AN: I think for the last few chapters I'm going to have to write them and get them out whenever I can. I would love to have a set schedule to inspire me, but next weekend is Christmas eve and I also have a funeral on the 23rd, so I know it's going to be busy.
I need to take a moment to thank all of you for coming along with me on this journey.
Also, I have a question: When I revise this story, should I leave the author's notes? They make an interesting counterpoint to the story, and they make me feel close with all of you…but they throw off the legitimate word count. Does that bother anyone? I plan to start the revision as soon as I finish, but I won't post until the whole thing is done. There will be 'bonus scenes' that won't be marked in any way…showing instead of telling some of the bits I just skimmed in this first version…and also, I'm going to fix the timeline problem. I know there are some spelling, grammar, and typos too. Anything else bother you guys? Let me know the chapter and the problem.
Albus found himself very busy that New Year's eve. Walter and Heather Weasley (both first years) had made fast friends with the second year Prewet, Aubrey, and her cousin Angelica (who was, in fact, not at all angelic, in Albus' well studied opinion.) This friendship had led more than one prefect or Professor to take points, give detentions, and in the case of Albus Dumbledore, pour himself a very generous measure of firewhiskey after missing dinner in the Great Hall.
Edvard tried to hide his chuckles as Albus described their attempt to capture a young unicorn for riding…and the mother unicorn's hoof prints on the backsides of said students. "And by the time they were thrown off the unicorn, they were in the great bloody middle of Forbidden Forrest, and I had to ask the Centaurs to help me track the little buggers, and you know they'll call that favor in sooner rather than later."
Edvard shrugged. "All's well that ends well. Hopefully your friends will content themselves with some goblin forged arrow heads. And you should make Dippet pay for them since it was in the best interest of the school to get the little berks back before they froze to death."
Albus took a long drink. "I'll be in luck if he doesn't dock my pay for taking time off my rounds to search for them. The old skinflint."
Edvard grinned like a shark. "I'm going to enjoy watching you try to balance the school budget when you become headmaster during the next few years."
Albus rolled his eyes. "I'd say that your penchant for sadism comes as a surprise, but then, it really doesn't."
"Is it really sadism if you have safe words and both of you enjoy it?" Edvard purred, "Would you like to see more of my penchant?"
Albus blushed furiously. He wasn't certain how he would have answered, but he knew where the night would have led…but about that time a loud knocking at his window startled both of them.
"What in Merlin's name?"
One of the school owls sat on the ledge, looking quite cold and put out. Albus hustled the bird in and Fawkes made room on his perch, snuggling close and warming the other creature as only a phoenix could.
Albus poured a small measure of firewhiskey for the bird and untied his package.
Edvard put his chin on his shoulder and watched. "Early Christmas gift?"
Albus shook his head, suddenly worried. "It's from Tom and Hermione."
As he read the note he felt a sudden urge to hex something into a pile of fine dust, but couldn't overcome his shock to pull his wand. Edvard pulled the letter from his nerveless fingers and let loose with a string of profanity that was surprisingly inventive.
Albus took a deep breath and shook off the shock that held him immobile. He opened the diary and found a message stating the time and expected numbers of the attacks. Edvard continued cursing as he and Albus frantically wrote letters to the Aurors who were ready and waiting for those portkeys that hadn't already been deactivated.
Edvard finished his last letter and looked up. "What do you think?"
"We're still outnumbered, but we can set some traps, and his additional 'cannon fodder' will simply stay at home because they aren't forced to fight…Malfoy and Ivanova saw to that. The real danger is Gellert coming here." Albus had dreaded the moment when he would be forced to duel Gellert for so many years…
Edvard wrapped his long arms around him. "Let's go take care of the spy and set up a place so you can meet him on your own ground."
"And what about Hermione and Tom?"
Edvard laughed. "Unless they ask for help, let them stay where they are. Those two turned the tide of the war and saved who knows how many lives. Can you imagine how depleted the wizarding world would be if they hadn't stepped in?"
Albus frowned. "I admit, I hadn't thought of it that way." And now that he had, he wondered…was there some kind of cosmic reason for Hermione's odd gift? For the nearly unnatural skill that she and Tom possessed?
He shook off his musing and grabbed a sober-up potion in one hand and a heavy cloak in the other. Fawks nuzzled the school owl one last time and flew to his shoulder. "Oh, you are coming with me, my old friend?"
The phoenix nodded sagely and nuzzled his cheek. "Very well. Let's go win a war."
The eventual note from Albus in diary eased his mind in the early morning hours.
Hermione smiled as she woke from a light doze. He knew it wasn't true sleep. He'd seen her alert a millisecond after opening her eyes. She just sometimes allowed her mind to drift as she rested with her eyes closed before stressful situations…and betraying a dark lord at an opportune moment would certainly qualify.
"Albus got the message?"
Tom nodded thoughtfully. "They've taken the professor Gellert hexed and given her a drought of living death so she won't be able to meddle."
Hermione grimaced. "We need to find a way to show definitively if someone is under the Imperious."
Tom chuckled as he stroked her curls. "The spell would certainly become less popular if the results could be proven." He kissed her softly. "We'll look into it after…" He took a deep breath. "At least as long as we both survive and we win." He kissed her, harder this time, allowing some of the fear he was feeling to show itself in his fevered embrace.
Hermione responded with kisses of her own, and they spent the early morning hours clutched in sweaty embrace with each other's names on their lips.
Tom finally rolled to one side, touching only her fingertips. They were both slick with sweat and he knew they wouldn't cool off if her clung to her like a python.
He turned his head and grinned sheepishly at her as they caught their breath. Her lips were swollen from his kisses, hair wild, and he thought she'd never looked as beautiful.
She rolled to an elbow and kissed him softly. "Have I mentioned lately that you are amazing?"
"I think it might have come about half an hour ago when I…"
She kissed him again, stopping his words, but they were both laughing as their lips lingered. She settled a bit closer and he pulled a light sheet over them as their bodies cooled.
She smiled up at him as they held one another. "I can't promise that we'll get through tomorrow unscathed. I have no idea what the future holds."
Tom grimaced. "You don't need to sound quite so smug about that. Having some small idea that we'd both get through this alive would be pleasant."
She shook her head. "All I know is that the future I wanted to prevent can never come to be now. Whatever else happens, I'm content."
"Well, I'm not witch." He mock-glared at her. "So you'd better be very, very cautious tomorrow, or I'll have to use that resurrection stone to bring you back."
She rolled her eyes. "That stone is a trap. It's the bait to lure people to death, not the route to bringing the living back. Hurried visits from beyond the grave from those you lost…it would drive many people to suicide."
"Then you'd better stick around to keep me out of trouble."
She rolled her eyes and then sobered. "Just remember what we are Tom. Even if I were to die, I'd be waiting for you. We'll always find each other again."
And for once in his life, Tom found himself without words…so he slowly began the process of making love to her once again, because he needed her to understand that the last thing he wanted was to spend another lifetime looking for her.
Not that he would hesitate of course. Not for a moment.
Gellert admired himself in his best green and gold robes. His golden hair was brushed until it shined like goblin gold and the deathstick was deadly perfection in his fingers. He looked powerful, irritable, and dead sexy, even if he did have to say it himself because no one else would dare.
Lestrange pouted from her place at his side. He'd forgone all 'company' of her sort for the past few days, anticipating a reunion with Albus in every sense of the word. He'd allowed the elves into his private quarters to clean them, to make certain every implement and surface shown with perfection. So that it was all very ready for Albus. It wouldn't do to spoil the man, but he was indulgent enough to show subtle marks of his favor.
Gellert smirked at Lestrange and they made their way out of his chambers and into the anteroom.
Tom and Hermione entered. Despite their youth, they both looked well-shagged and Gellert had a long moment of annoyance, and then he let the petty thoughts go.
Had he wanted the girl's virginity? Well yes. He was a greedy sod and he enjoyed being a greedy sod. But, on the other hand, he would have his hands full with taming Albus once again, and it was unlikely that he would have the time and energy to truly bring the girl to heel in such a way that would leave her useful to him.
So…let her have her lover. It wasn't as if the boy was an impediment to him seducing her…in face he might make for a nice dash of spice if they both chose to come to him.
Besides, if he allowed her to marry the boy, then it would provide excellent cover for when she gave birth to the mixture of his and Albus' seed. He was absolutely committed that she would be the vessel that would bear them the next generation of world rulers. He'd even allow her a brat or two with the boy.
He and Albus could busy themselves with the empire, while Tom and Hermione projected the perfect picture of the aristocratic family for the public…all the while doing research into immortality for the four of them.
They would be one, big, happy immortal family…like the Gods of Olympus.
He twirled the deathstick, whistling a happy tune as he walked jauntily out to his destiny.