been when she’d woken up for no reason she could find.  Even just like this, kissing softly with nothing more hurried than fingers trailing down backs and sides, felt like it might break her if it went on too long.  She couldn’t imagine what more would do, not when she was already trembling from the certainty that she would crave this every moment James was away.

But it was Jamie, her Jamie (hers, actually hers, forever even if they had to wait for that uncle of his to die), and no amount of overwhelming something or near fear had ever managed to win out over the slight pressure of him against her.  She nodded to his whispered request for permission, tangling her hands in his hair so that she’d have something to hold onto as the overwhelming built into something that made it hard to breathe.

It did break her, in a way.  A shattering that made her feel as though she were a crashing wave, even as Jamie nuzzled and kissed her, moving slowly and subtly enough that the throbbing between her legs stayed at a steady pulse.  She was a glowing ember and a turbulent sea all at once and it was as confusing as it was perfect.  She wasn’t sure she was fully aware of anything other than the feelings building inside of her, not even Jamie nipping all the places she loved most as he continued the slow pace that made her moan.

Then lightning struck as the ember flared and when she was able to open her eyes again it was to Jamie looking at her in a way that made everything seem warm and bright.  She pulled him down to her, smiling when he hummed against her lips.  This was different, even if she didn’t know quite how, and she was going to hate having to miss it for weeks and weeks, but she’d never give it up for anything.

Chapter Text

Rosemary clung to James, her hands digging desperately into his back and neck as he gave her a kiss that made her want to sob even as it sent tingles all down her spine.  People were staring and whispering, had been ever since he’d escorted her onto the platform after Mother and Grandmother Prince, with Father and Uncle Lyall following close behind.  She should probably care, the same way she should probably care that Uncle Lyall was likely the only one who understood or approved, but she couldn’t bring herself to.  Jamie was going back to school and she’d kiss him until the train was leaving or someone pulled them apart.

“I have to go,” James said quietly after he heard the second warning whistle.  He kissed her once more, brushing away a stray tear from her cheek.  This was torture, he should have taken the Goldsteins’ offer of flooing to Hogsmeade with them after Shabbat was over.  Would have, if not for the fact that he’d wanted to make sure everyone saw him with Rosemary.  Saw that they both wore Inkasia’s cloaks with each other’s crests stitched on and every piece of Potter jewellery appropriate for a trip to Kings Cross.  That he was more than willing to be seen with her, to bring her into magical areas, not keep her hidden away as though he were ashamed of her.

The final warning whistle blew and James really did have to go.  Remus and Alice were shouting at him from the door, he’d miss the train if he waited much longer.  He forced himself to step away, kissing Rosemary’s hands before he left.  

“I’ll write every day,” he promised, “and there’s only 27 days until Rosh Hashanah, that’s not so bad.”  It was, it was terrible, but it was better than waiting until Christmas.  One last kiss and he ran for the train, just managing to climb on before it pulled away.  He didn’t look back, following Remus and Alice directly to a compartment and pulling out the homework the Goldsteins had given him.  Tessie would have taken Rosemary straight to the Goldsteins’ anyway, as soon as he’d let her go.  No one wanted her around that many witches and wizards so soon after it was made clear that James was serious about their courting any longer than necessary.

Ima was waiting for her in the sitting room, her arms already open when Tessie popped them in.  She let Rosemary cry herself out, stroking her hair until her eyes and nose were raw.

“Come, mamaleh,” she dried Rosemary’s face and pulled her up, wrapping her arm around her shoulder, “it’s not good to be sad on Shabbat.  We’ll have some of the cake from dinner and I’ll teach you a new z’mer and you’ll feel much better.”

Rosemary nodded, leaning into Ima’s side.  She wouldn’t, couldn’t imagine feeling better until Jamie was back, let alone enough to sing, but she’d try.  The cake was her and Rachel’s favourite, chocolate with raspberry jam between the layers.  It might help.  A little.

It did, as did Rachel and Daniel and Eli and everyone making a special effort to keep her busy.  Noah taught her how to play mah jong, Gabriel and Asher told her stories of what they’d done when Asher spent a year in Brazil during uni, and Benji and Adam kept slipping her sweets that Mother and Father pretended not to see.  There was learning with Rachel and Ima and silly games with Daniel and Eli and Abba.  Michael and his wife even let her hold little Joshua, who had only just had his bris.  (He was so small, it was terrifying and she handed him back almost immediately.)

But what helped the most was after havdalah, after Gabriel and Asher and Michael and Leah and Joshua had gone home and Daniel and Eli and Rachel and flooed to Hogsmeade, when only Ima and Abba and Noah were left with a no longer distracted Rosemary.  They handed her two boxes, one wrapped in paper that somehow managed to look like her hair ribbons and the other in shimmering gold.

She opened the red one first, knowing even before Abba said anything that it had to be from Jamie.  No one else paid that much attention to the exact shade of Potter red, not even Father.

“It belonged to his ancestor,” Ima explained, as Rosemary pulled out the tallit.  Large enough to wrap fully around her like Abba and Noah’s did (almost too large, she’d need to grow a little more before she stopped worrying about it dragging), it was creamy wool with alternating red and gold striping.  Potter red, shot through with flecks of platinum.

Abba reached out, holding a corner of the tallit and pointing to the stripes. “Our family isn’t titled, we don’t have colours like the Potters or Princes, but,” he ran a finger along one of the gold stripes, “we think the gold might be for Goldstein.  One of our ancestors probably had it made for the wedding.” He smiled at Rosemary, lifting the tallit and wrapping it around her, showing her how to make sure it laid just right. “You’ll be a bat mitzvah in less than a year, Rabbi Zweller is going to start asking you to help lead the children’s services more often.  James thought you might want to wear this when you do.”

“I thought only boys wore a tallit?”  She had, none of the girls at shul did.  None of the women she could think of did, even Leah who wore the most beautiful jewelled kippot.

Noah laughed slightly, pulling a kippah like the ones Leah wore — twisting platinum and gold with rubies, like her jewellery — out of the box and setting it on Rosemary’s head. “I told Mum and Ta we should take you to the shul in Hogsmeade.  Witches have always observed the time-bound mitzvot, you’d see plenty of girls with tallitot there.”

“Not until Fleamont thinks it’s safe.” Abba sounded like the disagreement was an old one, even though Rosemary hadn’t even known there was a shul in Hogsmeade until just now. “We’ll go as soon as we can after that,” he promised, smiling at Rosemary, “but it’s a walk from the Potter house to the shul.  Right now there are too many jealous witches to risk it.”

Rosemary nodded, even though that was something she still didn’t quite understand.  She did on some level, in the theoretical way she understood that Wendy and Emily wore nearly as many protective charms as she did.  The way she understood why even Rachel could go most anywhere she wanted, but Potters and Princes weren’t allowed further than the villages near their estates without supervision until they’d gotten an O on their Defence OWL.  It was hard to apply it to herself though, to remember that there were people who hated her just because Jamie was courting her — enough to actually want to hurt her — and that most of them would even if she were a witch.

Mother and Alice both said it would settle, that Mother and Alice’s dad had needed to hide away under charms and shields and protections for a time after their courtships had started too.  Rosemary only hoped that it was soon.  That being a muggle wouldn’t make one more thing worse.  She’d thought she’d stop wishing for magic after Jamie asked to court her — and she had, mostly.  If the only difference between her and a witch was magic she didn’t think she’d mind at all, not anymore.  But that wasn’t the only difference and sometimes…she wished.  Just a little.

She forced herself to push the thought away.  Jamie had left her a lovely gift, one that wrapped around her and made her feel safe and warm in a way she hadn’t expected.  She didn’t need magic for that.  Nor to reach for the second box, the one wrapped in gold that made Ima and Abba and Noah look at her with excited grins.

The necklace inside was pretty, a simple gold chain with a Magen David hanging from it.  It was short enough to sit above her pendant when Rosemary put it on, which she did immediately.

That was when she felt the magic.  Not like Jamie’s magic, concentrated and familiar, warming her when she reached out for it.  This was disjointed, even as it felt whole.  Different pieces swirling around and together, like individual instruments in a symphony.  She found herself blinking up at Abba and Ima, not sure how to phrase a question she could only feel the edges of.

“It was only going to be your ima’s magic and mine,” Abba said, “but —”

“There was a revolt.” Noah cut him off, grinning so wide his cheeks must hurt. “You should have seen the look on the goblin’s face when we told her all eleven of us wanted to add a bit of our magic.  It took more time to convince her we were serious than it did to make the necklace.  Leah’s the only one missing, the goblins said it was too dangerous for Josh.”

Ima moved to stand next to Rosemary, holding out her wand. “Here,” she said, “I’ll show you how to light the Shabbat candles.”

Which was how Rosemary learnt that Ima’s magic was breezy and fresh, like adverts for muggle laundry detergent.  Abba’s was cool and wet, making her think of cobblestones during a storm.  Noah’s made her laugh, crashing waves and thunder and lightning, just like the story.  She couldn’t wait for next Shabbat, and not just because it would be one week closer to seeing Jamie again.  She was going to ask to use every one of her brothers’ wands, until she knew which pieces of the magic in her necklace belonged to them.

Remus and Elijah held James back, Elijah keeping his wand arm pinned behind him.  He knew that was probably for the best, that he couldn’t afford yet another detention if he wanted to be able to try out for quidditch, but it had been less than a fortnight and already James wanted to hex everyone in this bloody castle.  If one more person made one more fucking comment —

“— take a turn if she’s tight enough to get all that.”

James wrenched himself out of Remus’ grasp, only realising Elijah had let go of him after he’d tackled whoever had said that to the ground.  He wasn’t entirely sure who it was, actually, other than that they wore Ravenclaw robes and James was going to kill them.  They were bigger, he could tell that from how hard it had been to shove them, but he could feel his magic rising, keeping them pinned down and everyone back so that James could enjoy the feeling of his fist smashing into their face.  He understood now why Rosemary and Thomas had both been so unapologetic.  This was far more satisfying than a hex.

Then he was being dragged back by his collar, magically if the way his feet lifted clear off the ground was any indication.  The Ravenclaw — Mercer or Mayer, someone in Daniel’s year — was bruised and bloodied, stumbling slightly when his wanker friends helped him up.  Good.  Hopefully Pomfrey wouldn’t be able to fix it up with only a few spells.

He only noticed the pain in his fingers after the magic holding him had pulled him into an office and shoved him into a chair.

McGonagall’s office.  Bollocks.

“Forty points from Gryffindor, Mr Potter.” James grimaced as McGonagall entered the room, Elijah and Remus following behind her.  That’d be over a hundred points since the start of the term, far more than he’d managed to earn in lessons.  The prefects were going to murder him.

“He was provoked, Professor,” Elijah flopped into his seat in a way James never would have dared, not with McGonagall, “Melton suggested he would assault Potter’s intended.  He’s lucky his entire family wasn’t challenged to a duel.”

McGonagall said nothing, simply watching Elijah until he sat up straight — even if it was with a slight eyeroll. “Be that as it may, fistfights in the corridors are not allowed.  I notice that you did not appear to be helping Mr Melton, are you not a Ravenclaw prefect?”

Elijah looked at McGonagall as though she were stupid — which in James’ opinion was a clear sign of madness he’d have to write Mr Goldstein about. “You want me to help someone who threatened my youngest sister?  Because that’s who Potter’s intended is, my sister by magic.”

“What I want, Mr Goldstein,” McGonagall’s voice was tight in the way it was when a prank went just slightly too far, “is for you to act as a prefect even when it is difficult.  You might have at least called for a professor instead of merely watching.”

“Why?  Would you have done anything to Melton then?  Or would you have just let him go like you did now?”

Bonkers.  Ravenclaws were completely bonkers.  It was the only explanation for how Elijah managed to look not even a little concerned as McGonagall’s lips thinned into a line before she deducted points, gave him detention, told him she was going to write his parents, and asked him to hand over his prefect badge until she could speak with Flitwick about whether or not he was suitable.  James was trying not to cower and he wasn’t even the one being punished.  Remus looked as though he might faint dead away, barely giving James an apologetic glance before scurrying out when McGonagall dismissed him.

It was silent for long moments after James was left alone with McGonagall.  He did his best to keep completely still, unwilling to draw attention to himself after Elijah had done what amounted to provoking an already irritated dragon.

“What are we going to do with you, Mr Potter,” McGonagall sighed.  Her face softened in a way that only increased his concern, for all that he thought it was probably meant to be reassuring. “I apologise for not having questioned Mr Melton, he will be punished, I assure you.”

James nodded, not quite sure what to say to a McGonagall who was apologising.  Any professor apologising, really.  It just wasn’t done.  It was almost a relief when she returned to being stiff, stern Professor McGonagall.  At least he knew what to do with that.

“Eleven days into the term and you have received three detentions, lost 105 points, had two letters sent home, and now are attacking students with your fists.”  

James refrained from pointing out that he’d also earned 50 points and kept himself from hexing countless people.  

“None of the usual disciplinary measures have worked and if this continues you will find yourself expelled before Christmas.  What do you suggest we do?”

He could go home.  That sounded like a brilliant plan.  He could go home, be with Rosemary, and take his exams privately.  Then he wouldn’t have to hex people or listen to their whispers and sometimes outright taunts about his courtship or intended.  He hadn’t thought it would be this hard.  No one bothered Remus about his mum and everyone knew McGonagall’s dad was a muggle.  He hadn’t thought it would be different just because he was a Potter.  Nor that being away from Rosemary would be so much harder this year.  That he’d forget she wouldn’t be sitting next to him or Rachel or Alice the way she had all summer.  He couldn’t imagine how he was going to make it to Rosh Hashanah, let alone summer.

Something told him that wasn’t an answer McGonagall was likely to approve of though so he stayed quiet.  He could probably stare at his hands for a fair bit, his right looked rather different now.  Bruised and bloodied and he thought he might need a potion of some sort.

McGonagall, of course, wouldn’t allow him to simply sit in silence forever.  She sighed again when he’d not responded for several minutes, shaking her head slightly as she asked for his timetable.

“I believe Mr Goldstein and your father have set you extra lessons?”  She pulled out a piece of parchment and what looked to be several letters as he nodded. “As well as lessons with myself and Professors Sprout and Flitwick, and the days you will be missing to go with the Goldsteins.  Is there anything else?”

“Er,” James hesitated, unsure where this was leading, “I was going to try out for quidditch.  If I’m still allowed.”

McGonagall nodded, scribbling on the parchment. “I was going to suggest it if you weren’t.  It is clear that you have too much free time on your hands.”

James wasn’t sure he agreed with that.  He barely seemed to have any time at all, going from Hogwarts lessons to privately set ones to homework.

“This will be your new timetable,” McGonagall handed him the parchment, now so packed full of lessons and studying and activities it made his head spin to look at.  Even meals and showers were marked out in neat blocks. “You will not deviate from it. Your belongings will be moved to a private room within Gryffindor where you will do all of your assignments. If you are in need of books from the library you may ask a friend or house elf to retrieve them for you. You are not to leave the common room without escort, which I will arrange for travelling to and from your lessons and activities. If your behaviour improves by the last of your holidays with the Goldsteins we shall see about loosening the restrictions slightly. If it deteriorates you will find yourself confined to your room outside of lessons. If you hit or hex one more student, you will not be joining the Goldsteins. Is that understood?”

It took James a moment to do more than stare at McGonagall in shock and a fair bit of terror. Was she even allowed to keep him from going to the Goldsteins’? He wasn’t going to risk finding out. He nodded, looking down at the parchment that would define his life at least until mid-October.

“Um, Professor?” James waited for McGonagall’s nod. “What’s this tutoring block?”

“Miss Evans is still somewhat behind in Transfiguration,” McGonagall ignored James shaking his head before she’d finished, “she excelled under your tutelage last year, I believe you can have her up to O level by the end of the term.”

“No,” James rushed to explain as McGonagall’s eyebrows began to knit, “I’ll do anything else you want, but I can’t tutor Lily.  She hates me and I deserve it, I did something horrible last year.  There’s no way she’ll want me as a tutor.”

She wouldn’t, he was certain of it.  Lily hadn’t so much as looked at him since she’d gone to the hospital wing before the term ended.  She sat as far from him as she could in lessons and ran in the other direction if they encountered each other in between.  It was fine, he was happy to avoid her if it helped, but that meant he couldn’t tutor her no matter how much McGonagall wanted him to.  Not unless he had to in order to be allowed to visit Rosemary.

Luckily, McGonagall agreed to leave the choice up to Lily, swapping one of the tutoring blocks to a free catch-up period and the other to quidditch practice if she said no.  Which James was absolutely certain she would.

James stared at his homework, trying to make it say anything other than it did. It didn’t work.


Merlin and Morgana and Godric, a bloody werewolf.  James nearly fell out of his chair, stumbling back as he tried to think of where Remus was.  The common room, probably, or the boys’ dormitory.  The full moon had only been last night, no wonder he’d looked so peaky, and he usually spent the day after he was poorly reading or napping.

He’d feel bad — did feel bad, really — about dragging Remus to his room when he still looked pale and weak, but there wasn’t a way to ward the dorm as heavily as a private room and James absolutely did not want anyone accidentally finding out about this.  There was no telling what the other boys might do if they knew they’d been rooming with a werewolf for two years.

Of course, there was then the question of how to explain why he’d dragged Remus over which James suddenly realised was much more difficult than it sounded.  It wasn’t as though he could just out and say “found out you turn into a raving beast every full moon, rotten luck, that.” In the end he handed over the astronomy assignment he’d been working on, with each of the full moons noted on a calendar.

He hadn’t thought Remus could get any more pale, not when he was already practically sheet white already.  He did though, what little colour there was draining from his face as he looked at the parchment.

“You should have said something,” James said quietly, when it seemed as if Remus might stare at the parchment forever. “This is why your parents didn’t want to be Rosemary’s family, isn’t it?  And why you didn’t want to stay over after the ritual.  I checked, it was a full moon that night.”

Remus nodded, still not looking up. “I suppose you don’t want to be friends anymore then.”

“What?”  James shook his head as he moved to sit next to Remus. “Don’t be daft, you’re practically my brother.  You just should have said something, especially being over before the full moon.”

James tried not to think about the terror that had pierced through him at the thought of Rosemary being anywhere near a werewolf even after he’d remembered that the werewolf would be Remus.  That could have been prevented, if he’d known.

The way Remus was staring at him as though he’d suddenly come into a creature inheritance — something unusual and frightening like being part-manticore — gave him a sinking suspicion as to how people might have reacted to finding out Remus was a werewolf in the past.  As if there was anything frightening about Remus.  He was more gentle than Alice.  Being a werewolf couldn’t change that.

“So you’re not — You still want me to be Rosemary’s brother?”  The confusion on Remus’ face was clear and painful enough that James shoved him slightly, just to be able to see a different reaction.

“Potters don’t throw away family, git.” He forced away thoughts of Lucy.  She hadn’t known. “But you have to tell Rosemary.  And you can’t come over on the full moon.  I’m sorry, but you can’t.” He didn’t think he’d ever get over fear for Rosemary.  Not when no muggle had ever survived a werewolf attack.  Even Wendy might be alright, if she was found fast enough, but Rosemary wouldn’t stand a chance.

Remus hesitated for a moment, looking down at the parchment with an expression James couldn’t decipher. 

“My mum carries a silver dagger with her,” he said, “I think my dad got it for her.  She always has it, for as long as I can remember.” He took a deep breath, still looking at his hands. “You could get one for Rosemary.  I wouldn’t — She should be able to defend herself, just in case.”

“That’s —”  James cut off, not sure there were words to describe how awful that sounded.  They wouldn’t be doing that.  Rosemary had more protections than anyone in the magical world, she should never be close enough to use a dagger anyway.

Besides, the idea of Rosemary ever being willing to hurt anyone was laughable.  She’d never agree to it, even if James wanted her to.  Remus should know that, he’d been around her enough. Other than the one moment with Grace when the courtship magic had made them both quicker to fight than usual, she’d always been about as frightening as a baby crup.

He was surprised when Remus looked sideways at him when he said that. 

“Mate,” Remus said, “I know you think she’s…I dunno, an angel or something, but she’s scarier than your sister.  She might be scarier than Rachel.”

James did laugh, if softly, at the way Remus managed to say that with a straight face.  Rachel was on par with McGonagall for scariness, would be up with Lady Selwyn if she wasn’t so naturally cheerful.  Rosemary was a sweet, kind, adorable girl in white dresses and floppy hair bows whose favourite thing to do was watch Abraxan foals play.

“Really, I’m not joking.” Remus face was surprisingly earnest, even more than when they were playing a prank.  It made what he was saying that much funnier. “Honest James, stop laughing you idiot.” He shoved James when that just made him laugh harder. “I think Evans would be dead right now if Rosemary could manage it.  You should give her a dagger, or a knife, or something.  She’d use it if she had to.”

Well that wasn’t funny at all.  James sobered quickly, shaking his head at Remus.  No knives, no daggers, the idea of them made James nauseous.  The fact that his own mother —

“Remus.  What do you do during the full moon?”  He couldn’t stay in the hospital wing, that was certain.  And it probably wasn’t safe to let him run in the forest, the centaurs would have no problems shooting a werewolf.

Finding out that one of his best mates — nearly his brother, really — spent full moon nights locked up somewhere savaging himself because he couldn’t hunt sent James to his desk.  Father needed to hear about this.

“You can’t!”  Remus was nearly frantic, his eyes flashing gold for a moment before he recovered himself. “There’s a registry and werewolf hunters and they’ll make me leave school!”

James hesitated for a moment before shaking his head. “I have to.  He has to know so he can adjust the wards, we’re lucky they didn’t hurt you when you visited over the hols.” It didn’t have to be now though, not right this instant.  James set down his quill. “I’ll tell him at Christmas, no one else will ever find out that way.  Alright?”

It took a long few minutes, but Remus agreed, sinking back down onto James’ bed.  It really was necessary.  Especially since finding out exactly why Remus always looked like he’d lost a fight with a kneazle had rather changed James’ opinion of werewolves at Linfred.  This particular werewolf, anyway.  The grounds were massive, large enough to get lost in if you didn’t know them the way James did.  There had to be some part of it far enough away from the castle and the village that could be warded for Remus.  At least during summers.  He still didn’t think he was comfortable with Rosemary alone in their rooms while a werewolf wandered the grounds.

Rosemary jumped up when she saw the owl tapping at the window.  Ardeo always seemed to know where she was, even hooting at her from trees if she was in the village or at the Goldsteins’.  She ignored the chorus of “oooo”s from the boys as she took the letter — from Jamie, of course — clutching it to her chest as she sat back at the table in the muggle wing’s library where they were going over magical etiquette.

“What’s Potter up to then,” Thomas asked.  The books and papers were pushed aside for the moment, as they always were when an update from Hogwarts came.  Usually Jamie, he wrote every day as promised, but Rosemary and Thomas had had letters from everyone else as well.

It was odd, getting used to so many letters.  Neither of them had had many before.  Alice had written regularly, almost dutifully at first, from last November.  Daniel and Eli started writing after she’d met them at Shabbat just after the new year, but usually they preferred to wait until they saw her.  It was nearly weekly, after all, even before they’d become family.  Sarah had written Thomas a handful of times, quick scribbles on scraps of muggle notebook paper.  Andrew and Rachel obviously hadn’t been at Hogwarts last year.  

Remus had never written though, nor Jamie.  Not even last year, when she’d half-expected him to, had waited for days despite Mum’s warnings that it wasn’t like a pureblood boy to think to write to a muggle, no matter that it also wasn’t like a pureblood boy to promise a muggle anything.  She wasn’t entirely sure what it meant that they now had to set aside time to answer all their post, but it was a nice change.

Jamie’s letter today was much the same as it had been yesterday and the day before and really most days since the first.  He missed her, that was something she never told the boys, even though it was in every letter.  Alice had gotten detention for hexing a boy, though he didn’t know why so they’d have to wait for her to tell them.  His lessons were dreadfully dull, especially history, and he didn’t understand why he even had to take regular Transfiguration when he was already learning past OWL level in his private tutoring with McGonagall.  Sarah had sat with a boy from Ravenclaw for meals two days in a row which he didn’t entirely approve of, but Andrew said the boy was behaving properly.  They’d started covering bowtruckles in Care of Magical Creatures, which had made him think of Rosemary and Wilereykos and things she wouldn’t say out loud, but that the boys teased her about anyway when she blushed.  Rachel had made friends with Sirius’ younger brother, much to Sirius’ irritation and James’ delight because it meant he now had the best childhood stories to tease him with.

There were pictures of bowtruckles for Martin and Kenneth, who had never seen them and wouldn’t get a chance until at least November.  Another of Rachel and Andrew in their new House robes — Slytherin and Ravenclaw — that he’d been trying to get them both together for since the first.  Some new sheet music for Rosemary, what Professor Flitwick was having the choir work on and that she wouldn’t have as it was exclusively magical.  Samples of magical varieties of muggle plants for Thomas, who was working on a chemistry and biology project with Mr Khatri involving the differences between muggle and magical plants.  A sheet of questions for Martin and Kenneth’s tutor, Mr Rasul, about the lessons James was working on in the hopes of taking muggle exams, even if possibly a bit later than usual.

He missed her.  There were only so many more days before Rosh Hashanah.  Eli said she’d worn her gift last weekend, he couldn’t wait to see her in it.  It wasn’t at all fair that the Goldsteins got to see her every week and he didn’t.  He was going to see if he could talk Father and Mr Goldstein into letting him go too.  He missed her, he missed her, and the hardest part of every letter was reading that he missed her, even if it was nice to know that he was having at least as much trouble with this as she was.

It didn’t entirely make sense, she didn’t think it should be this much more difficult.  They’d been apart before, obviously, for longer periods of time.  But this time felt worse, enough worse that she’d asked Mum and Mother and Ima and Grandmother Prince if courtship magic could make you feel as though a part of you was missing, refusing to believe that it couldn’t until they’d all given her the same answer.

“Only another week,” Thomas reminded her. “It’ll go fast.  We’ll finish this up and then we’ll all go riding.  We could camp out tonight and look for falling stars, or that fox Mr Hyde said moved in near the maple courtyard.”

Kenneth nodded, adjusting his glasses when they slid down his nose. “It’s too early for the Draconids, but we could take out the telescopes.  I’d like to see if we could do magical astronomy even though we don’t have magic.”

“And Madame Dubois gave me a new piece to work on, she left the music so you could accompany me if you want.” Martin elbowed Kenneth when he began to sulk, his voice just barely loud enough for Rosemary to make out as he hissed, “We all chased bugs for you when Mr Rasul marked down your essay, Rosemary likes music and dancing.”

Rosemary held back a grin, exchanging a happy glance with Thomas.  It was hard to stay unhappy for long these days, even with the constant ache of missing Jamie.  She’d made a wonderful choice picking Martin and Kenneth.  Her boys, along with Thomas, even if they had been chosen for Emily.  Her Lost Boys, the way she often felt like Wendy being taken to Neverland and Peter Pan, only she would never leave.

“Go on then,” Daniel held the bag of floo powder out to James, “you first.  Everyone saw us last week.”

“Are you sure?”  He didn’t want to ask.  There was very little in the world he wanted to do less than ask, less than put off seeing Rosemary for a second more.  It was unfortunate sometimes how deeply ingrained Mother’s etiquette lessons were.

Luckily Daniel just rolled his eyes and pushed the bag at James again. “Call out for ‘the Rose Gold Room’, Ta had Rosemary’s fireplace connected to the network as a precaution.  Don’t worry,” he added, when James started to object, “not even any of us can get in, your dad made sure it was keyed specifically to your pendants.”

James had never before been as grateful for Father’s Ministry contacts as he was in that moment.  Rosemary was waiting for him when he stepped out of the floo, bright and perfect and laughing when he lifted her off her feet and spun her around.

“I’m not going back,” he said, after he’d kissed her so that she melted against him. “I don’t care what anyone says, it’s too far and I won’t do it.  I can be tutored at Linfred, the way I should have been from first year.”

Rosemary shook her head, though she smiled and kissed him so delightfully softly and thoroughly he wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t stopped breathing.  They both knew he’d be going back, no matter how much they disliked it.  Father would be disappointed if he didn’t and neither of them liked disappointing Father.

So he set himself to memorising as much of the next four days as he could, thanking Merlin that Father and McGonagall had agreed he could stay the entire weekend instead of going back Saturday night with the younger Goldsteins.  If he had his way they’d spend all of that time right here, in this room.  Ideally with Rosemary flushed and panting under him because right now he wasn’t sure if he could ever be close enough to make up for how far they’d had to be for nearly the last month.

Instead he kissed her one more time before forcing himself to go greet the Goldsteins.  He’d promised they wouldn’t spend all of their time in her room if Mr Goldstein allowed the silencing charm.  If there was one thing James never wanted to do again it was break a promise that could hurt Rosemary even a little, even in theory.

It helped that there were no muggles this holiday other than the ones related to the Goldsteins, Mr and Mrs Goldstein deciding it would be better if James and Rosemary didn’t have to restrain themselves too much.  It meant that he could at least hold her hand and kiss her cheek, two of the few things that didn’t make Mr Goldstein give him disgruntled looks.  That was fine, Mother wouldn’t have allowed more than that at the table anyway.  James could manage, even if he didn’t like it.

Mrs Goldstein was more sympathetic, rolling her eyes at her husband and telling him to stop when he suggested Rosemary sit across from rather than next to James. “Ignore him,” she said, “he’s forgotten what it’s like to be young.”

“I never would have dreamed of courting when I was as young as they are.”

“It was different for us, Meir.” Mrs Goldstein’s voice was quiet. “Be grateful that our children are better able to be happy and without worry.”

James wasn’t entirely sure what that meant or why it made everyone look uncomfortably down at their plates, but Mr Goldstein’s expression softened and he made no comment when Rosemary scooted her chair closer so that she could lean her head on James’ shoulder.

The slight tension subsided after that, then disappeared entirely when Rosemary shyly asked James if she could borrow his wand.  It occurred to him later that he probably should have hesitated at least a little.  Father would have expected him to, even if it was Rosemary asking.  He didn’t though, not for a moment, didn’t even think to ask why she might need it until after he’d watched her light a candle alongside Rachel and Mrs Goldstein.

It was…James had thought he’d stop wishing Rosemary was a witch after she’d accepted his courtship proposal.  There was no reason she needed to be a witch, the only thing he wished was that he could make her Lady Rosemary of Stinchcombe without Uncle Charlus’ approval and Father was working on that.  He hadn’t truly wished for it once all summer, no matter how unfair he still thought the entire situation was.  But now, watching how happy a simple modified incendio made her, he was suddenly aware of just how much magic he had been holding back in her presence.  How much magic they had all been holding back.  The fear of her one day growing resentful and wishing to leave the way Charlotte had came flooding back, and with it the fervent wish that she have magic too, if only so that he’d never have to face that possibility.

Gabriel and Daniel both seemed to notice the conflicting pride and fear, sending him sympathetic glances across the table.  It helped enough that he was able to smile at Rosemary’s beaming face when she sat, kissing the fingers of the hand that held his wand.  It was an impressive feat for a girl without magic.  That it also brought back insecurities he hadn’t thought he still had wasn’t her fault.

He’d talk to Gabriel and Daniel later.  The Goldstein family magic seemed to involve far more regular rituals than the Potters, maybe that would help.  Maybe she’d be able to do magic often enough to not feel as though she was missing out.  And if not…maybe there were other options.  His grandparents had used a bonding ritual that involved sharing magic.  If he could find a way to bring a muggle and a squib into an adoption ritual, he might be able to find a way to share his magic regularly.  It would be worth looking into, even if she didn’t seem to be the least bit resentful.  James was fairly certain that if he were to face a boggart right now it would turn into Rosemary throwing her courtship necklace at him.  He’d do everything he could to prevent that from happening.

He wasn’t able to dwell on it long though, not between Rosemary subtly shifting her chair close enough that she could press their knees together and the conversation flowing around them.  Dinner with the Goldsteins was nothing at all like dinner or even a family supper at Linfred, even now that the table was more crowded.  Mother would never have stood for the loud, often interrupted back and forth the Goldsteins favoured.  It was a bit like being at Hogwarts, only with fewer elbows and Weasleys.

And when it was done, after the singing and laughing and nibbling on honey cake and apple honey challah, James was able to follow Rosemary back up to her room.  A room where she shoved him up against the door and kissed him deeply enough he thought he might have felt it in his toes.  Merlin he loved this side of her.  It was still so rare and new that for a moment he was too surprised to do more than pull her closer.

“Are you sure?” he gasped, trying not to think about how pained and disappointed he’d be if she said no.  Somewhere in the small part of his brain that was able to think about more than Rosemary’s hands at his belt he thought he might remember something important about one of these holidays.  Something about not being able to do this.  It wasn’t this one, was it?  He thought it was the one with the fasting, but he couldn’t be sure and while he thought the entire idea was rubbish when it was one of a grand total of thirteen days he’d be able to see Rosemary between summer and winter hols, he’d find a way to accept it if he had to.  Maybe by sleeping in a guest room.  

Then Rosemary was on her knees in front of him and his trousers were around his ankles and the only thought he was capable of was how embarrassingly quick this was going to be.

Quick was more than a bit of an understatement.  One moment James was thinking that he’d never be able to recreate the bloody brilliant image that was Rosemary humming around his cock, the next he was trying to remember when he’d ended up sitting on the floor.  And when his trousers came off.  And his socks and shoes.  Probably sometime before Rosemary climbing into his lap and, really, that was a far more interesting thing to consider.

“Are you sure?” he asked, one last time before she grabbed his already newly hardened cock and sank onto him.  (She’d been wearing knickers, hadn’t she?  He’d thought she had, not that it mattered at this moment.)

It’d be better if she wasn’t wearing her dress.  The skirt was full enough that it was a bit in the way and the neckline didn’t quite stretch far enough that he could nip at the part of her shoulder that always made her clench around him.  That was alright.  Rosemary was making the most delightful sounds as she rocked against him, all gasps and sighs and arms wrapped tight around his neck.  He allowed himself to settle into a pleasant daze as she took whatever it was she obviously needed, his own release surprising him as she began to come down from hers.

There was a large part of James that didn’t want to move from where they were entwined together on the floor.  The bed would be more comfortable, he knew that.  They could take off what remained of their clothing and he could take his time admiring and memorising her.  It would be better than sitting here where he thought he might be developing an unfortunate friction burn.

Except that moving meant stopping the quiet sighs and nuzzles and kisses, even if just for a moment.  Maybe if they stayed just like this time wouldn’t move either.  They could stay right here, Rosemary sated and content and close enough that her heat was rousing him yet again.  He wouldn’t have to go back to Hogwarts where he’d be reminded that for the first time Gryffindor Tower didn’t feel warm or inviting enough.

James stood, keeping Rosemary’s legs wrapped securely around his waist as he did.  Time would move whether he liked it or not.  And even if it didn’t, he’d much rather it stop when they were lazy and sated in their own bed.  A quiet summer morning, perhaps, one of the ones where they spent the entire time in a happy glow as their bodies moved together.  Not on the floor at the Goldsteins’, as nice as it was.

Besides, he’d made chaser for the Gryffindor team.  Sirius had a plan to prank the Slytherins for Halloween that sounded like it’d be legendary, if McGonagall didn’t kill him.  Alice was still trying to get Remus to do more than stutter at her — which was even more fun now that James could make quiet comments about the big bad wolf being afraid of little red riding hood.  Sarah was spending more and more time with Ali Shafiq which on its own was a reason to go back to school because Sarah hadn’t shown any interest in anyone before and James had been practising his intimidating older brother speech for over two years now.

And right now, at this moment, there was Rosemary and four whole days to try remembering every second of.  Every sigh like the ones she made as he kissed his way down her spine while unbuttoning the back of her dress.  Every soft shiver like when he gently pushed her to sit on the edge of the bed and ran his hands up the insides of her thighs.  Every cry and whimper and moan, especially the unexpectedly husky one when she pulled him more firmly against her as her clit throbbed against his tongue.

She tasted different, tasted more, in a way he couldn’t explain, but that made him want to keep tasting her forever, even as it also made him fight to not take himself in hand.  He’d done that often enough in the past weeks, would continue to do it often enough for what felt like eternity before he’d taken his NEWTs.  He wasn’t about to do it now that Rosemary was right in front of him.

Right in front of him and somehow pulling him up as she scooted back, until she was sighing against his lips as he eased himself into her.  For a long moment he stayed there, luxuriating in how she always seemed to fit so perfectly around him.  Her arms around his neck and back and her knees around his hips as much as the liquid velvet that seemed to draw him ever further in.  

She was perfect.  From the light blush that pinked her cheeks when he found himself murmuring the words aloud to the slight gloss on her lips where she’d run her tongue over them as he began to move.  Her neck was captivating enough that he’d put every charm and ward against vampires he could find on her bracelet, terrified of what might happen if one felt even a fraction of the need he did to bite and suck at her.  And her breasts, hidden beneath all but the most form fitting of dresses (dresses he had no desire for her to ever wear outside their rooms), now flushed with arousal so that he had no choice but to mouth gently at them until she gasped.  Dainty feet with toes that pointed and curled as he built her higher, knowing by now exactly how to keep her right on edge.  Legs that wrapped around him, urging him deeper, joining to hips that flared just ever so slightly.  Barely enough for him to notice as he pulled her tighter against him.

She seemed all legs and arms lately, more than even when they’d first met and he’d thought she was nothing but long legs and bright eyes and strawberry blonde hair.  He should probably thank Merlin or Godric or an ancestor or something that they never seemed to have the problems his classmates often did, with knees and elbows accidentally going places everyone would much rather they didn’t.  Maybe it was Mother and Lady Selwyn’s training or maybe it was knowing each other as well as they did, but James was inclined to believe it was just another way in which Rosemary was perfect.

Once again he found himself surprised as his muscles tensed and contracted, his hips moving on their own while Rosemary shuddered beneath him.  This time he didn’t force himself to move.  Rosemary was holding him to her, long arms and legs locked around him so that he couldn’t even if he wanted to.  Which he didn’t.  Not the least bit.  He let himself stay exactly where he was, savouring the peaceful happiness for as long as he could.  

They would need to sleep at some point.  Should be asleep now, probably.  But he could feel himself hardening again somehow, possibly something to do with Rosemary’s nails scraping gently down his back, and really they could nap after shul if they wanted.  Right now there were better things to do than sleep.


Chapter Text

Rosemary moaned quietly as she arched against James.  She could feel his magic rising gently, seeming to build out from where he was slowly teasing her into a coiled mass of need.  It ebbed and flowed, mounting with every steady push that stretched and filled her, spiking to peak as he nudged against something that made her shudder before slowly fading back down as he withdrew, leaving her whimpering as her body seemed to clutch at him until the pattern started again.

She hadn’t realised how much she needed this.  Hadn’t realised how hard it would be to go a full 25 hours of seeing Jamie without being able to so much as touch him because they both knew it was unlikely to stop at holding hands, especially if they were alone.  She’d asked Ima to put wards on their doors so they wouldn’t sneak into each other’s rooms Friday night which had been mortifying, even if Ima had given her a proud smile and put them up without a word.

That had been the worst.  It wasn’t so bad during the day, shul took up nearly all of it and it was easy to forget there where she was distracted by trying to not have to look at the English side of the page and wondering what it might be like to be a chazzan.  It probably helped that Jamie was on the other end from her, with Abba and Asher and Ruthie and Leah, with everyone else in between.

Night though, night had been awful.  No amount of reminding herself that she should be thinking of teshuvah instead of how much she wanted to be curled up with Jamie’s heart beating under her ear seemed to help.  She hoped it was one of those things that got easier with practice because otherwise she was probably going to have to spend every Yom Kippur until Jamie left school focusing on the same parts of Al Chet.

She wasn’t sure she’d ever fallen asleep so happily and easily as when she’d settled against Jamie after the break fast.  Maybe the feel of Jamie’s hands stroking her back and running through her hair wasn’t the most appropriate thing to be thankful for, but she had been anyway.  Enough that she’d not wanted more than to sleep comfortably entangled like they did at home.

Then she’d woken to Jamie smiling softly down at her as he played with her necklace.  It had been a smile that made her flush even as she drew him toward her.  There was an almost visible glow, a soothing sense of contentment that seemed to wrap around them as they kissed and touched.  It was different even as it was familiar, peaceful even as it urged her closer right along with Jamie’s fingers and lips and tongue.  She’d come with a series of heart pounding waves that left her refreshed rather than boneless as she usually was.  Energised so that she was able to drag Jamie up and push him onto the bed, enjoying the way his pupils dilated as she licked up along his full length.

She’d been right at her birthday, when she’d thought the sticky-slimy texture of him would be less than pleasant.  The first time he’d finished in her mouth it had only been luck that she’d drawn back to tease his head and the instinct to swallow that kept her from gagging and choking.  She’d still never asked him to use the spell.  The texture wasn’t something she enjoyed, but the way James looked at her with wide eyes and how he nearly always seemed to want her even more after definitely was.

Which was how they’d ended up here, with Rosemary panting against Jamie’s lips as she relished the deliberate dragging of him in and out of her.  She didn’t think either of them had ever managed this long, long enough that her muscles ached from the building tension and they were both covered in a thin layer of sweat.  It was a delicious, dizzying feeling, one that made her arch her neck when Jamie thrust just a tiny bit harder.  She never wanted it to end, wanted to stay right here forever with Jamie’s magic sinking into her as he scraped his teeth along the juncture of her neck.  Wanted to keep feeling him, hard and unrelenting as he held her on the very edge of what she knew would be a bone shattering fall.

She was close, so close it hurt, close enough that the simple feeling of Jamie’s fingers tangling with her own as he held her hands above her head nearly pushed her over.  Nearly.  She forced herself back, trying to ignore the irresistible way he seemed to fit perfectly inside her, filling her so that the loss of him was devastating, no matter that it was never for more than a breath.  She wasn’t ready for this to end.  Not yet.

It seemed James wasn’t either, as he stilled inside her for a few shaky breaths.  Rosemary gently pulled one of her hands free, reaching up to cup his jaw as he recomposed himself.  She’d never really noticed before, but Jamie was…pretty.  Beautiful, even.  He’d probably hate hearing it, would probably prefer handsome or fit — and she thought he might be, in a few years — but “pretty” described him better.  Especially now, with his long lashes fluttering against his skin and his soft, heart-shaped lips parted just slightly.  She smiled, tucking the knowledge away as she pulled him toward her.

The moment had been long enough to ease the tension slightly, but not nearly enough to keep her from shuddering and gasping when Jamie slowly began grinding against her.  It was barely even movement, certainly couldn’t be called anything close to a thrust.  It was shared breaths and muffled groans and gripping each other tight as the friction built.

Jamie’s magic was growing again, filling the room with a thick haze of heat and moisture.  She’d swear she could taste it, the way she could taste him as he gently teased her tongue with his own.  Smoke and salt and humid summer days before a storm.  She was nearly too far gone in the feel of him to notice how it sharpened when he groaned against her neck as she grasped his bum to pull him tighter against her.

It took her a moment to realise the whimper as Jamie pulled away slightly had come from her.  Then he was easing out of her again, his movement steady and measured despite the tension apparent in his body as he rested his head against hers.  She found herself scrabbling at his hips when it seemed he would draw all the way out, unable to bear the thought of pulling that far apart just yet.  The movement made Jamie laugh slightly and kiss her when she pouted.  The moan as she felt him pressing inside her again seemed to emanate as much from his chest as her own, their voices mingling as they began to move together again.

This time she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold back.  Not with Jamie’s magic whispering against her skin.  She was already so close, only needed a tiny nudge.  All she wanted was for it to last long enough that she could feel him pulsing inside her before she was too far gone to enjoy it.  It wouldn’t take much, the way he collapsed against her as she dragged her nails across his back was evidence of that.  Only a little more.  Rosemary tilted her head back to enjoy Jamie mindlessly kissing behind her ear and down her neck.  So close.  Jamie’s fingers brushed against her chest and —

“Mum says — oh fuck sorry!”

Rosemary cried out in frustration as Jamie’s magic vanished, leaving her whimpering and cold and unsatisfied.  She was dressed in a long, high-collared nightgown before she realised there were tears pricking at the corners of her eyes.  She was going to kill whoever —

“Daniel!  Get out!”

“I’m going to!”  Daniel was facing the door, his hand clamped firmly over his eyes. “Ta was coming and I didn’t think you wanted him asking questions!”

Rosemary dropped back against the pillows, just holding back a frustrated grunt. “Fine,” she said, “Leave now.  And knock next time!”

“I did!”  Daniel sounded just as aggravated as Rosemary which didn’t seem fair. “The bloody silencing charm works both ways.”

She held back another grunt.  She’d forgotten about that.  It didn’t matter at Linfred, no one there went into the bedroom unless she or James was ill anyway.

“Look,” Daniel said, “Mum wanted you to know there’s breakfast if you want it.  I’m going to go ask Noah to obliviate me, but if you want I can tell everyone you were still asleep so you can,” Rosemary didn’t bother looking up, but she imagined she could hear Daniel’s blush, “er, take your time finishing up.”

“Yes, please,” Rosemary grumbled.  

Finish up.  It was the first time Rosemary was acutely aware that the Goldstein traditions being different from the Potter ones meant Daniel and Rachel knew as much as Wendy or Emily.  Less, in some ways.

She sighed as Daniel left, turning to Jamie who was nearly vibrating beneath the blankets.  She could feel his magic coiling along his back and down his arms, agitated enough that it spiked for a fraction of a second when she laid her head on his shoulder.

“Sorry,” James mumbled, his head still buried under his arms.  Rosemary shook her head, softly kissing and suckling along his shoulder until he started to relax.  It hadn’t hurt.  Jamie’s magic never hurt her.

“Your magic didn’t force Daniel out.”

“Couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t accidentally hurt him.”

Looking at the way Jamie’s magic was still tense and broiling, flickering in sparks of light along his skin, Rosemary wondered how much that had cost him.  He looked nearly as bad as he had when he’d accidentally hurt himself, though at least this time he was still conscious.

Rosemary pulled off her nightdress and shifted until she could kiss him, gasping when he immediately pinned her to the bed, rolling his hips against hers as he bit and sucked at every part of her he could reach.  She moaned, letting the sensations wash over her.  It wasn’t the slow build Daniel had interrupted, but it was still every bit as intense.  The only thing that would make it better was —

“I can’t —” James shook his head, ki