A/N: And we're here! A big thank you to EVERYONE reading this story. I've enjoyed getting to interact personally with many of you, so thanks for reviewing and sending me notes. A final curtsy today to Sundaegirl99 for catching review #1500. You guys are all fantastic.
Also a last pint of butterbeer to Katmom. Because she's awesome.
As is my apparent custom when I write an epilogue, I tend to present the future in snippets to that you wonderful people who have spent time with these characters have an idea as to "what happened after".
Chapter Twenty-Four: Happily Ever After
"You did what last night?"
Augusta Longbottom's shriek carried throughout the entirety of Farecliffe Hall. In fact, it may have extended out into Derbyshire, as far as Sirius could tell. She was not wearing her vulture-bedecked hat that day, but her own hair quivered with her emotion. She collapsed immediately into the chair he'd subtly made sure was behind her as soon as Neville and Harry—and Luna!—made it down to the breakfast room the morning after what Sirius planned on calling The Longest Night of My Life for the foreseeable future.
"Gran." Neville's smile was lopsided, boyish, charming, but Sirius was certain Augusta was not vulnerable to its appeal just then. "We killed Voldemort. Me and Harry. And Kreacher," he added after a look at Sirius and Hermione. "Like the prophecy said had to happen."
"You. Could. Have. Been. Killed!" The woman was shaking in a very obvious way. Sirius wanted to comfort her but she and her grandson needed to get this out. "How? How could you even think? And you!" She pointed a trembling finger at Harry. "Getting him into this, were you? Like that business with the basilisk!"
"Ma'am, no," Harry said, hands up in a placating manner. "It's never been like that. We're a team, Nev and I and—"
"And you!" Augusta continued, ignoring Harry to turn and aim her wrath at Sirius. "Where were you when all this was happening? Out with Hermione?"
That was the limit. Sirius stood between her and Hermione and glared darkly at her. "Do not speak of the future Lady Black, not even in an aside, in that tone, Augusta. I won't stand for it." The older witch looked mildly abashed and her trembling seemed to lessen. "I know what they did was rash and ill-considered," he went on to say, keeping his tone as even as possible whilst memories of the scene with Tom Riddle's corpse were forefront in his mind. "But they did manage to succeed and they weren't even injured. Not even a hex reached them thanks to your grandson and his transfiguration abilities and my son's armor."
"Accio, wand!" Augusta said, sounding as if she were crowing in triumph. Neville's wand flew from him and landed in her hand. "No wand privileges until you return to school in September!"
Neville' looked devastated, his mouth falling open as if to protest. He even turned to Sirius himself, but Sirius made his expression stern, remembering how terrified he'd been the night before. Without a word, Neville slumped over and nodded.
Harry's whole body expressed his trepidation. So as not to be seen as negating what Augusta had done—they'd raised the boys so closely together, over the years—Sirius wordlessly Summoned Harry's wand as well.
He gave it back two days later, though both boys were . . .sort of . . . grounded.
When the press wanted to talk to them all—and they did—the interviews were conducted in London.
"Missy Otter! So's you can be being our Lady Black now?"
Hermione heard this question at least once every single time she made an appearance in either of Sirius's homes. Not from Krinkle; the dignified house-elf had indeed inquired once if they were setting a wedding date so he could prepare the estate, but she'd said she had things to do first. "You'll be the first to know, though, Krinkle. Thank you so much for all you do for the House of Black."
The other elves were not so accommodating. Connie made it a point to always use the extended form of address: Missy Otter-to-be-Lady Black. Every. Single. Time. And all the other elves were doing likewise. Every. Single. Time.
"Well, it is respectful and accurate," Sirius had said when she asked him if he could please get them to refrain. "And I don't want to discourage those qualities."
"Besides, you want me to give in," she had countered when he smirked.
Of course, when everyone at Longbottom Manor had done likewise at Neville's Coming of Age birthday party, that had exacerbated the situation.
Neville and Harry were being touted as the Heroes of the Wizarding World and already had deals with the makers of the Chocolate Frog cards for their likenesses and so on.
"Orders of Merlin are undoubtedly forthcoming," Sirius had jested over an intimate dinner in early August. "They actually made Neville Head Boy and Harry Quidditch Captain for their seventh year."
"I'm sure they were both over the moon. Did Augusta let Neville off probation?"
"No. But can you believe he Apparated anyway? Wandlessly?"
"Yvette told me he went to see her and showed off." Hermione smiled and sipped at her wine. "She also said they made it official. Betrothed and everything."
Sirius sighed happily. "That's good. Maybe Augusta will let up sooner rather than later."
"No." He grinned broadly. "I'm quite enjoying having Harry underfoot. He hasn't quite got the wandless Apparition down yet, but Luna is providing him with incentive."
"Missy Otter! So's you can be being our Lady Black now?"
"What? No, Connie. I'm trying just now to figure out how to decline an Order of Merlin."
"What? Missy Otter-to-be-Lady Black cannot decline an Order of Merlin!"
Sirius watched as Hermione's hair seemed to puff out with her frustration as she read and re-read the parchment in her hand. They were in the London house and he had passed the notification along to her straight from the Wizengamot not half an hour past. "Hermione, love, she's got a point. How do you decline something like that? Why would you want to?"
"Krinkle was right there, right there with you when you went to get Harry. Kreacher—I know you had issues, Sirius, I do, but still—he went with Harry and Neville and was instrumental in Voldemort's defeat. Neither of them are being offered any kind of commendation, posthumous or otherwise. That is absolutely not fair and I don't want to participate without them." She nodded for emphasis and Sirius thought it was adorable but he didn't smile. His soulmate had a temper on her, to be sure. "So I'll accept the very kind Order of Merlin, Third Class, with a proper smile and all when they offer at least that to Krinkle and Kreacher."
Forbearing to remind her that Neville and Harry were accepting their Orders of Merlin, First Class medals without conditions, Sirius merely joined his fiancée on the sofa in front of the fire. "Connie, please bring us tea."
"Yes sir, Lord Black!" The house-elf popped away with a minimum of fuss and Sirius turned his focus to Hermione.
"You should speak to the Wizengamot, love," he said, sliding his arm behind her and tugging her against himself. "You'd do wonderfully."
"They won't listen to a thing I say," she reminded him balefully. "I'm Muggleborn and was educated in France."
"They might listen if you were the proven lady of an established line," he said softly into her hair.
"You're as bad as the house-elves, love. You know that, don't you?" She sighed and rested more of herself against him.
They eventually shifted to recline on the sofa, Sirius relishing the way her body molded to his own. Each curve, each line familiar to him and highly treasured. "Want your tea now?" he inquired.
"Mmm, no. I'm rather comfortable right here. You?"
"Did they do all right at the Reserve last week?" she asked softly as she traced soft patterns on his arm.
His hands were not so soft as he caressed her hips and slid under the blouse she was wearing. "Quite well. Next is working on the employment laws for werewolves."
"Excellent." She nuzzled him and before he knew it, his shirt was unbuttoned and she was tracing more soft patterns . . . this time with her tongue. "Mmm, you taste good."
He quickly flipped her over, pushing up her very sensible skirt to get at her entirely sexy knickers to do some nuzzling of his own. "I love," he said, his voice muffled against lace and skin, "that Harry's in school."
She laughed, the sound low and husky as he slid her knickers from her legs. "Another fantasy, then, Lord Black?"
"Shagging the stunning future Lady Black in my drawing room? Well, it's crossed my mind," he confessed, divesting himself of his trousers and underwear, but leaving his unbuttoned shirt on. She, after all, was still mostly dressed. He hooked one of her knees up on the back of the sofa, leaving her open and bare to him. "Absolutely crossed my mind," he said more softly as he knelt on the floor and tilted her for maximum access.
She moaned, and her body indicated her complete readiness as he tasted and traced his own patterns on her mound—which was mostly bare, these days, as she'd discovered he quite liked that. "Sirius . . . this feels so . . ."
"Yes. Oh, Sweet Circe, there . . ."
He was just bringing her down from what he had hoped to be her first orgasm of the afternoon when Remus decided that it was a perfect time to show up.
"Bloody hell, Pads! Close the Floo if you're not ready for company!"
Worried that Hermione would be horrified, mortified, or furious, Sirius immediately pulled her skirt down and positioned himself in front of her, only then remembering that he was the one who was bare-arsed in the room. Hermione was red in the face, but she was also laughing and sputtering out an apology.
Remus made a dismissive gesture. "Don't worry, there's nothing of his I've not seen before, Miss Granger."
"Missy Otter! So's you can be being our Lady Black now?"
Mitts asked this in front of her parents at the formal dinner Krinkle had decided to host for Hermione's eighteenth birthday. Luna Lovegood merely tilted her head and smiled at some invisible something over Hermione's head whilst Harry tried ineffectually to stifle a laugh. The two Hogwarts students had been granted leave to come to her birthday party and had, in effect, been given the weekend away from school.
Hermione caught her breath and darted wide-eyed glances to her mother and father, who looked extremely taken aback. "Er, no, not today, Mitts," she decided to say.
"Mitts is not thinking that Missy Otter be Lady Black today!"
"Well, that's a relief," her dad said, wiping imaginary perspiration from his forehead.
"I've had no time to plan a wedding!" her mum declared, hand over her heart as if the thought of a tossed-together event would give her palpitations.
Hermione stared at both her parents before shifting her focus to her fiancé. "Sirius? Help?" She had promised him that she would marry him in the Wizarding manner according his traditions, but she hadn't even started looking at those traditions yet as she had only just received offers from both Severus Snape and Lady Ehrmengard about apprenticing with them. She'd have to choose, though, and she hadn't made a decision yet. As both of them had proposed starting in January of next year, she had thought she'd had time to focus on the House-Elf Rights proposal she'd been drafting in response to the Order of Merlin brouhaha. She certainly hadn't been planning her wedding.
Even if she had been, privately, trying out new ways to write her name. Hermione Jean Black. Hermione Granger Black. H.J. Granger-Black. She rather suspected, though, that "Granger" would be relegated to a middle name as Sirius was from an Ancient and Noble House and even marrying a Muggleborn would be divergence enough for the time being.
Sirius cleared his throat and smiled charmingly at her parents. Hermione allowed herself to just enjoy and appreciate him; he was so good with people. "You won't have to worry about a thing, Emma," he told her mother. They were all on a first-name basis, which gave her mum no end of joy. "Hermione has asked—and of course I'm bowing to her every whim as she'll be the bride—to be bonded in accordance with the traditions of the House of Black."
Her mother's eyes went big and round, disappointment warring with academic curiosity. "What kinds of traditions?"
Hermione steeled herself, for Sirius had mischief flaring from his eyes. Normally, that expression made her inexpressibly happy. But just now, she knew to look for the double meaning in every phrase.
"Well, Emma, Dan, my family's traditions go back hundreds of years." He produced a leather-bound set of what looked like loose leaves of parchment. "The family grimoire, here, states that any couple who have made the kind of commitment to one another than Hermione and I have, have ceremonies we must use to marry."
She wrapped gratitude up in her magic and pushed it to him, hoping he'd feel how thankful she was that he avoided using words like "soulmate" and "bonding rituals".
Harry held up a finger in a bid for attention. "Hermione herself, being the Triwizard Champion and all, is rather famous as well. Being born of non-magical parents can be awkward so it's important for her standing in our society that she adhere to the traditions."
Inwardly, Hermione cringed because she felt like Harry was playing her parents and it made her unhappy, but he hadn't been wrong. She was under pressure—subtle, but pervasive—to conform to the stringent traditions due to her age, her blood status, and the House she was marrying into. Outwardly, though, she nodded. In the end, she would be married to Sirius, which she very much wanted. Eventually.
"What . . . what kinds of traditions?"
Sirius untied the leather binding and made a show of shifting through rune-bedecked sheets. She wondered if he could read any of it. "Well, we would need to perform the ceremony under the same moon phase that one of us was born under. We know those already, so that's one thing down. And traditional weddings are, er," he shot a bright glance at her, his cheekbones enhanced with his efforts to withhold a grin, "done skyclad, as they used to say."
"Naked ceremonies," Luna said to clarify, her own grin broad and comfortable. "My mother was married in one of the old ways and her ceremony was done skyclad. I want to do the same, to keep my family's traditions." She feathered her hand through Harry's hair and Hermione had all she could do not to roll over and laugh at Harry's red-faced discomfiture.
"My mother," Sirius said a bit more loudly to command the attention back to himself, "didn't hold with that herself. She had a charmed set of robes. Hermione could have some made. And then there are the vows and all . . . they have to be said before a certain calibre of witch or wizard, who will then bind us together in accordance with our commitment to each other. The result is a tattoo on our wrists. Mine and hers." He reached for her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist and, as always, the gesture made her heart flutter.
She could do this.
Just not that evening.
"So, naked weddings?"
It was Hermione's voice that asked and Luna's that answered, "Oh, yes. But the best benefit of course, was giving my Night ideas!"
Sirius laughed, uncaring that the sound alerted the young women to his presence. "Good morning, ladies." He served himself from the sideboard, starting with coffee. Mondays required reinforcement.
"Morning, love," Hermione replied, rising and kissing his cheek. "I decided to put my argument in front of people, by the way, rather that the Wizengamot."
"She's the first person ever to advocate for House-Elves to receive an Order of Merlin, Lord Black," Luna piped in, raising a cup of what appeared to be lemon and water in salute to Hermione. "I'll put her on the front page. My father is very excited about this."
Sirius wasn't entirely sure how that would go over, but such an article could well be influential and would certainly get people thinking, which he said to the young women. "Making a name for yourself early, love?"
She sighed playfully, leaning back in her chair with a cup of tea. "Well, I did make that a condition, didn't I? And the elves have been awfully . . . persistent."
He stilled for a moment, his heart actually skipping a beat or two as he considered her implications. Her eyes warmed and danced, her intention plain for him to read and he grinned. "Well, they're quite focused," was all he said.
Luna hummed happily over the parchment she was reading and didn't appear to notice a thing.
The article, when it was printed, garnered discussion in the Wizengamot. and Sirius took up figurative arms in defense of his soulmate.
And stood right at her side when she had to defend her position wherever they went for weeks.
It was her first night in her new place. She was renting a flat in Hogsmeade, so Sirius had a base that was right next to the school. Flooing to London was easy, and to get to her parents, she could Floo to Sirius's house and then Apparate—or take a taxi—to Lancaster Gardens. She wasn't entirely unpacked yet, but she and Sirius were relaxing and Connie had insisted on helping Missy Otter-to-be-Lady Black.
"Even though we elves know it won't be for long that Missy Otter-to-be-Lady Black be's living here!"
She'd learned to smile and move on from the appellation, and chose to do so that evening, curled up on the sofa in her own, Remus-has-no-access flat.
The new flat was actually one more box checked off on her plan. The path she had sketched out to herself of things to do before she agreed to actually take up the role of Lady Black. The papers were speculating, letters from her old schoolmates at Beauxbatons had lots of salacious inquiries, and of course the house-elves were perpetually pushing. But the closer she came, she more she was pricked by the insecurity raised by the bloody horcruxes. Even though she knew they were lying, that Tom Riddle had no idea who she was and was in fact likely already dead by the time she was destroying the pieces of his soul, she was still bothered.
"Are you sure?"
He was holding her hand, seemingly transfixed by the ring he'd placed there. "Sure about what, love?"
"Me. Compared to, well, other relationships . . ." She hated herself for saying it, hated herself for being so insecure, but. "Merde! I'm sorry."
"Not the first time you've mentioned it, Hermione." He pressed his lips together and shifted over to meet her gaze. "I can't tell you how much I wish I'd been there for you, that night."
"That's all on me," she insisted softly, watching his fingers play with hers. She loved his hands. Long, capable fingers with light calluses on them, they surrounded hers and made her feel loved and cared for and safe. "I just . . . I remember how you looked at the Yule Ball, you know. He had a look in his eye . . ."
Sirius sighed a little and pulled her over to straddle his thighs. "Hermione. I am so happy with you. You're my soulmate, remember? We had our time, Remus and I did, but now I have you and I intend to be bound to you forever. This life and the next, you know? Soulmates can do that. And I could not be happier." He drew her down to slide his lips over hers, gently, then tracing her mouth with his tongue, persuading, begging with small sounds to let him in, let him show her.
And she did.
When she woke the next morning, her heart was lighter. Sirius was smiling, naked in bed beside her, hair tousled on the beautiful pillowcases in her own flat and she was more content to wake like this than she had ever been.
His voice came through on the obsidian Grim, the excitement in it palpable. Hermione had been doing some pre-reading in Plants to Potions text Severus Snape had recommended she be in full comprehension of before beginning her work with him after the new year.
She was scrambling to reach the . . . thing . . . after marking her place in the book, forgetting only too late that she could have Summoned it and saved herself a barked shin and a bent page. "Sirius!"
"The vote! It's up for the vote! In this afternoon's session. Get your pretty arse down here in your most Order of Merlinesque robes!"
She felt as if she'd had the breath knocked from her lungs as she told Sirius she'd do her best. That had gone quite quickly. He'd only introduced her House-Elf Recognition Bill in early November, in response to the surprising surge of positivity following her presentation/rant/op-ed piece that appeared in the Quibbler.
It had helped, of course, that she was the acknowledged fiancé of Lord Black. It also helped that she was the acknowledged Champion of the Triwizard Tournament. But most impressive of course, was that everyone was thrilled that Voldemort was dead for real and forever and his corpse had been seen by many.
So the revered members of the Wizengamot had been accepting of at least hearing the proposed bill that would recognize Kreacher and Krinkle for their roles in the defeat of the Dark Lord Voldemort and the survival of Harry James Black and Neville Francis Longbottom. She wasn't asking for a new standing for all House-Elves. Just those two.
Sirius had advised her to start small. She had.
"Krinkle!" she called, even though she was in her Hogsmeade flat.
The house-elf appeared in her bedroom, appearing as unperturbed as if she were in Derbyshire. "Yes, Miss Granger?" He, at least, used her proper name and Hermione smiled at him. "How can Krinkle be of service?"
"You can put on your best robes and take me to the Wizengamot!"
The elf's dark blue eyes widened for a moment before returning to their usual impassivity. "Yes, Miss Granger. Is Lord Black there?"
"He is and he just told me to get there in a hurry and you should accompany me."
Her heart was all but dancing inside her chest as she pulled on her "meeting the Potions Master" conservative outfit to go underneath a formal set of black silk robes that were reminiscent of Sirius's. She made sure her ring was polished and her hair in a decorous coronet, with tendrils wisping about her temples. When Krinkle returned, he bowed to her and she nodded to him, extending her hand. "Please take me to the Wizengamot, Krinkle."
They appeared in the Atrium, as house-elves can go almost anywhere save the Department of Mysteries, and Hermione endeavored to look as utterly unperturbed as her escort. "Krinkle will take you to the Chamber, Miss Granger."
"That would be most kind."
Sirius met them halfway there, eyes alight in mischief. "This is going to change everything, Hermione. I never would have thought it, but it will." He took her left hand in his and pressed his lips decorously just above her betrothal ring. "You are going to be an amazing Lady Black." He then turned to house-elf. "Thank you, Krinkle. Well done. Please join us."
The old elf actually rocked back on his small heels. "Lord Black?"
"Come with us."
"As the Lord Black wishes . . ." He followed behind them, Hermione saw, with every appearance of wariness. She didn't blame him. This had to be unusual.
There was a lot of talk, a lot of staring, a lot of muttering.
And that was just from Krinkle.
In the end, though, the Wizengamot voted to award the Order of Merlin, Third Class (one Posthumously), to the two house-elves who had been most instrumental in bringing about the downfall of Voldemort: Krinkle and Kreacher.
The pictures went out to the entirety of the Wizarding world the following day.
"Missy Otter! So's you can be being our Lady Black now?"
New Year's Eve was a vastly different occasion this year than it had been the year before, Sirius reflected as he heard Hermione discussing arrangements with Mitts and Connie in the Kensington house. He heard Connie's question and let it slide in one ear and out the other.
Oh, at first he'd heeded each answer, his whole being alert to Hermione's possible acquiescence. But after, oh, the first hundred negative replies, he'd laughed it off. He had asked, she'd said yes, and he was more or less content to wait for a bit before wheedling a bonding date from her. He wanted to be married before he was forty and she'd said that worked for her.
That meant fewer than two years and Sirius Orion Black could look at the long term, right? Of course he could.
"Connie, you keep asking me that question."
"Ask her just once more!" Luna Lovegood advised the house-elf.
This pricked Sirius's ear so that he closed the vault—where he'd been finding the perfect jeweled ensemble for Hermione to gift her with—and moved stealthily down the corridor to the kitchen. But even though he'd tried for entering secretively, she still knew he was there. Probably due to his emotions that suddenly spiked.
She looked up from her conversation with Connie and smiled at him shyly. Her answer was for the elf, but the smile was entirely for him, he knew.
"I can be your Lady Black now."
Exultation swooped through Sirius's body. He leapt over a chair, tapped Luna on her pretty blond head, and swept Hermione into his arms. "Now?"
"Well, for that ritual you mentioned, we might want to wait 'til just before Beltane. It would be . . ."
"Deemed a boon by all!" Luna declared getting up to dance lightly around the couple. "On the moon of your birth, Sirius, and close enough to the rites of fertility!"
Hermione blushed but did not drop her gaze as she leaned in to Sirius's face. "Well, not quite ready for that, but otherwise . . ."
"April thirtieth," Luna answered, as if she'd been part of the private conversation all along. The young woman did have her own sense of things, Sirius had learnt in the time she'd been with his son. "And no, Hermione, you don't have to do it without robes." Sirius gasped and gaped at the girl as she added, "Harry and I can carry that tradition, when it's time."
"Has he . . . has he asked, Luna?" Hermione wondered, sliding down Sirius's body so that her feet touched the floor. Sirius didn't let her escape his arms, however.
Luna shook her head so that the tiny faerie lights wound amongst her curls seemed to dance a bit. "Oh no. I'll just tell him when it's time."
Harry appeared then, Apparating into the kitchen with his tie hanging loosely about his neck. "What are you all laughing at?"
Sirius decided not to say.
Connie didn't either, for she had gone off to alert all the elves of the house, her voice ringing like a tiny bell. It was soon joined by all the others as all the house-elves, even Krinkle, came to congratulate Missy Otter on her good sense.
The night was cloud-blanketed but free of moonlight in Derbyshire on the night of their binding. It was chilly and they daren't add warming charms to interfere with the ancient rites, so the guests were wrapped in blankets made of wool or robes of natural weaves as they stood in the meadow on the Farecliffe property. They formed a circle around Hermione and Sirius and Lady Ehrmengard, who had consented to perform the ceremony. Harry and Luna had come, as had Neville, Yvette, and Augusta. Remus, Tonks, and Charlie were in attendance as well, and their triad had sparked a great deal of interest in the Runes Mistress. She'd asked to speak with them later.
Hermione smiled to see her parents in the circle. Dad and Mum were not entirely comfortable, but they wanted very much to be with her on her "special day". Even if it were at night. They wore ceremonial robes as well, as her parents, and looked quite fine in them, she thought. Luna's father had joined them, and he seemed the most comfortable with the proceedings; even moreso than his daughter.
Forming another ring around that one were the house-elves. They added their magic to the circle, wards that complemented the binding magic rather than competing with it. Elves from all the Houses represented as well as any that had a wish to come were welcomed by Krinkle and Connie.
Even Mitts had left the security of the Kensington house to come to the ceremony. She had attached herself to Harry and Luna for the evening.
In contrast to what the guests and family wore, Hermione's own robes were of Acromantula silk, but underneath them, she was bare as the day she was born. Sirius was likewise garbed, but his robes were black while hers were white as she had come to him a virgin. That the loss of her virginity had happened almost a year ago was irrelevant as they'd been discovered soulmates before it happened.
Promises were made in well-rehearsed Irish Gaelic. Their union acclaimed by all who came to witness it, and they fully acknowledged their status as soulmates before all present.
"And thus your bond will be eternal, in this life and the next," Lady Ehrmengard declared, sketching out white-gold runes of binding in the air over their joined hands. She duplicated the airborne runes on their wrists, so that they were tattooed on their skins.
It stung. Rather more than she thought it might. But she welcomed the pain as she saw the delight in Sirius's bright gray eyes.
"And now Missy Otter is our Lady Black!"
It was reason enough to kiss the groom.
"How come I didn't know you owned an island?"
Sirius smirked as he divested his wife of her white silk robe. "Hmmm?" he asked, his lips surrounding the pebbled peak of a breast.
She gasped, as intended. "An island, Lord Black?"
"In the family for generations, Lady Black." Then, he stood to his full height and wandlessly sent the robe to float lightly to the back of a chair in the room of the cottage. "Merlin. Lady Black." Pride welled within him to know she'd taken his name, become his own, and was standing before him now with their bonding tattoo fresh on her wrist. He kissed that wrist, then, in the gesture he knew she adored for it made her shiver, even now. "My lady."
"Your lady, Lord Black," she murmured, closing the distance between them to kiss his wrist as well. Her lips on the tattoo sent a jolt of sensual energy right to his cock, which claimed pride of place between them. "Mmm, liked that, did you?"
She dropped unexpectedly to her knees and proceeded to remind him just how much sensual energy she could impart with her tongue. "Beltane," he gasped out when he could, "is apparently a good time of year for you."
She laughed before relaxing her throat and taking him deep until he swore to Merlin and Godric Gryffindor. His climax rocked him to his toes and he wanted nothing so much as to make her completely mad with her own.
He did his best. She touched him after he'd dropped her with no ceremony whatsoever to the bed. "Beltane's good for you as well, my lord."
"Say it again," he demanded, kissing his way up her legs, smirking as he bypassed her clit and licked her navel instead.
"Only if I really mean it," she countered, squirming beneath his hands.
Then, he decided to surprise her, telling her in French, the language they'd used when they'd first met, how many ways he wanted to love her before the sun rose.
Remus and Charlie hovered around their mate without apology over Yule. She sighed loudly whenever anyone mentioned the twins she carried, for she knew everyone wanted to know if she knew which of her men had fathered them.
"Both!" she eventually shouted, startling the house-elves so much that Connie dropped a tray. Unheard of. "Both, all right? Enough, already. Blame it on Beltane!" The Metamorphmagus then treated them to a series of hair colors that cycled between black, pink, red, and sandy blond. Over and over. "Oi, Hermione!" Tonks then called, having no care as to social decorum, and no one dared to look askance at her with her men on either side. "How'd you manage not to get up the duff?"
Sirius shook his head and eyed his cousin darkly. "Our reproductive business is our reproductive business, Nymphadora."
Harry had proposed to Luna before dinner that evening, in front of everyone, and their announcement carried the rest of the evening.
Their private binding ceremony would take place the summer after Luna graduated from Hogwarts.
1 September 2012, King's Cross Station
"Lady Black! Lady Black!"
"You can't be serious—no, don't, love," Hermione muttered. "Hasn't she been put to pasture yet?"
Rita Skeeter approached, quill at the ready. Her glasses were huge and round, these days, and her robes less figure-hugging and more given to pin-striping. "Miss Skeeter, how do you do?" Hermione said in greeting, her tone bland and off-putting.
Rita Skeeter didn't choose to be put off. "Lady Black! So glad to have caught you here this morning. Sending your little one off to Hogwarts?"
Sirius held their youngest, Ara, in one arm whilst their middle girl, Lyra, clung to his hand. Hermione had her arm around their eldest's shoulders. "Indeed. Aster, this is Rita Skeeter, reporter for The Daily Prophet."
Asterope—her actual name, which the girl enjoyed writing even if she preferred the truncated version spoken—nodded distantly. "Miss Skeeter. Yes, I'm starting Hogwarts this year. How long ago did you graduate?"
"Aster," Hermione said, surprised but not overly so to see the mischief in her firstborn's gray eyes. Aster's hair was brown but smooth. Her younger sisters had inherited their father's hair and mother's features. "Did you have a reason to hail me, Miss Skeeter?"
"Er, yes. It's about the Centaur Education Act, you see . . ."
"Please owl me Monday, if you would. Today is for my family."
With such a dismissal, Skeeter had no choice but to comply and she edged sheepishly away.
"Daddy! She smelt like old sweet cream," Lyra said, wrinkling her nose.
"Daddy! She smell!" Ara chimed in.
Sirius laughed, long and loud, cuddling his younger daughters to himself whilst Aster embraced them as well as she could. "I love my girls," he said to no one in particular. "Every single one of them."
"It's only fair, you know. Since I've all sons." Remus Lupin joined them, then. His twins were beginning their third year at the school. The triad's youngest was not yet of age to go.
Sirius paled. "I never thought of that," he whispered, sending a look to Hermione.
She grinned. "Really? I did. I think it was that one time I Floo'd over to ask Tonks about my first pregnancy and caught them—"
"Not in front of the girls!" Remus and Sirius demanded.
Young Edward Lupin joined them. "Aster! Brilliant! So glad you're finally here. C'mon, let's get sorted, yeah?"
With barely a backward glance, Aster matched the boy's pace and Sirius let out a nearly canine whine. "When did that happen?"
"Don't worry, Dad. You've still got me and Ara," Lyra said with all the wisdom of her nine years.
"Got me!" Ara declared, patting her father's cheek.
Hermione leaned in and kissed her husband softly on the jaw. "We'll just sic Harry on 'em," she murmured.
Sirius brightened considerably. The Scion of the Ancient and Noble House of Black was a certifiable badass and he'd defend his little sisters against the terrible boys of the House of Lupin.
1 September 2020, Kensington House, London
"Mmm, right there," Sirius whispered, his feet across his wife's lap. "Perfect, love. Just perfect."
"No one's home. It's kind of weird," Hermione said, massaging her husband's feet after a day spent at the train station, then with Harry and Luna, who had sent their youngest off to Hogwarts for the first time that day as well, just as Ara had gone. "No grandkids this year."
"It's too quiet."
"Want to make some noise?" she asked, tickling his toes.
"Sixty's just a number, anyway," he said, referring to his age and moving with great speed to pull her atop him on the sofa. "I think I can still make a lot of noise. Can you?"
They were both crying out loud enough to make Mitts take cover when they heard, "Padfoot! Close the bleeding Floo!"
A/N: Naked Luna weddings are my headcanon, thanks to Shayalonnie and Colubrina.
Thank you all for joining me in this AU. It's been a pleasure. - LJ Summers