A/N: *snickers from the shadows behind the couch*
*flings the chapter into your lap*
*keeps writing all the while*
Hermione looked down on the wizard slumped in her doorway when her father unforgivingly stepped aside, letting Thorfinn faceplant right in the foyer with malicious glee.
"For pity's sake," she muttered, shaking her head and pulling her wand from her back pocket to aim at the oversized idiot, levitating him into the house and over to the couch in the living room. He was so large that his big feet hung off the end clear up to his knees, but that was of little importance.
"Who's this chap, then?" her father wanted to know when Antonin helped himself to their dwelling, entering and closing the door behind him.
"More importantly, can you lift that spell, solnyshka?" Antonin asked politely, though he was obviously faring better with the pain that Thorfinn had done.
"Finite incantatum," she muttered, bringing down the wards for the time being and making a mental note to put them back up just as soon as this pair of morons were seen off in a satisfying fashion.
"Much obliged, kotik," Antonin sighed gratefully, the tension leaving his tight frame before he helped himself to an armchair near Thorfinn's feet, slumping into it gratefully and massaging his temples.
"What the hell are you doing here, Dolohov?" Hermione demanded.
"Who the bloody hell are you?" Arnold Granger wanted to know, his hand on his hips as he glared at the Russian invader.
"Antonin Dolohov," he introduced himself, rising to his feet and offering his hand to shake before bowing over it when her father begrudgingly took it, squeezing it as tightly as possible.
"Arnold Granger," he grunted.
"Dad, could you give us a minute?" Hermione asked, tense and not at all pleased that this wretched man knew where her parents lived.
Her father shot her an inquiring look.
"Why don't I put the kettle on?" he suggested before shuffling out of the room, obviously intending to stand in the hallway and eavesdrop.
"What are you doing here?" Hermione repeated to Dolohov.
"Thorfinn wished to see you," Antonin shrugged.
"How do you know where here is?" Hermione asked.
"Must we play these games, myshka?" Antonin raised his eyebrows, obviously amused.
"How long have you known?" she clarified.
"Since they bought the place," he shrugged.
"Oh, for the love of…! You're impossible!"
"I am merely curious, and you are unobservant," he shrugged.
"Well, you've delivered him. Why are you still here?" Hermione demanded, not at all pleased to see him.
"I have a theory," he said, leaning toward her a little in the manner of one sharing secrets, his eyes alight with whatever new discovery he imagined he had made.
"Do not share it in this house," Hermione hissed, stepping closer and aiming her wand at the man, willing to hex him into silence.
"Yes, your Papa listens from the hall," he nodded in agreement. "But it's something we must discuss. Will you soon be returning to your flat?"
"I'm on vacation," Hermione huffed.
"Will it last much longer?" he plowed on, ever ready to take it all in stride and continue trying to figure out how to get whatever it was he wanted.
"Go away, Dolohov," Hermione sighed. "And take the big idiot with you."
"He has missed you," Dolohov said, glancing at Thorfinn though the blond remained unconscious. "He worries. He still wishes to pursue a relationship with you."
"That can't happen," Hermione shook her head.
"My theory might prove otherwise," he offered.
"Your theory involves unspeakable things," she hissed, her eyes flashing dangerously.
"It does, but surely the effects would be worth it if it proves true and I can lift the magic embedded in your skin. I believe it is protecting you from conceiving."
"Now you imagine your magic powerful enough to act as a contraceptive?" she scoffed.
"Insofar as it was designed to cause harm, and failed, but now causes harm to anything that seeks the same within your flesh."
"It didn't protect me from being tortured," she argued.
"You retain your brilliant mind even under Bella's tender caresses, so I would argue that it did," he pointed out and Hermione hated that he always seemed to utterly reasonable when he spoke to her, even when he was being completely demented. It was a neat trick, but wholly unsettling to encounter when she knew him to be bonkers.
"How would you lift it?" she asked, loathing her curiosity; hating herself for the tiny flare of hope that his words sparked to life inside her chest.
She was supposed to be giving up on this idea of ever having a biological family of her own and exploring other options or resigning herself to childlessness. She was supposed to be putting wild hare ideas out of her mind and getting on with her life. The five stages of grieving, her mother called it. Hermione was supposed to be at the acceptance stage and ready to move on with her life, and every time she tried to be, this wretched Russian rat clawed his way back under her skin and brought with him, crazy ideas and false hopes.
"It has embedded within your magic and taken root after so long – melded with it like ivy winding though pipework - but I believe it could be untangled long enough to allow conception…"
"Via your presence at inconvenient times?" Hermione hissed, aware of her father eavesdropping and wishing the nosy sod would get on with making them all a cup of tea so that they might discuss this madness without being overheard. The last thing she wanted was to go suggesting in her father's hearing that she ought to be shagging Rowle with Dolohov present in any capacity. Neither of them needed those nightmares.
"It would be the most effective method," Dolohov nodded. "Though attempts before and after the act without my presence during it might also be viable, depending on the spells we could try…"
"Why are you doing this?" Hermione sighed, shaking her head and hating the way hope leaped into life inside her chest.
Nothing had prepared her for this intense longing for motherhood until it had been taken away from her. Nothing could ever have convinced her ten years ago that her most desperate desire would be to conceive and carry to term a baby of her very own. The teenage girl she'd once been who'd thought children a sticky, messy, noisy distraction on the checklist of life could never have been convinced that so many years on, all she would want, more than anything else in the world, would be for this wretched, insane, horrible wizard to have landed on a theory that might actually allow her to fall pregnant and remain so until the birth of a healthy child.
"Because you are fascinating, and you long for a rebenok, and Thorfinn needs a ditya to keep out of his cell, and I believe it would be a happy thing if the two of you could meet those mutual needs. You just need a little help. It is the least I can do, given that it is my magic preventing you from achieving your heart's desire."
"You're not just a pervert wanting to get into my knickers yourself?" Hermione demanded quietly, hoping to hell that her Dad had continued on into the kitchen and wasn't still eavesdropping.
"It would be untrue to deny such, but it is not my primary goal and if you are Thorfinn's witch, you are off-limits to me for such acts," he shrugged his shoulders, and Hermione kind of hated that he was so bluntly honest with her when the more appropriate thing to do would've been to lie about his motives.
"And if we fail?" she challenged. "If we try this and it fails, and I'm all wrapped up in him while he's got to go impregnate someone else?"
"Failure is not an option."
He said it with such determination that Hermione was left gobsmacked. She could see he meant it. He would not fail in this. He would continue theorizing and trying to find a way to lift the magic long enough for her to fall pregnant, and he would persist until he succeeded. If there was anything she'd learned throughout the years he had stalked her, it was that he was not easily swayed from his goals and he never allowed the law, social cues, or common decency to stand in his way. He would bulldoze ahead until he got what he wanted, regardless of her cooperation if she really wanted to fight him on it.
"And him?" she asked, jerking a thumb at Thorfinn.
"He is already smitten," Dolohov rolled his eyes. "It's quite pathetic.
"Oi," Thorfinn complained, coming around in time to hear them talking about him.
"Where is the lie?" Antonin wanted to know.
"Princess?" Thorfinn asked, clutching his head and searching for her with his eyes before spotting her. "There you are…. Blimey, you've been hard to find, pet."
Hermione rolled her eyes. They couldn't have been looking very hard if it had taken them this long to track her down. She'd stayed with Harry awhile, and with her parents the rest, so it was hardly like she'd been skilfully and wilfully evading them by means of stealth and trickery.
"You shouldn't have come here," she crossed her arms over her chest moodily, glaring at the big-haired bastard and hating the way a little pulse of desire coursed through her very bones at the sight of him.
She refused to let herself even consider that it might be too late, and that she might already be too wrapped up in him to walk away from this. She had to guard her heart. She couldn't let that warm smile of his worm its way under her skin. She couldn't let his genuine interest in her sway her to emotions she couldn't afford. The likelihood that Dolohov would succeed before the clock ticked down on just when Thorfinn needed to sire an heir or be hauled back to prison was incredibly slim. She needed to make room for the fact that he might very well have to have a child with someone else in order to keep his freedom. Hermione refused to let her heart be shattered in the process.
"You're being unreasonable, love," he smiled sympathetically, like he thought she was just being silly and like she would come round in time, she just needed a while longer to think about it.
She wouldn't stand for it. This was ridiculous.
"I'm not," she argued calmly. "I'm being rational. Logical, even. The chances of anything working before you're hauled back to prison are incredibly slim and it's not fair to either of us to even be considering pursuing this hair-brained scheme of his."
She nodded at Dolohov indicatively.
"Not if it works," Thorfinn pointed out quietly and Merlin help her, those words floored her.
Hermione's eyes widened before she sighed, her shoulders sagging heavily.
"He is right," Dolohov chimed in and Hermione supposed they had a point.
"Not if it works," she agreed quietly.
Silence stretched between them after that, and Hermione wondered if these two hardened criminals were afraid to spook her into running again; scared to say something that might make her change her mind and continue to resist their schemes.
"Tea, anyone?" her mother's voice intruded before Hermione could collect her thoughts and think of something to say. She looked over to see that both of her parents were returning with a teapot and cups, and a plate of biscuits, looking like they'd very much been listening in from the other room and had a million questions, but didn't dare voice them in front of the company.
"Thanks, Mum," Hermione sighed, moving over to the coffee table to clear away the books she'd been consulting before Dolohov and Rowle had shown up.
The pair of Death Eaters arranged themselves quickly to accommodate the intrusion, Thorfinn sitting up so he wasn't hogging all the space on the couch and Dolohov taking a seat at the other end of the three-seater from Thorfinn. Hermione sighed, realizing they intended for her to sit in the middle right in between the two of them, obviously not wanting to share with either of her parents. Racists. Hermione complied, only because she didn't want to put her Mum and Dad in the awkward position of sitting between them.
"And who's this then, darling?" her mother asked, taking a seat and pouring them all some tea while her father skulked into the room carrying a tray with milk and sugar.
Hermione glanced at her invaders.
"You met Rowle already," she reminded her mother, knowing the woman was well aware of having done so since she hadn't shut up about him since.
"Thorfinn, darling, wonderful to see you," her mother smiled warmly.
"Mrs. Granger," he inclined his head respectfully, grinning that roguish grin in return that so alighted Hermione's knickers.
"And this is Antonin Dolohov," Hermione indicated to the man on the other side of the couch.
"Dolohov?" Hermione mother's brow furrowed heavily. "The… ahem… the fellow you told us about?"
"The very same," Hermione said, unsympathetically taking up her cup of tea and a biscuit while her Mum and Dad both began glaring at the Russian.
"You have… told them about me?" Dolohov asked, and Hermione smirked to see he looked ever so slightly nervous.
"Hermione, didn't this prick try to kill you?" Arnold asserted gruffly.
"Twice," Hermione nodded. "And he's been stalking me relentlessly since his release."
"And you let him in this house?" her father demanded. "I have a mind to take to you with my drill, boy."
Hermione chose not to point out that Dolohov was no boy, and that actually he and Arnold Granger were probably closer in age than Dolohov was to Hermione or Thorfinn.
"What is a drill?" Dolohov asked nervously, leaning toward Hermione a little.
"You think you can just harm my little girl and then waltz into my house, bucko?" Arnold blustered. "I know you can't go doing no magic if you're anything like this one," he nodded at Thorfinn scornfully. "So I reckon you and me might just take a walk out to my shed, eh? Got some tools I want to show you."
"Run, Toshka," Thorfinn advised furtively, leaning around Hermione. "He'll pull out all your teeth."
"My teeth?" Antonin gasped, alarmed, and reaching to touch his mouth protectively.
"It's what he does for a living," Thorfinn nodded, seeming equally horrified. "Rips people's teeth out of their head with pliers and then charges them for the torture."
Antonin turned to Hermione, wide-eyed, obviously seeking a better explanation.
"He's a dentist," she explained, knowing he wouldn't have any idea what that meant.
"Means he pulls teeth for money," Thorfinn nodded.
"You tried to kill my daughter?" Arnold pushed, leaning forward in his chair and looking ready to actually commit murder.
"We were at war," Antonin offered nervously, frowning. "Was different time. She… Hermione was in my way."
"So you just tried to kill her?" Arnold exploded, rising to his feet and looking like he meant to punch Dolohov.
Hermione hoped he wouldn't, only because she suspected that the courts would rule in Dolohov's favor if he turned his wand on a muggle in self-defense.
"Was war," Antonin repeated, his accent growing thicker and his English slipping considerably in the face of her father's vein-throbbing, red-faced fury. "We fought. Opposite sides. My blyi vragami. Ona soprotivlyalys."
He digressed into rapid-fire Russian when Arnold Granger converged on him, hauling him up from the front of his robes.
"Why don't we just talk about this out in my shed, son?" Arnold suggested threateningly.
"Oh, Arnold, really," her mother rolled her eyes. "Must you bluster?"
Arnold ignored her, hauling a heatedly arguing Dolohov in the direction of the garage where he kept his tools, Dolohov protesting in Russian the whole way.
"He's going to look so strange without all of his teeth," Thorfinn observed when the door to the garage slammed in their wake.
"No more than he deserves, really," Hermione sniffed indifferently, nibbling her biscuit. "He did try to kill me twice. And he has been stalking me for ages."
"I do hope your father doesn't get carried away. I'm certain a man willing to murder my teenage daughter will have no problems killing my husband in self-defense," Genevieve mused, shaking her head as though the entire thing was silly.
Hermione frowned when shouting could be heard from the shed in a mixture of English and Russian.
"Now, Thorfinn, dear, what brings you to see us?" Genevieve asked sweetly as though whatever was happening in the shed wasn't happening. "How did the interview go? Last we spoke you were looking to take a job with the Weasley twins, correct?"
"They hired me," Thorfinn nodded, though he repeatedly looked in the direction of the shed after his friend, obviously wondering if he would have to intervene and save either Antonin or Arnold from each other. "It's going well. Pranksters, the pair of them. They've been taking the mickey out of me since day one."
"I'd expect nothing less after all Hermione's told us about them," Genevieve smiled. "And you've come searching for my Hermione. How sweet. Hermione, darling, I thought you said you'd ended things with Thorfinn?"
"I did," Hermione sighed, shaking her head and ignoring the arm Thorfinn slung across the back of the couch behind her shoulders. "We're not well matched."
"Are to," Thorfinn argued. "You're just scared."
"Scared?" Genevieve asked curiously, her brow furrowing.
"Need a kid to keep myself out of prison," Thorfinn shrugged his shoulders. "It's a condition of my parole. Got to sire a child to carry on my bloodline, lest our family names all die out, see?"
"Oh, darling," Genevieve looked at Hermione sadly.
"I've told him it's impossible," Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "And still, he comes."
"It's not impossible. Toshka will figure it out."
"Antonin is a doctor?"
"Nah, just wicked smart," Thorfinn shook his head. "And we think it's his magic latched onto her scar preventing her from getting pregnant."
"His magic?" her mother frowned.
"It was when he tried to kill me and left me the scar on my chest," Hermione explained. "He believes the magic, intended to kill me though it was, has since reverted and now acts to protect me from any harm – including pregnancy, supposedly."
"It's a very unusual scar, darling," her mother nodded. "And if he thinks there's a chance you might be able to have the family you've been longing for, then I don't see the harm in taking the chance."
"You don't know what it would entail," Hermione said darkly, looking away and noting that even Rowle had the decency to blush.
"Will you be in any danger?" Genevieve confirmed.
"I doubt it," Hermione shook her head. "Unless you consider it possible to die of embarrassment."
"Well then, darling, surely it's worth the risk? What're a few embarrassing moments compared to having a child of your own?"
Hermione bit her lip.
"And this Antonin is the one who might know how to undo the magic and help you fall pregnant?" Genevieve pushed when Hermione and Thorfinn both kept their mouths shut, not about to explain that it might very well mean having a threesome with the fool.
"Yes," Hermione sighed.
"Well, then, we'd best stop your father from doing whatever he thinks he might do, hadn't we?"
Her mother rose to her feet and hurried out to the shed to begin telling off her husband. More rapid-fire Russian poured through the house when she opened the door to the garage, but Hermione didn't bother to investigate.
"Do you really think he can make this work?" Hermione asked Thorfinn in a small voice.
"Would I be here if I didn't?" he challenged.
Hermione looked over at him seriously, her brow furrowed.
"I don't know," she admitted. "Would you?"
"I want to make this work with you, Princess," he sighed, running his hand through his long blond hair distractedly before reaching over to take her hand. "But you've made some valid points about what a mess this could be if we fail. I don't want to fail. But I want to try this with you. You want a kid more than anything, right?"
"And I need a kid to keep me out of prison, and I really want you in my life," he confessed quietly. "So, we have to try, don't we? If Toshka's right – and don't tell him I said so, but the fucker's rarely wrong – he might be able to undo that curse or stave off the effects long enough that you could have a kid. Don't we owe it to ourselves to try?"
Hermione chewed her bottom lip anxiously. Gods, could she do it? Could she expose herself to this if he was only going to end up breaking her heart and having to shag someone else to keep his freedom?
"What if it fails?" she asked in a whisper.
"What if it doesn't, Princess?" he challenged, rather than offering an answer. "You want to give it a go with me? A real one?"
"We barely know each other," Hermione reminded him. "We've shagged a handful of times, and suddenly you want kids with me, and you've met my parents, and… this is all really bizarre. If I'd known things would turn out this way back at that pub at the holidays when we first hooked up…"
"You'd have walked away?" he challenged, smirking a little bit. "From all of this?"
He held his arms out indicatively.
"I could certainly do without the cockiness," Hermione grumbled.
"You love it, Princess," he replied. "So, what do you say? Are you going to come home? Try and make this work? Try and make a baby with me?"
"That is the weirdest way to say you want to shag me, you know?" Hermione scoffed, crossing her arms even though she'd begun to tremble, wanting desperately to kiss him.
"I want to do a lot more than that," he muttered, his hand finding her cheek and tipping her head up before he leaned over and claimed her lips like he'd been starved of them for too long and couldn't bear to wait another second.
Hermione melted into the kiss, leaning into him, her arms snaking around the back of his neck. Merlin help her, this wizard was fast proving to be her kryptonite. How did he always manage to crumble her defenses with his wicked lips? If it weren't for the racket coming from the garage where Antonin could be heard swearing in several languages while Hermione's parents argued about what to do with him and whether he might be the key to helping Hermione get pregnant, Hermione thought it might be nice to help herself to Thorfinn's lap and lose herself in him all over again.
"What do you bloody mean, he can help her get pregnant?" Arnold suddenly shouted from the shed. "He tried to kill her! I'm not about to let him put his murdering hands on my daughter! Have you gone mental? You want to let a murderer try to impregnate our Hermione? You must be out of your mind!?"
Hermione broke from Thorfinn's lips with a snigger, realizing that as usual, her mother had only handed over half the facts, and her father was about to blow a top.
"We should go," she laughed into Thorfinn's neck when he drew her close, not willing to let her go yet.
"We better rescue Toshka. Whatever's got him swearing out there probably means he's about to lose his temper, and you've seen what happens when he blows a lid," Thorfinn sighed, squeezing her against himself for a moment before releasing her and rising to his feet.
As they headed for the garage, Antonin pushed past Genevieve Granger, and Merlin help them, he looked a fright.
"Is that your blood?" Hermione confirmed, eyeing the angry Russian as he stormed into the room, looking ready to kill someone.
He responded in guttural Russian too quickly for her to even begin to translate what little of the language she'd picked up over the years, but the fact that he had blood on his chin, a swollen red nose, and a split lip made her think it most certainly was his blood.
"Dad, is everything alright?" Hermione called through into the garage, scowling and not above hexing Dolohov if he'd retaliated against whatever her father had put him through out there.
"Your mother means to pimp you out to your attempted murderer, so I'd say that everything most certainly is not alright, pet," her father replied, blustering back into the room holding his electric drill and looking like he meant to put it to use on Dolohov's junk to prevent him from even thinking about Hermione and pregnant in the same sentence.
"He's going to rip my dick off, Finn," Antonin managed in English, clutching at Thorfinn's shirt for a moment before hurrying for the door, looking terrified and furious in equal measure.
"Dad," Hermione warned.
"Try to kill my little girl and now you want to knock her up? Well, not on my watch, pal. No sir-ee."
Arnold charged after Dolohov with the drill at the ready when the Russian bolted out the door and down the front path into the garden, shouting obscenities in his native tongue as he went and clutching his wand, aiming it threateningly and looking like he'd risk Azkaban again and use it to keep the crazed muggle away from his junk.
"Maybe you'd better go, Hermione, darling," her mother sighed. "You know how he gets when he's worked up like this. There'll be no reasoning with him, and with your friend Mr. Dolohov out of the way, you know he'll turn his attention to dear Thorfinn next. And it would be such a shame if the fine young man couldn't sire any children, wouldn't it? Just look at that bone structure. Divine."
"Mum, you're embarrassing yourself," Hermione shook her head when the woman eyed Thorfinn like he was a piece of meat, or a fine specimen of art, noting every carefully chiseled line of the man with apparent approval.
"It was… uh… nice to see you again, Mrs. Granger," Thorfinn offered while Hermione heard Dolohov disapparate from the garden, her father shouting after him about what a coward he must be to have tried to kill Arnold's little girl but unwilling to fight him like a man.
Shaking her head, Hermione reset the wards on the house quickly and took Thorfinn's hand.
"I'll be back later for Crooks and my things, Mum," Hermione promised her mother before turning on the spot and hauling the hulking wizard beside her away from the clutches of her parents, rather thinking that if madness like this was hereditary, it might be for the best if she couldn't reproduce, after all.