Chapter 15

Chapter 15 – Quintessence

Harry reached across Hermione, met her eyes over the rim of her teacup, exchanged a sweet, loving look, and took and another slice of toast from the rack, which he then proceeded to butter carefully. Well, to call it a tea cup would be something of an inaccuracy, when in fact it was actually one of baby Alison’s beakers Hermione was drinking from.

It was what they were all drinking from. One cup at a time.

It was all they had left. A fact only further emphasised by Sally, who was walking around the breakfast parlour, scooping up fragments of china that had been missed on the earlier sweep-up attempt. The first tackling of this mammoth task, that was dealing with the absolute carnage that Harry and Hermione’s wedding night love-making had wrought on the palace.

It was all Harry could do not to piss himself laughing. He had a reputation to uphold, after all. So he tried he best to pout and frown as always, but inside he was being tickled to death. And it didn’t help that Hermione, sat so invasively close on his left hand side, was in exactly the same state. She was locked in a death struggle with a fit of giggles herself. Harry could feel them inside her, as potently as if they were actually in his own chest. Which only made his chaffing mirth ten times worse.

So Hermione sat in silence, burying her giggling lips in as much tea as she could stand, while Harry fought hard to pretend that everything was just the same as it always had been. It was a game everyone else was playing, and Harry was just in that sort of mood to join in.

But it was so fucking hard!

For a start, some of the house-elves were nosily erecting a scaffold along one wall of the Breakfast Parlour, to begin replacing the missing parts of the ceiling, which had been swept into a neat little mountain nearby. They were whistling a cheery little tune, and clanking merrily away, as they attached struts and rivets and brackets to the steel frame. There were torturous screeches as wooden beams were slid roughly into place, and every now and then a playful elf would push another from the scaffold, and belly laugh as his victim bounced away off the carpet like a rubber ball.

And the assorted witches and wizards at the large breakfast table ignored all of it, as if it wasn’t happening at all.

Then there were the witches and wizards themselves. Harry was sat opposite Susan Bones, who was toussled and sleep-mussed and kept flashing little glances at Cassie, sat at the other end of the table. Both pointedly avoided looking at Neville, who was sat with Enola on Hermione’s other side. Enola, herself, had been fucked to pieces. That was obvious from her dreamy expression. Plus the fact that she had actually been limping when she and Neville entered the Breakfast Parlour that morning.

Harry hadn’t seen her like that since the day after her wedding.

And he was thrilled for her. Harry knew how deep her love for Neville went. He’d felt it in ritual with her. But it was matched in intensity by her physical attraction to him. And Enola Longbottom was nothing if not a physically passionate girl. And it had been months since Neville had been able to be intimate with her. The loss was causing her borderline depression, and Harry hated seeing it, and being unable to help.

But now, it seemed, he had. And Enola looked bright and alive for the change. Harry knew Neville would eventually ask the awkward questions, look for answers and a repeat prescription to his previous dysfunction. Harry would have to chat with Enola, devise a strategy. He could always point to the runes, say it was Potter family magic. A secret he could only share with Hermione, the only other properly recognised member of the family. He could say his Dad had struggled with the same thing.

Only later, when Harry was actually planning to see his father, that would be an awkward lie to explain away.

But that would be an afternoon delight. And Harry was reasonably certain that conversation was going to irritate the fuck out of him. So, for now, he just wanted to have fun playing this little game at breakfast.

And the best player in it had now decided to deal herself in.

“It was a shame we couldn’t have a big party for your birthday, Lady Hermione,” said little Celesca ruefully, picking at a plate of scrambled eggs she was sharing with Luna. “I was so looking forward to it. But everyone else had little parties of their own instead. Though Mummy was very unfair to me, I think. She wouldn’t let me go to any of those, either. And everyone seemed to be having so much fun. They were doing funny dances and banging around and making a lot of noise and things like that. But I just had to sit with Mummy and Nanny Ciss and play Exploding Snap, which didn’t seem like half as much fun as the others were having.”

Hermione spat her tea back into her beaker as laughter broke through her barrier. Harry just chewed his toast as fast as he could. He was sure he might break a rib with all this straining.

“W-were they, sweetheart?” Hermione replied with, Harry thought admiringly, remarkable composure.

“Oh yes,” Celesca went on calmly. “And I think some people thought it was Halloween, too. But, as I was telling Miss Myfanwy earlier, that isn’t till next month. I think, being stuck here, people forget what date it is, you know.”

“And…um…why did they think it was Halloween?” asked Harry, warring for control of his lungs.

“Well, it was all that screaming,” Celesca explained patiently. Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand under the table and almost broke his fingers with her vibrating death grip. They couldn’t hold out much longer. “I don’t know if they were scaring each other on purpose or what, but it must have been terribly frightening. And Miss Enola does a very good zombie impression, too. Can you do it for me now, Miss Enola? You know the one…urghhh urggghh urghhh… it’s really very scary.”

“Yes, yes it is,” Neville agreed solemnly, as Harry purposely knocked his fork to the floor, so he could quietly die under the table as he ducked down to retrieve it. He wondered vaguely who would find his corpse.

No cheating, Harry! Get back up here! This is your fault, you face it like a man!

Harry frowned. He would have to hit the mind defence books as soon as he had a spare five minutes, otherwise Hermione was totally going to abuse this little gift she was developing. He returned to his seat and frowned at her good-naturedly, then thought a whole tirade of cutting insults for her to read from the inside of his mind. She liked to read, so Harry thought she might appreciate that.

But, judging by the scowl on her face, he was going to pay for that misjudgement later.

“So, why didn’t you have a party, Lady Hermione?” Celesca pressed. “Or did you forget it was your birthday?”

“I did forget, actually,” said Hermione, stupidly thinking the worst was over. “But Harry didn’t forget. So we just had a little party on our own. My first birthday as his wife was something we just wanted to spend with just the two of us.”

“I see. That’s nice,” said Celesca. “I know Mister Harry wouldn’t ever forget your birthday, would you Mister Harry? He thinks such pretty things about you Lady Hermione. I’m sure he gave you something special, didn’t you, Mister Harry?”

Hermione spat tea down the front of her dress.

“Yes I did,” Harry replied, grinning at Neville. “I gave her something very special.”

“Was it big?” asked Celesca, curiously. Hermione had gone purple trying to bite in her laughter. But she still kicked Harry under the table. “I think you’re the kind of person who likes to give big things.”

“Yep,” said Harry, smirking broadly. “It was huge.”

“But it’s what you do with it that counts,” Neville added.

“And what’s that?” asked Celesca, fascinated.

“Yeah, Nev,” asked Harry calmly. “What is that, again?”

“You make girls happy with it,” Neville countered smoothly. Harry acknowledged the skill with a brief nod.

“Oh. That’s nice,” said Celesca. “Do you think I can get one, seeing as I’m a girl?”

“No!” Hermione, Enola and Luna cried in chorus.

Celesca frowned. “Well, that seems very unfair, if you ask me,” she said haughtily. “Especially if all the other girls get one. Maybe I can just borrow yours, Lady Hermione. You can’t have liked it. Mummy said all the broken windows were your fault. I don’t think you’d have smashed windows if you were happy, would you? Maybe you broke it. I’ll think I’d better come up later and have go on it, see if it still works. If not, I’ll take it away for you. I think that would be best.”

Harry had lost the ability to breathe. He couldn’t take much more.

“No, sweetie, its fine,” said Hermione gently. “Mister Harry has put it away already. And that’s where it will be staying if he doesn’t grow up.”

Sorry, Min. Harry thought. Hermione heard him, and narrowed her eyes in his direction. But they were still twinkling with humour. So he knew he was safe.

“How about we have a proper party tomorrow?” Harry offered to Celesca, as much to pacify his wife as anything. “I’m sure you can help decorate it and things.”

“Oooh, can I, Mummy?” cried Celesca excitedly, easily redirected. “I wont be any trouble, honest.”

“Of course, sweetie,” said Luna, smiling. “Why don’t we go and find Rhian, see if any of the house-elves can be spared to help.”

“Okay, but I don’t think they will,” said Celesca seriously. “That earthquake last night really broke the house…its going to take ages to clean it all up…”

* * *

The first port of call was to fix the plumbing. Nobody had been able to shower, which may have accounted for the silence at breakfast. It had simply been too pungent an aroma to ignore, had conversation even got started. Besides, that was Hermione’s primary demand, too. She wanted a long, relaxing bath, and she promised to be seriously grouchy until she got one. So Harry spent much of the morning fiddling around with pipes and u-bends, working with his maintenance elves to get water flowing back around the palace.

His wife’s wish was his command, after all.

But Hermione refused to let Harry watch her bathe, which he thought was singularly spoilsporty, so he removed himself away from the bathroom and made his way back through the floor. The elves, bless them, had focused on his own personal rooms before anywhere else. They were totally bare right now, which made a stark change.

Apparently, objects broken by potent sex magic couldn’t be repaired by standard magical means. They had to be rebuilt or replaced.

Harry chuckled to himself as he thought that. Replacing the family silverware because he had melted it with such hot sex. At least it meant he was good at it, he reasoned. He’d have to justify it to his family though, and that wasn’t a conversation he’d enjoy having with his mother

As for his father, well, he had a lot of explaining of his own to do.

Harry moved into the cool of the sub-levels to the palace. There was no damage down here, it was all as it should be. That wasn’t surprising. The magic of the palace was more focused here than anywhere. Every time Harry opened the door he was hit with a little puff of energy. He always likened it to what he expected would happen when the space shuttle docked at the international space station. A transfer of air, a sharing of energy.

Only this one took his breath away.

Harry closed the door and leaned against it, absorbing the power swirling all around him. It came to him in a way it did to no-one else. Almost like a pet rushing to greet its returning master. It had a similar sort of feel, somehow comforting and welcoming. Harry wondered if Hermione would feel it when she next came down here.

For this was Potter family magic…from Merlin through Godric Gryffindor right to Harry himself. And now to Hermione. Hermione Potter. His wife.

Seriously, he had to stop thrilling at this. Hermione was his wife now, she was going to be that for every day for as long as he lived. Was he going to go this mindlessly delirious every single time he thought it? He rather hoped he would. If it was that easy to become so happy, who was he to fight it? He felt the urge to run and jump and cry out like an excited child. He looked around mischievously. No-one would see him if he did…not down here.

So he did. Just a little. And it was great.

Then he fixed his mood back to where he needed it. Flicked that little switch in his mind to Royally Pissed Off. It wasn’t hard. He just flirted with some of the memories he and his wife had been sharing last night, about some of the confessions Harry felt he just had to make. Get most of it out into the open, he’d thought, lay as much out as he needed to.

It wouldn’t have made a difference pretending, anyway. Hermione would have just read him while he slept. That’s what she’d done, he reckoned. He was sure of it. The temptation would have proved too much.

It was a good thing, Harry thought, that his mind was so jumbled anyway. Hermione wouldn’t have been able to pick out anything too bad. Harry had a wild notion of Hermione trying to impose the Dewey Decimal System on his fractured brain. Then he’d be in trouble. Marrying the love of his life, in the most intimate type of wedding possible, was all well and good, but he couldn’t even think naughty things about her now without her knowing.

Not that it mattered…they’d done most of them anyway.

Harry shook that thought off, quite literally. His body shivered pleasantly as the memories crossed him. But he wasn’t down here to go wild over the passion of his new sex life. He was down here to be cross, to hand out a serious reprimand. And for that he needed to go right to the third sub-level.

Harry checked behind himself twice out of habit, as he reached the suit of armour at the end of last corridor on sub-level two. It had once belonged to Godric Gryffindor and the breastplate was bedecked in the Gryffindor lion, resplendent in red and gold. Harry smoothed it fondly, remembering happier times. Then he grinned.

Happier times? When had that been? When had he been happier than now? Had he ever been happier than now? He knew instantly that he hadn’t. Yeah, he had an ugly scar and lots of people were trying to kill him, but there was nothing new about that. It wasn’t so bad, not when he had his marriage to Hermione as a counter-balance.

His wife. She really was. It was truly the most amazing thing.

The wine cellar was next to the armour and the door was open. Harry glanced inside as he passed. It was only half full. That wouldn’t do, not if they were going to throw Hermione a birthday party. He so wanted to see her drunk. He imagined it would be the funniest thing…

But he pushed all these happy thoughts aside with a slight frown. He was getting more and more of them. And he wasn’t sure he liked it. It was like being normal, and that was just all kinds of weird, especially for him. But he couldn’t help it. They were just suddenly there, he couldn’t stop them. He pondered that as he opened the armour and stepped inside.

The suit span immediately, as soon as Harry closed the clasp. It clanked to a shuddering halt a second or two later. Dizzied, Harry stepped out into the pitch darkness of a terribly cold corridor. He waved his hand, magic erupted from his family ring, and flaming sconces were soon crackling merrily along the roughly hewn brackets set high into the walls. Harry let their warmth wash over him as he walked along through the flickering pools of orange light.

Harry quested for the door at the far end of the corridor. He resisted the urge to peek into the money vault. Sometimes he just liked to stare at all the piles of his gold. Of his and Hermione’s gold now. He couldn’t wait for her to start enjoying it. She’d been so energised, so excited at the prospects that being so rich threw up for her…he just wanted to indulge her passions as soon as he could. He literally felt there was nothing he’d not do, no amount he wouldn’t spend – if that’s what it took -, if his reward would just be to see her happy. He was ashamed of his own take on the cash. He was just content to horde it, watch it pile up.

And the pile was significant now.

He’d even tried swimming in it once. But it had proved to be rather impractical. Which was a pity, as he’d put on a bathing costume and a snorkel and everything. Rhian had given him some very peculiar looks when she’d caught him coming out of the vault…

Harry laughed to himself at the memory. He might as well just give in. He was happy. What was the point in pretending otherwise? He didn’t want to be just now, not with what he had to to. But Hermione just had this special magic about her. It was the most powerful ever discovered. Maybe she could write a textbook about it, petition for it to be added to the curriculum at Hogwarts.

It was the magic to make Harry Potter smile. Even with a half a mouth. A mouth usually twisted into a permanent sneer by Tom Riddle’s last curse on him. It worked, even when his wife wasn’t there to make it happen. What sort of defence could anyone hope to have against that sort of power?

Harry just allowed his grin to remain plastered to his face as he entered the last room on the floor. The space was a perfect circle, much smaller than the Ritual Room, and much calmer in energy. For this was for a purpose far more intimate than ritual of that sort. The room was brightly lit from a point high in the ceiling. Harry had never found the source of the light. It was just…there. It shone down onto a large sarsen standing stone at the centre. It had been placed by Merlin himself, to allow him to commune with the other wizards and giants, when they were building his great stone circle at Glastonbury. The most powerful ritual circle in the world.

And now, Harry Potter used it to commune with his deceased parents.

“I know you’re there, Dad, there’s no point in hiding.”

James Potter stepped into view. Harry didn’t catch quite from where. He might have come from inside the stone for all Harry was aware. It didn’t much matter. He was there, and that was all that was important.

“How did you know?” asked James. “I thought I was getting very good at being invisible. Sirius has been giving me some pointers.”

Harry narrowed his eyes at his father. Every time he saw him, he was a little glad of his scar to tell the truth. For it was like looking at himself in the future, older and greyer, like some sort of reverse echo. It was very odd.

“Is Sirius here?” asked Harry.

“No, he’s off womanising somewhere,” James smirked. “There are a lot of pretty spirit ladies up here and all the time in eternity. Your mother will be along in a minute though. She’s rather hoping she might get to have a girly natter with her new daughter-in-law…”

Harry let himself thrill again a moment, before turning on his father with an angry frown. There was the old him. Finally…

“No, my wife wont be coming today,” said Harry, his fury flickering. “A White Queen needs her pampering time…”

“Ahhh,” said James, sheepishly. “About that…”

“You knew!” Harry thundered. “You knew what she was! All along. And you didn’t tell me!”

“Harry…son…”

“Don’t try and fob me off!” Harry cried furiously, cutting his father off. “All that preparation, all that ritual, all that bullshit allegory! And you knew all the time. She could have been killed, Dad! You don’t fuck around with that…not with her…not with her fucking life!

“Watch your language, Harry, your mother is listening,” said James sternly.

Fuck you, Dad. Fuck mum, too,” Harry spat. He pushed aside a jolt of gut-churning guilt at his own outburst, and continued on. “You should have told me. I don’t care what you have to say about it.”

“Could you have protected her, if we’d told you right away?” James returned, evenly. Harry paused, riling as much against the truth as he was against his father now. “Harry…you totally accepted that you were in love with Hermione, as soon as your mother pointed out that little fact to you. What would you have done, if we’d told you everything else we suspected about her on that first meeting in here? You remember what you were like for those first few months…after you woke up.”

Harry huffed. “Yeah. I was a little ball of rage.”

“Of undirected rage,” James corrected. “Harry, you couldn’t have helped her. In your state, you were as likely to hurt as help.”

“She was hurt enough,” said Harry darkly.

“That wasn’t your fault,” said James, consolingly. “None of us suspected the way the Weasley’s would turn so ugly. But, in any case, we didn’t tell you that you were a Red King until we thought you were ready. Hermione wouldn’t have been ready to be your Queen then, either. She had to develop into the role herself.”

“I don’t think getting raped and battered counts as development!” Harry yelled, anger bursting free from him like a spear. James caught it with a lazy hand and let it dissipate into the stone, which shone green as it absorbed Harry’s rabid emotion.

“That wasn’t what I meant, and you know it,” said James patiently.

“Then explain what you did mean, Dad!” Harry hissed, his rage still flaring. “Because to me it sounds like you’re saying you let me leave Hermione, the love of my life, my soul mate, to the twisted whims of Ronald fucking Weasley…for her own good.”

“I didn’t mean that,” said James. “We all have to live with the horror of what has happened to your wonderful wife. Maybe we’ll never forgive ourselves for allowing it. But…she survived. She became stronger. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Harry, but she’s tough as treated dragonhide. She’s more than a match for you.

“No, you’re wrong,” Harry volleyed back. “She’s the perfect match for me…and it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t measure up…to us.”

James smiled warmly. “Well, at least on that we can all agree.”

Harry roared in frustration and began to pace.

“All I meant, son,” James persisted again. “Is that Hermione has had to endure, as you did. Stepping into the roles you have requires a bit of that. Merlin, had it not had to be so horrific! But they are the times we are in. And look at the reward…for both of you. I mean, have you seen how deliriously happy Hermione is now? All that joy, son…that’s all down to you.”

Harry’s heart leapt to life, racing fast, his breath catching in his lungs with it. He wasn’t going to cry…not in front of his dad.

Which was just dumb…because James was tearing up, himself.

“Sometimes, and this is a tough lesson, you’ve got to lose…just so you can know how to win.”

And Harry’s tears came against his will. For he had won. The whole story could stop right now. And Harry would have claimed victory against life, and the powers that, for so long, seemed to have ranged against him. And against his wife, too. Dumb, stupid bastards. He would have his day against the whole twatting lot of them.

And the very universe would rue the day it made enemies out of Harry and Hermione Potter.

“I just don’t understand why you had to make it so hard…for her,” Harry protested lowly, drying his eye with his shawl. “For me, fine…but not for her.”

“There are a few people who made it all so hard,” said James. “Tom Riddle, Albus Dumbledore, Ron Weasley…take your pick.”

“I pick them all,“said Harry, dangerously. “And I intend to pick them off…one at a time. But you could have given me a hint, a clue, anything. It took three years for me to learn what she was suffering under. You must have known. You could have pointed me in the direction sooner, that’s all I’m mad about. You could have let me poison him, have him killed. I have lots of contacts, lots of ways, you know that. I just don’t understand why you didn’t.”

“You will,” said James gently, taking a step towards Harry’s riling form. “I couldn’t tell you, neither could your mother. We are your parents, but you are also our Alchemy Adept. Telling you straight up isn’t how it works. You’ll know one day, you’ll understand…when you and Hermione have a son of your own…”

Harry stilled in spite of himself, breathing hard. His father’s words hung between them. That wasn’t vague or ephemeral…it was like he knew.”

“W-what are you talking about?” Harry stuttered out.

James smiled at him. “I’m talking about my grandson. I’m not going to tell you when, I’m not going to tell you how…well, I assume you know how…you certainly learned how…that was some wedding night…”

Harry blushed. “You didn’t watch that, did you?”

“That’s a rather disturbing idea,” said James. “No, we didn’t watch. They lock you up for that kind of thing, even in the afterlife. But we felt it. How much of the palace is left?”

“Not much,” Harry grinned, nervously.

“I’ll teach you some proper wards for that sort of stuff later,” said James off-handedly. “Yours were a little bit pathetic, to be honest. The ones me and your mum had to put up at Hogwarts…”

“Dad.”

“What you really need is some yew bark,” James ploughed on. “There’re trees on the grounds somewhere. It deflects magic back, rather than trying to absorb it. Sirius built us a sort of palisade wall that we could concertina and take around with us. I’ll get him to send you the schematics. Very handy for camping, or if you just fancy a roll around at the side of a motorway or something. Your mum was big into powerful Muggle cars…Hermione is Muggleborn, maybe it’s a thing for Muggle girls, you’ll have to ask her…long-distance driving with your mum was always an interesting experience…”

“Dad. Enough, please.”

“And this one time, at Lily’s mums, we snuck into the attic at Christmas. There was this thing your Mum liked to do, see, where she’d hang me upside down from the trapdoor and -“

“Dad, stop, seriously!” Harry pleaded. “Before you scar me with something worse than I’ve already got!”

“Oh, right. Yeah. Sorry,” said James sheepishly. “I’m sorry, Harry. I suppose I’m just in an excitable mood. My son has just gotten married! I’m just letting off steam.”

Harry huffed. He was trying so hard to be cross. But every single mention of Hermione, or their marriage, was likely to render him inert.

“It’s fine, Dad,” said Harry. “I’m excited, too. Even more so now. So…a son…you were saying?”

“And that was far more than he should have. Come here and give me a hug.”

Harry span, and found himself face-to-face with his mother, striding across the room to meet him. He closed the gap between them, then closed his arms around her, squeezing her tight. Harry never quite knew how to describe them. They were dead, so they were spirits, but they were also solid. Harry could hug and touch them and things. It was bizarre but, just like the source of the light in the room, he just accepted it without question. It just was.

“Congratulations, darling,” said Lily, hugging Harry close. “I’m so happy for you. For the both of you. I know you’re angry with us, but you should have brought Hermione with you. I really wanted to see her.”

“Another day, Mum,” said Harry, stepping free from her death hold on him. “She’s bathing. It’s been a long few days for her. She needs to recover from everything. Besides, she doesn’t know about this place yet. She’ll think she can contact any spirit down here, once she sees you two.”

Lily looked at Harry with sad eyes. “Yes, you’re probably right. But in about a year or so, Hermione’s parents should be strong enough to come along with us.”

“How…how are they?” Harry asked tentatively.

James sighed. “It’s a slow recovery, son. It’s going to take a hell of lot of effort and energy to repair the damage to them. Just give it time…and for Merlin’s sake stop blaming yourself for it. Hermione has such a job on her hands with you. I don’t envy the girl.”

“Hermione will be furious when she finds out,” said Harry, ruefully. “I can’t even begin to imagine how cross she’ll be with me. For not telling her. I’m still not going to, though. She has enough hate for Ron as it is.”

“You’re a braver man than me, son,” James chuckled. “Your wife is a lovely woman but, wow…what a temper!”

“It’s not just that, Dad, it’s the creativity,” Harry laughed. “It’s bloody frightening. She said she’s going to create a tartan beret out of Ron’s scalp, once she flays it off. I fell in love with her a little more when she said that!”

Lily joined the laughter. “Merlin knows what she’ll do with the rest of him, then, once she finds out what he and Ginny did to David and Catrin’s souls.”

Just then, a disembodied head popped out of the sarsen stone. A long grey, beard trailed to the ground.

“I could tell you, if you like,” said the head.

“Fuck off, Merlin, this is parent and child time,” James chided playfully.

“Don’t forget, you are all my children,” said Merlin, his eyes twinkling. “I sired the bloody lot of you. Hello, Harry.”

“‘Lo, Merlin,” said Harry, rolling his eye. He was the worst eavesdropper of all his ancestors and dead relatives.

“When are you going to bring that delightful witch of yours to meet me?” asked Merlin, stepping fully into the room now, dropping all pretence that he ever intended to do anything else. “She is the most powerful new witch to join the family in centuries. I have a bet with Godric that she will eventually replace Rowena as my favourite.”

Harry chuckled. “Have you told Rowena that?”

“Oh…well, me no,” Merlin chortled. “Who am I supposed to swear to? All day long all I hear Merlin, this and Merlin, that…hmm. Anyway, back to Rowena. She’d roast me for suggesting it. We’ve yet to have a death in the afterlife in, ooh, the entire of history recorded and unrecorded. I’m sure Rowena would find a way, though.”

“Tell her to work at it,” Harry grinned. “I’ll be sending you what I leave intact of Tom Riddle very soon. I don’t intent to spend my own afterlife finding a way to make him extinct.”

“I shall pass on the message,” said Merlin, chuckling. “She always did like a challenge.”

“Well, she did marry Godric,” said Harry fairly. “She’d be tested for latent insanity for that sort of decision in this day and age.”

“Such things never change, my boy,” said Merlin. “Perhaps that explains all the time she’s spending with Mr Freud this last decade or so. I did wonder.”

“Right, that’s enough,” said Lily, crossly. “Merlin…fuck off.”

“Well said, dear,” James nodded approvingly. “Can we just have some time with our son?”

Merlin sighed. “Harry is all of ours son. But, I shall leave his biological parents to him. Are we still up for game night, later? I understand Minerva has found a date for Couples Twister.”

Harry rolled his eye again. Bloody dead people. They loved their toys.

Merlin disappeared back through the sarsen stone, throwing Harry a cheery wave over his shoulder as he went.

“Where the hell were we?” asked James. “Bloody Merlin. You have all the joys of this to come, son.”

Harry chortled. “You were saying about Hermione’s mum and dad.”

“Ah yes,” said Lily. “It’s going to be a while before they have strength enough to meet her again. They are very poorly.”

“A year or so, you said?” asked Harry. Lily nodded. “Okay. But there’s no use her knowing that. She’ll be counting the days.”

“Or she’ll make a little chart,” James quipped, perching on a low bench that had suddenly appeared next to him. “She seems to have charts for everything. Speaking of which…when are you going to tell her about yours?”

“Not now, Dad,” Harry snapped. “Today is about your secrets, not mine.”

“You can’t keep this from her, Harry,” said Lily gently, placing a hand on his shoulder. “She’ll find out one way or another.”

“And if you think she’ll be cross with you for not telling her about Ron, Ginny and her parents…” James added.

Harry huffed. “The Alchemy Link will tell her, won’t it? Seriously, you should have told me. I could have prepared.”

“Prepared for what, son?” said James. “You’re being spectacularly dim about all of this.”

“You joined with Hermione in mind, body and soul,” said Lily. “And it was the most beautiful thing. There isn’t anything you wont share now.”

“If that’s true, why can’t I hear her thoughts, too?” asked Harry. “Seems a little one sided, if you ask me.”

“Because your head is broken, son,” said James. “Hermione’s thoughts will be there somewhere, but good luck finding them in that trainwreck you call a mind!”

Haffy guffawed. “Can I be fixed? Or do I just have to go around thinking about books at Christmas, when in fact I’ve bought her a big fat diamond?”

Lily laughed at that one. “You can feel her though, can’t you?” she queried. “Her feelings…like they are inside you?”

“Oh yeah, I can do that,” said Harry dismissively. “But it’s not nearly as accurate. I mean, we tested it this morning. I thought things, she recited them. I even went random as hell. I thought nonsense sentences – nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak. That sort of thing. She got it spot on. I feel her, but it’s nothing like as precise.”

“But, next to impossible to fake,” Lily pointed out with a smile. “You can think what you like, and Hermione will read it. But she can’t pretend to feel something for you that she doesn’t. Personally, I’d prefer your side of it. But I’m just a bit of a romantic like that.”

Harry grinned to himself. He hadn’t thought of it like that. The idea warmed his chest.

“Okay. I like that. But the rest of me…can I be fixed now? I thought you said…”

“We can’t tell you all the answers, that isn’t how it works,” said James, quickly, slicing him off. “Being an Alchemical Adept is to embark upon a journey to knowledge and enlightenment. It could take your entire life and you still might not reach the ultimate end. If there are answers to your questions, you and Hermione will find them together.”

“How far does that go, though?” asked Harry. “Sounds either too vague or too evasive.”

Lily smiled at him. “Harry, you are a Red King. Hermione, your White Queen. The most complete and pure wedded ordination that nature can provide. There isn’t any question you cant answer or problem you cant solve. If you set your heart to it, and she puts her mind to it, the solution to any issue will come to you eventually.”

“Like how to defeat Riddle,” said Harry bitterly.

“Harry, you already know how to do that,” said James, dismissively. “But you need to tell Hermione about it, confirm her suspicions and bring her in. You have to let her help. It’ll make the whole thing ten times easier.”

“And Harry,” said Lily, coming forward and taking Harry’s hand, looking at him seriously. “Let Hermione do the things you can’t. Just accept it. She can handle the moral ambiguities. She’ll do whatever it takes…for you.”

“Riddle has made another fundamental mistake here,” said James, standing and taking over. “You know it, Hermione knows it – though she doesn’t want it to be true – and you have a real shot at making it Riddle’s last. Don’t let him get away…not now that you have him where you want him.”

Harry sighed. “Okay. It won’t be easy for me, you know that. You could have made it so much easier if you’d just told me from the start.”

“And where would have been the fun in that?” James teased. Harry scowled at him. He didn’t think exposing Hermione to four years of solid abuse and threats to her life was any idea of fun. Not in the slightest. He didn’t need words to tell his father that. “Sorry.”

“You can tell Hermione that,” said Harry, adding darkly. “You can explain everything. And if she doesn’t forgive you, neither will I.”

“That’s fair enough,” said Lily. “But, Harry, in all seriousness…keep an eye on her with little Celesca Lovegood, wont you…”

* * *

“Is it safe to come in here now?”

The door to Harry and Hermione’s bedroom clicked shut and Enola leaned back against it a moment. She grinned over at Hermione, who was sat on the bed with her hair and body wrapped in towels, while Sally patiently painted her toenails with a pretty French manicure. Enola thought it suited her.

“Yeah, come on in,” Hermione grinned widely. “Have a seat. Just mind the walls. The paint is still drying!”

She patted the bed and Enola scooted over to join her. Her eyes were bright, and naughtily inquisitive.

“Well…how was it?”

Hermione blushed and looked down at her elf. Sally flicked her globe-like eyes back up at her

“Oh, you not need to worry, Mistress,” said Sally, tapping her head with her one armed hand. “Sally not listen to your secrets, but keep them if I hears.”

“Okay. Thank you,” said Hermione, before turning excitedly to Enola. “Oh, Ennie…it was incredible! It was everything I could have possibly dreamed…and a million times more!”

“You went on for ages, Min!” Enola exclaimed. “I’m surprised you are still alive!”

“You and me both,” Hermione grinned. “My breath…wow. I lost it time and time and time again! If I’d had died, I wouldn’t have been sorry. Well, apart from leaving Harry behind, obviously. Oh, En, he was just amazing.”

“And you…everything worked?” asked Enola, pointedly, glancing down.

Hermione nodded enthusiastically. “I was worried…I tried, in the afternoon, like you said to. Couldn’t really get anything going. But then, Harry, well…he cast runes on me, En!”

“What? Actually on you? Onto your body?”

“Yep,” Hermione grinned. “And when they joined together I just exploded! My God, it was mind-blowing! And it wasn’t just runes, either. Little pictorial spells. I didn’t even know there was such a thing!”

“Me neither!” Enola exclaimed. “Wow. You lucky witch! Do you think he could teach Nev? Not that he needs it right now…but just in case…in case this passes…”

Enola looked away sheepishly. She shouldn’t have said that.

But Hermione had reached over, coaxed her head up to look at her. She was smiling at her, her eyes dazzlingly bright.

“It wont…trust me.”

Enola swallowed hard. What did that mean?

“I know, Enola, I know,” said Hermione delicately. “Harry told me everything.”

Enola shifted awkwardly. “H-he did? Ev-everything?”

Hermione nodded gently. “And you don’t have to tell me anything, discuss anything that makes you uncomfortable. Just know that I know…and that I’m here if you ever need anything. I’ll never be too busy for you, just to listen if that’s all you need.”

Enola burst into tears, like an exploding bomb. She clung hard to Hermione and wept into her towel-covered shoulder.

“I love you, Min,” Enola sobbed. “If I ever forget to tell you…”

“Don’t let Harry hear you say that,” said Hermione, laughing. “He thinks we’re on the verge of a lesbian tryst as it is!”

Enola hooted with laughter and dried her eyes. “Why does he think that?”

“Well, because I told him we were,” said Hermione simply. Enola howled with fresh giggles. “You should have seen him squirm. It was delicious.”

Enola laughed again. “Min, you’re terrible!”

“I was thinking of Min the Merciless, actually. Harry called me it for the first time last night. I don’t know…it was the cutest thing.”

Enola frowned. “Harry called you Min the Merciless?

Now Hermione took a turn at laughing. “No, he just called me Min. He always said he didn’t want to, but, I don’t know, I sort of liked him calling me it. I’d quite like him to keep calling me it, actually. But I don’t know if he will.”

“Just ask him,” said Enola casually. “He’ll do whatever you ask him to. Especially now you’ve carpeted him.”

“Carpeted?”

“Yeah…now you’ve laid him you can walk all over him!”

And both girls fell about laughing.

“Mistress Hermione!” Sally admonished. “Stay still! Yous going to ruin my hard work!”

“I’m sorry, Sally,” Hermione apologised through her giggles. “I’ll behave, I promise.”

Sally frowned and went back to work.

“So, my Nev,” Enola went on. “You seemed quite certain his little…er…problem was over. How are you so sure?”

“Well, Harry did this ridiculously clever bit of magic,” said Hermione proudly. “Honestly, En, some of the stuff he comes up with. Takes my breath and blows my mind and other assorted superlatives. Anyway, it was designed so that Harry could keep an erection for me,” she blushed crazily, and Enola swooned out loud. “But it was a healing spell. It helped Harry to perform, but it seems to have completely fixed Neville.”

“But how?”

“Harry thinks it was the purity of his intent,” Hermione explained.

“Doesn’t sound very pure to me!” Enola winked.

“No, it led to some utter filth,” Hermione agreed as her flush deepened. “But, his intention was pure. It wasn’t for him, it was for me. It was a way for him to give his love to me. As often as I wanted it…or could cope with it!”

“Hermione…I’m kind of hating you right now,” Enola grinned. “Harry is literally so good to you…it puts the rest of men-kind to shame.”

“Doesn’t it just!” Hermione laughed. “But, I’m not sharing. So don’t ask. Especially not with you.”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You’re a fucking goddess, that’s what,” Hermione huffed good-naturedly. “Harry is utterly devoted to me…but I’m not going to risk him with divine temptation.”

“So you can fuck me, but he can’t?” Enola quirked.

“Seems a fair deal to me,” Hermione nodded.

Enola hooted with laughter. “I’ll pitch the idea to Nev. We’ve been trying to get a Potter to join us in bed for a while. Harry was always making excuses, maybe Mrs Potter will be more pliant!”

Hermione swooned at the mention of her married name. She glanced at her wedding ring again, just smiled at it for a full minute.

“However, I don’t think I’d let Nev shag you, either,” Enola went on thoughtfully. “He would just have to watch us. But, you were saying…”

“Oh, yeah,” Hermione went on, her cheeks burning. “Harry’s spell kept him going. But when you and Nev had sex in here, the spell – which Harry had cast into the brickwork – must have sought Nev out, seen that there was a problem to be fixed…and fixed it.”

“Lucky me,” said Enola dreamily. Then her face exploded in colour. “Min…Min…how far do you think that healing might have gone?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it fixed Nev’s erection problems,” said Enola with cautious enthusiasm. “Do you think…could it have…repaired everything else?”

Enola reached down and rubbed her belly. Hermione’s eyes shot open.

“Didn’t you cast a contraception charm?”

“It didn’t occur to me,” said Enola. “We haven’t had sex in months. Months and months. I wasn’t going to stop for anything once he jumped on me. And he’s jumped on me a lot over the last couple of days!”

“Oh, Ennie!” Hermione exclaimed. “I really hope so, for you. Assuming that’s still what you want, obviously.”

“It’s the only thing I want,” said Enola beaming. She clutched hard at her womb, hoping Neville’s seed was quickening there. Then a powerful thought hit her in the chest. “Min…did Harry tell you in detail, you know…about Nev losing his bits?”

“Yeah, he did,” said Hermione, anger twinkling in her eyes. “He said he was castrated by Dark Magic. Fucking cunts.”

Enola was warmed by Hermione being so enraged on her behalf. But she wasn’t concerned about that just now.

“But…Harry has healed that? That’s what you think?”

“Well, you tell me,” Hermione grinned. “Was it as good as before?”

“Better!” Enola chuckled. “What’s that they say about absence making the heart grow fonder? It works for sex, too. But, no, what I mean is that, you’re saying Harry has cured a Dark Magic spell…just through his own Light Intent?”

“Well…yes, I suppose he has.”

“And that could be applied to other Dark Magic injuries?”

Hermione squinted at her. “I suppose…if Harry knew what he was up against…yes, you could make that leap. Why?”

Enola suddenly jumped up. “Do you know where Harry is? Where he is right at this moment?”

“No, but I’m sure Rhian can find him,” said Hermione. “Enola – what’s going on?”

Enola took a passionate breath. “We have to find Harry. We have to find him right now.”

“Why?”

“It’s Angharad…she’s dying,” said Enola bluntly. Hermione gasped in shocked dismay. “But, if Harry can heal Dark Magic with Light of his own…maybe he can save her life.”

And Hermione called for her Head Elf at once.

* * *

Harry’s heart was beating so hard he didn’t know what to do with himself. In his panic he forget that he could Apparate, or that Rhian could have done it for him. So, instead, he had sprinted up the six levels of the house to reach Angharad’s room. He was out of breath by the time he got there and frowned at himself. He was so out of shape. Dietmar would be pissing himself if he could see him right now.

But he brushed that aside, as he skidded into Hermione and Enola, who were waiting for him at the top of the fourth floor staircase. Harry bristled at Neville’s wife.

“You s-should have t-told me,” he panted, his hands on his knees. “You should have told me about this!”

“What? When was she supposed to have done that? When you were balls’ deep in me?” asked Hermione, frowning hard. “Leave her alone!”

Harry laughed so hard at that he forgot he was supposed to be mad. Enola grinned at him as soon as she felt safe enough to do so.

“Sorry, En.”

“Better,” said Hermione crossly. “Now, come on, we’re wasting time.”

Hermione opened the door and led the way into Angharad’s suite. Arianwen, who Sally had fetched, was already there waiting for them.

“Talk to me,” Harry commanded. He saw, or rather he felt, Hermione flip and wriggle a little inside at his take-charge attitude. Harry realised his mum had been right…his was definitely the better of their new talents.

“Little Annie, here, was hit by that curse designed by Mister Dolohov,” Arianwen began. “But you know all that. We’ve tried to break the curse down, using the residue on her battlerobe.”

“Any success?” asked Harry, sitting next to Angharad. He looked at her with deep concern. She was unconscious, her skin pale and sweaty.

“Very little,” said Arianwen, sadly. “It has a lot of common elements – degrading curses are nothing new. But it seems to come in cycles. Troughs and peaks that seem to hit almost at random. We can’t find a common trigger. She can be fine one minute then…bang…she gets like this.”

“And it gets more potent on each cycle,” Enola added, smoothing Angharad’s forehead. “Mum, pass me the cloth. She’s searing hot.”

Arianwen dabbed a cloth she was holding into a bowl of iced water, and Enola pressed it tenderly to Angharad’s boiling skin.

“What do you mean by potent?” Hermione asked.

“It gets stronger, practically multiplies in its power intensity,” Arianwen explained. “When Ann came back from Hengest, I would have given her till Christmas. At this rate, she might not last the week.”

Harry stirred with imperative concern, as Hermione threw her hand to her mouth.

“Harry…you…”

Harry cut off Arianwen with a swift look, as her eyes flicked to Hermione. But it was too late. Hermione had seen it. Even if she hadn’t, she heard Harry’s thought clear as day in her mind.

“Me?..” she whispered. “You cured me of this? Recently…”

“I was going to tell you…”

“No, you weren’t,” Hermione quirked. “You never could lie to me, Harry. You have no chance now. I’m not mad. Well, I wont be, if you had a good reason and you tell it to me.”

“I found a hole in your heart,” Harry explained quietly. “I knew it was there…from the first time I examined you after you arrived. I…I thought it was from what Ron had tried to do to you.”

Harry felt Hermione’s anger erupt in his own chest. It was fierce.

“What did Ron do to me?”

“He tried to make you forget about me…with magic. It was just after the Deathday Party you held on my second anniversary…the first one after you got married to him.”

“After he forced me to get married to him,” Hermione hissed angrily. She span her new wedding ring to offset her pulsing rage. “Explain, quickly Harry, before I lose my temper.”

“He thought, after you married him, that you wouldn’t bother with me anymore,” said Harry. “He thought he’d finally beaten me, where you were concerned, because you accepted his marriage proposal. He knows you delayed until after the first anniversary…in case I’d come back. I’m sorry, Hermione. I knew…I should’ve come to you…I almost did.”

“What stopped you?”

Harry took a heavy sigh. “You’d said yes to Ron the week before. I thought he’d won, too. I took myself off to Germany as soon as Nev told me about that.”

Hermione looked so heartsick at Harry’s words that he throbbed with it.

“It didn’t take long for Ron to start abusing you after that, did it? Riddle he…he was insisting that Ron subjugate you by force. But Ron couldn’t. He tried, but apart from being a joke of a wizard, he couldn’t break through some shield you’d cast on yourself. He didn’t know what it was. Couldn’t shift it. So he…”

Harry had to steady himself. The windows were vibrating dangerously with his boiling fury.

“He had Riddle curse you…in person.”

Hermione swore so violently it was she who broke the window.

“Riddle cursed me? Hermione breathed angrily.

“Oh yes,” Harry nodded, fighting for calm. “You and Tom Riddle have a far more intimate relationship than you know. He finds you fascinating…and this spell you’d cast on yourself was the trigger to his borderline obsession with you.”

All colour sped from Hermione’s face.

“Even he couldn’t crack it, you see,” Harry went on. “And he tried on multiple occasions. But you kept repelling him until, during one duel, this spell you’d cast decided enough was enough, and consumed whatever curse Riddle was trying on you. It ate through part of your heart…it would have killed you if he’d carried on, rather than give in.

“But he didn’t. He wanted to know more about it. This was new magic, and he wanted it for himself. But he couldn’t touch it, couldn’t beat it. And that just made him even more curious about it…there was that…and also because the spell was all about me.”

Everyone in the room was silent now, focusing on Hermione.

“You don’t remember it,” Harry went on. “You wiped your own memory. But you cast a spell on yourself, to stop yourself falling in love with me. But you were already in love with me, and I was already in love with you. And we were alchemically destined to be together. So nature decided it wasn’t having any of that us-not-being-in-love nonsense. It wouldn’t even let us have any say in it! So it changed your spell. Took power from my love for you…to do what you wanted, to protect yourself from getting hurt.

“And because the spell was from me, it was charged with my intent…and I would do anything to stop you being hurt, too…and because my parents had gone to such extraordinary lengths to make sure Tom Riddle’s magic couldn’t hurt me…”

“It protected me from him!” Hermione was crying freely now. Harry just nodded his response.

“It reacted to the threat and stopped it,” said Harry. “But you’d been damaged. I thought that’s what the hole was, until I saw the first analysis of Dolohov’s Curse on Ann, here. So I checked you again, on a whim. The hole was slightly bigger. That confused me, until I realised Dolohov’s Curse might still be affecting you, even after all these years. A quick diagnostic confirmed that. So I took a potion from my Alchemy stores and healed you.”

Hermione was still crying, she sniffed hard and tried to speak.

“This is the point where you’re supposed to say what really happened was that I filled your broken heart with my massive, massive love!”

“Oh, shut up, you!” Hermione laughed, clobbering Harry with a bone-crunching hug and catching his mouth with her own. She folded into his lap and he really didn’t care who could see or how much they were watching.

“S-so…can you heal Ann like that?” asked Arianwen, dabbing at her eyes.

“I don’t know,” said Harry, as Hermione curled her arm around his shoulders and shifted till she was more comfortable. She didn’t want to get up off him and really had no interest in her going, either. “This version of the curse is far more advanced.”

“We can’t let her die, Harry,” said Hermione. “Think…what can we do?”

Harry scrunched his eyes…and he finally heard Hermione’s words in his head.

What can WE do…

“Everyone needs to leave,” said Harry firmly. “Leave me and Hermione alone with Ann.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Enola.

“I couldn’t explain it, and you’d not understand if I did,” said Harry. “Only my White Queen could.”

Harry looked firmly at Hermione, pushing his intent at her. She nodded as she understood.

“Everyone out,” she commanded, getting up and rounding the bed. “Ennie…you might want to ward the room. There’s going to be some serious magic going on in here.”

“Will do,” Enola nodded, and she led her mother away.

“What are you thinking, honey?” asked Hermione as soon as the door shut.

“Don’t you know?” Harry quirked.

“I can hear something about joining power, but I’m a bit emotional over here. I’m not at the peak of my strengths!”

Harry laughed. “I’ll make a note of that for future reference!”

“Harry.”

“I’m just teasing.”

“Now isn’t the time, sweetheart,” said Hermione. “Angharad needs us.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry,” said Harry solemnly.

Hermione smiled her forgiveness. “So, your plan?”

“Okay,” Harry began. “Lets assume, based on Nev, that I can heal Dark Magic injury. Let us also assume that Dolohov’s Curse is laced with some serious Dark shit, itself. Probably, personal Dark shit.”

“That would explain why Arianwen and Enola can’t stop the effects,” said Hermione thoughtfully.

“Exactly. So, it’s my Light versus his Dark, with Ann’s life in the balance. Do you agree?”

“No.”

“No?”

No,” said Hermione, smiling. “It’s his Dark versus our Light. And we are going to heal Angharad, however long it takes.”

Harry grinned. “That works too. On top of that, we’ve just completed our Alchemical Opus by getting married.”

“I don’t know enough about Alchemy, Harry,” said Hermione. “You’re just going to have to be explicit with me on this one.”

“Okay, it’s like this,” said Harry. He held his hands out to demonstrate. “Physical Alchemy on the one hand. To be considered to have completed the Opus, the alchemical Work, an alchemist must be able to produce not only gold and the Elixir of Life, but an actual Philosophers Stone.”

“Like Flamel?”

“Like Flamel,” Harry nodded. “Then, after 600 years of life , you have a break with reality and entrust its safety to a dumb cunt like Dumbledore, who stores one of the most dangerous magical artefacts that a wizard can create, under a fucking school! And you guard it with a big dog, some flying keys and a chess set. Oh, and a mirror. I mean, you can’t make this shit up!

“But I digress. Physical Alchemy here,” Harry lifted his left hand up and down to illustrate his point. “Then you have spiritual Alchemy here, which is what better alchemists do.”

“Like you.” Hermione smiled.

“Like me,” Harry agreed, winking at her. “I can do the other shit, but I turned from that type of alchemy almost straight away. I have lots of gold, I don’t need to waste time creating more. That’s what my stock brokers are for. I’ll show you how much later, if you want. It’s fucking epic down there now!”

“Harry…”

“Oh right. Sorry. As I was saying, by marrying you, I’ve jumped…we’ve jumped…to a whole new level. You’ve made me gold, spiritually and emotionally – don’t look so coy…you have – and my mum and dad thought that was all there was to it. That this was all my journey, my quest alone.

“But they were wrong. This was our journey, our quest. It was always ours. I couldn’t have gotten to this point without you.”

Harry nearly lost his mind as he said that. He felt a surge of love from Hermione so powerful it left him utterly senseless a moment.

“But what does that mean, Harry?” asked Hermione in a breathy tone. She looked like she wanted to leap over the bed and pounce on him. Harry saw a lot of merit in that idea.

“If I understand alchemy right, and I’m pretty sure I do,” Harry said excitedly. “Then it could mean something very important.”

Hermione frowned in impatience. “Do you want to have sex tonight?”

“Okay, okay, I’ll get to the point” Harry said quickly. “We have formed the perfect alchemical couple. Sulphur -hot and dry, marries mercury – cold and moist…”

Hermione read Harry’s thought and her eyes popped open. “Fire and earth, air and water. The four elements? But we don’t…”

“I’m hot, through my passions, my fire,” said Harry excitedly. “And I’m a master of air…”

“Through Quidditch?” asked Hermione, reaching into Harry’s brain again.

“Well, through flying,” said Harry. “But I was always chasing a Golden Snitch…as a seeker…another word for an adept…”

“Okay, this is getting weirder every day,” said Hermione, dizzied. “And me?”

“Easy,” said Harry, smirking. “Granger…like a farmer…a tiller of earth. And you are cool, though your logic and mind. Which is the water part. What happens when you combine all four? I gave you a book on it once.”

Hermione gasped. “The fifth element? The Quintessence?”

“Yep,” Harry nodded. “If only I could tie you down to something azure or periwinkle blue, I’d have you pegged.”

“How about this?” asked Hermione. She whipped out her wand and cast a gout of bluebell flames, azure blue in colour to be precise. Harry watched them in fond astonishment…remembered many a cold Hogwarts afternoon where Hermione would conjure a jar full to keep them warm between classes. It was a spell she’d perfected setting fire to Severus Snape during their first year at Hogwarts…

“Well, I was actually thinking of this…”

Harry drew his own wand and conjured a magical photograph. He passed it to Hermione, who gasped in utter shock.

“The Yule Ball…my dress…”

“What was it…periwinkle blue…if memory serves?” said Harry, smugly. “My bloody parents…they knew what you were to me then…I seriously hate them a bit.”

“Periwinkle blue,” Hermione whispered, reciting from her memory. “The colour of the Quintessence. But Harry…what does that mean?”

“It means I’m dumb, blind, and should have known what you were to me a long time ago,” said Harry. “You are my Quintessence…the culmination of my part of the Opus. These are the signs nature sent to me, to know who my White Queen was. But, because Dumbledore fucked with nature, I didn’t know who or what I was, and I didn’t know that I was looking for something at all, let alone what it would look like when I found it. That’s why I was never able to see you Hermione…I wasn’t worthy. I didn’t deserve to see my own personal version of perfection, even though you were right in front of me the whole time. I had to have my eyes opened to you. I had to become good enough.”

“And what makes you think you are now?” Hermione teased.

You…” said Harry gently. “You accepting me. You deciding I was good enough for you, deciding to marry me, despite what I might have felt about it. You knew I wanted to, but it was the fact that you wanted to so completely…it took me over that last hurdle. You’ve completed me…in every way imaginable.”

“Are you just trying to dehydrate me on purpose?” said Hermione. “I’m not supposed to spend all day crying!”

“They’re good tears, it’s fine,” Harry smirked. “But, don’t you see? You are my Quintessence, the zenith of my Opus. And we’ve joined in an alchemical wedding. We’ve become gold emotionally. But…”

“The rest?” Hermione queried. Harry nodded. “The Stone…the Elixir…”

“We are the Stone,” Harry whispered. “And, if I’m right, our very love is the Elixir.”

“What…what are you saying?” asked Hermione. “That we can love Angharad back to health?”

“Don’t scoff,” said Harry. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“How?”

“Take my hand, close your mind, and open your heart,” Harry commanded. And Hermione obeyed. “When you feel me come close, let me in.”

“I never let you go, Harry. You’ve been in me all day.”

“Is it wrong that I find that so deliciously filthy?”

“Yes. But I do, too, so we’ll be all sorts of wrong together. Now, heal Angharad.”

“Yes, my Lady.”

Harry quietened his mind, reaching gently for that soft signature he knew so well as his wife’s. She welcomed him with a sort of mental embrace and it took all the air form Harry’s lungs a moment. He melded with it, indulged his own joy with it a moment, then eased it down, pushing it into Angharad’s body. She opened her eyes as it penetrated her, looking wildly around.

“Oh my…what the…what is that?…oh..oh my…oh…fuck me…oh yes…fuck me…ohh!”

Harry tried not to laugh as he eased this gorgeous wave of energy throughout Angharad’s body. She writhed and arched and kept up with her volley of dirty words, which grew steadily more graphic as Harry passed over her waist and upper thighs. This was much easier than he’d been expecting, easier that the simplest diagnostic spell. He could sense Angharad’s injuries, feel the signature of the Dolohov Curse. But as the Elixir Waves passed over it both were exterminated into non-existence. As soon s the wave had passed, it was as if they hadn’t been there at all.

In fifteen minutes, it was all over.

Harry opened his eye, and looked at Hermione, who was flushed and breathing hard. He huffed. Seriously, what was wrong with these women? He wasn’t that sexual, was he?

“Well,” said Angharad, who was full of colour and had a devilish twinkle in her eyes. “That was easily the best threesome I’ve ever had! You can come to our bed anytime. Anytime at all.”

“Welcome back,” Harry grinned.

Angharad looked at Hermione, who had taken hold of her hand at some point during that little jig. She pulled their joined fingers up to her face. “Is…is that a wedding ring?”

“Oh, yes,” said Hermione, grinning. “Harry and I got married a couple of night’s ago.”

“Fuck off!” Angharad exclaimed. “How did I miss that?”

“You’ve been a bit unwell,” said Hermione. “But…you’re all better now?”

She framed it as a question to Harry, who nodded in response. He was in no doubt.

“Oh, well. I must have been proper out of it,” said Angharad. “Congrats, though. How was the wedding night? Must have been epic.”

“I’m going to go with legendary,” Hermione grinned.

“There were certainly aspects that had the virtue of never having been tried,” Harry agreed. He winked at his wife.”

“Married, well I never,” said Angharad, sitting up and shaking her head. “Hey, who’s coat is that jacket? Hanging up on the floor?”

“That’s Fan’s,” said Harry. “I think she wants to move in properly. Get serious, you know?”

“Does she, now?” Angharad laughed. “One couple gets married and everyone wants a bit, is it? Well, I guess I could do worse, couldn’t I? She’s the best shag I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. Well, I suppose I should propose then, if she’s finally decided she wants a ring on her finger. She’ll never do it. Little cowardess as she is. Will you make me one, Harry? Not as posh as Mrs Potter’s there, obviously, but a nice little bit of amber on a gold band would be just the thing. She goes mental for amber, does my Myfanwy.”

Harry grinned and turned to Hermione. “What do you say, Mrs Potter? Would you like to watch a Master Alchemist at work? Watch him turn a base metal to pure gold?”

“That depends,” said Hermione, huskily. “Will he turn me to pure gold afterwards?”

Harry smirked back. “Well…I can try…but I’m not too sure how pure the process will be…”

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