Title: Ten Years After the War
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: The Alpha Chronicles
Fandom/Genre: Harry Potter
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Violence, explicit sex and language
Summary: Hermione Granger is a Hit Witch for the International Protectorate of Magic. She’s attacked in her flat and in the midst of it comes online as a Sentinel. Confused and hurt, she apparates straight into the arms of her oldest friend–Harry Potter.
Harry embraced his gifts as a Guide and parselmagic after the war. It cost him his relationship with Ginny and her mother never forgave him. He lives alone but isn’t unhappy in the life he’s chosen. Then Hermione comes back to him in the most unexpected of ways.
Will he sacrifice his hard won peace to stand with his Sentinel?
Hermione turned, waking from a dead sleep for no reason she could identify. Her gaze darted around the room. The shadows moved and her wand slid out of the holster on her wrist. She shifted under the heavy down comforter as she considered her options. Instinct made her inhale deeply and she released it slowly as she closed her eyes. Odors filled her nose and were so strong on her tongue she nearly gagged. She’d known since she was a little girl that she was a latent Sentinel. Her own parents were a bonded Sentinel/Guide pair. They’d taught her to control her senses, notice the details, and prepare for the day she came online. Yet, at nearly twenty-nine she’d begun to think she’d never reach that point.
She processed the scents filling her nose—slowly dismissing her own body, the bedding, and the things that belonged to her. The intruder was definitely magical. Pepper-up potion. Dragonhide. He took a step and she heard the carpet shift under his feet. It was like thunder in her ears. She pushed it back, dialed it down but went too far and for a few seconds she could hear nothing at all. Hermione adjusted, she’d always been a fast learner and her Daddy had taught her how to handle this. He’d had faith she’d come online long after she’d given up hope. The person moved again and Hermione risked another deep breath. Scents assaulted her since all of her lessons had been intellectual and not practical. Potions ingredients were easy to identify but the pheromones coming off the person were a complete mystery. Frustrated, she turned her head slightly and watched the shadow. A man, she decided, based on height and the wide shoulders.
The intruder had gotten past her wards and security charms which was alarming enough but when she considered the fact that he was lingering in her bedroom instead doing whatever he’d come to do. Her stomach tightened with anxiety as she considered just why a man might be hesitating at the foot of her bed. The fact was, every single reason she could think of was a complete nightmare. Fury washed over her and she rolled out of the bed in one swift motion. She landed on her feet, raised her wand just as the wizard let loose with a Killing Curse. Her pillow exploded as the curse impacted it and she shot a reductor at him.
He darted out of the way, cursing in Italian. He stumbled as she fired another curse, clearly exhausted. What most people didn’t know was that casting the Killing Curse was magically expensive and the average magical person got one shot at it. He sent a stunning spell at her but it bounced off her hastily cast shield. She was almost insulted that someone so damned ineffectual had been sent to kill her. Honestly, she’d been sent the Ron Weasley of the International Society of Killers. Infuriated, she shot a blasting curse at him but he dodged out of the way and returned fire. His curse hit the mirror on the wall next to her and glass shattered, hitting her. She hissed and stumbled away as glass bit into her shoulder blade and her wand arm went limp.
Hermione turned and ran from the bedroom. Her fingers tightened around her wand and grabbed her cloak from the coat rack near the door with her other hand. Magic swelled in the room and she ducked another stunning spell. She was not going to go down like that—her magic shuddered and she felt an obscene pull towards the man but she lunged away towards the empty corner in her living room. The moment she hit the invisible circle ensconced there, she apparated away. She stumbled as she landed—the single apparition point built into her wards as an escape route was a brute force option tied directly to her magical signature.
Gripping her wand, despite the blood sliding down her back and arm, Hermione shrugged on her cloak and tied it the best she could. The skimpy silk night gown she’d worn to bed offered no protection against the elements. Her first apparition point was just two kilometers from her flat in Rome—a Muggle park with lots of trees. But any wizard with half a brain would be able to trace her so she had to move fast. She apparated again—thinking of safety. Chain apparition was magically expensive and dangerous when you were sick or injured but she had no choice. She left Italy with just four hops. Her first international skip triggered alarms in with the International Confederation of Wizards and her own employer, the Protectorate of Magic. Since Voldemort’s blood war, international apparition was closely monitored. She didn’t have the time or the inclination to care. She needed to be safe. She needed her Guide.
Fifteen minutes after her first apparition, she appeared in the entry of the Arx. The small castle was the most fortified location she knew and was the home of her dearest friend. She stumbled forward then he was there, reaching out for her.
“Guide,” she whispered, her voice soft with shock and awe. Her fingers curled against the back of his neck as he picked her up. She buried her face against his throat with a relieved shudder.
Harry Potter clutched his best friend of seventeen years tight to his chest and sank to his knees as the empathic shields he’d maintained since he was eighteen years old were flung wide open. “Sentinel.”
* * * * * *
“I don’t know much, Kingsley,” Harry said quietly. “She was bleeding heavily from several open wounds in her back—I pulled a few large slivers of a mirror out of her skin including one that was embedded deep in her shoulder blade. She was dressed…in a night gown and a cloak, no shoes.”
Kingsley leaned forward in the communication mirror, frowning. “I’ve gotten floo calls from the ICW and the Protectorate of Magic. You know she works for the Protectorate and they’re demanding I hand her over to them. They say it’s for her own protection.”
“Do they know she’s here?”
“No, the moment she apparated into Britain, they all lost the ability to track her. She chain apparated from Rome straight to you, Harry. Whatever happened to her, she made her choice of sanctuary pretty damn clear to me. I won’t allow any of those arseholes to bully me into telling them anything.”
“She has an international license to apparate so she hasn’t broken any laws. What’s the real concern?”
“The Protectorate has reported to the ICW that she was attacked in her flat. Hiro Ito, the Supreme Mugwump, dispatched an investigator to check the scene from the ICW’s War Mages Division. At least one Killing Curse was cast at her and…” Kinglsey trailed off and sighed. “Ito thinks she was forced online, Harry.”
“Her status as a latent Sentinel was supposed to be a secret,” Harry snapped. “How the hell did someone…” He closed his eyes. “Well, it could really only be someone in the Protectorate, right? Someone she trusted with that information and access to her home.”
“That’s what I think as well. The spell they used is illegal and dark as hell,” Kingsley elaborated. “Not only was it designed to force her to come online—she would’ve have felt an immediate compulsion to bond with the caster.”
“But she ran instead,” Harry murmured.
“Straight to you,” Kingsley said. “Magical Sentinels that come online naturally automatically seek out their Guide, Harry. She didn’t come to you just because you are her oldest friend—Hermione’s magic drew her to you because she’s your Sentinel.”
His Sentinel. Harry had never really wanted one of those. Though if he were going to be honest there was a part of him that wasn’t at all displeased to have Hermione back in his life in a very permanent way, even if it meant that he’d have to sacrifice every single bit of peace he’d carved out for himself. Harry ran both hands through the mess of his hair and exhaled sharply.
“Okay, her father is a Sentinel and a registered member of the London pride. He’ll need to be told that his daughter has come online and how it was done. Someone targeted her and eventually her superiors at the Protectorate are going to draw the right conclusion and assume that she’s with me. We communicate regularly through letters and sometimes a late drunken international floo call.” He grinned when Kingsley laughed. “I’m really the only friend she has in Britain and they’ve probably already figured out she didn’t go home to her parents which is the second choice of refuge for a magical Sentinel. They were hoping she didn’t have a compatible Guide or that the spell would be strong enough to override her instincts.
“Zale Wright is the Alpha of my pride but I’ve never… I don’t involve myself in the workings of the organization,” Harry admitted. “In the last communication I received from the Alpha Guide, she told me that they were working closely with their Muggle counterparts to open communications between our societies. Hiding our communities from Muggle Sentinels has become increasingly difficult over the last one hundred years, as you know.”
“There are more of them,” Kingsley admitted. “More and more every decade. It makes me wonder where our world is heading—what sort of threat is looming above us all that is so extreme that Sentinels are appearing by the hundreds in major urban environments where they never have before.”
“You’re not the only one that wonders,” Harry admitted. “Our world grew darker after Voldemort’s resurrection and that darkness spread into the Muggle world in ways we weren’t prepared to notice or care about. Now, we have no choice but to acknowledge that our little war impacted the psionic plane in a very meaningful way.”
Kingsley sighed. “What do you need, Harry?”
“She’s going to sleep another ten hours,” Harry said. “I put her in a healing stasis to calm her senses down—she was all over the place physically and magically. You need to get her parents, the head of the Protectorate, the Supreme Mugwump, and both Alpha pairs in your office in the next hour. Give them no choice and I’ll come to you.”
* * * * * *
“I need to warn you in advance that Potter’s give-a-fuck has been broken for about ten years,” Kinglsey said and focused entirely on Roger Cranton, the Director of the Protectorate of Magic, as he spoke. “He doesn’t care who you are, what your job is, how much money or power you have, or what you think you might be able to do to him. You have no single hope of intimidating him.”
Cranton glared at him. “Are you telling me that my operative is in Harry Potter’s custody?”
“I’m telling you that Potter requested your presence in this room along with everyone else sitting around you. Had you told me no, I’d have had you arrested and brought here by force.” Kingsley smiled pleasantly just as the floo in his office activated and Harry stepped out of it.
“Minister.” Harry inclined his head, his gaze flicked briefly around the room and in the end he focused on Ryan Granger. He stepped forward with a hand. “Sir.”
“Harry, it’s good to see you lad.” Ryan took his hand but tugged him into a hug. “You look great.” He put one hand on Harry’s shoulder as they separated. “Do you have my girl?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “She’s in stable condition but was injured when she was arrived. She’s online and was attacked magically. From her state of dress, I think someone broke into her flat either while she was asleep or while she was preparing for bed.” He paused when the older man’s hand tightened on his shoulder. “But she wasn’t… as far as I could tell her attacker didn’t touch her physically.”
“Okay,” Ryan murmured and cleared his throat. He released Harry and Hannah Granger swept in and hugged him. “Considering her age, Harry, I was beginning to think it would take a catastrophic event to bring her online. If the war with Voldemort didn’t do it… I don’t see how an intruder in her apartment would’ve been enough of a stressor.”
“She was forced online with a spell,” Harry said bluntly. “A dark one that should’ve forced her to bond with her attacker. As to why that part of the spell failed, we can only speculate.”
“I don’t have to speculate,” Hannah said. “The two of you always had a special relationship—she’s been focused on you in a very instinctual way since you met as children. It’s obvious now, that even in her latent state, she recognized her Guide.”
“I insist on seeing my operative. Go back where ever you came from, and collect her.”
Harry left the Grangers and walked to stand by the window in the room. He leaned against the sill and stared pointedly at Cranton. “You’re like a black hole of greed.”
“Agreed,” the blond Muggle Guide Harry hadn’t been introduced to said. He focused on Harry. “I’m Dr. John Watson and this is my Sentinel, Sherlock Holmes.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Harry said but didn’t offer his hand to either of them. Ryan Granger was practically family to him now. The female Muggle Sentinel was a relieving surprise. He hadn’t known that the Alpha Sentinel of London was female. He turned Zale Wright. “Alpha Wright.”
Zale Wright relaxed back in the chair he was in. “I was beginning to think you were going to stay in the Guide closet forever, Potter.” He put a hand on his Guide’s arm and Isobel Travers perched on the arm of his chair with a little smirk of her own. “Isobel?”
“He’s very greedy and prepared to violate every single law on the books regarding the protections of Sentinels to get his hands on Granger,” Isobel murmured. “I could split his head open like an egg in about an hour and find out every single dirty little secret he has, if that is your wish.” She focused on Cranton. “I’m talking about you in case you were uncertain.” She turned to Harry. “It’s nice to see you so balanced and in control in these circumstances, Potter. Any other Guide would be homicidal.”
Harry stared at her then smiled. “I’m making a list. I may or may not check it twice.” He focused on Hiro Ito and the smile fell from his face. “You have thirty-six hours to find out who attacked my Sentinel and forced her online. You’ll prosecute them and anyone involved in the situation with every single charge you can think of. If I have to find them myself—you’ll get nothing but a pile of bodies.”
Cranton sputtered. “You can’t be serious, Potter, you can’t just…”
“Yes,” Ito interrupted. “He most certainly could do such and you know very well there are a hundred different laws, both magical and Muggle that would protect him from prosecution. Moreover, Cranton, I think you greatly underestimate the circumstances Mr. Potter enjoys here in Britain. He was celebrated as a child but as a man he’s revered on a level that’s almost obscene and even the people who hate his guts wouldn’t cross him for any amount of money because he’s the most dangerous person in practically any room he enters, including this one.”
“I don’t care if she’s a Sentinel or not, my employee was attacked in her home and I require access to her.”
“Her status as a Sentinel is the only thing you care about,” Hannah Granger injected, her eyes dark with fury. “Ryan.” She turned to her husband.
“Relax, love, Harry isn’t going to turn our baby over to this man or any other. They also have no hope of taking her from him.”
“I have a great many resources and Hermione Granger is under a magical contract with the Protectorate.”
“Which I can end on her behalf,” Kingsley said before anyone else could. “No British citizen may serve the Protectorate or the ICW without the explicit permission of the Minister for Magic. Due to Miss Granger’s new status, it is my duty as Minister to see to the best interests of my citizen. I hereby formally rescind permission for Hermione Jane Granger to work abroad for the Protectorate of Magic.”
“And just like that,” Ito began, “you’ve lost any hope of getting Potter on your payroll.” He smiled and stood. “Mr. Potter, when you and your Sentinel are ready to discuss employment options—do consider the ICW. I think you’d both look quite good in the armor of a War Mage.”
“I’ve always been more fond of dragonhide than is appropriate,” Harry admitted with a wry grin. He checked his watch and turned to Zale Wright. “I’ll bring her to the London branch of the Center within the week. It’s best to handle her evaluation there since her parents will be able to see her and I’m not entirely confident of St. Mungo’s ability to see to her needs.”
“Is there something amiss with our department there?” Isobel questioned. “I’m not a Healer myself so I’ve never noticed a problem…”
“They’re fine for what they are but I’m an archmagus,” Harry said patiently. He waited and no one seemed to get it so he exhaled sharply. “Just what sort of Sentinel do you think would bond with someone of my magical power, Isobel? My spirit animal is a basilisk for Merlin’s sake.”
Holmes cleared her throat. “What he’s trying to tell you lot is that in all likelihood he’s got an Alpha Sentinel tucked away in his little sanctuary and she’s going to need the very best and most talented team available to handle her evaluation. It’s been generations since such has been seen in the magical community, correct?”
“It’s been six hundred years since we’ve had a female Alpha Sentinel,” Isobel said faintly. “Give or take a decade. I don’t know… how do you test for that?”
“Female Alphas aren’t unheard of among Muggles obviously but Sherlock is the only one on record in Britain since World War II,” Watson said. “We’ll have to do her evaluation our way and you can determine if her change has impacted her magic separately.” He focused on Potter. “If you agree—these decisions are yours. She’s compromised and it’s your duty to stand in front of her until she can stand on her own two feet. Are you prepared for it?”
Harry eyed the older man with dark eyes. “I went to war when I was seventeen, Dr. Watson and I wasn’t half the threat then that I am today.”
“They don’t say your name,” Holmes said. “Those that talk about the war that magicals fought ten years ago. They don’t say your name or his when they speak of the war—as if evoking either name is beyond the pale. They call you Fate’s Hand. Why?”
Harry shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and looked away from the female Alpha. Holmes’ gaze was knowing in a way he’d never encountered—not even in a Sentinel. “I’m…” He huffed and took a deep breath before focusing on the woman. “I’m a weapon, Sentinel Holmes. I was raised to be one—my parents were murdered when I was fifteen months old and I was raised in a Muggle home where I was emotionally neglected, physically abused, and fed only enough to survive. The wizard responsible for that situation wanted me to hate Muggles and in adore the magical world when I was rescued.
“He destroyed me, saved me, tested me, and finally groomed me to kill myself—a magical sacrifice for all of Britain. And when the day came, I let Voldemort murder me but I am the Master of Death. I came back and I killed the darkest wizard of our time. Everyone believed him to the most powerful wizard on the planet and I put him down like a sick creature. The people of Britain don’t know whether to love, fear, or hate me so they exist in heinous mixture of the three where they tell their children I’m a hero but at the same would drag that same child across a busy street to avoid walking past me because I’m dangerous.
“I’m dangerous because they can’t control me and I didn’t subjugate myself after the war. I didn’t pretend to be harmless like they desperately required of me. I didn’t take a job with the Ministry so they could make themselves believe that I answered to someone. They are disappointed in me for retreating from their expectations and demands yet often at the very same time they are relieved they don’t have to see me every day.”
“If it makes you feel better, I’m not afraid of you,” Holmes said with a delighted smile, her dark eyes sparkling with interest and no small bit of devilry.
Harry shrugged. “That’s because you don’t know any better.”
“Oh, she knows,” Watson assured. “She just really loves dangerous men.”
Harry looked over his fellow Guide. Most would’ve said that John Watson was no threat at all but they’d be fools. “Yes, I can see that.”
Watson just put his hands into the pockets of his trousers and rocked back on his heels with a little grin.
Harry continued to stare at the man. “Before I leave I’d like to have a private conversation with you, Dr. Watson. I have some questions I feel you can provide the best answers to.”
Watson nodded. “Yes, I think so too.”
* * * * * *
Harry rubbed a towel through his hair roughly, tossed it into a wicker basket under the sink and smoothed one hand over his face. There was a little stubble. He’d never done the permanent hair removal spells, mostly out of half-arsed rebellion. With a sigh, he picked up his wand and started with his beard. He shuddered against the invasiveness of the hair removal charm but directed the flow of magic down his throat to his collar bones, removing fine, near-invisible hairs as he worked. Hermione had always had rather delicate skin and coming online as a Sentinel certainly wasn’t going to do her any favors in that area.
He worked the charm downward and expanded it when he didn’t have to worry about rendering himself bald by losing control of it so close to his head and it flowed over his body like water leaving smooth, soft skin in its wake. After that was accomplished he snagged a bottle of lotion, smeared a large amount over his chest and it spread over his body with a little rush of light. There was something to be said for buying skin products from a potion’s master. Draco Malfoy was and always would be something of an arsehole but the guy was pure magic when it came to potions.
Harry checked his reflection. He felt a little off-center and weird. That wasn’t all to do with the way his empathic shields were already working to wrap themselves around Hermione Granger. The partial bond she’d initiated on instinct the moment she touched him wasn’t a surprise—magical Sentinels were often at the mercy of baser and more primitive drives than Muggle ones. They had a deeper connection to the psionic plane because magic was brimming with psionic energy. He walked out into the bedroom, his gaze immediately zeroing in on Hermione who was curled on her side in the large bed.
He had a few guest suites in the renovated castle he called home. It was on the small side, with just ten rooms four of which were bedrooms. It was more strong-hold than castle but when he’d bought it from the goblins they’d told him the previous owner had called it a castle. Despite guest rooms, he’d put his Sentinel in his bed—a bit of territoriality of his own but he acknowledged it for what it was. Though it was hardly the first time she’d be in his bed—whenever she visited she ended up crawling into bed with him in the middle of the night. They’d never had sex and he regretted that now. It would be nice if their first time together wasn’t in the midst of a bonding-rut which was also common for female Sentinels.
He’d read a book once, written by a Muggle Guide, that explained the entire evolutionary process and the desire female Sentinels had to breed. Female Sentinels rarely allowed for a platonic bond with their Guide due to a strong maternal drive. They were rare enough that the spread of Sentinel/Guide genetics largely depended on males breeding outside of their pair bond if they were same-sex. He retrieved a pair of jeans from a drawer and pulled them on before approaching the bed.
With a few swishes of his wand he checked her vitals, magical core, and brain activity. Her mind was at rest but her body was a little revved up despite being asleep. Even unconscious in what amounted to a magical stasis, her senses were cataloguing every bit of stimulus they could. Harry ended the diagnostic charm with a sigh and holstered his wand.
A notification thrummed through his wards and he pushed down a sharp little twinge of irritation. Very few people had access to Potter’s Arx and he wasn’t really in the mood to see who was probably raiding the bar in his study. Since he had the rest of the castle locked down, all visitors would be restricted to the ground floor. He grabbed a t-shirt and tugged it on when a little huff. He might as well get the argument over and out of the way.
He went down the central staircase and turned to the right where light was streaming out of his study and paused in the doorway to stare at Ron Weasley. He couldn’t say they were friends anymore—more like people who didn’t know how to let go of childhood affection even to their own detriment. Ron was just, if not more, disappointed in Harry than practically everyone else in Britain. His former best mate had essentially made plans for them both after they’d finally finished up at Hogwarts.
Harry had balked immediately to joining the Aurors, hadn’t married Ginny like Ron had expected and eventually outright demanded. He hadn’t ignored being a parselmouth and after his Guide gifts came online it was hard as hell to overlook the fact that Ron was just a simmering mess of jealousy and avarice. Ron had expected to bank on Harry’s name for the rest of their lives and Harry ruined that for him. The red-headed tosser was never going to get over that.
Ron tossed back a shot of firewhiskey and turned to him. “Is Hermione here?”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “What makes you ask that?”
“I just got finished being interrogated by a pair of arseholes from the Protectorate who are looking for her and you. They demanded I tell them where you live and were really put out when I told them I couldn’t—since the place is unplottable and under a Fidelius. They were even more angry when they found out you were on own Secret Keeper. So, is she here?”
“Yes, but she’s asleep.”
“I want to see her,” Ron said and grabbed the bottle.
“No,” Harry responded without even pretending to think about it.
“Look, she’s my wife Harry so I’m entitled to see her!”
“She’s your ex-wife,” Harry corrected.
“I never agreed to the divorce,” Ron said stubbornly. “So as far as I’m concerned she’s still my wife and I don’t care what the Wizengamot says! Is she upstairs?” He started towards the door.
“Don’t bother, I have security protocols active on the first and second floor,” Harry said and dropped down on the sofa. “I added a portkey displacement spell last month. I’d love to see it demonstrated if you’re in the mood for a swim in the mid-Atlantic.”
“You can’t just keep my wife from me!”
“Your ex-wife!” Harry snapped. “For fuck’s sake, Ron, you were barely married six months and it’s been nearly nine years since she left you. Get over it!”
“I never should’ve allowed her to retrieve her parents from Australia and restore their memories,” Ron said darkly. “Her cunt of a mother just couldn’t keep her trap shut!”
“Watch your mouth.” Harry glared at him. “And you didn’t have any say in bringing her parents back, Ron. I’d have gone and gotten them myself if you’d found some way to prevent from Hermione doing it. I personally promised Ryan Granger that I’d see his memories returned if he’d agree to be memory charmed and hidden when the war started. That had nothing to do with you. And it’s hardly Hannah Granger’s fault you were a faithless twat who didn’t love Hermione! You never loved her—you were just a greedy, lazy arsehole who married the brightest witch of the age so she could support you. Of course, her mother told her! I’d have told her the moment I realized it, too. Hermione deserved better than you and she always did!”
“Fuck you, Harry. Don’t judge me when you don’t do a damn thing but skulk around this old pile of rocks and feel sorry for yourself.”
Harry didn’t bother to defend himself. Harry’s work as a Healer wasn’t heroic or glamorous so it was nothing to Ron. The fact that he’d only practiced a handful of years at St. Mungo’s before retreating to a private practice and research was even worse. Most of Harry’s patients were injured law enforcement from various countries, including Britain. Ron had washed out of the Auror Academy and he blamed Harry for that.
“You need to leave.”
“I’m not leaving without seeing her.”
Harry sighed and rubbed his face in frustration then glared his childhood friend. “There’s going to come a day when the fact that you were my first friend won’t be enough to protect you from me.”
“Now, get the fuck out of my castle.” He prided himself on having said that with a straight face.
She woke by degrees; she hadn’t felt so safe in longer than she could remember. Hermione burrowed under the fluffy dark red duvet and buried her face in her Guide’s pillow. The whole bed smelled like Harry and it was lovely. She could hardly remember a time when he hadn’t smelled amazing to her—he used lotion scented with sandalwood but underneath that there was a spicy, distinctly male scent that was pleasing. The high quality cotton of his sheets felt like silk on her skin. She stilled and turned her head.
Harry was lounging in a chair by a lit fireplace a book in his hand. He was staring at her intently.
“I’m naked,” she said.
“You were injured and covered in blood when you arrived,” Harry said and put aside the book. “Your boss at the Protectorate has been demanding that I turn you over to him. I met with him earlier in the Minister’s office. Kingsley had to rescind your permission to work abroad for the Protectorate in order to keep the matter out of the world court. I’m sorry.”
She frowned and sat up, careful to clutch the sheet to her breasts. Her hair tumbled around her shoulders. “That arsehole.”
“Kinglsey was just watching out for you,” Harry protested.
“I meant Cranton,” Hermione said with a huff. “I don’t… what’s happened to me, Harry? My senses feel weird.”
“You were forced online by an extremely dark spell designed to force you to bond with the caster,” Harry explained. He stood, crossed the room, and sat down on the edge of the bed. “As to your senses, I’ve got a buffer spell on the entire room. It’s designed for Guides, I can’t really sleep without it but it does offer Sentinels a bit of a space as well. Plus, you’re pulling on me a bit.”
“Pulling on you?” Hermione touched his hand hesitantly and smiled when he laced their fingers together. “Does it hurt?”
“Of course not, love. You initiated a partial bond the moment you touched me and the Sentinel in you is seeking the kind of comfort only a Guide can provide.” He rubbed his thumb over the top of her hand.
Her fingers tightened in his. “Harry, how long have you been a Guide?”
“I came online shortly after my eighteenth birthday,” Harry admitted. “I retreated to a Muggle Sentinel-Guide Center for treatment. Eventually, I learned to suppress most of my gifts with parselmagic which is why I embraced it so fully after the war. It offered me twice the protection of any magic I could cast as a regular wizard.”
“Why didn’t you tell me,” Hermione questioned, her voice soft with shock.
“I was afraid of it at first and certainly worried how everyone would react. I didn’t tell you specifically because you were so upset when you didn’t come online as a Sentinel. I didn’t want to… I just didn’t want to hurt you with it.”
“You trust me,” Hermione stated but she couldn’t keep the doubt of her voice. “Right?”
“Yes, I trust you,” Harry promised. “But I also know you’d have wanted me to seek out a Sentinel and I had no intention of bonding.”
“You don’t want a Sentinel?” Hermione asked and swallowed hard as she blinked back tears.
“I can’t lie about it,” Harry said. “I never wanted a Sentinel but…” He used his free hand to touch her face and urged her to look at him. “I’ve wanted you for years.”
“You never said,” Hermione protested.
“I didn’t want to hold you back or keep you here in Britain when it was obviously the last thing you wanted.”
She glared at him. “You’ve got to be kidding… don’t you get tired of being the one to sacrifice what you want? Always! Every single time! Why can’t you just be selfish for once, Harry?”
He cupped the back of her head and pulled her toward him. His mouth settled on hers and Hermione couldn’t help but respond. She crawled into his lap despite the fact that she was naked and wrapped her arms around his neck. His hands drifted down her back and cupped her arse as they kissed.
Hermione huffed against his mouth and jerked back from him. “You’d better not be doing this because you think I want it.”
“I’m pretty sure you want it,” Harry said wryly.
“I mean you’d better want it, too!” Hermione snapped and tugged on his hair to make her point. “I’m not going to be the next name on your People-Saving-Thing list!”
He grinned. “Darling, you were first on that list.”
She sat down in his lap with a little pout. “That stupid troll.”
“Just relax,” Harry murmured. “I’m here because I want to be and if I’d wanted something different I’d have healed you then taken your pretty arse to a Center. I think you’d know better than anyone that I’ve not done a thing I didn’t want since the war.” He put her down on the bed. “Let me get you some clothes so you can get a meal in you.”
She huffed and frowned at him. “Normally a bloke doesn’t try to make me put on clothes.”
He grinned as he stood. “Once you start your imprint, you’re probably going to fall into a bonding-rut. It’s very common for female Sentinels and more so for an Alpha and you’re definitely an Alpha Sentinel.”
She paled. “Oh… no… I mean.”
“I’m nearly a hundred percent certain on this front,” Harry admitted. “I’ve treated Alpha Sentinels that serve the ICW for injury and your psionic profile is very similar. You’ll get your official designation from the Center, of course. They may err on the side of caution and resist listing you as such but I’ve already told Alpha Wright what I suspect.”
“Bonding-rut,” Hermione repeated then and frowned at him. She snatched up the sheet and pressed it to her bare breasts. “I’m not an animal.”
He laughed, leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to her mouth. “You’re gorgeous—an apex predator in the prime of her life. Don’t worry about it. I stocked up healing potions for both of us.”
He went into the closet and returned with a pair of her pajama pants and t-shirt. “You left these the last time you were here.” He dropped a pair of heavy wool socks on the bed then put down the rest. “I’ve got a pot of soup on and some bread in the oven. My buffer spell ends just short of the door so if you feel uncomfortable once you leave it—just retreat from the door and I’ll bring the food to you.”
“Okay,” Hermione said with a nod.
The moment he passed through the doorway and out into the hall, her senses flared and reached out for him. Hermione pressed a shaking hand to her breast bone but didn’t call out to him. She could handle a little separation for Merlin’s sake. She reached out a picked up the t-shirt and pulled it over her head with trembling fingers. With a huff, she reached out and snatched a pillow from the bed. She buried her face in it and inhaled deeply—glutting herself on Harry’s scent until her heart rate lowered and was no longer thundering in her ear.
Alpha. Normal Sentinels didn’t have a hard time filtering out the beat of their own heart. She’d always prided herself on being special because she was smart and she worked hard. Being seen as more just because of a quirk of her genetics was irritating. Magical female Alpha Sentinels were practically an urban legend. She made a face. It was clearly the Harry Potter Factor. Oh, no, Harry couldn’t have a normal Sentinel. He had to have an Alpha. She laughed at that thought and buried her face in the pillow again.
Hermione dropped the pillow on the bed and a large lioness jumped up onto the bed. She stretched and threw herself across the foot of the king sized bed in a messy sprawl. Hermione just glared at her spirit animal. “I was hoping for something moderate like an owl.”
The cat regarded her with tawny eyes and made a chuffing sound.
“Or a house cat. That would’ve been reasonable.” She made a face when the lioness just yawned and displayed a mouth full of teeth. She nudged the animal with her foot which was still under the covers and got a little jolt of psionic energy for her trouble.
“Apex predator.” It gave her a little thrill to say that out loud.
There was an ancient wildness under her skin, thrumming in her blood and it felt right. For the first time in ever, she felt like she was exactly who she was always meant to be. Why hadn’t she come online after the war? What had happened to… son of a bitch. Hermione scrambled out of the bed, pulled on the pajama bottoms and snatched the socks up before going in search of Harry. She found him in the kitchen—modern and sleek—despite the outward appearance of the ridiculous little fairytale-come-true castle he lived in.
He was at the stove hovering over a tea pot. Her gaze drifted over his body—taking in the broadness of his shoulders and the lithe but muscular lines of the rest of him. He’d been a pretty boy when they were younger with his sparkling green eyes and bright laugh. Now, he was handsome in a rather classic British way—slim but fit and his eyes still shined with magic. Harry hadn’t laughed much after the war and eventually despite her efforts he’d started to shut everyone out. He’d retreated behind his goal to become a Healer and she’d allowed it. She’d been so pleased when he’d picked such a rewarding and ultimately safe path. She’d tried to settle into a research position in the Department of Mysteries but she’d barely lasted a year after her divorce before she’d been recruited by the Protectorate.
Harry turned to stare at her. “Pardon me?”
“Harry. You died and I felt it. I just didn’t realize what I was feeling at the time.”
“And the Sentinel in you retreated,” Harry murmured. He turned back to the tea kettle as it whistled softly. He pulled it off the stove and brought it to the table where he had a full service placed. “I kept the sandwiches plain until we can figure out what, if any, food triggers you might have. Roast beef and cheese. No mustard. I know it’s a favorite but it might prove to be too spicy for you and we can’t risk you having a sensory spike. I don’t know how being forced online is going to impact you long term.”
“No risks,” Hermione agreed. She sat down at the table and pulled on the thick socks then huffed. “My spirit animal is a bloody lioness.”
Harry grinned. “Oh yeah? I’m utterly unsurprised.”
She huffed and curled up in the chair, wrapping one arm around her legs so she could rest her chin. “It’s ridiculous, Harry.” She reached out with her free hand and grabbed a sandwich as he poured tea for her. “It’s good. I mean that we’re friends. I would’ve hated to bond with someone I don’t even know.”
“I agree,” Harry said.
“Is there… you were dating a witch a few weeks ago when I came to visit last.”
Harry sat down at the table. “Carrie? She dumped me.”
“You have terrible luck with women,” Hermione pointed out and tried to keep her intense relief out of her voice though she figured that she was broadcasting that emotion pretty strongly. It sort of irked that he could read her so easily and she wasn’t getting anything from him.
“I have a female best friend,” Harry said. “Every single woman I’ve been involved with, including Carrie, had a real problem with your place in my life Hermione. They couldn’t deal with your monthly visits or the fact that I gave you access to the Arx when none of them had it. Carrie found out you normally end up sleeping in my bed when you visit. She said our friendship was unhealthy and co-dependent.”
Hermione made a face and took a healthy bite of her sandwich. “And your response?”
“I told her it was none of her business and she dumped me.” Harry shrugged. “I shouldn’t have been dating a nineteen year old anyways. I certainly know better. And honestly, what the hell would she know about co-dependence? She’s just two years out of Hogwarts and her Daddy pays the rent on her flat.”
“I’ve got to admit in her place I’d be just as pissed if I found out my boyfriend was letting another woman sleep in his bed,” Hermione admitted. “But she’s an idiot—you’re awesome and she had no business dumping you.”
Harry laughed. “It was probably for the best considering our current circumstances. I’d hate to have to explain this to a girlfriend. Are you dating anyone? What happened with that American bloke?”
“He’s back in America being an arsehole,” Hermione said. “And we barely dated. He had terrible taste in basically everything and I couldn’t take him anywhere Muggle because he could barely function outside of the magical world. It was like dating a slightly smarter more interesting version of Ron Weasley.”
“He was here earlier,” Harry said. “Still calling you his wife and demanding to see you. I’ve revoked his access to the Arx. It’s for the best since we’ll do our bonding here and it will become your safe haven.”
“It’s been my safe place since you bought it,” Hermione admitted as she turned her tea cup and picked it up. “But you knew that already.”
“It’s different for a Sentinel,” Harry said. “I might not have ever planned to bond, Hermione, but I learned everything I should to function properly as a bonded Guide. It would’ve been irresponsible not to prepare for bonding when I knew it could happen at any moment really.” He pushed the plate of sandwiches closer to her. “Have another. You realize you’re nearly a stone underweight, right?”
She frowned at him. “I work a lot.”
“That doesn’t mean you can skip meals,” Harry said and returned to his own meal when she picked up another sandwich half. “You’ve got to be strong in body and in mind to be a successful Sentinel. Both are required to master your senses because either you master them or you’ll be at their mercy.”
“I know,” Hermione said quietly. “The ICW is investigating the attack on me?”
“Kingsley insisted. He’s pitched quite a fit about it and the entire Protectorate is being investigated by the World Court of Magic as only a handful of people even knew you were a latent Sentinel.”
“My partner knew,” Hermione murmured. “He was… he’s an online Guide, Harry. They paired us together hoping it would bring me online but I could barely tolerate him. I’ve been trying to get out of working with him for the last three months. But Isaac Cranton wouldn’t budge on it because we were on an assignment.”
“Can you discuss the assignment?”
She shook her head. “No, it’s classified but honestly it wasn’t a very interesting or important. I was surprised to be assigned the case because normally I handle more complex dark magic investigations. Thanks to my experiences with Tom Riddle and the Death Eaters, I’m uniquely suited to investigating the dark arts.” She made a face. “But Scott Livens, my former partner, was new to the Protectorate and I was his first partner assignment.”
“Was he eager to spend time with you?”
“Yes, but it was difficult to be around him. I rarely spent time with him outside of working hours and avoided him at work unless I had no choice to interact with him. You think they set me up?”
“Of course they set you up,” Harry said. “You come from a long line of Sentinels on your father’s side—Ryan told me that you were first latent in his family in eight generations. There are no Sentinels working for the Protectorate—they can’t successfully recruit them—due to their mandate.” He paused and reached out. Hermione met him half way and laced her fingers with his. “How many people have you killed in the last year, love?”
Hermione didn’t flinch and she wasn’t ashamed. The Protectorate of Magic’s mission was clear and no one misunderstood that they were to be considered a final solution. The international organization had been created to hunt and kill Death Eaters after Riddle’s war after all. “Six.”
“You realize that’s not how a Sentinel operates? You’ll be able to kill in the defense of yourself or others but outright assassination is no longer in your wheel house. It’s contrary to your instincts.”
Hermione nodded. “I know.” She cleared her throat. “I never… not once… took a life unless I had no choice, Harry. I was never assigned to do that and Cranton didn’t ask it of me. I think because I’m a woman. Most of my work with the Protectorate was research and investigation—I encountered situations where I was forced to kill in order to protect society at large but it was always justified in my mind.”
“I never had a problem with your job.” He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed the palm before releasing her. “Ron was the one who lost his shite.”
Hermione sighed. “I haven’t spoken to him in three years—not since he sent me a letter telling me he was going to file an appeal and get our divorce over turned because I belonged to him and I didn’t have the right to leave him or Britain. I floo called him from Australia where I was researching a dimensional portal situation and cursed him for twenty-two minutes then I ended it before he could respond.”
“He’s not going to take our bonding well at all,” Harry said.
“You know he’s a dormant Guide, right?” Hermione questioned and watched the shock filter over Harry’s face. “He never told you.”
“No, I had no idea. He told you?”
“He told me shortly after we married. He said that we were probably Sentinel and Guide and that I didn’t come online because he was dormant.” She shuddered. “That’s why I asked my mother to…” She flipped her hand around. “Check him out when she returned to Britain. I’d never asked that of her before because it felt like an abuse of her but I had to know what was going on in Ron’s head.” She paused and pushed on. “She was sick for hours afterward, Harry. She begged me to divorce him. My dad was ready to kill to Ron.”
“I’ve never dug deep,” Harry admitted. “The surface of his mind is enough to tell me all I ever really needed to know about him to be frank. He’s selfish, arrogant, and lazy. I’m sorry that situation hurt you.”
“I felt really stupid,” Hermione admitted. “And that was embarrassing. In fact, I would say that was the worst part about the entire thing—admitting that I’d made such a stupid mistake. I practically tucked tail and run from Britain just to get away from the pity and the smug little smiles of half the people I worked with who knew he was a piece of shite and couldn’t be bothered to tell me.”
“Well, I made that mistake as well,” Harry said. “At least you were strong enough to make a clean break.”
“It’s not about strength,” Hermione disagreed. “You’re the strongest person I know, Harry. I cut Ron out of my life because he managed to destroy every single happy memory I ever had of him in a matter of months. And that’s not even taking the sex to account.”
Harry stilled and put down his cup slowly. “What about the sex?”
“He’s selfish, Harry, in every single way.” She made a face. “I’d rather not think about it too much.”
“Okay, we can both push that right out of our heads,” Harry agreed. “I could curse him later if you want—make it impossible for him to get off with a partner until they’ve come.”
Hermione laughed. “That would be great. It’s practically a public service. I’ve never heard of such a curse.”
“Well, it’s not designed to be a curse,” Harry allowed. “It’s an orgasm tethering spell for wizards who have a problem with premature ejaculation. The charm reacts to sexual arousal and activates during intercourse, vaginal or anal, to prevent the penetrating partner from coming before the person being…” He paused then shrugged. “Fucked.”
“He needs that!” Hermione decided. “Probably since Hogwarts, Lavender said he was a terrible shag during sixth year, too.” She finished off her tea and reached for the pot. “What is your spirit animal?”
“Did you know… that if you’re magically bound to a magical animal and that animal dies—it’s intimately connected to your spirit for life?”
She bit down on her lip. “Sometimes, Crookshanks curls up in bed with me.” Her familiar had died during the war. The first time he’d visited after his death she’d freaked the fuck out. “Oh, is it Hedwig?”
“I wish,” Harry said with a soft, sad smile. “I mean… I’ve made peace with my spirit animal but I miss Hedwig so much.”
Hermione put down the tea pot. “Harry.” She focused on him. “What’s your spirit animal?”
“A thousand year old basilisk named Winifred who graciously allows me to call her Winnie. It took her four years to forgive me for killing her but she did finally admit that she had brought that shite on herself.” Harry quirked an eyebrow when Hermione just stared at him. “Problem?”
“I’m kind of surprised,” Hermione admitted. “But I guess I’m not completely surprised that your spirit animal is a snake. You’ve always had a sly way about you that was very… unGryffindor.”
“The hat wanted to put me in Slytherin,” Harry agreed. “But you know that already. I’m comfortable with who I am, Hermione. It took me a long time to get here, I have to admit but I did it. Not letting myself get wrapped up in other people’s expectations helped me in the long run.”
“Not even mine,” Hermione said.
“Especially not yours,” Harry corrected. “You were a driving influence in my life but I had to learn to stand on my own and not let you push me down one path or another like you did throughout Hogwarts. This is not a criticism. I needed that then—I required direction and you provided it when no one else had ever bothered before. I wouldn’t have survived half as well without you and I know that.”
“And now?” Hermione questioned. “What do you need from me?”
“Honesty and,” Harry began, “if you want me to stand with you, Hermione, I need to be your equal or we’re not going to be all that we could be.”
“I’ve seen Guides subjugated before—it always put me off,” Hermione admitted. “It’s even more common in the magical world. The fact is that you’d survive very easily without me. I’m the one that needs you to live an even halfway decent life. I won’t forget that and I won’t ever treat you like you’re less than me because I know you’re not. I really can’t promise not to get primal on you, especially if I’m an Alpha like you think but… I’ll try to remember you can handle yourself and that frankly you’re much more of a threat than I’ll ever be.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Harry said with a grin. “You’ve always been good in a fight. After all, even under threat of your life you still paused to give Ron instructions on how to cast a spell.”
“He’d have never gotten it right,” Hermione said crossly and pointed at him with one finger before sitting back. “Have you seen my parents?”
“Yes, they know you were forced online with a spell and I’m to contact them when you’re ready to be evaluated by the Center. I only met your boss, Cranton, so I don’t know if your partner is here in Britain but I can’t promise to be civilized if he’s guilty of doing this to you. The spell he used was designed to force a bond.”
Hermione exhaled sharply as fury erupted in her chest. “We can be uncivilized together.”
* * * * * *
Her fingers tightened against his as he led her into the ritual room. She’d never been in it and had, in fact, not known it existed until a few minutes before. Harry turned to face her just short of the ritual circle and picked up other hand.
“So.” She bit down on her bottom lip. “I’m afraid I don’t know what to do. All of my lessons regarding being a Sentinel were Muggle since my Dad taught me and he knows nothing of magical customs.”
“Muggle Sentinels and Guides can have platonic bonds. Such bonds are impossible for an Alpha female Sentinel. There is a wildness in you that I have no hope of soothing with a platonic bond and that’s true for Alphas of both worlds. You’re going to be territorial, possessive, and violently jealous at even the mildest hint of infidelity. This is your nature and most of it will be beyond your control. The only method of blunting this is a core bond.”
“Like marriage,” Hermione said wide-eyed.
“No, it’s deeper and more primal than a marriage bond,” Harry said. “It’s unbreakable and so profound that it transcends our physical existence. This is the path we must take—for the safety of others if for no other reason. You’re a force of nature and while you trust me intellectually there is a part of you that requires more than that.”
Her mouth trembled. “Harry.” He watched her eyes grow wet with tears as she processed the ramifications.
“If you don’t want this, I’ll take you to St. Mungo’s. They can suppress your gifts with a ritual. It’s too complicated for me to do on my own but I’ll supervise it and make sure it’s done properly. You don’t have to accept this as your new reality, Hermione. I know you were always disappointed that you didn’t come online but this hasn’t happened for you naturally and you have every single right to step back from it.”
Her hands tightened in his as if to hold on to him. “That’s the last thing I want.”
“What do you want?”
“You.” She bit down on her bottom lip and took a deep breath. “A baby. I want a baby so bad I can’t even stand it, Harry. I’ve been considering a sperm donor for a year and I was… I was going to ask you if you’d… well.”
“Out of curiosity,” Harry began, “were you going to ask me for a donation or was I at least going to get to fuck you?”
She blushed brightly. “Harry Potter.” Hermione scrunched her nose. “I’m totally on board with getting laid on almost any given day.”
Harry smirked. “You’re gonna have to take off your clothes for the ritual.” He released her hand and stepped back. He pulled his t-shirt over his head and tossed it away from the circle. “I’ve a contraceptive charm in place but after we get our bond settled we can make as many babies as you want.”
Her eyes darkened and she hurried pulled her shirt off. “We should practice a lot so we make perfect babies.”
“I’m not sure that’s how it works,” Harry confided as he unbuttoned his jeans.
“My theory is sound.” Hermione watched, lips parted slightly as he shed his jeans and dropped them near their shirts.
“It’s certainly worth exploring,” Harry agreed. He walked around the circle, keeping his gaze on her as he stepped into a shallow cistern. “It’s best if we’re cleansed magically for this.” Mist gathered around his feet and spread over his body.
Hermione pulled off her socks and dropped the cotton pajama bottoms on top of his jeans. She walked to him, slow and watchful then took the hand he offered as she stepped into the cistern with him. “You’re…” She huffed and trailed her fingers down his sternum then over his abs. “Extremely fit. I’m annoyed.”
“Why?” Harry asked, clearly amused.
“I feel like I’ve been missing out on some really fantastic shagging opportunities,” she admitted huskily and glanced down at his erection. She bit down on her lip. “I really want to… everything. I want to do everything to you.” She blushed. “Is this how a bonding-rut starts?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.”
She shuddered as the mist traveled over her skin but stayed still. “I’ve always known that.”
When the mist finished he led her from the cistern to the center of the ritual circle. Runes lit on the floor as he knelt and she followed suit. He settled down and put her hands on his thighs. “You need physical touch to be grounded but don’t give into your baser instincts until we’re finished—it could make bonding magically extremely difficult for us both if you rush the sex.”
“I can control myself.”
Harry nodded. “I have every faith in you, Mi. I also know that you thrive on information and you’re going into this situation blind. I’m kind of concerned that you’ve not done any research on magical bonds between Sentinels and Guides.”
“It hurt,” Hermione admitted, her fingers curled against his the muscles of his thighs, nails scored his skin briefly before she relaxed. “But I’m going to catch up, Harry. I won’t be a burden to you.”
“I know,” Harry murmured. “Okay, so the bond is built on a magical promise. The structure isn’t as important as to the intent. The ritual circle I built while you were asleep is designed to facilitate a core bond. Because we already have a connection, the bond is going to flare wide open at the first opportunity. It’ll be overwhelming so I’m going to fully activate the magic of the ritual circle after you speak.” He paused and waited for her nod. “I’m going to go first so you can mimic me but take your time and don’t worry if you can’t make the exact promise to me. Swear to me what is true for you and what feels natural.”
“Okay,” Hermione agreed, her gaze dropped.
“And stop looking at my prick, I’m starting to feel objectified.”
Hermione laughed and met his gaze. “I really want to blow you.”
“I’m very fond of blow jobs.” Harry put his hands on top of hers and his magic shifted visibly on his skin. “You admitted to me in the past that you’ve done very little ritual magic outside of ward and curse breaking so this is probably going to be a bit of a shock to you. Just remember that I’d never hurt you—not under any circumstances.”
“Okay.” She smiled. “Show me what you got, Potter.”
Harry took a deep breath and magic thickened around them. “Sentinel, I will bear your burdens as if they are my own, anchor you in this world, and shelter from the things you cannot bear, for I am your Guide in this world. Your enemies are my enemies. I will be your partner in magic and in life. I swear this on my magic. So shall it eternally be.”
Hermione stared at him wide-eyed for several minutes as his magic swept over his skin like the ocean. Harry was beautiful in that moment and the fact that he was giving everything he was to her was overwhelming. Again, she was intensely relieved not to be doing this with a stranger.
“Guide, I will bear your burdens as if they were my own, I will follow where you lead, gratefully accept the shelter you offer and catch you when you falter, for I am your Sentinel. Your enemies are my enemies. I will be your partner in magic and in life. I swear this on my magic. So shall it eternally be.”
Her magic shifted inside her as the oath settled.
“Magicis communionem,” Harry whispered as his magic started to rush around them and a wall of pure blue magic pushed up for the floor and encased the ritual circle. His hands tightened on hers when she jerked in alarm. “Easy, love, it’s just me.”
“Well,” he began wryly and glanced around them. “It’s Winnie actually but we are one.”
She focused on the wall and realized it was no wall at all but a large coiling body of a snake… her mouth dropped open as she got her first real look at Harry’s spirit animal. Basilisks were illegal to create and she’d only ever seen the scavenged skeleton of the one in the Chamber… Winifred’s bones… she corrected mentally with a wince. Hermione relaxed with a small nod and once she did Harry reached out for her empathically. She shivered, a mixture of relief and desire, as she was brought fully into his mental embrace.
Hermione sought him with everything—every sense blown wide open and her magic swelled deep inside her. Her mind rushed and her heart started to race. The gentle thump of Harry’s heart never changed—never faltered. His skin under her hands was like warm silk, the rich masculine scent of his body filled her and her mouth watered. Her pussy heated and she went wet in such a rush she almost came.
“I’m here, love,” Harry promised. “The bond is settling just as it should.”
He lifted his hands off hers and she scrambled up from her knees in one smooth motion, wrapping herself around him with a little growl. Harry cupped her arse and lifted his head to bare his neck as her legs clenched around his waist. Hermione latched onto his skin with a clench of teeth and a gentle suck of soft lips against his pulse point. The taste of his skin made her shudder and her hands dug into his shoulders, nails bit into muscle—sharp and painful but he didn’t protest.
Harry clutched at her, forcing back every instinct he had as magic moved in and around them in a building storm. A lioness appeared in the circle, growling and bearing teeth. She was beautiful and powerful in a way he’d always associated with Hermione—tawny eyes stared at him and she stretched before she lost her solid form and rushed toward them in a blur of golden psionic energy. Hermione arched her back and gasped loudly as her spirit animal disappeared into her.
“I’ve got you,” Harry promised. “Hold on—we’re about to take another hit. A big one.”
Winnie whipped around them in a rush of dark blue magic and Harry stilled when he felt her head bump up against his back. Then she flowed into him in a long, warm rush of magic and psionic energy. Slowly, one by one, the runes in the ritual circle began to fade. Harry stayed where he was, holding his Sentinel tightly as the communion ended and their connection settled deep and true. The bond flexed between them content and strong just as he’d hoped.
He stood and apparated straight up through the castle to his bedroom. Hermione clung to him all the while, her breathing labored and her heart thundering against her breast. Harry couldn’t imagine how it must feel to her if he could feel it against his own chest. He carried her to the bed and crawled up onto it before settling her down on the crisp blue sheets. Since she didn’t let go, he settled on top of her but was careful to keep most of his weight off of her slim, shivering form.
“Take a deep breath for me,” Harry instructed as her nails broke his skin. “Easy, love.”
“Harry.” Her legs tightened around him. “Please.”
He settled some weight on her and rocked against her. “Listen to my heart, focus just on that. Can you do that?”
“Yes, whatever you wa-nt,” Hermione promised, her voice breaking against the physical strain of her senses.
“Let’s slow your heart rate down,” he suggested. “Take a deep breath and hold it.” She did as instructed. “Now release it slowly… yes that’s it.”
Her grip changed slowly as her body adjusted and her heart rate slowed until she was relaxed. Her eyes went wide. “I smell blood.”
“You’ve got some sharp nails,” Harry said. “Relax—it’s fine. I promise.”
Hermione nodded and bit down on her bottom lip. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s hardly the first time a woman has scratched me,” Harry said.
She scowled at him. “Don’t talk about other women in bed with me.”
Harry grinned and settled a bit more of his weight on her slight form as her hands drifted into his hair. She shifted and shuddered when the heat of his hard cock rubbed against her slick, bare sex. Hermione met her Guide’s gaze steadily as pleasure drifted between them slow and easy—a mixture of physical and mental stimulation. Harry’s mind was vibrant and lovely despite the lingering darkness he’d never be rid of. She reached up and ran her thumb over the healed, pale scar he was famous for.
“I feel everything all at once,” she confessed in a whisper.
“It’s overwhelming,” Harry said. “It’s tempting, I know, to push it all away and ignore it but it’s better for you if you learn to process the information your senses give you. Process and catalogue—this is where occlumency is a very useful tool for a magical Sentinel. You’ve been learning how to manage your senses and our bond for years without even realizing it.” He cupped her hip briefly then slid his hand down her thigh to hook his fingers against the back of her knee. “Put your feet flat on the bed, it’ll help distribute my weight unless you’d like me move.”
She immediately lifted both of her knees, her fingers clenching in his hair. “No, stay.”
Harry settled more fully into the cradle of her legs. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You couldn’t,” Hermione denied and took a deep breath as he rocked against her.
She pushed back the lust because she knew what he was doing and despite the fact she desperately wanted him inside her, the weight of his body on top of her was calming all of her instincts down. Intellectually, she knew that the best method a Guide had of controlling a feral Alpha was to establish dominance in a more normal circumstance. She’d never hurt him but the fuller she capitulated to his guidance now the better he’d be able to bring her down from a feral episode.
Harry lowered his head and brushed his lips against hers. Hermione hummed into the kiss and pulled her hands from his hair with a sigh as he came back for another. The dip of his tongue into her mouth was so delicious that she shivered. She spread her legs a little more and tilted her hips just as he rocked into her. The length of his cock rubbed over her clit.
“Fuck,” she hissed as he lifted his head. “Harry.”
“I’m here,” he promised. Her hands drifted down his back, clutched at his arse in desperation as he continued to thrust slowly against her. “You need to come for me, sweetheart. Just like this—skin to skin.”
“Why?” She wasn’t ashamed at the whine in her question.
“Because it’s probably going to hurt,” Harry whispered against her jaw. “At first, all of your nerve endings will feel like they’re on fire. I’d rather that not happen while I’m inside you. So you’re going to come for me—just like this all soft and easy we can calm you down and teach you how to manage it.”
“Then you’ll fuck me,” Hermione stated breathless.
“Yes, god,” Harry promised as he nuzzled against her jaw. “As long as you want.”
“Faster,” Hermione whispered fiercely and tried to lift her lips.
“Relax, let me do the work,” Harry murmured. “I love how hot and wet you are. I can’t wait to bury my cock in your tight pussy.”
Hermione turned her face into Harry’s neck as her cheeks flushed hot. She’d never had a man speak to her like that—it was hot and embarrassing all at the same time. His voice was penetrating and compelling. She felt it deep down in her core where her magic stirred. Pleasure shifted inside her and a burn started low in her belly. Her sweat-damp skin chilled as orgasm punched through her. It was sharp and mean, biting into her flesh like a knife as her touch-sense spiked. She choked on the pain then screamed.
“Easy, baby, easy,” Harry ordered. He held them both still, catching her hands when she tried to push him off of her. “Dial it down! Make it warm and sweet like it should be.”
“Oh, god,” Hermione squirmed under him but didn’t try to fight. She pushed at her sense of touch, calmed the nerves down slowly to avoid crashing and rendering herself numb. She was so grateful he’d understood where it would go because it would’ve been traumatizing to have him inside her while it hurt so much. “Harry.”
“I’m here, love.”
Harry pressed a soft kiss to her mouth as the pain drifted off of her and was replaced by a lingering pleasure that had been underneath it all along. Her clit was throbbing gently between the lips of her cunt and against the still-hard length of his cock. It felt really good again and she was relieved.
“Yeah, you were right.”
“Well, I spoke with a man earlier in the morning who has a female Sentinel—an Alpha in her own right. The Alpha of London as a matter of a fact.”
“Well, we owe him a thank you,” Hermione said as she snuggled close to him, inhaling against his neck. She opened her mouth and sucked at his skin with a little humming sound.
“He’ll be at the Center later in the week,” Harry said and lifted away from her just enough to reposition himself. He slid into her with one smooth stroke and watched her eyes go wide. “Okay?”
“Oh, yes,” Hermione exclaimed as she arched under him. “God, you feel huge.”
“You’re really tight,” Harry said. He rolled his hips as he started to move, thrusting into her with careful, even strokes. “Pay attention to your senses—let me know if it hurts at any point.”
“I will,” Hermione promised.
Their bond tightened, her nails dug into his shoulder blades, and she shuddered as something deep inside in her stirred and woke. Hermione loved it—the weight of his body on hers, the smell of sex wafting in the air around them, the steady thud of his heart, the silky glide of his cock into her cunt as he fucked into her repeatedly. Every primitive second of it was intoxicating.
The second orgasm slid over her body like warm water and she trembled through the pleasure, relieved when her senses didn’t spike again. Harry buried his face against her neck and came with a harsh groan, his body jerking against her with a quiet violence. Hermione realized with a startling clarity that she understood exactly why female Sentinels were known to kill women who encroached on their Guide because he was more than that.
Harry was her mate.
It had taken just a few charms to make the black slacks and the white button down shirt fit her. She had no clothes of her own save for a night gown and the knickers she’d been worn to bed the night she was attacked, so she’d raided Harry’s closet for clothes and a pair of new dragon-hide boots that were still in the box. Those had an auto-fit charm on them so the moment she buckled them up over her borrowed socks, they’d tucked around her feet and were looking quite smart if she said so herself. He’d just looked her over with a mixture of amusement and admiration.
“You know you look great,” Harry said. He leaned against the counter dressed in a pair of black distressed jeans and a grey cashmere sweater. “What do you want to do about your things in Rome?”
She made a face. “I can’t ever sleep in that flat again—I’ll never feel safe in it. We’ll have to go pack it up against but not… soon. I don’t think I could do it any time soon.”
“We could have it packed up and sent here or I could go without you. You don’t ever have to be in it again.” He took a sip of his tea and watched her slot bread into the toaster. He snagged her by the waist when she tried to move past him and Hermione relaxed into his arms immediately. “You realize those boots will never fit me properly now and since they were unisex to begin with they’re already starting to look like girls boots.”
She laughed because she knew the boots had already narrowed at the toe to look more feminine. The charm work attached to the dragonhide was adhering to her preferences. “Magic is pretty cool.”
“Hmmm.” He kissed the nape of her neck. “It has its uses that’s for certain.” He released her and she went in search of jam for her toast. “Nervous.”
“No,” Hermione shook her head as the toast popped out of the toaster and straight to the plate in front of her. She huffed, smeared jam on the bread, and took a healthy bite. “Stupid magic toasters.”
Harry shrugged. “Do you have any idea how much charm work I had to do to get my lap top to function in this place? I’m not going to sacrifice that kind of time to have a Muggle toaster that will burn my toast half the time.”
“At least it wouldn’t throw your food at you,” Hermione pointed out. “How much do you think the goblins would charge me to pack my things and bring them here?”
Harry pulled a small mirror from his pocket. “Razel.” He waited just a few seconds before it started to glow. “Good morning, I hope your enemies are suffering immensely.”
“As they should,” the goblin agreed. “How can I help the Master of Death this morning?”
“You could call me Harry,” he replied dryly. “Also, I’ve bonded with a Sentinel. She has a flat in Rome that needs to be cleaned out and all of her things brought here.”
“Magical or Muggle?”
“Magical,” Harry said. “Hermione Granger.”
“There will be a fee for dismantling her wards and you realize you own the building her flat is located in, correct?”
Harry glanced Hermione’s way and found her glaring at him. “I was aware, yes. Have her things portkeyed to the Arx and close her lease on the apartment. Take special care with her books, or we’ll all pay for it.” Razel laughed and the mirror went dark. He pocketed the mirror and retrieved his tea. “I bought the building six weeks after you moved into it and while I’ll apologize for not telling you I bought it—I won’t apologize for the actual purchase. Keeping you safe has always been a priority for me. I love very few people on this planet and you’ve pretty much been first on that list for as long as I can remember.”
“As a friend,” Hermione said quietly.
“The best most loyal friend I’ve ever had,” Harry corrected. He poured tea for her and retrieved the milk as he spoke. “There’s always been an attraction between us—sexual and intellectual.”
“But not romantic,” Hermione said added milk and one sugar to her tea. She stirred the beverage with a flick of her fingers and took a hesitant sip.
“I think we can get there—my feelings for you have always been intense.” He paused. “And the sex is great.”
She grinned and her cheeks heated slightly. The sex was, in fact, fantastic. Hermione squirmed a little in her seat. “Don’t talk about sex when we have stuff to do.”
“Speaking of, I found this in my mail box,” Harry began and plucked a scroll from the counter. He put it down beside her. “I didn’t know this and I’m a little irritated for both of our sakes but our bond is classified as a marriage per British law.”
Hermione put down her cup with care and picked up the parchment. She unrolled it and stared in horror at the notification of a magical marriage. She’d had a standard agreement with Ron—no magical vows of any kind—despite his wishes on the subject. “Oh, Harry, I’m so sorry. You told me years ago you never wanted to get married.”
He sat down at the table and picked up one of her shaking hands. “Because I’m a Guide.” He waited until she was looking at him. “Because I always suspected that one day my Sentinel would fall into my lap and I’d have to change everything to be with him or her. Eventually any marriage I had would’ve fallen to pieces and there is no telling what it would’ve done to any kids I might have had with a wife. It just wasn’t… it was a disaster waiting to happen and I knew it. I’m irritated because you trusted me to manage all of this and I…” He flushed. “I feel stupid.”
“You’re not stupid and I didn’t consider it an issue either,” Hermione said as she put down the scroll. “Well, we can have a ceremony later if you want. My parents have now officially missed me getting married twice and that’s going to be quite discussion to have with them.”
“Well, it isn’t like I harassed you into a quickie wedding in the aftermath of the war when you were vulnerable and your best friend was too fucked up to see what a complete cock-up the entire situation was,” Harry said dryly.
“There is that,” Hermione agreed. “We’ll just let my mum plan the whole thing—that’ll help.” She squeezed her fingers against his. “Ron would’ve gotten the same notification.”
“Yes, he’s bounced off the wards four times in the last three days,” Harry admitted. “You were nesting and would’ve killed him for the intrusion so I didn’t do anything about it.”
Hermione made a face. “I could’ve gotten away with killing him while I was nesting. His own mother couldn’t have argued against it.”
Harry laughed. “Mi.”
“I never asked you to choose between us,” Hermione said. “Not during the divorce and not afterward when he proved to be the biggest bastard I’ve ever known but… Harry… I can’t tolerate him being a part of our lives anymore. I can smell him in some of the rooms of the Arx and it’s stomach turning.”
“I’ll clean the place out and he won’t be allowed to return,” Harry said. “This is your home now and no one comes here unless you wish it.” He sat back in his chair when she released his hand and refocused on her toast. “We have a few job offers as well. The ICW, the World Court, and of course the Protectorate sent you a new contract offer.”
“Just me?” Hermione questioned.
“Yes, just you.” Harry watched her digest that. “Also the Wizengamot is protesting your registration because of Ron but I don’t know the exact details. The letter wasn’t informative.”
“They don’t have the authority do anything of the sort,” Hermione exclaimed. “He’s such a tool.” She stood. “Let me get my cloak. I need to curse out half of everyone I know!”
* * * * * *
“Their arrival is imminent,” Holmes said. “You all know what to do and what not to do, I trust?”
“My people know their place,” Wright said. “If she’s an Alpha like Potter believes then a fairly large portion of people in this room are going to be in for a very rude awakening.”
Holmes smirked, her eyes lit with genuine amusement. “Yes, I’m quite thrilled to be a witness.”
Zale laughed. “We should meet more often—have tea. You’re much more entertaining that your stuffy older brother.”
“Mycroft has his uses,” Sherlock said. “But he’s hardly what I’d call entertaining.” She checked her watch and held out her hand. “John.” Watson crossed the room and took the hand she offered, lacing his fingers with her. “It’s time.”
The two appeared in a flush of magic. Hermione Granger was a tiny thing—slim and petite by anyone’s measure but power seemed to roll off of them both as the magic of the apparition faded. Her hair was piled up on her head in a neat little bun that Sherlock knew was fashionable among witches. They were back in the Minister of Magic’s office due to the vehement protests of her ex-husband.
The younger woman’s gaze immediately focused on her. “Alpha Holmes. It’s an honor to meet you—I’ve read quite a few of your books on criminal investigations and the psychology of punishment.”
“You have me at a disadvantage.”
Hermione grinned. “You’ll catch up, I’m sure.” She turned slightly and Potter removed her cloak, then his jacket. “I’m surprised they’re letting you speak to me first.”
“Because I’m Muggle,” Sherlock surmised. “It’s been made clear to everyone that I’m really the only equal you have in this room as far as your gifts as a Sentinel are concerned. It’s my understanding that you’re a very powerful magical person as well.”
“Above average,” Hermione agreed. “An Enchantress if that has meaning to you. Though my Guide is an Archmagus which is an entirely different conversation when it comes to the distribution of magical power in this world. It is the difference between a thunderstorm and a hurricane.”
“Ah, I’d appreciate a more in depth discussion of those dynamics at a later date.” She paused. “The first matter of business is your ex-husband. He seems to think he has some voice in these proceedings. Can you clarify that for me?”
“He’s a pure-blood wizard and is under the impression that I’m his marital property,” Hermione explained. “I had to sue for divorce and I was first Muggle-born in a hundred years to be granted a divorce against the wishes of the spouse and his family. I was frankly only granted a divorce because the vast majority of the Wizengamot is petrified of Harry and he threatened to murder them all in their sleep if they didn’t give me my freedom.”
“I see. I had no idea that magical law is so… outdated.”
“Outdated, bigoted, corrupt… the list is endless and just as horrifying as you might expect. He’s filed several appeals trying to get our divorce over turned and has sued me for spousal support six times.” Granger’s gaze flicked to her ex-husband where he was laboring under something called a silencing charm.
Sherlock had barely refrained from applauding when Minister Shacklebolt had pointed his wand at the red headed man and cast the magic at him. She desperately wished she could make people shut up by pointing a stick at them.
Granger frowned. “I suppose he’s filed a complaint regarding my recent bonding.”
“Under British magical law, he has the right to compensation should I ever remarry. The law even allows that my husband would be required to pay him a thousand galleons per child I birth. That’s about four thousand pounds,” Hermione explained. She turned to the red headed man who was smirking and ended the magic keeping him quiet with a jab of her own wand. “But I didn’t just get married, Ronald. I’m magically bonded to Harry so if you expect to protest this union or receive compensation for the children you think should be yours—you’re going to have to meet Harry on a dueling platform.”
Sherlock clapped her hands. She couldn’t help herself. “Oh, yes, I’d love to see that.”
Potter laughed and leaned against the Minister’s desk. “He’s an idiot so you might get lucky.”
“That’s nonsense, Hermione, those old protocols only apply to ritual marriages,” Ron scoffed and his mouth dropped open when Granger merely raised an eyebrow. He turned to glare at Harry. “You bonded to my wife in a fucking ritual?”
“The fucking came after the ritual,” Granger said and rocked back in a pair of truly stunning boots. Sherlock wasn’t one to invest a great deal of time in fashion but she did like her things to be nice and sturdy.
“She’s your ex-wife,” Potter snapped. “As you’ve been told by the World Court of Magic, the ICW, the Protectorate of Magic, and the Wizengamot on four different occasions. It’s not going to change, Ron, just because you didn’t like the result. You have no business here today and Kingsley I ought to kick your arse for allowing him in here. You know damn well he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”
“He filed an injunction with the Wizengamot. She can’t be registered as a Sentinel in Britain until this is resolved,” Kingsley explained. “There are several… people… within the government who aren’t thrilled with a Muggle-born being registered as an Alpha Sentinel to begin with but to be a witch on top of it more than some of those old bastards can tolerate.”
“I don’t care about being registered in Britain,” Hermione announced. She turned to Harry. “You’re a resident of France as well, correct?”
“You know that I am.” Harry stared at her, taking the lines of stress on her face and the darkness in her eyes. He picked up both of her hands she focused on him entirely. “He’s spent the last ten years following you around—obsessed with regaining control over you. It won’t end if we leave Britain.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “Do you remember when he was loyal and good? I just didn’t imagine it, did I?”
“No, love, you didn’t imagine it,” Harry soothed.
“It was fourth year,” Hermione said. “It was like this ugly jealousy welled up in him from somewhere dark and mean. It got worse, didn’t it? Part of me wants to blame the war but he was already selfish and cruel before things went to so wrong. He never got upset when he killed. Do you remember? I cried for hours after that first time and you… you threw up. You couldn’t even look at us for a day afterward. But Ron just acted like it was another day, acted like he hadn’t blown a hole through that Snatcher’s chest.” Hermione shuddered.
“Around the age of fourteen,” Harry began, “magic starts to stir in us in response to impending magical maturation. For those of us with the right genetics, other gifts start to develop. For you, because you were older it started during our third year. Do you remember how you responded to the broom Sirius sent me? How frankly intolerable you got over the very idea that he was a threat to me?”
“Oh.” Hermione scrunched up her nose. “Sorry?”
“No, it’s fine. I mean at the time, I was pretty much equal parts confused and irritated.”
“Is he dormant because he’s corrupt or corrupt because he’s dormant?” Hermione finally asked.
“The research on that isn’t clear,” Harry admitted. “Had I known he was dormant, I would’ve certainly investigated the situation more thoroughly.”
“You told him I was dormant!” Ron shouted and stood. “How dare you, Hermione! That was private!”
Harry turned to Weasley then, his eyes dark and magic swept over his skin. All of the magicals in the room shifted in alarm except for Hermione Granger who just stepped closer to her Guide.
“She has precious few secrets from me, Ronald. That is the nature of the Sentinel/Guide bond. She’s spent the last decade avoiding you, refusing to deal with your bullshite because she can’t hardly stand to be in the same room with you. It’s clear to me, at least now, why you fought the divorce and why you insist on filing all of these legal proceedings. You’re trying to wear her down so she’ll come back to you—because you’re stupid enough to believe that being in a relationship with a Sentinel will fix you. While she might have certainly inspired a latent Guide to come online—Alpha or not she couldn’t bring you online.”
“A spell forced her online,” Ron said. “One could do the same for me.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed. “How did you know that?” His wand flicked into his hand and Zale Wright stood.
“Alpha.” Harry focused on the man.
“Allow me to handle the matter of Mr. Weasley unless he’s dumb enough to duel you for his ex-wife.”
Harry turned to Ron. “Are you dumb enough? Alpha Holmes and I can’t be the only ones in the room who hope you are.”
“I’m not going to give you a chance to kill me,” Ron said. “I can win this in court eventually and you both know it. Don’t make the mistake of knocking my wife up, Potter. I can force her to terminate any pregnancy while the court makes a decision.”
Hermione apparated away from Harry and appeared in front of Ron, the sound echoed through the room like a cannon. She shoved her wand into Weasley’s chest and he went down on his knees with a shocked, horrified sound. “What? What did you just fucking say?”
“Are we going to let her…” Isobel trailed off when Holmes cleared her throat.
“I’m loathe to say something so cliché but he has brought this shite on himself. You don’t threaten the children of a female Sentinel—not any circumstance. If we interfered she’d probably go feral on us.”
“Did you break into my flat in Rome?” Hermione demanded. “How did you do it? You weren’t on my approved visitor’s list.”
“Your partner was.” Ron tried to move back from her but she shoved her booted foot up against his stomach and pinned him to the wall. “I cursed him—he was weak, easily led.”
“Imperious?” Hermione questioned. “No, you’re not magically powerful enough to maintain one of those. But you’re pretty handy with subliminal suggestion charms. Not a surprise since you’re a manipulative piece of shite. Of course, you weren’t entirely successful in controlling him since he used a curse that would’ve forced me to bond with him if I hadn’t learned to fight off the Imperious curse myself. Look at you—I’d pity you if you weren’t so fucking vicious and stupid. You’re going to withdraw your protest, Ronald, or I swear on my magic I will rip your goddamned heart out.” The oath settled and Weasley shuddered in horror. “You’re going to leave me alone and if you ever in your life speak in the general direction of my Guide again—I’ll make you beg to die.”
“Do you remember what I did to Greyback during the final battle?”
Ron shuddered. “Yes, whatever you want.”
“Say it,” Hermione demanded. “Make a vow like your life depends on it because it does.”
“I formally withdraw my protest against the bonding of my ex-wife and Harry Potter,” Ron ground out through clenched teeth. “I swear on my magic I won’t file another grievance or protest with any legal body regarding their marriage, bond, or any children they may have.”
She lifted her wand away when the oath settled. “Leave—you smell like piss and fear and that’s annoying.” Ron scrambled up and left the room at a run. She turned to Harry. “That wasn’t emasculating, right? For you, I mean.”
“Nah, I’m good,” Harry assured.
“What did you do to this Greyback person?” Watson questioned.
Hermione flushed and averted her gaze.
“She disemboweled him with gardening charm called the reaper,” Harry explained and grinned when Watson made an appreciative sound.
Holmes turned to her Guide. “John.”
“No,” Watson said firmly. “They’re both entirely too old for adoption at any rate.”
“How about I buy you a pair of venomous snakes instead?” John asked and sighed when his Sentinel grinned.
“She’s going to need training,” Sherlock pointed out to the room at large. “Now can we start her testing? Her parents are waiting at the Center.”
Harry picked up Hermione’s cloak, gave it a shake and used his wand to transfigure it into a black pea coat.
“Thank you and nice work.”
“I took my second mastery in Transfiguration, you know,” Harry said dryly as he helped her into the coat. “Besides your cloak has an open configuration.”
“I’ve never bothered with it,” Hermione admitted. “I just throw a notice-me-not charm on it when I leave magical areas but this is better.”
“Alpha Wright, is there an apparition point in the Muggle Center?” Harry questioned.
“There is now,” Zale said. “I set it for Alpha Holmes office and that entire suite remains empty unless she’s occupying it.”
He drew his wand and produced a tiny globe which Potter reached out and took. He held it for a few seconds then handed it to Granger who stared at it intently then flicked it away with a snap of her fingers.
* * * * * *
“She looks good.”
Harry let his gaze leave Hermione. His Sentinel was in a sound proof room that was also muting their bond. The Muggles called it a Faraday cage. They’d been warned in advance which was good because the moment the door closed, Harry had felt an immediate difference in his bond with Hermione. “She’s very stable, Ryan. I wouldn’t have left the Arx with her if it weren’t the case.”
Ryan Granger nodded and shoved his hands into his jean pockets. The small observation room with the one way mirror was all the contact they had with Hermione while she went through a variety of tests. “When she received her Hogwarts letter and we found out she was magical—I was relieved in a way. Magical Sentinels are rare and as proud as I am to have produced a Sentinel—I was okay with Hermione remaining latent. I think she adjusted well after it became clear she wasn’t going to come online without a disastrous stressor.”
“She’s handling it very well—even the part about being forced online.” Harry cleared his throat. “Her biggest drive appears to be… maternal.” He paused until the older man looked at him. “She wants a baby. Pretty much as soon as possible.”
“Are you okay with that?” Ryan questioned.
“Yeah, I mean I always wanted a family it’s just being a Guide sort of put a hold on all of that. If I’d given in to that urge as a younger man—I’d be in a very painful situation right now.”
The door opened and Holmes entered.
“She’s tested in the Alpha range for hearing, sight, and smell so far,” Holmes reported. “That’s enough to get her labeled an Alpha by our standards but your Ministry of Magic is insisting that in order to receive that designation as a magical that it be all five senses.”
“I don’t think Hermione cares either way.”
“Your Alpha does,” Holmes explained. “Alpha Wright doesn’t want her to be denied any of her rights as a Sentinel based on her blood status so we’re recording the results carefully and there is a witness here from the Department of Mysteries to watch the testing. He’s in the other observation room. The test administrator asked if she needed a break and she indicated that she was fine.”
“If she wasn’t, she’d have already apparated to me,” Harry said. “Her instincts won’t allow for a different response.”
Holmes nodded. “Very well. Let us know if you get uncomfortable, Guide Potter and we’ll end the testing. I’m gathering some reading material for her as I’ve been told that’s her preferred method of gaining information. We’ll want to schedule some training as well both myself and Alpha Wright. We each have skills she will need.”
“I’m sure she’ll notify you both of the schedule she’d prefer—it’ll be extensive and color coordinated,” Harry explained.
Holmes grinned. “Yes, I expect it will be. You needn’t worry, Potter, there are few women on earth who really understand your Sentinel the way I do. We’re rare—she and I—and I will do my part to prepare her for the world we live in.”
“Thank you, Alpha Holmes.”
“It is a pleasure and an honor,” Sherlock assured and left.
Ryan huffed when the door shut. “You know—when I found out the new Alpha of London was a woman I was shocked. Then I met her.”
“And?” Harry questioned.
“I was relieved,” Ryan admitted. “I’ve rarely met anyone so dedicated to the safety of our kind, Harry. Her brother ascended to the Alpha of the United Kingdom when she took over London and they are a force to be reckoned with in all respects.” He pursed his lips briefly. “If I asked you to kill Ron Weasley, would you think me dark? Evil?”
“I’d think we were reading the same book,” Harry murmured. “He won’t live long, Ryan. He’s an unforgiving little shite and he hasn’t given up her—he just retreated. The next time he comes at her, I’ll kill him. You have my word. I won’t let him live to be a threat to her or my children.”
Ryan relaxed. “Good.”
They both turned to watch Hermione.
* * * * * *
“I like the offer from the World Court of Magic the best,” Hermione admitted. “Being investigators for the court wouldn’t be far off from what I used to do for the Protectorate. We’d set our own working hours for the most part and you could still consult as a Healer when you wanted or when you were needed.”
She looked up from her pile of parchments to focus on her Guide. Harry was lounging in a hammock. After she’d been tested, he’d offered to take her to Black Island, the only part of his inheritance from his godfather that he’d kept for himself. The rest of the Black estate was in trust for Teddy Lupin. It was a smallish island and they were the only inhabitants. It was unplottable and reachable only by portkey. Hermione was very glad that Harry had been at home the night she was attacked, even if the island was off the coast of Italy. She’d have been unable to breach the wards to get to him.
“I like their offer as well though the ICW has appeal as well.” He turned his head, held out his hand and made a little motion with his fingers.
Hermione pretended for a second that she was going to ignore his silent demand before she divested herself of all of her research, left the lounge she was in and walked across the stretch of white sand that separated them. It was easy to slip into the hammock with him. She curled into him, hooking one leg over his thigh so they were as close as possible. “The ICW has tried to recruit you for years.”
“I don’t want you to say to yes to them because of me. I can do my part to protect our world with the World Court and it will be less dangerous for us both.” She stared at his face, saw the honest resolve there. “I can’t be happy if you’re miserable, Harry.”
“Okay, so top five things you need?” Harry questioned.
“You.” She blushed but smiled when he did. “To see my parents regularly—more than I have in the past. A baby or three. To make a difference.” She let her head rest on his chest and sighed when he ran his fingers through her hair. “A home.”
“I’m on board with all five of those things,” Harry promised. “And if the World Court will make you happy then we’ll send them a counter offer next week. They didn’t account for the time you’ll need to train. It’ll be at least six months before you can work in the field as a Sentinel.”
“That’s… we could practice making a baby a lot in six months,” Hermione theorized.
“That much practice and we might accidently produce the second coming of Merlin,” Harry said dryly. He cupped her head when she giggled. “Oh, you think it’s funny now but I would beg of you to remember the Harry Potter Factor.”
Hermione lifted her head and met his gaze head on. “Oh, I always remember the Harry Potter Factor.” She leaned and kissed his mouth gently then smirked. “Let’s just promise each other we won’t actually call this poor kid Merlin.”
Harry laughed. “Agreed.”
She relaxed in his embrace and closed her eyes as he used his wand to make the hammock swing gently. “You’ve always made me feel safe, you know.”
Harry pressed a kiss to her forehead. “You’re my safe place, too.”