delphi: Mod icon for the HP Beholder exchange. (HP Beholder)
[personal profile] delphi posting in [community profile] hp_beholder
Recipient: imera
Author: ???
Title: The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard
Rating: R – Language
Pairings: Yaxley/Hermione Granger, mentions of HG/RW, Y/FOC
Word Count: ~40,000
Summary: When a tradition bound, beplaited Iacob Yaxley takes anarchist Hermione Granger prisoner, he must rely on the The Well Bred Warlock Guide for help. Who will drive the other mad first? Yaxley or Granger?
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *Dub-Con, Stockholm/Lima Syndromes*.
Author's/Artist's Notes: Story jumps around in time a bit. Like most stories, it begins at the beginning of an end and then ends at the new beginning.

Thank you to the letters L and U for their assistance in Beta-ing. Also thank you to Delphi for granting me multiple extensions as Iacob Yaxley refused to be part of any scenario not condoned by The Well Bred Warlock Guide.

-*-*-

"Your warlock is quite reliant on you and your quiet strength, gentle reader. No matter the ill winds of fate, as long as your warlock is secure in your esteem; he and your family will endure." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

28 November, 2003 11.00
Ministry of Magic
London, UK

Hermione Granger crossed her arms and met Kinsley Shacklebolt's eyes. His dark eyes were tired, but she saw that he had saved enough energy for another "No Way in Hell" rebuttal.

"I desire to see him, alone," she stated. Her voice was firm and no-nonsense. Due to her experiences of the last few years, she had become more, rather than less, self-reliant. She knew the few on which she could depend, and Kingsley Shacklebolt and his Order members had been scratched from that the list. "He's fettered, and his magic is restrained. I believe that means it should be perfectly safe if I see him. Unless you don't have any faith in your personnel and you believe that I'll be made hostage."

A soft chuckle from Remus Lupin convinced her that she had scored on Kingsley.

"He's dangerous," Kingsley softly protested. "Hermione, I'm not sure if it's appropriate… safe…"

"You don't trust me," she sharply said. "Just admit it."

Always a gentleman, Kingsley wouldn't say that he could no longer trust her. However, a deeply hurt Hermione noticed that he didn't rush to her defense, didn't assure her that she was horribly mistaken.

You trust Harry. You trust Ron. Both of whom abandoned me to the Death Eaters. Like you did.

"You are his staunchest defender," Remus Lupin quietly reminded her.

"I'm his only defender," was her lightning fast response.

"I just don't understand why you defend him," Kingsley admitted.

"I've explained my reasons countless times. My reasons have not changed." She had first struggled to explain whenever anyone had decided to have a friendly chat with Hermione regarding the past six years and more of her life. But she quickly realized that they couldn't… or wouldn't understand. Because they didn't wish to understand why Hermione refused to repudiate her Death Eater. The War was over, the Good Guys had won, so they wanted to move on with their lives. Therefore they couldn't understand why Hermione, with what they believed she had endured, didn't even wish to move on. And moving on in their eyes meant that she should testify against her lover.

She couldn't move on, because she had been fundamentally changed by her capture by one of Voldemort's followers. He was in the back of her head, more than slightly annoyed that he seen her only the once since the day he was captured and fettered. It wasn't that he doubted her and her personal loyalty to him, far from it; he just didn't trust her supposed friends. He wished to see her to confirm that she was being treated properly, not just because he desired her to bring him some cigarettes. Though she could sense that he was craving a cigarette something fierce. Really, he needed to stop smoking, but perhaps being incarcerated for the remainder of his life was the wrong way to go about breaking that nasty habit.

To tell these two men that she wished to see prisoner #19234-5234 because she knew that he wished to visually confirm that she was being properly treated… well… that would just make everything go arse over tit. Because in their biased minds, they were the good guys, and he was most assuredly not.

I am here with you. I will always be here for you. Don't trust them, as you know that only I care about you. They don't care, not like I do. I protected you. His voice was in her head, because he knew how much she craved reassurance. It was though he was there in the room, holding her. Such tenderness was only permitted by him in private, never in public. They left you, alone, among the animals. How truly fortunate you were, that I took mercy on you.

"I wish to see him," she again stated. She would be strong, and not weaken.

You are far stronger than you believe yourself to be.

"Let her, Kingsley," Remus inserted. Hermione bequeathed him a victorious smile which faded when Remus continued, "Except you and I will be there during this happy reunion."

Well, she'd take what small victories she could, so she focused her attention on the door where he'd enter. He'd be there soon, and he'd be proud… she hoped… of her.

-*-*-

28 November, 2003 11.15
Azkaban Cell # 1535
Azkaban
North Sea, UK

"A proper Warlock sustains and protects his family at all costs." The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

She was quite worried about him. Silly girl, she needed to be focused on herself. He would endure because he would endure, and while it had been close to three months since they had last seen each other, he was trying to hide his unhappiness from her. She was physically and emotionally exhausted besides being at her wit's end, so she needed to rest. He was concentrating on their connection, trying to emotionally support her when the guards interrupted his mediation.

"Get up, scum. Time for a visit."

Naturally, since he was a dangerous war criminal, they didn't permit him the opportunity to do a wash up. It would have been nice to be given a comb or to shave before he spoke with whoever had decided to visit him. He wouldn't permit himself the sliver of hope that it was Hermione because he could not bear to be disappointed yet again. Naturally, they stuck a hood over his head, and led him to the visitors' chamber. He wasn't particularly surprised when they tripped him and slammed him into the wall a few times on the way there.

"Scum," hissed his guard. "Bastard. Murderer. I hope you hang."

He didn't give them the satisfaction of acknowledging their treatment. Really, it would just piss them off more if he ignored them.

They slammed him into a chair, jarring his bad arm. The pain ran up and down his arm, and he heard Hermione sharply inhale.

"'Tis nothing, mo nighean dhonn. The old injury sometimes pains me," he assured her. The guards pulled the hood off his head and he smiled once the realized that he rated Kingsley Shacklebolt, Remus Lupin and half a dozen Order members. Truly, it was good to be feared. "Are they treating you well, Nighean? I am afraid that I was denied the basic courtesy of a shave and a hairbrush before I met you. As you know, I might throw the hairbrush at them."

Her lips pursed, as she wished him to behave. Like bloody hell would he be a tame, defeated opponent. Then she sighed, as she knew him. Knew him very well indeed. "Just behave, for me," she mouthed.

"Her name is Hermione." It was a ginger who spat that, so it was one of the Weasley spawn.

Nighean was his name for his pet. He never called her Hermione, only Nighean. Sometimes, when he was feeling particularly affectionate, he'd call her Grádhág.

"Nighean is the name I gave her," he explained, though Hermione and he both knew that they wouldn't understand. Once again, it was the two of them against everyone else.

"I brought you cigarettes," Hermione told him. "Only two packs, but it's something. Next time, I'll try to bring you more."

"Thank you, Nighean." At his sincere gratitude and his courtly bow of his head, she blushed.

The two of them didn't say anything for a time. There were questions that he wished to ask, but he wasn't sure how much the Victorious World Order knew. Instead he watched and observed, and waited, as was his traditional approach. A growl of protest escaped when he Delved how exhausted she was, the dark circles under her eyes and hollows in her cheek. He leaned toward to her. "They're not treating you like you deserve, are they? They are the ones that haven't let you visit?"

"They have Aurors following me everywhere, because that's how Shacklebolt is fulfilling his promise to protect me," she confessed. "Remus is my personal guard, but I'm not supposed to know. I've tried to see you before, but they don't trust me."

Iacob Yaxley leaned towards Hermione and spoke in a voice that could be easily heard by everyone in the room, "That's because it's obvious you've been sleeping with the enemy, Nighean."

She was in the late stages of her pregnancy so she was curvy and endearingly awkward. He sent her a rather risqué thought through their bond, detailing how much he craved for the two of them to be in his bed so he could properly ravish her. It had been three months after all. His expression of carnal interest in her made her blush, so he couldn't help but smile. She knew him well enough to know that it was a true smile, which he rarely gave to anyone, just Nighean. His declaration of profound lust and his smile lightened Nighean's heavy heart. She was quite flattered because he had reminded her how avid he was when she was carrying. Especially when she was near term, when she was in need of his physical assistance.

Nighean was exhausted and desperate for reassurance from him.

Only him. Because she felt betrayed by everyone…. Except for him. She went to bed clutching one of his shirts because it smelled of his cologne and cigarettes. Unlike the earlier part of their relationship, where she had chaffed at his restrictions, she now wished to be cosseted by him. And unlike the earlier part of the relationship, where he had viewed her as a ball and chain, he was quite delighted to cosset her.

Oh, it had been an unbelievable stroke of luck for him when Hermione Granger had sauntered into the pit of vipers known as the Ministry of Magic, wearing Mafalda Hopkirk's stolen clothes and her too large high heels. If Granger had been wearing trainers, he never would have caught her.

-*-*-

"If the fates permit; you will have an heir. During his gestation, you must cosset and protect the child's mother, be her your wife, the surrogate chosen by your wife, or your mistress. Speak tenderly and with great affection as she needs both your strength and your consideration. A proper Warlock sustains and protects his family at all costs, especially those that would do them harm." The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

Hermione softly spoke, "They say…."

"I know what they say. They say that I repeatedly raped you. That you're unwillingly had the bastards of a Death Eater. They call our little girls, bastards, Nighean. They say they are the product of rape, but you and I know the truth," Iacob softly stated.

"Our girls miss you so badly," Hermione insisted.

"I can't give voice to the pain I feel being separated from them. My only reassurance is that you are there, to love and to protect them," he told her. "It's amazing; Lucius gets a pardon because Narcissa saved Harry. Severus is the hero of the realm because he saved Harry. Harry. Harry. Harry. And I kept you safe for years, and I'm in Azkaban. Shows how little your so called friends esteem you. Then again, Grádhág, you knew that as they didn't bother a rescue attempt. They just wiped their hands of you, declared you dead. Fortunately, you had me to protect you, to care for you, to love you like you deserved. They don't understand that I have always assured you that I would keep you safe. They think I broke you, Nighean. Instead, I saved you."

"I still don't know why," she whispered.

"You know why," he insisted.

Really after all these years together, his lover still had no true comprehension of him.

Breaking her composure, Hermione reached for him. She clung to him, in front of the others. Really, it was only because she was obviously in distress that he permitted her that leniency, because it violated every ounce of proper Warlock behavior that had been drilled into his soul by his great grandfather. Plus the horrified looks on her guards was something he would savor, as Nighean's reaction, the fact that she wanted comfort from him, horrified them. Some of them were still unable to wrap their small minds around the fact that what Hermione and he had was bloody consensual.

He easily snapped his restraints and he embraced her, because she needed soothing. As he anticipated, the Order sprung to their feet so they could restrain him once again. Hermione saw it, and reacted poorly to this latest in a long line of betrayals from her supposed friends. However, Kingley Shacklebolt was far more political savvy than Yaxley had anticipated. A quick gesture had everyone back off, because Kingsley understood how Hermione would react. A clinging Hermione said in a small voice, "Ron told me that I'm no better than a Knockturn Alley whore. He said… I wouldn't do it with him, but I fucked a Death Eater and bore his bastards."

Yaxley glared at the youngest Weasley cur. The chit was heavily scarred, thanks to being tortured by Bellatrix LeStrange, and there was a dark look in his dead eyes that said that the war had not been kind to him. But to take his anger out on Nighean…

"His opinion means nothing. I know at one time, you were quite fond of him, he's but a jealous child who never treated you as well as you deserved. You're exhausted, you need to rest as our children need their mother healthy. You must let the House Elves help you," he gently instructed her. "Shhh…. You know that based on the traditions…"

"You and your blasted pureblood traditions," protested Hermione.

"My blasted pureblood traditions means that our children, both born and unborn, are legitimate. However, you look tired."

"I'm exhausted," she whispered. "Last night, I dreamt of Rodolphus and Rabastan. You weren't there to protect me."

He continued to embrace her. "When you wake from those dreams, you must remind yourself that Rodolphus and Rabastan are dead. I ensured that they never would bother you or anyone again. Tell me what else is bothering you. You will tell me what boon I may gift to you, the mother of my children?"

Shacklebolt's head bobbled at that comment, as he was obviously raised in the pureblood traditions, but Hermione didn't notice.

"You can't help me, not when you're in Azkaban. I'm just exhausted and I have no one I can lean on. I… want… my mother," she softly admitted. "I desperately want my mother. I want to stop having to fight so hard, so I can survive another day. I am trying to be strong, to defend our family, like you did all those years. It would be easier, if I could just sleep for one night without everyone's insults ringing in my ears. I'm not a whore. I am not… a whore… you were the only one… though the others…" She couldn't continue until she composed herself. "The others… tried… they kept trying and you kept stopping them. I want a full night's sleep where I don't wake with my heart pounding because … you're not there to stop them. When I was a child, I had night terrors and my father…. He'd stay with me until I was asleep again."

The old fears reawakened, his pet needed to be cosseted and pampered, especially now that she was carrying.

"Shh… shhh… What you need is for me to take care of you. I would make sure that you were eating and resting like you should. I'd horribly indulge you and I'd keep your bad dreams at bay. Shacklebolt," Yaxley growled. "Perhaps one of your sainted Healers can give her something so she can rest? Do you deem your protection of Nighean, adequate? After you swore on your name and your soul? I believe that you have failed, Minister Shacklebolt."

He scored and scored hard on Kingsley. He felt no guilt for doing so, because Nighean was in need of help.

"No Healers. I can't bear facing them…I'd rather be here with you than face their accusing looks. I hate being vulnerable... during the exam." Hermione pulled away from him, and she hugged herself. "I hate being on my back with people looking down at me. I hate being known as a Death Eater's whore. They don't understand… they don't know…"

"They don't understand because they never asked you what you endured. Not them, they didn't care enough about you to bother to find out the truth." He stroked her face with his index finger. A slow, deliberate caress which calmed his pet. She associated that rare, public gesture from him with comfort and tenderness. "You are being seen by Healers, aren't you?"

She nodded. "I hate being touched."

Even by me? I thought you had grown to enjoy my touch, he thought. She shook her head, and she sent back her overwhelming trust in him.

There was a thought in the back of her mind. One that she was struggling to hide, but really, did she honestly think he wouldn't know? He continued stroking her face and focused. Yaxley found the thought, easily, and then felt the edgy emotions that surrounded it. Nighean was worried about his reaction if he discovered what she was hiding… that he might break out of Azkaban… and he focused still further.

"They're deliberately hurting you? Who?" Iacob growled. His raw rage frightened Hermoine, as she pulled away. "I'm not angry at you. Who is the Healer that is hurting my children's mother? I will not permit anyone to hurt you. The LeStrange brothers could vouch for that… if they were still alive. Shacklebolt, you will address this immediately."

-*-*-

"A witch of worth listens intently to conversations but does not interject her opinion, unless asked. Because it is accepted as Merlin-validated truth, witches are far smarter than warlocks." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

1 June 1997, 12.00
Orders Headquarter
12 Grimmauld Place
Islington, London

"Augustus Rookwood," Alastor Moody growled, as he put the picture on the kitchen table at the Burrow. "Jolly chap. All the females and some of the laddies liked him. In debt to his eyebrows, as he has a bit of a gambling problem. His wife has been financing him but it seems that she's not footing the bill anymore."

Augustus Rookwood, Death Eater, smiled and waved at the camera. Hermione noted that Augustus had a bright, easy smile and seemed to be the very antithesis of what a wand-carrying Death Eater should be.

"He looks like Lockhart," snorted one of the twins. She flinched at that thought because she remembered how enamored she had once been of that badly dressed prat.

Rudolphus, Bellatrix and Rabastan LeStrange were described in detail. Hermione wrinkled her nose in distaste, but wrote down everything Alastor Moody thought to divulge. She ignored Ron's comment about there not being an exam on this, but really, didn't he realize? There was an exam on this, a life or death exam.

"Iacob Yaxley," Alastor continued as he placed another photograph on the table. The compact Death Eater scowled at the Order Members once he realized who was examining him. "He's an odd one. One of the older Death Eaters, though in the first war, he claimed he was Imperio'd. Bit of a vicious streak in him according to his few surviving victims. Long time widower. Rumored to have crawled into the bottle after his wife died. He's one of Alfred Nott's confidants as they were brother-in-laws. However, there's supposedly a strong dislike between him and the Malfoys-LeStrange crowd."

"Iacob doesn't like that Lucius's hair is prettier?" quipped Fred. "Perhaps we can send him a hair tonic."

"Or a new binder. Perhaps something sparkly to make his mad eyes pop," cooed George.

Alastor growled his disgust and left the table, muttering under his breath. Kingsley Shacklebolt looked at the old mage fondly, rubbed his own short skull fondly and quipped, "Personally, I find hair highly overrated." He left to calm down the sputtering Alastor.

Ignoring the various quips of the other Order members, Hermione Granger examined the diverse photographs and continued with her lists. Lists were important as they brought order and structure to a world that was increasing chaotic and fragmented. And she was planning on passing the cumulative exam.

Alfred Nott.

Wears his grey hair in the plait that was customary at the turn of the century. Friends/brother-in-law with Yaxley. He's older than Yaxley, who is noticeably older than Lucius. Married a much younger witch quite late in life, she died of natural causes after the birth of her son. Alfred went into seclusion to raise his son after her death. Not a great deal is known about Alfred Nott – he is like the spider in the darkness. Unsure of whom his loyalties are among the Death Eater factions except for Yaxley. Though it is assumed that he is not of the LeStrange-Malfoy crowd.

Iacob Yaxley.

Older warlock that also wears his blond hair in the traditional plait. Friends with Nott, also another older wizard. Seems to be a bit of a generational gap between him and Lucius Malfoy's contemporaries. Married late in his life to a much younger witch. She died of natural causes soon after the wedding, perhaps a year or two later. As did her sister who married Alfred Nott. The official inquest was there seemed to be an undiagnosed condition that ran in the sisters' family. Didn't marry again, even though he didn't have an heir of his body. Right now Theodore Nott stands to inherit both sizable estates. Yaxley claimed he was Imperio'd though he couldn't say at his trial who had done it. Quite intelligent as he obtained NEWTS in all his classes in his seventh year. Even Muggle Studies.

He's known as a vicious attack dog when he's unleashed. He is the bare steel fist to Lucius' silk covered iron fist. Possibly an alcoholic or a recovering one. Rarely mentioned in the society column or in Rita's column which either means Yaxley is a recluse or Rita is terrified of him.

Her list completed, it was fortunately time for Molly's dinner. Always an outstanding cook, Molly was outdoing herself lately in preparation for Bill's wedding.

-*-*-

"A witch takes care to walk sedately. Nothing offends the well bred Warlock more than a witch who bounds like a hound." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

September 2, 1997, 15.00
Ministry of Magic Headquarters
Whitehall, London

Hermione Granger was attempting to run for her life. In high heels. Dratted Mafalda Hopkirk and her vanity. Behind her, she could hear an enraged Yaxley growling like a mad dog in the noon day heat. Damn it, Harry had Stunned Yaxley, and the warlock was already sufficiently recovered to chase after them. The older wizard was power walking his way through the Ministry, with every sane soul getting out of his way. It was a sight akin to the Red Sea parting for Moses. There was a quick blast of energy, close enough to singe her… Mafalda's tights.

She stumbled then, twisting her ankle painfully and Harry wrenched her arm as he pulled her toward the Floo.

The growling was becoming louder which meant that Yaxley had picked up speed. The trio stumbled into the Floor when she felt Yaxley latch onto her arm. He also grabbed Ron's arm with his free hand and Hermione panicked. Really, she wasn't bloody Alastor Moody who did this every day for shits and giggles. She was a bloody school girl and there was a Death Eater attached to her arm. She cast a spell, and then….

Craziness. Ron was yelling, Yaxley was bellowing, Harry was doing something… useless… but no doubt terribly sincere. They were landing in the Order's secret location so Hermione again cast a very reckless spell. There was a loud thump when she hit the floor, and she found herself underneath Yaxley. There was a great deal of noise, mainly coming from Yaxley and he was screaming something very obscene at the very top of his lungs. Or maybe he wasn't, but since he was bellowing in his heavy Glaswegian accent, it all sounded the same to Hermione.

There was also a great deal of blood, Hermione noticed. Most of it seemed to be from the Death Eater as he was missing most of his left arm; Ron must have taken the Death Eater's arm with him when Hermione had created a desperate port key.

No Harry. No Ron. Just a very angry Death Eater who was missing his left arm and her. She felt his magic wrap itself around her very soul and she knew that he was her gaoler.

"Stop the bleeding!" He screamed. "If I die, you die, bitch."

She cast something, recklessly and then blacked out. Later on, the Death Eaters found her. She had regained consciousness to find herelf still underneath Yaxley, unable to escape as he was literal dead weight. He had cauterized his stump and then had blacked out from the pain. And the bastard had cast something, so she couldn't leave him to die.

"Who gets the Mudblood?" Rabastan LeStrange quipped. "She seems a lively wench as she's seemingly killed Elder Yaxley with her physical charms."

The Death Eaters made numerous disparaging comments even while Alfred Nott stabilized Yaxley. He peered at her in confusion and then looked at Yaxley. "My Lord, it seems that Iacob has Intrinsically Bonded the wench. He's still alive because his body is using her magic to stabilize him."

"Very well, then if Yaxley lives, she's his," Voldemort decided.

-*-*-

"When presented with a female prisoner of war, treat her with the respect deserved to her as a formidable enemy. However, don't be too nice. Save that for later, after you break her." Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

20 September 1997, 11.00
St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries
London, England

Iacob Yaxley was dreaming. He was in his wedding robes, walking toward his bedroom where the love of his life was waiting for him. She was pure, so he would be patient with her and take as long as necessary for her to become comfortable with him. He was curt and brusque at the best of times, so tonight, of all nights, he prayed that he could be comforting and gentle with his much younger wife. The doors swung open to reveal his new bride who was in his bed. Rowena was uncontrollably weeping, struggling to hide her nakedness and she flinched when she saw her new husband. "Please don't hurt me," she pleaded. "Please don't."

He woke then, disorientated, and while he struggled to sit, Alfie Nott gently pressed him backwards.

"Yax," the older wizard said in a very concerned voice. "Had me worried there, you bastard. You lost a great deal of blood, and they couldn't get you stabilized. I've been sitting at your bedside for the last few weeks. The LeStranges and the Malfoys stuck their heads in a few times and offered to relieve me for a spell, but I refused."

"Those kind souls would have put a pillow over my head to help me sleep," Iacob admitted. "How long have I been?"

"Almost three weeks. They put you in a magical coma to work on your arm and the loss of blood. Then you wouldn't wake up, so I am assuming you had pleasant dreams."

"I dreamt of Rowena," he confessed. "Of times gone by and of things that never happened between us. I dreamt of our wedding night and she pleaded with me not to hurt her. I never hurt her, Alfred. I was always very gentle with her."

"I know you were, Yax," assured Alfred. "Rowena adored you."

Yaxley rubbed his eyes and realized that only his right was responding. That brought back memories of the Ministry and he looked at his left arm. It was there, but it wasn't moving.

"We think it was splinched. We couldn't find it as the chit has no idea where she sent them. Only that she sent them as far away as she could. For all we know, both boys could be dead. The Healers managed to grow it but the stump was quite damaged due to your pyrotechnics. You'll need to strengthen it. Especially as every single eligible female paraded by your room."

What Yaxley said then, could not be repeated in the company of ladies, warlocks or hags.

"Brother, you are in very high favor right now. I don't even think Severus Snape ranks higher with our Master than you do. Severus grudgingly admitted that you managed to capture the brains of the operation. So if Potter is alive, he's wandering around… clueless right now. Moody and Dumbledore are both dead. They might have a school teacher or three, but no real brains. The various guardians of the eligible women in our company took notice of you, the fact that you have no heir of your loins, and have decided that you have enjoyed your widowerhood long enough."

His brother-in-law laughed. Softly and without malice.

"I'm afraid that Pansy Parkinson was in your room and had nearly sexually assaulted you in your sick bed. While you lay there, unable to protest her tender ministrations, she was quite eager to carry your heir."

"You left me completely defenseless, because you stepped out for a fag?" Iacob growled. "Pansy was probably prompted by her mother to uphold the family tradition. You know, get pregnant by a man in his death bed. She inherits because her belly is swelling and he can't protest as he's being interred."

"Yes. I fortunately got back in time and Stunned her while she was in mid-straddle. While she was Stunned, I ensured that there would be no child, if she had been successful in her noble goal. I don't think she had gotten that far, but I couldn't really ask you. I wasn't sure if you were still unconscious or dozing in post-coital bliss. I didn't notice you smoking, so I assumed you were still comatose and hadn't consented."

"Bastard," Yaxley said. While there was a dozen plus years difference between the two men, the brother-in-laws shared a similar sardonic sense of humor.

"Since I really need a smoke now and then, I brought a couple of your dogs in to guard you. It seems your Blue Paul Terriers are quite frighteningly protective, especially your alpha bitch. Effie insisted on sleeping in your bed, and Pansy doesn't want to share your bed with anther bitch. But those dogs of yours! All the fertile, unwedded witches were swooning in fear over them. I'm rather also impressed with the Protego charms on their collars as the most interesting things happened to some of your visitors. I'm afraid that Emily Rowle is no longer among the land of living as she had a rather nasty curse backfire on her. I wonder if you had a spare dog collar I could examine."

"Ro loved those dogs which is why I kept them. By all means, you can have a collar. I'm sure you made some enemies while you guarded Sleeping Beauty." His tone was dry and Alfred Nott laughed.

"I can assure you that I would never describe you that way."

Iacob laughed. Then in a loud tone, he called for his House Elf, Aggie and requested that she bring him a dog collar and a proper set of clothes. The House Elf quickly appeared with the requested items and wept copious tears of sheer delight as her beloved Master was alive. He patted her on her head only because she was a long time retainer and quickly sent her on her way.

With a sharp flick of his wand, Alfie had Iacob dressed, shaved and his hair neatly tied back. His left arm was neatly slung and swathed, though Yaxley noticed that his left arm was Death Mark free.

"Anyway, we need to get you upright. That Mudblood you bagged, you need to claim her as LeStrange and Malfoy want her. She seems pretty enough even though her blood is pure dirt. They've gotten as much information out of her as she's capable of giving, so now what to do with her? I suggested to the Dark Lord that you be given her as your nursemaid as her magic is the reason why you're still alive. I don't want her dead. She might prove beneficial in future negotiations, so it would be best if Bellatrix doesn't break her."

Yaxley nodded, and struggled to stand. His much taller brother-in-law supported him easily, despite being his senior in age. Alfie handed him a cigarette and lit it for him, as Alfie correctly guessed that his magic was still erratic.

"Come, brother. Let us acquire your Mudblood nursemaid. If not your nursemaid, she could warm your bed. It has been empty for far too long."

"I haven't looked at another woman since Ro died. And before you deny it, I can say the very same thing about you since Anstey passed."

"You don't have to look at her when you plow her," Alfie reminded him. "Besides, I am a very ancient man and sexual exertion with a young girl might very well kill me. I already have an heir. You need to settle down and sire an heir, because I don't want Teddy getting both our estates. With all those riches, he might turn in another Lucius Malfoy. That peacock is a true waste of Abraxas' seed."

"His mother was Pansy's great aunt," reminded Iacob.

-*-*-

"When in doubt, gentle reader, tears work exceedingly well on the well-bred Warlock." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

Hermione Granger had struggled to remember everything Alastor Moody or the other Order Aurors had said about being captured. The first was to lie frequently, so when the truth was voiced as it would come out sooner or later, best it be sprinkled with so many fabrications that they'd have to waste time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

However, they didn't seem to be too terribly interested in information. No, the various LeStranges had decided they just wished to hear her scream. So when they hurt her in new and excruciating ways, she screamed and screamed until her voice broke, then screamed anew. Sensory deprivation, lack of water and food, Crucio'd randomly, God, they had even taken her clothes. Bellatrix had taken a knife…. And had carved… the dark mark into her skin…. The two LeStrange men had commented on her physique with Bellatrix's husband making thinly veiled threats about the brothers taking turns raping her when they next visited her. And while food had arrived three times since their last visit, they hadn't. Which meant that they'd be arriving sooner rather than later. She had a wicked headache and she felt woozy.

The door opened to her cell.

She wept, because her mind had raced and raced when she was in solitude, unable to escape the terror of knowing that her first time would be with the LeStrange brothers. Now, faced with the reality, she broke. She struggled, futilely, to hide her nakedness and she flinched when she saw it was two older wizards. Both of them wore their hair plaited, which meant… Yaxley and Nott.

"Please don't hurt me," she pleaded. "Please don't."

Yaxley put his right hand under her chin and forced her to look at him. His face was quite somber and he spoke in a heavy Scottish brogue. "I understand that the LeStranges have been in charge of you while I have been recovering from the amputation that you inflicted on me. Their pampering will stop effective immediately."

Instinctively, she pulled away from him. Recovering from the amputation that she had inflicted on him? Pampering? Her skittishness irked him as he yanked her jaw.

"You will not speak to me unless I address you. Normally, you will not look at me; however I wish to make sure that you understand what is occurring. Is that understood?"

"Yes," Hermione said.

"Yes, Master," Yaxley prompted.

She muttered something close to that, or it might a firm desire for him to go to hell. He gave her a wintry smile which meant that he wasn't fooled. Not one bit by her.

"Alfie, I'm afraid you'll need to put the collar on her," Yaxley announced. "It's for your own protection until I can do better. However, where are your clothes?"

"They took them," she explained. There was a disapproving look in his eyes until she choked out, "Master."

"Behave, and do exactly what I tell you. If you do so, it will go much better for you," he explained. "You will get food and water. You will be given clothing as quite frankly I have no wish to see you naked. Also, you will bathe on a regular basis. At the moment, you are quite ripe and your smell is making my stomach roil. In exchange, for my munificence, you will wear the collar. You will make no move against me. You will do everything I tell you to do, without any protestations. Make me angry and you will regret it."

Alfred Nott placed the collar on her neck. It was a dog collar, a dog collar and Hermoine trembled.

"Severus didn't say she was a lackwit. Look at me," ordered Yaxley. He hooked his fingers and stared at her brown eyes. Her head began to hurt more and she whimpered. After what seemed like hours, Yaxley stopped. "Concussion. Contusions, abrasions and she's dehydrated as it seems that they forgot to feed and water her. There are a few cracked ribs, and a broken orbital. Probably from Rodolphus, as Rabbie's too slight to put that much force in his punch. I have to take her to the Healers. Bellatrix always made a habit of breaking Andromeda's toys. And really, carving the Dark Lord's mark on this slut? Bella is so bloody predictable. I'll have the Healers remove it as she has not earned the right to wear it."

"And I'm sure they'll wish to talk to us about you walking out of them. I find Healers to be quite sticklers for protocols." Nott quipped.

Yaxley growled, and Nott laughed. "Now the question, Yax. Should we dress her before we parade her through the halls? If we leave her skyclad, it would do wonders for our reputations."

Hermione attempted to hide her nakedness as much as possible but the two warlocks continued bantering. It was worse than being with the LeStranges, as these two didn't even see her a human. No, it was like listening to Harry and Ron talk about Quidditch.

"That you and I had sex with a Mudblood? That's a fate almost as bad…" Yaxley sputtered.

"As being sexually assaulted by Pansy Parkinson. Yes, you're right, chap. Don't you worry, I had you fumigated. I know you don't want anything rotting," cheerily assured Alfred.

Another growl from Yaxley while Nott laughed.

"Can you clothe her, and we'll escort her to the Healers?"

"Yax, you are looking a bit unwell," Nott admitted. "She doesn't look much better. Girl, can you stand?"

She couldn't so the two warlocks ended up pulling her to her feet. They were kind enough to clothe her in a cotton robe, so they didn't parade her skyclad through the Malfoy Manor House.

"You know, Yaxley. This could be an interesting project for you. Turn this rebel into someone that values our traditions and culture."

"I'll walk on water first," spat Yaxley.

"How about a wager between friends?" Nott asked.

The idea seemed to intrigue Yaxley. "How much of a friendly wager?"

"I bet you ten thousand galleons and that lakeside cottage of mine that you enjoy during the fall months that you cannot turn her respectable. And to add a little spice to our wager, you have to use only your very inconsiderable charisma to do so." The older wizard laughed uproariously.

Yaxley stopped dead, and Hermione stumbled. In a very low voice, Yaxley stated, "My wife would hopefully disagree. Ro always assured me that she found me quite amiable. I was always a proper, respectful husband to her, and I strove to be charming. I am quite capable of being charming."

Well, if there was a choice between a ravenous anaconda with a toothache, Voldemort and Yaxley, Hermione would bet on the anaconda.

"Yax, I truly meant no offense. You know as well as I do, that it was only our wives who ever found either of us charming. And I believe that those dear, sweet girls took pity on us." Nott sighed.

-*-*-

"A proper host always ensures that their guests are healthy. If illness should befall them, it is the responsibility of the host to oversee their treatment. " Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

"I'd appreciate if you'd ensure that she was lice-free," Yaxley requested the Healer from where he and Nott were sitting in the front row of the raree show. "The LeStranges have been playing with her and I don't want her bringing anything nasty in my house."

Nott hissed a warning, and Yaxley nodded his head in acknowledgement.

"It's well known that Rabastan picked up something from Knockturn Alley wenches, which is why he can no longer formulate full sentences," Yaxley reminded the other wizard. "Plus, I'm sure that a great many people went to visit her in her cell."

Granger reacted to that comment, which meant that he had scored. Who else had visited her, he wondered.

"She's still a virgin," the Healer informed Yaxley. Iacob nodded his head and then Oblivated the Healer as the less that knew about his … pet's… status, the easier it would be for him.

"They still make them?" Iacob quipped.

"They're actually born that way, I understand," Nott told his brother-in-law.

The two warlocks looked at each other, thought of their respective deceased wives and nodded their heads in weary acknowledgement of their mutual losses. Yaxley then looked away and saw that his… new toy… slave… Mudblood Mistress… whatever the hell was he supposed to call her… was out of her mind terrified. He wasn't one of those that prescribed to the belief that Mudbloods were lesser in intelligence than Wizards. He and Alfred just wished tradition maintained, rather than having the Muggle world influence his world. These Mudblood wizards and witches came in, all fire and enthusiasm and lacking the respect and the understanding of why the Magical World was the way it was. It had worked, and worked well, for over one thousand years, there was no reason to have everything go arse over tit because someone knew of a supposed better way.

He walked over to where his prisoner was spread eagle on the exam table. His arrival caused her eyes to widen even more. Really, it was rather ironic that his reputation was more intimidating than the bloody LeStranges, all of whom were stark raving nutters. Really, compared to the mindless bruits that made up most of the Death Easters, he was rather short and old. It was his voice, he knew, as it was something he had cultivated.

"Easy," he whispered into her ear. "Just stare at the ceiling. That tile, over your head, the one with the odd stain on it that looks like a Devil's Snare? Focus on it, and this will be soon over. I need to find out what the LeStranges did to you while you were in their care and repair the damage."

The chit said not a word, so he prompted her, "Thank you. I appreciate you taking care of me, Master. I am fortunate to have a Master such as you."

She whispered her appreciation and he shook his head. "You need to realize, I am the only person that stands between you and the LeStranges. I will be less likely to expend any effort if you are not appreciative of my pains. When they're done with you, I'll bring you to my house. There will a soft, comfortable bed for you, food and water."

-*-*-

"A witch always thanks her host for his hospitality." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

A soft, comfortable bed consisted of a mattress pad for one of his dogs located at the foot of the bed. He owned at least four of the big, massive animals who looked like Staffordshire Terriers, but she had been indignantly informed that they were actually Blue Paul Terriers. Yaxley adored the dogs, particularly the eldest bitch, Effie, who was permitted to sleep on his bed. Food, being soup, and water were served in the steel pans that the dogs utilized. And she was staying in Yaxley's BEDROOM. On the floor. On a dog mattress at the foot of his bed!

Yaxley sat on the edge of his bed, and he winced. He grabbed his left wrist with his right hand and pulled it closer to him. Once it was cradled against his chest, Yaxley began removing his tie with his right hand. Effie tilted her massive head and then licked Yaxley's left hand.

"Would you do the honors, Alfie?" Iacob asked.

"Will do. What is her name to be?"

"Nighean," offered Iacob. "It's girl in the old tongue. You, Nighean, stand by the bed. Hold out your right hand."

"You're not even letting her on your bed for this?" Alfred quipped. He had taken Yaxley's tie and had Transformed it into long, braided silver and green ribbon.

"Go to hell, Alfie," snapped Iacob. He took Hermione's right hand with his right and positioned it on top of his motionless left hand. He then used his right hand to prop his hand so Alfred began to wrap the ribbon around their hands. "Since you are a Mudblood, and uncaring of our hallowed traditions, I will kindly explain what is occurring. This is a time-honored method of assuring cooperation from an unhappy capture. Does this look familiar to you?"

"The handfasting ceremony," Hermione said. As Iacob's hairy eyeball, she added, "Master."

Whatever potion the LeStranges had given her to make her tractable and biddable was slowly leaving her system. Her mind was becoming clearer, so she'd have to pretend to be in her drugged stupor.

That observation earned a slight shake of Yaxley's head.

"You're correct, Nighean. That's how the traditional left handed marriage started, also known as hand fasting. Most of the brides were unwilling so this ritual ensured that they couldn't murder their spouse or attempt suicide. That's why I didn't give you a fork for your dinner, because I know you'd want to stab me with it."

Alfred Nott tapped his wand, and the cord tightened around both their hands. It then sank into their skin and disappeared, leaving not a physical trace behind. Though Hermione could now sense Iacob Yaxley in her head. His left arm had gotten gamy after the splinching and his self-cauterization, so he was in a great deal of pain. Plus it hadn't healed completely, so he lacked full mobility. There was also a growing sense of annoyance that he was being forced to deal with her.

She realized something else and she hoped to God that the bond was one way. To her horror, Yaxley turned and smiled at her. It was the smile of a shark, and it never reached his dead eyes.

"No. I don't plan on fucking you tonight. My wife was a woman blessed with munificent curves. You are far too thin for my epicurean tastes. I'd gouge out my eye on your pubis bone if I should ever perform…." He didn't finish what he'd be performing but Hermione knew. Especially with his rather smug smile.

Her reaction was instinctive at the very thought of him being THERE…. Doing that to HER; she yanked away from him. She jarred his left arm, he didn't strike her, instead he cursed a blue streak. She shared his pain, the excruciating pain, so she wasn't surprised when Yaxley threatened to bloody murder her as she was an absolute idiot.

Alfred Nott placed a vial against Yaxley's lips and ordered him to drink. The taste was tart, but the pain in Hermione's arm lessoned considerably.

"Another sip, Iacob. Then we'll get you undressed…."

Hermione's face burned when Iacob made a rude comment about her undressing him. It didn't help that she was feeling distinctively unbalanced as whatever Nott had given Yaxley, it had the warlock feeling as though he was flying.

"Least she's not like Pansy. You won't rot away from her affections. But yes, get you undressed and I'll show her how to take care of your arm. Then you can sleep."

"Don't leave me with her, she'll try to kill me," Iacob said. "She's terrified of us, Alfie. Far more than she was of the LeStrange trio. I feel so honored to have earned that level of fear. Our little Nighean is plotting her escape; however, I'm not letting her go."

"Really, whatever have we done to her?" Alfie quipped as he convinced Iacob to take a third sip. And a fourth. "Have we not been perfect hosts? Was she not seen by a Healer? Did we not clothe and feed her?"

"It's the hair," Iacob slurred. "She has a fear of braids, apparently. Plaitaphobia?"

After that proclamation about her plait phobia, Iacob Yaxley collapsed, quite dead to the world; fortunately that included the nascent bond in her head. Effie placed her broad head on his chest and the two of them were soon snoring in time. Alfred Nott was busy instructing her in what her main responsibility would be now that she was Yaxley's…. pet…. To salvage Yaxley's left arm. "He throws his curses left handed. You will be responsible for massaging his arm and working with him to regain full mobility. It could be a great deal worse as Rabastan has expressed an interest in you. I'd give you at the most a month with surviving with Rabastan, as the only thing that stayed his hand was the fact that Iacob wasn't dead. With Rabastan, you'd be pleading for death by the end of the third week. Fortunately, since Iacob survived, you have protection against the LeStranges."

"Why are you telling me this?" Hermione asked.

The old warlock briefly smiled. "Your dirty Mudblood prejudices are on full display, Nighean. You think this ancient Pureblood warlock is incapable of compassion? How little you know of the Pureblood traditions. We're all not like the LeStranges, Nighean. Some of us are far, far worse, and I'm one of them, my dear girl. Now eat, and go to bed."

She looked at the steel pans and then swallowed.

"It's water and soup. It's your menu for the next few days; Iacob will gradually reintroduce you to real food as you can tolerate it. Slow sips. Don't force yourself to finish it all."

He sat down on the settee and motioned for her to drink. She took small sips until her stomach threatened to rebel. Then she sat down on the mattress and curled herself into a ball. That way if Yaxley or Nott decided to kick her while she slept… like the LeStrange brothers had…

"Alfie… she needs a blanket…" Yaxley grumbled. "Also can you dose her so she will sleep? I can't get to sleep with her wailing and gnashing of her teeth in my head. Tomorrow, we need to figure out how to get the bitch out of my head."

Alfred dropped a blanket over her and he whispered a soft charm so that she knew no more.

The next morning, she was given weak tea and still more soup by one of Yaxley's House Elves after she was nudged awake by Yaxley's foot. "What did they do to you?" He stated in a voice that was akin to a rumbling avalanche. "So that you whimper in your sleep?"

They offered me the standard Death Eater hospitality; torture, the looming, never ending terror of the possibility of being raped by one of the LeStranges. They were such lovely hosts, as they included turndown service and chocolate on my pillow. My dreams are full of Bellatrix's absolute insanity, Rodolphus' egomania and Rabastan's lustful eyes that kept watching me.

Like bloody hell would she admit how the LeStranges came close to breaking her. She would never admit that to the brutal Yaxley.

"Fascinating, and yet you're more afraid of me," he softly laughed. "Alfie and I truly frighten you. While you're fretting about what I've got planned for you, I have to confess. I have no idea. The only reason I told you to call me, Master, was that they were watching us."

-*-*-

"Never ever let a wizard sweet talk you into his bed. Not until you're married. Because once you're in, it's bloody near impossible to extricate yourself." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

Hermione's life quickly turned into a never ending tedium of tending to the reticent Iacob Yaxley's every need. Her life consisted of medicating and rehabilitating his arm, dressing him, though her tart refusal at assisting him with his pants earned her a loud, raucous laugh. Plus an approving pat on her head.

A pat! On her head! Like she was one of his dogs.

Then she sat on the floor and waited for his next command.

He rarely if ever spoke to her. The Death Eater was an absolute, inconsiderate bastard, waking her in the middle of the night when he couldn't sleep as he insisted on reading. The previous night, he had read "Codex Urbinas" by Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci. OUT LOUD. Then he had insisted that da Vinci had been a squib with a talent for Arithmancy while she had sputtered a protest. Her futile attempts at escaping from his personal chambers, let alone his house, were seemingly a personal source of amusement for him. After a day spent in a noble though ultimately failed attempt, he would greet her with a cheery, "Anything interesting happen today, Nighean?"

The most embarrassing attempt had ended with her waking up in his bed when she had triggered a counter-spell.

In his BED.

He crawled into bed with her and placed his good arm around her. It was a very chaste embrace, Hermione had to admit. Then the bastard growled, "If you desire a cuddle, Nighean, all you have to do is ask. As your loving Master, I will indulge you in all things." He fell asleep like that, his head resting on her shoulder, while she had been unable to sleep. To her shame, she wept as she was emotionally and physically exhausted, and being cuddledcuddled by a Death Eater was the final broken broom straw. They had fettered her magic, given her to Yaxley like a war bride, and despite far too many efforts, she hadn't managed to escape his bedroom, let alone his house… and the Order had made no effort to rescue her. She wept softly, so not to disturb him.

He pulled her closer to him and she wept still harder. He stroked her side and in her mind, she could hear his mental approval because she had put on the weight she had lost from her time with the LeStranges and then some.

"Go ahead and weep, Nighean," Yaxley rumbled. "Your friends in the Order have decided that you are an acceptable loss. They announced your name on Potterwatch in late October. They believe you dead, Nighean. They had a moment of silence for you. It was quite touching to hear their concern for you in their voices. So much concern, yet no real effort at finding you."

"In late October?" she asked. She had been clandestinely keeping track of the days of her capture as Yaxley would not permit her any type of reading material. She couldn't be sure of how long she had been with the LeStranges, but she had been so careful counting her days with Yaxley. It was October 17, 1997. It had to be. She had cycled twice…. Yaxley's pained response had been to unloosen her magical fetter sufficiently to permit herself to handle that as apparently Mr. Big Bad Death Eater couldn't handle womanly functions.

"It's mid-November," he admitted. "I've been forced to regularly dose you with a mixture of Draught of Peace and the Draught of Dreamless Sleep so you will sleep. You have an unnerving tendency of screaming when you're physically fatigued enough to sleep. I can't keep waking you in the middle of the night for verbal sparring because you have night terrors. I need to get some rest. Now go to sleep, Nighean."

"I hate you," she spat. "I hate everything you represent; bigotry, narrow mindedness and hatred."

"Finally, you've recovered a bit of spark. You're lucky that you amuse me with these little flashes of defiance. Plus you're delightfully curvy now. You're nothing more than a wet kitten pitifully hissing at Effie." He laughed. "And you know what you and your ilk represent? Chaos, overturning the social mores that have been developed over the last millennia, because you think you know better. Sounds a great deal like bigotry, narrow mindedness and hatred."

-*-*-

"Everything changes once you wake up in a warlock's bed." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

Hermione woke the next morning when one of the House Elves loudly squeaked when she realized that Hermione was in Master's bed. There was a rattle of plates as there was a near crockery catastrophe when the Aggie the House Elf nearly dropped her tray.

"Aggie no mean to wakey Mistress!" squeaked the House Elf.

"I'm not your Mistress, Aggie." Hermione protested.

"You did innie-outie with Master in Master's bed. Master tells House Elves to dresses properly you. Master said Aggie to give you book to read after you eats everythings on your plate."

"I didn't do innie-outie," squeaked Hermione. The House Elf bounced away to find her book, plainly disbelieving that any hot blooded woman would not wish to do the innie-outie with her beloved Master all the blessed night along. Really, it was futile to protest, especially as she was now wearing something that she didn't ever remembering wearing in her entire life. It was thin, it was sheer, it was cut in such a way that it seemed that she had more cleavage than she possibly could ever physically possess. Not even Lavender Brown, she of the big tits and very little brains, had that much cleavage.

But a book to read. A honest to God, Book. Perhaps it was da Vinci! It didn't really matter as long as it had pages, and words. Though knowing the bloody bastard it was probably a picture book.

-*-*-

"Gentle Reader, no one will ever know your warlock as well as you do." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

The House Elf refused to her the book until she was satisfied that Hermione's plate was clean. A real plate with forks, knives and spoons. It was after a few shakes of the House Elf's head was the plate deemed clean enough for Aggie. Her stomach uncomfortably full, Hermoine was then stuffed into a set of slightly snug dress robes. Hermione was given … not da Vinci but "The Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies." 12th Edition. Printed in 1905. Owned by one Rowena Estrildis Greengrass Yaxley.

Hesitantly, Hermione opened the book, anticipating that it would be a horrible, antiquated description of Pureblooded supremacy. She should only be so lucky, as it was far, far worse. The preface: Congratulations, gentle reader. Now that you have come to that great divide that separates your innocent childhood into the flowering of your womanhood, do not be afraid. For on one of side of that great divide there is your husband and your children. There is no greater joy than to give your Pureblood husband a male heir.

She nearly threw the book out of the window then and there, but she realized that there was a Glamour on the page. Hermione focused her limited magic to reveal a flowing, archaic handwriting.

1 September 1978,

Dear Journal.

I'm writing here because Mother anticipates that I will read you, memorize you and follow your implicit instructions. I need someone to talk to, and I've decided that you're it.

The damn matchmaker rounded up two new suitors for Anastasia and me last night. Merlin, help me. We're obviously hitting the dregs of possible suitors. They were both old! Ancient! Iacob Yaxley is fifty if he's a day and Alfred Nott… well… he's hitting seventy. Easily. They're both traditionalists as they both wear their long hair in braids. They are both impeccably dressed in that understated style that screams; "I've got vaults and vaults of platinum, gold, silver and galleons at Gringrotts".

Also it seems that dear Papa forgot to mention to either warlock that they weren't the only victim being interviewed as a possible husband for the Desperate Greengrass daughters, as both men were quite surprised to see the other. What am I saying? Papa didn't forget, he did it deliberately, to let the men know that they had competition. There was a bit of tension, as Alfred had brought two lovely bouquets for us both and Yaxley… well… he had a single pink long stem rose for each of us. Alfie's really quite funny, causing Anstey to laugh out loud a few times while Iacob doesn't say anything. Alfie's got the 3 H's - height, high salary, and high education, plus the fourth – humor. He's really quite funny. Yaxley's short, I'm afraid, and seemingly humorless, but he's got the brains and the galleons else he'd never be permitted past the front door. However, Yaxley seemed upset about the flowers because Alfie had brought a bloody bouquet. It seems that Yaxley's copy of "The Well Bred Pureblood Warlock" was printed earlier than Alfie's version as bouquets are now considered acceptable. They have been for the last fifty years.

Like a proper, respectful witch, I complimented Iacob on his roses as they truly were exquisite.

Really, why aren't these two men married? They don't seem to play for the other Qudditch Team, though being a proper sort; I'm not supposed to know anything about that. And that their advanced ages, they should both have sired the required heirs by now.

Both stayed for dinner and Iacob was really formal and polite. He follows the old ways, held my chair out for me, and then he beat Alfie to the mandatory toast to the eligible females at the table. There's a competition between the two men and to my complete surprise, he toasted me. It wasn't a flowery declaration of love, but still I blushed because nobody's ever toasted me before. No, it's always draughts raised to Anstey with her porcelain skin, her blonde hair and svelte figure. Never me, Rowena with her crazy curls and her corseted figure.

And he then softly apologized for embarrassing me.

When not in direct competition with Alfie who had staked out Anastasia, Iacob talked to me. It was basic, polite conversation. Food, weather, things like that. He's a drone in the Ministry. Dinner was an interminable affair, and then we were marched off to the sitting room where the Desperate Greengrass Daughters entertained the troops. Anstey sang while I accompanied her. It seems Anstey's caterwauling and my plunking failed to dissuade our stalwart suitors as Journal, Alfie and Iacob will be back in a week.

Iacob sent flowers today. He sent Anstey white lilacs, polite, respectful flowers that say while last night was lovely, he's not interested in pursuing her, while he sent me purple lilacs. With purple lilacs, he's stated his interest in me and that he wishes to pursue it. I'm terrified, my dearest Journal, as I can't imagine a lifetime of silence. I also can't imagine what I've done to attract his interest. I'm not pretty, I'm not thin, and I'm just roly-poly Ro, while Anstey is angelic.

Love;

Ro

"I believe that I will find this quite useful, as this seems to be The Hand Guide to Iacob Yaxley," Hermione decided. She flipped through several chapters, noting that Ro had written her thoughts on numerous pages. There was a long missive on one page, so she began to read.

12 February 1979,

Dear Journal;

Alfie and Anstey wish to be hand fasted. They spoke to me in our sitting room regarding it before Alfie asked Father. After that stunning reveal, Alfie wished to speak with me alone. I was so stunned that at last my dearest sister Anstey had an offer! A proper suitor that I wasn't sure what would happen next! My sister kissed him on his cheek! Kissed him! And warned him to behave before she left us alone. To my deep surprise, Alfie wished to warn me in advance that Iacob was working up his courage to approach Father about hand fasting me.

"He's extremely smitten with you," Alfie explained. "I fear that you do not reciprocate his kind regard, so I thought I should warn you. Please decline him gently, as he's never felt this way about anyone. Please take care not to damage him. I know you're not cruel, Rowena. So please… consider how to gently decline my rather introverted friend. He was raised by his great-grandfather, so he's far too comfortable with solitude. The minutiae of courting are absolute torture for him which is why he's still unmarried."

It seemed that Alfie had taken the younger Iacob under his wing, and the two men had become quite close. Fortunately, as I had sensed that there were several near duels between the two warlocks in late September and early October when Iacob had thought Alfie was attempting to woo both Greengrass girls, leaving him the odd warlock out. I guess when you have as many galleons as Alfie and Iacob are rumored to possess, it would not be unlikely for Alfie to marry Anstey and place me as his kept mistress in small cottage of my own. Really, to be out of Hogwarts for three years and with no real interest from any possible suitors… I probably would have jumped at the chance to be Alfie's mistress.

And it was rather naďve of Alfie to think that I would decline Iacob's proposal. My father would accept as he'd be rid of the last of his gaggles of his daughters and that would be it. Iacob later arrived and he walked over to where I was sitting, deep in thought over hand fasting Iacob Yaxley. Fortunately, Mother, Father and the matchmaker had arrived to keep us all chaperoned, because Anstey and Alfie were misbehaving.

"Deep in thought, Rowena?" Iacob asked. I nodded, and he sat down next to me. "I've been very contemplative lately. As you have noticed, I have difficulty… I fail… at expressing myself… I would like to ask ….if you might consider…if you might agree… to a trial period…with me. Please, take as much time as you need to make your decision. I should ask your father first but I believe you should have the right to refuse me."

"Yes," I answered.

"Yes?" Iacob repeated. He nodded his head once, and I realize that Yaxley had somehow construed my comment as a rejection.

"Yes, I will hand fast you, Iacob."

He smiled then, an utterly guileless smile of pure delight. He had dimples!

"I must confess, I believed you would reject my suit."

"Why?"

"I'm not Alfie. I get tongue tied with beautiful women."

I demurred, as I am no beauty. And Iacob silenced me with a sincere, "It is how I see you."

-*-*-

"A female prisoner of war is very dangerous. Do not take their meekness for anything more than a chance to mislead you into a fatal complacency." Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

30 November 1997

Really, up until now, he had been rather disappointed with his pet. Half-hearted attempts at escapes, a few outbursts of how much she hated him and all that he represented. He had hoped her meekness was due to whatever the LeStranges had done to her.

At last, Granger had made a bona fide escape attempt. The wards on his bedroom had trembled as she had nearly breached them, so he quickly reminded her who was boss (Iacob Yaxley) and put her to bed. (His) Then to add insult to injury, he decided to cuddle. He did enjoy a woman with curves, and she was filling in nicely. Not as sweetly curvaceous as Ro, who had been … unbelievably beautiful… but she was a far cry from the stick figurine that had been placed on his doorstep complete with a note that said "Free to a Bad Home". But curvy enough so that he didn't mind stroking her.

Really, he shouldn't have touched her as it wasn't proper, but he hadn't so much as looked at another woman since the day he had buried Rowena. As it was, he had only gone to the matchmaker then because he had needed an heir. Against all odds, he had found the love of his life. He had known that she was the ONE the very moment he handed her that pink rose. When Rowena had died, Alfie's son with Rowena's sister had been sufficiently close in the scores of relativity to be an acceptable heir, so he had never bothered to remarry. Having experienced utter bliss with his wife, he doubted he'd be so fortunate the second time.

Yet, while long nights of wizard chess with Alfie were enjoyable, he did miss sharing his bed. With someone besides Effie, who took up a great deal of the bed and snored to boot.

To be charitable, he gave his Mudblood pet the real date. Well, just enough so she'd realize that she had lost track of her days, but not so that she'd know the real date. He had quickly found the little marks she used to keep track of the passing days. Really, he had added and removed the marks as he thought appropriate. Giving her new name to which to answer, casually mentioning that her friends had abandoned her, plus a pointed reminder about the LeStranges and how they filled her dreams…. And then he had stroked her when she had wept herself to sleep. He had made a comment to his House Elves about not disturbing the girl in his bed, and requesting that they clothe her as appropriate to her new status as his bed warmer. That done, he insisted that a proper post trysting breakfast be brought to her, and he told Aggie to give her a book only if she ate everything on her plate.

Really, if she was to share his bed, she was still a bit too waifish for his taste. And he'd need to have his House Elves do something with her hair.

It was time to win his bet with Alfie, and Iacob Yaxley played to win.

Little did he realize, Hermione Granger had set her mind on the same goal.

-*-*-

Hermione Granger firmly believed that Beatrice Malfoy of the sage advice was a nutter. Or else someone had slipped something into her punch. After a week of clandestinely reading between the lines of the book, she was no closer to understanding Yaxley, except that for some reason Rowena Yaxley had adored her husband. Rowena had found Mr. Deep Growly Voice of the Bad Temperament to be utterly charming. And sweet. And apparently one hell of a lover as she went on and on in detail about how sexually inventive he was.

And Hermione was still sleeping in Yaxley's bed with him. When he got into bed with her, he did nothing but stroke her for a bit. Sometimes it was her neck, sometimes, her shoulder… but last night he had touched her breasts. Well. He hadn't really touched them; so much as he had laid his good arm over them and had promptly fallen asleep.

He was treating her like a frightened animal, she realized. A few caresses here and there, and she had gotten used to his touch. She no longer jumped when he touched her; instead, she just accepted it.

And the worst part was the quiver she had felt in her belly when his fingers had brushed against her nipples.

-*-*-

"Your utter fulfillment as a witch comes when you give your Warlock his heir." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

April 3, 1979

Dear Bea;

I've read your bloody book from cover to cover, and here I am.

Hand fasted to one Iacob Yaxley.

Yesterday was the Hand fasting ceremony, done in tandem with Alfie and Anstey naturally. The boys spared no expensive, as it was an utterly extravagant affair. I think I saw a Malfoy or three weeping in the corner because it was The Social Event of the Decade. I hope they were relatives of yours, Bea, because you have given me nothing but bad advice on how to be a proper witch, so irresistible that warlocks swoon at my feet. However, thankfully, Alfie and Anstey weren't in Iacob's bedroom last night, because I would have been mortified. Apparently they did it!

They did IT! Because in a year from today, Anstey and I are supposed to be waddling around, unless we've already delivered the required heir. So Alfie and Anstey decided to just start trying and Anstey was so happy this morning. Because Alfie is apparently amazing in the bed. And sweet and compassionate and affectionate. And she wasn't afraid, because she's just over the moon about Alfie. It makes me wish that Alfie had decided to do two Greengrass daughters for the price of one.

Because Iacob and I didn't. No, we cuddled, like we were bundling. No kissing, and Iacob gently stroked my hand while we cuddled. No kissing either, instead we just bloody cuddled. "This is nice, isn't it?" he had asked me.

I hate you, Bea. If I am still 'undefiled' on April 3, 1980, I am throwing you into the fireplace.

No love!

Ro

3 May, 1979

Dearest Beatrice;

Iacob took me A-Maying on Beltane.

Ohmygodess.

My Iacob is really quite the traditionalist as he desired our first time to be on Beltane. In the outdoors. Under the stars. He had a bonfire… and I could feel the magic… I pray that I caught.

I think he'd be delighted as Alfie informed me that Iacob desperately wishes to be a father. Alfie thought it best to forewarn me about that; as being raised by his hardhearted great grandfather, Iacob has a hopelessly idealized portrait of what a father should be. Alfie told me that it will take time for Iacob to be comfortable talking with me, but Alfie will sneak me information about my Iacob. He instructed me to be patient, as Iacob is worth the aggravation. And after Beltane, I agree. Oh, Bea, how do I agree after Beltane. He was just… so loving and adoring.

Must run, as Iacob wishes to make love. AGAIN! I hope our first will be a far too serious little boy, with blond hair and the bluest eyes. And I will spend all my time teaching my little Iacob to laugh because Bea, there is no sound as joyous as Iacob Yaxley laughing.

Love;

Ro

The next entry was hard to decipher, as it was tear-stained.

18 October, 1980

Beatrice;

There's something wrong with me. I have not conceived despite Iacob's resolute affection and your explicit instructions. Iacob knows what the issue is, but he's not telling me. He's spending a great deal of time with Alfie, there are Arithmancy charts spread over the floors of his study and Iacob's extremely reticent.

As you know; when 3 April, 1980 arrived and no baby was in cot or womb, I asked him to dissolve our union. As the bloody Warlock Guide would have instructed Iacob to ask.

As was proper, as there would be no child.

Anstey had a proper distended belly and I had nothing. Iacob broke down and wept. He offered…. He offered to wear the horns.

If I wouldn't leave him.

That he'd take on the role of cuckolded husband, wear the horn of a Romanian Longhorn with humility and meekness. He would acknowledge my child as his, if I just wouldn't leave him. He thought the problem was him, because he's older. He had already spoken to my sister to see if she would permit Alfie to father my child; because Alfie was man enough… warlock enough… to get the job done. It was the only solution, as there was no child to found or bought in all of England or on the Continent! Iacob had investigated the possibility of buying a pureblooded child! The genteel do not call it buying; they merely claim a distant relative has fallen upon hard times and requested that their distant relatives foster the child. It's best for all, the child is normally a bastard, born on the wrong side of the sheets, and they are raised by a family that wants them.

My sister spoke to Alfie and Alfie, having possibly the best understanding of all of us regarding the traditional Iacob and his responsibilities to the Honorable and Ancient and Be-damned House of Yaxley, reluctantly agreed. It was determined what the best time to try would be, and Alfie came to my bed. Alfie was so terribly sweet and compassionate. When Alfred left my bed, Iacob would return. He'd make sure I was tucked in and he'd sit at the side of my bed. I would weep myself to sleep because Iacob had completely withdrawn from me.

After Alfie had completed standing stud, Iacob was still terribly distant; so finally, I broke down and pleaded with him. No lovemaking, just to cuddle as I missed him. When we lay together like spoons, he gently stroked my belly.

"You're late, Ro," he whispered. "Our Alfie's done well by you. I hope it will be a little girl."

As you know Beatrice, it didn't happen. That time or the next. I refused to try again after that because the entire situation was destroying Iacob because his old resentment of Alfie was rearing its ugly head. He wears a façade, Beatrice and I saw it slip and slip badly the day after Alfred had first taken me to bed. Alfie and I had a brief chat, only because he was worried about Iacob's response after the previous night. Iacob saw us, and for a brief moment, he wore a look of utter hatred directed towards Alfie, and I feared for Alfred's life.

And Anstey is really ill. She hasn't recovered from Theodore's birth and Alfie and Iacob have Healers by the score arriving and debarking from the Nott Manor House. Alfie's looks old… far older than his seventy seven years and … I overheard Iacob and Alfie talking. About Iacob's beloved terriers and how he is so careful when he breeds them because he brought in a new bitch for his latest litter. "You can't keep inbreeding, Alfie, because… too close a relationship between sire and dam, and things happen to the progeny. Bad things. Sometimes, there are stillborns, and sometimes, you don't find out that there is something seriously wrong until they've reached maturity."

My mother and father were first cousins. My grandparents, both maternal and paternal, just as closely related. I saw the numbers on one of Iacob's charts, they weren't numbers. They were dates and times not just numbers. They were birthdates, Beatrice. Mine. Anstey . Our parents. All the blasted Greengrasses for the last five generations. Iacob's Arithmancy skills are unsurpassed, and he's… and he's coming up the same results. And he keeps burning the charts and redoing them. Over and over and over again, he spends hours and hours redoing the blasted charts.

I think Anstey's dying. That whatever is wrong with her was exacerbated by Theodore's birth. I fear that I have the same conditions, as Iacob's being incredibly attentive. He resigned from the Ministry, claiming it was a dead-ended position that was a waste of his talent. He's fibbing, Bea. He had hoped to make Minister of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement because he had such plans to improve the system, to reduce the waste and the bureaucracy. And he gave it up! We make love as often as when we were trying for a child… He insists on a cuddle during the middle of the day… and he's always covering me with a blanket when I'm sitting in the settee reading. There are fresh roses every morning for me.

I am only twenty three, Beatrice. I don't want to die.

I fear what will happen to my Iacob? He doesn't laugh anymore, Bea. I so miss that happy sound.

A House Elf, Mags, popped into the room, so Hermione quickly closed the book. "Mistress be wearing this," announced the House Elf. "Mags also do Mistress hair pretty."

The Yaxley House Elves were completely indoctrinated into the unjust House Elves slavery system. They refused to listen when she tried to explain to them of the better life they would have if they were free House Elves. Yaxley finally ordered her to stop upsetting the House Elves.

"These House Elves have been with my family for generations. Do you think I should cast them out? Tell them that after their years of loyal service, they have no home? They take care of me, you and the six dogs. There are twenty three… no… twenty four as Nana just had a baby, so I doubt it highly that they are dropping dead from overwork."

To her surprise, once she was dressed, Hermione was delivered to the main hall. Yaxley was wearing his work clothes, the mandatory dark robes, as he was wearing the golden tie tack for MLE. His left arm was still slung as he hadn't regained full motion in his arm.

"I'm returning to work today, Nighean. Since I won't be home, and it's been a whole two days since your last escape attempt, Alfie's agreed to mind you. Lottie, you've done a lovely job with Nighean. She looks presentable."

Hermione growled and Yaxley barked a laugh.

-*-*-

"Family obligations are a trial. Try not to act like a stroppy cow." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

Actually, Bea, family obligations are a bitch. Rowena Yaxley.

"Family obligations take precedence over minor issue such as your personal happiness. Try to deal with it with a modicum of grace and a jigger of fire whisky." The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

Alfred Nott warmly greeted Yaxley and offered him a spot of tea. He did a double take at Hermione, as Hermione was wearing a set of proper wizard's robes.

"Yax," Alfred asked. "The girl? What she is wearing?"

"It was something I bought for Rowena before she died. She never wore it, and the House Elves had put it in storage for the next Mrs. Yaxley. Since there is no one cursed with that horror, she might as well wear it, as Rowena never did."

Alfred Nott nodded his head and motioned for Yaxley to enter a side room. "I'm not sure about this. I disobeyed you on this, and I wondered… if you might make use of them again?"

It was a set of arithmancy tools. High quality parchment, the exquisite writing utensils, a sealed ink bottle.

"My old set. I thought I requested that you burn them after Anstey died," admitted Yaxley.

"I kept them, I'm afraid. I had hoped Theo would have the talent, but he doesn't. He has less sensitivity than I do when it comes to this. Come now, Iacob. Cast, for old time's sake. One chart for me, one for you and do one for the girl."

Iacob arched an eyebrow.

"Please, Iacob. The cards have been shuffled and the dealer is about to apportion the cards. I need advice, Iacob." Alfred's voice was very soft. "For Theodore's sake, Iacob."

"I don't know if I still have the skill. I had no luck with arithmancy when the girls were ill."

"Just cast," requested Iacob.

"Please take out three pieces of parchment and prepare the nib." requested Iacob. "Nighean, you do know the proper way of opening an ink bottle?"

Hermione had watched Septima Vector perform arithmancy. Hermione had always found arithmancy, sensible, functional, yet pretty. In Iacob Yaxley's flowing script, arithmancy became something less functional and more of a work of art. It was instinctive and graceful, and the numbers quickly appeared on the chart. When he was done, he glanced at the charts, blanched and then rubbed his forehead. He peered at the charts again and then announced, "I must return to work," he stated. "Nighean, behave for Alfred. Let the charts dry naturally, as the ink is still fluid. That means that the future is still in flux, Nighean. "

Then he and his plait disappeared at a fast trot.

Nott looked at Hermione for a very long time and he nodded. "With your hair done like that; and that dress, you do look like... It does explain Iacob's reaction. Not quite, not the same, yet… And your age… He did see far truer than I did when we first met."

Alfred Nott motioned for Hermione to sit down.

"How far did you get in your arithmancy studies?" Alfred asked Hermione. "My son said that you were the top of the class."

It was a surprisingly genteel conversation, with Alfred asking questions about triangulation, modifications and vectors. He skillfully determined what her level was. When he asked her if she knew understood the ramifications of a chart possessing a modified module boxplot of an orthocenter in multiple lines, she had to admit that she wasn't familiar with it.

"I'll give you a book to read," he decided. "I think Yax will permit you to read that. Especially since you're featured in Iacob's orthocenter. I cast that same chart four times yesterday and once today. It took me hours and then Iacob meanders in and just bloody draws it cold. There are a few slight differences, a small but significant shift in the orthocenter. However, the prediction is, I'll be dead within shortly; and if Iacob dies, you will soon also. And yes, this is where you can tell me that being tied to Iacob Yaxley is a fate worse than death. Because you're wrong."

He paused. Then he smiled once when he realized that she wasn't about to say anything.

"Because you have three potentials paths. You can die, you can live, but if you live, you'll either be with Iacob or the LeStranges. Since Bellatrix is fixated on the Dark Lord, you'll being carnally shared between Rodolphus and Rabastan as I believe they are quite sexually frustrated by now. It will be a matter of months for you. And I owe Iacob a great deal, and the only way he'll live, if he's with you. You see, Miss Granger, I'm the reason why Iacob Yaxley is a Death Eater. Once upon a time, Iacob had reached a point in his life where it was long past time to settle down and produce the next generation. He decided that a matchmaker would the best way of handling it. I know you have not experienced this, but our introspective Iacob is quite tongue tied when it comes to conversing with a pretty girl. All those rules of proper behavior and propriety make him mute when faced with the opposite sex. Unfortunately, he chose one of the Dark Lord's most loyal servants as his matchmaker. Iacob merely wished to be presented to a suitable woman, get married and have a dozen or so happy children. Iacob is the product of a very traumatic childhood, Miss Granger, so he really desired to have a proper family.

Alfred lit a cigarette and inhaled and exhaled slowly before continuing. "Originally, I loathed Iacob. Bit a pharisaical swot, I thought. Regimental, always by the spell book. The dislike was mutual as he thought me a princox, thought I'd take both Greengrass girls for my own. It's done, Miss Granger, if you have enough galleons. A wizard takes two sisters, one as a wife, and one as a mistress. Very genteel. We actually dueled a few times. Our last duel, I Imperio'd him. It was for his own good, I thought. He'd stop attacking me; I'd stop bouncing him on his arse. Through truth demands I confess that he got me; and got me damn well, a few times also. And, I really wished to marry Anstey. She would never have agreed to that unless her sister was properly set up. Iacob was utterly smitten with Rowena but …"

He shrugged his shoulders and took another puff once more.

"The matchmaker though Iacob would be a perfect addition to the Dark Lord's followers, so I made him join. I really wished to marry Anstey. Needless to say, both our wives dead… Iacob and I … share a rather profound experience and we've become true friends. At the end of my life, I feel … badly… about what I did to him. If I hadn't pushed him toward Rowena, maybe he'd have a family. Then again being married to Rowena was what he really wanted."

He gave Hermione a bright smile and then he laughed. "You don't trust me. Smart girl. How about this? I'll take you to my library and I'll give you two books to read. And if you promise not to run away while I'm minding you, I won't kill you. Though I am changing that collar you're wearing into something a little classier – like a choker. You still won't be able to remove it, but at least it will be prettier. I can you've tried to remove it, but you shouldn't. There are quite a few layers of protection on it, which is the main reason you're wearing it. Iacob really doesn't want a pretty girl like you wearing a dog collar, but he's barely been able to keep himself alive, let alone you."

Hermione wrinkled her nose at him, and Alfred gave her a twisted smile. "You are a pretty girl. Even old men like Iacob and I can admire a pretty girl. We're ancient, not dead. And Miss Granger, I know your sort. I know yours very well. If you chose Death, I'll ensure you won't have the fare for Cheron's ferry."

"You're an utter bastard," she informed Alfred Nott.

The Death Eater smiled.

"You're a very intelligent lady, Miss Granger. With death no longer an option, I can offer you either systematic rape by the LeStrange brothers or perhaps some nighttime pleasure with Iacob?"

"Don't touch anything," Alfie informed her as he swung open the door to his library. "Some of these books are heavily warded. Also some of the portraits are rather chatty, so be polite. And hello, ladies! You are both looking very lovely this morning; those must be the new gowns I requested painted for you. Do you like them? Oh, please say yes!"

A pair of painted ladies warmly thanked Alfie for his generosity.

"I heard Iacob's voice," one said. She was the older of the two women, with thick unruly, chestnut brown hair and a curvaceous figure. "Is he still here? Will he be joining us for tea? I'm afraid that we're late as I changed into the cerulean dress after I heard his voice. He prefers me in this color and I wished to wear it for him."

And Hermione realized that she was wearing the same color.

"He's already left, Ro. I'm sorry, but you know…" Alfie paused. "No, I'm sorry you don't know. Iacob is rather sensitive when it comes to your portrait. When you and Anstey were alive, our wedding portrait was the only portrait that hung in his house. Afterwards, he took it down as he couldn't bear seeing you in your wedding dress. That's why I have both portraits."

The woman wiped her eyes, and someone… it must be her sister, tried to soothe her.

"Don't you worry, dearest. You have his heart still, even after all these years," Alfred's voice was soft and quite affectionate.

"I just wish he'd visit me, just the once," Ro admitted.

"I know, love," her sister whispered.

Alfred moved away from the painting in order to give the sisters privacy.

"When Iacob commissioned these paintings for us, he wasn't anticipating what a short time we'd have together, because he had commissioned two sets of portrait. The idea for the first portrait was that it would be easier for our wives to have a chinwag by using the portraits. The paint the painter utilized, it wasn't meant to hold the memories like a real portrait, so Ro forgets that Iacob can't bring himself to visit her portrait. Or maybe, she doesn't forget, but she hopes that one day he'll visit. When the girls fell ill, we never bothered with the second commission which was supposed to be more substantial. You don't think of memorizing your loved one in a painting when you're newly married. Meanwhile, Iacob and I will be showing up shortly," whispered Alfred. "He and I always bring tea for the ladies first thing in the morning."

The painted Iacob and Alfred arrived with tea and the four newlyweds were a merry bunch. And Hermione noticed that the physical Alfred's smile wasn't matched by the sadness in his eyes.

-*-*-

Pragmatism is a characteristic that is only give to witches. Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

Hermione made a mental list of her options.

Death – rather permanent. And she hadn't given up hope yet. Not yet. She really hadn't experienced anything close to Alastor Moody and a year in a trunk, had she? No.

LeStrange. No.

Yaxley. Really not an option, but of the three… he was the best choice for her survival. If he wanted sex, she'd give it to him.

But Alfred Nott hadn't mentioned the fourth option. Escape. And while she might agree to The Yaxley Solution, she'd still be looking for an escape.

At tea time, Iacob Yaxley returned back to Alfred Nott's house looking like a wet cat. A very angry, noticably wet cat, complete with a bristling tail, braid.

"The bastards flooded my office, this time by breaking a pipe in the ceiling. There was mold in my office, because they couldn't dare open my office since I was regrowing my arm. And what is this?" Iacob ran his fingers over Hermione's choker. To her horror, her skin was quite sensitive to the feeling of his fingertips brushing against her neck. "And she's reading? Did she interpret the charts, too?"

"No, I just told her that if she wishes to stay alive, she needs to be… close… to you. I thought a pretty choker would be more suitable for your delicate sensibilities than a shock collar. Why don't you take off your jacket and let down your hair. The House Elves can make more food easily."

"Sounds delightful, but I'm utterly knackered," Iacob admitted. "I think if I make it an early night it would be a good idea."

His demands stared the minute they were in his bedchamber. He took two vials of pain potion as his arm was reaching an exquisite level of agony. He hadn't eaten since a spot of tea, so the analgesics hit him hard, and his voice was slow and slurred.

"Nighean, will you take down my hair? Don't get pouty, I just can't reach the end of the braid without cricking my neck and my shoulder is killing me. I'll need your help getting out of my jacket and then you can massage my shoulders."

He flashed a quirk smirk when she undid the buttons on his shirt. "You'll have to assist me in removing it and my vest. Don't jar my arm as it's really paining me."

"Can't you just remove your shirt by magic?" She requested.

"Please, where's the fun in that?" He laughed. It seemed the drugs had made him quite gregarious. "I'll show you one of these days, how much fun anticipation can be when I'm unbuttoning your shirt. You read the damn charts; you know how this will end between us, if we both want to live. Bloody Alfie, my personal puppet master, is once again pulling my strings so I will do things I don't wish to do. I must stay alive because with Alfred dead, there will be no one to protect Theodore. He's been trained well by his father, the master manipulator, for the Game of Pureblood Houses, but he's not ready to deal with the LeStranges and that ilk. He is my nephew, my wife's sister's son; I must be alive to protect him… You will become my wife's replacement, my malartú. I will dress you in Ro's clothes, treat you as I would her and I make it known that you share my bed. I hope she forgives me; this is for Teddy, I must do whatever I can to stay alive. Rowena loved Teddy as if he was her own. Perhaps that will grant me absolution. But the others, they will think me mad, and harmless, a doddering old fool who is using a Mudblood for amusement."

He touched her cheek with his index finger.

"Tomorrow night, I will have you properly dressed as a bride and you will come to my bed. Afterwards, I'll complete the ceremony and you'll be under my protection."

She protested. She argued; she refused to give credence to the auguries. Yaxley just stared at the ceiling and wished a way to escape fate.

-*-*-

"How you treat your malartú on your first night together will lay the foundation for your relationship. And Merlin knows that one day she might be your only ally." Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

2 December 1997
Yaxley Manor House
Glasgow, Scotland

By the next evening, Hermione had attempted four escapes (failed), thought about suicide (the anti-Harm Charm was so stringent that she couldn't even think about it for more than a minute) and her mind was currently racing around and around like a hamster obsessively running in their wheel. The House Elves had prepared her for the night's entertainment and she was to meet Yaxley for a light dinner in his drawing room before he ravished her. She was covered in a cerulean dressing gown and she was wearing something very sheer underneath. For the life of her, she couldn't have decided what color it was.

To her surprise, he was in a formal kilt. A formal kilt and he stood when she entered the room. He walked over to her, extended his good arm, and suggested she take it. When she did, he leaned towards her and kissed her cheek.

"You look lovely, Nighean. I have a present for you," he said.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"I trust you will display more enthusiasm when you've realized what I've done. I put a great deal of effort into it."

He led her not to the table that was set for an intimate dinner for two, not to the bedroom, but instead to a desk. There were… books and parchment. Not just any books and parchment, but Hogwarts school material. The pile included the real material, the Dumbledore curriculum and the imposter's syllabus.

"You will take your NEWTS in July, except for potions. I think it would be dangerous if you had access to my alchemy room," he said. "I spoke to the Headmaster, and he's willing to let you sit for the exams. You'll be able to take the exams, but you won't be able to take the practical portion. The idea of you at liberty to wave your wand might cause panic among the instructors. I can grade you on that portion, and we'll submit your parchments to the instructors for their grading."

"Why?" Hermione asked.

There was a brief twist of his lips, which Hermione had come to realize translated into, 'Well, she's a Mudblood. Social niceties of a proper society are completely beyond her ability to comprehend'.

"You're welcome. I'm delighted that you deeply appreciate the effort I made on your behalf. As for why, I would hope you'd finally be able to carry on an intelligent conversation. I am afraid that I am an optimist."

And the bastard smirked. And she wished she dared slap the smirk off his face.

And he laughed, as he heard that thought.

"Since you and I have come to our agreement, I'd like you to drink this," he had suggested. "It will relax you."

There had been several glasses of … what she thought was wine, but it most assuredly wasn't. She was floating, and she felt not the slightest bit of unease when he positioned her on the bed.

"Close your eyes," he whispered. "Think of that Weasley boy. Pretend that it's him; it'll be easier for you. If you don't fight so hard, you can get through this. You and I will both survive this, because there are no other options. We can save each other; I can protect Theodore and I can save you. And you, Nighean, can save me."

"I won't save you for long, so don't get used to it," she said. It was a stupid gesture of defiance, and to her surprise, Yaxley smiled.

"That's alright, Nighean. Because I will protect you and continue to protect you," he retorted.

"Why?" She asked.

"Stop talking, Nighean. Pretend I'm that ginger boy with whom you stole kisses; the one you had hoped for more."

So she did. She kept her eyes closed and lay on her back. Ron… with surprisingly calloused hands… was assertive as a lover.

Who the hell was she fooling?

Ron's kisses didn't taste of tobacco; his cologne didn't smell of the green moss, clover, and ivy, with a touch of vanilla and citrus. Also Ron had never ever touched her like this and certainly never there. Yaxley's touch was self-assured, yet gentle as he took his time, stroking and caressing while she settled down under his touch. And to save her pride, what little remained of it, she refused to give voice to the pleasure that she was experiencing, because her body was betraying her. No, she decided to be dead-abed, which made seemed to amuse Ron… Yaxley… because he'd just continue to stroke her, while her body was methodically trained in the pleasurable ache of desire and sexual anticipation. Ron was quite patient, deliberately taking his time to rouse and then cool her down until she was permitted her pleasure. After he had his enjoyment, she attempted to drift off to sleep while Ron…. Yaxley… smoked a cigarette.

After he was done with his cigarette, he insisted on a cuddle.

And being a pragmatic, logical girl, Hermione decided that giving her virginity to Yaxley was still far better than being the LeStrange brothers' toy. And certainly it was far better than being dead.

Hopefully, Ron would understand, why she had done it, because … because… she wouldn't know what she'd do if he didn't.

But it wasn't anywhere near as satisfying as an ESCAPE would be. However, she couldn't help but remember the look on his face when Yaxley had climaxed. His eyes had been tightly shut but his face had been blissful … oh God, she hadn't looked like THAT, had she?

The way he had exhaled that soft, "Oh…." after his climax.

Hermione was almost asleep when she realized that Yaxley had actually called out, "Ro."

-*-*-

As Iacob's malartú, Hermione's day still consisted of attempting to escape (the futility of which still caused Iacob to laugh), studying for her NEWTS and sex with Yaxley. Not just sex, but lots of sex with Yaxley; as she was deliberately accentuating her similarities to his late wife to lull him into a fake sense of complacency. They had sex just about every night… sometimes thrice on Sunday, and he was skilled, Hermione had to admit. It was a power game between them. She would refuse to admit any physical enjoyment when they had sex, because that was so damaging to the male wizard ego. In response, he'd smirk at her, and then he'd try something new, which usually had her screaming his name and clawing his back.

He was a smirky bastard, supremely self-assured and amused that he usually won in their little power plays in bed. Especially when he went down on her.

Yes, Mr. Big Bad Death Eater, so secure in his alleged sexual prowess, except for the fact, no matter what he did, she would only lay flat on her back and stare at the ceiling, as she wouldn't touch him. Especially not THAT.

However, there was a problem. They were having sex just about every night (and sometimes thrice on Sunday) and she hadn't cycled recently. There were periods of early morning nausea and extreme fatigue, her sore breasts were distinctively swollen and her clothes weren't fitting. And while Hermione Granger was a smart lass; and able to add sums to get the proper total, she refused to believe what those symptoms meant. Bloody hell, one would think that the Death Eater would be proactive in promoting birth control! You know that whole racial purity bull shite?

He was watching her one day, his hand propping his head. His blue eyes were intense and he seemed quite the picture of an amused, condescending Death Eater.

"What?" She snapped, as lately her nerves were a might frayed. "Why are you so amused?"

"I was wondering when you would inform me that you're pregnant. I understand that some do not wish to tempt faith by mentioning it to anyone for the first trimester, but really, I thought you'd let me know. You will stop your attempts at escape, Nighean. I've been lenient and permitted you this childishness long enough. Do you think I'll let you take this from me? And your friends will doubt your loyalty when you show up with a swelling belly."

"What?" Hermione repeated. "You want this?"

His eyes narrowed and Hermione stepped away from him. "Nighean, you didn't finish reading the book. You are my malartú. When a warlock's wife is declared barren, she is normally sent away in shame. However, when a warlock… loves… his wife, and refuses… refuses… to dissolve their marriage… for he will not permit her to be tainted; will not permit her to be sent away from him in shame; because his world will end the day she leaves him, there is another way for a child to be born of that union. She will permit him a malartú, a surrogate, to carry his children. I want my child and I will not permit you to leave. The child you carry will be deemed Pureblooded because this child will be born of my malartú. To this day, I have never dissolved my marriage to Rowena. Alfred and I have not dissolved our marriages and we never will. Neither of us will ever marry again."

Hermione left loose a string of profanities that would have impressed Alastor Moody.

"For someone who is supposedly so brilliant, you really are quite obtuse. Being my malartú is the only reason why aren't finding yourself with your legs spread while Rabastan has his way with you. As long as you're pregnant with my child or you're nursing my child, no one can do anything to you unless they wish me to intervene."

"And once the child is weaned…" Hermione whispered.

"You should be pregnant, as we will try for the next one before you cease nursing. Come now, I know you've been enjoying the practice." And with that, he smirked again. "Especially when I go down on you."

She slapped him, hard enough to knock that smug smile of his face. In response, she found herself against the wall, with his hands on her face. His voice was like ice, and he spoke very, very softly. "Don't push me, Nighean. My fondest hope was to have a child with Rowena. I worshipped the very ground she tread upon. And when she died, I swore that there would be no other woman for me, and I buried my heart and my soul with her. And to take you, a mere child, barely out of swaddling, with blood as dirty as the River Tyne, as my malartú …. "

She slapped him again, on the other cheek. His eyes narrowed and he spoke still softer.

"To clothe you in the clothes that I bought Rowena but she never wore…. to treat you in my bed like I did Rowena… to control my anger that you dare… DARE… to impersonate my wife because you think I will be fooled into complacency… I do all this to save Theodore…. But do not push me, Nighean. And don't you ever hit me again….because I've never raised my hand against you."

"I hate you," she spat. To her horror, she realized that she was quite close to scriking.

He said not a word, instead he moved closer to her.

"I know how much you hate me. Except for those moments when you scream out my name and rake your kitten claws down my back. I think you find me rather pleasurable company then. Admit it, Nighean. In my bed, you don't remember that boy with whom you stole kisses. Though I think we've reached a point in our relationship where you can call out Iacob. Rather than Yaxley! Come now, there is no shame to admit that I can utterly satisfy you in bed. I am quite proud regarding last night. Last night…. Did you climax three or four times? Wait, I remember, it actually was five times."

She was crying then, and he sighed. A long, drawn out sigh.

"Why do you weep? I've never raised my hand against you. I've only used my magic to protect you. I've never so much as raised my voice with you."

"I want to go home." Hermione was sobbing so hard that her words were all but incomprehensible. "I want my mother."

Rose Granger would be horrified to realize how much trouble her daughter was in. But a nonjudgmental Rose would have embraced her, and rocked her while she wept. And right now, Hermione Granger needed a warm, comforting hug.

"Stop your crying," the Death Eater said. "Stop it. You wish to go home? Your old home is no more; your parents have fled. You confessed that you have no idea where they might be, and I was unable to locate any trace of them when I searched your house. And since you are carrying my child, this is your home."

That was quite possibly not the correct comment to make, as the girl only started weeping harder.

"You have only here. Stop your scriking. You must calm yourself as this level of hysteria is not good for the child."

Really, if that was his best attempt at calming her down, it was no surprise that it was doomed for failure. Yaxley finally Charmed her into a deep, restorative sleep and he went to ask Alfred Nott what to do next.

-*-*-



20 February 2008
Nott Manor
Aberbargoed, Wales

"When your malartú is in gestational confinement, she will be at turns, weepy, petulant, angry and openly hostile. You must protect her and the child from everyone, including herself." Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

"Pregnant?" Alfred Nott stated. The older Death Eater appeared stunned. "Are you sure? You're sure you're the father?"

Iacob Yaxley gave Alfred Nott his trademarked and licensed tight smile which translated to "Don't push me." Alfie held out one hand in silent entreaty.

"Yes, I am quite sure. I've been, pardon my vernacular, mortaring and pestling since before Christmas. I'd say that she's ten weeks along based on her chart. When I asked her, she didn't seem surprised, so she knew. She hadn't said anything to you while you've been minding her?"

That was a loaded question, as Iacob Yaxley had a history of being uneasy with Alfred Nott's rapport with the ladies.

"No; she's been napping a great deal in the afternoon, for which I was rather grateful. It's exhausting minding her, Yax. The only odd thing she mentioned was that she had a horrid craving for Chicken Jalfrezi from a place in Manchester. She expressed a desire for spicy food."

Iacob Yaxley being a Pure Blooded Warlock of the Most Ancient House of Yaxley, was a traditionalist and Scottish to boot. He had a fondness for Balmoral chicken stuffed with haggis, clapshot and whisky sauce; when in need of emotional comfort, he dined on chicken stovies and he had never, ever heard of Chicken Jalfrezi. However, Iacob was struggling to follow the Guide's instruction on how to treat his malartú. If Rowena had wished Chicken Jazzrezzi, he would have moved heaven and earth to locate it. Therefore, he needed to locate this… Chicken Jallfezzi with all due haste.

And he'd have to find something from the culinary hall of horrors for his meal. Perhaps they might have lamb, because what could one do to lamb, besides cook it?

"Where is this place located?" He asked.

-*-*-

When Hermione woke, the Yaxley House Elves descended upon her and changed her into something that wouldn't offend Iacob Yaxley's delicate sensibilities. Then they tried to hide the dark rings under her eyes and her red rimmed eyes, but they weren't miracle workers. She was then escorted to the dining room at a pace akin to a forced march where no doubt haggis and rollmops, kedgeree and finnan haddie awaited. Her stomach roiled and she swallowed. And she wished for a berwick cockle. She needed peppermint to settle her stomach at the very thought of haggis.

To her surprise, there was a spread of easily a dozen different dishes featuring Indian cuisine. Most ran from the range of moderately spicy to melting down one's stomach. And the absolute best part was Iacob Yaxley was plainly staring at the food with all the fervor of a two year old forced to eat his vegetables. She noticed that he seemed to have mistakenly decided that the Lamb Nilgri Korma was the closest thing there was to a proper Scottish meal, as there was lamb and mint in it.

Oh, she hoped that they had accidentally doubled the dose of chilies in his meal.

"I thought you might manage a civil conservation over supper," he stated. "For example, you do not seem to understand what a malartú is."

"I believe it's a Pure Blooded term for whore," retorted Hermione.

"Once again you proudly display your ignorance by putting your subjective values on my traditions," retorted Yaxley. "You are not my whore. You are not my concubine. You are my wife's surrogate. The child you carry now will be raised as my recognized offspring. I have cast the protection spells, so the child is safe from those that would harm it."

Including the very unhappy mother.

"Lucky him," Hermione said.

"Yes, she is very fortunate to have me as her father. As I previously explained to you, though it appears that you were not paying attention, I will recognize her and support her. Therefore, you will be under my protection also."

"It's a girl?" That surprised Hermione as she just assumed that Desperate for an Heir and a Spare Iacob Yaxley would tilt the percentages into having a son.

"Yes," he said. "You have given Rowena and me a daughter. I thank you for that, and on behalf of Rowena, I give you her thanks also."

Yaxley spoke very softly then, so softly that Hermione almost failed to hear him. "I had wished my first with Rowena to be a girl. She and Anastasia were so very close that I thought she'd like a little girl. However, it was not meant to be. Never for us. I would have been so very delighted to have a daughter." In a louder voice, "Very well, eat your meal. Eat all of it. I went to Manchester for it," he explained. He nodded his head once, as though she should marvel over his generosity. Well, she was amazed; but it wasn't because that he was generous.

"This is Muggle takeaway," Hermione stated.

"Yes," was his easy agreement.

"You went to Manchester, and bought Indian takeaway," she repeated.

"Yes," he repeated.

"Where there any deaths reported?" Well, she was pregnant with his … daughter… so he wouldn't hurt her for that comment.

Being the supposed victor with the upper hand in their relationship, he ignored her witticism. He took a healthy helping of the lamb dish and ate. He blanched as it seemed a bit fiery but still he struggled to swallow. After all, according to Beatrice Malfoy, it would be horribly uncouth for the host to hurl in front of his unwilling guest.

"Milk will help cut the burn," she offered. "But you went to Manchester?"

"And I bought whatever this is, in Manchester," he admitted. "Why do you keep repeating that? Are you deaf as well as ignorant?"

"The very idea of you, and your braid, in Muggle Manchester…" she paused. "With no deaths announced on the Wireless."

His blue eyes narrowed, which meant that he was not amused.

"My hair is braided in the traditional fashion," Yaxley explained. "I wore my hair unbound until I reached adulthood.

"Are you that insecure that you must cling to tradition?" Hermione asked.

"And are you so brash that you believe your values are sufficient to overturn society and plunge it into utter chaos?"

She ignored him and ate a little off everything until she was satisfied. Perhaps she had a bit too much but the food was quite good. Yaxley then filled her plates again.

"Eat," he instructed. "I'll make arrangements for you to be seen by a Healer."

-*-*-

Her world became even more restricted after the Healer confirmed that she was pregnant. First of all, Yaxley knew when she was due, but she didn't. She didn't know the bloody date which seemed rather unreasonable considering she was the one having the baby. Then again, she still didn't know what today's date was. And the most Yaxley would say, NEWTs first, so to study hard as he wished his daughter's mother to be educated. But something had happened on the first day that the baby had kicked her. Yes, there had been assorted funny feelings earlier in the realm of her belly but the first kick. It made everything real. Not that the Lavender Brown's size breasts weren't a dead giveaway plus her expanding equator, but she was overwhelmed by a fierce need to protect the child within.

HER child. Not Iacob Yaxley's child, but hers.

Which, God willing, would be born.

Now, she had her school parchments and studying, and… sex with Yaxley. God. She hated… HATED… how her body betrayed her when Yaxley kissed the nape of her neck. He'd lift her hair away from her neck and then deliberately kiss her because he knew how she'd react. How the sensation would go from her neck and pool in her middle and she'd melt against him. Then he'd nibble on her ears…

Yaxley had trained her, just as thoroughly as he had trained his dogs.

As her body changed, he became more attentive rather than less, and every night, after they had their adult fun, he'd kiss her belly and lay his hands on it. She could sense his magic as there was obviously some Pureblooded ritual involved but naturally, he never told her what he was doing. And she certainly wasn't about to ask. Though it wasn't listed at all in Beatrice Malfoy's original book though a new book had given to her by the Healer.

The Witch's Guide to Breeding and Confinement by…. BEATRICE MALFOY. She'd rather wander barefoot through the desert for forty years before she'd open that book.

But the baby reacted whenever Iacob spoke to the two of them. It was the deep voice, Hermione decided.

Last night, he must have taken something, because he was so bloody enthusiastic that she was exhausted. And Yaxley was protective; cosseting her while she leaned on him. She was so tired that she didn't offer her normal protest when he suggested that she change into something presentable. The House Elves had stuffed her into a new dress and she was given jewelry to wear. There was a bracelet for her right hand with an attached ring which no doubt symbolized something dreadfully meaningful as it matched her choker. After she was made fit to be seen, Yaxley escorted her to Alfred Nott's sitting room and then disappeared. Being nearly asleep on her feet, she gratefully dozed for a time, Alfie not minding as he was terribly withdrawn though he was making an effort to hide his preoccupation. After a long nap, she sipped at the proffered peppermint tea, and finally she had enough of the silence.

"Spill it, Alfie. What is bothering you?" Of the two warlocks, Hermione was the most comfortable with Alfie, however she trusted him not one bit. He was charmingly insincere but still quite amusing. There were the books he slipped her to read during her 'teas with Alfie', so he was the reason why she hadn't gone completely spare. There were walks in his garden, which meant spring, late spring, so she had an idea of the month at least.

"Theodore is coming of age, and he does not wish to put his hair in a plait." Alfred sighed at the fickleness of youth.

"Really, you're worried about your son's hair?" Hermione asked.

"I'm actually worried that our Pureblooded traditions are being twisted into something I no longer recognize. Iacob and I are dinosaurs and we're too stubborn to lie down and die. But doesn't he treat you well? At least, better than the LeStranges would have?"

She nodded.

"He's so serious when he talks about the baby. Not that Iacob's ever been accused of being jovial, but he is really taking it to new extremes as he's obsessed about doing everything properly. He assures me that he shares his magic with the baby every night. I did that with Theodore, since Theodore knew Anstey's magic intimately. I needed him to know of me, to know that I was there and how much both his parents loved him. It's very important that a developing child is secure in their parents' love. For a magical child, ambivalence is almost as scarring as hatred."

Really, Hermione was far too tired to deal with blame.

"I don't seem to remember anyone asking me if I wanted this," she snapped. Then she rubbed her belly and though calm, loving thoughts to her daughter.

"You agreed to this; however you didn't know what you were agreeing to because you never asked what Iacob was getting out of the deal. Anyway, Iacob's parents died when he was very young when they were attacked by Muggles. He was raised by his great-grandfather who hated him, who didn't have the faintest idea on how to raise a little boy. Iacob was nursed on hatred because his great-grandfather hated his grandmother. Do you truly wish your daughter to be raised like that?"

"I don't understand why we're having this conversation," Hermione admitted.

"Because I'm running out of time. When I'm gone, Iacob will responsible for keeping my son safe. He'll need someone he can trust. Or at least someone to talk with."

Hermione remembered, a life time ago when she was reviewing who was who amongst the Death Eaters. Not a great deal is known about Alfred Nott – he is like the spider in the darkness. Unsure of whom his loyalties are among the Death Eater factions except for Yaxley. Though it is assumed that he is not of the LeStrange-Malfoy crowd.

Iacob Yaxley returned and greeted Alfie. He took out a cigarette and was about to light it for a long, leisurely smoke, when Hermione took it out of hand. That was unusual, as Yaxley hadn't smoked in front of her in months. She knew the two warlocks well enough to recognize that they were both bothered by something. When they were troubled, the gregarious Alfie got introspective while Yaxley smoked like a factory chimney.

"No smoking in front of me. It's not healthy for the baby. Hopefully you haven't caused any problems by smoking like a chimney in front of me for the last few months," Hermione informed him.

"I can't smoke?" Yaxley protested, his very braid bristling in annoyance. "What nonsense is that?"

"Secondhand smoke is not healthy for a baby. It can cause health issues," explained Hermione.

"What shite is that?" Protested the chain-smoking father to be.

"It's not shite, and you're no longer smoking in front of me…us…"

"Don't tell me what to do," growled Yaxley as he dutifully put away his cigarettes. "If I wish to smoke, I will do so. Alfie, I returned Theodore back from his stay with the lovely, lusty ladies of Langholm. He's still rather stunned by the entire experience as I paid the ladies quite well to make it memorable. He'll need a moment to gather his thoughts and join us. Losing one's virginity should be a memorable experience, don't you agree, Nighean?"

Hermione said not a word, refusing to stoop to his level, as well; she couldn't BEND at the moment. Yaxley smiled, but his smile disappeared when she mentally compared him to a right stroppy cow. However, he wasn't fazed for long. "No need to blush, Nighean. I'm delighted to have given you such a pleasurable experience that remembering the carnal delights we shared leaves you speechless. Also Alfie, Theodore has been accepted into the Davos Institute. He'll have a week after Hogwarts, then he'll go there for more instruction."

Hermione noticed that Alfred's shoulders noticeably relaxed. "Thank you, Iacob."

"He gained admissions on his own credentials." Iacob stretched and cracked his neck. In a softer voice, he said, "Effie's failing, Alfie. I need to help her along but I just can't bring myself to do it. She's barely eating but her soul is still in her eyes. Would it seem mawkish to say that it seems that she's staying just for me?"

"Not at all," Alfie stated. "Ro told Effie to keep you safe, so she's doing what Ro told her to do."

"Speaking of safety, Nighean, the Dark Lord would like to see you. It seems that your expectant condition has been made known to him. Theodore will receive the Mark today, I will be re-Marked due to my arm and you will be …" Iacob paused, uncertain of what exactly Hermione would be doing.

"Radiant in her expectant condition?" Alfie chimed in.

"He should take lessons from you," suggested Hermione, who was not feeling at all radiant.

Iacob growled, muttered something about needing a smoke and left the two alone. When it was just Alfie and her, Nott gave her a slight smile.

"Miss Granger, make sure Iacob brings the portraits back to his house. They'll be lonely here without anyone here."

-*-*-

Draco Malfoy was standing near to his mother in the ball room of the Malfoy Manor. His father was attempting to be close to them, but Lucius Malfoy, after recent events, was most assuredly persona non grata even among his immediate family. Also standing near the Malfoys was Triple Agent Headmaster Severus Snape who was developing quite the ulcer. Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley were running around the place, lacking any adult supervision, and the brain of the operation, Hermione Granger, was now the property of Iacob Yaxley. It really couldn't get much worse, he thought, as he held Lucius Malfoy's derogatory opinion on the short, older Death Eater.

And the less said about Alfred Nott the better. And speaking of the duo, the definitely dementia-stricken Death Eaters appeared together. Theodore Nott, one of the guests of honors for tonight, stood behind his father and…. Iacob had brought Granger? Severus was pondering why Iacob had done so when Draco snickered and mentioned that Hermione Granger had gotten fat while she was Yaxley's prisoner. His mother hissed at him to be quiet, and then added, "No, Draco, she's not fat. Yaxley's taken her as his wife's surrogate."

Granger's expectant condition was obvious to those that knew her (except for Draco) and even those that didn't know her. The subdued whispers regarding the scandal sounded like a flock of Hippogriffs launching. Iacob Yaxley heard the comments and he said not a word. Instead, he motioned to a House Elf and took a glass from the tray. He extended it to Granger who drank as he insisted. That done, he patted her head.

The Dark Lord pounced on Iacob, much like a cat pounced on its prey.

"Yaxley, I find myself in a difficult position. I'm not sure if I should congratulate you on your virility at your advanced age or express my concerns over what you've been fornicating. The mudblood…" Voldemort hissed. "Do you deny what her blood is?"

Silence, as the pack of wolves circled Yaxley to determine if he was weak enough to take down. His heavily seamed face displayed no obvious fear as was his norm.

"No, I do not deny what the base of her blood is. However, My Lord, I must confess that my blood mixed with hers when she splinched my arm as my blood entered her open wounds. I also seeded her with my wife's blood to complete the ritual for malartú. She caught early and I find her a very lively wench. It seems that Potter couldn't satisfy her as the Boy who Lived has a limp wand. She is extremely vocal in her enjoyment in being taken in a multitude of different ways."

Yaxley stroked the back of Granger's neck and she inhaled slowly. Meanwhile the majority of Death Eaters had roared their appreciation regarding the limp wanded Boy who Lived. Not Rabastan LeStrange, who had been skating on the thin ice of sanity for as long as Severus had known him. And Lucius had remarked that Rabastan had been quite fixated on Granger while Iacob Yaxley was recovering from his splinching.

It wasn't a surprise then, really, that Rabastan's sanity snapped and he fired a Sectumsempra at Granger. In his shadowed mind, he seemed to believe that the bitch had betrayed him with Yaxley, requiring her death. But instead of Granger, the Curse hit a surprisingly fast Alfred Nott. The warlock had Apparated in front of Granger as though he had lived and relived this event in his dreams countless times and had known exactly when to react. His skin shredded, his blood gushing onto the floor, the ancient warlock still managed to retaliate and winged Rabastan with the Killing Curse while Iacob Yaxley fired off the same curse. The battle engaged, the two Hexes triangulating into something not quite immediately fatal, so Rabastan was able to wildly fire off another Curse before Iacob cut him down.

Meanwhile, Nott collapsed onto the floor and his son and Granger futilely attempted to staunch his life from bleeding out. It was futile, Severus knew. The warlock was too old, too much blood had been spilled and Nott was dying. The single Yaxley was then set upon by both Rudolphus and Bellatrix. It wasn't as though the LeStranges were avenging Rabastan, it was merely their chance to take out the two elder Death Eaters, the only ones that held sufficient sway (galleons, combined with being the last of the Dark Lord's original followers who hadn't been schoolmates with the Dark Lord) to counter the LeStranges' influence. Yaxley fought well, but Alfred's blood was making the floor slick beneath his feet. He slid and nearly fell, but an enraged Theodore Nott fired off a Cruciatius that hit Rudolphus hard. It seemed, as always, that Rudolphus had underestimated the enemy.

Meanwhile the Dark Lord did nothing, said nothing to stop the fight. It was time for survival of the fittest. And the fittest in his mind was Bellatrix LeStrange – however, much to Severus' surprise, Iacob Yaxley was a berserker at heart; cursing and hexing with a fiery vengeance that belied his advanced age. Rudolphus was the next to fall under a barrage of Curses, leaving just Iacob and Bellatrix. The two combatants stared at each other, a somber Iacob Yaxley and a noticeably unraveling Bellatrix who was seemingly startled that the Dark Lord was permitting Iacob to duel his personal Hand maiden. Or perhaps the LeStrange brothers' deaths had affected her somewhere deep within.

"I don't know why you wish to duel me. You should thank me, you're a widow now," Iacob quietly stated.

The crowd roared its appreciation, and to Severus' surprise, even the Dark Lord chuckled. It was well known that Bellatrix and Rudolphus' marriage had been rather… complicated, but for the Dark Lord to laugh, upset Bellatrix. Bellatrix's face turned white when she heard the jeers of the crowd so she seemingly aimed at Iacob but a quick recalculation sent the Curse toward Hermione. Yaxley gestured and the malartú bracelet he had given Granger triggered as it was in actuality a port key, taking both Theodore and Hermione away. Bellatrix howled in her frustration, so Iacob flicked and swished, stabbed and jabbed with his wand. He was angry, but a controlled angry so Bellatrix found herself on her back, on the floor. The older man was kneeling next to her, he had his wand dead center to the middle of her forehead, and with a great deal of relish, he snapped her wand with his left hand.

"Surprise, my left hand works," he told her. His deep voice carried in the suddenly all too quiet room, as no one, no one thought that Yaxley would the victor in their battle. "I've had a great deal of physical rehabilitation with my malartú. She's such a handful that she requires both my hands at all times."

"Yaxley," the Dark Lord warned him.

"My Lord, she went after my unborn child. Under the code, I am permitted to kill her for that," Iacob explained. Bellatrix shuddered beneath his wand, and Iacob smiled.

"Iacob, Alfred is asking for you," inserted Narcissa Malfoy. Her face was white but she was kneeling next to Alfie's broken body. "Not a great deal of time, I'm afraid."

Bellatrix LeStrange had the devil's own luck; tending to a dying Alfie Nott was the only reason why Yaxley would let her go.

-*-*-

Alfred Nott was a shredded mess of the warlock he once was. He smiled once he recognized Iacob and his right hand slightly moved, as though to reach out to Iacob.

"Saved her," Alfie proudly whispered. His smile widened even as the blood poured from his mouth. "Theo?"

"I swear I will protect Theodore as though he was my own," Iacob promised. "Where's the blasted Healer?"

Alfie continued to smile as he knew there was no Healer present who would be able to save him.

"It's 'right. Sorry… Can't stay, Yax… paid my debt….to you…. finally… the cottage is yours…Anstey ….. Ro…. Hello … missed…you so …. Very very much." the ancient warlock's eyes widened as though he was greeting dearly missed friends and then he breathed his last.

Iacob Yaxley nodded his head once in acknowledgement as he knew he had very little time left. Staring down Bellatrix LeStrange had been suicide, but he had promised to protect both Theodore and Nighean, so he had done what needed to be done. Refusing to display any unease, he closed the gaping wounds in Alfred Nott's chest and crossed Alfred's hands over his chest. And he waited.

And he waited…. For his execution.

-*-*-

"Yaxley… Yaxley… Yaxley…," Voldemort sighed. "Whatever am I to do with you? You've killed the LeStrange brothers, my most loyal followers, but they did attack your Mudblood whore. And she's pregnant, Yaxley. Get out of my sight, Yaxley and take Alfred with you."

Theodore was in a state of shock, but Nighean had the House Elves plying him with liquor. Yaxley spoke gently to Theodore, not holding back that his father had died and that Theodore was not returning to Hogwarts. The boy had protested, but Iacob bluntly informed him that Hogwarts wasn't safe.

"Get drunk, it will help with the pain" ordered Yaxley, as that was how he dealt with Rowena's death. However, he'd ensure that the boy didn't crawl into the bottle like he had. "I have to prepare Alfred for burial. Nighean, make sure he keeps drinking."

"What?" Nighean asked.

"I have to take care of his father's body. The viewings will start tomorrow and after the funeral, I will send Theodore on."

"You're sending him on to Davos after his father died? Are you heartless?" Nighean protested.

"He was never going to Davos. I informed Alfie that he was accepted there, but that is not where he is going. He'll be sent onto another school. I need to get him away from Scotland for his own safety. I killed both of the LeStrange brothers and I embarrassed Bellatrix. She will go after Theodore if she knows where he is."

This child… the mother of his daughter… was about to give him a tongue-lashing. She did so more and more frequently as her belly swelled and her temper grew proportionally shorter. He usually ignored her waspishness as it was just how she was. However, now, he was not in the mood for her censure. If everyone's lives weren't dependant on him, he would have wished for a moment or three to mourn and figure out what today's events meant. He no longer wore the Dark Mark on his left arm; the man who had been his only friend, the very same man who had Imperio'd him into joining the Dark Lord's supporters was in Iacob's parlor being prepared for his viewing. If the other side won, there was no way he'd ever be forgiven for what he had done, regardless of being Imperio'd.

He had taken the fork in the road far too long ago to ever turnaround. So be it, what was done, was done. It was coming down to he had to protect his family, at all cost.

"What about me? What about the baby?" Nighean protested.

Iacob was beyond stunned when Nighean asked about the baby. As far as he believed, Nighean loathed him when she was upright, (not that he could blame her), tolerated him when they were horizontal (that he could easily blame her, as God knows he tried to ensurethat she got some enjoyment and her lying there like she was dead really annoyed him) and felt nothing towards the child that they had engendered. When Nighean was sleeping; he reassured the wee one that she was loved and wanted by him.

Because he did. And if the child's mother couldn't be bothered, well, he'd ensure that the child never once noticed the lack. The child would want for nothing. During his entire childhood, he hadn't been wanted and he would never let any of his children experience that callousness.

"So you do care about our child," was his soft response. "I had my doubts. I've told you, repeatedly, though you don't seem to be paying attention, the child is under my protection. Do you require more proof than Rabastan and Rodolphus? Who else should I kill to reassure you? Is not sufficient that Alfred died? He was my brother; he was my friend. Does that mean nothing to you? I thought you liked Alfie. Most women found him quite charming."

Her eyes narrowed and her hand tensed as though she was itching to slap him. Really, that did get old quickly. Plus she had nearly cracked a tooth last time. And while a warlock never raised his hand against a woman, she seemed determined to see how far he'd go.

"There are times I truly hate you," she spat at him.

"I wish your upbringing permitted you to show appreciation. However, our relationship is improving. In the beginning, you hated me all the time," he retorted.

-*-*-

She had successfully angered Yaxley to the point where their link was completely quiet. Normally, she could sense how Yaxley was feeling, so she deeply enjoyed when her little digs bothered him. Now she sensed from him was silence. He had shut down completely, dealing with Alfred's internment with an emotional detachment that had to be feigned. The two Households were temporarily merged until Theodore became of age, so there were several dozen more House Elves at the Yaxley residence, most of them on the verge of complete hysterics. With everything he was juggling, Yaxley was quite busy.

When he didn't come to bed that night, Hermione enjoyed the chance to spread out in bed. She was pregnant, was delighted that she didn't have to nocturnally entertain Yaxley and well, Yaxley did snore. The next morning, breakfast was a quiet, delightful affair as it was just her. She was enjoying her much deserved solitude, when one of the Nott House Elves located her and he was carrying an untouched tray.

"Master Yaxley no eat," whispered the tearing House Elf. "Master Yaxley no eat since Master brought here. If Master Yaxley no eat, he join Master."

"I'll talk to him," she said.

-*-*-

"Funerals should be a happy occasion, for they are meeting loved ones beyond the veil." The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

"Don't let the food or the alcohol run out at a funeral. And make sure all valuables have been Hidden, Concealed and Marked with a Tracer." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

"Uncle, would you braid my hair?" Theodore Nott softly asked.

"I'd be honored," Iacob said. Traditionally, Anstey should be the one braiding Theodore's hair, but there was no one left from the Nott family to do it, except for him. "The ribbon also?"

Theodore nodded and Iacob entwined the black ribbon to symbolize mourning into Theodore's long blond hair. When the plait was completed to Yaxley's satisfaction, he finished it off with a black leather cord. In a very soft voice, Iacob ordered his nephew to bed. "Now, I want you to rest. I'll watch over your father, and you get some sleep. The next few days will be very arduous."

"Uncle…" Theodore began.

"I'll take care of everything," Iacob promised.

"We're in a great deal of trouble, aren't we?" Theodore's voice broke and Iacob gave the taller Theo a one armed hug.

"I am; you're not. I have been relieved of my position at the Ministry and they may charge me with the murders of both LeStranges. Fortunately, being independently wealthy is quite helpful." Iacob's laugh was quite dry. "Your father and I were always prepared for any contingency, and before he died, he told me which of your properties can be used as a safe house. The charts, they're chaotic right now, so I don't know what the future holds. However, if anything happens to me, I need you to take care of the girl. If you're need of money, you can sell links off her bracelet. It should be sufficient to keep you comfortable. I don't plan on dying though, as your father gave me a list of instructions for you. You're to finish your education, and I have a list of suitable candidates for possible wives when you're thirty."

"Thirty?"

"It's always best if the male is the older one in the relationship. As the husband, you must take care of your wife, and if you're financially established, it will be much easier to fulfill that obligation. Now get to bed, Theodore. And, I'm delighted you chose to braid your hair. Your father and your mother would have been proud that you have kept to the traditions."

A tearing Theodore left the room, leaving Iacob with Alfie's body, the wedding portrait and assorted photographs of Alfie and his loved ones. Iacob went to a couch and sat down. He motioned and Effie, his loyal terrier, came towards him and then stopped. It seemed that the jump from the floor to the couch was beyond her today, so Iacob lifted her onto the couch. She put her big head in his lap and he began to stroke her.

I can't do it now. She's failing, but I can't do it now. There is only such a man can take. Alfie's dead, I'm sending Theo away for his safety… I have lost my job; I am a dead man because I killed the two LeStrange brothers, Effie's all I have left of Rowena, I just cannot do it. Because I will be alone in this house with Nighean, the portraits, five dozen grieving House Elves and the five dogs. I would be crazier than Bellatrix in two day's time!

"Go to sleep," he ordered his most loyal retainer. "The locust will start descending upon us like God's very own plague, in the afternoon. I want you rested, so you can bark at them. Forgive me; I just cannot bear to send you to Rowena. I know you're tired, but I need you here with me. "

She licked his face twice, absolving him of his guilt, and then promptly fell asleep.

-*-*-

Iacob was sitting with Alfie and he was not alone. There were a few grieving Nott House Elves paying their respects, and Effie was sleeping in Iacob's lap. Iacob looked very unhappy, even for Iacob Yaxley and Hermione knew it was regarding Effie. The dog had been a gift from Iacob to Rowena when they had married, so the dog was…. almost twenty? And she was failing, at least to Hermione's undiscerning eyes. It was probably far worse for Iacob, as he knew his dogs and their personalities.

After Alfred's death, and having to send Theodore away to school after Hogwarts, no doubt Iacob was deeply hurting. Alfred had included Iacob in the various activities of Theodore's life. Iacob's bedroom was full of pictures; Theodore's first train trip to Hogwarts, Quidditch games with the three of them and the like. To lose the man he considered his brother, his son in all but blood and his beloved dog?

"She's a bit big for a lap dog," Hermione offered. That was positively the stupidest thing to say, as the terrier would have only fit in Hagrid's lap.

"She's tired," was his curt explanation. Really, considering recent events, Iacob was being rather polite and his hand was gentle as he stroked Effie's head.

"So am I," she admitted, as she stretched her back. She would kill, yes, KILL…. To sleep on her stomach again. "The House Elves are upset…"

"Are you leading them in insurrection against me? Can your incessant idealism not wait until Alfie's buried?" Iacob asked. His tone was odd, deeper and slower than his norm, as though he was exhausted.

"They're upset because you haven't eaten anything since yesterday at breakfast. Can you possibly eat something?" Hermione rubbed her back and motioned to Iacob. "Can you budge over without disturbing her?"

The dog roused only slightly when Hermione sat next to Iacob. Hermione noticed that Iacob struggled to convince the dog to eat by slipping her choice bits of his breakfast. However, the great dog drowsed.

"How are you doing with everything?" It was a simple question, which meant she possessed no idea who Iacob would react. She also had no idea when Yaxley – The Bastard of a Death Eater in her mind had metamorphosizied d into Iacob. Was it the baby? Alfred's death? Or was it how Iacob seemed to brighten whenever he received his weekly owl from Theodore? She was changing, slowly and surely, and she no longer recognized this Nighean. Either her figure or her personality.

"Do you hate me at the moment?" was his question.

"Not at the moment," she admitted, because at heart, she was a compassionate person. Hating Iacob at the moment would be like… kicking a puppy dog. A Defenseless puppy dog. "However…"

"It is subject to change," he finished with a dry laugh. "I am doing well at the moment. Thank you for your concern."

He tilted his head in acknowledgement.

"Seriously? How are you doing?" Hermione prompted.

"The burial preparations have been completed. Alfred is lying in state. His burial plot is ready next to his wife. The House Elves have prepared more than sufficient food if anyone should decide to show. I am not sure if anyone will be attending as the big social event is the double burial of the LeStrange brothers. I am doubtful that many will attend, because the Dark Lord is greatly displeased with me."

"Thank you," Hermione said. "I never thanked you for protecting me from the LeStranges. I am also very sorry about Alfred. I liked him."

Bloody hell, she liked Alfred. How pathetic was that? The warlock had saved her from Rabastan, not once, but twice and had died. 'I liked Alfred', didn't convey the maddening contradiction that Alfred Nott was. He was a bastard, a charming bastard with an archaic mindset on the world around him. A warlock who admitted to Imperioing the man that would become his best friend. Yet, he had saved a comatose Iacob from Pansy Parkinson, and instinctively understanding how much Iacob wished to be a father, had easily shared his son with him.

"There is no need to thank me. I told you that I would do so, and I did. I will continue to do so. Your need to thank me implies that you doubted my word. As for Alfred, most women found him extremely charming."

Hermione sighed and rubbed her belly as the child had kicked. "Sometimes I wish I knew why," she admitted.

"We're back to that again?" Iacob asked her. "Why I agreed to protect you?"

"No, Iacob. I wonder why I bother to have a conversation with you."

"It seems that I've suddenly developed a first name. You converse with me, because I am a literal fount of information. For example, Alfred died on the first of June. Your NEWTS exams are scheduled for the sixth of July at which time, you'll be close to thirty five weeks along. I have very fond memories of the third of December when you conceived as it was also the night you gifted me with your virginity. I also have written down the time she was conceived, so I can draw her birth chart when she's born."

"You know the exact time…." Hermione paused. She wished her cheeks weren't flaming red. However, Iacob embarrassed her when he talked about sex openly, especially their sex. Iacob didn't believe in pseudonyms or euphemisms, just brutally frank talk about sex. On one hand, his candor was refreshing, but he had no filter!

"Yes, I need it for her charts. I've set them up but I need her birth information, plus her name when you've decided upon it," explained Iacob.

"I thought you'd name her," Hermione said. In the paternal society of Death Eaters, it seemed to be a given that Iacob would name their children.

Good God! When did it turn into THEIR children? There was only the one. ONE. And she wasn't planning on having any more with Yaxley. Thank you, very, very much.

"No, after you give birth, the attendants will make you presentable. When you are ready, you will present my daughter to me…" continued Iacob.

"Present?" spat Hermione. "I'm to present your daughter to you?"

"And you will tell me her name."

"So I could name her whatever I want…" began Hermione.

"I'd prefer if you didn't name her Harriet Pottery Yaxley," Iacob said.

Hermione stopped and stared at Iacob. "You just made a joke."

"Did not," he said. And yes, there was a slight quirk to one cheek, which meant Iacob was feeling droll.

"Did too!"

"Did not. As you have told me innumerous times, I lack any aspects of humanity, and I believe humor is included in your very detailed list of the qualities I lack."

"You won't be there when she's born?" Hermione asked.

"No," he firmly said. "I will not be there when she is born."

"Are you afraid that you'll pass out?" Hermione asked. That was said in a tone that even Hermione would admit was a tad bit snarky. After all, Mr. Big Bad Death Eater doing a face plant when she gave birth would almost make up for the thirty odd pounds she had put on, plus whatever else she'd pack on in the next two months.

"I've bred bitches for almost forty years, I've been there for every birth," protested Iacob. "Managed to stay upright for all of them. It's not proper for me to attend the birth. It is not as though I doubt I am the father and require proof. However, I will need the placenta."

"This is different. This is your daughter and I am not one of your bitches. You will have to be in attendance when I give birth, because you will need to protect us. You'll do a better job if you're in the room. And if you want the placenta… to make tea out of it, you better be in the room. With me. Because I'm not wrapping it in paper and delivering it to you. "

"I was planning on planting a rosebush for our daughter and using the placenta as fertilizer. When the flowers bloom, they will be unlike any other in the garden, because it will be her rose."

"Oh," said Hermione.

"Oh," Iacob mockingly repeated. "I suppose I could dry it and add it to the tea. It will need sugar if it's as acidic as you are."

"Oh, God," Hermione whispered.

"I supposed you're back to hating me again?" Iacob's smile was tight and amused.

-*-*-

The viewing of Alfred Nott was a quiet, small affair, made noticeable by those who did not attend, as much as those who made an appearance. Much to Iacob's surprise, a somberly dressed Narcissa Malfoy called to pay her respects. He wasn't surprised that Lucius and Draco were nowhere to be seen.

"I'm sorry about your loss," she murmured. "I came because I wished to talk to you and reassure you that I do not blame you for my brother-in-laws' death."

Iacob nodded his head once.

"That's nice, why are you here, really?" Iacob asked.

"Your… surrogate…" Narcissa paused and licked her lips. She was nervous, Iacob realized. "She will be in need of a doula shortly. I thought I'd offer my services."

Figuring the best response would be to say nothing, he just stared at her. His stare perfected, Narcissa began to confess her reasoning.

"I'm offering, because you managed to duel my sister to a draw. There are very few that could do so, especially after dealing with Rudolphus and Rabastan."

"And if I should consent for you to act as a doula, what is in it for you?"

Like hell would he use her, but he was curious to her level of desperation.

"With your considerable influence, if your surrogate is…. Pleased…. With my assistance, you might be willing to…" she paused. Then admitted in a soft whisper, "Draco. I would request…"

"Your son," he growled. "Not your husband?"

"Lucius… would not take kindly to my assistance," she explained. "However, would you not do anything to protect Theodore?"

He hid his emotions as he was appalled by Narcissa's obvious desperation, a sign of weakness that could be exploited, and he shrugged his shoulders. "Not my son. He doesn't even wear the Mark. But I will think about your offer, as I find it… amusing…"

-*-*-

Theodore Nott met with his uncle in his library for a serious warlock to wizard conversation after his father was interred. Effie was lying in front of the fire place and she didn't rouse when Theodore sat down.

"I need to get you away, before the Dark Lord decides you will replace your father," Iacob stated. "I have reason to believe that it will happen tomorrow. Therefore, I am sending you to a magical academy in Canada for a five year practicum. The Dark Lord's arm does not stretch as far as British Columbia. Not yet, not yet. You must study hard as you will sit for their qualifying exams in a month. Whatever happens, you do not return to Scotland unless I tell you to do so. We will have an argument and I will kill you. You will be buried next to your mother and your father. There will be no funeral, so everyone knows of my displeasure. As your godfather, I must protect you and I swore a solemn vow to your mother that I would never let anything befall you."

"And what of you, uncle?" Theodore asked. "You will be alone."

"I was alone for most of my life until I met your aunt," Iacob informed his nephew. "I will be fine."

"Your daughter?" Theodore reminded him.

"You will be her godfather, I promise you," Iacob said in a very soft voice. "Must keep the tradition alive."

"You'll need a body," prompted Theodore.

"I know. The House Elves will know that you're alive, but you will have them follow all my instructions. I will be their Master and I will take care of them for you."

"Granger?"

Yaxley arched an eyebrow. Nighean and Theodore had steadfastly ignored each other whenever they had the misfortune of meeting, especially as Nighean's pregnancy had become more noticeable. If he didn't know better, he'd think Theodore was horrified by the fact that his uncle had impregnated his former classmate.

"She can't be told anything. I need her reactions to be real, and she's a lousy actress," explained the older mage. "Good luck, my dear boy. I remember when you were just born, and your Aunt insisted that I hold you. You were wet at both ends and sobbing uncontrollably."

They tightly embraced and then Iacob reminded Theodore of his instructions. After Theodore had left, Iacob went towards the fireplace. He knelt next to the still dog and he stroked her for the final time.

"You'll be buried next to Anstey and Rowena, love."

-*-*-

"Have faith in your beloved, and you shall be rewarded." Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

"Only confess everything if you have no other option." The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

Just when Hermione thought that she was beginning to understand Iacob Yaxley, to form a tentative connection with him, Iacob Yaxley proved that he was an utter nutter.

Yaxley killed his nephew. There had been raised voices and a burst of wild magic so profound that it literally shook the house. Yaxley had killed Theodore… because the coward had refused to take the Mark and had dishonored his father's memory. Hermione had never particularly cared for Theodore when they had been students. He had been a Slytherin, and while not part of Draco Malfoy's crowd, he had been down on Harry since the first time they had met but… his uncle had killed him. Yaxley had then single handedly buried him in the Yaxley family graveyard – between to his mother and his aunt. No pomp. No ceremony. No priest. No headstone. Just a quick burial in the expansive necropolis of dead Yaxleys.

The House Elves were having attacks of hysteria; Yaxley was seemingly no longer employed at the Ministry because he was barking mad. He was walking the halls of the manor house at all hours of night and day…. and… Hermione couldn't find Effie. Good Lord, Yaxley couldn't have killed his dog, could he?

And when he came to her at night, she'd weep. He never forced her into doing anything sexual; however, he still stroked her belly. She stopped eating, and Yaxley was close to going spare. It was at lunch one day when he lost his fraying temper. "Must I compel you to eat? I went to Manchester for this. You will eat it, and eat all of it," he informed her. "Why are you weeping all the time? Should I bring you to a Healer?"

"You're a… monster," Hermione wept so hard that she was hiccupping. "I'm spawning… the bastard… of a monster, and she will take after you. She will put… Bellatrix… to shame… and I'm part of this…. Monstrosity."

Hermione failed to notice how Yaxley inhaled sharply when she compared their daughter to Bellatrix.

"You're back to hating me again," Yaxley quietly stated. "You're nothing if not predictable."

Through sheer force of will, Hermione got to her feet and she slapped Yaxley. She put all her weight behind it and Yaxley blanched. It had been a truly spectacular sound when her palm had met his cheek.

"I think you just cracked my premolar," he said in a very tightly controlled voice. "Are you done with your hysterics? You are not eating, our daughter needs you to eat. You will sit down and eat everything on your plate."

Recklessly, she hit him. And for a wonder, he let her pound away at him until she was weeping uncontrollably. He embraced her tightly, and whispered softly in her ear.

"You always think of the worst of me, and you never ever give me the benefit of the doubt. For once, why don't you wait for all the facts before you convict me?" His voice was soft, almost imploring as though he was begging, "Trust me, please."

"Because you don't make it easy for me," she spat.

"Life isn't easy, Nighean. Surviving isn't easy either. And sometimes, ugly decisions have to be made by people that are brave enough to make them. Fortunately, I am strong enough to make those choices."

"You want me to believe that you aren't the monster that everyone says that you are?" She laughed to show how likely that was.

"Since when have you been satisfied following the status quo? Aren't you the one that wished to overturn society's norms because you don't agree with them? Nighean; you have never been one to permit the opinions of others to sway your judgment."

"I think I just been complimented," Hermione tiredly admitted.

"Complimented by a monster, I wouldn't be proud of that, if I were you. Or maybe, you would, given your contrary nature. Regardless, you will sit down and eat everything on your plate. Then you're to go to sleep."

-*-*-

When Hermione woke, she wasn't sure where she was. She was in bed, a very large, comfortable bed, but it wasn't her usual bed. Or her usual room. It took some finagling, as her body was simply no longer cooperating these days and she sat up. Yaxley was asleep in a chair, in the corner of the room.

"Good morning, Miss Granger," said Alfred Nott. "Sleep well?

"You're dead," she whispered. "You're dead."

"I am. However, my portrait is able to walk to and fro in the earth, and up and down it, or at least, where one of my paintings is located. I must talk, and you must listen as you most acknowledge that I died to save your life. Also, I'd take it as a personal favor, a dying man's last request, if you would cease soundly slapping my sardonic Scot. One of these days, he'll lose his Scottish Temper when you provoke him and it won't be pretty. First of all, Iacob didn't kill Theodore, he sent him away to some place where he will be safe. Effie had passed on, and she is buried in the graveyard, not my son. If you'd behave, Iacob would let you walk around the grounds, and you'd see that the grave is covered with a literal blanket of Rhododendrons. Effie liked to lie among his Rhododendrons and sun herself. Made a horrible mess in the garden."

"And, I'd like to add something," said a female voice. "There's no way any child of Iacob's could ever compare to that monster, Bellatrix. You terribly upset him with that comment. Iacob is a kind and compassionate man. He is NOT a monster."

"Ro, dear. You weren't supposed to follow me," Alfred stated. "I thought we all agreed that I should handle this, and we've all agreed that I was the monster, not Iacob."

"She upset my Iacob. My dearest, dearest Iacob," protested Ro.

Alfred spoke gently to Iacob's deceased spouse, "She was exhausted and ill. Hopefully a respite at the lake will be sufficient to return her to her normal humor."

"She slaps Iacob a lot," protested Rowena.

"That she does, however your sister slapped me a few times when she was pregnant. I forgave her, immediately," explained Alfred. "Now go, because Iacob's waking. Now remember, Miss Granger, Theodore is safe. Iacob sent him away and you need to rest. Go back to sleep."

Hermione closed her eyes and pondered about what the portraits had said, about her conversation with Iacob the previous night, how he had all but begged her to trust him. She was a fool, hoping that there was some humanity in Iacob Yaxley. That sometime during this misadventure, that it was no longer just Voldemort verses Dumbledore's forces, that somehow there was a third side now; Iacob Yaxley struggling to protect his family against impossible odds.

Theodore…. The baby and that meant her. Because, whether she wished to admit it or not, they were now permanently bound by the child she was carrying.

Nothing would ever change that, regardless of who won.

And since the Order had obviously abandoned her as a casualty of war, she was reliant on Iacob.

-*-*-

She woke later that day, and Iacob quickly came to the side of her bed. One of his large dogs was following close behind him, and bumped into him when he stopped.

"Feeling better?" he asked. "The Healers said you had a virus? You were exhausted and quite agitated."

"Yes, I feel much better," she said. "I'm very sorry I said those things and that I hit you. I appreciate how well you've taken care of us."

His eyes widened in surprise, but he quickly hid his emotions. Instead, he brushed her hair out of her eyes. It was a surprisingly tender gesture from the normally brusque Iacob. He then gave her a slight smile and nodded his head. "You just get some sleep. You're exhausted."

Daring greatly, she took his hand and placed it on her belly where their child slumbered. "It's just us, now, isn't it?"

He leaned over and kissed her belly. Once.

"Iacob, can we cuddle?" Hermione asked. "I'm too tired for sex, but I think I'd like a cuddle."

He smiled, a real smile and nodded his head.

-*-*-

26 August, 1998 03.15
Yaxley Manor House
Glasgow, Scotland

In late August, very late August, almost early September, Hermione gave birth. It was a long, difficult, painful process and she was exhausted by the time her daughter was put to breast.

"She's perfect," whispered a very emotional Iacob who had sat through the entire progression. His stoic nature had been a blessing as he hadn't so much as blinked when she had called him every name in the book. She had even made up a few creative descriptions on his many short comings during the throes of labor. His Glaswegian accent was quite thick when he spoke, "My darling girl, you were so brave. I thank you for her. Have you decided upon a name?"

"Her name will be Rowena," Hermione decided. "Rowena Eleanor Yaxley."

And Iacob Yaxley wept.

-*-*-

2 August, 2003 16.15

Yaxley Manor House

Glasgow, Scotland

"Don't ever get complacent, as that's when everything goes arse over tit." Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

"Dadaidh!" Rowena informed her mother. She tugged at her younger sister's hand and they ran to meet their father.

Hermione watched in gentle bemusement as Iacob picked up both girls and kissed them. "Hello, ladies. Were you good for your mamaidh? Please say yes, as that means we can have tea together. I've been looking forward to having tea with my favorite ladies. I even left work early so I could attend."

As a father, Iacob was quite affectionate towards his daughters. There was a gentler side to the normally gruff and abrasive Iacob that only his family rated, and he adored his daughters. For example, both girls had wished to have 'tea' with their Father like the Adults did, so he had left the Ministry early to comply. Both girls energetically nodded their heads as Iacob carried them to the room where the House Elves had already prepared the table for tea. There were several stuffed animals, happily wearing their finest, sitting around the table and even Jasper, Iacob's favorite dog, was sitting in a chair. However, Jasper was seemingly less than enthused about wearing his owner's Glengarry Bonnet, though he was quite the striking terrier.

"Grádhág," Iacob called to Hermione. "Jasper? Why is he wearing my Glengarry?"

"Jasper is family," stated his youngest daughter, Anastasia.

"Anstey, love, Jasper's a dog," her father reminded her.

"He likes tea, too!" explained Rowena. "He needed to be dressed!"

He shrugged his shoulders in easy defeat and turned towards Hermione. Much to her surprise, he gave her a slight smile before he cachinnated.. She had heard him chuckle over the years, but this was the first time he had ever wholeheartedly laughed.

"Don't make fun of Jasper!" Anastasia protested, which caused Iacob to laugh even harder.

-*-*-

The purists would have done backflips over what was served at tea, but Hermione was too busy examining Iacob. He was acting odd for him, putting forth an almost palatable effort at being the perfect father, attentive and affectionate. He let them eat the sweets before the savories, and then permitted them to even take seconds. And when they were done, he took them off to the nursery where he read them a story. Actually a half dozen stories until they both fell asleep, snuggled together in the same bed.

Iacob kissed them both and he stroked their hair. Then he intently watched them sleep, as though he was trying to memorize the scene.

"They're so beautiful," he said to Hermione when he finally arrived in the library. He picked up a glass of scotch and drank it slowly, savoring it.

"You let them sleep together in Anstey's bed?" She asked.

"They sneak into each other's room when they wake up in the middle of the night. I thought that tonight I'd just let them. I want them to remember me fondly."

"Remember you fondly?" Hermione repeated.

"I don't remember my father. As I've gotten older, my mother is, at best, a faded memory of sanctuary. All I remember of my childhood is how uncaring my great-grandfather was. When the girls are older," Iacob explained while he pulled her close against him. He rested his hands on her swollen belly, and continued, "When he is older, I want them to remember how I'd Floo home from work in order to have tea with them, and how I let my dog wear my good bonnet because they wished him properly dressed. And I want you to remember, how much you loved it when I kissed your neck."

He kissed her neck.

"How you'd squirm when I nibbled on your ear," he growled, before he began to nibble on her ear. "And how happy I was, when you finally confessed that you enjoyed our lovemaking. Let's go to bed."

"It's barely seven," teased Hermione.

"The girls are asleep in the nursery. I also failed to notice that Jasper is sleeping in the bed also, so we will not be disturbed. Come to bed."

-*-*-

It was ten in the evening when he attempted to slip out of their bed. The slight shift in the mattress caused Hermione to wake as she was a very light sleeper, especially when she was pregnant.

"Where are you going?" protested Hermione.

"Need a smoke," he said. "You know that I don't smoke around you or the children, but after that delightful exercise, I need a smoke. Go to sleep."

"You're not leaving are you? You're acting very strange, Iacob," she protested.

"Not tonight, I am not planning on leaving before tomorrow morning," he assured her. "Now, go to sleep, Hermione."

With that, he quickly dressed and left the room while Hermione drifted off to sleep, assisted by Iacob's non-verbal charm. Her last thought was that it was the very first time he had ever called her Hermione.

-*-*-

"They'll be here for me shortly," Iacob told Alfred the portrait. Iacob was straightening his clothes so there was not a single wrinkle, and yes, he had decided to wear the Glenngarry bonnet. The ribbons adjusted just so, he then sat down in a comfortable chair. "The great crusade to save our traditions has failed, destroyed by the wee bastard Potter."

"You could have run," offered Alfred.

"They would have easily found me by tracing the children's blood," Iacob admitted. "And… really, I needed to give them this. A final memory of me being there for them. When they're older, I hope that they realize that I came back… for them. I wanted to give them something happy to remember me by, for they will hate me when my crimes are revealed."

"They will remember the tea party," promised Rowena.

"I had to come back for Nighean. She has a fear of abandonment, after what happened. By doing this, I will be abandoning her, but I came home to her first. I hope she'll understand that I'm doing this for our children. Not for me."

The portraits said not a word but Alfred Nott nodded his head in approval. Iacob poured Scotch into a large tumbler and added a small vial to it. He swirled the tumbler until the liquid was once more clear.

"They're coming," Alfred told him.

He took a long, slow swallow and smiled. "This really isn't bad. It's quite good in fact. It's very smooth going down but I fear there will be a bit of an aftertaste."

-*-*-

When the Order broke into his house, they found a comatose Iacob Yaxley in his library. There was an empty bottle of scotch on the table, and a shattered tumbler on the floor. However, clutched against his chest was a picture of his two daughters and Hermione.

"Poison," announced Kingsley Shacklebolt. "Take him to Mungo's. Have him put under guard, and we need to find Hermione. She should be here, according to Severus."

-*-*-

2 August, 2003 18.00 – The Battle to Regain Hogwarts

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Moray, Scotland.

"Nervous, Harry?" Arthur Weasley asked.

Harry Potter nodded his head and didn't say anything.

"You'll do fine," assured Arthur.

"I'm tired," Harry admitted. Then in a softer voice, he admitted, "It's Hermione. I'm worried about her and I've never forgiven myself for what happened at the Ministry. We never went back for her. Do you think…"

"I don't know if she's still alive. The last I heard was over two years ago when it was announced that she and Yaxley…" Remus paused. "When he was reinstated as the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, I know he brought in pictures of his two daughters."

"But she's Muggleborn," protested Harry.

"I know, but he's taken her as his wife's surrogate. It's complicated semantics, but it means, that his children are considered Pure Blood because his deceased wife was Pure Blooded. If Hermione is still alive, we must assist her through this experience," Remus explained.

"Still?" Ron spat. "Awfully quick to write her off, Remus."

"Let's win this, and then search for her. She's probably at Yaxley's house," inserted Kingsley.

-*-*-

The battle begun, Iacob Yaxley rapidly realized which side would lose.

His.

Severus Snape was Dumbledore's man, The Dark Lord was becoming steadily weaker for no reason he could determine and….when his side lost, he'd be captured and sentence to Azkaban. His children would be ashamed by their connection to him…. In his pocket, he had the last Time Turner in all of existence. He needed to get home. Needed to give them a happy memory of him, one that would keep as they grew older. Then he'd fall on his sword, to prevent them from being shamed by having an incarcerated father. Nighean's malartú braceletwould be sufficient, more than sufficient to put her in the firmly well-to-do category of society. The bracelet was her financial security, especially after she gave birth to his son because Iacob had already ordered the gem for her bracelet. It was a sapphire the size of his thumb nail, while each of his daughters had received a similarly sized ruby. Between that and the secret vault in Gringott's in her name, well, he had done well by her. It was a shame, that he'd never know his son, but really, it would be better for wee one.

Theirs had been a very odd relationship with a very rocky start, but after Rowena's birth, Nighean had seemed to come around. Or at least, she had stopped slapping him. She had even become slightly more responsive in bed, but she still made him do everything. Not that he minded, but really... must he intitate it every single time?. By selling the bracelet and the choker, she'd be able to move to Canada if she desired to keep their children safe. Speaking of Canada, he should send a note to Theo advising him not to return to Scotland. Ever.

He'd return to the Ministry, do a wash up and instead of warning his fellow Death Eaters of what was about to befall them, he'd OWL his House Elves, have them set up tea for his family. Even a condemned man deserved a final meal with his family.

-*-*-



3 August, 2003 02.00

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Moray, Scotland.

Kingsley Shacklebolt surveyed the ruin that once was a magical school known as Hogwarts. He put his hand on the bulwark and assured the school that it would be rebuilt. There was a shiver beneath his hands as though the school had murmured its appreciation.

"No Yaxley," Dora Lupin informed him. "Auntie claims that he disappeared during the battle, so he may have cut a bunk. Do you trust her?"

"Not one bit," he said.

"Good," she said, flashing her wild smile. "Her loyalties are to Draco."

"Lucius?" He asked.

She shook her head. "He's made some strategic errors, so she has distanced herself."

"I hate pureblood politics," groaned the pureblooded Shacklebolt.

"Kingsley, when we go to Yaxley's house, we need two groups. One to handle whatever to he's done to boobytrap the house, the second group should …"

"Be parents? I was thinking you, Arthur and Remus. I'm not sure about Molly, she's just so maternal, and I'm not sure exactly what the story with Hermione might be. She might be too much for Hermione. Plus, no one has ever seen these children. I don't think they've ever left the estate."

"With Da's personality, it was probably for the best," Tonks added.

-*-*-



3 August, 2003 02.00

Yaxley Manor House

Glasgow, Scotland

Against Kingsley's better judgment, he permitted Ron and Harry to be part of the squad to enter Yaxley's estates. With an ease that unnerved the battle weary Kingsley, they punched through the wards. The explanation for their easy entrance was when they found Yaxley had taken poison and that he was barely alive. If they had tried to enter the house after he died, his backup wards would have been primary, but with the head of the house ill, the primary wards were in the process of shutting down.

"Wasn't as instantaneous as you had hoped," murmured Kingsley as the Death Eater was taken to a secured floor at Mungo's.

Then chaos, hysterical House Elves, dogs barking, someone drew their wand on the dogs, a child… terrified children screaming, "Jasper!"

"Wands down!" Kingsley roared.

Then he saw her, Hermione Granger crouching on the floor. Her hair was long and curly, her figure… well… she was pregnant, he'd say a few months at most, and she was holding out her arms to the two hysterical children who were hitting one of his strike team.

"He killed Jasper!" said the older of the two girls. The two children…. They could only be Yaxley's children with Hermione; they were hysterical, weeping over the Stunned dog.

"Come to Mamaidh, girls. Please. Jasper is fine; he's just sleeping right now. Please, come to me."

"Want Dadaidh!" was the youngest girl's response.

Hermione persisted and her two daughters with Yaxley came to her. They clung to her and she picked them both up. Their positions accented the curve of her belly and from the sharp inhales of various Order members; it seemed that only he and Arthur had guessed.

"Dadaidh had to go to work. He's at work right now. These people are here to make sure we're safe," Hermione lied to her children. "Kingsley, I know what your arrival means. But you need to have everyone leave as you are scaring my daughters. Please. You can stay, but … everyone else needs to go."

With a quick gesture, Kingsley ordered his strike team to leave, but Arthur Weasley refused to leave. Instead he held out his arms.

"Hermione, your daughters are beautiful. May I hold one?" Arthur asked. "You shouldn't be carrying both of them right now. Is the dark haired one, Rowena? It's a pretty name for a pretty girl. And you must be Anastasia. You're beautiful, too. I've know your parents for a very long time and I'm quite fond of your mother. I'm Uncle Arthur, and I'm delighted to finally meet you."

Somehow Arthur ended with both girls and he began to walk about the room, gently rocking them.

"Close your eyes," he whispered, and before long, both girls were asleep. "Where should I put them, Hermione?"

"Put them in my bed. Kingsley, can you put Jasper there, too? I'm hoping he should be awake in a little bit? Your people didn't kill him, did they?" Hermione asked.

"My people?" Kingsley repeated.

"Your people, because I don't what's happening or has happened. Iacob isn't here; is he dead?" Her voice was composed but Kingsley noticed how she was hugging herself.

"Please sit down," requested Kingsley. "I'll tell you everything."

-*-*-

"He was at the battle of Hogwarts? At six in the evening? But he was here, with us. He had tea with our daughters, and we went to bed early," Hermione murmured. Then she nodded her head in tired acceptance of Iacob's quirks. "He came back. He saw how the battle was going; he must have possessed a Time Turner. He came back for his daughters and his son. He made a strange about about wanting them to fondly remember him."

"Hermione?" Arthur asked. Her name translated to, 'You're keeping his baby?'

"Yes, I'm keeping him, Arthur. Now, what will happen to Iacob?"

"If he lives," Kingsley began.

"He will; he's nothing if not a survivor," Hermione insisted.

"Trial. If you can, we'll need you to testify," Kingsley said.

"Naturally. Someone will have to speak in Iacob's defense."

Kingsley said not a word, but instead he just nodded his head. He wasn't sure what to make of this Hermione. She had changed, dramatically, from the earnest teenager he had once known. Then again, he was a far cry from the man he once had been.

"I'll stay here," Hermione decided. "This is all the girls know. I'll have to explain to them about their father. I'll keep it simple, that he's taken ill, and that it's very serious. I must see him."

No, would it be possible, may I see him? No, she must see him.

"Hermione, he'll be in a secure ward."

"Unsecure it for me," she protested. "I will need to talk to him, and find out what he wants done. I'll probably ignore it as it will be his usual Pureblood bullshite and I'll decide what needs to be done. Now, gentlemen, I'll hope you don't mind, but I'd like you both to leave. You can contact me, Kingsley when you have it arranged so I can see Iacob."

She nodded her head and stood.

"Hermione, what can I do for you?" Kingsley asked. "I'll have Aurors stationed around the borders of the property to keep you safe."

"I'd like you to release Iacob, but I'm sure you can't. Other than that, there's nothing you can do. If you could have done something, I'm sure you would have done it six years ago. Six bloody years ago, Kingsley. Now I want nothing more than for you to leave, because I have to make some decisions now."

"Hermione," Arthur inserted. "Have your daughters ever left the estate?"

She shook her head. "It wasn't safe, not after Iacob killed the LeStrange brothers. It's certainly not safe now."

"Perhaps, I could ask Remus and Dora to bring Teddy over."

"Teddy?" asked Hermione.

"They coupled, and the two of them are more off than on, but they're raising a son together, named Teddy. His name is Theodore, named after his grandfather."

"Remus can bring him, not Dora. Dora's one of Shacklebolt's people."

"Hermione," Kingsley softly protested.

"Just leave, Kingsley. Arthur, I'm sorry, but I'd prefer not to see you again, either."

"I understand, Hermione. But I don't like it. If you change your mind, Molly and I will be there."

After the Order members left her home, Hermione permitted herself the luxury of a collapse. She sank into the couch and she hugged herself.

"You came home," she whispered. "Instead of running and abandoning your family, you came home. Because you understood how I felt after being abandoned by Harry and Ron."

-*-*-

6 August 2003, 9.00

St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries

London, England

When Iacob Yaxley woke, he wasn't in Hell. He certainly hadn't anticipated that his final end would be anything besides a southern destination. However, his hands were restrained as were his legs. There was also a block on his magic, as he could sense it, but he couldn't 'reach' it with his mind. The ceiling needed painting, and there was something icky on one of the ceiling titles. It looked like a Devil's Snare…

Bloody, bloody hell. He had cocked up his suicide.

"You're awake," Nighean whispered.

He turned his head and saw her sitting next to his bedside. She leaned over his bedside and whispered in his ear. "We've got company; they don't trust me with you. I want you to behave and not doing anything mulish. It's time for you to let me protect our family."

Then she kissed him, on his mouth.

"Why?" Iacob asked when they had to finally break apart for air.

She rewarded him with a gentle smile. "Good, now you're the one asking that question. Let me know when you get an answer so we can compare, Iacob. While you've been recovering, our son has quickened. He's very lively, so I was thinking Alfred for his name?"

"I like that. Though you will need to watch him, so he doesn't take after his uncle. His uncle was too friendly with the ladies."

"He's got too much of you in him to ever be charming," Nighean retorted.

He laughed out loud, because well, Nighean was quite correct. She leaned against him, as though hugging him. The centrifuge was useful as he could pretend to kiss her ear, instead he whispered instructions, "Go to Gingrotts, speak with Ragnok. There are instructions for you there; I've prepared an escape for you."

"I'm not leaving you," she whispered between kisses.

"For the children, you need to leave Europe," he protested. "I'm sorry my suicide failed. It would have been much easier for you."

"No, it wouldn't have. I want to get you exonerated. Alfie Imperio'd you. You didn't kill Theo, you saved my life."

"It means nothing," he reminded her. "And Theo is remaining where Theo is; I refuse to let him come back to Scotland."

"It means something to me and our children," she said.

"Oi! Are you two planning on shagging?" said a male voice. "I'd tell you to get a room, but Mr. Death Eater's not going anywhere. Not anytime soon."

Hermione tensed and then he whispered, "Is that the ginger you used to pretend was touching you?"

She nodded. Then another voice spoke, a low, deep voice, "Auror Trainee Weasley, you are dismissed for today. Go back to the trainee's quarters and reflect on your actions. Auror Trainee Potter, you've disappointed me. You're both dismissed. "

The door opened and shut, and then Kingsley continued, "Miss Granger, you'd get less comments like that if you'd refrain from reclining in his ward bed. I'd like to apologize for their behavior. I had hoped that they would treat you with respect."

"Our son kicked and I wished him to feel it," Hermione explained. "Since his hands are restrained, it was the only way I could do it."

"Go," Iacob whispered as they disengaged. "Don't anger him."

"Mr. Yaxley, you'll be moved to Azkaban shortly," Kingsley explained. "We're rounding up legal counsel for you and the others; however there is a dearth of personnel who wish to take on your case. It may be a few months before your case comes to court."

"I understand," Iacob said. Then in a very commanding tone, he added, "I command you to protect Nighean and the children. As you had previously failed at doing so, I will not permit you to do so again. Swear it on your soul, and name, Kingsley."

"I so Avow," Kingsley answered. "I swear upon my name, Kingsley Edward Shacklebolt. I swear upon the blood in my veins, and I swear, on my soul, that I will not fail again."

"What did you just do? I told you to behave," Hermione hissed.

"I can't protect you. Not while I'm here, but he can. He failed at protecting you, remember? He and the Order failed, and unlike that boy of who you were once fond, he acknowledges the guilt within him."

-*-*-

28 November, 2003 11.45

Azkaban

North Sea, UK

[Author's note - we return to Hermione meeting with Iacob in Azkan while they are surrounded by Order Members. This is where our story first began. ]

There was a thought in the back of Hermione's mind. One that she was struggling to hide, but really, did she honestly think he wouldn't know? He continued stroking her face and focused. Yaxley found the thought, easily, and then felt the edgy emotions that surrounded it. Nighean was worried about his reaction if he discovered what she was hiding… that he might break out of Azkaban… and he focused still further.

"They're deliberately hurting you? Who?" Iacob growled. His raw rage frightened Hermione, as she pulled away. "I'm not angry at you. Who is the Healer that is hurting my children's mother? I will not permit anyone to hurt you. The LeStrange brothers could vouch for that… if they were still alive. Shacklebolt, you will address this immediately."

"Give me a name, Hermione. I will ensure that the Healer never bothers you again," Shacklebolt promised.

"Thompson," Yaxley stated. "It's Thompson and Gallagher. Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"It's not just them, it's everyone," she explained. "All the Healers. They're just the most vocal. But the reason why I wished to see you today is because they've set a trial date for you. It would be quite beneficial for your case if you could tell me where Theodore Nott is. I can't search all of Canada for him."

"You don't need to search all of Canada. He's buried under the Rhododendron," Yaxley reminded her. "Next to his mother and his aunt."

Hermione's hand twitched as though she wished to slap him. "Iacob, Effie's buried under the Rhododendron. You planted them specifically for her because she used to sun herself in your garden and destroy your Rhododendron bushes."

"Effie?" asked Remus. "Who's that?"

"A real bitch," stated Iacob.

"Euphemia was one of his dogs. Why aren't you helping me in your defense?" Hermione asked. "You won't confirm that Alfred Imperio'd you into becoming a Death Eater. His portrait said he did, but it's not admissible in court. They made an exception just for Severus and Dumbledore's portrait. You won't tell me where you hid Theodore."

"When I'm on trial, I'll tell them everything," he said.

"Good," she said.

"That I killed Theodore and I Imperio's Alfred into joining Voldemort's cause. I will also tell everyone how I Imperio'd you into my bed. You will also not be permitted to bear witness as it will not be healthy for you and the baby."

That earned him a hard slap.

"Witch, must we return to the 'Slapping Iacob' stage of our relationship?" He growled. "I find that I do not particularly miss it."

"I'm pregnant. It's permitted, especially when Iacob Yaxley is being a bloody arse. Why are you doing this?" she asked. "Is it to protect the children and me? I'm already known as a Death Eater Whore."

"Public opinion can be swayed. When I am done, you will be known as a victim not a whore," he said. "You will be able to step outside, with your head held high, and no one will ever call you a whore again."

"I'm not your victim," Hermione protested.

He said not a word, and she reached for his cheek. "Kingsley has promised that we'll make you presentable for your trail. Lottie will come in and she'll ensure you look respectable. Get rid of the beard and we'll fix your braid."

"Thank you. It upsets me that you see me like this," he whispered. "That I am not well turned out for the mother of my children. I am humiliated, Nighean. I am scruffy and I am dirty, Nighean. Never would I have you see me like this. My hair is unbound and I am not clean-shaved."

"I quite like the beard," she lied.

They embraced once again and he didn't wish to let her go when their meeting was over. It wasn't just for mutual comfort, but because she had let slip through their bond that her parents were in Australia. If Hermione couldn't find Theodore in Canada, he'd have a harder time finding Eleanor and Matthew Granger in Australia and he required as much information as possible.

-*-*-

13 December 2003, 8.00

Perth, Australia

Really, it was frightening easy to escape from Azkaban. There were a few wards that were weak, and a guard that was careless.

He had to be quick, because his escape would be noticed shortly, so he returned home, changed his clothes, took coin and Alfred's wand, who was eager for a new Master. After a moment's reflection, he decided to take Jasper with him. If he was searching for Hermione's parents, it would be beneficial to have four legged assistance as they were trained to detect magic.

He landed in a park in Perth, Australia in the early morning hours. Fortunately, he kept his feet. He then sat down on a park bench and motioned for Jasper to sit.

"Jasper," he said. "We need to find Nighean's parents. They are going by the names, Wendell and Monica Wilkins. You're a big dog, and rather noticeable. I'll have to leash you."

Jasper gave him the stink eye, as he was a very well trained terrier and didn't need the ignominy of a leash. However for his pack leader's mate, he would submit. Though he deliberately sat on Yaxley's foot.

-*-*-

13 December 2003, 7.00

Yaxley Manor House

Glasgow, Scotland

"Try not to stun any of the dogs, Kingsley," snapped Hermione. Anstey was cradled in her arms, positioned against her pronounced baby belly and Rowena, being a big girl, was standing between her mother and Kingsley. Her face was a thundercloud and her little fists were clenched as though preparing a mighty blow on the Minister's kneecap. "As it is, I can't seem to find one of the dogs."

"Hermione, please. It's Kingsley speaking, not Minister Shacklebolt, it's Kingsley. Please, I need to speak with you and prevent an incident from escalating. Can we please come into your house?"

"You're not getting tea," she insisted. "Lottie, could you please take the girls?"

The House Elves descended and took the girls to breakfast. Hermione then went to the sitting room, where her House Elves had prepared a light breakfast for her, and yes, damn them, they had set up tea for Kingsley and his crew.

"Please, help yourself," she said, rather ungraciously. Her excuse for her waspishness was it was seven in the blasted morning and she was nearly eight months pregnant. Plus Kingsley, Remus and Dora were not her favorite people. All they needed was Ron and Harry to join the party to make everything perfect.

"Hermione, there's been an escape from Azkaban," Kingsley began.

"Sweet Christ, which Death Eater is coming after Iacob's children now?" Hermione protested after a long sip of decaffeinated tea. "For an inescapable prison, your guards seem to hand out the pass key with the prisoner's change of clothes."

"Hermione, it's Iacob. He escaped early this morning."

Her face fell and she cursed a blue streak. "I told the idiot not to do anything stupid. I think this classifies as beyond stupid. Ro and Anstey swear that they saw their father last night, and I thought they were dreaming. Iacob's escape explains why Jasper's gone. Iacob took the bloody dog on this latest misadventure. Let me check something. Evie?"

A House Elf popped into the room and curtsied. "Would you please check if Alfred's wand is still in the library?"

The Elf popped away and Hermione shook her head. "I've gotten very dependent on them, what with the children. I've tried to pay them, they won't take it. I've tried to schedule them so they work four days a week, and they just ignore it. With Alfred dead and Iacob imprisoned, I'm tripping over two household's worth of House Elves."

She stroked her belly and closed her eyes. When Evie popped back into the room, she opened her eyes. With all the intensity of a Old Testament prophet delivering a sermon from the Mount, Hermione announced, "It's gone and the money in the drawer is missing also. Was Iacob in the house this morning?"

Evie folded her hands and said not a word, but her ears went flat against her head.

"He checked on the girls, visited the kennels and took Alfred's wand and money. Did he at least make a sandwich in the kitchen while he was here?" Hermione asked. "I do worry about him not eating properly now that he's escaped from Azkaban."

Evie nodded and then softly added, "Master looked on yous twos, and kissed your forehead."

"Well, there's at least that," she softly said. "Iacob's escaped from Azkaban. I have no idea where he is."

"You have no idea where he is, but do you know where he's gone?" Kingsley asked.

Hermoine's expression went flat and she protectively put her hand on her belly.

"You know where he's gone," stated Kingsley.

"I've told you that I have no idea where he is," Hermione repeated.

"When Hogwarts fell, he came back here. To his family. He's escaped from Azkaban after he specifically asked you what boom you wished from him. You told him that you were tired and that you wanted your mother. He's gone to find your parents, Hermione, hasn't he?"

"I fear he has done so," she admitted. "I don't know where they are. They're in Australia, that's all I know. I Oblivated their memories and gave them fake names and the thought in their head that they wished to immigrate to Australia. Iacob won't be able to find them; he couldn't locate them when he searched their house."

"I don't think he was trying especially hard. They were out of the way, which was sufficient for him. Iacob and Alfred trained the Snatchers to locate their victims, using magical methods. However, he brought Jasper with him; he's in Australia looking for your parents. Do you have any ideas where your parents might be? How deeply did you Oblivate them? Did you leave any part of you in them?"

She shook her head.

"Nothing remains?" Kingsley asked. His tone was quite sympathetic.

"I wasn't sure which side would win, and I wanted them safe," she explained.

"Hermione, the problem is Iacob's trial is scheduled to start on the 15th. Do you truly believe that he's gone to Australia to locate your parents? Or is he on the run for his life?"

"He's in Australia," she quietly stated. "There is no doubt in my mind that he went to Australia to locate my parents. I trust Iacob with my life, and I know he's in Australia right now. Damn the man."

"Do you think he'll come back for his trial?" Kingsley asked. "I'm willing to keep this quiet, if you assure me that he will be back."

Hermione pondered deeply on what Kingsley was offering. If Iacob didn't return, his disappearance and the fact that Kingsley had kept it quiet would quickly destabilize Kingsley's new government.

"Kingsley," she began.

"I trust you, and will abide by your opinion on Iacob Yaxley. You know him the best of anyone living."

"He'll be back," she said.

-*-*-

December 15, 2003, 8.00

Wilkins' Dental Institute

Adventure Bay, Tasmania

Don't ever make a promise you don't plan on keeping. Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

First impressions with your intended's parents are very important. This basic truth cannot be overstated. Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.

Iacob Yaxley was not comfortable among the non-magical. He didn't dress like them, and the braid… well, it was a dead giveaway that he was a bit odd. Plus he had a large dangerous looking terrier that was walking sedately by his side. And his thick Glaswegian accent, long a source of personal pride for him, was nigh near incomprehensible to the locals. With his assorted arithmancy charts, his blood mingling with Hermione to create three children, he had been able to do a bit of Blood Magic to Disapparate to the town where her parents were located. Really; considering he was wanted for assorted crimes against humanity, accused of murdering his nephew and no doubt the nitwits that ran Azkaban had realized he was missing which would lead to a barrage of new charges well, what was a little Blood Magic to the tally?

Shorter and shorter leaps finally had him land in front of a dental clinic. The Wilkins' Dental Institute.

They opened…. When did they open? He took out his watch, adjusted for the time zone difference, added the zenith of the sun to the equation and then carried the four… in two hours. So he sat on the front steps and hoped that the Wilkins would show up before the Aurors did. He had a command performance in court in a few hours and really, he should be there to take the blame for everything. However, he needed to get Hermione's parents back to her so she'd have some emotional support during the upcoming months.

Unlike their daughter, the Wilkins-Grangers were quite prompt. Jasper jumped to his feet and began wagging his tail when he caught their scent.

"Can I help you? If you're looking for the veterinarian, he's down the road," Wendell informed him.

"Actually, I'm a traveler. I'm having a bit of problem with my teeth." For good measure, he placed his hand on the spot that Nighean always slapped him.

"Are you from Glasgow?" Wendell asked him.

"Nearby," Iacob admitted.

"I thought I recognized the accent! You're a long way from home, that's for sure. We actually don't have office hours today as my wife and I were planning on having a bit of holiday. The weather's lovely and the bay… but I can't turn down a person in need. Come in, but… your dog?" Wendell asked.

"Is quite safe. He's very well trained. He will take a nap while you look at my teeth. Is that your partner?" Iacob asked.

"My wife. " Wendell explained before calling out to his wife, "Hon, we've got a Scot in need. I've agreed to take a look at his teeth as he's traveling."

The three of them, four if one included the very large dog that thought he was human, walked into the dentistry. Iacob took out Alfred's wand and he pointed it at the Grangers.

"Why are you pointing that stick at us? We've not doweling for water, are we?" Wendell nervously laughed.

"No," Iacob curtly said and then reversed the various enchantments that Hermione had laid upon her parents. The spell reversal hit them hard, so he ensured that they safely sat down. They looked at him and then turned quite pale.

"You're one of them, aren't you? Those Death Drinkers," Eleanor Granger said. "You're here to kill us."

"Yes and no," Iacob said. "Your daughter needs your help. I've located you so I can bring you to her. She sent you to Australia for your safety and she removed your memories, just in case someone like me showed. You wouldn't be able to reveal her location and you'd be safe. Rather naïve of her, as most likely you would have been dead anyway, but your daughter has matured significantly in the last six years. Having children does that, as she's had to settle down. You'd be proud of her; she's continued her education even with the little ones. I made sure of that, as education is very important."

"Hermione has children?" Matthew Granger asked.

"Two girls, and a boy that's due in … six weeks? Let's see… she conceived on Beltane, Nighean usually delivers a week or so late…. Make it seven weeks."

Both Grangers were staring at him in what could only be classified as horror.

"Whatever is the matter? Don't you want to meet your grandchildren?" He asked. Really, it was no wonder Hermione was completely lacking in social graces, if this is what she had grown up with. It was fortunate that he had taken her under his wing and taught her basic manners.

"You seem to know a great deal about when she conceived," Eleanor whispered.

"I should, I was there," he said. "Intimately involved if you will."

"I thought she was interested in… Ron," her father said.

"Ron was a boy, fickle and immature. There was no contest. Me?" There was a shrug and a pop of his eyebrows. "I'm... established. I have money, a house, the ability to spoil her like she deserves. However, it's rather complicated and we should let your daughter explain everything. I want to bring you to her. Shall we be off?"

"But our practice?" Wendell… Matthew…. protested.

"Family emergency, she needs you. She needs you now and there are grandchildren that you must wish to meet? Rowena Eleanor is the oldest and she is almost five. She is quite intelligent and very happy. Her sister, Anastasia Rose is almost two and half years old, and she is also brilliant but she is far more serious than her sister."

"Matthew, we missed her wedding," Eleanor sighed.

"We're not married," Iacob stated.

"Hermione had children with you and you're not married? Why not? That's not how we raised our daughter," protested Matthew.

"I'm already married, I cannot take a second wife," he began. When he saw the narrowed eyes, he held out his hand. "My wife is deceased, for almost twenty years, but magical vows are eternal. Can we please go? I am due in court in several hours and I should change."

"Oh, you're a barrister?" Matthew asked.

"No, I'm the accused," Iacob admitted.

-*-*-

December 14, 2003, 22.00

Yaxley Manor House

Glasgow, Scotland

"Hello, Auntie," Theodore Nott said as he exited the floo. "Sorry I hadn't gotten here earlier, I've been declared dead as you know. It makes international transport a bit tricky."

"I know," Hermione said. "But really, Auntie?"

"You and Uncle Iacob have quite the brood now, so I must accept it with good graces. Plus, I've met this lovely witch in Canada. I'll want Uncle Iacob's approval on her. I fear that he may not approve as she's Muggle born, but she's brilliant. It's just that in Canada; they don't care about blood purity. It's rather… refreshing, I must admit."

"Seems reasonable to me," she dryly stated.

"How much trouble is Uncle Iacob in?" Theodore intently questioned, "I'm not up on the latest news."

"A great deal. Kingsley kept his escape from Azkaban very quiet, but if he doesn't show up for his trial, he'll bring down Kingsley's government."

"And that would be a bad thing?" Theodore asked.

Hermione thought about it long and hard, and then nodded her head. "I believe that it would be very bad."

"Very well, you've got me, very much not dead. I have a signed, sealed and Avowed letter from my father stating that he Imperio'd Uncle Iacob into joining the Death Eaters. What else do we have?" asked Theodore.

"Me, very much not unreliable as I'm pregnant with his baby. Naturally, I'll speak in his defense. I have Luna Lovegood…" Hermione paused.

"Loonie Lovegood," exclaimed Theodore.

"Yes, Luna who is willing to speak on his behalf. For what it's worth. Garrick Ollivander also; it seemed that several of the Death Eaters wished to break Garrick's hands, but Iacob refused to permit it."

Theodore nodded his head and sighed. Hesitantly, he put his arm around Hermione and gave her a slight hug.

-*-*-

December 15, 2003, 9.00

Wilkins' Dental Institute

Adventure Bay, Tasmania

"So, you'll take us to see Hermione and the children?" Eleanor Granger repeated.

"Yes, if you take my arm, I can take us there," Iacob said.

"We don't need a fireplace?" Matthew Granger asked.

"No, I can take us to my house where you can meet with Hermione." Iacob was trying to keep his irritation from showing, but really, Granger's parents were being particularly difficult.

"Would you mind if I used the loo before we go?" Eleanor asked, blushing.

"Absolutely," Iacob said.

He was talking to Matthew when Eleanor Granger nailed him with a syringe full of Valium. He collapsed onto the floor but not before saying in an acidic tone,"Your daughter takes after you, Madam." While Jasper was busy licking his pack leader, Eleanor jabbed him with the valium also. The dog gave her a look of betrayal before he collapsed on his owner with a thud.

"I think that's off-label use, Ellie," Matthew dryly stated. "And you reused a dirty needle."

"Do you honestly believe that Hermione would be involved with him? Let's close the clinic for the day and figure out what we need to do. I didn't give him that much valium, but he's really almost comatose," Eleanor admitted. "I really didn't give him that much, just in case, he really is the father of our grandchildren, but really isn't he a little bit old for her?"

"He's rather scary also," Matthew agreed.

"Let's get the dog off him, and maintain his airway. I have no idea how to contact Hermione or even it's safe. Let's see what he has in his pockets."

They undid his jacket, examined his waist-coast and then pulled out a picture of Hermione with her two daughters from an inside pocket. Hermione was smiling broadly at her youngest daughter who appeared a few days old, while her oldest daughter was snuggled next to her. In the background, there was the man they had just drugged into unconsciousness; he was giving them a very evil glare.

"Bugger me," Matthew stated, perfectly reflecting Eleanor's unease. "I think we're off to a very bad start with Hermione's boyfriend. He looks really angry in the picture."

"Must we use that term, boyfriend, for him? Is there not another one, better suited," pleaded Eleanor. "We've got a problem, however. He's supposed to be in court today?"

"Yes," agreed Matthew. "Do you think he'll be awake by then? They're …. Ten hours behind us?"

She opened one eye, and all she saw was the white of his eye. She shook him, rubbed his chest for a substernal notch rub, guaranteed to wake the living dead, and he did nothing.

"No," she said. "And while he's admitted he's from Glasgow, his Glasgow Coma Scale is pretty low even for a native. We can't dare take him the hospital. His magical nature will play havoc on the electronics."

"We're really not starting off well with him," sighed Matthew. He noticed Eleanor's fierce look and he quickly added, "Not that we can be blamed, in the slightest."

-*-*-

December 15, 2003, 5.00

Yaxley Manor House

Glasgow, Scotland

"Hello, Theodore, it's nice to see that the rumors of your demise have been exaggerated," Kingsley stated to the very much alive Theodore Nott, who smiled before excusing himself from the room. Shacklebolt looked far older than his fifty years when he whispered, "He didn't come back, did he?"

"No, something's wrong. I can't even… sense… him. Last night, I had this sensation from him, that he was inordinately pleased with himself. Then growing exasperation and frustration, and then… nothing," Hermione said. "I can sense him, because when he splinched his arm, he bonded with me to stay alive."

"Hermione, that's not the only reason," Kingsley softly stated.

"I know it isn't, but really, it's just one sided. My side," she admitted. "It's always been Rowena for him, and it will always be Rowena. It would be nice for more, but it won't happen. I'm very sorry, Kingsley. I've brought down your government, because you didn't announce Iacob escaped from Azkaban. You'll have a trial and he won't be there. Thank you for trusting me. You shouldn't have."

He gave her his gentle smile, "I owed you. For those six years, and I still owe you. Was he kind to you?"

"He was an utter bastard at times," she admitted with a dry laugh. "But there were moments when I realized that he wasn't a complete bastard."

"Just a wee bastard?" Kingsley asked.

She laughed. "He was different with Alfie. The two of them could tease each other and he was very avuncular with Theo. When I believed that he had killed Theo, it just negated everything he had done previously. That he had saved my life protected me from the LeStrange brothers. He asked me to trust him, and I realized then it was just us against everyone else. He could be amazingly kind and gentle with me besides being brash and acidic. He adored the children, though he had all these crazy Pure Blood rituals. Each of our daughters' placentas was planted with a rose bush. What am I supposed to do with our son's?"

"You plant a tree," Kingsley informed her. "Now you nap, and I'll see you two in court at nine."

"I'm sorry, Kingsley," repeated Hermione.

"Don't be, trust is a good thing."

"It wasn't deserved in this case," she admitted with a sad, disheartened smile.

"I think it was. Have faith, Hermione. I'll let myself out."

Kingsley Shacklebolt walked out of the Yaxley Manor House but he stopped at the rose garden first. He inspected two rose bushes in particular and then he gently took two blooms.

"Flowers? For me, you shouldn't have, Molly will worry," Arthur Weasley teased.

"Arthur, I'm going to Australia and tracking down Iacob Yaxley for Hermione. I need you to come along as you've met her parents. Remus? I'd like you to come also."

-*-*-

December 15, 2003, 16.00

Adventure Bay, Tasmania

Kingsley Shacklebolt rubbed his aching temples. "We're running out of time. We're very close to where he is, but I don't know where. I can't triangulate him."

"They were dentists, weren't they? They'd need an occupation to pay for living here. There's a shop on the corner, I'll ask if they know a dentist. There must be one local."

Remus gave them a lopsided smile and walked into the shop.

"He and Dora have moved back in together," Arthur informed Kingsley. "Not that I should tell you, but I figured I'd let you know."

"Good. I have to fix this issue with Hermione and Yaxley, and then I'll see what I can do for Ron," Kingsley decided.

"Bill's taken him under his wing; he believes that Ron and Harry have a great deal of unresolved guilt for abandoning Hermione at the Ministry. That's why the two of them haven't been able to even talk to her. Hermione's rightfully vexed with them, but she's feeling abandoned by many of the Order members. She finally permitted Molly and me to visit her girls. They are lovely girls, Kingsley, but they've never been permitted outside the confines of the estate, because of who they are."

"She is in love with Yaxley," Kingsley admitted.

"I know. I can see it in how she talks about him. He feels something towards her, I'm not sure if I'd classify it as love, but it's mutual," Arthur stated.

Kingsley sighed in relief.

"You did the right thing, trusting Hermione. She needed to be reassured that you had faith in her after everything that happened," assured Arthur.

"And Iacob had to royally bugger it up," Kingsley stated.

"We're not sure what happened, Kingsley. I hope Hermione's parents remember me, else we might have to do some explaining," Arthur said.

Remus came out of the shop, and he smiled. "Three blocks over, third building on the left. They're a rather new practice – have only been here for five years. Husband and wife team from England."

The three men took off at a jaunty pace and when they arrived, Arthur knocked on the door. Eleanor Granger opened the door and pure relief filled her face, "Arthur, I think we killed him. He's not coming round. I wasn't sure if he was safe, and I injected him with valium. He's breathing, but he's supposed to be in court. And is he really involved with Hermione?"

"Eleanor, this is Kingsley Shacklebolt and Remus Lupin," Arthur said. "Hello, Matthew. Sorry to meet you like this, but we'll have time to make introductions later."

Kingsley Shacklebolt assessed Iacob Yaxley rapidly and efficiently. He crisply announced, "He needs to get to Mungo's immediately. He's had a bad reaction to the Muggle medication. You will need to come with us and bring as much of the medication as you can. Remus, can you bring the dog? Arthur, hold on to Matthew and Eleanor."

Then with a surprisingly gentleness, Kingsley Shacklebolt pulled Iacob Yaxley off the floor and swung him over his shoulder. The older mage's long plait swung in the breeze.

"Ready?"

-*-*-

Iacob Yaxley woke and he realized that he was staring at an all too familiar ceiling tile with a stain that looked like a Devil's Snare. Really, he should make a donation to St. Mungo's to replace their ceiling tiles or to hire additional cleaning staff. Maybe he should send a few dozen of his spare House Elves over, they probably think it was a fun vacation.

"You're awake," Hermione whispered. She stroked his hair and she smiled at him. "You haven't missed much. I haven't had the baby yet."

"Met your parents," he rasped. "Safe to say, they loathe me."

The unsympathetic minx laughed. To his surprise, Hermione crawled into bed with him. It took a little bit of effort but before long she was resting her head on his chest. "Much better," she purred. "Though I'll want you to start wearing your cologne again."

"Your mother tried to kill me," he added, annoyed that he still wasn't getting any sympathy. "Doesn't bode well."

"Mum is quite sorry about that," Hermione said. "You've been quite sick for the last week. However, Kingsley Shacklebolt insisted that we have your trial. I agreed as since you were unconscious, you wouldn't be able to take the blame for everything including the Magpies losing the Quidditch Cup."

"They saved my life just to hang me," he groaned.

"No, you had a few supporters who spoke on your behalf. Luna Lovegood."

"She's an utter nutter," he protested.

"Apparently, she likes you as you slipped her food and water while she was imprisoned. She claimed that your aura was seething and chaotic as you were in intense emotional turmoil. Alfred admitted that he Imperio'd you. They brought his portrait in and he confessed all. Theodore Nott arrived and successfully proved he wasn't dead at your hands. Narcissa Malfoy was a star witness also."

"Cissy?" he protested.

"You did something for Draco? Gave him a quill and parchment job at the Ministry, which got him out of the line of cannon fodder. Sorry, Muggle term," she said. Her hand was no longer stroking his hair; instead her hand was most assuredly lower. "I should ask Mum for valium. I like you like this, I get to play."

"You have clever hands," he admitted as he was quite keen. "Except for the near death experience, I could do without that. However, for this to be the only time you've stroked me and to do it so expertly just before I am sent to Azkaban, you are quite cruel. Though you have wonderfully skilled hands."

"Speaking of hands, Garrick Olivander spoke on your behalf. How when he was a prisoner of Voldemort, you prevented them from breaking his hands."

They didn't speak for a time, and then he softly called out her name, her real name. And Hermione smiled at him.

"You called out my name, that's the first time you've done that," she said.

"Haven't I?" he asked. "How terribly rude of me."

"Never," she admitted. "Kingsley Shacklebolt spoke also. How you protected me at great risk to yourself, blah, blah, blah and I was the final witness. I was quite good, as I am quite pregnant. I told the court how you and Alfie protected me, how when Alfie died, you and I hatched a plan to ensure that our children and I survived. I told them everything, just about."

"What didn't you tell them?" he asked.

"Don't you want to know what your punishment is?"

The minx was quite proud of herself, he could tell. "I'm to go back to Azkaban and I will be tormented forevermore by memories of your clever hands."

Hermione blushed and laughed, "No, it's far, far worse. You're on probation for the remainder of your life. I am your keeper, and you will be working for Kingsley Shacklebolt as his personal aide-de-camp as he's reviewed what you did as the Department head. He thinks you are a quite capable administrator, so you've been drafted, Iacob. And what didn't I tell them? Why you did it. Because you believe in people, not causes. Your personal loyalty was to Alfie, not Voldemort. And you saw enough of Rowena in me to make you uncomfortable with what they had planned. And that sometime during everything that had happened, I had fallen in love with you."

"Hermione," he began.

"Don't say it," she pleaded. "I know you will only ever love Rowena."

"I love you too."

Maybe he didn't love her in the same way that he once unconditionally adored Rowena, but he did love her. Hopefully, that would be enough.

-*-*-

Follow my instructions to the letter, and you will have a warlock of your very own! Malfoy, Beatrice. Manners and Social Etiquette Guide for Pureblood Ladies, 12th Edition. London: Dragon Press, 1905.

Careful consideration of my explicit instructions will lead you to love and family. Black, Licorus. The Well Bred Warlock: A Guide to Wooing, Courting and Every Day Behavior for the Pureblood Wizard. Translated from the Original Gaelic. Glasgow: Warlock Press, 1544.


(Don't forget to return to the main IJ page to leave feedback for the author!)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 01:59 am (UTC)
paean: (Default)
From: [personal profile] paean
This is a truly magnificent story. Lovely complex characters, with a strong but completely unexpected sense of family.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-02 07:45 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you!!! ;) I appreciate your review

Selmak

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-01 11:40 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Here from crack_broom. The review intrigued me so I started reading. What a great story! I don't regret the time it took me to read it. It totally deserves more readers. Complex story, original pairing, fascinating hindsight into the traditional magical world. Thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-02 11:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] selmak
Thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-27 09:13 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
deslea here from LJ/AO3. What a wonderfully imagined world you have here! I crammed this in before going somewhere so I know I need to read it again to really appreciate all the layers, but my, what an excellent piece of characterisation and world-building. Really, tremendous work.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-29 05:40 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you!!


Sel

May 2014

S M T W T F S
    12 3
45 678 9 10
1112 1314 151617
18 192021222324
25262728293031

Most Popular Tags

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Aug. 21st, 2017 06:20 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios