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HG&CC - New Possibilities

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Esme sighed as she got out of her four-wheel drive and removed her luggage from the back. She was not used to driving. Carlisle had always been the one to drive on long trips.

“Esme!”

Esme smiled at the familiar cheery voice calling from the main doors of the house. In a second she was there hugging the shorter vampire. “Carmen, I’m so happy to see you.”

Carmen looked over Esme and nodded. “And I you.” She hesitated before continuing. “But I’m afraid we won’t be around for long,” Esme’s expression turned dismayed so Carmen hurried to continue, “But you are more than welcome to stay with the girls.”

“I don’t understand. Where are you going?” Esme asked.

Carmen looked torn before her expression turned into a resolved one. She had made a decision. “Eleazar and I are going to Volterra; just the two of us.”

Fear crept up Esme’s spine. “What?! Why are you going there?” Nothing good ever came from going to the Volturi.

“Aro has sent a general summons for the Presentation.”

Esme was confused. “What Presentation?”

Now it was Carmen’s turn to look confused. “Don’t you know? A Strega Materna has joined the Volturi Coven.”

“Strega Materna? Witch Mother?”

Carmen’s expression cleared. “Oh I forgot; you’re too young to know. A Strega Materna is a witch who has selected a male vampire as her Consort. In return for his protection she has agreed to bear his offspring, true magical hybrids called dhamphirs. Dhamphirs age quickly but more stably than human-vampire hybrids until their venom activates and they take on more vampire traits. We would have mentioned them to Carlisle when he asked about hybrid pregnancies but Bella was definitely not a witch so what we knew about Strega Maternas would not have applied.”

“I don’t understand. The mothers always die giving birth. Bella had to be turned!”

“Strega Maternas don’t die. Their magic stabilizes the fetus and allows them to give birth without complications or dying.”

Esme felt a stab of pain. It had been hard knowing that vampire males could become biological fathers, that the females could not become mothers, could not carry and give birth to a baby. Now to hear there were females who could do so with ease… it hurt. Deliberately she focused past that aspect.

“Who is she?”

“I don’t know her personally,” Carmen admitted. “A Hermione Granger, from Britain.”

“And the vampire? Her… Consort?”

Carmen gave her a strange look. “Esme, when was the last time you talked to Carlisle?”

The younger vampire shook her head. “I haven’t. It’s too hard so I call one of the children instead. Why?”

“When was the last time you spoke to them?”

“I talked with Rosalie last week Saturday.”

“Well I think you should talk to her again.”

“Why?”

“Esme, Carlisle is the Consort. He and most of your old coven are in Volterra.”

The world went grey and blurry before it snapped into focus. Esme darted for her purse and pulled out her phone. Quickly she found a number in her contacts.

“Hi Esme,”

“Rosalie, were you ever going to tell me about Carlisle?”

“No. You never asked about what’s happening in Carlisle’s life.” The response was so Rosalie, so blunt and uncompromisingly honest.

That hurt. “I’m asking now.”

Rosalie’s response was cautious. “What do you know?”

“Just what Carmen told me. A witch has joined the Volturi, and she can have a vampire’s children. And she has selected Carlisle.” Her voice broke. “Is he happy? Did he want this? Why is she with the Volturi? Why are all of you in Volterra? What-”

“Esme, stop!”

Esme inhaled an unneeded breath. “I’m listening.”

“Carmen’s right and wrong. Carlisle and Hermione are together now but it was never planned; it was originally just a one-night stand. She never knew she could become pregnant, so when she found out she went to the strongest coven in Europe.”

“The Volturi.”

“Yes. And they adore her. Esme, she had no intention of telling Carlisle. If Alice did not have a vision…” she trailed off as Esme filled in the blanks.

“Carlisle would never have known he was going to be a father.” Esme inhaled sharply as she fought through her pain and regrets. What would have happened if she and Carlisle had never parted ways? The answer came immediately: Carlisle would not have slept with Hermione Granger; he would not be anticipating the birth of his first biological child. Esme was torn between pain and joy, for her personal loss and for her ex’s blessing. Besides it was her choice, her actions; she had left Carlisle first. “When?”

“When?”

“When is she due?”

“Alice says she’ll give birth before the end of the week.”

“Carmen says Aro has sent invitations for a Presentation.”

“Yes. In four weeks. Enough time for Hermione to heal.”

“So quickly?”

“She’s a witch,” Rosalie explained simply.

Esme nodded slowly. “Does he love her?”

Rosalie hesitated before answering. “I think so. He’s known her for a very long time.”

“What do you mean?”

“He met her when she was a child. There was a strong connection between them even then because she never forgot him and he kept thinking about her. But they never saw each other until she visited Seattle around six months ago.” When you left Carlisle, was implied.

Esme gritted her teeth and voiced the question on her mind. “Why is she in Volterra? Why is Carlisle in Volterra?”

“Hermione has enemies,” Rosalie explained simply. “The Volturi are better able to protect her and the girls. Carlisle won’t leave them.”

“Girls?”

“Oh.” There was a long pause before Rosalie spoke again. “She’s having twins, two girls.”

Esme’s heart broke. She knew how protective Carlisle was of his loved ones, his family; she could not imagine him being any less in regards to his own flesh-and-blood babies.

“He won’t leave her.”

“He won’t,” Rosalie confirmed solemnly. “Alice and Jasper plan on staying in Volterra.”

“What about Aro?”

“He likes her. She’s like a multi-gifted vampire and given time she can circumvent and block any vampire’s gifts. Alice confirmed as long as Hermione’s committed to the Volturi Aro won’t be interested in gathering gifted vampires. Because he knows Hermione can neutralize anyone attacking the Volturi. So he doesn’t have to kill or have them bonded to the Guard.”

“And does she know what the Volturi are? What they have done? Can do?”

“Yes. It’s exactly why she chose to go to them, rather than Carlisle. They have no issues killing humans to protect what is theirs.”

That rocked Esme back on her heels.

“Esme?”

“Yes dear?”

“Are you coming? For the Presentation?”

As much as it hurt there was only one possible answer. “Of course dear.”

Chapter Text

Alice frowned, the tip of her tongue sticking out the corner of her mouth as she tweezed and tugged and shaped the last bit of platinum wire into place. Carefully she tested it, shaking it gently and listening for any small tings that would indicate a loose wire. There were none and she was pleased. It was the fifth she had finished so far. Her lips curved into a smug smile as she gently set it aside, on a velvet lined tray holding similar pendants, the only variants being the type of stones in the piece. Most would just see a pretty piece of jewellery but they didn’t know what Alice knew, that each pendant was the anchor point for a complex glamourie that would allow the owner to move in daylight, under the sun, without fear of discovery. Each was made of platinum reinforced gold wire and white diamonds with another type of gemstone: red-brown jasper, black opal, peridot, blue star sapphires, red star sapphires. Idly Alice wondered who they were intended for. The thought slipped her mind as she began working on her next piece.

She had a lot of free time and she was not comfortable enough to leave her family behind for any reason, even shopping. It was nice making something with her own two hands. She wondered if Rosalie felt the same way about restoring cars, Esme about her renovation projects. It felt good, like she accomplished something meaningful, when she touched the physical end results of her work. Multiplying a portfolio value and helping her family stay safe was nice but this was better. And Rina and Emma… Alice loved Renesmee but these two had her completely enthralled. She took full advantage of her gift to share in the babysitting duties and getting to know their mother. Hermione.

Alice looked up and turned to a corner of the small sitting room. Jasper was settled in a high back leather covered chair reading a heavy looking tome. “What do you think of her?” She did not need to specify who ‘her’ was. Jasper was good at reading her mind like that.

He looked up and smiled, a small faint curve that made her heart sing. “I love her darlin’. She’s even better than Bella.”

Alice was taken aback by that bit of endorsement. The whole family loved Bella but most of them were secretly scared of Hermione. “What do you mean? Why do you say that?”

Jasper put the book aside and leaned forward, elbows on the knees and his hands dangling between them. His expression was calm and earnest.

“Bella loves and accepts us, even me, in spite of my flaws. But she doesn’t understand or support and love me ‘cause of them.” He frowned faintly, his gaze turning inward. “In fact I think Hermione trusts me more ‘cause I’m flawed.”

“That is quite insightful of you Jasper,” a familiar voice murmured from the doorway. At some point Hermione had entered the room, sneaking up on Alice and Jasper. Quite a feat for a non-vampire. “I know what it is like to be weak and vulnerable, to struggle to keep my head above water, knowing that others are depending on me.”

Hermione was now standing next to Jasper’s chair, holding out the snoozing baby cradled in her arms. There were always eager and willing babysitters for the twins, but even so Hermione always tried to set aside time for her daughters, usually one at a time so she would not feel so torn between them. A soft smile curved her lips as she watched the much feared vampire rock her baby girl oh so carefully.

“Rina?” Jasper didn’t need to hear a confirmation. He knew the scent of his goddaughter. “I don’t think I’m ever gonna get used to you sneakin’ up on me,” he grumbled.

Hermione smirked, blatantly pleased by his reactions. “Not hard really. You vampires are too dependent on your senses, especially sound and smell. Pretty easy to get around if you have magic and a brain.”

“Shieldin’ and maskin’ charms.” Jasper made a face. “Yours are different. They’re better.”

“Of course,” she boasted. “They’re my creations. Designed for very sensitive recipients.” Then she walked over to Alice. “How’s many have you finished making?”

“Five,” Alice confided. “I have to be extra careful to reinforce the wirework, to make sure they don’t get distorted and the gems stay in place.”

Hermione picked up two oval creations, one set with red jasper and the other with black opal. She held both up and the vampires watched as the stones were infused with her power, sparkling very much like how they would in bright sunlight. Then the light died though the diamonds still held miniature rainbows and tiny fires. She held the opal one out to Alice.

“This is yours, for all you’ve done and all you will do.” Then she stepped to Jasper and held the jasper encrusted one out. “And this one is yours Major. Gifts with no strings from me to the both of you.”

Both were gob smacked. Alice had not seen this. “Why?” she asked baffled. She was the one to give gifts, usually expensive and store-bought but still.

“Because both of you supported Carlisle, me, without hesitation. Even when your past experiences must have screamed at you to run.”

“You’re right about that,” Jasper finally said. His eyes were sharp and direct. “Of course, most folk say that about me.”

“And that is why I trust you.”

No one could argue with that.

Chapter Text

It had hurt hearing the confirmation from Carmen and Rosalie, that Carlisle no longer loved her. It was a thousand times worse when Esme saw it in person.

Hermione Granger was not beautiful but there was an aura about her that drew vampires in, even vampires Esme had privately considered as heartless and sadistic: Jane, Caius, Demetri, Aro. But maybe it should not have been a great surprise, after all this woman could and was willing to have a vampire’s child.

It hurt to see Carlisle hovering around her, splitting his attention between her, Alice and Jane who were carrying small swathed bundles, his daughters. Esme wanted to run onto the dais screaming and begging for Carlisle to take her back, to let her have one child because he had two and could have more. Instead she reminded herself she had chosen to leave, she had no claim on Carlisle, she had even distanced herself from the children in order to ‘find’ herself. Mentally she snorted. In the months wandering she had learnt a lot of herself but she was no closer to finding her Special One. Esme watched, hovering from her position near a pillar. She wanted so badly to go to her old family, to reconnect and ask them how they were doing, but she couldn’t, not when she had left them behind first.

“How are you holding up?”

Esme turned to catch Carmen’s sympathetic look. “I’m just hanging on,” she admitted.

“You aren’t the only one,” Carmen murmured. “Many of the female vampires envy her for what they will never have. And the unmated males envy Carlisle. Being Chosen by a Strega Materna is a rare honour. Witches usually look down upon vampires, Dark Creatures. For one to take a vampire lover is one thing, to openly take one as a Consort, to bear his offspring… that takes great courage and strength of will. Her own kind will see her as forever tainted, Dark. The extremists will try to kill her and her children.”

Esme nodded. “Then I understand why she joined the Volturi.”

~o~

Hermione ignored the vampires crowding the rarely used Ballroom. Her attention was focused on her daughters being held by Alice and Jane. Carlisle was standing just behind her, his hand at her waist, a visible demonstration of his claim. She did not hold it against him. She had been propositioned by complete strangers the moment she stepped into the public areas of the Fortress. Carlisle was not the type to make visible ownership demonstrations but so many aggressive unmated male vampires threatening his claim on her… it was enough to splinter his usual unflappable demeanour.

“Are you ready my dear?” Aro asked. Hermione looked up and nodded.

All the Three Kings were dressed in old-fashioned Regency formal wear and black robes. In fact all the vampires were wearing fashionable formal dress from various eras, probably periods they favoured. Carlisle was wearing formal Regency garb, Jane was wearing a pale pink lady’s gown from the same time period, Alice was wearing a modern navy blue cocktail dress, Jasper was in a formal grey Confederate officer’s uniform, Demetri in a Victorian gentleman’s suit. Hermione herself was wearing a medieval lady’s gown with trailing sleeves made of bottle green silk embroidered and embellished in gold around the edges and waist. Over it she wore a black sleeveless robe open down the front with a high stand up collar.

~o~

Aro moved to the front and began speaking in his normal voice. He did not have to worry about being heard when the audience consisted of vampires.

“Welcome to Volterra. It is my pleasure to make it known we have several new additions to the Volturi Coven. A wand witch has invoked the Materna Clause of the LaFey Accords. And she has chosen to ally with the Volturi due to the politically sensitive nature of her situation. Any wand-wielder entering Volterra without Our express permission will be terminated with extreme prejudice. I’m certain those of you old enough remember exactly how majority of wand-wielders and the Ministries feel about vampires.” There was a small but growing murmur of rumbling assent. The older vampires knew exactly what Aro was talking about and did not hesitate in sharing their knowledge with the younger ones present. “She has taken a Consort from outside the Volturi but he has agreed to reside in Volterra to maximize the security and safety of his new mate and their children.” Aro smiled smugly ignoring the increasing tension from the audience as he shared information but not the details they wanted.

“Names Aro! Names!” A bolder vampire shouted.

The Vampire King’s expression turned faux-startled. “Oh didn’t I say? It must have slipped my mind.” Someone laughed and it was echoed, rippling through the crowd because everyone knew vampires did not forget. “It is an honour and pleasure to introduce you to Hermione Granger. For those of you with contacts in the British enclaves, yes The Hermione Granger. We have taken special precautions to ensure her identity remains obscured. To mortals and magicals she will be Hermia Cullen, wife of Doctor Carlisle Cullen who has decided to move to Volterra from the States. To vampires she is Hermione, mate and consort of Carlisle, Alpha of the Olympia Coven.”

Aro looked over the crowd wishing he had Jasper’s empathy, or Edward’s talent to mind read without touching skin, but he had honed the art of reading minor cues and body language. Everyone, even vampires, had tells. This group was shocked but not too surprised by the choice. Understandable since all knew Carlisle was one of the most compassionate vampires in existence. If a witch would take a vampire consort it made sense she would choose one who cared for humans. And Aro had never hidden his wishes for Carlisle and his coven to join the Volturi. Carlisle was compassionate but a witch consort was a blessing that had to be protected like the Vampire Nation Treasure she was; and the Volturi were the ones best trained and equipped to do so.

“I expect all vampires to take precautions and to inform us if you hear of anything that could endanger Hermione.” The second last word was growled out. And he was pleased when Eleazer and Carmen were the first to step forward.

“We will. Aro. The wand-wielders will not take her from us. We will not lose her like we lost Melinda.”

Aro relaxed fractionally and turned to Hermione one hand out gesturing her to move to the front of the dais.

~o~

Hermione inhaled deeply. She had read about Melinda Darwood, fifth and cast-off daughter who had chosen to take a vampire consort and live happily with him for many decades. She was killed by a grand-nephew seeking to ‘cleanse the stain on the family honour’. Two of her children and consort and most of their coven were also killed. The remnants and the third and only surviving child took their vengeance by killing the Darwoods and every magical they came across before being eventually destroyed themselves.

She gestured to Alice, Jane, Jasper, and Demetri. They stepped forward and into pairs, Demetri and Alice, Jasper and Jane. She moved to stand beside Jane and took her daughter who fidgeted and thrust a clenched fist up through the blankets. She did not have to think as she conjured a backless stool and sat down upon it, her daughter on her lap. Carefully she unwrapped the blanket revealing the tiny form dressed in a tiny gown made of eyelet cotton and lace. Carefully she enlarged the bangle around the tiny wrist and slipped it off. She heard the sharp indrawn breaths as the masking charm was lifted, the reactions from the vampires, the vampires tensing behind her, Jasper and Jane moving protectively towards the front, Carlisle ready to shield her. Instead she held her daughter close and smiled down at the tiny face framed with pale blonde curls, the bright gold eyes looking up at her.

“This is my daughter, my firstborn, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, sired by my consort Carlisle. Her name is Severina Jane Cullen, for the teacher who saved me and one who I consider a sister. Her godparents are Jane of the Volturi and Jasper of the Olympia Coven.”

Hermione slipped the bangle back on, shrinking it so it would not slip off. Tension faded as the heady sharp scent of venom laced blood vanished. Hermione stood and held her daughter out to Jane who immediately accepted the small burden and moved to stand behind Jasper, trusting him to defend her and Rina.

Then Alice moved without any prompting. A small smile curved her lips as she watched Hermione repeat her actions, removing the blankets and the bangle. This time the reaction was more controlled as the vampires were better prepared for the sensory experience.

“This is my daughter, my secondborn, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, sired by my consort Carlisle. Her name is Emmaline Luna Cullen, for my mother and one who I consider a sister. Her godparents are Alice of the Olympia Coven and Demetri of the Volturi.”

Hermione had thought long and hard about the choice of godparents, the odd pairing. She could sense the consternation but she knew she was right. She wanted both of her families to work together, to have a common goal and shared interests. She did not want them to go their own ways if anything happened to her or Carlisle, one twin being taken by the Volturi and the other by the Cullens. She wanted her babies to be raised by both.

Once Alice took Emma Hermione moved to stand beside Carlisle. “Carlisle and I have discussed the matter and have decided we will not be entertaining any offers or contracts. Our children are dhamphirs and will eventually experience the full range of vampire instincts. We want them to be happy so we will wait for them to mature and make their own choice.” She could see the dismay, the falling faces. It was probably worse for Jasper who could sense it. “If you wish to contract for my problem-solving skills I will not be available for several months.” The tension immediately ratcheted up but Hermione ignored it. “You are more than welcome to leave your information with Demetri or Caius, or to contact me again in six months.” It subsided to normal levels. Hermione turned to Aro. “Is there anything else Aro?”

Aro smiled gently at her. “No, you have covered the necessary points.” He turned to the audience. “Feel free to mingle. Refreshments are available. Feel free to sample. If you are interested in a particular flavour arrangements can be made once the production logistics have been finalized.”

Hermione watched as Alice and Jane stepped down from the platform followed closely by their godparenting partner. Maternal instincts screamed to run down and grab her babies and Apparate away. Her common sense told her to stay put, to allow the vampires to scent her daughters, to be able to recognize them as important protected beings. It was particularly sad to see the female vampires. The ones with strong maternal instincts were the first to approach Jane and Alice, to ignore the looming threats of Jasper and Demetri in order to be close to a dhamphir, a baby who had a defined and accepted role in vampire society.

Truthfully Hermione was surprised to realise she felt no jealousy, only pity for Esme, Carlisle’s former companion and wife. But at the end of it she was the one to leave Carlisle and create the opportunity for Hermione’s happiness. If she hadn’t left Carlisle he would not have been in that Seattle bar. Hermione would have returned to Britain and struggled to accomplish her goals, of helping those who needed aid and pushing for change. She would have been stuck in Britain with no darling daughters, no friends to confide her deepest darkest secrets and hard-won truths to, no consort and mate to accept and love her as she was, no family to support her choices and back her up.

In an odd way Hermione owed everything she had right now to Esme Platt, Carlisle’s ex-wife.

 

Chapter Text

The Volturi and the Cullens were relaxing in the private wing. The Presentation had gone off without a hitch, no big fights, just minor scuffles and some seduction attempts. Now all the guests were either settled in the guest wing or outside the Fortress walls and the family was relaxing from the stresses of the day.

Hermione listened to the men joke around, boast and make plans for a tag race and scavenger hunt. She listened to the females make plans for a shopping excursion and day trips. She was more interested in lazing in Carlisle’s arms with her babies. She had just finished nursing both her daughters when Heidi appeared with a bemused expression.

“Hermione, you have a human visitor.”

Hermione passed Rina to Carlisle and sat up, tugging her bra cup and blouse into place before sliding the blanket off. “So late?”

Heidi shrugged. “I tried to persuade her to come back tomorrow morning but she was most insistent. In fact she’s waiting outside the door with Afton.”

That surprised everyone. For a human to hold her ground against a vampire…

“Did she give her name?”

“Luna Lovegood.”

Hermione laughed and sat up straighter. “Bring her in!” she urged. When Heidi left she spoke out loud, to explain to the others. “Luna is the sweetest and kindest witch I know. She is a bit odd but she has a unique perspective and can see to the core of any issue.” Her expression turned wistful. “She helped me a great deal after the War, when I was alone and trying to figure out what to do. She was one of the few to support my choices.”

“Did you contact her before you left?” Bella asked.

Hermione shook her head. “No. She is a Naturalist and was in Argentina. I didn’t dare to wait or send a message to her.”

“And you were correct to act without waiting,” a sweet Fey-like voice interjected.

The vampires turned to the door, intrigued wary and confused by the odd human entering the room behind Heidi. She was slightly below average in height, rather slender and wispy looking with pale blonde hair and almost colourless wide blue-grey eyes. She was dressed in an old-fashioned pale blue empire-waist dress that reached her ankles, feet shod in gladiator-style lace-up sandals. She was completely and utterly focused on Hermione who was up and moving towards her.

“Luna.”

And she was hugging the shorter woman, pressing her cheek against hers and crying soundlessly. Luna responded wrapping her arm around Hermione humming wordlessly, a soothing yet cheery tune. Then they pulled apart and looked each other in the eye.

“Motherhood suits you,” Luna stated gravely.

Hermione frowned. “You’ve Seen?”

Luna shrugged slightly. “A great deal.” She slid her hand along Hermione’s arm towards her wrist gently tugging the older witch towards the other occupants of the room. Luna deliberately looked each one in the face before finally settling on Carlisle. “You took ages to take the first step,” she scolded.

Carlisle looked torn between uncertainty and laughter. “I’m sorry?” He wasn’t really; he just didn’t know how to respond.

Hermione had no qualms. She laughed. “Carlisle, meet Luna Lovegood, a witch I consider as my first true confidant. Luna, meet Carlisle Cullen, my husband and mate.”

“He is very attractive,” Luna said agreeably. “But then again most vampires are.” She grinned impishly. “I never expected your mate to be the Stregoni Benefici.”

Hermione’s eyes sharpened. “You knew?”

“I Saw you were going to conceive, the father was going to be a vampire, but who I did not See.” Luna responded calmly. “And would you have believed me if I told you?” Luna snorted and continued in mocking sing-song tones, “Practical, sensible Hermione would never find herself in such a situation.”

Hermione opened her mouth then shut it. Luna was right.

“Well, let me first introduce you to everyone.” And after that was done Hermione continued, “Please sit down and tell me what you are willing to share.”

Luna obeyed, producing her wand to reheat the teapot and levitate to pour for herself and Hermione. She added lemon for Hermione, cream and sugar for herself. After passing the prepared brew to Hermione, Luna took a sip from her own cup before speaking.

“Everyone knows you left of your own freewill and few of the more genuine ones feel bad because they never noticed what was going on in your life, something big enough to drive you to leave. Harry hasn’t stopped looking for you.”

Hermione snorted. “I’m not interested in how guilty Harry feels. I want to know what’s happening!”

“Nothing,” Luna responded with brutal candour. “You know how it is. Nothing ever changes. Anyone who tries to is shut down. And when you left a lot of the energy vanished. No one has the will and cunning to out-manoeuvre the Ministry like you.”

Hermione frowned. “A Slytherin could.”

“And they are not interested in changing status quo.”

Hermione bit her lip. “Daphne?”

“If she had incentive,” Luna allowed. “Right now she doesn’t.”

Hermione sighed. “Luna, I’m sorry but I can’t. I won’t.”

Luna shook her head. “I don’t expect you to.” She grinned. “In fact I expect you to stay in Italy for the next few decades.”

That surprised everyone. Aro cleared his throat. “Please explain.”

“Breaking an egg-shell from the inside is hard and time consuming. Chicks take ages to fully hatch and break free.”

Enlightenment dawned. Hermione leaned forward and continued, “But breaking the shell from the outside is easy. You are bigger and have more leverage.”

Luna smirked. “Stay in Volterra. Make allies, grow your resources, leverage your assets, choose your battles, work for what matters to you,” she stressed.

Hermione’s expression turned thoughtful and distant. Then she came to. “I’m so sorry Luna! I’m ignoring you.”

“That’s okay. You know I do the same.”

“Will you stay the night? In fact I wouldn’t mind if you moved in.” Hermione gave Aro a pointed look.

He blinked then was quick to catch on. “Of course. Any friend of Hermione is more than welcome to stay. And you will not be harmed, my word on it.”

Luna laughed and stood up, setting her teacup down. “Thank you. It is most generous of you.” Then she smiled slyly and strolled over to Caius and plopped herself down on his lap, her legs over one arm rest. “I’m sure Uncle Caius won’t mind, right?”

Jaws dropped and Hermione made a choked sound.

“No way!” Emmett hissed and whispered vampire fast. “She’s way too sweet and pretty to be his relative.”

Caius’s mask-like expression cracked and he glared at Emmett before turning to Luna and speaking in exasperated tones. “No Little Moon, I don’t mind. You can stay as long as you want. Remember, I’ve always asked you to move in but you wanted to stay in the enclaves.”

“Father was alive and he would not leave Mother’s grave,” Luna said simply.

“Luna is one of your descendants? Like the Malfoys?”

Caius nodded and Luna explained. “My maternal great-grandmother was a Malfoy. Cast off of course, when she refused to marry the wizard chosen for her. No one acknowledges the tie.”

“Hmmm.” Hermione bit her lower lip and considered the information. Then she forcefully brought herself to the present. “Luna, will you please stay? I’d love to have a witch I can talk with. And you don’t have to worry! I go to Magi Plaza in Florence to shop. Demetri and Caius have lots of contacts in the enclaves who can find anything else. And the library here is wonderful! More expansive than Hogwarts because Caius did not limit himself to light and grey works and he’s been collecting for ages! Aro and Carlisle are very generous. I’ve been able to research and experiment without restriction and it is very nice, not to worry about money or how dark it may appear.”

“You are more than welcome to move in and stay,” Aro offered. “Or you can travel and use Volterra as a home base.” He gave Caius a sly look. “I’m certain Caius would be more than willing to finance your expeditions.”

Luna blinked. “He always has.”

Hermione snorted. “Your Snorkack hunting trips?”

“A cover story for when I was visiting Uncle Caius.” Luna admitted. “No one wanted to hear about my hols the moment I said I went on a Snorkack hunting trip.”

Hermione looked ashamed. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I lied to get exactly those reactions.” She turned to look at Caius. “I’m ready to come home now,” she told him.

He relaxed minutely. “Thank you Little Moon. It has been… troubling, watching you from afar and not interfering.” He turned to Aro. “Luna will not be coerced,” he told his brother king firmly. “She is free to choose and stay or leave as she pleases.”

Aro nodded gravely. “I understand and accept.”

Many of the Cullens shook their heads baffled by the calm acceptance from Aro. None of them could read his thoughts or see his plans for the future. Aro knew he could not force magicals to ally with him; he had to woo them to make the choice of their own free will.

Hermione smiled gently. “That is a bit of welcome news.” Then she smiled impishly. “Luna, would you like to meet your namesake?”

“Wha?”

Hermione waved at Rosalie and Chelsea who were holding the babies.

“Severina Jane and Emmaline Luna.”

Luna looked gobsmacked. “You named your daughter after Professor Snape?”

“And you.” Hermione pointed out.

“Oh yes.” And then it sank in and Luna squealed and bounced up from Caius’s lap and ran towards Chelsea and Rosalie. “Which one’s which?” she demanded to know.

Chelsea laughed and proceeded to introduce Luna to the baby she was carrying; little Emma, Luna’s namesake.

It did not take long for the exertions of the day make themselves known in the fussy babies and a dozing Hermione. Carlisle was the first to say goodnight and coax his mate into doing the same. Hermione hesitated but did not fight when Caius reassured her that he would make sure Luna was settled down in the family wing, protected.

Chapter Text

Hermione sighed softly and leaned back into her rocking chair. Chelsea had been nice enough to order several, one for each of the rooms she favoured. She loved spending her afternoons nursing on the patio. Usually. Today she had a few unexpected additions to her usual audience of vampires. A witch and several female vampires with very strong maternal instincts. A small part of her wanted to hide from Carmen, Esme, and the Denali sisters, the larger more dominant part insisted she was in the right, this was her territory and she was not going to be driven from it. And another little voice urged her to be compassionate. It had to be hard watching a mother with her babies, worse knowing it would never be you.

Her breath hissed out between clenched teeth as she sat up straighter. Rina squirmed and flailed her hand a few times but then settled down as Hermione crooned reassuringly. Satisfied once her daughter was calm, Hermione looked up and caught the eye of the Latina looking vampire.

“Stop hovering!” she ordered sharply. “Come close or leave.” Carmen did not need a second invite and was standing next to the rocking chair in a flash. Hermione caught Jane’s eye. The blonde vampire was holding Emma who had been fed first. “Let her hold Emma.”

Jane reluctantly obeyed and watched as Carmen accepted the small bundle, tug the cotton blankets aside to examine the tiny features and fragile body. Then she looked sharply at Hermione.

“You are not scared? That I will hurt her?”

Hermione shrugged. “Jane is here. And if you dare to try anything I’d set you on fire.” Then she snorted softly. “Besides you would not lasted the centuries if you lacked control.”

Carmen laughed softly. “True. And only drinking animal blood requires great control.” She sat down on the empty chair across Hermione. “Thank you. For trusting me.”

Hermione was confused. “It is not a matter of trust or not. Female vampires generally fall into two categories: maternal or not. You seem like the maternal type.”

Carmen nodded, her eyes holding a longing look as she cradled Emma. “Yes.”

“Have you tried adoption?” Hermione asked carefully. “There are many human orphans who could use a good home.”

Carmen shook her head. “We did try but children find it hard to keep secrets. And we would be forced to turn them once they reach adulthood. They resent the lack of freedom and the forced Change so we stopped.”

Hermione nodded thoughtfully. “If you could would you have issues raising another woman’s child? Your mate’s child?”

There were several sharp breaths and rising hope in several faces.

“I don’t know.” Carmen admitted. “I never thought of it.”

Several vampires, the Guards and Kings appeared in the courtyard. They had run from wherever they were when they heard gist of the conversation.

“It does not have to be from infidelity,” Hermione explained carefully. “Muggles, non-magical human beings have different procedures for infertility. The one I’m thinking of is IVF using surrogate mothers. I’m not sure if it would work due to the magical element but triad relationships are not unheard of in the enclaves. A barren pureblood wife cannot be divorced so a second wife, a consort is taken for legal heirs. I’m not promising anything but we could look for a witch who is willing to be a surrogate mother, or a second wife.”

The spark of hope faded.

“That would not work,” Carmen murmured. “Witches look down on vampires. We’re dark and tainted,” she concluded bitterly.

Hermione snorted. “You’ve been looking in the wrong group of witches.”

“What do you mean?” Aro asked carefully but not hiding the eager look on his face.

Hermione glanced around the Volturi and smirked, secretly pleased none of them had thought of her idea. “You should be approaching the Muggleborn witches.”

They clearly did not understand. “Why?” Marcus asked curious.

Hermione passed Rina to Chelsea and did up the buttons of her dress before tugging the blanket covering her chest to her lap. She leaned forward and inhaled deeply, mentally shifting into ‘lecture’ mode.

“Culturally Muggleborns have different beginnings than purebloods. We are brought up on Muggle literature and movies and TV shows, many of which romanticize vampires. Yes we are taught vampires are monsters in the enclaves, but deep inside is a teenager who reads paranormal romances which often have vampire heroes. If you approach her correctly and provide information and ask her to choose she will do so in your favour if she has reason.”

“Why?” Carmen asked bewildered.

“Money.” Hermione explained bluntly. “Muggle society is more open to surrogacy and adoption. Girls without financial resources or family often choose this route in order to finance their education, to look after dependents. A Muggleborn witch may choose to accept because of the innate discrimination in the enclaves. If she doesn’t have the resources to pay for an apprenticeship, or to move to less prejudiced country, or if she lost her family and needs financial or emotional support, for herself and any dependents.” Her expression turned bitter. “The recent war in Britain destroyed a lot of families and created many emotional orphans. Most of my work was focused around trying to squeeze money from the Ministry to support those left in bad shape, those who slipped through the cracks. Many of them had lost parents and entire families, some are raising younger siblings and dropped out of school or their Apprenticeships because they needed to work in order to eat.”

“I don’t understand,” Carlisle admitted baffled. “Isn’t there something like welfare? Charities to support those in need?”

Hermione shook her head. “Culturally magicals will not ask for help because that would put them in a weaker position, indebted, and that can be very dangerous. The Ministry programs have very rigid criteria that always favour purebloods, and they aren’t in as bad financial shape. Muggleborns have always been told to apply to Muggle programs and we all know they don’t cover more than the basics. The Muggleborns won’t approach other magicals for fear of the potential debt-slavery bond, but if they were approached with a request to provide specific services, it is less dangerous because it’s a relationship where both parties are giving and taking, one side is not in full control.”

“Will it work?” Aro asked bluntly.

“I can’t promise anything,” Hermione cautioned. “But I know of one orphaned witch with a brother and sister who are less than ten years old. And she can’t afford the Hogwarts tuition. She has every reason to say yes if the offer is presented to her in the most positive light.”

Aro nodded and rocked back on his heels. “What do you suggest we do?”

“Do not force or try to corner them,” she stressed. “They must be approached discreetly but they must always be given the choice to walk away. You know witches cannot be forced, and any mind-control potions would destabilize a pregnancy.”

Aro looked thoughtful. “Do you have any particular ones in mind?”

Hermione smiled slyly. “I do, but first I must put a few feelers out. It takes a certain amount of desperation to ignore centuries of social conditioning.”

Aro nodded slowly. “I understand. You have all the resources of the Volturi for this endeavour. If you need something other than money and agents just let me know.”

Hermione nodded and stood, draping the blanket over her arm. “I have a few letters to write. If all goes well I’ll need Demetri and anyone he chooses permanently assigned to me.”

“As you wish.”

Chapter Text

Rosalie watched both horrified and awed as Carlisle leaned over her mate who was lying on his stomach on an inclined exercise bench. He was using a purified werewolf tooth to cut lines in her mate’s granite skin. Rosalie winced as Hermione stepped forward and daubed the oozing venom off and then used a brush to paint the specially prepared ink onto the cuts. It took longer than expected for the wounds to close but it finally healed trapping the blue-black ink beneath the skin. It was sort of translucent, like seeing through frosted glass, but the letters were visible across Emmett’s bicep. ‘Prop’.

Emmett twisted until he could see it in the mirror set parallel to the bench. He was beaming.

“Look Rosie!”

“I’m looking!” she snapped right back. Then her voice softened. “Does it hurt?”

Emmett scrunched his face. “Yeah, it stings like a bitch. But it’s worth it!”

That baffled the former socialite. “Why?”

Emmett’s expression turned serious. “I know we have mating marks, bite marks, but tattoos are different. Now humans can see how much you mean to me.”

“Doofus!”

“Don’t be so hard on him Rosalie,” Hermione murmured mildly. “Tattoos and markings are very traditional, records of sacrifices and loyalties, obligations and alliances. I’m pretty certain this formula will never break down. Only foreign venom, like bites, will distort and damage the design. Your mate will always carry your name on his body.”

The blonde vampire was not surprised when Carlisle spoke but by his words.

“Rosalie, the process for brewing the ink is both expensive and difficult. It took a full lunar cycle and very complex magic. Emmett will be the only vampire to have a tattoo for no purpose other than to show he’s a ‘taken’ vampire.” Carlisle explained.

“Really?”

“Oh yes,” Hermione carefully capped the tiny vial containing the venom-ink. “Aro has asked for guards on active duty get a glamourie runic array tattoo, to help them blend better without worrying about a pendant that could run out when they are in public. It will take a while to brew the ink for each of them. And some of the ingredients are very rare.”

Emmett leaned down onto the bench. “I’m ready,” he said.

Then Carlisle leaned over and proceeded to etch the more letters on Emmett’s skin ‘erty of’. Hermione leaned over to daub ink over the lines and they waited while the wounds healed. Then they repeated the process for ‘Rosalie’.

Once Emmett was healed he stood up and twisted around at different angles to see the words etched on his arm. Property of Rosalie.

Part of Rosalie wanted to shake her head, but the little girl inside wanted to squeal and bounce up and down. Emmett had bought her gifts. Heck, Rosalie could buy herself anything she wanted. But to be marked like this… Suddenly Rosalie could understand why human men and women tattooed themselves for their lovers.

Speaking of which… Rosalie focused on Hermione who was cleaning up, tossing the used gauze into a porcelain bowl and igniting it. Then she burned the brushes and cleaned the werewolf tooth. The tooth and remaining ink went into a locked cupboard.

“Hermione?”

“Yes Rosalie?”

“You know what you were talking about a few days ago? About surrogate mothers? Were you serious about it? Are you really going to go looking for witches who might agree to it?”

Rosalie was possessive and selfish but she desperately wanted to be a mother. If she had to share her mate with another woman… well she’d adjust.

Hermione looked surprised. “Of course. I would not have said anything if I was not.”

“Do you need help?”

Hermione sat down on a stool and considered the offer. “Definitely. Luna said she’s willing to visit the potential candidates with Demetri but we’ll have to set up suitable housing in Volterra for humans who will probably have children, a hostel with family suites, a clinic and doctor on site.” She made a face. “I’m still debating the location, inside or outside the Fortress. Honestly I’d feel more secure if it’s within the walls. I can set up wards to keep visiting vampires out, age lines to keep unescorted children in.” Her expression turned troubled. “I’m not sure of the ages of the children but any babies born are going to need daycare facilities, schooling eventually. We can’t hire Muggle tutors and any siblings will eventually need magical training. The closest school is Beauxbaton but magical schools ignore non-magical subjects. And with children we’ll need more staff to clean, do laundry and cooking. And there’s a ton of things I’ve not thought of and-”

“Pax!” Rosalie held both her hands up signalling stop. “I get it. You need help. Leave it to us. We’ll handle the renovations and household set up.” She hesitated. “Esme is good at this.”

“Hmm.” Hermione did not look defensive or angry. “Actually I think I may have a better answer for the household and kitchen staff situation.”

“What?”

“I need to talk to Caius first. Oh, you can talk to Esme about planning the renovations, the types of suites required, but don’t start anything just yet.”

Rosalie was confused but this was Hermione’s show. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Rosalie looked around the large dining table they had commandeered as a conference room. She made a note to include meeting rooms and modern AV set up in the renovation plans.

“Rosalie? Can I ask why you asked to see all of us?”

Rosalie looked up and smiled reassuringly at a hesitant and wary looking Esme. She was not adjusting too well to all the changes but she was trying. Then she glanced around the table. There were only female vampires and Hermione: Carmen, Esme, Siobhan, Maggie, Chelsea, Heidi, Athenadora, Alice, Bella, Jane, Hermione who was breast feeding Emma. Jane was rocking Rina, keeping her quiet until Hermione was done with Emma.

Rosalie took an unneeded breath before talking. “I think everyone here knows of Hermione’s plans. Luna and Demetri have gone to approach witches who might be agreeable to taking a vampire consort, or a triad relationship with a mated couple.”

There was a soft murmur of agreement. “I don’t know how many will agree to this type of relationship. Honestly I wouldn’t if I were alive. But then again I’m not a witch, alone and destitute.” Rosalie said honestly. “So I think we should plan for the best case scenario for us, lots of witches saying yes.”

“Luna ran the Arithmancy numbers before she left,” Hermione murmured. “She is certain she will be returning with at least five witches from the first round; all of them orphans supporting younger siblings.”

Eyes widened in disbelief. Athenadora was the first to recover and take the lead.

“What do you need?”

“For all of you to take charge,” Hermione admitted honestly. “I’m too busy with my research, setting up the magical businesses, my own mate and children. I need to rest and sleep. I don’t have the time and energy to do anything but offer ideas.”

Carmen nodded and looked around the table. “First off lodging and food. It would be best if they stay inside the Fortress. Volterra is vampire territory but the Fortress is the most defensible real estate we have.”

“We can set aside a wing,” Athenadora offered.

“You’ll need to renovate it,” Esme pointed out. “Most of the furnishings and décor is expensive and museum quality. Not suitable for children.”

Rosalie was pleased. “Okay. We need a group to focus on the renovation. Athenadora, Esme, will you take the lead?” They nodded.

“I would suggest designing suites for families, like a hotel, and a university dorm for single witches,” Hermione offered as she switched breasts and adjusted the cotton blanket over her chest.

Esme made a note on her pad. She didn’t have to with eidetic vampire memory but she liked making lists.

“Children get into accidents all the time,” Carmen cautioned. “We will need nurses and doctors on site, an oby/gyn, a trusted midwife, a paediatrician.”

“Carlisle and I talked about that and he is willing to be our doctor for now,” Hermione offered. “Rosalie you have medical training right?”

“Yes. Edward also went through medical school. He should be good with a refresher.”

“Then we’re covered on the non-magical side. Caius or Demetri might know of a healer but I’d rather manage without one than risk the wrong people finding out.”

There was a murmur of agreement. “We could pay for a Healing apprenticeship,” Athenadora suggested. “I’m sure every witch who comes will not immediately agree to a match. Or even after she may want to wait before getting pregnant.”

Hermione was surprised and pleased. “That’s a very good idea. We should ask them if they are interested in studying, completing a Mastery. It could be useful to have other trained magic users. Something to keep in mind,” She glanced at Rosalie. “Someone should be a permanent contact for witches, sort of like a House Mother, someone to go to for help, to talk to and offer options like studying or working.”

“I can do that,” Carmen offered. “And me,” Siobhan added.

“You won’t be able to leave Volterra anytime soon,” Rosalie warned.

“Eleazar and I will manage,” Carmen said serenely.

“Liam and I already discussed the matter. We planned on staying for the foreseeable future.”

“On the medical side, include renovations for a clinic in the Strega Wing,” Hermione said slowly thinking out loud. “Ask Carlisle for a plan and specifications. He’ll also know how and what to order, medical equipment and supplies.”

Rosalie made a note. “Okay, next is household staff. Kids make messes and eat lots. I don’t think any of us want to take charge of the cooking.”

All the vampires made faces. Human food tasted and smelled awful to them.

“Let me worry about that and the cleaning staff. If all goes well we will have a full staff within a week.” Hermione said with a sly smile.

Everyone looked curious but none of them said anything.

Rosalie nodded firmly. “Okay next is education. The kids will have to be enrolled in school and if the witches had to drop out of school we should try about getting them a GED, or whatever the equivalent is.”

Hermione bit her lip. “I don’t have time to teach,” she murmured.

“Heidi and I can cover the non-magical subjects,” Chelsea offered. Then Heidi continued, “We go to university every few decades. The last time we completed a degree in Education. We were bored and wanted to try something different. There are home schooling programs we can enrol the kids in, no problems. We can get some of the guards to help.”

“I also have my teaching certifications,” Siobhan said.

“Caius can look for magical tutors,” Athenadora suggested. “Hermione can geas and bind them to keep our secrets.”

“At least until some of our own witches get certified to teach,” Hermione sighed. “I know anyone can sit to write their OWLs and NEWTs at the local Ministry. It’s kind of like self-study and home schooling to get your GED; graduating from a school is more accepted.”

“It’s not like they are going to be accepted because they are going to be linked to vampires,” Carmen pointed out practically.

“And speaking of school, what about those too young for school? And entertainment?” Alice asked. “There are always kids running around in playgrounds and parks.”

Hermione groaned. “We need a daycare. And minders.”

“The guards,” Alice and Jane said in unison. Then Jane explained. “They have good control and are used to multi-tasking.” She grinned evilly. “It should be fun to see.” Alice shrugged and added, “I’d like to work in the daycare, playing dress-up and pretend.”

“I can help,” Maggie said shyly. “My control is very good. We can go on day trips to galleries and museums and parks.”

“I’d like to help as well,” Esme offered. “Once the bulk of the renovation work is complete I’ll have the time.”

“Thank you,” Hermione said warmly. “Make plans to include a daycare and schoolrooms in your renovations.”

Esme nodded numbly.

Rosalie was pleased by the willing volunteers. “Great. I want each of you to think about what you signed up for, or what you’d be interested in. Do some research, talk to each other, come up with some ideas or a rough plan. If it requires special facilities talk to Athenadora, or Esme about the requirements: safety, ventilation, furnishings, equipment, outlet plugs, and such. We’ll meet again in three days to hammer out a timeline.”

Hermione passed a sleepy sated Emma to Alice who positioned her on her chest, angling the head over her towel covered shoulder. Then she carefully began patting the small onesie clad back. Hermione hid a smile as she took Rina from Jane and began feeding her.

“Round table. Does anyone have anything else to add? Ideas? Suggestions?”

“Maybe an information pamphlet?” Maggie said cautiously. “Who’s who. What’s what. Emergency contact info. And we should get them cell phones at least. Perhaps set up common computers, entertainment options like music, TV and games? Maybe tours of Volterra, for basic shopping and sight seeing?”

“Those are very good ideas to make them feel not imprisoned,” Carmen praised the younger vampire.

“Emmett can arrange the tech; multi-media systems for entertainment and gaming, PCs and cell phones.” Rosalie said decisively.

“Marcus knows a lot of the local history. We should ask him to help set up local tours. And I can do tour guiding.” Heidi said bouncing in her seat.

All the females smiled when Emma burped loudly and spit up a small amount of milk. Then they clustered around Alice and in small groups chatting about their individual commitments and sharing ideas. Hermione was not too surprised when Esme approached her slowly. She made a deliberately effort to remain friendly and open. Hermione knew she came off as abrasive to most people.

“How can I help you Esme?”

“I don’t understand you,” Esme confessed.

“What’s to understand?”

“Why don’t you hate me?”

Oh. Hermione smiled more warmly. “How can I hate you when you gave me everything I ever wanted?”

“What?”

“Carlisle,” Hermione said simply. “You left him.” There was a flash of hurt on Esme’s face but Hermione wanted her to understand. “If you had not left him I would not have met him in Seattle. I doubt I would have ever trusted a human drinking vampire, to be intimate.” Understanding dawned. “I’m not going to say we’ll be best friends but we can try to be civil. He does care for you, differently of course.”

Esme nodded. “You don’t mind?”

“I trust Carlisle. He’s loyal and he won’t do anything to hurt me.”

That Esme understood and agreed with. “True.”

“So, now that that’s over with, is there anything else you’d like to talk about?”

Esme laughed. “Tons. Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“Go ahead. But be warned, if I don’t want answer a question I’ll say so.”

“Of course.”

And at the end it was like Hermione said; they weren’t best friends but acquaintances with shared common interests, the Cullens, Carlisle, and making sure Hermione’s plan ran smoothly with minimal hiccups.

Chapter Text

Hermione sighed softly as she sank back into the hand-crafted rocking chair, lifting Rina high until she could latch onto a nipple. She smiled when cool hands settled on her shoulders stroking the sides of her neck, soothing away the tension.

“How did it go?”

Reluctantly Hermione opened her eyes and leaned back enough to set the rocking chair in motion. Rina fussed slightly but settled down when it became clear she was not going to loose her food source.

“Quite well actually,” she murmured as she adjusted her grip to reach out with one hand. Carlisle was quick to grip the offered appendage and sit down on the ottoman next to the rocking chair.

“Quite well can cover a wide range of outcomes. Would you care to specify?”

The witch grinned broadly. “You will be pleased. Rosalie is taking the initiative.”

That intrigued her mate. “Oh? Do tell.”

“We had a little conversation after Emmett got his tattoo. She asked if I was serious about looking for witches who would agree to being surrogates.”

“Ahh. Rosalie had always wanted to be a mother. She found it very difficult to adjust when she found out vampires couldn’t have children.”

“Well that’s not entirely accurate right now and she asked if she could help. From everything that she’s pulled together she’s pretty committed.”

“Oh?”

Hermione smiled. “I told her Luna and I could search out candidates but they would need suitable housing and facilities for the witches and any minors and dependants who would be accompanying them. The Fortress is lovely but it is a showcase and stronghold, not entirely designed for humans or children. They will need suites, kitchen and laundry facilities, staff to clean and cook, daycare and schools, an on-site clinic and lots more.”

Carlisle nodded. “Very true.” He cocked one eyebrow. “And what did Rosalie say?”

“She told me to leave it to her. That the ladies would organize the renovations, house-hold set up and staffing.” Hermione paused noticeably before continuing. “Your ex will most likely be heavily involved in this.”

Carlisle jerked minutely. “Esme?”

“Hmm. She was at the meeting Rosalie organized. Everyone was very supportive and eager to volunteer their time and skills.”

Carlisle looked thoughtful. “Vampires are selfish creatures. You have offered them something they cannot buy or steal for themselves, the chance to become mothers and raise a child of their own from infancy. They will do everything possible to ensure it happens.”

Hermione frowned. “The older ones yes, but the younger ones or those like Alice are not so interested in becoming mothers.”

“But you are offering them extended family; their coven-sisters the chance to become mothers, for them to become aunts and elder sisters and help raise a baby.”

Hermione’s look turned pensive. “Am I taking advantage of their desire?”

“No more than they are taking advantage of you,” Carlisle countered. “You are using each other pretty much equally.”

“I ran the Arithmacy numbers Carlisle. It will start slow and initially be limited to Britain but eventually it will spread. The number of witches choosing to join us will increase every year until we achieve a stable population and can deliberately limit those we accept.”

Carlisle was startled. “That many?”

“You don’t know how bad it is back in Britain and how much better it is going to be here. I’ve done a lot of research and thinking about this Carlisle. I had hoped to approach the Ministry with my plans, to reinvigorate magical innovation but knew I needed support so I asked several Order members but they laughed at me saying I was a child and to leave business matters to experienced wizards. Then I asked Harry if he would finance my plans for a new company but Ginny threw a fit and said there was no way I would succeed and he did not want to rock the boat. I tried approaching my old House Head to see if she would be interested in integrating some of my ideas for education at Hogwarts but she firmly said she was not going to change Traditions that educated countless generations. Pah, Traditions that shaped generations of prejudice and bigotry!”

“So you chose to cut your losses.”

“Yes. It was very clear they weren’t interested in working with me so they were definitely against me. They were Authority who I had no respect for. I enjoyed cutting them down to size. Making them look like fools, incompetent morons who couldn’t find their way out of a wet paper bag.”

“I’m still surprised you approached the Volturi,” Carlisle confessed.

“I wouldn’t have. If I wasn’t pregnant with Rina and Emma I never would have dared to. I would have approached the goblins first. Vampires and Magicals don’t have the best history.”

“So I’ve been informed.” He was quiet for a few seconds. “And you are still certain that they will accept your idea?”

“The ones who Luna and Demetri will be approaching are not those in strong positions, these witches are poor, worn, emotionally exhausted, and struggling. They may be initially wary of the offer but since it’s laid out straight in terms of pro-con, cost-benefit, I think they will be accepting them.”

“How many do you think?”

“From the first round five at least, all orphans supporting younger siblings.”

Carlisle winced. “I feel guilty, that we are taking advantage of them,” he confessed.

“We are,” Hermione agreed. “But they are accepting our offer with eyes wide open. And if they are truly reluctant they can refuse, be Obliviated and go back to their old lives.”

“And know for that short period of time it was their selfish choices that would result in their siblings being impoverished and educationally handicapped.”

“It’s their choice,” Hermione repeated firmly. “I’ve had to make my own choices from very crappy limited options. They’re getting a much better deal than me.” Seeing his hurt look she hurried to explain. “Not you! From before, my last years in Hogwarts and the years after the Battle.”

“You don’t feel trapped? Limited?” he asked hesitantly.

Hermione snorted. “Are you kidding me? I have everything I want here! Libraries and facilities I only dreamed about. And whenever I want a rare or expensive ingredient or book I only have to mention it and Caius or someone would make arrangements to buy or steal it.” She reached out and cupped his face. “I have a husband and mate who loves me and puts me above all else. I have two daughters when I had pretty much resigned myself to being single and alone because I was not going to conform. I love you Carlisle. I love you, our children, our family and friends. Believe me, being part of this family is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

He blinked and nodded, shifting to brush a kiss against the palm of her hand before gripping it tightly. They stayed there like that, the only sounds the soft slurping noises of their daughter feeding.

 

~ooOoo~ooOoo~ooOoo~

TBC...

Chapter Text

Luna had been honestly surprised by how well she got along with Demetri. He was never put off by her rambles and conversations about obscure creatures or wilder conspiracy theories. He simply played along or made insightful comments that set Luna off on a new tangent. He fit. It had baffled the Ravenclaw witch when she first noted it.

~o~

“I don’t understand. Most people would throw their hands up at this point and leave.”

“Perhaps it’s because I also ‘see’ differently.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know I am a tracker, yes?”

“When I meet someone I taste the ‘tenor’ of their mind. After that I will always recognize them, no matter how much experience they’ve had, how much time has passed.” He gave her a fond look. “Your mind stands out among all those I’ve tasted. It is unique.”

“I am unique.”

“Of course you are.”

~o~

“Where to first Babushka?”

Luna stirred and blinked. Demetri had dropped into the chair across from her in the Muggle café. He was pretending to sip from an extra-small cup of coffee.

“Oh.” Luna looked down at the charmed sheet Hermione had given her before they left Volterra. “We need to talk to Hannah Abbott. She lives in Pickering.”

 

~ooOoo~ooOoo~ooOoo~

 

It had been a long day for Hannah, a double shift to cover for another girl. Her feet ached and her arms were sore but the extra money was always welcome. She hated leaving her siblings alone for so long but she couldn’t afford to turn down the money. Luckily her neighbour was willing to let Matt and Sophie stay in her home. Her siblings were good kids and Hannah was certain they would have finished their homework by the time she got home.

She said her farewells to Tom and made her way out into the Muggle street and began walking quickly to the bus stop.

“Hello Hannah.”

Hannah came to an abrupt stop and turned at the familiar airy voice.

“Luna.”

A more focused looking Luna dressed in a Muggle wrap-around dress wearing wedge heels. Hannah seriously envied Luna’s wardrobe. She couldn’t remember the last time she bought something for herself. Then she noticed the man standing next to Luna dressed in a dark suit. She froze seeing the pale perfect skin and muddy reddish eyes.

“Luna, get away from him!” she hissed shaking her wand out of its holster and palming it. She seriously hoped the vampire would not attack her in front of all the Muggles.

Luna laughed and the vampire looked down at her with a bemused but fascinated expression.

“Don’t worry about Demetri. He won’t harm us.”

Hannah eyed Demetri. He met her eyes calmly, evenly, and it oddly reassured her. He was definitely in control of his bloodlust. An older vampire.

“Okay. Can I ask what in Merlin’s name you’re doing? Hanging around a vampire?”

In patent Luna fashion she ignored half of what Hannah said. “I have an offer for you.”

“What?”

“Something that could solve all your problems in one sweep.”

Hannah chewed on her lower lip. She knew an offer like that probably had a lot of strings attached. She wanted to say no and send Luna away but she couldn’t. But she could delay to get time to think.

“I need to go home and cook. Matt and Sophie are waiting for me.”

“How about you have dinner on us and listen. We’ll order extra for you to take home.”

Well shoot. “Oh all right! I’ll listen. But I’m not promising anything.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to. Not until you listen to us.”

Dinner turned out to be a very filling meal at a small Greek restaurant. The conversation topic turned out to be more shocking. But the more Luna talked the more her reflexive ‘No’ did not made sense. She owed nothing to the Ministry, the pureblood bastards who kept grinding her down, refusing her applications for funds and training. And Matt would be turning eleven soon, Sophie three years after. There was no one else beating down on her door with an offer to help shelter, feed, and finance her family’s education.

“Can you please re-cap what this… offer entails?”

“You won’t be forced to conceive or forced in anyway. You’ll be introduced to several male vampires, mated and not. If they’re mated their mates have agreed to a potential triad relationship and you will get the opportunity to meet her as well. If you do not find any compatible matches you will be expected to work in the magical businesses that are currently being set up. You will be trained though we cannot promise you will get a recognized Apprenticeship certificate since we currently only have one Master.”

Hannah sighed. “I understand.” Then she shook her head. “I really don’t know. I’ve had the worst luck dating in Hogwarts. Everyone wanted to hook up with someone I knew, not me.”

“That won’t be a problem here. Vampires know how rare it is for a witch to take one as a consort so when they hear you’re open to consider a vampire suitor you’ll definitely be courted by many who will want to choose them.” Luna wrinkled her nose. “They’ll probably be fights over you.”

Demetri laughed. “You don’t have to worry about That. The Kings will ensure things are kept civilized. If they don’t Hermione will.”

Hannah blinked. “Hermione?”

Now it was Luna’s turn to look cagey. “Hannah I can’t tell you any-”

“Is Hermione Granger a vampire consort?”

Luna and Demetri exchanged looks before Demetri answered carefully.

“I cannot confirm anything other than a Strega Materna has chosen to ally with the Volturi.”

But Hannah was not so easily deterred. “Is it Hermione?”

Luna sighed. “Yes.”

Hannah sank back in her chair and thought hard. She didn’t need to think long about the paths before her; Hermione would not have made the choice lightly or without considering all the pros and cons. “I’m in. On one condition.”

“What?”

“My siblings. They will live with me and I expect their expenses, including their magical educations to be covered.”

Demetri nodded. “There is no issues with that. Hermione is in the process of arranging for schooling, childcare, medical care, and suitable housing. We expect many of the witches we approach will have ready-made families like yourself.”

Hannah’s expression turned grim. “Oh yes. I know of many who might be interested in a similar arrangement. Some are in Knockturn Alley. Can I talk to them? About this?”

“Eventually. After you and your siblings are settled in,” Luna said in a soothing voice.

“And we will have to go with you.”

“And if they don’t agree they will be Obliviated,” Luna added more firmly.

Hannah understood that warning. “Of course.” Then her practical mind prompted her to ask a question. “How much time do I have? To pack and stuff?”

“Not long. Demetri and I will stay and help you. Just take what you absolutely can’t replace. You’ll be given a living stipend for personal expenses. And you’ll have to withdraw Matt and Sophie from school as well,” Luna added.

Hannah nodded indicating her understanding and she watched as a waiter came with a take-out parcel and a bill that the vampire, Demetri, paid with a black credit card. After they left the restaurant her ‘proper witch’ voice scolded her for being so trusting, naïve… Hannah had no issues quashing it. She was not naïve and trusting. Luna and Demetri had been very upfront about what would be expected of her. And there would be subtle pressure but Hannah was certain she could handle it since they needed her willing co-operation.

Matt and Sophie were curious and slightly wary when introduced to Demetri but they relaxed as they ate because Demetri was very calm and more focused at typing away on his laptop. After the remnants of the meal were cleared and disposed off they began packing. It made Hannah sad, her brother and sister accepted her explanation that they were moving to Italy and needed to pack only what they wanted to take. They did not like their current living situation any more than she did. She and Luna transfigured several cardboard boxes and began packing the household goods for donation drop-off while they caught up on each others lives. Demetri was either on his phone or his laptop placing orders and pulling strings.

Demetri and Luna ended up staying the night. Well Luna slept in a transfigured cot. Demetri continued packing the common household goods at vampire speeds.

~ooOoo~ooOoo~ooOoo~

When the Abbotts woke the next morning their flat was pretty much bare except for bags of take-out breakfast. Demetri and Luna stayed behind while Hannah went ahead to withdraw her siblings a citing a family emergency taking them out of Britain. She gave a Muggle post office box in Italy. Demetri had told her to forward all Muggle mail to it. Then she went to the post office to register it as a forwarding address and paid off the last of her bills using the black credit card. Hannah still couldn’t believe he trusted her with it. But then again it wasn’t like she was going to run off with it. When she got back home Luna had already transported the cardboard boxes to various charities. The only things left were three suitcases holding all what the Abbotts would be taking.

The trip to the airport went very smoothly. The vampires definitely had loads of cash because they practically walked through security and boarded the plane ahead of everyone. First class.

“Do you always travel like this?” Matt asked awed by the treats and entertainment facilities.

“Mostly but I have also travelled in cargo planes and ships,” Demetri answered honestly. “I also run since I am a tracker and need to follow my targets.”

Matt nodded calmly and returned his attention to his Playstation. He knew Demetri was a vampire and they were going to a place with lots of vampires, but he didn’t care because Demetri had not hurt him and his sister was calm.

Hannah wondered if vampires were mostly like Demetri, calm and in control. She would not be surprised if the Ministry surpassed the information and only publicized reports of blood-crazed vampires. Or tame ones on their payroll. She could not see Demetri kow-towing to a Ministry lackey.

As though he read her mind he flashed a smile at her and Hannah had to admit he was very attractive.

“Are all vampires as beautiful as you?” she blurted out then blushed horrified.

It was Luna who answered. “The Change enhances the best features, physical and mental, your strongest traits, some of which manifest as gifts. Demetri was a woodsman in his living years and it carried.” She smiled reassuringly. “You’ll see.”

Chapter Text

When the Abbotts, Luna and Demetri arrived in Rome they cleared customs very quickly. Hannah strongly suspected money had changed hands but she wasn’t too surprised. They vampires and had plenty of secrets to hide.

Once they were out of the airport Demetri drove them to a residential building and parked the car in the underground garage. Then Luna produced a length of rope and proceeded to tie it around the luggage and everyone’s wrists. Everyone braced as she spoke the activation word and the portkey activated and twisted the world around them.

Hannah blinked blearily and looked around. It was dark and her eyes had not adjusted to the dim electrical courtyard lights. Vampires didn’t need them. Then a familiar voice spoke and a bright light filled the space.

“Lumos.”

There was a beautiful blond man standing next to Hermione, his skin pale and eyes a striking topaz. Weren’t vampires supposed to have red eyes? There were other beautiful males and females, with red and topaz eyes. Hermione was not pale and her eyes were still brown. She was not jaw-droppingly beautiful like the rest. The constant tension in Hannah relaxed and she broke down.

“Hermione!”

And then she was there, her slim arms around Hannah, stroking her hair and back.

“Shhh, I’m here Hannah, I’m here.”

Hannah pulled herself together and wiped her eyes. “I’m so glad you’re okay. I was worried until I got your letter. And then it was so hard…” she shuddered and trailed off.

Hermione smiled gently. She seemed softer and at the same time stronger. “You don’t have to make decisions right away. Give yourself time to adjust and settle in. But first I want to make some introductions and explain some ground rules.” Hermione’s glance moved to Matt and Sophie, catching their attention before returning to Hannah. “Whenever we are outside these walls I am Hermia Cullen, this is my husband Doctor Carlisle Cullen,” she indicated to the blond man who smiled warmly and took her hand. “This is very important guys,” she cautioned the pre-teens.

Matt and Sophie nodded. “We understand Auntie.”

“And you must stay inside these walls. If you want to buy something we can order it by phone or over the internet. Or one of the guards can pick it up for you. If you want to go out tell us and we’ll arrange an excursion or picnic. For now a tutor will come every day and spend half-a-day tutoring you. The other half you will be tutored by one of the guards. They know a lot, seen and done tons more than anyone living so you will respect them like you would a regular teacher,” she added sternly. Satisfied with their nods she turned to Hannah. “One of the wings has been set aside for magical families and the plumbing brought up to modern standards. You have a two-bedroom suite. We’ll have to transfigure a partition or do a spatial expansion for a third bedroom.”

Hannah clicked her teeth. “A partition will be fine. We could even use part of the sitting room if it’s big enough.”

“That can be done tomorrow,” an older vampire, in his thirties with bright red eyes and long sleek black hair, spoke. “I’m certain you must be exhausted.”

“Oh, and I don’t expect you to remember tomorrow so I’ll just run through the introductions very quickly. This is Aro, one of the Three Kings.” The vampire who had spoken. “Chelsea, Afton, Heidi, Felix, Jane, Alec, they’re part of the Volturi Guard. Alice, Jasper, who are part of Carlisle’s coven, his family.”

Hannah murmured polite greetings, meeting each face briefly. They were all so beautiful but only Heidi and Alice were openly cheerful and welcoming. She returned her attention when Hermione continued talking.

“And I know it’s so unlike me but I bonded a few House Elves. We’ll be needing the help soon enough and I don’t want to hire Muggles.”

Hannah snorted. “You bonded House Elves? The Founder of SPEW?” Then she burst into outright peals of laughter. “Bwahahaha.”

Hermione made a face. “They refused to work for pay. All the females insisted on having a shift once the nursery and daycare is set up. But I did manage to get them to take a half-day off each week.”

Hannah stifled her snorts of laughter. “Okay, okay.” Then she looked at her siblings. “Can you show us to our rooms?”

“Hermione will,” Luna responded, speaking for the first time since they had arrived in Volterra. She glanced at Demetri who was standing very close to her. “Demetri and I have to go back to England, to talk to the others.”

“Of course Luna, Demetri. Call if you need anything.” Hermione glanced a very tall and big vampire with longish dark hair. “Felix, could you please carry the bags.”

“You don’t have to do that!” Hannah cried out. “I can levitate them.”

“I’ve cast several protective wards that may interrupt your spells until I key you into the matrix,” Hermione warned. “And my magic isn’t very stable to levitate them myself.”

“Oh.” A slight pause. “Why is your magic unstable?”

Hermione smiled proudly. “I gave birth two months ago, twin girls. I’m not sure if it’s my bond with Carlisle or becoming a mother but my magic is more dense; it tends to overpower simpler spells. I’ve been doing wandless magic because I burnt out my regular wand. Caius and Aro are looking for a wandcrafter who will hold his tongue to make a custom wand, but until then I have to be very careful.” She gestured above and the floating cloud of sparkles swirled and gathered into a small bright orb hovering before her. “Come.”

“I did not know it was possible until Luna told me, for a vampire to sire a child with a witch,” Hannah admitted as they walked through the corridors lined with paintings, carvings, and tapestries, their path lit by the hovering orb of light. She was very aware of Felix and Carlisle who were following carrying the luggage with ease.

“I didn’t myself,” Hermione admitted. “But when it happened I knew I wanted my baby. You know how the Ministry reacts to anything Dark.”

Hannah snorted. “As far as I’m concerned it’s witches like Umbitch who should be considered as Dark!”

Hermione made a sour face. “I can’t believe Kingsley allowed her to wriggle back into the Ministry. At least she didn’t get her old position.”

“But she has too much blackmail on everyone. They always vote her way,” Hannah hissed. “I hate the way the Ministry operates.”

“Why do you think I’m here?”

Hannah looked at Hermione. “You have a plan?”

And the older witch smiled impishly. “When do I not have a plan? And a colour-coded timetable and lists?”

Hannah laughed. “Anything I can do?”

“I need a Chatelaine, something along the lines of a house-keeper and organizer, to make sure everyone has a room, is fed, and is doing what they should be doing. Two vampire ladies have offered to help but they can’t handle the magical aspects, like accidental magic and common household potions and charms for quick repairs.”

Hannah moaned. “You want a Prefect! To do all the leg work!”

“More like Head Girl,” Hermione corrected. “And you are more than welcome to recruit help and order whatever you may need.”

Then she stopped before a door and gripped Hannah’s hand to touch the frame. The carvings glowed as the wards accepted Hannah’s magical signature. Hermione turned to look Hannah directly in the face.

“Are you in?”

Hannah did not have to think twice. “I’m in.”

 

~ooOoo~ooOoo~ooOoo~

The End.