Part the Twenty-Fourth
James and Maia, 14 June-31 October, 1980
There was post by an owl Maia didn’t recognize one morning. Belle was nearly one year old, and was a beautiful little girl with wisps of blonde hair like her. Maia knew she was going to be a beauty. James often said so, after all, before he kissed their daughter ‘goodbye’ in the morning.
He was an Auror. She laughed at the hilarity of it all. He must be right, after all.
Apricot was coming over that morning, so surely she could watch the baby while she went to see her Uncle Marvolo who was extending the olive branch. Definitely. It couldn’t take more than an hour.
How wrong she was.
Riddle House was just as she remembered it as Maia flooed in. She hadn’t told Apricot where she was going. She didn’t want James to know and silently judge her. They had an agreement in their marriage, one that was working so far: no politics.
Oh, and they’d jointly tell their relatives on Belle’s fifth birthday when she was old enough to be cognizant of what was going on, so no one could yell.
Maia had been pretending she was living in a flat in London with some school chums, Apricot playing along, and had mentioned it to Uncle Marvolo. She hadn’t wanted him going there for obvious reasons. She didn’t have an address to give him, and even if she did, Maia never would be there. She would be at home, at Potter Cottage, with her husband and child.
Still, her breasts had been swollen with milk for the good part of a year, and her stomach had been slightly rounded for a time despite the wizarding space. She’d had to personally let out her skirt and reorder a shirt her last semester at Hogwarts because the changes her pregnancy put her through.
The manor was eerily silent when she walked the halls, searching for her Uncle Marvolo. “Hello?” she called, looking about. “Is someone here?”
There was a flurry of movement to her left and she saw that the doors to the ‘Merope Smoking Room’ as she called it were open. Pausing, she considered. Uncle Marvolo never went in there. Only the Dark Lord. It was definitely a gentleman’s room with cigars and different blends of whiskeys and brandy, with a large portrait of Merope Gaunt—their mother—hanging over the fireplace.
Pausing in the doorway, she saw the familiar red robes of the Dark Lord.
“Uncle Marvolo sent me a message.” She shivered into the room and leaned up against the wall.
“I know. However, it was I who wanted to see you.” He turned from the portrait of his mother and held up a piece of half burnt parchment. It was a pale cream with neat writing that was undoubtedly her own. “Barty Crouch, Jr. was burning this in his home when I—dropped in unannounced. I took it off him, of course.” He smoothed out the sheet of paper, his slits of blue eyes scanning the paper. “Belle is well,” he read. “How quaint. It rhymes.—You remember what a happy baby she was on her birthday. James continues to dote on her, and I find that I cannot regret becoming ‘Madam James Potter’ in the most liberal sense of the meaning.—Hmm,” he paused, “I suppose you mean that you still and always will be Lady Maia Gaunt per our traditions.” The Dark Lord crumpled the paper in his hand before dropping it on the floor. “Maia,” he began again conversationally, “how is it possible that you are married and have a child that has a birthday? You’ve only been out of Hogwarts for a year!”
Her throat suddenly feeling dry, Maia licked her lips. “My child was born just out of Hogwarts. I married James my seventh year.”
“An Auror,” he checked, taking a step forward, his hands behind his back.
“Yes,” she agreed quietly, trapped by the wall.
“A man disgraced twice by first trying to wed a Mudblood and then being unable to bed her like a wizard ought.” Another two steps. His power was radiating off him in anger, and Maia bent her head in fear.
“It wasn’t like that—”
“So he says,” the Dark Lord dismissed, coming nearer still. “Maia, I am disappointed.” By now he had come up to her so they were only a breadth of a hair away from each other. “I had hoped to convince you, maybe in five years’ time, not to be such a silly child, and to take your place in the Gaunt Family as my wife.”
She recoiled at the thought and her throat began to close in her shock. Scraping at it, she fought for air, the Dark Lord just standing there, his hands still behind his back. Maia had no idea what was happening to her, but it was certainly some type of dark magic.
“Oh, and my dear,” he stated, his voice unnaturally high as he turned away from her, his wand swinging from his fingertips. “Avada Kedavra.”
Maia had gone missing, and James could not find her. There was no body. She had just gone out one day to visit her Uncle Marvolo (it had taken him a full five days to get that out of Apricot Selwyn) and she had never come back. Normally, James would have followed in a heartbeat, but he had Belle to think about. He could leave her with one of her godfathers, but he knew if he confronted Lord Marvolo, he could very well be dead.
Every day he wrote her a short letter, begging her to come home, that whatever had happened that he loved her, that Belle needed her, but the owls stopped doing anything other than perch in the bushes in the back garden, not even bothering trying to find her.
On September 1st, when children were with their parents at the Hogwarts Express, Potter went to the main desk of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
The secretary had a habit of flirting with him, but he was never in the mood—especially today. “I have a person to report missing,” he told her succinctly. “My wife went to visit a relative in June and not even owls can find her.”
The pretty witch blinked her eyes. She wasn’t in Auror robes but she was wearing Auror colors in a pencil skirt and a white blouse. A wizard cross hung around her neck also in Auror colors. James absently wondered if it was part of the uniform as she was always wearing crimson, or if she was just a fan.
He filled out the form, including two appendices on who had been present at their handfasting and the birth of their daughter. James knew that per Ministry law, a copy of their wedding certificate would have been created by magic when their union was consummated and kept in the Hall of Records, so anyone could check that she was his wife.
Next, he went to his desk and brooded, not paying attention to his cases until he was given one on a sighting of the Dark Lord. Maia had always said he was a sort of cousin and he was immediately out of his seat, calling out to Flamel (and how she was related to the great Nicholas Flamel was beyond James), going to Little Hangleton.
James didn’t find the Dark Lord.
“Congratulations are in order,” Lord Marvolo told him as James walked up to him in a dilapidated graveyard. “I heard from one of my followers that you’re, as the Muggles have it, ‘living in sin’.”
James just blinked. “You’re calling your own ‘niece’ a ‘whore’?”
Lord Marvolo was a handsome man with shocking blue eyes and a full head of brown hair. He looked nothing like Maia, but he understood that the man was her great uncle, and cousin. Something about intermarriage within the Gaunt Family. Maia had declined to write out a family tree until Belle was old enough because, as she said, incest was a horrible thing, and she didn’t want to put the Dark Lord on her tree until it was absolutely necessary.
“No,” he responded, carefully. “My niece is unwed, but of course you haven’t been in contact for nearly two years.” Lord Marvolo sighed, his eyes going through the graveyard and it was then that James noticed that his hands were covered in dirt.
Flamel came up. She had her wand out. “I see nothing, Potter,” she told him. “No sign of the Dark Lord. I suppose we better go.”
James, however, put up his hand to quell her. He looked directly at his—er—uncle-in-law. “Why are you congratulating me then?”
“Why, the beautiful Lily Snape bore you a child a little over a year ago. Now, I must admit it’s bad form to leave a witch unsatisfied on her wedding night and then make her your whore, but she is a Mudblood.”
If it had been just a few years ago, James would have punched him, but instead he took a deep breath. “I’m afraid you’re misinformed, Lord Marvolo. I haven’t seen Mrs. Snape since our wedding night—when nothing happened. We couldn’t possibly have a child.”
“Harry James Potter,” Lord Marvolo continued. “The child looks just like you. He has Mrs. Snape’s eyes, of course—”
It was then that James punched the man, despite his earlier resolve, hearing the crack of the man’s nose breaking, and feeling terribly satisfied.
Lord Marvolo staggered, but he grabbed onto what seemed to be a fresh stone. James looked down to see who had died and his eyes met the words of his wife’s name. His jaw dropped open and he immediately grabbed the wizard by his robes. “What happened to Maia? So help me, I’ll kill you if you don’t answer me.”
“What always happens to people who defy the Dark Lord,” he returned carefully. “I haven’t been told what happened exactly. She came over some time over the summer, and he killed her. He hid the body and I just found it this morning with a note tucked in her robes telling me to dispose of the body.”
James swallowed and let the man go, turning to the stone, touching it.
“Oh, I see you’re still sentimental. I would never let her anywhere near you, you fool.”
Throat tightening, James nevertheless said nothing. He could say nothing. His first priority was keeping Belle safe, and clearly letting Lord Marvolo suspect a thing would not be keeping Belle safe. Perhaps he could pass her off as—no, that was wrong. She was a Gaunt. It had been agreed. She would be a secret, at least, until Hogwarts age—longer, if he could help it.
“We’re done here,” he stated gruffly, not looking at his partner or Lord Marvolo and sweeping from the graveyard, leaving his wife behind, and tears streamed down his face.
Later that day, he went back to the secretary, who perked up when she saw him.
“I need to report a death,” he stated, and he was given the correct papers.
Tears choking him, he declared his wife dead, recording the date of her death, reporting it as a murder, and her final resting place. He turned over the forms. He knew there would be interviews, but he wouldn’t have to deal with that for at least a few hours. No, he could just mourn quietly and not even Flamel would bother him.
In the end, it was eating away at him. James had to know about this child named Harry James Potter. He made sure that Belle was asleep in her crib, putting a spell on her so that he would hear her if she stirred. The baby now had her own room, decorated by the loving hands of her mother before she had been murdered.
Lily Snape was different than how he remembered her. Gone was the girl in bellbottoms and flowing flower t-shirts, her hair in braids and free falling down her back. She was now dressed professionally in a skirt suit, gray, her hair done up in a bun, her blouse plunging.
“You seem to have done well for yourself,” he greeted as he let her into the house that should have been theirs. “What are you doing now, Lily?”
She straightened her skirt and accepted the tea he offered her, as it was well after dinner. James didn’t drink in the house because he had Belle there. It was a rule that he and Maia had agreed on and he wasn’t going to break it. He would go out to the pub with Sirius and sometimes one of the Slythinclaws. Regulus Black, after all, was Belle’s second godfather, and he wanted to make sure they had plenty of time together, unobstructed by Sirius.
“I’m a professor at Hogwarts,” she told him, the flash of her ugly scarred hand catching his gaze. “Muggle Studies.”
He snorted. “I suppose you’d be good at that.” Not wanting to beat about the firebush, James casually stated, “I heard that you have a son.”
“Yes, and that he somehow carries my name.”
Lily was silent for a long moment. “Potion gone wrong,” she explained, “it won’t happen again.”
“You can’t just have my son—” he explained to her. “This is line theft. Do you know how serious a thing that is, Lily?”
Her face, however, was impassive. Then, carefully, she took her wand out of her sleeve and held it casually, a silent threat although it wasn’t pointing at him.
James knew he could get to his quicker than she could say any spell, so he just laughed. “Think you can scare an Auror who deals with dark wizards, with a wand? I had jagged glass held to be throat just last wee—”
The sound of a baby crying filled the room, and James immediately took to the stairs, going up to Belle’s room to see that she was fussing and seemed to need a diaper change. “Hey, there, Lady Mabelle,” he greeted, kissing her head, which caused her to squeal in delight. “Let’s see if we can fix it.”
He looked over his shoulder and saw Lily standing in the door. “You have a child yourself,” she murmured.
“I do,” he agreed as he made quick work of the diaper before setting Belle back down to try and resume her nap. Well, perhaps she should be up. He’d never get her down in an hour if she slept now—unless magically she slept through. “She’s the light of my life.”
“Children are like that,” she agreed carefully.
Turning to her, he murmured, “You can’t have my kid. How old is he anyway?”
A little uncomfortable, she shifted her shoulders, “He was a year old at the end of July.”
That was a little bit of a coincidence, he thought. “You’ve known for over a year that the child was mine—and you—this is disgusting. I’m reporting you in the morning.”
“Where’s the mother then?” Lily snapped as they walked out of the nursery and back downstairs. “I see no sign of her.”
“My wife,” he told her carefully, showing her his healed hand, which was a sparkling gold, “my wife.” He took in a deep breath. “Lord—He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named murdered her for her supposed betrayal of the cause for marrying me and having a child. Her only crime was being born into the wrong family.”
Lily paused and looked at him. “Do I know her?”
“If you remember our prefects,” he hedged. “We kept it on the downlow. We didn’t want You-Know-Who finding out—and I won’t risk Belle.”
“Well, if she’s Lady Belle,” she scoffed, “she’s related to one of the four Lords. That leaves out Prewett. Hmm… Black. No Ladies in that family. Malfoy. Lady Lux who is older.” (James scoffed) “That leaves Lady Lucrece Prince who is much too young!”
God, he used to love the memory of Lily. Now the very sight of her sickened him.
“Just leave it,” he stated. “You’re married to that slimy snake. Who do you think I inadvertently found out about your precious Harry from? And ‘Harry’? What kind of name is that?”
“You named your daughter Mabelle! I shudder to know her middle name.”
“Halcyone,” he told her proudly, “after one of the Pleides.”
“At least you could call her ‘Hallie’ then,” she remarked and then realized, “it is a Black then.”
He sighed and crossed his arms as he walked toward the door. “You’ve outstayed your welcome, Lily. I’ll be in touch—and I’ll be changing Harry’s name.”
“How is a bachelor going to take care of two children?” Lily asked, clearly realizing the severity of the situation. “You don’t need him. You have Belle—”
“You stole my line,” he seethed in her face. “I would rather just have a child by my wife, but I will not abandon my blood, and certainly not to you.” He was about to shove her out the door, when it opened of its own accord and the horrifying figure of the Dark Lord appeared.
“Ah,” he greeted in his high voice, his head shining from the rain outside. “I see you invited your whore now that your wife is dead.”
“You killed her,” James accused.
The Dark Lord didn’t deny it. Instead, he demanded, “Where’s the child? There’s a little conversation I want to have with her.”
Rushing to the staircase, James blocked it with his body, and took out his wand. “I will kill you before I let you anywhere near Belle.”
“The daughter of one of the purest lines of Britain—and a disgraced wizard who can’t keep it in his pants,” he sneered. “You have a great deal of explaining to do, but frankly I don’t care what you have to say.” He stunned Lily who had been standing there in shock and advanced at James who threw curse after curse at him. Still they seemed to ripple off of him as if they were water. So James just advanced up the stairs.
“Not Belle,” he begged when he was halfway up the stairs. “I’ll do anything. Just not Belle. She’s your flesh and blood. Maia was your flesh and your blood!”
“Traitors the both of them!” he scowled, waving his hand which shoved James up the rest of the stairs to slam painfully on the landing.
The sound of baby crying caught both of their attention and James pushed himself up and, for the first time, screamed, “Avada Kevada!” With a fierce rapidity, a spark of green shot out of his wand, but the Dark Lord merely flattened himself as it whizzed over his head.
Like a snake, he advanced up the stairs and James pushed himself over the crib, his hazel eyes wide. He tried to speak a spell, but in his fear for his daughter’s life, he choked up.
The Dark Lord leaned over him and plucked his wand out of his shaking fingers and asked, “Confused? That would be a spell, my dear boy.” Then, pressing his own wand to James Potter’s heart, he whispered the Killing Curse. In a flash of green, James Potter was dead.
Crying still coming from the crib, the Dark Lord stood and looked at the baby. She was so precious, with Maia’s hair, but with the fool’s eyes. Still, he could wait for her. She would be a means to the end, this little belle, this little beauty. The Dark Lord was not a fool. Although he would swear otherwise, blood purity was everything, and the Gaunt Line the most important. He leaned down and kissed the baby on the forehead and then was gone, his robes falling to the ground.
A scar appeared on her forehead, a piece of magic that no one would ever be able to explain.
No one would ever be able to find out what had happened, but somehow the Dark Lord had been vanquished—for now.
All the way up in Scotland, Belle’s half-twin, a boy called Harry Potter, was sleeping. Through their strange bond forged by magic, the piece of the Dark Lord’s soul that had embedded itself into Mabelle Halcyone Gaunt traveled into young Harry, fracturing once again. A lightning bolt scar appeared similarly on his head.
There had once been a Prophecy.
Now there were two children marked by the Dark Lord, and Lily Snape was going to lie about which one was which.