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Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairings: Lucius Malfoy/Narcissa Black, Andromeda Black/Sirius Black, Bellatrix Black/Rodolphus Lestrange, Frank Longbottom/Alice Longbottom
Spoilers/Timeframe: Between the Wars.
Summary: Some children come to Hogwart's already spoken for, meeting their Promised spouses there for the very first time. How do these betrothed children make sense of their world?
Keywords: Arranged marriage, Pureblood society.
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
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Feedback: Please. deslea at deslea dot com.
"Some children come to Hogwart's already spoken for."
Professor Dippet said this as his apprentices paused with him outside the Slytherin dungeon. Most of them would be gone within the year, but one or two might stay. And if he was very, very lucky, one might stay for years to come.
That alone justified the tedium of orientation.
"You are not all of Pure blood, but you should all be aware of the custom of arranged marriage. Such children - usually, but not always of Slytherin house - are Promised by the age of two or three. They are often promised to relatives, but it is still common for them to commence their schooling, never having met their intended until they arrive."
A serious young woman wearing pince-nez, peering out from under a shock of long brown hair, asked, "How do they react to one another, Professor?"
Professor Dippet spread his hands expansively. "Some are lovers, some are dreamers, some are schemers. Sometimes they despise each other. The range of responses is as large as the range of children who are Promised."
"Do they ever just not care?" That from an astonishingly ugly young man with a quill tucked behind his ear.
His mouth curled a little at that. "Sometimes they ignore each other," he conceded. "But genuinely indifferent to one another? Never."
[THE LOVERS: LUCIUS AND NARCISSA]
Lucius began at Hogwart's a year before his Promised bride.
Melissa Prewett - they called her Molly, Lucius thought with disdain - Melissa Prewett was in Sixth Year. She was pretty and vivacious, which counted for little, and powerful, which counted for a lot. Lucius had money, and considered his betrothal to the equally wealthy Blacks a wasted opportunity. What he craved, what his dwindling bloodline needed, was strength - and the Prewetts had it. Oh, to give his line a brood of strapping, healthy sons like Fabian and Gideon!
But Melissa was dating that ghastly, ill-bred Arthur Weasley in Fifth, and Lucius was Promised to Narcissa Black. If her sister was anything to go by, she was likely to prove both neurotic and mean. Bellatrix was in Fourth year, and her favourite pastime was victimising the younger Slytherins. Most didn't bully their own, but Bella was an equal opportunity bully.
So it was with ill-feeling that Lucius met Narcissa the following year. But he masked it as well as he could, treating her with courtly (if impersonal) respect. She was, after all, the future Lady Malfoy, and Lucius was Malfoy enough to be protective of the family name, even now.
It was about two months into their first year together when he came upon her, being pushed around by her sister in the dungeon. It was otherwise empty, and Bellatrix was inflicting a rather horrid hex that she would later refine into a personal brand of torture.
And Narcissa was fighting back.
Lucius had never seen Narcissa fight before. They were, after all, in different years. But though she was eleven and Bella sixteen, Narcissa was holding her own. She exuded grace and strength.
She exuded power.
Lucius strode forward. Jinxed Bella and sent her flying. Like all bullies, Bella saw that she was outnumbered and made her escape, poking out her tongue haughtily as she went.
"I didn't need your help," Narcissa snapped, brushing the dust from her robes.
Lucius was looking at her curiously. "I never thought you did," he said. There was something adult in his own voice that he had never heard before.
Narcissa heard it too. "Then why-"
He shrugged. Looked away. "You're to be the Lady Malfoy. My protection is your birthright. Whether you need it is completely irrelevant."
Narcissa considered this. Then, thoughtfully, she bowed her head, very deliberately and correctly, as one would at a formal dance in a stately home. "Thank you, my lord."
That pleased him. He bowed too, and answered in kind. "My lady."
Lucius never thought of Melissa Prewett again.
[THE DREAMERS: ANDROMEDA AND SIRIUS]
Andromeda Black and Sirius Black were dreamers more than lovers.
Oh, they were lovers once. When she was seventeen and he, fourteen, they decided that if they were going to marry, then they might as well dispose of their respective virginity now. But it was highly unsatisfactory for both - plenty of friendship, kindness enough too, but absolutely no chemistry at all.
The fact that that git James was cheering them on from behind the bloody bushes probably didn't help any, either.
So they put their clothes back on and lay on the grass, staring up at the clouds, James and Remus now at their side.
"So who do you really like?" Sirius asked without rancour.
Andromeda's mouth curled up at that. "Ted Tonks. And don't any of you dare tell him, you arses, or I'll cut your throats out, the lot of you."
"Oooh, you're channelling Bellatrix again. Please don't hurt me, Bella!" Sirius mocked.
Andromeda leaned up on one elbow and swatted him. Hard. "Careful. She really will get you one day if you keep taking her name in vain like that."
"Ow! Steady on there, wife."
"Shut up." On the offensive now, she demanded, "Who do you like?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Sirius said with a lazy smile, but his smile was for Remus.
[THE SCHEMERS: BELLATRIX AND RODOLPHUS]
Rodolphus Lestrange and Bellatrix Black had three things in common.
The first was that they were Promised. The second was that they felt nothing for one another whatsoever. The third was that they despised Mudbloods more than anyone.
It was this third that compensated for the other two. There was no affection, but there was amusement, and the devilish satisfaction of having a partner in crime. It was him cornering some pathetic little girl for her to torture, or her seducing some boy to give him an excuse to thrash the unwitting suitor to within an inch of his life. It was someone to compare notes with as they evaluated the poisons and refined them. It was elaborate, sadistic things brought to their amusements, and later, to the bedroom.
In the bedroom, at least, they were perfectly matched, largely because their doings there were based on their other pleasures.
For Bellatrix and Rodolphus, life was one big scheme. Scheme to trap their prey. Scheme to wrap them up in their web. Scheme to set them free, and do it all over again. Even their marriage was a scheme - scheme to keep their parents happy; scheme to plaster a useful veneer of respectability over the top of their schemes.
And ultimately, perhaps, it would provide the groundwork for the ultimate scheme: To rid the world of their hated Mudbloods once and for all.
They could only hope.
[CODA: ALICE AND FRANK]
Professor Dippet was not quite right when he said betrothed children were never indifferent.
Frank and Alice Longbottom were cousins, and they were supremely indifferent to their Promised status. It was a matter for the parents who had Promised them, not for them.
Not that they ignored each other. They had played together as little children. At school, they were friends, as much as any opposite-sex children in the same House were friends (which was not very much in First year, but increasingly over time). But their Promised status was simply not acknowledged - by them, or by anyone else. By the time they went through, Gryffindors were rarely Promised. Sirius Black had been the most recent before them, and that had ended ages ago, with the scandalous elopement of Andromeda and Ted Tonks.
They finally ground their teeth and discussed the situation in Seventh Year, and after graduation, they called a family meeting. Ostensibly, it was to discuss the wedding; but once there, they declared they were breaking their contract, by mutual agreement. They would choose their own spouses, and there was nothing the family could do about it.
The family stamped its collective feet, and made hollow threats to disinherit, but in the end, Frank and Alice got their way. Neither branch of the Longbottoms was bloody-minded enough to exile a beloved child - not even for an equally beloved custom.
So Frank and Alice went to the pub to celebrate.
Then they went back to his place to celebrate some more.
And the Longbottoms got their wedding after all.