III

Catherine or Cate

III

What Should Have Been

III

Contingency

III

Jemima looked over to where Blaise sat on the floor by his bed drinking fire whiskey, supposedly celebrating the coming summer solstice and the old ways in tandem with her own graduation. He was the only one alone.

"He doesn't think he'll survive long outside Hogwarts," Hermione said softly from the circle of Draco's arms seeing what held her gaze. "He was mumbling the other day about his father's family being his only option. His mother froze and said nothing."

Jemima thought back to the previous weekend all their parents and carers had been snuck into Hogwarts to discuss future plans. The look on Ms Zabini's face when she saw her son had told them everything they had missed. Blaise was a mechanical shell of his former self. Since Christmas he had become nothing but skin stretched over muscle. Gone was the quiet, but pleasant young man. In his place was a ruthless fighting machine who rarely slept for more than four hours if Harry, Neville and Draco were to be believed and who only went through the motions of life.

Handing her glass to Draco, Jemima moved over to where Blaise said on the floor and joined him. She knew from the dropping volume in the room their friends had noticed. Reaching over Blaise's limp fingers let her take the bottle he was swigging from.

"Tell me what I can do, Blaise," Jemima said softly.

The teen beside her didn't reply.

After several long minutes, tears began to fall and his shoulders began to shake and Blaise toppled sideways and sobbed like a child in her lap. Jemima heard the chinking of glasses being put down as their friends gathered in support. Daphne lay down on the bed above them her hand on Blaise's arm while Hemione sat by his legs a hand on his thigh.

"Come on, sweet man," Jemima begged her arms holding Blaise to her chest. "Let it out."

"Tomorrow is the solstice. We can cleanse you and start fresh. We were all going to do rituals anyway," Daphne said, they all could hear the worry in her voice.

Neville crouched down beside Hermione. "We are going to keep you safe, Blaise. Voldemort has to get through all of use to get close to you. We're your family. We will look after you."

In her arms Blaise stiffened.

"Blaise?" Jemima asked, looking up at their friends.

"Did you know I am a seventh child?" he asked brokenly, the sobs dying down as he tried to speak clearly. "I am a seventh child. My mother doesn't advertise it because seventh children are supposedly so lucky."

"Your father's family," Hermione whispered realising what Blaise's rambling to his mother meant. "Do you know your siblings?"

Blaise shook his head negatively. "My father was… He was a lord of people in Northern Africa. His family and my mother's family could trace their lineage back to the Moors who took Portugal and Spain. My grandfather sold my mother to him, to be his fourth wife when she was fourteen. Despite her lowly status my mother was my father's favourite. He allowed her to finish her education and study whatever she wanted as long as it involved no active magic. She chose law. She was useful to him because of her beauty and knowledge. Even before she became famous for her contracts here she was famous in Africa as the wife who caught her husband's enemies up in loopholes."

"Oh Blaise," Jemima whispered comfortingly brushing his hair, not questioning the tale, waiting to hear the point of the story.

"My father was poisoned. Slowly. He knew he was dying. He knew his children with my mother would be targeted so he provided for them, protected them with contracts. My four sisters were betrothed and my two brothers sponsored by other powerful families in the area making them essentially untouchable. My mother he could not provide for. And she didn't know she was pregnant with me so they didn't write a contact for me."

Blaise sat up and accepted a handkerchief from Neville.

"My father died, and my mother fled not wanting to be sold into slavery or auctioned off to a new husband. She used her skills with contracts to catch new husbands out. Her first husband attacked her when she discovered she was pregnant but there was a sevenfold clause in the contract. That night he died in his sleep of the injuries my mother sustained turned upon him sevenfold. And so it continued with each husband. They started off kind and eventually killed themselves in violent tempers against my mother or myself or through their indiscretions. That's why I know how to fight with blades. I have tended to always need to defend myself against the men my mother marries."

Blaise stood and helped Hermione and herself to their feet and Jemima watched as he started to pace like a caged animal as the rest of them settled onto the edges of the beds.

"Our mothers were introduced by a mutual acquaintance. My mother had helped this mother and wrote the contract for the mediwitch who treated her youngest son who was held under crucio for several seconds. This mother didn't want anyone to know about the boy's injuries afraid that there would be more attacks on their family. Like there aren't plenty, even now," Blaise said dejectedly. "I can't protect her or it would tip my hand. I knew her growing up. Every few years our mothers would get together and renew the treatment contracts on the mediwitch. Then we got older and came to Hogwarts. I knew from the moment I saw her again that I would marry her. We see each other whenever we can," Blaise said with a soft smile Jemima hadn't seen since Christmas. "But we haven't really seen each other that much since the end of winter holidays. We write. But I can't see her like I used to."

Jemima looked to Harry questioningly.

"She was there in Diagon Alley before Christmas," Harry said slowly.

Blaise nodded. "She saw what I did. I saw her face when I looked up as he lay at my feet, dead. She says she still wants to have me. But I can't believe her. I am a monster for what I did. Her face told me she thinks I am a monster," Blaise dropped his head and hunched his shoulders. "But I can't imagine living without her. Like you and Daphne or Dray and Mimi. I can't see her look at me like that ever again. I have nightmares about what she could say me."

"She was in shock," Daphne said firmly. "You just saved her life. Is she loves you half as much as I love Rhy, you cannot give up, Bee."

Blaise shook his head sadly. "I saved her brother and mother, not her."

"Is that why are you in the bottom of another bottle, Blaise?" Harry asked. "Because you're too scared to face her."

"Your research on seventh children," Jemima whispered having seen the copious notes Blaise had made over the years and helped him research from time to time. "You're scared that if you see her you'll lose your hope and your luck."

"And seventh children give hope," Draco said realising Blaise's motivations. "She's your reason for living."

"She's a lot of people's reason for living. And I'm going to need my luck to keep on living," Blaise whispered. "Look, five seventh children were born, that we know of, within a year of Harry Potter. Who according to hospital records could be a seventh child."

"What?" Harry said standing up and crossing to Blaise and grabbing his shoulders. "What did you say?"

"Between finishing high school and your birth your mother was hospitalised for attacks against her person no less than twelve times. Six of those times a medi-person specialising in pregnancy was involved. Why would they be involved if she wasn't pregnant?" Blaise explained.

Where she sat Jemima started to connect the dots. "You said seventh children are tricky," she said. "You think that the luck of the seventh child manifests differently."

"Like me," Draco said softly. "My mother was pronounced barren after countless miscarriages and my father fell in even deeper with Voldemort and then I came along and they spent the next few years trying to extract themselves… Could I be a seventh child in a similar way to Harry?"

Blaise shrugged. "The research suggests anything could be possible. Magic is a wonderful thing."

"The research suggests that the luck can be passed on to offspring. And that seventh children find their partners quite young. They also tend to have large families," Jemima said sprouting off the things she knew from reading Blaise's research.

"I feel like we are going in circles or I have missed something," Neville said speaking up for the first time. "Have I missed something? Blaise feels like a monster for taking a life to save at least two," Neville said checking the point off on his fingers. "He has found his life partner whom he never speaks of and rarely sees, and who is the reason for his existence. Three, Blaise, Harry and Draco are or could be seventh children."

"And me," Hermione added. "My parents had difficulty having children so it's a possibility. My luck could be my magic."

"Four, Blaise has a family he's never met. Five…" Neville paused. "Five, it's summer solstice. Marriages happen on summer solstice."

"Sold at fourteen," Hermione said. "Your mother was sold into marriage at fourteen because in the magical world the age of consent for marriage is still fifteen."

Neville chuckled. "You want to try and protect her and her family by marrying her in the old ways, and because the old ways allow for consent by minors if their birthday is within two months of the solstice. Her fifteenth birthday is coming up. Isn't it?"

"How did you know that?" Jemima asked Neville in surprise.

"I've considered it for Harry and Daphne in the past by Harry's birthdate is outside the two months. He'd have to wait until winter solstice or the next summer solstice," Neville explained with a grin and a shrug.

"Oh Merlin," Draco said looked at Blaise in surprise. "I am so blind!"

Jemima and the others watched as the blond departed their room, before returning to take Harry's invisibility cloak and leaving again.

"I have no idea," Hermione declared as everyone turned to look at her questioningly. The brunette got up and pulled Blaise into a tight hug. "You need to remember that you give us hope. Even if your hope comes from somewhere else, you give us hope. And we love you."

"Like a brother," Harry declared.

"You're our friend," Hermione continued. "We will do our best to always support you. I am sorry for letting you drift these past months. I thought your pain was because you took a life, not because you thought you ended your own. I had no advice to give, only empty platitudes which are no good."

Jemima smiled as Blaise wrapped his arms around Hermione slowly.

"Okay," Jemima declared. "We need to get some meat back on your bones," she declared. "No more booze for Blaise. What do you want to eat?"

Hermione pulled away as Daphne discreetly called a house elf to the room and ordered butter beers.

"A peanut butter sandwich," Blaise said sheepishly. "She and I used to have peanut butter sandwich picnics on the astronomy tower roof."

Jemima saw Daphne make the order and smiled. Looking to Harry she also noticed that every bottle of alcohol had vanished since her previous statement.

"Done," she declared with a nod, making Blaise smile.

"You always remind me of my mum," he said softly, before moving over and hugging her tightly. "Thank you, you mother hen."

Jemima smiled and kissed Blaise's shoulder as she hugged him back.

"I'm sorry for crying on you," Blaise whispered.

"You cried?" Jemima joked. "I only saw the release of a whole lot of pain here this evening."

Blaise smiled weakly as he pulled away. "What's this?" he asked turning to where Harry, Daphne, Neville and Hermione were spread out on conjured picnic blankets on the floor.

"Hope," Neville replied, holding out a plate. "I'm told it comes in many forms. Peanut butter sandwich?"

Blaise accepted the plate and sat down on a pillow offered by Daphne.

"You're good friends," he said softly.

"Of course we are," Draco said from the doorway.

Jemima watched as Draco grabbed at thin air before realising he was grabbing for the invisibility cloak. Turning back she looked at Blaise's face as the person was revealed.

"Of course," Hermione said, obviously a little irritated with herself for not working it out sooner.

Jemima however was enjoying the looks flickering over Blaise's face. Shock, hope, fear, surprise, joy, and heartache, but the entire time, Jemima could feel the love radiating off him.

"Peanut butter sandwich?" he said hoarsely, offering the half still left on his plate.

The red head in the doorway burst into tears rushing at Blaise and dropping into his lap, wrapping her arms around him.

Jemima winked at Draco as he joined Hermione on the opposite corner of the picnic rug before noticing Harry, Neville and Daphne whispering together.

"It's doable," Daphne finally declared with a look to Hermione and then to Jemima.

Jemima smiled. There was a wedding in their future.

Snagging a sandwich Jemima stood. "I know what I have to do then," she said with a smile. "But only if you two can promise me this is exactly what the two of you want."

"Ginny?" Blaise asked and the red head nodded and smiled.

"More than anything," she replied.

"Okay then," Jemima replied. "I am going to go and recruit some Weasleys to my cause."

"Start with Ron," Ginny said taking her eyes off Blaise for the first time. "He and my mother are the place to start. I had to tell them everything after Christmas. They'll cooperate more than Bill or the twins."

"Are you sure?" Jemima asked while smirking as twirled her wand around her fingers.

Blaise and the rest of the group chuckled. "Ginny, sweetie, everyone cooperates for Jemima. There's a reason despite her bloodlines she was placed in, and survived Slytherin."

Ginny blushed prettily and looked around the room. "Then I am glad you're on our side."

III

Just before sunset, Blaise watched as Jemima pulled off the impossible. She reunited his mother with her six other children and he met his brothers and sisters for the first time, even if he couldn't speak with them without an interpretation spell.

"No wonder you ran," his eldest brother kept said. "Mother, no wonder you ran. He didn't have a contract like us. They would have killed you and they would have killed him."

His sisters just clung to her like a lifeline, looking like his mother's sisters not her daughters. Blaise tried not to remember just how young his mother was when she gave birth to her first child, but it was a hard fact to ignore when they were all there, for his wedding.

On the other side of the aisle, the Weasley brother's stood with their own father in varying states of happiness. Ginny had been correct, Bill and the twins looked the most displeased with the situation at hand, but Ron was beaming happily.

Between the two families were all his friends. Harry and Daphne, Neville, Draco and Hermione, Jemima and Ivan, Sirius, Remus, and Moneypenny. Minister Malfoy stood in the centre of the circle drawn into the shore line of the pond in Catchpole ready to perform the service.

Molly Weasley appeared just before sundown, teary but happy. With no thought she moved over to his mother and embraced her happily before coming to him and giving him an equally affectionate hug.

"I am so glad," Molly declared, holding his face in his hands. "I hope this works like you hope it will."

"Me too," Blaise whispered.

"She looks beautiful," Molly said before moving off to join her husband.

Blaise waited and as the sun touched the horizon the magic carried him and Ginny into the circle.

Without a thought Blaise took Ginny's hand in his own and the Minister started the ceremony. It was a blur for Blaise passing quickly with several spells and rituals and chants and as the sphere of sun dropped below the horizon, he and Ginny were married.

They glowed brightly, through their new bonds, and Blaise grinned as Ginny wrapped her arms around him. He kissed her and their magic sang and spread. He could hear Jemima cheering happily as the glow settled over their two families. More brightly over their parents and Ginny's brothers but over them all. Blaise closed his eyes and pulled away from Ginny, greatly relieved.

"It worked," Ginny whispered. "They're protected."

Blaise nodded and nudged his wife from the circle into the arms of their waiting mothers.

"This was a good thing you did," the Minister said softly from behind him. Blaise shook her offered hand. "Did you notice that what didn't go to your siblings went to your friends?"

Blaise looked at her in surprise.

"I suppose you wouldn't of," Minister Malfoy declared obviously amused. "You were obviously distracted by your new wife."

Blaise looked over to his friends who were all beaming, with the girls in varying states of tears.

"I must consider them family enough for the magic to recognise, even if it was a blood based ritual," Blaise said thoughtfully.

"Don't think on it too much, Blaise. Go and enjoy yourself. My cousin has organised a lavish dinner back at Potter Manor for your honour. We can sort out tomorrow, tomorrow."

Blaise nodded and stepped from the circle straight into the crush of his friends.

"Tomorrow, we start planning how to survive this next year, alright?" he told them as they battered him with loving comments and gratitude.

Jemima was the first to laugh at his comment. "If we'd only know that all it took was Ginny Weasley we could have had General Blaise back months ago."

"It's Ginny Zabini," the red head said walking up to them.

And with barely a thought, Ginny was brought into the circle of arms. Not because they liked her, or the protection their marriage had just given his friends. But because they trust him, and because she made him happy.

"It's alright, Blaise," Harry said. "We will make contingency plan after contingency plan, tomorrow."

Blaise nodded and grinned at his wife, who responded by kissing him firmly on the mouth.

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