Hello, my freaky darlings. This is the end. (See after the chapter for the last note.) Thank you all for reading, reviewing, liking, and everything. I hope you enjoy the last chapter.
Chapter 29 Endings
Hermione's hands shook every time she thought about the upcoming meeting. Most masters never presented a new ritual in their entire careers, let alone one in their first year. A tiny part of her worried they would dismiss her work out of hand, citing that she hadn't proved herself enough. Nevena rolled her eyes, "The world is desperate for a solution, no one is dismissing anyone right now."
"And you apprenticed myself and Nevena simultaneously. We all expect greatness from you." Sigurd told her, "No pressure." She joined him in his laughter.
All five experiment pregnancies were progressing well, with the healers agreeing there did not appear to be a strain on the witches' magical cores or negative effects on future fertility.
All around her couples were announcing pregnancies: Bea, Katie, and Tonks were expecting. Remus has pouted because her pregnancy meant putting off their delayed hen do and stag party. Annika confided in Hermione she was ready to come off of her birth control. Having four months until her muggle wedding, Hermione shared she was at the same stage. "I'm not telling Viktor. He'd hover and get too anxious."
Annika groaned, "Harry, too. He'll be a mess during the actual pregnancy."
"Don't worry, I'll be right here to hex him for being a prat."
"And my sisters," Annika laughed.
"And your sisters," agreed Hermione.
On the day of her presentation, Viktor laced her decaf coffee with calming draught. He handed the bottle off to Cassius. "Look at me, maturing, I'm not even annoyed at being handled."
"You are doped up on calming draught, we've kept you at a functioning level for the last three days. When this wears off you might kill us." Viktor kissed her forehead. "Have wonderful presentation, love."
Outside the meeting chambers, numerous apprentices milled about chatting. She waved at the few she remembered from her own apprentice days. She directed Cassius towards some friendly faces. She nodded to the lone newspaper reporter assigned to cover these meetings. The young man looked bored out of his mind. The Daily Prophet's cub reporter learning his trade.
Once seated in the back as befitted her station in the assembly, Hermione tried to project the illusion of calm. She listened to the older members drone on, some enjoying the sound of their own voices. Everyone spoke on the marriage law crisis, but most spent at least thirty minutes pontificating nothing could be done. The rituals damaged the body and magical cores too much. "Mistress Hermione Krum, the floor is yours."
Slowly she walked through the assembled crowd, trying not to feel unease with all eyes on her. She took a deep breath and began speaking, "My esteemed fellows, we have all been contemplating the same dilemma. I have no intention of going over what we all know already." A few members twittered with laughter. "Upon achieving my mastery in rituals, I became the recipient of Warwick Barrett's library." A murmur rippled through the crowd. She suspected she would be receiving requests to peruse the collection soon. "His observations about the issue lead me to think about it in a different way. Years of inbreeding and only one surviving child in a bloodline diminished many magical gene pools. The longer a couple tried and failed, or the closer related they were the more magic needed to fuel the ritual. That is the cause of the damage to the magical cores, both cores. The damage to the male was not noticed because he did not have the additional stress of pregnancy on his body."
She paused to let this sink in. "Building on this, I worked to create a ritual to harness and store magical energy to be released in a second ritual when the couple is at the height of fertility. I conducted a small experiment using this method. Four out of the five couples were able to conceive the first time. The fifth couple was able to conceive when using a potion combination designed to increase female and male fertility." She waited for the whispers to die down. "All five women have been seen by healers who documented their cores are undamaged and fertility seems intact. I openly acknowledge that this is a tiny sample, but I did not want to give false hope to everyone if it failed. I also cannot condone the idea of keeping this contained to England while the rest of the world continues to suffer. So, I am turning to all of you to help further research the experiment."
The other masters began talking in full voices at that. "Your attention please." That brought back the silence. "I have one request. The secret of how to sustain the long-term charge of the rune is to stay the secret of the ritual masters. Once the ritual has been performed, the runes are erased." If it was possible the room became even quieter.
Hermione continued in a small, sad voice, "I don't know how much most of you know, but I spent my childhood fighting an evil wizard. I shudder to imagine what he could have done with the ability to store magical energy to power rituals. Not even my apprentice knows how to do this. As part of the training process, we weed out those with temperaments that suggest uncontrollable dark natures. I hope you can understand and agree to this stipulation."
The assembly chairperson, Wolfgang Mayer nodded, "Frau Krum, given your experiences it would be foolish of us to ignore your concerns. It will be as you wish."
"Thank you. My office will prepare and send you all the details for the rituals and the information to order the fertility potions. As these gatherings are reported about, the cat will be out of the bag soon. To help decrease the overwhelming demand, I suggest forming criteria to help rank those in most need." She smiled wryly.
She fielded several questions about the logistics of the ritual and the potions before the meeting was adjourned. The young reporter stared at her in awe when she passed him on her way out, his eyes wide. Unintentionally, she had given him the scoop of a lifetime. She smiled at him as she exited. Once Katie finished mailing out the instructions, she would begin weeding through the requests that would flood in once the news broke.
Her feisty receptionist had a questionnaire prepared for each couple to help rank their need: how long they had been trying, how closely related they were, blood status, age, and previous fertility. She also posted a sign.
Management would like to
remind our patrons that
we were trained by Harry
Potter to fight a war.
We reserve the right to
hex rude patrons.
The morning after the news broke Kingsley came by to check on things, read the sign, took one look at the crowds demanding attention, and summoned five aurors. Their presence helped calm the crowds, people formed orderly lines to collect and turn in the forms.
That did nothing to help quell the demands of the wealthy and politically powerful that felt entitled to Hermione's immediate attention and services. Seeing the look in her eyes when one particularly odious man began dictating the order in which Hermione would see to his grandchildren, never once questioning that his entire family would be first, Kingsley tried to intervene.
"Excuse me?" seethed Hermione, the ends of her hair beginning to lift with excess energy. "Has senility finally set in, you troglodyte? Who do you think you are to order me about?"
The offender pulled himself up to his full height, "I am Orpheus Davenport the third. My family helped found the Ministry of Magic," he sneered.
"Peachy keen. I am Hermione Krum, I helped defeat Voldemort. I have a double mastery. And you are being rude. You are one more boorish statement way from a family ban from my presence and services for the next five centuries. Meaning your death will not return your spawn to my good graces. Now, go away before I hex you."
Davenport opened his mouth to retort when his son silenced him with a slash of his wand. Kings grabbed his arm and escorted him from the building. Davenport, Jr turned to Hermione, "On behalf of my family, please accept our apologies. My father has had difficulty moving with the times, that is no excuse for his behavior, just an explanation. We will keep him from bothering you."
"Please see that you do. Leave your forms with Katie." She pointed to the proper desk.
Kings returned, "You should call it a day. No one needs you here and the next bumbling fool might not have family smart enough to stop them."
"You just don't want to do the paperwork if I curse them."
"You caught me. I want to be lazy. Go home, Hermione."
"Fine. Geez, sent home from my own office."
He laughed, "You'll be plenty busy soon enough."
Hermione retreated to her office at Barrett's Haven. Kreacher had demanded to be allowed to clean the place, and a handful of spells each week kept it in perfect order. Once Harry felt ready to let her move, Viktor agreed it would be a wonderful home for their growing family. Josievna joined them often for a cuppa. She looked forward to both their move and future babies. She set about determining how many couples they could handle in a week. If Katie conducted interviews, she supervised the creation of the runes, and Cassius helped both of them she determined they could handle fifteen couples at a time. At least in the beginning, once they became a well-oiled machine they might be able to increase that number. She blocked off the week before and after her muggle wedding as unavailable for new cases. She also left room for other work. She didn't want to spend the rest of her career only doing fertility rites.
She hoped that once couples were conceiving the ministries of Europe would do away with the marriage laws, as people were capable of having as many babies as they wanted now. It would also decrease the demand for her services. She also wrote an article for the Quibbler with advice for couples that might not need the full ritual, just maybe a nudge to help nature along.
The days flew by leading up to the last wedding for Hermione and Viktor. Successful reports flooded in from across Europe. As preparations geared up Hermione prepped her godchildren for their roles. Teddy excitedly told everyone who would listen he got to pull Dominique in the wagon so he could practice being a big brother. The infant laughed and waved when he did. The night of the rehearsal Tonks confided in Hermione the baby was a girl she wanted to name Hope Andromeda, which Hermione thought sounded beautiful. Ginny admitted she was ready to stop her birth control. Padma looked at Daphne and laughed, "We won't admit it, but we are trying to get pregnant at the same time. We're using your advice from the article."
"Can you imagine one of the twins having a life-changing event and the other not?"
"That is simultaneously sweet and creepy," Ginny admitted.
"We're only doing it for this one time. Any future children will only be in tandem by coincidence."
"Mum is going to fall into a baby coma," Ginny laughed.
"I think all excited grandparents will be," Padma agreed.
Hermione felt her stomach roll as she dressed for the wedding. Ginny laughed at her, "A little late for nerves, Mione, you're already married."
"Yeah, probably just excited." She let her mother and Nikolina helped fasten her dress and arrange her veil.
"You look stunning, darling." Her mother wiped away a tear.
Nikolina smiled, "Wizarding world does not have superstition of not seeing each other before wedding, Viktor would like to see you."
"Yes, please." She hugged Helen and Nikolina. Ginny and Britta waved as they exited the room.
A few moments later a knock came at the door. "Come in."
Viktor stepped inside, "You look amazing."
"Thank you. You looked very handsome."
"I just wanted to say good morning."
"Good morning," she laughed.
"Wanted to remind you I loved you. I will be waiting at the end of the aisle."
"I love you, too, and I will meet you there." She ducked when he tried to kiss her. "Ginny will kill you if you smudge her makeup job. Though, I have something for you, two somethings."
"I don't have anything for you."
"That's okay. Here," She handed him two thin grayscale photos.
"Baby A, Baby B. Are these peanut shaped things a baby?"
"Yes, there are muggle ultrasounds. My ultrasounds."
"Are you? Are we? This is?" Viktor stuttered in his excitement.
"I am, we are, these are," she beamed at him.
"We have a daughter or a son." He stared at the scans.
"Well, yes, they could be one of each, or both girls or both
boys. The tech did say they are fraternal, not identical. Honestly, I blame all the fertility magic I've been around."
"They? As in more than one?"
"Yes, Baby A is one baby, Baby B is the sibling."
"Two babies! You're giving me two babies. Oh, Hermione." He hugged her tightly.
"I think you will find you helped with this." She hugged him back.
"Shall we go get married again, Mama Krum?" He offered her his hand.
She grasped his hand in her own, twisting her fingers with his. "I think we should Tatko Krum."
It is entirely possible that at some point I will come back and add an epilogue, but right now I can't decide what I want to do, some I'm going to mark this as complete and move onto where my muse is taking me. I have a good start on a gray Hermione story in the works. I'll probably start posting soon. Thanks for reading.