|Author: Athea (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Title: Forbidden Forest, part 13
Summary: Someone new enters the mix.
Date: 27 September 2002
When Dumbledore invited me to come back to Hogwarts as the DADA instructor, I'd rejected it out of hand. But he'd written me again . . . and yet again until I told him that I'd think about it. That's when he invited me to spend the summer at the school while I was thinking. I hesitated for a day or more but the chance to rest in a place of safety while regaining my strength after an unending series of back-breaking temporary jobs was too great a draw and I owled my acceptance to him.
A port key arrived with return owl and I packed up my meager belongings and left Muggle London behind. Dumbledore met me at the gates and hugged me close. "My dear Remus, how very glad I am that you are here."
I hugged him back and thought he looked his age for just a moment. "I was sorry to hear about Snape's death."
"You held no bitterness against him?" Dumbledore asked me with a searching look.
I smiled sadly. "We had an almost friendship when we were younger. I still don't know why Sirius did what he did but I understand why Snape's reaction was to lash out. I hoped once that we'd be able to sit down and talk it out. It's too late now."
Dumbledore hummed an agreement, I thought while leading me to the rooms where I'd spent my time during my brief tenure as teacher. They were simple and homey and I felt safe for the first time in over a year. He left me with a reminder of dinner at six and when he shut the door behind him, I relaxed all over. Dropping my bag at the foot of the bed, I headed for the bathroom and a long hot bath.
Dressed in my best robe or rather the one least in need of repair, I went down to dinner in the great hall. There were only a few of us so we all ate at the tables near Dumbledore. Harry was at my table and he grinned when he saw me. We had little privacy to talk more than generalities but after dinner we took a walk around the grounds. They looked like they needed mowing and Harry said that Hagrid had been busy with building a small animal hospital in the Forest so he hadn't been able to do as much on the grounds.
I thought something was odd but he was talking about learning to build and his enthusiasm was good to see. I offered my help and he hesitated before saying that the Headmaster would probably have something for me to do. I was getting an odd feeling about Hogwarts and its inhabitants. The wards around the school had been strengthened but there was still an air of tension and unease in everyone I met. Hopefully, I'd find out what was going on before much more time had passed.
Two days later there were three separate attacks on wizards and our communities. Reading about them was frustrating but when I read that Harry had been involved in one while shopping with Hagrid, I was astounded. I'd seen him five minutes before eating an apple while reading a book in the crook of an old oak tree. Something odd was definitely going on.
But when I went to Dumbledore's office, he wasn't there. He and Minerva were both missing from dinner and Harry wasn't talking or eating much. He just smiled and said that Hagrid and his family had taken him shopping. I hadn't realized that Hagrid had any family but Harry chattered on about his sisters and how nice they were until I thought I'd never get a word in edgewise. I saw Dobby come up and whisper something in his ear right before he excused himself from the table and left in a rush.
Heading back to my room, I caught a sniff of roast chicken wafting up from the dungeons. There shouldn't have been anyone down there since Snape's death. The Headmaster had told me that he was taking the classes himself for the summer. So who could be there?
I hesitated only a minute then headed silently down the steps. Sounds echo oddly down in the lower levels of Hogwarts, they always have. Outside the potions lab, I thought I heard something but the door opened onto an empty classroom. My hearing might be chancy but my sense of smell had never let me down and I could smell a fire, the roast chicken and . . . I sniffed a little harder, an open bottle of red wine.
So I followed my nose back into what I'd always thought was an empty hallway only to find an arched doorway where there had never been one before. Or had it been be-spelled since I was a student? Should I or shouldn't I enter? The gentle murmur of voices decided me, I never could resist a mystery rather like the young Snape.
I pushed gently against the door and it swung open wide. The people in the room froze when they saw me standing there. Dumbledore rose instantly and strode forward to meet me. "My dear boy, how very enterprising of you to find us out. I expect you know most of the others here but may I introduce Rhea Hagrid and Royan Hagrid, Rubeus' sisters."
A statuesque redhead nodded to me while a slightly smaller dark haired woman eyed me militantly from where she stood with one arm around . . . Snape, a very live, very happy looking Potions Master. Hagrid stood at his back and his big hands held him protectively against him. Whatever was going on, I knew that I'd probably need a drink before it was over.
"Remus, how nice to see you again. Are you going to accept Albus' offer to be the new DADA instructor? I think this time you would have no . . . opposition." Snape's silky smooth tones were the same as ever but his smile was a real one and not one I'd ever seen from him before. "Why don't you join us for dinner and we'll catch you up on all the news?"
"I . . . yes, thank you I think I will." I stammered a bit but all my ideas had just been blown to smithereens. What the hell was going on here?
Dinner was even more surreal. Dobby kept flitting in and out with heavily loaded trays of delicious food. Harry had obviously saved his eating for this dinner and he kept the conversation on future plans instead of the past or present dangers. I kept quiet and observed the interaction around the table that Dumbledore had had to expand to accommodate all of us.
Minerva and Rhea were chatting about the theater. Hagrid was smiling at everyone but keeping a sharp eye on Snape, who was slow to eat the tempting dishes put in front of him. The other sister, Royan, sat on his other side and made sure that his water glass was kept filled. All of us were drinking the wine that Dumbledore had opened, even Harry had tried a half-glass but not the Potion Master.
He looked rested but drawn with the marks of old pain still there on his face. He was never a very talkative man, always keeping his thoughts and feelings locked away. But he was more relaxed than I'd ever seen him. I'd always found him driven to succeed, to learn more, to be in control at all times, in short the most anal retentive individual I'd ever met.
But that Snape was no where in sight tonight. His dry humor was still evident but the sting was gone. My eyes kept returning to him but slowly they began to slide to his side and the beautiful woman who sat there. I remembered she was tall as Snape, which put her almost three inches taller than me but I didn't think that would matter. The militant gleam in her eye when she caught me staring at them made me smile.
The conversation and the missing parts from it told me that I had to find out what the hell was going on here. I also wanted to talk to Royan Hagrid by herself. Something in her gaze, her tones, her vibrant face and expansive gestures pulled me like a magnet to iron. By the time that dessert arrived, she'd realized that I was watching her and not Snape. And just like that, her scent changed to . . . interested.
That meant that I was going to have to ask Hagrid permission to take his sister for a walk. He was in full protective mode of his family and that included Snape for some reason. He'd always been empathetic with the magical creatures of whom he took such good care. Snape just might fit that description if Hagrid was the one to find him and nurse him back to health.
Now, I just had to brave the half-giant's scrutiny and make sure that Royan knew that I was a werewolf right up front. I wanted no more lies of any kind in the people around me. The older I grew, the less I wanted to hide.
Well, this was a fine mess and no mistake. I'd always liked Remus Lupin. It weren't his fault that he'd gotten bit when he was little. Never any trouble with him, I remembered. It was always that idiot Black who was getting up nasty practical jokes. Remus would be a good DADA instructor and this time no parent was going to complain, not when the world outside was so insecure.
And with that reminder of violence, I just had to look at Sev again. He had taken a few bites of the raspberry sherbet and enjoyed them but his appetite was down. Could it be the baby? I just had to touch him again to make sure he was really here, beside me, carrying our son inside of him. That was such a miracle that I could still hardly believe.
"Hagrid?" Remus' voice distracted me from mooning over Sev.
"Yeah, Remus." I turned my attention to him.
"Does your family know that I'm a werewolf, Hagrid?" He asked me but his eyes were just beyond me to . . . Royan?
"Yes, we do, Professor Lupin." Royan answered him with a little purr in her voice that I'd never heard before.
"Ah, good. Would you like to take a walk, Miss Hagrid?" He asked her.
"I think that sounds lovely, if you'll call me Royan." She smiled at him while my gaze went back and forth between them.
"I'm Remus. Shall we go? The stars should be coming out any time now." He pushed back his chair and stood up, coming around Sev and me to pull out her chair.
She stood up and dropped her napkin on the table. "Dinner was delightful, everyone. I'm so glad to meet all of you. Rhea and I will be staying for another week or until after our parents arrive to celebrate Rubeus and Severus' bonding. I'll see you tomorrow, Rube. Take care of Sev."
Dropping a kiss on my bonded's head, she tucked her hand into the crook of Remus' arm and let him lead her from the room. I was still in shock, I think but Rhea's laughter brought me out of it. She and Sev were laughing together while the Headmaster twinkled at them both.
"What just happened, Rhea?" I asked a little plaintively.
"Royan just returned Remus' interest, my dear brother. Mum is going to be dancing for a month when she hears about this." She was smiling and cheerful while I tried to picture little Royan dating the new DADA instructor.
"She barely knows him." I protested. "She's just a baby."
"Remus has grown into a very interesting man, Ru'. I think we might like the person he's become. He was always more sinned against than sinning. I thought once that we might be friends." Sev slipped his hand into mine. "Perhaps that might happen now. As for age, well, Royan and I were born the same year."
"Ya really thinks she likes him?" I seemed to be slow tonight.
"Rube, I think she's willing to give him a chance. Isn't that what Albus is giving him with the offer of the DADA job?" Rhea smiled tenderly at me. "Perhaps everyone needs a second chance now and then."
"Albus gave me that chance more years ago than I care to admit." Sev said softly, looking up at me with those beautiful dark eyes of his.
"And that has made all the difference in this war that we're waging, Severus." The Headmaster smiled and reached across the table to add his hand on top of ours. "Perhaps that muggle writer had it right when he wrote 'all for one and one for all'."
"The Three Musketeers," Harry sat up straight and grinned. "I loved that book. I wish we had more muggle writers in the library here."
"Come to the cottage, Harry. I have it in my collection along with others by Dumas." Sev said gently. "And Remus is right, dinner was very good. Dobby, thank you. You do know that my presence here must be a secret? I must remain dead to everyone except those who are here tonight."
"Dobby knows." The little elf nodded vigorously. "Dobby is thinking that Mr. Hagrid and Professor Snape is needing a house elf to be cooking and cleaning for them."
Alarmed, I sat up and started to say no but Sev stopped me with a touch. "I think Dobby has a good idea, Ru'. With your mother coming very soon, some major cleaning needs to be done now. We have yet to solve the problem of where to put everyone who's due to arrive."
"I'll owl Mum to bring the caravans down with her and Dad." Rhea said confidently. "She and Dad will bring one and Gersey can drive the other one. Once in the grounds of the school, we can float them over the Forest to park near the cottage while the horses stay in the mews here. If Albus wouldn't mind?"
"Splendid idea, my dear, simply splendid." The Headmaster was beaming at all of us. "Dobby, do you know of an elf who would enjoy living in the Forbidden Forest?"
"Dobby is thinking that Ara might be liking it. She is not liking all the people who rush, rush, rush. She is liking quiet and green growing things. Ara is not liking talking all the time." The little elf nodded sagely. "Dobby is asking her tonight if Professor Snape is liking the idea."
"Thank you, Dobby, why don't you ask her and let us know in the morning?" Sev sighed a little and leaned against my shoulder. "I believe I would like to stay here tonight and have one of your excellent breakfasts tomorrow, Dobby."
"Sev, ya're tired, aren't ya?" I slid an arm around him and cuddled him right there in front of everybody. "I think that's a real good idea. Rhea, you and Royan want to sleep in my cottage here on the school grounds?"
"Excellent idea, Rube, I'll take Harry with me and we'll stroll around the grounds until we find the other two." Rhea stood up and rounded the table to kiss Sev's cheek and mine. "Come along, Harry, we'll go find the star watchers."
He grinned and bounced up, ready to go. "Goodnight, everyone. Thanks for letting me help today."
"Your assistance was most appreciated, Harry." Sev smiled at him. "Tomorrow, we'll sit down and go over what Rubeus and I did with the spell we cast. Remus may be able to help you understand the dynamics of the energy we used."
"Brilliant!" He said before leading my sister out of the room.
Within ten minutes, we were all alone and I was carrying Sev into the small bathroom just off his bedroom. He didn't even protest, just hugged me tight and sighed. He really was tired. The bathroom had a dinky little shower and tub, barely big enough for him, let alone me. But he was already half asleep so we just got in, washed and rinsed before drying off and going to bed.
"Rubeus, I love you." Sev said in between his yawns.
"I love ya, too. Sweet dreams, love." I kissed him gently and felt him smile.
"All my dreams are sweet when you're here, Ru'." He murmured and fell asleep.
I chuckled and settled in to hold him. All of my dreams were sweet, too.
I laid the letter down and looked around my comfortable flat in a daze, running my hand through my red hair. I'm gone four bloody weeks and the whole world changes. My oldest brother is bonded to a dead, rogue wizard and my sister is dating a werewolf. Pinching myself, I winced and picked up the letter again.
'Son, I know this is a bit of a shock but we're going down to Hogwarts to celebrate Rubeus' bonding and meet the teacher that Royan is dating. They're a bit strapped for accommodations so if you'd stop here and pick up the other caravan to drive down, we'd really appreciate it.
Your mother and I look forward to having all our children together to celebrate this joyous time. I hear the tour was quite successful so hopefully you'll have some time off to rest and recuperate. Love, Dad'
I laid it down again and picked up the phone. Three rings later, Peter answered and I explained that I'd be unavailable for a couple of weeks and why. He chuckled, telling me to have fun and give my congratulations to Rubeus. For a muggle, he's been pretty accepting of my family's oddities. He'd met Rube when he came to one of our concerts and I still have the picture that one of the camera crew took of the three of us together.
Picking up my suitcase, which was still packed from the trip, I reset the wards on all the windows and doors before leaving. If nothing else, the two days on the road in the caravan would be peaceful. I needed a chance to unwind from the frenetic schedule of playing and that should rest me up in time to find out just what the hell was going on in my family.
I apparated to Loch Ness and found another note tacked to the caravan door. Dad had it all ready to go, including gas in the tank. He and Mum prefer the horse driven model but he knows how much I enjoy driving this one. It's about the only thing I do drive these days since I'm on the road so much and I gave it another careful check before climbing behind the wheel and starting out.
When I detoured to see the twins, I found them already gone. Angie told me about their first trip to help build an animal hospital then the call to come down again. Giving her a hug in thanks, I started driving south. I could hardly wait to see everyone and inspect my new brother-in-law for myself.
Rubeus met me at the gates and pulled me into one of his big hugs like he hadn't seen me for a year. But it had been six months so I hugged him back just as fervently. I love all my brothers and sisters but Rube was the one who was always looking out for us. He's the one who took me fishing so I could have some quiet time to myself. He'd fish for hours while I lay on my stomach and contemplated life and the universe.
We never told anyone that. We'd just smile and say it was a good trip. I cherished those memories and even today, I sometimes have the urge to go fishing without a pole.
"Where are ya, Ger'?" His finger tapped my forehead and I blushed.
"Sorry, Rube, I was remembering our fishing trips. Did I ever thank you for giving me that perfect silent space when I needed it?" I pulled back and smiled into eyes the same blue of my own.
"Sure ya did, Ger'. Every time ya smiled up at me or wrote somethin' that reminded me of the lake on a still day, ya were thankin' me." He patted my shoulder. "Now, let's get this thing inside so we can levitate it to the cottage. I already told the 'eadmaster that I'd be takin' off once ya got 'ere."
He held the gate open and I drove the caravan in, heading for the cottage and stables on the school grounds. But since he talked of levitating it, he must be living at the lake this summer. I got out and stretched, waiting for him to catch up to me. The sound of children playing nearby made me smile and I watched a couple of them make loops in the sky on their brooms.
"Hi, you must be Gersey." A youngish voice came from behind me and I turned to see who knew of me.
He was about a foot shorter than me, with messy black hair and the greenest eyes I'd ever seen. He couldn't be more than fifteen and yet his true age was there in his eyes. For one breathless moment, we locked gazes and the rest of the world went away. He was an old soul, this one was. My only magical talent was a small gift for fore-knowledge and it came in brief snatches when it wanted to.
But this fore-vision shook me to the core. No longer a child, he was wrapped around me like a second skin while we kissed with abandon. I blinked and it was gone, he was once again a lad with messy hair standing before me with wide eyes and a blush on his cheeks. But the warmth of that imaginary brief embrace would stay with me for some time to come.
"Good, ya're here, Harry. I see ya've met Gersey already." Rube interrupted our mutual stare and we turned dazed eyes to him. "Gersey, this is Harry Potter. He's been helpin' out this summer."
I pulled myself together and smiled at the young man who had so many hopes pinned to him. "Nice to meet you, Harry."
And his smile finished me off, shy but so bright it could have lit a stage. Dimly, I thought that it was going to be a long decade before I could claim him. Voldemort had been trying to kill him for years, if the papers were right. But Harry had his very own Hagrid now and no evil wizard had yet survived an attack on our family. This time I was going to personally see to his destruction.
Keeping a feral growl to myself, I helped Rube levitate the caravan over the tree tops while Harry walked between us. How the hell was I going to explain this to Mum? Because she was going to take one look and know that I was taken, I thought with a sigh. He was so very young and I was probably not what he'd been dreaming of. Would I be able to stand aside, if he fell for a beautiful little witch or handsome wizard?
Before I could get too depressed, I remembered the vision and slowly smiled. They hadn't been wrong yet so I just needed to settle down to wait for him; let him get to know me; kill Voldemort; get to know him; I definitely needed to write a song for him. Maybe a contemporary version of Green Sleeves, substituting eyes for sleeves? A hesitant hand on my arm brought me out of my daydream.
His hand was strong but so small on my forearm.
"We're here, Gersey." He said and I looked around to find us in the now crowded clearing around Rube's summer cottage.
"So we are, Harry. Thanks for stopping me from walking on into the lake." I watched Rube set the caravan precisely into the spot cleared for it.
He chuckled and I realized that he was still touching me. "I think you would have noticed it before then. What were you thinking so hard about?"
"I was rewriting an old song, Harry. Someday I'll sing it for you." I memorized every finger on my arm, knowing that every touch he gave me would go into my Harry-file.
Those green eyes met mine and I tried not to see the little spark there. He knew that something had happened but wasn't sure what. "Yes, I'd like that, Gersey. It feels like we've known each other for a long time."
"Call me Ger, Harry. Maybe we have, Har', maybe we have." I brushed the hair out of his eyes gently. "Now, where's this new brother-in-law of mine?"
I watched Mum Hagrid hug Gersey and I just couldn't stop smiling. I wasn't sure why but something had happened when I met Rubeus' youngest brother. I knew he was a musician and toured with a muggle band. They'd told me that he was one of the red Hagrids, taking after his mother instead of his dad. He was big and strong and when I met him, I felt like I was going to pass out.
He'd looked surprised to see me and we stared at each other for the longest time before Rubeus introduced us formally. I'd met all of the Hagrids now and I loved every single one of them but not like I . . . I smacked myself upside of my head mentally and gave myself a scolding. He's a grownup who was just surprised to meet me. I got a good grip on my imagination and watched him greet Severus.
My potion's master looked a little overwhelmed but Rubeus was rubbing his back and staying right there to support him. He was kind of like me and needed quiet times when things got to be too much. A couple of times, we'd snuck away to a little glade with a brook running through it. I looked for tadpoles while he read quietly and we just hung out together.
I liked that and I wondered if Ger' liked to do that, too. He was looking real surprised at something Rubeus said so I figured that he'd just found out that he was going to be an uncle. That still surprised me, that two male wizards could have a baby. I'd heard Severus say that he'd not be a good person to have a child. He was wrong and so I told him the next time we were alone. He'd protected me and the other students for years just like a good mother would.
He'd been pretty surprised when I told him that and that I thought he'd be a great mother. Severus laughed and laughed but it wasn't hysteria or anything, just kind of joyful. He'd even hugged me and told me thank you. I wasn't a scared ten-year old anymore and I had grown up a lot since the Tri-Wizard competition. When I looked at the severe man who'd been so broken, I saw the man I might become if this war dragged on.
He'd been fighting all his life and I knew that he would have continued if Voldemort hadn't killed him. But Rubeus had saved him and now he was creating life instead of taking it. That's what I wanted to do more than anything. I got a warm glow in the pit of my stomach and found myself watching Ger' again. I was gangly and in the middle of another growth spurt where it felt like my bones were stretching overnight and my muscles couldn't quite keep up.
Ger' was tall with muscles everywhere. His arms were tanned and strong under the green t-shirt that stretched across his broad chest. When I'd touched his arm, the skin was warm with little ripples as he flexed. The warm glow moved to my groin and I hastily pulled my shirt a little further down. I'd been having that problem of getting hard now and then, especially when I saw Rubeus and Severus kiss or hold each other. Sometimes I just had to go down to the lake and swim until it went away.
And sometimes in the bathtub at night, I'd remember and get really hard but then I could stroke it and let it explode. That was happening a lot lately but the Headmaster had told me that was to be expected at my age. There'd always been a picture in my mind of who I would love and it had never been a girl, which is probably why Hermione and I were such good friends.
She was smarter than me in a lot of ways but she didn't threaten me the way that Draco Malfoy did. He used to be able to make my pants too tight with just a sarcastic drawl of my name. But when I thought of him now, it was just with sadness that he was being dragged into evil without any way out. If we hadn't been expected to be enemies, we might have been friends.
If we both survived Voldemort, maybe we still could.
"Penny for your thoughts, Harry." Remus dropped a hand on my shoulder and looked at me with concerned eyes.
"Hi, Remus, have you met Gersey yet?" I deflected his concern with ease and pointed out Rubeus' brother to him. I wasn't prepared for his reaction though.
His jaw dropped and his eyes practically bugged out of his head. "But that's . . . that's . . . my god."
"That's my little brother, Remus." Royan's amused accents came from over my other shoulder. "I take it that you like muggle music."
"Wow," Remus turned dazed eyes on his fiancé. "Your brother's sung for some of the most famous bands of the last decade. But it's his songwriting that has me in awe. What a talent. Why does he use a pseudonym?"
"He does all right and he prefers his privacy." She hugged us both, dropping her voice to a whisper. "You might even get a song or two out of him if you play your cards right."
"He said he was rewriting an old song when we walked here." I volunteered and watched her eyebrow quirk up.
"Really? Interesting, I wonder what sparked that." She waved at Ger' when he turned to look at us. "Prepare yourself, love. He's got that Hagrid look in his eye."
"The one your mother had when she sat me down and gave me the Spanish Inquisition." Remus sighed but stood up even straighter.
"Oooh, not the Spanish Inquisition." She and I chorused before we broke into giggles.
"That's the one, my wolf." She kissed his temple and left her arm around him. "Be brave."
He was really graceful for such a big man, I thought while I watched him saunter over. His legs were long and the muscles bunched in his thighs under the weathered denim jeans. The deep brown leather boots that came to his knees were a little scuffed but I remembered the scent of the leather had smelled really good.
The swelling problem was back and I tried desperately to think of something to make it go away but all I could do was watch him helplessly, wishing for what I couldn't have.
"Do you love him, Royan?" That deep voice sent shivers up and down my spine.
"Yes, Ger, I certainly do." She held out her hand and her brother took it while giving Remus a real searching look.
"And do you love Royan, Professor Lupin?"
Remus looked at the beautiful woman at his side and smiled. "Yes, I do, Gersey, and I always will."
"Good, try and keep some of it for your bonding night." He smiled at the three of us and made us all blush. "Now that that's taken care of, let's go swimming. I need to stretch." He shook hands with Remus and suddenly he was looking at me again. "Come on, Har', Rube told me that you keep a pair of trunks here. You can protect me from that amorous squid."
Royan laughed and tugged us both towards the cottage. "We'll all protect you, Ger. Maybe Mum can talk some sense into him. If you hadn't flirted with him six summers ago, he wouldn't still be mooning over you."
"I did not flirt with him." Ger turned back from the caravan he'd driven down. "I just happened to be singing a love song where he could hear me." Then he opened the door in the side of the caravan and disappeared still muttering.
I couldn't help but grin at that picture until I remembered that I was shortly going to be seeing him dressed in almost nothing. He was going to see me too and I sighed at how scrawny I looked compared to him. I was going to look like a stork, all arms and legs with nothing matching.
And how was I going to hide my reaction to him?
It was so good to see everyone and have us all together. I made real sure though that Sev had some quiet time every day. He's a private man who likes to sit and think so I tried to give him what little Gersey had needed, time to think and time to dream. Poppy had given us all the information we needed about pregnant wizards and we'd been reading it aloud to each other every night before we went to bed.
He already tired easily so the pregnancy tiredness on top of that made me want to wrap him up so all he did was rest. But Poppy had taken me aside and told me in no uncertain terms that he needed to test his own limits. He was committed to carrying our son so he would be safe and healthy. But she'd warned me that one side effect was to make us both horny. So long as we were careful it would be alright.
"Um, Rubeus, Sev, may Remus and I change in your bedroom? The girls took the bathroom." Harry stuck his head around Sev and I wondered why he was blushing.
Sev answered him with a little wrinkle between his eyes. "Of course you may, Harry. Is there something you'd like to ask us? You know that you can talk to us if you have questions."
He blushed so red it looked painful and I steered us into the house in case this was a conversation that needed some privacy. Remus wandered in with us and plopped into the wing chair with a wink and a little nod towards Harry. Sev walked him into our bedroom and sat him down on the bed, drawing the chair from the desk around so they could sit knee to knee. I sat down too and put an arm around the little teenager.
"Now, Harry, what is wrong?" Sev said in his no nonsense teacher voice.
Harry squirmed a little with a little side glance at me that I didn't quite understand. "It's kind of private, sir."
"I'm sure it is but there is nothing that you can't tell us. I promise we won't laugh at you or do anything but find a solution to your problem." Sev said sternly and I started getting hard the way I always did when he sounded like that.
"Um, I talked with Headmaster Dumbledore about growing up problems, 'cause it's kind of hard to talk to Professor McGonagall about . . . guy stuff." He sat up a little straighter and looked right at Sev. "I keep getting . . . hard when I see certain people and if I'm in a bathing suit, how do I hide that?"
I snickered and they both glared at me. "There's not a thing wrong with that reaction, 'arry. I got the same problem, only it's Sev that does it for me."
Sev relaxed and shook a finger at me while Harry tried not to laugh. "I'll speak to you later, Rubeus Hagrid. As for Harry, I have to ask if this is an old problem and if it has something to do with the walking sex-magnet who came this afternoon?"
Harry sighed while I started. "Yeah, he's so . . . so beautiful . . . and nice . . . and his voice is kind of like chocolate on a hot day."
"Gersey?" My voice squeaked, I was so surprised.
Sev smirked. "I'm glad that you can't see it, Ru', I might have worried otherwise. However, you are just going to have to accept that the man is a bloody wet dream and is going to cause Harry untold erections." He turned back to Harry. "Now, the problem is how to keep from embarrassing yourself in front of him."
I stared in confusion while they debated the strategic use of towels, picnic baskets and other forms of concealment, including the myriad uses of water - both cold and hot. When they paused, I broke in. "Harry, you're not scared of him, are you? I mean the way he makes you feel?"
He looked real taken aback. "Of course not, Rubeus, I know that he'd never hurt me. I'll always be safe with him. I just don't want to look like a dork in front of him or upset him. Girls never have turned me on, just guys."
"We understand, Harry," Sev put a hand on my knee and stood up, rubbing his back a little. "Ru' and I will leave you to change. Your swimsuit is in your bag on the shelf just behind you. We'll make sure that you have some handy towels for the trip down to the beach. Come along, Ru."
He didn't give me a chance to say anything else, tugging me to the door. I shut up, knowing that he'd tell me what I missed when we got private. Remus was kissing Royan, who was sitting on his lap dressed in only her skimpy little bathing suit. Sev snorted with that little chuckle of his and pulled me on out of the cottage completely.
"We're going to have to hose everyone down if this keeps up." Sev chuckled then stopped dead in front of me. "Good God, no wonder Harry is practically hyperventilating."
I looked up and saw Ger in his blue swimsuit with a towel thrown over one shoulder and his arm around Rhea while he talked to Hossic. He looked the same as he always did to me. He's kind of a shrimp at only 6'9" but his workout program keeps him fit. He's certainly nothing to sneeze at but I tried to see why Sev would call him 'a wet dream'. Looking down at Sev, I was surprised to see him grinning up at me.
"Rubeus, I love you to distraction. On an aesthetic level, Gersey is the more sculpted of you two. Perhaps the more conventionally beautiful even." He reached up to cup my chin. "But I find you so perfect in every way that my appreciation of your brother is on a connoisseur level only. Harry, however, is a completely different story. If it's a boy's first crush, he could be hurt badly even if Gersey is merely kind. If it's what I think it might be, Gersey could be hurt."
"Sev, I can see ya're talking English 'cause I know the words, well, most of them." I said plaintively. "But understandin' 'em is something else."
"Sev's right," Mum's voice came from over my shoulder and I turned to see her smiling down at my bonded. "It's as plain as the nose on yar face that Gersey is took. He just admitted it. Poor lad is going to be waitin' a while ta claim wee 'arry. Voldemort just sealed 'is own doom. We don't much cotton ta nasty wizards tryin' to kill our mates."
Well, I agreed with that. I knew how much I'd wanted to hurt him after he killed Sev. But Gersey being claimed by a fifteen-year old? How had that happened?
"The heart has a rhythm all its own, Ru'. Why in the world would a beautiful man like you want a used-up, old battered professor in his life?" Sev leaned against me and I just had to lean down to kiss him. He'd been sneaking grapes from the arbor again and I made a mental note to check on which strain would ripen next. But underneath it all was the wonderful Sev-taste that was so addicting.
"That was ain of those rhe-tor-i-cal questions, weren't it, Sev?" Mum teased him when we came up for air and he chuckled.
"It was indeed, Mum." Sev grinned up at her and she stroked his hair back with a gentle hand. They'd taken to each other real good and once she knew about the baby, she was over the moon with joy. It took a little while for Sev to be comfortable calling her Mum but it didn't really interfere with the memories of his own mum since he'd always called her mama in private and mother in public. Dad was so different from his own father that he'd had an easier time with him.
"Rube, Ger had one of his wee visions. Though he won't say exactly what it was." She chuckled and patted my shoulder. "I s'pect it was the sexy kind. Those are always the strongest."
"Ger has visions?" Sev asked with a fascinated air. "Oh, towels. Ru', we need to get some towels for Harry to carry down. He's noticed Ger, Mum."
"Aye, Ger's not one to hide 'is light under a bushel. Or in this case, 'is body." She laughed and sent me in for towels.
I cowered underneath the dumpster and prayed that the patrol would pass on by. My collar was long gone, bitten through by a pit bull that had gone for my throat. I'd escaped by running away like the worst kind of coward but it had saved my life. Right now, I wasn't so sure that was a good thing. I'd gone almost two days now without even a scrap of garbage and I was starting to weaken.
Rubbing my paw over my nose, I watched the patrol go on by without checking under the large metal garbage dumpster. Safe for the moment, I chanted silently to myself, safe for now. Closing my eyes wearily, I wondered where Remus had gone. When I turned up at his latest flat, he'd been gone without a trace. He always had traveled light but right now I was wishing that he'd had enough to need a mover.
It was hot and I was thirsty but I needed to let a little time go by to make sure the patrols weren't coming back. The last attack had frightened a lot of wizards and made everyone edgy. I wasn't looking my best but it beat the way I looked as a man. I could feel my ribs slightly grate together where the butcher store owner had hit me with a rock. I'd run at once but I didn't seem to be healing the way I used to.
It takes energy to heal and that's hard to come by when you're not eating regularly. I'd eaten a rat or two at an antique store after first showing them to the owner. She'd fed me well and patted my head but then I heard her telling her assistant to call the dog patrol. I finished my meal then left in a hurry. That had been two days ago and I hadn't found anything since.
Poking my head out cautiously, I looked around carefully. No more patrols and there was a really good smell coming from down the alley. If I kept to the north side of the street and moved from shadow to shadow, I just might be able to make the café loading area. Meat scraps would be pure heaven right now but if they'd thrown out bread or rolls that would be fine, too.
Someone was coming and I ducked into a doorway, trying to blend in with the stonework. But the footsteps slowed and I tried to make myself smaller so I'd looked less scrawny and not threatening.
"Poor thing, he looks like he hasn't eaten in a while." A soft voice from above made me turn my head a bit so I could see him better.
"Looks like he has fleas too, Dad. Let's leave this one for the patrol to pick up. We don't need anymore strays. Rube wouldn't thank us for bringing him another patient." The gruffer voice had me shrinking back again. He was much bigger than the soft-voice man and I'd be no match for him.
"And who was it brought me that stray warg two years ago, Son?" The soft-voice said while stooping to gently rub my head. It felt good and I sat up to see if he'd get that itchy ear that had been bothering me. When he did, I wanted to wiggle all over, it felt so good.
"Aye, that was me, Dad." The voice wasn't so gruff now and he knelt in front of me to look me in the eyes. "He's in pain from some broken ribs that aren't healing right. There's something odd about him, though." He looked closer and I dropped my eyes to escape his penetrating gaze.
"Gration, some men just appeared in the middle of the street." Soft-voice said with a note of urgency that startled his son and me, too.
The sound of explosions going off preceded the screams by only a moment. Gration stood and had a wand out in a heartbeat. The black robes of the Death Eaters made me growl. Those bastards were getting worse and I arose to stand in front of soft-voice. Something told me that he didn't have the protection of magic.
He'd been kind to me and suddenly I had enough energy to at least try to help protect him. Gration was casting little spells that were distracting them long enough for him to get close. They weren't expecting a physical attack just magic ones so the tall human was able to knock two of them together. Their wands dropped to the cobblestones and I darted out to snap them in two with my jaws and teeth.
That was satisfying and I growled at one of them when he tried to kick the tall-one.
"Nice going, boy. Watch them while I try for the one by the butcher." He rubbed my head briefly and called over his shoulder. "Dad, stay there."
But soft-voice wasn't paying attention and he came out to check on a young woman who'd been hit by falling bricks from the exploded store front. She was crying but conscious and he helped her to her feet so he could get her away. Just beyond the safe doorway, another black clad wizard appeared with his wand out. Somehow I just knew that he wasn't an Auror but another Death Eater and soft-voice hadn't seen him.
Leaving the two cursing wizards in the middle of the street, I dashed over to soft-voice and the woman. A stream of something black came from the wand pointed at them and time seemed to slow. I couldn't call a warning or get both of them to duck so I did the only thing I could. I howled and leapt into the air so the black spell hit me instead.
The pain was more than I could stand and as I fell in darkness, I thought resignedly that I'd be lucky if the dog patrol bothered to cremate me and scatter my ashes on their garden. Harry and Remus would never know what happened to me and I felt regret. So many regrets and now I'd never be able to say I was sorry.
"Awake are ya?" The voice wasn't his but it was kind. A large hand came down and gently scratched between my ears. "That's a good lad, I s'pect that ya're hungry. Before I feed ya, I need ta say ma thanks to ya. I'd not like to lose me 'usband after all this time and ya took a spell for him. Ya're not to be worrying about a home from now on, wee lad."
I laid my head back down with a sigh. Sooner or later, I'd have to figure out how to let them know I was an animagus. For now, I just wanted to eat something and go right back to sleep. A bowl of freshly cooked beef heart was set before me and strong hands helped me sit up enough so I could get my muzzle down into the bowl. I've never tasted anything so good in my life.
Each succulent nugget was chewed a couple of times before I swallowed it pretty much whole. The warmth in my stomach was good to feel and I ate a few more bites before I had to stop. Licking the hand that had just fed me, I listened to her chuckle.
"Good enough, lad. There'll be more when ya wake up. Lie back down like a good boy and I'll watch over ya." She got me arranged so my ribs didn't hurt so much and I sighed in relief.
The creaking of the rocker sent me back to sleep and I thought sleepily that I'd never had this kind of care when I was in human form. I hovered between waking and sleeping, the sound of a guitar and singing coming faintly through the window.
"Green eyes are my delight; Green eyes, my heart of gold; Green eyes are my heart of joy; and who but my very own green eyes."
Odd, I should know that song. Tomorrow I'd think about it more. And I slipped into the comforting dark with the haunting refrain softly playing inside my mind.
I awoke in the position that I loved most, wrapped in Rubeus' arms with my head over his heart. One of the things that the books had mentioned was how soothing the baby in utero found his mother's heartbeat. Our child was mostly a mass of cells at the moment but I wondered if he was already soothed by the rhythm of my blood and heart.
"Ya awake, Sev?" His whisper disrupted my doze.
"Yes Ru', good morning, love." I raised my head and met his lips in our first kiss of the day. It was slow and sweet before we broke apart to smile at each other.
"Sev, I don't want ya upset today and I know somethin' that might." He said rather diffidently.
"Just tell me, Ru'. Nothing is so bad that we can't handle it together." I assured him while surreptitiously sliding to one side.
He turned with me and kept his arms about me as if afraid that I would flee. "The dog that saved Dad's life?"
I hadn't actually seen it since they'd hurriedly carried it into their caravan while calling for Rubeus to come and see to him. Gration had gathered us together and given us the whole tale of the attack. Dad Hagrid had come out while his son was still talking and had to be hugged by every single one of us before Gra' finished up. Harry was so silent that I was worried that he might be having a flashback to the last attack he'd been a part of.
I'd asked him if he was all right and he'd nodded sadly. He still felt that some of this was his fault and I wasn't sure how to make him see that it could never be his. He'd done nothing but fight against evil his entire life. Lifting my eyes from his downcast face, I'd seen the sorrowful look on my newest brother-in-law's face. That decided me and I'd rather imperiously beckoned him over.
In brisk tones, I'd sent Harry home and asked Gersey to walk him through the Forest. When Ru' had come out, he'd approved vocally and then we had to tell our missing two members about Ger's vision about Harry. Dad Hagrid had smiled and said that he was glad that Gersey was finally going to settle down. But he looked shaken still so after hugging him again we sent him to bed and followed soon after.
All of this flashed through my mind in a moment and I searched his face for a clue to what had him so unsure. "What about the dog?"
He swallowed hard. "I think it's Black."
"Of course it's black. It looked like a Labrador retriever." I was still lost until suddenly I made the connection. "No." I shook my head and began to tremble. "No."
"Fraid so, love." He hugged me closer. "He's in bad shape and not just from the attack. He's malnourished with some broken ribs and the dull coat that tells me that his diet hasn't been the best. He's also been in dog form almost too long. Some of his reactions are totally canine so we're going to need to encourage him to change. I left Mum watching him so I know he had a good night."
I couldn't stop trembling. I'd finally found a safe haven and someone who loved me. Black would try to push me aside and take his own place in this new family. Oh, they'd tolerate me since I carried Rubeus' child but I wasn't charming or good looking or had any of the traits that brought him so many friends.
Harry and Remus would be ecstatic over his return. I was going to be on the outside again, watching the rest of the family coalesce around his bright star. I swallowed the tears that I didn't dare show and tried to school my face into a semblance of calm.
"Everyone will be glad that he's not lost anymore, Rubeus. We'll need to get a message to Albus." I tried on a smile. "He'll be able to help if . . . Black needs some to return to human. Harry will be so pleased and Remus, too."
"But ya're not, Sev." He kissed my temple and rocked me a little. "It doesn't matter whether he is or isn't Black. Nothing will ever change how much I love ya. My family isn't goin' to throw us out because Black becomes a part of it. Since Gersey loves Harry and will be takin' care of him then his godfather will be welcome to be a part of us. I don't know if he's going to welcome Ger into his family. The half-breed prejudice is still rampant."
"What? That's ridiculous, Rubeus. Gersey is a fine young man with a talented voice and a razor sharp mind. Anyone would be pleased to have him join their family." I was incensed by the very thought. Rubeus smiled at me and I realized that he'd snapped me out of my funk with the perfect red herring. "You're getting very good at handling crotchety old professors, Ru'."
And just like that, the air heated between us and his eyes began to glow. "I like 'andlin' ya, Sev. Ya want we should 'andle each other?"
We kissed each other slowly, touching and tasting all the hot spots we'd found on each others bodies. His big hand cradled our shafts together and they slid slickly against his palm while I trembled with the need to come. His kiss drew my seed out and his also. We pulsed together until we were limp. I was still afraid but he'd reminded me that he was my constant lover and I need never fear losing him.
A knock on our door brought our heads up. Gration's voice rang out. "Rube, he's changed back into a man. Mum's giving him a bath and Dad is laying out some clothes. He says his name is Black."
I closed my eyes and tried to hang on to the peaceful feelings of the moment before. I bit my lip and tried to think positively but that wasn't my forte and I feared I failed.
"I'll be right out, Gra'." Rubeus called to him before dropping his voice. "Sev, why don't ya have a bit of a lie-in this morning. It's going to be a hustle-bustle and ya could miss it all if ya just 'ad breakfast in bed and curled up with that new book Dad brought back from Dragon's Lair for ya."
Would that be cowardly, I asked myself? Yes, but at the moment I didn't care. "Please, Ru', I'd like that." I tried on a smile and saw that it wasn't quite right by the look on his face. "Please."
He kissed me gently and slid from our bed, picking up his robe from the floor and putting it on. "I'll send Royan in with yar tea. I think I smell the good biscuits. Think ya could eat one?"
I smiled at him and this time it was true. I did love those biscuits. "Yes, please and if there are any grapes picked, could I have some of them, too?"
"Sure ya can, Sev, between ya and Rhea there won't be any left for jam. We'll just 'ave to make do with strawberry this year." He teased me and dropped another kiss onto my forehead. "Curl back up, Sev and don't think of bad things. Think about what the nursery should look like for our son."
I hummed my reply while I watched the sun creep up the bed to where I lay. It was filtered just enough by the tall oaks with their summer leaves so it wasn't too hot. But it was golden and just bright enough that it felt good when it reached my hands. Looking at them, I noticed how many scars I had there. Acids, cuts, ingredients gone awry, they had all taken a toll on my fingers.
If someone didn't know what I did for a living, all they would have to do was look at my hands. I'd handled death more times than I could count. Could I handle life? Would these hands know how to hold a child, pat his back, play with his tiny fingers, give him baths, help him stand upright? I wanted to be able to do that. Perhaps some of the creatures of the Forest would allow me to watch them take care of their young, I mused.
I could travel deep into the Forest and not come out until Black was gone. If that was cowardly, then so be it. I would, however, ask Ru' to come with me. I wasn't stupid.
I must have had a real stern look on my face when I came out because Gra' took one look and put his hand on my shoulder. "What's wrong, Rube?"
As Mum would say, I shoulda s'pected that. "His name is Sirius Black and 'e was a classmate of Sev's. Royan, would ya make up a tray for Sev. Thanks for baking those biscuits, he really likes them. If'n there's grapes, could ya put some of those on, too?"
"Of course, Ru', I do that right away. Is it the morning sickness?" She asked anxiously.
"A little bit of that and a little bit of thinkin' about the past." I didn't want to go into it. "Where's Remus? Did he stay the night?"
She didn't quite blush. "He stayed. He's over at Dad and Mum's caravan helping with Black."
"Good." I was trying to be optimistic but I could just see our whole reunion going up in flames over events that should have never happened. "Where's Gersey?"
"He's still asleep." Gra' said slowly, watching me like a hawk. "What's wrong with Black?"
I gave them the short version, just the bare bones. They knew that kids can be real cruel to each other but Royan was already a Remus-partisan and she was mad on his behalf. Then I asked Gra' to wake Ger up so he could go get Harry and Albus. He nodded and left silently. He'd withhold judgment until he saw if Black had changed any. I was trying to do that but it was real hard because I could see what it was doing to Sev.
Going into the bathroom, I cleaned up and grabbed my work clothes from the hook where I usually kept them. Dressing real hurriedly, I left the cottage and headed for the folks caravan. Repeating the healer's oath to myself over and over, I tapped on the door before going in. Dad was making tea while Mum fried up some eggs.
They both gave me a kiss and I hugged Dad tight again just because I could. I knew in my head that I'd probably out live them both but my heart didn't want to think about that.
"There, there, Ru'," he patted my back and hugged me back. "I'm safe and sound and likely to stay that way for many years to come. After all, I have to hold my grandson in the near future."
"I know, Dad. It's just . . ." I struggled to get the words out. "Ya could'a been killed. I owe Black for that."
Mum tapped me on the shoulder and I turned my head to see her squinting her eyes like she did when she caught one of us in a lie or a half-truth. "Tha' doesn't sound quite right, Son. I'm thinking tha' ya've got a bit of a history with yon wee animagus."
Damn! I was hoping to keep the past out of this but it looked like I couldn't. So I gave them the brief version of Black and Sev's past. Mum nodded thoughtfully while Dad frowned. Just then, Remus came out of the back bedroom with a big smile on his face. He didn't smile enough, I expect that's because there hasn't been much to smile about.
"Rubeus, could you take a look at him? His ribs are giving him trouble." He asked.
I didn't want to but I would because I can't bear to see someone in pain. Nodding, I went on back to find Rhea helping Black into one of Dad's shirts. "Morning, Rhea, Black."
"Hagrid?" He looked real surprised. Nobody must have introduced themselves to him.
"Ya're in me Mum's caravan." I kept it short and sat on the edge of the bed so I could look at his ribs better. "What caused this?"
"A rock about a week ago, I think." He sounded as tired as my Sev had been those first weeks. His torso was mottled all over with old scars and recent bruises. I could count his ribs, he was so emaciated. Against my will, I was starting to feel sorry for him. He'd obviously been through the wringer. Maybe it would smarten him up, I hoped silently.
"A bit of quick grow should do the trick," I told Rhea and she nodded. She was a nurse at the local hospital in Loch Ness and knew that ribs were always hard to heal. "Until that takes hold, I'll wrap ya up so they don't hurt so bad."
"I'd appreciate it, Hagrid." He tried to get the shirt off but stopped with a gasp.
"No moving, Sirius." Rhea told him and gently eased the shirt off. "Let me do the work. That's it, love."
He blushed and dropped his eyes. I looked at my sister and the way she was gazing at him and wanted to groan. It seemed the Hagrids were real susceptible to those in need. Her eyes were soft and her touch tenderly supportive of the battered man she had her arm around. What the hell was I going to tell Sev? Oh, by the way, Black looks like he's joining the family. And not only as Harry's godfather?
Praying I was wrong, I wrapped his torso in a long white bandage and fastened it off with a hold charm. Sev was going to have to brew the potion called quick grow since I'd run out and I didn't know if he was up to that. Certain smells made him sick now. Maybe Poppy had some on hand?
"Rubeus!" Rhea's raised voice brought me back to the here and now. "What in the world is the matter with you?"
I smiled real quick at her. "Just wondering if Poppy has any quick grow potion on hand. I sent Ger to get Harry, maybe I can get him before he leaves." I stood up and headed for the door.
"Can't Sev brew some for you?" She asked innocently and I felt Black's start.
"Sev? As in Severus Snape?" His growl was more of a petulant bark. "I thought he was dead."
I turned back and looked him straight in the eyes. "Yes, Severus Snape-Hagrid, my bonded. Not another word, Black."
He nodded, staying silent while I left fuming. Managing a smile for the folks, I left and caught Ger and Gra' just leaving their caravan. Telling them to ask Poppy for the potion, I headed for the cottage. I needed to cuddle Sev and listen to his plans for the nursery we had yet to build. The family would sort themselves out, we always did. The front room was empty but voices came from our bedroom so I followed the sound.
Royan was curled up on the window seat with a cup of tea and Sev was propped up on some pillows with a breakfast tray still filled with food on his lap. Sitting down beside him, he came immediately into my arms. "This looks good, Royan. How about one of these grapes, Sev?"
He let me feed him a grape but his eyes were asking me questions. I fed him a few more then took a sip of tea from his cup. "He's got three broken ribs and almost as many bruises as ya had a month ago, Sev. I wrapped him up tight and sent Ger and Gra' to get Harry and some quick grow from Poppy."
"I could have made some up for you, Ru'." He said slowly and plucked a bite of biscuit from the plate.
"I wasn't sure if any of the ingredients would make ya sick ta your stomach." I told him and kissed him gently.
"Next time, ask me, Ru'. I'm not so fragile that I'll break." H kissed me back and cuddled into my side. "Now, Royan had a good idea about the nursery."