Part the Fifth
James and Maia, 7 July, 1979
Everywhere Maia looked she could see Muggles and she wondered if she had the correct Apparition coordinates. She was in a little town square, a church off to one side, a monument to the end of the Second World War in the center. It was utterly pleasant and completely common, and she had no idea why she was there, especially dressed in pale pink robes for summer.
A moment later she heard a pop somewhere off to the right and Heir Regulus Black appeared, similarly dressed in summer robes. She sighed in relief and offered him a smile.
“It’s somewhere around here,” she told him, casting her eyes around again. “Though to be honest, there doesn’t seem to be enough grass for there to be a picnic.”
Regulus was handsome, not as handsome as his brother, with black curling hair that fell to his shoulders. His gray eyes looked out of his face, darting about, and he took her hand and raised it to just under his plump lips, before releasing it again. “Lady Maia. Thank you so much for the invitation.”
She moved up to him and warned him, “I did mention that your brother is going to be here.”
“’Interhouse cooperation’ I think was mentioned,” he murmured. “I look forward to it.” His voice was a bit droll and sarcastic, but his gray eyes lit in amusement.
Another pop and then there was a rush of blue robes and pale blonde hair was rushing toward Regulus, who caught the colorful swirl. “Lux!” he greeted. “It’s been an age.”
“Just because I’m Sirius’s godsister,” she stated in a terribly lyrical voice, pulling away, “doesn’t mean I’m not fond of both of the Black brothers.” Lady Lux Kingsley, whom Maia only knew on sight, turned to her and offered her hand. “I believe I address the Lady Maia.”
She lifted the hand up in greeting. “Lady Lux. A pleasure. I think I’m your hostess this afternoon even though I’ve never been to this cottage we’re going to and had nothing to do with the actual preparation.”
Looking surprised, Regulus leaned in toward the two of them and begged, “Do tell.”
“Your brother brought Monsieur James Potter to The Wicked Stepmother, and as there’s no longer a Mudblood claiming his time—”
Laughing, Lux took her arm. “You’re staking a claim, I see. However did your uncle let you come?”
“I mentioned all the Slytherins who were going to be in attendance,” she told her effortlessly. “I neglected to mention anyone else or the location.”
“Positively Slytherin,” she purred as Barty Crouch, Jr. appeared and air kissed her cheeks before greeting the other two. With her coloring she could almost be a sister to Maia, both blondes, both possessing nearly blue eyes (to be honest, Lux Kingsley’s were more purple), both tall with a pureblood grace.
The little band of wizards with their colorful robes began to draw attention and soon someone was coming from the opposite direction. Regulus was the first to notice, his face becoming tight, but he murmured into the chatting group, “Something wicked this way comes.”
Sirius Black was charming in his deep lilac robes, a color that would look ridiculous on most wizards, but somehow offset his masculinity. He came up to them and curtly greeted his brother first before touching cheeks with his godsister.
“Are we all here?” he asked, taking out a list and counting the assembled crowd. “No. Missing someone.” He glanced over his list. “No, wait. Sabrina owled saying she might not make it and to start without her if she wasn’t here by quarter past.” He checked his watch. “That’s why I’m a little late, I was giving her time.—And she’s missed her own deadline. All right.” Setting away the paper where he had been looking for the names, he glanced around at the assembled guests. “Politics do not exist during the following three hours, ladies and wizards.”
Barty Crouch, Jr. cleared his throat and raised his eyebrow. “Surely polite discourse—”
“Discuss my cousin Narcissa’s wedding dress,” Sirius suggested dryly. “It was in Witch Weekly just this past week.”
Briefly, Maia wondered how Sirius Black would know what was in a publication for the fairer sex, but when she caught him winking at Lux Kingsley, she decided it was probably some godsibling secret she couldn’t possibly understand. Although there were three witches present, he offered his arms to Lux and to Maia, Apricot Selwyn (who had been the last to arrive) accepting the arm of Regulus Black.
The merry band walked down past the graveyard and down a country lane toward a row of cottages.
“How idyllic,” Lux proclaimed to Sirius. “I’m going to have to steal your best friend if he lives here.”
“I think he’s stolen,” Sirius teased her right back as they went to the third one down the row and the door opened up for them.
James was waiting in the same blue robes that he had worn the other day to The Wicked Stepmother, but Maia didn’t care. Daringly, she ran a hand from his shoulder down his chest to straighten the fabric, and smiled at him winningly, before he led them all to the back garden. There was a large blanket out and several plates of different sandwiches that were all labeled and then jugs of lemonade and beer. It was all terribly simple, something a bachelor would put together, hardly elegant, but Maia could certainly appreciate it.
He looked at her anxiously and she smiled at him winningly as she sat down beside him on the blanket.
This had been done for her, and she certainly loved that it had been prepared with her in mind.
As she was sipping at her second glass of beer, Lily Evans unfortunately came up in conversation. “Yes,” Barty was saying as he was eyeing a finger sandwich, clearly deciding whether or not to eat it. “Severus has been desperate to marry the—creature—since she started talking to him again, but magic won’t let them.”
“By the old gods,” Apricot murmured, who was a Slytherin a year above Maia. “I—” She glanced at James. “Why?”
“It can’t be the scar,” Barty stated. “Severus researched it in depth before the Rite of the Pomegranate. He just had to make a slash across the palm to make an ‘x’. Then part or all of it would heal. No one was really certain.”
Maia looked worriedly at James and, daringly, reached over and touched his arm.
Fortunately, he didn’t shrug her off. Instead, he reached over with his scarred palm and placed it over her hand. Then, taking a breath, he entered the conversation: “He got it wrong.”
Barty was now eating the sandwich and he quickly put it down to look over at James. “Sorry?”
“The uninjured party completes the ‘x’ and can marry again, according to the healer I saw. Lily Evans is not the uninjured party. She’s the one who did wrong in the bonding and offended magic. I don’t know what the laws of magic will do to her or if she can appease magic once it has been insulted.”
“What?” James asked dangerously. “What could she possibly have to say to defend herself?—She said the wrong name at a particularly and magically potent time. She’s at fault.” At that, he picked up an unopened jug of beer and went back into the house.
Immediately, Maia got up to follow him, as did Sirius Black, but she motioned that he should sit back down. “Enjoy your lunch,” she told them. “And, really, she’s a Muggleborn. Whose word are we going to believe when it comes down to it?” Then, with that, she picked up the hem of her robes and went into the house.
“Monsieur James?” she called and she heard something toward the kitchen.
She found him sitting on the counter, drinking from the jug, and she grimaced at the sight. “Never drink alone,” she warned and she took the jug, clearly surprising him, and took a long drink from it. Fortunately, she didn’t spill any of it on herself.
Then she picked herself up and hoisted herself up next to him. “Wrong name.” It was a clumsy opening, but the only one she could think of that didn’t prevaricate.
He grunted and took another sip of beer.
“Did he at least look like you?” she questioned hopefully.
“No,” he answered. “Not in the least.” James sighed and then turned to her. “I love how you don’t look like her. You’re nothing like her. It can be horrifying with your beliefs on blood purity, but it’s a refreshing change.”
Maia hadn’t been expecting the non sequitur but she would accept it. She smiled at him and took the jug from his hand, sipping from it again. “I want you to like me for me. I don’t want you to like me because I remind you of her in any way. I’m my own person, James.”
“You haven’t called me a ‘toe rag’ once.”
At this, she laughed, remembering the incident from back in her third year. She’d known Severus Snape by sight, so she had been curious when he’d been flung into the air. The ‘Marauders’, as they were called, were completely unknown to her, as was the fiery Lily Evans. “You were not at your best that day,” she admitted. “Handsome, but not at your best.”
He laughed, at least, at her honesty. “You think I’m handsome?” As he spoke, he reached up and ruffled his hair to make it appear more windswept.
“Even without your glasses,” she admitted, “though why you have to look like you’ve just been playing Quidditch is anyone’s guess, but I respect you as an athlete.” Maia grimaced. “I’m not remotely athletic, but I’m sure you guessed that as I’m not on the Slytherin House team.”
At this, he looked into her blue eyes and, before she could stop him, he leaned forward and kissed her.
She had always wondered why James Potter didn’t wear a vined ring. He was a pureblood, it was his right. Perhaps it was so he could kiss witches unawares. At first she was just aware of the press of wet lips against hers and how it seemed nothing like what the Mudbloods always gossiped about. Then there was a searing pain in her hand, as if the middle bone that led from her wrist up through her middle finger were breaking, and she dropped the jug of beer in shock and screamed.
James looked at her in shock, but she was just staring at her hand and the bone that was sticking out of the skin. It was grotesquely beautiful, and it just—it was too much—Her finger wilted down, unable to hold itself up, as the bone stuck up at an angle, and James took hold of her wrist to steady her hand. “What happened?”
“The ring,” she gasped, tears coming into her eyes.
The sound of running met her ears and all of a sudden people were crowding around her, cooing, exclaiming. People kept on asking what happened, and James just said, “The ring?” as if he didn’t completely understand.
Someone helped her off of the counter and she was carried to the floo and into the mess of Saint Mungo’s.
James never left her side, coming into the room with her as her bone was carefully extracted from her hand and she was laid down on a bed and given skelegrow.
She knew when Uncle Marvolo arrived because he was a silent presence, sucking all the sound around him in a denseness of silence. He came up to her and kissed her temple before he looked at her boneless hand, the ring clinging to the skin so that it was a puff of air protruding from her hand.
“Can this be fixed, Healer?” he asked in a deadly calm. “I won’t have—whatever has been done to her—scar her for life.”
James looked over at her and reached over to touch her shoulder, but one glare from Uncle Marvolo and he was retreating to his corner.
The healer admitted quietly, “There will always be a scar, like a star, on the back of her hand where the bone punctured through the skin. It can’t be helped. It’s the magic of the ring. It was punishing her.” He looked between James and Uncle Marvolo. “She’s lucky it wasn’t worse. From what we can tell, she didn’t instigate whatever happened.”
At this Maia was quietly crying and was turned away from her uncle, curled in on herself. James moved carefully forward and crooked his pinky in hers, which caused a small smile to form on her lips. His hair was disheveled and his eyes bloodshot from crying, but he hadn’t deserted her.
“Who are you?” Uncle Marvolo suddenly demanded. “I don’t recognize you from Slytherin House, boy.”
Looking up from her, James swallowed. “I’m James Potter, sir. A bunch of us were having a picnic—”
Testily, Uncle Marvolo admitted: “I am aware of the picnic. All good names, all good families. How was a disgraced wizard such as yourself who could not even consummate your marriage to a filthy Mudblood included in the guest list?”
Annoyance passed over James’s face, but he did not lash out or respond in kind.
“What are you doing here with Lady Maia and why are you holding her hand? Are you responsible for this injury?” Uncle Marvolo demanded. His blue eyes flashed an even lighter blue in the dimmed light, almost white to show the raw magic that was simmering beneath his skin in his anger.
After a moment of holding Uncle Marvolo’s gaze, Maia watching anxiously, James looked away. “I am. And I’m sorry for it. I didn’t realize—”
“You didn’t realize,” Uncle Marvolo countered. “You didn’t realize that a lady from an upstanding house who was wearing a vined ring—or are you too busy rolling around in the mud—”
“Uncle Marvolo!” Maia cried out in shock. “Please! James is important.”
“James is not important. Only people I tell you are important are, in fact, important.”
“But you said any pureblood I want—when I was a little girl—I didn’t have to be like the other Gaunts, I could have any pureblood I wanted—” Tears were forming in her eyes. She curled into herself again, just cradling her injured hand, and there was murmuring until she knew she was alone with Uncle Marvolo.
There was, in fact, a scar, in the shape of a star, on the back of Maia’s hand to remind her where the bone had pierced her skin. It was horrifyingly beautiful, and sometimes she would trace it and remember what her first kiss had been like—and wonder if she would ever kiss James Potter again (which was only possible in marriage).
Uncle Marvolo didn’t leave her side, stroking her hair and bringing her cocoa despite the warmth.
“You wouldn’t know,” he asked carefully one night as she was staring at the back of her hand, “how Bellatrix got into my private rooms.”
Forcing herself to relax when her instincts begged her to tense, Maia shook her head. “Was she looking for me?”
“No,” he responded. “She wasn’t.” Reaching over, he ran a hand down her arm. “Does it hurt much, my darling?”
She gritted her teeth at the pain. “It feels like the bone isn’t meant to be there.”
He hummed and nodded, stroking her arm once before withdrawing. Soon she fell asleep and she knew she was alone.
… … … … …
There was no letter from James, but Maia supposed that was to be expected. Every morning Uncle Marvolo applied a thin layer of clear gel to her hand and wrapped it in silk. Whenever she would think of James, which Maia had to admit was often, her ring would pulse on her finger, but she could not stop it. She had always thought of James, for years and years, even as she watched him with the filthy Mudblood who would one day be his thwarted bride. She had wished he were teasing her instead, that he would come over to the Slytherin table and steal her toast, that he would ask her to Hogsmeade… but he had never noticed her before that day in The White Witch, when she had convinced Bellatrix to speak to her cousin, Sirius.
Maia had made him see her—and for the short time that he had, it had been wonderful.
If the raids against the Aurors became more vicious, she didn’t pay attention. She was drifting in pain until one day when she was threading a needle to repair a doll she’d had since she was a child, Maia decided enough was enough. Getting up, she walked out into the gardens and was filled with the scent of flowers in bloom. Earlier that year she had ordered that all lilies be pulled from their roots and not allowed to grow back, and the garden still looked a bit lopsided, but that could surely be fixed, she hoped. Her hatred of Lily Evans should not force her to have a ruined garden.
Turning on her toe, Maia appeared back at the monument in Godric’s Hollow and looked about her. The church was still standing and she could hear Muggles singing hymns inside. It must be Sunday, she realized. Maia hadn’t noticed the passing of the days.
Rushing past the church, she went down toward the lane where she knew the cottage resided.
When she saw it, sitting there with vines crawling up the thatch, Maia took a deep breath and wished she had brought a house warming gift. Well, it couldn’t be helped now.
She only had to knock once before Lux Kingsley strangely opened the door.
Maia raised an eyebrow in skeptical wonder at the other witch’s presence, but Lux only smiled and helped her in. “Where Sirius goes, I follow,” she explained quietly, “and the other way around.”
“Godsiblings,” she realized. “Is Monsieur James here? Uncle Marvolo kicked him out of my room at St. Mungo’s.” Holding up her hand to illustrate her point, she shrugged.
The gruff voice of Sirius Black entered the fray, “Darling, did you send them away?”
Maia was now certainly confused. Darling? What was going on here?
Lux squeezed her shoulders and brought her into the kitchen where the wizards were lounging in Muggle jeans. “I brought a gift. I found her wrapped up on the doorstep in these robes.”
Looking up, she caught James’s hazel gaze, still without the confounded glasses. He stood there for a long moment before he took two long strides to her and enveloped her in a strong hug. “This okay?” he whispered into her ear.
A smile formed on her face and she pulled herself closer. “Yes,” she admitted. “You just can’t kiss me—sleep with me, obviously. No overt hand holding.”
“Barbaric things,” he murmured, pulling back and stroking her cheek, staring into her blue eyes. “I knew there was a reason I didn’t hold with those rings. My parents wear them, but they always said they wanted me to ‘step into the future’.”
“Haven’t you noticed, Monsieur James?” she asked carefully, not bothering to look at his companions. “We’re purebloods. We’ve never left the sixteenth century, if we even got that far.”
A smile erupted onto his face and he took her hand and squeezed it. Turning to Sirius and Lux, he suggested, “Lunch? The pub perhaps before the Muggles get out of church.”
Maia looked down at her robes. “Er—I’m not—”
Sirius waved a hand. “They won’t notice. Lux is constantly waltzing around in her robes. Can’t get her out of them.” He’d wrapped his arm around her waist and kissed her cheek, which she thought was peculiar since she was wearing a vined ring, but perhaps that had something to do with being godsiblings.
“It’s decided,” James announced. “And this time we won’t have any accidents involving magical artifacts.”
“No,” Maia agreed, laughing to herself. “Let’s not do that again.”