Chapter 13

Chapter 13 – A Chemical Wedding

Luna rocked baby Alison in her arms and cooed gently to her. Neville and Enola’s daughter gurgled and burped happily in response. Luna’s own daughter giggled and smiled at the baby, smoothing her downy-haired head with a delicate hand. She looked up at Hermione, watching the scene nearby. It was stirring all kinds of intense broodiness in the older witch. Hermione hoped very much that Harry would end the war pretty soon, once he was revived.

Because, after that, he was so going to put a baby in her.

He didn’t know it yet, and Hermione idly wondered what he would think about it when she told him. She fancied that he’d like the idea. He’d always wanted a family, she knew this intimately well. The first time he’d gone from being cute to attractive in Hermione’s eyes was that night he told her about Sirius’ plans to essentially adopt him. His face had glowed with such fierce joy and emotion…Hermione had wanted to kiss him right there, to bask in that wondrous happiness he was experiencing. She felt sure he would have shared it with her.

After all, she was the only one Harry had ever told of his most fundamental desire in life.

Then it was all snatched away from him so cruelly. Hermione couldn’t stand to think about that. She was still deeply affected by the horrors she’d seen in Harry’s mind. She realised, with a jolt of shock, that his memory of that night with Sirius must have been hidden in there somewhere, too. She hated to think what else she might have found if she’d stayed longer. She didn’t like to consider the implications, but she had to think that she’d only scratched the surface of the darkness Harry boxed away inside

The little Hermione had seen was disturbing enough. She’d had such terrible dreams the previous night, revisiting some of the worst visions she’d witnessed. She woke in a fitful, sweaty state and had run to Harry’s beside to hug his prostrate form and pepper his head with little kisses, as though hoping to somehow soothe her own anxiety through physical contact.

It was only through her own respect for his modesty that she hadn’t slipped right into bed alongside him and spent the rest of the night there. But she really didn’t think Harry would have been too pleased to know she had cosied up alongside him and the stench from his full bedpan. So she returned to her own suite and had Rhian spell her for dreamless sleep.

It felt odd, to know she was carrying Harry inside her. She supposed this was why she was feeling so broody. The idea of carrying another life in her body wasn’t a notion she’d ever considered during the horror years of her marriage to Ron. And before that she’d been reasonably convinced she might never get married or have children. In her own mind, she was no-ones idea of attractive. And she had always been a fairly solitary creature. The fact that she’d let even Harry and Ron so close had been something of a wonder in the Granger family.

A family that Hermione was now the sole surviving member of. This only added to her burgeoning desire to get on with the process of producing an heir for the family line.

But there would be no family without her patriarch, so here she was, delivering Narcissa Malfoy’s petition to Luna and Celesca.

“I don’t know, Hermione,” said Luna. “I’m not sure I like the idea.”

“I’ve told Narcissa that I’ll respect whatever decision you make, Lu,” said Hermione. “So there’s no pressure. If you don’t want Cesc to meet her grandmother, then that’s just tough luck on Lady Malfoy. She can take up her complaints with someone else who’ll listen, for all I care…such as the nearest brick wall.”

Luna smirked. “Thank you. I appreciate that.”

“That said, I can’t imagine she’ll give up easily,” Hermione sighed grumpily. “I have the feeling that she will be quite persistent. She seems the formidable sort.”

“I know she isn’t Draco,” said Luna. “And she’s trying to help Harry and everything. But she was there, Hermione…when Celesca was conceived. She was in the room. She might be on our side now…but she let that happen to me then. That’s all I can think about.”

Hermione’s anger flared. Her skin prickled with it. “Luna…I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say. I didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t,” said Luna brightly. “You weren’t there, how could you know?”

“That’s decided then, she isn’t seeing Celesca,” said Hermione firmly. “Not if I have any say in it. She doesn’t deserve to be in the same house as her. As soon as I have what I want from Narcissa, I’ll banish her.”

“Harry won’t let you do that,” said Luna. “She’s too important.”

“My future husband will do as he’s told,” Hermione grinned.

“It’s not just that,” Luna went on. She blushed with humiliation. “She makes a good point about about Celesca’s heritage. I…well, I don’t have much. There’s not a lot I can give to her besides my love and care. She’ll need somewhere to live, something to live off. I have to think of my daughter’s future.”

Hermione’s heart ached and throbbed with such pity that she hurried to Luna and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“You will always have a home with us, both of you,” said Hermione firmly. “Don’t ever think you’ll have nowhere to go. Your place is with us now.”

Luna looked back up with humble hope. “Really? Do you truly mean that?”

“Of course I do!” Hermione cried vehemently.

Luna handed baby Alison to Celesca, who began to sing to the sleeping infant. Then Luna turned and enveloped Hermione in such a hug…Hermione gasped in surprise at it. She’d never felt such wholesome affection directed at her before. She felt bashful about accepting it.

“Thank you, Hermione, thank you,” said Luna softly. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”

“You’re more than welcome,” Hermione replied, smiling into Luna’s hair. She felt silly for not noticing how short Luna was before. She had a full head of height on her.

“Do you think Harry will mind that?” asked Luna, breaking away slowly.

Hermione smiled. “Like I said, I’m pretty confident I can coax Harry to a point where he’ll do whatever I tell him to.”

“Hermione, you’re terrible,” Luna giggled.

“Maybe, but it’s fine,” said Hermione off-handedly. “Because I’ll already do whatever he tells me, so we’ll be even.”

“So, do you think this ritual will work, to get him out of you?”

“Narcissa seemed pretty confident,” said Hermione. “We just need to find Harry’s Alchemy Cell. Then we can have this…alchemical wedding…and I should be able to do the rest.”

“Is it going to be like an actual wedding?” asked Luna. “Are you going to change your name and things?”

Hermione hadn’t thought of that. So she did now. And she grinned wildly to herself.

“Yes, I’m going to do that,” said Hermione. “Narcissa says it’s a deeper bonded wedding than a standard Marriage Bond so, as Harry has taken the Weasley link from me, I’m going to consider my marriage to Ron over, hopefully break the magical Bond he forced on me, and officially become Harry’s wife. Wow. I’m suddenly ridiculously excited! Thank you, Lu! You’re a genius.”

And she kissed the top of Luna’s head. She wasn’t kidding about her excitement. She was so overcome with all sorts of flutterings that she became comically restless, and had to pace the room three times to calm herself. A bit. Then it just started up again she felt like jumping off the roof with the euphoria.

She was fairly certain her elation would cushion the fall.

“I’m so happy for you,” Luna beamed. “You just have to find this Cell, then. Any ideas where it might be?”

“Well, I was sort of hoping Celesca might have a look for me,” said Hermione, carefully. “Harry’s hidden it, you see.”

“It’s in his bedroom, behind the big bookcase,” said Celesca simply, without looking up from baby Alison.

Hermione’s mouth dropped open in surprise. She exchanged startled looks with Luna.

“How do you know that, sweetheart?” asked Luna.

“I’ve been there,” said Celesca dreamily, flicking her eyes to her mother. “I’ve been all over the house in my mind. There’s a funny ghost in the cellar. He was a pirate when he was alive. I like his hat. Do you think I can get one?”

“If you can show me how to get into Harry’s Alchemy Cell I’ll buy you a whole costume and a lifetime’s supply of rum!” Hermione laughed.

“That’s an easy deal,” Celesca grinned. Then she frowned. “What’s rum?”

“Something only big girls can have,” said Luna, exchanging a knowing smile with Hermione. They had previous with this one.

“Oh. Well, as long as I can get the hat,” Celesca chirruped happily. “Shall I show you now?”

“Lead on,” said Hermione excitedly.

“I have to put the baby down first,” Celesca pointed out reasonably. “She wants to come, but she needs to learn to walk before she explores the house. I told her that.”

And Hermione was back to being stunned again.

“You…you can talk to the baby?” she breathed.

“Oh yes, ” said Celesca breezily, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s not like you and me talk though. She just makes funny noises. But I know what she means, and she understands words. So I sort of put my meaning in her mind, and she knows, and talks back like that. She likes Mister Harry a lot. He’s her favourite. He’s my favourite, too.”

“He’s a lot of people’s favourite,” said Luna, grinning madly at Hermione, who blushed all over.

“But I like you a lot too, Miss Hermione,” Celesca babbled on. “Baby Ally doesn’t know you too well. She thinks you’re frightened of her. Are you, Miss Hermione? You shouldn’t be, you know. She’s only a baby.”

“I haven’t been around babies much,” Hermione replied. “I…I suppose I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong and break her.”

Hermione shied away, embarrassed at voicing this niggling concern she was fighting with from the back of her mind.

Celesca giggled crazily. “You wont break her! And she wont hurt you. I can show you if you like. How to hold her and feed her and things. I’m sure she wont mind. I’ll ask her next time.”

“Okay.” Hermione shook her head in disbelief at the conversation.

By this time they were mounting the main staircase of the house, questing for the seventh and uppermost floor. Hermione had never been up here, as the entire floor was Harry’s personal suite and chambers. It seemed a bit delinquent to be coming up here without his permission. But Celesca, who was leading the way, seemed to have no mind for such propriety as she bounced along ahead of them.

Hermione swooned at the rooms up here. They were, in a word, beautiful. And elegant. There were reception rooms, and a study, and a cute little breakfast room. There was a large bathroom and rooms just for Harry’s clothes. Hermione noted, with a pang of heartache, that he had an entire set of shelves just for his different scarves and shawls. They were divided between those that had been spelled with antiseptic and pain-relief enchantments and those still awaiting the treatment. Hermione looked sadly at them and resolved to redouble her efforts to find a way to heal his ruined face.

She simply would not stand for him to be in any sort of pain any longer.

“Come along, Miss,” Celesca called, stirring Hermione from her impending bout of misery. “Mister Harry’s secret room is just in here.”

Hermione took a breath and moved through to Harry’s bedroom. Her heart skipped as she considered that, very soon, it would be her bedroom, too. Their bedroom. She took a first look around the place where, hopefully in a few short days, she and Harry were going to create a very different kind of magic to anything they’d approached so far. She took a step inside.

And promptly collapsed. For the potency of the sex magic Harry had already imbued within the place for her was simply devastating.

“Miss Hermione!” Celesca yelped. “Are you okay? Did you trip?”

“Hermione?” asked Luna, looking at her swarthily with twinkling eyes. “Are you all right?”

Hermione rolled out of the room, breathing heavily and clenching her thighs together tightly. She was fitfully embarrassed. What the complete fuck was that!? Blood throbbed below her waist, and she had to bite hard on her lip to stop herself panting lustily. Surges of unbridled pleasure were still washing through her, flooding her. Flood was quite an apt word, she thought naughtily. She would have to change her knickers before facing the world today.

Merlin, Harry! What exactly have you been planning!!

One thing was for certain, she couldn’t wait to find out. But, for now, she had to compose herself. Poor Celesca…she looked frightfully concerned, not to mention confused. She was hurrying over to help.

“Are you okay, Miss Hermione? Can I do anything?”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Hermione struggled out. “I just lost my balance, that’s all. I’m okay.”

“It must be that strong magic in there,” said Celesca thoughtfully. “It’s so weird, isn’t it? I don’t know what sort of magic that is, do you?”

Hermione and Luna locked eyes and fought back insane giggles of their own.

Luna came over and helped Hermione back to her feet. “Neville’s wife told me you were the luckiest witch on the planet,” she whispered into her ear. “I have to say I think I agree with her!”

“Lu…I don’t think I can go back through there,” Hermione laughed, clutching onto Luna as she fell about giggling. Her knees were still shaking. “Seriously…can you find a way to open the door to Harry’s Cell and I’ll just Apparate in?”

Luna fought back a laugh. “I’ll try. But it’s not easy for me, either. The magic in there is clearly designed for you, but it’s effects…phew! It’s so dense. Harry has got to build a room like this for the rest of us girls, somewhere else in the palace. Do you think you can persuade him?”

“It’ll be my wedding gift to all of you,” said Hermione, grinning. “As long as you can get the alchemy room open.”

Luna turned and re-entered the room. Hermione bit back another giggle as Luna’s footsteps faltered and she swayed a little as she crossed the floor. But she was a trooper. She made it to the bookcase, which was just as well as it provided something sturdy to hold onto. She was all sorts of flustered.

“Are you okay, Mummy?” asked Celesca, curiously. “You’ve gone very red.”

“I-I’m fine, sweetie,” said Luna, her voice at least an octave higher than usual. “Now, how do we get in?”

Celesca eyed her mother with a slight frown. “On the second shelf down, pull out the third book from the right. Then the door opens.”

Luna followed the instruction and, sure enough, the bookcase swung back to reveal the hidden chamber. Luna bundled Celesca inside and hurried in after her. Hermione wasted no time in joining them. She apparated right to Luna, who was leant over a wash basin splashing cold water on her face. Celesca was still frowning.

“What’s wrong with you two?” she asked crossly. “You’re being very weird.”

“It’s nothing, honey, honest,” said Hermione. “Now, let’s have a look around in here, shall we?”

It was an odd sensation, to be standing in the place where she was going to get married, and Hermione simply basked in it for a moment. The silly grin she wore made her the most girlish she’d probably ever looked in her whole life. She stepped around the room – there was a large fire pit, a couple of golden perches – that Hermione guessed were for Harry’s phoenix – and a huge copper bathtub which looked like it was used more for ceremony than hygiene. She gasped. It probably was…and the next ceremony it would be used for…

“Hermione,” Luna breathed quietly. “Look at this!

Hermione stilled her whirring mind and crossed back to Luna. The basin she’d been washing in was part of a beautifully ornate dresser, oak and glass and trimmed with gold. It had clearly been magically modified; the central compartment held a workshop’s worth of spindly equipment, and the top drawer was teeming with potion vials. But this wasn’t what had caught Luna’s eye. She directed Hermione’s attention to a spot just to the right of the enamel basin.

And Hermione’s breath caught in her lungs.

For there, sat in a pretty, purple velvet box, was the most beautiful silver diamond ring she’d ever seen. And when Luna offered it to her, she noticed a tiny little detail that brought joyous tears to her eyes. For either side of the stunning stone, set into the band in delicate white gold, were two letters.

“H…and P…” said Luna, her voice awestruck and quiet. “Your initials…your new initials! The same as Harry’s now. Hermione…Harry’s made you your wedding ring!”

Hermione clasped one hand to her mouth, holding the ring in trembling fingers in the other. She turned it slowly, watching the way the light caught it at different angles. It was the single most beautiful piece of jewellery Hermione had ever seen. She looked down at her hand, and the finger it would soon be on.

And she scowled angrily. That piece of ugly, probably fake, gold was in its place. Bland and dirty. Hermione hated it with all her being. She glared at it, cursed and railed at it. She turned her hand and thought all negative things at once, about the ring, about the one who’d forced it on her, about all the abuses it had allowed him to visit on her. Hermione felt her fury building and building, it was like a gathering storm. She didn’t want to let it out, in case it scared little Celesca. But she could feel the potency in the way the air around her was heating up. She wasn’t sure she could rein it in. And then…

The hated ring simply cracked in half on her finger.

Hermione watched the two pieces fall from her hand like it was an out-of-body experience. They hit the floor with a light tinkle. Something was lifting from her, too. It was like casting off a heavy load that she’d become so used to carrying she didn’t realise it was still there, until she’d been relieved of it. And her joy was unprecedented. It moved swiftly into new parts of her. She felt full up with it. It was enough to send her mindless.

“Miss Hermione! You did it! You did it!” Celesca was singing happily. She started doing a crazed sort of jig, then snatched her arms around Hermione’s waist.

“What did I do?” asked Hermione. She knew she’d done something, but she needed this young Seer to define it for her.

“You broke the barrier! You opened up!” Celesca chimed. “I can see in you now. All the way in! And it’s so pretty in there, Miss! Oh…and…and oh…”

“What is it?” Hermione asked quickly. Celesca seemed fit to burst.

“I can see Mister Harry now!” Celesca chirped excitedly. Her words were speeding out of her. “That’s where he’s been hiding!”

Hermione’s heart melted. She needed to sit down. But she needed information, too.

“How is he? Tell me he’s all right. Please.”

“Oh, he’s fine, Miss, don’t worry,” said Celesca off-handedly. “He’s sleeping right now and…oh…he hasn’t got his scar in there! He’s quite pretty without his scar, isn’t he, Miss Hermione?”

Hermione laughed happily. “Yes, he really is. I need to know how to get him out. Celesca – do you think you could create a bridge, like you did before?”

“No, Miss, it doesn’t work like that,” said Celesca. “I went from you to him before, and I can’t go so deep into anyone, like where Mister Harry is now in you. No, for that you need Nanny Cissa. She’ll know what to do.”

Hermione shot her eyes up in startled shock. Luna wrung her hands anxiously.

“Cesc, sweetie, how do you know about her?” asked Luna.

Celesca looked innocently at her mother. “Don’t be cross, Mummy, but I’ve always known.”

“How?”

“You’ll tell me off.”

“I really wont, sweetie,” said Luna, kneeling at Celesca’s side. She was quivering in nervous fright. “Just tell me how you know about Narcissa.”

Celesca wrung her hands. Hermione swooned at the habit copied from Luna.

“When I knew about my special magic,” Celesca began, “when I knew I was different, even from others with magic, I wanted to know what it was. I was only two when I knew I could follow the energy lines around me. So I followed the strongest ones. I went to my Mummy’s line first…that’s how I knew it was you and not Aunty Venusia. It was the strongest and nicest line.

“But there was another one. Just as strong but really horrible. I didn’t want to go down it, but I had to. I knew it was from my Daddy, but it was dark and slimy and nasty. I didn’t like it one bit. I never went down it again.”

“But Narcissa?”

“I could feel her nearby, the day I went down my Daddy’s line,” Celesca explained. “And her line was quite nice, too. So I went along it and found her. She was waiting for me. She knew I was there and told me everything. She said I could come back whenever I wanted and she’d show me how to use my special magic properly.”

Hermione gasped. “Narcissa is a Seer? I never knew.”

“No, no, Miss Hermione,” said Celesca quickly. “She isn’t like me. But she is good with mind magic. Like Miss Enola. She teaches her all about it, too. I think it’s because of the job she does for Mister Harry.”

“Enola apprentices with Narcissa Malfoy!” Hermione exclaimed. “Well, that explains why she’s so afraid of her. She’s a bit like a fierce old school ma’am.”

“So, you’ve met her lots of times?” asked Luna.

Celesca nodded. “Only in my head though. I know you don’t want me to meet her for real. I’m sorry, Mummy. Please don’t be angry with me.”

Luna drew Celesca into a tight hug. “I’m not angry with you, petal. I’m just surprised, that’s all. Your grandmother didn’t tell me any of this.”

“She’s good at keeping secrets,” said Celesca. “She told me how to be good at it too, when we were pretending you weren’t my Mummy.”

“We won’t ever pretend that again,” said Luna, holding her daughter close. “She wants to meet you properly…would you like to?”

Celesca drew back. “You don’t want me to.”

“No, it’s more that I don’t want to,” Luna sighed. “But she is your grandmother. If you want to meet her, I wont mind.”

“I have to help her with Mister Harry and Miss Hermione’s wedding,” said Celesca, somewhat shyly.

Hermione looked over in surprise. “I thought you said you couldn’t get Harry out of me?”

“No, Miss Hermione, I can’t get him,” said Celesca. “Only you can do that. But I can help join the pretty energy cords you both have. Can I? I’d really like to see what happens when they meet. They so want to.”

“Do they?” asked Hermione giddily.

“Oh yes,” said Celesca happily. “It’s like two parts of one thing that have been lost from each other. Now they get to join up as they are meant to be. They can’t wait for it. And neither can I. You will let me, won’t you?”

Celesca was looking so earnestly at Hermione that she couldn’t have refused her even if she did have any objections. Which she didn’t. She rubbed at her chest. She could almost feel this energy herself now, reaching out like a coil from her own heart, questing for its complimentary half, beating away in Harry’s chest downstairs.

“Of course I will, honey,” Hermione smiled.

“Oh good,” Celesca beamed. “Nanny Ciss will be ever so pleased. We should go and tell her now. Then you and Mister Harry can get married today.”

Hermione was sure her heart was going to burst out of her body. It was lucky her hand was already on her chest to keep it in.

“Well…okay,” she said after a minute, holding her breathing as steady as possible. “I’ll go to Narcissa, tell her everything. Could you please find Enola for me. I need her.”

“What for?” asked Luna.

“Well,” said Hermione shyly. “I’m going to need a Maid of Honour. And one of her dresses. They are far prettier than any of mine.”

* * *

The air in the room was seriously tense. On the one side was Narcissa Malfoy, standing in an almost regal pose, but waiting, Hermione thought, with dignified respect. Facing her, Luna was pulling Celesca close to her side, her hand firmly around her shoulders. The little girl looked like she didn’t know how to be, torn between these two forces literally crackling in the face of one another.

And in the middle of it, Hermione. Anxious, edgy, not at all sure how this was going to go.

Narcissa broke the heavy silence between them.

“Miss Lovegood. No words can convey my deep regret, my sorrow, over my son’s terrible actions towards you all those years ago. Nor my un-erasable shame at allowing you to suffer so horrifically. I am owed to be resented by you forever, and I would expect nothing less. Know only that I was powerless to assist you, trapped as I was under the tyranny of the Dark Lord and my own husband. I mourned for you in the aftermath, but I do not deserve redemption, nor am I arrogant enough to seek it from you.

“I ask only that I be allowed to know your wonderful daughter, my only grandchild. I will respect any boundaries you set and hope, should you have it in you, that we may begin a new relationship through our shared love of little Celesca.”

Luna looked over at Hermione, in obvious surprise. Hermione raised her eyebrows in return.

“Thank you, Lady Malfoy, for your sympathy,” said Luna. “I suppose I accept that you were unable to help me, and maybe I’m transferring my hate of your son, and of The Dark King, onto you. I can make no promises that I can change that, but I will try, for the sake of my daughter. But I have expectations.”

“Of course,” said Narcissa, chancing a hopeful step forwards. “Name them.”

Luna smiled weakly. “I expect you to spoil her, to love her rotten, to pass on all your knowledge and skill. You know things about her abilities that I do not. She has great need for your guidance. You will help her however you can.”

Narcissa smiled deeply. “I can do all of that, Miss Lovegood. I promise you that and so much more. She will want for nothing that I am able to provide.”

“Good. I’m glad of that,” said Luna. She knelt down and turned Celesca to her. “I’m going to leave you alone to talk with your grandmother. Be a good girl.”

Celesca grinned mischievously. “I’m always a good girl, Mummy.”

“Yes, you are,” Luna smiled fondly. She stood and turned to go.

“I’m staying,” said Hermione stubbornly, throwing a look at Narcissa for a challenge. It never came. She turned back to Luna. “I’ll bring her back to you when they’re done.”

“Thank you,” said Luna. “I’m going to be in the stables, grooming the unicorns. This dry weather is attracting doxys to their coats.”

“Oooh, I’d like to see the unicorns!” cried Celesca. “You will take me there later, won’t you, Miss Hermione?”

“Of course, sweetheart,” said Hermione. “Now, go and meet your Nana properly. I’m sure you have lots to talk about.”

Celesca skipped to Narcissa and they retreated to a couch near the window. Hermione sidled up to Luna.

“Don’t worry, I wont let Narcissa turn her into a Malfoy,” Hermione grinned firmly. “Good ploy with the unicorns, though. All little witches love unicorns.”

“What ploy?” asked Luna innocently, whipping out a brush. “I am going to the stables.”

Hermione shifted awkwardly. “Oh, right. Well, I’ll bring her to you in a bit.”

Luna took one last, sad look at Celesca before leaving the room. Hermione turned and frowned at the two on the couch. They were already thick as thieves and chattering away rapidly. Hermione moved to a cosy chair near to them, and took a book down from a case that was in an alcove there. She felt that immediate sense of contentment that having a book in her lap brought to her. She didn’t even have to know what it was about. There were just fewer things more symbiotic in the world than Hermione Granger and some oversized tome.

She caught herself daydreaming as she sat there. It was quite possible, if all went to plan, that she would be married to Harry by the end of the day. This house, and everything in it, would then be officially hers, even though she’d been lording it over everyone as Lady of the Manor for weeks already. It would be beyond contestation by the next dawn. And, as she sat there and watched birds rise from the distant orchard, she found herself in the throes of fantasy.

She dreamed of herself in a years’ time, sat in this same chair, looking out at the same orchard. It would be her orchard by then. Harry could be quaffing the cider pressed from its apples. She would have a book in her hand, and she’d be blissful with that. Celesca would be there, too, but not talking to Narcissa. She’d be cooing to a newborn baby, talking to it with her incredible Seer ability.

And Hermione wondered if she and Harry would have a boy or a girl first.

The thought jolted her awake and set her heart to tremulous beating. She was smiling wildly to herself. She knew she was. It might have looked like she was going a bit mental to anyone who was watching, but she couldn’t help it. What would she prefer first? It was such a happy conundrum.

She had to think she’d prefer a little girl. She was falling a bit in love with Celesca and, if Luna ever decided she was bored with being a Mum, maybe she’d let her adopt her. Hermione marvelled at herself and considered what Harry would prefer. The very notion that they would even be able to have such a conversation was so insane that Hermione wanted to laugh out loud, just because she could.

The ring now missing from her finger had been such a burden. The last true link to the Weasleys and her abusive marriage. She felt herself again, more and more so each hour. But it was more than that. She felt a better her, a stronger one. She’d come through a horrendous time, been beaten but not broken. And the universe had rewarded her with Harry.

She had to think it would reward her with a baby from him, too.

She hoped that would turn out to be true, but they had a world to change before all of that. Besides, she’d already given Narcissa half an hour with Celesca and, in Hermione’s mind, that was plenty enough. She had her own needs with Lady Malfoy and that was a decent excuse to divert her attention away from Luna’s daughter. And it was Celesca herself who gave Hermione the perfect opportunity to jump in.

“Miss Hermione?” she asked. “Nanny Cissa says that you’re going to need someone to bring you your ring at your wedding. As I can’t be a flower girl, do you think I could do that instead?”

“I can think of nobody I’d rather have as my ring-bearer,” Hermione smiled. Celesca clapped her hands gleefully. Then Hermione had a disturbing thought. “But, Lady Malfoy, Harry said that I’d have to be one of his Acolytes before the Knights of St David would accept me as his consort. He was keen to uphold the traditions of protocol. Will there be…I mean…they wont object to our marriage, will they?”

Narcissa considered her thoughtfully. “Actually, they might.

Hermione felt like the bottom had just dropped out of her bright new world. “But why? Don’t they like me?”

Hermione heard her own pitiful, anxious voice echo around her parlour. Celesca turned to her with an encouraging smile.

“Of course they like you, Miss Hermione! Don’t be silly.”

“I tend to agree with my granddaughter,” said Narcissa. “During the few days I’ve been here, the consensus seems to be that everyone is quite enamoured with you.”

Hermione blushed. “Then why would they object to me marrying Harry?”

“It wouldn’t be a personal thing, but more a matter of protocol,” Narcissa explained. “They wouldn’t want to object, but their positions might demand it of them.”

“Then…I can’t get married to Harry today, can I?” Hermione whimpered sadly.

“We could always conduct the Acolyte induction first,” said Narcissa.

Hermione’s eyes popped open in hope. “But Enola said you have to use a special ritual circle in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?”

Narcissa looked over in surprise. “We call it Llanfair P.G. for short. But well done on the pronunciation. Ordinarily, that would be right. But Harry has created an equally powerful circle here, for his alchemy. We can use that space just as well.”

Hermione frowned. “I’ve been working on that tongue-twisting place name for weeks!” she complained bitterly. “Ennie said I had to perform a vocal Apparition spell to find it!”

Narcissa laughed. “I blame myself. I started that particular initiation requirement as a bit of a laugh. It does demonstrate commitment to the cause, though. To tell the truth, I can’t even say it myself.”

“Pack of bitches,” Hermione complained crossly. Then she remembered that she was still going to get married to Harry after all. And her mood brightened up immensely. “So, can you set up the induction today?”

“Yes, we have everything we need,” said Narcissa. “But you have to know what you’re swearing into. This isn’t something to enter into lightly.”

Hermione scoffed. “I can only wed Harry if I’m in this Order, and his mother was in it, too. I don’t need to know anything else.”

“Lily Potter was the Head of this Order,” said Narcissa. “When she died, I took over from her. And now, once you are Harry’s wife…you will be expected to take over from me.”

Hermione gasped. “But I don’t have the faintest clue about that! That’s bloody unreasonable!”

“Relax, Miss Granger, I will prepare you for it,” said Narcissa. “If you are willing, I can take you as an apprentice. I apprenticed under Lily and I will pass on all the knowledge you will need.”

“Thank you,” Hermione sighed. “I will definitely need some help. I feel like there’s so much I don’t know, about so many aspects of Harry’s life.”

“Just take one thing at a time,” said Narcissa, gently. “The Acolytes, for example. We are the female side of the chief protectors of the Merlinic line. We have its secrets to protect, its honour to uphold. We are separate from the Knights only because of the sexual connotations of naked ritual.”

Celesca threw her hands to her mouth and started giggling. “You said ‘naked‘!”

“Yes, I did,” said Narcissa seriously. “Many of our rituals call for the participants to shed their clothes.”

Celesca looked up in horror. “I’m never doing one of those then! Miss Hermione’s wedding wont be like that, will it?”

“No, but the Induction will,” said Narcissa. “Will that be a problem for you, Miss Granger?”

Hermione baulked. Then lied. “No. But I’d better go and see Enola. I’m sure she’ll have some sort of robe for me to wear. Pretty sure it will be inappropriate to walk naked around the house. Unless that’s another part of your initiation?”

Narcissa smirked. “No, you’re quite safe from that.”

“Then if I don’t need to know anything else, I’ll return Celesca to her mother,” said Hermione.

“You go and prepare yourself for your wedding,” said Narcissa. “I will deliver my granddaughter back to her mother. I need to discuss a few things with them both.”

Hermione frowned. She didn’t like that, but there was a finality to Narcissa’s tone which suggested she would brook no opposite to her decision. So, with a huff, Hermione agreed. Then she went to look for Enola. She had an important question to pop to her.

* * *

Enola tried hard not to skip. Or bounce. But it was quite the impossible thing. For pure elation had been in short supply just lately around the palace. And, now that she had some, she was allowing herself to revel in it, like a pig in shit. So, here she was, moving through her walk-in wardrobe, humming happily to herself and thoroughly determined to do the best job she could.

After all, it wasn’t every day that a girl was asked to be a Maid of Honour.

And she was honoured. But she felt slightly guilty at the same time. For she was now firmly convinced that Hermione had become her best friend. Enola had felt it creeping in surreptitiously for ages, but this conversation had simply confirmed it. Hermione had replaced Cassie, who Enola had known for much longer, in that coveted spot in her heart. Enola had let her go with crushing sadness, but she was powerless to prevent it.

For there was just something magnetic about Hermione Granger. She had a way of drawing people to her, in much the same way that Harry did. It was just natural that they were drawn to each other. And the happiness that Hermione inspired in Harry…well, it melted Enola’s heart. For if anyone deserved happiness in Enola’s eyes, it was Harry. And Hermione, who had suffered dreadfully in her own way, was equally as deserving of that unbridled joy, that their union promised to bring.

Enola was just fitfully excited over the whole thing.

But what outfit to pick? Hermione had tasked Enola with this, placed her faith in her. And not just in terms of bridal fashions, but in asking her to be part of the biggest day of her life in this most intimate of ways. She had spoken so warmly of her, of how much she valued her friendship, of how important she’d come to consider her in such a short space of time.

Enola had been humbled, robbed of any kind of vocabulary to respond, of any words that would have done justice to how she felt about any of that.

So she’d just given Hermione a deep hug, skipped into her wardrobe, had a little cry, and then got to work.

She drummed her fingers against her chin as she thought. She noticed a bit of unsightly hair growth there and yelped at the touch. Her wand was out casting hair-removal spells so fast that it would have looked like a blur to anyone who had seen. Had anyone seen? Enola hoped not. She didn’t like to think of anyone seeing her with a beard.

This decision was a tricky one. This wasn’t going to be a usual wedding, so converting one of her dresses into a standard wedding gown probably wasn’t the way to go. And she wasn’t sure of Hermione’s style, either. Sally had provided her with a wardrobe and Hermione had chosen from that, but it wasn’t as if she’d gone to a shop and bought a whole set of outfits to reflect her tastes. She tended to plump for delicate cotton sundresses, but the warm weather dictated such choices, really.

Then there was the fact that this would be a ritual, too. That had to be factored in. Enola knew next to nothing about the alchemical process, so how was she expected to dress a White Queen for her alchemical wedding? Well, that was a start. She had to be in white, obviously. Enola flicked her wand and all her white dresses were suddenly floating in front of her. She didn’t have many, she was going through a phase of liking pastels. It made this easier. It was now a choice of seven.

She discarded two immediately. They were far too sexy. The neckline of one plunged to around her belly button for Merlin’s sake! Another two were maternity dresses. She decided to keep those. She was coming around to the idea of maybe trying for a brother for Ally. She’d like to give Neville an heir for the House of Longbottom. If she could ever coax him back to the process of making one with her.

Of the three that remained, one of the dresses was her own wedding dress. She twirled it fondly in her hands, feeling the softness of the lace bodice. She wondered…it would be a fitting gift.

Hermione gasped when she showed it to her. “It’s beautiful, En…but I can’t. This was yours.”

“I know,” said Enola brightly. “But you can always give it back, if you like. I intended to give it to Ally on her wedding day anyway. You can think of it as your Something Borrowed.”

“Oh, Ennie…if you’re sure,” Hermione whispered reverently. “It is beautiful.”

“Then that’s settled then,” Enola smiled. “Stand still and let me take your measurements. We’ll need to resize it a bit.”

Hermione did as she was told and Enola flicked her wand, conjuring a tape measure, which began taking Hermione’s dimensions on its own. It did the usual – height, waist, shoulder breadth, bust, inner thigh…quite why it felt the need to measure the distance between Hermione’s nostrils and eyebrows was anyone’s guess, but Enola just left it to it. She busied herself making the alterations to the dress as required.

“Do you plan to have a standard wedding after all this?” she asked, using her wand to take an inch from the hemline.

“Fuck yes!” Hermione exclaimed. “I’m actually thinking of researching marriage customs in every culture on Earth and marrying Harry in each of those, too. Just to be sure. We could have a marriage a month. I wonder if he’ll mind.”

Enola laughed. “I doubt it. Think of all the rampant wedding night sex he’d get!”

Hermione blushed. “I’m trying to focus on this one, first. I’m a bit terrified I wont be able to keep it together..to perform for him.”

“What do you mean?” asked Enola, quirking her eyebrow.

“Haven’t you heard?” asked Hermione. “Harry has performed ritual sex magic on our bedroom! He’s cast spells, drawn runes and who knows what other kind of symbols, charged crystals, placed totems…fuck me, En, I had a multiple orgasm just stepping inside! I’ve never seen magic like it.”

“What!” cried Enola dreamily. “Really?”

“Yep,” Hermione nodded. “Poor little Celesca was with me. She didn’t know what was happening!”

“Does…does it affect other people, or just you?” Enola asked swarthily.

“Well, Luna could barely walk when she passed through it,” said Hermione with a giggle. “And when I asked your mother to have a look at what Harry had actually done up there, she didn’t return for over an hour. So, I’d say yes.”

“Hmmm,” Enola swooned. “You really are the luckiest witch alive, Min. Do you know?”

“I’m starting to see it,” Hermione grinned. “It’s a nice change from being one of most cursed, as I was six months ago.”

“It feels like you’ve been with us forever, though,” said Enola thoughtfully. “I really am so happy for you, Min. I truly am.”

“Thank you,” said Hermione, as Enola gave her a hug. “And not just for agreeing to do this for me today. I mean for everything you’ve done for me. You’ve been so kind since the day I arrived. I know I was a bit of a dick, being jealous of you at times…I mean, it’s not your fault you are so gorgeous…but you really are my best friend. I hope you don’t mind me saying that.”

“Of course I don’t!” cried Enola, squeezing Hermione again. “I’m honoured. You’re my best friend, too. I just love that you asked me to be your Maid of Honour! I hope I get to be it for all of your other fifty-odd weddings, too!”

Hermione laughed and they broke apart. “Let’s just see how you do at this one first! I brought you a book about alchemical weddings from Harry’s library. Well, it’s my library, really. I actually think I might ban Harry from it, unless he’s bringing me more books. He’s a bit too boisterous forhis own good. He might break something in there, and that just wont do at all. I’d be be so cross with him. Anyway, you’re going to need to have a look at the book. There’s a piece in there about the Maid and the Best Man. You have a serious role to play.”

“I do? Even better!” said Enola. “I’ll have a look when we’re done. Oooh…who’s going to be the Best Man?”

“I’m pretty sure Harry wants Neville to do it,” said Hermione. “He’s the obvious choice, too.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well, Harry sort of…told me.”

Enola shot Hermione a curious look. “Harry told you? How?”

“Well, I was reading the book about the wedding and I got to the bit about the Maid of Honour and Best Man,” said Hermione. “You were the only one I wanted to ask, I didn’t even think about anyone else. But then I thought about who Harry might want to have as his Best Man. I thought about Sir David, or one of the other members of Harry’s Circle. Then I thought about Nev and I just felt this weird surge of emotion inside me. It was like really powerful enthusiasm, but it hadn’t come from me. I think that was Harry’s way of telling me who he wanted.”

“How bizarre,” said Enola thoughtfully. “It must be weird, knowing he’s inside you.”

“It is a bit, but it’s comforting,” said Hermione with a fond smile to herself.

“It’ll be more than comforting later, when he’s inside you in a different way!” said Enola with a dirty wink.

“Don’t start,” said Hermione, blushing furiously. “I can’t keep my head on straight about that as it is! Seriously…does this tape measure really need to know the length of my toenails?!…”

* * *

Neville had decided that he had to see this for himself. He wouldn’t believe it was possible until he had. Even Harry wasn’t capable of magic like that. The witches of the house just had to be wrong.

They just had to be. Every single of them.

For that’s all they were all talking about. Harry sex room. Neville laughed just by thinking about it. It was typical Harry, meticulous planner as he was. But to create such powerful, lingering effects…that was new a standard even for him. The work that must have gone into it was astonishing to consider. If any of it was right at all. Which Neville doubted.

Still, wouldn’t hurt to have a look.

Besides, his hunt for Enola was proving fruitless. Sally – poor, one-armed Sally – had come to find him, telling him his wife was looking for him. So he had starting looking for her. They must have been looking in the wrong places, because neither had found the other one yet. And Neville had been at this for an hour already.

And everywhere he went, and everyone he asked, was busy talking about the same thing. The sexual magic Harry had imbued into his bedroom. It was, literally, the hot topic of the day. Apparently, some of the witches rescued from Hengest – who had been rehoused on Harry’s vast estate – had even queued up outside the room to experience it for themselves. The visions of that made Neville’s head spin.

So now he was going to see it for himself. Then he was going to sit in one place and wait for Enola to find him later.

He supposed he should feel guilty, for coming up to Harry’s personal space without his permission. But then, if the rumours were true, everyone else had already done it, so why should Neville be the odd one out? That ship had sailed. He hadn’t been up here in years…and the memory of it didn’t sit well with him at all.

For it was the day after the third anniversary of Harry’s supposed death. He knew that Hermione held a party for him every year, and that people still loyal to him attended. Ron had sworn after the second year he wouldn’t go again. That year it had been held at number six, Privet Drive. The house had been vacant for years. Nobody seemed to want to buy it…not after the brutal murders of the family living at number four. The other residents of the cul-de-sac all swore it was haunted…

So Hermione had set up the party there, hoping its link to Harry would draw his spirit. It didn’t, obviously, but it did draw Neville Longbottom. He transformed himself into his Animagus shape – a dragonfly – and hid in a lampshade to watch proceedings and report back to Harry on how Hermione was.

The net result of this report was that Harry had set fire to half the palace in his fury.

For that very morning, Ron had broken Hermione’s arm and dislocated her shoulder. He had tried to stop her from going to the Deathday party, twisting her arm to snap it, then tearing it from its socket as she tried to break free from him. She was in excruciating agony, but she wouldn’t fail to host the Deathday Party for anything. So she’d gritted her teeth, fashioned a makeshift sling from a tablecloth, and born the pain as best she could.

Harry didn’t have anything like the same sort of restraint. It was the first time Neville had seen Harry’s rage turn incendiary. It certainly wouldn’t be the last. Especially where Ron Weasley was concerned. Neville had felt powerless to stop him, had no idea what he was supposed to do. If Harry hadn’t knocked himself out, by bringing a whole roundtower down on top of himself, Neville was certain the outcome would have been too horrendous to even think about.

And that was the last time he’d been in Harry’s bedroom, to deliver his broken body to start its recovery. But now, here he was again, and it was just bizarre to compare the two circumstances. He chuckled to himself, pondered just how filthy a mind Harry really had under all that bravado, and opened the door to the bedroom. And lost his breath in an instant.

For there, on top of Harry’s messed up sheets, was Enola, one hand down her knickers and pounding away furiously, the other roughly pinching the nipple of her exposed breast.

Neville had never gone so hard in all his life. He felt the power of the room wash over him just standing in the doorway. His groin throbbed, it ached. He had to grab it and squeeze, it wasn’t even a choice. Enola’s throaty moans were just the most erotic sounds Neville had ever heard. He just stood and watched her, captivated by her display. She had torn open her dress in her lust, quite literally. Neville could see the buttons where they’d been ripped off. And now his wife was writhing around in ecstasy.

His wife. He’d never fully believed that. That this girl, this absolute vision of beauty, was his wife. That she’d chosen him, little Neville Longbottom. He remembered the first day he’d seen her…and the breath she took from him. That smile, that face…that body. He’d never once thought she’d be interested in him. Not in a million years. She was Harry’s chief carer, that’s the only reason she’d have to ever speak to him.

Until she started pursuing him like a predator. And Neville had never been so happy to be hunted in all his life.

And he just looked at her now, marvelled at his good fortune. It was the naughtiest, hottest thing he could imagine. It was like the first time he’d seen her naked, when she did a little striptease for him. And he just stared at her naked form, drank in her astonishing sexiness for fully ten minutes. Before she got antsy and pounced on him. He’d forgotten her lately, neglected her. She had needs…and he needed to man the fuck up.

Well…turnabout was fair play.

Neville’s robe was off in a moment and he kicked the door shut, locking it with his wand before throwing it to the floor. The sound alerted Enola, who flipped around in embarrassed shock. But Neville was on her before she could react, pinning her down with his weight as his mouth met hers. He tore at her knickers, pulling them down and driving his fingers into her. She moaned lustily and quested her own digits for Neville’s throbbing cock. She wore a look of surprise at its firmness, then began strumming it expertly. He always went wild for her technique.

Then she flipped him around and straddled him. Neville could feel her moistness dripping down onto this thigh. The thought sent waves of hot senselessness speeding through him. Enola moved, repositioned herself…then Neville held her still.

“No, not on Harry’s bed,” he panted lustily. “This is the marital bed. We cant…Harry would never forgive us…”

“No problem…there’s plenty of wall space,” Enola purred filthily.

Neville grinned and scooped her up, entering her as they pounded back against the window, the wall. She was deliciously warm and wet. Neville was beyond lust, beyond technique. Enola wrapped her strong thighs around his waist and encouraged him with her movements, mewling throatily as she captured his mouth with her own again. He’d missed this, missed her. How could he have let himself become such a poor husband? He’d make it up to her, as often as he could.

“I’ve missed you,” she breathed sexily into his ear, biting his lobe. “Don’t hold back.”

Neville was like a jack hammer now, thrusting powerfully. “I love you,” he murmured lowly.

“I love you,” Enola purred back. “But don’t make love to me…just fuck me.”

And Neville did as he was told. For five whole minutes. Till he could hold back no more and he spilled into her with a feral sort of growl. They slid to the floor, entangled and sweaty, struggling for air. Enola’s eyes were bright and twinkling.

“Harry is so doing this to our bedroom,” she giggled, hugging Neville close.

“Damned fucking right he is!” Neville returned, grinning broadly. “And he’s doing it tomorrow!”

Enola laughed and clung to her husband. “I was looking for you everywhere. I have a job for you.”

“What is it?”

“Harry wants you to be his Best Man,” said Enola. “Min told me. They’re getting married tonight. There’s a spell we have to be part of, it’s in a book she gave me on it. Explains everything.”

Neville grinned naughtily. “Do I get to shag the Maid of Honour afterwards?”

“If you are up for it…you can shag her now.”

Well, how can I refuse an offer like that!” Neville grinned, then flipped his wife till she was face down. She gave a little squeak of surprise, then an altogether different noise, as Neville drove his tongue between her arse-cheeks…

* * *

Hermione ground her fingers nervously as she waited. The silence of the alchemy cell seemed to throb and hum all around her, making her irrationally anxious. What was there to be worried about? She was about to commit herself to an Order dedicated to protecting the most noble of magical family lines…then she was going to become part of that line herself. She fluttered wildly at that idea. Never had her imminent union with Harry struck her so forcefully.

This moment, that she had been waiting for her whole life, both consciously and unconsciously, had finally arrived.

And Hermione was instantly calmed as the thought settled on her. She smiled. She could almost feel Harry trying to ease her, soothe her worries, massage her from the inside. She blushed crazily as she considered that he’d be doing something very similar in just a few hours. Getting inside her and massaging her. She began to fiddle with the tassel on her champagne-coloured silk robe, to offset the rampant urge to pace like a half-wild cat that was suddenly pooling in her belly, and inching steadily lower.

She was pretty sure lusty arousal was an inappropriate state for this upcoming ritual.

Especially with the required nudity. They’d never mentioned this at Hogwarts. But then, Hermione considered, ritual magic had never made the curriculum at all. She frowned a little at that. Witches and wizards were missing out on so much without it. She pitied them a moment. Then got back to all this nudity business.

She smoothed her robe over her breasts and hips, considering her shape. She didn’t have much to be concerned about, really. Whilst not athletic or toned, or leggy like Enola, she was in decent trim. She didn’t show it off much, but she was nicely endowed in all the right places.

The only thing she was concerned about was her scar.

It usually stayed hidden beneath her layers of clothing, but now it would be on display. A thin, angry purple line, sickle-shaped. Running down her cleavage and under her left boob. It didn’t hurt, not like Harry’s wounds, but she’d always had an issue with it. Since Antonin Dolohov had given it to her when she was just sixteen, on that fateful night searching for Harry’s prophecy at the Ministry. She’d met Dolohov once since then. During the public execution of Filius Flitwick. Dolohov had wanted to have his head mounted as a trophy, his reward for subduing the legendary dueller.

Needless to say, Dolohov was still a massive bell-end.

But Hermione didn’t have much time to think about that, as whooshes of apparition suddenly began sweeping around the room. She chuckled to herself. Clearly the other women of the house didn’t trust themselves to stay composed, if they were forced to pass through Harry’s sexually-charged bedroom. It was all any of them had talked about all day. She bit her lip as she thought about it. The mess she was going to be in when it came time to go to sleep that night…

Hermione eased the thoughts aside. Six witches were now standing opposite her, all bedecked in red-purple ritual gowns with gold tassels. Their hoods were shallow and Hermione exchanged encouraging grins with Enola and Myfanwy. It was with a pang that she noticed Angharad was not among the number, but she was thrilled to see that Luna had stepped into her place.

Then the door opened and Narcissa walked in. Hermione was surprised to see little Celesca striding alongside her. She was carrying a ceremonial candelabra, with a single flaming sconce crackling away at the top. She was concentrating so hard to keep it steady that Hermione had to stifle a fond giggle, lest she disturb her balancing focus.

Narcissa herself was resplendent in an ice-white and silver robe. It shone with intensity and Hermione could feel its power pulsing from across the room. The runes and markings, woven in with silver thread, glinted against the light and pulsed with Narcissa’s power like a strobe. She beckoned Hermione forward and she went, halting next to the deep bath.

Narcissa extended her hand and slowly rose it up into the air. As she did, the bath began to fill with a milky-coloured liquid, clearly warm as wisps of steam crept up against the chilled air of the cell. Celesca was watching it with the same look of fascination as Hermione herself wore. Then, movement drew her attention, as Narcissa directed the other witches into a circle around the bath. When they were in position, evenly spaced, Narcissa eased Celesca back into the corner and took the candelabra from her.

“Is it that time?” asked Celesca.

“Yes, my dear, it is,” Narcissa smiled. Celesca then flung her hands up over her eyes, pinning them there tightly. Narcissa turned back to the room. “Witches!”

At the command, five of the other women in the room threw their hands up to the knotted tassels at the necks of their gowns. They did it with almost military synchronicity. Luna, who was obviously new to this, swiftly followed suit. As soon as she did, a wave of low level magic swept around the circle. Narcissa then took the sconce from the candelabra, scooped the flame into the palm of her hand without it burning her, then cast it to the floor.

A ring of fire suddenly encircled them, the flames licking to knee height. Hermione felt the warmth envelop her, as well as another touch of that low intensity magic. Then Narcissa clapped her hands…and all the witches pulled simultaneously on their tassels, letting their robes fall to the floor. Not one of them flinched at being suddenly naked. Not even Luna. But, then again, she’d always been a little quirky that way.

Hermione couldn’t help but flick her eyes at Enola, standing just to her right. And she huffed. She’d always known it, but the girl was a fucking goddess. From her sleek black hair and facial beauty, down through her perfect teardrop-shaped breasts, which were bigger than her clothing let on, to a slender waist, and hips with just enough of a womanly, sexy swell to accentuate those long, smooth legs. Hermione huffed again. This girl had had a baby, and yet she looked the very flawless definition of hot as fuck. Hermione would definitely be picking her brains for some pointers after this.

And she might start with some personal grooming. Her eyes flickered involuntarily to that triangle between her legs. That bare triangle, in Enola’s case. It made her look neat, trim, with the tantalising tease of a tiny hint of slit above her clitoral hood. Hermione looked down at her own version, with hair as wild as that which she had on her head. It had never occurred to her to pay attention to such things during her hated marriage to Ron. She would definitely need to revisit that idea.

But, for now, Narcissa was demanding her attention.

“Miss Granger,” Narcissa said. “If you will.”

She beckoned her towards the warm water of the bath, nodding pointedly at her robe. Hermione took the cords in her hands and gently untied them, huffed once more at her modesty, then pulled the robe from her shoulders. She caught Enola’s eye, and her best friend nodded her head approvingly at Hermione’s form. Pleased and emboldened, Hermione eased herself into the ceremonial bath.

Then Narcissa shed her own robe. For an older witch, she was in cracking shape, too. She was also slim, and had the toned physique of a yoga master. She took Hermione by surprise as she stepped into the deep bath alongside her, sliding under the milky water to allow it to coat her, before standing again.

“Please move on your knees to me, Miss Granger,” said Narcissa.

Hermione bashfully did as she was instructed, pointedly aware that her flushed face was now level with Narcissa’s naked crotch. Thankfully, Narcissa turned Hermione to face away from her.

“Witches! Let us begin,” Narcissa cried. “Enola Longbottom – imbibe the circle!”

Hermione watched Enola step forward. She cupped her hands out in front of her. Suddenly, a small, domed tower materialised in her hands.

“The athanor – provider of the Secret Flame,” said Enola. “I call on the Spirits of Fire to bless our purpose.”

A sweep of energy thundered around the circle. Hermione felt it pulse through her body like a sonic boom.

“Alice Longbottom – imbibe the circle!” called Narcissa.

Neville’s mother stepped forward. “The horn of the unicorn, a sacred creature. I call on the Spirits of the Earth to bless our purpose.”

Another heady sweep of magic coated them all.

“Myfanwy Price – imbibe the circle!”

“The talons of an owl, messengers of the sky. I call on the Spirits of the Air to bless our purpose.”

Cassie was called forward last. She conjured miniature waves, which hung surreally between her palms. “The swell of the raging ocean. I call on the Spirits of Water to bless our purpose.”

“Thank you, ladies,” said Narcissa. “I beckon the power of Arianwen Hart and Luna Lovegood to empower our circle. Witches, raise your hands.”

Arianwen and Luna obeyed. Narcissa stood before Luna first, aiming her wand at her right palm.

“The Acorn – the power of Autumn,” said Narcissa, conjuring the little nut with her wand. She then turned her wand to Luna’s left palm. “And a head of barely, to summon the heart of Spring.”

Narcissa crossed to Arianwen. “A snowflake, to call to us, the Winter, and a captured sunbeam, the energy of Summer.”

The magic now became so intense that as it heaved around Hermione, she nearly fainted from the force of it. It didn’t help that Narcissa was summoning the energy to her and channelling it into the bath, causing the water to slop and swirl violently around them. It was all Hermione could do to keep herself steady.

“Hermione Jane Granger,” Narcissa boomed out. “We will now begin your induction to this, our most beloved Order. Do you agree to uphold our Three Tenets?”

“I do,” said Hermione.

“Do you agree to honour and protect the most noble magical family line, sired by Merlin himself?”

“I do,” said Hermione. A swoosh of magic rushed up through her as the oath settled.

Narcissa reached into the bath, scooped up a double-palmful of the water and let it cascade down onto Hermione’s head.

“Do you agree to protect its secrets and never reveal them?”

“I do.” Hermione blinked out more water as it crashed into her eyes. She panted hard against another powerful bolt of oath magic, gripping the sides of the bath tightly.

“And do you agree to offer yourself wholly into the service of the Heir Incumbent, Harry James Potter, and obey his Lordship?”

Hermione turned her head to look up fiercely at Narcissa. “For as long as I fucking live.”

Narcissa smiled warmly at her, then dumped one last handful of the milky water onto Hermione’s now sodden, bushy crown.

“Then, by the power, and authority, bestowed upon me by Harry James Potter, our Lord and Master, I now induct you, Hermione Jane Granger, into the Order of Merlin, Acolyte Class. May you cherish your sistership, and serve the Order with honour and dignity, for the rest of your natural life. When the time is right, you will give to us your menstrual blood, then your covenant with us will be sealed forever. But, for now…Arise, Lady Hermione, Our Sister.”

“Our sister!” the other witches chorused.

Hermione stood. Her knees were trembling, the residual magic still tingling all through her. She looked nervously around the circle. Each witch bowed their head to her in a gesture of salute, and she returned each nod with a goofy sort of grin. She felt the oaths and vows settle on her like a gentle mist. And she could feel a new level of connection joining her to them all, and an intense new power, as though she were now part of something visceral and much bigger than herself. It was intoxicating.

“Now, witches, remain where you are,” said Narcissa. “Keep the circle flowing with your power, but please re-robe. For we have another ceremony to carry out.”

Hermione’s insides started doing cartwheels and somersaults, to compete with the insane flutterings drifting over her skin. She couldn’t even describe what was going on in her frenzied mind. After the heady magical power of the Induction Ritual, she was still a little giddy. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to handle what was about to happen.

But there was no way on Earth she was going to miss her own wedding.

It was happening. It was really happening. It wasn’t a dream, or a fantasy. She wasn’t curled up in her bed at Hogwarts this time, clutching a pillow between her legs and clenching a fist so hard into the corner that it left creases there. She wasn’t going to wake up from this and find she’d fabricated the whole thing. No, this time, the dream was totally real.

She was about to marry Harry Potter.

Hermione had to hold onto the rim of the bath to stop herself from collapsing again. In fact, she decided to sit on it for support. There was simply no way she could keep her feet. Her knees had totally forgotten how to function, in the face of the electric pulses shooting through her entire body. She tried to breathe, but this was a folly.

She was too excited to even do life properly.

Narcissa smiled at her again, as she stepped from the bath and slid her robe back on. “Are you all right, Hermione?”

The use of her first name calmed her. “I’m trying to be. I’ve just never been this fevered or nervous before. I feel a bit queasy.”

“Wedding day nerves are natural,” Narcissa smiled. “But, if it makes you feel any better, Harry is physically unconscious. So he can’t say no. You’ll be saying I Do for the both of you!”

Hermione chuckled at that. Then she took the biggest, deepest, most steadying breath she’d ever inhaled in her whole life. And those flickers and flutters just got ten times worse. She huffed happily at them. They weren’t going anywhere, so she might as well get used to them.

“Okay. I’m ready. I think.”

Narcissa nodded her head. “Enola – the wedding gown, please. Oh, and you can open your eyes now, Celesca.”

“Nobody’s nudey anymore?” asked Celesca cautiously, peeking through her fingers.

Narcissa waited, until Enola had slipped the dainty white dress over Hermione’s damp body, before replying the affirmative.

“You look very pretty, Miss Hermione,” Celesca beamed. Then she frowned. “I want a nice robe like everyone else has. Why can’t I have one, Mummy? It’s really not fair.”

“No, it’s not, you’re quite right,” Luna laughed at her. “Here.”

Luna flicked her wand and transfigured Celesca’s little summer frock into a ritual robe to match the others. Celesca grinned madly and began to fiddle with her high necked, gold-trimmed collar.

“Lady Hermione,” said Narcissa. “Could you please summon your Head Elf?”

“Rhian!” Hermione called.

It took a few seconds, but the elf finally popped into view. She looked around crossly. “Forgives me, my Lady Hermione. But Rhian not be knowing where yous be. Not been in here before. Oooh…Master Harry be so tricksy. I tell him off for this!”

Hermione laughed. “You’ll have to take a ticket. I have a lot of things to tell him off for first.”

“What’s you need, my Lady?”

“Lady Malfoy has need of you,” said Hermione. “Please do whatever she requires.”

“Very well, my Lady,” said Rhian. She turned away from her. “Lady Malfoy?”

“We have a bridegroom who has a wedding to attend,” said Narcissa. “Will you please transport Harry into his room next door. And summon Lord Longbottom. He has the role of Best Man to fulfil.”

Rhian spun to Hermione, eyes wide and shocked. “Yous getting married now? In here!?”

“Yes, Rhian, we are,” Hermione smiled.

Rhian beamed back. “Oh my Lady! This makes Rhian so happy! I fetch Master Harry. Then I tell the other elves. Best to move any babies to somewhere safe. Rhian remembers the last wedding night here…”

She flicked her eyes at Enola, who shrugged shyly. Hermione just laughed at the pair of them.

“Thank you.”

Rhian clapped her hands, then popped away. Hermione turned to Narcissa. “Lady Malfoy…how is this going to work? It wont be a standard ceremony, obviously.”

“Call me Narcissa, I insist,” Narcissa replied. “The ceremony will be simple – you have already been cleansed and purified, your essence dissolved into the white, Mercurial waters. That substance you are sitting in was created from you – sourced from your very essence. You are ready to receive your perfect partner.

“When Harry arrives, he will join you in the water, and we will draw his essence to add to your own. You will infuse each other, bonding more closely than any normal couple could even hope to imagine. Then Celesca and I will find a way to join your souls. In terms of connected union between two people, we are venturing into unheard of territory. Celesca and I can link your souls together, but then you and Harry will have a lifetime to explore what that really means.

“I truly envy you, Hermione. You are about to be given one the most beautiful gifts that nature has to offer.”

Hermione felt a breath escape her. She was beyond humbled. Narcissa’s reverent words, her venerated tone…Hermione didn’t know how to receive either. She needed Harry, right now. She couldn’t deal with all this alone.

And then, he was there, drifting in under Neville’s wand. He had been decked out in his golden ritual robe and he looked obscenely handsome. Though asleep.

“Should I sing the wedding march?” Neville quirked. “We will have to have a stag party after the fact. Never pegged Harry to be the shotgun wedding-type.”

“Will you please just lower Lord Potter into the water,” said Narcissa with a little frown.

“What? Into the bath?” Neville queried.

Narcissa looked pitifully at him. “No, into the tiny waves crashing in Cassiopeia’s hands! Yes, into the bath!”

“Please, just Cassie,” Enola’s friend complained crossly.

“No need to get shirty,” said Neville shortly. “I’ve never been to an alchemical wedding before.”

Narcissa shook her head at him as Neville slowly lowered Harry’s limp form towards the water. Hermione was suddenly fitful.

“Stop! Wait!”

Neville scowled at her in shock. She ignored his questioning stare, then slid down into the water and shifted back to rest against the end of the tub, letting her wedding gown billow up to the surface. She held her arms out. “Okay, go.”

Neville grinned at her, turned Harry’s body and let it drift under the surface of the milky bath. As soon as he was submerged, Hermione slid her arms around his torso and drew him tenderly close, easing his back into her chest and cradling his lower body with her legs, before gently kissing the top of his head.

“Now we’re ready,” said Hermione.

Narcissa smiled at her. “Celesca?”

“What do you need me to do, Nanny Ciss?”

“Can you take hold of Harry’s soul cord?” asked Narcissa. Celesca nodded. “Good. Do that and guide it into the water.”

Celesca stepped forward and closed her eyes, holding her hand over Harry’s chest. Her tiny fingers closed around something Hermione couldn’t see.

“Got it!” Celesca cried triumphantly. “Right…”

The next thing Hermione knew was that she was swimming in a pool of Harry. That was the best way she could describe it. She felt his power, his energy, all his emotion flowing around her with the swirling water. It was the single most contented moment of her life. She would have happily stayed in it forever.

But, if she had, she would never have experienced the wonder of what happened next.

Narcissa had joined Celesca next to the bath. Her own hand was extended, and that powerful ring-and-wrist-circlet combination was throbbing with magic. Narcissa was muttering rapidly under her breath. A powerful force was surging between her and Celesca and Hermione felt its shock waves penetrate her very bones.

“Good girl, good girl,” Narcissa was saying. “Almost…almost…yes! I have him. He can see the way out. Celesca…can you take hold of Hermione’s cord, too? Can you handle them both?”

“Yes…yes I think so,” said Celesca. “Sorry, Miss Hermione, this is going to feel a bit strange.”

A bit strange! That didn’t even come close. Hermione felt as if Celesca had reached down her throat into the very base of her life energies. She lost her breath at the invasion. She felt something being gently pulled out of her, but she was too shocked by the sensation to offer any kind of resistance or response.

“One minute…one minute…there!” Celesca cried triumphantly. “They’re touching! Oh Nanny…Mummy! It’s so beautiful! I wish you could see…if only for the light coming off them. It’s so bright! It’s lovely. I want one.”

It was a good thing Celesca was saying something, because Hermione had lost all concept of language. In fact, she’d lost all concept of everything. Life was being redefined, rewritten as she floated there, hugging Harry impossibly close. She had no idea how she was still alive, because she’d forgotten how to breathe. All she knew was this connection, this link from her soul, touching Harry’s own and fusing with it in the most tender, delicate and unbelievably emotional way, a way she had never even conceived would be possible.

“Never, ever…in my life…” Narcissa breathed. “Have I ever felt anything like this. I think I’m melting.”

“I’ve become a jelly,” Enola whispered, nodding in agreement. She was clutching onto Neville, smoothing his hair. He had fallen to his knees, so overcome with the gorgeous emotion shooting all around the circle that he was weeping into Enola’s thighs. She cooed to him and held him close.

“You have to finish the ceremony, Nanny Ciss,” said Celesca. “Seal them together forever. The ought to never be apart again. It would be so wrong if that happened.”

“You’re right,” said Narcissa, gathering herself again. “Hermione…can you hear me?”

“Y-yeah,” Hermione spluttered out. She could only imagine how unfocused she looked.

“Are you ready to make your vows?”

“I am.”

“Never, in my life, have I come across two people, two souls, so perfectly suited to one another,” said Narcissa. “Nature has ordained this union, brought these two halves together. Let all aspects of magic bless and Bond them as One.”

“May magic bless and Bond them,” the audience recited.

“I call upon the Spirits of Alchemy to Bond this union, to align this perfection,” Narcissa went on. She drew two vials from her robe. Offered one to Enola, and the other to Neville, who was still sniffling as he accepted it. “Maid of Honour – seal this union.”

“I call on Queen Luna, Goddess of the Moon, to bless this union,” said Enola. “I offer mercury, body of the White Queen, and my own blessed power.”

She tipped the vial of silvery liquid into the bath. It stirred and heaved with deep energy, turning the water from milky white to shining silver.

“The Best of Men,” said Narcissa. “Seal this union.”

Neville stepped forward, wiping his eyes with his sleeve. His voice was fracturing as he spoke. “I call on King Sol, Lord of the Sun, to bless this union. I offer sulphur, body of the Red King, and my own blessed power.” And he tipped a vial of red liquid into the bath, which transformed from silver to the deepest gold. He stepped close to his wife and drew her into a deep embrace.

If anyone had been watching through a window, they might have thought the room had been hit by a sudden hurricane. Nowhere, in the history of magical Britain, had a level of magic of this magnitude ever been recorded. It would be told and retold by those who experienced it for years to come.

Narcissa took a breath, and held onto Celesca tightly, as though afraid the rushing magic might somehow sweep her away. Then she regarded Hermione again. Of all the people being buffeted by this sparkling, magical gale, Harry and Hermione alone seemed unaffected. It was as if they were the eye of their own, irrepressible storm of delicious emotion.

Narcissa cleared her throat. “May all here bear witness to the spiritual joining of Harry James Potter and Hermione Jane Granger.

“Do you, Hermione, give your mind to his mind? Your thoughts to his thoughts? Your heart…to his heart?”

“I do,” Hermione whispered. Tears were coming. She knew it.

“And, in his stead, does he give his mind to your mind, his thoughts to your thoughts? His heart…to your heart?”

Hermione closed her eyes, smiled inside with so much love that it hurt. She didn’t need to ask the question. Harry’s emotional response was so emphatic it left her senseless.

“He does.” The tears came closer to the surface. She could almost feel Harry’s spirit inside her rise with them.

“And do you both,” Narcissa went on. “Give your soul…to the other’s soul?”

Warm tears fell before Hermione could stop them. Her words caught with the joyous sobs they were borne on.

“We do.”

And Hermione gasped. She hadn’t answered. It wasn’t her voice hanging in the air.

And Harry turned his head, his own eyes streaming with tears. He looked so incredibly happy that Hermione felt certain her heart would explode if she looked too long.

“We do,” she echoed through her delirious weeping. “We so totally do!”

And then he was kissing her, dragging her under the water with his enthusiasm. They resurfaced a full minute later, spluttering and laughing and clinging onto each so impossibly tightly. Harry looked hungrily into her face, his eye literally every lovely emotion he’d ever felt all at once.

“Hey you,” he said softly, stroking her cheek. “You look beautiful.”

“It must be a thing, because you look ridiculously handsome,” said Hermione, beaming broadly.

“Yeah, it’s a thing,” Harry grinned. “A Potter thing…Mrs Potter?”

“Not without my ring,” she teased back. “Celesca?”

And suddenly she was there, hopping to the side of the bath with the little velvet box. She was grinning stupidly and her eyes were moist with happy tears, too.

Harry took the ring carefully and slipped it onto Hermione’s finger. She admired it on her hand. Then she frowned up at Harry.

“But what about yours?”

“You’re already wearing it,” said Harry. He took her hand and eased the Potter family ring from Hermione, sliding it onto his own wedding ring finger. It had never been there before. They held hands, wedding rings touching. And Harry’s transformed in an instant.

As soon as it did, a pulse of the most powerful magic either had ever felt smashed into and cocooned them both. It was so dense it obscured them from a view a moment as it settled on them. They clung to each other for support against the waves and waves of this surging force, until it finally eased off and became a distant throb. They stared at each other in startled surprise.

“I pronounce your soul bond complete,” said Narcissa. “Congratulations to you both!”

Hermione beamed at Harry, then gasped in surprise. For all the solution in the tub had vanished. She felt an odd sensation. She couldn’t have said how, but she was certain it had been absorbed into her body, and into Harry’s, too. He mirrored her stunned look.

“Did you know it would be like this?” she asked.

“No, I’ve never been married before!” he teased.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “You know I’m incredibly cross with you, don’t you?”

“Of course,” said Harry easily. “But let me make it up to you.”

Hermione twinkled her eyes naughtily at him. “Does it involve that room next door? And whatever that mind-blowing magic is you’ve performed in there?”

Harry smiled lustily back. “Oh, honey…wife,” he began. He let the proclamation of her new role in his life just hang there a moment, so they both could enjoy it. “I haven’t even begun to perform in there. That…well…that’s just foreplay.”

“Oh sweet Merlin,” Hermione swooned. “Come on, Harry. Take me to your…to our…bed. Do you have the strength to carry me over the threshold?”

Harry grinned and hopped out of the bath. To Hermione’s immense surprise, he scooped her up as if her weight was nothing. He inclined his head to Narcissa, uttering an unspoken command. One by one, the witches and Neville Disapparated, till Harry and Hermione were quite alone. He looked down into her eyes.

“I love you. I’ve always loved you.”

Hermione felt her heart spin like a Catherine Wheel. It wasn’t just the words, she felt their intense truth, pounding inside her. Harry’s fierce emotion inside her own body. It was breathtaking.

She smiled up at him again.

“Then make love to me.”

Harry grinned again, tightening his hold on her. “As you wish, my Lady.”

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