Author's Note: Darlings, yes. I have officially begun one multi-chapter work before finishing another. As usual, I make no promises, but please know that both chapter two of this work and chapter three of "Help" are in process. So, yes, my utter capitulation to the whims of my fickle Muse is complete. But, I've wanted to write this piece since I finished Misspent Youth, so I figured it's best to strike while the iron's hot.
Mercurial Prerequisites: Little of this (especially the tense change) will make sense unless you've read Albus Potter and the Misspent Youth.
And now, please enjoy:
The Mercury Chronicles: Transitions
There are events in society that so profoundly change one's world that one looks at anything written before said event as horribly out-of-date, whether it was written two weeks earlier or two years. And so it was with the outing of Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley – the couple. The paparazzi had been trying to get the inside scoop on them for ages, to no avail, of course. There were five people in the world who knew the answer to that question – six if you count that Mick bint in America, which I don't – and none of them were telling any time soon. So it was inevitable that the bloody fools were camped outside Rose's house, Malfoy Manor and the Ministry waiting to be the first to ask us an inane question or twelve. Naturally, our response was not to leave the house unless it was absolutely necessary.
However, when one needs an outfit for an interview with Miss Lavender Brown, leaving the house becomes absolutely necessary. On the morning of the 2nd of August 2023, Rose and Scorpius came over to strategise. I met them at the floo entrance, happily finding Scorpius none the worse for wear after having broken his fast chez Uncle Ron.
"Albus, who's at the floo, love?" Mum called from her office.
"Just Rose and Scorpius, Mum," I called back. "We'll be in my room." The three of us began to make our way upstairs, arm-in-arm-in-arm, when we heard Mum scrambling over to meet us.
"Wait! Er, I mean, you will have the door open up there, right?"
"Albus, honestly. It was one thing when you were eleven, but you're older now and, well, things are a bit different, what with –"
I cut her off. Even just in front of Rose and Scorpius, this was embarrassing.
"Mum, I'm going to be in there, too. There will be three of us – what in Salazar's name do you think we get up to at school, anyway?" Mum stood there a moment, visibly trying not to ponder the answer to that question.
"And besides, Aunt Ginny," Rose interjected, "I may love Albus with all my heart, but I'm not sharing Scorpius with anyone." Rose flashed Mum a cheeky wink, and we continued on our way.
"Obviously this calls for something dark, perhaps with an emerald print, love," Scorpius offered, once we were safely ensconced in my room. "You'll want to maintain your Slytherin pride, without going too over-the-top."
"Darlings, I tend to disagree," Rose said, rather insistently. "As fabulous as she is, Miss Brown is still, after all, a Gryffindor. If there ever were a time to go full muggle, this might just be it. Albus, darling, do you have any of those muggle mags your Aunt Audrey gave you?"
I rummaged through my desk and pulled out my stack of magazines. Rose handed us each two and charged us with finding an outfit in there that wouldn't just look good, but would be something I could develop a brand around. And she was right. Certainly Miss Lavender would want to show me the trade, but she would expect me to wow her at the interview. When I saw the black and white ensemble with the 3cm lapels, I knew I was there. Black sports coat - nearly a smoking jacket, but with satin lapels instead of velvet, black dungarees, not faded, a white open collar oxford and a necktie nearly as skinny in the front as in the back. It said casual decadence, attitude and self-sufficiency. It gave what status-quo there was in 2025 a hearty two-finger salute. Only problems were excesses of eyeliner and hairspray, but we could work around that. I showed the picture to Rose and Scorpius and they applauded. Now for the tricky part; getting out of the house.
Dad was of little help; he went on about some nonsense like "a free press is the backbone of a vibrant democracy" when I asked him to call his Aurors to disperse the paparazzi. Mom wouldn't bring down the anti-apparition ward, either. She reckoned that this was a problem of our own making, and had we not wanted to be in the public eye, blah blah blah... Miss Patil couldn't custom spell anything in the five days I had left, so owl-order was out of the question. It looked like we were going to have to face the music.
"Fucking hell," I whinged, "I so wish we could get Madame Norma to make this go away." That was the first I'd mentioned our former pseudo-publicist since our relationship had blown up over James's coming-out. "That bigoted old shrew would have had these slobbering idiots well-tamed by now."
"True enough, Albus," Rose said. "She always had a way of telling someone to bugger-off and make it seem like it was their idea in the first place."
"Well, we did tell her we could handle things ourselves, didn't we?" Scorpius asked. He was, of course, the least willing of all of us to bring the story to Quidditch Quickly, effectively ending our relationship with Teen Witch, Ltd. "I suppose it's time we do so, wouldn't you say? What would Madame Norma do in a case like this?"
"That's just the problem, love," I answered. "We've never dealt with a hostile crowd - That's it! I've got it! Oh, I'm a fucking genius!"
"Not smart enough to watch that bloody mouth of yours in the house, though, are you?" Mum yelled up the stairs.
"Sorry, mum!" I called back, while Rose and Scorpius sniggered.
"Auntie Ginny, He's flipping us the bird!" Rose called out, quite truthfully.
"Well quit pissing him off and he'll probably stop!" was the reply she got, causing all of us to break up into hysterics. When we calmed down, I explained.
"The reason we never had to deal with a hostile crowd is that Madame Norma made sure there never was one. Think about it: they don't have a story without us, so we just need to give them something to chew on and they're ours. Question is, what do we keep so that they keep coming for more, and how often do we give them something?"
"Well, the relationship is all out in the open now," Rose said. "We should probably give them something new, don't you think?"
"What if we stage a row?" Scorpius asked. "What if we tell them nothing, but make them believe that Rose here is, in fact, the meat in our Albus-Scorpius-Sandwich?"
"On the right track, love," I replied, "but do you really want your Auntie Daphs asking you if you swing the bat with both hands? Me either."
"Ooh! What if we offer them some Romeo and Juliet pabulum about how we'd like our children to be the salve that heals old war-wounds once and for all?" Scorpius stiffened significantly at this suggestion.
"No, no, love," Rose continued, stroking his cheek. "I'm not suggesting announcing an engagement - perhaps 'children' would be the wrong thing to say - No, we simply tell them that our love can be the salve, etc., and that we could be an example to the older generations."
Merlin's sweaty balls, but this was getting far too complicated.
"Darlings, yes. They're stupid. But we'd be stupider still if we belittled them for it. No, you two - Rose, actually, as she's prettier, will walk out the front door, heads held high and say "yes, it's true. Scorpius and I are dating. We'd like to thank your readers for their well-wishes and support, and we'll see you all at King's Cross in a month's time." That'll give us some time to properly strategise. If they ask us where we're going, we simply say we're going shopping; as typical a teenage activity as there is. We don't tell them anything else. Clear?"
They both nodded kindly, which was a good thing, as I had come off a bit bossy. My script was used to perfection on our way out, and the handful of questions Rose got (what are your plans after Hogwarts, is it true that Uncle Ron is ready to disown you, are you expecting) were handled with the grace we've come to expect from her, so much so that even our quiet Apparition was complimented when the story came out.
Our trip to Gringotts was uneventful; we withdrew a good £500 each for our shopping excursion, and caught a taxi to Marks and Spencer, clutching the magazine with the picture I wanted to emulate. Not having done much Muggle shopping, Rose and I were familiar with only a handful of shops, and these only by reputation. We made our way to the young men's department, looked around a bit, were thoroughly confused, and hailed a saleslady, showing her the magazine page. Her laugh really ought to have been our first clue that we were out of our depth.
"Oh dear. Are the '00s coming back around again? Please tell me this is for a fancy dress party. Are you going as Billy Joe, then?"
"Billy Joe?" I asked.
"Green Day, sweetie. Honestly? Never heard of them?"
"The poor imitation of The Clash?" I retorted. "No, I don't think I'll be aping that style any time soon."
She informed us a bit brusquely that no, M&S had nothing that looked even remotely like what I'd shown her, and that she hoped skinny ties and lapels didn't come back into fashion for another fifteen years, at least. Dejected, we left Hyde Park, and made our way back to Diagon Alley to regroup over a round or three of Auntie Hannah's best butterbeer cocktails.
"Honestly," I exhaled, after taking a healthy draught of the lightly alcoholic concoction. "Paisley prints on neckties so broad one could wear them as a bib? Who gets to call that 'fashionable'?"
Rose and Scorpius nodded sympathetically, their fingers entwined for the first time in public. As much fun (and as successful) as the subterfuge had been, they made a handsome couple, and they looked as if a great weight had been lifted from them.
"We'll figure it out, mate," Scorpius said, bringing my hand over to theirs. At least we're not beholden to such monstrosities ourselves, thank the Gods."
I smiled in response, giving them each a fond kiss on their cheeks. Certainly this wasn't the end of the world; we were the Mercurial Trio, after all, mere fashion anomalies from the Muggles wouldn't stop us. We sat there quietly, enjoying our drinks. A trip to Spelled By Patil would turn our mood around, and Pavarti herself might have some suggestions on what she could do with something off the rack. It would turn around, doubtless.
Turn around it did, actually, and even before we got to Pavarti's.
"Minister Weasley! Minister! A moment please!"
Ah, the sweet, sweet sounds of the Prophet press corps at feeding time. That meant only one thing: Uncle Percy was doing a bit of shopping, too. We could wait for him to finish with those wankers, and then see if we could get a moment with Aunt Audrey - she'd be sure to know where we could get something like we saw in the picture.
"Minister! Is it true that the Malfoys are using your niece to regain the influence they lost during the war?"
"What?" shrieked Rose, and I went into action. I whispered "go home" to Scorpius, and Apparated Rose and I to the first place I thought of where the press couldn't get to us: The Burrow.
"God damnit, Albus, put me down!" Rose hollered at me as we landed in the garden. "I don't need a fucking bodyguard; I'll tear those Prophet bastards apart with my bare hands! Let. Me. Go!" she continued, and began to pummel me with her fists as I held on, quite certain that if I didn't, Rose would make good on her threats.
"Which of my grandchildren is out here swearing up a blue streak in my garden?" came from the kitchen door, and with that sound came the very welcome sight of Grandmum Weasley.
"Albus, put your cousin down this instant! And Rose, stop hitting that poor boy. Now, both of you, come into the kitchen and tell me what in Godric's name this is all about. Honestly! You think a child's of age..."
As you may expect, we followed her instructions precisely, sitting in our usual seats around the Burrow's kitchen table. Grandmum put on a kettle; as she'd done thousands of times before, and she sat down to listen as Rose began to sob quietly.
"Rose is in a bit of a state, Grandmum," I began. "I just wanted to make sure she didn't do anything foolish. Not that the bastard wouldn't have had it coming, mind, but-"
"Albus, you mind your language in my house, young man. Rose, why don't you tell me what's got you so upset, darling?"
"Well, Grandmum, I suppose you've heard about me and Scorpius..."
"Scorpius and I, darling," Grandmum corrected. "Yes, I'd had my suspicions, but your father told me all about that rather unfortunate spectacle at your Uncle Harry's party the other day, so I'm quite up to date. So do go on."
"Well, the three of us were in Diagon Alley, where we'd just seen the Prophet pressers swarming around Uncle Percy like he was their last meal, and we wanted to talk with him to see if we could schedule some time with Auntie Audrey, who's ever-so busy now that she's the Minister's wife and all, and we're just standing there when one of them asks Uncle Percy the most horrid thing!"
Rose took a breath while Grandmum poured the tea.
"You'll never believe it. He asked if the Malfoys were using Scorpius and my relationship as a way to gain influence in the Ministry. The nerve! I can't believe anyone would say something that horrible."
"Well, are they?" Grandmum asked in that rhetorical way of hers that somehow begged an answer, whilst putting two spoonfuls of sugar in each of our cups (even though she knows full well that we don't take any).
"No, of course not!" Rose replied. "How could anyone think such a thing? I know they were on the wrong side in the war and all, but they were just kids, for Merlin's sake. And Draco might not be the warmest man on Earth, but he's not his father."
"Well, then you have nothing to worry about, do you?" Grandmum asked as Rose nodded. "Darling, those vultures are going to be there as long as people will pay for a good story. You, unlike your Uncle Harry, can just about choose how much you'd like to deal with them. All of your cousins are children of war heroes, love, but they don't make that define them. You and your beau know a bit about what it means to be in the public eye. You just have to decide if you want to stay there. Both of you. All three of you, actually."
Grandmum gave me a rather pointed look, which I didn't bother to return. She was right, of course, but she knew that, and I was a bit put-out to confirm that for her. By and large, we enjoyed the game we played with the tabloids, and we'd spent enough time on top that this particular situation was really just a minor annoyance. Of course, Rose would be hard-pressed to see things this way for a bit, but she'd come around.
Aunt Hermione came by around tea-time to fetch us, by which time Rose had calmed down enough to thank me for dragging her away from what most definitely would have been a scene. We supped at our separate homes, but Scorpius showed up for a night-cap to see how Rose was faring. She stopped by, too, and the three of us began to strategise for the following day, and how we were to handle the press should they start leaping to such horrid conclusions again. But, a quick glance at the next morning's Prophet showed us that not only was Uncle Percy a whole lot quicker thinking on his feet than we'd ever given him credit for, but that he'd already taken care of that for us.
"Actually, darling, your uncle Percy and I have had that one in the bank for years. Of course, we thought we'd be using it for you rather than Rose..."
"For me, really? Even after the papers were just full of me and that Irish girl?"
Lavender's even more gorgeous when she smiles like this, rather reminiscent of a muggle painting I saw in a book once. That smile breaks into a melodic laugh.
"Well, could you blame us? The way he just flounces about like that; and you with your style - I think you're the first straight man in history who can dress himself."
Honestly, I do feel a bit out of my depth, blushing like this. But a little flirting should put me right.
"As long as you approve, Lavender," I reply, smiling as I look down. She smirks, and I'm starting to feel as if I'm in a different game entirely.
"What are you looking for here, with me, Albus?"
"I honestly don't know, precisely. After we spoke the other day, I felt for the first time that this thing I do - gauging the public, feeling out fashion, coordinating appearances - I feel like it could be more than just something I do, you know? It could really be a life for me. But I'll be bugger- er, I really don't know how. I was hoping you had some answers."
"First of all, we're going to have to do something about that horrid language of yours. I'm simply not going to have you talking to high-ranking Ministry officials swearing like a sailor, Minister's nephew or no."
Nope, she's not smiling. I've officially been chastened over my use of the Saxon by someone that's not my mum.
"Secondly, darling, this is tough work. I need to know that I'm working with someone as committed to image consulting as I am.
Here's what I suggest: For the balance of the summer, you will work for me. You will live here, in my flat; this is a 24-hour per day business, and you must learn what it means to be 'on' at all times. Follow me."
My head is spinning. Did she just say I'm going to live here, in Kensington, with her? I guess I have the job, at least for the summer. My goodness, that's one hell of a spell she used to cloak her apartment off from her office. And what an apartment. Even with the favourable exchange rates this must have cost her -
"Nearly 775,000 Galleons. Oh, don't worry, darling, I know you're not crass enough to ask. But yes, Holland Park's a lovely place, especially when one can simply Apparate past the tourists who've 'discovered' the area. Your parents are still in Camden, am I right? I suppose you know all about such things, then."
"Quite. They all want a taste of the 'authentic' London - as if there were such a thing," I answer, and we share a chuckle, followed by a moment's pause, during which she lightly grabs hold of my arm, above the elbow. Her perfume is breathtaking.
"Would you care to see your room, Albus?" she asks, leading me toward the staircase. I follow along mutely, far too immersed in what's happening to notice the decor. My room is decorated in the same tasteful, contemporary style, with a king size bed, a sizeable wardrobe, a black-framed wall mirror, and two windows overlooking Holland Park Mews.
"I'd've given you the bedroom downstairs next to mine, but I thought you'd appreciate the privacy. Will this do, then?"
"Yes, of course, Lavender. It's lovely." And, yes. I'm completely speechless; not a spark of wit left in me. Perhaps that's been purposeful on her part - I'm really at a loss.
"Would I be able to have Rose and Scorpius 'round?"
I thought that was a harmless enough question, but Lavender has a rather stern look in her eye as she sighs and shakes her head. Really hope I didn't stuff it. But, as she's taking my hands in hers and sitting me down next to her on the bed, I suppose I didn't.
"One of the things you're going to have to learn, sweetie, is that even getting together with friends becomes an appointment. Tomorrow, in fact, I have an appointment with my oldest and dearest friend. I believe you know her - Pavarti Patil?"
"I didn't know you were such good friends."
"She, your Aunt Hermione and I were Gryffindors in the same year as your father. Don't look so shocked, darling. Not everyone in Godric's house is as sentimental about the war as your family. Pavarti and I were DA, as well, actually. I suppose she and Padma stay away from those get-togethers out of some loyalty to me, though as horrid a friend as I've been, I can hardly see why."
I look at her, puzzled.
"Oh dear, I'm going to have to explain the whole sordid thing to you, aren't I? Well, had your uncle Charlie and I held on a little longer, you might know me as Auntie Lav."
"You're Uncle Charlie's ex-? Why- How- I mean, Grandma Weasley always made it sound as if- I mean,"
At least she's laughing. And I really wish I didn't get so tongue-tied around her. Maybe that will clear up a bit when we start working together.
"Oh yes, I can imagine dear old Molly had plenty of things to say about me. Remember how I said this is a lonely business? Like most things in life worth learning, dear boy, this was learnt the hard way. Your uncle Charlie saw my Creevey picture hanging in Dennis's studio when he went to get his own taken. He asked Dennis for my name, which he gave him on a lark, and Charlie owled me. It was a whirlwind romance, and we were married a year later. But between the original piece Dennis did, and the wedding photos which made the papers (war heroes and all), I started to get style inquiries. Business started coming in fast and furious, and before I knew it, I was working round the clock, much as I do now. Your sainted Gran, of course, thought this whole thing was silly, and pressured Charlie terribly to make a proper wife out of me."
"She didn't know you at all, did she?"
"No, darling, and I don't think she cared to. All she wanted to know is why I wasn't keeping house for Charlie, as long as I didn't have a proper profession. Which I did, and I was making enough money to buy and sell her several times over, which I don't think she appreciated, either. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that all that stress simply wore us down. It didn't end gracefully, either. I said some things, Charlie said some things, we both did some things we're not proud of, and it was over. I've not been back to The Burrow since, nor have I dared come 'round your parents' place."
Lavender sighs, and I put my arm around her.
"It was just so fast," she continues. "I was making money, doing things I enjoyed. I had fame and wealth and people who wanted to be near me, and it was too much. I couldn't keep all that and a marriage, so I had to choose. And I'm glad I chose this, but sometimes, you know?"
"It gets a bit lonely?" I ask, mindlessly twirling her long blond locks in my fingers.
"Too true. Look at you, darling. You have this big family. And sure, they're mental, and they're horribly old-fashioned, except for your aunt Audrey, of course."
"Of course," I reply, smiling. This really is nice, just sitting here. She's quite different when she's not working an agenda.
"And they're sentimental and annoying and couldn't dress themselves if their lives depended on it, but they're there. And you have them. I have my clients, a few sycophants, and my assistant."
"And me," I offer, squeezing her shoulder as I say it. She smiles and exhales a soft chuckle.
"You're going to hate me saying this, love, but you're so like your father. He's a good man, too."
As she leans in to kiss me, I begin to think that I could deal with hearing that a few more times. Then, just as soon as it begins, the kiss is over, and she's standing up. I follow, and she wipes lipstick off my lips, tenderly.
"Yes, well," she says, her tone going back to business. "Be here at 10 tomorrow morning, packed for the month. Let your parents know that I'll have you back at their house on the 30th, so that they can see you off. And look sharp, darling. We're meeting Pavarti Patil, after all."