Two days after Tom's return found Harry and Neville in the back garden enjoying the sun and the view the back patio provided. Harry was on a two-way mirror with Hermione discussing the latest week's Silver missions, while Neville was reading over his project journal and trying to keep his spirits up about the project since the last experiment he'd done with Severus had ended in a complete fail. But when he'd been leaving Hogwarts, Professor Snape had walked him out and surprised him by telling him not to give up. They had plenty other avenues to travel before he should begin to think his idea was a lost cause.
"Nathan sleeping?" Harry asked once his call with Hermione had ended.
"Yeah." Neville turned to him. "Thanks for setting up the cellar for him."
"Tom insisted he would do well in the sunroom."
His friend snorted, shaking his head. "He's still angry with him."
"Oh yes. But at least he agreed to let Nathan stay here with you." And he liked Nathan, so he wouldn't have had it any other way. The vampire was fun company.
Neville had arrived just an hour before, and even though he knew Nathan was here and only sleeping, Harry could tell he was disappointed. It had been a few days since they saw each other last.
"You know him," he went on. "He'll be up soon. Sun can't keep him down."
Neville nodded but remained quiet for a time and they both soaked up the sound and scent of the ocean nearby. Finally he turned and said, "did you know he was muggle before being turned?"
"No, I didn't know."
Neville laughed. "Yeah. he's like a kid when it comes to magic. He's been a vampire for a decade, but it's only recently he's really started associating with wizard kind. He's always asking me to show off my magic for him. He finds it fascinating. Says wizard folk are so much more fascinating."
"Let's not advertise the fact he was muggle. Tom still hates them. We don't want to give him any more reason to despise Nathan right now." Neville nodded in agreement. "So then I take it he doesn't have any family to go to."
"Why would you say that?"
"If he were magical, becoming a vampire wouldn't… well, it would be a lot less surprising, I guess. Muggles still think vampires are complete fiction. After a certain time, he couldn't hide the fact he wasn't aging or the fact he can't go outside in the sunlight. So I assumed either he doesn't have family or he hasn't…"
"No, you're right. He hasn't talked to them in twelve years. He'd already left home before being turned. His father threw him out after catching him with a bloke. Out of the house and out of the family. Disowned. Nathan thinks being turned was the best thing that ever happened to him…except," here Neville blushed, "now he says I'm the best thing that's ever happened to him. And our baby…"
Harry nodded firmly. "And he's completely right about that."
"Are you scared?"
Harry turned to find Neville staring at him with clear vivid eyes demanding he tell the truth. Harry didn't need to ask for clarification. He knew exactly what Neville was referring to, especially when light brown eyes dashed down to look at his stomach. He didn't want to lie so he didn't answer. He didn't want Neville getting anxious already. When a hand dropped onto his shoulder, he jumped a little. Quickly looking over his shoulder, he found Draco standing there.
"Yes he is," the blond replied softly. "But he's been trying to hide it from our Lord."
Harry smacked his hand away. "Do you want me to make your fucking cake?" he grit out. Before Draco could answer, he managed to haul himself out of his comfortable chair and was proud of himself for doing so without too much of a struggle. He stepped off the patio and shot a warning look at the two behind him as he did so. The message was clear. Follow me and die.
It wasn't anyone's business whether he was afraid or not of the upcoming birth, he thought in irritation as he headed down the main path to be swallowed up in the gardens. It was his business. His business and he didn't want Tom knowing about it. His husband was already worried about him. No need to make it worse.
Harry decided against traipsing through the lovely garden and veered off towards the path that would lead down to the private beach. When he arrived at the end of the path, he studied the rocky steps leading down to the sand a moment before carefully moving forward and making his way down the stairway which had been carved out of the side of the cliff face. It was bright out still, so he used one hand to shield his eyes while keeping his free hand against the rocky cliff side beside him just to be sure. Walking with his stomach this large was always awkward, no matter what he was doing. It might have helped his nerves by the fact Tom had installed and updated strong cushioning charms along the steps and at the bottom just in case because he knew Harry liked going down to the beach. This time he'd come to brood.
Once at the bottom, Harry continued to shield his eyes as he took in his surroundings, a small smile lifting the annoyance away. He liked looking at the empty beach and the ocean beyond. It was one of the most peaceful places he'd come across. Moving straight along the cliff face, brushing his fingers against the stone, he moved about twelve feet until coming to a bench, which had also been carved from the cliff. It was a stone alcove sunk into the cliff with a lone bench. Harry sat down only momentarily in order to remove his shoes and socks and to roll up the hems of his jeans so that they wouldn't get caught up in the sand.
When he stood back up, he slipped his hands into his pockets and walked out towards the water. He walked until the beach was wet with the tide. His feet sunk into the wet sand as he began to walk along the stretch of beach, eyes cast out along the ocean. The water was cold and though he should probably be wearing a coat or robe, the chilly air felt nice against his skin. It wasn't bone chilling, for which he was thankful. Definitely warmer here than it was in England at the moment.
He tried not thinking about much as he walked the length of the shore, but it was difficult. Draco had been telling the truth. He was scared. For so many reasons. He was scared for his twins. Despite the Healer's assurances, he was always worried they weren't in perfect health. Would they be alright when it was time? What might happen to him? He was afraid if something went wrong. What would happen to Tom if…
"Shut up," he hissed to himself, willing himself to keep that thought far away. He'd survived so much already. He wasn't about to die from childbirth.
After walking back and forth a few times, stopping here and there to pick up and study various sea shells he'd found, Harry decided to return to the bench. His back was starting to ache. He pulled his hands out of his pockets and as he rested them beneath his stomach for support, a small frown again tugging down his lips. If he should lay down now on the sand, he imagined he'd look a lot like what a beached whale would look like.
He was glad he was having twins now, if only for the reason he could wait some time before thinking about having another child. He hated being pregnant. He knew Tom found his distaste rather amusing, considering his husband felt the opposite. But of course he would. He wasn't the one looking and feeling like an over inflated balloon at the moment.
Upon reaching the bench, he reclined back as much as he could, bending the knee of one leg and letting the other hang off the bench. He spent some time there with his eyes closed. He didn't want to return to the villa in his current state of mind. Everyone was here to relax and he didn't want his bad mood ruining theirs. Especially the twins and Draco, whose wedding was just around the corner, and all three had been going around as if on sugar highs. He had to keep reminding them that they were not yet on their honeymoon.
The sun was nearly set by the time he realized he was no longer alone. His eyes snapped open in surprise because he didn't know when Tom had arrived, though it couldn't have been that long ago. But his husband was there, sitting in the sand, reclining against the bench next to his hanging leg. Harry lifted a hand, and though it was at an awkward angle, managed to press his fingers into Tom's lovely hair. Deeply, until his fingertips reached Tom's scalp where he lightly brushed down. Tom made a pleased sound and gently dropped his head back against Harry's stomach.
For some time they didn't speak. Content in the silence to watch the sun set and after a while Harry rather thought Tom would let him run his fingers through his hair for eternity. This thought had him smiling softly and shifting, wrapping his arm around Tom's shoulder and down against his chest. He used Tom as leverage to twist onto his side so that he could lean over and brush his lips against his husband's cheek.
It was getting colder now with the sun gone. Cold and dark. The cold had him finally moving from the bench to seek warmth from Tom's chest and spread out legs. The dark didn't really concern him.
It was Tom's arm now pressed possessively against his chest, over their unborn children and his lips pressed against his ear. "Stupid child," he murmured lowly.
"It wasn't this cold when I first came down here," Harry defended, but he couldn't help but smile at Tom's subsequent snort and murmuring of a warming spell for both of them. "How's things at the Ministry?" he asked, knowing Tom had been speaking to Lucius through the Floo for some time.
Harry rolled his eyes at the formal tone. Tom was pissy. "I'm not about to catch a cold."
"I bet you had your feet in the ice cold water."
Sometimes it was annoying Tom knew him so well. "Tell me about your trip to Albania."
Tom's following silence had Harry smiling, knowing he'd surprised Tom with his inquiry. But he liked when Tom told him stories of his past, so he hoped his husband wasn't so ticked off that he wouldn't oblige.
"Right after Hogwarts. What was it like?"
"I travelled through the dense forests. Forests remarkably steeped in wild magic. It was…exhilarating."
"How dangerous was it?"
"Intensely. To use magic of any sort was incredibly dangerous. Not only from the wild magic around, but because the creatures were always drawn to the use of magic. I didn't use my wand until the end of my second month there."
The implications kind of staggered Harry. That meant Tom had to basically travel around as a muggle in such a dangerous forest. For two months. "Why then did you even-"
"It was worth it. In the end, I did not regret the way I travelled or the nasty predicaments I sometimes found myself in. I learned an indescribable amount."
"Is this one of the places you plan on taking me?"
"Indeed." Tom went on to tell him some of the experiences of his first trip in the wild forests of Albania, but Harry knew he was leaving much out of the tale. Probably because he wanted Harry to experience it firsthand. He would learn more that way. "I think you'll enjoy it. Since you foolishly enjoy danger. But the wild magic… the wild magic will carry you away to power beyond your wildest dreams, Harry."
Harry grinned widely. "You're my wildest dream, Tom."
He got pinched on the hip for that. It stung a little but the lips which pressed against his throat more than made up for it. "I know you've almost perfected the change to your eyes… I don't want you to get rid of your red eyes," he declared a few moments later. "At least not completely."
Tom's lips paused and it was clear he was waiting for an explanation, especially since he knew Harry liked his natural eye color of hazel. "It's a part of you. A part of your path. A marker, if you will. One you should keep as a reminder and trophy, I guess… Do you understand?"
"I think I do," and he sounded… bewildered yet pleased.
"It's fascinating watching your eyes bleed red when you're magically excited or severely ticked off. Flecks of ruby with the hazel…" he shrugged.
Tom didn't know what to say. He was speechless. To hide the embarrassment of such a phenomenal thing, he shuffled Harry forward and stood before helping Harry to his feet and leading his husband back to the stairs, muttering about dinner. Harry grinned stupidly at his back as he allowed Tom to lead him by the hand.
Minutes later, that smile once again disappeared when he had to stop a quarter of the way up to take a breather. This happened three times. It was far easier going down than it was going up. "This is crap!" he exclaimed the last time.
"You're almost there, love. And it's not forever, you must remember that. Only a handful of weeks left."
Harry bit his lip as he leaned against the stone. He felt so helpless and idiotic, so clumsy and useless at this point. All the good the beach had done him was gone.
"Stop this instant," Tom ordered in a hard voice and a hand firmly gripped his chin, pulling up until Harry was looking at him. He squeezed just the slightest bit when Harry's eyes seemed to want to avoid his. When he finally looked at him, his eyes swam.
"It's hard," he whispered.
The look in Tom's eyes softened. "I know. It wouldn't be so difficult if there was only one, Harry. And I know what you are thinking and you're wrong. What you're going through is perfectly normal. You are growing two babies. Two. All of you is focused on that. And when they are born, when you're finally able to hold our sons, I know you'll realize this was worth it. Now," he hurried on before Harry could respond, "we'll go inside, have dinner, and then I'll give you a massage for however long you want."
Harry's eyes immediately brightened. Tom gave the best massages! They were even better than Draco's and there was nothing even sexual about it!
Tom chuckled. "Would you like me to carry you the rest of the way."
"Oh," Harry laughed. "No thanks, love. I'd break your back."
"Nonsense. I carried you to bed last night, didn't I? From downstairs."
Harry smiled from the memory. He had noticed the strain he'd put on Tom even then though his husband had tried valiantly to hide it. But Tom had insisted and Harry hadn't said anything because it was a matter of Tom's pride. "I do love you, Tom."
The Dark Lord smirked. "Of course you do."
When they returned inside, it was to find Neville and Draco sitting in the living room, talking quietly together. No one else was around. Harry was really surprised Nathan wasn't with Neville. It was dark now so he was no doubt awake and about. And it always surprised Harry when Draco took the initiative to talk civilly with Neville. More than just civil. The blond was always really nice to Neville nowadays. He wondered if Lucius had anything to do with that.
"Where's Nathan?" he asked after joining them while Tom went off to his study.
"He had to go feed. Doesn't like feeding from me now. At least not while I'm pregnant. And he was really starving."
"But you got to say hello?"
Draco snorted. "Oh yeah. They said 'hello'. Right there against that wall. Longbottom is not the prude I thought he was." He then laughed outright when Neville blushed crimson.
Neville cleared his throat, glaring just slightly. "So, are you ready, Malfoy?"
Harry answered before Draco could. "He should be. They've been practicing for the honeymoon for over a week now!"
A really bright sparkle lit Draco's eyes as he stood and that alone was answer enough. They didn't need the toothy grin on his face to discern the answer. The blond stooped to grab Harry's arm to help him back to his feet. "You should probably stop that," Harry went on. "Otherwise you won't have anything left by the time you leave for your trip."
By the time they were sitting in the dining room, Tally had dinner served, and soon Hermione and Tom appeared. Harry knew they had been working. He didn't much mind it. They were both busy and they didn't spend all their time at the villa working. And Hermione he could understand. Her new promotion to the Head of Magical Creature Integration would start at the beginning of the new year and she was doing everything she could to prepare herself for a job that would undoubtedly be very demanding and difficult. But it was something she was looking forward to.
While Harry's appetite was as it should be, enormous, Neville's appetite wasn't quite up to par.
"Eat, Longbottom!" Draco snapped halfway through. "You didn't eat any of your lunch! You need to eat!"
"I'm trying, Malfoy!"
Harry turned to Draco in surprise. Again. His tone hadn't been mean. It had been chiding. Just like when he would do with Harry. When had Draco taken it upon himself to become Neville's mother hen too?
In the blink of an eye the wedding date arrived with a great amount of pomp and circumstance because Draco wouldn't have it any other way. He invited the entire Weasley family, which the twins felt was unnecessary, especially since they didn't think anyone aside from Bill and Charlie would show up anyway. Draco had a devilish smile on his face when he replied that it was indeed necessary. The twins let him have his way, as usual. They weren't really concerned with the finer details. They wanted this day to come and go already. All they were concerned with was the end result.
Imagine the twins surprise when almost every single Weasley- immediate family and otherwise- healthy enough to make the trip arrived at the manor with invitations in hand. Ginny and Ron had even come and Harry knew the blond had only invited them just to amuse himself, especially with Ginny. The Weasley entourage arrived dressed as well as they could- finely dressed in Harry's opinion but Drake wouldn't hear a word. Most kept their manners and most were reserved, but some Weasleys didn't say one word. Bill and Charlie were the most outgoing and sociable of the bunch.
Narcissa could be seen having a few words with Molly Weasley before the ceremony; very few and stiff words, before the two separated. Arthur and Lucius stayed well clear of each other. Severus, for once, walked around with his shoulders back looking very pleased with himself. It was an odd thing to see for most of the guests. However those who knew him knew.
Harry pulled his eyes away from the lawn where everyone was waiting and turned away from the window. Pansy had just gone, after having an encouraging talk with her friend. Harry was really surprised how well she was taking Draco's upcoming nuptials with the Weasley twins. "So, it's you now that's kind of freaking out," he softly announced to the wizard pacing back and forth in front of the fire. He moved to sit in a chair not far from the roaring blaze.
"Obviously!" Draco shouted at him as he passed for the hundredth time.
Harry's eyes filled with concern and a small amount of anxiety for what Draco's nerves might mean for the rest of the evening. For what it might mean in regards to Fred and George. He didn't want to but he had to ask for the twins' and Draco's sake. "Maybe you want to rethink this…"
Draco rounded on him. Eyes wide and angry, also full of panic. "There will be no rethinking anything, Potter!" he shouted. "They knew what they were getting into when they signed those contracts and now they're stuck with me!"
Harry's eyes widened a little and he managed to climb back to his feet quickly. He grabbed Drake's arm to make him stop the nonstop pacing. "Is that why you're so nervous? You think they're regretting this?"
"Wouldn't you?" Draco cried in despair. "Who'd want to be stuck with me for the rest of their life?!"
Harry was floored. He never expected this from his best mate. It wasn't exactly Draco Malfoy behavior, to assume he was lacking in some way. But Draco looked petrified. He actually believed what he was saying. "Draco, no," he murmured, wrapping an arm around his friend's back and guiding him to the window. Harry pointed out, gesturing to the front of all the chairs. Fred and George were already there, pacing around the small gazebo they would be standing on with Draco when they were married. They looked very handsome dressed up in their wedding best, and they also looked incredibly impatient.
"This can't happen fast enough for them. And you should know that already. How hard have they worked for this? They fell hard and fast for you." He blocked Draco's view of outside, made his friend look at him. "You want what your father and Severus have, don't you?" it wasn't really a question.
"They love each other so much," Draco whispered back. The deep longing swimming in his eyes. "Who wouldn't want that?"
"Exactly. That's what they want with you." Harry then grinned. "I have it on good authority."
Draco blew out a breath and placed a hand on the window and then he was smiling excitedly. "Okay, I'm ready."
Tom had been waiting for him outside and as they started down the hall and to the landing, Narcissa came rushing by in an elegant fast walk. The only thing to give away her excitement was the slightly widened look of her blue eyes. A permanent shine had been in them all day. She grabbed Draco by his arms and jerked him to a stop before running her silk covered hands down his exquisite wedding dress robes.
"Mother," he whined. "You're making the wrinkles now—Merlin, look what you've done!"
Narcissa's shrill laughter bounced off the walls. "Nonsense, dear! Now hush, dragon, for I have something to say."
Tom's grip on Harry's arm tightened and he picked up the pace. He had no wish to get caught up in the following emotional last minute talk between them. Especially those two. Harry allowed the handling. As he allowed it whenever they had to leave their homes in the recent weeks. He was always silent during these times but in truth Harry was just grateful for the support and he didn't speak because he didn't really have the energy for it. It seemed he didn't have energy to do anything anymore. The Malfoy-Weasley wedding cake had nearly killed him to make. He would never tell Draco however because it was the best cake he'd ever baked and designed and it had been worth it. The three practice cakes included.
Harry was led to one of the front row seats on Draco's side. It was true he'd known the twins first and they were family, but Tom's place was on Draco's side and he stated Harry would not be even one seat away from him. And to be perfectly honest, Harry wasn't all that comfortable with the idea of sitting with the entire Weasley clan at his back. No thank you. Hermione however seemed to have more courage in that regard, and sat up front on the Weasley side along with her date, Auror Andy. Though she would have other supporters with her should a Weasley try something. Most of the Silvers were seated with and around Hermione. Luna, Oliver, Neville, Lee, Angelina… and they were all keeping a keen eye open at the rest of the Weasley's minus Bill and Charlie. Remus was also sitting on the twins' side, beside Hermione, whereas, Fenrir had stolen a chair near Harry on Draco's side. He had that sulk about him that had Harry laughing quietly to himself.
Harry shifted in his seat near the end of the first row and took a minute to study those around him. Everyone seemed so stiff still. Both sides. It remained that way throughout the ceremony. Luckily it wasn't a very long one and this was Fred and George's doing. Draco had authority over the entire event, with the exception of the actual ceremony. He'd given that over to the twins. And at the end, something astonishing happened. Some of the Weasleys began to thaw out. And even more at the reception once the alcohol had been served.
Long into the reception, after dinner had been served and the guests were given time to mingle and dance before the arrival of the wedding cake, Fred and George made their way to Harry while Draco had been dragged off by his mother. Fred grinned. "Should we tell him his devilishness has sort of backfired and now because of all this, the extravagance and the invitation, most of the family likes him a bit more?"
Harry snickered. "I think definitely after the honeymoon."
"I'm ready to go!" they both exclaimed.
"The cake hasn't even been served yet. I did not make that beautiful monstrosity for nothing!"
Said wizard stiffened and then slowly turned around. He faced Ron with a mixture of surprise and wariness, really having not expected him to approach. He really expected Ron and Ginny to remain in the shadows for the rest of the evening. No one would blame them.
"Blimey! You are huge!" Ron exclaimed once Harry had turned and was unable to miss the changes. He hadn't really had a good look at Harry until that very moment.
"Err, Ron?" George murmured sideling up and shaking his head as Harry's eyes narrowed. "Not very wise…"
"You look like you've swallowed one of Hagrid's massive pumpkins!"
Fred slapped a hand over his face and shook his head sadly.
"If this is your way of saying hello, Weasley," Harry murmured low and soft, "then you aren't doing a very good job of it." Ron floundered, at a loss for what to say. Especially since Harry had his wand in hand by that point and looked ready to use it. "What do you want?"
"I… that's what I wanted. To say hello."
"Why? We aren't friends anymore."
Ron shrugged and looked away. "Thought might as well."
The twins blinked in surprise at him while Harry watched him levelly. "Is that all?"
"Yeah," Ron answered and began to turn away to leave, his shoulders slouching a bit.
"No, I mean is that all you came here for? Have any alternative motive for approaching me?"
Ron turned back around, surprised. "I'd be an idiot to think of doing anything but that. But yeah, that was it. I just wanted to say hello. Maybe ask how you're doing."
Harry narrowed his eyes again. He was seriously surprised and had no idea how to take this unexpected meeting. "I'm good," he finally responded and then peered at the twins, who were still watching their brother with acute surprise.
"Err… why were Ginny and I invited?" he asked his brothers. "Didn't think you would. It would have been understandable…"
That had the surprise fading to amusement. "That was Draco. We weren't going to invite any of you, but Draco insisted on inviting the whole family," Fred said.
George narrowed his eyes. "Make no mistakes, baby bro. You're only here for our Draco's amusement. We haven't forgiven you and we are not up for making amends just yet."
That hurt, Harry saw, but he remained quiet on that. This was a family matter he had no right getting involved in.
"And Ginny?" Ron asked, pointing to somewhere over Harry's shoulder. The three turned to find her hidden in an alcove. Even though her face was lowered and her hair blocked most of it, Harry could feel her eyes on them.
"Same reason. For Draco's amusement and her humiliation. Hasn't been able to hide that scar all night, has she?"
Ron shook his head. Then he looked at Harry. "She's not over you."
Harry's eyes widened and he dropped his arms down from where they'd been crossed over his chest. "But I thought I made her hate me!"
Ron smiled wryly. "You did. She does. She's also scarily obsessed." He shrugged. "Mum's been trying to get her help…"
"Is that Neville with a vampire?" Ron was looking back over Harry's shoulder to a spot very near Ginny's hiding place. There was a pale man with an arm draped over Neville's shoulders. He was clearly older than Neville and taller. He had black hair reaching just past his ears and striking pale blue eyes. He was smiling so the fangs were unmistakable. Ron's eyes widened when he saw the man turn and plant a kiss on Neville's smiling mouth.
"Yeah, that's Nathan. They're together. Fit, isn't he?"
Ron cleared his throat and Harry grinned. "How should I know?"
"He is," the twins answered Harry. "Our Neville captured a gorgeous one."
Harry nodded, his lips trembling with laughter at the uncomfortable vibes now coming from Ron. "They're having a baby."
"I didn't know he liked blokes," Ron muttered, more surprised by that apparently then by the last thing Harry said.
"He doesn't actually have a preference. Nathan was just lucky enough to capture Nev's complete attention," Fred remarked. "And persistent enough."
"And intelligent enough to come back."
"But a vampire?"
"They love each other. Why should it matter he's a vampire? It's not like he's a rogue or anything."
"Well," George said laughing. "Not a mindless killing rogue anyway. You gotta admit, Harry. He's kind of roguish in behavior."
Harry turned to look around, glancing over the crowds. There were over a hundred guests attending the Malfoy-Weasley wedding, so he didn't see anyone he knew personally with just the once over. Because of the large amount of guests, the reception was being held within the largest ball room in the manor as well as in the garden beyond. The four double doors were opened at the back letting guests come and go between the gardens and the ball room.
He had the urge to find Tom, but he didn't want to leave the spot near the wall. He could lean against it or sit in the chair he'd placed there when the aches started again. Besides it would take him too much energy trying to make his way passed all these people to find him. He'd need to stop to talk to most of them and he didn't want to be rude by shrugging them off. The matter was taken out of his hands when Severus appeared.
"The Dark Lord has procured you a nice spot outside in the garden and there are particular guests who have wanted to visit with you. I've come to escort you there."
"Thank you, Severus," Harry returned, smiling brightly at the wizard and took the arm offered him. "See you in a bit, guys."
He heard the twins snicker at Ron's gob smacked expression. Thank Merlin for Severus, he thought moments later as they sliced through the guests like butter. No one dared to approach them with the current look on the Potions Master's face and soon he was able to see Tom, who stood next to a bench which was in front of a beautiful water fountain rimmed with gorgeous Yuletide flower arrangements. Pleasantly he discovered the Dark Lord surrounded by people he would love to chat with.
The first of that group to greet him was Iseut and she glided forward to take Harry from Severus and gave him a warm tight embrace before pulling back and pressing a kiss to his cheek. "You look wonderful, Harry."
Harry blushed and said, "thank you. So do you," even though he didn't really feel wonderful. But then he caught the look in Tom's eyes as his husband watched him and then thought she might be right. Diandre approached and gave him a quick hug also. Following him, he was greeted by their three sons, one of which he'd already met, and then their daughter, whom he'd also met. Though instead of a handshake, he got a hug from Celeste too and then a tummy rub as she exclaimed she couldn't wait to meet the babies. The two elder sons whom he hadn't met before stood back looking slightly shocked. Their eyes went from Harry to Celeste and then over to the Dark Lord, as if afraid what their sister's informal actions would mean for her safety.
Celeste was a year younger than he. The youngest son, Franc, was his age,19. The second youngest was 22, Aloysius, while their eldest son was 25, Benoit. They were a beautiful family. But of course they were as they were all full blooded Veela. And even though the children were closer to his age, Harry still felt closer to their mother. It was odd, but he didn't really look too much into it. He loved the connection he had with Iseut.
Harry smiled broadly at Celeste. "As soon as they are born, Tom will send word and have you all visit."
Tom raised an eyebrow, but didn't dispute this. The elder brothers were still looking incredibly wary while the youngest watched them with laughing eyes. He hadn't met Tom before that night, but he had spent time with Harry at the villa so he wasn't half as surprised by this. Harry then turned to the Spanish Minister and his brother, hugging them both and allowing Rafael to tug him over to the bench Tom was saving for him. Before sitting down he gave Tom a hug just because he wanted one and Tom retaliated by dropping a chaste but lovely kiss to his lips.
"Still, yes," Harry answered and knew without having to be told should that change he was to tell Tom immediately. And he would. He knew better than to try and hide it from Tom nowadays.
Harry spent some time talking quietly to Rafael about the continued nightly excursions into the Black Market. They now had three shops opened. Two were gambling shops and the third dealt in questionable potions and books. At one point Rafael laughed when Harry made a particular expression.
"It's not going anywhere, Harry. It'll all still be there when you're able."
Soon everyone was pressing back into the ballroom to witness the awesomeness that was the wedding cake. Still no one knew he was the MR's baker, so he was able to stand back and silently enjoy all the words and gasps of praises when the red, white, and gold cake was levitated out by two of his employees. He decorated the cake in a reflection of yuletide with edible red poinsettias, pearly beads, and gold sashes. It wasn't exactly six tiers. At least not six layers on top of each other. He'd constructed the cake in sections. The main part, the middle, was four tiers and square. And then he'd made two three-tier sections off the sides connected to the main tower by bridges of more edible poinsettias.
"Harry," murmured Tom. "That is a magnificent wedding cake." This being the first time the Dark Lord laid eyes on it as Harry hadn't let anyone but the house elves see it in its making.
Harry felt his smile crack his face. And then Draco was in front of him suddenly. The blond's eyes seemed to be swimming. He grabbed Harry's face and planted a kiss right on his lips. It was a quick kiss, completely chaste. But it also said more than Draco's whispered, "thank you," did. And of course that made his own eyes swim. Tom did nothing more than hand him a handkerchief.
"Don't punish him," Harry murmured, ignoring the shocked looks he and Draco were getting.
"Under the circumstances, I can let this one go."
Harry spent the days after the wedding at the Dark domain, fixing the place up for Yule and Tom's upcoming birthday. He did it secretly of course, the decorating. Tom knew about his party, for Harry wouldn't dare try and surprise him with that since so many people were set to attend. Tom wasn't exactly pleased with the idea, but he couldn't very well forbid Harry from throwing him a party when he'd gone and done the same to him, despite knowing how he felt about his own birthday. And besides there wouldn't be anyone there that Tom didn't know personally.
"Harry! What do you think you're doing?"
Harry paused and turned with his wand halfway up towards the ceiling. He wondered why Hermione sounded outraged. "Decorating," he stated as if it were obvious, which it was. He was in the Entrance Hall affixing fairy lights around non melting icicles which stretched across the expanse of the edge of the ceiling and hung down to give the room a frost bitten look. "I need to hurry and finish with all the decoration today before Tom gets home."
"You know you're not supposed to use a lot of magic now."
Harry rolled his eyes and went back to his task. "It's not a lot," he replied in the calmest manner he could muster. "It's just levitation and sticky charms. Simple stuff like that. The house elves have done most of the work for me. At least I'm not on a ladder."
"Who decorated that humongous tree there?" she pointed to the tree next to the archway leading to main section of the castle. It was pretty big. The tip of the pines hit the ceiling. Harry smiled at it. It was beautiful and it smelled divine too.
"Course, I did. I've always wanted to decorate a Christmas tree and I knew I wouldn't be able to convince Tom to get in on that activity… maybe next year."
Hermione's severe look melted away. "You did a great job, Harry. It's beautiful."
"Thanks. So you're headed off now?" he tried keeping his tone light, but she wasn't going to be around this Christmas and was instead spending it with her family. He understood, of course, it was just that he was going to miss her loads. She planned to spend Christmas with her parents and then return home on New Year's Eve, just in time for the party. Usually they would have had to attend the annual Malfoy Yule ball, but that had sort of been scrubbed and incorporated into the wedding. Two birds with one stone.
"Yes. Everything's packed. Just wanted to come say goodbye first." Harry turned into her when she came closer to hug him. "And to warn you not to overdo yourself."
"I'll take it easy," he promised. He pulled back and grinned. "Can I show you something before you go?"
Harry stowed his wand and then took her hand, and pulled her through the foyer as quickly as he could manage until they got to the front doors. He turned, flashed her a mischievous grin, and then pulled her outside into the cold and snow. He pulled her down the steps and a few yards down the path. He moved his hands to her shoulders and didn't let her turn around once they'd stopped moving. "Tally!" when the elf popped up next to them, he turned to her with a grin. "Turn them on for a moment. Just for a minute."
"Yes, Master Harry." And she popped out again.
Harry only had to wait a moment before it was done and then he dropped his hands a let Hermione turn around so that she was facing the front side of the Dark domain. He then snickered when her mouth parted in awe. She looked amazed and a little horrified. "What do you think?"
Hermione didn't speak at first. She was too busy staring at the castle which was dressed up with lights of every kind. And he knew had it been dark outside the effect would be five times what it was now. There were some lights that stayed on, but most of the lights were flashing blaringly. Not even muggles put this many Christmas lights up. She didn't speak until the lights disappeared. "I think he's going to blast you when he sees this."
Hermione shook her head.
"To be fair, I did warn him."
The witch turned back, studying the now darkened stone. She laughed under her breath. "Actually I wish I could be here to see his face, to see the full effect…"
"When I see you next I'll be sure to describe in great detail his reaction."
Christmas passed quietly. Hermione was off with her parents and Draco and the twins were off on their honeymoon and would not return until well after the New Year. Narcissa invited Tom and Harry over to the manor for dinner, but that was as much visiting for Christmas that they did. One good thing about the holidays, Tom noted at the time as he watched his husband speaking with Narcissa and Bella, was the fact Harry was distracted away from his worry over the upcoming birth. Harry had been in great spirits recently. Tom rather thought it was the calm before the storm. Sure, technically they had a little over two months to go but he knew the babies weren't going to be full term. The healer had said as much at Harry's last appointment. Said it would be too dangerous for the twins and Harry's body would inherently react. He was warned a premature labor was eminent.
Harry pulled his eyes away from the book he was reading to study the wizard spread out next to him. Tom was laying on his back, staring at the ceiling with his arms up and hands laced behind his head. He looked completely relaxed and if Harry could he would have moved to drape himself over Tom's body. But he couldn't do that now. He could only sit beside him with his legs crossed beneath him, a book propped up on his stomach, and enjoy the view. "My lord?"
There was a quick lifting of Tom's fine mouth before he spoke. "What would you say to your house elf becoming the nanny elf?"
"Tally?" Tom's eyes moved from the ceiling to his and he nodded. "But she's my best assistant."
"She could start off as the nanny elf and train another meanwhile."
"You like Tally, don't you?"
"Your insistence that I should become fond of house elves is ridiculous."
"Just trying to save some lives," Harry muttered, frowning fiercely.
"I will concede she is very competent. Especially with your care. For our newborns I don't think we could find better. And knowing that, having her train a nanny elf personally would be better off."
"Sure, when you put it like that." The fact was they both absolutely trusted Tally. "We should probably ask her first before…" Tom raised an eyebrow, his expression flat. Harry rolled his eyes. "I'll ask her. Tally!"
The House Elf popped in at the end of the bed and clasped her hands together, waiting. Harry set aside his book, uncrossed his legs, and crawled to the end so that he could see more than just her ears. "Hi."
She smiled at him and bobbed on her toes. "Master Harry. What can Tally be doing for you?"
"Actually I wanted to ask-"
"You are to become our nanny elf," Tom interrupted, no question involved. Harry threw a glare over his shoulder, but Tom was still staring at the ceiling. He turned back to the elf whose wide eyes had become even wider.
"We wanted to know if you'd be comfortable becoming the nanny elf and training another we bring in to take up that position after a while. Because I'll certainly miss you in the kitchen."
The wide eyes rounded and became wet and she started ringing her hands. "Master wants m-me to help with the b-babies?"
Tom sighed with annoyance. He could hear the tears.
Harry nodded, smiling softly.
"Oh yes, Masters! Tally would love and be honored to be nanny elf. Yes!"
Harry reached out to touch her ear. "Thank you." He shifted and nudged Tom's leg. He got a kick back for his trouble. Tally sobbed out but they ignored it, knowing she was happy. "Okay, so right now could you bring me something to eat. Sandwiches."
Tally nodded and popped away. He'd had a large dinner an hour ago, but he was starving again. Before he could right himself from his hands and knees, arms wrapped around his front and a very nice body pressed against his back. He was jerked to his knees before the weight could press him onto his stomach.
"Stop shaking your arse in my face," Tom grumbled against his ear.
Harry laughed. "I wasn't shaking it." But he did sit back on Tom's thighs, enjoying every bit of hardness there. He knew it wouldn't lead anywhere. Tom wouldn't let it and truthfully he wasn't really in the mood anymore. However, it was quite clear despite their mutual decision about holding out on sex now, Tom was frustrated. And this was funny since it had been Tom who'd wanted to cut out on the sex for the full nine months.
Harry reached for his book once Tom had reclined against the headboard, keeping him between his legs and went on with his reading. Tom had spent much of the day silent and Harry knew he was thinking of the work he had to do or was being done… Dark Lord ruler business. It was how he stayed on top of things when he wasn't actually out doing things.
"You are going to take those lights down. This Yule time nonsense is over."
Harry snickered. Tom's reaction to coming home and seeing the dark domain lit up like fireworks had been spectacular. And Harry did have to run and hide for a bit, and his scar did ache for the entire day, and they did lose a house elf… he felt really bad about that and had ranted at Tom the moment he found out.
"No I can't take them down until after New Years. I promised Hermione."
"Then the party is cancelled. I will not have people over here to see that… disgusting display of sheer stupidity and whimsicalness."
Harry laughed. "At least I didn't decorate the bedroom."
"You did that out of self preservation."
"And aren't you proud of me for that foresight?" he didn't need to see Tom's face to know his husband was rolling his eyes. "Most of the lights will come down," he compromised. "I'll make it look really nice and classy."
"I get the last say."
"Sure." Harry nodded absently as Tally had hovered a tray of food to his side and he was much too busy eyeing the sandwiches and deciding which one to gobble up first. He devoured four in less than ten minutes before speaking again. "There's this tradition for New Years Eve…" Tom hummed for him to continue. "Uh… it's said if you are embracing the one you love at the stroke of midnight, that's the person you will forever be with. For all eternity. Also good fortune and continued happiness."
"Do we not have that now?"
"Yes, but…" Harry shrugged. Was it wrong to wish for more? To make sure they would have it always. Was he pressing his luck, being greedy? Probably.
"It's a silly muggle tradition."
He tried to keep his shoulders from drooping. "Yes, I suppose you're right."
"Happy birthday," Harry murmured against Tom's mouth the morning of the last day of the year.
"So far it is a good one," was Tom's response as he tried to gather Harry as close to him as he could. It was not easy anymore.
"Will you try to have fun tonight?"
"As much as you tried on your birthday, little minx."
Harry frowned. He hadn't tried all that much. "I promise I only invited people I know you like or can halfway stand to be around."
"And everyone you enjoy being around."
"You like most of my friends."
"I can count them on one hand."
"I'm the Dark Lord."
By this time they were grinning at each other. Harry managed to wiggle closer some more and threw his leg over Tom's hip for more warmth. It was going to be a leisurely day, since all the arrangements for the party had been taken care of and would be handled by the house elves.
"You've made me very lazy," Tom murmured into his hair after some time. "I've never been so still in my life than I have since marrying you."
"It's good for you."
"I think you might be right."
"Besides, after the babies are born, these still days will be a thing of the past. Caring for the twins and our work schedules…" Harry looked at Tom's face and lifted a hand to card it through his husband's hair. "Did you ever have grey hair?"
A look of disdain crossed Tom's face. "No."
"Bet you will look very handsome with silver hair here," Harry returned, sliding his fingertips along Tom's temples.
"Are you insinuating our children are going to age me?"
Harry stifled his laughter and wisely shook his head.
Soon they dragged themselves out of bed and Tom ordered Harry into the bath for a nice long relaxing soak. And of course he joined his husband, despite knowing he was only causing himself unnecessary frustration. Though at the end of it, he was pleasantly surprised when Harry gave him a very thorough rubdown which left him relieved and very satisfied by the time he climbed out. Again he couldn't help but adore Harry's hands and mouth. Harry had said it was an early birthday present.
They ate breakfast together, though by the time he was finished, Harry was still eating, on his second helping. Tom popped down to his office to Floo Lucius. Though these days it was just out of habit. Lucius had proved over and over again he was very capable of taking care of business in his Lord's absence. And Maybe Tom had flooed to inquire as to how Lucius was feeling as well, though he wouldn't admit it to anyone and he also asked with such subtly that he was sure Lucius had no clue. Lucius was of course pregnant, as he had finally been told by his Lieutenants after Christmas dinner. As he said before, Severus never dallied. And they had both wanted children together for a long time.
Once the Floo call was done, Tom made his way to the nursery and spent a little time studying the place, mentally going over everything he planned to change and do to the room the following day. By the time he returned to Harry, it was past lunch time and he found his husband back in the kitchen, working on more fudge.
"I thought you were going to relax," Tom stated when he came to lean against the counter, glaring at the bowl and mixture Harry was engaged in.
"I am relaxed." Harry indicated the stool he was perched on. "It's not hard, making fudge. And what else am I going to do? Besides, fudge orders are still coming in and after Skeeter printed that small article and picture of Drake's wedding cake, I've been bombarded by orders for weddings."
"Which you declined, of course."
"Not too many are for the near future, but the ones who wanted cakes in the next three months, yes, I declined. Stating M.R.'s will be unavailable to do cakes until spring." Harry grinned. "Two of those people wrote back immediately stating they would push back the date of their wedding. I love it when I'm famous for something I've actually done. And they don't even know it's me!"
"Imagine the kind of business you would receive if they did know it was you."
"I don't want that kind of publicity."
"Yes, I know, little minx. No need for that tone."
Harry paused in his mixing and turned to face him. "Can Neville stay over tonight?"
Tom laughed at the sudden question. "Why?"
Harry shrugged. "I guess I never noticed how much I missed him. You know our days at Hogwarts, until we started speaking again. And then when he stayed here and at the villa… He's great company. Always has been."
Tom nodded. "I wanted to speak with him anyway."
"Your vampire propaganda?"
"Just don't be forceful."
"Harry, I know how to conduct my business."
"Well excuse me. I'm only trying to keep your desk from being thrown up on."
Tom snorted. "I'll be gentle."
The party began late since Harry wanted everyone to still be there at midnight and guests began arriving just after nine. Harry took to standing in the Entrance Hall at the beginning to greet everyone. He did that until Severus appeared, sneering at him, and dragged him to where the guests had congregated in the two level lounge area.
His feet had already begun to ache so by the time he was shoved onto a sofa, he didn't really put up much of a fight. Though he didn't sit down without a word. "It's Tom's birthday! I have to make sure everything is perfect!"
"Harry," the Potions Master began levelly, "everything is perfect. The decorations are amazing. The food is superb. The desserts are heavenly- Lucius and Narcissa haven't moved away from that table in the last half hour! The bloody ice sculptures are astounding and our Lord is enjoying himself. You have done more than enough already. You need to enjoy yourself and you can't do that by overtaxing yourself."
Harry blinked and then grinned. "Yes, mum."
A sharp sound escaped from between Severus' teeth as he spun around and stalked away. Harry was only alone for a minute before he was joined by Hermione and Andrew and soon Neville as well. Before anyone asked, Neville announced Nathan had gone around to check out the Wizarding Christmas decorations.
"How are your parents?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Wonderful, Harry. They send their best. They also sent me with a gift for the babies."
He was surprised by this. "You told them about my pregnancy?"
"Of course! They're very happy for you."
"Guess that means they don't know who I'm married to."
"No, I told them that too. They weren't too worried after I told them about my new job. They assume that if I've been chosen for such a position by the Dark Lord himself, neither of us is really in danger from him anymore."
"I've always thought your parents were amazing people."
Hermione looked across at Neville. "How was your Christmas, Neville?"
"It was fine," he muttered. He rubbed his hands on his pants and looked away from them.
Harry wanted to say something, because obviously something was wrong. But he remained silent, thinking he would ask about it after everyone had gone. "You still plan to stay over, Nev?"
"Sure." Neville looked at him and smiled excitedly. "Looking forward to it."
"So when are you planning to return to the villa?" Hermione asked.
"The end of next week," Harry answered. "Tom's going to work on the nursery before we go and of course you know we'll be having a full Silver meeting too. I want to hear from all our teams before I go. I think it would be good for every team to hear the progress everyone else has made. How's the new Auror division going?" he asked Andrew.
Andy lifted one shoulder in a half shrug. "Not as smoothly as I'd hoped, but we're getting there. We're short staffed, but that's to be expected. The application process is a lot more detailed, the screening process a lot more rigorous, which makes most people unacceptable."
"It'll probably take a couple of years before the Auror department is built up as strongly as it was before the takeover," Neville put in.
"Yeah that's true, but we're prepared for that as well." Andrew shrugged again and then grinned at Harry. "Were you planning on having your babies here or at the villa?"
"The villa. Won't be able to travel after too much longer. Once the babies are born, we'll return here after a few weeks. Depends on how healthy they are…"
"They'll be fine, Harry," Hermione assured, seeing the apprehension in his eyes. "You've already been taking very good care of them and they haven't been born yet."
"Twins are rare for males," he murmured.
"And there's a reason why you and the Dark Lord were blessed with the rare," Neville stated firmly. "You'll see. When they are born, they'll be absolutely perfect."
Soon after Bellatrix and Rodolphus came over to visit with Harry and it wasn't surprising when Neville quickly excused himself, along with Hermione and Andrew. Harry didn't blame Neville. In fact he was surprised his friend took to being surrounded by these people so well. And he was pleased Bellatrix kept her mouth shut. She didn't even look at Neville in a wrong way when she first came over.
Sometime later, the midnight hour was at hand. Harry had charmed the grandfather clock to sound throughout the manor so that everyone could count down. All the guests were standing around waiting. Suddenly he was disturbed Tom wasn't standing with him. He began to look around and panicked when he couldn't see Tom anywhere. And then he started asking people as he rushed by them, but no one could tell him exactly where they had seen Tom last. He couldn't rationalize why it was so important. He could only feel the panic. He might have lied when he agreed with Tom about the tradition being silly.
He raced up the stairs just as the clock began to strike twelve. A quick look around told him Tom wasn't anywhere near the balconies so he dashed over to the doors leading to the outdoor patio where more guests were located. Some of them were already embracing. Tom was not there.
By the time he leaned against the railing to stare at the white snow covering the back lawn, the clock was four chimes away from ending. It was too late to keep looking. It would be over before he could even take five steps. Just as he straightened, refusing to let his stupid emotional hormones and disappointment ruin the evening, a hand grabbed his shoulder and roughly spun him around.
"Why did you disappear up here, brat?" Tom demanded roughly. "Time has almost run out-"
Harry laughed and smashed their lips together; wrapping his arms tightly around Tom's back just as the clock struck twelve and the New Year began. Tom's arm wrapped around his shoulders and they didn't move away from that position for a long time after that. When they finally separated, Harry laughed again.
"You're the one who disappeared on me! I was running around everywhere looking for you."
A dark look appeared on his husband's face. "Running?"
"As close to it as I could get. That's really besides the point as you found me." Harry went in for another kiss. "Thank you."
"The things I do for you."
"And I will never forget it."
"We seem to have a problem." The two turned to the person who spoke. Severus stood a few feet away. "Or more to the point. Harry has a problem."
Harry frowned. "What the problem?"
"Whose bright idea was it to invite vampires and werewolves and give them copious amounts of alcohol?"
Harry cursed and pulled away from Tom's arms, immediately crossing the space to the stairs. By the time he was halfway down, he could hear the snarls. He wondered what had started this row. So far there had been minimal spats between the two factions whenever they got together. Not to say everything was perfect with his vamps and werewolf Silvers, because it wasn't all the time. But hardly did any very bad confrontations happen. At least not within his presence.
But then he saw Fenrir was one of the werewolves in the center of whatever was going on. He wouldn't have been surprised except Fenrir seemed to be standing in front of a couple of vampires, blocking them and facing off with another werewolf. This one by the name of Elias. He was a biggish werewolf and was openly snarling at Fenrir. This one was stubborn, Harry had learned. The vampires at Fenrir's back were snarling as well, flashing their fangs and clearly ready to attack.
"You will back away slowly now. Do anything else and I may consider it an act of aggression and react as such," Fenrir hissed at Elias. "Do not forget where you are."
At this point Harry debated on whether he should even get involved. He had no idea what this was about and if the werewolves started swinging fists, he didn't want to get anywhere near that. Neville was standing very close by with Nathan so he sidled up to them and quietly asked what had happened.
Nathan was grinning. "One of us apparently kissed someone one of the werewolves had been eyeing."
Harry turned to Neville, who gave him a sheepish smile upon his exasperated look. "Happy New Year?"
"I'll be right here, darling. No need to fear. He means you no harm."
Neville pulled his eyes away from the Dark Lord's study door to look at Nathan with wide fearful eyes. "H-how can you be sure?"
"He hasn't any reason to do you harm now, does he?"
Neville turned back to the door and actually thought about that and eventually came to the conclusion that no, Voldemort had no reason to kill him now. He hadn't done anything wrong or crossed the Dark Lord in any way… beyond daring to stand in his way when he sought to torture and/or destroy Nathan that one time in the dungeon. But Harry said Voldemort had gotten over that. He was still only mad at Nathan.
"Besides," Nathan murmured lowly, running a cold finger across the back of Neville's neck and grinning when his beating heart shivered. "I know for certain the Dark Lord is pleased with you for trying to develop a way for us to roam in the daylight. You are more of an asset to him now. He wants you to succeed in that. It will only help in his goals."
"Do you know what he wants with me?"
"I have it figured out and I would never let you go in there if his purposes were unsavory in any fashion."
Finally he nodded, took a deep breath, and knocked. And bolstered by Nathan's words, Neville went in without hesitation once called to enter. It was a great relief to find Harry inside as well even though his friend seemed to be not paying attention. Harry was stretched out on a sofa with his eyes closed and appeared to be sleeping.
"Sir?" He congratulated himself for not stuttering.
The Dark Lord studied him silently and unwaveringly for a full minute. Enough time to have Neville's heart racing again in panic. He couldn't seem to pull his eyes away either. He was frozen. Just when he thought he might cry, Voldemort looked away. At Harry. Neville had not heard anything from his friend and he didn't dare turn to look. Finally the Dark Lord looked back at him. He was frowning but the look in his eyes wasn't so intense.
"Harry has told me of your intention to keep your half vampire bra-baby."
There had been a slight clearing of throat which indicated Harry was clearly awake. When Neville turned to look, Harry was half sitting up now and staring with the same scary intense look in his eyes that his husband had had only moments before. Only Harry wasn't piercing Neville with that look. He was looking straight at the Dark Lord.
Neville turned back to the Dark Lord and nodded, just missing Tom's uncomfortable shifting. "Nathan and I, yes sir."
"Are you aware of the prestige behind your name?"
"Mr. Malfoy has been tutoring me," Neville answered with another nod. "And I've been doing some genealogy research in my spare time."
"And are you aware of my goals regarding certain magical beings?"
"Yes sir." Voldemort didn't seem to find that answer sufficient. Neville felt he should go on. "You want to integrate them into wizarding society." When the Dark Lord nodded, Neville asked, "what do you get out of that?"
It was clear Voldemort was surprised by his question. It having come without prodding. He looked surprised but not angry. As told by his reply.
"Good question. Aside from their allegiance, magical beings can accomplish many things humans cannot. Have you ever tried to argue with a vampire? And come out the victor?" Voldemort nodded when Neville blushed. It was almost impossible. Vampires were very persuasive. The Dark Lord went on before Neville could lose himself to the memories of being expertly persuaded. "You find yourself in a unique position to help your lover and others of his kind."
Neville was more interested than scared now. "How?"
"Do you know anything about half vampires, Longbottom?" Neville shook his head. "Neither does most in our society. I want that to change. I want your pregnancy known and followed. I would like your pregnancy front page news."
"Who would take interest in me?"
Neville didn't point out the hypocrisy of all this. Why was it acceptable for him to make his pregnancy public when it hadn't been for Harry? He wanted to point this out but he didn't dare.
"You would be surprised," the Dark Lord answered his last spoken question. "To sum it up- in Harry's apt words- you are to become the vampires' poster boy. I want Wizarding Britain to be enamored with your baby before he or she is even born."
"If you- if I can do some good for the vampires in this way, alright."
"This and your daylight remedy. Have you considered experimenting with half vampire properties?"
"It's on my list of things to try."
One of Voldemort's eyebrows rose just slightly and Neville realized he'd surprised the dark wizard again.
"Seems you have things well under control."
"Well it is my project, sir."
It wasn't until he heard Harry's snicker did he realize how that had come out. Snippy. His eyes went very round and he found himself under that intense scary stare again. Neville coughed, turned to Harry, and gave him a pained grimace. Harry grinned and threw back two thumbs up.
Voldemort's voice was so low Neville's fingers turned white upon his knees. Surely he would be tortured for his attitude now.
But he wasn't. The Dark Lord didn't look pleased, but he wasn't angry either. "I don't want- All this… my baby won't be in danger?"
"You'll be well looked after if you do this for me," Voldemort answered softly and with more emotion in his eyes than Neville had ever seen before. He looked sympathetic to Neville's worries.
"Eventually I will become a vampire too, so-"
"What?!" Harry cried in shock. "Nev-" the Dark Lord raised a hand and sent a look in Harry's direction. Harry snapped his mouth shut.
Neville would have to talk to Harry about that later. "It would benefit me and Nathan and I just don't want anything to happen to our child."
"You'd like your baby to eventually be able to attend Hogwarts?"
"Oh yes," Neville answered with a big smile and he nodded briskly.
"You do this and that will happen. And as I said. I will look after you and your unborn child."
"Okay. Yeah! I'll do it!"
"Good. You have an appointment with the Prophet on Monday."
Neville practically skipped out of the study. Harry watched him go with a frown. When the door shut he turned to his husband.
"Come now, Harry. You didn't see that coming?"
"He never said anything."
"Perhaps he wanted to be sure before saying anything to anyone."
"And it isn't as if he'll be alone for all eternity."
"You, I, and a choice few will not die for some centuries," Tom reminded.
"I know! But-"
"Actually this is probably-"
"Will you stop interrupting me?!" Tom chuckled darkly. Harry huffed and climbed to his feet. "Prat."
Harry huffed again but followed the order. He rounded the desk to stand beside his husband's chair. Tom took his hand and pulled him onto his lap before whispering into Harry's ear the words he so loved to hear from his husband. Harry wrapped an arm around Tom's neck and nuzzled his cheek. "I love you too." He pulled back and his smile was enormous. "You really will look after Neville and his baby, won't you?"
Tom cleared his throat. "In a manner of speaking. I will do as I said and ensure their continued safety."
Outside the study, Neville was staring at his boyfriend with wide surprised eyes. "That went great! I'm still alive!"
Nathan laughed and wrapped around him. "You did well, darling."
"I don't think Harry was very pleased to hear I'm going to let you turn me."
"He was only surprised, I think."
Neville pulled back and ran a hand through his hair. "Nathan… Got a letter from Gran."
Nathan's smile diminished.
"She's uh… she's coming home."
Harry stepped out just in time to see Nathan's face take on a very nasty look. "You told her about the baby, didn't you? I suppose she took it like the old fart she is?"
Harry wisely kept from laughing at Nathan's correct description, but only because Neville was back to looking as he did at the beginning of the party- and this explained why he had looked that way- and Nathan looked extremely angry. Harry hadn't seen him look really angry before. It was a bit shocking.
"I thought she would be happy," Neville whispered. But then he shook his head. "She called me an irresponsible wreck."
"You told her it's mine."
Neville's bottom lip trembled and he nodded. All at once Nathan's anger seemed to disappear and he grabbed Neville in a tight hug. And though he didn't look angry anymore, his following words were underlined with chilling growls. "Darling, I'm going to say this only once. I will not let your grandmother ruin this for me. For us."
He pressed a kiss to Neville's temple before stepping back and misting away in black smoke. Neville stood there staring where Nathan had last been. Harry blinked. That had seemed very ominous. In a very dangerous way.
"I told you about what happened. About him being disowned," Neville whispered as if he could hear Harry's thoughts. "He really means it. That's the vampire part of him. And he's afraid I'm going to let her sway me away from him." He straightened and turned to Harry. "I'm only upset because she doesn't want to accept this. But I'm not going to let her ruin the life I've built while she's been gone, Harry. In the House of Wizards, I'm Lord Longbottom. I'm the master of my life and she's going to accept that or leave again."
Harry released a relieved breath. He then grinned and went to grab Neville's hand. "Want to act like girls and hang out in my bed and stuff ourselves with fudge?"
He looked so hopeful that Neville laughed. "Sure. But uh... let's make it my bed. I'm not going anywhere near the Dark Lord's bed."
Harry snickered and nodded.
Several hours later, when the sun had been well up for a couple of hours, the two moseyed through the halls, talking quietly until they came upon the nursery. Harry poked his head in first. His mouth parted in surprise and he moved into the open doorway, gaping. Tom had half the nursery painted already with the solid color they previously decided on. A soft green which would be accented with soft blues, yellows, and browns.
Harry had taken a step inside and then immediately fell back to slump against the door frame. The Dark Lord stopped his actions and turned to him. He then quickly crossed the nursery, took hold of Harry around his shoulders and pulled him out of the room.
"You shouldn't be in here. The fumes are not good for you."
Harry blinked at him. It was true the fumes had immediately bothered him, but he'd also become severely dizzy and his body had felt like a dead weight. He was breathing rapidly.
"I wanted to watch you do menial labor," he muttered, knowing what was about to happen. "Who knows when I'll ever get the chance again?!"
"You are exhausted," Tom realized. "You'll need to get back to bed. I'm calling your healer. Your Silver meeting is cancelled as well."
"I would love to take a nap," Harry admitted.
"I'll help you back to your room," Neville said. "And then I'll leave for home so you can sleep."
Harry turned back to look in the nursery. "But-"
"You can come and see the end result when I've finished," Tom said. "Otherwise you are to remain in bed until we leave for Spain again. Because we both know what Healer Monroe is going to say."
"This bites," Harry muttered to Neville on their way back to his room. Neville could only respond by giving him a sympathetic pat on his shoulder.
Once Neville flooed in to his parlor, he immediately called for his house elf. The moment she was standing before him, he began rattling out a set of instructions. "Gran is coming home very soon. When she returns she is not allowed anywhere near my greenhouses. She's not allowed in my office, the cellars, or my bed chambers. Understand?"
The elf's ears drooped and her eyes widened but she nodded.
"Good. Also all visitors must be announced to me first before they are allowed in. And the curtains I have closed are to remain closed. Gran isn't allowed to touch those either. If she orders you to do something, it must be run by me first. And lastly, Gran cannot under any circumstances override any of the orders I've just given you. If any of these rules are not followed, I will replace you."
"Yes Master Neville. I understands."
"Great! Okay. Is Nathan home yet?" He figured he was. The sun was up. Nathan was always home by that time.
"No one has come."
Neville frowned. "Thank you, Buttons. You can go."
An ear twitched. "Would master like lunch?"
He left the parlor to check the cellars just in case Nathan had snuck in without the elf knowing. The vampire wasn't there. He then grabbed his research and headed out to greenhouse three where he usually did all his written research. He did use his office sometimes, but usually he went to his greenhouses.
The candles he lit had burned down three quarters before he pulled away from his work. The sun was just setting and he found himself starving. By the time he was sitting in the kitchen, eating a small dinner, darkness had fully set in. And because Nathan still hadn't appeared- which was not normal behavior in their routine- Neville had a suspicion his vampire was off sulking about his grandmother's return. Sulking and probably worrying about Neville's imminent choices.
My vampire. Neville grinned stupidly at the thought.
Neville went back down to check the cellar. It was pitch dark. "Nathan?"
He didn't wait for a reply and instead lit the sconce on the wall next to the bottom of the stairs. Once he had given the vampire permission to stay there, Nathan had quickly made himself comfortable in the cellar. Moving furniture in even. He'd moved in a nice warm mahogany bed but also a casket. He said it was a joke but Neville also knew his lover sometimes used it too. The casket was an old fashioned pure white affair with dark red velvet lining inside.
Neville had just opened the top half of the casket, noting no Nathan, when the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. It was a feeling one got when they were being watched, or more specifically, appraised by a stalking predator. He turned away from the casket to peer into darkened areas the light of the sconce did not reach.
The shadows dispersed slightly and he was able to see the shadowed areas fairly well. He backed up and sat on the edge of the bed as his eyes met and held a pair of glinting metallic orbs. Nathan was slouched against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. He definitely had a sulk about him.
Neville had just opened his mouth to speak when the house elf appeared, wringing her hands. She announced his grandmother had arrived and was demanding to see him immediately. Nathan straightened, and his hands curled into fists.
Neville stood, never taking his eyes off his lover. "I'm busy here. Tell her she'll have to wait until I'm done. Don't come back down here again and remember your standing orders. My study and the library are off limits to her as well." Nathan looked stunned. Neville remained standing at the end of the bed. "Are you done sulking?"
That slow teasing smile appeared on Nathan's face. "Darling, I never sulk."
Neville shook his head at the obvious lie. Nathan had been sulking. "Where were you then?" he then narrowed his eyes. "Were any of them males? Did you leave anyone alive?"
"I won't need to eat for a week if that answers your question."
Neville sat back down. "One anyway," he mumbled.
Nathan finally pushed away from the wall. "You told her you were busy. We don't want to make you a liar, do we?"
Nathan crossed the room and sat down next to him and just as a cold hand slid against the back of his neck, Neville asked, "do you know any half vampires?"
"Hmm, no," Nathan murmured as he leaned over to nuzzle his neck. "Not personally. But Wills does."
"Could you…" there was a mouth sucking at his skin and it was becoming increasingly harder to think. "Um… could you maybe get me an introduction?"
"Anything for you. Now shush," Nathan breathed in his ear while fingers were expertly unbuttoning his shirt. "I want to make your abysmal grandmother wait for several hours. I need to make you very busy."
Neville lay his hand over the one slipping in to press against his chest. "She's going to be very cross with me. You have to promise not to leave me alone to deal with her. Ever."
Nathan pulled back slightly so that they were eye locked. His eyes were back to being pale blue. "That's a promise I will happily make, Neville."
Harry sighed and pulled his eyes away from the window, away from watching the rain splattering against the window. They had been back in Spain for nearly three weeks now and Harry hardly left his bed. And if he did it was always to either go to the loo or go lay on one of the lounges in the adjacent sitting room when he had visitors. Iseut had come for a visit the week before, and just two days ago Rafael had dropped by. Neville was supposed to arrive the next day with Hermione and Remus to visit. Draco and the twins were at the villa now. Immediately arriving once their honeymoon was over. Draco had taken up permanent residence and the twins Flooed back and forth from England every other day. And of course there was Tom. His husband had not really left his side at all in the last three weeks. If he had work, it was always done in the sitting room connected to their bedroom. Or even the fireplace in their bedroom.
"I need to go to the loo," he announced suddenly.
Bunnymort shifted out from his warm comfortable spot where he'd been nestled in between Harry's arm and neck. Harry pushed up into a half sitting position just in time to see his bunny transform into his wizard. He always smiled whenever he could watch Tom transform. "I feel good," he said before he was asked and managed to roll to the edge of the bed where Tom was waiting.
He did feel good as he'd had a great night's sleep. But as soon as Tom helped him out of bed and his feet hit the floor, he was hit with a cramp. He assumed it was because he needed to relieve himself badly. It wasn't the first time he'd gotten cramps for that very reason. But after Tom helped him to the bathroom and he'd done his business, another cramp hit him and this one was worse.
He looked up at his husband with wide eyes. "My stomach hurts," he whispered.
Tom immediately led him back to the bed and by the time they were at the side of it, he was hunched over and pulling in deep breaths. There was no question about what this was. He managed to laugh even through the pain. "Our babies are coming!"
"The thing to do here is not to panic," Tom said evenly as he helped Harry back into bed.
Harry laughed again because his husband's eyes were wide with panic. Imagine, the Dark Lord panicking because his children were about to be born. A man of details and extensive research; a man with impeccable sensibilities- for the most part- and he looked like he had no idea what to do next. "You should go Floo Monroe, yeah?"
"Tally!" when the house elf popped in, Tom instructed her to fetch those who were on the previously made contact list to inform them Harry had gone into labor. He then went to the Floo to contact the healer. Healer Monroe took next to no time to arrive and within the hour, everyone who had wanted to be there to support Harry during this time had arrived at the villa.
Severus appeared soon after he arrived. Once Tom opened the door to him, the Dark Lord was surprised to find the Potions Master looking slightly nervous. "Severus?"
"My Lord… forgive me, but I wondered if you would give me the honor of being present for the births of your heirs." His eyes flickered over Tom's shoulder for a second when he heard Harry panting as he tried to keep the pain under control.
"I will need to ask Harry. It will be up to him."
Severus nodded, and then stood back to wait silently while the Dark Lord went to speak with his husband. It wasn't long before Severus was granted permission to enter.
"Severus! Hi! They're coming!"
Despite the pain he must be in, Harry's face was nothing but excited.
"Thank you for allowing me to be here."
"You wanted to see what it was like, right? For Lucius' time?"
"Yes, of course."
Tom looked at him sideways. His look told Severus he knew perfectly well Severus wasn't in there just for curiosity. Severus had come for Harry. The Potions' Master cleared his throat and took one of the chairs seated beside the bed. "Have you settled on names yet?"
"Pretty much." Harry turned to Tom, who stood at the end of his bed watching him. "We'll make the final decision once they're born. Speaking of…" He looked pointedly at the healer.
Healer Monroe smiled gently at him. "You've been very patient, Harry. It's almost time."
Harry huffed. "Since you're using magic to retrieve them, I don't understand why we have to wait."
"We must wait until you feel the need to push," Tom told him. "That's when we know they are truly ready to be born,"
Harry was waylaid from saying anything to that when another contraction stole his breath. This one the worst yet. He hunched over his stomach, grinding his teeth and trying to keep from crying out. Tom was by his side in seconds, wrapping one arm around his back and clutching at one of his balled up hands. This happened three times more before Monroe announced he was ready to extract the twins.
Severus stood as Harry was coaxed to lay on his back. The Dark Lord was handed a light blue potion to give to his husband. "Remember," Monroe said to Harry. "The potion will make you feel strange, but you will feel no pain. It will make you feel disconnected from your body for a short time. This will keep your magic from interfering with mine as I surround your babes and deliver them from the womb."
Harry took the potion without hesitation. He was ready and he had been coached many times before, by both the healer and his husband. Once the potion was taken he was instructed to relax. He tried but at the beginning he could feel himself fighting the potion's effects. Tom slid closer and moved his head until it rested in his lap. He still had a firm hold on one of his hands and his free hand slipped into Harry's hair. Harry lifted his eyes to watch his husband's face.
"Breathe, little minx. Everything will be fine. I promise."
It was like an out of body experience. He kept firm focus on his husband while Healer Monroe prodded his stomach here and there with his wand. He ignored the Healer's softly whispered incantations. He couldn't really feel his body anymore, though he did feel a sort of weird tugging sensation. There was a soft resistance and then suddenly the tension released as if a bubble had been popped.
And then he heard a baby crying. Harry pulled his eyes away from Tom's to find Monroe standing at the end of a bed, holding two tiny babies in his arms. Severus did more than just watch, and hurried over with a receiving blanket to take one baby to wrap it and wipe away the birth.
Harry had a moment of panic. "Why do I only hear one? There's only one crying? Tom?"
"They both appear to be perfectly healthy," Monroe answered quickly, which immediately calmed both new parents.
"My Lord." Monroe was holding out a baby for him to take.
Tom stood and eyed the shrieking red faced baby. "Perhaps the one that is not crying…"
Harry laughed. "Tom!"
He resigned himself and reached out to take his son. He congratulated himself on keeping his hands steady as the small bundle was placed within them. He was so small. But as soon as he brought the swaddled newborn to rest securely in his arms against his chest and murmured a soft "hush now," the baby quieted and tiled his face up. Eyes cracked open just a little bit and Tom was lost.
Harry committed the scene to memory before he was distracted when Severus handed him their second newborn, who seemed content to just lie there quietly and bask in the warmth of the new world. Though his eyes were wet, Harry congratulated himself on not crying outright. He didn't want to disturb the peace of this wonderful moment. Both babies were so very small, but they had dark hair already and though they weren't chubby, they were a healthy size for newborn twins.
Tom came to rest beside him so they could see the twins together. "I told you they would be healthy and beautiful," he said to Harry. "Was it worth it?"
Harry only nodded. He couldn't seem to speak.
"Yes, I think so too."
A/N: It's been... I'm not actually sure how long it's been since I last updated. Sorry about the long wait. But I had a baby and he's eight months old now, plus I'm working. So I write when I can and I'll post when I can.
As for this chapter, I'm relieved the pregnancy is over with. The twins are here, but they're not going to be the main part of the story.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this chapter. Have a great week! :D