Three small house-elves blinked in surprise, putting their hands up in surrender to suddenly find two wands levelled in their direction.
"Goodness!" Hermione exclaimed, lowering her wand immediately. "Sorry about that. I didn't realise there would be elves still here."
"Mistress," one of the elves said, smiling toothily at her. "How can we be of service? Do you have tasks you'd like us to do?"
"Err..." Hermione glanced over at Harry. "I'm not... uh... in charge of you, am I?"
"Of course you is, Mistress. Master be kissing you and now we be yours to command. We has been waiting a long time to have someone command us once more."
Hermione sighed. Just what she needed. House elves who were going to treat her bogus title as Rowle's witch like it was law.
"Oh, dear. I should've known this would happen. Alright then, well, as you're obviously aware, I snogged Rowle and here we are. I'll be taking custody of Alrik from the Ministry too. We're here looking for some of his toys or clothes, you see. He'll be moving in with me at my cottage, along with three other boys and so we need whatever we can find of his things for them all."
"But Mistress... Master Alrik is be living here. He belongs here."
"I know, little one, but I can't be seen living here. It would be very bad for wizards everywhere. Until Thorfinn is released from Azkaban, Alrik will live with me in my cottage. The three of you are, of course, welcome to assist me in raising the four boys, in addition to seeing to your duties here."
"What is you be needing us to be doing, Mistress?" the elf wearing the blue pillow-slip asked.
"Erm... do you mean here, or at my cottage?" Hermione asked. "Here, I'd expect Thorfinn would like you to maintain everything, keeping it all neat and tidy, not letting any pests in, that sort of thing. At the cottage I'll probably need whatever help I can get raising four boys under eight."
"You is having more for us to do?" the elf in a green pillow-slip asked, her eyes lighting up with delight at the very idea. "We be serving Master Alrik and the Mistress? We be cooking and cleaning?"
"I... er, well, I'd like to help with those things, of course. But yes, I suppose so," Hermione smiled tentatively. Harry laughed when all three elves shared high-fives of triumph.
"We be getting all of Master Alrik's toys and clothes for you, Mistress. He be leaving some at Selwyn Hall when Mistress Becky moved him there, but we fetch them."
"Alright," Hermione nodded. "I need to get into Thorfinn's study, too. He gave me the password, but could one of you show me the way."
"Right this way, Mistress. I is being Blicker. These be Zippy and Zest and we be the Rowle family house elves."
"I'm Hermione," she smiled at Blicker - the elf wearing orange - before shaking hands with all three elves while they looked mightily impressed by her show of manners. "This is Harry. He's going to be living with me and the boys at my cottage and helping out with them, too."
"Mr Potter is be needing no introduction, Mistress," Blicker told her, bowing low to Harry. "Mr Potters is being the one who be vanquishing the Nasty Wizard who made our master do such bad things."
Harry smiled at them and shook hands with all three, pretending not to notice the way they all looked awed that he would treat them like equals.
"Nice to meet you," he offered.
"This way, Mistress, Blicker will show you to the study while Zippy and Zest fetch the items. Come."
The elf dashed off up the steps and Hermione glanced at Harry before following.
"So I'm moving in, eh?" he teased quietly from behind her.
"Oh, Gods," Hermione spun back, her eyes wide as she collided with Harry's chest. "I forgot to check. I... well, the idea suits me... does it work for you?"
"Am I attracted to you?" he asked, grinning.
Hermione blushed, nodding.
"Let's just say that you had better be grateful those elves interrupted us," Harry muttered, dropping a kiss to the middle of her forehead. "Otherwise, I think that your arse might've become intimately acquainted with that rug over there."
Hermione pressed her lips together as she blushed, trying not to grin.
"Well, aren't you sure of yourself?" she replied.
"Yep," Harry grinned, popping the 'p'. "Now, come on. Let's get the stuff you're insisting we need from this place before dropping it all off at the house and heading to the Ministry for our kids."
"Wait... does this mean we're... dating?" Hermione said.
"Living together," Harry shrugged. "Adopting four kids together. Sleeping together. Call it dating if you want to, love. If you don't want to, we'll call it being the very best of friends and anyone who asks questions can stuff it."
"You realise that Ron and Ginny are going to be terribly upset when they find out about this, right?" she sighed, letting him sling his arm around her shoulders.
"They'll be fine. Ginny has her boy-toys and Ron's got Ebony and they're both over the two of us. They'll likely be happy for us, all things considered. And anyway, they don't own us, so they can just get over it."
Hermione smiled at him.
"You're not going to... I don't know, complain about the fact that to keep those boys I have to go to Azkaban every month and snog three other men? Violent criminals, no less."
"Of course I'm going to complain," Harry rolled his eyes. "Every month I'll nag you about it and bitch that they should keep their sticky paws off you. And every month, when you come back from snogging the three of them, hot for it, I'll be the one shagging you."
"You..." Hermione blushed crimson.
"What?" Harry teased. "You think that I expected anything different? You've never gone for the idea of shagging me before, love. No matter the number of hints I dropped about it."
"Wait... you were serious all those times? Harry, I thought you were just joking."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm pretty sure my libido might be raging a little more than yours, but yeah, I hate going to the pub to pick up some random bird, and my own hand is kind of lonely, you know? Since you were lonely and bitching about your toys being the only attention you got most weeks, too, I figured... But you never went for it until today. So it's either out of fear of being alone forever, or because those gits got you all hot and bothered. And since you don't fear being alone and tend to prefer solitude, I think I can figure out your motivations, Hermione."
Hermione was sure her cheeks were crimson but Harry just laughed before leaning down and stealing another kiss from her surprised lips. Blicker led them to Rowle's office and pointed when they were right outside of it. Hermione cleared her throat, very carefully pronouncing the password to gain access. For a tense moment she waited for the door to open, the magic of the spell slowly unlocking without causing her harm.
"Master be giving you the password," Blicker grinned. "He never be giving it to Mistress Becky. Master must like you Mistress Hermione."
"Your master is a right sod, Blicker," Hermione told the elf, smiling. "And I'm sure he's only being nice the sake of having someone nice and sane raising his son."
The elf "mmmhhmmmmed" in a very knowing sort of way and Hermione made a face at Harry while he snorted with amusement.
"What are we looking for... Ouch!" Harry exclaimed, trying to cross the threshold and slamming into an invisible force-field, knocking his glasses askew.
"Just because the door is open doesn't mean you has access, Mr Harry Potter," Blicker said, sounding amused - the cheeky thing.
"Maybe you have to say the password or be given special access or something. Its fine, Harry. I'll grab the pensieve and we can go."
"Master be saying Mistress is to have the vault key too, Mistress," Blicker reminded her.
"Rowle gave you his vault key?" Harry asked, surprised.
"He essentially told me that what's his is mine," Hermione sighed. "The git. Anyway, I don't need the vault key; I have plenty of my own money."
She entered the office and fought the urge to sigh in delight. She could understand why he'd warded it. It was a very nice office, full of rare magical items, mahogany bookshelves and a matching desk, in addition to more books than she'd seen anywhere outside of a library or her own house in a long time. The space was lit by one large window that overlooked the grounds and though the hearth was unlit, it had a nice, cosy sort of feel where she could imagine herself whiling away hours and hours on her research. Sitting on of the shelves, Hermione spied the pensieve, before moving over to collect it carefully. There were a number of phials filled with memories lining the shelves of a cabinet next to it and Hermione eyed them curiously, wondering what they might be and what she might learn about Rowle should she view them.
The urge to peek was strong, but she set it aside for the time being. She had four young boys to collect from the Ministry and to bring home. Hurrying back out with the pensieve in hand, Hermione was met with all three elves clutching large bags of toys, books, clothing and more.
"Ready to go?" she asked of them all.
They all nodded and Harry grinned, intending to apparate himself since she had hold of the pensieve with both hands.
"Alright, to my cottage it is, and then we'll go to the Ministry for the boys."
Harry accompanied her back to the Ministry, where they found Carrie waiting for them.
"Ah," Carrie smiled. "I'd begun to wonder if you'd be coming back. Everything is in order, Hermione. The papers are all taken care of. I just need you to sign here, and we can release all four boys to your custody."
Hermione nodded, reaching for the quill and quickly reading the contract she'd been handed before signing her name, agreeing to care for the boys as her own until such time that their fathers were granted custody once more, or until they were of age, whichever came first.
"Excellent. They're ready to go. Mr Potter, I assume you're here to help Hermione take them all home?"
"Yep," Harry nodded.
"Well, you won't be able to apparate. Not while they're so young. The best and safest option is Floo Travel. You don't want to risk splinching them and their will isn't strong enough to apparate without splinching when they're just little boys. You can, of course, take them with you in the Floo, so that's fine."
Hermione nodded in understanding, following Carrie back down the hall to where the boys had been kept. When Carrie opened it to let them inside, all four boys were packed and ready to go. Hermione's heart clenched as she entered the room to find all four boys sitting on one of the beds, looking hopefully toward the door.
"Now, they're not allowed to take the toys from here; the Ministry keeps those for any other children who might be brought into our care, but the clothes they're wearing are fine to be taken home."
"The rags they're wearing, you mean?" Harry said dryly, his eyes scanning all four boys critically.
His green eyes behind his spectacles scanned the four of them and Hermione could tell he was searching for the signs he would know to look for regarding abuse. After all, he'd grown up in a situation that was much worse than what these boys had endured so far.
"Unfortunately, Mr Potter, the Ministry relies on the charity of the community to handle situations like this and as such there isn't room in the budget to be buying brand new clothing for orphans no one wants," Carrie said sadly, frowning at the boys as well. "Lucian having been here so long, and growing so rapidly, meant that many of the clothing articles we had in supple were given to him and worn until they fell apart."
"Right," Harry said. "Well, in future, I'd like someone from this department to owl me regarding all orphans of the magical world, alright? Not just the kids of Death Eaters, either. Actually, I'll speak to Kingsley. It's high time we set up a more effective solution to dealing with orphaned magical children. We don't need a repeat of Tom's life, and I'll fund it myself if I have to."
Carrie looked surprised and then perhaps pleased, but Hermione was focusing too closely on the boys to pay the other witch much mind.
"You came back," Lucian said quietly, getting off the bed and moving toward her cautiously, looking very much like a skittish animal. He bared his teeth at Carrie again, though she stayed over by the door, and he eyed Harry suspiciously.
"I promised that I would, Lucian," Hermione smiled gently at the boy. "Are you all ready to come home with me?"
"We is clean," Dmitri told her. "Did you see my Daddy?"
Hermione smiled at the boy, stooping slightly so she was on eye level with them all and smoothing a hand over Alrik's hair when he reached to tangle one of his little fists into her curls.
"I did," Hermione said. "You Daddies all asked me to pass some things along for you, but let's share them at home, alright? We'll get you out of here and then we can talk all about how happy your Daddies were that I'd be looking after you from now on."
"You saw my Dad?" Lucian asked, surprising Hermine when he reached for the arm he'd bitten earlier, lifting it to his nose and inhaling the scent of the bandage.
He closed his eyes on a soft whimper as he breathed in the scent on the fabric. As part of Fenrir's clothing in the prison, it undoubtedly smelled like him.
"Smells like Dad," he whispered. "Smells like home. You… why does it smell like blood? I sealed the bite I gave you."
Hermione smiled at the young boy when he opened his eyes, their light grey colour shot through with amber.
"Fenrir gave me a little love-bite, too," Hermione told him. "I'll show it to you at home, if you like."
"We're… we're really getting out of here?" he asked, his voice almost scared.
"We really are. I know that each of you have a mother you might recall fondly," Hermione told them, scooping up Ranulf and propping him on her hip as she stood straight once more. "But from now on, I'm going to be your mother, alright. You don't have to call me 'Mum' if you're not comfortable with it, but you can if you'd like to."
"I…" Dmitri frowned at her as he slipped off the edge of the bed to stand beside Lucian. "My Mum is dead."
Hermione smiled sadly. "I know, love."
"You aren't my Mummy," he went on, still frowning. "But… you saw my Daddy?"
"I did, indeed."
Dmitri frowned before taking Lucian's hand and glancing up at him for a moment. The older boy was eyeing her warily, obviously unsure about the idea of calling her 'Mum' too.
"Well… if you're taking me home and my Daddy doesn't mind," Dmitri said. "Then I call you Mummy."
Hermione's heart clenched inside her chest.
"I'd like that very much," she told the little dark-haired Russian boy, smiling widely. Dmitri smiled back.
"Who's he?" Lucian asked, eyeing Harry, who'd remained over by the door.
"This is Harry Potter," Hermione told them. "He's my best friend and he's going to help me take all of you to my house. He's going to be spending a good deal of time there with us, too."
"He's your boyfriend?" Lucian asked.
Hermione glanced at Harry for a moment.
"I suppose you could say that," she said carefully.
She jumped a little when Lucian darted closer, sniffing her face inquisitively.
"Does he mind that you've been kissing people who aren't him?" Lucian asked.
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
"You can smell who've I've been kissing?" she asked.
Lucian nodded, eyeing her thoughtfully. "You smell like my Dad. And a bit like Alrik – but different. And you smell like him," he pointed to Harry.
"Well, yes, I suppose it's safe to say that I had to kiss each of your father's goodbye before leaving," Hermione said, thinking on her feet, trying to find a way to explain all this without confusing them all.
"And Harry doesn't mind?" Lucian asked. "I'd mind, if you were my girlfriend. Dad always minded if anyone even sniffed in Mum's direction."
"Yes, well, you father is a bit territorial, isn't he?" Hermione said. "Harry and I are the very best of friends and he knows that when I kiss your fathers goodbye, it's for a purpose."
"Oh," said Lucian. "So… he's not going to challenge them to a fight the next time he sees them?"
"I don't think so," Hermione smiled. "Harry's not a very violent person."
"Funny, Dad told me that Harry Potter is the one who killed the Dark Lord," Lucian replied. "He killed the Dark Lord and got the rest of the world hunting our Daddies down."
"Why don't we talk about this at home, Lucian? I'll be able to explain it better at home."
"Did Harry put my Daddy in prison?" Dmitri asked.
"No, sweetheart. Your father's were all put in prison because they broke the law."
"What's law?" Alrik asked, still fiddling with her curls.
"The rules, love," Hermione told the little boy. "There are rules in society and in life, that we all have to follow. And if we break the rules, there are penalties. If the rules say not to break your toys, and you break them, you might not get to play with them anymore. Does that make sense?"
"Did Daddy break toys?" Alrik frowned.
"No, darling," Hermione said. "Your Daddies all broke the laws that adults in wizarding society must follow. They broke the law and they did some very bad things. They were put in jail because they weren't to be trusted in mainstream society until they learn their lesson. Do you understand?"
"Dad told me that the Pack lives outside the laws of the wizarding world," Lucian muttered.
"Yes, well, that's why he's going to spend his life in Azkaban, isn't it?" Hermione replied, getting frustrated with all their questions.
"He won't be there forever," Lucian said knowingly, reaching for her arm and sniffing at her bandage again. "He promised me he'd see me again soon."
Hermione realised she was going to have to be careful with the four of them. It was a very fine line to walk between allowing them to understand that their fathers were criminals who'd broken the law and must pay for their crimes; and between letting them have an affection for their sires and know that though they were bad people, they still loved them. Lucian, as the oldest, and with the most criminal of fathers for his role model, would have to be spoken to shortly, she supposed. The others were a bit too young to grasp the idea of laws and prison sentences and why they're fathers were bad men who'd done bad things, even if they still loved them.
"I'm sure he will, Lucian," Hermione said softly. "Let's talk about it at home, alright? Are you ready to go?"
Lucian shrugged, still sniffing her arm. Ranulf gurgled on her hip, having burrowed his face into her neck where he seemed to be drooling on her. Hermione smiled at the baby.
"Are you all ready to meet Harry? We'll be travelling by Floo to get to my house, so he's going to help us, alright?"
"Harry. Harry. Harry," said Alrik, waving in Harry's direction.
Harry grinned and waved back. Hermione beckoned him closer.
"Harry, I'd like you to meet Lucian and Ranulf Greyback," she said, indicating to each boy in turn. "And this is Dmitri Dolohov, and that's Alrik's Rowle."
"Hello," Harry said, offering his hand to Alrik, who reached for it and shook it smartly. Dmitri followed suit after giving him a suspicious stare.
Lucian eyed the hand Harry offered to him like he might bite him. Hermione watched with her heart in her throat as the lycan boy slowly released her bandaged forearm and reached for Harry's hand instead. He shook it carefully before pulling it closer and sniffing it. If Harry was surprised he didn't show it.
"You smell like her," Lucian told Harry, pointing to Hermione. "And like broom polish."
"I was polishing my broom earlier, yeah," Harry nodded. "It got a bit banged up at training."
"Training?" Lucian asked.
"Quidditch training," Harry smiled. "You boys know what Quidditch is, right?"
"Quidditch!" Alrik's blue eyes widened and his whole expression lit up before he reached little hands up toward Harry, making grabby-hands like he wanted to be picked up.
Harry grinned, stooping to lift the boy and propping the toddler upon his hip.
"You like Quidditch, huh?"
"Rowle used to play before…" Hermione reminded him.
"That's right. Ballycastle Bats, wasn't it?" Hermione nodded. "Well, no wonder the kid's into Quidditch," Harry said.
"Let's go home," Hermione said, smiling and taking Lucian's hand while Dmitri began trying to climb Harry, wanting to sit on his other hip to talk about Quidditch.
"Hermione?" Lucian asked as Harry scooped Dmitri up and carried both boys toward the door.
"Yes, Lucian?" Hermione asked, looking down at the young boy where he was walking carefully beside her.
"Is… will Harry live with us, too?"
"Yes," Hermione nodded. "Will that be alright with you?"
Lucian frowned. "Is he… he smells like another kid, too? Does… does he have a son?"
"No, love," Hermione smiled gently at the boy. "Harry has a godson – that means he's the mentor and fun 'uncle' type of person for a boy named Teddy Lupin. He's four."
"Lupin?" Lucian asked, his eyebrows lifting. "I know that name. Dad used to say that Lupin needed to fall into line."
"Yes, Remus Lupin was a werewolf. He was bitten by Fenrir when he was just a little boy himself," Hermione explained. "He was killed during the war and now his son, Teddy, is being raised by his grandmother, Andromeda. Harry often looks after him, so I'm sure you'll meet him."
"Is he… like me?" Lucian asked, looking guardedly hopeful.
"No, love," Hermione shook her head. "He's like Ranulf. His Daddy was a werewolf, but his mother wasn't a werewolf or his father's wolfmate, so his eyes might flash every now and then, but he doesn't transform like you do at the full moon."
Hermione smiled at him. "Are you alright? Does it bother you that no one is like you?"
Lucian frowned. "The others used to transform with Dad… but not like I did. They turned to wolf the whole way. I don't."
Hermione nodded her understanding.
"Dad said I was special," Lucian said quietly, sniffing occasionally at the bandage on her arm as they walked out of the room and toward the nearest fireplace where they might Floo home. "He said that what I can do is very rare, and that it made the Pack stronger.
"You are special, sweetheart," Hermione promised the young boy.
Lucian smiled quickly before hiding his expression once more. When they reached the Floo, Harry climbed inside, still holding Alrik and Dmitri. Hermione picked up some Floo powder and dropped it for him as he called out that he wanted to go to her cottage. Lucian watched curiously as though he was unused to Floo travel and Hermione supposed that having been cooped up in that little room for so long meant he wasn't used to a good many things.
"Wrap your arms around me, sweetheart. We'll go together," Hermione told the young boy, Ranulf gripped tightly in her arms. Lucian did as he was told after a moment's hesitation, burying his nose against her stomach and hiding his face while she dropped the powder, whooshing the three of them off to her cottage after Harry and stepping out when they arrived, ready to start her new life.