In the weeks leading up to the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams Harry felt the strangeness of being back in school like he hadn't since the beginning of the year. He and Hermione were furiously studying for their exams during every free moment they had. They were frequently joined by Iris who was studying for her O.W.L.s and determined to make Harry proud of her. The two older teens were free with their help when she asked for it and she returned the favour by quizzing them when they asked for it, something Hermione did far more often than Harry.
The entire castle was now aware of the fact that Iris' family had thrown her out and Harry had adopted her. It had even prompted a letter to the other students' parents from Minerva that explained that Iris' situation was a special one and that expelling their children from the family was in no way likely to get them adopted by Harry.
A day before the exams started Harry felt Hermione tense up beside him and looked up to see the WEA examiners coming into the Great Hall. Oh dear. Did they have to make an entrance? Now Hermione's going to be getting so worked up that she won't be able to study anymore. Wonder if it would help to point that out? I can always try it if she really does lose control. Who knows? She's surprised me more than a few times this year. That night in the Head Suite, Harry was called into action just as he had anticipated. Hermione was pacing nervously through the common room with a book hovering in front of her face. That's a way to combine worrying and studying I suppose. Despite being impressed by Hermione's ability, Harry stepped into her path and caught both the book and her waist.
"Harry! What do you think you're doing?"
"Getting you to stop for a moment. You know that stressing yourself out isn't conducive to actually remembering what's on those pages. You are taking a break."
"Harry, this isn't funny! The exams start tomorrow!"
"If they start tomorrow, then you are either prepared or not. Do you doubt that you're prepared?"
"I could be more prepared." Hermione muttered without meeting Harry's eyes.
"Hermione, I love you, but that was a steaming pile of horseshit." Hermione looked at Harry in shock. "The best thing you can do now to prepare is to relax and get a good night's sleep. Come on." Harry dragged Hermione over to the couch and pulled her down onto it with him.
"Are we going to get a good night's rest on the couch?" Hermione asked archly.
"Of course not. We're just going to sit here until you relax a bit and then we're going to bed." Harry lit a fire in the hearth and threw up a cooling charm around it. "Now why don't you stare into the flames for a while and calm down?" It took over an hour and many kisses before Hermione had calmed down enough that Harry couldn't feel the muscles of her neck standing out like pieces of wood. She was curled up into his side and Harry was feeling very relaxed himself with her there. Next time she asks if we can go to bed I think I'll say yes. Hermione hadn't asked him that question for a good twenty minutes though.
"Always." Hermione stretched up to press a kiss to his lips.
"I think I'm ready to go to bed now."
"Alright." The next morning Harry and Hermione attended their exams after wishing Iris good luck with hers. That evening they reviewed for the next day until surprisingly it was Hermione who called an end to the session and dragged Harry to the couch where she cuddled up against him and lit a fire with her wand.
"I've never slept as well before an exam as I did last night." she muttered defensively at Harry's confused look. With a smile he slipped his arms around her and pulled her close as he enjoyed what would become their ritual for as long as the exams lasted.
They had a few days after the exams ended when they could just relax while they waited for their results. Unlike with the O.W.L.s they would get their N.E.W.T. scores as they boarded the train. As Harry, Hermione and Iris were sitting by the lake enjoying their last days together at school there was only one thing bothering Harry: his little sister was looking particularly concerned with something and he had no idea what the problem might be.
"Iris? Is there something on your mind?"
"Huh? Oh, um, it's not important."
"Iris, we're family now. If I can do something to help you I will. Just tell me what's wrong."
"It's just-... are you sure that you'll have enough room for me wherever you're going to be staying? I mean, I wouldn't want to impose on the Grangers and crowd their house with another guest." Harry and Hermione shared a look and burst out into chuckles.
"Iris, I think I forgot to let you in on a little Secret." Harry looked around theatrically for potential eavesdroppers before stage whispering: "Harry Potter lives at Number 12 Grimmauld Place." Iris' eyes widened as she heard that.
"You have a house under the Fidelius Charm? I suppose that it explains why the goblins couldn't tell D- James about it."
"Not just any house: the Black family's old house. I have more than enough space for you and Hermione to live with me and turn the rest of the rooms into a library to rival Hogwarts'." Hermione gasped out loud and went glassy eyed at that idea. "Down, girl." Harry murmured in her ear when he saw the state she was in. Hermione blushed when she realised that she'd been caught, before swatting Harry in chest and laughing.
"You did that on purpose, you lout." Harry was too busy laughing along with her to answer her for a while. When he did get his breath back he sat back up and gave Iris a gentle shoulder bump.
"Don't worry too much, Iris. That's my job now. You just sit there and worry about whether or not you got an Exceeds Expectations to mar those perfect Outstandings." Leaning closer he once again stage whispered. "Hermione did." Harry scrambled up and started running as he could already hear Hermione's indignant sputtering.
"Harry James Potter!"
"You told her embarrassing stories first!" Harry called over his shoulder and then dove for the grass to dodge the Colour Changing Charm that came whizzing at his head. "Ha! Missed!"
"Come on, Iris! Your brother needs to be taught a lesson."
"Hey, two on one is unfair." Harry called out even as he was already running away from the girls with a grin stretched across his face. This is a much better way to spend the afternoon than watching the girls worry.
Hadrian stepped down off of the Express and joined the other milling students as he looked for his parents. When he found them his mother immediately grabbed him in a hug.
"Oh, popkin I'm so proud of you." she gushed.
"Muuum." he whined as he tried to shake her off.
"I don't think she can help it, son. This is a proud moment." Dad said with a laugh in his voice. "Renford get back to you about that starting position yet?"
"No. The only offer on the table is from the Wanderers." Hadrian left it unsaid that as one of the bottom sides in the league they were particularly desperate for talent. The money they were offering was actually pretty good all things considered, but Hadrian was hoping for a better team that would allow him to collect larger bonuses for winning the league or even just reaching the Europa League.
"Well, at least you've got one job offer." Dad said bracingly. "You can always find yourself at the centre of a bidding war if you really show the league what you're made of." Horseshit. Just a year ago you would have realised that the other teams have enough ability in their sides that they can afford to worry about politics. Hadrian barely restrained a sigh. That's not fair. Mum and Dad are going to be living on the edge of poverty for years to come because of what the Wizengamot did to them. As the Potters were crossing the platform towards the floos so they could get to their home in Hogsmeade they ran into Beaverface and the two traitors.
"Mr. Potter!" Granger called out. Can't you bugger off? This was supposed to be a special day for me.
"What do you want, girl?" Dad asked imperiously.
"I wanted to talk to you about that contract you set up between yourself and Harry."
"The one that keeps you from making any claim to each other's accounts." That was a contract? And Harry signed it?!
"Oh? Are you hoping I'll add that pair of traitors back to the Potter account? Forget it, missy. You'll just have to put up with having picked the losing side."
"If you say so. I'm actually here because Harry gave me a wonderful graduation gift. You see, I get to be the one to point out that it also means that you've renounced any claim to anything that's Harry's." Granger said in sweet voice. Hadrian could feel something hanging over their heads, but wasn't sure what it was yet. "I also get to tell you that when you tried to steal Harry's account he already knew what you were trying to do and he moved most of the Potter fortune into a private account; 850'000 galleons wasn't it, Harry?" What?! Hadrian felt numb as he tried to process that.
"It was a little less than that at the time, but with my Chief Warlock's salary, I've managed to add to the balance so it's a little higher now." Harry answered with fond amusement dancing in his eyes as he looked at Granger. That's nearly four times as much as we had before we came here.
"Oh, of course. Thank you, Harry. Anyway as you can see, while you were being venal, materialistic, little rats all Harry ever felt for you was pity. You really are a bit of an embarrassment to the Potter name after all." Hadrian felt a strange cold seeping into his bones as Granger's eyes swept over his family. She let out a contented sigh and pressed a kiss to Harry's lips. "Thank you, Harry. Their faces are every bit as priceless as I'd hoped." Iris was just watching the whole thing quietly. She's part of Harry's family. She has access to all that wealth. The horror that was coiling in his gut snaked up his spine causing a shiver. He looked over at Mum and Dad to see how they were taking the news and saw that their faces had turned grey and were frozen in expressions of horror. Looking back at the other three, Hadrian saw they were walking away already. He could just make out Granger's voice drifting back to them. "I wonder how long it will take them to figure out that Harry could have paid their fine sixty times over?" Next to Hadrian, Dad sank to his knees, his eyes empty and staring as the shocks became too much to handle. Hadrian barely noticed his trunk handle slipping from his numb fingers. He also didn't notice the trunk popping open. The first hint he had that something was wrong was three jets of light blue mist hitting him and his parents in the face.
Thankfully some of the people on the platform saw it happen and managed to transport the family to St. Mungo's where the staff and most of the people present had a good laugh at the nonsense the the Traveling Potters were spewing out. They didn't stop them until Hadrian and James had to be sedated when they started badmouthing Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. According to the Healers, sedation was the only way to ensure that the family would not be torn apart by an angry mob. When the Potters awoke the next day they found a hospital bill and several mocking headlines added to their woes. They made their way back to Hogsmeade with their faces burning with the shame of their treatment. That night, instead of the party they had planned to celebrate Hadrian's graduation the Potter family went quietly to bed. None of them had spoken voluntarily since that girl had torn their world view apart and Hadrian was grateful that someone had apparently already come up with a cure for endless babbling.
Four Years Later
Hadrian leant against a dirty, back-alley wall and took a drag of his cigarette. Madame Bernier had only given him a five minute break. Some bastards just have all the luck. Harry for instance. Everyone just gives him anything he asks for and what do I get? Fuck all!
A few days after the incident on Platform 9 ¾ Ginny had come to Hadrian with tears in her eyes, slapped him and broken up with him. Apparently in the course of his ramblings he'd admitted to Memory Charming Ron so that his involvement in the dryad affair wouldn't become known as well as pranking Harry with a Babbling Bomb and breaking Dean's leg to get into the final Quidditch match of the year. The Healers had called the Weasleys in, just in case, and confirmed Hadrian's ramblings. Ginny had refused to listen to Hadrian's explanations of why he had had no choice and had simply walked out on him. So much for the perfect woman. First sign of trouble and she leaves me. On top of that Beaverface's courts just had to slap a fine on me for what I did. It's not like an Obliviation hurts anyone or anything I did was permanent.
The hospital bill had drained the last of Hadrian's funds in his account, leaving him unable to pay that fine, and when he had approached the Wanderers about accepting their offer they told him that it had been rescinded. Apparently he wasn't worth the negative press the club would get. As if they know more about handling the press than I do. Unfortunately Hadrian's name was mud everywhere. It had taken him months to find even this job and he was still paying off the debts he had incurred while he was unemployed. And it's not like this job has a decent salary or any benefits. I think that the only reason I got it is that no one else wanted it.
It was supposed to be so easy. With no You Know Who here I was supposed to have an easier time following the plan from back home. I would build up my popularity playing Quidditch, then the auror department when I retired from the sport, then Director of the DMLE and then Minister. Given that Dad still hasn't received a promotion in the years he's been working there, I have to assume that I would be given the same treatment. That alone would have delayed my career, but they had to make Harry the damn Chief Warlock. Harry's appointment had generated an upswell of support for him in the Ministry and it still hadn't settled down. With Harry as Chief Warlock and Kingsley Shacklebolt as Minister many wizards were speaking of a political golden age. There had never been so much trust in the people leading the country as there was currently. The upcoming elections were expected to see both men retaining their positions. And it's not even like he needed the income with all the money he managed to steal from us. Meanwhile we're fucked because everyone knows that Harry's 'feuding' with the rest of our family. Could it be that the twerp saw this coming? It seems so ridiculous, but she's the only one of us who's been able to come out on top in this new world. Well, if you call a History of Magic apprenticeship 'on top'. The only future she really has is being Binns' successor. That's depressing any way you look at it.
Almost as depressing as the fact that Mum and Dad are still struggling to get by. Mum said that they've been able to pay back about a third of the fine since I finished Hogwarts, but it's still going to take years more to pay all of it. Even then their savings will never be anywhere near what we used to have back home. The thought reminded Hadrian depressingly of the job he had to get back to. He tossed his cigarette on the ground and ground it out under his boot. He walked back inside through the steel door with the peeling paint.
"I said five minutes, Plotter!" And there is that delightful nickname that everyone insists on using. When the story about why Ginny had dumped Hadrian had reached the media, they had also uncovered Dad's efforts to keep the family financially healthy and added it on to the stories about Dad's fine and his argument with Harry at Shacklebolt's Inaugural Ball. The result had been a one-word headline that had become the family's de facto name: Plotters!
"Sorry, Madame Bernier." Hadrian managed to grit out. You miserable hag. If I didn't have creditors breathing down my neck I'd have hexed you already.
"Yes, well, Star's finished with her client. Go clean the room."
"Yes, Madame Bernier." Is there any job more demeaning than being the janitor at a Knockturn Alley brothel? I thought I'd at least get a go with some of the girls once in a while, but noooo, none of them will even come near me unless I pay and even that's not enough sometimes. Hadrian picked up his bag of cleaning supplies and climbed the stairs to where the girls had their rooms. He opened the door to Star's room and recoiled from the stench. Oh fuck; not this fetish again. As soon as I can find another lamp with a djinn I'm going to take my chances. I'll even invite Mum and Dad along. In the past four years Hadrian hadn't seen hide nor hair of any lamps that might potentially contain a djinn, but he kept looking through the shops around his workplace and squirreling away what money he could. Hadrian looked at the room around him with a grimace and cleaned what he could with his wand. Some things even magic couldn't clean though and that was why Madame Bernier had hired a cleaner. I just can't catch a break.
A loud thumping at the door of Number 12 Grimmauld Place pulled Harry out of his slumber. Just my luck. We can't even be home for a full day before someone needs something. Pressing a soft kiss to his new wife's shoulder Harry slipped out of bed and pulled on a dressing gown and a pair of slippers. He hurried down the stairs determined to get the door and give their visitor a piece of his mind before anyone else needed to wake up. Grumbling to himself he yanked the door open and was immediately grabbed by a flying body.
"Harry! You're back!"
"Iris? What the hell are you doing here at the arse crack of dawn? And keep it down; Hermione's still sleeping."
"Sorry. I'm just happy to see you again; and it's not like it's that early. It's ten o'clock, lazy bones."
"Not in Manaus it isn't." Harry groused.
"Welcome back to Britain." Iris grinned in response.
"Fine, fine. Would you like some tea?"
"And stories! I want to hear all about what my big brother and my new sister got up to on their honeymoon."
"If you need me to tell you, you're too young to know."
"Eww! Get your mind out of the gutter, Harry. I know you did more than just shag Hermione all day long."
"Well, I wouldn't have minded."
"I would." came Hermione's still sleepy voice from the stairs. "You wore me out a few times as is. I'm not sure I could have handled more."
"Hermione!" Hermione was also treated to an enthusiastic hug from her sister-in-law. Harry just shook his head and made his way into the kitchen to put the kettle on. The two girls came in and by the sound of it Hermione was already giving an in depth account of their five week honeymoon through South America. Harry left her to it, more than a little familiar with the futility of trying to derail Hermione in full lecture mode. Surprisingly when he set the teapot and the cups on the table for the girls she actually broke off her tale to give him a deep kiss.
"Good morning, love."
"Good morning to you too." Harry murmured, briefly forgetting that they had company.
"I'm starting to doubt my earlier certainty that the two of you made it out of your bedroom." Iris teased to remind them of her presence. Harry was just too contented to feel any kind of sting from his little sister's jibe.
"Would you two like some breakfast?" he asked instead. Hermione and Iris both agreed causing Harry to cock an eyebrow at the younger woman. "Not that early, huh?"
"Shut it. You should be happy that I was so excited to see you." Iris retorted with an embarrassed look on her face. Chuckling, Harry turned on the oven to warm it up and started pulling out the things he would need to get breakfast started. Thank the ancients for preservation charms. Half an hour later, Harry was setting warm rolls, various cold cuts, fruits and glasses of orange juice on the table. As he joined his sister and his wife for breakfast Harry let himself get drawn into the discussion of all the magical sites they'd visited on their trip. The girls were on their second pot of tea and Harry on his third cup of coffee when the conversation started turning to news from their circle of friends.
"I heard that Ginny has started sending out the invitations for her own wedding to Michael Corner. She's determined to 'show you how it's supposed to be done'." Harry and Hermione had not wanted a massively overdone wedding, despite Mrs. Weasley's urging. It wasn't to their taste and there were quite simply not that many people that they thought of as friends. In the end there had only been twenty guests and both had been happy with that.
"Well, we'll see her soon enough then I suppose." Hermione said in a matter of fact tone. "How is your apprenticeship coming along?" The two women were soon wrapped up in a serious discussion about some historical detail. It couldn't really capture Harry's attention and as his mind wandered it seemed it couldn't help but throw up more interesting thoughts like the way Hermione looked lying naked on their bed. He was drawn back into the conversation by a question that had nothing to do with history.
"Have the Potters been giving you any trouble, Iris?"
"James and Lily still haven't spoken to me since Harry adopted me. Hadrian only shoots me snide comments when we run into each other in the street."
"That's about what we expected isn't it? As long as they aren't bothering you, I'd suggest we just let them be." Harry couldn't find it in himself to care too much what Hadrian and his parents were doing. I have everything I could ask for right here. He looked at the picture of their wedding day which Hermione had hung on the wall right before they left on their honeymoon. Okay, I have the most important things here. I suppose I do hope that everyone in that picture stays happy and healthy. Harry was pulled out of his thoughts by his wife's lips on his cheek.
"What are you thinking about so deeply?" she asked him. As he looked into her doe brown eyes only one answer came to him.
"I am one lucky man to have all I do."
AN: And that's it. Harry understands that, even with all the bad things that happened to him, there are still things about his life that he's happy with. The Plotters are poverty stricken and unlikely to ever recover; they also have their notoriety even if they don't seem to like it for some odd reason. Careful what you wish for, especially with a djinn (or a fanfic author) I suppose. Credit to reviewer ctc1000 for the name 'Babbling Bombs'.
I want to thank you for sticking with this if you've read it all the way to the end. I know that there are a few of you out there who are a little uncomfortable with the way some of the characters were presented or who found out that the story was taking off in a different direction than you'd hoped and if you made it here you deserve a pat on the back for sticking with something you might not have entirely agreed with; go on, I'll wait.
Because it's been coming up: I have no problem with people wanting to write omakes or spinoffs or wanting to use certain ideas or themes from the story. I would unsurprisingly appreciate a mention in an AN so that more people can find this story, but if this story inspires you to write something then that's awesome and I look forward to seeing how others would have handled things.
A special thanks to all my reviewers: you are the ones who help me improve as a writer and hopefully I'll be able to build on this for my next work. Some of you will know that I have a list of projects that I am working on on my profile, so you can take a look there and see if I've got something coming out that peaks your interest. Those of you who have been looking forward to the Skyrim crossover: I have it about 2/3 mapped (this thing is going to be a beast). I've also picked up work on a challenge and a second broomstick flyer tribute and I've mapped out an N.C.I.S. crossover, but that's going to be slow to write since I seem to have made notes on several episodes which I should go back and watch given how sparse those notes are.
Until the next time: happy reading.