Title: The Magical Promise
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom/Genre: Harry Potter/Romance
Beta: Chris King and Ladyholder
Content Rating: MA
Warnings: Violence, explicit language, sex
Word Count: 24,312
Summary: She left Britain without a word the day before Harry was set to propose to Ginny. Eight years later, Hermione Granger, prosecutor for the International Magical Court, disappears in the middle of the biggest case of her career and the ICW calls on their most talented investigator and Hit Wizard to find her. Can Harry put aside his own hurt and anger at his oldest and dearest friend enough to find her before it’s too late?
The gentle vibration of his communications medallion woke him from a dead sleep. He untangled himself from the woman in his bed and barely spared her a glance as he slipped away. Harry would be only mildly ashamed to admit that he didn’t actually remember her name. They’d met the night before in a bar in Rome. He’d had her once against the wall in the alley behind the bar. Then he’d brought her back to his hotel room and fucked her half the night. He moved through the suite that had basically been his home for the last four years, since he’d taken a job with the International Confederation of Wizards as the Chief Warlock of the War Mages division.
He walked into the office space of the suite after pulling on a t-shirt and a pair of boxers and closed the door before pulling a two-way mirror from his medallion and activating it. Security protocols in the room activated as he sat down at his desk. His second in command immediately filled up the mirror with her pretty face and bright blue eyes. He counted it as one of his better choices that he’d never tried to bed her as he’d be a right mess professionally without her. “Olivia.”
“Chief Warlock, good morning, are you in a private and secure location?”
“We have a high priority mission from the World Court of Magic.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. The WCM normally used the International Protectorate of Magic for their investigations. It was rare that they called upon the ICW for support of any kind much less some sort of investigation or mission. Harry sat back in his chair and pulled a pack of herbals from the top drawer. He lit one of the cigarillos wandlessly and ignored Olivia’s tut of disapproval. He started to point out that at least it wasn’t tobacco but he doubted she’d care either way.
“Am I to assign this case or take it myself?” Normally the choice was his but something from the World Court could be political and the Supreme Mugwump might have already put his finger in the pie so to speak. Hiro Ito most often let Harry make his own decisions regarding the allocation of resources but it never hurt to ask.
“Master Ito asked for you personally, sir, but even if he hadn’t…” She trailed off and squared her shoulders. “Chief Warlock, Senior Prosecutor Hermione Jane Granger, age 30, has been missing for forty-eight hours. She is presumed kidnapped, most likely dead.”
Harry dropped the herbal and burned his own leg. He hissed and snatched it up before throwing it in an ashtray. “She’s still working in Paris, correct?”
“I want a direct portkey into her flat brought to me in the next five minutes. I will accept no arguments or excuses. I’ll start my investigation there. Brief the team and sort them for immediate departure as soon they’ve assembled. Send Bauer to her office, Pierce can touch base with the Département de la Police Magique. I want their case file. I want to know why the ICW wasn’t notified immediately that she was missing.”
“And me?” Olivia questioned.
“You go to Britain. I want a complete profile on Hermione Granger—start with her parents then come to Paris to speak with her co-workers.”
“Shouldn’t I start with you, sir?” Olivia asked.
“I haven’t seen her in eight years, I have no personal information to offer,” Harry snapped and ended the call with a flick of his wrist. He stored the mirror in his medallion and stood from the desk.
By the time he returned to the bedroom, his guest was sitting on the edge of the bed dressed in a pair of knickers. “Normally, I’m a great morning-after kind of person,” he explained in a rush. “There’s usually more sex and breakfast and a whole speech about how I’m not into dating because I’m emotionally unavailable but it isn’t your fault.” He paused when she laughed. “Right except I have an emergency mission and I’m leaving, in the next ten minutes. So a few things—the sex was amazing, I’m really sorry that I don’t remember your name and for the fact that even if you leave your floo information I won’t be calling you. I’m an arsehole and you aren’t even getting French toast out of this.” He pulled a duffle out of his closet and threw it on the bed as the woman pulled on a pair jeans.
She grinned at him. “My name is Miranda. The sex was definitely amazing and I don’t like French toast.” She pulled on a t-shirt with the Holyhead Harpies blazed across it.
“Fan or player?” Harry asked as he threw off his t-shirt.
“Seeker for the last three years, you terrible git.” She grinned. “You were my very own personal celebration. I won the World Cup last night playing for the England.”
“I’m terrible,” Harry agreed. “Congrats and all of that. My national pride is enormous right now but mostly because you’re a fantastic shag. I have to go.” He shucked his boxers and disappeared into the bathroom.
“Good luck on your mission, Potter!”
Harry activated the runes on the shower and tilted his head slightly at the slight pop that signaled that Miranda had apparated out of his hotel suite. He braced himself on the wall and let his head fall forward under the rush of water. Hermione. A low, gut wrenching ache ebbed through him. He didn’t allow himself the weakness of thinking about her often. It was just a path that normally led him to a bottle of Ogden’s finest and remembered heart break. He washed up quickly and exited the shower just as his wards pinged letting him know that his floo had activated.
“In here,” Harry shouted as he left the shower and grabbed a towel.
Lucas Pierce appeared in the door way with a leather packet in hand. “Good morning, sir, the orders from the ICW and your portkey.” He put the packet down on the counter. “I heard you know our victim.”
He flinched at that. “Don’t call her a victim.” He dried off briskly. “I’ll see you in Paris. Olivia has everyone’s assignments.”
“I’ve been debriefed. I’m leaving here directly for the Département de la Police Magique. Are you meeting us at the World Court HQ or should we come to you at her apartment?”
“Flat,” Harry corrected out of habit and offered a small grin when the American born wizard laughed. “Just… if we find a body… I can’t guarantee my response.”
“You mean you can’t guarantee a civilized response,” Pierce corrected. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Harry nodded and said nothing when the man left without another word. The wards pinged gently letting him know that a portkey had been activated. He went to his closet, retrieved a pair of dragon hide trousers, and pulled them on. He sat down on the bed, opened the top drawer of the nightstand, and stuck his hand through the security ward he had on the contents. He pulled the picture of Hermione out. It was a candid picture, taken at some victory celebration at the Ministry for the fifth year anniversary.
There had been dozens of celebrations that year. It was the last year that Hermione had been in Britain. He touched her face and closed his eyes. He remembered the figure hugging white dress very well. It was the night he came to realize that he was in love with his best friend but saw absolutely no honorable way he could have her. Three months later, she broke up with Ron and left Britain without even saying goodbye.
“You’d better not be dead, Hermione. I’ll never forgive you if you are.”
* * * *
Whoever had taken her had done an immense amount of research and it was no comfort at all. The cottage was small, magically sealed, and no matter how good her wandless magic was, she wasn’t going to break down wards without a wand. She’d been taken from her own flat, her favorite books were tucked into a book shelf, and her some of her own clothes were in the closet. Hermione had browsed the books the first day—they were all new as whoever had taken her hadn’t cleaned off her own bookshelves to stock their little prison. It was furnished… much like she’d have furnished it if she were in the market to buy an isolated cottage in the middle of nowhere. She couldn’t see enough of the surrounding land to even get an idea of where she was.
Her favorite tea was in the cabinet. A brand new bottle of perfume, one she hadn’t worn in years, was on an old fashioned vanity table. The cabinets were stocked with food she ate and nothing she hated. Even her favorite biscuits were tucked away in a tin on the counter. It was the stuff of nightmares. She couldn’t hardly believe she had someone in her life who would… stalk her. Stalk and kidnap her. At first, when she woke in the strange bed, Hermione had assumed she’d been kidnapped because of the case she was working. It was high profile—a coven of ten witches on trial for crimes against magic. There hadn’t been a case like it in front of the World Court since the last Death Eater had been caught in Australia.
The first day she’d freaked out. The second day, she’d sat down with a quill and parchment to make a list of suspects. She only had two ex-boyfriends and one was in Britain but she’d put Ron’s name at the top of the list. The reasons to exclude him quickly became vast—she couldn’t overlook the fact that Ron didn’t have the magical power to seal a house the way the cottage was sealed. Moreover, he was thick and probably didn’t even know what flavor of tea she preferred much less the exact brand. Ron hadn’t spoken to her since she’d told him no when he proposed. She shuddered at the memory of that night—even eight years later.
She’d been so invested in pretending to be fine and happy that she hadn’t been able to face just how miserable she was until Ron offered her a ring. Hermione hadn’t seen it coming—hadn’t noticed how nervous he’d been until much later. But the hurt and fury blossoming on his face was burned into her memory. She’d tried to be so careful; to spare him but the rejection no matter how it was couched had not gone well. Ron had screamed at her, thrown things, and had spent the last hour she’d been in their flat telling her exactly how fucked up and stupid she was for being in love with Harry Potter. Ron had made it clear that Harry would never love her back, never want her, and that she should’ve counted herself to be lucky to be wanted at all.
Ron lashing out at her—calling her stupid and selfish—had almost been expected. But accusing her of trying to ruin Harry and Ginny’s lives had been the final blow. By the time he’d calmed down, she’d written her letters, quit her job, packed up her things in their flat, and left. When weeks passed and not a single person she left behind responded to the letters she’d left—Hermione faced reality. She faced the fact that Ron had been right all along and that Harry no longer had any use for her. It had hurt because he’d also been right about how she’d felt. She’d given her heart to Harry Potter when she was fourteen years old and the bastard had kept it.
Her second ex-boyfriend had left her three years ago because she wouldn’t move in with him and refused to even let him spend the night at her place. He’d called her commitment phobic and a workaholic. Adam hadn’t been wrong about it, but she’d discovered that mostly he’d been trying to get ahead of her at work and one of his ways of doing that had been to distract her personally. He’d quit the World Court shortly after they’d broken up and returned to Australia. It had taken her three weeks to notice he was even gone. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for him as an ex-boyfriend or a co-worker.
She had no other personal relationships to speak of. Friends… well those had always been in short supply and she hadn’t bothered to make any in Paris. She had her work, Crookshanks, and her yearly trip to Australia to visit her parents and beg for their forgiveness.
The problem was that while she’d written down all of her co-workers as suspects, she’d been hard-pressed to consider that any of them were so personally invested in her that they would know what her favorite books were, much less know the exact formula for her favored menses management potion. Finding that in the medicine cabinet had induced a bit of a panic attack because there was at least six months’ worth of the potion. Someone intended to keep her in the cottage long-term.
* * * *
The portkey had deposited him right in the middle of the living area of Hermione’s Paris flat. He wasn’t at all surprised to find two people in robes marking them as solicitors for the World Court already there. He pocketed the portkey and held out his hand. “Chief Warlock Potter.”
The man frowned very briefly but held out his hand. “Senior Solicitor Robert Hilliard, Chief Warlock. You might remember me—we were at Hogwarts together.”
Harry didn’t remember him at all but hazarded a guess at his house. “Ravenclaw?”
“Yes, but a few years ahead of you.” Hilliard released his hand and stepped back. “This is Solicitor Kimberly Jones, from the US. She attended Salem.”
“It’s good to meet you, Solicitor Jones.” Harry took the hand she offered. “I have a team on the way to Paris. Protocols dictate in the event of a missing employee that the World Court of Magic is required to contact the ICW immediately. Can one of you tell me why that wasn’t done?”
Hilliard flushed. “We weren’t aware that she was missing until she missed a court appearance six hours ago. We dispatched an investigator to her flat and it was discovered that her home defenses had been attacked in the night sometime on Friday evening. There is portkey residue in the bedroom. She was taken in her sleep.”
Harry started to respond but a sharp hiss and yowl caught his attention and he turned to find Crookshanks perched on a sofa.
“Watch out for that cat, he’s a monster,” Hilliard said and rubbed his hand with a glare towards the large ginger cat.
Harry picked Crookshanks up and rubbed the cat’s big head. “Hey, Crooks, long time no see.” Crookshanks purred loudly and burrowed into his chest. “If I had any doubt about her leaving on her own this would have put that to rest. She’d never leave this big guy behind.” A sharp knock on the door caught his attention and he went to the door to open it. He wasn’t surprised to find Lucas Pierce waiting outside. “Anything?”
“They’ve investigated the portkey travel, sir. It was a direct, single use one and black market so we couldn’t pinpoint the destination. There are only a few places in Paris where you could buy a black market portkey. I’ve spoken with Olivia and asked her to check our source in Britain while she’s there. Most black market portkeys these days come out of Knockturn Alley in London at least in Europe.” Pierce reached out and rubbed Crookshanks head. “Cute. Hers?”
“Yeah, she’s had him since she was a third year at Hogwarts.”
Pierce sighed. “She’d have never left a familiar behind.”
“No,” Harry agreed. “Let the ICW know that we’re treating this as an abduction and probable murder. Send Otto to me, I want him to investigate the wards here personally and see how they were broken down.” He turned to Hilliard. “Senior Solicitor Hilliard, this is Inspector Lucas Pierce. He’s part of my team with the ICW. You’ll return to your office with him and answer any questions he has about Hermione’s case load. Solicitor Jones, if you’d stay just a few minutes. I have a few questions.”
“Of course,” she murmured and reached out to take Crookshanks. “Let me feed him now that he’s calmed down. I’ll be in the kitchen when you’re ready for me.”
An entire wall in the living room of her flat was dedicated to bookshelves. The second bedroom had turned to an office and it was full of books, too. Her desk was neat, organized. He sat down in the chair opened the drawers one by one—found nothing disturbed. Whoever had taken her hadn’t been interested in rummaging through her home office which made him wonder if it was work related at all. He stood and left the office. The bedroom was decidedly female but not overblown. Sleek, modern, and feminine—like Hermione. He walked across the room and glanced over the contents of her vanity table. Perfume, a few magical cosmetics, a cache of female-use-only potions but not one for birth control he noted. Nothing seemed out of place there either.
He walked to the dresser and picked up the single picture frame she had there—it was one of them together. Him in a grey suit and her in a lacy little dress. If memory served, that dress had been practically transparent in the right light. He’d spent most of the night renewing her masking charm as the material hadn’t been substantial enough to hold the magic for more than a half hour at a time. It was the only picture he’d seen in the whole flat. Harry put the frame down and opened the drawers. The knicker drawer… looked odd. He’d never lived with a woman but he’d been in more than his share of women’s bedrooms. He frowned at the two empty sections. Most witches didn’t own bras so he wasn’t surprised to find none.
He opened the other drawers. Found spots empty in each but a glance across the room proved that her laundry basket was empty. He went to closet and found roughly 30 empty hangers.
“It looks like she packed up for a sexy weekend.”
He turned and found Kimberly Jones staring at the still open knicker drawer. “What?”
“She left the plain panties behind,” Kimberly explained. “Packed the lacy and silky stuff.” She frowned. “Or at least, it was packed for her. It looks like all of her date-panties are gone.” She closed the drawer and glanced over the contents of the second. “Same with the nighties. Every girl has a fancy gown or two if there is an overnight guest. All of that is gone and the regular pjs were left behind.” She closed the second drawer and frowned. “That doesn’t seem good actually, at all.”
“No it doesn’t but it does make me feel like we might find her alive rather than dead,” Harry said and cleared his throat. “How well do you know her?”
“I’m normally her second chair on all of her cases but I was on maternity leave during the prep work for the current case so Robert was brought on board. I was really surprised that Hermione allowed him to sit second chair with her. Everyone was because they don’t have the same sort of work method. Robert is rather brash in the court room—prone to surprising the court and everyone else in the process. He plays to the rules but skirts the edge of inappropriate behavior all the damn time. Hermione is the methodical, detail oriented, and frankly vicious sort in a court room. She’s never lost a case. We’ve had defendants demand a plea deal just because she was assigned their case.”
“With her out of the way, will he get the first chair on the case?”
“No, it’ll be reassigned entirely. We’re still in the final research stage as is. Our first court date isn’t for two weeks. Procedure dictates that Robert be replaced because the Court can’t afford the risk. He could feel threatened or pressured to behave a certain way in the case, you see. Now our side of the matter will be sealed and the defendants won’t know who their prosecutor is until the day the trial begins on the off-chance that they had Hermione kidnapped to disrupt the proceedings.”
“You said she missed a court appearance this morning. It wasn’t for this case?”
“No, it was for a grand jury proceeding on another matter. I presented the evidence in her place without a problem. She’s very organized and I’d picked up the case file from her office on the way to the court room. I just expected her to meet me there and she didn’t.”
“Is she dating anyone?”
“No, she’s taking a break from that mess. Though honestly, she works upwards of eighty hours a week. She doesn’t have time for a man.”
* * * *
Harry settled into a meeting room that they’d been given at the World Court of Magic’s headquarters. Lucas had a series of case files spread out in front of him and Otto Bauer, their warder, was hastily working a series of arithmancy problems. Harry didn’t know to what end but he would be informed when the German wizard was finished with his calculations. Olivia Landy rushed into the room, having taken three international portkeys in the ten hours, but not suffering for it at all. She often joked she had the constitution of a dragon.
Kimberly Jones entered after her with an elderly wizard. Harry stood and his team followed suit. “Chief Warlock Potter, may I present his honor the Premier of the World Court of Magic, Justice Louis Bertrand.”
Harry walked around the table and offered the older man his hand. “Sir, it’s an honor.”
“The honor is mine, young man, your international efforts to be a pain in the arse are quite entertaining,” Bertrand offered brightly and grinned when Harry laughed a little. “Your dedication to justice and to our Lady Magic is quite a sight, Mr. Potter. That’s why I asked Master Ito to send you to us. You’ll find our girl, won’t you?”
“Yes, I will.”
Bertrand brought his other hand forward and placed it on top of Harry’s. “I asked her once about the Boy-Who-Lived.” He paused when Harry stiffened. “And instead she told me a story about a little boy who rescued her from a troll. It was quite horrifying.”
“Did she tell you the part about it taking the better part of three days to get the troll snot off my wand?” Harry asked as the older man released him.
Bertrand laughed. “She did. Who knew troll snot was resistant to magic?” He motioned towards the table. “Let’s sit. If you’re ready to include me, I’d like to hear what you’ve discovered so far. I know you’ve only been here twelve hours but Miss Granger is a very valuable member of our team here. She’s a brilliant young woman and I see her in my place in the years to come.”
“I was just about to hear reports from my team,” Harry said and pulled a chair for the older man. “You’re welcome to sit and listen.”
Bertrand grinned. “Contrary to popular belief, I can keep my questions to myself.”
Harry eyed the Frenchman in disbelief but sat down to hear what his people had to say. “I’ll start. Her apartment is Spartan and neat. She has a personal library of some size—thirteen hundred twenty-six volumes—and none appear to be missing from the shelves themselves. She’s organized and her daily planner is up to date and full for the next six weeks. Her home office is intact and doesn’t appear to be have been disturbed at all. Clothes are missing—casual stuff from the closet and the fancy underwear women are prone to wear when they expect to have sex. Her bed was unmade; there were no dishes in the sink. Her cooling cabinet has take-away from a half dozen different places and no fresh unprepared food of any kind. What was left of her clothing indicates that she dresses well in moderately expensive but modest items. Her shortest skirt would fall about an inch above her knee. She doesn’t own a single pair of shoes with a heel higher than two inches.” He focused on Olivia as he spoke and watched her make notes for her profile. “Her cosmetics are magical and high-end. No birth control potion was evident but she did have several potions for female health management including a specialized potion for her menstrual cycle.”
Olivia paused in her writing but then nodded to herself more than anyone else. “I’d like to hear from everyone else before I report, sir.”
Harry focused on Lucas since Otto was still working on his parchment.
“She has six open cases—three are in grand jury proceedings, one is still in the investigation stage, one finished closing arguments on Friday and a decision is imminent. The final case is in the prep phase and it’s huge. That being said, the magnitude of the crime and the evidence gathered makes me think that it’s a non-starter on motive. The defendants were caught in the act of sacrificing a sixteen year old boy. Getting rid of their prosecuting solicitor isn’t going to do a damn thing to slow down the process considering how the World Court is set up to work. All of her cases are being reassigned as we speak so kidnapping her to prevent the prosecution of a case seems unlikely.” Lucas tapped his Muggle pen on a leather covered notebook but didn’t open it. “Her office here is undisturbed as well. The security protocols were still active when I entered.”
Otto lifted his head and put down his quill as Harry focused on him. “She’s bloody brilliant. Her warding scheme is self-created and managed. They’re layered, highly protective, and whoever breached them knew her.”
“I am,” Otto said. “Someone she had keyed to these wards brought a ward buster inside. Only someone she trusted and had given access could’ve breached them the way they were breached. Unfortunately, much of the warding scheme has been destroyed. I have a few diagnostic spells running to see if I can harvest magical signatures but the ward buster did what was designed to do. The intruder took the focus used for the buster with him but it’s black market just like the portkey. I can tell you that the portkey was international. She’s not in France anymore.”
“Tell me about how she layered the wards,” Olivia encouraged. “What was first?”
“Her outer ward was based on intent and dark magic detection,” Otto began and pulled a blank piece of parchment free of his stack so he could demonstrate. He drew a large circle and labeled it. “Her second layer was for the Dark Mark specifically and it was lethal. I don’t blame her. I never met a Death Eater who didn’t need a piercing charm to the forehead. The third and fourth layers are really interesting as they were implemented to pick up behavioral modification spells and potions. I think that she might have been able to pick up signs of the Imperious with these things. The final two layers were anti-portkey and anti-apparition but there were two exceptions to that.” He paused and pulled out another piece of parchment. “The first magical signature is her own and she is highly magical—an enchantress no less. She must be a monument to badassery in magical combat.”
“The second signature?” Harry asked.
“You.” Otto leaned back in his chair. “You had an all access pass to her entire flat no matter your intent or mental state.” He cleared his throat. “For the case record, Chief Warlock Potter was in Prague at the time of Hermione Granger’s abduction. He entered Paris for the first time in his life twelve hours ago and could not have facilitated her kidnapping remotely through the use of his magical signature.” He rearranged his parchment again. “The ward buster made a mess of the wards, especially the outer layers so I’m having to work outward from the center.”
“Could someone have mimicked me or her to get access to the flat?” Harry questioned.
“No, at least not you. You’re a bloody archmagus, sir, and no one is going to successfully mimic you at a core level. There were six individuals who had limited access to her apartment—I assume they’re co-workers? She hasn’t had an intimate partner in the flat in… well never as far as I can tell. Wizards throw off a lot of magic when they ejaculate and there was no residue of that in her bedroom or any other room in the flat. If she’s had a sex partner in the flat it’s been more than two years ago.” He set aside his quill and they all focused on Olivia.
Olivia tucked a strand of strawberry blond hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. “Her parents hate her.”
Harry took a deep breath. “Wow.”
“They’ve never forgiven her for memory charming them during the war. They returned to Britain briefly but eventually went back to Australia and moved to an area as far removed from any magical community in that country is they could. Miss Granger visits them once a year to basically beg for their forgiveness but they’re never going to forgive her. They’d like to forget she even exists. They don’t trust her at all and when she visits them she stays in a hotel.” Olivia took a deep breath. “They blame you, sir, specifically for what they call their daughter’s moral corruption. Due to their attitude and their obvious hostility towards their daughter, I spelled them for truthfulness under the International Magical Protection Act of 1917. I couldn’t trust they wouldn’t lie. Also, a few minutes into the interview I began to wonder if perhaps her father might have hired someone to kill her.”
“I see and what did you find?”
“They were always religious people but finding out their daughter was a witch sort of threw them over the edge on that front. Magic is the work of the devil and when their daughter used it on them to control them and make them forget who they were—it was such a violation to them that it was unforgiveable. Her actions were just, I know. The Death Eaters would’ve tortured her parents to death if she hadn’t hid them. I told them that. Her mother stated that she’d rather have died then have magic corrupt her mind and soul. But they didn’t hire someone to get rid of her so that’s an avenue we can cross off the list.” Olivia closed her eyes briefly. “It’s terrible actually but not that far off from my own parents who disowned me when I wouldn’t give up my wand. Some Muggles just can’t handle magic. They can’t handle knowing about it or having a magical person in their family. For religious people, it’s an affront and an attack on their beliefs. I’m going to need a warrant for her medical records.”
“Why?” Harry asked.
“The potion you mentioned—a specialized potion for menses could mean anything of course—but I’d like to rule out a chronic health condition that could be negatively impacting her health at this very moment.”
“Like what?” Harry asked with a frown.
Olivia frowned right back at him. “It’s times like this that I really resent being the only witch on this team, sir. Severe cramps, headaches, migraines, excessive blood loss during menstruation are all treated with the menses potion. I’ll need to review hers to see what she’s using it for.”
Harry pulled a tiny box from his medallion and resized it. “I brought her potions. I didn’t know what she was taking daily or what she might need when we find her.” He used magic to push the box down the table to Olivia. “Excessive blood loss?”
“Some women can lose up to a pint or more of blood during menstruation,” Olivia said off-hand as she began sorting the potions.
“What?” Harry asked, horrified. “Are you serious?”
“Of course I’m serious,” Olivia huffed. “But that much blood usually means there’s a medical condition to worry about.” She found the potion she was looking for and pulled a piece of rolled leather out of her shoulder bag. They watched in silence as she tested the potion with a series of vials. “Okay, looks like menstrual management, migraines, and the kind of cramps that require a narcotic. Fantastic. Let’s hope she’s not in need of this right now. If I needed this kind of potion during my period, I’d have already killed every single one of you.” She put the potion back in the box, closed it, and pushed it back down the table to Harry. “But we need to talk about what he took besides her.”
“You’re confident are our suspect is male?”
“Statistically speaking, yes, our unsub is male. He’s between the ages of twenty-five and 30-five.” Olivia cleared her throat. “We know this isn’t a kidnapping for professional reasons. She’s been missing almost sixty hours at this point. We don’t have a body because she wasn’t taken to be killed. The kidnapper took intimate stuff from her apartment—her casual clothes that she would wear at home, sexy underwear, and nightgowns. He left behind her work, her personal potions, and her familiar. He’s taken her out of the country she currently calls home. She’s famous. Not as famous as you but quite famous in her own right. If someone had noticed her on a street in London or in another country, it would’ve already made the papers. So he’s isolated her, he’s holding her hostage somewhere he can control her every move. Sixty-six percent of all stalking victims are stalked by a former intimate partner.” She turned to Kimberly Jones.
“She hasn’t dated at all in a couple of years. Her only serious boyfriend since coming to Paris was a man named Adam Ryan and he went back to Australia when they broke up.” Kimberly paused but then pushed on. “Truth is that she broke his heart. He really loved her and wanted to marry her but Hermione didn’t feel the same. She didn’t even know how serious he was until he started asking her to move in with him. After they broke up, he continued to work for the court but after about six months he quit and left Paris. He said he couldn’t get over her—working with her every single day.”
“We’ll check to make sure he hasn’t returned to France,” Harry said and watched Lucas make a note of the task in his notebook. “She had a boyfriend in London. I honestly have no idea why they broke up but I’ll go ask. I can take a quick trip to Britain tonight and be back in the morning.” He focused on Bertrand. “All of your employees are forbidden from leaving the country, sir. I’ve already placed holds on their passports. They can’t legally buy a portkey out of the country nor can they attempt to travel Muggle. In the morning, Lucas and Olivia will start interviewing them in depth regarding Miss Granger. I trust I have your support in seeing this accomplished?”
Bertrand stared at Harry for a bit but then nodded. “Yes, of course. Anyone who doesn’t cooperate fully with your investigation will be fired. I won’t have my people hinder you and keep you from finding Miss Granger.”
* * * *
Hermione flipped the coffee table over, wrapped both hands around one leg and stomped on the leg pressed against the floor. It cracked. She stomped it again and it cracked some more. Four stomps later, it popped free of the frame. She dragged the coffee table to the foyer and shoved it into the closet then returned to the small sitting room for her improvised weapon. She picked the leg up, pleased with the acquisition. She swung it a few times and nodded to herself.
She went into the bedroom, shut the door, and shoved a chair under the knob. She was going to get some fucking sleep one way or another—she’d barely slept at all since she’d woken up in the house—and she needed to be in top form when her captor showed his stupid face. Her hand tightened on the table leg. A wizard wouldn’t expect a physical attack, so she had an advantage that she was going to use all over their head the first chance she had.
* * * *
Harry had rarely returned to Britain after he’d left. There was nothing left for him in the country he’d nearly died for. The Ministry periodically offered him jobs—most recently the Director of the DMLE but he’d never work for them again. He’d moved Andromeda and his godson to Rome. They’d both taken to Italy very well and Teddy was enrolled in a magical day school despite the fact that he was invited to Hogwarts every year. He stood at the ward boundary of the Burrow and waited. He didn’t have to wait long. Arthur Weasley ambled out of the house, older and slower than the last time Harry had seen the man. He pushed down the rush of affection that emerged at the sight of the older man.
“Harry Potter,” Arthur said cheerfully. He rocked on his heels. “You meet an old man half way, eh?”
Harry laughed and stepped over the boundary. He walked down the path and let Arthur draw him into a tight hug. “Arthur.”
“You look great,” Arthur said and patted his shoulder. “Come to my shed. I have some new stuff.”
Harry couldn’t help but grin. “Molly is going to burn it down one day, you know.”
“I have an anti-fire ward on it,” Arthur admitted and laughed when Harry snorted. “Also I threatened to dig up her garden.” He motioned to a stool in the shed and rummaged through a cabinet for a pair of bottles. He offered Harry the butter beer and sat down himself. “Can’t say I expected to see you again, Harry, well unless I was burying someone.”
Harry sighed. He played with the label of his bottle. “She hurt me a lot, Arthur. I don’t think I can forgive her. I’ve tried over the years to put myself in Molly’s place but I can’t. She’s lucky I didn’t file charges against her. That’s really the most she should ever ask of me. I can only thank Merlin that Ginny couldn’t keep it up the charade or I’d be married raising a kid that isn’t even mine and I wouldn’t know it.”
“She was always so wrapped up in keeping Ginny happy that nothing else seemed to really matter,” Arthur murmured. “Ginny comes to the house twice a year these days. Draco never comes with her. He was quite furious when he found out that Molly had tried to keep his child a secret from him and that they were going to hide him and pretend the baby was yours with a blood adoption.”
“I’ve had some correspondence with Malfoy,” Harry said. “I’m the one that told him, Arthur. He had a right to know and Ginny was so… subjugated by Molly that she could barely breathe. I’m glad they finally got past and married, honestly. I’m happy for them.” He took a deep breath. “But I’m not here to rehash all of that mess. I need to know where Ron is. The flat he was renting when I left has a single witch living in it now. I had to autograph three copies of Witch Weekly before I could extract myself.”
Arthur snorted and waved a hand when Harry huffed at him. “Sorry, lad. Ron married Lavender Brown. They live just down the road in a cottage. I was honestly surprised that you weren’t at the wedding.”
“I wasn’t invited,” Harry murmured. “Not much of a surprise, actually. Ron and I didn’t part well. He didn’t want me to take the job with the ICW and didn’t understand why I couldn’t stay in Britain.”
“He never really recovered from Hermione leaving the way she did,” Arthur said. “Then you left—his two best friends gone from his life in such a complete way.”
Harry flushed. “I wrote him letters monthly for the first year, Arthur. He never responded and I gave up. I even invited him to Rome in that first year and he didn’t respond to that. I sent him a portkey he could activate whenever he wanted and it was returned to Gringotts. Was I supposed to come back to Britain and live a life I never wanted?”
“No, of course not, lad. I’m sorry. I had no idea he ignored your letters. I can offer no explanation for that. He should be at home.”
Harry finished the butter beer and stood. “Thanks.”
“You didn’t mention why you were here, exactly.”
“Hermione Granger was kidnapped Friday night from her flat in Paris,” Harry said quietly. “I need to ask when Ron last saw her and what was said. He might know something that will help.”
Arthur grew pensieve. “You don’t think he took her, do you?”
“No, I’ve already confirmed that he was actually working the entire night of her abduction.” He held up a hand when Arthur frowned. “When women go missing or are murdered, Arthur, current and former partners are often the first line of inquiry. From a pure statistics point of view, you’re the biggest threat in Molly’s life.”
Arthur huffed. “I do believe it’s the other way around.”
Harry grinned. “I’ve missed you. I’m sorry… I’m just sorry I can’t come around anymore.”
“I understand, lad. I really do.”
* * * *
It was a cute little place with a white fence and a wild garden. The wards were protective and intent based. The defensive options were good but they lay dormant even as Harry stepped through the boundary and onto the side walk. The door opened before Harry even made it onto the porch. Ron stared for a minute and nodded. “Dad floo called.”
“I haven’t seen or heard from Hermione since she left me, and…” Ron came outside the house, and shut the door behind him. “Lav’s pregnant. I don’t want her to get upset. I think the sight of you would be pretty upsetting. You look geared up for war, Harry.”
Harry looked down at his dragon hide trousers and the waistcoat made of the same black leather. His robe was open but armored. He had a variety of weapons on but Ron wouldn’t be able to see them. “This is… my uniform basically. It’s how my entire division dresses.”
Ron sighed. “Didn’t you get tired of war, Harry? Wasn’t what we did enough? Why did you have to go off and find another fight?” He motioned Harry towards the garden and Harry followed his oldest friend to a pair of chairs.
“I don’t know that you can handle the answer to that question, Ron.”
“Just… just tell me,” Ron urged quietly.
“I was at a party,” Harry said. “And I was kissing entirely too much arse to get a promotion that I didn’t even want and out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw her.”
“Yes, but it wasn’t her. She’d been gone almost four years at that point and the disappointment of it not being her was like getting stabbed in the gut.” Harry looked out over the night sky, taking in the smattering of stars. “Staying here was killing me, Ron. I hated the work. I hated the attention. I’m famous the world over, yes, but you know tonight is the first time I’ve been asked for an autograph since I left Britain and it was the witch living in your old flat. I do good, important work.”
“And fuck your way through most of Europe,” Ron said dryly. “Don’t think the Prophet doesn’t report on that stuff, Harry, because they do. Did my sister fuck you up that bad? I thought you wanted a family and kids? Ginny cheated on you with Malfoy—that’s a shitty thing, okay. She cheated on you and got knocked up by another wizard. It’s ugly and painful and all of that crap but come on? Are you going to let that take away the only thing you ever wanted? If you stood in front of the Mirror of Esired right now what would you see?”
“Hermione,” Harry answered honestly. “Perhaps a little girl with her out-of-control hair and my mother’s eyes.” He looked at Ron and found his old friend ashen faced. “What? Christ, Ron, you’re married. I can’t confess to this even now?”
“Always,” Harry said. “Always and goddamnit, some arsehole has taken her. Taken her out of her home and put her some place I can’t reach and I’m going to lose my fucking mind, Ron. I swear to Merlin.”
“Why didn’t you go after her then?” Ron asked quietly. “When she left? We’ve always known where she was.”
“She left without a word,” Harry said. “Left me without even saying goodbye. It was obvious she wanted nothing to do with either of us. I kept waiting for her to reach out to me—to send me a letter telling me how she was doing but she never did.”
“She couldn’t,” Ron said. “Merlin, Harry, I’m sorry… you have every right to hate me for this, okay? And I won’t ever say otherwise.” He pulled a folded piece of parchment from his pocket.
“What is that?” Harry demanded.
“It’s for you,” Ron admitted and offered him the parchment. “We fought, you see and I thought I was protecting you and Ginny. I thought you two were just meant to be and I didn’t want Hermione to interfere. Months later, when you found out about the baby and Ginny’s affair with Malfoy—I tried to give you the letter but I chickened out. It got easier and easier to forget it even existed. Then you left and I didn’t have to think about it at all.”
Harry took the letter with a shaking hand. “What did you mean, she couldn’t?”
“She couldn’t write you or contact you. I made her promise me she wouldn’t—a magical promise. She agreed to leave you a letter telling you how she felt but she wouldn’t try to contact you until you… until you contacted her.”
“You son of a bitch,” Harry said quietly. “How could you, Ron?”
“I was protecting my sister or at least I thought I was. You said Hermione was like a sister to you, Harry. You said that to me on more than one occasion.”
“Because… because I thought she wanted you and I didn’t want to interfere,” Harry said quietly. He stood. “Is this why you didn’t respond to my letters? Guilt or something?”
“Guilt, anger, frustration.” Ron frowned. “I don’t understand why you need such a big life, Harry. I really don’t.”
Harry took a deep breath. “I don’t hate you, Ron, but I’m never going to forgive you. It’s like betraying me is a hobby for you.” He left the garden and said nothing even as Ron followed. At the ward boundary he turned. “Good luck with the baby, Ron. I mean that.” He apparated before he could give into the desire to curse his first friend.
* * * *
June 2, 2002
I don’t know what to say, really. Three days ago you took me to the Potter vault. I was so excited to see an ancestral vault—the history of your family tucked away in a hidden place. It was such an honor—to be included in your life in such a way. In a way that no one else had been so far. I knew even Ron hadn’t been to your ancestral vault. Though, I’m sure that was more because you didn’t want to deal with his jealousy.
When you showed me the box of rings—ancestral rings—because you were considering offering Ginny one when you proposed I was so hurt. It was foolish, really, but it hurt more than anything else ever has. You said you were thinking about giving her your mother’s ring and I lied to you. I lied to you and told you that she would hate it so you chose a different one. I’m sorry for that. Your mother’s ring is beautiful and I’m sure Ginny would be thrilled to wear it.
I’ve accepted the job in Paris with the World Court of Magic and Ron… well, Ron and I are no longer together. He asked me to marry him last night and I couldn’t say yes. I couldn’t continue to lie to myself. I couldn’t continue to lie to him. I never loved him the way he deserved and I think he’s always known that. I don’t want the life he wants—I think I’ll just wither away into nothing if I stay in Britain. So, I’ve resigned from the Ministry and sent my acceptance off to Paris via owl.
I ask you to forgive me in advance for this next part for it is the most selfish and terrible thing I’ve ever done.
I’m in love with you and I can’t stay here in Britain and watch you make a life with Ginny. I just can’t.
Yours if you want me,
Harry was deeply relieved that he hadn’t read the letter until he’d returned to Paris or he might have killed Ron. He poured himself a glass full of bourbon and said nothing as he passed the letter to Olivia. Otto and Lucas were seated at the table near the front of the suite going over the personnel files of the people that Hermione worked with directly. The diagnostics had finished on Hermione’s flat so they’d narrowed down the six magical signatures that had been keyed to Hermione’s wards for limited access.
Olivia put down the letter and cleared her throat. “He kept that from you for eight years and you don’t consider him a suspect in her disappearance?”
“I verified his location at the time of her disappearance,” Harry said and drank the whole glass of bourbon while Olivia glared at him. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m entitled to a bloody drink.”
She huffed. “Yes, sir.”
“And don’t sir me in that condescending mean-girl tone,” Harry ordered wearily. “Ron Weasley’s a bastard but I’m stubborn and a bit of a coward.”
“You’re the bravest man I know,” Lucas said without looking up from his reading. “It wasn’t cowardice or stubbornness that kept you from contacting her—it was self-preservation. A woman can tear a man’s soul right out of his body and leave him living a half-life without even trying. She left and from your point of view, did so without a word. I wouldn’t have contacted her either. I don’t make a habit of that kind of emotional masochism.”
“Showing a woman a bit of vulnerability is a good thing,” Olivia argued. “Being emotionally available is very attractive.”
“There is a fine, barely visible line between being emotionally available and slitting a wrist,” Otto muttered. He set aside his work and focused on Harry. “Are you in love with her?”
“Is that important?” Harry asked.
“It will be if it impacts your objectivity,” Lucas murmured and set aside his own work. “Granted, if you are then you’ve carried it around for more than a decade and fought a war at her side so I trust you can keep your shit together if things get difficult. But if we need to be prepared to subdue to you in order to prevent the murder of our suspect, now is certainly the time to tell us.”
“If she’s unharmed? I’ll be fine,” Harry said and walked away from the bar to keep from pouring another drink. He wasn’t going to get drunk in front of his people. “If she’s dead—you’ll probably have to take me out to prevent me from murdering whoever is responsible. I have a lot of magical power to burn so don’t underestimate me. One stunner won’t be enough. I can break through a single pair of magical suppression cuffs within minutes of being subdued. If I’m awake, I’m a threat.”
Crookshanks rubbed up against his leg at that moment and Harry picked the cat up off the floor. He hadn’t been able to leave him alone in Hermione’s apartment so he’d brought him to the hotel suite he was sharing with the team. The cat purred loudly against his chest. He sighed. “You’re not fond of that arsehole, Robert Hilliard, are you?” The cat hissed. “You’ve always been an excellent judge of character, old man.” He walked over to the sofa, dropped down on it and Crookshanks sprawled on his chest. “Is he a bad guy?” He rubbed the cat’s head as Crookshanks growled. “Or just a jerk that has a boner for your favorite person?” He laughed when the cat hissed and hit him with a paw. “He’s kind of smarmy. I wonder if he was that slick at Hogwarts.”
“The most interesting part of that is that I’m entirely sure he understood every word you said,” Olivia said thoughtfully.
Harry rubbed the cat’s head and smiled sadly. “He’s the familiar of the brightest witch of the age and half-Kneazle. A year into their bond, he was capable of trotting around Hogwarts and delivering letters and notes like an owl. He even helped my escaped convict godfather break into Gryffindor’s dorm.”
“So what you’re saying is that he’s a great partner in shenanigans,” Otto summed up.
“He’s a real beast,” Harry agreed. “Talk to me about the portkey.”
“It was black market,” Otto muttered. “Already reported. Sorry. Let me…” He trailed off and shifted a bunch of parchments around. “Okay, it was expertly crafted and would’ve provided a very gentle ride. That being said, if it were me I would’ve spelled her to sleep before I used the portkey.”
“So he enters the flat with the ward buster and destroys her security,” Harry began. “It would’ve been quick and she’d have slept through it because she didn’t have an alarm set up for ward failure. She’s a confident spell caster and trusts her own work without question. I doubt she would’ve considered a co-worker a threat.”
“It’s arrogant but I’m not any different,” Olivia admitted. “I don’t have alarms set for ward failure. I will though—next time I’m home. Whenever that may be.”
Harry nodded. “He came into the flat with the ward buster. She slept through it. He cast a sleeping charm on her, packed up what he wanted to take with him, picked her up, and portkeyed away with her. Then he returned to Paris.”
“You’re focused on Hilliard.” Pierce closed his notebook. “Talk me through your conclusion. Make your case.”
“When we met in her apartment, Hilliard was really unhappy to see me. Moreover, when he spoke of how she was taken from the flat he said she was taken while she was sleep. It wasn’t a guess for him. He knew it. He also warned me about Crookshanks—called him a monster. Kimberly Jones made it clear that Hermione and Hilliard hadn’t worked together before this current case. I believe you’ll find he was the last person added to her ward scheme so they could work on the case in her flat.
“We’ll find he volunteered to sit second chair for her case when he hasn’t sit second chair for anyone in years. He was a few years ahead of us at Hogwarts but I don’t remember him. I bet she does. He was a Ravenclaw and a lot of the kids in that house were really pissed that Hermione wasn’t sorted with them. She ruined the point curve on a regular basis the entire time we were there. She was also first in our class and broke records in academics that had been set for fifty years.” He frowned. “I… I think I remember Hilliard from the British Ministry actually. He might have served in their prosecutor’s office. If that’s the case then he followed her from Britain to Paris because he was there for a bit after she left.”
“You have great instincts for this kind of thing,” Olivia allowed. “But your judgment is skewed due to your personal investment. I know that’s why you put me and Lucas in charge of questioning tomorrow.”
Harry stopped rubbing Crookshank’s head and turned to stare at her. “You’re a beautiful and brilliant witch, Olivia. But I wouldn’t want you to think for a second that your place on this team wasn’t earned. Hermione left a hole in my life—yes—one shaped like a beautiful and brilliant witch. But I didn’t use you to fill it up.”
She smirked at him. “I’d have gotten laid when I offered if that were the case.”
Harry laughed. “Okay.”
“You tried to sleep with the Chief Warlock?” Lucas demanded, incredulous.
“What?” Otto looked up from his work. “You haven’t?”
“You, too?” Lucas huffed.
“Have you looked at him?” Otto demanded. “He’s all magical and shite. Plus, he’s a real toppy bastard and I enjoy that kind of thing.”
Harry laughed at Lucas’ expression. “Relax, Pierce, you know I don’t dip my quill in the division’s ink. It’s bad for morale because I might be a toppy bastard but I’m also just a bastard and a womanizer on top of that.” He stood, taking Crookshanks with him. “I want to be in place at headquarters an hour ahead of every staff member so we can get the interrogation spells in place. I’ll be ready by five. I expect you all to be ready with me.”
“We’ll find her,” Olivia said.
Harry turned to look at her. “What was the first thing I told you when you joined the Division?”
Her eyes brightened. “Never start a land war in Asia.”
“And the second?” Harry asked with a small laugh.
She grew serious. “Never make a promise I can’t keep.” Olivia took a deep breath. “We’ll find her and she’ll be fine.”
“Good night,” Harry murmured.
* * * *
Hermione woke at the sound of a bang and the clatter of glass breaking. She sprung from the bed, table leg in hand, and went to the door. She took up a position a professional baseball player would approve of and waited. And waited. When nothing but silence was delivered, she slipped forward and pulled the chair free from the door knob. A mess greeted her in the living room of the cottage—a small trunk, a broken vase, and a dozen blood red roses. She glared at the flowers and dismissed them as unimportant. The trunk was a different matter. It was probably food delivery. With her limited skills at wandless magic she’d learned over the years to test food and drink for potions before consuming them so she wasn’t worried about being poisoning or potioned. She’d wondered how more food would be delivered since the stock in the cooling cabinet was running low.
She opened the trunk and sighed at the neatly packed boxes of food. There was a folded piece of parchment on top. She held her hand over it but her magic didn’t detect anything bad. “I shouldn’t have stopped working on my wandless magic when I left Britain,” Hermione whispered. “Harry said it was important and I… I’m an idiot.” She picked up the parchment and unfolded it.
I hope this package finds you well. I made sure to pack only your favorite foods up for the delivery. You can expect such a delivery once a week. I have a health monitoring spell on you in case you are injured or become ill. I’ve done nothing to taint the food so please don’t starve yourself. It will do you no good to protest your new arrangements in such a way.
I won’t be able to join you as soon as I expected as that arsehole Potter was called in to investigate your disappearance. I’ll never know what you saw in him all of those years. You wasted yourself on him—pining away like some foolish girl. He’s never going to find you so don’t worry. I won’t let him break your heart again.
I believe this isolation will be good for you. It will give you time to think about how you dismissed me and ignored my efforts to be your friend and lover. It may be as much as a year before I’m free to join you—they’ll have declared you dead by then. Though I expect the investigation into your disappearance will stall out shortly and after a few weeks the ICW will recall Potter and his team to Rome. You’re just one person, so you can’t hardly expect for them to search for months on end. Don’t be upset by this—it’s just common sense.
I’ll send you the new Transfiguration Monthly in the next box and a few more books. I wouldn’t want you to get bored.
All of my love,
Hermione sat back on her heels and stared at the letter, flabbergasted. “He’s a total nutter!” She tossed the letter aside and jumped to her feet. “Harry’s finally in Paris and I’m stuck in a goddamned cottage in the middle of nowhere!” She paced around, picked up her table leg and took a swing at a lamp next to the sofa. It hit the floor with a satisfying smack and shattered. “A year? He’s going to leave me here for a year? I’ll kill him! I’ll bash his bloody head in the moment he shows his smug, stupid face!”
* * * *
Harry had taken up a place in the corner of the interrogation room to watch Lucas and Olivia interview Hermione’s co-workers one by one. Hermione was the youngest solicitor working for the World Court. There was a low level of resentment for her among some of the older wizards whom she apparently ran circles around on the job. She was younger and smarter than most of them—she worked stupidly long hours and considered surrendering a weakness. She also apparently loathed to make plea deals in exchange for lesser charges and went out of her way to make that process as difficult as possible because she enjoyed putting criminals in jail for the rest of their natural lives.
Eliza Perkins was the oldest witch in the solicitor’s office, an American who had never married and considered Hermione Granger something of a whore because of her relationship with a co-worker three years prior. She also looked every single minute of her hundred and forty-seven years. Harry spent half of her interview wanting the curse the woman mute for the rest of her long, bitter life. He’d barely refrained. After her, they only had Robert Hilliard left and the rest of the team had gotten on board with his theory regarding the man though they hadn’t shared their reasons why as yet. He was the last person added to Hermione’s wards and she had severely limited his access to her apartment. He hadn’t even been allowed in the kitchen.
Olivia ushered Eliza Perkins out of the interview room, shut the door and reset the interview protocols for the transcription. She stowed her wand and made a face. “Hermione Granger is a saint. I’d have cursed the shit out of that woman years ago if I’d had to work with her day in and day out.”
“Her aura was tainted with grey arts,” Otto said from his place in the corner directly opposite Harry. “Some pretty hinky stuff. We should probably put her on a list somewhere in case bodies start showing up in Paris.”
Harry grinned at him. “Maybe she’s killing witches and bathing in their blood to maintain her youthful glow?”
Lucas snorted and cleared his throat when they all looked at him. “I’m trying to be professional here.”
“You be professional, that’s your duty to Lady Magic,” Otto said wryly. “The rest of us will be human.”
The small amusement did nothing to settle the worry boiling in Harry’s gut. Hilliard entered the room and sat down in the chair he was motioned to.
“I’m not sure what I can tell you that I haven’t already reported,” Hilliard began before he could be asked a question.
“Place your wand in the security ward,” Lucas said without looking up from the file he was making notes on. He paused in his writing when Hilliard made no move to comply. “Your wand.”
“I’m not surrendering my wand,” Hilliard said dismissively.
Lucas put down his quill with exaggerated care and focused on Robert Hilliard. “I like rules.”
Otto laughed briefly and both of his feet hit the floor as he sat up from his slouch.
“I like order,” Lucas continued calmly. “Order makes me happy. Before I joined the War Mages Division of the International Confederation of Wizards, I worked as a Hit Wizard for the International Protectorate of Magic. They graciously let me trot around this entire planet restoring order by killing people who deserved it. I don’t like people who use their magic to hurt other people, Mr. Hilliard. I don’t like people who think that being magical is a right when it is, in fact, a gift bestowed upon us by the grace of our Lady Magic. I don’t like people who think rules and laws are below them. Now, there are two ways to maintain order in my life—I can make sure people follow the rules or I can kill them. Either way, order is restored and I’m happy.”
Hilliard unholstered his wand and placed it in the security ward to his left.
“Upon entering this room, you were enveloped in a ward designed to compel your honesty. If you fight this ward, you’ll suffer.” He paused when Hilliard stood up abruptly and reached for his wand. The security ward repelled him violently. He hit the wall behind him with a thud and fell to the floor.
Harry rose from his chair and walked to stand by the table. Otto picked Hilliard up off the floor and shoved him back into the chair. “Inspector Landry is going to ask you some questions, Hilliard, and you’re going to answer them.”
“I refuse. I want a solicitor.”
Harry leaned down and hissed against the shell of Hilliard’s ear. The man shuddered and flinched away. “You’re not particular fond of me, Hilliard, and that’s fine. I don’t care. What most people in Britain failed to ever understand that I didn’t and still don’t give a single fuck what they think. The first thing we did today, when we entered this room, is claim it as the temporary property of the ICW with Justice Bertrand’s wholehearted approval. He’s watching this interview. And you’ll notice that not a single person has come in here to see that your demands be met.”
“I’m entitled to…”
“No, you’re not. The employees of the World Court of Magic have the same protections as those who work for the International Protectorate of Magic and the ICW. It is a crime against magic to hinder, harm, or otherwise purposefully cause injury to those working on behalf of the common good and Lady Magic herself. You’re now the prime suspect in the abduction and probable murder of Senior Solicitor Hermione Granger of the World Court of Magic that makes you a suspected terrorist,” Lucas said from his seat at the table.
“You can’t make me answer questions. I know my rights.”
Harry nodded. “Very well, Otto subdue him for searching.”
He walked away from the table as Otto manhandled Hilliard out of his chair. The German wizard stuck Hilliard to a wall with a ward and Olivia stood. She performed the body search spells without being prompted. Hilliard paled dramatically as his empty wand holster snapped off his wrist first. His robes billowed under the pressure of Olivia’s spell—wrapped candy, several parchments, a self-inking quill, a long, slim box and a small glowing white orb sailed from his cloak and settled in a pile on the table in front of her.
Harry picked up the orb before any of his people could. He’d seen enough of them over the years to know exactly what it was. He pushed with is magic and Hermione appeared in it. She was sitting on a sofa reading. The monitoring orb reported her in good condition though she was severely stressed. He noted with some amusement that she had part of a table leg on the sofa beside her. No doubt she had a whole plan for dealing with her captor when he arrived.
“Put that down!” Hilliard shouted. “She’s none of your concern! I had to protect her from you!”
“From me?” Harry asked. “I haven’t seen her in eight years.”
The door opened and Bertrand entered. He sighed. “Robert.”
“I told you to pick New York!” Hilliard shouted. “But you wouldn’t bloody listen!”
“I don’t follow,” Harry admitted and sent a silencing spell at Hilliard who continued to shout under it.
Bertrand rubbed his face with a shaking hand. “The World Court of Magic moves every ten years—to maintain neutrality and to avoid developing detrimental relationships with the government officials that host us. Our time in Paris has come to a close and I intend to announce our next location within the month. Robert helped me research locations and review the offers various governments have offered us over the last year as we prepared to move our Headquarters. I chose Rome, Chief Warlock Potter. Robert was adamantly against it but would offer me no real reason. He’s the only one who knows that I’ve picked the new location. Truth be known, I did it because of you.”
“Because of me?” Harry asked.
“You’re a beacon for the Light. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d been following your career. You fought a war when you were little more than a boy and the man you’ve become is truly a sight to behold. Due to your placement in Rome, many organizations around the world are going to covet relationships with the city and the country of Italy as well. It’s my understanding that the Protectorate intends to sit their next conference in Rome.”
Harry opened the wand case they’d pulled of Hilliard and wasn’t surprised to find Hermione’s wand in it. He cancelled the silencing charm on the prisoner and found him glaring and sullen. “What was your plan?”
“None of your business.”
Bertrand back handed Hilliard before anyone else could even respond. His wand snapped into his hand and he shoved it up under the younger man’s chin. “You’ll tell them every single thing they want to know. Your life, as you know it, is over Robert. The only saving grace you might have is the safe return of Hermione Granger. Are we clear?”
“What are you going to do? Throw me in prison? She’ll starve to death without me. I’m the only one that can take care of her now. Just me.” Hilliard glared at his former boss with mania burning in his eyes. “She’s mine! And no one is ever going to touch her again. No one but me. Arrest me, throw me in a prison—she’ll never be free. I’ve taken a vow on my life to never reveal her location. If I try—I drop dead and you get nothing. If you try to force it—I die and you get nothing. I win.”
Harry looked down at Hermione’s wand, taking in the shielding around it and inclined his head. “You’re not half as smart as you think you are, Hilliard.” He turned to Otto. “I need the most powerful ward buster you can create. Right now.”
Otto pulled a small box from his medallion, enlarged it, and opened it. Hilliard started to protest and Otto turned to stare at him. “As much as Lucas requires order, I require silence. Speak without permission again, and I will rip out your tongue.” He raised an eyebrow when Hilliard looked at him in disbelief. “You stalked and preyed on an innocent woman—a very brave and brilliant woman who helped win a war against the darkest wizard born in a thousand years. I could rip you limb from limb with my bare hands.” He returned his focus to his supplies. He pulled out a dverger made athame. “I need the health monitor.”
Harry frowned, unwilling to relinquish the proof that she was unharmed and safe. “Why?”
“He apprenticed with a warder at Gringotts before pursuing a mastery in magical law. He knows the best wards are blood based. He’s probably using her to fuel the wards that are keeping her hostage. If I’m wrong, it won’t hurt anything. If I’m right, the wards won’t be able to fight off the ward buster—something I’m sure he took into consideration considering his own use of such magic,” Otto explained. “That’s why he was my number one suspect.”
“It was the arrogance that made me suspect him,” Lucas said and sat back in his chair. He pulled out a pack of herbals and lit two. He passed one to Harry and they both ignored Olivia’s glares of doom.
She frowned when they all looked her way. “Fine. He didn’t hit on me. In fact, he’s the only wizard in this place, who is single, who didn’t give me a second look. I know what I look like. Even gay men give me a second look.”
Harry exhaled smoke. “I see your point.”
“Even Justice Bertrand invited me to dinner,” Olivia continued.
Bertrand shrugged at the looks he received from her team. “She’s beautiful. I’m old not dead.” He looked at Hilliard. “I trust you’ll want to interview him further—when you’re finished my people will come in and process his arrest. Due to a conflict of interest,” he glanced towards Harry as he spoke, “both with the World Court and the ICW. I believe we would be best served by turning him over to the Protectorate for prosecution. Do you agree Chief Warlock?”
“Since I can’t promise I won’t kill him if I’m left alone with him, yes, I agree, Justice Bertrand.” He paused. “And I do hope you paid for dinner.”
Bertrand grinned. “I’m a gentleman, I assure you.” He grew serious and focused on Otto’s work briefly. “You bring our girl home Chief Warlock Potter—whole and hale. I don’t care what you have to do to Robert to accomplish it.”
“That’s fantastic news because I’m going to need his blood,” Otto said as he picked up his athame. “I’d prefer to harvest it myself,” he continued when Harry held out a hand. “You’d enjoy hurting him, sir, and we all agreed we’d not go down that road again.”
Harry shrugged and walked away from the table. “I’ll get my pound of flesh out of him one way or another.” He leaned on the wall near the only window and focused on the health monitor he hadn’t parted with. He knew Otto would have to break it to pull her blood from the orb. “Did you hurt her?” He focused on Robert Hilliard. “Cut her? Rape her?”
“Of course not, I’m not a monster.”
“Sure you are,” Olivia said plainly. “Hermione Granger didn’t want you. She didn’t even like you but you don’t care. You don’t care at all. You trapped her in a cage for your use like she was some exotic animal that only you deserved to ever see. Rape? Certainly on your agenda because she’d have never wanted you of her own freewill. Whether you accomplished consent through potion, spell, or just be isolation and psychological torture—it still would’ve been rape. You stalked her, kidnapped her, stripped her of her autonomy, her job, her familiar, her personal possessions, and her wand. She’s probably plotting your murder as we speak. Even if she doesn’t know who you are, as yet. Hermione Granger wants you dead, Mr. Hilliard. When the matter gets turned over to the Protectorate—you’d best be ready to make a deal and go to jail like a proper nutjob or six months from now I’ll be helping the brightest witch of the age hide your body.” She smirked when he paled dramatically.
“I want a deal.”
“You have nothing to offer us,” Harry said. “If you try to tell us where you hid her, you’ll drop dead, remember? Besides, we don’t need you to say anything else because you’re a fucking moron. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of magic would know you’ve turned her wand into a portkey. That’s why you had it in a shielded box. So you wouldn’t accidently activate it. That means your pass phrase is commonly used in your everyday conversations or you might feared you might use it accidently. I’d wager my fortune on it being her name.” He smirked when Hilliard glared. “Right. She’s going to be so pissed. Because not only did you do all that stuff that Olivia pointed out—you’re a bleeding moron on top of it and if there is one universal truth is it that Hermione Granger cannot tolerate an idiot.”
* * * *
It started with a distant thundering sound that grew so loud over the course of three solid hours that the windows rattled in their frames. Hermione felt the first set of wards break near the end of the second hour and shuddered under the violation. Until that very moment, she hadn’t even considered she was tied to the wards. It was infuriating. Robert was using her own magic against her—to keep her hostage. Her grip tightened on the table leg as another layer fell. Magic rushed around her then, a heavy thumping sound resonated through the cottage then Harry Potter appeared before her in a flush of portkey magic, his wand in one hand and hers in another.
“Harry.” She went weak in the knees and let her improvised bat fall to the floor. He stared at her for a few seconds, and sank to his knees. She rushed forward and caught him. “Harry.”
“He must have paid someone else to ward this place,” Harry murmured as he stowed his wand. They slid down onto the floor, hands curling into clothes involuntarily. “Are you hurt? He didn’t touch you, did he? Because if he did I will go back to Paris and kill him as viciously as I know how, which is saying something.”
“No, I mean. I don’t think he did.” She frowned. “He took me while I was asleep. You have him custody, right?”
“Yeah, of course. He thought he was smarter than us but he’s so fucking crazy that he couldn’t have been more obvious.” He held up her wand and she took with a shaking hand. “I’m sorry I took so long. You were missing just over fifty hours before the ICW was notified.”
“You look exhausted,” Hermione whispered. “Are you okay?”
“Me?” He laughed and touched her face, brushed hair from her forehead. “I’ve been worried sick about you.”
“I worry about you all the time,” Hermione confessed in a rush. “I can’t believe you took on that whole conclave of dark wizards in New Orleans by yourself, Harry Potter! You have a team for a reason.” Her hand clenched in his robe. “I’ve missed you so much, Harry. I’m sorry I said anything and ruined… just ruined our friendship. It was the last thing I wanted…”
He put his fingers on her mouth to stop her babbling and she huffed at him. It was charming really but he couldn’t allow her to continue to apologize. “Sweetheart, Ron gave me the letter you left for me last night.”
“What?” Hermione asked, her voice breaking and tears springing in her eyes. “He didn’t… he said he would give it to you, Harry.”
“He was far more interested in protecting his sister than being a friend to either of us,” Harry said quietly. “He tried to act like he didn’t know how I felt about you but he knew. Or at least he suspected that I would leave his sister if I knew you loved me the way I loved you.”
“You did?” Hermione whispered. “Oh.” Tears fell and she threw her arms around his neck.
He held her tight, pressing his face against her hair as she cried. The door in front of him opened and Pierce appeared. The American wizard took in the scene and waited for Harry to give him leave to speak.
“Are we secure?” Harry asked quietly as he ran one hand through Hermione’s hair.
“You’ve made a bit of a mess,” Lucas said wryly. “Otto tossed me through what was left of the defense ward so I could check your status. We weren’t sure you’d be conscious. You must be border line magically exhausted.”
“I couldn’t cast a cheering charm right now,” Harry admitted. He gathered Hermione up as her as she stopped sobbing but her body continued to tremble with grief and anger. He stood with her and was relieved that he didn’t fall. “Have Olivia pull out her operations trunk. We’ll use that as a base while Otto works. We can’t leave with her until we’re sure these wards aren’t going to remain tied to her but I don’t want her in this cottage a moment longer than necessary.”
“Yes, sir.” Lucas bent over and picked up Hermione’s wand. He placed it in his boss’ hand.
“And pack up her things.”
“No,” Hermione whispered. “No, leave everything here. I don’t want to wear anything he touched—not ever again.”
“Okay,” Harry said. “Except I’m going to have to insist on shoes. It’s snowing outside.”
“The son of a bitch didn’t pack me any shoes or socks,” Hermione whispered fiercely against his jaw.
“We’ll be outside, sir.”
Harry put her down on the sofa as Lucas left the cottage and put her wand down beside her. He touched his medallion and pulled tiny bag from it. It resized it in his hands and he put the duffle down on the floor. He opened it and pulled out a pair of socks which he slipped onto her slim, chilled feet.
“Can I have the hoodie, too?” Hermione asked.
Harry pulled the light grey hoodie from the bag and passed it to her. “I’m furious with Ron. But I’m also pretty fucking pissed at you.” He focused on her. “You just left.”
“I was a coward,” Hermione admitted as she pulled the hoodie on. “I couldn’t… I didn’t want to face you. Ron was horrible—vicious and angry—I had nightmares about him for weeks, Harry. He threatened me and I thought, I thought at one point that he might actually kill me he was so furious. I should’ve gone to you and if I’d been in any sort of rational frame of mind I would’ve but he kept me up all night. I was exhausted by the time I wrote the letters and he forced me to promise I wouldn’t contact you. Merlin, I was so bloody tired at that point. I just wanted free of him. I had to make the promise before he’d even let me leave the apartment.”
“That sounds like psychological warfare,” Harry murmured as he activated warming charms on the socks. He rummaged through the bag again and withdrew a black wand holster. “I don’t have a bracelet one like you prefer.”
She took the holster and strapped it onto her right arm. “The bracelets look better with my clothes.” She grinned when he laughed, then holstered her wand. “I… I’m sorry, Harry.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said quietly. “I should’ve come to Paris years ago and demanded the answers I wanted. I was so caught up in wallowing in self-pity that I’ve become something of an arsehole.”
“And a philanderer,” Hermione said dryly and shrugged when he frowned at her. “Seriously, if I have to read one more letter to Witch Weekly titled ‘My Night with Harry Potter’, I’ll fucking scream.”
Startled female laughter caught them both off guard. Harry looked over his shoulder and found Olivia standing there. “Hey, the trunk ready?”
“Yes, Lucas said she doesn’t have shoes.” Olivia held up a pair of trainers. “I had these in the trunk. They aren’t going to do much good in two feet of snow but it’ll be something on her feet besides socks.” She walked over to them and handed them to Harry before focusing on Hermione. “I have a healer’s license.”
“That’s what the monitoring orb we found said as well but I hope you will consent to a full exam. There is no telling how long you were unconscious and in his dubious care.”
“Right,” Hermione said and closed her eyes. “Then yes, I mean… you can look for behavior modification spells and potions as well, correct?”
“Yes, of course,” Olivia explained. She pulled a glowing purple potion out of a robe pocket and passed it to Harry who took it as soon as he finished tying the trainers which had resized to fit her automatically. He tossed it back without discussion and handed the vial back to her. “Sir, I’ll be in the trunk prepping an exam space so she can have privacy.”
“Thank you, Olivia.”
“Sir, huh?” Hermione asked.
Harry smiled briefly. “I went through about a year of resistance on that issue—I lost. It comes with the job.” He closed his bag, shrank it, and returned it to his medallion. He grinned wryly at the curiosity on her face. “I can’t tell you how the medallions work. It’s patented and protected magic strictly for the ICW’s War Mages Division.”
She frowned but nodded. “Okay.
Harry stood and held out his hands, she took them and he pulled her from the sofa. “Look, a lot of time has passed.” He paused when she sucked her bottom lip into her mouth. “For the record, that’s never not going to be sexy.” He laughed when she released her lip and stared at him wide eyed. “I fell in love with you when I was twelve years old. I sat in the infirmary next to you when you were petrified for hours at a time, convinced that I’d never be the same if you didn’t wake up.”
“Second year?” Hermione grinned. “Oh, Harry, that’s adorable. Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I was… third year was all fucked up and weird. Then Ron got me so worked up about that silly broom that I treated you really badly. I figured I’d lost the right to tell you how I felt and had to earn it back. Then it was like you decided that you were going to be with Ron and I gave up in fourth year. I set it aside and I really didn’t think about it again until about six months before you left Britain. Then, you were dating Ron and everyone was expecting me to propose to Ginny. It was too late and I couldn’t see any single way I could tell you how I felt that wouldn’t ruin everything I thought I wanted.”
“One big happy Weasley family,” Hermione said with an eye roll. “Merlin, I could murder Molly Weasley for what she tried to do to you. Luna wrote me a letter and told me all about it you know—so I know more than what was reported. It’s terrible, Harry.”
“At least I found out before I married her,” Harry said. “Look, so back to what I was saying. We aren’t the same people we were and you’ve been through a pretty stressful situation. So let’s get you checked out and back to Paris. Otto is working on repairing your wards but you’ll need to be in place for the final pieces. I have some stuff to do in Rome after we report back to Justice Bertrand on what we found here. Then, if you’re interested I could come back to Paris and we could… I don’t know, have dinner and figure out what we can have between us.”
“Okay.” Hermione nodded. “That’s… yeah… I mean. Eight years is a long time, right? Things change.”
“I’ve loved you more than half my life,” Harry said. “That hasn’t changed. I promise. Let’s not play games, okay? We’ll have some long talks and figure out what we both want.”
She pursed her lips. “You grew up. It’s kind of weird.”
Harry pulled her close and kissed her forehead. “I’ve missed you so much; it was like walking around with one arm.”
* * * *
The trunk was pretty cool, a dimensional space designed like a flat and apparently stocked for field deployment. Considering the current mandate of the ICW that didn’t surprise her at all. The World Court was about justice. The Protectorate was a proactive political organization that wasn’t afraid to put down a rogue element within a government if it served the greater good. The International Confederation of Wizards were investigators, peace keepers when it served, and soldiers for the Light when necessary.
She released Harry’s hand reluctantly and followed the only woman on his team back to a corner of the large room that had been sectioned off with a transfigured privacy screen. Olivia Landy wasn’t a stranger to Hermione—in fact—she had very thick files on every single person on Harry’s team. Knowing who was supporting him and protecting him had become something of an obsession with her, especially after he’d left Britain. Keeping that information to herself seemed like a really good idea.
Olivia shrugged out of her armored robe and put it aside. “Right. Do I need to do a rape kit?”
“I don’t… no, I don’t think so.” She blinked rapidly to keep unexpected tears at bay. “I mean I went to sleep dressed in pajamas—trousers and a top. I woke up in the same. There were no fluids but my own when I checked. Nothing is sore and since I haven’t had intercourse in over three years, I’d definitely be feeling it if I’d been penetrated unless he performed a healing spell.” She closed her eyes at the thought. “And a cleaning spell—both of which would’ve been in his skill set. You can do the sexual activity spell.”
“It’s a pretty invasive spell,” Olivia said. “But I agree that it is necessary. I’d certainly want to know for certain.” She drew her wand and cast the first charm. “Looks like eleven hundred 30-six days since you last had sexual intercourse.” Hermione relaxed. “No potion consumption in the last ten days. There is a sleeping charm on Friday night but we expected that. And the last mood modification you experienced was a self-induced calming charm.” She raised an eyebrow.
Hermione sighed. “You met my co-workers, correct?”
Olivia laughed. “Merlin, I did wonder how you hadn’t cursed that old woman into next year. How often do you charm yourself?”
“Three or four times a day when she’s in the office,” Hermione exclaimed. “Eliza Perkins is the reincarnation of Elizabeth Báthory.” She raised an eyebrow when Olivia shot her a surprised look. “What?”
“It’s just that the Chief Warlock noted we should put her on a watch list in case she starts kidnapping young witches to bathe in their blood,” Olivia explained with a laugh. “Otto says she has a dark aura because she practices grey arts at the very least.”
“Doesn’t surprise me at all, I honestly thought she might be a Death Eater. I’ve secretly checked her for the Dark Mark three different times.”
Olivia smirked. “Otto checked her twice himself. She didn’t even notice which says a lot about how damaged her magical channels are. That speaks to grey ritual magic. A lot of those will numb you to magical fields within a few years of repeated use.” She started another set of diagnostics and paused when Hermione frowned. “Sorry, he’ll want a full set and if I skip anything he’ll just make us start over. The Chief Warlock is likely to even be more… militant about the reports we file regarding your case.”
Hermione nodded. “He’s always been a bit over protective of me. I’ll behave.” She sat still for a bit, watching the magic work. “Is he difficult to work for?”
Olivia paused briefly in her wand movements before continuing. “He’s intolerant of willful ignorance, laziness, and dishonesty. The Chief Warlock demands nothing from anyone under his command that he doesn’t demand of himself. He’s excessively, some might say even cruelly, honest professionally. He’s pragmatic, mostly even tempered, and reasonable. He’s temper is atrocious but the only time I’ve known him lose it was in… well in New Orleans. I’m sure you read about that.”
“The reports to the public were slim on details.”
“He did a favor for the American Council of Magic and agreed to check out a magical enclave in New Orleans. None of us, not even the ACM, thought he was walking into a conclave of dark wizards. He caught them trying to sacrifice in a six year old witch.” Olivia pursed her lips. “He destroyed them, magically exhausted himself, and carried her six miles to get help because he didn’t have enough magic to even apparate.” She paused again and focused on Hermione. “The girl’s name was Hermione. He’d met her earlier in the day in the village. Her parents named their daughter after Hermione Granger. They were so proud of her and so pleased to introduce her to the Boy-Who-Lived. He hates it, as you know, but he’s a lot more gracious about it when it comes to kids.”
Hermione took a deep breath. “That… her name wasn’t reported in the news.”
“No, the Chief Warlock made it clear that if her name was ever released to the press that whoever did it would face charges for violating the child’s privacy.” Olivia pulled a table over to her and started to make notes in a book. “This is your case book.”
“I’ve seen a few case books from the ICW,” Hermione admitted. “I never thought I’d see one with my name on it.”
“Sucks, I know.” Olivia inclined her head as she reviewed the results of her third charm. “I’m going to recommend mind healing. Your stress levels are off the charts and they have been for a while—for months.” She closed the case file and put aside the quill. “Were you aware that you were being stalked?”
“I’ve been uncomfortable at home for the last year,” Hermione admitted.
“Right, this is a conversation we need to have in front of the team,” Olivia picked up the book, ended her charm work with a swish of her wand. “I think you’re the kind of woman who is very private but your case is going to be turned over to the Protectorate for prosecution and judgment so the more we do now the less you have to interact with those assholes.”
“All right,” Hermione agreed. She stood up from the cot and followed Olivia Landy out into the open area of the trunk. Her gaze flicked briefly to Harry who was at a large table in the kitchen area going to over a large parchment. She figured it was probably the warding scheme.
“Sir, I’m ready to begin the interview,” Olivia said and Harry lifted his head.
His gaze narrowed briefly before he focused on Hermione. “Protocol dictates that there are be at least two of us for interview. If you’d like me to leave, I won’t be offended.”
“No, it’s fine if you stay,” Hermione murmured and took the chair that she was offered by the wizard who had come into the house.
“Lucas Pierce,” Olivia pointed at the man who sat down with her at the table. “And Otto Bauer is our warding expert.” She waved towards the other man Hermione had never met.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you all,” Hermione said as she pulled her wand and used a spell to put her hair up in a hasty bun.
“I do hope my file was interesting reading,” Lucas said coolly as he inspected her.
Hermione flushed. “I…”
“Relax,” Olivia said with a laugh. “We’d be disappointed in you if you hadn’t investigated all of us thoroughly. My former boss in Salem made an international floo call and gushed for twenty-five minutes because the Hermione Granger called him. It took me ten minutes to figure out you were investigating me. He has a crush on you by the way and he’s handsy. Never, ever accept an invitation to lecture at the academy in Salem. That randy old bastard won’t be able to help himself.”
“He’d hardly be the first very old wizard to grab my arse,” Hermione said. “It was worse after I left in Britain. Most wizards in the British Ministry were petrified of Harry.”
“Don’t think I don’t use him to cock block most of the wizards I encounter,” Olivia said. “It’s very handy. I use them all for it. It’s really great on a bad date—to fake an emergency. No wizard on this planet is going to suggest that I tell Harry Potter I can’t come into work.”
Harry sighed. “Is that why that jerk in Magical Accidents in the Italian Ministry keeps looking at me like I’m the devil?”
“We can just go kick his ass,” Lucas said. “You don’t have to make threats. I have immunity and means.” He pulled the case book to him and opened it. His shoulders relaxed minutely as he read the results of the medical scans. Then he drew his wand. “The date is December 5, 2010. This is the formal interview of Senior Solicitor of the World Court of Magic, Hermione Jane Granger regarding case number ICW-WMD2367932.” He set up the transcription quill and placed the book to his right and gave Olivia a nod.
“For the record, please state the full extent of your relationship with Robert Chadwick Hilliard. We need you to be as forthright as possible,” Olivia said plainly.
“Right.” Hermione pursed her lips briefly. “I met Robert Hilliard for the first time when I was eleven years old at Hogwarts. He was the fifth year prefect for Ravenclaw and he helped me learn how to use the magical catalog in the library. I don’t remember interacting with him directly after that to be honest. I spoke with him again during my fourth year at Yule that year so I was 15. He was attending the Yule Ball with a seventh year Ravenclaw but was no longer a student himself. There was nothing… out of the ordinary about our contact during that event. He commented on my appearance—told me I was beautiful but it wasn’t creepy or anything.”
“And after Hogwarts?”
“After I sat my NEWTs and accepted an apprenticeship in magical law with a witch working at the British Ministry of Magic, I came across Robert Hilliard in the Prosecutor’s Office. I was working as a Public Defender at the time. He asked me out but I declined. He was… rather offended actually that I’d turned him down and demanded to know the reason why. He knew I was single and found my rejection unacceptable.”
“Why did you reject him?” Olivia questioned.
“During my first year at Hogwarts, I encountered Robert Hilliard several times outside of the library—or least I saw him. I didn’t interact with him. He was dating another Ravenclaw at the time—I came upon them one evening coming out of a broom closet. She was crying and her blouse was torn. Neither of them saw me. He caught up with her and he…” Hermione took a deep breath. “He hit her. I was so shocked that I couldn’t do or say anything. She ran from him and he ran after her. It took me nearly ten minutes to recover and I immediately went and told my Head of House what I’d seen. The next day Ravenclaw was down a hundred points and Robert Hilliard was no longer a Prefect. I don’t know if he ever found it was me who told.”
“Who was the girl?” Olivia asked.
“Does that matter?”
“It’ll speak to his pattern if he stalked her after the rejection,” Olivia explained.
“Penelope Clearwater. She later started dating Percy Weasley. I don’t know if Robert tried to interfere in their relationship or not.” Hermione rubbed the back of her neck as she considered what to say next. “So when he asked me out while we worked at the Ministry. I said no. I offered him no explanation. I didn’t owe him one. But he was one of those wizards who felt he deserved an explanation. He grew quite irate when I didn’t respond the way he expected but he didn’t threaten me. He just did what men like him do.”
Olivia nodded but Lucas frowned.
“What do you mean?” Lucas questioned.
“He called me a bitch,” Hermione said. “Then he told a few of his co-workers that I was a frigid cunt and a dyke. He made several attempts to undermine me professionally but I was apprenticed with Matilda Worth and she quickly put a stop to that. I started dating Ron Weasley and Robert left me alone after that. Ron’s is a pureblood wizard and Robert is one of those wizards who takes such claims very seriously. He considered me the property of another pureblood wizard so he left me alone.”
“Robert Hilliard joined you at the World Court of Magic just fourteen months after you left Britain.”
“Yes, I was surprised to see him, honestly. British magicals, especially purebloods, are isolationists. They rarely leave their own magical communities much less their own country for long periods of time. He was quite put out to realize that despite his experience in magical law that he wasn’t granted a Senior Solicitor position immediately. Justice Bertrand is a half-blood himself and doesn’t buy into that whole blood superiority crap. Anything you get in his organization, you earn and Robert learned that the hard way.”
“Did he seek to see you privately after he came to Paris?” Olivia questioned.
“No, he barely spoke to me to be honest. When I started dating Adam Ryan, Robert had… a few things to say about that. He hated Adam, treated him very poorly during and after I dated him. They weren’t friends before I dated Adam but I would’ve said they were friendly. Professionally, Robert and I clashed a lot.”
“Why? I’ve reviewed your case load and you’ve only recently worked a case with him.”
“Justice Bertrand allows me to choose my cases and my second chair,” Hermione explained. “I’ve never picked Robert. In fact, I sat two trials by myself rather than have him as my second. It made Robert furious and he complained several times to Justice Bertrand about it. In fact, the case I agreed to work with Robert on was a concession of sorts. Justice Bertrand asked me to make an exception to my rule regarding Robert and I agreed.”
“At any time did you realize that you were being watched or stalked?”
“In January of this year, I found surveillance charms in my building—not my flat itself but the building. I checked to make sure there were no active investigations regarding a neighbor before going to Justice Bertrand to make sure I wasn’t under investigation. He assured me that I wasn’t but he checked with the ICW and Ministry in Paris, and the Protectorate. He even reached out the magical branch of Interpol. They all admitted to having files on me but no active case. I rearranged my wards and added one for the Dark Mark just in case and tried to dismiss it.”
“But other things happened,” Olivia surmised.
“Yes.” Hermione frowned. “I feel like an idiot.”
“We all get complacent,” Olivia said. “Get used to a routine; forget to look in dark corners. Just lay it out.”
“I had a busy month in March—four cases before the court and two grand juries. I was exhausted so I started using a laundry service. In April, the laundry service contacted me and told me that their shop had been broken into. My dirty laundry had been stolen.” She flushed. “The sick little prick.”
“And did you report this to your superiors at the World Court?”
“It was a matter for local law enforcement but I did file a report on the matter as I’m required to as an employee of the World Court. They never found out who stole my laundry. The service paid to replace all the items I lost and…” She closed her eyes. “Several of those things including all the underwear that was in the bag was in the cottage Robert trapped me in. Merlin, I can’t believe I didn’t notice until now.” She rubbed her face with both hands. “I don’t want to even know how many times he wanked with my knickers.”
“That’s creepy, huh?” Otto asked and flushed when Olivia and Hermione both looked at him, aghast. He shrugged and went back to his ward report.
“Anything else?” Lucas prodded.
“Little stuff,” Hermione said. “I received flowers on my birthday and at first I thought it was from someone else… but it turned out to be an anonymous card. My ex-boyfriend, Adam, had sent me a letter from Australia the first week of September. I thought he might have followed it up with birthday flowers. It was the sort of manipulative crap he would try. I threw the flowers away.”
“At what point did you give Robert Hilliard access to your flat?”
“We started working on the High Guard Coven case in November. I gave him limited access at that time. He complained once because he could only go as far as the sitting room and I had to grant him temporary access to my bathroom so he could use it. He said I was a paranoid child.”
“And your response?”
“I called him an over privileged coward. He and his whole family hid in Sweden during the war. It was no secret to anyone really. It was another reason I’d have never given him the time of day romantically.”
“I don’t believe he let that go,” Lucas said. “What did he say in return?”
“He left in a snit. That was a week ago. He shouted at me and said not everyone could be Harry Fucking Potter. It was the first time he’d mentioned Harry to me actually, ever, as far as I can remember. He brought him up in the letter he sent to me when I was in the cottage.”
“What letter?” Lucas asked with a frown.
“It’s on the kitchen table with the rest of the file I was building. I wrote down… everything I could think of regarding the people in my life and how they might have been involved in my kidnapping—even unwittingly. Robert knew things about me that he couldn’t have known without a lot of research. He bought me a perfume that I haven’t worn in years… well, it was Adam’s favorite and I stopped wearing it when I broke up with him. He bought my favorite tea—flavor and brand. I drink coffee at work and tea at home. He couldn’t have known that without getting it from someone. Probably Kimberly though I doubt she did it on purpose. He used other people to stalk me, you see. He preyed on their honesty and our working relationship with all of these people to get information about me. He only sent me my favorite foods. He probably, stupidly, thought that doing it that way would prevent anyone gathering evidence on his activities.”
“Tell me what you remember about the night you were kidnapped,” Olivia said.
“A friend invited me to the World Cup in Rome but I had to say no due to my case load,” Hermione explained. “I spent an hour on the floo with him while he complained, bitterly, about his second divorce which is in progress. He suggested I marry him after the case is settled and I told him that I wasn’t remotely interested in being the third Mrs. Viktor Krum. After I ended the call, I went to a café near my flat for dinner. I ate there and had a single glass of red wine with my meal. I came back to my flat, worked for a few hours and went to bed. I woke up very late Saturday afternoon in a cottage in the middle of nowhere. I had no contact with Robert Hilliard personally though yesterday a small trunk was portkeyed into the cottage with food, flowers, and a letter.”
* * * *
He’d sent his team back to Rome after they’d filed the last of the reports for the case. Hilliard had fallen all over himself to take a deal and avoid going before the Protectorate. Per ICW protocol, he’d been turned over to the British Ministry of Magic to be transferred to Azkaban. Fifteen years with Dementors seemed a little light as far as Harry was concerned considering the depth of Hilliard’s depravity but he’d kept his opinions to himself since his superiors tended to look at him funny when he offered sentence recommendations.
Hermione was opening the door before he even knocked. She threw herself at him and he caught her, hands settling on her hips. Harry backed her into the apartment and shut the door with a foot. He kissed her before he could help himself. She curled her hands into his hair and yielded with a soft, pleased moan that went straight to his prick.
He lifted his head and brushed her hair from her face as their gazes met. “I have a plan.”
She grinned. “You do?”
“Lay it on me,” Hermione ordered and grinned when he raised an eyebrow at her. “Sir.”
His eyes darkened. “Okay, wow, who knew that would trip my trigger?”
“Every single straight woman and gay man that works for you,” Hermione said without missing a beat. “Your plan?”
“Dating first. We’re going to date the hell out of each other. Then sex. We’re going to have fantastic, life altering sex. Then I’m going to buy a ridiculous villa in Rome on a beach with the money I inherited from Sirius. We’ll get married and make babies. And live happily fucking after.”
She stared at him in silence for a full minute then nodded slowly. “You’re right. That is a bloody brilliant plan.” She curled her fingers into his belt and lifted up on her toes so she could press a soft kiss to his mouth. “When does your portkey for Rome activate?”
“I only have about twenty minutes left,” Harry admitted. “But I couldn’t leave without seeing you. I can be back in about a week.” He touched her face. “Is that okay?”
“I waited eight years,” Hermione murmured. “A week? Yeah, I can wait a week. I’ll make reservations.” She pressed another kiss against his mouth. “I love you, Harry.”
“Still?” Harry asked, feeling relieved and grateful at the same time.
“Forever,” she promised.
Six Weeks Later
Justice Louis Bertrand was known the world over for his even hand, his dedication to justice, and his intolerance for bullshite. He was famous for trying Albus Dumbledore, posthumously, for crimes against magic and humanity. The evidence had been so damaging and so far reaching that the entire court process was put under a thousand year seal. In the end, Dumbledore had been stripped of his Order of Merlin and his portrait had been removed from Hogwarts by Minerva McGonagall. Se’d apparently taken it out into the courtyard and set it on fire.
So when he portkeyed into the British Ministry of Magic’s at the international travel point with Senior Solicitor Hermione Granger on his arm, the whole building sort of ground to a halt. They moved through the building in no obvious hurry at all for an appointment with the Director of Magical Law Enforcement that practically no one in the building knew about. Hermione looked at no one as Justice Bertrand led the way, in order to keep from venting her considerable temper on an innocent. They were immediately shown into the Director’s office and Hermione tried to smile for her old friend but failed miserably.
“Neville.” She accepted his hands in greeting and allowed him to escort her to a chair near the one Justice Bertrand had taken. After a few seconds, she forced herself to focus on Robert Hilliard and the entourage of people he had with him. “Well?”
An older man cleared his throat and folded his hands in front of him at the table. “Miss Granger, I realize my son’s actions towards you were untoward and unwelcome but I find the plea agreement he was forced to make in Paris completely out of line. Things were very… emotional at the time and I’m sure you’ve had time to calm down at this point. Surely you don’t believe he deserves to spend 15 years in Azkaban with Dementors.”
“If he would like to rescind his plea deal, the International Protectorate of Magic is prepared to hear the case,” Master Hiro Ito said from his place at the table. “Both the International Confederation of Wizards and the World Court of Magic has agreed that due to a conflict of interest that the Protectorate is the best organization to render justice in this matter. The evidence against your son is overwhelming, Mr. Hilliard, as you well know since you’ve spent the last six weeks doing your best to keep him from being transferred to Azkaban.”
“I’d like to hear from Miss Granger,” Anthony Hilliard responded evenly.
“I once authored a bill and presented it in the Wizengamot suggesting the use of Dementors at Azkaban be discontinued. I spent months designing a proper warding scheme that could be implemented to replace the Dementors as guards,” Hermione said. “You were one of many who vehemently opposed the removal of those foul creatures.” She paused and stared at him. “I see you’re beginning to regret that. To answer your question, yes I do believe Robert deserves to go to Azkaban for 15 years. What happens to him once inside that prison is absolutely no concern of mine.
“You said his behavior was untoward. Is that what you call it when a wizard stalks, kidnaps, and arranges to hold a witch hostage for the rest of her natural life? Is that what you call it when a wizard schemes and plots to rape a witch? Or is that just what you call it when the witch is Muggle-born?”
Anthony Hilliard flushed. “My son didn’t hurt you.”
“No, he just intruded on my home, kidnapped me and held me hostage in a cottage in the middle of Wales behind blood wards that were designed to feed on me. He used my own magic to hold me hostage, Mr. Hilliard. He trapped me like some animal and threw me in a cage to keep for his own amusement. Your son is a monster and for the record, yes his personal interest in me was entirely unwelcome. It always was.” She pulled off her gloves and took a deep breath. “Why am I here, exactly? I’d prefer you be blunt as you’ve wasted enough of Justice Bertrand’s time already.”
“I want you to drop the charges against my son and in return he will vow on his magic to never leave Britain again.”
Hermione frowned. “Are you really that ignorant of international law or are you under the impression that it doesn’t apply to your son because he’s a pure-blood?”
Bertrand sighed and stood. He pulled Hermione’s chair out gently as she moved to stand. “I filed the charges against your son, Mr. Hilliard, because he kidnapped an employee of the World Court of Magic. It is my duty to serve the Lady Magic and justice. To do so, I must surround myself with the brightest and best minds the magical world has to offer. Those that work for the World Court of Magic must be safe to pursue justice on my behalf. When someone commits a crime against an employee of the World Court—justice must be swift, transparent and fair. If I were lenient with your son, it would endanger the lives of all those that work for me. He can remain under the plea arrangement and serve his 15 year sentence in Azkaban or he can face the Protectorate. I will warn you—they consider him irredeemable and his actions a gross abuse of magic. He will not survive their tribunal.”
“Hermione,” Robert began. “Please… I made a mistake.”
She frowned at him. “You’re a deviant little git, Robert. I don’t have time for you.” She walked to the door ahead of Justice Bertrand as she had an errand to run before returning to Paris and opened the door. Hermione turned towards Robert and smiled then. “And by the way, it should interest you to know that the ICW uses the War Mages Division for fugitive apprehension. If you escape custody before you’re transferred to Azkaban, Harry will hunt you to the ends of the Earth.” She turned to Justice Bertrand. “Louis, I will be portkeying home after my errand.”
“Have fun dear,” Louis said with a wry grin.
“Thank you, sir.”
Hermione left the Director’s office and immediately went down the hall to the large bullpen area where most of the Aurors were housed. Ron’s old desk had a newbie Auror at it who looked at Hermione like she might not even be real. He’d stuttered through an explanation that Senior Auror Weasley was down the hall in his office. Ron’s door was open but that didn’t surprise her, he was the sort that liked noise and probably found comfort in the hustle and bustle of the bullpen spread out in front of his office.
He stood at the sight of her. “Hermione.”
She pulled the door shut behind her. “You should sit down, Ron, and for the record it would be my preference that you not speak at all. Unlike, Harry, I’m not interested in your excuses.” Hermione paused and Ron sat down. “The thing is that for weeks after Harry rescued me I was so furious with you that just thinking about you made me nearly lose control of my magic. You’re a corrupt, vicious, petty little bastard. You stole from me and Harry. Through your actions and inactions, you stole years from us. We could’ve been together this whole time. We could already have a baby or maybe even two. It broke my heart, you know, when Harry didn’t even write me to tell me we could still be friends. I thought he hated me.” She looked away from him. “I was your friend, Ron, more than anything else. I was loyal to you both. You turned on me in a heartbeat because you were so wrapped up in your own selfish wants that you didn’t even notice I was falling apart. This country, the situation, and… just everything. I was dying on the inside and you didn’t care because neither my happiness nor Harry’s was even remotely important to you. I think if I’d forced myself to stay with you—marry you—that I would’ve eventually killed myself just to escape.”
Hermione met his gaze then and found her former friend pale, shaken. “Harry pities you, you know. He thinks you’re broken—morally corrupt—because of that twisted bitch that raised you. Maybe that’s true but I don’t care. I hate you. I’ll hate you every day for the rest of my life. That might not be the healthiest choice I could make but I don’t care. I hate you and I wish you nothing but misery the rest of your natural life. I think you loved me—that once in a life time kind of love—and I’m glad. I’m glad because every time you see me in the paper with Harry and with the family I’m going to give him—you’re going to wish it was you. But it was never, ever going to be you, Ron. Because you were right—you know—no witch on this Earth would pick you over Harry Potter.” She turned and grabbed the door handle then turned one final time. “You know that pretty little flower pendant Lavender wears? The one she wore the day she married you?”
“Yes,” Ron said hoarsely.
“I sent it to her. Once she put it on, her magic bonded to it and it can never be removed.” Hermione smirked when his eyes went wide with horror.
“Will it hurt her?”
“Of course not,” Hermione said evenly. “I’m a good, honest witch, Ronald. I gave it to her to protect her. My final night in Britain—you hit me. I’ve never told anyone that, not even Harry. I don’t want him to go to Azkaban for your murder, you see. If you ever do Lavender harm, Ron, you’ll die in so much pain that it will drive you insane before you draw your last breath. That means—you’re going to be the best possible husband you can be to her for the rest of her life. You won’t cheat on her. You won’t emotionally or psychologically abuse her. And you won’t ever hit her. You will love, honor, and cherish her like a good husband should. If she gets tired of your arse, you’ll grant her a divorce with all the grace and civility you can muster. You’ll pay spousal and child support like a proper wizard if that happens. You’ll be a great, loving father. If you find some way to remove the charm from her, I’ll be notified. It’s dverger made you see and heavily warded. Then I will come here and I will kill you. I know a colony of giant spiders that would adore having you for a snack.” She opened the door and left without another word.
* * * *
Belt loose in his slacks, Harry pulled on a light blue button down shirt as he answered the door to hotel suite. Olivia made a face. “You’re not wearing that shirt, are you?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
She huffed dramatically, pushed past him and stalked towards the bedroom. He started to shut the door only to have Lucas appear out of thin air.
The American wizard pocket his portkey, raised one eyebrow at Harry. “That shirt is three years old, too tight across the shoulders, and I think you bought it in a Muggle store. It won’t do, sir.” He made off in the direction that Olivia had gone.
Harry waited a few seconds and wasn’t at all surprised when Otto dropped into place where Lucas had appeared. The German made a face.
“I know. The shirt is terrible.” Harry sighed and shrugged it off.
“The shirt? Who cares about the shirt? You’re wearing pleated trousers. No one wears pleats anymore. This is a nightmare. Olivia! Did you see these trousers?”
Harry followed Otto back into his bedroom and found Olivia and Lucas staring at the contents of his closet with their mission faces own. He’d seen Olivia less intense seconds before a pitched battle for her own life. “It’s just a date.”
“No, it’s not,” Lucas said with a sigh. “This is the sex date.”
“Sex date?” Harry asked with a frown. “Are you being serious, right now?”
“Of course he’s serious,” Olivia turned and frowned at him. “Unless you’ve deviated from the plan. Have you? Because if you’ve deviated from the carefully constructed date plan I made for you, sir, I’m going to be pissed. She’s the brightest witch of the age and she deserves to be romanced like a goddamn princess!”
Harry held up his hands in supplication. “No, I took all of your advice. The symphony in New York, the opera in Milan, a picnic and romantic broom ride in Ireland at dusk during a faery emergence where I did absolutely nothing dangerous on the broom, and last Saturday night—dinner in a private room in the most exclusive restaurant in magical Paris and dancing afterward. I very carefully without using the word no extracted myself from each date at the end and returned home. I haven’t picked up any women in bars in the meantime. There have been some passionate but respectful kisses to demonstrate that I want her but also that I’m willing to wait. I’ve sent flowers once a week to her office. We’ve exchanged a dozen letters—I took my time and answered them thoughtfully just as you suggested. I excel at following a plan.”
Olivia huffed and pulled out a jade green shirt. “Take off those atrocious slacks. Pleats have been out of style for five years. No respectable magical tailor would even sell them to you. What a nightmare! When’s the last time you went clothes shopping?”
“Hell, if I know. I wear uniforms most of the time.” Harry pulled his belt free and took off the trousers.
“Oh, boxer briefs, excellent choice.” She tossed a black pair of flat front slacks at him that he was certain she’d bought for him for a mission and placed the shirt on the bed. “Now, black waist coat and tie, and where is that lovely dark green open robe you wore when we were undercover in Chicago? The one with the black basilisk lining? You look dead sexy in it.”
Harry would’ve told her but she dove back into his closet. So he just sighed and put on the trousers. He really hoped Olivia Landy got married one day—then she’d have someone else to boss around and dress up like a doll.
* * * *
The sex date. Harry didn’t even know what to do with that. The truth was he’d barely dated in his life. He’d gone from being single to a full blown relationship with Ginny then he’d spent seven and a half years fucking around and avoiding commitment on a level so dedicated he was surprised that he hadn’t earned a Mastery in it. The weeks since his reconnecting with Hermione had been full of highs and lows. He had a lot of anger to process—at himself, Hermione, and Ron. Though he recognized that she deserved it least of all. She’d spent eight years drowning herself and work and he’d… well booze, work, and women had filled the void Hermione had left behind in his world. It had honestly been a terrible fit.
He loved his work—it satisfied the deep need for justice that had lingered in him since the day he learned that a dark wizard had murdered his parents. That was one thing Ron Weasley didn’t understand, Harry hadn’t left Britain looking for another war. He’d joined the ICW so he could make a bigger impact on injustice and in the fight against the dark elements that sought to ruin their world. He couldn’t make a life and have a family in a world where he ignored the pain and suffering of others. The British Ministry was entrenched in pure-blood policy and deeply influenced by the more militant isolationist elements than anyone could possibly know. Harry knew exactly why men like Ron Weasley were so confused by the idea that someone might want a bigger life. They were taught practically from birth to think small, learn as little as possible, and accept the rules handed down to them by the government.
The door to Hermione’s flat flew open and she stared at him pointedly. Her slender but curvy body was on display in a lovely white silk dress that clung to her breasts and hips. She leaned on her door and pursed her lips. “How long do you intend to stand out here in the hallway because if you’re going to be another ten minutes, I could curl my hair.”
He grinned at her. “I just got lost in thought after I portkeyed in. How’d things go in London with the DMLE?”
“Robert’s father tried to get me to drop the charges. He was surprised that I wasn’t the one that levied them.” She scrunched up her nose. “He’s quite stupid actually.” She held out a hand to in. “Come in. I want to talk to you about something.”
He stepped into the flat and she shut the door. He exhaled a little in surprise when she planted her hand on the center of his chest and backed him up against the door. “Hey.”
“You.” She frowned at him. “I adore all of these dates, Harry. Really. They’re lovely. The trip to New York was amazing and romantic. Ireland was fantastic even if I had to spend most of Sunday getting the faery dust out of my hair. I’m sure you have reservations set for some place that is amazing with great service and fantastic food.”
“I do,” he admitted with a laugh. “Is that a problem?”
“No, it’s not a problem.” She lifted her chin and smiled. “I saw that arsehole Ron today. I convinced him the wedding present I sent Lavender is cursed to kill him if he ever mistreats her in any way.”
Harry laughed. “Oh, Merlin, and I left my Pensieve in Rome.” He caught her hand and pulled it free from his chest. “Come here.” He tugged her close and settled one hand on her left hip while he kept her hand hostage. “You look gorgeous.” He frowned and slid his hand a little to confirm she wasn’t wearing any knickers. “Sweetheart, you forgot something.”
“No, I didn’t,” Hermione assured.
He released her hip and slid one large, calloused hand over her shoulder, fingers catching the thin strap of her dress. “It wouldn’t take much to have you naked and at my mercy.”
“I really hope you don’t expect me to be intimidated by that.” Her cheeks flushed. “I had food delivered for us.”
“I’m trying to do this the right way,” Harry murmured. “I’ve been reliably informed that you deserve it.” He trailed his hand down her bare back. “You’re the love of my life, you know, and I messed things up once.” He paused at the small of her back before sliding his fingers along the edge of her dress. “Remember when we danced in the tent?”
“Not kissing you that night is one of my biggest regrets. It would’ve changed everything.”
“It would have,” Hermione agreed. “Maybe for the better or you could’ve been so distracted by our relationship that… it could’ve been for the worse. We’ll never know and I think we should both stop dwelling on what might have been. I told Ron I hated him today. I meant it. I hate him for what he took from us—our friendship and perhaps the potential for more. He made us lose faith in each other and I can’t ever forgive that.”
“Let’s make a rule,” Harry murmured as he slid one hand over the swell of her arse. “Let’s not talk about that git for the rest of the night.” He pulled her in a little more and she rested fully on his chest. “In fact, let’s agree to never talk about him when we’re trying to get each other naked.”
She smirked. “So we won’t be talking about him for a long while then?”
“Could be decades before we can safely discuss him,” Harry agreed and brushed his mouth over hers in a soft kiss before he shifted her slightly and picked her up.
She swung her feet. “Going to make off with me into my own bedroom and have your way with me?”
Hermione laughed. “Is it?”
“I was told you deserve to be romanced like a goddamned princess so… yeah, this is romantic.” He carried her into the bedroom. She teetered briefly on the heels she was wearing when he put her down at the side of the bed. “I do hope you have comfort charms on these ridiculous shoes you’re wearing.”
“Of course,” she murmured and tilted her chin up as she curled her fingers into the front of his belt. “I hope you know I have high expectations.”
“I can’t even tell you how many times over the years I’ve seriously considered suing Witch Weekly for publishing porn about me,” Harry murmured against her jaw. He trailed soft kisses down her neck. “And for the record, less than half of those articles were even based on actual events. I’m not nearly the manwhore I’ve been painted to be.”
She laughed and carefully tugged his belt from his slacks. “Don’t ever give me a number—I’d seriously rather not know.”
“I’ve never wanted any woman the way I want you,” Harry said as he rubbed her bottom lip with his thumb. “So I really hope we’re here right now because you want me just as much and not because you think we should be.”
She prodded his robe off and he let the rather expensive material fall to the floor to pool around their feet. “I’ve never let social norms pressure me, Harry, you know that. Besides, I think the third date is the standard sex date these days. We’ve known each other for over a decade; I think that means that we could have had sex on the first date. But I don’t want sex.”
“What do you want?” Harry asked as she unbuttoned his waist coat.
“I want to make love,” Hermione murmured. “I’ve had sex, you see, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a man make love with me.”
He pulled the shirt Olivia had eventually made Otto purchase for him out of his slacks. How or why Olivia Landy had an emergency portkey for a retail clothing shop he’d never ask. Harry shrugged out of the shirt and waist coat at the same time and let the fall to the floor. Her fingers trailed over his chest, exploring and careful. Hermione took a shaky little breath.
“Most wizards don’t spend a lot of time working out.”
“Most wizards use their wand to get a glass of water from the kitchen because they’re so lazy,” Harry murmured and very carefully slid his fingers under the delicate shoulder strap of her dress. “You look gorgeous by the way. It reminds me of another dress you wore—the night I realized I’d never really gotten over you.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t notice,” Hermione murmured.
“I’d like to think no one noticed, I learned long ago to keep my emotions off my face,” Harry admitted as he slowly pulled the strap down her shoulder. “I feel like a sixteen year old lad.”
“You mean you’re nervous?”
“I bit, yeah. I mean… you’re my dream girl, you know.” He relaxed when she didn’t laugh.
Her eyes dampened with emotion and her face went soft with what looked like wonder. Hermione looked innocent in that moment—like she had before the war. He’d been blind to it at the time but now the knowledge that she’d loved him back changed every memory he had of her.
“You’re so sweet and earnest in your love,” Harry murmured. He trailed his fingers over her other shoulder and nudged the strap of her dress until it slid down her arm. The dress slipped down her body in a whisper of silk. It pooled around her feet. “I really resent myself right now.” He cupped one pink tipped breast and thumbed over her rapidly hardened nipple. “We could’ve been making proper use of a broom closet by our fifth year.”
Hermione laughed and unbuttoned his slacks. “Take off your shoes.”
He toed the shoes off and kicked them out of the way. “Get on the bed for me,” he suggested.
She crawled onto the bed without another word and offered him one foot. He obligingly unbuckled her shoe and dropped it on the floor. He slid one hand down her leg briefly all the way to the knee before silently asking for the other foot which she proffered with a little smile. He took off the other shoe and tossed it over his shoulder.
“Those are new.”
“Yeah,” Hermione agreed. “I’ve always wanted a pair of sexy red shoes.”
Harry unzipped his trousers and let them fall to the floor then worked his briefs over his half-hard cock and down his thighs. He paused to take off his socks then joined her on the bed. Her breath hitched as he crawled over her and settled between the spread of her thighs. She tensed slightly under him and he paused.
She flushed. “My practical knowledge might not be what you’re expecting.”
“We’ll be fine,” he murmured against her cheek. He pressed a soft kiss against her jaw then another on her mouth. “We always are when we’re together.”
Hermione relaxed, one leg shifting upward, snug against his thigh. “Yeah.”
She arched a little underneath him and shivered. Harry was all lean muscle and warm skin. His long, thick cock pressed against her pussy felt naughty and amazing all at once. Her breath caught in her chest as he pressed against her, she took the weight of him and moaned against his mouth as he dipped his tongue between her lips.
Harry lifted his head and slipped off of her to lie on his side. She turned with him, seeking his mouth and shivering under his hand as he slid it down her side to cup her hip. His touch was careful but in no way hesitant. Hermione wondered what he would’ve been like when they were young and innocent—would his fingers have trembled at the thought of touching her intimately? Would he have been unsure how to please her but determined to try? She pushed those thoughts aside, they’d lost a lot of years but regret would just make her bitter.
His kisses were intoxicating, his patience nothing short of shocking. Hermione pulled her mouth from his with a little frown.
Harry grinned at her. “Girl’s don’t normally frown when they’re bed with me.”
“No, according to Witch Weekly they scream your name a lot,” Hermione said a bit wide-eyed.
He caught her hand and turned her over on her back before she could say another word. Looming over her, he pinned her to the bed and rubbed the length of his prick along up her thigh. “They also say I’m a little rough, right? Sometimes mean, other times just demanding but always a little rough.”
Hermione felt her face heat with a blush she couldn’t control. “I… yeah.”
“You said you wanted to make love,” Harry murmured. He pulled her arms over her head and caught her wrists together in one hand.
“I’m just curious.”
“It’s easily your most endearing quality,” Harry said. “I can be that for you—I can be anything you want. Tonight we make love—tomorrow I can bend you over any surface that strikes my fancy and fuck you until you can’t speak.” Hermione went a little weak at the thought and it must have shown on her face because he smirked at her. He leaned down and brushed his mouth gently over hers before whispering, “I can own you or I could submit to your every single wish.”
She shuddered. “Harry.”
He laughed softly against her mouth as he released her wrists. “Oh, you like that?”
“The most powerful wizard on the planet submitting to my every sexual desire?” Hermione questioned. “It has a tiny bit of appeal.” She ran her fingers through his short hair, pleased to find it soft and pliable despite its styled appearance. “Are you this chatty with all of your lovers, Chief Warlock Potter?”
“I’ve never had a lover,” Harry murmured. “Just… women I fucked but then you’re really the only woman I’ve ever truly loved.”
She pulled him close, pressed her mouth to his and told her brain to take a hike. There was going to be no more serious talking nonsense until she was thoroughly shagged. Harry, seemingly on board with her unspoken plan, wrapped his arms around and kissed back. They got a little lost in those kisses, so she was a little overwhelmed when he wrenched his mouth from hers and slid down enough to take one rigid, aching nipple into his mouth. Hermione shuddered and groaned as Harry shifted them around, and pushed his big hand between her legs. Blunt fingers trailed over the smooth skin of her labia before dipping into the folds of her sex.
She was already embarrassingly wet, the scent of her own arousal in the air hard to ignore. Hermione gasped against his mouth as he dipped one thick finger into her hole. His teeth clenched on her nipple briefly and she arched up against his mouth greedily. Harry lifted his head and their gazes met as he pressed his finger deep into her. Her breath caught and she lifted her hips upward against the pleasure of being penetrated.
“Perfect,” Hermione admitted.
Harry stroked into her with two fingers then and she moaned softly, her eyes fluttering shut. “Yeah, perfect. I know it’s been a while since you’ve been with anyone. Let me know if we need to slow down.”
She huffed. “You read the results of my medical scan.”
“I had to sign off on the case report,” Harry reminded gently. He curled his fingers and her breath hitched. “But I tried to keep it as professional as possible.”
“Are you being professional right now?” Hermione asked with a little laugh.
“I take my job very seriously,” he murmured. “I give it my undivided attention and focus all of my magical power on the pursuit of justice.” He pushed his magic out and it drifted over his skin before brushing over her body.
“Merlin, that’s… yeah, fuck, Harry.”
“Wanna make a little magic with me?” Harry asked in a whisper against her jaw.
“Yes,” Hermione admitted, her voice breaking with pleasure and emotion.
He pulled his fingers from her and slipped over her. Her magic shimmered on her skin as he caught her mouth in a fierce kiss. They moved together as she spread her legs. Hermione slipped one hand between them and wrapped her hand around the hot length of his cock. Harry hissed in a breath and flexed his hips as she rubbed the head of his cock against her entrance.
Hermione took a ragged breath as he pushed into her with one deep stroke. She cried out as clutched at his hips, nails scoring his skin as he settled on her. He pressed soft kisses against her mouth and along her jaw as he started to move. “I love you.”
Harry exhaled sharply against her jaw. “I love you… more than I can even say.”
It was easy to get lost in the moment and in the sexual pleasure. Magic rushed between them—a little wild and rich with their emotions. Each drag of his cock inside her pulled her further and further away from herself and into a place she’d never been. It was more than sex, more than even love. Hermione shuddered as his magic settled in her—deeper and more pleasurable than anything she’d ever known. Her own magic rushed against his, welcoming him into the deepest reaches of her core as she shuddered through the most intense orgasm of her life.
“Oh, love,” Harry whispered against her mouth as he pushed in deep and came with a full body shudder. “Merlin.”
She took a deep breath and met his gaze. He was staring at her in shock. “You okay?”
He laughed softly. “Yeah, you?”
“Fantastic.” She stretched and dropped her legs from around his waist. “My letter to Witch Weekly…” He pinched her nipple and she laughed. “Just kidding.”
“You’re lucky I adore you,” Harry muttered darkly. He carefully pulled free of her body and rolled to his side. “I’d probably even eventually forgive if you did write them a letter.” He caught her hand and thread their fingers together.
“I have a question,” Hermione murmured.
She grinned. “When exactly in Olivia’s date plan is the proposal?”
Harry laughed. “I haven’t been given phase two, yet.” He leaned in and kissed her mouth gently. “But… I’m sure she has all in hand.” He grew serious. “I never gave Ginny a ring, you know.”
“I do know,” Hermione murmured.
“One day soon, I’d very much like to put my mother’s ring on your hand.”
“It was my favorite of them all,” Hermione admitted. “But I figure you know that.”
“My job is dangerous but I’ll keep you safe.”
“I’m always safe with you, Harry.”