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
Dinner had been more awkward that she’d planned and it was her own fault. Harry had all but guided her through the motions of eating and having a conversation about what she couldn’t remember. Harry led her through the house—he had a bottle of wine and two glasses in his other hand. She’d have never been able to carry it all in one hand, she mused. They walked through a pair of French doors and out onto a lovely stone patio. A pool spread out in front of them complete with a perfect little grotto and a miniature waterfall.
“Okay, that’s kind of ridiculous.”
“The previous owner was batshite,” Harry confided. “You’d not believe the master bath. I could swim in the tub. Jacob did, in fact, swim in the tub.”
Hermione grinned as they walked around the pool and started out across the grass to gazebo. “Nice garden for parties though.”
“I’m not inclined towards that sort of thing,” Harry admitted. “But politics probably demand I do something of the sort so I guess I’ll have to get used to it.” He released her hand and passed her both the wine and the glasses then drew his wand.
Hermione slipped off her sandals and crawled up onto the large round lounger while he cast a privacy charm. “It’s a nice house/mansion though.”
Harry huffed. “It’s what I get for letting Winky make the request to the dverger. I’m sure they had a pretty good laugh at my expense.” He crawled up onto the lounge and took the bottle of wine which he opened with a little push of his magic. The cork slid up nice and easy with a tiny pop. He poured for them both and put the bottle on a table near the lounge. “What did Ron say to you?”
Hermione stared down at her wine, taking in the lush red liquid with a sigh. It smelled great so she took a sip and shrugged. “The same crap he always says. He’ll never…he’s just extremely self-involved and invested in making sure I’m never happy because I left him.”
“Hermione,” Harry began and took a deep breath. “Whatever he said—it’s likely one hundred percent bullshite. He’s never going to be anything more than a jealous boy. Ron didn’t sign off on Lavender continuing her job at the Ministry because she was already more successful than he was. He honestly thinks he has the right to say that you and I can’t be together. It’s like…”
“Everyone will know that I didn’t marry him because I’m in love with you,” Hermione said. “That’s exactly what he thinks and the worst of it is that it’s true. I didn’t marry him because he didn’t have a single chance of measuring up to you. When you left Britain and I was forced to really look at him—I realized half of what I saw him was just me projecting onto him. I thought I could change him. I though he needed me. I thought I could make him a better person. Then I realized I’d already let the best man I’d ever known leave.”
She looked away from him. “So I broke up with him one night for no real discernable reason. I just—we were having dinner and he was sitting across from me shoveling in the food like he hadn’t eaten in a year and I realized he was never going to appreciate me or the fact that it had taken me two hours to cook that meal. He was just a greedy, terrible person and I’d chosen him. I’d made all the choices that led me to that moment and I was just sick. I went into the bathroom, threw up what little food I’d eaten and sat on the toilet for nearly twenty minutes.”
“And?” Harry questioned.
“I came out of the bathroom and he’d eaten my dinner.”
“It’s not…okay, it’s funny as hell now but at the time it was just so infuriating that I couldn’t even breathe. He hadn’t even come to check on me! I kicked him out of my apartment right then. The next day, I packed all of his things into a box and took them to the Burrow. He was just stunned, really, that I was serious about breaking up with him. I gave him back his ring and left. For months, he didn’t accept it and tried to make me see reason. He stopped just short of stalking me and even tried to involve his mother. I sat Molly down and had a very honest conversation with her about my life, my goals, and what I wanted from a man. I made it clear Ron was never going to meet those expectations because he was lazy and entitled. Shortly thereafter, he stopped trying to get back with me. He hasn’t brought up our break up for a long time—then today he demanded to know if I left him because of you so I was honest.”
“It was his deepest fear,” Harry said and took a sip of wine. “The locket latched onto it and taunted him with it in the forest when he returned that day. It showed him a vision of us making love—something the damn thing pulled right out of my head but in the vision you turned on Ron and told him that basically no one would ever choose him over me. He was so fucked up with jealousy that the horcrux nearly won him over. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if he’d given into his weakness and jealousy.”
“He’d have tried to kill you,” Hermione murmured. “We both know that. There’s always been a deep conflict in him, Harry. I used to joke about him being shallow but the fact is that he’s practically a well of seething resentment and jealousy that is banked by cowardice and laziness.” She held out her glass and he picked up the bottle to pour more for her.
“Are you going to tell me what he said?” Harry questioned and relaxed back on the lounge.
Hermione flushed. “He knows a lot about me—when we dated I tried to invest myself in him as much as I could. I hold him deeply personal things about my desire to have a family and to have children. When Lavender got pregnant, he made sure to come to my office and rub it in my face even before it was announced in the paper.”
“Do you have some health issue preventing you from having a baby?” Harry questioned.
“No…” Hermione shook her head. “I considered a sperm donor or even a one night stand in another country with a wizard. Which I know is shady as fuck but there came a point when I didn’t care about how I got a baby, I just wanted one. But then there was this…a witch who used to work in the Department of Regulation got pregnant out of wedlock. Kingsley and Arthur did all they could to keep her but in the end her co-workers isolated her so much with their disapproval and outright disdain that she quit and moved to Paris to live with a maiden aunt. Britain is terribly old fashioned as you know and it’s even worse for witches. No one ever said a word to the father of that baby, you know. He still has his job at the ministry and is engaged to be married. He just had a fling while she’s a slag who got pregnant.”
“Merlin, what a bunch of arseholes,” Harry muttered. He finished off his wine and set the glass aside. “Okay, so stop beating around the bush. You can tell me you don’t want to say and I’ll leave it alone.”
“For now,” Hermione said wryly. “I know you, Harry.”
“I respect you.” Harry took her empty glass and set it beside his. “I can and will respect your boundaries.”
“He said I was a whore but that I was good at that—playing the whore. He said you’d get tired of me and find some pure-blood witch to match your jumped-up title and I was too selfish to be a mother.”
“You know I claimed the title to protect Teddy,” Harry murmured.
“I know.” She took a deep, shuddery breath and averted her gaze.
“It has value because it connects me magically to my godfather in a way I did not anticipate. If I’d known what I would be getting when I put on the ring for the Blackmoor title, I would’ve done it the moment I could. It allowed me to keep Teddy safe and to bring him into my household without having to face any sort of legal battle that would’ve been stressful and eventually cruel to him. But that’s all it is, Hermione. I don’t have any desire to be the Minister of Magic. I’ll sit on the Wizengamot because the title demands it from me but the opinions of those old pure-blood bigots mean jack shite to me so I’m not going to be searching out some pure-blood wife to match my title.”
“I know,” Hermione repeated in a small voice and blinked back tears.
“And you aren’t selfish—you’re so far from selfish it’s actually kind of frustrating. You put the wants and desires of everyone before yourself and you’ve done it since I’ve known you. I know, at first, it was your way of trying to make friends.” He reached out and slid his hand around her neck to cup the back of her head then pulled her gently. She came to him with no resistance. “Tell me something, love.”
“If I can,” Hermione agreed.
“If I’d come to you the night I left Britain and asked you to come to Rome with me, would you’ve done it?”
Hermione pressed her face against his neck. “I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t ready for you then.”
“Are you ready for me now?”
“No hesitation there,” Harry murmured and pulled a pair of jade chopsticks from her bun. Her hair fell down her shoulders in a heavy fall of curls and he tossed the sticks aside and grinned when she huffed. “I never understood how you accomplish that with a pair of sticks.”
He laughed at her tart response. “Do you know what I remember most vividly about our first time?”
“No,” Hermione shuddered when he cupped one hip and pulled her flush to his body.
“You kept your eyes open the whole time I was inside you which admittedly wasn’t very long.”
“I didn’t want to…I didn’t want you to think I was pretending you were someone else,” Hermione admitted. “What I remember most was how good it felt to have you inside me. I loved it—being full of you.”
“I could say something terrible right this minute about filling you up again,” Harry said and laughed when she did.
“Well, I did assume since you brought me out here to this gazebo with a big bed in it so we could do something a little naughty.”
“I was planning a really nice dinner and adult conversation,” Harry protested.
She smirked. “And this lovely bed pretending to be a lounge, a gazebo lit with fairy lights, and an expensive bottle of wine just happened to be available.”
“Well, I was also hoping to get lucky,” he confided. He slid his hand around and cupped her arse. “You told me that you belonged to me.” He kissed along her jaw.
“I am yours,” Hermione agreed. “As long as you want.”
“Oh, sweetheart, that isn’t the kind of thing you should tell a man like me,” Harry whispered. He snagged the edge of her t-shirt and pulled it up. She helpfully shifted so he could draw it over her head and toss it aside. He hummed under his breath as he cupped one breast and rubbed his thumb over her nipple. “I have a very crass confession.”
“I can’t wait to hear it,” Hermione admitted breathlessly.
“I used to have wet dreams about sucking your tits—they started in third year.”
“That is…” She blushed. “Seriously?”
“It was hardly my fault—you came back from summer with tits. You realize you were the only third year in Gryffindor with breasts right? I mean Lavender had an extraordinary growth period before fourth year but it seemed like one day you were my best friend and the next you were a girl. I had no idea what to do with you.”
“Well,” Hermione began with a sly grin, “I think you knew a little bit about what to do with me.”
“A little,” he agreed and lowered his head to her breast.
He flicked his tongue over her rigid nipple then drew the hard flesh into his mouth with a greedy little suck. Harry pushed his hand into the front of her jeans then her knickers and slid nimble fingers between her labia. She was already slick, wet for him. He grazed her nipple with his teeth and released it with a little pop but before he could speak a gentle chime drifted over the garden.
“What is that?” Hermione asked with a scrunched up nose.
“That is a kid out of bed,” Harry said with a sigh. He pulled his hand from her jeans and left the lounger with a half-smile. “Come inside? We’ll go to bed like civilized people and have couple sex in the dark under the covers.”
She laughed and countered, “Jungle sex with all the lights on.”
“You’re a pro at negotiation,” Harry decided as she pulled her t-shirt over her head.
In the house, they found Teddy sitting on the stairs. Hermione hesitated but Harry waded into the situation without a single hesitation. She liked that about him—how he just seemed to be rocking that whole instant-Dad thing. Jacob certainly hadn’t prepared him to deal with a kid Teddy’s age and yet the man had barely had a hitch in his stride on the whole parent front. Harry sat down on the steps beside him.
“I checked your room but you weren’t in the house,” Teddy said.
Harry nodded. “I was out in the garden with Hermione.”
Teddy laughed and glanced at Hermione. “Well, if one is going to be in a garden with a girl it might as well be the prettiest one in Britain.”
Hermione blushed. “I’m going to put the wine away.”
“Thanks,” Harry said. He waited until she was gone before focusing on his son. “Nightmare?”
Teddy shrugged. “I don’t know. A bad feeling? I don’t remember dreaming at all but I woke up worried—freaked out. My magic is all stormy on the inside.”
“The moon is full,” Harry said quietly and noted that Teddy flinched. “It’s nothing to worry about, Teddy, I promise. You’re not going to turn into a werewolf out of the blue. You don’t carry the curse. You know Bill gets antsy when the moon is full, too. Because he got scratched by a werewolf who was mostly human at the time. It’s kind of like that for you, I think. You’re just a little more aware of the moon than other people. Maybe you’ll have a better sense of smell than most people. As you get older, and puberty sets in you’ll be more irritable as a full moon approaches.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I know a wizard whose father was a werewolf. I worked with him in Rome. Would you like to meet him? I could ask him to come to spend the weekend and you could ask him a few questions about what it’s like for him.”
“I’d like that,” Teddy said reluctantly. “He has a good job?”
“He’s a Hit Wizard for the ICW—a heavy hitter but he’s honorable and light.”
“I can just imagine,” Harry said crossly and sighed. He rubbed his face with both hands. “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s okay,” Teddy said. “It’s nice that you care enough to get mad about it. I mean I know I should’ve told someone. I could’ve told Hermione and she’d have made it her business to make everything right. I could’ve told George or Fred—I saw them whenever I could sneak out of the house and go to the Alley. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to talk to them and I never said much because I was afraid Gran would get them in trouble.”
“You know she’s mentally ill.”
“The war did terrible things to everyone—including the ones that survived,” Teddy said. “I get it, Dad, and I also understand she isolated me on purpose. Maybe even in some weird way she was protecting me as much as she was punishing me for not being her daughter.”
Harry exhaled sharply. “You’re a little too perceptive for your own good.”
“Eh.” Teddy shrugged and leaned on Harry. “Sorry about you interrupting your grown-up time with Hermione.”
“We have plenty of grown-up time together,” Harry said and relaxed back on the stairs. “Does anything help you get settled on a night like this?”
Teddy flushed and looked away.
Harry frowned and sat up. “Hey…” He inclined his head as he considered the tense set of Teddy’s shoulders and his flushed cheeks. He cleared his throat. “Did you know that Muggles have done studies on addiction? There are genetic links to addictive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse.” The kid got tenser. “You can tell me anything.”
“It was just once,” Teddy blurted out. “And I was sick the whole next day and I never touched her firewhiskey again.”
“I don’t know—a glass full. She was so drunk she didn’t even notice me taking it,” Teddy said sullenly.
“So firewhiskey made you sick,” Harry murmured. “Did you try anything else?”
Teddy shrugged. “A sleeping potion about six months ago but I only took half since it was for adults. I wasn’t trying to hurt myself—I just wanted to sleep.”
“Just once for that as well?”
“Yeah, otherwise I just stay up until I pass out.” Teddy flushed. “Can I have a sleeping potion?”
“No, those aren’t made for kids your age and even half a dose wasn’t safe but we can do a sleeping charm tonight and tomorrow I’ll put a runic ward on your bed that will allow you sleep.” Harry stood and Teddy stood with him. “We’ll figure it out and also you’ll be getting a more thorough examination from a healer.”
“No whining, young man, it’ll do you no good,” Harry said as he guided his son up the stairs and back into his room. “How’s the room. Want anything changed?”
“Hmmm, maybe the ceiling. Could you do that star scape thing you had on the nursery ceiling at Grimmauld Place?”
“Yeah, absolutely.” He sat down on the edge of the bed as Teddy settled in and drew his wand. He cast the ceiling charm and the night sky appeared above them. He pointed at one star. “That’s the dog star. I put it up in the nursery at Grimmauld Place because I’m a sentimental idiot.”
“Sirius,” Teddy said with a smile. “So he could watch over Jacob when he slept.”
“Yeah, something like that. I gave you the Quidditch one because I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about the night sky on your ceiling. Your biological father’s Boggart was a full moon.”
Teddy nodded. “I know. I read his journal. I don’t fear the moon. It’s just a bright object in the sky.” He wiggled under the covers. “How long will the sleeping charm last?”
“It’ll expire in time for breakfast,” Harry promised. “And we’ll work on the rune sequence tomorrow. It’ll be less brute force and more of a natural sleep. Neither magic will force you to stay sleep so if you have a nightmare you’ll be able to wake on your own.”
“Thanks,” Teddy said tiredly. “And sorry. I should’ve said something.”
“Well, I’d say it’s fine but it isn’t. I do, however, realize that you and I have a long way to go on the trust front.” He fixed Teddy’s duvet and drew his wand. “Close your eyes.” The kid immediately did as instructed. Harry cast the charm with a sub vocal hiss and purple magic enveloped Teddy briefly. He relaxed on the bed, instantly asleep. “Mavis.” The phoenix flashed into the room and perched on the headboard. “If he has nightmares, come and get me.” She chirped her agreement and settled in with a ruffle of feathers.
He left the door open to Teddy’s room, paused briefly in the doorway of Jacob’s to check on the baby. Jacob was sprawled out across his crib. Winky appeared at his side, yawning and dressed in a pair of jade green silk pajamas. Once he’d gotten her over her fear of being freed again—she’d turned into something of a diva on the clothes front.
“Teddy’s having a problem with the moon,” Harry said. He leaned on the doorway as he watched Jacob sleep. “This one could probably sleep through the Quidditch World Cup.” He grinned when she snorted but then sobered. “I need you to put security charms on the liquor cabinet, the potions lab, and your medicine cupboard in the kitchen.”
Winky frowned but nodded. “Why?”
“Teddy has self-medicated at least two times. I suspect there were other events but he doesn’t want to admit it. He admitted to drinking his grandmother’s firewhiskey and to taking a sleeping potion once.”
“I fix it,” Winky said around another yawn. “I be sorry about Kreacher.”
“I believe he probably went out exactly how he wanted and we’ll have to honor that,” Harry said. “Though in the future, Winky, I want you to remember that absolutely nothing I own is worth your life. You both should’ve retreated and let her do whatever she wanted to that old house.”
“Kreacher not…” Winky sighed. “Kreacher be crazy, you know. He love that dumb old house.”
“Yeah, he did,” Harry agreed. “If you go crazy like that I’m going to put you in a home for old elves. Do they make those? Maybe I’ll get Hermione to create one.”
She scoffed but frowned. “She do it, too.”
“She would. Just imagine it—the House Elf Retirement Village.”
“What be retirement?”
“A permanent vacation.”
Winky looked at him aghast. “You bad wizard. Bad wizard!” She popped away with a huff and Harry laughed.
He continued down the hall and into his own bedroom. His gaze fell on Hermione as he pulled the door shut and activated the lock. Her clothes were tossed on the bench at the foot of the bed and she was in the bed already—asleep. Harry shed his own shoes and clothes, leaving the shirt and jeans piled with hers then slipped into the bed with her. She shifted toward him and he pulled her into his arms content to go to sleep.
“Hmmm, you’re warm.”
“Parselmouths tend to run a little hot,” Harry admitted against her neck. “Go back to sleep.”
“I was promised cock,” Hermione protested and wiggled against him, pressing her arse against his thighs.
Harry hitched her up a little and slid his rapidly hardening cock between her legs. “I certainly try to be a man of my word but I don’t remember promising you a thing.”
“It was a very persuasive suggestion,” Hermione said breathlessly.
“That wouldn’t hold up in a court of law,” Harry said but rocked against her, thrusting his prick between her thighs casually. “Suggestions aren’t legally binding, you know.”
“Oh no, darling, you don’t get to whine either.” He scraped his teeth over her shoulder and she shuddered against him. “I love how you want me.”
“Will you…” She shuddered and groaned when he shifted her slightly and filled both of his hands with her breasts. His fingers pulled harshly on her nipples. “Oh. Fuck.”
“Will I what?” Harry asked. “Tell me what you want, love.”
She arched in his arms. “Anal. I really like anal sex.”
Harry groaned and buried his face in her hair. “You’re perfect.” He slid his left hand down her stomach and between her legs. “Your pussy is so hot and slick—how about you keep my cock warm while I get your arsehole ready?”
“God, you’re filthy,” Hermione said with sincere admiration.
He laughed. “Get on your knees.” Hermione rolled to her knees the moment he released her and shivered when he moved up behind her. He ran his large hands down her back and gripped her hips. “I hope you know I wasn’t kidding about the cock warming.” He pushed into her cunt with one thrust and she groaned. “Be still.” He laughed when she huffed and he gave her ass a little slap. “I mean it.”
“Yes, sir,” she agreed breathlessly and clenched down on his cock with a little sigh.
Harry ran his fingers between the cheeks of her arse briefly before murmuring a lubrication charm that slicked up two of his fingers. He smeared the lube over the rim, rubbed gently then pressed. She relaxed into the caress and he pushed his finger into her. Hermione groaned and rocked back into him helplessly.
“You greedy girl,” Harry murmured as he finger fucked her. “Got your pretty little puss full and that isn’t enough for you, is it?”
Hermione’s breath hitched as he pushed a second finger into her. “Jesus Christ.”
“Easy,” Harry murmured. He cast another lubrication charm and a prep charm he hadn’t used in years. The magic opened her up gently but he continued to press his fingers into her with an easy rhythm. “Okay?”
“Hell yes,” Hermione gasped.
Harry removed his fingers from her arse, pulled his cock from her body and pushed into her arsehole with smooth stroke. “Can you come this way?”
“Yes,” Hermione shivered and curled her fingers into the sheets. “Just…God…Harry, fuck me.”
“Still a bossy girl,” Harry murmured as he started to move—thrusting into her with one long, deep stroke after another.
It was so intense that it took Hermione’s breath and she was reduced to soft little gasps of pleasure as he fucked her. He wasn’t the first to give her this but he was certainly the first wizard she’d had who was so comfortable with it. No hesitation, no awkward movement. Harry was all slow, fluid movement that was so delicious she could do little more than take it. A chill drifted over her skin as a bone deep pleasure settled on her. Her clit was throbbing and her empty cunt was clenching with each thrust. The gentle smack of skin against skin got a little louder and she knew she was moaning nonsense but she couldn’t help herself.
Harry leaned down, kissed the center of her back and hissed against her skin.
Hermione shuddered in shock as a heavy wave of magic filled her pussy. “Sweet mother of…fuck…what…”
“There, that’s better isn’t it?” Harry questioned as he started to move again. “It’s just a pleasure spell.”
Hermione relaxed a little and shuddered as the magic moved to match him—filling her cunt with the same easy thrust that was filling her arse. It was overwhelming and she was coming almost instantly. He fucked her through it and she fell into another orgasm with a half-scream and her toes curled painfully as her magic surfaced in smoky curls of gold light. Harry shuddered, thrust deep one more time and came with a harsh groan. The magic faded as he carefully pulled from her ass and Hermione let herself collapse on the mattress with a huff of shock.
“You okay?” Harry asked, amused as he sprawled on his back beside her, prick still half-hard.
“You fucked me with a cock made of magic,” Hermione said against the sheets. She turned her head. “I’m bloody fantastic over here. What was that? How did you do that? What freaky, brilliant pervert taught you that?”
Harry grinned. “Sirius told me about that charm actually. He said if I got lucky enough to find a witch who’d let me take them that way that I’d better get them off so hard they think I’m the second coming of Merlin then he gave me a book on sex magic. The double penetration charm was in that book.”
“I’m not at all surprised by this.” She wiggled a little and sighed. “My toes cramped.”
“Wanna take a swim in my tub?”
“Fuck that! I’m exhausted.”
He snorted and smacked her arse. “I did all the work, you lazy witch.” Harry slid off the bed, walked around it, and prodded her to roll over so he could pick her up. Hermione wrapped one arm around his shoulders and swung her feet.
“Most of your wandless magic is parselmagic, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, does that bother you?”
“Not at all,” Hermione promised. “I never had a problem with you being a parselmouth. Frankly, parseltongue is sexy as hell.”
“My tongue vibrates when I speak it,” Harry admitted as he put her down on the edge of the tub and activated the runes on along the rim to fill it. The water rushed into it, gently rolling and steamy.
“So if you spoke it while you were eating me out….” Hermione theorized as she lifted off the ledge and slid down into the tub.
Harry laughed. “Do you always think with your clit? Because if you do it’s going to change practically every memory I have of you since we met.”
Hermione blushed but then grinned. “Shut up, you’ve got an invisible magic cock; you’ve got no room to talk.”
“I don’t suppose I do,” Harry agreed and stepped down into the tub.
Hermione found Harry outside, a platinum rune quill in his hand. The pool had been emptied and Harry was down in it. “What are you doing?”
“The water cleansing runes are eroded as I said in the note I sent you. I didn’t notice until I’d already filled it so I’m fixing the runes. It can’t be done while the thing is full so I pulled the water out.”
“Where’s the water?” Hermione questioned with a frown.
“Look up, love.”
Hermione looked up and about a hundred yards above the pool, a large ball of water hovered, encased entirely in magic. “Dramatic.”
“The water reservoir system is out of maintenance as well. It takes two hours for the conjuring rune to fill the pool and I don’t have the time to wait for that, so vanishing it was out of the question.” He pointed towards the two large stone structures on either side of the grotto. “It’s what I get for buying sight-unseen. Jacob and Teddy are having breakfast if you want to join them.”
“I stopped in and got toast,” Hermione said as she sat down on the edge of the pool. “Agenda for the day?”
“I took the day off to do some errands in relation to the move. Teddy has an appointment with his healer and I’m going to interview two mind healers that St. Mungo’s has recommended for private counseling for him,” Harry explained as he carved. “Jacob’s due for his dragon pox vaccine potion so we’ll take care of that as well today. You?”
“I have to be at work in little under two hours,” Hermione said and leaned back on her hands. “But I thought maybe we could have lunch today?”
“We should be done by one at the latest. Do you want to eat at Greta’s?” Harry questioned.
“That’s pretty public for Jacob.” Hermione frowned.
“I need to…get comfortable here so I don’t turn into more of a militant freak and traumatize my children with it,” Harry admitted and flushed when she laughed. “I’d also rather not have you run for the hills when you realize I’m a nutjob on the security front.”
“We can be a nutjob together on that front,” Hermione said. “You haven’t been to my flat in ages so you have no clue what I have going on there. I launched war wards on that place the day I moved in. I had to key them twice because they were so strong they were pushing my neighbors out of their flats as well.”
Harry snorted. “Right, well that’s a relief.” He put the quill down on the edge of the pool and walked over to where she was sitting. “Come down here for a second.” He wrapped his hands around her waist and lifted her down into the pool before backing her up against the wall and pressing a kiss to her mouth. “Still using the peppermint flavored cleaning charm on your teeth, I see.” He kissed her again and she curled her fingers into his jeans to pull him closer. He lifted his head. “Ron will probably poke you at you today if he gets the chance but I’d like you to remember that he doesn’t really know a fucking thing about me. He has no clue what I want or need for that matter. He never really did. He’s a jealous twat and that’s pretty much all he’ll ever be.”
She nodded. “I won’t let him upset me again.”
“Don’t tell that lie,” Harry chided gently. “You and I both know he has the ability to work us both into a complete rage. We trusted him once and that betrayal is fresh every single time he opens his mouth to complain about how neither one of us did what he wanted. Ron doesn’t have the success he wanted, the career he thought he deserved, or frankly the woman he thought he’d more than earned, which he blames us both for.”
She slouched in his arms with a pout. “I’ve been considering putting a repelling charm on myself but I’m worried it’ll make him hate me which could lead to some kind of altercation where I make Lavender a widow. I’m not sure she’s at the point where she’d thank me. Pregnancy sort of mellowed her towards him or something. It must be the hormones.”
“Which explains so much about the Weasley family,” Harry said and grinned when she laughed. He pulled her close and inhaled against her hair. “I love you and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t. We owe it to ourselves to take our time and figure out what we can have together so don’t worry about Ron and his bullshite.”
“Agreed.” She turned and pressed her mouth against his jaw. “How long is your containment charm on that water going to last?”
“About another twenty minutes,” he admitted and put her back up on the ledge of the pool with a sigh. “I’ll send you a message if we take longer than I expect at St. Mungo’s.”
* * * *
Six parchments hit her desk from the delivery system before she even sat down. Hermione sorted through the research requests from the Auror Department first, flagging them all for her boss’ review. There were two from Ron and she figured he’d be down to harass her about them before lunch. She was tempted to just do them and get it out of the way but she really didn’t want to get reprimanded for not following the new rules. Well, unless it involved a private spanking across the Director’s lap and she doubted Harry would be so inclined. At least, he wouldn’t be interested in spanking her at work. She flushed and wiggled a little at the memory of the way he’s slapped her ass the night before. Something told her she wouldn’t have to work him so carefully into exploring her favorite little kinks.
Another four parchments shot through the delivery portal and she sighed. She picked up a piece of blank parchment and a quill then quickly sent off a memo to her boss regarding the Auror Department’s research issues. The Daily Prophet appeared in her in box. She retrieved it and started taking it apart, setting aside the society columns and gossip sections out of habit. She tried to ignore her own face on the one page—it was a picture of her with Harry leaving Gringotts. Hermione sighed and pulled it back in front of her and stared at it. Teddy was on Harry’s left and she had Jacob. They looked…like a family and that was a both exciting and terrifying. Jacob had a hand fisted in her cloak in the picture. The photo moved and the baby pressed his face against her cheek. Harry turned to them and…her heart clenched. There was so much love on his face in that moment that she was furious that a reporter had managed to catch it on film.
She took out a pair of scissors and carefully cut the picture out of the paper, ignoring the article. It would be all nonsense anyway. She tucked the picture into her top desk drawer with a blush and finished sorting the paper. There were a few items in the international section that sparked her interest so she made a note to get a copy of the Magical Times when they were on the Alley. After an hour of working, her boss opened the door and stuck his head in.
“I’ve sent Longbottom a memo about the unauthorized research requests and the new procedure for submitting them.”
She motioned towards the parchments. “I have them here. Are you going to make them resubmit?”
Cecil sighed and came in. He picked up the stack and quickly worked through them. He left her two. “Officially assigned. My apologies but you’re the only researcher I have on staff who can deal with Ron Weasley. I’m fairly certain Hannah is still plotting his murder due to last year when you were on vacation.”
Hermione sighed but nodded. “All right.”
The first was a ward analysis on a business in Diagon Alley that was apparently encroaching on two other store fronts. Wards tended to bleed over boundaries and had no respect for property lines. She frowned as she reviewed the scene report and the haphazard diagnostic Ron had performed. It wasn’t a surprise to her at all that the owner an apothecary was a pure-blood and the complaint had been filed by the Muggle-born running the print shop next door. Ron wasn’t an overt bigot but deep down he had a bias that cropped up in his work in ways that showed a very narrow perspective about the world and about magic. She knew she wouldn’t be able to complete the assignment with his half-arsed report so she stood and pulled on a uniform cloak.
There was an apparition point just down the hall from her office for their departmental use so she went to it and apparated to Diagon Alley. The shopping area was busy, not a surprise since they were only a month away from a new school year. She went to the apothecary, it wasn’t very busy as they didn’t cater to the sort of potions ingredients a Hogwarts student would need. The wizard behind the counter glared at her.
“What do you want?”
“Hermione Granger, Department of Mysteries.” She opened her badge and let him see it. “I need to inspect your wards regarding a complaint filed about encroachment.”
“I know who you are, girlie,” the old wizard said with a huff. “I already talked about this with an Auror. He said he’d take care of it for me.”
“In order for the complaint to be fully discharged, it has to be researched and signed off by the DOM due to the nature of your wards. Your intent wards are allegedly hostile, Mr. Lively, and we have to determine if you’re violating the law regarding their implementation.”
He slapped a hand on the counter between them. “Weasley said he’d take care of it. Go on back to your little desk and leave these matters to your betters.”
Hermione’s gaze narrowed. “I can do the tests or I can recommend to the Director of the DOR that your entire property be thoroughly inspected for code and ward violations.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement and a wand. She turned but the stunner impacted her chest before she could draw her own wand.
* * * *
Harry had waited for ten minutes at the apparition point in Diagon Alley for Hermione to arrive for their lunch before he’d taken his boys to the Ministry to retrieve her. Her boss met him on the way to her office. Harry didn’t know Cecil Montgomery well but he’d read his personnel file. He was a good employee if uninspired and not exactly motivated to improve himself. The man was also fifteen years older than Harry and just one of many who’d assumed they deserved the role as Director of the DMLE.
“Director Potter, how can I help you?”
Harry shifted Jacob on his hip and glanced towards Teddy who was peeking into Hermione’s empty office. “Just looking for my favorite witch. We had lunch plans and I’d wrongly assumed she’d merely lost track of time at her desk.”
Cecil frowned. “She had a few research tasks this morning but…no field work.” He walked into her office and walked around the desk so he could sit. He picked up the parchment and immediately made a face. “If your bloody Aurors would do complete scene analysis my people wouldn’t have to go out and do the scans again. She’s probably at Lively Apothecary. Auror Weasley didn’t complete all of the scans required for her to offer an official opinion on the wards encroachment.” He offered Harry the parchment.
Harry took it and reviewed it with a little knot of anger tightening in his gut. He turned to Teddy. “Take Jacob, please.” He offered the baby and Teddy took him carefully. Jacob giggled and wrapped his arms around his brother’s neck.
“The adoption settled very well,” Cecil said. He flushed when Harry looked at him. “Sometimes, they don’t you know. I have mage sight so I can see it—magically I can’t tell them apart, which is something that happens with very close siblings until they go through their maturity.”
“That’s good to know,” Harry said quietly. “I think we have a problem, Mr. Montgomery. When did she leave to complete the investigation?”
Montgomery pulled a slim blue book from his robe and opened it. “She clocked in at 9:00 am as usual. And used the apparition point at 10:21 am.” He frowned as he closed it. “You’re right—it’s a problem. It wouldn’t have taken thirty minutes to complete that ward analysis and she isn’t the type to mess about at work so she would’ve returned immediately.” He stood. “This is exactly why I don’t want my people in the field, Director Potter. I know Granger is different—she fought in the war—but she shouldn’t be placed in dangerous bloody situations.”
“My house elf isn’t well enough to pop long distances,” Harry said and turned to Teddy. He took Jacob back, held out his hand for Teddy and the boy took it. “I’ll meet you at the departure point in the DMLE, Mr. Montgomery.” He apparated away with both of his children and the wards in the DOM flexed in ire but submitted. He appeared in Susan Bones’ office. “Sue, I need you to take my kids.”
Bones started at his abrupt appearance. “What’s wrong?” She stood up and walked around the desk. “Merlin, Harry, did you shape this kid with your magic?”
“There’s a problem that I need to respond to and I trust you.” He transferred his baby into the witch’s arms. “Don’t let anyone…”
“I won’t,” Susan promised. She smiled for Teddy. “We’ll be right here when you’re done unless you send word that we should go elsewhere.”
Harry nodded and with a look toward Teddy who only nodded, he apparated again. He appeared in the central bullpen of the DMLE and quickly found Montgomery who was speaking with Neville and Ron. “What do we know?”
“I verified her travel to the alley,” Neville said. “And she hasn’t apparated back out as far as we can tell. There has been no portkey travel from the enclave in the past six hours but there has been an insane amount of activity around the exit into Muggle London due to school shopping. We’ve activated her badge twice but there is no response and that frankly isn’t like Hermione. She doesn’t ignore any call from the DMLE for any reason. We’re waiting on McGregor from the Unspeakables so we can do a location search on her.”
“I’m here,” McGregor said as he entered the bullpen. “Lose your witch, Potter?”
Harry glared at the older man. “If you want to pick a fight with me, McGregor, do it on a different a day.”
McGregor spread out a large parchment on the central briefing table and drew his wand. “Due to privacy issues and laws, this requires your approval as well Director Potter.” He motioned to the seal in the center. “Just push into it with your magic.” He put his own wand to the seal and it lit up briefly.
Harry drew his wand, did as instructed and the parchment activated. It was a map of Britain—much like the one he’d had at Hogwarts. “What is this?”
“The very first piece of magic Hermione Granger created for the Ministry,” McGregor said. “Every magical person in Britain is listed on it—including the Muggle-borns who aren’t even at Hogwarts yet. We guard it very carefully as a result.” He put his wand on it. “Show me Hermione Jane Granger.” The map swirled, zoomed in on Diagon Alley and her name appeared on a delicate little ribbon, unmoving in a building labeled Lively Apothecary. “Health status on subject.” The map reported her unconscious but breathing.
Harry relaxed a little. “Richard Lively has been under investigation by the ICW for smuggling illegal potion ingredients for over a year.” He turned to Montgomery. “The ward report she had?”
Cecil proffered the rolled parchment. “Weasley only did the exterior ward scan. Nothing in that scan revealed what was causing the encroachment into the neighboring properties so Miss Granger would’ve had to go to the location to complete her own assessment and sign off on the complaint for the Department of Regulation.”
Harry glanced over the results and tossed it. “We don’t even know how lethal his intent wards are.” He reached out and tapped the map, it moved again, and the floor plan of the apothecary was revealed.
“How did you know it would do that?” McGregor asked.
“I’ve seen the document that inspired this one,” Harry said. He stared at Hermione’s name for a few seconds before pushing aside his feelings and absolute fury to look over the rest of the building. She was in a storage room and Lively himself was at the counter. There were four men in another back room—Baker, Waverly, Chester, and Adams. “Joseph Baker—an American, rumored dark wizard but more importantly a parselmouth. Rule of thumb people, you come across someone like me in a duel, block everything that wizard sends your way like he’s throwing AKs.”
“The others?” Neville questioned.
“Baker doesn’t work with a partner often or for very long—he’s prone to killing them but no organization has ever gotten evidence of that so they’re probably Lively’s people.” He tapped the exterior wall leading into the storage room where Hermione was. “I want two people on this wall—they’re to come through it and extract her the moment we bust the wards. Lively and his friends are going to be way too busy dealing with me and the mess I’m going to make to think about her.”
“Unless they’ve taken her to lure you,” Neville pointed out.
“They probably have,” Harry agreed. “We were in the paper this morning—it must have been like Yule came early when she strolled into that shop without a bloody care.” He glared briefly at Ron who flushed. “Nev, get our people ready. Mr. Montgomery, you’ll be notified as soon as she’s transferred to St. Mungo’s. Her parents are Muggles but can receive magical communication easily enough.” He left the table, pulling off his cloak. “We need to go in heavy so bring in a war ward buster just to be sure.”
He entered his office, stripped off his shirt and went to the closet in the back. He was pulling on a shirt made of basilisk skin when Ron entered. “I don’t have time for you.” He pulled on a dragon hide waistcoat then a full length black coat of the same hide. It was the standard uniform for a war mage. He hadn’t bothered to issue himself armor from the DMLE.
“You’re blaming me for this when you didn’t bother to tell anyone that Lively was a suspect in an ICW investigation.”
“I blaming you because you didn’t do your damn job,” Harry hissed. “And she shouldn’t have had to go behind you and clean up your goddamned mess! You want to be useful? Go find her parents and take them to St. Mungo’s.” He brushed past his former friend without another word.
* * * *
Harry disillusioned himself the moment he stepped out of the apparition point. “There are too many kids on the Alley. The Muggle-born and their parents won’t know what to do if you activate the crowd control spells. That’s certainly not the kind of experience they deserve for their first outing.”
“No, agreed,” Neville said. “Boot, Finn you’re on the wall. Get her out of that building as soon as you can. I’m going to activate a ward buster the moment I enter the place. Harry, stay invisible until we get through the door. Edgecomb, clear out as many of the shops as you can near and across the street from the apothecary. Li, you’ll stand guard at the door and take out anyone who escapes us with as much force as required. We don’t need one of these arseholes picking a fight in the middle of the street.”
The shop wasn’t far from the apparition point and Harry stayed at Neville’s side, banking on his old friend’s easy going and friendly reputation. They stopped in front of the door and Neville opened it after a few seconds. He strolled into the storefront, hands tucked behind him.
“How can I help you, Head Auror Longbottom?”
Nev smiled. “I see my reputation proceeds me. I’m looking for a Ministry employee, Hermione Granger. She might be familiar to you.”
“Potter’s pet, sure, I know who you mean,” Lively sat back on his stool and puffed on a gnarled pipe. “The little chit was in here earlier, acting like that Auror you sent around couldn’t do his job properly but she left after about twenty minutes.”
Neville nodded and rocked back on his heels as he pulled out a sparkling ruby red stone from his pocket. He dropped it right in front of him, magic burst out of it not unlike a bomb. Lively cursed and lunged off the stool towards his wand.
Harry clamped his hand down on the wand where it lay on a side counter and ended his disillusion charm in the same instant. He glared at the older wizard. “If a single hair on her head has a split-end, I’m going to skin you alive.” The wards shattered and in the next room, a blasting curse sounded.
Spell fire from the back of the shop flashed past him and Harry used a bludgeoning curse to knock Lively unconscious, drew a second wand and leveled them at the back of the building. Surprisingly, Neville pulled a staff out of mid-air and smirked at the look of shock Harry sent his way.
“Do try not to kill anyone,” Neville said cheerfully.
* * * *
They destroyed most of the store but the containment ward Su Li launched kept the altercation contained and not a single shopper on the Alley even realized what happened. He’d had to endure a medical check-up per procedure. They’d set his two broken fingers, healed them and given him a pain potion to take with him. Harry stepped off the lift and walked down the hall to the private waiting room where he’d sent Susan Bones with his boys. Terry Boot was standing outside the door.
“Boot.” Harry took a deep breath. “Any word?”
“Looks like they potioned her,” Boot admitted. “Which isn’t a surprise, a stunner wouldn’t keep a witch as powerful as Hermione down for long. It’s well known that she’s a sorceress. Only an idiot would’ve left her just stunned.”
Harry nodded. “The potion?”
“They haven’t come back and reported anything to her parents since they verified she’d been potioned,” Boot said. “Sue Bones brought your kids here about an hour ago. She’s still inside and insisted that I stand guard out here until you arrived.”
“Thanks,” Harry murmured. “You can go and let the Minister know I’ll forward any information I have regarding her condition as soon as I can.”
“Yes, sir.” Boot hesitated briefly but then nodded and left.
Harry opened the door and entered the room. He unbuttoned the dragonhide trench coat as he closed the door. “Ryan.”
Ryan Granger lifted his head. “Hey, they said you were upstairs because you were hurt.”
Harry waved his left hand. “Broke two fingers—it’s nothing.” Jacob toddled to him and he picked the baby up. “Hey kiddo.”
“Mine,” Jacob demanded.
He didn’t know what to say really so he just kissed Jacob’s forehead and the baby huffed in what was probably fury. “I know exactly how you feel, kid.” He sat down and wrapped an arm around Teddy when the boy shifted as close as possible on the sofa. “Thank you, Sue.”
“You’re welcome.” Susan gathered up her stuff and stuck all of her knitting project in a tiny bag. “I fed them about an hour ago so they should be fine until dinner. Just floo or owl if you need me.”
Harry nodded and watched her go.
“Your ex-girlfriend is hot,” Teddy said conversationally as soon as the door shut.
Harry laughed. “Don’t objectify women.”
“She’s also smart,” Teddy offered.
“Better,” Harry murmured and ruffled his hair. “She is beautiful—inside and out.”
“I figured out the inside is the important part when I started being able to change my face.” He demonstrated by changing his nose, eyes, and mouth. “It’s pretty easy to look different with magic so you have to look deep to figure out who someone is.” His face shifted back normal and he pulled a book out of his pocket which he held out to Harry.
Harry touched it and pushed into the charm work with his magic so the book would expand to its normal size. “Susan would’ve done it for you.”
“I was keeping an eye on Jacob,” Teddy said and opened his book.
Harry wanted to tell Teddy that it wasn’t his job to make sure his brother was safe but it wasn’t entirely true. Family took care of each other and Teddy had never met Susan Bones so it stood to reason that his son hadn’t offered her the same trust Harry had. The door opened and Draco Malfoy appeared in it. He stared pointedly at Harry and sighed.
“You realize the Director of the DMLE is supposed to stay out of field work, right? Rumor has it you were hurt.”
“Just cracked two fingers and I’m not made to sit behind a desk all the time. I warned Kingsley of that when he gave me the job. Where are they on the interrogations?”
“Lively had to have his jaw bone regrown thanks to you but they’ve already processed the American—Baker. He had no idea who she was though he is responsible for stunning her because she threatened to bring in a team of regulators to inspect the entire property. They had upwards of a hundred thousand galleons in illegal ingredients in the back. In fact, he didn’t know he’d managed to facilitate the kidnapping of a national icon until mid-way through the interrogation.” Draco smirked. “Remind me to show the pensieve memory of it—you should’ve seen his face when he found out she’s the girlfriend of the highest ranking copper in magical Britain. Lively didn’t tell him.”
“Baker isn’t the kind to complicate a situation on purpose. If he’d known who she was he’d have probably…” Harry shook his head and curled his fingers into Jacob’s jumper. “The others?”
“Oh, Baker is the only one who isn’t here at St. Mungo’s. You and Longbottom made a proper mess out of the rest of them.” He leaned on the door frame. “I’m going to transfer them to the DMLE infirmary shortly and we’ll start interviews in the morning. News on Granger?”
“She was potioned but they don’t know with what,” Harry said.
Draco frowned. “I’ll go find out from Baker.” He turned and left without another word—the door swung shut behind him.
Malfoy was gone roughly ten minutes and returned equal parts amused and furious. “Those arseholes gave her the Draught of the Living Death.” He paused and turned to Hannah Granger. “Pardon me for my language, ma’am.”
“Is that…Living Death?” Hannah questioned. “She’s not going to wake up?”
Harry rubbed Jacob’s back as the baby stirred. “It’s the origin of the Sleeping Beauty myth, Hannah.” He stood and sighed. “Have you told the healers?”
“Yeah, they’re getting the antidote ready. It’s agreed she’s least likely to curse you silly for delivering it.” He turned to her parents. “It can only be given to a patient with a kiss, you see.”
* * * *
Wiggenweld Potion was green which was odd for a potion with a blood base—it was a powerful and addictive healing potion that was only brewed in extreme situations. Harry personally hated the way it tasted but said nothing as the healer painted his lips with it using a delicate wispy brush that was smoking slightly with the potion. It sank into his skin by degrees and the healer studied his own reaction to the potion carefully as one in a hundred wizards were actually allergic to it, though the exact reason for that was a mystery as the affected ones weren’t often allergic to the individual ingredients.
“Your lips will stay a little pink for about thirty minutes then that will fade. It’s properly absorbed now—you’ll have to press your mouth firmly to hers and use your magic to activate the potion. Will that be okay?”
“We’re lovers, Healer Simms.”
The healer relaxed. “Well, that’s the rumor but I don’t take gossip as fact. It’s good that you’re already intimate. I do hope the information we were given was correct. Granted, this won’t hurt her if they’ve lied about the potion she was given. As you know, there’s no test for the Draught of the Living Death so long after ingestion and there was nothing left in her stomach to evaluate.”
Harry nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed Hermione was in. Her skin was pale and what few make-up charms she used regularly were gone. She looked young, innocent and very much like something out of a fairytale. He leaned down, pressed his mouth to hers, and his magic welled up inside of him then spilled out between them. She shifted under him and one hand cupped the back of his head with a soft sound of surprise.
He lifted his head and their eyes met. “You let some half-arsed dark wizard get the drop on you.”
Her eyes widened. “Sorry.”
“You bloody well should be,” Harry murmured. “They gave you the Draught of Living Death.”
Hermione huffed. “Cowardly bastards.”
He grinned and lifted away from her which made her frown but she let go of him. “Yeah, your parents are on the other side of the curtain.” He jerked his head towards it. “You gave us a scare, you know.” He brushed her hair back from her forehead then stood. “Healer Gallen has been taking care of you.”
Hermione turned to the woman. “Thank you, Clarissa. I hope I haven’t been too much trouble.”
“You’re always less trouble when you’re unconscious,” the woman said with a smile and drew her wand. “Let’s do a few scans then. Lord Potter, if you’d wait on the other side of the privacy curtain?”
Harry nodded and with a glance towards Hermione left. He rounded the corner and Jacob glared at him from Ryan Granger’s arms.
“Mine!” Jacob held out his hands. “Mine, now!”
Harry chuckled and took the baby. “You’re so bossy.” He turned to Hermione’s parents. “She’s awake and talking.”
“You look like you’re wearing lip gloss,” Hannah said with some amusement.
“It’s a blood based potion,” Harry explained. “They tend to have a pink sheen when they’re worn but it should fade in a bit. Fortunately, it goes pink after application. The potion itself is neon green.”
After a few minutes Clarissa Gallen came around the curtain. “She’s recovering quickly but she’ll be physically weak for several hours. Her magical levels are already back to normal but that’s not a surprise considering her individual power.” She turned to the Grangers. “The potion she was dosed with induces a physical stasis in a magical person by subduing their magic entirely. It’s honestly one of the few ways to truly subdue a witch of your daughter’s power. It was, in fact, created to imprison a witch much like your daughter. She was in a magical stasis for nearly ten years before a solution was discovered by accident.”
Hannah raised an eyebrow towards Harry when the healer didn’t appear to want to elaborate. Harry winced. “Her name was Delyn and was quite well known for her beauty. She married a common wizard—some believed him far below her station but they loved one another very much. A jealous man kidnapped her but he couldn’t keep her confined due to her magical power so he dosed her with a powerful potion that was supposed to subdue her magic. That potion would eventually become known as the Draught of the Living Death. He husband rescued her and healers came from the world over to attempt to revive her—they were unsuccessful. After a decade Aeron, her husband, lost hope and sought to avenge his wife but was gravely injured instead of killed as many believed he wished. He was dosed with Wiggenweld potion but it wasn’t enough to save him. His final wish was to be with his wife so his healer moved him into her bed. When a magical person dies, their magic starts to leave their core. He kissed her and the potion on his lips combined with his erupting magic woke her. He died and she lived. Not quite the fairytale that eventually made its way into Muggle folklore but that is the true story of Sleeping Beauty.”
“Some Muggle versions are nightmarish,” Ryan pointed out as he turned to the healer. “Can we see her?”
“Yes, I’ll get her discharged. She can leave when she’s ready. I’ve helped her dress but as I said she’s physically exhausted and will be so the remainder of the day.”
Hermione was upright in the bed, leaning on a pile of pillows when they went around the curtain. She frowned. “She didn’t double knot my laces.”
Harry put Jacob down on the bed and he immediately crawled into Hermione’s lap. He plucked up her booted foot and retied the lace the way she preferred then did the other while Jacob babbled ‘Mine’ and ‘not Su’ at her alternately. “I left him and Teddy with Susan Bones while…we retrieved you from your predicament.”
“Not Su,” Jacob declared and clutched at Hermione’s jumper with one fist.
“You’ve ruined my son for other women,” Harry informed her and grinned when she laughed.
“I hope your parents don’t think I’m high-handed,” Harry murmured as he covered her with a duvet.
“You were very reasonable,” Hermione said though she was clearly amused. She yawned. “And right, we don’t know if the threat is contained and I wouldn’t want to make them a target. It made sense for me to come here. Besides it would’ve upset Jacob.”
Harry glanced at his son who was tucked up against Hermione asleep, his fingers curled into the t-shirt he’d helped her change into. He picked up her hand and rubbed his thumb over the top carefully as he considered what to say. “If I fuck us up…”
“You’re not the one with commitment issues,” Hermione pointed out. “I’m the mess but I figure if you can put up with my mess that I can put up with yours.” She paused. “But if we fuck it up—I’m always going to be the best friend I can be to you.”
“That’s a deal,” Harry murmured. He kissed her palm and took a deep breath. “I need to work on the runes for Teddy’s bed. Call Winky if you need anything or if Jacob wakes up for a bottle.”
“I think I’ll nap,” Hermione said. “Can you spell the bed so he won’t fall of if he wakes up and I don’t notice?”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed and leaned it. He pressed a soft kiss to her mouth. “For the record, there will be no keeping that whole Sleeping Beauty thing contained. It’s probably already made it to the newspapers.”
Hermione huffed and laughed. “Right.”
* * * *
“Why would they potion her with something like that?”
Harry paused as he considered how to answer that question honestly but at an age-appropriate level. Teddy was seated beside him on the double bed while he carved the runes into the top of the head board. “Powerful witches and wizards can work their way free of a stunning spell. There are magical suppression devices, the DMLE uses them, but they are heavily monitored and difficult to procure cheaply in the private sector. You can buy magical moderators for children if their accidental magic episodes prove dangerous but out right suppression is difficult. A cheap and ultimately fool proof way to subdue someone is to give them a potion. Once dosed, they no longer had to watch over her and could finish their business.”
“But there are other reasons someone might use that potion,” Teddy surmised.
“They rendered her helpless,” Harry murmured as he worked. “And that can be a very scary situation for anyone to be in. Assault—mental, magical, and sexual—is more commonly a crime committed against women but it can happen to men.” He paused. “And children.”
“They didn’t hurt her, right?”
“No, just stunned and potioned. They wanted her out of the way so they could get rid of all of their illegal products. We captured them all, we think, and the investigation will be handled very carefully.”
Teddy frowned. “If Ron had done his job then Hermione wouldn’t have gone there in the first place. Are you going to fix that?”
“Yes,” Harry said and pushed aside his own fury. “Ron isn’t the only one in the department that is guilty of that particular laziness and I will be addressing it.” He pushed a little magic into the rune quill as he worked and it started to glow in his hand.
“When did you learn to do this?” Teddy questioned.
“In truth, I half-arsed my way through Hogwarts and when I went abroad to work for the ICW I paid for that ignorance ten-fold. They gave me leeway because of the war and the fact that I was Muggle-raised but I had to take a lot of classes to catch up and work on the level required of me. Runic magic was just one of those courses of study.”
“But your Mastery is in International Magical Law, right?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “It is required of all War Mages employed by the ICW. But I engaged tutors to even out my education and improve my performance across the board. We haven’t discussed schooling yet but I’d like you to think about what sort of tutors you need. We only have two years to prepare you for Hogwarts and you’ll be expected to have your basics down by then in maths and language arts. How was your grandmother educating you?”
“She wasn’t,” Teddy admitted. “Aunt Cissa taught me to read and write. I’ve been reading on my own since then.”
Harry frowned but nodded. “Well, that can’t continue.”
“Start making a list of the areas where you think you’re weakest academically and I’ll hire a tutor for you. They’ll test you, of course, to determine how your lessons will be structured.”
“So primary is out of the question?”
Harry considered that and grimaced. The Academy of Magic was one of Hermione’s pet projects and it was doing very well. They were bringing Muggle-born kids into the magical world two years earlier and they were integrating much better into magical society as a result. “I’ll have to check out the security. It starts next week, right?”
“Yeah, but Gran threw out my invitation,” Teddy admitted. “I really…I’d like to go, Dad.”
Harry nodded and focused on the runes. “Did you pay attention to what the papers reported about my work abroad?”
“Yeah, I read every article in the Prophet and the Times. I keep them cut out in a box in Mr. Blotts office. I couldn’t risk bringing them home.”
“I’ve made a lot of enemies both here and abroad due to the war and my work for the ICW. I’ll make more in my position as the Director of the DMLE. Your grandmother is quite…”
“Mental,” Teddy supplied.
Harry bit down on his lip to keep from laughing. “Right, well she’s also not alone in some of her opinions concerning the war and there are people who’d like to punish me for it—one way or another.”
“Well, those people are mental, too,” Teddy decided.
“Yes, but those people make being my kid dangerous so I’ll have to check out the school and frankly they might be concerned about taking you as a student now that you’ve been adopted. But I’ll visit the school before the term starts and have a conversation with the headmistress. If she’s willing to take you and the security is reasonable—I’ll enroll you.”
“But if the security is poor—you’ll get a private tutor.”
“I get it,” Teddy said. “I wouldn’t want to be kidnapped. It doesn’t look like Hermione had any fun at all.”
Harry snorted. “Between you and me? Head Auror Longbottom and I had a great time.”
Teddy laughed. “Is Hermione going…well, are you going to marry her?”
“We’re trying to figure each other out,” Harry said.
Teddy snorted. “You’ve known her since you were eleven—if you haven’t figured her out already then I don’t even know what to think of that.”
“Women are complicated,” Harry explained. “Lovely, enchanting, frustrating, exhilarating and utterly confusing.”
“That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.” Teddy frowned. “Did I make things worse between you and Ginny Weasley? You know, with my attitude?”
“No, lad, I promise she was a pain in my arse before your parents even met.” He grinned when Teddy laughed. “She grew up believing this ridiculous fairytale where I was her personal Prince Charming and I didn’t fall into line with what she wanted. She might be sane as far as the Healers at St. Mungo’s are concerned but she’s not right and maybe hasn’t been since the Chamber of Secrets. She’s not my problem and she’ll spend at least fifteen years in Azkaban for what she did. Fortunately for her all the Dementors are gone.”
“Kreacher was a nutter but he didn’t deserve that,” Teddy said. “Want me to go check on them?”
“I have a charm on Jacob so I’ll know if he wakes up.”
“You dated Draco Malfoy.”
Harry wondered if all of that grudge-fucking he’d indulged in with Draco could be considered dating. “Yeah, for a bit when we were both at the Auror Academy. We both tried to be what the other needed but we weren’t invested emotionally.”
“I won’t lie and say that emotional attachment is required to enjoy sex with another person but it makes it better in my opinion. I don’t regret my relationship with him. I learned a lot about myself, about him and most certainly about other people. I discovered that some people are just obscenely closed-minded which made me uncomfortable. I encountered a different kind of bigotry in the magical world than what I’d experienced due to my blood status. I don’t have time for those people and I made that clear. There are plenty of people who find me acceptable because I’m with a woman now and because I married a woman. They found me horrifying when I was dating Draco and not because his father was a Death Eater.”
“So it would be okay with you if I liked boys.”
“Yep,” Harry agreed. “Do you like boys?”
Teddy shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe? It’s not like I’ve interacted with a lot of kids my age which is why I want to go the primary school. I think Victoire Weasley is pretty.”
“She is,” Harry agreed. “Any other girls?”
“No, not really.”
“Victoire has an allure because her mother has Veela ancestry,” Harry explained. “You might be responding to it. She really has no control over it so don’t hold it against her. At her age, the most she can do on purpose is display her allure but it’s always there. Her father keeps her close because of that and that’s why she’s rarely allowed to go in public places without him.”
Teddy frowned. “What do you mean?”
Harry set aside the quill and focused on his son. “Some adults are unnaturally attracted to children and there are those who make no effort to control that urge so they seek out children for sex. The Veela are more…vulnerable to such things because their allure could drive even a normal person to act in a very ugly and unnatural way. Now, most Veela have the ability to render an attacker basically helpless with their allure. Victoire doesn’t have that self-defense.”
Teddy’s face darkened. “And Jacob won’t have it either.”
“He’ll be vulnerable but fortunately male Veela don’t develop their allure until puberty. He’s a quarter Veela so it is something I’m already thinking about.”
“I’ll be out of Hogwarts by the time he starts,” Teddy said.
“We’ll do everything we can to prepare him for it,” Harry promised. “And I’ll start teaching you occlumency so you can control your response to Victoire’s allure. You’ll be at Hogwarts together and she’ll need someone she can trust.”
“It’ll get stronger with puberty for her then.”
“It’s entirely possible but it’s tricky when the blood is as diluted as hers is.” He picked up the quill. “As to the other matter, if an adult ever approaches you or touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable then you are to come to me immediately and tell me. Sometimes these people will try to threaten you, blackmail you into keeping it a secret. They might even threaten to kill someone you love but don’t believe them and come to me.”
“I don’t think anyone would mess with me,” Teddy admitted. “Even when you were abroad, everyone knew you were my godfather and former Death Eaters crossed the street to avoid me. But I’ll be careful and pay attention.”
“That’s all I ask,” Harry murmured.
* * * *
Harry lit an herbal and sat down in front of Richard Lively. He took a long, slow drag on the thin black cigar and stared. After nearly forty-five seconds, Lively broke out into a sweat. “This is Director Potter in interview with subject, Richard Lively regarding the kidnapping of Ministry of Magic employee, Hermione Granger and the smuggling of illegal potion ingredients into the Great Britain.” The quill whipped across the parchment precisely as he spoke, transcribing word for word. He focused entirely on Lively and took another hit from his herbal. “Tell me everything.”
“Have you ever been to Apollumi? When I first joined the ICW, I was required to take a tour of the facility. I’d wrongly assumed the international prison would be much like Azkaban only larger and filled with more dangerous people. As prisons, go it’s quite clean. But what struck me most was the silence. Each cell in the prison is completely isolated with magic. No outside sounds, no windows. The prisoners live in complete isolation. Their meals are delivered by magic and the only person they see is the guard who patrols their particular section. They see him every six hours and he’s not allowed to speak to the prisoners unless they are physically ill.
“They are spelled to sleep exactly eight hours a day. Every moment of their life from the moment they enter Apollumi until they leave—normally in a body bag—is controlled by the Warden. Most people go absolutely batshite inside of six months. Those who live long enough to leave Apollumi, often end up in a mental institution just down the road from the prison.
“They act like it’s better and more humane than anything individual countries use to house criminals but honestly it’s just one big white-walled mental torture facility pretending to be more than what it is.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because if you don’t tell me what I want to know, I’m going to turn you over to the ICW and you’ll die in Apollumi. If you cooperate, you’ll be put in the minimum security wizard’s prison in Switzerland as a guest of the World Court of Magic for fifteen years. You’ll be required to provide certified testimony against any of your cohorts that end up tried before the World Court.” He paused. “Also, I promise I won’t hunt you for sport once you’re released from their custody.”
Livily’s gaze narrowed. “I want that last part in writing.”
* * * *
“Yesterday, a researcher in the Department of Mysteries was taken hostage and could’ve been killed because she attempted to complete an auror’s job.” Harry looked over the crowded room. “You’ve probably come into this meeting with the assumption that I’ve taken this situation very personally. You’d be right. The days of you coasting through your jobs and letting others pick up the pieces is over. If you can’t do the work—resign. There are fifty people in the Auror Academy right now on the cusp of completing training and I currently only have jobs for five of them. Most of them will end up working in various regulatory departments in the DMLE but just so we’re clear—not a single man or woman in this room is irreplaceable. I considered going back through the last year of case files and reprimanding the vast majority of you for procedural violations. In fact, I could probably catch all but a few of you out on half-arsing at least one case, one interview, one investigation and you all know it. Don’t consider this a free pass because the next time you fuck up, every single time you’ve let the work slide in your career in the DMLE is going to go on the table.
“From this point forward, all field work will be done in teams. Every auror and Unspeakable will be assigned a work partner. If a member of a different section of the DMLE needs to go into the field, they’ll be accompanied by a team from the Auror Department or the Unspeakables. Failure to adhere to this new policy will result in your immediate dismissal. In case you missed it, when it comes to the protection of Britain and her citizens we are the vanguard and it’s high time you all act like it.” He didn’t spare Ron a glance as he turned and left the room.
Neville followed with a gesture towards Ron. The rest of the conversation wasn’t for public consumption and he wouldn’t reprimand an employee, not even his former best mate, in front of the entire Corps. He sat down in the window sill and said nothing as Neville got seated at his desk and Ron took the seat in front of it.
“I’ve reviewed your entire case file regarding the complaint filed against Lively,” Neville began, “Let’s start with the fact that you have no formal interview notes for Lively. He confessed, already, by the way that you barely spoke to him for three minutes and promised to take care of his problem with the mudblood next door.”
Ron flushed. “I’ve never used that word in my life.”
“Did you promise to take care of his problem?” Neville questioned.
“Lively had been in business for twenty years and…” Ron trailed off. “I did consider the complaint frivolous.”
“It might interest you to know that the forensics team that cleaned up after Director Potter and me reported that Livily’s wards were border line lethal, illegal, and encroaching on every single property within ten yards of his own property line. This is including the bloody street,” Neville snapped. “So if some kid had thrown a fit in the Alley within in spitting distance of his front door—his wards would’ve activated and his first line of defense was limb removal.”
“Your own wife often visits the dress shop next door to Livily’s place,” Neville continued. “In fact, it’s her favorite place to shop so I’d like you to think about that the next time you think about giving a pure-blood a pass. You’re fortunate that Granger survived her encounter with Lively. If they’d killed her, you’d be in a cell for contributing to the murder of a Ministry employee. Frankly, I’d fire you but I’d come off looking like an arsehole because your wife is pregnant. The state of your family won’t save you the next time you fuck up. Go review all of your cases and check for returned research requests. Montgomery has cleaned his department out of any incomplete reports. You’ve got four months of case work to complete at the very least.”
“And we’re just going to overlook the fact that Lively was under investigation by the ICW and our new director didn’t bother to tell us?” Ron demanded.
“ICW investigations are on a need to know basis and Director Potter isn’t allowed to discuss on-going case work with the War Mages Division unless the matter becomes an issue for local law enforcement. Which would’ve happened, properly, if you’d done your job,” Neville said. “Just doing the standard scans required of you would’ve elevated the case in the department but you know all of this. You’re just trying to shift the blame to someone else just like you always do. It’s like you’re allergic to responsibility. Get out of my office.”
Harry said nothing as Ron stormed out with a slammed door as the final insult. Neville tapped two fingers on the blotter in front of him and exhaled through his nose slowly. “You got another one of those?”
Harry removed the case of herbals and offered it to him. “It’s a terrible habit.”
Neville huffed, lit one and took a long moment to compose himself. “He could’ve gotten her killed and he doesn’t even seem to care.”
“She told me that Ron’s basically only concerned with making her miserable for leaving him. I guess a part of me wanted to believe it wasn’t that bad but it’s clear that he probably wouldn’t even be all that upset if she’d been killed.”
“Hermione has only ever been useful to Ron when she was doing something for him. As much as he blames you for this mess, he’ll blame her more. He’s good at that—blaming victims for the crimes committed against them. We had a case two years back concerning coercion through potions and he actually said that if the witch hadn’t been such a frigid twat that the wizard wouldn’t have had to potion her to get his needs met. Boot was reprimanded for punching him in the face.”
“Are you trying to make me homicidal?” Harry questioned.
“Like you aren’t already,” Neville muttered and slouched back in the chair as he blew out smoke. “A mild calming potion? This shite is practically medical grade, you great liar.”
Harry laughed. “It’s mild for me.” He looked out the window. “When did you get a staff?”
“About three years ago,” Neville said. “I was having a hard time using complex magic with a wand and I went to visit Ollivander. He told me that using a mismatched wand for years had messed up my magical development and I wasn’t moderating magic properly. I blew out two wands before we moved to the staff. Most of the time, I keep it small so everyone assumes it’s a wand but in situations like yesterday I don’t have a choice but to let it take its true form.”
“It certainly won’t hurt your image,” Harry said dryly. “Not even Dumbledore carried a staff.”
* * * *
The Academy of Magic looked like something out of a fairy tale. Harry stood at the gates, hands tucked behind his back as the wards on the gates gently but quite firmly pushed on his magic. A message board on the front of the gates had addressed him by name and informed him tartly that he’d have to wait for the Headmistress of the school to retrieve him as he was uninvited and without an appointment. While he waited he reviewed the runes across the gate and was pleased to note that the property was attached to the DMLE emergency notification system. If the wards were attacked or breached it would set off an alarm in the DMLE and activate every single Auror on the payroll. He wondered if Hogwarts had the same thing and made a note to check.
When Luna Lovegood appeared in a flush of apparition Harry couldn’t help but grin. He really hadn’t investigated much about the school so he had no idea she was in charge of it. “Luna.”
“Harry Potter,” she opened the gates and drew him into a lilac scented hug. “You look great.”
“So do you,” Harry murmured and kissed her temple with a little bit of relief. “I’ve missed you. I had no idea how much.”
“Of course you missed me,” Luna said with a smile. She urged him across the ward line. “Welcome to the Academy of Magic. Why didn’t you make an appointment?”
“I wanted to surprise the person in charge,” Harry admitted. “I didn’t know it was you. Teddy wants me to enroll him but I’m concerned about security.”
“Our wards are managed by the dverger,” Luna explained. “They’re quite robust and if we’re attacked the entire school is locked down and the children are magically shifted to a safe room underneath the school. We’re just a day-school, of course, so Teddy would be home every afternoon. Muggle-born children use a floo connection to King’s Cross then a special Ministry bus takes them home. We have fifty-seven Muggle-born children in our primary one course. There are two courses—primary one and two. We teach language arts, maths, history, earth science, Muggle world history, potions theory, and basic herbology.
“We serve breakfast and lunch but they aren’t required to be on the grounds until 8:45 in the morning. Classes run from 9:00am to 3:00pm, Monday through Friday. I can get you a supplies list if you’d like. I know Teddy hasn’t been sent one since his invitation was never responded to. No brooms or pets are allowed but allowances are made for bonded familiars. Parents are encouraged to refrain from owling their children during the school day unless they need to send forgotten homework or redirect their child to a different location after school. Teddy will be able to floo to and from the school through a secure, dverger managed connection.
“No parent can enter the property without permission and I meet all guests at the gates. We have an emergency beacon set up with the DMLE, just like Hogwarts.” Luna turned to him as they stopped at the doors. She put her hand on his chest. “I’m sorry for the hurt she caused—your aura is deeply wounded by your divorce.”
Harry took a deep breath and averted his gaze.
“But I can also see you’ve found solace in an old but cherished love. I always thought you and Hermione well-matched.”
He covered her hand with his own and looked over her face. “Did you know that you’re always such a wonderful surprise?”
She smiled. “Of course.”
“And yes, I’ll need a supplies list. I’m glad you’re here, Luna. I feel much better about sending Teddy here. If I need to make a donation for security measures, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”
“You could add a little magic to the ward stone,” Luna said cheerfully. “We don’t have Hogwarts reserve so I ask parents to contribute if they can.” She took his hand. “You have loads of magic to spare.”
* * * *
Harry set the satchel he’d been given at Flourish and Blotts full of what Teddy would need for the school year on the boy’s bed and went in search of his witch and children. He’d been relieved to discover that he’d only had to make one stop to fill the list because Luna had arranged for the book store to stock the “academy pack” full of essentials for the two year prep course load that children took at her school before they were sent to Hogwarts or whatever magical school their parents chose. Laughter and splashing water led him outside where Hermione was in the pool with both boys. The entire surface of the pool was shimmering with a charm. He glanced towards the rune protocols and noted that she’d activated the anti-drowning security.
“You three having fun?”
“The most,” Teddy assured. He came to the side of the pool and clutched at the tiled edge with both hands. “Did you visit the school?”
“Yes, and you’re enrolled. Your things are on your bed. We’ll need to go to Madam Malkin’s for uniforms tomorrow afternoon. I’ve made an appointment.”
“Awesome.” Teddy grinned and swam away. “Did you hear that, Hermione?”
“I did,” Hermione said and brought Jacob to the side of the pool. Harry crouched down and took him. “He’s about ready for a nap. I’ll bring Teddy in soon.”
Harry tucked Jacob close to his chest, ignoring the fact that the kid soaked his cloths through. “You still look tired.”
“I’m fine, I promise.” She patted the water. “I just activated the charm as a safety measure in case I had a setback. Also, both of them swim better than me.”
Harry laughed. “I had a big tub in Rome, too. Jacob learned to swim before he could even crawl.”
“And I read in the paper you’re having an affair! You have no business having sex with a witch you’re not married to in the same house my grandson lives in!”
“You’ll have to pardon me, Mrs. Tonks, as I fail to see how having a healthy and normal romantic relationship with a woman is somehow a bad influence of either of my children. Hermione Granger is a brilliant, strong, independent, and hard-working witch who conducts herself like a lady.”
“Your children,” Andromeda Tonks repeated and scoffed.
“Andy,” Narcissa said and rubbed the bridge of her nose in a show of frustration that Harry figured was rare for her. “We’ve explained on several different occasions that Teddy requested to be adopted in blood and magic. He is a Potter.”
“I don’t believe it. I want to see him, I insist you bring my grandson here.”
“No.” Harry pulled a piece of parchment from his cloak and unrolled it. “I wasn’t going to let it get this far to be honest. I was hoping that once you were in treatment that you would see reason and that you’d understand the depth of your crimes against my son.”
“What is that?” Andromeda demanded.
“It’s a certified health report that has been signed off by three different healers in this building.” He put it flat on the table in front of her. “You’ll note the mild malnutrition due to a lack of balanced meals, first. Second, all three healers agree that living with you stressed both his magic and caused emotional delays. His has two fractures in his magical core, Mrs. Tonks, due to the fact that he self-medicated with sleeping potions designed for adults. He split a single potion over a period of three days because the full moon impacts him magically due to his heritage. He maintains that you’ve only hit him the one time but your emotional neglect has given him abandonment issues. Beyond the sleeping potion use, he’s also confessed to drinking firewhiskey on one occasion to deal with the stress of the full moon. He said you never even noticed—not when he drank it and not when it made him violently ill for a full day afterward.”
Andromeda’s fingers trembled as she read the parchment. “What are you going to do with this?”
“I’m going to blackmail you,” Harry said simply. “You’re going to stay in St. Mungo’s, Andromeda, and you’re going to submit yourself to treatment because if you don’t, I’m going to put you in jail for child neglect and physical assault. It’s not what Teddy wants but the adoption settled heavy on him—my family magic latched onto him in such a way that he is deeply invested already in remaining with me. It wouldn’t take much at all for me to convince him that putting you in jail was in his best interest.”
“You son of a bitch,” Andromeda said quietly.
Harry leaned forward and met her gaze. “I was raised by one of the cruelest women I’ve ever known and I include that Death Eater cunt you called a sister.” Andromeda reared back in shock. “Do not lecture me about my personal choices and frankly who I fuck is none of your bloody business. You lost every single right to voice a word of complaint about Teddy’s circumstances when you crawled into a bottle. This conversation is over and I’m not going to come here to have it again. Narcissa will be monitoring your healing on my behalf and if you complete the program, you’ll be given limited, supervised visitation with your grandchild unless it proves detrimental to him.”
* * * *
Harry sat down in front of Ginny Weasley and her solicitor. Draco Malfoy tucked in beside him and Neville leaned on a piece of wall next to the door as it closed. It was the second meeting in two hours that he had no interest in actually having. He checked his watch. “I have plans for a late lunch so if we could make this brief, I’d appreciate it.”
“My client is a first-time offender, has a successful career in quidditch, and a pureblood witch from a Light family in good standing. I should think we could all spend the time required to ensure she’s treated fairly,” Michael Corner said stiffly and only managed to glare at Harry briefly.
Harry let the hostility and the judgment roll right off of him. Corner had wanted Ginny since Hogwarts and had blamed Harry for their on and off again relationship. Harry had heard that Ginny had been dating Michael recently and had promptly dumped the man when she’d read about Harry’s divorce in the paper. It was bordering pitiful, the entire situation.
“I don’t even know why I’m here,” Harry said mildly. “I dropped the property damage charges and the other charges were levied per magical law. They can’t be dropped and the sentence can’t be reduced because of her blood status or the reputation of the rest of her family.”
“It’s a ridiculous law,” Corner said. “And implies the liberty of my client is less important than the life of an old, crazy house elf.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed. “Kreacher might have been old and crazy but he was sentient and during the war he led other house elves in fighting off Death Eaters at Hogwarts. He also snuck food repeatedly on a daily basis into the Muggle-born camps at great risk to himself. Besides, you and I both know she wasn’t trying to kill him. She was trying to kill my female elf, whom she’d stunned in the back first. Kreacher took the curse for Winky. Your client is a coward, Mr. Corner, and as far as I’m concerned Kreacher’s life is more important than her liberty. I’d like to see her spend a great deal of time in Azkaban. Maybe they can toss her in my godfather’s old cell.”
“This is stupid, Harry!” Ginny burst out. “You’re going to let them put me in jail? I don’t know what happened to you abroad but you didn’t use to be so unforgiving and mean.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed. “Did you block out large portions of our childhood due to trauma? Tell me, why do you think I went into the Chamber of Secrets.”
“To save me,” Ginny said immediately.
“I thought you were dead,” Harry said bluntly. “I didn’t say it to Ron but I figured if anything we’d find your body or maybe just your bones after the snake spit them out.” He watched her pale. “I went down there to kill that thing because Ron asked me to and because it hurt Hermione. A part of me was also desperately afraid I’d get blamed for your death. The only reason I even knew your name was because you were Ron’s sister. I certainly hadn’t bothered to learn any other first year’s name.”
“You…you…” Her eyes dampened with tears. “You were supposed to save me, Harry. We were supposed to get married and everyone would say how much we were like your parents and I was going to give you the family you’d been denied.”
“I’m not responsible for your delusional fantasy,” Harry said crossly and sat back from the table with a sharp exhale as she started to cry in earnest.
“I can’t go to Azkaban! I’m beautiful and smart and…” She trailed off with a loud sob.
“So was Bellatrix Lestrange,” Harry said dryly. “She was, in fact, regarded at one time as the most beautiful of all the Black sisters. Take consolation that they aren’t using Dementors to guard the place these days.”
“So you’re prepared to be put on the stand and cross examined about your personal life for hours?” Michael interjected. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and passed it to Ginny. “Because if this goes to trial, you’re fair game, Potter. Your marriage, your divorce, the magical circumstances of both of your children, the inappropriate relationship you’re having with another employee of the DMLE, all of your actions before and after the war. You’ve done some dark things you refuse to talk about.”
“Are you threatening the Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?” Neville asked mildly. “I’ve got an open cell right beside your nutter client, Corner.”
“What exactly do you think you could force me to admitting?” Harry questioned. “I took a vow on my magic to never discuss the specifics of how I defeated Voldemort.” He paused when they all four shuddered in revulsion. “You can’t force me to talk about that. My relationship with Hermione Granger is not a secret and not a violation of any Ministry regulations. The origins of both of my children aren’t a bleeding mystery either. I’m internationally known to be a parselmouth. I’ve killed in the line of duty but most of those cases are under secrecy seals per the ICW—the Wizengamot wouldn’t have the power to override those seals and even if they did, I’m not remotely ashamed of killing a few dark wizards.”
“You’ve cast all three Unforgiveables,” Corner said and everyone in the room grew still. Even Ginny stopped sniffling to turn to stare at her solicitor in horror. “If I asked you about them under oath, you’d have to confess to it. Casting just one is a life sentence in Azkaban, is it not?”
Draco cleared his throat. “Any evidence of that, Corner?”
“People could be forced to tell the truth about him,” Michael said. “He’s really no different than Voldemort at the end of the day. He’s reckless, arrogant, and dark. How long will be content in his position before he’s looking at the Minister’s chair? What happens when things stop going his way?”
“Your boner for her has always been a liability,” Harry said mildly. He pulled out his herbal case, lit one and sat back to stare at the two of them. “First, you can’t force a witness to incriminate themselves in a trial proceeding. I could, upon taking the stand, issue a blanket refusal to answer any question that is not directly related to her and you’d have no choice but to accept it per the governing rules of the Wizengamot. Second, you have absolutely no proof that I’ve ever cast a single Unforgiveable and even if I had I was pardoned both nationally and internationally for all crimes I had to commit during the course of the war. Third, attempting to blackmail the Director of the DMLE is a felony and I could have you brought up on charges. What’s your end game here? The law is clear and the sentence is mandatory. She has no way out of this.”
“The accidental death of a house elf only calls for a thousand hours of community service and an education course in Creature Care,” Michael pointed out smoothly. “And I’m not blackmailing you. I’m simply demonstrating how far I’m willing to go to keep my client out of Azkaban. My client can swear on her own magic that she killed Kreacher by accident. Taking this to trial is a waste of everyone’s time as a result.”
Harry exchanged a look with Draco and Malfoy pursed his lips in disgust.
“But if we go to trial, it will ruin her career and do irreparable harm to her reputation. I’ll do my level best to ruin your life, Potter, if that happens. That I can promise you. Even if I can’t prove you guilty, I can make everyone fear you more than they already do.”
It was infuriating. Harry mentally slotted Michael Corner onto a list of people he could cheerfully murder and blew out a series of smoke circles. “She does the one thousand hours of community service cheerfully and without a single complaint, and donates ten percent of her personal earnings for the next ten years to Magical Creature Protection Fund. Further, she vows on her magic to never approach, speak to, or hurt any woman that I date or marry. She will take an unbreakable vow on her life to never seek to harm my children through word, action, or deed in any single way for as long as she lives.”
“I’d never hurt a child,” Ginny protested.
“Then you won’t have a single problem making the vow,” Harry pointed out. He stared at her. “This is for your own good, Ginevra, because if you ever come near my kids again, I’ll destroy you. You’ll wish you’d been sent to Azkaban.”
* * * *
EARL OF BLACKMOOR PLAYS PRINCE CHARMING TO HERMIONE GRANGER’S SLEEPING BEAUTY!
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Hermione exclaimed.
“Fuks sake,” Jacob repeated.
Harry sighed and Hermione blushed furiously. “That’s a bad word, Jacob.”
“Da.” Jacob huffed dramatically. “Fuks sake.”
Ryan Granger snorted and covered his mouth. “It’s just…that was Hermione’s first curse as well.”
Hannah sighed. “I had a terrible temper in the car and she learned it from me.”
Hermione averted her gaze and focused on the paper. “Sorry.”
“He had to have one, I suppose,” Harry said and sat back at the table with his wine glass. They were having a late lunch with her parents. He’d picked up a copy of the Prophet for her on this way home.
“Your new home is lovely,” Hannah said.
“I got hosed,” Harry said darkly. “I’ll spend most of the next year fixing the runic magic holding this pile of rock and wood together. It’s a secure property but the previous owner wasn’t diligent in maintaining it. I fixed the pool first but the plumbing runes are shot through most of the house and due to when it was built—it doesn’t even pipes. Every single bit of the plumbing in the place is based entirely on runic magic. The only good part of is that the property is setting on a ley well. The place has plenty of magical power to run it—it’s just fixing it will be time consuming. Since I’ve beefed up the wards and added my own security measures, I can’t bring in a team of dverger to fix the runic work for me.”
“You could,” Hermione said. She looked up. “If you weren’t a complete nutjob about the wards.” She grinned when he huffed. “Well, the article is almost entirely factual for a change.”
“That’s something, I guess,” Harry agreed.
“How’s the case going?” Hannah questioned suddenly then bit down on her lip with a look in Teddy’s direction.
Harry didn’t have to look in his son’s direction to know Teddy wasn’t going to be distracted away from the turn in the conversation. “Well, we’ve made a handful of arrests regarding the kidnapping and several plea deals have already been reached. One was wanted by the ICW so we’ll be turning him over for a variety of offenses that I can’t discuss.”
Hannah nodded. “What made you get into law enforcement?”
“After the war, I was being pulled at in several different directions. Everyone wanted a piece of me and the attention that came with that. Kingsley Shacklebolt became Minister and he called me into his office for a meeting. I was prepared to get a conversation about duty and patriotism and maybe even a heaping pile of Dumbledore had such hopes for you but he didn’t do any of that. He told me about his career, his new largely unwanted position, then he told me that he had no idea what to do with me because like many he never assumed I’d survive the war. He asked me what I wanted. No one had—not in a long time. I gave him an honest answer and we made a plan. Sometimes I can honestly say that my choice of career is a matter of duty—a great many people died for me and I owe it to them to make the world safer in any single way I can.”
“And other times?” Ryan questioned.
“Dark people who do dark things really irritate me,” Harry admitted. “I want to put them all in jail for a very long time. But more I really can’t leave in a society that does nothing about them so I put myself in a position so I could do something about them.” He frowned and checked his watch. “Pardon me, we have an unexpected visitor at the gates.” He stood and set aside his glass. He glanced briefly at Hermione who patted her wand which was on the table near her.
He apparated from the foyer to the front gates which were only about fifty yards away from the house and came face to face with his ex-wife. It was such a shock, he could only stare for a few seconds. “Miranda.”
“Harry.” She tucked a pale blond lock of hair behind her ear and smiled. “I’m here as part of the retrieval team for Joseph Baker. They told me you were home for the day and I received your note about your new address. I thought…I thought we could have lunch.”
Harry opened the gates because it was weird to have a conversation between the ornate wrought iron structures. “I’ve just finished a meal actually but you’re welcome to come inside and see Jacob.”
She grimaced. “Harry, I came to see you.”
“As I told you already, Miranda, I’m a package deal. These days I come with two kids because I adopted my godson.” He paused at the horror she couldn’t conceal. “Merlin, you can’t even pretend to be okay with it, can you?”
She flushed and her allure vibrated around her.
“Do not pull that shit with me,” Harry snapped. “It’s never worked and it’s fucking insulting that you’d attempt it now.”
Tears welled in her eyes and spilled down pale cheeks. “I miss you so much. Doesn’t it hurt, Harry? Our bond? Don’t you still feel it?”
“No, because I did the meditation exercises that you’ve obviously not done,” Harry said shortly. “The breach on my core is almost entirely healed, Miranda. I don’t miss you. At most, I miss being married but I can’t miss you because…because you’ve already destroyed the part of me that would’ve missed you. I love our son so much I can’t even breathe for it and you refuse to even look at him.”
“I never should’ve continued the pregnancy,” Miranda snapped as she brushed at her cheeks.
“Our marriage was already over,” Harry said. “I don’t trust you and I never will again. You can’t have any sort of real relationship with someone you don’t trust.” He took a step back when she reached out for him. “No, don’t touch me.”
“But…” Miranda took a deep breath and trailed off. “Is that her?”
Harry looked over his shoulder and wasn’t surprised to see Hermione standing on the large porch of the manor house. “That’s my best friend from Hogwarts, I told you about her.”
“Hermione Granger, your first love,” Miranda said. “That’s what you said when you spoke of her. Your first everything and now you’re playing house with her and our baby?”
“Don’t act like you care about Jacob,” Harry said coldly. “You don’t care who I play house with. You came here because you think sex with me will help you feel better, will make the broken bond stop hurting and to be honest it probably would. But there is no way in hell I’d ever have that kind of contact with you again. Go back to Rome, see a healer about the bond remnant before it starts rotting, and get on with your career, Miranda. That’s all you ever really wanted anyway.”
“You still love me,” Miranda insisted.
Harry took a deep breath. “Of course I do, but I don’t like you and I don’t want you. I told you my new address because you have a right to know where your child lives but…that’s the only reason I had.”
She glared over his shoulder. “She’s pretty.”
“She’s beautiful and you know it,” Harry said. “Don’t be that petty sort. It’s beneath you.”
“Harry.” Miranda closed her eyes. “I could try to love him.”
“Don’t you get it?” Harry asked gently and waited until she opened her eyes. “You shouldn’t have to try. He’s your child—he’s part of you, part of your magic. Loving him should’ve come to you as natural living, breathing. I don’t regret our marriage, but it is over and we can’t go back to what we were before.” He reached out and the gate swung gently until it met his palm. “Just go before we hurt each other more than we already have. Neither of us deserves that.”
She stepped back and apparated without another word.
He closed the gate and stood there for a long moment. It didn’t take her long to walk down the stone path to the gate. “Miranda.”
“I assumed,” Hermione admitted. “Can I ask what she wanted?”
Harry laughed, sharp and hollow. “She hasn’t allowed herself to heal from our broken bond because she doesn’t…want to believe we’re done. Miranda fought me on the divorce and part of the reason we had to have our bond broken by a healer is because she refused to let go of the bond. The healer had to rip it out of her.” He paused when Hermione shuddered. “It was the last thing I’d have ever wanted to do to her, Hermione, but I couldn’t stay in a marriage with her. I’ll never trust her again and she is utterly indifferent to her own son. How could’ve I raised a happy and secure child in such a house? With a mother who couldn’t stand the sight of him.”
“Merlin, Harry, I don’t even know,” Hermione admitted.
“She said she could try to love him,” Harry said in exasperation. “What mother has to try to love her own child?” He shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at the cobblestone path.
“So she wanted you to reconsider…” Hermione frowned and looked out across the lawn.
“She wanted sex,” Harry said in the silence that followed. “What’s left of our bond in her core is going to start to rot because she hasn’t allowed it to heal properly and sex would’ve shored it up temporarily.”
“I haven’t touched her…since I found out she was pregnant but intended on terminating the pregnancy in secret, again. She had a terrible problem remembering to take her contraceptive potion. I don’t know how many times…I don’t know how many early pregnancies she might have terminated. She refused to discuss it with me. She said it was none of my business. I get it, you know. Her body, her choice but she kept it a secret. She lied to my face about wanting children.”
“I can’t be objective in this conversation,” Hermione admitted.
“Why should you be,” Harry asked then turned to her. “I’d never be objective about someone hurting you.”
“Let’s go back in before my parents get worried,” Hermione said. “Is that all she wanted?”
Harry took the hand Hermione offered and sighed as they headed back towards the house. “No, she probably heard that you and I are involved at the Ministry. She would’ve been briefed about your kidnapping and received copies of the interviews. Malfoy point blank told Joseph Baker that he’d managed to kidnap the girlfriend of the Director of the DMLE.”
“That’s what people assume,” Harry murmured. “What sort of title would you like?” He tugged her close, slid an arm around her, and brushed his lips against her temple. “Lover?”
“Sounds delicious but not exactly kid-friendly,” Hermione said with a little grin.
“Wife.” It wasn’t a question so he didn’t pretend it was. She moved closer, steps not faltering as they walked.
“Not too soon?”
“I’ve been reliably informed if we haven’t figured each other already that we’re pretty much hopeless.” He grinned when she laughed.
“I can make room for a husband,” Hermione said and looked toward him, her eyes shining with pleasure and magic.
“Just don’t let me rush you.” Harry curled his fingers around the curve of her hip. “I’m a pushy bastard and there was a time when you were all I wanted. I can’t promise to be rational about any of this.”
“What do you want now?” Hermione questioned as they stepped up onto the porch.
Instead of going inside, he stopped and took a deep breath. “I want…” Harry frowned and turned her so they were face to face. “This stupid house, more kids, and a wife.” He looked over her face and was relieved to see she didn’t look upset or shocked at the idea of more children. “I’m not saying I’ll be ready for another marriage bond even six months from now. I’m still healing. But I couldn’t be more serious about marrying you and…” His hands dropped to her hips. “I’d really, really adore a little girl with your nose and my mother’s eyes.”
“You really want that? A baby with me?”
“Merlin, sweetheart, we can make all the babies you want,” Harry murmured and brushed his mouth against hers.
“I don’t suggest practicing on the front porch.”
Hermione huffed and Harry laughed against her jaw. “Mum!”
“Magic or no magic, there isn’t a pillow to be had out here anywhere,” Hannah said with a little smirk. She took a sip of wine and leaned on the door frame. “June? That’s ten months away. I always thought Hermione would make a lovely June bride.”
Harry laughed when Hermione huffed. “She’ll be a lovely bride, no matter the day.”
Hermione offered her mother a look and Hannah strolled away with a laugh then she focused on him. “I didn’t know what I wanted for a long time then by the time I figured it out…you were gone. I want you to know that you can trust me, Harry.”
“I’ve always known that.” He pulled her close for a kiss and she threw her arms around his neck.
Harry huffed and looked down to find Jacob clutching at both his trousers and the bottom of her dress. “I don’t share well, lad. I had a terrible childhood.”
“Mine,” Jacob said and tugged at her skirt. “Up, Mine.”
Hermione laughed and picked Jacob up. The baby curled a fist into her hair, sent his father a pouty look, and pressed his face against her cheek. “We’ll just have to work on that, I think.”
“In that case, I should warn you that I fully intend to have that bromance with your dad. I already bought a set of golf clubs.”
“You don’t play golf,” Hermione hissed.
Harry laughed. “I can’t wait to learn. It’ll probably be the most Muggle thing I’ve ever done which is odd but true.”
Hermione frowned at him, turned on her heel, and marched into the house. “Daddy! You are not teaching him to play golf! I’ll never see him again! I’ve got plans! And babies to make! And stuff!”
Harry followed along after and snatched Teddy up off the floor as the passed him. He tossed the kid over his shoulder and the boy just laughed. “Want to go flying?”
“Boy, do I!” Teddy agreed and wiggled down. He ran towards the back of the house where the kitchen was located. “Winky! Where’s Dad’s broom?”
Harry laughed at the indignant squawk he heard come from the great room and darted off after Teddy before Hermione could catch up with them. Winky tossed him the broom on his way through the kitchen and he wasn’t at all surprised when Hermione came storming out after him.
“Life’s too short to stay on the ground,” Harry told her wisely and laughed when she huffed.
“Is that a Firebolt?”
“It was a sentimental purchase,” Harry allowed. He mounted the broom with practiced ease, hooked his feet and offered Teddy a hand. “Have a little faith, Miss Granger, I’ve never actually had a broom accident that was my fault.”
Teddy just grinned and relaxed against Harry’s chest. “Don’t be mad and besides you already agreed to marry us.”
“That’s right,” Harry said. “No take backs.” He shot off when her mouth dropped open.
Hermione sighed and looked towards Jacob who was chewing on his fist and staring at her. “Yeah, no take backs.” He released his fist and smooched against her cheek sloppily. “I must be crazy.”