“Do you like it?” Amiri asked, waving his wand to draw back the heavy velvet curtains on the sitting room windows.
Lily spun around in a circle, feeling the carpet under her feet and soaking in the sunlight spilling in through the windows and the thin, lace undercurtains. “Do I like it? I love it!” She giggled and allowed herself to sink down onto the sofa. “Is it truly going to be ours, Amiri?”
“Yes.” He grinned. “I’m heir to the Manor house and if you like, we could move in there. It is closer to London and larger, with a couple more house elves on staff, but it does have the inconvenience of my parents…”
Lily was shaking her head at him. “Forget it. I love it here. It’s so bright and neat. And it would be ours and only ours. We could re-decorate if we wanted to and the garden is lovely. Certainly it wouldn’t be large enough for the wedding but a summer party should fit nicely here.” She looked up at him with shinning eyes. “I’m so happy, Ami.”
He took her hand and tugged her to her feet. “Lily Potter, you are far too full of enthusiasm.” She flicked a strand of red hair that had fallen out of her bun and it bounced off her cheek playfully.
“But that’s what you love about me.” She pressed her forehead to his as he wrapped his arms around her and laughed. “My dress is being sewn as we speak and father has signed all the dowry documents. He hated the procedure, of course, but he did it. The hard part is over.”
“It is?” He raised his eyebrows at her, the expression of teasing incredulity that he so often used to goad her.
“Convincing our parents that we are not mad? Yes, I would say that is the hard part.”
“Who said they’re convinced.” Amiri laughed.
Lily tiptoed and kissed him, winding her fingers through his thick dark hair. “I will be there for dinner on Saturday. Any suggestions?”
He looked her over and winced. Lily looked down at her muggle jeans and blouse and realized instantly what he was going to say.
“For the sake of not goading my parents, wear a dress and robes if possible.”
Lily shrugged. “I was going to wear a dress anyway. I can be good, you’ll see.”
Amiri smirked and pulled her into him, dragging her along as he backed up until his knees hit the sofa and he fell back, Lily landing atop him in his lap. She rested both hands on his shoulders and kissed him. From behind her eyelids she could only see white. The Rosier villa was so bright and peaceful. It had been the family’s summer residence but now it would be her and Amiri’s home once they were wed. And she loved the place just as much as she loved him.
Her parents turned their noses up at the match. A Rosier, a Slytherin, Grandson of a Death Eater. Lily could remember the constant arguments in the weeks after she and Amiri had made the announcement. The funny thing was that her parents took issue with different aspects of the relationship. Her father took issue with Amiri’s family, his mother in particular, but also their past allegiances. Her mother seemed to care more for the fact that the Rosiers insisted on following Pureblood protocol when it came to the marriage itself – arrangements, contracts, dowry. She did not like the mere fact that Lily actually enjoyed all the parties and the pleasantries. They could get tedious at times, especially the ones that she had no interest in, but she saw no need to shy away from tradition, whilst her mother and that entire side of the family had distain for anything and everything that smelled of Pureblood custom. Lily wondered if the Weasleys were just bitter.
Amiri had told her that his parents had concerns of their own. It made no matter, in the end. They were determined to see their relationship work out and if Lily had inherited anything from her parents, it was stubbornness. She would not be so easily coaxed and harassed into their way of thinking. The war was long over and she did not see any reason to live by its arcane dictates. She was in love and she was getting married.
“Are you sure about this?” Amiri asked after a few minutes of kissing her. “About the wedding?”
She looked at him incredulously. “Of course. Why? Are you having second thought?”
“No, no. Of course not.” He cupped her face and traced his thumb over her cheek. “You’re beautiful.”
She giggled and kissed him again, her mind already thinking up all the things she would do with her new home. Lily had to admit that she had a nesting streak and it was showing.
“I still don’t understand why Lysander could not be your witness,” Ginny said, helping Lily with the bridal veil. “You two are such good friends.”
Lily rolled her eyes in frustration. “Yes, Mum, but we’ve been over this. It is called a “Maid of Honor” for a reason.”
“So who will you chose?”
“I’ve asked Anna. She is Amiri’s sister and I’ve grown very fond of her. We both thought it would be appropriate.”
Ginny sniffed and shook her head. “Appropriate. What about what you want?”
“I want it, Mum.” Lily turned toward the mirror and regarded herself carefully. The wedding dress was complete, aside from any last-minute tailoring that may be required and it was perhaps the loveliest thing Lily had ever seen. The white light silk flowed over her petticoats to create a full shape that made her waist look smaller than it actually was. The underskirts were of thick, stiff fabric but they were flexible enough to allow the skirt to flow when she turned. The corseted bodice was embroidered with enchanted thread that sparkled and glittered when it caught the sun. The long sleeves were of delicate, near-sheer lace and fanned out around her wrists. The veil was long and nearly touched the ground but she and Amiri had decided that they did not want a veil so long that it would need to be carried behind her. The soft fabric seemed to shimmer in the light. Her red hair contrasted starkly with the pure white, making it seem as though it were on fire. Lily sucked in a breath and smiled. “Well?”
Lily glared at her mother in the mirror.
“I just don’t want you to be hot when you are dancing, especially since the night is bound to be fairly warm.”
“Ginny, let the girl enjoy her dress. You look beautiful, darling.” Harry leaned against the doorframe and regarded his daughter and wife.
“Thanks, Dad. At least someone can appreciate the effort that went into this.”
“I’m sure your brothers will be appreciative as well. Do you remember our wedding, Gin?”
“Yes. We married at the Burrow like Bill had. We had a tent and lots of family and friends, dancing, cake. I wore a very attractive dress, mind you, even if I didn’t look like a porcelain doll in it.”
“We were happy, Gin. That’s what I remember.”
Ginny sighed and shook her head. “Of course we were. The dress is lovely, Lily. Really as long as you like it…”
“I love it.” She smiled happily. “Where are James and Albus? I want them to see.”
“I’ll get them.” Harry stuck his head out into the waiting room and called for her brothers.
“Gee, Lils,” James said smirking as soon as he stepped through the door. “You look a little like one of those dolls in the muggle shops—“ Harry smacked the boy lightly upside the head. Ginny gave her husband an I-told-you-so look.
“Well, she does!” James protested.
It seemed that only Albus was fully appreciative of the gown. “It’s gorgeous,” he mumbled. “It’s like you’re a princess of something.”
Lily was so relived that she stepped from the tailoring platform, went to Albus and hugged him tightly. “Thanks, Al.”
“Awwww,” James cooed mockingly, but this time everyone just ignored him.
The side door swung open and Madam Reloise sauntered in with her tailoring kit in one hand and her wand at the ready in the other. “Well, does it fit well?” she asked in her commanding, echoing voice. “Come here, child, step back up. I hope I won’t have to put too many pins in you.”
“Why not just do the whole thing by magic?” James asked, looking honestly confused.
The seamstress tut-ed at him. “That won’t do at all. This is very delicate work. At this stage I would not risk magic except for the most complex of cases. The whole thing is much better done by hand, believe me.”
“I don’t like it,” Pansy Rosier – Parkinson in her maidenhood – said stubbornly. She opened her fan, then closed it again, a sign of irritation that Amiri had known since childhood. He sat across from his mother in the parlor of the manor house, their tea slowly going cold on the small, ornate table before them.
“Mother, we’ve gone through this. Her dowry is decent, her blood is pure enough, I assure you, and for what it lacks, I’m certain you could take my feelings for Lily into consideration. Would you not have me marry for love?”
Pansy opened her fan once again and fluttered it aimlessly around as though thinking. “I do want you to be happy in your marriage, Amiri, of course. If she was just any girl with a Mudblood grandmother I could look past that. But Harry Potter’s daughter?”
“Maman we’ve been through this. Her family name would only be of benefit to us. You’ve always said how hard it has been in the political world since the war. Blood status is a divisive issue not in our favor and favor has not been with the old families as of late for the very reason that the last war has left us in the minority. Imagine, though, that we link ourselves with the Potters? We’ve become, frankly, untouchable.”
Pansy smiled slyly from behind her fan. “So, tell me true, my son. Is this a marriage of love or of convenience after all?”
“Luckily, Mother, it is both. I would appreciate it, thus, that you stop trying to intrude on and sabotage my relationship with Lily. We shall go forth with the wedding. Besides, if it makes you feel any better, Scorpius—“
“You consulted Scorpius Malfoy as to what to do with your relationship?” Pansy laughed in derisive amusement.
“No.” Amiri gave his mother an impatient look. “However, we did discuss the political implications of this marriage, since you are so worried about them. The general consensus is that there are no bad ones.”
Pansy shook her head and put aside her fan, replacing it with her teacup. “No, Amiri. My concerns are not as political as you think. I just distrust the Potter-Weasleys. But can you blame me?”
“You distrust most people, Mother.”
“As should you.” She looked at him carefully, in the searching way that he had always hated. “Or have seven years in Slytherin not taught you anything?”
“I trust my friends and I trust Lily. I would hardly call that a lot of people.”
“Hmm.” Pansy sipped at her tea and watched as Amiri gathered up his cloak and rose. “Oh, and, Amiri, if you expect me to be pleasant to Harry Potter—“
“I merely need you to be civil, Maman.” He smiled at her in knowing amusement. Pansy huffed again but waved her hand at him dismissively. “I must be off, Mother.” He stepped over to the sofa, kissed her check and apparated away, leaving a thoughtful Pansy alone in the drawing room.
“Can’t this wait until after I am married?” Amiri complained as Keith Rookwood practically dragged him down the hall of the Deschain estate house toward the library. The Deschains, in fact, had not occupied the estate for many decades. The new Lords of the estate were the Dolohovs, although they presented themselves as Deschains to the public. The move from Russia had come as an entrepreneurial measure but they knew of their family’s bad history in Britain and decided to form their identity around the old German-English Pureblood line, which was most likely extinct by then, claiming to be of the blood through the maternal line. They renovated the abandoned estate, re-fashioned the wards and established themselves comfortably within Briton’s wizarding high society. They had the money, the breeding and the intellect and the Dolohov blood was as pure as any. The parents had not wanted any cracks in their façade but their son – who went by Anton at home and by Anthony in official school and work documents – took a certain pride in his family’s history and in his bloodline. He had to be careful, of course, but his closest friends knew the truth. After all, they were in this whole scheme together. Trust was imperative.
“It can’t wait,” Keith insisted. “This matter is important and we want to make sure everyone is on board.” He knocked on the heavy double doors of the library and they came swooshing open. Amiri tucked away his annoyance for the moment and decided that Lily could handle most of what was left of the wedding preparations. With only a week left, most matters were long settled.
Amiri could see that they were last to arrive. The rest of their group, which had somehow managed to blend friendship and politics, had already gathered. Scorpius and Tony were both the oldest and the unspoken leaders of their group. Scorpius, with his Malfoy-blonde hair and Malfoy-grey eyes, his proud posture and elegant frame was also the perfect spokes person for their party. The Malfoys had taken some fallout after the war, but they were also perhaps one of the few families who were directly involved and yet had been declared redeemed afterwards through the “grace” of Harry Potter. Draco had worked hard to donate to all the right places and sweet-talk all the right people so that by the time Scorpius was ready to take his place in the political field, the crimes of Lucius Malfoy were more scary stories that parents told in order to discipline their children rather than real considerations. Plenty of people still remembered, but the post-war Reformation was so focused on “rebuilding and moving on” that they did a little too good a job of making people forget.
Tony was different. His reputation was clean-slated by his parents’ efforts but the lies also put some restrictions on him. Firstly, if he were to go too far into politics, the opposition would inevitably start digging in the past and his Dolohov heritage would certainly com out. Such a truth uncovered by their opponents and splashed across the front cover of the Daily Profit would be damaging to all of them. Besides, Tony had no desire to go into politics in the same manipulative, charismatic manner that Scorpius had. He was much too blunt, much too outspoken for such delicacies. He had a keen Dolohov mind and good looks but his interests were more skewed toward action. This could very well be useful, but later. At this stage, they were trying to do things the civil way.
Cato Nott was of age with Scorpius and Tony. He was good with money and languages and had gone into banking. If they had been a club, he would certainly be their treasurer. Cato had inherited his father’s mousy eyes and narrow face, but he had his mother’s smile and the Greengrass women were known for their lovely smiles. He wasn’t quite as soft-spoken as his father either, knowing when to express his concerns more sternly and always having an opinion, even a quiet one.
There were also Edward Tallis and Charles Mulciber. They were in the year below Scorpius and the one above Amiri and Keith. The two made perfect examples of average Pureblood heirs: well-born, well-bred, endowed with inheritance, good looks and manners. They gave to the right causes, knew the right people, exhibited conservatism in all aspects of politics but without any unnecessary extremism. These were the sort of men that made up most of their party’s leadership, although not their entire following. In fact, many of their activists were progressives who wanted a full merge of wizarding and muggle societies. Their slogan was: “All of Nothing.” Either wizards controlled the muggle population – for safety reasons, of course – or they remained isolated but then without the unpleasant intrusions. Of course, the former was a reach, most people realized that. So the only other thing to do was to keep wizarding culture in tact. The old propaganda was not going to work and they had to be extremely careful to not equate “culture” and “blood purity” in their agenda, but, realistically, it would come out to the same end if all went well.
Keith Rookwood was in Amiri’s year at Hogwarts. He was also, arguably, Amiri’s closest friend. Keith’s grandfather had participated avidly in the war, but his parents had been out of the country, taken away to the continent by their grandmother after the first war against Lord Voldemort had been lost. Keith wasn’t the best match for politics but he was enthusiastic and well-meaning. He kept Amiri sane and put things into perspective well. He was tri-lingual – English, French and German – and attempting to learn Russian under Tony’s amused supervision. Keith had a love of potions and hung around Malfoy Manor quite a bit to use the lab there that Draco kept in ideal condition at all times. He was good at arithmancy and Runes, although not as good as Cato, and very good at Herbology. But, mostly, they exploited Keith’s intuitive sense of good writing and forced him to edit almost every speech that any of them made and proof every article that went out to the press.
There were others whom they did not include in their intimate group: Goyle, Flint, Montague and Avery, to name a few. Goyle and Flint were intellectual liabilities, as Tony and Scorpius called it, Montague was disinterested and Ayer Avery had as little affinity for politics as he had for keeping his mouth shut. There was Amiri’s cousin Roland Parkinson but he was nearly 7 years older than Scorpius and did not fit well in their group, although he was instrumental in their plans and they often used him as a go-between them and older members of their coalition who had more standing within the Ministry.
Amiri and Keith took seats with the rest of the group as Tony spelled the doors shut behind them. “I’m glad you were able to drag him here,” he said, looking at Keith and nodding at Amiri. “His been too indulgent of that little bride of his.”
“Come on now!” Amiri protested. “We’re getting married, what would you expect?”
Tony smirked. “I’m just teasing. But we do need to get this settled. Look at these pamphlets and tell me what you think? This election is going to be important. We won’t win it but we need to come damn close and we need there to be lots of dissatisfaction with it to begin with. I say we plant the seeds of doubt early.”
Amiri picked up his scroll of parchment and began to read. His mind drew up plans for the future – for Lily and their future son, for their political plans. He knew things could turn ugly very quickly but he hoped they wouldn’t and all their plans would come to fruition without bloodshed, without casualties of any sort. If Amiri had anything, it was hope and faith. Even the fact that his friends seemed inclined to turn his wedding into a political instrument did not worry him too much. A Pureblood heir marrying the daughter of Harry Potter himself? There would be society reporters regardless – a couple of photos of him drinking with Potter the Great in the Prophet wouldn’t hurt anyway. In fact, they could only help.
The Rosier-Potter wedding was a grand affair. It seemed that the Rosier-Parkinsons had made the best of the situation they were put in and used the occasion to demonstrate the vast scope of their Gringotts accounts. The Rosier Manor was decorated magnificently with champagne flowing like rivers and food piled up on various refreshment tables around the garden and the ballroom. The entire Manor seemed to glitter and glow with the magic that was present in all the decorations and arrangements. Scorpius would not be surprised if lighting charms had been used to make the place especially bright. There was, of course, a band for both the initial brunch and ceremony and then for the evening ball. It was one of those continental bands made up of elfin half-breeds and must have cost a pretty galleon to book for the entire day. But, of course, the Rosier-Parkinson-Potters had plenty of those and it seemed that only the Weasley clan actually noticed. They more than noticed, Scorpius realized, they practically gaped, which was terribly amusing.
There were many Weasleys. At one point, Scorpius rather lost count. Scorpius couldn’t even be sure who had more guests – Lily or Amiri. The size of Lily’s mother’s family was atrocious. Although, to be fair, Arthur Weasley’s offspring did seem inclined to limit themselves to two-three children. Of all her cousins, Lily seemed closest to Louis and Hugo, although this probably had something to do with the fact that they were the least annoying of the lot. They were also the only non-Gryffindors, aside from Percy’s girls, both of which were chubby, awkward and Scorpius was certain he would hex any of his friends who dared force him to dance with one of them. “Do Weasley’s even know how to dance?” he had asked Amiri the night before at his bachelor party. The question had earned him a laugh and an elbow in the side but he had been serious. Scorpius could not imagine the Weasley’s knowing anything about traditional dances. Except for perhaps Bill’s children, but that would be Fleur’s victory, not his.
Lily and Amiri married before the Rosier Bridal Hedge with the lake and expanse of mid-spring afternoon sky behind them. Lily was stunning in her maiden-white gown, with her hair glowing fiery orange in the bright sunlight. Scorpius could understand what Amiri saw in her. She seemed to fit right in and the collective sigh from various Weasleys on all sides when Potter handed his daughter over to Amiri was as amusing as their gaping. It was like she was being passed over from one world into another and Scorpius was perfectly willing to welcome her if that was truly what she wished.
They said their vows and their Master of Ceremony touched his wand to their linked hands to seal the marriage. A string of light wound around their wrists and then disappeared at the same moment as a new rose sprung up on the Bridal Hedge. There were hundreds of flowers there, each one representing the marriage of a Rosier son through the centuries. Some of those flowers were ancient but they were also magical and so they continued to bloom year after year.
Later, Scorpius found himself standing beside one of the refreshment tables, observing the variety of dancing couples with the most careless expression he could produce. His father and Pansy were laughing carelessly about something, probably reminiscing about their school days, which Scorpius knew always annoyed his mother who chose to, instead, keep company with her sister and brother-in-law. Noticing Lysander settled down at one of the corner tables, Scorpius edged his way around small groups of people, champagne flute still in hand, in hopes of claiming his friend before one of the Weasleys did. He was about to round a tall potted plant when he heard Louis Weasley’s voice and stopped dead, still hidden by the large leafs of the half-bush, half-tree.
A scraping of chair legs as Louis, supposedly, settled down at the table next to Lysander. “You’re all alone in the corner.”
‘Don’t exaggerate. Do you know where Scorpius is?”
Some sort of frustrated grunt from Louis. “You’re looking for Scorpius, Albus is looking for Scorpius. Everyone is looking for bloody Scorpius Malfoy.”
Lysander gave a snort. “I just asked. I thought I saw him earlier.”
“It’s a big ballroom; an either bigger Manor… Tell me, Ly…” Louis dropped his voice and Scorpius had to strain to hear over the music. “Do you like him?”
“Scorpius. Do you like him?”
“Of course I like him, he’s my friend.”
‘But do you like him?”
“D-does it matter?”
Scorpius could feel his eyebrows going up even though no one could see him and his expression. Just to make sure, he cast a few disillusionment charms over himself to make certain he was hidden from being observed. This was a conversation he did not want to miss.
“Well, that depends. But Lorcan is certain you do and he is quite concerned.”
“Lorcan has been concerned since I was sorted into Slytherin when we were eleven.”
“Gryffindors will do that.”
“Idiots like my brother will do that.” Lysander’s bitter tone made Scorpius smirk. The Scamander twins were not very close – they were too different in personality. How two Ravenclaws managed to breed a Gryffindor was beyond Scorpius’ imagination. “Either way, I don’t think Scorpius is even into relationships. I don’t even know if he is into guys.”
“Well, if he really is fucking Albus-“
“Oh shut up, you’ve been talking to Lily again haven’t you?”
“She is his sister.”
Scorpius bit his lip. He did have a…boyfriend…lover…what was the proper word for these things? And he certainly was not keen on the marriage schemes his parents were plotting behind his back. But he was the Malfoy heir and very soon it would be time for him to do the proper thing like Amiri was – so gallantly – now doing. But Scorpius couldn’t marry Albus, he couldn’t even use their relationship for political leverage like they were using Amiri and Lily’s. The most it would get them was a scandal, especially since Albus had no intentions to “switch sides” from his family’s ideology. The key was to never talk politics with him, then they could fuck happily and not fight about things that were really irrelevant to how attracted they were to each other. Scorpius could only hope that Albus had not been stupid and gone off telling his sister or, worse, anyone else about what they did behind locking and silencing spells.
“Well, as I said, it doesn’t matter in the end. I…admire Scorpius.” Lysander broke off and something of an uncomfortable silence fell. “He’s wonderful, Louis, but that’s neither here nor there, alright?” Scorpius backed away from the plant he’d been skulking behind, away from the table, and let his disillusionment spells fall. It would be unfortunate if Lysander had in fact developed feelings for him. Scorpius genuinely cared about the boy. After all, Lysander had been something of Scorpius’ protégé back at Hogwarts for a while, but as adorable as Lysander was with his curly blonde hair, soft facial features and misty eyes, Scorpius had other things on his mind. His father said that the boy took an incredible resemblance after Loony Lovegood but Scorpius did not know the woman well enough to either like or dislike Lysander on those grounds. His twin was obnoxious, but so was Albus’ brother. Really, ever since they had cooked up the notion of the Party, Scorpius had just been too weary and picky about the company he kept. Aside from Albus, at least, and even there he was wary.
“There you are.”
Scorpius whipped around and found himself confronted by a pair of green eyes, just a couple of shades darker than those of the Boy-Who-Made-Everyone’s-Life-Difficult. “Albus. Are you trying to startle me?”
Albus shrugged. “Not particularly. I’ve been looking for you.”
“Everyone’s looking for me,” Scorpius droned, without really realizing what he was saying. He drained the rest of his champagne and set aside the empty flute.
“What?” Albus looked genuinely puzzled. “What do you mean?”
Scorpius shook his head. “No it’s nothing. Forget I said anything.” He turned toward Albus with a smirk, giving a nod to where Amiri was twirling Lily around the dance floor. “Your sister looks happy.” Albus’ expression went suddenly wistful and Scorpius wanted to slap him. Don’t be an idiot, Albus, he thought bitterly.
“Yea, she does. I hope it lasts.”
Scorpius eyed him suspiciously. “Why shouldn’t it?”
Albus shrugged. “I’m just saying.”
Scorpius gave a brief look around to make sure they were not being closely observed, then grabbed Albus by the sleeve and dragged him out into the hall. He took them down the hall until they found an empty dark room. Scorpius locked the door behind them, set the usual guarding spells and pressed Albus to the wall.
They kissed frantically for a few minutes before Albus suddenly pushed him away. “I hate this,” he said breathlessly.
“Argh—no. Hiding. Why is it that Lily gets to marry Amiri and we must hide in dark corners and pretend we don’t love each other?” At Scorpius’ steady look, Albus seemed to falter. “We…do love each other, don’t we?”
“Sure. But that’s irrelevant. Lily and Amiri are not me and you.”
“Why not? Because Lily is a girl and I’m not?”
Scorpius rolled his eyes. Did they have to have this conversation every few months or so. “That too. Look, Al, I’m in a precarious political position right now. The last thing I need is a scandal. If you can’t handle that, the door is right there.”
Albus gave him a scathing, hurt look that Scorpius felt more than saw in the dark. Then kissed him and did not speak for the remainder of their absence from the ball.
“So, I don’t understand, you’re concerned that—what?—that your little boy toy has a crush on you? You should’ve been concerned about that a long time ago if that’s the case.” Tony Dolohov grinned lopsidedly at him from his perch on the edge of the large wooden desk as Scorpius stretched out on the sofa in Tony’s study.
“He-he’s not—Lysander is not my boy toy,” Scorpius protested, rather unenthusiastically.
Tony rolled his eyes. “Of course he is. You’ve been feeding that boy false hope since Hogwarts, long before he graduated, long before you graduated. Brandy?”
Scorpius winced. “No, thank you. I think I had enough champagne last night. Amiri’s family knows how to celebrate a wedding alright.”
“Then you definitely need some.” Tony poured glasses for both of them and sent one floating Scorpius’ way. Scorpius snatched it out of the air but only took a small drink.
“I don’t think being someone’s friend equates to giving hope…” Scorpius muttered defensively. “I’d rather let him down gently but I can’t do anything if he keeps quite about it.”
“So don’t do anything.”
“And let his feelings fester?”
“Exactly…actually…” He suddenly got a very concentrated look which made Scorpius perk up a little.
“Actually, do just that. Let his feelings fester. Don’t deliberately give him hope, we don’t want any of that ‘you led me on’ crap. But, yes, let there be hope and light and all that romantic sap.”
Scorpius sat up and rubbed at his temples. He took another long drink of the brandy before setting it aside. “Why? What are you planning, Dolohov?”
“I’m not planning anything. But I feel like having someone over on that side who is in love with you could come in handy at some point.”
We already have someone who is love with me on that side, Scorpius thought glumly. But the last thing he needed was for his relationship with Albus to become another political weapon. “I…don’t like the sound of that.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Just leave it alone? For now? After all, you’re not even supposed to know about his crush.”
Scorpius shrugged and nodded and drank and felt extremely idiotic for no apparent reason.
“Lily, you look absolutely radiant.” Scorpius kissed her hand with a bow and a flourish, making her blush and giggle girlishly. In the summer sun, Scorpius’ light-weight white robes seemed to glow.
“Why thank you, Mr. Malfoy, you do look fine yourself.” She spread out the skirt of her muslin pale-yellow dress and gave Scorpius a charming smile. “I’m glad you could make it,” she said a little more genuinely and with a little less teasing. “This is my first day gala and I do have such hopes for it.” She flicked her wand lightly to push a stray lock of her hair back into place.
“More guests isn’t always more success, but I’m glad you invited me. I see you and Amiri have settled down quite nicely,” Scorpius continued with the small talk as Lily led him over to the resting area where, among shady trees, tables had been set up with refreshing cold drinks, bowls of fruit and plates of cheese and other appetizers. The sounds of light music floated above the area; Lily was very proud of her music charms. She fixed the lacey Italian hat she had chosen to wear instead of carrying a parasol and gestured a little nervously to the group gathered.
“I trust you know everyone here.”
“Yes, of course.”
Lily watched Scorpius retreat to the group of men which her husband was heading and returned to the women. Annabelle Montague, Arianna Parkinson – Amiri’s cousin – Anna Rosier, Camilla Nott and Eliana Vaisey made up Lily’s current group of female friends. She had only been friends with Eliana and Camilla at Hogwarts, however, even though Annabelle had been in their year. Anna was in Scorpius’ year and Arianna was five years older than Lily but they got on well once Lily was introduced to Amiri’s family.
“I see Scorpius was very gallant,” said Anna with a knowing smile, brandishing her fan at Lily.
“Don’t tease her just because you are jealous, Annie,” Arianna teased, giving the younger girl a sly look.
“Hmm, If I’m jealous of anything it is of her happy marriage. I can’t even get Tony to be serious about what he would call a courtship.”
“Well, he is busy, dear.”
“Speaking of happy marriages: do you think your firstborn will be a girl or a boy, Lily?” Camilla half-asked, half-mused, sucking on a pineapple icicle.
“Oh don’t, it’s bad luck to talk of these things before the child is conceived.” Eliana hushed her, blushing.
“Like it’s stopped anyone before.” Camilla smirked and the ladies teetered, their hats and parasols swaying slightly as a rare mid-summer breeze ruffled through their ribbons and laces. Camilla had always been the brash one out of their year, completely unapologetic. She seemed interested in manners only in the most formal of senses, but otherwise she preferred to be straightforward and even found a certain delight in being crude from time to time. Perhaps that was why Lily had always found her an enjoyable companion. Camilla somehow managed to unite within her both feminine grace and the bold spark that the more delicate Eliana lacked.
“Oh it doesn’t matter,” Lily said, her hand unconsciously sliding over her stomach, which was still completely flat. “I truly don’t know, but we’ll love the child either way.”
“Oh, of course! Of course!” the ladies hurried to reassure her even as Lily fell into thoughtfulness. Something told her that she may have already conceived. She felt faint sometimes in the morning, she would sometimes feel at the extremes of her moods – happy and sad – for no apparent reason, and her last monthly blood had not come. But she was nervous, unwilling to tell Ami or her mother or even to go see the mediwitch on her own. She wanted a child, with all her heart. She knew Amiri wanted one as well, even if he was so very busy these days. So she decided to wait until there were more signs. She did not want to be disappointed or, even more so, disappoint him in this matter. She knew what importance was put on a child, especially a boy, and she did not want to sound any false alarms that would then, inevitably, spread into rumors. Her time as a Slytherin at Hogwarts had taught her all about the propensity of rumors.
Lily was brought out of her thoughts by a sudden increase in the volume of the music. She looked up to see Amiri waving for attention. “I wish to dance with my lovely wife,” he declared to the knowingly snide smiles of his friends. “So we dance.” General appreciative laughter from the ladies and Amiri hurried to set example by whisking Lily off to dance a bubbly Irish quadrille-like dance on a patch of sun-bathed grass to the side of the sheltering tree-grove. Other couples followed them and Lily put the idea of children out of her mind and gave into the music. She was married but she felt as young and free as ever. She skipped around in a circle with Amiri’s arm around her waste and hers around his and felt exhilarating joy rush through her. They were meant to be and no one could take this happiness away from her.
Lily was terribly tired by the end of the night. She had been rather worried about how things would turn out but the afternoon had proved perfectly pleasant and she glowed happily despite her tiredness as the guests began to slowly disperse. Scorpius remained to talk Quidditch with Amiri over whiskey and Lily made a retreat to the library in hopes of catching a few breaths alone. She had always liked the smell of their small, tidy library. The shelves stacked with books and reinforced with silencing charms always had a soothing effect on her.
Lily closed the heavy door of the library and leaned her back against it, eyes closed. She hand drifted over her stomach again as it often did these last few days. She couldn’t help but think about being pregnant. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time.
“Thinking about what Camilla said?”
Lily jumped in surprise; she’d thought she was alone. Her eyes snapped open and her wand was in her hand in moments only the encounter Anna seated at the small coffee table between the small fireplace and a shelf of books with a bottle of brandy and two glasses in front of her.
“Oh, Merlin, Anna…how are you here? I didn’t realize…”
“That I hadn’t left? That’s alright. You’ve had a lot to think on. Amiri said you like to go here to think.”
“Yes.” Lily edged forward, eyeing the bottle with interest. “So you decided to, what, accost me?” She smiled vaguely.
“Not quite in those terms, but yes.” Anna poured out the alcohol into the two glasses. “Come, let us have drinks. I’ve always liked brandy more than wine,” she continued with a pensive look. “Too bad there are all these stigmas about women and what they drink. Don’t you think?”
“I…I don’t know.” Lily sat down and looked at the glass. If she really was pregnant, she didn’t think she should be drinking. “I’m really not a drinker.”
“Nonsense. Well, I mean, I won’t force you, of course.” Anna gave her a look. “Are you really pregnant? Is that why you don’t want to? Camilla told me you sang a very different tune back at Hogwarts.”
Lily bit her lip to keep herself from smiling. There had been a few times in sixth and seventh year when the boys had snuck some cheap firewhiskey into the common room and the entirety of Slytherin house that was at least fifteen had proceeded to get shamelessly drunk and play all sorts of scandalous games. Lily had participated with unabated enthusiasm. “I don’t know if I’m pregnant.”
“You’re too scared to go to the mediwhitch aren’t you?” Anna smiled and drank from her glass. “You missed your bleeding but you are too afraid to know for sure.”
“How…did you know?”
The other woman smiled. “You’re very willing to please, you know? Wanting to be the good little Pureblood wife. We’re not all that old fashioned, Lily. No one will think worse of you if you don’t have a nursery established within a year.”
Lily flushed. “I just don’t want to let Ami down. He really wants a child.”
Anna laughed, puzzling Lily. She flushed again, wondering what she had said wrong. “Amiri wants his heir, they all do. But I think he married you because he loves you, not because he needs a child right this moment. Besides, my dear brother has other things to worry about.”
Lily nodded slowly. “I’m really no good at politics. My father talks about it a lot these days. I feel like everyone is talking about it.”
“Well with the new opposition party, how can they not? Especially the men – politics and Quidditch are their social bred and butter, if you know what I mean.” Anna poured herself another drink. “I feel so strange drinking hard liquor all by myself.”
“No-no. We wouldn’t want any harm to come to that baby. Anyway, your father and husband aren’t the only ones. Tony has a hard time not talking politics even on a date.”
“How is that going?”
“The courtship? Oh all right. I mean, we’re nowhere near an engagement but maybe that’s better. Sometimes I think that Tony and I are better as friends than a married couple.”
“It’s very strange, the whole story about his family, don’t you think?” Lily mused.
Anna shrugged. “I suppose. I was a little taken aback when I found out myself. But the Dolohovs aren’t the only family who has ever changed their name to escape prosecution. It isn’t exactly a very well received name here after the last two wars.”
Lily felt the shock resonate through her. She knew the history of the two latest Wizarding Wars very well – her father had made sure of that – so she knew all about Antonin Dolohov and his high ranking position among the Death Eaters. What she did not know was that Tony Deschain was actually a Dolohov. “Wait…are you saying Tony is…a Dolohov?”
Anna’s eyes went wide and she nearly dropped her glass. “Oh Merlin. You didn’t know? I was certain that Amiri had told you, especially now that you’re part of the family. I didn’t see any reason for him to hide this…” She looked extremely uncomfortable.
“I’m sure he just…hasn’t gotten a chance to tell me yet,” Lily said, trying to not sound too shaken. Why wouldn’t Amiri tell her? She trusted him wholeheartedly and it probably wasn’t intentional but she did think it was strange that there was information she was obviously not privy to. “Excuse me, I should go see that the elves have cleaned up properly.” She stood, straightening the skirt of her dress.
“Lily, I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.”
Lily only nodded and slipped out the door.
“When were you planning on telling me?” Lily asked, watching Amiri’s face for any flashes of emotion he would rather hide. She was perched on the edge of their bed in her negligee as her husband undressed and put out the candles except for the ones next to the headboard.
“Tell you what?” He sounded unconcerned.
Lily chewed on her lip. “That Tony is a Dolohov and not a Deschain.”
Amiri froze and turned sharply. “How do you know about that?”
“So you were keeping it from me?” Lily wasn’t sure what she felt more – angry or disappointed.
“No I—I just…it never came up and I didn’t think it was anything of importance.” She could tell it was important, however, simply by the sudden tenseness of his shoulders. “Who told you?”
“Does it matter?”
“Possibly? Not a lot of people know. Tony would rather it stay low profile. For political reasons. I’m sure you understand. Dolohov isn’t exactly a good last name to have after Pot—your father won the last war.”
Lily blinked at him and crossed her arms. Her mood was swinging toward offended now. “So that’s what all this secrecy is about? My father? You think I’m going to just run to him and tattle on all of your secrets?”
“No,” Amiri snapped, a little too quickly and a little too sharply. “No, Lils, that’s not what I mean.”
She slid off the bed and went to stand in front of him. Lily placed both hands on Amiri’s shoulders and looked up into his face with as earnest and open an expression as she could mange. “I’m your wife, Amiri. You have to trust me. You should trust me.”
“I do trust you. But you have to trust me, too. It wasn’t anything against you. I really just didn’t see any reason to tell you. It shouldn’t change anything. It’s just a name after all.”
Lily had her doubts. If there was one thing she had learned about Purebloods was that there was no such thing as just a name for them. Names were everything. But she had no legitimate argument, so all she could do was rest her head against Amiri’s shoulder and nod in acceptance. “Anna told me, by the way.”
“Yes. She thought I already knew. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” She tiptoed up and kissed him, allowing herself to forget about the whole thing. The last thing she needed was to get paranoid about her own husband.
Anna was in the middle of her afternoon tea when Amiri surprised her with a visit. “Why would you tell her that?” he asked right off without so much as a hello.
Anna looked up at him, perturbed. “You really should learn how to say hello Ami,” she said with a sweet smile. “What did I do wrong this time?”
“Why would you tell Lily about the Dolohovs?”
Anna’s eyes widened slightly and she set her teacup down with deliberate care. “Ah. I see. I didn’t do it for a specific reason, Ami. I thought she already knew.”
“You think I would tell Harry Potter’s daughter information that sensitive? This close to the elections? We can’t risk a scandal. You know the opposition will blow this thing out of proportion and most people will believe them!” He was trying hard to keep his frustration in check. He wanted to trust Lily, in most things he did, but that did not change the fact that she was still close to her family and could easily, even unintentionally, say something that would tumble all their plans. Really, it was on him for telling Anna. It should have never left the privileged knowledge of him, Scorpius, Keith, Cato, Edward and Charles. Even Roland Parkinson didn’t know. “How many people have you told, Anna? I can’t trust you if you keep doing things like that.”
“I haven’t told anyone else. But I honestly thought she knew,” Anna insisted. She rose and went to the window, running her fingers over the light-green curtains. “There shouldn’t be secrets this petty between you and your wife, Ami. Secrets destroy a family.”
“This isn’t petty.”
“Yes, it is. And honestly, I highly doubt Lily will run to her father. She loves you too much for that.”
“Except that I tried to play it off as though it wasn’t a big secret.” Amiri sighed in frustration, taking Anna’s former place on the couch. “Don’t you understand? If she thinks it’s a conspiracy she won’t like it. If she doesn’t, she might not treat it with enough seriousness.”
Anna rolled her eyes and turned to face her brother. “Something you should know about women, Amiri. When we love, we love with all abandon. Ask her to no tell anyone and she won’t. Make her promise. She won’t see a conspiracy because she won’t want to see one.”
“Is that also a female thing?”
“That one’s universal. People will avoid breaking their own hearts at any cost.”
“Tony, what is that?” Amiri eyed the glass bottle Tony was holding with some apprehension. The liquid in it was nearly clear, with only a tinge of sickly yellow to make it visible in the light. Tony was holding up the test tube with a certain degree of reverence.
“It’s a potion,” he said, smiling sharply.
“I can see that.”
“It’s a poison of sorts,” Scorpius expanded. He threw a look around before waving his wand to shut and seal the door to the lab. They were below Malfoy Manor, in a separate wing from the dungeons but no one except for the family members and those expressly allowed would or could come down here. The wards were strong and even the elves stayed away. But Scorpius still liked to keep thing tidy and secure. Sometimes, Amiri wondered if he even kept some of what they were doing from his father. Draco did not fare quite as well as his son in the political field – there was too much bad blood there. But he was prominent in near-political fields such as economics and wizarding MNCs were always in need of politically savvy negotiators, solicitors and lobbyists. They also had much fewer reservations about a person’s past than the domestic affairs divisions of government. Therefore, Draco was not central to their plans and Amiri suspected that Scorpius did not wish to risk his father getting in the way of their maneuvers.
“Are we going to poison someone?” Keith’s expression betrayed a mild degree of anxiety.
“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” Tony muttered, measuring out another vial of potion from the small cauldron in front of him. “Would you care to explain, Scorpius? This was mostly your work, after all. Spells are more my thing.”
“It’s an undetectable, untraceable poison that is asymptomatic for some time when it first enters a person’s system. Once it takes effect, however, the individual dies rather quickly and, I must mention, almost painlessly, making it one of the more humane poisons I know.” Scorpius takes a pause to look around at his friends. “The rest of what I say is not to leave this room. Not even Edward and Charles can know.” He gave Cato an especially meaningful look. The young man cringed a little and nodded. “So,” Scorpius continued, “What makes this one really special, though, is that it is especially predisposed to being laced with magic. Now, we know that spell-laced potions have been tested and some are even widely available. They are considered unreliable, however, and especially dangerous when laced with complex or “dark” spells. Mainstream research and manufacturing in this direction did not begin until the nineties but the technique was employed on a large scare before then, during the First War with Voldemort, for combative potions.”
“Then why does everyone believe that the nineties were some big break through era in the field?” Keith asked, interest obviously peaked as it always was when the topic was potions.
“Because the research was not done by the Order of the Phoenix or the Aurors or any Ministry division. These potions were being developed and employed by the Death Eaters. The only person who could or would have put these records forward after the war ended was Severus Snape. Which he did, at first only in part at conferences and then, obviously, more widely around the mid-nineties, probably in anticipation for the coming war.”
“Why wouldn’t he put the research forward earlier? And besides, from what I understand, the first attempts, even with Snape’s participation, weren’t always successful.” Keith looked uncertain. Amiri had no such deep knowledge of potions and he and Cato simply shared bewildered looks across the lab table.
“The scientists at the conferences wanted the potions for peaceful purposes while Snape’s experience would have been primarily, if not exclusively, with combative potions,” Scorpius explained. “Also, I think Snape simply did not have all the facts, only his personal notes and what he may have observed and participated in but not the entirety of the research process. Snape was not a member of the Lab’s staff and he was not a High Officer in the seventies. After the war, the records were sealed and evacuated. Snape probably got access to them during the Second War, but again, there were other things to worry about at the time and Snape died in the last battle.”
“But, I’m assuming, that you’re working off these very records?” Amiri put in. “How do you have them?”
“My grandfather came into possession of all the valuable documents after the fall of the Dark Lord. They were initially hidden or shipped abroad – my father isn’t very clear on this. They were never returned as there was not enough time or manpower to set up a full research lab the second time around. Both sides were running on severely lessened resources, but the Death Eaters especially. However, all the documents remained well-hidden and in good condition in the Malfoy possession.”
“And your father didn’t think to profit off of these valuable research products?” Cato asked, a little snidely.
“No,” Scorpius shot back rather coolly. “But they will be of help to us. The Lab kept meticulous records. They’re not all there, something had to have gotten lost, and some of them rely on a superior knowledge of potions and magic theory that I do not have, however, Tony and I have managed to recreate some of the more basic samples and we think we have enough of a grasp behind the theory to try our own sample.”
“And what does this sample entail?” Amiri eyed the almost-clear potion with some suspicion. He knew that Tony, as an Unspeakable, and Scorpius, as someone who had access and encouragement to explore the rather deep pockets the of Malfoy family archives, which were just packed with Dark Magic books and documents, did not feel uneasy around such things, but Amiri was much more of a “civilian” when it came to these sorts of subjects.
“Well,” Scorpius looked particularly smug. “We are going to lace this sucker with an Imperius.”
“What!” Amiri and Cato chorused at the same time.
“You’re mad, Scorpius?” Keith sputtered out. “Do you even know how to perform a proper Imperius Curse? That’s an Unforgiveable, for Merlin’s sake.”
“Mine isn’t perfect yet, but Tony has a good grasp.”
Keith turned unbelieving eyes on Dolohov. Tony smirked and pointed his wand, “Imperio.” Keith’s eyes glazed over and his fidgeting instantly seized. “Drink the potion from the second vial on the left,” Tony drawled tonelessly.
Keith, as though sleepwalking, moved toward the row of glass vials and reached for the second one on the left.
“Stop it! He’s going to drink it!” Amiri shouted, panic gripping him, and whipped out his wand, even though he was uncertain what he would do with it.
“Stop,” Tony said, just as flatly. Keith frozen, not having quite made it to the vial. Dolohov dropped his wand and Keith nearly collapsed as the curse left him. Amiri rushed forward to hold him up.
“Did you really have to do that?” he asked derisively as Keith gazed in astonishment at the row of vials in front of him, obviously uncertain as to when he had gotten so close. He took a nervous step back away from the lab table.
“No harm has come to him, don’t worry,” Tony assured them with a smirk. “I don’t know how to control the subject silently yet; the Unforgiveables are tricky that way. I think it might require some form of Curse-Legilimency combination and that’s extremely complicated magic. But I’m hoping we won’t need to deal with that.”
“I’m assuming you and Scorpius have devised a plan already then?” Amiri speculated, letting go of Keith and trying to imagine what these two could have come up with.
“In a sense. There will be time when we will need certain people to sign certain documents. As you know, a regular Imperius can be traced by subpoenaing the wands of any suspects. But if we can hide the spell within an undetectable potion…”
“And the poison part?”
“It will give us time to have the subject sign the papers and then…well…die. Quietly, quickly. Hopefully, we will only need to remove the Minister in this way.”
“So, you don’t think we will win the elections, do you?” Cato asked, fidgeting with the cuffs of his shirt.
“Honestly, we don’t stand a very good chance of that and I’m afraid that by the time we may petition for new elections it will be too late. We must retain a hold on the Wizengamot but we won’t be able to do that if the Potter-Weasleys have their way of it.”
“This could be interpreted like a hostile takeover, you do realize that, don’t you?”
Scorpius shrugged. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from Potter and his lot, they’re quick to blame. But they won’t have proof, so they won’t be able to do anything on legal grounds. The important thing now is to make sure that we set this thing up properly. If our new Minister was to suffer an assassination attempt, the new Minority Leader would become the new Minister by default. We must make sure he is our man. Roland and I are working on that right now.”
“And if he isn’t our man?”
Tony gave him a wry look. “Then we go back to the potions. But hopefully, that won’t be needed.” He looked around their group and said very carefully, “If anyone here wants to back out, you should do it now. No one will hold this against you.”
Everyone remained silent. Finally, Scorpius said, “We can’t win this cleanly, the wars were too disastrous, and the associations people make are too generalized. At first, we all thought that these new Democratic reforms would be a good thing, but all they are meant to do is keep Potter and his lot in power because they have this “hero” status and the public loves their heroes. I thought I wanted to go into international politics, maybe even handle part of my father’s shares in his off-shore businesses. But this is too damn important. Don’t you see what is going on? They would have us be ruled by the likes of Granger. They would have us adopt muggle customs and give Mudbloods preferential treatment. They would outlaw our most sacred rituals, things we have grown up with. Tell me it hasn’t happened already?”
“Scorpius,” Amiri said softly but clearly, letting his voice carry through the ringing silence after Malfoy had finished. “No one is disagreeing with you. We are all here because we want it to stop. Because we no longer want to be held accountable to the Statutes while watching our culture being obliterated. We’re all here for the same reason. No one is having doubts.” The others nodded.
“Good,” Tony said finally. “Now this is how this is going to work. First, once we lace these with magic, we will need to do tests…”
They had their tests done by October. There were rules, some for precaution, some as a sort of honor code. There were ten tests in all, two for each of them and the latter half had gone as smoothly as possible.
They tested on muggles with all the preliminary research on each test subject done meticulously – no squibs, no relatives of anyone within the wizarding community, no high-profile figures whose death might end up in a central newspaper. Also, they ruled out children, mothers of said children and breadwinners of large households or anyone else with a large amount of dependants. In the end, most of them chose criminals. Amiri’s two cases were two men who had received life sentences for one atrocious crime or another. They needed human test subjects, Tony insisted, but choosing socially-harmful and low-life individuals made them feel better about themselves. Not that muggles were worth much in the first place, but there were still lines of decency that they were all a little too squeamish to cross.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” Lily told him one day in late September during evening tea. He only saw her sporadically these days, the campaign was taking its toll and Amiri was fully prepared for a scolding.
“What is it, darling?” He watched her carefully over the tea table in the solar as she fidgeted with the laces on her dress.
“I’m pregnant, Ami.” She raised her eyes to his and looked him boldly in the face expectantly.
He froze, his eyes drifting to her stomach and suddenly noticing that her waist was not quite as small as it used to be. Even though Lily was obviously not showing much just yet, Amiri still felt bad. He should have noticed this… “How far along are you?”
“Nearly five months. I finally went to the medi-witch three weeks ago but I’ve been working up the nerve to tell you.”
“Why didn’t you want to tell me? Lily this is wonderful!” Amiri grinned He sett down his cup, crossed the small space between them and squeezed beside his wife into the loveseat she was occupying. He put one hand on her stomach and she smiled, putting her own over his.
“You probably won’t feel anything yet,” Lily told him, looking down at their hands fondly. “But it’s there. I’ve felt it moving a couple of times.”
“Do you think it’s a boy or a girl?”
Lily looked back up into his face. “I don’t know. Does it…matter a lot to you?” She bit down on her lip but kept eye contact with him.
Amiri shook his head quickly. “Not really, no. I suppose I want a son, but we’ll have time for more children.”
Lily laughed softly and put her head on his shoulder.
“Lils, I’m sorry, I should have noticed.”
“No it’s not your—“
“It’s just the campaign—“
“I know.” Amiri could tell she wasn’t happy about the whole thing even though she tried to be supportive. “I’ve had an easy pregnancy so far and I’ve only started showing and even that not so much if I don’t wear tight corsets.”
“I promise you, after this is all over, we’ll go abroad. Just you, me and the baby. We’ll go to…Where do you want to go? Italy?”
“Hmm. Maybe. Or Latin America.”
“Latin America? Really?” He pulled away to look into her face and see if she was joking but Lily looked quite serious.
“Europe is so cliché. I heard they have the most interesting runes excavations in South America.”
“I don’t think that’s any place to take a baby…” Amiri offered up cautiously.
“Well, maybe when he or she is older then. I suppose Italy will do for now.” She looked up at him through her eyelashes and Amiri kissed her rapturously, feeling all the strain from work seeping out of him.
“Have you told your parents yet?” he asked when they both had had a chance to catch their breath.
Lily shook her head. “No. I wanted you to be the first to know. But I will tell them this weekend when we have brunch.”
They were silent for a moment, each contemplating their thoughts. Finally, Amiri, trying to keep the smirk out of his tone, asked. “So…does this mean I can no longer make love to you?”
Lily’s smile turned cheeky. “I don’t see why not.”
Later, Amiri would realize this was the first time they’d made love for at least a month and he promised himself that he would at least try to be home more often.
The elections went quite well, all things considered. William Runcorn raked in a following much greater than was initially projected, a fact that irritated the Potter-Weasleys to no end. That Kingsley Shacklebolt should win the day was not at all surprising, despite the cries of “Monarchy!” from the ultra-progressive sector of the coalition opposition.
As Shacklebolt gave his acceptance speech in front of a crowd of Ministry cronies and avid supporters, Amiri watched from the back, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Arthur Weasley, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter were, of course, all on the platform. Potter wasn’t even a politician, he was an Auror, but his presence and endorsement of Kingsley throughout the campaign had had their expected effects. The good part in all of this, Amiri knew, was that Potter was the sort of person who was capable of eliciting either intense adoration or intense hatred.
Somewhere, there was a protest going on at this very moment. Roland Parkinson was in charge of keeping those alive. Scorpius was probably still at Headquarters, managing the owls and making sure that everyone kept calm. They did not want to spark any suspicions too early.
Amiri felt rather than saw Tony come up to him. The hood of his robes was up but otherwise, he seemed perfectly collected. “How long do you think we can stall the reforms in the Wizengamot?”
“A few months, but probably less than a year. I thought you would like to start right away.”
“We need the dissatisfaction to spread, for Shacklebolt to stall and stagnate. This time around it will be different. He has his appointments in the Wizengamot but the new reforms have played in our favor this time. We will have a stalling majority once all the provinces are done voting. We will have a stalling minority this time around.”
“You sound confident.”
“I am confidant. Besides, let’s all of us have a pleasant Christmas. I hear Lily is with child.”
The sudden switch in subject took Amiri aback so much that he even chanced a glance at Tony. “Yes,” he said carefully. “She’s due in late February, early March.”
“Do you mean that?” Amiri wasn’t sure why he’d asked the question. It wasn’t fare to Tony, the other man had never done or wished him any ill, but Amiri couldn’t help but feel protective of Lily at times like these. Sometimes, he felt that his friends could only see a political chip in his wife, rather than the woman he had married and planed to spend his life with.
“Of course I mean it,” Tony said derisively, though he didn’t sound very offended by the implications. “We’re all on the same side here, Amiri. Don’t forget that.”
Family Reunion was not a word coupling that fit the Rosier-Potter household very well. In fact, it seemed that the only way to avoid a small-scale civil war was to keep the two halves of the family as far away from each other as possible. They had behaved tolerably at the wedding but it seemed that the courtesies more or less stopped there. This meant that Lily and Amiri spent Christmas Day at the Malfoys, the Potter-Weasleys got Christmas Eve and the Rosier-Parkinsons got Boxing Day.
Ginny had finally managed to convince Harry that their new country house was large enough to house the entire Weasley clan and that they would be a lot more comfortable than at the Burrow. Molly Weasley certainly had had words to say about being deprived of her chance to play the matron protector but she finally submitted and the entire family migrated into the Potter home over the course of the twenty-fourth, the latest arrivals making their way in just in time for dinner.
Lily instantly found herself accosted by her female cousins who all wanted to know about the pregnancy or give advice on what Lily should or shouldn’t do.
“Have you picked out names yet?” Victoire asked with condescendingly peaked interest. “Teddy and I had names picked by the time Lauren was born.” Lauren, a spunky toddler whose shape-shifting abilities were mostly limited to being able to change the color of her eyes from green to brown to something in the middle, proceeded to bounce up and down on hearing that she was being discussed.
“We haven’t really thought about it,” Lily admitted. “But I was thinking, maybe Evan or Elliot if it is a boy. I think Amiri likes Alexandra for a girl’s name.”
“Not trying to name the kid after one of its grandparents?” asked James coming up behind her.
Lily turned and gave him a look. “Why would you think that?”
“Seems like a Pureblood thing to do.”
“Hush, James. It isn’t actually. Some names are more popular in some families but it’s not a thing or anything to name children after their parents or grandparents. I think that’s more of a muggle thing.”
“You better listen to her, James,” Uncle Ron added, joining their little group. “She’s quickly becoming very knowledgeable on all things Pureblood.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “You really should let it go, Uncle Ron, you all should.”
“Come on, Lily, I didn’t mean it—“ Lily didn’t wait for Ron to finish and stocked off in search of Amiri. At least his family… Actually, she couldn’t be certain what his family said about her when she was out of earshot but she did not feel as isolated there as she thought Amiri must feel here.
To her surprise, however, she found her husband in the kitchen talking to Albus. She turned into the pantry next door to get some butterbears for the three of them but something in their conversation caught her attention and she stopped at the door, just out of sight of the two men who were, she assumed, seated on the barstools by the high kitchen counter where Lily’s mother liked to keep her special miniature potted plants.
“Have you spoken to Scorpius lately?” Albus was asking.
“Yes, I talk to him regularly.”
“Oh… He keeps saying he will write but then it takes forever for him to send an owl and I always just suppose he’s busy…” Albus broke up uncertainly.
“Oh he is,” Amiri hurried to reassure him. “But we work together so I see him all the time…at work.”
Lily bit her lip, clutching at the butterbear bottles in her arms. She knew that Albus and Scorpius had something of an unsteady friendship back at Hogwarts and even afterwards but they were never inseparable or anything. In fact, both seemed to try awfully hard to make sure that no one got the idea that they cared about each other a whole lot. To Lily it had always been very suspicious and Albus would always blush when someone spoke about Scorpius or get that unsettled, uneasy look when people mentioned Scorpius’ future as the Malfoy heir. At her wedding, when Amiri had made a joke that, unless Tony got his shit together with Anna, Scorpius would be the next of their group to stand at the altar, Albus’ expression had been somewhere between miserable and furious. All of this, combined with the fact that neither Scorpius nor Albus had ever taken a very keen interest in girls, led her to believe that the two were somehow involved.
For some reason this bothered Lily. Not because she did not like Scorpius, in fact she liked Scorpius quite a bit. What she didn’t like was the amount of secrecy that the two were obviously inclined to throw over the whole affair. Lily couldn’t imagine Albus wanting the secrets, Albus was a bad liar and those sorts of things weighed on him heavily. She knew their parents would not take such news very well, but Albus couldn’t possibly be hoping to hide this from them forever, not if he meant for this relationship to go anywhere.
Scorpius, on the other hand, was very good at secrets. He thrived on schemes and plots and half-truths. Such was the nature of the work he did. But if Scorpius was forcing all this secrecy on Albus, she really wanted a good long talk with him, perhaps involving rather loud and un-lady like words. Albus could be very fragile where his feelings were concerned and—
“Lily? What are you doing in the pantry, in the dark?”
Lily jumped at the sound of Rose’s voice and spun around on her heal so fast she almost lost hold of the butterbears. “Was getting some drinks,” she said sheepishly.
“Were you eavesdropping?” Rose whispered excitedly, throwing a look toward the kitchen where Albus and Amiri, by the sound of it, had switched to the latest news in Quidditch.
“On what? A conversation about sports? Grow up, Rose,” Lily said, giving her cousin a playful shove. She shouldered past Rose and sauntered into the kitchen like she didn’t have a care in the world.
Lily made a point of ambushing Albus later that evening when the rest of the family was busy playing bingo. Amiri had looked skeptically at Lily but, when told it was a family tradition, shrugged good-naturedly and joined in. She pulled Albus into her room and shut the door behind them. “Sit.”
Albus sank awkwardly onto her bed, giving her a quizzical look. “What’s going on, Lily?”
“We need to talk about Scorpius.”
Albus instantly found it very difficult to make eye contact with her. “What about him?”
“Are you two sleeping together?” Lily wanted to get to the point. She knew Scorpius would never tell her if he didn’t want to and she would consider it rude with him. But she could be straightforward with her own brother.
“No,” Albus said finally, blinking rapidly. He looked like some sort of cornered animal. “Why do people keep asking me that? Scorpius and I maintain…a friendship of sorts. I tend to think pretty highly of him, which isn’t very acceptable in this family, as you probably know, but that doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with him.”
“You don’t have to get defensive, Al,” Lily reproached softly, rolling her eyes. “But if you two are involved, I think it would be better to come out with it. For everyone, especially you.”
“You’re that certain I like men, aren’t you?”
“It’s not a question of if you like men, Al. I’ve known that for a while. I think even Mum and Dad know it; they just don’t want to talk about it. James is the only one who doesn’t know and that’s because James hardly ever looks past his own nose. But the issue isn’t that you’re seeing a man, it’s that you’re seeing Scorpius and trying to pretend like you’re not.”
Albus looked at her for a long, silent moment in which Lily could almost see the wheels in his head turning. “What if I was seeing him? What do you think Mum and Dad would care more about: that I’m seeing Scorpius or that I’m gay?”
Lily scrunched up her nose. “The prior, I think. But they didn’t like me dating Amiri and now we’re married and happy and they’ve gotten over it.”
Albus laughed. “They haven’t gotten over it, there’s just nothing they can do about it. Besides…it could ruin Scorpius’ career.”
“Dating you? I thought he would want to be seen associating with Dad and all that?”
Albus shook his head slowly. “You don’t understand, Scorpius’…base supporters…are more traditional. Being gay would not be considered alright in those circles. Not even being gay but just that he’s not…fulfilling his duty as the Malfoy heir and all that.”
Lily thought about it. It made sense but she was also terribly frustrated by the whole thing. “That’s stupid,” Lily muttered.
Albus gave her a look and folded his arms over his chest. “I thought you liked the whole Pureblood tradition thing.”
“I do…to a reasonable extend,” Lily said carefully. “I don’t see anything wrong with respecting our traditions but—“
“Our traditions? You sound like a commercial for the Opposition.” Albus’ expression suddenly closed off and Lily realized that she had somehow managed to hit a sore spot.
“I don’t sound like anything,” she said defensively. “It’s true. My friends, Albus, they’re not bad people and their families mean a lot to them. I don’t think having certain values is wrong just—“
“It’s these very values that make sure Scorpius and I could never be together!” Albus snapped, suddenly flaring up. He slid off the bed and stood directly in front of Lily, staring her down. “Because he values his family name more than he values being with someone he loves!”
“So you are together,” Lily concluded, feeling a little bewildered, despite her long-standing suspicions.
Albus didn’t seem to hear her. “This is what Dad is always talking about – they promote these outdated ideas about family and morality and class systems! And you’re going along with all of this!”
Lily could feel her own anger bubbling up to the surface. She was so tired of feeling like some sort of traitor because she loved Amiri, because she liked the societal life, and because she did not see eye-to-eye with Aunt Hermione on the issue of Affirmative Action for Muggle-borns. Really, Lily did not want any part in the political squabbling, she simply wanted people to let her be, to love her husband, to run her household, to raise a child or two and have tea with her friends on the weekends. “You sound like James,” she said flatly because the only other choice would be to yell.
“You think this is all a game, Lily! You like your dresses and parties and Ministry appearances. All this glamour that Amiri and all your Slytherin friends revolve in, it’s all gilded, Lily. There’s nothing there! It’s all lies and manipulation and pushes for power. They only want the traditional ways because it keeps them in power.”
“Everyone wants power, Al! That’s what politics is about.”
“That’s such a Slytherin thing to say.”
Lily thought she would explode. “You’re over reacting. Which is a very Gryffindor thing to do.”
“Mum says you’re pushing us away.”
Lily froze, taken aback by that statement. “What?”
“Some people in our family…they think you’re looking down on us because you’re such a good little Pureblood now.”
“Who is saying this?” Lily could feel ice spreading through her veins. Those accusations were unfair. She loved her brothers and was very fond of most of her cousins. She played Quidditch with Uncle Ron on a regular basis and sometimes went shopping with Aunt Fleur. She’d even babysat Lauren for free a couple of times and, just in general, was very involved in her family’s life. She didn’t invite them to some of her own parties but that was just because her cousins and her friends would not mix well, not to mention their respective parents.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Oh course it does! Al, you…you don’t think that, do you? I don’t care about the whole blood purity thing. It’s not my fault my friends are Purebloods and it’s not my fault that no one in our family can seem to see past that.”
“Neville’s a Pureblood, everyone likes him.”
“That’s different and you know it. Besides, if you’re so against Slytherin’s then why are you with Scorpius?”
This seemed to take Albus aback. He obviously hadn’t expected the conversation to revert back to him. His shoulders slumped and Lily could see the fight draining out of him as he considered her question. “Because it’s not that easy to just…not love someone,” he said finally, not meeting her eyes.
“Well, it’s not that easy for me either,” Lily shot back and slipped out of the room. She couldn’t have this conversation anymore – it was tearing her apart.
Scorpius was put in charge of the Slytherin January retreat that year. He figured that it probably had something to do with the fact that his friends didn’t want him to slither out of talking with Lysander. Scorpius couldn’t figure out what they needed Ly for to begin with.
Delicate, sensitive, artsy Lysander would do nothing for their scheme. He couldn’t even be sued as any sort of spy or “in” for their side, which was what Scorpius was afraid his friends might make Albus into if they ever found out about their elicit relationship. Ly wouldn’t fare well as anyone’s toy. But Tony and everyone else would eagerly throw him out to the wolves once they were done with him.
But they weren’t saying what they wanted Lysander for, only that they wanted Scorpius to “cultivate” his feelings. Perhaps, if he could simply rekindle his friendship with Lysander, which had been stalling after graduation, he could pretend to be doing just that without any guilt.
The retreat was at a mountain resort where the snow was thick and fresh, the pine trees plentiful and the stars bright and a little less distant than usual. They rented a large estate house for a group of around thirty Slytherin alumni and spent their days playing games, going sledding, eating marshmallows by the fireplace and playing Quidditch in the crisp winter air.
On the third afternoon the entire lot decided to have a Quidditch tournament splitting up into four teams. Lily was not going to play because she was too heavy by then to keep good balance on the broom and she and Amiri were afraid that too much strain would hurt the baby. Lysander volunteered to not play to even out the numbers and Scorpius, hoping to get a chance to talk to Ly, also passed on the game.
“Are you coming to watch?” Lily called to them as she walked through the living room with Amiri and Tony on either side of her.
“Maybe in a bit,” Scorpius allowed, giving them a wave.
“It’s too bad you’re not playing!” Tony was saying to Lily as they disappeared outside. “You and I on the same team – no one would stand a chance.”
“It’s been a while,” Scorpius started, trying to not sound awkward.
“Yea. I’ve been trying to get a High Degree in Magical Art, you know?” Lysander smiled and showed Scorpius his sketchbook. There were various drawings of pinecones and snowball fights in there. The pinecones seemed to glitter on the page and he was pretty sure some of the snowballs were moving. Lysander had always been good at charms and drawing. Putting those two things together just seemed logical.
“Your parents taking it well?”
Lysander shrugged. “They would have rather I did Herbology or Care of Magical Creatures like Lorcan, but they understand.” Lysander called his parents understanding, but Scorpius just called them weird. They didn’t seem like bad people, but they were always so distant, their children not unloved but more a sort of accessory to their working life more than anything else.
Lysander did take after his mother a lot, once Scorpius thought about it. He had the same facial bone structure, the misty eyes, the soft, golden curls that he wore to his shoulders. Actually, Ly was a beautiful boy and if Scorpius didn’t already have Albus… Well. “You haven’t owled lately…”
“Neither have you,” Lysander pointed out. After a moment of a somewhat awkward silence, he added. “Louis told me that you’ve been busy. You like the politics.”
“I find it useful. But you can still write, you know?”
Lysander studied him thoughtfully. “I miss Hogwarts sometimes, you know? Charms. Lily and I always had so much fun in that class. And I liked when…all those tutoring sessions you gave me.” Lysander blushed. “It was all very simple then.”
Scorpius frowned. “How is it complicated now?”
Lysander looked away, fidgeting. “I’m that artsy kid who doesn’t fit in with anyone, you know? I was thinking about it when I was packing to go here. When we’re all together – all the Slytherins – it’s like we’re this family and I never feel left out because we’re all bound by this understanding…I don’t know how to explain it.” Ly shook his head, making his curls bounce all over the place. “But there, out in the world, everyone is so busy and has their own agendas and things. This is what I like about art…It gives me a chance to slow down.”
“You’ve got your family.”
Lysander smiled sadly. “Lorcan and I are very different. He’s my brother, that’s important, but we’re very different. Mum and Dad are great, but they’re always away, always doing their research. Mum used to read to us when we were little and Dad takes Lorcan along on some of his trips to aid his Magical Creatures studies. But otherwise, they’re never really…there. I feel like the only person I see on a regular basis these days is Louis but that’s only because we go to art shows together.”
Scorpius winced. Ly sounded abandoned, like he was cast out on the wind to float and do whatever he wanted. No one stopped him, no one wished him harm, but no one seemed to particularly care. “Ly, I…don’t know what to say.”
Lysander shrugged and opened the sketchbook again. “Can I draw you?”
Scorpius opened his mouth to protest and closed it again. This is how Lysander let his feelings out, this was how he communicated – through drawing. Scorpius had always encouraged that. And now it seemed to Scorpius that some kind of listlessness had settled around Lysander since he’d left school. “Artist Syndrome” they had all called Lysander’s moods teasingly back at Hogwarts. But outside of the safety of the insular Slytherin common room, such ideas became dangerous and Slytherins’ had each other’s backs, but the rest of the world wasn’t on par with that. “Sure,” Scorpius agree, taking a more attractive pose on the couch. “It better be good though if I’m missing watching the games for this.”
Lysander smiled vaguely and began to draw.
On the last night at the resort, Scorpius took Lysander out on an evening sleigh ride. They went deep into the woods and stopped at a clearing. “I have something for you,” Scorpius told him and took out a small, thin, leather-bound volume. “When I heard you might do your High Degree in Magical Art I bought this as a Christmas present but never got to give it to you.”
Mulciber had actually suggested the book. They had had it in very good condition in the family library and he let Scorpius buy it for a reasonable price. “I’m no artist anyway,” Charles had said ruefully, handing the book over. Scorpius had to wonder if Charlie had actually gone looking for a book like this. It was full of exquisite old spells that made the sky into a painting canvass but many of them were outlawed or had to be performed in isolation because the results could be seen by muggles. A perfect recruitment set up.
“Thanks.” Lysander grinned and flipped through the book, using his wand for light. The sky had grown dark. “These look amazing,” he said, pointing at the illustrations.
“Try one,” Scorpius urged.
Lysander practiced one of the spells under he breath for a moment and then sing-songed it in a full, clear voice, swishing his wand through the winter air and pointing it up into the sky as he finished the charm. The sky lit up in a maze of colors and patterns that all flowed together. It was like a glowing mosaic of tinted glass hanging above them. Lysander muttered the counter-spell and the lights faded. “Wow,” he murmured in awe.
“That was amazing,” Scorpius agreed. The sight really had been impressive.
“…These are all at least High Caution spells…Too easily visible...” Lysander flipped through the volume again, his face falling slightly. “It will be so hard to get away to play with these.”
Scorpius nodded. “You know how I said politics is useful?”
Lysander looked up and nodded slowly.
“That’s why I do it. In hopes that some day things like this…that you could perform these spells anywhere and not be afraid the Ministry will punish you for your magic, for the very thing they re meant to protect.”
Lysander just looked at him and Scorpius could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and a shiver run down his spine from that look that was filled with a desire that was more longing that lust. “Is that what you’re working for?”
“One of the things.’
Lysander smiled that same vague, almost-sad smile as the day Scorpius let him sketch his portrait. “I’m glad someone is. Sometimes, Scorpius, I think you’re the only one who understands.”
Little Elliot was born on a sunny day in late February.
Lily had started having pains late at night, when they had already gone to bed and Amiri immediately firecalled the healer they had placed on retainer a month ago in anticipation of the birth. Once the healer arrived, Amiri took the time to firecall his parents.
“Don’t tell the Potters until this is all over,” a disheveled, sleepy Pansy advised her son.
“Why not?” Amiri asked, honestly baffled. “Their daughter is about to give birth, I think they should know.”
“Trust me on this,” Pansy sniffed. “What does the healer say?”
“He says everything seems normal. Things happen during birth but he ran a diagnostic and said that everything seemed in order. The baby is properly positioned and everything…”
“Good. Hopefully it will go quickly. Anna came quickly, thankfully, but you, darling, took your sweet time.” Pansy shuddered visibly. “The important thing is, if the healer asks you to leave, you should leave. Especially once things get going, don’t presume to stay with her the entire time. These things get ugly and you will only be in the way. Is the midwife on her way?”
“The healer has contacted her, yes.”
“He and the midwife will be sufficient.”
Amiri thought on this for a moment. “Are you sure it wouldn’t be better to take her to Saint Mungo’s?”
“Nonsense. The only time a home birth is an issue is if you do not have a healer and a trained midwife there. There is nothing at Saint Mungo’s that they can’t provide you with at home. But Lily will be more comfortable in her own bed. Besides, remember what you learned about blood wards – they will give her strength. They would be stronger here at the Manor House, but the villa has been in the family for generations too, so all should be well.”
After speaking with his mother, Amiri went back to sit with Lily. The healer was fussing around, making notes and checking that everything was ready. “Don’t be scared,” Amiri told Lily, squeezing her hand.
“I’m not,” Lily told him, even as her face scrunched up in a wince. “I’m ready for this. Have you called my parents?”
Amiri bit his lip. “No yet.”
“Call them, please, Ami? Mum wanted to know when it started.”
Well, Amiri had no choice now, had he? “Of course, darling. Do you want me to go now?”
She squeezed his hand and shook her head. “No, stay with me for now. When it all…gets going. You don’t need to see that part anyway. I hear it can get…ugly.”
By the time the midwife arrived, Lily’s contractions had increased in frequency to one every couple of minutes or so. They were also far more intense and she would cry out sometimes from the pain. “You should leave,” the midwife told Amiri. “This is a women’s thing.” Amiri glanced at their very-male healer but figured that was different.
“Go, Ami,” Lily urged him, letting go of his hand.
“The elves are at your disposal,” Amiri told the healer and made a quick exit. He was ashamed to admit that he was, in fact, relieved that they made him leave. Seeing Lily in pain was nearly impossible. It was bad enough that he could hear her cries even from downstairs but he forced himself to not put up silencing spells. To do that felt heartless and like he was betraying his wife by avoiding her pain.
He made the call to the Potters. Harry was on an Auror assignment but Ginny said she would come right over without even waiting for an invitation. She flooed in within half an hour with Hermione in toe.
“Mrs. Weasley, what are you doing here?” Amiri asked, unable to conceal his annoyance. This was strictly a family matter.
“Ginny asked me to come,” Hermione said a little defensively. “You’re having a home birth?”
“Yes, of course. Lily would be more comfortable here than at Saint Mungo’s.”
They stood in awkward silence for a moment which was then broken by Lily’s screams which had worsened over the last hour. Ginny cringed but Hermione looked appalled. “She hasn’t been given anything for the pain?”
“Isn’t there something they can give her?” Ginny asked, a pleading note slipping into her voice.
“No, it’s too dangerous to give her potions at this point. I wish it weren’t so, believe me.”
“But she doesn’t have to take potions!” Hermione protested. “If you would just let her have the birth at a muggle hospital they have medicine that is safe that she could take!”
“You want me to trust muggle medicine?” Amiri was frankly insulted by the suggestion. Was this why his mother had not wanted him to call the Potters? Funny thing, though, that Ginny wasn’t protesting half as much as Hermione.
“Yes?” Hermione looked somewhere in-between baffled and furious. “I can’t believe this – you can’t look past your prejudices even for the sake of your wife.”
“I gave birth to James this way,” Ginny recalled. “It was awful. I was confused by all the muggle things though. But it was so awful that I let Hermione take me to the muggle healers for when I gave birth to Albus and Lily and it went a whole lot better. Although…Hermione, you did say that sometimes the muggle medicine could be dangerous.”
“Well, there have been cases, yes, but…they’re rare! Almost all muggle women in industrialized countries use these anesthetics and they’re fine! This is barbaric!”
“In what countries?—No, don’t answer that. I don’t care what muggle women do. You, Mrs. Weasley, would just have us all become like muggles. Maybe we should just forgo potions altogether and just rely on muggle science, too?”
“You’re perverting my words, Mr. Rosier, I never said such a thing! I love magic—“
“Would you two stop it!” Ginny cried finally. “My daughter is going through so much right now – can’t you hear it? – and you two stand here and argue over politics! Hermione, I asked you to come along for comfort, not to make things worse.”
Hermione fell silent, looking apologetic.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Potter. But you must understand my nerves are frayed right now too. I love Lily a lot and I hate that she has to go through all of this but we both want this child so much… Come sit down. Do you want tea?” Amiri led Ginny into the parlor and asked if she wanted him to put up silencing wards but she refused. He nodded in understanding and they proceeded to wait.
The baby was born some three hours later, just as the sun began to rise over the horizon. After hearing that all was well from the healer, Hermione hugged Ginny and went home, saying she would visit once Lily had gotten some rest. She left, throwing a fiery look of dislike at Amiri. He ignored Mrs. Weasley, however, and proceeded to lead Ginny upstairs.
“It’s a boy, Ami,” was the first thing Lily said, reaching for his hand. “A healthy little boy.”
“Elliot,” he said. That was the name they had settled on.
Lily nodded and smiled. She opened her arms as the midwife handed her the baby, cleaned and wrapped up in a soft blue blanket. “Isn’t he the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”
“You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” It was true. Lily was disheveled, with feverish blotches of color on her cheeks and her eyes bloodshot with heavy circles underneath. But in the watery morning light, cradling their newborn son, she had never seemed more beautiful or dear to him.
She smiled weekly at him but only for a moment, her entire attention on the babe. Amiri stepped back to pay the healer, give directions to the house elves and allow Ginny a moment with her daughter. He felt lightheaded and not just from the lack of sleep. They were really a family now. A family that he had a duty to protect and that duty could become difficult to fulfill very soon if their plots roused any sort of violent reaction from the opposition. But he would do his best, after all, that was all he could do.
Amiri watched Lily settling baby Elliot into his crib from the doorway. She liked to breast feed him herself but Amiri insisted that the boy be given the bottle by one of the house elves at night so that Lily didn’t have to constantly get up to the nursery. The child was surrounded with all the love and care that two parents, a full set of doting grandparents – although Amiri’s parents were a little more practical and a little more reserved on the emotional side that Lily’s – and two house elves could possibly provide.
Lily had completely enveloped herself in the boy. Amiri was thankful for that, honestly. He couldn’t be home as much as he would have liked and he was glad that Lily had their son to occupy her mind rather than being alone in the house or dwelling on the diminishing amount of time they spent together. The only thing they seemed to disagree on, concerning the boy, were the silencing charms on the nursery. “What if something is wrong? How will we know?” Lily complained anxiously.
“The elf of duty is instructed to come wake us in any unconventional situations,” Amiri reassured her. Lily did not like to leave Elliot to the elves, but Amiri didn’t see the issue. Elves traditionally oversaw the care of Pureblood babies at all times that their parents could not be present with much success. Far more than hired help had, at any rate. Besides, Amiri was much more inclined to trust his elves than some just-graduated Muggle-born looking for a side-job.
Elliot went to sleep peacefully and Lily joined Amiri at the door. He put his arms around her waist from behind and they stood looking at the crib for a few moments. “How early can children show signs of magic?” Lily asked. “I think Mum said I was almost one and Albus was two and a half – they were getting worried. But James showed his magic at six months.”
“I think the earliest recorded was a month,” Amiri mused. “But there have been quite a few cases of three months, especially lately with the new enchanted toys meant to sense and channel the child’s magic, or something like that. I think after five months is more common though.”
“Well, then we have quite a wait ahead of us,” Lily said ruefully and waved her wand to put out the last candle.
They walked back to their own bedroom with Amiri’s arm around Lily’s waist. He snuck a glance at the calendar as they were getting ready for bed. It was the fourteenth of March, which meant the inevitable was coming, coming within the next day and all he could do was wait and pretend that everything was normal and that he was holding so tightly on to Lily out of lust and not nervous anxiety over what would come when all the cards were down. He had a bad feeling about the whole affair, but he was only one voice whilst everyone else said that the time had come.
“Is everything prepared?” Scorpius asked, flipping through the documents in his hands. “This is everything?” He looked up and surveyed their little group anxiously in the gloom of a side-corridor on one of the lower levels of the Ministry.
Keith nodded. “I checked everything. The terms of the election petitions, the reversal of the parliamentary documents, the re-instatement of the rights of those with proper heritage to sit on the Wizengamot. Everything we want is there.”
“Has the Minister taken his potions today?” Tony looked anxiously at Scorpius.
“Yes. At the brunch. We don’t have much time. When I go into the petitions meeting, I will present the Minister with these orders. He will sign them and hopefully that will be the end of it.”
“If it didn’t work or we mistimed…?” Cato fretted.
“It’s a risk we have to take,” Tony urged. “Go on, Scorpius.”
Scorpius left and the rest of them disbursed to their respective departments. Amiri found himself incapable of getting any proper amount of work done. If the Minister signed all the documents, the Wizengamot would return to it’s pre-reform status where every head of a Pureblood family was guaranteed a seat, the rights of a Minority Leader who becomes Minister through special circumstances to retain his position for a full term if he is able to form a government would be established, and the process of petition for re-election of the Minister would be lengthened and made far less accessible as well as making the elections based more on department heads than popular vote. They would need all this to keep their power once Runcorn was installed instead of Shacklebolt.
Amiri could just imagine Scorpius coming up to the large wooden desk under the watchful eye of Head Auror Potter and other high ministry officials. He could imagine Scorpius saying in his most diplomatic but firm tone, “I would appreciate it greatly, Minister, if you considered these decrees. Please sign at the bottom of each legal page.” He could picture the slightly glazed look of Shacklebolt’s eyes as he reached for the quill and signed the papers. He could imagine the suspicion on Potter’s face and—
The alarm was sharp and shrill, ringing out through the halls of the Ministry and penetrating into every corner. Paranoid that something had gone wrong, Amiri jumped from his desk, nearly knocking the chair over and sprinted from the office into the front room. “What’s happened?” he asked his assistant.
“The Minister!” she told him breathlessly. “Has just…collapsed. He’s dead…” She covered her face briefly with her hands, then looked back up at him. “Mr. Potter has ordered the Ministry on lockdown, they think it’s an assassination attempt and—“ Amiri didn’t wait for her to finish. He sprinted down the hall and toward the Minister’s conference rooms. It was time and he needed to be there to make sure that “Mr. Potter” didn’t get any ideas.
The owl came after midnight.
Lily had drifted off early, tired out by the baby. She had wanted to wait up for Amiri but he had not owled or firecalled and, although she was worried at his silence, she decided to simply get some sleep. Part of it was irritation that he had not called her and part of it was an assumption that if he was too busy to send word, then it would be one of those nights when he didn’t come home until well after midnight.
The owl startled her. It had perched on the windowsill outside and preceded to bang the window with its beak, sometimes letting out loud, distressed hoots, demanding to be let in. It was a Ministry owl, Lily recognized that quickly in the moonlight, and her stomach did a nervous flip. She slipped out of bed and threw on a robe, flicking her wand at the window to open it and let in the owl. The creature came tumbling in and perched impatiently on the back of a chair. With another flick of her wand, the letter was detached from the owl and in Lily’s hand. She unfolded the peace of parchment with trembling hands, a feeling of foreboding settling into the back of her neck and the bottom of her abdomen. Amiri’s handwriting jumped out at her and for a moment she could breathe – if he was writing, he was alright – until she actually read the words.
The Minister is dead. Runcorn is Minister. Potter and his lot suspect a coup. The Ministry has been in lockdown and the Aurors have split among themselves. I’m fine, but the Ministry is a mess right now. I need you, just in case, to re-enforce the wards and not leave the house and make sure no one enters, only those with privileged access directly through the wards. If something happens, send me a Patronus like I had taught you.
She re-read the note and found the word “coup” stuck in her mind. For all she knew, there had been a coup and Amiri and his friends were behind it. Was that what they had been planning all along? To murder the Minister? She shut her eyes and tried to remember what Ami had taught her about Patronuses and how he had insisted that she learn how to handle one, saying that one day it will be better that using an owl – faster, safer. Patronuses could not be intercepted. She wondered why he hadn’t sent one but decided it probably had something to do with the amount of words he needed to say. Patronuses could only convey so much information.
She dressed and went into Elliot’s nursery. She ordered the elf on watch to bring her tea and sat by the crib, watching her son sleep. She could feel the tension spread through her entire body and, as tired as she was, she couldn’t possibly have fallen asleep now. Her brain was drifting, however, drifting into half-asleep, delirious scenarios of what was happening now, how her husband was involved, and what would happen after. She let the tea grow cold and almost did not hear the noise downstairs.
When it finally registered, Lily could barely stand from the fear that gripped her. However, she forced herself to relax. It had to be Amiri. The alarm charms would have let her know if there was an intrusion. She gripped her wand tightly and padded downstairs, her breathing still hitching at every step.
Light was spilling from Amiri’s study and into the hallway. Lily threw the door open all the way and stood in the doorway, eyes wide, surveying the room with the look of a hunted dear. Amiri looked up sharply from where he was frantically rummaging through papers. “Lily.” He stood and faced her.
“I got your owl,” she said, forcing her voice to not tremble. “Ami, what in the name of Merlin is going on?”
“There…there was a coup, Lily. Shacklebolt is dead and Runcorn is Minister. We have the Ministry now. All the department heads and the Wizengamot…” He was breathing hard, exhilarated by the words, by their meaning.
“I don’t understand,” Lily mouthed, putting away her wand. She looked at him in uncomprehending desperation.
“Lils, we…” Amiri came up to her and took her by the shoulders, drawing her into him so that her breasts pressed lightly against his chest. “We were behind the coup. This is what we have been working toward for the past…almost a year now.”
“Why?” She still couldn’t believe this was happening. Didn’t Amiri know how big of a fallout this could be for all of them? She was no big political mind but she understood the fundamentals of revolutionary action. And why kill Kingsley? He had always struck her as very sensible even if somewhat stoic.
“Why? Because!” Amiri was obviously flustered, uncertain how she couldn’t understand or how to explain. “Because everything we’ve cherished – our entire culture – was being destroyed by people who know nothing of it. These reforms have been nothing but harmful. The problem is, yo—the party in power would never have let us have a real voice. Only those who had fought on the “right” side of the war were being listened to by the average person, by the Half-bloods who have become too scared to show pride in their wizarding heritage because since the last war, it’s become somehow shameful to be proud of who you are, even if it is deserving of all the pride in the world.”
“You couldn’t win it so you…took it?” Lily thought of the conversations with her family, how they always found it so strange that she liked some of the more traditional things, that she didn’t take an interest in Muggles. She understood the frustration Amiri had to be feeling but to stage a coup… “Ami, what now?”
“Now? Well, now…” He took a deep breath. “We hold on to the power we have. Re-instate those who should have been on the Wizengamot all along, appoint new department heads, re-structure some things maybe. It’s the bans on certain types of magic I want to get rid off. The hardest part will be keeping the Aurors in check. Under Potter…” Amiri stopped, checking himself. “Under your father they are bound to be very resistant to any changes. We must squash the opposition.”
“You’re not going to kill anyone else are you?” Lily asked, feeling sick at the thought of how far this whole thing could go.
“No. We won’t harm anyone unless they attack first. It will be ok, Lily… I promise.”
“This…isn’t looking good. The Aurors have split basically half-in-half and the MLE is in disarray. We have people who don’t know who they are supposed to report to and who they should trust.”
“Let’s get some things straight. Runcorn will be holding a conference so he should assure everyone that everything has been done within legality. The Minister, assassinated or not, was not forced to sign any papers before his death and that in all other respects procedure and law have been followed.”
The voices in Amiri’s study hushed, then started up again in an indistinguishable rumble. They didn’t usually meet here, generally preferring Tony’s or Scorpius’ estates for their work-talk, but tonight was different. Lily wasn’t sure if that was because they had been trying to keep her out of the loop, but now that the cat was out of the bag, they were not quite as secretive.
She still could not quite wrap her head around what was going on. For all of their politicking Lily had never thought it would come to this and now the danger was palpable in the air. She had already owled her parents to tell them she was fine but the communication between them was strained.
Lily had no idea where she stood in this situation. If hostilities escalated, what was she to do? Her husband was on one side, but the rest of her family on the other. She hoped they could figure this whole thing out peacefully, but the way Amiri had spent the last couple of days re-enforcing their wards, she couldn’t be so sure.
“They won’t let it rest like this, you know,” came Keith Rookwood’s voice after a long, silent pause. “The Weasleys are already heralding support. They are sabotaging our meetings on the outskirts and the Auror in-fighting is getting violent. We have crime spreading in the outlying towns as well. Old hostilities…die hard.”
“I know. This is why Runcorn must try to spread calm to the public. There must be as little havoc as possible until things stabilize. This will take time. The last thing we need is a full-blown civil war…”
Lily, who had been listening from the top of the stairs, padded quietly back to the nursery. She picked up a drowsy Elliot and paced around with him cradled in her arms. The drizzle that had started earlier in the afternoon pattered softly on the roof and the sound filled Lily’s ears, pushing away everything else. She closed her eyed and tried to imagine what she would do if a civil war did break out. Would she stay here? Go to her parents? How had all of this happened? She had been so happy, oblivious to the politics – after all, everyone seemed inclined to not force her into it and she happily kept her distance. Everything was falling apart so quickly that she could hardly hold on to the peaces. It wasn’t fare. Did people have to go through this over and over again, war after war? It seemed like old wounds and hostilities could never yield. People simply hid things better, pretended to move on, locked the emotions inside and allowed them to breed and fester. Lily had never wanted any of it but it seemed like everyone else felt so clearly as to on what side of this mythical divide they fell that the smallest spark ignited the fire.
For the first time in her life, Lily felt trapped between these two sides, stuck in the oil-filled chasm and she could not be certain that she wouldn’t be the first to burn once the flames took over.
The first raids were a surprise. Scorpius could not even determine if Potter and his lot were behind the attacks. Everyone was well warned to keep vigilant so there were no significant casualties but the backlash was still severe. They had no choice but to crack down on the uprisings. In the confusion of the days following Shacklebolt’s death and power switching hands something had begun to shift and happen, something that Scorpius could not quite keep a grasp on. He felt jumpy and paranoid. Tony was the only one who seemed to be properly keeping it together.
“We knew that this might happen,” he told them all calmly. “I would have rather the Weasleys had accepted this defeat, but of course they will not. They will attempt to block us at every turn. But we knew that this might happen so pull it together, you lot, and let’s get back to work.”
But the country was splitting in half. Riots and looters were springing up anywhere where the atmosphere was especially unstable. The propaganda was wild and Scorpius knew they were losing control of the situation.
Among all of this, he had no time for anything but the work, so when Lysander showed up at the Manor, setting off the high-sensitivity alarms, Scorpius felt annoyed. The annoyance turned to worry when he saw the bruises on Lysander’s face but he still couldn’t shake the feeling that he would rather Ly be anywhere but there at the moment.
“What happened?” Scorpius asked, applying healing salve onto Lysander’s broken lip.
“I had a fight with Lorcan, a really bad one. Over…over the fact that I said that this shift in power was for the better. That you would be able to make things right, because no one else was. It used to be all empty words. Lorcan said you were just a power-hungry…well, he said a lot of bad things. And we fought.”
Scorpius winced. “What did he hit you with?” He tried to think of what spells caused these injuries.
“…He muggle-fought you?” Lysander nodded and Scorpius smirked contemptuously. “He defends his love of base muggle ways with their base means of combat. I hope you got him good.”
Lysander shook his head slowly. “Not really. I didn’t want to fight. I don’t like fighting and I’m no good at it. Remember?”
Scorpius had to refrain from wincing. He remembered alright. He didn’t actually want to do this, he didn’t need to take care of Ly on top of everything, but he felt responsible for the younger boy. He didn’t want Ly to get beat up by his brother or by some Weasley because he believed in magic. It wasn’t right. “If you want, you can stay here for some time. Lie low. Until everything dies down.”
“Could I? You mean it?”
“Yes, of course.” On instinct, Scorpius reached out and touched Lysander’s cheek, right under one of the bruises. “Until it’s safe for you to go back.”’
Lysander smiled and Scorpius forced himself to look away.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Scorpius told Albus before his lover even had time to cast a cleaning spell after coming through the floo.
“I know, but we need to talk. Are we observed?”
Scorpius frowned, noticing that Albus looked rather haggard. He wore his hair very differently from his father, but in its current state it carried an uncanny resemblance. “No. My father is out of the country on business and my mother is visiting her distant cousins in France.” Astoria had left the day the first curses were cast. Draco encouraged it, in fact. Scorpius did not blame her; after all, his parents were probably sick of war.
“What do you mean disappeared?” Scorpius paced to the window in order to better feign both disinterest and ignorance.
“He hasn’t come home or had contact with anyone for the past week. Not his parents, nor Lorcan, not even Louis.”
“What about Lily? They always seemed close.”
“No. Or if he has, she isn’t telling.” The note of bitterness in Albus’ voice made Scorpius turn around.
“Al, why do you think I would know anything about this? If you think we caught him and are doing some crazy Death Eater torture routine on him, you’re wrong. Even if we did such things – which we don’t – he’s completely useless to us. The Scamanders don’t have anything to offer us that we can’t take for ourselves.”
Albus seemed to think this over, but his expression remained shuttered and distant. “How do I know he’s not in the dungeons under us right now and you’re not lying your head off?”
Scorpius sneered at the implication. As if he would ever hurt Lysander. Ly’s idiot brother was far more of a menace. “You can go check if you like,” he said coldly.
Albus deflated. “I’m sorry. I just…everyone’s worried. I thought he might have come to you if there was something wrong.”
“Why would he do that?” The accuracy of that assumption was distressing.
Albus shrugged. “You two are friends. He lo—He likes you a lot. And you, Scorpius, have a way of luring people. Lately, all Lysander can talk about is all this “free magic” bullshit that the leftist part of your coalition spits out all the time.”
“Ly’s an artist. The Statutes inhibit him. I have nothing to do with that.”
Albus crossed the room in three half-lunges and grabbed Scorpius’ hands. “Don’t do this. Can’t you see that it will only set us back many-many years? People aren’t even fighting over politics anymore, just old likes and dislikes. No one’s over that yet, can’t you see?”
“Do you suggest I stand by and allow your father and his friends to demolish everything I love because it’s too soon to care?”
“My father loves magic!”
“Your father loves always being right about everything.” Scorpius pulled away and took a step back. “You should go, Albus.”
Scorpius shook his head. “Not now, Al. I can’t deal with this now. I’ll owl you when I get the chance.” He turned away and waited until he heard the swoosh of Albus being swept away by the floo, then paced to the couch and flopped down on his back to lie there for the next half hour and contemplate if it was safe to carry on with Albus as they had been. He didn’t want to lose his lover, but he could lose a lot more if Albus decided to betray him.
Lily looked uncomfortable on Scorpius’ sofa. He couldn’t blame her but he wanted to do this here, without Amiri, without anyone. He had an easier time getting readings off people when they were on his turf rather than their own, and Scorpius wanted a reading off of Lily. “Thanks for coming. How is little Elliot?”
“He’s well. “Lily fidgeted. “What did you want to talk about, Scorpius?”
“Lysander,” Scorpius said bluntly. “Are you worried about him?”
Lily stopped her fidgeting and looked Scorpius in the face. “He’s my friend, of course I am. Albus came to me a few days ago asking if I knew where he is. What is this really about? How do you even know about Ly?”
Scorpius smirked. “Al came to me too.”
Lily looked away. “Do you know where he is? Lysander, I mean…”
Lily’s head jerked up and she half-stood before promptly sitting down again. “You’re not going to tell me though, are you? You don’t trust me.”
“He’s safe. No he’s not being held prisoner, he came for help to lie low for a while.”
“He’s…hiding? From who?”
Scorpius shook his head. “It’s not important. Lily…you must understand that I cannot tell you more because of your…sensitive situation. But I did want to let you know that your friend is safe.”
“Sensitive situation? You mean because of my family?”
“Your maiden family, yes.” He watched her face as she processed the term. Scorpius was certain that she had never thought to make a distinction between her parents’ family and her new one.
“I understand.” He could see that she didn’t.
“You could leave the country with your son for the duration of this whole mess.”
Lily snorted and got up defiantly. “Mr. Malfoy, while I understand your…disinclination to trust me, I will not leave my husband. Or the rest of my family.”
Scorpius stood as well and offered her his hand. “Of course, Mrs. Rosier. I would not dare presume.” He saw Lily out, observing the tense line of her mouth and the stubborn set of her shoulders. Once she’d left, Scorpius went to his study and wrote his report to Intelligence.
He watched the owl go and thought, I’m sorry, Amiri. I know you thought that she could be one of us, but she can’t. She’ll never be. They had even more to fear from Lily than from Albus and Scropius would not stand by and watch them and everything they had worked for destroyed from the inside.
They weren’t going to win without sacrifices and if that meant tearing apart the tentative peace that had hung in the balance since the last war, Scorpius was not afraid to do it.
After all, they had all sworn. On their honor. As Purebloods.