Triple punch today. Look for a new Culture Karma and a new drama that ties in with some of the characters and events here.
The day job is kicking my ASS. Sis, I miss you and I miss writing.
Miss Pauline, thank you so much as always for the invaluable input and corrections on British Culture.
An original about Tony and Dane will be finished someday. If anyone would be interested in Milan and his fellow hunky waiters as they encounter a pair of thirsty zombies, that short is finished and available now on Amazon ~dot~ com. Search for Spunk Craving Zombies, or for me, John T. Liz has also included a link on her blog. A full length sequel to that is nearly ready as well.
Much love as always to my girls, Maureen, Rebecca, Kate and Miss Pauline.
Somehow I seem to have survived the FF witch hunt. It may or may not be over. I will continue to post here and move to AO3 as and when I have to. When/if I am forced to complete the relocation you can find me at - archiveofourown ~dot~ org. Then just do a search for Jtrue.
Anyone who has not read the incredible Equal & Opposite, Errors & Omissions, or Enticements & Obstructions, all by OhJasperMyJasper, should go do so right now. Here is how you find them since the FF witch hunt removed Liz from this site - ohjaspermyjasper ~dot~ blogspot ~dot~ com.
This story is intended for an adult audience! There is crude speech, hate speech and adult sexual subject matter of a homosexual nature. There is violence. If you are under 18 stop reading now!
All character names from Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. All character names from Harry Potter belong to J.K. Rowling. Any similarities end there.
Chapter 18: Norfolk and Surrey
Luna Lovegood left London on the 0730 train from Liverpool Station that monday morning. She had her purse, laptop bag, and a small rolling overnighter carryall that she pulled along behind her. Luna wore a thin, form fitting, pale blue sweater with her jeans. She settled into her seat and enjoyed the scenery on the ride out to Norwich. Luna had sixteen minutes to change trains in the County Town of Norfolk, and found it was ample time to walk two platforms over.
The local train made a stop at Salhouse, which was no more than a hut at the end of a two track road in the middle of farmland. The second stop, for the towns of Hoveton and Wroxham, was hers. Luna emerged onto the platform at ten on the dot, with just one other person who headed off like he knew where he was going. Here at least, there were signs of civilization. Farmland had given way to homes as they pulled into Wroxham. The River Bure ran through the village and the track passed a basin of small boats just before the station.
Luna walked off the small, unmanned platform and down the ramp to the car park. The narrow, paved strip was surrounded by leafy trees. In the twelve spaces there were all of four vehicles. Even as she came to the end of the ramp from the platforms, an old Land Rover zipped into the car park and into a space. A man emerged from the driver's seat. He was tall and a bit lanky, and clearly a country boy. He was plain and yet he was completely beautiful.
Luna was a country girl herself at heart, though she had been thrust into the city at an early age. Her mother was long gone and her father was so barking mad, he not only needed medication, but professional care. She was lucky to find the temp job at the BBC and Greg Goyle, who became so much more than just her mentor and helped her get hired as a full time employee. Greg, and Viktor with him, were her family, and not just because they had adopted the child she had not at all been prepared to have. Greg and Viktor were there for her when she needed them most and she would love them all her life.
Through Greg and Viktor, Luna was exposed to a host of attractive men, most of them, unfortunately for her, gay. Rick Diggory in particular, was a stunning beauty. Ashok was also especially pleasing to the eye and they made a handsome couple. For that matter, Viktor himself was quite hot in a masculine, studly way. As the man who had gotten out of the old Land Rover walked toward her, Luna couldn't help but compare him to Greg. Greg was on the plain side as well. He wasn't unattractive by any means. She would even say he was handsome, but there was nothing remarkable about Greg. He was manly, but not the stud his husband was. He wasn't beautiful like Rick. Greg was fit, but not muscular. He was not overweight, but neither was he thin. Greg was physically unremarkable, though Viktor often hinted about remarkable qualities that were out of sight, but Viktor's knowledge of Greg was far more intimate than Luna's would ever be. The man who walked toward her now was plain, just like Greg. And yet nothing like him. Greg was always polished and neat. His hair was short and he was always well groomed. This man's dark hair wasn't long, but it wasn't neat. Luna doubted he'd even attempted to pull a comb through it. His face was scruffy with a couple of day's growth. He wore loose fit jeans and a button, collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up. In the top few buttons that were open Luna could see he was furry. This man was rough around the edges. He was just like Greg, though while Greg inspired the sharing of secrets, this man made Luna want to climb right up him and kiss him for hours. This man was straight.
"Luna?" the man gave a hopeful smile as he closed the distance between them.
"And are you Neville?" Luna offered her hand.
"I am!" Neville shook her hand enthusiastically. "Wow. So here you are," he folded his arms across his chest nervously. He couldn't remember ever having seen such a beautiful woman. It was wholly inconceivable to Neville that the BBC would employ such a beauty as this, and not have her in front of the cameras.
"Here we both are," Luna smiled.
"Oh! Let me help you with your bags," Neville picked up her rolling bag. "Shall I take that as well?" he gestured to the laptop bag slung over her shoulder.
"I've got this one," Luna fell into step beside him as they headed for his vehicle. "So, you're the man revolutionizing farming as we know it."
"I don't know if I can make quite that grand a claim, but I do try to help people," Neville gave a shy smile. He opened the rear door of the Defender that was older than he was, and put her bag in the backseat.
"Well, Neville, as we discussed on the phone, the BBC is very interested. Oh, thank you," Luna wasn't expecting him to get her door for her.
Neville shut her in and walked around to take the wheel. "Where to first, Miss Lovegood?" he asked as he started the vehicle and backed away from the trees. "Though, I warn you now, my Gran is expecting us at four for tea."
"That'll be lovely," Luna smiled. "And I want to see everything. The farms, your offices, your techniques in practice, how it all works, everything!"
"Everything it is!" Neville drove out of the station lot onto the small side road that ran into town.
Small, old homes lined the narrow street at first. This gave way to bait, tackle and marine shops as they neared the river.
"Wroxham is quite charming," Luna commented as they drove into the center of the village. "Oh, look at the old coaching inn," she leaned forward to get a better look.
"That's the King's Head," Neville stopped at the lone intersection in the village where the several hundred year old inn stood on the corner. "And this is actually Hoveton."
"Oh?" Luna asked as Neville turned right. "Is that where I'm staying?"
"Oh, no. They have rooms, of course, but it's much too noisy there," Neville advised. "Did you want to go to your hotel now? We shouldn't have turned back there."
"No, no. Much too early," Luna sat back. "Drive on," she smiled.
"Okay," Neville gave the shy smile Luna was already beginning to love. "Now we're in Wroxham," he informed as they crossed over the small bridge over the River Bure.
They passed the yacht builder, library, vet's surgery and various houses as they passed through town. The further out from the old center, the newer the homes became.
"Oh, here's a bed and breakfast," Luna pointed. "Might this have been more convenient?"
"For me maybe, but not for you," Neville explained. "The train tracks run right behind it. The place right in the village is nicer and has rooms overlooking the river."
"Oh. It sounds lovely," Luna expressed.
At the village limit civilization suddenly ended. The paved two lane road curved and went over the train tracks, and then cut straight on through farmland. Several miles down the road, Neville slowed down and turned into a gravel driveway. The driveway was perfectly straight, lined with trees and over half a mile long.
"Welcome to Home Farm," Neville bid as they came to the end of the long driveway.
The sprawling stone farmhouse had been here for hundreds of years. It was three storeys with a pitched, tiled roof and many chimney stacks. Neville took the fork in the driveway that went not to the house, but to the barns. Long and low, there were four interconnected barns made of red brick, and beyond them a much larger fifth barn constructed of wood. Great Barn was over a hundred years old and the newest structure on the property.
Neville pulled up to East Barn and shut off the engine. "Here we are," he hopped out of the old Land Rover and walked around to get Luna's door.
"Thank you," Luna continued to be impressed by what a gentleman he was as she slid out of the vehicle.
"Right in here," Neville opened what was obviously a very new door. It was a single large glass pane, framed in wood and opened into a spacious, finished room.
"Oh, I see," Luna walked into the part of the barn that had been finished into an apartment.
"The world headquarters of Longbottom Crop Services," Neville spread his arms and then laughed at himself.
Luna walked among the equipment that sat on tables in place of the lounge furniture that should have been in this room. "So this is where the magic happens," she pulled her tablet out of her bag and powered it up. "Tell me all about it."
"Well...," Neville scratched his head. "Where shall I start?"
"The beginning is always a good place," Luna seated herself in a desk chair at one of the tables.
"Okay. I guess that's easy enough," Neville nodded. He sat down in another chair opposite Luna. "I just wanted to help, really. My brother Frank runs Longbottom Farms since our parents were killed."
"Oh, dear! I'm so sorry, Neville," Luna expressed.
"Dad tried to beat the train up by Tunstead Farm. That was fourteen years ago," Neville informed.
"You were orphaned! But you had your Gran," Luna made notes.
"Yeah," Neville nodded. "Granddad had died the year before. Gran's a tough old bird. She took care of all of us. And Frank was eighteen then. He had already been helping dad around the farms. He knew what to do and threw himself into it. He provided for all of us and he's never looked back. Frank and his family live up at Tunstead Farm now. Then my brother Ben runs Longbottom Agricultural Contracting out of Stonehouse Farm."
"What is that, then? It is something like what you do?" Luna enquired.
"Not at all," Neville shook his head. "He has modern farming equipment for hire, from ploughing to harvesting, complete with experienced operators."
"Oh, I see," Luna nodded.
"Then my brother Tristan sees to the properties. The estate has twenty four properties let out. He's still single like me, so he still lives here at Home Farm," Neville stated.
"And how did you come to form Longbottom Crop Services?" Luna probed.
"Like I said, I just wanted to help. Before Frank was married, he still lived here. We all did then, and he was forever complaining about drainage issues at Spring Farm," Neville explained. "Varying fields had vastly different yields of the same crop. That especially got me wondering. Why was that? I guess I can be pretty tenacious when I'm curious about something. Gran insisted that I go to university. Frank and Ben hadn't and Tristan didn't want to. So then, here we are. I'll show you," he swiveled his chair around to type at a laptop held in place by a dozen wires. "This is Home Farm's fields," Neville stood up as Luna rose to get a closer look. "Over here," he gestured.
Luna watched as Neville switched on what had at first appeared to be just a table. It was in fact a projection screen that displayed the image from the laptop. The map of the entire farm showed every field shaded with different colors.
"First, I GPS mapped all the farms. This is the nutrient map," Neville swept his hand over the table. "The first time I did it, it looked nothing like this, I can tell you. This tells us where and how much fertilizer is needed to increase crop yield. I altitude mapped Spring Farm so we could better see how to manage the drainage problems there. No shortage of water for those crops!"
"This is fascinating, Neville," Luna took more notes.
"Oh, I don't know about that," Neville gave his shy smile.
"You took the soil samples yourself?" Luna knew how to get him back on track.
"I did," Neville nodded. "Did the testing in the lab here," he walked over to the doorway of what would have been the apartment's bedroom. "That's how I get the nutrients mapped. I even provide crop stage prediction and monitoring to enable the most timely applications of fertilizers and harvesting. I do it for Frank for free, of course, but people started to hear about it," he gave a shrug.
"And Longbottom Crop Services was born," Luna smiled. She absolutely loved how his face lit up when he talked about what he clearly loved doing.
"I won't travel all over the country, but if a farm is in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire or even Essex, I'll take it on," Neville stated.
"Can we go to the fields so I can see what you do in action?" Luna asked.
"Back to the Land Rover," Neville gestured. He walked back to the door and opened it for her.
Neville opened and closed the passenger door on the Defender for her as well. It was starting to make Luna feel like a schoolgirl. How was every woman in Norfolk not lined up at this incredibly sweet man's door?
"Where are we headed?" Luna asked as she continued to make notes on her tablet.
"I thought I'd take you round Spring Farm first," Neville put the vehicle in gear and turned in a wide circle back onto the drive.
"Perfect," Luna nodded. "Our viewers would like to know a little bit about you as well, Neville, in addition to the work that you do. Married? Girlfriend? Boyfriend?"
"Oh, it would be a girlfriend," Neville clarified, not offended in the slightest, "but not at the moment, no."
"No prospects? No girl who would like to be your girlfriend?" Luna pressed sweetly.
"No. I'm not very good at talking to girls," Neville admitted.
"You're talking to me. I'm a girl," Luna smiled.
"Yeah," Neville blushed.
Neville drove through the countryside, down one narrow country lane after another as he took her to farm after farm. Luna waded through fields of wheat and barley, and stepped gingerly through endless rows of sugar beet. They had lunch parked in a field and sat in the open back of the Land Rover. Neville shared the ample roast beef sandwiches on homemade bread that his grandmother had packed for him.
At four, it was time for tea and Neville knew not to be late. His brothers did too. A black Toyota Hilux, a white Volkswagen Amarok and a dark brown 1973 Mercedes Benz 280 were already in the drive at the front of the farmhouse when Neville drove them back to Home Farm.
Once again, Neville opened Luna's door for her. "Ready for the circus?" he asked as she slid out of her seat.
"Bring them on!" Luna laughed. They walked up to the big front door and Neville opened it.
The large old farmhouse was just as Luna imagined it would be. The influence of the lady of the house could be seen everywhere. The furnishings were all simple antiques. The rough hewn beams that formed the spine of the house ran along the ceiling. The walls were spotlessly clean white plaster. The entry hall opened onto a second hall beyond the stairs to the second floor, the dining room to the left, and the lounge to the right. The lounge was a spacious and cheerful space. The drapes and upholstered furniture were in flowery patterns and handmade, antique lace doilies covered everything.
Tea was set out in the lounge and three men waited with an older woman. All of them rose when Neville and Luna appeared.
"Luna, this is my Gran," Neville introduced as the spry old woman beat all of her able bodied grandsons to meet her.
"Hello, Mrs. Longbottom," Luna smiled sweetly.
"Oh, you dear thing," Augusta patted Luna's cheek. "You call me Augusta. Meet the rest of my boys. This is Frank, Ben and Tristan."
"How do you do," Frank was the tallest and had a deep, sexy voice. He had a full, though trimmed, dark beard and was all man. Ben was the same and while he was taller than the women, he was not as tall as his brothers. Tristan had a great coif of thick, rich, dark hair and a charming smile that immediately reminded Luna of Rick Diggory. He was a beauty and yet didn't interest Luna at all. Ben was clean shaven and Tristan was scruffy like Neville. They were all dressed in rugged jeans. Frank wore a flannel shirt, Ben a denim shirt, and Tristan wore a henley. A deliciously furry chest, Luna could immediately see, was a Longbottom family trait.
"Come in and sit down, dear. How do you take your tea?" Augusta bustled over to the small table set where she had laid out their tea. She wore a flowery blouse, loose cotton slacks and her hair was a mass of steel gray curls.
"Milk and sugar," Luna answered as she and Neville seated themselves together on a settee for two.
The other men took seats as well while Augusta played mother and poured for all of them. Tea was served on their finest bone china today and all of the men took note of it. Augusta passed plates of thin finger sandwiches, again on her own homemade bread, with cucumber, thinly sliced ham with brown mustard, and cheese with pickle. These were followed by warm scones served with strawberry jam. The only things not made or grown on Longbottom land by a Longbottom, were the ham, milk, sugar and cheese.
"Now, you're the lady from telly, isn't that so?" Augusta took a seat finally with a cucumber sandwich in her hand.
"I am," Luna answered.
"Don't interrogate her, Gran," Neville spoke preemptively.
"Hush now, Neville. I'm just making conversation," Augusta was unfazed. "I don't think I've ever seen you on the telly."
"Oh, no. I'm not on any of the programs. I work behind the scenes," Luna explained. "I work in the studio and research stories. I get things ready for the reporters."
"You interview brainiacs like our Neville here," Ben gestured with his teacup.
"I do all the preliminary research, yes," Luna nodded.
"Longbottom Farms' crop yield year over year has grown to the point that we're on track to double our profits this year. All thanks to Neville," Frank endorsed.
"It is not," Neville was clearly uncomfortable with the praise.
"It is actually," Frank affirmed.
"That's obviously very good for your family and we're glad of it," Luna smiled. "The BBC wants to highlight Neville's approach to farming, and especially how good it is, not just for the farm, but for the economy and security of the nation to increase our food production."
"Go on. You'll give him a big head," Ben scoffed.
"It's all true. The UK eats far more than it produces," Luna stated. "What your brother is doing could change that," she took a moment to smile at Neville and enjoyed his shy smile in return.
And Augusta saw it.
"Are you married, Luna? I don't see a ring," Augusta enquired.
"Gran!" Neville was mortified that his grandmother would be so forward, but secretly glad of the question he had been too nervous to ask himself.
"Hush now," Augusta waved away her grandson's protest.
Frank shared a look with Ben. They could see what she was doing.
"Single and unattached," Luna answered. She gave Neville another smile and was rewarded with his in return.
"Oh," Augusta nodded, clearly pleased with that response. "Are you planning to stay out here in the country with us long?"
"No plans beyond the on camera interviews and filming tomorrow," Luna answered honestly.
"Neville, you should take Luna to dinner at The Bridge," Augusta suggested. "You can sit out by the river."
"I didn't really pack any out to dinner clothes," Luna stated.
"You don't have to dress up for anyone around here," Augusta declared.
"In that case, I'd like that," Luna smiled at Neville again.
"I should take Luna to her hotel," Neville sat his cup and saucer aside. He knew tea would go just like this and wanted to get her out of there before his family embarrassed him any further.
"Where are you staying, Dear?" Augusta asked.
"Wroxham Hotel, I believe," Luna answered.
"There aren't many choices in this town, but that's the best one," Frank endorsed.
"It was a pleasure to meet all of you," Luna rose as Neville did.
"Oh, it was our pleasure to have you," Augusta set her cup aside as well.
Just as Neville feared, the whole family walked them out the door and into the drive.
"Thank you so much for everything you are doing for our Neville," Augusta took Luna's hand at the door of the Land Rover.
"He did it all. The BBC just wants to document and report on it," Luna deflected the praise onto the only one worthy of it.
"And I hope we see you again," Augusta smiled and patted Luna's hand.
"I would like that very much," Luna agreed. The older woman finally let her go and she climbed up into the Defender.
"Neville, I won't count you for dinner," Augusta patted her grandson on his arm as he closed Luna's door.
"Okay, Gran," Neville headed around the vehicle to take the wheel.
Neville's grandmother and brothers all stood in the driveway and watched them drive away from the house.
"Sorry about that," Neville offered as he steered them down the long track to the road.
"Not at all. They're quite charming," Luna smiled sweetly.
"That what you call it?" Neville smirked.
Neville and his brother Tristan shared the entire second floor. Essentially finished attic space, the walls were slanted with the angle of the roof, but the two brothers had ample space. Their good sized bedrooms were at either end with a comfortable lounge for them to share between. There were two bedrooms on the fist floor in addition to their grandmother's big master bedroom, long vacated now by Frank and Ben, but the younger Longbottoms liked their upper floor and remained up there.
Neville was nervous that evening. Up in his room, he put on the only suit he owned, decided he looked like he was going to church, and took it off again. He was down to his boxers and socks when his brother walked into his room.
"Please tell me you're not wearing that," Tristan pointed to the bed where the suit was laid out.
"Just took it off," Neville admitted.
"Hoh," Tristan grumbled with a shake of his head as he walked to Neville's closet. "You have a date with this bird. You're not taking her to church."
"It's not a date!" Neville protested.
Tristan threw a smirk over his shoulder. "It's a date. Where are your best jeans? Get them out."
"Here," Neville pulled the neatly folded trousers from a dresser drawer.
"Good. Put those on. Now for a nice shirt," Tristan turned his attention to his brother's wardrobe.
"What about this one?" Neville picked up the white dress shirt he had just taken off.
"No," Tristan didn't bother to look. He knew his brother only too well. "Here. You'll look alright in this one," Tristan pulled a dark brown dress shirt with cream pinstripes out of Neville's closet and handed it to him.
Neville, already in his jeans, put on the shirt. He buttoned it and tucked it into his pants. "You sure this is alright?"
"Why would you even ask if this isn't a date?" Tristan caught his brother.
"It isn't a date," Neville stated again.
"It is a date. Neville's got a bird!" Tristan teased.
"Shut it," Neville did not find his brother amusing. He grabbed his wallet and keys, and pushed past Tristan.
"Wait," Tristan grabbed his brother's arm and turned him back.
"What?" Neville asked.
"You can at least look like you're ready, even if you can't act like it," Tristan coached as he unbuttoned one extra button on Neville's shirt.
"Oh, I'm beyond ready," Neville pulled back and headed for the stairs. "Thanks for your help!" he called back as he descended. In spite of the teasing, Neville was grateful for his much more experienced brother's assistance.
"On your way out, Neville dear?" Augusta intercepted her youngest grandson in the hall.
"I am," Neville held up his keys. "Not quite sure when I'll be back."
"Well," Augusta buttoned the third button on Neville's shirt and straightened his collar, "you be a gentleman and come home tonight."
"Gran!" Neville felt himself turning every shade of red as he pulled back and rushed out the door, entirely mortified by the prospect of discussing intimate relations with his grandmother.
"Have a good time!" Augusta leaned out the front door to call after him.
Neville rushed to the Defender. He sped away from the house and down the drive, unable to get away fast enough.
There was, of course, no traffic as he drove along the dark country road toward Wroxham. Neville cruised easily into town and crossed the bridge over the Bure. He went back to the single intersection in town, turned right and a little way down the narrow lane, parked in the car park behind the Hotel Wroxham. Neville shut off the engine and gripped the steering wheel as he took a deep breath.
"This isn't a date," Neville talked to himself. "Gran arranged it. If this were a date, I would have asked her out. I wish I had asked her out," he sat up and leaned over to look at himself in the rearview mirror. And noticed the open top two buttons of his shirt. His instinct, like his grandmother, had been to leave just the top two buttons open. Tristan however, clearly endorsed three. Neville figured that between the three of them, Tristan's instinct was the one to trust on such matters. He unbuttoned his third button again and got out of the vehicle.
Neville walked to the entrance of the hotel and strode into the modern lobby. Luna was waiting in a brown leather club chair and rose when she saw him walk in. Neville stopped in his tracks. Luna had put on a pair of jeans that fit her like a glove and highlighted her supple curves. She wore a sleeveless blouse and carried a sweater over her arm just in case.
"You look very nice," Luna complimented with a smile as she stepped up to him.
"Oh, no. You look very nice," Neville contradicted. "I look bloody lucky to be in your company."
"Why, thank you, Sir. Where shall I deign to be taken this evening?" Luna put on a pretend aire.
Neville laughed and instantly felt more at ease. "The Bridge is one of the best places in town, if you don't mind a little bit of a stroll."
"Lead on," Luna gestured.
They walked out of the hotel and down the pedestrian walkway through the buildings to get back to the main street.
"Your room is nice?" Neville asked.
"Oh, very nice. Quite nice, actually," Luna affirmed. "Fine as anything we have in London," she lied.
And Neville saw right through it. "Now, I highly doubt that. This is a little country hotel with a few rooms overlooking the river. Are you really saying that there is nothing finer than this in Hyde Park or Mayfair?"
"Fine as anything I've ever been in, let's put it that way," Luna clarified.
"Okay, then," Neville nodded.
They strolled across the pedestrian walkway, adjacent to, but separate from, the road bridge across the river. Tucked down at the water's edge, in what was once the town ice house, was The Bridge restaurant. They elected to sit outside and were shown straight through to the dock. It was a romantic setting right at the water's edge with the candles on the linen covered table protected by glass hurricane shades. Neville held Luna's chair for her and then took the only other chair across from her.
"Thank you so much," Luna smiled at their waitress as she handed over menus. She took a minute to read through. "What's good here?"
"Most everything," Neville endorsed. "The paté is quite good. If you're a beef girl, the steak is always spot on and the seafood is excellent."
"Perhaps the monkfish," Luna considered.
"I'll get the halibut," Neville closed his menu. "Would you like a glass of wine?"
"We could share a bottle. That would be lovely," Luna agreed.
"I'd like that. Is there one on here that you like?" Neville looked over the not terribly extensive wine list. "I don't know much about wine," he admitted.
"Neither do I. Where is Greg when I need him?" Luna mused.
"Greg?" Neville couldn't help but notice a male name.
"My oldest and dearest friend," Luna informed.
"Would you like another minute with the menu? Can we start you off with something from the bar?" the waitress returned.
"We'll start with the paté and I think the olives," Neville ordered. "Then the lady will have the monkfish. I'll have the halibut. And would you also select a bottle of wine that would go well with that, please."
"We sure will. Great choices. I'll be right back with your wine," the waitress smiled and headed inside.
"How is it such a sweet and charming boy like you doesn't have a girlfriend?" Luna was forward.
"How is it such a beautiful girl doesn't have a boyfriend?" Neville countered. "Especially in London. You must have no shortage of blokes around you."
"There's no shortage of blokes around me, but none of them are available," Luna stated. "At least, not to me. They're all gay."
"Oh?" Neville raised his eyebrows. "Greg too?"
"Greg especially," Luna confirmed. "Greg was my mentor for a long time. He's the manager of Studio B in Broadcasting House. I still work in the studio sometimes, but I really like the research I get to do, places I get to go, people I get to meet."
"I'm very glad of it," Neville smiled.
"This is a nice pinot grigio from Italy," their waitress announced as she returned. She deftly pulled the cork and poured a taste into Neville's glass.
"If the lady likes it, we'll have it," Neville handed his glass to Luna.
"Oh," Luna was not expecting that. Not once in her life had she been asked to approve a wine. Luna hid her smile behind the glass as she took the sip, and found the wine quite pleasing. "I like it," she declared and set the glass down.
The waitress poured Luna a glass and did the same for Neville. "I'll be right out with your olives and paté."
"Thank you," Neville gave her a nod as she departed. "Tell me more about your gay blokes," he prompted Luna.
"They're all quite interesting, really. I told you about Greg. He's my closest friend and confidant," Luna stated.
"Will I warrant a mention?" Neville fished.
"I mentioned you to him before I ever met you. I'd say a follow up conversation is quite in order," Luna smiled.
"What will you say?" Neville pressed.
"Ah, now, my secrets are only for Greg," Luna was cagey.
"Fair enough," Neville noded with a smile.
"You'll probably have heard of his partner, Viktor Krum," Luna continued.
"That name does sound familiar for some reason," Neville furrowed his brow in thought.
"Arsenal," Luna prompted.
"Oh! Yes! The Bulgarian midfielder!" Neville exclaimed. "He's gay?" he leaned over the table to whisper his question as if it were a secret not to be let out.
"Quite gay," Luna confirmed.
"He seems like such a tough bloke. I mean, you know, in the matches I've seen," Neville tried to reconcile the facts in his head.
"He is a tough bloke," Luna affirmed. "He's big and strong, and I imagine could be quite fierce if needed, but at home he's a loving partner and father."
"Oh, they have kids?" Neville was genuinely interested. "I can understand them wanting kids. I love kids. How do two blokes go about doing that though?"
"Well," Luna took a sip of her wine. Did she want to tell this? Did she want to tell it now? She was given a small reprieve by the arrival of their waitress.
"Here we are. Brussels paté with herb croutons and red onion chutney. And our house marinated olives with baguette and balsamic dipping sauce. Enjoy!" the waitress bid and bustled off again.
"So tell me more about their kids," Neville bid. "I think it's great they want to be dads."
"It was a serendipitous turn of events, actually," Luna began. "Greg and Viktor had only been together a few years at that point. They hadn't talked about kids, but had a close friend who found herself pregnant, and at that point in her life, was not at all prepared to raise a child."
"Oh," Neville wasn't slow on the uptake. "Luna, I'm sorry. If this is painful for you..."
"Not at all," Luna was sincere. "Greg and Viktor talked about it and realized that they both very much did want a family, and more importantly, wanted that with each other. We were very much in a position to help one another. I gave up my baby to them when she was born."
"You have a daughter," Neville barely breathed the words. He could only imagine how beautiful this woman's daughter must be.
"I don't," Luna corrected. "Greg and Viktor have a daughter. I have no parental rights. I gave all that up to them, and two better fathers you'll never find anywhere."
"They're your friends still, yeah? Do you at least get to see her?" Neville was genuinely concerned.
"Oh, I'm very much in her life. She does call me mummy," Luna informed. "I love her dearly, but I've never regretted my decision to give her up to them. She has two fathers who absolutely think the world of her. They provide a much better home for her than I ever could have."
"She has two fathers and a mum, then," Neville concluded with a smile.
"She just about does," Luna agreed. "I have her whenever Viktor has a home match and anytime Greg goes to his away matches as well. I stayed at their flat with her when Viktor went off to training camp and Greg dashed off to Dubai to rescue Ashok. Oh, sorry!" Luna laughed when she saw the look of confusion on Neville's face. "That could use a bit of an explanation."
"Please," Neville nodded as he spread paté on a crouton.
"This is a bit of a convoluted story. Right, here goes," Luna swept her hair back from her face. "Greg and Viktor have a mate named Jasper from the States. Jasper's mates came to London. One of the American chaps' partner is a man named Nasir, who is from Dubai, or those parts. Nasir is gay, obviously, and when his family found out about that, let's just say it didn't go at all well. A young, gay, Indian bloke named Ashok, worked for Nasir's family in Dubai. He had lost his partner tragically when some very bad men killed him, thinking he was Nasir. Clearly Ashok needed quite badly to get out of there.
"Greg and Viktor have a mate named Rick. Greg and Rick are old school chums," Luna explained. "They, together with two more of their mates, a couple named Dré and Vince, all dashed off to Dubai and brought Ashok home with them. Now, Rick and Ashok are a couple, and a rather handsome one."
"Wow," Neville was amazed. "Life sure is exciting in London!"
"I don't know if exciting is the word I would use," Luna considered.
"Do you have a picture of your daughter? I'd love to see her," Neville expressed.
"I most certainly do," Luna pulled her cell out of her purse and called up her gallery. "This is her with Ashok. She's become quite attached to him. He's the best Peter Pan ever, I have it on good authority."
"Luna," Neville gazed at the picture as he held her phone in his hands. "She's just beautiful."
"We can thank the Dutchman I met in Cancun, whose last name I never learned," Luna quipped.
"I don't think he had much to do with it at all. She's the very image of you. Thank you for showing me," Neville handed her phone back to her.
"I don't typically show pictures of my friends' daughter around, but I don't think they'd mind in your case," Luna slipped her mobile back into her handbag.
"Nah. Gay blokes love me!" Neville asserted.
"You have gay men living round here?" Luna couldn't imagine it.
"Round here? No. But in Norwich. My mates from school, Matt and Jeremy, took me to a gay club in Norwich after a Canaries match once," Neville elaborated. "We all took our shirts off and danced the night away. Or at least until the club closed."
"Oh, now I'm trying to picture you all sweaty and grinding against other boys," Luna teased.
"I did get sweaty, but I drew the line at grinding with other blokes," Neville stated.
Their waitress arrived with their dinners and they enjoyed the rest of their meal. Luna and Neville grew ever more at ease with each other. After they left the restaurant, they strolled along the river. Neville bought them each an icecream cone. Their long, romantic, after dinner walk, ended at the doors to Luna's hotel.
"I should probably say goodnight," Neville put his hands in his pockets. He looked down at his shoes. He didn't want this evening to end.
"Thank you very much for a lovely dinner. I had a really great time," Luna smiled.
"I did too. I really did," Neville agreed.
"I would like a kiss on my cheek, Sir," Luna prompted when she could see he wasn't going to muster the courage to do that on his own.
Neville ever so reverently leaned down, closed his eyes, and brushed her cheek with his lips.
"Thank you. I'll see you in the morning. Goodnight," Luna patted his chest and walked into her hotel.
"Goodnight!" Neville called after her when his wits returned to him. He watched Luna until she disappeared around the corner toward the stairs. Neville took a deep breath and finally turned away to walk to his Land Rover. This was going to be one of those nights he tossed off in the Defender while driving. There was no way he was going to be able to wait until he got home.
Luna smiled broadly to herself all the way up to her room. She pulled her mobile out of her purse along with her room key. And then noticed the time. It was too late to call Greg. She would have to wait until tomorrow to tell him all about the sweet and charming boy she found.
The tall, gilded iron gates were not unlike those at Buckingham Palace. Draco Malfoy walked out of the main gates of the British Museum onto Great Russell Street and hooked an immediate left to walk up the leafy, tree lined side of the street. He wore his usual work attire of snug jeans, dress shirt and tie. Dré wore a dark blue suit jacket to and from work. He carried his umbrella, just in case, and his Prada knapsack over one shoulder.
Dré dashed across the street in the middle of the second block to cut through the quiet, green space of Bloomsbury Square Garden. This pleasant path let out on Bloomsbury Way right at the head of Southampton Place. Dré continued across and went down the short, one way, residential Southampton to the very busy High Holborn. Only half a block down was the Holborn Tube Station, served by the Piccadilly and Central lines. Dré swiped his Oyster and made his way down to the Piccadilly platforms. He joined the throng when the carriage came and held onto a pole as there were no seats to be had at this time of the day.
Dré exited with many others at Green Park where Piccadilly converged with the Jubilee and Victoria lines. There were far fewer people on the Victoria line carriage and he was able to take a seat for this next leg of his commute home. Only two stops further was the Pimlico Tube Station, where Dré got off and made his way up to the surface. He emerged onto Bessborough Street and walked past the local launderette, the small fresh fruit and vegetable market, and the Gallery pub that Dré only liked because Vince did.
Half a block down, Dré turned into Saint George's Square. This was a long, narrow and tranquil green space in the heart of Pimlico. At the head of the park stood the old, stone, gothic Saint Saviour's Parish Church, Deanery of Westminster, Diocese of London, Church of England. Dré had set foot in it only once. Vince had been raised in a fairly religious home and Dré agreed they could attend Sunday mass and explore becoming members of the parish. It was not something he would ever have been interested in, but Dré would do it for Vince.
Saint Saviour's was not even a ten minute walk from their home and a beautiful old Victorian building. Dré agreed that mass had been pleasant and the whole thing had seemed welcoming. At first. They spoke with the Vicar after the service about joining the parish. Vince enquired about having their union blessed in the church. The Vicar agreed quite amicably that he would be more than happy to do so. After Vince and Dré attended a discussion about how sexual intimacy was exclusively between a married man and woman, and why they as a couple were deviating from God's plan. They never set foot in the building again.
Saint George's Square park continued across Grosvenor Road to the very edge of the Thames. Dré crossed Grosvenor and walked along the park. There were four small four and five story apartment buildings, and a Shell petrol station on the river side of the street. The last building was his and he let himself onto the property through the pedestrian gate. Dré produced his keys from his bag and let himself into the building through the glass door entrance.
The lobby was not tiny, but not large and grand either. It was a reasonably well appointed little sitting room with access to the mail and laundry rooms, the building lift and stairs. The building had two small studio flats on the ground floor as well as parking and the maintenance room where the building boiler and hot water tank were located. Units that ranged from one bedroom to three occupied the first through fourth floors. The largest flat which took up most of the top floor and had the very best view of the river, was Vince and Dré's home. They paid nothing to live here as the building was owned by Dré's parents. His father had never been happy about losing the income potential of the nicest flat in the building, but the agreement was that they could live there rent free as long as Vince became the building manager and looked after the property. Lucius didn't have to pay anyone to do anything, unless it was so big a job that a contractor would be required anyway, and needed never spare a thought about this particular property. And there were many. The Malfoy portfolio of real estate was vast and global.
Vince had no income, but as they had no expenses apart from their food and entertainment, they lived quite comfortably on Dré's twenty nine thousand pound annual salary. Or would have and could have, even if that were all they had. Dré and Vince were both members of the Arsenal W Club at Emirates Stadium, with a booth and club level seats at the halfway line. The annual cost of that for two memberships was equal to Dré's annual salary, but was a Christmas gift from Dré's mother every year. She had also tried to buy them each a car, but they only wanted the one, and only wanted a small, economical vehicle. Narcissa had given them their little, black Renault Clio GT as well, though living where they did, they almost never drove it.
"Evening, Draco," a woman old enough to be Dré's grandmother emerged from the mailroom. She wore a sweater around her shoulders clasped together by a chain at her neck and reading glasses perched on the end of her nose.
"Evening, Mrs. Chambers," Dré returned her sweet smile as he touched the call button for the elevator.
"Vincent stopped by to clear my sink again. Do thank him again for me," Mrs. Chambers gave a wave and shuffled back toward her ground floor door.
"I'll be sure to do that. Night," Dré waved as he stepped aboard the lift.
The car took him up to the fourth floor and Dré walked across the uppermost lobby to his door. He let himself in with his key and shut the door behind him. "Peach," he called.
"There's my little duck," Vince came from the direction of the kitchen. He put a gentle hand to the side of his husband's face and greeted him with a loving kiss on his lips as he did every day. Vince took Dré's bag from him and led him by the hand into the lounge. Vince wore loose shorts and a tee shirt that was his usual daily uniform in the warmer months.
Dré sat on the sofa and Vince sat down on the floor at his feet. Vince pulled Dré's shoes off and brought a sock clad foot into his lap to rub it.
Dré sighed as he relaxed into his near daily foot massage. "You're so very good to me. I should be doing that for you. You work much harder than I do."
"You're on your feet all day, Duck. I'm on my arse most of the time," Vince countered.
"You mean when you're not on your back under Mrs. Chambers' sink?" Dré enquired with a smirk.
"Ran into her then?" Vince smiled.
"What'd she drop down there this time?" Dré asked.
"Her knitting needles again," Vince informed.
"There are two facts I know with absolute certainty," Dré held up as many fingers. "One. You are not wearing underwear. Two. When you see to a sink it is very easy to see right up those shorts and I know how lovely that view is."
"The view is all she gets to enjoy. You get to reach in and do as you like," Vince pulled Dré's sock off and kissed his toes.
"Don't kiss my feet. They must stink," Dré didn't want to ever be the cause of unpleasantness for the man he loved.
"They don't," Vince denied and kissed his way up to Dré's thin ankle. "Damn, now these pants are in my way," he complained and reached for Dré's belt.
"Can't have that," Dré agreed as Vince opened his pants. He lifted his butt while Vince pulled his jeans down his legs.
Vince pulled his lover's jeans free of his feet and in that amount of time Dré's long, thin, smooth, pale bone grew fully erect.
"Oh, my beautiful duck," Vince's thick cock grew in his shorts. He ran his hands up Dré's thighs. "Point him at me."
"Like this?" Dré took hold of his cock and pointed it at his lover's face.
"Mmm," Vince gave his husband's snake a wet kiss on its eye. "Ashok made us lovely little grouse birds for dinner, but I think I'll have some bollocks first," he lowered his face to run his tongue across his lover's smooth scrotum.
"Ugh," Dré watched as his lover lapped at his stones. He reached down to run his slender fingers through Vince's dark hair and played with his ears. "Will you let me do that to you?"
"In a minute," Vince almost agreed. He drew one of Dré's testicles into his mouth and worked to pull the other one in as well.
"Ugh, Vin!" Dré arched his back as his entire sac and both his nuts were captured in his lover's mouth.
Vince caressed the sensitive orbs in his very full mouth with his tongue. He loved holding Dré's balls in his mouth while he moved his tongue around them and gazed up at his lover's perfect cock.
"Ugh," Dré moaned.
And then his cell rang. It was in his bag which was on the floor next to Vince. Vince thought he was being helpful as he extracted his lover's ringing mobile from his bag and handed it up to him.
"My bloody mother," Dré silenced the phone and tossed it to the end of the sofa. "Ugh," he relaxed into the warm and sensual massage of his testicles inside his lover's mouth. "Can I wank myself?" Dré asked even as he didn't wait for permission and took hold of his cock.
Vince immediately pulled Dré's hand away.
"Will you suck me?" Dré asked for what he really wanted.
And Vince's cell rang.
"Fuck!" Dré exclaimed even as Vince pulled his mobile out of his shorts pocket.
Vince brought the phone up where he could see the screen while his mouth was attached to his lover's body. When he saw that it was Dré's mother calling, he figured it must be important. Vince accepted the call and handed his phone up to Dré.
"Vin!" Dré protested as he took the phone. "Git," he whispered and gave Vince a light slap on the side of his head. "Hullo, Mum."
"Oh, Draco," Narcissa greeted. "You have Vince's phone? I tried to ring you first."
"I must do," Dré agreed.
"Well, no matter. Your father wants to see you, both of you, this evening," Narcissa informed.
"This evening? About what?" Dré pressed his head back into the sofa as Vince's tongue massaged his stones inside Vince's mouth. He put his free hand on Vince's forehead and pushed lightly to get him to stop.
"He didn't say precisely. You know how he is," Narcissa answered.
"Does it have to be this evening? We've dinner all ready," Dré protested.
"Your father was quite insistent," Narcissa stated. "You can have dinner with us."
"Are we meant to come right now?" Dré was less amused by the second. Until Vince's tongue curled around his orbs inside Vince's mouth. Dré gasped and pushed on Vince's forehead again.
"Your father sent the car. Cleeve should be pulling up any second," Narcissa revealed.
And Dré knew exactly what that meant. They weren't to take the train or drive down to Surrey. This was a command performance and they would be allowed to depart only when Lucius Malfoy gave them leave to do so.
"Drat. Alright," Dré rubbed his hand over his face. "See you in a bit."
"See you in a bit, Darling," Narcissa rang off.
Vince let his lover's spit soaked nuts slip from his mouth. "Are we off then?"
"I'm afraid so," Dré confirmed.
"And I didn't get to suck this sweet stalk yet," Vince hooked Dré's cock with his fingers and lifted it to give Dré a lick across his frenulum. "That's okay. I'll stroke you while I drive, all the way there."
"I don't think Cleeve will like that. Father sent the car," Dré informed.
"We can always slip off to your old room while we're there," Vince smiled at the thought.
"I have no idea what he wants," Dré rubbed his face again as he considered. Thinking about what could possibly be up his father's already unpleasant arse made his erection flee.
"I'll get changed," Vince rose from the floor.
Dré heaved another sigh as he sat up and pulled his jeans and socks back on. He pulled his necktie off and laid it across the back of the sofa as he tried to imagine what it was that his father might want. Whatever it was, Dré reasoned that it must have come up suddenly, for there had been no notice and they had to appear immediately. Try though he may, Dré hadn't a clue.
The white haired and black suit uniformed driver, complete with black gloves and peaked cap, stood beside the car just outside the vehicle gate in the drive of Vince and Dré's building. Not one to sit idly, the driver buffed the hood of the gleaming black Rolls Royce, extended wheelbase Phantom with a soft cloth while he waited.
"Evening, Cleeve," Dré greeted as he and Vince walked out through the pedestrian gate.
"Evening, Master Malfoy," the older man smiled as he opened the big, rear, suicide door for them. He had called Dré that since the younger man was a small boy. "Mr. Crabbe," Cleeve nodded. He shut them in the back and took the wheel.
They took Grosvenor Road back toward Whitehall and turned right onto Vauxhall Bridge Road to cross the Thames. They passed by the MI6 headquarters building that looked for all the world like it had been built from giant lego blocks, and passed beneath the multiple train tracks feeding into Waterloo. The driver made another right onto South Lambeth Road and continued south. Businesses lined the sidewalks of the old buildings with flats above in the old and slightly worn neighborhood. The further south they drove, the better the neighborhood became.
A hook at the end of South Lambeth Road brought them onto the more major Clapham Road, which would take them all the way down to Surrey. The traffic grew heavy and slow as it became Clapham High Street in the center of Clapham. Some areas were old and established and some were newer and leafy as they made their way ever southwest, out of the capital city.
Four lanes became six and divided, as urban gave way to suburban. They left Greater London and entered Surrey when they passed through the Sixty Acre Wood. Here suburban became rural as they continued on the A3. Civilization became once more apparent as they flew through the city of Guildford, but that was short lived. Vince and Dré were familiar with the route as they had driven it a hundred times. Beyond Guildford, the terrain became less heavily wooded with more open, rolling meadows, and the divided highway reduced to two lanes in each direction.
The chauffeur veered off the carriageway at the Milford exit. The transition from highway to small and narrow country lane, was complete and immediate. Mossy old brick buildings, repurposed into homes, sat close to the road. They drove right through Milford and only a mile further down the road, they could see it.
The chauffeur turned into the drive and the tall, powered gates set in the stone arch swung open for them. They passed through a thick copse of ash before the expansive lawn opened before the manor.
In the eighteenth century a Malfoy ancestor who had made his fortune in shipping, purchased the dilapidated medieval palace of the Bishops of Godalming. A new house had been built on its foundations and expanded into the great Bath stone encased Jacobethan manor that stood proudly on the hill today. The two hundred plus room, hundred and seventy five thousand square foot palace of a home was a great square three story building with four story square towers at the corners.
The closer they drew to the house, the lower Dré's spirits fell. This house held virtually no good memories for him. While the sight of it never ceased to amaze Vince, Dré felt only a terrible, oppressive weight. It was the most magnificent prison. Dré was already holding his lover's hand and the closer they drew, the tighter he squeezed. This happened every time they came here. Vince expected it and he knew Dré didn't even realize he did it.
As incredible and impressive as this place was, it also served to remind Vince how different their backgrounds were.
"Every time we drive up here, I wonder what you're doing with me," Vince confessed.
"Every time we drive up here, it should remove any doubt you ever had," Dré held his man's hand tightly. He was deeply grateful to his father for demanding that Vince come along as well this time. It was much easier with Vince by his side. In this house, Dré felt like Vince was his only connection to sanity and the real world.
Cleeve drove past a line of vehicles parked in the drive to pull up to the front entrance.
"Isn't that your aunt's Lagonda?" Vince pointed as they rolled past it.
"I think so," Dré leaned to get a closer look.
"Looks like a party. Who do these others belong to?" Vince asked.
"No idea," Dré admitted. His aunt's car was parked in line along with a black over garnet Daimler DS420 limousine, a black Mercedes Benz S550, a pale blue Audi RS4 Avant, a green over black rattletrap Riley RMA, and a black Range Rover.
Cleeve stopped and got out to get the rear door, and Dré waited for him to do so.
"Master Malfoy, Mr. Crabbe," Cleeve inclined his head as he held the door.
"Thank you, Cleeve," Dré climbed out of the back of the huge car.
The right of the tall front doors opened and three people, one human and two canine, stood ready to greet them.
"Welcome home, Master Malfoy," Dobby had a smile for the man he had watched grow up. "Mr. Crabbe," he greeted Dré's partner. The pleasant older man wore his standard daily uniform of black morning coat and trousers complete with black bow tie and waistcoat, and white gloves. Two great wooly gray beasts stood beside him wagging their tails. The Malfoy dogs were as grand and commanding as their residence. The Irish Wolfhounds stood with their heads near chest height of the grown men.
"Thank you, Dobby. Hello, Basil, Polly," Dré greeted the three of them with a pat on the head for the quadrupeds.
"Dobby," Vince gave the majordomo a nod as he followed Dré. "How's my big boy?" he vigorously rubbed the head of the male dog. "And my big girl!" he did the same to Polly.
"Mum and dad about?" Dré enquired he walked through the vestibule into the deeply vaulted, cloister-like entry hall.
"Your father is in conference, I'm afraid." Dobby closed both the front door and the doors to the vestibule. "I shall inform your mother that you've arrived."
"No need. We'll find her. Where is she?" Dré asked.
"Madame Malfoy was in the Fabergé room when last I checked on her," Dobby informed.
"Thank you, Dobby," Dré set off.
Through a set of doors twelve feet tall, the entry hall gave onto the salon. This vast space had a grouping of comfortable upholstered chairs around a giant, round, tufted ottoman, arranged before a fireplace large enough that an adult could walk right into it. The walls on the first floor were covered in tapestries. The room was open to the floors above and the ceiling high above was set with long, slender glass panes to make an atrium. On the upper floors a gallery went around the salon with beautifully carved stone arches. On the ground floor, opposite the giant fireplace, through similar, but wider and taller arches, was the grand stairs.
Dré walked right through this room and through the twelve foot tall archway into the drawing room beyond. This room, not quite so large as the cathedral salon, rivaled anything in the Palace of Versailles with its gold leaf, Louis XIV furniture and magnificent chandelier. At the extreme left end of the room, the double doors stood open to what the family called the Fabergé room. This slightly smaller room was still grand in scale and contained enough pieces from the House of Fabergé to make a Czar green with envy. Also French in style the walls were covered in ornate gold and olive toile.
The Fabergé room was the personal space of the lady of the house and she sat at her antique writing desk tucked into a corner. Narcissa wore the dark hair on top of her head in feathery fringe on her forehead and the blonde hair at the sides pulled back into a jeweled clip at the back of her head. The dark hair in back hung straight down. She wore a skirt and a long sleeved silk blouse with a jeweled brooch at the closure of her collar at her neck. Narcissa looked up as Dré, the dogs and Vince strode into the room.
"Draco," Narcissa rose from her desk.
"Hi, Mum," Dré gave his mother a hug. He bent to accept her kiss on his cheek.
"And Vincent," Narcissa had the same kiss for him that she had for her son.
"Hullo, Mum," Vince gave his mother-in-law a warm hug.
"Lovely to see both of you," Narcissa smiled at her son and his partner as she rubbed their arms.
"Where's dad, then?" Dré asked. "Is he in there?" he cocked his thumb toward the connecting door between the Fabergé room and the library, between his mother's inner sanctum and his father's. "What's this about?"
"Don't be like that, Draco," Narcissa chastised gently. "We see you boys so seldom. Does your father have to have a reason to want to see you?" she seated herself on a gilded settee and Basil laid his massive head in her lap.
"He always does and if there weren't a reason, why then did it have to be today and right now?" Dré challenged. "Why couldn't Vince and I eat our dinner, which was ready by the way, and come see you tomorrow, or this weekend? When he commands me to appear like this, I'm in trouble about something."
Vince, in solidarity, stepped up beside his lover and rubbed his lower back while he spoke.
"If he has commanded Vince to appear with me, then Vince is in trouble too," Dré went on. "Though, I can't for the life of me think for what."
"It isn't like that," Narcissa denied.
"What is it like then?" Dré demanded of his mother.
"Duck," Vince spoke softly in an attempt to get his angry and anxious lover to soften his tone with his mother.
"Your father isn't angry with you, with either of you. He's in an important meeting with the party leadership that came up at the last moment," Narcissa explained. "I'm sure he knows you're here. He'll come out when he can. In the meantime, take a walk through the gardens with me and then we'll have dinner."
"Yeah, alright," Dré agreed.
"Just let me fetch my wrap," Narcissa rose and strode out of her study with Basil trailing behind.
Dré turned and stepped into his husband's strong arms. "Save me," he laid his head on Vince's shoulder and held him tightly.
"Little duck, you're fine," Vince whispered and he held the thin man while he ran his fingers through Dré's silky platinum blonde hair.
"Because of you," Dré rubbed his husband's back. "You do save me. Every day."
They walked through the gardens in the last light of dusk. Across the croquet lawn, the garden path passed straight through several huge topiaries. Dré absolutely refused to transit these dark, green tunnels cut through the topiaries, as he had done so once as a child and come out the other side covered in spider webs, spiders and all. That was never going to happen to him again. They turned around when they reached the private golf course on the estate and made their way back to the house through the hedged herb gardens and the terraced rose and hydrangea gardens.
Narcissa, Dré and Vince heard, if not saw, the procession from the library to the formal dining room. Rather than join the party leaders where no doubt business continued, Narcissa and the younger men dined separately at the round table in the cheerfully decorated morning room. Narcissa had arranged for salmon, caught fresh that very day in Scotland, to be served as the main course for dinner.
They heard her heels on the marble tiles well before they saw her, but they all knew who it was. They knew the clomp well.
"Are the boys here?" Bellatrix asked even as she rounded the corner. The Shadow Foreign Secretary wore a calf length, black, frilly dress that was long sleeved and tight in the bodice. Her madly curly hair was a great mass on her head and a few stray strands hung down in her face.
"Hi, auntie," Dré rose to greet his mother's younger sister.
"Draco!" Bellatrix embraced her tall nephew tightly.
Dré bent to receive her kiss on his cheek.
"And my Vincent," Bellatrix was very fond of her nephew's partner and had a warm hug for him as well.
"Auntie," Vince kissed her cheek. He had gotten away with calling her Miss Lestrange just once. When Bellatrix saw how in love her beloved nephew was, she had insisted that he call her 'auntie' too. That had been years ago, when Vince and Dré were still at school.
"Is father coming out?" Dré asked as he sat back down. They were finished with dinner, but lingered at the table over sherry.
"Hasn't he?" Bellatrix seated herself beside her sister. "Well, he is the host. We've much to do!"
"Why did he command us to appear if he can't spare even a minute?" Dré enquired.
"Oh, I'm sure he will," Bellatrix gave a dismissive gesture. "Or not. It only matters that you're here."
"What? Why?" Dré asked with a furrowed brow.
"I don't have time to chat at all," Bellatrix rose. "I just wanted to say hi to my favorite men," she gave Dré and Vince a kiss on the top of their heads as she rounded the table. Bellatrix finished with a squeeze on her sister's shoulder in passing, and was gone as quickly as she appeared.
"No idea," Narcissa lied when her son looked to her for answers. "Let's take our sherry into the salon, shall we?" she picked up her cordial glass as she rose from the table.
"How long are we meant to stay?" Dré enquired as he and Vince stood up.
"I wish I had told you to pack a bag. I'd love if you stayed," Narcissa didn't quite answer. "Of course, what do you need, really? Your room is full of clothes."
"Nothing I would wear. And what will Vince wear then?" Dré asked pointedly.
"I'm sure we can rustle up something," Narcissa refilled her cordial from the crystal decanter on the sideboard.
"We're not staying," Dré decided. "I need to be at the museum early tomorrow anyway."
"The Arab delegation arrives tomorrow," Vince informed.
"Oh, does it?" Narcissa remembered her son mentioning it.
"It's a real opportunity," Vince could not have been more proud of his man.
"What museum are you helping to develop again?" Narcissa asked as she led the way out of the morning room.
"Sheikh Zayed something or other, the founder of the United Arab Emirates," Dré reminded.
"Mm," Narcissa nodded. "Any particularly important personages your father should be aware of?"
"I've absolutely no idea," Dré confessed. "Father would have to ask Sir Neil."
"You're going down to the Emirates, aren't you?" Narcissa recalled. "When are you going?"
"I'm not quite sure," Dré answered. "I don't know how long the delegation plans to be in London. We'll accompany them back most probably. We were told to be ready to leave at any time."
"What will you do, Vincent dear, while Draco is away?" Narcissa led the way into the cathedral salon.
"Carry on and miss him terribly," Vince rubbed his lover's back.
"How long are you meant to be gone?" Narcissa asked.
"Depends on how involved we get," Dré admitted. "I'd say at least a month."
"Oh dear. Vincent, I'll buy you a plane ticket so you can fly down to see him," Narcissa seated herself in one of the arm chairs in front of the massive fireplace.
A table stood nearby with fresh flowers from their own gardens and family photos in standing frames. It might almost have looked and felt cozy, if the Bath stone ceiling were not four storeys above their heads.
"Would you boys like that?" Narcissa smiled at them.
"That would be just great!" Vince was all for it.
"Thank you, Mum. We accept," Dré took his partner's hand. "I'll make his reservation when we know more and let you know."
"Perhaps I'll fly down as well," Narcissa mused. "I've never been."
"It's bloody damn hot," Dré stated with conviction.
"It is," Vince agreed.
"I'd love to do a bit of shopping. Can a woman just go out shopping there?" Narcissa wondered aloud.
"I don't know," Vince admitted. "If we're there together, I'd be pleased to escort you."
"You're a dear, Vincent," Narcissa smiled.
"We're going to take a walk round the house outside," Dré tugged on his husband's hand.
"Alright. Don't bother your father," Narcissa advised.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Dré led Vince back out through the tall open doors to the entry hall, and out through the front doors to the drive.
"That'll be nice. I'll get to come and see you!" Vince squeezed his lover's hand.
"I would have asked her for a ticket for you even if she hadn't offered," Dré confessed as they started to stroll in the cool night air. "I don't want to be away from you for that long. I don't want to be away from you for even a single night. Beside you is where I belong."
"That you do," Vince pulled his slight lover to him for a soft and loving kiss on his lips.
"I can't sleep properly without you," Dré bent his head to rest it on Vince's solid shoulder. "I shall have deep, dark circles under my eyes when you get there. And you'd better shove yourself bollocks deep the moment you arrive."
"Right in the airport?" Vince smirked.
"Perhaps we can hold out until the hotel," Dré conceded.
"Then bollocks deep it is. Down yer throat or up yer arse?" Vince asked.
"I can't have both?" Dré pouted.
"You'll get both aplenty," Vince grabbed a compact little Malfoy butt cheek and squeezed it.
"You're making me hard," Dré informed.
"Take it out, Duck. I'll suck you off on the hood of one of these cars!" Vince was lewd. He reached up and took hold of the back of Dré's neck with one hand, and grabbed Dré's crotch with the other. He pulled Dré into a deep kiss this time as he pulled Dré's zipper down and reached into his pants. Dré held fast to Vince and whimpered into his lover's mouth as Vince's tongue probed his mouth and Vince's fingers curled around his cock. Dré was perfectly willing to let his big, strong lover lay him out starkers on one of these cars and suck him dry if that was what Vince wanted.
One of the front doors opening caught their attention and they turned to see a large man emerge from the mansion. He walked with a pronounced limp and had a curious wooden walking stick carved into the head and hoof of a Ram. He wore a loose and tatty tweed suit jacket, and pulled a flask out of his inner pocket. Vince and Dré were close enough to see that the flask was ornate with a carved ivory head on top. The man with long shaggy hair took a swig from his flask and then suddenly turned his head to look at them. Vince kept Dré's body shielded by his so the man couldn't see his hand in Dré's pants. They just stared at the man with one eye covered by a black patch, both of them looking over Vince's shoulder. They watched him hobble off to his vehicle and heft himself up into the black Range Rover. He started it up, pulled out of the line, and roared off down the driveway.
Just as another car was driving up. Vince pulled his hand out of Dré's pants and zipped him up. They didn't recognize the Audi A7 as it braked to a stop near the front doors of the mansion. But they recognized the driver.
"Potter!" Dré barked the name with all the contempt he could muster. "What the bloody hell are you doing here?!" he demanded as he advanced, Vince right on his heels.
"The Leader of the Opposition invited me," H defended as he shut his car door. "Though about what, I've no idea, and why here, even less so. Is that a problem?" he challenged. The aristocrat wore the dress shirt, pants and loosened tie that he had worn to work that day.
"I couldn't care less," Dré folded his arms across his chest. "Have at it."
H turned and started toward the front doors, but stopped and turned back. He just couldn't help himself. "Do you still see Rick? How is he?"
"He's quite marvelous actually," Dré seized the opportunity with great relish. "Ashok takes really good care of him. We've never known Rick happier, now you mention it. So good of you to enquire after him. I'll be sure to let him know."
The two big front doors of Malfoy Manor swept open and Lucius Malfoy emerged.
"Thanks," H directed at Dré and Vince and clearly didn't mean it.
"Now, now, Draco," Lucius in his black velvet smoking jacket read the situation instantly. "Let's not be inhospitable. Mr. Potter is our guest," he put an arm around H's shoulders.
"Mr. Malfoy," H was respectful.
"Harry, so good of you to come. Do come in," Lucius led H into the house.
Dré shared his look of incredulity with his partner and they moved to follow. They walked into the entry hall to see Lucius usher H into the library, and watched Dobby close them in.
They took the Piccadilly line from Gloucester Road, the station nearest their home, to the single largest confluence in London. Six tube lines came together beneath two major railway stations at King's Cross. Only a veteran Londoner could navigate his way through without a map and Ashok was hopelessly lost. He held tightly to Rick's hand as the older man steered them through the maze. Rick turned this way and that, and Ashok could not divine what their destination might be. The men were dressed in snug jeans and matching dress shirts. At yet another escalator upward, Rick held Ashok to his side as they rode up. Ashok's arm just naturally went around Rick's waist.
"Where are we going?" Ashok looked up at his tall lover.
"Out," Rick answered with a mischievous smile.
"Where are we going while we're out?" Ashok tried again.
"Someplace nice," Rick was deliberately vague.
"Why won't you tell me?" Ashok asked directly.
"Gilbert Scott," Rick answered. "Does that tell you anything?"
"No," Ashok admitted.
"I told you I wanted to take you someplace nice tonight. You're always cooking lovely things for me. I wanted to treat you tonight," Rick confessed.
"Rick, I love doing that. Especially for you," Ashok stated. "When you come home is my favorite time of the day."
"Not when we wake up beside each other?" Rick enquired.
"Oh. Maybe my second favorite time of the day," Ashok admitted as they ascended into the large glass box.
The street level Tube entrance sat on the corner of Euston and Pancras Roads, in the vast square before King's Cross Station.
"C'mon!" Rick took Ashok's hand again as they walked out onto the pavement and started to jog.
"Why are we running?" Ashok asked as he worked to keep up with Rick's long stride.
"Because our reservation was at eight!" Rick yelled as they ran across Pancras Road.
The Eurostar from Paris arrived in St. Pancras Station on Track One at 2000. The Eurostar from Brussels arrived on Track Four at 2003. It was the only time of the day when two trains arrived virtually simultaneously. At 2010 the platform was more crowded with arriving passengers than it was at any other time of the day.
When the bombs went off.
Rick and Ashok, along with thousands of others in the vicinity, were nearly knocked off their feet. Both men stumbled as they ran along the street in front of St. Pancras Station.
"Rick, what was that?!" Ashok clung to the older man.
"It was...," Rick held Ashok and looked around wildly, "huge. It had to be a bomb! My God, it must have been right here in the station! C'mon!" he pulled away from Ashok and took his hand as he led him out into the street. Rick frantically waved at the first taxi he saw. He had to get them out of there.
Greg Goyle was still dressed, though his partner wore only boxers. The stud Bulgarian football Captain knelt beside the tub in their daughter's ensuite bathroom as he saw to her bath.
"Look my princess all clean now!" Viktor enthused as he wrapped the naked, wet girl in her big fluffy towel.
"Thank you, Tatee!" Helena squirmed in the warm embrace of the towel as her father rubbed her dry.
"Now come pick which nightie you would like to wear," Greg called from the bedroom.
The naked girl bounced out of the bathroom while Viktor hung up her towel and drained the tub.
"Here, which do you like?" Greg asked of the night dresses he had laid out on his daughter's bed as his phone chirped. He pulled it out of his pocket to read the text.
Distro lists existed to keep key people in the know when big news events happened. And Greg was one of them.
"Ho-oh, my God!" Greg sing-songed.
"What?" Viktor appeared in the bathroom doorway. The look on his partner's face told him that Greg couldn't say with their daughter in the room. The tone of her father's voice had Helena's undivided attention.
"Daddy, what is it?!" Helena shrugged the rest of the way into her nightgown.
"Daddy needs to make some phone calls, Lene," Greg stated as he called up the numbers of their loved ones. Luna, they knew at least, was safe out in Norfolk.
"Princess, come to Tatee," Viktor squatted down and opened his arms. Helena rushed into her Bulgarian father's arms, but kept her eyes on the British one.
"Rick! Where are you? Are you and Ashok alright?" Greg spoke into his phone as he headed for the stairs.
Viktor knew something was terribly amiss and that Greg would fill him in as soon as he could. He also knew that their daughter was just as well aware of it and would be fearful. His job was to comfort her. "Come with Tatee," Viktor stood up and took her hand. It was her bedtime, but that wouldn't happen now. He led her upstairs and into the lounge while Greg made his calls in the kitchen. Viktor turned on the television to distract both of them and had to work to find a channel that wasn't showing a very large building on fire.
Dré and Vince sat with Narcissa in her study, the huge dogs curled at their feet. Dré's cell rang and he pulled it from his pocket.
"It's Goyle," Dré announced as he answered. "Evening, Goyle."
"Dré! Where are you? Are you and Vince alright?" Greg sounded frantic.
"We're at my parents and of course we're alright," Dré answered. "Why wouldn't we be? What's the matter with you?"
At that moment the connecting door between the library and the Fabergé room opened and Narcissa's sister appeared. Bellatrix walked over to the cabinet which contained the television in this room. She opened the doors and turned it on.
A helicopter showed footage of St. Pancras Station with the roof entirely gone where it had collapsed down onto the platforms, and the building alight. The BBC anchor droned on in the background as the scene alternately switched between the view from the helicopter and cameras on the ground. Narcissa visibly paled when the anchor described how the two trains from mainland Europe had just arrived and there were hundreds of people on the platforms. Rescue crews were working to get to them now.
"Bloody hell," Dré spoke into the phone he still held to his face.
Bellatrix let out a peal of delighted laughter as she walked back into the library and shut the door behind her.
"Barking," Dré evaluated, still on the line with Greg.
"What?" Greg had no idea what was going on, on the other end of the line.
"Nothing," Dré deflected. "We're fine, Goyle. How are you?"
"The better, now I know my loved ones are safe," Greg stated.
"Have you reached Diggory and Ashok?" Dré was genuinely concerned.
"I have. They're on their way home now. They were right in front of the bloody station, if you can believe that. Nearly jumped out of their skin," Greg informed.
"I should say. Bloody hell. Diggory and Ashok were right in front of the station," Dré informed.
"Christ almighty," Vince pulled out his mobile to text them.
"Thank you, Goyle. Look after yourselves," Dré ended the call.
"Lucky we were out here," Vince commented as he pulled his lover into his side.
"Too right," Dré happily snuggled into his partner.
Narcissa said nothing and was grateful that it dawned on neither of them, that this was the exact reason they were here.