See disclaimer in Chapter 1. If you haven't figured out I'm not JKR by now (and therefore don't own these characters) … well, then I'm flattered. Oh, and there's slash in this chapter. Just a warning. And I've posted several chapters today, so make sure you're caught up before reading this one …
Six months later …
"So, this is it," Hermione said, biting her lip as she backed up enough to let her parents over the threshold.
Her mother's gaze roved around the small space, taking in the boxes of unpacked books that hadn't fit on the few shelves that had come with the furnished flat. Hermione had actually appropriated all of the pantry space as well, shoving both her and Theo's lesser-used course books into the space instead of food. Neither of them had the time to cook, anyway. They had given up all pretense of trying to make real meals in the middle of the first term. Now, buried in work partway into their second semester, they were existing on care packages from their friends' house-elves and peanut butter sandwiches.
She heard her father's hum of disapproval as he poked his head into the tiny bathroom, obviously noticing Theo's kit alongside her own on the narrow shelf above the sink. She'd been careful to clear away most evidence of their cohabitation – his clothes were all safely stowed in the dresser or the closet, instead of across the floor like they usually were, and his Quidditch gear had been stuffed into the refrigerator with the leftovers from the meal Blaise's elf Selby had sent over the night before.
"You know Theo lives here with me," she said defensively, tensing herself for a fight. She'd been honest with her parents about the fact that she and Theo would be living together at University, and even though she'd taken measures not to throw it in their faces by tidying Theo's things away, she wasn't going to lie about it.
"What I don't know is when he plans to make an honest woman of you," her father said smartly, his gaze flickering to her finger to make sure she was still wearing Theo's engagement ring.
Before Hermione could respond, though, her mother jumped to her defense.
"Oh for heaven's sake, Hal," her mother snapped, rolling her eyes. "We're lucky they got engaged first before moving in together. Remember Hazel Forthington's daughter Annie? She and her boyfriend are living together with no plans to marry at all. He's not even in University! He fancies himself a musician. Hazel's stuck paying the rent, even!"
Hermione couldn't help but smirk at the disdain in her mother's tone. It had taken awhile, but she'd finally forgiven them for the disaster that had followed their first dinner with Theo. Her father was still a bit stiff with both of them, but she could tell he was warming to Theo.
"Theo's mother says the same thing," Hermione told her father, the edge of her temper cooled enough she could see the humor in the situation. "We have set a date, actually. Next summer."
She faltered when her mother's eyes lit up, realizing they thought she meant in a matter of months.
"The summer after this one, rather. Not this summer. A year and a half from now."
Her father's lips didn't move from their grim line, but he did nod. If their parents had their way she and Theo would already have been married before starting University, but Hermione wasn't willing to rush things, even if it meant garnering their parents' disapproval. It wasn't that she wasn't sure of Theo, she was, it was just that she wanted time to settle into her new role as a University student before adding the role of wife.
"Lovely," her mother said breezily, resuming her inspection of the flat. The smile that had been threatening turned into a full-fledged laugh when Hermione heard her shriek when she opened the refrigerator door, letting the Quaffle she'd forced in there earlier out. As her parents ducked and yelled as it flew around the confined space, Hermione sighed a breath of relief. Everything was going to be fine.
"It's perfect, isn't it?" Neville beamed, ignoring the look of total contempt on his wife's face as he studied the ramshackle building in front of him. "We'll take it."
Pansy bit back a retort, knowing it would do no good to argue with Neville once he'd made up his mind. Besides, this was his dream, not hers. If he wanted to start his herbology business in a dilapidated old warehouse, who was she to stop him?
"Are you sure, sir?" the estate agent asked, looking skeptically at the young couple.
They'd come into her office a week earlier, asking to see large buildings for sale on a good bit of land in relatively remote locations. She'd initially taken them for pranksters, but the significant amount of money the young man was willing to pay – and the quick call to check his background with Draco Malfoy, who'd vouched for him – helped her set her fears aside.
"Positive," Pansy answered, smiling indulgently when Neville squeezed her hand. She knew he could do it without her on board, but he wanted her support, and she wanted to give it to him, despite her reservations.
Malinda wandered back to her car to fish out the necessary paperwork, leaving Pansy and Neville alone to discuss their plans. She wondered where the young, wealthy clients she'd been dealing with lately had come from. She'd never heard of any of their surnames – Malfoy, Zabini, Longbottom – but they all seemed to have considerable resources and very odd prerequisites, usually involving large amounts of land and hard-to-access locales. Still, the commissions she'd gotten from the Malfoy and Zabini transactions had been quite large, and she had a feeling this one would be as well. Most normal clients needed to deal with bank financing for purchases so large – even for purchases much smaller than this one, she admitted – but this had all the makings of another cash sale. That meant the owner wouldn't haggle over-much and she'd have her commission in her pocket within the week.
"You are sure, Nev?" Pansy asked quietly, cocking her head to try to see the same potential Neville did in the poorly maintained building in front of them.
"Positive," he answered, grinning when she smacked him for mimicking her. "Truly. I came out with Blaise last night and cast a few Charms to verify that the structure was sound, and it is. The soil is unbelievably fertile – it hasn't been farmed in decades or longer."
He strolled along behind the building, side stepping panes of glass that had fallen from a second-story window above them some time ago, giving birds and other creatures easy access to the empty interior of the barn-like structure. None of that mattered, though, since Neville planned to strip the building to its studs and start over, refurbishing it in thick, magically strengthened glass so it could serve as his greenhouse. The fields around the building would be planted with all manner of rare magical plants by next spring, as soon as the complicated wards and climate protection spells he'd worked out with Professor Sprout had been installed. They'd have to add a slew of Muggle Repellant charms as well, but in the end he'd have the nursery he'd always dreamed of.
Pansy watched Neville surveying the barren land, his wistful smile convincing her more than any of his assurances had. If he saw a future here, then so did she. And with the control he'd gained over his powers with his new wand and hours of tireless practice, she was sure he was strong enough to see all of the complicated magic the property would need through to the end – especially with the help of their friends, which they were sure to get.
She slipped her hand into his, her fingers ghosting over the calluses that he perpetually had from his hands-on work with the plants he nurtured. Neville was a good herbologist and a hard worker. If anyone could do this, it was him.
She grinned at him, leaning into him as they waited for the estate agent to come back with the things they needed to sign. He was a good husband, she thought, subtly moving his hand so it rested over her flat stomach. And he'd be a good father, too. Their friends thought them crazy to start a business while she was pregnant, but Pansy knew better. Everyone always underestimated Neville, but she'd learned to stop doing so ages ago. He could handle it, and so could she.
They watched the estate agent make her way back across the uneven ground, her dainty heels no match for the wet soil. She offered the young couple a bright smile, jotting a few things down on the clipboard she'd brought, instantly launching into a spiel about opening offers and negotiation techniques. When the Neville agreed to offer the full asking price she nearly swooned. Yes, Malinda thought, she definitely wouldn't mind if Draco Malfoy referred a few more clients her way, no matter how strange they might be.
Harry settled back into the fluffy pillows, nearly sighing out loud at how good it felt to relax. He'd known Healer training would be hard, but he'd had no idea how much work would be involved. He spent most of his days shadowing Healers at the University hospital and attending classes and practical labs. His nights were full of studying for the next day's classes and rounds in the school's extensive medical library. He rarely stumbled home before 1 a.m., and he was usually out the door by 6:30 a.m. during the week.
Draco was hardly any better off. The Potions Mastery track was just as demanding, meaning the two of them hardly saw each other during the week at all, between Harry's research in the library and Draco's long hours in the potions lab. On the rare nights they were both home before midnight it was all they could do to share a kiss or a half-hearted fondle before dropping off to sleep. All in all, it was not how Harry had envisioned marriage.
But today – today was Saturday, which meant a half-day of rounds in the morning for Harry and a few hours of checking in on experiments in the lab for Draco. They were usually both home by 2 p.m., and though they hardly had the energy to do much, at least they were together. Sundays were their free day, generally spent lounging around the house and being lazy, with long lie-ins and early afternoon sex being among their favored activities.
Harry groaned, looking at his watch for the third time in five minutes. It was 2:30 p.m., and Draco wasn't back yet. Harry had already grabbed a quick shower to wash away the antiseptic smell of the hospital, and now he was fighting exhaustion, trying to stay awake long enough to at least see Draco come home. They were having dinner with Draco's parents that evening, cutting into their rare alone-time even more.
He must have drifted off at some point, lulled to sleep by the soft mattress and the quiet house, because the room was dark when Draco gently shook him awake.
"Sorry, love," Draco murmured, folding himself around Harry's sleep-warmed body. He still smelled of potions, and Harry wrinkled his nose at the noxious odors. "Explosion at the lab. No one was hurt, but there was a hell of a mess to clean up. Four months of research shot, too."
He pressed a kiss against Harry's temple, easing himself back off the bed in stiff movements. Harry frowned, noticing the burn marks on the blond's work robes for the first time.
"No one was hurt?" he questioned, sitting up and turning the bedside lamp on so he could see better. A quick glance at the clock showed they had a little more than an hour before they needed to be at the Manor.
"Not overly much, no," Draco backtracked, seeming to suddenly remember he was talking to a Healer-in-training.
"Mmm," Harry said thoughtfully, his mind already in medical mode as he trailed hands over Draco's robes, unfastening them and shoving them off strong shoulders. The ruined robes pooled on the floor, quickly joined by his burnt shirt and revealing pale skin marred with patches of pink, a sure sign of recently healed flesh.
Draco shivered as Harry's hands trailed over the sensitive skin, taking care not to apply too much pressure to the still-tender wounds. Confident Draco's torso had been properly healed, Harry unbuckled his trousers, intent on inspecting every centimeter of Draco's creamy flesh.
"Harry," Draco protested, pushing at Harry's questing hands as they moved toward the waistband of his boxers.
"Potions splash, Draco," Harry said firmly, pushing the trousers and pants over Draco's arse and urging the blond to step out of the fabric. He continued his exploration of Draco's arse and legs until he was satisfied he hadn't been further injured.
"That was … thorough," Draco murmured, turning back around to face Harry. His erection nudged against Harry's cheek, startling a laugh out of the dark-haired man.
"It isn't that uncommon for men to become aroused during a Healer's examination," Harry said, smirking as he looked up at his husband's face.
"Do you have personal experience with that, Healer Potter?" Draco growled, his grey eyes darkening with jealousy.
"It's Trainee-Healer Potter, and no, I don't. But Healer Andrews assures us it will happen sooner or later," Harry answered, grinning at the possessive way Draco was looking at him. "We've been trained on how to deal with it."
Draco growled again, his flushed cock falling heavily against Harry's cheek again when it twitched again. Harry gave into temptation, turning his head so he could wrap his lips around Draco's erection. Long fingers came up to knead the blond's balls, eliciting a moan from Draco.
"Found a bit I hadn't inspected," Harry said as he released Draco's cock, which was now bright red and shiny with saliva. Harry's own erection pulsed in his trousers at the sight, pushing uncomfortably against the restrictive fabric.
"You'd better not use that technique with your patients, Trainee-Healer Potter," Draco snarled, the way looked at Harry making the other man shudder in anticipation.
"I haven't found it in the official manual of examination techniques, no," Harry said, laughing when Draco pulled him to his feet to claim his mouth in a kiss so violent his lips were throbbing by the time he pulled away for air.
"See that you don't," Draco murmured, his hands fisting in Harry's clothes. He tugged at them, quickly undoing fastenings and shoving them out of the way.
"Your parents' dinner," Harry reminded him, groaning when Draco managed to wrest him out of his trousers, his cool palm closing around Harry's cock.
"We'll be fashionably late," Draco answered, latching onto Harry's neck and sucking hard. "I need a shower before we can go anyway. I smell like potions."
"You reek," Harry agreed, taking the sting out of the barb by nipping Draco's earlobe.
Harry nodded, following Draco into their en suite bathroom. He started the taps in the shower, careful not to let the water get to hot, mindful of Draco's newly healed skin, as the blond fetched the neutralizing soaps he used after potions accidents.
"Sexy," Harry teased as they stepped under the spray and Draco began to lather the foul-smelling soap over his skin.
"Idiot," Draco answered, leaning over for a kiss as Harry began to help rub the soap over his body, taking care to make sure all of Draco's skin was covered before letting the blond rinse off. The soap smelled horribly, but it prevented any further damage from ingredients that might have a delayed reaction. It was of Draco's own invention, but potions laboratories across the country were beginning to stock it for emergencies.
Harry laughed, kissing Draco again as he reached behind himself to grab the bergamot soap Draco usually used. Now that all remnants of the botched potion had been removed it was safe for him to wash with normal soap, and he groaned as Harry kneaded his fingers across the soap-slicked skin of his back, working out the kinks from the long week. This was part of their normal Saturday afternoon routine – massaging each other in the shower as they washed away the stresses of the week.
They stood together under the water, both of them running their hands over each other's bodies, their touches teasing at first and then gaining urgency as they became more aroused. Harry mewled as Draco slipped two soaped fingers in his arse, pillowing his head against his arm as he leaned forward against the shower wall to give him freer access.
They were short on time and shorter on patience, so Draco didn't waste any time grabbing the bottle of lube they kept in the shower for just this purpose and generously coating his fingers, using them to slick Harry's entrance before pushing them inside again and stroking his channel, readying it for his cock. Harry pushed back against the intrusion, making Draco laugh at his eagerness. He wrapped his lubed hand around his own cock, hissing at the sensation as he coated himself. Harry's muffled laugh made him growl, and Draco pushed forward, breaching the ring of tight muscle and shoving all the way inside, satisfied at the way Harry's laugh had turned into a gasp and then a groan.
In motions born of long practice, Draco angled himself so his cock would sweep over Harry's prostate on nearly every stroke, making the other man whimper as his orgasm built quickly. His hand still slick with lube, Draco reached around, his knuckles brushing against the cold tile wall as he stroked Harry's cock in time with his strokes. What seemed only moments later they were both coming, Harry first and then Draco closely afterward, driven over the edge by the way Harry's channel contracted around him.
"Definitely all healed," Harry panted, grimacing when Draco pulled out. He turned, rinsing the come off his stomach in the now-tepid stream of water.
"Is that your professional opinion, Trainee-Healer Potter?" Draco asked, hurrying through the rest of his shower now that they were undeniably late for his parents' dinner. He squinted at Harry through the haze of lather as he washed his hair, laughing at the rude gesture his husband shot him.
"Hannah!" Blaise shouted, clenching his teeth and taking a deep breath to calm down. The sight of Hannah in the kitchen – again – with a smoking pot set him on edge. "What are you doing? We have house-elves for this sort of thing. You don't need to cook."
Hannah sniffled, looking at the burnt remains of the risotto she'd been trying to make for dinner. Blaise's mother was coming, and it was her first visit to their new home. The fact that she was bringing her current – and according to her, her last – husband with her whom Hannah had met only once, at their wedding a few weeks earlier only added to her stress.
"I wanted to make something myself," she said, looking so dejected that Blaise didn't have the heart to scold her for scaring the elves again. They'd run to him in a panic when whatever she'd been overseeing on the range top burst into flame, the third time he'd been forced to intervene between her and the house-elves over domestic matters that week. "I wanted to show them I'm a good wife."
"Hannie," he said, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and holding her close. "You're a fabulous wife. But you're a horrible cook. Stay out of the kitchen, cara."
Hannah managed a watery laugh, muffled against his chest. Thoughts of her most recent culinary failure fled when Blaise lifted her head tenderly, his warm lips covering hers. The elves immediately swooped in to set the kitchen to rights as the couple moved to the bedroom, and it wasn't until much, much later that Hannah thought about her mother-in-law's impending visit again.
Luna giggled along with the school children as she watched Seamus hop out of the cottage in a large Muggle bunny suit. He'd been teaching his students about Muggle traditions, so they'd decided to have an Easter egg hunt to cap off the section, complete with Seamus – Mr. F to his students – dressed as the Easter Bunny.
She and the Irishman had been dating since the day after Harry and Draco's housewarming party. Cati had chastised him for drinking at the party, and then again for being so foolhardy as to forget something as important as kissing Luna. Both Seamus and Luna had been scarlet by the end of her lecture, but they were able to talk things through once the mortification had passed. That had been months ago, and they'd settled into a comfortable routine since then, with Seamus practically living in Luna's cottage and Luna helping him with his lesson plans and grading in the evenings as they sat before the warm fire snuggled together.
Harry and Draco, whom Luna had summoned for the event, stood with her at the edge of the field, laughing at their struggling friend. It was obviously harder to walk in the costume than Seamus had anticipated, as evidenced by the way he continually tripped over rocks and once even a bench as he made his way toward the field they'd designated for the hunt.
"Someone spell the eye holes bigger," Harry whispered, laughing when Draco did just that, scaring Seamus badly when he could suddenly see.
"Alright, alright!" Seamus called out, nodding gratefully to Luna when she hit him with a Sonorus. Line up with your age group and get ready to begin!"
Thirty students varying in age from four to ten scrambled to take their places. Each was carrying a basket they'd decorated themselves to collect the eggs the older students had Charmed for them. Like the Muggle variety, the eggs opened to reveal candies or small prizes; unlike the Muggle sort, the prizes were actually tucked away inside real eggs Seamus and the other teachers had taught the students how to Transfigure.
He nodded at the assembled students, drawing a laugh from them when his large white ears flopped into his face.
"On your mark," he yelled, raising his hands. "Get set, go!"
There was a blur of motion and sound as the children eagerly darted into the field where the eggs were hidden. Those laid out for the younger students were simply sitting in the grass or on low branches in bushes and trees, but the older children's were hidden with Masking Spells that they had to undo before finding their prize, ensuring everyone was challenged at their own skill level.
Luna watched the children swarm the field, so proud that this had been Seamus' idea. He'd brought a new perspective to the school the sanctuary ran, and the other teachers had been surprisingly open to the changes he proposed, like adding Muggle Studies and Potions classes. The school was nowhere near the caliber of Europe's magical academies like Durmstrang, Beauxbatons or Hogwarts, but he wanted to ensure that the children who were unable to leave the protection of the sanctuary to attend those schools still got a decent education.
She shrieked when furry hands closed around her waist, so startled for a moment that she didn't realize Seamus had snuck up on her in his bunny costume. Harry and Draco had obviously watched his approach, judging from the smirks on their faces as they watched her struggle to regain her breath.
"Aren't you jealous of all the fun they're having?" Seamus asked, stealing a kiss from her when her attention drifted to the giggling children.
"A bit," she said, tugging on his long rabbit ears. Seamus reached into the pocket of the oversized polka-dot trousers that covered the bunny suit and drew out a brightly colored egg.
"For you," he said, placing it in her palm.
Luna stared at the magenta egg for a moment before turning a stern look on him.
"Seamus Finnigan, did you steal this egg from those darling children?"
Seamus laughed, curling her fingers around the egg when she tried to give it back.
"I didn't. I made this one just for you," he said, his eyes sparkling as hers narrowed in confusion.
She didn't notice that both Harry and Draco were staring at them intently, or that they had attracted the attention of Cati, Aislin and Fiona, who were a bit further down the field. All eyes were riveted on the couple as Luna cracked open the egg, her startled gasp audible even to those a few yards away.
"Luna Lovegood, will you marry me?"
Luna's fingers trembled as they reached inside the egg. Instead of the candy or trinket she'd been expecting, it held a delicate sapphire and diamond ring set in white gold.
"It's a triquetra," Seamus explained, pulling the bunny mask off so he could look at her properly. It's an ancient Celtic symbol that represents a trinity – like our past, present and future. It was one of the first magical runes," he added almost shyly. It had seemed like a stellar idea when Harry and Draco had helped him design it, but he was suddenly unsure.
The main focus of the ring were four triangular diamonds woven together with a thin band of brilliant blue sapphire that formed the actual triquetra. Luna stroked the face of the ring, her finger sliding along the sparkling stones.
"The diamonds are for protection and the sapphire promotes mental clarity," he continued, worried at her silence. "I can have something else made for you if you don't like it. I just thought it would –"
"Shh!" Luna chided him, frowning slightly.
Seamus stopped babbling, his heart hammering in his chest, his mind racing. She hated it. She hated him. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. She was supposed to be ecstatic about the proposal and in love with the ring. He knew she was. Wasn't she?
"Don't ruin my moment," she said, a dreamy smile transforming her face as she lifted the ring out of the egg and slipped it on her finger. She stood silently, her hand held out to admire the distinctive design as it caught the early afternoon sun.
"How?" she asked finally, a bewildered smile on her face as she looked up at Seamus.
"Draco, really," Seamus said, relief coursing through him. "I had a design in mind, but he –"
"No," Luna interrupted, her tone urgent. "How? How did you manage to surprise me?"
Seamus paused, a hot blush creeping up from underneath his collar as he flinched under her stare.
"Seers can't See themselves," he offered lamely, wrinkling his nose when she rolled her eyes and planted her hands on her hips.
"I would have Seen you and Draco plotting this. There was no way you could have had outside help without me Seeing it. I've been looking for this."
Seamus blinked in surprise, feeling utterly bemused. She'd been looking for a proposal? Trying to get around the natural limitations to See their future? He grinned, shrugging boyishly. He heard Draco stifling a laugh nearby.
"ImayhaveObliviatedyouafteryouhadavisionaboutit," he said, his cheeks darkening with the full heat of his blush.
"Seamus Finnigan!" she shrieked, drawing the scrutiny of all of their curious onlookers and more laughter from Draco. "You Obliviated me?"
Seamus studied her for a moment, trying to gauge how upset she was. He had done a horrible thing, but it had been for a good reason.
"Er, I didn't want to ruin your moment?" he said with a grimace, inching away from her. When she reached for her wand he took off running, ignoring the shouts of laughter from Harry and Draco.
Cati watched in amusement as her future granddaughter-in-law chased her grandson around the field, both of them laughing hysterically as he tripped over his large bunny feet, tackling her as well when he fell. They stayed in a heap on the ground, ignoring the children swarming around them and the applauding adults as they kissed.
Everything was as it should be, she noted with satisfaction. She smiled to herself, already planning the tiny blankets and sweaters she would knit for their layette. There had been snow on the ground in her vision, which meant she'd have a great-grandbabe by next winter.
– The end –