Title: Blank Space
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: NC-17 (explicit sex and violence)
Warnings: Discussion of child abuse and neglect, violence, and minor character death
Author notes: No Brit-pick, magic cock AND yes I did name this fic after a Taylor Swift song.
Word Count: 60,764
– – – –
Hermione Jane Granger had it on good authority that Harry James Potter was an arsehole. It was her own authority and she trusted herself more than she trusted anyone else. Her best friend had left Britain three weeks before her wedding with nothing more than a letter. A letter with one sentence.
I can’t be who you want me to be.
He’d left it on the table at the Burrow. He’d left it sitting beside an unsigned marriage contract that Hermione had never seen and knew nothing about until she’d read it. After Hogwarts, Harry had never renewed his relationship with Ginny. He’d avoided her after the war and had thrown himself into his classes both at Hogwarts and eventually the Auror Academy. Hermione would later learn he’d even had a time-turner crafted by the goblins for himself so he could turn back whole days at a time.
Harry had left Hogwarts with twelve NEWTs and had been accepted into the academy as an officer candidate. Ron had been furious by the secret and by Harry’s success. Harry had spent six months at the academy and then four years in the Ministry where he was quite obviously being groomed to be the Head Auror.
Then, Ron had asked her to marry him and she’d stupidly said yes. Their relationship had been a crutch for her—a safety net. She’d allowed herself to be lulled into the idea that she loved Ron but she didn’t—at least not the way she should’ve. A month after their announcement, Harry was gone. He disappeared into the ICWs Hit Wizard training program—quite a boon for the British Ministry as they hadn’t had a candidate in the program in nearly sixty years. Alastor Moody had been the last Brit to earn an opportunity.
Arthur Weasley had been horrified to learn that Ginny had lied to him about Harry’s interest in marrying her. He’d have never drawn up a contract and sent it to Harry if he’d known the man wasn’t interested in it. Molly had been furious that Harry had left without a word and insulted that he’d rejected her precious, perfect daughter.
Ron had been eaten up with jealousy. He still was, even five years later and Hermione figured some of that blame was hers. The two of them had fought so viciously over Harry’s departure that she’d called off the wedding, broken up with him, and rarely spoke to him at all. The final break had come when she’d received the first letter from Harry just a month after he left. A letter she hadn’t been able to reply to. He’d written her twice a year since then. The third letter broke her heart—he’d fallen in love and gotten married.
His return to Britain was announced in the paper, along with his divorce. He hadn’t written her in eighteen months, the utter fucking wanker. She marched up the front steps of Grimmauld Place, furious and banged on the door. She’d had enough of his bullshite and she was going to bloody well tell him so.
Winky answered the door. Hermione stared at the tiny elf, flabbergasted. She’d searched for her after the war—for nearly two years. After she’d graduated, she’d learned that house elves actually required a bond to survive long term. She’d done her best to find good, safe homes and bonds for every single house elf left bondless after the war. Winky had been nowhere to be found.
Kreacher appeared beside her. “Winky! Kreacher supposed to answer door.”
“Kreacher be old,” Winky said imperiously. “Kreacher supposed to be dusting library.”
Hermione bit down on her bottom lip as the two elves glared at each other. Finally, Kreacher popped away.
Winky turned to her. “You have to keep males in line or they be thinking they can be boss. That’s just an ugly business.”
Hermione nodded and grinned. “It’s great to see you, Winky.”
“Winky be told you try to find me and help me get new bond,” Winky rocked back and forth in a pair of tiny dragonhide boots. “But I be at elf enclave having my babies. I go find Master Harry when my babies could travel so we bond with him in Italy.”
“Babies?” Hermione asked wide-eyed.
Winky nodded. “Dobby’s boys.”
“Oh, Winky, that’s so great.”
“Come in Miss. You meet my twins. They be horrible.” Winky took her hand and pulled her into the house and past a ward that Hermione hadn’t realized was keeping her from entering. “Master Harry be upstairs with Jacob.”
“Who’s Jacob?” Hermione asked confused.
Winky sighed. “I be telling Master Harry to write you but he forgets. Miss Miranda a horrible witch for being so mean to my Master Harry and not wanting sweet Jacob.”
“Winky.” Hermione knelt on the floor in front of the elf. “Who is Jacob?”
“Jacob Orion Potter,” Winky said. “He be Master Harry’s boy—his son. Eight months old yesterday.”
Hermione swallowed hard. “She…left him with a baby?”
“It not be my business,” Winky said. “But Miss Miranda not good wife. She too flighty, too interested in everything but home.”
She stood and turned to the sound of his voice. Five years. He’d stopped being a fresh faced boy somewhere along the line and turned into a man. She hated that he’d done it without her. She glared at him. “You.”
He shoved his hands into his jean pockets. “Is Ron with you?”
“I haven’t spoken to that git in a few months. You’d bloody know that if I’d been allowed to write you!” She took a calming breath when he raised one black eyebrow at her.
“Divorce?” Harry asked.
“We never got married,” Hermione said crossly. She huffed and started towards the door. “I don’t even know why I came here! You don’t care because if you’d cared you’d have never left me to begin with!” She made it all the way to the door before he caught up with her. He snagged her wrist in firm but gentle grip. “Let me go.”
“No.” He tugged her carefully. “Come on now, you didn’t bring your pretty arse all the way here not to tell me off properly.”
“You’re so horrible,” Hermione whispered. “I can’t stand you.” She threw herself at him and burst into tears.
“Oh.” Harry took a deep breath. “Hermione, I am so sorry.” He curled his fingers into her jumper as he held her. “I thought you had Ron and you didn’t need me.”
“Why would…you were my best friend since I was twelve years old!” She clutched at him. “And you just left me you horrible, no good bastard.”
“Winky’s making a curry,” Harry said. “Want to stay for dinner?”
“No, I’m mad at you.” She huffed and clung to him tighter. “You’re just…you can’t just…and you kept sending me letters that I couldn’t answer. I even tried to contact you through Gringotts and your stupid mail ward rejected me!” She pulled free of him with a scowl. “You tosser!”
Harry flushed. “Hermione, your language is deplorable.”
“Bite me,” she snapped. “You…why? Why couldn’t I write you at least?”
“The first six months of Hit Wizard training you’re allowed no incoming mail,” Harry murmured. “I set the ward up when I entered the program. I never lifted it because…well, I didn’t want to hear from Ginny. I didn’t want to hear from Ron either because I figured the only thing he’d have to say would be to order me to stop writing letters to his wife.” He flushed and looked away from her. “I didn’t want to hear about that at all, you know, your marriage to that git.”
“Ron wouldn’t have…” She frowned. “Harry, why did you leave without saying goodbye?”
He ran his fingers through his hair. “Let’s have dinner, okay? We’ll talk about it.”
She allowed herself to be lead into what used to be the old library room of the house. It had been turned into an office. There was a table already set for two by the fire. She let him pull out a chair for her and sat down.
“Where’s the baby?”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware that had made the British papers.”
“It hasn’t. Winky told me you were with your son when I first arrived.”
“Oh.” Harry nodded. “He’s in the nursery. Normally I’d not let him have a nap this late in the day but he had a difficult time with the international portkey. I should’ve traveled Muggle with him. I considered it but the portkey was quicker and he’d taken others before without problems. This was a much longer trip.”
“Right. I’d like to see him before I leave…if that’s okay.”
“Of course,” Harry said. “I…sorry I haven’t written you in a while. Things got hectic when Miranda found out she was pregnant.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “She didn’t want him and I did. I had to settle a stupid amount of money on her despite our marriage contract in order for her to carry the pregnancy to term. She signed over all parental rights to him. She saw him for less than a minute when he was born and insisted on being moved out of the maternity ward as soon as they could do it.”
“That’s horrible,” Hermione admitted. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“I’d thought…I’d thought that once he got here she’d change her mind. If anything, she was even more resentful of the entire situation. But that’s over and Jacob is awesome.”
“He’s the reason you’re back in Britain?”
“I…it was always my intention to return after putting in my five years. That’s the agreement I made with the Ministry and the ICW.”
Hermione nodded. Plates appeared between them and glasses of wine followed. She laughed when a single candle popped into the center. “She’s not subtle.”
“She hated the ex,” Harry said dryly. He sat back in his chair with his glass of wine. “Miranda tried to give her clothes six times. The last time, Winky told her to fuck off.”
Hermione laughed. “Harry.”
“Miranda was furious but I told her when I married her that Winky and her boys were like family to me. I thought she understood that and I also promised Winky that I’d never share her bond with anyone without her consent. Winky wanted no part of Miranda. She rarely even allowed Vex and Jinx in the same room with her.”
“Vex and Jinx,” Hermione repeated.
“Winky’s twins. They’re horrible,” Harry confided. “I spoil them rotten. They have a different pair of socks to wear for every day of the year.” He cleared his throat. “I do for them what I can’t do for their father.”
Hermione nodded. “Bill told us that you had Dobby’s grave moved to Godric’s Hollow a few years ago. Was that for Winky?”
“Yeah, she asked if he could be placed there. He’s family and I didn’t see any reason why shouldn’t be in the family cemetery. Bill was very helpful doing that for me. I put the cemetery there under a Fidelius after the move.” Harry frowned. “Ron told me…he said that he wanted me to step back.”
“Step back?” Hermione asked. She put down her fork. “What does that mean?”
“He said that after the two of you married that he’d prefer that you and I were no longer friends. He said that a married woman shouldn’t have single male friends. He told me you agreed. It was the same night I told him I wasn’t going to ever marry Ginny.”
Hermione flushed with angry. “I would’ve never agreed to that dragonshite!” She huffed and drained her entire wine glass. Kreacher popped into place and immediately refilled it. “Thanks Kreacher.”
“Stupid, ugly Wheezy a bad wizard,” Kreacher said gravely. He topped off Harry’s glass and left without another word.
“I received the contract from Arthur Weasley the same day I left,” Harry said. “I couldn’t believe it…Ginny came here after it was delivered. She said if I didn’t sign it, I wasn’t going to be welcome at the Burrow ever again. I threw her out.”
“Harry, Arthur had no idea the two of you weren’t back together. Ginny told him…she told him that you asked for that contract.”
“Right.” Harry sighed. “My account manager at Gringotts informed me after the fact. But I was already committed to the program and had no interest in returning to Britain. I needed the time on my own to figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life.”
“And you wanted Miranda.”
“I thought so,” Harry admitted. “She’s a solicitor for the Magical World Court. Smart, passionate about justice, and fun to be around. She’s beautiful and despite her lack of maternal instinct I still respect her. We’d talked about having kids. She knew I wanted at least a son to carry on my magical line. But she wasn’t prepared to do it for many years and had made it clear that she wasn’t cut out for parenthood.”
Hermione grimaced. “Still, to not even want to see him?”
“She resents the fuck out of me for asking her to go through with the pregnancy,” Harry admitted. “She had to pass a very important case to someone else to go on maternity leave. It was a career maker.”
“I’m glad you’re home. I’m still mad.” She picked up her fork and frowned at him. “Seriously mad. I’d curse you but I’m trying to be mature.”
“I missed you so much,” Harry admitted. “It hurt to think that you were willing to give up our friendship to marry Ron.”
“I’m going to give him a piece of mind,” Hermione promised darkly. “It shouldn’t be a problem. He always shows up to my office to bitch about you when you end up in the Prophet. Last year when you took down that entire conclave of dark wizards by yourself in New Orleans—he bitched for a solid week. Then just a few months ago when you were honored with War Mage status by the ICW. I thought he was going to stroke out.”
Harry huffed. “It’s just a bloody honorific. It means nothing, really.”
“It’s the highest honor the ICW can bestow on a wizard or witch. It’s like the international version of the Order of Merlin.”
“I have three of those,” Harry said dryly. “I keep them in a cigar box in the bottom of my closet.”
Hermione bit down on her lip. “Harry Potter, that’s terribly crass.”
“Where is yours?” Harry asked.
Hermione blushed. “My parents insisted on having it framed with the certificate. It’s hanging in my home office.”
“Right,” Harry said with a laugh. “So fill me in. What’s gone on while I’ve been gone?”
Hermione sighed. “Hmmm, Neville married Hannah Abbott. Their daughter is two years old. They named her Francis. She’s teaching Divination at Hogwarts and of course, he’s in the Auror Department still. Come to find out she’s a genuine Seer, the first in Britain in like three hundred years.”
Harry nodded. “Right. I get reports on my investment from the twins so I know how their stores are doing.”
Hermione huffed. “They are a constant source of irritation actually. Half their father’s muggle abuse cases these days are the result of someone slipping a Muggle a Wheezy novelty item.”
Harry laughed but blushed when she glared at him. “Sorry.”
“Right, well they married Katie Bell. Together. At the same time.”
Harry grinned at her. “Twins can in the magical world.”
“Right. It was a lovely ceremony. She’s also totally the boss of them both. She’s had two sets of twins. The last pair just yesterday. I suggested we nominate her for Witch of the Decade for not killing her husbands.” Hermione pushed aside her empty plate. “Ron married Lavender Brown last year. They have a kid on the way. Bill and Fleur just had their second.” She paused consider what to say next. “Percy and Penelope married. No children. Molly mourns that fact daily. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan married each other. Draco Malfoy married Daphne Greengrass two years ago. They have a son named Scorpius. I have no idea what that kid did during the pregnancy to deserve that.”
Harry laughed. “Is he still in the ministry?”
“Senior Prosecutor for the Wizengamot. He’s vicious and rarely loses a case.” Hermione shifted in her chair as their plates popped away. “How do you not know all of this? Most of it could be learned in the Daily Prophet—including the fact that I didn’t marry Ron. They had a huge spread on his wedding to Lavender.”
“I haven’t read the Prophet since I left Britain and frankly the international papers couldn’t give a rat’s arse about what happens in Britain now that Voldemort is dead.”
Hermione nodded. “What else?”
“You,” Harry said with a laugh. “What are you doing and all that rot?”
“Well, I dated Terry Boot briefly but that didn’t work out. Then I dated Draco Malfoy for about a year. I thought Molly was going to have a stroke and Ron thought I did it purely out of spite.” She smirked. “There might have been some spite in the mix but mostly…he was just an amazing shag.”
Harry grinned. “Yeah, he is.”
She blushed. “Harry Potter!” She huffed. “What’s the chances of you dropping a memory in a pensieve for me? Because that must have been hot.”
“You’re horrible,” Harry admonished. “I’m not going to provide you with wank material. Who are you seeing now?”
“Single,” Hermione said. She frowned and shrugged. “Viktor Krum for a few months last year and I’ve had a few dates but no one serious since Draco.”
“Are you in love with him?” Harry asked.
“No, our break up was fine as well. We’re still friends. Last month, the cheeky bastard invited me home with him for his wife’s birthday. For the record, his wife is a fantastic shag, too.”
“I bet Molly would stroke out if she knew you were having threesome sex with Draco and Daphne Malfoy.”
Hermione shrugged. “It was all consensual and stuff. Daphne knows that Draco loves her. He’s loved her for years—since probably Hogwarts actually.” She stood when he did and let him lead her to a sofa. “Rumor has it you’re back to be Head Auror. I’m sure people will lose their shit…it’s like they forget that was the plan all along.”
“I’m glad to say that rumor is false,” Harry as they settled down together. “Of course, the reality isn’t going to be all that well received either.”
“Oh?” Hermione asked and raised an eyebrow.
“I’m taking over the DMLE.” He raised an eyebrow when her mouth dropped open dramatically. “Is that a problem for you?”
Hermione shook her head. “No, of course, not. But you’re right—there are quite a few people who will have a problem with that.”
“Are you still working in Magical Creature Regulation and Welfare?”
Hermione shook her head. “The DOR absorbed that department two years ago. The Ministry has been undergoing a total revamp for the last three years actually. The Unspeakables are now under the full auspice of the DMLE. Croaker was so furious when it happened that he retired and told the entire country to kiss his arse.”
Harry laughed. “Yeah. I bet he did.”
“So basically the Ministry has been divided into three branches—administrative, law enforcement, and magical regulation. The Department of Regulation handles everything from the Education Department to Underage Magic Regulation. It’s a pretty big department. Arthur Weasley is the head and Cho Chang is his second in command. The administration branch is the Office of the Minister and they handle all that crap that makes a government run that no one likes to think about—taxes, law creation etc. The DMLE handles the rest from the Unspeakables and the Office of the Prosecution all the way to the management of Azkaban.”
“What do you do?”
“I work in the Department of Mysteries in research and spell creation,” Hermione said. “I can’t really say more than that but I assume you’ll learn the full measure of my job fairly soon.”
Harry nodded. “I have my first meeting tomorrow.” He frowned. “What about…well, what about Teddy Lupin?”
Hermione sighed. “Andromeda still won’t allow any of us to see him. You know you could sue her for visitation. You’re his godfather.”
“She allows me letters and presents,” Harry admitted. “But nothing else. Even that took some work on my part and frankly it had more to do with the fact that I inherited Sirius’ estate than anything else.”
“I don’t understand,” Hermione admitted.
“I have the power to throw her out of the House of Black,” Harry said dryly. “She doesn’t want to be disowned again. It would cut off her access to the Black Trust which is her only income at this point. She assumes I’d do it if she pushed me.”
“But you wouldn’t.”
“Of course not, I doubled her stipend from the trust to make sure Teddy was taken care of properly. He starts Hogwarts two years. I put together a Trust for his education and the like. I’m hoping she’ll let me see him soon.”
“I never told Ron we…slept together in the tent while he was gone,” Hermione blurted out. “I don’t know why he’d think…well, I don’t know why he would’ve wanted to sever our friendship.”
Harry sighed. “Honestly, Hermione, you didn’t have to tell him. You acted so guilty about it—he might as well have walked in on us. You weren’t even dating him when we shagged.”
Hermione frowned at him. “Don’t refer to my first time as a shag, Harry Potter.”
Harry grinned and took her hand. “You were my first, too, but you must have guessed that.”
She shook her head. “No, I mean, Ginny said the two of you had sex when you dated during our sixth year.”
“Hermione, I never had sex with Ginny. I’m not a dumb arse. That was an accidentally-on-purpose pregnancy waiting to happen. She tried to tell me we could have sex and she wouldn’t get pregnant because we weren’t married.” He rolled his eyes. “Vernon Dursley may have been an arsehole but he gave me a very thorough sex talk.”
Harry sighed. “Please tell me she’s married.”
“I wish I could,” Hermione said. “I’m sure you know she plays Chaser for the Harpies. She’s dated a lot but never seriously. She had a whole mourning period when it finally hit the papers here in Britain that you’d married.” She winced. “And I got a floo call about a week ago when your divorce was announced. I’m supposed to tell her immediately when I find out about your return to Britain. They all figured you’d send me a letter with the details.” She frowned at him and pulled her hand from his.
“I could say I’m sorry every day for the next decade if you like,” Harry said. “But it would be rather repetitive after a while and eventually you’d get bored of my company.”
“You’re probably right,” Hermione agreed. “Still, I’m really mad at you but mostly I’m hurt that you took Ron at his word and didn’t even ask me.”
Harry sighed. “Hermione, at that point, I hadn’t seen you without Ron in months. Twice I invited you to lunch that last month and you showed up with him in tow when I hadn’t even invited him. In fact, that last time I specifically told you I wanted to speak with you privately and Ron was still with you when you arrived.”
She opened her mouth to protest but found she couldn’t. “He invited himself a long and I kept thinking that I’d contact you later and…right. He was doing it on purpose.”
“Surely.” He started to say more but a gentle chime sounded through the house. “Excuse me.”
“What was that?”
“Jacob’s awake,” Harry said. “I have notification charms on his crib.”
“Can I come up and see him?”
He paused and shook his head. “No, but I’ll bring him down to you. I have him on the third floor behind a security ward. Meet you in the kitchen? He’ll want a bottle.”
– – – –
“Oh,” Hermione whispered as soon as Harry came into the room. She held out her hands and took Jacob who cooed at her and rubbed his face against her cheek. “Oh my gosh, I’m in love.” She went to the rocking chair by the fire and took the bottle Winky offered. “Look at you.”
Harry watched her with a small, sad smile. “I think that’s probably the first time he’s been held by a witch since…well…since he was born.”
“He’s beautiful,” Hermione murmured as she started to rock. “You get a NEWT in the baby making department, Harry Potter.”
Harry laughed. “Thanks.”
“And it is no small amount of pride that I announce that the new head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is Harry Potter.” Shacklebolt paused and let the shock of that announcement settle in the room. “This appointment is effective immediately. All department heads will be scheduled for meetings in the week to come. These meetings are mandatory and to be honest very few of you are going to have a good time. Director Potter will be reviewing operational reports, open cases, research proposals, and the overblown budget that not a single one of you has any respect for.”
Hermione winced at the Minister’s tone and the rumblings that started around her. Ron was sitting directly behind her and was huffing his way towards a full blown meltdown but even he wasn’t stupid enough to do it in front of the Minister. Fortunately, that proved to be the only surprise announcement during the briefing. Kingsley had been the de facto director of the DMLE since retirement of Anton Wellington three months before. Most everyone had expected that Chester Freemont, the current Head Auror, would be elevated to the position of director. Her own boss, Cecil Montgomery, had been lobbying for the position himself but Hermione had figured he was too much of a bureaucrat to have such a public position.
After the meeting, she went to her office and took a pain potion in an effort to ward off the headache she was sure Ron was going to give her. Her door was thrown open and her ex slammed it shut behind him with a furious glare. Ron threw himself in the single chair she kept in front of her desk.
“Did you know?” Ron demanded.
“Yes, Harry told me three days ago,” Hermione admitted. “But I wasn’t at liberty to discuss it with anyone much less anyone working with the Auror Department.”
Ron glared at her. “That’s bullshite, Hermione. We’ve been friends forever.”
“Did you tell Harry that he wasn’t allowed to be my friend after you and I married?” Hermione asked pointedly. “Did you tell him I agreed with that utter nonsense?”
Ron flushed and shrugged. “You didn’t need to be friends with him anymore.”
“You’re a real bastard, Ron,” Hermione said quietly. “You robbed me of my very best friend for five years, you know. He believed you. He believed that shite and that’s why I wasn’t allowed to write him back all these years. He knows, now. Harry knows you lied to him about that. He knows you’re an insecure little prick who lied to him. You shouldn’t expect him to be all that friendly with you now as a result. He knows he can’t trust you to be honest.”
“What business does he have coming back here and taking over the DMLE?” Ron demanded. “He barely deserves to be Head Auror.”
“He’s a War Mage, a decorated Hit Wizard for the ICW, a world class criminal prosecutor, and he holds Masteries in Dueling and Magical Law.”
Ron shrugged. “So what? What’s he done here?”
“He did all of that work abroad while representing us, you twit. Shacklebolt sent him to the ICW to be trained to do exactly what he’s going to be doing. Why do you think he was educated so thoroughly?” Hermione frowned at him. “Get out of my office. I have work to do.”
“Why didn’t you tell me he was back in town? You’ve known for days. You said you’d tell Ginny as soon as you knew.”
“I never agreed to that,” Hermione said. “I don’t take orders from your sister, from you, or your mother for that matter. She can’t possibly think that Harry has forgotten or forgiven her for that foolish contract. If he wanted any of you to know where he was, he would’ve contacted you. You should go before your boss realizes you’re not working.”
There was a knock on the door and it opened under her boss’ hand. “Granger, Director Potter is starting with us. We have ten minutes to get settled.”
– – – –
Harry was dressed in grey slacks, a crisp white shirt, a black waistcoat, and a Gryffindor red silk tie. She thought he looked good enough to eat and probably wasn’t alone in her opinion if the facial expressions of half the women in the DOM had anything to say about it.
“Good morning, first I must confess to having the least amount of information concerning your department as I was not privy to your details before signing my employment contract two days ago. Most of what I’ve read about you over the last six months has been in relation to your code names.” Harry glanced around the room as he spoke. “Your department was reorganized as little as a year ago by Minister Shacklebolt and I’ve no changes to make to the policies he put into place. I’ve made some budget changes over the entire DMLE and that impacts the DOM.” He paused at the groans that elicited. “There will be a fifteen percent increase in Research and Development—which includes spell creation and new potion research. There will be a five percent decrease in your investigation budget but there will be a corresponding decrease in your case load. Over the last twenty years, the DOM has been tasked with many cases and situations that are a mystery to absolutely no one. As such, spirit manifestation both in magical and Muggle environments will be the domain of the Auror Department from this day forward. Magical creature detainment and relocation will be returned entirely to the domain of the Department of Creature Regulation.”
He arranged some parchment on the podium in front of him. “Code name Idris.”
Hermione raised her hand and blushed when his gaze widened briefly. “That would be me, Director Potter.”
“Care to tell me why a quarter of your work hours over the last four years have been co-opted by the Auror Department?” Harry asked.
“The simple answer is that I read fast,” Hermione admitted. “I’ve been called upon to research for investigating aurors on high profile cases.”
Harry nodded. “Yes, I took note of that. I also took note of the fact that you’ve completed twice as many projects as anyone else in your department in the same time frame.” He paused. “Do you have a time turner or do you simply not sleep?”
Hermione blushed. “I…I work from home, a lot.”
“Well, stop that,” Harry said. “You’re going to wear yourself out then we’ll be out a valuable researcher. From now on, any requests for your time by the Auror Department will require approval from your direct supervisor. No exceptions.” He picked up another piece of parchment. “Code name Ivy.” Susan Bones raised her hand. “Miss Bones, you’ve filed three complaints over the past seven months regarding the misuse of your unit’s resources by the Department of Creature Regulation.”
Susan stood. “Yes, sir, if I may be frank?”
“I’ve rarely known you to be otherwise,” Harry said dryly.
“My team and I specialize in the cataloging and maintenance of natural magical spaces in Britain. It’s my job to know where dangerous creatures are, study their habits, and resolve hunting issues as needed. The DOCR has recently made it a habit using our research spaces in various locations—the Forbidden Forest specifically—without restocking or cleaning the space after their use. That might not seem like a big deal except for the fact that it cost my budget six hundred galleons last month to restock because Theo Nott is a pig.”
Harry grinned at her. “I’ll see that your team is compensated from their budget and it won’t happen again.”
“Thank you. I don’t mind sharing space with them but honestly, I’m not their mother. I shouldn’t have to clean up after them.”
“No, I agree.” He set aside that piece of parchment and cleared his throat. “Code name Pascale.”
“That would be me, Director Potter.” Percy Wesley stood and cleared his throat.
“I must say, you write the most thorough reports of any single person in this department,” Harry began, “in the future, it would be great if you could supply a page summary at the front of your reports. In fact, any bound report from anyone over ten pages or scroll over twenty-four inches should come with a summary for those of us who don’t care to know the exact dimensions of cauldrons in Asia. That being said, I found your work regarding the Veil of Death both horrifying and enlightening. I’ve already approved your research proposal for further study and you can submit a request for additional personnel to Cecil. We both agree that you can have at least one full time and two part time researchers at this time.”
“Thank you, sir.” Percy sat.
“Any questions?” His gaze flicked around the room. “Mr. Davies?”
“Ah, yes, you mentioned that you were going to reallocate cases to other departments. We have several on our current docket that meet those requirements you mentioned. Will they be reassigned?”
“Cecil will be making individual assessments of those cases and will transfer any that he feels would be better served elsewhere. Obviously, if you’re close to a conclusion then the situation is best left in your hands.”
Roger nodded. “What about situations that look like one thing and turn out to be another?”
“I assume you’re speaking of the not-so haunted bed and breakfast in Wales?” Harry asked with a sigh. “I think we’ll want to turn that over to Arthur Weasley’s people. Muggle-baiting of that magnitude is going to require far more than a lecture. I’ve read your reports on the situation and while I agree that a wizard is definitely involved that it’s not a mystery. It’s just an arsehole with a wand and too much time on his hands.”
Davies snorted. “Yes, sir. I’ll prepare my case file for Mr. Weasley’s people. Though, I think that a joint effort might be called for. The person responsible might be dangerous if cornered. An auror or two on the scene when they’re caught wouldn’t be amiss.”
“Include that recommendation in your case assessment,” Harry advised. “I’ll discuss it with Arthur and make sure his people have the back-up he needs.” He cleared his throat. “If that is all then you’re dismissed. You’ll receive formal order memos on any changes to your caseload, assignments, and administrative directives shortly.”
– – – –
Harry cleared the decks in the Prosecutor’s Office, tore the Department of Creature Regulation a new one before lunch, and managed to garner six formal complaints to the Minister on his performance in the process. Hermione sat in her office and let the information come to her as it inevitably did. Ron didn’t return but that was because something huge was brewing in the Aurors and no one really knew what it was. Hermione had heard, but couldn’t verify, that Chester Freemont wasn’t in the Ministry at all.
“I would like to apologize for leaving you for last but the Minister wished to be a part of this meeting and he spent the morning with the Muggle Prime Minister,” Harry glanced over the fifty-two men and women who made up the Auror Department, his gaze lingering briefly on Neville Longbottom, who had been his partner for the last two years he’d served in the department before he’d gone abroad. “You might be wondering where Head Auror Chester Freemont is. It is my duty to inform you that he was arrested this morning on charges of bribery and racketeering. The Prosecutor’s Office working in conjunction with the Department of Magical Regulation and two of your own, investigated Mr. Freemont over the last year. This morning, that investigation resulted in his arrest. It is my understanding he’s already attempting to reach a deal that will keep him out of the maximum security section of Azkaban.
“It is my first duty as the Director of the DMLE to appoint a new Head Auror. I was given a list of names three months ago as this decision was always going to be mine. I’ve reviewed over five hundred cases from start to finish in my efforts to find the best possible leader for you. It wasn’t easy as all four candidates are excellent investigators dedicated to justice and to the safety of our realm. The mark of a good leader becomes an issue of self-actualization and a dedication to self-improvement. A wizard or witch who fails to learn and grow is no way prepared to lead others. The Head Auror is a very public and politically role for the DMLE. To that end, it is imperative that I place someone in that role that we can all have trust in. So, unless he’d rather not—the new Head Auror is Neville Longbottom.”
Neville gave him a brief nod but frowned at him at the same time which made Harry laugh. He sobered as he moved to his next piece of parchment.
“There have been six complaints of inappropriate conduct by Aurors in this department in the last month. These complaints like many others in the past were dismissed out of hand by Freemont. Head Auror Longbottom’s first task will be to investigate every single complaint lodged against a current member of the Auror Department—no matter how old it might be. I don’t care if it happened twenty minutes ago or twenty years ago. If you are found to be guilty of abusing your power as a law enforcement officer, you will be fired, fined, and in some cases—put in jail.
“Let me be clear to you all—you are the most public arm of the DMLE and you all represent me when you’re in the field. You are not exempt from our laws. You are not allowed to sit in judgment of anyone you’re tasked with investigating. You may not like that I’m here. You may think it’s bullshite that I’m the new Director. I don’t care. If you can’t tolerate working for me—you can tender your resignation immediately. Any questions?”
Longbottom raised his hand.
Harry inclined his head. “Let me have it.”
“Do you hate me?” Neville asked. “What could I have possibly done to you while you were away that you’d put me in charge of these jackarses?”
“It’s your honest nature that gets you in so much trouble, Neville,” Harry said.
– – – –
Harry answered his own door when Ron Weasley showed up at Grimmauld Place. He had his kid wrapped in a towel. Jacob was sucking on his fist and staring at Ron who was staring back at them in shock.
“I…what…you have a kid?”
“Yeah,” Harry said as Ron pulled the door shut behind him. “Kreacher and Winky are both running errands so I had to answer the door. Let me get him dressed and I’ll be back down.”
“Sure,” Ron said weakly.
“Go on into the…well, it used to be the salon before. I’m using it as a living room these days.” He motioned toward a door before heading back up the stairs.
Ron was sitting in a chair by the fire when Harry returned.
“I have shoes,” Harry said. “I mean, he has shoes. All the people I know, except for the ones in Britain, bought him clothes and matching shoes. He doesn’t actually walk much. He’d rather scoot around on his arse. I don’t know why there are shoes.”
“We have a whole box of shoes, too,” Ron admitted. “She even has shoes to come home in and…I don’t know either.”
“She?” Harry smiled. “That’s great. When is Lavender due?”
“Three months,” Ron said and watched as Harry tied a pair of athletic shoes to his kid’s feet. “So why do you put them on him?”
Harry shrugged. “Figured he might out grow them before he actually stops crawling most of the time and that would be a waste if he never actually wore them. This is Jacob Orion Potter, by the way.”
“He’s cute,” Ron said. “I…well, I’m surprised that your wife and you split with a kid in the mix?”
“We split because of the kid,” Harry said quietly and put Jacob down on a blanket. The baby immediately rolled over and wiggled his way to a stuffed dragon. “So, if you’re here to pitch a fit about whatever, I’d like you to wait until he goes down for the night. That’s usually about forty minutes from now.”
Ron huffed. “I’m not going to…geez, Harry, you’re a dad. That’s so weird.”
“You’re going to be one soon,” Harry said with a laugh.
“Trust me, that’s weird, too,” Ron admitted. “Look, I just want to know why you picked Neville over me for Head Auror.”
Harry winced. “Ah.” He nudged Jacob’s stuffed ball back to him and the baby made a happy sound. “You weren’t on the list Kingsley gave me to choose from so I didn’t chose Neville over you.”
“I wasn’t on the list?” Ron frowned. “That’s bullshite, Harry. I have a solve rate equal to Neville’s. Our caseloads are similar.”
“I can’t tell you why Kingsley gave me the names he gave me but I will tell you that every name on that list an extremely clean record with the DMLE. You have two citations in your file, Ron. One for excessive force and one for harassment of a suspect.”
Ron frowned. “That harassment one is bullshite.”
Harry sighed. “Oh, I know. I read the report but it’s there so that’s a consideration. But honestly, it’s probably the excessive force citation that you know you deserved. I warned you when it happened that it would follow you.”
Ron frowned but looked towards Jacob. “He’s a cute despite looking like you.”
“Thanks. He has his mother’s nose.”
“How much time do you get with him? How are you guys working that out with her being in Italy?”
“I have full custody,” Harry admitted. “Miranda wasn’t…she’s not interested in being a mother.”
“Oh.” Ron frowned. “That’s odd, right? I thought all witches wanted babies.”
Harry shrugged. “Her loss. He’s awesome.”
“I guess I should apologize about the thing with Hermione,” Ron said.
Harry shrugged. “You weren’t wrong, you know.”
“I wanted her. I’d have cut off my own arm before coming between the two of you but I wanted her. So, I left.”
“And she left me,” Ron muttered.
“To hear her tell it, that was your fault,” Harry said. “Merlin, Ron, what did you expect? Hermione is a strong, independent woman. You tried to mold her into your mother.”
Ron shuddered. “What? No.”
Harry sighed. “Ron, does Lavender work?”
“No, of course not.”
“Right.” Harry raised an eyebrow. “I assume she takes care of the house, makes your lunch, and is currently knitting away on things for the baby?”
Ron flushed. “Well, I think she’s making a quilt right now…oh. Well, that would’ve never worked with Hermione.”
“No. She’s not really meant for the kind of life you wanted and I figure you’d have already destroyed each other if she hadn’t left.” Harry frowned. “It just hurt that you didn’t trust me to not come between you. I’d have never done that.”
“You did do it!” Ron snapped and took a deep breath when Jacob turned to stare at him. “I mean…in the tent, while I was gone. You came between us.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “You left us and we thought we were going to die, Ron. Every single day could’ve been our last. We found comfort in each other and besides you weren’t together then. You hadn’t ever been together at that point. Hermione and I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“You kept it a secret,” Ron said. “That’s the first time you’ve ever admitted anything even went on.”
“It was just none of your business,” Harry said exasperated. “It isn’t your business even now. You’re married to another woman, Ron, and you have a kid on the way. What do you care what happened between me and Hermione when we were seventeen? That’s ridiculous.”
Harry looked towards his son and Jacob had both of his hands out in demand. “All right then, young man.” He pulled his wand and conjured a glowing ball of light which he let bob towards the baby. Jacob captured it with both hands and giggled.
“Has he shown any accidental magic?” Ron asked curiously.
Harry sighed. “Hey, Jacob, show us your trick.”
Jacob’s hair turned the same shade of red as Ron’s in response then fell back to black. The baby laughed and cuddled the ball of magic he was still holding.
“Oh, well that’s interesting. Didn’t Teddy Lupin start doing that from birth?” Ron asked.
“Yeah, he can summon his toys, too,” Harry admitted. “I’ve had to put sticking charms on the big stuff in his room to keep him from levitating something to him that is too heavy or dangerous. But no accidental magic to be honest. It all appears to be with intent. He can also summon my house elves. Winky says she feels a pull from him, even though he can’t say her name, when he needs his nappy changed or if he just wants her attention.”
“At least you don’t have to worry if he hurts himself or gets sick that way.”
Jacob huffed suddenly and frowned as the ball of magic popped out of existence. Harry conjured another and spun it around the baby’s head until the boy caught it.
“Seeker skills,” Ron said with a laugh. He rubbed his face with both hands and sighed. “I made mistakes with you and Hermione. Most especially, I think, with you. I’ve always been jealous of what you have—right or wrong.”
“Good and bad,” Harry said dryly. “You’re pretty famous in your own right for your part in the war, Ron. Doesn’t it grate? Doesn’t it get on your last bloody nerve that you can’t take your wife out to dinner without some git snapping a picture for the Prophet?”
Ron shrugged. “Lavender likes getting her picture in the paper. I used to find it exciting and now I just…well, ignore it. I don’t pay them any attention. They keep trying to get me to do an interview about it but we all agreed not to talk about the hunt and Riddle. I think that was the best decision for all three of us and I’ve never regretted agreeing to it. No one needs to know about those things. Dumbledore was right to keep them a secret the way he did.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed with a nod. “So, you pissed about my job?”
“I can’t say I’m not,” Ron admitted. “I mean, you’ve been gone for five years, Harry, and there were other people in the department who deserved it more. Men and women who have put in three or four times the years you have in law enforcement. You’re a big deal internationally and I get it. I get why Shacklebolt did it. We’ve suffered a lot in the international community because of the Azkaban scandal and all of those people being in jail for decades without trials. Crouch’s war crimes…well we can’t even punish him for them because he’s dead. There was a lot of corruption in the DMLE and having our Head Auror arrested today for bribery and racketeering didn’t bleeding help at all. Is that why Shacklebolt called you home?”
“It was my intention to come home in the next year anyway,” Harry said. “But when he was briefed on the situation and the pending charges, Kingsley realized it was the best time to bring me in and put me in the place I was being educated for. I left Britain knowing I’d return and take over the DMLE, Ron. A lot of people thought it would be as Head Auror after the Hit Wizard program and we let them think that but it was never in the plan. I wouldn’t have bothered getting a mastery in Criminal Law in just two years if I’d only had Head Auror on my plate. I could’ve done it a far more leisurely pace to be honest. It was a surprise that I had time to make a kid with my wife. We both worked upwards of eighty hours a week until we found out she was pregnant.” He looked towards Jacob who was on his back, clutching at the magic ball, eyes blinking sleepily. “Let me put him down. There is a fully stocked bar if you’d like a drink or Winky could make you tea?”
“A butter beer would do,” Ron said and stood. He headed towards the bar as Harry collected his kid and took him from the room.
When Harry returned Ron was back in the chair he’d claimed earlier with a half-finished butter beer in hand.
“I’ve been angry with you for a long time,” Ron said. “Stupid with it really and since I had no way of venting it on you—I vented it on Hermione. That wasn’t very fair but she was there and she’d just look at me like she does—you know what I mean.”
“Like she’s surprised you’re smart enough to breathe and talk at the same time?” Harry asked. “I’m familiar with that look.”
Ron laughed. “Yeah. That. Merlin, she’s a beautiful woman but she can cut a man to pieces with a look. Lavender is terribly jealous of her.”
“Are you in still in love with her?”
“No, I don’t know that I ever was. I just sort of got fixated on her because she was brilliant and pretty and so loyal. It got hard to trust people, you know, and I knew I could trust her. Trusting Hermione has always been so easy to do. I tried to hoard her, really, to keep her to myself because she made me feel safe and like there was some end in sight. I have no excuse for what I did to the two of you—breaking your friendship apart like I did. She was always so…focused on you when you were in the room and it was infuriating. I wanted all of her time and her attention and I should’ve known. I really should’ve known that it would never happen. She volunteered to…die with you and I should’ve realized then, how deep it ran between the two of you.”
I’ll go with you. Harry had heard those words a thousand times in the back of his mind since the day of the final battle. Her offer—her immediate and clear eyed response to the knowledge that he was going to surrender to Voldemort. It had haunted him, really. Followed him into dreams where he did allow it and she died. Only she wasn’t allowed to return the way he was and he was left in a world without Hermione Granger in it and that was a profane thought.
“You broke my sister’s heart,” Ron said as an afterthought. “That was pretty difficult to take but then, you know, I realized that she really didn’t know you at all. She had this entire fantasy built around you and honestly still does, that makes no sense. You should’ve seen her when it was announced you were getting divorced. She didn’t give a single thought to the fact that it was probably one of the most stressful and hurtful situations you’d been in, in a decade. She was thrilled and excited.”
Harry grimaced. “It was like…someone died, honestly. We went from happy and content to screaming at each other in what seemed like a minute. She didn’t want the baby and I was furious with her for not even…she wasn’t going to tell me she was pregnant. I found out by accident, you see. She was just going to take a potion and that would be the end of it. I’d eventually find out that she’d done it once before during the first year of our marriage. It was like getting stabbed in the gut. I settled two-hundred and fifty thousand galleons on her to keep her from doing it again.”
“Fuck me,” Ron muttered. “I guess I don’t understand that at all. Lavender was so excited that she almost went to the Prophet with the announcement before she even told me. She’s had three baby showers and I think my mum is planning another just because they all had so much fun at the last one. I at least get some cake out of the deal so I’m not complaining about fifty witches in my house at the same time—carrying on like a bunch of blokes at a Quidditch game.”
“Miranda just didn’t want kids and she convinced herself that it would be okay to have one or two eventually. She’s never even held Jacob and has no plans to visit him here in Britain. Legally, she’s considered a surrogate.” He winced when Ron’s mouth dropped open. “I’m not saying anything that won’t come out in the papers—we had a contract regarding the pregnancy, his birth and my parental rights. I had to file it with the ICW and the British Ministry of Magic. It’s a matter of public record and some arsehole reporter is going to ferret it out soon enough.”
“That blows,” Ron admitted. “You’re going to hate all of that.”
“I already hate it and it hasn’t happened yet,” Harry said wearily. “It’s just part and parcel of being Harry Potter.” He inclined his head but relaxed. “Hermione’s here.”
“Harry!” Hermione called. “I found the most adorable stuffed hippogriff today! He looks just like Buckbeak.” She came in with a very large stuffed animal and shrugging out of her coat at the same time. “Oh, no, you two aren’t arguing are you?”
“No,” Ron said and rolled his eyes at the hippogriff. “Hermione, that thing is bigger than the baby.”
Hermione grinned. “I know! He’ll love it.” She frowned at the empty blanket and turned to Harry with a pout. “It’s still ten minutes until his bedtime.”
“He was sleepy,” Harry explained and took her coat from her.
Hermione huffed. “Oh, but I came all the way here to see him.”
“You can go up just don’t wake him up,” Harry said and wasn’t surprised when she turned on her heel and immediately left. “I’m convinced she’s going to move herself in here so she has better access to my kid.”
Ron snorted. “Does he like her back?”
“They fell in love,” Harry confided. “He’s pretty much decided she’s his favorite person on Earth and in return she’s spoiling him rotten.” He nudged the dragon with his foot before sitting back down. “She brought that yesterday.”
“Pretty weird actually, she’s barely held Fleur’s last baby at all.” Ron shrugged. “But she does buy Victoire books all the time and takes her shopping on the Alley when Bill allows it. Mum’s always on her to date and to get married. Hermione just ignores her.”
“About Ginny?” Harry asked with a small frown. “I didn’t encourage her after the war. I told her, honestly, that I wasn’t interested in renewing our very brief relationship. She was hostile about it and in the end she tried to hold my affection for your entire family hostage to get what she wanted from me which was my name and money. She thought she could make me bow to her will but that was just another indication that she didn’t know me at all.”
“You have to know that most of my family was sucked into her little drama where you’re concerned at first. Mum is still on her side, I think.”
“I’ve done just fine for five years by myself and I have the family I need upstairs,” Harry said. “I’m unsure of my ability to your friend, Ron. I can’t say I haven’t missed you because I have but we lost a lot of ground between us. You did make mistakes. You lied to me. You essentially betrayed me again and while I’ve forgiven you for it I’m not sure I can bring myself to trust you like that again. Moreover, in the weeks to come you’re probably going to be pissed off at me on a daily basis. There a lot of problems in the Auror Department and changes are coming. It’s going to be hard on a lot of people. I’ve put Neville in a very difficult spot but I’m going to have his back every single step of the way.”
Ron nodded. “I get it and I’m going to try to be mature about what’s coming. I know there are problems and I’ll do my best not to make more trouble for Neville. He’s a good man and I trust him.” He stood and put aside his empty bottle. “I’ll go so you can pry Hermione out of the nursery.”
“I just might throw a cot in there for her,” Harry said. “It would probably be less stressful for everyone involved.”
He worked the next three days and knew his admin had put off every single request anyone made for personal meetings at the Ministry so he wasn’t all surprised when Ginny Weasley got fed up with the stonewalling and showed up at his house on Saturday morning. He let Winky escort her down to the kitchen where he was vainly trying to get Jacob to eat porridge. The kid was being kind of stubborn about cereals and while he’d been putting cereal into the kid’s milk for months, things weren’t going well on the porridge front. He set aside the bowl and offered the baby a spoonful of apple sauce. He managed a few bites before the baby held out a hand for his bottle. He handed it over with a sigh.
“You stubborn little thing,” Harry said fondly and kissed the top of his head. “Everything at your own pace, huh?” He accepted his own breakfast from Kreacher as Ginny came down the stairs.
Ginny stared wordlessly at Jacob for a few seconds but Harry knew she had to know about him already. There was no way Ron didn’t tell his whole family as soon as he could.
“Have you eaten?” Harry asked. “There is porridge, eggs, sausage, etc. I’m not much of a complicated eater when it comes to breakfast so the elves don’t lay in anything special for this meal.”
“I already ate,” Ginny said. “But tea would be nice.” She eyed the baby with a small frown on her lips and sat down directly in front of Harry. “Ron said…well, he said you had a son but he didn’t explain the arrangement you have with your ex-wife. When will she come to collect her baby?”
Harry found himself surprised that Ron hadn’t spilled all of the details. “I have full custody. Miranda won’t be coming to Britain to collect my son.” He watched her digest that and wasn’t at all surprised at the displeasure that flicked over her face. Ginny wasn’t the kind that could or would accept another woman’s children easily. Not that it mattered because he had no interest whatsoever in her.
“Da.” Jacob slapped a hand on the table. “Da.”
Harry focused on his son and found him red faced and unhappy. “Hey, kiddo, everything is okay.” He picked up a paper towel from the table and wiped Jacob’s mouth. “Finish your bottle.”
Jacob plopped the bottle back in his mouth but he stared sullenly at Ginny when the girl actually huffed.
“Shouldn’t he be fed in the nursery? Ron said you had a nanny elf for him.” Ginny glanced around the kitchen and sat back as Kreacher placed a tray on the table in front of her.
“Winky takes care of Jacob when I’m at work but when I’m at home, he is my responsibility. I don’t want to be one of those absent parents who barely knows who their kid is.”
“That’s not going to allow you much of a social life what with how demanding your new job is,” Ginny pointed out.
“I’m just seven months out of a divorce and honestly have no interest in a new relationship,” Harry said coolly. “Besides, I’m not going to start dragging a bunch of different people through Jacob’s life. He needs stability.” He felt the wards shift and knew that Hermione had arrived.
“Mine!” Jacob exclaimed and threw aside his bottle. “Mine! Mine!”
Harry blinked in surprise and wondered what change had happened in the house magically that Jacob understood. He knew he wasn’t feeling the wards as they were designed to answer to Harry alone. Hermione came down the stairs as Harry held out a hand to summon Jacob’s discarded bottle. She grinned when the baby reached out for her immediately.
“Oh, you’re so smart!” Hermione exclaimed and plucked him from his chair with a laugh. “Are you ready for shopping?” She glanced between Harry and Ginny. “Good morning Ginny.”
“Hermione.” Ginny frowned at her. “Ron says you’ve known about the baby for over a week.”
“I’ve never made a habit of discussing Harry’s business, Ginevra,” Hermione told her primly. She turned to Harry. “He’s not dressed warmly enough for shopping, you know.”
“I have his clothes picked out but I was trying to feed him porridge.”
Hermione grinned. “You know he’s not going to eat it until he’s ready. I’ll take up him upstairs and get him dressed then. We’re meeting my mum for lunch at twelve so we have a bit of time to hit a few shops for your list.”
“Thanks.” Harry proffered to the bottle to Kreacher when the elf appeared at his side then focused on Ginny. “Now, what did you need?”
“I wanted to talk to you about us,” Ginny said. “Now that you’re divorced…well.”
“I fail to see how my divorce has any bearing on the two month relationship we had when I was sixteen,” Harry said dryly. “Look Ginny, it’s not going to happen. I have absolutely no interest in getting involved with you romantically.”
“You aren’t going to be searching for a mother for your son?” Ginny asked. “Honestly? You can’t expect to parent him by yourself, Harry. You obviously need a woman in your life—one that can make a family with you.”
“You destroyed any illusions I had about being a part of your family five years ago,” Harry said, “when you tried to blackmail me into marrying you. I was pretty sure I made myself perfectly clear when I returned that marriage contract that I had no interest in marrying you, Ginny. That hasn’t changed and frankly I don’t trust you enough to consider you a proper mother for my son. You’ve already proven yourself a manipulator and a liar.”
Ginny flushed with anger. “It’s been a long time, Harry. I’ve done some growing up. I’m not the same as when you left.”
“You’ve not changed so much that you didn’t march your little arse over here at the first opportunity to insert yourself in my life without a single thought to how I might feel about it. The fact is that I’m not ready to date anyone—things with Miranda were difficult and hurtful but I loved her. I still do love her.”
“She left you—abandoned you and your son and you still love her?” Ginny demanded loudly.
“She didn’t leave me, Ginny. I left her. It was my decision to end my marriage but yes, I still love her. I always will. We made a child together. You don’t understand, I don’t see how you could but there it is. She is the mother of my first born.” He stood and took a deep breath. “I’ll walk you to out.”
“We could be good together,” Ginny protested.
“I can’t see how when I don’t trust you,” Harry returned. “I’ll never be with a woman I can’t trust. My ex-wife taught me that lesson, Ginevra.”
– – – –
It turned out that Jacob just loved Granger women. He’d taken to Hannah Granger with the same instant affection he had for Hermione. The woman had in return, spent most of their lunch trying to get Jacob to call her Nana. Harry didn’t have the heart to protest so if Hannah wanted to be his kid grandma, he wasn’t going to say no. Ryan Granger had joined them briefly for lunch but had gone back to the office while his wife had been content to walk around with them in Muggle London.
Both Granger women proved to be quite opinionated about his choices on the subject of furniture and he endured that with more grace than he would’ve had under normal circumstances as they both proved to have good taste or at least similar taste to his own.
Late in the afternoon, he found himself back at Grimmauld Place carefully adding Hannah and Ryan Granger to his wards as he’d ended up inviting them to dinner. Kreacher and Winky put together a meal while Harry and Ryan spent entirely too much time trying to put together Jacob’s new bed.
“I made a mistake.”
“We can take it a part,” Ryan said as he looked up from the stupidly complicated plans.
Harry laughed. “No, I mean. I made a mistake with Hermione and I’m not entirely sure she’s ever going to truly forgive me for it.”
“Ah.” Ryan nodded. “She spoke to me and her mum about that. I think she can take some blame for that situation, Harry. Don’t get me wrong I think my little girl is perfect ninety-nine percent of the time but you did try to speak with her alone on several occasions and she let him interfere. Also, she foolishly agreed to marry that twat.”
Harry winced. “So, you didn’t like Ron?”
“I like him just fine,” Ryan began, “married to someone else’s daughter.” He grinned when Harry laughed. “My Hermione deserves better than a bloke that repeatedly run out on you both when you needed him most. You look at how a man treats his friends, Harry, and Ron has never been a good friend. If he couldn’t be a good friend then I wasn’t entirely convinced he was going to be the kind of husband my baby needed or deserved. Hermione is loyal and brave. She wears her ambition on her sleeve and guards her heart…”
“Like a dragon,” Harry said wryly. “A man eating dragon.”
“Yeah,” Ryan agreed with a grin. “She does but she’s clearly thrilled to have you back here in Britain and you have an adorable secret weapon.”
“I’m not above using my kid to secure her forgiveness,” Harry said without hesitation. “It’s nice that they seem to like each other so much. He was quite…hostile with Ginny Weasley this morning.”
“I think that he was responding to your own ire. The two of you are very close, you know. He focuses on you a lot and I think your obvious affection for Hermione makes it easy for Jacob to trust her.”
“There is no one in my life I trust more than Hermione,” Harry admitted. “She’s always been my rock and I really regret how I left things with her. I just couldn’t take the risk, you know. I couldn’t take the idea that she might tell me to stop writing her. I half expected her to show up on my doorstep in Rome at some point but she never did.”
“She talked about it once or twice but then you sent her a letter telling her you’d gotten married and she never brought up going to Rome again.”
Harry took a deep breath. “Right. Well, that’s…I don’t regret my marriage, Ryan. I can’t. I mean…how could I?”
“No, you have your son,” Ryan agreed. “It changes you, fatherhood. I didn’t think it would but when that doctor put Hermione in my hands he changed my whole world. I didn’t even know how much at the time. But there was this fundamental change in me that was practically instantaneous.”
“It’s difficult to reconcile, really, that something so small has the ability to break you wide open,” Harry murmured as he sorted through the screws. “If I hadn’t bet your daughter ten galleons I could do this without magic, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Ryan huffed and put down the screw driver. “You’re filthy rich. You can afford ten galleons. Get out your stick so I can have some dinner.”
Harry grinned at him and drew his wand. “The most horrible part about losing a bet to your daughter is the smugness than comes with her winning.”
– – – –
It was the last thing he wanted to do but when Molly’s letter showed up Sunday morning inviting him to join them for the evening meal he’d been unwilling to say no out of hand. He had a great deal of respect for Arthur Weasley and despite her behavior where Ginny was concerned, he loved Molly. He dressed Jacob in a pair of jeans, sturdy little hiking boots that Hermione had bought him just the day before, and a jade green jumper.
He apparated to the front step of the Burrow as he had countless times in the past and the door opened before he had a chance to knock.
“Oh, would you look at him,” Molly said and reached out for Jacob.
Harry surrendered his son to her as she pulled him in for a hug with one arm.
“Something smells good.”
“I made your favorites,” Molly said. She patted his shoulder. “You. I read all the stories about all of that dangerous work you did abroad, Harry Potter. I ought to turn you over my knee.”
He grinned and kissed her cheek. “Don’t be mad. I’m tougher than I look.”
“Oh that I know.” She sighed and focused on the baby who was staring at her in mild interest. “Well, you look just like your daddy did as a baby.”
“Da,” Jacob said solemnly.
“That’s right,” Molly said and brushed a fat curl from Jacob’s forehead. “Your Grandma Lily would be so pleased and proud to see you.” She turned to Harry. “Everyone is in the living room. Hermione arrived about an hour ago. Victoire talked her into some braiding project.” She passed Jacob back to him with some reluctance and took the bag from Harry’s shoulder. “Now, I know you have a nanny elf but I want you to know that I’m available to watch your boy anytime you need.”
“Thank you.” Harry took a deep breath. “Look about Ginny.”
Molly looked at the baby briefly and focused on Harry. “Oh, lad, she’s in no way prepared to be what you need and I think you know that even if she doesn’t. I told her she had no business visiting you the way she did yesterday. You’ve only been divorced a short while and that can’t have been easy. Ginny is…too self-involved to realize how hurt you must still be.” She frowned. “I can send that Miranda of yours a strongly worded letter if you’d like.”
Harry laughed. “No, it’s fine. We managed to part on fairly civil terms though…well, she’s not part of Jacob’s life.”
“Ron told me that whole story in private and I spoke to Arthur about it. No one else knows, Ron didn’t think Ginny could keep it to herself so he didn’t tell her or his brothers. He said it would probably come out in the paper eventually.”
“I’m sure,” Harry admitted. “We were on the Alley yesterday so I expect the Prophet to report that I have a child by Monday. I thought it would be front page news today actually but they are still foaming at the mouth over my new job.”
“Arthur says you’re doing a great job,” Molly said. “Now, you go join the others and dinner will be served in about a half hour.”
“If you need help, I could call Winky over.”
“No, but thank you.”
Harry let himself be prodded towards the living room and paused in the entryway to take in the scene. Lavender was in a chair by the fire with a lap full of pale yellow yarn. Ron was on the floor in front of her with a pair of red headed toddlers that had to be the first set in George and Fred’s brood. They had a lovely honey brown skin tone and a riot of red curls.
Hermione was a stool and a little girl with pale blond hair was seated in front of her with half of her head braided. Fleur and Bill were on a love seat with a baby.
Hermione looked up. “Hey, it’s my favorite Potter.”
Harry sighed. “The bad thing is that I know you don’t mean me.”
“Nope, still mad,” Hermione assured him. She pointed towards a chair near her. “Come have a seat.”
He made it half way across the room before Ron was urged to his feet by his wife. Ron came over and stole Jacob whom he took to Lavender. Jacob allowed himself to be transferred to another set of hands without protest. He settled in Lavender’s lap with a little huffy sound and put both hands on her belly.
“He’s beautiful,” Lavender said with a smile. “Hermione’s right—you get a NEWT in baby making.”
Harry laughed. “Well, Miranda had a hand in it but thanks.” He sat down in the chair Hermione had pointed him to and glanced around. “Where are Fred and George?”
“Katie just got back from St. Mungo’s yesterday. Mum is watching Ambrose and Ian,” Bill explained.
“Four kids,” Harry shook his head. “I don’t know…if I’d survive that mentally.”
“Katie has six kids,” Hermione said absently as she sectioned off another section of Victoire’s hair. “I mean—Fred and George are never going to grow up.”
“Very true,” Fleur agreed as she stood. “We shall trade, Harry Potter.” She put her swaddled infant in his hands and stole Jacob from Lavender who only laughed and resumed her knitting.
“Now, who is this?” Harry asked as he settled the baby he’d been given in the crook of one arm.
“Henri James Weasley,” Bill said.
“Oh.” Harry looked down at the kid and ran gentle fingers through fine red hair. “Look at you.”
“His mother was a Veela,” Fleur said suddenly. “Your Miranda is Veela.”
Harry looked up from Henri and nodded. “Yes, she is. Half. Her mother was a witch and her father a Veela but they died when Miranda was quite small.”
Fleur nodded. “He feels familiar. Her surname?”
“Belrose. Her name is Miranda Belrose.”
“Ah, yes, I know that family.” Fleur smiled and Jacob relaxed against her with a little shudder. “We’re not related but the Belrose clan stays within the same enclave as my mother’s people.”
“You never said that Miranda was half-Veela,” Hermione said as she started to pin up Victoire’s braids into a complicated looking bun.
“It’s not like it…well, you know I’m immune to the allure so I didn’t even realize she was half-Veela until she pointed it out to me.” Harry shifted Henri around when the baby woke. “I think this guy is hungry.”
“Yes,” Fleur nodded. “You feel that don’t you?”
“Yeah, something in his magic,” Harry said. “I feel it when Jacob’s hungry. It’s familiar.”
“Veela magic is unique, is it not?” Fleur brought Jacob back across the room and took Henri. “He’s not had any accidental magic, has he?”
“No, but he’s done some stuff on purpose already,” Harry admitted. “I never really considered that it might be a Veela thing.”
“Veela rarely have incidents of accidental magic,” Victoire said and turned to look at him, sparkling blue eyes met his and he grinned at her. “You really…are immune.”
“Yes, so don’t go thinking you can twinkle your eyes at him to get more presents,” Bill said with a laugh.
Victoire huffed and picked up a hand mirror. “Oh, Aunt Hermione, this is amazing.” She turned her head back and forth to view the sides. “I love it.”
“You should,” Hermione admonished. “It took me an hour.”
“Mine!” Jacob held out his hands to her.
“You get this demanding nature from your Daddy,” Hermione informed him seriously.
Jacob offered her a smile and waved his hands until she took him. “Mine.”
“I don’t know if he’s trying to say Hermione or staking some claim on her,” Harry informed Bill.
Jacob rubbed his face against Hermione’s and curled hands into her hair.
“Maybe both,” Bill said with a laugh.
“He has great taste,” Hermione announced.
“Yeah, he does,” Harry agreed with a fond smile.
Ginny’s voice rang out from the kitchen and Harry realized she must arrived by floo. Jacob made a soft sound of distress and reached for him.
Harry took his son with a little frown and settled the boy against his chest. Jacob rubbed his face against his father’s jumper and curled into him with a little shudder. It was rather unnerving as nothing ever really scared him as far as Harry knew. Jacob’s life in Rome had been very sheltered—he’d only met a hand full of people and they’d all been wizards that Harry worked with. London had come with a lot changes and challenges.
Ginny came into the living room with a bright smile for everyone that faltered slightly at the sight of Jacob.
Hermione frowned and stood. “Harry, did you bring a bag for him?”
“Yeah, Molly has it. Could you get him a bottle? I have some apple juice in the bag. He likes that best and he’s probably not ready for anything more substantial. Also, there’s a doll in there he’s fond of. One of my extremely unfunny co-workers in Rome thought it would be cute to get him a Harry Potter doll. Unfortunately, I didn’t throw it away before he noticed it.”
Hermione laughed. “You’ve been hiding it!”
“I have,” Harry admitted.
She returned in just a minute with a bottle of juice and a little plush action figure of Harry in a Gryffindor Quidditch uniform. “Oh, this is adorable.”
“It’s for charity, as you well know,” Harry said crossly and took it. “I’m going to find him a doll of you.”
“My mum has the whole collection,” Hermione said wryly. “It’s horrific.”
Jacob took the doll first then the bottle which he plopped into his mouth after a small pout in Ginny’s direction. He huffed and turned his head to focus on his father.
“You’re a character,” Harry murmured and ran his fingers through black curls. “If I didn’t know better I’d wonder if you’d been hanging out with Malfoy with all your drama.”
Hermione perched on the chair arm with a laugh. “He is pouty like Malfoy but then you’re kind of pouty yourself when you don’t get your way.”
Ron laughed. “Did you get a load of him trying to hide from Cho Chang on Friday?”
Harry frowned. “I didn’t hide from Cho Chang.”
“Harry, you came hid in my office and practically made me swear on my magic that I’d tell everyone you were lecturing me when in fact you spent the entire hour you were there complaining about witches chasing your…” He trailed off with a glance towards the twins who were happily passing a ball back and forth between them. “You know.”
“It’s like they don’t even get the fact that I divorced a woman I intended on spending my entire life with,” Harry said quietly as he pulled the empty bottle from Jacob’s mouth. “That final hearing was like a funeral and sometimes I still…well…sometimes I still wake up and reach for her like she’s going to be there but she hasn’t been there for nearly twelve months. Miranda and I had a marriage bond. I had to break it after the final parchment was handed down.”
“You didn’t mention a bond,” Hermione said with a small frown.
“She was half-Veela,” Harry said and glanced towards Fleur who was breastfeeding her son. “She required the marriage bond as part of our contract as most of her kind do. I didn’t resent it or even hesitate in doing it. Our magic was just as infatuated as we were. We still love each other—she had to be sedated when we broke the bond because it hurt her so much but we had no choice after everything was said and done.”
“It hurts you still,” Fleur surmised.
“Yes, I have minute fractures in my core that are still healing,” Harry admitted. “Marriage bonds are meant for life and breaking it didn’t come without consequences for us both. Fortunately the healers indicated that we’d both be able to bond again in the future with different people though I’m unsure if I will.”
“Why not?” Ginny asked.
“I’m not sure I could bring myself to trust another woman like that,” Harry said bluntly and would’ve said more if Arthur hadn’t entered at that point.
Jacob found himself confiscated again by another red headed person. Harry watched his son stare pointedly at Arthur before making happy noise and smushing his face against the older man’s in unabashed affection. More than one person laughed, though Ginny wasn’t among them.
“Well, the picture on your desk hardly does him justice, Harry,” Arthur declared. “Molly is putting dinner on the table. Let’s get comfortable and eat too much!”
A picture of him and Jacob was front page of the Prophet first thing Monday morning along with all the publically available details concerning his divorce and the agreement he reached with his wife over custody. It was disgusting but Harry forced himself to read the entire article because he’d learned over the years that asserting some control over his public life was important to his own mental health. He decided to take Jacob with him to the office on the off chance that someone might try to come into the house to see him. He knew Winky and Kreacher both would defend his child but he didn’t want it to come to that.
His first appointment of the day was Cho Chang. He had Jacob in a play pen behind his desk and behind a ward. Harry intended on making no apologies for it so when Cho tried to come around the desk to see his son and was magically deflected, he merely raised an eyebrow at her.
Cho huffed. “Rather rude, Harry.”
“Rather rude, Miss Chang, to assume you’re so familiar with me that you’d have unfettered access to my child,” Harry motioned her to sit. “You had some concerns about the cases I’ve transferred out of the DOM and the Aurors?”
“These matters have always been handled has criminal investigations,” Cho pointed out as she got settled. “Director Weasley is seeking clarification on what we can expect for the future regarding such situations and how much support we can expect specifically from the Auror Department regarding criminal matters.”
“You mean criminal apprehension,” Harry surmised. “It will remain the Auror Department’s sole responsibility. In the event, you or your people find criminal charges need to be filed against anyone—you are to file a report with my office as well as put in acquisitions to the Auror Department for assistance. The Head Auror will work in tandem with the Prosecutor’s Office from that point to see them properly charged, detained, tried, and punished. The Department of Regulation is not a law enforcement or peacekeeping force and I understand that. That being said, you have three times the budget and twice the staff of the Auror Department. I’ve narrowed the focus of the Department of Mysteries to create an environment more suited to research and discovery on par with other countries.”
Cho nodded. “We don’t mind the extra work at all actually but I do have people I’d not want in the field by themselves in a situation that might turn violent.”
“We have quite a few heavy hitters in the Unspeakables and the Aurors,” Harry began, “I don’t expect or want your people to engage in magical combat of any sort. It should be the policy of your people to retreat immediately and call for us. That’s what we here for. Law enforcement is, however, more than a matter of chasing down dark wizards. My people will also be on hand to help you enforce regulations and make the changes that benefit the public good. I understand you’re in the midst of creating a regulation package that would clean up Knockturn Alley significantly.”
“Yes, it’s Director Weasley’s pet project and something we’re all passionate about.” Cho glanced towards the play pen when Jacob giggled. “I’m surprised you brought him to work with you if you don’t want him interacting with anyone.”
“The Daily Prophet published my address this morning,” Harry said coolly. “I’d rather not have to murder half a dozen people for invading my home trying to get a look at my kid but I’m not above it. I brought him to work and used the public access in the Atrium to arrive so no one would get the bright idea to break into my house while I’m at work.”
“That’s a bit paranoid isn’t it?” Cho asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Two men attempted to kidnap my wife during the course of our marriage because of me. They thought she was a weakness and they could take her off the street to make me do what they wanted. She put both of them down with enough ease that no one else ever tried. My son, however, is nowhere near the ability to defend himself. I’m not a fool, Miss Chang, I have enemies—both here and abroad. I kept Jacob out of the public eye the first eight months of his life to protect him. Living here in Britain made keeping him a secret long term impossible but that doesn’t mean I’m going to relax my guard.”
Cho nodded. “You can call me Cho, you know.”
“I really can’t,” Harry said. “It would be inappropriate especially in our current circumstances. I’m not your friend, Miss Chang. I’m the Director of the DMLE. I don’t have the time to cater to whatever little whims you have in mind at the moment.”
“What about more personal circumstances,” she asked with a raised eyebrow. “We could have lunch?”
“No, we can’t. I have no interest in a personal relationship with you. It’s just not the time for it. I have a stupidly full calendar, my son, and obligations abroad that I still must meet with the ICW.”
“It seems you have time for Hermione Granger,” Cho said snidely. “But then you always did no matter how boring and useless she was.”
“Hermione Granger has been my friend since I was eleven years old,” Harry said coldly. “She stood with me every single step of the way and was instrumental in the defeat of Voldemort. Do not ever take that tone with me again concerning Hermione. You don’t have the depth to understand the sacrifices she made for me and for Britain.” He stood. “I believe we’re done. I would appreciate if you’d send someone else in your place the next time the DOR has business with the DMLE.” Her mouth dropped open dramatically. “I’ll let Arthur know my preferences on that matter.”
A ball sailed out of the play pen in that moment straight towards Cho and Harry caught it. He looked back towards his son and found the boy glaring at Cho. “You’ll have to forgive my son. He is uniquely…susceptible to my moods.” Cho nodded and left without another word. Harry turned to Jacob and waved the ball. “Not cool.”
“Da!” Jacob clapped his hands.
Harry laughed. “Seriously, you can’t throw things at people when you don’t like them.” He tossed the plush ball back in the play pen and Jacob laughed. “The Wizengamot would be so much more entertaining if that were possible.”
There was a knock on the door and Harry called out for Malfoy to enter. He knew the man was next on his schedule. Draco had aged very well and was turned out as elegantly as ever.
Draco looked him over and actually sighed. “Merlin, I think I almost regretted getting married there for a second.”
Harry laughed. “I heard you and Daphne finally managed to settle on one another.” He motioned his…well, Draco had never been a friend but they’d spent a few months as heated and antagonistic lovers when they’d been at the Auror Academy together. The sex had been fantastic but they’d never made an emotional connection despite the fact they’d both done their damnedest to do so. Harry figured that some of that had been rebellion for them both and the rest had been trying to get over women they thought they couldn’t have. Daphne Greengrass had left Hogwarts betrothed to Hershal Montgomery.
“Yes, I owe you a bit a debt,” Draco said with a smirk. “I threw the biggest party when it hit the papers you’d brought Montgomery up in front of the ICW for crimes against magic. I drew up their divorce papers personally.”
Harry laughed. “Anything for an old friend.” He sat down. “You’re not here for business.”
“No, at least not Ministry business and I didn’t feel this could wait any longer,” Draco admitted. “Thank you for working me in this morning.” He took a deep breath. “You know that Andromeda Tonks is my aunt.”
“She’s taken your return to Britain badly. Irrationally, she blames you for the deaths of her husband and daughter.”
“A lot of people blame for me for the war,” Harry murmured. “They like to forget I was just a boy myself and I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve kept the details of my defeat of Voldemort to myself. But I’m never going to discuss the specifics. It would not serve the public good.”
“I don’t disagree, Harry. I know far more than…well, my father spared me little when it came to Tom Riddle. He told me more than I ever wanted to know to be honest. I know how Riddle kept himself alive and how he planned to live forever. I made my father swear on his magic that he’d never reveal that to anyone. Absolutely no one needs to know…just no.” Draco shuddered. “So, the matter is quite horrific to be honest. I know it was your intention to never claim your godfather’s title.”
Harry grimaced. “I know he wanted me to and that’s why he disowned you. I can’t see how I can pass it to you or your son legally or magically.”
“I don’t want it, Harry and I don’t want it for Scorpius either,” Draco admitted. “I’ll have enough on my plate when my father turns the Malfoy holdings over to me and Gerald Greengrass has asked me to take his place as the Earl of Dunmoor. We’re in the process of merging our families magically so I can claim the title through ritual.”
“Why are you bringing this up then? The Blackmoor title can fall to Teddy Lupin.”
“That kid doesn’t have the magic to claim a title, Harry,” Draco said quietly. “He’s smart and magical enough but he can’t carry the Blackmoor legacy. Sirius picked you for a reason, beyond the fact that he didn’t want my father getting his hands on the Black Trust.” Draco ran a hand through short blond hair. “One of us is going to have to take Teddy from her and you’d have the status to make it stick if you were the Earl of Blackmoor.”
“Why?” Harry asked. “Is she…why?”
“She’s a raging drunk,” Draco said bluntly. “None of us knew the extent of it until this morning when Teddy showed up at Malfoy Manor with a bruised face. He admitted that his grandmother is drunk most days and that in the past week she’s hit him three times.”
Harry felt like he’d been run through. He closed his eyes briefly. “I get monthly letters from him Draco and have done so for two years and he’s never mentioned this.”
“I knew you were exchanging letters,” Draco admitted. “Aunt Andromeda didn’t want to allow it but my mother said that she didn’t have the right to deny Teddy letters. We didn’t now she was an alcoholic, Harry, or I’d have interfered long before now. Teddy insisted on going back to her when she floo’d and asked him to come back. My mother went with him and forced my Aunt to sober up. I don’t know what else is going on but he’s your godson and you’re going to have to claim the Blackmoor title to assert the authority you need to help him.”
Harry reached out and touched a rune on his desk that activated a communication charm between himself and his admin. “Lucas, would you please have Hermione Granger come up? I need her to take my son for the rest of the day.” He sat back in his chair. “I never wanted to claim the title because it would officially end the Black line.”
“It…makes his death so permanent and I know that’s crazy but I loved him and there is a part of me that half hopes that one day he’ll step right out of the Veil and smirk at us.” Harry frowned. “If I can claim his title that means he’s truly dead.”
“You know that already,” Draco said gently. “You saw him when you used the Resurrection Stone, Harry. He’s dead and Teddy needs you. He needs a Patriarch and frankly Andromeda Tonks needs you, too. She’s mentally ill.”
Hermione entered at that point, glanced between the two of them and hummed under her breath. “I swear to Merlin if the two of you are plotting some kind of orgy and I’m not invited—I’ll curse you both silly.”
Draco grinned at her. “Just a bit of family business.”
“And that makes it sound terribly kinky,” Hermione admitted. “So what’s going on?”
“I’m going to have to claim Sirius’ title,” Harry said. “Teddy is in a bad situation and I’m going to need absorb the Black family magic to assert authority over Andromeda Tonks.”
“Oh.” Hermione took a deep breath. “Right. Well, I’ll take the rest of the day off and return to Grimmauld Place with Jacob. If I take him down to my office, I’ll not get a thing done for everyone trying to get a peek at him.”
“Mine!” Jacob exclaimed and bounced in his pen. “Mine.” He held out his hands.
– – – –
The Tonks house felt like a tomb. Harry entered knowing that only Teddy was left in the house. He hadn’t felt his presence would’ve served Andromeda so he’d arranged her removal from the house by a Healer and Narcissa Malfoy while he’d waited at the ward boundary. He found Teddy in the kitchen, sitting at the table with a book, and uneaten sandwich sitting in front of him. Harry pulled the chair out and cleared his throat. Teddy flinched.
“It was never my intention to claim the Black title,” Harry said quietly. “That was more about my grief than anything else your grandmother might have told you.”
“She didn’t want you to have it,” Teddy whispered. “She blamed you for his death, too. For Sirius Black. She said it was your fault he went to Azkaban and that you were the reason he was eventually murdered but I didn’t believe her. You were honest about it in the letters—I’ve read books, too, about the war.” He took a deep breath and closed the book. “It’s my fault.”
“I don’t follow.”
“She’s been worse since you came back to Britain. I yelled at her—told her it wasn’t fair and that you’d have been my Dad if she hadn’t interfered. It’s what my parents wanted. That’s why they named you my godfather and…” He rubbed at his face with the back of his hand. “And I saw you in the paper with your son this morning and I was so mad. It hurt because it’s obvious you love him so much and I’ve never had that. I never had a Dad and it’s grandmother’s fault.”
“That’s…” Harry took a deep breath. “I did want you but I let her…I let her convince me that it wasn’t the proper thing to do and I’m so sorry for that. Why didn’t you tell me she was drinking?”
“She said…that there wasn’t room for me in your life. She said you didn’t want me and that I was just a responsibility. She said for all your faults…you always did your duty and that’s all I am to you.” Teddy trembled through his efforts not to cry. “She never hit me before this week. I’d have told someone.”
Harry reached out for the kid and wasn’t surprised really when Teddy turned and crawled into his lap with a shuddery little cry. He looked up and found Draco Malfoy standing in the doorway. Draco gave him an abrupt nod and left. He ran his fingers through Teddy’s rapidly shifting hair and closed his eyes when it settled on black.
The elf appeared immediately and frowned intensely. “Yes, Lord Potter?”
Harry just offered her a small smile. He knew the title had settled heavily on him and his magical aura. She’d really couldn’t help but address by his title as a result. “Please pack up Teddy’s things and set up his room at Grimmauld Place then close this house. Andromeda Tonks will be having a long stay at St. Mungo’s.”
Winky nodded and popped away.
Harry stood and Teddy tucked his face against his godfather’s neck. Harry apparated from the house without another word and appeared in his front foyer silently. He met with Hermione at the top of the stairs on the second floor but just shook his head. She nodded and went back into the nursery. There was already a bed set up in the room, empty shelves where books would go and a trunk appeared even as he put Teddy down on the bed.
“You’ve had a pretty shite day,” Harry said conversationally and grinned when the kid laughed a little. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find some way to warn you that I was sending Narcissa Malfoy and a healer to the house to take your grandmother. I thought it best that she not see me and I feared what she might do if she realized what was about to happen.”
“She didn’t take it well but Aunt Cissa was quite…determined.” Teddy scrunched up his nose. “I’m not tired.” Then he yawned.
Harry laughed and earned himself a scowl in return. “How about you take a nap then we’ll have dinner and you can meet Jacob?”
Teddy nodded. He reached out and touched Harry’s hand. “I’m not mad at him, ya know. It isn’t like I want his place or anything. He’s just a baby. It wouldn’t be cool to be mad at him.”
“How about,” Harry began gently, “I make a place shaped just like you?”
“That sounds great,” Teddy said and smiled shyly. “Just a little nap, maybe.”
“A little nap,” Harry agreed as he removed Teddy’s shoes. “I’ll get a report from St. Mungo’s about your grandmother soon and I’ll have to make some decisions regarding your permanent living situation. I’d like you to stay with me but if you’d prefer to stay with your Aunt Narcissa that can be arranged as well.”
“I want to stay with you,” Teddy murmured. “I don’t have to think about it. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted.”
“Then that’s what will happen,” Harry said simply.