Harry Potter, scratch that, ******, looked at the words written down by their own person and flinched. So many lies…
Albus Dumbledore, the man Harry Potter had grown to deify had taken a child from a broken home and forged it anew, in the image of His own choosing, for His own purpose, without regard of any but His opinions. Harry Potter was, is and had been, a lie all along.
Honestly, he was not sure why he was even surprised. Somewhere during that camping trip from hell, he had made the connection that Dumbledore had never wanted him to survive. That was the least of it. The bastard's game had fallen apart when he had accidentally killed himself with that cursed ring Horcrux. What did he do when he realised his sacrifice of Harry Potter was useless? Nothing, nothing at all. After all, what use was it of his to help? He was not going to reap the benefits, after all. It was just a game to him.
Teddy, his godson, was not his godson at all. It was not registered at least, so he went straight to Andromeda Tonks, who had hidden herself away immediately upon receiving him in her care. If she wanted him, she could keep him. Truly, he did not care, not with what he knew now. That relationship had been built on lies as well.
Harry Potter was a lie, since Harry Potter did not exist, never had. It was a legend built on whispers built on a lie. Let us start at the beginning shall we, this has been enough angst.
After the war had ended, he had tried, an effort to get his affairs in order, make good on promises and to see what he could do for his family name. The goblins were last on the list, mostly because he had been scared about what he would find there. With good reason, it turned out, even if the exact reason was false.
Seven drops of blood, that is how much it takes to destroy a life, or a lie, depending on your perspective.
Harry Potter never had his blood tested at Gringotts; he had always just used the small golden key given to him by Hagrid when he had turned eleven. No further checking of his identity necessary. After the war, that had changed since he owed the bank more than was in his so-called trust-vault. All reparations were to be paid tenfold, as required by the charter. Seven drops of his blood had been asked, he had been lucky to leave the bank alive.
"This will show us who you are, who your parents are, and which vault(s) you're entitled to. All it takes is seven drops of blood." The goblin had smirked nastily. With a cordon of goblins with spears threatening his life at his back, he had no choice but to comply.
Name: (?), shrouded.
Gender: (?), shrouded.
Father: Sirius Orion Black, never declared, deceased.
Mother: Marlene Magda McKinnon, never declared, deceased.
"Well, well, Mister Potter, was it? This has to be the most involved plot for line usurpation I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing." The goblin sneered. "Playing a long-con, huh? Shrouding magic even, Gringotts hasn't seen it's like in well over a century."
Frozen in shock, he did not react for long seconds. "What does that even mean?" He croaked.
"It means that ancient magics were used to shape you into something, someone, else." The goblin sighed. "It's pathetically obvious you've been used as a pawn in someone else's game, I'm sure you can guess who, can't you….?"
"Dumbledore, he's had a hand in every aspect of my life." He admitted, defeated.
"As it's clear we won't learn anything from you, nor would rummaging through your mind help at this point, I'm going to have to recommend to my superiors something I loathe."
He looked up in anticipation. "Such as?"
"Break the magics upon your body for free!" The sentence was uttered with so much loathing that Harry's mind supplied the logical answer. "Can't you use the money from vault 713 to pay for that? I mean, I don't know who I am obviously, but I've always had access to it, only needing that key that you now hold."
"Ah, you presume to still own the contents of that vault. No, sir, that money was immediately seized to pay for reparations. Since that will not cut it, our only option is to balance the potential costs to the potential gains. Simply put, we're going to break the shrouding magics in the hope your true identity's inheritance can pay for that and the remaining debts."
He closed his jaw and had to stop himself from uttering a sarcastic response. "I see, I'll gladly submit myself to whatever is needed to resolve the animosity between us." It would be worth it for the chance to walk out of here alive and for a chance to find out who he really was.
With a last sneer - the goblin saw right through his attempt at cunning - he motioned to the warriors to back off. "Follow, wizard spawn."
What followed was pain worse than dying and Voldemort's Crucio all rolled into one.
"Well, did you think it wouldn't hurt, child? That shrouding was put on you straight from the womb! Of course, it was going to hurt!" The curse breaker goblin had sneered. It seemed that goblins had an extremely limited number of facial expressions, at least where he was concerned.
It had to hurt their pride, but whatever Dumbledore had done, required a few more rituals and scores of curse-breakers to pull off before he finally learned of his identity.
Name: (?), never named.
Gender: (?), other.
Father: Sirius Orion Black, never declared, deceased.
Mother: Marlene Magda McKinnon, never declared, deceased.
Brother by corporal blood adoption: Harry James Potter, deceased.
Father by corporal blood adoption: James Potter, never declared, deceased.
Mother by corporal blood adoption: Lily Potter, never declared, deceased.
87: Potter vault, to be impounded in full.
98: Evans vault, to be impounded in full.
123: Black vault, to be impounded in full.
189: McKinnon vault, tons of items, gold impounded in full.
713: Trust vault, to be impounded in full.
This still did not tell him the full story. "Other" was of interest, but that he had already figured out at least. He was a Metamorph, and not just a Metamorph, a full one.
Goblins were a surly lot, but they had their own sort of honour. For one thing, they cared nothing for items they had no use for, at all. He still recalled that conversation with a strange fondness.
"Rise for Ragnok, bank leader." A goblin had barked as his recovery room was invaded by a small army.
By that point, it was all he could do to raise his arm a bit and turn his head. "Hi." He had croaked, mostly dead to the world after a metric shit-ton of ritual curse breaking had been performed on his body over the course of a week. Honestly, he had been surprised to have been given a bed to crash in.
Ragnok however, was not all that bad himself. "Ha! That was pathetic, wizard! But I can see you have a proper cause." He had chuckled at his shocked expression and waved it away. "I just had the most fascinating report land on my desk! It made for a really interesting reading."
A smirk was well in his capabilities, so he had crafted a good one, to Ragnok's approval. "Your life must have been very interesting indeed, which is why I'm going to give you a boon, a small one, mind you, but a boon indeed." He waved his hand to indicate the warriors around them. "For your actions against Gringotts, most of the bank wanted me to take your head in payment and be done with it, after taking your vault that is. I was inclined to agree, but I can recognise when someone is being shafted to such a massive degree and was hoping you would have enough of a backbone to plot some payback. Your little display just now makes me glad I came to see for myself, and so I have decided to be magnanimous in exchange for one little concession. Are you willing to hear me out?"
"Terrific!" Ragnok boomed. "It's like this. Harry Potter died today, and all your money is ours now, these things are a given. But if you-"
It all came down to the following facts:
I signed a contract against my life, my magic, and my possessions to never betray the bank's confidence (Harry Potter stays dead) and or plot against it directly.
I got all material possessions that hold no value for goblins from all the vaults in exchange for everything that did hold value to goblins, which was a far better deal than you would think.
I got to choose my last name, McKinnon and keep two properties associated with that name.
I got to send monthly updates of my promised vengeance on the Wizarding World, Ragnok insisted, it was a deal breaker.
I got healed to the best of Gringotts capabilities, for the rather exorbitant fee that was all the money I had left after the break-in costs (ten times the actual costs), the curse breaking costs and the identity testing was taken from my vaults.
This might seem like a weird statement after reading all that, but it remained absolutely true.
I was stinking rich! That needs some explaining, but more on that later. I know, but these things must be taken in a certain order.
First, Ragnok's files had to be compiled, analysed, and delivered to me in the most excruciating way he could imagine. He is a goblin leader, do the math. That talk had me wishing for death at the beginning and unholy vengeance at the end. The man was an artist in the delivery of bad news, such a talent deserved recognition!
Here is a summary of the timeline:
1980 July: Harry Potter gets born.
1981 July: Me cut out from the corpse of a freshly murdered Marlene McKinnon by Sirius. By the grace of luck and a massive amount of magic, I survive. I adapt, a little too well.
1981 July: Sirius babysits Harry and Me and straps him to a training broom. Harry dies by bashing his head in against the fireplace. Sirius panics, blood adopts Me to Harry as his brother, forces my form into Harry's with a spell, potion, and shrouding ritual (Dark Magic) and asks Dumbledore to obliviate him and everyone else of Me after sneakily blood adopting Me as the Potters child for a replacement.
1981 October: Fidelius placed at Godric's Hollow House.
1981 October: Potters killed at Godric's Hollow House. Voldemort is blown to smithereens by stepping on a landmine. I was behind a ward.
1981 November: Dumbledore takes a bit of lingering death magic and inserts it into a custom made and nicely DISTINCTIVE scar to set Me apart from everyone else. The prophecy did not specify who it was, so he decided to build his own saviour.
1981 November: Dumbledore spreads the legend of the Boy-Who-Lived and gets Hagrid to deliver Me to Harry Potter's aunt, under wards powered by my blood. Blood that Dumbledore ensures gets spilled regularly with a few behavioural modifiers on the Dursleys. Wards that draw most of My power to keep me weak, stupid, shrouded, and timid.
1981 December: Dumbledore acquires the services of the Weasley family by helping them pay their Hogwarts fees using money from the Potter expenses vault (the key taken from the destroyed home) and by selling Harry Potter to marry Ginevra Weasley after her graduation.
1982 all year: Dumbledore starts helping the legend build by selling pictures and the rights to sell Harry Potter stories as his Magical Guardian, a position he usurped so easily it astounded himself.
How did Ragnok know all this? Because the sons of bitches wrote it down!
Sirius claimed he was sorry after the fact in a letter he wrote just before having himself obliviated. Panic you know, happens to the best of us. Besides, it was a prank worthy of the Marauders! The letter was found in the McKinnon vault on the off chance his progeny would live to read it.
In Dumbledore's personal memoirs, he writes he is proud about that piece of fiction he created on the fly after Sirius fucked up the prophecy he was setting up. How much fun it was to create another legend out of whole-cloth and his scorn for the gullibility of the magicals of Great Britain. He had fooled them once with Grindelwald, but this was just sad. He did, of course, must compel a few people to see things his way, with his only natural ally being Molly Weasley. Still way too easy! He called me My Boy, because he truly saw me that way, as a boy he had crafted. His own private personal joke, it got him in the right mood to act the grandfather in his meetings with me.
His plan was to have me die and for him to destroy Tom once and for all. The Diary disrupted the easy continuity of his timeline and the Ring destroyed his chance to live to see the fruit of his efforts. His last words on paper were to wonder how badly this was going to go for the world. He had by then, well and truly given up. Ah well, it was a time for another Hero to stand up after his Boy died. Should make a lovely story!
Molly, who he was humouring more than anything by writing up a contract worth less than toilet paper. Molly, who had drawn up elaborate and comprehensive plans to potion Me to love Ginny. She had a tiny problem with that though, since my Metamorphing power and the Shrouding messed with the potions. She intended the potion for Harry Potter, a dead person, so the intent was skewed a bit. Dumbledore was laughing behind her back.
Those three adults plotted to derail or outright destroy My life and deserved my vengeance. It was a pity only one survived.
The Ministry and the Death Eaters would have to suffice as secondary targets. Not that I had any plans yet, I first had to consolidate my resources and get my strength back.
Most importantly, I needed an identity. Who would I be?
My gender was other, so I did not have to pick, thank Merlin for that! I had enough trauma to sift through without piling up gender issues on top of that. Being a girl did not put me off or anything, but it was not something to decide on a lark.
The only available name that did not put a bad taste in my mouth was McKinnon, so I was leaning towards that at least. I would have to sleep on that….
2. Me, Myself, and I
Honestly, when you are a true Metamorphmagus, wouldn't it make more sense to have two identities? Ragnok had agreed.
I had been a man for the last seventeen years, or rather a male, and I had cultivated quite the appreciation of the female form. Naturally, I had formed preferences as well. Now I had the opportunity to design my new female identity, as well as my body, naturally I tried to do right by my fantasies.
The process, however, was gross, awkward and everything you would expect when you think about the logistics. Let us say it was an experience and a half before leaving it at that. The male identity was an afterthought next to that.
It had made me think! It had taught me things about myself I never knew and reinforced others! What, you ask?
Well, I was fascinated with being female! It was not like I suddenly developed an interest in men, hell no! It was not like I changed fundamentally, but I positively adored the change in myself when I took up the role. I was free as a woman! Freer than I ever had been as a man.
I never really was one for profound insight after some serious introspection, but even I could see that it was an escape. After always feeling constrained by society's expectations of me, it was beyond freeing to let all that go. Embracing a different gender was just an extension of that, I understood that if nothing else. Aided and abetted by my fascination with my new female body, I grew into the role.
Yes, I was aware I was using my newfound narcissism as a crutch, but that did not lessen the comfort it gave. My new body was beautiful, of course it was, I designed it! If feeling beautiful was going to help me feel more comfortable and confident in that new form, I was going to embrace that.
Two different wardrobes filled my closets, one for each identity. I wrote down their desires, thoughts, and talents, how to act and what to think. The female wardrobe was slightly over twice as big as the male wardrobe, I tried not to think about that too much. There was so much more choice, clothes wise for women, it was ridiculous. Let us say I indulged myself.
A sexy librarian type of woman, with demure and dignified clothing, barely hiding the beauty underneath, my curves and assets barely hidden by my new sexy under things. I had stayed true to myself in that form, silky black hair and green eyes framed a heart-shaped face. On the smaller side in everything, but with a wiry strength to the body, toned muscles, and understated curves. "Stephanie McKinnon, at your service! Oh, yes, I'm very much a lesbian bombshell and not afraid to admit it." If you are bi-curious I would be very willing to indulge.
The male form was unassuming in direct contrast, in tune with my desire to hide myself. The clothing bland but of decent quality in earthen tones, giving off a dependable but overall forgettable impression. Again, on the smaller size but with a hidden strength. Light brown eyes and salt and pepper hair. A face almost identical to Stephanie's in bone structure, with a femininity that would make most males just that tiny bit uncomfortable. Someone you would rather not think on. A drone, the perfect spy or assassin. "Stephan McKinnon, nice to meet you." Nobody that would accept ultra-vanilla male me would accept the other side of me, so no dating, I guess.
It was almost time to tell Ragnok who and what, so that he could set me up with identities, and I took a good look at them, to see if I could live like this. Honestly, I could recommend the process to anyone, I feel like I know myself now. Sexuality, I like everything with a cunt, that definitely includes myself now. Gender issues? No, more like Harry Potter issues. I will not ever have to choose one gender, so I will not. There, gender issues are solved.
I pointedly ignored all signals that pointed toward Stephan being the disguise, rather than half of the equation.
"So, how do you like them?" I asked Ragnok as Stephanie, who smirked.
"You kept your promise, Harry Potter is dead." Ragnok poked me when I did not so much as twitch. "Truly, only a twisted soul could reinvent themselves with such perfection!"
Well, why do not you tell me what you really think! I thought sarcastically, but privately admitting he had a point. "Harry Potter is dead." I confirmed easily, it did not hurt or squeezed my chest or provoked emotion in any other way except for a small wave of relief. An unburdening, a shedding of some indefinable weight that was dragging me down. Merlin, all I feel is relief...
"And yet, nobody yet knows he is dead. Wouldn't it help Gringotts reputation to admit you killed him for his actions against the bank?"
"Hmm..." The goblin leader grunted sourly. "Yes, and I was so looking forward to telling them when they asked…."
My jaw dropped unflatteringly, and I closed it again, that was not an action Stephanie could engage in. "You mean?"
"Yes. Nobody asked after him yet. Perhaps they think he fled." Ragnok grunted, breaking another small piece of my withered heart. "I wanted to talk about your vengeance. Any ideas pop up yet?"
I flinched. "Outside of clear and simple assassination, no. If I were to go that route though, I would be wildly successful, given some of my resources. But I am guessing that is not what would hurt them the most. My lack of knowledge is really hamstringing me."
"It is as I thought then." Ragnok sighed. "Here's something you clearly overlooked. You are a pureblood and head of two houses, Black and McKinnon. This gives you lots of economic and political power, it means you can hire muggleborns."
The clear emphasis on hiring muggleborns surprised me. "What do you mean? Is that something only available to purebloods?" I asked him aghast. "No wonder this world is stuck in the friggin' middle ages!"
Ragnok laughed coldly. "It's in fact far worse, McKinnon! Only the Head of House can start a company, and only purebloods can head them. Hiring muggleborns is regulated and taxed more heavily."
"How!" I demanded angrily.
"With magical contracts and at double the rates." Ragnok sneered. "Gringotts have long wanted to change that, or at least make use of the muggleborns as a part of the work-force. This economy has long since stagnated and is being kept up artificially for decades now. Sadly, no Heads of House seemed inclined to help us and we dared not risk these plans being exploited or getting out. It would surely have damaged our efforts and risked Gringotts' reputation."
I turned to him shrewdly. "I assume you have a couple of plans ready then. This falls under Gringotts' secrets, so I'm no risk as such. I also really want to hurt the ministry and the pure blood lords. Helping muggleborns is just the icing on the cake!"
"Exactly." Ragnok grunted, looking pleased. "We need you as a front at least, but preferably as a valuable business partner. Your talents could greatly assist us in eliminating the competition or loose ends. What do you say, Stephanie McKinnon-Black?"
I grinned. "Stephan will be the pure blood lord, and Stephanie will take over the company. I can see that working! Without some sort of training however, I would be rubbish as either a lord or a boss. Is that what you had in mind?"
"Yes." He agreed. "Now, Gringotts will be providing the start-up costs, the personnel - we've been keeping tabs on the muggleborns with good ideas and a lack of opportunity - and the knowledge of laws and their loopholes. Your contribution will be Stephan's hand to sign contracts with, your image as Stephanie to be the Face of the company and your deadly infiltration skills to remove obstacles. Do you agree with everything I've said?"
I shrugged. "Depends on the plans. I could contribute with some ideas and some knowledge. The stuff you left me with, can be used for a great number of plans so you can consider me a magical consultant or even the company library. I assume we'll have some way to protect our interest in those contracts, even if you're trying to entice the muggleborns with good terms?"
"Naturally. We agree then, the details come later." He waved his hand. "Come, I think magic should have changed your information now by intent alone. Let us see if I'm right."
Donating seven drops of my blood, I watched curiously as the updated information appeared on the parchment.
Names: Stephan(ie) McKinnon-Black.
Father: Sirius Orion Black, deceased.
Mother: Marlene Magda McKinnon, deceased.
189: McKinnon vault
123: Black vault
Ragnok looked at me with satisfaction clear in his gaze. "How has it changed this much?"
"You renounced your old name at the start of this conversation, didn't you? You said: Yes, Harry Potter is dead." He smirked. "You meant it, which erased the Potter part, even though you still possess the blood and the magic. Sirius Black knew you lived, even if he forgot after. Knowing that, he announced in his head at least that you were his offspring. Magic is sentient to a degree and knows that this, what this piece of paper says, is the truth as you acknowledge it."
I felt a bit ill as the implications hit me. "Then, how did the test not announce me as Harry Potter when I came in here first? I didn't know any better then."
"Except you apparently never really thought you were Harry Potter, or at least The Harry Potter." The goblin pointed out. "Perhaps you wished you weren't? Magic works in strange ways sometimes, who's to say what it knows or not?"
Sighing, I held my head in my hands. "A twisted soul, you said I was. Perhaps you were right."
"HA! Who knows? I do believe you have a chance to be whoever you want to be now though. You're certainly going to get a chance to fuck with a large group of people."
I nodded in agreement. It was a clear silver lining. "Tell me everything else I need to know."
"You can't hire too many muggleborns to work at wizarding companies, but those restrictions do not apply to muggle businesses. That is a great loophole to have, since it helps us evade the more stringent regulations and taxes. In that same vein, income in galleons is taxed heavily for muggle born employees, while other income such as room and board are taxed normally. Income in muggle businesses or paid out in muggle money is not taxed at all. There is plenty more of these idiotic regulations to make fun off, but those can come later when you meet your tutor. Do you see where I'm going with this?"
Grinning widely, I nodded. "It always amazes me how stupid and dismissive these people can be! It's good to see that can be helpful at times!"
3. Business is Business
My life was a joke to someone somewhere, I was sure of it! It could not be anything else, surely. The names on the parchment in front of me could mean nothing else. One name stood out like a bushfire.
A year ago, I dropped my existence as Harry Potter. Nobody knew Harry was dead, they just knew he had gone missing. If I were being honest, I had really grown to like being someone else, or rather, some ones. My past held only one lasting regret, and she was on my list.
I was interviewing possible employees for the companies, yes, multiple. Months of preparation had gone into this, now it was time to start my personal war against the establishment. First in every interview came the motivation, basically sharing our stories of hatred against the blood purity issue.
Ragnok and I had worked a little spiel out for this purpose that stuck as close to the truth as possible. Basically, I never knew I was pure blood, never had opportunities and when I found out, wanted to share my newfound opportunities with those whom I could relate with, sticking it to the pure bloods who had first spurned me.
That part was not bad, what followed was. See, the prospective employees shared their stories in return. I religiously wrote down who fucked who over and said what. Basically, I was writing a ruin/kill list.
More memorable amongst the muggleborns were the ladies, if only because they literally got fucked over in addition to the rest.
Penelope Clearwater, Percy Weasley's girlfriend until it turned out dating a muggleborns hurt his chances in the ministry. Cast away like yesterday's trash, she wanted to start a company and quickly learned it just was not possible. Trying to get a job was a nightmare and did not pay the bills when she succeeded.
Penelope was going to be an enchantress, under the newly formed enchanting company.
Percy had not a business, so he was going to die at some point.
Audrey Ainsworth was left pregnant, but her boyfriend Anton Pucey did not want a kid, never mind getting married. She had been living with her parents until she got the letter from Gringotts.
Audrey had not even finished Hogwarts and was now learning the trade from Penelope.
Pucey's family owned an enchanting business, which was ironic and motivating, since Audrey was much better at magic than Anton. She had a burning need to hurt his family. The magical world had never heard of alimony of course, so she was destitute and living on her parent's generosity.
Story after story was told, and name after name was added to the lists of employees and those to ruin or kill. It was a lucky happenstance that lots of the muggle born in that situation had kept tabs on the others, often calling them on the phone to check in. In other words, the lists were growing exponentially.
Gringotts had kept tabs on the promising entrepreneurs and talented people. They needed the help their downtrodden fellows could give them. All of them were burning with a need to stick it to the Wizards in charge.
Then Hermione came in. Even worse, after this were the Creevey brothers, joy.
I rattled off my story and held up my hand. "Miss Granger, assume I know everything about you right up until the war ended. What happened that has you here in front of me seeking employment?"
Hermione looked composed as always, but she had a glint in her eye. "That's alright, Miss McKinnon." I was Lady McKinnon in the Wizarding World, but I still recognised when she was testing someone. My mouth twisted into a small smile. "Well, go on then."
"My boyfriend, Ron Weasley and the Ministry happened." She started. "First, I learned what his plans were for after the war. He was going to become an Auror right off the bat, coasting on the perceived competence for having helped Harry Potter kill off Voldemort. He did not want nor needed any NEWT's for that, just got offered the job right away. That was my first hint. I took my NEWT's and got a position in the ministry as an assistant in the law department, there I learned the rest."
She took a breath. "From what I have since learned, the entire current Auror department, minus perhaps a few competent wizards, got their job because of nepotism. I learned it is the same everywhere, and when I asked my supervisor about opportunities to climb the ladder so to speak, I was looked at with pity. It did not help when he showed me the actual laws that made it impossible for me to achieve any sort of position of power. From then on, I studied the laws, the regulations and anything I could get my hands on regarding any sort of lawful segregation. It's sickening, it's vile and it's ubiquitous!"
I nodded, agreeing easily. "And that landed you here, how?"
"I was hoping to use what I learned to help you abuse the system and help as many muggle born. To prevent them from getting trapped in one of those vile magical employment contracts!" Hermione declared with passion.
I could not help my grin. "That still does not explain how you got here, Miss Granger. Additionally, I am required by law to have you sign a magical employment contract, otherwise I cannot hire you at all. Do you understand?"
She grinned. "I got here, because some of my friends told me about you, and what you do for those you employ. They told me I should get my butt over here and leave the ministry and I am hoping to see that contract I will be signing if that is true. The ministry was also abuzz with the revival of a House thought extinct, a light side family even. McKinnon-Black, such a scandal."
A frown marred my delicate features as I pursed my painted lips, having enormous amounts of fun portraying a dignified lady to my old friend. "Ah, Miss Granger, that first part would be a lie. It's hardly a good way to earn my trust, here."
Hermione looked at me defiantly, exactly like I expected from her. "Entering this interview means you had to swear to keep the contents of this conversation private, which includes the contract. As such, your friends simply couldn't have told you that." I crossed my arms under my chest and nodded. "Still, if what you think is true, I might be in the market for someone exactly like you. I could use a witch of your convictions in human resources and the like, which means you would be sitting on this side of the desk next time. Would you be interested in such a position?"
Her eyebrows lifted in surprise. "Would I be working directly under you then?"
My mouth twitched at her choice of words. "Nothing would please me better."
"Are you coming on to me?" She asked ever so blatantly.
I laughed in delight. "Well yes! But I can stop that if it makes you uncomfortable." My old friend blushed brightly, but she did not object. Interesting!
"How about I let you peruse the basic contract while I explain some of the positions I still need to fill. The jobs that need doing. You can decide on that later if you wish, but I will admit that I like the idea of you helping me out in managing it all. I'm just one girl, after all."
She nodded, and I slid the contract over for her to read. "Well Hermione if I may call you that? Excellent, you can call me Stephanie then. Now, management of the umbrella company consists of just me. My elusive brother only comes out of the woodwork if it is totally necessary, but he is the Lord of this little fiefdom, nonetheless. Should you meet, well, treat him like you would me, he is still extremely uncomfortable going from a nobody to a CEO basically. In practice, you'll be dealing with me chiefly."
I paused. "I'll be heading the magical division, so we still need someone to keep an eye on our muggle businesses I suppose. What we really need however, is someone to see opportunities in the muggle world. It is beyond easy to do some muggle jobs with magic, which is why this business is going to work. We basically help set up muggle businesses and front the costs in exchange for a chunk of the profits. Using those businesses, we will be hiring more magicals to do magical work without taxing them overly much. Using the magical manpower, we intend to undercut magical businesses to eventually drive them out of business, undermining the power of the purebloods and swindling the Ministry out of their inflated taxes. If we keep taking the muggleborns from the market as soon as they appear, the Ministries' income will deflate, driving up taxes and bettering our competitiveness."
By now, I was just rambling, but I knew Hermione could take everything important from my words. "We intend to buy property to house our workers at prices well below market level as an extra incentive. Room and Board as a part of wages are taxed much less than actual income, whether it be in galleons or pounds, which is another part of our strategy to undercut the competition. Err… The business on the magical side is providing services for now, enchanting and construction, but we are planning to start producing goods soon enough. It is our goal to replicate and replace the magical economy entirely at some point, to deny the Ministry even more resources and to let competitiveness rule the economy, just like in the muggle world. I forget how, but this is supposed to undermine the ministry somehow and make them grant muggle born magicals more rights."
"As long as they do not give in, another goal is to live in the muggle world, without ministry interference. Eventually, schooling could also be done in the muggle world, magic and normal, which would deny them even more resources. The company would provide a library filled with books both rare and common. We have some ten thousand plus purely magical volumes."
I stopped talking and looked at Hermione, who was looking at me with clear amusement shining in her brown eyes. "I see why you might need my help, and I'd be willing to sign on, right now even. I have some ideas for you too if you'd be willing to listen?"
Nodding, I sat back and motioned for her to proceed.
Hermione grinned. "You need branding and a clear statement about the company goals. Then you need to detail your plans and use those as incentive in your contracts. I don't mean this as a slight, but you're clearly not an experienced manager, so you're going to need to surround yourself with a small core team who can take care of the main things so that you only have to focus on the major decisions."
"What would that team do for me?" I asked with intrigue.
"You were right in needing someone for human resources. That will be me if you let me. I can take care of the branding, the statement, and the contracts. You need a few financial and business specialists badly, honestly, I don't know how you got this far without them?"
I nodded to myself, happy with the decision I just made. "You can take that job. Sign the contract and I will be able to tell you a lot more about the management of the company. If you do well as I think you will, you might very well become the power behind the throne, or at least part of it. Me and my brother can be the pureblood faces and occasionally give our ideas or opinions. Naturally, you would be paid well, though I would not be the one deciding on that, I would certainly recommend it. The company goals are to provide jobs for muggleborns and to stick it to the ministry."
Hermione looked me in the eyes and nodded. "You definitely need me." Then she grabbed the quill and signed. "So, what secrets should I know now I'm contracted to keep them?"
Thank god! Half the stress in my body had just left it like that, she would be invaluable. "Hermione. I am a Metamorphmagus, and I am both Stephanie and Stephan McKinnon. I sign the paperwork and manage the ministry. The goblins are just as disgusted with magical law as we are and have wanted to undermine it for a long time. They helped me find out who I was, what I was and came up with the entire idea of this enterprise. They manage the finances and set up the businesses on the muggle side. They fund it too, for the most part."
I sighed. "While you are right that we need a managing board, at least half of it will be and already consists of goblins. They did promise me though, that if this takes off, we can take it wherever we want it to go. If we want to start a magical school for muggleborns, that can be done too."
"Yessss!" She grinned. "This is a great opportunity! I can't wait to start!"
She sobered. "But one thing has to come first, I need to leave the Weasley home as fast as humanly possible, and finally break up with Ron, I suppose."
I raised an eyebrow. "Finally?"
Hermione paused, before she sighed and spoke. "He showed me he wasn't who I thought in the past few months by using his blood status to become an Auror, but that wasn't the worst. You've heard of Harry Potter, I suppose, and that he was our friend?"
I nodded, unable to speak. She grinned sadly. "He was the absolute best, and then he up and disappeared without a word. I did not understand it then, but I do now. Not only were the Weasley's planning to hook him up on potions to marry their youngest, but he would also have never been free like he wanted to be. I'm just mad at him for not grabbing me when he left."
"Hmm." I hummed noncommittally, "I don't know how I could help with that, but I can help you with your living arrangements. Do not take this the wrong way, but I have a beautiful home and no one to share it with, I would be incredibly happy if you would take up a room. I know I flirted with you earlier, and I am interested, but if that is a dealbreaker I could just as easily set you up in an apartment like most of our employees. We have a complex set up just for that purpose."
Hermione looked at me for the longest time, judging me trustworthy before nodding. "I'll take you up on that for now, but if it doesn't work out, I'll take the other option. Do you mind cats?"
"Not really. Bring your pet, you are a package deal, I expect? Anyway, I will add you to the wards after my next interview. You're welcome to floo in any time after six."
"Yes, that'll work. I will floo in tonight then. See you, boss. Have fun with your interview."
I groaned. "I suppose you would know them; they want to start a photography studio slash magical painting production. The Creevey brothers?"
Hermione laughed gaily. "They certainly know their stuff. I'd hire them."
Sighing, I nodded. "Thanks. I probably will. They are plenty motivated, just needed a push in the right direction before I could hire them." The younger brother Dennis had just managed his OWL's but had decided NEWT's were not necessary for his craft of painting, and he was right too.
"Well, later." She waved and walked out.
"Bye Hermione." I spoke.
Click! The door closed.
"Shit! I'm going to have to tell her." I sighed, letting my head rest against the back of my chair.
Knock, Knock! "Are you ready for us, Lady McKinnon?" She heard the chirpy buggers and groaned.
"Yes, come on in!"
4. Oaths and Curses!
"Anybody home?" Hermione's voice sounded throughout the house. I walked into the room and she spotted me immediately.
"Hi there Hermione, please, take a seat." I greeted her. "I have decided to tell you one last secret before you decide whether you'd like to stay here or in an apartment." It was better to rip off the band-aid in this situation.
"That sounds rather ominous." Hermione noted as she sat down, Crookshanks circling her feet. "Will I like this secret?"
"Yes and no probably." I admitted as I took a seat opposite her, absently petting Crookshanks as he sprang on the couch. "You see, you knew me before today, just under a different name."
"Harry?" Was her immediate and hopeful response.
My jaw went slack for a second before I smiled gently. "I am not Harry Potter, nor was I ever, Hermione. Without a loophole free vow and a very binding goblin-approved contract, I can't tell you more."
Her frown formed at light speed as she took in the information bomb, I just lobbed her. "Shut up for a minute, Harry."
I smiled genuinely, of course she would figure it out. I had neither broken my magical vow nor had I broken my contract. The promised minute passed but the silence remained.
She bit off a curse as she stared at me. "How? Give me another hint if you can."
"I Named myself, a year and a day before, and that was the first Name I'd been given." I allowed her, even though it was more like a year and nine days. "The rest was a fiction turned legend."
"What's my cat's name?"
"Who gave you your first hug you could remember?"
"Hermione Jane Granger, moments before confronting QuirrellMort."
She jumped at me and hugged me like her life depended on it. Tears were dripping down my neck but all I could feel was happy to have her in my arms once more. "I'm sorry for leaving you Hermione, I wasn't exactly given a choice in the matter."
"Oh, Harry!" She cried. "What happens now? What do I need to do to learn what happened?"
"What happens now is you call me Stephanie, or Stephan depending on my form. You would need to sign a contract on your life and magic to never tell anyone who I was once known as. That includes never calling me Harry anymore, you know, wouldn't be right anyway."
"I'll sign the stupid contract Stephanie, if it means having my best friend back!" Hermione sobbed.
"You'll have me either way, Hermione. You just can't know the details of who I was known as and why without the contract." I corrected her cheekily.
She gave me a withering Look. I grinned. Of course, she wanted to know enough to sign the contract. "I'll get you that contract, until then, keep calling me Stephanie if you don't want me to slip up and lose my magic."
"Do you have plans of telling anyone else?" I shook my head. "Then we'll put it under Fidelius, we're not losing our magic or lives because of some stupid mistake or an Animagus like Rita listening in!"
I nodded, impressed. "I hadn't even considered such a thing. I will ask Ragnok to be the keeper, he will like the responsibility and infallibility of it all. Nobody will threaten him for that secret!"
"Ragnok, as in the head of the bank?" I just grinned. "Only you, Stephanie, only you."
"You'd know best I suppose." I shrugged lightly. "Oh, Hermione. I am so goddamn happy that you know me again! Life isn't the same without my best friend."
She dried her eyes and noted her position, straddling my lap. Giggling, she smiled at me as her eyes locked onto my lips. "Stephanie, I'm going to do what I should've a long time ago, don't move."
I could not breathe as she lowered her head and brushed her lips against my own. It was brilliant, it was soft, it was just like she said, they should have done this so long ago! She opened her lips and shoved her tongue down my lips. I let her and sucked her breath from her lungs before nibbling on her bottom lip. From there on, it was a battle for dominion, one I was fated to lose whilst still enjoying the hell out of it. "Mmmm, Hermione, you're an excellent kisser!"
Her eyes sparkled as she put her nose in the air. "I am, aren't I? You're not so bad yourself, for a novice."
"A novice? How'd you figure that?" I asked her, vaguely insulted, she knew my history.
"Why, Stephanie! Have those lips been kissed before? I thought I was your first!"
"Huh, you're right. I hadn't looked at it that way." I admitted with a smile. "You know Hermione, I have been saving myself for just the right kind of gall. Will you be my first in everything?"
"Oh, Stephanie, I'd love to, but we'll have to talk about that, do you know how the Wizarding World looks at same-sex couples?"
I did not. "No, actually. How do they?"
"Better than in the muggle world, but still looked down upon." She admitted. "But what about your male identity. Would you be the brother sister duo that shared a muggle born? That is frowned upon rather heavily, since they will assume the brother will poke the sister too."
My lips twitched in amusement. "As fun as those rumours might be, why do not you pick who you want to be with later, Stephan or Stephanie. Or we could just be a couple behind closed doors." I shook my head. "Nope, we're not talking about this now. I just want you to date ME. Who that is can be a question for the future. Will you be my girlfriend, Hermione?"
"Definitely." She grinned and pecked my lips. "Honey, I'm moving in." That set me off and we ended up tickling each other until we decided enough was enough.
"Stephanie, we're sharing a bed."
"We are? Yes!" I cheered, before I saw her dry expression. "Um. We are, let me show you the room."
"Just like on that camping trip when Ron was gone, but tonight you'll stay as Stephanie alright? I don't want to wake up with you poking me."
"I'm Stephanie the majority of the time, anyway, so better get used to it." I nodded, missing Hermione's calculating expression.
Five minutes later, I slept like a log in my silk nightie.
Hermione lay wide awake as she sorted out her thoughts on her old friend's behaviour. She acted fully like a woman, even the subtle things, like the way her hips moved or her facial expressions. She was confident too, just in a different way than she was used to. The wardrobe, even her night things screamed woman, and comfortable at that! She practically told her with that last remark, so casually tossed her way.
"Stephanie, huh? Can I do that? Could I date a woman who is only occasionally a man? I guess we'll find out." If anything, Stephanie was a rather stunning woman, about a head smaller than her with soft curves and an air of undeniable class. Shit, she is better with make-up than I am!
Gods, if she had not met with Stephanie McKinnon, she would not have ever known about Harry, would she? If a year of being a woman turned her into that, it likely meant that the awkwardness he had personified as Harry was real. Still, she had once fallen for Harry and it had not been his giant muscles or other assorted maleness, it was because her best friend was a loving, noble creature. She would just as quickly grow to love Stephanie if that remained true. She snorted softly. As if that would ever change!
With the last of her doubts settled, she rolled over, hugged her new girlfriend from behind and fell asleep.
"So, Stephanie, how much are you really doing as the CEO?" Hermione asked her at breakfast.
Stephanie shrugged, the sheer camisole showing off her perky b-cup tits and hugging her hips over her shorts. Hermione was watching her like a hawk. "I've basically signed everything at the ministry the goblins needed me to and a bit more on top of that. I have been conducting interviews and hiring people non-stop, starting with the muggle side. I've been making decisions about buying property for housing and business and I've been meeting with the goblin team twice a week to discuss everything."
Hermione sipped her tea calmly. "And how did you learn how to do that, did you study business somehow?"
She got a nod in return. "The goblins set me up with tutors, and I soak it up rather easily." Stephanie caught her inquiring gaze and interpreted it correctly. "Once you sign the contract, I can tell you some other stuff that basically makes me a slightly different person than I was before due to the removal of certain magical influences. I'm better now, believe me."
"We're so going to get that contract signed today!" Hermione grunted in frustration.
Stephanie laughed, but her face turned sombre. "You won't like most of it, I'm afraid. People you look up to will be tossed off their pedestal. It does mean I am now better off then I was before though, where it counts at least. So that's something."
"You've really embraced it, have you?" Hermione inclined her head at her outfit. "I've seen your closet; you have more girly clothing than I do now."
With a shrug, Stephanie smiled wistfully. "It was a convenient escape that turned into something real far too easily."
"Any regrets?" Hermione asked curiously.
"I had one, but she's sitting opposite me." She smiled lovingly, making Hermione blush again. She had been doing that a lot lately, and all of it because of her!
"Now. Let us put on some real clothing and get to Gringotts." Hermione demanded, completely forgetting she was ordering her boss around. Stephanie just smiled, not minding in the least. They were a duo again, and they both led in different situations. That was simply fine to her.
- Four hours later -
"Exactly, that's why Ragnok didn't want me to tell you in his office. He was really impressed with the Fidelius idea by the way. I think you earned his respect with that move." Stephanie agreed easily, as if she had not just dropped a bomb on her. "You'll need that respect if you're going to be the woman behind the throne. It's why he gave you the one percent, on top of your wages."
Hermione was bristling and ANGRY. "You're telling me that Dumbledore never trained you because he never believed you could do it?"
"It does make the most sense here." Stephanie nodded. "But… That is what you find hardest to believe? Not the fact that Harry Potter died before he even met Voldemort. Or the fact that he just brutally mutilated my fifteen months old self's forehead with Black Soul magic before dropping me off at a magic hating family house warded by the magic powered by my own blood? Or the fact that Sirius basically traded his own child to cover up Harry's death?"
"Well, yes, that's pretty bad too." Hermione admitted softly. "But he just gave up and played a losing game when everyone believed he was the general leading the war!"
Stephanie just frowned at her. "I suspected that from the Tri-wizard Tournament. I mean, seriously, he told the Order to use stunning spells whenever possible. He never attacked, only defended!" She shook her head. "Hermione, what muggle war was ever won defensively?"
Hermione looked at her sheepishly. "I see your point. I need to get my mind off this. How did you turn into Stephanie?"
So, she told her about the dozens of curse-breaker rituals, the vow that Harry Potter was dead, the way the goblins divided the wealth, everything.
"What? How did that work, the wealth thing, I mean?"
Stephanie grinned. "I got to pick two McKinnon properties to keep, and I got all the non-goblin-made heirlooms, all the books, the furniture, you name it. They kept the gold, the land, the houses, the shares in businesses and the goblin artifacts."
Hermione could not fathom it, "why?" That was very un-goblin like behaviour.
"They needed me, and given my history, they respected me. Ragnok decided that I was a person they could work with, and so they worked with me. I am now the owner of a quarter of the shares of Magical Businesses Incorporated (MBI). If it fails, I lose everything. If it succeeds, I will earn that gold back in a few decades. I also had them harvest the basilisk below Hogwarts. That earned me enough gold to build an apartment complex that I rent out to MBI at below market prices. I am honestly rich enough to never need to work, Hermione. It's not about the money for me and the goblins know that."
Her brain was completely overloaded. "So, aside from this lovely house, what property did you keep?"
"McKinnon Castle, recently dubbed MBI." Stephanie grinned. "And this lovely house has twenty rooms. You've barely seen a quarter."
"Oh." She mumbled. "Is there a library?"
"Yes, but it's not that big. You should see the library wing at the castle, or MBI. Now that is impressive! The elves there are ecstatic with all the work! Do not worry, they have standing orders to do what they want, that is it. How do you like that for elfish welfare?"
"And you got smarter?" She blatantly changed the subject with a quick frown.
"Yes, it was not clear exactly what all was done to me, but my mind operates at a higher level now. Remembering, processing, noticing, all that is easier. I even managed to start learning Occlumency for real now!" Stephanie crowed happily.
"Do we need to do any work today?" Hermione asked. "I don't think I'll be able to do anything right now."
"Nah, you'll start on Monday anyway, I'll be doing some paperwork at the Ministry tomorrow, but you can just take a breather and relax, take in everything you've learned today."
"Alright, that's good." She mumbled in relief.
Stephanie took pity on her and handed her a steaming hot cup of tea. "I'll be in the bath if you need me, Hermione." Then she sauntered off, her hips swinging over her naked legs. Hermione did not even care that she was staring.
5. Clandestine Operations
Paperwork, he had told Hermione he was going to be doing. It was true in a sense, yet it was so much darker. Stephan grinned from under his invisibility cloak. He was stalking a man in the ministry, and his intentions were far from pure. This fool sorted the paperwork into Do Sign and Do Not Sign piles before signing the Sign pile, something he had noted before. It was not that difficult to slip something in that pile just as he would sign it.
After months of visiting the ministry, he had learned about all the various paper pushing departments and the people involved. They gossiped amongst themselves every time someone walked out the door. Crushes, blackmail, he used everything in his arsenal.
It was simplicity itself to get the forms he needed for his business to pay the least for the most gain, to get the preferred ministry tax rates, and to get the highest limit of muggleborns he could hire for his businesses. He could even get them signed by the correct people. That, however, was far too easy and obvious. He got the second-best rates consistently with the people who read what they signed and followed procedure.
Where possible, he got others to do and sign things for him, they almost never dealt with Stephan McKinnon directly. They dealt with Percy Weasley, Anton Pucey and all the other pure-blooded employees that had screwed over muggle born now under his employ. Naturally, they would someday get in trouble over that, which was simply fine with Stephan. By now, he knew exactly who the people were that he needed to approach for a quick mindless signature. Some did not even look at what they were signing.
He did not stop there, no! The pure-blooded scum that worked businesses instead of working in the ministry got a different revenge. Using basically the same tactics, Stephan as those pure blood scions got a lot of very contradictory and downright fraudulent forms filed, always in favour of their businesses but only waiting for an audit to fuck their shit up. The beauty of it was that they would not even know they had advantageous options available to them, because he held the signed forms. Copies would go down to records for the auditors to peruse later.
Knowing what he had learned about business in the magical world, he never signed anything himself when he did not have to. His magical signature would only be found on his own paperwork. Come the next audit, he was sure some very unfortunate pure bloods would be losing their jobs. Everything they had signed would come under suspicion, which did not include Stephan's forms. He could even trigger an audit if he wanted, having several signed forms that held blank spots that could basically mean anything he wanted. Filing those would set the bull in the china shop for sure.
Ragnok consistently laughed as he read my reports and the actions after every name on the ruin/kill list. He could tell that Ragnok was somewhat disappointed though, so he was working another angle at the same time.
Chatting up various people in various disguises got him a few looks in the warding records. Not only did he have the addresses of properties of various persons of interest, but he also knew something about their wards, not the specifics of course, but mostly if they had a boat load of them or just the basics. It was not all that hard to get at those. But then again, he had been at it for a few months now, so he knew who and how to ask them. What he would do with the information was unclear yet, but it kept him busy and he would be grateful for the foresight if he ever ended up needing it.
Killing had so far not been something he had been willing to contemplate, but he knew that would last only so long as he did not hear of any crimes involving muggle born or muggles.
Indeed, it was only a matter of time.
He had learned a few curses silently for punishment short of killing. There was the Sterility Curse, everyone on the kill/ruin list got one of those, but so much more! The Black Library alone had taught him something that had him laughing as he imagined the results. There was one specific curse that got him that way, and that was the modified aversion curse.
The poor people who got hit with that curse had enemies aplenty, otherwise they would not have been on his list. The curse took all the negative feelings directed at them and gave those a boost, while also keeping those affected calm. In short, it made their enemies better, by allowing them to think on their aversion rationally, instead of lashing out. Harry could just imagine the chaos that would result from that, and since it was a curse, the effects were permanent unless dispelled.
Another something he did was a bit more insidious. It should be. He got the idea from Voldemort. Remember the curse on the Defence against the Dark Arts position? That, but less deadly and generally more annoying. Every time someone in the Ministry used the terms Mud blood, half breed, or Blood traitor, their arms would develop an itch right where the Dark Mark had been located. Perhaps that would get people thinking.
6. Hermione's Twelve-Year Plan
Hermione was pacing around the house, wearing nothing but her underwear and muttering under her breath furiously.
Nothing was wrong at all with this picture, in fact, it was downright calming for me, I had long grown used to this behaviour. Hermione was close to cracking something that had been bugging her for a while, that was all.
My green eyes were tracking her every move, my pussy had long grown wet, but I did nothing but stare predatorily at my girlfriend's near frantic pacing, or rather, her glorious ass. For some reason, Hermione had not yet given in and had sex with me. Just heavy petting, not even a single orgasm had been shared between us yet.
"I've got it!" She shouted in her trademark eureka moment. Her audience of one just waited patiently. "MBI, business for everyone!"
I looked at her through heavy-lidded eyes and smiled at her approvingly even though in truth I had no idea what she was doing. She was just so damn cute at this moment. "I love it, Hermione."
Hermione just looked at me and snorted. "You love something at least. Did you know your panty has a wet spot?"
"It's your fault Hermione, you and that glorious ass of yours! Not to mention how cute your pacing is!" I looked at her hungrily. "You don't know what you do to me."
Her blushing told me I was right. How could she not see? "You're a beautiful, passionate woman, Hermione. Embrace it. Morgana, your legs have no end to them!"
She squeaked and glared, making me ask, "What?"
"This is so unlike you, what are you hoping for here?" She asked with uncertainty.
I tilted my head. "It's not like I liked who I was before, and we both know that wasn't the real me. As for what I am hoping for. Isn't it obvious? I am waiting for you to show a sign that you want me like I want you. Short of that, I was enjoying watching you, as my panties show."
Hermione took a deep breath to steady herself. "Would you kiss me? Touch me?"
"Everywhere you'd allow me to." I answered immediately.
"Would you, fuck me?" She asked in a shaky voice.
"If that's what you wanted. I am more one for making love myself, I think. It's not like I have any experience." I shrugged, not minding admitting it. "Would you like to fuck me? Perhaps you would enjoy dominating me in bed. I sure wouldn't mind being dominated sexually, especially if it were you."
Now she was shaking all over, and I was getting worried. "What's wrong, Hermione?" She did not answer, and I got up and pulled her in my arms. "You can tell me; I won't judge you."
Her shaking was getting less, but her fears were still present, so I dragged her to the couch and pulled her in my lap, stroking her hair softly. "No matter what, I'll still love you." I continued muttering assurances as I kept her against my breasts.
Eventually, I noticed she was crying silently, and I formed a suspicion. "Who was it?" Her head jerked to mine. "Was it Ron, perhaps?" Sobs exploded from her and I knew I was right. "Potions or blackmail?"
"I-I… It was blackmail!" She cried. "He said I had nowhere else to go and he was right! My parents were in Australia and weren't coming back, the ministry didn't pay out immediately and I couldn't afford a place of my own."
"Hermione, I don't think any less of you. Quick question though, are you against killing?" My words were delivered flatly and completely honest, but she took it as a joke. Now she was laughing AND crying, the absurdity of it all had me snort. "I love you, you wonderful woman. Of course, I would."
She looked at me in wonder. "You mean it don't you? You'd do that for me?" I nodded. "Did you ever kill before; on purpose I mean?"
I shook my head. "Not like that, but I'm done with this shite. All those pure bloods treating people like trash. And it is all legal! You should read my notes on some of the interviews, I have a lot of anger to work through now." I rubbed her shoulders. "I could just cut off his cock if that'd be any easier for you to accept."
"Hmm… I do not want to know if you do get some revenge, I will not complain. Just no permanent maiming." Hermione softly said.
"I have the perfect curse for him, Hermione, it's very fitting for the crime, I promise." I nuzzled her neck and started layering kisses up her neck. "Would you like to go to bed with me?" I knew by now not to expect anything sexual but having a reason made that easier to accept.
I felt her smile more than I saw it, but that was good enough for me. "Sure, Steph. Let us kiss until we fall asleep." I mentally cheered and lifted her off the couch with great effort. She was a lot bigger than me, so she felt nothing but amusement as I grunted and wheezed.
When we reached the stairs, she hopped off with a chuckle. "Now, did I hear you insinuate I'd be a good fit for the role of dominatrix?"
I just hugged her around the waist, my eyes just looked over her shoulders. "Yes, I did, and I'd be willing to experiment with that if you are. If not, you'd still be the perfect bigger spoon."
Hermione hummed in amusement. "You just might have a point there, but it might just be me taking the lead instead of having you calling me Mistress!"
"Yes, Mistress." I blushed.
"Even more evidence that you weren't you as a boy, Harry used to take charge." Hermione mused.
I shook my head, "oh, no, I don't think that's it. When I am in my male form, I am much more assertive. No, that is not it either. In male form, I do not take anyone's shit. As Stephanie, the pureblood Lady, I do not either. It is just when I am with you privately that I can be more submissive. I know you won't abuse my trust."
Hermione said nothing more as she dragged me into the bed and started kissing me with great enthusiasm.
When we broke for air, I asked her. "So, what were you so happy about with your little breakthrough?"
She giggled. "I finished the company statement, the twelve-year plan and finally, I got us a slogan! MBI, business for everyone!"
I smirked. "Only you, Hermione. Only you would write a company plan without issue, but then have trouble with the slogan. But that is just what I love about you. Goodnight, my love."
"Wait, before you go to sleep. What was the curse you're going to use?"
"Infertility Curse, it's the permanent version of the male pregnancy prevention Hex. Highly illegal to use on someone without permission of course. He will not even notice until he starts trying for kids, but then, no kid deserves him as a father. It is perfectly treatable if he visits a healer that is. Do you think he'd be man enough to ask for help?" We both knew he would not.
Hermione was indeed a great bigger spoon, and she fit perfectly in her arms. "Goodnight, Stephanie. Thank you for loving me."
"Easy as breathing." I sighed, already slipping away. Dreaming of using that curse on the whole list of arsehole men. I would be starting with Ron Weasley for making Hermione fear sex! It could be bad of me, but I was starting to get sexually frustrated here.
7. Public Relations and Ballroom Dancing
"How was today's crop of hopefuls, Hermione, anyone or anything interesting?" I asked her.
Hermione was tying her hair in a bun, showcasing her delicious neck, and preparing for the ball we were attending that night. We were not attending as a couple just yet, she was attending as my plus one, mainly to introduce her to the various Lords and Ladies we would be dealing with in the economical arena.
"I'll have to say yes. We've about a dozen new employees after this week, but future applications are finally tapering off. The real entrepreneurs are all set up, it's been mostly figuring out who wanted to work where the past two weeks." She said absently. "It's heart-breaking though, all those stories about hardship and oppression. Some really stick with you, don't they? Oh, I've written them down for you to peruse later, I know it motivates you."
"They do stick with you, yes." I agreed, and they did motivate me as well, just for something other than what she was expecting. "What are the numbers? Do we still have enough room for housing?"
"Ninety-six employees as of today, seven purebloods, fourteen half-bloods and the rest are muggle born. We've thirty people that work where needed in rotation; the rest have settled for one job."
"And the housing?" I was expecting bad news here.
Hermione sighed. "Almost filled I'm afraid. Twenty declined as they had a space already, seventy-two are in your apartment complex, some bunking together, and we have four that are undecided yet."
I frowned as I crunched the numbers. "We have sixty apartments, are those all filled up?"
"Three rooms free I believe." She answered immediately.
"I'll ask the goblins if we can build another complex somewhere, perhaps we can build a shopping centre too, while we're at it. What do you think?" That was something I had been thinking about, since our housing was almost filled, and it was a strong point of the business because of the tax-cuts.
"Hmmm." Hermione mused. "It would be a coup. Would the goblins be able to get the permits for an entire shopping street? We should keep everything close together, it would greatly ease the warding and travel effort. Put down twenty shops with apartments right above them and we should be able to get by another year."
"And it would allow us to cut costs because we can do most of the building ourselves!"
"True. Your profits per month earned by the complex is about the cost of one shop plus apartment, without furnishings or access to gas and electricity. The goblins should be able to lend you enough to get you started. You'd earn it back quickly enough."
"All set up as muggle businesses." Stephanie agreed. "Dry cleaner, repair shop, photo studio, clothing store, shoe shop, bags and accessories shop, hairdresser, supermarket, make-up store, you name it. And of course, a sex-toy shop."
That got a reaction out of Hermione. "Sex-toys, really?"
I grinned. "Hermione, imagine muggle sex-toys with enchantments. I'm telling you; we couldn't produce them quickly enough to keep up with demand."
Her lips twisted and she grinned. "Alright, I could see that I guess."
"Perhaps we could kickstart a sexual revolution." I quipped. It would be a coup!
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves." She smiled. "We're going to need more help keeping an eye on the human resources so that I can work on other things, what would you say to me reassigning two people to work on that?"
"Go ahead, you know where you could be of better use." I lay down my brush. "So, what do you think? Do I pass inspection?" I had on a feminine business suit but tailored for a party. It was very much a double statement. Yes, I am heading a business, and I am very much a tomboy, and did I mention I liked girls?
Hermione inspected every inch with her eyes, and it was not cursory. "You look amazing! I'm very curious how they will react, you look very much like a progressive muggle lady."
I grinned and hugged her waist. She was clad in a form fitting dress that covered up everything it needed to and that without sacrificing a single hint of sexiness. "As do you, love. Are you ready?"
She grimaced. "I'm not really looking forward to this, but yes, I'm as ready as I'll ever be."
"Not looking forward to networking, or afraid to be associated with my statement?" Hermione was giving off some major mixed signals these days.
That made her flinch. "A little bit of both, but I'll have to get over it so I will. This is for MBI and for you, I'm committed to both."
I nodded. "Today, we'll deny all questions about us having a relationship. You are just with me as my guest. If rumours show up in the paper afterwards, I will bury that paper myself. See how they fare without their printing press."
"Alright." Hermione sighed. "Let's go, we're going to be late."
"It's the ministry, I don't care." I chuckled. "Besides, isn't being late fashionable?"
"Introducing, Miss McKinnon-Black and Miss Granger." They were announced, to surprisingly little interest.
"Well, I can't say I'm disappointed, but I'd expected something more." I told Hermione with a lopsided smile. "Shall we split up, or would you rather team up a bit?"
"Split, we can always get back together if we need a breather." She decided, leaving with a wink.
As if people had been waiting for me being left alone, I was instantly accosted. "Miss McKinnon, is it?" Oh, shit, I knew that voice.
"It is." I turned to look her in the eye and inclined my head in a tiny nod. "Lady Malfoy, you look positively delicious tonight."
"Thank you dear." She answered smoothly. "And you are a Black as well, would you be willing to tell me how that came about?"
"It was a surprise for me and my brother as well." I had planned this out of course. "We only found out after Gringotts tested our blood. Apparently, our mother Marlene McKinnon had a dalliance with Sirius Black at one time. When the McKinnon's were murdered, we were spirited away by him and never found out about our origins until last year. What is most strange is that somehow, Sirius Black was the Lord Black. Everything that was known about him says he was disowned, but that can't be true, else my brother would not be Lord Black right now."
"And Sirius Black never looked you up after escaping prison?" Narcissa prodded.
I shook my head, amused. "He certainly never approached me, and my brother would have told me if he had met the man. Have you any idea how he died?"
Narcissa made a noise of distaste and shook her head. "My husband, he says he died in that scuffle in the department of Mysteries a few years back, when the Dark Lord showed his face for the first time."
"Ah, you must thank your dear husband for me." I smiled a tiny smile. "My brother will appreciate knowing what you just told me, as do I."
She smiled tightly. "I have been hearing a lot about the new company you're reputedly heading. Can you tell me what areas you'll be focusing on?"
"I'm going to be truly honest with you Lady Malfoy." "Narcissa, please." "Alright then, you can call me Stephanie as well. Me and Stephan found out we had a whole lot of money, but no clear idea of what to do with it. We did have some friends with ideas, so we sponsored their businesses for a generous share of the returns. That idea seemed to have merit, as there are some stupid laws that stop them from starting their own business, so we had some more interest for the same. It snowballed a bit from there on, I suppose. We are not complaining though, the forecasts are quite good. Do you know of these laws?"
"I can't say I'm familiar with them." She demurred. "Thank you for this enlightening talk, Stephanie. I think I'm going to refresh myself for a bit, I hope to see you later."
As she walked away, I could not help the vicious smile that crossed my face. That news would spread like wildfire for sure. My plan had some kinks yet, but most of those would be smoothed if another Lord raised the issue in the Wizengamot. Stephan would be joining his peers in the next session, that should raise some eyebrows.
Two hours of deflecting more attempts at fishing later, I found myself talking to Hermione again. "Had fun?"
She sighed. "Ugh… I'm so not cut out for this; how do you do it?"
I smirked. "It's just a role I'm playing Hermione, I just like acting out the role of pureblood Lady. It gets my creative juices flowing if you catch my drift."
"Seriously?" She asked incredulously. "This turns you on?"
"I don't really know which part, but yes, a little bit." I grinned. "Then again, in this form I'm incredibly sensitive, so it could just be my panties rubbing against me."
"You're incorrigible!" She hissed under her breath. "By the way, Rita is buzzing around somewhere, look out for her."
My eyebrows lifted in surprise. "I certainly will. I should dance a bit; I do not think everyone has twigged onto the fact of my sexuality yet. Want to share a dance? You could hand me off to a beautiful lady after."
Hermione frowned. "We might be keeping it quiet, but you're mine, and I don't share."
I nodded with a smile. "Oh, don't worry. It's mostly to scare off any potential male suitors, you know that."
She huffed and held out her hand, I took it and swept her up into the crowd. "What? Did you take lessons?" I just smiled. "Well, you're doing great!"
Hermione blushed and I laughed as she broke from the start, I had kept up the entire song. "Go mingle, I'll find another nice lady to dance with." Naturally, I said this loudly enough to be overheard.
I spot a familiar head of hair standing next to her arsehole husband, who was talking with another guy. "Ah, Narcissa, would you be interested in a quick spin?"
Her reaction was to lift a delicate eyebrow, but she did take my arm with the barest of smiles. "Are you making another statement tonight then, Stephanie?"
"Most definitely!" I smiled happily. "If this gets those creepy men off my back, I'll declare myself a thousand times."
"Your interest lies solely with the fairer sex then, I see. That's quite the bold declaration." She agreed. "Some women here might even find themselves jealous of you." She whispered softly.
I led her around and grinned sadly. "Alas, freedom of choice is an often hard won right. It is certainly always an exchange. I'm just lucky to have a brother to perpetuate our Houses, he is not one to dictate my actions, a happy by-product of the circumstances of our youth." After all, having no parents to speak of meant you had the freedom to make your own choices.
Narcissa nodded her understanding as the song ended. "Well, I'm happy to spread that around for you, dear."
I gave her a short bow as I handed her off to her husband. "It was a pleasure, Lady Narcissa. Lord Malfoy, please excuse my borrowing of your lovely wife."
Lucius nodded haughtily. "I understand your motives and applaud your courage, my Lady McKinnon. No excuses are needed, I assure you." His tone of voice implied nothing of the sort, well, fuck him too.
With another nod, I was off, leaving chaos in my wake.
"Minister Shacklebolt, how nice to meet you!" I smiled, my amusement dancing in my eyes. Kingsley had approached me, and he had kissed my hand. Such a contrast to before had to be appreciated.
His dark and heavy voice rumbled unperturbed. "I've been meaning to meet with you, Lady McKinnon. Or with your brother, but he is rarely seen in public."
"What about if I may ask? I could always relay an invitation."
"The ministry workers have relayed word about your hiring of muggle born wizards and witches to the full extent as is lawful. I'd like a word with your brother about a campaign to extend those limitations if not abolish them entirely." He explained. "Should he decide to take up his seat in the Wizengamot, I believe he could be a voice for positive change."
I raised my eyebrow slowly. "My brother is a rather shy man, you could say. You could also say he gets irritated rather quickly by most people, the latter would be infinitely truer. But I do recall him talking about taking up our family seats, via proxy if nothing else. Should he do so however, he would still be one man. How would you propose he bring about such change, Minister?"
Kingsley nodded understandingly. "I understand that, but I know some like-minded individuals who would cast their vote the same way in the Wizengamot. These individuals wouldn't mind meeting with the Lord McKinnon-Black before the next assembly."
Pretending to think about his offer, I wasted a few seconds before nodding. "I'll tell Stephan to await your owl then, Minister."
"That is all I ask, Lady McKinnon." He inclined his head. "Have fun at the ball."
"I will." I grinned. "I think I've just spotted my next victim, or dance partner, whichever you prefer."
Kingsley's chuckles followed me as I approached Susan Bones, she of the large bosom. "My Lady Bones, my name is Stephanie McKinnon, could I perhaps trouble you for a dance?"
Susan looked unamused. "I will have to decline, I'm afraid. Not all of us can afford your freedoms."
I was legitimately surprised. "I will accept that, of course. But I had to ask, surely one dance would not sully your reputation enough to destroy your chances of finding a husband?"
Her next look was hurt, more than anything. "It does if one already was accused of loving a witch." She bristled, and I immediately noticed a familiar beetle sitting on her shoulder. "Ah, I did not know that. Please keep still for a short moment, will you, there's a beetle on your shoulder." Thankfully, Susan complied.
After Hermione had notified me of her attendance, I had transfigured a wine glass into a bottle and put it in my breast pocket. I now used that to quickly catch the fleeing beetle. "Gotcha!"
"You like insects then?" She asked in bewilderment at my apparent glee.
I smirked, "perhaps I should tell you. Hmm, perhaps I will. But please, tell me first, who accused you?"
Susan sneered. "That cow, Rita Skeeter! She lies and lies, but no one ever does something about it. I can't stand it!"
Normally, I would be all about keeping a level head and my expression clear, but this was too funny! "Err… Susan, this might seem like an odd question, but is there somewhere here where we can have some privacy in full view of others? Without being rude I mean. I do have something to tell you after all it seems."
I had to be testing her patience badly right about now, but her curiosity won the day and she dragged me away to a balcony. "What's this about then, Miss McKinnon?"
"Call me Stephanie, please." I said absently and held up the captured beetle, waggling my eyebrows. "Susan Bones, meet Rita Skeeter, an illegal water beetle Animagus. I figured out how she got all those scopes and quotes without ever being spotted near."
Her eyes grew round as she tested my claim with an identifying spell. "Shit! How did you… Can I take her in? This could help my image immeasurably! Do you have any idea how many people hate this bitch!"
I had not really thought about what I would do with her now I had her, but this would be a fine option. I liked Susan quite a bit in a previous life. "Sure, take her." I held out my hand.
"Just like that?" She asked me sceptically as she took it and put it in her purse.
With a sigh, I just nodded. "I had no idea how many women were suffering under the neck of social expectations like that. If this can help you, then that would be a grand cause indeed. I believe people should have the freedom of choice, no matter what. Love is the most important choice of all, don't you think? It's transfigured glass, so you might want to transfer her before long."
She took the olive branch and smiled. "That is extremely kind of you. I will not forget it, Stephanie McKinnon." She grabbed my hand. "I believe I owe you a dance, my lady."
"Ooh!" I grinned wickedly. "I'm going to enjoy this, especially if you hold me close. You have a magnificent rack, dear lady."
Susan giggled. "You're surely something else. Prepare to be swung around, dipped, and tossed. You look like I could handle you with ease."
"Please do, I'm not some fragile flower. Just tiny." I let myself be led around and soon she was swinging me around like she promised. It was magnificent!
Hermione found me at the drinks table. "So, Stephanie, I believe I saw you have fun before. Catch any beetles, by any chance?"
I raised a single eyebrow, and smirked. "As a matter of fact, I did. Learned something else, gave her away, and made an ally instead of an enemy. Susan Bones owes me one." Though that dance had made up for most of it.
"Hmm." She mused. "Must have been because of that article, right?" I nodded. Of course, she would know, she read the paper cover to cover, unlike me. "Yes, I can see how that might please her. It hasn't been long after all, she had to be terribly angry, still."
"I know, right! I did not know about the article, but then I caught her sitting on Susan's shoulder if you can believe it. Right as she was explaining why she would not give me a dance. I figured it was my good deed of the night. Are you ready to leave yet, Hermione?"
"Yes! This party passed boring a long while ago, now it was more dreadful than anything." She hissed. "Come on then, you owe me a foot massage."
"I do? Well, who am I to reject such a kind offering?" I chuckled at her scowl and let myself be dragged out, with the needed style of course.
After flooing, I jumped right on top of her and kissed her. "No, not yet. Let me get these stupid shoes off first. Stephanie!"
Pouting, I pulled off my own, much quicker than Hermione did. "If I draw us a nice hot bath, will you join me?"
She gave me a look that screamed annoyance, but I had no idea what was wrong. "Hermione, you know me right, tell me what I did wrong. If you will not, it'll just fester."
"You danced with all those women, and you had lots of fun!" She stated the obvious. I might walk around as a woman mostly, but some things remained mysterious about the finer sex.
"That's not much to go on Hermione, was it the fact it wasn't with you, or the fact that I had fun?"
"The first." She cried. Jealousy then? How unexpectedly… disappointing.
"When did you turn into Ron Weasley?" I held up my hand to stop her tirade before it began. "You have absolutely no reason to be jealous, Hermione. While I did have fun - yes, I did, it was because I was acting and some of their reactions amused me." I grasped her hand and held it with my own. "When I am with you, I have an entirely different kind of fun. I look at you, and my heart starts racing, my hands start to sweat, and my pussy gets inflamed. One of your looks can get me wet, Hermione!"
Her face turned beet red, but I was on a roll. "Would you like to feel how wet I am because of you?" I dragged her hand down my pants without resistance, and she squeaked. It made me smile sadly. In hindsight, I am quite sure I already knew what was going on here, but was just ignoring it, hoping it would go away.
"Would it help if I grew a cock? Or if I turned into Stephan?" My tone explained exactly what I thought of that, something I would have to think about later.
"No!" She uttered, brokenly.
"What is it then, Hermione? Because I want to know."
"I, I don't know, alright?!" Tears were streaming down her face, so I hugged her to support her. "Perhaps you should speak with…." I swore. "Do you have anyone other than me, Hermione?"
That was the last drop, and she broke down crying. "Oh, hell. Hermione, I am sorry if I insulted you or hurt you or whatever. I am taking you to bed and holding you until you fall asleep. Is that alright?"
She nodded, and I spelled her with a featherweight charm, reducing her to a tenth of her weight. As such, I could easily navigate the stairs and put her in our… my bed. "Let it out, Hermione. I may not understand what you are going through, but I am here for you. Just let it out."
It was another hour before Hermione fell asleep, but I was still very much wide awake.
It was clear she was afraid, and I could see at least one angle that had made her so. Ron had been her only option and he had wanted sex. I was her new only option and I wanted sex. She was clearly forgetting she could live in an apartment; her contract promised it after all. Shit, I had acted on the moronic impulse to compare her to Ron fucking Weasley as well. Hell, that could not have helped!
Sleep was not an option, so I left the bed and did a Hermione. I grabbed a blackboard and started writing things out to order my thoughts.
Hermione fears intimacy - Ron (blackmail, felt like only option)
- Me, she lives with me, feels similar even though she can move out and take an apartment whenever she pleases.
Hermione has nobody else - Trio, we were isolated. Perhaps we could rekindle/forge friendships with Luna, Neville, Hannah, Susan, George?
Hermione's parents - I never asked, fearing she would not want to talk about it, like I would not. Mistake? Could their memories be restored? Would she want that? Fear of their reaction? I could join her.
Hermione's sexuality - She never declared herself. Does she like girls, or just me? Does she like guys, or was that societal pressure?
It would make so much sense! Hermione did not want sex with me, that much I knew at least. "God, that would be messed up, wouldn't it? Why did I never ask? Idiot!"
"You're not an idiot." Hermione noted sadly from the doorway. I had frozen at the first syllable. "You're right, I had forgotten the apartment, but I also feared the loss of you."
Her smile was brittle, but she moved to write on the board. "Friends would help, I'm just not that social, so it didn't even occur to me to reach out more. We should do that, definitely with those people." She was on a roll, so I just waited silently.
"My parents' memories were restored, Stephanie. They just liked Australia and did not appreciate me for taking away their choice. I occasionally send a letter but have yet to get one back."
The last part froze her as she read it again, but she moved on regardless. "I like you, Stephanie, but I do think you're the only girl I'd like in that way." She snorted. "I wouldn't have even conceived of the notion without you coming onto me so strongly."
I nodded, having suspected the same, obviously, as it was on the board. "You're not a lesbian or bi at all are you, you're as straight as they come? Just in love with the old me?"
Tears tracked her face as she nodded sadly, refusing to look at me. I hugged her close and nodded. "Makes sense. Thank you for telling me, I guess." I snorted. "I still believe you would be an amazing dominatrix!" I was using humour to mask my disappointment, so sue me.
"You're not sad then?" Hermione hiccups against my shoulder. I shrugged, "of course I am, but I'll get over it. For me it was rather easy to take the love we had for each other and apply it in new ways, but you should stay true to yourself. I will find another in no time, I am sure. I mean, look at me! I'm gorgeous!" And still so sexually frustrated!
Hermione chuckled and wiped at her eyes. "Thank you, Stephanie. Will you come back to bed now, you promised to hold me, remember?"
I squeezed her once. "Of course. Hey Hermione, would you be my wing woman in the future?"
She giggled. "Sure! In fact, you might want to think about Susan. She might be in love with Hannah Abbott still, but that cannot last forever. Hannah did experiment some in Hogwarts, but she is straight and marrying Neville. Would you date her?"
"I wouldn't know." I replied honestly. "I think her case is rather difficult. She needs legitimacy, as in, a way to get pregnant. I do not want to lose the secret of my Metamorphing, so I cannot give her that. Perhaps if she decided it did not matter, I'd give her a try and tell her after."
"Hmm… Luna wouldn't care about that." She mused. "So?"
"Err… Luna is Luna, so that could go all ways I think. But I would be coming on to her as a total stranger, I don't think she'd take that well." Stephanie grinned. "Perhaps it would be best to try for friends first, or at least a friendly acquaintance. Then I can bluntly ask her if she would like to have sex with me. I honestly believe she'd appreciate that."
"True, and maybe true. Well, I will think of something, someone. Don't you worry, your wing woman is on the case!"
"Hey Hermione. It is a relief, right. Admitting such a thing? Do you feel better now that there's no more secrets between us?"
She nodded. "You know, I used to be the mature, level-headed one. It'll take some time to get used to the new dynamic." Her tone was teasing, so I grinned, that was a good sign.
"Does that mean I get to be the big spoon today?" I tried as she made a dive into the bed.
"You wish! I still get to feel you up tonight." She looked back at me, shocked at her own words. I laughed. "Alright, that's fine." And it was, of course it was. Bittersweet maybe, but she still loved me, and I knew it.
8. Lording in The Wizengamot
It only goes downhill from here. Stephan thought as he listened to the proposal brought up by Lord Abbott and his bootlickers Wolpert and Fenwick. These were the guys he would have to support to get more muggle born in the workforce, so he would have to suck it up, but their stance was disgusting!
"What you are telling me is that you do not believe muggle born witches or wizards should get the opportunities pure bloods do in establishing business, because they Might bring in new-fangled influences that could destabilise the power in the Wizarding World. Is that an accurate summary?"
Lord Abbott gave a succinct nod. "Exactly, Lord McKinnon-Black. Glad we are on the same page.
I held up my hand. "I didn't say that." Shaking my head at their surprised expressions, I asked them. "Why do you want this bill to go through anyway? Won't decreasing the taxes on muggle born workers and increasing the amount of them allowed per business give them more opportunity to influence the businesses they work in?"
"What was funny about that, Fenwick?" I asked, now getting angry.
"Your assumption that the pure bloods in charge would listen to the muggle born working under them." The odious man said. "What makes you think that?"
I just looked on incredulously as the other two nodded with his words. Last chance. "Multiple reasons actually since I have done my research. Muggle born score higher on their OWL's and NEWT's, they come from a culture that is literally producing new ideas routinely. That suggests that one, they would be the employees coming up with new ideas, and two, that those ideas have merit because of their better understanding of the principles."
Wolpert looked shocked. "New ideas, why would we need or want those? That is exactly what we are trying to prevent here, Stephan."
My patience ended right there. "Have none of you heard of competitive business?"
Lord Abbott shushed the other two before looking at me. "The competition in the muggle world is undoubtedly fierce, but understandably less so in the magical world, since only pure bloods can start businesses. With me so far?"
I nodded, an eyebrow twitching. "Yes, and?"
"We wizards like our peace and calm, while the muggles like their excitement. This principle carries through in our business and economy. We actively keep the power to start businesses in our select group to prevent the upheaval that is prevalent in a competitive arena. That way, we keep the market stable and everything stays the same."
Gods, these people had never cracked open a muggle economy book! "I've got a question for you all. It is to do with the concept of efficiency. Say if one person, person A, can make two items of high quality in two hours given a fixed number of resources. Another person, person B can make three items of the same high quality in three hours given the same number of resources. You have limited resources, who would you hire to make you the items?"
"Person B, naturally." Abbott answered.
"Right!" I nodded, satisfied they understood at least that. "Now substitute person A for a pureblood and person B for a muggle born, who would you hire?"
Fenwick bristled. "Why would your example make the muggle born more efficient?"
I smiled. "Why would it even matter, Fenwick? This is not about blood purity; this is about business! Well?"
Abbott nodded. "I see your point, Lord McKinnon-Black, but we need to take the stability of our economy into the equation."
"And what is your evidence that competition would destabilise the market?" I demanded. "Use logic, please, not subjective opinion."
Silence reigned for a long minute, but Abbott spoke up with a clear cop-out. "I see we're not going to agree on this issue today, if ever. Yet, you said you would happily vote aye on this bill, can you tell me why that is?"
I let go of the breath I had been holding subconsciously. "Very well. If this bill passes, you would essentially be opening the market up for more workers. More workers mean more money in the economy and more business for those businesses that exist. In his economy, that means the pure bloods profit, yes, but you also provide some muggle born with the opportunity to stay in the wizarding world, period. That is an opportunity they would not have otherwise. So yes, it is a win-win for both sides, even if the win on the side of the sellers is larger than the win on the side of the buyers. That's why I'm going to vote yes."
I carefully omitted the fact that in a closed economy, more business would drive up prices until equilibrium was achieved. It would be a toss-up if they would accept that.
I took a deep breath. "Even though I completely disagree with the faux economics you parade as logic. Today's discussion has made it beyond clear that you are in this for yourself and yourself only. Staying in power is the number one motivation, profit comes second, and the economy is somewhere far below that." I stood to leave. "Should I have a way to do some good without taking away economic and political power from your families, I know where to find you. I wish you a good night, sirs. Goodbye, and thank you for opening your home for me today."
How I managed to keep a lid on my frustration I will never know, but I made it home before I screamed loudly. "THOSE STUPID FUCKERS!"
I was nursing my third beer of the night when Hermione walked in and raised her eyebrow questioningly. "Didn't go well then, Stephan?"
"These were supposed to be the good guys, Hermione. I have never been so disappointed in my life!" I grunted. "No, that's not true. BUT IT'S DAMNED CLOSE!"
"Stephan, don't take this the wrong way, but are you separating your feelings between your forms?"
I blinked once, understood what she meant and blinked again. Shit, she was righter than she could know. I dealt with stupid people, the Ministry and the Wizengamot mainly, in my Stephan form. This included doing illegal acts and being in situations that were liable to make me angry.
On the other hand, I did the stuff that was genuinely helping people, running a business on that principle and the goblins who I actually liked nowadays, as Stephanie. Not to mention I had almost completely written off the idea of having a relationship or even sex in male form. To the point even, that I was hoping my future wife would accept me trying to make her pregnant in female form with one small addition. Or a large addition, I could be very flexible on that point.
Hermione was waiting patiently. "I assume your continued silence means you agree on some level?"
Nodding stiffly, I sighed. "You're absolutely right, I'm trying to foist off all the bad and negative things to Stephan and handle the good parts as Stephanie. Now that I have realised it though, I don't think I want or need to change that."
She nodded. "Just wanted to make you aware of my observation, Stephan."
"Thanks, Hermione. Now that I have realised, I have been keeping myself angry by reliving the talk, would you mind listening to my perspective so that I can forget about it after?"
A smile told me that she would. And I did. She was appropriately horrified and got a glint in her eye that indicated she had a good idea, or at least a suitably funny thought that she wanted to share. "Alright, Hermione. Would you share it with the class?"
"We need to do a companywide meeting where you tell them what's what in the minds of the Wizengamot, why you're going to vote the way you are and about your struggle."
I had an idea about the why, but she was clearly waiting for me to ask. "Hit me."
"This company is built on the foundation that we want work for everyone, the slogan is being received well by the way, as are the company goals. If we share what is happening with the company, we can make them feel part of the struggle. Same with the cash flow. If you can prove that you are investing the profits of the company in ventures that further creates jobs for muggle born, they will feel they are working for a great cause. It would be a great morale boost for everyone and if we gave them a way to share their ideas, we could cash in on the good morale and make sure our growth is sustained over the years."
It was absolutely true, but I didn't want to do this too often. "I see how that would work, and I agree provisionally. We could get Stephan to do a talk on the Wizengamot and Stephanie to talk about the Investments. You could tie it all into the heart of MBI and get everyone on board the feel-good train. It is a fine idea, but I do not want to go overboard. Shall we keep to once or twice a year? I doubt every employee would be interested, so we'd have to make it mandatory or something, and too much mandatory could put everyone off something."
Hermione laughed in delight. "We're really doing it, aren't we? Heading a large company and saving the muggle born one at a time."
"Yeah, I suppose we could be proud of ourselves." He agreed with a grin. "By the way, the goblins agree about the expansion plans and are looking for a location near the complex."
"That's great!" She grinned. "Just after we hit the hundred employees mark. I wanted to ask you by the way, if you agree on using the guest wing of MBI castle for those who don't fit in the complex."
I gave her a nod. "If it becomes a problem, I suppose we could give some trusted employees rooms here. Another ten could live here if they didn't mind it getting a bit crowded."
"I'd rather you keep this place for yourself Stephan, you need a space for you and Stephanie to be yourself."
And that was a great argument for something I had already wanted myself. "True, I'll just put a rush on development then."
"Any plans for tomorrow?" She asked.
"Meeting with Lord August Greengrass, one of the leaders of the neutral faction." He replied coolly. "I'm hoping that Light and Dark are both bigoted, just to a different degree, whereas the Neutral faction uses their brain and wants fair laws for people and business, for the people and businesses. If that does not pan out in a way, I can call good tomorrow, I might go on a killing spree." That was not an exaggeration either.
"I'll be helping you hope then." Hermione said simply. "Now, what do you say we catch a movie in London followed by a simple dinner and some wine here until we fall asleep on the couch?"
"That was awfully specific. Did you have the movie planned out as well?" Amusement coloured my tone, that was so very Hermione.
She smiled bashfully. "It's about the fictional love affair between William Shakespeare and a woman. I was told it was good. Please say yes?"
"How long do we have; can I take a bath?"
"You're coming?!" She grinned triumphantly. "Are you coming as Stephan or as Stephanie?"
Recalling her earlier observation, I decided to switch things up. "Stephan."
"Then you can take... an hour to bathe." She rushed away to prepare, leaving him there chuckling. "Ah, we're going to be seen as a couple, aren't we?" I asked myself wryly. I was just hoping Hermione knew what she was doing. She had made it clear a romantic relationship between us was not in the cards.
"What did you think, Stephan?" August Greengrass asked me after he took me to meet the neutral faction. "Don't hold back."
"Honestly? You're the best of a bad bunch." I did not pull my punches as he requested. "The whole Wizengamot seems to want to stay in power first and foremost, that's not what I think governing is supposed to be about. Leaving that for what it is, your Neutral faction impressed me today. Unlike the other factions who use baseless rhetoric to explain away the flaws in their thinking, at least here you use logic to arrive at a conclusion. And since you want laws that make sense and allow for businesses to flourish, I find myself most closely relating to your viewpoints."
August smiled and I knew I had made an ally. "It's refreshing to hear such honesty from someone that sits on the Wizengamot. I do assume you'll be taking up your seat next Saturday?"
I nodded, that was obvious at this point. This meeting had given me a small measure of hope for my political future.
"Thank you, that's good to hear. Honestly, I agree with your assessment regarding the selfish nature of those that sit on the Wizengamot, even if I was raised to take that same viewpoint. I heard about your rather brutally honest parting words when parting with the Light faction and find myself intrigued. Would you be willing to explain to me your arguments in favour of a competitive economy?"
"I'll do you one better." I smiled. "How do you feel about muggle books on economics? I assure you; they are far ahead of magicals in terms of sciences like that."
"I recognise that muggles often need to delve deeper in their understanding of the world to get as far as magicals do with a wave of their wand. As such, I would be stupid to disregard their findings in the sciences." August assured me. "But please, can you give me the non-technical summary?"
"I can do that; would you mind if I conjured a blackboard?" I was already raising my wand.
I found myself having fun as I taught a man the difference between monopolies, oligopolies, and competitive markets. About the most efficient way to allocate resources and how that would not only drive down prices, but also drive businesses to experiment, invent and progress.
"In the current situation, every neighbouring country is outstripping our growth since we have stagnated. I have not investigated the situation regarding academical accreditations yet, but it would not surprise me if I found that our NEWT's did not count for much in the more progressive countries, since their education far outstrips ours already. That would be a truly clear indicator that we needed to change and change fast, or risk being left behind."
"Shite!" August had lost a lot of colour in his face. "I have long heard noises from the ICW that we're being left behind on the world stage, reports say that our country is considered a backwater country instead of the world power it once was. Education is a point that keeps popping up too, but Dumbledore always blocked that sort of talk."
He snorted in disgust and amusement. "Never did give those rumours much credit of course, since our ICW representatives are invariably those with a bit too much national pride or those who spout the pureblood rhetoric the loudest. Putting stock in people I generally detest is something I have never done. Dumbledore, for all his pro muggle born talk, was very much one of those guys. Your explanation just now outlines exactly what happens to isolationist countries that rely on monopolies. And I recognise the signs." He sighed.
"Wizarding Britain in other words, is fucked if something doesn't change fast." I chuckled bitterly. "It's extra sad because most muggle born wizards and witches could tell you this."
"But they don't get listened to." August agreed. "You've given me a lot to think about, Stephan. I would very much like for you to recommend some books on the subject."
"I'll get you those sometime next week. You'll see them show up." I promised. "I'll see you in the Wizengamot chambers."
I left August lost in thoughts and floo'ed home. "That actually went well!" I laughed. "Well, who'd have thought." Not me, certainly. I had been despairing getting involved into politics, but perhaps with August as my ally and potential friend, I could have some fun doing this stuff.
9. Social Stuff
"How did it go in the Wizengamot?" Hermione inquired at breakfast. "I didn't see any beer bottles in the kitchen." That was a rather astute observation.
I, as Stephanie, yawned sleepily. "Fairly well, actually. Nobody stopped me from claiming my seats and August Greengrass showed he had listened to me. He made an impassioned plea for allowing everyone to work under the same taxes. I was impressed! He actually managed to get his point across in a way that they could swallow, the man is a wordsmith!"
Hermione looked happy at my exuberance. "And the bill for allowing more muggle born per business while lowering the taxes a little?"
I waved my arm about aimlessly. "Passed of course, the Light side wanted the extra profits, the Dark faction was on the wall between wanting profit and wanting to spite muggle born, and the Neutrals all voted Aye because they're not morons. It was a clear majority."
"Great!" Hermione cheered. "We'll talk later about what this means for the company, where the extra money goes, etcetera. Today is not for work!"
"The next session is in two months, right?" She paused for my nod and steamrolled on. "Excellent! That means you now have time for some social stuff! I invited Luna, Hannah, Neville, Susan, and George for a meeting here, you are joining as Stephanie. They have been given a short introduction on the subject of you already and are all curious to meet you."
Ah, I had been expecting this for a while now. "When will this take place?" I asked, not a trace of anxiety in my voice at all. Nice!
"Two hours from now." She deadpanned.
My eyes widened. "Ah, shit. There goes my relaxed morning." I was perhaps, exaggerating a bit, since my free mornings mostly consisted of an hour of bathing and doing a whole lot of nothing.
"Don't worry Stephanie, I did my part as host of my friends, soon to be yours. The finger foods for the high tea are waiting in the kitchen. The wine is chilled and we've plenty of tea in the house. You just go take a nice bath and dress yourself. I will be expecting you back down here at ten thirty. Got it?"
I grimaced only a little, but her eye was starting to twitch so I decided on a strategic retreat. "Sure, Hermione. Thank you for setting that up." I was not all that happy with her now, but I knew I would appreciate this later.
"No problem, Stephanie." Hermione grinned wickedly. "It was my pleasure!"
Shit! I had pushed her to reacquaint herself with her old friends, and then I had pushed some more, using the argument that everybody needs friends to cope with the stresses of life. I knew this would bite me in the ass sooner or later, but I had hoped to have some more time to get used to the idea.
That was probably why she did it this way now that I thought about it. I did the proper thing and fled.
"Aaahh…" The hot bath with scented oils was really draining the stress from my body. This had been an exceptionally good idea indeed. Too bad I had to leave the nice heat in another five short minutes. "This is why you don't put a clock in the bathroom." I grumbled to myself. Relaxing on a timer, could that even be called relaxing? I sighed and stood to dry myself using my most fluffy towel. The female mindset appreciated the small things like that a whole lot more. As Harry, it was all utility and efficiency; this was clearly a better way of life.
"Just on time." Hermione greeted me. "I had hoped I wouldn't have to drag you out of there."
My eyelid twitches slightly, surely, I had not been that bad when I pushed her to meet with her friends? "Where should I park my most scrumptious arse, Hermione dear? Or am I to stand here like some coat rack, being the perfect hostess? How late would they be coming anyway?"
Chuckles sounded from behind me. "Ah, they're here, aren't they?" I sighed deeply. "Should have known." Turning around, I saw just Hannah and Neville and put on my best smile. "Hi there, I'm Stephanie McKinnon, Hermione's friend and housemate. It's genuinely nice to meet you."
"Don't you mean boss too?" Neville grinned. "Hi, Neville Longbottom and my soon to be wife, Hannah Abbott."
I looked from him to Hermione. "Nope, I don't think I can call myself the boss of her today. I mean, you saw that just now, didn't you?" Then I smiled at them both and nodded. "It's nice to meet you guys. Quick question Hannah, your dad isn't Lord Abbott, is he?"
"He is." Hannah grinned. "And he told me about your brother. A regular man of the people, isn't he?"
The corners of my lips twitched upwards. "Did you have to paraphrase that a lot, or just a bit?"
Hannah inclined her head. "Not as much actually, my father would never insult someone overtly, not even in the privacy of his own home. It's beneath him."
"Now I feel bad." I pouted. "Anyway, we're not here to talk politics. Tell me a little about yourselves, Hermione tells me Neville is going for a Mastery in Herbology?"
He nodded. "I am, Madam Sprout says I will only need two additional years now that I've got my NEWT's. I'm helping her teach the kids and that's going rather well I'm glad to say."
"Impressive, not everyone can be a teacher, it requires a lot of empathy and forethought." I congratulated him. "And what are your plans after school, Hannah?"
Hannah glanced at Neville, who nodded. "I'm thinking of taking over the Leaky Cauldron from Tom, his kids aren't wanting the job and I have always enjoyed working there part-time."
"Amazing! That means you will know everyone and their secrets, lots of things that you can never tell others." I smiled wickedly. "Such as people coming down from their rooms looking all mussed and fussed. It's a hard job, I can imagine, but it could be extremely rewarding too, or at least fairly amusing at times."
Hannah blushed, "thank you, Stephanie. You're leading a company, how's that going?"
"I didn't know how much I could improve until I took on some capable help." I said, looking at Hermione with a satisfied expression. "The work is worth it though, it's as much about helping people as it is about making a profit."
Hermione nodded gravely at me and gave them a conspiratorial look. "She really was doing an adequate job, before I came along." Adequate, which meant sub-par in Hermione speak.
I had to pout again, to which Neville and Hannah just laughed. I helped myself to a cup of tea and nibbled on a cream-filled crumpet as Hermione started a conversation.
The floo spat out someone behind me so I turned around, catching a glimpse of red hair that quickly moved around my chair. "Susan?" I guessed.
"Hi all!" She greeted us. "You remember me then, Stephanie?"
"How could I not?" I fake gasped. "Such a knock-out in high heels and a red-head besides!"
Susan finally came into view and she wore a satisfied little smirk. "You forgot about my great skill in dancing, Stephanie."
"I did notice, but if I continued listing all your virtues, I might have to burst into song!" I said with fake regret. "How did it turn out with your insect problem by the way, I never saw anything about it in the paper?"
The redhead sat down and looked like the cat that ate the canary. "Nobody was happy with Skeeter when I brought her in, but the wise men of the ministry decided to not make a big spectacle out of it, not wanting to give people ideas. She's rotting in Azkaban though, so that's good."
Hermione looked pained at not getting the full facts, she never did appreciate a good bit of anticipation. "How long, Susan. What did they sentence her to?"
Susan preened. "I might have suggested they asked her about spying on the ministry. She had of course, which allowed them to ask for the maximum penalty due to treasonous action. She's stuck for twenty years!"
Neville and Hannah looked lost. "Skeeter, Rita? What did she do?"
"Hermione figured out that Skeeter is an illegal Animagus, a water beetle to be precise." I explained. "At the ball, Hermione warned me about her, and I found her sitting on Susan's shoulder. I captured her and handed her over to Susan to take into custody."
Susan nodded, confirming my words. "She's been spying on everyone for years and years. Made a lot of enemies while she was at it. Now she is paying for that, I'm not sorry."
Hannah sucked in a breath and looked at Susan. "That's how!"
Susan nodded seriously. "I'm fairly sure, Hannah. That's how she knows I like girls too."
I nodded; she was bisexual then. "Susan, am I correct in saying that you're looking for a reputable husband then?"
She nodded. "It's not like I'm not lusting after you, but it could never be more than a fling, and that just wouldn't be good for my reputation after that article."
I grinned and settled for saying. "Well, if you are looking for a fling, or even just casual sex, owl me. There's a lot we could get up to behind closed doors I'm sure."
Susan leered at me and licked her finger clean of cream with a suggestive look. It did all sorts of pleasant things with my insides.
Neville choked on his tea and that broke the tension as Hannah patted his back with a smile.
Hermione gave me a smug smile, mouthing "wing woman." I winked at her; she did invite Susan after all.
With blessed timing, Luna entered in a woosh of green flame, George coming up behind her. "Sorry we're late. I had to drag George out of his store." Luna smiled.
George shrugged with an apologetic face. "Got caught up, yeah. Hi all!"
I greeted them with a smile. "Stephanie McKinnon, nice to meet you."
"Err... Hi, George Weasley, at your service, and this lovely lady is called Luna Lovegood." George finished the introductions, Luna just waved.
"How's Angelina doing, George?" Neville started the conversation back up. "Still dancing around your relationship?"
George's smile lit up his whole face. "Nah, mate. I have got her now! She said yes two days ago and is already planning children. The first boy will be named Fred, in his honour."
"Congratulations!" "Nice going, man!" They were all happy for him. I had to hold myself back from being overly familiar, but surprisingly not that much. Since the battle, I had really grown isolated even before I shed my old identity. I had not seen George for well over a year.
It was a fun afternoon, and I was already being accepted as a friendly acquaintance, and if Susan promised to send me an owl when she left, nobody said anything.
Hermione just looked at me expectantly until I cracked. "Thank you for setting that up, Hermione, and for being the best wing woman." If this meeting with Susan finally got me laid, it would have been so worth it!
She nodded seriously. "Always nice to be appreciated, Stephanie. Which brings me to an idea I had. We need a way to make the employees feel heard. I have been organising a small group of employees to work as the representatives, and I want you to speak with them sometimes. They themselves will then disseminate what will be said to the rest of the company."
I sent her a level look. "I thought today wasn't a working day?"
"Ah, well. What else would you be doing right about now?" She challenged me lamely.
My returning grin was positively predatory. "I've taken up a hobby, Hermione. Inspired by you even. Want to see?"
Her expression was uncertain but curious. "Will I like it? Have you mentioned it before?"
"Perhaps, and then only in passing." I turned and looked at her over my shoulder. "Follow me."
I led her to a room in the back of the house. "What's behind this door?" She asked me. "This is my work room."
The door opened and I took in her expression as it turned shocked, beet red and into a glare as she demanded an explanation. "What, I've started to dabble in enchanting, it can be very rewarding."
"No kidding. Inspired by me?" She muttered and swept away. I felt bubbling laughter rise and did not try to stop it. "Hahahahahaa!"
I glanced over the contents of the room one last time and grinned. It would be my little secret for now.
10. A Goblin's Sense of Humour
Ragnok boomed a laugh. "You've been busy, McKinnon. Cursing arrogant wizards, educating politicians, and building a huge business."
I had cursed all the men on the ruin/kill list that had taken advantage of women with infertility. Gotten the Neutral faction to demand an update of the Hogwarts curriculum and had dreamed up another ten muggle businesses that MBI was going to use to mask the magical labour outsourced to our magical division. It was just another loophole the laws did not address, which was simply fine. "I gather you're happy with the progress then, Ragnok?"
He grinned. "I like your plan to prod the Ministry into an internal audit, but Gringotts can easily do that with less risk. We do that every decade anyway, and the next is scheduled in three short years. You just focus on laying false trails and muddying the water, and I will ensure that everything will be investigated. I always enjoy the madhouse that ensues in an audit!"
I raised my eyebrow. "I'll do that. About the expansion plans, does your team agree with my predictions?"
"Indeed, they do." He agreed. "But there's no predicting what the response will be when they find out you hire more than half of all the muggle born on the market, and that percentage is still rising."
I agreed with that, "they are unpredictable, which is why I was hoping to use the audit to stall any response. Would that work?"
He thought it over and barked a laugh. "It would, for a limited amount of time, but your back-up plans are well thought out. Should they force your hand in terminating employees, hiring them back in your muggle companies would hurt them even more. I do advise warning your legal team ahead of time, as they would appreciate the chance to pre-plan their response to any line of attack."
"Where do you see us in a few years?" It was a favourite question of mine, after using it a ton of times during interviews.
Ragnok's smile was all teeth. "At the top of course. Do you know you are set to double the number of businesses running through Gringotts in a few short years? There are about five hundred businesses in Wizarding Britain, four hundred of which are completely family operated. The majority of those remaining hundred are all centered on or around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Our world is small, McKinnon. You already set up fifty different businesses under the umbrella of MBI, even if the vast majority are muggle oriented."
I understood. "And all are under shared management of Gringotts, that's a lot, isn't it?"
He nodded. "You aren't just creating jobs for muggle born McKinnon. My brethren are pleased. None before you have let Gringotts own as much of the shares, never mind half."
"Well, you didn't give me much of a choice, but I don't regret a thing!" I laughed. "Your team is amazing at this stuff. That reminds me, if they have more ideas, I am sure we can make them work. Perhaps we can do something to give more goblins work, using a business as an intermediary between you and the rest of the world."
"Your idea has merit, McKinnon, I will pass it on to my advisors." Ragnok took out a bottle of something and put it against his lips. That was a non-subtle dismissal, but I just grinned. The goblin leader had a strange sense of humour but one I could well appreciate.
"Right, I will see you next quarter, Ragnok. Keep up the good work, yeah!"
"Go, McKinnon, I'm a busy goblin. Shoo!" He winked, a goblin winking.
"Hahaha!" I walked out in a great mood, seeing Ragnok act so human triggered my funny bone.
I floo'd home and opened the latest financial report on MBI. These numbers never failed to surprise me.
There was plenty of downtime for wizards minding muggle stores, which showed. Hermione, as the de facto director of Human Resources, had come up with a series of short training schedules that taught their employees valuable skills that could be used in various other undertakings. For instance, employees could be MBI certified to handle enchanting preparation, rune carving, ingredient preparation, etcetera. When certified, employees could use downtime to do those additional tasks for extra credits, usable in any MBI store. Not only were employees still learning stuff, but they were also kept from being bored. MBI encouraged learning on the job, so long as the job did not suffer for it.
MBI had fifty businesses, forty-three were running nicely, with all but one making a profit. Six were still starting up and one was failing, these employees were now studying hard to give it another go in half a year. On the magic side, fourteen businesses existed, and they were gaining more and more customers on their competition. Why? Because they were ten percent cheaper than the competition, invariably. It was the overall MBI strategy. MBI would pay for the loss of profits to keep the shops from going under until they had gained enough experience to make up for the lack in profit margin by being more efficient. It helped that the business was booming, which had them gaining in efficiency quickly.
Every part-timer that rotated depending on demand was slowly but surely specialising in what they were best at and liked doing most. When demand was low, they were asked to think of ways to make production more efficient, keeping in mind the credits system. That little idea was gaining dividends very quickly, as the drudge work was outsourced to the less educated and those with freer time.
It made a mess of the wage scales at first, but the goblin financial team was up for the challenge. They delivered magnificently. With the ever-increasing demand, every employee could work to their heart's content, and according to the goblins, were earning thirty percent more than in the employ of purebloods on average. That was before the small tax cut MBI had mostly gifted their workers, the contracts had fixed netto wages, so the lower tax left the company with more money, instead of the workers.
All this and more came up in the first ever Company Day meetings and discussions. Hermione was right, explaining their reasons made the employees much more inclined to accept the bumps in the road and asking for their ideas made them feel valued, not to mention that their ideas often held merit.
Stephan had given the employees a quick overview of the Wizengamot factions and had explained his plans going forward. In that guise, I had to admit to the gathered magicals that I would not be able to deliver on the business creation front anytime in the next decade, due to the prevailing attitude. But also, that I could well push for equal taxation. The real change had to come from MBI I had told them and explained why overwhelming economic power would help me leverage more favourable laws.
Stephanie's face was much more known amongst the employees and got me a cheer as I walked up the podium. As the face of the business, I had explained how MBI and its owners had used every cent of profit to expand the businesses and housing. How we focused on becoming better and more efficient than our opposition by educating "You, the employees!" That was met with a cheer. Then I called Hermione up the podium, who put the emphasis on helping more and more muggle born like them, calling for them to call on their acquaintances that needed jobs too. She ended with asking for knowledgeable people who wanted to share their skills as occasional trainers for useful skills.
So that was that. Everything was going well with the company and Hermione had doubled the HR department with another three new employees when the certification training threatened to get out of hand.
The goblins were happy, and I was basically only working three days a week. One in paperwork, two for political stuff.
I had too much free time on my hand and it showed, my work room had a great many finished products already. Hermione just smirked and told me to start dating.
It was not a bad idea, so I started socialising more with the company employees. The rest of my time I spent between my hobby and the occasional night with Susan, who was getting frustrated by the lack of wizarding interest. Most guys only wanted a quick fuck from her, it did not help that she was an Auror and could be quite intimidating.
Her being intimidating was something I could appreciate, her being dominating made it all the better.
11. A Rather Valuable Hobby
I woke to Susan's warm body and could not suppress a shudder of delight when I noticed the position of my hands. One was down at her moist pussy and the other held one of her sizable breasts. Giving her the lightest of squeezes, I sighed contentedly.
"You're enjoying yourself? I wouldn't mind another go if you're interested." Susan said softly, her breath wafting over my face.
"I would be delighted, after a breath freshening charm." I smiled. "I have something to show you after, a hobby of mine. I've been thinking about starting up a business and find myself needing an outside perspective."
"Hmmm." She purred, "the mysterious hobby? Nah, you've gotten my curiosity up now, first the hobby, then we can start back where we left off."
"Alright, just lie there for five minutes, I'll be getting the lot."
"No problem, I could lie here all day if you'd let me." Susan grinned saucily.
"Like I'd ever say no to that!" I smirked back. "I'll be right back."
I gathered all the stuff and grabbed some leftover sandwiches. "Here I am, but before we begin, eat a sandwich."
Susan did not hesitate and dug in. "So?"
"I don't mean anything with this, but am I right in assuming you've been a bit more daring than most magicals with regards to sex and stuff?"
She nodded curiously. "I've had sex with a few guys and girls."
"Have you ever heard of or made use of sex-toys?" I asked her.
Tilting her head, she thought about it. "Beyond occasionally transfiguring something in a cock and making it vibrate, no. I have used some spells to enhance pleasure though, if not often. Magicals don't really use stuff when they can just use their wands."
"That's what I thought, which is why I started my hobby." I took a dildo from the box. "Muggles have invented scores of sexual aids, and that is without magic. I take what they have got that sells well and make it magical. Take this dildo, this baby right here is enchanted with intent based charms like cleaning, vibrating, warming and friction reducing charms. You can stick it to every surface with a tap of your wand and it can even increase or decrease the sounds it makes with your body by a factor of two."
Susan nodded dubiously. "Alright, I can see the value in that, but I can imagine witches could create the same with their wand, just not to the same quality. Even so, they might very well like the fact that they don't have to charm one themselves."
I nodded, expecting that. "I can see that, but that is the least interesting device in the box. Are you ready to have your mind blown Susan?"
Amused, she nodded. I grabbed something for the shock value next. "This is a muggle strap on. As you can see, it is a cock for a woman to wear, nothing magical about that. Does not do much for her pleasure but it does provide a whole other experience for the witch and her partner, be they male or female. Have you ever seen one or heard of one before?"
Bug-eyed, she took the strap on and shook her head. "They really do that? And they use it on men?"
I smiled; this was precisely what I wanted to hear. "Of course, they do!" Grabbing my invention, I handed it over for her to compare. "This on the other hand, is meant to be connected to your pussy and sends the sensations right into your pussy and clit. It even transfers your natural lubrication into the thin pee hole tube at the very top, same when you cum. Which means it leaks your juices and spurts your cum as you climax. You can now fuck anyone like a man would!"
If Susan had been shocked by the strap on, now she was looking positively stupefied. "Morgana's tits, Steph!"
"I know, right! Want to try it on me later?" I grinned. Susan nodded slowly.
"Next up!" I grabbed my pussy pads. "These will be revolutionary. I call it the V-liner. It adheres to your pussy the same as the fake penis, except this is charmed to always keep you clean down there. It has two additional functions that make this beauty unique, vibration and massage. It can be worn always and takes away the need to visit the toilet for a pee."
"You're serious?" Susan laughed. "The pee thing alone is worth a lot, but you're telling me this will get me to orgasm with a simple mental impulse?"
"That's only if you learn the basics of wandless magic, otherwise it needs a tap of the wand." I agreed.
"Bugger! You don't happen to have something to prevent the need to poop, do you?"
My grin was massive. "That one does require a small sacrifice though. You need to wear one of these." I tossed her a purple butt plug. "It's enchanted to remove waste, stick in place and to let nothing through. It also has a massage and vibration function, intent based naturally. They come in all shapes and sizes."
She looked at me with a puzzled expression. "That needs to go up your butt and stay in?"
I shrugged. "Doesn't have to, but it can, yes. Forever if need be, it was a challenge and a half, but I got it done."
"Huh." She mused, looking constipated. "I hate to say this, but I don't think many will go for it, not at first at least."
"Oh, I know that. But I have to start somewhere." My stare was predatory, "I just need some good references."
She gulped. "Let us shelve that for the moment. What else have you got?"
So, I walked her through my line of enchanted female underwear, the vibrator stickers, the armpit stickers with cooling and cleaning charms. The male section with P-liner, pocket pussy and more. "And I'm still working on something that connects certain items. I want to be able to have sex from a distance at some point, but I'm still missing that brilliant moment of inspiration."
Susan was in way over her head and just nodded dumbly. "I want to use it all."
"Great!" I grabbed the magical strap on. "And we'll start with this. Now, what you want to do is to settle the device over your pussy until it sits comfortably, and then tap the base with the intent to have it mould to you and stick."
Susan did as I told her and gasped as she grasped her new dick. "It feels real!"
I swallowed. "Let us find out. You should feel lucky Susan, you'll be the first person to put a dick in me."
She stopped and looked at me. "You don't like men, do you? If you want, we could switch!"
Grinning, I shook my head. "Now do not be hasty, you are no man, are you? You are just a girl with a dick, a girl I happen to like quite a lot. If anyone is going to get to fuck me like this, it is you. Now, I am soaking wet and ready for a new experience. Get to it already!" I was still a bit nervous however, somehow this was quite different from using a dildo.
Susan nodded cautiously and put her newest appendage against my opening with a tiny gasp as she felt the pressure. She searched my face for permission and got it. I gasped as she fed her cock to my pussy with a blissful expression on her face. Her voice was full of emotion as she tried to explain the experience. "It feels real, it feels so warm. You are so tight! This is amazing!" Susan giggled to my great amusement, it felt great for me too.
"Well then, what are you waiting for?" I challenged her. She smirked. "Oh, you're going to get fucked all day today. I'm going to try everything you'll allow me to." She frowned. "You tried that stuff out, right? Does that mean you would be up for anal?" She saw the curious look on my face and shrugged. "What? All the boys wanted to try my ass and I'm curious!"
"We'll see about that later, now stop teasing and move!" I whined.
Susan grinned. "Hey, I'm the one in charge here, you got that?"
"Yes, Mistress." I demurred; her new attitude turned me on immediately. "Please fuck my pussy?"
Finally, she started moving and it felt AMAZING! "Don't worry kitten, you'll get yours."
Literally hours passed in an exhausting blur, and I had literally never felt so sated in my life. Susan was the same as we had switched roles on occasion. "So, Susan, would you shop at SEnchanted?"
"Definitely!" She breathed happily down my neck. "But you could do with a better name."
"Hey, like you could do better!"
"Well… Let us see."
Hermione was not amused when I showed her my catalogue. "You're kidding."
"I'm not." I said forcefully. I was peeved to have her dismiss my efforts out of hand. "How many women work at BMI?"
She tilted her head. "Sixty-eight, by my last count. Why?"
"Because I want to use them as a sample target audience at discounted prices. If they like my products, I will include the men. If that takes off, I want to start a full-on business that sends catalogues all around. We can easily teach the enchantments to some interested employees. Honestly, this is one of the easiest businesses to get up and running, it is just a catalogue mail order business.
Her facial expression was inscrutable, but she nodded. "Do as you like then."
"Wait a minute, what's your hang-up regarding this, Hermione?"
No answer was forthcoming for a long while, but I held my silence until she spoke. "I don't know, it just feels wrong. Why would anyone need this?"
"I think the question you need to ask yourself is, why would it be bad to want this?" I told her. "You're always saying the magical world is behind the muggle one, well, I'm trying to catch up here."
She shrugged helplessly, "I'll think about it, okay? Now let us talk about something else."
I smirked. "I guess I shouldn't talk about Susan then. How are your prospects, have you found anyone interesting yet?"
Her derisive look had me change tactics. "Hermione, you know all about Protean Charms, I'm looking for a way to have a flexible material take on the shape the original takes. Any idea of how to go about it?"
She looked interested. "Do you have an example for me?"
I nodded. "Say you have a latex bag with an extension charm, so that if you put something in it, the bag will take on the shape of the item in it. Like a rubber glove when you put your hand in it, but without the original fingers, if you catch my drift. More like a balloon. I want to have another such flexible bag Protean slaved to take on the same shape as the one with the item in it."
Her eyebrows pulled together and sank down as she thought it through. "You first need to charm the material to stretch easier, then make it unbreakable. After that, you link them to each other with the Protean charm and tie it in with the rest of the enchantments you want."
Suspicion flickered over her face and she looked at my catalogue. "What is this for, Stephanie?"
I shrugged. "At the moment, it's an intellectual exercise for doing stuff at a distance. For example, stick your hand in at the bottom of the tower, and at the top, you can ring the bell."
"Sure." She groused. "It could be used for lots of things. Doing things at a distance, huh."
"Yeah, it has infinite possibilities!" I said cheerfully.
"And how is Susan nowadays? You've been sleeping together almost a year now, haven't you?" She asked with irritation.
"I love her, Hermione." I told her calmly, saying it out loud for the first time ever. I was proud of myself for admitting it.
She arched an eyebrow. "And does she know that?"
"No, not yet." I shook my head. "Wait, you don't even sound surprised?"
Hermione looked at me like I was stupid. "Honestly, Stephanie, you are a girl now, you should know better. I have known over two months; you get this besotted smile when I mention her and always space out when you think about her. I think some of our friends know as well, including Susan herself possibly."
I blanched. "She… I should start thinking about telling her about my Metamorphing then."
The Sahara Desert could take lessons from Hermione's face right then and I cringed, why did she always have to make me feel so infernally stupid?
12. Birthday Confessions
"When is your birthday, Stephanie?" Such a simple question, with such shitty connotations. Susan had of course, immediately felt my body tense, as she was spooning me from behind. My short length doomed me to a life as the little spoon, such was my lot. I could think of worse fates.
"I had to look that up you know." I explained in a whisper. "The prophet says my mother's family was massacred on the fifteenth of July, nineteen eighty. My father's letter said he had to cut me out of her freshly dead body in the hope that I had enough strength to survive being born early."
Susan squeezed me tight. "Ah shit, Stephanie. I did not know. Sorry."
I held her arms against me and stroked her hands. "Don't worry, you didn't know, nothing to be sorry for. It's just, I've never really celebrated my birthday and I'm not keen to start, if that makes sense."
"Pick another." Susan murmured.
"What?" I snorted. "Just like that eh? Alright, how about the twentieth?"
"Sure. Why not? We're going out on that date by the way, just you and me." She informed me warmly. "Dinner by candlelight."
I twisted my neck to look at her and totally failed, she just hugged me harder. Still, it got my point across. "I haven't been able to find a single wizard worthy of my attention, Stephanie. Not in the entire year we have been having sex occasionally. You though, you make me happy, just like that. Your smile is enough to light a fire in my heart. So, I want to give this a go, if you are willing? Perhaps I am more into girls than I was willing to admit. I just had to struggle with giving up on the ability to have kids."
I dislodged her arms around me and turned around so I could look her in the eye. "I'd like nothing better, Susan. But I have to tell you a secret of mine first." My voice trembled with a vulnerability that I had not once shown since changing my identity.
I took a deep breath and saw her look at me patiently, which really helped me say what I needed to. "I'm a Metamorphmagus and as such, my gender is Other. If you want, I could grow a dick right now and put a baby in you just like that." I saw her eyes start to tear up, but I had to finish this now, otherwise I never would. "My brother and I, both are me, I'm just more comfortable as a woman. I have kept that secret to prevent certain forms of attention and to grant me more respect in pureblood society. The degree of separation affords me a level of safety too. But if you want to, I can break that secret, so that we could have a public relationship without more ridicule for you. I am so sorry for not telling you before! I just, I… I had to be sure."
Susan was still crying but she had a tiny smile that burst into a larger one as she realised what it meant, what I meant. "I never minded being outed as a bisexual, you know, just that it ruined my chances of becoming a mother. If you can get me pregnant, I couldn't care less what everyone else will think!"
I grinned through my own tears that I had not noticed until then. "Susan, I'm not saying this to scare you or push you, but I'm already deeply in love with you."
She kissed me forcefully. "Oh, silly! I love you as well, Stephanie, have for a while now. Honestly, it wasn't like you were hiding your feelings!"
"Hermione." I grumbled darkly. "She basically laughed at me a week ago. She figured out I loved you, way before I did."
Susan laughed delightedly. "As did everyone else, love. I think George was running a betting pool, both on when you would figure it out and when you would confess."
"Who won?" I crinkle my nose in distaste. Again, my life was fuel for entertainment. Perhaps it was just my obliviousness that caused me to be used as such, if so, I would never be rid of it.
She nibbled on her bottom lip, "Depends. When did you figure out you loved me?"
I knew that by heart. "Last Wizengamot session, it was dreadfully boring, and I found myself having a daydream about you. Someone commented on my ability to smile in the face of a dementor, which was funny, since I almost never smile when I am being Stephan. That is when I knew I loved you. Thinking about you always puts a smile on my face."
"Hmm." She pouted. "I can't tell anybody that story… Have you got another?"
That made me laugh. "Just substitute the Wizengamot session with me doing paperwork, that works."
Susan pushed her nose in my neck and mumbled. "I won both bets."
"Huh. How?" I asked curiously.
"I was at Hannah's when her father commented on just that moment in the Wizengamot. You really underestimate how many people look at you, in either form. You're something of a mystery to people." Susan explained. "Tons of rumours have been going around the Ministry about what could have made you smile like that. Hannah laughed and said it reminded her of the way you as Stephanie look at me when you think nobody is looking. I had a feeling then, and I started thinking. Have I ever seen you with your brother together?"
Shocked beyond belief, I stared at her. "You knew?!"
She smiled mysteriously. "No, but I suspected, even though I didn't know how such a thing would be possible. But then Hannah's words made me rethink our relationship, and I realised I loved you too, enough to give up babies. I then resolved to ask you out on your birthday for a romantic dinner and changed my bet to today for the confession and the realisation for the same day Stephan caused those rumours."
I was flabbergasted! "Wow!" Then I frowned. "How though? George never lets one of the subjects of the bet in on it, never mind letting them place a bet themselves."
She snorted. "I found out by accident. They did have me swear I wouldn't tamper with the bet or confess first, but they decided since you were so oblivious, that it wouldn't matter if I knew."
"Stupid arsehole, I'll show him oblivious!" I muttered angrily.
"Oh, no. You don't get to be angry today!" Susan giggled and pecked me on the lips. "Do you know when I first started to love you?"
I shook my head. "Tell me."
"I'm an Auror, and I have a reputation like my Aunty Amelia had, all hardcore bitch and a take charge attitude. Men cannot accept me being anything less than submissive, at least it seems that way. Every time I relaxed and decided to be myself, the relationship would fizzle out quickly." She said sadly. "Then you came along. You, who let me take charge like it was natural. You, who didn't argue even once when I took charge in the bedroom." She grinned. "You never tell me "no," you know. The only time I ever hear you complain is when I'm leaving."
Susan giggled. "I was falling for you already, but then you showed me your hobby and called me Mistress. I can tell you; I almost came right then! You've no idea how much that idea turns me on. You let me be myself, and the least that deserves in return is my honest love."
My eyes widened comically, before I sputtered in laughter. "Oh, that's precious! I love that, you know, when you are taking charge and all. I have no trouble being submissive to someone I trust with all my heart. It is just funny because I was looking for a girl that would accept me being a bit submissive but still be willing to have me grow a cock and knock her up. Do you know how hard it is to find someone like that?"
Susan burst into laughter at that image and I followed her immediately.
"Yeah, I can see that. Just like me wanting kids and loving women." She said softly. "I guess we're lucky to have found our match. And this soon too. You're what, twenty, like me?"
I smiled. "Twenty years old in a week! Err… in twelve days, I mean. I picked the twentieth of this month after all."
"We'll have to shop for dresses for our date!" Susan cheered.
"Sue, are you sure you're ready to go public?" I asked hopefully.
"I am, put those doubts away Steph." Susan ordered. "I don't want to hear you doubt us."
"I won't." I told her confidently, putting my mind on transforming. "Now, want to get some practice making babies?" I grabbed her hand and pushed it towards my newly grown cock and balls.
Susan Squealed loudly. "Aaaiii!" She grabbed me and ran her hands all over my new additions. "Definitely! I just need a charm first! Ha, I've never been as happy needing a contraceptive charm as I am now!"
I grinned. "I don't think they work immediately; my balls first need to start producing sperm, but a charm is always a good idea. It's just that when we do decide to try for a baby, they first need to ripen a day or so."
"Huh, those man panties with undetectable extension charms will come in handy then, won't they?" Sue grinned. "Now shut up already and fuck me!"
"Guys, I have a confession to make to you all." I told Luna, George, Angelina, Hannah, and Neville. Hermione and Susan both knew what was coming.
George grinned. "Don't you mean to Susan?"
I smirked. "I did that yesterday, -" My sentence got cut off by a trio of squealing girls and two guys loudly congratulating us. Susan was glowing with happiness and accepting all the well wishes with glee. I should have expected this, really.
"Wait! Who won the bet?!" Hannah screamed.
Susan smirked. "I won both, and I knew because of what Stephanie has to say; I had guessed it before she told me."
Of course, George wanted to know what the secret was to see if Susan had cheated the bet.
I held up my hand. "This is a secret, guys, and while I'm letting you know, I'd like it if it stayed secret, yeah?" Nods all around, so I continued. "I'm a Metamorphmagus, and I'm both Stephanie and Stephan McKinnon."
Hannah choked on her tea and glanced at Susan, who nodded. Meanwhile, Neville sighed dramatically and handed George a few gold coins. "Seriously?!" I shouted incredulously. "Who all knew?"
George laughed and Luna raised her hand. "I guessed but didn't know for sure." He admitted. "Hence the bet with Neville." Luna smirked. "Honestly, Stephan and Stephanie? I suspected from the start."
Hannah grinned. "That's why Susan guessed right! Lord Stephan here, looked deliriously in love in the last Wizengamot session. There was A LOT of gossip about that."
I pouted and Susan pulled me in a hug. "As you have suspected, that was when I realised. I was daydreaming about growing old with Sue here and what our babies would look like."
Naturally, that prompted another round of squealing girls and teasing. "When did you confess?" Luna asked, silencing the rest.
Susan raised her hand. "Oh, I want to tell you about this part!" They all went quiet to hear about the next bet. "We just had a night of the most amazing sex and I woke incredibly relaxed. I asked her when her birthday was - the twentieth by the way - and then I asked her out for a romantic dinner under candlelight." Sue smiled at me tenderly. "Steph understood I wanted to make our relationship public and said she wanted nothing more than that, but that she first had to tell me a secret. She told me about being Stephan too and that she could just grow a dick and put a bun in my oven." She giggled breathlessly. "Then she kissed me and told me that she had fallen in love with me already! I was over the moon of course, and told her everyone knew that already, but that I also loved her!"
Angelina laughed loudly at my pout. "We could tell you loved her since new year's, darling!" Hannah nodded seriously. "Me and Hermione have been working on Sue ever since."
Hermione looked at me smugly and I had to bite back a scowl. Then she winked and said, "best wing woman ever!" I had to smile at that. "You definitely are Hermione. Forgive me for being oblivious?"
She shrugged. "It actually came in handy here. Susan needed more time."
Susan nodded. "I did, I had to get over the same prejudices that have always been levelled at me." She kissed me on the cheek. "I'm glad though, I don't think I would have ever been as happy with a man. And now I get to make my cake and eat it too! Babies! I want as many as I can safely produce."
Hermione grinned with a dose of triple smug and looked at me challengingly. "You know, the muggles have a relatively popular new procedure called IVF. Basically, it means that using Susan's eggs and Stephan's sperm, that Stephanie could carry your baby too. If you want more babies than Susan is prepared or able to carry."
I looked at her with amusement. "Of course, I'd be willing to do that. I'm Stephanie most of the time, which means I'm more woman than man and pregnancy is a big part of that."
Susan's eyes grew wide and she looked at me hopefully. I gave her a sure nod. "How many you want, love. I'd just need a proxy in the Wizengamot, the paperwork can be done in either form."
Luna smiled happily. "Love is great, isn't it?"
"What the hell is wrong with you today, Stephanie? You've been out of it all day!" Hermione demanded, "is this about your date tomorrow? I thought you were feeling stable in your shared love!"
I opened my purse and pulled out a jewellery box. Smiling crookedly, I opened it to show her the ring inside. "I'm going to ask her tomorrow."
"Aaahh!" Hermione Squealed! She grabbed me in a hug. "It's beautiful!"
"It's not too soon then?" I asked.
Hermione shook her head. "Of course not, you have been having sex for ages, she's practically moved in already with the amount of couch-dating you do. You love her and she loves you. For goodness sake, you are planning babies, aren't you?"
I sighed. "Just jittery I suppose. We got dresses and a reservation; I cannot think of a better moment to ask… I'll ask, I'm just so bloody nervous!"
"I think you're supposed to be! This isn't a bloody date, or a one-night stand, you're asking her to share your life!" Hermione smiled. "So why are you nervous? I know you aren't unsure about spending your life with her."
I shrugged. "About Susan, I do not want to tell her about my past, the bit that's under the charm. Do you think that's fair?"
"Well, I don't know. Only you can decide that. I am only spit balling here, but you could just tell her that you do not want to tell her but that it is nothing bad and offer her the choice. It's not like it'll matter in the future, it's just a full disclosure thing."
My eyes crinkled as I smiled at the best friend I could ever have. "Thanks, Hermione. I might be marrying Susan someday soon, but I will always love you too. You know that, right? I just felt it had to be said."
Her eyes were suspiciously bright as she nodded. "Love you too, Steph."
I hummed warmly. "Now that my anxiety is mostly gone, did I miss something important today?"
"Nah, you know I got this. I was just bragging, but you weren't listening." She laughed. "How are you going to ask?"
"Tell you what, I'll tell you as soon as I figure it out."
Susan Bones was deliriously happy as she was sharing a glass of champagne with her girlfriend in the Red Gallery, a nice restaurant with a romantic atmosphere. They had been attracting their fair share of attention from the other diners in attendance, mostly because they were both women and both clearly in love.
"How many babies do you want love?" Stephanie whispered clearly, battering her lashes.
Relaxed and surer than ever in her love life, she held up her hand. "Five." She said confidently.
Stephanie grinned, and held up her glass of champagne. "To our future then and let all our dreams come true!"
Raising her own glass, Susan toasted. "To our future and let all our dreams come true!"
Stephanie stood up and held out a box in her hand. It was a clearly recognisable box too. Susan let out a gasp as Stephanie dropped to her knee with a smile. She opened the box, showing a beautiful ring. "Susan Amelia Bones, will you do me the honour of marrying me and having babies together?"
Looking down at her love, Susan felt herself tear up, but her smile was blinding. "Lots of babies! Of course, I will marry you, you damn goofball!"
Stephanie rose and smoothed her dress before lifting her chin and kissing her on the lips softly, it was everything she had dreamed of and more. Flashes went off, unnoticed by the pair as they had their eyes closed.
Applause rang through the restaurant and pictures were taken by the staff. "Congratulations from the staff ladies. Here you go, Miss McKinnon, I'm sure they'll be beautiful once they are developed." She thanked them and took the camera.
Susan hiccupped and giggled out a laugh. "You planned it all out then?" Stephanie grinned up at her. "Of course, we're spending our lives together. That means we'll want to show our kids some photographs later of the happiest days of our lives."
"Ooh! You're getting so lucky tonight, lady!"
"Ready to go then?" She challenged lightly.
"Grrrrr…" Susan grumbled. "Leave the money on the table, we're going!"
The staff held up thumbs and winked as they left, giving their best wishes as they passed. And if a customer said something about dikes having to adopt, well, Susan did not care, she knew better.
Their dresses were lost somewhere on the stairs in their haste to get naked, they stopped to snog three times on the way to the bedroom, but they got there anyway.
Susan looked at her girlfriend Fiancé and saw her wearing boy panties with extension charm. She bit her bottom lip and decided. "I don't need a charm tonight."
"My balls have been charging since yesterday morning, are you sure?" Stephanie double checked.
Growling, Susan jumped her bones and pulled down the deceptively empty panty, showing an erect block and tackle. "We're marrying within nine months, aren't we?"
Stephanie nodded nervously.
Susan grinned. "Then it won't matter. You are mine tonight! We're draining those balls empty every night from now on, as long as it takes until I start showing."
"What about the mornings?" She cheekily teased.
Susan pushed her down on her back and positioned herself. "Any opportunity." She said and sank down, engulfing the prick in her warm and welcoming cunt.
"I'll never say no to you, you know." Stephanie told her as she fondled her breasts. "Not until we have a dozen kids running around and we need a bigger house."
A small orgasmic trembling greeted those words of love and submission. "I'll keep you to that, love."
13. Wizengamot Manners
"Sue, love. There's one last secret I haven't told you." I told her one lazy Sunday afternoon. "I want you to know that it's all in the past and can't come back to haunt us. I'm fairly sure that it wouldn't change our love for each other either."
Insightful as ever, Susan noted my tense shoulders. "What's wrong, love? If it is not bad, why are you so tense?"
I nodded. "It's because I don't want to tell you, but I'm still giving you the option if you want to know."
Susan frowned. "Would I love you less, or would you love me less, if I knew?" I shook my head. "Hmm, and you didn't do anything wrong, something I couldn't live with?"
I smiled. "No, I'm quite sure you'd praise me for my actions. But they were still hard to live with, which is why I'm more than glad to leave that behind me."
She smiled at that. "Then I guess I don't have to know. Just one last question. Would it affect my opinion of others negatively?"
"Ah," I grimaced, why did she have to ask that? "Most certainly. Mind you, those persons are dead now, so it's not like it's something that would make you treat them in a different manner, just a large dose of disappointing reality you really don't want to know."
"Wow. That's heavy!" She sighed. "Can I ask you to reveal it later if it proves necessary?" I nodded. "Then let us forget about it! I'm going to marry you and that's not going to change!"
I leaned over her and kissed her firmly. "Thank you, love. I should tell you that Hermione knows, and has known since before we met."
Susan smiled contentedly. "And if she is fine with knowing, that sets me right at ease. She did help Harry Potter defeat Voldemort you know. I am quite sure he would have been nowhere without that girl! Brains like you see only once in a decade. You should know, you hired her!"
"Oh, I do know, and I couldn't agree with you more." I chuckled freely. I would have to tell Hermione about this conversation later. She would get a kick out of that.
"Hmmm." She sighed. "Don't you have to be in the Wizengamot in a bit?"
"Ah, shit, you're right." I sighed. "I'll go get ready. Why don't you visit Hannah for a bit, you haven't seen her in a week?"
"Right, I'll do that. Have fun with the guys!" She teased.
Shaking my head in exasperation, I left. Me having fun as Stephan was mostly bad for others, as I tore them apart verbally for being stupid.
This was an extra session called for two trials, a murder too. Both were being accused of a single crime, and the trial was set to seek the truth. It started out fine, evidence found, statements given, but then it turned into a kangaroo court and I had to step in, getting flashbacks from my own trial for underage magic.
Two purebloods had picked a fight with this half-blood, he had not fired the first spell, but he had fired the last. In other words, self-defence, except he was not allowed to say that. He was not allowed to finish any of his sentences. Some justice system, this was.
I stood and bellowed. "What kind of moron are you! Haven't you ever heard that people have the right to defend themselves?" I shouted at the Chief Warlock, who was steamrolling over the defendant s every answer. It was awfully familiar to me in a way that was very unflattering.
"Who said that? Show yourself!" The pompous man demanded stupidly; I was clearly standing and looking at him with anger.
"I did, Lord McKinnon-Black. Now let the man speak, instead of cutting him off after every second word!"
"Why should he, he confessed?" Someone shouted stupidly.
"The man confessed it was his spell that killed the dead guy, yeah. But you won't give him the chance to tell you why!"
"What would that matter?" The same idiot wanted to know. Merlin! Guys like this were allowed on the governmental body!
"Shut it, you pile of shrivelling flobberworm droppings, before you make an even greater arse out of yourself. Not only does the defendant have the right to explain himself, say he acted in self-defence, huh? That would make his actions lawful and would render this whole trial moot! You are not trying for justice here; you have already decided this guy is guilty and I will not stand for it! Chief Warlock, it is your duty to ensure proper protocol is followed. Do your fucking job or I'll challenge you to a duel you won't live to see the end of."
Pure fucking silence had descended over the assembly until the defendant smiled in relief and nodded, indicating I was right. That is when pandemonium broke out.
August Greengrass tapped my shoulder and stuck up his thumb with a grin.
The Chief Warlock looked sick and his skin was pale, he also made no effort to silence the shouting, so I did it for him. Tapping my throat with a silent sonorous, I grinned at August, before bellowing. "IS THIS WHAT THE GREAT WIZENGAMOT IS REDUCED TO? A BUNCH OF SQUABBLING CHILDREN? SHUT IT AND FOLLOW PROTOCOL FOR ONCE, IF YOU EVEN KNOW IT."
If I had not added that last bit, it might have even worked to shut them up. But I had insulted their knowledge and that was enough to restart the whole fiasco. I looked proudly at the man strapped to the chair and winked, he started laughing his head off.
When the old men finally got a move on, the man could speak and defend himself. Wonders never ceased, his defence was that it was self-defence. Guess against who? A pureblood of course, but also the son of the man who had shouted at me. I was planning a bit of revenge as the man got off with a fine, a hefty fine.
You see, I had a feeling about the next trial, and if I was right, someone was likely going to die today.
Next up, the pureblood. I tapped August's shoulder. "What do you want to bet he gets off with a smack on the wrist?"
"I don't take fools bets, Stephan. What will you do if it looks to go that way?"
I shrugged, getting an idea mid motion. "I guess I'll have to explain some things." I conjured a board and marker and started to draw a simple table. Using simple statements to explain my findings.
Veritaserum/ Did you do it? ,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,,.,.- guilty -,..,,.,..,.,,..,.,.,.,,.,.. not guilty
Yes.,.,.,.,.,.,.,,.,.,.,.,..,.,.,.,.,..,.,,.,.,. - I did it / I did not do it (Occlumens) - I did not do it
No.,..,.,.,,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,,..,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,., - I did not do it -,.,.,.,.,.,.,,.,., I did not do it
If not guilty, using Veritaserum does not cause mistakes that cause wrong sentences.
If guilty, using Veritaserum can only help, even though it is not fool proof.
Statistics say that only the best Occlumens can beat Veritaserum, i.e. 1% of the population.
"See?" I asked him.
He nodded with a smile. "You've an interesting way of thinking, Stephan. The Wizengamot should be happy to have you."
"But they are not." I nodded proudly. "No, they are not." He agreed.
The next man was brought in and it went exactly as I expected.
The Chief Warlock did not do a thing as the defence attorney went on with his final plea. "As you have just heard, he did not fire the spell that ended a life, so he is not guilty! I now ask you to-"
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING, YOU IDIOT!" I hollered. "The testimony that was submitted clearly says he fired the first spell, both parties agree on that. Everything that followed, should therefore be considered results of that poor decision! HE started with a potentially lethal spell; HE was just a poor shot. Doesn't make him innocent in the least!"
"The previous defendant had to act in defence of his own LIFE because of this guy, which resulted in the death of another. How does that excuse this fool's actions?"
I pointed directly at the idiot whose son had died. "Your son died because THIS guy started a spell fight. Have we even asked him if he shot with intent to kill? That would make him guilty immediately, attempted murder that is called, I believe."
The Chief Warlock sighed and proved once and for all he was not worthy of his position. "And what do you suppose we do, Lord McKinnon? If we ask him, he'll say no."
"Haven't you ever heard of Veritaserum?" I asked in my most sarcastically biting tone. "Here's a hint! It's supposed to make you tell the truth!"
"But that can be beaten with Occlumency, so what would that prove?" The dead guy's idiot father asked, wholly defeated.
I grinned. "I was hoping you would ask. Let me show you." I enlarged my board, levitated it against the wall and stuck it to it. "Now, let me walk you through this nice and easy."
Pointing at the wall, I started on the right. "Say a person is innocent, he'll say so whether under Veritaserum or not, that means Veritaserum doesn't hinder nor does it help. Say a person is guilty, as the Lord so kindly pointed out, he will say he is innocent without Veritaserum to escape his sentence, that would be wrong! Say we do use Veritaserum. If he happens to be good enough at Occlumency, which is a clear minority, he might escape his just punishment. If he is not, he'll sing like a bird and the truth comes out."
"I'd say that's a clear-cut case of why using Veritaserum can only help, so long as it's not taken as gospel. There are ways to make people believe anything after all, and some people CAN beat Veritaserum. Then again, if he is innocent, using it cannot hurt. That is why I propose to ask the defendant under Veritaserum, whether he cast with intent to kill. If he denies it, we cannot convict him under the current evidence. If he confesses his crimes, sentence him to the harshest possible penalty for lying to the court. Case closed!"
"Hear, hear!" "That's a damn good argument!" "Dose that man!"
The defendant was quickly losing all colour as the court's opinion signed his fate, clearly announcing his guilt to any half competent observer. I smiled viciously at the guy and he flinched. Another sign I was right.
"How do you like them apples, August?"
"You could easily become the new Chief Warlock, you know, after making it so abundantly clear that he's not doing his job."
I shook my head fervently. "Oh, hell no! Not my job, not in this lifetime! I will just commit to hounding his successor if he quits in shame. This farce makes a mockery of justice, but that doesn't mean I'm going to fix it."
Greengrass grinned unashamedly. "It was worth a try."
The Veritaserum was approved, it was on the books that it could be used in trying to solve a murder. He sang like a canary of course, and the victim's father demanded and got the harshest sentence of twenty-five in Azkaban, good riddance! He even sent me a look of gratitude, which made me feel a mite conflicted. I got him justice for his son's death, yes, but I had also made it abundantly clear I thought he was a moron.
"I'll send an owl soon, Stephan, we have something to talk about."
I nodded and left, done with the day. I was also slightly wary of tomorrow's newspaper. In the heat of the moment, I had ignored the flashes, but now that I thought about it, the angle from the visitors' gallery was perfect for a shot of my whiteboard and me lecturing the assembly.
Facepalming, I groaned. Hermione was going to be unbearable and Susan would be proud and horny. Perhaps it would not be all that bad? Yeah, it would be bad!
14. Baseless Speculation
"Honey, did you see the paper today?" Susan sang from downstairs; I could hear Hermione tittering.
"How bad is it?!" I asked her loudly.
"Wizengamot in Shock! Justice Warrior McKinnon-Black. Veritaserum Argument Compels." She read. "You're Famous, darling!"
Yup, it was definite, I was fucked! And did I hear Hermione giggling? Yes, yes, I did. Ah, I sighed, better to deal with it quickly. I hurried down the stairs after changing into Stephan. "I'm going to have to make a statement today, don't I?"
Susan nodded. "Yes, if you don't want to be nominated for Chief Warlock, I recommend it."
Hermione grinned. "Only you, Stephan, only you."
I pouted, which was all wrong for Stephan. Her grin only got wider.
"Huh, didn't you always use to say that to Harry back then?" Susan asked Hermione, who nodded. "Yes, and the same could be said for Steph here. They're disturbingly similar some days."
Susan frowned. "Why would you say that?"
I calmly eyed Hermione, who shrugged. "Well, let us see. Harry used to do the right thing and ended up in the spotlight for it and being called a hero. Isn't that exactly what is happening here? I can tell you that a lot of muggle born are comparing Steph to Harry Potter in jest already."
I gasped in shock. "Surely not!"
My oldest friend nodded seriously. "They came into the wizarding world expecting a brilliant world of magic and were disappointed. Then the McKinnons came and said, well, we will lead you to the promised land. The way they see it, you are already delivering on your promises Steph. YOU are their magical Jesus, just like Harry Potter was by defeating evil."
Susan looked at my pale shocked face and laughed. "Honestly, Steph, you're my hero too. There you were an openly lesbian bombshell! I was jealous at first but then I started to emulate you. Look at me now, all my dreams are coming true because of you."
"Shite!" I cursed. "I never wanted to be a hero. All I want is to do some good, I don't want to deal with all these expectations."
Susan looked hurt and surprised by my outburst, but Hermione quickly hugged her to calm her down. "Steph, Susan can't understand your reaction without knowing your past. I get it, I do. But this does not have to be the same, not at all. All you need to do is send a statement to the press. You could even use Harry Potter as an example of why it is never a good idea to put all that pressure on a single person's shoulders. Harry's gone, isn't he? Just say they should learn a lesson from that and stop putting people on pedestals."
I dropped into a chair and held my face in my hands and sighed. "You're right, Hermione. And I am sorry Susan, I shouldn't have yelled."
Searching out her eyes, I held out my hands. "Can you forgive me? I'm glad to be your hero, but I can't be anyone else's."
Susan nodded slowly, before looking at Hermione. "Knowing his past? But you… Harry Potter, just like." She glanced at my ashen face, back at Hermione who looked resigned and back at me again. "Harry?!"
I sighed. "Susan, listen to my words. I am not Harry Potter, I never was. Harry Potter is dead. If you want to learn the full truth, I can take you to the one person who can tell you."
Hermione nodded. "He's telling the truth, Susan. He is. Just give him the benefit of the doubt before you learn the secret."
Susan shook herself but nodded with determination in her eyes. "Take me to that person then."
I nodded. "Hermione, I'm taking her to Ragnok immediately. Can you write a draft letter, you're better at this sort of thing?" She nodded.
Turning to Sue, I said. "Give me a minute to change into Stephanie, they know my face at the bank."
Ragnok was ready with a contract because I had sent him a letter to prepare for the eventuality after Susan accepted my proposal for marriage. We were quickly ushered into his office and Susan heard the secret after signing the contract. "Let's discuss it at home, I'm sure Ragnok has better things to do." She gave me a searching look and nodded.
"Ragnok, sorry for the unannounced meeting and I'm quite sure she'll be the last. Thank you, my friend."
The goblin just shook his head and pointed at the door. "Shoo, McKinnon."
When we were home, I explained myself with the help of Hermione and a short summary of the ramblings of Albus Dumbledore and Sirius Black.
Susan was frozen in shock, but she thawed quickly enough. "Buggering shite! Morgana's fucking cunt! I fucked my old celebrity crush in the cunt and in the arse?! I buggered, - I came down - Arse!" She waved her hands. "Fucking Charm! You know what I mean! Is that true?!"
Hermione was clearly able to see the humour as she chortled merrily. "Yeah, Steph, is that true? Did she bugger you and cum in your ass?"
A positive side-effect of Sue airing that laundry basket was that it shook me out of my nervous silence. "Err… Yes?" Hermione giggled helplessly at my answer.
I decided to fire back. "It's nice, Hermione, you should try it. I have this personal version that takes a girl's cum and duplicates it as it banishes it out of the tip during climax. I like to believe it is better than the real thing. I certainly never came that much or as forcefully as a guy!"
Her jaw dropped in shock. "What? You can do that?!"
"Of course, I can, Hermione. What do you take me for? You know I take pride in my sex-toys!"
Susan watched this banter and cracked. "Seriously?!"
That set me off, I just could not stop laughing and dragged them with me. "Ah, hell. I needed that!" I looked at Susan, "Sue, I imagine you have questions, but can I drop that statement off first? I feel a need to nip this hero stuff in the butt."
Susan nodded. "I'll quiz Hermione while you're gone, we'll talk some more when you're back."
I started copying the letter Hermione had written and changed some things to reflect my opinion better. Meanwhile, I heard them discuss this.
"It's like this Susan, Harry was always a very reluctant sort of Hero. He certainly never saw himself as such. He had this whole broody panic thing after they started calling him The-Chosen-One. It lasted for months. He was... Well, let us say he wasn't at his most endearing."
"Hey, how come you get to say his name?" Susan complained.
Hermione grinned. "It's a modified Fidelius. You cannot say it in relation to the secret, never mind if everyone around you knows. Since you said you buggered and then tried to name Harry when you never buggered him, the Charm took offense. If you are just talking about your views or experiences with regards to Harry Potter, it will not stop you at all. You can shout to the world you buggered Stephanie, but I don't think she'd appreciate that."
Both girls looked at me, but I just stood up and walked up the stairs for a change in clothes. I could just make out Hermione saying, "he didn't say no!" Just loud enough for me to hear, the vixen.
"I'm flooing the Prophet, be back soon."
"Hi, Stephan McKinnon, here to deliver a statement. Where should I go to speak about that?"
The desk lady just pointed at a door to her right looking bored. "Mister Lowery, can't miss him."
"Thanks," I told her dryly.
"Lowery, Stephan McKinnon. This is my statement in response to today's speculation pieces. Can you promise me this gets in tomorrow's edition unedited, or do I need to speak with someone higher-up?"
Lowery looked up in shock. "I can't promise that I'm afraid, only the editor can do that. Here, follow me."
"This office, you need Barnabus Cuffe, good luck McKinnon." He said, not unkindly.
"Thanks, Lowery." I nodded gratefully, before walking straight in without knocking. "Cuffe, Stephan McKinnon, the guy you tried to turn into a messiah in today's paper. What do I need to do to get my statement printed in tomorrow's edition, unedited?"
Cuffe looked up with irritation written clearly on his face. "Get out of my office, now!"
I smirked as nastily as I could. "Are you sure? If you ask me to leave without agreeing to my demands, I will walk straight down and wreck your printing press. Do you know what will happen then?"
"You'd be caught by the Aurors in no-time!" Cuffe bragged. "Security will deal with you."
"Yes." I agreed pleasantly. "But you'd still be out of a printing press, wouldn't you?"
"You'd be paying double the amount a new one would cost." Cuffe threatened.
"Ah, good. You know the law, that will speed things up. Yes, that would happen, but I would have two months to pay that fine. Even then, do you know how long it takes to commission a new printing press? I do not, because those are all custom made and the last time it took a team of ten wizards, three full months to build one. That means you would be without a press for five whole months, Cuffe." I laughed. "The question you should be asking yourself is, can your paper survive the backlash that would create?"
The man I hated on principle because of the past was not stupid apparently, because he did grasp the plausible repercussions rather quickly. "Let's see that statement!"
I handed it over to be read, it did not take long. "Is that it? This will sell immediately! Why didn't you just say so immediately?!"
"Like you would have listened." I sneered. "I loathe you, Cuffe. This paper has gone down the drain and moulted there with you at the top." I spat his name with pure venom. "And I don't even trust you to work in your own best interests. That meant I had to beat the truth into your head before you would recognise it. Now, will I see this on tomorrow's front page or not? Unedited, mind you."
Cuffe nodded stiffly.
"Good. I hope I do not have to come here a second time. You wouldn't like it if I escalated." I shot as I walked out.
"God, that felt good!" I said and noticed people staring at me. "What?"
"There is a standard listening charm in that office that transmits here when he has company, sir. It is a safety precaution. Can I just say that was amazing!"
I laughed and nodded. "I appreciate it, but let me just say, I probably liked that just as much as you!"
Another person grinned. "I'll keep an eye out to tomorrow's edition then, it's bound to be interesting!"
"It will be food for thought at least, I'm sure!" That much was certain.
The moment I stumbled through the fireplace I started changing into Stephanie. It was awkward with men's clothes, but I did not care. All that meant was that the clothes had to go.
Hermione had the pensieve ready when I came down in a fluffy bathrobe. That pensieve was one of those priceless items I got from the vaults. I gave her a nod to indicate that it was a good idea and deposited my memory.
It took only a minute before they came back out, crying with laughter. "Oh, Steph, that was amazing!"
"Was your threat real?" Hermione asked me.
"Yes, it would have cost me rather a lot, but I could have afforded it, he couldn't." I grinned wearily. "I'm just happy he wasn't stupid enough not to realise it."
"Well, I'm pretty sure you've just made a few new fans." Susan laughed. "Maybe not as a hero, but as a vengeful angel delivering his wrath!"
"I think that suits me much better, actually." I chuckled. "So, do you still have questions that need answers, or can I take the bath I so desperately need? Better yet, join me in the bath regardless, both of you. We could all do with a relaxing soak, I think."
Hermione glanced at Susan, who grinned. "Hell yes, that sounds like a spectacular afternoon! Go on up and draw it for us Steph, we'll follow you in a bit."
I stood and ascended the stairs.
Susan laughed at Hermione's question if she was sure about this. "I'm sure. I admit, seeing him go all holy avenger on that guy got me all hot and bothered, but she is clearly not in the mood right now. You are in no danger of being a third wheel, Hermione. Just enjoy the soak!"
They found me drifting in our spacious bath fully naked which made Hermione squeal in embarrassment. I just chuckled, why would I be wearing clothing in a bath? "Come on in, the water is divine!"
Not five minutes later, all the stress had left my body.
"You made an impact, I think." Susan said in shock as she looked at the front page.
Justice Warrior Strikes Again!
Britain's Hero Policy Harmful?
McKinnon-Black says NO to Chief Warlock!
Not the Hero we need, but the Hero we deserve. Say muggle born readers.
It was just a bit satisfying to see. "I'm only glad they didn't make me out to be the next saviour this time. Just someone who won't take any more shit."
"Yeah, but more than half the contents are about what you said." She pressed. "It's like you force them to really think, for the first time in ages!"
"Makes you sad to realise that doesn't it?" I asked her. "I particularly liked the last article, a Batman joke of all things! Muggle born all over the country will be laughing because of this gag!"
She frowned. "I don't get it?"
"Don't worry love, you're not supposed to. They're referencing a muggle comic book anti-hero called Batman." I explained, "it's just a clever joke about a man not being appreciated for the things he does for society."
"Hmmm." She smiled. "Will I see you after work?" I nodded with a grin. "I'll be finalising the distance runic matrix today, it's the most difficult one to date. I'll have dinner ready when you return, Sue."
"Right. Have fun."
The day after, a special edition was printed and delivered and I had to smirk, Ragnok would be happy! Even though they did not credit themselves with his death as had first been planned, which I tentatively attributed to the paper of yesterday. Public opinion was a fickle thing, and Ragnok knew that.
Harry Potter is Dead! According to the Goblins of Gringotts, the man-who-vanished has been dead for years now. The last remaining person with Potter blood has received what was left of the vaults and that is the end of that, since Mister Potter had no Will to speak of. But how did he die? Who inherited the vaults? The goblin spokesperson had this to share. Harry Potter never in his lifetime, entered his own family vaults. Was he even aware of them when he met his unfortunate end? Was he killed as a last gasp of the war? The chance we will find out is infinitesimal since the trail has long since gone cold. Without a body or a crime scene, the Aurors will not know where to look. This surely is a tragedy, but then, as was mentioned in yesterday's paper, we do tend to rely on heroes to an unhealthy degree. Perhaps Mister Potter's death should serve as an example that even the best of us is only human.
15. Pregnancy and Wedding Plans
"I'm pregnant!" Susan shouted joyfully. It had taken five months of constant trying which indicated some trouble conceiving, but that did not matter now.
I picked her up with a beaming smile and swung her around. "YES! Yes, yes, yes!"
"We're going to be mothers!" She smiled at me, "and occasionally a father."
"Mostly mothers though," I put in. "I can easily fulfil both roles with my experience. Shall we start thinking about names?"
Susan grinned. "I was hoping to name one after my aunt and parents at some point. Did you have any thoughts?"
I shrugged. "I never knew my real mother, but she did grow me in her belly, so I'd like to honour that. Lily Potter also deserves to be honoured. My real father gave up his honour when he used me to cover up his ineptness. James Potter was a bully. Other than that, nope."
"So, Marlene and Lily for a girl, and that's it?" She asked, I nodded.
"Then Amelia for another girl, Edgar for a boy, and perhaps Eleanor, Jade, Rose, Franklin, and Bill?"
"Huh." I said, impressed at her forethought. "That works! We'll decide on final names when the gender becomes known."
Susan happily hugged me. "We're moving the wedding up, love. What do you say to using the MBI castle grounds on your chosen birthday?"
I hummed as I considered it. "Summer wedding, and inviting the whole crew?" She nodded. "And on my birthday too, I like it. Making good memories to make the day more special in the future. Yes, let us do that! You'd be six months' pregnant at that point, wouldn't that hinder you?"
She shook her head to the side. "Honestly, Steph, that won't be a problem. We've already decided to let everyone believe we used a sperm donor with the intent of using blood adoption, so why would my baby bump hinder us?"
I wisely did not say anything to indicate she would be in any way, shape or form, an invalid. Instead, I just ignored it. "Who do we invite, outside the small group of interested employees?"
"Our friends…." She stalled.
"True." I smiled. "Huh, at least we'll be done quickly with the invites!"
Looking out at the three hundred or so attendees, I swallowed dryly. "Hermione? Why did I ever think this would be a small event?"
She smirked. "Wilful denial, Steph, you've always been extremely good at that."
That made me wince. "I did kind of talk over Sue whenever she asked to invite another group of people, didn't I?"
"Yes. Yes, you did do that. Repeatedly, in fact." She teased. "Don't worry though, Susan knows and understands you better than me these days. She just took ruthless advantage of the situation instead."
"Then I deserve this." I sighed, before the corners of my mouth curled in a tiny smile. "I know more than half of these people half as much as they deserve, don't I?"
Hermione smirked. "Nice paraphrasing there, Bilbo. And yes. But that is still more than you would like to know them, and they understand that. Just be sure to thank them for coming at any time during the night."
"Best wing woman ever." I smiled. "Hey Hermione, what would these people think when they don't see Stephan tonight? Do you think that'll influence the way they look at him?"
"You're as oblivious as always, Steph, but I guess that makes you you." Hermione grumbled warmly. "Best kept secret of MBI, Steph, but still common knowledge, even if they don't know the particulars."
"Shite!" I cursed and sighed. "As long as they keep playing along, I suppose I should be happy and let it be."
"That you're two different persons with two very separate personalities? They will." She patted my shoulder consolingly. "They'll keep your secrets too, don't worry. Last I heard, they believe it is just lots of make-up, cosmetic charms, glamours and such. You're known as an extraordinarily talented cross-dresser!"
I groaned in mortification. "Which do they believe is the real me?"
Her smug smirk was audible. "Opinion has been leaning towards Stephanie ever since you introduced those manhood concealing panties in your catalogue, strangely enough. That trick could just as well hide boobs, couldn't they? So, Stephan was getting increasingly long odds. But then word got out about Susan's pregnancy and that threw doubt on the matter. Opinions are really divided right about now."
Then a truly heinous idea entered my mind and I gasped. "Does George know?"
"About the betting you mean?" She chuckled. "Of course! As does the rest."
"Susan?" Already knowing the answer, I cringed again.
"Naturally, she has been approached for possible hints every time she's been spotted. It's half the reason she's so popular around here, Steph!"
"So, they're expecting a reveal tonight?"
"Nope. That is on you to decide. Hoping for one though? definitely! Come on, you should get ready."
I looked up at the most radiantly beautiful woman in the world and smiled. "I do, love Susan Amelia Bones with all my heart, and gladly take her as my wife."
Susan looked down at me with a tender loving smile. "I do, love Stephanie McKinnon-Black in all ways, and gladly take her as my spouse for the rest of our days."
"Then please kiss the err… Other to seal your marriage!" The priest said to loud laughter. I had of course noticed how Sue had not identified my gender in her vow and had to smile at the sneakily put in designation of 'Other.' That was worthy of some appreciation.
Susan used a finger to tilt my chin up and kissed me tenderly. Flashes went off from the cameras Hannah and Hermione were carrying, and I turned the kiss into a full-on snog to the applause of many.
"Then I can now pronounce you married in the eyes of the law and magic!"
Susan smirked as she finished the kiss. "How did you like my 'spouse' bit? Should be good for the betting pool. I just put on a pout in reply to her laughter.
"Stephanie! Will you take the next pregnancy?!" John from HR shouted from the public.
I grinned. "I promised Susan I would. We're going to alternate to keep it fair, John."
Groans sounded from the audience, but George shouted. "It's not the end, people! You are all wrong! The bet is ongoing!"
Susan's chuckles could only be felt through our linked arms, such was the volume of the audience as they processed that little titbit.
I leaned over and spoke in her ear. "Think that'll teach them?"
She grinned and shook her head. "Nah! Not a chance."
16. First Born and Changes
"Hello little Amelia Eleanor McKinnon, welcome to the world." I kissed my daughter on her head. "She's beautiful, Sue! Just like her mother."
Susan was wiped but her smile was blinding as she gazed upon their creation. "I know, Steph, I already love her so much! But the next one is on you; you will need to understand childbirth before asking for another. This hurts worse than a bludger to the nether region AND lasts for hours!"
I grinned. "Sure, love. The next one is on me. And the rest too if that's what you want."
Susan looked at me like I was crazy. "You'll rethink that when you feel it." I just smiled at her understandingly.
Hermione laughed. "You're underestimating Steph's tolerance for pain Susan, remember his past. I wonder what's worse, the Dark Lord's Crucio, Basilisk Venom, or childbirth?"
She paled and nodded. "Ah, yes, I had forgotten that."
Chuckling, I grabbed my wife's hand and kissed it. "So, shall I go make an appointment at the clinic or do you want to wait a bit?" Both Susan and Hermione were forgetting an important skill I had, but I was going to keep that little trick quiet until I could prank them with it at the most opportune time. I could always tell George to have some fun in advance at their expense.
"You're taking the next, so you get to decide." She laughed incredulously. "We'll switch off, keep it equal, remember?"
"Sure, love, whatever you say. I will go make a reservation next week. Want me to get the rest of our friends for an introduction?"
She nodded. "Oh, and I'm quitting my job, and starting at MBI part-time as soon as possible. I won't be missing our baby's first years."
I had been anticipating that move. Susan had found that the life of an Auror did not quite live up to expectations, with lazy purebloods getting ahead on nothing but the circumstances of their birth. She had taken over some of my duties for MBI when she was too big to do Auror work and found that she enjoyed that quite a bit more, even if it were mostly paperwork that could not be delegated.
"Alright, want to help me with R&D for the sex-toy store?" I smirked as she nodded, life was good for Stephan(ie) McKinnon-Black. The products had taken a while to be accepted even in the smaller subculture of MBI, but when they finally did, they had really taken off.
It was considered a rite of passage to try peeing in the V-liner and P-liner for the first time under the shower for fear it would not work as advertised. MBI employees had cut down on toilet time by half! I honestly considered it just as weird as it was impressive. Most users of those products still took the time to splash their face with water and look at themselves in the mirror as they relieved themselves in relative privacy. It was like using a diaper as an adult, except the diaper remained clean and did not get heavy.
I had even noted that Hermione spent less time at the toilet, but she would not confirm it. She knew I knew though, and that private amusement carried over to our every interaction until she asked me for a personal model with improvements, she had designed herself. Fun times.
The IVF quickly produced results.
Another nine months later, it was me on the table, holding our healthy two-egged non identical twins, Marlene Rose, and Edgar George. Susan was ignoring me after I finally pulled the joke I had been saving. "Sue, don't be sour! Look at them, our babies! Look! I can take the next ones as well… Sue! Come on, love, look at the bright side here!"
Susan McKinnon was a mite irritated, steaming mad actually! After learning that Stephanie was pregnant with twins, she had really sympathized with her wife's eventual pain at the births. Her wife on the other hand, had just smirked mischievously and had taken the news all too well. She would be singing another tune soon; Susan had thought then. That notion got compounded when the healer told them that the twins had twisted round their umbilical cords, and that it would possibly be necessary to cut them out of her. Susan had cried out for her wife's impending pain and suffering!
That sympathy had been completely and utterly wasted on the lucky bint!
What did Stephanie do when told she had to wait for more dilation before pushing? She just morphed her body and slid them right out after lengthening the cord to prevent them from choking to death! All that build up and anxiety! For what! Five fucking minutes! "It's just not fucking fair!" She whined for the umpteenth time.
Two of the female healers also had not taken it well, grumbling about lucky bints.
Meanwhile, Stephanie was rather amused by her wife's antics and Hermione was laughing her head off under a strongly cast silencing charm.
George was no doubt having fun informing our various friends of the humour of the situation to the sounds of Susan's fuming.
17. Political Attack and Counterattack
At long last, someone had noticed the trend. Ragnok had to delay the audit by a year, but he did not mind that at all.
Four years after MBI was first founded, a disgruntled pureblood finally went digging deep enough and found out that the best of their workforce had gone to work for MBI, who were using all kinds of tricks to get out from having to pay lots of taxes. By now, a full two hundred employees worked for the assorted companies under the umbrella of MBI. Eighty businesses were in my name, sixty of them muggle and thus not under the auspices of the Ministry. Still, those twenty magical businesses had been slowly driving the purebloods out of business, so the question had arisen, nevertheless.
Now, the shit was hitting the fan and Ragnok was free to enjoy another free-for-all audit! The goblin had sent a letter promising to do his worst.
Stephan McKinnon was cordially invited to explain in front of his peers how he had undermined the laws involved in commerce. Accusations of fraud were then involved and thus I found myself in front of the Wizengamot for an inquiry. Lots of families and seats on all sides of the divide were now banding together to take from me my rightful gains. I had never been so happy to see a bunch of reporters; this was utterly perfect!
"If you will all shut up for a second, I will tell you where you went wrong." I spoke loudly and clearly into the chamber's ruckus.
"Us? You're the one standing there, aren't you?" Someone shouted angrily.
"Yes, because you were demanding answers, and I'll give them to you when I get the chance." I stood proud, letting the silence fill the room. "Thank you. Now, you are all gathered here together, because I have been undercutting your business with my own, that much is not in question. You suspect me of fraud, because, how else can I undercut you consistently? That is right, isn't it? That's the sole basis of your suspicions."
Cries of "Yes!" "Exactly." answered me and I smiled.
"I did that without breaking a single law, just some clever thinking and heavy abuse of legal loopholes." I held up my hand to stop the responses from even forming. "Let me tell you how I haven't bankrupted myself doing this. Do you know what happens when you let competition run freely? People specialise, they invent, they progress! I started undercutting you to get the business, yes. At first that ate into my profits rather badly, but now that stage has passed. Using the experience gained by the acquired business, I had my highly educated muggle born employees look for ways to improve the efficiency of the business processes, and they delivered. Oh, did they ever deliver!"
I had a shit eating grin on my face as I faced my accusers. "By now, every two of my employees do as much work as three of the ones you employ, because I educate them, because I value their opinions, because I let them share in the profits to keep up morale!"
"YOU drove away the muggle born with your ridiculous laws designed to limit them, designed to keep them small. I just took advantage of your stupidity, and all of that within the confines of the law!" I gloated. "So, all you're achieving here at this moment is showcasing your continued stupidity. Nothing more."
My smile was vicious. "Any questions?"
Pandemonium reigned and I chuckled. The calls for, "Have him audited!" really made my day. The goblins auditors were calling for an inspection in the Ministry right about now, which would turn this completely on its head. It could be as much as a year or two before the complete fallout of this fiasco was realised, and even then, changes were surely coming.
My law firm was highly anticipating exercising their muscle, using facts and figures they had had ages to compile. Working closely with the goblins from accounting, they could explain every single expense and earning.
I could see August Greengrass look at me speculatively from up high. As it was, he was one of the few who dabbled in import and export, something I had not even considered trying yet. It was still very much outside the scope of MBI. He had heard this speech before of course, I just never let onto my plans in detail. Oh, he knew I was doing something, his calculating looks practically screamed that. His business, however, was very safe. My request for permits to that effect was nothing but a red herring for the chase.
"Am I excused?" I asked the Chief Warlock, who nodded wearily. It was the same one still, as nobody wanted his job. He had learned to fear me at trials but had also striven to better himself. I could not have asked for more than that and had let him know that on two separate occasions.
I threw a cheeky wave at the assembly and walked out, right into a small mass of reporters. "How about we find a better spot for a small Q&A? Lead the way."
When we had some space, the questions started flying. "Did you expect this to happen, Lord McKinnon?" I nodded. Of course, there really was only one way they would respond when they found out at first. I assure you, MBI's accounting is in perfect order and my law firm is chomping at the bit."
"Are you crusading for the abolishment of the blood related laws regarding business?" Another asked. "Naturally, I have been doing that for years now, saying exactly what I've said just now on the floor. The problem is that the lawmakers themselves largely make up the economy. As such, it is only natural for them to try to protect their own interests over that of the people, even if that blatantly discriminates a whole group of the population. By using their laws against them, I'm forcing their hand and exposing their motivations."
"What do you expect to happen next?" A female reporter wanted to know. "It can go two ways really. On the one hand, they can double down and try to make the laws even stricter, forcing me to let go of my employees. This would be a clear signal that I am completely right regarding their motivations and would expose them as being blatantly unfair and corrupt as a governing body. On the other hand, they can try to copy me and become more efficient themselves, that would be ideal as that is the competition I am hoping to see! It's probably going to be a bit of the first, followed by a whole lot of the second."
Questions kept being fired but I heard none I would like to answer so I held up my hand. "I think that's enough for today. There will be plenty to report on already, I am sure! Please make some space and let me leave."
The honest plea for space did what no other force on earth could and parted the reporters so that I could move towards the floo's without too many interruptions.
I got home and sighed. Over the years, the constant exposure to public speaking had turned me into something of an orator but I would never learn to enjoy it. Unless I was putting idiots down like in the chamber today, that had been rather fun!
"How was it, love?" Susan came over with little Amelia and pecked me on the lips. "Had fun? You've only been looking forward to this for a year now."
I shook my head with a small smile. "I was anticipating, dear, not looking forward to it, there's a difference. But yes, I had fun. Tomorrow's papers should be exciting indeed!"
She hummed. "Just don't forget to wear your armour next time. I'm afraid for you, and you won't be taking any chances, understood?"
"Yes, love. Are our two youngest asleep?"
"Yes, and thank Morgana for that! Don't go waking them, you hear?"
"Just a quick peek, I'll be back in a minute." I promised. We had decided to wait a few years before starting on the newest batch of kids. Preferably after the Wizengamot had calmed down again. Caring for three young ones, even as two part-timers, proved that had been a wise decision.
18. ¡Viva la Revolución!
Our expectations were on the dime in some cases, but way off in others.
For one thing, even three years after the audit from hell, things still had not settled down, and it had everything to do with the debate that was still raging in the country.
I had once told the reporters that I had expected the purebloods to execute their standby and put the kibosh on all the loopholes, before eventually giving up and trying to emulate me. Those words turned out rather prophetic and had attracted the ire of half the population, not to mention it drew attention from the ICW and the rest of the world.
MBI was ready for that however and had shifted their employees to the muggle businesses when the restrictions got tightened to three muggleborns per company with higher taxes, even worse than it started. Neither MBI, nor our employees suffered overmuch, but the public did, as I increased prices with a twenty percent pureblood idiocy fee on the magical side in a return shot.
That started the inevitable public backlash, and my public statements blaming it all on the discriminatory measures instigated by the purebloods only fanned the flames higher and higher.
Naturally, the Wizengamot noticed their measures did not help, and started closing the loopholes, starting with the exemption on the higher tax for payment in the form of room and board. This however, hurt far more businesses than just MBI, and MBI was the one company who weathered it the best. More backlash!
They doubled down against all protests and tried to tax the muggle side of it all, which is when the ICW became involved for real. That was against one of their laws and as one of the affiliated countries, we had to obey!
With the Wizengamot suspended pending an ICW investigation into the law, and most of the ministry caught up in the biggest and meanest audit in a century, the whole thing slowly began to break down. In the ministry alone, dozens of workers had to be laid off immediately when fraud after fraud was discovered. Heh! It seems that the guys I framed were already committing fraud themselves. Not that I would have cared if it had been otherwise, but it cleared any remaining guilt from weighing on my conscience.
Pureblood families were losing money by the bucket load, and the increasingly draconic laws had pushed the muggle born contingent towards their brethren in MBI. The company had almost doubled in size, a growth that was causing lots of problems. But an impassioned plea on the parts of Hermione and me had our employees giving up a lot of their space and food to house the rest. New businesses were sprouting up as quickly as possible, to shunt the overload in labour supply to somewhere useful, and we had challenged the 'refugees' to set up everything needed to start a mixed school.
I also had to deal with two assassination attempts and an Imperio in the ministry as Stephan, but those were quickly and efficiently dealt with. Susan was incredibly happy when she heard that the armour had saved my right arm from a dark cutter. That was another four purebloods dead, and three fools for Azkaban, one of them a now disgraced ex Auror.
After that first year, the muggle born contingent banded together efficiently and MBI soon stabilised. We used the last great loophole to great effect, which was the use of temporary workers, sent to the magical businesses via the muggle companies. The HR department was already well practiced directing the flow of labour to where it was needed most, but it still had to double to cope with the huge increase.
The next two years, the ICW work force slowly repealed the draconic laws and restricted a few more. All labour was now taxed fairly, the only big remaining obstacle was the restriction on the creation of new businesses to pure blooded lords, but the word was that it was only a matter of time. The public was now fully aware of the unfairness of it all and was clamouring for more fair laws.
Ragnok was ecstatic! No really, the bank had a feast and everything, and I was invited with Hermione and Susan. We had a real blast!
MBI would not remain the only choice for muggle born for much longer, but they all recognised the debt they owed to the company. The most vocal among them were campaigning for loyalty and community. Saying that if they stayed, a good muggle/magic mixed school would be created that much sooner. They owed it to MBI and their children!
I laughed when I heard that, but together with Hermione and Susan, we did promise the company that it would be the next great thing on the agenda.
It was amazing! We had done the impossible! Perhaps, just perhaps we could do some more of that.
19. Extra Chapter Trio
"So, Steph, when are you finally going to knock up our other love?" Susan asked me in the bath. Hermione, or Mama Hermione, was watching the kids for us downstairs.
"What are you talking about?" I asked curiously, a suspicion slowly forming.
She rolled her eyes. "Mama Hermione, who else could I mean? You nitwit!"
"Come off it, Susan, she doesn't like girls, you know that!"
Her level stare did not waver. "You're both, you oblivious idiot! She wants children badly."
I flinched; I did still forget that on occasion. "Why would she want that, with me, I mean? Why not find a boyfriend?"
"Same reason I did, Steph, you make her happy. Happy enough that she is prepared to share you with me when you are mostly female. You love her, don't you?"
"Of course, I do, you know that. She knows that!" I countered hotly. "Why, would you want me to? Knock her up, I mean?"
Susan's eyelid twitches in clear frustration. "I love her too, you asshat! She lives with us, is called Mama Hermione by our kids, and looks at you wishfully when you are not looking. Also, she is hot! I am a lesbian, you know. She's yearning to have your kids, OUR kids!"
"Our kids? We'd be a great big family?" I asked hopefully.
"Yes!" She shouted. "Not that we aren't already."
"And you've discussed this with her and you're both on board?" I double checked.
"Well, no, not in so many words, but I can call her in right now if you'd like. I'm fairly sure she'll agree." Susan decided with a smile. "HERMIONE, COME HERE FOR A SECOND!"
Hermione came running. "What is it?! Oh, you are both alright! Phew!"
Susan looked at my nervous face and sighed. "Hermione, I was just discussing with Steph here if he'd accept adding you to our family for real. Give you babies, marry you, all that jazz. He wants to know your opinion. Tell him."
She turned beet red at being put on the spot like that but nodded resolutely. "I've thought about it, yes. I mean, I compare everyone I meet to Harry and nobody ever measures up!" She covered her eyes in shame. "Yes, I would like that, all of that. If you'll both have me?"
Susan nodded, satisfied. "Nice and clean, I like it. Yes, Hermione. You are already part of our family, so it is just making it official, and a bit naughtier! Steph? Your turn."
I sighed. "I… I have always loved you, Hermione. And yes, I do love you like I love Susan here, even if I have taught myself not to show it. But that is going to be easy to unlearn. Please, marry us?"
"Yes!" Hermione cried softly.
"Alright, bath time is over. Hermione, you will be joining us in bed tonight and you're welcome to every night from then on. The rest can come later, I have been wanting to see your cumming face for ages now! I'll even wear a cock if that makes you more comfortable."
She nodded with her cheeks burning pink and smiled naughtily. "Yes, Mistress. I have to say though, I still do not look at girls that way, so I will probably not join you often when you are going to have sex. Which are most days I assume; I can hear you sometimes. I do want babies, badly!"
My eyebrows rose in shock. "Mistress huh, I'd really always pictured you as the more dominant one, but I guess Susan's just a natural!"
Susan grinned. "Oh, no. We are just establishing the pecking order. You will both be taking my orders, but if I am not there, you listen to Hermione. Even when she orders you to change into Stephan, enlarge your cock and bend her over on the couch to fuck her bowlegged!"
I squeaked as I felt my nipples stiffen in arousal at the images flooding my mind, Hermione was not much better. Susan smirked in satisfaction. "Good, that's settled then."
Hermione held up a hand. "Steph, I want to do the pregnancy thing at least once, but after the first, I may ask you to deliver the rest." She looked at Susan. "I think you understand."
Susan nodded. "Amen to that, sister!" She giggled. "The only one with a cock is going to be used for breeding. Ha!"
Sometimes, it was good to be Stephan(ie) McKinnon! Much better than it was to be Harry Potter at least, she really had to thank Ragnok for that one of these days.
Becoming a woman had at first been an escape that had grown to be my preferred form compared to being a man, something that clearly showed emotionally between forms. Later, I had used excuses to keep being female more often than male but had grown more stable in both forms. Now, five years later, Steph felt comfortable in both skins and I honestly had not ever felt better in my life. It was no longer an escape; it was living a dream! A dream that had me married to two beautiful women and on the way to having ten kids.
Everyone now knew me as Steph McKinnon in whatever form, and John from HR had won the bet after he had researched shapeshifting, it netted him a whopping fifteen hundred galleons too!
Yes, it was good to be Steph McKinnon, even if it had taken the oblivious magical five years to realise it.