The Minister of Magic and the Dark Lord, Marvolo Slytherin, was on his way to Gringotts to check upon his accounts and vaults. It was a monthly occurrence but usually, it was Lucius who handled them on Marvolo's behalf. The Malfoy Head's prior arrangements that day, however, forced Marvolo to walk down through the busy alley.
Today, the crowd in Diagon Alley was bustling. It was August after all, and the month of August always brought frantic parents along with their excited wards to shop for the school supplies. Passing by, he witnessed friends hugging each other and asking about each other's summer; chatting and gossiping right in the middle of the alley. A group of children was huddled in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies, ogling owlishly at the latest broom model. Flourish and Blotts was tightly packed, so was Florean Fortescue's Ice-cream Parlour and so was Madam Malkin's.
Marvolo, however, paid them no mind. He didn't have time to waste on observing stupid creatures that apparently had no goals and ambitions whatsoever in their short living lives. Internally, he wondered on how much everything had changed since the war had stopped. There was a time when these imbeciles were afraid to even leave their homes in the fear of being caught by Death Eaters. They were petrified to enough to not speak his name - Lord Voldemort - openly and boldly. When Marvolo had revealed his handsome face to the wizarding world later though, it felt like there was a switch in people's mind about him. No longer was he the snake-faced evil wizard who had tried to kill and torture them on numerous occasions. NO! He was the darling of Wizarding Britain now. The dashing Minister of Magic whose feet women worshiped, and other wizards were left envious of.
A soft whimpered voice caught Marvolo's attention as he reached the stairs of the Goblins' Bank. He saw a little girl, about three or four years of age in a baby blue sundress, sitting on the stairs of the bank. On close observation, he found that the child was crying and that her parents were nowhere in sight. He approached the petrified child slowly not wanting to startle her in any way. Marvolo crouched in front of her and spoke in as gentle voice as he could muster, "Hello there."
The small child looked at him with wide, fearful eyes and tried to back away from him.
"Hey there, I'm not going to hurt you, little one," he spoke, but the girl still seemed to be wary of him.
"Would you please tell me why you're sitting here, all alone, and crying, sweetheart?" Patience was never Marvolo's cup of tea. Nor was he the kind of person who helped others just for the sake of it and without any personal motivations. The fearful child in front of him though, rose a protective side in Marvolo, he never knew he had.
"I...I got lost," she spoke in a whispered tone, "I was with mama, and then...then," she hiccupped a bit in between sobs. "Then thewe waa so many people that I lost my mama's hand. I couldn't see mama, so I came hewe to the bank." By the time she was finished, fresh tears had spilled from her beautiful emerald eyes. Marvolo gently wiped the tears away; she didn't flinch away this time. Mama had said not to talk to strangers but this man seemed nice.
"It's okay, sweetheart. We'll find your mother, don't worry. She must already be looking for you."
Marvolo stood up to take the child in his arms but she didn't budge from her place. He understood her concerns and smiled slightly at her; she definitely was a smart child for her age. Marvolo kneeled down in front of her again, and spoke, "How about I tell you my name first? That way we won't be strangers, and then we can go find your mother."
She nodded slightly, and Marvolo extended his hand in a friendly gesture making the little girl giggle.
"Hello, my name is Marvolo," he said with a warm smile.
"Hello, Mista Mawolo, my name is Lily."
"Lily! What a beautiful name you have, little one." Lily gave him a shy smile, but a smile nonetheless, with a polite thank you. He quickly stood up with Lily in his arms and started walking through the busy alley.
"Now tell me little one, where did you see your mum last time?"
"We waa waiting outside ice-cweam shop. It was soo full, so mama and I waa waiting fo ouw tuwn."
The child didn't seem as hysterical as before which was a good sign according to him. He still couldn't understand though, why he was roaming Diagon Alley with a child in his arms. Other people were staring at them as if they had seen a ghost. The constant staring and whispers were starting to make Lily uncomfortable. It seemed like she was about to cry again. Not wanting to upset her anymore, the wizard quickly diverted the little one's attention.
"Well Lily, you never told me your mother's name. How are we gonna find her if I don't know her name?"
"Mama," she replied innocently.
"Of course, silly me," Marvolo muttered quietly, but the child continued anyway, "But Dobby calls mama, mistwess and aunt Mione calls mama Hawwie." Marvolo stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at Lily more closely now, and could see the resemblance more clearly. She had Potter's same unruly hair and striking green eyes. How could he have missed it? He internally chastised himself for being foolish and not observing the small child in his arms. But Marvolo still needed confirmation. This couldn't be her daughter, could she?
His stupor broke when Lily patted him gently on the cheeks, "Mista Mawolo, what happened? We have to find mama."
"Of course, sweetheart." He continued on his way towards the ice-cream shop.
"Lily, would you please tell me your full name?" He asked in a calm tone, not wanting to give her a hint of intrusion or anything of that sort.
"Lily Mione Potta. Lily afta my gwanma and Mione afta my aunt."
The duo soon reached in front of the packed ice-cream parlour. Lily was searching desperately, looking for her mother everywhere.
"LILY...Lily baby, where are you?" Marvolo heard and turned around to see a woman shouting frantically. For some unknown reason, his heart was beating wildly in his chest. Lily too pointed her fingers in the same direction, urging Marvolo to approach the woman.
"Excuse me," he spoke getting her attention and froze as soon as she turned around. The woman's attention, however, wasn't on him but the child in his arms.
"Mama," taking her daughter hurriedly from his arms, Harriet Potter, the former girl-who-lived and his once arch nemesis, never saw Marvolo's expressions. She just wanted her baby to be safe. Hugging her daughter tightly to herself, Harriet rubbed her back gently and cooed to calm Lily down. She kissed Lily's head over and over.
"It's okay baby girl, it's okay. Mama's got you." Her mother's soothing words and kisses made Lily calm down.
"I'm sowwy mama. I got lost," she hiccupped as tears streamed down her face. "I got lost, so...so I went to the bank. Then he helped me to find you," Lily continued, pointing in her saviour's direction. Marvolo on his own part, didn't know how to digest this new information thrown at him, so he just stood there dumbfoundedly - like a statue.
"Thank you," Harriet said sincerely, as she fully turned her attention to the stunned wizard standing in front of her. She couldn't fathom the thought of what could have happened, had he not found Lily on time. Just the thought of her baby girl in danger made Harriet shiver in fright. On the other hand, she was also afraid of the questions she could read in Marvolo's eyes. She didn't want any confrontations here; she just wanted to take Lily within the safe confinements of their home. Her daughter, however, seemed to have others plans. Lily turned to Marvolo, and as if sensing the little one's thoughts, he took her and hugged her close. He had never been thanked this kindly before but Marvolo loved this gesture.
"Mama, can we pwease invite Mista Mawolo fo my biwthday pawty?" Lily asked with pleading eyes, and Harriet found her in a very awkward situation. Lily rarely asked for anything, so Harriet gave her a nod after few moments of pondering over, "If Lord Slytherin doesn't mind, then he's welcome, baby girl." Lily looked at Marvolo with a pouty face to which he absolutely couldn't refuse. There were questions in his mind which he wanted to ask Harriet badly. So maybe, this birthday party could give him the much-needed opportunity. He nodded in agreement and was soon engulfed in another hug by the toddler. Right now though the little girl seemed enthusiastic instead of upset, and Marvolo couldn't help but chuckle at her antics.
"Lily baby, its time to go home," Harriet drew her daughter's attention.
"Bye, Mista Mawolo," Lily bid farewell to her new friend.
"Thank you again, Lord Slytherin. I'm not sure what would have happened if you wouldn't have helped her," Harriet's heart constricted at the various possibilities her daughter could have been in.
"You're quite welcome. I'll see and Lily later then?" Marvolo asked with a bit of hope in his voice.
"Of course. I'll send you a Portkey along with the invitation. The party is on Saturday if that's all right."
"That'll be good."
Nodding to him, Harriet soon left Diagon Alley while Marvolo gazed at her retreating form as she protectively held her daughter.
That night, sleep was hard to come by.
The next morning, Marvolo quickly flooed to Malfoy Manor. Lucius and Narcissa came to the living room too, not wanting to make the Dark Lord wait any longer.
"Lucius, what information do you have on Harriet Potter?" Marvolo asked as he gratefully accepted the offered tea. The Malfoy Head looked stricken for a moment at the abrupt question.
"Nothing much, my Lord. Just the fact that after announcing that she won't participate in the war, she left Britain and didn't come back. She didn't interfere any further, as she had said, and kept her end of the deal." This wasn't that he was looking for, because he himself had checked all the records but to no avail. He could feel that there was a much bigger picture behind all this. Sighing in defeat, he spoke again, "Narcissa I need your help."
Both Lucius and Narcissa were surprised. The Dark Lord rarely asked for Lady Malfoy's assistance.
"Of course, my Lord," she said firmly.
"I want help to pick an appropriate birthday present for a three-year-old girl," Marvolo said looking at her expectantly. Lucius choked on air, coughing loudly as Narcissa gently rubbed his back. Realising his mistake, Lucius straightened up quickly but found the Dark Lord amused instead of being angry.
"My Lord, I will definitely pick up a suitable present and get it delivered to your manor latest by this evening," Narcissa piped in the conversation.
"Oh no, Narcissa. I'll be going shopping with you, but I'll be in need of your suggestions for obvious reasons."
If Lucius had the energy, he could have fainted at that moment. But the Malfoy Head got hold of his senses and he asked boldly, "My Lord, would you mind if I could join you as well?"
"Of course not, Lucius. Your opinion too would be appreciated. I'll meet you both after an hour at my manor from where we'll leave to buy the present." With that, Marvolo quickly left, leaving behind a very confused Malfoy family.
Surprisingly, Narcissa led both men to a very nice children's store in Muggle London.
"Welcome to Baby Bugs and Butterflies. How can I help you?" one of the employees asked.
"We're looking for some nice dresses and matching accessories for a baby girl, three years of age," Narcissa spoke expertly. She figured if Marvolo wanted to gift something to someone personally, then that 'someone' would be extremely important, and only the best should be presented on the Dark Lord's behalf.
"Oh, of course. Please come this way." They were let to a large counter and Lucius sighed heavily, making Marvolo narrow his eyes at the blonde-haired man.
"What's the matter, Lucius?" The Malfoy Head didn't have the strength to be scared so he simply said, "You'll soon find out, my Lord."
Marvolo did find out what Lucius had meant, and Salazar was he horrified! It had already been an hour or so, but Narcissa had rejected every dress the poor employee had shown them. She was picking out on the tiniest detail, and the greatest Dark wizard of all time was questioning himself, if asking for Lady Malfoy's help was a good choice or not.
Suddenly his eyes landed on a beautiful white sundress adorned with flower prints and some intricate threadwork. Marvolo could already imagine Lily wearing that dress and looking the most adorable baby in the world. This was the one!
Narcissa beamed at his choice and thankfully it didn't take long to select matching shoes and headbands with the dress. Marvolo internally was beaming with joy; he was excited and nervous and feeling a whole new range of emotions. Unfortunately, he would have to wait until Saturday to meet the little ray of sunshine again.