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Hermione Lestrange signed her name on the blank parchment with a flourish. Beneath the name was her date of birth, January 13th, 1979. She penned in her parents’ names and dates of birth next. She flicked her wand for what felt like the hundredth time and cast, “ Revelare magicae familia .” Her first name burned gold for only a second. Suddenly, the black ink splattered across the parchment until every inch of it was black and dripping.

Hermione scowled and vanished the soiled parchment. She pressed her fingers to her eyebrow where she felt a dull ache. She’d been working on this stupid assignment for weeks. It wasn’t supposed to take this long or be this difficult. It was an extra credit assignment for slackers. She shouldn’t even be wasting her time with it.

Hermione continued to scowl as she pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment. She wrote the information on the blank page. “ Revelare magicae familia .” There was a small sparkle of gold followed by a flood of black ink. Hermione bit back her shout of frustration as she vanished the failed assignment once again.

She checked the charms book she had open for reference. There were no notes about the parchment turning black like that. She’d been researching it ever since they’d been assigned the extra credit work by Professor Flitwick almost three weeks ago. Every year, the seventh year class was asked to do the simple family revelation spell. It showed an accurate, detailed history of the caster’s family tree. It was child’s play and Hermione couldn’t bloody do it. 

With a sigh, Hermione glanced over from her work table in the library to another one several tables over. Head Boy Harry Potter was sitting alone working on an assignment. Hermione bit her thumbnail as she considered going over to him for the umpteenth time. He had the highest score in Charms -- after her own, of course. His mother was also a famous Charms and Potions Mistress. Hermione had read every one of Lily Potter’s papers. She was brilliant and it was no surprise that her son was proving to be equally so. 

Then again, Hermione was absolutely positive that if she asked, Potter would laugh her out of the library. Gryffindors and Slytherins didn’t get along, even if they were Head Boy and Head Girl. As it was, Hermione and Harry had a fairly cool working relationship. They got their jobs done with as little interaction as humanly possible and it worked. Hermione wasn’t sure if she were willing to change the currently functional dynamic they had in place.

She glanced down at her messy workspace and her shoulders slouched in defeat. There was nothing for it. This problem was going to bug Hermione until she solved it and so far, it wasn’t something she could figure out on her own. 

Hermione took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. She stood and silently walked over to Potter’s table. He had his head of messy black curls bent over a long sheath of parchment filled with black scribbles. Hermione bit back a sneer at the sight of his awful penmanship. Half-bloods , honestly. 

“Potter,” she interrupted.

Harry looked up at her from behind his large square glasses. “Lestrange.”

“I have a question.” 

He raised an eyebrow as he set his quill down. Potter sat back and waved his hand nonchalantly, silently signalling that she should get on with it. Hermione opened her mouth, but no words came out. “Well?” he pushed.

“It’s about the charms assignment. I need…” Hermione took a deep breath. Her shoulders hiked up. “… help,” she finally admitted between clenched teeth.

A shit-eating grin spread across Potter’s face. He leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms. “And you came to the Charms Master , didn’t you?”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Hardly,” she scoffed. She glanced around the nearly empty library. It was late and most of the students had gone off to bed already. “But you’re second best , so I figured…”

“Nope,” Harry cut her off with a small shake of her head. “Not good enough. If you want my help, you have to admit I’m better than you at charms.”

“You’re not!” she hissed. Potter smirked at her. He shrugged and went back to his homework. Hermione pursed her lips and crossed her arms over her chest. “You don’t even know if you can help.”

“Don’t care.” He went back to scribbling on his parchment.

Hermione watched him for a moment before her frustration bubbled over. She stomped her foot. “ Fine . You’re better at charms than I am. Happy?”

Potter tossed his quill onto the desk. “Deliriously,” he quipped with a wide, charming smile on his stupid face. “Have a seat, lesser charms student. Let the master help you out.”

Hermione curled her lip. She didn’t take the seat across from him. “It’s about the family tree charm.”

Potter outright laughed at that. “Tell me you’re joking.” The way Hermione looked away, expression pinched, said it all. Harry coughed into his fist to smother another laugh. “Alright,” he said at length. “Did you need help writing your name?”

Hermione scowled at him with all the furious anger she felt inside her body for even having to ask him for help. It was belittling and disgusting. She felt dirty. “Do you have a spare parchment?”

Potter, still with that amused smirk on his face, gamely offered up a clean parchment and his quill. Hermione made a face at his quill but took it nonetheless. Her letters curled along the bottom of the paper and then her date of birth followed. Above that, she filled in Bellatrix Lestrange and Rodolphus Lestrange with their dates of birth as well. She showed it to Potter who nodded and shrugged that it was probably right. Hermione summoned her wand and with deliberate preciseness, she cast the spell again. 

Her first name glowed faintly before the entire page was consumed with inky blackness, as always. She looked up from the mess to Potter and found the smirk had fallen from his face.

“What the hell?” he whispered. He touched the parchment with his finger and immediately got it covered with the wet ink. Hermione vanished the paper while he wiped the mess away on his school cardigan. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Hermione’s head tilted and her eyes widened. “Now you see my dilemma?”

“Do it again.” He got a clean sheet of parchment and watched closely as Hermione repeated the process with the exact same results. “Well, you’re not doing the spell wrong.”

“I didn’t think I was.” Secretly, she was relieved at his confirmation. After several weeks of failure, Hermione had been doubting she knew how to cast a simple spell. 

“Maybe your information is wrong?” Potter suggested. “The spell is simple but fickle. If you’ve even got a letter out of place or a birthdate wrong, it won’t work.”

“That’s what I thought, but I looked up my parents’ records and it's correct. I even owled St. Mungos for copies of our birth certificates.” She headed back to her table where she had said copies and Potter got up to follow her. She handed the official letter over and he checked all the dates and information. “Everything is accurate.”

Potter nodded and handed the documents back. “What did you find when you researched the charm?”

“That whatever I’m doing wrong isn’t listed under common mistakes in our textbook. They did list incorrect information and it claims that the result of that is nothing. As in, nothing would happen.”

Potter narrowed his eyes as he thought that over. “But something does happen. That glow. Your name glows for a moment. That’s what mine does when I do it, but the whole thing glows.” He snapped his fingers. “I’m not sure -”

“- The library’s closing,” Madam Pince interrupted. “Pack up your things, Mr. Potter, Miss. Lestrange.”

Hermione shot the librarian a tense smile. “Thank you, Madam Pince.” The old witch nodded once before she turned to check the rest of the library for stragglers. “Well, that was a waste.” Hermione waved her wand and gathered her things.

“You don’t have to hand the assignment in. It’s only extra credit and Merlin knows you don’t need it.”

Hermione scowled at him. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand, Potter.” She shouldered her bag. “Thanks anyway.” The words tasted sour in her mouth and she made a face. She turned and left the library for the Slytherin Dungeons.

Harry watched her go. “But why didn’t it work?” he whispered to himself.

/*\

Two weeks later, Harry raced down the hall. “Lestrange!” He dodged a first year as he hurried to catch up with her. 

Hermione flicked her dark brown curls over her shoulder. “What do you want, Potter?” She continued her brisk pace through the halls.

“I have the patrol schedule for you.”

“Put it on my desk.”

“I think you should take a look.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Did you need help spelling the names?” she mocked, pitching her voice like she was talking to a child.

Harry narrowed his eyes. “I really think you should take a look, Hermione .” She glared at him. Her mouth opened to deliver a scathing response but she was cut off by him pushing her into an empty classroom.

“Get your hands off of me!” She smacked at his hands until he let go. Harry closed the door to the classroom. “You’re filthy ,” she hissed.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Could you pull that broom out of your arse for maybe five minutes? You asked for my help, Lestrange.”

“Yes, and you were about as useless as I expected you to be.”

Harry glared at her. He took a deep breath and shook his head. “Look,” he pulled out a book from his satchel. “My mum sent me this book on bloodline charms and-”

-Hermione snatched the book from his hands. She opened it to the table contents and immediately began to scan it, her finger running down the page as she went. 

“I’m not sure if it’ll help but we can-”

“-We?” She raised her eyebrows at him.

“It’s my book.”

“It’s my mystery.”

“Which you’d given up on.” 

She scowled at him.

Harry raised his hands. “Look, I just want to know the answer to why it wasn’t working. It’s curious, isn’t it?” She pursed her lips at him. “Have you asked Professor Flitwick about it?”

She scoffed. “Like he’d know.”

“He’s our professor . He has a mastery in charms, Lestrange. You know he’s brilliant. He taught you everything you know.”

“I’ve received instructors for all subjects since I was a child.” She flicked her hair over her shoulder again. “Professor Flitwick is more like a tutor than anything else.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Wow. Just wow.” He shook his head. “You’re a real piece of work, aren’t you?”

Hermione sneered at him. “Shut up, Potter. I don’t want your help, just your book.”

“Well, we’re a package deal.” He raised his arms wide. “So, what do you say, Lestrange?”

/*\

“That has nothing to do with our problem,” Hermione snapped.

It was well into the night two weeks later. They were in their shared Heads Office before a roaring fireplace. House-elves had brought them a platter of treats as they worked through dinner. A Christmas tree was set up in the corner of the room. It twinkled with magical lights and pretty golden baubles. 

Harry rested his head back against the couch and groaned. “We don’t know what our problem is. It’s better to look at it from a different angle, we could find something new.”

“Or waste time. That’s not thinking outside the box. That’s just being obtuse.”

Harry rolled his eyes and looked away. He picked up his butterbeer and took a long drink. This witch was driving him barmy. 

Hermione pursed her lips and pulled the book towards herself. They’d gone through dozens of spells in the last two weeks. The solution still eluded them. Hermione refused to go to Flitwick about it and Potter had stopped asking. 

“What spell next?” he asked.

Hermione sighed and rubbed her eyes. “Maybe we should take a break?”

Please .” He leaned forward and grabbed himself a mini Christmas pie.

She made a face. “How can you eat that?”

He chewed and swallowed before responding, “How can you not?” He shot her a look. “Don’t tell me, you hate Christmas?”

Hermione scowled at him. “Of course I don’t hate Christmas! I’m not a monster.” Harry wisely kept silent. “I love it.” She picked up a candy cane from the pile and peeled off the wrapper. “Fantastic sweets. Presents. The lights. Everyone’s always happier around the holidays.” She sounded wistful and completely unlike her usual sneering self. Harry watched a slight smile spread across her lips. 

“Every year,” he told her, “we go to Godric’s Hollow for Christmas Eve. They do this winter carnival with fireworks, ice sculptures, and food. There are pie competitions and my mum enters every year despite the fact she can’t bake a pie to save her life. She’s determined to win. There are ice skating and snowmen. Not to mention the best fudge you will ever eat.”

Hermione’s eyes widened around the candy cane in her mouth. Harry tried really hard not to be turned on. She pulled the candy cane out. “I love chocolate mint fudge.”

He smiled. “I’ll get you a piece this year.” He turned back to his Christmas pie and completely missed her look of surprise. “What do you do for Christmas Eve?”

She blinked quickly and pulled the candy cane from her mouth again. “Decorate the tree. Put all the presents underneath. The elves bake cookies and then I read by the fire.”

“It sounds nice,” he said. “Relaxing.”

“Yes,” she agreed but her heart wasn’t in it, “it is.” Her parents spent most of the day readying for Malfoy’s annual Yule Ball -- which Hermione was never invited to attend. She read in front of the fire alone each year. It was peaceful and lonely. Before she could stop herself, she found herself asking, “Do you live in Godric’s Hollow?”

Harry had polished off his mini pie and was trying to decide on a cookie next. He looked up. “I was born there, actually. But we moved to our ancestral land when I turned nine. They wanted me to get used to the new house before I went off to Hogwarts.”

“Why did they move?”

Harry leaned back with his butterbeer in one hand and a shortbread cookie in the other. “My parents had me really young. They waited a long time before they decided to have kids again. By that point, mum was a well-established charms mistress and dad was working on the Wizengamot almost full-time to make changes regarding muggle-born and creature rights.” 

She’d read about Lord Potter’s reforms. Her parents had ranted and raved about them for months. She’d been so curious, she’d ordered a copy to read for herself. She'd only started it, but it had been fascinating. She’d never known such things about muggle-borns and werewolves. When her father had found her with the papers, he’d whipped her bloody. Hermione had never dared to touch another paper like that again. She shivered at the memory.

Harry's calm voice brought her back to the present. “Godric’s Hollow was just too small for all of us. We stay there during the Christmas Hols though.”

“That’s lovely.” Her family didn’t do anything like that. They had chateaus all over France, but her parents would go on their own. Hermione had often been left alone during her childhood. The elves saw to her needs. 

“Did you want to try that spell now?”

Hermione looked up, distracted. She shook her head. “Let’s leave it until after the break. I’m tired and we have to catch the train in the morning.”

Harry eyed her for a moment. He shrugged. “Alright.” He stood and stretched. His shirt rode up on his toned stomach. Hermione spotted dark hair beneath his belly button that led down to his trousers and below. Her cheeks flushed and she looked away. “Night, Lestrange.” He shot her a dopey grin from behind his thick-framed glasses. “Happy Christmas.”

“Happy Christmas,” she whispered after he was gone.

/*\

Hermione sat on the couch before a roaring fire. It was the night before Christmas. She’d spent her day decorating the ten-foot-high Christmas tree in the corner of the room. It’d taken her no less than three hours to get it to her level of perfection. She’d placed the wrapped presents to her parents under the tree and then called for the elves to bring her tea. 

She sat curled up with a massive book in her lap. Her parents had left for the Malfoy Yule Ball hours ago. She stared at the pages of her book, not really seeing them. She hadn’t turned a page in nearly fifteen minutes. Hermione wasn’t even sure what book she’d collected from the library.

This was her first Christmas as an of-age witch. She had the ability to leave the house on her own for the first time in her life. She could go anywhere. She didn’t have to sit there and read all alone.

She didn’t want to be alone anymore.

Hermione jumped to her feet. She headed for the door and grabbed her outer things. Bundled up in her cloak, scarf, hat, and gloves, she exited the front door. The walk down the porch and the long straight drive was simple. The moment she reached the gate, she paused. Her breath picked up. She had a strange vague memory come to her of searing pain and screams. Hermione stepped back. She wasn’t allowed to leave without permission.

Her gloved fingers curled into fists. She was an adult . She could do this. No one would know. Hermione pushed herself through the gates of the Lestrange Chateaux. She gasped for breath when she reached the other side. 

Hermione turned and stared back at the hulking vision of her childhood home. The lights were on within the dark visage of the manor. It looked like a hungry monster. Hermione turned and walked away. She didn’t look back.

Hermione decided she would go to Godric’s Hollow. She wasn’t even sure how she came to the decision. She just knew it was where she wanted to go. She wanted to be surrounded by people. She’d been to Godric’s Hollow once before on a trip to a rare bookstore with her Uncle Rabastan and his son. She imagined the cobblestone streets as best she could and turned on the spot.

The stomach-turning effects of apparition passed and she opened her eyes. 

It was incredible. Magical lights danced up and down the streets, illuminating various stalls filled with foods and goods. The centre of the town square was dotted with beautiful ice sculptures. There was a park with children building snowmen and throwing snowballs. Music played from a live band somewhere, amplified so it could be heard across the whole village.

Hermione had never seen anything like it. She wandered forward, her head turning in every which direction as she took it all in. She bumped into someone and nearly fell on a patch of ice. Hands reached out and caught her around her waist. Hermione looked up, her hands on her rescuer’s shoulders. Bright green eyes met her brown ones.

“Potter?”

“Lestrange?” Harry righted her and let go. Hermione dropped her hands to her sides. “What are you doing here?” 

“Oh! I…” Her cheeks turned pink and she inwardly cursed herself. They’d been doing that a lot when she thought about Potter this break and she was getting tired of it. “You made the carnival sound like so much fun. I thought I’d take a look.”

Harry stared at her, a little smile touching his face. “Alright.” He nodded and his smile broadened. He tilted his head towards the stalls. “Hot cocoa? I’m buying.”

Her cheeks burned hot. “Okay.” When he pressed his hand against her back to guide her towards the stalls, she didn’t shake him off. 

He pulled out a few sickles and ordered two for them. He handed her the small cup and she thanked him quietly. “Oh, you should see these.” He ushered her towards the vendors. “There’s this one vendor that’s got the best quills. My mum loves them. She buys a bucket full every year. And they’ve got these really nice journals too.”

Harry and Hermione shopped at the vendors a bit, with Hermione buying several of the beautiful quills and journals. They bought enough chocolate fudge to supply her for weeks and ate too much of it while they wandered through the ice sculptures.

“Oh! Let’s go ice skating!”

She shook her head. “I can’t skate.”

“You can’t-? Well, now we have to.” He grabbed her gloved hand and dragged her towards the lake that was magically frozen over.

“I don’t know,” she whined. Butterflies erupted within her stomach from the feel of his hand round hers.

“It’ll be fine.”

“Shouldn’t you be with your family or something?” As much fun as she was having, and she was surprisingly having loads, she felt bad for keeping him away from his relatives.

Harry shrugged as he came to a stop. “They’re wrangling my sisters and trying to make sure they don’t lose one of them. I only babysit during the summer.” Hermione laughed. “But - I mean, I can go. If you want to be alone?”

“No!” She took a breath. “No. I’m having fun.”

Harry smiled down at her. “Good.” His eyes dipped to her lips and Hermione’s breath stuttered. “You’ve got - you’re uhm…” Harry gestured to his mouth and her brows furrowed in confusion. Harry slipped his mitten off and raised his hand and gently wiped the fudge from the corner of her mouth. “There. Perfect.”

The apple of her cheeks turned red. Harry’s fingers were warm against her cheek. He didn’t look away from her lips. Hermione’s lashes fluttered. Their bodies leaned closer to one another.

“Harry!”

Harry jumped and Hermione bit back a small squeal of shock. “Padfoot!”

A tall man with dark curls and a stubble lined jaw appeared before them. His eyes narrowed on Hermione and her heart dropped into her stomach. “Miss. Lestrange,” he greeted in a cool, controlled voice.

“Lord Black.” She looked down.

“What brings you to Godric’s Hollow? Shouldn’t you be at Malfoy’s Ball?”

“It’s adult-only,” she mumbled. Sirius stared at her for a long moment. Hermione cleared her throat. She turned to Harry. “I should head back home. It’s late. Potter.”

“Lestrange.” 

“I’ll walk you to the apparition point,” Sirius stated. His tone brooked no argument. Hermione nodded in acceptance. He placed a hand at her back and guided her through the town square. They didn’t speak during the few tense minutes that it took to reach the apparition point. “Miss. Lestrange,” Sirius said once they’d reached it. She turned to him, but kept her eyes on the ground, “you know I’m the Head of Black House.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Your mother is still firmly entrenched in our magic and despite the fact you technically fall under your father’s house, I hope you know that Black House will always look after your needs as well.”

“Thank you, sir.” 

Sirius was silent for a moment. Hermione wondered if she could make her escape now. She decided to go for it. “Happy Christmas, Lord Black.” She dashed away before disapparating back home.

/*\

It was the first day back after Christmas Hols. Hermione was in the Heads Office, finalizing the new patrol schedule to have passed around at breakfast the next morning. The portrait opened and she looked up to see Harry entering the room.

“Happy New Year!” he greeted brightly.

Hermione bit back her grin. “Happy New Year,” she returned politely. She turned back to her work. A box was placed on top of the parchment. Hermione pulled back. It was a wrapped present. “What-?”

“-It’s your Christmas present.”

Hermione looked up at him with wide eyes. “What?” He shrugged, that silly grin on his face that used to drive her up the wall. When had it stopped being annoying? “Why would you-?”

“Because it was Christmas,” he said, like that answered everything.

Hermione stared at the wrapped box with wide eyes. She didn’t touch it.

“Come on, Lestrange. It’s not dirty,” he snapped. Her gaze snapped to him. The thought hadn’t even occurred to her. It hadn’t occurred to her in regards to Harry since Christmas Eve. 

“That’s not it,” she whispered. She reached out and placed a gentle finger on the curly ribbon.

“You’re acting like you’ve never received a present before,” he drawled, his irritation obvious in his voice.

Hermione scowled at him. She shoved the present off her desk. “I don’t need your pity, Potter.” His mouth twisted with fury. “And I didn’t ask for your present.” Harry huffed. He bent down to collect the unwanted gift and just barely heard her whisper, “Good girls don’t ask for presents.”

Harry paused. He held the poorly wrapped present in his hands and felt his entire body vibrate with pent up rage. Good girls don’t ask for presents . Had she really never received a present before? The thought was baffling. She’d said they would place presents under the tree. Were they all for other people? Who would do something so cruel to a child? Then again, Harry had heard the stories about Lady Lestrange. He had a pretty good idea that Hermione’s mother would do just that.

Harry swallowed his pride and stood back up, present in hand. He stepped around the desk and forcibly turned Hermione’s chair around. She glared up at him. He pretended not to see the tears in her eyes.

“I get presents for my friends. You don’t get to choose who gives you presents. You accept them and say 'thank you.'” He shoved the present into her lap.

Hermione continued to glare. “ Thank you ,” she bit out. 

Harry waved his wand and a stool slid over. He sat down in front of her and smiled again. “Now, open it," he commanded excitedly.

She shot him a wary glance. She neatly undid the ribbon and set it on her desk. Then she carefully, painstakingly, undid each little magical sticking charm and unfolded the wrapping paper. Harry almost tore the present open himself but decided against it. He watched as she placed the folded wrapping paper on the desk beside the ribbon. It was an ornate wooden box engraved with flowers and ivy designs. She’d bought several journals with similar designs at Godric’s Hollow.

“It’s by the same seller as those quills and journals. I had it specially made.”

Hermione’s fingers traced the designs. Her head was down as she studied it reverently. Her hair curtained her face on either side.

Harry bounced his knee nervously. “Do you like it?”

Hermione looked up and he finally saw the tears that were streaming down her cheeks. “I love it,” she gasped out.

Harry took the box and placed it on her desk. “Hey, hey, it’s okay.” Hermione continued to cry. She followed his urging hands and quickly found herself piled into his lap. Harry gently ran his hand down her curls as he shushed her comfortingly. After several minutes, she finally managed to calm herself down. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, it’s fine.”

Hermione looked up and her eyes met his. Their faces were inches apart. Harry wiped the tears from her cheeks. “You’re good with crying witches.”

“Well, I’ve got three younger sisters. But usually, they’re crying about dolls and ruined tea parties.” Hermione laughed and Harry allowed himself a chuckle at his own expense. “You didn’t even open it.”

Hermione looked up. “What?”

He shot her a charming smile. “The present isn’t just the box. Open it up.” 

Hermione leaned forward and picked the wooden box back up. She set it in her lap and opened the lid. Inside was a collection of sweets. All of them were variations of peppermint flavoured snacks. She gasped as she pulled a silver wrapper from the box. “Peppermint Patties!” she exclaimed happily. She tore the muggle wrapper open and pulled out the chocolate disk within.

Harry was giving her a funny look as she took a bite. She handed him one and he gamely tore it open. “These are muggle chocolates,” he told her. Hermione’s head whipped around to him. “I didn’t expect you to have had them.”

Hermione blinked rapidly. “No. I - that’s not…” They tasted so familiar. “They must have a wizarding counterpart.” There was no way in hell that Hermione would ever have had a muggle sweet before. 

Harry eyed her curiously and didn’t say anything. She blushed suddenly. “I should get up.” She set the box on her desk. Harry tossed his wrapper onto the desk with the box.

“Don’t get up on my account.” She shot him an unamused look. Harry’s hand on her hip squeezed gently. “You can sit on my lap anytime you want… Hermione.”

Hermione’s cheeks turned bright red. Her heart fluttered inside her chest. “Don’t tease me.”

“I’m not teasing,” he told her. He stared deeply into her brown eyes. There was something so captivating about those wide eyes surrounded by dark lashes. He raised his right hand and cupped her cheek. “You’re so beautiful.” 

Hermione’s eyes widened. Before she could even think of a response, Harry’s lips were on hers. She gasped and Harry took full advantage. Hermione’s lashes fluttered. She tasted Peppermint Patties on his lips. It was intoxicating. Her fingers threaded through his curly hair that was so soft it was ridiculous. Harry’s hands spread across her back and trailed along her spine. She moaned into his mouth.

The portrait swung open.

Hermione jumped out of Harry’s lap. He was on his feet and two steps away from her in a second. They turned to Professor McGonagall with matching, guilty expressions.

“Mr. Potter, Miss. Lestrange,” she greeted. Her eyes darted back and forth between them suspiciously.

“Professor,” they chimed.

“The Headmaster would like a word about the situation on the train today, Mr. Potter.”

“Yes, professor.” Harry cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair that was a fair bit more messy than usual. He practically ran out of the Heads Office. Hermione turned to her desk and waited for the portrait to close behind her professor.

The second it did, she collapsed into her chair with a groan. What was she doing?

/*\

“This is such a bad idea,” Hermione gasped. Harry’s lips trailed down her neck. They were in a broom closet of all places. They had a perfectly good office to snog in and they were hiding in a broom closet . “We’re going to get caught.”

Harry looked up. “Only if you keep talking.” He leaned in and covered her mouth with his own. Hermione melted under him. 

One kiss had turned into another and within a week, the entire mess had snowballed into a catastrophe. Despite herself, Hermione couldn’t help but let it go on. They’d been going on like this for three weeks and Hermione still had reservations about it. Mostly, she was terrified that her parents would find out. They’d kill her for it. Then Harry. Then Harry’s whole family out of spite.

Hermione was under no illusions about how cruel her parents were. They’d raised her. She knew better than anyone how twisted they could be.

Harry’s lips teased her neck and she sighed. A draft of cold hair met her bare chest and she shivered in his hold. His fingers boldly cupped her breasts. She moaned and Harry shushed her teasingly. “You have to be quiet, Hermione.” He pinched her delicate flesh.

She gasped and bit back another moan. Her fingers gripped his hair tightly. Her body tingled. She wanted more. She needed more. Hermione shook her head. “Stop. We should stop,” she told him breathlessly.

Harry released a sigh. He stepped back. 

He always stopped immediately when she told him to. He respected her boundaries in a way no other person ever had. It was thrilling and she’d admit she’d made him stop a few times even when she didn’t want him to -- just because she could. Just because he respected her enough to listen. 

Hermione buttoned her shirt while he redid his Gryffindor tie. Her chest heaved as she regained her breath. “We shouldn’t do this anymore.”

“I don’t see why not.”

“My mother.”

Harry nodded once. “Fair point. Counterpoint,” he pointed at her, “it’s fantastic.”

She smiled despite herself. Harry had a way of making her smile even when she didn’t want to. “You’re a boy, you think snogging with any girl is fantastic.”

He shoved his hands into his pockets, not even bothering to tuck his shirt in. His hair was a mess, his glasses crooked on his nose, and his lips were bruised. He looked so thoroughly snogged it was astounding. She knew she likely looked the same. 

“That’s the thing, Hermione,” he grinned and her heart fluttered the way it always did when he used her first name, “I don’t want to snog anyone else.”

Her heart thumped inside her chest so loudly, he could certainly hear it. Hermione shook her head. “This can’t go any further.”

“I think it should.” He stepped closer and his scent of magic surrounded her. He tasted like magic too. “I think that we should follow this wherever it leads us.”

“Why?”

He cupped her face in his hands. Her fingers curled into his wrinkled shirt. “Because it could be nothing.” Hermione’s heart clenched. Nothing? This couldn’t be nothing . It was incredible. It felt like heaven. She’d never felt so cherished or adored in her life. “Or it could be everything ." Her breath caught in her throat. "Why risk that?”

Hermione leaned up on her toes and pressed her lips against his. Harry kissed her sweetly -- chastely. She pulled back and looked up at him with her pink cheeks and wide eyes. Harry smiled at her. “Don’t make me regret it, Potter.”

“I won’t.”

/*\

Harry had shown her the Room of Requirement at the start of March. She’d been awed and furious that she’d never found it before. It made sense since it was so much closer to the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw dorms than Slytherin, but she was still a little annoyed. 

The room could be anything they wanted. She wanted to test that. She wanted to push the limits. Could it be the Coliseum in Rome? The Parthenon in Greece? Despite her curiosity, Harry decided to make it the Gryffindor Common Room. She was less impressed than he would have liked.

“It’s nice and cozy,” he argued, several hours later as they laid together on the couch before a roaring fireplace. He was on his side with his head in his hand as he stared down at her. Her carefully bound hair had come undone during their short snog session. Her curls spread across the red couch.

“It’s still just another room in Hogwarts, Potter,” she sneered. “We could have seen the Library of Alexandria and you chose Gryffindor Tower .” She made a face of disgust.

Harry huffed. “Well, when you put it like that, I suppose it’s a bit disappointing.” She raised her eyebrows, a superior little smirk on her face that she always got when he said she was right. He narrowed his eyes at her. 

Hermione’s eyes widened in realization a split second before he lunged forward. “No!” she squealed even as she burst into laughter. Harry’s fingers dug into her sides, relentlessly tickling her. “Stop!” she laughed loudly. “Harry!”

He froze. Her twisting had allowed him to slip between her legs and he hovered over her with a small smile on his lips. Hermione breathed heavily as she caught her breath. “You called me ‘Harry,’” he whispered.

Hermione bit her bottom lip. “I take it back,” she whispered.

He shook his head, his smile widening. “You can’t take it back.”

“I can too!” she protested.

He leaned down and captured her lips before it could turn into a fight. Hermione wrapped her arms and legs around him. His tongue entered her mouth and she moaned deeply. Harry’s hips rolled against her own and she gasped. Her fingers curled in his hair and she released a breathy cry when he did it again.

She pushed at his chest before frantically undoing his school shirt. His tie was already gone and so was hers. They undressed each other in quick, breathless movements. Harry rolled her thigh high socks down her legs and tossed them to the side. Her skirt followed and then she was in nothing but a pair of pink satin knickers. 

Harry kicked his trousers off before finding his place in the cradle of her hips again. They stared into one another’s eyes and both wordlessly knew what was going to come next.

“Are you sure?” Harry whispered.

Hermione’s lips trembled. She was terrified. Once she graduated Hogwarts, she would be married off to the highest bidder. She’d be forced into a marriage she didn’t want to a man she likely didn’t even know. Once, just once, she wanted someone to love and she wanted to be loved in return.

“Yes,” she breathed.

Harry studied her face for a moment as if gauging how serious she was. After a moment, he leaned forward and kissed her gently. Hermione’s eyes fluttered shut and she allowed herself to become lost in his soft touches. His fingers explored her body in places no one else had ever known. He kissed her body like a devout worshipper and she was his altar. 

He was gentle with her. He went slowly, patiently. They had all the time in the world. Hermione wished she could freeze time and be in that moment forever. Harry with his beautiful emerald eyes and charming smile. His sweet kisses still somehow tasted like peppermint. His scent of magic surrounded her, it consumed her. 

It hurt. It hurt a lot. But she’d been expecting that. Harry waited patiently for her to adjust. He didn’t continue until she told him to do so. He moved slowly and it stung still. He pressed soothing kisses to her neck. She closed her eyes and focused on how soft and sweet his lips felt against her skin. Soon, the burning passed, but it was over all too soon after that.

Afterwards, they laid on the couch spooned together as they stared into the fire. A blanket covered their still naked forms. Harry pressed a kiss to her shoulder. “Are you okay?” She nodded. “Was it okay?” he whispered worriedly. He’d seen the tears she’d tried to hide from him.

Hermione turned her head and smiled at him. She kissed him gently. “It was perfect.”

“I’ll get better,” he promised.

Hermione laughed under her breath. “I shudder to think what sort of books you’ll ask Madam Pince for next.”

He tickled her side and she laughed harder.

/*\

Harry entered the Heads Office like a whirlwind of sound and movement. “I am a hero!” he declared as the portrait swung shut behind him. Hermione looked up from her position on the couch and smiled at him. She raised an eyebrow. “I’m a god,” he insisted as he walked towards her. He flopped down on the couch and handed her a parchment.

Hermione gamely took it and opened it up. Her eyes flickered over the spell. Her brows drew together. “Is this-”

“-Yup.”

She looked up at him. “Do you really think this’ll work?”

He shrugged. “I don’t see why not. Your name starts to light up and then stops. Something is wrong with the information you put down. The books say nothing would happen but clearly, that’s not true. This spell will give us a clean base to start on. It’ll reveal your name and date of birth and your parents’ names and dates of birth.”

Hermione wrinkled her nose. “Does it even matter anymore? I mean… It’s almost Easter. The project is well and over. NEWTs are around the corner and I-”

“-What will it hurt?”

She released a short breath. She nodded. “Okay. Okay.” Hermione swung her legs around and set the book she’d been reading aside. A clean sheath of parchment was placed on the coffee table. Hermione scanned the instructions of the spell that Harry had found. The ink was poured onto the clean parchment and pooled at the paper’s centre. 

Hermione waved her wand and cast the spell. 

The blob of ink sunk into the parchment. Black tendrils stretched out and separated to form words in a long, curling script. The name Hermione Jane Granger spread across the centre of the page and Hermione’s entire body tensed. Two names were slowly written in above her own. Hugo Franklin Granger and Helena Fiona Savatier nee. Granger -- both deceased. 

Hermione sprang up from the couch. She backed away from the sitting area as if the parchment were some sort of dark creature intent on her death. “What the-?"

“-Bleeding hell,” Harry whispered. He picked up the parchment. “How is that possible?”

“It’s not!” she snapped.

Harry looked up at her. “Are you sure?”

Hermione didn’t answer. Her eyes teared and she raised her hands to her face. The room was spinning. Her stomach twisted into knots that felt like they’d never come undone. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be real.

“January 13th, that’s your birthday, isn’t it?”

Hermione looked up at him. She blinked wildly as she tried to focus on him. “What? Yes. Why?”

“That’s…” He forced his wary expression blank. “Never mind.” He folded the parchment so the information was no longer staring them in the face. He looked up at her. “Do you want to look more into this?”

“Into what ?” she snapped angrily. “A botched spell? It’s obviously false.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Hermione…”

Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t ‘Hermione’ me, Potter, like I’m some deluded little girl. I know who I am! There has never been any confusion about that.”

He stood and raised his hands in a sign of surrender but it did nothing to forestall the vitriol coming from Hermione’s mouth. Her entire world was being attacked and she refused to let it come crumbling down around her.

“You may have forgotten who I am, Potter, but I haven’t!” she continued in a furious tirade. “I’m a pure-blood. I’m a Lestrange. I don’t care for your silly games.”

He shook his head. “It’s not a game, Hermione. This spell-”

“-I don’t want to hear it. You’ve been toying with me from the start. Teasing me and pushing me. Was it some sort of game? A bet? See how far you can make the pure-blood go before she snaps?”

“Are you out of your mind?” he hollered, his rage rising up alongside hers. “Are you seriously that fucking upset about this?”

“Of course, I’m upset! You’ve been lying to me!”

“I’ve never lied to you! The Lestanges lied to you.”

“They’re my parents .”

“Really?” His eyes narrowed. His rage smoothed out to a cold fury and Hermione felt her anxiety go up a tick in response. “You really want to defend them? After the things they’ve done to you?”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Harry swallowed. “I’ve seen the scars on your back, Hermione.” She tensed at his words. “I’m not an idiot. I can figure out what they did to you.” A tense silence passed. The meaning of his words filled the room like a big, vicious bubble. “They whipped you,” he said and the bubble popped around them.

Fuck you, Potter." Harry flinched away. Hermione's eyes pooled with tears. "You don’t have any clue what you’re talking about.”

Her tears finally fell down her cheeks. “Don’t you dare spread that bullshit to others. I will fucking end you. I will make my mother look like a bloody saint after I’m done with you. You tried to bring me down to your level, but it was never going to work.” She pointed to her chest. “I’m a pure-blood,” she declared as she cried. “I’ll never be filthy like you and your mudblood ancestry.” Hermione's mouth snapped shut. Instant regret filled every inch of her body.

Harry’s entire body tensed. Fury flashed in his eyes and the room filled with the feeling of his magic. It vibrated angrily against Hermione’s skin. She stepped back. Harry slammed his eyes shut. His jaw clenched as he drew in a deep, calming breath in through his nostrils and out through his mouth.

After a moment, his magic settled again. He opened his eyes, revealing the pent of anger that still lied within.

“I’m going to say this,” he ground out between clenched teeth, “and then I’m going to leave.” He stared at Hermione across the length of the couch. “You came to me, not the other way around. This was never a game to me because I don’t play with people’s emotions. And this,” he raised the folded parchment, “is real, whether you’re ready to accept it or not.” He tossed it down onto the coffee table. The silence in the room was oppressive. “Whatever you do now, I suggest you wait until you’re calmer to read the rest of the information that’s written there.”

“Go fuck yourself,” she snapped.

Harry nodded, unsurprised by her reaction. “Right. Goodbye, Hermione.” He turned and left the Heads Office without another word. 

Hermione’s face crumpled at the slam of the portrait door behind him. She fell to her knees as her body was wracked with great, heaving sobs. He’d left. But that’s what she’d wanted, wasn’t it? Getting close to Harry Potter had never been the plan. She’s allowed the situation to spiral completely out of control. Her parents’ would be proud of her decision to cut him out. 

Her parents. They were her parents. They raised her. They housed and clothed her -- afforded her the best tutors and the most expensive jewelry. She was a Lestrange and no stupid little parchment was going to take her heritage away from her.

She looked up at the parchment with furious, teary eyes. She stumbled to her feet and sniffled loudly. Tears stained her cheeks. Hermione grabbed the parchment and ripped it in two. A feeling of satisfaction coursed through her body and she did it again. She tore the parchment to shreds between her fingers. The pieces littered the coffee table. 

With a sigh of relief, Hermione sank back down to the floor. She waved her wand and sent the papers flying into the fireplace. They burned away into nothingness -- their lies were gone forever. It felt freeing -- as if it were the end of a chapter in her life.

She would take her NEWTs, return home, get married, and move on with her life. She’d be a mother and raise an heir. She could put all this silly nonsense into the past. 

Hermione wiped the tears from her face as she pulled herself together. She moved to stand and her hand caught on a stray piece of parchment that had escaped the fire. She picked it up and her eyes read the words there before she could stop herself.

Deceased January 13, 1982 .

Hermione frowned at the parchment. That was an odd coincidence. Perhaps Harry’s trick had been well thought out. She swallowed visibly. Her fingers shook as she stared at the black cursive. 

Doubt crept into her heart. This sort of spell was elaborate. Could Harry really make something like this? He was clever, sure, but… this was something else. Hermione leaned forward and took another look at the instructions of the spell. He’d written the book he’d found it in. She’d read that book before. Not in regards to her search, but she had looked at it under other circumstances. Harry wouldn’t know that, though. He wouldn't have known to name this book to verify the spell's credibility. 

Was it a real spell? Her gut twisted. The hateful words she'd spewed at Harry came back to her. Her face twisted.

With wary, shaking fingers, Hermione pulled out a clean sheath of parchment. The ink pooled in the centre of the page. She waved her wand and cast the spell in a choked voice.

The words flowed across the page.

Hugo and Helena Granger. Hermione stared at their dates of death with a growing sense of horror. They’d died on the same day. Her birthday. That could easily be a coincidence, she reasoned. 

Except, according to the spell, Hermione’s birthday was in September .

Hermione’s tears blurred her eyes. It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true, could it? If her parents had her celebrate her birthday on the 13th of January, did that mean they knew ? Did they know the date of the Grangers’ deaths? 

… were they involved? 

A terrible gasp escaped Hermione. She sprang back from the parchment with a cry of alarm. 

No. No

Everything was ruined.

/*\

Harry refused to talk to her. He did all his Head Boy work without her assistance. He managed to complete his part of any joint work and leave the rest on her desk when she wasn’t there. He was never in the Heads Office anymore. He wouldn’t even look at her.

If he did, he would have immediately noticed that her eyes were always a bit red and puffy -- no matter how strong her glamour was. Her outfits were a bit dishevelled where they used to be pristine. Her curls were frizzing in a way that they’ve never done before.

Hermione was spiralling. She would sit in her bed in the Slytherin Head Girl dorm room and just stare at the stone walls as her world crumbled around her. She felt sick to her stomach. The look on Harry’s face as she’d snapped at him played in her mind. The look on her parents’ faces whenever they were with her played next. All the cruel, callous things she’d said to mud… muggle-borns. She was one of them.

She was one of them .

Her parents had raised her to hate herself. They’d made her celebrate her birthday every year of her life on the day of her birth parents’ deaths. Their murders, more likely. Everything about her life was a lie. She wasn’t a pure-blood princess. 

She was filthy -- no, she thought desperately. That’s not true. Muggle-borns aren’t filthy. They aren’t lesser. Lily Potter was a world-renowned potions mistress. She was top of her class when she graduated and she was a muggle-born. Hermione was top of her own class and she too was a -- a muggle-born. 

How many girls had she made cry about being a muggle-born?

How many first years had she sneered at and teased?

How many times had she hexed the muggle-borns’ bags to rip and their feet to trip? 

She wasn’t a pure-blood, but she was still a terrible person. She was a horrible person. What had Harry ever seen in her? What could he ever see in her? Not that he ever would again. She’d certainly made sure of that. 

That was the biggest mistake she’d made in this whole mess. She’d hurt Harry for no reason. She’d been scared and vulnerable and she’d done what her parents -- her kidnappers -- had taught her to do. She’d lashed out at the nearest person. 

Hermione had never felt so alone. So hopeless. So lost. 

She wasn’t even a pure-blood anymore. She couldn’t offer Harry anything of value -- not that she wanted to, a snide voice inside her immediately thought and she shook her head of its venom. She did want Harry back. She wanted her… friend.

Her first friend.

Her first love.

Had she ruined it? Had she truly destroyed the one thing she’d had that had made her happy? Now, she had nothing. She was pretty, she supposed. That was it. That was all she had. 

A dirty, pretty, bully. 

Her stomach lurched and she raced to her private loo. 

/*\

Hermione’s fingers shook as she headed down the library aisle. The school was empty. Everyone was at the last quidditch game before Easter Hols. It was Gryffindor versus Slytherin and bound to be a slaughter with how angry Harry still was with her. He’d be relentless. 

Hermione released a shuddering breath as she plucked the text she was looking for from the shelf. She sat down right there in the middle of the aisle and gently pried it open.

An Accurate History of British Muggle-borns was a book that featured essays from the greatest minds around the world and the most recent positive changes in their regards. Lord Potter’s muggle-born reforms had an entire section in it. She breathlessly turned the pages and tears sprang to her eyes as she read the words. 

It started with factual accounts explaining the various ways of how muggle-borns developed their magic. Sources and certifications of authenticity from Gringotts riddled the pages, proving the text’s accuracy. Shortly thereafter were the horrors that muggle-borns had endured. Despite the fact that they were often blamed for the witch trials, muggle-born deaths made up over 95% of the victims of witch burnings, hangings, and stonings. The British Wizarding World had gone on to blame the victims for their own deaths and persecuted them for centuries following the witch trials.

It was disgusting. Muggle-born history read like a 19th century horror novel. It just kept getting worse. It didn’t seem like there would be any resolution. The Wizengamot fought back against every movement for muggle-born rights. They squandered the hopes and dreams of the greater population. 

Then the turning of the century happened. World War I had left both magical and wizarding world’s shocked and broken. Not long later, Grindelwald rose and with him, the mania that all wizards should be put before muggles. World War II plagued the continents and affected the world over. But during that time, the first actual British muggle-born rights law was passed. It was slipped in when no one was looking, instead focused on the chaos that Grindelwald was causing. From that point forward, muggle-borns had been making steady headway in creating a safe space for themselves in the British Wizarding World.

Hermione’s shaking fingers touched the pages of the book, awed by the words she read.

She’d never been allowed to read these things before. Her back hurt with phantom pains even as she thought about what her parents would say if they saw her then. You’re never too old to learn a lesson , her mother had hissed at her only last summer.

Hermione wiped the tears from her eyes and read on. Bellatrix Lestrange was not her mother. She was a murderer and likely even a kidnapper. She'd tortured and twisted Hermione’s mind for years. She was a liar

Hermione sat at the back of the library until curfew, reading every book on muggle-borns she could find. She absorbed all the knowledge, soaked it in and let it cleanse her soul. 

Her parents had raised her to hate herself, but Hermione was going to learn to love who she was. She was going to learn to be whatever version of herself Harry had seemed to like so much. He had liked her, she thought. And Harry was a sweet, kind person. He wouldn’t like someone foul. There had to be something in her -- even just a spark -- of something good. She would find it and she would feed the flame inside her and be a better person. 

She wanted to be a person she didn’t hate.

/*\

Coming home to Lestrange Manor over Easter Hols was horrifying. She was terrified that her parents would know. That they would look at her and realize that she’d figured it out and then kill her. Who would stop them? She read the muggle-born laws. While a half-blood could be convicted for a muggle-born’s murder, a pure-blood would still get off scot-free. 

But, Hermione supposed as she sat in front of her vanity and wiped her teary eyes, no one knew she was a muggle-born. Not yet. They were bound to figure it out after graduation. Hermione had no intentions of staying in Britain. A hand rested on her stomach as her mind whirled with thoughts of her uneasy future.

She would leave. She would run as far away as possible and keep running. Harry might hate her for it later, but she had to do anything and everything in her power to keep herself safe -- her and... their baby. They'd only had sex twice, but once was all it took. She hadn't done the spell yet. She was almost too scared to check. What if she was wrong? What if her symptoms were all due to stress? It was likely. But the thought of new life had given her the hope and courage to make the decision to run. She couldn't turn back now.

Hermione had already discarded every piece of jewellery she had into her jewellery box. They were all dripping with tracking charms and Hermione wasn’t foolish enough to take them with her. She was required to wear them at school, but she’d stopped shortly after her trip to the library. She never wore them at home though, and her father hadn’t even blinked when she wasn’t wearing the diamond necklace that normally adorned her neck. When she’d gotten it a few years ago, she’d thought it lovely. Now, she just imagined it was a shiny collar.

Why had they even taken her? What was the point in stealing a baby? For an heir? She was a girl , she couldn’t exactly inherit the title. And Uncle Rabastan was married with a male heir that was several years older than her. Why would they steal her, just to torture her? What was the point of it all?

Hermione’s door opened and she turned to see her father enter the room. Not her father, Hermione hastily reminded herself. 

Lord Lestrange glared at Hermione. His hair had gone grey recently and the lines on his face sagged. He was two decades older than Bellatrix and it was finally starting to show. “What’s wrong with your face?”

Hermione glanced at her reflection in her vanity mirror. Her eyes were red and puffy from her near-constant crying over the past month. “A bad makeup charm,” she whispered and dropped her head.

“Fix it,” he snapped. “The House of Pucey will be here within the hour. Look presentable and wear your jewellery.” Hermione bit her lip and kept her head down. “We’ll be signing your betrothal contract today.” Hermione looked up with wide eyes. Rodolphus glared darkly. “Do not embarrass your mother and I today, am I clear?”

“Yes, sir,” she whispered. 

Hermione flinched as the door was slammed shut behind him. Her eyes teared over. No. No . She couldn’t sign a contract with the Pucey’s. That would ruin all her plans. Technically she wasn’t a Lestrange. She could leave Britain without a care. But if she signed that contract, all her rights would be given to the Pucey’s. She’d be stuck here. She’d be a slave to their household for the rest of her life. Not to mention what would happen when the world found out she was pregnant with Harry Potter's baby.

She’d never get to tell Harry how sorry she was or how much she loved him. She hadn't gotten to tell him she might be pregnant.

No. She wasn't staying for this. She had to leave. Now, or never.

Hermione grabbed her wand. She turned to her wardrobe and pulled out a long green cloak. Her eyes flickered over her room as she thought about what else she needed to take with her. She wasn’t ever coming back here. They’d have to kill her first. The only things she could think to bring was her Christmas present from Harry and the things she’d bought in Godric’s Hollow with him. Those items were safely stored at Hogwarts, the wrapping paper and ribbon from her first Christmas gift tucked neatly within. She didn’t care about anything else.

Hermione went to her balcony and apparated down to the edge of the property. She stared at the tall, black gates before her. The ghostly memories of pain as she stared at the gates made more sense now. She'd been meditating on her oldest memories. Hermione had tried to run, she vaguely recalled. As a very young girl, still but a toddler, she'd tried to run from the Lestranges after they'd taken her. They'd hurt her for it. Tortured her into submission.

She stared at the tall black gates that had been the doors to her prison for so long. Tears welled in her eyes. There was no option to stay. They'd kill her when they inevitably discovered her pregnancy. And if by some chance she was wrong about the baby, then she'd spend the rest of her life as a slave the Pucey household.

Hermione pushed through the gates of the manor without any further hesitation. She turned on the spot and disappeared without a glance back at the house she’d been raised in. There was nothing there for her now, nor had there ever been.

Hermione landed on the edge of Blackstone Manor. She’d been there once as a young girl and remembered it vividly. Her mother had ranted and raved the whole visit. Bellatrix hated Lord Black more than any other person in the universe -- and that was saying something. 

A pop sounded and Hermione jumped as a short scream left her.

“Pipsy is sorry, missy!” the little house-elf cried.

Hermione raised a hand to her racing heart. She quickly caught her breath as the elf apologized profusely. “Lord Black,” she interrupted. “I need to speak to Lord Black.” He’d told her over Christmas that Black House would look after her and she had to hope that was true regardless of her parentage. He was friends with the Potters, so she didn’t imagine the man had many hang-ups about blood purity, but one never truly knew. 

“Lord Black not being here, missy.”

Hermione frowned. She didn’t have much time. Her parents would already know she’s missing. “Where is he?” she demanded and immediately regretted it when the elf cowered. No. She wasn’t like that. She didn’t want to make people cower before her. Hermione swallowed down her anxiety and bent so they were at eye level. “I’m sorry -- Pipsy, you said your name was?” The little elf looked up at her with big blue eyes that were filled with tears. She nodded and her ears flapped. “I’m sorry, Pipsy. I’m in a terrible spot of trouble right now. Lord Black promised he could help me and I-” her voice choked and she swallowed down her tears. “I really need to find him.”

Pipsy eyed her for a long moment. “Lord Black be Head Prosecutor for Ministry of Magic. He being at his offices now, missy.”

Hermione frowned. The ministry was risky. It was the first place her parents would go once they realized she was missing. It would need to be reported to the Aurors and that was on the same floor as the prosecutors. The thought of going anywhere near her parents had her stomach twisting. 

“What about Harry Potter?” she asked the house-elf. “I can’t go to the ministry, it’s too dangerous. Could you point me in the direction of someone who would know where Harry is?”

Pipsy blinked her big blue eyes at Hermione. A sliver of confusion flickered across her face and was gone a second later. “Mr. Potter, sir, be Lord Black’s heir. Pipsy be knowing where Mr. Potter is, but I can’t be taking you there.”

Hermione stood with a sigh. She hadn’t known that Harry was Lord Black’s heir. Bellatrix’s hatred for Sirius Black suddenly made a lot more sense. While Bellatrix was technically a Lestrange, she’d always believed herself to be a Black first. A half-blood as the Head of House would be a stain she could never bear to see. 

Pipsy shot her a conspiring grin. She toed her boot through the gravel and tucked her hands behind her back. “Missy can be going inside while Pipsy gets her Mr. Potter?”

Hermione’s brows drew together. “I’m not a Black, I can’t cross the property line.”

“Pipsy knowing that missy can. Mr. Potter, sir, be making it so.” The conspiring grin returned. The house-elf's blue eyes darted to Hermione's stomach and back up. Hermione pressed her hands against her belly. Her eyes widened. Did the house-elf know what she suspected herself? No, the house-elf could only know if it were true. Hermione swallowed down the mixed ball of emotion that welled up in her throat.

If Harry was the Black Heir, that meant he had access to the Black family magic. That same magic would pass onto any of his progeny. Which meant Hermione could get through the wards. The confirmation of her pregnancy made her dizzy.

Hermione turned to the large iron gates of Blackstone Manor. The heavy Black magic fell over her like a waterfall as she seamlessly passed through the wards. Hermione shivered. She turned and Pipsy smiled brightly. The little elf raced across the threshold with a childish laugh. 

“Pipsy be showing missy to the drawing-room! Elves already be setting up tea for future mistress.”

“Mistress?” Hermione exclaimed in shock. She and Harry weren't married. Pipsy grabbed her hand and dragged her forward down the long drive to the manor.

Hermione was ushered into the grand manor by the babbling elf. It was a beautiful home, but Hermione hardly got to see much of it before she was being ushered into a green drawing-room. The walls were lined with books. A coffee table was overflowing with a tea set and a five tier high dessert tray. Little cakes, sandwiches, and desserts decorated the display. 

Hermione sat down on the couch and watched in a stunned stupor as the elf poured her tea and served her cakes galore. It took a moment for her to register exactly what she’d done. She’d run away from home. She’d been planning it, sure, but she’d actually done it. 

Merlin, they were going to kill her when they found her.

And here she was, waiting for Harry Potter who would surely turn her out on her arse. Why had she come here? For Lord Black, she recalled. But he wasn’t here. He’d kill her on sight for trespassing. Harry would probably find her death a relief.

Hermione’s eyes pooled with tears. She knew she was being ridiculous but once the horrible thought began they simply started to spiral. He wouldn't forgive her. He wouldn't want their baby. It was a bastard. It would be stuck with her as a mother. Hermione had never experienced a moment of maternal kindness in her life. How was she expected to impart that on someone else? 

Hermione dropped her face into her hands as she burst into tears. 

“Hermione?”

Her head shot up at the familiar voice. It was Harry. Her crying grew stronger at the sight of him.

Harry’s eyes widened in alarm. “Hermione!” He hurried to her side and knelt down. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“I’m awful!” she choked out between tears.

Harry’s brows drew together. “What did you do?” 

She shook her head, so overcome with emotions that she couldn’t speak. She reached out to him and ended up sliding right off the couch and into his arms. 

“Bleeding hell, Hermione.” He picked her up and sat down on the couch with her in his lap. “Pipsy!” he called. “I need a calming draught for Hermione.” He stroked his hand through her curls in that soft, soothing manner he knew worked so well on her. Hermione buried her face in his neck as her shoulders shook. A moment later, he was urging her back so she could drink the potion.

Hermione managed to swallow the potion down. She gasped for breath. Harry handed her a handkerchief and she dried her wet face. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey,” he touched her chin and nudged her so she’d meet his eye, “you don’t need to apologize. You know how I feel about you sitting in my lap.”

Hermione’s already splotchy cheeks turned red all over. “ Harry .”

He grinned. “Am I 'Harry' again?”

Her smile fell. “You never stopped being 'Harry.' I’m so sorry. I was awful to you and -”

“-No, I backed you into a corner. It was a crazy -- literally crazy -- moment and I should have handled it differently.”

“You handled it fine,” she whispered sadly. “I lashed out. But I… I needed the time to myself, I think.” Harry studied her as she fought to find her words. “I researched it,” she whispered like she was imparting a great secret. “I researched muggle-borns.”

Harry hesitated before asking, “What did you find out?”

She swallowed. “That they’ve -- we’ve -- had it a lot worse than anyone likes to address. People take advantage of -- us. That’s likely how my… I think they…” Her eyes filled with tears. Bellatrix and Rodolphus had likely murdered her parents. Harry nodded in understanding. “I was planning to run away.”

Harry couldn’t stop the smile from spreading across his face. “Oh?”

She nodded. “After NEWTs. I was thinking I’d go to France.”

“You can’t.” Hermione’s brows drew together and her heart dropped into her stomach. She could, of course, she could. She’d researched it. She knew the laws and nothing could stop her from- “-I was planning on stealing you away to Italy first.”

A breath of relief left her. She laughed under her breath. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“So, you don’t hate me?”

Harry cupped the side of her face with his hand. He shot her a wide, charming smile that took her breath away. “I could never hate you. I love you.”

She leaned forward and pressed her forehead against his. “I love you too,” she whispered back. Harry’s smile widened. He pressed a soft kiss to her lips. 

/*\

They had to find a way to keep Hermione away from the Lestrange family. It could take weeks before it was proven in the Wizengamot that she wasn’t related to them. An entire court would be called into session and they only had days before they were expected back at Hogwarts. Once they were back at school, Bellatrix and Rodolphus would know exactly where to go to find her. 

Harry refused to let them ever get their hands on her again. He only knew some of the things they’d done to her and he couldn’t possibly imagine all the other things that she would probably never tell him. It was unthinkable.

Which was how he’d gotten her to come to Godric’s Hollow with him -- regardless of how unsure she was of his plan. Old Man Bitters had conjured a chuppah for them. Four tall wooden posts with blooming ivy up each plank. Fabric connected each post to the next at the top in a soft, pretty canopy of white fabric. 

They were going to get married.

“Are you sure about this?” Hermione whispered nervously. 

“Of course. I love you. There’s nothing to think about it.”

“We could run.”

Harry nodded. “Sure. But then we’d be forced to drop out and a manhunt would ensue and someone would eventually find us.” He met and held her gaze. “This is safer.”

Her brows pinched together. “But what if… Harry… you can’t back out of a marriage.”

He grinned at her. His fingers curled around her own and squeezed softly. “I’m well aware. But it’s just a handfasting, Hermione. They only last a year. You’ll be a Potter, technically, and then the Lestrange family can’t get to you. We’ll have a trial about your heritage once you're safe.”

“It’ll be permanent,” she insisted, frantically.

“Only if-”

“-I’m pregnant.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Are you sure?”

She made a face. “I wasn't sure, no. Doing the test on one’s self isn’t accurate and it’s not like I can pop off to St. Mungos without anyone noticing.” She glanced towards the old wizard, humming happily as he conjured a few more flowers on the chuppah. “But Pipsy implied it and then I... passed through the Black wards without issue.”

Harry stared at her for a long time as he processed her words. “You must be,” he agreed quietly. Hermione turned back to him with wide, wary eyes. “Sirius has been asking questions about you since Christmas, but he's been incessant this break. As Head of Black House, he can probably sense a change. And..." His cheeks tinged pink. He ran a hand through his messy black curls. “The Potters may or may not have a history of unplanned pregnancies.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows. “Really?”

He grinned ruefully. “My mum was four months pregnant with me when they got married.”

She let out a long breath. “So, we’ll figure something else out,” she decided with a nod. She swallowed down her disappointment.

“No.” Harry stepped closer. He wrapped his hands around her waist and slowly drew her into his embrace. “This doesn’t change anything -- not for me, at least.” He stared deep into her big brown eyes. “Hermione, I love you. I’ll always love you, until the very end.”

Hermione’s eyes watered as she stared back at Harry. He was nothing like anything she’d ever dreamt of while growing up -- but he was everything she could ever want now. Her heart swelled in her chest and tears gathered in her eyes. 

There was so much drama on the horizon. The Lestrange family was going to go ballistic. Harry’s parents would likely be furious about them eloping. No one was going to be pleased about a baby. But, Merlin, did she want Harry. She never wanted to leave the warmth of his embrace. She wanted to see his silly smile every night and day. They could go ice-skating next Christmas. They'd decorate the tree together. They'd spend summers exploring Greece and Italy. She wanted everything she'd never dared dream of before and she wanted it all with Harry.

Everything was a mess.

But looking into Harry’s eyes, she felt calmer than she’d ever felt in her entire life.

She took a deep breath. “Until the very end,” she promised back.

 

THE END