Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter characters.

A/N: Sorry I know it's been a while.. a long while. I am back to writing and hope to have a follow up to both "West of Here" and "The end was only the beginning" later this week. I hope you enjoy as this chapter takes a few turns and there is a bit of adult humor here so be warned. MK-ONE

Vengeance from the Grave

Chapter seventeen: He did what?

Knock-Knock-Knock

"Honestly, this is getting to be a rather disturbing habit." Hermione groused as she hastily pulled on her robe and made for her front door to entertain what she was sure was anything other than what she most wanted to know regarding yet another salvo in the dating war declared by Harry F-ing Potter.

Susan had been inundating her with reliving one mind blowing romantic date after another that had her green with envy and Ron cursing Harry's name under his breath as she'd readily brought to his attention that he could learn quite a bit from his friend in the area of romance.

If she was honest with herself; Ron was no slouch and she had little if anything to complain about. Ron was attentive and caring and always placed her needs ahead of his own,.. er, almost always, though not that she was complaining-thank you very much.

Susan had been calling two and three times or more a day. She was glowingly smitten one moment and lamenting the next that Harry had yet to take things to a more intimate level. It was clear from Susan's distressed conversation that she, at least, was ready to take things to a more physical level.

Then nothing: No calls, no owls- nothing. She hadn't heard from either of them in a week.

Knock-Knock-Knock!

The rapping at her front door grew in intensity, almost as if the party calling were desperate at this point.

"I'm coming…I'm coming" Hermione called out impatiently as she threw the lock and wrenched open her door.

A disheveled and wild eyed Susan Bones grabbed her hands and pleaded desperately: "Hide me?! For the love, of all that's holy, Hide Me!"

"Wha…?" Hermione goggled wide eyed as Susan pleaded, all the while pushing herself into her foyer and kicked the door closed behind her.

Her hair was mussed and her eyes both tired and wild appearing at the same time, blouse miss-buttoned and wearing two non-matching shoes. But for all of that she looked-terrific. She nearly glowed with vitality.

"Susan, what in the w-world..?" Hermione gasped startled by the entire spectacle.

"Please.. just for a day or two until I can rest up, please Hermione?" Susan begged clawing at her friend desperately.

"Rest up? Susan what's,.. is someone after you? Maybe we should give Harry a quick floo.."

"Nooo!" Susan screeched abruptly, her eyes searching wildly for some avenue of escape.

"Calm down." Hermione appeased, trying to settle her frantic friend. "Just calm down and tell me what's happened?"

Susan eyes went wide and her mouth lolled as she tried to begin to say something before she blushed fiercely. Finally she fell into a chair and began to commiserate all that she'd supposedly suffered.

"I-It's Harry…" she began haltingly.

"OMIGOD, noooo?!" Hermione gasped assuming the worst, but Susan waved her off, hurriedly explaining.

"No.. no he's fine.. he's t-terrific, .. he's…." Susan's words trailed off and her eyes went out of focus.

"He's what?" Hermione asked dumbfounded, completely perplexed over what was going on, what Susan was running from?

"He's insatiable!" Susan blurted out, her face flaming.

A snort from the hall announced that Ron was up and caught that last dire admonishment.

"He.. He…the whole week! It's my own fault… I .. I pressed him to.. to take things to another level, but I never dreamed..?" Susan goggled wide eyed at that. She looked like she's survived a vampire attack, pale as she was from lack of sunlight.

Hermione too was blushing and fanning herself with a hastily conjured hand fan as Susan continued to reiterate her activities of the past week in a vacant, glazed sort of way.

"Is there nothing the man isn't good at? I mean really?! He.. he's a natural, not that I have any real experience to gauge by, but- wow! It's a damn good thing that his mother's wand is good for charms because it's cast nothing but prophylactic charms 24/7!" Susan wailed that last to which Ron broke down in side splitting laughter, bracing himself against the door frame of the loo.

"What ..er, um.. that is.. how… I take it things are, er,.. going well, then?" Hermione halting asked as she struggled not to laugh herself whilst trying to deflect a bit of the intensity, though she was secretly dying to know all the details.

Shy, oblivious, unassuming, Harry Potter; Ron had called that one right.

"Well?" Susan barked in disbelief. "Things have been bloody, utterly fantastic.. but this? I've awakened a bloody dragon and I don't have a clue how to quench its fire!" she lamented.

"It's only a few days until Christmas and I haven't been able to get away to get a single present this entire week!" she complained half disheartened, blushing all the while.

"At least you know what to get Harry." Ron threw in sportingly. Susan gapped and Hermione gasped scandalized to which.. "Haw-Haw-Haw- Whumph!" Ron hit the floor, laughing at their reactions. He was rolling around gasping for air between guffaws.

"It's not bloody funny." Susan wailed in lament. "Day and night, night and day, not a moment's sleep and when.. when the git affords me enough time to actually drift off, I wake up to breakfast in bed-ME!"

In spite of herself, Hermione joined Ron on the floor at that one.

"Oh, sure- funny..?" Susan scathed, watching contemptuously as her friend and his friend laughed up riotously at her expense.

"Oh..Oh.. I'm sorry Susan, but really.. just tell him no, for Merlin's sake." Hermione suggested having finally composed herself enough to pull herself back up onto the sofa she'd fallen out of.

Ron would not be righting himself soon, by the way he was wheezing red faced, crawling towards the loo.

"I have told him- no." Susan returned drolly.

"What, but Harry's always been a perfect gentleman, surely he isn't forcing himself on you?" Hermione returned aghast that Harry would behave in such a manner.

"He is and he doesn't, but he…" Susan both defended and tried to explain her dilemmna.

"He what?" Hermione pressed, growing somewhat worried.

"He.. well he makes me dinner and massages my shoulders and well.. er.. one thing leads to another… and then the next thing I know his hands are stroking my hair…" Susan hand went to her mussed hair and stroked one side absently as she wistfully rasped out.. "He start's nuzzling my neck and… he.. his hands start to wander and,,, the next thing I know I'm tearing off his clothes and begging him to…"

"Whao-Whoa-WHOA!" Hermione fanned her hands at her friend, begging her forbearance, herself blushing furiously at the picture stuck in her head.

"Awe 'Mione,.. it was just getting good." Ron complained, slumping down in the sofa next to his fiancé. His own eyes were sparkling with both mirth and something else that Hermione recognized all too well and was eager herself to indulge in, just now, which elicited another furious blush that it was obvious that Ron understood and enjoyed.

"Don't interrupt, Ronald." She deflected with acrobatic grace. It was obvious by the smug look on Ron's face that he wasn't fooled by the ploy.

To Susan she determined. "It sounds to me as if you're just as bad as Harry. You said it yourself- you've woken a sleeping dragon, Sue."

"But, huh,.. doesn't the man sleep?!"

"Haw-Haw-Haw" Ron broke down in peals of laughter again.

"Shut up-Ron." Susan groused.

"Don't blame him." Hermione chuckled in her love's defense. "I think the whole thing's hysterical." Hermione herself began laughing again at Susan's expense.

"Hermione?...Ron? " Harry disembodied head called out from within the floo.

"No..Please.. don't tell him I'm here." Susan begged, steeping her hands in prayer.

"Er, what is it , Harry" Hermione called out, not daring to venture over to the floo herself lest she lose her waning composure.

"Have you seen, Susan? I can't find her anywhere." he lamented.

"er,no…Harry" Hermione reluctantly lied to her curious friend.

"Oh, well… if you see her, tell her I've got something of hers that she left over here that I'm most eager to return."

Susan's eyes turned puzzle and she fidgeted slightly before her eyes went wide and she slapped a hand over her face to cover her intense blushing.

"I'll tell her." Hermione called back and Harry blessedly ended the call before Hermione started to giggle at Susan's expression.

Ron had sobered enough to ask the obvious. "What did you leave at his place that he's so eager to return?"

"M-My knickers" Susan ashamedly answered.

She ended up booking a room at a muggle hotel as her two friends had been laughing so hard when she left that she doubted she'd have been able to fall asleep had she stayed there.

The next day Susan hurriedly went about her Christmas shopping at a furious pace, all the while, keeping an eye out for Harry , with wand in hand so that she could apparate to safety at a split second's notice.

She felt herself an utter hypocrite as despite the fourteen hours she slept last night, she was just as eager for him to find her as not. Ron was right about one thing, if only half so; she knew what to get Harry for Christmas. He was only half right in that she wanted it as much for herself as for Harry.

The man was unbelievable!

For the life of her she couldn't see how anyone could have so much stamina though? "Are you alright , dear?" the clerk asked in concern at seeing Susan's flushed face.

Susan's blushing darkened and she furiously gathered up her packages and nearly bolted the shop with a hurried.. "I'm fine" in passing.

It took her the entire day and thankfully the shops were all to accommodating in that they wrapped her packages, otherwise she'd have had to spend the whole of Christmas eve wrapping her many gifts for friends and family.

Despite Ron's advice, Oh, Merlin!.. she knew she was blushing again. She knew she need to get Harry something tangible, a small token as such, but for the life of her she hadn't a clue what.


"You're sure about this?" Dozer asked his younger friend.

"Very sure"

"But she's the first girl you've even remotely dated in a serious fashion." Stalker said in a complaining, doubtful voice.

"So?" Harry responded, not understanding his friend's resistance to the idea.

"But spending your life with just one girl.. the same girl?! Ugly…Oh… ugliness…" He gasped, clutching his stomach, his eyes were glassy and vacant as if in the grips of a nightmare. "I can't take it.. I think I'm gonna throw up!" with that, Stalker bolted from the shop as if he about to hurl.

Apparently some blokes were terrified of commitment.

"Haw-Haw-Haw" Dozer guffawed at his friend's display. Once settled, he offered bracingly. "You do what you think is best kid. I think she's a helluva catch, for what it's worth. Me and the boys will stand up for you and proudly so. We'll even pump Stalker full of anti-emetic potion to keep him from tossing up during the service, course the stuff is terribly constipating."

At that they both laughed uproariously.

Once the two pulled themselves together under the disapproving eye of the jeweler's wife, Harry indicated his selection and proceeded to order every safety and convenience charm available.

"Gees, kid.. you don't do anything by halves do ya?" Dozer commented half in appreciation and half uncomfortably as seeing the amount of gold his young friend was passing over without a second thought.

"She's worth it." He offered by way of an explanation.

Dozer nodded and clapped a supportive hand on his smaller friend's shoulder. "Griff would be proud of you kid."

Not trusting his voice at that, Harry just nodded his gratitude. Griffon's approval was something anyone would have aspired to.

"When you gonna give it to her?" Dozer asked, then paused for a second considering his choice of words before he broke down in a fresh wave of racking laughter.

Harry merely rolled his eyes and shot his friend a long suffering look before intimating… "Already have and many, many times, not that it's any of your business."

That stopped his friend's joviality in a heartbeat as Dozer immediately sobered.

"He whistled appreciatively between his teeth, commenting off handily. "She must be something else."

"And how" Harry offered vaguely in return, though his eyes told a different story as they went out of focus and his face colored slightly.

"Sounds like you're made for each other." Dozer chuckled dryly. "When you gonna pop the question though?'

Harry shrugged. "Sooner rather than later. I think Sue's hiding from me at the moment, but I reckon I'll catch up to her tomorrow or on Christmas for sure." he assumed.

"Why's she hiding from you?' Dozer asked worriedly.

Harry shot him a 'don't be stupid' chastising look.

"oh..OH!" his friend gasped, cottoning on.

"You didn't ,.. that is… you're not just making the ring her Christmas present, are you?' He asked in concern.

"Why not?" Harry returned somewhat puzzled.

"Merlin kid…don't you know that's considered cheap and presumptuous?" his friend lectured.

"It is?"

"Uh-huh" Dozer nodded.

"What do you think, then?" Harry appeared concerned over what he should get for Susan as an actual gift-gift?

"Jewelry?"

Dozer shook his head. "No way, that'll either down play or pale beside the engagement ring. Bad choice all the way around except maybe… matching earrings,… but that's more of a wedding type thing."
"You mean I'm supposed to get her a wedding gift too?" he asked his friend incredulously.

"Merlin, kid,.. don't you know anything about women and marriage and stuff?" Dozer fanned his hands in exasperation.

"Uh-uh?" Harry shook his head, clearly stmied.

Dozer grabbed up his younger friend's arm. "Come on… we've got to go see an expert before you make a bloody fool of yourself."

Harry hurriedly grabbed up his barely wrapped purchase and allowed Dozer to drag him from the store. They met Stalker outside who had actually, really sicked up and still wasn't looking to keen.

"Where you going?" Srtalker asked, seeing the worried, near panicked expression on Dozer's face.

"To see a marriage expert." At that, Dozer grabbed Stalker's arm and dragged him along too. "You're coming to,.. not that the lesson will probably sink in, but at least I'll have done my bit for the country's women." he growled.

A quick side along apparition later and a hurried knock at the door of Griffon's widow.

"Yes,.. wha.. Harry,.. James.. Boyce… what's…? "Jennifer Clemmons asked anxiously at seeing the troubled expression on Dozer's face.

"Sorry for barging in Jenny, but young Harry here needs an abridged lesson in the do's and don'ts of married life, starting with the engagement, And this one…?" he paused, giving Stalker's arm an irritable shake…" needs to learn that women do not exist solely for his personal and worrisome amusement and that there are other, better things that women have to offer besides…"

Stalker was quailing under his friend's admonishment when Jenny Clemmons saved him from further admonishment, not that he deserved it, from what her late husband had intimated.

"Alright-Alright" Jenny held up a hand halting Dozer's tirade, much as it was probably deserved.

She opened the door beckoning her guests inside. "I'll start with Mr. Good and then see what I can do for Mr. Bad." She fixed a cowering Stalker with a look that clearly stated she would suffer none of his usual nonsense.

Several hours later….

"So what's the verdict, Jenny?" Dozer asked hopefully, though he wasn't fooling himself that much could be done about Boyce, he knew that Harry would make the rest of them look good at least and maybe take the edge off of Stalker's activities.

Jenny just stared at him with the most vacant expression that he wasn't sure for a moment that she'd gone catatonic.

Worriedly, Dozer snapped his fingers in front of Jenny's eyes trying to re-orient her.

Snap-Snap…"Wha…oh, James, er,.. sorry I sort of wonked out for a minute there."

"It was that bad then, eh? I take it Boyce not only explained, which is to say-bragged about his philosophy and it's reflect on the female population?"

"Wha..no… it's not that,.. it's…" Jenny's voice trailed off and she relapsed back into her catatonic like state, only this time she was blushing profusely.

Snap-Snap… "Wha.. oh, sorry, James." Jenny apologized, realizing she'd drifted off again.

"So what's up?' he asked curiously.

Jenny's face flamed, but after a few moments she was able to pull herself together and relay an abridged version of the afternoon.

After she was finished, James looked at her incredulously asking.. "You're kidding?"

Jenny just shook her head, not trusting her voice as she was blushing again.

"You're blushing" he pointed out.

"So would you if you'd heard what I'd heard." She snapped back sarcastically, though she was more embarrassed than anything. She was a mother of two for Circe's sake. While not exactly the world's authority, she and Christopher had enjoyed a healthy, even a tad adventurous sex life,.. but this?

"He was just having you on." Dozer refuted. "Boyce must've put the bug in his ear and he fell into the role to take the heat off Stalker, that's what it is?" Dozer suggested.

"That's not it,.. trust me… I know and I can tell when a man's hiding something. These two… well the one's bad, but the other's worse,.. well maybe not worse, but different… he's.. well… he's not human!" Jenny gapped in disbelief as her eyes went out of focus.

"Which one?" Dozer asked, now becoming a bit worried in that they weren't talking about Stalker."

Jenny rolled her eyes and proclaimed.. "Mr. Bad is Bad, but he's not a lost cause. Mr. Good, however…" she was beginning to drift again, but pulled herself out of it and abruptly asked.. "Do you know what he's been doing all week?" it was half question and half accusation the way she'd framed that question.

Dozer merely shrugged and offered.." Spending time with Susan and quality time too , given that he bought her and engagement ring today."

Jenny Clemmons rolled her eyes at that. "He'd better have, considering…" she left off pointedly.

"Considering what?"

"Considering the fact that Mr. Good had Miss Good in bed all week and now the poor girl's gone into hiding." Jenny scathed, only there was the slightest hint of envy in her voice and she was blushing again.

"What…HIM?" Dozer returned incredulously. "No way.. the kid's a straight arrow. The boys and I couldn't even convince him to have a go when we visited, ah,.. er…never mind." he caught himself too late as Jenny's eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"Oh and was dear Christopher with you, perchance?' she assumed venomously.

"Of course not." Dozer shot right back appalled that she would even ask.

Jenny's face softened and she offered an apology, both to him and silently to her deceased husband.

After a pregnant pause, Dozer reiterated. "So what's with the kid, then?"

"Well first off,.. kid no longer applies, at least not in the biblical sense, though I'm not so sure about in the mature sense, but that's neither here nor there. Here I was ripping Stalker up one side and down the other when Harry comes to his erstwhile friend's defense claiming that while Boyce may not be Mother Teresa, so to speak, but he has his redeeming qualities in that he at least knows how to show a young lady a good time. So there I am gapping incredulously at the young fool and am stupid enough to ask how he arrived at that conclusion."

Jenny face contorted slightly at that, and she began to blush again.

"What did he say?" Dozer asks in growing anticipation, judging by the look on Jenny's face.

"He.. He.. said that Boyce told him all about how to make a woman happy and that he tried it and everything that Boyce said was spot on. So like a dummy I had to ask….."

"And?" Dozer prodded on tether hooks.

"And the idiot told me in lurid detail."

"Told you what?' Dozer asked impatiently as Jenny had yet to really divulge anything.

At this point and despite her embarrassment, Jenny lost it and told him exactly what Harry said and what he'd been up to with Miss Susan Bones all week. Despite considering herself somewhat well versed in the flowery arts, she blushed like a school girl during the whole explanation.

"You're kidding me?" Dozer scoffed, though his own face was red now.

"No, apparently we've found yet another thing our Young Mr. Potter is good at. I'm not entirely sure it isn't the "power he knows not" that the prophesy was referring to." She made quotation marks in the air at that to stress her point.

Dozer stared at her for the longest time before the side of his mouth started to twitch.

"Go on and laugh, you know you want to." Jenny offered incredulously.

Dozer broke down in side splitting laughter and not long after Jenny joined him. After a long cleansing laugh followed by Dozer asking if he needed to straighten his young charge out in a more 'hands on' approach, Jenny warned him off.

"First off, while our young Mr. Potter is , shall we say; overly enthusiastic; he is never the less a gentleman and from what I can tell the young lady in question was receptive to his overtures and by all accounts she is responsible for waking a sleeping dragon. Secondly, do you really want a go at fisticuffs, let alone wands at ten paces with the "slayer of dark lords' as the newspapers have coined?"

Dozer shook his head warily at the mental picture, but reiterated.. "There must be something we can do though, I mean before things get out of hand?'

"There is." Jenny confirmed, smiling fondly.

"What?" Dozer asked immediately hopeful.

"Marry them, and quick!"

The two chuckled again at that.

"My guess is things will settle once they're married and settle into a routine."

"Yeah, but what if this becomes their routine?" Dozer asked with a smirk.

"There are worse things and anyway, the young man's quite wealthy so that providing for a , er,.. large family shouldn't be a hardship."

The two laughed again at that.

"They'll be alright, poor dears, but the other,.. Boyce is gonna need some work, mind." She waggled a finger back in the direction she'd come, adding disgustedly.. "The bloke's a world class lecher and that's being too kind."

"What should we do?"

"Castrate him." Jenny suggested without batting an eye.

Dozer winced and shuffled from foot to foot suddenly very uncomfortable. "Anything less er,.. invasive?"

Jenny tapped a finger to her chin thoughtfully before she snapped her fingers in revelation. "Send him back to school?"

"What good will that do, except expose the swine to a young generation of innocent and impressionable young witches?"

"If prim and proper Madam Pomfrey and McGonagal can't straighten him out than who can?"

Dozer stared blankly at her for a long pause before the edge of his mouth started to twitch again.

"Go on, laugh, you know you want to."


Christmas Eve

"Shouldn't you be getting ready?" Cam asked his younger friend who was fidgeting and casting worried glances at the clock every few minutes. He had been off duty since noon and both he and all of Griffon team were scheduled off through the holidays.

The only reason that Chameleon was still here was to finish up some paperwork before leaving for the vacation. He was taking his transition to team leader very responsibly, not that he needed to overdo as his teams effectiveness spoke for itself.

"I.. I don't think I'm gonna go." Harry lamented, his face downcast.

"Why on earth not?"

"I was supposed to go with Susan and I,…she hasn't…?" he left off dejectedly not able to finish the thought as his eyes shifted to the clock on the wall again.

"You two didn't break up did you?' Cam asked in surprise. He hated putting the kid through this, but he was sworn to secrecy regarding tonight's festivities.

Harry's face took on a stricken look as he mumbled gloomily. "I don't think so,.. I don't know? I screwed up and now she won't talk to me or anything?"

Cam had to bite his cheek to keep from laughing at just what the "anything" could entail?

"You better go. Hermione and Ron are expecting you and it's high time you went inside where you belong rather than watching over everyone from out in the cold. Come on Harry, it's Christmas. You more than anyone deserve to spend it with your friends and family."

His face was struggling not to give into his misery and fighting a losing battle.

"But without Susan,.. it just doesn't seem worth it."

Cam sighed at that. He wanted so badly to reassure his young friend, but he'd swore he'd keep his silence, that and get Harry to the Christmas Party tonight. Both were proving much harder than he'd thought.

"Have you go it bad." Cam quipped to which Harry merely shrugged and nodded, not even making a boyish attempt at denial.

"It'll all work out Harry, you'll see. Just give Susan a little space. I'm sure she's going through the same gambit of emotions you are right now. I shouldn't say anything, ( he really shouldn't), but I have it on good authority, from her aunt, that Susan was planning to attend the party this evening." He pretended to mention airily.

"Really?" Harry's head shot up at that a smile threatening at the corners of his mouth.

"Really" Cam reiterated.

"See ya, Cam." Harry bolted from his chair mumbling about needing to get ready as he made for the door; his friend watched him leave while fighting to control the snicker that was threatening to overwhelm him.

Harry had finally left, without a backward glance or so much as a "Merry Christmas" when Cam broke and snorted a laugh.

The kid had it worse than his dad did.

Chuckling he made a quick floo call as directed.

"He's on his way." Cam announced into the floo once it connected without bothering with pleasantries.

'It's about time." Hermione Granger huffed on the other end.

"He wasn't about to go until I played the "Susan will be there card"." He shot back in half exasperation, half apology.

"Oh really?' Hermione returned smugly, her face turning away to look pointedly toward someone out of view from Cam's end.

"Sorry, but I don't think he would've gone if not for that. She is gonna be there, isn't she?" he asked worriedly. "He's been moping around here all day, pining over the girl."

"He'll just have to make do." Hermione answered facetiously.

Cam's face fell at that. "Damn, and here I was telling him things would all work out. I was hoping… now he's gonna be devastated. She broke up with him, then?" Cam assumed, feeling very sorry for his young friend.

Hermione shrugged, not answering as she replied airily. "There are other girls in the world."

"Not for him, I'm afraid." Cam grumbled dejectedly, not registering the gasp from behind Hermione. "He seems like one of the type that once he falls it's forever. All I can say is I hope you've got a lot of liquor available?" he suggested pointedly.

"Harry will be fine." Hermione assured him, casting a glance over her shoulder.

"No he won't…you haven't seen him,.. he's got it something awful." He defended his young friend, adding uncertainly that… "He's.. well,.. he's in love with the girl." Cam splayed his fingers in commiseration over his younger friend's plight.

"He is?!" Someone gasped excitedly.

Hermione tried to shush whoever it was, but Susan Bones bodily pushed her friend out of the way signaling the ruse was over.

"Did he say that?" Susan gasped, looking as if she was going to lunge into the floo.

"Susan,.. oh for crying out loud.. what're you women playing at? The poor fool's being moping around her all day and.. for the love of Merlin,..it's Christmas! What a crummy trick to play after all these years of him spending it alone watching over all of you lot from out in the cold!"

From his vantage point it appeared that the gathering was shamefully regretting their pointed duplicity regarding the night's festivities, but it wasn't enough as far as Cam was concerned as he went for the throat.

"Why,.. I've a good mind to round up the boys and come over there and Grinch up the works but good!" he waggled an angry finger and the conniving bunch on the other end of the floo.

"We only wanted to surprise him?" Susan whined.

"The surprise is nice and all,.." he conceded, "but not the lead in. He thinks you broke things off with him. The only reason he's even going to come is because he hopes you're going to be there. He's suffered every Christmas since.. well,.. since you know when and here he is suffering again? Shame on the lot of you! More's the pity that the young fool was out all yesterday finding a ring for an ungrateful.. "

Susan gasped at that, her eyes going wide in hope filled excitement.

"er,.. ah, that is.. oh boy…!" Cam slapped a hand over his face in mortification and abruptly ended the floo call. He saved himself the high pitched squealing from the witches in the room on the other end of the floo . His advantage was lost at that point and no further recrimination on his part would make a difference. Young witches heard engagement and all rational thought went out the window.

Now the poor sod had only to go home and try to explain to his own wife how he'd managed to muck up the surprise Christmas eve party being held in Harry's honor.


"This is it, now hush everybody and get ready." Hermione lectured the crowd hidden throughout the magically enlarged living room that had been quadrupled in size and was still bursting at the seams try to house a host of friends and family eager to honor and celebrate with their nation's greatest and most unsung hero.

Ding-Dong… the doorbell chimed announcing his arrival.

Knock-Knock-Knock… that same someone rapped at the door, for good measure, immediately after.

"My someone's eager?" Hermione paused on the way to the door to shoot Susan a pointed look. The poor girl was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet in anxious anticipation.

Tinkling laughter and chuckles of appreciation sounded from around the room. Susan was blushing, but for all that she looked almost predatory; like Harry was a fresh game and she was ready to pounce.

Before Hermione grabbed the door knob, she checked the peep hole to make sure it was Harry outside. Once satisfied, she signaled the room and everyone cast disillusion charms over themselves.

With a barely suppressed smirk; Hermione opened the door.

"Harry,..?" Hermione looked puzzled. "I wasn't expecting you until Boxing Day, but oh,.. sorry, ..where are my manners? Come in-Come in." Hermione at first appearing surprised, righted herself and ushered her friend in.

"erm,.. Boxing Day?" Harry asked sheepishly, suddenly looking very uncomfortable.

"For the holiday party, of course." Hermione pointed out, explaining further. We usually have our party for the family on Christmas eve, but with so many in a party mood what with Voldemort's demise, thanks to you, we decided to move the party to Boxing Day so that everyone could spend the Holiday with their immediate families and then come over to continue the fun. It should be nice, don't you think?" Hermione could almost kick herself, seeing the crestfallen expression on her best friend's face. If it wasn't for the multitude, waiting in the next room, eager to brighten his holiday, she would've crawled away into a hole somewhere to hide her shame. Chameleon was right; they should've rethought their strategy rather than put him through all this angst.

'Yeah it sounds very nice, er.. I just wanted to stop in and wish you and Ron a Merry Christmas."

"And Merry Christmas to you too. Ron will be disappointed he missed you as he's finishing up some paperwork. He should be home just about any minute if you'd like to wait?" she was about to usher him into the magically expanded living room to spring the surprise, but Harry unknowingly ruined their plans. She would commiserate long after that on how they had ruined things despite their best intentions.

"No,.. er… I'm sure you two want to be alone… so just say Merry Christmas for me and I guess I'll maybe see you on Boxing Day."

Her initial shock at the implied maybe in his comment gave her worried pause just long enough to hesitate in signaling everyone to announce themselves, so much so, that Harry apparated away before she could drop the pretense and launch their ill planned surprise.

"No, wait a minute Harry…."

POP- the air displaced as he'd abruptly apparated away

"Surprise!"

"What,.. where…oh, n-nooo…!" Questioning murmurs soon became gasps of disbelief and choked sobs of regret.

"Damn it all. I told you not to mess with him like this. Damnable scheming witches." Chameleon lectured the room, his arms flailing to accentuate his disgust.

"Language, dear." His wife chastised halfheartedly, feeling the hollowness of it in lieu of what she had helped ruin along with the rest who's hatched this ill-conceived plot.

Cam shook off his wife's restraining hand on his arm as he continued to rail. "I'll say whatever I damn well like. You can't jerk him around like this. For all he's accomplished he still has trouble seeing the shades of gray in an otherwise black and white world. Here it is Christmas, and again he's out in the cold looking in."

His fellow team members were murmuring their agreement with that as even the, normally gentle, Dozer growled at Hermione in passing, causing her to cringe back in trepidation.

None of the Griffin team had thought this a particularly good idea and had been quite vocal about it until the female contingent had shouted them down.

"Can you find him,..please?" Minister Bones stepped forward, asking worriedly, Dragon was already way ahead of her.

"Bring him back-now." he ordered in hard voice.

Cam nodded, but his eyes looked uncertain that he could fulfil said request as when Harry didn't want to be found- he wouldn't be.

They just fervently hoped that this wasn't one of those times.

"Dozer and Raven take the cemetery." He ordered and Dozer and Raven disappeared in heartbeat to look for their friend.

"Stalker, you're with me" he indicated as the two left to search Harry's usual stomping grounds.

They left a worriedly whispering group that had only minutes previously had been filled with joy and anxious anticipation for a night to show, truly show their fond appreciation for Harry's efforts, but especially – his friendship.

Christmas and Boxing Day came and went without any word or sign of Harry. To say that the holidays had been anything, but festive would be an understatement. It wasn't until after the holidays had passed in their entirety that a select few received missives from their missing person of interest.

With trembling hands; Amelia Bones opened the envelope waiting on her desk blotter.

Minister Bones…

It is with deepest regrets that I hereby tender my resignation as a field operative within the Unspeakable corps. I have found within them a home and family that I had never experienced before and I shall ever be grateful of.

I owe both you and Dragon more than I could ever repay in several lifetimes and a simple thank you seems hardly enough, but,.. thank you so much for all that you both have done in my behalf.

On a more personal note; I wish to convey to you my deepest regrets in my treatment of your niece. I have apparently and quite inadvertently misused the amazing opportunity you afforded me and took you niece for granted.

I am deeply ashamed by my actions and officially withdraw my courtship petition as I am unworthy of the honor of her hand.

With both deepest regrets and sincere appreciation,

Harold James Potter.

P.S. I have kept my Order of Merlin citation purely for instructional purposes. I shall never again where it as I am unworthy of the honor that was prematurely awarded me. I only intend to keep it in as a reminder of the sort of person I wish to be, not the sort of person I've become.

Maybe someday I will be worthy once again.

Amelia Bones sighed dejectedly, lowering the letter to her desk with trembling hands that mimicked her extreme regret over her's and the foolishness of so many others. To say they had made a terrible decision, albeit for all the right reasons, was an understatement. Didn't someone quote that 'the road to hell was paved with good intentions'? Never had she appreciated the wisdom of that sentiment more than at this very moment.

They were all fools; fools that had squandered their most precious resource like one did common water.

Unlike water, Harry Potter was not in never ending supply, but quite the contrary. He was a rare diamond the color and clarity of which was beyond peer.

They had tossed him aside like a common piece of gravel with their foolish manipulations. All they had wanted was to honor and show their extreme appreciation and affection for him and instead; all they'd managed to do was alienate and denigrate the object of their admiration.

She would have many years to ponder the foolishness of their actions.


"Ron,.. omigod-RON?!" Hermione nearly shrieked in alarm as she hurriedly read through Harry's letter twice before Ron worriedly sidled up to her and as ked.. "What's wrong?"

Trembling hands passed him Harry's brief letter before she lowered herself into a nearby chair, not trusting her legs to support her weight any longer.

Ron read the letter outloud.

"Hermione and Ron-

I'm sorry to say goodbye like this in a letter, but I thought it best to make a clean break and wanted to wait until after the holidays so as not to cast a pall on the occasion.

I'm sorry for so many things that I hardly know where to begin. I can never apologize enough for having deceived you all these years into thinking I was dead and for having run out on you. I'm sorry for all the emotional shite I put you through back then and continue to put you through now.

I realized that while you and the rest of our friends have grown up, I've stayed a teenager and continue to take things for granted like all teenagers tend to do. I've made a right mess of things with you and so many others that I've lost count.

The only thing I can think to do just now is to grow up!

By that I mean that I've decided to go off and make a clean break of things and learn to be the kind of man I want to be, not have become. I'm going to look into University and maybe have an idea or two for a possible career pursuit after. I also plan to do some traveling at some point. I'd like to see some of the world and what I and many others were fighting for all these years.

I'm sorry, but I know I won't be back for some time; therefore I'll miss your impending nuptials. I wish for you all the best in all you do and share with each other.

When you think of me try not to think too harshly, as I've already got enough of that for myself.

When you next see me, I intend to be a better and more well-adjusted man. The kind of person you would be proud to call a friend.

Please forgive me and know that I'm truly sorry. I won't say goodbye, just someday…

Harry"

Ron had just read that last before slumping into a chair next to a sobbing Hermione. All he could think over and over is what a bloody mess they'd made of things.

As heartbroken as they were, it paled by comparison to the way that Susan Bones currently felt as she too was reading a letter that was tearing her very life apart.

Susan-

I've treated you badly and for that I am not only immensely sorry but know that I can never wholly forgive myself for taking advantage of you and taking you for granted.

I've come to realize what a selfish child I am and how impaired is my sense of reality concerning relationships and interpersonal communication.

I've decided to strike out into the world to try and learn to be the kind of man I want to be not settling for the inadequate and immature man I've become.

I hope to become the sort of man you can be proud of and rely on. I don't expect you to wait for me, however much I may want just that.

I don't deserve you Susan, though I wish I did and more than I can possibly express.

All my love and profound regrets,

Harry

In another part of London, Jenny Clemmons was eagerly opening the door, hoping for a bit of good news. By the looks of the remains of Griffin Team, she knew good news was a long way off.

"You haven't found him, then?" Jenny assumed disappointedly, knowing her children would be devastated.

Dozer shook his head sadly as he blew his nose into a handkerchief. Stalker was shuffling his feet nervously and trying not to meet her eyes. Though he tended to be very awkward and uncertain around Jenny these days, still this was a bit more than usual.

Raven was patting Dozer's shoulder supportively, himself wiping at his eyes.

Cam stepped forward and delivered the bad news. "He's gone, Jenny. He left and we don't know where. He sent in a letter of resignation to Madam Bones and the Dragon . It was waiting on their perspective desks this morning.

She began to tear up and was about to ask a multitude of questions, but sensing her dismay, Cam filled in the gaps.

"We went over to his house this morning and it's cleaned out and a 'for sale' sign's already up. We checked with the realtor, but all correspondence with Harry regarding the sale of the home is being done via proxy through Gringott's. Gringott's informed us that Barclay's International is handling his personnel accounts, but Barclay's had only secured private number accounts listed in the Cayman Islands.

We taught him how to remain anonymous and he's using our own teaching against us to full effect." Cam lamented.

"Wha-What're you saying?" A tearful Jennifer stammered out.

Cam scrubbed a hand through his hair stalling before he grimaced and imparted that: "He doesn't want to be found and has made sure that we can't do just that. He did however, leave you a note, much like he did the rest of us.

Frantic hands tore open the proffered missive from Cam's extended hand.

Dearest Jenny ,

I feel a damned heel for leaving both you and Christopher's children in the lurch like this, but I know the boys will watch over you and make sure you're well taken care of. I know it's not much, but I've deposited fifty thousand galleons in an account for each of the children to use for graduate education and, or for a house or to establish a business after their initial schooling.

Thank you for helping me to see myself more clearly. I've made a lot of mistakes and, Merlin willing; I hope I don't make too many more as I try to make something of myself...

"Make something of myself?" Jennifer blurted out loud incredulously at that, shooting his fidgeting friends a pointed look of disagreement with sentiment of that statement. She was heartened that his former team mimicked her own disregard for that statement.

Jennifer huffed as she finished his letter, looking for one moment like she might tear it to shreds before she finally sighed in resignation and folded it carefully and returned it to the safety of its envelope.

She would spend a long afternoon commiserating with the sad remains of her husband's beloved team over the loss of their most cherished member.


Years would pass without more than the ocaassional missive in passing from the their prodigal friend, but in the sixth year Harry Potter's name became something of a household topic in the Wizarding world as the newspapers were filled with headlines….

The Daily Prophet

ICW special investigator: Harry Potter solves mystery of the Merlin Stone theft!

A few months later….

Wizard World News

Potter thwarts rise of Dark Lord Dravik- brings killer to justice!

The seventh year of Harry's absence saw the papers nearly daily quoting something from one of Harry Potter's many investigations. None of his successes, of which they were mounting, were ever mentioned with anything less than the utmost humility and mentions of appreciation to the many others that contributed to the success of the investigation. He rarely took more than a modest share of the credit, preferring to allocate such to others and along with it the unwanted attention it brought. All of his quotes were always politically correct and pervasively professional, never relaying even a hint of his personal opinions on the topic of interest.

The rare picture that was printed showed that while physically Harry had changed little if at all, his eyes shone with a cunning intelligence.

Still lean, but powerfully built; he was never in wizard's robes, but usually wore a black suit and tie that looked wholly professional. Occasionally he was caught in his field issue battle suit having returned from a tactical mission. To say that he cut an imposing figure was an understatement.


Eight years later….

"ICW Special Investigator Potter is here for your eight o'clock, Minister."

"Please send him in, Charlotte." Minister Bones instructed eagerly. She'd waited a long time for such an opportunity and now when it was right here at her door step she found herself more nervous than she'd been on her wedding night, though she hoped her anxiety would pass as quickly today as it had then.

She shifted her gaze briefly toward her husband and was relieved to see that he was fidgeting nervously, though he was much better at hiding it-she could still tell.

She and her Unspeakable counterpart had married three years ago in a private family ceremony that she had invited Harry Potter to in the tenuous hope that she could bridge the gap that had grown impossibly wide between him and the life he once led here in the British Isles. On this rare occasion he had returned a reply and while charming and friendly- he had declined, but had sent a beautiful wedding gift of an exquisite crystal vase that was proudly displayed as the centerpiece of their dining table.

She didn't have firsthand knowledge, as such, but was led to believe via Susan that the gift Harry had sent to Ron and Hermione's nuptials was both inspired as it was useful. He'd procured for them a ten year pre-paid lease to their own law offices in one of London's more prominent professional districts- Hyde Park. The offices lacked in nothing, including a complete library.

Though it contained mostly texts on law practice, there were two select books waiting; one especially for Hermione and one for Ron. For her; a handsome leather bound addition of "Hogwart's a History" and for him, "Quidditch through the Ages". Susan wasn't there when they were presented with their perspective gifts, but she was given to understand that Harry had left a personal missive inside each book that had brought both parties to tears of happiness. Amelia had also heard that Harry had inadvertently happened upon them during their honeymoon, taking it upon himself to treat them to a sumptuous dinner at one of Prague's finer restaurants. Given that the reservation was pre-booked weeks in advanced for a party of three, his timely encounter seemed anything, but a happy coincidence.

He'd remained, over the years, passively withdrawn from their lives, but not in so much as he'd ever forgotten a birthday or to send something on a special occasion. The only sore spot was that he'd declined the honor of being named the godfather of Ron and Hermione's firstborn.

It was a role that he already had assumed for Cho Chang's son-Harold, and by all accounts he and the child got on famously as Harry was often described as infinitely patient, kind and completely enamored with the boy.

He did, however, embrace the role of a favored 'surrogate' uncle for Ron and Hermione's son-Mitchell and made it a point to send little gifts here and there and to take the time for frequent, albeit, all too brief visits. They were too brief by Hermione's reckoning and always subsequently would be considered as such. She wanted him home and was not shy about telling him so whenever the opportunity presented itself.

His friendship with Cho, by necessity, had flourished over the years, she being the only one of a select few of his friends to have maintained in consistent contact with.

Susan too, had maintained a consistent jealousy of their relationship, but only in that Cho had access to the one person she didn't and wanted to above all others. Oh, he had made sure to send small, yet affectionate gifts at holidays and birthdays. Though the one thing she wanted more than anything else- was him.

Susan and Cho had once conspired to trap Harry into being alone with Susan when he'd come for one of his visits with his godchild. They had completely wasted their time as Harry had grown no less cunning over the years and had secreted away the boy from right under their noses leaving a small missive that they would return in a day or two and that they were not to worry.

Amelia Bones sighed wearily at that. Susan had dated a few times over the years of Harry's absence, but no one had filled the void he'd left in her heart. She had gone on as best she could and thrown herself into her work. She was now a well published author of Charm's texts and had taken over the Charms professorship at Hogwart's after Flitwick had retired. Despite all that she'd accomplished, Amelia knew Susan would chuck it all in a heartbeat to be with Harry.

Amelia Bone's daydreaming over the past went out the window when her office door opened and the enigma that was Harry Potter stepped into the room.

He had grown up, and then some. The newspaper photos hadn't done him justice in the least.

He was perhaps another inch or two taller than she remembered. His hair was short in the current fashion of a young professional, that or movie star heart throb. He cut an imposing figure in his dark, charcoal gray suit that was styled to accentuate his powerful frame.

His eyes though,.. the eyes that had so characterized him before were as nothing then as compared to now. If what they say is true in that the 'eyes are the windows to the soul' than Harry Potter was not someone to be taken lightly. His eyes literally radiated power and authority, but for all that he had an easy half grin of his face that had both intrigued and set her at ease the moment their eyes had met each other.

He took her hand in a gentle, yet firm handshake that he deftly pulled forward to lightly brush his lips across the back of her knuckles.

She sighed contently as he did so, whilst her counterpart blustered slightly next to her, uncomfortable with his show of fond familiarity.

She caught the barest hint of a grin tugging at the corner of Harry's mouth as he pulled back from the kiss and knew that he was playing slightly to her husband's insecurities.

That thought pleased her in that he still displayed a hint of a marauder's daring and hadn't grown up to the point of denying himself a spot of fun now and again.

He took the Dragon's hand next and, while she couldn't be sure, she could swear that her husband was trying to crush Harry's hand in his vice like grip. The effort was wasted as much to his chagrin; Harry didn't even seem to notice the effort put forth while the Dragon was shaking the blood back into his hand whilst swearing under his breath in irritation.

The pleasantries out of the way and all parties seated comfortably, Amelia asked: "To what do we owe the honor of this visit?

"It is I who am honored, Minister er,..Bone's?" he asked pointedly in political correctness given her married status.

She nodded that he had remained so to which her counterpart grumbled some bit of displeasure under his breath.

Amelia cocked an eyebrow his way, a sly smile pulling at the corner of her mouth.

"My current investigation leads me back to the British Isles and as such I am reporting to the local authority both to acknowledge my presence and to request the assistance of one of your Unspeakable teams as tactical support."

Amelia and her counterpart shared a knowing, albeit pleased look at that before he asked pointedly.

"Any particular team in mind?"

"I would prefer your best operatives, but I'm sure they all have their merits." He returned subtly.

"They do, but there is perhaps one that somewhat outshines the others, perhaps you're acquainted with.. Griffin Team?"

Harry paused to tap a finger thoughtfully to his chin as he mulled over "Griffin team?" thoughtfully to himself.

"Hmm, can't say that it rings a bell, but if their sixth members are that good…"

"Four members." Dragon interrupted, correcting him.

"Four members?" Harry half gasped in surprise, questioning further… "but I thought each Unspeakable field team was composed of six agents?"

"They are, but this particular group of gentleman just won't have it. They had one member die in the line of duty and another they lost shortly after. Apparently they feel both members are irreplaceable and begrudgingly I find myself in agreement with that assessment. Never fear though, they're a most capable lot. They could be better, grant you?" He expressed purposefully. "But they still get the job done."

"And then some." Amelia vouched in agreement.

Harry nodded, not trusting his voice just then. The message that his former team would not replace either him or Griffin had hit home.

"W-When will they be available?" he asked at length.

"They already are and quite er, eager to be of assistance, though they don't yet know to whom they will be working with." The Dragon smirked, telling his younger friend in not so many words that he was leaving the particular surprise to him in that he'd kept Griffin team conspicuously in the dark.

He was both gladdened and somewhat troubled in what his former team's response would be; not just regarding his return but in being authority over them.

Distracted as he was, he hadn't registered Minister Bones ghosting around the side of her desk until her hand found his trembling shoulder as he tried and failed to hide all emotion.

"Welcome home, Harry." She announced before pulling his head against her waist and planting a soft kiss to the top of his head, his own arms wrapped around her waist possessively as the Dragon came forward and clapped a hand to his other shoulder.

An hour later…

"I'm telling you Cam, their probably setting us up with some pencil neck bureaucrat who wants us to waste our time tracking illegal flying carpet smuggling or some such rot." Raven vehemently complained for the fifth time over the hour they'd been kept waiting.

"Dragon says the guy they're sending has some previous tactical experience and prefers a "hands on" approach in the field." Cam quoted to his group.

Dozer snorted at that. "Sure he does." He agreed sarcastically. "If you mean by "hands on" like that Lockhart bloke who falsified all those books about his supposed adventures a few years back then, yeah,.. I'll bet he's a real asset. Maybe we should offer him a spot on the team after, if he doesn't get us all killed first?" he complained to his team leader.

Raven and Stalker grumbled their agreement along with their friend's stated sentiments.

"The guy sounds like a real tosser." Harry agreed, silently stepping into briefing room, having heard his former team's concerns.

"Too right he does, kid." Dozer agreed off handily before his head swiveled back and his eyes goggled along with the rest of his teammates. "Kid?!" He blurted out in stunned disbelief.

"Just where the hell have you been?" Cam groused irately though his face split into an uncontrollable grin a second after.

"Out learning new and better ways to kick your lazy arses in a more expedient and thorough fashion." Harry returned glibly without missing a beat.

"Sounds like a challenge." Stalker growled as he rose from his chair.

"Me first." Raven offered taking up the gauntlet.

"Why not all of you together?" Harry suggested with a cunning smirk on his face that should have been his friend's first real warning, but was missed in a testosterone fueled moment.

"That's it." Cam growled out, still fighting a smile, only this time it was of anticipation. "I'll take care of this myself, as is my prerogative as team leader." Cam blustered, unbuttoning his shirt as he moved to intercept Harry.

Bam-"Urghh"..Swack- "Unghh"…Thump!

"And that's that." Harry announced dusting off his hands in a show of having finished a distasteful job while Cam fell silently to the floor, already unconscious from Harry's second blow.

He didn't need to have hit his friend twice, but he wanted to give him at least a bit of a chance just to be sporting.

"Whoa…" Dozer gapped in surprise over the efficiency with which his team leader was dispatched.

"Who's next, or would you prefer the previous offer of all at once?" Harry asked innocently.

The three operatives eyed each other questioningly before they silently agreed to drop the matter by pulling their younger friend into a three way hug with a great deal of back slapping.

"What say we go for a drink or three to catch up?" Harry offered good naturedly.

"You buying?" Raven inquired, with a distinct note of hopefulness in his voice.

"Of course." He shrugged indifferently.

"What about, Cam?" Stalker ventured, toeing his unconscious team leader.

"He can catch up once he's finished his nap." Harry suggested as he fished a pen from his breast pocket and scribbled a hasty note on a 'post it' pad that he stuck to his unconscious friend's forehead before he and the rest laughed uproariously and left to get reacquainted.

Cam never did make it out in time to join his comrades, seems he was in much need of a long lie in.

He must of have been coming down with a virus or some such the others figured so they let his get his rest.

The next day….

"Oh my freakin head!"

"Stop shouting!"

"Who's shouting?"

"Merlin above,… what day is it?"

"I think it's Wednesday…"

"No..It's Tuesday, you twit."

"Stop shouting!"

"Where's Potter…?"

"I saw him leave a couple of hours ago, said he needed a barrister."

"At this hour?"

"It's half noon."

"It is?"

"That Potter's not human."

"It's humane" one grumbled in correction, holding his throbbing head.

"He's not that too." His fellow agreed.

"Stop shouting already."

"Where are we?"

"Some hotel near the river."

"How do you know?"

"Cause I can see the Thames outside our window."

"Is it far?'

"No,.. it's right next door."

"Good,.. cause I'm gonna drown myself in it."

"Just do it quietly."

"Tell Potter it's his fault I've killed meself."

"I will if I live."

"Hey,.. whataminute… why did Harry want a lawyer?" Dozer's bleary eyes cleared long enough to consider that previously mentioned detail.

"He mentioned something about a paternity suit."

"Haw!.. good on him!" Raven chortled.

"I always figured it'd be Stalker first for that sort of thing." Dozer suggested, drawing his bleary eyed friend's attention.

"Paternity suit? Me..? Honest, I've been a complete gentleman I have." He defended meekly.

"Sure you have, or at least you better have been if you don't want to have Professor McGonagal and Madam Pomfrey down on you again?"

Stalker held up his hands in pleading prayer to which the others laughed until…

"Urg,.. my freaking head!"

"Stop shouting!"

"Who's shouting?"

"Merlin above… what day is it….?"


Meanwhile in the Hyde park district….

"I'd like to see Mrs. Granger-Weasley and Mr. Weasley please." A well dressed man wearing dark sunglasses,(despite the well shaded lobby), enquired of the secretary manning the receptionist desk.

"Do you have an appointment, sir." The woman asked as she paged open her appointment book expectantly.

"No,.. but I'm sure they'll want to see me."

"Why is that, sir?" The woman asked incredulously, snapping her appointment book closed with a note of finality.

"Just tell them it's Harry Potter and I need their legal expertise in dealing with a paternity suit."

The woman's eyebrows rose at that, both from the name and from what his stated business was regarding.

'Er, um…?' she fidgeted, hesitantly splaying her fingers across her desk phone…

Harry waved her forward encouragingly and the woman finally picked up the receiver and dialed in her employer's personal secretary.

"Hello, Mary… I have an er.. gentleman here requesting to see both Weasley attorneys regarding a paternity suit… Yes,.. he said his name was um,.. Harry Potter…. Hello…Hello?"

"I'm sorry sir,.. we seem to have been accidentally disconnected… I'll try the Weasley's office again if you'll just wait a moment?"

"No need." Harry ventured in amusement, eyeing the elevator lights that were counting down to the lobby level more expediently that he would have thought mechanically possible.

"A tall lanky red head in an expensive charcoal suit, barely cleared the still opening doors ahead of his brunette partner who was scanning the lobby wildly, before her eyes caught his.

"Harry….?" She gasped, not fully trusting her eyes.

She's barely uttered the words before her husband had grabbed up their friend in a rib cracking hug, his wife a split second behind covering his face with exuberantly happy kisses.

He'd barely surfaced for air when they dragged him into the elevator and back to their well appointed offices, canceling all appointment for the day as they passed their personal secretary.

The door to Ron's office had barely closed when the two rounded on him.

"Paternity suit?" Hermione asked with a cocked eyebrow.

"Who's the lucky, or should I say unlucky woman, as the case may be?" Ron asked expectantly.

"Susan" Harry said straight faced and dead pan, leaving the two gapping stupidly before Hermione pulled out of her initial shock.

"Bullocks!"

"Such language and from such a prestigious legal team yet?" Harry cautioned.

"You heard me. There's no way Susan would have kept being back together with you a secret, especially not if there was some form of er.. intimacy involved.

Harry pulled a face at that. "I'm appalled by your lack of professional decorum regarding such a deeply personal and delicate subject."

Ron snorted at that.

"Oh, you?' Hermione huffed slapping at his arm. "So there really isn't a paternity suit then?"

"Not yet, but I'd like to keep my options open."

"Have anyone picked out yet for such an auspicious position?" Ron asked knowingly.

"Could be" he answered facetiously.

"Does she have red hair and blue eyes?' Hermione followed.

"Could be, but that's not why I'm here. I'd like to retain your services."

"For future paternity suits?" Ron deadpanned to which Hermione actually laughed outright.

Harry rolled her eyes at her. "Not particularly-no."

"What then?" Ron asked more pointedly.

Harry told them his imminent plans.

"You're serious?" Ron asked hopefully.

"I am"

"You're really moving back home- really?" Hermione asked again not daring to believe him the first time.

Harry smiled a warm winning smile that was all the answer she needed as Hermione squealed and launched herself at her friend.

It was a good thing that they had cleared their calendar for the day as they spent it making plans and celebrating. Mostly celebrating, though Hermione did have the presence of mind to get him signed into a long term retainer that assured he'd be around for a good long while.

Initially she'd thought she'd taken advantage of him that was until he suggested that she…

"Now make sure you violate attorney/client privileges and surreptitiously pass along to Susan the gist of my visit today."

Hermione initially was about to lecture him about the responsibilities inherent in their position before she paused to puzzle out his suggestion… then her eyes narrowed…

"Ohhh, you're a devious one you are." She half complemented/ half chastised.

"Whatever do you mean?" he asked innocently, to which they all shared a hope filled laugh of better times to come.