Chapter 12
Together On Our Own

Hermione moved through the apartment with purpose, glancing at everything in the room for the fourth time. Her parents would be visiting today, and she was finding herself a bit manic at the prospect of hosting them for a meal. It felt very different. This was like… it felt like she and Harry were living their own life together, and her parents were visiting to perform an inspection. In a way, she supposed, that was what was happening, though it wasn't quite that cut and dry.

She felt the air move across her body as she went through the rooms, tidying up little spots here and there. She hadn't worn clothes in two days now, and it was starting to feel very normal, being naked all the time. It certainly made it easier for Harry to use her body, and she smiled fondly as she thought about just how comfortable he had become doing that.

Last night she'd been putting something away in the cupboard when she'd suddenly felt his hands on her hips, and less than a second later had felt him push inside her in a single, powerful thrust. She'd thrown her head back in surprise, but had parted her legs slightly to give him more access.

Their relationship was so strange, and yet so… perfect. She knew it would be a nightmare for some people, to live like she was living, but it was everything she had been dreaming about since second year. Her mind felt more in control, and more calm, and she felt both protected and owned. Like she didn't have to worry about anything except pleasing Harry. He would take care of the world, she just needed to take care of him.

She sighed as the thought calmed her manic mood slightly. The apartment was just fine… her parents wouldn't be inspecting every inch of it with a magnifying glass. Her Master hadn't instructed her to make everything spotless, and such a task would be nearly impossible without magic anyway. He had just told her to make sure everything was tidy, and even by her standards, she had done that. Well, except for the floors, which she had cleaned thoroughly at Harry's behest.

Allowing herself to relax a bit, she closed her eyes and breathed in the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. She had tried to do the cooking as well, but Master had insisted that he do it. It was something he enjoyed doing, and something he had practice at, so he had been quite firm on the subject.

Walking into the kitchen, Hermione watched Harry move at the stove and counter for several seconds. There was such focus and purpose on his face, and seeing that kind of intense focus from him made her heart flutter. It was a reminder of just how deep into herself his eyes seemed to look sometimes. Collecting herself from her leering, she looked around the kitchen for a few moments. She didn't want to get in his way.

After a few seconds considering options, she got on her knees next to the door and spread her legs apart, looking down. She knew that he loved seeing her body, and seeing the mark above her cunt, and waiting like this would be something that brought him a smile when he finally looked over at her. She wanted to make him smile… it made her warm inside in a way that few things ever had.

Looking down at the floor was the part that she disliked the most, because she wanted to watch his face, just take in his focus with her eyes. But it was important to her that she showed the proper deference. It had been difficult at first for Harry to understand the depths to which she wanted to submit, and she wanted to constantly remind him with little things how it made her happy to feel subordinate to him in this way.

Kneeling in this position had started to elicit an immediate reaction, both physically and mentally from her. When she would kneel with her legs open, looking down, it was starting to focus her mind on her submission. On the fact that Harry owned her, controlled her, and cared for her. It was the same feelings she was starting to have now.

She knelt there for a time, at least ten minutes, and as time passed she knew that her wetness was rolling down her leg onto the floor. It annoyed her in a way… she'd put so much effort into cleaning these floors this morning.

"Finished with your task?" Harry's voice called out, startling her even though she had known it would be coming eventually.

"Yes, Master," she said, still looking down.

"Good girl," Harry said, walking over and patting her head a few times. The pride and satisfaction that washed through her at the contact was comforting, but still somewhat surprising. "I see that you've made a mess on your floor. Lick it up, then go get dressed for your parents."

"Lick it up, Master?" Hermione confirmed, looking up at him for the first time. He smirked.

"My instruction was to make the floor clean enough to eat off of, right slut?" Harry paused and waited for Hermione to nod. "Consider this motivation to follow orders exactly."

Hermione's face flushed, and annoyingly, she felt herself drip onto the floor even more at his words.

"Yes, Master," she said, turning around and bringing her face to the small puddle that had been collecting beneath her. With only a few licks, the wetness was gone, and Hermione stood to leave and get dressed.

Michael watched as Elizabeth moved through the house a bit frantically, amusement in his eyes.

"Pet," he called out as he watched her check her purse for a third time. "We're just going for dinner. We're not even making dinner, it's not like we need to even bring anything with us."

"I know, Master," she replied with annoyed resignation. "It's Hermione… I can feel some of her nervous energy through the collar, and it's making me a bit anxious."

Michael's eyebrows shot up.

"Really?" He looked at her intently. "Have you felt other things from her before?"

"Not really," Elizabeth said, her brows furrowing. "I know they must have had sex by now, or at least some play time, and I haven't felt any of that. Maybe it's because her nervous energy is focused on us? On me?"

"Maybe," Michael said, glancing down at the collar thoughtfully. "In truth, you and I know very little about how all of this works still. The impression I got from Harry was that the 'why' and 'how' behind things like this was beyond him as well, though I'm not sure about our daughter. Perhaps she could give us some insight."

Elizabeth nodded, still looking a bit distracted, before her face suddenly morphed into a look of slight shock and confusion. After she held that expression for several seconds, Michael prompted her to speak.

"What is it now pet?"

Elizabeth's eyes focused and look at him, her face becoming much more attentive.

"It… the nerves all disappeared at once, and as it was leaving I felt… it was a deep feeling of serenity and… and submission. Like catching just a few notes from the next song on a record before pausing it."

"It looks like Harry must have calmed her down then," Michael said with a smile. "It's about an hour to get to the Leaky Cauldron, we should get going now."

"Right," Elizabeth agreed, walking towards the front door. Her scattered behavior was gone now, and Michael started to ponder just what other sorts of effects the magic in the collar might have on his wife.

Hermione heard the knock at the door and practically flew through the room to open it, much to Harry's amusement. After swinging the door open, she jumped into her mother's arms, a wide smile on her face.

"I see you're doing well," Elizabeth said with a giggle, giving Hermione a brief hug. "Can we come in?"

"Of course!" Hermione exclaimed, jumping back and pulling Elizabeth in behind her. Michael followed them inside, closing the door behind him, and walked over to Harry as the girls scampered off, presumably to have a look around the place and catch up on the last few days.

"You look well," Michael said, walking up and offering his hand. Harry took it with a smile and gave it a firm shake.

"I have to be honest, Michael. I don't know that I've ever been so happy."

Michael nodded.

"That's good to hear," he said. "I knew that you would be just fine by the time our week was over, Harry. I've had every confidence in you." Harry's face looked both unsure and pleased, as if it was a pleasant surprise to hear, but that he wasn't sure if Michael was joking. "Truly, Harry. I let you take my daughter for a whole week, entirely on your own. No teachers, no adults, no headmaster… that should tell you how confident I was in you."

Harry felt his chest tighten and his eyes water as he realized just how much it meant to hear something like that from a father, even if it wasn't his father. He hadn't had a single positive male figure in his life, and Harry had never really felt bad about that. Even with Sirius, while his heart yearned to connect with the man and build a relationship with him now, he'd had so few moments to build any kind of bond so far that it was difficult to conjure that feeling. But hearing the simple and sincere affirmation from Michael made Harry suddenly realize how much he had wanted that from someone in his life.

"Thank you, Michael," he replied, a bit shakily. "I'll try not to betray your confidence in me."

"I'm sure you won't," Michael said with a warm smile. "Dinner smells delicious, what did you make?"

"Oh, uh…" Harry looked back at the food that was waiting at the table. "Nothing too fancy. A simple roast and some mash to go with it. I made some asparagus as well, but I'm not as good at making that since my uncle doesn't like eating vegetables too much. Haven't had much practice with them."

"I'm sure it's delicious, Harry," Michael assured him. "It's honestly quite the dinner for a teenager to make for house guests."

Harry shrugged.

"It's not really that complicated, just takes time." Harry walked over and started setting the table. "How long do you think they'll be?"

"Well," Michael started, rubbing his chin, "I suppose that depends on how many details Liz wants from Hermione."

"Details!?" Harry repeated, dropping the fork that was in his hand. "About… er… I mean…"

Michael stared at the expression on Harry's face before bursting into a hearty laugh.

"Oh, Harry… come on now." Michael walked over to where Harry was standing now and placed a hand on the teenager's shoulder. "You spent several days examining Liz's naked body… I spent an entire week with you on the finer points of different sexual proclivities… you don't honestly feel embarrassed about us knowing too many details of your sex life with Hermione, do you? It's not something I'm particularly keen to get details on, but it's not like I think you two haven't had sex with each other as many times as possible since coming here."

Harry stared at the older man, his eyes wide and his jaw slack. Michael continued.

"The two of us spent a week teaching you both how to best enjoy sex, and then stuck the both of you, hormonal teenagers, together and on your own, without any supervision. We knew exactly what we were doing on that front."

Harry closed his mouth and swallowed, before nodding, an odd feeling of relief and the surreal coming over him.

"It's just strange," Harry said after a few moments. "I mean, I'm only just about to turn 14, but I can't imagine doing that for a kid of my own."

Michael nodded, his face becoming slightly more serious.

"It's certainly a unique situation, and Hermione is a unique child. I couldn't have imagined something like this a few years ago either." Michael ran his hand through his hair, letting out a deep sigh. "To be honest, there are still parts of this I'm not entirely comfortable with, but what's done is done, and in the end I think this will help you both."

Harry nodded and continued setting the table.

"And this is our bedroom," Hermione said, finishing the tour, the exuberant smile still on her face. Elizabeth nodded, a smile of her own adorning her features at her daughter's obvious happiness, and shut the door behind them.

"Let's give the boys some time to get everything ready," she said, turning back to face Hermione. "In the meantime, I want details!"

Hermione was taken aback for a moment, embarrassed at the prospect of recounting things to her mother, but also startled at how much her mother reminded her of Lavender from that statement.

"Oh, um…" Hermione glanced around the room, fidgeting, before walking to the bed and sitting on it. "What, um… what do you want to know?"

"How was it? The first time?" Elizabeth asked excitedly. Hermione cringed for a second, thinking back to the memory, and the smile slowly fell off of Elizabeth's face. "It's… things are working out alright with Harry, aren't they?"

"Oh!" Hermione said, realizing what her mother must be thinking. "Yes, of course, things with Master are going very well."

Elizabeth smirked at the use of the title, and for a few seconds, Hermione was confused about what Elizabeth was smiling about, until her brain caught up to her mouth, and a blush spread over her face.

"If that's the case," Elizabeth said with a note of humor in her voice, "then why did you look so unhappy when I asked about it?"

"The first time was… well, Harry was very sweet," Hermione said. "A bit, er, too sweet."

"Oh dear," Elizabeth said. "I hope it wasn't too bad."

"I, um…" Hermione looked away bashfully. "I got through to him the next morning."

"Oh?" Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. "And how did you do that?"

"I… I sort of… forced him to pee down my throat."

"Oh my," Elizabeth said, laughing lightly. "You always have been stubborn. I imagine he got the picture after that."

"Yes," Hermione said, relaxing a bit as the conversation continued. "He gave me this," she said with obvious cheer, lifting her shirt up and showing Elizabeth the tattoo. Her eyes rose as she saw it.

"Goodness," Elizabeth breathed, a bit shocked at what she was seeing. The color on the ink shifted as she stared, and Elizabeth quickly deduced that it must be some kind of magical tattoo. "Did it hurt?"

"No," Hermione said, letting her shirt fall down. "And it can be fully removed with a month-long potion regimen."

Elizabeth looked back up at her daughter's face and took in the expression of happiness there.

"I'm glad you're happy," she said softly, placing a soft hand on Hermione's arm. "You've had sex since then though, right? And it's been better?"

"Oh, mother… God, yes," Hermione replied, her words almost coming out in a moan as she thought about it. "I don't know what you and dad did to Harry during that week, but he's… he's so good at it. Being my Master, I mean."

"You two are leaning into the Master/slave relationship more then?" Elizabeth asked.

"Yes," Hermione nodded excitedly. "It makes me feel so comforted and cared for. I love it. I don't even get to wear clothes without permission, it's just always there, his ownership. I couldn't have imagined it would ever be this wonderful."

Elizabeth looked at her daughter for a few moments, her face softening into a small smile.

"You love him," she said, more of statement than a question. "Real love."

"I… yes, I think so," Hermione said, unable to keep the brilliant joyful expression off her face.

"I'm so happy for you," Elizabeth said sincerely, pulling Hermione in for a hug. When she pulled away, Elizabeth looked down at Hermione's chest. "Has he pierced your nipples yet?"

"What!?" Hermione asked startled.

"Oh, I suppose not then," Elizabeth continued before looking back up at Hermione's face. "Well, what else has happened? I want to know everything."

Hermione stared at her mother for a few moments before starting to tell her story.

After a while the girls finally left the bedroom, giggling and sharing conspiratorial looks. The scene made Harry instantly uncomfortable, but Michael just smiled and took his seat, motioning for Harry to do the same.

"Did you have fun catch up?" Michael asked his wife as the girls arrived at the table.

"Of course," Elizabeth said in an exaggerated tone, a hint of humor on her face. "It's only been a few days, but it was nice to hear that things are going well for our little girl."

Harry sat and watched silently. Again, just like the first meal he'd had with the Grangers, he felt like something of an outsider. There was so little context for him to put this kind of thing in. He'd never had a parent that was happy to hear about what was happening to him, and he'd never had someone that was happy to see him after only a few days away. His eyes glanced down the table and landed on Hermione. Well… maybe he had, just not a family member.

"So how has it been being able to live on your own, Harry?" Michael asked as they began to serve the meal. "To make decisions for yourself?"

Harry glanced down the table again before answering.

"Well, I mean I haven't been alone really," he said. "We've been together."

Michael smiled at this answer, but pressed.

"I understand what you mean, but I meant more what's it like to be able to live by your own rules? To not have other people deciding how you'll live your life for a little while."

Harry pondered this for a moment before smiling.

"It's… so free. Refreshing. I'm not sure I can really describe it, but it's wonderful." Harry looked at Michael seriously. "Thank you Michael…" He turned his head and looked at Elizabeth. "And thank you also, Elizabeth," Harry said nodding. "I don't know why, exactly, you two went so far out of your way to help me, to make my life better, but it's been like a dream." His smile slowly faded. "I'm… well, I'm not looking forward to going back to the Dursleys again. And I'm not looking forward to being away from slu—Hermione."

Harry's face flushed as he realized what he was about to casually call their daughter in front of them. Hermione, for her part, seemed to be imitating a tomato. A few moments of silence passed over the table before Michael let out a soft chuckle.

"Harry, a word of advice: mix up the names and titles you use with Hermione. You don't want to get in the habit of using one of the dirtier names so often that it slips out at school, or in front of a teacher."

Harry's face was filled with horror as he pictured the tongue lashing Professor McGonagall would give him if he called Hermione 'slut' in front of her. He shuddered before nodding emphatically in agreement.

"Speaking of school," Elizabeth said, her hand coming up towards her neck. "Would either of you happen to know how exactly the magic in these collars works?"

"Why do you ask mum?" Hermione said, her own hand coming up to finger the collar on her throat.

"Well, I've been able to feel a bit of what you're feeling sweetheart, and I was curious about what determined when it happened. Or if there's any way to prevent it from happening."

Harry stared at the woman for several seconds.

"You… uh… you've been feeling what Hermione does?" The look of shock and terror on his face made it plain which 'feelings' he was worried she had felt. "What, er, sorts of feelings?"

"Oh, not that," Elizabeth said with a small laugh. "Earlier today I was feeling nervousness from Hermione, but I think it was because the nervousness was about me, or directed at me. As soon as she started to feel something that wasn't directed at me, I stopped feeling it." She gave Harry a wink. "Good job calming her down, Harry."

Hermione sputtered before deciding the best course of action was to focus on her meal.

"Oh, uh… thanks." Harry shifted a bit, considering Elizabeth's original question. "Well, the man at the shop mentioned that they were linked. He called them 'Harem Collars' I think. He said they were linked with a charm… what was it again?" Harry turned and looked at Michael.

"Pro-something," Michael said. "All the made up words for magic things are so hard to keep track of."

"Protein?" Harry suggested.

"That sounds… close," Michael hesitantly agreed.

"A Protein Charm?" Hermione asked, frowning. "I've never heard of that one before. Bit of an odd name for a charm, don't you think?"

"They're all kind of odd names, Hermione," Harry retorted. "Anyway, I'm not sure if that was it. We could go to the shop tomorrow and ask, I guess."

"I'd appreciate it," Elizabeth said. "Michael and I don't know the first thing about how magic works, and knowing a bit about how those things might affect us would be… comforting."

"You still have the booklet he gave us, right?" Harry asked Michael.

"I do," Michael said. "But it didn't mention something like this. Maybe it's because they are mother and daughter? The magic does something funny?"

"Maybe," Hermione agreed cautiously, now fully in her thinking mode. "Once we find out what charm links them, I could look it up. I only have a year of Arithmancy, but it should help a bit with figuring out how all the charms and enchantments are connected to each other."

"Even if you can though," Harry replied, "what if the mother and daughter part is affecting it? That probably wouldn't be written in the books about the spells."

"You'd be surprised what's written in books," Hermione retorted, sounding almost offended at the notion that something so important would be undocumented. Even with Hermione being his willing slave, he knew better than to pick this particular fight.

"Well then we'll look into it," he said cautiously, worried about promising something they may not be able to deliver.

"So," Michael said, moving the conversation along, "how is the apartment coming along? Will it be ready as a sort of safe house by the end of the week?"

The dinner and conversation continued as the night went on, and by the end of it Harry felt at ease once more. His anxiety about being examined and found wanting had proved baseless. Similarly, Michael and Elizabeth ended the night more confident that they had made the right decision. Perhaps it wasn't the right decision from a moral perspective, but it appeared it was going to do the things they had hoped: make their daughter happy, and keep her safe.

Hermione and Harry spent the remainder of their week exploring each other and their dynamic. Looking back on it later, they would say they spent it truly falling in love, but that's the kind of perspective that only time brings.

They'd gone to the shop the next day and found out the name of the spell was the Protean Charm, which Hermione also hadn't heard of. They'd gone straight to Flourish and Blott's, picking up a few volumes that would help Hermione investigate the collars and their magic. Though by the end of the week she hadn't found any answers, she was slowly making progress at understanding how they were constructed, and was hopeful that she'd be able to give her mother an answer before the summer ended.

All too soon though it was time for Hermione to return home, and Harry to return to the Dursleys. Harry stood in the front room, holding Hermione in his arms as Michael and Elizabeth stood to the side, giving the teenage couple some space to say their goodbyes.

"I'm going to miss you Master," Hermione whispered, tears rolling down her face. "I'm… I'm going to feel so lost, being alone."

"I know," Harry said, the pain of the parting obvious in his voice. "I think your dad is probably right though, Hermione. When has Dumbledore ever done something on purpose to hurt me? There has to be a reason that I'm at the Dursleys every summer, and when we get back to school I'll ask him what it is. But… you were the one who convinced me that it wasn't a good idea to mess with magic we don't understand. That I had to go back."

He ran his fingers through her hair in a repeated, petting motion that he knew by this point Hermione found soothing.

"That doesn't make it easier," Hermione replied shakily.

"We have a way to communicate now though," Harry offered. "It's not much… but it's better than nothing."

Hermione buried her face into his shoulder, getting his shirt wet with tears.

"Promise that you'll give me orders? That you'll… that I'll still be yours? I don't want to go back to being unowned, Master. I don't want to be abandoned."

"I promise, pet," he said softly. "With your collar, we'll never be completely apart." Harry was beginning to realize the depth of impact his ownership of her was having on Hermione emotionally, and it was making him feel even more protective and responsible for her. It was a strange feeling. For most of his life he hadn't even been allowed to be responsible for himself, let alone someone else. Now he had someone whose happiness had been wrapped up in his decisions, and the responsibility of that was something he was still coming to terms with.

They held each other for a few more moments before Michael cleared his throat. It was time to leave. Harry pulled back and looked into Hermione's eyes before leaning in and giving her a final kiss goodbye. As he pulled away his eyes rested on the collar around her throat. They might be on their own at times, but they would always be together.

Author's Note: Special thanks to Cormag and Therapist Maou at my donations page, who have generously supported at the "Accio Ballgag" level or above.

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