Chapter Five: The Scroll of Eligibles
Harry and Hermione were just sitting down at the Three Broomsticks when they were joined by Blaise.
"Forgive the interruption, but I've got the rest of the names for you, Harry," Blaise said, handing him a list and taking a seat in response to Hermione's gesture of welcome.
Harry read the names and whistled. "Tonks?"
"What?" Hermione asked. "Really?"
Blaise grinned. "She meets the requirements. She's from a good family, is an accomplished witch, is of child-bearing age, and—"
"Has a Muggle-born father and a free spirit," Hermione interrupted. "Why is Severus selecting so many Eligibles who aren't pure-bloods? I mean, does he simply not care, or is it something more?"
"It's his way of commenting on all this back-to-basics nonsense," said Harry. "Isn't it?"
"Exactly," Blaise replied, turning to Hermione and continuing, "and, just for the record, Severus isn't the one selecting the names. That's my duty."
"You suggested Harry—and the other half-bloods?"
"My way of 'commenting', you could say—and I did agree that Harry would be perfect in terms of elevating Severus' reputation."
Harry gave a rueful chuckle. "I suppose it's good to be 'perfect' at something, but getting back to the list, you should know that I've already struck four names from it."
"It's the Scroll, Harry," Blaise admonished, "and which names?"
Harry passed Blaise his copy of the modified Scroll, and Blaise laughed.
"Draco Malfoy. Right. No explanation needed there."
"Then why'd you list him as a possible?" Harry asked.
Blaise coloured a bit. "Honestly? I was so worried about getting it right that I listed anyone even remotely acceptable."
"You mean," said Harry, "that you were worried about finding enough candidates, don't you?"
"He was just being thorough, Harry," Hermione said, patting Blaise's arm. "That's never a bad thing."
Harry watched Blaise's flush deepen and bit back a smile. Idiot. "The next candidate I struck was Thomas Avery. It seems he's something of a homophobe."
"Is that so?" asked Blaise. "Well, he certainly won't do. Why'd you strike Mallory Midgist?"
"Her mother was suspected of being a Death Eater during the first rise of Voldemort."
"Ah. Trevor Marchbanks?"
"He's Margaret Marchbanks' brother. I didn't think it was a good idea to include siblings on the Scroll. He also happens to be straight."
"Margaret and Trevor Marchbanks," interjected Hermione, "aren't they Griselda Marchbanks' grandchildren?"
"Great-grandchildren, actually," Blaise replied. "Trevor's not queer?"
"Nope," Harry answered. "He's been living in London with a woman for five years."
"I thought that they were flatmates."
"She's a Squib. I don't think his family approves."
"That's sad," said Hermione.
Blaise frowned. "It's the way of the world, unfortunately."
"Which is why it's so good of Severus to allow you to add Muggle-borns to the Scroll," Hermione told him. "Any improvement in the treatment of Muggle-borns can only help that of Squibs."
"I would hope so," said Blaise, turning to Harry. "When do you think you'll conclude your investigations?"
"Probably by Friday if nothing weird comes up."
"Excellent. There's a Ministry gala on first December that I plan to use to mark the start of the Courtship Ritual. Most of the Eligibles will have received invitations to it, and Severus is planning to attend it," Blaise said, rising. "Thanks again for doing this, Harry. It's a help."
"Are you going home?" asked Hermione.
"Yes. Grimley and Banks want to work on their shielding spells."
"It's good of you to help them."
"I'm always good, Auror Granger," Blaise replied, taking his leave.
Harry smirked at the pursing of Hermione's lips. "You two seem to be getting on well."
"We've always enjoyed a professional relationship. Now then, would you like to know what I've found out about the Courtship Ritual?"
Would I please stop teasing you about Blaise, you mean? "Sure."
"It was introduced to help members of the 'Great Houses' ensure that their offspring married 'appropriately' and has seven stages."
"Seven. The first stage is called the Presentation, during which the Supplicant's Advocate publicly presents the Scroll of Eligibles—now this is done by sending it to the Daily Prophet rather than reading it before Parliament—and then invitations are accepted by the Supplicant to parties given by his peers at which the Eligibles will be present. The Muggle 'Season', during which courting takes place, has its origins in this wizarding practice."
"Muggles still do that? I thought that sort of thing only happened back in Jane Austen's time," Harry said, trying not to smile at how much Hermione sounded like a lecturer.
"They do. The Presentation lasts two months, at the end of which several Eligibles are unofficially removed from the Scroll."
"They don't know officially until later. I'm getting to that. The second stage, the Reception, is also two months, during which time the Supplicant holds parties at his Family seat. All of the Eligibles are invited to these affairs, but half of them are removed from the Scroll by the end of this stage—and they find out when they don't receive invitations to the house party hosted by the Supplicant that is the third stage, known as the Convivium."
"You mean, we're going to have to stay at Snape Manor for two months?"
"If we make the cut, yes."
"Right. I don't expect to."
"We'll see," Hermione said, looking at Harry rather too pointedly for his comfort before continuing. "In the fourth stage, the Meeting, private meetings are set up—"
"You mean dates, don't you?"
"If you like. The Supplicant arranges to meet each of the remaining Eligibles for private meetings so that he can get to know them better. Traditionally, at the end of this stage only three Eligibles remain on the Scroll."
"The Courtship Ritual sounds like one of those bizarre Muggle dating elimination shows."
"Yes, I suppose, except in this case, magic plays a role. In the fifth stage, the Testing, dating is coupled with magical compatibility testing."
"You mean there's studying involved?" Harry asked, somewhat appalled by the idea.
"I think it sounds intriguing, but I don't know what it entails."
"And that is annoying, isn't it?"
"Of course it is. In any case, at the end of the Testing, the Supplicant makes his 'Choice' and proposes to him or her."
"What if he's rejected?"
"Well, he'll have two other Eligibles to fall back on, won't he?"
"That's convenient," Harry replied, frowning.
Hermione sighed. "I gather it's supposed to be. The sixth stage is the Negotiation, and it involves the negotiation of the marital contract."
"There's a contract?"
"A legally and magically binding contract that details things such as how many children there will be, how they'll be raised, where the couple will live, the distribution of monies between the parties, and other, related matters. The procedure for the Binding is discussed, as well," Hermione continued, wrinkling her nose.
Harry frowned. "I don't like the sound of that. Blaise told me that Snape, as Head of his Family, controls the magic of the other members to some degree. How does that work?"
"Well, it depends. That sort of thing is increasingly rare, though I know the Malfoys still do it. In fact, it's quite common in France and Germany, still."
"As his spouse, would I—"
Hermione's expression brightened. "Are you really thinking that far ahead?"
"I just want to know," Harry said defensively.
"I do, as well, and I honestly don't know. The reference materials are all very quiet about the magical side of things because the traditions of each Family are different. From what I read, I did learn that spouses married after completing the Courtship Ritual tend to be bound to one another in a manner that precludes divorce. Worse yet, the Binding often makes it impossible for an Eligible-cum-spouse who isn't precluded from divorcing from having children with anyone else."
"That's horrible. Who would agree to something like that?" Harry asked, feeling nauseated at the thought of someone holding that sort of power over him.
"It's a tradition," Hermione said, looking none too pleased, herself, "but one that not every Family keeps. I'm sure that Severus would ne—"
"I'd never allow anyone to do that to me."
"Well, that's what the Negotiation is for, so don't worry about it."
Harry blushed, a bit surprised by how seriously he was taking everything. "I'm an idiot. I'll never get that far."
Hermione didn't reply.
"Um, so what's the seventh stage?"
"Oh, sorry—that's the Binding, the marriage ceremony and traditional celebrations which follow it. These used to last two months, but most couples elect to travel after the Binding, now."
Harry felt stupid. "I should have worked that out. Anyway, the entire thing takes a year?"
"Depending on how traditional the Supplicant is, yes, but you and I will only be involved in the first stage, I expect."
"Are you having second thoughts about this? It is an awfully long time to be . . . helpful."
"No. It just feels odd to be participating at all when I know that Snape doesn't like me."
Hermione reached for one of Harry's hands and squeezed it. "He does so, and I'm sure he's grateful to you for agreeing to escort him. He was certainly grateful to me."
"What do you mean?"
"He sent me a letter giving me the opportunity to back out, and—"
"Yes, and he was very gracious."
"A gracious Snape, that is a strange concept. All he wrote to me was that he wouldn't hex me."
Hermione smirked. "I suppose that meets some definition of graciousness, don't you?"
"Ha," Harry replied. "Look, I'd best be off to the Ministry. A little over a week's not very much time to sort out all these potential Eligibles," Harry continued, suddenly straightening in his chair. "Hermione, when are we going to tell Ron?"
"How about after you finish your investigation of the potentials, say, next Sunday?"
Harry was relieved. "Sounds good."
"Safety in numbers," Hermione agreed.
Sunday next, which arrived sooner than Harry had wished, he met with Hermione and Ron at the Gryphon's Foote, a fancy wizarding eatery near Gringotts.
"Whoa! It's hard to believe that anyone'd marry him."
"That's not very nice, Ron," said Hermione.
"Yeah, well, isn't it weird, the thought of Snape getting married? Who's on his Scroll, anyway?"
That was Harry's cue to begin to tell Ron their news. "I've got the final list of twenty-four here," he said, nervously unfurling the scroll of parchment he held. "Shall I just read it?"
"Sure," Ron answered.
"Albion Argyle, thirty-seven, Junior Minister of Financial Affairs at the Ministry—went to Hogwarts. Crispin Charteris, thirty-two, philanthropist interested in ancient wizarding art—went to Beauxbatons. Elizabeth Dellwood, thirty, Spellcraftre First Class—Hogwarts. Drusilla Denton, twenty-three, secretary to the Goblin-Wizard Affairs Liaison—privately schooled."
"What does that mean?" Hermione asked.
"It means," said Ron, "that her parents had her tutored at home, probably because they wanted to marry her off young—no doubt they're that disappointed that she went out to work."
"Hmph," Hermione responded, clearly annoyed by that idea.
"Dorothea Dippet, thirty-nine, Headmistress of Bells-Temple Academy, a magical preparatory school in Oxford—Hogwarts. Elladina Endicott, thirty-four, no profession—Durmstrang."
"Durmstrang?" asked Ron.
"Yeah. Her parents sent her there after relocating to Germany."
"Luis Faberge, thirty-three, owns a magiceutical firm in France—Beauxbatons. Miranda Frasier, thirty-eight, haruspex—Beauxbatons. She's really going to please Snape, isn't she?" Harry asked, now even more nervous because of the next name on his list.
"Yeah, Snape won't like that she's one of those," Ron agreed.
Harry noticed that Hermione was looking a bit pale and decided to get it over with. "Right. The next Eligible is Hermione Granger, twenty-six, Aur—"
"Ron," Hermione chastised him, "must you yell?"
"You're not on Snape's Scroll of Eligibles!"
"Why should that bother you?" Hermione demanded.
"Why?" Ron asked, clearly as gobsmacked as Harry had known he would be.
"Because he asked me to, that's why."
Ron opened his mouth to speak but quickly shut it again.
"Well," said Harry, "now that that's out of the way, Auror—Hogwarts," he continued, as if there had been no interruption. "Lucretia Langford, twenty-eight, a witch living as a Muggle actress—Beauxbatons. Lorelai Lovegood—"
"Any relation to Luna?" asked Hermione.
"Yes, they're cousins. She's twenty-eight, as well, and an archaeologist. She was privately schooled. Lucien Llewellyn, twenty-six, curse-breaker for Gringotts—Hogwarts. The aforementioned Margaret Marchbanks, twenty-nine, solicitor—Hogwarts. Oh, and you'll love this next one. Morgan Moody, twenty-two."
"Moody? As in Alastor Moody?" Ron asked, whistling. "Snape's asking for it!"
"Auror Moody was married?" Hermione asked, her eyebrows rising until hidden by her fringe.
"Actually, no. He had a child out of wedlock, and Morgan's his grandson. Morgan went to Bells-Temple, and then he was privately schooled. No profession."
"I'll bet Snape added him just to needle Moody."
Harry grinned at Ron in agreement, and then said, "St John Ollivander, twenty-seven, apprentice wand-maker to his great-great-grandfather—Hogwarts. The next Eligible is from Hogwarts, too, and he's twenty-five," Harry said quietly.
The Chudley Cannons' coach may have had "the emotional depth of a teaspoon," but he was not stupid. Harry watched as the freckles on Ron's face disappeared in a tide of livid flushing. "You're on Snape's list?"
"Harry Potter," Harry said, in acknowledgment.
"I need a minute," Ron said, rising. "Both of my best mates have gone off their nuts."
With that, he strode from the restaurant.
"Oh, dear," said Hermione.
"Perhaps we should have told him straight away," Harry replied, fiddling with the list and feeling guilty. Wonder if he's smoking again?
The strong smell of tobacco that clung to Ron upon his return was answer enough.
"I thought you'd quit," Hermione said sharply.
Ron pulled a packet of ciggs out of his pocket and tossed them onto the table. "I smoked three in a row," he replied, looking a bit green. "I probably shouldn't have—but would you please stop trying to get a bit of your own back and explain why you didn't just tell me about all this?"
"Like you told me?" Hermione whispered, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.
Harry felt distinctly uncomfortable to be witnessing a conversation that obviously had nothing to do with him. He rose. "I'll just give you two a moment."
"No," Ron and Hermione answered.
"Sit," Ron ordered.
Hermione said, "I didn't know how else to tell you. I know that you've never liked him, but—"
"He's brave and noble and all that rot, right?"
"Yeah," Harry answered, "and Blaise asked me, so—"
"Blaise actually just put Harry's name on the list without asking him," Hermione interrupted.
"True," said Harry. "He knew I'd be too upset about Bill to discuss it."
Ron closed his eyes as if in pain, and then he opened them to look from Harry to Hermione and back again. "Right. We're both bastards. I'm sorry. I just couldn't," he said to Hermione, before turning to Harry and continuing, "and I'm sorry about Bill. I hoped I'd be wrong about him, really."
Harry sighed. "Don't worry about it—wasn't your fault."
"I'm sorry I teased you, Ron," Hermione said, taking his hand. "I just . . . well, there's no excuse for teasing you the way I did. I mean, I'm obviously not still upset with you about Lavender."
Harry watched Ron and Hermione and felt, once again, out of place; the two of them shared something he'd never experienced, and it made him wistful, but he had no intention on dwelling on it. "So, do you think you can stand it, our being Eligibles?"
"I s'pose I'll have to," Ron replied, giving Harry a weak grin. "Who else is the git romancing?"
Harry looked at his list and read, "Seraphina Solstella, thirty-one, singer—Accademia Italiana di Magia. Christopher Spenser, twenty-five, author—also from the Italian Academy of Magic. Edward Tolkien, thirty-one, no profession—Durmstrang. Nymphadora Tonks, thirty-two, Auror—Hogwarts. Theodore Tuttle, twenty-eight, no profession—privately educated. William Walden, thirty-four, Auror—Hogwarts." Oh. Oh, damn. I forgot about him, Harry thought, stopping as he saw the next name.
"Why'd you stop?" Ron asked.
"Because you know the next Eligible."
"Is it Charlie?"
"Thirty-three, Dragon Biologist—Hogwarts."
"That's not really a surprise," said Ron. "Mum's not going to like it, of course—he's been telling her for years that he was just waiting for the right bird, the stupid prat—but I doubt he'll be in the running long. Anyone else?"
"The last Eligible is a third cousin of Snape's. Marazelle Zabini, thirty-four, Spellcraftre—Beauxbatons."
"He'll probably pick her, but are you two sure you know what you're doing?" Ron asked.
Hermione sighed, replying, "Of course we do."
Harry nodded, feeling less certain.
"Well, good luck. The press will hound you constantly, and you'll be in danger of," Ron said, coughing, "getting your hearts broken."
Harry laughed. "Right. There's no chance of that happening."
His face grew hot as he saw that both Ron and Hermione were looking at him with the same speculative expression on their faces.