Chapter Twenty One
The room was dark. The bed was uncomfortable. Every single muscle in Hermione's body screamed out in pain when she moved. She felt as if she had been asleep for weeks and still could sleep more. Any bit of movement was a struggle. When she tried to turn her head to take in her surroundings, she found herself unable to shift more than an inch or two.
Her failed attempt at moving around caught the attention of someone else in the room. She couldn't see who it was, but could hear footsteps on the hard floor growing louder. The bed dipped down behind her and she all but melted into the embrace she had been desperate for since this horrible nightmare began. As large, strong arms wrapped themselves around her exhausted and stiff frame, she sighed the sigh of deep contentment.
"How are you feeling, Princess?" Thorfinn whispered softly into her ear.
Hermione shivered at the feel of his breath tickling the sensitive skin just there. Yes, they had had the opportunity to touch and kiss and even cuddle when they were inside his jail cell. That had not been enough. Even though she was fairly certain she was back inside the thrice-damned Spell Damage ward at St. Mungo's, she began to feel at ease again. Her memories were hazy. Was it all over? Did they have anything else to fear?
"I feel… weird," she answered, every syllable a struggle to utter.
Thorfinn's lips pressed to her hair just above the same ear. His arms tensed slightly. For such a large, impressive man, he could be gentle and tender when necessary. She remembered the way he held his little, crying niece and how he calmed her down with promises that he would not let anything hurt her again. That had been a side to him that Hermione was both surprised and riveted to see.
"You don't feel weird to me," he replied, playfully squishing her in a few places with his fingers. "In fact, you feel almost heavenly."
"Ha ha, Thorfinn," she answered, her sarcasm failing spectacularly in that moment. Every word was slowly becoming easier to speak. "What happened?"
Her wizard sighed deeply behind her. It was the noise that she had come to associate with his attempt to hide his fear. Unfortunately, she had had experience listening to the sound over the course of their whirlwind romance on multiple occasions.
"You scared the shite out of me, Princess. Again."
He kissed her head once more in the same spot.
"No, nothing to be sorry about," he assured her. "It was all my fault. Fucking bastard of a brother-in-law tried to kill you again because I did not put him down when I had the chance."
Hermione's strength was gradually returning the longer she was awake. She summoned up enough to place her hand on one of his arms. The slow rub she managed served to soothe his ire somewhat. Tense moments passed where he tried to calm down even further.
"He was drunk," Thorfinn explained. "Disgustingly pissed. According to some of the Healers here, he'd been pissed for days. Obviously not thinking clearly. Knew that you knew where Reina and the girls were. Only an idiot would attack you in front of two aurors and a former auror."
His grip on her tightened slightly as if he were trying to convince himself that she was really there.
"The Minister was able to perform the countercurse in time, but because you had just been cursed a few days earlier, your body almost could not handle the damage. They had to rush you here. Apparently it was touch and go there for a little bit."
The emotion in his voice was heavy. Hermione knew that if she had the strength to turn her head around to stare into his handsome face she would see tears rolling out of his beautiful blue eyes. She hated that she had given this man any reason to worry. No, it had not been her fault that a crazed drunkard was intent on ending her life, but she still could not stymie the overwhelming guilt she was experiencing. Had he not suffered enough in his short time outside of Azkaban?
"The Minister brought me over here immediately after I was released. He's not a bad bloke."
Hermione chuckled. No, she could honestly say Kingsley had been a lifesaver and sanity-preserver over the past several days. He had been the only one who had been consistently on her side. She was not sure how she would ever be able to repay him for his kindness.
"I've been here ever since. Just watching and waiting."
"How long have I been here? What day is it?"
"It's either very late Wednesday or very early Thursday. I don't have a watch."
All of the drama happened on Sunday. Poor man had been stuck in the hospital with her for almost four days. Hermione did her best with her limited strength to push her body up against his in some attempt at reassurance. She was really only able to manage wiggling her bum against him.
"Careful there, Princess," he teased. "You are not cleared for any type of vigorous activity just yet and if you keep that up, I might lose all self-control."
"Sorry," she muttered. "You haven't left at all? That must have been very boring for you."
"Well, that's not the complete truth. Reina forced me to go back to my flat two days ago to take a proper shower and change clothes. She did not think you would appreciate waking up to find me in dirty clothes with a week old beard."
Hermione laughed softly. As if that would have mattered to her at all! He could've been covered in spattergroit and she still would have wanted his arms around her.
"Noticed something strange when I got there," Thorfinn continued.
"Not only was the flat spotless, but every single possession I owned was packed up in neat, little, perfectly labeled boxes. Now who would do something like that for me?"
"I'm not letting you go back to that horrifying neighborhood to sleep in that smelly building."
Thorfinn laughed. He almost sounded like his normal self again. Only a hint of heavy emotion was still present in his voice.
"Well, then that will work perfectly with my plans," he stated.
"What are your plans?"
"To never, ever allow you out of my sight again."
"Funny, I had the same plan with you in mind."
Her wizard nuzzled her curls with his cheek. She could only imagine how horrendous her hair must look after days stuck in a hospital bed, but if Thorfinn did not mind, she would not give it another thought.
"Permanent sticking charm?" he suggested with another laugh.
She did not want to ask the next question as they were being lighter than they had been when she first woke up. There was a lot she needed to know however.
"So what happened to Smith?"
Thorfinn sighed and kissed the top of her head yet again.
"Well, the auror that caught him almost killed him," he stated.
"Your mate Potter and the tosser had to pull him off of the arsehole. Smashed his face in. Smith had a broken nose, lost a couple of teeth and had a fractured cheekbone. Shacklebolt told me all of this in confidence, of course, but he thought I had a right to know."
"Oh my god. That's awful."
"Potter chose not to reprimand the wizard for his 'excessive use of force' I believe Shacklebolt called it because it was you who was the victim."
Iain had always had a bit of a short fuse. It was another one of the problems they faced in their relationship. While in that circumstance Hermione could certainly excuse his passionate response, when he became furious over a broken teacup, his temper was a problem.
"Another old boyfriend?" Thorfinn asked. She managed a tiny nod of her head. "Oh, Princess. Breaking hearts up and down the British Isles. How many more of them are there out there?"
"The next time I get falsely imprisoned for a crime I did not commit, I will write up a list for you."
Her cheeky response earned her a sharp laugh and the gentlest bite to her shoulder. She joined him in his laughter moments later. It felt surreal to be lying in a lumpy hospital bed with the wizard snuggled up behind her laughing about their pasts. Part of her held on to a tiny fear that she was still dreaming. To keep her mind occupied on less morose thoughts, she used her still limited strength to take a look at the dim hospital room. On the small dresser next to the bed she saw several bouquets of gorgeous flowers and a few homemade 'get well' cards. The childish drawings made her smile. She looked forward to being able to take a closer look at them later.
"You said Reina was back?"
"Yes, she and Pasha brought the girls back the day you were attacked. They've come to visit you every single day. The girls have been very interested in what was happening with you. They've drawn you several pictures."
"That's so sweet. I hope they weren't frightened."
"No, they were more curious than anything. Pasha told the girls you were in an enchanted sleep like Sleeping Beauty. They kept begging me to kiss you like the prince always does in the fairy tale."
Hermione felt her heart tighten at his story. She did not want to cry so soon after waking, but she felt oddly emotional and vulnerable. Being alone with Thorfinn again made her feel all at once completely secure and entirely exposed.
"And did you?" she asked.
"Yes, Princess. Many, many times."
He kissed her head yet again to further his point.
"Would have been nice if you could have woken up the first time I kissed you and Amelia and Lucy were watching. They should think their Uncle Finn can do whatever he wants."
"I'm so sorry that I ruined your plans. Do you want me to pretend to be asleep the next time they visit and you can try again?"
"Nah, the moment has already passed. They will just have to learn that their favorite uncle is indeed fallible."
Their mutual laughter gave way swiftly to another comfortable silence. Hermione had a thousand questions to ask the wizard. While she did not want to ruin the moment, her curiosity soon overrode all of her other feelings.
"So after Iain almost killed Smith, what happened?"
"He made a deal. Once he sobered up, he made a deal with the Ministry. He will spend the next twenty years in Azkaban for attempted murder. Should have been more. It would've been more, but he chose not to stand for a trial. Bloody coward."
"How is Reina?"
Thorfinn sighed again.
"She is doing well considering her husband is now in prison," he answered. "She has already gone to visit him once."
"Yes, she felt she owed it to him. I offered to go with her, but she did not think that was a good idea. She wanted me to stay here in case you woke up. Pasha went with her and I watched the girls. Smith was angry that she did not bring them. Reina reminded her that he had always been of the opinion that Azkaban was no place for children."
"Good for her."
Hermione knew that one of the most painful aspects of Thorfinn's incarceration in Azkaban was that he was not allowed to meet his nieces while he was stuck there. He claimed that he could not blame his brother-in-law for not allowing children to go to Azkaban, but it was still agonizing. She was proud of Reina for standing up to her abusive husband. Too bad it had taken the wizard attempting to commit murder twice before she could.
"Smith's parents have been unbearable the past few days," he continued. "They have begged her to keep his past behavior out of the papers. Apparently having an almost murderer for a son is a great deal preferable to having a son who abuses his wife and children. Image is apparently everything in that family."
"I quite agree. It would have been better if they could have kept their fucking son from touching my sister to begin with. They've quietly given her a very large settlement in exchange for a private and speedy divorce. Trusts have been set up for the girls. They will be well provided for with their father stuck in prison. Pasha has been helping Reina find somewhere else to live."
"That's good. Where?"
"Did you know there is an empty flat on the ground floor of your building?"
She laughed aloud at his question. Yes, she was aware of that fact. Blaise Zabini had put it to great use during his investigation. Speculating how close Reina had obviously grown to the Russian wizard in the past week since he helped keep her and her daughters safe from her abusive soon-to-be ex-husband, Hermione was not surprised to hear that he had encouraged her to move into the nearby flat. It seemed the perfect solution. She would have plenty of support just a few steps up the staircase if needed.
"What about Gemma and Dawlish?"
"They are enjoying the hospitality of Level Eleven while they await their trials," he answered, bitterness dripping off of every word. "Shacklebolt said he is hoping they can get their trials completed sometime next month. You and I both will likely be called to testify."
"Anything to get them in prison where they belong."
"We can talk about all of this later after you've had a proper night's sleep, Princess."
"Are you leaving me now?"
"No. Never again."
When Hermione woke up again it was mid-morning and she was alone in bed. Hoping that Thorfinn had simply left to get something to eat or because the bed was comfortable, she was pleased to find that turning over to view the rest of her hospital room was no longer impossible. Her body was stiff, but she was able to move. A man was seated in the chair next to the bed reading a newspaper in a language written in an alphabet Hermione could not hope to comprehend.
"Good morning, Hermione," Pasha greeted with a warm smile.
"Hi," she replied, using her still-limited strength to smile back. "Where's Thorfinn?"
"Reina made him go to Fifth Floor Tearoom. He hasn't been eating properly."
She struggled to sit up. Realizing what she was attempting to do, Pasha jumped up to his feet to assist. Between the two of them they were able to get her in a seated position with a couple of pillows propped up behind her back. When she was situated comfortably, the wizard returned to his seat.
"You have been amazing, Pasha," Hermione declared, completely ignoring his rapidly reddening cheeks. "Thank you so much for all you have done."
"There is no need to thank me, Hermione," he replied, obviously uncomfortable with the praise. "I did only what any decent man would do. And honestly, I am selfish."
"You care a great deal for Reina?"
"Yes, I do. I've never forgotten her. It may seem sudden, but I've promised her I am in no rush. We will take our time."
Hermione was truly happy for both of them. Pasha was one of the sweetest men she had ever known. Awkward and clumsy while he was in school, he had grown up a great deal since the year of the Triwizard Tournament. Most of his classmates would likely not even recognize him.
"She's worried that she will disappoint me," Pasha added, his own vulnerability clear in his tone.
"Some of the curses that her husband used to use on her…" He had to stop mid-sentence to clench his fists and take a few deep breaths. Hermione could understand. It was how she felt each time she realized what a weak, pathetic coward Zacharias Smith actually was. "Some of the curses damaged her. A year after Lucy was born, she was told she could not have another. She thinks that is why he hurt her more."
Pasha nodded his head in agreement.
"She thinks that I won't want to marry her if she cannot give me children," he stated. "I told her I have lots of brothers. There will be plenty of Poliakoffs. We would already have two beautiful daughters."
"You are a wonderful man, Pasha."
He smiled before laughing softly.
"Besides, what if we had child that looked like me? It would be tragic."
"I don't think Reina would mind that," she replied, a large smile on both of their faces.
"Yes, well, it will not change my mind. One day, when she is ready, I would be very happy to make her my wife. Do you not think we are moving too fast?"
Hermione had to laugh out loud to his question. Weren't they all moving a little too fast? Her most successful relationships had always involved months and months of waiting around for the other to make up their mind about their true feelings. Knowing without a doubt that Thorfinn already cared very deeply for her was a weight off of her mind. It almost seemed to be a better method. She knew where she stood with him almost from the very beginning. Not like with Charlie. Or even Iain. There was no second guessing whether or not he was genuine. He had already proven to her that he was willing to do just about anything to keep her safe. Willing to give up his freedom if it meant she would no longer be in any danger.
"Perhaps," she answered. "But sometimes I think you just know. No need for drama or weeks of trying to decipher what the other is saying. It just feels right."
Anything else they wanted to say was cut short by the return of the Rowle family. Reina entered with Amelia first. Thorfinn was carrying his younger niece just steps behind. All four smiled brightly when they saw that the patient was finally awake.
"How are you feeling?" Thorfinn asked right after he kissed her. He ran his hand through her messy curls.
"Just very, very tired," she answered. "I feel like I could sleep for weeks."
"Maybe we can take you home soon. It'll be easier to rest there."
He was right, of course. Home was exactly where she wanted to be. Even after the events of Sunday afternoon when she was held hostage in her own flat and feared for her life, she wanted to go back there. It was familiar and she wanted her wizard there with her. Reina crossed the room to kiss Hermione's cheek.
"We are going to leave," she announced. "You need your rest and now that I'm satisfied Finnie actually consumed a meal, we should go."
Hermione and Thorfinn said their goodbyes to the other four. Once they were all out of the room, Thorfinn climbed back on the bed with her. He settled her against his chest. Neither spoke at first, simply enjoying the sensation of being together again.
She loved the feeling of his large arms around her body. It made her feel safe, like no harm could possibly come to her as long as he was around. Hermione ran her hands down his forearms to convince herself that she wasn't dreaming. As he always did, Thorfinn tensed when her left hand ran down his left forearm. She hoped there would come a day when he would no longer worry about the fact that she could see and even feel his Dark Mark. It did not bother her. Maybe there had been a time when it would have disturbed her, but no longer. To further prove her point, she grasped his left arm with both of her hands. She rubbed his wrist with her right hand.
The silver ring that he was forced to wear to contain his magic was gone. Thorfinn stretched his arm out to flex the bare spot that the hated metal used to reside. She could almost hear the satisfied smile on his face.
"An attempt by the Ministry to apologize for almost chucking me back in Azkaban," he declared. "They've shortened my parole by two years. I'm allowed to do magic again. No longer a Squib."
"I still have to have my wand monitored, but I don't plan on running off to join another homicidal maniac's legion of Dark soldiers again. It should not be a problem."
Sarcasm and humor were other tools he used to keep from getting too emotional about aspects and events in his life that were upsetting. Hermione knew not to take his flippant tone too seriously. He would likely never forgive himself for the part he played in the last war. The daily reminders of his Dark Mark and his Azkaban prisoner tattoo would make certain of that.
"I plan on being a good boy for the rest of my life," he continued. "No Dark Magic. No Unforgivables. I have too much to lose now."
To further his point, he wrapped his arms around her snugger and kissed her head. Hermione knew that he was not only talking about her. He had a sister and two small nieces who also needed his support. Even then she could not help but feel extremely touched by his remark.
"At least now you can use magic to clean the floors at the Ministry," she stated.
"No, Princess. I never have to go back to the Ministry again."
"What? What about your job?"
"Now that the first part of my parole is completed, I am free to go out into the world and make my own way again. I only have to return to the Ministry for portkey authorizations, a marriage license and to testify in those arseholes' trials. Maybe to escort my future children to take their Apparition tests, but I imagine their mother will be unable to resist taking them herself."
Hermione tried to focus on anything other than his words. She knew how serious he was about her. When she teased him a lifetime earlier about her being expected to shag him for the rest of their lives, he had been more than a little excited at the prospect. His eyes shone with something akin to pride, lust and awe each time he looked in her direction. Thorfinn was all in. She was nervous. What if she was unable to measure up to his expectations? He had already experienced so much disappointment in his life.
"I can hear you thinking out loud," Thorfinn teased. "The Healer said you aren't supposed to do anything taxing for at least another week. Stop."
She tried to smile and brush it all off.
"What are you going to do now that you don't have to work at the Ministry?"
"I have an idea," he said without further elaboration.
Hermione waited for several moments to see if he would explain himself in further detail. Her inquisitive nature got the best of her.
"What's your idea? Is it something I can help with?"
"Maybe, but we will talk about it when you are stronger."
"You realize that not telling me what you're thinking is almost as bad as torture."
"So dramatic, Princess," he laughed. "We will consider this a growing and learning experience for you. Patience is a virtue."
"I hate you," she muttered with no heat whatsoever. He laughed again.
"No, you don't. If you hated me, you would not have invited me to live with you after such a short time together."
"Don't read too much into it. I wouldn't let a stray dog move back into your awful flat."
Instead of being insulted, Thorfinn continued to find her remarks amusing. He pushed her hair back from her neck to place a kiss on the spot he knew always made her moan in delight. Neither one of them were disappointed. Knowing she was not ready for anything he had in mind, the wizard stopped his attentions almost as soon as he began them. Hermione tried unsuccessfully to hide her disappointment.
"Well, I will just try to be the best puppy you've ever had," Thorfinn joked.
They were interrupted by the arrival of Hermione's team of Healers. Thorfinn reluctantly climbed off the bed to allow them to do a thorough examination. When he was asked politely to leave the room, he informed them in no uncertain terms that he was not letting his witch out of his sights. Hermione's heart swelled.
"It appears that the worst of the curse has passed, Miss Granger," one of the Healers declared. "All of your vital stats are where they should be now. You will likely be physically exhausted for several days yet. Lots of bed rest is required, but now that you are awake, I do not see any reason why you cannot continue your convalescence at home."
She thanked the Healers profusely for their assistance. Before she had a chance to ask, Thorfinn blurted out the question she had been wondering since they first walked in.
"When can I take her out of here?"
"We will get the discharge forms ready immediately."
Over an hour passed before Hermione was dressed and ready to leave. Kingsley had arrived for his daily visit during that period. He was very pleased to see that she had finally woken up from the enchanted sleep the Healers put her under to allow her body adequate time to heal. Between the two wizards, they were able to get her to the Apparition point of the ground floor. Thorfinn did not trust himself to Side-Along Apparate her home due to his lack of practice over the previous ten years. The Minister gladly accepted the task, happy to be of assistance.
"Reina came in yesterday to clean your flat," Thorfinn explained when the two of them helped Hermione into the front door. "There was still a bit of damage from all of the excitement the other day. She wanted you to be able to come home and not worry about it."
"That was very kind of her."
"I'm beginning to wonder, Princess, if she doesn't love you more right now than she does her own brother."
"Not at all," he argued. "You fought for me when no one else would. You saved me, Princess. She's not going to forget that any time soon."
Once they were safely inside, Kingsley made his excuses to head back to the Ministry. He kissed Hermione's cheek and shook Thorfinn's hand. When the door shut behind him leaving the two lovers alone in the flat for the first time since the day their lives changed, Hermione found her strength waning. Realizing she was exhausted, Thorfinn deftly picked her up in his arms to carry her to bed.
"The last time you carried me to bed was a night I'm sure I'll never forget," Hermione said as he settled her down under the bedcovers.
"Neither will I." He kissed her forehead. "And when you are strong again, I have every intention of repeating that night down to every last delicious detail."
The next week passed by quickly for Hermione due to the hours and hours she slept each day. Thorfinn made certain that she consumed the dozens of potions the Healers required she take to continue her healing. True to his word, he never left her alone. A few times she knew he slipped out of the flat to go Merlin knows where, but each time he left either Reina or Pasha to watch over her. Once Kingsley volunteered for the task.
Visitors had been coming in and out of the flat during her entire convalescence. To her great surprise, several members of the Weasley family came over to bring well wishes and gifts. Hermione thought she was dreaming when Molly walked into her bedroom with a casserole under her arm. She had been of the opinion that Charlie's mother would never forgive her for tossing her son over for a former Death Eater. Apparently almost dying was an incentive for most of her loved ones to forget their prejudices. Ginny refused to come by despite Harry's multiple visits, some official, some personal. Angelina tried to assure Hermione that Ginny would one day come around. Hermione was resolute that she would not hold her breath waiting for the only Weasley daughter to get over her disappointment.
"I have a surprise for you," Thorfinn announced just before lunch time on Wednesday. She had been strong enough to get dressed and move to the sofa in the living room. Definite progress. "Do you think you would be up to taking a little trip today?"
She would have tagged along to the corner market and been ecstatic to do so. Too much time in bed and within the confines of her flat was beginning to get to Hermione. Despite him being amazingly patient, she had started taking her frustration out on the one person who was always available. Thorfinn took it all in stride. Even went so far as to tell her when she apologized for being rude that he was going to be positively unbearable the next time he had a cold.
"Where are you taking me?" Hermione asked a short time later when they were standing in the alley behind the building. Thorfinn had been extremely vague about their destination. Only asked her to wear warm clothing because they would be outside for part of the trip. "No, no, don't tell me. It's a surprise."
"Just hold on to me, Princess, and try not to get splinched."
Thorfinn's chuckles were ringing in her ears as he Side-Along Apparated them to the main thoroughfare of Diagon Alley. Late Wednesday mornings in the middle of late February were not a real thriving time in the shopping district. Though they had both been the subject of numerous Daily Prophet articles since he was attacked in her flat by Charlie, no one paid them much mind.
"What are we doing, Thorfinn?"
He grasped her hand and led her down the alley a short ways. She could tell that they were on the South Side of the Alley, but beyond that, she had no clue where he was taking her. Finally he stopped in front of the building located at 18a. It was a tall structure, at least four stories high. Nothing but a small wooden sign hanging by the front door showed any indication of what it was.
"Obscurus Books," she read. "Thorfinn, what…"
"My uncle passed away a few weeks ago."
"Oh! I'm so sorry to hear that."
He brushed off her condolences.
"No, he was a terrible man, Hermione. Worse than my father, if you can believe it. I was his only heir. We Rowles have never been as well-off as the Malfoys or even most of the other Pureblood families, but we do have a large manor home in the country. Reina and I grew up there and we both hate it. Too many bad memories."
She had no idea where he was going with his explanation. All she could tell was that he was fit to bursting with excitement about something.
"Shacklebolt introduced me to his partner when I was still locked up in the Ministry. I told him that I wanted to sell the manor as soon as possible. At the time I assumed that I would soon be locked back up in Azkaban for the remainder of my sorry life. What did I need property for? Ryan found me a buyer and then he helped me find this place."
"Thorfinn, I don't understand."
"I bought this book publishing house, Princess. Ryan sent over the keys to me this morning."
He released her hand to unlock the front door. The interior was quiet, but clean and well-kept. Obviously it had not lain idle for very long. Thorfinn led her inside to the main room showing a display of the most popular books they published. Hermione could not resist running her fingers over some very familiar titles. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander was one of her favorites.
"My goal was if I was going to be chucked away in Azkaban again, that I would not leave you unprovided for."
"You hate your job. It makes you miserable and you aren't getting anywhere. I was hoping that if I couldn't be here with you, I could at least make your life a little bit happier."
"You bought me a publishing house?"
Thorfinn pulled her into the safety of his arms. He placed two fingers under chin to gently force her eyes to meet his.
"Technically, I bought me a publishing house, but I am currently in need of an editor to run it. Do you know any nosy, little swots who might be interested?"
"Thorfinn, this is too much."
"Not at all," he assured her. "And besides, I really am going to need you to make it a success. I have no more money."
His wink set her laughing. They celebrated with a searing a kiss.
"There will also be some strings attached, of course," he added with another laugh.
"Well, the editor will be expected to provide sexual favors to the owner on a regular basis."
"Well, than I suppose I will just have to take the position. Couldn't let some other unsuspecting witch be forced to endure the sexual harassment, now can I?"
"I'm pleased you are willing to make that sacrifice, Princess."
"Oh, it's no sacrifice."
They continued their celebration by reacquainting themselves with each other's bodies on the floor of the empty publishing house.
Two years later…
"You're working too hard, Princess."
Hermione ignored the chastisement of her husband for yet another time that day. He was of the opinion that she had plenty of employees who should be willing to step in and take over the brunt of the day-to-day running of their business. They had been able to completely turn around the almost-failing publishing house with a great deal of hard work. Thorfinn had proven himself to be a dab hand at accounting. He took care of crunching the numbers while Hermione practically did everything else. With fifteen trusted and highly competent employees working underneath her, she should have no reason to spend most of her waking hours inside the building inhaling the ink fumes from the magical printing presses.
"Nonsense, Thorfinn," she retorted. "We have three large orders from Flourish and Blotts that must be completed before the end of the week."
The wizard slipped his arms around his wife's thickening waist. His hands rested on the swollen belly that contained all of their hopes for the future. Only two more months before they would expand their small family and he could hardly wait. Naturally his fears that something would go wrong before the day came were never far from his mind. And if his stubborn witch didn't start taking better care of herself…
"Princess, you have built this business with me so I know very well it can run without you here."
"We are going to trust our lovely staff to complete the orders on time."
"I am going to take you home."
"The printing press needs…"
"And I am going to run you a hot bath."
"I am going to remove all of your clothes."
"And you and I are going to forget the rest of the world even exists."
Author's Notes: Thank you so very much for all of the support each one of you has shown while I wrote this story. I have adored reading your reviews and can hardly contain my excitement every time I see another new Follower or Favorite.