Thank you to everyone who has trusted me to take you on this journey with me. I hope you enjoyed the story, and am elated every time a reader tells me they grew to love my Selwyns.
"A bit flashy for battle, isn't it?" Thorfinn asked in a low voice, as he eyed the bejeweled choker adorning his wife's throat. Not that it wasn't a perfect compliment for the low neckline of the black lace dress she wore—another hardly battle-worthy choice, but it was not as though she had access to her old Muggle attire—yet it was strange wardrobe accompaniment, given that she'd not seen fit to indulge in the boxes upon boxes of jewelry she now owned as the Lady of Selwyn Hall.
Hermione shrugged, whispering back as they crept alongside Antonin through the old house to which their summons had sent them. "Well, it wasn't a decision made for its looks," she said with a shrug. "I know you're going ask, anyway. It's . . . it's for the Selwyns. I charmed it so they'll know if something happens to me."
Thorfinn rolled his eyes, but Antonin, once again proving he had the wisdom that came with being the older of the two, nodded. "They would want to know if you're never coming back. It isn't exactly a possibility I wish to think about, but maybe then they could move on."
"Be no reason for any of us to stick around there, if that were the case."
She halted, too aware of the each of them pausing in mid-stride, as well. Turning to face Thorfinn, she stared at him a moment. She shifted her attention to Antonin, before considering them both as she raised her hand, stroking the tips of her fingers over the choker.
How on earth was it possible that from such a nightmarish situation as they'd been handed months ago, there had emerged such a love? The tip of her nose stung as she thought on the men who shared her home. It was a thing so complicated and confusing, and yet all at once, it was also so simple . . . so pure and so perfect, and she could not understand any of it if she thought on it too long.
"Well, then," she said, watery smile playing on her lips as she decided, in a very un-Hermione-like thought process, to simply not think on this, "let's just focus on winning, shall we?"
Thorfinn stepped closer, that cheeky smirk of his curving his mouth. "Kiss before possibly dying for you?"
Blinking rapidly a few times to keep what had almost been a few pesky tears at bay, she said, "It's not for me, per se, but yes, I think I can do that."
He grinned, pulling her close. But no sooner had he lowered his mouth to hers, granting her an especially hungry kiss, did they both hear Antonin awkwardly—and perhaps a bit more loudly than was necessary—clearing his throat.
Reluctantly taking his mouth from hers, Thorfinn glared over his shoulder at her other husband. "Oy! Might be the last time I get to do this!"
Folding his arms across his chest, Antonin nodded, though not without rolling his eyes so hard, the lids fluttered.
Giving her another—this time, quicker—kiss, Thorfinn relinquished his hold on her and stepped back. Turning his head to stare daggers at the other wizard, he said, "Happy?"
"To see you kissing my wife? Never," Antonin said, though there was an edge of humor to his voice.
Hermione smiled. She couldn't help it. This was a moment of levity, and of closeness, they all needed before they were to step outside into the rundown courtyard—supposedly on their way to the Ministry.
Arching a brow, she met Antonin's dark-eyed gaze. "I suppose you'll be wanting a 'might-be-our-last' kiss, too?"
He frowned thoughtfully as he moved closer to her. "Maybe."
"Oh, Merlin, save me," Thorfinn said with a hushed chuckle, averting his gaze.
The witch snickered, shaking her head as she slid her arms around Antonin's neck, pulling him down to meet her. As usual, his kiss wasn't nearly as forceful as Thorfinn's, there was a strange, solemn feel to it, though. As if he expected the longer he merely pressed his lips to hers, the more likely she'd carry the sensation of his kiss with her until someone fell to another's wandstrike.
Pulling back, she met his gaze once more. God help her, that someone was not going to be her!
Antonin's eyes narrowed. "Hermione?"
"Did you happen to give Selwyn a 'might-be-our-last' kiss, before we left, too?"
Backpedaling a step from him, she clasped her hands in front of her. "That sort of question is business between a lady and her ghosts, sir."
Her husbands exchanged a look, both of them slumping their shoulders as they nodded. "She did," they said in the same breath.
Again, she snickered, carefully weighing her gaze as she darted her attention between the two of them. The brightness in her expression faded as she said, "I love you. Both of you."
Thorfinn flashed her that familiar smirk of his one more time, nodding as he winked. "Yeah, we know."
Antonin smiled, nodding in agreement as he drew his wand. "C'mon. Time to go meet our fate."
Swallowing hard, Hermione drew hers, as did Thorfinn. With a final look around at each other, they started for the back entrance of the house, once more.
Their mutual shift in attitude caused a sudden change in their atmosphere, as well. In the space of a heartbeat, the simple, if large, antiquated house became looming. Every creak of the old wooden structure echoed in their ears and each shadow deepened and swayed in the corners of their eyes.
"Quick, clean, decisive," she said to herself under her breath as she braced, affecting an expression of calm and steeling her nerves. If she set foot outside looking at though she expected something, it could all be over before it started.
If she kept her focus, and kept to the plan, this would be over in just a few, precious—if utterly nerve wracking—minutes.
Antonin pushed open the back door. Thorfinn had to force himself not to step through ahead of her. Of course it was his gut instinct, but if they were to behave as though they did not expect the Dark Lord's presence somewhere on the grounds, then he had to follow the rule of ladies first. Damn stupid pure-blood etiquette.
Hermione exited the house, making her way across the dead, dry grass at a brisk pace. The chill in the air made a perfect cover for the shiver that coursed through her for a moment. When a glance about told her they were alone, she turned her attention to her husbands, each doing a magnificent job at keeping the weariness in their expressions hidden.
"All right, gents," she said, quickly scanning the surroundings of the house behind the wizards. She tried to tell herself she actually glimpsed the movement back there, rather than it being some work of her currently excitable imagination. "From where should we set—?"
The distinct popping sound of someone Apparating in the distance cut through the quiet evening air. She turned, looking appropriately shocked as a two other pops followed.
There stood the Dark Lord, his wand held in a firm grip, and pointed directly at Hermione. At his shoulders stood Lucius Malfoy and Goyle, Sr., their weapons drawn on her husbands. They waited just outside the wide open and falling-apart gate of the courtyard.
The witch swallowed hard, hoping fervently that the others were in place.
Her eyes drifting closed, she took a step. "Tom?" she said, allowing her voice to shake. "To what do we owe this surprise?"
Lucius appeared affronted at her daring informality. Baring his teeth, he muttered something under his breath.
"Do not fret, Lucius. She shall pay for her disrespect. That and more, in fact." He took a step, himself, but moved no closer. That lividity the Selwyns had noted finally slipped free in his tone as he declared, "You have forced my hand, Hermione. If I must lock you and your doting, pathetic, treacherous husbands away for years to make this happen, that is what I shall do!"
Yes! "To make what happen?!"
Smirking wickedly, Voldemort glared daggers at her as he lowered his voice so that she had to strain to hear him across the distance. "I will have my general, Hermione. I will have my army, and your stubbornness shall not stand in my way any longer!"
"Your general?" she echoed, breathless as she pressed her free hand over her abdomen for a fleeting second. All at once it made sense. She'd said it herself to Antonin and Thorfinn, hadn't she? He'd wanted to kill Harry . . . because he couldn't sway him to his side. Harry Potter . . . the boy who lived. The boy who nearly ended him.
Harry Potter, son of an especially bright Muggle-born witch, and a pure-blood father.
"I would sooner end your miserable life," she said, raising her wand at him, her grip steady.
As she took another step toward him, Voldemort chuckled. "Oh, you will finally learn your place, you filthy little Mudblood!"
Hermione flinched as he sent one hell of a stinging hex hurling straight at her. The arching energy shattered before her, scattering into the air and dispersing, entirely.
At the display, she smiled, immediately breathless as she met Voldemort's shocked gaze. "No!" He turned his attention to her husbands, lashing out at each of them to find a similar effect.
Hermione Dolohov-Rowle squared her shoulders, her wand arm steady as started toward the Dark Lord. She did not charge, or run . . . she did not even advance on him at a storming pace. The witch was strolling across the would-be-battlefield toward him.
As she moved closer, he tried, again and again. The more he tried, the more he realized . . . there was an element he was not seeing. They had not cast these charms, themselves—the magic was being cast, and fortified, by unseen hands.
"Malfoy, Goyle!" he shouted, outraged by the trap. "There are others. Find them!"
When neither of them moved to follow his command, he turned to take in the sight behind him. Goyle held his hands up, his wand dropped to the ground at his feet. Lucius Malfoy, his expression one of utter peace and calm, had the tip of his wand jabbed into his former friend's pudgy throat.
"Malfoy! How dare you—"
"No one forces my son into anything, My Lord." His voice was just as serene as his expression, perhaps even haughty.
Angry beyond reason, Voldemort snapped his attention back to the witch making her way toward him. She was already before him, and he could not fathom how she'd moved so fast, unless something in the environment was disorienting him.
He recalled, then, a little wobbling sensation as he'd come out of Apparation. Malfoy must've used the natural disorientation of that form of travel to cast a Confundus on him! There was betrayal on all sides of him!
Hermione hid a triumphant smirk at the wash of realization across his snaky face. He faltered, his wandhand sagging just a little.
All at once, there was a glittering over her, Antonin, and Thorfinn, as the shields guarding them splintered and fell away. Voldemort tightened his grip on his weapon, lifting it once more.
The Dark Lord actually started as the Elder Wand flew from his grip. He bellowed in anger while those others he knew had been lying in wait appeared. From the sides of the house, out of the shadows cast by foliage.
Hearing more rustling at his back, he glanced behind him. There stood Rabastan Lestrange and Draco Malfoy, with their filthy, Mudblood wives. Oh, they had played him beautifully. He'd actually laugh at this if not for how utterly furious he was.
"Like a fly in a web," Hermione said, aiming her wand at his heart, "I have trapped you, Tom."
"I truly underestimated you, Hermione." He shook his head. No matter, he had played the waiting game before, he could do it, again. "I was never going to break the shields, was I?"
She recognized his attempt to distract her with flattery—to hint for her to look around at her cohorts. Instead, she kept her gaze steadily on his. "No. Scattered across the grounds, a brilliant network of charm casting . . . a spiderwebbed network with no discernible beginning, or end."
"Go on, then," the Dark Lord said with a bored sigh. "Have me carted off to Azkaban, if you honestly think I will not find a way—"
"No, Tom." Her tone was suddenly icy and she swallowed hard. "This ends, now. You. Die. Here."
"You don't have it in you to cast an Unforgivable Curse."
Hermione's brows drew upward, her expression terrifyingly calm. "Your arrogance has always been your greatest shortcoming. That and, as Harry once suggested, your inability to understand love. You threaten me, I could not care less." She took a menacing step forward as she practically snarled her next words, "You threaten those I care for, and I will stop at nothing to hurt you."
"You are bluffing," Voldemort said, his chin lifting in defiance.
"What I am . . . is not someone with legal recognition as a person in Wizarding Britain, you saw to that. And someone who is not a person cannot be held accountable for their actions. Actions like . . . casting the Killing Curse?"
His eyes shooting wide, Voldemort dropped down, making a lunge for his discarded wand.
Hermione looked up, startled, as she followed the arc of acid green energy back to its source. "Mr. Malfoy?"
Lucius let out a shivering breath. Goyle, still beside him, looked too overwhelmed by the scene to react, merely staring down at their fallen leader.
Lifting his gaze to meet Hermione's, he simply repeated, "No one forces my son into anything."
She couldn't help a shaky smile. "You are a good father, after all."
"It was about bloody time," he said, before grabbing Goyle by the collar with his free hand. "Good day, Mrs. Dolohov-Rowle, isn't it?"
"It is," she said, pride in her voice, as she watched him Disapparate, tugging his former friend side-along.
Finally, she turned attention toward the approaching sounds of rustling coming toward them. She could not believe this was finally over. The relief that crashed through her was so great, she wasn't sure how her knees kept from buckling.
She was dimly aware of Antonin slipping his arms around her to steady her as she watched the familiar faces of those she now could not help but think of as her friends coming closer.
Penelope and Draco, Elisha and Rabastan, they all stopped to examine Voldemort's lifeless form before swarming her with congratulations. She was breathless, again, grateful tears pouring from her eyes, by the time she'd finished talking with all of them.
"And you!" she said, catching Draco in a hug. "I never thought I'd be so happy to see your father!"
The pale-haired wizard chuckled, hugging her back. "I knew he was going to do that. He didn't want one of us having to 'sully our souls', as he put it."
She smirked, assuming that by us, he could only mean his own son as well as the Muggle-born witches present. So, Draco wasn't the only Malfoy the War had brought out the best in, after all.
"And, I believe this is yours, now," Thorfinn said, his tone reverent as he held the Elder Wand out to her. "What do you plan to do with it?"
Taking the wand, she held it up, examining the ancient weapon in the dying light of day. "No one should have this power. I'll seal it away with Augustin's father's collection."
"Are you sure?" Elisha asked, her pretty face scrunching in disbelief.
"Yes. I can't bare to destroy something so storied, but . . . it would be foolish to think anyone should wield it." Smiling wistfully, Hermione lowered the wand, turning her attention to the other witch. "And you should go home and rest. I devised those shield charms, I know holding them was no easy task."
"All right, all right. Tea tomorrow?"
Hermione's expression brightened as she nodded. "Perhaps at your house, this time?"
Hermione watched them all Disapparate. Penelope was headed to Malfoy Manor to inform her mother-in-law of the good news, Draco was bringing Voldemort's remains back to the Ministry to start the ball rolling on restoring power to its rightful hands, and Rabastan was fretting over the form of travel as he escorted Elisha home.
Thorfinn turned just in time to catch Hermione, clutching both her wands in one hand as she pressed the palm of her free hand against her abdomen. With a start, he recalled her doing that for the briefest second while facing down the Dark Lord.
"You rotten little minx! You're pregnant!"
Her brows shooting up she looked from him to Antonin—who turned his head to look at her over his shoulder, his dark eyes impossibly wide, before he pivoted on his heel to face her fully. "Well, I—"
"You must be joking!" the older wizard all but bellowed. "You came out here, knowing how dangerous this might have been while you're pregnant?!"
"And this was precisely why I didn't tell you two." She sighed, shaking her head. "I needed to be here. I needed to see this through, and I knew you'd sooner lock me in the cellar than let me come here if you found out."
Antonin shook his head, as well, disbelief pinching his features. "I don't, I can't . . . I can't believe . . . ."
Thorfinn, on the other hand, lifted her up off her feet in a hug. But no sooner had he set her back down, than did he look over at Antonin. "Bet it's mine."
"Oh, wouldn't you just figure?" her other husband said in a sour tone. "It's probably mine."
Hermione laughed, holding up her hand before they could break into a bickering match of I'm the father—no, I'm the father. "I will make you two a deal. Whoever is not the father, well, let's just say that after this one is born and the Medi-witch gives me the okay . . . he'll get as many opportunities as I'm willing to give to catch up."
Smiling, she let them think that over as she started off toward the same place from where the others had Disapparated.
"Oh, then you're definitely the father," Thorfinn said with a smirk.
"So typical." Antonin laughed, shaking his head. "This is probably what she was being so secretive about with Selwyn yesterday."
Thorfinn nodded. "Well, at least we know it can't be Selwyn's."
After a moment, their smiles faded as they each realized . . . . None of them had the faintest clue how whatever Selwyn was actually worked.
Exchanging a worried glance, the wizards took off after their wife at a run, calling in unison, "Hermione!"