"Nathan, you need to feed," Harry murmured as he walked into the bedroom three nights after Abigail came into the world. Nathan was sitting in a chair next to Neville's side of the bed. The vampire was cradling his daughter against his chest, occasionally running a gloved finger against her cheek. He'd taken to wearing gloves when he held Abigail to make sure he didn't give her a chill. When he wasn't sitting in that chair holding his daughter, he was in the bed next to his husband and hadn't moved beyond that for more than a moment.
"You said that last night and the night before. You haven't gone and there's no more reserves here. I'll stay with Neville and Abigail while you go get blood. Promise I won't leave them."
"Please. You won't do either of them any good if you're too weak from lack of nourishment. Nor if you become agitated and violent. Don't make me go and get Trent. You'll only worry Neville when he wakes."
Nathan pulled his eyes away from Abigail to look at his mortal husband. Neville had yet to stir. Monroe said it should be any time that night or the following day. The healer said the antidote took, but Neville was still too pale. He still looked like a vampire before his time.
He blew out a breath and stood, knowing Harry was correct. "I feel like hunting someone. It's still better coming out of a neck than from a bottle."
"There are those restricted areas the Dark Lord set up…"
Nathan laughed at Harry's worried tone. "Don't worry. I'm not about to do something to anger your husband again."
Harry went to take up Nathan's seat, smiling when the vampire deposited his daughter into his arms without hesitation. "Um… Nathan? What was that about your sir name? Tom hasn't explained." Nathan looked like he didn't want to answer, didn't want it brought up again. "You don't have to answer."
"I was near royalty," Nathan murmured as he sat on the side of the bed facing Harry. "My parents are far related to the Royal family. They disowned me because of my preferences- in many things- and then told people I was killed to save face. They paid me to stay away forever. I was fine with that so I took the money, signed their abysmal contract and disappeared because I had no intention of ever wanting to see them again. I still don't." The vampire shook his head. "Your husband recognized the name immediately, which means he knows that. He must have recalled the story. It was in the news at the time, my apparent death. They could easily be blackmailed now."
"Shit," breathed Harry, suddenly understanding why Nathan would have rather kept it secret.
For a moment Harry wondered how Tom could know that information, as a decade ago he was still in spirit form; but then he reasoned when Tom was resurrected, the Dark Lord would have studied up on all the news and knowledge that he missed. Muggle and wizard. He wondered if Tom had been aware of what was going on in the world while he was a spirit. Had his husband been able to see and hear what was going on around him at the time? It was something to ask later though he was hesitant to do so because Tom avoided talking about that time. Being nothing more than a spirit for years was not a pleasing experience. Still, Harry thought he deserved it after killing his parents, murdering so many innocent people.
"He will use that to his advantage in some way, as only he could," Nathan went on, "and I know there's nothing you or I can do about it."
Harry grimaced. That was true.
Nathan shrugged, turned back to look at Neville. "Doesn't matter, whatever the case. I have my darling and our little girl. I don't care about anything else. One day Neville and I will have a second child and the four of us will walk this earth for eternity together. As far as I'm concerned, I'm much better off without my first family."
"You are," Harry stated firmly. "We care about you here."
"I don't know… how I got so lucky."
"That's easy. You pursued Neville." Here Harry went back to grinning. "And from what Nev has told me, you did it in a brilliantly relentless fashion."
Nathan turned back to him; the haunted expression dissolving to be replaced by mischief. "Ah, my darling was a fun chase. Still is." He then laughed. "Getting that first kiss was a chore! The silly thing actually said I was being ridiculous for wanting a kiss from him! That he wasn't kiss worthy or some such nonsense! It took some persuasion…"
"And you really love him?" Harry asked, his eyes dropped to the beautiful baby in his arms.
Nathan noticed the changed tone and the wariness in those pretty green eyes, trying to be hidden beneath the black bangs.
"I would rather destroy myself than walk another night on this earth without him, Harry." When they young wizard looked back at him, his smile was soft. "When I realized this, I was afraid, conflicted… I came to this realization just after he let me live here. I'd never met anyone like him. There isn't anyone like my darling."
"Shouldn't you be out hunting, vampire?"
The two turned to see the Dark Lord and Draco walk into the room. While Tom hovered just inside the room, Draco went straight to Neville. Anger burned in his eyes as he lay a hand against Neville's shoulder.
"He's going to be okay, Drake."
Draco nodded stiffly as he dropped into the other chair beside the bed.
"My lord, I was about to go out… where's that old beating heart?"
"Somewhere you will not be able to get at her."
"She nearly killed them. She tried to kill our daughter," Nathan growled. "The right is mine."
Again, Draco gave a silent nod.
"I will not dispute that. You are correct, however-"
"Neville wouldn't like that," Harry said softly.
"That's neither here nor there," Tom replied lowly, clearly displeased at having been interrupted.
Harry's look was hard on his husband. "Isn't it?"
"I will go hunting," Nathan declared after eyeing the two, sensing an argument on the horizon. He took Abigail from Harry to give her a hug and a kiss before replacing her back in the wizard's arms, knowing she was in good hands.
Harry looked down at Abigail's face and murmured something very quietly for only his ears. Nathan grinned.
"Yes, of course."
Harry smiled and nodded. "And I'll contact you if Neville should wake before you return."
"Thank you, Harry."
Nathan misted out and Harry stood.
"Secrets?" Tom hissed.
Harry couldn't hold back a snicker as he crossed to him and carefully deposited Abigail into his husband's arms. Tom automatically secured her gently against his chest. "I only asked if he'd be alright with you holding Abigail. You haven't yet."
"Why should I want-" Abigail then looked straight at him. He snapped his mouth closed, a ghost of a smile on his lips.
"You're a sucker for babies now. Imagine that," Harry responded as he left the room to go check on his sons, who would probably be waking any moment now for a nighttime meal. Draco laughed. And because he laughed out loud without meaning to, he hurried after Harry to save himself from his Lord's wrath.
"Bloody brats," Tom hissed as he took Draco's vacated chair. "Hurry and wake up, Longbottom," he snapped at the pale figure on the bed. And then he glared, half expecting the gullible Gryffindor to do so just because he was alone with him in the room.
Again his eyes went back to the baby. Newborns were amazing little things. She was a pretty one, he would admit. Blue eyes with slightly elongated pupils- the only current indication of her vampiric blood- and darkish peach fuzz hair. A cute button nose. Still nothing as grand as his sons. "You have some power in you," he murmured, softly bouncing her in his arms. "I can feel it even now. Pleasing. Also surprising considering your muggle father…" he turned back to study Neville, frowning harshly. What kind of power was buried deep within Longbottom; untapped just because he didn't have the confidence in himself? Maybe, he thought as his eyes brightened with an idea, maybe it was time to start training elite again. To train more than just Harry. He enjoyed teaching. Lucius and Severus' training had not been a burden. And training Harry was always a pleasure.
He looked back down to Abigail. She was still watching him. He gently bounced her in his arms as a pleased grin passed over his face. "We'll see."
A groan coming from the bed had him tensing. He looked to find Longbottom's eye lids flickering. After a few short moments it was clear the young wizard was trapped in a nightmare. His head tossing back and forth, fingers clutching at the sheets. And before Tom could make himself scarce, the impudent wizard bolted straight up in bed with a strangled cry. Those hands gripping at his stomach. Eyes wide and wet.
"My baby! Where's my baby? Abigail…" he moaned in strangled grief.
"She's here," Tom answered, striding around the bed; unable to keep unaffected. The boy woke up thinking he'd lost his baby to the poison. "She's perfectly healthy. Abigail has been waiting to meet you." He deposited the baby into her papa's arms. "She's alright, Longbottom. I did promise you."
Neville held Abigail in both arms, cradling her head in his hand. He brought her up to eye level and as Wills had done, blew out a breath and pressed his forehead against hers. "H-hello."
Tom quickly vacated the room and went in search of Harry. Once he found him, he glowered something awful. "Why do you always leave ME the one to deal with it?!" he demanded.
Harry, who was in the nursery and sitting in a rocking chair feeding Alex, blinked stupidly up at him. "Erm… what now?" before Tom could answer, he went on. "Could you burp Cyril for me? I've done it already, but I think he might need another one."
"Your friend is awake," Tom replied as he pulled his son from the crib and settled Cyril at his shoulder, not forgetting the burp cloth this time. "He woke from a nightmare, thinking he lost Abigail to the poison. I think you should make sure he stays calm. I'll contact Monroe."
They both left the nursery and split in the hall. Harry taking Alex with him as he hurried to Neville while Tom went to the Floo. Harry hurried into Neville's room to find his friend cradling his daughter. He was both smiling and crying. Pain in his eyes.
"Harry… she's so beautiful—Gran! She tried to kill her! She almost succeeded!"
"Right now the important thing to remember is Abigail is safe. And she's healthy. You were also poisoned and need to keep in bed and relax. Think about your grandmother later."
Harry then quickly shot off a Patronus message to Nathan.
Neville took a deep breath and went back to studying his daughter. Then he grinned happily. "She looks like Nathan!"
Harry laughed. "You're in there too."
Neville lay kisses all over her face and inhaled deeply. "She smells wonderful."
"Not an hour ago, she didn't," was the laughing response as Harry took one of the chairs beside the bed and went back to feeding his son. "Nathan fed her then as well so she should be good for a little while. He's been so worried about you, Neville. He went to go feed," he said before Neville asked. "He'll be back shortly."
"We married…" Neville breathed as if just remembering, which was understandable since it happened during a lot of pain, chaos and just before he was put to sleep.
"Yep. You're Mr. Nathan now."
"Mr. Neville Nathan… that sounds ridiculous." Neville laughed. "I like it!"
They fell into silence for a short time in which Harry finished feeding Alex and burped him before cradling him; hoping to get his little boy back to sleep. Seeing both Alex and Abigail nearly side by side, Harry was startled to see how big his son had become in such a short time.
Nathan returned home very shortly after. The vampire had forgotten to wipe his mouth after dinner.
"Nathan, you've got a little something on your face," Neville pointed out calmly, indicating the blood around his mouth and dripping down his chin. "And you're not touching us until it's gone."
Nathan dashed into the connecting loo. By the time he reappeared, Healer Monroe had arrived to check Neville over. Harry left the four alone then to give them privacy and to put Alex back down for bed, hoping to get some sleep himself. Tom would stay the night again, but until he was ready for bed, he tended to lock himself in Neville's library.
The next morning, Neville made it down for breakfast, which was relieving to all within the residence and the young Lord looked genuinely surprised to see he had guests staying at his home. Draco Malfoy and his mother mostly.
"You didn't actually think we'd leave until we were sure you and Abigail would be fine, did you?" Draco demanded before scoffing at the look on Neville's face.
Neville then shook his head. "You keep shocking me, Malfoy."
"Clearly I was stupid at school," Draco declared to the surprise of all. "I think you're brilliant. People who are sweet aren't wastes of space after all."
Narcissa smiled gently at her son while both Neville and Harry turned to the twins. They laughed and shook their heads. "We didn't give him anything."
A light blush spread across Neville's cheeks. "Well…alright, then. Thanks, Draco."
"Shall I close the curtains," Hermione asked. "Will Nathan be joining us?"
"No, thanks, Hermione. He's staying upstairs with Abigail."
As Neville sat down, he frowned a little. "Where's Alex and Cyril?"
This question spurned a very surprising giggle from Narcissa while the others smiled or laughed. Harry answered with a dreamy smile. "Tom took them to work with him. To the Ministry."
"I'll look in on them on my way to the office," Hermione said.
Harry snickered and nodded. Probably a wise decision.
Near the end of breakfast, Narcissa cleared her throat. "Lord Longbottom," she began.
"Ah…" he shifted uncomfortably. "Please call me Neville."
"Very well," she went on with a nod, "Neville. I'm not sure if anyone told you. About the night of Abigail's birth and the following events once you were asleep, but I feel you should know…"
"Abigail wasn't breathing when she was born and Healer Monroe wasn't having any luck reviving her."
Neville sucked in a pained breath. "Not breathing?" he whispered.
Sitting right next to him, she leaned over to grasp his hand. "The vampire. Mr. Tarring. He took her and he was able to rub breath back into her. I thought you should know this. It was miraculous to see. And then of course Severus arrived and all was well with both of you."
"T-thank you for telling me. Thank you so much for looking after us."
Narcissa gave his hand a gentle squeeze before pulling away. "It's the least we could do," she replied and Neville felt she wasn't just speaking on her behalf.
"Harry, have you heard from Remus?" asked Hermione.
"Got an owl from him yesterday in fact. Going to visit today with the twins." He grinned. "Hopefully try to bully Tom into going with me. Fingers crossed Fenrir will be there as well."
"They're funny together," Fred said.
Harry agreed whole heartedly.
"… don't know, Lucius," hissed Tom with impatience. "When I practiced, the baby wasn't real! Hermione conjured a doll. Its limbs weren't moving about all over the place nor was it continuously leaking!"
"This is tremendously difficult—Merlin! It's on me! My Lord, it's still coming—Scourgify!"
"Alexander, you will cease movement at once!"
"Couldn't we just use our wands?" Lucius asked desperately.
"I will not be bested by an infant, Lucius. Even if he is using very dirty tactics."
"You sounded remarkably like your son just now."
"At least my son never smelled like this!"
"And clearly you never changed Draco's diapers so how would you know?!" Tom snapped back.
Harry pulled away from the door, covered his mouth with his hands to keep his laughter from being heard in the office. He looked to Padma to find her sitting completely still, staring at the door. Honestly Harry thought she wasn't able to process what she was hearing, concerning who exactly she was hearing it from. Harry pulled away from his amusement long enough to feel proud of his husband for not cursing Lucius for that snapped retort. Both elder wizards were in a state of panic, which was probably another reason why Tom hadn't locked the door and silenced the room.
"Thanks for calling me," he whispered to Hermione.
"They need help, obviously. And I'm not about to go in there. I might actually get cursed this time…" She trailed off with a quiet laugh. She nodded to both Harry and Padma before quickly leaving the Minister's waiting room.
"How's the Evil Overlord's schedule look today, Padma?"
Padma dragged her eyes away from the door. She cleared her throat and shook her head. "I'm not allowed to give out that information." Here she smiled. "Not even to you, Harry. And as I like my health and my job and want to keep both, there's no use in trying to persuade me," she went on when he opened his mouth.
"Mustn't be too busy," Harry concluded with a grin. "Otherwise he wouldn't have brought the twins with him."
Padma dipped her chin in answer.
"So you do like this position then?"
"Yes. Thanks so much for the referral! It's a great job, wonderful benefits. Lord Riddle keeps me on my toes. Never get bored here, that's for sure. He's… he's not been horrid to me. He's very demanding yes, but he's not been cruel or… evil, like I thought he might-"
"Lucius! Come back!"
A moment later, the Lord Malfoy stumbled out of the office; hand covering his mouth and nose. "I'm going to vomit," he croaked before falling gracelessly into a chair. His hair was slightly in disarray, his face was flushed, and he looked as if he'd been battling for hours. Padma rushed over to him and started waving a folder in his face to cool the pregnant wizard down.
"Thank you, Miss Patel."
"You better get in there, Harry," she whispered. "Seems Alexander is winning."
"It was coming from everywhere," Lucius answered, which could have been taken as an agreement.
Harry walked in and quietly shut the door behind him. Tom was standing over by the window where he had the conjured changing table set up. The portable basinet was stationed at the desk. With a quick peek in, Harry saw Cyril was sleeping and he wondered how his son hadn't woken yet from all the ruckus.
"You're two months old, Alexander! I won't have you besting me until sixteen!"
"I did it at eleven so maybe you should drop a few years."
Tom went rigid and hissed out a curse. "You had help!" he snapped without turning around.
He must have been using the scourgify charm as well because when Harry reached his husband's side and peered at his son, Alex was completely clean as was his husband. Completely clean and gurgling with happiness… or amusement. Harry was willing to bet Alex was being entertained by Tom and Lucius' flailing about. Just as Lucius did, Tom looked as if he'd been wrestling around with a magical creature. Eyes slightly wide, face flushed. Hair in a sort of disarray, falling into those wild eyes. Tom looked very attractive right now. And annoyed.
"Nappy," Harry asked. Tom grabbed one from the bag next to the changing table. "Fold it like it's supposed to be folded." Once he'd done that, Harry pointed to his son's feet. "Now grab his ankles and lift his bum. Then place the nappy underneath him. Once that's done you only need to be quick in fastening it."
Tom made quick work of it and growled under his breath. "He was not this docile with Lucius and myself… nor was he as tidy."
"Well his daddy arrived and distracted him," Harry murmured as he bent over and kissed his son's forehead.
Tom pushed him aside and picked Alex up, shouldering the boy. Insanely embarrassed Harry had caught him in the act of not knowing how to do something. "Why are you here?" he demanded as he went to his seat, half glaring at Alex as he did so.
"Can't I come visit you whenever I like?"
Tom narrowed his eyes; saw the hidden amusement in Harry's and glowered. "You said you would be working until the afternoon."
"Finished early." Harry rounded the desk, watched his husband nuzzle and then kiss his son's temple; amazed at how well Tom held his temper in check during the harrowing ordeal of changing a baby's diaper. "And I thought if you're not too busy right now, we could all go visit with Remus. You haven't eaten anything today yet, have you?"
Tom tried to hide the guilt by looking down at his son.
"You haven't. You were in such a hurry to leave Neville's house this morning, you didn't give it a thought." Harry appeared before him and took Alex into his arms. "Go get washed up. We'll have an early lunch."
Harry worried a little when Tom did as he said without a word. Standing and crossing the massive office to a door which led to his personal lavatory.
Alex was already half asleep so Harry placed him in the crib and began to rock it until Alex drifted off with his brother. He then pulled over to top to shut out the light of the room.
He was back at the desk when Tom returned. The Dark Lord paused upon finding Harry leaning against the desk with his arms crossed over his chest, slightly glaring.
"What's wrong?" Harry demanded. When he saw Tom draw up, preparing to deflect the question, he shook his head roughly. "Something bothers you, husband. I won't drop it until you answer."
Tom deflated slightly and thrust his fingers into his hair, brushing his bangs back away from his face. Without even turning or lifting a finger, he shut and locked the door. Harry also felt the effects of a silencing spell around the office.
"I'm bored." Harry blinked at that simple statement. "I've achieved victory and I'm bored out of my bloody mind. I don't mean with us, with our family," he quickly added, waving a hand to the crib.
Harry smiled. "I know what you meant."
"There's no need for cursing or manipulations or scheming… much. I'm working on so many things, but every one of those projects is progressing without a problem. Victory is dull. There is no challenge."
"There's still always the campaign for world peace," Harry teased. "That would be very challenging."
Tom shook his head. "World peace is easy, Harry. One dominating power…" he trailed off, brightening at the thought.
"No!" Harry laughed as he ran up to his husband, embracing him. "There's no need to start a world war just to stave off boredom. Have you ever thought about a mental holiday?" Tom pulled back slightly, eyes narrowed on Harry's face in confusion. The words didn't make sense to him. "That would be no then. Never mind that now," he went on quickly, rising on his toes to press his cheek against his husband's, his lips just against Tom's ear. "We can discuss that a little later. You've brought up an interesting topic, love. Your victory."
"Yes?" Tom's arm instinctively wrapped around Harry's back; the whispered breath against his ear made gooseflesh shoot up his spine. "My victory," he prodded, pulling his husband flush against him.
"Isn't it said somewhere 'to the victor goes the spoils'? Well here you are, the victor. I wonder what sort of spoils you would want…"
A resting room of sorts was located through a secret door just behind them. A room Harry had yet to visit. Tom had every intention of showing this room to Harry, and the ridiculous useless chaise lounge inside, when they heard soft cooing come from the basinet.
Harry sighed when he found himself suddenly alone. His husband immediately letting go of him to hurry to their sons' sides. Tom pulled back the canopy, softly murmuring to Cyril as he picked the boy up. Clearly he spoke truthfully when saying he wasn't bored with his family. Tom really was enraptured by his progeny. Cyril's eyes were bright on his father's face as Tom kissed at the little grabby fingers pressing against his mouth.
He did get annoyed for a moment, jealousy sparking in his chest and not for the first time. And then he blew out a breath. Astounded. He was jealous of their sons! This too was a miraculous thing. It was another sign of how much Tom loved his children. Harry just wasn't used to sharing his husband with anyone. Not like this. When Tom was just Tom.
Harry shook his head, suddenly embarrassed to find Tom had faced him to see the emotions crossing his face. "Something silly. It's nothing. Shall we go?"
Tom took acute notice of the embarrassment. "Tell me," he demanded.
"Just… I told you it was silly. Not important."
"Harry," he began patiently, but in a voice Harry understood meant he was not letting go. "If you wish me to go along with you to visit your werewolf, and if you wish for me to remain in a perfectly passive mood, I suggest you tell me what is wrong. Did you not demand of me a few minutes ago?"
Harry blew out a breath. "But it's stupid. You'll laugh at me." Upon the narrowing of his husband's eyes, he gave in. "It's jealousy, alright?" he snapped. "I've been getting jealous over your time with Cyril and Alex. I'm jealous, but also really happy about it. I told you it was stupid!" he ended, crossing arms over his chest and spinning around to stare out of the fabricated window.
Tom stared at his back, truly surprised. But that lasted only a moment as he thought it over. It wasn't stupid. They were new to being parents. He was aware of how enamored he'd become with their sons. No one was more surprised than himself. And now that he recalled, he was aware Harry had tried on many occasions when possible to instigate alone time between them- not necessarily intimate times- and he'd, for lack of a better term, brushed his young husband off to spend the time with their sons. Even when the boys were asleep or being tended to by the nanny elf. Harry missed their closeness. And now that it is brought to his attention, so did he.
"Your sons have bewitched me," he said in answer.
This drew out a laugh and Harry turned back to him, nodding. "They get that from me, yeah?"
"Undoubtedly. Come, let us go visit Lupin." But he wouldn't soon forget what he'd failed to realize.
The door was wrenched open with some force, causing Harry's eyes to widen while Tom raised a brow. Immediately they could tell Remus wasn't as he normally was. Now he seemed agitated and appeared to have a permanent flush around his face. His amber eyes were also very wide and bright; almost glowing.
Remus smiled at Harry, which put the young wizard at ease. But then he tensed again when Remus turned his attention to Tom. The smile disappeared and the werewolf's nostrils flared. Tom went very still in sudden comprehension. He didn't move a muscle even when Lupin lunged forward, grabbing at his shoulders and pressing his nose against his throat; a soft growl pouring past his lips.
"What the- Remus!" snapped Harry as that nose was inching along Tom's temple. "My husband!"
Tom took hold of Harry's hand, squeezing gently. Harry was not at all pleased with his friend for intruding on his husband's personal space, and he was twice as bewildered by Remus' actions and the lack thereof on Tom's part for allowing this.
Suddenly Remus exhaled, quickly shaking his head as he pulled away; a frown of annoyance on his face. And then in the blink of an eye he was all smiles and was acting as if nothing odd had just happened. "Come in, you two. Ah, and Alex and Cyril." He turned and disappeared into the cottage. "Harry, you had better of come with news of Neville."
"What the hell?" Harry demanded.
"He wasn't thinking. What he did was involuntary. He sensed an Alpha of a sort and was only investigating. Clearly he found me lacking."
The fact that Tom sounded so amused confused Harry tremendously. But he followed his husband into the cottage, pushing the bassinette in front of him. The boys were still sleeping. They caught up to Remus in the kitchen where they were waved to the table as the werewolf began to make tea, as he remembered the Dark Lord's need for it when he came calling. Harry watched him, eyes narrowed in contemplation. Remus was still very agitated and jumpy. But he chatted with him normally. Asking questions about Neville and Abigail.
Harry quickly assured Remus of Neville and Abigail's health, as he had owled Remus two days prior about the ordeal. "She's an absolute angel," Harry said of Abigail.
"She won't be in thirteen years," Tom responded lightly, watching the werewolf carefully.
"To think Augusta would do such a thing!" Remus barked, again suddenly irate. He slammed hands down hard upon the counter. "I never thought she would have such a bias against creatures! And then to try and kill an innocent baby! Neville's baby, for Merlin's sake!"
"I think Neville stepping up to his rightful place is what did it," said Harry. "His determination in being himself and not his father. It's turned her mad."
"Well it's unforgivable!" Remus snapped, still facing away from them. Then he visibly shuddered and whined as if in pain. Shortly after the panting started; shallow rapid panting as if he couldn't catch his breath.
"Remus, are you alright?" Harry demanded. He tried to stand and go to him but Tom braced a hand on his arm to keep him seated. Tom didn't seem concerned, though he continued to watch Remus, a sort of tame glee in his eyes.
Remus didn't answer immediately. Didn't even seem to realize they were there. But after more than a minute he started moving around as if nothing had happened. Finally he sat at the table, bringing with him the tray of tea and popped open the first button of his shirt, blowing out a breath and slightly wriggling in his seat.
"It's very warm in here," Remus finally murmured. "Are you two warm?"
And then Tom made it clear to Harry, who was more than worried now. "Lupin," he began with ill-concealed amusement. "You appear to be in heat."
"You... you mated in wolf form then?" Harry asked faintly, trying desperately now to keep from laughing.
Remus looked entirely too uncomfortable and again squirmed in his seat; his face turned as red as Ron's did sometimes and he popped open two more buttons of his top. "It's just very warm in here," he repeated. "Maybe I should stamp down the fire."
"There's no fire," Tom announced.
"No?" Remus shifted again; eyes wildly looking around the place. "I could have sworn…"
Tom peered at Harry from the corner of his eye. He was finding this way too amusing. Maybe because he now had a firm grasp of Lupin's character and he had relaxed immensely around the wizard the last few months. Lupin was an interesting character and could keep up an intellectual conversation if he should suddenly want one.
"Um, Remus? If you're in heat, doesn't that mean Fenrir will be in heat too? Shouldn't he be at home? Locked away from innocent people…"
"I'm not in heat!" Remus snapped out even as he popped open the last of the buttons.
Tom chuckled darkly while Harry snickered.
The front door banged open then and that was quickly followed by a pained whine. Tom immediately stood, grabbed Harry's arm to jerk him to his feet, and then quickly ushered his husband and the bassinette to the back door. "We need to leave now."
"But things are just getting good," he whined as he was shoved out the back door.
"You don't want to be anywhere near a pair of mated werewolves who are in heat. I'm surprised Fenrir left at all."
And then they could hear Remus snarl. "Am I in heat?! I don't like this, Fenrir. It's absolutely-"
A loud crash was heard, which sounded suspiciously like the kitchen table buckling under the weight of two grown men who'd suddenly fallen upon it with relish.
"They won't… hurt each other will they?" Harry whispered, the both of them standing in the back garden with their sons between them, staring at the back door. He only asked because by the growling and snarling going on, the mating didn't seem all that fun.
"I've never actually witnessed the mating of werewolves. Never cared before to learn more about that particular thing…"
As one, Harry and Tom inched to the left window and cautiously peered in. Remus' clothes were shred to pieces already and there were several oozing gashes littering his back and legs as they wrestled around on broken wood. Although this concerned Harry, he was more relieved to see Remus was causing just as much damage with his teeth; sinking them into to whatever part of Fenrir he could reach and he wrestled around with his mate. They were still in human form but certain aspects were definitely werewolf. Remus' teeth had sharpened, both their eyes were glowing, both had a strip of fur running down their backs and the hair on their heads was definitely standing on end. And fingers adorned sharp claws.
A hand dropped onto his shoulder, causing him to jump, and he was slowly pulled away again.
Interesting is not the word Harry would use describe what was going on inside the cottage. Scary, more like. He jumped again when a particularly bone chilling snarl reach their ears.
"Those aren't very loving noises," he whispered.
Tom snorted as he turned to the bassinette to retrieve Alex. He passed him over to Harry before picking up Cyril. "I wouldn't suggest visiting again for a few days, perhaps a week," he murmured as he shrunk the bassinette and then pocketed it. "I suppose this is why it's said a recovery period is usually needed after mating cycles."
"I will never laugh at the mating thing again," Harry murmured just before they Apparated home.
Belial meandered down the road; eyes straight ahead, neither looking here nor there but seeing everything. Suspicion would be raised should he glance around curiously as if he were an outsider or a new buyer. Anyone new to the Market was looked at with immediate suspicion. But at this time, however, he and his fellow Silvers were something of a regular fixture. Those of this particular black market knew he was on his way to his shop which sold hard to get potions and obscure magical artifacts.
He did meet the eyes of some folks as he went and gave brief firm nods. But he wasn't overly friendly about it either because again that would draw too much attention. In a surprising way though, his aloofness drew the regulars of this road to him and his friends. Which was a good thing. They also learned a great deal more from their fellow vendors.
Belial turned and nodded to a man by the name of Cathal, who sold a bit of everything. The Irish wizard beckoned to him so Belial veered off course to meet the man at his stall, also nodding to the dusty bedraggled witch in the stall next door. Hera-Pansy- pretended she wasn't paying attention. Cathal, as it turned out, was a valuable source of renewing daily information about the place. Which is why Hera's stall was next to his.
"Wotcher, Cat," he greeted as he took up the squat stool sitting next to the wizard upon Cathal's gesture to it.
"A load of fights are lined up fer today. You gonna put in?"
"Depends," he replied as he eyed the two jars before him which apparently held Inferi brains in a milky blue substance. He wondered how Cathal acquired those. "Lost a lot the last time. Might not be able to afford it this time. Still need to pay the boss."
Cathal winced. "Don't fall behind there, mate. You'll disappear."
"So I've heard."
"Tell ya what though," Cathal turned around and rummaged in a large pack tucked up under one of his tables. "Since you're one of me favorite people here, I'll let ya be the first ta try it. Free a charge. This one time." He pulled out two very small pouches. Tossed one in Hera's direction and handed the other to Belial. "Guaranteed to make you happy. Try it out. And then promote my name wouldya."
"Cat, I told you I don't-"
"Nothing harmful!" Cathal protested. "Completely natural, I tell ya. That's what's so great about it! Gonna make a killing off that. You watch. Just stuff a little in your pipe and see."
"Sure, thanks." Belial said, shoving it in his pocket. Meanwhile Hera had already whipped out a long thin wooden pipe and was doing as directed. She really loved being in character, not to mention the fact that she was fearless. She'd try anything once.
"If this harms me, I'll harm you," she said to the man in a rough voice that wasn't her own.
"Promise, love. It'll be legit in a year." Cathal's eyes travelled the road a moment and he perked up. "Fresh meat."
Fresh meat came in the form of a well-dressed young wizard. By his clothes and walk, Belial guessed this bloke came from old money. Old money was very much welcomed in the Market.
"You need something?" Cathal asked when the wizard came to stop before his stall, rather less cheerful than he was moments ago with Belial and Hera. But new people, even if they were customers, were not to be trusted.
"Course he needs something," Belial said as he returned to his feet, throwing a smile at the stranger with the nice dark blond hair, bordering on bronze. His eyes were a penetrating blue. "People don't come here for nothing."
"Well?" Cat prodded, impatient.
"Yes, ah…" The bloke's eyes passed over the table, and then on to Cathal and finally lingering on Belial for a longer moment before going back to the wares on display. Belial could understand the curious look he'd been given. Where Hera appeared to be struggling, on her last dregs financially and Cathal dressed as if he didn't care, Belial was dressed in nice slacks, a dark blue dress shirt rolled up at the sleeves, and a black waistcoat. He didn't match the majority of the vendors around here. At least the ones owning open stalls. Belial had many personas for the market and this was just one of them.
"The manifest directed me in this direction," the man finally said.
The manifest was a document, ever updating, listing every product sold within this particular market. One had to know someone who knows someone in order to find the manifest. It was not an easy thing to come across. But by no means impossible. Otherwise the market would hardly have business.
"So what are you after?" Belial asked.
The man turned to him, eyes intent on his face and Belial was happily startled by the quickening of his heart rate at the look he was receiving now. "I'm in need of powdered Death Cap."
When Cathal tensed in suspicion, Belial's smile slowly vanished; his glamoured brown eyes hardening. "You can find that elsewhere. Don't waste our time."
The man cleared his throat, knowing he was on thin ice with these people and hurried on. "Also Dragon's claw and bloodroot. And then I would like to peruse. I might find many things I'm interested in buying."
Only when Cathal relaxed did Belial allow his smile to return. He waited for Cathal, wondering if the man had any of the items. When he didn't speak up, Belial pressed closer. Clearly the manifest was not the reason for this encounter. "I can get what you need. Wanna follow me?"
"I think I might, yes." The bloke nodded firmly, eyes taking Belial in from top to bottom and clearly enjoying the view. Belial enjoyed the inspection. "How much are you?"
"I don't go for a price. That's not my thing," Belial murmured, and then gave the man a thorough once over. "But for you I may make an exception."
The man looked chagrined as he realized his mistake. "Pardon me! I- I thought—I'm very sorry."
"Why did you even think that? He was only sitting here talking?" Hera demanded. "The nerve! He doesn't even look like a whore!"
"Joanne, honest mistake," Cathal murmured with a firm look at her.
"Bollucks to that! What, are we all prostitutes just because we work here? Go back to your golden cloud, wanker! We don't want your money!"
Belial turned to Cat. "Thought you said it would make her happy?"
"Clearly she's been nettled."
"I really-I do apologize. I-I've never been here before…"
"Is this what you came here for? Some arse?" Belial asked the man. "I wouldn't think you'd need to buy it anywhere."
"And what the bloody hell, Tom?! You can't be flirting with him!"
"Well he's nice to look at, is all."
"Tom? That's your name?"
Belial's smile grew. "Sure is." He turned back to Hera. "And you need to be nice, Joanne. Be nice to customers." He turned back to the man. "Someone said something to me once, which now pertains to you."
"Your bone structure is completely obvious." He winked at Hera, who still looked clueless for once, and nodded at Cat before turning and heading down the road; one very handsome man walking along beside him.
"You must have been bored again, to have done this. Come here," Belial murmured, indicating his husband's somewhat changed visage. He guessed Tom used mirror Tom as inspiration, with only the hair and eyes changed. "You played your part very well in front of Cathal and Pansy."
"I am not an amateur and you've had a busy schedule the last week. Do you not understand if I don't get enough of you, the world will suffer."
Belial smiled broadly at this. "How did you know it was me? You've not seen this disguise before."
Tom withdrew a pocket watch and opened it. He held it up for Belial to see. Both hands were pointing directly at him. "Your tracker charm."
"One day that will annoy me," he murmured under his breath as they passed some people.
Belial didn't answer. His husband was right. It probably wouldn't ever annoy him. He liked the fact his husband could find him anywhere at any time.
They didn't speak again as they traveled down the road. Tom dropped back to follow two paces behind, to remain in view as a visitor, allowing Belial to lead him to wherever he was going. He looked around with steady eyes, walking along with his own confidence. But he also made sure his body language expressed clearly his unfamiliarity with the area and people around him.
In truth he frequented black market's before, but never to the ones in his own back yard. And not for many many years. When travelling in his days after Hogwarts, the Middle Eastern and Asian black markets had much to offer. Here this particular market was a much more civilized affair, as with everything British. It had the feel of Knockturn alley, but larger, more open. Shops and stalls on a far grander scale. And this one was a far sight better than the one Belial had been posted at before his break during the last stages of his pregnancy.
As Belial veered to the left to enter a shop on the ground floor of a two story building, the open shop to his right caught his eye where there were several strange tapestries hanging on both sides of the door. The tapestries had bizarre scenes on them, but Tom was more intrigued by the magic he could feel from their make-up. A closer inspection was in order.
Belial left him to it, knowing he'd come around when he was ready. He was not surprised something caught his husband's eye. The Market was full of fun wicked and obscure things. Tom may even find something he hadn't ever come across before. That would put him in a very boyish mood.
"I'm back!" he called after stepping into his shop, pretending not to notice the goon standing just down the road watching him. He shut the door behind him, seeing the place empty of patrons. Only Agni and Rudra were about, sitting behind the counter playing a game of Wizard Skittles. "Anything exciting happen?"
"As usual, no," the one to the left answered. This was Agni- Fred- and currently he was a heavy set man in his forties with a face full of greying hair. Rudra- George- was slightly younger with a clean face, though he was in a constant bedraggled state. The twins' shop owner personas here always made him laugh and then cringe. He laughed when he thought about what Draco's reaction would be to seeing his husbands' looking like this.
"I may have bagged a new potential customer. He's across the way now, inspecting those wicked tapestries."
"Best be careful or those tapestries will bag him."
"No. This one's magic is too powerful to let him be ensnared."
"Nice. The magically gifted always spend the most coin here."
"Yep." Belial leaned against the counter, grinned at them. "I like him. He's exceedingly handsome."
The two looked up from the game, blinked at him in surprise.
"He wanted to purchase me. I almost said yes."
Agni's eyes narrowed "What, now?" he snapped, leaning forward.
Rudra climbed to his feet and also leaned against the counter, getting very close to Belial's face to peer into his eyes. "Don't look bewitched," he murmured. "Did you accept candy from him? You know better."
Belial had to work very hard to keep from laughing. "He was very flattering."
"Well sure. Any bloke who's into blokes would flatter you, even looking like this. Still, you can't be serious…"
"Thank you. But your flattery does not make my heart skip a beat as his did."
Agni looked on the verge of becoming very angry. Of course Belial knew why. The twins had split loyalty now. They were very loyal to both he and Tom. Anyone tricking him in any way to turning away from Tom would anger them. Anyone encroaching on Tom's territory would piss them off. Especially since they knew Harry would never in a million years consciously step out on his husband.
"I think we might be obtaining another partner as well," he went on, ignoring the rising tension.
"Penth may need to be summoned," Agni muttered, looking to his brother. Rudra nodded firmly. Apparently they were going to ignore his last statement
The bell over the door rang before an answer could be given and a customer walked in. Belial turned away from the counter to give the man his full attention.
"How much did she get you for?" he asked of the seller of the tapestries.
"I only purchased two. The others were duds. I'll pick them up on my way home."
"Good. Means you have money still to give to me."
"I'd go bankrupt if it meant more of your company," Tom murmured as he moved to stand before him. He noticed the glares he was getting from the two behind the counter. "Not that.. that is to say… not to buy. Just…"
"Dinner? I'll let you take me to dinner."
Tom's eyes brightened. He smiled excitedly. The emotions Tom was showing on his face was one of the reasons why the twins had yet to figure it out. His husband was an astonishing actor. "Tonight then?"
"That's it. Summon Penth, bro."
Tom ignored them to a degree. Much more enjoying his husband's play at the moment. Clearly they didn't realize yet who he really was. And then one of them inserted himself between he and Belial. The elder looking one.
"What do you want here?"
"He's looking for dragon claw and bloodroot."
"Go get it for him, bro so we can send him on his way."
"Hold on, Rudra." Belial reached around Agni to take hold of Tom's arm. "You're not being very nice to a paying customer. None of you are being very nice." Belial and Tom were halfway around the counter when he stated, "and anyway, I'll take him to the back to show him my wares."
A moment of stunned silence was shortly followed by, "the hell with that!" and the brothers were suddenly blocking the doorway leading into the store rooms.
Belial straightened and narrowed his eyes. "Move your arses right now or I'll move them for you," he coldly stated.
They reluctantly moved. No going against him when he became like that. "You sounded like your husband just now," Rudra announced. "Remember him?"
Belial ignored him and went on to pull Tom into the room; meanwhile Agni had whipped out his two-way mirror to contact Penth, sure his friend was under some sort of spell.
"We might need to do this bloke harm," Agni whispered to his brother before the mirror connected. "Penth! There's trouble!"
"Here we are," Belial waved his hand before him, indicating the candle lit room full of tables groaning under the weight of all the products they had to sell. "Look around to your heart's desire."
In seconds he had fingers digging into his hair, a mouth against his, and he was backed swiftly against the nearest wall. He moaned as Tom swiftly and easily stole his breath with a searing kiss that made him dizzy. In time Tom's hands shifted; one to Belial's face cupping his cheek, while the other hand dropped down, questing fingers engaging with the buttons of his husband's vest.
Tom's mouth slowly withdrew and his thumb replaced is lips. He looked pleased. "Your face is different, but you feel and taste the same," he murmured lowly.
"It's only a light glamour," Belial replied breathlessly, easily stripping his husband of his jacket in seconds. "Don't like polyjuice. What did you do?"
Tom lifted his right hand, showing off a ring on his index finger with the Slytherin crest upon it. Belial went to grasp the ring and pull it off. A quick shimmer later and his husband as he was stood before him.
Belial laughed in delight and returned the ring back to Tom's finger. The change was instant again. "That's great! Will you help me make a few? They'll come in handy here. Do they have to be likenesses?"
"No. And yes, I'll help. Now shush!"
Belial nodded quickly and then went back to kissing him. And rather quickly he was without his vest, shirt, and the buckle of his trousers was undone. It all seemed so new, with their faces being different and this was a different kind of play they had yet to try. He was beginning to think glamours was another thing they could add to the kink room.
The door was wrenched open and by that point Tom had him leaning back against the table carefully cleared of objects. They only moved their heads, peering at the doorway, where Penth was standing. The moment she saw them, saw Tom's face, she sighed and shook her head.
She spun back around. "Are you two morons?" she snapped. "Did you even look at the man? You're supposed to be carefully observant here! Honestly, what-" she shut the door.
Tom laughed, even as his fingers found and stroked Belial's arousal. "I really do like her. Did I tell you?"
"Later," he breathed, hooking an arm around Tom's neck and the same with his legs around his middle. "Tell me later."
And later, when they finally reappeared from the back room, Belial found two semi-glares aimed at him. He laughed. "You should have seen your faces! Especially you, Agni."
"Har har," Agni responded, watching Tom take one of the stools at the counter and proceeded to study an old ring he found in the back room. He sat there in a relaxed state, completely unconcerned with them. He also looked like a man sated from a bout of fantastic shagging. His light hair was in a bit of disarray though. "Erm, this new partner you spoke of…"
Tom briefly looked up from the ring and flashed them an eerie grin.
"We're still in charge," Belial said to them. "He's using this as a mental holiday."
Part of that didn't make any sense. The twins shrugged. "Okay."
Belial went back to Tom and used his fingers to tame down the hair. "We need to think up a name for you."
"I thought you banned him from this operation."
"Err," Belial flushed when Tom pierced him with a look. "Ban is a bit strong."
"That's exactly what you said," Agni said, a grin springing up on his face. "You said, 'he wouldn't dare encroach here as I've banned him from interfering.'"
Belial cleared his throat. "I'm sure you misheard."
"Anyway! It's time for my rounds!"
"Is this how you speak of me when I'm not around?"
"Of course not. I said they misheard!"
The twins snorted.
Belial moved around to insert himself between his husband's legs; bending down to press their lips together.
"I'm only letting you placate me," Tom murmured.
Agni released a short sharp whistle and Belial hastily pulled back, facing the door just as it was thrown open. That same goon who was watching the road walked in. This one could be seen quite often walking around with Donovan.
Without saying anything, Rudra reached under the counter and pulled out a sack of coins. He dropped it on the counter.
"Boss wants triple this time since three of you are working here."
Agni shook his head. "Not the agreement."
"There are no agreements here. You do as the Boss wants or else. Send this one out into the street if you're not making enough here," the goon indicated Belial. "He can pull."
"I think you are under the wrong assumption," Belial began coldly, walking around the counter to stand before him and lifting a hand just slightly when Tom climbed to his feet in forced calmness. His glamoured husband stilled. "Surprising since you've been watching us for weeks. What gives you the idea they are in charge of this shop? Also, it's not a matter of having the money. You just made that up about your boss wanting triple. Take this money and fuck off now or I will find a way to let your boss and associates know you are taking and pocketing money under your boss's name. I'm certain this would not be good for you."
The man left quickly with the money pouch, fully understanding he wasn't dealing with amateurs here. "That might come back to bite us in the arse."
"Maybe," said Agni. "He's certainly try to get you back for that, but whatever he tries, it won't work. Everyone here underestimates us. Cause they don't know what we're really about."
"He will try and catch you alone," Tom said.
"Sure. Types like him are predictable." Belial turned to the twins. "Make sure the others know he's trying to scam us. Have only a couple of them actually give in to his demand. The rest stand firm."
"But our profits!"
"Seriously? We'll make it up next month."
"I'll go spread the word," Agni said as he left.
"Rudra, hold down the fort. I'm going on patrol."
"Err… what about…" he discreetly nodded off towards the man who had gone back to his seat and ignoring the world in order to study the ring.
"Lucifer?" Belial asked with a not entirely straight face. "He's used to working in a Dark shop. A jolt of nostalgia wouldn't hurt him."
"That was many years ago, impertinent brat."
"Nearly sixty years. Ancient times."
"You will need to come home eventually," Tom said offhandedly as he stood and pocketed the ring. "And this shop is nothing like Borgin and Burkes. I do, however, accept your alias for me." And like that, the Silvers had a new devil amongst them.
"You're going to pay for that, right?" Belial asked, pointing a rigid finger at the man's pocket. "You can't just walk out with our merchandise."
"You want to charge me for this cheap and useless-"
"If it's so useless, why are you taking it?"
Lucifer rounded on Rudra, who jumped just the slightest bit since the Dark Lord was standing right beside him. A galleon was held up in front of his face. "I trust this is enough."
"Of course it is," the twin flatly replied.
Belial's muttered response was ignored. "I'll come with you. I need to pick up my tapestries and check up on some things at home. I'll return in an hour's time." He turned, took in the shop, the slightest bit of a sneer formed. "And help recover this place. This is a pig sty, Belial. Do you make any money here?"
Belial said nothing as he donned his Invisibility Cloak. But he did smirk in triumph once his face was covered. This is what Lucifer considered a mental holiday, even if he didn't know it. "The boys?"
"Still at Malfoy Manor. Apparently Narcissa missed having a baby around. She… adores her time with them." His tone expressed his surprise at this. "Suppose it's easier knowing they'll be picked up this evening."
"That and they're well behaved."
"Unless a diaper is involved."
Belial laughed, truly loving it. He waited for his husband to open the door before exiting the shop. Silently they bid goodbye for a short time and split ways. Lucifer going across the way for his tapestries, and Belial walking deeper into the Market to check on all his people; stopping at all the stalls and shops. Watching and recording.
By this time it was clear to the Silvers the actual taking over of the streets would be child's play. Quick and easy. In fact most of those working there probably wouldn't care about a coup, as long as they were still able to sell their wares. The problem was behind the scenes. So many people carefully and cleverly hidden. Never showing their faces; money easily scrambled so no way to trace where it was actually going. If they didn't take care of the behind the scenes, a frontal assault would mean nothing in the long run.
He returned to the shop a few hours later, internally seething. "I've had enough of this," he hissed as he ripped the cloak off him, taking just a moment to notice the shop looked nothing like it did when he left. Lucifer had been busy. This shop was now tailored for the classy and the classless. It was mysterious and had character. It was clean and had controlled clutter. The shop looked brilliant.
"We're not ready," Rudra returned, knowing exactly what Belial was incensed about.
"We can't keep standing by and letting this happen!"
"We've got several unsavory on the list," supplied Agni. "Why don't we just take care of a few of them now? Silent assassinations. It'll slow down the trafficking at least."
"I don't want to kill them. I want them to rot in prison!"
"Besides," Lucifer put in, "if you do that, their guard will be up." The three turned to him. "If you really need to do something, I suggest you track the children once sold and plan a quick rescue for each once they are away from the market. Shouldn't be too hard of a task once out of the Market's grasp. Unless your people are incompetent, Belial. Which I suspect they might be."
"We object to that!"
"My people are your people," Belial returned, smirking.
"I had questioned my sanity again at the time."
Belial laughed, at once feeling better with the mention of a viable plan that would not put their overall operation on the line.
"So how are we going to do this?" Agni asked. "Since the children are sold at night and disappear, maybe we should use the Enforcers."
"I'm not sure… most are muggle children," Belial murmured thoughtfully. "And sending vampires, who are perceived as monsters in the muggle world, probably isn't the best idea. And what do we do with them once we have them? Some if not all are probably orphans and runaways. Do we just put them back out on the streets?"
"You know your blasted heart wouldn't let you do that," said Lucifer with an eye roll. "And don't for an instant imagine you are going to bring those things to my Dark Domain."
Rudra snickered. "He said Dark Domain."
"Belial, come look what he did," said Agni, indicating the back room. Belial eyed his husband before following after one of the twins. Lucifer was busy staring down Rudra in a terrifying way.
The backroom was meticulously organized. The over stock of potions, potion ingredients and certain artifacts they did not want displayed on the sales floor. But what Agni was getting at was the quaint little kitchenette. Small stove and sink. Nice clean cups and a kettle. Jar of biscuits and a box of M.R.'s fudge.
"While you're back there…" the words were called from the front.
"Coming up," Belial called back. He laughed. "He must have his tea if he's to deal with people."
"Didn't actually think he took you seriously. Blimey, Belial. Do you see how nice this place is. In less than four hours! I helped of course, but he did most of it and without hesitation."
"When he came back, I bet he already knew exactly where everything was to go," Belial said as he went to start the tea. "He thought about it the entire time he was away."
"Belial, do not make the tea!"
He popped away from the stove with his hands raised in the air. "You then, I guess."
"Hot stuff is the only one between the three of us who can make a decent cuppa."
"Don't tell Lucifer that… he makes you tea?" he asked in some surprise.
A wicked grin appeared. "Sure. Especially after we've rubbed him raw. He'll get all sweet and-"
Rudra poked his head in and shook it. "He can hear you. Doesn't look happy."
"Right. Tea." Agni quickly went about setting the kettle on.
"So… the house?" Belial inquired.
"It's going to be brilliant! We closed yesterday, moved some stuff in already. And do you know what hot stuff did? He paid more than half of it behind our backs! Wouldn't hear a word when we wanted to pull from our savings too. Actually, we think his father might have paid for some, but no one is coming right out and saying it."
"Yeah. And before you ask, hot stuff isn't wanting visitors until we've fully moved in."
Belial laughed. "Merlin forbid anyone see his home in disarray."
"He doesn't like it. Drives him mental."
Weekend afternoons were wonderful things, Harry thought as he sat beside his husband in their shared parlor; both holding a baby. Tom hardly worked on the weekends and if he did it was usually from home. Harry was sharing his time with Tom again with the babies, but he really didn't mind it. Not when together they frequently discovered new things about their boys, played with them and talked with them. Well, Tom talked. Harry liked to make a lot of baby noises. He sometimes worked on his baking on the weekends when he had deadlines for orders, but this weekend was completely free. All he needed to do was check in with his Silvers every night.
They were hardly interrupted on weekends as well. Harry had a suspicion Tom had ordered it so unless an emergency had arisen. So it was a bit of a surprise when a Floo call was redirected to their study. Merry indicating the call came from Hogwarts.
"Ah, good afternoon, My Lord." Barty nodded respectfully when Tom answered. The wizard appeared nervous. "I was wondering if I may speak with Harry for a moment? If you don't mind."
Soon Harry was kneeling before the fire, greeted Barty with curiosity.
"Harry," greeted Barty. "I was hoping you could clear something up for me."
"I can try. What is it?"
"Well…" Barty cleared his throat, looking a little embarrassed. "Miss Lovegood. She asked if I would like to go have a walk in the forest with her and I have the feeling this is code for something."
Harry leaned back a little, shot an amused grin at his husband. "It could be…"
"Is she asking for sex?!" Barty burst out.
"Maybe. Or maybe she just wants to take a walk with you. Luna said she enjoys talking with you."
"She does… she does realize who I am, right?"
Harry's grin faded a little. "Are you still that same person?"
"Yes and no."
"What's that mean, Crouch?" demanded Harry.
From behind him he heard, "am I still that same person? Yes and no, blast you Harry."
Harry's smile returned full force. "What's the problem? Afraid of a woman?"
"She's a young impressionable girl and I am a dedicated educator of young impressionable minds. It would be-"
"So impress upon her," Harry interrupted with a leering smirk. "Maybe she'll rename the Chimaera Barty."
Tom laughed and then coughed to try to cover it up.
"She's a lovely girl, Harry, but not really what I… I don't want to hurt her feelings…"
Harry looked at him like he was crazy. "You're not serious? Are you? When was the last time you got laid?"
"Not helpful," Barty muttered as he pulled away from the Floo and Harry's amused grin.
Barty left his room and travelled the castle, riding the stairs down to the second floor where Lovegood's room was located. He took a deep breath after knocking, trying to dissipate the unsettlement he felt. The ridiculousness as well.
After a moment his brows drew down, as Luna was usually prompt in opening the door. When he heard the growling, Barty opened the door himself with great alarm. He shut it behind him and instantly erected very strong wards. His worry increased greatly upon taking in the room. Things appeared as usual with the exception of two things.
One, the Chimaera was where it usually was, by the fire. But now the creature was sitting up, poised and no longer looking vulnerable. It's eyes were hard and gleaming and directed unwaveringly at Barty, as if daring the wizard to move a breath. The creature looked capable of attacking at any moment. It didn't look so much like a baby any longer. Leading away from the Chimaera was a trail of blood. A small pool there at the creature's feet, and then spots here and there leading away into the next room.
Heart suddenly racing, Barty dashed across the room, following the blood trail. From the corner of his eye he saw the creature move, but only it's head swiveled around to follow his movement. "Luna!"
The blood led him into the bedroom and into the connecting bath. He found her leaning over the sink; one hand holding a shaking arm under the running water.
"H-he bit m-me," she whispered shakily as he appeared at her side, grasping her wrist just under the torn flesh. "I don't think he meant to."
"Luna," he murmured, relieved that it was only a bite and could easily be fixed. The young woman's sadness however was another matter. She knew it was time. "Let's get you to Madam Pomfrey. From there we can figure out what to do about Dan."
He grabbed a hand towel and quickly wrapped her arm as it was still bleeding. He'd only finished when he heard the growling again. He spun around and shoved Luna behind him. The creature was now poised on the threshold of the bathroom. Dan ducked his head, snout close to one of the drops of blood.
"It's bloodthirsty," he whispered, understanding they were clearly buggered. At least it couldn't breathe fire. He slowly drew his wand and shot off a message to the Headmaster before leveling it at Dan.
Before he could think of a solution, Luna took his wrist and moved his aim just as the creature slowly approached, sniffing the air. He glanced at her over his shoulder, but her wide eyes were solely on the Chimaera.
And then Dan was pressed against him, his tongue out licking at Luna's arm. "He's sorry," she whispered, sounding in better spirits. "He didn't mean to. It was instinct."
"Yes, and his next instinct will be to eat us."
"Not yet," she murmured, slowly reaching out to caress Dan's snout, which he allowed. "But it's time to return him."
He wondered how she could be so calm right now. He felt the wards shifting; knew Snape was letting himself in. Slowly he wrapped an arm around Luna's shoulders and drew her away from Dan, out of the bathroom and to head the Headmaster off. One more person in the room was sure to set the creature off.
"He's awake and mobile and must be dealt with," Barty immediately reported upon facing Snape.
"Maybe," Luna began. "Maybe it's not too late to get him into a charmed crate, Headmaster. I don't like to trick him, but it might be the only way. We could entice him with doctored raw meat."
"Take Miss Lovegood to the infirmary, Crouch. Alert Hagrid on your way. Tell him to bring a crate large enough for this creature. Also alert Minerva of the situation. Have her move all students to the Great Hall and seal it off."
"Yes, Headmaster. He's in the lavatory," Barty said as he departed with Luna.
Severus eyed the doorway leading into the bed chamber. He could hear the growling now. Taking a deep breath, he inched his way to the fire place and threw some powder into it. Calling to the Dark Lord's manor. His Lord would be angry for this interruption but it couldn't be help.
"Yesssss," was the hissed answer upon connection. "What is it now?"
"My Lord, forgive me but I require your assistance. The Chimaera appears to be healed. It attacked Lovegood—Harry, she is well and being cared for," he quickly assured because he could see Harry behind the Dark Lord. "She has come up with a ludicrous plan that might actually work, however I would feel better with someone of your caliber here to help keep the creature under control, in case the plan fails."
"I wonder if that hurt, him asking for help?" he heard the brat ask.
"Harry," warned Tom and to Severus, "step back, I'm coming through."
"Thank you, my Lord."
Severus stepped back, turning towards the bedroom. He heard the brat speaking. "Tom? You have this?"
"Wipe that look off your face, Harry. Of course I have this."
"But… it's a Chimaera. Have you ever faced one?"
"I faced the wild forests without a wand for three months. Stop your worrying. I am-"
"Lord Voldemort. Y-yeah," Harry laughed a little nervously. "I forget sometimes."
How could he forget? Severus wondered and then realized Harry was probably trying to be funny in order to put himself at ease with this bloody imbecilic situation.
"Do not under any circumstances follow me through, little minx. Do you understand me?"
"You will NOT!" Tom barked and Severus unconsciously flinched. "Swear it!"
"I promise to wait for word from you," Harry grit out.
"That will do."
The Dark Lord appeared beside him a moment later and immediately disconnected the Floo. With his wand gripped in hand he turned to Severus. "Shall we?"
Severus nodded. "This is not an ideal place for such an endeavor," he whispered. "I'm inclined to let the creature out into a wider hall. The students have all been moved to the Great Hall."
"Good. Have you anymore of a plan than the crate?"
"Lovegood thought to lure the creature using potion infused meat."
"Clearly this isn't her first foray with wild animals," Tom replied with amusement. His amusement grew upon seeing the sour look on his friend's face.
"The growling has stopped," Severus murmured after a moment and the two cautiously approached the bedchamber and then the lavatory. They found the creature curled up under the sink, apparently asleep. His snout next to drops of blood.
Despite the creature being wild and severely dangerous, it was perhaps an indication it was minutely comfortable with the scent and nearness of humans. Lovegood, Barty, and Hagrid's doing, no doubt. The fact that it was a youngling probably also had much to do with it. A full grown Chimaera would not act in such a way.
"The creature is mostly healed. A stun now would do no good," Tom said once back in the sitting room, knowing what Severus was thinking. "Would you have anything in your store rooms strong enough for a creature such as this?"
Severus pondered on it a moment, going through the mental list of all his on-hand potions. Then he nodded. "Dobby!"
Three heartbeats later, the house elf appeared. His ears drifted down slightly upon facing Severus, but once seeing who stood next to him, those eyes grew very round and to Severus' immense surprise and disgust, the elf started babbling happily. "Oh, m-my! The Great Harry Potter's husband! Such an honor it is! Such an honor to meet the one Harry Potter has chosen!"
Severus then barely contained the snort upon seeing the Dark Lord's expression; astonishment and annoyance.
"Dobby, you are in the presence of Lord Voldemort."
"Yes, Headmaster. Dobby be knowing. Dobby be knowing this is the Great Harry Potter's mate, his chosen one. He has been chosen by the very best wizard! What can Dobby be doing for the Great Harry Potter's chosen one?"
Tom pinched the bridge of his nose.
"We need many pieces of raw meat infused with the talic potion, which you can find in my store rooms."
"For the creature, yes? Dobby be getting it ready right away!" and the house elf disappeared with the snap of his finger.
Severus pressed his lips together, tried looking impassive. Knowing better than to say anything in response. But yet again, he could not contain himself. "I did warn you of the creature's obsession with your husband."
Miraculously he was not cursed to within an inch of his life, but he did notice his Lord had to stamp down the urge to do so.
Shortly Dobby returned with the meat and announced Hagrid was also down the hall setting up a large crate. Lovegood also appeared, walking quietly into the room, despite the wards, stumping both Tom and Severus to speechlessness. The young lady appeared more subdued than they ever witnessed from her. She also had a large bowl full of the cut up raw meat. Crouch hovered very near her. Not the least bit comfortable letting her do this alone.
"Hagrid has the crate ready," Barty quietly announced, dropping a hand to Luna's shoulder to stop her before she would disappear into the bedroom. "Apparently he's been in contact with Mr. Newt Scamander and relayed the situation. The magizoologist suggested only Luna be the one to lay the meat and coax him to the crate since she's been nursing him back to health."
"Scamander?" Snape questioned with a raised brow. "Is he not yet dead?"
"I was sure one of his beasts had eaten him."
Tom smirked at Severus' disappointed droll.
"He's still as dangerous as Hagrid when it comes to magical creatures."
"We can add Lovegood to that list," Tom pointed out just to watch Severus' expression sour even more. He turned to the girl. "Luna? Are you prepared?"
"Very well. We'll await you in the hall. Shout out immediately should the Chimaera look as if he might attack you. Is this understood?"
"If I should be killed by this creature," Severus said to her, "prepared to be haunted for the rest of your days."
Luna laughed at Severus. "Wonderful. I can tell Harry you've added me to your list. He says you constantly threaten him with that."
"I want to see my child, Lovegood," Severus fairly growled.
"Don't worry so much, Headmaster," she replied cheerfully. "Dan will behave."
Tom found Severus' agitation and anxiety absolutely hilarious, but of course not an ounce of it was found on his face as he and Severus headed out to the hall. Tom posted near the door while Severus took position near the crate where Hagrid waited with bated breath. The half giant continuously wringing his hands in nervousness.
Soon Barty was slowly backing into the hall, Lovegood on his toes; every few feet the witch would drop a piece of meat as they continued passed Tom and towards the waiting crate. And then the creature appeared. Snout pressed firmly to the floor as he hungrily lapped up the pieces of meat dropped for him and he completely ignored the Dark wizard standing post beside the door. Halfway down the hall, Luna grabbed a handful of meat before passing the bowl back to Barty.
"Drop the rest in the crate," she whispered.
Dan straightened upon hearing her voice; ears lying flat against his head with the hint of fangs flashing at her. Luna quickly dropped a couple more pieces and Barty didn't move away until Dan was back to being distracted by the scrumptious red meat. Maybe the potion dulled the creature's senses, because Dan entered the crate without fuss. He didn't even make much of a fuss when they sealed the crate shut. Everyone except Luna breathed out in relief once the crate was locked. Only a grown Chimaera would be able to escape that crate.
"You understand you would be expelled had you still been a student," Severus hissed to Luna. She smiled her odd carefree smile at him.
"Thank you for helping him, Headmaster."
Severus sneered. "What now do you propose?"
"I'll take him back to where I found him. If someone can help me with the crate until we're outside Hogwarts grounds, I'll be able to Apparate."
"I don't think you should take him back alone, Luna," said Barty, and everyone but Luna silently agreed with that statement.
"Ah, Luna love," Hagrid interjected, "Mr. Scamander said he might send some help fer ya."
"For Dan's continued safety, I will not lead anyone to where I'm taking him." She spoke as usual, but there was a firmness about her which suggested no argument would make a difference. However that changed once down stairs. Tom himself helped Luna with the crate, sending Severus off to go calm himself and see to the students being kept in the Great Hall.
By the time they were downstairs, Dan was slumbering thanks to that potion and as they levitated the crate out of the doors and down the lane, they could see someone standing at the gates. Leisurely waiting. Though the man perked up upon seeing their approach. Tom at once knew who he was, having seen his picture within the Prophet before. Just like his grandfather, Rolf Scamander was a renowned Magizoologist and naturalist and had written many articles in that regard for the paper and other literary journals. Tom could admit he enjoyed reading those articles.
Tom looked to the small young woman beside him and saw instant recognition. Of course, having the same interest professionally, she would know who he was. Her usual round eyes widened further in excitement. There might have been some hero worship in her eyes as well, which Tom found amusing. The man watched Luna approach with some shock. He ignored Tom. The Dark Lord would take a moment before that angered him.
"My grandfather said, but… You're Luna Lovegood?" Luna nodded. "Not the Luna Lovegood who has contributed so many fascinating articles on the different species of lizards found in the Timankanks? Perhaps your mother? Grandmother? Certainly it wasn't you who traversed those swamps."
"I don't have a grandmother and my mother died when I was very little."
"Younger than you imagined?" Tom put in with a raised brow.
Finally Scamander focused on him. The wizard's eyes widened and then he immediately sketched a bow. "Forgive me, Lord Riddle, I was… uh…"
Rolf cleared his throat.
Luna turned to the Dark Lord. "Thank you very much for your help with Dan, sir. I can take it from here."
Tom nodded. "Keep yourself safe, Luna. Otherwise I'll never hear the end of it."
Luna giggled, nodded, and then she had the nerve to hug him. Scamander's jaw hit the floor.
"Harry really did do well."
Tom was the one to clear his throat and he pat her on her head, a little fondly. "Yes, well… you should be getting on before he wakes. Perhaps you'll allow Scamander to help you."
"I don't want anyone to know where Dan is being released."
"It is what she named the Chimaera," Tom explained.
Scamander digested that fairly quickly and with barely an incredulous expression. "I only wish to assist you, Miss Lovegood. Like yourself I wish to preserve his safety. Perhaps you will take my oath that I will never divulge his location to anyone. I would like to observe him for a short time also once released, for my own notes. If my word does not sway you, perhaps that of my grandfather…"
Luna eyed the naturalist and then turned to Tom. She looked uncertain. "I don't think you could find better or safer help for Dan, Luna. You really shouldn't go alone. You might run into more poachers."
"I don't like poachers," Rolf stated in a hard voice, his warm eyes suddenly going cold.
"Okay then," Luna responded; warmed by that cold. She scrutinized the wizard intently and then a sudden dreamy smile drifted across her face. She crooked a finger at Tom. He obliged her by bending down slightly so that she could whisper in his ear. "I think I will marry him one day."
Tom straightened and eyed the wizard himself. He chuckled. "Good luck, Scamander."
A short time later he returned home to find Harry pacing in the kitchen. The little minx held both their sons in his arms, bouncing them gently; an extremely worried frown on his face.
"Silly brat," he murmured soothingly, coming up behind Harry who spun around upon hearing his voice.
"Tom," he whispered in relief, allowing the older wizard to pull him in within a warm soothing embrace.
"Come. Let's return to the parlor," Tom said as he took Alexander into his arms. "I have an amusing story to tell. Severus was in a frightful fit."
Two days later, Harry was back in his kitchen, happily baking. Tom was at the Ministry and would be there all evening. The two-way mirror he long ago had installed in the kitchen made a noise; the sound of melodic bells, which indicated someone was calling. Harry assumed it was Neville or Draco, but was pleasantly surprised to see his husband when he answered.
"Harry, can you have the boys looked after for a few hours and your baking suspended for the day?"
"This evening. Right now."
"Well… I guess. What's this about? Aren't you supposed to be attending that ministry meeting tonight?"
"It's not really a meeting, per say. More of a blasted party in which Lucius persuaded me to attend to help further a certain number of our upcoming policies…"
"You said I didn't need to go. It would be boring and my presence wasn't necessary if I didn't want to. You didn't want to hear me complaining all night about the rigorously uptight bastards who would be there."
"An opportunity has arisen. You will want to take advantage. It shouldn't be boring at all, for you."
"What happened to your mental holiday?"
"Yes, yes, I'll come."
"Dress appropriately, brat. Or I will not wait until we are in private before spanking you."
Harry grinned. "Promises, promises."
Tom failed to keep a straight face. "Floo to my office."
"Very well. I'll be there shortly."
Tom was waiting for him when he Flooed in; leaning against the mantle in order to catch him upon his arrival. Harry went straight for a kiss instead of waiting to be dusted off the moment he was steady on his feet. Tom didn't have it in him to be annoyed.
"Did I dress appropriately?"
Tom looked him from head to foot then sent him that snake strike grin; which was assuredly a yes. They walked hand in hand out of the office and down the hall and into the now empty dim office floor. They made their way to the lifts and descended two floors where the Ministry ball rooms were located.
The double doors automatically opened for them and Harry was almost used to it when every pair of eyes turned to them and the room went quiet for five heart beats before the chatter resumed and attentions wandered elsewhere.
"I should have brought our leash and collar," Harry murmured as they paused next to a refreshment bar.
Tom plucked up two flutes of champagne and passed one to Harry. "There's always the after party."
"Where's that being held?"
"The kink room."
Harry sipped at his drink and wound an arm around Tom's back when his husband pressed against him. Cheek to cheek they stood there for a moment, slightly swaying with the music. They weren't the only ones taking advantage of the music. Many people were dancing in the center of the room. Also much lively chatter swirled about the room and it didn't resemble anything like the stuffy elbow brushing affair he thought it would be. "Maybe working at the Ministry isn't such a boring affair after all… you all do work, yeah? It's not just Hermione?"
"Hermione works too much and I will be having a word with her shortly. Have you spotted them yet?" the words were spoken into his ear; had his spine tingling pleasantly.
"I'm supposed to be focusing on someone other than you?"
Tom discreetly nibbled on his ear. "Not entirely."
Harry waited a moment before he moved his head a fraction to brush his lips over Tom's jaw. "I like dancing with you."
"We are not really dancing."
"I love being with you."
Tom set the glass down and slid his free hand along the back of Harry's neck, into his hair. Harry pulled back slightly and Tom used the opportunity to capture his lips in a deep kiss. "Would you like to dance, little minx?"
Harry flashed that illegal smile. "Yes I would."
Tom led him towards the center of the room where the others congregated to dance. Harry was surprised he deigned to get closer to anyone else, but he wasn't complaining. In fact he had a sneaking suspicion Tom was making another statement of sorts by doing this.
"Now I see them," he murmured some minutes later as they continued to dance around and he was able to observe those from every direction. "Please tell me he doesn't work for the Ministry. I'm sure I would have discovered this already."
"No, he doesn't. But he does have standing with many of our circles here. As does his mother. In fact Lady Donovan has more to do with the Ministry."
"We seem to be the center of their attention," he said of the Donovans, who indeed were watching Harry and Tom intently. At least Elanor Donavan watched them closely, but her son whom she was arm in arm with frequently pulled his eyes away to watch attractive witches as they flowed passed him.
"She will want a word with you," Tom murmured in his ear. "To undo the unfortunate occurrence her son caused, mend the rift, so to speak. Knowing you came away with ill thoughts of him. She does not want her son in my pocket. And above all, she aims to be in our good graces."
"For good reason."
"It might be in your best interests to strike up a civil acquaintance with this witch."
Harry looked away from the two, dropped his cheek to his husband's shoulder. "I'm not keen on the idea knowing eventually I will be responsible for taking her son from her, one way or the other. They are very close and he is all she has in regards to family."
Tom muttered in disgust. "I assure you, she is probably more fond of her money and status and will want to retain it above all else. Remain neutral, love. Indifferent. Perhaps you would be doing her a favor in the long run."
"There is nothing that says you must dispose of him, Harry. What becomes of him is not a problem you need to think on right now."
"So… I should ignore them and make them come to me?"
"Yes. We'll move around-" the hand at Harry's back suddenly moved; flashing out to press against the shoulder of a wizard who was about to brush against Harry as he danced by with his date.
The man turned his head just slightly to see who was pushing him and the blood immediately drained from his face when he was faced with Tom's red blazing eyes. Needless to say, the wizard and his date quickly vacated the dance floor and the other dancers made an even wider circle around the Dark Lord and his mad Riddle.
Harry laughed and pressed his cheek back to his husband's. "They all think that was the touch of death."
"You didn't give the look. He's safe. They all should learn to keep their distance."
"It would have been an accident."
"Even accidents have consequences."
The two spent quite some time dancing and Harry enjoyed every second of it. Every touch and look; Tom's undivided attention.
"The Donovans are not the only reason why I insisted on you coming tonight," Tom admitted when the current song ended and they decided to make a walk around.
Harry kissed him before entwining their arms. "I know." He sounded calm, but his insides had completely melted.
Tom took the lead, Harry following along. He wasn't too interested in the conversations taking place, as he was in no way the politician in the family, but he did make it a point to pay attention since being husband of the Ruler of Wizarding Britain required such knowledge and behavior. And it did help Belial and the Silvers with their endeavors. Speaking of…
"Where's Hermione? Shouldn't she be here?"
"Yes she should," Tom stated softly. "I've been told she's still up in her office, working."
"I've tried talking to her about the amount of work she's doing. She said I'm being silly. Wouldn't hear a word."
"As I said, I will be speaking with her about it. I understand her position, as I placed her there, and she has many hoping to see her fail which drives her harder. She will fail trying to do it all herself. Trying to do too much too fast." Harry nodded and Tom reached over to try to rub the worry from his young husband's brow. "I am not disappointed in what she has accomplished already. Her work has already pleased me greatly and I will make this known to her. I will also make it known I wish for her to live as we are. To enjoy life beyond work. You have taught me this.
"Now," he went on quickly before Harry could do what he looked like he wanted to do- Tom would prefer to do that in private, "you are going to go to one of the refreshment tables, perhaps gravitate to someone you can halfway stand to chat with after. I will go another way. Lucius doesn't seem to be as pleased to be here as usual and Mrs. Donovan will cut you off before you can make your way back to me."
"And go with the flow."
But I don't want to stop touching you yet.
Tom groaned. "Harry. We can't go home yet. So stop it."
That lopsided grin was thrown his way and the little minx sauntered away. They followed the plan, mingling separately for a time. But Tom realized he miscalculated when Mrs. Donovan caught him alone instead of going after Harry. At once he knew what she was about. Bold, though wasted, in her effort to tempt him. Dangerous also should Harry figure what she was about. Any lesser man would probably be tempted, for at her age, Mrs. Donovan was still a striking figure, but he had eyes for no one but Harry. Now or ever. Even if he were a murderer and an all-around cold hearted bastard, he did have pride and morals to some degree. He would never be unfaithful. The thought was utterly ridiculous to him.
He wondered if she thought she was being clever by herding him away from the party. Though from the look in her eyes it was clear she thought he was interested since he was letting her lead him away to a vacant antechamber. But Tom was only curious about this foolishness. What did she hope to gain by this? Did she really believe Lord Voldemort could be so easily manipulated. His eyes narrowed in sudden anger with this thought.
She waited for him to sit in order to put herself as close to him as she dared, which was a chair directly across from him. She spoke of little but slightly engaging things to do with the Ministry to keep him interested in her presence- he was still angry but didn't let her see it. Then she broached the topic of her son. She did it hesitantly so as not to draw his ire. He had made his displeasure with her son abundantly clear the last they spoke.
"I would think my husband should be the one you seek to mend things, if they can be mended."
Her smile was chaste, but her eyes were coy under shuttered lids. She leaned forward more than was suitable and let her shawl fall to show off her bare shoulders and the low cut of her gown. "My Lord, you are right, of course. I only wanted to seek your permission before I do so."
"Harry is not my pet. He doesn't need permission to speak to anyone. He makes that choice."
Mrs. Donovan was clearly about to move on with her foolish seduction, as she slid herself closer by perching on the edge of her seat and leaning forward even more. It was unfortunate for her that Harry decided at that moment to come in- probably having noticed his disappearance and the ongoing annoyance thrumming through him- and to see what she was trying to do. The moment he snapped the door closed and she looked over her bare shoulder to see who the interruption was, Elanor straightened and quickly rearranged the shawl to cover her shoulders and chest.
Harry seemed perfectly at ease, but only Tom could see the eerie light in his eyes. Tom would need to remind the little minx Mrs. Donovan was not on the hit list. He was amused to see her nervousness upon facing Harry, the fright she couldn't quite mask behind the confident demeanor. Just like her son. She hadn't expected Harry to come upon them yet.
"I hate weak men," Harry began as he slowly moved towards them. His voice low and dangerous and eyes pinned on Elanor Donovan. "I didn't marry a weak man. And do you know what I love about strong men, Mrs. Donovan? Their ability to stand firm, cherish loyalty, be loyal and not be swayed. There are so many powerful people who are weak. They allow themselves to be swayed, to fall. To forget themselves. Power and strength doesn't always come hand in hand. Don't you agree?"
The woman glanced at Tom first, curiously, before turning back to him. "I believe I do."
His eyes were steady on her face. That understanding was in her eyes. This was a onetime shot and she wouldn't try again. Harry halfway didn't blame her but he was still fucking pissed that she would even dare.
"So, what were you two talking about?"
Mrs. Donavan relaxed minutely, though she did stand to face Harry directly as he approached. "We were speaking of my son and his horrible manners concerning you, my lord. I do beg your forgiveness."
"I don't want your forgiveness. You weren't the one who collided into me, nearly made me fall, and I have no doubt that fall would not have been pleasant for my boys or myself. You also weren't the one to try and blame me for it, and then give me a completely vacant apology."
"I understand, Lord Riddle. And Marcus does wish to speak with you, if you have no objections. He does feel guilty and ashamed of his behavior that night."
"Perhaps a short word wouldn't hurt."
"And how are your beautiful babies?"
Harry allowed a true smile to reach his eyes, even if she really didn't care. But the thought of his sons always brought a smile to his face. "They are doing very well. Thank you for asking."
As the seconds passed, she relaxed further. "I dare say you'll have your hands full in a short while."
Harry laughed. "Yes. I'm looking forward to it. Well, since we're here and have this moment alone, why don't you go fetch your son. We can all sit and have a chat."
Mrs. Donovan looked genuinely delighted and quickly agreed. As soon as she was gone, Tom laughed. "She didn't pick up on your condescending tone." Harry abruptly glowered at him. Which prompted him to laugh again. "That was in no way my fault."
"Maybe if you toned down the charm," was the sneering reply.
Tom stood and approached him with that charming smirk; very much appreciating and reacting to this show of jealousy-spawned hostility and the rigid possessiveness burning in Harry's eyes. "I cannot stop what comes naturally."
"I said tone it down, wanker!"
Darkness surrounded him as a hard body pressed snugly against his. A warm hand slipped beneath his robe and tunic, snaking across heated skin while another roughly grabbed a handful of black hair; pulling until Harry was looking at the ceiling. Harry swallowed thickly, biting back a moan when a finger scraped against a suddenly hard nipple as a mouth worked down his throat.
"When I get you home," Tom breathed without pulling his mouth away; hand still moving a burning trail over his skin and behind to finally slip beneath his pants and take his backside in hand, "I will lay you down, slowly strip away your clothes, piece by piece. I will feast on you for hours and there is nothing you will be able to do but lay there and enjoy it."
By then Harry's breathing was ragged and he whimpered when a certain part of Tom's anatomy collided with his own, sending his body in delirious shock. Goosebumps spread across his flesh and the only coherent thought he had at the moment was that he wished home were now.
"When we are home," Tom breathed in his ear, "I will make you forget this ridiculous notion of yours that someone may succeed in trying to steal me away."
The hand beneath Harry's tunic continued to move; mapping out the contours and plains of his husband's torso, delighting in the flexing muscles and unconscious tremors. Harry was always so pliable beneath his fingers, his mouth. And the little minx was aching right now, the deliriousness of it shining in his gorgeous darkened eyes.
"Harry," he breathed against his husband's mouth, "the breath of my soul, the beat of my heart. Can I stand to be around anyone without you? Not for a second. You keep the monster at bay. You are what gives me purpose. No one else has that power. In my mind, you are the most powerful wizard in the world."
"You torture me," Harry breathed, overcome by emotion and physical need. "… we are not at home."
"It is my specialty, torture… and charm," he added as an afterthought; laughing when Harry hissed at him as if he were back to being a spastic cat hybrid.
They were prepared for the interruption, knowing the Donovans would return and had separated slightly by that time, but they didn't expect to find Lucius walking in with them, though Lucius' presence was welcome. Harry noted what Tom had earlier. Lucius didn't seem to be in all that great of a mood. The Donovans of course wouldn't be able to tell because they didn't know him at all, only by reputation; most people who did know him still probably wouldn't be able to see it, but Harry had grown closer to the elder Malfoy over the year and could see the difference in his moods. Pregnant or not.
Donovan would go and speak with Tom first, as etiquette entailed, so that gave Harry a moment to speak with Lucius alone. The two stood aside a bookcase towards the front of the room while Donovan and his mother continued to speak with the Dark Lord.
"You're looking very well tonight, Lucius," he said softly, noticing the hard edge around the man's eyes. Something was wrong, yes, but Lucius did look very handsome tonight. His pregnancy making him glow, and of course his male paternity clothes was top of the line. Harry didn't think he'd ever looked that good seven months pregnant. "But… I feel like something is wrong. Are you alright?"
For a moment, Lucius' eyes flashed in temper. Maybe not directed at Harry, but it was there. Then he looked directly at Harry, saw the genuine concern in the young lord's eyes and blew out a breath, managing a real smile.
"Thank you for the compliment, Harry. And yes, I'm perfectly well."
A lie, Harry thought in amusement realizing no one but Severus could probably get the aristocrat to be honest in that regard. "I've been meaning to ask… have you been telling Draco to be nice to Neville?"
Lucius chuckled. "At the beginning, yes. When I realized once the boy was taught how to be a real Lord of his House, he could be a fierce ally of sorts in area's we cannot touch."
"But Draco took it beyond what I asked for. He genuinely likes Longbottom, Harry, so no need for that glare. I myself am surprised how taken with Longbottom he is. Draco sees things now he never cared to see before. He's different and in a much better way. The things I see as weaknesses in Longbottom, Draco sees as strengths."
"Are you looking forward to being a grandfather?" Harry asked cheekily and then laughed when Lucius scowled and staunchly refused to acknowledge the question.
Harry then turned towards Tom and the Donovans, thinking now was as good a time as any. He caught Tom's eye for a moment, a quick glance conveying what he wanted to happen in the next few moments before turning back to Lucius. "Would you mind distracting Mrs. Donovan for a few minutes?" he whispered with a hard green glint in his eyes. "I need to curse her son."
"With immense pleasure."
Lucius moved away to the three and touched Elanor lightly on her elbow. He said something to her which Harry didn't catch, but in moments the lady followed Lucius to the other side of the room, away from Harry and Tom and her son. Harry remained where he was, pretending to browse the many years' worth of literary journals upon the bookcase, eyes going over the weathered spines, studying the antique and probably priceless bookends which separated different journals and subjects.
He knew Donovan would not move away from his husband until Tom dismissed him. No one would turn their backs on the Dark Lord without permission. And Tom knew what he was about to do so he wouldn't release Donovan's attention until he was done. For now, a quick Imperio would do the trick. He doubted very much Marcus Donovan was mentally strong enough to shake it. It was clear by the way his mother led him around as if he were still a little boy. It was clear by the way Donovan conducted himself when he was alone.
Harry was preparing for the moment; to turn back to the two and cast the curse when he felt the air shift in the room. Felt his husband's magic lashing out. When he turned, the two were in the same position. Donovan was speaking and though to an outsider, Tom may appeared relaxed, calm, Harry could see and feel differently. His husband was extremely angry. To the point of his scar reacting to the rage.
Tom's eyes cut across the office to Harry and he minutely shook his head. Harry discreetly slid his wand back into its holster along his forearm, wondering what the problem was. He'd soon find out. Harry faced them fully and walked over, taking the seat Tom stood next to. His husband then dropped a hand to the back of the chair next to his head, and they both peered at Donovan, who had tensed upon these actions. Harry sitting and Tom standing and that's how their marriage was. Before, Donovan might have assumed as many did. Harry took a back seat to his husband. And now he was tense again, wary because clearly this was not so. Clearly it was a true partnership and his slighting Harry could mean very bad things, from Harry himself. He had to fix it.
Harry saw all this in Donovan's eyes, watched the wizard working it out. And Harry enjoyed every moment of this disgrace of a wizard's panic. Whatever he did with Donovan, he would enjoy it. This wizard who had no qualms about selling children, this wizard who pitted beasts against each other just to make money. This wizard who enjoyed playing games with people for no other reason than to make a game out of it. There was no rhyme or reason to his crimes; only enjoyment. He was a decidedly different sort of criminal than Tom, who always had reason for what he did, who always had a goal in mind, even if he'd been going about it all wrong before…
He might have been careless in letting his aversion shine through in his eyes for Donovan cleared his throat and stepped back from Harry just the slightest bit. Beside him, Tom smirked with pride and amusement.
"You wanted a word," Harry started, trying to keep his voice neutral, reminding himself he had his own game to play and it wouldn't do to give himself away so soon.
"Yes, Lord Riddle," Donovan replied as he bowed in a suitable manner, his voice now the picture of respect; there was no underlying annoyance as before. His attitude with Harry was completely different. Harry wasn't sure how much of this was spurned on by his mother's instruction. As Harry had already told Elanor, he didn't like weak men. And this man was weak. In so many ways… the hand suddenly pressing down on his shoulder had him instantly pushing away anger inducing thoughts again. One thing was clear. He couldn't wait to play with this bloke when the time was right.
"I wanted to apologize again, for what happened between us at the restaurant. It was of course my entire fault for not paying attention to where I was going." Harry raised a brow and Donovan cleared a through. "I was distracted by my date."
"Dates that need to be paid for generally don't need that much attention," Harry dead panned and he felt Tom's exuberant amusement at such a statement.
Surprisingly, Donovan did not react to the dig. "I can see you are still angry…"
"You could have hurt my boys by that fall and were prepared to blame it all on me."
To be honest, Harry felt guilty on his own. He had planned that whole thing. And he miscalculated the force with which Donovan would run into him. If he had fallen, it would have been his fault.
The hand on his shoulder began to knead gently. Tom didn't need to be able to hear his thoughts, but he didn't have to. He knew Harry so well he automatically knew how his thought processes went.
"I do beg your forgiveness, Lord Riddle. My behavior was inexcusable. At that moment and just after. I admit to being embarrassed…"
Donovan must really hate this. Submitting to him like this, acting as a child who was being chastised by a parent. Harry was loving it. "I suppose holding on to such grudges is beneath us, Donovan. I want to teach my children about forgiveness after all," he said, peering up at his husband a moment before turning back to this wanker, "what kind of example would I give should I hold on to a little thing like this. I think maybe I should thank you for being the bigger person here and coming to apologize."
The next thing he should have done was stand and offer his hand, but since he had no intention of touching this disgusting bloke, he remained where he was and conveyed through facial expression alone that they were done talking for the night. Donovan straightened and nodded to him, clearly relieved, bowed to Tom and then turned away to join his mother and Lord Malfoy.
"Someone," Tom began, bending slightly to whisper in his ear, "has charmed him. Any curse put upon him will make itself known to the person who cast the charm. A very strong bit of magic. I'm inclined to think Donovan does not have the capabilities of such a thing."
Harry shot to his feet and faced his husband, suddenly enraged at the thought.
Tom pressed closer so that they could continue to talk without being overheard. "I'm inclined to believe his employer is the person responsible. Clever. Very clever. Especially if Donovan is that well involved in the Black Market and with this Boss."
"Clever, but it doesn't help us any."
"Not at this precise moment, but there are ways to get around this."
"I suppose I'm to be patient," Harry muttered.
Tom smiled, dropped a kiss to those petulantly turned down lips. "Just for a little while longer." He looked across the room and nodded to Lucius. Harry didn't hear what he said, but he deftly finished the conversation and sent the Donovans on their way.
"I've decided to have a dinner party," Lucius announced as he joined the two, ignoring Harry's penetrating stare since he could once again sense something wasn't quite right with the blond, "at the end of the week. I hope you'll come with your husband," he said to Harry. "I've invited others you would like to dine with."
"Of course I will," Harry answered, again amused by the formality of the invite. But he also understood because Harry didn't always attend Malfoy dinner parties since they were usually just for Lucius' contacts and business dealings and another way for Lucius to stay on top of everything that's going on in the Ministry.
"And since clearly something kept you from cursing the wizard, I invited those two as well. Mrs. Donovan was delighted."
"She would be," Tom murmured.
Lucius, bless your foresight and sneakiness, Harry thought in amusement. It would be the perfect time to do whatever he planned to do to Donovan, since an Imperio would not work unless he wanted the Boss to know Donovan was compromised. Tom went on to explain to Lucius why he couldn't go through with the curse.
Lucius frowned, turned to Harry. "Whoever you are dealing with appears to be very intelligent. Dangerous. And prepared for anything."
"We are being cautious, Lucius. I promise… are you sure you're alright?" Harry demanded.
"If you could also invite Longbottom and his husband, as well as Mr. Tarring, Harry," the blond went on, ignoring the inquiry. "Narcissa would love to have them and I'm not finished with Longbottom's studies. This will be a good learning experience for the young Lord. And anyone else you feel might benefit from such a gathering."
Harry gave him a weird look at this.
Tom chuckled. "Lucius' dinner parties are well known, Harry. There are many benefits to attending them."
Politics, Harry thought with an internal sneer. "Sure, if you say so."
"Not just politics," Lucius said as if he could hear his thoughts, smirking. "Also for business. And do you yourself not own a business?"
Lucius then departed, leaving Tom and Harry alone. "I suppose we should also go back out and mingle," Harry proposed without any enthusiasm.
The laugh pouring from his husband's lips was decidedly dark. It made Harry's blood boil, made the room suddenly unbearably hot and his breath quicken. No, Tom wasn't prepared to go back out there. Tom was prepared to take him home and commence with the lovely torture as promised.
Long awaited, I know. Apologies for the two year wait. Hopefully the next chapter will be out much sooner. Thanks for reading, keeping up with the story and have a great day! :D