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 10 - Epilogue
They'd sent the trunks on ahead by magic, instructing them to appear in the attic so as not to clutter the house unnecessarily. They'd said goodbye-for-now to Ginny, Hermione and Neville before heading out to Potters Field. Ron sneezed a little in the dusty kitchen air and Harry chuckled, moving to open the windows and the top leaf of the back door to let in some air. They'd have to clean the place thoroughly, but the use of magic would make it go much quicker.
"Get upstairs and start opening the doors and windows," he told Ron firmly, heading in to the laundry to get the windows there, and pull out the cloths and polish tins that were stored there with the rest of the cleaning equipment. He heard Ron walking about above his head, the rumble of a window, or click of a door sounding each time the footsteps stopped. Then Ron went further upstairs and Harry concentrated on setting his kitchen to rights, sending the rag rugs flying outside to hang over the line and banishing dust with a flick of his wand.
He walked up to the next floor, dusting the stairs as he went. The front door was wide open as well, and late morning sunlight was streaming through the fanlight above it, their family crest etched into the glass and shadowed onto the wooden floor. It took him half an hour to get the rooms there cleaned to his standards - as trained by Aunt Petunia. He could hear Ron shifting trunks around upstairs. Between the two of them they had managed to accrue an incredibly large amount of things at school. There were books and clothes and equipment and keepsakes from all sorts of times and places. They'd had a fairly large amount of left over potion ingredients, and were planning to build up their stock of ingredients as soon as possible by owl mail. The rear part of the laundry had been made into a neat little potion brewing area, with secure cupboards to ensure that no one could pick up dangerous ingredients or potions by accident.
Once he was satisfied with the living areas, Harry headed up the stairs, dusting as he went. Ron had piled the trunks of books at the head of the stairs and Harry put his cleaning supplies down to levitate the trunks back down the stairs, unpacking them onto the shelves with a flick of his wand, rearranging them with his wand until they were in the kind of order that a library would use. The more serious texts went into the library room, and the Muggle fiction went into the front room. Various knickknacks and photos were scattered through the shelves and over mantelpieces.
Harry sent the empty trunks zooming back up to the attic, peeked in on Ron who was scrubbing the bathroom diligently, and climbed up to the fourth floor to air and clean it thoroughly, then headed up the stairs to the attic to ensure the now unused trunks were stacked away neatly. He blasted the dust out of there as well and then headed back down the stairs. Ron had put away their clothes, put fresh linen on the bed, placed the books they were currently reading on the bedside cabinets, and was now airing Hermione's room.
"We'll have to add a nursery to this floor, and maybe move the two guest rooms up to the fourth floor," Harry told Ron's backside. Ron waved it at him in acknowledgement and then crawled out. Harry snickered, leaning against the door, watching his partner with a leer pasted on his face.
"I think we should keep Hermy and Ginny's room down here," Ron wiped a smut over his nose and Harry shook his head, pulling his clean hanky out of a pocket and leaning in to clean it off.
"They both said to me that they wouldn't mind if we put their room up a floor, but I don't know. It seems like we're saying that they're not as much a part of our family as they always were. The other room is different, we didn't decorate it for anyone," Ron put a dusty arm around Harry, and he leaned into the simple contact. He nodded his agreement into a strong shoulder.
"Are you done?" he asked Ron who nodded in turn and kissed Harry's hair, making a disgusted noise as he tasted the dust in the dark strands. Harry chuckled and pulled back. They were still wearing their school uniforms, which they had put on this morning before leaving the school more from habit than anything else.
"Then I think that we should have a bath," Harry suggested in a voice thick with meaning, "What do you think?"
"Bath," Ron turned Harry around and started pushing gently to get him moving. Harry laughed and dug his heels in just enough to make his partner work for it. Sometimes getting there was half the fun.
Harry looked up as the gate in the lane clicked quietly. Ron had gone to the village on the bike to replenish their supplies, and Harry had been lured into the garden by the promise of warm heady scents. The hedge had grown quickly while they were away, and Harry had removed the spell now that it was tall enough to hide the ground floor windows. He'd spotted a few weeds in the various beds and put his glamour charms back on so he could weed in peace. It wouldn't do to startle any passing Muggles, not that their lane saw a lot of foot traffic.
He spotted the familiar green pinstripe immediately and sighed. He really didn't want to deal with Fudge alone - or at all - but Ron would be another hour at least. They'd had plenty of fresh stuff from the garden - the anti bird wards had preserved the vegetable patch nicely, and Neville had cast a few healing spells on their old apple and plum tree, rejuvenating them once they had recovered from years of neglect and poor soil. Sheep were not the best of gardeners, and those trees hadn't been pruned in ages. Harry was planning to harvest their budding fruit in autumn and preserve it. There were even a few jam recipes he'd like to try. The vegetable patch had sustained them through last night - not that they were interested in eating with the whole house empty and their libido's given free and pleasurable reign.
"Good morning Minister," Harry bit back his sigh and Fudge leapt forward with his hands out, as if to help Harry to his feet. Harry beat him to it, not intending to let the man touch him if at all possible, "To what do we owe the pleasure?"
"I was hoping to talk to you, Harry," Fudge glanced around, his thinning hair floating a little in the breeze, "Is Ron here?"
"He'll be back any minute," Harry shrugged, dusting his dirty hands together and watching the other Wizard closely, "It's not a good time for us, though. Can we make an appointment for tomorrow?"
"Actually, I only wanted a quick word," Fudge smiled and looked over the house with interest. Harry glanced at the walls covered with rambling roses, the vines not very thick but supported by a trellis-like spell that would help them stay in place until they strengthened. He didn't want Fudge inside, his instincts screaming that something was wrong, so Harry led the way to the birch tree and the bench that he and Hermione had built from a Muggle kit and then improved a little with magic.
He waved Fudge to a seat and sat down at the other end, freezing the man where he was with a glare when the Minister made as if to move closer. Harry was feeling ridiculously exposed here - he hadn't even worn Wizarding robes out into the garden, settling for loose shorts and a t-shirt in order to be comfortable in the heat with his expanding belly. His wand was inside atop their CD collection, though he could defend himself without it if he needed to.
"What did you want to talk about?" Harry reminded the Minister, thinking how tired the man looked. Fudge started a little and offered an apologetic smile that Harry didn't buy for a moment.
"I was just thinking that you'd never know that two good people had died here," Fudge smiled in a sickly fashion, "I suppose you haven't seen any ghosts or anything floating around here?"
"No, I haven't," Harry snapped, the warmth of the sun suddenly failing to reach his skin. He felt his pulse speed up, adrenaline flushing his system as his body reacted to the verbal lash. He'd always hoped that wherever they were, his parents would have approved his decision to rebuild here. Ron had never mentioned any unease about rebuilding, though Harry realised that to some in the Wizarding world his decision might seem ghoulish.
"Well, that's good then," Fudge smiled, "Ghosts can be such bothersome things. They always see the things you don't want them to."
Harry tensed in anticipation as Fudge shifted on the bench, and shouted the shield spell as the Minister pulled out his wand. He lunged upright and ran for the house, not as well balanced or fast as he would have liked as the Bump threw his timing and speed off. Something impacted his shield and Harry grunted in effort, shoring it up desperately, the safety of the front door in sight. Doors and windows were slamming shut all over the house in response to Harry's panicked command, shutters springing into place to additionally protect the glass, and he skittered inside the door, slamming it shut against the next hex, hearing the spell impact and scorch the wood.
He had only two choices, stay and fight or get to safety and protect the children he still carried. Hoping that Ron could forgive him for running instead of staying, Harry Apparated, seeking the shelter of the Burrow.
"Harry!" Molly shrieked as he appeared in her kitchen, panting for air and staggering in place. She threw her arms around him and he grasped her shoulders, shaking her a little to get her attention as she asked him hurried, fearful questions.
"Fudge is at the house! He's throwing hexes around! Ron's in the village, he doesn't know!" he gasped as the babies protested the flood of adrenaline still surging through their connection, and groaned, doubling over with an arm around the Bump.
"Mum I left him! I didn't warn him! Get the Aurors!" Harry begged as she pulled him by main force over to a chair and sat him down. He watched through tear filled eyes as she threw Floo powder into her hearth and connected them to the Aurors department. Kingsley Shacklebolt answered her cry for help, and she relayed what Harry had said in a few terse words.
"Kingsley - he's not himself!" Harry called, "You must be careful!"
"Do you think it's the Imperio Curse?" Kingsley asked, not arguing with Harry's panicked words, earning the dark haired mans eternal gratitude. He had distanced himself from the Order of the Phoenix after Sirius' death, and the partnership had made placing themselves under one persons command seem unwise. Not even Professor Dumbledore could claim sole command of the pair, though they were most likely to do his bidding.
"I don't know," Harry shook his head helplessly, "But you've got to hurry - Ron's going to come back from the village and right into a trap! He'll know there's something wrong, because I used the bond to get away!"
"All right Harry, we'll deal with it now," Kingsley nodded and pulled his head out of the fire. Arthur Weasley Disapparated in the kitchen, startling Harry so badly that he threw a defensive shield over himself and Molly, making ready to fight off another attack.
"Arthur!" Molly exclaimed and Harry let the shield dissolve. His father-in-law hurried over to his side and hugged him briefly. Harry sagged into the offered support and then pulled away, intending to ask Arthur to head Ron off.
"Are you hurt? I was in Shaklebolt's office when Molly called," Arthur looked him over carefully and Harry shook his head in denial. Before he could open his mouth to reply, Arthur stood up and stepped back, looking at his worried wife.
"I'll head to the Field right now - don't worry Harry," the words were for him, but the look was for his mother-in-law, and Harry nodded miserably, biting his lip. Arthur disappeared with a sharp crack and Harry straightened up in the chair. The full realisation of his cowardly actions came crashing down around his ears and he shuddered hard where he sat. Awful nightmarish possibilities were dancing before his eyes, and there was an awful burning weight on his chest.
"I ran, mum, I left him behind," tears spilled over his cheeks and Molly put her arms around him immediately, giving him her shoulder to shelter on as he crashed from adrenaline rebound. Molly shushed under her breath and rubbed a hand between his shoulders.
"Harry, right now you have to protect yourself," she reasoned softly, "If you get hurt, your babies could get hurt. Being withchild makes you much more vulnerable because you have to protect them as well as yourself. Ron will be fine, and when he gets here he'll agree that you should have done exactly what you did."
Harry shook his head miserably and prayed she was right. If he lost Ron it would be the end of his world.
Ron slowed as he spotted the familiar shape of his father on the side of the road. His dad was waving at him urgently and he slowed the bikes headlong rush to get back to the Field. Harry had used the bond to deflect a spell being cast at him, then locked the house down tightly. The ring on his finger was throbbing along at a frightening pace and Ron had abandoned his full trolley to run headlong from the store.
"Dad! What's happening!" Ron yanked the bike to a stop and leapt off it. His dad grabbed his arm and looked around hurriedly.
"Harry's not hurt, he's at the Burrow - I want you to go there right now. I'll take the bike to the Field," his father said quickly and Ron yanked the helmet off, puzzled. How had the Death Eaters found them?
"Who attacked him? How did they find us?" Ron handed the helmet over to his father, and watched him buckle it on with swift fingers.
"We're not sure - there are Aurors at the Field now, I'll come home when we know what was going on," Arthur mounted the bike, "Go to Harry!"
Ron nodded and stepped back, Disapparating smartly. The kitchen was empty, but Harry was sobbing on a dining chair, with his mother kneeling in front of him, rubbing his shoulders in an attempt to comfort her distraught son-in-law. The sound of his arrival had a shield snapping into place around them both, the bond tingling with it as Harry's head jerked up off her shoulder to face the new arrival.
"Ron!" Harry shrieked and Ron hurried over, his mother moving aside so Ron could take her place, filling the arms that were reaching for him so urgently.
"I left you!" Harry sobbed and Ron understood exactly what the problem was with just those three words. Harry never left anyone behind in a dangerous situation. He was always the last one out, watching over his friends and companions tirelessly. Today he had to run first, to protect the children he carried, which meant that he'd left Ron to face whatever dangers were waiting at the Field alone.
"Good," Ron crooned softly, "You did exactly the right thing, mate. You had to protect our children, Harry, you had no other choice."
Harry hid his face in Ron's neck, the glasses digging into the skin there uncomfortably. Ron shifted his hands and managed to pull the glasses off, dropping them onto the table before resuming his massage of the small of Harry's back. His spouse was beside himself and from the little hitches in his breathing, the babies were not impressed that their father was in such an awful state.
"Mum, can you help me move him to a bed? He needs to lie down," Ron asked softly and felt his mother's hands join his. Between them they got Harry upright and up the stairs, despite his obvious wish to simply wrap himself around Ron and stay there. Ron's old room was totally bare, but he didn't really notice as he climbed onto the bed and let Harry find the most comfortable position for them both.
He curled close and kissed the dark hair, his hands roaming over the strong back, relieved beyond words that Harry had thrown his principles out the window to protect himself and their babies. He shushed and hummed and crooned, doing everything he knew to get Harry to relax and let go into sleep. His fingers traced his praise and love along Harry's spine, reassuring his partner that Ron totally agreed with his decision to run for safety. Molly sat with them, her hand tightly around Ron's ankle, watching as Harry's energy slowly ran out and he slid into fitful sleep. She squeezed the ankle she held and let go, getting up and leaving for a moment, returning with a wet flannel.
Ron wiped the warm cloth over Harry's tearstained face tenderly, crooning soft reassurance when he stirred before settling him back into position. Molly took the cloth from him and draped it over the windowsill, looking out at the garden and fields beyond.
"Mum, what happened?" Ron whispered, kissing Harry's hair again. Molly shook her head and turned to look at him, a grim expression on her face. Ron hadn't seen her look this upset since that snake had mauled his father.
"He said that Minister Fudge attacked him," she shook her head, "He was too upset to get much out beyond that - he was terrified that you'd be hurt or walking into a trap alone."
"Is Fudge insane?" Ron hissed and then had to shush Harry again as he stirred fitfully. Molly waved for him to keep his voice down and Ron resisted the impulse to hit her with the old Prefect's glare. His mother would not be amused.
"Harry said he wasn't himself," Molly shrugged, "Your father will tell us the whole story when he gets back. Harry's going to need to take it easy for a few days, dear. When a person's withchild it tends to take a little longer to recover from severe shocks like this."
"Once the house is secure we'll head back and he can rest there," Ron sighed, "Poor Harry. He never gets a break."
"He's strong," Molly said bracingly, and Ron smiled a little sadly. His spouse was very strong, but that didn't mean he should have to put up with attack after disaster after disappointment. He made a decision not to leave Harry alone again - they'd go around together or not at all. That would lift some of the burden for Harry, and he'd be able to spoil his partner rotten.
"Harry," the voice was soft and beguiling, and Harry followed it willingly, forsaking the warm comfortable darkness. He was greeted with a kiss and petting, and he cuddled close to the warm salty bread smell that said 'Ron' and 'safe'. The warm, comfortable body against his chuckled softly.
"Time to wake up, pet," Ron's voice coaxed and Harry shook his head stubbornly. Waking up meant dealing with the world and he had a vague idea that the world was not a happy place just at this moment. He was kissed again and tender fingers stroked over his eyes.
"Show me those green eyes, hmmm?" the request was so soft that Harry had to follow it, opening his eyes reluctantly and sighing. Ron chuckled and Harry blinked at him, wondering when they'd gone to bed. He tensed as he remembered what had happened and then relaxed again into Ron's arms. Ron wouldn't be holding him close like this if he was hurt, and they would have woken him quickly if there were danger. Despite the sleep he'd just had, Harry felt tired and his head ached a little.
"Come on ducks," Ron said lightly, "We'll clean up a bit and have some breakfast. That will cure your headache. Mum wants to feed you before we go home."
He felt a warm glow suffuse through him with the knowledge that his partner knew him so well that he'd detected Harry's discomfort as if it was his own. That sort of care was a luxury that he knew he'd never get used to.
"What happened? Was it Fudge?" Harry wasn't awake enough to ask coherent questions, and Ron kissed his nose before getting up and pulling Harry with him. His body felt a bit heavy and slow this morning, as if he'd been working hard and long.
"I'll tell you when you wake up," Ron promised and Harry followed him to the bathroom, recognising vaguely that they were at the Burrow and it was morning. Ron ushered him down the stairs and onto a seat at the table, popped his glasses on his face and handed him a bit of toast before Harry registered that there were other people around. He woke up enough to say good morning to Ginny and his parents-in-law, receiving understanding smiles in response.
He revived over breakfast and got up, against Ron's wishes, to carry plates to the sink. Molly shooed him back to the table and Arthur cleared his throat to get their attention.
"Fudge is in custody," he said straight away, "The Aurors are going over his house and office with a fine toothed comb, but he made a confession of sorts when he woke up from their stunning spells, so there's no great mystery about what happened."
Harry took Ron's hand, rubbing the slender fingers between his to reassure himself that Ron was at his side and unharmed. Ron shifted to lean his shoulder into Harry's and Arthur smiled at them both fondly. Molly was sitting with her arm around Ginny, and Harry took a moment to reflect on how lucky he was that this family had opened its arms to him.
"He wasn't under the Imperio Curse," Arthur sighed, "But he was working for the Death Eaters. It seems they made a deal, that if he killed you and Ron then they would see to it that he was re-elected for another eight years. They were going to turn in their lesser members that are still free in small numbers over the course of the next eight years to ensure that Fudge remained in office for a long time and could influence the laws and Aurors in their favour."
"Bloody hell," Ron swore softly, "So now they know where the Field is?"
"No," Arthur replied before Harry could start to get really worried, "Fudge didn't tell them that because he didn't know it himself at the time. He said that they'd know when the deal was done by the headlines in the Daily Prophet, and then they'd get together again and plan how to fix the election. They're planning to dose him with veritaserum this afternoon to make sure he's telling the truth."
"How did he find the Field?" Ginny frowned, asking the question Harry most wanted answered. If the Death Eaters had tracked them down then they might have to think about abandoning their home, "It isn't even connected to the Floo network yet, is it?"
"He talked to Percy," Arthur said heavily, "I'm sorry, boys, Percy didn't think there would be any harm in the Minister knowing where you were."
Ron growled something under his breath and Harry sighed. Percy seemed to think that the higher your position in the Ministry the worthier of trust and confidence you became. His brother-in-law would also have seized the opportunity to make himself more important in Fudge's eyes. Percy's ambition was almost a frightening thing, and Harry wondered why he hadn't been sorted into Slytherin.
"It doesn't matter any more," Harry patted Ron's leg, "He'll know better next time. Can we go home, now? I'd... like to check the house is ok..."
"Of course you can dear," Molly smiled, "And I'll be down to visit you tomorrow. We'll have a nice little chat."
"Harry - I didn't get the groceries!" Ron groaned and Harry laughed, getting up from the table. Ginny said that she'd go back to the Field with them and Ron could try again. Harry backed her up when Ron showed every sign of wanting to glue himself to Harry's side for the rest of his time withchild. He refused to cower in the house, afraid to be apart from Ron. They were stuck with each other and that was how it was going to stay.
"You want to go on a honeymoon?"
Ron watched Harry's eyes rekindle with animation. Fudge's attempt on his life had taken some of the zest from his partner's eyes, and Ron was determined to see his partner regain the animation he'd had before. Harry had been really happy at the house up until that point, and Ron had been very relaxed about their safety. He wasn't exactly running around shouting 'Harry Potter lives here', but he wasn't waiting to be attacked either. Now he had to ensure that he was more vigilant about Harry's safety without smothering his stubborn partner with his attentions. He was recalled when Harry reached out and put a hand on his arm, green eyes inquiring where his thoughts had taken him.
"Yeah, I thought I'd take my half of our last brewing fee and take you for a nice little trip somewhere, as a honeymoon," Ron grinned and took his partner into his arms, "Just you, me and the Bump. I'm sure Ginny will housesit for us for a week."
"Where were you planning on going?" Harry asked, thinking it over and Ron snorted, startling his spouse out of his musings. Questioning green eyes met his as the Bump rubbed lightly against his belly. Ron licked Harry's nose, grinning at the resulting face and squirm.
"We are going to Rome for a week," Ron informed him loftily, "I've got it all planned. We're even taking Muggle transport."
That had been half the fun, for Ron, finding out how Muggles usually travelled to other countries and then organising it for himself and his spouse, picking the most comfortable options he could find so that Harry would be pampered from the very start. He'd even organised the Human equivalent of port keys.
"Uh, Ron," Harry squirmed, pulling back from their hug as the Bump stirred and Harry tried to catch his breath. The triplets were very active at the moment, and had Harry dashing to the bathroom at odd intervals. Ron let go reluctantly, grinning in sympathy as Harry almost waddled off to the bathroom. He followed Harry into the hall and when his partner returned he took the other mans hand and led him up the stairs to their bedroom.
Harry baulked at the door, giving him a mutinous look and shaking his head.
"I don't want a nap," Harry protested and Ron shook his head. Naps were not negotiable as far as he was concerned - as Harry's withchild progressed, more and more of his energy went into the bond with their children. It left him tired and cranky at the end of the day unless Ron could get him to sleep during the day.
"I want a cuddle, and we don't all fit on the couch now," Ron pouted shamelessly. He did want a cuddle in fact, because he knew that it would send Harry to sleep. Harry gave him a look that said very clearly that he wasn't fooled but followed Ron to the bed anyway, settling on his side and grunting when someone kicked him unexpectedly.
Ron spooned around his spouse, helping to support the Bump, adding a few pillows to make things as comfortable as possible. He sent his fingers to the small of Harry's back and rubbed soothingly, aware that his children were making Harry's back ache. Harry growled in surrender as his body relaxed, and Ron chuckled, moving to whisper in Harry's ear about museums and buildings and history - both Muggle and Wizard.
"Sneaky sod," Harry murmured and slid into sleep. Ron kissed the ear he'd been whispering in and snuggled into Harry's back, well pleased with the reception of his idea. They'd pack when they woke and be ready to go tomorrow after Ginny arrived. There was a safe Apparation point at the Muggle airport in London. This was going to be fun.
They'd spend some time in the sun, looking at new and interesting things and Harry would be able to show off the Muggle world to his partner. They'd even been booked into a Muggle hotel, a very fancy one according to the Witch who had helped him plan the whole thing out. The hotel would pamper them both a little, as he had chosen one of their more expensive packages at his assistant's suggestion. He trusted her with their comfort, safe in the knowledge that Hermione wouldn't steer him wrong. They'd be sure to bring back a few souvenirs and a present for her as well.
Harry closed the recipe book he'd bought in Rome with a sigh and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. Thirty-five days may sound like a lot of time, but when dealing with babies, it was barely enough. The triplets were finally in a routine, though, and he thanked his lucky stars that Ron had been so patient with him. The birth had been a very powerful experience, and it had also frightened his lover to the point that Ron had abandoned their children to the care of his mother while he stayed at Harry's side. Harry had slept for a long time, woken completely refreshed and a little freaked that he couldn't feel the babies inside him any more.
They'd made their fair share of mistakes, all new parents did, and Harry was grateful beyond words that his mother-in-law was an understanding sort of woman. He couldn't have faced criticism of his early days as a father, which were mainly one long adrenalin fuelled panic. He and Ron had very little sleep and no time for each other at all while they tried to adjust to the presence of the babies and their nearly constant round of guests. Molly had finally put her foot down, kicked everyone out of the house, made sure her sons knew the basics and then left them to it as well.
They'd even brewed the Tears of the Phoenix in amongst all the chaos - it had actually been a very soothing activity as they were extremely familiar with the process and could handle all the ups and downs of the bond. The potion had gone off to the hospital and autumn had arrived at the Field, leading them out into the garden with the children while they harvested their fruit trees, prepared the garden for winter and worked in the conservatory on the days when it rained too hard to go out.
An owl from Professor Snape had interrupted that idyll. Their former teacher had another potion he wanted them to try and Ron had agreed to look the recipe over at the very least. One thing had led to another and Snape was arriving tonight with the ingredients and notes they would need. He'd be staying for a fortnight, and Ron was upstairs preparing a guest room for the man while Harry tried to decide what to prepare for dinner tonight.
"All done," Ron announced as he trotted down the stairs lightly. Harry nodded, pulled out another book and flipped through it desultorily. He shut it and tossed it back onto the shelf with a feeling close to desperation. Ron's arms snuck around his waist and Harry sighed, leaning back into the familiar body.
"Why am I panicking? It's not like I need to prove anything. This is Snape," Harry grumbled, and Ron kissed the back of his neck in a distracting fashion.
"That's why you're panicking," Ron murmured, "You spent the last seven years under his thumb, being called every name he could think of and accused of every crime he could create. Now he's the one looking for your approval and you want to prove that you're better than he was."
"That actually makes sense," Harry's voice was tinged with admiration and Ron snorted into his neck, making his skin tingle. It had been a long time since they'd been able to hold onto each other quietly. Cuddles usually had a baby involved somewhere as they dealt with colic and strange sleep patterns.
"Mmm, mum usually does," Ron agreed and Harry laughed, turning to return the cuddle, kissing Ron's warm lips gently. Five very nice minutes later Ron broke it off, drawing back reluctantly.
"Should I start peeling vegetables?" he asked and Harry smiled, kissing him once more before stepping back. There was a slight nip to the air outside, and he had just the recipe to counter it.
"I can manage," he replied, "You can set up the bottles. The Trio will be awake in another half hour, and Snape gets here in an hours time."
He turned and pulled the recipes from Rome out again, waving his wand at the cupboard to pull the ingredients he wanted from the shelves. Forty minutes later he was cradling Timothy and Edwina, while Ron fed Lawrence. There was a knock at the front door and Ron sighed, rolling his eyes.
"I'll bet that's Snape," he got up and headed up the stairs while Harry chuckled lightly, but activated their bond - just in case. He'd been a lot more cautious since Fudge had attacked them both, unwilling to risk their children's safety to a random caller. He felt Ron deactivate the bond once the front door was open and sighed. The next two weeks were going to be so much fun... not. He hoped that whatever had been going on with Snape in his last two years was over and done with now - the last things he need was Ron going off the deep end because his former Professor was 'looking at him funny'.
"Thank Merlin that's over," Harry shook his head, sending drops of water all over the place. Ron chuckled and reached for the shampoo, letting Harry check it before starting to wash his hair. Snape had left just an hour ago, headed for St Mungo's with the latest potion. This one had been a lot more difficult to master, as it required a greater draw on their bond. There were no mystical convergences or divine interventions to help brew this one, unlike Tears of the Phoenix, which used several natural wellsprings to ease the burden of brewing on the casters.
"We did it though," Ron grinned, "And the look on Snape's face was more than worth the stress."
"Mmmm," Harry didn't care about stress, not when he had Ron's fingers in his hair and warm water running down his body. Ron tugged on the strands his fingers were playing with and Harry opened an eye to glare at him lazily.
"Careful with that! I'm attached to it," he reminded his spouse. Ron grinned and went back to the massage. Harry was a slut for scalp massages, as his partner knew full well.
"We need to do something to thank Ginny and Hermy," Harry mumbled. His sister-in-law had come over to watch the babies after it became apparent that they would need to spend a full day brewing this concoction of Snape's. She had been full of pride and energy when she arrived, and had brought Hermione with her for company. Harry had welcomed them both after Mrs Weasley's imposed and rigorously enforced exile. Snape had been the politest he'd ever seen the man - probably because he wanted the partners mind on the potion they were brewing not their children.
"Medals might be nice," Ron recalled Harry to the shower and Harry ducked out from the wonderful hands of his partner, rinsing off quickly and pushing Ron under the water to return the favour. His internal clock was telling him that they would have to get out soon to feed the babies and settle them for the night.
"Nah," Harry chuckled, rubbing diligently, "I was thinking more along the lines of flowers, chocs, that sort of thing. If we start giving out medals to the babysitters we'll never get them to come back."
"True," Ron mumbled, "Besides, the Trio aren't that much of a handful once you're used to them."
Harry smiled and rinsed his partner off. It had seemed to take them a long time to get organised and into a routine. Mrs Weasley had dropped by once or twice though, and praised their methods. If the mother of seven could honestly say they were doing ok, and she wouldn't lie about something like that, Molly Weasley could be brutally honest when the occasion called for it, then Harry felt that he could relax a little.
He leaned in to give Ron a quick hug and felt a familiar length poke him in the thigh. Ron moaned and blushed, embarrassed by his response to the casual touch.
"I've almost forgotten what that was for," Ron told him and Harry grinned, sinking easily to his knees. They had time before the babies woke up if they were quick. He wrapped his hand around Ron's base and smiled up at his partner mischievously.
"How about a quick something to remember?"
Memory washed over him, as bright and sharp as the flames dancing in the hearth. Memories of holding Harry between his legs, back to chest, his partner crying out in pain, writhing with effort, the stench of strain and sweat and acrid agony stinging the air as the two women talked to them, and held Harry down on their marriage bed. Memories of other voices joining Harry's cries, of the surge of magic from his spouse as he protected the new voices and gasped for air.
A memory of holding tiny bodies in his arms, smelling powder and that indefinable something that said 'baby' to every species on the planet. Memories of his mother's tearstained face and Hermione's arms holding him close as she whispered in his ear, his father sitting with an arm around him, the twins tiptoeing around the Field on their best behaviour, Hagrid's late night arrival and wordless awe, Charlie walking in with the sun and the new light bringing so much clarity.
There was a pop in the fire, and Ron's eyes focussed long enough to be sure that stray sparks had been contained by the fire guard before he leaned his head on his hand, elbow resting on the dining table and the half full mug of tea as he let memory sweep him away once more. Memories swelled of struggling to change a nappy that smelt like a ten-day-old dead dragon while a small body wailed in front of him. Memories of being afraid to move, to even breathe while a fragile bundle nestled in his arms. The thankfully few moments of sheer unadulterated panic and mortification. Memories of sleepless nights and rare perfect moments of stillness and peace.
"You awake, dear?" Harry's voice sounded amused and Ron came back to the present as a warm weight settled on his thighs, and strong arms encircled his neck lightly. His partner's eyes were sparkling with humour and affection and a sexy hint of mischief. Ron tucked his thumbs in the back of Harry's waistband and smiled back rather fatuously. His spouse had obviously finished wrapping the Christmas presents he'd hidden from Ron, and come looking for his exiled partner.
"I am now," he promised, "Just remembering."
Harry bent his head and kissed him lightly, lingering to simply breathe Ron's breath, sharing warmth and peace with him. Ron hummed lightly in pleasure and leaned in to nuzzle the be-whiskered chin, dragging his lips lightly over the stubble there and welcoming Harry's body as it leaned into him even more.
"It's been a wild four months," Harry agreed when his lips were free again, "Remember the fight we had over decorating the nursery?"
Ron chuckled, the shouts still echoing in his ears. He'd wanted to use pink and blue and ruffles of lace in a very untypical fit of 'cute'. Harry had flatly refused, opting for sturdy, elegant furniture and plain walls. They'd ended up asking his parents opinion to break the stalemate, compromising in the end to keep the peace. When he'd finally come to his senses, Ron had been relieved that the frills and colour scheme hadn't made it past his spouse.
"Mmm, making up was fun though," Ron nipped Harry's neck lightly, "And for the record, you were right."
"I'm always right," Harry asserted complacently and Ron gripped the buttocks his hands were cupping as he snorted in unexpected laughter. Harry wriggled a little and kissed him ardently, diverting Ron from his planned retaliation.
"I remember the day after the birth, when the house was full of people," Ron offered when they'd come up for air, and Harry's face softened. Ron had been terrified by the pain and struggle Harry had gone through to bring their babies into the world safely, and had abandoned the children to his family in order to simply sit with his exhausted partner. When Harry finally woke he'd gotten up against Ron's wishes, had a quick shower and then walked down the stairs, seeking out their babies unerringly, holding each one in his arms in turn. Ron had pictures of it, the pure peace and radiant joy on Harry's face captured only palely by the camera, but preserved for all time in his heart. Ron had known at that moment that Harry would be a fantastic parent.
"The look on your face as you held your daughter," Harry kissed him again, "It was... indescribable."
"I was so scared I'd drop her. She was tiny," Ron confessed and Harry chuckled, stroking his fingers over the dark lock of hair at his partner's temple.
"Not any more - they're growing so fast," his best friend said lightly, "Three months old and already they're more of a handful than I can hold."
"You've got them in the palm of your hand," Ron retorted lightly, thinking how often it was that Harry was the only one that the babies would fall asleep for, a remnant of the bond he'd forged while bearing them. Ron didn't begrudge the tie Harry had to the children, he knew where he fit into Harry's life and was supremely content. Harry sighed and snuggled in, rocking his hips against Ron's groin lightly. Sex had taken a bit of a backseat to life lately, between the children and the potion brewing for St Mungo's.
Upon reflection, they were lucky that Snape had even waited until the children were a month old before arriving on their doorstep with a cauldron full of ingredients and another difficult potion to brew. They'd taken two weeks to prepare for the brewing, and a day to brew, with their former professor an unlikely, brooding guest the entire time. It had been a success, and St Mungo's had a new weapon in the war against disease. The partners had only increased their terms of contract with the hospital by a slim margin, aware that if they made the hospital pay too much they'd put the potion out of reach of the poorer members of their world.
"Speaking of holding things in the palm of the hand, are you going to do anything with what you've got there?" Harry recalled him from the rush of memory and Ron chuckled, pinching lightly, just to feel Harry jump and laugh in outrage. Their mouths met in a tousle of tongues and teeth that had Ron gasping to breathe at the end, and Harry wriggled about a bit, parting the dressing gown he wore and eeling athletically out of his pyjama bottoms. He was naked underneath.
Parts of Ron stood up in enthusiastic salute, and Harry chuckled, sending his strong hands to Ron's waistband and pushing at the striped flannel. Ron lifted his hips obligingly and murmured in appreciation as his briefs were pulled down too while Harry's mouth attached itself to an ear. The bond hummed for a bare second, and Ron found their jar placed in his hand.
Harry straddled him again and settled in to feast on his earlobe, driving Ron to pleasurable distraction while he attempted to slick his fingers and find the entrance to Harry's body. He encountered clinging heat and they moaned together, a slick pleasure sound that echoed the roiling sensations they were experiencing. Harry's fingers were commanding him to hurry, to just do him now, and Ron pulled free, slipping his hand to his own prick, slicking clumsily as Harry lifted himself up. Their connection was a taste of paradise and they moved languidly at first, then with slowly increasing urgency as their hands and mouth spoke words of love and praise.
Harry groaned and rolled smoothly out of bed and onto his feet. Going by rote more than anything else - he certainly wasn't awake and his well-loved and sated body was bitterly protesting any movement at all - he dragged on his glasses, slippers and a dressing gown, heading to the nursery to shush the crying baby.
Edwina sniffled at him and he slid his hands beneath her, lifting her to his shoulder and humming under his breath as one hand checked her nappy and the other held her securely to his chest. She was still dry and he rocked on the spot, squinting blearily at his sons, who were still asleep. His partner had dragged him up to bed last night - once they'd recovered from his little distraction on the dining room chair and they'd spent a long time on bed play, just touching and tasting to their hearts content. Fatherhood had cut their sex lives dramatically, and there were times Harry wished he could shag Ron stupid all weekend and not have to worry about any other responsibility.
Then one of his children would smile or coo at him and his heart would melt, berating him for his selfish wishes. Edwina's little hands were clutching his dressing gown and she calmed a little. Of the three, she seemed to want the most attention from her fathers. He just knew that she was responsible for the most of the kicking he'd experienced while carrying them, as her arms and legs wind milled quite wildly when she was first put down.
"Winnie?" Ron's sleep blurred voice sounded in the doorway and Harry grunted an affirmative. His partner came up behind him and slid his arms around his waist, rocking in time with them. The sun had only just come up, so it was about their usual waking time. Training would not begin with the Aurors until the children were six months old, and the Department of Accidental Magic Reversal was happy to call on them only in an emergency until the Auror training was done.
"You might want to start their morning bottles," Harry said reluctantly, enjoying the cuddle as much as his daughter was, "The boys will be awake soon."
Ron sighed but kissed his neck and let go obediently. He reached around and took Edwina from Harry's arms, settling her with the same practiced pat the green-eyed man had seen his mother-in-law use. It always brought a grin to Harry's face to see his spouse use the same gestures and routines that his mother had doubtless used on him.
"I'll take her down with me - why don't you use the time to clean up and dress. We can trade off on the feeding and be ready to go to Mum's for breakfast," Ron smiled and leaned in for a good-morning-lover kiss. They were accustomed to trading off on the chores so they could tend their needs as well as the children's, and Harry was glad that the friendship that they'd bargained over in school was standing them in good stead now.
Half an hour later Harry was shaved, washed and dressed and heading in to pick up Lawrence who had just announced his return from the land of nod. One nappy change later, Harry was walking quickly down the stairs to where Ron was singing to Edwina while he fed her the morning bottle.
"Do we need to send the Christmas presents on?" Ron stopped singing, holding up his free arm for his son. Harry deposited the baby and Summoned a bottle for his partner, smiling at the very domestic scene. The house wards announced that Timothy was also waking, and he was thankful their children had woken one at a time this morning. When all three woke at once, it tended to be a bit of a scramble.
"I did that last night, before we shagged each other stupid," Harry grinned and leaned over for a quick peck on the lips, "Merry Christmas, Ron."
"Merry Christmas, Harry," Ron smiled, "Now get back upstairs - our son is waiting."
Harry chuckled and jogged lightly up the stairs again. If anyone had said to him that this would be his life - bickering with a spouse over children and household at the age of eighteen - he'd have sent them to the secure ward of St Mungo's for prolonged rest and observation. Now, he wouldn't swap it for all the gold in the world.
An hour later Ron and the babies were washed and dressed, ready to travel to the Burrow for the traditional Christmas breakfast. Harry had offered to have the whole family at the Field for Christmas, thinking that the babies would be less bother to his in-laws with the Nursery on hand. Molly had been horrified at the idea that he would have to cater for her 'great galumphing horde' as well as cater for Christmas day, and had insisted that they come home. Harry had agreed on the condition that he be allowed to send on some puddings, jars of their own preserved fruit and some of his weekly baking to ease her burden, knowing full well that she would want to spend as much time with her grandchildren as possible.
He made sure the babies were warm and snug in the basket they used whenever they were Apparating with them and picked up several of the bags that always travelled with them. Nappies and bottles and toys and changes of clothes and favourite blankets... Harry shook his head, remembering the time when he and Ron travelled with only the contents of their pockets.
Ron smiled down at his children, so proud and happy that Harry had to blink to clear his vision. His partner took the other bags and put his hands on the handle, overlapping their fingers. They had learned to Apparate the children together, using the bond to ensure the five of them got where they were going safely.
"Ready?" Harry grinned, and Ron nodded, leaning in for a quick kiss. The bond hummed and they were gone.
Ron reached over and opened the kitchen door, ushering his spouse and children in quickly. The crisp air in the Burrow's yard was refreshing, but he didn't want to deal with three colds because he'd tarried outside. He heard his mother welcome them and stepped into the warmth, shutting the door and gladly dropping his selection of bags by the nearest cupboard, waiting until the basket Harry carried was empty before relieving the green eyed man of his burdens as well. The twins each had a nephew, and Ginny had her niece, leaving his parents and older brothers free to welcome him and Harry.
Percy introduced his girlfriend rather stiffly to them both, even though they both remembered the former Ravenclaw Prefect, Penelope Clearwater. Ron was impressed that she'd put up with his stuffy older brother for so long, and caught a similar look on Harry's face. Charlie and Bill thumped them both soundly on the back and put in their bids for equal time with the babies, finally vowing to have their 'turn' after breakfast.
"You two must be starving, sit down!" his mother shooed them towards the table and Ron settled beside George, with Harry next to Ginny. They'd split up in order to be near their children - just in case - and he caught his father's approving smile. Ron had worried that he'd drive Harry nuts with his protective urges, but had soon discovered that Harry was also a bit overprotective. His spouse had joked that by their fifth or sixth child they'd probably have calmed down a little.
"Now, they're not your babies at all today," Molly settled beside her husband, "We all agreed last night that you two would have a bit of a rest today and we'd take care of your children."
"Only on the condition that you let me help you cook," Harry said immediately and Ron smothered a grin. His Harry was a devious sod, he'd give him that. Molly looked like she was going to protest, but Arthur gave her a swift look and she gave in reluctantly.
"Can you cook, Harry?" Fred asked lightly, and Harry beamed at him in a fashion that had Ron cringing a little in reaction. That was a very naughty look.
"You'll see," he promised in a sinister voice that had the table laughing in seconds. In fact, Harry was an excellent cook, and Ron had learned to stay out of his kitchen. Breakfast was a lively affair, though the twins and Ginny had a hard time eating with only one hand. The triplets were very energetic this morning, probably in response to the atmosphere around them.
Once the meal was finished the twins and Ginny were sent off to do the washing up, and Bill and Charlie had their 'turn' with Edwina and Lawrence, while Penelope played with Timothy. Percy had yet to pick up any of his nephews or niece, and hadn't even come to visit when they were born. Arthur had said to Ron privately that his brother was still upset over the whole thing with Fudge, and rather embarrassed as well. His older brother had sent a very nice set of storybooks three days after the birth, but had begged off the formal introduction of the triplets to the Weasley clan. Ron could see that Harry was still a little upset over all this, and made a mental note to reassure his partner that the rejection was not caused by anything Harry had done.
Edwina had begun to fuss by the time the family moved to the front room and Harry curled up in what Ron was rapidly coming to view as their 'spot' on the floor with her in his lap. They made such a beautiful sight that Ron felt his face break into yet another sappy grin before he settled beside his spouse and first-born child. He snaked an arm around a supple waist and added his voice to Harry's humming the lullaby - a Muggle song in point of fact - that soothed her the best.
There was a flash and Ron blinked to clear away the after images. His father simply grinned and Harry chuckled a little under his breath. The camera had been in evidence a lot more at family gatherings as Molly and Arthur started on their collection of grandchildren pictures. The family book that Harry had given Ron for Valentines day had also been added to - the first pictures of the children being held by each father in there, and three new albums started to keep a record of the Trio as they grew. Molly sat on the couch and Arthur joined her with the family tin. He shook it and she stuck her hand in as they did every year for as long as Ron could remember, pulling out a card decorated with brooms and snitches.
"Harry, dear, you're Santa," Molly smiled and Harry kissed his daughter on the forehead before passing her over to her grandmother. Ron hitched his knees up and grinned as the twins made Harry put on one of their trick hats from the store, one that flashed and sang 'Jingle Bells' in a high pitched and annoying voice. Harry's patience had been tried and tested by the twins from the moment they'd met him, and Ron hoped that the practice both partners had with Fred and George would last when faced with the Trio's pranks and japes.
"Did you see Shacklebolt's face?" Ron crowed as Harry Disapparated beside him, "I thought he was going to wet himself!"
"Well, he did think that he had you in a dead lock there, what with me being busy on the other side of the room with those four friends of his," Harry chuckled and leaned in to peck his proud man on the lips. Ron was finding the Auror training highly stimulating. The Aurors had a hard time understanding that just because one of them was terribly busy with something else didn't mean the bond wasn't there to support the other. Harry had been working on the protegah charm with four of the Aurors assigned to their task force, and Shacklebolt had been duelling with Ron. Harry had been repelling hexes to demonstrate the shield while Tonks cast for him, and talking the other two through the use of the spell, as Ron had lost his wand to the expelliarmus charm. The bond had snapped to life and Ron had recovered his wand, taken Shacklebolt's and warded off several quick hexes in the space of seconds. Harry hadn't even faltered in his instructions.
"That ought to show him," Ron leaned in for a deeper kiss, and his eyes promised Harry a lot more once they'd recovered the children from their grandmother and gone home. Harry chuckled again and reached out, knocking lightly on the door - a habit he had yet to break - before opening it and stepping inside.
"We're in the front room Harry dear!" Molly called, and he heard Ron snort in amusement. None of her other children - even the ones who had left home - bothered to knock when they came home. Harry moved quickly through the kitchen and around the huge hearth, smiling when Edwina greeted him with a squeal. At five months, the Trio were crawling already, and had a habit of pouncing on their father's feet the moment they spotted them after a day apart.
"Hello Winnie," Harry scooped her up and kissed her on the cheek, handing her to Ron and turning to smile at Molly, "Did you have a good day, mum?"
"I did, they were as wonderful as always," Molly beamed and Harry grinned, bending to scoop Lawrence up for a quick hello kiss. Edwina was on the floor again already, crawling back towards the ball she'd been chasing when they'd arrived. Timothy was their slowest mover, which meant that he'd be the biggest troublemaker according to Fred. Harry had asked if he was speaking from personal experience and left the twin laughing.
"We really appreciate this you know," Harry went to kiss her hello as well, and she smiled at him fondly, "We're lucky to have you."
"I'm lucky that you're happy to let me take them for you instead of hiring a nanny or something," she replied, "I'm well aware that you could afford to."
"My children will be raised by family, not strangers," Harry said firmly, and Ron added his support to that sentiment, watching their Trio dispute ownership of the soft felt ball that Edwina had now retrieved. They had made firm plans for the babies should anything happen to destroy the partners. The Trio would not go to Muggles to be raised, no matter what happened.
"Harry," Molly pulled an envelope out of her apron and tapped it nervously on her fingers, "Professor McGonagal sent this on from Hogwarts for you this morning. I think it's from your cousin, the Muggle."
"Oh?" Ron walked over to retrieve the letter, opening it and pulling the paper inside out, moving with the assured knowledge that what he was doing had Harry's blessing. Harry didn't have any secrets from Ron - not when it came to the everyday things. He could still manage to surprise his spouse when he wanted to.
"She sent it here so that..." Molly trailed off and Harry smiled. Minerva McGonagal had been a strictly fair teacher, one that he would respect and admire for the rest of his life, but under the strict exterior was a very warm and caring woman, one who watched over the welfare of her students with a very intelligent eye. He knew that she had sent the letter here so that Harry had family with him while he opened it.
"It's ok, mum," Harry reassured her, "So I guess Dudley sent the letter care of the school through Muggle post?"
"That's right, dear. The owl post has an arrangement with the Muggle post for the Muggle borns and the businesses that work in both worlds," Molly confirmed and Ron shook his head, handing the letter over to Harry and plopping himself on the floor to play with his children. Harry came to sit next to his mother-in-law, tilting the letter so that she could read it too. When he was done he folded the letter away and smiled at Ron. The redhead was on his back with the babies climbing unsteadily all over him, jabbering away in their own version of speech. He and Ron understood them perfectly, though the rest of the family were often stumped.
"This is going to be interesting. They don't even know I'm gay, let alone married with children," Harry told him, "I really don't see the five of us popping in to visit them as Dudley suggests."
"So write him a letter," Ron fished Lawrence's hand out of his mouth, kissed it and caught Timothy as the baby slid off his shoulder. Edwina was trying to climb up on his leg, pushing herself so she was almost standing. The protective robes that they wore when training with the Aurors were similar in style to their Quidditch uniforms and just as brightly coloured, hence the children's fascinated grip on him. The uniform had the added bonus of protecting the wearer with several cushioning spells, so Timothy's unfortunate slip on Ron's stomach didn't do more than make him grin.
"The thing is, if Aunt Petunia honestly wants to see me..." Harry sighed, "I know they won't approve, and I know they won't understand, but I at least owe them the courtesy of listening to whatever they have to say."
"Ok," Ron heaved a sigh, which delighted Lawrence, who stuck his hand back in his father's mouth. Ron choked, fished it out and Harry bent down to take his son away, pulling him into his lap and jiggling a knee gently. The baby laughed and clapped his hands, earning the smiles of the adults around him in response.
"But I'm coming with you, and no arguments," Ron's tone was no nonsense and Harry nodded, bending to tickle Lawrence lightly, hiding his trepidation from his spouse.
In the end, Harry had walked to a Muggle phone box - Dudley had sent their number in the letter - and called his cousin, making arrangements to see them in London. Ron had argued that the babies should stay at the Burrow, Harry had argued that he wasn't ashamed of his children and they should see the only members of his family at least once in their lives; preferably now when they'd be unlikely to remember any unpleasantness. Ron's mother had backed Harry up and Ron had given in reluctantly.
Directions had been given to the Muggle Street that housed the Leaky Cauldron, and Harry had appointed a Muggle café as their meeting place. Ron had let his partner kiss the temper off his face before they left and had made a personal vow to be nothing but supportive and quiet during this meeting.
Petunia Dursley had gained some needed weight in the Muggle hospice, and Dudley had lost some as well. Their babies were too big to be carried in a basket now, and Ron had Lawrence and Edwina in the twins' old double pram, while Harry carried Timothy on his hip. Timothy did not ride well in prams - he had a tendency to fuss and cry constantly, which meant that one of his fathers carried him in turn about. Edwina and Lawrence loved riding, and the motion often sent them to sleep.
"Harry!" Dudley smiled, waved them over to the table, his eyes widening as he caught sight of the babies and Ron. Ron had argued that if Harry was going to tell the Muggles everything then they might as well see the children up front, and if things were looking skanky then Ron could take their children away. Harry had agreed, and Ron was relieved, as he watched the Muggle woman that had raised Harry take in the children and realise right away what was going on. The expression on her face was not particularly welcoming.
"Who's this?" Dudley asked, reaching out a hand to Timothy. Ron bristled and Harry put his hand protectively over Timothy's back to prevent the touch. Dudley's hand dropped, sadness washing over his face. His mother tugged him to sit down again at the table, and Ron and Harry took a moment to get the pram situated safely before sitting down as well. Timothy was clutching Harry's leather jacket with one hand, looking over at the strangers with big eyes.
"My son, Timothy Potter," Harry answered the question steadily, "His brother Lawrence and his sister Edwina."
"You got married?" Dudley asked innocently and Ron leaned over to take Harry's hand, making sure that the rings caught the other mans eye.
"We did," Ron confirmed, "And the children are ours, naturally."
Petunia Dursley looked as if someone had just dumped a load of rancid dragon dung in her lap, and Ron was proud to watch Harry meet her eyes with pride and a little defiance. Dudley gaped, picking up the meaning of the world 'naturally' straight away. His term at Hogwarts had taught him a little more about the world that Harry lived in and the power behind it. That experience might actually make things easier for Harry now, or so Ron was hoping.
"I... didn't know that was possible," was the neutral comment, and Ron nodded. Timothy crowed and waved a hand for attention, sensing that his father was upset. Harry glanced at his watch and reached for the bag with the bottles on the back.
"Uh... may I help you?" Dudley's offer was surprising, and Ron left the decision to his spouse. If he felt that Dudley could be trusted with one of their children then Ron would allow it, though the bond would be on standby from the first moment he touched their child.
"That's ok, they're a little fussy around strangers," Harry smiled easily, and they were interrupted by the waiter. A quick glance around, and Ron ordered tea and sandwiches for the two of them, waited while Petunia and Dursley placed their order and then fished Edwina out of the pram for her bottle. Lawrence was still asleep, and that gave them a little breathing room when it came to feeding the Trio.
"Well," Petunia's tone was waspish to say the least, and Harry tensed. Ron hit the woman with a glare of his own and watched it bounce right off her, like a spell off their shield, "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that you turned out as unnatural as your mother."
Ron felt his gut clench in dread and opened his mouth to shoot her down, hesitating and glancing down at his daughter. That moment of hesitation allowed Harry to speak instead, his voice low and calm, pleasant to listen to though the words were not.
"I finally figured you out, Aunt. Your sister and you must have competed pretty fiercely when you were children - the little that I've been able to learn about my mother tells me that she was a competitive person. And when she got her letter to go to school she had finally managed to out compete you in an area that you would never be able to catch up. I don't know why it is that grandmother and grandfather allowed this to continue, but... never mind," Harry shook his head and smiled at the woman sitting opposite while Ron smiled at him in pride. His Harry was finally taking a stand, something that would have been impossible two years ago.
"Then I was delivered to your front door step, and you not only learn that your sister has been killed, but that you are expected to raise her son. I can only imagine your triumph. You finally had the perfect means to get your revenge by making sure that I had no way to compete with your own son - until of course, you realised that one day, I too would go to a school that would teach me to do things that Dudley would never be able to manage. Hence the hate that you poured all over me that last summer we spent together. The irony of it is, that if I had been treated well, and accustomed to spending the holidays at home with you there may have been something I could do for you when you were attacked."
Petunia went a nasty shade of white and Dudley bit his lip. Ron could see that the Muggle teen clearly regretted his own part in Harry's mistreatment, though that regret would never begin to satisfy Ron. His partner had endured abuse at the hands of those that should have treated him fairly at the very least.
"Now, I don't want to hear whatever hateful things you have to say about me and mine," Harry said softly, persuasively, "I came to see you because you requested it. But if you think that I am for one moment interested in listening to another outburst of your prejudice and lies then you may as well leave now."
"I suppose you think I should apologise," Petunia snarled through stiff lips and Harry smiled, shaking his head as he burped Timothy. Ron put Edwina in the pram and took Timothy from his spouse as Lawrence woke and cooed for attention. Harry picked the boy up and fished out another bottle, warming it with a quick charm muttered under his breath.
"I do," Ron confirmed, startling the Muggles, who blinked at him as if he had just appeared out of thin air, "But I know that's too much to hope for. You won't apologise because you don't think you did anything wrong. He doesn't want an apology, though, because he's soft in the head."
"Thanks, pet," green eyes crackled at him across the head of their child, and Ron shrugged. Harry sighed, but before he could speak again, Dudley spoke up.
"I'm sorry," his voice was soft, but clear, "I'm sorry that I treated you the way I did. I should have treated you better, no matter what mum and dad thought of you."
Ron smiled, pleased that at least one of them was willing to own up to their mistakes. The waiter arrived with their food and Petunia stood up, glowering at her son and stalking out of the café wordlessly. Dudley sighed and got up too. The waiter watched with fascinated eyes until Ron cleared his throat, recalling the man to his task of placing the food on the table.
"I'd better get after her," he hesitated, "Will you... I'd like to stay in touch... maybe we could write each other?"
"Sure," Harry nodded, looking a bit weary; "I'll send Hedwig to your address in a few weeks. She'll wait for your reply."
"Ok," Dudley nodded, put a few notes of Muggle money on the table and hurried after his mother. Ron reached over and caressed Harry's fingers.
/are you ok//
/I am/ Harry's smile confirmed that sentiment /it needed to be said, Ron, and I'm glad I did. If all that comes out of this is that Dudley and I get to know each other as people instead of enemies then I'm more than happy/
Ron nodded and looked at the people around them surreptitiously. There were one or two people looking at their joined hands curiously, but on the whole there was no real censure for their touch. He smiled and looked back at Harry.
/so here's the plan/ he told his partner with a smile /we finish our sandwiches, drop the Trio off at Mums for the afternoon and go home to release some... tension/
Harry's smouldering look more than indicated his approval of that idea.
The tingle of the house wards across his skin woke Harry and he lifted his head from his pillow cautiously. There was someone in the kitchen, though the house recognised that they had authority to be there. Ron was dead to the world and snoring happily in Harry's ear and his fingers caressed his partners to get him to let go. Harry put on his glasses, collected his wand and shoved his feet into slippers, padding quietly out to the top of the stairs. He sealed the hallway behind him, drawing a wall across the top of the stairs and protecting his family. Mad Eye Moody's refrain of 'constant vigilance' had never let him down yet - it was better to be safe than sorry.
Wand at the ready he moved silently down to the first floor and then sealed that behind him as well as he ghosted down the kitchen stairs. George sat slumped in the armchair they'd placed in the kitchen. Ron liked to read there while Harry cooked, and later it had become very useful to sit in whilst feeding a baby. Harry lit the candles in the kitchen with a wave of his wand and George jumped in surprise.
"Hello George," Harry said quietly. Satisfied that it was his brother-in-law and that there was no malevolent influence at work, Harry put the kettle on for tea and went to lean on the counter nearest his friend.
"Hullo Harry," George said dully. From the smell he'd been drinking heavily, and his hands were shaking badly as well, "Wassup? Can't sleep?"
"No," Harry shook his head, disguising his amusement easily, "I thought I'd have some tea. Would you like a cup?"
"Ssssure," George nodded. Harry got out the mugs and teapot, glancing back at the redhead. He was still nodding, his eyes staring vacantly ahead. Whatever had happened to him tonight had shaken him up a great deal. There was no blood, and none of the jangle that Harry had come to associate with the shield spells. He reached out with the bond lightly to touch the amulet at George's neck and felt no sense of past peril or pain. Harry brewed the tea, made sure that George's cup had an anti-spill spell on it - one that they'd learned to use for the Trio and their first attempts at feeding themselves - and handed George's over.
"So, what have you been up to lately?" Harry prodded gently, sitting on the kitchen floor and sipping his tea. George stopped nodding and tracked his eyes blearily to Harry's face.
"The shop is doing really well, Harry, really it is," George mumbled, "Did we ever thank you for the starter money? We could probably pay you back by now, it's doing that well, really."
"I don't want to be paid back," Harry reminded him. As far as he was concerned that was blood money, tainted by Cedric's death. He'd always thought that Cedric would approve of the use the prize money had been put to; the Hufflepuff Quidditch player had enjoyed Fred and George's pranks and larks.
"Are you sssure?" George squinted at him, "It would be no trouble www-what so ever..."
"I'm sure," Harry promised, "How's Fred?"
He'd decided to prod things along a little. It was very rare to see one twin without the other somewhere nearby, and if they'd had some kind of falling out, then it was always possible that George had decided to get out of the flat they shared for a while rather than continue the row. Fred was the feisty one, George had the cunning. Between them they made a remarkable pair, certainly not a team to go against, as Professor Umbridge discovered.
"He's getting married," George gulped at the lukewarm tea in his mug and gagged a little on it. Harry got up and patted him on the back, taking the tea away and sitting on the arm of the chair. The house wards tingled again and he looked up in time to see Ron remove the barrier at the top of the stairs, squinting down them suspiciously. He frowned and then retreated into the shadows at Harry's gesture, giving his partner tacit permission to deal with this for now.
"Who's he marrying?" Harry asked, putting a hand on George's shoulder. The shoulder shrugged miserably, and its owner blew out a miserable sigh. There was a shift in the shadows as Ron jumped in surprise at their words.
"We've been d-dating this girl the last year or so - never introduced her to mum or dad. I thought that they w-w-w-were just friends - the three of us went out a lot," George swallowed a sob and bunched his fists in his lap, "Me and Fred, we've been t-t-together all our lives, and now he's dumping me for this g-g-girl."
"Oh George," Harry rubbed the bony shoulder his hand was resting on and wondered how to deal with this. Fred had obviously made his announcement and George had headed for the nearest pub. Someone Apparated upstairs and Harry saw Ron whisk away to find out who it was. George was sniffling a little and Harry looked to see if he could spot a hanky anywhere - they'd been doing the laundry this morning.
"George!" Fred's voice was unmistakable, and unfortunately too loud. The nursery wards announced that Edwina and Timothy had woken. Fred came roaring down the stairs and Harry got up, heading for the nursery, Ron a few steps ahead of him. There were a few shouts below, but Ron sealed the door with a silence spell and Harry picked up his daughter.
"Bloody hell," Ron muttered, and Harry nodded in agreement. He turned his attention to soothing the baby in his arms. They'd ensure the silence spell stayed on the door until they knew for a fact that the twins had finished their row.
There was no sign of damage to the kitchen Ron was relieved to see. The twins' rows were rare, but often spectacular. Harry would have been well miffed if the twins had left his kitchen a mess. Ron started preparing breakfast for the Trio and his partner while Harry got the triplets dressed and refilled the bags that would go to the Burrow.
There was a whoosh from the fireplace, and Ron turned, smiling at his mother when she stepped out of the hearth, brushing soot from her robes.
"Good morning, Mum," Ron went to kiss her cheek and she hugged him back enthusiastically, "What brings you here so early?"
"I want to talk to you and Harry," Molly informed him and Ron glanced up to the top of the stairs. Harry had the boys in his arms, smiling at the Witch in their kitchen in surprise.
"Good morning, Mum," Harry kissed her cheek to and handed over his burdens, "I'll just pop up and get Edwina."
"I'm staying for breakfast, dear," Molly assured him and Ron's partner smiled happily. There was nothing that Harry loved more than to have family drop in unannounced and let him feed them. Ron smothered a yawn and jiggled Timothy on his hip a little, waving his wand to direct the operations in the kitchen. Lawrence was snuggling into his grandmother's shoulder, and Edwina squealed happily when she saw their visitor.
"That's just like Ginny," Ron winced, "Of all the family traits you had to pick from couldn't you have chosen something quieter, Winnie?"
His daughter dimpled at him charmingly and blew kisses. Harry laughed and added his magic to Ron's, getting breakfast for all six of them on the table quickly. With a baby each, things were rather lively for a while, and Ron was glad that he'd learned the re-heat charm for his own breakfast.
"So, I guess you found out the twins had a row last night," Ron said to his mother when they were finished with the food, and lingering over the morning cup of tea. She nodded, patting Lawrence on the back gently while he played with the fringe of her shawl.
"I did," she confirmed, "George and Fred came to see us at dawn and arrange a time to introduce their fiancé."
"Their fiancé?" Harry frowned at his spouse, "I thought that George said it was Fred who was getting married."
"Well, I don't know what he said, of course," Molly beamed, "But the boys told me that Fred decided that he and George should marry this girl... who we haven't met at all yet... and George got the wrong end of the stick. George came here to see you, Fred followed him and you two let them sort it out."
"They woke the babies," Ron confirmed, "It took Harry an hour to get Winnie back to sleep."
He was rather miffed about this, as Harry still needed his sleep. Ron would fuss over his spouse until the day they died, and probably find a way to do it in the afterlife too.
"Well, after they sorted it out they went and proposed to her and she said yes, so of course, tonight we're having a celebration. You will be there, boys?" she asked. Unlike the Aurors, who were highly organised and efficient, the training schedule for the Department of Accidental Magic Reversal was a little haphazard and depended on accidents happening to allow it's members to practice.
"We'll try," Ron promised, "That's the best we can do. You know how it is, Mum. If we can't make it we'll let you know and the Trio will just have to fill in for us."
He could see that his mother was less than impressed with this answer, but it was the best they could do. He kissed her on the cheek as he ran upstairs to get ready, while Harry cleaned up the breakfast things and Summoned the Trio's bags down the stairs.
"Who do you think it is?" Harry asked Ron as they changed after work. Things had gone well today - they'd been able to get some work done for both Departments they worked for and Ron had been called to the Minister's office for a briefing. The new Minister for Magic was much more reasonable than Fudge, and insisted that the partners brief him once a month about their workload. Ron had taken that duty over, to give Harry a break from the stares that still followed him about whenever he went to the Minister's office.
"I don't know, but if they haven't had her in to meet the family before now..." Ron shrugged and Harry detected a note of trepidation in his voice. He moved to take his partner in his arms, rubbing his hip gently.
"Don't worry," Harry soothed, "It will be alright."
He was rewarded when Ron relaxed into his embrace and smiled in the red hair that his face was pressed to. Even after all this time, Ron still reacted well to hugs and cuddles. Harry felt that this little intimacy was as important as more explicit touching - it had been the first touch that he had instigated with his partner.
"We'd better get going," Ron sighed, "Come on."
Harry let go reluctantly and kissed Ron's nose on the way past. They Apparated to the Burrow, choosing to appear at the foot of the tree where they had consummated their wedding vows. Harry ignored the leer that Ron was giving him - they'd use a fertility spell next time, that way there would only be one baby to carry instead of the three or four that would likely result from copulating on a ley line - and headed for the house.
The Trio were in the pen that Arthur had made for them. Molly needed a break now and then to be able to prepare meals, or beds or any other chore that required two free hands and a bit of concentration. Harry went to his children straight away, bending to kiss them and say hello. They were almost nine months old now, and able to stand up. They had grown so independent of him now they were no longer inside his body, and he was proud of them all. Despite that he missed them terribly during the day.
Molly smiled at him in approval, so Harry knew there was at least one Weasley who didn't mind that he checked his children over first. He was determined not to smother them or deny them the chance to take the usual childhood risks, and he knew that he would be depending on Molly for advise and comfort as they got older.
"The twins will be here any minute," she kissed him hello, "You're right on time, dear."
"Have I told you how grateful I am that the Trio can come to you during the day?" Harry murmured and her smile got even wider. Arthur chuckled from behind Harry and he turned to look at his father-in-law.
"I'm pretty sure you said it this morning," Arthur told him easily and Harry grinned. He wasn't in the habit of taking people for granted. There had been so few people he could absolutely rely on as he grew up and it meant that he was wary of abusing another person's good will now.
"Ginny is going to be mad that she missed this," Ron remarked as he sat in a dining room chair, Edwina in his lap, "Pity that school is still on."
"She'll graduate this year," Harry realised and Molly chuckled. The fire in the hearth flared green and Fred stepped out, followed by a girl, followed by George. The girl looked familiar and Harry glanced over at Ron, who was staring at her with a gleam of recognition in his eyes.
"Angelina!" Ron exclaimed and the face fell into place for Harry. She'd changed her hair radically and gained about a stone of weight, altering her face and figure subtly, but his former Quidditch Captain was easily recognisable.
Harry grinned and settled back in his chair. Trust the twins to find the one person in the world that wouldn't mind dating them both at the same time. Life was about to get very interesting.
The End! (Yes, I'm serious!)
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