A/N: Thank you to all of you who read, reviewed, alerted, and favorite-ed this story! You really helped me get all the way to the point I have reached now, and it was a pleasure writing this. There will not be a sequel, so please don't beg me to write one.
As always, the streets of London were crowded with employees and their employers, with people selling things and those who were foolish enough to buy them. A million heartbeats in time with each other, and just as many more out of it, were beating to their own rhythm.
All of this Bysshe observed from the tiny, and disturbingly flimsy, balcony of a two-story, and very expensive, house a mere two blocks from a certain telephone booth. He waited, tense as a bowstring and half-crouching atop the railing of the balcony, for the first sign of his target.
A shadowy figure, noticeably without a heartbeat of its own, grabbed a small child passing by, pulling her into the alley they were hiding in. The crowds continued to surge, no one noticing that one of its members was now missing, soon to be dead.
In a single graceful leap, he launched himself from the balcony and blended effortlessly into the crowd, shoving aside a few trouble-making university students when they came between his path and the alley. He didn't bother to apologize or react to their yelled threats, too focused on the few seconds that had passed since the child was snatched.
Entering the alley, he sprinted down it until he came to the small space between two dumpsters, where he saw the child already completely subdued by the young Vampire.
The Vampire froze and then turned slowly around, smirking at him. "What are you going to do to stop me, old man? You know that you won't stand a chance against my strength, so just leave me alone; I'm hungry."
He grinned, reaching forward and gripping the impertinent little prick by the neck with one hand while his other pressed down on his shoulder. There was a sickening popping sound as his skull, buried within tissue and skin, separated from his spine, and the body began convulsing for a few seconds until he yanked the head off completely.
Grimacing at it, he tossed it into the dumpster and heaved the body up after it.
"Sorry, young man, but age before beauty."
There was a whimper from the child, now released from the hypnotic glamour cast over it by her attacker. "Please don't hurt me!"
He blandly eyed her before waving his hand and whispering, "Sorry, honey, but I'm just not the pedophile type. Obliviate."
Her eyes went blank and he picked her up, carrying her to the mouth of the alley and setting her down on the stoop of a second-hand record store. "Just sit here and get your bearings back, missy. You've had quite the close call."
Dusting himself off and checking for any significant blood stains, he re-entered the crowd until he came back to the house where he'd been originally. Rapping on the door, he waited impatiently for it to open.
Bert cracked it open, looking at him balefully with red-rimmed eyes before opening it wider for him to pass through. He looked like a man half-dead, and his eyes fluttered open and shut several times, ruining the effect of the glare.
"Hello again." Bysshe laughed nervously, not liking the look he was getting.
"Is there a valid reason for you to come through the door, instead of climbing in a window or down the chimney? Both of those options would be infinitely less troublesome for me." Bert growled, slurping loudly from his large coffee mug. In the background, a girlish squeal was followed by giggling and Bert winced, spilling some of the burning liquid down his front.
Bysshe decided to risk it and laughed, taking the mug from him so that the Unspeakable could dab at his shirt with the hem of his bathrobe. It was the same one he'd had five years ago when they'd met, and according to Bert, the robe had been his faithful companion for years before then as well.
It certainly explained the tattered state of the thing.
Bert took the coffee back after deciding that fixing his shirt without magic was useless. "You still haven't told me why the windows aren't good enough for you."
Bysshe shrugged. "I felt like irritating you. What can I say? Humor me; I'm old."
"I'm sure you don't feel as old as I do these days. I haven't gotten a wink of sleep, what with the new baby crying every couple fucking hours. She's got one of those ear infections and it makes it hard for the little one to get any rest. We've mostly gotten it in hand now, though."
"Bert? Darling, Hattie still needs her toast!" Luna called from upstairs, and then they could hear the sound of slipper-clad feet descending the stairs. "Oh, hello Bysshe. Did you catch him?"
There was a sash tied around her hips and shoulders in an intricate series of knots, and in one of the folds of it was their youngest daughter. Unfortunately for Bysshe's sense of decency, Luna hadn't bothered to wear much else.
"Yeah; he was about to make lunch out of a little girl about the same size as yours." He answered at last, tearing his eyes away from a breast that had somehow remained uncovered by the sash and her sheer wrap-around tunic. She was wearing it with a pair of safari shorts.
"How awful." Luna didn't sound like she meant it, sweeping past them with a jingle of twenty or so charm bracelets clanking against one another into the kitchen. "Mommy is getting your toast for you, honey." She crooned.
They exchanged looks.
"How are you holding up, being the sole man in this house of estrogen? How many daughters have you got now anyway, five?"
"Not quite- there's three of them now." Bert looked pained when he heard something crash inside the kitchen. "I'll be seeing you. Putter around the house if you like, and amuse the girls if you see them so they don't do something heinous to you out of revenge." Bert took another gulp of his coffee and paused in the doorway to the kitchen. "You know, growing up I thought it was the competitive environment women created amongst themselves that made them so evil sometimes, but now I know that its something ingrained into their nature."
Bysshe grinned. "I could have told you that. I had daughters once upon a time, too."
"I bet you did, you perverted bastard."
And with that, he went into the kitchen to attend to his oldest, Hattie, before she threw the jar of marmalade at him again. His wedding band sparkled in the morning sunshine, matching the one around Luna's finger as she steadied her youngest daughter's head so Hester could get full access to her bosom.
Three years ago she'd finished getting her specialized training in Mystery Magicks with a minor side study of dead languages, and secured a job as an Unspeakable. Due to her often well-hidden intelligence, when her entrance test results revealed a higher score than ever achieved before, the Unspeakable administering it and charged with checking her results suffered a non-fatal heart attack.
Today, she worked as partners with her husband out of her home and home-schooled her daughters until they would be old enough for Hogwarts.
She groped for the kettle of hot water, pouring some into her cup to refresh her tea bag; lifting it unsteadily to her mouth, she sipped before it had a chance to step.
"Look what I drew, mum!" Sheila, her middle daughter lisped, holding up a scrap of parchment for her to inspect. Luna eyed the stick figures depicting their strange little family of five and smiled.
"It's beautiful, Sheila. Now go get dressed! They'll be here soon!"
Sheila pouted. "But mum, why do I have to get dressed when you aren't?"
Luna blinked and she heard her husband cough. Looking up, she saw him tugging on one side of his robe. Glancing down, she saw that her youngest was done having breakfast, leaving her a tad exposed. She covered herself and patted Sheila on the head. "There, now go get dressed. I want you to look nice for Neville and Jacob."
The four-year-old pouted one last time before stomping off. Sighing, Luna tucked Hester back into her little hammock and made sure that she was secure before finishing off her much-stronger tea.
She opened her mouth, but Bert beat her to it.
"I'll do the dishes, love. Go see to the girls or whatever."
Smiling, she sauntered over to him and kissed him on both cheeks and mouth. "You taste like coffee. Don't forget to get dressed before they arrive."
"Why do I have to get dressed for them? We don't bother getting dressed for anyone else."
"Yes, but we haven't seen either of them since they went on their honeymoon and I want them to have a good impression of us and everybody else."
Bert nodded. "I suppose that that makes sense…in the world of women."
"Just wash the dishes, Bert." She exited the kitchen, heading upstairs to make sure that Hattie and Sheila were playing nicely.
There was a relatively new shop in Hogsmeade that sold Muggle conveniences, the non-electric kind that would work in a magical environment. They had everything from band t-shirts to lip gloss to Muggle candies and new books, and they were doing very well amongst the students since they helped raise morale amongst the Muggle-borns who missed their parents and allowed Purebloods to experience some of the different aspects of Muggle culture.
The upper two floors of this shop, and of course the shop itself, were owned proudly by Emmett and Harry. Neither of them actually worked down in the store anymore; they'd only worked as clerks on top of everything else during the first two months of setting up until it got around that Harry Potter was working there and he started getting mobbed by people that didn't want to buy anything.
Stumbling out of their bedroom, Harry smoothed down his hair fruitlessly before tying it back with a rubber band and heading for the bathroom. Inside it he found Emmett brushing his teeth.
As usual, he'd left the cap off of the toothpaste.
"You never learn, do you?" Harry teased, squeezing some out onto his own toothbrush before replacing the cap and tucking the tube into their medicine cabinet. Emmett grinned at him through a mouth full of white foam before he spat into the sink and rinsed his mouth out.
"Why should I bother when I know that you'll always be around to screw it back on for me?" He leaned over and kissed Harry's cheek. "I know this specific bad habit of mine wasn't addressed especially in our wedding vows, but I think it can be classified as within the 'for worse' half of 'for better or worse', and that means that you can let it go."
Harry groaned around his toothbrush and started working on his grinders. "You're impossible." He muttered around it, rinsing his own mouth out.
"I know, but somehow I don't think you would have married me if I was less of a challenge."
He led the way back to their bedroom, where they got dressed, Emmett taking care to wear the sweater Luna bought him for his birthday; it was a shockingly tasteful garment, coming from her. The only things different about it was the little chicks embroidered along the cuffs.
"What do you say about breakfast? Should we eat it or go without today?" Harry asked, pinning a piece of hair that refused to co-operate back.
Emmett bit his lip. "Well, considering that this is our re-union, and how Hermione always brings tons of food to any of our gatherings, I think we can safely go without."
"Good! I really don't feel like cooking right now, so this is awfully convenient." Harry cheered quietly, laughing when Emmett flicked his nose.
"I should have known that you had an ulterior motive behind that question."
Harry shrugged. "Hey, we eat either way. This way just happens to spare me some bother."
Emmett thought this through and couldn't find fault with it. "Oh, fine. Come on, take my hand and let's go before we're late. You remember all the teasing we got last time that we were late, right?"
"Oh, about us supposedly pawing at each other?"
They shared a laugh before Harry composed himself and grabbed his husband's hand to apparatated them.
Luna was slouched into the couch working on a yearly report of the behavior of the Veil, with a clipboard to take away the need to work at a desk. Hester giggled on the floor with her two sisters under their father's watchful gaze, reaching out her little fist to grab at the closest doll's hair. Hattie helpfully tucked the toy into her little sister's hands.
"There you go!" She chirped, posing the one male doll with her favorite princess, the one whose hair her mother had helped spell blue for her.
Their chatter rose and fell before it was interrupted by a multitude of simultaneous 'cracks' as the various guests arrived. Harry and Emmett arrived holding hands, and Hermione and Ron nearly bowled them over by accidentally apparatating a scant two inches to their left.
They laughed and helped each other up. "Are Neville and Jacob here yet?" Hermione asked, pulling a shrunken basket out of her pocket and enlarging it. It was huge, and from what they could smell, it was full of more food than should be crammed into people who've just breakfasted.
Harry nudged Emmett and grinned.
"You're on the front page again." Luna said, handing Harry the Daily Prophet. Harry sighed and read the headline, which loudly proclaimed entirely in capital letters:
BOY WHO LIVED LIVING IN SIN WITH ANOTHER MAN!
Emmett peered over his shoulder and started to laugh. "What? Does no one besides us know that we tied the knot years ago?"
Hermione, realizing what they must be talking about, rolled her eyes. "The Wizarding world doesn't recognize gay marriages as valid or even alternative sexualities as real. As far as they're concerned, you being gay means nothing- they're still doing polls in Witch Weekly about the most eligible young women who might catch your eye."
Harry groaned. "Did Neville and Jacob know about this?"
"Yeah, but, like you, they got married anyway." Hermione shrugged. "I mean, who cares whether the government recognizes it or not? They do a horrible job at everything else, so why would the system actually function in this area any more than it does with magical creature employment restrictions?"
There were nods of agreement around the room. Bert leaned forward and took a tart out of the basket, breaking it in half for his daughters and then helping himself to another while Luna pulled out a tin of brownies made by Mrs. Weasley and started passing them around.
About five minutes of catching up later, Jacob and Neville appeared.
"Well, somebody sure has the honeymoon glow." Ron commented, laughing when Neville blushed.
"It's so good to see you guys!" Luna leapt up and hugged them both tightly, followed by everyone else until the new couple started to feel slightly suffocated.
"Alright, alright! Ron, I know that you've hugged us both three times now just to be irritating, so why don't we all just sit back down?" Jacob snapped at last, grabbing one of the tarts out of the basket before sitting down in an armchair. Neville sat on the arm of it, one leg dangling slightly, and stole some of the candied apple slices off the top of Jacob's treat.
"Hey, get your own."
Neville looked down at him with wide eyes. "Whatever happened to 'what's mine is yours'?"
Jacob sighed and passed him the entire tart. Catching sight of the Daily Prophet, he snorted loudly. "Haha! Some things will never change. Hey, is there any mention of the little incident in Azkaban?"
"What incident?" Hermione asked, looking up from her thermos of tea. It had little clouds painted on it in enamel.
"The incident in Azkaban where a certain man with the last name of Woolf found himself torn limb from limb inexplicably, with no sign of an intruder in his cell or magical imprintation upon the surrounding stonework; the body has already been disposed of and the no further research is being done into the matter." Jacob smirked at them.
Luna silently passed him some tea and then folded her hands in her lap. "I heard about it at work, but it's been very well covered up. The Minister doesn't want people thinking that the Dementors are doing something out of the ordinary."
Neville laughed, the sound of it shockingly ominous-sounding. "Well, that's good. So where is Bella?"
"She had to finish up some lesson plans that some kids wanted for extra credit in Computer Science, and she was expecting a fire-call from Charlie, so she won't be here until maybe half an hour longer." Hermione supplied, pulling out a cigarette and lighting up.
Harry raised his eyebrows. "And have those two done anything in the way of getting engaged yet? They've been living with each other for four years now."
Ron shrugged. "Charlie isn't telling me anything during the 6 months that he lives with us at Hogwarts, although I did see a jewelry magazine in his trunk a couple of weeks ago before he left for Romania again."
Bert frowned. "Explain to me how your living arrangements work again, please?"
"Well, Hermione and Bella's quarters are next to each other because they jointly teach Muggle Studies, and I live with Hermione there when I'm not on Auror business. Half of the year Charlie lives with Bella, and the other half he spends in Romania with the dragons in person. Really, Bert, I have to explain this to you every time we see each other: at first I thought it was just distraction, but now I'm afraid that your age has finally caught up with you." Ron finished his explanation with a tease, laughing when Bert threw the empty brownie tin at his head.
Sheila and Hattie squealed, clapping their hands. "Throw it again, daddy! That was funny!"
Luna grumbled something and sent her husband a nasty look. "I thought we said that we weren't going to raise our daughters with a glorified view of violence."
He shrugged. "And I thought that little girls could be raised to not smack me around, but that plan failed as well."
Jacob laughed. "They must take after their mother." Neville squeezed his shoulder, kissing his cheek affectionately.
"Get a room!" Ron yelled, sounding like he'd been waiting on the edge of his seat for an opportunity to say that. Neville flipped him off, reaching over and accepting the thermos of tea from Hermione. He offered it to Jacob first before taking a sip.
"Oh, this is good. What kind of tea is this?"
"Black currant, I believe. I just got it from Bella and decided to try it out; I swear, that girl is the veritable queen of fruit teas."
There was a loud 'whooshing' sound as the Floo activated and Bella came flying out. She landed on the carpet heavily, covered in soot. "Ugh, I hate Wizard travel! Why couldn't I just take a cab?"
A concerted effort was made to stifle laughter, and Harry gallantly helped her up. "Are you okay, Bella? It looked like you had kind of a rough landing there."
She laughed weakly, dusting herself off and following him to the two-person couch he was sharing with Emmett. His husband moved to the side, and there was just enough room for him and the two smaller people.
"So, how are you guys? Oh, is that your youngest?" She suddenly cooed, catching sight of Hester. Hester returned her adoring look, reaching up for her to be picked up. Bella obliged, clutching her to her lap and bouncing her slightly. "She's just so adorable, and she has your eyes!"
Hermione grinned, squeezing Ron's knee.
"It's too bad that I can't have kids…" Harry sighed dramatically, leaning all of his weight against Emmett's shoulder.
There was a shocked silence before Jacob started laughing, which broke the ice for everyone else.
"You can take mine any day you want." Bert offered, getting up and seizing Sheila by the middle and depositing her in Harry's lap. She looked up at him with wide smiling eyes and then poked his nose.
"You have a skinny nose." She told him honestly and he grimaced poking hers back.
"Yeah, well, you have a teeny tiny one."
Emmett leaned over and made a show of squinting at her. "It's so small that I can't even see it!"
Harry laughed with her, kissing Emmett.
"Which one of you is the princess?" Sheila asked innocently.
They just looked at each other, neither wanting to answer that.
"Bye! I'll see you next week at dinner, alright?" Harry called after himself as he stepped out of the Gould's house. Luna waved back.
They were the last to go, and Harry stumbled a little, tipsy from the Australian wine Bella revealed once the kids got sent to bed at eight.
"Emmett?" Harry asked when they were on the last train, deciding to take it as far as it would go on a whim.
"What would you do if we could have kids?"
Emmett shrugged. "I don't doubt that you'd be a wonderful parent, but I don't think either of us are ready for that just yet."
Harry nodded sleepily, nuzzling into his husband's side and letting him wrap his arm around him. "That's good. I was going to say the same thing."
Neither of them noticed Ginny Weasley sitting on the bench across from them with crossed arms and a glare on her face. It'd been five years and she couldn't seem to hold down a steady boyfriend, and while this was happening to her, Harry was talking with his faggy husband about having kids?
There was simply no justice in the world. She grumbled to herself, crossing her legs from the evening cold and eyeing them sourly. Even now, she wasn't brave enough to draw attention to herself.
She would spend the rest of her life alone and feeling sorry for herself.
End Dark Clouds