Reading Time: 95 Minutes
Title: Blank Space
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: NC-17 (explicit sex and violence)
Warnings: Discussion of child abuse and neglect, violence, and minor character death
Author notes: No Brit-pick, magic cock AND yes I did name this fic after a Taylor Swift song.
Word Count: 60,764
It had been nearly a week since he’d taken Teddy into his home and put Andromeda Tonks in St. Mungo’s. Sober and lucid, it was proving difficult for the staff to justify keeping her in the facility and Harry knew that it was just the beginning of a very ugly situation if the woman wouldn’t see reason.
Narcissa glanced at him briefly as they were led into a small conference room. Harry figured that she was surprised to be included in the conversation.
Andromeda glared pointedly at Harry. “Where is my grandson? Why isn’t he with you? I told these people that you were to bring him to me because we’re going home today!”
“You can go anywhere you’d like,” Harry said mildly. He sat down in a chair at the head of the table and stared pointedly at the chair he wanted her to sit in. Magic shifted in the room and she sat down with a huff. “But Teddy isn’t going with you.”
“He’s my grandson!”
“He’s my godson and you abused him,” Harry snapped. “You hit him. You lied and emotionally abused him for years. You’re lucky not to be in Azkaban for child abuse. I’d have you locked up in a heartbeat if he hadn’t asked me not to. He loves you—despite your foul and dark behavior.”
“I haven’t abused him,” Andromeda exclaimed in shocked horror.
“As often as you were drunk, Andromeda, how can you possibly know that?” Harry demanded. “His mind healer paints a very ugly picture of his life with you. You drink from the moment you wake until you pass out. Most of your stipend from the Black Trust has been used to buy firewhiskey. Teddy hasn’t had new clothes in two years—practically nothing he had fit him properly. All the food in your house was stuff for sandwiches—something he could fix for himself. The only cleaning done in your house—he did!”
“But that can’t…that’s not…” Andromeda grew quiet. “That’s not how it is…I mean that’s not what I would…”
“Perhaps not what you’d do sober but that is the life my godson has lived for at least the last five years,” Harry said icily. “You lied to him repeatedly about me, about my actions during the war, and tried to convince him that I all but murdered his parents. He has nightmares that you kidnap him out of my house every night. You abused him for years because you’re a bitter, raging alcoholic.”
“I don’t believe you,” Andromeda said. “He’s my blood and I’m going to sue you for custody of him. I’m a pure-blood. You know I’ll have more standing in court than you. You can’t even keep a wife. A divorced half-blood wizard with a small child of his own? No one is going to think that’s the proper place for my grandson.”
“How do you expect to pay for that?” Harry asked with a raised eyebrow. “You’ve been living off my generosity for a decade, Andromeda, and practically every sickle you’ve been given was used to buy firewhiskey. There were no provisions for you in my godfather’s will. I inherited every single knut of the Black Trust and the title.” Her gaze dropped to the ring he wore on his hand. “Did it not cross your mind at all why Sirius never reversed your disownment?”
“He never had a chance,” Andromeda protested.
“He had the opportunity to write a will,” Harry reminded. “I assure you—he could’ve reinstated you to the Black family but he considered your lack of action in his defense in 1981 a betrayal. You left your patriarch to rot in jail for twelve years, Andromeda, without even a token effort to get him a trial. Were it not for Teddy, you’d have never seen a knut from the Trust.”
She glared at him. “Teddy will be returned to me or I’ll go to the papers. I’ll ruin you.”
“I promised Teddy he could stay with me and he will,” Harry said.
“I’ll ruin you!”
“I stood against the darkest wizard born in a thousand years when I was seventeen, Andromeda. You can’t possibly think you intimidate me. Tell the papers a single lie about me and I’ll cut your access to the Trust completely. If you stay at St. Mungo’s and receive treatment until the healer determines that you’re ready to live on your own again, you’ll continue to receive your monthly stipend. Once you leave the hospital, you can have supervised visits with Teddy at Malfoy Manor but if you act out during those visits, they will end. If Teddy doesn’t want to see you, the visits will stop. If you hurt him in word or deed again—I’ll press charges against you, despite his wishes, and you’ll die bitter and alone in Azkaban.”
He stood and stared at her shocked face. “Don’t think for a single second I’m not serious about this. Teddy asked me to adopt him last night in a blood ritual and I did so. He is now and forever shall he be Edward Remus Potter. He gave up his father’s name. That’s how much he fears you’ll find some way to take him away. He shakes with it, cries uncontrollably in his sleep when he dreams of you. You’ve terrorized your grandson, Andromeda. I don’t know that he’ll ever fully forgive you for it but you can be assured that I never will.”
* * * *
He found Ginny Weasley in his parlor with a full tea service when he arrived home. It was extremely irritating but he hadn’t barred her and Winky was an excellent hostess, even when she hated someone. Harry pulled off his gloves as he joined her at the table near the window. “Ginevra.”
“I wanted to congratulate you on accepting your title personally. You’ve been unavailable since the announcement.” Ginny picked up the pot and turned over the cup in front of him.
Harry put his hand on hers and lowered the pot to the table. He stared at her until she released the handle. “It’s never going to happen. I won’t have my sons raised by you.”
“Sons?” She questioned, eyes wide.
“I adopted Teddy, my godson, in a blood ritual last night. It will be announced in the next edition of the Prophet.” Harry watched her process that—first came horror then a truly outstanding amount of fury.
“You adopted the son of a werewolf?” Ginny demanded. “Are you out of your bleeding mind? Do you know what that will do to your reputation among pure-bloods?”
“I’d think that the number of them I’ve killed or imprisoned over the years would do more to undermine my social standing with those old self-righteous bigots than having the integrity to honor my responsibilities to a child I happen to love a great deal,” Harry returned evenly. “I’m not some kiss arse political hack, Ginevra, and I’m not for sale. That means that almost every single person who would have a problem with my adopting Teddy is already on my shite list. I’m a career law enforcement officer, I assure you that there are plenty of people here in Britain that will find a reason to hate me beyond my personal decisions soon enough.”
“You’ll never be Minister with that kind of attitude and this adoption is ridiculous,” she hissed and all but tossed her cup on the table.
“I’d thank you to be careful with my mother’s china,” Harry demanded lowly. “Winky.” The elf appeared immediately. “Please remove the tea service. Miss Weasley isn’t mature enough to be served on such refinery.”
Winky snapped her fingers and everything was replaced with a less decorative and practical set of pottery. “My apologies, Lord Potter.”
“It’s quite all right, Winky, you weren’t to know. She certainly wasn’t raised to be so rough with the possessions of others.” He rested back in his chair. “Would you make me a latte?”
“Of course.” Winky popped away.
“That certainly explains why she argued with me about waiting,” Ginny said with a frown. “You should treat her like a servant.”
“Don’t order me around, Ginevra, you are in no way entitled to tell me what to do. We aren’t even friends.” A plate of biscuits appeared first followed shortly by a steaming mug of coffee. “I’m not going to change my mind about a relationship with you.”
“You never did know what was best for you,” Ginny said snapped. “First you leave Britain with no thought to me or my family after we supported and sacrificed for you repeatedly during the war. Then you marry a creature and have a baby with her now this? This is too much, Harry. You need to break the adoption before it completely settles and give him back to his grandmother. You had no right to take him to begin with.”
Harry stared at her. “You’re a really terrible person. Were you like this before the diary or did Tom Riddle just corrupt you utterly as a child?” He inclined his head. “Did you know when I was younger…you used to make my scar hurt. Not a lot, mind you, but I kept a low grade headache around you all the time. I didn’t even make the connection to you until after the war. It’s the reason why I refused to renew my relationship with you, you see. You were magically tainted by Voldemort and it’s revolting. I can’t even stand the idea of touching you.”
She paled, dramatically. “That’s not true.”
“Of course it is,” Harry said tiredly. “And you know it. I complained to you all the time about having headaches when we were dating at Hogwarts. You took me to the infirmary repeatedly for potions but that only helped because I’d take a potion and go up to my dorm to sleep. As I said, it was only after the connection I had with Voldemort was severed that I realized how deeply uncomfortable I’ve been with you since your first year at Hogwarts.”
“But it doesn’t hurt now,” she said stubbornly.
“No, but I have two children whom you can’t stand the thought of. My son’s Veela, you heartless cunt, and you called his mother a creature.” He huffed and sat back with his coffee. “Get out of my house, Ginny, you won’t be allowed to return so don’t bother trying. I’m going to remove you from the access list this evening. I don’t want you around my boys at all.”
“You’re making a mistake. I’d make a proper wife and you’re in dire need of one.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Harry said crossly. She apparated with a huff and he turned his head slightly. “You’re not particularly stealthy, lad.”
Teddy came to the doorway, Jacob perched on a hip. He flushed. “Sorry.” He bit down on his lip and his hair went a startling shade of red. Jacob giggled and matched him which made Teddy smile. “I got him to change his nose earlier but it didn’t last long.”
“Your mum was fond of making hers look like a pig at the most interesting times. It was hard to be in a foul mood with her around.” He motioned to the chair Ginny had abandoned. “Come sit with me.”
Jacob held out his arms as soon as Teddy got close to the table so Harry took him. A glass of milk and more biscuits popped into place in front of the boy as soon as he got settled.
“I really didn’t mean to eavesdrop. Jacob noticed you were home. I think the wards told him which I know sounds crazy.”
“I’ve noticed too and I’ve checked the matrix. He shouldn’t be getting any sort of notification.” Harry cleared his throat. “Ginevra Weasley and I have a complicated and frankly unfortunate past. She harbors some idea that I should’ve married her after the war.”
“She sort of hates me,” Teddy said. “She called me a half-breed last year when I ran into her at the Weasley twins shop. George threw her out. It was quite a scene.” He broke a biscuit in half. “She doesn’t seem to like Jacob much either which I don’t get. He’s just a baby and awesome besides that. What could he have done to her?”
“He was born,” Harry murmured. “Her interest in me is…quite…”
“Mental?” Teddy asked and laughed when Harry sighed. “Well, it’s only going to get worse with the title, right? Witches will be lining up to take care of you and your two motherless children.”
“That is a genuine nightmare,” Harry said. “Okay, so, I have a very hostile relationship with Ginny and you heard me use language with her that I’d not frankly use with any other woman. I don’t want you to get the idea that it’s okay—to treat a witch that way. She just brings out the worst in me but I’m going to work on it.”
“If she reminds you of Voldemort, I’m surprised you can even be in the same room with her,” Teddy said wryly. “That crazy dude tried to kill you for seventeen years.”
“Dude?” Harry laughed. “You just called the darkest lord of our time a dude?”
“Crazy dude,” Teddy said with a nod.
“Dud!” Jacob said happily.
Harry laughed and pressed a kiss against Jacob’s hair.
“Oh, that’s better,” Teddy agreed. “The Dark Dud!”
Hermione entered the room just a few minutes later to find them all laughing. She stared at them for a moment, a little envy burning in her gut at the family Harry had made for himself. Teddy had come through the blood adoption without any problem though he’d been magically exhausted after the ritual so they’d been allowed to see his natural appearance. He’d taken on a lot of Harry’s features—including the hair and vivid green eyes. Currently, both Jacob and Teddy were sporting Slytherin green hair.
“Mine!” Jacob cried happily and wiggled down out of his father’s lap. He toddled across the space and he held up his arms.
She picked him up after putting her work bag down. “You get an O in walking, mister.”
Jacob smooched against her cheek with a giggle. “Mine.”
Hermione focused on the table and huffed. “You’re not letting him ruin his appetite for dinner, right?”
“He’s in a magical spike due to the adoption,” Harry pointed out. “Fortunately, I’m rich so I can afford to feed him.”
* * * *
“In the shower,” Harry called out. “He made such a mess with dinner I thought hosing us both off was the better option. Did Teddy go to sleep?”
“I read him a story and he was out before I even got to the good part,” Hermione said, half-amused and half-complaining. She stepped into the bathroom despite the fact that she heard the shower running and stopped dead. “Oh.” She turned around abruptly at the appearance of a very naked Harry Potter in the large glass shower stall.
He laughed. “Love, neither one of us have anything you haven’t already seen. I think I’ve got him properly cleaned. Grab a towel and take him.” He opened the door as she snagged a towel from the counter and turned around. “He’s exhausted. Teddy pretty much played with him all day.”
“I’m glad they’re getting along,” Hermione said, resolutely not looking downward as she took possession of a yawning and half-asleep Jacob. “I’ll just get him dressed and put him down then.”
Harry smirked. “You can come back and wash my back if you like.”
He was washing his hair when his magic shifted slightly letting him know that she’d reentered the bathroom. When the door of the stall clicked open, he stepped into the spray and rinsed the soap out of his hair. Harry barely refrained from shuddering as small, familiar hands drifted over his back. It had been over a year since he’d had a woman in his arms so when he turned, he didn’t hesitate to pull Hermione close and cover her mouth with his own. She groaned into his kiss and wrapped her arms around his neck.
They’d been lovers for three weeks during the war and had gotten lost in the pleasure of it while Ron had been gone. He regretted agreeing to set it aside when their friend had returned but he’d wanted her happiness more than his own. And honestly, he’d figured he was going to die and the three weeks she’d given him would just have to be enough. There had been a few moments along the way where he’d been tempted to tell Ron the truth—to hurt him for all the times that red head had betrayed him. In the end, he hadn’t had to say a word to Ron because Hermione had offered to die with Harry. In that moment, she’d told them both everything they needed to know about how she felt about them both. She’d have rather died with Harry than lived with Ron.
He cupped her arse as he lifted her off the floor and she snaked her slim legs around his waist immediately. “You put up a privacy charm, right?” He asked against her jaw as she settled in his arms.
“Yeah, of course,” Hermione agreed. Her breath hitched and she arched her back as he lowered his head and sucked strongly at one pert breast. “Fuck.”
“I certainly would like to,” Harry admitted as he lifted his head. “I could take you to bed…spread you out, eat your hot little cunt until you come then fuck you through the mattress.”
Her eyes went wide and glazed over a little. “I love it when you eat me out.”
“I’m in awe of your planning skills, my Lord.” She smirked when his hands tightened on her. “I give myself over to your care.”
He used one hand to turn the shower off, exited the stall and took his best friend to bed. A small part of him figured he was just going to fuck this up but he’d never stopped wanting her—not ever and he hated every single man who’d had her after him. Harry spread her out on the bed, her skin damp from the shower and her eyes bright with arousal.
“I really hope you don’t have any plans for tomorrow.”
“Well, it’s Saturday and I’ve been ordered not to work on weekends outside of emergencies,” she murmured and spread her legs for him. “Eat my pussy, Harry.”
He hummed under his breath as he ran his hands down her thighs. “I think I missed you bossing me around most of all.”
Harry pressed a kiss against her inner thigh then slid downward with a little groan. She spread her legs wider and he licked her from hole to clit. Her fingers clenched in his hair as he licked and sucked her clit. He sank two fingers into her clinching hole and fucked her open with them as he continued to work her clit with his tongue. She came gratifyingly fast, her hips rising up to meet his mouth with a little cry. He moved over her and paused.
“Do I need to do a charm?”
“I have a long term potion,” Hermione murmured. She sucked in a breath as he rubbed the head of his cock against her hole and sank into her without another word. “Thank you.”
Harry laughed a little as he settled weight on her. “For what?”
“Trusting me,” Hermione murmured. She ran her fingers through his hair. “I’ve missed you so much, Harry.” He kissed her mouth softly and started to move. Her breath caught and she exhaled with a greedy little moan with each rolling thrust of his hips. “Merlin, that’s so good.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed as she met each thrust of his body eagerly.
They’d learned together—awkward and graceless in a tent in a cold forest but they’d quickly found the way. They’d both been eager, needy people and in those three weeks they’d glutted themselves on the pleasure of their physical union. Harry couldn’t regret the circumstances that led him to his son but he was thrilled to be back in her arms. She was hot and tight on his cock, her nails scored his back as she urged him to fuck her harder, faster. Harry gave in to it, gave in to her and fucked her as roughly as he felt she could handle.
“You’re such a sweet fuck,” Harry murmured. “So hot and eager to have your tight little pussy full of cock.”
“Yes, Harry, yes,” Hermione whispered fiercely. “I…”
He kissed her mouth to avoid either of them saying something they might regret. She clung to him, shuddering underneath him as she clenched on his cock and her magic drifted soft and beautiful on her skin. It always did when she was really enjoying herself sexually. He’d never known another witch who did it—it was fascinating. He rolled his hips, pressed it deep and she trembled with pleasure. Magic streamed off of her and fell on them like rain.
“God, Harry.” Her fingers dug into his shoulders as she surged under him and came with a rush of magic.
“I’ve missed you, too,” he said against her jaw as he let himself release into her warm and welcoming body.
He pressed another kiss to her mouth and reluctantly slipped from her. Harry shifted to his side and propped his head up on his hand as she stretched. “You’re gorgeous, you know. You must work pretty hard to keep a ring off your hand.”
She laughed and turned to face him. “Come on, Harry, how many wizards do you know in Britain that would tolerate a witch with career goals? A job, perhaps, but I knew when I started pursuing my Mastery in Spell Craft that I was pretty much sealing my fate on that issue.”
“So you don’t want kids?” Harry questioned.
Her eyes softened and she sighed. “I’d adore them. I want…it all but it hasn’t felt possible or even like a reasonable goal in a very long time.”
“Since you left Ron?”
“Oh, he’d have never tolerated me having a more successful career than him. He gets mad every single time I get a promotion or a commendation and we aren’t even together. I can say with all honesty that I really dodged a bullet on that whole thing.” She bit down on her lip. “Can we have a grown up conversation here?”
“Weren’t we already?” Harry asked amused. He brushed her hair from her forehead. “Are you dating anyone? Because I’m completely not interested in being the other man.”
She flushed. “Not anyone exclusively but I have a date for brunch on Sunday with Roger Davies. Do you want me to cancel it?”
“The question is, do you want to cancel it?” Harry asked. “I plan to take the boys to the park on Sunday—a Muggle one, I think. I promised Teddy I’d buy him a football and teach him about the game. We’re going to a match next month.”
“My dad loves football. He’d adore…” Her gaze narrowed. “He invited you didn’t he?”
Harry laughed. “Yeah, I arranged for really good seats through the dverger but it was his idea.”
“Are you going to have a bromance with my daddy?” Hermione asked.
“If I’m going to romance a Granger, I’d much rather it be you,” he admitted and watched her flush. “But your dad is a very close second.”
She laughed and huffed. “Harry.”
“I want Teddy and Jacob to have experiences outside of the magical world and your dad is pretty great. Jacob adores him and I trust him so yeah, I wouldn’t mind being friends with him but not if it’s going to make you uncomfortable.”
“I won’t be uncomfortable. Merlin, you know, Daddy hated Ron while we were dating.”
“Your dad values a lot of things that Ron is not capable of—like loyalty.” He watched her process that, saw the protest come and go unsaid. “He’ll always put himself first. I pity Lavender.”
“When she got pregnant,” Hermione started and sighed. “I was so jealous and it felt stupid and crazy. I don’t want him and I have to wonder if I ever did, really. I thought he needed me and that I could change him into something I could work with.”
Harry laughed abruptly at that and dropped onto his back. “Sweetheart, you spent eight years trying to get him to be a better person before we even left Hogwarts. How could you think it would be any better once he didn’t have to answer to his parents?” He glanced at her and she was frowning. “It’s nothing to do with you, you know. He’s just…full to the brim with pure-blood entitlement. Your accomplishments piss him off because he thinks he should get that sort of recognition and praise for showing up. When he came over here to bitch about Neville getting the promotion to Head Auror…he actually claimed that their caseloads were comparable. I didn’t bother to correct him because I realized he really, truly thought that. Neville handled about forty more cases last year than Ron did and his closure rate is 70% higher.”
Hermione scrunched up her nose in distaste. “He actually thought he was qualified to be Head Auror? He doesn’t even have his mastery in Magical Law, Harry. Doesn’t he know that’s a requirement?”
“I guess not and I didn’t bring it up either because I figured he knew and decided it shouldn’t matter because he was a pure-blood or he never bothered to look up the qualifications for the position and I wasn’t about to get into that argument.” He started to say more but his wards shifted. He rolled out of his bed, summoned his wand in one fluid motion. “Someone just crossed the intent wards in the garden.”
She left the bed and grabbed her jeans. “Your intent wards aren’t lethal?”
“No, I can’t take that kind of risk with Teddy and Jacob in this house. There isn’t enough room outside for a proper set of defenses and the old ward work is a mess. Kids get bent if the sun shines in their face at the wrong moment and intent wards can’t tell the difference between petulant temper tantrum and murderous harm because our magic reacts the exact same in both instances.” He pulled on the trousers he’d discarded from earlier.
She pulled on his t-shirt and grabbed her wand as she shoved her feet into a pair of trainers. “I’ll get Jacob and take him to Teddy’s room. You have extra security wards on both of their rooms, right?”
“Yes, I’ll have to seal you in.” He broke her privacy ward as he opened the door and they moved quickly down the hall. He wasn’t at all surprised to find Jacob standing up in his crib with an annoyed look on his face. “His magical signature is a near replica of mine,” Harry revealed. “I think that’s why the wards ping him. I haven’t had time to adjust them to stop it and I worry that it might upset his balance if I did. He’s used to getting feedback from the property about the people in the house.”
“Right. I’ll research it,” Hermione said and picked the baby up. Harry prodded her down the hall and opened Teddy’s door. The boy was sprawled across his bed like a star fish, a magical night light glowing gently in the corner of the room.
“Lad,” Harry said and Teddy shifted and woke up with a little huff. The boy sat up and as Hermione settled in a chair with Jacob. “We have intruder. Stay here with Hermione.”
“Yes, sir.” Teddy said. He left the bed and put on a pair of shoes.
Harry pulled the door shut, ran his fingers along a chain of runes on the doorframe and sealed his family inside. He’d taken a very valuable lesson from his parent’s death. Every single room in his house had fortification spells he could activate to protect his children. Even Voldemort would have a difficult and eventually lethal experience if he tried to break the runic seal.
The intruder wards activated which meant the person who had breached his garden had entered the house through the sun room. It was a weakness in the security of the house he could do nothing about without major reconstruction. Glass didn’t hold wards or spells the way stone would and the windows in the old Black family manor were regular glass instead of dverger-made. Someone was using the fact that he had children against him because they had to know he’d never use lethal intent wards in the garden where his sons played.
He slipped down the stairs and leaned against the wall as Ginny Weasley left the sun room. He caught her by the arm and pushed her roughly against the wall, furious. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
She huffed and struggled against his hold. “Harry. I…I thought we could talk…I mean…you were upset earlier but I figured you’d calmed down by now.”
“You couldn’t be more wrong,” Harry snapped. “You broke into my house, you thoughtless little girl, and scared my children.”
She ran her hand down his stomach. “I don’t remember you being this fit. You look good.”
Harry broke away from her in disgust. “If it was your intention to seduce me, Ginevra, I have news for you—I bedded a Veela for years. You don’t stand a chance of taking her place.”
Ginny glared at him. “Yes, I’m sure your little creature was fascinating.”
“Get the fuck out of my house,” Harry snapped. “I told you earlier you weren’t welcome to return and I meant it.”
“You didn’t set your wards to repel me,” she said with a smirk.
“You were warned repeatedly by the wards that you weren’t welcome,” Harry said evenly. “Were I a less responsible or vigilant parent, my intent wards would be lethal and you’d be dead.” She paled and crossed her arms over her chest. “How many times, exactly, do I have to tell you no before you get it through your head that I want nothing to do with you?”
“We’re meant to be, Harry. I don’t know why you won’t see reason. All I’ve ever wanted was to make you happy. You go out of your way to make your life difficult! You should’ve stayed in Britain and married me! You never should’ve had a baby with that woman. You adopted the son of a werewolf, for fuck’s sake. What is your problem?”
“What is yours?” Harry asked curiously then paused. “Oh, you don’t even care if I want you, do you? I guess I can be really thankful that Poppy Pomfrey gave me a flushing drought once a quarter after fifth year to prevent me from being potioned into a relationship. It certainly would, however, explain our brief and completely horrifying six week relationship.”
“What?” Ginny demanded. “Horrifying?”
“Completely,” Harry said. “You look like my mother. I nearly put myself into therapy after I realized. I’m just glad, that despite what you might have told others, I never actually slept with you.” He huffed, grabbed her arm, and dragged her to the front door of his house. “Do not return, Ginevra, if you trespass on my property again I’ll have you charged. We’ll start with trespassing and work our way towards stalking.” He pushed her more roughly than he’d planned out the door as soon it was open. “I will be speaking to your parents about this nonsense!” He slammed the door, engaged the runic seal on it and went to the sun porch to fix the glass she’d vanished to get in. “Winky.”
The elf appeared. “I not like your rules.”
He grinned and squatted down to her level. “What did we promise each other when we bonded?”
She huffed. “Family first.”
“That means you protect your children and I protect mine before we do anything else. I’d have called you if I needed you and Hermione was here for the boys.”
Winky nodded. “All right. This old house not suitable for our families, Master Harry.”
“No, you’re right. It’s not. I need more land to set proper wards and the address has already been published in the Prophet. In the morning, please visit Sharprock and let him know I want to look at properties that are for sale.”
She huffed. “Can we have proper manor?” She poked him. “You be the Earl of Blackmoor.”
Harry laughed. “Yes, a proper manor is fine.”
“I wish you’d brought the boys,” Molly said as she bustled around the kitchen. “It’s such a beautiful day.”
“Considering the circumstances, I felt it best to leave them at home.” He stirred his tea. “Ginevra is a problem and I’m not sure what to do about it so I’m here to speak with you both.”
Arthur sighed. “What has she done?”
“Yesterday afternoon, I came home to find her in my house taking tea like she owned the place. You can imagine my surprise when she proceeded to berate me about my blood adoption of Teddy and how it would taint my political and social worth. She said it was bad enough that Jacob was a half-breed and she called his mother a creature. Ginny insisted that break I the adoption before it fully settled.” He paused when Molly huffed in fury. “Molly?”
“I don’t…” Molly sighed. “No, I do know exactly how I went wrong with her. She’s spoiled and uncharitable. She’s made the wrong kind of friends—banked on your name and your past relationship in order to make wealthy and socially affluent friends. The last wizard she dated was…she thought it was funny that he…” Molly flushed. “I can’t even say it.”
“I suppose he thought it quite a coup to bang the Boy-Who-Lived’s one true love,” Harry said bluntly and shrugged when Molly huffed. “Right?”
“Right,” Molly agreed and blushed. “It’s terrible, Harry. I assume something else happened?”
“She broke into my house last night and scared my children. Her intent was to seduce me I suppose. I visited several potion shops on the alley this morning before coming over. She bought a fertility potion two days ago.” He put a parchment on the table in front of Arthur and said nothing while the older man opened it. “Considering her attempt to seduce me last night and the evidence of her buying a fertility potion—I could have her investigated for conspiracy to commit line theft.”
“Yes, I see,” Arthur said and put the parchment down. “I take it that you have a request from me?”
“Obviously, I don’t wish to make things difficult for your family which is I’m here. I came home to Britain to make a life for Jacob. When I adopted Teddy, it was something I’d wanted to do for many years. I never should’ve allowed the situation with Andromeda to go on as it did. She abused him emotionally and in the week before I took him from her hit him several times. I deeply regret leaving Britain for his sake if nothing else. I allowed everyone to convince me that he was better off with her and she spent the better part of the last seven years in a bottle.”
“If we’d known,” Arthur murmured. “I would’ve taken him in, Harry.”
“I believe that,” Harry agreed. “She managed to keep it a secret from her sister. The people at St. Mungo’s told me that she was addicted to both alcohol and sober up potions. She switched between them regularly to appear normal.”
“She allowed her grief to control her,” Molly murmured. “I had a time after my brothers died and before Ron was born when I thought I might drown in it. Fortunately, Arthur was here to make sure that I didn’t see potions or something worse as a solution. Will she stay in St. Mungo’s?”
“She’s threatened to take me to court,” Harry said. “Teddy asked for the blood adoption because he feared she’d take him away. He has nightmares. I think his Bogart would probably be his own grandmother and that is frankly unforgiveable. But we aren’t here to talk about my children. I only bring him up because I need to provide both of my sons with a stable, secure, and loving home. In no way do I see Ginny being a part of that. Moreover, her intrusion into our home last night was stressful for them both. Jacob cried for hours afterward.”
“Molly, go get her.”
Molly stood up and left the kitchen without a word.
Arthur cleared his throat. “Bill, lad, stop lurking in the doorway.”
Bill sighed and entered the kitchen from the living room. “Sorry, I came through the floo and didn’t realize what was going on until…well, I figured you might need me to so I stuck around.” He took a seat at the table beside his father and picked up the parchment when it was placed in front of him. He read it with a frown. “There was a time when I thought my sister incredibly naïve but I think that must have been her game for years before I caught on.”
Harry would’ve responded by Molly returned with a sleep ruffled Ginny and he forced himself to relax. He was still quite furious over his intrusion into his home and for interrupting his time with Hermione. The blasted woman had darted off home as soon as he’d settled both boys back down. He had no clue if she was going to keep her date with Roger Davies and it was rather irritating.
“What’s going on?” Ginny asked after her pinning her hair up with a disgruntled glare towards her mother.
“Lord Potter is here to discuss you and your behavior,” Arthur said. “You broke into his house last night?”
She shrugged. “If he’d wanted to really keep me out, he would’ve.”
“You know Grimmauld Place is full of security problems due to the decaying Fidelius and you exploited that, Ginevra. Harry shouldn’t have to throw up a punitive set of wards to keep you out of his bloody house!” Bill snapped and glared at her when she huffed.
“Then there is this,” Arthur said. “You bought a fertility potion?” He waved the parchment.
“How did you get that?” Ginny demanded then glared openly at Harry. “You violated my privacy.”
“I’m the Director of the DMLE, Ginevra, it took me a half-hour to get a full reporting of your activities on Diagon Alley for the last month. People fell all over themselves to tell me. In fact, the potion shop owner you bought the potion from found me before I even got to his shop to provide me with a list of potions you’ve bought over the last year. I didn’t even have to ask for it.” Harry exhaled sharply. “It’s…infuriating that we’ve come to this, actually. I left Britain a full year before I intended to rid myself of this situation and your obsession. Shacklebolt suggested I have you arrested for stalking. I cut off contact with a great many people I cared about to avoid any and all discussion of you.”
Ginny flushed and her eyes brightened with tears.
“I don’t care if you cry,” Harry said. “You might sway others with your little games but I’m done playing, Ginevra. Jacob nearly made himself sick last night because of you. He barely ate breakfast and you are to blame for that. If you knew me at all, you’d understand exactly how furious I am with you. You certainly wouldn’t be sitting there acting like the victim in all of this. The only reason I didn’t send a pair of aurors over here to arrest you this morning after I found out about the fertility potion is that I love and respect your parents a great deal. I’d not want to see your father damaged by such a scandal. Do you have any idea how serious a charge of line theft is when it concerns an Ancient and Noble House?”
“I don’t honestly care if I upset your little beasts. You have no business claiming either one of them—your own blood status is dubious at best because your father married below his station. His parents probably rolled over in their graves when you were born—the Potters were a pure-blood family until you came along. If you’d done the proper thing and married me, I could’ve helped restore honor and dignity to your family.”
“Honor and dignity?” Harry said. “Merlin, Ginevra, don’t go there.”
“Someone has to!” Ginny snapped. “You married a creature!”
“Watch your mouth,” Bill growled.
Ginny frowned at him. “It hardly mattered who you married, Bill, you’re tainted—practically a werewolf yourself. Though, honestly, you could’ve spared us all the indignity of your reproducing. Victoire is bad enough but at least she’ll marry one day and be someone else’s problem but you had a son and he’ll carry our name like he has a right to it. It’s disgusting and the stain on our family honor will last for generations. At least Ron and Percy managed to marry decently though I worried about Ron for a while. Thank Merlin Hermione dumped him—I was getting ready to curse or potion her. Can you imagine having to put up with that bitch on a regular basis?”
Harry cleared his throat in the wake of her tirade because her brother and parents were shocked speechless. “I think she needs a mind healer.”
“No, she doesn’t,” Arthur said quietly. “None of my children can lie when they sit at this table, Harry. It’s a family magic protocol that my own mother created to ensure our family would stay honest and in the Light during the first war. This is just what she honestly thinks. Tell me Ginevra, did you intend on blackmailing Harry over the child you were going to have or perhaps a forced marriage was on your agenda.”
“Marriage, of course. He needs a legitimate heir.”
“Are you sure she doesn’t need a mind healer?” Harry asked. “Because she sounds insane.”
“What did you plan for the children he already has?” Arthur asked carefully. “Both Jacob and Teddy would’ve been in line to inherit before any child you birthed.”
She glared. “I’m a pure-blood witch, any child I have with Harry will have supremacy over those two brats.”
The most concerning thing about that sentence, Harry thought, was that she appeared to be under the impression that a relationship was still going to happen between them. “Right. This has gone on long enough.” He stood and pulled his wand and pressed the tip to his sternum. “I, Harry James Potter, the Earl of Blackmoor do solemnly swear on my life and magic that I will never, under any circumstances take the witch known as Ginevra Molly of the House of Weasley as my wife, my lover, or consort. So mote it be.” He put away his wand in the shocked silence that followed and watched Ginny pale. She burst into tears—gut wrenching sobs that were just as disconcerting as her previous behavior. “Arthur, I’ll leave you to handle the rest of this. And I wasn’t kidding about a mind healer. Something is wrong with her.”
* * * *
“So this Roger Davies bloke Hermione is having brunch with,” Ryan began as he dropped down on the bench beside Harry. “I don’t know much about him.”
“Hmmm, Head Boy at Hogwarts. He was already an auror by the time the war broke out being a few years ahead of us at school. He went underground during the war, fought for the Light, and smuggled hundreds of Muggle-born and half-blood kids out of Britain.” Harry made a face. “I can’t say he’s a bad bloke at all, actually. He’s never married but doesn’t have a reputation for womanizing. He works as a prosecutor these days, earned his Mastery in Magical Law in night school while working as an auror and transferred departments. His work as auror was average—I suppose. He wasn’t aggressive about the job, closed cases at a reasonable level and wasn’t known for using his position to intimidate people which is something of a problem among the ranks. I’m working on that at present.” Harry’s gaze drifted to the boys. Teddy was holding Jacob’s hands and trying to get the toddler to kick the football he’d bought them.
“You made an honorable choice there,” Ryan said. “Not one many would make—finding a woman who’ll take on two step-children won’t be easy.”
Harry frowned. “I…I wouldn’t marry again just to give them a mother. While I figure two parents are better than one, I owe it to myself to fall in love again and honestly I certainly couldn’t love a woman that would resent either one of them.”
“Good, good,” Ryan said with a nod. “So, you’d let this Roger bloke date your daughter?”
“Hell no,” Harry said immediately. “I’d never let any arsehole date my daughter. I could only hope and pray she’d turn out to be a lesbian if I were to one day be blessed with a daughter. Men are terrible.”
Ryan laughed. “Yes, yes, we are.” He hummed under his breath. “Jacob’s hair is blue.”
Harry grinned. “No one will notice who shouldn’t. I have a charm on him and Teddy both tailored to keep their appearance normal to Muggles. You’re technically a squib which is why you can see magic. Teddy’s control isn’t perfect so it was necessary. His emotions dictate his appearance a lot.”
Jacob came to them then and waved his hands at Ryan with a yawn. The older man picked him up and Jacob huffed as he laid his head on the man’s chest.
“This one is probably ready for a bottle,” Ryan said and patted Jacob’s back.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll go show Teddy the stuff I promised?”
“Yeah, we’re good,” Ryan said and accepted the bottle when Harry pulled it from the bag. Jacob made a soft pleased sound and snatched it the moment it was in reach.
* * * *
Hermione paused in the entry way of the small park just two blocks from her parent’s house. Her mother had told her that Harry had brought the boys over to play in the park and that her father had gone along to play, too. Harry was engaged with a pack of little boys, Teddy amongst them, playing a football game. Her father was on a bench a bit from the action with Jacob. The baby was obviously asleep on her father’s chest. She took a deep breath and after a second of indecision started down the path to her Dad. He looked away from the game as she sat down beside him.
“Have fun?” Ryan asked casually.
“I…it was fine,” Hermione murmured. She’d honestly wished she’d cancelled the date and Roger had quickly caught onto that fact. He hadn’t asked why but she figured it was obvious that Harry had totally disrupted her routine and her life.
“Mine,” Jacob said sleepily and reached for her with a happy little sound. She took him and tucked his face against her neck with a sigh.
“You know that I’m one hundred percent in your corner, right?” Ryan asked.
She looked at him startled. “Yes, Daddy, I’ve always known that. Everyone said I should just charm you and mum during the war—without telling you. They didn’t think you’d understand but I knew I could trust you both to take my side and support me. Why would you ask that?”
“I just…” Ryan sighed. “Don’t play games with Harry, Hermione. The man has two kids to think about and he’s fresh out of a very painful divorce. He trusts you so much and you could destroy him.”
She blushed furiously. “Daddy.”
“I know you,” Ryan said. “I know you better than you think and you treat men like toys. I’d know—I was honestly no different with women until I met your mother. She blames me for your utter lack of interest in a permanent relationship by the way. Though neither one of us were happy when you were considering marrying Ron Weasley—we were at least pleased that you were interested in commitment.” He glanced at Jacob who had relaxed against his daughter. “More than the hurt you could cause Harry—you could break his son’s heart. Teddy might be old enough to understand how adult relationships work but Jacob isn’t.”
She cleared her throat and blinked back tears. “I…I’d never want to do that.”
“I know, darling, I really do but you could. Harry trusts you because you grew up together. Don’t betray that trust in word or deed.”
“I would never…”
“You let Ron Weasley interfere in your friendship so much with Harry that he didn’t even know if he was welcome in your life. He blames himself for some of that but you and I both know you let that situation get out of hand. You should’ve realized what that little shite was up to and put a stop to it. Instead, you lost five years with the man I assume is the love of your life. He married another woman, had a child with her.” He glanced towards her and found his daughter ashen faced, her fingers clenching in Jacob’s jumper. “Oh, sweetheart, I told you—I know you.” He looked towards Jacob. “You can hardly stand to hold your Cousin Brenda’s children and you avoided the Weasleys for three solid months after little Henri was born. You cried yourself sick when it was announced in the Prophet that Lavender Weasley was pregnant and spent a week in your old room. At first, I thought it was because you wanted her place but then I realized you were just…mourning something you thought you were never going to have.”
She blinked back tears. “Daddy.” She looked away from him and focused on Harry who’d been joined by several men and more little boys. “He doesn’t…Harry has no idea. Please don’t tell him.”
“I’d never betray your confidence that way, darling. Just be careful with you and him. And be extra careful with his children.”
“He’s a good person,” Hermione said. “Good and strong—the best man I know besides you. It’s hard not to just reach out for him at every single opportunity. He’s never denied me anything.” She flushed. “We were lovers during the war you know.”
“I didn’t,” Ryan said roughly and sighed. “Christ, do I even have to guess how that went?”
“I…Ron thought he was in love with me and I assumed Harry wanted Ginny. When Ron came back…I told Harry we should pretend it never happened. I regret it so much but I thought it would hurt less that way. We’ve never talked about it but Harry didn’t go back to Ginny after the war. In fact, he went out of his way to avoid her until she forced him to make a choice. He left Britain rather than even have a pretense of a relationship with her. She broke into his house Friday night. He was furious—I’ve not seen him that angry since the war. Jacob was so upset that Harry had to ward his crib to keep his magic contained.”
“Why?” Ryan demanded. “Why did you…try to make Ron Weasley happy? Honestly, Hermione, why did you give him your time and attention when he deserved it least of all?”
“I…” Hermione blushed. “I’m not exactly a catch, Daddy. I’m too independent, too smart, and my career choices make most wizards run for the hills. I thought I could manage Ron and still do what I wanted but I was wrong.” She huffed. “Did you know there are laws on the books that give pure-blood wizards the legal authority to prevent their wives from working? Since I can’t imagine giving up magic and living as a Muggle…Muggle men are completely out of the question.”
Ryan made a face. “You’re ridiculous and no man that would subjugate a woman like that is even worth your time. Do you think Harry’s like that?”
“Merlin, no, his wife was a world-famous prosecutor and he lobbied before the ICW for international laws protecting a witch’s right to seek a divorce without permission of her husband or father. He succeeded though a lot of men in Britain were furious.”
She looked up as Teddy waved at her. She waved back at him and sighed when several of the men with Harry waved, too. “Merlin, if one more married man asks me out I’m going to end up in jail for Muggle baiting.”
“Married wizards don’t hit on you?” Ryan asked amused. “You’re beautiful.”
“Most witches require magical vows, Daddy. A wizard can’t cheat on his wife.” She smiled when Harry crossed the path and dropped down on the bench beside her. “Having fun?”
“Yeah, he’s settling in well.” He eyed her. “You look great.” Then he made a face. “How was Roger?”
“Fine.” Jacob woke and reached out for his father with a little huffing sound.
Harry took him and ran his fingers through the baby’s dark hair. “I worried that Teddy would be the one with jealousy issues but it turned out a bit different.”
“He’s used to being the center of your attention—he’ll adjust,” Ryan said. “He obviously likes Teddy.”
“This morning when he woke up he called out for Teddy instead of me,” Harry admitted. “So he pretty much likes to be the center of everyone’s attention.” He checked his watch. “We should get some tea—the healer wants Teddy to eat on a schedule, including appropriate snacks and tea. Andromeda just let him eat whatever and whenever. Since she barely kept real food in the house, he has some nutritional issues.”
Bill Weasley was lingering on his front step when they arrived home. Harry sighed. “You could’ve come in, Bill. I’m sure Winky invited you.”
“Yes, but I figured you’d had enough uninvited Weasleys in your house this week,” Bill stood and took a step back so Harry could open the door. “Hey, Hermione. You look lovely.”
“Thanks Bill,” Hermione slipped in ahead of everyone since she had Jacob, who had fallen asleep. “I’ll just put him down, Harry.”
“Thanks, did you want anything for tea?”
“No, I’m good.” Hermione started up the stairs. “Teddy? How about you shower and change your clothes before tea? You’re all sweaty.”
Teddy made a face. “Okay.” He followed her after a long look in Bill’s direction.
Harry inclined his head towards a hall. “My office can be warded for privacy.” Bill followed and said nothing until the door was closed and a seal was applied. “I take it you’re here on family business.”
Bill threw himself on a sofa and slouched there looking utterly defeated. “Harry…my sister is as dark as any bloody Death Eater I ever fought in the war. She believes herself superior because of her blood, considers marrying you her right, and your vow has made her so furious that I fear for your life. I especially fear for your children.”
“I’ll kill her if she presents herself as a threat to my boys,” Harry said quietly. “I hope you know I’m serious.”
“Oh, I know you’re serious and I’d do no different. A father’s duty is…overwhelming sometimes. I’m here because I don’t think you can spend another night in this house, Harry. She knows the weaknesses in your defenses and would exploit them like an enemy. You should consider her your enemy. We had her examined by a mind healer against her will. My father had to invoke family magic to make her submit to the exam and she’s perfectly sane. She’s just a dark bitch. Merlin, I…I don’t think I could let her ever hold my son again after some of the shite she’s said in the last two days. She’s always lived at home despite the fact that she has her own money and a successful career. My dad threw her out of the Burrow—she’s not welcome to return under any circumstances. The twins haven’t allowed her in their store since the incident last year with Teddy.”
“Do you know the full story on that incident?”
“Just that Fred caught Ginny calling Teddy a half-breed and he threw her out of the shop. She made some excuse to my parents about being under stress and Teddy behaving badly. They bought it at the time.”
“Right.” Harry frowned. “He mentioned it in passing but I don’t think I got the whole story. Let’s ask him.”
It was nearly 30 minutes before Hermione brought both boys back down for tea in the salon. Winky had the table ready so they all sat and Harry prepared a small plate with sandwiches and a glass of milk for Teddy while Hermione tried to coax Jacob into taking a biscuit. Eventually she gave up and gave him a bottle of juice.
“Teddy,” Harry said as he settle back in his seat with his tea. “Tell me about your interactions with Ginevra Weasley.”
Teddy bit down on his bottom lip and flushed. “She doesn’t like me much.”
“I know,” Harry assured. “Just tell me, lad, you won’t get in trouble.”
“The first time I got a letter from you…” Teddy paused. “I was actually on Diagon Alley. I knew Mavis the moment I saw her—everyone had seen pictures of her in the Daily Prophet when it was announced you’d bonded with a phoenix. Ginny waited until Mavis left and she tried to take the letter from me. When I refused to part with it—she drew her wand on me and Mr. Blotts berated her right there in the middle of the Alley. She was furious and obviously embarrassed. Mr. Blotts took me into his shop and let me read the letter in his office. Then he gave me parchment so I could respond. Mavis never delivered messages around my grandmother so I figured she might not know about the letters so I always sent my responses from Flourish and Blotts at first. It’s my favorite store on the Alley.”
“Your grandmother knew,” Harry corrected. “She wasn’t happy but she knew.”
Teddy nodded. “I found out later. She told me I had to respond promptly…or you’d cut off our access to the Black Trust.”
Harry’s mouth dropped open. “What?”
Teddy shrugged. “You’re the villain in her personal tragedy, you know. It’s like she totally forgets that her own sister murdered my mother. At any rate, I always wrote two letters—after that. One she read and approved of then another at Flourish and Blotts. We didn’t have an owl so she always made me take the letter to the Owl Office to send it. She really didn’t care when I came home so I had plenty of time on the Alley to write a better letter.”
“Was that the only time Ginny tried to take a letter from you?”
“Yes, but when she realized that I was allowed to send you letters when apparently every other person in Britain was rejected by your mail ward, she tried to demand that I send you a letter she wrote. When I refused she…” Teddy bit down on his lip. “She smacked me. Mr. Blotts was so furious he kicked her out of his shop. It got around the Alley pretty quickly that she’d hit me because Fred came over to make sure I was okay and didn’t need a healing potion. It didn’t even hurt really—she hits like a pygmy puff.”
“Merlin, lad, I am so sorry,” Bill said quietly and pushed aside his tea. “Fred never mentioned it to me or Dad.”
“I asked him not to,” Teddy admitted. “She already hated me enough—I didn’t want to get her in trouble with the head of her family. About a week after that, I was in Wheezys because they had new batch of pygmy puffs. I helped them sort the last two batches for book money. I’m pretty good at puff wrangling in turns out. Anyway, Ginny saw me in there and tried to throw me out of the shop. She said that I was a half-breed had no right to be in her brother’s respectable business.” He flushed and averted his gaze.
“What?” Harry prodded.
“I told her to kiss my…bum,” Teddy admitted in a rush. “But I didn’t use that word—I used the curse word and George thought it was really funny. Fred was too mad to laugh. He jerked her up by the arm and shoved her right out of the shop into the street. He told her to never come back. People were really, really shocked. I mean you’ve got to demonstrate some felony level wankerhood to get banned from Wheezys.”
“Felony level wankerhood,” Harry repeated and waved the kid off when he started to apologize. “Oh, no, lad—that’s perfect.”
“So,” Hermione began, “what did you tell her when she asked you to send a letter for her?”
Teddy’s eyes went wide and exhaled. “I told her that I wasn’t going to send her deranged fan mail to my godfather and that she should leave him alone because he was married.”
“I wonder what it said,” Hermione mused.
Teddy cut his gaze at her. “Just a bunch of stuff about fate and true love. She also promised to forgive him if he’d divorce that woman he’d married and come back to Britain. It was quite…mental. Mr. Blotts lectured me for opening it. Then we burned it.”
“Right,” Harry frowned and pointed towards the plate. “Eat, lad.” He sat back in his chair. “Winky.”
The elf appeared with an arm full of parchments. “I threw mean Wheezy girl off property twice so far, Master Harry. Old Kreacher be wanting to set her on fire next time she comes.” She dropped the documents on the table in front of him. “Sharprock send us these. We need a new house now.”
“Pack us up—we won’t stay here tonight,” Harry said with a sigh. He sorted the parchments with a frown. The last thing he wanted was to uproot Teddy so soon but he really didn’t have a choice. Fortunately, packing magically was extremely easy to do.
He opened the first packet, set aside the deed he could sign to finalize an immediate purchase and reviewed the specifications on the house. “Teddy…thoughts on a pool?”
“I can’t swim but I can learn,” Teddy said cheerfully. “Can we live in an all-magical village? That would be fun.”
He set aside the three houses that were in Muggle areas and another in Godric’s Hollow. He couldn’t live there and wouldn’t force himself to for any reason that he could think of. The very idea of allowing his children to live in the place where he’d almost died was a special kind of horror. There was an estate for sale in Devon which he had to admit was appealing. The magical village of Devon was well hidden had been for nearly five hundred years. He reviewed the house details before expanding the rest of the packet to review the pictures.
He viewed the ward report with a frown, found he didn’t understand much of it as it wasn’t his field and passed it to Bill. The man spread it out in front of him and pulled a quill out of his robe as he read. “The ward stone matrix is very good—what’s the providence on the house?”
Harry rummaged through the papers and laughed a little. “Ah, it began as the ancestral seat the most Noble House of Potter actually.”
“I didn’t know there was a Potter title,” Hermione said.
“A non-magical one,” Harry admitted. “I claimed it as a matter of duty but it has no bearing in the magical world so it’s never been reported as far as I know to the public. In fact, I was the first Potter to claim the earldom in several hundred years and only because the Queen made it clear she’d be extremely insulted if I did not.” He cleared his throat. “At any rate, the manor house changed hands half a dozen times before it was bought by the Cournenay family—the magical branch. The last of which died six months ago. The executor of the estate is in the middle of liquidating assets for charity donation.”
“The ward boundaries are clean, would be easy to manage. You could put this under war wards if necessary without any risk to the kids which I know is a concern. Victoire regularly trips my hostility notifications. The first time she did it—I was at work and I ran out of the bank so fast half my co-workers were convinced I was going to set myself on fire. They had quite a laugh at my expense when I admitted the issue.”
Harry nodded. “Jacob was already hitting the wards on my flat in Rome. They responded to his unhappiness by locking down like I had an armed and very dangerous intruder. I had a co-worker whose teenager was knocked unconscious by the property intent wards because she pitched a fit. Hormones have a great deal of impact on children’s magic I’m told. I don’t look forward to it.”
“It’s one reason why my parents stopped warding seriously until the war—with seven of us at home and the amount of magical changes that were occurring on a regular basis it just didn’t make sense. Dad said the year the twins learned to walk his ward notification parchment grew eighteen feet in a single day so he started adjusting.”
“I bet they could do that today,” Hermione said.
Bill grinned. “Yes, I suppose they could. They practically get strip searched every time they come in the bank. If they didn’t make so much money, the dverger would probably refuse to see them.”
* * * *
Hours later, Hermione found herself standing on a balcony in a posh hotel in London. She felt more than heard him as Harry slipped up behind her. His hands slid down her arms, curled around the railing, effectively caging her in. “Something on your mind, Lord Potter?”
Harry brushed a soft beguiling kiss against the side of her neck, just behind her ear and she shuddered. “I was your dirty little secret once,” he murmured. “And when you told me it was best if we forgot what had happened between us—I agreed because I didn’t even think I was going to survive the war.” He paused when her breath caught. “I’ve lost a lot of people in my relatively short life so in this you’re going to have to forgive me.”
“Forgive you what?” Hermione questioned in confusion.
“You don’t honestly think I left my infant son in the hands of a man who would be essentially helpless against one of our kind without a listening charm in place, do you?” He snaked one arm around her waist when she stiffened and started to push against him. “How fucking dare you, Hermione?”
“Do you have any goddamned clue what it did to me when you told Ron Bloody Weasley you’d marry him?” Harry hissed against the shell of her ear. “I honestly believed you’d chosen that idiot over me. You broke my heart, you foolish little chit and if I had an ounce of self-preservation in me I’d throw you at the nearest mind healer and tell you not to come back until you had your shite together.”
She made herself relax against him. He’d never hurt her and she knew that. “I don’t know…I was just trying to make everyone happy.”
“Everyone but you,” Harry said lowly. “And why did you keep it up when I made it clear I wasn’t going to go along with that whole thing?”
“You stopped…touching me, you rarely spoke to me and I…I think Ron had a lot to do with that looking back on it. He was very invested in keeping us separated.”
“I stopped touching you and allowing your hugs because it was the only honorable choice I had. You were with someone else Hermione and there were times, low and certainly dark times, when I considered killing Ron. That’s what you wrought in me—I was so jealous and pissed all the time that I thought it would consume me. Maybe he knew. He certainly went out of his way to let me know when he started fucking you.”
She flinched. “If it makes you feel any better he’s a terrible shag.”
Harry laughed abruptly.
“No, I mean that. It was…frankly just as boring as trying to have a conversation with him that doesn’t involve food, chess, or Quidditch. And you’re easily three full inches longer.”
“None of this is helping your case,” Harry murmured against her hair. “Since apparently you like boring sex and little dicks enough to almost marry that selfish, entitled git.” He turned her abruptly, one hand sliding into her hair. She didn’t flinch when his fingers curled into a fist. “You’re not fucking that arsehole, Roger Davies, right?”
“The only arsehole I’m currently sleeping with is you.”
Harry pulled her back from the railing, turned them abruptly and prodded her roughly against the wall next to the pair of French doors that led back into the suite. His hand cushioned her head as she came to rest against the wall, fingers still clenched in her hair. “You piss me off.”
“Well, you aren’t exactly thrilling me right now,” Hermione said dryly.
“Do you want me to thrill you?” Harry asked against her jaw. He released her hair and let his hands slide down to her hips.
“That’s pretty arrogant,” Hermione whispered and groaned when he scraped his teeth along the side of her neck. “You think your prick is thrilling?”
Harry laughed and hitched up her. She wrapped her legs around his waist immediately. “I think I can do a few thrilling things with it.” He slid his hands up her dress and cupped her arse. “Did you put this little dress on for Roger?”
“Jealous?” Hermione questioned.
“I should to burn this dress,” Harry murmured. He shifted his hands, hooked his thumbs into the sides of her knickers and tore the material without another word. He let the silk drop on the floor and her thighs tightened around him. “Or maybe I’ll make sure you can never wear it again without thinking about my cock buried in your cunt.”
Hermione wrapped one hand around Harry’s shoulder and pushed the other between their bodies. “Merlin, you have a filthy mouth.” She worked his belt open, unbuttoned his trousers, and eagerly slid in her hand into his pants. “You’re so hard.”
“That is your fault.” Harry gripped her arse. “Stop teasing me.”
She slipped his cock free from his boxers and rubbed the head through her slick labia several times before guiding him to her entrance. Harry pressed into her without a single word and Hermione shuddered. “Harry.”
“God, you’re so tight,” Harry ground out through clenched teeth as he rolled his hips and pressed deep into her. “You ruined me, you know. Giving me this when I was just a boy and so foolishly in love. No one ever came close to you. I should spank your arse.”
“I’d fucking love that,” Hermione admitted. “I love your big, strong hands on me. Harder, Harry. Fuck. Just…fuck.” She arched in his arms and tightened her legs around him. “Please.”
“Hold on sweetheart,” Harry murmured. “You know I’ll get you there.”
“Yes,” Hermione agreed as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “I’m yours, Harry.”
“Are you?” He asked. “What a pretty little thing to say.”
“I mean it,” Hermione said fiercely. “Make me come, please.”
Her nails scraped over his scalp as she fisted both hands against the back of his head, failing to find purchase in his short hair as he increased his pace until it was just short of brutal. She groaned and begged for more under her breath with every punishing thrust until she was crying and clenching down on him with a bone rattling shudder while her magic shimmered on her skin.
“That’s my girl,” Harry whispered against her jaw. He ground against her as he came. “You’d better count your lucky stars I cast a privacy ward over this balcony or we’d probably be in next issue of Witch Weekly.”
“Gosh, we’d have easily made the centerfold,” Hermione said with a grin.
* * * *
Sunlight was pushing through the half closed curtains when Harry woke. Hermione was curled up next to him, her head on his chest like they’d spent a decade sleeping together. He ran a hand down the slim column of her back and took a deep breath. She shifted as she woke and lifted her head only to rest her chin on him so she could meet his gaze.
“I can’t regret leaving.”
“No,” Hermione murmured. She frowned but it was brief. “I’d not to want to change a single thing if it meant there’d be no Jacob. I love him so much, Harry. I don’t know how that happened.”
“Me either—I mean.” Harry took a deep breath. “When he was born, I was so instantly besotted that I didn’t even notice they’d removed Miranda from the room until we’d finished giving him a bath and dressed. I’ve never loved anyone the way I love him. I used to resent my parents, you know. I didn’t understand what it meant to be a father until the healer put him in my hands. I realized then exactly why my parents hadn’t hesitated to make a stand and why mother sacrificed herself for me. I’d lay down a die just so that Jacob could live an hour more.” He trailed her fingers through her hair. “But I love you—I think I always have. I don’t remember a day when I didn’t.”
“Can we talk about your ex-wife?”
Harry stiffened but forced himself to relax. “She wasn’t a replacement for you. I loved her. I still do love her but I don’t like her much these days. It’s hard to like someone who would be so dismissive and uninterested in the child she birthed. She didn’t even want to look at him and I, God, I resented her like crazy the day he was born. I didn’t even return to the house we shared after that. I had Winky pack up my stuff and the things I’d bought for the baby. I didn’t see her again until we met at a private healer’s office to see our marriage bond dissolved which was just a few hours after the divorce finalized.”
“Have you seen her since?”
“I had lunch with her the day before I left Rome to let her know I was returning to Britain. I offered her a picture of Jacob and she refused to even look at it. She told me she couldn’t stand the thought of him because he’d destroyed our marriage.”
Hermione sighed. “Oh, Harry.”
“I hope one day she’ll recognize that our marriage was destroyed because of what she did and it had nothing to do with Jacob. I was very honest about my desire to have children and I should’ve realized that her reluctance was more than that. She shouldn’t have lied to me about what she wanted out of life. She should’ve been honest about the pregnancies.”
Hermione sat up abruptly. “Pregnancies? As in more than one?”
Harry sighed and pulled her back down into his arms. “At least one other and she used a potion to end it. She refused to say if there was another in between our first year of marriage and when I found out she was pregnant with Jacob. We fought pretty much every single time we were in the same room together. And when I told her that I wanted to avoid arguing with her because of the stress it was having on her, she said I didn’t care about her and that my only real concern was the baby. I honestly couldn’t deny it. Anytime I asked how a healer’s appointment went, she’d tell me that the fetus and incubator were fine.”
“Harry, I’m so sorry for you both.”
“I felt very guilty for asking her to continue the pregnancy but I didn’t force it on her, Hermione. I told her plainly that our marriage was over whether or not she had the baby. I offered her money to compensate for lost work and she accepted it. She signed the custody agreement before the divorce papers.” He trailed his fingers through her hair. “Can I say I was relieved when he looked nothing like her?”
“Yeah, you can tell me anything,” Hermione murmured and pressed a kiss against his shoulder.
“I always thought so,” Harry agreed. “At least until I realized I was in love with you and you were wearing the engagement ring I helped Ron pick out.”
“He gave it to Lavender,” Hermione whispered. “I mean, he had it transfigured by a jeweler into a new arrangement but it’s the same ring.”
“Does she realize?”
“No, she didn’t return to Britain until about six months after Ron and I separated. I just hope no one else ever realizes and tells her. She already resents me quite enough.”
“Ron said she was jealous.”
“Perhaps but I don’t know that it has anything to do with Ron,” Hermione flushed and took a deep breath. “Lavender resents being at home, you see, and after they got married she lost her job at the Ministry because Ron wouldn’t sign off on it. He said he preferred if she didn’t work. I think the baby is a consolation prize.”
“That’s…” Harry huffed. “Terrible but I’m honestly not surprised. Ron’s always put his pride and comfort above everyone else’s. Some pure-bloods consider it quite disgraceful if their wife works.”
“Fleur hasn’t worked since Victoire was born,” Hermione said with a frown. “She said she wouldn’t consider going back to work until Victoire went to Hogwarts but now there is Henri.”
“I think that has more to do with her childcare options,” Harry said dryly. “Fleur and Molly aren’t the best of friends, you realize.”
“Ah, right,” Hermione nodded. “No, I love Molly but I wouldn’t want her to be a major influence on any child I have. What if they turn out like Ron?”
“Or Ginny?” Harry questioned. “Molly taught them to believe they were entitled to everything. I’m not saying she’s a blood purist but she’s always put a lot of stock in her family and their position in the magical world.”
“A Light pure-blood family,” Hermione said and huffed. “Right. I’ve heard her say it a thousand times but never really considered what she truly meant about it.”
“Her brothers were heroes who died fighting in the first blood war. Her entire family fought with the Boy-Who-Lived,” Harry said. “Her daughter is a famous Quidditch player. Her baby boy is an auror. Her oldest is an internationally renowned curse breaker. Percy has won several international research prizes. The twins make money hand over fist. Look what Molly accomplished.”
“That is terrible,” Hermione said aghast.
“I know and you know it isn’t like she’s dark or anything but she’s prideful. This situation with Ginny is both mortifying and distressing for her. But honestly I think the shame of her daughter being a spectacle will last much longer than anything else.”
“You’re right. Appearances are super important to Molly.”
“She’s not alone in that—appearances are everything to a great many people in the magical world. I guess we should talk about that a bit ourselves.”
“Why?” Hermione questioned.
“Technically, love, you’re banging your boss.”
Hermione snorted then burst out laughing. “Actually, I’m pretty sure my boss banged me.”
“Hmmm, I certainly enjoyed it.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and started to move her onto her back when there was a knock on the door. He sighed. “Now that is something to get used to.”
“Dad,” Teddy called. “Jacob needs changed and number two is about my limit on Awesome Big Brotherhood.”
Hermione bit down on her lip to hold in the laugh.
But Harry frowned and sat up. “Winky?” He rolled from the bed when the elf didn’t appear immediately. “I rarely change him, Mi. Winky has charms on him that alerts her when he’s in need and always beats me to it.”
Hermione crawled out of the bed and pulled her dress over her head as Harry found his jeans and jerked them on. She opened the door and found Teddy and Jacob. “Hey, kiddo. I’ll take him.”
Teddy handed him over with relief. “Thank Merlin for that. I called Winky but she didn’t answer.”
Hermione glanced towards Harry who was pulling on a dragon hide waistcoat over a shirt he hadn’t bothered to button properly. “Harry, the twins?”
Harry took a deep breath and magic shifted over his skin. “Jinx, Vex!” Two elflings appeared immediately. He knelt in front of them. “Hey boys, where’s your mum?” He touched one’s shoulder as they both started to cry. “Jinx, where is your mum exactly.”
“Kitchen at old house,” Jinx said. “She hurt. She not move. We not know where you were, Master Harry.”
“I am so sorry,” Harry murmured. “I’m going to go get your mum, right now. You stay here with Hermione. Okay?”
“Yes, Master Harry.”
Harry stood and took a deep calming breath. “Mi, lock down the suite. Do not communicate with anyone. Don’t let anyone, not even housekeeping, in.”
He disappeared in a flush of magic without making a sound.
* * * *
Grimmauld Place looked like a war zone. He found Winky and Kreacher in the kitchen. Kreacher was half on top of Winky and had taken a blasting curse in the back. Harry moved him out of the way gently, his heart heavy then he checked Winky’s pulse. It was sluggish but she appeared uninjured. He pulled his wand and performed a medical diagnostic charm to confirm that she’d been stunned, which for a house elf was dangerous all on its own. Harry ended the charm and went to the fireplace which he lit with a flick of his wand.
He unlocked the floo and tossed a fistful of emergency floo powder in it then backed up. It took 30 seconds for three aurors to be ejected. Eli Finn stopped to stand in front of him but the other two moved away, one performing a scan and the other heading towards the two elves.
“I’ve had an intrusion. One of my house elves has been killed and the other stunned. The property destruction is pretty extensive but nearly all of my possessions have already been moved to a new home I purchased.”
Terry Boot took a deep breath and carefully levitated Kreacher’s body onto a stretcher he’d pulled from his cloak pocket. “He’s dead. Looks like he took a blasting curse for the female. I’ve activated the emergency call for St. Mungo’s.”
“Are the wards telling you anything, sir?” Finn questioned.
“Yes,” Harry said and sat down as the floo ejected Neville Longbottom and a healer from St. Mungo’s. Winky was put on another stretcher at that point. “I wasn’t aware that St. Mungo’s treated magical creatures.”
The young woman knelt next to Winky. “The Magical Creature Protection Act created an entire department at St. Mungo’s to handle sentient creature care. We have both dverger and centaurs on staff as well. I’ll take good care of her.” She performed several charms. “She has two small, unbonded children Lord Potter. Do you know where they are?”
“Yes, they are in my care. Will she be in St. Mungo’s more than overnight?” Harry questioned. “If so I can take them to the elf enclave to be with their aunt.”
“No, not overnight. But it’ll be as much as ten hours before she regains consciousness. She took a very powerful stunner to the chest and house elf magic doesn’t react well to such defensive magic as you know.” The healer stood. “I’ll take them both, sir. We’ll complete a forensic exam on him so that appropriate charges can be filed. Killing a house elf is a ten year term in Azkaban so I’ll take special care in the evidence collection.”
Harry holstered his wand and took a deep breath as the Healer portkeyed away with both elves. “Ginevra Weasley is on my list of unwelcome visitors. She entered the house roughly two hours ago.”
“And you weren’t in residence?” Neville questioned.
“No, Winky and Kreacher had been tasked with packing up my personal possessions to move to the new property I purchased. I adopted my godson, as you might have heard, and I realized that this house wasn’t exactly a great environment for either of my children but more so that they really didn’t have room outside to play.” He waved a hand. “It doesn’t matter. I’m staying in a hotel. I figured it was best to keep the kids out from underfoot during the move.”
“All right,” Neville looked around the room. “Let’s give the house the full treatment—document every bit of foreign magic used in the house. Director Potter’s magical signature is on file.”
“You’ll find Hermione Granger’s signature as well. Ron was here earlier in the week,” Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “Narcissa Malfoy has visited the house periodically over the last five years to check on Kreacher and to make sure it wasn’t being infested as the house has been prone to doxy and bogart intrusions since Walburga Black died.”
“I was surprised you came back to the house,” Neville admitted.
“Kreacher,” Harry explained. “He refused to leave the house after the war and I wanted to keep a closer eye on him. I thought that I could renovate the house. Once here, however, I realized how bad the ward matrix was. The decaying Fidelius can’t be removed and it’s tainted the house completely.”
“Okay,” Neville said. “Let us have the house for now, Harry. Where can I find you?”
Harry hesitated. “I…” He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry but I won’t say at this point. The hotel doesn’t have full magical security since it’s mostly Muggle and the dverger are the in the midst of making the property I bought unplottable. I’ll check in with the kids and I’ll come into the Ministry within the next two hours for an update.”
“Yes, sir. You realize you’ll have to be interviewed?”
“Yes,” Harry said with a sigh. “You might as well know that she broke into the house night before last as well which is why I started the move so abruptly. She scared the kids. She also bought a fertility potion on Diagon Alley. I have that evidence at the office in a file I was compiling. She stalked me before I went abroad and Kingsley encouraged me to lodge an official complaint against her. Instead, I left Britain altogether and I informed my superiors at the ICW of the situation. They flagged her passport to keep track of her but she never came near Rome and in fact only travelled out of the country with the Harpies.”
* * * *
The elf enclave had one entrance and it was guarded by a pair of vicious looking dverger. Harry stated his business and took a seat on a bench near the magically protected entrance. He knew that Winky had put in a request for staff at the enclave so he wasn’t particularly surprised when four elves appeared in front of him.
“Good afternoon,” Harry said but stayed seated.
“I be Isa. My Aunt Winky picks me for housekeeping in yous new manor.” She turned to the others. “This be Paddy, the gardener. Sella like to cook. And this be Edy he learn to be yous valet.”
“I’m pleased to meet each of you. There was incident this morning. My former house was attacked. Winky was stunned but will recover. Kreacher, however, was killed. It appears he took a curse for Winky,” Harry took a deep breath. “Jinx and Vex are with me and I need one of you come to with me to help take care of them. They are very upset about their mother being attacked.”
“I go with you, Lord Potter, and the others go to new manor,” Edy said. “Jinx and Vex be my nephews.”
“Nephews? I thought Winky had only sisters,” Harry said with some confusion.
Edy smiled then. “Dobby be my big brother.”
It hurt a little but also it was kind of like having a part of his friend returned to him. “Dobby saved my life at the cost of his own, you know.”
Edy nodded. “Yes, I know.” He held out his hand. “He be so happy to know you take care of his mate and babies.”
“I do my best but I fear I failed this morning,” Harry said and took the hand the elf offered.
A soft glow drifted over them both as the elf offered his service and Harry’s magic accepted him. He bonded with each individually and when they were done, Isa, Paddy, and Sella popped away. He took Edy’s hand and apparated them to the hotel room. Hermione had all four kids planted in front of the telly. He raised an eyebrow at her.
“My mother said it would keep them occupied. My experience in child wrangling is rather limited, you know.”
Harry laughed. “All right. Everyone this Edy, Dobby’s brother. He’ll be joining us and helping take care of the new house.” Jinx and Vex immediately darted over to their Uncle and Harry moved away, taking Hermione with him while Teddy introduced himself and Jacob. He pulled Hermione close and whispered in her ear, “Kreacher is dead. Winky is in St. Mungo’s but was just stunned. It was Ginny.”
“Oh, god,” Hermione murmured.
“She’s probably looking for me so your apartment isn’t safe. Does she know where your parents live?”
“No, and the Muggle world confuses and frustrates her. She won’t try to find them. The Magical Creature Protection act has stiff penalties. I should know, I helped author it,” Hermione bit down on her lip before continuing in a low tone. “The murder of a house elf carries a ten year automatic sentence.”
“Was there a consideration for blood status?”
“No, Kingsley refused to sign any legislature that had such provisions,” Hermione murmured. “Did she even bother to try cover her tracks?”
“No, her magic is spread throughout the house. She basically destroyed most of the walls on the first floor, blasting hexes seemed to be her go-to. It’s probably upwards of ten thousand galleons in damages. Though I’d honestly planned to tear the house down, dig up the ward foundation, and build another in its place. But I will make sure the property damage is reported in her list of charges.” Harry glanced towards the kids and found that Edy had joined them in front of the telly. The older elf looked enthralled.
* * * *
“I’ve reviewed the information regarding the fertility potion and interviewed the owner of the shop for the case file,” Neville said. “The forensics team is almost finished with the house. Her magical signature is responsible for most of the damage though your male house elf put up a serious fight. It appears that Ginny stunned the female and male took the blasting curse meant for her. He popped into the path of it.”
Harry frowned but nodded. “He…was very loyal to the House of Black and was really proud that I’d taken up the title.” He rubbed his face with both hands. “I don’t know what Ginny thought she would accomplish by destroying the house.”
“She’s always had a terrible temper,” Neville said. “I’ve spoken with her parents and they told me about the vow you took.”
Harry stood from his desk and walked away from them. Neville had come to the briefing with Terry Boot and Eli Finn. Boot and Finn were partners and had been for a very long time. They had a great track record and Harry was relieved that Neville had kept them on board the case instead of taking over entirely. “Ginny has always been very invested in having a relationship with me. Well, no, that’s not true. She wants a relationship with the Boy-Who-Lived and what I want has never really been a concern for her. I admit making the vow to never have any sort of relationship with her antagonized her and that Winky reported to me that she’d tried to enter the house several times. It’s why I bought the new manor, authorized Winky to move the household, and took my kids to a hotel. Grimmauld Place wasn’t as secure as I needed it to be and now that I have Teddy, it became clear that the house wasn’t going to work for my family.”
“I haven’t been able to locate Hermione Granger,” Terry Boot said. “She’s off work today and isn’t at her apartment. She lives in a town house on Gill Street off Diagon Alley.”
“She’s with my kids,” Harry said. “When you finish with me—I’ll take her place and she can come in for an interview if needed.”
“Sounds good,” Neville said. “We consider her, the kids, and yourself targets and considering we haven’t found her yet, we just wanted to make sure she was aware of the problem. While Hermione is more than a match for Ginny—she could’ve been caught off guard.”
Harry nodded and shoved his hands into his pockets as he considered what questions he would ask of himself. He didn’t have to wait long for Neville to clear his throat. “Go ahead, Nev, I’m not going to give you grief for doing the job I’ve asked of you.” He turned and motioned towards the table on the other side of the room. “Let’s sit over there. That way it’ll feel less like you’re interrogating your boss.”
Neville laughed. “All right.” They all got seated and Harry focused on Neville as he opened a file in front of him. “Let’s get the lurid stuff that is really none of my business out of the way. You dated Ginevra Weasley while you were both at Hogwarts, correct?”
“Yes, I was a sixth year and she was the fifth year. It was brief and ultimately an act of desperation on my part. I’d lost my godfather at the end of my fifth year in an event that I blamed myself for. I was grieving and she made herself available repeatedly throughout the year. Eventually, I gave in and let her distract me from what was going on around me. The war with Riddle was ramping up, I wasn’t learning enough from Dumbledore and I knew it. It was never as intimate as she wanted or pushed for.”
“So you didn’t have sex with her?”
“No, not at Hogwarts and most certainly not after the war. I studied privately and took my NEWTs with the Ministry instead of returning to Hogwarts. Everyone at Hogwarts during the war had to repeat that year as you know because they learned nothing, so by the time Ginny left I was already working as an Auror. She pursued me relentlessly and eventually lied to her father about my intentions. He offered me a marriage contract and she made it clear if I didn’t sign it that I wouldn’t be welcome in their family home. I left Britain at that point and proceeded with the plans Minister Kingsley and I had made regarding my education and service abroad with the ICW.”
Neville made several notes in silence then nodded. “When you returned to Britain, how did she react?”
“I was told by her brother, Ron, that she was thrilled to learn that I was divorced. She was less than thrilled to learn I had a child. She came to my house twice uninvited after I’d ignored every attempt she’d made to see me while I was at work. I made it clear to her that I did not see her as a fit parent to my child and that I had no interest in having a relationship with her. She called both of my children creatures, berated me for keeping Jacob and for adopting Teddy. She said it would taint my political worth to have half-breed children.” He paused at the obvious confusion on the men’s faces. “My ex-wife is Veela.”
“Oh, wow,” Neville said. “Lucky you.”
“She’s a beautiful woman,” Harry murmured and left it at that. There was no need to drag more of his private life into the situation. “Ginny claimed to have no intention of hurting my children but I don’t know if I believe that. She said it was bad enough that my father married a Muggle-born and had tainted the pure-blood House of Potter.”
“Do you consider her a threat to anyone else?”
Harry’s gut tightened with fury and no small amount of helplessness. “I dated Cho Chang at Hogwarts and Susan Bones before I left Britain. I can’t say for certain that Ginny wouldn’t lash out at them. Hermione, because you’re right—she’d curse her in the back given half a chance.”
“Do you have a specific reason for that?” Neville questioned. “We wanted to warn her because we figured Ginny might use Hermione to get to you.”
Harry grimaced. He wasn’t particularly interested in laying himself bare to the men who worked under him, not even Neville. “Hell, Nev.”
“Harry.” Neville put his quill down. “Just say it. It won’t be written down in any report or repeated outside of this room.” Boot and Finn both laid their quills down as well.
“I’ve been in love with Hermione Granger since I was thirteen years old,” Harry said plainly. “We were lovers during the war and Ginny knows it. She knows that the reason I never went back to her is because I couldn’t stomach being a part of that whole thing—watching my so-called best mate marry the love of my life, make babies with her, and have everything I wanted. I left Britain to escape even getting a glimpse of it. I would’ve AK’d myself before willingly attending that wedding and Ginny knew it. That’s why she ambushed me with a marriage contract just days after Hermione agreed to marry Ron. She was trying to emotionally manipulate me into marrying her.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Terry Boot burst out. “You saved the whole goddamned country from Voldemort! Don’t you think you were entitled to be happy? Why didn’t you say something? Everyone knew Hermione was just settling for Weasley because she couldn’t have you!”
“Terry,” Neville glared at him. “Stop yelling at the Director of the DMLE.”
Terry huffed and slouched down in his chair. “You aren’t the one that suffered through three months of dates with a woman you’d have done anything to have while she pined after this git.” He motioned towards Harry. “Sorry. Sort of. I hate you. Not much. But I hate you.”
Harry laughed. “That’s okay, I hate you, too. Sort of but not like a whole lot. I hate Viktor Krum more but I’ve hated him since I was fourteen so you’ve got that going for you.”
“Merlin, I hated that he took her to the Yule Ball,” Neville said. “I asked her, you know. She was the only girl I really wanted to go with at the time.”
“Am I the only one that never had a crush on Granger?” Finn questioned.
“Probably,” Terry said wryly. “Half the single straight wizard’s in this building would give up an arm to have her look their way for real. Roger Davies was beside himself when she agreed to go out with him but I saw him, after their lunch date, at the pub—drinking firewhiskey straight out of the bottle and bitching about Potter.”
Harry winced. “I hate him more than I hate you, too.”
“We have that in common,” Terry agreed. “But, seriously, she’s in a safe place, right?”
“Yeah, for now. A Muggle hotel with a magical floor and the suite is secured under heavy security wards. She’s on her guard and I have another house elf with her. I went to the enclave and retrieved the staff that Winky had chosen for the manor.” Harry took a deep breath. “How about I take a stroll through Diagon Alley and have tea on the patio of Green Room?”
“How about,” Neville began pleasantly, “we not use the Director of the DMLE as bait to trap a deranged witch who’s already going to serve ten years in Azkaban for magical creature abuse?”
“Worth a shot.”
“Harry, I’ll lock you in a cell,” Neville promised. “I mean it. You’re not going to get killed while I’m the Head Auror. If you do, I’ll take custody of your children and raise them both up to be the most earnest Hufflepuffs to ever puff.”
Harry huffed sullenly. “That is beyond the pale, Longbottom!”
“Hey,” Finn said with a frown. “I’m a Hufflepuff.”
“And I try, every single day, not to hold it against you,” Terry told him. “It’s my burden to bear, my duty to my country and to magic to put with you while you cross all your T’s perfectly and dot all your I’s with serene little dots.”
Finn sighed. “You’re such a wanker, Terry. I mean that sincerely.” He picked up his quill. “So besides the epic love story you’ve got brewing in your life, sir, is there anyone else that Ginny might target for information or just because she’s a total nutcase?”
“Ron doesn’t know where I am and I doubt she’d turn on her own family…realistically, she has to know that Hermione is her only source for information at this point. But she’s also out of control. I honestly doubt she’s even hiding. When you do arrest her, she’ll probably be stunned to be charged with a single thing. Her pure-blood entitlement is nothing short of awe inspiring in the worst possible way, mind you.” Harry stood abruptly from the table, walked to his desk, rummaged through the middle drawer and drew put a slim black case. He removed a thin black cigarette from the case and it lit as soon as it touched his lips. “Do not tell Hermione.” He took a drag and closed his eyes.
“That’s just an herbal, right?” Terry asked dryly. “Not that marijuana is illegal in the magical world…”
“Herbal with a mild calming agent,” Harry admitted. “I have a terrible fucking temper, lads, and I know it.” He walked over to the window and stared down into the street. “I never thought I’d survive the war—being in this place, having children, or even having a career seemed like the most impossible of dreams. I let Voldemort take that from me, when I was fourteen years old. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night screaming out the names of people who have been dead more than a decade.” He turned to face them and took another hit from the herbal. “I’m telling you this because I went to war when I was a boy and there is a part of me, no matter how much I wish otherwise, that will always be at war. I’m hypervigilant, suspicious, and I’ve never even considered being merciful with a personal enemy. I could kill Tom Riddle 15 fucking times a day for the rest of my natural life and not get tired of doing it. I’m also telling you this because if Ginny Weasley makes the wrong move towards me or my mine—I’ll kill her.”
“I’d like you to consider your kids, Harry. I’m not sure…well the fall-out from killing…a pure-blood witch even in self-defense…” Neville sighed. “Britain hasn’t really caught up with the rest of the world on that front no matter how much Kingsley has tried. I’d rather not arrest you.”
“Nev, I might have come home to Britain but I didn’t leave my status behind in Rome. I’m still a War Mage for the ICW.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Terry asked even as Neville relaxed.
“A War Mage for the ICW enjoys international immunity for actions taken in the defense of themselves or others. Only the World Court of Magic can file charges against a War Mage,” Neville said. “The ICW would sanction us a few hundred different ways for arresting one of their War Mages. The last country to try it…well…by the time the ICW got through with the United States they’d been fined half a million galleons and lost half of their representatives on the ICW council but that was a few years ago.”
Harry huffed. “Those assholes shouldn’t have invited me into the country in the first place if they weren’t prepared to deal with the fall-out when I caught their Minister’s grandson in the midst of sacrificing a unicorn and three children.” He scowled at the memory. “They tried to hold me for murder actually. It didn’t work out of them.”
“I hope you killed all those dark bastards extra hard,” Finn said and huffed when they all looked at him in surprise. “Hufflepuffs are tough. We even had a dark lord once.”
Terry looked at him with pity. “Dark Lord Algernon Appleby got caught by Muggles. The Ministry spent three days memory charming people to clean up his mess because he was caught dancing naked in a Muggle street while singing Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. He spent 15 years in Azkaban for an accidental homicide, came out saner than he went in, and now he lives in Hogsmeade where he takes care of Aberforth Dumbledore’s goats as part of his parole. Apparently he’s still quite fond of the Rolling Stones.”
Harry laughed before he could help himself.
* * * *
Hermione set her tea down on the table in front of her, surprised to find herself in Harry’s office rather than an interrogation room. She played with the paper cup as the investigating Aurors got settled. “I don’t need special treatment.”
“This is about the Director’s privacy,” Neville said. “This entire investigation has been sealed—to protect both his position and his personal life.”
Hermione relaxed. “Right, of course.”
“And we didn’t think you’d appreciate the entire Auror Corps knowing you’re banging the boss,” Terry said cheerfully and blinked when she smirked.
“I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” she declared and picked up her tea. She sat back in the chair, crossed her legs at the knee and waited.
“What interactions, if any, have you had with Ginevra Weasley since Lord Potter’s return to Great Britain?” Jacob Finn asked when the other two just stared at her at her mute shock.
Hermione hummed under her breath. “Shortly before anyone knew he’d returned, the Prophet announced his pending return to Britain and divorce which was several months old at that point. I was at the Burrow, the Weasley family home, when the paper was delivered. Ginny was for lack of a better word giddy. She couldn’t have been more thrilled if she’d tried. Everyone was really shocked by her behavior. She didn’t even try to pretend to be upset or contrite over her behavior when it was pointed out that ending a magical marriage is an extremely painful thing to do. She declared that Harry shouldn’t have married anyone but her anyway and returned to her room. Eventually she came down and ordered me to tell her when Harry contacted me. I asked her why she thought he’d contact me and she just glared at me.”
“And did you tell her that Lord Potter had returned to Britain when you found out?”
“No, of course not. I found out a week before anyone really knew except for Kingsley and only then because I was in Kingsley office when Harry floo called him. Harry didn’t know I was in there and I told the Minister that I wouldn’t say anything. I did go over to Grimmauld Place several hours later to curse him out, properly, as he deserved.”
“Girls never curse me out like that,” Finn pointed out and shrugged when she laughed. “Are you aware that Lord Potter took a vow on his life and magic to never have any sort of romantic or sexual relationship with Ms. Weasley?”
“I knew he made a vow but I hadn’t discussed the content with him. It really didn’t concern me. I’ve known for a decade that Harry wouldn’t touch Ginny with someone else’s severed hand. In fact, in one of the first letters he sent me from Rome that was exactly how he put it. Ginny reminds him of a Voldemort—she’s tainted by the magic of Riddle’s diary which she had for a year. She consorted with Harry’s mortal enemy for months and told no one—he doesn’t care that she was a child. I don’t think he even understood how disgusted he was until we were at war. I’ve often wondered if he wasn’t potioned or charmed at Hogwarts to ignore his disgust for her magical circumstances. It’s too late to test him for such but it certainly could be an avenue of investigation once you have her in custody.”
“Certainly,” Neville murmured as he made notes. He frowned. “I always thought it was weird. I mean…Lily Potter was my godmother. I have a few pictures of her with me when I was a baby. Ginny resembles her enough that I questioned her parentage with my Gran. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought it because at one point Arthur and Molly had to prove before the Wizengamot in a private session that Ginny was biologically theirs and not a Potter child they were hiding for Dumbledore.”
“Wow, I had no idea,” Hermione admitted. “I mean I knew about the resemblance. Harry pointed it out to me one night after the war. He asked me if I thought he needed counseling for going out with her even briefly at Hogwarts.” She took a sip of tea and frowned. “That arsehole in the café downstairs always forgets the milk.” She sat it down with a huff.
“There is a reason he is constantly pranked,” Terry said. “He never gets anyone’s tea right and he does it on purpose.”
“We believe strongly that Ms. Weasley is a threat to you,” Finn said. “It would be best if you accept a protection detail.”
“You think I need a wizard to protect me?” Hermione questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“We’re not saying that. The situation is dangerous and Director Potter refused a protection detail. I was hoping to backdoor one in by assigning them to you,” Neville said plainly. “I don’t think she’ll go down without a fight, Hermione, and I don’t want his hands this dirty his first month on the job. No matter how justified—people will hate him for it.”
Hermione nodded. “All right and I do agree it would be bad for his image. I know he doesn’t care because he’s still fairly invested in resenting most of magical Britain and we can’t blame him. They love and hate him by turns. Celebrate his successes like their own and vilify him when he fails to meet their unreasonable expectations. Ginny is just an extreme example of that.”
It turned out that Neville need not have bothered with a manhunt as Percy hauled his sister in personally, in a full body bind. He wanted to be surprised but honestly out of all the employees at the Ministry, it was well-known that Percy Weasley was the most by the book. He tolerated no shite on practically any subject and had a warrant been issued for the arrest of his own mother, Neville was pretty sure Percy would’ve hauled her in, too. Neville said nothing while Eli Finn worked a pair of magical suppression cuffs onto Ginny’s wrists through the binding spell.
“Her wand,” Percy said and offered the magical focus as if holding it were offensive. “I’ve already searched her for portkeys.”
“How did you find her?”
“She showed up at my home looking for money,” Percy said. “When my wife refused her, she slapped Penelope across the face. I may not be an Auror but that doesn’t mean my wards are anything less than perfect. I was notified there was a threat to my wife in the flat and I apparated home to find the two of them engaged in a…tussle. I stunned Ginevra. I want her charged with assault. My wife is pregnant, if my sister has done harm to my child—I will expect further charges to be applied.”
Neville grimaced. “Merlin.”
“My mother took Penelope to St. Mungo’s but it is just a precaution.” Percy glared at his sister before ending the binding spell with a slash of his wand. “I must go speak with my father. He wanted to be informed as soon as she was in the custody of the DMLE and I have to tell him what she did to my wife.”
“I have to contact the Director.”
“I don’t envy you,” Percy said. “Who knew Potter would turn to be such a hard arse at work?”
“I know, right?” Finn questioned and grinned when Neville huffed. “No, really. He’s a badass and everything but he was so…laid back at Hogwarts. The only person to ever really get under his skin was Malfoy. These days, Potter could make a dragon sit and wait for instructions.”
“It’s kind of unnerving,” Neville admitted as Percy took his leave. He looked at Ginny then and just sighed as Finn hauled her up from the floor. “Put her in room four and I’ll contact Harry.”
He wasn’t at all surprised when their new boss stepped through the central floo of the DMLE just a minute after he used a beacon charm to activate the man’s badge. Soot flowed off Potter and disappeared into thin air in what probably passed for a modest display of wandless magic when you’re a bloody magus. He started to speak but Harry turned just as Hermione Granger stepped out of the floo with an outstretched hand. Her fingers slid into his and soot flowed off of her with a flush of magic. She had Jacob Potter on one hip. The newly minted Teddy Potter popped out of the floo a few seconds later and the kid received a cleaning charm of his own when Harry cupped his oldest son’s shoulder and guided them away from the floo towards Neville.
Neville figured he’d just been treated to a sight that would quickly become common place in Britain. Ron Weasley came through the floo just under 30 seconds later. The slightly sour look he sent Harry’s way wasn’t a surprise at all. Ron had never and probably never would get over Hermione Granger entirely. Neville watched, bemused, as Weasley got his expression in order just as Harry turned towards him. Terry Boot strolled out of the floo drawing his wand and cleaning himself off. He shot a spell at Ron as well.
“We were at Gringotts,” Harry explained. “What’s going on?”
“Ginny attacked Penelope Weasley and Percy…captured her and turned her in just a few minutes ago. Penelope is at St. Mungo’s but as far as it was reported—it was a simple physical assault. She’s at the hospital because she’s pregnant and Percy wanted to make sure the altercation didn’t harm the pregnancy.”
Harry grimaced. “Right.” He turned to Ron. “Had Percy and Penelope announced the baby?”
“No,” Ron grimaced and checked his watch. “Let me floo Lavender so she can go over to St. Mungo’s and sit with Mum.” He turned away from them and went to a private communication floo station across the room.
Harry turned to Hermione. “Would you take the kids into my office?”
Hermione held out a hand for Teddy and the boy immediately took it. “Sure. We’ll find something to occupy ourselves with.”
He watched them go, his gaze darting briefly around the room and his shoulders didn’t relax until she shut the door at the end of the hall. Neville watched in stunned silence as Harry drew his wand and shot a spell down the length of the hall, encompassing the entire administrative part of the DMLE in a war level intent ward. Boot exhaled sharply but said nothing. Harry holstered his wand with a flick of his wrist and turned to Neville. “I’ll watch in observation. I haven’t had a chance to review how interviews are done these days. Did you implement the communication charm system I sent Kingsley two years ago?
“Yes,” Neville said and raised an eyebrow. “That’s yours?”
“My idea but not my development—I passed a bunch of ideas to the ICW’s R&D department and anything that worked was also given to Britain due to my participation.”
“Right. Will you still do that or will you submit those to the DOM in the future?”
“It’ll depend on the funding available. The ICW will do it at no cost to us and due to my placement with them, we’ll reap the benefits of the research without having to pay for it,” Harry explained as they moved as a group towards interrogation. “Obviously Ron can’t be present during the interview due to a conflict of interest.”
“I’ll have to recuse myself as well,” Neville admitted. “I dated her for about six months. Neither Boot nor Finn have had any sort of intimate relationship with her…” He trailed off when Boot cleared his throat. “Really?”
Boot shrugged. “It was a one-night stand and I think she did it under the mistaken impression that Hermione would care. It was about a month after we broke up, you see.” He huffed. “Don’t glare at me Ron. It isn’t like I’m not one of many that took that broom ride.”
Harry cleared his throat and held up a hand when Ron started to respond. “Seriously?”
Ron flushed and put away his wand. “She’s still my sister, you know. I know she’s…mental but come on.” He glared at Boot.
“You’re right,” Terry said. “I apologize. I was out of line with that last part. Needless to say, I shouldn’t participate in the interview either.”
Ron turned to the rest of the Aurors in the room. “Okay, who hasn’t banged my sister?”
Neville was relieved to note that the vast majority of the wizards and witches in the room raised their hand. “I’m going to say no to Finnigan since his husband did, in fact, bang Ron’s sister.”
Seamus laughed and put his hand down.
“Edgecomb, you’ll join Finn in interview. It’ll be good for the record to have another witch in the room anyway.”
Marietta left her desk and joined them. She turned to Harry. “Do I need to apologize for anything that happened when we were 15?”
Harry laughed. “No. Finn update her on the details before you two go into interrogation.”
Neville didn’t say anything when Ron followed them into observation. He really couldn’t deny the man the opportunity to watch the interrogation. He sat down at the control station and activated the charmed communication system. “Finn and Edgecomb already have their ear pieces in.” He offered Harry a head set and put the second one on. Ron wouldn’t get one but didn’t need one to listen. He activated the listening charm in the room and the one way window activated. Ginny was cuffed to the table and awake.
“She looks…angry,” Ron said.
“Very,” Harry agreed.
“Are you with Hermione?” Ron asked.
Neville rolled his eyes and Harry shoved his hands into his pockets. It was the biggest tell his boss had and Neville wondered if Ron had figured out that Potter did it to prevent himself from drawing his wand.
“You’re married Ron,” Harry finally said, his gaze intent on Ginny Weasley. “What I do or don’t do with Hermione is none of your business.”
“So I don’t have the right to know if my friends are fucking.” Ron questioned snidely.
“Hey.” Neville stood. “Watch your mouth, Auror Weasley and no you don’t have the right to the intimate details of Director Potter’s personal life. You want to question your friends about their personal life, do it on your own time not mine.”
Ron glared at him. “What?”
“You heard me. Right now, he’s our boss and you don’t have the right to question your boss about his love life so back off and get your head on the right subject.” He pointed towards Ginny. “I can assume your father’s trusting you to get the details for him so concentrate on that.”
In the interrogation room, Finn took a seat in front of Ginny and Marietta chose to sit at the end with transcription parchment and quill which she set up with little fuss. She rattled off the details for the case file and Finn pulled out a slim black notebook.
“Ginevra Molly Weasley you are under investigation for the following: home invasion, property damage in the excess of ten thousand galleons, the murder of a bonded house elf of the Noble and Ancient House of Potter, conspiracy to commit line theft, and the abuse of a house elf of the Noble and Ancient House of Potter. Magical evidence has been gathered, reviewed, and certified by the DMLE and passed to the Prosecutor’s Office for evaluation. It is my duty to inform you that charges related to the murder of the house elf named Kreacher have already been filed. Do you wish to enter into a plea agreement regarding the willful murder of the Kreacher, the house elf?”
She glared at him. “Who cares about a house elf?”
“In 2001, it became a felony punishable by ten years in Azkaban to end the life of a house elf unless in the defense of your person. You broke into private party, resisted several attempts by the elves in the house to be expelled and murdered Kreacher. Since you were unwelcome and unwanted on the property, you cannot claim self-defense.” Finn leaned back in his seat. “Questions?”
“I’m a pure-blood,” Ginny said. “That law doesn’t apply to me.”
“There were no exceptions for blood status when the law was crafted and signed by the Minister for Magic,” Finn said. “The evidence against you is overwhelming, Miss Weasley. You will serve a prison term for the murder of Kreacher. However, if you enter in a plea deal regarding that murder, the charge of abusing the second house elf will be dismissed. That crime carries a five year sentence. If it goes to trial, you’ll be given a 15 year term in Azkaban for the violating the Magical Creature Act.”
She glared at him. “I don’t believe you and no I won’t enter into a plea deal regarding those charges. Let the Prosecutor’s office put a pure-blood witch on trial for that nonsense. I won’t serve a day in jail and you’re an idiot if you think otherwise.”
“I’m going to throw the book at her,” Draco said cheerfully from the door way of the observation deck. He came fully in and shut the door. “Isn’t that how Muggles say it?”
“Yes,” Harry said with a sigh. He looked toward Ron. “Is she really that misinformed about the law?”
“I don’t think she’s lying or trying to bluff,” Ron said in a subdued tone. “If that’s your question so yeah, she totally believes she won’t go to jail for it.” He rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. “This is going to kill my mum.”
“Your mother survived two wars, birthed seven children, and killed Bellatrix Lestrange in a protracted duel,” Harry said dryly. “She’s made of sterner stuff than you like to think. Child birth is frankly the fiercest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Thank Merlin, it didn’t come down to men to birth the species. We’d have never gotten out of the cave.” He took a deep breath. “Ron, contact your father. She’s going to need a solicitor and she’s too…damaged to even realize it.”
In the interrogation room, Finn laid out the details of her conspiracy to commit line theft. Ginny looked unimpressed with the entire thing, including the sworn statement from the owner of the potion shop.
“How did you feel when Lord Potter vowed on his magic to never have any sort of relationship with you?” Finn questioned.
Ginny’s façade cracked and she glared at Finn. “He had no right to do that. No right! I stood by him during the war. I waited for him. I supported him, my whole family supported him and what does he do? He marries some whore Veela and has a half-breed baby with her. Have you seen that thing? He’s such a little monster and Harry treats that baby like he’s more important than me! Then he adopted that fucking werewolf.”
“Edward Potter is not a werewolf,” Finn interjected. “He was tested at birth to verify that fact and it is a matter of public record as required by the law at the time of his birth.”
“Edward Potter,” Ginny repeated snidely. “Like changing his name makes him more than what he is—the half-blood son of a werewolf. It’s disgusting. He’s no better than the creature that fathered him.”
“Lupin is a war hero.” Neville just rubbed his face with both hands. “If she says this shite in court, people will want her put under Azkaban.”
Finn made a show of sharpening his quill with his wand and re-inking it. He made several notes and closed the little black book. He tucked it into his robe and focused on Ginny. “Prosecutor Malfoy will be in shortly to read the official charges against you. At this time, it would be wise for you to acquire a solicitor.”
“A solicitor?” Ginny asked. “You’re not really going to charge me with anything.”
“You’re going to charged and brought to trial, Miss Weasley,” Marietta said and stood from the table as she picked up the auto-quill and the transcript. “The evidence against you is overwhelming and you’ve offered not a single logical excuse for your behavior. Not that you have one, mind you.” She turned to Finn. “I’ll contact St. Mungo’s about an evaluation. She’ll need to be certified sane by a mind healer. It could be her problem, honestly, only an idiot or a complete nutter would make herself a threat to war mage’s children.”
* * * *
Harry didn’t bother to try to get out of going to Ron’s office with him. He shut the door and cast a privacy charm with a flick of his wand. He leaned on the door, holstered his wand, and stared at the man. “There was a time in my life when I trusted you with everything.”
Ron started to speak but frowned and stared.
“I trusted you with my secrets and with what little I had due to the Dursleys. For years, I held onto your friendship because I was needy kid who’d never really had a friend before meeting you.” Harry put his hands in his pockets as his fingers curled into fists. “At the beginning of our fourth year, long before my name came out of that stupid goblet I realized I couldn’t trust you with my deepest secret. She helped me save my godfather, you know. She risked her life, her freedom and honestly even her humanity when you consider the fact that Moony was running around loose in the forest. And I fell in love with her that night—not like a man loves a woman but like a boy loves a girl who’s loyal and brilliant and amazing.”
“Harry,” Ron whispered with wide eyes.
“No, Ron, you think you’re entitled to know this so shut up and listen. You started acting all weird around her and I understood, then, that you fancied her, too. It hurt, a little, because you’d never once looked her way until I did. To you, she was just our annoying friend who berated you into doing your homework. Then she took a womanly turn on us and suddenly she wasn’t just our friend. She was a pretty girl who was going to grow up to be a beautiful woman. But more than that—she stayed loyal and amazing. She stood by me when you didn’t and I thought…I thought I could have her then because you were being terrible and she was furious with you. But you came back and you apologized. I forgave you but it was the last thing I wanted to do.” Harry focused on the floor between them. “I regretted it because after that day, she seemed to focus on you and no matter what fucked up or stupid thing you said or did—her gaze never seemed to waver.”
Harry cleared his throat and exhaled. “Then the war started and Sirius died. I let Dumbledore lead me around like a sacrificial lamb because I really didn’t think I had much to live for. I wasn’t setting out to kill myself because I knew that would hurt her but in the end, I wasn’t honestly all that fussed to be walking to my death. Life sucked, you know. The girl I wanted appeared to love my best mate, a dark wizard had been hunting me since my birth, and I had a piece of him lodged in my head. It was a nightmare to realize what my scar really was. So I surrendered to Voldemort and I never told Hermione that I was in love with her because I didn’t want to put that weight on her. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t trust you with it.
“I left Britain because I couldn’t watch you marry her. I couldn’t watch you make a family with her. I needed distance and space to come to terms with it, you see, because it never once crossed my mind to interfere. I stepped aside when I was fourteen and I did it again after the war but you needn’t think it was ever for you. It was for her—all of it was for her.”
“All of what?” Ron asked quietly.
Harry raised his head and met Ron’s gaze with dark eyes. “Everything. I lived for her, I fought for her, and I died for her. Then when I had the chance to go beyond the Veil and be reunited with my family I came back to life for her. I killed Voldemort for Hermione—so she could live in a world that was just a little bit safer. Eventually, I left Britain because I thought that’s what she needed from me—my absence—because I believed you when you said she no longer wanted to be friends with me. I believed it and after I crawled out of the bottle of Odgens that belief sent me into—I packed my things and left.
“Since I’ve returned to Britain, I’ve been trying to figure out where and how you fit in my life. The answer is that you don’t fit because I don’t trust you on a personal level, Ron. I trust you’ll do your job so at least there’s that but we aren’t friends and my romantic relationships are none of your bloody business.”
“I apologized,” Ron protested. “I’m trying to make it right with you, Harry.”
“You’re trying to save face,” Harry corrected. “You’re trying to make everything okay because that’s what your mother wants but it’s just not ever going to be the way it was, Ron.”
“Tell me you didn’t know,” Harry said abruptly. “Tell me you didn’t know that I was in love with Hermione.”
Ron’s face darkened with temper and glared at him. “She was mine, Harry!”
“Actually, she was mine,” Harry returned evenly. “She always was and I was just too dumb to realize it. I was young and stupid so I didn’t understand that she was just as afraid as I was of rejection and heartbreak. So Hermione did what she always did, she tried to make everyone else happy in spite of herself. I fucked that up as much as she did. We’re going to try to figure out what we can have together and it’s none of your business. Clear?”
Ron exhaled, face full of fury he wasn’t even bothering to hide. “That’s it then?”
“Yeah, that’s it,” Harry agreed. He ended the privacy charm with a wave of his hand and opened the door. Neville was standing out in the hall making no bones about the fact that he was there to keep an eye on them. “Do you know the real difference between you and me, Ron?”
Ron frowned. “What?”
“You thought I was a threat to your relationship with Hermione—so you manipulated us both to keep us apart. If there comes a day when I think you’re a threat to my relationship with her—I’ll kill you.” Harry raised an eyebrow when Ron paled. “That’s the true difference between us and I advise you to never forget it.”
* * * *
Hermione was no more seated at her desk in the DOM when Ron came barreling through the door. He shut the door with a little bang that was less slam and more petulant attempt at not making a scene. He threw himself into her visitor chair then just glared at her.
“What?” Hermione asked.
“Why did you break up with me? Was it because of him?”
“Harry?” Hermione questioned.
“Who else?” Ron demanded. “You fucked him during the war, right?”
She immediately got a mind full of images of Harry—young and sweet faced. In retrospect, how he felt about her was written all over those memories. How he’d held her, kissed her, and touched her with hands that shook slightly. Hermione felt her face heat at the memories and she gave herself a firm mental shake to stamp that down so he could focus on her ex-boyfriend.
“Yes, of course, I slept with Harry during the war,” Hermione said. “And you already know that. You knew you weren’t my first. You threw a fit about it, remember? We broke up for a month after you found out I wasn’t a virgin. I should’ve never taken you back after that incident—your apology was weak and insincere but I’ve always had a foolish soft spot for you.
“When we were younger, I have to admit it was because I thought you were dumb and needed all the help you could get. Eventually, I realized you were just lazy and terrible because you thought you were better than everyone else and that’s why I dumped you, Ron. I knew you’d never be the kind of man I really needed—someone who would treat me like an equal. Look at how you’ve subjugated Lavender. She had a great career in the Minister’s office and would probably be on her way to a deputy position if it weren’t for you. She’s got an excellent head for politics and you’ve reduced her to a house wife.”
“She doesn’t want to work.”
“Bullshite,” Hermione said evenly. “She was devastated when she told me you refused to sign her employment forms after your honeymoon. You married her letting her think she could keep her career—that she wasn’t going to be chattel in your marriage. I didn’t warn her and I should’ve. I guess I just underestimated how cruel you could be. She cried for weeks and still gets upset if her former job is brought up in conversation. Your position on that subject is cruel and fucked up.”
“And Harry’s leaving wasn’t a factor? Do you wish you’d followed him to Rome?”
There was a time when she’d wished exactly that but after holding Jacob that wish flitted away completely. There was no room for ifs in her situation because part of her was already trying to figure out which rituals would work best for her to claim both of Harry’s children as her own—magically and through blood if he’d allow it.
“Had I been given a choice—I would’ve chosen him,” Hermione said plainly. “Is that what you want to hear? I love him and I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t. You were, at best, a placeholder. I’m just glad I came to my senses before I actually married you. I’d be in Azkaban for your murder if I had because I wouldn’t have suffered a single day of the life you force Lavender to live with your ridiculous old fashioned ideas.”
Ron stood, pale and obviously furious. “Right. Then I guess you’re going to get what you wanted, after all.” He walked to the door. “I mean sort of. He’s not going to marry you, you know. You’re a Muggle-born and he’s taken a noble title. But you’re good at that—playing the whore. When he gets tired of you, he’ll find a pure-blood witch to match that jumped-up title he claimed and Jacob will be calling her mummy because let’s be honest, Hermione. You’re just not the kind of woman who deserves to have children. You’re too selfish for it.”
She was glad she managed to shut the door with her wand before tears fell. Ron had always had the ability to dig into a person—cut them open in the most obscene way possible. She really regretted coming to her office instead of going home with Harry. The idea had been to give herself some space to deal with what had happened. Ron had seen them part at the floo system in the DMLE and she’d known he’d follow her down to her own office. It was what he did—pick at old wounds until they were fresh and ugly. He knew very well how much she wanted children, they’d talked about it a lot when they’d been engaged.
Ron had made sure Hermione knew Lavender was pregnant—he’d been so damn smug and pleased. He’d rubbed it in her face for weeks hoping to get some kind of reaction from her but she’d have never given him the satisfaction. In fact, she’d shown up at every single damn baby party Lavender threw with the best possible present. Hermione didn’t blame Lavender for the parties—it was practically the only way she got any sort of entertainment.
She brushed the tears from her face and took a deep breath. Whatever was happening between her and Harry was new, unexplored, and it was foolish to get worked up about something that may or may not happen. They had a lot of years between them and Harry wasn’t the boy she remembered. He was different—harder and yet more open emotionally than he had been after the war. She rubbed her face with both hands and took a deep breath then started gathering up the parchments she wanted to review at home.
A blue and white phoenix appeared with a puff of fire and inky smoke. Hermione dropped the parchments she was holding and stared. The phoenix chirped at her cheerfully and held out one foot where a letter was clenched. She hesitantly took it and sat down on the edge of her chair. The phoenix was a light creature by nature by they were classified XXXX for a reason.
It crossed my mind as I sat down to write this note that you’ve never met Mavis. She only returned to me today—she had a burning day the day we moved back to Britain and I left her in the care of a friend as she hates to travel by portkey. I rescued her from an illegal potions farm three years ago and despite my efforts to return her to the wild she has stayed with me since that day. I haven’t had an owl since Hedwig and I honestly didn’t want a phoenix. Who needs that kind of pressure? Regardless, this is Mavis and she does what she wants. I’ve always attracted the most contrary females.
We’re settled into the estate and Winky has returned. She’s tired but in good spirits considering the events. I think she misses Kreacher more than she wants to admit. He was a terrible old thing but he proved quite valiant at his end. I suspect he’s livid that I haven’t put his head on the wall at Grimmauld Place. Currently Jacob is wandering around his room (mostly scooting on his arse) and Teddy is running around the whole house looking at everything possible. This place is huge and I feel ridiculous for having purchased it. I’m about to go outside and figure out what’s up with the pool. It’s empty and I think the water runes are eroded (joy).
At any rate, bed time is at 8 and I thought we could have a late dinner? Just the two of us, you know like adults on a sort of date. Not a real date since I can’t leave the house at the moment but you know the best I can accomplish right now. But I’m also on board with a real date at some point in the future. I’d just rather not leave the house with Winky being out of sorts and while I’ve bonded with the other house elves, I don’t know them like I know her and Jacob isn’t thrilled with the new editions.
Hermione lowered the note and stared at the phoenix who was sitting on her blotter like she had nowhere special to be. “Hello Mavis.” She reached out hesitantly and let her fingers drift through white and blue feathers. “You’re very rare, did you know? Rare and special even among you own kind—a midnight phoenix. It’s probably why you were stolen from your nesting ground. I’m glad Harry found you and freed you.”
She picked up a quill, dashed off a quick note agreeing to dinner and rolled up the parchment carefully. She offered it to Mavis and the phoenix curled a claw around it delicately before flashing away with a burst of blue fire. After a moment, she gathered up the rest of her research, dropped it in a bag, and left her office. She had little over an hour to get ready for her not-really-a-date.