20th September 2004

"We could have flown here." Hermione, in a sarong, remarked to her very new husband. They lay on towels on a white sand beach in a secluded limestone bay surrounded by mangroves. It had rained that morning, easing the humidity and leaving the trees glistening emerald.

"We could." Marcus agreed. He lay on his stomach, stretched the length of his towel with his toes digging idly in the warm sand. "Portkey was better."

"You didn't mind the flight from Toronto." She reminded him, fishing around in their charmed cool box for a drink. Hermione had packed everything they might need so they wouldn't have to leave their island retreat for supplies. She found a jug of Pimm's and poured two glasses.

"That was first class, and if Theo could do it so could I." He had agreed because his friend's Squib cousin had expected them to refuse. Philip Nott was not an unpleasant man but he had not forgiven his family for ostracising him. When they had gone to Canada in person to persuade him to petition to take his mother's family Seat in the Wizengamot, their welcome had been chilly.

"We could've flown first class London to Seoul." Hermione passed Marcus his glass and sipped hers, casting another charm to create a light breeze to stir the humid air. "Or preferably business class, and not been too self-indulgent."

"Justin said he nearly parted company with his knees on the flight to Koror." Marcus propped himself up on an elbow to drink and ogle his witch. They had stripped down to their skin to swim in the bay. The only thing between him and her now was a length of brightly printed cotton.

"He's as tall as you are." The witch conceded. She was short enough that economy airline seats did not bother her. Marcus needed leg room. Hermione noticed the direction of his gaze and pressed her cold glass against her sternum. Condensation ran down her skin. Her husband leaned in to chase the water droplets with his tongue.

She ran her fingers through his short black hair, her grip tightening as his mouth made a leisurely journey over the swell of her breasts. Marcus was never in any hurry when he was seducing her. Hermione liked that in a lover. She needed a little time to turn off her internal monologue, though what she was mostly thinking right now was 'mmm, yes'.

He kissed his way down to her crux and after he started using his tongue Hermione had no trouble not thinking of any distractions. She lay back staring at fluffy white clouds in a sapphire sky until she gasped, shuddered and her eyes squeezed shut.

Marcus pushed her knees apart after her legs clamped against his head, climbing on top of her. He liked doing a job well and feeling Hermione's wet heat fluttering around him as he slid inside her was his reward.

"Fuck." Hermione moaned as he rubbed his thumb around her sensitised clitoris. He knew that made her shiver from head to toe and clench against him. She wrapped her legs around his hips, rocking hers in the slow rhythm that made him groan.

They made love languidly under the tropical sun with charms to keep their skin from burning. They lay together sated, brushing sand off sweaty skin and eating fruit salad. Marcus traded his mango for her pineapple, not understanding why Hermione snickered until she demonstrated for what purpose a considerate man might eat pineapple.

Feeling somewhat spent, the wizard had one of the sports drinks his wife frankly nagged him to take to his Quidditch games. Marcus had to admit the faux-orange beverage was refreshing. He had taken a crate with him for the team when Montrose played a few friendly matches with the Australian League. No one had got heat stroke that tour despite record temperatures.

"We must give Neville and Hannah a nice present." Hermione mused as she finished her salad. Two weeks with no one owling, calling, knocking, Flooing, Apparating in or flying by would be bliss.

"I think spending a few hours as us would be gift enough." Marcus shook out his towel downwind then spread it out again so he could lie on his back and do absolutely nothing. He did not need to look to guess Hermione's expression.

Their wedding in the grounds of Flint Manor had been private and perfect. Marcus's family had kept many Saxon traditions, which he and Hermione had adapted. Instead of him and his thanes presenting themselves to her father, Marcus and his Slytherin cronies had gone to Minerva McGonagall to ask for her blessing. Forewarned by her protégé, the Professor had kept the wizards waiting for hours to test his mettle before giving her approval.

Marcus paid the handgeld due to Hermione's family as a scholarship in her parents' names for a financially disadvantaged student to study Dentistry at their alma mater. Hermione paid her own dowry into the Hogwarts' Reconstruction Fund. The morning gift from groom to bride after the wedding night had been his mother's wand; the key to the Flint chatelaine vault.

The ceremony itself had been simple. On her birthday, Marcus and Hermione with two witnesses, Neville and Harry, had sworn a blood oath in front of the great hearth. The Manor had accepted the new Madam Flint with a hungry longing. They had barely had to change the wards to respond to Hermione.

Their problems had started with the reception. There had been some discussion, well, frankly they had argued, about where to host the cocktail party celebrating their union. Flint Manor was an obvious choice, except many of the veterans of the wars against Voldemort refused to visit the home of a Death Eater.

A Muggle location was right out as alcohol, sheltered pure-bloods and the Statute of Secrecy did not mix well. Marcus also vetoed Hogwarts for unlike Hermione, his schooling had not been a source of joy and validation for him. She had vetoed any Quidditch stadiums despite the high likelihood of many of their guests bringing brooms to the party.

Hannah Longbottom solved their problem by suggesting her new business venture; the Leaky Cauldron. It was central, no one would need Portkeys and no matter how hammered any of the guests got they would be able to Floo home.

Marcus objected until Hannah gave him a tour of the renovated pub. She had kept the comfortable feel of the place but had cleaned it up, added a patio garden and had definitely improved the food. Plus they could book the whole building, turning it into a 'private family event' solving any legal issues for any guests still on Ministry parole.

They had charmed a stereo to play Muggle music, and one of the highlights of Hermione's evening had been watching the Slytherins waltz to 'Devil's Dance Floor' by Flogging Molly. Hermione had been laughing with Kingsley Shacklebolt when she had caught the flash of a camera and had realised despite everyone's efforts to keep the reporters away someone had snuck in.

The throng of press outside the Leaky Cauldron spilled out on both sides of Diagon Alley. The Muggle police were called to quell what they thought was a riot and the Aurors came to disperse anyone without an invitation.

The next morning the newspapers were so full of the 'Fairytale Wedding' and 'Gryffindor Golden Girl Marries Montrose Menace' and even more purple prose they were mobbed when they went to the Ministry to collect their Portkey. They had to flee the building and take refuge in a Muggle newsagent under Disillusionment Charms.

Marcus had been all for hexing their way through the reporters, curious onlookers and frankly opinionated bystanders. Hermione had text messaged Hannah, who could got decent telephone reception when she was close to the front door of the Cauldron. Neville, Harry and the blonde witch had come to their rescue.

Two doses of Polyjuice had diverted the press and an invisibility cloak had got them to the Department of Magical Transportation. The international Portkey had left them feeling turned inside out but they had arrived on Melekerai with all their limbs attached and blessedly alone.

"I was thinking of something more domestic." Hermione hinted. Marcus continued to lie there supine. She nudged him with her foot and got no response. Nudging again, she yelped when he caught her ankle to tickle her sole.

The witch laughed and shrieked, and nearly kicked him in the head accidentally, as he tickled her into submission. Lying panting in the sand, Hermione made a face at him as Marcus flopped down beside her.

"Neville said they were discussing an heir." He curled his fingers in her untamed hair. "The Longbottoms are healthy enough but the Abbotts are erratic, prone to magical surges particularly in pregnancy." Kissing her cheek, he smirked. "You wanted me to talk to my cousin. So we talk."

"Hannah and I chatted about it too. They're going to live above the pub so I thought we could give them the materiel for privacy wards, maybe offer to pay for the casting." She suggested. Neville had a reasonable job as an assistant Herbologist for an alchemical company and the Leaky was a good earner for Hannah, but they had paid out a lot of their savings buying the business.

"Better than a silver teething ring." Marcus agreed. His eyes strayed down her body to her stomach. They had talked about their own children in the abstract, more to do with timing than housing. Flint Manor was large enough they could have ten children and still have to shout to find one.

"I wouldn't mind a break from academia." Hermione followed his gaze, putting her palm flat on her belly button and imagining being pregnant. "We can get a Muggle check-up, they test for all sorts of things, then start trying over the Yule holiday. You'll be home. It'll be cosy"

"Cosy." The pure-blood scion of the House of Flint bared his teeth at his wife. "Cosy is for blankets." He put his hand on hers, interlacing their fingers. "Cosy will get us a Hufflepuff. Mad passion and French lingerie is more my plan."

"Mad passion sounds Gryffindor." She teased, aware he only tolerated most of her former House-mates. "We'll need the Kama Sutra if we want a Ravenclaw." At his raised eyebrow, she explained. "It's not just a sex manual. Actually, it's a very interesting sociological document. That just happens to have many instructional pictures."

"I would not mind a Ravenclaw. A studious Flint would Stupefy the Hogwarts staff. McGonagall would be shocked out of her tartan." Marcus had never got along with the Scottish witch, not least when his team beat her precious lions on the Quidditch pitch.

"We'll probably need to try bondage to get a Slytherin." Hermione contemplated, idly crossing her wrists. She looked her husband over meeting his intense stare. "Fancy being tied to our bed for a long term experiment?"

Yes, oh, yes, he did. Over the course of their two week honeymoon, Marcus strove to assist his wife in her scientific research in so many ways. They even managed to have sex in a hammock without falling out, though Hermione considered their interlude in the rainstorm to be the peak of their debauchery.

The couple returned to autumn in England. Marcus played Quidditch. Hermione ran the estate, collated her university notes, sat in the Wizengamot and conspired to change the world. She spent most of October feeling tired and seedy but didn't pay any particular notice to that as it was flu season, until she missed her period.

After spending a year starving hungry, her menstrual cycle had never returned to regularity. She had tried to fix that with Muggle contraceptives but the pill didn't agree with her. They didn't always remember to use the Contraception Charm in the heat of the moment, so Hermione took the potion on the first of every month.

She had taken a dose with her on their honeymoon and had drunk it. So when the witch saw the double pink line on the plastic stick, her first thought was to curse the lack of production standards in wizarding manufacture. Her second thought was to wonder what had specifically gone wrong with her potion. Her third thought was 'oh my god, baby'.

"Well, that was easy." Marcus said after she told him. They sat on a bench in the denuded arbour, scrunching their feet through drifting leaves. "Are you feeling alright?"

"A bit surprised." Hermione admitted. "I know we talked about it but I wanted to prepare more." Her mouth tightened into a determined expression. "And I am going to speak with the Potioneers Society about labelling and quality control. Apparently, some tropical fruit enzymes can interfere with the Contraceptive potion."

"Bloody mangoes." He had never liked them but he might have to reconsider that stance. Marcus held his wife's hand. "What do you need me to do?"

"We'll tell everyone at Christmas. Until then keep it to yourself, just in case." She felt a deep pang. Her mother was not here. Neither was Marcus's. Her nearest maternal role-model, Molly Weasley, was still treating her like the Whore of Babylon. "I'm nervous, Marcus."

"We will take that in shifts." He put his arms around her, holding her tight. "You worry through the pregnancy. Mothers are supposed to do that. I will worry while the baby is little." Flint children often died young. He would like awake sweating thinking of all the little portraits in the Long Gallery. "Then by the time our child is about five, it will be your turn again."

"Okay." Hermione took a deep breath. They could do this. She hugged her husband close. They could do this together.