The Apothecary



Disclaimer: I don't own anything that you recognise. It's almost all Jo's, except for the silly little plot that wormed it's way out of my head.

A/N: I never thought I'd ever write something canon-compliant, but I did. The Epilogue-That-Should-Never-Have-Been-Written gave us a glimpse of their future, one that many of us objected to (read: made us want to regurgitate every meal that we'd ever eaten). I wondered what it would take to repair the damage. Vern, of course, put his two Knuts in, then managed to slip the most twisted, demented and warped 'roo I've ever encountered past my anti-Portkey wards (note to self: quit buying those cheap ward stones off the Internet). I take no responsibility for ruined keyboards, mice, or monitors that result from reading this story. Oh, you may want to check your bleach supply, too…

As always, much thanks to Vern (aka Herman Tumbleweed) for all his contributions to both the story and the editing of this mess. Don't forget to read his work, too, if you haven't already.

Chapter One

Twenty-one years and one day later -

A soft pop of Apparition preceded the arrival of a man with messy, raven-coloured hair in the middle of Hogsmeade's High Street. After reorienting himself, he briskly walked to the Apothecary and quietly entered the small shop while pulling a long list from his pocket. He wandered through the store, collecting the various ingredients he needed, hoping to Merlin that his Potions skills were up to the task.

"Harry? What are you doing here?" A soft, feminine voice caught his attention, followed immediately by a bone-crushing hug that caused him to scatter the multitude of items that he'd already collected.

Startled, Harry Potter began to pull back until he recognized the bushy mane of chocolate-coloured curls in his face. "Her-Hermione?" he began uneasily, as he turned his head to get her hair out of his mouth.

Hermione Weasley pulled back from her old friend with a chuckle. "So, what are you doing here? I thought you and Ginny would be enjoying the peace and quiet with all the kids finally at Hogwarts."

"Yeah, right," Harry muttered to himself as he bent over to quickly pick up the mess of scattered materials. The bushy-haired witch frowned at the lack of response as she bent down to help him. Her frown became even more pronounced as she mentally catalogued the different substances he was buying. As they regained their feet, she tried to put it together, but just as she was about make that final connection, he finally answered her original question.

"I, erm, I'm buying some potions ingredients… you know, thought that I should finally learn how to make potions." He nervously gave her his infamous lop-sided grin. "I figure I can probably do it now without Snape hanging all over me..." Something about his demeanour wasn't right. It was almost as if they were at Hogwarts and he was furtively trying to convince her he'd actually studied for a change.

Then that last connection came to life. "Harry," she began in outrage, "you're making a l…"

Looking around quickly, the dark-haired Auror slapped his hand over the irate witch's mouth, nearly getting bitten in the process. "Shh! Not here," he whispered harshly in resignation, knowing that his much more intelligent friend already knew what he was going to make.

"No way, Harry James Potter; right here, right now!" The look on her face was one he recognized from all the way back to First Year – the one that said that the she wasn't going to take any of his shit.

It was a look that served her well as she became the most successful prosecuting barrister in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

"Fine." He snapped petulantly. Placing his pile of odd and disgusting substances on a convenient shelf, he grabbed Hermione's arm and dragged her to an isolated corner of the dusty little shop and put up powerful silencing and notice-me-not charms. Scratching the back of his head, he barked, "So talk."

Taken aback by his sudden change in attitude, Hermione decided to soften her approach. "Harry, I'm sorry for going off like that, but I noticed that you had Fairy Tears. They're only used in love and lust potions. Add that to the unicorn hair and…" She faltered for a moment. "Harry, what's wrong? Why would you need to brew a lust potion?"

Seeing the loving concern in her face, Harry's anger bled away and he slumped against the wall. His emerald eyes faded as he softly admitted, "It's for Ginny."

"Ginny? Why would she need a lust potion? Has something happened to you?"

He sighed. "No, not me. I'm going to give it to her." He looked into her deep brown eyes and tried to explain now that he'd gotten the hard part off his chest. "I don't know what's wrong." He shook his head dejectedly. "I don't know if I'm doing something wrong, or if it's just her, but I really don't think that it's right that I should have to give my own wife a lust potion to get some attention."

Harry's explanation confused her even more. "I don't understand, Harry. I thought you two were happy."

"Yeah, well… ever since our first anniversary, sex has been getting less and less frequent – and even less and less enjoyable." He shrugged, staring off into space. "Even then, it wasn't anything exceptional – just plain sex." He shot her a shy glance. "Nothing like in the tent."

Hermione blushed brightly and looked away at the reminder of the months that Ron had abandoned them in favour of a warm bed and hot meals. "Well, yes… anyway, Ginny has always bragged about her love life. Are you saying that she's been lying?"

Harry shrugged. "Maybe it's been okay for her, maybe she's getting it elsewhere; I dunno. All that I do know is that we haven't done it in over two years!" The last bit was in a sort of whispered yell.

It was also was the end of Harry's restraint on the subject. "Two fucking years! I figured that, with the kids gone, we could finally have some time to ourselves. I even quit the Aurors this summer so we could have the time alone. What did she do? She got a fucking job with Witch Weekly! It's not like we've ever needed the money! I only joined the Aurors because it seemed to be the right thing to do."

Hermione just stood there in astonishment, hands covering her mouth, having never seen her friend so upset that he was huffing and puffing like the Hogwarts Express pulling out of the station.

That was just the beginning as Harry began to pace in the limited space of his charms, waving his hands wildly. "No, Harry," the distraught wizard's voice mocking his wife's, "we can't do it now, we'll wake the baby. No, Harry, the kids might hear us. Or even worse: I'm too tired, Harry. I have a headache, Harry. You have that late stake-out tonight, Harry." He stopped suddenly and tried to regain some semblance of control over his emotions.

After a few moments, only slightly calmer, he went on, "And even when we do, it takes forever to convince her. We end up going up to the bedroom where she strips off and just lays on the bed with her legs open. All she'll let me do is finger her a bit and stick it in – getting mad if it takes more than five minutes to finish!" His anger finally ended and he seemed to collapse into himself as he turned to his friend and locked his watery eyes with hers. "Is it really so much to ask," he breathed, "to have sex with my wife and take a long time doing it? To kiss her and touch her and taste her and have her kiss and touch and taste me back? To make love rather than just fuck?"

Flabbergasted, Hermione did the only thing she could and took her best friend into her arms as he soundlessly wept. She was stunned as she recalled the girl-talk that she and the red-headed witch had shared regarding Ginny's happy and active sex-life – a sex-life that the brunette now wondered about. She remembered being jealous over the attention that Ginny had claimed to receive and the things that younger witch had done – things her own Weasley seemed to have no intention of ever doing with his wife.

The brunette felt Harry calm down at last and briefly hold her even more tightly in gratitude. The feel of him pressing against her combined with his words caused her to feel… something - a tingle that she hadn't felt in quite a long time.

And pressing against her was something else that had also not been felt in a long time. Something that felt good. Very good, in fact.

"Thank you, Hermione," Harry breathed in her ear. "I'm sorry to go off like that. I know Ginny's your friend and…"

Hermione pulled back just enough to delicately cover his mouth with her soft hand. "It's okay, Harry. You had to get it out."

"No, it's not okay. Some things just… just… well, aren't right to talk about. Especially with another woman."

She gave him an exasperated look as they separated a bit more. "And just who were you supposed to talk to about this to? Neville? Dean? Maybe Seamus, he is a bartender, after all. Oh, I know; Ron?" She looked down at her feet. "Besides," came a faint murmur, "he isn't much better."


It was Hermione's turn to sigh deeply as she took her turn in bearing her soul. "Well, it's pretty much how you described things with Ginny, but reversed. It happened quite a bit for the first year or so, then tapered off pretty quickly." She frowned. "Actually, everything went pretty quickly. Anyway, he expects me to behave just as Ginny does. He wants me to just lay there while he runs a marathon in and out of me." Tears started to flow as she continued quietly, "The only time I even get off is if I've had plenty of time to get myself started ahead of him." Harry drew her into his arms to comfort her as she concluded, "And I can count the times that's happened on one hand… with fingers left over."

Harry stroked her soft hair as she took her turn in sobbing on her best friend's shoulder. He had truly missed the feeling of holding a woman in his arms. A tingle swept through him, causing a reaction that he almost didn't recognize. When he did, he tried to pull back just a bit – to avoid embarrassment - but Hermione decided, at that point, to draw him closer.

"I-I'm sorry, Hermione, I…"

"Shh, Harry," she reassured him through her tears. "It's nice to know that somebody still reacts that way around me." A tiny smile appeared on her saddened features.

Confused, Harry leaned his head back to look at her face and asked, "Why should that surprise you?"

"Ron…" she sniffled as she tried to prevent her tears from starting to flow again, "Ron says that I've gotten too fat and that's why he doesn't want to do it so much anymore."

Harry held her at arm's length and looked her over thoroughly, particularly noting her markedly larger breasts and full, yet still firm, backside. "Ron's a bloody idiot," he declared in disgust.

Hermione put her hands on her hips, rolling her eyes. "Be realistic, Harry. I'm not twenty anymore. I've had two children since then; of course I've gained weight."

Harry shook his head, muttering, "Yeah, in all the right places." Looking seriously into her warm expressive eyes, he told her plainly, "Any guy would be glad to have you. If anything, you're even more beautiful now than you were then."

Hermione nearly swooned at the open sincerity in the wizard's green eyes – a sincerity which restarted the wonderful tingling that had evaporated while admitting to her own less-than-satisfactory love life. She roughly drew him into another embrace and held him tightly, wanting to feel that tingle as long as she could.

Harry heard Hermione muttering something to herself. "What was that?" he gently pressed.

"Just," she hesitated for a long moment, "just that everything you said you wanted to do with Ginny is what I wish Ron and I could do." She looked into his eyes, hers watery with tears. "Is that really so wrong?"

Harry shrugged. "I don't think so. Maybe it's just another one of those Pureblood things we missed out on." He chuckled and asked cheekily, "You've studied Wizarding Law, is there some law against having good sex?"

His friend stepped back and playfully slapped his chest. "Be nice, Harry. Although… they are way behind the Muggles socially. Maybe there's some truth in that. Of course, in the Muggle world, we could just divorce them over it."

The ex-Auror snorted. "Yeah… well, that's not an option, is it? Kinda hard to break something that's magically binding. We're stuck with them – even if we caught them having an affair."

Hermione felt that tingle again as she bit her lower lip in concentration. "Harry, did Ginny say when she'd be home tonight?"

"No, just that she'd be late and not to hold dinner. Why?"

"Ron said the same thing. Something about helping George to get the new shop stocked and ready for the first Hogsmeade weekend." She thought some more. "Is Grimmauld Place still empty?"

"Yeah," Harry drew the word out slowly, becoming wary of his friend's strange questions. "It's clean and still furnished like it was before we moved into the manor years ago. I don't really care about it, but the elves insist on keeping it up. Why?"

Seeming to make a decision, Hermione took his hand and started to lead him from the shop, her sharp eyes quickly searching the area around the entrance, finding it empty of other shoppers. "Let's go, then. I think it would be better if we continued this discussion somewhere… more private."

Oblivious as ever, Harry started to head back inside. "Okay, just let me get that stuff…"

Hermione pulled him to a stop and locked her gaze on his, her deep brown eyes twinkling with mischief. "Trust me, Harry; you won't need a lust potion…"

As he realized what she was suggesting, he drew her to his side and Apparated them both away.


The following December –

The Potters and the Weasleys arrived at King's Cross Station together to pick up their children for the Christmas Holidays. Ginny held Ron back as Harry and Hermione went through the hidden barrier, not noticing the secret soft smiles the Muggle-raised pair were throwing each other.

When they'd finally disappeared, Ginny drew her brother in a full-body hug, hands grabbing his arse.

"What's wrong, Gin?"

"Nothing, now. I'm just glad that Harry's finally stopped pestering me about sex. I was really worried when I found that copy of Moste Potente Potions left out in the library a couple of months ago."

Ron nodded in agreement as he gave Ginny a soft kiss while grazing his hand across the side of one breast. "Hermione's finally gotten a clue, too. I thought she'd never give up. I even tried complaining about how bushy she was – you know, down there - but do you know what she did? She shaved it off!" He shuddered at the memory. "It was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen."

Ginny grimaced at the thought. "Yech, must be some weird Muggle thing. I'm just glad that we have more time together now." She looked up at him with undisguised lust in her eyes.

"Yeah. Do you think we'll be able to have some time together during the holidays?" Ron asked as he ground himself against her.

Enjoying the sensations, Ginny paused to think about it for a moment. "Probably not much. Maybe when we go to the Burrow for Christmas, we can send them home early with the kids. Say that we're helping mum clear up or something."

"Sounds good," he replied, adding a soul-searing kiss before taking her hand and leading her through the barrier before Harry and Hermione missed them.


"I wonder what's taking them so long?" Hermione commented to her best friend as they waited for the train to arrive with their children.

"Don't know, don't care," he replied while fondly sneaking a glance down her loose-fitting blouse. "The less time I spend with them means that much more time I can spend with you."

"Perv," she mischievously chided him while accidentally brushing a hand below his belt.

"Says the girl who insisted that we shave each other in the shower last week." Harry resisted the urge to scratch himself as he added, "Of course, you could have warned me that it would itch like hell while it grew back."

"Well, I guess I'll just have to scratch it for you, won't I?" Hermione replied in a tone of voice that dropped Harry's IQ a hundred points and raised his blood pressure that same hundred points. In one specific area, anyway.

He moaned at her words. "You're an evil witch, ya know that? Wait until I can get you alone again; you'll pay." She responded with an angelic smile.

"Express here yet?" came Ginny's whingey voice from behind them.

"Just coming in now," Hermione answered. She looked back at her husband. "What took so long?"

Ron glanced at his sister, then replied, "A bunch of Muggles came by. Had'ta wait for them to leave."

Knowing a lie when he heard one due to his background as an Auror, Harry shot Hermione a furtive, yet confused, look behind the siblings' backs. "Bummer, mate. Guess that happens sometimes. Oh, there's the train."

As the Hogwarts Express pulled up to the platform, the couples paired off to retrieve their children. Harry and Hermione knew that this holiday would be the longest ever, but were reassured that once the kids were back at school, they'd have their time together again. And maybe – just maybe – they'd figure out a way to end their sham marriages.


Sometime in mid-February –

Harry appeared in the entrance hall of Potter Manor with a soft pop. Over the months since he and Hermione had started their arrangement, they had come to realize that while the sex was wonderfully mind-blowing, the simple companionship that they shared far outweighed even that. More than ever, they both wished that there was a way to divorce their respective spouses, but they still hadn't found a single legal or magical loophole that they could use to accomplish that goal. Nevertheless, they felt that they were still better off than they'd been the previous summer.

Handing his cloak to Winky the house-elf, the contented wizard headed up the stairs to take a shower before Ginny got home. He felt that he had plenty of time as she'd been working later and later as time passed, which sometimes left him wondering what could be keeping her so busy at Witch Weekly. Not that he really cared anymore.

In the shower, while scrubbing off the evidence of Hermione's goodbye, sticky and messy as it was, he realized that Ron had been spending more time at work as well. Dismissing it as a convenient coincidence, and further evidence of the insanity of Wizarding marriage, he shut off the water and wrapped a towel lightly around his waist before going to his bedroom to get dressed.

"Hey, handsome."

Harry froze at the high-pitched voice of his wife. He turned to find her reclined on their large bed, clad in naught but a long, loose nightgown. "Hey, Gin," he replied hesitantly. "What are you doing home so early?"

She shrugged in what was probably supposed to be a saucy manner, causing the front of the nightgown to drop lower, exposing quite a bit more of her chest than he usually saw. "Maybe I just missed you." She patted the bed next to her as her voice dropped an octave in an attempt to sound sultry, "Why don't you join me?"

Her husband approached cautiously and sat at the end of the bed near her feet. Perplexed, and more than a little alarmed, he could only form one response, "Why?"

A momentary look of exasperation crossed her face, but vanished quickly as she scooted herself alongside him with her legs folded to the side. Trailing a finger up and down his arm, she assumed a mock pout as she continued in that same not-quite-sexy voice, "Do I really need a reason to spend time with my husband? I mean, it's been a while since we've… well, you know… b-been together."

"Three years," Harry stated quietly, yet bluntly, as he pulled away from her ministrations.

"What's been three years?" She moved closer, leaning forward enough to display her small breasts while rubbing a hand across his chest.

Standing up, trying to control the revulsion he felt from her touch, he replied emotionlessly, "It's been nearly three years since we've done anything other than sleep in this bed. It's been much, much longer since you even wanted to." His voice started to rise as, despite his best efforts, his emotions crept back in. "What I'm asking is why? Why, all of sudden, do you want to do this?"

"B-but, H-harry… I'm your wife…"

He held up a hand, cutting her off. "No, Ginny," the ex-Auror stated with a hard edge to his voice, "I can't do this. I've finally accepted the fact that sex has never truly been a part of this marriage and never will be." His voice softened slightly. "I can't do it, Gin. I won't let you get my hopes up just to get let down again." Harry turned and, dropping his towel and baring his all, walked to the wardrobe and donned a comfortable dressing gown. "I'm going down to the kitchen for some dinner, then I'm going to bed in one of the guest rooms." As the wizard headed for the door, he gave her a last look, "For what it's worth, Gin; I'm sorry." He left the room, missing the look of panic on his wife's face.


The next day-

Even as Harry and Hermione lay together in post-coital bliss after an unusually energetic morning greeting, she knew that something was troubling her friend.

Rolling onto her side and pressing herself against him, she toyed with the sparse hairs on his chest and softly asked, "Is something wrong, Harry? You seem, I don't know… distracted."

Harry turned to face the beautiful witch, relishing the feel of her naked breasts against his bare chest. Taking a deep breath, he quietly confessed, "Well, last night was kind of disturbing. You see, when I got home, I, ah, took a shower, 'cause, well… you, know…" He gave her a shy grin to which she returned an equally shy blush. "Anyway, when I got out of the shower, Ginny was there and she… well, she tried to seduce me."

Hermione sat upright in a protective rage. "She what!"

Harry rolled back onto his back, putting his hands behind his head and smiled. "Yeah. It was curiously satisfying to turn her down." Reaching up, he pulled the irate witch on top of him and gently stroked her back while recounting the events of the previous evening.

By the end of Harry's story, the now purring brunette was finally ready to consider Ginny's actions rationally. She pushed herself up and straddled him. "I wonder what's brought this on?"

"I dunno, love," Harry replied absently, distracted by her exposed chest. "It doesn't really matter, though…"

"It does matter, Harry, she's still your wife!" Hermione's basic insecurities, bolstered by Ron's neglectful treatment of her over the years, resurged with a vengeance. Tears started to form as she started to move off of him. "In-in fact, if… if you want to-to go back to her…"

Harry roughly grabbed her hips and drew her firmly back to him, coincidentally grinding himself firmly against her centre. "Don't you ever for one bloody second think that, Hermione!" he growled possessively. "If I wanted her, I would have had her last night." Hermione's tear-filled eyes shone with happiness as her lover continued tenderly, "But I didn't. I couldn't even bear to have her anywhere near me, let alone touch me. This," he took both of her hands in his and placed one of them against his chest, "and this," he moved her other hand to their pressed together genitalia, "are yours. I'd like to think that this," he released the hand holding the one on his chest and placed it between her breasts, "and this," while gently moving their still joined hands, "are mine." Harry sat up and kissed her gently.

"Oh, Harry," she sobbed joyfully, throwing herself down against him, "They are… they are."

"The only thing this changes is that I'm even more determined to find a way out of this mess," the wizard asserted. "I really hate that we have to leave each other at night. I really hate that we have to hide our love."

Hermione's head shot up. "Love? Do you really mean that?"

Harry nodded slowly and emphatically.

The ecstatic witch scooted her body up his, then forcefully back, taking him roughly inside herself. Her whispered, "I love you, too," was the last coherent words from either of them for quite some time.


"He what?" Ron's voice echoed through the new Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes shop in Hogsmeade.

"He-he turned me down!" Ginny cried as she threw herself into her brother's arms.

"How could he do that?" Ron wondered out loud as he comforted the distraught witch. "Guys are always throwing themselves at you. Hell, he was, too, until a while ago."

"I don't know, Ron," she sniffled. "What are we going to do? Things are going to become obvious pretty soon." The tiny woman wiped her tears away briskly and looked up at Ron's face despairingly. "What's wrong with me, Ron? Am I getting old and ugly? Aren't I good enough, anymore? He didn't even seem to react."

The tall red-head held her tightly as he allowed his hands to roam everywhere on her petite body. "No, you're as dead sexy as ever, Gin." His hands unfastened his sister's robes and drew them off her shoulders, dropping them to the floor as he followed up with a deep kiss while reaching for her knickers. "Let me show you before you head for work."


Three weeks later—

Hermione was sitting at a large worktable in the library at Grimmauld Place, working on a case involving a recently captured idiot who fancied himself a new dark lord. As he was a cousin of the Malfoys, she was determined to get the maximum stay in Azkaban for him.

As a fresh cup of tea materialized in front of her, she felt a strong pair of arms envelop her from behind, followed by warm lips nuzzling the back of her neck. A quill fell to the table top as she reached back to grab her lover's head and succumbed to the sensations.

"Long day?"

"Mmm hmm." The former Gryffindor melted from his tender treatment. "Yeah. You?"

"Nah. Just busy trying to avoid Ginny." Harry stepped around and, moving another chair close to his love's, sat next to her and, pulling the witch onto his lap, gave her throat some attention as well.

"She's still at it, then?"

He stopped and rested his forehead against hers. "Every bloody night. I don't know what's gotten into her. She was completely starkers last night – not a pretty sight."

"Oh, come on, Harry, she's not that bad."

"Well, no, maybe not… but she's got nothing on you."

"Now you're just sucking up." Hermione rubbed her nose against his. "You don't have to say those things; you've already got me."

"No, really. Actually, I've always thought you were more attractive than Gin. I'm sure Ron would agree." He added with a cheeky grin.

"Ew, I should hope so. That would be just too… ew! Although…"


"Well, as disgusting as it may sound, that would give us the out we've been looking for."

Harry pulled back and stared at her in confusion. "What would?"

"Well, you know that there are very few laws regarding marriages, right? And none allowing divorce? And that there aren't even any laws against adultery."

Harry snorted. "Yeah, pretty much anybody can shag anybody they want to as long as they're of age."

"Well, close, but not quite. It seems that it was left that way so that the Pureblood Heads of House could get away with having as many mistresses as they wanted. They just didn't bother to pass any gender-specific laws to keep their wives honest. They probably just figured their wives would just automatically be loyal to their Lord and Master." Sarcasm simply oozed from her voice.

"Figures. So how does this help us?"

"There are two exceptions. Parents can't sleep with their own children under any circumstances…"

"I should hope the hell not!"

"… and siblings can't, either. Unless, of course, they're married to each other first."

"Ick…" He turned slightly green at the thought. "You know, that really makes no sense. Brothers and sisters have to get married to shag, but any other relatives don't? I mean, inbreeding's inbreeding… isn't it?"

"Maybe they want controlled inbreeding?" Hermione shrugged her shoulders in seeming acceptance. "Harry, have you ever seen a Pureblood law that made sense?"

"I guess you're right," he sighed. "So… you're saying that if we can get Ron and Ginny to shag each other…"

"… knowingly…"

"… okay, knowingly shag each other, we're free of them?"


"Never work, even if Ron were attracted to his sister that way."

"Why not?"

"Remember how he thought you were getting too big?"

"Don't remind me. I still worry about it," Hermione grumped.

"Well, quit worrying. I still say that if we were to go to Hogwarts right now, all the boys would be drooling at the MILF wandering through the halls."

"Sure, Harry." Her sarcasm had returned with a vengeance.

"Anyway, like I was saying, Ron wouldn't do it, anyway, 'cause Ginny's been developing a bit of a belly lately and if he didn't want to touch a hottie like you, then he'll never go anywhere near Ginny."

"Damn. Guess we're still stuck." She slumped forlornly against him. "Oh, and I'm not a 'hottie'."

"Sure you are." He lifted her in his arms as he stood and carried her to a nearby sofa. "Let me prove it to you…"