Author: Athea (
Title: Forbidden Forest, part 37
Summary: Draco finds himself in the hands of the enemy but help is on the way.
Date: 1 December 2002

I staggered to my knees before standing at the sight of someone I'd never wanted to see again. A spider hopped off my shoulder onto the stone floor and a disgusting little man popped up before I could stomp on him.

"Oh good, Stanton, you got him. Our Master will be pleased with you." MacNair said with an oily air that made me want to hit him. "But you should go back and see if you can entice Potter to join our party. Have you picked out your first little flower?"

"Yes, of course, I'll return at once." The little bastard was practically simpering. "She's just a little angel, MacNair. I can hardly wait to take her and strip off those feathers from her young body."

What? He had to be talking about Ginny and I wanted to hex him but I was frozen in place, unable to move a finger. //God, Harry get her away from there.// I thought as hard as I could, straining to twitch or make some kind of movement. But I was paralyzed and could only watch Stanton turn back into the spider and disappear, leaving me alone with my own personal nightmare.

I'd forgotten how big he was, I thought with the part of my mind that wasn't gibbering in fear. He sauntered over and ran his hands over my body like he had the right. "Well, boy, welcome to MacNair Manor. I've developed a taste for Malfoys and you'll be right back where we started soon enough. Our Master has promised me that I can collar and chain you once he takes over."

//Over my dead body, you bastard.// I was going to kill myself rather than become his little slave. If I couldn't belong to Charlie than I wasn't going to belong to anyone. I'd vowed that to myself yesterday and I'd find a way to do it if I had to.

"Yes," he fondled my cock through my pants, squeezing so hard that I almost passed out, "I look forward to taking you again now that you're all healed up. Remember how good it felt when I slammed into you, little slut?" He licked my ear and I wanted so badly to hit him but then he almost bit my earlobe off and the new pain swamped me.

"You're going to enjoy this time almost as much." With no warning, he tapped me with his wand and all my clothes disappeared. Then he rammed two meaty fingers into me while I wailed silently. "Yes, I'm looking forward to breaking you completely. But I need to report to our Master that part one of our plan is in place." With a murmured incantation, he apparated us to the game room of his manor. "Stay here and think about all the wonderful ways I'm going to make you pay for that eviction notice I received from Gringotts, my beautiful little slave."

With a last painful squeeze of my cock, he apparated away. I was shaking everywhere while blood trickled down my leg from where he'd torn me. I hadn't heard the spell he used to paralyze me so I wasn't sure what would release me. Not to mention, I didn't want to be naked when Harry arrived.

A soft touch on my shoulder startled me and the floating figure that appeared would have frightened me but I recognized Michael MacNair. He looked so sad when he spoke. "I'm sorry, Draco, but I can't work magic any longer. Father used the Immobilis spell. It's his favorite."

Bill had taught us that one and the counter which could be done by concentrating really hard on something and wishing to move towards it. I focused on Michael's blue eyes so like my own. And within the space of a minute, I was free. Gasping, I collapsed and hit the floor so hard that I'd probably have even more bruises.

"Wow, that was so neat," Michael followed me down and knelt beside me. "You're good, Draco. He's spelled the room so you can't apparate out. He keeps forgetting that those spells don't affect me."

I was getting back my courage and I scrubbed away the tears that had fallen without me realizing it. Seeing a cloak on one of the side benches, I levered myself up and crossed the cold stone flagstones to grab it. I was freezing and shaking although the second was probably shock more than anything else.

"Michael," I turned back to him and found that he'd floated after me. So I sat down gingerly on one cheek, trying to ignore the pain inside. "Why did you stay once he killed you?"

"He keeps me here." The ghost of the young boy shrugged. "He drains me whenever he notices that I've absorbed any energy. And he likes to show me off to his fellow Death Eaters. I'm sorry that he hurt you, if I could get you out of here I would."

"How does he keep you on this plane?" I asked then answered my own question. "Never mind, he's tethered you the same way he linked to me after the rape. Michael, do you see a light anywhere?"

He nodded. "I see it all the time but he stops me when I move towards it. It's bright and warm and sometimes I hear Mama's voice calling my name. That hurts a lot."

And I remembered how it felt when Severus had shown me how to break the link that bound me to my rapist. "Michael, I want you to concentrate on where the energy rope is that binds you to him. Can you see it?" He nodded so I continued. "Is it black and twisted?" He nodded again. "I want you to picture a pair of scissors in your hand. Can you see them, all shiny and sharp?" I'd closed my eyes by now and even I could see them. "I want you to cut that cord with the scissors. I'll help you."

The shears neared the ugly looking rope and Michael used all this strength and a little bit of mine to cut it in two. He jumped back almost into my arms and in that moment the whole room lit up with a bright beam of light. A small dark haired woman stood in the radiance with her arms outstretched to the little ghost.

"Mama!" He ran to her and she caught him up in her arms with such a big smile that it glowed. "You came for me."

"I've been waiting for so long, my sweet son. My own dear Michael, we're finally together again." Her glowing blue eyes turned to me. "Thank you, Draco. Know that on this night, you have righted a great wrong and what help those of us who have gone before can give you, we pledge to you freely and without conditions."

"Thank you, Draco." The little boy separated from his mother and came back to give me a soft kiss that sent healing energy through me like Sev's baby had done the day before. "I won't ever forget you."

"Come, Michael. Things are happening and we need to go." His mother gathered him up in her arms and the light faded, taking them with it.

I sat there, limp but exhilarated at the same time. No matter what happened later, I knew that I'd done something really, really good. And hopefully, I'd be able to kill his father and send him straight to Hell so he wouldn't be bothering them through eternity either. Now, I needed to get out of here before I drew Harry to me and we were both caught. Casting a spell, I watched it bounce harmlessly off the stone walls.

A loud humming sound and Harry appeared in front of me. Damn, too late.

"Are you okay, Draco? What did he do to you?" Harry was fierce in my defense and I blinked at how good that felt. "Draco?"

"He used Immobilis on me and fondled me a bit before leaving. Unfortunately, this room is warded so we can't get out." I stood and watched him toss a couple of quick spells off the walls.

"Damn." He said apologetically. "Sorry I didn't get here sooner."

"Come to me, little onessss." The loud voice boomed off the walls and they shimmered away to be replaced with the tall standing stones of Stonehenge and the nightmare figure of Voldemort. "I knew that you would come to his resssscue, young Potter. How good of you to repay my kindnesss."

//Oh shit, this was not good.//


//Shit, shit, shit! Gersey, where are you?// I stood up straight side by side with Draco in the black cloak too long for him. MacNair stood by Voldemort's side and his face was like that ugly mask of Dionysus, greedy and evil at the same time. The wizards that surrounded us were all masked and wearing black but Voldemort and MacNair were both naked and I had to keep swallowing because I was afraid that I was going to be sick.

Voldemort waved his hand and suddenly Draco and I were both naked, too. "Much better. It isss SSSamhain and tonight I take back the wizzzarding world, dessstroying the mugglesss by the millionsss."

He was drooling a bit at the thought and I kept my gaze on his chin instead of those crazy red eyes or his too big body. Draco was shaking slightly and I put out my hand to take his. Whispering while Voldemort ranted on, "Dra', promise me that you'll kill me if this doesn't work?"

"Only if you promise the same, Har'." His lips didn't even move. "I'm not living through a second rape."

And suddenly a third voice whispered in both our ears. "None of that, little loves. Nobody but bad guys are dying tonight." It was Gersey and I almost fainted in relief. "Be ready, I've got your wands and the others are almost in place."

Okay, this might just work, I took a deep breath then another. Behind the flat altar that Voldemort was standing on, a glimmer of light appeared that started small and grew slowly. At first I thought it was some kind of dark magic but Draco shivered and started smiling.

"We're going to have more help than we thought, guys." He whispered softly.

"Who?" Gersey and I chorused.

"Everyone that they've killed going back sixteen years or so. The one in front is little Michael MacNair and there's his mother." He fell silent and I wanted to cry when slowly but surely I saw my parents solidify near the little boy and his mother.

Mom's eyes were so bright and Dad's were the same color as mine. I smiled back at them and Voldemort's voice slowed. "What are you ssmiling about, young Potter? You will not leave here alive."

"Yes, I will." I took courage from all the people who loved me, both living and dead. "You're the one who dies tonight."

And as if that was the signal, Gersey slid our wands into our hands and flung back the hood of my dad's invisible cloak. The dead flowed into a shield between us and the Death Eaters, absorbing the spells that they flung at us. But soon they were too busy trying to defend themselves from the fighters at their backs.

Voldemort's hissing tones swelled until I couldn't hear anyone else. Then suddenly the four Matriarchs appeared around him and with a flick of their wrists, a cauldron full of potion upended itself on his head. Everywhere it touched, part of him burned and it looked like acid eating away at his flesh. His cry shook the ground and fire darted from his fingertips towards them. But several of us darted in front of the ladies we loved and our wands fought back the fire.

Then Arwen pointed her wand at him along with Hermione who'd appeared out of nowhere and a fireball of gigantic proportions engulfed him. His shriek deafened me and he fell to the stone writhing in agony, still calling out curses. Luckily, we knew the counters and every one of them flew right back to hex him instead. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Charlie and Draco fighting MacNair when suddenly Ss-serens flew in and torched him with her flame.

That scream would haunt a few dreams, I was pretty sure. But Voldemort hadn't given up quite yet and Gersey and I found ourselves fighting off the Crucio curse. But Dumbledore was suddenly beside us and he lifted his wand to cast 'Avada Kadava' on the crazed would-be Dark Lord. Gersey and I reinforced it with green and gold fire spewing from our wands and Voldemort began to shrivel until finally there was nothing left but gray ash that blew away.

He was gone.

I was crying and laughing at the same time when Gersey's arms came around me. Part of me wondered if this was what hysteria felt like while part of me wanted to find a quiet place and snuggle so close to him that we became one person. A soft caress to my hair brought my head up to see Mom and Dad standing there.

"Dearest Harry, what a fine young man you've grown up to be." Mom leaned over and kissed my cheek.

"We're proud of you, son." Dad brushed back my hair from the scar. "Always remember that we love you and we'll be watching over you for some time to come."

"Gersey, take good care of our baby." Mom stood on tiptoe to kiss him. "You have our full support for your bonding. And Gersey, I'd just accept that Harry's going to carry your children. In fact, I believe your family is going to be quite large."

I beamed up at him. "You see, Ger, it will be all right. I promise not to have more than six." And while he was still sputtering, I kissed Mom and Dad. "I love you both so much. I miss you."

"We miss you, too. But we'll always be close to you, Harry." Dad looked over his shoulder and I noticed that the light above the altar stone was so bright it almost hurt the eyes. "Time to go, love. We'll be seeing you, Harry and Gersey."

"Love you, my angels." Mom blew another kiss to us and followed Dad into the light.

All around us, there were people saying goodbye to their loved ones who'd died but come back to help fight for the Light. It should have been sad but it wasn't although almost everyone was crying a little. It was hard to be so close but have to let them go again. Gersey slung my Dad's cloak around me and hugged me tight. I'd forgotten that I was naked.

"Thank the Goddess, Harry. I love you so much." His arms were so strong around me that I could hardly breathe but that didn't matter. We were safe and together and that was all I needed.

Well, maybe one thing else. "Gersey, can we please bond now?"

He started to laugh and Dumbledore appeared over his shoulder with that twinkle in his eye that I loved seeing. "Well, young man, I think a bonding could be arranged but only after you pass your Newts. And that may be sooner than you think."

Brilliant! I beamed at him while Gersey groaned. Once we bonded, I was going to start getting myself ready to take him inside of me. Sev and I were going to do some research on the spell he used to see how it worked. I wanted to be pregnant by this time next year. Sev had already told me that I could baby sit for him and Rubeus. With some practical experience under my belt, I'd be ready in no time for our own children.

But that was for later, now was for making sure that my new family had come through the battle all safe and sound. Dumbledore muttered a quick clothing spell so Draco and I were dressed for the party again. And that reminded me of how Draco got taken.

"Headmaster! What about the animagus in Hogwarts?"

"Good heavens," he apparated away with Gersey and I holding onto him.

In the grand ballroom, the kids were mostly gone except for a few. Royan, Rhea and that reporter Fiona caught sight of us and started for us but Ginny beat them over to us. "Are you all right? Where's Draco?"

"We're all fine, Ginny. But the animagus is still here." I gave her a hug and she snickered.

"Yeah, he was still here when you ported away. But I spotted him dangling from his web and got Professor McGonagall." She giggled. "She conjured up a fly swatter and let me smack him one. Then we got a glass bottle and scooped him up in it. I got some of that muggle spray stuff that Mom likes to use at home and squirted him really good."

She pointed to the table and the slightly squished spider who was feebly moving in the sealed jar. "She said we needed to keep him for the trials, otherwise I could do what I wanted with him."

Trust a Weasley to know what to do. I snickered myself and pretty soon all of us were practically rolling on the floor. It was just so good to be free.

Well, free and in love and finally able to look to the future.

This future looked very, very bright.


I was almost sick with fear and it didn't help that the Death mark on my arm was flaming red-hot. I wished that I'd been able to help instead of sitting here, babysitting the newly hatched dragon. I remembered the dazed look in Draco's eyes when the little dragonling first caught sight of him and staggered over to collapse in his arms. He'd cuddled him close and looked up in awe.

"He says his name is Ss-sarco and he's hungry." That had been accompanied by the high-pitched keen of an empty dragon and we'd all chuckled while Ara gave Draco the bowl of stunned frogs.

Ss-sarco had eaten all of them before burping a little flame and curling up in my son's lap. Charlie had hugged them both close and we'd left on tiptoe to leave them to bond. Now, they were all off fighting to save the world while we waited behind. As my oldest son would say, 'this sucked'.

An explosion suddenly went off inside my head and I cried out, scaring Ss-sarco awake. Ara came to my side and looked anxiously up into my face. "Master Severus?"

I felt grim satisfaction flood our bond while the pain in my arm faded. "I think they just finished off Voldemort." I concentrated hard and felt Ru get hit by a particularly nasty spell. The baby and I flooded him with warmth and he sent us a gentle acknowledgement before going back to work. "They're all fine so far. I expect a lot of healing will be needed when they come back though. It's all right, Ss-sarco, your mother will be home shortly. Have something to eat while we wait."

Ara set a bowl of newts in front of him and his golden eyes lit up before he dove in. He was an engaging little fellow and I was glad that Draco would have him to help take his mind off of the battles to come. Hopefully, those battles would be in the boardrooms of the wizard business world, using the weapons of words and bank notes instead of spells and bodies.

"Master Severus, tea?" Ara was doing her best to take care of me but I wanted Rubeus with all my soul to appear, safe and sound. But I nodded to her and took the cup of soothing chamomile.

"Thank you, Ara." I watched her polish the already gleaming table while I finished the tea and got up to restlessly move around the room. I found myself in the nursery the way that I seemed to find myself doing more and more frequently.

Soon a baby would be sleeping in the old oak cradle that Mum Hagrid had rescued from the sale of the Snape estate. Most of the trunks from the attic of the manor house had made their way here to our house. One of them had been filled with baby clothes, including the beautiful lace dress that I'd been christened in. It hung on a wooden hanger by the cradle, a reminder that this child had a noble heritage even if we'd dwindled to one slightly broken potions master.

Gration had bought the old rocker that I remembered from my mother's room and I sat down in it, setting it rocking and listening to the creaks that took me back to when I was very small. I rubbed my stomach and listened in on my son's sleepy babbling. "Mama, what would you think of me now? You're going to be a grandmother. I wish you knew about him. You told me once that you wanted me to love someone as much as you loved me. I finally found him, Mama. He makes my heart sing and we've created a son."

The moon shone in the open window and I rested my head against the carved oak while I rocked lazily back and forth. The linens that Mum Hagrid had sewn for the cradle gleamed white in the pale light and the stuffed silver snake that Hossic had found in another trunk curled up at the foot of the mattress, ready to protect his new playmate when I delivered him.

"Sweetheart, I do know." The gentle voice interrupted my musing and slowly a form took shape in front of me, slightly brighter than the moonlight streaming through the lattice window. It was mother the way I remembered her. "Dearest Severus, I love you and I'm so glad that you found your heart at last."

"Mama," I blinked back tears. Damn hormones, I told myself. "Why now?"

"Because you're ready to hear me, little Sev." She came closer and laid a tender hand on my cheek. "You were so closed off that I couldn't reach you. I was afraid that you would join me a few months ago but Rubeus saved your body then your heart. Tell him that he has my eternal gratitude for loving you. You're going to be wonderful parents and if you wish it, there will be two more children."

I wanted to say that one was sufficient but somehow I couldn't quite bring myself to say the words. She read my mind and laughed the tinkling laugh that I remembered from so long ago. "Sweetheart, it's time for me to move on. Always remember I love you and I'll never be far away since part of me stays in your heart."

Then she leaned down and kissed my cheek, a feather light touch like the brush of a fairy's wing. "My own little Severus, I love you."

I squeezed my eyes shut so I wouldn't see her disappear. "I love you too, Mama."

Another caress to my arm and she was gone. I was crying but there was no one to see me lose control so I let myself cry for all the times that I couldn't in the years since her death. My son sent little soothing pulses through my hand, filling me with the warmth that I'd come to associate with his baby attempts at healing. He was going to be so good when he grew up.

Suddenly the air displaced in the outer room and I sat up straight, hearing Rubeus' voice ask Ara where I was. Then my beautiful bonded was by my side, lifting me in his strong arms and telling me that everyone was safe and sound. I wrapped my arms around his neck and cried some more. I couldn't seem to stop and his worried voice asked what was wrong.

But I couldn't find the words to tell him about my mother's visit so I just shook my head and tried to stop the tears. He carried me out to the front room then into the bathroom which had undergone some changes since the rebuilding of the cottage into a house. We'd put in a bigger tub since we almost always bathed together now. The old one had gone into Draco's bathroom.

The reservoir under the house was three times the size it had been before the Hellbenders moved in. Our hot water was constant and plentiful so Ru set it to running while he sat me gently on the broad side of the tub and started to undress me. He told me about the battle and how Voldemort and MacNair had died. Ss-serens had flamed the wizard who'd harmed Draco and I thought vindictively that it was what he deserved.

By the time some of the others apparated in, I'd managed to stop crying. Ru called out that we'd be a while and Charlie called back that they were going to take Ss-sarco to his mother then turn in. I was able to say goodnight to them and I smiled at Draco's excited voice.

Then Rubeus was pulling off my shirt and we were both looking at my arm where the dark mark had been. The skin was clear and pain free. He lifted me into the tub then and cuddled me in the hot water while I slowly relaxed in his arms. When I thought I had my voice under control, I whispered my news to him.

He cried with me then, cradling me close and rocking me back and forth. We bathed in silence after that, soaking up the heat while I soothed my love over every bruise I could find on his skin. The baby helped and soon we were so sleepy that Rubeus had to lift us out of the tub, drying us with a quick spell before wrapping us in my silk robe. He pulled his own on before carrying us to bed, saying goodnight to Ara on the way to our room.

I was asleep almost before he'd finished tucking me in.


I held my beautiful Sev close and thought about what he'd told me about his mother. He'd needed that last little bit of healing of the wound from her death. And I was willing to bet that her last touch had removed the Dark Mark from his arm. It was amazing what a mother's love could do. I thought of the radiant look on Harry's face when he saw his mom and dad. And the proud look on Ss-serens' face when little Ss-sarco had hopped over to Draco.

My own Mum had given me such a hug when the battle was over that I could still feel it. I didn't like killing but tonight I'd done it twice, both times with my bare hands rather than with a spell. One day I'd tell Sev about how that made me feel but not now, not when he felt so vulnerable. Because if I knew him, he'd try to take the pain on himself and sooth his love over it. I was so lucky that he loved me.

The baby moved under my hand and sent me a picture of him sleeping so I chuckled quietly and closed my eyes to sleep. The next month or so was going to be busy.


Well, I hadn't been wrong, I thought and straightened up from shoveling. All that magic from the last battle had brought down a series of storms that had pretty much buried this part of England in about twenty feet of snow and ice. The Forest looked beautiful, dripping with diamond ice cycles but the number of broken branches would take a lot of cleaning up come the spring.

It was the first of December and it felt like I'd been shoveling snow for the entire month. The family had split up to take care of business. The twins were back moving wizards from one end of the country to the other. Bill had left for Egypt to wrap up his business there so he could come back to move in with Hossic. And to everyone's surprise, Arwen had joined them to bring the first triad to the family.

Gration was still dating Fiona and it looked serious to me. Royan was as big as a house and Remus waited on her hand and foot. She'd been stuck in Hogwarts since it was too dangerous outside in her condition. At five months along, she was already bigger than Sev and he'd just entered his seventh month. Rhea was just beginning to show a little bit but Sirius was already treating her as if she was made of glass.

They were good to see together. Gersey had gone back to London and the recording studio but he'd left behind a cell phone, just the way that he'd promised he would so he and Harry talked every night. They were already so close that it was probably a good thing that they were physically separated. Otherwise they might have spontaneously combusted by now.

Charlie had transferred to England from Rumania so he could take over the dragon management of the Forbidden Forest. It seemed that Ss-serens wasn't the only unregistered dragon on our island. Several had flown in after Voldemort's demise and we had five now, six if you counted Ss-sarco, our baby dragon. One of these days, we might get our greenhouse back but it wouldn't be anytime soon. It was fun having the little one tagging after Draco and Hogwarts was getting used to having a baby dragon attend all his classes.

He was a great favorite and he got fed so much on the sly that he was even rounder than he should have been. He developed a real taste for chocolate frogs and his mother just shook her head at his appetite. I have to admit that I fed him a few on the sly myself but then I was always baking something to tempt Sev's tricky stomach.

Deciding that I'd done enough for the day, I put away my shovel and left for home. A nagging little pain in the back of my mind was finally translated to Sev trying to keep something from me. My stride lengthened and I contemplated apparating but I was so close that in a few minutes I'd be home.

The folks had stayed put and Dad was teaching some of the seventh years about abstract magic. He was Professor Emeritus of the Academy of Scientific Magic but he was enjoying teaching much younger children. Mum had taken over the kitchens and was sharing her recipes with the house elves that took care of the school. Meals were a lot better since she'd come.

All in all, we were doing pretty well. Everybody kept in touch by owl or cell phone and we were going to have a big winter solstice celebration in a few weeks. The kids would be gone for the holidays so we were going to be able to celebrate in the great hall of the school. There was plenty of room for all of us and the assorted animals we'd taken on. Smiling, I opened our front door and quickly shut it behind me.

Ara was there to take my scarf. "Master Rubeus, is good you are coming home. Master Severus is being very restless."

I headed for the nursery where I usually found him when I'd been gone. He was rocking in the old rocker and holding the stuffed snake that had been his when he was little. His name was Skip and he looked a little worn but obviously well loved. Sev's face lit up when he saw me and my heart fluttered the way it always did.

"Ru, you're home." He started the struggle to get to his feet but I quick came over and knelt by him. "Thank you, love, I've been up and down a dozen times today. I don't know if I'm going to last another two months. How Royan is coping with three kickers, I wish I knew."

"Gettin' ya all sore, is he?" I smoothed a hand over the spot he usually kicked and found nothing. "Sev, did he shift?"

He chuckled and moved my hand high up on his swollen belly. "I believe he did, Ru. He's kicking up here now."

I went hot then cold. In all the other mammals I'd taken care of, that usually meant that the baby was moving into position to be born, head down towards the birth canal. I wanted my mother and I wanted her now. Right then, Sev flinched and gripped my hand a little harder. "Sev, how long have ya been havin' those little pains?"

"Most of the day." He looked uncertainly at me. "I thought they were just the normal aches. They are, aren't they?"

I slowly ran my hands over the skin that held our son. Little tremors were rippling all over the mound and another pain hit him hard. "Sev, I think I'll send for Poppy and Mum. We still don't know if it's safe to let the rest of the world know you're alive."

He'd gone white but all he did was nod. He was so brave that it made my heart ache. Calling out to Ara, I asked her to floo up to Hogwarts and bring back the medi-witch and my mother. She squeaked a yes and disappeared. I got Sev onto his feet and helped him walk around the room. I wanted to see if the baby had shifted any further. Suddenly he gasped and I saw bloody water splash the floor.

"Yar water just broke, Sev. It looks like Arwen was right, more than six and less than nine months right on the nose."

"Well, that's good news. I'd like to get my old body back." He said with a little smile. "But if my waters broke, how did they exit my body?"

That was a real good question and I knelt by his side to raise his robe and gingerly feel between his legs. "Good news, Sev, the baby just grew his own birth canal. For a while at least, ya've got a vagina and it's dilated about five centimeters. I think he's impatient ta come out and play with Ss-sarco."

He laughed and choked at the same time. The ripples were getting closer together and I picked him up to carry him into our bedroom. I set him down in the chair to strip off the duvet and put the protective rubber sheet over the mattress. We'd decided that we wanted our son born in the same bed where we'd conceived him. But birthing a baby is messy business so I'd been ready to make sure that we could clean up easy.

Severus was panting now and grimacing. I pulled him up and helped him out of his robe, easing him down gently on the rubber sheet after quick warming it up a little. He sighed and stretched a little before curling up into a ball around the baby.

"Oh, damn, this hurts, Ru. Remind me why this is a good idea." He said between pants.

"Because when ya're done, ya're going ta be holding our very own son in yar arms." I gave him my arm and helped him sit up. "It's better ta be sitting up, that helps remind the baby where he needs ta go."

"Oh good . . . can't have . . . him forget that . . . teeny, tiny channel he needs to travel."

I chuckled and slid my hand between his legs again. He was dilating fast and was already up to seven centimeters. But the pains were coming faster yet and he was struggling not to whimper out loud. So I encouraged him to say what he was thinking and feeling. That might have been a mistake because he started giving me all the reasons why he thought I should have to carry the next child.

That was when I learned that his mama had said that we might have two more children. I was smiling up a storm when Poppy and Mum charged in. Severus was blushing so hard when he realized they were there that he went beet-red.

"I've seen that private bit a time or two before, Sev. Maybe not on ya, but I promise not ta tell anybody." Mum was real no nonsense before she draped a sheet over him. "Rubeus, I need ya ta get behind Sev ta support him when he needs ta push."

Poppy was clucking and spelling the bed sterile. "You're doing fine, Severus, and so fast. Royan will be jealous when she hears how quickly you delivered."

He just panted some more while I shifted until I was propping him up with my whole body. "That's it, Sev. It's okay ta yell at me all ya want."

"I was going to save that for when it really hurts." He said between little groans. The pains were nigh onto continuous and two hours later I finally saw Poppy nod to me.

"Okay, my beautiful, wonderful Sev. It's almost time ta push. Try and stay still, just let our son move into position."

"Ah-h-h," he strained to do what I asked but I could feel the pain all along our bond.

I hugged him close and felt his skin burn under my hands. Poppy nodded sharply but spoke real gently. "Severus, it's time to push."

"Push for us, my sweet Sev." Mum crooned to him while she and Poppy pushed his legs a little further up.

Sev pushed with all his might for a very long moment then collapsed against me. Poppy checked him again and nodded. "Good one, Severus, I can see his crown. Take some deep breaths and push when you're ready."

I tried to lend him my strength but he was the one doing all the work. He strained so hard that I was afraid he would rupture something. Mum had a towel in her hands but I couldn't see anything beyond Sev's contorted face. "Mum?"

And Sev relaxed all over while Mum raised the towel holding our bloodstained son in her big hands. Sev had done it. Poppy was murmuring about the afterbirth while Mum cleaned his little nose out so he could cry. And cry he did, just as soon as he could.

"Rubeus and Severus, meet thy son." Mum laid him gently on Sev's chest.

"Tobias Petronicus Hagrid." Sev's voice was a mere thread and his hands were shaking as he stroked the soft skin at our son's temple.

There was something in my eyes so I wasn't seeing all that well. "He's . . . he's beautiful, Sev."

"That he is, you two." Poppy smiled at us. "Let me clip the umbilical cord so you can cut it, Rubeus."

So I cut it with the little silver knife that Dad had used on the boys when they blood-bonded with each other. And then Sev roused enough to seal off the end with a bit of magic. Mum finished cleaning up and asked me to lift Sev off so she could remake the bed. It was kind of awkward but I didn't want to let go of Sev and he wouldn't let go of the baby.

But we managed with a minimum of fuss. Mum even managed to take the baby long enough to finish cleaning him free of the last of the birthing fluid and blood while I got a clean nightshirt onto Sev. I pushed a few pillows behind him so he'd have a prop in case I needed to move.

"Are ya ready, my bairns?" Mum smiled down at us. "I can hear an awful lot of aunts and uncles waitin' to see their new nephew."

Sev was barely awake but he nodded with a sleepy smile. "And he's eager to meet his family."

Tobias yawned in our faces and started sucking on his fingers. Those long perfect fingers and perfect toes, which I'd counted just a moment ago. Yeah, he was ready and so were we. This was going to be a Winter Solstice like no other in the Hagrid family. I could hardly wait.


I'd never been so glad to be home. Leaving Rumania and the dragons there had been hard, but coming back to England and Hogwarts, well, that was easy. I'd stopped in for a quick visit with the folks before hauling my things to the school. Once winter was over, I was going to build a nice little house for two humans and six dragons. I could hardly wait.

Breaking the news that I was bonding soon was both a joy and a sorrow. Dad was prepared but Mom wasn't and she threw a bit of a fit when I told her that I was bonding within the year to a 'he' and his name was Draco Malfoy. But her reaction was probably going to be the one I got from Ron and the twins so I talked until I was hoarse. She finally agreed to accept it for now.

I knew she was going to work on distracting me so that's when I told them that I'd accepted the position of Dragon Master for the Forbidden Forest. Dad was pretty proud of me and even Mom was glad that I'd come home to stay. I couldn't say much with her there but when Dad and I went off on one of our walks, he filled me in on the trials and all the brouhaha that had followed the last battle.

Severus Snape had finally been declared a hero but no one knew where he was. The Ministry had grudgingly given him back the manor and the proceeds of the auction of his belongings. I clenched my jaw over the injustice but brought out my pictures of Tobias that Draco had sent me. Dad had to wipe his eye after seeing the drawn but smiling Sev holding the tiny bundle with the shock of black hair.

The Hagrids as a family were going to get a medal or twenty and they deserved it. Dad mentioned that Bill and I were also in the running for an honor or reward or something. That didn't matter, although it might go a ways towards placating Mom. Bill hadn't told them about Hossic or Arwen though so I had a good chance that that explosion would make her forget about me and Draco.

I told myself that it would all blow over so long as neither of us got pregnant. Dad wanted to know what the joke was so I told him. He hasn't laughed that hard since Aunt Esmerelda sat down and broke the antique chair. She still hasn't forgiven him. We walked back home making plans for the spring and just talking about little stuff. It had been a while since we'd done that.

It was so good to be home.

I put most of my stuff in the storage that Gration had reserved for me then caught the Express to Hogwarts. I wished I'd apparated once on the train because I wanted to be there 'now'. When had I gotten so impatient? I smiled to myself - when a slender blond with a sharp wit and an even sharper tongue came into my life, that's when. I'd missed him more than I thought I would even when we owled each other every other day.

I was back to wishing that the train would go faster. Bringing out the last picture that he'd sent of baby Ss-sarco, I smiled at the roly-poly dragonling sitting in Draco's lap. Harry must have taken the picture because the teenager was laughing, his whole face lit up with joy. I wanted to see that in person and better yet, I wanted to see him smile at me that way.

Swinging off the train, I apparated straight to the house on the edge of the Forest. Taking a deep breath, I knocked on the front door and waited for Ara to answer. But Rubeus opened the door and just about crushed me in his hug. He whispered that the baby was asleep but Draco was out in the greenhouse. So I gave him my suitcase and walked around the house to the heated outdoor room that was now a dragon playpen.

And that's when I got the best present of all when Draco caught sight of me. He smiled all over and jumped up to fling himself into my arms. My heart was too full to say a word so I just wrapped my arms around him and kissed all the bits of him that I could find. He was doing the same thing so eventually our lips met in our first kiss in almost seven weeks.

I'd never get enough of his kisses, not if we lived as long as Albus. Each one was more special than the last and I'd grown addicted to the sweet taste of him. He was fond of caramel so I tasted that sweetness when I sucked on his tongue. We were both panting when we broke apart to look at each other. His hair had grown past his collar and it was in a kind of page boy style that fit his angular face.

Running my fingers through it, I thought it softer than swan down. He'd laid his head on my shoulder and I caught him taking a deep breath as if he was committing me to memory. Over his head, I saw Ss-serens looking on approvingly while little Ss-sarco dozed at her side.

"Draco, let's go in. I'm starving and something smelled awfully good when Rubeus told me where you were." I nuzzled his temple and took one of those deep breaths of my own. He smelled like fresh clean snow looks.

"Rubeus has been cooking up a storm for the solstice party. Mum has taken over the kitchens at school and she's been cooking nonstop for a week. Nobody is going to go away hungry over the next few days." He looked up at me. "Can you stay, Charlie?"

"I'm here to stay, Draco. You'll be sick of me in no time." I caressed his soft cheek and he turned his head just enough to kiss my palm. The tingles were taking hold with a vengeance.

"Never, Charlie, I'll never get sick of you. Do you think that we can . . . bond after my NEWTS?" He looked unsure for the first time in our conversation.

"Damn straight we're bonding after you pass your NEWTS." I said firmly and watched his eyes light up. "You'll have turned 17 by then so I won't quite be robbing the cradle."

"There's nothing childish about me, Charlie." He said affectionately before taking my hand and dragging me from the greenhouse. "We can have a double bonding with Gersey and Harry." He looked over his shoulder. "I'm still not getting pregnant though."

"That's okay, love, we've got Ss-sarco to raise anyway." I reminded him and he laughed softly while leading me into the house proper.

Rubeus was stirring something on the stove. "Great timing, guys. Dra' would ya set the table? It's just the four of us ta night. Charlie, why don't ya go in and see Toby? Sev's feeding him now."

I nodded and quietly opened the door to the nursery. It smelled of baby powder and the soft glow of candles illuminated Severus rocking in the old rocker that the Hagrids had bought at the estate sale. Draco had mentioned that Sev was nursing the baby but that hadn't prepared me for seeing the tiny lips suckling at an exposed nipple. I tiptoed over when Sev looked up and smiled at me.

"Welcome back, Charles. We all missed you." He looked down with a rueful smile. "I don't know how Ru talked me into this but it's quite satisfying in its own way."

"At the risk of sounding maudlin, I've never seen anything more beautiful, Sev. He's a dedicated eater, isn't he?" I said softly, kneeling by his side and gazing at the rosebud lips and ruddy cheeks.

The baby seemed to know that I was talking about him because he stopped sucking and opened his eyes to look straight at me. He seemed to think that I looked all right for he smiled at me then went right back to nursing, patting the gentle swell of Sev's right breast. He wasn't all that well-endowed, just a little plumper than my own. Idly, I wondered if he was more sensitive now than he'd been before he started lactating.

Rubeus stuck his head in and announced dinner was ready when we were. The baby dropped his nipple and turned his head to smile at his Daddy, even waving his little hand in Rubeus' direction. Sev chuckled. "Go wash up, Charles. By the time you're through your first course, he should be done and burped."

I dropped a gentle kiss on the baby's head and stood. "Just tell me when you need him burped. I'm good at that, you can ask my mother. I practiced on the twins until I left for school."

Sev was still chuckling when I passed Rubeus to go to the bathroom. Draco had set the table and he steered me to his bathroom, talking a blue streak the whole way. When I stopped him at the bathroom door with a quip about some things needing to be private, he tilted his head in his thinking pose.

"Shouldn't I get a chance for a look at something I'm going to become intimately acquainted with?" He said with a grin.

"Intimately, huh?" I grinned back and unzipped to take a whiz. In the mirror, I saw his eyes widen. "Well, it's true that all of me belongs to you, Dra'. What do you think?"

He sighed a little and I risked a look over my shoulder while shaking off the last drop and tucking myself back into my boxers. "I think I'm pretty lucky, Charlie. And the rest of the wizard world should go into mourning for what they're going to be missing."

I laughed all the way through washing my hands and drying them off. Draco looked way too smug but I just smiled and wrapped an arm around him to steer him back to the dining room table where a feast awaited us. Conversation was general until Severus joined us then we started talking about the solstice party that was scheduled on the 21st. It promised to be the party of the century and everybody was going to be there.

Severus even mentioned that Mum Hagrid had sent an invitation to my folks so it looked like they'd be meeting my intended sooner than I thought. I'd talk to Sev later about how to handle Mom, he might have some ideas. The one thing I was certain of was that she wouldn't hurt Draco nor would my brothers, not if I had anything to say about it.

Finally we rolled away from the table absolutely stuffed. Rubeus mentioned that my old room in Gersey's caravan was ready for me and the water was hot if I wanted to bathe away the trip. Draco looked hopefully at Severus and casually told him that we were bonding after he passed his NEWTS.

Severus was hard put not to smile but he gave permission for Draco to accompany me for a while. "Take it slow, Dra', that's what I'd like you to promise."

Draco beamed that joyful smile that I cherished from the picture I carried with me. "Thanks, Sev. I promise. I just want to do some exploring."

Rubeus chuckled. "We trust the pair of ya. Just don't go ta far and get in over yar heads."

"We won't, Ru." I gave my own promise. "We've got all the time in the world to explore now. Come on, Dra. Let's give them some privacy."

"Thanks for dinner, Ru." Draco unselfconsciously kissed the half-giant's cheek before moving over to his guardian and hugging him with another kiss. I would have bet that he'd be more formal with them even after the months he'd lived here.

Will wonders ever cease? I certainly hoped not. Picking up my suitcase, I slung an arm around my soon-to-be-lover and let him lead me to the caravan where Bill and I had spent so many days. He told me that Gersey was due in tomorrow so tonight would be our only night, really and truly alone.

That was probably good since I was having a hard time keeping my hands to myself. It felt so good to hold him close. Once we shut the door behind us, I dropped my suitcase in the bedroom that Bill and I had shared and checked to see if the bed had clean sheets.

"I set up everything on Monday in case you came home in time for the solstice." Draco said offhandedly.

"Thanks for thinking ahead, Dra'." I kissed him softly but pulled back when it started getting hard and aching. "Bath time is play time, my dragon."

Draco beamed at me. "I like that nickname. No one's ever given me one except for the Hagrids shortening it to Dra'."

"You're my very own dragon and I promise to take good care of you, always." I promised him and he hugged me with tear-bright eyes. I rubbed his back a little, then started backing him towards the bathroom where Gersey had told me that he and Harry had done some exploring of their own.

Once we stripped off and slid into the hot water, I lay back and let him explore to his heart's content. His touches were magic and pretty soon he had both hands wrapped around my cock and I was shooting off like a geyser. He looked pretty proud of himself and I tugged him into my arms for a lush kiss. But even when we got pretty involved, I kept a small part of myself on guard to watch and be sure I didn't frighten him.

But when I traded places with him and deep throated his pretty cock, I let myself worship him the way he should have been worshiped his whole life. He let out an almost silent scream when he came and passed out. I savored his bitter taste and licked him clean before sliding him into my arms and leaning back to wait for him to come back to me.

"Charlie," he whispered into my throat, "is it always like that?"

"It will be for us, my dragon, because we love each other. There's so much more for us to share but we've got time now to take it easy and learn what we both like." I kissed his temple then his lips when he turned his head towards me.

He tasted so good that I promised myself the luxury of kissing him everyday until we bonded. When the water started getting a little cool, we hastily washed and rinsed before getting out and going to bed. All my traveling finally seemed to catch up with me and I groaned a little at the clean sheets and the soft duvet that floated over us.

My eyes were at half-mast and Draco snuggled close with an arm and leg over me while he told me more of the news I'd been missing. Pretty soon all I was hearing was the sound of his voice like velvet sliding over my senses. And two minutes after that, I was sound asleep.


I watched him sleep and thought about what we'd done and how it had felt. His cock had felt like steel wrapped in soft silk. We were both circumcised but that's all we had the same. His shaft was tall with a flaring head like a helmet while mine was straight with a sleek crown that only flared out when I was really hard.

He'd taken me in all the way and I was determined that I would learn how to do that for him. It had felt so good and just thinking about it had me hardening again. But that was okay, I was used to waiting for something really important. And Charles Weasley was more important to me than anyone in the world although Severus and the new baby who was my little brother came a real close second.

I couldn't see myself ever giving up control of my body for nine or even seven months like he had but the result was pretty amazing, I admitted silently. Maybe in ten years or so, I'd think about it again but for the moment, I was committed to safe sex. Giving control of my body over to Charlie had been surprisingly easy to do and I thought about that for a while.

Trusting Charlie was something that I seemed to do instinctively and I mused over why it was him that I trusted so much. Severus and Rubeus were trustworthy and the rest of the Hagrids had woven themselves into my life with seeming ease. I'd been blessed with a kind and caring family after sixteen years of none and that still had the power to amaze me.

Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath of Charlie-scent, I counted my blessings and went to sleep.


Royan shifted uncomfortably and I rubbed the spot in her back that was the usual culprit. She smiled at me and leaned into my side to give me more room to work. I could see Sirius doing the same thing for Rhea while Severus just looked smug and trim. It hadn't taken him long at all to lose the weight of his pregnancy or get his muscles back in shape.

He was carrying little Toby with an air of having always known how to hold an infant while Rubeus cuddled him with an astonished look of joy still on his face. They looked good together and I looked around the great hall to see my extended family sprawled on the furniture we'd assembled. Albus had arranged several groupings of couches and chairs all around the room so people could join and rejoin different family members.

The huge pine tree stopped a foot from the sturdy oak beams of the ceiling and it glittered with old and new decorations. The candles were spelled with magic flames to avoid the fire hazard and the twisted garlands were a riot of House colors threaded together among the fragrant branches. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of brightly wrapped packages nestled around the base and soon we'd open a few to take the edge of anticipation off for the kids.

Since I was one of the kids, I had to admit to being a little excited about that. I hadn't celebrated the Solstice or the muggle equivalent Christmas in years. But this year had been like no other in my life. I was working at a job I loved. I loved and was loved by the most wonderful woman in the world. I had a family again, one that didn't care if I was a werewolf. And I had friends who tested, challenged and liked me for myself.

The children that Royan carried were the bright star on my internal Solstice tree.

They'd begun moving around and we tried to guess which one was which when a little hand tapped out greetings on the right or left side. Ara had given us our gift early today when she told us that there were two boys and one girl. Royan and Rhea each had a baby name book in hand and were throwing out suggestions to an appreciative circle of family. I'd already nixed Pompalonia for my little girl.

She'd be immediately nicknamed Pompy and I couldn't see that at all. Royan had just laughed and told me that one of these days Mum would get out one of the picture albums so I could see the original Aunt Pompy. I could hardly wait.


I looked around and sighed happily. Remus and I had certainly landed on our feet this time. Sometimes I still pinched myself to make sure that I wasn't dreaming. Not even in my wildest dreams had I ever believed that this kind of warm shelter would ever be mine. From the moment I lost my two best friends and went to prison for their deaths, I'd faced the bleakest of futures.

Joy hadn't even been in my vocabulary. But here I was, surrounded by joy and good cheer, not to mention the blessing who was my wife, Rhea. She was everything that I'd never wanted. Family, healing and love weren't gifts that I'd sought but she gave them to me unstintingly and I'd begun to dream again.

Ara had brought us our tea in bed this morning and she gifted us with the knowledge that our child was a girl. The oddest picture flashed through my mind when I heard that. A little red-head with bright green eyes looked straight into mine and smiled all over. "Daddy" was all she said and I wanted to cry but Rhea was already doing that for me.

I held her close and thought that nothing I'd ever done in my life could ever equal the joy of hearing that word. I'd never aspired to be a father but now, I couldn't think of anything better. Albus had given me the chance to teach the first Muggle Studies class in the history of Hogwarts and I'd accepted his offer.

Snape was going to go back to teaching Potions after the New Year but he and Rubeus were going to port into school every morning. His old rooms in the dungeons were now just a part of the guest suites that the castle had begun creating. Little Toby would be watched over by Ara while Snape taught. It was odd but I'd begun to have the urge to call Snape - Severus.

Maybe wonders never do cease, I thought with a chuckle. I looked up when Gersey began playing another carol. The Steinway that he'd bought at the Snape auction had been set up here in the great hall for the holidays. Snape had brought out his violin and the two of them had been playing duets on and off for the last three days. Who knew that Severus had such a creative hand on the bow?

It was odd but it didn't seem to matter what they were playing, they kept coming back to the carols that I remembered from when I was a child. The oddest part of that was looking ahead to our next Solstice celebration when Rhea and I would be holding our daughter; Remus and Royan would be watching over crawling triplets; Severus and Rubeus would probably be dashing here and there after a walking Toby.

I'd probably be watching my godson, my pregnant godson, cuddle with his bonded. I'd finally accepted that Harry's life wasn't going to be what James and Lily had probably envisioned. It was going to be better.


I sat in one of the comfortable wing chairs from my office. Minerva sat in the other and we were both basking in silence while listening to all the conversations that flowed from one side of the room to the other. It was finally over, this war that had consumed almost an entire generation of wizards and witches. I could finally admit that I was tired, tired of planning and plotting and watching the children of my heart die.

I'd been snoozing off and on since waving goodbye to the last of the students. We'd begun the decorating of the great hall almost immediately and I'd watched it be transformed into a cozy nest for the extended Hagrid family. Truly, I'd never felt more relaxed in my long life.

The house elves had outdone themselves now that Elfrida Hagrid had taken over the supervision of the kitchens. I'd even gained some weight that Minerva was pleased to tell me I'd long needed. Petronicus Hagrid was dozing in another chair nearby in this quiet corner of the hall. Finally, I had someone to debate with, play chess with and be friends with.

Someone nearer my own age, who had a razor sharp mind and wasn't afraid to use it. It was exhilarating to no longer be so alone. The Order of the Phoenix was still intact but for now we had nothing better to do than relax and enjoy the holiday. I looked around again and spotted Severus weaving his way through the crowd. I sat up a little straighter and gazed expectantly at him.

He smiled and laid Tobias in my arms. "Well, Godfather Albus, it's time to watch your godson while I do some more playing. Try not to let him eat any more of your beard."

I cradled the little sprite with the snapping blue eyes and silky black hair. "Here we go, Tobias. Don't listen to your mama, I've just been waiting for you to come and play with me."

He giggled and immediately latched onto my beard. He had Severus' long elegant fingers and I waved my Potions Master toward the music corner while tickling my godson. He was such a happy baby and I wondered if Severus had ever been this joyful when he was just a child. I would not fail this little one the way that I'd failed his parent.

Tobias would always know that he was loved and cared for. He would also have the whole world of wizardry to choose from when it came time for him to choose a career. Whatever he did, he'd be supported. I felt laughing waves pass from him through my gnarled old hands. His healing touch had given me back almost all of my former dexterity. I might even challenge Gersey for the piano one of these days.


I rippled through another arpeggio and listened with half an ear to the buzz of conversation around the hall. This Solstice was better than any I'd ever had before. We were all together as a family but that family had doubled in size. Add in the Weasleys and we'd tripled. I grinned down at the keys and caressed them a little harder. There was definitely a dearth of red heads in the rest of the British Isles.

Because most of them were here. Gazing around, I spotted Harry with his arm around Draco while they talked with Ron. There was still some tension there and Charlie hadn't announced that he and Draco were going to bond to any one other than his parents. Arthur seemed all right with it but Molly was being a bit stiff. So my little peace maker was doing his best to smooth over the raw edges.

I spotted Severus threading his way through the crowd to the corner where we'd set up all the instruments. Ever since I'd heard Severus play that beautiful instrument that at the moment lay gleaming on the stand behind the Steinway, I'd been working on getting him into the recording studio. He had a passionate touch that made an audience sigh at a ballad, weep with a dirge and smile tenderly during a love song.

When he'd played a gypsy melody to Rubeus, he'd practically set the rest of us on fire with wanting. If I could just get him into the studio, Peter would go out of his mind. My muggle friend enjoyed an eclectic array of music and Sev would enjoy his acerbic wit. I hadn't given up but he was too content at the moment and I was so happy for him and Rubeus that I wasn't going to push.

I had however, made sure that I had a pensieve recording every performance this season. Little Toby deserved to know in coming years what his first Solstice had sounded like. It was also Harry and my first holiday together and I wanted something to remember it by. As if my thoughts had conjured him, he hugged me from behind while Sev started tuning up.

"Love you, Ger." He whispered in my ear, planting a little kiss behind my ear. "What are you guys going to play now?"

"Sev, have you had any requests?" I asked and he chuckled.

"Schubert's Opus 52, number 6," he said while plucking a string and listening intently.

"Oh please, Ger, Ave Maria is one of my favorites." Harry's eyes lit up and it was my turn to chuckle.

"Mum's too, Harry. Go and see if she'll sing it with us." I sent him off to the buffet table where Mum was setting out more food.


I sat near the music corner and watched my beautiful Sev begin to play. Life didn't get any better than this; my family surrounding me; the love of my life playing so sweetly that he made me want to cry; our son chewing on his godfather's beard; and best of all, there was no longer a Dark Lord to menace our world.

Harry dashed off to Mum and when she came back with him, I sat up a little straighter. She loved to sing and she was good at it, too. The familiar chords of Ave Maria swelled from both the piano and violin and she began to sing along. The whole room fell silent while the pure tones reached out to the rafters and filled the room. That song always brought tears to my eyes and this time was no exception.

Sev's eyes found mine and I watched him with my heart in my throat. He was so beautiful and he loved me. I'd received the best gift of all this year, make that gifts since I still was amazed by our son. He was so tiny but with a real tight grip that tugged at my heart. But it was Severus who brought me the joy that I'd kind of given up on ever receiving.

We ended each day snuggled in our big bed, talking over what had happened during our time apart. Just little stories about the birds I'd seen while shoveling or how Ss-serens had soared overhead during a snowball fight. He'd tell me every thing that Toby had done and how he was starting to notice the world around him. I'd stopped walking to and from Hogwarts, instead porting back and forth. I begrudged every moment away from my two beautiful loves.

I started when everyone clapped only then realizing that Mum had finished singing. Then Gersey asked everyone to sing along with the carols he and Sev began to play. They were old favorites and we sounded real good together. We had a pretty good range of voices so some of us could just hum along. My voice wasn't the best but I could provide a little bass underneath the rest of them.

We sang all our favorites until our musicians begged to be allowed to rest and eat some of the tempting food that Mum and the house elves had been cooking. I crossed over to Sev once he'd carefully laid aside his violin and he slid his arms around me instead.

"I'm hopin' that ya'll play me like that in a wee bit, Sev." I whispered in his ear.

He chuckled and kissed me so sweetly that I almost forgot where we were. But then he pulled away just a little. "I promise that I shall play you like the rare and beautiful instrument you are, my dearest Ru. Once we're alone and Tobias is asleep."

I smiled and led him to the food already counting the hours until I could get him alone.


Mum had outdone herself. The Swedish meatballs practically melted in my mouth and the Greek spinach pie was so good that I devoured the good sized wedge I'd managed to spirit away before Harry saw it. That boy was a bottomless pit these days. He and Draco were both enjoying a growth spurt and they ate endlessly. I'd have worried but they were also expending copious amounts of energy enjoying the snow and ice of this magical winter.

Sitting close to Rubeus, I ate and listened while Royan read out some more baby names. Really there were an awful lot of horrid names out there in the world. Luckily, Ru hadn't minded us naming our new son Tobias after my mother's father and Petronicus after his. I wondered what name we'd have chosen if our child had been a girl. Helena was my mother's name and Elfrida was Ru's but neither of those had struck me as right.

But we wouldn't have to worry about that for a few years since I had no plans for getting pregnant any time soon. Of course, I thought to myself, I hadn't consciously decided to this time around. And as if the thought alone could get his attention, I felt Toby call for me. Chuckling, I gave Rubeus my plate to hold with stern instructions not to touch the rest of the pie while I went to get our son.

Albus was playing peek-a-boo with him but Toby was hungry and the long white beard just didn't fill an empty tummy. Plucking my son away from his godfather, I told him he could play some more the next day. Albus' pout was almost identical to Toby's but I managed to restrain my laughter until I got back to Ru. Discretely unbuttoning enough so Toby had access to my nipple, I pulled his yellow blanket over my shoulder so I didn't flash one of the Weasleys.

Ron was having a hard enough time coming to terms with all the changes in his young life. Fred and George had pretty quickly accepted all the twists and turns our lives had taken but young Ron still froze whenever he saw me holding Toby. What he was going to say about Charlie and Draco didn't bear thinking of.

I just hoped that his wand stayed in his pocket. Glancing down, I saw that Toby had finished that nipple and was patting my chest to tell me to switch him over. Once settled at the other, I continued to watch those rosebud lips suckle at my breast. The feeling was indescribable and I didn't think I'd ever be able to explain what I felt when I was connected to him like this.

I'd given birth to this amazing child and we were still connected whenever he nursed at my breast. To feel my milk spurt into his mouth was so exhilarating that I felt like feeding him all the time. Would I still feel like that five months from now? I didn't know but for now, I was enjoying it. Ru put his arm around me and I leaned into him, leaning my head against his shoulder.

Even joy can be wearying, I thought sleepily. This Solstice was so wonderful that I had nothing to which I could compare it. I was surrounded by family and friends after years of having none. But best of all was the man beside me and the love he'd given me for the last eight months. I was looking forward instead of back and that felt very good indeed.

"I think he's finished, Sev." The soft rumble near my ear made me shiver with delight.

Checking Toby's progress, I found him sound asleep, my nipple falling from his mouth. Gently bringing him to my shoulder, I started the tender patting that usually brought out his burp. I cast my glance around the room, watching the rest of my family interact with each other. The Hagrids had taken in a rather odd bunch of strays but we were all grateful that they had.

I doubted that Sirius and I would ever be friends but we were managing to be civil to each other and that seemed to be enough to get us through those events where we had to share the same room. Perhaps fatherhood would civilize him, I thought sardonically. The little burp told me that Toby was ready for his nap. Rubeus got up first then helped me to my feet. Mum had loaned us the Hagrid cradle for use here in the castle and it was in a quiet corner of the great hall.

We'd pass it on to Royan and Remus when the triplets were born. Although I did just wonder how all three of them would fit. Ru was contemplating the construction of an extra wide cradle that might work better. Ara was waiting by it and she took charge of watching our son until it was time to go home.

Home, what a wonderful word that was. I leaned into my bonded's arms and felt like purring. His big hands rubbed my back and the slight ache that still remained from carrying Toby inside of me for seven months. I suddenly had the urge to make love to Rubeus right now.

"Ru, I think we should go and check on our rooms here." I wiggled just a little against his groin and felt him begin to swell instantly.

"Whatever ya say, Sev." He kissed me eagerly and I savored his spicy taste before pulling away and leading him towards the stairs to the dungeons.

I was going to unwrap my first present and I already knew it was just what I wanted.

The end of part 40