Chapter 24: Reaffirming Presence
He was running as fast as possible. People became a blur as he passed them on the sidewalks. There had been four of them that appeared from the entrance to the pub he knew contained access to the magical world's business district. Something about them had been wrong- the two women and the two men. Something had been very wrong about them and he wanted to know what that was.
Harry sent a message to Erika to have a team dispatched and at his command. There hadn't been a response and once they had noticed the first of them drop they all disappeared. He quickly hid the unconscious body of a man with transfiguration and then set off following the residue trail of apparation. The fools had all reappeared together instead of going their separate ways as he assumed they would. This time, instead of disappearing once more for a reason he didn't put an answer to, they ran.
He ran through the milling crowds with his fire arm raised held tightly in the palm of his hand. People parted at the last second upon hearing him declare that he was a copper. The badge dangling from his neck helped those that looked from a distance to confirm his identity.
One of them tripped and as Harry ran over the fallen man he used his wand to make sure he wouldn't get up until he returned. Another had run into oncoming traffic successfully dodging the many autos. He didn't hesitate as the woman stood on the hood of a car to overcome the obstacle. One shot dropped her backwards onto the hood of the vehicle. The fourth suspect was nowhere to be found.
The dispatched team arrived then by van. They had used their direct access to London's CCTV to determine the exact location of Agent Potter's position. The vehicle was large enough to hold an armored team comfortably and the skin of the transport was clearly up-armored. They rushed out of the back of the van in breach formation and quickly established a secure perimeter before receiving further instruction.
"Agent Potter?" the lead S.T.A.R. operative said.
"Three hundred meters back, this one and I'll bring the last myself," Harry answered, looking through the pockets of the now unconscious victim of his shooting.
He found her wand and snapped the wood without ceremony. The same procedure was carried out for the man they dragged back to the van and the transfigured woman.
The operative was waiting for the final word before returning with his team to their dispatch house.
"Orders?" the operative asked, watching his men secure the detainees in the rear of the second van. They had fastened their hands behind the back with thick zip ties and covered their heads with dark sacks.
"Prepare them for interrogation tomorrow," he ordered. "I'm going to find the last."
The operative delivered the signal to his team to pack everything up and remount. In seconds they were gone and Harry was walking the streets with his badge tucked away and gun reholstered. Somewhere along these streets there would be a hint of the trail and he was determined to find the last woman of the group.
Harry never noticed the fifth.
He continued to lay in bed repeating the last words he'd heard in his dream. The dream he knew to be a memory from a time in his life not remembered. Hermione slept apart from him on the other side of the bed with the duvet clutched in hand and held to her down-turned chin. Harry swung his legs out of bed slowly so as not to awaken Hermione.
"Just a boy," he whispered, before pushing himself up. His shower was quick and morning rituals were carried out as habit.
Harry was leaning against the kitchen counter adjacent to the stove. He held a cup of coffee in one hand while the other braced him. The clock on the microwave displayed the time as just passed five in the morning. Again, his rest had been a short one and the hope of a decent night's rest wasn't in the deck. He hadn't bothered to turn on the lights, instead he relied on the light the microwave above the stove provided. The smell of brewing coffee was comforting a strange way and helped him sort his mind.
Hermione had explained the organization of his mind was the result of an intense study of occlumency. For a great while after he had woken up how he had been able to do the things he'd done didn't matter so long as he could. But once the decision to leave had been made he had taken to asking Hermione what she knew, everything she knew. These questions led to the now stocked library in his office. The exercises he'd marked for himself when he was fifteen were clearly highlighted in the texts and once he read the words he found that performing the magic was no easier, yet felt different on a base level. Harry still wondered if understanding his magic would pay a significant gain.
He pushed off the counter and walked to Kathryn's room. The bedroom was sparsely decorated with more than a crib and the necessities for raising a toddler. Family had been an idea pushed around in his head during the past year and a half abroad but now that Hermione and he had become one overnight the reality had set in. She was determined to become a medical doctor in the muggle world and held reservations about his continued involvement in the magical affairs of England. She was almost committed to raising Kathryn, almost more than he believed he was.
He had taken the little girl to visit the resting site of her parent's earlier in the week. Standing before Neville and Luna's graves holding their daughter was passing strange. Harry couldn't remember having said one word but felt that Kathryn even as he knew she wouldn't understand or remember need to be there. Hermione still hadn't visited that he knew of.
Now, standing over her crib and watching her sleep he couldn't help but consider the future. Hermione entered the room behind him dressed in one of his shirts. She didn't breach the silence as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave a lasting embrace.
Hermione took the cup of coffee from him without asking and tugged on his hand. He allowed himself to be led from the room and closed the door behind him before renewing the silencing spells.
He took a seat at the kitchen table while Hermione refilled his mug and filled one for her as well. When she returned his lap became her seat. Harry ran a hand through her hair while she savored the hot liquid and waited for the caffeine to take effect.
"Are you still not sleeping well?" Hermione asked. She knew the answer, of course, but wanted to know what he would say on this occasion.
He offered a small smile in response. There wasn't much sense in telling her what was already known between them. Harry just hoped she didn't blame herself.
"When are you leaving?"
Harry turned to look at the clock. "A quarter hour. What do you have on your schedule?"
Hermione twisted in his lap and straddled his legs. She wrapped her arms around his body, resting her head in the crook of his neck. "Class. I'm certain they'll be heaving."
He kissed her neck and stroked his hands up and down her back. She relaxed under his massage and began to kiss his neck.
"Hermione," Harry whispered, wrapping a handful of her hair in his fist and pulling her head away. Her lips were swollen and face flushed. He could feel her desire and she as well in his physical response.
He kissed her then, crushing his lips hungrily against hers. There were times when he thought he'd never get enough. "I can't. I have to be..."
"Shut up, Harry," Hermione murmured only breaking the kiss long enough to speak.
Harry lifted her and she was laid upon the table with legs wrapped around his waist. "This has to be quick."
She pulled him to her by his necktie. "There's no war and no fight. I want to you to just think about this."
Harry strode passed Sarah and entered his office without a word. On his windowsill an owl waited with the morning edition of the Daily Prophet. He hung his overcoat on the coat rack to the right of his door and set his briefcase on the desk. From a dish next to the window he removed the proper change for the periodical delivery. He exchanged the newspaper for the money then set the creature on its way with the wave of his hand.
Before he had the opportunity to read the news his phone rang. He pressed the answer button on his speaker-phone. "Paranormal, Potter."
"Your presence is requested on level five," the voice of Ms. Sampson said in her monotone voice.
"I'm on my way," Harry replied, leaving the paper for later.
He closed the call then exited his office intent on taking the elevator. His previous use of apparation in the building had been greatly criticized by his superior. The ability was an incredible security risk and at present their department needed as little attention from their sisters as possible.
The trip to level five was spent in silent contemplation of whom they had waiting for him. He knew level five to be the holding cells and interrogation rooms.
"Mr. Potter," Ms. Sampson said. "This way please. When you failed to locate the remaining suspect I again dispatched a S.T.A.R. team after releasing the photograph we obtained of her."
Harry followed into the room filled with an assortment of monitoring equipment. He noted the emphasis of her use of failure.
"Our field agents had her picked up earlier this morning."
Harry looked to see whom Ms. Sampson referred to. Through the observation glass that separated the room he could clearly see a woman in her late thirties to early forties. She had extremely black hair that curled around a face comprised of sharp features. The woman, if she hadn't appeared so drugged and haggard, would have looked to be an old world aristocrat. With both hands secured behind her back the guards had her bound to the seat.
"Do you recognize this woman?"
Harry continued to stare. He recognized the woman by her photo in one of the many files he'd compiled surrounding Riddle.
"Yes," Harry answered. "Has she said anything yet?"
The technician at the desk who had been busying herself with the many pieces of technology responsible for monitoring the interrogation spoke up. "The suspect has been under sedation since her arrival. When you're ready to begin questioning we'll ring a medic to return presence of mind."
"Ring them," Ms. Sampson ordered.
The technician gave a nod and called using her cellular phone.
Harry continued his silent observation while waiting for the medic to arrive. Ms. Sampson had chosen to take a seat and read her various dossiers. He recited the facts in her file to himself and organized a series of questions that he thought might best produce the answers he sought. Over the past weeks his focus on Riddle had begun to shift upon discovery of the several factions that now controlled the magical realm of England. The information he'd received from Wes via their various dead-drops reported Riddle's government fractioning.
Bellatrix Lestrange was known to be a member of the inner sanctum of Riddle's organization. Countless deaths had been attributed to her direct contact as well as her orchestration. Her physical and magical prowess was not to be underestimated while her mental state was to be closely watched as well. The woman had spent a great many years in prison under the guard of Dementors who he knew to cause madness in prisoners through indirect contact. He knew her to originally be Bellatrix Black, sister to Andromeda and Narcissa, married to Rabastan Lestrange. He'd burnt the portrait of the last Black he knew.
He watched the medic enter the room holding the suspect. Two armed guards allowed him access and one held her arm while the medic injected her with a syringe of a reactive.
The medic looked to the one way mirror to where he knew they were watching and gave a nod. He then left the room and joined them in the observation chamber.
"You have perhaps five minutes before she comes to," the medic informed.
Ms. Sampson stood then. "I'll return shortly. There are several people who should be witness to this interrogation."
Harry presumed he would have to wait to ask his questions until the formal interrogation was conducted. He hadn't assumed that responsibility for the primary round of questions would fall to him.
He watched her regain the use of all senses. First, her eyes searched the empty room. Second, her limbs attempted to stretch themselves only to find they were bound together and not with magic. Third, her voice returned and early calm questions grew to be screamed invective. Then at last she was quiet and controlled. Her exploration had lasted no longer than ten minutes.
As she settled into the predicament several men filed into the observation room. Ms. Sampson began the introductions. Harry knew Michael, of course. The men he did not know were Mr. Pritchard who was the department head of S.T.A.R., Mr. House of department head of Inter-Service Intelligence, and Mr. Abraham Kober whom was not named as a member of any department or service.
"Gentlemen," Harry said, shaking each of their hands.
"That was an interesting display yesterday, Mr. Potter," Pritchard said, keeping his eyes on the suspect.
"Yes, it was," House agreed.
Harry didn't care for their condescending criticism. They were both indebted to one another and be found wounded without the resources that the other provided- Harry for their wide breadth of influence and authority they afforded him, and they for being the only true wizard they employed. Neither was under the impression that the other could be completely trusted but as a matter of mutual suspicion they had profited. Mr. Pritchard had been able to share all information gathered on magical infiltration and espionage with his special services department and successfully cleared 10 Downing street of all unauthorized material.
Mr. Pritchard's next goal was to rid the castles as well. No complaints had been filed in their known history but the very fact that they knew artifacts to be stored in the various residences of the royals was enough to invoke concern of possible future danger. He knew not when his department or that of special services would be required but he wanted them prepared and not at the whim of an unknown variable.
Mr. House had used the official reports filed by Mr. Potter to vet Her Majesty's services. They'd uncovered little and what they had discovered appeared without use for quite some time. He, along with, Mr. Pritchard shared the opinion of concern over possible future terrorist acts. Mr. Potter had already detailed the control Thomas Riddle had held over their hidden world and the preparation was already underway to combat any possible agenda the man held towards theirs.
"Are you prepared?" Mr. Kober asked Harry.
Harry said nothing and turned from the three men before him to the woman in the other room.
"If you're unprepared," Mr. Kober said, letting the insult hang.
"Yes," Harry suddenly said, apparently having not heard Mr. Kober.
The technician handed him a two way communication device he implanted in his right ear. He paused before leaving to receive their final thoughts. There were nods of acceptance all around and Harry showed himself out. A guard stationed outside opened the door for him into the room that held Bellatrix Lestrange. He was handed a file as he entered.
"Miss, Lestrange," Harry said, dropping a file on the desk between them and sitting down opposite her. "We've met before haven't we?"
"This is an interesting trick," Bellatrix purred.
"How are you feeling?" Harry asked.
She ignored his question, leaning as far forward as possible. "Tell me, how were you able to find a sample of the boy?"
Harry smiled in answer. "I'm not particularly pleased to see you again. We're going to ask you a series of questions. I've been told to inform you that should you cooperate a substantial leniency may be granted toward your case."
Bellatrix cackled. Her body shook with laughter and the sound her shackles made echoed in the small room.
He opened the folder and spread out a series of still photographs. The pictures he presented to her were a catalogue various homicide scenes.
She never looked at the photos but squinted at the man she knew was pretending to look like Harry Potter. "Your disguise is quite authentic, but I have to admit I've seen better ruses."
"You've had quite a run, haven't you?" Harry inquired. He picked one of the photographs and studied the scene. The fact that she had not part in any of these crimes was of no matter. She had been responsible for much more according to the information Ben had provided.
Harry stared at the dead woman in the picture.
"What is your position in the government controlled by Thomas Marvolo Riddle?"
Bellatrix relaxed in her chair. "Soon, I'll cut out your tongue."
Harry smiled. He had found an approach.
In the other room, Mr. Pritchard turned to Ms. Sampson. "Has he ever interrogated anyone, Erika?"
"No," she answered. "I'm keen on learning what he has planned."
"Thomas Riddle," Harry denounced.
"The Dark Lord," Bellatrix hissed. "My Lord."
"Your Lord?" Harry mocked with a small smile. "Does he know you're here?"
"He sees all," she answered for the first time. "He'll come for me. Like the last."
"Like the last?" Harry asked, latching onto her fervor.
She pursed her lips.
He dropped the photograph and twisted his wand out of its holder strapped to his forearm. "Shall we do this the easy way?"
Bellatrix smiled. Her lord has shared the memory of killing Harry Potter. She would let this man continue his charade and expose him. Then, she would kill him and return to her lord with his head hopefully still in the guise of Harry Potter. His head would be added to the collection they had on display of all the other imposters.
Harry obscured the one-way mirror and kicked his chair back. She did jump at his suddenness but quickly adopted a seductive pose. Bellatrix spread her legs as he pushed the table out of the way.
Mr. Kober looked to the technician. "What did he do?"
The mirror was covered in a haze. "I'm not certain, sir. We're switching to cameras as our primary view."
The technician manipulated a series of keys and brought up a group of images from inside the room. The images displayed on the many monitors all showed nothing but static.
"Any other options?" Mr. Kober wondered, looking at his counterparts.
The technician switched to the only observation means remaining. A display of the two people in the room appeared on the monitors in the form of infrared shapes. They could clearly see the figure they assumed to be Mr. Potter press something against the knee of the person seated. In seconds they watched bright red spots explode from the space where what they assumed was a weapon had been.
The sound of screaming penetrated the haze of the mirror and the guard stationed outside the interrogation room found himself waiting for those in the observation chamber to appear and order him to open the door. No one appeared and thus he remained stoic at his post.
"Oh, yes," Bellatrix began to moan after she managed to regain control of her impulsive screaming. "Oh, Potter, I've missed real pain."
"Neville Longbottom," Harry said calmly. "How did you find him?"
Bellatrix laughed a little as Harry dug his wand into the marrow of her exposed femur. "You don't know how that feels."
"How?" Harry asked again, twisting his wand.
"He came back to us," she answered, shaking and perspiring. "Walked into the foyer of the ministry one morning. Wasn't a very difficult capture."
Harry electrified his wand with a thought and sent her body into convulsions. Blood continued ceased leaking from her extremity as a result of the heat. The acrid odor of blood and the sickly sweet smell of cooked flesh assaulted both their senses.
"This is much better than your first time, isn't it?" Bellatrix cooed, licking her lips. "My master used to be this kind."
He didn't know what she meant about his first time and assumed in his past he'd come across her in a similar scenario. What had he done then? He'd have to improvise to capitalize on the familiarity between them.
Erika made a note of what had just been said. Thankfully, along with the infrared sensors they still had operating microphones. She also marked a note to speak with her research and development sub-department to have them explore creating an observation system impervious to magical interruption.
With the subtle move of his wand he released her hands. "You're going to tell me everything."
He'd gotten too close when he whispered in her ear. She latched on to him and used her nails to drag long deep trenches in his forearm.
He slapped her then and Bellatrix recoiled as her head spun one hundred and eighty degrees. She used the back of her hand to wipe away the blood dripping from the corner of her mouth. The woman seemed to have compartmentalized the wound to her knee.
"Naughty," she teased.
Harry pressed his finger to his ear to ensure his voice was heard. "Make a note to have Miss Lestrange sent through the decontamination procedure. I'd like to ensure she doesn't keep any DNA that doesn't belong to her."
Bellatrix seemed to pout. "If I let you hit me again, would you let me keep it? I just want to know who I'm going to kill."
"Interesting choice of words, Mrs. Lestrange."
"Come now, Mr. Potter, Harry?" She speculated and primly sat up. "I know you're capable of so much more delightful pains. I haven't forgotten your first time. A girl never forgets taking a first. Have you mastered the desire yet?"
He wondered just what she was referring to.
She smiled a feral, toothy smile revealing her jaundiced teeth. "Oh, how I remember."
Harry wondered exactly what the oversight committee in the adjacent room thought of this encounter. He didn't miss the fact that her breath had quickened and her eyes had become slightly dilated.
"Would you like that Miss Lestrange?" Harry asked. "Would you like me to hurt you?"
"Only my master can hurt me, Harry," she snapped. She then changed her tone to a seductive hiss. "But you can keep playing with me if you like. I wouldn't mind."
"Does Voldemort play with you?" Harry asked evenly.
She moaned and squirmed in her chair. "You must be brave to pronounce my master's name. Will you say his name again?"
"Voldemort?" Harry asked with a curious smile.
She bounced her chair shaking the chains holding her to it. "One more time, please?"
Harry slowly said, "Voldemort."
"Very nice, Mr. Potter," she thanked him.
"That's a curious way to get yourself off, Miss. Lestrange. We know about the taboo and in here, no one heard you."
Bellatrix screamed and attempted to attack him once more. "Liar! My master hears all who dare to speak his name!"
Harry sat once more in his seat and waited patiently for her Voldemort to come and rescue her. He wondered if she was under the delusion that this was her fairytale. Was this her dark demented fantasy?
After five minutes of Harry's patient and ever-present smile Bellatrix was biting her nails while rocking back and forth. He looked to her missing knee cap and wondered if the rocking was a result of that, or whether she was truly beginning to worry.
"I hope he hasn't abandoned you," Harry said without console. "Again."
Bellatrix began to repeat a series of words in a unique phrasing pattern.
Harry was quick to stun her. Over the communication device in his ear he heard Ms. Sampson speaking.
"Potter, what was she doing?"
"Chanting," he answered. "I wasn't about to take the chance no matter how secure this room is supposed to be."
There was silence in his ear and he assumed she was discussing his answer with the other department heads
"I expect a report on this manner of magic by the close of business," Ms. Sampson ordered in response.
Mr. Kober was suddenly speaking to him. "How do you intend to proceed?"
Harry wrapped his hand around a fistful of her hair and lifted her unconscious head. "I'll revive her but I want her sitting in a holding cell. I want her to know that Riddle isn't coming for her. Write up a gag order as well, chants have to be vocalized."
"Understood, security will be there in a moment to relocate her," the technician said after receiving the go-ahead from her superiors.
Harry cast a second stunner as a preventative measure. He now had research of his own to do and returned to his office which now housed a great deal of his library from the manor.
"ECMO stands for extra corporeal membrane oxygenation. There is a significant risk of internal hemorrhaging with increased risk present in neonatal care, such as the patient study you see before you."
Hermione's professor continued to lecture to the assembled class. They were all seated in of the universities lyceums trying desperately to take accurate notes while the man spoke. Most of the students came prepared with a micro-recorder but Hermione had no such device and was keen on purchasing one at the earliest convenience. She'd considered a quick quotes quill to maneuver around having the listen to the recording at a slower pace to rewrite the information but no spell she knew would hide a self-writing tool.
She was broken away from her concentration when a man placed his hand on her shoulder and leaned in to speak. "We'd like to have a word with you Mrs. Granger."
Hermione asked the girl sitting next to her if she would be able to borrow her notes later, and with a wave off and an assuring nod she went with the man.
Hermione was confronted by several men dressed in black business suites in the hall outside the entrance to the lyceum.
"We apologize for the interruption, Mrs. Granger," the man in the middle of their group said. He spoke with an American accent or what Hermione assumed someone from the states would sound like from the films she'd seen.
That was the second time they had referred to her as Mrs. Granger. She assumed that was something Harry had done and would ask about later tonight. These men didn't seem to be a threat but she was prepared nonetheless to disapparate. Her senses didn't detect any anti-apparation wards and if all else failed she had her emergency portkey attached to her necklace that took but one word to activate.
"My name is," the same man began, "well, my name isn't important. What is important is that we'd like you to speak with your husband."
Hermione did her best not to acknowledge her shock over their belief of her marriage. "What would you like me to say?"
"Our government is greatly concerned over your husbands breech of the International Statute of Secrecy. Given the circumstances we have been dispatched to offer the both of you and your daughter clemency as set forth by the International Confederacy bi-laws. The government of Thomas Riddle of Wizard England had not been recognized by the confederacy and thus as an extenuating circumstance cannot bear judicial restraint over your husband."
Hermione took a seat on one of the benches. "He's in breach of the statute of secrecy?"
"You're not aware that your husband has been consorting with the mundane government of the United Kingdom?" the American agent inquired.
"We have received several intelligence reports of his direct influence in informing the mundane government of magical knowledge. If you'd like a list of the potential laws he could be tried for I'm sure we could provide one."
"That's quite alright," Hermione dismissed, her mind far from a trial of someone they all believed to be dead.
The agent fished out a card from the wallet he kept in his breast pocket. "Here's my card. I trust you have a mobile and know how to contact me by this number?"
Hermione offered a blank look.
"We would like to speak with your husband as well, Mrs. Granger," the agent emphasized. "However, we've been unsuccessful so far at isolating him. We can help him, Mrs. Granger, but if he doesn't cease his aide of the mundane no matter the conflict between the two worlds on this island we'll be forced to take action and bring him in by force. Let him know that the issue of one Lord Voldemort is a matter best handled by our kind."
Hermione took his card. "Help him make the right decision, Mrs. Granger."
The lead agent looked to each of his men and they then departed. Hermione had no intention of returning to class after they had left her alone in the waiting area outside the auditorium. She entered the class only to retrieve her belongings and before apparating home, as a manner of suspicion attempted to enter the manor. She was rebuffed as she assumed would be the reaction. They had tagged her. Her belongings and clothes were left on the dock before she apparated to their home.
She reappeared in the living room of her home nude and quickly redressed. Her mind had gone turbo. They knew where she matriculated and the fact that they had referred to her by a married title may have been nothing more than a ruse to lure her. Harry had never said that he was operating under a nom de guerre or sobriquet so there was no reason to believe that they mistakenly took her for her mother. But then they'd mentioned Kathryn as her daughter.
Before going to see Harry she apparated outside the daycare center where Kathryn was enrolled. The apparation was the most magic she had used in almost two years and the rush that coursed through her from the energy made her felt afire. One of the primary reasons for their choosing of this particular children's center was the level of security offered.
After the scans to authenticate her identity the guards at the front desk allowed Hermione access. She found Kathryn in a group of similarly aged children playing with alphabetical blocks. The group's minder smiled at Hermione as she lifted Kathryn into her arms and the baby released a happy cry.
"Come on, love," Hermione said to Kathryn. "We're going to go see daddy."
The term had just come to her over the course of having been called his wife and Kathryn their daughter. She wondered what they all would have called one another when Kathryn grew old enough to require a title for them.
Outside the protective confines of the center Hermione hailed a taxi and directed the driver to the Thames House. The concern that she was being followed was not far from her mind and the worry that they would prevent her from entering the building somehow was at the forefront of her thoughts.
Hermione retrieved the necessary bills to pay the driver and then with Kathryn clutched to her chest she stepped onto the stairs leading up to the Thames House entrance. Not for the first time Hermione wished that Harry had shown her how to apparate directly to his office in the event of an emergency. Knowing Harry's appreciate for her sensibilities however, she both hated and loved him for his ignorance and care.
At the front desk she informed security of who she was and whom she was looking for. Moments later a young woman approached her and Kathryn and identified herself as Harry's assistant.
"I'm Sarah," the secretary introduced and withheld her hand in light of Hermione's preoccupation of holding Kathryn. "I'm Mr. Potter's assistance. I'll take you to his office."
"Where is, Mr. Potter?" Hermione asked with an edge to her voice.
Sarah pressed the button for sub-level 13 before answering, "I'm afraid Mr. Potter is giving a brief at the moment. Otherwise I'm certain he would have saw to you himself."
"I see," Hermione replied staring that pretty woman who was Harry's secretary. He hadn't mentioned her in any prior conversation. Not that Hermione had ever encouraged discussion of his current job.
They stepped off the elevator and Sarah led the way to the office they shared. "Through here, please."
Sarah held the door for Hermione and Kathryn and they stepped into the anteroom that was her domain. "I'd let you wait in Mr. Potter's office, but he's taken to sealing the door beyond my means of access."
Hermione held her tongue on exactly what she thought of the girl rooting around in Harry's office. "I'll manage."
She gripped the door handle with her free hand and incanted the emergency password that Harry had shared with her for access to all of his private domains. The lock clicked and Hermione pushed open the door. "When he returns let him know that we're inside waiting."
"Of course, ma'am," Sarah replied dutifully. She had the impression that the woman didn't hold much of a liking for her.
Kathryn was set on the carpet in front of the large sofa that rested in front of the fireplace. Hermione took in the sight that was Harry's office. His reason for sealing the door to all but his access was clearly visible when she took in the view that Harry had enchanted into the wall he'd made a window. No muggle should ever be witness to this. She wondered if this was one of the crimes that the International Confederacy could level against him.
On his desk she found several newspapers. Two were magical while the others were all standard publications across England. A picture of she and Kathryn was framed on the corner of his desk and she wondered when he had taken it. His bookshelves were lined with tomes she knew to have come from the manor. Hermione didn't discover any other magical elements to his office but wondered what else Harry had done to modify his space that she didn't detect. For the first time in an amount of time she couldn't put an answer to, she wished for her wand.
She sat on the couch watching Kathryn. "Are you going to be alright?"
The baby looked up at Hermione with a toothy grin. Hermione smiled back. "Wake me up when he gets here, will you?"
Hermione laid back on the sofa and closed her eyes.
Harry entered his anteroom and saw Sarah in a nervous state. "What's wrong?"
"There's someone here to see you," she answered.
For a moment Harry was worried until she qualified who was waiting for him. "A woman and a baby. I don't know how she got into your office but she opened the door without a key and without a stick like yours."
Harry nodded and entered his office, locking the door behind him. He silenced the room for good measure as well. He found Kathryn crawling around in front of the sofa and Hermione sleeping on her stomach upon the sofa.
Kathryn held her arms out to him and he obliged the girl.
"What are you doing here?" He whispered.
Harry knelt next to Hermione and lightly shook her shoulder. She moaned before opening her eyes and peeking through the hair that fell across her face.
"Hi," Harry said. "What's wrong?"
Hermione didn't move. "Agents of the International Confederacy came to see me today."
Harry sat Kathryn down. He hadn't expected her to say anything remotely close to that.
"They have a list of charges against you," Hermione said quietly. "I was told to tell you that you should quit helping muggles before they arrest you."
"I see," Harry replied.
"They also said that Voldemort was a problem for the magical world to deal with and that your help would be welcomed."
"I wonder why they aren't dealing with him, then?" Harry asked, rubbing her back. "So, they want me to quit working for muggles and instead come work for them?"
"Yes," Hermione said. "They also called me Mrs. Granger."
"Oh," Harry said. He'd forgotten completely to tell her. "About that."
The one eye that Harry could see was opened wide and waiting for an explanation. "We were married. Not officially of course, but for the purposes of our identities."
"Good job with the fake identities, Harry," Hermione criticized. "They came to me while I was in class. Tagged me for tracking.
"I'm sorry, Hermione," Harry apologized sincerely. "I never meant for..."
Hermione sat up and through clenched teeth to keep her voice down from disturbing Kathryn attacked him. "Never meant for what, Harry? For this to happen... again. It's never over for you. It'll never be over for you."
He'd heard those words somewhere before.
"I asked you to stop," Hermione hissed. "I looked the other way when you couldn't help yourself. I covered my eyes when you told me Neville and Luna were dead! For what, Harry? For you to have charges compiled against you for violating international law? For you to work with muggles to try and topple, Riddle? What are you even fighting for? Do you know what it is you're trying to accomplish?"
All he knew was that he had to stop, Riddle.