Author’s notes and disclaimer.Generic fanfiction author icon reappears from the shadows and smiles. I’m glad you’ve stuck around, and I do hope you’re enjoying the story, so far. I’m still not JKR and I don’t play her on TV (or on stage or in the movies, for that matter). The Harry Potter universe is still owned by JKR and various corporate entities. All we’re doing here is engaging in a bit of intellectual musing. No infringement is intended and all rights of the owners are respected and preserved.
This is a continuation of the storyline that began in “Meet the Godparents”, which started nine days after the Final Battle. If you haven’t read that fic, this one might not make total sense to you. I’ve tried to fill in the basic premises from that story during the telling of this one, but not every detail is fully explained. Sorry about that.
A couple of housekeeping items. The first is that this is totally, unabashedly and unrepentantly a Harry/Hermione fiction. The second is that if you’re looking for your daily fix of Weasley bashing, it’s not here. Things worked out in the first story with Harry and Hermione getting things right without ending up with the undying enmity of their exes. Hey, it happens. Not often, but this is fantasy so I can buck the odds and have things work out like that. As Luna would say, “Blame it on the Nargles.” And now … back to our regularly scheduled programming. Fanfiction author icon slowly fades from sight, smiling enigmatically.
Chapter Four – Back to Diagon Alley
Eager to avoid the very public entrance to Diagon Alley through the Leaky Cauldron, the five friends called upon George in his apartment above Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Handing Teddy in his carrier through the flames to Hermione, Harry looked over his shoulder at Kreacher. “We shouldn’t be gone all that long, we’re just going to get a few things for the trip and run a couple of errands. We’ll all be back for dinner, tonight.
Nodding, Kreacher smiled. “Master Harry and friends will be back for dinner, Kreacher will be prepared.”
Looking through the floo connection, Harry could see that Hermione and Teddy must have stepped clear of the front of the fireplace, since they were nowhere to be seen. Taking a pinch of floo powder from the dish on the mantle, Harry shouted, “93 and ½ Diagon Alley” as he stepped into the green flames. Chatter replaced the familiar sense of tumbling as he tumbled out of the floo in George’s sitting room. Looking around, Harry could see the others gathered around George as he was making over Teddy.
Smiling at him, Hermione nodded as she talked with George. Harry could feel a slight tinge of amusement from her as he watched George’s eyes light up as he made over Teddy. Walking over, Harry arrived just in time to hear George demur, “Hermione, there wouldn’t be anything dangerous at all.”
Shaking her head, Hermione smiled and rolled her eyes. “If there wasn’t anything dangerous, you wouldn’t be doing it. I still don’t think that Teddy is quite old enough to be an official product tester for you.”
Looking up, George smiled as Harry approached. “Harry, you’d be proud to have Teddy become a product tester for our new line of products. We’re aiming to catch the post Voldy-mort baby boom we’re envisioning. Sort of prepping the junior Marauders of the eighteen months to four or five years old set. What do you say?” Clapping Harry on the back, George smiled broadly as Harry began to nod his head.
Seeing the look on Hermione’s face, Harry concentrated on sending calming thoughts to her as he turned to look at George. “Well, George, I think it’s a smashing idea. Really brilliant.” Seeing George start to turn to Hermione to gloat, Harry continued, “There are just a couple of small things we’d need to overcome for this to work.”
Nodding, George was focused on Harry. “Harry, small things we can work out. What do we need to do to make this happen?”
Looking thoughtful, Harry reached over and ran his hand over Teddy’s unruly hair. “Well, the first one is since you’re targeting the eighteen month and up set, and Teddy’s only three months old, we’d need to postpone any testing for about fifteen months, no?”
Looking less than pleased, George slowly nodded. “I suppose, though Teddy’s obviously more intelligent than average, since he takes after Hermione, so we could go in eleven months, maybe?” Looking hopeful, George missed the amused look on Hermione’s face as she rolled her eyes at his maneuvering. “What else is a small thing?”
Nodding, Harry smiled. “Well, the other small thing is that Teddy’s mum has already said ‘no’. In fact I believe she said ‘no’ quite emphatically just as I was getting here. Do you have any idea just how painful my existence would become if I were foolish enough to think about overriding her on something like this?” Smiling at the look in George’s eyes, Harry shrugged. “Personally, I’d much rather we dug Tom Riddle up and gave him another go at me than get Hermione annoyed with me for something like this.”
Looking crestfallen, George nodded. “I can see that.” Starting to turn, he smiled thinly, “It was just a thought.”
Nodding to Hermione, and feeling her assent, Harry spoke up. “George, we’re not saying ‘no’ forever. Hermione said he was a bit too young, and I agree with her. We both realize that Teddy is going to be exposed to your products as he grows up, and we don’t have a problem with that.” Seeing the arched eyebrow and the serious look on Hermione’s face, Harry amended. “Well, we don’t have much of a problem with that, as long as we know what’s going on. All we’re saying is that why don’t you wait until he’s old enough to enjoy it. If you come up with something suitable for the nappie and binky set, I’m certain Teddy would love it.”
Seeing the light in George’s eyes, Harry nodded. “Why wait until they’re that old? Find something amusing for infants to get them used to magic and encourage their own abilities to manifest. If you were to find some way to safely channel accidental magic, you would be the most popular wizard in two centuries. Teddy’s probably going to be channeling his magical endeavors into his metamorph abilities, but other children are a bit more flamboyant with their accidental magic adventures.”
Nodding enthusiastically, George looked over at the desk in the corner of the sitting room. “I think I’ll start working on some ideas right now. Verity and Lee can handle the store downstairs for a bit, I’m certain.”
Nodding in return, Harry saw the look of concern in Hermione’s eyes. “Just go a bit slow, George. It’s not as if you’ll be getting loads of details with your product testers at this age.”
Looking over his shoulder as he headed for his desk, George laughed. “Harry, we used firsties as product testers when we started out. Anything would be better than that.”
“Well, he’s right. First year students weren’t known for their ability to give good feedback, which is one of the reasons that Fred and George chose them.” Shaking his head, Harry winced a bit at the look Hermione was giving him.
“I really would like to think that the three of us were a bit more communicative than that our first year.” Hermione glared in return as she tried not to smile.
Looking around, Harry saw that Ron was down in the shop already, showing Luna around. “You remember what Ron was like. If it wasn’t food or quidditch, he really didn’t talk about it much.”
“Don’t remind me. There are times I’m amazed that any of us survived that year.” Looking thoughtful, she rolled her eyes. “Or any of the others, for that matter.”
Leaning over and kissing her, Harry smiled. “Simple, we had the smartest witch in the world looking out for us. I’m just surprised we had as much trouble as we did.”
“I suppose I’m going to have to start researching Teddy’s potential classmates to see which unlucky witch is going to be the one that keeps the latest Marauder out of trouble.” Smiling, Hermione blushed a bit.
Walking down the back stairs to the shop, the pair grinned as they exchanged memories of moments from their first six years in school where they had blatantly ignored how they had felt about each other.
Discretely entering the shop, they looked around to see who was about. Early in the morning, only a few young customers were eagerly gazing at the latest wares from the imagination of George and company. Looking up from her spot behind the counter, Verity smiled when she saw the three standing in the doorway. Finishing her transaction with a young shopper, she nodded and came over to greet them.
“I’ve been asking George about when the three of you were going to stop in.” Smiling, she embraced Hermione before giving Harry a hug. “I was afraid you were going to slip away on your trip before stopping in and giving me a chance to see you and Teddy.” Kneeling down, she began to make faces at Teddy, who clapped his hands in delight.
Smiling in return, Hermione watched Verity with Teddy for a few seconds. “We’ve been meaning to get down here, but with making arrangements for things and everyone thinking they needed us to be somewhere, this is honestly the first day we’ve had to go out together and try to do a few things before we leave in the morning.”
“I’m really jealous of you, you know.” Looking up at Hermione she smiled as the younger witch blushed while Teddy blew spit bubbles at them both. “I know it wasn’t easy and the two of you deserve to be happy, but I can’t help but being a bit jealous of how you ended up with the wizard of your dreams and a family.” Glancing over at Lee who was laughing with Luna and Ron, she sighed.
Following her glance, Hermione nodded in comprehension. “Verity, all I can tell you about that is that once we finally stopped running from each other, things just fell into place.” Looking at the older witch, Hermione smiled wickedly. “It’s not fair to compare, since Harry and I had a bit of help getting things together, but once all of the excuses were gone, things just took on a life of their own. You might want to try a bit of the direct approach with Lee and let him know exactly how you’re feeling.”
“I couldn’t do that. What if he doesn’t feel the same way?” Blushing a bit, Verity shook her head.
“I spent seven years telling myself that there was no way that Harry could ever fancy me, when it seems the entire world knew that we were desperate for each other. Believe me, there are worse things than telling a bloke you fancy him in no uncertain terms.” Sighing, Hermione rolled her eyes.
“And what would that be?” Shaking her head, Verity glanced over at Harry who was showing a couple of new items to Ginny.
Smiling at the two who were oblivious to the scrutiny they were under, Hermione nodded. “Watching two of your friends snog each other and not know why it was giving you an ulcer when you were telling yourself you should be happy for them. Lee’s not seeing anyone, what’s the worse that can happen?”
“I don’t know, I don’t want things to be awkward between us.” Shaking her head, Verity stood up and looked over at him.
“Verity, it’s already awkward.” Laughing, Hermione picked up the handle to Teddy’s carrier. “I’ve seen you leave the room every time he starts chatting up some witch. Ask him out sometime, and let him know that you’re interested. At least your cards will be on the table.” Smiling at the shocked look on her face, Hermione shrugged. “You won’t get picked if you don’t try. Trust me, wizards are too oblivious to allow things like this to be in their hands and wait for them to make the first move.”
“What am I too oblivious about now, dear?” Harry’s voice broke into the conversation as he and Ginny came over and joined the two witches and Teddy.
Smiling, Hermione leaned up and kissed Harry briefly on the cheek. “Nothing Harry. You’ve got everything nicely under control at the moment.”
“I’ll take this as an ‘I’ll let you know when you need to’ moment then.” Looking a bit skeptical, Harry shrugged.
Noticing the glances that Verity was sneaking at Lee, Ginny snorted. “Oh, please. Just go ask the boy out and get it over with.” Seeing the blush on Verity’s cheeks and the confused look on Harry’s face, she smirked. “Harry, remember you’re oblivious, Hermione will explain it to you later.”
Turning and looking at Verity, who was staring at her in disbelief, she nodded. “Tell you what; I’ll give you a slight incentive to make a move. As soon as I get back from Australia, if you haven’t done anything by then I’ll ask him out for you.” Glancing over and giving Lee an appraising look she smirked. “Or I might just ask him out. Either way, I’ll do something if you haven’t by then.”
Glaring at Ginny, Verity shook her head. Turning back to Harry, she rolled her eyes. “You just had to turn her loose on the wizards of England, didn’t you? It was much safer for the rest of us witches when she was chasing after you for all she’s worth.”
Looking over at Hermione, who was apparently very interested in his answer, Harry sighed and smiled ruefully. “Verity, I’m sorry that I’ve inconvenienced all of the witches of England, but I’ve got the one witch in England, or anywhere else for that matter, that I want. I care a great deal for Gin, and I’m bound to look out for her and make certain she finds the bloke that’s perfect for her. She is one of ‘Harry’s Angels’ after all.” Smiling at the confused look on Verity’s face, Harry shrugged. “It might be best for all concerned if you have Lee all wrapped up by the time we get back.”
Sighing, Verity took another look over at where Luna and Ron were talking with Lee. Seeing Luna look up and nod significantly at her, she closed her eyes and blushed. “Is everyone in on this?”
Laughing kindly, Ginny smiled at her. “Apparently Lee and my brother are the only two in the shop that haven’t figured it out.” Gesturing towards the stairway to the upper floors, she smiled. “Even George has figured it out. Why do you think he leaves the two of you to your own devices so often down here?”
Burying her face in her hands, Verity shook her head. Looking up at Ginny, she smiled. “Fine, have it your way. I’ll ask him out before you get back.”
Nodding, Ginny giggled a bit at the older witch’s tone. “Don’t strain yourself. He’s very good looking and funny. I’m certain I could come up with all sorts of things to do with him on a long rainy afternoon.”
Trying to keep her face from reflecting her amusement at the discussion, Hermione turned to Ginny. “Gin, I think we can leave this project in Verity’s capable hands.” Seeing Luna, Ron, and Lee headed their way, she grinned and changed the subject. “Did you pack some jumpers for our trip?”
Looking outside at the streaming sunshine, Ginny shook her head. “Hermione, in case you hadn’t noticed it’s starting to get annoyingly hot. I did pack three swimsuits for the beaches. That should suffice until I can get down there and look for a new one.”
“Have it your way, but since its winter down under, the 40s are a bit cool for my taste at the beach.” Smiling, Hermione shrugged.
“That doesn’t make any sense.” Shaking her head, Ginny looked at Hermione. “Australia is further south than we are. If you go south, it gets warmer, correct?” Looking to Harry for confirmation, she frowned at the knowing smile on his face.
“Don’t feel bad, I made the same mistake when I started packing.” Chuckling, Harry shook his head. Nodding to Hermione he smiled. “Apparently, according to our resident expert on everything, it gets warmer as you go south, until you hit the equator, and then it starts getting cooler again. It’s winter down there right now.”
“You couldn’t have left your parents someplace where its summer now, could you?” Exasperated, Ginny shook her head at Hermione. “Parvati’s been raving about spending the summer hols in the Caribbean. Egypt was nice.” Smiling to take the sting out of her words, Ginny chuckled. “Now I have to go repack and see if I brought my fall things from the Burrow.”
Shrugging, Harry nodded. “It’s all my fault, I suppose. I should have been a bit more considerate about when I scheduled defeating Riddle.”
Rounding on Harry, Hermione’s eyes flashed in exasperation for a second until she stopped and stared. Shaking her head in disbelief, she grabbed Harry and pulled him into a ferocious hug.
Wrapping her up in his arms, Harry held her as he could feel her crying against him. “Mione? What’s the matter?”
Smiling through the tears, she beamed at him. “You actually made a joke about it. Harry, I’ve been waiting for this for weeks.”
Blushing, Harry looked at the others as they all nodded. “I guess I’ve started listening to everyone when you’ve been telling me that I did as good a job as I could have with things. There are times when it doesn’t feel that way, but I can accept the fact that we all did what we could, and it happened in the time it was supposed to.”
Chuckling, Ron punched Harry lightly on the arm. “It’s a start. We’ll know it’s really all right when you can actually make a funny joke about it.”
Ginny took her thumb and forefinger and ‘thunked’ her brother on the back of the head. “Ronald, you’re the last wizard that should be criticizing someone’s sense of humor.” Looking thoughtful for a second, she amended, “Well, the last wizard except for Percy. He still holds the title for worst humor with a wand.”
Rubbing the back of his head, Ron looked over at Luna who was trying to keep from laughing. “You’d think I’d get some sort of respect from someone here.” Seeing the look in Harry’s eye, he started muttering under his breath.
Shaking her head, Hermione kissed Harry and then reached down and picked up the carrier. “Rather than discussing everyone’s sense of humor, or lack thereof,” she smiled at Ron who was still glaring at them, “why don’t we get on with our errands? Shopping and the bank are on the agenda for this morning, no?”
Linking his arm through Hermione’s, Harry nodded and looked around. “Are we going as a group or splitting up?”
Luna, having wrapped her arm around Ron’s waist, shrugged. “Harry, if you two don’t mind, I think Ronald and I will wander off on our own for a bit. Though we should meet back up for lunch to decide if we’re going to go into Muggle London this afternoon.” Turning to Verity who was standing close to Lee, she smiled. “Would you two care to join us?”
Looking a bit shocked, Verity looked out of the corner of her eye at Lee before answering. “We’d love to, but we have to mind the store this morning. From what Harry was saying earlier, George is on a roll upstairs so we’ll be here all morning.”
Nodding, Lee smiled and looked at Verity before answering. “If we can pry George away from his ideas, we’ll join you lot for lunch.” Seeing the startled look on Verity’s face, Lee grinned.
“That would be fine.” Smiling, Harry nodded to Lee. “I think we’ll be meeting at the Cauldron after eleven sometime. We’ll either go there or pop to this new place Minerva was talking about the last time we were at Hogwarts.” Looking at Hermione, he shrugged. “Maxwell’s or something like that?”
“Maxine’s dear.” Rolling her eyes, Hermione laughed. Turing to Lee and Verity, she nodded. “It’s supposed to be an outdoor café type place that’s becoming very popular. It’s not in the Alley; they built it upon the site of that dreadfully depressing tavern that got destroyed by Riddle’s Death Eaters during the War.”
Smiling wistfully, Lee nodded. “The Old Dun Snorkack* up in Walbrook. Supposedly first built by a couple of Roman Wizards back when the place was called Londinium.” Turning to Ron, his eyes twinkling, Lee elaborated. “Binns mentioned it; they were besieged inside the Snorkack for several days during the Great Goblin Raid on Londinium. The staff and patrons waited out the siege by drinking all the available stock.”
“I really can’t imagine Professor Binns relating that information to anyone.” Visibly amused, Hermione shrugged.
“Very true, Hermione. However he did make a brief mention of the establishment as a footnote during his very stimulating twelve-part lecture on the first recorded Goblin War. The twins and I decided it was worthy of a ‘field trip’ that summer to see some of our history first hand.” Laughing at the expression on her face, Lee nudged Verity gently before continuing. “What say we get back to work and let these good folks get about their errands?”
Blushing at the wink Ginny gave her, Verity nodded. “I think we can do that.” Nodding to the group, Verity shook her head and smiled. “Will you be coming back to the shop before you head home?”
“It’s possible, but I don’t know exactly how the afternoon will pan out.” Harry looked over at Ginny and smiled. “We need to stop by the Burrow for a couple of moments before the day is over, so we might floo there from here before heading back to Number Twelve.”
Nodding, Verity started to say something but stopped as Lee causally put his arm around her and started turning towards the back of the store. Looking a bit flustered, she smiled as she was being steered towards the counter. “Hopefully we’ll see everyone at lunch after a bit. Send us a message and we’ll meet you wherever.”
As the two disappeared into the store, Ginny shook her head in amazement. “Maybe I should start a matchmaking service. It seems all I need to is threaten to start going out with a bloke and he develops an interest in a different witch.”
“Ginevra, its easily explained in three words.” Chuckling, Luna shook her head. Looking around as they made their way through the door, she winked.
Blushing bright red, Ginny cast a horrified look over her shoulder at Lee who was smirking at her. “I’m so going to kill my brother. He got them into production, didn’t he?”
Nodding sagely, both Luna and Ron broke into laughter as they trooped through the door and into the bright summer sun.
“What did George finally get into production?” Looking confused, Hermione looked at Ginny.
Smiling, Harry answered for her. “George has been working on Portable Extendable Ears. Same basic functionality as the regular ones without the need for the telltale connecting string. He must be letting Lee test them around the store.”
Explaining that the device came in two parts, Harry lowered his voice a bit as he talked. One was a receiver that fit into the user’s ear in the same manner as a muggle hearing aid. The second piece was a small dot that when activated had a sticking charm and a notice me not charm worked into it so that you could place it somewhere and then listen to that device as if you were standing there.
Not being limited to a direct connection, the device still wouldn’t broadcast from a physically sealed room, but would enable you to listen through the cracks surrounding a normal door or the keyhole. So far, the two limitations that George didn’t seem to be able to work around were the distance, about twenty-five feet, and the need to actually place the transmitter portion by the person who was doing the listening.
“If it were anyone else than George, I’d be more worried.” Shaking her head, Hermione looked troubled as they began their walk down Diagon Alley. “As it is, I’m still worried a bit.” Looking severely at Harry, she nodded grimly. “George is not going anywhere near our rooms at Number Twelve without an escort I can trust.”
Reaching into the handbag she was carrying, Luna withdrew a small wooden box and handed it to Hermione. “Actually, I picked this up from the shop for you.” Seeing the look on her face, Luna nodded. “Between the two of us, we can come up with a charm that detects these little gems and that way we won’t have to worry about searching the house every time someone comes to visit.”
“I hope George won’t take it amiss that you took this.” Nodding thoughtfully, Hermione smiled at her.
“Hermione, George is the one that gave it to me. He was looking for free product development out of us.” Laughing, Luna shook her head. “If he can sell a set of Ears for five galleons, he can sell a detector to spot the listening part of them for fifty.”
“I told him we get fifteen percent of the gross for each one sold, and we’d be responsible for putting a hex on them to keep them from being duplicated or tampered with.” Nodding at the shocked look on Hermione’s face, she shrugged. “If you think he squawked about that, you should have seen his face when I mentioned we’d get twenty-five percent of the fee for recharging them once a year.”
Scandalized, Hermione looked over at Ron who was smiling in admiration at the deal she forged. Shaking her head, Hermione protested. “George is family.”
Nodding, Luna smiled. “This is why we’re not charging him thirty and fifty.” Shaking her head at the scandalized look on Hermione’s face, Luna rolled her eyes.
“Hermione, George isn’t going to sell these things over the counter to every Tom, Lucius or Salazar that walks through the door. These are going to be sold to the Ministry and places with legitimate security concerns, both protection and gathering.” Smiling knowingly at the look Hermione was giving her, Luna kissed her boyfriend on the cheek before continuing. “Ronald told me what Arthur told you before; the Ministry will shamelessly steal any good idea you have once you start working for them if they can. Right now, we’re simply businesswitches making a deal with someone who can manufacture and distribute the resulting product.”
Smiling wickedly as they reached a newly opened store and she slipped her arm through Ron’s to steer him towards the front door. “Trust me, our small portion of what they’re going to make on these devices will be put to very good use.” Smiling at the resigned blush on Ron’s face, she nodded. “Ronald, we have a few things to pickup before the trip, and if you’re a good little wizard, I might let you actually play with them before we leave.”
Disappearing into Nimue’s Secret, the pair left the other three staring openmouthed at them. Shaking her head, Ginny closed her eyes and grimaced. “There are just some things you can never unknow, and this is one of them.”
Blushing, Harry nodded towards the door as they started down the street towards Gringotts. “Do you fancy a stop in before we leave?”
“It’s sweet that you’d ask, but I don’t need to stop in and shop for anything.” Smiling smugly, Hermione shook her head and kissed Harry warmly on the cheek.
Looking a bit relieved, Harry smiled until she continued. “I got their owlpost catalogue before they opened and we have everything we could possibly need for the trip to find my folks. Since you’ve been a very good wizard, I’ll be happy to show you tonight instead of making you wait until we get there.”
Harry’s blush and Ginny’s raucous laughter continued all the way to the bank.
*A/N – With apologies to Henry Walcott’s “The Old Dun Cow”, a hilarious song about a bar that caught fire and the patrons who waited out the fire by retreating to the basement to drink up the available stock.
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