A/N: Hi, everyone! :3 I'm finally back with a new Memory Loss chapter! Sorry it has taken me so long. It's been a combination of being really busy and a reluctance to let this story end. Since I know it's moving towards the end, I've been postponing finishing this chapter and writing any further ones, because I simply haven't wanted the story to end. Now I feel ready for it, and I will do my best to do it justice! X3
Missing, part one: A Thousand Apologies
The man was visibly afraid of him. Good. They were supposed to tremble in his presence—all of them. Not a single witch or wizard would be able to lead a normal, happy life once he was done with them, and the day would come when they would thank him for it.
His loyal subjects … bowed down in fear and respect—awe.
It was clear that the man in front of him was not bearing good news, for he was swallowing loudly multiple times before his open mouth would form any coherent sounds. Beads of sweat were running down his forehead and his robes bore dark, wet marks in telling places.
"My Lord, the potion is causing us problems that we cannot figure out at this moment in time," the tiny man shudderingly said, his head bowed so he would not have to look at his master. He knew that this piece of information would anger him, because promises about a swift brewing process had been made and it had already been a week.
Taking a deep breath and intentionally letting it out in a loud disappointed sigh, he replied, "Then I suggest you hurry it up if you wish to stay alive. And that goes for all of you. I can always find new Potion Masters. Now get to it!"
The sorry excuse for a man scurried away with a whimper.
Shaking and convulsing, his entire body weak and cold, he clutched at the toilet seat as his stomach once more emptied itself. It must be the fifteenth time already and it was only 10 am. Sleeping and puking, sleeping and puking—that seemed to be his life right now. Such an elegant and sophisticated living for a Malfoy, eh?
Spitting out the last bile, he exhaustedly sank down next to the toilet bowl and tried to catch his breath. This pregnancy was proving more difficult and straining than any of the previous four, amplifying the usual morning sickness to an inhuman degree. He wished that his father had thought of adding an en suite bathroom to the master bedroom so he would not have to fucking run all the way down the hall every time his insides twisted themselves inside out.
Bloody Lucius. Never did anything right, that arsehole.
It did not help that Harry was still mad at him and there was no sign of forgiveness entering his heart. The rift that had opened up between them seemed to widen for every day that passed, every minute that ticked by. Intimacy was something of the past and all he got from his husband was long, dark, accusing stares, burning sarcasm, and cold shoulders. It was causing a chronic stress that aggravated an already straining part of the pregnancy, effectively worsening his condition and forcing him to practically live in the bathroom.
Sighing dejectedly, Draco got up from the floor on shaky legs and slowly made his way back to the bedroom. As he crossed the threshold, he came to a temporary stop. Looked over at the bed with a sort of resigned sorrow. Harry's side was as empty and untouched as it had been for the past week, and he hated having to go back to a marital bed that no longer held any promise of union.
But he had to. Due to the stress that rescuing James from Pywercaseley's lair had put on him, Draco's doctor had ordered him to stay on bedrest for at least a month—probably longer—to make sure that no complications would arise. And he could not risk their daughter, not when everything else was falling apart around him.
Stubbornly fighting back tears that were suddenly burning in his eyes, he forced himself to walk over to the bed and lay back down. Pulling the duvet up over his ear, he caressed the tiny bump that had only now started to grow on the lowest part of his abdomen.
"At least you won't judge me, will you?" he whispered to the unnamed baby that he was lovingly shaping inside him.
Suddenly overwhelmed by loneliness and hurt, his chest cramped up from the need to sob loudly and violently, and hot, stinging tears rushed down his cheeks. Feeling incredibly small and insignificant—forgotten, no longer cared for—he balled himself up, as if that would help him keep himself together.
"Dada?" a tiny, inquisitive voice wondered from the doorway.
Afraid of scaring Blaise if he noticed that his father was crying, Draco quickly bit down on his pain and dried his flushed face on the duvet cover. "Yes, honey, I'm here," he called back, pleased to hear that his voice was not quavering.
"Dada!" Blaise exclaimed happily, and ran over to the huge bed on his stubby little legs. Giggling, he climbed up to Draco and snuggled into his arms.
Draco gratefully buried his face in his boy's tousled black hair and inhaled his scent. It was amazing how such a small creature could smell like home and make him feel so calm, so at peace.
He hugged Blaise tighter to his chest and thrived on his warmth.
If only they could lie like this forever.
Everywhere you looked in the Manor, every corner you turned there was a Harry clone and it was driving the real Harry insane. Every time he had to see his own face wearing expressions that seemed utterly foreign to him—that just couldn't be what he looked like, could it?—he was brutally reminded of walking in on Draco being jerked off by one of them.
Constantly being reminded of it and knowing that it could happen again at any time as long as they were still swarming the house, Harry's blood was boiling and it was all he could do to not shout at everyone dumb enough to cross paths with him.
Piper claimed to be working on a counter-spell to the Power Enhancement Spell, but Harry could not help but wonder if she was intentionally postponing the elimination of the clones. She seemed all too pleased with watching their daily shenanigans, as if their presence in their home was merely entertaining.
Well, easy for her to say; it wasn't her husband getting pleasured, he thought darkly to himself as he shut himself in an empty room on the second floor. A sigh of relief escaped him when he was finally alone, away from the general craziness of the Manor.
"You are stupider than anyone gives you credit for," a dry, monotonous voice suddenly said next to him, making him jump high into the air.
Oh, of course his bloody Time Manipulator son had to come and interfere, too …
"Insulting my intelligence—nice," he muttered, "very nice, indeed."
Timothy took a slow step closer to him, looking so much like Draco when he towered over him for intimidating effect that Harry felt a renewal of his semi-dormant anger.
"I wouldn't have to if you would just do the right thing for once, now would I?" the teenager countered, clearly disgusted with him.
Harry stepped right up into his face and glared daggers at him. "And what would the right thing be, eh?" he challenged, fisting his hands at his sides and clenching his jaw muscles.
His fury was perfectly mirrored in the boy's emerald eyes. So strange … they were Harry's eyes, but with all the aristocracy and authority of Draco's gaze. When he stared at him like that, he looked more like Bond than the son that Harry had come to know over the past fourteen years. It was rather creepy, actually.
"Forgiving your husband and making sure that you don't drift apart," Timothy said between gritted teeth, "and the fact that that isn't obvious to you is alarming."
Harry shoved him away to get some space to breathe. "That is really none of your business, Timothy. If you came here only to criticise me, then you might as well leave."
He demonstratively turned his back on the boy and intended to sit down in an antique armchair that stood some five feet further into the room.
"Are you really that thick? He did nothing wrong!"
No longer able to hold back his fury, Harry spun back around. "He fucking cheated on me!" he bellowed, not believing what he had just heard.
"It was you, Harry! Can you truly say that you have no memory of it? He did not go off with someone else or let another man warm his bed—it was you."
Was the lad completely mental?!
"It was not me!" he objected, offended. "It was one of those bloody clones! Maybe you haven't understood this whole clone concept, because they just look like me; they're not me."
Groaning and massaging his left temple as if Harry was so asinine that he was getting a migraine, the Time Manipulator complained: "Sometimes I can't believe you're really my father. The one who isn't grasping this 'clone concept' is you, Harry. They are not simply meat bag replicas of you; they are part of you. Every single one of them is connected to you, and whatever they do, you do. Don't you understand that?"
Harry blinked sheepishly at him. "No, I frankly have no clue what the Hell you are saying," he answered forthrightly.
Timothy threw up his hands in a gesture of resignation. "Then I really don't know how to make you see, but I hope you will before it's too late."
He made to leave, but then paused to give his young father a last reproachful glare. "Search yourself and you will find that you remember dying as Competitive, Selfless, and Serious at the Death Eater headquarters. Should you still fail to see reason, ask Piper what she remembers from her time as cloned."
With those mystifying words, he was gone, and Harry stared after him without understanding what the bloody Hell he had been on about.
James was spending the afternoon in the parlour, sitting in one of the comfy armchairs with his legs drawn up under him, doing his homework. As an apology for not believing in his innocence in the rape case, Headmaster Dumbledore had granted him some time home with his family before he had to go back to school.
After having been held hostage by the Dark Lord himself, James was actually relieved to have his parents close for the meantime.
He would never admit to that aloud, though.
Being in his third year, he had elected to take up Arithmancy and was now reading up a few essay questions that he had been given. But even though it was one of his favourite subjects, his attention was frequently disrupted by his little brothers' elated laughter. His gaze kept wandering off to their lively play.
Five-year-old Timothy was showing the almost two years old Blaise how to ride a toy broom upside down, and the toddler seemed to think it was the funniest thing he had ever seen. James was amazed to see the usually sedate, serious Timmy grinning from ear to ear and going out of his way to entertain his younger sibling. Hell, he had not even been certain that Timmy could smile, let alone guffaw like an ass!
Putting his books aside, he cautiously shuffled over to the raucous boys and soundlessly sat down next to Blaise. He knew that the toddler was the apple of Dad's eye, and he could really see why. With his unruly, black hair and square face he looked a lot like Harry, and on top of that he had these round, chubby cheeks that you just wanted to squeeze. Blaise was simply too cute for people to not get charmed by him—and regardless of how adamantly Draco Malfoy worked to assert his manliness, he never could resist anything cute.
When Blaise noticed him there, he happily climbed up into his lap and pointed at the loop-de-looping Timmy. "Look!" he said excitedly. "Look Tinti!"
"Yeah, look at him go!" James agreed and had to smile at Blaise's adorable pronunciation of 'Timothy.'
Maybe it was not so bad having siblings, anyway?
He was not too sure about getting a sister, though … As long as she was normal—not like Joz, who had been downright mental—he guessed it might be all right, but even normal girls could drive you mad on the best of days.
"—anything to do with it," Dad's voice suddenly came to them from beyond the archway, and he did not sound happy …
"It has everything to do with it!" Harry's voice replied, and it became apparent that they were coming towards them.
Gazing down at his small siblings, James wondered if he should encourage them to go to a different room. If their parents were having another row it might be prudent to protect the little ones and prevent them from getting worried or stressed by it.
"Why do you have to make everything about that one handjob, as if I'm now an awful, evil person unworthy of your respect?" Draco continued as they emerged, both going at a brisk trot with Harry in front, presumably trying to get away from his husband. After all, he did that a lot lately.
James winced at the word 'handjob' and wished he had been born without ears so he could have been spared hearing about his fathers'—shudder—sex life.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe because you cheated on me?!" Harry countered, raising his voice in anger.
Draco let out a long, violent growl of frustration as they passed by the group of kids without even noticing that they were there. "It's been a week! How many times do I have to apologise? I'm really sorry, Harry—I thought it was you! What can I do to make up for it?"
"There is nothing you can do," Harry muttered, hurrying out into the kitchen. "I will never be able to forget—"
When their voices finally died down as they disappeared beyond the doorway, James sighed in relief. Their constant rowing was getting on his nerves, and it was apparent in his brothers' sudden silence and grim expressions that they were affected by it, too.
Taking pity on them, he grabbed the nearest toy, which happened to be a life-size stuffed Niffler, and spurted the first thing that came to mind. "Hello, my name is Nelly the nifty Niffler and I can do backflips!" he squeaked in his best high-pitched girl voice.
It was rather embarrassing to be playing with stuffed animals like that, but his brothers' giggles made him relax somewhat. If he could make them forget about their parents' currently rocky marriage, maybe it was worth it to make a fool out of himself for a while.
"Dinner is served!" Piper announced as she entered the master bedroom carrying a tray laden with aromatic food. Steam was rising from the plate and the smell of beef casserole wafted over to him where he lay under the duvet and stewed.
He could literally feel his stomach turning. Gagging, he croaked, "No, take it away!"
Stopping halfway to the bed, Piper blinked at him in confusion. "What, you don't want dinner?"
"No, it smells awful!"
She bent her head down and sniffed the food. "I don't know what you're talking about; this smells lovely. It's got meat in it, and carrots, and leek—"
Hurriedly untangling himself from the sheets, Draco rushed past her with his right hand pressed to his mouth. The strain of always fighting with Harry was upsetting his stomach to the point where the mere smell of food made him vomit. It was normal to get sick during the first trimester and even the beginning of the second trimester, but if it continued like this the baby might not get the nutrition that it needed to develop properly, and that worried him.
He passed Harry, who was just coming up the stairs, on his way to the bathroom but paid him no mind. Until he had purged everything, there was no space to think of anything else.
"Dracums, are you all right?" Harry wondered from the doorway, sounding concerned.
Draco started. He had not called him 'Dracums' all week and it sort of gave Draco new hope that they would get through this, that everything was going to be okay between them again.
Shaking with exhaustion, he laboriously got up from the floor and went over to the sink to rinse out his mouth. Splashed his face with cold water. "I fucking hate this," he finally said, and winced at his ghostly pale reflection in the mirror. It was moaning theatrically and fanning itself with its hand.
Harry came up to him and put a supporting arm around the small of his back. Meeting his gaze in the mirror, he said, "I can switch bodies with you for a while, if you want; give you a break from all this so you can do something fun and enjoy some food."
Draco spun around toward him in astonishment. "You would do that for me?"
"Of course," Harry said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, "I love you."
Tears starting to blur his vision, Draco flung himself around Harry's neck. "Thank you!" he exclaimed in gratitude, feeling an immense and cathartic relief flood him. "I love you so much!" he added, and leaned down to kiss his thoughtful husband.
Harry, on the other hand, turned his face away with a teasing grimace. "I don't wanna kiss you when you've just puked your guts out," he complained, but his tone was jocular for once and there was even a tiny smile playing on his thin lips.
The tiny speck of hope that had sprouted in his chest began to blossom into a wary flower. If Harry could smile that casually and genuinely at him he would surely find it in him to forgive him one day.
For now, Draco settled for an air of self-importance and stuck his chin out in as arrogant a manner as he could muster. "Then you brush my teeth for me," he declared, and dexterously whipped his wand out, elegantly sketching a flourish of smooth movements before Harry could object. "Wabbafunktany."
Since they had now switched bodies with each other on multiple occasions and had got somewhat used to it—as used to it as you could get, that is—there was no explosive magical reaction or being flung to the ground like the first time they switched, but it was still highly uncomfortable. Draco could feel thousands of invisible hands grabbing onto his very essence and pulling it from his body, violently and indelicately slamming it into Harry's.
Feeling momentarily disoriented and queasy, he shook his head to clear the fog. Flexed his fingers and rolled his shoulders; bent his knees and stretched his back. He looked over at Harry, who was grimacing with a hand on his lower abdomen. It was so weird to suddenly be shorter than his partner … not to mention the fact that he was now wearing Draco's own face.
"This is how you've been feeling?" Harry now asked with Draco's voice, but with his own tone, cadence, and inflection. It was apparent that he was not feeling too hot.
Draco gave him a sympathetic half-smile. "Yeah," he confirmed in a low voice, apologising to his husband for pushing his nausea and discomfort over on him with a long, embarrassed look. "It hasn't been easy," he added with a shrug of his shoulders.
Harry let out a gagging noise, and Draco immediately rushed over to him, afraid that he was going to barf all over himself and ruin his favourite dressing gown. "I can see that," Harry managed to squeeze out, his face going pale and pasty. "I think I'd like to lie down a bit."
"Of course," Draco said, and carefully led him back to the bedroom and over to the bed, helped him climb in and lovingly tucked the duvet around him. "Do you need anything? I think I'll make some tea—I can bring you a cup, if you'd like. I've found that green tea helps keep the nausea at bay."
Eyes closed and looking even more exhausted than Draco had felt before the body switch, Harry murmured, "In that case … yes, please."
Casting one last, long glance at his husband he wondered over how well he wore that semi-long, wavy platinum hair even though Draco had not had the energy to upkeep his usual routine. It should not be a surprise, though; Harry looked good in everything.
Smiling to himself, Draco went down to the kitchen and put on the kettle, humming the theme of an old favourite TV series as he put together a tray of calming Japanese tea and biscuits. He noted with a disagreeing sneer that they were store bought and shook his head in disgust. This household was going downhill without him! He would have to do something about this as soon as he had brought Harry his tea.
Choosing to go through the parlour on his way back, he came upon Piper and his three sons playing a game of Exploding Snap and stopped to watch them lovingly. He still had a hard time believing that he could have ever created something so beautiful and pure; the voice of his inner Malfoy was proving impossible to silence.
"Dada!" Blaise exclaimed when he noticed him, and came running with childlike excitement, soon slamming into him with a force no toddler should be capable of.
"Hey, sweetheart," he said, and put the tray aside so he could bend down and pick up the bouncing boy. Once straightened up again, he gave the others a warm smile. "Don't mind me, I'm just passing through."
First he just had to hug his son for a second—or fifty.
"You look better, Harry," Piper commented from her perch on the couch with a pleased note to her voice. "Good for you."
"That's not Harry," Timmy immediately objected, his precocious and penetrating gaze naturally seeing right through the shell to the soul hidden within.
Piper's head spun around towards the five-year-old. "It isn't? Then, Harry's happy-clone found a way to escape the north wing?"
All the clones had now been confined to an unused wing of the Manor since Harry had been going insane from seeing them everywhere and from being constantly reminded of his husband's temporary lapse in judgment.
Timmy snorted in a very Malfoyish manner and rolled his eyes. "No, dummy—it's Draco," he said as if this should be obvious. Except for his radiant green eyes, he was the spitting image of Draco, especially when he acted in such a superior, holier-than-thou way.
It made Draco's heart swell with pride.
From the couch, Piper was eyeing him with a strange wonder that soon made his skin crawl with uneasiness, and he had to struggle to suppress the urge to squirm. Then she lit up, her mouth forming a wide, happy smile. "I'm glad you two are finally working things out," she said, giving him a knowing wink.
Blushing despite himself, Draco had to look away from her steely gaze. "Well, we'll see about that," he muttered uncomfortably, putting Blaise down to retrieve the tray before the tea went cold on him. "Harry offered to give me a little respite from the morning sickness, is all."
And with those words, he left the parlour before she could say anything else that might get his tentative hopes up too high and end in a far too steep fall once everything went back to 'normal.'
When he came back up to their bedroom and saw Harry all bundled up in the duvet, all his worries and his previous plans to take back control of his kitchen flew out the window. Although it was his own face he saw before him, it was Harry's unmistakable gaze that met him, direct and uncompromising. The hurt and anger of the past week still burned in the emerald eyes that shone through the blonde's silver ones and exposed a soul in great pain.
In spite of himself, Draco found himself falling in love with him all over.
Gingerly sitting down on the edge of the bed with the tray in his lap, he helped Harry sit up and drink his tea.
"You're right," the now blonde raven-head murmured gratefully before sinking back onto the fluffy pillows, "this does help."
Grinning naughtily, Draco went around to the other side of the bed. "Of course I was; I'm always right," he stated in mock superciliousness before sliding in under the duvet next to him.
Surprised, Harry turned his head to look at him. "You're not going downstairs to boss Piper around or play with the children?" he wondered in plain disbelief.
Draco snuggled in close to his husband and put his arms around him, actually enjoying being the short one for once; it made it so much easier to fit in the crook of Harry's arm without breaking his back in the process. "Nope," he declared, "there's nowhere else I want to be but here, with you."
Somewhat awkwardly, Harry put his arm around Draco's back and just lay there quietly for a few long beats. Then he relaxed into the embrace and tightened his grip, resting his chin on the top of Draco's head and inhaling his scent.
"This is so weird … I know you're me right now, and you shouldn't smell like much of anything at all, but I can clearly smell your shampoo and that ridiculously expensive body lotion you insist on using."
Chuckling evilly, Draco replied, "Maybe that's because your nose is too close to your face."
Play-slapping his head, Harry exclaimed: "Shut up!" But he was laughing, and it was the most wonderful sound that Draco had ever heard.
For the rest of the day, he just enjoyed lying there in his husband's arms, revelling in his love and warmth, daring to hope that it would last. In the evening, they switched back, and Draco tenderly stroked his tiny baby bump, happy to have her back inside of him again. Strangely enough, it was even a comfort to feel the dormant nausea again. It was a sign that she was still there.
Their little girl … It was so surreal, so unbelievable—almost as if it was but a dream—that they would soon have a little girl in the family again, but he was looking forward to it with all his heart.
Even though neither of them had done anything all day, they were both exhausted and wanted nothing but to sleep. Harry even stayed in their bed instead of slinking off to one of the guestrooms as usual. Feeling euphoric and immensely grateful to have his love back, Draco settled in his arms, those strong and warm arms that always made him feel safe. Sighed contentedly when they closed around his belly, inviting their daughter into the embrace.
This was how it should be; this was how they should go to bed at night—as a family—and it was also how they should wake up in the morning. Therefore, Draco's heart skipped a beat and then pounded like a sledgehammer on a sugar high when he realised that Harry was still holding him.
Smiling drowsily, he wriggled around to face him. "Good morning," he murmured with a newly-wakened hoarse voice. When Harry groaned in his sleep, unwilling to wake up, he leaned in and pressed a soft, affectionate kiss on his thin lips.
The still-snoozing raven-haired man stirred next to him and almost imperceptibly pursed his lips in response. Encouraged, Draco kissed him again, practically mewling with happiness when Harry kissed him back and opened his mouth to welcome him.
The aching pain of being separated from his lover began to drain away as the heat of passion blossomed within him. It felt as though eons had passed since he was last allowed this close to him; since they had fully been partners, joined in every sense. Aching also with the need to ensure that their reunion would last, he reached up and entangled his fingers in Harry's unruly hair, tenderly caressing him as he deepened the kiss.
"Nnngh," Harry half-moaned, half-grunted into his mouth. The arm he was holding around the blonde moved slowly downwards along his spine until it slid suggestively over his buttocks.
That simple touch made all blood rush to Draco's crotch, pouring into his already stiffening manhood and forcing it into a state of pulsating, twitching hardness that could not be ignored, could not be denied. He had to have Harry right then and there, needed to push into him, needed to thrust deep and unleash all his frustration and hurt in a frenzy of lovemaking. And, frankly, Harry should be in grave need of that, too.
The ex-Gryffindor himself seemed to disagree, unfortunately. When Draco pressed closer to him, rejoicing in their bare chests connecting anew, and moved his hand to boldly cup his husband's package, Harry violently broke the kiss. Now wide awake and staring straight into the blonde's eyes, all he said was, "No."
Draco thought he was playing coy and therefore paid him no mind. Instead, he slid his hand up and down Harry's unmistakably erect member and traced a line of hot, sensual kisses along his jawline down to his neck. "I love you," he murmured against the warm, soft skin, inhaling deeply of the raven-haired man's intoxicating scent.
Harry got his left hand up between them and tried to push him away. "Draco, stop," he demanded with a dark tone in his deep voice.
"Why? It's starting to get really good," Draco objected with a teasing grin, still rubbing his cock, and bit down on his exposed earlobe.
At that, Harry practically flung himself away from him, flinching backwards so suddenly that Draco jumped in fright. Face reddening angrily and breathing strained, he hissed: "What the bloody Hell are you doing?! I told you to stop!" The words were spat out so fiercely it almost sounded like he was speaking Parseltongue.
Confused—not to mention hurt—Draco blinked at him. "But we were okay," he protested in a rather childish whine. "You spent the entire day with me yesterday, you slept with your arms around me all night … You said you love me," he accused.
"I do love you, Dracums, but I am also still pissed off at you—the two aren't mutually exclusive."
Letting out a long, rumbling groan of frustration, the blonde buried his face in the pillow. "Not that again …" Resurfacing with burning cheeks and something feverishly desperate in his heart, he pinned Harry's eyes with his own. "I am sorry, okay! Do you need me to say it a thousand times in order for you to forgive me? Ten thousand times? Name the number and I will do it—I will apologise until my voice has completely died out—but first, fuck me like you want to make up—"
"—Hell, punish me, even! Do whatever you want to me, whatever'd make you feel satisfaction. Tie me down—"
"Not gonna happen."
"—smack me up the bottom, edge me to oblivion, deny me release—I don't bloody care, just bloody fuck me!"
"Are you not listening to me? No, no, no, and a thousand no's!" the stubborn raven-haired man proclaimed, fuming. "I am not going to fuck you!"
Draco was about to lose his last shred of patience—or was it possibly his sanity? Either way, he felt as though he was about to explode from sheer frustration and, not knowing how else to express this, threw his arms out and flailed them wildly about, as if he was trying to take flight. "But I'm pregnant, for Salazar's sake! My hormones are raging and I'm horny as fuck, and it's your bloody duty as the father of this baby to satisfy my needs!" he bellowed with all his Malfoy might.
Instead of succumbing to the blonde's matchless charm and sex appeal, Harry threw the duvet off his near-naked body and pointed both his hands to his crotch. "But I'm not hard!" he shouted back, his face perfectly portraying that aggravating Muggle expression 'D'uh.'
"But I am!" Draco insisted, making a last ditch attempt at taking his husband.
Quick as the brilliant Seeker he had always been, Harry snatched up his wand from the nightstand and deftly directed it at his attacker. "Flopulate!" he yelled, and a light orange beam hit his precious Malfoy jewels.
And in but a fraction of a second, his boner had turned into a goner.
Stunned, he stared down at his now limp and unresponsive limb, unable to comprehend what in Merlin's name had just happened. When the shock had lifted somewhat, he turned his once more fiery glare on Harry. "What the bloody Hell did you do to me?!"
His husband merely shrugged, completely unaffected by his affront. "Nothing; just made you unable to get aroused for 6-8 hours," he said dismissively, as if what he had done was nothing worse than splashing water on the blonde's face.
"What?!" Draco could not believe what he had just heard. That bellend was violating his rights! Sniffing superciliously and sticking his chin out, he very elegantly slid out of the bed and stormed off for the door with as much dignity as he could muster. "Have fun pleasing yourself for the rest of your life," he declared, then gasped sarcastically and covered his mouth with his right hand. "Oh, I forgot—masturbation is cheating to your mind! Ah, well, I'm sure celibacy will suit you just fine."
Less than a minute later, he flopped down into his favourite armchair in the parlour and defiantly crossed his arms over his chest, planning to sit there and sulk for a good long while. The nerve!
"What's wrong with you?" his sister suddenly asked, making him jump in his seat.
He had not even noticed that she was in the room.
Sighing doomsday-darkly, he muttered, "Leave it to Harry to know an Impotence Spell …"
Piper almost choked on the grape she had just put in her mouth and coughed violently for a few seconds before it turned into evil laughter. "What?!"
Offended and humiliated, Draco shot up from his armchair. "Never mind! I hate all of you!"
With tears burning in the corners of his eyes, he hurried out of the room.
Time passed much too slow for Harry's taste. Day stretched out into infinity, pounding him with innumerable empty minutes that he had no way of killing, and night swallowed everything until he was left alone in an abyss so pitch black and bottomless that he was scared to death of falling into it. He was certain that he would never find his way back out if he did.
It was indescribably painful to not be able to see anything else but a rerun of that one moment of betrayal when he looked at Draco, the man he loved and was supposed to share everything with. He wished to be rid of the horrid image of his life partner melting and moaning at the illicit touch of that clone so he could go on with their life and once more be free to be with Draco.
For that to happen, though, the clones needed to go.
For that reason, he went in search of Piper late one night when everyone else was sleeping. Knowing that she was a night owl—workaholic, as she was—he was sure to find her still up, occupied by her studies or various potion experiments. But a moment later, she had answered her door, as alert as if it was not three in the morning but high noon.
"Do you have anything to get rid of the clones with already?" he pressed before she even had time to open her mouth. "It's been almost three weeks and I'm about to burst here. If you don't find some way to erase them or whatever, I swear I'll kill someone …"
"And I don't want it to be me," she concluded, catching his drift for once. "I've been working on something that I'm pretty sure will do the trick. Was going to test it first thing tomorrow morning, but if you need me to get it now—"
"Piper, it is tomorrow morning," he interrupted impatiently, "so would you please just get them out of my house already? I can't relax knowing they're still here somewhere; not being able to actually see them makes no difference."
She nodded and silently fetched her things, then she guided him through the immense Manor until they reached the remote corner of the north wing into which she had locked the clones away. Twenty-eight pairs of eyes met them, most of them suspicious and wary. Some, however, seemed utterly disinterested in them; his Playful clone was occupied with playing pranks on the others; Orphan Harry was curled in a corner, sobbing wretchedly and calling for Mama, causing severe discomfort and embarrassment to Harry himself.
"Okay," Piper said, thankfully not commenting on the scene before them, "this should make them all disappear painlessly as soon as I've recited the incantation."
She held out a rectangular piece of rice paper with illegible, swirly Japanese writing on it. Apparently, the incantation was in Japanese, too, and consisted of a series of harsh sounds that made him think of samurais locked in battle. After a few seconds, a gust of wind erupted in the middle of the big room and made the slip of paper rustle before it whooshed around the clones one by one, enveloping them all.
Heart pounding excitedly in his chest, Harry watched and felt a sliver of hope for the first time in weeks. They were finally going away! He would finally be free of the stupid, hurtful reminder and would not have to be afraid of one of them taking advantage of his husband again.
He would finally be able to look at Draco with affection and nothing else again.
Then an ear-splitting crack made him cry out in surprise. Instinctively, he turned away to protect his face while simultaneously covering his ears with his hands. An angry roar rose in the room for some ten seconds before everything became still. Eerily still.
Removing his hands, Harry tried to make out any sound that might betray the presence of others in the room. Nothing.
Were they gone?
A tentative smile started to form on his lips. They were gone! They were actually gone!
"What the bloody Hell is the meaning of this?!" Harry's voice asked from somewhere behind him and effectively burst his cautious happy-bubble. "Are you trying to bloody kill us?!"
"Uh-oh," Piper was saying next to him, and her tone made his heart sink into that bottomless pit that had been constantly growing in his stomach since the day they rescued James from Lord Pywercaseley's clutches.
Although he was afraid to turn around and confront the aftermath of the botched spell, he forced himself to face them.
His chin dropped.
From the corner of his eye, he could see Piper grimacing apologetically—and maybe even with a note of fear. "Please don't be mad at me, Harry," she begged.
There were no longer twenty-eight clones in the room.
No, they had been doubled.
For the longest time, Harry thought he had lost the ability to breathe. His lungs refused to fill up with air, but that did not really matter, anyway, because his heart had stopped dead in his chest.
Fifty-six clones. Fifty-six!
His insides were growing alarmingly cold and there was something that attempted to rush up his oesophagus. As much as he would love to projectile vomit on the lot of them, the rational side of him argued that it would be a futile display of childishness.
"Er … Harry?" Piper was saying next to him, but she sounded as if there were several hundred yards of cotton between them.
As his vision began to swim, he thought, Am I fainting?
"Harry, are you all right? I know it may seem bad, but I'm sure we'll find some way to remedy this. We always do—right?"
Not turning to meet Piper's gaze, fixated with the ominously doubled group of clones that seemed to be crowding in on him, Harry clenched his jaw and said, "What exactly went wrong there?"
The silence that followed was not only oppressive but obviously telling. Even as his own mind put two and two together, he saw every cloned emerald eye turn their attention to his sister-in-law. Every single one of them was a perfect mirror of his own suspicion and rekindled anger.
Slowly turning around towards Piper so as not to blow a fuse, he ground his teeth together in a menacing, very thinly held together grimace. "Piper … what—went—wrong?"
Her face was, if possible, paler than usual and her silver eyes were so wide that they seemed to want to pop out of their sockets. The expression in them was one of utter terror, and somewhere deep inside of him a little voice told him that should be a sign that he was crossing a threshold he should steer well clear of, but he thoughtlessly swatted it away.
Mouth moving without any sounds coming out, her lower lip quivering, Piper started to take a few small, unsteady steps back. "I … I-I've been experimenting with Japanese fuda magic and thought it might be the perfect way to get rid of our little clone problem, but apparently I miscalculated somethi—"
Harry violently grabbed her by the collar of her purple blouse. "You used a form of magic you're not familiar with?!" he shouted straight into her face, showering it with spittle but not caring one bit. "These clones are literally driving me insane—and you go and experiment?!"
Tears were forming in her eyes now. "Come on, Harry, you know I can't waste any opportunity," she begged. "I'll adjust it—I'll figure it out. I always do, remember? I'll figure it out."
Something vital was snapping and coming loose inside of Harry in that moment, something that he feared he might not be able to put together again, yet he found himself unable to take control over the situation. It was as if an unseen, primal force pushed him aside and made him a reluctant passenger inside his own mind, for he was no longer in command of his body.
He was watching himself ruthlessly invading the terrified Piper's personal space and hating himself for it, watching himself violently throwing her aside while expelling a string of colourful curses he did not even know he knew. And without even being aware of his own intention to turn on the clones next, he swirled around with his wand raised.
"Fine, I'll just take care of them myself," he declared, fully prepared to fell every last one of them with the Killing Curse—and he flicked his arm in the sharp, unforgiving movement that triggered the curse, started to form the heinous words—
—and he was duelling a Death Eater, deftly swinging his wand this way and that, firing off spell after spell with an almost insane delight, really thriving on the adrenaline and the quick-on-your-feet, fingertip-tingling sense of being on the edge of the precipice called Death, challengingly staring down into the abyss and defying its call. He loved the game of skirting the Death Eater's ferocious curses and did not care that every muscle in his body was screaming at him, did not care one bit that he was running on fumes and might be forced to succumb to exhaustion at any moment.
But it was not exhaustion that finally got the better of him; it was his own dangerously stupid confidence and conviction that nothing could touch him. Having been too focused on the dance he was engaging in with his current adversary, he had forgotten that there was another in the room with them, and even before he had fully turned his face to scan the luxuriously furnished room for the second attacker, a bolt of green light hit him and darkness enveloped him even as he fell towards the hard marble floor—
—and he suddenly doubled over, a choked cry of shock escaping him. Before he could analyse what was happening to him, he fell to the floor, all his strength rushing out of him as if all the muscles in his body had stopped working at the same time, as if the bones were no longer able to hold his weight.
Gazing around himself, his vision ominously blurry and watery, he tried to make out his surroundings. Had he somehow left the Manor? Been sent someplace that merely resembled the immense house that he had called his home for the past fourteen years? Because there had been something distinctly familiar about that other place, only the furniture had been even more ridiculously expensive-looking …
Squinting against the fuzzy blur, he reached out his arm to feel around for his glasses before he realised that they were still firmly planted on his nose. The Hell …?
"What happened to me?" he breathed, carefully getting up on his hands and knees. His throat felt sore, as if he had not used his voice for weeks.
When he spoke, the room seemed to erupt in activity around him. The clones, up until then having stood in petrified silence, began to chatter anxiously among themselves, some of them moving around agitatedly. Harry frowned at them, wondering what in the name of Merlin had got into them all of a sudden.
A curtain of long, silky silver hair fell before him and lightly brushed his cheek, tickling him. A pair of petite but painfully firm hands gripped both sides of his head. "Let me in," Piper's concerned and insistent voice demanded before she plunged into his mind.
Crying out in shock and affront over the uncalled for violation, Harry tried to scramble away from her, but she held him fast and would not let him go. He had experienced her Legilimency before and knew that she was normally a careful and gentle presence; now urgency seemed to inspire a more direct and brusque approach. Her touch was not ruthless like Snape's, or excruciatingly painful as Voldemort's had been, but it still made him buckle under her.
In mere seconds the entire vision had passed before his eyes once more, and when it was over she let go of him and sat back, looking at him with dark, worried eyes. "You poor, poor boy," she said with such sorrowfulness that he thought her next words would be a death sentence.
Harry desperately let out a breath he had not been aware of holding. "What … what do you mean?" he wheezed, uncomprehending.
She fell back on her bum in either defeat or utter exhaustion—perhaps both. Shaking her head, not looking at him, she whispered, "I was hoping you wouldn't have to go through that …"
"Wha— go through what? Piper! Answer me!"
Her eyes once more met his, and the melancholy in them hit him like a sledgehammer. "You felt it, didn't you? You felt him die."
Flinching, Harry unconsciously backed away from her in dread. Practically feeling all colour draining from his face, he inquired, "What do you mean by that?" But somehow, part of him already knew what she would say—and it scared the crap out of him.
Scooting closer and taking his hand in hers, she looked him deep into the eyes as if searching for something. Then she nodded to herself, evidently having made the decision to tell him whatever it was that she had deduced from his strange vision.
"Your clones and you are all linked to each other, so whatever one of you feel, all the others may feel, as well. Everything that a clone experiences is stored right here—" She tapped her index finger on his forehead. "—and if you're unlucky, you will experience everything as if it was happening to you. I did, with my clones. Every time one of them got hurt, every time one of them was in despair …"
She fell silent for a moment, collecting herself. He was sure he knew what was coming next, and he did not want to hear it.
"Every time one of them died," she nevertheless finished, and Harry could feel the truth in her words even though he desperately tried to find another, more logical explanation for what he had just seen, what he had just felt.
Stubbornly shaking his head, he murmured, "No … no, it's not possible …"
"I'm afraid it is, Harry. You weren't able to feel it before, probably because of your focusing on saving James, but you know in your heart that I'm right. What you just experienced was Competitive Harry's final moments. Attempting to kill the clones must've unlocked the memory for you."
And right when she said it, another memory rushed through Harry's mind: Timothy trying to get through to him.
Search yourself and you will find that you remember dying as Competitive …
A shiver ran down his spine.
And another truth had his heart sinking in defeat anew. If he would remember every single clone's death as his own, there was no way he could get rid of them by killing them.
He was stuck with them.
Although only five years old, Timothy noticed things that none of the adults seemed to notice, and he was able to draw swift and precise conclusions based on what he saw. Without ever having to put much thought into anything, he simply knew how things were. Therefore, when James lingered at home, Timmy knew why.
Taking after the courageous, up-for-any-challenge Harry Potter and the dignified, proud Draco Malfoy, James tended to keep his innermost thoughts and feelings to himself, convinced that showing one's emotions openly was equal to being weak.
Others might argue that he could not have learnt that from his parents since they were so shamelessly affectionate, but when it came right down to it, Harry and Draco were very private people. They never advertised their problems, never consulted friends or family with the truly deep and intimate parts of their life together. Admittedly, a lot of that was due to pride, and James had grown up just as proud as them.
When Timothy looked at his brother, he saw a boy that was trying to make sense of everything that had happened to him but was too insistent on handling it himself to ask anyone for guidance. He was quiet, withdrawn; the usual James was not exactly an extrovert, but he at least sought others' company and spoke more than two words in succession.
Although only five years old, Timothy stayed at his brother's side when he was not called away on Time Manipulator business. Most of the time he said nothing; just sat there with him, giving him a quiet and undemanding support that he seemed to appreciate. Sometimes his 16-year-old self joined them and they would all sit in the parlour in comfortable silence.
Eventually, James began to come out of his shell and spend more and more time with his younger siblings. Now and then he would keep Draco company, playing card games in bed to distract his father from his persistent morning sickness. Timmy watched them from the doorway, smiling contentedly at the scene.
But the ultimate sign that James was going to be all right was that he sometimes engaged in tentative conversations with Harry. It seemed like the hatchet was finally getting buried between them, and that made both versions of Timothy happy and secure in the knowledge that they would do all right without him.
Being left alone in what was supposed to be their room—their marriage bed—after successfully bringing James home, when the clone incident had still been fresh in their minds, had been one thing, but to once more be left all alone after having experienced an almost normal night became too much for Draco. Being back to cold, accusatory stares and pregnant silences was bringing his blood to a boil.
He might have been able to endure it if it had only been the two of them in the equation, but with the baby on the way and hormones raging inside of him he finally lost it.
Ironically, it was Harry's sarcastic reply to his 'Good morning'—"When has it ever been?"—that ultimately made Draco explode. Seeing red, he stomped after Harry when he went through the archway to the dining room and violently grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop and turn around.
"I have fucking had it with you and your self-appointed martyrdom!" he yelled, drawing himself up to his full length to deliberately tower over his husband. "Come off your bloody high horse and talk to me like a normal person!"
Scoffing disdainfully, Harry challengingly raised himself up to create the illusion of them being almost of a height. "Oh, you've had it, have you?" he stated. "And here I thought I was the victim of your infidelity."
Seeing Harry's provocative stance and pissed off, red face and hearing the utter contempt in his voice, Draco snapped. "I fucking thought it was you! Do you really think I would ever do something like that to you? That I could do that to you—the worst thing one can possibly do to one's life partner?" he inquired, using a tone that should make it clear Harry was stomping around on very thin ice and would do well to consider his next words carefully.
Unfortunately, Harry's ability to think sensibly when his temper was flaring was non-existent. Instead of picking up on Draco's warning, he rose to a challenge only he perceived. "I didn't think so up until a couple weeks ago, no, but then you went and replaced me with a clone of me—a cheap copy, for fuck's sake! I've always known you to be horny beyond belief, but this bloody takes the prize!"
The sound of sudden choking followed by the disgustingly wet noise of liquid spurting out over the breakfast table reminded them that they weren't alone. Draco instantly snapped his head around, scandalised at the thought of other people witnessing such a humiliating moment in his life. His heart stopped for a beat and he started to feel faint when he saw his own children sitting at the table, frozen in shock.
James was the one choking on his drink, which was natural behaviour for a thirteen-year-old, but across from him Timmy was blushing furiously. Guess that answers the question whether Time Manipulators need the 'birds and the bees' talk …
Harry seemed to be blissfully oblivious of their audience and simply went on, with no shame whatsoever. "If you're ever feeling lonely or randy or in need of comfort, I want you to come to me," he said forcefully, his voice thick with emotion and his eyes watering despite his set jaw and mad glare. When he continued, his voice even cracked somewhat. "You are supposed—to—come—to—me."
Practically feeling the invisible dagger being shoved into his chest, Draco spun around and mercilessly descended on his so-called husband. "As I have done my entire fucking life since that day I learnt of your army and asked you to teach me!" he bellowed back, filling up with such white-hot rage that his entire body was shaking ominously. "I have admired you ever since, trusted you with my life, laughed with you, loved you—bared my bloody soul to you! You have always been the one I've gone to whenever I have needed someone, you've always been the one I go to for help when my bloody pride doesn't get in the way for once, and I have never—never!—desired anyone but you, Harry—never!
"And now you have the nerve to stand there and accuse me of being unfaithful to you?! That you cannot trust me anymore? 'Went and replaced you with a clone,' is it? I was half out of my mind with fear for my child—our son!—imagining all sorts of horrible, unspeakable fates those blasted Death Eaters may have visited upon him … Honestly, Harry, can you really say that you wouldn't have mistaken a clone for the real me if our roles had been reversed?"
"I would never mistake a mere clone for you!" Harry yelled with mad conviction. "Stop belittling this all the bloody time! You hurt me, more than anyone has ever hurt me before, and every time I look at you I see that clone's hands all over you, touching you, acting as if it was its right to do so—and I see how much you loved it. That image is forever etched into my mind, and it sickens me."
Flinching, Draco took a shaky step backwards. Tears were flowing down his cheeks now. "I don't mean to belittle what you feel, or what you experienced that day, but you need to understand that I am sorry and work with me to make this—"
"I am not interested in 'working with you'! Just shut up and leave me be, alright? Just shut up …"
Draco let out a cross between a furious snarl and an anguished groan. "You do not get to treat me this way! I am your husband—your lover, your partner, your best friend—and I'm 16 weeks pregnant with your child! I have given my life to raising your already existing four children and taking care of you while you've been off pursuing one career after the next—you do not get to stand there and judge me on one mistake! Get out, and don't fucking come back 'cause I can't stand feeling like this anymore."
Intending for those words to be his last spoken to Harry until he had decided to come to his senses, Draco turned his back on him and planned on going back up to bed and bawl his eyes out under the duvet for the next century and a half. He meant it—in his heart of hearts, he truly meant every word in that moment, because the pain was too much to bear.
Behind them, Blaise began to cry, a wail that shattered the last remnant of the mirage of them being 'the perfect family.'
With something breaking inside of him at the sound of his little baby's anguished and scared outcry, Draco whirled around towards his husband anew. "See what you did now!" he accused him, voice raised in indignation.
Harry's eyebrows shot up into his hairline. "Me?! You are the one kicking me out of my own house!"
Advancing on the thick knobhead with renewed battle spirit, the blonde spat out: "This is my house! Always has been, always will be, and don't you forget it! Now get the bloody Hell out of here before I kill you!"
A hard assault on his lower abdomen followed by a slightly nauseating sensation of movement made him start and stare into space, drop-jawed.
His sudden silence made Harry frown. "What's wrong with you?" he asked, wary of a new verbal onslaught brewing under the surface.
Suddenly struck by a sense of wonder, Draco slowly—almost absently—put a hand on his stomach. "She kicked," he said in amazement, and despite himself and the circumstances a small smile came to his lips.
Even Harry was distracted by that. Looking down at his partner's still almost-flat stomach, he said, "She did?"
Meeting his gaze, his smile widening further in happiness, Draco replied: "Yeah." Following another kick, he added: "She just did it again."
Bewildered but curious, Harry cautiously stretched out his hand and put it on Draco's tummy. Almost immediately, the baby kicked out a third time, as if she had sensed that her other father was reaching out to her. Laughing out loud in wonder and sudden happiness, he looked up at his husband. "She's strong!"
Draco chimed in. "Yeah, gonna have to keep an eye on this one," he agreed.
He could see the moment when it finally dawned on Harry that there was an actual baby in there, that they were having another child together, had created yet another little life together. His hand slowly, tremblingly moved across the surface of Draco's abdomen with a tenderness that he had not expressed since before James was abducted.
"My daughter," he whispered in an affected, astonished voice that was cracking with emotion. His beautiful emerald eyes were filling with tears. Looking deeply into Draco's eyes again, he continued, "We're having a daughter."
About to cry himself, Draco nodded. "Yes. We are."
Pain and remorse twisted the raven-haired man's features. "Dracums, I'm so sorry," he pleaded, and took his husband in his arms, holding him so tightly it almost hurt. "I am so sorry."
Draco was just about to assure him that everything was forgiven when Harry suddenly cried out in pain and collapsed in his arms, forcing the blonde to go down on his knees in order to keep him from curling up on the floor. Scared half to death, he exclaimed, "Harry! Harry, what's wrong? What's happening?"
Harry was panting, nigh on hyperventilating, and his forehead was plastered with cold sweat. His entire body was shaking and his muscles seemed to have given out on him, for he was completely limp in Draco's arms.
Looking up at the breakfast table with acute urgency, he yelled at James to go fetch Piper, fearing that Harry had somehow been poisoned and needed an antidote quick—
—and suddenly his husband straightened up in his embrace. Breathing normally and lucid again, as if nothing had happened, he frowned at Draco. "It was me," he stated in a baffled tone of voice.
Staring at him in confusion, the blonde wondered, "What was?"
Before Harry could reply, Piper burst into the room. "I did it!" she shouted triumphantly, and let out a loud, malicious laugh that sent shivers down her brother's spine. "I did it! I got rid of the clones, mwahahahaha!"
Draco was so taken aback by that announcement that he unconsciously let go of Harry, who was dropped onto the floor in a heap.
"Hey!" he yelled in affront, but Draco ignored him.
"Come again?" he demanded of his sister.
To his surprise, it was Harry who replied. "She got rid of the clones. I can feel it. I mean, I could feel it. All of a sudden it was as if they all … I don't know how to describe it … went into me. I could feel everything they were feeling, and I saw everything that they had been through … but all at once, if you know what I mean?"
"You merged," Piper told him with a knowing glint in her silver eyes. "I had been going about this completely wrong—I was trying to make them cease to exist when really I should've been looking for a way to make them go back to where they came from."
Staring from one to the other, Draco blinked in confusion. "Back to where they came from?" he echoed sheepishly. "But they didn't come from anywhere, they—"
"—came from me," Harry finished. He met his husband's bewildered gaze with a mix of reassurance, shame, and repentance. "I remember. Everything that they did, everything that they experienced, as if … as if it was me doing them. Dracums … it was me. I don't understand how, but you were right about that clone; it was me—I was the one touching you that day. I remember it."
Enveloping Draco in an apologetic, loving embrace, he proceeded to murmur straight into his ear, sending pleasant vibrations of arousal through him. "I'm sorry I accused you of being unfaithful to me when I should have known better. I do know that you would never do something like that to me. Do you think you can forgive me?"
Feeling that aching need to be joined with Harry again, to feel his strong hands and hot lips on his skin and surrender completely to his mercy again, Draco swallowed hard. "I think I know a way for you to make it up to me," he told him, hoarse with desire.
An obscene chuckle escaped the raven-haired man. "I'm happy to oblige," he assured him, and kissed him deeply.
"Oh, for Salazar's sake!" James exclaimed over at the table. "Could you not do that in front of us, please!?"
Both shamed and blushing, they apologised and hastily left the room.
It was not just for them to forget what had transpired between them and go on as if everything was magically back to normal, but now they were both adamant on working out their issues and finding their way back to what they used to have. What they used to be together.
Harry took a more active part in Draco's pregnancy and made sure to not miss a single thing. He happily went to all of Draco's appointments at the maternity ward at St Mungo's to show his support and involvement, did everything Draco asked him without complaint, and sometimes even switched bodies with him when he needed a break.
At first, Draco hardly dared to believe it, but as the weeks and then the months passed by, he was finally able to settle in to some sort of security.
He had got his husband back.
During this time, they often discussed names for their new daughter, this person that they had yet to meet but already loved more than either of them could express adequately. They ultimately landed on the right one when they were spending the evening outside watching the stars a mere month away from delivery.
"It's really beautiful," Draco murmured against Harry's neck, his head gently resting on his shoulder as he gazed up at the vast night sky.
Harry pulled the blanket closer around them. "Yeah, it sure is," he agreed. "I just wish I remembered everything we learnt in Astronomy. Now I can hardly remember any of the constellations."
Shifting his position somewhat so that he could reach his arm out from under the blanket, Draco pointed up at the sky. "You recognise Ursa Major and Minor, right—the Big and Little Dippers?" he asked, directing his husband's attention to each of them.
"Yeah, and Orion I can find, but that's pretty much it."
Quickly surveying the plethora of stars above them, Draco sought out another constellation that Harry was sure to know. All he needed was to remember where to look for it. "There. What is that one called?" he encouraged.
Harry squinted the way he always did when he was thinking hard. "Is that … Cassiopeia?"
"Yes, that is correct. See! You know more than you think, you just need to use that thick head of yours."
"Ha, ha, ha," Harry said sarcastically, but then he pulled the blonde closer to him. Kissed the top of his head affectionately. "Wasn't one of your relatives called Cassiopeia?" he continued.
"Mm-hm," Draco confirmed. "My great-grandfather's sister. There are lots of people in the Black line with constellation or star-related names. Like Andromeda, for example—" He pointed out the constellation in question. "—my aunt. And see the one that looks like a cross there? That's Cygnus, like my grandfather."
His interest sparked, Harry asked, "So where's Draco?"
The blonde dutifully showed him where the constellation that had given him his name was located. He recalled that, as a kid, he had looked up into the sky with pride and seen Draco as the centre of the night, with Cygnus, Cepheus, the Dippers, Bootes, and Hercules surrounding it. He had seen himself as the sun around which everything else was revolving.
"And what's that little one that's sort of between Draco and Cygnus?" Harry wondered.
"Hm?" Draco followed his finger to see which one he meant. "Oh, that's Lyra," he then informed him, "the lyre."
Suddenly they both gave a start as they were struck by the same idea. Looking at each other, they spoke with one mouth: "Lyra."
Smiling, Harry looked down at Draco's enormous belly. "Hi, Lyra," he murmured with so much love in his voice and in his emerald eyes that Draco started to cry.
"That is a perfect name for her," he concurred, and gave Harry a long, tender kiss.
As the months passed, Timothy's visits increased and for every time he showed up he seemed more worried, more jittery than ever before. He was irritable, now and then snapping at them for no apparent reason, and he seemed uncharacteristically jumpy, as if he was always expecting a surprise attack or something. They tried everything they could think of to calm him down, but he simply would not be soothed.
It gave Harry a growing sense of suspicion, and he felt as though there was a memory somewhere at the back of his mind trying to surface, but every time he felt like he was just about to grasp it, it disappeared back into the depths.
As if that was not enough, reports were coming in from all over Britain about mysterious disappearances. The further into the pregnancy Draco got, the more frequent the reports became, until there were daily articles in the Prophet. It was scaring them all, and they started to dread the arrival of the paper every morning.
Pywercaseley was apparently going the Voldemort route.
Draco's nightmare about the winter forest was getting more frequent, too, something that Harry chalked up to fear brought on by the disappearances. But Draco was not so sure. He felt as though he was hurtling towards a fate darker and much more terrifying than anything Pywercaseley could cook up for him.
And it scared the living daylight out of him.
"Not exactly as expected," Pywercaseley mused as he studied the scene in front of him.
The test subject had exhibited the desired effect to begin with, but as time passed it became more and more apparent that the potion still was not working as it was supposed to. It seemed as though this was going to take longer than either he himself or any of his resident experts had predicted.
"Well," he said, more to himself than to any of the gathered Potion Masters, "it will just have to take whatever time it takes to perfect it, I suppose. This plan can not fail."
He was going to bring on Harry Potter's demise, once and for all.
The double doors opened behind him and a tall, burly Death Eater entered. "My Lord, we have your brother for you, as you wished," he informed with a deep, reverent bow.
A wide, diabolical grin cracked his face open, as if to reveal the absolute darkness of his soul.
Before long, on a rainy and stormy night, Lyra came to the world, and she was the most beautiful creature Harry had ever seen. Even though he had already witnessed four children being born and had loved them all unconditionally from the very moment he laid eyes on them, the love that he felt for her was stronger than anything he had ever experienced.
She was special—he could just feel it.
The first thing Draco did when the midwife handed him the tiny bundle that was their daughter was to laugh triumphantly and exclaim, "Yes! Finally!" when it became apparent that she was blond and grey-eyed like him.
That made Harry laugh out loud, and he was soon joined by Ron, Jonathan, and Piper. Even James smiled at his father's amusing reaction.
Harry had known that Draco was longing for a child that inherited his own complexion and colouring, so he was happy for his husband that his wish had finally come true. It was not that Draco did not like the way their other children looked—James with his black hair and green eyes, Timmy that was blond but sported Harry's emerald eyes, and Blaise that had gotten the silvery Malfoy eyes but the raven Potter hair—but that he desperately wanted to see himself in a child and give him or her the safe and loving upbringing that he himself had never experienced.
For a few lovely days they lived in their own little bubble, fully enjoying the bliss of their new little daughter and the successively stronger family bonds that they were tying with all of their children. For a few days, it was as if the troubles of the world did not exist anymore—as if everything was as it should be.
But that bubble had to burst eventually.
That happened when Jonathan showed up four days after Lyra's birth, his forehead creased with worried wrinkles and his face looking harried.
"Have you seen Ron?" he wondered.
"No, he hasn't been here since we brought Lyra home," Harry answered, wondering why their friend looked so anxious.
"And he hasn't contacted you in any way?" Jonathan pressed.
Now Harry was starting to get a bad feeling. "No, why?" he asked, hoping against hope that the icy dread that was taking hold inside of him was not justifiable.
The physician made a sound that was somewhere between a groan and a mewl. "Because he went to his Quidditch practice yesterday morning and hasn't come back since," he told them, his eyes wide with fear for his husband.
Harry and Draco exchanged a knowing look.
"Ron wouldn't go anywhere without contacting his family," Draco said with conviction.
"No," Harry agreed instantaneously.
An awful thought had struck him.
And he did not want to utter it for fear of thereby making it come true.
As things had it, Draco did it for him, voicing their worst concern with a low voice that was hardly more than a whisper.
"Ron is one of the missing."
A/N: Thank you sooo much for reading my story—you are all awesome! =D Let me know what you think of the new chapter, or of the story in general, or of anything really; all feedback and constructive criticism is welcome! :3
Status info on the next chapter will be on my profile page under "Current WIPs." Also, I sometimes make cute little Drarry pictures and post on my DeviantArt page, so if you're interested you're welcome to come have a look. ;) My username is Haadogei (haadogei . deviantart . com)
Have an amazing day, and see you in the next chapter! =)
Lots of Love,