Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Following my conversation with Pucey at the end of the school day, I checked out the most ridiculous book ever written from the library. And this is coming from someone who read self-help books in her past life. The book was titled "The Ancient and Noble Guide to A Traditional Wizarding Courtship". The title alone made me embarrassed to even be holding the book. But Pucey had been adamant. After Arithmancy class, he pulled me aside while the rest of our class left. I wasn't allowed to avoid him. "All those things I said on Sunday were an offer of protection" Pucey had said. My immediate response was to scoff. Hell, I was scoffing now as I stood in the library thinking about it. That Sunday, I didn't feel protected. I felt singled out like a dog that was about to be adopted from a shelter.
The book weighed heavily in my hands as I turned it over. Like most books in the wizarding world, there wasn't a description on the back. I flipped it back over and stared at the embossed flower design that decorated the front cover with disdain. For some reason, I was associating reading this book with crossing a line that I could never cross again. It felt like after I read this book, I'd know things that I was scared to know. ridiculous, right? But Pucey had also said, "You wouldn't have taken this the wrong way if your family wasn't so anticonventional". As if this whole conflict was my fault. I had wanted to slap him. Hours after as I grip this book, I can still feel my hand itching to do so. My family isn't anticonventional. We aren't conventional either. We just don't proscribe to either side. We simply think for ourselves and make our own decisions. It's the reason why Bill gets along so well with the goblins he works with at Gringotts. Forcing myself, I open the book. Maybe there's a description on the inside. Jessie could recall muggle books that had descriptions on the inside rather than on the back. But Wizarding books tended to resemble the books Jessie could only find at consignment shops. The ones that were printed so long ago that their outside appearance was undescriptive from other books, and don't have summaries of their content. But the only thing I see is a title page. "The Ancient and Noble Guide to A Traditional Wizarding Courtship" written by Margret Dolohov in 1880. The new information had me rolling my eyes. At least I know it was written by a credible source. Not biased or outdated at all.
"Weasley", Pucey had gone on to say. At that point, we had been the last ones in the classroom. Even Professor Vector had left. Unluckily for me, it seemed that she didn't have a class after ours that would require Pucey and me to leave. "I wanted to wait. Generally, what I did isn't something people do until they are at least sixteen. But now the Slytherins, or at least the other heirs, have to leave you alone unless they want to contest me". Instantly, I was confused. There was a lot to unpack in that statement. I was still turning it over in my head as I stared at this book. Maybe there's a table of contents. Then I could pick and choose certain parts and wouldn't have to read the entire thing. I flipped passed the title page, and luckily saw what I was looking for. The book consisted of twelve chapters. Meaning that the chapters must be pretty lengthy based on the size of the book. Chapter one was titled, "Selecting the Appropriate Partner for a Pureblood". Bloody hell. The following two chapters were of a similar mind; "Selecting the Appropriate Partner for an Ambitious half-blood", and "Selecting the Appropriate Partner for a Half-blood". Unsurprisingly, muggleborns were not included. I wondered what the difference was between an ambitious half-blood and just a plain half-blood. But I decided to just skip all three of those chapters for the sake of my mental health.
At what had been my befuddled expression, Pucey had said, "you are off-limits. I made you off-limits". That sentence went over as well as one would expect.
I had responded with, "You don't get to decide that!"
The fourth chapter was titled, "Making Your Intentions Known". I should probably start there. I flipped to the right page and started reading exactly where I stood. But my mind was still on the conversation I had with Pucey.
Pucey had sighed and looked up towards the ceiling as if he was pleading with Merlin to give him patience. Right, because he was the one who needed it. "Our numbers are dwindling, Weasley", he had said after he had collected himself. "They were dwindling when I was Regulus. And our numbers are even fewer now in this generation. Purebloods are having fewer children because couples are having a difficult time getting and staying pregnant".
"Yes, that is a consequence of interbreeding". I had said. But it's weak coming from me. My mum comes from the Prewett line, and both the Prewett line and the Weasley line have ties to the Blacks, so….
But Pucey had ignored me. "A lot of families are only producing one child. And in this generation, there has been more sons than daughters". Pucey had looked at me expectantly. As if I was suddenly supposed to get it. At my unmoved expression, Pucey had loudly sighed. He looked like he would like nothing more than to grab my shoulders and shake me until I saw what he so clearly did. "To keep bloodlines alive families are going to have to find their sons brides" Pucey had trailed off as if he was waiting for me to pick up his line of thought. I let him down. Pucey had huffed. "Your family isn't rich but your parents achieved something, specifically your mother, that the other pureblood lines will desire". At that point, he had lost me. The majority of purebloods that Pucey was referring to are families that see my family as blood traitors. We do not have anything those people would want.
Chapter four talked about making direct eye contact when talking to your chosen person. It encouraged wizards to go out of their way to escort witches to where they needed to go and to maintain contact whenever socially acceptable. In public, of course. It wouldn't do to have anyone accusing either party of inappropriate overtures. Chapter four encouraged witches to bat their eyes, ask a lot of questions, and to make their interests known to their parents. All asinine things that made me long for dating apps on smartphones. At least with dating apps, there weren't a million hoops to leap through.
Pucey had gone on the say with a boatload of exacerbation in his voice, "your mother, Weasley, had eight children. Eight healthy children, all that have presented as magical so far. You have a younger sister still at home, right? I'm guessing that she is magical too". It started to make a little more sense at this point. A suspected consequence of pureblood interbreeding was producing squibs. My family was very large and very magical. I guess we did have something others would want. "Not only that, but your mother had six sons and two daughters. Her oldest five are all sons. Your family has one heir and many spares". It was an awful phrase, but I got what Pucey was talking about in that context. Families needed sons to pass on their names. A family with an heiress would most likely end up passing on a different surname. Or be the end of the bloodline altogether if they failed to marry. Hell, before the 1900s a witch's inheritance got consolidated into her husband's property. The one exception I can think of where a pureblood witch passed on her name to her offspring was Madame Zabini with Blaise Zabini, in Ron's year, is the proof. Talk about a boon for witches' rights. "Not to mention that she conceived multiples. Do you know how rare multiples are in pureblood families?" Pucey had asked. In truth, I didn't know if multiples were rare to purebloods or not. It's not something I ever really thought about. I tried to think of all the sets of multiples I knew of at Hogwarts. Fred, George, and I were the only triplets. Then there were the Patil sisters in Ron's year, but I didn't know if they were half-bloods or purebloods. Then there were the Carrow sisters, but I couldn't remember if they had started Hogwarts yet. Was that a lot of multiples or not? I really didn't know.
But I couldn't see how what Pucey had been saying connected to the events from Sunday. Chapter five was titled, "A Recognized Courtship". As far as content goes, there wasn't much there. It was addressed mostly to wizards. Stating that they needed the witch's family's blessing before the courtship was official. The book recommended that the wizard have his parents introduce the courtship to the witch's family. There was no romance in traditional wizarding courtship. It sounded more like a business transaction.
Pucey went on to say, "so it doesn't matter if your family is considered to be blood traitors. You won't get any offers from families like the Malfoys". When he had said that, I thanked Merlin for small mercies. "But you and your sister, assuming that she is magical, will get offers".
It was something I never had considered. Why would I? The Burrow is like its own little bubble. We rarely venture into wizarding society as we didn't maintain many social connections except for family and a few of Dad's work friends. There wasn't really any need. Great Aunt Muriel was about all we could handle. Marriage and dating also wasn't a conversation I've had with Mum yet. In truth, I've been avoiding it. Did Mum know about all this traditional courtship nonsense? Did Dad? Or had Pucey been trying to pull a fast one over me? That's partially the reason why I came to the library to find a book like this one. But still, not all of the dots were connecting.
Pucey had to spell it out further. "You're a reincarnated soul, Weasley. Worse, you said in your past life you were a muggle. Do you think you can keep that a secret when you get married?".
I had responded with, "If I get married". Emphasizing the word if. I don't have to if I don't want to". In truth though, I was stalling. I have never considered marriage. Not as Holly at any rate. I haven't thought of my future at all past the war. My mission, my one goal was to make sure Fred lived. And to make sure no one else in my family died in his place. After that, I didn't see much of a purpose for my existence. I imagine there's a place for me at Fred and George's future joke shop. But I didn't know if I wanted that or not. I wasn't sure if I even had a future after the war.
Pucey had ignored me. "If people found out I was Regulus Black reincarnated, even with Sirius being set free, there would be repercussions. We will only be secure together".
I flipped to the fifth chapter. It's titled "Love Letters". I had to fight the urge to gag. Who needs instructions on how to write a love letter? The chapter went into detail about what was allowed and what was inappropriate. Something that surprised me, was that the book said letters were an appropriate way to communicate with your chosen partner without needing supervision. In a sense, it was saying that if couples were to do anything was deemed inappropriate Letters were the acceptable medium. It seems there were loopholes even in rigid pureblood society.
Perhaps, I didn't need to worry about my future. From the way Pucey had been talking, it sounded like he had already planned the future for us. At that point in our conversation, I had asked, "Did it ever occurred to you that I don't want to go along with what you're suggesting? My family knows about Jessie, and they don't care! I can live a happy life with them and without being tied down to anyone else".
Pucey had rolled his eyes. "You've been perfectly agreeable up until now. Agreeing to go to Hogsmeade with me".
"That was a transaction".
"I've loaned you my scarf on a couple of occasions".
"I was cold".
"And yet you never managed to bring your own scarf. The wizard sharing garments is a form of courting". And judging by what this book was saying, Pucey had been right. I wondered if he had read this book. "Then there were all those times when we were talking that you kept getting closer and closer".
I had answered, "That's just harmless flirting!" Immediately, I had to take a step back. Before that moment I had never referred to our interactions a flirting. It felt like ripping off a band-aid. I didn't like it. But I had managed to regain myself seconds later. "I wasn't aware that having fun with you was the same as promising myself to you".
Pucey had said the last line, "you can refuse my advances at any time, Weasley. But until you do, I am going to write this off as a spat, and follow through with my intentions". And then he had stood there, having placed the ball in my court.
I had taken the metaphorical ball and ran with it. Literally, I turned around and ran from the classroom. I didn't run because I was scared, or because I didn't want to face Pucey. I left because I was unsure of what I wanted to do. I don't want to lose what potential friendship I could have with Pucey. I also didn't want to encourage this foolishness. Past experiences had taught me that relationships don't work out for some people. Jessie's experiences had taught me that. Images of blood and a knife flashed through my mind, and I had to pause to take a deep breath. That was… that was a new memory. Or rather, a newly recovered memory. That night. The night I lost Jessie and became conceived as Holly, whoever had killed me had been important to me. Now, as I stood in the library reading this stupid book, I refused to think about it. I have never been able to remember Jessie's killer, and in a way, I was grateful for that because it meant that was one demon I didn't have to deal with. I didn't like it that there was a chance I could remember more. So, I forced my attention to remain on Pucey and all of the things he had said to me. I didn't want to reject Pucey. I didn't want to encourage him either. So, that left the only thing I knew how to do; get even.
Under the judgment and great scrutiny of Madam Pince, I checked out the book about traditional wizarding courting. Despite being repulsed by the book, it gave me ideas that I can use. Particularly the chapter about letter writing. I started forming a loosely constructed plan as I made the trek up to Gryffindor tower. With some cleverly worded pose and some practiced forged handwriting, I think I could show Pucey exactly what he can do with his courting and get back at Stimpson for that water stunt at the same time.
Despite Fred and George trying to pull my attention to them when I entered the common room (probably to remind me that we were no longer speaking to Pucey), I headed straight for my dorm. Alicia and Angelina weren't there. Neither were the two non-named roommates that I didn't care to know. Alicia and Angelina were probably somewhere else in the castle, staring at Diggory. When I got the chance, I would have to tell them about the conversation I had with him today. They wouldn't care about the content of the conversation. But they would want to hear about what Diggory's eyes looked like when he talked to me. They probably wouldn't like it when I compared them to Pucey's eyes. I couldn't care less what the other two were doing. Having the room to myself worked in my favor. With the library book in hand, I dropped my bookbag by the foot of my bed. Next, I fished out some spare bits of parchment along with a quill and ink. With everything in hand, I climbed up on my bed, shoes and all. Drawing the curtains shut, I set myself up to write the most nauseating letter that there ever was.
To Miss Stimpson,
The events of last Sunday have been weighing on my mind. While I cannot condone your unbecoming actions, I have to admit that I am starting to see your point. While I find Weasley to be different from her family, she is still not cut from the same cloth as you and I. Perhaps it would be advisable to select a different witch. I know I am fourteen, so I have time before anything official is expected of me, so I will consider my options carefully. This is my written promise to you that I have not written you off.
The appeal I see in Weasley is valid. It is as I said on Sunday. Weasley has done nothing wrong. It is not her that has ensnared me. Rather, it is the other way around. I am trying to ensnare Weasley. Weasley's family has a significance that I cannot overlook. As I am sure you are aware, a pureblood family with eight children is a rarity. The Pucey line could only benefit from such an increase in numbers. My parents had me at an older age than is the norm. So, it is vital that I do what I can to guarantee the future of the Pucey line. Though, Weasley does lack all sense of social etiquette. She seems to be oblivious to my intentions, while I feel I have been straight forward with my advances. You, however, know the ins and outs of our society. You understand the subtleness of our culture that Weasley is ignorant to. Patricia, I do see you.
Logically, I know you would be the smarter choice. A witch raised to be a matriarch of a pureblood family. However, I cannot deny the appeal Weasley possesses. I have always found red hair to be breathtaking.
Here I had to pause. Partially because writing this letter was making me feel sick and partially because I wondered if I could use this letter to get Stimpson to do something. Something that Pucey would hate. Maybe something like…
Weasley doesn't have it all, however. I have always been fond of girls who are musically inclined. Girls who can sing, hum and chant in perfect harmony throughout everyday life. If only a girl like that existed. Anyway, I don't mean to keep you. I just wanted to write to ensure you that while I am considering Weasley's place, I am also considering yours.
Since we are not in a recognized courtship, I ask that you keep our correspondence between us. It would be better if you do not reply to this letter, or confront me about it for the sake of your reputation. If you must respond, please use the same owl that delivered this to you. That will be the safest method for both of us.
With found regards,
Now all I needed to do was find an owl.