- Explicit Sex
- Fix It
“We need to make a show of leaving,” Harry said as he entered the tent. “Bathilda is watching the cottage.”
Hermione looked up from her reading and glanced toward the portrait that they’d moved into the tent for ease of use. Gryffindor was proving to be very informative, and the portrait could also travel to Hogwarts at will. So they’d learned a lot about the situation at the school as a result.
“She obviously wants to talk to you.”
“Yes, but she’s sneaky about it, and that makes me uncomfortable.” Harry frowned and shifted slightly as the polyjuice wore off then pulled Hermione’s beaded bag out of his cloak pocket. “Grocery shopping has never been more fun.”
She laughed and took the bag. “I’ll unpack since you did the shopping. Why does she make you uncomfortable now? She didn’t last night.”
“I don’t know. She couldn’t even see me through the wards but I watched her for a bit and she doesn’t…something is off about the way she moves and the way she stays still.” Harry admitted. “And she hadn’t moved from the spot she was standing in when I returned—even though I was gone nearly two hours. It’s like she’s standing guard over the cottage from across the street and frankly, she’s too old to have that sort of stamina.”
“Polyjuice,” Hermione suggested.
“If she were a Death Eater, I don’t think we’d have gotten out of the cemetery without a fight,” Harry said. “But she’s clearly invested in luring me into her company, and she suspects we’re still here so we need to leave in a public fashion then return in a way that she can’t detect.”
“She probably thinks we camped in the backyard or something,” Hermione said. “And I have to think if she were a Death Eater in disguise that she’d have already called reinforcements.” She pulled out a sack of flour. “Hmmm…what are we going to do with this?”
“I was thinking scones, pancakes, biscuits…” He trailed off when she looked dubious. “You can’t cook, can you?”
She laughed. “Not at all.” Hermione tucked the bag of flour in the cabinet then did the same with the rest of the dried goods. “You can teach me.”
It would be kind of fun to teach her something for a chance, so Harry just nodded and pulled a cup out of the cabinet. “Is that kettle still hot?”
“Yeah, I have a charm on it.”
He made quick work of setting up his tea and sat down at the table near the package of chocolate biscuits she’d placed there. “Any progress on my mum’s notes?”
“Loads,” Hermione admitted. “She was brilliant, you know, and very organized. They planned to do the ritual the first week of November. Your father finished restoring the circle the day that Riddle came. It hadn’t been used for hundreds of years, and some of the runes were degraded.” She sat down at the table with a cup of her own. “It’s a blood circle, Harry.”
He blinked in surprise. “Will it allow you to enter it?”
“Yes, but I’ll have to give blood to the power stone.” Hermione cupped her tea with both hands. “That doesn’t bother you? The blood magic?”
“I assumed it was blood magic of some kind. After all, Dumbledore had to use blood magic on my aunt’s home to settle my mum’s magic there. Should it bother me? It’s grey, right?”
“Very grey,” Hermione admitted. “At least in theory but it obviously as practical uses that are the very definition of Light. Most warding schemes for personal property have some sort of blood base. I was worried that you’d be put off by it.”
“Because Ron would be,” Harry guessed and shrugged when she glanced his way in shock. “He’s easily unsettled and flies off the handle at the least little sign something isn’t going to go his way. I’d really hope you don’t see that in me. I know I have a temper…but…”
“No, Harry, you’re nothing like Ron.” Hermione sighed. “At least not in that respect. I mean you were both epically lazy at Hogwarts, but I’ve always wondered if that was more his fault than yours. You named your owl after a witch famous for her runecraft and spell creation. That means you were reading your textbooks quite ardently before school started. The chapter on Hedwig Fromm was halfway through our first history of magic text. Your practical work is on par with mine, so I think you know the theory quite well.”
“Ron would get bent out of shape and accuse me of using my fame to get good grades if I did better than him,” Harry admitted. “The grades were kind of meaningless, Hermione, as long as I passed, so I just slacked off to avoid the drama. No one really cares what your grade was for third-year defense. They care that you have a NEWT in DADA. Even OWLs are only important because they can determine what classes you can take. But I am sorry—I was a better friend to him that he ever deserved, obviously. You were right, you know, I gave him the consideration that I should’ve given you all along. I’m ashamed of it.”
“Just do better now,” Hermione said and plucked a biscuit from the package. “You’re going to have to claim the circle, officially, as the head of the House of Potter.”
“Dumbledore said I needn’t bother claiming my title until I’m twenty-one.”
Hermione frowned at him. “What? You could’ve claimed your title at fourteen, Harry, and been emancipated!” She huffed. “Well, then he would’ve lost control over you, right? Right.” She stood up and stalked away. “For fuck’s sake.”
“She’s adorable even when she’s furious,” Godric said as Hermione stomped off into the sleeping area.
Harry huffed. “Stopped ogling my witch, old man.” The portrait offered him a smug grin in return. “I mean it.” He pointed a finger at him. “I’ll cover you up.”
Hermione laughed from where she was so Harry stood and followed along after her. She was sitting on her bed, so he dropped down beside her and toed off his shoes. “Your witch.”
“Hmmm, that’s what I said.” He tugged on her braid, and she turned toward him. “My girl.”
Hermione rolled to her knees, sat back a bit and stared at him. “I came back here to get my jacket so we could leave and through that old witch off our trail.”
“I came back here hoping we could make out,” Harry admitted and grinned when she blushed furiously. He took her hand gently and maneuvered them both, so they stretched out on the bed. “We should probably talk.”
Hermione propped her head up on one hand and stared. “Okay.”
“Are you a virgin?” Harry questioned.
Hermione pressed her lips together briefly and exhaled. “No. You?”
“No.” He considered asking her who even though he knew it was none of his business. “Luna, last year.”
“Luna?” Hermione blinked in surprise. “I would’ve thought…well. Ginny.”
“No, I never went that far with her. Though I think she was certainly willing. Luna asked me to…she was worried that her father would be tricked into signing a marriage contract for her because he’s a nutter. Such a contract wouldn’t be valid if she weren’t chaste at the point of signing, so she asked me to…you know. So we did.” He smiled then. “But she told me I wasn’t allowed to get attached to her because she had plans that didn’t involve getting married and having babies with the Chosen One.”
Hermione laughed. “She drives me crazy, and I like her despite it. I’m glad you could do that for her—it never even crossed my mind that she’d have to worry about something like that.” She sighed. “Viktor. Summer before sixth year. I went to visit him in Bulgaria.”
“You said you were your parents before you went to the Burrow,” Harry said in amusement.
“I just didn’t want to listen to Ron rant about it,” Hermione explained. “I’d have told you the truth if you’d asked any questions about it. It was nice, and he was careful with me, but I came to realize that I was never going to have the romantic feelings he wanted me to have for him. He was disappointed but not angry. I tried to picture how that conversation would’ve gone with Ron, and I can’t help but think he would’ve lost his mind and thrown a huge fit over it.”
“He’ll throw a fit over this,” Harry motioned between them. “No matter his own intentions or his mother’s plans, our being together will be seen as a betrayal to him. Though I imagine they’ll all find the ritual magic we’re about to indulge in quite horrifying. We’d certainly never fit in with their family of the Light image then.”
“Good,” Hermione said with a huff. “We’d drown in that family, Harry. They’d just suck the life right out of us. I don’t know why I ever thought for a minute I could want…Ron’s just not made for a big life, is he?”
“No, he’ll be very comfortable in some dead-end job with the ministry just like his father,” Harry said. “Not that I have a problem with that—I mean, live the life you want to live, right? But I can’t see myself being satisfied with that. The world’s too big and magic is too interesting. But sometimes people raised in the magical world just don’t seem to see the beauty of the world they live in.”
“They take it for granted,” Hermione suggested. “I’d never want to do that. Not ever. I think magic saved me, really. I was never going to truly fit in amongst my Muggle peers. I can’t even get along with people I’m related to.” She huffed when he laughed. “Harry.”
“It’s just, I can’t either. I mean I’m sure I could’ve gotten along with my parents, but the Dursleys are like aliens or something. My Aunt Petunia was deeply invested in living a small ordinary life, and Uncle Vernon was determined to provide her that no matter what he had to do. I can’t even imagine how many people he bribed over the years to keep Dudley out of jail so that she never had to face the fact that they’d raised a bully and a thief.”
“Let’s go throw Bathilda off,” Hermione suggested. “Then we can have dinner.”
“You mean I can cook you dinner,” Harry corrected.
She grinned. “Yes, exactly. You can cook that chicken you bought. I’d love some baked chicken.” Hermione leaned in and kissed him briefly. “Making out will have to wait until after dinner though.” She rolled out of bed with a laugh before he could catch her.
Harry picked up his shoes and tugged them on then went in search of his coat. A few minutes later, they apparated out of the cellar and onto the patio. “Have your wand ready.”
He went first, walking around the side of the house then toward the gate. Bagshot was still lingering on the corner, her gaze focused intently on the property. She straightened up slightly the moment they passed through the wards and out through the gate which Hermione paused to shut.
“Now that you mention it,” Hermione murmured. “There is something weird about her posture.”
“Yeah,” Harry said grimly and offered her his hand.
He focused intently on the old witch and Bagshot inclined her head as their eyes met. His scar twinged, and Harry tightened his grip on Hermione then apparated them both away. He put them right down on the inside of Dumbledore’s wards as silently as he could and watched Bagshot run unnaturally fast down the street toward what must be her house.
“Son of a bitch,” Hermione muttered. “There’s no way that old witch…”
“It’s don’t think it’s polyjuice,” Harry said grimly. “When our eyes met, my scar started to sting. That’s only happened around Riddle or someone tainted by him. Sometimes Ginny made my scar hurt, that’s one of the reasons I broke up with her. I don’t think she’s necessarily dark, but she is compromised because of the diary. I’d have never been able to trust her with our mission.”
“Could a curse give Bagshot that kind of mobility?” Hermione frowned. “That seems unlikely.”
“It’s also really bloody unlikely that we just stood face to face with a Death Eater without getting cursed outright, Hermione,” Harry said gently. “Whatever’s going on with that witch—isn’t something simple.”
“Or good,” she added by way of agreement. “We’ll investigate her after we do the ritual. The more power we have in the situation, the better.”
“Agreed because that looked like something out of a horror movie.” He made a face. “Creepy old ladies shouldn’t be able to sprint like they’re in the bloody Olympics.”
Hermione snorted then covered her mouth as she started to giggle. “Sorry.”
Harry sighed and apparated them back to cellar with a little laugh of his own.
They both brought reading material to the table. It was interesting to see him so interested in his family grimoire which he had taken from the work table. Sometimes, he’d read portions aloud to her—especially humorous stories about his ancestor’s magical experiments. Hermione had never realized exactly how much of his own family history Harry had been denied. She felt silly for never discussing his title with him while they were at Hogwarts and wondered if she’d been magically encouraged to ignore it.
Harry closed the grimoire and pushed aside his mostly empty plate. “How was the chicken?”
“Better than my mum’s,” Hermione said. She plucked a roll from the basket between them and tore it open. “The ritual itself it fairly simple on our end of things. We’ll need to add our blood to the power stone and then petition Zir. There is an incantation you’ll have to learn.”
“Then sex,” Harry said.
“Yeah.” She shrugged. “Sex. It’ll be kind of like a magical communion so it could be pretty intense.”
“Sentinels can go feral,” Harry said neutrally. “I’m worried that I might hurt you if I come online in the circle.”
“Muggle Sentinels were prone to feral episodes if they were threatened or if they were without a Guide,” Hermione agreed. “Magical Sentinels rarely experienced those kinds of drives and normally only in the face of a severe threat to themselves or their Guide. We’re very safe here, Harry. I feel it, and I know you do too.”
“I’ve never felt safer,” Harry admitted. “It’s like this cellar is in a different world altogether which I know is impossible but that’s how it feels.”
She blinked and hopped up from the table and darted out of the tent without a word. Harry followed at a more sedate pace and found her standing in front of the ward stone with a book in her hand.
“Shhh,” she admonished and waved a hand. “Give me a minute.”
He took a seat on the empty work table and watched her trace several of the runes on the warding stone. After nearly ten minutes she closed the book and turned to face him.
“I’ve often wondered why your parents chose this cottage to hide in. Why not a new property? Why not a property they didn’t even own? Your mum was way too smart to depend on the Fidelius charm alone, and Sirius said that the Order had already started to splinter a bit. He even thought that Remus might be a Death Eater. Then we found this circle, and I thought—okay, this is why.” She motioned toward the circle. “Ancient ritual circles are rare. Stupid rare and if they were going to do something life changing then your dad really needed an ancient ritual circle. One built by his own family magic would be even more valuable.”
“It makes sense,” Harry said. “But that’s not all, right? What’s on the ward stone that has you so excited?”
She grinned. “Harry, your house doesn’t have a cellar.”
“We’re in it, right now,” Harry pointed out.
“No, we’re in a dimensional pocket.” She waved a hand. “It’s like the Room of Requirement, Harry, except it has a permanent configuration. The cottage was built on top of the ritual circle. There is about a foot of crawl space under the actual house.”
“Oh.” He took a deep breath. “Who built the cottage?”
“The cottage is about five hundred years old, but your dad is the one who built the space down here. It’s probably been known for generations that the ritual circle was hidden under this cottage. Your father found a way to access and use the circle in absolute secret. The only reason I saw the entryway is because we were touching when it appeared.”
“We were kissing,” Harry corrected.
“Best first kiss ever,” Hermione said and grinned when he laughed.
He walked over to her and pulled her in gently. “So, what you’re saying is that we’re in a place no one can find.”
“Your father’s magic is protecting the space—it’s very intelligent protection.” She bit down on her bottom lip. “The circumstances are quite unique.”
“Because he died protecting this secret—to prevent Riddle from desecrating the legacy of our family.”
“Perhaps he hoped you’d find it and finish what he started,” Hermione said. She looped her arms around his neck. “I just wish it had never come to that.”
“Me, too,” Harry murmured. “I’d give anything to have them with me now. I don’t feel prepared for this war. I want to blame Dumbledore for that but is that fair?”
“Yes,” Hermione said with a frown. “He never told you all you needed to know, obviously. He didn’t give you the magical education you really needed. If you’d been told the prophecy the first time you asked him at the end of first year, everything would’ve been different. He kept too many secrets, Harry. And now look where we are—in the middle of war neither one of us are bloody prepared for. Death Eaters are in the ministry and in Hogwarts. They’re putting Muggle-borns in camps, and Umbridge…god…don’t get me started on Umbridge.”
“Do you want to concentrate on fighting back rather than finding the horcruxes?” Harry questioned. “What should really be our priority?”
“If we managed to kill his body again—there’s no telling how long it would take for him to cultivate enough power for another resurrection. It would give us time to find the other horcruxes. We could hunt for Nagini properly because I’m certain she’s one and search Hogwarts without having to worry about Death Eater teachers. We could do in peace what Dumbledore failed to do.”
“All right,” Harry agreed as he let his hands settle on her hips. “We’ll take him and his followers out of the picture first then we’ll make sure he has no way to return a second time.”
“Just like that.” Hermione raised an eyebrow. “What about what Dumbledore wanted?”
“You were right, before, you’ve been beside me this entire time. I’ve always been able to count on you, and I think you’re right—I think our focus on the horcruxes has blinded us to a large degree about what is going on in Britain and that’s not the kind of man my father was. It isn’t the kind of man I want to be. It certainly not how a Sentinel acts.” He glanced toward the circle. “I have to be willing to walk that path, right?”
“Right,” Hermione nodded. “We’ll walk it together. I’m going to be the best Guide, Harry. I mean it.”
He smiled. “Oh, love, I know. You’ve been guiding me since we met.”
Hermione huffed. “Harry Potter, being a Guide and being bossy isn’t the same thing at all.”
“Sure, sure.” He laughed when she tried to wiggle out of his hold. “I adore you when you’re bossy.”
He picked her up, and she threw an arm over his shoulders with a put-upon sigh. “You’re the worst sort. Where are you taking me?”
“Somewhere comfortable so I can have a proper snog.”
“Very well,” Hermione said primly and waved a hand. “Carry on.”