Part the Eleventh
James and Maia, 31 August, 1979
There was a particular reason Lady Maia Gaunt had chosen Heir Regulus Black, Monsieur Barty Crouch, and Madamoiselle Apricot Selwyn. They were all the same year (Apricot was technically in the age group above, having been born in early August, but her mother held her back a year), all in Slytherin (except for Barty, but he was as good as, as far as Maia was concerned), they all had the trace taken off of their wands, and they all loved to Muggle bait with each other.
It was the last day before Hogwarts and Maia was all packed. The only thing left was her owl—an unusually large Xenoglaux loweryi—whom she had named Eros after the Greek god of Love. The cage was cleaned to precision, open, and she had instructed the beautiful creature to be back by nine in the morning.
Apricot was sitting on the bed, dressed as a Muggle—approximately. She was usually a quiet girl with deep brown waves of hair that she liked to highlight in her hairstyles, brown eyes, and freckled skin. She was a petite witch with absolutely no curves, almost like a child in that way, but her eyes were harsh and dangerous.
Barty, with his sandy hair and gray eyes, was sitting in one of the armchairs in the sitting area. He was swinging his wand from side to side. “Pater still doesn’t know who your uncle is,” he laughed. “I told him ‘Lord’ and he shut me up and sent me on my way.”
“Well,” Regulus responded as he took the other armchair, which was a deep crimson and white, which Maia suspected the Dark Lord had had some say in when she was first brought to Riddle House and given a room, “You’re also with an ‘Heir.’”
“Well,” Barty agreed with an exaggerated pause. “He knows Lord Black is a ‘bad sort’ as he would say. He suspects the Blacks as being involved in the Takeover.”
“Of course, they’re involved in the Takeover,” Apricot stated with her smooth voice, rich like caramel that made Barty shiver when he heard it. If Maia wasn’t much mistaken, he was secretly sweet on her.—Not that his father would ever allow him to associate with a Selwyn, even if they were Sacred Twenty-Eight. “Your father should know that given that his own mother is Charis Black.”
“Darling,” he cooed, looking up into her dark chocolate eyes, “it flatters me that you know that.”
Regulus and Maia shared a smirk as Maia came over and perched herself on the tip of Regulus’s chair.
“A pity,” Regulus stated, “that we couldn’t invite our dear friends, my brother and Potter. Sadly, they don’t understand the finer pleasures in life.”
At this Maia laughed into her hand. “Can you see Auror Potter Muggle baiting?” she asked. Then she sobered, “It would make everything so much easier.”
Apricot finally removed herself from the bed and came up to her friend, taking her hands in hers and kissing them. “This is a good thing, a positive development,” she stated quietly. “He’s moving away from that horrid Mudblood. He noticed you.”
“But he’s not a member of the SlugClub,” she sighed. “He was Head Boy, at least, and Captain of the Quidditch Team—but he doesn’t follow our blood politics. Uncle Marvolo won’t even let me see him. I have to sneak out and even when I do, we fight half the time.”
“But he keeps coming back,” Regulus pointed out. “He never sends you away.”
“No,” she agreed, catching her reflection in the mirror. She sadly wasn’t quite pretty unlike the enchanting Lily Evans. “Sometimes I’m afraid I’m only a replacement.”
Barty, bless him, declared, “Well,” holding out the syllable. He sat forward. “We can’t have you thinking that. Let’s see how long it takes him to write you at Hogwarts this year. How long it takes Sirius Black,” he spat the name, “to contact his little brother about you. Or Lady Lux Kingsley perhaps, there’s a connection there, and perhaps that’s more likely. They were talking away at a few of our picnics. How many did we have?”
“Seven,” Apricot told him, giving him a small smile. “Seven in eight weeks. It really was quite amazing that Uncle Marvolo never caught on.”
“It’s because we had our little group meetings here and at Grimmauld Place as well,” Regulus stated imperiously, looking around Maia. “We played our hand like true Slytherins—Sorry, Crouch.”
He put up his hands and laughed. “No offense taken.”
“So,” Apricot stated, standing up. “We’re here, you’re wearing those boots,” (she tapped Maia’s gogo boots). “Let’s go off to bait some Muggles. We’ll only have Mudbloods at Hogwarts and there they take points. Here, Lord Marvolo gives us a sip of champagne.”
“He gives us more than a sip,” Regulus refuted as he stood, fixing his Star Wars t-shirt. It made him a little comical but it had been a gift from Sirius of all things two years before and he had kept it as it was useful for Muggle baiting. “Of course, we’re not dressed to be received by his esteemed company.” He then waved his hand and bowed, making the girls laugh and Barty smirk.
They all took their wands and exited the suite, going down the back stairs so as not to really disturb whatever Uncle Marvolo was up to, and then out into the garden.
“Oh, Maia,” Apricot sighed, coming up and taking her arm, one dark head and the other light. “I think the iris and the snowball bush over on the left really are beginning to revitalize your garden.”
Smiling to herself in pride, Maia asked, “Do you think? I was thinking more bushes. Less flowers. Lilacs perhaps next year. A Butterfly bush perhaps, if I can keep it contained.” She surveyed her garden that was beginning to show signs of life after her purge of last year. “The Dark Lord wasn’t pleased with my floral choices. It turned out that Merope Gaunt liked lilies.”
“Who’s Merope Gaunt?” Barty asked in confusion.
“Uncle Marvolo’s mother,” she answered quietly, “and the Dark Lord’s, if rumors are to be believed.” Taking in a deep breath, she pointed forward toward one of the paths. “Onward, wizards!” she called out and they took up the march.
Of course, by the time they got the hamlet of Little Hangleton their wands were stuck up their sleeves or down their boots. They first spent an enjoyable hour drinking pop floats in the pub, cursing the barmaid to think they’d been paid for, and then the real fun began. It started out with giving the old drunk at the bar the shivers. Just down the spine. In the end, they had him convulsing, foam coming out of his mouth, and Apricot was sniggering into her elbow as she tried to keep silent. The agreement they had was they were to keep their cover and act just as horrified and confused as everyone else while creating havoc around them.
There were such things called appearances, after all.
When people tried to leave to get help, they found all the doors were locked and they couldn’t get out.
By the time the Aurors came—and how did they know to come?—it was mass chaos in the place.
“Time to go,” Regulus shouted and they rushed out toward the back, where they unlocked the door and hurried out into an alley that was deserted except for a lone Auror who had clearly been placed there for the purpose of stopping a potential escape. They all lifted their wands, prepared to do battle, when Regulus lowered his slightly, squinted, and asked, “Potter?”
Maia immediately whipped around and looked at the hooded figure, her stomach dropping. It couldn’t be—No—he would never understand—not yet—
“Is this what you and your friends get up to when you’re not having picnics, Maia?” the familiar voice of James Potter asked from the folds of the hood before he pushed it down to show the smooth face and messy black hair.
“They won’t remember us,” Apricot stated quickly. “We made sure no one would remember us being there except to drink a few root beer floats and then leaving.—We don’t have to be here, caught. We’re your friends.”
“This is my job,” he refuted, angrily. “Maia—what were you thinking?”
“I’m thinking,” she answered quietly, “that they’re beneath us and little better than toys.”
There was a sound coming from the road and James thrust up his wand suddenly. It felt like an egg had been cracked over Maia’s head and then trickled down her neck uncomfortably. When she looked down, she couldn’t tell where she ended and the pub behind her began. She—along with the three others—had been disillusioned.
“Auror Potter,” a thickset man asked. “Anything?”
“No one’s come through,” he answered. “The door is locked from what I can tell, and I’ve kept it that way.”
The thickset Auror snorted and then turned around to reenter the pub.
James turned to them and asked, “Where can I find you when this is all over—”
“Uncle Marvolo—” she argued, but he gave the alleyway a hard look she knew was meant for her.
Barty then stepped up. “I’ll invite her over for after dinner. Pater would love having an Auror come to visit.”
“Don’t think I don’t know who you are, Crouch,” James stated, and Maia was surprised he could recognize him by voice. “I always wondered why you were on Maia’s list when we came up with who to invite to our picnics.” A wry grin crossed his face. He held out his hand and at first Maia didn’t realize he wanted her to place hers in it.
The star scar was covered but she knew it was there. His thumb, rough from Quidditch and Auror duties, rubbed over it as it had so many times before. James didn’t need to see it to know where the scar was. “Go home,” he warned her quietly so the others couldn’t hear him. “I’ll see you tonight.”
Maia squeezed his hand and murmured, “Back to base,” before the four disillusioned teenagers all hurried from the alley and back up the hill toward Riddle House.
When they arrived at the gardens, they disillusioned themselves one by one and then stood in a circle, just staring at each other. It was then that Barty broke down and started laughing, hunching over, his hands on his knees as he guffawed and tried to draw breath. Apricot started giggling through her nose and then Maia lost it, falling to her knees and crying in sheer relief, laughs punctuating her sobs. Regulus was the only one who stood tall.
A Death Eater found them this way and they were brought into the manor and fed chocolate.
She could hear Barty quietly tell Uncle Marvolo that they had received an owl about a joint report that needed a last flourish—and could she come after dinner?
When her friends all left after the predicted champagne—Uncle Marvolo paced in front of her—“No more Muggle baiting in the village,” he told her quite clearly. “There were Aurors crawling all over Little Hangleton this afternoon. You’re lucky you and your friends didn’t get caught.”
“Why were they there?” she asked, clearly confused. “It’s just—we’re not a hotspot for magic. My friends and I usually wipe the Muggles’ minds clean when we go and bait and this is only our second time—here—this summer. I don’t understand.” Her blue eyes looked at him imploringly.
Uncle Marvolo sighed and drew her to a comfortable couch in front of an empty fire grate. “Maia,” he sighed, running a hand over her hair. “Your uncle—your other uncle—”
“The Dark Lord.”
“He’s been spotted in the area.”
Her eyes widened. “Why hasn’t he been more careful?” she demanded. “The Dark Lord is supposed to be clever.”
“It was my fault,” Uncle Marvolo explained. “I thought I had more time before a deep sleep and ventured out into the graveyard to look at the gravestones of our relatives. I was thinking of the past, of you, our future, and I fell asleep—”
“And the Dark Lord awoke,” she sighed. “At least he wasn’t wearing blood red.” He would have been wearing whatever clothes Uncle Marvolo had. That would be plain black robes. However, the Dark Lord was quite distinctive in his looks. “I’ve never understood how—”
“Don’t,” Uncle Marvolo begged, as he took her face between his hands lovingly. “You’re my little girl and there are some things that are better left unsaid and unexplained.”
Maia didn’t realize she was crying until he began to wipe away the tears with his thumbs.
“None of that now.” He kissed her forehead. “No more Muggle baiting in the village.”
“What if we’re careful?”
“Wait for it all to calm down,” he bargained, his voice firm. “We had a lucky escape. You’re fortunate there was a back door they didn’t know about and that you were able to get away. It could have been more than just a fright, my darling girl.”
“Uncle,” she sighed as she leaned against his touch. “All is well.” At least, she hoped so.
She prayed to the old gods that this was not the end of her relationship with James Potter.
She loved him, she realized. Maia had loved him for years.
She loved his stupid pranks.
She loved his sense of honor.
She loved his capacity to be loyal beyond all hope, even when it hurt her to see him chasing after the Mudblood Lily Snape for all those years.
She loved the ridiculous way he messed up his hair and she wished she had the right to run her hands through it and do it for him.
She loved that he took off those faux glasses for her and how his face had opened up. She loved how he only seemed to own one set of robes despite being a pureblood.
She loved that he lived on what he earned despite his parents being the famous Fleamont and Euphemia Potter (and, yes, she had looked that up in the Pureblood Registry when Uncle Marvolo was out and the Dark Lord was seeing to—prisoners).
She loved the way he made her smile.
She loved the way he argued with her, the way she argued with him, although they both knew they could never change each other’s minds.
She loved the way he had prepared that first picnic to make her happy.
She loved that he came with her to St. Mungo’s after he kissed her—that she meant that much to him—that he didn’t just abandon her.
She loved watching him in a pickup game with the others once their picnics were finished. She loved watching him play Chaser for Gryffindor (although she always rooted for Slytherin). She wished he would grab her like he did a Quaffle, look into her eyes, and take off with her on a broom into the sky. She loved the sky. She loved the stars. She wanted to share that with James.
She loved him. But she didn’t know if he would ever love her.
Perhaps tonight she would know.
That night, when she flooed over to the Minister of Magic’s home, she found a little house elf in a pillow case waiting for her. She hated house elfs. They always mangled the English language. Couldn’t they learn to speak properly?
Barty was waiting for her with two tumblers of firewhiskey, lounging in the den as his father was naturally out, and they talked about really nothing at all, until she brought up Apricot.
“I think,” she told him, “you should invite her to Hogsmeade—separately from me and Regulus.” She leaned forward and smiled at him languidly. “Sacred Twenty-Eight. Your father would be proud.”
“She doesn’t perform academically,” he refuted, “she’s nothing to look at—”
She shrugged. “I can’t dispute the first. Her charms work is abysmal, it’s true. She’ll never be a scholar though she had solid OWL scores. Nothing brilliant, but enough.—And we both know that she’ll never be a beauty, but she caught your eye. She’s like a—pixie,” she decided.
“I don’t care what the Minister expects,” she refuted. “She’s wicked with her wand and she cares about Barty—not the fact that you broke OWL scores—not the fact that you’re a member of the SlugClub—not that you’re Head Boy with me this year—not that you’re the Minister of Magic’s son. She cares about,” and then she tipped her glass toward him, “just Barty.”
A slow smile spread over his freckled face. “She does, doesn’t she?” he said with a pleased grin on his face.
“Ask her,” she told him. “Ask her tomorrow. And I’d brush up on Selwyn courting traditions in your Spungen’s tonight.”
He scoffed. “You think I didn’t do that Fifth Year.”
She raised an eyebrow at him and then noticed he sat up, his tumbler hanging to the side. Her chair was facing away from the door and she turned to see James standing in his Auror robes with Mrs. Crouch, a sickly woman with dishwater blonde hair and gray eyes in a light blue dress that swallowed her.
“You have a guest—who’s not here on official business,” Mrs. Crouch whispered before clearing her throat. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Auror Potter, Mrs. Crouch,” he responded. “I think very highly of your husband.”
She nodded to him graciously and then left the three of them alone.
“How much did Mater hear?” Barty asked in a strangled voice. “I trust her implicitly, but I need to get my story straight.”
Maia looked at her friend indulgently. “Use the real story. Even go on about our picnics this summer with the entire guest list. Reggie’s a Black and a distant relative, Lady Lux is with you in Ravenclaw, Sirius is explained by both of them, that connects Auror James Potter, who has a position at the Ministry, and well, just throw in me and Mademoiselle Sabrina Bones for local color.”
“Our own little SlugClub of a sorts,” Barty laughed, knocking back his drink and standing. “We just need a new name.” He offered his chair to James who, after a moment, took it. Turning to the decanter of firewhiskey, he then poured James a whiskey and soda before kissing the top of Maia’s head. He tipped his hand to James and then left.
Maia watched him go but then turned to her boyfriend, bringing her own firewhiskey to her lips, her throat smarting at the taste. “You’re not turning us in,” she checked.
“I should,” he told her. “Now, however, it’s your word against mine.”
“I know why you were there,” she answered him carefully. “I asked Uncle Marvolo. The Dark Lord was seen in Little Hangleton’s graveyard sometime this summer.” She bit her lip and looked at him. “It was stupid of him. He—I won’t lie to you, James. The Dark Lord is my uncle. His mother, Merope Gaunt, was my grandfather, Morfin Gaunt’s, sister.”
He stared at her with his hazel eyes but that betrayed nothing. “I see where you get your particular views.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “I’m not very fond of the Dark Lord.” She grimaced. “We don’t see eye to eye on much despite having similar politics.—He—He takes my safety very seriously. He hates you on principle and thinks I don’t see you anymore. Then again, I’ve led Uncle Marvolo to think that, too.”
“Does he live with you—?”
She looked at him hard. “Don’t go fishing, Auror Potter. I’m telling you this because you’re my boyfriend and you matter. If you want to interrogate me, take me down to Headquarters and I will request another Auror because of a ‘conflict of interest’, I think it’s called.”
The two regarded each other for a moment and then he set his tumbler down on a coaster that magically appeared directly beneath it a second before it touched the wood of the side table. “Maia,” he whispered. “We all suspected that the Dark Lord was a Gaunt—”
“Confirm, don’t confirm,” she whispered, looking into her glass and trying to read the future from it. “You didn’t hear it from me.”
The silence that stretched between them was horrible in its resounding deafness, until he whispered into it, “I love you too much to do that to you.”
Immediately, she looked up, her blue eyes searching his. “You—?” she asked hopefully. “Truly?”
He smiled at her wryly. “I would kiss you here, but I’m afraid of what that ring would do to you.”
“Let’s not reenact that lovely scene earlier this summer. I’m afraid Uncle Marvolo would really kill you even if you are in your Auror robes, and poor Barty would get in trouble because it happened in his home. The Minister would get involved—and it would be all one dreadful mess—”
He came forward and knelt in front of her, cupping her cheek, his fingers rough but so very present. “I love you, Maia Gaunt.”
“I love you, James Potter,” she returned carefully.
They stared into each other’s eyes for several long moments until he sat back, took her whiskey out of her fingers, and took her hands in his. “What were you and your friends doing Muggle baiting in Little Hangleton?”
“We enjoy Muggle baiting,” she told him quite simply. “I’m sure you’re aware of the political-social views.”
“I am,” he admitted sadly. “I suppose you want to bring our children up with them.”
At first she didn’t catch it, but then her blue eyes widened. “Our children—children! James, are you asking me?” When he nodded, she threw herself in his arms and began to cry for joy. “Yes, yes, I’ll marry you.”
“First Hogsmeade weekend this October,” he suggested. “I would marry you tonight, but you have to go to Hogwarts in just a few short hours.—and I can’t quite as easily abduct you with both your uncles knowing you’re supposed to be here.”
She pulled away and smiled at him, wishing she could kiss him but knowing she’d have to wait until October, another two months if she was right. Usually Hogsmeade weekends fell around Halloween.
“I love you,” she whispered as she stroked his cheek lovingly. “I’ve loved you for so long.”
“I guess I’ll just have to catch up then,” he suggested with a cocky grin before he picked her up and twirled her around.
… … … … …
Lily Snape was a miserable woman. She was adored, it was true, but she was a fallen woman in wizarding society, which was even worse than being a Muggleborn. Looking at the horrible slashes on the palm of her left hand in the sign of an ‘x’, bile rose in her throat nearly choking her. One incomplete pomegranate rite that had been failed to be consummated because she had screamed the wrong name when her husband—no, her betrothed—had spilled inside of her, and the other a pomegranate rite that wouldn’t even take.
She wanted a child so badly and she wanted the child to be legitimate.
Leaning over the cauldron, she dipped a spoon into it to discover it had turned into a bright pink gel. Carefully she spread it over her scars, wishing for a child, and hissed. Please, she begged the Christian God, let this work. She would not have her child suffer, and she desperately wanted a child. Each scar was completely coat and then they began to pulse until the gel melted away.
She must complete the ritual each day until she became pregnant. Lily Snape had plenty of potion. She could do this for years if she needed to—and she was so determined, that she would if need be.
Note: For Hallie and Harry to be born July 31, 1980, they have to be conceived around Halloween, 1979.