Luna had given it a great deal of thought. She frequently thought a great deal about many things, often, at once, but for this particular subject, she'd taken a focussing potion and locked herself away in her workshop to ponder the problem of her second marriage.
Of course, having a spouse in mind would have helped matters, but the circumstances were dire: she couldn't continue to be married to a man who loved Crumple-Horned Snorkacks to the extent that Rolf did, but under the terms of her marital contract with Rolf, she couldn't leave him unless she had, in the course of being a loving and faithful wife, developed a relationship with another, "appropriate" wizard who'd be willing—and by "willing," Luna understood it to mean "contractually bound"—to marry her were she released from her vows to Rolf upon the day that she was granted a divorce.
It was bollocks. Luna knew this, and the stipulation was, of course, designed to prevent divorce in the Scamander family. But facts were facts: she wasn't . . . exotic enough to meet her husband's needs, and once she'd found a likely candidate for marriage, she'd have to honour her current marital contract's conditions in order to write a new one with Mr Suitable, whomever he turned out to be.
But I don't want to find myself in this position again, Luna thought sadly, which was why she needed to find someone not only to marry, but someone capable of helping her draft the marital contract for that marriage.
Using a request for assistance in this matter as a way of courtship was risky, but circumstance had made Luna feel that such calculation was necessary. Men seemed to want what they couldn't have—hadn't Rolf been more attentive lately?
Luna sighed. Offering to show me why he likes Snorkacks really wasn't the best way to persuade me to have sex with him again.
It had occurred to her that she could publicise her husband's predilections, but that would only embarrass Rolf—and she did love him. She wasn't certain how she'd missed his odd tastes while they were courting, but on the whole, Luna had decided that they were none of her business now that she'd elected to leave him. Sighing, she picked up her pen and randomly listed the names of wizards who might be persuaded to marry her under the right circumstances:
Luna decided that she wasn't interested in breaking up anyone else's marriage to secure her own, so she struck the married men from her list:
Harry Potter Ron Weasley
She then struck the men who were engaged from it, for much the same reason:
Severus Snape Harry Potter Ron Weasley
She made a fresh list of the remaining names and stared at it:
Dean's in love with Seamus, even if we did have that interestingly nude moment at Shell Cottage, Luna thought, striking him from the list. And you only listed Mr Ollivander, Hagrid, and Colin because they might marry you just to see you out of an awkward situation. That's not a good reason to marry anyone, she further thought, striking them from the list.
This left her with three Slytherins:
Dean Thomas Mr Ollivander Rubeus Hagrid
Luna found this interesting. Why Slytherins?
For one thing, Slytherins seemed capable of handling contractual obligations much better than she had done. Of course, she'd been in love with Rolf and hadn't been expecting the invisibly inked sections of her marital contract, but she suspected that any of the remaining wizards on her list would expect that and more.
Taking the wizards in reverse order, she wrote down her other reasons for having listed them, beginning with Goyle:
Is artist now; works with fire; interesting conversationalist (but this may be due to magiceutical use); family hasn't had a Lovegood in it for over five generations; is handsome in chiselled way; is a wealthy pureblood (as required by current contract); is not in love with another man or male being.
And he was very polite to me at his last show, Luna thought, satisfied with Goyle's attributes, as she made a list of Zabini's:
Travels extensively and known to enjoy "adventurous witches"; handsome and suave; genuinely enjoys literature; flirts with you at Guild affairs; murderous mother passed away; is a wealthy pureblood (as required by current contract); is not in love with another man or male being.
Luna was less than satisfied by Blaise's attributes, but only because he was rather self-centred, and she wasn't certain she'd be able to hold his interest as she took interest in so many things that weren't him. But I think I could marry them, and they're both so busy that I'd be free to do as I liked. Rolf and I have so many interests in common that it's almost impossible to find time alone.
Having considered Greg and Blaise, Luna was left with Lucius Malfoy. She knew it was odd of her to have put him on her list, but since his wife's death in childbirth, he was a very eligible single father—by all accounts, doting—and she knew that he'd done his best to prevent Narcissa Malfoy from coming to harm during the war. Of course, she would have preferred to have gleaned this information in some other manner than by having been a prisoner in his home, but one learnt things how one did; there was no helping it.
And he was always very solicitous of me, for a gaoler, she thought, unlike some.
Luna frowned to remember Draco's taunts during her imprisonment; she supposed he was only acting out to cover his fear, but that didn't make her feel any better about it. She had always accepted being teased while at school, but after marrying and growing up a little, she'd realised that she didn't like being teased a great deal and that polite people were important to her. With this in mind, she considered why Draco's father had made her list:
Created the War Orphans' Fund and has become a philanthropist (perhaps just for image's sake, but gold spends whatever the reason); is polite; is very tall; seems to be a good father to his daughter (looks too harried to be otherwise, really); fascinating conversationalist (look for book you were discussing at Guild awards banquet for retiring Spellcraftres); can dance; comforted me when they were hurting Mr Ollivander; is surprisingly very masculine where it counts; has disturbing stare; is a wealthy pureblood (as required by current contract); is not in love with another man or male being.
Lucius Malfoy had come down to the dungeons after Draco on one of the occasions that Mr Ollivander had been tortured; sending Draco away, he'd said, almost too softly for Luna to hear, "Miss Lovegood, matters . . . are outside of my control, but I . . . regret them."
To Luna, this had seemed apologetic, brave, comforting, and stupid a thing for the man to have told her, but she'd appreciated it nonetheless—and he was rather tall, wasn't he?
That isn't a good reason to want to marry someone, Luna rebuked herself.
It was, however, a fine reason to want to shag someone, and Luna found that she liked blonds, at least, ones who were more refined than Draco Malfoy.
Lucius, Luna decided, will do.
"As much as we appreciate Malfoy's money, Master Spurlock, I don't like having him here," Elspeth Kent said, as Luna entered the antechamber to the High Master's office.
Lucius Malfoy was standing, his back stiff, before her.
"Elspeth, who better to assist us in understanding Dark spells than one who's used them? I won't have you behaving rudely to the man."
Luna coughed, loudly. It didn't seem right for anyone to hear himself spoken ill of, even if he deserved it, and the door to the High Master's office slammed shut. Malfoy turned.
"Spellcraftre Scamander," he greeted her, as if nothing untoward had occurred. "How are you this afternoon?"
"Still not happy to have been your 'guest', but fascinated all the same by The Illuminarium of Darke Artes. You never turned anyone's intestines into frog-spawn, did you?" Luna asked, smiling.
Malfoy coughed, his own slight smile tightening. "No."
"Good. It won't matter now, of course, as I worked out the counter-measure to that one last night."
"That's interesting," Luna said, cocking her head to one side as she looked up at Malfoy.
"How you can say something that should sound enthusiastic while not conveying any emotion at all through the sounds of the words. I suppose that's politesse, but the skill might be applied to verbal spell-casting. Oh, in any case, has anyone offered you tea?"
Malfoy blinked. "No. The individual who conducted me here—"
"Why then, would you like to visit the tea room with me? I'm sure you'd enjoy it much more than standing here waiting, and there's something I'd like to discuss with you."
Luna didn't wait for Malfoy's response; she'd learnt it was best, when one wanted something from someone like a Malfoy, to intrigue that person and then expect that he or she would follow her in order to satisfy him- or herself as to the mystery. It almost always worked.
She could hear Malfoy's cane occasionally tapping the tile behind her as she made her way to the tea room, a large, airy, well-lit room in which the Spellcraftres' took refreshment of all kinds. She sat down in a stuffed chair near an open window, and waited for Malfoy to do the same before summoning a service to the table set between them.
"You wished to speak to me?" he asked, accepting the cup she offered him.
Luna didn't fail to note that Malfoy waited for her to sip from her cup before sipping from his. "I supposed I'd be cautious, too, if I had your enemies."
With raised brow, Malfoy repeated, "You wished to speak to me?"
Draining her cup and setting it down on the table, Luna replied, "I've decided that you should probably make your reparation to me now. You remember, of course, that I wouldn't accept your money?"
There wasn't a trace of concern on Malfoy's face as he contemplated her words. Luna found herself impressed.
And he's waiting for me to explain myself. That's not a surprise. Oh, he'll make an excellent negotiator. "I want you to help me select a husband."
Malfoy, who'd been raising his cup to his lips, lowered it, his eyes narrowing. "Forgive me, but are you not already married?"
"For now, but I don't wish to be," Luna replied, quickly explaining her situation. "So you see, if I don't want to find myself in this situation again, I need someone calculating enough to outwit the Scamanders. Rolf doesn't want me to leave him, you see, even if he would prefer sharing his nights with—"
Malfoy raised a hand. "I believe I understand your predicament. What I fail to understand is why you're asking for my assistance when you have a friend in Miss Granger. Surely a solicitor would—"
"Hermione's too honest, and she believes in love matches. Besides, she'd try to embarrass Rolf into letting me go, or to figure out a way to negate my current marital contract, and I want to be quit of him as soon as possible—I need you, Mr Malfoy, and I believe I'm justified in expecting your assistance. I'm certain that the Wizengamot would agree."
Malfoy smirked the tiniest smirk that Luna had ever seen smirked. It was almost a shadow, and the twitch made it impossible to look away from his mouth.
"Oh. Were you saying something?" Luna asked, her gaze meeting Malfoy's.
"Have you any candidates in mind?"
Luna passed him a list bearing Goyle and Zabini's names and attributes, which Malfoy took and read quickly before pocketing it.
"Goyle won't do. His conversation owes almost everything to magiceutical use. Young Zabini, on the other hand, is eminently suitable."
"So you'll help me?"
"Ensnare . . . Blaise Zabini?"
"Well, I wouldn't put it like that."
"And why not? You did just intimate that you weren't above blackmail, Spellcraftre Scamander."
"Oh, by mentioning the Wizengamot?" Luna asked, grinning. "That was pragmatism."
"Was it, indeed?"
Before Luna could respond, a harried looking witch in fine, drool-covered splotches entered the tea room, a screaming blonde baby of about six-months-old cradled in her arms. She surveyed the room, saw Malfoy, and rushed towards him.
"Mr Malfoy, forgive me, sir, but I just can't manage her another moment!"
"Miss Vance, I told you to wait in the gardens. What—"
The witch thrust the child at Malfoy and turned on her heel without another word.
Malfoy rose, his gaze following Miss Vance; his expression was, Luna supposed, murderous. Then he turned his attention to the baby, who was red-faced and obviously distressed.
"Miranda, shh. Daddy's got you," Malfoy almost crooned, rocking the infant.
It did nothing to calm her.
"I'm afraid I'll have to—"
"May I?" Luna asked, holding out her arms.
Obviously taken aback, Malfoy hesitated.
"I like babies. They like me, as well," Luna said, stepping around the table and easing Miranda out of Malfoy's arms. "Hello, Miranda Malfoy. My name is Luna. Why are you crying? Do you like crying? I don't often cry. I prefer laughter, and it's easier to do that with something to laugh about after removing the reason for crying. What's made you cry?"
Miranda, tears rolling down her chubby cheeks and wails subsiding, hiccoughed through a few more sobs and then fell silent under Luna's barrage of questions.
"There now, you don't want to cry, do you? Was your nanny mean to you? Do you need a nappy change? Are you hungry? Did you," Luna continued, glancing at Malfoy, "miss your Daddy?" Looking again at Miranda, Luna said, "I think he must have missed you to have that silly Miss Vance bring you along. Oh, yes, yes, I think he did."
A rolling burp emanated from Miranda, and then she giggled.
"That's right, burps are fun!" Luna exclaimed, producing a stream of burps that turned to bubbles streaming from her mouth. "Oh," she said, looking at Malfoy again, "excuse me. Making bubbles wandlessly sometimes has that effect on me. There now, that's a good girl," Luna continued, placing Miranda back into her father's arms.
Looking up at Malfoy, Luna couldn't decipher what he was feeling at all.
"It's quite all right," he said, laying Miranda over one shoulder to cuddle her there. "Thank you. I'm afraid Miranda's a . . . a bit particular about her nannies."
"How many has she chased off by crying?"
"What makes you think—"
Miranda began to fuss again.
"Think of something happy, Mr Malfoy. You're a bit tense. She can sense that."
Malfoy opened his mouth, but he shut it just as quickly.
"And yes, it was pragmatism. You still do need to satisfy your debt to me, and the Wizengamot won't wait forever to see it done, you know. Besides, I can't imagine it will be difficult for a man like you to help me find a proper husband."
"In that case, we must add other candidates to your list, as it's currently rather . . . limited. We'll discuss the needed additions this Saturday. Malfoy Manor. Seven sharp."
"Will we?" Luna asked, deliberately widening her eyes a bit and allowing her expression to blank.
She wasn't about to allow the man to become comfortable ordering her around; it was a bad precedent to set. The smirk returned to Malfoy's lips.
"If that would suit you, of course," he answered, stroking Miranda's back lightly.
"Eight Saturday evening would suit me very well, I think."
With a dignified nod, Malfoy turned and walked towards the door, his cane levitating after him.
"When you assured me that you could persuade the man to meet with me again, I didn't have this in mind," Spurlock groused, waving an arm in the general direction of the other guests, some of whom were those additions Malfoy had insisted Luna make to her list.
"Well, this is better, isn't it? No one will insult Lucius in his own home, and you'll get to know him better in a social setting. Discussing the Dark Arts is best done in public, anyway," Luna replied, watching Theodore Nott make an arse out of himself. He doesn't look particularly eligible to me.
It was worrisome that none of the additional candidates Lucius had arranged in recent weeks for her to meet seemed eligible, particularly as Lucius, himself, hadn't shown the slightest interest in her.
"Drunkard," Spurlock remarked, following Luna's gaze. "How goes the Preserve's expansion?"
Frowning, Luna answered, "Rolf's devoted to it. I imagine rather well."
A familiar snort from behind her caused her to turn.
"Good evening, High Master, Luna. I trust that you're enjoying yourselves?"
"Oh, indeed. Indeed!"
"How is Miranda?" Luna asked, as Spurlock's interest was suddenly captured by a tray of canapés that had appeared next to him. Luna ignored her own interest in it as Lucius spoke again.
"Excuse us, High Master," he said, offering Luna his arm and leading her to the dance floor.
Her desire for caviar, which she'd never liked, abating, Luna found herself half-vexed, half-cheered. Compulsion charm.
"She's doing very well with Taffy. I've given up on nannies. What do you think of Mr Nott? Have you spoken with him?"
"I think you know that I haven't. That's why we're dancing closer and closer to him."
Lucius smiled, and Luna caught her breath.
Before she could breathe again, Lucius had manoeuvred her into Nott's arms, and they were dancing—altogether too closely.
Wrinkling her nose, Luna eased away from Nott's body.
"Shy, are you? Not surprised—Ravenclaws always need a bit of warming up," Nott said, tightening his embrace.
Luna took the opportunity to dance upon Nott's instep. "Oh! How clumsy of me. Here," she said, Summoning him a drink and helping him off the dance floor before making her escape through a pair of French doors.
The air was cool and pleasant, and the soft murmur of unseen couples could be heard in the garden beneath the terrace.
Except that it wasn't; when Luna turned to lean against the balustrade and look back into the ballroom, she spied Lucius expertly leading an elegant lady across the floor.
"I shouldn't worry," a deep, familiar voice said from the shadows by the door.
A darker shadow in the form of a man emerged from the recess behind one of the doors and nodded at Luna, who caught the intriguing, mingled scents of soap and the laboratory as the breeze shifted. "Mrs Scamander."
"Headmaster Snape! How nice to see you, sir, and what do you mean?"
"He's dancing with Hermione. No doubt attempting to make . . . someone jealous."
"Well, it's not nice of him."
"She is your fiancée."
"Indeed," Snape murmured, turning to look inside.
Luna sighed. She'd hoped that Lucius was trying to make her jealous, but it seemed increasingly less likely with every passing social engagement.
"Perhaps you'd care to dance?"
Goodness, Hermione really has changed him, Luna thought, smiling up at Snape as she took his arm.
Any thought she might have given to attempting to make Lucius jealous evaporated as she and her former professor began discussing the connection between spell-crafting and potion-making, and Luna was genuinely disappointed when Hermione cut in.
"The music stopped some time ago, you two."
"But it was lovely to see such engaging . . . dancing, don't you think, Miss Granger?" Lucius asked Hermione, taking Luna's arm as Hermione took Snape's.
Smirking, Luna decided, as she observed the expressions of the others, appeared to be contagious, but as Hermione led Severus away towards the dining room and Luna turned to regard Lucius, he was all smiles—and Luna found it, once more, rather difficult to draw breath.
It's not fair, she thought, frowning.
"We can't have that. A sour countenance will drive your suitors away."
"I don't like your additions."
"No? You did seem to favour Slytherins."
"I thought she preferred naturalists."
"What are you doing here? This isn't a charity ball," Rolf accused, glaring at Lucius.
"Mr Scamander, I trust you had no difficulties entering the estate without an invitation?"
"Your son was kind enough to—"
"Ah, of course. Perhaps you'd care to remove your cloak and join the others at the buffet?"
It didn't surprise Luna that Rolf's bluster abated in the face of Lucius' suggestion, but she was annoyed that he'd made it on her behalf. Of course, she wasn't about to protest it. Causing a scene wouldn't help matters, and she supposed she ought to discuss her intentions with Rolf. He was still her husband, after all.
"I'm curious, and I don't like it," Rolf said, leaving Luna to decipher his meaning.
"Oh? Your curiosities have never seemed to bother you before."
"What's got into you? You're never spiteful."
Sexual frustration, disgust, disappointment, Luna thought, her chest tightening.
"Luna, why are you here?"
Drawing Rolf off the dance floor to the side of the room, Luna said, "I told you that High Master Spurlock is working with Lu—Mr Malfoy, and that there's some objection to it at the Guild. I'm only making certain that the work—"
"Yes, but why you? Father saw you in the paper the other day—smiling at Malfoy—and it concerned him."
Luna expected that her father-in-law would have been equally alarmed to have known how Rolf had taken to spending his nights, but she forbore to mention it. "Rolf, you've had the Preserve to concern you, and my work is important to me, as well," she said, deciding not to explain herself. "How's that going on, by the way?"
"Nice of you to take an interest. I thought you'd—"
"You were telling me about the Preserve?" Luna interrupted, unwilling, now, she found, to even contemplate the discussion she'd previously had in mind.
"Since you've asked, it seems we've some issues regarding our licence to operate, and Father can't find anyone at the Ministry to give him the time of day!"
"That's vexing," Luna said mildly. "I wonder what the problem is? Do you know?" she asked, moving Rolf forward into the dining room.
The Preserve was popular, and once the guests sitting near their little table off the buffet realised who he was, Rolf held court, enthusiastically describing the wonders of not-so-mythical creatures. Luna didn't sigh at this behaviour; she was used to it, but it was a relief when Hermione appeared by her side.
"Drumming up investors, I see, so he won't need your attention. Come with me."
Luna didn't have to be told twice. "Where are we going?"
Once ensconced in the grand old room, Hermione ushered Luna to a table that was stacked with books.
"What are these?"
"Books on marital contracts and wizard law—and no, Lucius didn't say anything to me, but Neville did let it slip that you and Rolf were . . . having difficulties, and Severus mentioned that Lucius had been introducing you to several people, so . . . ."
"You thought?" Luna prompted.
"That your contract must have some arcane transfer-of-bride clause in it, and I don't think you should have to be married out of one marriage to be unhappy in another," Hermione completed, rather forcefully. "That's appalling, Luna!"
"It is," Luna replied, sadly running her hand over one of the books.
Hermione laid one of hers on top of Luna's and squeezed it. "You're my friend. I'll help you however I can."
"I always thought you found me rather silly, even so," Luna said, confused to find herself enjoying the scent of Hermione's hair in a rather unexpected manner.
"You're only silly because you didn't think to rely on your friends," Hermione whispered, her hand moving to wipe a tear away from the corner of one of Luna's eyes.
"Lucius isn't my friend, you're right. I'm blackmailing him to help me."
Hermione frowned. "You're doing no such thing. He owes you a debt."
"I don't think that's why he agreed to help me, though. Of course, I can't think why else he would have agreed."
"Slytherins don't like to be obvious. It's part of their charm," Hermione said, smiling. "Shall we?"
Luna nodded, certain in that moment, although she wasn't quite sure why, that Snape, while not having changed Hermione, had influenced her along Slytherin lines. They're looking after me, the three of them.
She couldn't bring herself to mind it.
The benefit of Slytherin friendship became apparent in subsequent weeks. The Preserve was under attack, of a sort. A group campaigning to keep Snorkacks in the wild had begun to protest the facility, its licence was being considered for revocation by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and its suppliers had begun sending incomplete shipments. Rolf and his father were so preoccupied by this sudden onslaught of difficulties that they didn't stop to wonder why they'd all materialised at once—but Luna had her suspicions.
She hadn't had the opportunity to broach the subject of the Preserve with Lucius, however, because he'd become so involved in working with Spurlock that even Elspeth had stopped objecting to his presence at the Guild. Oh, Luna still saw him frequently, always finding time to stop by the tea room where Taffy would be playing with Miranda while Lucius was closeted with Spurlock, and Lucius was clearly pleased to find Luna with them at the end of his meetings. In addition, she and Blaise Zabini, after attending shows, gallery openings, and operas, had become very friendly, and Lucius took Luna to breakfast after each of these occasions to gauge her reception of Blaise's attentions.
It was incredibly infuriating.
"Yes, I do like him. He's witty and pleasant," Luna said, at one such breakfast appointment, holding Miranda on her lap and feeding her applesauce. "He'll . . . do nicely."
"After almost four months of courting, that's all you have to say?" Lucius asked, his expression inquisitive, but only that.
Luna refused to sigh. She had options, now. One would embarrass Rolf to some degree, but Hermione had found a legal precedent that might see her safely out of her marital contract. Blaise seemed suitably interested in her, so it was likely that she could marry her way out of her contract, as well. The third option, Luna was certain, was Lucius agreeing to allow the Preserve to continue to operate without impediment in exchange for the Scamanders' agreement to release her from her vows.
Luna didn't like the idea of exercising any of those options to release herself from her marriage.
None of them will get me you, she thought, looking at Lucius. "I just want to be sure of him. The next man I marry should be . . ." someone I love, someone who truly loves me.
Blaise, Luna had learnt, was perfect—if one didn't mind that he was his own true love.
Hermione had told Luna that Lucius favoured love matches, himself, and—because he'd been perfectly attentive, polite, and charming to her—Luna had decided that this meant that Lucius was still in love with his late wife. She liked what that said about him, but it didn't make her happy; under any other circumstances, his behaviour towards her would have meant that he was courting her. Still, she knew that things couldn't continue as they had been for much longer, or Lucius would suspect her of stalling and force her to make a choice.
Because he's not courting me, and he obviously ha—
"It's wise to be cautious," Lucius said, breaking Luna's reverie. "I certainly was after my first engagement."
Shifting Miranda to her other knee, Luna said, "You were engaged to someone else before your first wife?"
"To Narcissa's sister, in fact."
"Don't look so horrified," Lucius replied, raising an eyebrow. "To her other sister, Andromeda, before she broke our engagement for Theodore Tonks. Narcissa, of course, was convinced that she and I would do well together, and she was correct."
"You still—oh, I'm sorry."
"Love her? I do, in much the same way as she loved me."
"That's an odd way to put it," Luna couldn't help but note, as Taffy appeared to take Miranda for her morning bath.
"Is it? Perhaps, but for Narcissa and I, love was a secondary consideration. At the time, family honour meant so much more. I've . . . often wished I could have known what a romantic marriage was like."
It was the sort of admission that one made to one's friend, not to a woman who'd blackmailed one into helping her secure a husband. "Have we?"
Lucius smiled. "Have we?"
"Luna, you've been my near-constant companion for months. I believe we've exhausted the most popular subjects of debate—or made a great start—and your future welfare has been my most engrossing concern for some time. What do you think?"
"I'd like it, if we were friends, I mean."
Lucius stretched his hand across the table, and Luna took it. "I'd like that, as well," he said, his expression warm but otherwise enigmatic, "very much, indeed."
It was a lovely moment, but just as Luna had begun to hope that it meant something more than friendship, Lucius withdrew his hand and rose from the table.
"Oh, I've kept you. You're seeing High Master Spurlock today."
"I am, but not before I attend to an errand at the Preserve. Do finish your breakfast."
"I knew it! You have been behind—"
Holding a finger to his lips and smirking, Lucius made Luna a playful bow and backed out of the room.
Rolf was waiting for Luna when she arrived at the Guild, and he was visibly furious. Before he could say anything to her in the hall, however, Blaise appeared beside him.
"Ah, you're both here," he said cheerfully. "You're looking lovely today, Luna," he said, and then he turned to Rolf. "You, I feel have perhaps looked better—but no matter. You don't need to be fashionable at a time like this."
"What are you talking about?" Rolf demanded.
"My proposal to your wife, that she become," Blaise said, dropping to one knee before Luna, "mine. Would you do me the hon—"
Rolf grabbed Blaise by the back of his robes and pulled him to his feet. Luna found it a bit thrilling, but then, she'd always enjoyed Rolf's physicality. Nevertheless, she drew her wand with Blaise, and they both Stunned Rolf.
"Now, was that a dramatic demonstration, or wasn't it?" Blaise said, grinning as he stepped over Rolf's prone form to take Luna's hand. "Well?"
Several of the other Spellcraftres had entered the hall and were now looking on curiously, some irritated, some intrigued. Luna hadn't had this much attention from her co-workers since one of her developing enchantments had "be-feathered" the building. The hall fell silent.
"Why do you want to marry me?"
Blaise smirked what Luna had come to think of as the Slytherin Smirk. "Shall I list my reasons in front of everyone?" he asked, grinning. "Some of them," he said, mock-whispering, "are rather personal—not that anyone couldn't guess a few," he finished, sweeping his gaze down her body and then back to her eyes.
Luna experienced a graphic, inner vision of Blaise pressing her into the wall behind the bust of the Guild's founder, but she shook her head to clear her mind. It had been a long time since she'd fucked anyone properly, but she didn't think it proper to accept such an . . . impolite proposal out of sexual frustration—especially from someone as silly as Blaise.
"No, thank you," she said sincerely, squeezing Blaise's hand and then releasing it.
People began murmuring and moving out of the hall, obviously expecting that a more emotional scene was in the offing.
"Truly? I thought we got on well," Blaise replied, suspiciously not at all daunted.
Luna smiled. "We do, but . . . I don't love you."
"An old-fashioned sort. I respect that, Mrs Scamander," Blaise said smartly, winking at one of the lingering apprentices before bending down to kiss Luna's cheek. "Do we part, friends?"
"I think we do."
Luna watched Blaise stride from the hall and felt her mouth curve up on one side. That was quite the performance, it's too bad that Lucius wasn't here to— "Rolf!" she exclaimed, suddenly remembering him and moving to rouse him. "Are you all right?"
"I'm sure you're happy now. That will no doubt make the papers, and—"
Rolf's eyes widened. Luna wasn't surprised; she seldom spoke sharply, but she was tired of concerning herself with his feelings.
"Why are you here?"
"To . . . to tell you that you're not my wife any longer. Father dissolved our union."
"He did what?"
"No! Yes—I mean, why?"
"You don't seriously expect me to believe that you don't know," Rolf said, picking himself up from the floor and dusting himself off. "I'm sure you know who you have to thank for this. That you could let it happen by putting the Preserve in harm's way—and that visit from the Magical Creatures officials to investigate my fitness as a Snorkack keeper! I just don't know who you are any longer!"
Oh, Lucius, Luna thought, blinking in astonishment at Rolf. "I don't think we ever knew one another."
"Yes, well, your things are here. The elves packed what wasn't already. And you're the first Scamander bride to have—"
"Escaped?" Luna asked, beginning to giggle.
With a disgusted grunt, Rolf stormed out of the Guild.
The large entrance hall of the Guild was often the centre of dramatic scenes; Spellcraftres were an emotional lot, and visitors weren't often allowed anywhere else in the building. As she hastily made her way to her workshop, Luna thought about how the tiles had turned to water and almost drowned Elspeth's ex-husband upon the occasion he came to tell her that he wished to be just that.
Spurlock abhors scenes, but at least he'll be with Lucius by now and won't have heard about Blaise's proposal.
It wasn't much of a comfort, not when Luna wished that it was she who was closeted with Lucius. Resigned to what she knew would be a long wait, however, she began working on her latest project, a spell to transmute Veritaserum into a charm. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement had been keen to have it for some time, for use in field interrogations—because sometimes undercover Aurors needed their answers quickly.
Luna had discussed her misgivings about the project with Hermione while at the manor, and Hermione had shared them. Severus had offered no opinion on the ethics of such a charm; he'd merely offered theories as to how she might proceed. It had been an amusing, educational evening, one that Lucius had seemed to enjoy as much as she and the others had.
It occurred to Luna, as she prepared her materials, that Severus and Hermione were at the manor a great deal, and that Lucius seemed particularly at ease in their presence. She supposed that was good for Miranda, who didn't cry when Lucius held her anymore.
Not as tense, she mused, trying to clear her mind so that she could cast a visual interpretation of the spell's framework.
Magic could be made visible through arcane symbology, but one had to focus entirely on one's glyphs, almost without defining them, in order to affect the change in the thaumaturgical energy. Luna's attempt to do just that was not as successful as she'd hoped.
What appeared before her were symbols, but they were representations of an erotic spell; because this wasn't what Luna had wanted, no matter that it was what her subconscious had desired, she reacted to her result by mentally pushing it away from her—through the wall of her workshop.
Her eyes flew open so wide that she felt as if she'd strained her eyelids.
It would be worse than the be-featherment, she just knew it.
Moans rose in the air as Luna turned down the corridor that led to the workshops which bordered hers along the wall through which she'd sent her spell. She heard crashes, too, and knew that those Spellcraftres who'd heretofore enjoyed close working relationships were likely enjoying closer ones. The signs of sex were more pronounced the farther down the corridor she travelled, and then she realised that she was walking towards the tea room.
The spell probably couldn't even affect the child, but who knew who else was in the tea room with Miranda and Taffy as they waited for Lucius.
Luna began to run.
Throwing open the tea room's unusually closed doors, Luna rushed into the room to find it entirely dark. The doors closed behind her, and then what seemed like thousands of candles burst into flame above her head, illuminating the now flower-bedecked room.
Lucius, wearing immaculate green dress robes, stood before her in front of the small seating area in which they'd first discussed her proposal.
Luna's heart began beating even faster than it had been. That's what this is, a proposal! "But—"
Before Luna could explain about her spell, the somewhat diffuse symbols containing it slipped through the wall to their left, and floated towards Lucius. Following Luna's gaze, he turned to look at them—as they swept through his body and dispersed.
"Are . . . are you all right?" Luna asked, watching as Lucius blinked and shook his head.
"What . . . was that?" he asked, his voice dropping to a husky tone as he looked at Luna again.
"A spell. I'm sorry. I tried to focus, but—"
"An erotic spell?" Lucius asked, now looming above Luna, his rigid body pressed tightly against her own.
Luna swallowed and nodded.
"Then that's all right," he replied, before embracing her passionately.
"Masculine where it counts" didn't come close to doing justice to the magnificent penis thrusting into Luna now. It felt so good, teasing her clitoris through their clothing, and Luna was about to suggest its removal—once she could extricate her tongue from Lucius'—when she remembered what had drawn her to the tea room so urgently.
The words wouldn't come, as Lucius grabbed her arse and squeezed one cheek before drawing Luna down to the thickly carpeted floor, and the sensation of a warm male body so close to her own was making her heedlessly aroused.
No! That's the thaumaturgical energy, Luna told herself, before giving into it.
"Off!" Lucius insisted, frantically pulling at her robes, which tore over her left breast.
In response to the sucking of her nipple, Luna gasped, desperately trying to find a way through the fabric secreting Lucius' prick.
"Prick, cock, knob, pe—"
"Hell, yes," Lucius practically growled. "I have one, and it's yours."
And it was. Luna sucked it into her mouth greedily, humming in her delight at how clever Lucius had been to have found it, and she focussed on it to the exclusion of all else because she felt her mind clouding in a way that made thinking difficult.
This is a lovely, hot vein, she thought, licking it before encountering a weeping, spongy head to soothe.
Allowing Lucius' erection to slide from her mouth, Luna said, with great force of will, "Yes, I'd like that."
He was so wonderful! So agreeable. So accommodating. "So bi—ig!"
Heat, movement, fullness—these were the only things that Luna knew after Lucius pushed his way inside of her until some unexpected inner explosion of colour and scent and gasping caused the room to fall, once again, into darkness.
"—a menace! Remember the feathers?" a familiar voice, even in its shrieking form, woke Luna.
She sat straight up from a down-filled bed in the centre of the transformed tea room. Sunlight seemed to peek through the shuttered windows at Luna's nude, interestingly bruised condition.
Finger marks, she noted, looking at her thighs as a delicious soreness pulsed through her body.
"Be that as it may," Lucius' voice rose over that of Elspeth's, "you're not entering this room!"
Luna bit her lip as the sound of High Master Spurlock's laughter filtered into the room, and then the door opened—and closed, just as quickly.
"I don't know that spell," Luna said, in response to what she assumed was a privacy charm being cast upon the doors, "and don't you look . . . perfect."
Lucius, fully and handsomely dressed, as if nothing had recently caused him to rend his garments, smirked; it was, under the circumstances, a soothing gesture.
"Why thank you. You appear rather more charming than ever, dressed as you are," he replied, one eyebrow raising in what Luna hoped was ironic amusement.
"You're not angry with me?"
"For pleasuring me so thoroughly? No, certainly not," Lucius said, moving to sit on the edge of the bed. "You're well?"
Luna grinned. "Very. But what about—"
"I'm told that accidents are an occupational hazard at the Guild, and that no one was injured. There are a few . . . embarrassing circumstances to be forgot, and several of your colleagues have had their workshops disturbed, but Spurlock informs me that my donation to the Operational Fund should soothe any ruffled feathers."
Luna blushed. "They fell out, you know."
"So I was also told," Lucius murmured, reaching out to stroke Luna's hair. "Lovely Luna, that was not quite how I'd imagined expressing my . . . intentions towards you."
"Oh, Lucius, please tell me that Miranda and Taffy weren't here? I was so worried!" she said, taking his stroking hand and clasping it.
"Your concern for Miranda is, of course, part of why I intended to express those intentions. She's well and at home. I didn't think I'd need her with me to convince you to become my wife."
Luna smiled, immensely relieved. "You seem rather sure of yourself. I suppose that isn't so surprising."
"You weren't particularly subtle, my dear. I knew that I was a candidate from our first meeting."
Luna straightened but didn't release Lucius' hand. "How? I'm not so easy to read, am I?"
The Slytherin Smirk made a return and was ever so slightly mocking, but Luna couldn't bring herself to mind.
With his free hand, Lucius removed a folded piece of parchment from his robes and handed it to Luna. "You left me on your list. Such carelessness told me that I was, indeed, your only candidate. A man can't help but feel encouraged in the face of such a circumstance."
So much for focussing potions, Luna thought, beginning to giggle.
"Further, any woman confined by one who takes the time to appreciate one's . . . masculine assets is a woman worth courting."
"But . . . but you didn't . . . court me," Luna said, through peals of laughter.
"Quite right," Lucius agreed, nodding. "I was disgracefully blackmailed into a compromising position in a near-public setting. Imagine my suffering."
"You wish to imagine my suffering?"
"No, that was in answer to your question—the one you meant to ask before—because, if we're engaged—and are we?"
"Oh, I should think very much so," Lucius replied, equably.
"Then I don't want to imagine anything anymore. How long will your privacy charm hold?"
"How long would you like it to?"
"Mmm," Luna hummed, pulling Lucius towards her.
Patience Malfoy was four-years-old and precocious, so Luna wasn't surprised when her daughter noted that "Mummy and Daddy's special friends" had arrived.
"You're right, I can hear them, too, my love," Luna said, pushing herself up from her chair with a bit of difficulty.
Her second child was carrying lower than had Patience, so named because that is what Luna felt she had learnt first from her during labour, and her son—because his impatience to leave her womb, Luna knew, was why he was so close to the exit—made it difficult for her to move about.
"Can I play with you?"
"Perhaps tomorrow afternoon. It's your bedtime now, and you've riding lessons with the groom in the morning. You know how much you enjoy them, so you'll want to be rested, won't you?"
Tucking Patience into bed, Luna was joined by Lucius, who kissed their daughter's forehead and promised her, as he did every night, that no troll could possibly have taken up residence under her bed before following Luna into the corridor.
"I believe that she suspects something of our friendship with the Snapes," Luna whispered, as they made their way to their guests.
"We'll have to be more careful then. She's too young to be concerning herself with that mode of 'tension relief'."
Luna smirked a smirk all her own. She'd been right in having suspected how Lucius had sought to remedy the pre-marital tension that Miranda had sensed, the tension that had made her cry when he'd held her. Mrs Lovegood-Malfoy had, however, found it no problem to take up the curative with him, despite there no longer being any need for either of them to seek it.
Friendship was worth indulging in for any reason.
"Truthfully, I don't know how much playing I'm up for tonight. I may just have to watch you."
"Nonsense," Severus answered, as Luna and Lucius entered the master sitting room. "No one is to be left out of anything, this evening. I've brought a new stretch mark preventive."
Hermione, rather pregnant, herself, laughed. "They'll say anything to get what they want, won't they?" she asked, holding out her hands to Luna, who took them and settled into the sofa with her.
Luna thought about what Hermione had said, but not for long, before declaring, "I can't bring myself to mind."
What followed was an evening's entertainment that was only one of myriad reasons why Luna knew that her second marriage would be her last.