Harry was used to Hermione and her husband doing odd things around the Longhouse. They'd expanded it lengthwise, tacking on one room after another as their needs grew. Last time, Theo had been knocking out a wall to add a playroom. This time for some reason Hermione was removing the larch cladding, pulling out nails, replacing them with other nails then returning the silvered wood to is accustomed place.
He strolled up the gravel path winding through the oaks, his approach audible. The witch waved and the little boy who had been sitting at her feet scrambled upright to launch himself at Harry.
"Uncle!" Rhys impacted at knee height then raised his arms to be picked up.
"Hey there." Harry hoisted the two and a half year old, carrying him back to Hermione. "Are you helping your mum?"
"No!" The toddler said, nodding. "Nails wrong."
"No?" The Auror asked, raising an eyebrow. Rhys again nodded.
"New favourite word." Hermione explained. "Gwill too." Her younger twins knew what the word meant but only selectively applied it. They could 'no' to any parental request but were far more lenient in forgetting when the 'no' came from Mummy or Daddy. "Hugo and Thierry taught them, much to my delight."
"Nails wrong?" He pulled a snitch out of his pocket and gave it to Rhys, who promptly began shaking it up and down to see if he could make the wings fall off. The little boy was marvellously easy to entertain if he had something he could break.
"We're replacing all the steel exterior fixtures with cold iron." She held up a hand-wrought nail with a smoothly tapered head. "We found a Master from the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths who's prepared to make a truly stupendous amount of ironmongery with minimal questions."
"Is it working?" Harry wouldn't call his friend obsessed just thorough. Very very thorough.
"I'm not pregnant and Adrian fainted when he tried to cross the threshold." Hermione smiled grimly. She had nothing against Pucey, who had gamely volunteered to be their guinea pig in exchange for being able to use Nott Manor to host his wedding. While a pure-blood family now, the Puceys had fled France in the seventeenth century with their Huguenot Muggle relatives. Of which the older families were happy to remind them.
"Adrian?" He had been cynically amused at how quickly certain sections of wizarding society had embraced his friend. At the launch of the translated Tales of Beedle the Bard, the crowd had spilled out into the street. Being seen with Hermione was the most accessible way for Slytherins to rehabilitate their public images and for anyone who had remained neutral during the war to make a political statement.
"Adrian Pucey." She clarified laconically, stepping back to see whether she'd put the boards on straight.
"Oh, yeah, he's reasonable." Harry had no problem with the former Chaser. He noticed Hermione's smile. "What?"
"Adrian's mother used a fairy charm to conceive him. He's quite fey, including an astounding aura of general amiability. We tested it. Did a poll." Hermione explained to her best friend's increasingly suspicious frown. "Pretty much anyone he has ever met likes him. Not raving Amortentia desire. Just a fond inclination towards him."
"Does that happen often?" He had saved the magical world but he didn't understand great chunks of it. Being raised by the Dursleys had cut him off from more than his parents. For good or ill, there was a whole culture of which he was a part yet not.
"There are fashions." She made a mental precis, a skill she was honing in her work as a consultant for the Ministry. "At the time of the founding of Hogwarts, green magic was routine at conceptions and births. It fell out of favour after the Great Famine of 1315-17. That was caused by a series of fratricidal conflicts between covens aligned with the Unseelie Court. So the general populace avoided it for several centuries until the Statue of Secrecy, when any magic, particularly old magic, was revered."
"I see where this is going." Harry hadn't entirely slept through History of Magic class. "Dusty old grimoires with poorly translated spells that get turned into charms by desperate people."
"After Grindelwald, blood magic was right out so there was a revival in green magic particularly for fertility spells. Happy house elves can't be a threat, right? Seasonal rituals and nature rites are traditional so they were used with merry abandon." Hermione was sour in spite of herself. "Same thing happened after Tom's first war. Pure-bloods desperate for heirs will try literally anything. Adrian's mother was sixty-two when she had him, which is old even for witches."
"Is that what's wrong with you?" The question was out before he could censor himself.
"There's nothing wrong with me, Harry." Her tone was astringent. Four children in thirteen months wasn't a sickness. It might cause mental illness from sleep deprivation but thankfully her boys were all quiet through the night now. And nap-time was sublime. "But yes, we believe it's the same effect. Hence the cold iron. Theo's working on a wards we can imbue into organics to bolster the protective effects of St John's Wort and marsh marigold."
"That's why I'm here, actually. Not that I don't enjoy seeing my nephews." Harry said this to Rhys, who was now chewing on the snitch. His tendency to put anything interesting in his mouth was why the red berries, another defense against fey, never lasted very long. "Kingsley would like to talk to you. Privately." He met her steady gaze. "Very privately."
"Is he willing to come here?" She was inexpressibly fortunate to have house elves and a wealthy husband to help her with childcare. However, going anywhere now took significant logistics unless she left the boys at home. With the two of them, they could just about manage to keep an eye on everyone but no one could do it alone. Every defense they put in place against malign fey influence also curtailed the magic of the house elves. The Notts didn't get out much.
"Not with your husband present." He couldn't say it more diffidently. Kingsley hadn't explained beyond needing Hermione's input without her former Death Eater spouse. Harry made a placating gesture. "It isn't personal. It's a holdover from the war. I don't know any more than that."
The witch gave him a dirty look but went inside to speak with Theo. She was gone long enough for Rhys to snap a wing off the training snitch and look triumphant. Harry asked him in all seriousness whether he thought that was a good thing for him to have done.
"No!" Rhys answered promptly and tried to stick the broken wing up his nose. Auror Potter intervened hastily. He had been spending a lot of time with his godson Teddy Lupin so he understood how heedless small children could be of their own safety. Thwarted, Rhys burst into angry, grizzling tears.
Hermione, flanked by Theo, Thierry, Hugo, Gwillem, and two elves, came to his rescue and took Rhys from him to soothe. Harry had a chocolate box moment of sentimentality at sight of his friend's family. The Notts had similar colouring so their sons looked very alike; quiet little faces with dark eyes and hair in shades of brown from umber to chocolate.
"If Kingsley wants somewhere unremarkable, we can meet at my parents' house. They're on holiday in the Netherlands." Her tone suggested she made no promises. The bonds between the Order of the Phoenix members remained strong in peacetime. She would listen. She would not feign enthusiasm.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, Order of Merlin First Class, Minister of Magic, Head of the House of Shacklebolt and several more titles he needed to look up to remember, took his tea with milk and one sugar. He sipped in between speaking to give his audience time to digest all he said. And there was a great deal to say, little of it good.
Hermione took notes as her comrade-in-arms outlined the findings of the extremely clandestine survey he'd instructed the Department of Mysteries to undertake into the state of magical Britain. She didn't have clearance to read the report and the Unspeakables were sworn to secrecy but as Minister, he was not bound by the same vows.
There had been reports of strange phenomena. Most were dismissed as exaggerations or pub tales. It had to be admitted that in any magical population there was a certain percent of crazy, more so than in a Muggle group of equivalent size. Kingsley initially had not thought much of the stories. There was so much else to do. Two wars had crippled the economy and the rolls of the missing never seemed to shrink.
But when a senior Auror, a man not given to flights of fancy and recently cleared by St Mungo's as psychologically fit, had assured him that he had personally witnessed a stone circle dancing, Kingsley had gone to the Unspeakables.
"So much magic, so much death and the ritual invocations the Death Eaters used in their Revels, released in such a short time has weakened the walls between worlds." He paused to take a gulp of tea. "They couldn't say if it was irrevocable or localised or much of anything definitive." The Minister frowned, the expression set into deepening lines in his face. "I have everyone we can spare from the Department of Mysteries on it, but we lost a lot of people. Voldemort wanted information and under Thicknesse, he got access to the roster of Unspeakables."
"I'm not going to keep this a secret from Theo." Hermione said before Kingsley could ask for her help. "I would presume you're telling me this because of my experience with the Horned God and the time travel." Her statement got a crisp nod of assent. "Theo was there too, and he has a far better understanding of the machinations of the Death Eaters than I do."
"He's still on Probation." He'd known he would have to do some horse trading. Harry had been the same. The Golden Trio wanted peace. They felt very strongly that they'd done their bit.
"Which you will lift in exchange for me being a lab rat." She insisted. Hermione wasn't going to refuse to help, both of them knew that, but she wasn't going to volunteer. "I have four kids under four and each month every Episkey and Tergeo he casts my husband has to justify to an officious git."
"I don't want you to be a lab rat, Hermione." Kingsley spoke calmly, using the tone of voice that had served well during tense Order meetings. Even, confident and inclusive. They were all in this together and they would overcome. "I want you to go to the Varinens to speak with their fey. We need you to ask him if the holts are opening."
"You are fucking joking." Hermione's inner nanny was as outraged as the rest of her so the little voice didn't scold her for the obscenity. "We've done everything we can to avoid futher contamination with green magic. The bloody gravel on our paths is iron oxide. We've buried anvils under our threshold. Our house has more horseshoes than Cheltenham!"
"At least a dozen trods are suspected to have awakened. They've been sealed since before the founding of Hogwarts. All across the country, ley lines are twanging. Muggles sightings of magical creatures are at high not seen since the Plague years." Keeping that quiet had involved the active participation of every Obliviator on staff and special detachments of Mi5 and Scotland Yard. "We barely kept a lid on it during the war. It's only a matter of time until we have a serious leak. If there's an incursion from the Other Side, we will not be able to contain it."
"I want a copy of the report. I'm not going anywhere near Finland without hard data." Her mouth tightened into a grimace. "I'm not going to ask to be put on the DoM's books and I understand why you're reluctant to involve my husband, but this is our life, Kingsley. We've been mucked around enough by that horned arse. Asking him nicely isn't going to happen. He'll want something in exchange."
"The Ministry is prepared to negotiate." Kingsley kept a diplomatic expression in the face of her derisive snort.
"Nyyrikki won't want anything from you." She rubbed her left wrist, where she wore a rune inscribed cold-wrought iron bracelet. Theo wore a matching one and they had diligently enchanted it with every defense against mental coercion and illusion they could find.
"No." The Minister reluctantly agreed. "I'm sorry. There's no one else I trust to ask. You're in an ideal position to get information directly from someone who would know."
"He might not. He's bound to land a thousand miles away. The resonance isn't likely to have traveled that far." The magical schools around the globe were positioned to absorb surge peaks in the ley lines, originally to maintain their concealment spells but latterly to damp down magical outbreaks. "Fey don't gossip, as a rule. Knowledge is currency."
Hermione was reminded of that adage when she and Theo visited Hogwarts. The school was a bank and font of gnosis. A wellspring that was leaking. Headmistress McGonagall readily gave them permission to inspect Black Lake. Kingsley hadn't spoken to her but she had taught at Hogwarts for almost fifty years. She could feel the quickened pulse of the castle and she was worried.
"The readings are definitely up." Theo paced through the water, consulting the notes they had made when they had returned from their temporal jaunt. "Up from 1998, after the discharge, and from the ambient we took in 1976."
"We submitted our workings to the Department so they'd have factored the rise into their Arithmancy." Hermione mused, her eyes on a luopan. Their debriefing by the Unspeakables had been tediously thorough. Samples, reports, interviews ad nauseam. She didn't think the Department bods had been slack. She wanted to see for herself, to get a feel for the disturbances. "The problem here is the residual energy from the Battle."
"We're about seven hundred miles from Beauxbatons as the Abraxan flies." He carefully orientated himself south and took another reading. "Both schools draw magic towards them. If we go to the rough midpoint between, we can poke about there and run the same tests." Theo adjusted the crystal lens he wore over one eye. "The aether is so congested here I can't see any of the leys."
"So now we jump three hundred something miles vaguely south-south-west." She sounded snappish to her own ears. "I didn't mean to bite your head off." Hermione splashed over to her husband and kissed him in apology. "I really, really don't want to go to the Varinens."
"The same." Theo stuffed his wand up his sleeve to have a hand free to take one of hers. "Probation isn't so bad. I've only got six years to go. It'll be done in plenty of time to tutor Thierry and Hugo before they go to Hogwarts. That's the only thing I'm fussed about not being able to do. Tell Shaklebolt to find another messenger girl."
"We can't." Hermione said on a sigh after an unflatteringly long moment of consideration. She was tempted. Telling the Ministry to bugger off had considerable allure. "Kingsley wouldn't have asked unless he was worried. He isn't a bureaucrat. This isn't a storm in a teacup."
"Then I'll go. I'm part of the covenant. You're not. There's no need to drag you into another bargain with Nyyrikki." He offered. All their extensive slightly anxious research into fairykind had left them bitterly aware their deal would inevitably benefit the Horned God more than it did them. It had also engendered a reluctant sympathy for Theo's grandfather Teuvo. He was selfish but he had saved his daughter from the covenant.
"We're partners." There would be no negotiation on that aspect. "We're both going. We'll agree some terms in case he asks for favours, and get some clarification on our previous agreement." Hermione had initially thought their accord with the fey personage to have been resolved. They would present their sons to him until one agreed to join the covenant. However lately she'd had some unquiet dreams.
She and Theo had Pensieved their memories of their time within the Mists when their recollections had begun to become hazy. Unfortunately, the degradation was not a result of their own distracted thoughts. Contact with fey magic left whimiscal, often nonsensical impressions as an after-effect. Not quite a curse. A very effective security measure though. When they realised they had been made to forget, they'd begun their defensive campaign.
The Notts went far enough from Hogwarts to consult their newest bit of tech. A GPS device was amazingly handy for Apparition. It needed to be shielded from magic, which was easily done by putting it in a lead lined box. The gadget couldn't be shrunk but they were both accustomed to toting satchels so they had simply continued the habit from their school days. Plus, with four kids they needed to haul about an astounding amount of kit.
The GPS informed them that Bedford was approximately equidistant from Hogwarts and Beauxbatons so they Apparated to the banks of the River Great Ouse. They set up a few charms to take measurements then sat on a bench in a nice little park drinking juice boxes. Hermione dug a banana out of her bag when Theo expressed himself peckish. No one gave them a second look.
The results were not as banal as the setting. Even factoring in the suppressive effect of Muggle industry on ambient magic, the readings were much higher than they ought to be. Nor was it likely to be a localised effect as there had been no major battles in the vicinity in either of the recent wizarding wars. There had been some fighting in Norman times, the trace of which would have long ago dissipated.
"We could take more measurements. The DoM report wasn't exhaustive." Theo fiddled with his crystal lens. There was a sluggish ley winding along the course of the Ouse, one of many rivers of that name, which intersected with another more jangling line from the remnant of a Saxon era magical settlement.
"I think we have to give the Unspeakables the benefit of the doubt. There is a lot of magic sloshing about. More than is safe." Hermione bit her lip. Kingsley hadn't wanted to cause widespread alarm by publishing the report. She disagreed with that stance, though she had to concede that it wasn't her call to make. "Would your father know if his lot did anything more than usually destructive?"
"Unlikely." He thought about it then shook his head. "The sort of ritual magic necessary to create this disturbance all in one go would've been enough to level the Ministry. Tom wouldn't have mucked about with prophecies and horcruxes if he'd had that kind of power." No, this was cumulative excess mixed with rage and rampant stupidity. "Idra might know. She worked with old grimoires. I doubt we'll get permission to speak with her though."
"Kingsley asked Professor Snape. He couldn't add anything to the report. Tom didn't tell him of any super secret doomsday project." She sipped the last of her juice then flattened the box with more vigor than necessary.
"You want Ragnarok rather than endemic foolish wand waving?" Theo asked mildly.
"Of course not." Her answer was more acid than plaintive. "I just want this to be someone else's problem, and for my conscience to stop poking me." She threw the juice box at the rubbish bin then got up to pick it up when she missed. "Narcissa will mind the boys for us. She's been asking to have them over. I think she's trying to convince Draco he wants to settle down."
"Having our lot descend upon him is more likely to prompt him to swear lifelong chastity." He chuckled softly. Theo loved his sons but he was a realist. "Which would rather disappoint Astoria."
"I like her. I think she's good for him." Hermione returned to the bench, scooching over to her husband. "Should I drop hints about marital bliss and the untrammeled joy of the connubial state?" She smirked. "I'm his cousin. I can even play the 'for the good of the family' card."
"He'll probably respond by saying he can adopt one of our sons, obviating the need for him to get married at all." Theo put an arm around her an addressed the issue neither of them had mentioned. "We may come back from Finland pregnant."
"Between the dreams and the libido upswing, we hardly need a dose of undiluted fairy charm." She grimaced. They both took contraceptive potions, and they used a spell and Muggle barriers. Four kids were also quite an effective anaphrodisiac. Nevertheless, this last spring season had been knickers-on-fire. They'd been diligent over the equinox, sating themselves with oral sex only. "Sooner or later we'll make a mistake."
"We could use it as a bargaining chip. I could threaten to have that Muggle operation." He wasn't keen to sterilise himself but neither was he the one carrying the babies. "I have excellent self-control, except when I'm around you. Which bothers me not at all."
"Lord give me chastity and continence, but not yet." Hermione quoted Augustine of Hippo, resting her head against his shoulder. "I wouldn't mind a little girl. If we started her now, Gwillem and Rhys would be three and a bit. That's not a bad gap."
"What if we have two boys again?" Theo spoke as though probing a wound, gently expecting a flinch.
"It's not the end of the world." It wasn't what she would've chosen, there was no doubt about that. "We've got a lovely home, our health and more than enough income. We are phenomenally fortunate. We could've been stuck in the past having to live through two wars. This is better."
"That is a mature and well-reasoned response." He concurred then caught her eye. "So we'll be repeating that to ourselves until we believe it, right?"
"Either that or we throw a massive wobbly and smash things in a fit of temper." Being a responsible adult had knobs on. Hermione made a face at the blameless river. "I don't think Kingsley would frog-march us to the Varinens to demand answers but he is in a position to make his displeasure well known. If we go quietly, we'll be at an advantage."
Reminding herself of the strategic benefits of being obliging to the Minister of Magic got Hermione through the rest of the week. She arranged for Narcissa to host the boys with visits from Andromeda and Teddy to entertain them. The young Notts promised to be good for Aunty Cissy, which their parents chose to believe. An International Portkey took them to Lapeenranta then a short Apparition brought them to the gates of the Varinen castle.
They were met in the traditional way by Safina still birch tree straight despite reaching her century four years before. The Notts had missed the celebrations while waiting out the time-loop in France and Theo had refused any acknowledgement thereafter. He was unwilling for forgive the family for abandoning his mother.
Theo requested admittance to the Varinenlinna, which the chatelaine granted. Two of the many female cousins were there with mead and karjalanpiirakka. Hermione guessed the two young women had been born in the interval between her visits though it was difficult to tell with their stony expressions. The return of the erstwhile Orpheus was clearly not a source of delight to his kin.
Henrik Varinen looked as austere as he had in 1976 with grey lightening his sandy brown hair to blonde without leavening his demeanour. Theo had sent an owl politely requesting a meeting with Nyyrikki. As a member of the covenant, he could have gone to the sacred grove without the permission of his Head of House. He had considered it then opted for honey versus vinegar.
"We have prepared the offerings. You are unlikely to recieve more than a sign. Nyyrikki has been more communicative since the restoration of the Covenant. He still prefers to speak through the animals however." Henrik spoke in English as neither Nott had been able to spare the time to learn Finnish.
The language was on Hermione's To Do List as there were many runic texts that were untranslatable without an understanding of the original dialect. Not least because prior to the Middle Ages Finnish was an oral language and Finnish-speaking wizards and witches used a haphazard system of futhark plus the old standby of making things up as they went along.
Despite Shaklebolt's expectations to the contrary, Theo didn't expect much clarity from the Horned God. They cleansed themselves and took the offerings to the clearing with Henrik as a guide. The runestones showed the remnants of the flowers and fruit left from the solstice celebrations. Garlands rotted quietly in the undergrowth, squishing underfoot.
She might be unshod but at least she had her pants this time, Hermione thought grimly as Henrik left them. The glade looked deceptively ordinary though the background hum of magic was a teasing promise. Theo anointed the stones while his witch lit herb infused candles, while both tried not to notice so keenly that they had left their iron bracelets behind at the castle. That metal had no place in the grove.
Nothing happened for long enough for them to become restive. They transfigured themselves into their Animagus forms. The two foxes nosed about. So many smells. The vixen investigated the candles while the tod sniffed the grass and wondered about the strange lightning crackle scent. He yipped a warning when the mist rose, dashing back to his mate. She was growling at something in the fog.
Theo and Hermione fought to change back into their human forms. The transformation was slow and painful as though they had forgotten what they should look like, lost themselves in the silvery mist. They cried and moaned as their bodies twisted, the transition more like a werewolf's curse than a magical transfiguration. When it was done, Hermione and Theo lay on the greensward sweating and panting, aware belatedly of a presence.
The Horned God was tall, towering over them lean and sinuous, crowned with antlers. His dark eyes were lit with motes like stars and the paint on his chest glistened like blood. He had a spear in his hand decorated with bones, feathers and beads, something he had been missing when they had first met. His power had returned.
"You did promise." Nyyrikki reminded them in a voice like smoked honey. "A simple vow to me, unbreakable."
"Our sons aren't old enough to join the covenant." Theo panted, the nine-pointed star on his chest vivid and pulsing. Normally it was pale, easily mistaken for a tattoo. He barely noticed it most days, the mark drifting out of his mind far, far more easily than the Mark on his arm.
"Foolish boy." The Horned God laughed like a river over rocks. He crouched, the muscles in his long legs cording. Hermione looked away, an unwanted flush warming her. "You should have been more cautious, my wand-foxes. You are clever but not so much with words. You promised, but you didn't say what you promised."
"Arsehole." Hermione gritted her teeth. Everything ached. Her hair throbbed. When Nyyrikki regarded her with a summer hot gaze, she glared. He grinned and ran a hand up her leg in a smug caress. The wave of lust longing that surged through her at his touch had her eyes rolling back but when he took his hand away, she snarled at him as though still a fox. An angry vixen defending her den.
"You are his, yes, I know, little witch." The fey spirit made a show of blowing on his fingers, freeing her scent on his skin to the breeze. "But he is mine." Nyyrikki grinned, his teeth flashing. "There is more yet for the two of you to do for me. All those that would have been. Their souls cannot return to the cycle. I drew them out of the mist, ready as gifts for the covenant."
"There are other heirs." Theo made to sit up and got as far as his elbows. His spine felt twisted, his head too heavy for his vertebrae. "The Varinen witches have had sons."
"The witches of the covenant have not sent any of their daughters to me since you made your oath. They do not wish their girls to live as they do." His tone suggested no rancour. The Varinens had sustained him dutifully while they all struggled for an heir. "The family here has three male children, a hopeful future, but they are careful after Teuvo. They have said they want to give the boys time to be certain. To come to me of their own accord."
"And the souls can't wait?" She didn't think he was lying. Fey did, of course, but only obliquely.
"They have waited far longer than need be." Nyyrikki's eyes darkened to pits, his face shadowing until the bones beneath showed stark and skull-like. "Nothing should be outside the seasons for so long. It is past time for them to be sown."
"How many?" Theo asked.
"Nine, for the star. I wished to be generous with Teuvo's generation. There would have been peace for them and good harvests." Venom dripped from his words. He would never forget the betrayal and forgiveness was not in his nature.
"We have four, do they count towards the nine?" Hermione asked when her husband went quiet. He was thinking of sparing her, of finding some way to bring the souls into the world without her having to carry them. At Nyyrikki's nod, she took a deep breath. "Right, five more we can do. But at our own pace. You have no idea, and I mean that very literally, what it's like to carry a child. Pregnancy isn't any part of your domain."
"Hermione!" Theo protested.
"It's alright. Properly spaced, we can manage more kids." She reassured before turning to the Horned God. "But Britain isn't safe right now. Too much magic. The leys and wards are splitting at the seams. We won't bring any more children into the world until that situation is resolved. We'll spend our days in suits of armour and our nights locked in separate cells if that's what it takes."
"Such strength of will." Nyyrikki raised a hand when Hermione opened her mouth to assert she was serious. "I can feel your commitment, woman. I know you would do it." He contemplated them for a long moment then stretched, rising to his feet. "What comes from wands can return to wands. This magic isn't from the earth or the stars. It wants a home. Give it one."
The Horned God left before the echo of his words faded. Slowly, Theo and Hermione got to their feet, unsure and aching. They trudged back to the Varinenlinna to rest, sleeping away the day then through the night. In the morning they made love and afterwards lay side by side mulling over what they had been told.
"There isn't a primary school for magical children." Hermione observed, after considering and discarding a wand factory or smithy. Crafting magical items was a bespoke industry. You couldn't scale up production without losing potency. "It could act as a battery, storing the excess energy. Better that than some Ministry folly or overly complex working. I just know someone is going to suggest weather magic to burn off the flux."
"Someone might have tried that already. The floods, you know." Theo sought for and found her hand under the covers. "We'll report to the Minister. He would be a fool not to consider your suggestion."
"Kingsley has to deal with the Ministry. They will never run short of pompous idiocy." She turned to lean against her husband, settling into the crook of his arm. "We've done our part, and if they stall on a plan we can start a school of our own." Hermione smiled. "Dibs on being the librarian."
"Oh no. If you're planning to involve us with other people's fractious brats, you're going to be Headmistress. I'll teach History. If I make it as boring as Binns did, I'll have a nice quiet class full of surreptitious snoring." He kissed the top of her head then sighed. "Have you thought of names for our own offspring? Nine. Merlin save us."
"Two more than the Weasleys and they turned out fine." She winced at her sarcasm, Being philosophical would take some work.
"Opinions differ." Theo smirked. "If we have a girl, I'd like to name her after my mother. Your mother too. Karina Margaret." A clever little girl with her mother's determination and her father's discretion. "If we have another boy, we could do as Regulus would like. Uphold the Black tradition."
"No chance." Hermione was resolute. "I am not having a child called Serpens."