Chapter 26 : Of the Rules of Engagement
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“’Ey,” Callum grunted as he made his way into Harry's kitchen.
“How’d you sleep?” Harry asked as he put down his newspaper, turning his attention to Callum.
“Well,” he answered, tiredly shrugging before rolling his head to crack his neck before making his way to the counter. “You don’t look like you got any,” he noted as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “What’s with you?”
Harry shrugged in reply. “I don’t know,” he grumbled.
“Somehow I doubt that,” Callum replied, taking a seat across from Harry at the table he had set up in the kitchen. “But if you want to ignore it then fine, you’re letting me stay at your place at the moment I’m not about to piss you off…”
Harry gave him a weak smile. “It’s not a problem per say, and… I don’t know…” he heaved a heavy breath. “I was just thinking. Couldn’t sleep last night so I was thinking…”
“So then it wasn’t that you couldn’t sleep last night because of your thoughts?” Callum challenged with a doubtful look.
Harry shrugged. “Dunno.”
“Whatever you say, mate, but, honestly, I’d prefer it if you just told me you don’t want to talk about it. Don’t lie to me… you never know, I might choose to get vengeful,” he added with a smirk as he took another sip from his mug.
Harry smiled. “You’re right.”
Callum paused, waiting for something, anything, from Harry. Harry, however, wasn’t feeling too charitable and refused to continue. “Am I supposed to be surprised now? How about telling me something that’s actually significant? I mean, mate… you’ve had to clean up after me upchucking. I’m currently living with you because you’re too scared to let me head off after that sight a week ago. You’re hardly going to lose any dominance in this friendship after that. You just can’t get much worse than that on the humiliation scale…”
Harry laughed. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right about that…”
“So out with it then!” he goaded. “I’m not sympathetic and all that crap like your other friends, I’ll annoy you like no other until I force it out of you.”
“You were drunk last night…” Harry slowly began.
Callum groaned, obviously disappointed in the evasion. “Oh really, Sherlock? How’d you come to such an astounding deduction? It was a Friday night, of course I got pissed, it’s what I do.”
Harry grinned, “dunno, guess I’m a genius after all… who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to give Merlin a run for his money.”
Callum scoffed, sneering as he rolled his eyes. “Of course,” he sarcastically intoned. “Get to the point, Potter.”
“You were going on nonsensically, just rambling on and on, going off on tangents every other second—”
“How is this at all relevant to your point?”
Harry glowered. “Well maybe if you’d let me finish then you’d know,” he stiffly said through clenched teeth, a surprising reply that left Callum a bit flustered. Rather than giving a smarmy answer he chose to simply raise his hands in surrender instead.
“As I was saying,” Harry prissily continued. “You were going on and on about all of these plans you have how happy you are in life… how glorious the world is—”
“Merlin, I must have sounded like a fucking pansy!” Callum groaned, his face scrunching up in repulsion. “Just how perky was I?” he asked, a hint of hesitance to his question.
“Close to a scene out of The Sound of Music…”Harry smiled widely as he made the admission.
Callum scrunched his nose in distaste, groaning a bit more. Shaking his head, he spoke, “so glad I don’t remember a thing about last night, but why the hell were my drunken rants so pivotal? I can’t even remember them, they can’t be that important!”
“I just… it stuck with me,” he admitted, pausing for a moment before continuing. “Cal, I don’t know what I want… not really. I reached the goal, but I don’t know where I’m going next.”
“Well you don’t have to, take it day by day. It’s fun, trust me,” Callum encouragingly grinned.
Harry adamantly shook his head. “But, Cal… I don’t know if I’m happy.”
"Harry, um… this is actually quite pivotal…" Hermione meekly tried again.
"Yeah?" came Harry's distracted reply as he pointed to his phone, signaling for her to hurry up with whatever it was that she had to say since he was in the middle of a call with Callum.
"Well there's something really important that you might want to know about Andrea's mother…"
Harry sent her a weary look as he asked, “how important?”
Hermione clicked her tongue as she searched for a proper reply before settling upon, “make it or break it important.”
Harry’s brow lifted, crinkling as he stared at her with surprise and she sent him a sheepish look in reply. “Cal, can I call you back later? Hermione needs me for the case at the moment.”
Callum let out a long-winded sigh, “of course she does. I just hope that this ‘help’ doesn’t involve any humping—”
“Well, you know what those American films say, don’t you? ‘Bros before hoes,’ mate… bros before hoes.”
“You’re so twisted, I’ll call you later.”
“You better,” Callum smirked before ending the call.
Harry shook his head a bit as he pocked his phone before turning to Hermione. “What’s wrong?” he asked, moving behind her. He used his arms for support as he placed his hands on opposite sides of her body, leaning over her right shoulder to look down onto the file she was intently focused on.
Hermione paused for a second before replying. “I’m not wholly sure what to make of all of this.”
“I don’t know if I’m being too presumptuous here… I need you to look it over, too, maybe you’ll be more discerning,” Hermione rambled on nonsensically, at least as far as Harry was concerned.
“Hermione,” he cut her off. “What are you talking about?”
“I… I think you’re right,” she admitted, turning her head and cocking it so that she could look him in the eyes as he hovered over her. “I think it maybe it really was Natalia after all.”
Harry raised a brow. “Why’s that, just moments ago you were saying it was the mother?”
“Look here,” she pointed.
Harry squinted a bit at the sight, trying to mouth the words she pointed out to him before finally giving up with a heaving breath. “Hermione, I can’t even pronounce that, much else find any significance in it. What are you trying to tell me? Just say it.”
“It’s Magi Månatligagi… and over here,” she rapidly flipped to the next page. “She has Morse Manipulations and Révolution: Redéfinir Magic!”
Harry stared at her. “And? She’s in an asylum, Hermione; she has to be allowed to read something. I’ll admit, it’s a bit bookish, but you’d read it, too,” he rambled, helplessly shrugging his shoulders.
“That’s the thing, Harry!” she screeched so passionately that Harry couldn’t help, but stumble back a bit, forcing Hermione to turn in her chair so that she could look at him. “I do read them, and do you know what they all have in common?”
Harry’s gaze was blank. “They’re less interesting than my periodicals?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “While I do commend your adulation for the National Geographic and The Economist: A Wizard’s World, that is wholly unrelated to this,” she unabashedly chastised him. “Harry, each of these magazines has featured the spell making tools implemented in this case in the past three years. I’ve even previously noted Magi Månatligagi!… though I can’t imagine how I managed to forget about Morse and Révolution…” she babbled on, going off on a tangent.
“Hermione, forget about that,” Harry stopped her with a small smile. “Are you telling me that we have enough for a search warrant?”
“Well, yes… but what good will that do us?” Hermione asked. “It’s not as if we can expect her to have a severed body parts lying about her apartment to link her to the case or anything…”
Harry chuckled a bit. “No,” he amusedly agreed. “But we can expect her to have the magazines, she’s a pack rat, and if she has those specific issues then we have enough to be able to take her in and get a handprint.”
“But, Harry, that’s not enough to link her. We don’t have any fingerprints, just a rough outline of a hand. There are at least one hundred people in London alone who can match that hand’s profile. It’s not definite at all. The only thing on those corpses that could give us finite proof is a magical marker. If you get me her wand—”
“We don’t have enough for that,” Harry shook his head. “The Ministry is stringent about that, they don’t want the public to think they’re abusing their right over magical rights.”
Hermione gawked at him before nodding with a helpless and defeated pout. “I don’t know what to say,” she admitted. “Unless we get her with concrete evidence from the scenes of the crimes, I need her magical mark. I don’t know the spell so my results won't be a hundred percent accurate, but I can calculate the accuracy and I suppose that with a handprint match will be enough. But, Harry, only that will be enough.”
“Okay,” Harry agreed. “But if we can get that to match than Buckley can argue for a permit to review her magical marker. You said that there are a lot of matches, but I can argue that only a few on that list would actually be related to the case’s proceedings to this point, I suppose…”
“Oh,” Hermione’s eyes widened as she bit her lip, a small spark of hope immediately bubbling within her. She tried to contain the blisteringly large smile that was breaking across her face as she looked at Harry with that optimistic look she knew he loathed. “And then we can review the spells that she’s done in the past year!”
“No,” Harry shook his head. “That’d be a lot easier, but the case is too high profile for that, Ministry won’t want to draw attention to the fact that they have that on database. You’ll need to review every mark and compare it to her magical signature.”
“Okay,” Hermione nodded. “But Harry?”
“I know I have a tendency to be impatient and all…” she admitted, “but you’re not making any move at all right now, so I’m just wondering: when are you going to call Buckley?”
Harry let out a short snort of laughter in surprise at her retort. “I’ll head off now to take care of it. If everything works out well, Buckley’ll probably be phoning you to take care of a handprint verification.”
Hermione nodded. “Okay, good luck though,” she wished him with a small smile as she moved out of her chair and wrapped her arms around his neck.
Harry cracked a smile. “Mmm,” he hummed, “just hoping it’ll pan out. Can you message me the exact issues we have to look for, volume numbers and all?”
“No problem,” she promised before raising herself up on the tips of her toes and kissed him.
“Hello?” Hermione answered her phone between bites of lasagna that she was eating in her office during a dinner break she set for herself before heading off to do more research.
“Yes, this is she…” Hermione replied, her brow furrowing in puzzlement as she waited for a reply, unsure as to whom the stranger calling her private number was.
“It’s Buckley, Harry asked me to call you. The team managed to find the issues of the magazines that you specified, nothing else, but it was enough to get a warrant for a handprint that is being sent over to your office right now. Could you please go over that as soon as possible?”
“Oh,” she let out a in a surprised yelp like tone. “Yes, of course, Sir.”
“Also, the Auror bringing it will have to stay with you as you review the two prints. It’s all just a matter of protocol regarding string of possession.”
Hermione nodded. “Of course, I understand.”
Harry let himself into Buckley’s office without even bothering to knock on the door, falling into one of the chairs across from the Head Auror with a loud grunt.
Rather than bothering to chastise him, well aware of the fact that it never did much good anyway, Buckley chose to ask, “Finished questioning her?”
Harry nodded, sighing as he let his head loll back. “She has nothing to say apparently. Just told me that we’re gits and that I’m wasting my time with her rather than persecuting actual criminals. She even refused an attorney, says she won’t need one since we won’t be able to hold her on anything. She’s innocent and that’s that, according to her.”
“Helpful,” Buckley sarcastically chortled. “I just got the results from your girl Granger,” he informed Harry as he continued analyzing the papers before him. “According to her findings it’s a 90-95% match so you’ll have to file paperwork for the warrant now.”
Harry heaved a heavy breath before nodding. “Give me a minute, it'd been a long day… I’d gladly just nod off right here.”
“You’re just a lazy prat,” Buckley retorted with a smirk as he handed Harry the document. “I’m leaving for the day, but call me to keep me updated, the wife’s away on a business trip so I won’t have to worry about being chastised for bringing work home.”
“Classy,” Harry murmured. “But, seriously, d'you mind if I take a nap in here after I finish filing and wait for a reply?”
Buckley snorted, shaking his head as he collected his things. “Don’t you have a couch in your own office?”
“Not as comfortable, trust me… I’ve studiously compared the two.”
“Well then go for it,” Buckley allowed with a careless wave of his hands. “I’ll just be at home, sitting in front of the telly with some ribs. Bianca has me on some terrible low fat, tasteless diet and I can finally comfortably sneak some good food into the house.”
Harry guffawed. “Just be careful, make sure you’re not near the fireplace in case she calls you mid-bite. I’ve met the woman and know that she’d have your head for it, I have no doubt about it.”
“True,” Buckley chuckled. “Good luck with the warrant, I’ll see you later.”
“Thanks, I’ll need it.”
“Harry,” Hermione smiled as she answered her phone once seeing the name on the caller id. “What happened? How was it?”
“Natalia’s denying everything at the moment, and I’ve just finished filing the paperwork for the warrant that we have grounds for because of the handprint now. Thanks for that by the way.”
“No problem,” her smile widened. “You sound tired, Auror Potter…”
He chuckled softly. “Think I might like it when you call me that.”
“I’m glad… but, Harry, maybe you should go back home; someone can always call you and you can be back at the office within minutes.”
“No,” Harry shook his head. “It’ll take too long to get through those blasted security measure… plus, we’ve been working on this case for so long now that I just want to get it over with. I need to be here, but you should go home, I’ll call you when the warrant’s approval comes in.”
“No, I wouldn’t be able to… especially not if you’re back at the office. I’ll be here. Just send over her wand once you receive verification and I’ll call in my team. I won’t be able to have all of the verifications right away since there are slight variations with every spell’s mark, but as soon as I receive confirmation for one I’ll send over the evidence and then get to work on the rest or meet you at home.”
“How long do you think it’ll take?”
Hermione shrugged. “I don’t know the exact spells she used so it’ll probably be around an hour to two for each spell’s trace.”
“Right,” Harry sighed. “Sorry.”
Hermione cocked her head to the side, raising a brow. “What do you have to be sorry for?”
“Sounds like a hell of a lot of work I’m leaving you with…”
“Yeah, but it’s my job… and I love it. Don’t give me pointless apologies, Potter, I’d rather you just make it up to me later… much more fun,” she grinned.
“Mmm,” he moaned softly. “I can’t wait for this damn case to be over.”
“Me, too… then we can celebrate.”
“You’re killing me, Granger, you know that? I’m alone in a room, lying on a couch… and all I can think about is all the ways I’d like to celebrate with you.”
“Well that’s good, then you can make a list,” Hermione noted with a smile, biting her lip a bit at the thought.
Harry groaned. “You just be ready for it.”
“I’m not going to say anything unless you have something substantial linking me to the crime. I watch Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, I’m not an imbecile,” Natalia crossly informed him.
“I know you’re not,” Harry admitted as he closed the door to the interrogation room behind him. “And you don’t have to talk, I will.”
“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes.
“Based on what I see in Carrols’ notes, you were friends with Andrea, she was the only person that you were close to and likewise for her. You saw how her family distanced themselves from her after she entered St. Augustine’s, right?”
“You two were close… and then you watched her die. Based on what I see in Carroll’s notes, she showed clear signs of depression in the months before her suicide, all of which you experienced with her, too. You cared about her and you had to see her die.”
Natalia refused to reply to the claim, instead she simply sat there with her gaze focused on him, her expression apathetic, and arms crossed across her chest.
“I’ve got a match for your handprint around Dylan Sinclair’s throat which got me a warrant for your wand so that we can match your magic tracer to the markers left on his body. Once we match that we’ll begin with the other bodies.”
Again, Natalia simply stared at him in reply, her gaze completely blank.
“I’m supposed to get the results within the next ten minutes, figured I might as well wait in here with you,” Harry informed her, leaning back in his chair, Natalia gave no indication of continuing the conversation. Instead, she rolled her eyes, leaned back in her chair, and shifted her gaze to the ceiling.
The next five minutes of silence were the most awkward Harry had ever been forced, or better yet put upon himself, to endure. Natalia”s sudden interruption, an unexpected outburst, was well welcomed. The stiff shush as they awaited the results was excruciating, and Harry was just thankful for a distraction, regardless of how offensive.
“Your entire department is a joke, you know that?”
Harry frowned. “It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t mock it.”
Natalia lowered her gaze onto him, her expression mocking. “No, of course not… I mean it’s not as if the ministry isn’t plagued by corruption or anything like that…”
“I’m not the ministry.”
“No, but you’re a sect of it.”
Harry sighed, dragging a hand through his hair. “The system doesn’t always work… I know that, I’ve seen it myself, but the job that I do, I’m at least proud of that.”
Natalia shook her head, sneering a bit at his words. “How good for you. The savior of our world as we know it is happy, should I be surprised? You didn’t die and you’re a celebrated hero, of course—”
“Sorry to interrupt,” an auror in training apologized as he let himself into the room, effectively cutting Natalia off. “But Ms. Granger sent me back with the results and—”
“Hand them over,” Harry gruffly ordered, not bothering to turn around to face the girl, but rather just extended his hand, only pulling back once he felt the envelope fall into his hands. “Thanks,” he grunted as he tore open the envelope and retrieved the file enclosed, quickly scanning the pages.
“What’s it say then?” Natalia asked when Harry made no move to tell her anything.
Harry paused, his body stiffening for a second before replying to her query. He raised his gaze to her, “you’re a match, 96.567% match,” he informed her, sliding the results towards her so that she could see them. “Any chance you’d like that attorney now?”
She shook her head as she read them. “Nope,” she said, popping the p-sound when responding. “So… I guess it’s really over then, huh?” she asked, a bitter smile crossing her face as she spoke.
“Yep,” Harry nodded, retrieving a paper of his own and whipping a quill out from his back pocket. “Sign this then.”
Natalia wrinkled her brow. “What’s this?”
“Read it before signing,” he ordered. “It confirms you waived your right to an attorney.”
“Of course,” she nodded, her eyes skimming over the document’s words. “Ministry has to save its arse and all…”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he answered through gritted teeth.
“Okay,” she signed the paper and slid it across the table. “What do you want?”
Harry shrugged. “Did you know why she was admitted to the hospital?”
“Asylum,” she stiffly corrected him. “And yes. I know about what those perverted jerks did to her, if that’s what you’re asking,” she informed him, tone clipped, but vibrating with anger. Short, succinct, and fuming as a glare marred her face.
“So it was all to avenge her then?”
“She was my best friend,” Natalia told him. “I may not have known her long, but she was a great friend and I don’t have many… or any of those. I couldn’t do anything to help her while she was alive. I could only sit there and watch her deal with the fact that five bastards raped her and got away with it. Those five bastards took everything from her. Do you know what that’s like, huh?” she asked him, clenching her fists as she spoke, her entire body tensing with them.
“No,” Harry truthfully answered, shaking his head. “I don’t… I can only imagine.”
“Well that’s just not enough,” Natalia informed him, her tone absolutely resolute, leaving no room for dissent. “She was branded as a slut and crazy, and her family deserted her. She deteriorated right before my eyes. I might be cold… people can call me apathetic all they want, but even I’m not that listless.”
Harry nodded. “Must have hurt.”
“It did,” she agreed. “And those bastards deserved what I did to them. If they can’t act like proper men, then they don't deserve to be treated as such, as far as I’m concerned,” she tartly informed him.
“So you killed them?”
Natalia scoffed, sending him a bitter smile. “You really need me to say it then, huh?”
Harry shrugged. “It helps, makes things a lot easier on the forensics team, too…”
“Of course,” she drawled, extending every syllable as she exaggeratedly rolled her eyes. “Well what do you want me to say, Mr. Potter?” she asked, cocking her head to the side as she unclenched her fists and let herself fall back into her chair a bit.
“Whatever you’d like.”
“Mmm,” she hummed. “I can tell you that I loved every second of it… hearing their screams and groans for help. I loved listening to them beg me to let them go… for me to have some mercy. Nothing made me happier than having to point out that they never showed that supposed mercy to Andrea. I loved forcing them to stare at her picture as I hacked away at their bodies. I made them stare at her picture as I mutilated them and I loved every second of it,” she promised him, punctuating the word “every” with a sharp nod at the end of it. “They tortured her and it killed me to have to watch who she was becoming because of them. They deserved it. I’m glad I did what I did,” she confirmed, bobbing her head once more for good measure.
Harry wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say in reply to that.
“Well?” she asked, frustrated by Harry’s silence. “Aren’t you going to say something, Potter? At least thank me for my honesty. I think I deserve that courtesy…”
“Thanks? I don’t know what you want me to say, Natalia. You killed them, there’s not much more to do here other than to send you into lock up.”
“Of course, but the fact that there’s still a rapist out there… that doesn’t really matter at all, does it?”
Harry shrugged. “Never claimed it was a perfect system. Wish I could say otherwise.”
“It’s disgusting,” she spat. “Andrea deserved vengeance.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “She did, and it’s a shame she’ll never get it… not really. Even this one was essentially at the cost of your life, doubt she’d want that if she was as amazing as you say she was.”
“But I don’t mind,” Natalia rebuked. “I’m happy. I don’t have a single regret.”
“Nope,” she simply said.
“Right,” Harry nodded as he retrieved his file and the waiver. “Then I guess there isn’t much left to say.”
“I don’t think so,” she concurred.
“Then I’ll be sending in Auror Browning to take care of booking you and he’ll also handle any calls you’d like to make,” he told her as he got up and made his way towards the door.
“Of course,” Natalia drawled. “You know… I actually do have one question.”
“Yeah?” Harry asked.
“You couldn’t have just waited a week more, huh?”
Harry sighed. “Afraid not,” he informed her, clutching the knob as he spoke before yanking the door open and exiting.
“Shame,” she hummed regrettably. “That’s all I needed…”
“Hi,” Hermione widely smiled at Harry from his bed when he opened the door to his room.
“Hey, how are you?” Harry sent her a tired smile as he slipped his shoes off before throwing himself into the bed.
“I’m good; I was just waiting for you. It’s late… or early, I guess,” Hermione noted with a side-glance towards the clock that informed her that it was already six.
“Lots of paperwork,” he explained as he rested his head on her lap, closing his eyes, “but I’m off until tomorrow, you?”
“Same, then I have to start going over every mark on those corpses.”
He shook his head. “No… you won’t need to. All you need to do is compare the fatal marks on each, not every wound. She admitted to the crime.”
“She did?” Hermione asked, her tone surprised. “Wow, that’s surprising. It’s unusual, right?”
“Yeah,” Harry nodded, heaving a sigh as he pulled his body up and began to take off his coat.
Hermione eyed him curiously, silently assessing him before approaching him. “Harry?”
“Yeah?” he grunted as he got off the bed and pulled off his pants.
“Why don’t you sound as excited as you should? Months have been spent on this case… I… shouldn’t you be happier?”
Harry shrugged as he climbed back into the bed, seating himself by Hermione’s side, his back against the headboard much like hers. “I don’t know, she was forthcoming… too much so. I’m guessing she’s going for an insanity plea…”
Hermione nodded. “Well, can you blame her? I mean she does belong in an asylum… I don’t even understand why she was released, there’s nothing in her file indicating that she should have been.”
“Yeah, I know,” Harry admitted. “I guess it’s not even that.”
Hermione looked at him, befuddled as he blankly stared at the wall in front of them. “Then what is it, Harry?”
“I don’t know…” he whispered. “I guess I just hoped I’d feel more satisfied when we finished the case,” he admitted, rubbing his neck as he spoke.
“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked, moving towards him and trailing a soft hand down his cheek as she turned concerned eyes on him.
“What’d she die for, Hermione?”
“Andrea?” she guessed.
He nodded. “Yeah. You know those blokes'll still get away with it, no one'll know what happened to her. Every one of those men will die an innocent and there’s nothing we can do about that. Natalia’ll be lambasted by the press and, as much as I hate what she did… I can't totally blame her.”
“I know,” Hermione softly murmured, bowing her head.
“Hermione, if that happened to you… I’d do the exact same thing. I can’t blame her for what she did,” he admitted, turning to her with eyes filled with desperation.
“Don’t talk like that, Harry. I’m safe… everything’s well with us. Don’t… don’t open that can of worms if it’s not necessary. You’ll only hurt yourself if you dwell on that possibility and you know it,” Hermione argued.
“I guess I just don’t know what to think about it all.”
Hermione offered him a sad smile. “Harry, sometimes you just have to let it go… let it be. Things can’t always be perfect, in fact they’re pretty terrible most of the time…” she regretfully admitted, “but when it’s good, it’s amazing.”
He nodded mutely.
“Yeah?” he asked with a morose timbre to his voice.
“It’s pretty amazing for me with you, so I’d really hate to lose you as biased as that might make me,” she admitted, her smile morphing into a shy one.
He allowed himself a grin, turning to her with a curious smile. “Really?”
“Yeah. Like before… when you came up behind me, while we were talking about the case?” Hermione asked, biting her lip a bit as she broached the topic.
“Yeah?” Harry drawled raising a brow as he took in the rouge that was slowly spreading across her face.
“It took everything I had not to jump you right then,” Hermione smiled coquettishly as she slowly wrapped her arms around his neck. “The sight of your arms right there with your button down’s sleeves all rolled up…” she murmured, lightly pressing her lips against his. “As I felt your breath against my neck,” she moaned at the memory, placing a light kiss to his pulse point. “It made me want to do very, very bad things to you.”
Harry groaned, closing his eyes as Hermione went back to lavishing attention onto his skin, kissing him everywhere and anywhere she could. “I wish you would have,” he muttered.
“We had work,” she rationally explained.
“Priorities, I know,” Harry managed to breath out. “But Merlin, Hermione…!”
Hermione giggled, burying her head into his chest. “You like then?”
“You can’t even imagine how much… the things I would do if I wasn’t so damn exhausted right now!” he told her as his grip around her waist tightened before he dropped a kiss onto the crown of her head. “I love you, you minx.”
Hermione giggled. “I love you, too, Potter. Let’s sleep,” she offered.
“Mmm,” he hummed, moving to lie down. “Deal, but in the morning—”
“Afternoon—and that’s if we’re lucky, given that it’s already six-fifteen in the morning,” Hermione corrected him.
“Yeah, then,” Harry chuckled. “Then, can we make up for today and just now?” he asked as he loosely wrapped an arm around her waist.
Author’s note: long time coming, I know. It’s been ages, but thankfully I the epilogue is complete so I’ll only have to revise it a bit before posting within the next few days!
Additionally, thank you to my amazing beta Searcy (amazing author by the way!), both for making it through this story with me—it’s been a long time, after all—and all of the wonderful work on it. I owe her everything, motivation to continue with this story and the direction in revising it to something that I can at least be semi-proud of!