Hey everyone! Merry Christmas! Happy New year! I hope all is well with you and your families. I'm feeling pretty well myself and hoping like crazy that 2014 will be a better year for me and mine than 2013.
I've got a few stories in the works for a fest so I might run behind here. If that happens, I'm really sorry!
******** ******** Chapter 39 ******** ********
"So you just let him leave it like this?" Hermione huffed the next day.
"You weren't incapacitated by Angie's birth, were you, Mione? What are you planning to do with your life? Are you going into a line of work that would require putting off your training like Draco has his Potions Mastery?" Harry winced as he really listened to himself.
How had he come to agree with Kingsley and the wizengamut? He should be arguing on his friends' behalf, shouldn't he? But the harder he tried to think of reasons to oppose the current request for more children from the couples who'd given birth to only one child in the last year, the more he couldn't find those reasons.
He paced the room and looked to his husband for inspiration. "They're not being totally unreasonable, you know? I told you about Wood's husband and the Greengrass couple and Katie told us what she'd heard from Angelina Johnson – I mean Smith."
"Yes, she's got a special dispensation because she's going to train as an auror." Hermione's lips twisted into an ugly pinched expression.
"I still can't believe she went from our Freddy to Zacharias Smith." George shook his head in disgust. "And did you hear what they named their poor son? Eugene Ugolino…"
"That poor kid!" Ron grimaced.
"I know. I might have to gift him with some of our products just so he can get back at his parents." George smirked at his little brother.
Ron nodded emphatically. "I'll help you pick the ones you give him."
"Back to the point, guys…if you please?" Harry chuckled in spite of himself. "The wizengamut has reasons for this. We may not understand or agree with them but they're valid reasons. If you can come up with another idea then I'm certain they'd listen. We are war heroes after all."
"We are…aren't we?" Hermione appeared to consider this. "Well – What if they just asked for volunteers? That gives us the choice but also doesn't limit our options. Parents of twins would be included if they wished to be and parents of single children could take that time to train in their chosen profession for a while."
"The wizengamut may like that idea but their way gives them a large number of guaranteed births while yours only offers variables." Draco told her gently. "Their way is to say 'have a baby or be charged with noncompliance' which carries a fine and up to two months incarceration at Azkaban. Your suggestion has no penalty for not stepping forward."
Hermione frowned at the blond. "I don't think there should be a penalty."
"But if there's no penalty then there's no motivation for anyone to do what you're asking of them, Hermione!" Draco argued.
"What if they offered a reward of some kind instead of a penalty?" Hermione's eyes lit up. "If they told people that whoever volunteered to have the next batch of babies that those children would receive a scholarship that would cover the first year at whichever magical school they chose."
"The wizengamut doesn't have enough money for that!" Harry protested. "They'd have to hold fundraisers and benefits or raise taxes for that to work!"
"They should cover the Healer's costs at the very least…" She grumbled. "Do you know how much it costs for gestational visits with a qualified healer?"
"I'll bring your suggestion to Kinsley about a reward of some kind but you know I can't promise anything solid." Harry told his friend. "You also should know that you might be expected to volunteer as an example to the others."
She sighed. "Alright. I really didn't want to have another child so soon."
Draco took a breath. "If it makes you feel any better, we'll likely be asked to set an example too."
Harry's head turned so he could see his husband's eyes. "I didn't think of that, Draco. You're right. If they accept the volunteer option they'll expect us to support it." His green eyes swept the room. "Especially since it was Hermione's idea, all of us will be expected to support it."
"No! We just had twins, Harry! Surely we can get away with supporting it vocally instead of demonstrably." Ginny exchanged glances with Katie.
"You don't understand the way they think. This is Hermione Granger-Weasley's idea and Harry Potter – Savior of the Wizarding World – is presenting it to the Minister of Magic!" Draco tried to explain. "If she or Harry were anyone else, they wouldn't even be heard by the minister's second under-secretary much less the Minister himself!"
"He's right. Your connection to me opens doors but it also limits you." Harry bit his lip. "I'm sorry guys."
"You don't have the luxury of illusions here…none of us do." Draco continued as if Harry hadn't spoken. "If the wizengamut accepts Hermione's suggestion, you'll all be expected to make statements and publicly endorse this plan. Ginevra, you might be able to get a note from the healer who delivered Lucas and Lance that could possibly extend your period of rest for a few more months, but Katie and I will have to take on a third child each."
The Weasley family began speaking amongst themselves, allowing Harry and Draco to have a semi-private moment.
He sighed softly. "I don't know whether I want this to happen or not."
Harry felt a twinge of guilt that Draco had barely scraped freedom from pregnancy with the new request and now could be forced to endure it again before his training was finished. "Draco, didn't Master Loveday say that one of the upcoming levels of your training will be bookwork all over again?"
"He did, Harry, but not for another three levels." The blond man smirked appearing slightly rueful but Harry could see the disappointment and bitterness behind the Malfoy mask. "I'll have to do review for the whole ten months or so of the pregnancy before it'll be safe to continue. At least this time I can brew the potion without having to worry that there's something mixed in."
"Don't despair, Dragon." Harry whispered, taking his husband into his arms. "We don't even know if they'll accept the idea or not."
"They will. It's you and Hermione bringing it to them. They'll accept it and put it in play as soon as you've finished explaining it." The blond was being sardonic but Harry knew he wasn't exaggerating by much.
Harry and Hermione met with the minister in his offices just a few days later and unsurprisingly found their friend supportive. By the very next week, the Daily Prophet printed a general letter canceling the demands of the previous Ministry communications while outlining the new Granger-Weasley Repopulation Plan.
"The public at large seems to have taken quite well to the new plan, Harry." Draco heard the Minister's deep voice echoing through the floo as he approached the living room three days after the article. "We've already received letters from over a hundred volunteer couples."
"Yes, Hermione has gotten many letters of thanks through the post." His husband answered their friend not realizing the Draco had joined him. "So does this mean…"
"That's right. You and Draco are released from your obligation to promote the plan." Kingsley was saying. "As are Ginny Thomas and Katie Weasley."
Draco gasped revealing himself to Harry. "What?"
"You didn't tell him?" Kingsley asked as Harry shook his head and turned around.
"No, I wanted to surprise him. I'll tell him now." Harry bit his lip as Kingsley cut the connection. "When Hermione and I presented the plan to Kingsley, we also made a deal. If they got a certain amount of volunteers in the first week, then you, Ginny and Katie would be held exempt. It didn't even take three days to get that number and now you'll be able to continue your studies and Ginny can train for her future Quidditch stardom while Katie follows through in helping Molly take care of the next generation of Weasleys."
Draco's heart raced. His eyes teared up and he closed them until Harry came near. "Do you know how much this means to me, Harry?" The blond whispered softly. "Can you possibly comprehend it?"
Harry's hand came up to cradle his husband's face. "I can only hope it means as much as you do to me."
"And then you say something so sappy and Hufflepuff-ish that I want to cry!" Draco buried his face in Harry's shoulder as he clutched tightly to the brunette. "God, Harry…thank you. Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome, love. Now get back to your training so I can inform Ginny and Katie." Harry squeezed Draco one last time before letting his arms loosen.
"My latest assignment is to weed and inventory the garden and tell him the health of the plants as well because I'll need to harvest some to prepare as ingredients." Draco told him. "This is an interesting portion of the training because if certain plants are ground they react differently than if they are dried and still others must be made into a paste before they're even able to be used because preparing them any other way would render them useless."
Harry listened to the blond babble happily before sending him outside. "I'll join you in a moment with the children. I just need to tell Ginny and Katie about the deal."
Draco nodded and hurried out of the room to gather his notebook and gardening tools.
Harry had just lifted his son into his arms and checked his nappy before nodding to Dinki who had just finished changing Lyra when suddenly, a loud screech echoed through the house. Harry laid his son back down and took off running for the garden. When he reached the door, he saw Draco with his wand out and pointed at the ground where a snake could be seen poking her head out of a hole. "Dragon? What's wrong?"
"Don't bring the babies out, Harry! There's a snake in the garden! It's an adder." Draco moved his foot but stopped when the snake hissed.
"It's alright, Dragon, relax." Harry said as he approached. "Step away slowly and go inside, I'll handle this."
Draco recalled instantly that his husband was a Parselmouth and backed up.
The snake moved to attack, but Harry stopped her with a harsh hiss allowing Draco to run for the porch.
Draco watched from the doorway in fascination as Harry held a sibilant conversation with the poisonous creature.
"It'll be alright, Draco. I've asked her to stay away from you and the children. She knows all of our scents and she's even promised not to bite Selene or the elves if we let her stay." Harry said as the snake slithered over to the far side of the garden.
Draco shivered, rejoining his husband. "I've had run-ins with snakes before, Harry. This really frightened me. Are you sure she'll keep her word?"
"Yes, Dragon. Believe it or not, once a snake pledges their loyalty, it takes a lot to make them turn their backs." Harry said softly, effectively calming the blond. "You can bring the babies out now, Dinki." Harry called as he summoned the blanket and basket of toys he'd prepared for the children.
He took Caelum from Dinki first and then lowered Lyra to sit next to her brother. He pulled out some of the animal toys and proceeded with that day's lesson while Draco cautiously went back to work in his garden.
When Draco had finished his gardening work he took Dinki and the twins inside while Harry remained to have a longer conversation with the adder. He found out that she didn't have a name as she'd been born in the wild with nobody to call a nestmate. After asking if she'd like one, Harry decided that her name would be Amice, meaning 'friend'. During their visit, Amice happily volunteered to provide scales, venom, old skins and even blood if Draco needed them for his potions work. When she retreated to her nest, Harry rejoined his family to inform his husband of the benefits to their new friend.
"I can hardly believe they'll soon be a whole year old, Harry!" Draco whispered as he helped get the twins ready for bed on the night before his birthday. "It seems like yesterday that they were in my belly."
Harry grinned, laying Lyra in her crib before turning to watch Draco finish securing Caelum's nappy. "I remember this time last year you and I were sitting in our bed at school… we just held each other as we felt them move inside you. I know you felt fat and ugly but you really were gorgeous."
Draco's face flushed as he felt Harry's eyes travel the length of his body. "I was speaking to Al after today's lesson…"
"Hmmm?" Harry's head fell to the side while his focus remained on his husband's throat which was accentuated by the long blond braid that ended near his waist.
"Yes and…" Draco paused to gain eye contact. "He says that if I continue with my rate of information retention then I should reach the seventh level of training by the middle of October…"
"Is that the level where you're only reading again?" Harry asked trying to contain his eagerness.
Draco nodded silently fighting a grin. He knew Harry well and loved to please him as he'd once loved to taunt.
"Does that mean…?" Harry whispered softly as he led his husband to bed.
"I can do that level while pregnant, Harry. It's one of the levels of my training that takes the longest and its split evenly between discussion and bookwork. Plus, I can even still brew some of the simpler potions that I'll need to help me through the pregnancy." Draco's cheeks flushed with pleasure at the way Harry stared at him from the other side of the bed.
"The Pregnancy potion, the stomach calming draughts, and the pre-natal nutrient potions?" Harry breathed. He'd long known that Draco was a smart man but the more the blond revealed of himself the more Harry loved him. "I know we were making some of that in classes but you learned the potion that grows the womb?"
"Yes. I've learned all four versions of it." Draco was glowing with pride and it made Harry grin.
"I'm so happy you're doing what you love, Dragon." Harry whispered as they lifted the covers and slid into bed together.
"You and Hermione made it possible for me, Harry. I wouldn't be at this place in my life without you…" Draco smiled softly. "And Hermione's volunteer pregnancy proposal has allowed me to finish three extra levels of training before another child joins our family."
"I'll just be glad when the Ministry lets life go back to normal. People should only marry when they want to – when they love someone…" Harry's arms closed around his husband. "And they should only have babies when they are ready for the responsibility of it."
"Glad we're on the same page…" Draco smirked as he settled into the warmth of Harry's embrace until he drifted off.
Draco's birthday was a wonderful experience that year. He sipped white wine as his and Harry's friends mingled through their grounds. Dinki and a few Malfoy elves cared for the children while the adults ate. The Weasleys tried to talk everyone into a pick-up game of Quidditch but most of the guests preferred to keep their feet on the ground.
Pansy and Blaise sat with a nervous Draco while Harry took Caelum for his first flight. Teddy had gone first because Draco insisted on seeing Harry's skill in flying with a passenger. After reminding Draco that he'd flown with a passenger through a Room teeming with Fiendfyre, Harry had sighed and given in. Teddy's flight had been smooth and uneventful but still exciting for a child who wasn't allowed to ride a broom alone yet. Harry had Caelum buckled into a harness that rested on his chest while allowing the baby to face forward and see what was happening. The little boy squealed in delight as Harry swooped through the air.
When Harry landed, Draco rushed over to fuss. He scooped the baby out of Harry's harness and cuddled him close. "I can't believe you were going so fast, Harry! He's just a baby! He shouldn't be on a broom yet!" He kissed the strawberry blond hair on his squirming son's head and whispered unnecessarily soothing words.
"Nonsense, he's fine and he loved it! Now, it's Lyra's turn. Would you rather take her up?" Harry smirked at his silly husband.
Draco's fussing stopped instantly. "Really?"
"Why not?" Harry frowned in confusion.
"Well…" Draco bit his lip. "I just thought…Mr. Hotshot Youngest-Seeker-in-a-Century might monopolize his children's flying exposure…"
"The children are ours, Dragon…not mine or yours individually. We will always share any knowledge we have with them. I won't be monopolizing anything if you won't." Harry winked at the blond. "Well you can feel free to monopolize anything to do with Potions."
Draco sighed with a chuckle. "Well then you can teach them their Patronuses."
Harry smiled as his son was handed to their friends and then helped Draco don the harness. Once the harness was secure, Harry lifted Lyra from Dinki's arms and slipped her into it. "Have a little fun, Dragon. You'll see how much she likes it."
Draco cautiously mounted his broom and took off. The baby was buckled in tightly and he felt secure in his skill so he took them to fifty feet. Lyra giggled and chanted his name as he took them in a large circle. After a moment he guided the broom into some bouncing maneuvers before going back down to fifty feet. The girl's face was alight with excitement as Draco pointed down at the party and encouraged her to 'wave to Papa and Caelum'. He grinned as he did the same before giving his daughter a swoop on their way to land.
Draco was panting as he landed beside Harry. "Oh, Harry! You were so right! It's exciting enough on my own but with her it was like seeing it for the first time all over again. We really must do this more often."
Harry grinned as Pansy took Lyra from the harness and pulled Draco into his arms. "I knew you'd enjoy it and I could hear her giggle from here!"
Sighing again, Draco admitted to the others that he'd heard Caelum's excited squeals from the ground as well.
"We will be safe about it, Dragon. I promise to teach them all about safety." Harry gripped Draco's hand.
The blond smiled at his husband. "I know, Harry. It's just…They're already getting so big and I can just see them hopping onto their own brooms…racing off to catch their friends or a snitch."
"Well, I think we've a while before that, love." Harry chuckled with Blaise who now held his own son.
"I know what he means, Harry." The dark skinned man sighed wistfully looking down at his son's brown hair. "Larry is walking and jabbering away and I just can't believe he's almost a year old already. Luna was so excited when his first word was 'light'!" He smirked at them. "I suppose that it was technically 'aight', but anyway…Now he's speaking in sentences and soon enough he'll be having classes with tutors or learning to write."
Harry squeezed Draco's hand. "We need to treasure the time we have with them now…before they go on to bigger and better things than flying a broom with Papa."
"Or bedtime stories with Daddy…" Gregory Goyle whispered in horror at the thought that his daughter would outgrow him.
"No!" Harry shook his head slowly. "It doesn't have to happen that way, mates! We can grow with them! We can still read books with our kids. It's just that the books will get more advanced than Dr. Seuss!"
Draco nodded reassuringly to his husband. "And just because they'll be on their own brooms doesn't mean we can't fly with them, Harry."
Harry grinned but it barely reached his eyes. "Of course we can."
"Men are such drama queens!" Pansy huffed as she stood up. She glared at her hosts and plopped her charge into Harry's lap and huffed again. "They're only a year old! Stop rushing them! My Ambrose is walking, speaking and even knows his numbers and colors, but do you see me crying my eyes out over it? No!"
"Well, maybe girls just know this instinctively but it really didn't occur to me until now." Harry bit his lip as he tried to explain.
"Honestly! You were all kids that grew up! How did it 'not occur to you'?" Pansy snapped before storming off. "I'm going to find some sane people to talk to…if there are any!"
Blaise and Draco shared a sheepish look. "She's forever being frustrated by the men in her life."
Draco nodded. "First, her father with his muggle golf obsession then us and our…"
"Muggle golf obsession?" Harry was distracted from the worries about his children to hear that Pansy's father – a Death Eater – liked something that wasn't magical in the least.
Blaise smirked and explained that it was the only thing Mr. Parkinson had liked that came from the muggle world. "He collected golf tees and even dressed in the outfits when he attended the country club."
"We saw him quite a few times while visiting Pansy." Draco shuddered delicately. "It wasn't pretty."
Harry tried to suppress his amusement by clearing his throat but it didn't work and the whole group of them burst out in laughter which startled Lyra. "What about you?" He asked as he soothed his daughter.
"Well, her frustration with us came from us not being attracted to her." Draco was holding his sides as his chuckles came to a stop. "I'm gay and Blaise is bisexual. She could understand about me after I told her but Blaise still rejecting her while chasing after me…Well, she just couldn't comprehend it."
"Now it's you and your sudden revelation about the children." Blaise reminded them gesturing toward the baby girl in Harry's arms.
"I'm sure Marcus is frustrating her in some way or other as well." Draco defended Harry who just kissed the blond's cheek.
"I'm just going to put the brooms away and bring Lyra to play with the others." The brunette said softly.
"Harry, where's Caelum?" Draco asked looking around. "I saw him with you before when we waved to you."
"Dinki took him for a nappy change just before you landed, love." Harry smiled. "He'll be with the others by now."
Draco sighed with relief. "I'm glad you're on top of things, Harry."
He didn't notice the sparkle in the green eyes until Harry responded. "Me too, Dragon…me too."
Blaise caught the pun and started laughing which caused Draco to blush and glare ruefully at Harry as he walked toward the house, baby and brooms in hand.
A little over month later, Harry reluctantly shared a birthday celebration with his children. He'd wanted to have a bunch of small dinners for himself with each group of friends and family and a separate party for the twins but he was overruled by his husband, mother-in-law and Molly Weasley.
"It would be much easier for everyone involved if we just celebrate all at once, Harry." Draco had said. He'd then pointed out that they and their friends would need to find babysitters if they did it Harry's way while this would bring the babies and his friends altogether at once and the brunette had agreed after expressing that he just 'didn't want to overshadow them'.
That issue was easily taken care of as the children got gifts and Harry had refused them. "I don't need anything else. I don't want everyone to spend their money on me when Lyra and Caelum are outgrowing their clothes and toys by the day. If my friends and family really want to get me something they'll just send me chocolates or something on my actual birthday."
George and Ron lit off fireworks in all colors of the rainbow gaining cheers from everyone. Harry would always remember his lessons to the children about colors when he saw shows like this so he held Lyra in his arms along with Draco who was holding their son.
Harry was unsurprised to find a pile of chocolates and other sweets on the breakfast table on July thirty-first. It looked like someone had raided Honeyduke's candy shop and sent it all to him. He shared the lot with his husband after sending out notes of gratitude.
August was filled to the brim with birthday party invitations and Draco insisted that they attend as many as possible while still leaving enough time for his studies but between August and September the blond fell behind.
Harry came home from the market one day in late September to find Draco solemnly sitting on the couch in the sitting room. He handed the bags off to Kreacher and placed a hand on his knee. "Draco…What's wrong, love?"
"I haven't gotten past the fifth level, Harry." He whispered. "I promised you I'd be ready by now for another pregnancy and I didn't get to the seventh level in time for my promise."
"Draco, you're doing your best." Harry protested.
"No I'm not. I shouldn't have pressed for us to go to so many of the parties. I neglected my training…" Draco visibly braced himself. "And I want you to punish me."
"What? No!" Harry was confused. He didn't want to punish Draco for having a bit of fun instead of working himself to the bone. He'd just have to wait longer to have another baby.
"I mean it, Harry. I deserve to be punished for failing to meet my goals." Draco bit his trembling lip.
Frowning, Harry stared at him. "I don't know, Draco…"
"Please Harry?" He whispered as a tear trailed down his pale cheek. "I need it."
That decided him. Harry nodded and stood to pace. "Four smacks on your ass and no candy until you reach the seventh level of your training."
Draco wiped the tear away as he processed this. He felt he deserved more but Harry was the dominant and he set the punishments. He could protest but Harry usually knew just what he needed. He stood up calmly and faced his husband. "Four on each side…and no candy until I reach the seventh level."
Harry considered this and nodded. "Alright…Place your hands on the back of the couch. I'll take your trousers down."
Draco stood behind the couch with his feet shoulder width apart and bent over a little to grip the back of it. Harry's hands caressed his legs as the brunette pulled the trousers and underpants down to Draco's ankles.
Harry stood just to the side of his husband and placed his hand on the other man's pale globes of flesh. "This is not for pleasure but punishment. Repeat to me your crime, Draco."
"I neglected my studies in favor of parties and fell far behind where I should be. I failed to be ready in the time I planned for my second pregnancy." Draco spoke clearly but had a strange tone to his voice.
"I hear guilt in your voice, Dragon. Are you asking for this out of guilt or do you truly feel the need to be punished for something?" Harry had a feeling his husband just needed reassurance that Harry wasn't upset with him for postponing the pregnancy.
"I-I…I guess it's partly guilt for disappointing you…but I really should've worked harder." Draco glanced back into Harry's green eyes.
Harry pulled Draco's hands from the couch and then lifted his trousers. "No candy until you reach the goal you set on your training …but I'll not punish you for not being ready for another baby yet. Draco, I love you and there's no set time that we must get pregnant this year. We're not going against the law by missing this deadline. You promised to have another child when you reached the seventh level of training and you just haven't reached it yet."
Draco's nerves settled a little but when Harry pulled him close he released his emotions. Tears began to drench the shoulder of Harry's shirt. "I wanted to get pregnant again…by New Years… I want a new baby. I disappointed myself more than anything. You always know what I need, Harry." He cried.
"Dragon, there's a lot of time before New Years. You could work hard and meet your goal by then." Harry encouraged his husband.
"Could we stay home for our anniversary this year, Harry? Dinki could fetch food from the French café and we could just take the night for ourselves?" He looked up at Harry. "It would still be lovely and I'll be able to get some work done in between."
Harry was a little disappointed but he agreed. They'd still be able to have fun. "Alright, love. We'll stay in this year. Now I think you should give me a kiss and get back to work instead of dawdling about."
Draco pulled lightly on Harry's shoulders letting the mouths connect for a blistering kiss. "Make love to me tonight?"
Harry's eyes blazed. "I can't wait."
The blond left with a soft smile on his lips.
Hope you enjoyed, and thanks for sticking with me!