Marriage Law Chapter 29
“You do know this could be the start of a lot of trouble, don’t you?” Detective Nigel Warren said to Detective Thomas Byron.
Byron was frowning down at the corpse of an elderly man. The man’s face was frozen in a mask of fear, eyes wide open and his mouth was contorted into a silent cry.
“It looks to me like it already has become a lot of trouble,” Detective Byron remarked as Ryan McConnell scuttled around the body snapping pictures. “Did you find anything from last time, Ryan?”
Ryan McConnell stopped snapping and stood up straight, taking note of the amount of film he had left. “Nothing. Sorry Tom.”
They were standing in a soft pink painted dining room. Decorative plates with flowers on them hung over a dark wooden buffet. An intricately carved dark wooden table stood in the center of the room, cream fabric covered the seats of dining chairs that were pushed in neatly, evenly spaced apart.
A thin layer of dust covered everything, the only exception were three clean streaks on the dining room table where it appeared the man had grasped in a futile effort as he met his demise.
“Are you sure he was killed in here?” Byron asked, looking around.
“Why wouldn’t he be?” Warren looked up at Byron. “Looks pretty cut and dry.”
“We still don’t know if he was killed at all.” Detective Shelley Morgan said bitterly as she walked into the room. “Could have just kicked it from heart failure. I don’t even know why we’re here, Warren.”
“We were told to, that’s why,” Warren reminded her. “Someone has an interest in these dead men. Find any connection yet?”
“No.” Morgan shook her head at him.
“Well, then we’ll just have to wait for more dead bodies to turn up,” Byron said, a strange note in his voice.
Ron Weasley stepped through the fireplace into Hermione and Severus’ quarters at Hogwarts. Sunlight came through the arched doorway to Hermione’s room. Neither Hermione nor Severus was anywhere to be seen.
“Hello?” Ron called out loudly. If they were having a private moment it was nothing he ever wanted to see accidentally.
“In here, Ron!” Hermione’s voice sounded muffled, but came from her room.
Ron strode through the archway and into Hermione’s room. The shutters were open and cold grey light filtered into the room. The curtains were pulled shut around Hermione’s bed.
“In here!” Hermione’s voice came from behind the curtains.
Ron pulled back the curtain and saw Ginny sitting cross legged with Hermione on her comforter. Hermione was holding up her pendant and Crookshanks was on his back, batting at it playfully.
“So you can read it now?” Ron asked as he climbed onto the bed near his sister and closed the curtain.
“Only bits and pieces,” Hermione frowned. “I get snippets of words and phrases here and there. I think knowing the language of Fire and Stone will make me understand it completely.”
“So what can you understand so far?” Ginny asked.
“Knowledge. Vessels. Life. Danger. Treacherous paths. Happiness. Fruit. Water. Wine.” Hermione said.
“But they said the spell could have degraded somewhat,” Ron said. “Even with the other language you may still be left with a partial message.”
“Very true,” Hermione admitted. “But it still may be something useful.”
“You do know this may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” Ron said quietly.
“How do you mean?” Hermione asked.
“Without the shard none of this would be happening.” Ron said. “The Amazons and the Brotherhood wouldn’t be so keen to sign a treaty. You wouldn’t be doing research at the Ministry.”
“You don’t know that,” Ginny said skeptically. “The Department of Mysteries would be a perfect place for Hermione.”
“But I wasn’t interested in the Department of Mysteries,” Hermione said. “I wanted to work with Muggles.”
“Mum says we end up where we’re supposed to be, whether we like it or not” Ron shrugged.
“Well, this is supposed to be a key to somewhere,” Hermione said, dangling it so the light bounced off the inside of her bed curtains. “So we’ll see where it takes us.”
“Just because you have a key to somewhere doesn’t mean you have to go plunging in once you hear the lock click. For all you know this leads you back to the Jotun and has a list of someone’s shopping.” Ron said, an annoyed tone creeping into his voice.
“He’s right, you know,” Ginny said before Hermione said something snotty.
“But I am under the supervision of the Ministry and your dad wouldn’t approve anything insane.” Hermione insisted. “Your mother would kill him.”
Ron relaxed a bit. “I suppose that is a good point.” He shrugged at Ginny.
“You’re completely mad, Arthur.” Molly Weasley said flatly.
“I am not mad and if anyone is to do anything, it should be her.” Arthur looked tired. “I wish there could be another way but-
“’But’ nothing!” Molly looked angry. “She’s barely out of childhood.”
“She was given the artifact because she was part of a bloodline. It’s not like they gave it to us and said: ‘Here. Come to the party.’ They gave it to her because she is who she is. We can’t change that, Molly.”
“Hopefully they won’t have a problem with me escorting her if we travel.” Severus said dully.
“Thank heaven for that, at least.” Molly said bitterly. “I never thought I’d be thankful for the Marriage Law.”
Severus let out a snort that sounded suspiciously like a stifled laugh. “Me neither.”
Molly gave him a weak smile and a pat on his arm.
“You’ll take care of her, won’t you?”
“I always do my very best.” Severus said seriously, and then looked thoughtful. “But that crowd she runs with-
Molly smacked him again, this time a bit harder. “Now stop that! Even with all their adventures they acted carefully.”
“Because of her.” Severus snorted. “Only level head among them.”
“I suppose so.” Molly mused.
“And they weren’t all that careful.” Arthur frowned. “She’s lucky the basilisk didn’t kill her.”
“I’d rather not think about that.” Severus shivered.
“Well, we’ll have it translated completely tonight.” Arthur clapped his hands together as if the sound closed the subject. “Then we can think about our options. No sense worrying about it until then.”
“You’ve got to be joking.” Severus said dryly.
“I assure you, the pain only lasts for a moment and the potions we have prepared will heal you within seconds.” Pieter said in a reassuring tone.
“I have never heard of such a thing, Nicolai.” Dumbledore frowned at the red coals smoldering in a small cauldron that hovered a few inches above Dumbledore’s desk. There was a small brand in the shape of intertwined runes heating in the coals.
“There are a few things you do not know, then?” Nicolai sniffed imperiously.
Dumbledore gave him a tired look over the top of his glasses.
“Pieter, how does this work?” Hermione asked her cousin-in-law.
Pieter slipped his robes off of his right shoulder. Among the copious amounts of black curly hair she could see a small brand. “The information is given to you when the heated crystal fuses with your flesh.”
“Lovely.” Professor McGonagall seemed to disapprove of the whole idea.
To Hermione’s surprise, the Brotherhood decided on Dumbledore’s office as their meeting place. According to Nicolai, it would give them a chance to see a different institution of learning. Pieter smirked and told Hermione that Nicolai just wanted to see Dumbledore’s office and all the items it contained.
Pieter, Nicolai, and Viktor Krum were still representing the Brotherhood and Asta, Nyssa, and Alexandra were still officially representing the Amazons, but the room was quite crowded.
A dozen Amazons, including Sofia waited patiently for their turn to be branded. A small group of members of the Brotherhood watched
The Brotherhood had agreed to give more Amazons the gift of the language of Light and Dark in order to enhance their linguistic studies. The Amazons in turn agreed to share their prophetic library with the Brotherhood. Now there were people on both sides talking about a library merging their knowledge in order to become the most powerful magical entity in the world.
Nicolai vocally disapproved this idea, saying the younger Brotherhood members had clouded judgment brought on by the idea of the evil seductresses tempting them with promises of ecstasy. No one had disagreed with him. The talks had continued.
Officially, Dumbledore, Snape, Hermione, and McGonagall were representing the Order, but there were a dozen people from the Ministry waiting to observe the ritual and participate in the branding ceremony.
At least, they had shown up to participate in the information exchange, now that the thought of branding was on the table more than a few witches and wizards shifted nervously in their seats.
“Did you do this Viktor?” Hermione asked. “Does it work?”
“Oh yes,” Viktor said. “It vill allow you to read the story of earth. You vill understand after the ceremony.”
Hermione shrugged and slipped her robes off her shoulder.
“Hermione!” Snape hissed. “This could alter your perceptions of things forever!”
“Viktor seems fine.” Hermione said stubbornly. “And this is what I came for. I’m doing this.”
Severus let out a breath and gave her an irritable look. “Fine then.”
“You may mark her if you like.” Nicolai said to Viktor. “She is your friend.”
“This vill hurt for a moment,” Viktor apologized. “Drink the potion quickly and the pain vill go away.”
Hermione nodded and turned away from Viktor.
“It is easier if you lay down.” Nicolai waved his wand at a piece of silk that had been laid out on the table. It floated waist high in front of Hermione. When she pushed on it, it stayed firmly aloft. She climbed onto the table and gave a squeak of surprise as she found her legs and arms firmly bound.
“I am sorry.” Viktor apologized as he picked up the small brand, pushed a hand firmly into her back to stop her wiggling, and pushed the brand firmly into the flesh of her shoulder.
Hermione screamed and struggled as pain shot through her. The smell of burning flesh was sickening. Her eyes flew open and her husband watched her dispassionately.
After seconds that felt like hours, Hermione felt Viktor ease the pressure on her back where he was holding her down and her restraints were gone. She sat up quickly and Viktor pushed a small blue vial to her lips. She gulped the potion down and quickly the intense pain dulled into a dull throb.
“Are you alright?” Viktor asked her, a concerned look on his face.
Hermione scrunched her eyebrows up at him. It was all the warning he got before she punched him in the gut.
“I am not a cow!” Hermione yelled at him. She could hear Severus laughing. “You need not tie me up to get me to do something I have already agreed to!”
“I think the binding spell may be a bit overboard.” Nicolai snickered at the doubled-up Viktor.
Viktor gave out a groan and limped back to Pieter, who chuckled and patted him on the shoulder.
Hermione tried to see the brand over her shoulder, but only got a glimpse of scar tissue. Severus came over and ran his finger over the brand. It was still sore but the potion was working quickly.
Hermione hopped off the piece of silk and breathed in as her feet touched the stone floor.
“What?” Severus asked sharply.
“This stone came from far away. It was carved out of the side of a cliff and transported here on wooden platforms. It was set here by magic and many feet have passed over it.” She seemed to be listening to something. “Someone used to dance here. It misses the feel of dancing feet.”
“The stone misses the feel of people dancing upon it?” Severus’ eyebrows went up in surprise.
“It’s not as clear as that.” Hermione frowned. “It’s more abstract.”
Pieter approached them chuckling. “Severus, it is your turn. I will warn you, I hit back.”
“Anna would murder me.” Severus snorted.
He started taking a shoe off and Pieter laid a hand on his shoulder.
“The mark goes on the shoulder.” Pieter said sternly.
Severus flinched slightly at the word ‘mark.’ Hermione winced.
“Must it?” Severus asked. “It should work anywhere.”
“It is tradition!” Nicolai said sternly.
Hermione started to blush. She chanced a glance at Nyssa. Nyssa was looking at her questioningly. Hermione flicked her eyes down and blushed furiously.
Severus leaned over and whispered something to Pieter that caused the large furry man to throw his head back and howl with laughter.
“Off with it!” Pieter chucked once he had slightly composed himself.
Severus started undoing buttons. He threw an accusing glare at Hermione. She desperately tried not to giggle.
Asta slipped over to Hermione. “What is going on?”
“Sometimes…” Hermione hesitated. “Human mating gets enthusiastic.”
“I have read about that.” Asta said proudly. “Passion grows between a man and woman and-“
Asta’s eyes widened. “Oh my!”
Pieter had yanked Severus’ clothing down from his shoulder and was giving Hermione an approving gaze.
Even from the small bit of skin exposed it was clear he had deep scratches on his shoulder. A bite mark graced it. There were small bruises at the base of his neck.
“It is wonderful being married, is it not, Severus?” Pieter smiled warmly at his cousin before shoving him roughly and making him lay down on the piece of silk.
The Amazons were whispering among themselves and stealing glances at Hermione.
Alexandra was looking at Hermione as if sizing her up.
“This is pleasurable?” Asta asked Hermione excitedly.
“It was at the time.” Hermione whispered back, trying not to die of embarrassment.
Pieter apologized to Severus before pushing the brand against his skin. Hermione watched as the brand pushed in as if there were nothing there. The skin seemed to grow up and around it as he pushed harder, glowing shades of yellow, orange, and red under his skin.
She watched Severus take a deep breath.
“Do you often battle before mating?!” Asta was smiling brightly, her eyes slightly glazed. She was starting to look mad.
“Um… during.” Hermione said slowly.
“During?” Asta echoed weakly. Hermione noticed little shots of lightening going off in her mouth as she spoke.
“Asta? Are you alright?” Hermione asked.
Nyssa’s head turned and she got a panicked look on her face. She hurried over and placed a hand on Asta’s back.
Asta’s head whipped around and she stared at Nyssa. Her eyes, glowing blue. Nyssa jumped slightly.
Hermione heard Severus yelp as the brand was pulled from him, but her eyes didn’t leave Asta.
“How do I find a mate?” Asta’s head snapped around to the somewhat startled group of Brotherhood men.
One of them, a tall man in his mid 20’s with dark wavy hair, straightened his hat and waggled his eyebrows at her. One of his brothers smacked him. Asta started towards him with a look of determination on her face. He didn’t look upset about this at all.
“I didn’t think bloodlust was this literal!” Nyssa was trying to drag Asta back to the Amazons.
“Back to the tower for you!” Alexandra had hurried and was trying to wrestle Asta under control.
“My name is Mikhail!” The hopeful looking Brother waved at her as the other Amazons jumped in to wrestle Asta towards a fireplace where Sophia had thrown a handful of Floo powder. The old woman looked horrified at Asta’s actions.
“Asta!” Asta managed to call out before she was shoved into the leaping green flames that would take her back home.
“I’m terrible sorry!” Sophia rushed over to apologize to Nicolai.
“Do you think they’re all like that?” Mikhail breathed as he continued looking at the fireplace with a goofy grin on his face.
“One can only hope!” A blond wizard standing near him straightened his robes and waved shyly at a short Amazon with brown curly hair. She blushed furiously and turned her back to him.
Hermione noticed the subtle twitch of her hips as she did so.
So did Nicolai.
“This is what I am talking about! Enchantresses! Temptresses! Evil sirens that will ruin us!”
“Have anyone in mind, Nicolai?” Pieter smirked at Nyssa.
Nyssa was floored. She stared at Nicolai openmouthed.
“Enchantments and magic! Nothing more!” Nicolai was furiously red in the face. He turned and threw a handful of Floo powder in the fireplace. “The Brotherhood Library Three!”
As he disappeared, the room fell quiet.
“All vight!” Viktor pushed about the small coals with the brand. “Who vill be next?”