A/N: Due to plot points unrolling, you're going to see more of the 'B' story at this time but don't fear, this is a Hermione/Narcissa story and we're maybe 45% through my outline. This is not going to perfectly end on chapter #100 if I keep going at this rate. (also don't get used to the tuesday releases, this is just a fluke of happiness as I clear out my document manager.)
Fleur was happy to see Hermione back on her feet, though she felt a twinge of regret as Severus still had to help Narcissa get around. Because of her condition, she was given priority treatment because she couldn't be seen by muggles. She planned on speaking to Minerva about transfiguring herself to look more human. Hermione was slow on her feet, but her mind was as sharp as ever.
"Severus, what do you know of Broderick Bode?" She asked, eyebros furrowed in thought.
"He was an Unspeakable. Died under suspicious circumstances in St Mungo's. Nobody accidentally gives Devil's Snare as a gift."
"That's what I thought, and he died around the time that there were break-ins to the Department of Mysteries. He would have had access, right?" Hermione asked. Severus nodded, face as neutral as ever. "Severus, do you think he was aligned with the Death Eaters?"
"Broderick Bode was not a Death Eater. I, however, cannot deny that he may have been under the Imperious curse."
"I'm wondering if it was more than that. What if he was the traitor to the Unspeakables? One of the Unmarked?"
"Well he's dead now, so there's that at least." Severus replied as Harry and Kingsley approached them.
Harry shook his head ominously. "Did anyone actually see the body?"
"Oh, shit." Fleur said, realization hitting her like ice-water.
"BOB!" Harry called out. "Neville, have you seen Draco? I need to find that Unspeakable."
Hermione looked at the Minister. "Fleur and I will deal with the Goblins. They can't be allowed to slaughter us anymore."
"Hermione, there's got to be a better way." He faced her, and it felt like it was a challenge.
"No, not really. Not anymore." She looked up to him defiantly. Kingsley shook his head, trying to shunt off the weight of her gaze.
"What about SPEW? Or when you said the Fountain of Magical Cooperation was rubbish?" Shackebolt had wanted to rail against someone about this, and Hermione was a ready target.
"House Elves are enslaved and haven't tried to kill us all on sight. I still have mercy for them, but not for the Goblins."
Harry stepped between them. "Hermione, this isn't you. You've changed since you won the Elder Wand." Hermione pressed her lips thin and let Harry see more of her true self than she ever had before.
"No, Harry. Fifth year, we were captured by Umbridge and she threatened to torture you with Imperius Curse." Harry looked at her, surprised at bringing that memory up.
"Yeah, you made some bluff that got us into the forest so we could give her the slip. Lucky thing Grawp and the centaurs showed up."
"The two of us, unarmed, against an able Ministry official? I don't do luck. I plan things." The energy in the room dropped to a cold boil; everyone seemed to take a step back from the two Gryffindors.
"Hermione, you couldn't have planned on Grawp actually helping."
"I wasn't. You and I were still underage, so I loudly trampled through the Forest for the Centaurs to run into her."
"Wait, that's what they said! They said you had expected them to deal with her for you, like they were your trained pets... why would they?"
"Harry, don't you know the mythology behind centaurs? Ever wonder why they are all male? How they reproduce?"
"I... did they... ?" He couldn't even form the words on his lips. Such a naive little boy after all.
"Yeah. They did. Ron even teased her in the hospital wing when he made clopping noises in her sleep." Harry paled as he heard that.
"How could you do that to her?"
"She was horrible to you, and I knew she'd never see one day in court for the crimes she committed against the students. Don't say she's innocent, not after that muggleborn registration act that had scores of muggle-borns turned into the Soulless, left to die and rot in Azkaban!"
Harry fumed at that, looking as his friend and realizing he had never really seen her before. Huffing, he rounded on the Minister. Hermione and Narcissa disapparated away with Grindelwald's Cauldron.
"Kingsley! You can't let them do this." Harry shouted, not caring who heard him.
"Like I said, the Wizengamot made the decision. I don't have to say that I like it or that I'm having any part of it. In fact, I'm on record as opposing this. The only other option I have is to resign which I will not do." Kingsley's voice carried a note of finality to it, and Harry looked shell-shocked at the futility of it all hit him.
"I thought we were the good guys," Harry said, his voice cracking as he fought tears. It had that note of a boy who just had the last bit of his innocence stripped away. Like he finally realized that sometimes good and evil aren't polar opposites, but instead two different sides of the same coin. All that matters is which end of the wand you're on.
"We are." Shacklebolt affirmed.
He shook his head. "You aren't."
Kingsley frowned at that, doubting the legacy he'd leave behind. It was something that he'd been loosing sleep over. Having it thrown in his face like this? It made him snap. "If you can't handle the job, POTTER, go work in a joke shop! Get a desk job. I don't care, just get the hell away from me."
Harry stared at him as he pulled out his Auror badge. "Understood, Minister." His voice was colder than it had ever been before. He tossed the badge back to Shacklebolt and turned to leave, glad to see Neville had his back on this issue.
A nondescript wizard cleared his throat. "Needed something, Mister Potter?" Harry nodded, putting his hand out for him.
Neville dropped his own Auror badge onto the ground as the three of them disapparated into the night.
Draco arrived at the rendezvous point with Healer Poke. He was met by Neville's wand, lit and ready at his face.
"Hey, it's me. I brought Ford just like Harry asked." Draco said, startled at how Longbottom had grown into a formidable force.
"Just checking. Can't be too careful, can we? Why do we need this bloke?"
"Healer Rutherford Poke. My brother Royden was working on the peace treaty with the Goblins." The three of them went inside a tent that opened into a full-sized house. Harry was fumbling with the tea in front of him.
"We can't let them do this, Bob. Why did you give them that cauldron?"
"They asked. It wasn't Unspeakable, it wasn't hidden. The item is a historical footnote. Therefore, I had no way to conceal it."
"Well, there has to be something we can do! Is there something... wait. The locked door! What about that?"
"Harry Potter, you don't have the faintest idea what lies behind there. It's... too dangerous."
"Albus told me that the Ministry kept it locked at all times... that it contained a force that is more wonderful and more terrible than death itself! He said I possessed lots of it and Voldemort had none... it's Love."
"That daft, sentimental fool..." Bob said, frustrated. "It's NOT... No. I'm not even going to answer this. It's too dangerous."
Healer Poke scoffed at the exchange. "Going to save the world by sending the Goblins little candy hearts and charmed cherub-dolls? I doubt that's why you sent for me."
Harry looked up, relieved. "Royden had contacts with the Goblin liaisons. I you to see if there are any sympathetic to the Ministry."
"What good will that do? Make a joint strike team with goblins in order to stop them from killing us, and from the Ministry from doing their horrific solution?" Draco asked confoundedly.
"No, no more fighting fire with fire. We all just... wind up burned that way. But that 300 kilometer radius means that-" Harry's excited voice got cut off by Draco.
"-Scotland is safe! We get as many Goblins as we can, least the ones that don't want us dead, and head north."
"We're going to openly defy the Ministry? Sneak fugitives away from certain, but unjust, execution?" Neville said, nodding. "Yeah, had to say that out loud. I'm in."
"Now you're talking like an Unspeakable." Bob said proudly. "See why we try to stay neutral?"
Ford shook his head at this. "But what if this is a trap? We round up Goblins, tell them 'come with us if you want to live', which I'm sure they'll say yes, then take the time to stab us in the backs for all our trouble?"
"We're offering to save their lives, they have to trust us. Besides, the goblins who attacked St. Mungo's are dead or captured. Griphook stood by our agreement." Harry affirmed, biting back the part that he and Ron decided to try and swindle their way out of it.
Ginny found herself content, a copy of Tales of Beedle the Bard in her hands, flipping through the tale of the warlock's hairy heart with the babies asleep in their cribs. Draco had went off with the Healer to meet with Harry. Herpy had started preparing dinner, and seemed excited once she tasted the ginger and knew how she'd want to saute it.
Hermione had poked her head in to see her friend. "Hey Ginny, Narcissa and I are going to go have dinner with my parents at their new home tonight. A mediwitch should be here tonight to watch the babies soon, and uh... I guess I just wanted to say thank you for helping out."
Ginny was pleased at the recognition. "It's no problem, your wife has got me interested in pursuing Healing once I'm done with Professional Quidditch." Hermione beamed at that.
"Hey, any luck finding family for them?" She asked, pointing at the sleeping infants.
"One, yeah. The others are all dead ends though. Harry suggested hiring some gum-shoe." As Ginny said it, she realized how awkward the conversation could become after their row.
Hermione shrugged it off. "It's okay. A muggle private investigator might be useful."
"Yeah, about Harry..." Hermione waved away the comment.
"I can sympathize with his reticence, but he needs to face reality. I think we all tried to protect him a bit too much... and he turned out to be too naive for this world."
"Are you sure? I mean, Harry means well..." Ginny had been slightly worried about this as well.
"He should have known what I had done to Umbridge. It was obvious, because he was there. Then we went off to the Department of Mysteries, I warned him he had a bit of a 'saving-people' issue. I shouldn't have been so tactful; I ought to have been blunt and said that it felt like a trap because Voldemort knew of Harry's hero complex."
"But the wholesale execution of the Goblins is a bit much."
"There fewer Goblins than Death Eaters and their supporters have attacked us, yet they've killed more during this rebellion than died during the war. Honestly, Ginny, do you think Harry would be able to cast the Killing Curse in order to stop Voldemort? Or would he try to talk him down first, to surrender and stand trial?"
Ginny couldn't answer that. She knew the answer. Harry would have let You-Know-Who kill him. Again.
Hermione left without saying another word. Ginny decided to cheer herself up and read The Wizard and the Hopping Pot to them as the Mediwitch came in to watch over them for the evening. Ginny made her way to the dining room, the air fragrant from sauteed ginger and pork.
That's when she saw Harry pinning Draco to the bar, reaching around him to grab a bottle. Harry was mixing a drink around Draco, and there was no space between them as Draco was slack-jawed, grinding his ass into her (their?) boyfriend.
She was equal parts intrigued and jealous at the exchange. As much as she loved seeing the two of them together like this, she had never really had Harry ever get so flirty and assertive with her before.
"How long until dinner, Harry?" Draco asked, neck tilted as Harry's lips traced a delicate line of kisses up his neck.
Ginny spoke up, startling the pair. "You should ask your House Elf that, not my boyfriend." The pair of them split up, looking a bit sheepish and guilty.
The house-elf heard her name and called out, "Herpy is serving the food now!"
Ginny blushed as she came over and kissed Harry. "You ought to be a bit more assertive with me like you were with Draco. That was..." her arms snaked around his hips, "enticing."
Draco was sipping a bright green drink in a martini glass as he slapped her on the arse. Ginny yipped in surprise at that. "Harry won't ever be able to do that to his little princess; he's too much of a good guy for that. Let's go eat."
Ginny smirked at the exchange and dinner flew past them. They seemed to enjoy it, but were too busy dealing with the sexual tension between the three of them and the surreptitious glances they gave each other.
As they finished up, Harry cleared his throat and his eyes held lustful thoughts towards Ginny. "Well, Draco, thank you and Herpy for a wonderful dinner; I think we should go back to my place for dessert."
The House-elf squeaked in delight. "Herpy made dessert too, Young Master!"
Draco chuckled at that. "I don't think he was speaking of the culinary type, but thank you." Herpy began to gather up the dishes as Draco finished his drink.
"Shall we?" Harry asked Ginny as he leaned over and kissed her. It wasn't his normal kiss, one that was a small peck and left a flutter of emotion in her chest. There was nothing chaste in this kiss, as his lips and tongue explored her mouth. Ginny melted into it and opened herself up, their tongues dancing as heat slid between them and he seemed to pour deeper into her through the kiss.
Ginny had begun this kiss seated, but found herself standing between the boys as two pairs of hands urgently held onto her body. "Wow. That was..."
Draco finished for her. "Good." Between both men, Ginny could tell they were both quite aroused and their desire spiked her own as she turned to face the blonde.
"May I?" She whispered, lips grazing Draco's as she plead for a kiss from him as well.
Draco smirked in that knowing way. "Oh, where are my manners?" His hands trailed down and possessively clasped over her bum, making her squirm in his embrace. "But of course, witch."
Severus was back in the castle, and for some reason he slept better in the dungeons than in the Headmaster's office. When school resumed, he was certain he'd have to return to his residence up there. And deal with all of the portraits trying to chat me up. On second thought, he knew exactly why he could sleep in the dungeons better.
No, the Potions Master liked the quiet of the halls right now. Things were winding down, and soon the world could move on from all of the pointless bloodshed. The new school term was slated to begin in a month. That is, after one more act of violent bloodshed. For Peace. For the Greater Good.
"Bloody Greater Good." he mumbled as he finished his tumbler of scotch, and headed for bed. A gentle knock on his door stopped him, and he put a dressing gown on over his satin sleep shorts as he flicked his wand to open the door. Who is calling upon me at this hour?
"Severus..." Fleur started, then closed her beaky mouth. "I can't sleep. Haven't been able to, really."
He sighed, knowing what she would be asking for. "I'm out of Dreamless Sleep. I have scotch if that helps."
She shook her head, small ringlets of blonde hair bouncing around in the torch-lit room as she entered. "No, Sev, I'm not looking for a potion or a drink. I just need," She fidgeted at this, "to not be alone."
"Weren't you taking up residence in Firenze's classroom?"
She looked nervous at that. "Besides the snoring, he um... well, you know how men can be as they sleep."
Severus nearly frowned at that. "As I am a man, I believe I can... know."
Fleur huffed, feeling terribly out of place. "He doesn't wear anything so I woke up to see... you know..." she tried to make a gesture with her hands as her wings subconsciously extended, alerting Severus of the reason of her discomfort. She saw him waking up fully aroused and... unfurled, and he's part-horse.
"Very well. I'll see to it that you get your own quarters. For tonight, I can transfigure a bed for you from my sofa..."
"No, Severus. I need... physical contact. Might I join you in bed tonight?"
Severus stood there, stunned. He went over and poured himself another finger's worth of scotch. "Why me?"
"Out of all of the men I know, you were one of the few that didn't trip over himself to try and impress me. And now that I look like this, you're the only man I've seen who isn't repulsed by me. You must have loved her very much."
"I did indeed. But there were two women in my heart."
"And I loved Bill. I'm not asking for anything more than a warm body next to my own."
Severus drained his tumbler for the second time and asked the question that had been on his mind. "You're a Veela. How did you survive the death of your mate?"
Fleur looked down in shame. "I don't know. My mother thinks I've brought shame upon the family."
"Any mother who would rather see you dead than happy and moving on is no mother. Trust me on that." Severus said, taking off his dressing robe and sliding into the bed. Fleur nodded her thanks, transfigured her own robes into something suitable, and curled up beside him for the night.
Severus wondered if this was betraying their memories, or inappropriate timing considering Fleur's recent loss of her own, but he couldn't deny the comfort that warmth and the sound of another person's breathing had on him as he closed his eyes and hoped to not have the same nightmares play in his head again.