The Bittersweet Taste of Victory
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Evanescence's song text belongs to them; I make no money by posting it here.
Author's note: POV is alternating between characters in this epilogue. (Nerys ducks to avoid impact with curses send her way).
I thank you all for reading, reviewing and ranting (winks): Ssserpensssotia; Aoi Mitsukai; Iocus; Vera (Oh, but I can truly be that evil. winks); Lady Miya; Miss-Fleur-Riddle; Amylion; Ceralyn; IvoryAlchemist; Vasilisa23; TheCrescentMoonWriter; Ankoku Dezaia; Irene0222; Dracosblondiegirl; Noon's phoenix; Blindfaithoperadiva; NinjetteX; Chocolate Chip Cookie.
A big thanks goes to NinjetteX for looking over my ramblings and correcting them, and another thanks to Serpie for kicking my arse and helping out at the same time. (rubs sore butt).
Maglor's elf name comes from chriswetherell dot com slash elf slash - I filled in Tom Marvolo Riddle and it gave Maglor Silimaurë.
For the Elfish spell I used an English – Elfish translator online: angelfire dotcom slash empire2 slash angora5 slash translator dothtml
Cookies for everyone who recognises the Order of the Phoenix allusion.
The Bittersweet Taste of Victory
Is this real enough for you?
You were so confused
Now that you decided to stay
We'll remain together
You can depend on me
You belong to me
Breathe in and take my life in you
No longer myself only you
There's no escaping me my love
Darling there's no sense in running
You know I will find you
Everything is perfect now
We can live forever
You can depend on me
You belong to me
Breathe in and take my life in you
No longer myself only you
There's no escaping me my love
Hands up slowly
Give in to
Breathe in and take my life in you
No longer myself only you
There's no escaping me my love
Chapter thirty: Endgame
It is incomprehensible how the world keeps turning as if nothing happened. Empires fall and people go on with their every day lives: shopping for groceries, making love, reading the paper and doing their jobs. It has been almost ten years since everyone acknowledged Hermione Jean Granger defeated the Dark Lord, and it is almost like those years of dark rule were all a bad dream; a nightmare if you wish. Slowly, everything has returned to the state it was before Voldemort's reign. It makes Liam Sloan look at the babbling Minister of Magic in front of him with indifference. To Sloan, the man is just another politician with ideas on how the world should rotate around him. Normally, Sloan wouldn't care, but this time he is not looking forward to the job he has been given. Find Hermione Jean Granger and convince her to come to the festivities held in her honour.
He still remembers how she vanished that day; the day she, somehow, eradicated Everon and the Dark Lord in one single blow. Everon, he never knew it was something bad, but apparently it was. It still irritates him severely that he doesn't know or understands precisely what happened that day. He always felt that there were pieces of the puzzle missing, vital pieces. So many mysteries that were never fully cleared, and he despises mysteries; well, the ones that are kept without him knowing the truth, that is. He tried to get the answers, but that had nearly got him killed, and he recalls the explicit order that came by owl the next day. 'Leave me the hell alone or suffer the consequences.'
As he leaves the presence of the minister, that sentence keeps running through his mind. Sloan has always been good in finding those who do not want to be found, and he is pretty certain he will be able to locate Hermione. There is just so much doubt in his mind whether she will welcome him or blast him into a million pieces on sight. After all, he is the one who found her parents and brought them to the Dark Lord. He hunted after her when she was on the run. He helped the Dark Lord locate her mentor, which got the monk killed. So Liam feels pretty safe in stating that he is probably not one of Hermione's most favourite people in the world. An overwhelming feeling of discomfort runs through him as he Apparates away to start his search for the most elusive woman in the world.
After weeks of searching without any progress, he is walking the path to the Tibetan monastery, contemplating on this stupid mission the Minister of Magic has sent him on. Somehow, it's beginning to feel more and more like an impossible task. Sloan has the distinct feeling he is going to fail this assignment, and it makes his stomach twist. Failure is not an option for him. He always finds his mark, always. And he will find Her too.
However, Hermione had disappeared of the face of the earth immediately after her victory over the Dark Lord. Though every now and then, she had sent the Department of Mysteries some magical enhancement or new discovery on a wide variety of subjects. But that was all they heard from her and it was always done through intermediaries, she never came in person. She had not replied to any owls sent her way, and even though there had been glimpses and reports of sightings, no one had actually spoken with the woman herself. Although many said they had.
Sloan sighs. If he got a Knut for every time someone claimed to be best friends with the heroine of the Wizarding World, he would be a very wealthy man now. However, none of those "best friends" were ever able to actually contact Hermione for him, so Sloan decided to come to Tibet and question the Knights of Silence. They are his last hope of finding the wretched, evasive woman. He kicks one of the larger stones on the grit path in frustration when one of the Knights appears out of nowhere.
'Violence merely invokes more pain,' the monk solemnly says, while Sloan shakes his leg to relieve his poor aching toe.
Irritated, Sloan glares at the grey-haired, mediocre-looking monk he has never seen before. Liam remembers very clearly how the Knights of Silence helped rebuild the world back to the way it used to be right after Lord Voldemort's death and how, because of them, the transition went smoothly. But Sloan, having an excellent photographic memory, also recalls their annoying calm demeanour and those blasted phrases that, at times, made him wish the Dark Lord was back to kill the lot of them. For Liam holds no illusions to the strength of his magical powers; he is very well aware he could never take even one of them on.
'How can we be of service?' the monk asks, smiling, after a long silence.
'I need to speak with the Lead Knight if that is at all possible?' Sloan asks politely despite his feelings.
'Naturally,' the unknown monk replies cheerfully. 'Follow me.'
He is shown into the main building and the familiar figure of Jareth comes into view. Liam had taken over Hermione's nickname of the Lead Knight a long time ago, because he felt it was very appropriate.
'Liam Sloan, welcome, we have been expecting you,' Jareth says calmly. 'Tea or coffee?'
'No, thank you. I need to find Hermione,' Sloan says, coming straight to business. 'Can you bring me to her?'
Jareth gazes at him for a moment and Liam feels like he is being X-rayed again. However, Jareth is not the Dark Lord, and Sloan is not too uncomfortable underneath this man's gaze. Sighing, Jareth sits down in his chair and shakes his head. 'Do you really think she will welcome you?' Jareth asks Sloan quietly. 'You were the one who jeopardised her parents' health by leading the Dark Lord to them.'
So they know where she is, as he expected. 'Miss Granger can always kick me out if she doesn't want to talk to me, but I'd like to hear it from her in person,' Sloan replies, determined.
'Mrs Granger,' Jareth corrects.
'She got married?' Liam asks surprised. How did that bit of news escape the world's attention, not to mention him? He takes great pride in his ability to know everything that happens, everywhere. And the marriage of the world's saviour staying out of his scope… It-it feels like a personal incompetence to him. He is beginning to see how Hermione was able to elude and resist the Dark Lord for so long. The woman truly is a remarkably intelligent witch.
'Some four years ago.' Jareth's answer interrupts his thinking.
'Good for her,' Liam replies contently, 'I hope she is happy?'
To his astonishment, Jareth shrugs his shoulders. 'For as far as she can be,' he says puzzling.
Sloan frowns. What is that supposed to mean? But he decides not to ask. He probably won't get a straight answer anyway, and he isn't in the mood for another stupid phrase. He'll just have to see for himself how Hermione is doing. 'So, can you take me to her?'
'I suppose … I could,' Jareth replies contemplatively. 'However, I sincerely doubt she will help your minister in his quest for re-election.'
Liam smiles. He is not surprised Jareth is able to guess the true motives of the minister for wanting Hermione at the celebrations. 'Many more people would love to see and pay tribute to her,' Liam responds honestly. 'They don't care much about the minister's agenda, and I can say for myself that I never had the chance to thank her for what she did and…'
Jareth holds up his hand to stop Sloan from continuing. 'I'll show you the way to Hermione's mansion, but I must warn you in advance she is not the witch you remember her to be.'
Jareth rises out of his chair and walks to the wall. Confused, Sloan looks over his shoulder at the only door in the room. Where is that man going? A wave of Jareth's hand and the wall disintegrates in front of Sloan's eyes; beyond it lies a huge mansion in the distance.
'Hermione lives here?' Sloan asks astounded. He never had the impression she was that fond of them.
'We felt it was imperative that she would be close by, and fortunately, Hermione agreed with our reasoning,' Jareth explains.
Sloan raises his eyebrows and walks to Jareth. 'Are you sure you want to continue?' Jareth asks one more time.
'Of course,' Sloan replies. He feels somewhat irritated that the man is still blocking his path.
'Good luck then,' Jareth wishes lightly, before stepping aside to let Liam pass.
As Sloan steps past the wall of the monastery, it rises back up behind him and he has no other choice but to follow the path to the house on the hill. The path to it is straight and narrow, while a dense, dark forest surrounds it at both sides. Slowly, the large trees begin to block the sunlight completely and he has problems seeing where he is going. When it turns pitch-dark, he flips out his wand.
But to his utter distress, the road is no longer straight and the house has disappeared from view. For a second he is tempted to turn around and go back, but he regains his composure and continues. Going back would be a failure now that he has come this far. It's when a fork appears right in the road ahead; a fork, which wasn't there a minute ago. Sloan places his wand on his palm and casts: 'Point me!'
Several times he needs to use his wand for directions and his heart is constricting in his chest anxiously, because he is almost convinced the gloomy trees are moving in on him, telling him to 'go back; return; you are not wanted here'.
But he moves on just the same and his determination pays off. Suddenly, he reaches the end of the dreary forest and his eyelids press together from the blinding sunlight that hits his face. After blinking a couple of times, his eyes are adjusted to the new lighting and he watches the huge, dark mansion that towers above him on the hill. It gives of an atmosphere of doom and it frightens him severely. This is where Hermione Jean Granger, heroine of the world, lives? He finds it hard to believe, but he moves up the hill to her front door and rings the rather loud bell.
The door flings open and on the other side stands a young boy with smooth, raven-black hair and a pair of very familiar brown eyes, his mother's eyes. 'Who are you?' the boy asks haughtily.
'My name is Liam Sloan and you are?'
'I am Maglor Devon Granger.'
Sloan looks the boy up and down again. Surely, it couldn't be? However, it would explain why she disappeared from the public eye fully. And the boy looks to be the right age. 'Hello, Maglor. It's…'
'I go by Devon,' Devon interrupts quickly.
'I beg your pardon, Devon. It's nice to meet you,' Sloan replies politely. 'Is your mother in? We are old friends,' he adds when he sees Devon looking at him rather suspiciously.
'Mum is out for the moment. You can come back later.'
Devon is about to close the door, but Sloan places his hand on the rim. 'Uhmm… Devon, can't I wait inside? It's kind of hot out here and that forest is … well…'
Devon looks to the woods with an understanding glance. 'Yes, well… I suppose, but…'
'I am an Unspeakable,' Sloan quickly says when he sees the doubt in the boy's eyes, and he shows Devon his identification.
The boy takes the card excitedly and looks at it thorough. To Sloan's surprise, a wand appears in Devon's hand and he casts a spell at his card; non-verbally! 'Wow, this is for real,' Devon states impressed, and he hands Sloan his identification back. 'What's it like to be an Unspeakable?'
'Hard work,' Sloan thinks, but instead he says: 'I'm not supposed to talk about it, but maybe… if you are old enough to keep a secret?'
'I am nine years already,' Devon says, somewhat insulted. 'And I have always been able to keep a secret.'
'Well, in that case… do you mind if I come inside and tell you?'
Devon looks at him again for a moment, and then, he smirks condescendingly. 'I guess it won't matter whether you wait inside or outside. You can't do anything here without mum's permission anyway.'
Devon opens the door further and gestures him in. Sloan is now absolutely positive the boy is Lord Voldemort's son. Not only does the boy's age fit, but his posture and demeanour just scream "we are related". However, he would like to know what the boy meant when he said he couldn't do anything here. Alas, asking would cause the kid to become suspicious of him again and he can't have that.
'You can put your coat on the hanger there,' Devon says, pointing to the closet. 'The living room is this way.'
Sloan quickly hangs his coat in the closet and enters the room on his right that the boy disappeared into. Any doubts he may have had concerning Devon's true identity fly out of the window when he sees the boy hissing and spitting without drawing in breath to the large black mamba on the couch. The snake hisses back angrily. Devon arches his eyebrows and points to the floor, gazing at the snake commandingly. A short irritated hiss accompanies the snake's department of the couch and it coils up on the rug in front of the large window, basking in the sunlight. Devon turns back to Sloan.
'Sorry about that. Serpie always thinks the couch is her domain when I am not around,' Devon says apologetically. 'If you behave, she won't bite you,' he adds amused when he notices Sloan's trepidation to come in and sit down.
'Glad to hear it,' Sloan replies in a fake casual posture.
He walks to the couch reluctantly, knowing full well the twelve feet long snake is one of the most venomous snakes in the world and definitely the fastest one out there. He isn't sure he will be able to whip out his wand on time if it will strike him. One bite and you most certainly are dead twenty minutes later. And the boy's smirk is not really reassuring him he is not in bodily harm at the moment.
Just when he is about to sit down, a loud crack vibrates through the room. Sloan swirls around as a wave of magic hits him unlike he ever felt before. He can barely remain standing so much force lingers behind the magic that whirls around her very being. Quickly, he looks over his shoulder to check on the whereabouts of the dangerous snake, but it is merely gazing at him lazily. Relieved, he nods in acknowledgement to the woman who just Apparated into her living room with a little baby on her arm and a toddler who clings to her leg. The little boy has a tremendous bush of frizzy brown hair on his head and the skin around his mouth is filled with brown smutches from the traces left by the candy stick that his mother is now handing back to him.
'Devon, Devon! Look, I got you a pack of Choco Frogs!' The tiny toddler runs toward his older brother happily, and Devon accepts the pack that is being pulled from a pocket smiling.
'I have a licky wand.' And the little one holds up his candy stick to show his older brother.
'It's Liquorice Wand, Matthew,' Devon corrects.
'Yes, a licko wand,' the bushy-haired boy replied satisfied, sucking on the sweet stick relentlessly. 'Who is that?' Matthew asks with his mouth full, pointing with his free hand to Sloan.
'Oh, this is Mr Sloan. He is…,' Devon starts, but he stops when he sees the cold expression on his mother's face. Swiftly, his eyes dart between his mother and the Unspeakable.
'Devon,' Hermione says slowly, not taking her eyes of Sloan for a single moment, while she undoes the Cloth-carrier her baby is in with a flick of her wand. 'Can you take Sally to her crib?'
'Sure,' Devon replies immediately.
'I am three,' Matthew tells Sloan inconsequentially.
'Oh,' Sloan replies, placing the appropriate amount of impressiveness in his voice. 'So, you are a big boy then.'
'U-hu,' Matthew says, nodding vigorously.
'Matthew, why don't you help your brother put Sally in her crib?' Hermione interrupts the two, while she hands Devon Sally and asks him to take Serpie with him too.
Devon frowns, but he turns around with the baby in his arms and he hisses to the snake that immediately begins to slither to the door. Sloan is not happy, because Serpie decides to take the tourist route out of the room (which means she slithers right by him) and he jumps back shocked when the snake rises and makes an abrupt motion with its head toward him. He is sure he saw those killer fangs blink at him, while Devon laughs out loud.
'Devon,' Hermione says admonishingly.
But the lack of sincerity in her voice is not very comforting to Sloan. Not to mention the fact that nobody seems to care enough to get this smirking snake to stop hissing and spitting at him.
'Sorry, mum. Come on Serpie; I'll get you something a bit tastier to eat.'
The snake's eyes widen happily and after one last mocking flick of her tongue in his direction, it slithers out of the room.
'Matthew, are you coming too?' Devon asks his brother, who is still monitoring Sloan up and down as if he is a miracle to be seen. 'I'll help you make bubbles.'
'With a wand?' Matthew asks excitedly.
Devon nods, while conjuring a couple of bubbles for Sally, who tries to reach them, crowing in delight.
'YAY!' Matthew shouts and runs past his older brother. 'Bye, Mister,' he says in the doorway.
Sloan makes a small hand wave to the toddler, but the kid is already gone from view.
'Thanks, Devon,' Hermione says, smiling at her oldest son who is still making bubbles for Sally as he too vacates the living room.
It doesn't escape Sloan's attention that the boy glances back to them curiously before Devon closes the door behind him with a flick of his wand.
'Nice children,' Sloan says hoarsely. The little snake incident is still fresh in his mind.
'Yes,' Hermione replies shortly.
It becomes eerily silent. Sloan doesn't know what to say next. He looks at the woman he hasn't seen in almost ten years. Jareth wasn't kidding when he said she changed. Dark power cascades of her in waves, and her face is ever so cold and collective as she gazes at him. Her eyes miss the warmth which he remembered was in them when they were still that brown colour the first time he saw her. But they are pitch-black now and there is no kindness visible. He feels incredibly uncomfortable in the presence of this Hermione; she oozes darkness to an extreme he has not felt before, not even in the Dark Lord. He shuffles on his feet, before he decides to break the unpleasant silence.
'Devon, is he…?'
'I had no idea you were pregnant when you vanquished the Dark Lord,' Sloan says quietly.
'I didn't know back then either.'
And it is silent again.
'When was he born?'
'One minute after midnight; on May first 2009.'
'Ah, hence the name Devon,' Sloan says understandingly, 'because of Walpurgis Night.'
'Yes, I am sure his father would have been proud of his timing.'
The silence returns with a vengeance.
'I heard you got married.'
'With Matthew's father, about a year before he was born.'
'Does he know about Devon's father?'
'He can add.'
'Does Devon know?'
'Why are you here, Liam?'
'I am not interested in supporting his campaign. I strongly oppose his views on dropping the worldwide ban on Love Potions and you are welcome to use that as an excuse for the reason I will not be attending the festivities come September nineteenth.'
'It's been ten years; people want to celebrate and…'
'They can do that without me. I am not celebrating the death of my child's father. I could never explain that to Devon.'
'So the boy knows.'
'I am not keeping secrets from my children, Liam. However, since you are here, I do have a favour to ask of you.'
'I want my son's birthday to be altered in the official records, including the Hogwarts scroll.'
'That will be complicated.'
'I need only two months added onto them, Liam. I don't want him to have to go to Hogwarts two years from now with a stigma attached to his back. I want him to have the opportunity to be himself and not be compared to his biological father every single time he does something that people may frown upon. Devon has my last name, as do all my children, but his birthday is a dead giveaway as to who his father truly is. And he has accepted Matthew and Sally's father as his, which…' Hermione falters in her speech. It is the first time Sloan sees some genuine emotion of care in her if only briefly.
'It must have been hard,' he says softly.
'You have no idea,' Hermione replies, biting her lip. 'Can you do it?'
Sloan nods slowly. 'The Ministerial Records won't be an issue. It may take me some doing with the Hogwarts scroll, but I know where they keep it. His full name is Maglor Devon Granger?'
'So I make it July first 2009 then. That is still close.'
'I didn't carry Devon for the full nine months; he was eager to get out. It was a sure testament to his character,' Hermione says fondly, and a short laugh escapes her lips.
'With two such extraordinary parents, I am sure the boy will be ahead of most his peers,' Sloan replies kindly.
'He is incredibly smart,' Hermione states proudly.
'The Ministerial Record doesn't require it, but I will also need a father's name to replace the one on the Hogwarts scroll.'
'Your husband has taken your name?' Sloan asks surprised.
'He is not … on speaking terms with his family,' Hermione replies, and a small smile flies over her face.
'I am sorry to hear that,' Sloan says politely, and for a split-second, he thinks he sees an amused flicker in Hermione's eyes.
'Don't be. We are neither,' Hermione responds, and her face has turned blank again.
'You're certain I can't persuade you and your family to come?'
'We'd better not. I may be inclined to take over if the minister starts talking rubbish,' Hermione replies, folding her arms over each other decisively.
Sloan looks at the woman who stands a few feet away from him. There is no doubt in his mind she could pull it off. She probably could take over the world in a blink of an eye with that kind of dark power. He wonders if she is living isolated to keep herself away from the temptation or whether it is just to keep her children out of the public eye?
'A bit of both,' Hermione answers his unspoken question coldly.
Sloan's eyes widen. He has not noticed her Legilimency at all. How long would she have been in his mind already? And… He halts there, realising he might as well speak his thoughts out loud, considering it is obvious Hermione is picking up on them despite the extensive Occlumency training he received as an Unspeakable.
'If that is all…?' Hermione inquires.
Sloan nods. 'How do I send you a message to inform you whether or not I succeeded in altering Devon's official records?'
'You won't have to. I will know if you have succeeded or not,' Hermione replies evenly. 'And I am giving you a generous timetable of three months to accomplish it.'
'I'll escort you back to the monastery,' Hermione says, holding out her hand to Sloan.
His coat appears back on his body and Sloan blinks. He had not summoned it nor did he notice any signs from Hermione that she used magic, but clearly she had. And how the hell did she know he had one on him anyway? He stares at the hand that is being offered. 'I can Apparate there myself.'
'Your magic was blocked completely the moment you set foot in this house; and if you had come here with bad intentions, you wouldn't have made it through those woods either. My wards are incredibly ghastly,' Hermione says with a vile smirk on her otherwise expressionless face.
Reluctantly, Sloan takes her hand. A severe jolt flies through his body and he crashes down on his knees. He sees the upward twitch in the corner of her mouth and the amused glance in her eyes as he looks up to her, just before she Apparates them both back into Jareth's chamber.
Jareth looks up from his book at the unusual scene before him. 'Hermione,' the monk says calmly.
'Jareth,' she replies evenly, before addressing Liam again. 'I trust you will handle what I asked of you to the best of your abilities, Liam. If you fail, I will have to take matters into my hands. So, I strongly recommend you do not let that happen.'
With a crack, she is gone again and Sloan stares at the empty spot distraught.
'I warned you about the change in her,' Jareth speaks up slowly.
'I had no idea it was this bad. It feels even worse around her than it did around the Dark Lord. She … she seems the embodiment of darkness,' Sloan says, scrambling back to his feet.
'That's because she is. She swallowed it all: his darkness, Le Fay's, Everon's and the full dark force of the Underworld. It's an awful lot of dark power for one person to cope with.'
Sloan furrows his brows upon hearing this new bit of information. He remembers how Hermione's responses to him back then were oddly detached and cold, and how she had nearly bitten his head of when he made some remark about the Dark Lord. But he had blamed it on her experiences by being the Dark Lord's prisoner for such a long duration of time. He never knew she had absorbed dark magic. 'But then – then shouldn't we … I don't know; do something?' he suggests mystified over the Knight's calmness at mentioning such a horrific scenario.
'Why?' Jareth asks smiling.
'Why? Why!' Sloan repeats aggravated about those bloody monks' apathy. 'Because of the threat, of course.'
'Hermione is a Light Force, who has known darkness. Because of that, she understands its true nature. It is why she is the only one capable of containing it. But it is a thin line she threads on. A balance she needs to find every single minute of every single day over and over again. The decision not to be is one she will have to face for the rest of her remaining life. I recommend you leave her in peace, because the decision to be is far more tempting than not to be. I have been there and I know it will be far less exhausting for her to give into the darkness that engulfs her and become the person it wants her to be than to resist it. We need to support her in her fight, not make it more difficult.'
'She is fighting a losing battle,' Sloan whispers.
'No, I disagree,' Jareth rebuts firmly. 'She is a strong woman who wants her children to grow up and live in a peaceful environment. She will resist the darkness for them and she will prevail.'
'I hope you are right,' Sloan replies doubtfully, 'because if you are wrong…'
'If I am wrong, there is nothing any one of us can do to stop her,' Jareth ends quietly.
Friday, June 24th 2033
Sloan sits down at one of the few still unoccupied circular tables that fill the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This year's end-of-term feast is exceptionally grand. The Headmistress has even enlarged the Great Hall to fit all the people into it. Not only the students and teachers are here, but many dignitaries and all the parents are invited. It has everything to do with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Dark Lord's fall. Sloan's wife's son, Ted Remus Lupin – who became the youngest Minister of Magic ever after personal endorsement by Hermione Granger in his campaign – has declared the entire year of 2033 an official year of celebration, which is the origin to the out-of-the-ordinary grand festivity at Hogwarts this year. Sloan couldn't help but wonder whether Hermione would come too or whether she would be avoiding it like the plague as she had done with all the other celebrations in the past. Somehow, Sloan has a sneaking suspicion Hermione misses the Dark Lord and that it is the true reason behind her not feasting like everyone else.
However, he heard she attended her first-born's graduation also, so she can hardly miss Matthew's. Devon graduated Hogwarts with the highest N.E.W.T. scores ever seen in the school's history and the boy is now one of the most wanted and talented Healers out there. Sloan has to admit he had been concerned about the boy after learning about his existence. At the time he was somewhat relieved when he heard the son of Lord Voldemort was sorted into Ravenclaw, his House, and not the breeding place of all evil called Slytherin.
Sloan scans the Great Hall for Hermione when his eyes fall on both her sons, Devon and Matthew. The younger boy is not nearly as talented as his older brother, Sloan knows, but still, his grades are acceptable. This is Matthew's last year and the two are talking amicably among one another when their aunt, Professor Jaquenetta Kate Granger, joins them to whisper something into Matthew's ear. Sloan sees Matthew turn his head abruptly and a broad smile emanates on his face. So he follows the boy's, well, man's line of sight and finds Hermione Jean Granger walking casually through the crowds towards her sons.
Sloan feels she hasn't changed much since the last time he saw her. Her huge bundle of frizz, which has a couple of grey strands in them these days, is worn upwards by some delicate, silver hairpiece and her dark eyes are as intimidating as ever. He can tell by the way the people step out of her path as she glides by. Dark power still oozes of her in waves, but Sloan is no longer worried about it. Jareth seemed to have been correct in assuming Hermione could control it. These days it merely impresses Sloan tremendously. He watches how Hermione hugs and kisses her sons on their cheeks before she turns to her sister and gives her the same treatment. And he can't help but be curious about their conversation, so he pulls one of his Unspeakable instruments out of his pocket and plugs it into his ear.
'I trust my children haven't given you too much trouble this year?' Hermione asks teasingly.
'Hmmm…,' Professor Kate Granger says contemplatively. 'I am sorry, sis, but you know … professor-student-confidentiality.'
Hermione snorts and Matthew laughs loudly.
A pretty Slytherin girl with long brown hair that falls in smooth curls blocks his reception as she drags along a slightly protesting, tall Hufflepuff boy by his hand. 'Come on, I want you to meet my mother, Cedric,' the girl says determined. 'She doesn't bite, you know.'
'But your mum is incredibly famous,' the boy mutters, turning a bit pale.
'Mum!' Sally calls out.
Hermione turns around and gives her daughter the same welcome before her eyes dart curiously towards the boy Sally has dragged along with her. 'Mum, this is Cedric Diggory. He is my friend.'
Hermione smiles at the boy and extends her hand. 'Nice to meet you, Cedric,' she says kindly.
'The pleasure is all mine, Mrs Granger,' Cedric replies firmly, pulling out everything to not appear intimidated, while he shakes Hermione's hand.
'I went to Hogwarts with a Cedric Diggory. He was a very brave, loyal and kind person. Any kinsman to you?'
Cedric nods. 'I was named after him. He would have been my uncle from my father's side had he still been alive.'
'It's a good name to have. You look a lot like him,' Hermione says, eyeing the boy up and down for a moment.
'Thank you, ma'am,' Cedric replies proudly, while the colour returns to his face upon Hermione's praise. 'My family likes to talk about my uncle a lot and they are very proud of him.'
'They, you, have every right to be. But I trust you will make them proud too.'
'I will do my very best, but I am not sure I can be that great,' says Cedric humbly.
'Nonsense,' Sally interrupts bluntly, 'he is gonna be a Prefect next year for sure and his grades are among the highest in our class and…'
'Not as high as yours,' Cedric says, glancing at Sally caringly.
The two teenagers look at each other quite smitten and Hermione shares a knowing glance with Kate.
'Why don't we all sit down?' Kate suggests. 'The Headmistress will begin her speech shortly and I am sure you all want to sit together?'
'Oh, then I have to go; my mother won't be pleased if I sit elsewhere,' Cedric says apologetically.
'I hope to see you again some day soon, Cedric. It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance,' Hermione says gently.
'Thank you, ma'am, I am honoured to have met you. See you later, Sal?'
Sally nods. 'Absolutely.'
'Isn't dad coming too?' Matthew asks, while his eyes scan the Great Hall nervously.
'I am sure he will be, dear. He wouldn't want to miss your graduation for anything in the world,' Hermione replies reassuringly, while they sit down at the centre table in the Great Hall. 'Nice boy,' she says to Sally, who is watching Cedric as he walks away to his family.
Sally's cheeks turn pink, and she whispers: 'I like him a lot, mum.'
Sloan sees his stepson walk to Hermione, but he tunes out of her conversation when his wife and her friends sit down next to him. 'There you go,' Tonks says cheerfully, handing him a glass of Firewhisky.
'What took you so long?' Sloan asks smirking.
'There is an enormous line in front of the buffet in case you missed it,' says Tonks lightly.
'She dropped the tray, twice,' her friends say in unison.
'Tattletales,' Tonks accuses, but her friends merely laugh out loud.
'Well, this is probably the best drink anyway,' Liam replies, kissing Tonks on the cheek.
'Aawwww,' her friends mock.
'That isn't even smooth, Liam,' Ursula taunts.
'Well, we all know he is such a suck-up,' Eva states.
'And this is why you two are still single,' Tonks teases right back at them.
'Ah, you wound us,' Ursula says dramatically, while putting both hands on her chest to indicate the distress she is now in.
'But not for much longer,' Eva swoons exaggerated.
'By Godric,' Ursula adds wide-eyed, 'I have found me a husband.'
'No way, I saw him first; he's mine,' Eva claims.
'Gay or married,' Tonks interrupts snorting.
'Crushing our dreams again, Nymphadora,' Ursula adds teasingly.
'Eh!' Tonks glares at her amused friend. 'I was merely stating that there is no way a hot bloke like that is not taken.'
'I don't mind sharing. He can have me anywhere, anytime at anyplace,' Eva sighs dreamily.
Sloan looks around the Great Hall to see who his wife is referring to as hot. 'By the grand doors,' Ursula says, pointing.
'What are you doing pointing at him like that? He will notice,' Eva says, turning red in the face.
'That's what I am counting on,' Ursula snorts, and she sticks up her hand in the air to start waving exuberantly.
But Tonks pulls her arm down laughing. 'Stop teasing Eva, Ursy.'
'Don't call me Ursy.'
'When you stop calling me Nymphadora.'
Sloan zones out of the conversation and concentrates on finding this so-called hot bloke. Even without Ursula having pointed him in the right direction, Liam would have found him easily. There is simply no question as to whom the women are referring to, because the man stands out among all the others supremely. The stranger is a tall, handsome, and black-haired man who is leaning with his shoulder against the doorpost, while his arms are folded over each other in a self-assured manner. Dress robes are falling elegantly around his thin frame and he seems utterly content to be here. It's almost like he is at home instead of being somewhere he has never been before. There is something utterly familiar about him. Yet, Sloan is pretty sure he has not seen him before.
'Do you see those hot grey bits in his hair? I just love older men,' Eva sighs, practically drooling.
'Couldn't agree more,' Ursula adds. 'At least they know how to make a woman go…'
'Ursula,' Tonks interrupts admonishingly, 'there are little children here.'
'Oh yeah,' Ursula says smirking. 'I totally forgot.'
'I don't blame you; my mind is going blank also,' Eva says lightly, and both women start laughing softly.
Tonks shakes her head and looks at Liam. 'Something the matter?'
'His mind is going blank too,' Ursula snickers.
Both women roar with laughter and Tonks starts laughing also.
'There is something familiar about him,' Sloan says contemplatively. 'But I can't put my finger on it.'
'Ooohhh. When you remember, feel free to introduce him to us,' Eva immediately states.
'Doesn't he look familiar to you too?' Sloan asks.
Tonks shrugs her shoulders. 'No, sorry, I think I would have remembered such a nice chunk of bee…'
'Tonks!' Ursula interrupts in mock shock, 'little children, remember?' she adds, mimicking her friend's previously admonishing tone.
Tonks grins wickedly. 'Maybe you met him somewhere abroad?' she suggest to Liam.
'Hmm… that must be it then,' Liam states unsure.
'I wonder what he is looking at,' Ursula says questioningly. 'I haven't seen his eyes move for a second. They're almost transfixed on one spot.'
Everybody at the table is now turning their heads to see where the unknown wizard is gazing at. Sloan's eyes halt at the Granger table where Hermione is still in conversation with Ted Lupin. Suddenly, she halts and turns her head. A small smirk forms on her face when she sees the man everyone at Sloan's table is going weak in the knees about.
'If you'll excuse me, Minister,' Hermione says courteously as she rises out of her chair.
'Certainly, it was good to see you again,' Ted replies.
A devious expression roams over Hermione's face as she makes her way to the stranger who is watching her intensely. 'Afraid to come in, Thomas?' Hermione asks mischievously.
'No, just enjoying the view,' Thomas replies quietly, while his eyes glance over his wife's body appreciatively.
'Want a little twirl, so you can examine my back as well?'
Thomas smirks and extends his arm to pull Hermione against him around her waist. 'Perhaps you can give me a more private show later,' he suggest smoothly.
'Perhaps,' Hermione replies teasingly, leaving the option open. 'Sloan is here.'
'I told Bechard to keep him busy abroad. I swear when I go to Canada tonight, he'd better run and hide far, far away from me, because I am going to…'
Thomas cups Hermione's head and kisses her extensively.
'Oh shoot,' Eva says.
'Told you he was taken,' Tonks says triumphantly.
'Let's kill her,' Ursula says conspiringly to Eva.
Tonks snorts. 'Good luck,' she mocks before turning to her husband. 'Maybe you saw a picture of him when you visited Hermione's mansion, and that's why he seems familiar to you?'
Sloan nods absentmindedly, but in the back of his mind he is not satisfied with the explanation his wife gave him, and he keeps wondering about the identity of the man he now knows to be Thomas Granger. He wishes he had asked Hermione what his original family's name was.
When the Granger couple break apart, Thomas caresses Hermione's face gently. 'So, why don't you take me to my illustrious Gryffindor-graduating son, wife?' he orders.
'Yes, why don't I?' Hermione repeats, smirking before turning around and moving calmly back to the table.
A hand quickly falls possessively at her side and she can feel the warmth of her husband's body behind her. When she looks over her shoulder up to Thomas questioningly, his breath brushes her cheek as he whispers in her ear. 'Such a cute, little arse you have there, Mrs Granger, I just have to make sure people know it is mine.'
Hermione tilts her head backward and a short laugh escapes her mouth. 'You're irredeemable,' she grins.
'I would hope so, because you would be running for the hills if I turned into a good boy.'
'You, a good boy, that'll be the day,' Hermione mocks.
They reach the table. 'Dad, you made it,' Matthew says, and he can't hide the twinge of relief from his voice.
'Of course, I wouldn't miss your graduation for anything in the world. Besides, I just love celebrating the death of Lord Voldemort,' Thomas states loosely.
Matthew and Sally start laughing, and Kate practically chokes in her wine. 'Don't push it, hon,' Hermione whispers warningly.
Thomas pulls a stray strand of hair from her face. 'Everyone who knew my old appearance is dead, dear; no one knows who I am,' he mentally tells her reassuringly.
'You never know what people are able to determine from the remarks you make, and I would rather avoid all hell breaking lose,' Hermione responds mentally too, while pulling back her seat.
'Did you forget I was coming?' Thomas asks deviously.
'What?' Hermione replies dumbfounded.
'Or am I supposed to sit in your lap now?'
'No, there is...,' Hermione halts, while she stares around the table, which suddenly lacks another chair, and she is absolutely positive it was there a moment ago.
'You can be such a… Oh,' Hermione cries out softly in surprise when two strong arms wrap around her waist and pull her into the chair on Thomas' lap.
'Just where you belong, sweetheart,' his voice sounds in her mind, while his arms firmly press her against him.
Hermione shakes her head, sighing. 'I am way too old to be sitting in somebody's lap,' she mentally scolds him.
But it doesn't escape Thomas' attention that Hermione cuddles quite comfortable against him and that she places her hands on his arms, rubbing them softly.
'The beauty of immortality is that one will never be too old to do anything. Besides, age is no longer an issue for us, since you isolated the reason behind my skin not-ageing from the baseline-altering Transfiguration I performed in the past,' Thomas continues in her mind. 'So, you will always be young and hot when you do my bidding, my little one.'
Hermione turns her head and looks back up at him. 'Do your bidding? Only in your dreams,' she taunts mentally, and their eyes lock meaningfully.
It's when Headmistress Escada calls everyone's attention and starts her speech. Hermione turns to the podium and listens to the Headmistress, while leaning back against Thomas' chest. His chin comes to rest on her head and Hermione squeezes his arm caringly.
'One has to appreciate the irony of me sitting here right now,' Thomas whispers smoothly after a while.
'You are so enjoying this, aren't you?' Hermione responds, snorting.
'Can't say I ain't,' Thomas snickers. 'I so love to hear all about my evil deeds and how I got what I deserved. I have to say I totally agree with the Headmistress there.' And he pulls Hermione tighter against him. 'I got you, and you will always be mine, Granger.'
'I've told you a thousand times I am my own person.'
'Really?' Thomas teasingly asks. A brush of magic hits her and Hermione can just stifle a moan. 'Are you sure that delicious body is just yours, dearest? Because it, sure as hell, is responding quite admirably to my commands.'
Hermione squirms in Thomas' lap. 'Stop it,' she mentally hisses. 'There are like a zillion people here.'
'Who are all too ignorant to notice anything; even if I were to slam your delectable person on the table right now and give you a good hard shag, they'll all remain totally unaware of our actions.'
'Have I not told you that it is due to your arrogance that you screw up over and over again? Besides, I am pretty sure the children will catch on to what we are doing and that is so not a visual I'd want to burn on their retinas.'
'They won't be able to notice if you use your magic too, little one,' Thomas mischievously adds. 'So…'
'I'd listen to mum if I were you, dad,' Devon tauntingly states in their minds. 'I don't mind, but Sally and Anthony still have to go to school here and I think…'
'Will you get out of our minds this instance, young man, and focus on your own date,' Thomas hisses mentally.
'I would love to stay out of that perverted mind of yours, dad. But if you don't tone down the strength of your Legilimency, it is kind of hard to avoid doing so.'
Hermione has just the presence of mind to cast a quick Muffliato before a full-blown outburst of laughter leaves her mouth.
The rest of the end-of-term feast moves on smoothly. After the official part was over, the children made themselves scarce to dance and talk to their friends before the holiday starts. Hermione winks reassuringly at Matthew in the distance who keeps on glancing at his N.E.W.T. scores. The fact that he isn't coming by the table to share his knowledge of his grades is more than telling. So Hermione decides to let him be, until Matthew has come to terms with it himself. Thomas has got himself a chair of his own, and many people come by Hermione's table to say hi, shake her hand and meet her husband. A charming smile is on Thomas' face when he talks to yet another person exited to meet them; a very, clingy person.
'Those wedding rings of you and your wife are just so gorgeous. It's not often I see gold matched with emerald stones, but it works perfectly. And the design…'
The lady chats on, and Hermione has tried numerous times to gently get her to leave. Thomas has already zoned out of the conversation ages ago and a somewhat desperate Hermione signals to Kate for help. Her sister smirks and winks teasingly before she takes pity on them both. Kate intervenes smoothly, hooks her arm in the older lady's arm and moves her away forcefully, giving Hermione and Thomas some breathing space and by doing so she prevents certain death and a very likely massacre. Hermione sighs.
'I think we can leave soon,' Thomas says softly, rubbing Hermione's neck.
'We have to wait a bit longer,' Hermione replies, 'for Matthew.'
She nods at Matthew's frowning figure, while he glances over and over again at his N.E.W.T. scores on the parchment. Suddenly, the parchment gets tucked away in his pocket quickly, because a couple of girls stop beside Matthew and Devon and start engaging in a conversation with them.
'Oh look who is hiding his E in Defence quickly,' Thomas says grinning.
'There is nothing wrong with getting an E,' Hermione huffs.
'Touchy subject, dear? Thomas teases, and she notices him move upward.
Hermione grabs a hold of her husband's arm, effectively stopping his advance out of the chair and she notices his raised eyebrows at her action. 'Where are you going?'
'I thought I'd go see my son and…'
'You are not going to tease him with his grades.'
'I am not?' Thomas responds, wondering in which universe that remote possibility is going to happen when his wife's abrupt and stern no crashes in. Swiftly, he moves toward her and he places both his hands on each side of the armrests on Hermione's chair, towering over her. 'But Matthew gets this cute, little wrinkle in his forehead when I do - just like his mother. Oh yes, there it is,' he mocks, rubbing his index finger over Hermione's forehead.
Hermione rolls her eyes and sighs. 'Why don't you go over there and tell your son you love him and are proud of him.'
Thomas glances sideways at the group that is now surrounding Devon and Matthew. 'Lord Voldemort will not go over there and make a fool of himself and his son.'
'Then, Lord Voldemort will not be getting any tonight,' Hermione decides.
'Oh, Granger, that is just vicious.'
'You know how insecure Matthew is of his own capabilities. He feels left out, being the only one of his siblings who can't talk to snakes - like you do, and he looks up to you. He wants to be like his father, but he continuously thinks he's not living up to your expectations by being lesser than Devon.'
'I never said he is lesser than Devon. He is just as important to me as the others, maybe even a bit more, because he resembles his mother in so many ways,' Thomas responds, winking at Hermione, before he does an uncanny representation of her and Matthew. 'But it says so right here in this book.'
Hermione laughs. 'I know you don't see it that way, dear. I am telling you how he feels.'
'Well, that is just silly.'
'Silly or not, now is not the time to tease him with his one E.'
'Hmmm…,' Thomas says frowning, and he tries to walk away.
'What are you planning?' Hermione asks, grabbing his arm again.
'I am going to make Matthew feel good about himself,' Thomas responds smiling, and he pats her on the cheek reassuringly. 'Trust me.'
'Oh dear Lord.'
'Exactly,' Thomas smirks.
'I've got our drinks,' Kate says, holding the tray up to Thomas as he passes. 'Where is he going?'
Hermione merely points, while accepting her glass.
'Oh of course, Matthew has got some really good grades.'
'Hmmm… hmmm…' Hermione nods absentmindedly, while watching her husband pull Matthew smoothly aside to talk to him.
'Sally is better in Defence though. She really is quick with a wand, like Devon. Though I had to lecture her a thousand times on the appropriateness of some of the spells she uses,' Kate chats. 'Where is she anyway? I haven't seen her in the Great Hall ever since the official part of the ceremony was over.'
'She left with that Hufflepuff boy,' Hermione explains.
Kate snorts. 'Oh, then I should probably thank Sal for sparing us and the Diggory family the drama by dancing with him in front of Thomas. Poor Cedric wouldn't know what hit him. He's an okay boy though: nice, polite, loyal, very civil and gallant, a real Hufflepuff. Sally's got great taste.'
Hermione hardly hears a thing Kate is rambling about, because she is still monitoring the exchange between father and son. Thomas has both his hands placed on Matthew's shoulders and Hermione smiles when she sees the flush on Matthew's face. He is practically glowing with pride when his father swirls away. 'You're good,' Hermione mumbles to herself.
'What was that?' Kate asks.
'My favourite ladies,' Thomas charmingly states. 'Would one of you take pity on a poor, lonely, handsome fellow and dance with him?'
Kate immediately checks the Great Hall. 'Handsome? Where - where?' she asks excitedly, while looking underneath the table to find this yet-to-be-identified male.
Hermione laughs out loud, while Thomas nods condescendingly to Kate. 'Why you, young lady, just missed out on your once in a lifetime opportunity to waltz around the dance floor with a professional,' he responds haughtily, pulling the laughing Hermione out of her chair and swirling away with her.
'Watch out for those toes of yours, Mione,' Kate calls out after them.
'So what did you say to Matthew?' Hermione inquires, while being guided effortlessly through all the dancing couples by Thomas.
'I shall never reveal my secrets,' Thomas replies pompously, twirling her around and Hermione throws her head back and laughs.
Their hips joined, they almost seem to float across the floor. Hermione looks up at the two darkest eyes that ever watched her and her heart skips a beat. Under influence of his intense gaze she attempts to pull herself closer to him, but there already is no more room between them to spare. Thomas has a tight hold of her waist and no intention of letting go. He pulls her right hand to their bodies also and they dance on, having only eyes for each other. As the music ends they twirl at the centre of the floor, before waiting for the next song to start in a tight embrace.
'Using magic to prevent a collision is a bit cheating, Thomas,' Hermione says smiling.
'I say it's using your strongest qualities to the best of their advantage.'
Hermione groans and her head lands on his chest. A kiss falls on her hair as the music starts. They continue to dance when Hermione notices Sloan stare at them with a deep frown on his face. And she starts another conversation with her husband in their minds. 'I think we'd better go,' she says concerned, as they swirl across the floor.
'Sloan seems to take too deep an interest in us.'
'Sloan, pffttt… We can take…'
'I don't want to take him on. Let's go before he figures it out,' Hermione demands, and she drags Thomas of the dance floor. 'Besides, I still have that issue in Canada to sort out,' she adds vengefully.
Thomas pulls her back in his arms and halts their forward motion. 'Relax, Hermione, no one knows who I am. And we really needn't worry about the likes of Sloan.'
'Sloan is not stupid. He will put two and two together if you continue to act so Voldemortish,' Hermione hisses.
'Voldemortish?' Thomas snorts. 'Care to elaborate?'
'This,' Hermione explains, 'this taking a hold of me and stopping me from moving and such.'
'But you like it if…'
'Now is not the time. We are going,' Hermione, bossily, speaks in their mind.
'Yes, Mistress,' Thomas mocks snickering.
Sloan stares at the couple that is leaving the Great Hall with a serious expression. His eyes, slowly, fall back on Devon and he frowns. The resemblance is just too big to be a coincidence. Unlike others, Sloan is very much aware of the identity of the Devon's biological father and he knows Hermione's current husband isn't supposed to be Devon's real father. The moment Hermione and Thomas are both completely gone from the premises, Sloan rises from his chair. Quickly, he walks over to Tonks and Ted Lupin.
'Minister, I am sorry to interrupt, but I am afraid I have some bad news,' he says.
Contemplatively and in reminiscence, "Thomas" strolls through Diagon Alley. His mind goes back to the first week after Hermione resurrected him. Well, she did find good use for Hades' powers very quickly, he has to hand her that. He saw it all in her mind when she wasn't paying attention. How she collected his body from Jareth at the monastery, how she fused both stones together above it and how she reclaimed the part of his soul that was inside of her, counting on the fact that it couldn't have been killed since she and by default his soul-fragment wore the Amulet of Aine at the time Le Fay's killer curse struck the Horcrux. He had to give a part of himself, because it was basically what Maglor was, credit for a job well done. The Amulet turned out to be a terrific Philosopher Stone.
Still, it wouldn't have worked if Hermione hadn't used every bit of dark force inside of her to summon his soul and reconnect it with his body to give it life again. He was thrilled when he opened his eyes that day, only to get punched in the face, because … "he had upset her by dying". An amused smirk accompanies that memory, because really, Lord Voldemort dying... A mocking laugh leaves his lips. Pfttt… such a ridiculous thought, he is sure nobody in their right mind would have believed it to be true.
However, being back among the living confronted him with the problem of getting a new identity or rather the more horrid task of making up a new name. He just couldn't choose at all. Nothing felt right. He was Lord Voldemort, plain and simple. It had taken him long enough to make up the anagram in the first place. So, he kept weighing his options, while Hermione began to call him all kinds of names teasingly. He-Who-Can-Not-Find-Names-For-Himself, You-Should-Know-By-Now, and the most obnoxious one: Thomas!
She started calling him that every time he told her no when she bugged him for a name to place on the phoney identification papers she had nicked. And then she started calling him that on other occasions as well. After which she began to use it over and over again, every minute of every bleeding day, week after week after week, whenever she had the opportunity, which was often. She did it just to irritate him, he is sure of that. And she was succeeding very well to that end, at first. He can't really remember when the name became stuck in his mind too. Trickery, little Gryffindor.
But he has to admit that he kind of likes it when she calls him Thomas, and he also doesn't mind much if Rose or Kate uses it, because they tend to say it with the appropriate amount of respect. Of course, Hugo is a completely different story. His eyes flash red whenever he thinks of Hermione's arrogant father. But he knows he will get every Granger woman on his back if he kills Hugo, so he refrains from the impulse. The man simply isn't worth the trouble it will put him through. So, family can call him Thomas without making him cringe inwardly, but whenever someone else says it, his wand-hand twitches. Yes, last night at Hogwarts was trying. He kept having the desire to "Thomas" everyone to blazes.
Slowly, Lord Voldemort walks back to the Leaky Cauldron and the room he and Hermione currently inhabit there. It's around eight o'clock in the evening. The shops are closed, so the alley is quiet. No one comes here after closing hours normally. But he needed a walk to stretch his legs and he just felt like taking a look here, until Hermione returns back from her business abroad in Canada and they can go on their much needed holiday together, while Sally and Anthony stay over at their grandparents. He has this terrific…
A sudden flash blinds him severely, and next, he is surrounded by Aurors and Unspeakables who all have their wands drawn anxiously. A condescending snort escapes his mouth and he waves his hand lazily at them. To his surprise, his curse hits an invisible wall around him and extinguishes. His dark eyes dart down to the small box on the pavement he had not noticed before.
'Clever, Sloan,' he says to the Unspeakable who steps forward. 'I trust the force of the Confinement Charm that thing evokes equals the magical powers of the wizard it imprisons?'
'It draws on your magic to keep its shield active, my Lord,' Sloan replies courteously. 'The more force you place behind your magic the tougher the shield becomes.'
'Well, you were always quite effective in doing your job, Sloan. So, Hermione was right in assuming you recognised me at the feast in Hogwarts,' Lord Voldemort says calmly, folding his arms over each other.
'Yes, I did, and whatever magical control you are using to keep her imprisoned by your side ends here today,' Sloan states firmly.
A small smile appears on the Dark Lord's face. 'You think I am forcing her to remain with me?' he says amused. 'Oh well…' He shrugs. 'So, what's next?'
'You will now be escorted back to the Ministry, where you will be formally charged, then sent to Azkaban to await trail,' Sloan explains.
'Ah, yes,' Voldemort replies smirking, and he conjures up a luxurious armchair and sits down lazily. 'I thought we might hit that little snag.'
'Snag,' Tonks sneers. 'You are done for, Voldemort. We got you. I see no snag.'
'Well,' Voldemort replies apologetically. 'I am afraid I do.'
'Yes, really,' Voldemort mimics. He crosses his legs by placing his right ankle on his left knee, and he rest his left arm on the back of his chair to indicate how utterly comfortable he is with the current situation. 'Tell me, how exactly were you planning to move me to the Ministry and Azkaban?'
'You will throw your wand down…,' and it becomes utterly silent.
'I am so glad I don't have to explain the little flaw in your plan there,' Voldemort mocks. 'You can't move that box without disturbing its shield powers. And I can't believe you were all under the delusion that I would come quietly. You see I have absolutely no desire to go to Azkaban. I could break out, of course, but what a waste of my time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing.'
'Your curses may not go out of the confinement box you're in, but ours will certainly enter,' Sloan states warningly. 'You may want to reconsider surrender. There is no way you can block all of us.'
Slowly, Lord Voldemort turns his head, while he makes a mock counting motion with two fingers of his right hand to the people around him. 'Only twenty-one, I am somewhat insulted,' he says snorting. 'Liam Sloan, I thank you for your concern, but I think I'll manage.'
Sloan nods, and immediately numerous Stunning Charms are flying in the direction of the Dark Lord. But Lord Voldemort doesn't even flinch when he blocks them all with a bored wave of his hand. Stretching his arms out above his head, he yawns tiresomely. It's when one of the Aurors steps forward with a vengeful glint in his eyes. 'I know something you can't block, you arsehole,' he spats. 'Avada Kedavra!'
'Expelliarmus!' Sloan casts shocked, but his Disarmament Spell reaches the Auror too late and Liam catches the Auror's wand after the Unforgivable is already flying towards Lord Voldemort.
The Dark Lord freezes in his stretching position and the jet of green impacts on his chest full force. Sloan turns to the Auror pointing his wand straight at him. 'You're under arrest for murder, Evan Lestrange,' Liam says calmly. 'Duncan, take him away.'
'Sloan,' Duncan says apprehensively, and he points to the Dark Lord whom Sloan assumes to be dead, again.
It's utterly silent when Lord Voldemort slowly lowers his arms and looks down at his chest quite interested. 'It actually works,' he says grinning.
A gasp leaves Sloan's mouth and several others are merely staring at his lordship in bafflement.
'Thank you for being just as foolish as your parents, Evan Lestrange, but I am afraid you will never be in a position to avenge them,' Voldemort says tauntingly. 'However, I am quite grateful for your attempt. I didn't dare to test it myself in case I was mistaken, but now I know I have truly become immune to that despicable concept called mortality and I have also overcome the nasty side-effect of losing my body over and over again, which I must say did become quite tiring to experience.'
Evan tries to lunge at Voldemort, but Sloan petrifies the man before he can enter the box. 'Fool, do you want to hand him a hostage?' Duncan snarls at his colleague.
'Duncan,' Sloan interrupts, 'Evan Lestrange is still under arrest.'
'But he is not dead,' Duncan rebuts, pointing at the Dark Lord outraged.
'Attempted murder is also a crime,' Sloan says calmly. 'Now, if you will be so kind as to…'
A wave of magic swirls around Diagon Alley as Hermione Apparates in. With a blank expression on her face, she takes in the situation before her. Tonks walks towards her and gives her a hug. 'We're so sorry, Hermione, we had no idea. We thought…'
'What is going on here?' Hermione asks softly, unwrapping herself from Tonks' embrace, and looking at Sloan questioningly.
'Dora is right, Hermione. We duly apologise for not realising the predicament you were in. But now you will be free from the Dark Lord as everybody else has been for the past twenty-five years,' Sloan explains.
'I see,' Hermione replies slowly, and she glances at her husband who gives her a small, amused wave from his comfortable seating position.
'Good to see you, my dear,' says Lord Voldemort with a wink.
'Don't talk to her like that, you monster,' Tonks hisses furiously, halting in front of the raised confinement ward. 'She is not yours. She never was.'
Voldemort merely arches his eyebrows in response, while Hermione focuses her attention on Sloan and she gazes directly into the Unspeakable's eyes. 'Is this all the support you got to take him to Azkaban?'
'Yes,' Sloan says sighing. 'I need to get some more help it seems. I would appreciate your assistance in this matter.'
'What makes you think I am on your side in this?' Hermione asks smoothly.
The entire group stares at her in bafflement, but then, she moves her wand out in a swift motion. 'Confringo!' Hermione casts.
And with a deafening blast, the box that holds Lord Voldemort prisoner explodes into a million pieces. In a split-second, he is on his feet, and before anyone has a chance to even blink an eye, they are out cold on the floor. All except for Sloan, whom Hermione is holding in a tight grip, while her wand is pressed in his throat.
'So, it appears we have to have a little chat, Liam,' Hermione hisses in his ear.
Magically, she swings him around and he drops down on his knees before her. 'Legilimency!' she casts with so much force Sloan is unable to keep her out. When she finally exits his mind, he crashes to the floor perspiring and trembling.
'Beside this little group only the Minister of Magic knows,' Hermione says coldly, 'and I can get to Ted Lupin easily.'
'Sloan always makes records as a fail-safe in case someone Obliviates him,' Voldemort replies quietly, and he takes a hold of the panting Unspeakable's hair and pulls his head backward. 'Don't you, Liam?' he snarls. 'Care to save yourself the nasty experience again and tell us beforehand where you hid the papers, Liam?'
'I am afraid it is beyond your reach,' Liam states triumphantly. 'Whatever you two do here won't matter. Others will hear that you are still alive.'
'Is that so,' Voldemort says quietly, and he looks up at Hermione who is just done Obliviating everyone.
Hermione folds her arms over each other and smiles at her husband. 'Well, considering I just kicked Bechard's arse, I am sure he will move quickly if I tell him to execute things. So if you want, I can take over the world for you again,' she suggests snickering.
'Eww…,' Lord Voldemort replies in disgust and he makes a dismissive wave with his hand at the suggestion. 'Then, I'd have to listen to all that whining again and deal with the idiocy that is so commonly present in everybody.'
Hermione snorts and looks at Sloan. 'So, where are those beyond-our-reach papers, Liam dear?' she mocks.
Within a flash, she is back in his mind and sees the vault in the Department of Mysteries he placed the documents in. Sloan loses consciousness from this second assault of his mind and crashes to the ground again when Voldemort lets go of his hair. 'Damn,' Hermione swears.
Lord Voldemort looks at his wife with concern as she steps back and concentrates. 'Are you sure you want to go about it that way?' he interrupts her.
Hermione halts and nods. 'He placed them inside one of their Unreachable Vaults. There is no other way. Only Le Fay's powers can reach in there. Fortunately, even in this liberal and advanced day and age, the Wizarding World keeps underestimating Elfin powers,' she replies calmly before she swirls her arms above her head and chants in the ancient tongue of Everon.
Dark clouds crowd up the sky and a freezing cold breathes through the air. The ground starts shaking and a black mist whirls around Hermione. A crackling noise takes over the alley before a thundering roar accompanies a black flash, and then, there is silence. Hermione stands motionless for a moment before opening her eyes contently.
'It's destroyed,' she states unruffled.
'Obliviate!' Voldemort casts at Sloan, before observing Hermione with equanimity. 'Why don't you go ahead to your parents,' he suggests, walking towards his wife and taking her in his arms possessively. 'I'll go and Obliviate this bit of information from Ted Lupin's mind.'
Hermione frowns. 'He is the Minister of Magic. His personal guards will…'
'Not be a problem for me,' Voldemort finishes and he strokes Hermione's face gently. 'You drew on a large amount of the Arts to destroy those documents, Hermione. I think you better get some rest before those dark forces consume you whole.'
Hermione nods contemplatively. 'I suppose it would be advisable if I refrained from using more magic for awhile,' she replies softly, placing her arms around his neck.
'My thoughts exactly,' Lord Voldemort agrees, kissing her extensively.
'However,' Hermione says, withdrawing from his kiss reluctantly, 'if I go with you, there is a good chance Ted will just let us in and you won't need to harm those guards.'
'You will find that I am perfectly capable of charming my way past them, Hermione. Besides…'
'I can't wait to see it,' Hermione interrupts smirking, while pulling him closer to her. 'I have to use magic to Apparate to my parents,' she quickly adds as an excuse when she sees the irritation in Voldemort's eyes.
'Alright, you have a point there,' he concedes. 'So, I'll take you with me, but – but,' he repeats sternly, glaring at the triumphant expression on Hermione's face, 'you will not interfere and you won't use a single bit of magic,' he orders.
'Yes, Master,' Hermione mocks timidly, which gets an entertained glance as a response.
'Well, not having to use magic is the general idea behind me coming with you,' she adds mischievously.
Lord Voldemort rolls his eyes. A Memory-Modifying Charm is cast to give the unconscious group of people an excuse for being here. After which he tightens his grip on Hermione's waist. 'Hold on,' he orders, and he Apparates away.
Sally and Cedric are sitting in quite an intimate embrace on the couch, kissing each other exuberantly. They are all alone, because Rose left the living room a moment ago to check if Hugo and Anthony, who had gone to the old dental practice, wanted something to drink as well. Sally has cast a Homenum Revelio Alert Charm on their surroundings that will make them aware when Rose returns, and the two are now taking full advantage of the fact that they have the room all to themselves. However, Sally has overlooked one tiny factor in her foolproof plan.
Both her parents Apparate into the Granger's living room. As if they are stung by bees both teenagers fly apart, but the damage has already been done. Cedric's face turns incredibly red, while Sally stares in absolute horror at her father who immediately lets go of Hermione with a murderous glint in his eyes.
'Well, Sally, do you care to introduce me to this boy who thinks it is alright to examine my daughter's tonsils?' Lord Voldemort asks quietly, and he takes a threatening step in the direction of the couch.
'His name is Cedric Diggory, hon,' answers Hermione, because Sally's mouth is merely gaping without producing any sound whatsoever and Cedric seems unable to speak either.
'Really?' Voldemort says happily. 'How appropriate. It seems you are going to have around the same life expectancy as your namesake,' and he flips out his wand. The boy freezes up in the couch and turns utterly pale.
'Dad!' Sally shouts shocked, and she jumps between Cedric and her father while glancing at her mother for help.
'Try not to make a mess of the room, Thomas. My mother is quite fond of that sofa,' Hermione says casually.
'Out of my way, Sal,' Voldemort calmly orders.
'No, I am not a little kid anymore. I am fifteen turning sixteen in October. You can't boss me around like I am some baby. I am old enough to give my boyfriend a kiss if I want to. Besides, you are such a hypocrite. You never said anything about Matthew and Devon snogging their girlfriends when they were my age,' she hisses furiously.
'Oh, she's got you there,' Hermione tells her husband snickering in his mind.
Stoically, Lord Voldemort examines the room. 'Matthew and Devon never used magic on their Muggle grandparents, Sal. I must say it doesn't give me much confidence in your maturity that you did. Or do you have some great excuse for the residue of the alert charm that lingers here?'
'Matthew and Devon were not sorted into Slytherin, Thomas,' Hermione mentally adds very amused. 'They lack the necessary cunning needed for deception and…'
'Very funny, dear,' Voldemort interrupts back mentally.
'I just didn't want to upset Granny; she is old,' Sally mutters, shuffling on her feet uncomfortably.
It's when Cedric, apparently, has got over the initial shock of the situation and makes it to his feet, pulling Sally aside. 'I am sorry about my behaviour, Sir. I meant no disrespect to your family.' And he holds out his hand towards Lord Voldemort apologetically.
'Cedric,' Sally hisses, slapping his hand away. 'We were only kissing. There is nothing wrong with what we did.'
'No, your father is right,' Cedric says calmly to Sally. 'We shouldn't have taken advantage of the fact that your grandmother is unable to detect the use of magic.'
For a brief second, Hermione and Lord Voldemort share an impressed glance between each other. 'At least he didn't allow Sally to take all the heat. The boy has balls,' he mentally says.
'I like him,' Hermione replies.
'I wouldn't go that far,' Voldemort mumbles, which causes Hermione to laugh elaborately in his mind. But he can't reply to her mocking laugh, because Cedric has turned back toward him once more and is holding out his hand again.
'Hermione! Thomas!' Rose says happily, entering the room. 'You're early. Sally dear, can you help me out here?'
Sally, quickly, moves over to take the tray from her grandmother and while she puts it on the table, Voldemort takes full advantage of the disappearance of Sally. He accepts Cedric's hand and shakes it. Hermione notices how he threateningly moves a step toward the boy, places his other hand on Cedric's shoulder, and whispers something in his ear. Diggory's eyes turn quite wide, and he nods timidly.
'Wonderful,' Voldemort says out loud. 'I'm so glad we understand each other, Mr Diggory.'
Hermione smirks, and Sally looks quite suspiciously at her father who walks away to say hello to Rose.
Rose gives him a hug before she turns to her daughter. 'Hermione, it's so good to see you again,' her mother says, kissing her. 'But you look a bit pale, dear. Are you alright?'
Voldemort immediately steps in and lifts Hermione's chin to gaze into her eyes intensely. 'I am fine, Thomas,' Hermione says a bit irritated. 'I am just tired.'
'Are you sure it's nothing else, Hermione?' he asks frowning.
'Yes,' Hermione says in a tone that clearly tells him to drop the subject. 'Where are dad and Anthony?'
Rose looks a bit confused at her daughter before replying: 'They are in our old practice. Anthony wanted to see it again.'
'I'll go say hi to them then,' Hermione says, determined to get away from this kind of scrutiny.
'What happened?' Rose asks Thomas concerned.
'We ran into a bit of a situation with the authorities concerning my identity, hence our early arrival. Don't worry it has been dealt with.'
Hermione closes the door behind her as fast as she can. Really, all that mothering over her can be so annoying at times. She is fifty-three for Pete's sake. But a broad smile erupts back on her face as she sees Anthony sitting in her father's lap asking a thousand questions excitedly. 'And what is that?'
'That is a scaler tip for calculus removal. It helps to make sure people won't get cavities.'
'And why do you have a flame?'
'That is to sterilise our instruments. So we can use them again and not make other people ill.'
'Can I try?'
'Sure, we just put the scaler tip on this and then you move it through the flame,' Hugo explains calmly and he hands Anthony the instrument. 'Very good,' he praises.
Anthony looks back up at him, but then, he sees his mother standing in the doorway. 'Look mummy, I am going to be a dentist just like grandpapa.'
'I can see that,' Hermione says impressed. 'You already know how to use the instruments.'
'U-hu. And I know how to activate the drill,' Anthony says enthusiastically, showing her immediately.
The sound makes Hermione wince despite herself and Hugo laughs, while placing Anthony in the dentist's chair. 'You see this?' Hugo asks and hands Anthony another instrument. 'Hold on.' Quickly, he places several small objects, that used to be gifts to little children who came to the practice, across the table. 'Now why don't you try to shoot them all off?'
'With this?' Anthony asks puzzled.
'Yes, look,' Hugo demonstrates, aiming at a small giraffe. A burst of compressed wind leaves the instrument and the giraffe flies through the air, landing a few feet away on the ground. 'You think you can shoot further than me?'
'Yes!' Anthony says excitedly and he holds out his hand.
Smiling, Hugo walks to Hermione. 'He is just as interested in all this stuff as you were,' he says joyously. 'How have you been?'
'I'm good, dad.'
'You don't look well to me. Is that man treating you alright?'
'It's not Thomas, dad. We – we just had a hard day,' she says, glaring over his shoulder to make sure Anthony isn't hearing them. But the boy is too entranced in shooting the figurines through the air. 'Sloan figured out Thomas is Lord Voldemort, and well, he tried to arrest him to imprison him in Azkaban.'
Hugo shakes his head as he looks at his daughter. 'That was bound to happen someday, Hermione, and I can't say I blame this Sloan fellow. I find it a bit incomprehensible that you are okay with this situation. I mean his followers went to jail, while he goes unpunished.'
'Unpunished?' Hermione replies, shaking her head too. 'You really think that, dad? You don't think that being cursed by Morgan Le Fay before he was even born is punishment enough? You think that living your life in darkness without the capability of feeling love is a pleasurable experience?'
Hugo looks at his daughter sadly. 'I have never said the man had it easy, but this is the path he chose to walk. He shouldn't have dragged you into it. But here you are, paying for his crimes.'
'Everon wasn't his invention, dad. He was just as much a victim of it as the rest of us. And I had to stop Le Fay or we all would have been off so much worse. You have no idea to the amount of dark force she was capable of wielding.'
'So, you have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders? I don't claim to understand your world fully, Hermione, because I probably never will. But all I know is that my little girl deserves something and someone a hell of lot better. You should have helped that Sloan bloke. You could have, at least, been free of him.'
'Dad, can we not do this again, please?'
'No, Hermione, this is not how I raised you,' Hugo says, raising his voice.
'Grandpa! I did it!' Anthony interrupts them happily. 'My elephant has gone further than your giraffe!'
Both adults halt in their argument. Hugo turns around and nods approvingly. 'I see. You know your mother has once hit the wall with a hippo.'
'Really?' Anthony says frowning. 'I can do that too,' he mutters determined and continues his play.
Hugo turns around and Hermione can tell by the look in his eyes he isn't nearly done ranting at her. 'Muffliato,' she casts quickly.
'You could have been with a man capable of truly loving you; a man worthy of you, like that Ronald or Harry you used to talk about so often. Why do you stay with that…?'
'I love him, dad,' Hermione says calmly.
'But he can't feel it back, can he?' Hugo hisses angrily. 'He is just a walking, breathing time bomb waiting to go off again.'
'So am I.'
'Do you think it is easy for me to control all this darkness, dad? Do you think there aren't times when I just want to take over and blast everyone who annoys me out of my fucking way!? Do you think I manage this all by myself? Do you!' Hermione shouts aggravated; her eyes blazing fire, while dark sparks are flying out of her hands uncontrollably.
'I need him, dad. He is the only one who can possibly understand what it is like that I am going through. He is the only one who knows the true nature of darkness, and he keeps me sane and grounded. I would have succumbed to those dark forces ages ago had he not been there to lighten my load, had he not taken some of the burden of my shoulders and carried it for me. You stand here and accuse him of being incapable of loving me. Well, you may be right about that in the more generally accepted term of the word, but I know he respects and values me as I am. I don't need to dumb myself down to be accepted by him. He protects me and keeps me and our children save by all the power he has inside of him. And even though his care can be borderline possessive and controlling at times, I wouldn't want to be without him. He challenges me in every way. He makes me laugh and he is a great father, despite some of his inherent character flaws. And you know why that is, dad? Because he listens to me! Something I can never get you to do!'
It is almost like steam is flying from Hermione's ears, while a dark cloud begins to form in the sky, invisibly to the people inside the house. A dark lightning bolt leaves her hand and blows up the wall on her right. Anthony stops playing and watches his mother anxiously.
'Herm…,' Hugo tries, while he stares at his daughter fearfully.
'No, dad, enough is enough. I love him and if you can't accept him, then – then…'
'That's quite enough,' Lord Voldemort says, storming into the dental practice followed by Kate. He grabs Hermione and swirls her around. 'Hermione, look at me.'
Furious, dark eyes stare at him, while the full force of her darkness is seeking an outlet. He grabs a hold of both her wrists immediately, forces them on her back and pulls her against him. He sees how Kate grabs her father and Anthony and Apparates them away to safety. 'Hermione, focus,' Lord Voldemort orders. 'Do not let it control you. You control it.'
Another explosive burst of magic flies through the air and he is barely able to hold on to her due to the aggressiveness of the magic. Hermione shakes her head desperately. 'I can't hold it anymore. I can't.'
'Remember what the Knights taught you, Hermione. I know you can do it,' Voldemort whispers, holding her tightly. 'Close your eyes; let go of all thoughts, feelings, and emotions…'
'It's not working,' Hermione interrupts. 'I can't concentrate through all this hate. I can't…'
A blood curling, gruesome scream of despair leaves her lips. And in the living room nearby five people look up worried. Sally told Cedric to leave the moment she sensed trouble. So, it is just the family that is witnessing this. Kate has erected the most powerful shield around the building that she could muster. And now, all they can do is sit and wait, while Rose glares at her husband angrily and Sally is looking utterly pale, sitting next to the only person in the room who isn't concerned.
'Daddy is there,' Anthony says reassuringly to his sister, and he places his hand on hers. 'He'll help mum to be strong and fight. He always does.'
Sally sends Anthony a weak smile. 'I know, Antho…'
With tremendous force, Devon and Matthew Apparate through Kate's Area Shield. 'What triggered this?' Devon asks authoritatively.
'We had an argument,' Hugo says embarrassed, not looking into the direction of his wife, whose eyes he can feel burning into his flesh.
Devon looks at his grandfather frowning and shakes his head. 'It has to be more; a mere argument doesn't make mum lose it completely.'
'Hermione said there was an incident today with Sloan recognising Thomas,' Hugo adds, glancing at his obviously angry wife apprehensively.
'That will probably be it,' Matthew says certain.
'Only if mum had to tap into her dark powers to do something about it,' Devon adds.
'Devon,' Kate interrupts, 'as much as I love to find out what is the cause of this, theorising about it won't help us one bit at the moment. Can you do something to enhance the shielding around this house? So, we can protect the people outside?'
Devon nods, whips out his wand and closes his eyes to concentrate on enhancing Kate's Area Shield. While everyone is focusing on Devon, Rose turns to her husband.
'Just because Devon lets you of the hook, don't think I will,' she hisses underneath her breath. 'I told you a million times to stop bothering Hermione about her decision. And I can't believe you had to start that same argument with her again when it would have been obvious to a little child she wasn't feeling well. If you have pushed her over the edge, I swear…,' Rose halts to regain her composure for the children, before whispering the last bit that is on her mind. 'It's Hermione's life. Stop trying to run it for her and accept her choices for once in your life.'
A bright flash leaves Devon's wand and he looks up satisfied. 'That should do it, I hope,' he says. 'I gave it all I got.'
'Thanks Devon,' Kate says calmly.
Meanwhile Voldemort is still holding the trembling, desperate figure of Hermione in his arms. Her head is buried in his chest and he can feel he is losing her. And that simply is unacceptable. Her darkness is swirling freely through the practice, bouncing at the walls with a vengeance. Though, right now, she is still able to prevent actual serious damage from occurring. But he can tell it won't be much longer.
'Hermione, look at me!' he orders forcefully again.
He can't let go of her hands; he knows that much. But she needs to look him in the eye or else he can't help her. 'Hermione, please,' he whispers.
His whispered plea triggers the wanted response and two blazing dark eyes are looking back up at him. 'Trust me with it,' he says gazing at her intensely. 'Unleashing only a bit of it to me won't help you this time, Hermione; you need to transfer all those powers to me before they consume you whole. Think of Devon, Matthew, Sally and Anthony; they can't lose you, Hermione. Trust me, please. I will…'
'Transfero i' quanta templa val en' du a' Thomas Granger,' Hermione casts before he is even finished speaking. 'Don't make me regret this,' she whispers right before she turns limp in his arms.
He holds her firmly, while he notices a dark mist vacating her body, and rather abruptly, it pounces into his chest. Slowly, it begins to empower him beyond his wildest dreams. The sheer force of it is unimaginable and it invigorates him. He thrives on it. This – this is more than he could have hoped for. Twenty-five years he had to wait to obtain this. Twenty-five years before she finally let her guard down completely around him. He has felt parts of the magic's true powers before when Hermione had problems maintaining her sanity due to its innate darkness, but she always kept the majority of it inside of her. Now, he has it all. So much power that has been contained into that little body of his wife, she really is something. He strokes her hair gently and takes in a deep breath to feel the control he now beholds in his body. The way it flows through his nerves, invigorates his muscles and ensnares his senses is making him feel on top of the world. No one will ever beat him now.
'Thomas?' Hermione whispers feebly.
He looks down and smiles at her reassuringly. He knows that he can't hold on to the full force of all that dark magic forever, because it would consume him wholly too and the thought of something controlling him is just too outrageous. So, he will, eventually, have to transfer at least some of it back to Hermione, but by that time she will have surrendered to him fully and he sure will enjoy all this power for the future to come.
'I've got you, dear. You are going to be fine.'
Hermione smiles back at him. 'We'd better tell the others everything is okay.'
Voldemort pulls her close and Apparates them straight into the living room despite the enhanced wards. Everyone stares at them silently at first. 'It's alright now,' Voldemort says quietly.
Sally shrieks, flies to her feet, races to her mother and clings to her, crying tears of relief. 'It's alright, honey. I am fine now,' Hermione mutters, while leaning against Voldemort who is supporting her.
She winks reassuringly at Matthew, who is noticeable pale, and he smiles back before walking over too and giving his mother a hug. 'It was a bad one, this time, wasn't it mum?'
'Yes, but it's been dealt with as always.'
A small tug on her robe makes Hermione look down. 'I knew you would be fine,' Anthony states firmly, 'because daddy was with you.'
'And you were absolutely right,' Hermione acknowledges. 'I am sorry for scaring you, dad,' she adds to Hugo.
'No, he is sorry,' Rose intervenes bluntly, elbowing her husband who nods in forced agreement.
'Impressive ward, your doing?' Voldemort asks Devon.
'Aunt Kate's, I merely enhanced it a bit.'
'A bit,' Kate snorts. 'Talk about your understatement of the year.'
'Well, if all the fun is over, I will be going,' Devon says lightly. 'Are you coming with me Matthew?'
Both men Disapparate after saying goodbye, and Hermione leans her head back against Voldemort's chest. 'We have to go or I will crash to the floor with too many witnesses,' Hermione mentally tells him.
'Sal, Anthony, I trust you will listen to your grandparents, while your mother and I are away on vacation,' Voldemort says sternly. 'If I hear any complaints…,' and he glares at Sally meaningfully, who gives him an annoyed glare back, 'you will answer to me. Is that understood?'
'Yes, dad,' Sally says tiresomely.
'I always listen,' Anthony rebuts.
'Yes, you're Saint Anthony,' Sally teases. 'They'll have to make a very special House for Saints at Hogwarts when you go too.'
'And you have to change to the "I heart Cedric" House,' Anthony replies, sticking out his tongue. 'Maybe then he will want to snog you some more behind the Quidditch dressing rooms.' And he runs out the living room quickly.
'Why, you little tattletale…' Sally races after the laughing Anthony.
'Good luck with them,' Hermione says sighing.
But Rose merely laughs.
'If they cause you any problems…,' Voldemort starts.
'I know how to reach you,' Rose finishes.
'And I live across the street,' Kate adds smirking. 'I can always withdraw some House points in advance,' she says wickedly.
'You two have to go, I think,' Rose adds, glancing at Hermione's pale complexion knowingly.
They all say their goodbyes, and with a smooth spin, Lord Voldemort Disapparates Hermione and him to an underground location. Torches flare on upon their arrival.
'I'm tired,' Hermione whispers.
'I know, dear.'
He lifts her up in his arms, and she rests her head on his shoulder. Her familiar cinnamon smell brushes his nostrils and it makes him smile at the memory when he first held her in his arms, unaware it was her.
'What is this place?' Hermione asks, looking around the underground cave curiously.
'Oh, I found it a couple of weeks ago,' Voldemort responds casually as he moves them sideways through a narrow passage before entering a luxurious bedroom. 'It seems I located the place Merlin and Viviane used as their last hideaway from the rest of the world. It kind of explains the whole myth that she locked him up in a rock, considering the huge stone that is bolting the entrance.'
'Really?' Hermione says impressed, while he places her in the bed and changes her clothes into a bit of more "interesting" sleepwear. 'Found anything of interest?'
'Nah, nothing much,' Voldemort says shrugging, 'just a huge library with an enormous amount of scrolls…'
'Library!' Hermione says excited, and she tries to get up, but her husband pushes her back in the bed.
'It will still be there in the morning,' he says smirking, while stroking her hair.
'I suppose…,' Hermione mumbles reluctantly.
'Eh, if you think you have enough energy to browse through a large archive, then we can also do something about Sally being the only girl of our children,' Voldemort suggest deviously.
Hermione merely glares at him. 'You just loved bullying Cedric, didn't you?'
A soft snicker indicates she hit the nail right on the head.
'Well, I think four is enough. Besides, you never know…,' she says lifting her eyebrows mischievously, 'it may turn out to be a boy again.'
'No, I think this one will definitely be a girl,' Voldemort responds certain, while crawling in the bed beside her and pulling her against him.
'You said the same thing about Anthony,' Hermione reminds him. 'And remember little babies do all those whining and crying things, which drives you nuts,' she adds snickering.
'That's why Silencing Charms were invented, my dear.'
Hermione hits her head with the palm of her hand. 'I am not even going to dignify that with a response.'
'Good, because I feel more like creating little Hermione Rose,' Voldemort grins.
'Just so you know if it turns out to be a boy again, I am naming him Harry,' Hermione says smirking at her husband.
'Over my dead body,' he says, moving on top of her.
'U-hu, Harry Ronald Wulfric Albus Arthur James Sirius Remus Tommm…' His mouth captures her and a domineering kiss silences her completely.
When they are done, he looks at the little sleeping witch in his arms proudly. He invigorated her with his magic, so she could perform, but she was exhausted afterwards and had fallen asleep straight away. He smiles at the peaceful, content expression on her face. She appears so vulnerable, so fragile, and so easy to break and destroy. But he knows the strength she truly carries inside of her and is capable of wielding. His life has never been dull again since she came into it. She is everything he ever wished for: intelligent, powerful, loyal, stubborn, feisty, beautiful, loving, cunning, ambitious, and let's not forget bossy. He grins. She challenges and defies him, and for the first time in his life, it doesn't bother him, but he likes it. Such an extraordinary little witch she is, and she is all his; the mother of his children and his wife. She will have it all, because Lord Voldemort always rewards those who serve him well.