Chapter 15 - You're What?
The two aurors had seen battle. They had killed to defend their homes and families in the latest war. They'd seen burned and mangled corpses; but until today they hadn't seen this level of brutality, ruthlessness and depravity. The scene before them was enough to make them physically sick.
It was just a pawn shop, the kind that seemed to flourish in Margin Alley and other places where a quick galleon could be made if you didn't ask too many questions. It had been run by a middle aged couple, Will and Wynona Jones and staffed by their daughter, Beth and her two children, Ben and Wilma.
The children had been butchered, disemboweled - their entrails strewn around the shop. The pawnbroker's wife and daughter had been raped to death. Will had been forced to watch, even as he was being tortured into insanity.
The coffers of the Sons of the Serpent filled steadily as they guaranteed protection from the predators that seemed to be hovering over Knockturn, Margin, and Diagon Alleys. They offered the symbol of their protection, a small green banner with a coiled snake. For areasonable fee, and "consideration" for any Benevolent Son members who offered their custom.
The shop and restaurant owners had seen it before, and shrugged their shoulders.
"It's jus' part o' doin'business. Will got greedy is all; didn't want ta pay is whot. We all pays, one way or t'other!"
Of course, the dark beauty with the incredibly large, um, "assets," kinda took the sting out of paying the protection. And the bottom line was; it was cheaper to pay the premiums than to try and complain, or worse yet, not pay at all. Will Jones found that out the hard way, hadn't he?
The public face of the Sons of the Serpent was that of a benevolent organization, Blaise began to appear in the popular press as a combination of Mother Teresa and Naomi Campbell. Many of Zabini's former classmates were confused; frankly they couldn't remember whether Blaise had been a girl or a boy.
The inner sanctum of the organization was anything but benevolent. It was all about the fast road to power and influence. Those who supported the Benevolent Sons found their competition drying up, sometimes within days of coming around to their philosophy. Any who openly opposed them were often the victims of horrific violence or lethal accidents. Their own fault, of course.
As the Benevolent Son's organization and influence grew the fortunes of the Parkinson House began to wane. Businesses couldn't afford to be as charitable as the moneys spent for protection dried up their discretionary income. Pansy and Millie found themselves more and more having to appeal to wealthy patrons for support.
Bella carefully folded away her vestments. In some ways she had enjoyed being Sister Bellanca, but she had too much respect for the Daughters of Vesta to continue the charade. Then there was Remus to consider. Pairings between vampires and werewolves were rare, not that vampires didn't often take werewolves as companions, but she and Remus had already formed a bond, their wolf forms had mated. And wolves mate for life.
How long would she live; hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years? She could keep Remus alive longer than the average wizard life span, but that would only be about a century and ahalf.
This is why vampires didn't let themselves love - it was too painful when their chosen mates withered and died like mayflies against their own endless lifetime.
But Eliza Shakespeare, her ancestress, had spoken so fondly of her own werewolf partners.
"They may not last long, love, but never did a fire burn so brightly!"
Remus insisted that Bella take at least one meal a week from him.
"I heal quickly." He'd persisted,"And I can regenerate blood faster as well."
What Remus didn't yet realize was that sharing blood with a vampire is a more intimate act, better really, than sex. Because he gave his life's blood freely it was even more so.
They had shared every intimacy except one. Remus could not bring himself to make love to her when they were in their human forms. He still felt the loss of his beloved Dora and in a very real way was still faithful to his late wife.
Sometimes he wished that Bella would simply enthrall him and make him forget. The fact that she didn't astounded him, and made him love her all the more.
As Imbolc drew near Remus realized that he would have to maintain his Druid persona, or move to the continent or the Americas. He could take a wife as a Druid, and he had no doubt that Bellanca would be willing to fill that role, but he worried that she might not want to be burdened with a lycan for the next few decades. He would grow old and die - she would not.
Ian regarded the dark girl with distain.
"Just to be perfectly plain on this," he said, as if to a slow child, "your 'Benevolent Sons of the Serpent'will guarantee the security of my restaurant and the safety of my patrons for amonetary consideration?"
"Bi-weekly." Blaise clarified.
"Ah, I see." And he did, "the cost of protecting us has risen in the past few weeks, has it?"
"Please understand, Mr. Ian,"Zabini said in a sweetly sultry voice, "my organization has proven its worth many times over, protecting those who accept us from the predators and dark creatures that would do us harm. Not a single home or business flying our banner has been harassed - not one!"
"I see, Miss Blaise. And I do appreciate your offer of protection. I just don't see the immediacy as you seem to."
"Well, I hope we can still be friends." The dark beauty said sweetly. "I do love your eclectic cuisine."
"And you are always welcome, my dear." Ian said, bending at the waist to buss the second knuckle of the offered hand.
As the overly endowed visitor sashayed away Ian thought to himself, "Large knuckles on that girl."
Blaise was seething, that little old cockroach didn't "see the immediacy, did he?" That night he would understand immediacy.
Theodore Nott the Third stepped from the nearby alleyway, dressed in formal evening clothes - Blaise wanted anight on the town.
"We're going to have a nice dinner, a few drinks. Then take in some of the hot spots: The Fly, maybe Prince Albert's."
"It went well then?" Nott asked.
"Smashing, it went so well that somewhere around ten o'clock tonight we're going to seal all the doors and windows, even those in the cellar, and then we're going to burn that place to bedrock."
Blaise's smile was predatory. "Nothing will be left and no one gets out alive, understood?"
Theo gulped audibly, "Yeah, I got it."
Three couples sat around the table enjoying a large fireplace, good food and excellent company. Luna, who had finally dropped the "loony" persona was a good natured prankster was keeping Neville entertained with her quirky smile and hilarious innuendos. Ron was being very solicitous to Hermione who seemed a bit under the weather. Hermione did seem a bit drawn, but insisted she was having a better time than she'd had since she didn't know when. Harry sat with Padma Patil; not so much a couple as a couple of good friends out on the town. Had it really only been seven months since the defeat of the Dork Lord?
Dinner was served, Tandoori chicken all around. Everyone at the table loved curry so much, in all its incarnations that Harry was moved to make a formal announcement.
"Henceforth," he said, importantly rising from his seat, "I propose that all seated here, and any guests they may deign to bring, should return to this fine establishment every third Thursday to enjoy the great food, wonderful wine, delicious curry and most importantly, excellent company!"
All present raised a glass of whatever they were drinking, in the boy's case a good stout. Luna raised a red wine, Padma and Hermione club sodas.
Their timing couldn't have been better as the enormous clay pot arrived with skewers of meat and vegetables.
Hermione took a deep breath, inhaling the aromas when her eyes went wide she looked in a panic at Ron who looked back equally alarmed.
"It's time." She whispered.
Ron nodded and put her traveling cloak around her shoulders.
"I'm so sorry, everybody," she said with obviously forced cheer, "I have to go now. No, no. Don't get up, I'll be fine. Ron's just taking me home. Nothing to worry about." she quick stepped Ron out the door.
There was a ghost of a smile when Padma told him "Go on Harry, find her."
He kissed her on the cheek and said "You're the best Padma, thank you!"
The Indian girl touched the cheek that he had just kissed and, with a heavy sigh, downed the remainder of Harry's stout in one long gulp.
Harry saw the triple decker Knight Bus just in time to jump on. He heard Ron say "St. Mungo's, and hurry!"
All the blood seemed to pool at Harry's feet.
Hermione had to go to the hospital?
She was deathly ill and he didn't know?
Harry ran to her side and was shocked to see that she was enormously pregnant and grimacing in pain.
Pansy was looking over her ledgers as Millie knocked on the doorframe of her office / bedroom.
"Millie? You look worried."
"I am. A bit."
"How about a cuppa?"
The big girl nodded and the two of them went to the kitchen where there was always a kettle on.
Bernard was on kitchen duty tonight and he took his responsibility very seriously. As soon as the "Mums"were seated he placed the tea service out and poured two cups. With a cute little flourish he added one sugar for Pansy Mum, two sugars and a spot of milk for Millie Mum.
"Thank you Bernard."
The boy placed a tea towel over his arm and half bowed, "anything else Mums? I have a tin of biscuits from Fortescue's."
Millie brightened, "That would be perfect, thank you Bernard."
"Not atoll Mum!" he said brightly, feeling as if he'd made his Mum's day. Maybe he had.
"Now, what's the matter?"
"Well, you know how we "fixed"Blaise?"
"Well, he seems to have taken aliking to it. He's got the whole of wizarding Britain believing he's a girl!"
"I noticed that. Short memories, eh?"
"And now he, she, oh whatever! Blaise is the spokesmodel for the Serpents!"
"Yeah, funny thing that."
"I've a bad feelin' about this."The big girl said.
"Yeah, me too."
"I wonder if this is how our parents felt when You-know-who was just getting started?"
Hermione was crying.
"You weren't supposed to find out, ever!"
"It's all right Hermione, you and Ron just started before the rest of us, that's all, that's okay."
"Oh Harry! You don't remember!"
"All those weeks we were together, in the tent?"
"I remember every day! You didn't even talk to me for the first two weeks, then. . . Then, um. . ."
"We were scared Harry, and we were sleeping together so that we could protect each other and well, one thing led to another and, and. . ."
She burst out in tears again as another contraction hit her.
"Less than five minutes that one Hermione," Ron said, "Ain't we there yet?"
"St. Mungo's!" the conductor, ayoung woman, cried out.
Harry and Ron lifted her from the seat and carefully carried her off the bus, then all but ran with her through the large double doors of the wizarding hospital.
"Oh Harry, I'm so sorry!"
Harry and Ron carefully laid her on the waiting gurney, then both followed her into the labor room.
"I'm the sorry one, love, I got you into this state!"
"No Harry, it was both of us. You didn't do this, we did this. And you didn't remember because Ididn't want you to."
"What are you saying, Hermione."
She took a deep breath and shouted, "I obliviated you!"
Then dissolved into tears again.
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