I just know that many of my Grass and Aiji fans are going to murder me... But! It's a One-shot! I still havetime to at least upload another Grass chapter before September starts!
Anyway, this piece is mostly experimental. Not only is this my first one-shot, but it's also my first dabble in the Romance genre. At least, my first in the sense that there is a main couple. I think I did a pretty good job with it...
Not to spoil anything, but Harry's job-life has been highly influenced by NCIS, including the team. As such, the interrogation scene and the blackmail bit was pretty much paraphrased or (retold by almost verbatim with a few changes) NCIS episodes. So I take no credit for that. Yes, I'm a big NCIS fan, who doesn't love Mark Harmon?
Yes, I know, Harry went with the Aurors, but I personally think that he'd thrive more as a Hit-Wizard instead of only chasing Dark Wizards, since description of what that is changes with the times.
The scenes will skip between relatively little time passing between them and a long time, so hopefully, the vignettes won't be too confusing.
This is not Ginny-bashing. I think that her character has potential, only if she isn't seen as Harry's designated girl. If it seems as though I am bashing her, that was not my intention. Though she might come off as distant, since this Harry's life we're looking at, not hers. And, I'll admit, I had a bit of difficulties writing her... Let's see how it turns out.
I will warn everyone, again, that this is slash. Two men in a relationship. There will be a lemon between said men.
Aside from the small disclaimer that Harry Potter and the NCIS references do not belong to me, I don't think there is anything else to be said.
Harry buried his face to the hard muscles. The sunlight was trying to tease him awake from the badly positioned (as far as morning-haters were concerned) window and Harry was having none of it. He'd been chasing Mulciber and Jugson around the Argentinean country-side for the past three days and had only captured them with his team at midnight last night… or was it today? Fuck it, Harry couldn't bring himself to care about the technicalities, he'd already over-used his brain cells a few hours ago when he filled the paperwork. It was just lucky that Jugson was an arrogant idiot; otherwise Mulciber would've left Argentina, changed his name and background, and started over elsewhere before the Aurors could've made it to the hideout. For 71-year-old, Mulciber was pretty damn quick on his feet.
"Harry," calloused fingers caressed the back of his neck, "I know you're tired, but I have to get up soon."
Harry just cuddled closer to the firm body. Nuh uh, no way was he leaving the nice comfy bed and his life-size teddy-bear. After all of the wild-goose chases, the muggle victims and corpses left in Judson and Mulciber's wake, and dealing with the affronted Argentinean Ministry, Harry deserved a nice long R&R.
"Come on, love," this time there was a rumble on the chest Harry's head was leaning on, probably from laughter, "Just let me get out of bed and you can continue sleeping to your heart's content."
Harry grumbled and tightened his hold on his lover. "'s Saturday, lemme sleep."
"Harry, I hate to break it to you, but it's Friday."
'Friday. Friday equals weekday. Weekday equals work. Quidditch is not in season, so work for Quidditch equals practice. Practice equals… working at 6:30!?'
Harry bolted upright with a yell, "What the Hell are you still doing here?! You're going to be late!"
"Now he gets it," Harry ignored that remark.
"Oh, buggering shit, Ginny! I forgot to call her! She must be having kneazles right about now and James and Al have school in a few hours—"
"Harry!" his shoulders were grabbed, "Calm down. It's probably a good thing you didn't call her last night. In case you've forgotten, you came here at 'round two in the morning. Not that I minded the company—"
"Sorry 'bout that," Harry sighed, "Yours was the closest from the Ministry and I couldn't—"
"You were dead on your feet, I know. That's why I didn't mind the commotion even though I have practice early in the morning." Pause. "Don't expect me to be so nice next time, though."
"I should go," Harry blinked at his naked state but didn't complain. He wouldn't have been comfortable sleeping in his robes with his sheathed blades strapped on his back. At least his wand was still in its arm-holster, right where it belonged.
"Relax," black hair was tucked behinds his ears, "You can still sleep the day away. I'll fire-call her and let her know you're alright."
"No, it's fine," Harry yawned but forced his eyes to stay open, "Just give me a lot of espressos and I'll be fine."
"You do realize you're well on your way to becoming an addict?"
"At least it's just coffee instead of nicotine, alcohol, or some of the other illegal substances," Harry snarked while putting on his undershirt and boxers.
"Point," soft chuckles graced Harry's ears. "Still sure you won't take me up on my offer?"
"Nah," Harry yawned, "It's better if she sees me in person. Not that she doesn't trust you, it's just that seeing something and hearing it…" he let the statement drop, "Besides, I want to take the boys to school and spend time with Lily."
"Even though you're barely coherent and almost asleep on your feet?"
Harry rolled his eyes, "She's a perfectly quiet tot, you know."
"If you say so," Harry's lover shrugged on his Quidditch clothes. "Just in case, you are going to ask your mother-in-law for help, right?"
"Yes, daddy," Harry rolled his eyes, "You know that Molly will all but demand that as soon as she'll see me."
"With good judgment."
"Shut up, you wouldn't resemble a Veela with maximum allure if you had to chase those two scumbags for three days straight," Harry debated with himself over putting on his shirt or not. The chain-mail with protection charms wasn't heavy thanks to the feather-weight charms on it, but it still forced him to have a straight posture when it was on. Shrugging, he slipped it on.
"Hence why I'm telling you to take the day off, just like your boss must have ordered you to if he knows what's good for him."
"He did," Harry finished dressing and had his robe under his arm. "And I'm going to spend said day off with my kids."
"I take it I won't expect you tonight?" his lover also finished dressing and headed to the dinning room where the fireplace was located.
"I'll be too tired to even think about sex," Harry mumbled.
"Good, you should rest up today and tomorrow," his lover grabbed Harry's arm with one hand and the floo powder with the other.
"Harry, love, you and floo don't have a good communicating relationship when you're cognizant. If I let you go alone, you'll end up in Tanzania or something."
"Thanks," Harry drawled, "Your vote of confidence does wonders for my ego."
"You're welcome, now shut your mouth before you inhale anything," before Harry could respond, his lover had already stepped into the fireplace and called out, "Fir House!"
It didn't take long before Harry was stumbling out and dropping everything in his hands, only his lover's supporting arm kept him from kissing the floor.
"Harry!" a blur of red crushed his ribcage. "You're okay! When did you get back? What happened to you, you look like the living death!"
Harry opened his mouth but a yawn escaped his mouth rather than words. His lover snorted, "Wonder Boy here stumbled to my humble abode at two o'clock in the morning barely awake. I was going to let him sleep back at my place, but he insisted."
"Harry," Ginny sighed in exasperation, "A floo-call would've sufficed. You've barely gotten three hours of sleep."
"Just give me coffee and a Pepper-Up and I'll be fine," Harry rolled his eyes, "I'm fine enough to take James to school."
"That's not for a few more hours. Besides, I'm willing to bet there's been arrangements made."
"McLaggen has a point," Ginny said, "Mum's coming over to take him there, so you can still sleep in."
"Gin," Harry said, "I haven't spent any time with the kids this week."
"Alright, but mum's Apparating."
"Deal," Harry didn't think he could properly Apparate to the alley close to the Leaky Cauldron without giving himself away to muggles in his state of mind.
Cormac rolled his eyes, "At least use the time to sleep, Harry," Cormac pecked Harry's lips before he floo'ed to the Falmouth Falcons' training stadium.
Ginny gave him a look before Harry said, "What?"
"I hate to admit it, but he's got a point."
"I thought you hated his 'Must-Order-Everyone-Around-Even-At-Inconvenient-Times attitude'," Harry pointed out. Ginny still held a slight grudge over the Gryffindor loss in her fifth year thanks to Cormac. Likewise, Cormac still smarted over the Confoundus that made him lose at the tryouts.
"But if it helps you take better care of yourself, I'll put up with it," Ginny grimaced, "Remind me to wash my mouth out with soap."
"Done," Harry grinned, "Have a good one."
She hugged him back, "Thanks, you too," then she stepped into the floo and left for the Holyhead Harpies' training stadium.
Harry gathered his robe and went upstairs to his bedroom.
They had thought that they were perfect for each other. That's how it worked, wasn't it? Boy meets Girl. Boy saves Girl. Girl becomes Boy's perfect woman. Girl waits for Boy to finish his quest. Boy waits for Girl to kick off her Quidditch career. Girl waits for Boy to establish himself as a father figure to his godson. They get married, spawn, and live Happily Ever After ™.
Harry supposed that the pressure to be the favorite sweethearts from the media, their friends, their families, and each other caused them to get married before they even properly dated. At the time, Harry hadn't really thought that there was another option, he had the perfect girl, the one who waited for him and vice-versa, willing to marry him and she liked him as 'just Harry,' whoever he was. It turned out that waiting had been the easy part. Those romance novels so did not know what they were spouting.
Teddy had been six when Harry married Ginny. Before then, he was mostly raised by his nana Andromeda and papa Harry. Everyone assumed that Ginny would be the perfect mother. Afterall, she was Molly Weasley's daughter; she resembled her mother in looks, temperament, and the lung department… How could Ginevra Weasley be anything less than the perfect mum?
It had surprised many, Ginny included, when it was discovered that Harry was the more parental one of the couple. Ginny liked kids just fine, she just preferred to return them to the responsible parents at the end of the day.
Ginny's friends had rallied around her and said, "That's only because he's not your kid. If you have one with him, all will be well!"
Ginny really should have thought more about what that "good advice" implied about adoption, or even what it implied about her as a person. Regardless, she had gotten pregnant not even two months into her new marriage.
It hadn't been that bad. Molly and Andromeda would always visit and primarily take care of Teddy while making sure that Ginny was comfortable. Teddy had been going to muggle elementary school at the time, so Ginny's mornings and part of the afternoons were free while Harry worked.
When James was born, Ginny had felt restless, she wanted to get back to work. Harry had been, for the most part, the one that changed James, fed him (with Ginny's magically extracted breast-milk), burped him, held him, and played with him. Teddy was not forgotten either, as Harry always took him to school, helped him with his homework when he could, read him bedtime stories, went to every game of Teddy's when he was free, the whole gamut. Whenever Harry was at work, Molly and Andromeda took care of James and Teddy. In essence, James, like Teddy, was being raised by his nanas. Although Harry made sure to keep his weekends free to spend time with his kids.
Ginny played with them and cleaned up after them, but it was obvious that she preferred being on her broom practicing drills or hanging out with her friends in Rectal Alley. Harry didn't mind being the primary parental figure, he loved his duties as a parent.
It didn't take long before the cracks became noticeable. By the time their first year as a married couple passed, Harry and Ginny were distressed to find out that they weren't working out.
Sure, they both liked Quidditch, they both had similar views when it came to politics (with some differences), they were both great duelists, they both loved each other, but nothing. There wasn't a spark between them. It became bad enough that they could watch each other with other single people and not feel a thing.
At first, they had thought it was a lack of a sex life at fault. Ginny had been by then a big-shot player for the Harpies and constantly on demand by the team and public. Meanwhile, Harry had been promoted as the head of an investigation team. Not to mention that the boys had Harry's entire focus on them when he was at home while Ginny went out with her friends. They had been distant and one way to cure it was sex. Hence, Albus Severus was conceived.
It was sometime between her second and third trimester that Ginny found out that she learned more about Harry during her marriage than she ever had before. For example, Harry cleaned a place spotless if he was anxious about something, but he also couldn't stand to see an immaculate lawn or room. He read muggle and magical novels, but they had to be fiction, preferably epic or something called sci-fi. His favorite type of novel were those that had Alternate Universes, such as The Handmaid's Tale. He hated being cold, so much so that he put up warming charms all over the house at the first sign of a breeze. He might have been pants at Potions, but he was an excellent cook. Of course the kitchen had to be cleaned from top to bottom afterwards, but the end results were worth it.
These things, little things that made Harry who he was, were things that she never bothered to know about. Ginny had felt ashamed, she'd been in the same House, sod that, he'd been living in her house for how long?
But then she noted that Harry also had the same problem. He hadn't known that Ginny's favorite musician was Blodwyn Bludd or that she despised any and all domestic chores, particularly because her mum forced her to do a lot of them because she was the only girl. She was also, surprisingly, a very picky eater as her mum had always cooked her favorite dishes. She also loved make-up and pretty dresses, regardless of what the female Quidditch player stereotype said.
Really, it was baffling how two people could live in the same house without knowing anything else besides the superficial information.
This time, they tried to get to know the real Harry and Ginny, not the ideals they both fell in love with.
They discovered that they were not compatible as a couple at all. Ginny, despite what she convinced herself of, wanted nothing more than to go out, spend time with friends, live up her life, and go out with her husband on dates without the kids. Harry, on the other hand, wanted the whole family to be together at all times. He planned everything around his family, not just the immediate one either, always taking his kids to picnics or games or just being with them. By now, everyone on his team, including his boss, knew that the only way they could call Harry in on the weekend was if it was an emergency. Ginny, by contrast, was only too happy to leave the home for either work or play at any time.
They ended up acting more like friends that lived together rather than a real couple and so the illusion was broken.
Neither Ginny nor Harry could say that they were heartbroken. The person they had fallen in love with had never existed, rather, it was a flat caricature from a rose-scented dream.
Albus had been around five months old when Ginny, with fear shining in her eyes but resolved to go through with it, asked Harry for a divorce.
They had debated and rowed about it for a week. Thank Merlin for Molly and Andromeda, who with understanding eyes, had taken the boys to the Burrow for a week-long visit. It had taken Harry long hours of yelling, pleading, and cajoling, but he'd gotten Ginny to reconsider. It wasn't so much that he wanted to stay trapped in a romantically loveless-marriage. Nor was he particularly bothered about what the media would say about him, after his fifth year, Harry doubted the Daily Prophet could do worse. Unless if they named him the next Dark Lord, but he doubted they could do that with a divorce.
No, what drove Harry were his children. Already, they would be hounded for being the Chosen One's sons (or in Teddy's case, the Chosen One's godson and a werewolf's son, among other things). They didn't need the added pressure of divorced parents.
Ginny had agreed with the condition that they could see other people.
Harry's musings were interrupted by the timer that indicated his jacket potatoes were done boiling. He opened the oven and sniffed. They smelled about right, Harry nodded to himself as he took them out of the oven.
He opened James' lunch box and added two of the aluminum covered potatoes in there. It was probably a bit much, considering that it already had a big piece of Molly's famous chicken and ham pie along with an apple and orange juice… but, James was a growing boy and he had a football game tomorrow.
He added two more to Albus' lunch box, which was packed with two big corn beef sandwiches with a banana and chocolate milk. Molly always made the boys their separate favorites.
Harry glanced at the clock and noted that it was close to eight. Time to wake the boys up, school was going to start soon. He'd have to be quiet not wake Lily, though. He didn't want to wake her up early when she didn't have school.
He tiptoed to the shared bedroom. Neither Lily nor Albus could stand to sleep in a bedroom alone and James hadn't minded sharing. Teddy had gotten his own room by the time he was twelve and wanted his own private space.
He slowly went up to James first, making sure not to step on any of the cluttered toys, and started shaking his son awake, "James," he whispered, "wake up Jamie, it's time for school."
James rolled over grumbling, "don' wanna."
"Come on," Harry smiled, "You're going to be late."
James grunted and buried his face on his pillow.
"So that's how it's going to be?" Harry grinned, "Then I suppose you don't want some freshly made apple pie for breakfast?"
"Wha~" James cracked a brown eye open and yelled, "DAD!"
It simultaneously woke Lily and Albus, "DADDY!"
Harry was met with three kids hugging his middle, back, and neck. It was good to be home.
"When'd you get back?" Lily hung from his neck.
"Really, really early this morning," Harry smiled.
"How early?" Albus, the night owl in the making, wriggled his nose.
"Earlier than mum leaving for work early," Harry said.
"Yuck!" Albus stuck his tongue out.
"So, so?" James bounced on his bed, "Didja catch the bad guys? Didja?"
"Yep," Harry held onto James to stop the bouncing, "They were tough to find but we caught them in the end."
"Yay!" James whooped, "I knew you would!"
"Me too! Me too!" Albus hugged his dad tighter.
"You're a hero, daddy!" Lily crowed.
Harry smiled brightly as he held his greatest treasures close to himself. This was why he got up in the morning and reported to the Ministry for another day of 'crime-fighting.' This was why, even when the System allowed unsavory individuals to run free, Harry broke whatever rules or laws were necessary to ship them to Azkaban.
"Come on, you lot. If we don't eat breakfast now, we'll be late," Harry said after a brief glance at the clock.
"Yay! Apple pie, apple pie is all mine, apple pie," James sang as he rushed to the bathroom.
"For anyone who's interested," Harry said with a wan smile, "There's also red velvet cupcakes and jam doughnuts."
"Homemade?" Lily breathed.
"Homemade," Harry nodded.
Lily and Albus looked at each other before pounding on their shared bathroom door, yelling at James to hurry up.
Harry chuckled under his breath as he arranged Lily and Albus' clothes for the day. James insisted on doing it himself since he was 'a big boy now.'
The wards informed him that someone entered Fir House. Molly.
Harry went down the stairs to greet the closest thing he ever had to a mother, "Harry-dear!" and was met with another Weasley bear-hug.
"Hey Molly," Harry managed to choke out.
"Why are you awake?" Molly chided, "Ginny told me you barely slept a wink."
"Molly, I wanted to take the boys to school," Harry said.
"You could have slept for three hours at least," Molly glanced at the kitchen, "I'm surprised you didn't cut yourself cooking."
"You know I would've been even more tired if I took a long nap," Harry shrugged.
"Nana!" James bounded down in his adorable preschool blue robe. "Guess what? Dad's home!"
"So I see, love," Molly smiled at her grandson. "Where are your brother and sister?"
"Still changing," James inched closer to the apple pie.
"James," Harry said. That was all he needed.
"Don't eat at the table until everyone's been served," James replied with a sheepish smile.
"Good," Harry kissed his forehead, "Now, I'm going to help dress Lil and Al, you stay down here with nana Molly, okay?"
"Uh huh," James then grabbed Harry's sleeve, "You're still coming tomorrow, right?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," and he had let his boss know, civilly might he add, that the apocalypse had better be happening if they called him this weekend.
"You're the best, dad!" James hugged his dad.
Harry hugged him back and then left upstairs to help Albus battle the evil buttons and aid Lily in her quest to pull her dress over her head.
Harry was fighting a valiant battle against sleep… and losing. James and Albus were both at school in London while Lily was running around the house playing with her daddy.
"Lily, dearest," Molly interrupted her only granddaughter from beating her father at Limbo for the nth time in a row, "Why don't we go visit Hugo? He's been asking about when you would visit."
Lily's eyes shined with excitement at the thought of seeing her best friend, but then they flickered to her dad and she hesitated. "It's alright, love, I've been wanting to visit as well," Harry managed to grin without looking too tired.
"Yay!" Lily skipped off to get her coat, it was a bit cold out but she was happy. Cold weather meant that Yule was coming, and that meant big brother Teddy was coming home and James, Albus, Rose and the rest of her cousins didn't have school.
"Thanks," Harry yawned.
"No problem," Molly smiled, "Don't even think about cooking—"
Harry waved his wand towards the kitchen. Plates filled with Yorkshire pudding, Cornish pasties, steaks with mashed potatoes, and roast chicken on warming charms came floating from the kitchen. Harry shrugged at Molly's incredulous look, "Had nothing else to do while waiting to wake the kids."
"Of course," Molly answered feebly. Even after all the years she'd known him, Harry could still amaze her. "Don't you think you did a bit too much?"
"Ron and Hermione can have half the leftovers," Harry shrugged, "We'll eat the rest of it at dinner."
Molly nodded while Harry shrank the food and put it inside a bag. Lily came bounding down in her white winter coat, her purple dress with galloping unicorns underneath it visible. "Well don't you look pretty, little flower?" Harry buttoned up her coat and made sure she had her mittens on. Just because they weren't going to stay out long didn't mean that Lily couldn't catch a cold in this weather.
"Of course I do," Lily beamed, "I'm your daughter."
Harry kissed her forehead while ignoring Molly's almost invisible flinch. Lily was his daughter in everything that mattered, blood was a non-issue. "That you are, Unicorn Princess. Now come, our carriage awaits," he mock-bowed while Lily giggled.
"Oh, alright, the passage that makes us go through a little tube awaits us," Harry stuck his tongue out, "But the carriage part sounds better."
Lily was a bundle of giggles while they left hand-in-hand to the front door with Molly in tow. Molly took Harry's hand and Apparated them to Zinnia Cottage.
Ron tried not to laugh as Harry slept like a rock even with all the racket Lily and Hugo were making while playing Hide and Seek. He just considered himself lucky that there wasn't snow outside to play with, otherwise, he'd have to contend with two rambunctious four-year-olds pelting him with snowballs without backup.
Molly and Andromeda shook their heads fondly at Hugo's triumphant exclamation of "Found you!" followed by Lily's "No fair!"
Andromeda chuckled with Molly and they waited for Lily to start counting at the top of her lungs.
The conscious adults started to fidget at the silence. It wasn't the one where the kids were trying to be quiet, but rather one were planning something.
"Nana Molly, nana Andy," Lily's head poked from the door.
Oh, spirits, she was giving them the eyes. The big brown puppy-dog eyes of doom.
"Dad, Uncle Harry," Hugo followed his best friend's action from the other side of the door.
Spirits, now they were adding the big blue puppy-dog eyes of doom.
"We were wondering," Lily said, "Could you all play with us?"
"We need more players," Hugo nodded.
By Merlin, the two redheads were too cute for words.
"Oh," Andromeda said, playing along, "I don't know, is the game too hard for us?"
"Nuh uh," Lily shook her head, "It's real easy and fun."
"Uh huh, Granny Bea and Grandpa Gerry taught us," Hugo said.
A muggle game then, since Hermione's parents didn't know any wizarding children's games.
"What's the game?" Ron grinned.
"Duck, duck, goose!" Lily and Hugo crowed.
Molly and Ron had looks of genuine confusion but Andromeda humored the kids by putting on a puzzled expression on her face, "Really? Sounds awfully hard, why don't you teach us?"
Lily and Hugo beamed and made their way to the adults. When Lily was about to reach for Harry, Ron said, "Dad's taking a nap, Lil."
"Oh?" she cocked her head to the side, "Why?"
"Because he didn't sleep last night, so he has to make it up by taking a nap," Ron said.
"Why?" Hugo was curious.
"Because the bad men kept him up. They just wouldn't let themselves be captured," Ron allowed himself to be led by his son.
Lily and Hugo nodded as though that made sense. Before they could ponder on it, Ron said, "So, about this duck game?"
Lily and Hugo ran off to the living room and told the adults to sit on the floor.
Ron, Molly, and Andromeda shared smiles. They'd wake Harry up for lunch.
Harry was herding his family to Vicky Park. By now, Harry had gone to many children's football games at this park that he could call it Vicky like the locals instead of Victoria. James was bouncing in excitement, his bag almost falling from his jittery hands. Albus was hanging around the back, he preferred drawing over sports but he liked going to Vicky Park for any reason. Lily just wanted to see the herd of deer and goats after the game.
Ginny was, for some odd reason, nervous. Harry leaned close to her, "What's wrong?"
"Um," Ginny bit her lip, "You remember that muggle bloke I had dessert with last week?"
"Not really, no," Harry raised an eyebrow, "Why? Did you invite him?"
"No," Ginny looked at Harry as though he was barmy, "No, it's just, I think, not too sure mind you, that he might be one of the parents…" she trailed off.
"Oh," Harry said.
"Something wrong, dad, mum?" Albus looked at them. Lily and James also looked up.
"No, nothing," Ginny smiled nervously, "I think I just know one of the parents. Roster, you know."
"But mum," Albus frowned, "You don't work with muggles."
"You can meet people outside the job, Al," Harry said, "I meet lots of muggles whenever I take my team out for lunch."
Oh, bless Harry and his peace-keeping skills. And his child-rearing skills, period.
Albus merely nodded and continued walking. James and Lily did the same.
"He has a wife," Ginny whispered, "She doesn't know so I don't think he'll make a scene."
"So long as the kids don't—" Harry didn't finish his sentence as he spotted a tall, hard body coupled with wiry light brown hair.
Ginny followed his gaze and resisted the urge to moan.
"Morning, Harry," Cormac called out.
"Cormac," Harry said, "What are you doing here?"
"Checking to see if you've actually slept yesterday," Cormac peered at him and nodded in satisfaction when he noted that Harry looked more well-rested than yesterday.
"Cormac," Harry groaned, "I'm not stupid, you know."
"No, but when it comes to your personal health, your kids show more common sense than you do," Cormac said wryly.
"Yesterday?" Albus asked, "When did you see dad yesterday, Mr. Cormac?"
Cormac smiled and got down on his knees so he could talk to Albus somewhat face to face, "Really early in the morning when he was trying to stagger home half-asleep."
"Daddy," Albus crossed his arms, "Aren't you the one that's telling us sleep is important?"
"Daddy took a nap yesterday," Lily piped in.
"Then you helped dad home, right Mr. Cormac?" James concluded.
Cormac met Harry's eyes and smirked, "Yes, I couldn't let him use the floo alone. I'd feel guilty for weeks."
"Of course not," James declared, "otherwise, he'd end up in China!"
Harry gave James a mock-scowl, "My own son."
"The truth comes from children's mouths, Harry," Cormac laughed.
"So, so," James tugged at Cormac's polo shirt, "Are you gonna watch me play today?"
Cormac met Ginny and Harry's eyes hesitantly, "If that is alright?"
Ginny sighed, 'Might as well have all the lovers accounted for.' Though, to be precise, they'd need to call up other men to make that statement true. Harry had only been sleeping with McLaggen lately, while Ginny had one-night stands with faceless muggle men almost every day, not always necessarily during the night either.
"Sure, you can," Harry said after brief glance-conference with Ginny, "If you don't mind?"
Cormac smiled, "I'd love to."
James whooped as he all but raced to the meeting point with Albus and Lily chasing after him.
From the deer-caught-in-headlights glance he gave Ginny, Harry was able to safely deduce that Mr. Carl Randal was the man Ginny had dessert with. Harry did have to admit, the man was attractive with his chiseled jaw filled with dark facial hair and kind-seeming eyes (when they weren't popping out in abject horror).
Ginny avoided Randal's eyes and immediately found seats for herself and Albus and Lily. The plastic chairs were wobbly due the grass and the lumpy ground beneath them, but it was better than sitting on the ground.
Harry was fussing over James' apparel, making sure he was warm enough in his sports jumper and sweats but not too hot that a few laps would make him overheated. Cormac just perused him the one time before he said something to Harry. From the wink he gave James, Cormac deemed the outfit acceptable.
Harry and Cormac seated themselves next to Ginny while James went up to his teammates with a big grin on his face. Cormac turned to Harry, "I take it they won't be following the usual rules?"
"Nope," Harry smirked, "This is just an informal game for fun. If you want a real football game to scrutinize and criticize, you'll have to go to at least a secondary school, but I wouldn't recommend it."
"Ignoring the fact that I don't know a thing about football," Cormac wanly said, "I should hope that years of following a professional coach's orders have curbed my… aggressive Know-All tendencies."
Ginny snorted at that answer. Lily and Albus glanced at the three adults in confusion, "Inside joke," Harry chuckled. It was refreshing to be able to laugh about something that had once caused him painful mortification. Although, granted, getting brained really did hurt like a bitch.
"Hey, Harry!" Ron bellowed from a few meters away, slightly out of breath. Hermione and Andromeda followed with Rose and Hugo in hand.
"You made it," Harry grinned, "What took you so long?"
"Ron's sense of direction, as usual, leaves much to be desired," Andromeda said.
"It was a shortcut!" Ron insisted.
"But daddy," Rose said solemnly, "How can it be a shortcut when we're almost always late?"
"Thank heavens she has my brains," Hermione said with her best Anne Robinson impression.
Harry chuckled as he stood up and pulled up chairs for them, "Didn't you go to Zinnia Cottage to make sure they wouldn't get lost again?"
Andromeda pointed at Ron, "Don't underestimate his powers of getting lost, it should be a national weapon."
"What is this, pick on Ron day?" Ron mock-pouted.
"We'll stop picking on you when you stop getting lost at Vicky Park or any other park you've gone to hundreds of times," Hermione replied. Her eyes then spotted Cormac and she stiffened a bit. She, along with the immediate members of the Weasley family, knew about Harry's relationship with him, but why was he here?
Harry met her eyes, "Cormac decided to check up on me and is going to watch the game since he's here."
Hermione nodded and sat down on the proffered chair. She mentally shook her head, she wouldn't get involved, Harry was a big boy and knew what he was doing. Besides, repairing their world to something resembling a real democracy was taking up 83 percent of her time already. At least Harry wasn't being careless or irresponsible, Hermione's eyes flickered to Ginny but left it at that. She really had no right to judge, she chastised herself.
The game was filled with lively squeals, yells, and sometimes taunts. James was running around over his team's side, the opposing team's side, the center, everywhere there was to run within the game area. He kicked the ball to another boy and cheered at the goal. Always with him was his best friend Jason, who mostly kept James' ball-hogging to a minimum by yelling for him to pass the ball already.
Cormac and Ginny's inner professional athletes winced at the obviously badly played and sloppy game. No skill, no finesse, no game plans, nada. It was just a bunch of kids kicking the ball to see who could score a goal. But even so, the energy and joy the kids emanated pulled them in. It was heartwarming to see kids smiling so vibrantly over something as simple as a football game.
Soon, it was time for medals and trophies. At Cormac's raised an eyebrow, "It's for participation and effort," Harry said.
"Ah~" Cormac settled on grunting in understanding.
"Elitist," Harry taunted.
"I've just got standards, is all," Cormac said.
"It's a kids' game, not the World Cup," Harry said.
"I should hope not," Cormac quirked a grin.
Harry got off his seat and hugged James tight when he left his large circle of friends to reach his family.
"Dad, dad!" James yelled, "Didja see that last goal?! I so nailed that last one and Jason was awesome too! And, and…"
James continued to babble to his dad, later on his siblings, cousins, nana, aunt, and uncle who joined the group hug.
Cormac felt a warm smile tug at his lips.
"Harry, my good man," Will Griffiths, Jason's father, called out, "I see you brought the whole clan this time."
"Nope," Harry grinned, "There's still the grandparents and Ginny's four other brothers along with the spouses and kids left."
"That's not event counting the extended family," Ron mumbled.
Will laughed, "You know what I mean," Will glanced at James and Jason who were showing off their trophies to the younger kids, "Just to verify, you'll be dropping lil' James off at 'round seven?"
"Got it in one," Harry grinned, "Thanks Will."
"Don't mention it," Will laughed it off. "And you'll pick him at… was it two or three?"
"Two," Harry smiled, "But if you want to keep him longer…"
"Well," Will said, "Depends on how rowdy they'll be at night."
Albus, overhearing the conversation, turned to James, "Does that mean I can play with your action figures?"
James was about to say no but Harry's raised eyebrow made him change his mind, "You break it, you're getting me a new set."
"I won't break 'em!" Albus pouted.
"Negotiating prices at a young age," Will shook his head, "What's the world coming to?"
Harry snorted, "At least he's not renting his toys instead of sharing them."
Will guffawed, "That was Al?"
Albus blushed and kicked the ground. He still insisted that he should have kept the money, he'd rented his toys fair and square!
"He did?" Ron looked at Albus with pride, "Good job, kiddo! You'll go far in the world."
"Ron!" Hermione and Harry snapped.
Lily and Rose giggled while Hugo had a pensive look on his face.
"Did Lily gain a twin or is that her cousin?" Will smiled. Indeed, Lily and Rose were often mistaken as twins by strangers. By now, it'd turned into something of an inside joke.
"No," Rose said, "I'm still Rose!"
"Uh huh," Lily said, "How can you still make that mistake?"
"Maybe it's because you two make it so hard to tell you apart," Jason said.
It was true, Rose was wearing a pink dress with bunnies on it over a yellow coat while Lily wore a purple dress with butterflies on it over a white coat. Coupled with their red hair, brown eyes, freckled skin, and similar facial features and it was no wonder they were taken for twins.
"Heh," Will said with a friendly grin, "Guess one of your kids had to take after your wife."
Cormac noted Ginny's almost imperceptible twitch.
"Jamie and Al look like me so something had to give," Harry smiled.
Hermione almost jumped as her cellphone started to ring. She took it out and checked it, "Sorry, timer," she turned to Ron, "We should be meeting my parents soon."
Andromeda started gathering her things, "I'll go with you, might as well see if we can avoid any shortcuts."
The kids laughed at that while Ron blushed and grumbled. Harry smiled as James and Jason said their long goodbyes, as though James wasn't going to sleepover a few hours later. Hopefully, even if Jason didn't go to Hogwarts in four years, they'd still keep in touch like Teddy did with some of his muggle friends from Elementary school.
Cormac moaned as Harry tightened his thighs, thrusting his pelvis at Cormac's washboard abs with a frantic speed that warned of an impending climax. Cormac lifted Harry's hips for better access, losing the rhythm while thrusting his own penis between Harry's strong thighs, but he didn't care. It felt good, so good, Cormac bit Harry's neck and sucked, marking his territory. Harry could rail at him over leaving glaring marks all he wanted, Cormac didn't care, right now he just went with the feelings of rapture.
Harry cried out at the brief sharp pain on his neck before panting in pleasure. He sped up his thrusts, fingers clenching on broad shoulders, teeth biting his lower lip until it hurt, and Harry yelled his ecstasy to the heavens as he came. Cormac panted, keeping a white-knuckled grip on Harry's hips as he brought them forward and back, his oversensitive cock finding nirvana after one last thrust.
They both laid there, panting in satiated exhaustion. Harry found Cormac's lips and softly sucked his lower lip. Cormac tilted his head and explored Harry's mouth with his tongue lazily, anything more elaborate would have to wait.
They separated, nature demanding that oxygen filled their lungs. Harry cuddled to the wide chest, smiling as Cormac's heartbeat descended from a gallop to a slow trot. Cormac tangled his hand on Harry's hair, his inner Alpha-male preening at the red mark on Harry's neck. Even if no one else would see it, Cormac would still know of its presence.
"Shit," Harry murmured, "seven years."
Cormac lifted his head a bit to glance to his right and laughed. The mirror on the wall was shattered, again. "So that's, what? 98 years of bad luck?" Cormac teased. This was why Cormac kept his valuable objects in places he knew, without the shadow of a doubt, he wouldn't have sex in.
"Shut up," Harry took out his wand from its holster and muttered a Reparo. The mirror was as good as new, again. "You know I can't help it."
"I'll take that as a compliment," Cormac smirked, "Why I wasn't proclaimed a Sex God will remain a mystery."
"Your head's swelling," Harry said, "And I'm not talking about the nice one."
"I'm hurt Harry," Cormac softly bit Harry's shoulder, "You only want me for sex."
That had been true when they started this whole arrangement. Cormac and Harry had met at a muggle pub trying to pick up a partner for the night. It had been, to put it simply, quite a shock to find the other there.
"Do you have a biting fetish or something?" Harry dodged the statement.
"Is it my fault you're good enough to eat?" Cormac grinned lecherously.
"That was a bad pun," Harry laughed. He pecked Cormac's lips.
"So," Cormac drew circles on Harry's back, "When are you going back home?"
"Free time," Harry nuzzled Cormac's neck, "'Mione's parents are taking all the Weasley kids to the zoo, then they're going to see The Magic Flute at six. By my count, they should be getting home at say… nine-ish or so."
Cormac looked at Harry in horror, "I'm sorry, I must have heard wrong, did you just say all the Weasley kids?"
"Well, not all of them, just the ones from immediate family. Minus Teddy and Vicky, who're still at Hogwarts."
"That-that's how many kids?" Cormac squeaked.
"Let's see," Harry started counting with his fingers, "There's James, Albus, Lily, Rose, Hugo, Domi, Louis, Fred, Roxy, Lucy, and Molly. So that's a total of eleven kids."
Cormac just looked at the ceiling. Beatrice and Gerry Granger had just earned his undying respect.
"They're not the only adults," Harry laughed, "Molly, the older one that is, and Andromeda are coming along."
"Oh good," Cormac gulped, "I was about to ask what kind of flowers they wanted for their joint funeral."
Harry bit back some chuckles. George and Angelina had said something of a similar nature.
"Does that mean you can stay the rest of the day?" Cormac recovered quick enough, or maybe he pushed aside the terrifying thought of watching eleven kids at the same time.
"Mm hm," Harry nestled closer, "I'm under orders to relax all day, whatever definition I wish to use. 'Mione too for that matter."
"That bad?" Cormac's caressing hand started rubbing Harry's back.
"If by bad you mean that idiots won't let me do my job; 'conservatists' still won't listen to 'Mione's bills for House-Elf, Giant, and Werewolf rights no matter how many laws she researches or how much political and media pull I use; rich-bastards bribe greedy-bastards for a getaway pass from Azkaban; the paperwork never seems to end; and the Wizengamot is almost always breathing on our arses? Yes, it's that bad," Harry growled.
Cormac whistled, "And Uncle Tiberius wonders why I never joined the Ministry."
"The end results are sometimes worth it," Harry said. "It just means you have to put up with a lot of shit."
"I can only imagine," Cormac kissed Harry's cheek.
Harry plopped his face up with his hands, "How 'bout you?"
"To give you the summary: Coach Leighton's training us to the bone for our game against The Prides that's months away. Summers is as incompetent as ever and somehow still keeps his position – I really need to find who he's sleeping with, they should put him as a reserve if the sex's that good. The big bad sponsors are starting to bitch about contracts. And my parents carry on insisting that Orla and I should get married and breed like there's no tomorrow," Cormac said, "Nothing new."
Harry narrowed his eyes, "There's more going on, isn't there?"
"What makes you think so," Cormac's face didn't give anything away.
"How long have we shared a bed?" Harry demanded, "If I was wrong, you would've laughed and called me paranoid."
"You are paranoid."
"That's beside the point," Harry said, "Now tell me what's wrong."
"Last I checked," Cormac said derisively, "This was a no-strings-attached relationship."
"Right, and others in a similar arrangement check up on their lovers outside of the bedroom, or let said lovers crash on their flat at the wee hours of the morning because they're tired," Harry snapped, "Do you want any more examples or do you think those two are enough?"
"Harry," Cormac sighed, "It's nothing. At least, nothing that isn't news."
"If it's nothing, then you can tell me about it."
They both stared each other down, neither willing to back down. Cormac looked like he was about to physically throw Harry out of the bed. Harry, on the other hand, was a mountain incarnate. He wouldn't budge on the issue even if Cormac decided to throw him out.
In the end, Cormac let out a frustrated sigh and snarled, "I'm a 33-year-old athlete, that's what's wrong."
Harry blinked, "Cormac… it's a bit early for a midlife crisis."
"No, you don't get it," Cormac banged the back of his head to his pillow, "You're a Hit-Wizard, if you get too old for field missions or something, you become a paper-pusher. Unpleasant, yes, but it's still a job with a decently-sized salary at the end of the month. I'm a Quidditch player, if I get too old or injure something important, I'll have to retire."
Silence. Harry tentatively hugged Cormac and waited. Cormac held on tightly, as if afraid he would disappear. "What brought this on?" Harry kissed the shell of his ear.
"On Wednesday, I almost broke my back," Cormac whispered, "Nothing untreatable happened, thank Merlin, but it brought things into perspective. If I'm lucky enough not to sustain any injury that'll force me into earlier retirement, I'll only be able to play for, what? Two more years or so? Maybe I'll be lucky enough to make it to 42 like Gwenog Jones, but even if I take care of my body like a man possessed, that's very unlikely."
"Oliver's 37 and he's still going strong," Harry pointed out.
"Harry, that's Wood," Cormac deadpanned, "He'd probably find a way to keep playing even when he's dead and buried."
"So?" Harry said, "You can't tell me you're inferior to him skill-wise." He playfully squeezed Cormac's biceps, "You don't look or feel a day over thirty."
"Still doesn't change the fact that I'll have to retire before I even hit my midlife," Cormac said, "I'm good, but I don't think I'm that good that I can live off of merchandize or has-been fame."
"And you're worried about how you'll make ends-meat?"
"Yeah," Cormac buried his face on Harry's shoulder, "I guess that's why father didn't blink when I told him I'd become a Quidditch superstar and make my own money. Should've known."
"So now that the clock's ticking, he's pressuring you to marry Quirke?" Harry held his head close.
"Only this time, if I don't, I'll really be disowned," Cormac sighed.
"Hasn't anyone thought about banning arranged marriages yet?" Harry slammed his head to the pillow.
"Heh, if you thought the Confederation of Wizards or the Wizengamot were stubborn about Granger's bills, you haven't seen anything yet," Cormac snorted.
"Didn't think so," Harry turned his head so that their cheeks were pressed together.
They stayed together, silent, just enjoying each other's presence. Harry began kissing down Cormac's neck, his lips trailing like fast butterflies, "There's still other jobs you could do."
"Like what?" Cormac tilted his head to give him better access, "It's too late for me to learn a new trade."
Harry stopped where the neck met the shoulder, "You could always become a sports columnist or analyst. There's always coaching."
"There's an excess amount of coaches worldwide, Harry," Cormac said, "Same for your first two options, though not as much as the coaches."
Harry almost snarled in frustration because he couldn't really think of anything. Ginny wasn't overly worried about it and she was 31, so he never thought it'd be a big issue. Then again, she was married to a Hit-Wizard who owned the Potter and Black vaults and had a family that would support her no matter what happened.
"Don't even think about asking me to manage Quality Quidditch Supplies," Cormac said, "Desperate or not, I've still got my pride."
"If you were really desperate, you wouldn't have any pride," Harry smacked his arm with a grin.
"Whatever," Cormac then brought Harry's head up for a kiss, "I appreciate the help, but the problem won't be solved in a day. Let me worry about the little details, yeah?"
"I'd say they're more than little details," Harry murmured over his lips, "Cormac, after all this time, I'd hope that we've become close enough to care about one another."
"Yes," Cormac drew out the 's.'
"So I should hope you know that if you ever need help, my door's always open," Harry looked at him straight in the eyes.
Cormac was quiet for a spell, just gazing back at Harry's frank green eyes. He smiled, "Think you can put up with my bitching?"
"Don't know," Harry said, "Think you can put up with my brooding?"
Cormac just kissed him and pulled him down. Their lower halves wanted to continue their own conversation.
Wayne Hopkins and Michael Corner were as calm as ever, even with a certain John Dawlish making a nuisance out of himself by pacing and grumbling. "Your boss hasn't cracked her yet," Dawlish snarled.
"He will," Michael didn't look up from Basic Hexes for the Busy and Vexed. Dawlish didn't get the hint, "And how long is that going to take? What the bleeding hell is he doing in there and where's agent Greengrass?"
"It wouldn't take long to administer Veritaserum, either. But I suppose that'd be too much to ask," Michael snipped.
"Got a problem, take it up to the Wizengamot," Dawlish bit back.
"Auror Dawlish, you don't have to worry about a thing," Wayne pulled him a chair. Dawlish took it while making a show of collapsing on it with a scowl. Wayne didn't let it bother him, "Harry is just prepping her for the interrogation."
"Prepping?" Dawlish asked, "Is he—"
"He never lays a finger, or a potion, or a curse, or anything on his suspects," Wayne kept his placid smile, "At least, not after they're in custody."
"Then what does this 'prepping' consist of?"
"Nothing much," Wayne said, "Just a nice, quiet, civilized chat."
Harry looked at Umbridge with a stony face. There was no trace emotion, no wrath, no killing intent, nothing. He was as expressive as a glacier in front of Umbridge's simpering threats. Not bad for a woman in magic-restraining cuffs and in protective custody. "When you hang yourself," Harry said as though he was talking about the weather, "Some of your organs will be donated to hospitals."
"Ex-excuse me?" she faltered, "I won't hang myself!"
"Yes, I know you won't, that's just what my report will say," Harry gave a courteous smile, "I just wanted you to know that your worthless life might have some value after all, I heard that there are many people who are in dire need of a heart transplant. I'm sure they'll put it to much better use than you, don't worry."
Umbridge paled but still managed to snarl, "I've always known a hooligan would stoop to this level. Do your superiors know you don't respect the citizens' rights!?"
Harry just opened a folder, "Let's see, even we ignore all of your previous crimes against just about… anyone that wasn't a Death Eater, you've still escaped Azkaban with accomplices while killing ten guards – their families are still crying for blood, did you know? Speaking of blood, what is with your fascination with it? Abducting muggles and bleeding them to death… really, Miss, your levels of sadism have reached a new level. Most unnatural," he drew out the last word.
Umbridge shook, "I'll tell you their names and where to find them if you give me a lighter sentence elsewhere."
Harry didn't even raise an eyebrow, just stared at her, though he fought to keep his lips from twitching.
Hit-Witch Daphne Greengrass and Forensic-Medic Edgar Morris entered the room and broke the tense (for Umbridge) silence. Harry stifled the urge to smile, it seemed that Daphne had won the long straw for the right to interrogate Umbridge.
"Eddy, took you long enough," Harry nodded, "Why, may I ask, is my agent here?"
"Daphne expressed an interest in how bodies are dissected the muggle way, Harry," Edgar said.
Daphne nodded, "What methods did you say you were going to use, Edgar?"
"Ah, well, you see, it differs from case to case," Edgar approached Umbridge, "Seeing how she'll die from hanging herself, I suppose we could do the face. We'd have to cut here, behind the ear, go around the head, then peal the skin down for a look see."
"Get away from me, you filthy mudblood!" Umbridge jumped.
Harry peered at her, "I don't think she wants you to start there. Perhaps the torso?"
Edgar's wrinkled face broke into a smile as he went to the body-freezers. He opened one and levitated the bagged body to an examining chair, "Yes, I believe in this case a more visual explanation would be best."
Daphne had a look of utter glee on her face, "Can I help?"
"Certainly, my dear," Edgar said as he pulled the body out of the bag, "If you make a mistake, it won't be too much of a problem."
Umbridge nearly gagged at the sight. It was Thorfinn Rowle.
Harry smiled, "Really? You have that many Death Eater corpses down here?"
"No, most of them are sent to medical schools for the freshmen," Edgar said, "Even they can be useful enough for this."
Edgar made deep Y-shape incisions with the scalpel. "Now what we want to do is to separate the skin from the muscle tissue, like so," he mumbled.
Once that was done, he gestured to the huge pair of dissecting scissors, "Be a dear and pass that for me?"
Daphne grabbed them after putting on latex gloves and asked, "What are you cutting off?"
"The ribs," Edgar said, "Nasty things get in the way of the organs. Care to try?"
Daphne's grin was too sparkly for the occasion. Harry noted that Umbridge looked a bit peaky, odd for the sadist.
"Now, you might want to start at the bottom of the ribcage," Edgar pointed. Daphne held the blunt part of the scissors up, the sharp blades pointed downwards. She got them into position and SNAP.
Though described as one before, Umbridge never resembled a toad so much as now with her puffed cheeks and dilating eyes.
Harry remembered that manners were very important, especially to this woman, "Pan?"
Umbridge made full use of it the second she opened her mouth.
"Excellent, Daphne," Edgar praised her, "Now lift the chest plate and I'll cut off the connecting tissue… now we can fully remove it. And now, we're going to take out the organs… here's the liver, the kidneys, careful with those, oh, and lungs… keep in mind that not all cadavers are as fluid free as this one. He's been refrigerated for quite a bit, so there's not much to worry about in terms of splatter, but, some of the fresher ones can cause a bit of a spill."
Harry made a mental note to put this memory on pensieve. He knew far too many people who would pay millions to see Umbridge in this state.
Harry had tried, he really did, but watching that pompous bastard gape like a fish out of water made his lips twitch to a smug smile. He'd told him he'd crack her, and he did.
"B-but how, I mean, I," Dawlish stammered.
"I had plenty of help from Agent Greengrass and Medic Morris," Harry said, "Tell your boss she's welcome."
Dawlish sputtered but left. He had criminals to capture.
Michael and Wayne clamored to Daphne and Harry, "Yes~" they drawled.
"How much for the pensieve memory?" Michael asked. Wayne nodded.
Harry and Daphne looked at each other, then gave them stacks of paperwork, "This case and next month's worth," Daphne smirked.
Wayne and Michael groaned but acquiesced.
Harry rolled his eyes, "You two can start after we come back."
"Come back?" Michael asked.
Harry looked at him as though he were an idiot, "You don't expect me to trust Dawlish not to screw things up, do you?"
"Yes!" Daphne pumped her fist to the air. She ran to her cubicle and started stashing her throwing-knives on her person and slapped on her dragon-hide gloves.
"But boss, aren't the Aurors in charge of taking them…" Wayne shut his mouth at Harry's heavy stare, "They haven't said anything to us or the director so it's not official and the cell is fair game?"
"There is that," Harry nodded, "And?"
"Uh, as Hit-Wizards and Witches," Wayne added at Daphne's glare, "We have jurisdiction to take in all criminals, not just Dark Wizards like the Aurors?"
"Exactly," Harry said, "Dawlish doesn't like it, then he can take his own advice and take it up to the Wizengamot."
Wayne nodded and winced at the thought of the paperwork he'd have to fill out, twice.
Harry glanced at his team, "Everyone ready? Let's go."
To Dawlish's great aggravation, Harry's team not only got there before his, but they made quick work of their targets before Dawlish or any of his men could so much as fire a spell.
Ginny wondered for the fifth time if Harry had somehow slipped some sugar to the kippers and sausages. There was nothing else to explain the high levels of hyperactivity James, Albus, and Lily were experiencing.
Bill and Fleur laughed at Dominique and Louis' equally restless states. "Don't look so shocked, Gin," Bill said, "You acted the same every year until it was your turn."
"Lies, all lies," Ginny said. 'Was I ever so young?' she thought ruefully.
"I seem to remember a little girl who ran as far as she could, crying, after the Express on my first year," Harry smirked, "But that could just be my faulty memory."
"It's coming!" Dominique screamed, her eyes gleaming. Louis cheered from his father's shoulders.
James was jumping up to see his big brother in the crowd while Lily was wobbling on her tiptoes. Albus just tugged at his father's shirt to be put up on his shoulders, which Harry did while laughing. Andromeda just peered through the crowd.
It wasn't long before the Hogwarts Express reached the platform and was mobbed by parents and many students were trying to get out. 14-year-old Teddy was holding on to 12-year-old Victoire's hand while they pushed their way to their families.
Harry hugged his godson the same second Fleur hugged her daughter. Albus, who had been put down, immediately latched on to his eldest brother same as James and Lily. Andromeda and Ginny also joined the group hug.
Dominique turned to her sister as soon as her mother let her go, "Your broom, do you have it?"
"Dominique!" Fleur exclaimed.
Dominique only had eyes for her sister, "While you were gone, I've gotten much, much better at flying! This time, you won't win."
Victoire rolled her eyes, "I'm on the House team, Domi. There's no way that's happening."
Dominique didn't falter, "Want to bet? As soon as I go to Hogwarts, we'll see who's the better witch."
Bill stifled a chuckle, his girls might love each other but they were just a tad competitive.
Louis had gotten down from his dad's shoulders and hugged Victoire with a giggle. His sisters were always so funny.
Teddy laughed, "Don't worry, I've already warned my mates and the profs about next year."
Everyone laughed while Victoire punched Teddy's arm and Dominique tossed him a glare.
"Do you need more time to say bye to your mates?" Harry asked them.
"Bye, Victoire!" Cleantha Nott called out as her parents led her away from the platform. Theodore Nott nodded briefly at Fleur and Bill while his wife, Sally-Anne, smiled.
"See you, Cleantha!" Victoire waved. Dominique narrowed her eyes at her competition.
Teddy gestured to some of his own friends, "Do you mind?"
"Go on," Andromeda smiled, "We are keeping you to ourselves for the winter."
Victoire went to see her own friends at her parents' nods.
The Burrow was filled to the brim with every member of the family. Children were playing, adults were conversing or joining in on the fun, and the teens (or pre-teens) were doing whatever they wanted.
Molly was in her element as she relegated the children. Harry was in the kitchen with Fleur, getting the food ready to be taken to the dining room.
"So then I told him: 'Oliver, old boy, you're getting on in years. In half a decade's time you'll have to retire from Quidditch.' Somehow, I don't think he took me seriously," George told the circle that consisted of Angelina, Ron, Charlie, Varad, Ginny, and Hermione.
"Not surprising," Angelina said, "Don't get me wrong, Oliver's always been a diligent and excellent player, coach, and captain, but ask him to manage his own life…"
"Still," Hermione pursed her lips, "Shouldn't he be thinking ahead? I remember that he always looked at every angle and possibility for a game back at school."
"Yes, for Quidditch," George shook his head, "I've offered him a job as a manager for the Wheezes but…" he tapped his fist down multiple times to the table in the Italian expression for mule-headed.
"Can't say I blame him," Ginny said, "I mean, as much as I'm sure he appreciates the offer and the fact that you're worried, I wouldn't want that for my future if I were him. I'd want to continue being a part of Quidditch, even if it's only as the coach or the manager of a team."
"Maybe," Angelina nodded, "But I don't think that Oliver would be able to stand being a part of the game yet not playing."
"I'd offer him a place at the reserve if he wasn't holding a grudge against dragons for taking me away from professional Quidditch," Charlie's quip elicited laughter among the group.
"Are you sure it's only a professional grudge?" Varad, Charlie's lover and soon to be husband, asked with a playful smirk.
"Well, if it isn't, who could blame him?" Charlie mock-posed.
"Darling, promise me you will never do that again," Varad said, "I don't want to pay expensive medical bills for emotional scarring."
Charlie growled and tickled Varad into submission.
"But, getting back on track," Ron smirked at Charlie and Varad, "Isn't he good enough that he could live off his fame like Gwenog Jones? I mean, he's the most famous Keeper in Britain."
"But how long is that going to last?" Angelina said.
"Even Gwen's taking precautions," Ginny said, "Before she retired she got retirement insurance. Last time I saw her, she was playing the stock market and pilling up as much interests into her vaults as possible."
"Good call," George said while leaning his head on Angelina's shoulder, "I heard that Quirke & Zeller has great results."
"There's finally something resembling a retirement plan?" Harry asked as he levitated the food to the table. Thankfully, Louis, Margaux, Beatrice, Gerry, Arthur, Molly and Andromeda were keeping the kids busy upstairs.
"Yes, Harry, for the past three years," Hermione sighed, "Although it's not that well known or used since it's a muggle idea and one of the co-founders is muggleborn."
"That is a ridiculous reason not to use it," Fleur snorted as she helped Harry set everything up, "Maman and papa use it and they will have a good retired life."
Bill, Percy, and Audrey interrupted their debate about the economy to help with the table. "Yes, well, not everyone is as rational as Margaux and Louis," Bill said, "Actually, dad should get some too."
Harry nodded pensively but it wasn't Arthur he was thinking about. Quirke, of all ironies.
"Gabrielle won't be making it?" Ron asked.
"No, we don't think so… not with how many concerts she has lined up," Fleur shook her head.
"Full-time Christmas concerts, what was her manager thinking?" Percy asked, bewildered.
"Aside from money, propaganda, and good commercialism?" Audrey asked cynically, "It can't really be helped, since she's a new singer, she has to find a way to sell and get the audience to look back at her for a second hearing."
"Show-business is not for the light-hearted," Fleur agreed.
"At least we'll get to see her at one of her concerts," Harry said.
It wasn't long after that when the kids stampeded down the stairs with Varad and Charlie in the lead.
It took more time making the dishes than it took for them to be devoured. Harry cut Lily's pork chops for her and then passed the gravy to Ron after putting some on her plate. The plate holding the roast beef had to be taken from Albus before he took them all. James and Fred were fighting over who got the extra piece of steak and kidney pie – George had jokingly suggested they prank over it but Angelina and Harry had simply cut it in half and told the boys that George was the target. Hugo and Louis were scolded for directly wetting their breads in the stove holding the beef casserole. Victoire jealously guarded her croque-monsieur from Dominique and vice-versa. Lucy whined that her sister Molly got more bouillabaisse than her, and her parents would only indulge her because that was the only seafood dish they could get her to eat. Meanwhile, Teddy allowed Roxanne and Rose to steal some of his roast potatoes as he munched on his black pudding.
Just another typical Christmas diner. Harry smiled at the sound of it.
"Has anyone heard from Luna?" Ginny asked.
"She and Rolf are staying in Brazil with the boys," Harry said, "I think they're searching for something called a Manpiguari."
"With Lysander and Lorcan?" Hermione frowned.
"They're sticking around but they stay at the convoy when their parents do the more risky research," Harry helped himself to some lamb chops, "At least, that's what she says in her letters."
"Speaking of holidays," Ron said, "Isn't a certain agent of yours spending Yule at the Malfoys?"
"To make sure the degenerate that corrupted and knocked up her sweet and innocent sister behaves himself, yes," Harry smirked, "Her words, by the way, not mine. She also added something about keeping her lovable nephew from becoming like his idiot father."
"Well… you tell her that Weasley's Wizards Wheezes has just launched a new product we desperately need to test," Ron said with utter glee in his voice.
"Ron!" Hermione smacked his arm.
Harry chuckled, "She's got a point, mate. Daphne'd hate anyone that married her sister, soulmate or not. It's a simple matter of principle. Although, I don't see what she's complaining about. I've got to admit, I only saw them the one time, but Malfoy pretty much worshiped the ground Asteria walked on."
"That doesn't mean we can't capitalize on that, doesn't it brother dearest?" George grinned.
"Exactly, it's nothing personal," Ron ignored the incredulous snorts, "Just business."
"If you say so," Harry said dryly, "I'll pass on the message anyway."
"Oh, Harry! Before I forget, how free are you the 16th?" Hermione asked.
"I have no idea but I can make reservations," Harry grinned, "Which idiot do you need help with?"
"Chamberlain," Hermione all but spat out the name.
Varad looked up, "Isn't he the same man that said our reserve would be ideal for Goblin 'homes' to be set up?"
"Who put him in charge again?" Charlie asked in a small voice, as though he couldn't believe there was such blatant stupidity going on.
"Who knows, but what we do know is that he is a menace!" Hermione snarled, "He opposes any bill that so much as insists on giving anyone that isn't a pureblood equal citizenship."
"It's sad to see that some things don't change," Beatrice Granger shook her head.
"Oh, it'll change all right," Hermione said, "Sooner or later, they'll have to listen to the people and give them their rights!"
"Until then," Harry added some Leffe beer Margaux and Louis had brought from Belgium to Hermione's previously empty wine cup, "We'll just have to keep pushing."
"Until you lose your patience and literally push him off a particularly high building," George said helpfully.
"Don't tempt me," Hermione said.
They all laughed and caught up with each other. Just as dinner finished and the dessert was brought to the table, Teddy turned to Harry, "So how's Cormac?"
Ginny almost chocked on her crumpet slathered with cranberry sauce. Andromeda's forkful of Christmas cake was suspended in the air before her.
Harry just said, "Aside from worrying about his future retirement, he's fine."
Teddy winced, "Ouch, that's right. Does he have any idea what to do about that?"
Harry shook his head, "None, that's why he's worried."
Teddy shook his head in sympathy before asking grandpa Arthur to pass him the eggnog. Victoire looked like she just missed an important conversation but forgot about it when she saw Dominique inching for her sugarplums.
Harry looked outside the Burrow and wondered if it was too cold for a walk between godfather and godson. Somehow, though, he had the feeling that Teddy already knew. He probably already knew and accepted it since Ginny asked Harry for a divorce.
"Daddy! Daddy!" Lily tugged at his shirt, "Look! I got a doggy!"
Indeed, the faux-silver Labrador charm gleamed at him from Lily's hand. "So you did," Harry smiled, "That means you'll have good luck for the rest of the year."
"Yay!" Lily cheered and continued eating her Christmas pudding with gusto.
"I got one too!" Albus held out his American Indian dog charm.
"Me too!" James crowed over his Rottweiler charm.
"Yay!" Lucy boasted, "I got a Poodle!"
Little Molly just smiled widely at her Bushland Terrier charm.
Little Louis almost ate his German Shepherd charm if Fleur hadn't stopped him. He cheered.
Roxanne cooed over her Shih-Tzu, "It's soooo cute!"
Fred whooped over his Doberman while Hugo cheered at finding his Chinese Imperial Dog. Rose looked like she wanted to ask her parents for a real Chow-Chow and Dominique boasted that her Papillon dog was the best.
Victoire stroked her Collie charm, "Which one did you get, Teddy?"
Teddy smiled as he showed her his Bernese Mountain Dog, "This one, cool, huh?"
Harry and Teddy shared a smile as the rest of the kids marveled over their prizes. This was why Harry, as the one who always cooked the Christmas pudding, had the permanent privilege of cutting it for the kids.
When all of the presents were exchanged and the kids were somehow put to bed, Harry and the rest of the adults breathed a sigh of tired relief. The kids all took the beds upstairs that once belonged to their parents and uncles while beds were transfigured for the adults downstairs. Molly and Arthur had gone to bed at the master bedroom.
It was testament to how much trust the family had in each other when no one so much as blinked when Harry and Ginny slept on separate beds.
Harry laid awake in bed at midnight. He was too full and energized for sleep. Giving up, Harry wordlessly casted a silencing spell over his own body, slipped on his glasses, and quietly made his way to the kitchen. It was left with few leftovers from dinner, Harry swelled with pride when he noted that, once again, there was no more Christmas pudding left. He knew that Molly would feel equally happy that her Christmas cake was also completely devoured and Fleur would preen at the continued success of her eggnog.
Harry got himself a clean glass and filled it with water. He briefly wondered what Cormac was doing. 'Probably sleeping like everyone else,' Harry thought as he drank his water and refilled the glass. Harry smiled when his eye caught the sleeping Charlie curled up against Varad. For a moment he fantasized what it would have been like if he hadn't married Ginny, would he be sleeping curled up against Cormac right now? He allowed a small smile to bloom on his lips, that'd be nice. Then Harry shook himself out of it. No, if he hadn't married Ginny, James and Albus would never have been born. Maybe not even Lily either; Harry remembered that Ginny had stopped using contraceptives between when they married and a few months after Albus was born. If she had never married him, she might not have stopped using contraceptives and never gotten pregnant on accident.
No, he wouldn't trade any of his children for the world. Besides, who's to say that he and Cormac would work out? He'd thought that him and Ginny would have their Happy Ending ™ and look what happened. It wasn't worth it, especially when their relationship… what was their relationship? Shag-buddies? But they weren't even friends when they started sleeping together. Hell, Cormac had threatened to tell the Daily Prophet… although, granted, Harry had likewise threatened to out him to his currently bigoted team manager. They'd only started to care for each other much after they had sex… So, two-people-having-sex-with-no-strings-attached? No, that wasn't it. If that was the case, then why was Harry worried about Cormac's future and general wellbeing?
Harry resisted the urge to sigh in exasperation; he didn't want to accidentally wake anyone. He knew Hermione and Ron had become light-sleepers ever since they went on their search for the Horcruxes; at the slightest sound, they'd be ready to jump out of bed and evacuate or attack. Charlie had been one since young and it had helped him and Varad with handling finicky dragons that insisted on mischief-making in the middle of the night. George, Angelina, Bill, and Fleur sometimes would wake up with their wands drawn at the sound of unfamiliar footsteps or crashes. Andromeda, Harry knew, had a wicked Reducto when woken up.
Harry finished drinking his water and casted a silent Scourgify on the glass. He was about to return to bed when a small light upstairs caught his peripheral vision. Making sure not to bump into anything, Harry quickly made his way up the stairs, wand drawn. He forced himself not to swallow when he saw that it was coming from the room Teddy, James, and Albus were sharing. Harry peered from the crack at the door… only to sigh in relief that it was only Teddy reading something with a flashlight. Harry changed the angle of his face so he could further see that James and Albus were sleeping, perfectly undisturbed.
Smiling Harry opened the door without making a sound. He casted a silence bubble around himself and Teddy, almost snorting when his godson didn't notice a thing, "So, are you planning on maiming someone? Or is it something else?"
Teddy had jumped with a yell, thankfully it hadn't left the sound barrier and his brothers remained sleeping. "Huh?" Teddy whirled around, "Dad?!" Teddy blushed and snapped the book shut. Even though Teddy had hugged the cover to his chest to hide the title, Harry still recognized the book.
"Merlin, you're already that age?" Harry asked.
Teddy desperately wanted the ground to swallow him up and never spit him back out. This was embarrassing, "W-w-what d-do you mean by that?" oh, spirits, he stuttered, how much more guilty could he look?
"Teddy, when a book that doesn't pertain to Quidditch in any way catches Ron's attention, you never forget about it," Harry deadpanned.
Teddy grimaced, "Thanks a lot, Uncle Ron."
Harry settled himself beside Teddy, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"That's why I'm up in the middle of the night reading this," Teddy said dryly.
"Point," Harry said, "But just so you know, just because the title says they're fail-safe, doesn't mean they are."
Teddy groaned, dropping Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches on his lap. "Can we please not talk about this?" Teddy pleaded.
Harry decided he'd teased him enough, "So what do you want to talk about? We've already discussed how you're going to spend your last year of freedom," Harry jested.
Teddy looked at his godfather and bit his lip. Finally, it seemed as though he came to a decision as asked, "When are you and Aunt Ginny going to divorce?"
Harry looked at him, mildly surprised that he was being blunt about it. Teddy turned his head, "Sorry, I shouldn't have, I mean—"
"How long?" Harry asked, "How long have you known?"
"A while," Teddy shrugged, a bit uncomfortable but pressed on. "I guess since I had Aunt 'Mione and Uncle Ron as examples, you two just didn't…"
"Well, excuse me, not all of us can get it right the first time," Harry defended himself, "Except for Bill and Fleur, Molly and Arthur, Charlie and Varad, Luna and Rolf…" At Teddy's blank face, Harry amended, "On second thought, forget I said anything."
Teddy chuckled, "Well, someone in the family had to get it wrong."
"Thanks, son, you know just what to say to make feel better," Harry said sardonically.
"No problem dad," Teddy smiled sweetly.
They sat in comfortable silence. "When Lily's left Hogwarts," Harry said.
"We've agreed to get divorced when Lily's left Hogwarts," Harry said, "Although we are going to let James, Albus, and Lily know before that. When they're your age or so."
"That way it won't have a big impact on them, right?" Teddy deduced, "People will still talk, but they won't be at an age where it matters as much."
"Yeah," Harry said, "When did you get so smart?" he ruffled Teddy's currently azure hair.
"Around the same time I started to grow up, I reckon," Teddy smirked.
"And who gave you permission to grow up?"
"Um, I think it was Father Time… or was it Mother Nature?"
"Cheeky brat," Harry smiled.
"Old man," Teddy grinned as he changed his hair and eyes to match Harry's.
"I'll have you know that 32 is not old," Harry playfully cuffed him on the head.
"If you say so," Teddy said dubiously.
"That's my line."
Teddy leaned his head on Harry's shoulder, "Dad, when you and Aunt Ginny divorce, are you going to live with Cormac?"
"What makes you think we'll last that long?" Harry asked. He and Ginny hadn't lasted three years into their marriage.
"Call it a leap of faith," Teddy shrugged, "It's just, you seem happy with him and you're happy after you've seen him… And it can't just be the great sex that's kept you two together for so long, it didn't even keep you and Aunt Ginny together."
"As disturbed as I am of hearing my little boy, whose nappies I once changed mind you, talking about my sex life…" Harry trailed off.
"Dad, I'm best mates with Rob, you didn't really think I wouldn't pick up on a thing or two, did you?" Teddy said.
"Logically, I was aware of it, but the inner father in me was in denial," Harry said.
Teddy chuckled, book and previous worries forgotten.
"So, who's the lucky girl?"
Teddy blushed, "It's embarrassing."
"Teddy, I sincerely doubt it can top the big fool I made out of myself in front of Cho Chang in my fourth year," Harry said.
"Oh?" Teddy asked, "Do tell."
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," Harry smirked.
"Fine," Teddy huffed, "But only if you tell what not to do."
"I was going to anyway," Harry smiled.
Teddy sighed, but a goofy smile spread on his lips, "Her name's Phillipa Deverill and…"
They spent the next hour or so talking until Teddy's yawn indicated that he was tired enough for bed. Harry turned off his flashlight and tucked him into bed before leaving the room.
Harry slammed his hand-full of pounds to the bar, "One Long Island Iced Tea, with extra Rum."
Sam the bartender just nodded and gave Harry an extra glass of water before starting on the cocktail. 'Must've been a rough case,' Sam thought to himself.
Harry was glad he'd had the presence of mind to transfigure his Hit-Wizard robes into something resembling muggle clothes. Right now, even after that hit, Harry clenched his teeth and nearly breathed fire. A couple jumped when their beakers cracked. Harry forced himself to keep a tight rein on his magic, but oh, did he want to go back and…
"Harry?" he turned and his eyes found Cormac's.
Cormac immediately grabbed his own drink and walked towards Harry's booth, "What happened?"
"Let's just say the son of a bitch's lucky Wayne thought to take my wand from me, otherwise, a broken nose would be the smallest of his fucking injuries," Harry growled.
Cormac was alarmed, it was only in extreme cases that Harry had lost control of his temper and magic, even in the Umbridge case he'd stayed moderately calm… alright, he'd been more vindictively calculating than calm but even so…
"Can you talk about it or is it classified?" Cormac laid his hand over Harry's, testing the waters.
"No," Harry flipped his own hand so he could intertwine his fingers with Cormac's, gripping his hand like a lifeline, "No, it's not classified. We solved it today."
"Tell me," Cormac whispered.
Harry was saved from answering right away as Sam handed him his drink. Harry took a long gulp, not even tasting the cocktail or bothering to pace himself, before he put the cup down. Cormac used his free hand to give Harry his water with a stern glare. Harry drank it, feeling Cormac casting a sobering charm on him.
"So?" Cormac shot Sam a pointed look. The bartender took the hint and made himself busy with other customers.
Harry used the opportunity to cast a wordless Muffliato over them, just in case. "The quick-notes version would be that someone blackmailed Slinkhard to transfer ten million galleons to some unknown account. If he didn't, his wife and daughter would be killed."
"Shit," Cormac breathed.
"Yeah, that's what we thought so too," Harry's lips twisted into a bitter grimace, "Apparently, the blackmailer, Vogler, was only the messenger. He was supposed to be the one that kidnapped Slinkhard's family and made sure the demands were met. He was going to take a 50 percent profit from the "spoils.""
"Vogler?" Cormac frowned, that name sounded familiar.
"Yep, same Vogler that was sacked for embezzlement and money laundering," Harry took another gulp from his drink.
Cormac winced as he felt Harry's magic coming to the surface and started to rub the back of his hand with his thumb. The repetitive circular motions temporarily soothed Harry, giving him something else to focus on.
"It gets better," Harry continued, "We managed to get the wife and kid safely away from the bastard, but not soon enough. Slinkhard had already made the transfer. Of course, it didn't help that Vogler had no idea who his partner was or what he looked like, so we had Su trace the money. Three guesses where it ended up and who was there to pick it up," Harry looked Cormac in the eye.
Cormac blinked, not getting it. But then he remembered the brutal emphasis on Slinkhard's name… "You're shitting me."
"I wish," Harry took one last gulp of his cocktail.
"His own family?" Cormac sat there, dazed.
"All for fucking money," Harry snarled, "Needed the money my arse. You don't deliberately put your family in danger for money! Spirits! That bastard was willing to risk his own family just for some pocket change!"
Harry slammed his glass to the bar with a bit too much force. It was crushed, the alcohol stinging Harry's newly acquired cuts. "Shit!" Harry cursed.
Cormac took out a handkerchief and wetted it on Harry's glass of water. Gently holding Harry's injured hand, Cormac began to clean the cuts. Thankfully, there was no glass stuck on Harry's cuts, probably thanks to his magic.
The bartender rushed to them and immediately cleaned up the mess, making sure there weren't any pieces of glass left. "Do you need a first-aid kit?"
Harry shook his head, "It's fine, I haven't any glass lodged in my hand. Sorry 'bout that."
"I'll just put it on your tap Chief," Sam said before leaving the couple alone. It looked like they needed the time.
Cormac had tied the handkerchief to Harry's hand, keeping the blood contained. "There, that should do it. You should still get a medi-wizard to look at it, though."
"You'd better," Cormac tipped Harry's chin up.
Harry smiled genuinely and kissed him, "Thanks."
"I'll never understand your aversion to medics."
"I don't have an aversion to them, per se, I just don't like being in a hospital," Harry said.
"The only medic you don't run away from on sight is Morris and his patients are corpses," Cormac deadpanned, "What does that tell you?"
"And you can't stand the sight of lawyers but do you see me complaining?" Harry retorted.
"You'd have more than a problem with them if you had one explain to you why my parents have every right to disown me if I don't marry Orla," Cormac told him, "Speaking of marriages, there's a new ex-Mrs. Cadwallader."
"Number three?" Harry asked, letting Cormac momentarily distract him.
"Uh huh, and hopefully the last one for a very long time," Cormac softly played with Harry's fingers.
"And will there be a Mrs. McLaggen soon?"
Pause. "I don't know," Cormac whispered, "Maybe, if they ever change the contract."
Harry didn't speak, just waited.
"If it was just marriage, I'd accept it in a heartbeat," Cormac said, "I already spoke to Orla and she's willing to make a similar arrangement to the one you have with Weasley."
"So, what's the problem?"
"The contract demands heirs," Cormac spat out the word as though it was a curse.
"I don't want heirs, Harry. If I ever have children, they will be sons and/or daughters. Heirs are just… commodities."
Harry kissed Cormac's hand.
Cormac continued, "Orla doesn't want kids, period. And I'm not sure on that matter. We don't want to bring kids to this world just to be shoddy parents to them."
"At least you both figured that out before you had kids," Harry whispered to Cormac's hand.
"So we've decided that so long as that clause exists, we won't get married," Cormac said, "It's not like Orla needs the money, her company makes more than enough, although she was making plans to use her inheritance to expand it."
"What about you?"
Cormac sighed but kissed Harry, "I've been looking around… Took Orla up on her offer of retirement insurance. And that advice about playing stock might help."
"Got the idea from Ginny," Harry smiled, "Well, really, I got it from her old Captain."
"Regardless of where you got it," Cormac said, "I'm grateful for the advice."
Harry leaned on Cormac, "Any luck?"
"I've been scoping out the Department of Magical Games and Sports," Cormac said, "There's a lot of applicants and I'll need to brush up on my business skills, but all in all, not a bad place."
"Aiming a little high, don't you think?" Harry asked.
"Where would we be without ambition, Harry?" Cormac challenged.
"True," Harry nuzzled his neck, "You're in luck, though. I haven't heard about Jones applying there. If they're as willing to hire based on player fame as they once were, you have it in the bag."
"Maybe not," Cormac said, "They've become a bit more discriminating ever since Bagman."
"I doubt that they can do worse than him," was all that Harry would say about the Legendary Sucker.
"You sound so sure that I'll get a job there," Cormac gazed at him severely, "I don't want any big favors Harry. I already have an eye busy with Uncle Tiberius, I don't need to watch out for you as well."
"Cormac, you're the second most famous Keeper in Britain and you've got good business sense," Harry deadpanned, "What kind of an idiot wouldn't take you?"
Cormac's face softened and he kissed his brow. Sometimes, an encouraging word was more than enough.
"Teddy is back at Hogwarts," Cormac said.
"With his first crush, too," Harry smiled, his face adopting a faraway look.
"Really?" Cormac asked, "He's that old already?"
"I know what you mean," Harry chuckled, "It feels like yesterday he was telling me girls had cooties."
"Here's to hoping he won't be sexually immature and unaware like you were," Cormac mock-toasted.
"Hah, funny," Harry nipped his should and stopped leaning on him.
"You know it's true," Cormac smirked, "It took you till after Hogwarts to figure out you plenty more things to do with your lover other than snogging."
"Shut it," Harry snorted, "By the way, James is convinced the Falcons will be among the finalists for the Quidditch World Cup."
"He does?" Cormac grinned.
"He's got his Transformers action figures ridding on it," Harry smirked, "He just thinks we don't know about it."
"And who's his opponent?"
"Fred and Roxy," Harry chuckled, "Fred's staking his bets on the Tornadoes and Roxy's on Puddlemere."
"What, none of them are betting for the Harpies?"
"As far as they're concerned, their victory's a given."
"I see," Cormac smiled, "Well, I can hardly disappoint the lad, now can I?"
"What did you do for Christmas?" Harry asked.
"You know I don't celebrate it," Cormac said, "Or any holiday for that matter."
"I know," Harry said, "Doesn't mean that you didn't do anything the whole day."
"I went future job hunting, found that I might look into contracting or scouting players if all else fails, avoided father and his lawyers, and," Cormac stared at him, "I went to a male strip joint, muggle of course."
Harry, for those few precious seconds, was flummoxed. Then, there came the green-eyed monster he hadn't felt in a long time, Jealousy. But what was he jealous of? They'd made it crystal clear when they started sleeping together that they could see other people. So why did he feel the urge to beat Cormac senseless? For Merlin's sake, it wasn't as though he'd cheated on him! Then why?
"Oh?" Harry struggled to keep his flippant mask, though he knew that his eyes would give him away. He titled his head so that the light of the lamps would reflect on his glasses and shield his eyes. "What happened? Are you sick?"
If he was, then whoever gave him the disease had better hope Harry never found him out.
Cormac looked… disappointed? What the—
"No, nothing like that," Cormac sighed, "I didn't sleep with anyone, even though there were plenty of lovely men over there."
"Good," Harry smiled, relieved for more reasons than he could name, "I'm glad."
Cormac looked at him again, his eyes glinting with something that resembled like… hope? Before Harry could say anything, Cormac seemed to be steeling himself for something, as though he was calling in every scrap of Gryffindor bravery he possessed.
Harry just gazed at him, taking in his strong features with a roman-nose, prominent cerulean eyes, weather-beaten lips, and strong jaw. It was a face Harry had become familiar with and had seen its subtle changes through time. Harry could guess where some laugh-lines, crows-feet, and wrinkles could emerge. Idly, Harry wondered what they would feel like under his lips.
"So, why didn't you sleep with one of them?" Harry didn't know what prompted him to ask, but he had to know. He was hoping for something, for Cormac to say something, to say that he hadn't wanted any of them… that he wanted him.
Harry's eyes widened, 'Bloody hell, I love him.'
Cormac took Harry's pause in, hesitating, before deciding to throw caution to the wind. If he could eat poisonous Doxy eggs on a stupid bet, he could sure as hell do this.
"Because none of them were you," Cormac whispered.
They stared at each other with a tense pregnant silence permeating the air.
"I can live without you," Cormac said, "I don't need you… but I do want you."
Harry started to laugh, squeezing Cormac's hand in what he hoped was reassurance. "Thank Merlin, I, I, shit, I was scared you were going to say you were in love."
"I'm not," Cormac scowled, "I just love you."
Harry gave him a gentle smile, "You know that I don't just come alone?"
"Teddy, James, Albus, and Lily come with the package," Cormac's stare didn't lose its intensity, "And that's not counting the other baggage," he found it within himself to yank his chain.
"I won't promise you forever," Harry warned.
"I don't want you to," Cormac sounded almost affronted, "I don't even want to break up your family. I'm happy with my daddy's-Quidditch-player-friend role."
"Would you want more?" Harry asked, somber, "Even with the possibility that we might not last a year?"
"I'd be fond of them even if they weren't yours," Cormac said, "Although, I wouldn't have even thought of children at all if I hadn't been involved with you."
"So?" Harry prompted.
"I'm rather comfortable with my place in their lives right now," Cormac said honestly, "Wouldn't mind being bumped up to a quasi-uncle of sorts, though."
Harry kissed him, softly, savoring Cormac's mouth. "We're having roast chicken tonight, wanna come?"
Cormac stared, immobile, "Harry?"
Harry smirked, "I know, I'll have mashed potatoes in the wings."
"I love you, too, you prat," Harry said. Succinct and to the point… and it was all the more special without the dramatics involved.
"You could've just said that in the first place," Cormac grumbled.
Harry smiled at the kisses Cormac bestowed on his knuckles, going down to the back of his hand.
He had never expected that this was where his life would lead him after the war. But, even with all the sharp turns and unanticipated twists, the good and the bad, Harry couldn't complain with the nuances of life.
So, what does everyone think?
Yes, for those of you that are wondering, Lily is Ginny's daughter but not Harry's. Ginny, after three years of marriage, stopped using contraceptives and codoms as an ingrained habit. Because of that, in a particularly passionate one-night stand, she forgot about them and... well, you all get the point.
But, as Harry said, blood doesn't matter. She's his daughter and that's that.
Let's see what everyone thinks.