Thorfinn stood to leave and then moved back to the long oak table and sat down. This time there had been no order to sit, but he wanted to speak to them, felt like he should. They knew, even she knew it was coming, but still. Potter had just shaken his hand and asked if there was somewhere he wanted to go for a fly. They had gone to the woods behind The Tower and that had been good for them. It didn't feel right though, not asking these men.
Both wizards were looking at him from their own seats when he looked up. Waiting for him to speak and showing absolutely nothing. Bloody wizards. It was intimidating, but he didn't feel intimidated. They weren't suspicious, just not showing anything in preparation for the potential necessity for the blank face that might be required by what he said.
"It's done." He offered and looked between them. Dolohov relaxed into his seat but Yax leaned forward.
Thorfinn pulled the box out of his back pocket, and after looking at it for a moment, handed it to the keen eyed man. Yaxley's fingers ran over the box, and appreciated the runic layout that read as 'tiny wonder.' Neither man commented on the sentimental words, or the clear effort he had put into it. For that, he was grateful, if not surprised.
Yaxley opened it slowly, then stared for a moment, before looking up at him. Pride. It blazed in the man's eyes for a moment, and then he looked speculating. Thorfinn rolled his eyes at the man's ever working mind, whatever he had just thought of could wait. Then big fingers traced the small watch face, and he watched the other man appreciate the tiny lunar symbols, and the date that showed. It was simple, silver and without any overt ornate details. The tiny diamond stars twinkled in the light though, and the metal work was detailed, especially for its small size.
The Russian held his hand out after a couple minutes, demanding a turn, and Yaxley looked reluctant to hand it over. Dolohov didn't touch it but looked up after a moment of careful examination.
"The magics are well done. Worthy." Thorfinn swallowed and then gave a single nod. The last word had been the important one. Worthy of her. Made for her, with care and thought. This man judged it a token that showed what it should, and he appreciated the level glance he received. Then the 'if you must' nod and he relaxed. That was as close to parental approval as he could get and truthfully, the opinion of these two was more important to his witch and himself than anyone else's.
The Russian snapped the box closed and handed it back. Then gave a head jerk that meant do it now, and he reflexively nodded once and stood again. Summoning his coat, he opened the door and heard Yaxley's voice as he left.
"I told you he would be ready by the equinox. You're so impatient." Thorfinn kept his amusement in until he reached the apparition point and then laughed into the evening air.
Dolohov was late. She was at his cabin at ten in the morning as requested. He was not here. Three minutes late and she checked her coin again. Nothing. This was a first and after over a year of being his apprentice and at his beck and call, she was unsettled. Walking back to the apparition clearing she wondered, surely he wouldn't need help. Then she had a thought.
Making a decision, she spun, apparating to him. Searching for his magic and allowing him, his magic, to fill her mind before disappearing with a crack.
She immediately cast wards and charms upon arriving in the middle of a London street. For a moment she just breathed and then cast slight obliviations on the two muggles staring goggle eyed from the entrance to the tea shop next door to a dingy cafe on Tottenham Court Road. In London. A place she hadn't been since her only visit years ago.
Taking another breath to quell her agitation at this odd series of events, she looked at the door and even though she couldn't see him, she knew he was in there.
Entering, she trusted her notice me not charms and walked forward for a few steps before feeling his magics. Allowing that to be her guide, she unerringly walked to the table in the back corner and through the wards she knew were keyed to her.
There the man sat, looking at her. She sat down at his slight head jerk and faced him. Waiting. Dolohov just looked her over and as usual his eyes flicked to the watch on her wrist.
It made her smile a little bit, the man's contentment with the gesture and her acceptance of its importance. Several books had appeared in her home, two in Russian, on ritual marriages and bondings. No contract would suffice for this man though he had mentioned one being signed first. He spoke a bit more now and had developed a habit of delivering short lectures on things he wanted her to learn more about. Cultural things usually, Russian or British. That she agreed on the bonding idea was something she hadn't yet told him.
Maybe he knew though, or Yaxley did. That amounted to the same thing really.
Eight months had passed since their return from Russia and six since she received her watch from Finn. Things had changed less since then but it was more evident all of the time.
Unwilling to fidget or bite her lip right now, she just crossed her legs and waited. His face firmed and she knew that whatever it was, she wouldn't like it. No further time to consider or panic.
The scroll appeared on the table before her and she refused to look at it after noticing what it was. Hermione knew what would happen if she accepted it and that her master had activated it.
She could feel the humming magics now that it sat between the two of them. The ones whose magics had signed it. Resolutely she held his gaze and didn't speak. Her mind was nearly blank and if he weren't watching her she would have panicked. Certainly her magics would have been heaving in her distress. All she could think was that they weren't done. She learned things every day, about more than wards, or things affiliated with them, now. Definitely didn't feel as if she had mastered the craft or was even approaching his level.
"Malyshka." Many things were there in that single word and she let some of her denial show. Lifting her chin stubbornly and trying to hold her ground.
"Net." She felt brave saying no to him and wondered if it was the first time she had actually refused him verbally like that. It didn't bother her right now, though it probably would later.
"Competent." He spoke the word in Russian but she didn't notice right away. She didn't want to be competent. That wasn't near enough, she knew he would agree. Maybe he wanted some freedom though. She didn't think she would never see him again or that they wouldn't work together at least for a while. Several things were midproject but this did explain the last day of the Malfoy wards. That had been a month ago now and she thought back to his words.
Hermione wasn't sure what they were doing outside the gates of Malfoy Manor. The wards were nearly done and the master Lucius had brought in from Sweden had done a fine job. Both Dolohov and her had looked the plans over, together and separately. Draco had come to her and then Narcissa requested Hermione have herself and her master over for tea. Adequate had been Dolohov's assessment and she agreed. A shared glance had told her that he too had thoughts of how to get in. The main home wards were up and it was the estate wards that were to be done tomorrow.
"Malyshka." He had ordered her to begin and she did. Knowing that leaving Narcissa whom he liked, and Draco who he knew she was fond of, vulnerable was not his goal. They were also not here, but with Astoria which both knew from Finn this morning. It was convoluted how news travelled among them but most mornings at least one person came to the cottage for coffee and most evenings had a visitor or two. Yaxley always asked about everyone at breakfast, so all knew what anyone knew before the day started.
It took her twenty four minutes and three times she forced her way through rather than taking it down. She hadn't done this quietly or secretly. That would have taken longer but she knew that wasn't the goal. Lucius Malfoy stood behind them before she was finished and she knew Dolohov had silenced him.
The proud wizard watched the wards crash in spectacular fashion around his newly rebuilt home in absolute silence. When she finished, she smoothed her face before turning in time with her master to see the red faced wizard with shining silver hair.
"I assume that was not for spite Hermione." Lucius grit the words out and Dolohov barked at him in response.
"For your wife and son, you will offer sincere apologies for underestimating her. Now." Hermione just stood there, her best stone faced expression in place, while the man stuttered.
A week later she stood on the main drive of the Manor and panted, trying to calm her breathing. That had been hard, like a steadily growing weight she just had to get on the top shelf without a ladder. Then the weight was being held by the rune stones and she had only to stabilize it. She had done her wards with Dolohov but these were intricate and massive. The span of the space was also several times what hers had been.
The look Dolohov had given her when she paused before beginning the final stand of wards had been clear. Do it now. So she had. Now she tried not to think about what she had just done. It was one of those overwhelming things. While she was doing it she had been busy actually accomplishing it and now she had.
"I'm not sure what to say." Lucius drawled from behind her and she closed her eyes for a moment. The man was insufferable.
"That was beautiful Hermione." Narcissa sounded sincere and she heard the wizard huff, really the man didn't deserve his wife.
"Priyemlemyy." She did turn at Dolohov's single word signalling that had been acceptable. Her chin was level and she didn't let anything but a glance with her master show her sense of achievement and her gratitude for knowing what she could do better than she did.
Now she thought back to that day and how she had felt. She took a breath and then looked up at his dark eyes again. Face firm and a single nod. It was time. She nodded her acceptance and reached for the scroll. The rush of magic between them would have been visible and felt, even to muggles, without his wards blocking them in.
She sat back and bit her lip, thinking about what this meant and what to say. Something she decided and opened her mouth.
"I'll keep it as short as I can. Thank you. I hope you don't feel as if any of your time and effort was wasted. It was more and better than I ever dreamed it could have been. Okhvatyvaya." There was no English term for his concept of encompassing. It was exactly what she meant now though. Unable to prevent it, she wiped a single tear away but didn't break eye contact. He shifted and then with a reluctant nod looked at the cafe around them before back to her.
"Malyshka." It was a question and she nodded her acceptance of whatever it was. She hadn't a clue but if he was really going to use words it was important enough and she was feeling a bit lost at the moment.
Hermione watched as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a scroll. She couldn't help her straightened posture and tried not to wiggle or shift any further. She let her lip go as soon as she bit it and calmed the slight increase in her magic's activity. That got her a nod of approval and she felt much better instantly. He was still paying attention and still had the same expectations of her. Perhaps that should have been a let down but it wasn't at all.
Reaching for the scroll, she opened it and scanned the familiar scrawling script. Some letters were more cyrillic in shape but it was in English.
It was a contract. A consultation contract with stipulations covering work and development. No hours or time limit specified and to be assessed every year for review. She looked up at that part and wanted to sign it right that minute but he made a negative sound and so she kept reading.
The last paragraph before the space for their signatures was a clause for pregnancy and agreed stipulations for recovery and what magics she could do alone during that time period. Almost none of the reflexive anger flashed through her at the pig headed patriarchal nature of the way it was worded. She read it again and then looked up at him.
Antonin Dolohov had that immovable look on his face and she looked down and read it a third time. None of it was that restrictive and she had read enough about magical pregnancies to know that care was needed. It used magic up differently while the baby's core formed and she had shared one of the more recent studies from America on squibs and magic usage. The data was interesting if not conclusive and she too would be careful. She hadn't considered her audience when she pulled out the journal at breakfast one day and began chattering about the study and its number of subjects. Finn's glances had not gone unnoticed, nor the exchange of glances above her head that they thought she might have missed. There was time for that though.
"I see no ink." She offered as answer and the wry turn of his mouth told her how he felt about her agreement to his terms. Maybe he hadn't been sure or thought she would balk at some of them, she wouldn't. Working with him would be worth some scrutiny, that she was sure she would have gotten anyway.
"Yax." He answered succinctly and she understood that the man had withheld the magical ink so they would have to do it with him. Her nod said that he was as he was and they must bear it stoically. The laugh she got in response was gruff and he stood when she did.
Together they walked out of the cafe and into an alley. When he held his hand out she let some of her emotions at the day show and smiled her acceptance of their joint apparition.
Author's Note: So this is it. I was almost surprised when this was being written. I'll admit I was sad too. I really love this story, the scope of it and how it felt while writing it. Sort of as if I was just peeking into moments in a whole full complicated life. I live a happy ending and this felt like one.
Hopefully you all have enjoyed it, at least somewhat, and a huge thank you for reading along. Your support was encouraging and motivating. I'm glad this was finished when I started posting it. It feels different to post things in progress, to read your opinions and questions as I posted the chapters.
Hopefully a few extra scenes of their lives can be added over time.
Thank you again!
Credit to JKR for the characters and the world she built. I have just had fun with her creation.