Chapter 16 – A Death in the Family
“Lestrange,” said Harry.
“Dolohov,” Hermione insisted. Again.
Harry and Hermione Potter were sat in the large drawing room of their Blue Palace, trying to agree on who they were going to kill first on the list Hermione had made. They had borrowed some paper and a felt pen for the family activity from Celesca Lovegood, who was now sat cross-legged at Hermione’s feet, doing some crayoning, in a large colouring book Enola had found for her when she was rummaging through the attic.
And it looked as if Harry had just pulled his trump card.
“Okay, we go for Ginny,” Hermione agreed. “How are we going to do it?”
“I was thinking it might be fun if we can find a Cluedo set, do it that way to keep it interesting and surprising,” Harry laughed.
“Ginny Weasley…on Diagon Alley…with the candlestick,” Hermione considered thoughtfully. “That has merit.”
“I think we should definitely make it public,” said Harry. “Send a message that we mean business.”
“Effing Ginny,” said Hermione, angry but still mindful of the little girl sat by her chair. “I think we should de-womb her first. It would be poetic.”
“Speaking of which…what about those kids of hers?” asked Harry casually. “If they are with her…do they go, too?”
“Absolutely,” said Hermione easily. “We have to wipe the stain of the Weasleys and Riddles from the face of the Earth. Two birds with one stone if we can take out those two little abominations of nature. On that note, have you contacted Dietmar about the Africa Campaign?”
“I did,” said Harry, then he quirked a grin at his wife. “I was going to use the two-way mirror I had with him…but someone disintegrated it in her rage.”
Hermione shrugged. “If you are expecting rueful reticence, honey, I’m afraid you are looking at the wrong witch.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Harry grinned. “But Didi says that we can go for a clever soft kill on Arthur and Bill. There’s been an outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone. It’ll be easy to move it over to Egypt and make it look like a natural infection without raising suspicion. He already has a team on the ground securing a sample of the virus. They’ll mutate it a little, to make it incurable and faster acting, and also so that it will die with the host. I’m not sure how easy I’d sleep knowing we killed thousands of innocent Egyptians because our blood feud with the Weasleys just happened to spill over into their territory. The country of Egypt hasn’t wronged us, after all.”
“Yet,” said Hermione, darkly. “But, you know what our family motto is.”
“If You’re Not a Potter You’re A Cunt?” Harry proffered, with a little laugh.
Hermione rolled her eyes at him. Then she turned to Celesca, who was in a little world of her own and didn’t seem to have heard a thing. Hermione looked at Harry and frowned. “When did the casual ‘cunting’ start with us? Do you remember?”
Harry shook his head and shrugged. “I don’t know…I really don’t. Maybe when we realised that the rest of the world outside of this palace are just a bunch of cunts?”
Hermione nodded as she considered it. “Yeah…I’m onside with that.”
Harry hooted out a laugh. “So, yeah. Arthur and Bill should be dead by the end of the week.”
“Oh, and Fleur, of course,” Harry confirmed.
“You okay with that?”
“Is she a Weasley?”
“That’s an unfortunate thing she can claim, yeah,” said Hermione.
“Then yeah, I’m fine,” said Harry. “I see it as doing her a favour she didn’t know she needed. Good job Bill’s semi-werewolf blood meant he and Fleur, as a semi-magical creature herself, were incompatible for producing offspring. That might have been fraught with all sorts of moral conundrums for me.”
“Let’s be thankful for small miracles, then,” Hermione replied.
“Mummy says I’m a small miracle,” Celesca offered thoughtfully, from her place on the floor, still concentrating on her colouring in. “She’s never said I’m a cunt, though. I don’t know what one of those is. Am I one, because I’m not a Potter? Like your family motto says?”
Harry had to get up and go to the window to laugh, because Hermione was scowling at him so furiously he felt he ought to have felt guilty, but he didn’t have it in him.
“No, honey, you aren’t one of those,” said Hermione. Harry could feel her seething at him, but he daren’t turn around to face her. He was worried he might puncture a lung holding in his laughter as it was.
“What is that, though?” Celesca went on. “Shall I ask Mummy?”
“No, no…don’t do that,” said Hermione quickly. “It’s a very bad word…and Harry and I are very bad people for using it.”
“Yes, Celesca, don’t say that word,” said Harry, calming and turning finally. “We’re really very sorry for using it. We are going to wash our mouths out with soapy water afterwards.”
“You might want to think about changing your family motto, too,” said Celesca considerately, turning her innocent eyes to Harry. “You don’t want a bad word on it, when neither you nor Lady Potter are bad people.”
“No, you’re quite right,” said Harry. “If you like, you can make up a new one for us. We need one.”
“Ooh, can I?” asked Celesca excitedly. “I’ll come up with a really good one, I promise.”
“Of course you can, honey,” said Hermione, smiling.
“And, do you think I could become a Potter then, as I’m making up the new motto?”
“You can only be a Potter if you are part of our family, sweetheart,” said Hermione.
Harry threw her a warning look, and she frowned hard at him again. “And I’m pretty sure your mum doesn’t want to let us adopt you. What would she do without you?”
“Ah. I see,” said Celesca. Before dropping in casually, “But, when you have your baby boy, do you think I could get married to him? I’d be a Potter then, wouldn’t I?”
Celesca looked sweetly between Harry and Hermione, completely oblivious to the nuclear bomb-level emotional devastation that she’d just unwittingly dropped between them.
“Um…well…um,” Hermione tried to say, but her heart was racing a mile-a-minute it seemed. And Harry’s was keeping pace with it, stride for stride. “A baby boy? W-what makes you think we’ll have a baby boy?”
“Oh, I’ve seen him,” said Celesca easily. “I don’t know when you’re going to have him or what you’re going to call him or anything like that. But I won’t be too much older than him, when we’re old enough to get married. So I think I should be allowed to get married to him, really. Yes, I’d like that. I think he’ll be a lot like Mister Harry, and I’d like my husband to be like Mister Harry. So, do you think I could? Will you let me? Marry your son, and become a Potter, I mean?”
“Well…I…er,” Harry stuttered, looking to Hermione for help, but they were both utterly floored by Celesca’s declarations. “Well, I don’t think we can make decisions for our…for our son. Not without talking to him about it first. He might not want to get married to you.”
“Of course he will,” said Celesca confidently. “I’m going to be very pretty when I get older. I’ve seen it. Lots of boys will try to marry me. But I think I’m going to say no to all of them, and marry your son, instead. Yes, I think that would be best. There, I’ve decided for you Lord and Lady Potter. So it isn’t your fault if he doesn’t want to. But that’s just silly, because of course he’s going to want to. Can you give him a nice name, though? I quite like James, and I think I’d like my husband to be called James, but you don’t have to call him that if you don’t want to. I wont mind that much…”
Harry was reasonably sure he’d never been as gobsmacked by any single conversation in his whole life as he was with this one. It was running all his intimate conversations with Hermione close for the level of butterflies they stirred in him. And his wife was ten times worse than him. It was a good job she was sat down, Harry thought, as she might have fainted if she had been standing, if her speeding heart and racing breaths were any indicator of her state of mind.
“Cesc, honey,” Hermione asked breathily. “Do you know all of that will happen, or are you just guessing?”
“Oh no, Lady Hermione, I know,” said Celesca brightly, so assured that she might as well have been explaining that the sky was blue, whilst stood out on a Summer’s day under one. “It’s all a long way away, but it will definitely happen.”
Hermione’s breathing stopped completely. She was still so long that Harry was on the verge of going to her, to remind her that oxygen wasn’t an enemy and was sort of key to staying alive. Then she starting talking again.
“So…we…Harry and I…we’re going to have…have a son?” she whispered quietly.
“Oh yes,” said Celesca with a soft smile. “And at least two girls, too. But that’s after. I don’t know how many, or if you have any more boys after them. I haven’t looked that far ahead. I hope my husbands’ sisters will want to be friends with me…I think I’d like that…”
Hermione span her head to Harry, beaming wildly, her eyes so bright with joy that Harry was struggling to lock his gaze onto them. It was like looking at something divine.
Which, of course, Hermione was in his world.
“Looks like we’re going to be busy, love,” Harry quirked at her.
Hermione just smiled beautifully. She didn’t trust herself to speak, because she was bound to cry if she did. And they had a bet going that she couldn’t go a full week without crying one way or another. And she was determined Harry wasn’t going to win this one. The wager was to name Hermione’s Abused Witches Centre, the first planned use of her new gold, after either of their mothers, and Hermione was not going to lose on account of this.
Though, to be fair, she could think of few better reasons she’d happily lose the bet over.
Hermione smiled at Harry. “That’s a lot of babies to have.”
“It is,” Celesca nodded as she agreed. Then she frowned, and turned on them with curious eyes. “But…Lord and Lady Potter…how do you make babies…”
* * *
“Yes, yes I think this would work,” said Luna, pacing around the Ritual Room. “Wow. There’s a lot of power in here, isn’t there?”
“Harry’s been charging the space up for five years,” said Neville. “All for this one purpose. So, can you do it?”
“Not on my own,” said Luna. “I’ll definitely need Hermione to help me. Oh, and a human sacrifice, too.”
“A…a what?” Neville queried, his voice wobbling.
“A sacrifice,” said Luna casually. “This is advanced Necromancy, Neville. If you’re going to create a portal to the Realm of the Dead, you’re going to need to kill someone to open it up. It’s obvious, really.”
“Oh yeah, Right.” Neville had baulked, the colour easing from his cheeks. “Does Harry know about that?”
“Of course,” said Luna breezily. “I imagine he’s going to find me the sacrifice right now. That must be what he left the palace for. I don’t know why he took his Firebolt though…”
“Harry’s gone? I didn’t feel that,” said Neville.
“You really need to stop having so much sex all the time, then,” Luna smirked. “How can you expect to feel anything else, when you have all those sensations going on?”
Neville grinned. It was a fair point, but he wasn’t about to change his current lifestyle just to babysit Harry. Besides, Harry was dangerous. He could look after himself outside the wards.
“Okay. So what do you need for this?” asked Neville.
“Well, the Veil Arch at the Department of Mysteries was made from a very special kind of stone – brimstone – and you get that by roasting slate in phoenix fire. So we’ll need to get quite a bit of that.”
“There are a lot of abandoned Welsh slate mines not far from here, in Blaenau. I’ll get Owain onto that, he has a lot of good local contacts.”
“And the phoenix fire?” asked Luna.
“I’ll get Hermione to go and see how Lily – that’s Harry’s phoenix – is doing,” said Neville. “She might have matured enough to produce fire by now…she had a Burning Day not long ago, but phoenixes grow up quickly.”
“Okay,” said Luna. “You do that. I’ll have to pull my memories, to see what the exact runes and carvings were around the Veil Archway at the Ministry. Then, when we get the brimstone, we can reproduce them in that and start the building process.”
“And the Veil itself?” asked Neville. “How will that get there?”
“Well, the necromantic spells we’ll have to use are pretty powerful,” Luna explained. “You have to understand, Neville…we’ll be ripping a hole in the very fabric of life…in order to reach the Realm of the Dead. We will have to take a life, in order to produce an energy release potent enough to do that, and when their soul crosses over to the other side, the portal they use will be forced to stay open by the enchantments on the Archway. The spells will summon forces from beyond the portal, too…making the gateway energised enough for us to trap it in the open position.”
“Sweet mother of Merlin!” Neville gasped. “This sounds horrific!”
“Oh it is,” said Luna, darkly. “It really is. But if this is how Harry intends to guarantee Tom Riddle never returns, it’s really the only way.”
“What does he intend to do? Has he told you?”
Luna nodded. “He had to. And my little girl has seen how it happens, too. Harry’s going to ask his dead ancestors to pull Riddle through and trap him on the other side. Don’t ask me how that works, that’s a secret Harry hasn’t even shared with Hermione yet. But he need us to build the portal that’s going allow him to do it, so that’s what we are going to to.”
“And little Celesca has seen all this?” asked Neville. “She’s told you it definitely happens?”
“Yes, and she was quite certain,” said Luna, casually. “She didn’t want to tell me for the longest time because, apparently, I was going to be killed when the portal was opened.”
“What the fuck?” Neville blurted out. “What do you mean killed?”
“Yes, I was rather distressed about that, too,” said Luna thoughtfully, grinning at Neville’s horrorstruck expression. “Apparently, Harry’s original plan was always to kill Ginny Weasley for the ritual, only when he cast her through the portal, she somehow reached out and grabbed me, taking me with her.”
“Fuck me! But that’s not going to happen now?” Neville breathed.
“No, apparently not,” Luna smiled. “And I’m going to have a very long life and a number of grandchildren, so Celesca says.”
“Wow,” said Neville. “I mean..wow. So…the future…it can just change like that? Even if Celesca has seen it one way already?”
“Oh yes, so she says,” Luna replied. “It’s really very confusing to me, but she’s never distressed by it. Sometimes, it looks like one thing is going to happen, and then a decision is made that changes it. But the outcomes tend to remain the same. I mean, in Cesc’s original vision, I was killed opening the portal, but now I’m not. But the portal still gets built and opened and Harry sends Riddle through it later. That’s the main thing, and that sort of stuff doesn’t seem to change. It’s like Point A and Point B remain constant, but it’s the journey between them that changes.”
“Wow,” said Neville. He took a seat on the edge of the circular dais at the heart of the room to gather his thoughts. “Do you find it…weird? You know…Celesca’s gift?”
“I can’t say I notice it much these days,” said Luna, joining Neville and conjuring them a pitcher of fruit juice to share. “It’s just one of those things. I’ve gotten used to it.”
“Does she talk about it much, or things she’s seen?” asked Neville.
“No, not as much as you’d probably think,” said Luna. “You can see how chatty she is, now she’s settled and relaxed with everyone, just like a normal little witch, really. Every now and then she’ll just come out with something at random, but by and large she keeps it to herself. I can’t blame her…she must have seen some pretty horrendous things.”
“You being killed by Ginny Weasley must rank up at the top of that!” said Neville.
Luna nodded sadly. “But I imagine she could look forward in time to see how everyone dies, if she wanted to. That can’t be nice for her. And some visions just come to her, especially when she sleeps. She once told me that all of her dreamswere actually real. Visions and prophecies and things. Not having any control over that part of it doesn’t make it seem very much like a gift, if you ask me. I don’t think it’s something I’d want.”
“No, I didn’t think of it like that,” said Neville. “Poor little thing. So, if Harry isn’t going use Ginny to open the portal, who is he going to use?”
“I don’t know, and I’m not asking Cesc to look for me,” said Luna. “I’m not going to ask my five-year-old daughter to witness a murder, just to quench my own curiosity. We’ll all find out soon enough, anyway.”
Neville nodded. “I can’t imagine Harry and Hermione will just give Ginny a free pass, though. They must have plans for her, too…I just hope they are brutal.”
“That’s one thing Cesc did say…that the lady with the long black hair is very bad, and has done something very horrible to Hermione’s mum.”
“Hermione’s mum?” Neville queried. “How can she have done anything to her? She’s been dead a good few years.”
“I don’t know, but Cesc seemed very afraid of Ginny, petrified I’d say, for whatever it was she did to Mrs Granger,” said Luna. “Don’t tell Hermione I said anything, though. I’m sure she doesn’t know anything about it.”
“I can only imagine he does,” said Luna, evenly. “I mean…it’s Harry Potter…what doesn’t he know about? Especially where his wife is concerned.”
Neville was concerned enough as it was, by this disturbing little tale, but he couldn’t help but grin at the mention of Harry and Hermione’s newly wedded status.
“It’s so great, isn’t it? Harry and Hermione, I mean.” he grinned.
“It really is,” Luna agreed with a beaming smile. “Hermione is so happy. I’ve never seen her like this. It suits her.”
“Yeah, it definitely does,” Neville nodded. “Lu…how was she? I mean, you know…before?”
“When she was married to Ronald, you mean?”
“You know, Harry asked me the very same thing,” said Luna. “And, as I told him…you wouldn’t recognise the girl he married as the same person she was then. It was the worst in the middle of it, the last two years or so. She was always in so much pain…all the time. Ronald was hurting her, we all knew that, but she never said or complained about it.
“Sue Bones did, all the time, about her own abusive husband. But Hermione always kept quiet about how bad things were for her at home, and she was having just as bad a time as Sue. Worse, probably, because Ronald had the favour of Tom Riddle to justify with his own domestic violence. I think Hermione was just trying to stay strong, put on a brave face, for all of us. She didn’t want us to know she was suffering just as much as the rest of us were.”
“But you weren’t suffering,” Neville pointed out. “You didn’t have some arsehole wizard smashing you up all the time, like Min and Sue did.”
“No…I didn’t. You’re right,” said Luna quietly. “But I’d been repeatedly raped by a man, a man who was later melded with a kimodo dragon, and then I had his baby, a baby that I had to give up and pretend, for the first three years of her life, wasn’t my daughter, for her own safety. And she knew the entire time, and had to wonder why I was pretending, maybe thinking I didn’t want her, and I couldn’t even tell her how wrong she was and that she was the love of my life. So, no, I wasn’t beaten up, like Hermione and Susan, but I was tortured every single day inside, in my heart.”
Neville swallowed hard. Searing, marrow-level shame and pity surged through him.
“Luna…I’m so sorry…I didn’t think…”
“It’s all right,” said Luna brightly. “You didn’t do any of that. It’s not your fault.”
“No…but what I said…that was so horrendously thoughtless of me. I’m sorry, I really am.”
“Don’t be, I know what you meant,” said Luna, smiling softly. “But, what you all take for granted a bit here, is that Harry gave you somewhere safe to live, in this palace. Everyone not in here suffered in some way, and they are still suffering out there now. That’s why what Harry is doing is so important, and why I don’t mind doing a bit of Dark Necromancy to help him. My Cesc is worth the sacrifice. I do it gladly.”
Neville was roused by Luna’s doughtiness. She was a fierce little warrior when she put her mind to it.
“Right then, let’s get to work,” said Neville standing. “I’ll go to Owain and Hermione, you go and pull those memories of yours.”
“Okay. Sounds like a plan.”
“Oh, and Luna…”
Neville stepped close and drew her into a powerful hug. She slipped her arms around him and embraced him deeply in return.
“I’m so sorry we didn’t come for you sooner. Forgive us.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” said Luna. “You all saved my daughter’s life. I can never show you enough gratitude for that.”
They stood hugging for several minutes, drawing determination from one another. One thing was for sure, however he was going to do it, Neville couldn’t wait for the day he’d get to see Harry Potter exterminate Tom Riddle…he couldn’t fucking wait.
* * *
“The problem we really have is this bloody lost Horcrux,” said Hermione, bitterly. “Whatever happens with this portal – and even Harry killing Tom Riddle…if that Horcrux is still out there, he can just come back again.”
“Well, let’s consider what we know about it,” said Frank Longbottom, standing and pacing the room. The other members of Harry’s inner circle, as well as Enola and Hermione, watched him intently. “We know it’s Gryffindor’s Seal – a sigil medallion Godric used to lock in his power to the foundations of Hogwarts. And we also know that Riddle has placed it around the neck of a reanimated Dumbledore.”
“Not just Dumbledore, but the vision of Dumbledore that Riddle was so afraid of, made flesh,” Neville pointed out. “Any else feeling as joyous as me about our prospects?”
“You need to drop the negativity,” said Hermione, sternly.
“Sorry, Hermione, I just can’t see how any of us can beat the Dumbledore zombie,” Neville returned. “Even Harry couldn’t touch him.”
“If a wizard is convinced he’s going to die tomorrow, he’ll probably find a way to make it happen,” Hermione volleyed back. “I have every faith in my husband. He’s promised me he’ll beat Dumbledore…and he knows how cross I’ll be with him if he breaks his word!”
There was a smattering of laughter around the table, and Enola gave Hermione an encouraging wink.
“The way I see it, is that we can help Harry before he faces Dumbledore again,” said Hermione. “We simply have to reduce him to just Dumbledore…not Dumbledore plus.”
“How?” asked Lord Angus Kelvin. “And besides, Dumbledore was stupendously powerful when he was alive. What makes you so sure that Harry could even beat just him?”
Hermione gave Lord Kelvin a stern, old fashioned look. “Because, Lord Kelvin, my husband is Harry Potter, descendent of Gryffindor, of Peverell, of fucking Merlin himself! If I say he can beat Dumbledore, he can. And if I tell him I’d actually be rather pleased and proud of him if he did…I have every faith that he’d step right out of the door that instant and have it done for me before supper!”
Enola choked out a laugh, which may have contained a hidden luckiest witch alive somewhere within it. Hermione just grinned at her.
“So, Lady Potter,” said Patrick O’Brien, as Lord Kelvin proffered a mumbled apology. “You were about to regale us with you plan to reduce Rolls-Royce Dumbledore to Ford Mondeo Dumbledore.”
“Ah yes,” Hermione went on, grinning at the Irish Tuatha De Danaan chieftain. “What Harry told me is that the Horcrux, Riddle’s last one, is being powered by four other sources of protection. He said it was as if the Horcrux was at the centre of a spiders’ web of interconnecting energies.”
“So you think,” said Frank, nodding as he spoke. “That if we can cut the web to pieces…”
“We can cut the power to Dumbledore,” said Patrick. “I like your thinking, Lady Potter.”
“Question is,” said Neville. “Where are the other power sources?”
Hermione swallowed hard. Neville narrowed his eyes at her, Enola looked suddenly fearful.
“What is it you think, Min?” asked Enola quietly.
“You will address Lady Potter by her proper title,” said Sir David Pincott sternly, frowning at Enola, who cowered back from his stare.
Hermione shot Sir David a blazing look. “Enola is my best friend and my Lady-In-Waiting. She can call me whatever she likes. Well, within reason.”
She winked at Enola, who grinned back.
“Forgive me, my Lady,” said Sir David, bowing respectfully.
“Better,” said Hermione. “As I was about to say, Lady Longbottom,” said Hermione, glowering at Sir David just because she could. “I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. And there’s only one common theme I can find that links the Horcrux protections.”
“They are all about Harry,” said Hermione. She waited a moment for the impact to settle.
“What do you mean?” asked Neville.
“Harry and I were talking about this,” said Hermione. “Tom Riddle knew that Harry was still alive. So, he must have expected that, at some stage, Harry would come back to resume the fight against him. And he knew that we’d been hunting his other Horcruxes, destroyed most of them, even. He knew that we knew his weakness. So, what I think, is that in order to protect his last one, he designed its defences with the only real threat against it in mind.”
“Harry!” Enola exclaimed.
Hermione nodded. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Riddle chose Dumbledore as the physical protector of his Horcrux. Not just because of his power, but also because of his connection to Harry. They had a personal relationship that went way beyond Headmaster and student. They loved each other…Harry still does love Dumbledore, I know he does, even if he can never forgive him for how he acted in his life. I can’t forgive him either, and I actually hate Dumbledore for what he did to my Harry. But I never had that close personal link to Dumbledore, not like Harry did.”
“Ah, I get it now!” said Neville, coming up to speed. “You think Riddle chose Dumbledore because Harry wouldn’t fight him properly, because of his love for him? Maybe wouldn’t have it in him to totally destroy Dumbledore, even in a zombie form?”
“So…you think the other three will be the same?” asked Enola. Hermione nodded, keeping her expression neutral. It didn’t fool Enola, who cried out in dismayed anguish. “You! You think you’re one of the protections?”
“Oh, no, Hermione!” Neville cried, his voice pounding with emotion. “Why do you think that?”
“Harry said Ron had Riddle curse me in person,” said Hermione. “He had ample opportunity to redirect my power to his Horcrux, maybe even by hacking into my marriage bond to Ron. He’s a cunt, he would have given me over to Riddle gladly.”
“Oh, for fucks sake!” Neville shouted.
“No, no, no!” Enola howled, banging the desk as tears streamed down her face. “No, Min…just no.”
Hermione quirked an odd little grin at Enola. She really was a bitch, but she just couldn’t resist this. Seriously, Harry was such a terrible influence on her…
“Why are you crying?” she asked, biting her lip to keep a laugh in at her best friends utter despair.
“Why am I crying!” Enola shrieked. “Why?? Because you’ve been cursed and the only way to cut the power will be to…will be to…oh, Min…! I can’t even say it!”
“Will be to kill you!”
“Now why on Earth would I let anyone do that?” Hermione asked, her eyes twinkling with humour as she twirled her wedding ring pointedly. “I’ve just married my soul mate…do you honestly think I’d let anyone kill me…or that he would?”
Enola stopped crying and looked at Hermione, getting crosser by the minute. “Min…whatever you’re going to say, say it…before I decide which hex to use on you for being so cruel!”
Hermione gave in and howled with laughter. “Okay, okay. I’m sorry, hun. I couldn’t help myself. But, rest assured, I’m quite safe and I plan to stay quite alive, too, so that I can enjoy my husband for a long time yet.”
Neville chuckled. “The maintainence elves will be thrilled to hear it! They’ll be replacing ceilings for the rest of their natural lives.”
“Good job they live several hundred years, then,” said Hermione, winking at Neville.
“I’m just totally confused,” Enola cried, throwing up her hands in protest.
“It’s like this,” said Hermione. “I was a part of the Horcrux protection…but Harry and I have broken the link. It’s one down.”
Enola’s eyes suddenly lit up. “But how?”
“Riddle made me part of the protection, I definitely would have been one of the four,” said Hermione. “Ron always knew I had feelings for Harry, even when we were kids, even if he never knew the fucking half of it. And he exposed me to Riddle, who found that I had warded myself against loving Harry, because it was so powerful that I was afraid of it.
“So Riddle would have seen that as a defence mechanism. Harry would never, in any way, hurt me. When Riddle tried to hurt me, Harry’s love for me gave me an innate protection against him. It leapt to my defence, even though Harry hadn’t seen me for years. It defended me, even when I didn’t know I was under attack…almost to the point of my death. It knew death was preferable to being a slave to Riddle for eternity. There are far worse things in life than death…and that is totally one of those things.”
“Luckiest. Fucking. Witch. Ever,” Enola huffed. “Nev…up your game, hun. Or else.”
Hermione hooted with laughter. “Look, Ennie, you get the ultimate body, I get the ultimate husband. You should be happy with that.”
“But I’m selfish. I want it all.”
“I am still here, you know?” said Neville, frowning. “Hello! Right here! You whoooo!“
Enola grinned and winked at him.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Hermione continued. “Riddle picked me, for the same reason he picked Dumbledore. He thought Harry wouldn’t fight or hurt me. Which is totally spot on. What he didn’t account for is Harry’s saving-me-thing.”
“Righttt!!” Neville exclaimed, triumphantly. “Harry took all your pains, all your curses…including that one!”
“Yep,” Hermione grinned. “It must have been tied to my Marriage Bond to Ron. That’s why I didn’t detect it. The Bond made me sick enough as it was, what was an extra little bit of darkness on top of it? But Harry knew. He must have. He said he always went crazy when he was around any part of Riddle or his soul. I don’t think it was coincidence I drove him as angry as I did happy.”
“But how did the link break?” asked Enola.
“The morning of the wedding,” said Hermione. I was with Luna and little Cesc in Harry’s alchemy cell. It’s where his power is most concentrated, I think. Even more so than the Ritual Room, probably. And I was carrying him inside me…and when I saw the wedding ring he’d made for me…”
Hermione stopped and just stared fondly at it a moment. It was really so beautiful.
“I just went mental,” said Hermione. “I wanted, more than anything in the world, to be able to get married to Harry. I wanted it so much, I actually think I hated Ron as much as I loved Harry in that moment. It was probably the first time the emotions were on the same level. But I think I was channelling Harry from inside myself…he joined to my emotion, linked with it, made it more powerful…powerful enough to snap the old ring and break my Marriage Bond.”
“And thus breaking your power feed to Riddle’s Horcrux!” cried Frank Longbottom.
“That’s what I think,” said Hermione, nodding. “And I know Harry thinks it, too, because I’ve heard him thinking it.”
“Now what in the world does that mean?” asked Patrick.
“Ever since our marriage, Harry and I have become…well…intimate,” Hermione explained.
“Well, we all know that,” Patrick quirked. “We’ll be replacing the timbers in the fifth floor roof from now until New Years!”
Hermione blushed. “I didn’t mean like that. But thank you all for making sure we all still have somewhere to live. Harry and I will try to be…calmer…in the future.”
“No, you wont!” Enola scoffed good-naturedly.
“No…we really wont!” Hermione laughed in agreement. “But I thought I ought to say that we’d consider it…even if we throw it out as a bad job after just a second or two!”
“So, you were saying…about your new intimacy,” Frank prompted.
“Yes, well, it’s really quite bizarre,” said Hermione. “But, as an after effect of our alchemical wedding, I can hear Harry’s thoughts. Like they are in my own head.”
“What!” cried Enola, her eyes popping open in surprise. “You never told me that!“
“I’m telling you now,” Hermione grinned. “I seem to be able to read Harry’s thoughts. Literally word for word. And he seems to be able to feel my emotions, in his own body. It’s such a beautiful thing, really.”
“Right, that’s it!” Enola huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. “Monday morning, Nev, you’re going to Diagon Alley and buying an alchemy kit and some textbooks. I don’t care how many Death Eaters might attack you on the way. We are so having one of these alchemical weddings. This is just not fair!”
Hermione exploded with laughter, and her giggles got worse the more pronounced Enola’s pouty frown became.
“So,” Frank tried vainly again. “You’ve heard Harry thinking the same thing, about your connection to Riddle?”
“I have,” said Hermione. “And Harry…he’s so cute…but so clueless. He knows I can read his mind, but he forgets that I can every five minutes or so. Here’s a heads up for you all – if Harry goes really quiet, it’s not because he’s come over all shy or he’s just being grumpy, he’s actually thinking…really hard. He’s always thinking. He puts me to shame on that score.
“And he does a lot of thinking about looking after me. It’s adorable, it really is, but Harry thinks he’s protecting me by not telling me some of his worst fears about me, which worked until about a week ago, when I married him and gained access to his mind. Now, I know everything he suspects. He doesn’t know that I know, and it’s really funny, and unbearably sweet, to watch him debate the conundrum with himself.
“But, I would guess seven out of ten thoughts of his are about threats to me, and how best to protect me from them. Two thoughts are then assorted things he’d like to do to me in the bedroom, which I then add to my to-do-list, and there’s one thought about what he might want for dinner.”
Even Enola laughed at that, despite her determination to be pouty and cross with the world.
“Then, the other day, I heard Harry think to himself that he couldn’t feel Riddle inside me anymore,” said Hermione. “So I can extrapolate from that that he did feel him there before, but now he’s gone. And he thought about why he would have been there in the first place, made the jump to me being a Horcrux protector, then went crazily happily when he realised we’d broken one of the power links, because Riddle’s signature in me has gone.”
“That’s a hell of a lot of things to think,” said Enola. “What exactly were you doing when Harry thought all this?”
Hermione smiled. “Harry was spooning me as I pretended to sleep. He just stays up for hours and holds me, when he thinks I don’t know. Don’t tell him I said this, but he likes nothing more than to just hug me and look at me. I think he’s a bit needy, and draws a lot of strength from cuddling me,” she blushed furiously, and Enola swooned in spite of herself. “But he was thinking about all the ways he’d protect me, had a five minute spell of self-hate for all my hurt – that he blames on himself – which he does a lot, and then he just thought how badly he was going to rip Tom Riddle’s limbs off by hand, for threatening me, and that led to him realising Riddle’s signature had left me. And he just went wildly happy and cwtched me like it was going out of fashion.”
“Qootched?” Lord Kelvin queried.
“Cuddled, like really tenderly,” Enola explained. “Hermione’s been hanging around with us Welshies too long. She’s picking up the lingo now!”
“Ah. I see,” said Lord Kelvin, averting his eyes modestly from the conversation.
“So, moral of the story,” said Hermione. “Is that Tom Riddle has protected his Horcruxes with things he thinks Harry won’t be able to destroy.”
“Like Dumbledore and you,” Neville nodded. “Clever really, isn’t it, when you think about it?”
“I think I’d go with sinister, or cruel, babe,” said Enola, quirking an eyebrow at her husband. “Not clever.”
“I quite like cunty,” said Hermione, thoughtfully.
“Or cunty,” Neville agreed, grinning at Hermione.
“Whatever it is, it’s a fundamental mistake,” said Hermione, staunchly. “Because he’s not just fighting one Potter now…he’s fighting two. His battle has always been against Harry personally, and now it’s against me personally, too. Or, more accurately, me and Harry as a unified pair, because our alchemical marriage has joined us, quite literally, as one.
“Don’t pout again, Enola, the wind will change and your pretty face will get stuck that way!
“Tom Riddle has put defences up against Harry specifically, but he’s underestimated how much I love my husband. He tried to use that against us, but I think we can find a way to use it to ultimately beat him.”
“I’m still working on that bit,” said Hermione. “And so is Harry. He’ll make the links we need eventually. But, whatever happens, if Harry comes up against the other power links…and they are so dear to him that he doesn’t have the heart to destroy them…”
“You’ll step in…and do it for him,” Enola finished, darkly. She exchanged a look of brutally vicious understanding with Hermione, and nodded her head in great reverence to her Queen’s stout determination.
Hermione looked sternly, resolutely at them all. “You’d better fucking believe I will. All of you. Nobody threatens or hurts my husband, my soul mate, my Harry. Not any more. Anyone who thinks of trying had better find a different plane of fucking existence in which to escape from me. Because I’ll chase them round the pyramids of Giza, through the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and around the fucking flames of almighty Hell before I give them up!”
* * *
Harry threw up his umbrella against the rain and walked through the large quad just outside the Sheldon Building. He stopped a moment to admire the vista. The lights of Oxford blinked though the drizzly twilight of the evening, a thousand splendid spires at this seat of Muggle learning power.
And he allowed himself a moment to think.
And all he could think about was his son. It sent him wildly nuts just to entertain the idea. He couldn’t hold the notion at all steady in his mind for more than a few seconds, before it threatened to drive him to distraction. A son, a little boy…suggested by his father, confirmed and fleshed out by Celesca – who had all but made herself Harry’s daughter-in-law of her own volition.
Harry didn’t think this was such a bad development, actually. It might have put a pause on Hermione’s kidnap plans for the adorable little Seer, several of which had reached a significantly advanced stage of progress by now. Harry chuckled to himself as he thought of that. Poor Hermione…what a conflict it must be for her! Kidnap Celesca and make her their daughter on the one hand, versus denying their unborn first son the wife of his dreams on the other.
Even if little Celesca did say so herself!
Harry continued to chortle to himself as the rains came down a little harder. He pulled his jacket tight and moved off again, his thoughts firmly fixed on his future family. A son, two daughters, a black and white kneazle kitten called Mimi…all with the love of his life by his side at the top of it…it was picture postcard perfect.
And it seemed a small thing, just then, to burn down the world to make it happen.
And tonight was when Harry would begin to truly light the touch-paper.
He’d been out here for three days. He missed Hermione terribly, but he’d left her in charge of everything back home and there was so much to do. He had no interest in taking a curse, so he was in a shoot-on-sight sort of mode. But, so far, he’d not come across much danger. Which concerned him. It meant they were up to something, plotting and scheming in the quiet. It was too quiet, Harry didn’t like that.
For Tom Riddle was a loud, showy bell-end. If he’d gone quiet, it meant something loud and showy was on the horizon.
So Harry was going to strike first. And second. For his plan was two-pronged. The first part involved this little jaunt to Oxford. He had set up a clandestine meeting with two of his insiders and he hoped they’d come through for him. There were no guarantees these days. The Death Eaters had clamped down hard in recent weeks.
They’d publicly executed Jimmy Peakes just a few days ago, which Harry had been gutted to learn about. He’d always been a reliable wizard, tough and gnarly, but worldly. To lose him was a blow, but Harry knew he’d had a death wish since the demise of his close mate, Ernie MacMillan. Jimmy had never forgiven himself, for not being there, the night Malfoy had butchered MacMillan, and it was only a matter of time before he martyred himself for the cause.
At least he’d sonorus-charmed his voice and shouted ‘Harry Potter Lives’, while he was being burned at the stake on Diagon Alley…even the Daily Prophet couldn’t cover that one up.
But Harry didn’t have time to mourn fallen foot soldiers just now. They would all be vaunted and honoured when Harry delivered Total Victory. For that was all he’d accept now. It was all Hermione’s fault, really. She’d been so vitriolic about totally annihilating the Weasleys that Harry thought – fuck it, let’s roll that idea out to ALL Death Eater families. He hadn’t expected her to be onboard with that idea in the slightest…
The fact that she was honestly made him jizz a little in his boxers. Her unapologetic, fighting fury was just the hottest thing…
Their kids…Merlin, alive! Honestly! Would there be a more powerfully protected set of children in the history of the world, than the babies of Harry and Hermione Potter?
Harry rather imagined that there couldn’t possibly have been. They would have the world as their playground. They could come to school in one of the great colleges Harry was surrounded by tonight, if they so wanted. They’d certainly be clever enough, with Hermione’s brainpower passed on to them. He wondered vaguely which one they’d go to – Balliol, Trinity, Magdalen. He was overflowing with pride just fantasising about that. What would he be like when it actually happened?
Because it was so going to happen. And Harry didn’t give a flying fuck how people he had to kill to make sure of that.
But, one death at a time. That’s why he was here. A little bit of intel…two names, two locations, two cold-blooded murders to commit.
And, if Arthur and Bill were already dead, just one Weasley left in Britain by breakfast time on Monday.
Harry arrived at his meeting point, and took out his newspaper, the agreed-on signal to his comrades. He must have looked quite odd, getting sodden while reading The Times in the shadow of the jaw-droppingly impressive Radcliffe Camera building. He was only waiting a minute, though, as the doors to the building opened and two figures emerged, arm-in-arm like a couple of sweethearts taking a light night stroll in the inclement weather of a standard British evening.
“Potter, good to see you,” said the man as they met, his deep Scottish brogue chiselled and gritty.
“You, too, Oliver,” said Harry, shaking the hand of his one-time Hogwarts Quidditch Captain. Harry turned to the girl as they started to walk to a more secluded spot. “Miss Midgeon, good to see you are still alive.”
“Only because of Olly, here,” said Eloise, pushing back her wet fringe. “Married me last year. So it’s Mrs Wood, actually. Kept me out of the hands of the Muggleborn Registration Commission, and I thought that was a good enough reason to fall in love with him! I…I have to say…sorry…if I seem surprised, it’s just…Harry Potter…actually alive. Olly told me but…”
“Seeing is believing?” Harry chortled.
“Something like that,” Eloise blushed.
“What you’re doing is very brave,” said Harry. “I know the risks you’re taking. Don’t do anything too dangerous, though. Be sensible. I intend this all to be over very soon. I don’t want any more unnecessary deaths.”
“You heard about Peakes?” Oliver queried.
“Yeah,” Harry spat. “Damned shame, that.”
“Then lets hope this can help you make amends.”
Oliver Wood slipped Harry a stone tablet.
“It’s encoded, but I know you’ll be able to read it,” said Oliver. “It’s the entire rotational pattern of the airborne division you asked for – barracks, personnel, the lot. The Air Marshall’s private schedule is also on there.”
Harry scowled angrily, his fist clenching around the stone. “Where is he? Now? Tonight?
“The Broom Assault Corps Headquarters. Just outside Wolverhampton.”
Harry ground his jaw fiercely. He was going to kill a lot of flying vermin tonight.
“And…the other?” he asked.
Eloise turned her eyes on him. “Miss Weasley…my lady…will be in Diagon Alley on Sunday night. There is a performance of A Tale of Two Cities at the Palladium there.”
Harry sighed and closed his eye. Then began to recite dramatically. “It is a far, far better thing I do now, than I have ever done…a far better resting place…that I SEND that dirty cunt to…then she has ever deserved to know…”
“I don’t think they are the words, Potter,” Oliver smirked.
“I know, but I like my version better,” Harry grinned. “Maybe I’ll petition for a change in the text!”
“Potter…I understand there will be a lot of the Death Eaters and their families attending the Palladium on Sunday…it’s some sort of celebration…” said Oliver, darkly.
Harry met his eye and understanding flared. And Harry made a decision.
“Tell everyone you trust…stay away from The Alley on Sunday,” said Harry dangerously. “Tell anyone you don’t like to get tickets for the show…it promises to be an explosive performance…”
* * *
Hermione looked up at Luna’s creation, and shivered at the flashback crossing her mind. Harry…stood on the verge…talking to Luna about hearing voices…nearly stepping through…
She shook the memory off, but it was hard. Luna’s recreation of the Veil Archway at the Ministry was startlingly accurate. It was a near-perfect replica. It should have been, as Luna’s memory was standing and swirling from Harry’s personal Pensieve, perched next to them as a reference point.
“There, I think that should do it,” said Luna, standing back with her hands on her hips, admiring her handiwork.
“It’s very good, Luna,” said Hermione, stroking Lily’s crown, as the phoenix trilled in contentment on her arm. “All in all, I think yours is prettier than the one at the Department of Mysteries.”
Luna beamed at her. “Me, too!“
“All we need now is a ritual sacrifice to open the door!”
“You seem awfully calm about all this,” said Luna. “I didn’t think you’d be so all right…you know…going so Dark.”
“I don’t see it as going Dark,” said Hermione, thoughtfully. “These are evil people we’re fighting. I know I shouldn’t be so arrogant as to presume I can deal out death and judgement…but these bastards are threatening the people I love. Harry, you, Ennie, Nev, little Cesc…everyone. So…fuck them. They made their bed, me and Harry are going to put them to sleep in it. Permanently.”
Luna laughed at that. “You are so bad, Hermione! I’d have never seen it coming from you.”
“Well, I suppose we are all the products of our environment,” Hermione replied sniffily. “At Hogwarts, I was surrounded by academia. For the last few years, I’ve been surrounded by abuse, violence and death. It’s not my fault that I’m so accomplished at both!”
“Harry just thrills about it, that you are, I mean,” said Luna, grinning. “Celesca told me. She is bowled over by Harry’s love for you. She’s got a little crush on him, I think. Well, as far as a five-year-old can have a crush. It’s ‘Mister Harry did this,’ and ,’Mister Harry said that’. I’d say you’d have a rival if she was a bit older.”
“And she’s going to be quite beautiful, too, she told us,” Hermione quirked back. “It’s a good job she’d going to marry my son, otherwise I might to keep a serious eye on her!”
Luna laughed again. “Yes, she was telling me all about that. She’s quite excited about it, you know. She was talking with Enola about wedding dresses and flower arrangements at dinner!”
“Oh sweet Merlin,” Hermione laughed. “My poor son! I suppose I’d better call him James, then…my daughter-in-law might never let me hear the end of it if I don’t!”
Both women fell back laughing and sat down on the dais of the Ritual Room.
“James wouldn’t be so bad, actually,” said Hermione, thoughtfully. “Harry’s middle name…his father’s name…pretty much makes sense from that point of view.”
“Well, Cesc will be happy,” said Luna, smiling. “I imagine she’ll be calling herself Celesca Potter by the end of the week. Give it a month and she’ll have set a date!”
“I’ll keep my calender free for the next twenty years, then,” said Hermione, seriously. “At least we know we’re all going to make it till then. Would you have believed that six months ago, Lu? That we’d be sat here plotting ritual human sacrifice to protect our families?”
“No…not even I’m that dreamy!” Luna replied with a chuckle. “Me with my daughter…you…married to Harry Potter…we’ve come a long way.”
“And it’s time to go a step further,” said Hermione standing and taking a steeling breath. She closed her eyes as the energies of the room shifted around her, as she felt the wards open and close. “Harry’s home.”
Lily burst into song again, and Hermione felt the very note quaver deep in her bones, empowering her. A minute later and the door to the Ritual Room was opened with a little kick. Harry strode in…and he wasn’t alone. He was dragging a body roughly behind him. He threw it unceremoniously at the altar at the centre of the room, and Hermione flicked her wand, to bind the body to it with thick ropes.
Then she clobbered Harry with a powerful bear-hug and drove her tongue into his mouth, while sucking his own into hers with obscene passion, where it stayed for a full minute, while Luna stood by awkwardly and watched, as potent sexual passion surged around the room with a resonating throb.
“You’re late,” said Hermione breathily, as they finally pulled apart.
“Sorry, traffic was terrible,” Harry grinned back.
“Did you get hurt at all?”
“Only my pride,” said Harry. “Bat Bogey Hex…I mean…the shame of it…don’t tell Neville…he’ll not let me live that down for a month!”
Hermione laughed. “Well? Luna and I had an Arts and Crafts day. What do you think?”
Harry looked appraisingly at the Arch and nodded his approval. “It looks perfect, just one thing left to do.”
He cast a dispassionate look at the body behind him, which was groaning slightly. Then he turned to Luna.
“Everything’s as we discussed?” he asked. She nodded her confirmation. “Good. Thanks, Luna. You’ve done brilliantly. Your work is done here for tonight. Go to Celesca…there’s going to be some seriously powerful magic pumping around the palace tonight…horrible, powerful magic. The Ritual Room wont contain the feel of it…distract her…as best you can…she doesn’t need to see this…and she’ll be too curious to not look once she knows…”
“I’ll keep her occupied till it’s done,” said Luna. Then she leant up to kiss Harry on the cheek. He was so surprised, he forgot that he didn’t let anyone but Hermione that close to him physically. “I’m glad you’re home, Harry.”
And Luna slipped from the room, eyeing the sacrificial lamb as she went.
Harry turned to Hermione and sighed. He started to think, Hermione heard him, and cut him off abruptly.
“Now, I know you weren’t seriously about to ask me to leave, were you?” she smirked at him. “Honestly, Harry!”
“You don’t need to be here,” said Harry solemnly. “You don’t need to see…to see what I have to do.”
“No, you’re quite right,” Hermione agreed. “I also don’t have to commit ritual murder with you, but I’m going to. And if you try to argue, I’ll disable you and do it on my own!”
“When did you become so bad?” Harry grinned at her. Hermione just shrugged. “Well, it’s the hottest fucking thing. Just saying.”
“Good,” said Hermione, her tone dropping vampishly. “Then let’s get this dirty work over with…and get to some other dirty work up in our bed! You haven’t fucked me in days! I’m not letting that happen again, civil war or not. I’m so horny I’m more devil than, well, the Devil!“
“Fuck dot me,” said Harry. “Your mouth…wow.”
“That’s ironic, that, because you’ll be saying exactly the same thing later, when it’s clamped around your cock!” said Hermione. “Now, what’s this present you’ve brought me?”
“Oh, this little thing?” said Harry, cancelling Hermione’s binding spell and summoning the body to his feet. “Well, I think you’ll like this.”
The body skidded to a halt and Harry’s foot accidentally jerked out and kicked it in the face. It didn’t make much of a difference. Harry had slashed and cut it to ribbons already.
“I had to cut out his eyes,” said Harry apologetically, grabbing a fistful of hair and jerking up the head, to show his wife his handiwork. She nodded approvingly. “I left a little note for Old Tom, see, to tell him I was watching him. Or was it that I’d see him soon? I can’t remember, actually. I thought the eyeballs were a pretty cool piece of window dressing, though, whatever it was I said.”
“Definitely,” said Hermione, grinning. “You’re got such an artistic touch. Who knew?”
“Certainly not me,” said Harry. “But I wanted you to be proud of me.”
“I’m always proud of you,” said Hermione. She captured his tongue in her lips again, moaning against his mouth. “Harry…don’t drag this out. I want you…actually, it’s more a need. I’m aching for you to be inside me. Don’t play with your food…just play with me.”
“Fuck me!” Harry whimpered, adjusting his throbbing groin.
“Well…that’s sort of the idea,” Hermione breathed rabidly.
“Don’t you want to know who this poor cunt is, though?” asked Harry, kicking the prone body across to the Archway. He raised his wand and threw a powerful blasting curse at his legs, shattering them into pieces. He wasn’t going anywhere.
“Will it make me hotter for you to know?” asked Hermione.
“Give me a clue then.”
“Okay,” said Harry. “You said you’re proud of me, yeah?”
“Covetously proud,” Hermione confirmed.
“You never really liked Quidditch though, did you?”
“No, not really,” said Hermione. “I liked to watch you, but that was about it. I wouldn’t have gone to any matches you weren’t playing in.”
“And did you think I was any good?” asked Harry.
“Harry – you were the best,” said Hermione. “And you know it.”
“Yeah, I know it…but not all of Gryffindor did,” said Harry patiently. “There was that one Thestral-botherer that people said was Gryffindor’s Best Seeker – like – Ever and he could have Played Quidditch for England…and he was better than me, no matter how many games I won single-handedly…always irritated the flying fuck out of me, he did…Merlin, how I’d have loved to have killed him…”
Hermione’s eyes shot wide and she looked at the body strewn against the Archway.
“Harry,” she breathed heavily. “Tell me – please tell me, honey, – that you’ve brought me a Weasley to kill on this thing?”
Harry nodded. “Hermione, you remember Charles…whatever-his-name-is…Weasley, don’t you? He was at your wedding, I think. Gave Ron the ring that bound you to him, entrusted you to four years of bondage, knowing exactly what he was doing when he did it. You remember him, don’t you?”
“Yes, yes I remember…” Hermione hissed dangerously. She raised her wand and looked destructively at Harry. “On three?”
And, three seconds later, Charlie Weasley was blasted into several dozen pieces as the new Veil opened. It was practically a Quidditch score.