It was the moment they had planned for for years. Since the day they were wed they had looked forward to it, no the day he proposed, no the night they first fell into bed together in that dump hotel in Istanbul.
The heavy footsteps of Zio Enzo coming down the hall alerted them to the coming moment. He, absolutely despising his sister-in-law for her derision of his life and her hypocrisy regarding Muggleborns, had been easy to talk into assisting them in producing the moment. It had been even easier to talk him and his Muggleborn music student into ensuring the whole situation would be recorded for posterity. They had simply promised to make two copies.
Sneaking into the De Julie compound, specifically the library, had been equally easy, especially after years of dodging Aurors and Death Eaters. They smiled at each other in relaxed joy as the moment approached. Knowing that any second the door would be opening, they carefully aligned their position so that their faces would be identifiable, and Sergei would be able to peer up to see the reaction first hand. As the door began its slow procession inward, he dipped her back and proceeded to give the Aradia heir the kiss of her life.
Ree closed her eyes and looked out Sergei’s through the bond they had forged all those years ago with Bekha’s help. The outraged gasp reached both of their ears, and the related expression of horror and disgust tickled both their lips with smiles. Her grandmother made an abortive move forward, held back by a solid grasp of her arm by Enzo, but the two refused to be interrupted and instead deepened their kiss, though Sergei continued to peer through his eyelashes to watch the continued reaction.
Her grandmother’s features had reached an impressive shade of violet before Sergei leisurely released Ree from the dip. Ree wondered if the worst of the reaction was for the kiss, or the fact that it was quite obvious that her hair was far too short to knot up into the traditional braids of the Aradia heir. She leaned forward and gave Sergei another lingering kiss before turning to face her grandmother with a smile.
“Grandmother,” Ree said, her smile slipping to a bit more of a smirk, “so good to see you again.” She lightly gripped Sergei’s hand, turning their fingers so the rather gaudy ring she wore on her left hand was visible. She preferred the simple band they had been wed with, but this seemed a time to break out the traditional ring of an Ivanova wife. They had retrieved just a few months previous off the cooling body Sergei’s elder brother, Rasputin.
“How dare you?” her grandmother began, focused not on Ree, but on Sergei. As the old bat began her raving, Ree and Sergei knew the ring remained unnoticed. The old witch was furious, but not as much so as she would be when she realized her precious heir had married against her wishes. “How dare you treat my granddaughter with such disrespect? And in my house. Have I not made it clear your position in this house? You are here at her sufferance only. She is not for the likes of you.”
Ree felt Sergei’s rage vibrating down their link, but it was her own anger that caused her to interrupt her grandmother.
“Grandmother Glo, don’t you dare tear into him. How dare he? How dare you? He is here at my request, and as his right as my husband.”
That comment produced a whole new shade of horror on her grandmother’s face along with a snarled, “How long?”
“Vhat has it been, love? Four years?” Sergei asked playfully, raising her bejeweled hand to his mouth to place a gentle kiss on it.
Ree watched her grandmother, the woman’s thoughts clear on her old face. She was looking for any way to possibly annul their marriage. Ree found herself very grateful that they had stopped using contraceptives since Rasputin’s death. She smiled contentedly and rested her hand suggestively over her still flat stomach.
“A little longer than that I think,” Ree replied. “The little one should be due round about our fifth anniversary.” She could see her grandmother deflate with that news. They all knew that with proof of fertility, an annulment didn’t have a leg to stand on.
“How could you do this?” her grandmother began. Ree had expected this change of tact, and also knew it was a last ditch effort before the fall.
“Oh, don’t start with the ‘you failed the family’ shtick again,” Ree snapped. “All my life I have been warned not to fail the family. I have never and will never do any such thing. As a child I left my parent’s and my home country to attend the school you requested, denying my father’s name so I would present just the right image. I danced with the right boys at your balls, gossiped with the right girls in town, and let you parade me everywhere even as you slandered my parents and insulted my child hood friends. When I went back to the US, I made all the right friends and returned with alliances to two of the most powerful families on two continents. Sergei makes three. He is the head of the Ivanova family, and as such the natural leader to half the families of Eastern Europe. He brings to Aradia the Ivanova fortune and his own personal one, which has been linked to my own for over ten years.
“I have brought more leverage to the Aradia name than the last three generations combined, and you know it. In what way have I failed our family?” Ree was all but snarling, her emotions seething with anger. She had expected this, but that did not mean it wasn’t something she had long desired to have out with her grandmother. Sergei didn't try to calm her outright, but simply snaked his arms around her in a possessive manner, gazing coolly at her grandmother as his beloved continued her rant. He knew she had been dying to let loose like this on the old biddy for years, and was rather gratified that she had the chance to do so now.
“Perhaps you mean by my birth? Because that is all that is left that I can think of. And, damn it, that is the one thing I can’t control. But that is more your fault than mine! If you had treated Mom with a modicum of respect, she would not have run away. Maybe if you had left her with the slightest feeling she would have a life after marriage, she would have married someone you approve of more. And she couldn’t help being a squib, that was your inbred genetics.
“Despite my genetics, I have yet to see a way in which I have failed you, magically or socially. So tell me, Grandmother mine, where have I gone wrong?”
She spat the last words before turning half away, finally leaning into Sergei’s comforting arms. The dark haired Russian held her to him like she was the most precious thing in the whole world, and to him, she was. Smoothing back a stray lock of shoulder length hair and kissing her brow, he glared at the elder De Julie.
She had never liked him, in fact, she loathed the very idea of him. The second son of a powerful, often times Dark, family, and the black sheep on top of that, he had always been worthy of her scorn only. Without Ree's interference, he would have died the day the three of them were attacked, or shortly after--of course, Ree would have died without him, but her grandmother hadn't known that. She would have simply let him die, and then blamed him for her granddaughter's death.
Her grandmother opened up her mouth to speak, but Sergei coolly cut her off before she could do so. "Don't even bother, Madam," he said, scorn dripping off the title like sweat from an athlete's chin. "I will not have you upsetting my vife any further than you already have. It isn't good for her or the baby."
She twitched at that reminder and he chuckled quietly, an ominous sound when he was in this persona, the cold bastard that hadn't truly existed for nigh unto ten years at least. "I will remind you of a couple things only, since somehow you've become so enraptured with prestige that you've forgotten them.
"Ree is your granddaughter, your blood. You should love her and be happy for her when she is happy--and she is happy with me. Just because you do not control her doesn't make her wrong. And perhaps you shouldn't judge people by their families ... I mean, look at you ... if I judged my vife by you I never vould have gotten to know her, as I vould have turned immediately in the opposite direction."
Even as emotionally drained as she was, Ree found she had to resist the urge to break into laughter at Sergei’s pointed sally. While her grandmother was still silent in her shock and indignation, Sergei, amusement rippling in his mind as well as satisfaction for finally having said a thing or two, led the younger Gloryanna around her grandmother and towards the door.
"Zio Enzo, it has been good to see you again," he said, bowing his head at the renowned musician. He also winked vaguely in the direction of Lee, the man's apprentice, who was managing the camera from under an Invisibility Cloak. Finally, face once again impassive and cold, he bade the one-time head of the De Julie family goodbye with a single word, "Madam." Just because she forgot her manners didn't mean he did too.
As they reached the doorway, Ree finally looked up from Sergei’s shoulder. Staring directly at her grandmother, she spoke in a flat and emotionless tone, though Sergei could feel her true feelings in flux beneath the façade. “Don’t worry. Grandmother, we will not sully your doorstep again. If you wish to name another your heir, you are more than welcome to.”
She then turned to her great-uncle, and a small smile slipped through her mask at the barely veiled delight in his eyes. “Zio Enzo, I’m sorry you had to see that,” she said as sincerely as she could. “I hope we can still meet for dinner tomorrow?”
“Until tomorrow,” she said after he gave an affirmative nod. “Good bye, Madam,” she added formally toward her grandmother, then let Sergei escort her delicately from the room, and from the compound.
“Well, that was cathartic,” Sergei commented once they were safely away.
“Very much so,” Ree replied. “You think we will get an owl today, or will she have Zio Enzo bring a letter tomorrow?” She wasn’t positive that her grandmother would buckle, and it was entirely possible any message would include word of her disownment. But when she said she had done more for the family than the last three generations combined, she was not joking. Her grandmother had to realize that all of those alliances would collapse without Ree as the Aradia heir. Of course, being disowned would bring its own advantages. She and Sergei would be free to live whatever life they chose, and they hade more than enough to live on comfortably for several lifetimes.
“Tomorrow, I think,” Sergei said and kissed his wife lightly on the forehead. “Vhatever the answer, it is not something one would trust to an owl. This is a matter for family.” He smirked, knowing how much including himself in that category was vexing the old woman. “Either vay, ve vill be content, dah?”
“I have you,” Ree replied, contentedly leaning into her husband. “I need nothing more in the world.”
"Nor do I, my love, nor do I," was his reply.