A/N: A cookie shaped like Padfoot goes to those of you who spot the gratuitous quote. (Yes, yes, you can lick the cookie before you eat it. What happens between you and the Padfoot cookie *stays* between you and the Padfoot cookie.)
Official Disclaimer: As use of the internet has taught us that trading real-life personal information with total strangers is a BAD IDEA, any and all cookies are hypothetical in nature. What one does with one's hypothetical cookie is one's own business. If one pretends that by tapping it with one's replica wand Sirius Black appears in one's room and ravishes one…that's none of my business.
After the attack on Hermione, the rest of school year passed quickly. She sat her NEWTs and scored very well. In fact, she scored third just after Remus and Lily, which made McGonagall's eye twitch again. Sitting for NEWTs was rather like sitting for OWLs, they received their scores several weeks into the summer. In the camaraderie of the Order of the Phoenix meetings James overheard his erstwhile Professor swearing up and down to Professor Flitwick that Hermione had somehow figured out exactly how many points she should be docked so that she would come in at exactly third place. Flitwick had patted her hand and nodded understandingly whilst Professor McGonagall drowned her sorrows in a tumbler of firewhiskey. James was glad that they were done with school, and could focus on more important things like protecting his sister and saving their world. He, Sirius and Remus had all joined the Order of the Phoenix as soon as they graduated. Lily had as well, despite James arguments to the contrary. Hermione, unfortunately, as a pureblood daughter had to answer to the head of her family and House.
"Absolutely not," Charlus Potter said flatly, steeling himself for the screaming, but Hermione didn't scream. She sat down delicately and crossed her ankles. She looked at him with her mother's eyes.
"And why is that, Daddy?" She asked in the sweetest most patient voice possible. The tone that the Potter men knew was the deadliest and most vicious whether it was coming from Hermione or Dorea. He frowned in irritation.
"It could put your life in even more danger than it already is," he said flatly. "You still haven't fully recovered from…what happened."
"I see," she said solemnly, those eyes watching him carefully. She could not argue with that. Her muscles and nerves would spasmodically twitch at the most inopportune times. Old Hermione had suggested some potions that they used to good effect in the future, but the potions could only do so much. "Well then, would it be acceptable if Sirius, James, Remus, Mother and Lily accompanied me to Mrs. Longbottom's house? I've been invited to a luncheon tomorrow afternoon. Of course, I'll have to owl her and let her know I'm bringing five extra guests, but I'm sure she won't mind."
"Don't be ridiculous," Charlus snapped. "Of course she'll mind! Your mother would have a fit if a guest showed up with five extra guests! It's inconsiderate and rude!"
"So is cancelling on her," Hermione pointed out calmly. Charlus growled. Hermione had never actually heard her father growl before. He was so patient, so kind with his two children.
"Fine!" He shouted. "Get yourself killed then!"
Hermione gasped and her eyes shifted to black bottomless pools.
She was eleven years old and she was standing at platform 9 ¾ for the third time. She sighed heavily and decided that this must be her hell. To eternally attend Hogwarts. She was not sure what she had done to deserve this fate, and she certainly wished that she knew to whom a supplicant might appeal. This time, her muggle parents had been called away at the very last minute due to an emergency root canal and their strange, collected daughter had assured them that she would be fine. While they had been a little uncertain about an eleven year old making her way to the station all right, their odd daughter had always unnerved them just a bit. She…knew things. Hermione walked along with calm grace, her trunks trailing along behind her obediently. The other students stared at the strange little witch who was obviously a first year, and yet capable of the sort of magic that would command her trunks. She was dressed almost archaically by modern standards. She insisted on silk dresses and her mother ordered them for her from a catalogue Hermione had produced at the age of four. A large man, in a hurry and not looking where he was going, bumped into her knocking her down.
"Oh! I'm so sorry," he apologized and held out a hand for the tiny girl to help herself up. "Are you all right?"
"Of course I am, Lucius," the small girl replied, as she shook out her skirts and smoothed the lines of her dress. He stared at her for a moment, his silver eyes wide in shock. She was small, petite and fine boned. Her hair hung down her back in perfect, glossy, chestnut ringlets. She looked so familiar that he could almost place her. Her brown eyes looked far older than any first year student's had a right to look.
"Do I know you?" He asked at last, an uneasy sensation prickling along his nerves. A familiar smirk twisted her small mouth.
"I don't imagine you do," she murmured. "Oh look, there's Draco. I told you that you'd have a son. Did you make sure that he's practiced Occlumency enough to be proficient?"
"I…I…," Lucius was staring at the small girl in shock as his young son drew near.
"Father? Mother says the train will leave soon," Draco informed Lucius with a curious glance at the small girl who looked to be a fellow first year. "Hullo. Is this your first year as well?"
"In a manner of speaking," she replied with a secretive smile.
"I'm Draco Malfoy," he said holding out his hand. His father and mother had drilled proper manners into him from the time he could toddle, and Draco Malfoy knew how to act when there was a lady present. This pretty girl was obviously a lady. She held herself with the same sort of bearing that his mother had, and all the other ladies in her circle of friends.
"Yes, I know," she said, but she placed her small hand in his. "Hermione Granger."
"Hermione?!" Lucius said perhaps a bit louder than he should have. She frowned at him.
"Do be quiet Lucius. I imagine Jamie's about somewhere," she hissed at him. Draco stared at the little witch. No one spoke to his father like that and survived. Well, sometimes his mother, but she was very careful about how she did it. His father turned to him, his face pale and his silver eyes wide with shock.
"Draco, this is…er, the…daughter of a very good friend of mine," he said smoothly. "I want you to look after her at school. Make sure that she's safe."
"You do realize that my responsibilities will require my presence in Gryffindor yet again?" Hermione reminded Lucius. He frowned and then nodded.
"Of course, your nephew," He looked at her for a moment and frowned slightly.
"You're a muggleborn aren't you?" He guessed, realizing that the name Granger was unfamiliar to him. She nodded.
"A muggleborn?" Draco looked at her with undisguised curiosity. "Father, you're friends with muggles?"
"It's a very long story," Lucius said with a slightly pained expression. Hermione smiled mysteriously at the young wizard.
"Things are not always as they seem, young Draco," she explained carefully. "As a Sytherin you must always remember that nothing is as it appears on the surface."
"Yes, ma'am," Draco replied automatically and then blinked at his Father. He smiled at his son, a genuine smile of affection, and the boy preened under his father's attention.
"She has that effect on all of us, son. Call her domina and remember, guard her well," Lucius instructed his son firmly. Draco nodded seriously.
"Yes, father," he replied, his eyes on the pretty young witch with the strange eyes.
"Princess? Are you okay?" Her father's voice sounded far away, but the panic in his voice made her blink unsteadily.
"Daddy?" She shifted and realized that he was kneeling by her chair, his brown eyes looking worriedly up at her.
"I'm right here," he said soothingly, patting her hand. "Are you all right?"
"I…I think so," she muttered. She patted her cheeks which were dry. That was unusual. Most of her visions anymore made her scream, cry and shake. Was that a possible future for her? If she died, she'd just be reborn as Old Hermione?
I really hate it when you call me that considering that, technically, I'm younger than you are.
That was you, though. Right?
No…not really. That wasn't my or our first time around. It was you, reborn as me, but you remembered this life. I'm going to guess that you were reborn as a Seer. A muggleborn Seer, that must have freaked people out. You have to remember also that these are possible futures. Possible being the operative word in the sentence. There are any number of possible futures.
I see. That young man was Lucius' son? He doesn't seem as awful as you described. Or as you remembered.
Draco appears to be less of a git. I wonder if that's because of your influence on Lucius and your redemption of him.
I really, really don't want to end up as a little girl, AGAIN.
So we avoid dying. How hard can that be?
"I see you're here without the accompanying guests you threatened me with," Augusta Longbottom said sternly with a sharp look over her teacup at Hermione. The younger witch smiled serenely at Mrs. Longbottom.
"Mum vouched for you," Hermione explained with a wicked twinkle in her eyes. "She said that it would be a pleasant day in Hades before anyone managed to get anything passed you. She said that you were one of the few people she'd trust to keep me safe. That was good enough for Daddy. Maybe not for Jamie or Sirius, but they don't know I'm here right now."
"Now, this idea that you had…what did you call it again?" Mrs. Bones asked curiously. Hermione's grin widened.
"Muggle society has the same sort of striation that wizarding society does," Hermione explained carefully, "and theirs is also based on breeding and wealth. Those that are 'well-bred' and wealthy are called society, and in the past their ladies were just as carefully bound and protected as we find ourselves. Those ladies, out of sheer boredom I imagine, would found groups that they called 'Ladies Aide Societies' and they would do things like roll bandages for the war effort."
"But a well-placed spell can do that easily," protested Mrs. Fenwick. Hermione nodded.
"Well, yes, true, but what about brewing potions for St. Mungo's? What if we were brewing basic healing and pain potions to help St. Mungo's keep up with the demand? We could claim that it would allow their potions masters time to focus on more complex potions that we, as dainty, pureblood ladies, don't want to bother our pretty little heads with," Hermione had warmed to her explanation, and excitement turned her cheeks pink.
"But we're really doing something else?" Mrs. Bones pressed Hermione, looking a little excited herself.
"Well, some of us would have to brew potions, or everyone would get suspicious, but yes. The rest of us would be freed up for, um, tactical exercises," Hermione told them eagerly. The pureblood ladies murmured amongst themselves for several minutes. The group here today had been handpicked by herself and Augusta Longbottom as women who weren't squeamish and could keep their traps shut.
"I like it," Griselda Marchbanks said firmly from her chair. The witch was over a hundred years old, but she was still spry and still dangerous with her wand. "A Ladies' Aide Society! My husband would have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. My sons will fall for it. Brilliant, Augusta! Absolutely cracking!"
"I agree," came the chorus of voices. Hermione had a ready-made charter for the Ladies Aide Society that had built-in protections, and each lady present signed it eagerly. Hermione grinned at Augusta Longbottom who nodded sharply, a militant gleam in her eye.
"Now, we'll need to have a committee with a chairwoman," Mrs. Longbottom said firmly. "I think it would be best if we had Mrs. Marchbanks as our chairwoman. If anyone else thinks there is a better choice, please speak up now."
Everyone voted Mrs. Marchbanks in as the chairwoman and then they began to plan their subterfuge cunningly. The first part of their plan involved proving to fathers, husbands, and sons how utterly innocuous the Ladies Aide Society was. They decided that the easiest way to do that was to focus all of their attention for the time being on St. Mungo's. The hospital would never know what hit it. They formed a Potions committee, a Bake Sale committee, a sewing committee, and a fundraising committee. Hermione joined all of them. She was eager to get home and start driving her father up the wall. She insisted that the sewing committee and the Bake Sale committee have their first meetings at her father's house.
"Hermione Canopia Potter!" Charlus' voice thundered through the house. James and Sirius looked up in surprise and hurried down to Charlus' study in time to see an angelic Hermione approach her father.
"Yes, Daddy?" she asked sweetly. He glared at his daughter.
"The house elves inform me that not only can they not provide me with lunch, but that I must not enter the kitchens…under your orders," Charlus informed his daughter stiffly. She smiled sweetly at him.
"That's because they're making goodies for the bake sale at St. Mungo's," she explained.
"Bake sale?" Her father repeated, momentarily nonplussed. She nodded eagerly.
"Yes, to help fund the purchase of equipment for the hospital and to help poorer families receive the medical care they need," she explained. "It's our Ladies Aide Society work. I told you all about it."
"You did?" He said doubtfully. She nodded.
"I did, Daddy. You said that at least I'd be out of trouble. I'm on the Bake Sale committee and the sewing committee. Oh, by the way, the sewing committee is going to be using your study tomorrow while we make quilts for long-term patients at St. Mungo's," Hermione told her father with an earnest expression.
"My study? Why in Merlin's blue blazes would you need my study?"' Charlus thundered some more. Hermione blinked at him.
"Why, for the excellent built-in protections. We're going to sew warming charms, cheering charms, and health charms into each quilt," she said with a surprised look, as though her father should have figured that out on his own.
It took exactly one month for Charlus to completely lose his temper and kick the Ladies Aide Society out of his house. Frankly, Hermione had become irritated that it was taking so long and had ramped up efforts to upset her father. Every time he sat down, he was pricked by a quilting needle 'accidentally' left in his chair. His parlors were filled with completed quilts and boxes his daughter called care packages. They'd taken over his study, made sure he couldn't get food on a regular basis, filled rooms of the house with 'under-privileged children' who were being treated with cookies and juice, and she'd had inane giggling women who spoke of nothing but fashion and their marriage prospects, but it had taken the theft of his Daily Prophet to make her father lose his temper.
"That's it!" He had bellowed at the top of his lungs. "No more! My house is longer going to be used for the Ladies' Aide Society. Get them all out of here, NOW!"
James and Sirius had come running, followed by Lily, Remus and Dorea. Hermione was weeping piteously crying about all the 'poor children' and the sick people at St. Mungo's who desperately needed her help.
"What if Hermione uses her own dower houses?" Lily suggested. "They all have armies of house elves, they can help her."
"Fine," Charlus Potter had snarled at his daughter. "Use the damn dower houses. Fill them to overflowing with the vapid sewing circle. Let the house elves fill your parlors with cookies. Just get it all out of my house."
"If that's how you feel, Daddy, we'll be out of your hair today. We shan't stay where we're not wanted," Hermione sniffed and pretended an injured tone.
"That is exactly how I feel," Charlus growled. Hermione turned and flounced from the room. The Ladies' Aide Society was packed up and out of Potter Manor in two hours. Hermione smiled in smug satisfaction.
Ah, I love it when a plan comes together.
Mmm. I can't help but agree with you. There is a certain satisfaction.
What? Why did you sigh like that? I agreed with you!
No, no. The moment's passed.
"On my mark, ladies!" Griselda Marchbanks bellowed like a drill sergeant. The air was split by an ear piercing whistle and the delicate flowers of the wizarding world began combat maneuvers. Hermione stood next to Augusta Longbottom and grinned with manic glee.
"Pathetic!" Griselda was screaming at a lagging woman. "I've seen arthritic wizards with one leg move faster than that! Come along now, the Death Eaters have already slaughtered the family with the way you're moving."
"She's rather intimidating, isn't she?" Augusta murmured thoughtfully.
"She reminds me of Mad-Eye Moody," Hermione shot back. "Are they related, by chance?"
"It's possible, of course," August allowed.
"They're not half bad," Hermione murmured after a bit. "Not great, but not a bad start."
"When shall we first use them?" Augusta asked curiously.
"There's to be an attack on the Fenwicks. Soon…less than a month? It's hard to tell, but I've set trip alarms, and I have spies in place," Hermione said calmly. Augusta nodded.
"One question, Hermione?" Augusta asked carefully. The younger witch turned to her and raised a brow.
"Of course, Mrs. Longbottom," Hermione said firmly.
"Why now? Why include us?" Augusta asked curiously. Hermione smiled and it was vicious.
"I was furious when my father refused me the chance to join the order like my brother, my soon-to-be betrothed and my blood-sister. Then I realized that I wasn't alone, that there were plenty of girls just like me whose heads of the family refused them permission. It's not fair. We have just as much to offer. We are just as skilled with our wands. With the intensive training you more experienced ladies are providing, we'll be a better, more deadly force than the Order," Hermione explained frankly. Augusta nodded.
"I was not best pleased when my own son denied me the right to fight along with him," Mrs. Longbottom snapped, her eyes dark with fury.
"None of us were," Hermione agreed. "That's why we're all here. We're going to teach the Death Eaters, and our wizards a little lesson."
Three weeks later saw Hermione marching up and down in front of a small group of women who were dressed in solid black jumpsuits that were charmed to slightly distort a person's perception of their bodies. They would appear as a black shadow, mist or fog. All the women wore black face guards that hid their visages. Every woman's hair had either been cut off or bound out of the way. Hermione's own long hair had been tightly braided and wrapped around her head under her face guard. The nerve spasms were almost gone, but she still had some lingering effects. She had chugged an entire bottle of anti-spasming potion and she had swallowed a tiny bottle that would suppress her Seer abilities for a couple hours. It wasn't smart and she couldn't use it often, but with the sheer number of visions she'd been having she wanted to guard against a vision in the middle of this operation.
"Right," Hermione began, tucking her wand into her thigh holster. "You are all here because you are the best. This exercise is a test to see if what we're trying to accomplish is feasible. Saving the Fenwick family is an added bonus. We're sending a message. No longer will the witches of our world stand idly by while they slaughter our children and our families. It is not okay, and we're not going to stand for it anymore. We're not going to stun them or disarm them. We're going to make these bastards pay. They rape and kill little girls and boys. These are horrible excuses for wizards and we are not going to let them have the Fenwick family. Mrs. Fenwick is one of us, but no one can acknowledge her in front of her family. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Lioness!" The woman shouted back at her.
"Code names on this operation, ONLY. Are we clear?"
"Good, let's move out!" Hermione brought her arm down in a practiced motion and her team all apparated simultaneously. She felt a quick burst of pride, but stomped on it. Apparating as a unit wasn't exactly amazing. Kicking Death Eaters in the teeth and stopping the destruction of a good family was.
The Death Eaters never saw them coming. Hermione's unit moved as a team, they had their orders and they knew that the top priority was rescuing the Fenwick family. Part of their group broke off and moved quickly to secure the family members, each woman had been assigned one family member to grab. All of them wore small pendants that acted as portkeys to get them out of danger quickly. The portkey would take them to a hidden safehouse. From there, the family would be moved to a secure location under a Fidelius charm. None of them were Hermione's dower houses because she knew she'd never be able to explain that to Sirius or James.
Moving quickly, the other half of Hermione's team attempted to neutralize the Death Eaters. Her unit wasn't messing around. Not a single Stupefy or Expelliarmus passed their lips. No, her girls were playing for keeps. Their wand work was dangerous and wickedly accurate. The girls spun, twisted, ducked and jumped to avoid the curses being tossed their way. They moved with fluid grace and Hermione allowed herself to be proud of them. White sparks shot off above the house and formed the rune for safety, which morphed into the rune for completion. As one the women in Hermione's unit touched their pendants and were gone. The Death Eaters stared at one another in confusion and looked around at the bodies lying on the ground. All of them were Death Eaters, there wasn't a single one of the strange creatures they'd been fighting. The leader of this expedition sighed heavily. The Dark Lord was not going to be pleased with them. He shuddered reflexively.
"What did you think of the cinnamon spice cake?" Hermione asked, her eyes narrowed in concentration. Severus took a sip of his tea.
"It was a little dry," Regulus said. Lucius nodded.
"Hmm. What about the chocolate cherry?" Hermione tried again.
"It was a bit rich," Severus offered from his seat. Hermione sighed.
"I liked the banana cake with the chocolate frosting," Lucius told her. Regulus frowned slightly.
"I think the spice cake would be fine if they added some applesauce and made it a bit moister," he suggested.
"Perhaps if they didn't use such a rich ganache, the chocolate cherry would have been less overpowering," Severus said mildly. Hermione turned to the head chef of her house elves who nodded and was taking notes.
"Trés bon, Madame," the little house elf said politely. She turned back to her milites.
"Now, have you been approached yet?" She asked anxiously. All three of them shook their heads.
"No, domina," Lucius said with a frown. "We have all worked very hard to seem eager, supportive and ambitious for power. That's the sort of thing that the Dark Lord understands. He's put us all in key positions, which reminds me—I have two more I'd like to bring to you on the full moon."
"Of course," Hermione said with a gracious nod. Jamie and Sirius stayed with Remus during the full moon and it was the easiest time for her to accomplish anything. She turned to Regulus and her face softened slightly. "How is Rabastan?"
"He's a stubborn ass, is what he is," Regulus growled and then sighed. "He's fine. He's doing well even. It will be a bit early, but I think he'll be ready for you to mark him this year before I leave."
"Excellent," Hermione said in a pleased voice. She turned to Lucius. "We still need the Horcruxes before you can approach Dumbledore. It is the easiest way for all of you to prove that what you're doing is of the Light. Or at least of the Grey."
"This is very true, he has no reason to trust us, otherwise," Lucius agreed. Hermione snorted.
"He most likely won't trust you, regardless. Dumbledore did not survive this long by being a pushover, my milites. He is a cautious man and he trusts very, very few people in the world. I think it is one of the reasons he prefers being Headmaster at Hogwarts—the students are naïve and innocent. They are unable to conceal their true selves from him," Hermione mused aloud. Her three soldiers…her Dark Trio, as Old Hermione liked to call them…looked at her with narrowed eyes. They would be wary around Dumbledore. Good, they needed to be. They, too, could trust very, very few people if they were to survive.
Oh come on, you like your wizards like you like your chocolate—dark and a little nutty.
My wizard is not Dark.
He's a Black! And no offense, but he's a little nutty. It goes with the inbreeding.
Is that why you constantly drool all over him? Because he's evil and insane?
I didn't say he was evil or insane. You're pissed off again, aren't you? Hello? Hello? You know, giving me the silent treatment isn't very nice. It's not like I have anyone else to talk to. Hello? You know I was just joking, right? Right? I'm sure he's the least insane of all the Blacks. Well, except Regulus. He seems almost normal. Wait. That didn't help, did it? How long are you going to keep this up this time? Don't make me possess you!
The speed with which Alphard Black and Charlus Potter had shoved through the marriage contracts was almost shocking and it would have drawn a lot more attention if many other families weren't doing the same thing. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was stepping up his attacks on muggles, muggleborn and supposed blood traitors by the day. Fear was haunting the wizarding world and many families who already had contracts on the books were marrying off their offspring before it was too late. James and Sirius had been accepted to an internship with the Auror department because Frank Longbottom was marrying his betrothed, Alice McKinnon, and they were taking time off for a honeymoon. She and her sister Marlene were both outspoken female members of the Order and they'd become quite close to Lily. James frowned slightly. He and Lily had been dating for a year. He still wasn't exactly sure how the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing worked with muggles, but he knew how he felt about Lily. However, James wasn't sure that the Evans family kept lawyers on retainer to draw up betrothal contracts. They would probably think he was crazy or something. In the wizarding world, anyone of legal majority could go to the Ministry of Magic and apply for a marriage license. The Ministry would then check and make sure that the persons applying were free to do so i.e. had not entered into any previous bonds or oaths before it would issue a license. The reason everything took so much longer among the purebloods was the bickering back and forth between lawyers about the rights and inheritances of every person involved in the marriage and any viable issue that might be produced. Then all of the contracts had to be submitted to the Ministry and entered just in case there were other open contracts already listed. It was an incredibly tedious process and one of the least popular jobs in the Ministry. James would be able to skip all of that with Lily.
"My Own?" James poked his head into his sister's room. She glanced up from some papers she was going over and smiled at him.
"Yes, Jamie?" She asked curiously, tilting her head to one side. He came fully into her room and shut the door behind him.
"Do you know anything about muggle courtship rituals?" He asked in a rush, his face a deep red. Hermione beamed, a smile so wide it made her joy palpable.
"I do," she said after a moment. James nodded.
"They don't use betrothal contracts, do they? I mean, Lily found the whole thing with you and Sirius to be so odd. She had no idea what you were talking about half the time," James muttered rubbing the back of his head.
"Well, we can talk to father, and we can draw up a modified contract: in the event of your death she won't have inheritance rights, she'll receive an allowance, and your son will inherit everything on his majority. That should satisfy Daddy and Mum. They're fairly old-fashioned about things like that," Hermione said firmly. James frowned.
"Why can't I just marry her?" He demanded. Hermione sighed heavily.
"Jamie-love, look at it through Mum's eyes. She has no family, no status and no dowry. If she were marrying into the Blacks the head of the House would insist on her marrying a lesser son and that the marriage be listed as morganatic with the Ministry. I personally agree with Lucius, she most likely has squibs in her family tree, but we can't prove that. I can tell by the look on your face that you disagree…violently. Fine. Let me talk to her with her parents. If we can provide a nominal dowry, or prove her lineage then Mum won't object to full status. Does that make you happy?" Hermione asked with a weary sigh. James frowned and really looked at his sister. She looked pale, ill.
"My Own, are you well?" He asked with concern. She smiled weakly.
"I'm fine, Jamie. Perhaps I'm spreading myself a bit thin," she said quietly. He snorted.
"Sirius hates that Ladies' Aide Society," he told his sister flatly. "He says he hasn't seen you in two weeks. You're driving him spare, love."
"I'll take a break, I promise," Hermione said earnestly. "Just…let me meet with Lily's parents. Oh! I'll need the Potter rubies. That should make the Evans sit up and realize that you're serious."
"He's not Sirius," Sirius began from the doorway. Hermione held up her palm, a pained expression on her face.
"Do not," she said sharply. Sirius gave her puppy eyes, she sighed and held out her arms. He scooped her up and put her on his lap.
"Missed you," he murmured while he whuffed her hair. She rolled her eyes at James. Sirius was ridiculous when he was separated from her for extended periods. His animagus side always came to the fore, he would sniff and nuzzle her for the next hour while he cuddled her. Once he was satisfied that she was safe and healthy, he would snog her senseless.
"Good," she murmured back. "You are taking me to see Lily."
"Now?" Sirius demanded irritably. Hermione kissed him on the nose.
"Yes, now," she said firmly. He sighed heavily and she thought she heard something derogatory about the Ladies' Aide Society, but she ignored it.
The Evans home was rather nice, by muggle standards, Hermione realized. She was holding a small, carved wooden coffer in her hands and Sirius walked with her toward their home. They were both dressed in muggle clothes. He had on a perfectly tailored dark suit and she was dressed in beautiful Chanel suit. Her wild curls were tamed by spell into a smooth chignon, and she had white kid gloves on. Her betrothal brooch with its rubies winked on her lapel and the large ruby of her pendant was also clearly visible. Sirius and Hermione appeared to be an incredibly attractive, insanely rich couple. He knocked smartly on the Evans' door. Petunia Evans opened the door and her mouth dropped open at the sight of the both of them.
"Are Mr. and Mrs. Evans at home?" Hermione asked in her aristocratic accent. Petunia nodded dumbly and held the door open wider so that they could enter.
Hermione's heels clicked on the hardwood floors and Sirius followed her closely, his hand at the small of her back. Hermione glanced out through the French doors in the living room and realized that Petunia was having a lawn party to which she had obviously not invited her sister. She turned back to the Evans who were sitting in their living room and looked up in surprise at unexpected guests.
"We apologize for the intrusion," Hermione said politely. "I had no idea that you were entertaining today, forgive me."
"There's nothing to forgive Hermione," Mrs. Evans said warmly. "You're a good friend to Lily and we love having you. This must be your fiancé, Mr. Black. Lily's told us all about you both. She says that she has a special role in your engagement party."
"Er, yes," Hermione said blankly while Old Hermione rapidly translated everything in her head for her. Sirius looked confused. She patted his hand comfortingly, and then made formal introductions between all of them. When she was through she turned to Mrs. Evans. "Is Lily free?"
"Petunia, dear, go fetch your sister," Mrs. Evans said firmly. Hermione smiled at the parents of her friend.
"You have a study, don't you Mr. Evans? Perhaps we could all retire there once Lily has joined us," Hermione suggested smoothly.
"What on earth do they want with Tuney's freak sister?" Hermione heard a loud, nasally voice say, followed by a fit of giggles. She automatically put her hand on Sirius' wand arm.
"Not here," she hissed at him. He growled at her and she shook her head. Mr. Evans had been scowling toward the patio, but he turned and smiled at Sirius.
"I think I like your fiancé already," he said cheerfully. Hermione smiled weakly and pushed Sirius toward Mr. Evans' study.
"Hermione? Sirius? Why are you here?" Lily asked curiously. Hermione smiled warmly at Lily and Sirius gave her a cheeky grin.
"We're here to find a solution to a rather sticky wicket as you lot say," Hermione said as she set the wooden coffer on the desk.
"What would that be, Miss Potter?" Mr. Evans asked curiously.
"Well, in the wizarding world there are families that are the equivalent of nobility. We don't have titles, but it amounts to the same thing. There are estates, inheritances, money, and all of it is jealously guarded by armies of lawyers. It takes them four years to hammer out the betrothal contracts so that the happy couple can get married," Hermione explained carefully, looking at Lily's parents since she already knew all of this. "The bride and the groom each bring something to the marriage that will be given to any issue. I have four dower properties that I hope to pass on to my children. Sirius has several properties as well. We each have monies that are listed on our betrothal contracts. Sirius has gifted me with a plethora of jewels. I'm wearing only a small sample of what he's showered me with during the course of our courtship."
"That's fascinating," Mr. Evans said slowly, obviously confused. Mrs. Evans had majored in Medieval Studies.
"Lily doesn't have a dowry," she gasped, staring at them. "Someone…what…wants to offer for her?"
"Yes," Hermione said with a slight smile at Lily who blushed furiously. She might have been horribly insulted by this whole process if she hadn't been friends with Hermione. That friendship had helped her to view the wizarding world as different. This visit by Hermione and Sirius showed how much Hermione cared about her. She was obviously trying to help, trying to smooth the way for her.
"Well, what would be considered a healthy dowry?" Mrs. Evans asked speculatively.
"Property is always good," Sirius said automatically. Hermione glared at him.
"We have a small property…well…it's a cottage really. I inherited it from my grandmother, it's in a place called Godric's Hollow," Mrs. Evans said slowly. Hermione and Sirius stared at her in such obvious shock, their eyes widening and their mouths dropping open that Mrs. Evans turned to her daughter for an explanation. Lily shrugged and shook her head in confusion.
"Potter Manor lies quite close to Godric's Hollow," Hermione said faintly. "It's a magical community. I…I…Lily we have to see your grandmother's parents. Do you have a family tree anywhere?"
"I think so. Ah, here it is. Huh. Deucedly odd last names. Her mother was a Bones and her father was a…Bagshot?" Mr. Evans read carefully. Hermione paled and so did Sirius. Then they looked at one another and smiled.
"Well, that will make things much easier. Lily, your grandmother must have been a squib. We'll have to check the Ministry records. That little cottage, if you're willing to make it Lily's dowry, will be perfect. We brought this to prove that we were serious about the matter," Hermione said happily. She opened the coffer to reveal small, velvet lined trays that contained the Potter rubies.
"If Lily would like to choose a piece that appeals to her?" Sirius asked her courteously. Lily picked a ruby and diamond bracelet. Sirius smiled gently at her. "It doesn't have to be a bracelet for the first gift, love."
"I know," she said softly. Sirius picked it up and fastened it around her wrist gently.
"I must go home and speak to Daddy and Mum. I'm sure they'll want to contact their lawyers, and then they'll come visit you with James. I know this may seem odd to you, but please know that it will be very odd for my parents as well. This isn't exactly how we normally do things, but…well…James doesn't like to be told that something can't be done," Hermione said with a slight smile at Lily who blushed furiously.
"James knows that muggles use rings to symbolize intent to marry," Sirius said to Mr and Mrs. Evans. "He plans to give her one, in case you're worried, but these betrothal jewels say the same thing to our lot."
"Well, to be honest, these are the Potter rubies, which normally only the wives wear," Hermione pointed out to her soon to be betrothed. "He's stating emphatically that he's marrying her. Anyone who sees that bracelet will know exactly what it means. They'll treat her as though she's already Mrs. Potter."
"Your father's going to have a fit," Sirius said staring at Lily's wrist. He'd assumed that they were betrothal jewels.
"Oh, I'm sure he will, but he loves Lily and he'll be happy once he's had a chance to yell a bit," Hermione said with a slight smile. Mr and Mrs. Evans smiled, too.
Lucius is going to be absolutely insufferable when he finds out that Lily's not a muggleborn.
Do you have to remind me? I never saw that coming. Not in a million years. Do you suppose that little cottage is where they lived, in the original timeline? The Dumbledore family lived there; it would give the Headmaster greater access to them. I think we heavily veto that this go round.
Yes, I had to remind you. Yes, I think it is the cottage that Harry lived in when he was a baby. It looked adorable in the pictures; I can see why Lily loved it. I agree, tell Lily and James there was a vision and they can't live there. Well. They can after we kill Voldemort.
Good. As long as we agree.
I'm just glad you're speaking to me again.