Disclaimer: Surely no one is silly enough to believe that I own these characters, or this world? JK Rowling does and I'm only playing with them. I promise they'll be happy when I put them back.
Author's notes: This series is supposed to cover the last two years of school for Harry and Ron. It discusses child abuse, underage consensual sex between two people who love each other, and will eventually cover MPREG as well. If any of these topics offend you please turn back now. In addition, I have tried to follow cannon as best as I can, but you know how it goes…I'll have messed something up somewhere along the way. I know their birthdays are wrong, but lets just allow for artistic licence and no one will get hexed.
Further warnings: by now this could probably be called an AU if that would make anyone feel better. And forgive me for the Quidditch match - I'm the shape of a Quaffle and sport just ain't my thing! Also, by now you'll have realised that my Harry ain't a happy carefree lad - though he has his moments. If this is a problem for you, back out gracefully now. There's an exit to the left.
Part 9 - Seventh Year - Term Three
Ron smiled at the picture his spouse made. Cheeks flushed with sleep, dark hair mussed, hands curled up near his chin, and slow even breaths all showed Harry was completely relaxed and dead sexy. He was curled on his side, one head on a cushion, his long legs tucked up in the crochet throw that had been draped over the back of the couch. Ron recognised his grandmother's work, as he had in the curtains that were draped at each window, the rag rugs in the downstairs kitchen, dining room and laundry, and the handsome sets of plain bed linen and curtains on the four-poster bed upstairs. Both his grandfathers had made items of furniture throughout the house - handiwork was something that the whole Weasley family was known for, in his Dad it came out in the tinkering with Muggle artefacts - and the various tables, chairs, stools and beds had clearly been made by his grandparents. His brothers and sisters had gone in together to buy them the couch that Harry was currently asleep on - an overstuffed monstrosity that must have been a nightmare to move - as well as the matching armchairs and twin couch that occupied the front room. If Ginny hadn't decided at the last minute to visit with one of her friends instead of 'slaving in her brothers garden', Ron would have thanked her for the gift.
He didn't care about the furniture, though christening their bed that first night and each night after had been extremely rewarding. What he cared about was that Harry's face finally showed signs of good health. Hermione came in to see where they were and lingered next to him, smiling down at the innocent sleeper.
"He looks so..." she trailed off and sniffed a little, heading back out through the libraries French doors to the front garden and the bed they were laying today. Ron frowned and headed after her, leaving the door open so the warm breeze could brush through the room. Neville was still inside the house somewhere, so Ron caught her arm and tugged her around to look her in the eye.
"What's wrong?" he asked, bewildered by the sad expression he saw lingering there. Hermione glanced at the open doors that were airing the house after it had been shut for a term. Ron tugged her over to sit under the birch tree where he and Harry had camped only last summer.
"Tell me," he insisted once they were settled, "Harry's not sick, Hermione, so why are you so upset?"
"It's... he's so fragile," Hermione sighed and Ron snorted without thinking. His Harry, fragile? Harry was the strongest, stubbornest, sexiest survivor Ron knew.
"He's not," Ron shook his head, "He's had a rough time the last two years - he lost the last of his family, and had a pretty big surprise dumped on his shoulders. Sure, he's killed Tom Riddle and the strain of it all, coupled with being withchild dragged him down for a while, but Hermy, think for a minute. If it was you, or me, or Nev, would we have survived?"
"Probably not," she admitted reluctantly, and he nodded, rubbing her arm gently. He could feel her relaxing a little and shifted so he was hugging her with one arm. He hadn't realised, in his worry for Harry before they knew exactly what was going on, that the rest of their friends were just as worried.
"Ok, so it's two in the afternoon and he's kipping on the couch," he grinned at the memory, "But there's colour in his cheeks, he's in no pain or discomfort, and when he gets up he'll be as energetic as ever."
Hermione nodded and leaned into the hug. Neville came out the front door and spotted them, chuckling and saying 'oh ho!' lightly. Hermione shook her head and got up, going to kiss the teasing Neville on the cheek and grabbing her gardening gloves from the wheelbarrow. Ron grinned and followed them, wanting to get the front garden finished today.
They'd arrived at the house early on Saturday and Neville had arranged with a nursery to deliver their plants on the following Monday. Harry and Ron had spent the time exploring the house with their guests, just as curious as their friends were. They hadn't seen the furniture that the family had given them for wedding presents, and Ron had been very impressed with how well the various styles had mixed and matched. The colours were everything from muted greens to vibrant yellow, with every shade between. The handmade items made Potters Field feel a little like the Burrow; they spoke of family, care and comfort.
Ron had taken Neville and Hermione in turns to the village on the bike to collect the gardening implements they needed and food for the house. The three of them had ganged up on Harry to make him lie down in the library with a book, and the green-eyed man had gone to sleep fairly quickly. Madam Pomfrey had warned all three of them that Harry would get drowsy and tired, partly from the pregnancy, partly from the potions that she insisted he take daily. The three of them had sort of made an agreement without words that Harry would nap and rest as much as possible.
On Sunday they'd attacked the garden, digging up the weeds and marking out the beds under Neville's exacting instructions. They'd snuck out that night to use magic to clear the beds properly and start the compost pile that Neville insisted they have for the vegetables. Neville had selected a mixture of Muggle and Wizard plants to be companion planted. The plants would almost tend to the needs of each other, the by-products of one plant nurturing the other. Herbs and flowers of various sorts, all very useful in cooking and potions making, would take up the front garden, with the climbing roses encouraged each night to grow a little faster over the bare walls of the house, as well as the box hedge along the stone wall at the front. The fragrance would be wonderful in spring and summer. They also had a lot of cuttings to grow in the conservatory during the winter so they could replant each spring. Harry had set up the conservatory according to Neville's strict instructions while the others did the heavy work. He wasn't allowed to lift anything except with magic, and potting the seedlings was work he could do sitting on a tall stool. Ron both appreciated, and approved heartily of Neville's dictatorial decisions there.
"Ron!" Neville called, "Are you awake?"
"Yeah, sorry Nev," Ron replied, shaking loose from his thoughts and grabbing for the wheelbarrow for the next load of fertilizer - a mixture of dragon dung and blood and bone. He knew he had a stupid grin on his face, but didn't care. He was happy, Harry was healthy, they were going to be parents and they had the rest of their lives ahead of them. Who could blame him?
Harry could hear his spouse and his friends laughing lightly, the sound of tools and effort floating through the open French doors. He was warm and comfortable, and feeling faintly guilty that he'd spent the afternoon asleep on the couch, yet at the same time it was such a luxury to know that for the first time outside of Hogwarts he was home and safe, that the guilt had no chance to develop into anything more than a faint feeling. He knew that his friends had been worried, and had decided to give in to their demands of him easily, for now. He wouldn't be coddled at school, no matter what Ron thought.
He stirred and stretched lazily, sitting up slowly and tugging the throw off his legs, standing up with a yawn to tuck it back over the couch. The wool was warm and had been a comforting weight on his legs during his nap, and he made a mental note to thank Grandmother the moment he saw her. She had been a fierce eyed woman, whose gaze had swept him from head to toe at the Weasley's New Year gathering, before folding him into a surprisingly tender embrace and kissing his cheek. She'd held his hand and called him child all night, and even the twins hadn't dared tease him about it. Molly's mother was as formidable as she was, and Harry could see flashes of her in Ron. Harry hadn't told his partner that - he liked his balls where they were, thank you - and was looking forward to seeing it develop with their own children.
A glance at the clock above the mantle - a Muggle one from the Grangers, the Wizard one from Remus was downstairs in the kitchen - showed that it would be teatime soon. They'd had sandwiches at dinner, and it would only be fair that he cooked them a decent meal for tea. Besides, he'd been itching to try some new recipes ever since he'd found the kitchen well stocked, with a shelf built for his ever-growing collection of recipe books.
Harry smiled involuntarily at the sight of his kitchen, feeling ridiculously pleased that he had somewhere to practice a new skill that didn't involve hurting or protecting anyone. His wand was on the shelf with the recipes and he picked it up absently, pulling down the first book and flicking through it. He reached over and flicked on the small stereo that he and Ron had bought last summer, tuning it with one hand when it squealed with static.
Twenty minutes later he'd planned the menu and was chopping salad vegetables while eggs and potatoes boiled in separate saucepans and four steaks sizzled slowly in a pan. The oven was warming and Harry was watching the ingredients of the cake stirring themselves in the bowl beside him. A wave of his wand set the table and put the salad bowl in place with a sealing charm on it to keep the contents fresh.
He prepared the cake tin - this was a Muggle recipe and the weighing of ingredients had reminded him somewhat of the preparations for potions, in fact he'd used a scale similar to the one they used in potions - and poured the mixture in, licking a batter covered finger absently as he spun the tin to get the air bubbles to settle. The cake went in the oven and the potatoes were tested quickly before he started making the icing while the sink started washing up under his direction, leaving him to clean the counters so they were gleaming again and humming along to the Muggle radio station that he'd settled on.
Once the potatoes were done he roughly chopped them and added them to a bowl with the chopped eggs, a handful of herbs and flicked his wand to produce the sour cream dressing he needed. He mixed the potato salad magically, sealed it and placed it on the table; heading upstairs when he heard Ron and the others come in.
"Hey there!" Ron was covered in dirt; sun kissed and smelt of dragon dung. Harry grinned at him affectionately and stepped back when Ron stepped forward for a hug. His spouse pouted blatantly while Hermione and Neville headed upstairs to clean up.
"You're filthy!" Harry warned him off, "Go wash up."
"Typical, you just married me for my gardening skills," Ron sighed heavily and Harry laughed. Ron was not known for his high marks in Herbology - like Harry, he was a fair student, but not brilliant like Neville.
"I can assure you, I didn't," he said sincerely, "Now go wash up. Tea will be ready by the time you get done, and there's cake for pudding."
"You cooked?" Ron grinned very happily, his stomach growling. It was Harry's turn to pout, folding his arms over his chest. Ron's growth spurts still hadn't stopped, though he was as tall as his father now and still so slender and sexy. It wouldn't do for his partner to know just what libidinous and dirty thoughts were running through his mind right now, though he'd be sure to share them once their guests had gone to bed.
"You only married me for my cooking skills," he mocked, and Ron snorted, stole a quick kiss and ran up the stairs, his reply floating over his shoulder as he did, making Harry laugh in genuine amusement for the lie.
"Well helloooo lover," Ron purred as Harry's fingers teased him awake, "Feeling frisky dear?"
"Mmhmm," Harry's mouth engulfed him and Ron moaned, his bones turning to jelly. An hour later they woke again, a good deal more sticky. Ron kissed his spouse tenderly and stroked the be-whiskered jaw with loving fingers.
"You're the best thing in my life," Ron told him, "I'm lucky to have you."
Harry's eyes widened and he hid in Ron's neck for a moment, the back of his neck flushing red. Ron wondered what had made him say such a spectacularly sappy thing to his partner and stroked over warm skin idly until Harry had it back together again. Ron tried not to overwhelm Harry with protestations of love and loyalty, not wanting to smother him in attention. He preferred to woo his spouse gently, showing how he felt with the little things in life. Given that Harry had been affection starved for most of his life, too much attention made him uneasy, and Ron didn't ever want to make him feel stifled.
"Of course," Ron salvaged the moment as best he could, "I'd be even luckier if you were going to make those pancakes again."
Harry snorted into his shoulder and sat up, rumpled and sticky, slapping Ron's chest lightly. He was glowing this morning, and Ron grinned up at him, frankly admiring in his gaze. He sighed and hauled himself out of the bed, knowing that if he kept looking he'd want to start touching, and that would lead to fondling and sucking and nibbling and other things that would lead to them being late. This was their first time as hosts in their own home and they both wanted to be good to their guests.
They shared the bathroom, trading off on shaving and showering, heading downstairs before their guests got up, to make breakfast together. They were planning to work on the raised beds around the rear courtyard today, planting the flowering groundcover and roses that Neville had told them would be best. Their friend had a definite look in mind for their garden, and Ron was planning to make sure that there were plenty of before, during, and after photos for Neville to display in his curriculum vitae. Their friend had mentioned that Professor Sprout was encouraging him to try for a job in the Royal Gardens next year - there were several greenhouses that were devoted to Wizarding plants and Neville had been very enthused about it all.
Hermione appeared just as the first pancakes hit the plates, and Ron listened as Harry teased her about her timing while he buttered toast. The Muggle radio was on, and Harry danced her to her seat, placing a plate in front of her as Neville came down the stairs. There was a hoot at the open half door and Ron turned as Neville gestured to it.
"That's not Hedwig," their friend frowned and Ron watched Harry go to take the message from the owl. It hooted and flew away before the dark haired man could offer it water or an owl treat. Harry read the outside of the message, broke the seal and walked back into the kitchen while he read, not too worried about the contents. He frowned and sighed, handing the letter to Ron while starting the next lot of pancakes.
"Aunt Petunia is awake," Harry told their guests while Ron read through the letter, "St Mungo's wants me to come down and talk to her."
"You should go straight after breakfast," Hermione said from the table, "Neville and I will clean up the dishes."
"Perhaps you should take the day off," Ron glanced at Neville, "Relax, maybe go into the village for a look around. It doesn't seem right to ask you to keep working on the garden when we're not here."
"I don't mind," Neville smiled at them, "But if you want a day off, Hermione we could probably find something to do."
"Sure," Hermione nodded easily and Ron stopped the comment on the tip of his tongue just in time. Not everyone was as sex obsessed as he was right now. From the knowing glance Harry shot him, his little near slip hadn't gone unnoticed.
"We should be back by tea," Harry turned away from the stove, depositing a stack of pancakes on Neville's plate and waving his wandless hand to send the plate to the table. Hermione shook her head and muttered something about 'show offs', and Ron grinned at his spouse. They were both becoming a lot more proficient in the kitchen, though Harry was the acknowledged master chef of their marriage. Ron took the toast to the table and came back to steal a light kiss and a quick cuddle. The day had started well, and he was hoping it would finish well too.
Harry stepped away from the Apparation point and waited for Ron to arrive, looking around the lobby of St Mungo's for any sign of Dudley. He spotted his cousin standing in the line for the receptionist, Professor Sinistra beside him. Their Astronomy Professor had continued to collect Dudley once a week for his visits to his mother, and Harry had thanked her on numerous occasions for it. He'd been planning to take over the duty for her, but she had refused the offer, stating that she didn't mind the journey and Dudley was perfectly polite to her.
His cousin had continued to lose the enormous amount of excess weight that he'd once carried, and had slimmed down to a carefully sculpted body that spoke of much effort in the gymnasium and a rigid training schedule. Harry knew that he continued to box, as Professor Sinistra had told him about Dudley entering in a school championship, and the physique his cousin was now sporting was undoubtedly a testament to his continued sporting prowess. Ron had insisted that they go back upstairs and change into Wizarding clothes before heading to the hospital, ensuring that Harry's slightly swollen waistline was carefully hidden in billowing fabric.
Harry could see his spouse's point - they didn't want either of the Muggles to lose their grip at the sight of a slightly withchild Harry. He really didn't want to have to explain the whole thing to either of them, it would be hard enough to explain his marriage should they notice the wedding bands. Harry had flat out refused to hide his wedding band again, and had forbidden Ron to hide his either. The Wizarding world had accepted their marriage, and his cousin and aunt weren't likely to notice.
"Hello, Dudley," Harry greeted his cousin politely, "You're looking well."
"So are you," Dudley stared at him in astonishment while Ron made polite small talk with their teacher. Harry heard his friend offer to take Dudley back to school after his visit was finished, and she agreed with a little persuasion that they could manage the transfer without any strain to the bond or Harry. Harry wondered what Dudley was seeing, his brief glance in the mirror before they left had showed that his robes were in place and done up properly.
"Thanks," Harry turned to the Witch behind the counter with a smile and asked after his Aunt. She blinked in recognition, looked for his partner, then smiled and gave him directions easily, reaching out to touch his hand where it rested on the counter. He smiled back, thanked her politely and led Dudley in the right direction, Ron moving to his other side.
"Was she flirting with you?" Ron asked in amusement, and Harry shook his head.
"No, just very happy to see me," he sighed, "And she kept peering past Dudley to look at you, so shut it."
"What's going on?" Dudley asked tersely. Evidently he had picked up on the Witches attitude, but wasn't up to date with the current events, "Is that... evil Wizard after you again?"
"Harry and I killed him a few months ago and his followers are being rounded up as we speak," Ron butted in, before Harry could, "He won't be bothering you or your mother ever again, Mr Dursley."
"Oh," Dudley looked at him, a little horrified by the blunt recital and Harry elbowed Ron in retaliation. He didn't need his only living relatives thinking he was a cold-blooded murderer. They were climbing the stairs to the third floor, and he glanced over his shoulder at Dudley as he walked.
"It was him or us," Harry told his cousin firmly, "And quite frankly I'm glad it was him, so can it the both of you."
"Yes dear," Ron's chastised reply had Harry laughing, unable to maintain any kind of anger with his partner when he was in such a playful mood.
On the third floor, the Sister at the desk led them to Aunt Petunia, who was sitting up, her eyes fastened on the door. She held her bony arms out to her son and Dudley rushed to them, engulfing his mother in his hug. Harry hung back, leaning into Ron's body when his partner snuck his arms around from behind. Ron hummed under his breath and rocked them a little. Harry was content to rest in his partner's arms, safe and wanted. He'd deal with Aunt Petunia and her son as gently as he could. They had raised him - grudgingly it was true - and he owed it to them to see that they were comfortable in their new lives. Vernon Dursley's death would have a huge impact on their lives, and it behoved him not to add to that burden.
Ron sighed as the front door closed behind Dudley and turned to Harry with a smile. Smeltings was totally unlike Hogwarts - built as it was in a Manor house with immaculately kept lawns and gardens. The shrubs and hedges had all been trimmed into artistic shapes, and there were Muggle curtains and blinds hanging in the windows.
"Weird sort of place," Ron chuckled and Harry rolled his eyes, leading the way back along the driveway. It had been a long day and not a lot of fun for his partner as he'd helped his Aunts come to terms with her loss, told her what the Wizards had told Aunt Marge about terrorist attacks and how Dudley had been managing his fathers estate for her. The Healers were going to release her to a Muggle convalescence home in a few days time, one that was close to Smeltings so her son could visit her regularly. Ron doubted that she'd taken in most of what was said, and had monitored Harry closely throughout the day. He had him sitting for most of the day, and fetched and carried with a will for all three so Harry wouldn't have to.
"We're in the clear to go home now," Ron said once the school was hidden behind some very tall trees, and Harry sighed, turning to face him. Ron moved to take him in his arms, and was pleased when Harry snuggled in. He rocked them both a little and felt Harry's lips relax into a smile against the side of his neck.
"Do we have time to visit your mum and dad first?" Harry's soft voice was clearly audible to Ron and he nodded and kissed the dark head nestled in his neck. His mum would be very pleased to see her withchild son-in-law. She'd been threatening to come to the house and take Harry away for a day, but a short visit now would placate her. He let go with a sigh and kissed Harry on the lips for good measure before Disapparating.
Molly was in her garden, looking over the vegetable patch with a careful eye. She whirled when they arrived and beamed at them, hurrying over to hug them both.
"Harry, you're glowing," she complimented Ron's spouse and Harry blushed. Ron laughed at him and followed his mother into the kitchen, starting the kettle for a cup tea while she fussed over Harry and patted her grandchildren. It was a total mind spin to Ron that his mother was about to become a grandmother, a change that was coming about because of him.
Harry was leaning into her side, soaking up the attention for a change while he told her about his Aunt and cousin. Ron kept quiet, glad that his partner was choosing to open up to his mother-in-law. Molly was listening carefully, nodding and frankly cuddling Harry close. His partner hadn't had much maternal affection in his life - Lily Potter had loved him for only a year before she was taken from him, and her sister had frankly failed her duty - so the cuddles were soothing to Harry right now. Ron knew his friend was feeling a little more vulnerable at the moment due to his status as withchild. Harry had confided late one night that he was worried he'd be a bad parent. The Dursley's had provided him with a very clear outline of what not to do, and when Ron had pointed out Harry's devotion to the younger students at the school his partner had calmed down a little.
"You're staying to tea, of course," Ron's mother told him when he put a teacup and the pot in front of her. Harry shook his head, sitting up a little and folding his arms.
"We promised Hermione and Neville we'd be back for tea," Harry sighed and Ron winked at his mother before she could work up a protest.
"Well, you stay here, and I'll go back to them," Ron suggested, "You can show mum how much your cooking has progressed over the hols, and I'll take the others out for tea or something."
"Are you sure?" Harry hesitated and Ron grinned in relief. His mother added her voice to his, urging Harry to stay for a while longer. Harry gave in eventually, and Ron finished his cup of tea off, standing and kissing his mother goodbye before leaning over his spouse. They broke for air and Harry sighed, leaning his temple against Ron's.
"If you decide to spend the night that will be fine," Ron whispered and Harry nodded. He had the feeling that his partner would probably go to sleep under Molly's caring influence, and didn't want Harry trying to Apparate home while still tired.
"I'll send Flynn if he's staying," Molly spoke up and they walked Ron outside. He hugged them both one last time and Apparated, arriving in the kitchen of the house. A shout ascertained that there wasn't anyone home and Ron headed upstairs to get changed. Dressed in comfortable clothes, he headed out to do a bit of maintenance on the bike, taking it for a run into the village to fill the tank.
Neville and Hermione were waiting when he got home, and readily agreed to Apparating to Diagon Alley for a meal. Harry was the best chef they had, and a little possessive of his kitchen. Ron was glad to see it, to him it was a sign that Harry was truly happy in their house, and settling into their life together. His spouse would return from the Burrow feeling a bit better, and they'd have this last week of the hols to finish getting their garden in order before returning to Hogwarts. This last term would be a busy one, and Ron was glad that he'd have the house waiting to bring Harry back to.
"It's almost a disappointment not to be teaching this term," Ron muttered as they settled into their seats, waiting for Professor Binns. Harry grinned in agreement, and Ron sighed, pulling his books out and settling in. The Easter idyll at Potters Field was over, and they were 'back in the real world' as Neville had sighed upon returning to the school. That might have had something to do with a scowling Snape watching them from the teacher's table as they filed into the Great Hall.
"We'll need the extra study time," Harry reminded him and Ron nodded. Teaching had been a lot of fun, even if it was a huge responsibility. He was nervous about meeting Madam Hooch at dinner, because she'd have taught his second years by then, and assessed their progress. Harry's fingers stroked over the back of his and Ron smiled as the ghost glided through the blackboard.
The Professor's lecture style hadn't changed at all since the last time Ron had been in his class, and he sighed, making a few brief notes of the key dates and trying not to doze off. Harry's hand crept onto his thigh, warm and heavy and comfortable. They'd had to make some emergency adjustments to his spouse's uniform this morning as the swelling across the once flat belly had grown over the holidays. Dobby had seemed to sense their consternation, as the elf had appeared and promised to fix the rest of Harry's things for him by teatime. He'd watched as Harry put the glamour charms on, hiding that little 'bump' as Ron had started to call it.
Harry's hand clenched suddenly and Ron turned to look at him in concern. Hermione, who was on his partners' other side also looked over at the slight gasp he'd given. The morning sickness had finally abated, so Ron knew it wasn't that, and for a moment he thought the scar on his friend's forehead was aching again.
/they moved/ Harry's fingers were shaking with excitement//Ron, they moved/
Ron nodded and smiled for Hermione as Harry was clearly too astonished to notice anything other than the new signs of life within him. He reached a hand casually into Harry's lap and pressed against the Bump gently, not wanting to hurt them or his lover. Harry guided his hand and patted it in place.
Ron waited patiently, letting Binns' words flow over his head, aware that Hermione was also ignoring the professor in favour of watching them. A huge grin split his face as something beneath his hand fluttered. That was one of his children, moving around a little, and moment later another joined in. Ron wanted desperately to be alone with his spouse right now, to be able to cuddle up to him and feel their babies move around gently.
He patted the spot, then stroked /hello/ over it before drawing away reluctantly and sitting back properly before anyone noticed. No matter what they'd learned about Sympathetic Magic over the holidays - and it wasn't ego that suggested that his fellow students had hit the books to discover more about him and Harry - he didn't want to start a rumour that he had been molesting Harry in History of Magic. Hermione picked her quill up again and started writing once more. A questioning glance from Harry had Ron nodding permission and he watched the slender fingers capture Hermione's free hand, guiding it to the same spot Ron had touched. She looked startled, then concentrated for a moment, her face lighting up when she realised what was happening. She leaned forward to include Ron in her smile and he grinned back, face shining.
/I think they're bored with Binns/ Harry's fingers told Ron's thigh and he barely contained his snort of laughter. He shot his spouse a hot look and Harry's fingers trembled on the quill he held, sending a skittering line over his parchment. Being withchild had made Harry very amorous once everything had settled down, and he'd probably pay for that comment in bed tonight. Ron was not complaining.
Harry raised his head grumpily, trying to locate the irritating noise. He had Ron curled around him, his face pressed to the Bump, fingers caressing silly messages over and around it. The bed was warm and they had an hour until it was teatime. Hermione had been very understanding about them blowing off their usual routine of studying in the library in order to spend some time getting used to the newest development. Ron had taken him to Madam Pomfrey at dinner to be checked over, and she'd smiled in a very understanding fashion at them both. Everything was fine, and the rest of the day had been fairly easy. Even double Divination didn't bother him too much today.
Someone was knocking with authority on their door and he heaved a sigh, reaching down to roll Ron off him and getting up from their warm nest. He restored the glamour charm as Ron woke up and headed over to the door, removing the privacy wards and opening it. Professor Dumbledore was standing there, and Harry stepped back to let him in. The Headmaster was obviously in a hurry, but whatever he was hurrying over was put aside for a moment as he reached out to put a hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Are you alright, dear boy? We missed you at dinner," he was asked tenderly and felt a huge grin split his face. He guided the other Wizards hand to his Bump and the babies fluttered against the touch. Dumbledore's face lit up in response and Harry chuckled, the Headmaster echoing the sound as he patted gently over the movement.
"It started in History of Magic this morning," he told his mentor happily and Dumbledore pulled back, "Ron wanted Madam Pomfrey to check that everything was ok, so we went at dinner."
"I see," the Headmaster nodded, "As much as I would wish otherwise, I'm afraid that I must disturb your rest."
"What's wrong?" Ron asked, coming up to wrap Harry in his arms. Harry was tense, expecting bad news, expecting to hear that Voldemort had somehow dragged himself back together and was coming to the castle. Dumbledore raised a hand to placate him and Harry was grateful that the Headmaster was not as oblivious as many people thought at first.
"Minister Fudge is here to discuss your future with the Ministry. I haven't much time as he and Professor McGonagall are coming to fetch you to the Room of Requirement - neutral ground for your meeting. I will be there as well, and I want you to remember that your partnership does not mean that you must sell your souls to the whims of the Ministry. Cornelius is the supplicant, here," the blue eyes sparked at them both and Harry grinned wryly, relaxing a little. He didn't like Fudge, and from what the Headmaster wasn't saying, Fudge was out to take the credit for their work again thus getting re-elected at Christmas.
"I bet he won't let that little fact on," Ron mused, echoing Harry's thoughts, and Harry sighed, nodding in agreement. Dumbledore twinkled at them and left quickly. Harry glanced around and spotted his shoes, moving free of the comfortable arms to put them on with a grumpy face.
"Uh oh," Ron teased lightly, "That's not a happy Harry face."
"No," Harry agreed, frowning even more, "And Fudge is about to find out what happens when he interrupts my cuddle time with you."
Ron laughed and kissed the temper off his face, clever fingers soothing his back and scalp, warm lips nuzzling his. Harry melted against his partner for a long moment before pulling back reluctantly. It wouldn't do to give Fudge information about their sex lives. He wondered if the Minister knew he was withchild and then shrugged. He doubted the Headmaster would have given away that little secret and looked over at Ron speculatively. His partner looked well kissed.
"What," Ron asked, half amused, half apprehensive. Harry smiled in reassurance at his partner as someone else knocked on the door. He ruffled his hair up and then smoothed it down again, a nervous habit that always got a grin from Ron.
"We'll just have to be cunning and devious," he watched Ron move towards the door. He waited until his spouse's hand was on the door and added, "Did you know that I was almost put in Slytherin?"
Ron spluttered and glared back as his partner before turning to face Professor McGonagall, all thoughts of snuggling with Harry gone from his head as his partner had no doubt intended. Pay back was a bitch, and Harry would find out all about it at Ron's leisure.
"Hello Professor, Minister," he said politely, "Is something wrong?"
"Minister Fudge wants to talk to you and Mr Potter," from Professor McGonagall's expression and tone the good Minister had put her thoroughly on her wrong side. Ron noticed Harry take notice of this and come to stand in the door beside him, smiling at their Head of House.
"Would you join us, ma'am?" Ron asked politely, "We'd appreciate your advice. Your office perhaps?"
"That's not very convenient," Fudge vetoed the idea immediately, "I'm sure we can manage here."
"Sorry, Minister," Harry's reply was bland and cool, "We've only two armchairs. How about the Room of Requirement? That should be nearby."
From the Professors approving little smile, Ron guessed they were playing along nicely, and he gestured courteously for her to precede them through the common room. Harry shut their dorm door behind them and was forced to fall into step with Fudge, leaving Ron to escort the Transfigurations mistress. Ron bit down on a surge of anger. Harry was all that the Minister was interested in, as usual, and Ron was merely an inconvenient tag along, despite the fact that Sympathetic Magic required two people to practice it. He didn't let his anger show on his face, keeping himself under tight control. Harry didn't feel that way, and he certainly didn't seek out the attention of others. Fame and notoriety were something that he tried to avoid.
The Room of Requirement had moved itself to their level and Ron politely held the door for McGonagall. Harry stopped beside him and took his hand, waving Fudge inside first. He leaned in and kissed Ron's cheek, whispering softly in his ear.
"You first, last and always."
The promise made Ron smile and nuzzle the retreating face softly before taking Harry's hand and heading in, letting the door swing shut behind them. Harry sealed it with a privacy spell and they walked over to the couch that was obviously left empty for them. Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore were sitting side by side on the other couch, a low table in front of them with tea things on it. Fudge was sitting stiffly in an armchair, his briefcase open beside his feet, a small spindle legged table beside him piled with documents.
Ron ushered Harry to a seat, making sure there was a cushion at his back and settled in beside him, their hands clasped together lightly, fingers rubbing and stroking for a moment in mutual reassurance. Fudge pasted a smile onto his face and opened his mouth, turning to look at the two teachers, obviously about to get rid of them.
"Tea?" Harry said immediately, hitching forward and pouring a cup, "How do you take it Professor McGonagall?"
"Two lumps," she smiled at him almost dotingly, and Ron stifled a snicker. He got up to hand the cup and saucer over as Harry poured out for the Headmaster next and then the Minister. He passed the biscuits around and then settled in with his own cup of tea. Harry wasn't eating, and he raised a concerned eyebrow, settling when Harry stroked reassurance into his hand. He'd make sure his spouse ate properly in the Great Hall and left it at that. Now that the Minister couldn't really kick the teachers out without being very rude, thus possibly offending Ron and Harry, he huffed into his teacup and then fixed them with a steady glare, false camaraderie oozing from every pore.
"Well, gentlemen, it's time to discuss your future at the Ministry," Fudge put the mostly untouched tea down, picking up several of the documents at his side instead, "There are some decisions to be made of course, and firstly we should deal with your official residence. You can't live with your parents forever, Mr Weasley, and I rather think that there won't be a place for you at Hogwarts either," the not so faintly condescending tone had Ron's teeth on edge and Harry took a sharp breath. Ron knew all too well that he came from a family that wasn't rich, and never would be, and he realised that Fudge saw him as Harry's weak spot. From the stiffening of Harry's fingers and the slightly alarmed hitch to his breath, Ron knew that Harry would give up Potters Field when brooms became the most popular form of Muggle transport. He felt the same way, but could probably say it a little more politely.
"Ah, yes," Ron spoke before Harry could, and didn't miss the gleam in Fudge's eye. He thought that he had them in the palm of his hand. Nothing could be further from the truth.
"That's a very nice idea, Minister, but we already have a home," Ron completed the sentence smoothly, raising a slightly challenging eyebrow at the pompous twat opposite him. Fudge flushed and frowned. Ron snuck a glance at the teachers opposite them under the guise of turning to Harry and calming him down. They were sipping their tea calmly, but he could have sworn McGonagall winked at him.
"I... beg your pardon?" Fudge looked astonished and rifled his documents as if they could provide him with answers. Harry's fingers quieted Ron, and he sat back to allow his partner to handle this next part. They were a team and the trust between them was implicit.
"Minister, Ron and I have set ourselves up quite comfortably in a house of our own," Harry explained, "Now if you want to tender an offer of employment with the Ministry, then we are willing to listen. However if you attempt to interfere in our private lives again we will walk out."
That cold, adult, so very sexy tone had Ron crossing his legs and sipping his tea in an effort to quell his very treacherous hormones. Harry's fingers laughed at him and Ron smiled sweetly at him as he put the teacup down, enjoying the slightly disconcerted smile he got in return. Fudge was too busy trying to recover from that cool tone that he wouldn't notice the by play. They'd sort things out in private. It would be fun.
Hermione was waiting for them at tea, but they couldn't talk to her in the Great Hall - there were too many people around. Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle joined them at the Gryffindor table, and Harry noticed that the Slytherin Prefect was very subdued. With one parent dead and one in St Mungo's trying to recover from twenty years of the Imperious Curse, Malfoy was in a bad spot. Harry had noticed that quite a few of the Slytherin students - nearly half of them had Death Eaters for parents - were in a similar condition. Not quite depressed, but very subdued. Professor Snape had taken to actually eating at the Slytherin table on occasion with small groups from his House. It worried Harry that by getting rid of Voldemort with Ron's help, he had hurt people he knew. Not all of the students in Slytherin had Death Eaters for parents, and those that did wouldn't necessarily have followed in their footsteps.
He made a mental note to have a word with the first and second years the next time he took prep with Ron and spent dinner talking quietly to Malfoy about the potions Snape had them working on. At his fingers request, Ron distracted Crabbe and Goyle with Quidditch, and Hermione joined the potions talk, making as pleasant a meal out of it as possible. Malfoy was looking a little more cheerful by the end of the meal - he'd managed to get some good sneering in at them - and when Harry stood up with his friends he glanced over at the Slytherin table for a moment. Snape was watching him with an unreadable expression, one that changed as one of his students asked him a question.
"What was all that about?" Hermione asked as they walked up the Great Staircase, "Harry?"
"I... it's not fair to punish them for their parents decisions," Harry sighed, "How can we talk about school unity if we treat the Slytherins badly? Nearly half of them have had a parent put in Azkaban or killed, or just disappeared. We need to support them."
"That's Snape's job," Ron pointed out. Harry looked at him steadily and Ron sighed, giving in with a nod, "Ok, ok, just stop looking at me like that!"
Hermione laughed and Harry joined in, following her to their dorm room, watching her lock the door behind them while Ron pulled off his outer robes and hung them on a hook, turning and tugging at Harry's when he made no move to get undressed.
"Make yourself at home, Hermy," Ron said absently, pulling the robe off and bending to undo Harry's shoes as well. Harry shook his head, stepping away once the laces were undone and toeing them off. Hermione took over, bustling him to the bed and climbing on, pulling him after her, Ron following until Harry was sandwiched between them both, a mismatched pair of hands on the Bump, one red and one brown head resting on his shoulders.
"Yes, make yourself at home," Harry snorted and Ron leaned up to kiss him, his fingers stroking the Bump curiously. There was a slight movement in response and Hermione gasped in delight.
"What is this, feel up the withchild guy?" Harry continued, not at all outraged, merely amused by the attention, and a little flattered. It felt so strange to have his insides moving independently, and the fact that his best friend and his spouse were so interested made it only weirder.
"What did Fudge want?" Hermione asked and Harry rested his cheek on Ron's head. If he sat still enough Ron would probably doze off, and Harry could get the cuddles that had been interrupted this afternoon. Ron was very cuddly when he was asleep.
"He came to arrange an official residence for us - that we turned down straight away - and to outline what our traditional duty to the Ministry was," Harry sighed, comfortable and warm. Hermione clucked her tongue and he wormed an arm around her waist, cuddling her too.
"Bet that went down well with Ron," she muttered and Harry chuckled. Ron had been incensed that the Minister would be so... mercenary.
"He was not best pleased," Harry agreed, "Neither was Dumbledore or McGonagall. Fudge tried to do this without their presence, you see, and we had to be a bit devious about it all."
"So what will you be doing after school?" Hermione asked curiously, "You were going to be an Auror before, right?"
"With the babies on the way I'd have to have given that up," Harry admitted, "I don't think that it would be fair to them for us both to do such a dangerous job, so if Ron wanted to be an Auror then I'd have found something else to do. We can't do that now either, really, because we'd be splitting up the partnership. The Magic works best when we're together, and it would be dangerous for us both for Ron to go to work without me. Either one of us could distract the other at a crucial moment just by casting a simple spell."
"Does Fudge know you're withchild?" Hermione asked and Harry shook his head, patting her hip lightly.
"Only family know about that," he told her, "And the teachers because they need to let me out of some of the more risky lessons. I don't want Fudge all over us right now - can you imagine how bad he'd be? He'd want us to name the babies after him."
"Yuck," Hermione agreed, the fluttering under her hand stilling as the child she was patting went to sleep, "So? What will you do now?"
"Well, St Mungo's will have us on contract to brew Tears of the Phoenix, and we'll be asking Professor Snape for any further training or potions he wants us to have. The Department of Accidental Magic Reversal will have us on call, and so will the Aurors. We'll be doing a little training with both of those departments of course, to ensure that we're up to speed with their methods, though we told Fudge we'd start the training next year. But that was all that we agreed to. Fudge wanted us to work full time in the Department as consultants - on what he wouldn't say - but we turned him down."
"But that's not too busy," Hermione smiled, "You'll be able to spend time at home with the children at least. Will the contracts you've described be enough to live on?"
"If we only agreed to brew Tears of the Phoenix for the next three years we could buy ourselves a nice little country somewhere," Harry confessed with a chuckle, "The potion is so rarely made that St Mungo's was desperate for us to agree to make it. We'll brew double batches for them every two months and one batch will be dedicated to curing the werewolves."
"I'm so glad you could help Professor Lupin," Hermione agreed sleepily. Ron was a limp weight against Harry's side and the bed was warm and cosy from heat generated by the three of them.
"Me too," Harry lowered his voice to a gentle tone, his hand stroking her hip lightly, "He deserves happiness."
"Mm," Hermione agreed, her head growing heavier on his shoulder. She had been working so hard lately, studying every moment she got. Harry slowed his breathing down even further and relaxed into the pillows at his back. Sleeping sitting up wasn't his idea of a lot of fun, but they were so comfortable, and he was honoured that Hermione would trust them enough to relax so far as to sleep, that it seemed a pity to wake them. Hermione snuffled a little into his shoulder and Harry smiled, letting his eyes close, summoning the shields that he held around his mind as he slept.
Ron watched as Harry went to sit at the table that held the first and second year Slytherin students. The other three tables in the prep rooms were full of happy laughing students; all mixed together, House unimportant as they worked through their homework and assignments. Slytherin had been pretty withdrawn since some of their parents had disappeared, even the ones who hadn't lost a parent were moving around the school with tentative steps.
Ron had the feeling, and Harry had agreed, that the younger students felt that the school was going to unify against their House. Slytherin had taken its pleasure in the taunting of other Houses for so long that there had been a huge backlash against them with the death of Tom Riddle. Harry had told Ron that he planned to stir up the younger students a little, mostly because they were the ones that had been here for the start of the school decision to unify the Houses and would therefore be a little more receptive to the idea of regenerating Slytherins image.
He paid close attention to his boisterous Gryffindors and smiled as Beth succeeded in finally changing her cup of water into rum. Her Transfiguration work was appalling, much to their Head of House' despair. She was a little better in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and her Charm work was adequate enough. It was in Potions and Herbology that she shined, and Ron had heard her explaining the Potions homework in Snape's cutting style more than once.
A glance at his watch showed that the prep time was almost up; the first and second years had an early curfew in order to ensure they stayed out of trouble. Harry was working quietly with the Slytherins paying attention only to them despite the glances the rest of the Houses were throwing his way in the hopes that they could get his attention. Ron packed them up early today, wanting to join Harry in the 'stirring' so his spouse wouldn't get into trouble alone if it came to that.
Harry had evidently asked the Slytherins to stay behind because Ron had the rest of the Houses out the door while Harry helped them pack up. Once he was sure that the first and second years were on their way back to their common rooms Ron sealed the door and came to sit at the end of the table opposite Harry.
"Go on then," one of Harry's former students sighed, "Tell us just how evil we all are."
Ron gaped at him in horror, wondering just who had told them that the rest of the school thought they were evil, and Harry broke the tension with his laughter. He was stared at, and one or two people shifted, stifling their own laughter. Ron's partner was irresistible when he laughed, even these young people couldn't stand against his charm.
"You're not evil," Harry shook his head, his eyes sparkling, "And I know that the rest of your House isn't too happy right now, which is making things hard for you, but no one in the school thinks that you're bad."
"Draco heard some of the seventh years," one of Ron's girls spoke up and Harry held up a hand. She stopped speaking and Harry folded his arms on the table, leaning in to get their full attention. Ron was fascinated, and the tiny glances he could spare for the rest of the students showed that they were too.
"Seventh years are, on the whole, stressed and stupid right now," Harry shook his head, "And... well, we've had a lot of time to get into bad habits. The problem as I see it is that the Slytherin House is the victim of some poor selections. You guys had a group of students go through that ruined the House reputation, because at the time they were doing what their parents told them to do. Slytherin doesn't stand for evil, or even nastiness. Your House prizes people with ambition and sharp wits. You can be sneaky, but you're clever. There's never been any mention of nastiness or mean behaviour in your House guidelines. It's time you guys took control and started reminding this school just how witty and sharp you all are."
"Exactly," Ron beamed, seeing instantly what Harry was aiming for, "You guys need to get it back to basics and rebuild."
"Huh?" the first student who had spoken shook his head, but Ron thought that he could see the beginning of hope in the pale face, "How?"
"Oh come on," Harry rolled his eyes, "Wit is often equated with humour. Now, I'm not telling you to run around performing harmless practical jokes on the students, or in the corridors or anything like that. I mean that would be totally irresponsible of me as a seventh year."
"And I'm not suggesting that you start looking for the humour in some of the lessons that can be transferred to other places or anything either," Ron spoke up, "However, it would be nice to see your House return to the wit and intelligence it was once known for."
"Seriously, we're not encouraging any kind of rule breaking. We don't want to see you in trouble or taking huge risks. But a little harmless, well meant fun... that couldn't hurt anyone, right?" Harry agreed, "You should think it over. I'm sure that people as sharp witted as you understand what we mean."
Ron got up and unsealed the door as the students gathered their things together. He and Harry would have to walk them to the common room as it was just on curfew and he didn't want to see them in trouble for staying back to hear his partner out. With a bit of luck the seeds they'd planted in these agile minds would take root and flower.
All was quiet for a week or so. Harry could see that the first and second years were thinking and plotting together, however, their heads close together and wandering in little clumps around the corridors. They were still mixing with the rest of the school, and Harry encouraged his friends to reminisce a little in their hearing about past pranks that the Gryffindor's had pulled or had pulled on them. From the wondering glances he knew that they were wondering what was going on, but the first and second years ate it up, and it was kind of fun to muse over old times. It was also a great stress relief - if you were laughing, you weren't worrying over your NEWT's.
Hermione had probably figured out what was going on, because Harry was sure that he'd seen her put a book of charms next to a Slytherin boy that contained some of the jokes they were talking about. That book was promptly checked out and Harry could have sworn she winked at the student in question and mouthed a page number to him.
The first years chose Monday tea for their first prank, waiting until the meal was over and people starting to think about getting back to their common room or studies. Harry clearly heard Hannah Abbott complain that she was too tired to walk back to the library. A minute later the bench she was sitting on was walking her to the door, along with the four other students still sitting on it.
Laughter rang through the hall over their startled exclamations, and Snape glanced suspiciously at one of his students. Harry distracted the Potions master by ending the spell and making a show of rescuing her from the bench, chiding her for her 'laziness'. Hannah was flushed and surprised, but not hurt, and laughed at the joke, thanking the hall at large for 'taking pity on her'.
On Tuesday someone enchanted the suits of armour along the second floor corridors to follow students along, clanking ominously. No one was hurt, though it was a little disconcerting to suddenly gain a metal 'shadow' that copied your every movement, including looking around to see what was following it. Filch wasn't best pleased, but there were a lot more smiles around that day, and Professor Flitwick was heard to admire the quality of the charm work.
On Wednesday someone started a food fight at teatime, and Harry was fairly sure he'd seen the Headmaster throwing custard at Professor Snape. Things quietened down a bit after that, but Harry was satisfied with the start that had been made. Rumours that the third and fourth years were going to get into the act reached his ears and he spent the day with a grin that wouldn't go away.
"Far too self satisfied, Potter," Ron mumbled in their bed that night, and Harry snorted.
"You can talk, Potter," he retorted, the first time he had given Ron his last name. He was thoroughly kissed in reply before Ron dropped back onto the mattress and snuggled around the Bump. The triplets had started using Harry's bladder as a trampoline this morning, which meant he was headed for the loo every hour or so, much to his embarrassment.
"You're fascinated by that, aren't you?" he grinned, looking down his body to his spouse. Ron sat up, looking at him seriously. He obviously had something on his mind, and Harry didn't have long to wonder what it was.
"I just..." the redhead ran a hand through his already messy hair, "Ok, here's the thing. When we talked about having kids... not that we really did...and you didn't know much about it, anyway, what it really meant... so I didn't honestly think that you'd ever want this... to be withchild. And now, you're carrying our kids, and taking NEWT's and taking care of the younger students, especially Slytherins and... I just can't believe how... how wonderful you are, and how lucky I am to have you."
"I'm just as lucky to have you," Harry whispered, feeling ridiculously touched by the words. His emotions were a lot closer to the surface due to the hormones that came with being withchild, which Harry hated. Ron crawled back up the bed and wrapped him in his arms, letting Harry hide in his neck, breathing in the scent that he loved best, glad that there was at least one person in the world who he could count on for anything.
"...several of these ingredients are hazardous to the unborn," Snape was saying as Harry and the others copied down the potion they were making today, chilling his heart, "But there are substitutions that can be made. Mr Potter, you've just volunteered to make the potion with the substitutions. Let's see how much attention you've been paying this year."
Harry nodded in relief, gathering his things and moving them up to the empty space at the front of the room. He spent a few extra minutes adjusting the recipe, working through each substitution carefully, so as not to inadvertently brew up something that would explode or do something else just as dangerous. Malfoy was the only other person in the front row, but as always the Slytherin Prefect was working directly opposite the Professor's desk and therefore would be unable to do anything without their teacher noticing.
Harry had found a new pleasure in potion making. Once he'd decided to just ignore Snape's vindictive behaviour he'd found the lessons interesting. Charms and Transfiguration were simple in that cause and effect followed each other very predictably, but in potions there were so many extra factors that could affect the outcome of your brewing that the intricate reactions fascinated Harry.
He was aware that Snape was standing opposite him as he expertly diced the honeycomb that was a part of this recipe, thankful that his practice in the kitchen over Easter had allowed him to improve his technique. He'd taken over all the cooking during the holidays, finding it a restful activity that had a tangible reward at the end. Harry did his best to ignore the scrutiny of his teacher as he left the honeycomb to grind the dried griffin hamstrings into a fine powder.
"Mr Potter," Snape's voice was smooth and dark, and Harry had to quell his body's reaction to it. His hormones were not going to rule his gonads if he had anything to say about it. Especially not with Snape of all people!
"Yes, sir?" Harry looked up, pausing his preparations obligingly. Snape's eyes flashed with some unreadable emotion and the Professor crossed his arms over his chest, drawing his robes closely around him.
"What can you tell me about the recent practical jokes in the castle?" Snape raised an eyebrow and Harry frowned. He knew the youngsters hadn't been caught, nor would they be if they continued their discreet activities.
"Nothing, sir," Harry answered honestly. He couldn't tell the man anything, because that would get him in trouble, that much was true. Snape's eyes flashed at him and the Head of Slytherin sneered before sweeping off to glance over Malfoy's preparations and moving on to Finch-Fletchly. Harry wondered if Snape was following the old pattern of blaming Harry for every incident that occurred that he didn't like, or if there was some substance behind the accusation.
Harry took a deep breath and returned his concentration to his potion, shelving his speculation for when he could talk to his partner and have his worries soothed. Since Madam Pomfrey had told Ron he was going to be a dad, the redhead had been even more solicitous of Harry than ever before. Harry was reluctant to allow the spoiling, though Ron could usually get around him at the end of the day when he was tired.
By the end of the lesson, Harry's potion was the same colour and consistency as Hermione's - she was still the most accurate brewer in the class despite the extra tuition that Malfoy obviously got - and Snape made a show of checking his potion cautiously before nodding for Harry to clean it up. He joined Ron and Hermione in the corridor and told them in a low voice what Snape had asked.
"He's just blaming the stuff he doesn't like on you, Harry," Hermione said immediately, "Don't worry about it."
"Yeah, mate, he's just being his usual self," Ron chimed in, peering at him anxiously, and Harry smiled in reassurance, then grunted when a particularly active child jolted his diaphragm. Ron had gotten used to that noise, and waved Hermione's concerned look off easily.
/hey! Stop kicking your father/ his fingers stroked over the Bump sternly and Harry snorted, shaking his head. As Ron had stepped in to hug him, one hand between their bodies while they paused in the shadows of the stairs that led up to the castle proper, he wasn't too worried that people would notice where Ron's hand was. Hermione was used to this by now, and had even got into the habit of shifting to give them some cover.
"Come on, let's get going," she urged, "We're going to be late for Charms."
"Coming," Ron sighed, letting go.
/you will later/ Harry promised his partner's arm and followed Hermione up the stairs, ignoring the spluttering behind him.
Ron groaned as he caught sight of the Minister for Magic, waiting for them beside the Great Hall with a reporter and photographer in tow. He just wanted some breakfast and some time to wake up properly. Harry had shagged him into orbit last night and he needed time to recover his scattered wits before the day started with double Transfigurations. Harry needed time to eat in peace as well, Ron was still carefully monitoring his partner's diet, as was Hermione, Neville, Ginny and the teachers.
"Patience," Harry sighed, "Calm and adult."
"Bugger that," Ron replied under his breath and took Harry's hand firmly, tugging him along as the Minister stepped forward to waylay them. Harry's manners were ingrained deeply, and could be a bit of a hindrance at times.
"Harry! Ron! I was hoping to have a moment of your time," the Minister smiled, glancing at the hawk faced reporter beside him, while the short photographer - Ron thought it might be the same guy that had been taking pictures of Gilderoy Lockhart in his heyday - aimed his camera at them.
"Put that away," Ron barked, startling the man so badly that the camera jerked to one side and took a picture of the wall behind them instead. Ron ignored the mans curse, glaring at him with impunity. He didn't have to put up with this rot and neither did Harry.
"Minister, we've only got a short while before breakfast is finished," Harry was saying diplomatically. Fudge beamed at them in a familiar manner that had Ron's stomach roiling queasily. Couldn't the man take a hint?
"I'm sure your teachers won't mind if you give us a moment of your time. We can ask one of the house elves to bring you a tray while we chat," Fudge reached out to take Harry by the arm and looked astonished when Ron tugged Harry out of range. The reporter was watching keenly, and Ron had a very nasty idea.
"Well I'm afraid that we mind, Minister," Ron said before Harry could speak up, spotting Professor McGonagall striding towards them as well, "Firstly, we take our NEWT's this term and have a lot of work to do so we can finish creditably, so we don't want to miss any lessons, and secondly Harry and I aren't in the habit of making extra work for the house elves. They're busy enough without us making unnecessary requests of them."
"Boys, go in to breakfast please," Professor McGonagall had arrived and Ron moved immediately, keeping himself between Harry and Fudge. He didn't want the man to touch his partner, something about him made Ron's skin crawl.
Malfoy had two seats available opposite him and Harry led Ron over without pause, sliding into the first space and reaching for the toast. There were a few people whispering and looking at them, but Ron ignored it all in favour of getting on with their delayed breakfast. They said good morning to Malfoy, as well as to Justin Finch-Fletchly, who was sitting further up the table.
"What was all that about?" Malfoy asked, glancing over to where McGonagall and the Headmaster now spoke with Fudge in low tones. Harry sighed, but Ron beat him to the answer, shaking his head at his spouse.
"Fudge is trying to use us to get re-elected at Christmas. We don't want a bar of it. Besides, anything that gives the Daily Prophet an exclusive story isn't a good thing," Ron tucked in to the kippers on his plate, watching Harry add a dash of ginger marmalade to his plate, which he dipped his forkful of bacon and eggs in occasionally. That little craving still had Ron shuddering in distaste, and the look on Malfoy's face was priceless. The blonde Prefect shook his head and finished his cup of tea, moving as if to get up.
"Best way to stop that little plan is to hold an exclusive interview with someone else," he told them, wiped his mouth on a napkin and strode off with Crabbe and Goyle at his heels. Ron choked on his mouthful and Harry thumped him on the back in a friendly manner.
/Did Malfoy just offer us friendly, useful advice/ Ron asked Harry's wrist and Harry rolled his eyes.
"Yes," he answered aloud, "Don't be so surprised. Slytherin House is known for its ability to make the best use of circumstances."
Justin choked on his mouthful of toast and Ron shook his head. They watched as Colin Creevey paused on his way past to batter him on the back, desisting only when Justin shoved him away a bit.
"Wonders will never cease," he wheezed, "Did you just compliment Slytherin?"
Ron rolled his eyes and sighed, sipping his tea for a moment while Harry concentrated on his breakfast, anger in the set of his shoulders and arms. They had been under scrutiny for so long as they struggled to promote school unity, and after all this time people still thought they were pretending? It wasn't fair.
"Why not?" Ron scowled at the other boy, "There's nothing wrong with Slytherin House. It's got good and bad people, just like any other House."
Justin sat back, a look of concentration on his face. Ron sincerely hoped that meant he was thinking things over.
"Hang on," Harry stopped Ron reaching for the bottle of shampoo, "That's not right."
"What's not right?" Ron frowned. Harry had become a little paranoid about the shampoo he used ever since the twins embarrassing prank just before the wedding. He always checked the bottle before he used it. As Ron was about to wash Harry's hair - they had gotten up extra early to do this undisturbed - that meant that Harry was not in the best position to do his usual checking.
"The smell is wrong," Harry turned under the water, the Bump rubbing against Ron's flat belly. Ron sniffed the shampoo cautiously. It was supposed to be faintly apple scented, but it actually smelt like banana. Ron capped the bottle and put it back on the shelf, reaching for the hand soap instead.
"We'll use this instead then," he promised and Harry looked relieved that he wasn't protesting. The dye had finally worn out of Harry's hair and his partner's paranoia had abated - he no longer insisted on bringing his own shampoo to the shower, or warding the bottle to prevent tampering when he wasn't around. That didn't mean he was going to risk having purple and green hair again.
Ron leaned in and kissed the warm, wet lips before raising lather covered hands to massage Harry's scalp, loving the feeling of his partner's changing body as it pressed against him. Harry's arms were a warm weight around his waist and Ron hummed under his breath as he spread the lather through carefully, then rinsed it out. Harry kissed him in thanks and leaned over to lather his own hands, soaping them evenly and returning the favour.
They dried off quickly, replaced Harry's glamour charm and hurried back to their room, shutting and sealing the door before tumbling onto the bed and kissing each other fervently. Hands came into play and it didn't take long for them to reach mutual satiation. Ron let Harry clean them up and then slithered down the bed to kiss the Bump good morning, stroking welcoming messages into the swollen skin.
"Idiot," the tone was indulgent, though, and the green eyes that met his were very gentle. Ron grinned and slithered up to plant a kiss between them before getting up reluctantly.
"Come on, I want an early breakfast this morning," he held out a hand and Harry got up, dressing carefully, the expanded uniforms coming in handy. Ron sighed as Harry put the glamour back on, knowing he wouldn't see the children for the rest of the day, and wishing it didn't have to be that way. They weren't too keen to advertise Harry's condition, his partner simply didn't want the notoriety and publicity that would come with that piece of news being passed around the school. Once exams were over it wouldn't matter.
"I love you, Potter," Harry gave him a crooked smile, well aware of what the new last name did to Ron's insides. He picked up their bags as Harry unsealed the door, letting his spouse carry his own bag this morning, rather than fuss about it.
"Stuck with me," Ron replied simply and waved a greeting to Neville as they headed for the main corridor. When he was sure no one was around he shot an amused glance at his partner. Harry was a little forgetful this morning, and Ron's ego was swelling as a result.
"So, what do you think they did?" he reminded his friend and watched Harry pale a little in response before flushing and laughing. A glance at Ron showed his concern and Ron let his fingers do the talking, persuading Harry that if he prevented the prank from going through, he'd undo all the progress in morale that Slytherin House had made.
"I don't know, but I hope that however they got the stuff into the shampoo they left the teachers alone!" Harry grasped the banister for the descent, with Ron hovering a little to one side. They were both chuckling lightly, but calmed down before they got to the Great Hall. Ron didn't want to give anyone the idea that they knew about this ahead of time. If Harry's paranoia hadn't kicked in they'd have been the first victims of this particular joke. They settled in for a leisurely breakfast, joined by Susan Bones not long after they arrived.
"Hannah's upstairs, primping for her birthday," Susan revealed, "Her parents are coming after lessons finish and taking her out to dinner tonight. It's a surprise."
"Are you going with her?" Ron asked and Susan smiled, nodding happily. Harry passed her the toast while Ron dished up a couple of chipolata's onto his spouses plate. Harry grinned at him and added some ginger marmalade to his plate. Susan eyed it with disgust and Ron distracted her with a question about Charms. Harry's cravings were mild at the moment, though Madam Pomfrey had warned them that they would only get stranger as the pregnancy went on.
The Hall was only half full as people trickled in for their first meal of the day. Several of the Slytherin first and second years had arrived already, their hair the usual colour. Professor Sprout and Professor Sinistra were already at the staff table, and as Ron watched Professor McGonagall joined them, leaned over and started whispering in their ears. Ron elbowed Harry, and his spouse watched the Head of Hufflepuff got up and hurried out, leaving Sinistra alone at the table, eyeing the students in the Hall speculatively. Ron was very glad that his and Harry's hair had dried by the second time they got up.
The Hall stayed mostly empty for breakfast, and Susan looked at the door several times in concern, finally putting some toast in a napkin for her friend to eat in class later. The Heads of Houses didn't appear for breakfast, and neither did the Headmaster. Ron hoped that the dye wasn't causing any problems other than concern about the colour of peoples hair and tugged Harry along to their first lesson of the day - double potions.
Harry cringed inwardly when he realised that Snape was wearing a very unusual piece of headgear. The pranksters had netted themselves a very important target. Harry hoped that the Potions master wouldn't dig too far. He had a feeling that the students who had pulled this off were on cloud nine, and having their Head of House come down on them would kill off any gains made in morale.
"Today we are going to concentrate on restorative potions," Snape growled at them. Malfoy was also wearing a scarf around his head, from which peeked strands of bright blue hair, "There are several different potions to be made today, and therefore I will hand out the recipes individually. Potter - you're to work up here with me."
That meant that the ingredients the others were using would be hazardous to Harry's children, and Harry moved with alacrity to the position indicated. He was making batches of hair dye, while Ron and the others were working on medicinal potions. He made sure that he had all the ingredients he needed and several additional cauldrons in order to make different colours of dye. He also made sure that he didn't look too hard at Snape in case the Potions master thought he was gloating or prying.
Snape prowled around the room, giving Harry a chance to see who else was sporting an interesting hair colour or new item of head wear. Neville's hair was a shocking bright green - and he was wearing it with a pride that had Harry smiling to himself, Neville was the least vain person Harry knew - and Hannah Abbott was wrapped in a scarf, bright pink hair peeking around her fringe. She looked a little tearful and Susan was hovering nearby, sending her anxious looks when Snape wasn't watching. Harry turned his attention back to his potions, making sure that the preparations were complete. It wouldn't do to let Hannah's day be spoiled by her unusual hair colour.
"Tell me Mr Potter," Snape's voice sounded in his ear as he filled the cauldrons with the precise amount of water, prior to heating them, "How is that you and Mr Weasley managed to avoid the new hair styles your fellow students are wearing?"
"The smell of the shampoo made me queasy," Harry said honestly, "We used the hand soap instead."
He honestly hadn't though about the ramifications of not warning his fellow students and guilt began to nibble at him, until he caught the gleam in Snape's eyes. The Head of Slytherin actually looked slightly approving of the prank - and probably would have approved a lot more if he hadn't been one of the victims. Harry lit the fires beneath his cauldrons and pulled his wand. The only way to brew these four potions simultaneously would be to use magic, though he thought that he wouldn't need the bond to do it.
He started murmuring under his breath, watching with an eagle eye as the first ingredients were added to the simmering water and the stirrers started the figure eight pattern that Snape insisted they use. His wand flitted from left to right, describing elegant figures in the air to ensure the ingredients and stirrers moved exactly as he wanted. The rhythm and challenge of the brewing took him over, sweeping him away as he worked the magic flawlessly, almost as good as the synchronisation that he felt with Ron in the bond. Time passed in measured increments, meaningful only when measured against the needs of his potions. He came back to himself with a regretful sigh when the fires were extinguished and the potions left to cool in their cauldrons.
He glanced back at Ron, knowing that his spouse was looking at him with concern, and sent the man a gentle smile, reassuring him without words that he and the children were just fine. He put his wand away and collected the now empty trays that had held his ingredients, stacking them precisely and taking them to the sink in the corner of the classroom, cleaning them quickly and putting them away according to Snape's exacting requirements.
"I think we'll have one of your own House test your potions, Potter," Snape's drawl greeted Harry as he stopped by his cauldrons, "Miss Granger, you're first."
Hermione stepped forward and took off the scarf her hair was hidden under, revealing locks as green as Neville's. She grinned at Harry, her shoulders shrugging a little as he choked trying not to laugh. Snape's glare helped with that and Harry watched the man collect the exact amount required in a dipper and motion Hermione over to the sink. When she stepped out of the corner her hair was the right colour. She kissed Harry's cheek and hurried back to her potion.
"Who is next?" Snape asked, and Malfoy's hand shot up instantly. The end of the lesson had returned everyone -including Professor Snape - that had been affected by the shampoo to their normal selves, with the exception of Neville, who had informed his teacher that he would like to keep his hair the colour it was.
"It makes a nice change," Neville explained as they walked out the door to their next lesson, and Hermione laughed, shaking her head fondly. Harry shot her a wondering look, hoping that she wasn't too upset. He couldn't believe that he hadn't warned his friends after he'd avoided the trap himself.
"It was pretty funny, Harry," Hermione seemed to read his mind, "Don't worry about it, no one was hurt and you brewed up enough dye for the whole school."
"Are you sure?" Harry looked at Neville who was chuckling as they walked. His friend nodded emphatically at him and Ron leaned in for a kiss to his cheek. Hannah Abbott walked past with her hair returned to normal, looking much more cheerful, and Harry sighed, letting the guilt go a little. It was a small burden - strange coloured hair for only a single morning - and it was true no one was hurt. How they'd managed to pull it off was another question, and Harry made a note to install wards with Ron on the Gryffindor quarters that would alert them to any further pranks.
Harry took his school robes and shoes off, hopping up to sit on the bed behind the screens that Madam Pomfrey had arranged for him. Ron was at Quidditch practice this evening, to his spouse's disgust, which meant that Harry was keeping his regular check-up appointment by himself. Hermione had offered to come with him, but he didn't want her to see him like this. Madam Pomfrey often had him half undressed before he knew where he was, and besides... it was one thing for Hermione to touch the Bump when it was hidden by his clothes, or a glamour charm, it was another for her to actually see it.
Madam Pomfrey had given him and Ron the titles of several books about being withchild and the names of several good midwives. He had talked to Ron about it though, explaining that he didn't want strangers around him during the birth. He felt oddly shy of his new body, and was cautious about revealing it to anyone, even Ron sometimes. Ron had suggested that the school Matron might be able to help them out, so at the end of the next appointment he'd asked her to be with him for the delivery. She'd agreed and kissed his cheek before shooing him out, telling him that her sister - one of the names she'd supplied - would attend as well. Madam Pomfrey's skills were excellent, but delivering children was not something she felt happy to do without an expert at her side.
"Right, Mr Potter," she was all brisk professionalism as she swept into the space created by the screens, "Trousers off."
Harry stood up again with a sigh and undid them, shaking them loose and off. It was getting difficult to bend to pull them on in the morning, but Ron was always there to help with a kiss and smile. He knew that Madam Pomfrey would help him out too, but it wouldn't be half as much fun. He climbed back up and lay on his back, drawing his knees up a little to take the strain off his back. It was starting to ache a little in response to the weight of the Bump, and lying on his back with his legs flat was a little uncomfortable.
"Right, so how are we?" the school Matron ran her wand over him and the white mist that Harry was so familiar with as her diagnostic tool settled over him comfortably.
"Going the loo every three minutes because they're still using my bladder for a trampoline," Harry told her, his cheeks pinking up a little, "And I've developed a craving for some of the nastier Bertie Botts Beans. Ron's absolutely disgusted with me, but he fishes them out for me anyway."
"Hmm," she nodded and Harry watched as the white turned it's various colours, settling over his internal organs and the Bump. From his reading of the medical texts in the library, Harry had a vague idea of what the colours meant, and right now they were showing a deficiency in something. He hoped that didn't mean more potions. Even now the school kept a pretty close eye on him, and if he started taking potions daily again the rumours would fly once more.
"You need more iron," she informed him, then turned to look at the Bump. A smile spread slowly over her face and Harry propped himself up on his elbows. She didn't mind if he moved once the mist had settled into its colours, and Harry was interested in tracking the colours that settled over the Bump.
"And... we have a nice surprise here," she patted his hand gently, "The sex of the babies."
"Really?" Harry exclaimed, "We've chosen names already, and we're ready for the birth ceremony, or as ready as we can be."
Madam Pomfrey chuckled at him and touched the colours on his Bump. Harry shut his mouth with a snap, all too aware that he was in the habit of babbling nervously when it came to the children and their impending arrival. He couldn't show Ron how nervous he was, especially as his partner was nervous enough anyway, and he had no one else to talk this over with except Molly Weasley. There was no way he was going to entrust his fears to a letter, though, so it would have to wait until they had graduated from school.
"You need to eat more red meat and I can give you a supplement that you can take at night in your dorm," the school Matron was as aware of the scrutiny as he was, and Harry thanked her with a smile. She guided one of his hands over the Bump, telling him what was where and then let him up, helping him with his trousers and shoes. He restored the glamour charm and then hugged her, his eyes shining. Ron would be very pleased with this news.
Ron hurried into the library, relaxing when he saw Harry sitting with Hermione, their heads together over a book. His partner had attended his fortnightly check-up without him, due to the final Quidditch practice of the year. Gryffindor played Slytherin for the House Cup on Saturday. From the smile Harry gave him, there had been no bad news, and Ron settled onto the library bench next to him with a peck to the cheek.
"Hello pet," Ron muttered, "Alright, there?"
"Mm-hmm, we're fine," Harry nodded and Ron paid attention to the charms that his friends were revising.
Harry sat close at dinner and ate a little more spinach than was his wont. Ron tried to remember what that meant - some kind of deficiency, he knew that much - but Harry's fingers soothed him before he could start to fret.
Hermione had them back in the library after dinner, and for a moment Ron thought that Harry had grimaced in frustration before turning his attention to their studies. Neville had joined them as they went over the Herbology. Ron still couldn't get used to Neville's bright green hair, though their friend seemed very cheerful over it. The group finally split to go their separate ways when curfew had them back in the dorms, and Ron sealed their door shut while Harry put their books away and poured a glass of water from the carafe that Dobby left out for them.
"What is that?" Ron pounced on the small red pill that Harry had in his hand, and Harry gave the bottle over without a fight, downing the pill and stripping off his robes, "Iron? Your iron levels are low?"
"Only a little, and Madam Pomfrey wasn't worried about it at all," Harry told him firmly, dropping his clothes onto an armchair and walking to the bed in his briefs. Thoroughly distracted - as Harry no doubt intended - Ron shucked out of his clothes and followed.
Dobby had provided Harry with several nightshirts - the old fashioned sleepwear allowing him a lot of room to move in - decorated with lurid stripes. Harry pulled one on now and climbed into the bed, waiting impatiently for Ron to get changed and climb in with him. Ron sat beside his lover and watched in fascination as Harry pulled the nightshirt up enough to reveal the Bump, his dark hairy legs and bright orange briefs looking rather odd beneath it.
"She told me some important news today," Harry started, capturing Ron's hand, and the redhead felt a flash of fear. Reassurances to Hermione aside, Ron was borderline obsessed with keeping Harry healthy and happy. This last term of school was stressful enough for people who weren't pregnant and being sort of stalked by the Minister of Magic, which meant that Ron had a lot to worry about on Harry's behalf.
"I knew it! What's wrong? Should we go to St Mungo's? Maybe you should wait until Christmas to sit for your NEWTs - you're over tired, right?" Ron stopped only when Harry's mouth covered his, the limber tongue tangling around his until speech was impossible. Harry held him in the kiss until Ron felt faint then broke free, panting into his mouth, making certain parts of him sit up and beg.
"Shut it, Ron, you're babbling," his spouses voice was amused, tender and loving, and Ron relaxed. That tone would not be in evidence if Harry were about to tell him bad news. The hand that Harry held was guided to the Bump and pressed firmly until the baby beneath kicked at the restriction.
"That is Edwina," Harry informed him and moved his hand, "...and that is Timothy," his hand was moved one more time, "...and that is Lawrence. Your two sons and daughter."
Ron felt tears prick his eyes and he bent, kissing the three spots that Harry had shown him before leaning up to kiss Harry passionately. For the time being all his worries and half formed fears took a back seat to this single moment. They'd discussed the names and picked out for boys and girls. With Harry naming the children to him now, the unborn lives became so much more real to him.
"You're a marvel," Ron husked, "A bloody marvel."
Harry watched with his heart in his throat as Ron swooped down and kicked the quaffle away from the hoops, into Ginny's hands. He cheered loudly, waving the corner of the Gryffindor banner he held over his head, making it roar in triumph. Hermione had looked at him in disbelief when he'd unfurled the thing and activated the charm, but the younger members of his House had laughed and begged for an edge or corner to hold. Harry had waited until it was properly spread to lean into his friend and whisper in her ear.
"This is my last chance to cheer my spouse on from the sidelines."
She'd given him an understanding look and grin, and then shifted so her arm was around his shoulder and they were sharing the corner he held. She was just as excited as he was - the teams were level pegging, the scores never more than a single goal apart. The Chasers and Beaters were almost blurs of motion out there as the plays came fast and furious, each team striving to outdo the other. Malfoy was zooming almost desperately from side to side, seeking the snitch, and Beth moved a little more slowly, moving in endless laps around the pitch. Harry had seen the snitch four times this match, and had to sit on his hands to avoid pointing it out to anyone. He may be grounded, but that didn't mean the skills weren't still there and still viable. Right now, for instance, the snitch was hovering over Slytherins goals, and Harry was avoiding looking at them altogether.
The Bump shifted a little restlessly and Harry put his free hand to it, stroking reassurance to the babies, telling them how clever their father was being right now with a glow of pride. Hermione and the banner hid the action, so he wasn't too worried about being spotted. With only a short time left at school, Harry didn't want the news that he was withchild floating around the corridors. It was almost embarrassing that he and Ron had been caught out like this.
Beth suddenly peeled off from her laps and zoomed past Malfoy - who was pointing in entirely the wrong direction - and Harry traced her course in the air, grinning when he spotted the snitch. Malfoy was on her tail now, and Harry cheered her on as she barged into her opponent, the action so unexpected she managed to knock him off course and gain some much needed ground. The snitch soared into the sky and Beth went after it fearlessly, stretching out her hand and plucking it from the air just as Malfoy barged into her as well.
"Yes!" Harry yelled and the banner roared its approval as Madam Hooch blew her whistle and the game ended. Dennis Creevey was cheering into his megaphone, and so was Professor McGonagall by the sound of it. Harry waved the banner wildly, cheering as his team converged on their new Seeker in a howling scrum of congratulations. The Slytherins were scowling as they headed for the ground and Madam Hooch spelled the first bludger back into its box. Malfoy, who was dawdling towards the ground - doubtless hoping to put off the remarks of his team captain for as long as possible - crossed the path of the second one, and didn't notice when it swung straight for him. Without thinking Harry whipped his wand out and vanished the bludger just as it headed for Malfoy's head, shouting the spell clearly and dropping the banner to stand for a clear shot. His Seeker reflexes stood the test as he beat even Madam Hooch to the spell - and her wand had already been in her hand. Malfoy jerked and almost slipped off his broom in astonishment, sending him a funny look.
"He's probably wondering why you didn't let it hit him," Hermione mumbled, "He's never believed that you don't hate Slytherin."
Harry shrugged in reply, putting his wand away and nodding once to his former opponent. He knew how painful a bludger hit was and didn't want to see anyone - not even an enemy - suffer an unnecessary hit. It was different in the middle of a game, you expected it; it was one of the common risks. He dismissed Malfoy from his thoughts and picked up his corner of the banner again, and shook it to make it roar once more as the Gryffindor's took a lap of honour around the pitch, Beth in the lead, the snitch still in her hand.
"What's the bet that she keeps it?" Harry asked with a laugh, seeing the tight grip she had on her prize. Hermione gave him a startled glance and raised her eyebrows in inquiry. Harry nodded in answer. The first snitch he'd ever caught was secreted away with his school things, he'd been very reluctant to give it back to Madam Hooch, though he knew that she had a pretty good idea where it was. She had very kindly refrained from demanding it back, giving implicit permission for him to keep it with her silence.
The Gryffindor's landed and the stands emptied as the House rushed to congratulate their team. Hermione helped Harry to fold up the banner, quieting the charm on it. Harry was a bit wary of going into that mob, even to congratulate his spouse, and a part of him wished that he didn't have to be so careful. He'd have preferred to be in the thick of things - in fact he'd have preferred to be the one to defeat Malfoy in this last match - but the Bump had to come first now.
"Harry!" Ron's voice shouted and Harry turned to look over the edge of the stands, grinning when he realised his partner was floating beside the stands, a hand held out. He took it without a second thought, climbing onto a bench and settling in front of Ron, sitting sideways on the broom. He wrapped an arm around his partner and laughed as Ron guided the broom away from the stands, relieved to be flying again, if only for a few brief seconds. Hermione's scolding faded away and Ron guided them towards the castle, flying low and slowly to prevent accidents.
"Madam Pomfrey better not catch us," Harry said breathlessly into Ron's ear, kissing it gently for good measure. Ron groaned and shifted a little in response, eliciting another laugh from Harry. His partner's ears were a sensitive spot - Harry could get him hard and aching just by nibbling and blowing on a single ear.
"Stop it or I'll crash," Ron growled and Harry stopped with a disappointed sigh. The steps loomed and Ron landed carefully, letting Harry slip from the handle to his feet lightly and shouldering his broom with a deft movement. He took Harry's hand and hurried him inside, ushering Harry up the stairs with a single-minded focus that had Harry tingling in anticipation. Scant minutes later they were hurrying past Wrestler and into the common room, their door slamming shut behind them. Harry pinned Ron to the door and blew in his ear again, getting his partner's undivided attention.
"Have I ever told you," Harry whispered into Ron's ear, and then sucked on the lobe briefly while the redhead quivered in delight, "How much of a turn on it is to do this in your Quidditch robes?"
"You pervert," Ron moaned helplessly as Harry nipped his ear lobe, clever fingers worming under the red and gold material, unfastening the white breeches and dipping in for their prize. Harry hummed as he sucked on Ron's ear seductively, enjoying the moans and sighs he was getting in response while Seeker fingers stroked and pulled on their favourite toy. Ron was rapidly losing the ability to stand and Harry dropped to his knees, sticking his head under the hot robes and replacing his fingers with his mouth.
Ron roared like the banner, his hips bucking as pleasure crashed over him in waves and Harry hummed in smug pleasure.
NEWT's weren't that different to OWL's in that the stress and anticipation had rapidly reached fever pitch among the seventh years. Ron had almost come to blows with Hermione over the amount of study time she wanted them to do, eventually he'd hauled her into their room, cast a silencing charm - the juniors were staring with unmitigated awe at their normally calm senior Prefects as they screamed at each other - and told her flat out that Harry wasn't sleeping well and Ron needed her to lay off his partner right now before he got too tired to be any use for anything.
Harry had not been best pleased when Ron and his new ally ganged up on him and told him flat out that he was to start going to bed early and rest more. Ron had put that little rebellion down with some difficulty, and had finally been forced to drag Harry off into their room and make him stand in front of the mirror. The glowing colour that his partner's face once held was a little faded, and Ron's heartfelt pleas had finally worked. Harry slept a bit better now that he wasn't studying day and night and Ron slept a lot better seeing the colour still in his spouse's face.
The examiners arrived as they had before - turning up just as breakfast finished. Professor Dumbledore greeted them with smiles and offers of tea, ushering them off to the staff room while the seventh and fifth years waited outside the now sealed Great Hall for their first written examination in Charms. Ron stood with an arm around Harry's waist, rubbing the small of his back in last minute reassurance - for them both. Harry's hand was tangled with Hermione's, giving her some of the comfort that Ron was giving him. This was their final step towards adulthood in the wizarding world, and it was a little daunting for Ron to think that this time next year he'd be a father of three babies, and working for the Ministry in a variety of roles.
Then the doors swung open and Ron leaned in to kiss Harry's cheek, then Hermione's.
"Let's go," he smiled, and Harry disentangled from them both, kissing them both in reply and smiling in his own turn.
"Bring it on," that little bit of bravado had Hermione chuckling and shaking her head as Ron led his friends in. They were all seated alphabetically, and Ron glanced at his friends as the papers were placed on the table in front of him. He listened to Flitwick's speech about the anti-cheating spells in place on the Hall, quills and parchment and picked up his quill in readiness. The hourglass at the front turned over and he turned to the first question, brows furrowed in concentration.
Two hours later, they were ushered out for dinner, and then the practical would be held and they'd be free to indulge in last minute revision for the next test. Harry didn't seem too worried and Hermione had wisely refrained from asking what answers they'd given to each question, perhaps not willing to risk another shouting match with Ron, who hated taking the test twice.
Dinner was a hearty meal, and Ron felt better once his stomach was full. From the smile in Harry's eyes, his partner had also been drooping a little, and the meal was a timely reviver. He noticed that Harry pocketed several pieces of fruit for while he waited, and stroked approval of the idea into Harry's thigh, pocketing a few for himself. The seventh and fifth years waited in the Great Hall for their turn at the practical examination, the two side rooms that the castle had kindly arranged for them to hold their practical tests in reached by two new side doors.
Ron watched Hermione being summoned to her Charms practical and smiled reassuringly at her. There had been a rather loud noise from the fifth year's examination room about twenty minutes ago, and he hoped that whoever had blown up their eggcup had at least managed to demonstrate some cartwheels first. Harry waved the orange peel in his hand in salute and slipped a segment into his mouth, sucking for the juice and swallowing the remaining pulp.
"Potter, how can you eat?" Malfoy shuddered from the seat opposite, "If I tried to swallow anything now it would come back up."
"I can either eat an orange or faint halfway through from hunger," Harry replied absently, "I wouldn't have thought you'd be this nervous."
Ron watched as the blonde Slytherin shifted on his seat uneasily.
"Now that father is gone," Malfoy admitted reluctantly, "There's a lot more riding on my ability to get a good job. Mother needs a lot of support, and I won't let her down."
"You know," Ron mused, "The Ministry isn't the only employer going, Draco. If you needed to stay in England there are quite a few positions going at various Potion Laboratories. That's always been your best subject."
"Why do you care?" Malfoy sneered, "It's not as if you need to worry, Weasley. You've got a job custom made for you already."
"One that I had thrust on me without anyone except Harry consulting me if I wanted it," Ron returned evenly, "We were going to be Aurors, not Ministry Wizards. And maybe I don't care, but I've never liked to see anyone treated unfairly. It's always seemed stupid to pick on someone because of who their parents were."
Harry and Malfoy's names were called then and Ron leaned back to watch his partner head for the examination room. He hoped that Malfoy had at least listened to what he'd said. He didn't want to see his old enemy put in a bad position just because his father was a power hungry idiot. In a way, the death of Lucius Malfoy had been the best thing that could have happened to Draco. Now he had a chance to be his own person.
"I can't believe you talked me into this!" Harry muttered, his fingers slightly slippery on his wand as the school waited restlessly on the other side of the curtains. Ron laughed lightly and kissed his cheek, caressing the Bump as he pulled back.
"It's just a bit of fun. It's traditional," Ron soothed, and Harry rolled his eyes, shaking his head in disgust and folding his arms. Ron's eyes lit up in response to the wordless challenge and his partner leaned in to kiss the temper off Harry's face. They were wearing their leathers - Harry's greatly altered around the waist despite the glamour charms - and Hermione had nearly drooled all over them when she'd first seen them. Harry was close to drooling now Ron's talented tongue was tangling with his.
NEWTs and the Leaving Feast were over, and the teachers dais had become the 'stage' for the traditional seventh year entertainment, complete with velvet drapes to allow them to change the props and such in privacy. Each student in their year was somehow involved in putting on a display of magical prowess and 'talent'. There would be all sorts of acts, plays, tricks, comedy and singing, and their peers had decided that Harry and Ron would open the show.
"Oi!" Hermione hissed as she walked onto the stage littered with musical instruments, "Will you two get over it already!"
Harry grinned sheepishly as he pulled back. His hormones were still stuck in the 'horny teenager' stage, and the whole withchild thing had only enhanced the affect. Ron had certainly never complained about it. Ron nuzzled him one more time, and leaned back, grinning at their friend.
"You're just jealous," he teased lightly, "You want a Harry of your own."
"Well, he's taken, so I guess I'll have to look elsewhere," Hermione teased in return and leaned in for a kiss of her own, laughing as Harry blushed bright red in response. She pulled back and headed for the curtains, "Time to show everyone what we're made of."
"Literally?" Harry asked, looking at her costume in amazement. Hermione was a beautiful young woman and her very tight and short school uniform showed that off very nicely indeed, "Hermy we want them concentrating on the show, not your... attributes."
"Neville wasn't complaining," Hermione smiled sweetly at them and slipped through the gap to get the audience's attention. Harry laughed, listening to the wolf whistles and yells of approval from the school as Ron chuckled and moved away to his mark. He was still laughing as Hermione stepped back inside and hurried off stage, turning at the last minute to wave her wand at the curtains, causing them to rise slowly.
The bond hummed and Harry turned partially so he could see the audience and the instruments lying on the ground. Ron was in place opposite him and grinning in sympathy. The bond hummed easily to life and Harry took a deep breath, waving his wand almost casually. Ron had chosen this Muggle song for them, and Harry had agreed in a heartbeat. If they were going to be stuck opening the show they might as well open it with a little style. The music reached its crescendo and Harry took a deep breath for the first verse as Ron took over the bond to keep the instruments in time.
"Hell is gone and Heavens here, there's nothing left for you to fear, shake your arse, come over here, now scream!" Harry sang strongly, glad his throat was well and truly healed despite the amplification spells put on the stage. He sent a jet of sparks into the air, singing the next bit with a grin and a wink at the audience as the sparks swirled around the stage, forming the vague outline of a man, "I'm a burning effigy of everything I used to be, you're my rock of empathy, my dear!"
He blew Ron a kiss and swayed his hips a little, transforming the sparks into a chorus line of knee high pixies that danced around gleefully while he sang the chorus to the crowd.
"So come on! Let me! Entertain you! Let me! Entertain you!" he stepped back, banished the pixies with a casual flick and let Ron take over the second verse, grinning as the bond surged at his touch to keep the instruments in time with the driving beat. Ron's tenor voice picked up the lyrics without a pause, swaying his hips in reply.
"Life's too short for you to die, so grab yourself an alibi! Heaven knows your mother lied, mon cher!" Ron sent a second shower of sparks in the green and silver of Slytherin into the air, letting them swirl around the instruments in dizzying pattern as he sung the next line with all his heart. Unity was the school's aim here, and he didn't want to see it die because it's founder's were gone, "Separate your right from wrongs, come and sing a different song, the kettle's on so don't be long, mon cher!"
The sparks transformed to furry little critters that started tumbling all over the stage, hopping about in a series of lively acrobatics and Ron took a deep breath and launched into the chorus.
"So come on! Let me! Entertain you! Let me! Entertain you!" he winked at the audience and relaxed back into the bond, the hum vibrating from Harry to him, leaving behind an enervating tingle that Harry used to keep the sheer energy on the stage going. He conjured up a copy of the Muggle yellow pages as he started the third verse, his wand whipping smartly through the air to manipulate the object into a series of spins which shot illusions from the pages, showing Colin Creevey's pictures of school life, especially the seventh years until all their faces were floating on the stage, mouthing along to the words he was singing.
"Look me up in the yellow pages! I will be your rock of ages - your see through fads and your crazy phases, yeah! Little Bo Peep has lost his sheep, he dropped a potion and fell asleep, the dew is wet, but the grass is sweet my dear!"
Ron took a deep breath and joined the bridging passage, the bond shared equally between them as they sung and swayed with the sheer energy they were generating. Sparks were shooting from the tips of their wands now, showering the stage in the overflow of Magic they were creating.
"Your mind gets burned with the habits you've learned, but we're the generation that's gonna be heard! We're tired of our teachers and our school's a drag! We're not gonna end up like our mums and dads! So come on! Let me! Entertain you! Let me! Entertain you! Let me! Entertain you! Let me! Entertain you!"
Harry could hear laughter from the audience and flicked his wand, levitating the leaving presents that the seventh years had brought for their teachers, giving them easily to Ron, who sent them into the laps of the staff. There were a few cheers and they sung the last verse together, eyes bright with humour and their bond. The faces of their peers faded away and the sparks that had been sheeting over the stage floor whirled up to take their place, taking on the House colours and forming the school crest, sparkling between them as they sung.
"He may be good, he may be out of sight! But he can't be here, so come around tonight - here is the place where the feeling grows! Ya gotta get high before you taste the lows! Let me! Entertain you! Let me! Entertain you! Let me! Entertain you! Let me! Entertain you! Come on, come on, come on, come on! Come on, come on, come on, come on! Come on, come on, come onnnnn! Come on, come on, come on, come on! Come on, come on, come on, come on! Come on, come on, come onnnnn!"
The crest blew out over the audience, raining sparks down on them lightly, causing a few squeals, but mostly laughs and applause as they lowered the curtains on the finale, letting the final notes fade out. Harry gasped for breath as the audience on the other side of the curtain yelled and cheered and smiled at his partner, using the fading bond to banish the instruments they'd used so the next act could prepare. Ron walked across the stage and folded Harry into a sweaty hug, kissing him soundly.
They moved off the stage, sneaking into the empty row of seats at the back of the Great Hall to watch their peers, hands tangled and speaking complex messages of love and fidelity.
"Well, if you ever get fired from the Ministry, you could take up entertainment," Malfoy drawled as he joined them and Ron laughed, too happy to take any offence.
"We'll start a band," he agreed, "You've got a decent voice."
"Thanks," Malfoy looked a little startled at the compliment, and then sneered in a more familiar manner, "Better than yours, Weasley."
Ron laughed, and Harry relaxed at his side. He knew his partner had been waiting for him to react angrily to the comments, but was determined not to spoil their last school night with a fight. Crabbe and Goyle settled into the seats besides Malfoy, nodding to the partners in hello, but more interested in the skit on the stage where several Ravenclaws were practicing quick change in order to give a caricature of their teachers.
"You look good in a skirt, too," Ron added, waving to the hot pink sheath that Malfoy was wearing, "Though you could have shaved!"
"I did!" Malfoy ran a puzzled hand over his smooth chin and Ron chuckled, leaning down to run a hand over the blonde Prefect's leg, careful not to go above his knee. After all, teasing was well and good, but he was loyal to his Harry.
"I wasn't talking about your chin!" he teased lightly, and was amazed when Draco went beet red and spluttered in response to the touch. Ron left his fingers resting on the blonde's knee, tracing the kneecap to get a better response. Malfoy squirmed in his seat.
"Potter! Control him!" the embarrassed man snapped and Harry reached over absently, capturing Ron's hand and giving him a more familiar leg to touch.
"Now dear, don't tease," Harry said quietly, and Malfoy went even redder when he saw the redhead's fingers flexing idly on the leather-clad thigh. He coughed and looked away and Ron leaned into Harry with a smile and whispered apology. The audience howled with laughter and Ron looked up in time to recognise that the people on stage had just recreated Boggart Snape.
Ron's head whipped around and spotted the glare his Potion master was wearing, laughing as hard as anyone else. Neville's grandmother was in the audience and her hat shook wildly with the force of her hilarity. The group from Ravenclaw changed back to themselves and took their bows, running off the stage lightly as the audience clapped and cheered.
"Ten points from Ravenclaw," Snape called after them to light hearted boos. The point system was over for the year, so it was an empty threat. Ron had the distinct impression that their irascible Potions master was rather enjoying himself, and had his suspicions confirmed in the form of a chuckle from Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle.
"Listen," Malfoy said to Ron quietly, "There's a rumour that Fudge is going to make some sort of announcement at the end of all this about you two working for him at the Ministry."
"Bugger," Ron frowned, "Thanks for the warning."
"I had an idea you might like to try," Malfoy continued, waving the thanks off. He outlined it and Ron chuckled in appreciation. It was a true Slytherin touch, and one the bond could manage easily.
"Why are you interested?" Harry's question was lightly asked, his face as friendly towards Malfoy as Ron had ever seen it.
"I talked to Professor Snape about what you said. He's arranging an apprenticeship for me," Malfoy shrugged, "I think he was... relieved."
"None of us wants to see you... you know...," Ron shrugged, "We might not like you, but we don't hate you either."
"Fair enough," Malfoy nodded, and then fell silent as the Ravenclaw group reached them. Ron settled in next to his partner to watch the rest of the show, laughing and applauding with the rest, enjoying the stress relief as much as anyone. Hermione and Neville took off their partnership, lampooning them as terribly inept and clumsy, which they stood and applauded for, tears of laughter streaming down their faces. Harry sent a stream of flowers showering down on their friends, then yelled,
"Whoops! That was supposed to be toads!" to screaming laughter from the audience.
/ready/ Harry asked as Fudge swept onto the stage, beaming in a most revolting fashion at the audience. From the restless shifting of the audience and the teachers this was not a popular move on the part of Minister. His beam faltered a little, showing that he hadn't failed to notice, and Professor Dumbledore shifted uneasily in his seat.
/ready/ Ron's fingers were shaking with laughter, and Harry grinned, casting the first illusion spell above the Minister. The puppets strings and crossbar had people snickering in their seats as Fudge droned on about the 'talented generation of young Witches and Wizards about to make their way in the world'. Ron changed the strings to a chorus line of dancing pixies, which performed a series of impressive acrobatics behind him. Titters and giggles broke out through the audience, and Fudge faltered in his speech for a moment and Ron vanished the pixies before the Minister spotted them.
Harry created an illusion behind the Minister next, a reflection of the audience, altered so they were all asleep from boredom, reading a newspaper, playing Wizard chess, and a few other diversions that had them laughing outright. Neville's grandmother actually copied her reflection, pulling out some knitting and sending the needles flying busily.
Fudge whipped around and scowled at the illusion that Harry left for him to see. The Minister went a bit red and turned back to look at the benches where the seventh years sat. Harry and Ron's wands were clearly visible, though they didn't need them for such simple magic anymore. Ron created a small image of Fudge in his underwear, casting it behind the students in clear warning of what would come next if he didn't close his remarks right now, without making any reference to the partners. The Minister swallowed and closed his remarks swiftly. Harry and Ron banished their illusions and clapped politely with the rest of the school when Fudge finished up.
/that was far too much fun/ Harry sniggered into Ron's waist /we're going to pay for that/
/it was worth it/ Ron's fingers rubbed over his and Harry nodded his agreement. He looked up as his partner stood and got up too, following along at Ron's silent request. Ron led him to the middle of the aisle and turned to face him. Harry's eyes widened when he realised what Ron was doing - honouring a promise made a year ago to his despondent lover. Ron's warm lips and strong arms were a welcome haven and Harry enjoyed the kiss thoroughly, though they kept it fairly chaste.
"Ron and Harry, sitting in a tree!" Hermione's voice rang out and the rest of the Muggle borns from all the year levels joined in, shouting the rest of the verse gleefully, "K I double S I N G! First comes love, then comes marriage! Here comes Harry with a baby carriage!"
Harry's fingers asked permission, and Ron gave it lovingly. He dropped the glamour charm, bowed to his friends in the back row and led Ron out of the Great Hall with a huge smile.
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