*Last chance to back out* He sent to her via his eyes.
*I know* She sighed as she answered in the same silent manner. *Do it! We've given them over twenty years of our lives, and for what? It's time we were selfish for a while*
He nodded firmly, and walked out of her eye line for a time. She made her excuses to her husband as to why they had to tarry in that particular spot, but she no longer cared about being inconspicuous about such things. He would have other things to worry about soon enough.
As her love re-emerged from the Owlery, he glanced at her. *It's done. See you, after* With that, the two families went their separate ways.
TWENTY-ONE YEARS LATER
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. I really, really, don't! In any way, shape, or form. J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing and Warner Brothers Pictures do.
However, if you think that I do, I have some checks for you to sign. Oh, and I'll take that house your not wanting, as well. Plus the car. (Hey, it looks good enough to resell for a profit?)
Notes: As with more than a few people out there, I never really got why J.K. hooked Hermione up with Ron, of all people, at the end of The Deathly Hallows. He treats her like crap, and rarely has a kind word to say about her, or her interests, or anything about her to be honest. Saying that two people argue like an old couple is not meant to be a compliment, or a hint for said pair! Quite frankly, her marrying him is akin to enabling a bully in my opinion.
And while I have fewer issues with Harry/Ginny, the way his attraction to her is portrayed as rather suddenly happening right after he spends time at the Burrow in book six, (quite coincidentally, I'm sure.) smacks of potions being used liberally.
Despite how popular the books are, thank heavens it's only fiction.
As such, it gives me this chance to mess with canon. (As much as one can when the fic is set after the books finish.)
WARNINGS: This story contains prolific bad language, adult themes and situations. FanFictiondotnet's ratings only go as high as MA+, but I think it probably deserves higher.
You have been warned…
*Communicating via Legillimancy*
"And that's that." Ginny Potter exhaled loudly as the Hogwarts Express pulled away from Platform 9 ¾ with the last of the Potters on board. "Lily's finally on her way. We now have an empty nest." 'About bloody time too.' She mused internally. 'We can finally start socialising in decent company again. I can fully understand now why most of the high-class balls happen two weeks after Hogwarts starts for the year. No bloody kids underfoot for months!' Ginny had been letting Harry talk her out of them attending the various high society functions that the magical British elite throw for years, using the kids as an excuse. Or his duties at work. Not anymore! Now that her Quiddich career was over, and the kids away nine plus months of the year, she was going to sit back and damn well enjoy the perks of being the wife of The-Man-Who'd-Won, Lord Harry Potter.
"Don't worry. She and Hugo will look out for each other." Her older brother, Ronald Weasley, announced, completely oblivious to his sister's thoughts. He was looking forward to getting drunk with Harry at the local pub, without him skiving off with excuses. No more of that. Plus, it will would get him away from Hermione. She'd been great in the sack, at least she had been until Hugo had been born. But listening to her go on about spell-crafting and all that other crap that was way over his head was boring in the extreme. He would have put a stop to it years ago, and made her settle down and tend the house like a proper wife should, but unfortunately his job at the ministry didn't quite bring in enough Galleons to cover their expenses. Spell-crafters, however, raked the gold in like nobody's business! That, and he didn't want her doing to him again what she had the last time he tried to assert his authority as her husband over her. "The kids have been chomping at the bit to get to Hogwarts for years. And they both have the others looking out for them too. They'll be fine." He assured his sister.
Hermione Weasley watched as the last plume of white smoke faded into the early autumn air, and sighed deeply. Harry Potter approached her from behind and laid a comforting hand on the nape of her neck. "While he's not right about a lot of things, Ron has this one nailed. The kids'll look out for each other." He rubbed the back of her neck, under her long wavy hair, as he spoke. Hermione moaned agreeably.
"OI! What d'you two think your doing?" Ron yelled, pretty much gathering the whole station's attention with his booming inquiry. "Get your hands off my wife, Potter!"
"I think the word 'boorish' was invented specifically for that prat." Harry groaned and rolled his eyes. Typical Ron. Doesn't care what he says, or who hears him, just as long as he gets to vent.
"Give me an hour, I could give you a dictionary's worth of adjectives to describe him." Hermione added as they both turned to the redheads. "I am actually beginning to look forward to this."
"Look forward to what?" Ginny asked, her eyes narrowing. Her husband and her brother's wife were being entirely too familiar with each other for her liking. She had spent far too many years keeping them away from each other for her efforts to suddenlyfail like this.
"Ron. Ginny." Harry said in a tone not meant to carry far. "Hermione and I have booked a private booth for lunch at the Weeping Witch."
"We thought it might be appropriate." Hermione interjected with an inscrutable expression.
"For what?" Ron demanded.
"A conversation that is very much overdue." Harry answered enigmatically.
Some instinct deep inside Ron did not like the sound of that. "No! We're leaving, now!" He snarled.
"Ronald Weasley. If you leave now, you will regret it. I assure you." Hermione snarled back. "Need I remind you what happened the last time you tried to force me to do something I didn't want to?"
When Ron actually wilted under his wife's glare, and covered his crotch with both hands briefly, both Harry and Ginny independently decided that they had to know what that was about.
"Fine." Ron huffed indignantly, trying to recover some of his self-importance. "We'll go to bloody lunch then."
Half an hour later found both couples sitting on opposite sides of a table in a private room. Both Harry and Hermione had raised silencing and privacy spells within the room before they sat down. Ron vaguely remembered some of them from that long ago Horcrux hunt. However, that thought was lost when he realised that the two of them had sat down next to each other, opposite Ron and Ginny. "What the bloody-"
"Ron," Harry gave the other man a hard stare, one he had honed during his time as an Auror, and perfected as a member of the Wizengamot. "You have two choices. You can sit down and shut up, or I can petrify you and tie you up for the duration of this conversation. Your choice."
Ron sat down and shut up.
"Now, Hermione and I are going to speak. You two will listen. You will be allowed to ask questions in a polite manner. If you don't, I will become annoyed. Is that clear?"
They nodded sullenly.
"Good." Harry paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "We, Hermione and I, argued long and hard over when to speak to you two. We eventually decided that now, when all of our children have started Hogwarts, would be the best time."
"For what?" Ginny asked. Normally, she would be demanding quite loudly for an explanation over today's behaviour by the both of them. But, she had learnt the hard way that when Harry uses the voice he just did on the both of them, it was past time to tread softly.
Harry and Hermione glanced at each other briefly. "We're leaving you." She said simply.
"WHAT?" Ginny shrieked.
"LIKE FUCK YOU ARE!" Ron bellowed as he reached across the table for Harry with both hands.
"Petrify." Harry whispered in Parseltongue, almost casually pointing his wand. Ron froze halfway over the table.
"Imperio." Ron unfroze and sat down quietly, barely managing to show that he was fighting the curse.
"Incarcerous." Now he was tied securely to the chair. Harry then released the Imperius and stared at Ron, daring the other man to interrupt him again. Ron was suddenly reminded that this was the man that killed Voldemort single-handedly.
"Now, where were we?" Harry continued, "Oh yes, Hermione and I have had enough of the both of you, and wish to try something we probably should have years ago."
"We are going to try a relationship with each other." Hermione clarified. She knew her husband wouldn't pick up on it any other way than to have it spelled out with small words.
"You can't." Ginny stated confidently.
"Uh, yes we can, actually." Harry retorted. "And you two will do nothing about it. In fact, you can't do anything about it."
"Like hell! In case you two idiots didn't understand the vows you took when you married us, magical marriages are forever. There is no divorce." Ginny crowed triumphantly, as if merely stating that fact would somehow undo their stated intentions.
"Well duh!" Hermione replied.
"So…" Ginny was now uncertain. These two were entirely too confident for her liking. And when did they get the chance to organise this anyway. They rarely saw each other, and never without their spouses in the room. "So, you can't be together. The magic of the vows will prevent you from doing that."
As soon as those words left her mouth, Harry and Hermione burst into gales of laughter. They didn't stop for a good long time. In fact, by the time they wound down, they were leaning heavily on each other to keep themselves from toppling onto the floor.
"Oh Merlin, I can't believe you said that with a straight face." Harry said, chuckling.
"What do you mean?" Ron put in. "Ginny's right. You two're stuck with us."
"Truer words were never spoken." Hermione agreed. "However, if we choose to become involved with others outside the marriage, there's nothing to stop us."
"It's true, Ron." Hermione said bitterly. "After all, no magic stopped you from fucking around with anything that wriggled behind my back all these years now, did it?"
Ron gaped at his wife.
"And certainly nothing stopped you fathering all of 'our' children with different men, Ginny?"
Ginny's jaw joined her brother's on the floor.
"What, you never thought that I'd figure out that you'd always fall pregnant right after you came home from touring with the Hollyhead Harpies at the end of the season? That even though 'our' kids were supposedly conceived then, the healers always mentioned that it was curious that James, Albus and Lily were all almost a month premature?"
"What…? You…? How…?"
Harry interrupted her stammering. "My first clue came when I tried to take James and Albus into the Potter Family Vaults. You were pregnant with Lily at that time, and I had gotten those two hellions out of the house to give you a break. On a whim, I decided to give them a treat, and show them what they would inherit someday." He stared at her coldly. "Imagine my surprise when neither of the boys were able to just walk inside the vault. I had to invite them in through the family wards specifically designed to keep those not of Potter blood out."
Silence reigned for a while as those facts were absorbed.
"Doesn't mean anything. The wards could be faulty, or something. Where's your proof?" Ginny demanded sullenly. Harry was hers. She had spent no small amount of time and effort making sure that she was the one who would land him. She was not going to give him up without a fight!
Unfortunately, she had forgotten in her panic the man her husband had made himself into, both as an Auror and as a Lord with a seat on the Wizengamot.
Harry pulled a shrunken briefcase out of his pocket, and enlarged it to its normal size. Opening it up, he began pulling out photos and arranging them in front of him on the tabletop. "I'm the head of an Ancient and Noble House, Ginevra. The Goblins have a policy of making sure that the bloodlines remain intact when the next generation arrives. Especially for Houses that have as much gold as the Potters do. It annoys them greatly when Family Vaults seal themselves shut because there are no blood relatives left to inherit, just because some silly little girl can't keep her legs closed to all men except her husband." He spat. "So, after a quick bloodline test to prove what the vault wards were indicating to me, I turned the goblins loose on you. It was enlightening, as well as incredibly painful."
"The assistant manager of the Harpies, the night you all celebrated your finals win of the England cup." Three wizarding photos slid towards her. While the quality wasn't the greatest, they clearly showed Ginny and a dark-haired man enthusiastically leading each other into a room while each groped the other's body. The last one had the man licking her exposed breasts as she whipped her top off just before the door shut.
"Oliver Wood, just before the Harpies and Puddlemere United played that exhibition match almost a year later. You didn't even bother to hide too much that time." These photos were of a professional quality, and there were a lot more of them. Very graphic, too. The photographer had obviously rented the room in the hotel over the road from theirs, and had a perfect angle to see through the window.
"Dennis Creevy. That one hurt, let me tell you." Harry commented with a cold face as he threw the last batch of photos across the table.
A cold pit had formed in her stomach. "How…"
"The first batch? One of your fellow players hand delivered them to me after I was pointed at the owner of the Harpies by the goblins. The ones of you and dear old Ollie, I had to buy outright from a Daily Prophet muckraker. Hint: if one of those bottom dwellers ever tries to blackmail you, threaten to ruin him completely, starting with his ability to pee standing up. I guarantee you, he'll fold." Harry shrugged. "As for Dennis? Well, it's nice to have a section head of the Aurors completely in my pocket. Makes getting the occasional bit of quiet business done very easy."
Ginny struggled to form words.
"Oh, and those photo's are only from your extra-marital affairs that actually managed to sire a child. I have a box full of others where you were a bit more careful, elsewhere."
Ginny Potter finally gave up trying to speak, and lowered her head, utterly defeated.
This, naturally, is when Ron tried to take up the slack.
"That still doesn't explain why you think my wife's gonna go with you. Or why you think I'm gonna allow this crap."
Harry sat down and let Hermione handle her husband. It was only fair. Why should he have all the fun?
"Ronald, have you forgotten the vows and magical oaths I extracted from you after I first found out about your wandering ways?" Ron squirmed uneasily. "Or how I modified them later, after you were unable to curb your appetites sufficiently?" He nodded as he slumped into his chair.
"What vows, may I ask?" Harry interjected. He had an idea that Hermione knew of Ron's infidelity, but not that she had confronted him over it. It was something they had not touched on yet in their brief conversations.
Seeing Ron shake his head at her frantically, she grinned viscously and proceeded to explain, "Shortly after Hugo was born, a borderline-hysterical Lavender Daven, nee Brown, turned up on our doorstep, demanding to speak to him." She pointed a thumb at Ron. "Apparently, when I was about seven months along with our youngest, and not really in the mood for sex, Ronald had gone elsewhere. They'd done the deed during sixth year at Hogwarts, and he managed to convince her that a return bout was a good idea. The fact that Mister Daven was a much older man only interested in having a bit of fluff to hang on his arm, and not much else, swayed her as well."
"So, she'd made the same mistake I had, twice, and not checked that the prat had refreshed his contraception charm at St. Mungo's." She scowled at her husband, rueing once again the day she had said 'I do'. "Lo and behold, Lavender was four months along, and shitting herself because she was starting to show."
Hermione's expression darkened. "Here's where it gets more interesting. Turns out Lavender had tried to see the manager of the Cannons first, before coming and crying on my shoulder. She'd heard around the traps that that was what the other girls who had slept with my darling hubby had done. Apparently, most of the major teams had a slush fund to pay for terminations, or hush money, for their team member's 'indiscretions'. She was looking for a slice from that pie."
"She what?" Ron said, stunned.
"Yes Ron. She wanted us to pay for a termination." Hermione growled in a freezing tone. "Because she was running out of time, and the Cannons wouldn't front up the Galleons."
"Wait. The pro Quiddich teams regularly pay hush money to girls stupid enough to get knocked up by their players?" Harry asked, shocked. The Quiddich league was a good deal seedier than he had imagined.
"Uh-huh. And since getting a pregnancy terminated is so frowned upon in the wizarding world, its horribly expensive to get it done safely, as well as convince the healer involved to forget it ever happened." She nodded her head. "In fact, it's because of that behaviour that the idiot got himself thrown off the team."
"Huh? They told me-"
"I don't care what fanciful lie they spun to get you out of the room without you throwing a tantrum, Ron. When I sat down face to face with the manager of the Cannons, he rather sheepishly explained to me that the reason they didn't renew your contract was because the cost-to-benefit ratio of retaining you as a keeper was too unbalanced."
Hermione rolled her eyes and put it into smaller words, "Your relentlessly wandering prick cost them so much gold in payouts and terminations, that cutting you loose was less expensive than keeping you on for the sponsorship Galleons you brought in."
"Oh." Ron nodded, and then frowned. "Hey!"
"Oh shut up." She ordered. "As you can imagine, I was ropeable. I also couldn't have that silly bitch screaming from the rooftops about having Ron's baby while they were both married to other people. So, I bit the bullet and paid her. I also got out of her exactly who else the weasel had done, that she knew of. The nice man with a growing fear of Spell-crafters was also quite talkative." Hermione let out an evil smirk. It faded as she continued, "The main reason I did this was because I didn't want my children growing up in the middle of a public furore. Remembering Harry's life, and the effect all that negative publicity had on him while we were growing up, stopped me from killing you right then and there. Sadly, while I probably would have gotten a reduced sentence from the DMLE due to extreme provocation in the heat of the moment, you still had your fans, and they were a rabidly protective lot. Worse than football louts, they were." She finished with a mutter.
"The night he came home after I'd figured all this out, was loud." She frowned, remembering how shocked she was at her behaviour later. She had never cut loose like that before, at anyone. Even during the final battle at Hogwarts, she had been hyped up on adrenaline, but still in control.
"I was slapping and clawing every part of him that I could reach, while screaming obscenities at the top of my lungs. Thankfully, I'd had the forethought to send the kids to Molly and Arthur's for the night. I then started shouting exactly why I was so furious at him. He looked so shocked that his wandering ways were catching up to him. And he was shouting himself after I explained about Lavender, including me paying for her to terminate the kid. Twenty minutes in, he'd had enough, and pushed me roughly away from him and across the room."
Harry nearly leapt up and hexed Ron when he heard that. Hermione just shook her head and put a restraining hand on his wand arm. "Its okay, Harry. He didn't hurt me." Seeing him relax, she continued, "However, he did invoke an old, almost forgotten caveat in the pureblood marriage laws, which states that he was magically binding my abilities until he deemed me ready to be released."
Now she had to hold Harry back with both hands, while Ron tried to sink lower into his chair. "Its okay, Harry. I was ready for it."
"Say what?" Both Ron and Ginny exclaimed.
"Quite frankly, I had been expecting him to try that on me for years. Even when we were getting along, we never got along that well. I insisted on getting my mastery in charms, then becoming a spell-crafter. I was pulling in more Galleons than he ever did, even at the height of his popularity with the Cannons. I'm surprised his ego could let it continue for so long! I was supposed to be like dear old Molly, quietly sitting at home while the big, strong man went out and earned the money." She said sarcastically. "So, he triggered that stupid little binding, and then wrapped me in conjured rope. He then proceeded to spell out to me how it was going to be from now on."
Hermione smirked. "While he was spouting his thoughts on how our marriage was going to proceed from that point, I managed to calm down and start to think again. When he finally wound down, I just nodded, told him that he was never going to touch my body again, and explained why." Her smirk became downright predatory with the memory. "The poor dear. He was so shocked that I wasn't cowed by his feeble blustering. After a few more useless threats and fist waving, I explained that I had been told about that caveat ages ago, and had taken steps. I then spoke a trigger-word that caused him to fall unconscious."
"Awesome!" Harry enthused.
"Not really." Hermione countered. "I was still tied up to that bloody chair, so I couldn't move until either the prat woke up or the spell wore off." She sighed, still a little embarrassed that she hadn't thought of that before she said the word. "The spell wore off first. And without magic, I couldn't wake him. So, I left him on the floor and went to bed. I wasn't going to put my back out trying to move him. The next morning, I tried to continue our conversation."
"How did you know?" Ron asked. "Even I only found out about that ca…cav… thingy in the marriage laws by accident."
Hermione weighed up the pro's and con's of telling him. It would come out soon enough, she figured. That package Harry had sent to the Weasleys would see to that. "Your brother, Bill, mentioned it first."
"Uh-huh. Apparently, he'd had a few of his mates rib him about whether he'd need to use it on Fleur or not, to keep a 'handle' on her, later on in their marriage. At our wedding, he'd overheard you make some questionable comments about me, so he decided to warn me. Just in case."
"That bastard!" Ron fumed. "How dare he-"
"Give me a fighting chance, in case you ever decided to use it on me?" Hermione finished.
"Who else?" Ron demanded.
"Arthur took me aside next. He'd spotted you getting frisky with a fan at an after-match party you'd invited him along to, and knowing how much you like to think your in control, he was concerned that if your behaviour ever got back to me you'd use it to get me to back off."
"Dad knows?" Ginny whispered as Ron's face paled.
"Are you kidding? It's an open bloody secret amongst your family." Hermione shouted into his face. "But I'll get to that later. Percy was the last to talk to me before it became common knowledge in the family. But that also happened later." She shrugged. "The next morning, I tried to talk to him, with no luck. He was content to leave me without magic, totally dependant on him to get anything complicated done. I couldn't even use the Floo!" She growled. "The day after, however, he was more amenable to a civilised conversation."
"Why?" Ginny asked, genuinely curious. She knew her brother. He didn't relinquish control unless he absolutely had to. And he'd been itching to get one over on Hermione for ages.
"She…she…" Ron sputtered. "She cursed me!"
"Like I said, Trigger-words. One Weasley warning me about Ron was worrying. Two, and it was time to take precautions! I had woven some very specific spells into Won-Won after Arthur took me aside. The first one knocked him out. The second one triggered several curses. The third ensured that I would have to have my wand and my magic back to make them dormant again."
"What did they do? The curses, I mean." Harry asked.
"They made him unable to get it up." Harry snorted at that. "They also made sure that every time he went to the toilet, it felt like he was passing the sword of Gryffindor, point first. He was now incapable of harming me physically or magically without suffering the same pain magnified greatly upon himself. Oh, and his crotch was glowing neon green and silver." She added as an afterthought.
"You…you painted his block 'n tackle in Slytherin colours?" Harry laughed. "Brilliant!"
"Thank you." Hermione nodded. "He came around rather quickly, in the end. I got the binding lifted. I then got some magical oaths out of him before I reversed the curses. Basically, he couldn't ever do that to me again. He would also never share my bed again. However, in return I let him continue to sleep around as much as he wanted, as long as he kept his liaisons quiet and away from the house. Our children would never know, nor would the public." She sighed. "Unfortunately, it wasn't enough."
"A few years later, after Arthur had gotten him a job at the ministry-"
"Ah yes, pure-bloods finding gainful employment at the ministry via family members. A time-honoured tradition of getting the dregs of the families out of the way, and doing something vaguely useful." Harry drawled. "I'm surprised Arthur even considered it, much less did it."
"Yeah, well, I couldn't stand having the prat around the house constantly, and him coming home at two in the morning drunk as a lord." Hermione shot back.
"Oi! We Lords do not get that drunk publicly, I'll have you know." Harry retorted indignantly. "We prefer to do it in the privacy of our mansions, instead."
"So, I begged Arthur to do something after putting up with it for over a year." She continued, ignoring Harry's banter. "He seemed to be happy there. He was second in charge in Arthur's old department, Misuse of Muggle Artefacts. Sadly, when Percy took me aside to tell me about Ron's dalliances with any witch in the Ministry stupid enough to fall in to bed with him, I knew I had to alter the oaths. Some of them had come sniffing around, looking for a payout."
"That's when he told you about the caveat?"
"Yah. I thanked him kindly, told him that his father and oldest brother had already informed me, and that I had already taken steps." She smiled wistfully. Percy had actually turned out alright, in his own starchy way. "I then sat Ron down again, and told him I was altering our agreement."
"How did you alter it?" Ginny enquired.
"I sterilised him." She replied simply.
Hermione let out an exasperated breath. "Ginny, I was sick and tired of having to pay out every stupid slut that fucked him without protection. It was my money that was paying for their terminations or their silence. All so that our kids could grow up without being sucked into a scandal of his making!"
"They didn't all get terminated?" Ron asked queasily.
"No, sadly. Some of them wanted to keep the babies, as well as the money." Hermione sighed. "That's why I did what I did. You have about seven bastards running around magical England at this moment, Ronald. More, if you count what you got up to during tours on the continent. I was sick of it. So I took steps."
"Hnh. I did something similar." Harry grunted.
"Yeah. After I confirmed that Lily wasn't mine as well, I told Ginny that I was getting a long-term contraceptive spell put on me. Without letting her know that I knew that all of our kids weren't mine. I hadn't actually wanted children so early in our marriage. I would have preferred to wait until we were in our late twenties."
"Why?" Hermione was honestly curious. She has always known that he had wanted a family. But that he was willing to delay it for ten years or so? That was new.
"As magicals, we have a lifespan almost double that of non-magicals. We are able to have children well into our sixties quite safely, and without any outside intervention necessary. I had more than enough on my plate at the time, with being an Auror, then later a member of the Wizengamot. What was the rush?"
Hermione nodded. It made sense.
"She had a fit, of course. It meant that she'd have to be a lot more careful in the future. Couldn't have a kid that I could obviously prove wasn't mine, could she. Might make her perfect world a bit awkward." He ran his hands through his unruly hair. "We had a spectacular fight over that. Didn't do her any good, though."
Ginny tried to look indignant, but couldn't muster up the righteousness. Her husband had her dead to rights, and he knew it. She started to flash back over their life together, specifically the last few years, trying to remember details.
Memories of the infrequent visits to the Potter vaults immediately leapt out at her. She realised that Harry had never let their kids just walk into the family vaults. He always made sure that he was touching them, or sent one or two of them back to her first, so he could make a show of inviting them inside. Past the family wards. The ones that only let in true Potters, or their spouses.
"Why did you hide it from us? From me?" She asked.
"For much the same reason Hermione did." Harry looked at his shoes as he spoke. "After finding out about James and Albus, I so wanted Lily to be mine. I really did. But, she was Creevey's." He raised his head, and they were all shocked to see tears in his eyes. "I could have killed you when I found out for sure. In fact, I nearly did. Do you remember that night in the hospital when you woke up and saw me standing at the foot of the bed as St. Mungo's, looking from you to Lily's crib?" Ginny nodded, paling. She had felt a deep sense of unease towards him, that night. She had never figured out why. "The killing curse was on my lips. I nearly said it. But… Lily moved." He whispered. "She wasn't truly mine, but I loved her straight away. It was the same with James and Albus. They're not of my body. But their still mine, in all the ways that count. As much as I hated you, I could not deprive my children of their mother. I couldn't do to them, what two insanely powerful and selfish wizards did to me."
The room filled with silence for a time.
"Why did you marry us?" Ron asked suddenly. "I mean, if you hated us as much as you seem to, why?" He shrugged helplessly, unable to articulate himself better.
"Ron, I didn't hate you, back then." Hermione replied in a surprisingly gentle tone.
"Nor I you, Ginny." Harry agreed. "It's something that's only happened in the years since."
"Every betrayal. Every infidelity. Every deceit. It all added up." Hermione continued.
"But, if you think that you'll be happier with each other now, why didn't you get together back then?" Ron spat.
Harry and Hermione sighed in unison. "I was an emotionally stunted seventeen year old that had just managed to survive something that should have killed me, Ron." He said. "I barely knew how to relate to the opposite sex, much less make a pass at a girl."
"And I was not much better." She added. "Plus, he had never given me a hint that he might have found me attractive."
"Neither did you."
"We were both stupid about it." Hermione agreed.
"We had gone through so much, not only during that year, but for the six years before it."
"And straight afterwards, we were hurled through the grinding stone again, trying to deal with the aftermath."
"Our final, delayed year at Hogwarts."
"The Aurors academy."
"Getting my Charms Mastery."
"Finding out that I was actually a Lord, and had a hereditary seat on the Wizengamot."
"Making a name for myself as a Spell-crafter in a male dominated field."
They shrugged again. "You were safe, and familiar. And everyone around us was subtly pushing us together."
"It was the easy way out."
"That's…that's…" Ginny sputtered.
"Incredibly selfish, and taking the easy way out." Hermione supplied. "Yes. And it's a mistake we've all been paying for. For over twenty years."
Harry spoke before either of the redheads could get a word in edgeways, "But, before you two try to climb back on your high horses again, remember this; We started our marriages to you both loving you deeply. And we still love our children as much now, as when they were born. It was your actions that led us all to this day."
Harry and Hermione had retreated to a far corner of the room after his last statement, leaving a gob smacked Ron and Ginny still sitting at the table. The redheads were now having an animated discussion amongst themselves. Thankfully, Ginny had the presence of mind to throw up a silencing charm before they started.
"Think they'll cave?" Harry asked.
"For now." Hermione replied. "I'd bet my last years royalties that Ron will eventually have a drunken rant in the wrong company one day, and it'll make the papers."
"Good thing you still have Rita in your back pocket then, isn't it?" He smirked.
"Like Luna wouldn't jump at the chance to print a series of articles in the Quibbler about the truth behind this mess." She retorted. "Or jump you, for that matter." She added, laughing.
"I know nothing of such vile innuendo, young miss." Harry shot back, a smile taking the edge of his words. "Luna Lovegood is a fine, upstanding member of the press. Such slanderous words could see you in much trouble."
"Bollocks! She'd have you naked and on the desk in her office if you so much as hinted at being interested. Why you never took advantage of her blatant offer, I'll never know?"
He sighed. "One: because Ginny knew about Luna's not so subtle offers as well, and I didn't need the headache. Two: I needed to keep my nose clean of any whiff of scandal, to help pull this off. And Three: I kinda have someone else in mind that I'd rather bend over a desk." He finished with a slight leer.
Hermione blushed. "Just you wait, mister. We'll see who bends who over a desk." She retorted in an earthy tone.
Harry opened his mouth to continue flirting when a popping sound signalled that Ginny had dispelled the silencing charm around her and her brother. "How do we make this work?" She stated grumpily.
"Simple." Hermione answered as they returned to the table. "When the kids are at home, we'll be under the same roof as you, like normal. Since both couples have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for years anyway, not much will change there."
Harry continued, "The rest of the time, Hermione and I will be doing whatever we want, whenever we want and wherever we want. You two will continue doing whatever you want as well."
"The public knows vaguely that both our marriages are not as strong as they once were." Hermione sighed. "Enough people know about Ron's infidelity in the Ministry and elsewhere, that it will not be a great surprise when we begin spending even less time together now that all of our children are away at Hogwarts."
"And Ginny and I have had some truly spectacular arguments in public, so us being separate will also not come as too much of a shock either." He shrugged. "So basically, we'll continue on as before. For the occasional ceremonial dinner, when I simply can't make up an excuse to get out of it, we'll put on our happy faces and smile for the gossip rags."
"And…our children?" Ginny asked hesitantly.
"Minerva already knows what you two have been up to." Ron and Ginny's jaws dropped again. "The Hogwarts rolls don't just tell the school who's eligible to start there, you know." Harry frowned. "I was always going to tell James, Albus and Lily after their OWL's were done, so if they hated us, they had the freedom to never see us again if they chose."
"And I would have told Rose and Hugo about the same time, for the same reasons." Hermione agreed. "Unfortunately, starting school presents even more problems for our kids. I've talked with the rest of you family about your illegitimate kids already, Ron." She dropped that bombshell blithely.
"And earlier today, I sent a complete list of who both of you have slept with in the past, plus what children were born as a result of your indiscretions, to all of your families. Along with a note explaining our decisions today." Harry added. "They finally know everything. Expect howlers."
"WHAT! WHY?" He demanded.
"Because two years ago, Bill and Fleur's youngest tried to date one of your bastards seriously. Minerva called me to the school to be there as she and the head of Gryffindor house had to explain to your niece and her parents why it was impossible for her to be together with that particular boy!" She screamed back.
"Oh." He sat back, stunned. "Oh crap."
"Yeah, 'oh crap'." Hermione shot back sarcastically. "You finally beginning to figure out exactly how much you've fucked up our kids lives yet? All of them, not just the one's you will openly admit to."
Ron finally gave up, and put his head in his hands. The only sign of movement from him for the rest of the discussion was his shoulders shaking slightly every now and again.
"Teddy and his mother, Andromeda, know already as well. And he's on my…our side." Harry gestured to Hermione before continuing. "And seeing as all the Weasley kids think of him as a kind of cool uncle that they can talk to about anything, it'll help."
"What about you, Harry? What will you do about an heir for House Potter?" Ginny asked in a worried tone. 'He wouldn't…? She wouldn't…?'
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but was beaten to the punch. "If he's willing, I'd like to provide him with one." Hermione said with a quaver in her voice.
It was a sign of how far Ron had fallen into despair by that time, that he didn't even flinch when his wife said that aloud.
Harry, on the other hand, was stunned. He had hoped. He had dreamed. But, in all the time they had been planning this day, he had frankly never contemplated that Hermione would…
"Are… Are you sure?" He swallowed thickly. "I mean-"
"Yes Harry, I am sure." Hermione looked him steadily in the eye. "And I'm completely serious." She faltered then. "That is, if… if you want-"
Harry leant in and whispered in her ear. "Most definitely, I want." He grinned as he watched her ears go pink. "But, I think we should save the rest of this conversation for later."
"Oh yes." Hermione whispered back, licking her lips in anticipation.
Ginny slumped into her own chair and imitated her brother. Her perfect little marriage was, for all intents and purposes, over. Her family knew about her lifestyle. Her children would never inherit anything of substance from Harry. Hell, they'll probably never even speak to her again after all this comes to light. And Harry, her Harry, was going off into the sunset with the one witch Ginny had tried the hardest to keep him away from.
Harry looked down on the two broken redheads, and managed a skerrick of pity for them both. Unless either of them tried to take it further, what had happened today would be the extent of their pain. Both his and Hermione's kids would be taken care of, financially. They would continue to love them wholeheartedly. They would try to make sure that they never made their children have to choose which parent they liked best. It wouldn't be fair, to anybody.
Hermione was having similar thoughts. When she and Harry had discussed their plans, neither of them had wanted to cause more pain than had already happened. Live and let live, they agreed.
However, if it became public, and things started to get nasty, Rita already had copious notes about everything that had occurred, and the first draft of a book already written. Both of them had promised her interviews if needed. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. That motto had served Hermione well when she was seventeen, during the Horcrux hunt. It would continue to serve her well for the foreseeable future.
"We're leaving now." Both redheads looked up.
"Ginny, I have moved most of my personal things out of Potter Manor. You can continue to live there, if you want. The house elves will ensure that you don't try anything in my absence."
"Ron, I have also shifted most of my belongings out of our house. I have also sealed my room, for when I have to come back, from time to time. My workshop under the house has also been sealed. I have shifted all the bills into your name, though I will continue to add to the housekeeping account on a weekly basis."
"We will be living together on another of my properties. And no, you will not be able to find out which one through Gringotts, Ginny." Harry added as an afterthought.
"Good bye." And with that, they dissolved the privacy spells around the room and walked out.
Harry and Hermione stood on the footpath outside the Weeping Witch, and stared at each other.
*Y'know, getting a mastery in Legillimancy and Occlumency sure makes sneaking around, and talking to each other in private so much easier* Harry thought.
*Yeah* Hermione agreed. *We can be on opposite sides of the room and still talk dirty to each other, with no-one the wiser*
Harry chuckled. "Now, Hermione Jane, I think that we should make haste, and settle into our new abode."
"I agree with that statement, Harry James." She grinned. "Care to show me the way?"
They linked arms. And with a double crack, they Apparated away.
Epilogue: Thirty-Six Years Later…
Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry these past three decades or so, was walking the corridors of the school back to her office, reminiscing. Another year had ended not long ago, and her Deputy, Neville Longbottom, was going over the Hogwarts rolls as they updated themselves with another list of first years to be offered a place there.
"Thank Merlin that the last of the Weasleys have finally graduated." She mused to herself with a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness, because she always did have a soft spot for that particular family. Relief, because most of them usually went through periods of trying to live up to the reputation of their uncles, George and Fred Weasley, pranksters extraordinaire.
Unfortunately, thinking of those Weasleys led her mind to another branch of that family. Specifically, Ronald Weasley, Hermione Weasley, Ginevra Potter, and Harry Potter.
"What a fine bloody mess that turned into." Nobody outside the Weasleys knew all of the details, but those two marriages had finally imploded very publicly just over eleven years ago.
"That silly boy never did learn when to keep his mouth shut." The whole debacle had begun with Ron. He had gotten blind drunk one night at the Leaky Cauldron, as had become his routine at that time, and started mouthing off to all and sundry about the current state of his marriage, in vulgar detail. The Daily Prophet had repeated and embellished the discourse in a series of front-page articles for the next week. Ginny had been tracked down within a few days, and had added her own embittered views to the inferno quite enthusiastically.
Soon, the scandal had the public calling for the heads of both Harry and Hermione to be removed and stuck on pikes in the entry to the Ministry of Magic's main foyer for being uppity mud bloods, and daring to despoil the pureblood marriages they had been a part of.
Harry and Hermione had responded with a series of articles in the Quibbler, then a book. Both written by Rita Skeeter. Her name above the title alone had been responsible for the publishers selling out two complete printing runs immediately. When the contents were read, and backed up by anecdotal evidence, the inferno if indignation towards them had turned, and exploded into Fiendfyre directed towards Ron and Ginny.
The redheads had ranted and blustered to the press with nothing more than hurt feelings and highly biased views over what had happened. Harry and Hermione, on the other hand, could back up their claims with names, dates, times, pensieve memories and more. Plus, other people, mostly women, began speaking up and confirming the tales of infidelity by Ron and Ginny.
In short order, every wizard and witch from Dublin, to Azkaban, to Moscow, knew for a fact that Ron had been cheating on Hermione, fathering several bastards in the process, since the first year of their marriage. And that The Ancient and Noble House of Potter didn't actually have an Heir yet, due to Ginny fathering her children with three men not named Harry Potter.
Nobody gave Harry and Hermione any further grief about choosing to spend their time in each other's company after that.
"And of course, as soon as the scandal hit Hogwarts, riots nearly broke out in the dining hall." Minerva grumbled sourly. She had known that it might come out one day, of course. The school rolls guaranteed that. When a name was entered onto the rolls, it cross-referenced with Ministry records and Gringotts. The child's name appeared, as well as her parents by blood. It was specifically designed for these circumstances. Oddly enough, the pureblooded elite of magical England had insisted upon it. Despite the potential embarrassment of any illegitimate bastards becoming known to the public, they usually liked to keep a track of such by blows, just in case they tried to disinherit any legitimate heirs.
And it helped cut down any accidental inbreeding. While the older families weren't quite against marriages between relatives if it meant keeping the bloodlines pure, marrying your half-sister or half-brother unknowingly was a bit much. And traditionally, it wasn't much of a problem.
Unfortunately, Weasleys were so ridiculously fertile as a rule, that with this generation, including all of Ron's illegitimate children, there had been almost thirty Weasleys attending Hogwarts at the one time! It had broken the heart of more than one head of house to have to sit one of them down and explain exactly why it was a bad idea for them to pursue a relationship with a particular girl or boy. Especially the ones who weren't named Weasley or Potter. And all of the house heads had had to do it at least once. Even Slytherin.
Poor Albus Potter. He had copped more than a little grief over being sorted into that house. Especially from his older brother, James. But, the snakes had accepted him grudgingly. He'd even gone on to become close friends with Scorpius Malfoy, of all people. But that didn't happen until after it had come out to the world during his sixth year, that Harry Potter in fact wasn't his real father.
"Still, we knew it would come out eventually. We had plans in place." When James Potter's name had appeared on the rolls, Minerva had nearly fainted. After a couple of shots of Firewhiskey, she had reluctantly fire-called Harry to tell him the news. To her utter surprise, he had already been aware of Ginny's infidelity. Furthermore, he had completely shocked the Headmistress by admitting that none of his three children were in fact his.
After a conversation that lasted well into the night, he had asked that she keep it to herself for the time being. He had already planned to tell each of his children when they got older about their true parentage, but was hoping to leave it until they had at least passed their OWL's. However, if she did feel it necessary to inform them before that time, that she should call him so he could be there.
The next day, she had spotted another shock: Ron Weasley had a child starting that year that was not Hermione's.
Another fire-call, another conversation. This time, however, she decided to do something for the two people that had been amongst her favourite lions. She invited Harry to return for the day as well.
"I wonder if that was when they first considered doing what they eventually did?" She thought. While Minerva would never promote infidelity in a marriage, she strongly felt that those two had been receiving the short end of the stick for a great chunk of their lives. If her bringing them together for that afternoon brought them together in ways that, perhaps, they should have been all along, well…
As she approached the rotating staircase that led to the Headmistresses Office, the stone gargoyle hopped aside and allowed her entry. Letting the stairs carry her upwards, she wondered what sort of mood the two previous Hogwarts Headmasters would be in today. Both the portraits of Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape had never been quite the same since that day when she invited Harry and Hermione into her office together. Dumbledore had asked for a moment with both of them.
Whatever had been said, and whatever comments Severus had interjected with, had not gone down well. Minerva returned to the office to find Harry and Hermione pointing their wands at the wall, and Albus and Severus frantically putting out raging fires inside their portraits.
No matter how much she blustered and demanded, neither portrait would admit what they had done to set those two off. And in the years since, they had both fallen in to the habit of sulking and pouting whenever Potters or Weasleys were mentioned in conversation.
Finally, she reached her desk. Minerva glanced over the parchment set in the middle of the blotter pad, and did a double take at the name Neville had circled in red.
-Daniel Harold Potter
-Born: 15th July, 2024
-Starting at Hogwarts: 2035
-Father: Harry James Potter
-Mother: Hermione Jane Weasley.
"Well, well." Minerva smiled as she reached for some Floo powder. "Daniel Potter. I do look forward to seeing you in these hallowed halls soon."
More notes: Well, there it is. A tale of infidelity, betrayal, and revenge.
This leapt into my head about ninety percent complete, about three days ago. I've been thinking about it non-stop. And that happens to me so rarely that I just had to get it out ASAP.
I'd actually forgotten the joy that can come from completing a fic.
So, here you go. Love it or hate it, let me know.
P.S.: This is just a story. It is not representative of my continuing relationship with my Soulmate in any way. Heck, she was shocked that I managed to capture the bitterness involved in the disintegration of a marriage as well as I did.
We are still happily together after ten years.