Heirs of the Founders

Author's notes:

Nope, got nothing to say.

Obligatory blah blah blah:

I do not now, nor have I ever and only will if I'm the last person on Earth (at which point the whole concept of rights, royalties and responsibility, etc. . . becomes moot, to say the least) own Harry Potter or the characters therein, they belong to J. K. Rowling; I'm just playing with them.

Chapter Twelve

"Lord Malfoy," a boy's voice and likely owner of the boots began, "I'd hoped we could have a productive discussion regarding your son's behavior but instead; I find you humbled beneath a mere slip of a woman. My, that does look painful and uncomfortable," he commented in an offhand manner before adding, "Mrs. Granger I presume? Hermione looks like a younger version of you and is just as fetching."

"You must be that Lord Harry Potter we've heard of," Emma said, actually blushing a bit, as she addressed the young wizard that Dan Granger took a sudden study interest in; Lady Narcissa Malfoy genuflected, much to her husband's dismay.

"Yes, I'm Lord Harry James of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter, Mrs. Granger," Harry said formally and with a little self-introductory bow before facing the other man in the room. He continued, "You must be Hermione's father; your daughter is very lucky to have inherited the best traits of both you and your wife, Mr. Granger, I can see where her beauty has come from."

Hermione did something her parents or Aunt Nancy—now Narcissa—had rarely seen, their daughter's blush of the deepest pink. Emma and Narcissa understood immediately what their daughter was feeling and looked to their Dan; he was aware as well but was obviously suspicious of the boy who had introduced himself very politely.

Harry turned to look at Mrs. Malfoy and she felt his green eyes boring into her; he smiled sadly and said, "I'd like to say I'm pleased to meet you, Lady Malfoy; but it is your son that brought us to this point. Let us hope he only inherited his looks and not his attitude from you as well."

"I assure you, Lord Potter, Draco is very much his father's child," Narcissa replied with cool distain but not for Harry, "and I was allowed very little influence in his rearing; his father knows what's best after all. Considering he is half Black, my son shows very few traits associated with my noble house to my undying shame."

"Undeniably," Harry replied, before surprisingly saying, "but blame not yourself Lady Nancy and please rise, you and the Grangers did a wonderful job with Hermione; her poise is truly noble and I'm sure she learned it at your knee. More's the pity for young Draco; who seems more adapt at putting his foot in his mouth than able to carry on a proper conversation, I take it he has his father to blame for that?"

"Wh . . . What is the meaning of this Potter?" Lucius managed in mumbled demand, his face still pushed against the floor.

"Now, now; Lord Malfoy, is that any way to speak to a fellow member of the Wizengamot," the young wizard said before snapping his fingers and adding, "that's reminds me, I still must arrange my proxies; well I shan't worry about that for now: I've other things to do today. Mrs. Granger, would you kindly allow Lord Malfoy to stand, I'd rather not get a stiff neck looking down on . . . at him. Anyways, I'm pretty certain he's not very dangerous now but, if by chance he's hiding another wand: well then, and with blessings; please feel free to knock him down again if he threatens us. By the way, how did this odd scene come to pass, anyways?"

"I'd like to know that too, Harry," said one of the goblins who'd arrived with the young wizard; the Grangers may not have known who this very distinguished creature might be but the Malfoys did—not that they had ever met him.

"I was defending my honor—as is my noble right—when this filthy mudblood harlot attacked me without provocation," he sneered accusatorily as he stood and brushed himself off.

"If drawing a weapon on an unarmed person is defending one's honor and his right; then I'm glad I'm a 'filthy mudblood harlot'," Emma growled, "and if our oh so noble lord does draw another wand; I'll break it off in his eye socket, next time: instead of against the floor."

The very distinguished looking goblin erupted into hearty laughter as Harry stared at his best friend's mother, in awe. Hermione told me her mum was a dentist, didn't she? He thought as he tried to link that with the clearly juxtaposed image of a rather attractive woman threatening to break a wand in someone's eye. He glanced at Hermione, she was fidgeting nervously; then at Mr. Granger, who was more interested in his daughter's friend than what his wife was doing; and then at the massive wildcard that Lady Malfoy, who Hermione knew as her Aunt Nancy, was. Can nothing normal ever happen around me? He mentally sighed in acquiescence, before glancing at the goblins in the room—they were eyeing Mrs. Granger as they would a strong she-goblin—and thought, I think my Vaultlords and Ragnok are in love; is this who Hermione will become when she grows up? He asked himself.

"I've still not heard the whole story, Mrs. Granger," said the distinguished goblin; he was no longer laughing and looking intently at Emma, "please continue and then I'll hear from Lord Malfoy."

"Your Highness, do you intend to hear from this . . . this filth before speaking to a Vested Lord of the Wizengamot!" Lucius almost yelled.

"Your Highness?" Emma, Dan and a young witch called Hermione Granger muttered as if as one and entirely stunned.

"My, my; what dreadful decorum from a fully vested noble, Lord Malfoy," the goblin said in disapproval before turning to the three Grangers and saying regally, "Where are my manners? Mr. and Mrs. Granger and Hermione, I am Ragnok and The Overlord of the Goblin Horde, although we refer to ourselves as The Nation and The People these days. Let us have a profitable future together . . ."

". . . and may our vaults ever overflow with gold," Hermione's automatic liturgical rejoinder pleased and greatly impressed the Overlord.

With mounting curiosity, Ragnok looked straight into her hazel eyes and said, "May we live long and trample our enemies. . ."

Hermione looked directly back with nary a blink and responded immediately, ". . . may we take their wealth and pillage their wives . . ."

". . . may we forever bring honor to our forefathers and eviscerate our foes," Ragnok, Diamondwill and Goldenfang reverently responded, their respect for Lord Potter's young vassal and the recently elevated Lady Matriarch growing almost exponentially. What wonderful taste and good instincts you have Harry, The Overlord silently praised the young wizard and Gringotts' protégé. Your first foray into the art of alliance yields not only a witch of extraordinary mind and power but also the family of honor and true dignity from whence she sprang, not to mention a solid connection and claim to your second Noble and Most Ancient House. Fate and Fortuna seem to be making up for lost time and inattentiveness, my young friend.

"Goblin!" Lucius Malfoy exclaimed in insolent fury at being snubbed by these filthy goblins, this whelp of a lord and his pet mudblood slag and her parents. To his even greater shame, his trollop of a wife had cleaved to and allowed herself to be despoiled by, with great debauchery from how it sounded, by these muggles in a way a Lady does not allow. "You will not continue to ignore me in this manner and when I'm through with you today; the Wizengamot will hear of this!"

"You are Interdicted, Lord Malfoy!" Harry commanded angrily, his ceded power as head of a Most Ancient House unconsciously came into play, disconnecting the man and by extension his wife from their magic. A wave of vertigo forced them to their knees and Harry glared down at the chastened Lord but said without looking at Narcissa, respectfully, "Please rise, Lady Malfoy and join your family Granger—yes I know about that but it's a matter for later—while I deal with this thing that calls itself a noble man defending his honor."

"Yes Lord Potter," Narcissa said humbly and rose; she joined the Grangers and felt the welcome return of her ability to do magic.

"What are you doing to me whelp!" the unrepentant and obtuse lord exclaimed, "The Wizengamot will hear of this! You are forgetting your place, boy; just like your blood-traitor father and your mudblood mother did and look what happened to them!"

"SILENCE!" Harry roared and lost control of his magic. With sparks dancing through his hair as the smell of ozone, filling the air, Harry's magic lifted the kneeling lord and tossed him about like a ragdoll across the Inquisitor's Throne chamber. Loud bells began ringing and suddenly a squad of heavily armed goblins burst into the room.

"Stand down," Ragnok ordered immediately; the warriors lowered their swords, he then gently said to a very angry wizard, "Harry, we're going to have to bill you for messing up our hallowed Inquisitor's Throne room; and the bank wards were never meant to suppress that much power. If they are damaged, you'll be paying for them as well."

Humbled by his inability to control himself, Harry bowed his head, "I beg your forgiveness, Overlord; my inability to keep rein on my temper shames me before my teachers you've graciously provided."

"It wasn't gracious, Lord Potter, Gringotts earned many galleons while eliminating your ignorance," Ragnok replied with a smile, "besides, we all lose our tempers from time to time; you just do so more . . . loudly than others. Shall we get back to business?"

"We should," Harry agreed, sounding calmer than he had.

"Guards, can you retrieve Lord Malfoy from the other side of the room and sit him on the Throne; hopefully he's not injured or not injured much," said The Overlord, sounding like he'd prefer the latter when it came to Lord Malfoy's current condition, "and Lord Potter, it might be better if I take the lead from here on out."

"I think you are correct, Ragnok," the green-eyed wizard conceded.

From her place, now standing with the Grangers, Narcissa watch this unbelievable pageant unfold and couldn't help but feel like she was cheating on her virtual spouses as her body responded—most inappropriately considering his age—to the young wizard in the room. With a furtive glance at the young witch, which she thought of as a daughter, she saw that Hermione was doing a poor job at hiding her own precocious desires. Not that Narcissa could blame her; the trickle of moisture she felt on her leg was growing increasingly uncomfortable and when she looked at Emma—for all her near wife wasn't a witch—it was obvious that she was at least feeling the peripheral effects of being near someone so powerful; Dan would be getting little sleep tonight, she knew. So much for pureblood superiority, she thought ruefully, even Bella would be wetting herself in the presence of this 'lowly' half-blood if she were here. The older witch pulled herself from her thoughts and noticed that at some point Hermione had joined the young Lord Potter and was resting her head on his right shoulder while tightly hugging him from behind. Narcissa felt a touch envious; Daniel Granger looked torn between feeling happy for his daughter and angry at the target of Hermione's public amour: Emma was smiling.

"Harry," Narcissa heard Hermione quietly ask, "what did you do to Mr. Malfoy and my Aunt Nancy; before your accidental magic outburst that is."

"If not used, a lot of things are forgotten over the years," Harry softly answered, "I didn't know that by Interdicting Lord Malfoy it would Interdict his wife, though, and I hope she'll forgive me; I know how important she is to you and your parents. Anyways, any emancipated Lord or Lady of a Most Ancient House can Interdict those of lessor rank. That reminds me: I need to get copies of 'Noblesse Oblige and the Most Ancient of the Realm' for Neville and Susan Bones; they have a right and a duty to that information, it's been suppressed and removed from circulation by the Wizengamot and the Ministry for far too long."

Narcissa Malfoy hadn't meant to eavesdrop on the young lord and her daughter in all but blood; but when she heard Lord Potter refer to Amelia's niece—and the only Neville she knew was the Longbottom Scion—her Slytherin ears couldn't help themselves. Moreover, with the young lord's words there came an epiphany: a revolution was brewing and the maelstrom would center on the young Lord Potter and—more worrisomely to her—Hermione looked poised to be at his side as his witch. Wondering if Dan and Emma knew where their daughter was placing herself, Lady Malfoy glanced at her wife and the man she considered her true husband; they remained as placid as ever but their presence in this place could only indicate that they were deeper in than most of magical descent. To make matters even more shocking, her 'better' husband and wife were part of an incredibly good relationship with the goblins; especially considering who was in this room. Lucius is an ass, she thought venomously, he's so puffed up in his own supposed worth that he's no longer paying attention to anything but his own petty whims—how I hate the man—and Draco aspires to be but a meager copy of his father. Well, after today, I'm likely to be expelled from the Malfoy family—thankfully the Malfoys weren't smart enough to read the fine print in the Black Betrothal and Marriage Contracts they signed—and all I can really hope for, from here on out, is that Dan, Emma and Hermione will forgive me.

"Ah, Lord Malfoy, I see you've rejoined us," Overlord Ragnok said with surprising joviality when he noticed the interdicted lord had regained consciousness and opened his eyes, "so, back to business then: Mrs. Granger can you resume what you were saying before our little lapse in dignity, please?"

Dan squeezed Emma's hand for encouragement, although he still stared balefully at Harry.

"Dan, Hermione and I had been asked to take seats on the right—from the head chair, I guess you'd call it—side of this horseshoe shaped table and that the rest of our party would be along shortly," Emma said with a firm voice not hinting any nervousness. "As we caught up with our daughter—you know first week of school and stuff—we heard a ruckus from the corridor. At this time, we saw the door open and in walked Mr. Malfoy and his escort, our new friend Vaultlord Diamondwill. Diamondwill invited our illustrious Lord Malfoy to have a seat on the rather imposing and uncomfortable looking chair at the open end of the horseshoe. Mr. Malfoy refused and said he'd not sit there; Vaultlord Diamondwill said he would and asked Mr. Malfoy to sit again. Once more Little Willie . . . I'm sorry, Lord Malfoy refused to sit and then began a long-winded rant about a goblin's place when dealing with his 'betters' and that 'the Wizengamot would hear of this' outrage I guess; or something like that. Again, Vaultlord Diamondwill asked him to sit but this time he strengthened his request with the threat of expelling Lord Malfoy from Gringotts and suspending services for a month . . ."

". . . only a month, Diamondwill?" Ragnok interjected, "You were being uncommonly generous; sorry, Mrs. Granger, I shouldn't have interrupted."

"I understand, Overlord Ragnok m'liege," Emma replied with a little curtsy; Ragnok was beginning to really like the Grangers, the Lady Regent in particular. "I thought our friend Diamondwill showed outstanding patience with Little Willie . . . oops, I'm sorry, Lord Malfoy. To be honest, by this time I was seriously thinking about breaking Mr. Malfoy's knees—and maybe his jaw—just to shut him up and put him in the proper place: he was being so rude and obstinate; even though Diamondwill remained courteous and polite."

Emma Granger paused for effect; Harry took this opportunity and quietly asked Hermione, incredulously, "Is your mum really a dentist, Mione?"

Emma heard and smiled as her daughter answered with a curt nod; she resumed speaking, "Vaultlord Diamondwill, at last, told Mr. Malfoy to sit down or else; it was at this time that I saw Lord Malfoy draw his wand from his walking stick and point it at Vaultlord Diamondwill, who, from what I could tell was unarmed. In order to protect my friend; I closed the distance between myself and Lord Malfoy, forced him to the floor and subsequently placed the arm of his wand hand in a standard arm bar. I rendered him further incapacitated by disarming him and breaking his wand against the floor."

"Is this so, Diamondwill?" Ragnok asked his Vaultlord.

"It is as Mrs. Granger said, Overlord," Diamondwill concurred before adding, "I've seen very few who can move as fast as Mrs. Granger—particularly when coming to the aid of a goblin—and I at least owe her a large debt of gratitude: thank you Mrs. Granger."

"It was the right thing to do, Diamondwill; let's not speak of debt," Emma replied.

"You are most gracious human, Emma Granger," Ragnok, said solemnly, "and a Friend of The Nation and The People."

As soon as The Overlord had said this, the Gingotts' Heraldry appeared on the right sleeves of the Grangers' robes—beneath the larger Potter crest—and, to Lucius' dismay, on Narcissa's as well although she wasn't sporting Potter's emblem.

"We are deeply honored, Overlord Ragnok your highness," Dan answered for the Grangers on behalf of his family and bowed; Emma, Hermione and—to Lucius' greater dismay—Narcissa followed suite.

"Have you got anything to add or say in your defense, Lord Malfoy?" asked The Overlord and although it seemed the wizard had something to say; he was unable to open his mouth or make a sound, "Oh I'm sorry, Lord Potter if you would?"

"Would what?" Harry replied in confusion.

"Release Lord Malfoy from your silencing spell," the regal goblin said with a grin.

"I cast a silencing spell?" the green-eyed wizard asked, briefly befuddled, but drew his wand and said, "Finite."

". . . The Wizengamot will hear of this!" Were the first words out of Lucius' mouth.

"Hmm . . . perhaps we should have left him silenced," Ragnok commented with mirth and then added, "Oh well . . . Know this Lord Malfoy: all your banking privileges are suspended for a month and be thankful I'm not vindictive; now get out of my sight."

Lucius Malfoy stood and malevolently glared at those around him; and when his eyes reached the jezebel Narcissa he smiled maliciously, before scornfully saying, "I expel you from House Malfoy and let it be known that you are now Narcissa No-Name; I strip you of your rights and privileged as Lady Malfoy and my House's protection is no more. You will be shunned by our community; broke and without influence and any who wish to use you—if they wish to filthy themselves—may do so with impunity. I leave you to the care of these muggles who you've shown preference to over those of the noble blood from whence your descent. If they don't take you in you are homeless; I'll send your things to wherever you finally settle."

Very ancient magic came into play once Lord Malfoy had finished speaking and swirled around Narcissa. Fearing for and trying to comfort their wife, Dan and Emma put their arms around the former Lady as the Malfoy crest on her robes burst into flames and vanished into foul smelling smoke. Hermione was also worried and her worry translated into the tightening of her arms still wrapped around Harry.

The magic of the expulsion quickly faded and with that, Lord Malfoy turned on his heel and stepped to the door, his heels clicking on the marble tiles as he walked; before exiting he looked over his shoulder and said. "This is not over whelp and you will know the pain of crossing the Noble House of Malfoy; you and your lowly friends shall feel my wrath: the Wizengamot and The Minister will hear of this outrage; you won't be so smug then, whelp."

"Fine, fine Lord Little Willie," Harry said, his reasons for being polite now gone. "Get out of my sight but remember; I am Lord Harry James of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter. You join your son as an enemy of my Houses; do not cross me further and tell your useless son to stay away from me and my friends. Be gone and plan your grand vengeance on me, the Grangers and Narcissa, who's proven herself far wiser and nobler than either you or your son and if she needs protection I'll gladly give her my House's."

Once more ancient magic swept through the Inquistitor's Throne chamber and joining the Gringotts' Heraldry on Narcissa's right sleeve was the Potter's, it was larger and took the place of dominance; for all intents, Harry had rendered her politically and punitively untouchable to any but him. Lucius saw it and, deepening his scowl, he stormed from the room having completely missed something his former wife had heard.

"That was unpleasant," Diamondwill said in understatement, "Well Miss Narcissa nee Black, I think we have matters to discuss: is Lord Little Willie Malfoy cognizant of the clauses in your marriage contract?"

"Doubtfully Vaultlord Diamondwill," she replied, "his parents and his parents' barristers missed them and they were by far smarter than my now ex-husband ever was."

Ragnok laughed; he was familiar with Black Family Betrothal and Marriage Contracts: expressly the parts pertaining to divorce and/or expulsion, without penalty, that applied to brides of Black descent and Narcissa nee Black had proven she was not barren.

"What a fool," Diamondwill chuckled along with The Overlord, "he's in for a surprise; have you got time this afternoon Miss Narcissa nee Black?"

"Yes, my schedule has suddenly become very open, Diamondwill," she replied, "I'll grab a quick bite and join you this afternoon and please lose the mouthful and just call me Narcissa."

"None of that my fair lady; you will join myself, Lord Potter, the Lady and Lord Regents and their daughter The Lady Matriarch Hermione Granger . . ."

". . . The what!" Narcissa exclaimed, as the sword superimposed on the open book heraldry became noticeable on her other family's chests.

"Yes, well," Daniel Granger began with mock effacement, "aside from telling you that Hermione was a witch—Statute of Secrets and all, you understand pet—we were recently elevated; well actually princess was." He smiled at his daughter as he spoke; the boy she was still hugging he remained uncertain of but he might be good enough for his little girl. "We've had a very busy and educational week, Nan . . . Narcissa."

"Indeed," Narcissa said and nibbled her bottom lip in a manner very reminiscent of Hermione, Harry observed, "that is very obvious, Master."

Stunned by her open declaration of her relationship with Daniel Granger everyone's eyes turned to the blonde witch, who responded with, "What? I am of the opinion that there should be no secrets about our families amongst those in this room, including my feelings and relationship to Master and Emma; by Merlin's gonads, my sister-wife is proudly wearing Dan's collar: by Morgana's quim, I will proudly wear mine too."

"Thank you Narcissa," Mr. Granger said, "that makes me feel very good; Emma and I will reward you later when you come home, where you belong."

The implication of the word 'reward' was quite plain to Harry and Hermione and the two preteens blushed; Ragnok, Diamondwill and Goldenfang were made of sterner stuff but thought it interesting all the same.

With Harry being at least a little off guard, Narcissa asked unexpectedly, "Lord Potter, are you the scion-designate to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black?"

Narcissa's sudden question stunned and caught Harry completely unprepared; quickly recovering and quite impressively marshalling his expression he replied, "Whatever would make you think that, Mrs. Malfoy?"

How Slytherin, she thought with silent praise before saying, "While you were speaking to Lucius near the end there, you referred to yourself as the Lord Harry James of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter—as is your right—but you followed that with 'enemy of my Houses' and earlier you said 'proxies'; odd and misplaced plurals? I think not; I know my cousin, Sirius, Lord Potter: he'd think it a grand prank."

"What do you know of my godfather, Mrs. Malfoy?"

"I am not 'Mrs. Malfoy'—at least not anymore—I have no family name, please call me Narcissa but let me tell you what I know of your godfather: number one; godparent oaths notwithstanding, Sirius would never betray Lillian and James—they were his family and he was devoted to them. Number two: when he was arrested and accused of betraying the Potters, Lucius thought it funny that anyone would think that a blood-traitor like him could be a Deatheater, Lucius would know—I assure you. Number three; Sirius would see to the destruction of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black before allowing it to fall by chance into my son's hands, for no other reason than Sirius' hatred of the Malfoy family (Lucius especially), because Draco is half Black—even if by merely a cadet line. A claim you share, Lord Potter, through your grandmother Dorea Black. So, I again ask Lord Potter; are you the scion-designate to House Black?"

"I am," he simply replied.

Narcissa smiled a smile that Draco had never seen—it was warm—and said, "Well that explains the how but not the why of my family's sudden elevation to nobility, how did that come about? I take it there is a seat waiting for them in the Wizengamot as well?"

Harry nodded and said, "I had a little accident during the evening of September the First and in my haste to protect my new friend, Hermione, from—and I do feel sad for you, Mrs. Mal . . . Narcissa, he is your son after all—Draco and his cronies I misspoke the Filial Protectum and accidentally invoked the Rite of Petition . . ."

Narcissa laughed, "You petitioned and seconded your own motion and granted Hermione nobility because with my cousin in Azkaban you are also the interim head of House Black."

Harry nodded again.

"So that makes Hermione an Emancipated Minor," she chuckled; this was the most amusing thing that Narcissa nee Black had heard in a very long time.

"Yes ma'am, the same as me."

"And due to poorly vetted laws from the Wizengamot of old, Hermione cannot take her seat until she is seventeen—although she may select or dismiss her proxies as she chooses, like our young Lord Potter here; hence making Dan Lord Regent and Proxy, unless she decides otherwise," the older witch said.

"You are wrong Narcissa," Goldenfang replied—he may have had little to say up until now but he was still being highly entertained—and politely corrected, "The Noble House of Granger is fully matriarchal in nature; the Regency and Proxy falls to Emma by law, Dan is the Lord Regent Emeritus. House Granger joins the Noble and Most Ancient House of Bones in becoming one of only two remaining matriarchal families recognized by the Wizengamot."

"Well, I'm sure Amelia Bones will be quite pleased with that," the older witch snickered, "her niece will not be alone in the male dominated—but for a spattering of witch Proxies, like Madame Longbottom—Wizengamot. I'll be in the visitor gallery on the day Hermione is presented to her peers and I hope it will be before she comes of age; the sight of a non-magical female proxy, who cannot be denied, taking her seat as an equal will be hilarious. Nevertheless, all hilarity aside, let me return to the business of the moment; Lord Potter?"

"Ma'am," he replied; Narcissa frowned a little.

"I humbly request that you allow me to return to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black and permit me to be Narcissa Maleficent Black once more, Lord Potter/Scion Black and I will be eternally grateful," she said, stepped to the young lord and knelt.

"I have no reason to deny you, Mrs. . . Narcissa, if you wish to be a Black again then you have my blessings," Harry said, not sure what to make of the attractive woman and his witch's other mother kneeling before him. He then continued, "you may be a Black, Narcissa but when I see you with Hermione's mother and father—and knowing what I know—I'm going to think of you as Mrs. Granger-Black, always."

"If such were possible, then I'd gladly be known as Narcissa Maleficent Granger-Black," she said with her head bowed.

"Fine with me then," Harry replied and then said with intent, unbeknownst to him, acceptable to ancient magics, "You are Lady Narcissa Maleficent Granger-Black, to me and I will support you . . . Oh Crap!"

"Lord Potter?" Narcissa asked with concern but once more, the antediluvian magic at the young lord's command filled the chamber and she felt something happen to her robes. Narcissa looked at her chest and saw heraldry of a sword flanked by two greyhounds superimposed on an open book—much like the Grangers—and sharing House Potter colors had appeared where once the Malfoy Family crest had been worn.

"Griphook," shouted Ragnok when he saw what had happened.

As if from nowhere Third Chronicler Griphook appeared, genuflected before Ragnok and said, "Yes my Liege."

"Run to the Chamber of Succession and look for a new line scroll bearing the name Granger-Black," he ordered.

"Yes Overlord," he replied and was gone.

"I fear, Lord Potter that— like you said earlier—you can do nothing by half-measure but we'll wait for Griphook's return to be certain," the Overlord of the Goblin Horde said.

"What's going on, Harry?" Hermione, still embracing her wizard—much to her father's trepidation; he wasn't ready to let his little girl go yet—whispered in his ear; her warm breath tickling with enticement.

"I think I fucked . . ."

"Harry!" the bushy-haired witch said with displeasure.

"Sorry, Mione, but I don't think anything other than 'fucked up' would better describe what I might've just done," Harry said unrepentantly and loud enough for all to hear.

"And that is?" Hermione said in a manner and tone Mrs. Granger and Narcissa were glad to hear, with respect to how their daughter was relating to the boy who could well be her future master or more: she could stand up to him. That most mothers never entertained such notions regarding their daughter's willing submissiveness to a fair and honest master was not even considered. Daniel Granger remained suspicious and wary of the emerald-eyed wizard, despite his wives' seaming acceptance of the boy Hermione was still hugging.

Soon, Griphook returned and disrupted the brooding atmosphere that saturated the air around those in the Inquisitor's Throne. He immediately attended Overlord Ragnok, knelt and presented him with the golden tube he had found. Ragnok accepted it and said, "Thank you Third Chronicler," and looked at the item in his hand; it was embossed with the name Granger-Black. The Overlord opened the tube and tipped out the parchment inside and read; when finished he handed the scroll to Narcissa.

"Your Highness?" She said questioningly before turning her eyes to the parchment now in her hand; she read:


September the Seventh, Common Era 1991

Providence and fealty and virtue hath combined and appointed unto the most august and venerable body of peerage, loyal to The Crown, Narcissa Maleficent Granger-Black as Matriarch to The Noble House (Matriarchal) Granger-Black and, until such time—if ever—she or her line betray the reigning sovereign, grants unto her and her heirs the title of Lady with all duties and privileges as assigned and The Seat Granger-Black within The Wizengamot: so mote it be.

Lady Narcissa Maleficent Granger-Black, having secured the favor—through honorable and dignified means—of both the Noble and Most Ancient Family Black (Scion Designate) and the Noble and Most Ancient Family Potter (Lord) is sponsored, presented and ascended to her place by virtue of compact and ceded powers to the Four Families on behalf of The Crown as proscribed by The Statute of Secrecy, Common Era 1226.



Stunned, Narcissa unconsciously handed the scroll to Emma; she shared it with Dan and together Mr. and Mrs. Granger read a very familiar looking scroll. Upon finishing, Daniel Granger exploded with laughter and while Emma tried to contain herself and protect her dignity; her escaping giggles soon became as hearty as her husband's guffaws.

"It isn't funny!" The new Lady Granger-Black exclaimed.

Wiping the mirth from his eyes, Dan said through his hilarity, "Yes it is Nan . . . Narcissa; at least we can be face it together like family should . . ."

". . . Together . . . Family," Narcissa quietly repeated and the two words suddenly took on an even greater meaning than they'd had before; she looked at her spouses and said, "Yes, we will face it together, please let me live with you from now on."

"It is where you belong, Narcissa," Emma said, embraced the former Lady Malfoy and gave her sister-wife a scathing kiss on her lips: Hermione and her dad thought nothing of it. Even so, Harry and the goblins looked surprised by such an open display of affection, between two very attractive women and explicitly no less, but knew that in matters of relationships, people have the right to choose their own paths and as long as it remained uncoerced, then others had no right to anything but their opinions regarding it.

"Ahem . . . Well now," Ragnok said; interrupting the tender moment they were witness to as Dan joined Emma in the welcome of their wife, "I'm rather hungry; let's go have lunch."

Looking almost like children caught with their hands in the cookie jar; Dan, Emma and Narcissa realized they might be behaving too amorously for their present company's comfort—Hermione excluded—but the open embrace of acceptance they felt from the goblins and one young wizard was so freeing that they never wanted to let each other go.

"I'm sorry, Lord Potter," Dan addressed Harry for the first time, "and while I'm not familiar with relationship norms amongst goblins; I do know what I have with Emma and Narcissa is far from the norm for most people. We know many would look down on us for the intimacy we share, especially considering we have a school-aged daughter who has pretty much always known of our lifestyle choices."

"Mr. Granger, the only spousal relationship I am truly aware of is that of my magic hating Aunt and Uncle," Harry said, "and considering how phony they are when presenting themselves; I'll look anywhere but to them for advice or examples of what a good relationship is, I can assure you."

Daniel Granger felt pensive and remembered the conversation he, Emma, Griphook and William had when the topic of young Lord Potter's guardians was raised briefly and the suggestion he had been abused at his relative's hands. As medical professionals, he and Emma had been trained to spot the hallmark signs of abuse but he'd not spent enough time with the boy to see them himself, yet. If, as Griphook implied, there was abuse in his daughter's new friend's past; the boy seemed to be at some distance from it now although the subject still warranted further investigation. In that moment the doctor in Dan superseded the doting father; he knew the boy's welfare needed addressing before worrying about any budding romantic relationship between his Hermione and the young Lord Harry: although he still wished, his daughter wasn't pushing herself so hard into the lad's back.

Daniel Granger said, "Lord Potter . . ."

". . . Please, Mr. Granger; it feels weird having my best friend's father being all-deferential towards me: I'd really like it if you'd call me just Harry," the green-eyed wizard said very politely.

"Very well then, Just Harry," he said with a wary smile; he was wondering if he might need a crowbar to separate the children , "I wonder if you'd be willing to spend some time with Emma, me and Hermione after lunch; unless you must return to Hogwarts immediately this afternoon."

"As emancipated minors, both Hermione and I can absent ourselves from school for matters of House business—like this morning," Harry replied, "Meeting with my vassal's family is definitely House business and providing we're back before classes start Monday morning, our teachers or Headmaster will have little cause or reason to complain."

"Is that so?" Dan said, "It's a pity I didn't know that sooner, I'm sure Emma would love to have you over for dinner and overnight as well; we'd really like to get to know the young man who has had such a profound effect on my family in an exceedingly short time."

"Excuse me, did I hear you right, Mr. Granger?" the young wizard asked in polite surprise.

"Hear what right, young man?" Hermione's father said teasingly and with the intent to keep Harry off balance a little longer; he knew it was an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the real young Lord beneath the noble finery of both his garb and manners' veneer.

"That you're asking me to go with you to Hermione's home; I've never been asked to visit someone's home before," Harry said and for the first time sounded and appeared like the eleven year old he was supposed to be.

"Well it's not just Hermione's home," Dan said; taking advantage of the moment to study the boy and current recipient of one of his daughter's patented hugs, further, "her mum and I live there too and I guess Narcissa will be as well, from now on. It might be a little tight but I'm sure we'll manage. So?"

"Well I can get a change of clothes from my chambers here and we'll definitely have to tell Professor Flitwick of our plans; he needs to tell Professor McGonagall—she is our head-of-house after all. Me and Hermione can use my portkey to get back to Hogwarts, so that's covered too; we just have to make sure to get back early Sunday evening," said Harry, having completed his thorough but excited ramble before adding, "I'd love to come, if you'll have me."

"Of course we'll have you," Emma said with a welcoming smile and a motherly tone; Harry couldn't remember ever having heard a tone like that addressing him; it flustered him. Digging his toe into the floor he was looking at, he took on a bashful and endearing glow; he felt Hermione's arms squeeze him tighter. Through all, Narcissa scrutinized quietly.

During the exchange between Lord Potter, Dan and Emma, Narcissa watched from her place between the elder Grangers, who had kept their arms draped over her shoulders as hers were about their waists. As a proper Slytherin alumnus, she studied the actions and words of the three most important people in the room to her and a forth who could well—could well? Already has, she corrected herself—in grand Gryffindor form, charged in and altered the dynamics between her and her loved ones. Like Dan, she remained suspicious but more curious of the young lord but for different reasons. He's handsome, she caught herself thinking, and damn powerful in both magic and influence; Merlin's bollocks, he's on a first name basis with the goblin Overlord and he's what, eleven? Hell, if I wasn't with Dan and Emma and if he were a little older; I'd be banging the lad myself: go back-scuttle yourself with that Lucius; if you were half the man this boy is, you'd probably be almost satisfying.

"Lady Granger-Black," Overlord Ragnok began.

"Your Liege," Narcissa replied and bowed her head.

"Your presence here this morning and these unlikely turns of events have presented Gringotts with an unexpected boon," he said.

"Milord?" She replied; Emma and Dan were curious, Hermione and Harry remained focused on each other for the time being.

"It's regarding young Lord Potter's magical guardian and, by extension young Lady Granger's as well, in our world," the Goblin King said. "As you know, witches and wizards with non-magical parents and such are automatically assigned Albus Dumbledore as their guardian and voice on accepting their Hogwarts' invitation. We, The Nation and The People that is, have undisclosable issues regarding Dumbledore's guardianship of Harry. Our concerns were pretty much echoed by Lady Lillian Potter, who—as it would seem—is pulling strings from beyond the Veil."

"What do you mean by 'beyond the Veil', Overlord?" The older witch asked; this didn't sound like the act of the quintessential Gryffindor witch, a few years Narcissa's junior, that the very attractive red-haired; emerald-green eyed witch had been.

"Somehow, she set up a series of events that would be triggered if certain probabilities were met," Ragnok replied. "The precipitating event of Harry being placed with his aunt and uncle—against the express wish of either of his parents—caused a set of cascading Boolean spell strings to trigger that would help ensure young Harry was at least somewhat prepared before attending Hogwarts. That this was accomplice through the manipulation of Gringotts and our laws was quite offensive to The Nation but highly respected by The People."

"In a letter, my dad said Overlord Ragnok had a crush on my mum," Harry snickered; hearing of his mother had drawn his attention to this conversation.

"I'll not deny my attraction to Lady Lillian," Ragnok surprisingly admitted; Narcissa was stunned, "she would've born very strong offspring by me and I'd care not that they were half-goblin; I can see that in young Harry who has excelled regardless of his dubious upbringing and numerous handicaps."

"Ragnok, please! You're embarrassing me," Harry exclaimed; the adults—goblin and human—laughed good-naturedly but Hermione was growing more curious of Harry's mum by the minute: she sounded incredible and this from a girl who could boost about growing up around incredible adults.

"Now that I've embarrassed my young protégé," Ragnok resumed, surprising Narcissa yet again with the Overlord's continuing candor. "As I was saying, The Nation is very uncomfortable with Albus Dumbledore as Harry's magic guardian—chiefly because of Harry's position regarding two Most Ancient Houses—and we'd like to find him another: Lady Narcissa Granger-Black we humbly implore that you consider becoming Lord Potter's magical guardian and Lady Matriarch Granger's as well?"

"Would not that first imply permission from their non-magical guardians?" Narcissa asked, "I don't see that as an issue for Hermione but what of Lord Potter; from what little has been implied, and I've inferred, about the late Lady Lillian Potter—her wishes, efforts and actions—Lord Potter's muggle relatives are not very receptive to people of our community."

"It's as you say but we've recently been presented with a few possibilities regarding the assignment of his muggle guardianship," Vaultlord Goldenfang added as his eyes glanced furtively from Dan to Emma Granger; it was subtle but Narcissa's Slytherin eyes would never miss such a hint.

"And what are their feelings on the matter?" the blonde witch asked.

"The matter remains open and pending negotiations, Lady Granger-Black," Diamondwill replied, "although our proposal would see it as mere formality as we're prepared to take full responsibility for Harry and his needs; unless matters evolve into a more preferential and long term solution."

"Let's put all our cards on the table shall we," Narcissa stated suddenly, "the preferential and long term solution would be for my husband and wife to become Harry's—at least—legal guardians or perhaps more; though from what I see, Hermione would definitely not want Harry as her brother."

"Mum . . . Nan . . . Narcissa!" Hermione exclaimed, pulling back from Harry a little; her use of 'mum' speaking volumes about the relationship that existed between House Granger and House Granger-Black.

"Well this is really a discussion for another time and matters are less pressing than they were before but I'd appreciate if everyone kept an open mind on the subject," said Ragnok.

"I understand, Overlord," Narcissa said, "and as for becoming at least Hermione's magical guardian; I'd gladly, providing Dan and Emma are agreeable."

"Most certainly," Emma and Dan said in concert; then Emma added, "I've always been concerned that we had to give this so called magical guardianship to a man we've never met. For all we know, he might have a habit of getting children alone and offering them candy or something."

Narcissa found Emma's supposedly facetious comment too close to the truth; Lady Granger-Black was aware of Dumbledore's penchant for offering those damnable lemon drops to whoever was in the Headmaster's office—at least it wasn't just children, Narcissa could take some, but not much, solace in that.

"Let us dine, Lords and Ladies; oh, and Third Chroniclers slash Majordomos," Ragnok said in a manner that Narcissa wouldn't have expected before today; she was getting an entirely new insight into goblins and she couldn't believe how far from the truth her opinions had been. We reap what we sow; she thought and didn't like herself for her part in the strain that existed between their nations. Ragnok continued and said, "Stay close, I don't want anyone to get lost and miss what I'm told will be a very fine lunch with copious mugs of the finest dwarven ale."

With that, Ragnok, flanked by Diamondwill and Goldenfang, exited the Inquisitor's Throne. Following them was Harry and Hermione, holding hands; a sight that still bothered Dan a little as he, his wife and the woman he thought of as his wife followed the children. Griphook brought up the rear. The Overlord led them to the end of the corridor before stopping before a nondescript but heavy wood door that fronted a descending stairwell. He led them down and the stairs exited onto a very long corridor, whose end was lost in the unperceivable distance. He led them across that hallway and pulled open another ornate door. To the Grangers and Narcissa's surprise, that door opened onto another, which was made mostly of glass but framed with gold. He pushed the second one open, stepped in and held it open for the others.

"Step in, step in," he urged and they entered a small room, which sat at a very odd angle to the corridor they had come from. Within, three walls of the little room were golden framed windows that looked—for some unknown reason—onto the gold streaked white marble, which Gringotts was constructed from.

Ragnok suddenly became very serious, let the door close and said, "You are about to see something that very few who are not of The People have ever seen and is our most guarded secret. That I'm allowing you to see this is my sign that I wish we'd walk future paths together as both friends and allies. Lord and Ladies, the true seat and city of the Nation and The People."

The room began to move and soon swung, like a Ferris wheel's gondola, from the arched rocky underside of a vast dome carved from the rock beneath London. Below them, a vast glittering structure that looked as if made from emeralds, sapphires and rubies rose from the dome's floor and nowhere could be seen a corner since the massive building was an exercise in overlapping silo-like cylinders with domed crowns. Ringing the structure built at the floor's hub was a moat; roads—radiating like spokes—equidistant from the megalithic central edifice, bridged the moat. Each of these avenues ended at another road that traced the massive circumference of this unbelievable grotto.

"H . . . How big?" Daniel Granger asked, his answer coming from an unexpected quarter.

"It's two miles in diameter, dad, and over a third of a mile high from base to apex and if you look you can see the quad helix of the grand stairways that climb from the floor to the crown as they wind about the circle's axis," Hermione replied excitedly. Emma and, even more so, Narcissa stared in stunned and silent awe. I . . . I thought Hogwarts was big, the blonde witch thought, hammering another nail into the coffin of attitudes and misinformation she had grown up with.

The elevator—or was that cable-car lift or something like that?—followed the curvature of the dome and eventually came to rest on the cavern's floor. Ragnok pulled open the door and invited Harry, the Grangers and Lady Granger-Black to exit the lift; two handsome black Andalusian steeds, hitched to an ornate open carriage, were waiting for them. Following the Overlord's lead, they climbed into the driverless landau and as soon as they all sat, the horses began pulling them at an easy canter.

It took a few minutes but soon they were approaching the outer wall—the height of which couldn't be appreciated from a distance—of the massive, town sized, building. Plunging beneath the arch of a tunnel like passage, the carriage drew deeper and deeper into the structure that, from a distance, had looked like it had been carved from rubies, emeralds and sapphires and now that they were inside it, it didn't make them think any different. At last, the landau came to a stop at the foot of a broad set of stairs. The Overlord climbed from the carriage and once the others had disembarked, he led them up the gemlike stairs that shimmered between emerald green, ruby red and sapphire blue in hypnotic ripples. Standing on the top landing, two burly goblins in full ceremonial armor opened the doors for them.

"Noble Ladies and Lords welcome to my home and The Seat of The Nation and The People," Ragnok greeted, and ushered them into his reception hall.

Inside, was a scene ripped from the pages of Norse legend: of King Oden and Asgard and of Valkyries, being played by something Narcissa had never seen before—scantily clad in revealing attire and surprisingly attractive in their own exotic way—goblin females who were, unknown to her, Ragnok's wives but for one. That one's eyes immediately focused on young Lord Potter and his companion, Hermione, whose sixth senses—which every witch possesses when it comes to her wizards—came amusingly and quickly into play as she studied her she-goblin rival; who had noticed her holding Harry's hand, in return: like any man; Harry was oblivious.

Curious as to how her daughter in all but blood would take this challenge, Narcissa watched and was surprised to see Hermione, instead of being jealous; was taking a calculating look at her rival as if to decide if she was worthy of her or her wizard's attention. Wow, Hermione that is so Slytherin of you, Narcissa thought proudly but even in this she saw Hermione's clearly muggle heritage and while a coven of witches might form around a powerful wizard—and young Lord Potter was by far the most powerful wizard Narcissa had ever met—rarely would a coven welcome nonhumans into their midst. I foresee a very interesting future for you Lord Potter and if I were not with Emma and Dan, heart and soul, I'd gladly join Hermione and you, Narcissa thought and felt a little dirty for it.

"Everyone, please take whichever seat you want, none are assigned today," Ragnok said heartily.

Hermione, still holding Harry's hand, led her wizard—surprisingly to Narcissa—to the seat beside the female goblin, who had had her eye on the young Lord since he arrived. She allowed her wizard to sit first and then took the place on his right. The Grangers sat beside Hermione and Narcissa sat beside the Grangers.

As soon as Hermione was sitting, she reached around Harry and offered her hand to her rival, she said, "Hello I am Hermione, Hermione Granger; this is the first time I've met a lady goblin but from what I can tell, you know Harry . . . well."

Narcissa wasn't the only one watching this exchange with interest; Overlord Ragnok, from his place at the head of the table, was too and so was Emma; Dan, like Lord Potter earlier, was oblivious to the female maneuverings around him.

Taking Hermione's offered hand and shaking it, the female goblin said, "Yes, I've known Lord Potter since just after his birthday and was one of his tutors; I am Silkenrobe, it is an honor to meet you, Lady Granger. My boss, Vaultlord Goldenfang knowing of my interest in history thought I'd be a good aid in Harry's studies; I've grown quite fond of him."

"Pish posh Silkenrobe, none of that lady business—it's Hermione for you—and I can see and hear that you're very fond of Harry," Hermione replied before saying—to every goblin's shock and surprise, "You look very strong and honorable, Silkenrobe; I'm sure you'll bear many strong progenies to your brood mates. May your womb always bear noble fruit unto the days you may rest from the trials of mothering."

"As might yours, Lady . . . Hermione," Silkenrobe replied in proper gobliness etiquette. "If I may be so bold but you seem to know of our culture La . . . Hermione."

"I did some reading last night—I had trouble sleeping—and found much wisdom in the The People's approach to matters of perpetuation and consider it more logical than the norms practiced by humanity," the bushy-haired witch said before dropping another bomb. "I would've never thought she-goblins would be as attractive as you, Silkenrobe, from my previous experience upstairs; you're not at all as I had imagined a she-goblin might look, instead you are exotic and comely."

"Um . . . thank you, Lady Hermione," said a flustered Silkenrobe, completely uncertain how to interpret the young witch's comments but in goblin fashion, which led to certain implications. At least the young human witch seems at least sorta attractive—or at least not fully unattractive as a non-goblin might be—and her brood-mother does have a certain air about her, Silkenrobe's thoughts came unbidden in a manner that would likely disgust her family and friends, if they knew. Then she thought; surprising even herself, If I'm going to be disgusting then I may as well be thoroughly disgusting: besides, I'd likely have the Overlord's support when it comes to such things.

"So," Hermione said slyly, "you tutored Harry in history."

"Yes," replied the she-goblin, "we spent a lot of time alone and I helped him navigate the Gringotts Library and archives while he worked on the assignments I gave him; he was quite studious while learning many things from me."

"That sounds like a lot of hard work and from Harry's description; his tutors were quite harsh and demanding," the bushy-haired witch said leadingly. "It's a wonder that he speaks so highly of such an intense study regime that seemed bereft of rest and entertainment."

"Oh no, Lady . . . Hermione, you're wrong," Silkenrobe said in an indirect challenge, "we allowed him both rest and relaxation. I even taught him how to swim during those times and we spent many wet hours together both as he learned and then afterwards."

"I imagine you're very fetching in a swim suite, Silkenrobe; your brood-mates are very lucky," Hermione said so cunningly that Narcissa couldn't believe that the girl she thought of as a daughter was in Gryffindor; what a waste, Lady Granger-Black thought.

"I've yet to enter a relationship of that type and I've met no goblins who attract me in that manner either but I'm still young and do have vivid dreams of a satisfying partner or partners, Hermione," the gobliness replied in an equally sly manner. Silkenrobe then surprised the hazel-eyed witch with a verbal sucker punch, "Goblins don't wear swim suites like you humans do; to us wearing things to get wet in is foolish, restricting and uncomfortable."

The she-goblin's frankness had Hermione reeling but she quickly recovered and countered, "That had to have been quite uncomfortable for Harry."

"Most definitely, particularly in the beginning, but he quickly overcame his human aversions and inhibitions and would freely frolic in the water with me," Silkenrobe said, taking the point that Hermione had to concede, she followed with a second unexpected blow. "Harry has become very attractive since those first few times in the water; he was so scrawny and unhealthy looking back then; I'm glad most of his scars faded as he filled out and grew stronger: it made him a far more satisfying partner when we spar but I can still usually pin him beneath me."

Ouch, that must've hurt, honey, Emma thought, as did Narcissa, and added with uncharitable amusement, Cue the sound of fighting she-cats; sorry Hermione, I'd love to help but a girl needs to know how to fight these battles on her own, it can't be taught.

"You were his sparring partner too?"

"Why yes," she replied in ersatz innocence. "Male goblins are far too strong as adults and would be unable to effectively spar with a human and while young goblin males might prove an equal match, Harry's training was only known to the upper echelons of The Nation, which left little me to provide for his physical needs as his companion during training."

"Then I have you to thank for Harry being such a good physical partner, we've begun spending some intimate time together while coming under the tutorage of Professor Flitwick," Hermione jabbed back, "it seems that only Mast . . . Harry and me are willing to get sweaty and sticky together."

Harry had thought he had managed the onslaught of innuendo quite well, considering he was at the center of it, but Hermione's hasty correction and the possible implications that went with 'sweaty and sticky together' was too much for his forbearance. The young wizard's face glowed pink and he took great interest in the food on the table rather than look at either Hermione or Silkenrobe; sitting on either side of him and close enough that he could feel their body heat.

Mast? . . . Master?. . . Already? Thought Emma and Narcissa—their lifestyle trained ears tuned to such confessions—at the same time; proving decisively that Hermione was cut from the same cloth as her mothers; with that came an increased scrutiny for the boy from both Narcissa and Emma. Not for a while yet, I'm sure, Emma thought with relief, as she studied the crimson faced young lord. Still, Narcissa and I will have to have a serious talk with Hermione soon and the boy with Dan, as well: they must be aware of their responsibilities towards one another. The potential of having a she-goblin in the family bears the need of some serious consideration too. Thought Emma with trepidation and with more than just a touch of curiosity, too, no one would ever accuse her of not having an open mind that was for sure; Narcissa looked to be of the same opinion but seemed more uncomfortable with the possibilities that might lie ahead.

Lady Hermione is strong but knows to submit to greater strength, like Harry has, the she-goblin thought, warming immensely to the young witch sitting at her desired cluster-mate's right. Unconsciously, Silkenrobe began thinking of Hermione as a future brood-sister and wondered what sort of mates she'd bring to their Lord's bed, the games that the witch and she might enjoy with each other and those they'd enjoy with Harry. Ragnok smiled as he looked at the young she-goblin and her acceptance of the future he'd like to see; satisfied he stabbed a medium-rare joint of lamb and began eating.


Lunch with the Overlord had—in the end—turned into an enjoyable affair as lines between magical and non-magical; human and nonhuman blurred so much that they had been all but forgotten. Even the surprising attention Dan, Emma and Narcissa had received from Ragnok's two youngest wives, which was the only word that conferred a vague English equivalency to describe their relationship with The Overlord, had added a pleasant warm glow to the meal. Their open flirting with Dan and his ladies too, to the Overlord's complete and encouraging support was surprising and a curiosity trigger for him and his spouses.

Eventually and quite pointedly, Emma asked how they could be so forward with her husband present and why it seemed he was willing—nay, wanting them—to bed Daniel. Emeraldella, the Overlord's youngest 'wife' explained that goblins did not feel jealousy and that their families—which she called 'cluster-broods', 'clusters' and/or 'broods' if progeny were involved—were groups of goblins who shared mutually attractions and choose to take things beyond friendship. Within each cluster, any offspring were children of the entire brood and their rearing was shared amongst the cluster's members; with each goblin gravitating to the role best suited to them and the brood. In all, they worked for the betterment of their cluster-brood and each cluster worked for the benefit of The Nation and The People, which was paramount and centered on the Overlord—who could be either male or female. To Emma and Dan, The Nation and The People looked to be contentedly living in a National Socialist—minus fanatical maniacs with world domination ambitions, neuroses and paranoia—Monarchy that not only accepted polygamy but encouraged a genderless-centric version of it.

Dan, Emma and especially Narcissa—she was by far the most surprised—listened to Emeraldella's explanation and while that explained the 'how' of their attitude, the 'why' of Ragnok's youngest wives hitting on them remained a mystery. It all became uncomfortably clear when Sapphirella, Emeraldella's twin sister—very rare amongst goblins—explained that while cluster members were devoted to each other there were times when two clusters or The Nation saw benefits in a seed transaction between different cluster-broods. Overlord Ragnok had told her and Emeraldella—when he first sat down—that he thought a seed transaction between the Royal Cluster-brood Ragnok and the Cluster-brood Granger would serve The Nation and The People very well.

That little answer stunned Emma, Dan and Narcissa into silence; Lady Granger-Black was the first to recover and told the she-goblin twins that this was a matter for future negotiations but that she and Emma would get back to them on it. To Dan's deepening consternation—he already had, all but legally, two wives and that was enough—he began to feel like a prize piece of prime beef. I've become a frigging tenderloin, he thought, torn between amusement and self-consciousness; we're going to have to have a very long talk later, I may even punish them—but it'll be fun.

In the end, he had escaped with his virtue intact and was now following Griphook with his wives, daughter and the boy holding Hermione's hand, in tow. The goblin, using the same landau and horses of their arrival, led them to the lift: Hermione had actually wanted to climb the helix, her aversion to heights notwithstanding, but her mum and dad put their collective foot down and said some other time. Boarding the lift, the Grangers and Harry again watched the stunning vista, which was The Nation, spreading out beneath their feet as the elevator climbed the underside of the arch to the summit and the terminal. Arriving and disembarking from the lift, Griphook led them down a very long corridor he called the Scholars' Spine or sometimes the She Spine, he told them.

"Why?" Hermione asked, "and does that mean the Warriors' Spine is sometimes called the He Spine?"

"Yes, it relates to the traditional divisions of labor found in our culture," the goblin replied, "Male goblins historically have been warriors—mostly because the loss of some males won't threaten the population of The Nation as a whole in the way the loss of females do—and hunters. Those physical and/or more violent traits are now channeled into banking and politics, although we do still have warriors, of course. Females on the other hand are scholars, healers, artisans and of course mothers—whom we revere; our females built our city and figured out how to hollow the dome and keep it standing. Of course, there are always exceptions as there are quite a few female warriors just as there are quite a few male scholars; one of our creeds is to do the work we are most suitable for: it's dishonorable to try to be something you're not. The only place we don't have many females is in the banking halls and that's chiefly because of the way witches and wizards treat us; if one of our women was treated like that, we'd likely fillet the witch or wizard on the spot. It would be bad for business."

Dan and Emma laughed; Hermione was certain Griphook was not trying to be funny and her parents didn't know of the oft bloody history between goblin and wizard kind since they only glossed over those parts of her history text being, as they were, more concerned with more recent events and how they might impact their daughter.

Having traversed some hundreds of strides down the Scholars' Spine, Griphook brought them to another door that opened onto an ascending flight of stairs. The stairs deposited them at the lowest level of Gringotts—aside from the vaults—known to the majority of the bank's customers and non-goblin employees, like William Weasley; who was now a member of a very exclusive club that he couldn't tell anyone about. From there, their goblin escort led the Grangers and Harry to the main banking hall.

"Will you excuse me for about five minutes, please," Harry asked. "I need to get a few things from my chambers."

"That's fine, we can wait here," replied Griphook.

Harry jogged off down the corridor and vanished around a corner. True to his word, he returned five minutes later with a small satchel slung over his shoulder and said, "Thanks everyone, let's go."

From the hustle and bustle of what was no more than a well-dressed stage for Gringotts' public façade, Griphook led them to the Diagon Alley exit. Bowed through the doors by two intimidating goblin sentries, they stepped out and under the blinding glare of late afternoon sun.

"Thank you, Griphook," Dan said on behalf of the Grangers; Harry nodded his agreement to the sentiment.

"You are very welcome; our time together has proven very educational and entertaining for me and my superiors and has given us much to consider," replied the goblin. "Also, Mr. and Mrs. Granger and Hermione, like Lord Potter, you've been given Liberty by the Overlord and are welcome to use the open facilities available for The Nation and The People's use, including the Scholar's Library and Warrior's Archive."

The last he said with a wink at Hermione, she blushed, Harry snickered and her parents smiled knowingly: the goblin guards by the door fought to keep their impassive, yet menacing expressions as they thought; humans with the Overlord's Liberty? Did I hear that right?

"Thank you, Griphook; we had a lovely time," Emma said, "I hope our futures together will be profitable."

"As do I, Emma; as do I," Griphook replied, "and I look forward to your visits."

"Yes, I expect you'll see us fairly frequently, we'd love the opportunity to explore further," said Mrs. Granger, "We hope you'll be our guide, Griphook but don't wish to become a burden on your time."

"Your time is mine, Emma; Dan," stated the goblin, "I am House Granger's—as of September the third per The Overlord's appointment—and House Potter's Majordomo. I'm duty bound to serve you and will be your voice at Gringotts when you are absent; is that acceptable Lady Matriarch?"

Hermione blushed and nervously glanced around, she replied, "Um . . . well . . . yeah, I'm fine with it, Griphook; mum; dad?"

"Sure, I guess; having a Majordomo may take some getting used to though," Emma answered.

"Thank you Lady Matriarch, Lady and Lord Regents, I'm honored," Griphook bowed and said, "I will pass your acceptance of me to Vaultlord Goldenfang—he's assumed the management of your account and future portfolio. I believe he'll also be appointed House Granger-Black's as well since Vaultlord Diamondwill might represent an unwelcome conflict; he manages the Malfoy account and portfolio, which—from my understanding—is about to become substantially smaller. It seems Lord Abraxas, the former head of the Noble House of Malfoy, neglected to thoroughly read the fine print in his son's betrothal and marriage contracts to Narcissa nee Black. Since the Blacks approached the Malfoys with the proposal, there was a significant dowry associated with the agreement; that plus interest must now be paid back because the Lady Granger-Black, nee Malfoy, provided the proven and stipulated male heir prior to her expulsion from the Malfoy Family."

"Still dowries, huh . . . how backwards," Emma said.

"And bride-prices," the goblin spat in distaste, "Noble magical Houses, but for the Matriarchal, see their witches as commodities. As you can imagine Emma, Dan; The Nation and The People find this practice repugnant in the extreme and hate implementing the terms of . . . of these insults to honor, for all it is very profitable for Gringotts. As we are technically impartial and just executors, the Wizengamot's allows us to make binding decisions on these matters since they consider them business contracts, which just so happens to involve—for all intents—the purchase and sale of witches."

"Utterly barbaric," Hermione growled.

"Indeed," agreed Griphook.

"And mum Nan . . . Narcissa is bound by one of these things," said an angry bushy-haired witch.

"Actually, this will be one of the few contracts that Gringotts will enjoy executing," Griphook told her with a wicked looking goblin grin, "Black betrothal and marriage contracts always favor the Black family member within them. Lady Granger-Black will be on the positive end of this exchange since penalty-less punitive actions could only occur if she were either barren or had had another's child before bearing her husband an heir. Besides, we've never liked the Malfoy Family, anyways; their comeuppance will be spectacular and amusing and Lucius Malfoy will not have a legal leg to stand on.

"That's why Lady Granger-Black was asked to stay behind," Griphook continued, "she and Vaultlords Diamondwill and Goldenfang will be auditing the Malfoy accounts and portfolios together. She'll discover what Gringotts knows: many galleons have disappeared from Malfoy vaults, without journal entries to explain them: we suspect they were bribes, since similar amounts have appeared in the vaults of others; also without journal entries to explain them. Of course, I never said this and this is the wrong place to speak of such things; I got carried away."

"We understand, Griphook," Dan said reassuringly, "Our lips are sealed but, if I may ask; why were you even able to tell us any of this? I thought your oaths would prevent it; we'd rather not see our Majordomo get fed to a dragon."

"Simply because Lady Granger-Black's business is complexly interwoven with the businesses of Houses Granger, Potter and Black for now and likely into the future as well," he replied.

"I see," said Emma.

"Anyhow, I really need to bade you farewell," Griphook said, "I suspect I've been appointed the Majordomo to House Granger-Black by now too and should head back and provide assistance—or at least get them tea."

"Before you go Griphook," Hermione said, "is there any way to hide the Granger Heraldry we are proudly wearing; I'd like to avoid questions and since we are with Harry there is a strong possibility that he'll be recognized, which would definitely warrant unwelcome attention."

"Fear not Hermione," the goblin replied, "your house emblem is currently under a selective notice-me-not charm. Only those who know or you tell can see it until you publicly declare yourself; like Harry has. Of course, the Potter heraldry on your sleeves is visible to everyone since not only are you protected by but also vassals to House Potter."

"Thank you Griphook, we'll let you go," Harry said.

"And thank you, Lord Potter; I'd thought you'd lost your voice there for a while," Griphook said with a smile.

"Well you know, like you always told me, my friend: say little; listen well; think thoroughly; then act honorably," said the green-eyed wizard before adding, "Have a good afternoon, Griphook, and thank everyone for their hospitality for me."

"Yes, thank them for us as well," said Emma.

"Of course Mrs. and Mr. Granger and farewell to you and of course you too Hermione," said the goblin.

"Bye Griphook," Hermione said and with that, Griphook stepped back into Gringotts. The two guards, as the doors swung closed, watched the Grangers and Lord Potter begin to walk down Diagon Alley; they knew they were unintentionally privy to some business of a very serious nature for The Nation and The People but they were goblins; the secret would remain safe, it was their nature after all.

The Grangers and Harry remained unaccosted in the sparsely populated Diagon Ally—the typical new school year lull—and reached the Leaky Cauldron in a few minutes and since Dan and Emma were wearing robes no one noticed they were muggles. If fact it wasn't until they entered the Leaky Cauldron that they were even seen but Tom knew of Harry's aversion to crowds so he didn't draw attention to them. He nodded and smiled in greeting but said nothing to young Harry, the young witch holding his hand or the adult witch and wizard who had to be the girl's parents. Tom didn't recognize the family, which was a little odd for him, but they were definitely familiar.

They exited the pub, stepped into muggle London and doffed their robes. Harry stayed close to Mr. and Mrs. Granger but that was easy considering Hermione—as usual—was holding his hand. He was led to a parking garage, a few blocks from the Leaking Cauldron, and then to a very nice car: a late model Jaguar XJ40 4.0 in midnight blue. Climbing into the nicest car he'd ever been in with his small overnight bag, Harry joined Hermione in the back seat and buckled his seat belt. With Daniel Granger in the driver's seat, he started the car and pulled from the parking space. As they turned from the garage, Emma Granger pulled out her mobile and called someone.

"Winston? Emma Granger here," she said into her phone, "I'd like to order four portions of halibut and chips; yes, we'll have those with the mushy peas; we should be there in what—Dan, forty-five minutes?—no, it's to go Winston. No, that's all, thanks. Goodbye."

"Oh, I'm sorry Harry," Emma said apologetically, turning her head to the young wizard, "I didn't think to ask if you'll be okay with fish and chips."

"I'm fine Mrs. Granger; I love fish and chips and mushy peas are okay too," Harry replied.

"Then you'll love these; Winston makes the best fish and chips ever," Emma said with a smile.

"Thank you ma'am; I'm sure I will ma'am," he said very politely.

"Please, no stodgy 'ma'am' Harry, call me Emma," she chastised, "ma'am makes me feel so old; I used to hate it even when I held my commission but I couldn't avoid it then."

"Sorry ma . . . Mrs. Granger, calling you by your first name would be disrespectful of me; I'm only eleven, I have yet to earn the right to call an adult, I just met today, by anything other than sir, ma'am, Miss, Mister or Missus," Harry said.

"Fine, fine; I guess I can live with Mrs. Granger for now," Emma said with a playful pout.

"Thank you for understanding, Mrs. Granger," he replied then nervously shifted his gaze to the passing cityscape beyond the window.

Unfortunately and undeniably, it was perhaps the most awkward and tense drive that any of them had ever experienced. The refrains of gentle jazz music filled the air where dialogue might be as each held to their own thoughts but occasionally Hermione and Harry would share a shy smile. When they arrived—almost to the minute of Mrs. Granger's estimate—at Winston's Original Fish and Chips a sense of relief began to build amongst the four; leaving Dan, Hermione and Harry waiting in the car, Emma went to retrieve their order. Five minutes later, she was back and in the car; accompanied by a mouth-watering, stomach-growl inducing odor. Dan shifted the Jaguar into drive, pulled back into late Saturday afternoon traffic and threaded his way between the vehicles that he shared the road with. About ten minutes later, he turned down a curvaceous avenue that fronted many gated driveways, which led to homes more manor than house, on surprisingly large lots. Awed, Harry watched the passing homes and had a very 'un' British thought, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Harry; Hermione never said her parents were rich only that they were dentists who'd retired from the military. Well, this explains why she isn't affected by Draco's crass display of wealth, she's used to it.

At last, Daniel Granger turned the car onto a driveway and, needing only to slow to allow the gate to open, drove them up to the house. He parked the Jaguar and turned it off. Glad to be home, the Grangers got out of the car. Dan and Emma walked to their home's front door, unlocked and opened it as Hermione held back, waiting for Harry. Harry climbed from the back seat—bag in hand—and stood, awed, as he closed the sedan's door.

"C'mon Harry," Hermione urged, "we don't want cold fish and chips—are you okay?"

"A little overwhelmed but fine otherwise, Mione; you have a very nice house—big—I wasn't really expecting this," he replied.

"But Harry, you're one of the richest wizards in the UK, perhaps the world; this has got to be—I don't know—like a carriage-house or something to you," she said with surprise.

"Um . . . well, actually; I've not visited any of the properties I own or any of those I can use that belong to the Black family," Harry said as he scratched the back of his head, "it never seemed important to me; it's not like I want to live all by myself in some big house somewhere. If I'm not at the Dursley's; I'd rather stay at Gringotts, like I did during August."

"I guess I can understand that," Hermione agreed, "I wouldn't like living by myself either and a big house would make me feel even lonelier I'm sure but I still hate cold fish and chips, so c'mon, Harry, let's head inside."

Harry walked around the car and joined Hermione; who had her hand expectantly extended to him. Taking his hand, Hermione led him up the walk and into the house. Steeping over the threshold, he crossed into a rather grand entryway but for all its size, it still felt homey and welcoming.

"Welcome to Granger Manor, Harry," Hermione said with pretend pretention, "our noble home—I guess that's for real now—please make yourself at home and don't worry about our standard dress—or rather undressed—code that we commonly follow, Aunt Nan . . . Narcissa, that's going to take time getting used to, included. Hopefully, my parents will restrain themselves until you are used to them but let me warn you in advance; Mum, Dad and Narcissa-mum are very open with their feelings for each other and walking in on an intimate interlude, while not common, isn't exactly unheard of."

"Don't take this wrong, Mione, but that sounds kinda weird to me; if you ever meet my Aunt and Uncle you'll understand," said Harry, who was looking a little pink in the cheeks, "I shudder just thinking about accidentally walking in on them during an 'intimate interlude', eww; I'm sure I'll have nightmares tonight, thanks Hermione."

"We're in the kitchen you two," Emma called.

Hermione kicked off her shoes and padded forward sock footedly, Harry followed suite and joined his friend. Linking hands, the hazel-eyed witch led the green-eyed wizard to the kitchen, which was another unassuming display of wealth, like the rest of the house. At a simple round table, with chairs to sit four and looking into an indoor garden, Harry saw that Mr. and Mrs. Granger were waiting for them.

"Come Lord . . . Harry, sit between Emma and I and dig in," Mr. Granger invited.

"Yes sir," the young wizard replied.

"I don't want to hear 'sir' young man but if you must, call me Mr. Granger although I'd prefer Dan," Daniel Granger said.

"Just don't call him Danny-boy," Emma said with a wink and a smile, "he doesn't like that, unless you need a root-canal and the idea of 'without anesthetic' doesn't bother you, Harry."

"I . . . I'll remember that, Mrs. Granger," he replied, hoping she was joking.

Harry, as was asked, took the seat between the Grangers; Hermione sat opposite him and gave him a reassuring grin. As soon as he was sitting, Emma put a very nice piece of fish on his plate. She then served Hermione and Dan and then herself. Mr. Granger, since they were nearest to him, passed Harry a box of steaming chips.

"Go ahead Harry, take what you want," Daniel invited, "Winston doesn't skimp on the chips."

"Th . . . thank you, Mr. Granger," replied Harry before serving himself a modest portion of chip and then handing the box back to Dan, who served himself a more than modest portion before handing the chips to Hermione. Like Harry, Hermione and Emma took modest portions each; leaving more than just a few in the box.

Dinner proceeded as the drive had earlier, quiet and awkward but gradually they grew accustomed to each other's company and slowly the tension bled from the air. By the time they'd finished eating, Harry had at least reached a point that he'd initiate a conversation, unfortunately—in a funny sort of way—that conversation revolved around who would clear the table; Emma or Harry: Emma won, she then sent Harry off with Hermione; telling her daughter to settle the young wizard in one of the guest bedrooms. Pulling Harry behind her, Hermione led her friend first to the vestibule—where he picked up the satchel, he'd left by his shoes—and then upstairs. Turning right at the top of the stairs, she led to the first guest room and showed him inside.

"You can use this room, Harry," she said, "I'll remake the bed with fresh sheets before you retire tonight and get you some fresh towels too.

"You don't have to go to so much effort for me, Mione," he told her.

"Of course I do, silly; you're the first guest I've ever had over," Hermione said bluntly, "and I want ensure you're comfortable mast . . . Harry."

"Um . . . Mione, you might want to remain a little more guarded around me," pointed out Harry, "you've told me about your parents but they may not like you 'almost' referring to me like that: beside, I'm kinda scared of your dad; he's been watching me closely all day."

"That's daddy just being a daddy, Harry," the bushy-haired witch teased, "that's his job. Still, I do wish you'd relax around him and mum; my parents and Aunt Nancy are great; just kinda different—Aunt Nan . . . Narcissa especially so after learning what I did today—but they're really good people: it's weird that Draco is sorta like a brother though, yuk."

"I imagine he'll know about that by the time we get back to Hogwarts, Mione," Harry commented, "I wonder if it'll make a difference. I can't imagine him telling anyone though."

"No, I can't imagine he would either," said Hermione before giggling and adding, "That would mean admitting that daddy couldn't satisfy mummy and that she needed to turn to a muggle for her womanly needs; oh, the shame of it. At least—in a most Slytherin manner—we should be able to get him to keep his mouth shut now but for the odd ignorable jab."

"I guess."

"Well, let's not worry about that now, Harry," she said. "Anyways, the closet and bathroom are over here."

Hermione crossed the room and Harry followed. Reaching a door, she opened it and stepped through, the young wizard tailed and joined his witch in a very large walk-in closet with built in dressing table and mirror. Beyond the table and mirror, Hermione opened and stepped through a second door; Harry followed and found himself in large bathroom—with bidet—and, behind glass doors, a very large; half sunken soaker tub with multiple shower heads on the walls and ceiling.

"Wow, this is very nice Mione," Harry at last managed to say.

"Yeah, I know," said the young witch, "I have the same thing, my room is on the other side of the house and is like the mirror image of yours but for my bookcases. You should see my parents', though; they have a bathing area that's set up like a traditional Japanese bathhouse—I love taking baths in there with my them and Aunt Narcissa; there's something special about relaxing baths with your loved ones: you should try it with me, Harry."

"Baths, like . . . b . . . being naked . . . and all," Harry stammered.

"Well, yeah—how else do you bathe, Harry," she said with a side of confusion, "Silkenrobe said she taught you to swim and that goblins don't wear bathing suites; how is this different?"

"Um . . . well . . . it just is, Mione," his haltingly answer and his discomfort made Hermione tingle; Harry saw her differently from how he saw Silkenrobe, it made the bushy-haired witch feel very good about herself but rather curious about what a disrobed Silkenrobe might look like, which in turn made her feel rather odd. She dismissed her confused feelings with a simple thought; I'm like my mums, different, and that's just the way I am, I hope Harry understands and accepts it, I think he will—I hope he will.

"Anyways, Harry," Hermione casually shifted the topic, "you share the bath with the bedroom through that adjacent door," she pointed at a closed door, "but since you're our only guest you needn't worry about someone accidentally walking in on you."

"How about unaccidentally?" he asked, intentionally catching his friend off guard after her awkward Silkenrobe observation about bathing; Hermione blushed as if she had a guilty conscious.

"There are locks, Harry, but if you don't set them then you've only yourself to blame if someone visits you in the bath," she replied with a smile that made him feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. I'm not sure if I'm glad or disappointed that come tomorrow night I'll be safely sleeping in my dorm, the green-eyed wizard thought.

Hermione and Harry's playful but uncomfortable inferences were brought to an end by the ringing of a doorbell.


Emma, with Dan's aid—after shooing Harry and his desire to help from the kitchen—cleared the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Clearing the table of dinner's wrappings and boxes, Emma wiped the table as Dan disposed of the trash. With their domestic duties attended to, Emma made a pot of tea and joined Dan at the table for some after dinner reflection.

"So, Emma," Dan said, pouring himself a cup of tea, "what do you think?"

"About what?" she smiled in reply, poured herself a cup of tea and then said, "Harry, Hermione, Hermione and Harry, Nancy is a witch named Narcissa; goblins, Gringotts, Vaultlords, Overlords or exotically attractive polyamorous she-goblins?"

"Yes that," he answered, fighting the laughter that threatened to overwhelm him.

"It's like a big tasty buffet," Emma said with a giggle; Dan sipped his Earl Grey, "lots of variety in copious amounts but takes a while to digest and sometimes requires stomach medicine when all is said and done. So, Dan, where do you want to begin?"

"I guess with our young guest; it all starts with him anyways," Mr. Granger replied as he sat his cup on the saucer.

"Honestly, I don't know. He seemed a lot shyer on the way home than he did earlier but he's polite and well-spoken, nevertheless; it's got to be tough on him though: you were pretty nervous the first time you met mum and dad, honey, and that was after carrying a commission for ten years in the toughest regiment in the UK."

"I was just the regimental dentist, pet," he said humbly.

"Hah!" She scoffed in derision, "You had some of the highest range scores on the base and assisted in the unarmed combat training of candidates; it used to be so funny watching your first sparring match with the new recruits. I loved how you'd always pick the most arrogant candidate in the selection program and that 'I'm undefeatable' smirk they'd get when you told them your daytime job was regimental dentist—just how many cap jobs did you create for yourself?"

"I don't know about the cap jobs, Ems, but that first fight was one of the most important lessons they were expected to learn," Dan said seriously but with amusement, "and an excellent way to experience that SAS adage, 'never underestimate risk; don't assume by appearance; be prepared for anything: surprises are lethal'.

"Handing an arrogant punk, who thinks he's the big fish, his comeuppance was the best way to drill that through some uncommonly thick skulls," He continued with a smile. "It was almost as much fun as watching all those hormonal soldier-boys, during field training. Seeing them climb over each other and volunteer to take some weight from the pack sitting on your girly shoulders—or, god forbid, offer to carry the big heavy gun for you and I know a few of the more insistent were introduced to your FN's butt, pet—due to an over-evolved and unwelcome sense of chivalry. Still, it was good training and definitely reinforced my lesson; particularly after that first forced march; you'd look merely out of breath while they moaned, panted and asked God why they were doing this to themselves."

"Do you ever miss it, Dan?" Emma asked.

"Sometimes, but I'd hate to see Hermione growing up as a base-brat, though; this is better for her and this magical thing would've really complicated things too."

"I can imagine," she agreed and then the doorbell rang.

"We're not expecting company, other than the lad, so I guess Nancy . . . Narcissa—that's gonna take some getting used to—forgot her key again," he said, the bell rang again and he stood, "I'll get it, Emma; what do you think: tea, brandy or scotch?"

"Probably scotch, tonight," Emma replied with a chuckle as Dan exited the kitchen.

Dan reached the front door before whoever was waiting felt as if they needed to ring again. He opened it and saw, as he had suspected, Narcissa Granger-Black nee Narcissa Malfoy nee—to the Grangers that was—Nancy Moore.

"Hi Nan . . . Narcissa, did you forget your key again—not that I guess you ever needed one," he said with a 'welcome home' smile and gave her a quick peck on her lips.

"No, I've got my key; I just thought that this would be proper, Dan: stop hiding in my robes and let him see you, pumpkin," Narcissa said unexpectedly.

To Daniel Granger's surprise, a pretty, blonde girl who looked a lot like Hermione—minus the bushy hair—and a year or so his daughter junior stepped from behind his and Emma's wife, in all but law.

"Dan, dear," Narcissa said, "this is the last secret I've kept from you, Emma and Hermione; her name is Danielle Aphrodite Granger-Black: she is our daughter."