The man behind him collapsed.
"Took you long enough." Sherlock bit out, straining against his bonds.
There was a tired sigh from behind him and a pair of legs came into view. Looking up wasn't necessary. He'd known who she was from the moment she entered.
"I may just kill you for this." She told him sadly. "Relashio."
His aching arms dropped down to his side and he struggled to his feet. Slowly he looked down at the unamused face of his wife. She was tapping her wand against her thigh. Never a good sign.
"You don't deserve them." She rummaged in her bag and produced several vials. "Drink them quick. We've got to go."
Sherlock hated Apparating. It left him out of control, and entirely at his wife's mercy. Something she had chosen to exploit occasionally in the last two years. When he was being, apparently, especially irritating.
"Are we done then?" Hermione asked, fidgeting with a letter.
Two weeks old, shows signs of frequent perusal, familiar handwriting.
She's been pardoned.
"Weren't you going to tell me?" He asked, ignoring her question.
She shrugged, twisting the parchment in her hands.
"I figured you'd realise when you ran out of network to focus on." She collapsed onto the bench next to him, resting her head against his shoulder and he wrapped an arm around her, tugging her close. The physical contact isn't new. Nor is it unwelcome. He realised quite quickly that she needed it to function and that, from an strictly evolutionary point of view, he wasn't opposed to it. Humans are designed to live in social groups after all and touching is part of that. Even a sociopath must accept basic biology.
For the first time in two years he notice how tired she looked. They'd been all over the world, solving cases, running from wizards, shutting down Moriarty's network and, perhaps most importantly, avoiding the knowledge that they were soulmates. Sherlock hadn't deleted the information. It was there in his mind palace, behind a door made of oak, along with a very untidy bundle of emotions he didn't want to untangle. In all honestly this was the first time he'd truly looked at her. He'd been so wrapped up in bringing down the network, that he didn't stop to think about his wife. The woman who has been flung out of the land she called home. Forced to roam the world in a tent, saving her husband's life over and over again. Thrown back into a life, he knew all too well she hates.
John's right. He is a selfish bastard.
"We can go home now. Mycroft has a job for me," He suggested and only just picked up on the subtle hitch in her breathing.
Sherlock swallowed back the lump which seemed to have, against all probability, sprung up in his throat.
"Would you...want to come back to Baker Street with me?" He asked hoarsely.
She sighed and stood, heading for the only bed.
"Where else can I go?" She muttered bitterly.
"...Witches, Wizards, assorted magical creatures and Ron Weasley, welcome to this weeks edition of Potter Watch. Firstly we wish to assure our listeners about the many rumours flying around. Those in power have accused us here at Potter Watch of filling the Ministry Atrium with leaflets regarding their treatment of certain war heroes. We would like to assure you that yes it was us, no we're not sorry and no matter how mad our mums get, we are not telling them the counter jinx. Now on to one of our more popular segments, Granger Danger. As you will all be very well aware, unless of course you're a babbling, bumbling, bunch of baboons, decorated war hero Hermione Granger was chased out of the country by the Ministry of Magic and has spent her time relaxing in the sun, taking down evil dictators and sending us letters threatening to hex our bits off. She's not joking either. Still we have some good news. Earlier this week the Wizengamot, under severe public pressure, lifted the warrant on She-Who-Scares-Us and has opened it's money grabbing, greedy arms to welcome her back. We hope she kicks them where it hurts. This morning a boat docked in Dover, depositing Hermione and her muggle husband back onto British soil. She has offered her thanks to her supporters, for their unrelenting efforts to bring her home and sends you her love. So on behalf of the Potter Watch team, her friends, family, several House Elves, the entire staff and student body of Hogwarts and anybody else we didn't care about enough to mention...Welcome home Hermione. It's good to have you back..."
"Moriarty's network. It took us two years to dismantle."
"And you're confident you have?"
"The Serbian side was the last piece of the puzzle and Hermione's wizards were called off."
"Yes. I know." Mycroft gave a small smile. "I sent her the letter. Anyway, you're home now."
"I assume Mrs Holmes is at Baker Street?"
"Making amends to Mrs Hudson, as I understand it." Sherlock glanced up as the door clicked open and smiled at the suit Anthea was holding.
"I think I'll surprise John. He'll be delighted." Sherlock said, buttoning his cuffs.
"Oh you think so. And what did Hermione have to say about that idea?"
"She said I was a prat. Where is he living?"
"What makes you think he's not staying at Baker Street?"
Sherlock glared at him.
"Hermione has been back in residence for almost three hours and no one has tried to storm the Houses of Parliament."
"Perhaps she just wouldn't tell him?"
"Please. Hermione lives to annoy me. It's why she's so interesting. Where's he going to be tonight?"
"How would I know?"
"You always know."
"He has a dinner reservation on Marylebone Road. Nice little spot..."
Sherlock tuned his brother out, fiddling with his wedding ring.
"Nervous, brother dear?"
He ignored that as well.
"I think maybe I'll just drop by."
"You know, it is just possible that you won't be welcome."
"And that is where you and my wife are wrong. It's John Watson and I'm Sherlock Holmes. I will always be welcome. Now where is it?"
"You know what."
Anthea reappeared, holding his Belstaff. He'd been forced to leave it behind when they'd fled the country.
"Welcome back, Mr Holmes," She greeted. "Do say hello to Hermione for me."
He rolled his eyes and stormed off.
"Hermione Granger! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!"
Hermione winced as her landlady yelled at her from the foot of the stairs. She'd waited until John had left, doing her best to remove some of the dust from the flat. Afterwards though, she'd had no choice but to stand at the top of the landing and wait for the older woman to turn around.
"Hi, Auntie Martha." She said softly, using the name which had gotten her out of trouble as a child. Admittedly she'd been six the last time it had worked, but it was worth a shot.
"I've been worried sick. And you look awful dear. Simply awful."
Hermione caught her reflection in the mirror as she was dragged inside Mrs Hudson's flat and couldn't help but agree. She'd lost most of the weight she'd gained living with Sherlock, partly due to stress and partly because food had been scarce on the ground in the last two years. Her hair had grown and hung in limp curls down to her waist and she was a pale colour which made her look as vampiric as her husband.
"You promised me you'd be in touch." The older woman complained. Hermione flushed.
"I know." She murmured.
Mrs Hudson shoved her into a kitchen chair and began bustling around making tea.
"Of course, John was just as bad. He's getting married you know. To a girl!"
Hermione wasn't sure where Mrs Hudson had gotten the idea that Sherlock was cheating on her with John, but it drove the army veteran insane.
"John isn't gay." She pointed out carefully.
"Well, whatever you say dear, I see you're still wearing your wedding ring. Have you thought about moving on? It's been two years and a pretty young thing like you shouldn't be a widow. Such a shame."
Hermione would have rested her head in her hands except Mrs Hudson chose that moment to hand her a cup of tea and a biscuit.
"Martha, dear. That's what your mother used to call me. Lovely woman, she was."
"Martha!" Hermione winced as the older woman jumped.
"Sherlock isn't dead."
Mrs Hudson gave her a pitying look.
"Now, that's just the grief talking. Are you moving back in?"
Hermione nodded. Sherlock could just surprise her. Nimue knew he wanted to.
"Well, you can have Sherlock's old room. I never understood why married people wanted different rooms. It's not natural you know. I was saying to Mrs Next-Door that..."
"Martha..." Hermione interrupted, eyeing a pair of scissors on the counter. "Can you do me a favour?"
It took two punches longer than Sherlock was willing to admit, to realise that John wasn't as angry as Mycroft had promised he would be.
"You knew?" He spat through the tissue he was holding to his nose.
John finally gave an angry smile, which seemed to relieve his fiancée. Mary grabbed his hand, probably to stop him hitting him again.
"Course I did, you utter bastard. 'Mione sent me a note. Last thing I heard from her in fact. Don't suppose you know where she is, do you?"
Sherlock gave a long suffering sigh.
"You will be pleased to know you were correct in your assessment."
She didn't look up from her newspaper, but she did suddenly seem to find the finance section terribly amusing.
"I told you so." She murmured.
"You told him I was alive."
"Did I?" She turned the page. "That was nice of me."
Sherlock removed the various tissues from his face, wincing at the blood stains.
"Heal me." He demanded.
Sherlock blinked and she smiled.
"You've come to rely on me, Captain. We're not on the run any more. Not only will people notice if your injuries vanish overnight, but also I refuse to deny John the opportunity of seeing what I am sure is a truly impressive black eye." Sherlock glowered at her and she pretended not to notice as she folded the Times and gave him her full attention. "So how is she?"
"Who?" He grumbled.
"Don't be obtuse. Mary. His fiancée."
"Normal. John certainly likes her."
"Definitely a better start to a marriage than ours." She grinned. "Don't mess it up for him."
"It's his relationship. How could I possibly..."
"Looking innocent doesn't suit you." She traced a rune into the dust on the coffee table, a slight blush staining her cheeks. "Mrs Hudson wants to know if we're going to need the room downstairs."
Sherlock shrugged, his attention more on the laptop in front of him.
"I already have a laboratory." He said simply. Hermione nodded and went to put her clothes in the wardrobe in his bedroom.
"You've cut your hair," he called after her.
"Mycroft." Hermione greeted.
Hermione leaned over Sherlock's shoulder to see what they were doing.
"I do wish you would call me by my name," She reprimanded, giving them a bemused look.
"On the contrary..." Mycroft smiled, causing his brother to grimace. "I think the title rather suits you." He passed the tweezers to Sherlock and smirked. "So I am led to believe that it is true love."
Hermione flicked him a glare, tucking her hair back as she did so.
"Believe what you will, Mycroft. I am going out."
"Why?" Sherlock asked sharply.
Hermione collected her coat and her gloves, winding a red and gold scarf around her neck.
"Why? I've been in exile for two years, I have a lot of apologies to make. Even you should be able to work that out." She left, disapparating from the landing.
"You really are pathetic, brother dear."
"Shut up, Mycroft."
"Touchy, touchy. Now this is all very interesting, but the terror alert has been raised to critical."
Hermione almost didn't recognise them. When she'd left her friends had still very much been teenagers, stuck in that awkward phase between boy and man. Now Harry had finally grown into his broad shoulders and Ron had lost the lankiness of his late teens.
"I've missed you." She whispered, crushed between the two of them.
"Don't be gone so long next time." Harry teased gently.
"How are you? You look awful." Ron demanded.
"RON!" Harry yelled, punching his friend in the shoulder.
"I'm okay. Really. Just very, very tired."
"Still married to that muggle?" Ron asked without any real heat behind the words.
"He has a name you know. And yes." She held up her left hand, noting the similar rings on her friends. "And I see I'm not the only one."
"Luna will be pleased." Ron muttered.
"Come on." Harry tugged her towards the entrance to the Burrow. "There's someone I want you to meet."
"He's gorgeous, Gin."
Hermione reached out one finer to stroke the tuft of jet black hair.
"James Sirius Potter." Harry told her, proudly.
She gaped at him.
"You cannot be serious."
Harry blinked at her.
"No." He said slowly point at his son. "He is."
Ginny and Ron groaned.
"I really wish that was the first time I'd heard that joke." Ginny cooed to the baby. "But it isn't."
James drooled down his chin.
"You're going to be trouble when you grow up." Hermione told him fondly.
"Why do people keep saying that?" He complained.
"Because it's true. I'm sorry I missed the wedding." She sighed. "Both your weddings. And him."
"Couldn't be helped." Ron told her. "You're back now and that's what matters.
"Hermione, pass me the maps."
Martha Hudson flicked a duster at her newly resurrected tenant.
"She's gone out. Leave her be, dear. I'm sure she's had enough of you to last a lifetime, poor girl."
He stormed off.
Where are you?
You've lost your tail.
Don't ignore me.
I'm calling Mycroft.
"Stop texting me!"
She sighed and the phone connection crackled.
"I've had no peace for almost two years. Give me a break Sherlock. Please."
A small voice came across the phone line.
"What is it, Teddy?"
"Uncle Harry says you're inter...interrrr...messing with the wards."
"Where are you?" Sherlock snapped.
Hermione sighed again.
"I'm at the Burrow. I'll be home tonight. Just please leave me be, Sherlock."
"John's was almost burnt to death."
Hermione only just checked the curse she'd been about to send at the figure sitting in the corner.
"What?" She gasped. "Is he all right?"
Sherlock shrugged, sitting in his armchair.
"Mostly psychological damage. Some smoke inhalation."
"Who was it?" Hermione shut the door behind her, locking the door with a flick of her fingers.
"I don't know." He snapped.
"Okay." Hermione didn't push. She knew when not to. She peeled off her coat, dropping her bag on the floor. "I've been gone a long time." She murmured.
Sherlock glanced up at her, frowning.
"You might live for another hundred and fifty years. Two years isn't that long."
"Two years is a long time no matter what your perspective. Both of my friends have settled down. Even John is getting married." She added, somewhat morosely. "Ron's married Luna."
"My condolences to the bride."
"Oh shut up. He's grown up a lot since I left. They both have. Harry's had a baby."
She shot him a nasty glare.
"With his wife. And I'm just... I spent two years in exile and strangely enough the world moved on without me. I'm exactly where I was two years ago. Actually, I'm further behind. I don't even have a job."
"I swear, Sherlock, if you say as your assistant I will curse you."
He gave a faint smile.
"Hardly." She settled onto the arm of his chair, resting one hand on his shoulder to steady herself. Sherlock wrapped an arm around her waist. "I believe your position with Mycroft is still open. Anthea has been fulfilling your duties. I'm sure she will be relieved you're back."
"Has she gotten together with Mycroft yet?" she asked, mildly curious.
"My brother was waxing poetically about goldfish."
"That's a no then." She brightened slightly. "Well, at least I can go back to watching them dance around each other. It is somewhat entertaining."
"And you are married." He pointed out.
"I don't think we really count."
"We share a flat, exchanged vows..."
She laughed and he almost missed the bitter note to it.
"They married for love, Sherlock. Whilst you may care about me in some convoluted shape or form, I don't think we can really compete."
"We're soulmates." He taunted.
"We're flatmates." She corrected tersely. "And, more importantly, you are an arse."
"We're bedmates." He pointed out, almost gleefully.
"Worryingly co-dependant is what we are." She sighed and got to her feet. "I was only gone for an afternoon and you managed to upset Molly and get John flambéed. She texted me after you left." Hermione groaned. "Even Molly's engaged. Are you going to sleep tonight?"
"I'm working." He gestured with one hand at the spiders web of paper on the far wall.
"Terror alert on London has reached critical. It's all very...interesting."
He couldn't see her face but he knew she was rolling her eyes. She told him once that he brought out the worst of habits in her.
"Do you ever think that there is more to life than cases?" She asked suddenly.
He frowned at her.
"I often wonder..." She continued, not looking at him. "How much of our daily interactions you delete?" She laughed again, this time somewhat sadly. "I'm off to bed. Actually...No I'm not." She paused in the doorway and turned to stare at him. "Sherlock, how is this going to work?"
"How is what going to work?"
"Hermione, waving your hand ambiguously between the two of us isn't an explanation."
"Sherlock we're married. We're..."
"Soulmates." He finished for her when she seemed unwilling to say the word.
"Right." Hermione floundered for a moment. "It's just...I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with you. Are we just going to continue on like this?" She cut across him when he made to answer. "It's not such a problem right now, I'm only in my twenties. But what if I want to settle down, have a family?"
"Do you want to have a family?"
"Forget it." She turned to leave.
"No. Answer the question," he demanded.
"I don't know. Not now. It's just...seeing James...it made me realise that there are some things I can't have and that...that bothers me."
"I'm sorry," he whispered, long after she'd left.
"Mione?" She glanced up at the door.
"Come in, John."
John Watson came into the room that had once been her bedroom and grinned at her.
"It's good to see you."
She beamed and launched herself at him.
"I've missed you."
He laughed and hugged her tightly.
"Thank you." He breathed at last.
She leaned back, confused.
"If I hadn't been for you, I'd have spent the last two years in mourning." He shrugged in an embarrassed sort of way. "We've missed you around here."
"We?" She laughed. "Oh yes. You're getting married aren't you?"
"Well, dickhead up there kind of ruined my proposal, but yeah. She's nice. Mary's her name, in case you didn't know. Mary Morstan."
Hermione leaned against her table and nodded.
"I knew. I told him not to go that night. Didn't do much good. Nice shot to the face by the way."
"Mary wasn't best pleased with that but..."
"It was deserved." She finished dryly. "Sherlock's upstairs if you want him. He's got a couple up there, won't let me anywhere near them. Must be a case."
"I've got to ask...the ring?" John gave a small grin. "You're still wearing it."
She nodded staring at the gold band.
"Yes. I am."
"So you're still together?"
"Yes?" She offered. "Still it's good to see you John. I'm glad you're looking less..."
"Crispy?" He supplied.
"Ah. Well I'll...be off then. We should get together sometime. You'd like Mary."
Hermione waved him off chuckling.
They weren't clients. Why was he keeping you away from his parents?
He has PARENTS?
Didn't he tell you? They're very...normal. Gotta go, we're heading into the underground.
Kill him for me, would you?
What did he do this time?
"Hermione, this is Mary Morstan." John introduced, beaming with pride.
"Hello." Hermione shook her hand, looking her over. She seemed nice. Normal, even.
"Oh hello." The blonde woman beamed. "Are you Mrs Hudson's daughter?"
There was an embarrassed pause which seemed to encompass the entire flat as John barely held back a laugh.
"Er no..." Hermione brushed her hair back self consciously.
"Hermione here is Sherlock's wife."
Mary went pink.
"Well, I'm incredibly embarrassed. Excuse me; we're going to talk to Mrs Hudson. Lovely meeting you." She dragged her fiancé away but not before Hermione caught the hissed:
"You didn't tell me he was married!"
"You're engaged to Graham?" Sherlock yelled, dragging Hermione's attention away. Sherlock was standing by the door, eyes darting between Greg and Molly.
"How did you know?" Molly stammered.
The detective rolled his eyes as Greg wrapped an arm around Molly's shoulder.
"Oh, please, It's written all over Lestrade. Don't know why I didn't see it before."
"Greg," John chanted under his breath. "His name is Greg."
"We have a lot in common," Molly pointed out, somewhat coldly. "Like, for example, both being suspended because of you."
"What he means..." Hermione broke in, hugging her friend. "...is congratulations. Don't you, Sherlock?"
"He's not even that attractive..."
Greg scowled as Hermione's phone rang.
"Don't you have a press conference to go to?" Molly complained.
Sherlock shrugged, more interested in who was calling Hermione.
"Yes, of course," She was saying, quite happily. "I'll see you soon."
"Who was that?"
Sherlock stared at her.
"We worked together, remember? And she has a lot of jobs. She's the Albanian ambassador, although no one will ever tell me why." Hermione laughed. "She was looking for an alibi so she's coming here for a bit."
"Mycroft still trying to get out of the theatre?" He deduced, tying his scarf around his neck.
"Apparently, he's attempting to declare a state of emergency at the moment." She giggled to herself, straightening his collar.
"I take it you're not going to face the press with me?"
"You would be correct." She smiled up at him as she stepped back into the flat.
"Sentiment." He mumbled, following John down the stairs. "For fools and children."
"Do you care about Hermione?" John asked suddenly.
Sherlock gave that question the look he felt it deserved and John flushed.
"Sorry. Sorry. Okay let me try again. Do you love her?"
"Do you love Mary?" Sherlock retaliated reaching for the deerstalker.
Sherlock stared at him.
"Oh." The detective blinked and put his hat on.
"So, you are still working with Mycroft?" Hermione asked innocently.
Anthea glanced up from her phone, annoyed.
"Drop it," She ordered.
Anthea didn't deign to answer that and went back to typing on her phone.
"That's good." Hermione added conversationally. "You two are very good together. Produce excellent...work."
"I know thirty seven ways to kill you here and now," Anthea murmured.
"I know at least forty."
The two women stared each other down before breaking into smiles.
"How's the media handling it?" Hermione asked cheerfully.
The older woman tapped away for a second.
"Overall response is good, sales on deerstalkers have risen as have the prices of greatcoats."
Hermione smiled down at the media circus still going on outside Baker Street.
"Have you ever thought about settling down?" She mused.
"Oh, shut up!"
If John had been expecting any great changes in Sherlock and Hermione's relationship, then he was greatly disappointed. Their marriage continued on as it always had. Occasional touches, rare kisses and frequent bouts of possessiveness (mostly from Sherlock). They shared a bed, but as far as John knew nothing ever went on in it. Hermione went to work for Mycroft and Sherlock went on cases. They both had their laboratories and occasionally shared meals together.
They just were.
"So, tell me about Hermione?"
John squinted at his fiancé and thought about it.
"Hermione...Um. She moved in shortly after I did, just after she left school. She was twenty one, I think? Maybe." He shrugged. "Her and Sherlock hated each other to begin with. I think it irritated him that she was smart enough to keep up with him and it irritated her that he was...well, Sherlock really."
Mary nodded in agreement. Her threshold for tolerance was fairly high, but even that was stretched by Sherlock.
"Her parents were friends with Mrs Hudson, a long time ago. They're dead, I think. She works for Mycroft, something high up in the government. I don't know; she doesn't talk about it. Like I said she's really intelligent, very caring. Sherlock thinks that she hung the moon and stars, not that he'll admit it though. To be honest I don't know very much about her. She went to some weird school which didn't teach proper subjects." He laughed. "You know it's weird. I lived with the girl for two years, she's like a little sister to me, but really I can't tell you much about her."
She sipped at her tea.
"How did those two end up married anyway?"
"No one really knows. They didn't tell me about it, just waited until I noticed the rings."
"They balance each other out." He told her happily. "Kind of like us."
Sherlock was in his mind palace.
He was also...lost.
He'd been filing and had come across something new. This door was new, located in the very back of his mind. It was of a light wood, birch he suspected, and set with a gold lion head knocker. Curious, he opened the door without bothering to knock. It was his head after all. There was a long corridor, so long it faded from view rather than seeming to end. The only distinguishing feature was a chain that ran over head, stretched taught. He reached up and tugged on it and...
A loud explosion from Hermione's lab jerked Sherlock out of his mind and caused John to drop his mug.
"What did you do?" John asked, visibly amused.
Hermione burst into the room, hair wild and eyes blazing. Not for the first time, Sherlock admired just how interesting she looked when she wanted to kill him.
"Don't do that!" She hissed.
She closed her eyes and seemed to concentrate. All of a sudden he was hit with a lurch of emotion and need which knocked him from his chair. She smirked down at him.
"That" She told him triumphantly. "Don't go pulling on things you don't understand."
"Why haven't I found that door before?"
Hermione rubbed at her temples.
"I'm guessing that's what it manifested as?" She asked. He nodded. "Probably because you haven't been looking for it. I suspect this is the first time you've had time to explore the inside of your own head for quite a while."
"Is it meant to be there?" He demanded, hating that she found him so predictable.
"Why should I be concerned with whether or not it's meant to be there?" She turned to leave. "After all, we are meant to be. I told you, these things are rare. Nobody knows, Sherlock."
Sherlock subsided into sulking as she returned to her laboratory.
"Are you ever going to tell me what's going on with you two?" John complained.
"What is that?"
"Who," she corrected. "Not what. And in answer to your rude and mildly irritating question, his name is Rafiki. He was a present from Harry."
The black cat stared at the detective, who stared back, eyes narrowing.
"He's in my chair," He pointed out petulantly.
Hermione just laughed.
"He's a Kneazle, very intelligent. Rafiki..." She called. The cat sprang onto her shoulders and settled around her neck like a particularly malevolent boa. "Harry knew how much I missed Crooks, and apparently no one wanted to buy him either. Can't imagine why."
"I don't like him."
"Tough. We're going to work."
"You can't take a cat to work."
"I'm a witch, darling. He's a black cat. We were made for each other."
"Anthea...?" Mycroft called.
The ambassador for Albania, senior level civil servant and PA to the British Government looked up from her desk.
"Yes, Mr Holmes?"
"Do you know why the Magical Liaison Minister saw fit to leave a goldfish on my desk?" He held up the offending bowl and Anthea noticed that the pebbles in the bottom were little glass hearts. Pink glass hearts.
"No idea, sir."
She was going to kill Hermione.
"This is such a bad idea." Hermione moaned. "This is worst idea I've ever had!" Rafiki followed her as she paced across the floor, twining around her ankles.
"Don't be melodramatic." Sherlock teased, plucking at his violin.
"Pot meet kettle." John murmured. They both glared at him and he coughed. "Why is this so bad?"
"Have never met Sherlock before." She told him tightly. Apparently John needed no further explanation for why things could go so very wrong than that.
"You're egotistical." John pointed out. "Stubborn, embarrassing, rude..."
Hermione laughed as Sherlock scowled.
"Darling, as much as I love you, you are a bit of an acquired taste." She told him distractedly. "It was a miracle Mary liked you." John hummed in agreement.
Sherlock looked like he'd been hit around the face with a frying pan and didn't respond.
"Sherlock, what's wrong?" Hermione's thoughts seemed to catch up to her and she paled, staring at her husband in something akin to horror.
"Sherlock, I...I didn't...I'm..."
The doorbell rang and Hermione spun away to answer it, almost sprinting down the stairs to the front door.
"Sherlock?" John asked quietly as his friend shook off his reverie. "Is that the first time she's...?"
John fixed a welcoming smile on his face as Hermione escorted a dark haired man and a red haired woman into the flat.
"You know she meant it, don't you?"
Molly sat down her scalpel and stripped off her gloves. Hermione held out one of the coffee cups and frowned.
"I know that look." The pathologist led the way over to an unoccupied table and hopped onto it, removing the plastic lid from her coffee. "It's been sterilised." She added when the younger woman stared at it suspiciously. Hermione sighed and slid onto the slab next to Molly, breathing in the caffeinated steam.
"The one I used to see on my own face whenever your husband came in here. What happened?"
"I told him I loved him."
Molly choked and almost sprayed a nearby corpse with regurgitated coffee.
"What!" she gasped.
"It just sort of slipped out. And then I might have apologised...we haven't talked about it."
The morgue doors crashed open and John and Greg strode in.
"John told me." Greg said, grinning at her.
"It was one slip of the tongue. ONE!" She slammed her coffee cup down, causing brown liquid to spill over the table. "It doesn't need a full intervention...and why, John Watson, did you feel the need to tell Lestrade?"
"We're friends." The detective told her, a touch reproachfully. "And Mols was just going to tell me anyway."
Molly nodded, kissing her fiancé on the cheek.
"You know, that might have been the first time someone other than his mother has told him that." John pointed out, leaning against a workbench.
Molly nodded, eager for more information.
"What did he say?" She clamoured.
Hermione sighed, resigned.
"He was so in shock he didn't make a single rude comment throughout dinner."
Hermione stared at him.
"I thought he was just on his best behaviour."
"Hermione, your friends are weird. I had to restrain myself."
Greg broke in suddenly.
"Did you mean it?"
Hermione went pink.
"She meant it," John supplied, grinning.
"Yeah, but does he know she meant it?"
Hermione stared at John.
"I told him."
"Right, that's it. I'm leaving. Have a nice day, you ruthless bunch of harpies."
They watched her leave.
"They're perfect for each other," John mused.
"We have to do something," Molly added.
Greg and John nodded in agreement.
"We need Mary," John said eventually.
"Why?" Greg called as the doctor made to leave.
John beamed over his shoulder.
"Haven't you met my Mary? She's brilliant."
"Hermione, you have to go," The man pleaded.
"No. I don't," She snapped. "They exiled me, Harry! Exiled! Granted I'd run away first but still! It's a matter of pride, integrity..."
She glared at him and Harry sighed.
"Please, 'Mione. It's being thrown in your honour."
"I'm not going," She repeated, folding her arms.
"Fine." He left the invitation to the Christmas Eve Ball on the table. "Just so you know; they invited your husband too."
Hermione waited until she was sure he'd gone before she touched the heavy envelope with one finger, an evil smirk blooming across her face.
"Ten quid says I can have us thrown out of here in twenty minutes."
Hermione grinned up at him.
They paused outside the double doors, Hermione looking visibly nervous in her evening gown. She straightened his tie for the fifteenth time and sighed.
"Ready?" She asked cautiously.
He gave her a smile that promised there would be several bruised egos by the end of the evening.
"For a night full of pompous morons? Always."
He offered her his arm and she took it, drawing herself up to her full height, a calm expression settling over her features. They pushed through the doors together.
"Announcing Mistress Hermione Holmes, Order of Merlin (First Class) and Sherlock Holmes."
Sherlock grinned wolfishly as he quite distinctly heard his wife mutter,
"Clock's ticking, dear."
The couple collapsed laughing on the landing of 221B, both covered in cream.
"Did you see his face?" Hermione giggled, imitating the horrified expression of the Wizengamot member. It was understandable. Sherlock had just pointed out to the man's wife, the five witches her husband was cheating on her with.
"I didn't know there was a spell for that," He snickered, referring to the hex that had covered them both in dairy products.
They sobered slightly, still smiling broadly at each other.
"You know I should really have a problem with you using me so shamelessly."
Hermione gave him an arch look.
"I know you loved causing trouble as much as I did." She flicked a large blob of whipped cream off her elbow. It flew and hit the wall with a wet splat, before sliding onto the carpet.
Hermione realised she was staring at him and looked away, blushing heavily.
"I'm just going to..."
They got to their feet awkwardly and avoided each other's gaze, turning away to move into the flat.
"Why are we doing this again?"
Hermione scowled at him.
"Because John and Mary are visiting his family, Molly went to see Greg's family, Mycroft and Anthea are working and all of my friends hate you." She slapped the back of his hand with the serving spoon when he tried to poke the meat. "Sit down."
"And Mrs Hudson?"
"She went to see her family. How you forgot about that I have no idea, she went on about it for ages. So you are the only family I have at the moment and we are doing Christmas properly."
Sulkily, Sherlock sat down at the table and Hermione served him a plate of Christmas dinner. He sniffed the plate suspiciously. Hermione's cooking had a fifty four percent success rate.
"This is surprisingly..."
"Don't finish that sentence," She warned, waving her fork threateningly. A bit of parsnip fell off the end and hit Rafiki on the head. "It's my mother's recipe. I went by the house to reapply the stasis charms and picked up her cookbook while I was there."
"You have a house?"
Hermione glanced at him, a small smile crossing her face as he cut his roast potato into perfect 1cm cubes.
"I thought you knew." She told him, honestly. "It's not something I hide. I'm sure I told John at one point. It's in Kensington."
"Gloriously upper middle class. But if you have a house, then..."
"Why do I live here?" She chewed thoughtfully. "You tell me."
Sherlock glanced at her.
Hair done messily, clothes comfortable and personal favourites, low blood pressure, relaxed posture, no shoes.
"You like it here. You're comfortable."
She giggled, sipping her butterbeer. Still hates wine.
"I'd rather spend my Christmas with my husband in my home, than in an empty house with the ghosts of my parents."
He held out his wineglass for her to clink.
"Well then, Merry Christmas, Mrs Holmes."
She laughed and knocked their glasses together.
"Merry Christmas, Mr Holmes."
Carefully Hermione set two mugs on the table. She filled the milk jug and adjusted the tea cosy. Then she added a plate of scones she'd bought at the bakery and sat down at the freshly scrubbed table to wait. Mary arrived ten minutes later, looking pink cheeked from the cold outside.
"So tell me about yourself?" The blonde asked, once she had been given a suitably steaming mug. "You don't seem like the type to marry Sherlock Holmes."
Hermione snorted in derision.
"Well, no. I mean John, I understand. They're friends and he's a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but you seem rather..."
"Normal?" Hermione suggested.
Hermione sipped at her tea and considered the question.
"We get on well enough. He's usually swanning around doing things." She shrugged. "It works for us."
"Hermione if you don't mind me asking, how old are you?"
"And Sherlock is...?"
"Thirty four." Hermione said coolly, having worked out where this line of enquiry was going.
"That's a bit of an age gap." Mary suggested cautiously.
Hermione shrugged again.
"I've seen bigger."
Evidently Mary saw the look in her eyes and backed off.
"So tell me about your job. John said you work in the government."
"You want me to be your bridesmaid?" Hermione repeated, dumbfounded.
Marry nodded eagerly, grinning at her new friend.
"Why?" She demanded, incredulously.
"Hermione doesn't wear dresses. She was bullied as a teenager." Hermione threw a scone at her husband's retreating back, frowning when it went sailing past his ear. She hoped he got crumbs in his hair.
"Er...I'd be delighted," She stammered, turning back to Mary. The blonde grinned at her.
"Brilliant. Fittings are next week."
Hermione paused on her way out the door.
"Why did she ask me?" She called.
Sherlock didn't look up from his staring contest with the cat.
"You're the wife of the best man. That and she doesn't have many friends. Strange, really."
Hermione nodded to herself.
BAKER STREET BIMBO!
Just who is the mystery woman living at 221B Baker Street? Reports say that the unknown woman has been living there since the fall of Sherlock Holmes two years ago. Others suggest that she moved in long before either man got there. Has the reclusive detective finally come out of his shell, or does the future Mrs Watson have trouble on the horizon?
Hermione snorted in disgust and threw the paper across the room. At least Mary would get a kick out of that one. The sound of paper hitting the wall with a smack, didn't awaken her husband. On the very rare occasions he actually did sleep (as opposed to napping or sulking), he flopped face first onto the bedwith his arms spread out at ninety degrees on either side of him and from then on became completely impossibly to wake. The only problem with this was he usually collapsed next to her, one arm pinning her to the mattress. (He had once fallen on top of her, but that had resulted in Hermione almost suffocating and cursing him so hard he'd hit the wall across the room. Sherlock took a lot more care after that.) For someone so slender, he was remarkably heavy. Hermione glared at the hand holding tight to her hip.
"The great, emotionless detective," She mocked quietly, summoning her book. "Bloody cuddly is what you are."
Luckily her boss accepted dealing with Sherlock as a viable reason for being late. Mycroft took one look at her when she finally made it in after mid-day and gave what, on any other man, would have been a fond, grateful smile.
Mary groaned, staring down at the long list of wedding details.
"Hermione?" She asked, hoping for a touch of sympathy from a fellow bride. "How did you plan your wedding?"
Hermione accidentally tore the paper napkin she was trying to fold.
"Wedding?" She repeated, startled.
Mary snorted, throwing a bridal magazine at her.
"Yes, wedding. Young thing like you, it must have been huge. I'm thinking pink roses, fluffy white dress..."
Hermione glanced desperately at Sherlock who was watching them over the top of his newspaper.
"Oh, well we...we didn't...uh...actually have a wedding. We got married in a rush. It was an emergency." She explained, looking embarrassed.
"I didn't know the two of you had any children."
Hermione paled and began shredding the napkin between her fingers.
"We don't," She muttered shortly "It wasn't that kind of emergency."
Mary watched the both of them with narrowed eyes. She sometimes got the feeling that she wasn't the only one hiding a strange past.
"I just have to know. What's he like?" Mary asked later, a sea of wedding details sitting between the two.
Hermione frowned at the blonde.
"I don't follow."
"In bed. What's he like?"
Hermione blushed scarlet.
"I wouldn't...we haven't...It's just..." She stammered.
Mary frowned at her.
"How long have you been married?" She asked cautiously.
"Er...three and a half years?"
"And you haven't...?"
Mary stared at her in amazement.
"Well that has to change." She decided and set off down the hallway.
Hermione followed her down the stairs, pleading.
Mary ignored her and grabbed John's coat from the hat stand.
"John? We've got to go."
"We do?" John asked, bewildered.
Hermione retreated to Sherlock's armchair, watching as the storm that was Mary Morstan unfolded.
"We need to go now." She glared at Sherlock. "And you!"
Sherlock raised an eyebrow at her, having learned early on that the tricks that kept John in line so well, did not work on his fiancé.
"Shag your wife!"
Neither Holmes could look at the other without blushing for the rest of the evening and Sherlock banned Mary from the flat for a week.
"Is there a particular reason you two are watching the woman pacing outside?" Hermione asked as she wandered in, pulling on her work robes over her suit.
"She's a client. A boring one." She and John stared out the window at the woman wearing a trench into the pavement.
"Unhappy love affair."
"I can't think."
Wordlessly, Hermione lifted her book out of her lap and Sherlock dropped onto the sofa, laying his head across her legs.
"This is possibly the hardest thing I've ever had to do," He mused.
"Speech still giving you trouble?"
He hummed, turning his head to the side so he could bury his head against her stomach.
"Why did he ask me?" He complained, voice slightly muffled. "Mike Stanford would have been a better man. Even George..."
"Greg Lestrade." She sighed and set her book to the side. "You're going to have to learn his name you know. He's marrying Molly. Speaking of which..."
"You're Maid of Honour. I know."
"Well, yes. I'm going to assume the invitation gave it away? Anyway Greg caught that gang he was after. Molly was very proud."
"She told you about it?"
She groaned, rubbing at her temples.
"Molly is a good friend and lovely person but she becomes incredibly descriptive after several glasses of wine. Mary's hen night." She added as an explanation, when one blue eye glared up at her. She frowned, looking somewhat nauseous. "Mary does too, for that matter."
"Back to my problem..."
"No one ever taught you to share, did they?"
He wrapped an arm around her and tugged her closer.
"No." He grumbled possessively. "Now, do answer the question."
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Why did John ask you? Well, I could assume it's because you're his best friend, or that he enjoys your particular brand of humour or that...what are you doing?"
Sherlock finished unbuttoning the bottom three buttons on her blouse.
"Buttons...uncomfortable." He mumbled, curling up even tighter around her and closing his eyes again.
Hermione tried very hard to ignore the prickle of awareness that his lips were pressed against her skin, something she eventually gave up for a lost cause. Because heaven forbid her husband knew she was attracted to him. Hermione gave a deep sigh and tipped her head back so it rested on the back of the sofa.
"You are incredibly confusing," She whispered, when she was sure he couldn't hear her.
"SHERLOCK HOLMES! Are you showing that boy pictures of severed heads?"
"Ah, yes," Sherlock beamed. "Archie, meet my wife. She's a witch."
Hermione smiled pleasantly at the boy, resting one hand on the back of Sherlock's laptop, causing interference to race across the screen and block out the images in question. Sherlock snarled in disgust and slammed the lid shut.
"Are you really a witch?" the boy asked sceptically.
"Can you do magic?"
"Can I see?"
"Curious child, aren't you?" Hermione lifted her wand and turned Sherlock's hair blue, which caused a shriek of rage from the detective, and a peal of laughter from Archie.
"Green!" The boy pleaded.
"Promise you'll wear the outfit?"
The boy nodded seriously and they shook on it.
"Very well." Hermione waved her wand again and the cyan curls turned grass green.
"SHERLOCK BLOODY HOLMES, I AM GOING TO KILL YOU."
"What did you do this time?" John asked warily, startled by the shout that had come from Sherlock's bedroom.
The world's only consulting detective, (a species that was, by the sounds of things, about to become extinct) grinned.
"I dyed all of her underwear green."
John stared at him.
"I didn't know you even knew what women's underwear looked like." He frowned. "But why green?"
"Revenge!" He dove behind the desk just as Hermione reached the living room.
"Where is he?" Hermione demanded, seemingly unaware that she was dressed only in one of Sherlock's many dressing gowns, which had come untied to reveal her incredibly green lace underwear.
John averted his eyes. Last thing he needed was Mary and Sherlock teaming up to kill him.
"Who?" He asked loyally.
"You would have made an excellent Hufflepuff, John Watson." She narrowed her eyes at the corner of Sherlock's slipper which was poking out from behind the desk. "Aha!"
She grabbed John's cold mug of tea and emptied it over Sherlock's unknowing head. A few seconds later a rather wet and grumpy detective appeared. He stared at Hermione who rested her hands on her hips.
"You're..." He stuttered for a second. "Err..."
"Hamish." He said quietly. "John Hamish Watson, if you're looking for baby names."
"What?...Oh!" Hermione wrapped the dressing gown more securely around her and stormed off.
"Breathe, Sherlock." John teased, still waiting for his friend to move. Sherlock, who was doing a rather admirable impression of a human statue, swallowed and shook his head like a wet dog, splattering John with drops of tea.
"You did tell Hermione about the elephant in the room?" John asked carefully.
"Errr...no." Sherlock grabbed his coat, grinning manically. "RUN!"
There was a loud bang as a car backfired on the road.
John and Lestrade reached for guns that weren't there.
Mrs Hudson kicked a notepad under the sofa.
Hermione went for the wand hidden carefully under her jeans.
And Mary Morstan's hands clenched into fists, as her body tensed.
"Why is Scotland Yard, called Scotland Yard?"
Sherlock revolved slowly and gave his wife the most irritated expression he could manage whilst upside down. He'd decided to test the time it took for the human brain to fill with blood and she'd been entirely too happy to help. Hence why he was hanging from the ceiling by one ankle.
"Don't be stupid," He told her, scornfully.
"I haven't had a history lesson that didn't involve goblins since I was eleven and even then my primary school didn't focus on the history behind the Metropolitan Police. So humour me."
Sherlock seemed to struggle to find words for a moment before he admitted.
"I don't know. I deleted it," He added defensively.
"What is it?" Greg sounded out of breath and annoyed. "Listen Sherlock, I'm a bit busy."
"This is life or death, it's incredibly important, so I need you to listen," Sherlock ordered. "Your answer could change the way we solve crimes in this city, so please employ all of your limited brain power."
Greg seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation.
"There's no need to insult me. I'll help," He sighed. "All right, what's wrong?"
"Why is Scotland Yard called Scotland Yard?"
"He's dreading the wedding."
Hermione stared at her friend over the model replica of the hall.
"I know," She told her quietly.
"I sent them out on a case," Mary murmured, nudging another guest marker.
Hermione laughed, noting down the name.
"And left me here to do the rest of the planning?" She complained, smiling happily.
"That's what friends are for, isn't it?"
Hermione chucked a serviette at her.
"You are evil," She teased.
"This isn't what it looks like!"
John stared at her and the small boy.
"Really? Because that looks like your's and Sherlock's son."
Hermione nodded slowly.
"Does it?" She asked weakly.
The little boy with chocolate brown curls, blue eyes and the promise of devastating cheekbones beamed at him from the floor.
"This is Teddy." The boy waved. "My godson. I'm babysitting."
"'Ello." The boy crowed.
"Sherlock's just gone down to the café to get us some lunch." Hermione smiled innocently. "Don't suppose you want play Legos?"
"Sherlock have you seen...Dean?"
Private Bainbridge and Hermione stared at each other.
"Oh, Merlin floppy wand! Hermione Granger. I haven't seen you since the war."
Hermione hugged him, grinning broadly.
"It's Holmes now," She told him happily, showing him the ring. "What are you doing here?"
John and Sherlock exchanged glances, confused meeting irritated.
"Working in muggle London. I heard about you getting married. Shay told me. And I listened to Potter Watch, of course. Never miss an episode."
"Will someone tell me what that means?" John complained loudly as Sherlock muttered.
"I always miss something!"
They were ignored.
"How is he? I haven't seen him years either. What are you working as?"
"I'm a private in the Army." Dean gave an embarrassed shrug. "Not much choice for a muggleborn with no a-levels. My mum was proud though. Seamus went back to Ireland and married Hannah Abbot. They run a pub now."
Sherlock hadn't seen Hermione smile so broadly since...well...
"That's wonderful. They're training you up?" She asked.
He nodded eagerly.
"Oh, yeah. I'm sitting exams in a month. They reckon I could go for officer training."
"So do you see anyone from..."
"Nah. Shay's the only one I kept in touch with. Hannah talks to Neville occasionally and I see Ginny when she plays for the Harpies. I still drop in for a game now and then. Never stopped to say hi, though. Yourself?"
"Aside from Harry and the Weasleys, I'm the same. Being on the run didn't really help my popularity."
"I...uh...take it you two know each other?" John asked, finally breaking into the conversation.
"What?" Hermione jumped as though she'd forgotten they were there. "Oh, yes. Dean and I went to school together."
The man laughed.
"We virtually lived together for six years, Granger."
"Holmes." Sherlock corrected insistently.
"I remember when we were first years and she had this hair...It was seriously...She looked like a lion. I see you replaced that monster." He added as Rafiki leapt onto Sherlock's shoulder.
"Crooks wasn't a monster." She defended. "And my hair wasn't that bad. At least I didn't try to teach the purebloods football. Anyone could see that was a failure in the making."
"Speaking of purebloods, don't suppose you've seen Malfoy recently?"
Hermione paled and shook her head, covering her forearm.
The same physiological response she has to Potter. He was there.
Sherlock shook himself out of his reverie, dislodging the cat as he did so, in time to hear her response.
"Shay says he's on the straight and narrow now. Working in the muggle world and raising a fortune."
"I'll believe it when I see it. Still I have to ask, what are you doing in my flat?"
"Oh, right. I came here to thank Mr Holmes and Mr Watson." Dean grinned. "They saved my life, you know?"
"You're the bloody guardsman?" She yelled.
"I have an international reputation." Sherlock slurred.
"Of course you do, dear." Hermione sighed and clambered over the pair. They'd collapsed on the staircase but at least they'd made it home safe.
"I'm going to bed." She added, mildly amused at the way Sherlock kept blinking at her, one hand tugging on her trouser leg.
"I like you..." He called as she made her way to the flat.
"Good night, Sherlock."
"Oh my...Greg, is that Greg?" John blinked several times and waited for the room to stop spinning.
"Get up. Someone's here to collect you. I managed to square things with the Desk Sargent." Lestrade laughed. "Honestly, what a couple of lightweights. Couldn't even make it to closing time."
"Can you whisper?" John pleaded, making his way to the door.
Lestrade beamed at them.
Sherlock jerked awake, staring around wide eyed.
The front reception of the local police station was crowded. In part it was due to the usual number of people being bailed out after a Saturday night, but mostly it comprised of every police officer Sherlock had ever irritated, annoyed or even spoken to. Greg Lestrade had put out the word. They were all watching the petite woman who stood in the middle of the floor, her shoulder length hair almost crackling in her anger, with a mixture of awe, fear and expectation. No one dared to go near her.
"Ah, Hermione." Greg grinned as he led his two hung-over friends out. "Here they are. Mostly in one piece."
"Car. Now." She told John coldly. "Mary can deal with you, oh, no you don't."
Sherlock, who'd be trying to sneak by her, froze. John stumbled past him.
"How could you be so bloody stupid?" Sherlock flinched as she yelled at him. "Never mind getting yourself arrested, think about John. He's getting married in a couple of days. You were supposed to be taking care of him, you utter pillock! You're lucky Greg was able to get you out. Imagine if he'd missed his own wedding because of a breaking and entering charge!" Sherlock went pale, but it was probably more due to the hangover than any sense of regret over his actions. "Mycroft sent a car." She jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the door. "March!"
Sherlock hung his head and left, his usually graceful walk reduced to a slow shuffle.
Hermione waited until he was out the door before she swept a low bow. The assembled officers cheered and she walked out feeling extremely satisfied.
The bridesmaids were getting ready and Hermione was trying desperately to do something with her curls, which had once again descended into completely unmanageable. Mary snickered in the corner, still looking slightly green.
"I just realised. If you and Sherlock ever had children, their hair would be impossible! Mind you they'd be impossible anyway. That much stubbornness in one human being...scary."
Hermione rolled her eyes and decided to braid her hair instead.
"I hope Mrs Hudson isn't worrying him." She thought to herself.
"It changes people marriage."
"Mmm, no, it doesn't."
"Well, you wouldn't understand."
"I'm married." He pointed out. "Your husband was executed for double murder. I'd say I'm in a better position to judge."
"Yes, but you two don't really count do you? I always thought with you and John..."
"Mrs Hudson!" He protested.
"Well, anyway. It's not like you love Hermione. Poor girl. Imagine getting saddled with you. Her mother wanted her to be a doctor you know. Of course, we always knew she was bright. Top of her class in primary school."
"Aren't there usually biscuits?"
"I've run out. My point is..."
"Have the shops?" He snapped.
"Marriage, proper marriages, change you as a person in ways you can't imagine. My best friend Margaret, she was my chief bridesmaid, we were going to be best friends forever, we always said that. But I hardly saw her after that. So sad."
"You look very pretty."
Hermione crossed her arms defensively, watching the new Mr and Mrs Watson proceed up the aisle.
"What do you want?" She asked warily.
"Who says I want something?" Sherlock murmured in her ear.
She shivered and smiled up at him, handing him her bouquet to hold.
"The last two years of my marriage?" She suggested easily.
They began to head out of the church following the crush of people into the bright spring sunlight.
"I was being honest." He added.
Hermione stumbled, Sherlock catching her elbow to stop her falling.
"Thank you," She said at last. She looked him over appreciatively. "You look very handsome."
He preened, tugging at his lapels.
"Oh, dear. It'll be a terrible way to die if I suffocate on your ego."
"Did you really promise Archie pictures of a beheading?" Hermione asked quietly, watching the small boy chase a flower girl around the room. They both grimaced at the photographer before turning back to each other.
"Plural. And of course. It's how you deal with children isn't it? Rewards systems?" He frowned, confused.
"Mary was right. Our children would be impossible. You'd spoil them."
"Nothing." She said quickly. "Your mother has a lot to answer for in you, you realise?" She told him grimly.
"Mmm, I know. I have a list. Mycroft has a file."
She frowned over his shoulder.
"The maid of honour is eyeing you up."
"She thinks I'm married," He murmured, watching the guests circulate.
"You are married." Hermione raised her left hand and waved at the woman, making sure the light caught her ring.
"What was that for?"
"Making sure she doesn't forget it" She grumbled.
Hermione glared up at him.
"I am somewhat stuck with you, you know. It'd be a mark on my pride for you to go off with another woman."
"Pride?" he asked, looking amused.
Hermione smiled at the man who'd walked over.
"This is Sherlock. He's the best man," She introduced.
"Boring," He pronounced, looking the man over.
"Why don't you go and talk to Mary?" She gave him a little shove. "I'll be okay."
He stalked off to stand at Mary's shoulder. They watched as John made his way up to a man in military dress, almost vibrating with excitement and Mary filled him in on the mysterious Major Sholto, smirking evilly as she did.
"John says he's the most unsociable man he's ever met."
"Unsociable?" Mary grinned at him. "So that's why he's battering around him like a puppy."
"Oh, Sherlock." She chided.
The detective frowned, attention switching to the other side of the room.
"Who he?" Sherlock demanded. He hadn't bothered to screen John's side of the church, thinking a waste of his precious time. Mary followed his gaze and smirked again.
"Who?" She asked innocently.
"The man flirting with my wife." He growled.
Mary's smirk only grew.
"Paul...something or other. He's one of John's cousins. Bit of a ladies man from what he's told me."
"In name only." Mary scowled, tugging at her skirt. "I think I've put on weight. This dress definitely used to be looser."
He stared at her.
"Half a pound. What do you...?"
Mary cut across him, slightly annoyed about the comment on her weight.
"Well it's an arranged marriage isn't it? Hermione won't tell me very much, doesn't seem to like talking about it, but you two didn't even have a wedding, did you? And it's not like you actually love her." Mary shrugged. "Hermione is a young woman, in the prime of her life. She has needs, you know. Not all of us are able to resist biology as well as you do. And she's a bridesmaid at the wedding" She waved at a nearby relative. "She could do a lot worse than Paul."
"But she's not going to!" Sherlock snarled and stormed off, coat tails flapping behind him. Mary watched gleefully as he stepped between Hermione and Paul, bending down to kiss her.
It was just as well, she thought watching the cousin stalk off, that Hermione had been standing in a darker part of the hall, and that no one noticed the best man backing a bridesmaid into the corner, or the way her hands curled around his neck, one hand burying into his curls.
Mary giggled into her wine.
Hermione could thank her later.
"What was that for?" Hermione gasped.
Sherlock blinked down at her, looking slightly dazed.
"What you said...earlier." He swallowed, tugging on his lapels to straighten his jacket. "It's a point of pride."
Hermione's back stiffened and she nodded curtly.
"Of course. I'm going to go now."
"Took him years to confide in me." He turned. "And Hermione. She knows." He sighed, glaring at the latest addition to the courtroom. "Out of my head. I am busy."
Hermione grinned at him and didn't leave.
"There's only one time that names been made public." He told her, sensing that she wasn't going anywhere soon. "The wedding! She knew about the wedding." Hermione nodded, pushing him along. "More importantly she'd seen a wedding invitation. Now barely a hundred people had seen that. The mayfly man only saw five women. For one woman to be in both groups...could be a coincidence."
The women vanished, leaving Hermione with one eyebrow raised.
"Oh, Sherlock." His brother chimed in, voice irritatingly nasal. "What do we say about coincidences?"
"The universe is rarely so lazy. Hermione, go!"
She nodded and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"Hurry it up, darling. People are starting to stare."
"Not now." She moaned and thumped her head off the table.
"I believe you owe me a dance." Hermione murmured, holding out a hand.
Sherlock smiled slightly and tugged her onto the dance floor, effortlessly moving her across the room.
"You are a superb dancer," She told him, mischievously. "It almost makes watching you waltz alone across the living room less hilarious."
"Where did you learn to dance?" He grumbled, irritated at the reminder she'd caught that particular moment on camera.
"Now there is something I haven't thought about in a while. We had an international competition at my school in my fourth year. I was fifteen and there was a Yule Ball. Naturally dancing lessons were required. Victor was a wonderful dancer." She added thoughtfully, blushing slightly as the hand on her waist tightened.
"You're not going to lose him." She told him, watching him for a response.
"How do you know?" He asked quietly.
She tapped her left hand against his shoulder.
"He didn't lose you." She pointed out.
"As I have so frequently informed, we don't count."
Hermione stiffened, looking away from him.
He gave her a look of mild irritation, one she hadn't received in almost three years.
"Because as you told me before, you married me out of sense of obligation and pity." He spun her so they faced John and Mary who were too wrapped up in each other to notice. "That is sentiment." He said coldly.
"And love," She whispered, when he had left.
"That was beautiful."
Sherlock didn't glance at her as she fell into step beside him.
"I almost wish you'd played at our wedding."
"We didn't have a wedding."
"I almost wish we had," She sighed, looking up at the stars. "Don't you think there is something wrong with this portrait?"
He ignored her, tying his scarf around his neck.
"No one leaves a wedding early. But here you are. Sneaking out, alone, from your best friend's wedding. They've just been told they are going to have a baby and couldn't be happier. You should be there with them."
He stopped and stared at her, shadows glancing off his sharp face.
"I'm not alone." He told her at last, holding out a hand to her. "I've got you."
She smiled gently and laced their fingers together.
"For better or for worse," She whispered as they left.
"Say you're sorry!" Molly demanded. "How could you do this to her?"
"Where is Mrs Holmes?" Sherlock asked, keeping a wary eye on Molly's slapping hand. He was lucky she took her engagement ring off to work.
"She's still out looking for you." John snapped, still quite cross. "She's been worried sick, you bastard."
"I left a note," He defended.
Mary snorted in disgust.
"Yeah, taped to the back of the bathroom mirror." She folded her arms above her non-existent baby bump, mirroring her husband's angry posture. "You're lucky she knows you."
Sherlock glared at them.
"I'm going home." he announced. The double doors to the lab had almost swung shut when he called. "Someone call my wife."
Hermione had slapped him, hugged him tightly, slapped him again and stormed off to her laboratory. He had showered and dressed by the time she returned, holding a steaming teacup.
"Purging potion." She said shortly.
"I don't want it."
"Tough." She straddled him, pinning him to his armchair, holding the potion under his nose. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Call this penance for being an inconsiderate arse. You're lucky it's me here, not Mycroft. He's furious, by the way. Was going to search the flat, but I did it by magic. Much faster." She gave him a deceptively sweet smile. "Drink."
"Or?" He growled.
"Or I walk."
Hermione gave him a cold stare.
"Sherlock," She bit out. "You know I love you, but this...this is the one thing I will not stand for. You have no idea how angry I am with you right now."
He knew. It was written in her body posture, word choice and expressions. He was just still too high to be appropriately worried.
"You drink this potion or I walk and I'm never looking back. I can vanish and you will never find me again."
"Who says I'd care?" He demanded coldly. His hands betrayed him though, settling on her hips and holding her to him with all the strength he could muster.
"You care about me." She told him sadly, a stray tear slipping down her cheek. "Evidently not very much for you to have done this, but it's something. I am a big enough part of your world that I could tear it to pieces if I left. So you will drink or I will leave."
They stared at each other in silence before he admitted defeat and drained the cup. It was the easier option. She smirked and clambered off him, heading for the kitchen.
"You may want to head to the bathroom." She added thoughtfully. "You're going to vomit for the next five minutes." Sherlock bolted past her in a blur of purple and black, the bathroom door slamming shut behind him.
Magnusson paced around Hermione who was holding herself incredibly still, brown eyes fixed on Sherlock.
"It would be a shame..." He leant forward and buried his nose in her curls, making her shudder. "If people were to find out the truth about your wife, Mr Holmes."
Sherlock felt John grab the back of his shirt, but made no move to charge the man circling his wife. He didn't break his gaze with Hermione either, very aware of just how scared she was. He could see her clench her left hand, protecting her ring. He tried to tell her, without words, that he wouldn't let her get hurt.
It wasn't until Magnusson had left that Hermione crumpled, her legs folding beneath her. Sherlock caught her before she hit the ground, tucking her against his chest as he collapsed onto the sofa, well away from the offending fireplace. John sat on the other side of them, one hand absently rubbing Hermione's shoulder.
"Who was that?" She asked shakily.
"Charles Augustus Magnusson." Sherlock said, at the same time as John employed every swear word he'd ever learned in the armed forces (and several from the A&E shift). It gave Hermione a fairly good view of the man.
"He's evil," She murmured. "I could feel it. Like tar and ooze." She shuddered, prompting Sherlock to tighten his arms around her.
"Slightly empathetic." He realised, whispering into her hair. "Of course."
"You never did meet Moriarty, did you?" John said suddenly.
"Moriarty wasn't evil." Sherlock corrected as Hermione pressed her nose into the crook of his neck. "He was mad, insane and utterly cruel...but not evil. Did you notice, the one extraordinary thing he did?"
"There was one thing that stuck in the mind, yeah." John scowled.
"He showed us the letters...Hermione!"
"What?" She lifted her head and stared up at him, alarmed at the abrupt subject change.
He dragged a hand through his hair, ruffling the curls and then stood up suddenly, almost dropping her on the floor.
"You need to leave." He ordered.
"Leave?" She spluttered.
"Leave London. Now!" He grabbed her shoulders, blue eyes staring at her.
"What? Sherlock, I can help with this one. I want to help." Hermione got to her feet.
"No, you can't."
They glared at each other, either forgetting or ignoring John's presence.
"Hermione..." Sherlock pleaded quietly. "I don't want you anywhere near this case or Magnusson. If today proved anything it's that he's willing to use you to get to me and I am not going to risk that."
"You're trying to protect me," She breathed. The detective flinched as though that wasn't a statement he liked but could do nothing to refute.
She shook her head, backing away from him.
"No. I'm staying and I'm helping."
Getting into Magnusson's office hadn't been a problem. Hermione had given him a charm which would render him identical to the newspaper mogul, if anyone other than John looked. Apparently it was based on a prank item sold by a friend of hers. Add a corrupted key card (given to Hermione to hold for thirty seconds) and Janine the PA and he and John had been in the lift in no time.
Discovering the Irish woman collapsed on the floor had been the first sign something wasn't right.
However running up the stairs alone hadn't been his best idea either.
"That's not Lady Smallwood, Mr Holmes."
"Is John with you?" Mary demanded. He mumbled nonsense under his breath, tightening his grip on his ring, hoping she would get the message. "Is John here?" She pressed.
She nodded and it was the same cheerful gesture that he had seen a thousand times.
"Sherlock, I swear if you take one more step..." Mary warned. "I will kill you."
"No, Mrs Watson. You won't."
He stepped forward and then immediately stumbled back again. He heard the bullet retort before he'd even registered she'd pulled the trigger.
Shock. It's the next thing that's going to kill you.
Find something to calm you down!
It's okay, Sherlock. I'm here!
The last thing he heard before he lost consciousness was John and Hermione yelling.
Only one of the voices was in his head.
"Oh, God...I'm begging you."
Sherlock drifted in and out of consciousness. He survived the surgery apparently. That was nice.
"Please not him. I'll do anything but please not him."
The sense of weightlessness was due to the strong painkillers coursing through his veins.
"I can't lose him again."
"You were praying." He murmured, the next time he awoke.
"I do that, sometimes." She whispered in response.
"For me?" He mumbled. His eyelids were too heavy to open and his thoughts were unguarded, drifting from his mouth without his permission.
There was something he wasn't supposed to say...Something on the tip of his tongue...
Ah, that was it.
"Can't tell you."
There was a soft exhale, possible of amusement. Morphine. Definitely morphine. Morphine was nice...
"I won't tell. Love you." She kissed his cheek.
"Get some rest." She whispered. "I'll be here when you wake up."
"Who shot you?"
Sherlock ignored her, keeping his eyes firmly closed.
"I know, that you know, who it was."
He remained mute and she sighed.
"I'm going shopping with Mary later. Do you want anything?"
He tensed slightly.
Hermione gave another sigh and although he couldn't see her face, he could guess at the expression on it.
"I'm going to assume it wasn't your sterling personality that caused a bullet to your chest?" She murmured tiredly.
"I love how supportive you are." he grumbled.
She snorted, lacing her fingers through his.
"I almost lost you. Again." She breathed and he only just caught the break in her voice. He opened his eyes, gaze running over her. Her hair was a tangled mess of snarled curls from where she'd been running her hands through it and her face was blotchy from tears.
"Again?" He queried.
"New Deli," She whispered tiredly. "I lied to you about how ill you were. It was touch and go for a moment, I didn't have the right potions and muggle medicine is so unreliable." She sighed and he stared at her. "And this time...I didn't get to you in time. I could have helped but I had my bloody ring off. I was in the bath." She explained, looking almost hysterical with guilt. "And I didn't feel the protection charm go off. By the time John called me you were in surgery and it was too late to do anything."
"It wasn't your fault," He assured her, rather alarmed that his usually logical wife had come to such a silly conclusion.
"Wasn't it?" She whispered morosely.
"You were worried." It was a statement rather than a question, but she answered anyway, choking on a laugh as she did so.
"I was terrified."
He opened his arms as wide as the IV would allow.
"You're injured," She protested.
She rolled her eyes and clambered up next to him, resting her head on his arm, careful not to disturb the bandages. She gave a deep sigh and her shoulders relaxed slightly.
"Between you and John I spend far too much time in hospitals." She mused. "Now...what are we going to do about Mary?"
"John?" Mrs Hudson spluttered.
"Mary?" She added, when the furious looking doctor didn't answer.
"Hermione?" The witch grimaced, holding the door open.
"Oh, Sherlock. Oh, good gracious, you look terrible."
"Hermione..." He pleaded, using the door frame to hold himself upright. She nodded shortly and pushed past Mrs Hudson into the kitchen so she could search the cupboards. She didn't look at Mary as she passed, keeping her gaze firmly away from the blonde.
"Watson's about to have a domestic." Sherlock panted. "And fairly quickly I hope because we've got work to do."
"No, I've got a better question." The doctor spun on his heel to stare at his wife, jaw clenched. "Is everyone I've ever met a psychopath?"
"Yes." Sherlock said. Mary and Hermione nodded.
"Good that we've settled that, now we..."
Mrs Hudson jumped and Hermione scowled reproachfully at John as she passed, slipping one of Sherlock's arms around her shoulders so he could lean on her.
"And stay shut up, because this is not funny. Not this time."
"I didn't say it was funny." Sherlock breathed, leaning heavily on Hermione.
"You." John spat at Mary. "What have I ever done, in my whole life, to deserve you?"
"Sherlock, I've told you. Shut up."
"No, I mean it." His breathing was getting more laboured. "Seriously. Everything. Everything you've ever done is what you did."
"Sherlock, one more word and you will need more than your wife to hold you up." John threatened. Sherlock continued anyway.
"You were a doctor who went to war. You're a man who couldn't stay in the suburbs for more than a month without storming a crack den and beating up a junkie. Your best friend is a sociopath who solves crimes as an alternative to getting high. That's me by the way. Hello." He swayed alarmingly as he waved. "Your landlady used to run a drug cartel..."
"It was my husband's cartel." Mrs Hudson broke in. "I was just typing."
"And exotic dancing."
"Sherlock." Hermione cautioned.
"Oh yes and let's not forget, even my wife is a decorated war hero, who was exiled from the country and has killed more men than I have!"
Hermione dropped Sherlock onto the sofa with more force than was needed, looking very pale. Dimly, John recognised her expression. He'd seen it on soldiers before. Regret. And anger.
"John, you are addicted to a certain kind of lifestyle. You're abnormally attracted to dangerous situations and people so is it truly such a surprise that the woman you fall in love with conforms to the same trend?"
Hermione forced a vial into his hand.
"Drink it," She hissed.
"Suffer heart failure. See if I care."
"You love me," He murmured, watching the Watsons argue.
"Oh, do shut up."
"Why are you still talking to me?" Hermione settled herself onto the sofa. The Watson household was unusually empty now that John had taken back his old room at Baker Street and Mary almost seemed to rattle around in it.
"Well, partly because you're pregnant, and I want godmother rights..." Mary smiled very slightly. "And partly because I understand what you're going through. And partly because I know you didn't try to kill my husband."
"Mary." Hermione snapped. "If you are half as good at what you do as Sherlock seems to think you are that bullet would have gone in his head. I saw what you did to that coin." Hermione reached for her teacup.
"How can you understand? I lied to John."
"I lie to Sherlock on a regular basis," She returned.
"I hid my entire life from him. He doesn't even know my real name!"
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Mary, if you think you're the only one trying to leave a difficult past behind you'd be wrong."
Mary sat up a little straighter, one hand resting on her stomach.
"Sherlock said you were a war hero."
Mary looked her over critically, with the trained eye of a woman gauging up an opponent.
"He said you'd killed people."
Hermione winced and shook her head.
"Not intentionally," She whispered at last.
"Even with the best will in the world there's no way you would've been an adult." Mary pointed out.
"What the hell were you doing with Sherlock Holmes?"
"To begin with? Protecting him. Which reminds me..." Hermione levelled a stare at Mary that convinced her she was just as deadly as she promised. "If you ever hurt my husband again, I will do my very best to make that baby an orphan."
Mary nodded in agreement. That, at least, was something she understood.
Hermione clasped her hands together, smiling brightly.
"How about this? You make me godmother and I will do everything in my power to keep you safe. Including working on John."
Mary stared at her.
"Oh, not this again." She took a long drink of tea. "So...have you had any cravings?"
"Do you want to talk about this?"
John glared at him.
"Talk." He waved his hands. "About what's happened. It's supposed to help, not of course that I agree with that statement, load of touchy feely nonsense if you ask me but I find that normal people do sometimes find it helpful."
John clenched his jaw and turned back to his laptop.
"No. I don't want to talk about it."
"It's just..." He squinted as though trying to read his next words from very far away. "I understand."
John slammed the lid of the laptop shut.
"NO! You don't. You have no idea. I loved my wife. You don't!"
Sherlock barely kept his temper.
"Why do people keep saying that?" He demanded, seething.
"What?" John stared at him, the wind firmly taken out of his sails. "Because it's true."
"Is it?" He asked hollowly.
"Wait a second. Sherlock...do you love Hermione?"
Sherlock could tell you the moment he'd realised he was in love with Hermione. They had been in the middle of a case which John would probably have dubbed the "Blonde Billionaire".
The man was aristocratic and one arranged marriage away from being inbred. He wore a suit which had been artfully tailored, his blonde hair was neatly cut and if it weren't for the scar on his cheek, features which could have been described at refined. He had the look of a man who'd grown up sneering and had only recently stopped. He was also a wizard.
"I assume you're here to see my wife," He asked, not looking up from his violin. Rafiki sneezed and presented the man with his back.
"You would be right, Mr..."
"Holmes." He looked up and glared at him. "Sherlock Holmes."
"I'm afraid Hermione's out at the moment. She'll be home shortly. Please..." He smiled dangerously. "Have a seat."
Sherlock knew exactly who the man was. After Private Thomas (as he turned out to be) had mentioned him, Sherlock had looked him up. The Malfoy family tree was well documented and Hermione really needed to learn not to leave her books on wizarding genealogy lying around. His mother had been Narcissa Black and his father, a man named Lucius Malfoy. From what he could deduce the entire family had been involved in the war and not on the winning side. But it was Hermione's reaction to the man's name which had interested him the most. She'd been rather scared and very sad all at the same time.
Hermione arrived home at five, by which time Sherlock and Rafiki had been staring at Malfoy, in complete silence, for almost an hour. She apparated into her laboratory downstairs, which was kept locked for this precisely that purpose. The last thing they needed was her scaring away clients. The crack wasn't loud enough to be heard upstairs, at least not by anyone who didn't know what signs to look for, but the sound of her unlocking the door was. Draco Malfoy swallowed and stood, almost radiating nervousness.
Hermione froze when she saw him, halfway through taking of her coat.
"Malfoy," She greeted warily.
"Holmes." Sherlock snapped, in correction. Malfoy nodded.
"My apologies. Mrs Holmes, it's a pleasure to see you again."
"Now that I doubt." Hermione hung her coat, not taking her eyes of the blonde for a second. "Are you here to see Sherlock?" She asked cautiously.
"Oh, do sit down, Malfoy." She snapped. "We're not one to stand on ceremony here. Besides if I remember correctly those rules don't apply in the presence of one such as me."
"Mrs Holmes..." He sat back on the very edge of the sofa and he seemed to lose his nerve. "How have you been?" he asked weakly.
Hermione took her seat in John's armchair and frowned.
"I've been as well as can be expected," She acknowledged cautiously. "And yourself?"
"How's your mother?" She asked, softening slightly.
"Mother is doing well. Living in France at the moment although she'll be moving back for the birth. Astoria is pregnant." He added.
"Congratulations. I heard you got married. The Greengrass family were neutral during the war, weren't they?" The question was delicately asked, but carried the weight of a sledge hammer behind it.
The man nodded.
"That is...good. Arranged, was it?"
"Mother's doing. They were of good status and Astoria and I got on well enough. Not all of us have the luxury of marrying for love." He added defensively.
"No, we don't." She told him sadly and the blond man blinked, staring at the two of them in something close to amazement.
The entire conversation was edged with forced politeness. Hermione didn't like this man and she was making no secret of it. Malfoy, on the other hand, eyed Hermione with something between fear and respect.
"Draco, you've called me much worse things than my given name. Use it," She ordered.
The man paled as Sherlock watched. There was a history between these two.
"Hermione, then. I've come to you because I understand that you may be able to help me. I run a small…"
"Large," Sherlock broke in.
"In muggle London." Draco glared reproachfully at Sherlock and went back to pretending he wasn't there. "Recently some items were stolen from me. I managed to retrieve them, they turned up on the market a week later and I bought them back. What I want to know is...how?"
"What was your security like?" Sherlock demanded.
"Top of the range," Draco sighed. "No locks were picked, no guard tipped off. The alarms were never tripped and according to the computer, the door never opened."
"No wards?" Hermione asked.
"Can't risk them. Too many computers."
"What was stolen?" Hermione demanded.
"Some documents. It's not important."
"Liar," Sherlock taunted.
"I won't help you if you don't tell the truth." Hermione dead panned.
Malfoy visibly floundered for a moment, before regaining his composure.
"Several cursed objects. Gringotts refuses to deal with my family any more..."
"At least I didn't set their bloody dragon free," He snapped. The two of them froze before Hermione broke into an easy smile.
"Stop being so formal, Malfoy," She teased, relaxing at last. "It doesn't suit you."
The other wizard glanced at Sherlock and nodded.
"And...I didn't wish to have them around the house. The persons who stole them washed up three days later, dead."
"Wizards?" She asked.
"We don't know. They were...unrecognisable by the time we caught up to them."
"Sherlock?" Hermione asked quietly.
"We're going to need to see your vault."
Malfoy had a private car which drove them smoothly though the city.
"I have to ask." Hermione stared out the window. "I didn't think you'd know enough to survive in muggle London."
"Mother...After the war she felt it prudent to remove us from the magical world. She enrolled me in a muggle university. It was quite an...education."
"People thought I was rather strange."
"I was under the impression technology didn't work around the abnormally inclined?"
"I am not abnormal." Hermione hissed reproachfully. "And if we're not using any magic it works fine. Your laptop's continually on the blink because there is usually some magic going on."
"You have a lovely warding scheme," Draco complimented, evidently sensing a way he could gain favour.
"Thank you. The entire flat is covered in magic because we're fully warded."
"And when you touch things?"
"Er...that would be the glamour charm."
Hermione didn't answer so Draco filled the gap.
"They're basic cosmetic charms used to alter eye colour or hide stretch marks or..." He paled suddenly, staring at Hermione's arm. "Scars," He whispered.
Nobody spoke for the rest of the trip.
The building was large and glass and filled with people in suits. The sort of place Sherlock usually despised.
Hermione wandered into the vault, looking around with an interested expression.
"I'm surprised you have the nerve to ask my wife for any favours," Sherlock hissed venomously.
"She told you then?"
"That you stood by and watched her be tortured?" He demanded. "Or that you bullied her for six years? No, she didn't." Hermione's school years were not something she liked talking about. "It's written all over you. What I really want to know is why you are quite so scared of her?"
"I owe her a life debt." Sherlock just raised an eyebrow. "Of course, I forgot you were a muggle." There was just the slightest hint of sneer on that word. "When a wizard saves another wizards life they are put in that person's debt. During the final battle...She saved my life. She didn't have to and Merlin knows I didn't deserve it. Morgana, the things I put her through..." Malfoy seemed disgusted with himself. "Still, it's partly because of that I turned my life around. I knew she would help me and I want to prove to her that I've changed."
"Which is why you dragged her here when you really don't need her help?" He asked coolly.
"Can you blame me for wanting to prove my redemption to the one person I am never going to convince?" Was the whispered retort.
Hermione wandered back over to them.
"What's the name of this company?" She asked, seemingly in high spirits.
Hermione stared at him.
"What?" she breathed.
"We, mother and I, felt that it was appropriate. He was the only one in our family worth honouring. Co-incidentally I go by Black now."
"Sirius would have hated this," She told him, cheerfully.
"Which is why we haven't told Potter."
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"So is it just called Sirius..."
"Oh no. Sirius Cybernetics!"
Hermione dissolved into laughter.
"Tell me you're joking." She gasped.
"Is this a muggle thing?" He asked sceptically.
"Apparently," Sherlock replied, utterly confused by his wife's antics.
"Oh, well. So, go on Sherlock..." She beamed at him. "I know you're dying to tell him. Share and enjoy."
Whilst Hermione dissolved into yet another fit of giggles, Sherlock led the way over to the small patch of floor which had caught his attention immediately. It wobbled as they stood on it.
"These should be stuck to the floor, they're tiles. But..." He jumped up and down. "Someone's tunnelled underneath."
Malfoy lead them out through the building, Hermione now hefting a rather heavy sack, which jingled faintly.
"Thank you. You didn't have to and..."
Hermione smiled faintly.
"You're welcome, Malfoy. It's nice to see some things have changed since the war."
"Mr Black!" The trio turned to stare at the pug faced secretary who advanced on them. She drew up short when she caught sight of Hermione. "You!"
"And some things evidently haven't." Hermione taunted. "Hello, Parkinson."
Malfoy's warning went unheard as the witch went for her wand. Hermione pushed Sherlock to one side with a wave of her hand, drawing her own wand.
"Parkinson, settle down," Malfoy ordered, pulling a wand from the sheath on his wrist. Not for the first time, Sherlock felt entirely out matched in her world.
Out matched and left out.
"I knew Drakey was desperate, but to reach out to the muggle whore?"
Hermione chuckled darkly.
"I'm an honest woman, Parkinson. Married and everything. Unlike you, I see. Passed over for someone far more respectable."
The spells flew suddenly, Hermione on the defensive but easily keeping the other witch at bay. Draco was trying to intercede but wasn't being much help, especially after a lump of masonry almost clipped his head.
Sherlock moved, but not fast enough to dodge the spell Parkinson sent towards him. Hermione noticed just in time erecting a shield around him, which unfortunately left her open and vulnerable to the second curse.
Hermione staggered suddenly and crumpled, Sherlock leaping towards her.
There was a wordless scream as Draco finally knocked out the other witch.
"Hermione! Talk to me."
There wasn't any bleeding, but there wouldn't be with magic. Sherlock couldn't think straight as he pleaded with his wife to wake up. For one horrible moment his brain considered life without her and he shied away from the idea.
"Hermione, please!" He begged.
"It's all right." Draco told him. "Pansy just got her with a stunner. Revenerate. She's had worse."
That wasn't a thought Sherlock wanted to dwell on right now, and he didn't have to because Hermione came around in his arms.
"I am going to give her beaver teeth." Was the first thing she hissed as her eyes opened.
And she did. By the time she'd finished cursing her old schoolmate, Sherlock had finally gotten himself under control. He'd also come to a conclusion.
"Hermione is very important to me." He told John, unwilling to say the words out loud for the first time. "She is..."
John stared at him.
"We're a right pair of numpties, aren't we?"
"I'm in love with a woman who lied to me and you're in love with a woman who thinks you hate her." John snorted, fiddling with the USB. "Our wives must be mental."
"Where have you been?"
Hermione grinned cheerfully.
"I was at the Leaky. We had a DA meeting."
Sherlock gave her the frown he reserved for when she was babbling on about something he didn't understand. Hermione dumped her bag and cloak in a heap and curled up in his lap. He stared down at her disdainfully.
"When I was in my fifth year, Harry and I started a secret defence club called Dumbledore's Army. We meet up every so often. Tonight we were celebrating Dennis' promotion. Nice boy, Dennis. Bit shrill, but that can't be helped. Harry was there and Ginny and Ron and George and Luna and..."
When it became apparent she was going to list every occupant of the pub, Sherlock clapped a hand across her mouth. He scowled when she licked him.
"You're drunk." he accused.
"Nope!" She winked at him. "I'm tipsy. Cheerful even."
She poked him in the chest.
"You, Mr Holmes, are no fun. I spent a lot of time talking to Seamus and Neville. We're going to go out next week. You know they've never been to the cinema?"
"Are you jealous?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Hermione."
She sobered slightly, shifting in his lap so she was at eye level with him.
"You have nothing to worry about." She told him, quite serious.
"Mmm." She leaned in and brushed her lips against his, smirking when his eyes fluttered shut. "Really?"
"Oh, do shut up." She ordered, pulling him closer to her. Sherlock closed the last few inches and kissed her soundly.
"Who is this?"
Hermione experienced the rare joy of Sherlock Holmes looking sheepish.
"This is Hermione. She's my..."
The couple turned and glared at Mycroft, who grinned smugly as he made his way up the garden path. Hermione didn't miss the way Sherlock's eyes seemed to be drawn to the laptop held under one suited arm.
"Hello, Mummy! I've turned up." The elder Holmes scowled. "Can I go back to work now?"
"No, you may not!" Mrs Holmes snapped, stepping aside to let Mycroft past. She turned back to glare at her younger son.
"You got married?" She hissed.
"You didn't tell your mother?" She breathed, horrified.
"Yes, thank you, Mycroft." Sherlock glared at his beother, who was hovering just down the hall. "Mother, this is, Hermione Holmes nee Granger."
"Granger?" The woman barked. "Not Emma's girl?"
"Emma?" Sherlock asked, confused.
"Emma Haughton. Married a Granger. Became a dentist if I recall correctly and named her daughter some frightful mouthful."
"That's from the woman who named me William Sherlock Scott Holmes." Sherlock mumbled.
"I heard that." His mother warned.
"That's her, yes."
"Oh. Well I went to school with your mother, you know. Several years above her, of course, but we were both rather bright so we stuck together as it were. Kept in touch, do come in," Hermione and Sherlock followed her into the house. "After we left school. Haven't heard from her in years. How is she?"
"Dead," Sherlock said pointedly, to save Hermione from answering.
"Oh." Mrs Holmes froze for a moment. "I am very sorry to hear that. Still if you're Emma's girl you should have a sensible head on your shoulders." She glared at Hermione. "So what are you doing married to my son?"
John and Mary felt awkward.
Something that was quite an achievement when you realised that they were in the middle of a break in their marriage, sitting side by side and almost six months pregnant. This was probably the tensest lunch they'd ever attended and Mary had dined with assassins.
Hermione stared down the older Mrs Holmes with a look of mild bemusement, as though she had seen worse.
Mrs Holmes glared at the young woman from across the bowl of sprouts, looking irritated.
Mycroft was grinning (John had taken a photo to show to Greg) into his teacup and Sherlock...well Sherlock looked nervous.
"So, how did you do in your A levels dear?" Mrs Holmes asked.
Hermione smiled the glacial smile she usually reserved for Donovan.
"I haven't taken any. Nor have I attended a University."
"But you're so young dear. Isn't she, Sherlock?"
John wasn't sure when his best friend has learned self-preservation, but was glad it has kicked in now as Sherlock wisely kept his mouth shut.
"Almost nine years younger in fact," She continued. "Well I remember how it was at that age. So keen to settle down with someone wealthy."
Hermione's eyes narrowed.
"Are you insinuating something, Mrs Holmes?" She asked quietly.
"Blatantly stating, dear."
Hermione sighed and rested her knife and fork on the table.
"Mrs Holmes, for a mathematician you do seem to lack an ability to count." Mycroft winced. "Do you think Sherlock earns anything for what he does? Before we met I believe he lived off John's earnings as a GP and the occasional private fee. I myself provide most of our income."
"And what, exactly, do you do? Only your family is dead and as far as I can work out since your mother packed you off at eleven to some boarding school, you've achieved very little in your life, with the exception of marrying my son."
The room tensed as they waited for Hermione's response. John was never entirely sure what Hermione did do. Just that she did something. Next to him he felt Mary stiffen as she frowned at Hermione. Not in suspicion, in understanding. Hermione smiled calmly at Mary and his wife relaxed slightly.
"I am the Civil Liaison Minister in the Government." She smiled. "A rather boring post but it pays well."
The two Mrs Holmes' watched each other through narrowed eyes.
Everyone turned to look at Sherlock who had finally lifted his head from his hands and was staring at them. John sighed. Someone was about to receive a lecture.
"Kindly cease interrogating my wife, mother." He snapped. "If anything you should be thanking her. She has saved me so many times and utterly turned my life around. Which I do not say lightly. Added to that she was my sole companion in what had to be one of the worst times of my life." Sherlock glared fiercely around the table. "I didn't tell you about our marriage because I feared it would cause precisely this reaction. Not because I am ashamed of her. Hermione is the kindest, brightest and most loving woman I have ever had the honour to meet and she willingly shackled herself to me to protect me. She didn't have to stay with me and John knows I've done more than enough to give her reason to leave. She has gone through hell because of me. That she hasn't is a testament to her strength and love." He met her gaze, eyes almost burning in their intensity. "And I have never been more grateful or proud to call her my wife."
Sherlock caught her as she slumped to one side, the sedative taking hold instantly.
"Sorry, dear," He murmured, draping the Belstaff across her shoulders. She'd know he was coming back this way. "Country to save. You understand. Keep an eye on her," He ordered Wiggins and went to find John.
Sherlock allowed himself to be escorted onto the plane, John and Mary waving him off from the tarmac. He hadn't seen Hermione since he'd drugged her several weeks ago and loath to admit it though he was; he'd missed her. She kept him afloat in ways even John couldn't manage. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts it wasn't until they sat down next to him that he even registered the other person's presence on the plane.
"Why are you crying?"
He stared at her, wide eyed.
"Hello, Captain." She whispered softly.
He didn't bother to tell her that she'd be killed or to list the reasons she shouldn't go with him. She already knew all that.
"Why?" He asked instead.
The plane began to taxi down the runway, picking up speed.
"You're a fool if you think I'd let you go into this alone," She murmured.
"How?" He demanded.
"Mycroft's hands are tied," She told him gently. "You left him with no choice. However, it's not his fault if you somehow manage to survive this suicide mission they're sending you on. He knows there are few people more invested in keeping you safe than me."
"What about the cat?"
"We're flying to our deaths and you're asking about Rafiki?" She rested her head on his shoulder. "Mrs Hudson is looking after him until we get back.
"We can't escape this one," He told her seriously.
Hermione laughed sadly.
"Haven't you heard?" She asked him. "We're Holmes'. We're very hard to kill."
He dropped a kiss onto her forehead, both of them ignoring the stray tears falling down their cheeks.
"Love you," She whispered.
"I never told you," He realised suddenly, sitting up straight.
"Told me what?" Hermione looked visibly amused.
"That I..." He stumbled over his words. "What I mean is...love...There is a chemical reaction in my brain which..."
She burst out laughing and clapped a hand across his mouth.
"Don't strain yourself," She teased, settling herself back against his shoulder. "I already know."
"You do?" He scowled. "How?"
"I'm cleverer than you."
"Hello, little brother, how's the exile going?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes.
"We've only been gone four minutes."
"Well, I certainly hope you've learned your lesson."
"We are going to have a conversation about what dangerous things you allow my wife to do."
Hermione laughed as Mycroft complained loud enough for her to hear.
"As if I could stop Mrs Holmes from doing anything. She's a stubborn as you are. Besides as it turns out, you're needed."
Hermione, who'd been listening, groaned.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake, Mycroft. Make up your mind."
"Who needs me this time?" Sherlock demanded.
His brother sighed.
Well you've waited a long time for that. Was it worth it?
Special thanks go to Genius and Nightgigjo who beta'd this for me and offered constructive criticisms.
I know we'll be waiting a long time for series four so I was thinking of doing a side story about Anthea and Mycroft. Interested?
Thank you for all your support and reviews, so please keep them coming.
Marion E A Hood