'The Consequences of Mischief
(thanks to Calia for the name!)
Fred and George Weasley, bane of half of the school, stood just inside the doorway to the potion's part of the library. It had it's own room due to the Potion Master's sincere dislike of students and their noise. They probably weren't supposed to be in here, but being seventh years they were now allowed a lot of places they hadn't been before. They looked at each other and smiled, each heading in a different direction to find promising looking books. They needed something to make their last year memorable. They wanted people to remember their names, hopefully with a laugh, but just being remembered would be fine with them.
George made a delighted sound as he pulled down a book. "I can feel the mischief radiating off this one," he said, bringing it over to the work table. His twin met him there and together they started going through it.
"Interesting," Fred said, stopping the flipping at a potent looking potion. They both read the description.
Mischief's Brew, elixir of the Gods. Said to be irresistible to forces of Mischief and Love, and all those who serve them. Remarkable properties of causing screaming fits, hysterical laughter, and most often some life-long memories. Not to be done lightly, but especially potent if said with the incantation...
"Bloody Arabic," George muttered, casting a translation spell. All the best old pranks were in Arabic it seemed.
To mischief I call, to mischief I summon, to them all I call, heed this and appear to get this offering treat. By and with, for and without, heed the siren's call and make plentiful of your gifts.
Fred smiled at his twin. "Yes?"
"Sounds interesting enough. Copy it and we'll see if we can find it again."
They copied the potion and the surrounding information down. Just in time too, as they were putting back the book, the door opened and Professor Snape walked in. "What are you two doing in here?" he sneered.
"Just a bit of research," George told him.
"Out! You don't belong in here. This is part of the forbidden section."
"We're seventh years," Fred said helpfully. "Fully allowed anywhere we want."
"Get out anyway." The twins rushed past him. He slammed the door and looked around the room. Nothing looked out of place. Perhaps they hadn't gotten into any of the potent spells. He glared at the doorway. He hated twins, and especially those two with their jokes and attempts to be confusing. He wished the naming charm he had put on them in their first year hadn't worn off, then they wouldn't have been able to play their 'I'm him' game through the years, but it had somehow. He shrugged off his mental irritations and pulled down the book he needed. The most potent pain potion known to mankind was in here and he had been instructed to start brewing it. He had no idea why, but his Headmaster could be like that sometimes. He sat down to copy the potion, carefully double-checking each ingredient and weight as he wrote. One slip and this would become a poison instead. What a pleasing thought.
Fred and George put down the history book they'd bought in their fourth year, then glanced around the common room. It was a quiet night, with everyone doing homework but them it seemed. And their younger brother because he was fighting with something. He finally tossed it across the room and they smirked. They had known that muggle cube toy would be fun to have around. They looked at each other. "Yes?" George said.
"Yes," Fred agreed.
They knew many potions that called on Mischief didn't work, it was hard to call on a dead God for help most of the time, but this was an offering to him, not directly needing his help so it had a better chance of working correctly. And it was fairly simple. Able to be mixed up in a matter of hours with easily found ingredients.
If it worked, this would be the most memorable year Hogwarts had ever had. They would be even more famous than Harry Potter. Fred glanced at the silent boy. The final fight had left him drained and weak so he wasn't his usual chipper self, but his friends were rallying around him. Even now Hermione was trying to 'help' him do his homework and Ron was telling him something that was making him smile.
"Oh, yes," George said, nodding. "The most memorable ever."
Fred grinned evilly. "Tonight?"
"Astronomy tower or in here?"
"Tower, less chance of being helped." They got up and headed for their secret stashes, then went up to the astronomy tower. No one was in there tonight, it was too early for homework and too warm for couples to be hiding up here yet. They set up quickly, directly under the skylight so they didn't need a light source. Long ago they had learned how to shield their fires so it wouldn't be seen. No one would even think to look for them up here. Even the teachers patrolling the grounds for couples wouldn't think to look up here. Most couples were out in the greenhouses right now because it was warm and nice. Madam Sprout never minded as long as you cleaned up after yourself and she made sure to have the contraceptive herbs close to each other in a special corner for them. Practical that woman was.
As they brewed, they found out that they needed one very special ingredient they had stolen off Professor Snape many years before. Ambrosia Solution. Fred went to get it from it's special hiding place. He came back with the small vial. "How many drops?"
"Six." George looked at the potion. "Yes, six. Seems like a lot."
"It's powerful stuff," Fred agreed. "But it's useful." Their best prank to date was made with this stuff, their energy candy. Sure to give you a blast, or make you a blast, one of the two. The six drops were poured in and the potion started to firm up so they pulled their wands, stirring the solution with them, counterclockwise as all potions that called on Mischief were stirred, saying the incantation together. When they were done, it flashed gently and firmed completely, becoming jelly-like.
"Interesting," George said, pulling a glob out to mold in his hands. "Balls?"
"Would be fine," Fred agreed, reaching in to dish some out himself. They filled the plate they had brought with them with the little flesh-colored balls, noticing how some of them had shots of red through them. They weren't certain what it was going to do, but they looked like fun. They cleaned up after themselves and carefully covered the plate, taking everything back to where it belonged and the plate back to their room to hide. They'd figure out where to put them later.
Little did they realize that there was residue on their hands, and whenever they touched something it left a trace amount on it. Residue that would be there tomorrow when the students touched the Astronomy tower door, or the common room's doorframe, or the back of the couch they leaned on as they offered their favorite test subject one of the balls. Or the bathroom handles. Or the girl's dorm door because someone had just screamed and being manly men they had went to check and make sure everyone was all right of course.
Strife, the not-so-dead God of Mischief and Mayhem, lifted his head from his bed and looked around, sniffing. "Cupe, do you smell that?" he whispered. When he got a sleepy mumble, he shoved his lover hard. "Take a whiff," he told him.
Cupid sat up and sniffed. "What is that? It smells familiar."
Strife grinned. "I don't know, but I just got one fuck of a power rush and I'm gonna go find out." He got out of bed and dressed in his stealth outfit, none of the safety pins rattled on this one. "Wanna help?"
"No, you have fun. I'm gonna enjoy not getting up in the middle of the night." He closed his eyes and went back to sleep quickly, as only an experienced parent can do.
Strife grinned at the silly picture his lover made, but he had something to investigate and he was nothing if not curious. He felt around, following the traces of energy of the prayer to him. "Oh, it's them!" he said happily, going to see what his current favorite little hellions were doing. He carefully entered the school. Technically, he wasn't supposed to be here. This was Hecate's territory and she'd be pissed, but they were his guys and he could visit them. It was a good enough excuse to save him from some tortures that would make even his Uncle Ares wince on his behalf. He hurried up past the caretaker, making the man shudder at the breeze he created.
"Damn kids," he muttered. "What did they do this time?" He followed the breeze back to the open front door and slammed it. "Must be one of the Slytherins, they wouldn't need the stairs." He nodded at his cat to hurry in front of him and catch the little buggers. He hated them almost as much as he hated those Gryffindors.
Strife snuck into the tower by bribing the fat lady with a candy bar. He stopped to take a smell. The scent was strong in here, like it was coating everything. He followed it around the room. A couch, the stairs. The girls' stairs and a door up there, but only faint traces. He went back up to the boy's side, smiling when he found his cute little twosome. They were so his. Between them, on the floor, he found a small plate of fleshy balls. His mouth started to water as he conveniently forgot what those little things meant. "Oh, man," he whispered, taking half of the pile. He'd be sharing it around, maybe. These were his favorite! He'd have to do something great for those two. He flashed back to his temple and woke Cupid up again. "Look what the twins made me," he said happily, showing them off.
Cupid looked up at him. "What is it with you and multiples?" He sat up and took one of the balls to sniff. It was intoxicating, smelling like Strife after sex. "Hmm," he said after tasting it. "Good. What are they?"
"I don't know but they made it 'specially for me. Called it a treat and everything." He sat down to nibble one himself. Within seconds, he was more than horny and ready to go. The rest of the balls went onto the bedside table as Cupid attacked him. His stealth outfit was in tatters before he was finally forced onto his back and taken again. When Cupid paused, Strife flipped them over so he could get on top. Cupid whined as he slowly penetrated him, he liked it faster. "Oh, you're so gonna get it," he said, wiping up some of the spilled cum on his lover's dick to lick off. It drove Cupid wild when he did that.
The next morning, two very sore Gods walked out of their temple and to the meeting area. Along the way, the residue spread from their hands to a few posts, and Joxer's hands when he hugged them. Having one of his favorite mortals up here as his faithful servant had always pleased Strife to no end, and kept him out of everyone else's hair as they planned together. The residue was coating half of Olympus by the end of the day and Joxer had long ago went on his back for his current lover, Ganymede.
Even Ares had been affected, though no one saw who his lover was that night. It was a carefully hidden secret that no one could find out. If they tried, not only did they get visits by Phobos and Deimos, the bad kind, they usually became targets of the whole House of War's ill will and affection. It was enough that it happened once, the rest had learned their lesson. And it had been Eris, who was favored by Ares.
George and Fred looked around the common room the next night. There definitely was a lot of snogging going on in public. They looked at each other and shrugged. Perhaps it was part of their potion, but they had been careful to put the remaining parts up that morning. The person who had taken some of them had come back to see them during a break outside, and had given them both great hugs. It had been shocking, they thought he was dead. It had also been cause for great celebration and a reason to consider joining his forces.
Who else was better suited to look after them?
They noticed their brother shifting uncomfortably and smiled. Whatever was causing the rampant sex in the air problem was apparently getting to him too. They grinned as Ron left the common area, heading down to one of the walkways probably. Little did they know that their brother was going to meet someone, someone who had potions right after the twins had and was feeling this too.
The twins giggled as Hermione growled and pounced her other best friend, sending him crashing to the floor. They clapped even. She looked up at them. "If you had something to do with this, you're dead," she growled, getting off poor Harry to stalk after them. She looked scary and was smart enough to find something horrible to do to them, so they ran. She sniffed and went back to her plaything, sure he wouldn't mind too much. They were friends.
Madam Pomfrey hurried up to the Headmaster's office in October, frowning greatly. "Albus, there's something wrong," she announced. "I've seen half of the fifth, sixth, and seventh years over the last few days complaining of nausea."
He looked up at her. "Just the girls?" He remembered hearing McGonagall bitch out her house for a few nights of rampant sexual activity. Perhaps it was caused by that?
"No, that's the kicker. Not only is it both sexes, it's not got a disease causing it that I can find. Not a single germ, virus, or even a potion. I might have suspected a poisoning, but I have given Severus a random sample of blood and he said he couldn't find anything in them." She rang her hands. "What do I do about this? We should quarantine them. Especially Gryffindor and Slytherin because they're the greatest infected it seems."
"Give ten random students complete physicals," he suggested. "Do the full bloodwork and all that stuff. If you can't find anything by this weekend, I'll cancel the trip to Hogsmeade and we'll figure it out in the next month." She nodded and hurried away. "What now?" he sighed. As if the Ministry bragging that they had solved the Voldemort issue wasn't enough, now he had a whole school full of infected children? And poor Harry, he was still in recovery from nearly having to kill himself. It had been the only way and the boy had done it to himself, but still. It was hard on one to nearly die. He hoped the poor boy didn't catch this as well.
On Olympus, Hera was woken by a familiar tingle in her stomach. She glanced around her room, but no one was nearby. She heard someone moving about in the outer parts of her temple, but nowhere closer. She sat up and checked herself, going slowly in case she missed something. It was better to be safe than sorry in such matters. She found an odd residue on her fingers and licked at it, moaning as the taste hit her. She was going to kill someone! "STRIFE!" she screamed.
He appeared, looking faintly green. "Yeah?" He created a bucket and threw up. "Sorry."
She slid out of her bed and grabbed him, giving him a thorough investigation. "How could you do this? And spreading it around!"
"Do what?" he asked. He threw up some more. "I'm not the reason Cupe and I are sick, we just are. I checked, there's no bug goin' around." He sat on the edge of her bed. "What did I do this time?"
"You spread around that damn potion," she said angrily. He looked clueless. "The one that gave you the triplets?" she told him, sounding snarky and mean.
"Oh." He blinked a few times. "Oh, shit!" he said, jumping up. "I didn't do it! I swear, I didn't touch it. I didn't know what it was and I didn't make it at all, I swear, Hera, please don't off me."
She shoved him back onto her bed. "What do you mean you didn't make it? Who did?"
"See, I've got these two in trainin', at Hecate's school." Hera nodded for him to go on. "A few months back, I got a prayer from them. When I went ta see 'em, they had these little balls on a plate between 'em. And they smelled so good!" he whined. "So I ate one."
"More than one probably," she sighed. "How did it get on me?"
"They probably forgot to dust the outside of them with anything to keep 'em from being sticky," Strife told her, standing up. "Please don't kill me or them."
She growled and he disappeared before she could hit him. "How dare they! And mortals as well!" She stormed out, going to find her husband. She didn't have the authority to strike Strife dead, but he did. She pounded on his door until he opened it. "Someone made Mischief's Brew," she said angrily. "It's all over Olympus."
"I guess we're having children again then," Zeus said, then shut the door in her face. He leaned against it in case she tried to come through it, wincing as she screamed and pounded some more. "I'll have to do something about this later," he told himself, going back to his bed. Unfortunately alone, but he was better off this way for now. He sent a quick note to Hecate to have her look into a diminishing potion so the traces of it wouldn't hurt anyone. He stopped to think for a second. Mischief's Brew. The reason Strife got pregnant the last six times. The reason Cupid got pregnant the last three times. Oh, dirt! He decided a sudden trip was in order, preferably to somewhere far away where Hera couldn't find him in the next seven months. Yes, seven should be enough to get everyone delivered safely. If she had found it then they all had to be over three months along. He packed a bag and left, going to his favorite hiding spot. Las Vegas. So many pretty women who'd sleep with him for a few trinkets and a favor.
Hera felt her husband leave and sneered. "Leave me alone with this will you," she said, storming to go find Hecate. She slammed into her sister's temple, waking her up. "Fix it," she snarled. "Make Zeus feel everything from all the pregnant ones."
Hecate looked at her. "Why would I do that?"
"Because someone in one of your schools found the potion to make Mischief's Brew!"
She shook her head slowly. "It can only be one pair of troublemakers. I'll deal with them in a while." She got out of bed and put on her robe. "What did you want me to do, Hera?"
"I even have it on me," Hera told her.
"Then I'll mix a neutralizing potion for Olympus and some of the nice anti-nausea potions for you and Apollo. What did you want to happen to Zeus? And where is he?"
"With those mortal trollops who'll sleep with him for a simple gift. Make him suffer, badly." Then she stormed off, going to wake the slut Apollo. He yelled when she crashed through his doors, hurrying out to see who was attacking. "Mischief's Brew has been made," she announced haughtily. She still didn't like him because of his mother, the harlot. Taking her husband? "We'll be busy. Check everyone tomorrow, it's all over Olympus."
"Yes, ma'am," Apollo said, eyes wide. Her nightgown was barely there and he was still horny.
"Oh, get over it. You couldn't handle me, boy." She walked out, going to talk to Ares. Her son would beat Strife so she wouldn't have to. Ares' temple was sealed shut, too tightly for her to get into. He must have his little mortal up again. She sneered. "We'll see about that," she said, walking away. She felt a rush of power heading her way and braced herself. Mortals, pregnant, lots of them. "Wonderful. Apparently Strife's troublemakers spread it around there too.
Madam Pomfrey screamed. Literally opened her mouth and screamed. "ALBUS!" He came running, only slowing once he came through the door. "Test the five random subjects on the tables," she ordered. "I know why. We won't have to quarantine after all."
Albus walked down the line, looking over the three girls and two boys. He walked back to look at the two boys again. "How did this happen?" He looked at both boys. "What would create this situation?"
"I don't know, but I'm thinking Severus might have an idea. He was laughing earlier." She glared at them. "Dismissed back to classes. Expect to be called before me again for a meeting." They hurried out, not sure why she was so unhappy with them being sick. Ron Weasley skidded out last, he had forgotten his books on the bed. She glared at the doorway. "We will have to tell everyone, and their parents, Albus."
"I think we'd better have some answers first," he said calmly. "It takes a powerful spell to make males pregnant, Poppy." He glanced around. "I'll talk to Severus in a moment." She nodded. "You arrange for a meeting and find a way to figure out who was infected and who wasn't." He smiled. "At least this will be an interesting year and it's not a major crisis," he said cheerfully. "No one should die from it and there hopefully won't be a Death Eater in sight."
She sneered. "Draco Malfoy was one of the ones infected."
"Oh." He shook his head. "Never mind then, I'll tell Lucius personally." He smiled as he walked away, thinking about revealing *that* bit of news to the ass. He ran into Severus outside his classroom. "We must talk. Walk with me." He walked him back toward his office. "Severus, we're in a dire situation. We seem to have half the upper forms pregnant." The Potion's Master stopped and looked at him. "Yes, you heard me right," he said quietly. "Pregnant. Both males and females, mostly from your house and Gryffindor. Would you happen to know of anything that might cause this?"
He frowned, then hurried back to his classroom, slamming the door open. "Weasleys," he hissed. "Hallway, now!" They obediently walked out and looked at him. "What did you make from the potion's library?" They stayed silent. "I will know, even if I have to torture you myself," he warned.
"Easy, Severus," Dumbledore told him, giving the twins a smile. "I would like to know since it seems to have caused a rash of pregnancies, including your own brother I believe." One of them's mouth fell open, the other winced. "Now, what did you make and is there some sort of counter? We'll need to know how it was spread."
Severus straightened up. "It can only be one potion in there. Called Mischief's Brew." Both twins swallowed. He sneered at them. "Tell me, did you think about coating it with anything or did you stupidly spread it around the school?"
"It didn't say to coat it with anything," Fred told him. George groaned. "Sorry, sir, we thought it was supposed to be a prank."
"Ron's really stuffed up?" George asked. Dumbledore nodded. "Who'd sleep with him?"
"Apparently someone did," Fred pointed out. He grinned. "You know what this means, don't you?"
"Ron takes it?"
Fred nodded. "Exactly. We'll have fun with this one."
"My office," Dumbledore told them. "Now. You'll be helping me tell parents. Serverus, can you please find something to neutralize it? And figure out how most of your house got it?"
"They have potions after this class," Severus reminded him. "I suspect we'll find traces on everything the stupid creatures touched."
"Oh." Dumbledore nodded. "Then please make a neutralizing solution before the rest of us are helped along. I don't think I want to have any at this time, maybe some other year." He walked away, going to beat those two for this if their parents allowed it. Or maybe they should admit it in front of everyone that was infected and the parents? No, there were too many Death Eaters who would probably be there. Best to let Molly kill them herself. He stopped to call her from the staffroom, bringing her and her husband up to talk to them.
The boys flinched when their mother and father walked in. "We're sorry," they said in unison. "It wasn't supposed to do that!"
Molly looked down at them. "Tell me what you did before he does or I'm going to hurt you both," she promised. They hadn't been called to the school yet, only owls, so this must have been horrible. Probably someone was lying dead somewhere.
Dumbledore laughed as he closed the door. "No, Molly, no one's died at this time. Gotten into a bit of trouble, but not dead." He sat behind his desk. "Do you want to tell them?"
"Boys?" Arthur asked.
"We did something called Mischief's Brew," George told her.
Fred nodded. "It was supposed to be a large prank, not make everyone pregnant."
Molly passed out. Arthur looked at his sons. "Run, boys, before she comes too." They ran from the office, knowing good advice when they heard it. "Albus, did you want to kick them out now or later this year?"
Dumbledore leaned forward, watching as the other man tended to his wife. "Is she all right?" Arthur nodded. "Then I'm going to suggest something *much* worse. They're going to have to help everyone, be a 'buddy' as it were to every pregnant person, including your son Ron."
Arthur sat down hard. "Ron?" Dumbledore nodded. "The potion was that strong?"
Albus smiled. "Yes, indeed it was. It even got a certain Malfoy from what I'm told."
Arthur smirked. "I want to see the look on his face when he realizes what that means."
"You and me both, Arthur, you and me both. Would that suit you?" Arthur nodded, smirking now. It was clear who the boys had gotten their mischievous nature from. "Then I'll let your wife tell them what they'll need to do. I'd say she's an expert in the subject by now. I'd also like her to help Poppy with telling the children and counseling them if she wouldn't mind." Arthur nodded again. "Thank you. I know this will be hard on you. We'll try to keep the creators a secret, but I fear this may weigh heavily on you for some time to come."
"Or them," Arthur told him. "We're not taking care of them."
"Oh, they weren't affected. Their girlfriends have been a bit too busy to attend to them recently. Just Ron as far as I know."
"Thank you, Albus. We'll stay for the night if you'd like."
"Please. I'm going to have to inform everyone tonight as is and I could probably use a good game of Wizard's Chess if you're up to it." He rang a cord beside his desk, brining a house elf. "Show them to a guest suite and tell Poppy they're here." The house elf bowed and led them away, trying hard not to talk to them. Dumbledore had a sudden thought. Did the house elves get any on them? Oh, dear. They carried for three years. He put his head down on his desk and groaned. "I'm retiring," he told himself. "At the end of this year, I'm retiring and will go hide somewhere far away. Possibly I'll take Harry with me, but definitely somewhere far away." He forced himself to sit back up and summon the people he needed to inform. This wasn't going to go over well at all. The Ministry was going to have a fit and the Daily Prophet would lynch them all. Perhaps he would give up the twins after all, it would save everyone some trouble. No, they were still children, he was supposed to protect them. Lucius Malfoy was the first one to appear. "Sit, we're waiting on a few others."
"I hope this is important. I was in the middle of something."
"Very," Dumbledore said calmly. "Yes, quite important and interesting." The other members joined them and looked around. "Arthur's settling in for a few days. I've asked for them to help Poppy in this matter."
"What matter?" Lucius asked with his usual sneer.
"Someone made a potion called Mischief's Brew, which has the effect of making people quite fertile and randy." The Minister of Magic whimpered. "Yes, indeed, it has happened to a number of students through causal contact, including some males." Arthur walked in and he smiled at him for the excellent timing. "Including yours, Lucius."
"What!" He jumped up. "This is a joke."
"You can check your son out for the day to have him examined if you want," the Minister of Magic told him. "Sit." He looked at Albus. "Casual contact?"
"The potion is apparently a little sticky if not coated and the makers didn't realize it was clinging to them. Or everything that they touched. Most of Gryffindor and at least three quarters of Slytherin's upper classes are now infected, with a random smattering from the other two houses. How would you like to deal with this? Beyond telling the parents and the students why they've been so ill."
The Minister of Magic groaned. "Albus, I don't want to deal with this at all." He stood up. "You are the Headmaster. Have fun." He nodded at Arthur as he walked away. "Any of yours?"
"One that we know of," Arthur agreed. "Ron." He smiled. "Molly's been asked to help Poppy tell the students what to expect."
"After having so many I'm not surprised," Lucius said as he stood up. "I want my son now."
"Afraid that he'll bend over and make it twins?" Arthur asked, then he smiled and walked his boss out, talking quietly to him about damage control.
Lucius glared at the doorway. "How dare he!"
"Your son is one of the infected," Albus confirmed. "Poppy Pomfrey said so, and it does have to be done the natural way." Lucius pale face gained color in probably the first time since he had been born. "Do sit if you feel faint," he offered. He looked at the other board members and the head of the Aurors. "Did you need to do something? It was accidental and we're suitably punishing the students who did this. They were unaware of the potion's effects."
"Then they probably have nothing to fear from us. Might be able to be charged under the magical rape statues, but if they can prove they didn't know." He shrugged. "I'm sure it'll be fine." He leaned over. "Twins?" he whispered. Dumbledore nodded. "We'll keep an eye out for them then." He smiled and left them alone.
"I want the children who did this to my son!" Lucius thundered.
"I think you'd be more concerned with your son," one of the other Regents pointed out. "He's not exactly built for this you know." He looked at the Headmaster. "How were you going to handle this?"
"Poppy is going to give everyone an examination and then tell everyone together. After that, we were going to tell the parents. The people responsible are going to be charged with helping all the pregnant ones with whatever they need. Severus is even now making something to stop any further infections from occurring. Other than that," he spread his hands. "I'm at a loss at the moment."
"Very well. Tell us once you have the parents ready to tell. Were you going to do it together?"
"Possibly in one big meeting," Albus told him. The Regent winced and hissed. "I know, but telling so many parents and students each will be rather difficult. Unless we plan a parent's event to get them all up here."
"Do so," Lucius told him, sneering and pale again. "Where is my son?"
"The class bell rang before you got here, so he's in with Severus at the moment. Are you bringing him back?"
"After I have him fixed." He walked down, heading to go take his son. He walked into the dungeon and grabbed his son, pulling him out by his shirt collar.
"My books," Draco told him.
"You'll see them again tomorrow, boy." He drug him all the way to the doctor's so this could be confirmed. While there, they got disturbing news, it would have to go on. Or the boy would either die or be stripped of all his magic forever. Draco had passed out by this point, so he missed his father's face gaining color for the second time in his life.
George and Fred grabbed their brother as he was going to walk into the Great Hall and led him away, going to talk to him. They wanted to know who the father was. "We've got a bit of news for you," George said as they walked. They found an empty classroom and locked the door after themselves, letting Ron settle in on top of one of the student desks first. "The last spell we did was a bit more complicated than we thought," George told him. "You're..." He paused to search for the right word.
"Up the duff," Fred said helpfully, smiling at his brother.
"What! You're mad, the both of you," Ron said, sliding off the desk. Both twins shook their heads. "This isn't funny and I'll tell mum on you."
"She's upstairs waiting to talk to you," Fred told him.
George nodded. "Sorry, didn't mean to get you like this. Tell me, who is the other father?"
"Bugger off," Ron said, pushing past them. He unlocked the door and left them there, going to dinner. As he sat down, rumors started to filter down the table, making him groan. When Hermione helpfully slopped some gravy onto his potatoes, he ended up running out of the room and to the nearest bathroom. He got sick, twice, and seriously gave thought to what the twins had said. Once he was done, he rinsed his mouth and came out of the bathroom, finding both his friends and his older brothers standing there. Fred and George were shaking their heads. "You bastards," he hissed, going for them. Harry tried to stop him, but he had the right of it this time, they were his! He managed to get in a few good punches before he was rudely pulled off by McGonagall. "Let me go!" he shouted. "They deserve it."
"Be that as it may, you may not hit them in the hallways, Mr. Weasley. You know better." She looked down at the twins. "I take it you told him yourselves?"
Fred gave her an innocent look. "He is family."
"I'll get you for this," Ron promised, starting to struggle again.
"Would someone like to inform the rest of us what this is about?" Hermione asked.
Ron glared at her. "Go away!" She backed away a step.
"Ron," Harry said, trying to calm him down. "Tell us and we'll help."
"Actually, you're going to be tested yourselves first," McGonagall told them. "Go to the infirmary now please. Mr. Weasley, your parents are up in the guest suite and would like to see you now that you know. Please refrain from any more fighting in the halls." She glared down at the twins. "I have nothing to say about anywhere else though." She walked away, trusting their good sense to make the twins run. Ron was a bit stronger than she had anticipated and now her shoulder hurt. She went up to get some rub for it and found Ms. Granger crying. "Her too?" she asked Harry. He nodded. "Yours from what I've heard?"
"Yes, Professor McGonagall," Harry admitted. "Hermione, I'm going to do all I can to help you."
She smiled at him. "That's those idiot's job. That's their punishment actually." She patted Hermione gently. "At least you're not the only one, dear. A great many young people will be finding out similar news in the next few days."
"Ron?" Harry asked. Hermione looked up in time to see the Professor nod. "How?" Harry asked. "He's a guy."
"I know. This potion is that potent. It's been known to cause a lot of problems for a great many people, and it looks like the trend will continue."
"There's more news," Poppy told her, smiling at the girl. "It can't be terminated. It's locked into the mother's magical nature. Even more so for the males." She looked at Harry. "You're free to come to any of the upcoming lectures, we'll have one specifically for the second parents after we tell everyone." She looked at Hermione. "Parents are going to be encouraged to come up for a weekend very soon. Your parents have to come, dear. We'll help you tell them and explain how this happened. There's not much you could have done to prevent it. I've seen two children who were infertile due to scarring from injuries who were infected as well." She nodded and let Harry walk her away. "Minerva, we'll need some sort of calming charm during those days. Can you help with that? Flitwick isn't exactly sensitive to such issues sometimes."
"Of course. Here, on the whole school, or on a certain room?"
"The whole school, with an extra one up here and one in the meeting room that will be set up. Are you sitting on the board to figure out a course of action?" Minerva nodded. "Then here, I've made my recommendations for routine checkups. Hopefully they won't interrupt the school year too much. Once we get past this morning sickness phase, everything should go back to normal." She heard someone throwing up out in the hallway and hurried to help them. "Oh, dear," she sighed, leading the poor boy in.
"Mr. Malfoy, how are you feeling?" McGonagall asked.
He glared at her. "I think it'd be obvious," he whined. "I'm going to kill whomever did this to me!"
"The second parent?" Poppy asked him as she settled him onto a bed and went to get him a potion to help his stomach.
"No, I'm not talking to him. My father's going to kill him if he finds out, and me. The person who cast the spell." He looked at Minerva. "Tell me it wasn't one of your house. Potter?"
She shook her head. "He's a victim as well, though not as personally as you are." She took the recommendations and went to talk to the Headmaster. She smiled as she walked away. This couldn't happen to a nicer person in her opinion.
Ron paced back and forth in front of his parents. "I'll kill them," he said, loudly. "I'm going to kill them horribly. I'll find something worse than an Unforgivable and do it on them. Multiple times each, just in case the first time didn't make them scream loud enough. Hermione can probably find me something interesting."
"Ron," his mother sighed, putting down her drink. "Sit, son, let's talk about this."
"Talk!" he screeched. "It's not like I'm built for this, mum!"
"It's an adaptive spell," Arthur said helpfully.
"Excuse me?" Ron asked, blindly searching for a seat. "I'm going to grow a.... one of those!" He started to pant, trying to find some way to breathe. His mother came over and helped him calm down, helping soothe him back to the point where he wasn't hyperventilating and was somewhat able to think. "What am I going to do?" he moaned.
"For right now, I'd say you're going to tell us who the father is," Arthur said dryly. Ron shook his head. "Why not?"
Ron shook his head and clamped his lips shut.
"Ron, we'll have to know sometime, so we can offer them visitation and the like," his mother told him.
"Bloody unlikely," he told her.
His mother looked at him, moving his shirt collar out of the way. "Ron, is someone hurting you?" she asked carefully. "Is that why you don't want to tell us?" He shook his head a little too quickly. "Dear, you can trust us with this. We're not going to go pounce the little boy for you."
"Molly, let me," Arthur said, coming over to sit beside his son. He waited until she was in the other room. "Is it a favor situation, did you owe someone? Or is this something being forced onto you by someone stronger? If it's either of those, I'll have her drop the desire to know the other person immediately." He saw the pain in his son's eyes and opened his arms, hugging him. "It's all right, Ron, we'll help you. At least it's just you and no one else."
Mrs. Weasley came in with Hermione and Harry. "We might be adding two more to the family, dear. The spell got her too."
Ron looked over. "Harry?" He shook his head. "Then she jumped you?"
"Knocked him to the floor, the spell was too strong to fight," Hermione sniffed. "How do you feel?"
"Not bad actually. The women in my family have easy pregnancies from what I'm told." She shut the door. "We have other news. Nothing can be done about this." Mrs. Weasley frowned. "There are many of us who don't want children yet," she reminded the older woman. "I personally am not ready to be a mother, but the child's locked onto our magic and we'll die if we try anything."
Ron sighed, slumping against his father. "There goes that hope."
Harry smiled. "I've got a bit of bright news. Guess who was throwing up."
"That's why his father dragged him out?" Ron asked, starting to look happier. Harry nodded. "I'm sure his father's not pleased with him in the least. Hopefully he feels as bad as I do."
"Ron, you should probably eat something," Harry told him. Then he watched as Ron got sick. "Never mind."
"There's things for that," Molly assured him. "I'll get him some crackers soon enough. It's funny, all the sickness I had with him came at bedtime. With the twins it was around mid-morning."
"With the other boys it was always at or right after lunch," Arthur agreed. "None with Ginny though, I started to wonder if you were correct until you started to put on weight."
"Is it like that for the whole family?" Harry asked.
Arthur smiled at him. "On my side. Molly?"
"We don't have anything like that," Molly told him. "We got sick with all of them."
"So I'm most likely carrying a boy?" Ron asked. His father nodded. "Wonderful. Let's hope he's like me or Charlie and Bill." He stood up. "Come on, let's go back to the tower. I want to beat the twins senseless and McGonagall said I could do that."
"Remember, dear, their punishment is to help you through this," his mother told him with a smile. "To get you whatever you're craving, to rub any sore muscles, and to help you along when the hormones kick in." Ron grinned at her. "It will get better. I was only sick for a few weeks with each of you. That is from my family." He gave her a hug and followed the others out the door, heading back to the tower. On his bed he found a plate of crackers and cheese, and a flask of cold water. He noticed a few others had some on their beds as well. "Guess I'm not alone then," he said finally, picking up a cracker to nibble on. "This cheese is good."
"I wonder if the house elves got hit as well," Harry said, leaning back on his bed.
"Don't know. Do they have kids the normal way or some other way?"
"I'm not sure," Harry said thoughtfully. "I could ask Dobby I guess. He'd probably know." He looked at Ron again. "At least the crisis this year isn't life threatening for us."
Ron chuckled. "Nope, my parents didn't kick us out of the family. Though I'm not too sure about the older ones." He rubbed his stomach. "I wonder if this is adaptive any other way."
"It's adaptive?" Harry asked. "Like you're going to grow a...." Ron nodded. He did not look happy about that. "Well. Wonder what that'll be like. You'll have to tell me."
Ron snorted. "I'm sure you'll hear all about it," he assured him.
Neville peeked in. "Ron, can I talk to you?" Ron nodded and patted his bed, nibbling on another cracker. "Oh, those look good. I'm still hungry."
"You've got a plate on your bed," Harry told him.
"Goody." He grabbed the plate and sat next to Ron. "I heard what you said. How do you know?"
"My dad told me. He and my mum are up to council and give advice to any of us who need it."
"Then you're....too?" Ron nodded. "Wow." Neville looked down at himself. "I hope my grandmother is good about this. I don't want to upset her too much because of her age, but I guess I won't be able to help it this time."
"Buck up," Harry told him. "The worst she can do is kick you out of the house." Neville nodded. "Then you'll remind her that you didn't really have a choice in the matter. The spell created it. And if she asks how, you tell her to talk to Dumbledore." Neville looked up at him, looking hopeful. 'Trust me, he's going to be answering a lot of questions over the next few days."
"Good." Neville nibbled on a cracker. "This cheese is good, it's like it's curing the nausea all together." He picked up another one and ate it. "I was listening. What did you mean by adaptive?"
Ron leaned over and whispered in his ear, making the nice boy blush. "That. But don't worry, mum's said that Fred and George have been assigned to help us all. So anything you need, you ask them." Neville nodded, licking his lips. "Even for information on what's coming. I'm sure they've got some diagrams or something."
"Maybe I will," Neville agreed. "Harry, are you?" Harry shook his head. "Hermione?" he asked with a wince. Harry nodded, looking very unhappy. "How are you doing?"
"I'm glad I didn't get one of those," he said, pointing at the plates. "I don't even want to know why it happened to some guys and not others." Both boys blushed. "Oh!" He blushed too. "Never mind. I don't need details. Ron, need anything?"
"An extra stomach to carry this load," Ron said with a weak smile. "Can't wait until I'm a huge, fat whale waddling to class."
"At least we're not alone," Neville said, looking at the other beds with cracker plates on them. "Three of us in here?"
"Three of you in here, two in the next year, and one in the fifth," George said from the doorway. "We're having a meeting. Rumors are running rampant and the Head Boy said so," he said with a grimace.
Ron grinned meanly at him. "Gonna confess then?"
"No!" He shook his head. "It wasn't supposed to do this," he told him, coming in to look down at his brother. "We'll pay special attention to you because you're ours, but other than that..."
"Hermione too," Harry told him. He turned to look down at him. "Really. She jumped me."
"Damn," George sighed. "No wonder she's being insufferable. I suppose she'll start to knit too." He shuddered. "Hate people like that." He looked at Neville. "Don't worry, we hear it's going to be all right and we'll help you fix all this soon enough." He walked away.
"Fix?" Neville asked.
"Hermione asked, you can't do anything about it," Harry told him. "It'll kill you to try."
"Which means someone's parents are probably going to really kill them," Ron said, finishing off his last cracker. "C'mon, Neville, let's go down and tell Seamus about his crackers and water." He led the way down the stairs and grinned at the look the Head Boy gave him. "The cheese and crackers are curing the stomach problems. They're on our beds." A few other students ran for their rooms, going to grab their plates. "My mum is in the guest suite if anyone wants to talk to her."
The Head Boy nodded. "I heard. How are you feeling?"
"Ask me again and I'll pop you one," Ron said simply.
"Ah. Okay." He glared at Fred and George as they came down. "We should get together and beat you senseless," he told them.
"We didn't mean it to happen. The balls weren't supposed to get into the general population and they weren't suppose to do this," Fred told him.
George held up a copy of the potion. "This is all we found on it, and it says nothing about this." Someone snatched it from him and looked it over. "We really didn't mean to do this to you. To Slytherin," he said with a faint smile.
"At least the game against them will be easier," Harry said.
Hermione glared at him. "Is that all you think about?"
"Some days," he agreed. "It keeps me sane."
She sniffed and accepted the copy of the spell. "What language is this written in?"
"English," Fred told her.
"Bet me." She handed it on. "I can't read it."
"It'll be fine," the Head Boy told her. "You're not alone and we'll deal with it as a house." He glared at the twins. "Plus you'll all have some help. Their punishment is to help you through this."
"Are they going to raise them too?" one seventh year girl said, glaring at them.
"I don't know what we're going to do about that," George said, sitting down. "I really am sorry. I had no idea that it would happen. That's one of the reason why our mum's here, to help you deal with that sort of stuff. We'll do anything we can to help you guys out."
"All of them," the Head Boy reminded them.
Ron grinned at his brothers. "So that means that if some Slytherin wants you to rub their big hairy tummy, you've got to do it and smile?" he taunted.
"Yes, if one of the women wanted us to do that, we'd have to," Fred agreed.
A few of the kids laughed. "Just think," George put in. "Our team is fully clear of all this. The other houses aren't!" The chasers all hooted and cheered. "So, anyone who wants to beat us up, let us put on those muggle pads and we'll gladly let you kick us around."
"That's a thought," Hermione said with a hot glare at them. "I will kill you."
Fred pouted at her. "But Hermi, you look good like that. Not green at all."
"Yes, but the women in my family get violent hormone swings," she said with an evil smirk. "You'd better pray Malfoy kills you over this."
"He is?" one of the other seventh year boys asked. Harry and Hermione both nodded. "Well," he said with a fond smile. "Might be worth it for some of us to go through it." He smiled at the trio. "Which one of you?" Ron and Hermione both raised hands. "Do I even want to know?"
"I'll kill you violently and cackle over your dead body," Ron warned him.
"Never mind," he said quickly, hiding behind the twins. Then he thought better of it and hid behind Katie Bell. She moved out of the way. "Please, Ron, don't kill us."
Ginny cleared her throat. "Ron's not the one you have to worry about, our mother is," she said with a smile for her brother. "Since Ron refuses to say anything about who, she's decided to want to kill most of you." She smiled at her older brothers. "You two are just screwed," she told them. "Mum just told me, they're sending Percy to help deal with this issue since he's between departments."
"I'm not talking to Percy about this," Ron said bitterly.
The twins shrugged. "We'd offer to get him too, but they confiscated all the little things we made. We are sorry, people. We had no idea that this stuff had a residue or that it would react on you. If we had, we wouldn't have spread it around the tower or the school."
Fred nodded. "We never would have wanted any of you to get pregnant on us. Or because of us. Or anything like that," he finished with a slight blush, having heard what he said.
Ron shoved him. "I will get you for this. If I wait, I'll get you worse." He smiled. "Mum's willing to help me."
"Fortunately they have our wills," George offered. Someone pounded on the door. "Sounds like one of the Slytherin idiots just found out."
The Head Boy walked over and opened the door, looking at the unimpressive gorilla standing there. "Yes?"
"I want Weasley," he snarled.
"Which one? We seem to be running rather heavily on that family around here." He smiled, just to irritate the ignorant fool.
"The younger male."
Fred looked at Ron. "Him?"
Ron picked up a book and smacked his brother in the head with it. "NO!" He walked over there. "What do *you* want?" he snarled. Crabbe backed up a few steps. "Well?" he asked impatiently. "I'm torturing my brothers, I think that's more important than waiting on you to find a word in your pea brain."
"I was told to get you and bring you to our tower to explain this shit."
"Then you want the twins," Ron told him, "not me." He turned but Crabbe reached in and grabbed him. A few of the other guys came to his aide, but they couldn't get arm off his throat either so he resorted to biting the forearm. Crabbe backed up with a howl, holding his injured arm. "Great, now I'll probably have poisoning or some such. Leave, git!" He slammed the door and stomped up to his room to sulk. He had better taste than that! How could they have thought.... He quickly shut that line of thought off, remembering how it happened. He didn't want to consider that and he didn't want to think about it in case someone had figured out a spell to read minds. Hermione probably but he didn't want her to know either. He pulled the curtains around his bed and hugged his pillow tightly. Someone tapped on the curtains. "I don't want to hear about it."
"Tough shit!" Draco snarled, opening the curtains. "I summoned you and you refused to come."
"How did you get in here?"
"I stunned them," he said cruelly. "You know things about this."
"I know many things that you don't," Ron pointed out. "Including the fact that I didn't do this. Go talk to the twins, it's their job after all."
"I'd rather not," he said with great distaste as he sat on the bed. "The stunning will wear off in a few minutes so I'll be brief. What do you know about this stuff?"
"I didn't make it!" Ron shouted. "They had the spell downstairs, it was a potion, they didn't think it was supposed to be sticky so they didn't use gloves. That's about all I know in this case."
Draco relaxed. "Good. Excellent in fact. Then you can help me in other matters."
"Why did you come to me?"
"Because I need someone outside my house and I'm willing to help you get back at the twins if you'll help me with my father." Ron raised an eyebrow. "I'm able to cause them the most physical and mental pain of anybody, but I have no idea what to do about him. Your family, on the other hand, has been planning their revenge for a good, long time and should probably have an idea about what they would do to make him miserable. He's found a way to be happy about this," he said in disgust. "I'm not handing this child to him so he can kill me and put it in my place."
"Have you checked for loopholes in your inheritance?" Harry asked as he opened the curtains. The whole year was standing there, along with Ginny. "Ron?"
"I'm fine. He wants to punish the twins if we'll help him get his father."
"Well," Ginny said with a smirk. "Talk to my father, Draco. He's got a few ideas. He found something the other day that made him cackle with joy about your birthday." Draco looked interested. "They're in the guest suite so all the pregnant ones can get advice and information from them. But by all means, give us something more cruel to do to the twins. I'm sure I'd enjoy watching it."
Draco stood up and towered over her. "Really?" he asked. She nodded. "You've never seemed this mean before."
"You never watched," she said snidely. "Now kindly get out of our tower and back to your own. Snape would have kittens if he knew where you were." He nodded, still smirking at her as he left. She looked at everyone else. "Was that an early hormone swing?"
"No, he said his father had a plan to get rid of him. That's self preservation. Hurts when it's your family forcing you to think that way I guess." He stood up. "Is everyone fine?"
"The twins are shaking in a corner as some of the women have a go at them," Ginny said with a mean smile. "Just verbally for now."
Ron shuddered. "Damn glad I didn't do this." He pulled his curtain closed. "I'm sulking, go away."
"We know you have better taste than that," Harry told him. Ron popped his head out. "It was rather obvious, Ron. Want to talk?" Ron shook his head. "Okay. I'm going to be on my bed trying to study if you want anything."
Ginny kissed her brother on the tip of his nose. "You behave or I'll tell mum to only make you a dozen brownies, which of course I'll steal ten of." She sauntered away. The rest of the guys slowly withdrew as well. Ron could be a moody bastard at the worst of times, this was going to be trying everyone's patience.
Madam Sprout looked out at her fifth years. "Well, I guess I am changing my plans after all," she decided. "In between the OWL plants, you'll be learning some of the more helpful ones. Things to combat nausea. Things to help cramping. Things to kill the hemorrhoids before they start."
"What're those?" Goyle asked.
"You," Hermione told him. "A hanging piece of butt tissue." He glared at her and she smiled. "Try it," she hissed.
"Ms. Granger, I know you're still upset but please do not take it out on the less mental among you. You were partially correct. Hemorrhoids are an itching and usually painful mass of dilated veins in swollen anal tissue." She blushed. "It's common for pregnant women to get them so we'll be working on those around your sixth month along. For right now, let us focus on the anti- nausea plants. The ones that'll help all that nasty morning sickness. Shall we?" She pointed at another table and they trudged over there. "We will be working on growing these as they're going to be needed in about another three weeks by Madam Pomfrey's estimation. These are normal herbs and we'll be transplanting them into the garden today. Everyone pick up a trowel and a flat and let's go to the back gardens."
Harry looked over at the two gorillas then at Hermione. "Good shot," he said with a smile. "Accurate as well." She gave him a smile and followed Ron out to the gardens. He was carrying the flats for them while she got the tools and Harry got their bags. They were the heaviest after all.
Draco looked over at the fab threesome and grunted in annoyance. He hadn't found the loophole Weasley's father had and it was irritating him. He saw an owl coming his way and stood up, walking off to accept it. He smiled at the information it contained. "Well," he said with a cold smile. He pocketed the message and gave the owl some fond petting. It had brought him the most delightful news and a suggestion as well. Who said that his father's method of dealing with people made them loyal?
Madam Pomfrey looked at the girl in front of her. "Hermione, you must stop carrying around so much weight. This is the second time you've hurt your back, dear, and it'll only get worse as this progresses."
"Why couldn't I have been the one who miscarried?" she whined. "This is horrible! I can't study, I can't concentrate! I nearly did as bad as Neville in Potions today."
"I know, dear, but this phase is going to pass as well," the nurse soothed. "It will get better, I promise you."
"Yes, but when?" she demanded. "Someone mean said I was glowing. It was a horrid practical joke because I checked and no one put an illumination charm on me. I don't know why they're being so mean," she sobbed, letting herself be held.
"Glowing isn't because of a charm, it's your body's reaction to carrying a new life. You do glow to those looking. Your skin is shiny, your hair seems to have a halo around it. There's nothing that can take that away from you." She sniffled, wiping off her eyes. "This is natural, Hermione. The same as everyone will want to touch your stomach in a few months. You're carrying one of the most feared children in the world because of who the father is."
She snorted. "Harry said the same thing, that's why he's been practicing wards."
"Good," Madam Pomfrey said firmly. "We may yet need it. There are still some Death Eaters around who would love to get that child from you." Hermione sat down again. "Now, let's talk about the problems you're having. First, the weight you carry around. I want it reduced by at least half, young lady. You're not to carry around all your texts at once. Only the ones you need. The same with the extra supplies. Do you understand?" Hermione nodded, looking miserable. "Good girl. Next, I want you to think about taking a long, warm, not hot, warm bath tonight. It might help a lot of the problems. Some of this is stress." She gave the girl a motherly smile. "You're not the only one with that problem so you probably won't get a whole night in the bath, but even an hour could help." Hermione nodded, starting to relax. "After that, I want you to eat a real meal. I'll have extra food sent up tonight. You haven't been eating and Professor McGonagall was not happy about that. You can't risk yourself right now."
"But food is so nasty right now," she complained.
"I know. I'll send up whatever you want."
"Can I have some fruit? Maybe some cheese? Simple things that won't be nasty because they're cooked or puddled in gravy?"
"Of course, dear. A few of the house elves are having the same problem, that's why everything's had gravy on it." Hermione laughed at that. "Now, have you talked with Percy yet? I know he's slowly working his way through everyone."
"No, he's getting our tower tomorrow," she said miserably. "What is the Ministry doing? Registering us?"
"Yes, because they don't want problems in the future from any of the children mating to each other if they're siblings."
"But some people won't know!" Hermione said warmly. "Gryffindor tower turned into a near orgy. I can only imagine what Slytherin will be like. Even if they do parental testing, it might take having a sample from the whole school! Plus, there's kids like Ron who refuse to tell."
"I'm sure they're working it out," Madam Pomfrey soothed. "I feel the same way, but we do want to make sure that brothers and sisters don't have children in a generation."
"I understand, but to send Percy? He's not the most sensitive."
"I know, but he was free." Hermione laughed. "Good girl. Now put most of your bag back in your room and go to your next class." Hermione nodded and left her to make notes on her chart. "That poor girl. The father's paranoid and the adoptive family is being pushy."
Percy looked at his brother. "If you don't tell me then the Ministry has decided that you won't be eligible for any of the help that's being set up for these children, Ron. Don't be childish. No one sees these."
"Sure they don't," Ron snorted, arms crossed over his chest. "Percy, have you thought that maybe some of us have a good reason for not telling you, or that maybe some of us might not know?"
"How could you not know?" Percy asked.
"Easy, if our tower turned into an orgy, then what was Slytherin like?" he said with a short handwave, then his arms were recrossed. "For that matter, I'm one of the ones who doesn't want to tell anyone what happened."
Percy pursed his lips, thinking about it. "Certain allowances were made for people who claimed that they were raped." Percy looked at his brother, but he shook his head. "Are you sure? You don't sound like you were willing."
"I wasn't, but that's not the point," he said quietly.
"Oh." He scowled. "Who?" Ron shook his head. "Tell me so I can thump them good!" he demanded. "No one should have that sort of power over someone."
"I didn't plan on it, all right, it happened. I don't need you to tell me I'm dumb." He stood up. "I can handle it by myself if I have to. Leave me out of it, Percy." He stormed off.
Percy made a note on his brother's forms and put them aside, under most of the rest of them. He wasn't the first one he had seen. He himself had been trapped in a favor situation. Though his hadn't been that hard to deal with. He wondered what had happened but Ron would never tell him. Maybe a discrete word to Charlie? Or even Bill? He considered it as his next appointment came in. "Come in, Hermione."
She sat down and took the forms to look over. "Most of these questions have nothing to do with the circumstances," she pointed out as he took them back.
"It's statistical information. That way we can track the children's progress and make sure that they have everything they might need. Food, clothes, that sort of thing." He gave her a smile. "Is it Harry's? I heard it was." She nodded so he filled out that question and most of the rest of the form. "Sign it please, Hermione?" he asked, handing it back.
She read it over and made a correction. "My birthday was the other day," she said glumly. "My mother sent me knitting needles and a book on afghans." She handed it back. "Anything else?"
"No, dear. That's all it is." He put a hand on her arm. "Are you helping Ron?"
"Ron's got his own support thing going, he refuses to say anything on the subject to me." She rolled her eyes. "It's not like we're in the same boat or anything you know."
"I know, but I think his is a little bit less unwilling than yours was," he said gently. She started to cry. "Please don't do that. Promise you won't say anything to him, but be there for him."
"Of course I will." She slapped him then stood up and flounced out.
Percy straightened his glasses and made a note about her mood swings already taking hold. That could be a function of the spell and the Ministry desperately wanted to know about this spell and it's full effects. A whole study was being done.
Draco looked at his father as they sat in the meeting room he had picked out. His back was to the door, but he knew who was on the other side. "Father," he said with a smile. "Some news came to me the other day. You'll have to thank the underling who sent it to me." Lucius glared at him. "Did you not realize that I now control the whole of the Malfoy estate?" he sneered. "My pregnancy is one of the defining factors that takes you out of control. As a matter of fact," he said, leaning closer. "It's one of the things that emancipates me as well. All the money you've taken from the vaults to do stupid shit over the years you'll now have to pay back." He leaned back again. "Of course, I'll give you a year from the end of the formal accounting I've had done." He pulled a packet of papers from his robe pocket and handed it over. "The formal notices if you need them." He watched as his father read.
Lucius became very angry very quickly and glared at his son. "You can't do this," he noted. "You're not eighteen."
"According to the will, if I had an heir on the way, I don't need to be eighteen, you prick." He smiled. "As a matter of fact, according to the will, I could have done this *years* ago and been free of you. By the way, in case you didn't get to the last paper, that's an eviction notice. Get out of my house." Lucius stood up and he held up a finger. "Ah-ah. Don't want the nice auror sitting on the other side of the door behind me to hear you try to strangle me, do you?" He smiled coldly, making his father shudder. "You forgot to teach me to value the family above myself, father, and now it's coming back to bite you on the ass. Do you know that I know enough about what you've done to have you Kissed?" Lucius went pale and backed away from him. "That's right. These are your two options. You can comply with a modicum of gratitude for me not having you killed and repay all the money you stole, or you can die. Your choice." He smiled as Ron came through the other door on their prearranged signal. They had worked on this plan yesterday during a detention. McGonagall had suggested it and they had agreed that it was brilliant. Ron gave him a kiss then stepped behind him. "As you can see, I'm starting my own dynasty." He stroked his stomach. "Your choice, father."
"You...." Lucius ground out. His face turned red and he started to pant. "I'll see you dead, *boy*! NO one thwarts me!" He grabbed the back of his chair.
"Gee, he looks bad," Ron said, aggravating Lucius further by stroking through Draco's hair, making him tip his head back and smile at him. "Should we call someone? I don't need to see more dead bodies."
"Fine. Auror Kellinson?" She rushed through the door. "I believe my father has rejected my kind offer. I'd like to make a statement now."
"NO!" Lucius thundered. He fell to his knees. "No, don't! I'll cooperate." He looked at his son. "I never believed my Lord when he said you were his match in evil. Now I do." He gasped.
"I think I should probably get him to a hospital or something," the auror said with a shrug. "You still want to make a statement?" Draco handed over an envelope. "Thank you, Mr. Malfoy," she said with a bright smile. "I can't wait to see him Kissed. Hopefully he won't die before then." She dragged Lucius up and smiled at the boys. "Nice job," she said with a winning smile. She drug him from the room by his arm. "Come on, you filthy power whore."
"I'll kill him."
"Only if you haunt him to death," she told him. She accepted the portkey from the Headmaster, who smiled and waved as Lucius was taken away, along with Arthur Weasley. "That was so nice of them to see you off," she said happily. He groaned as the pains in his chest got worse. "Don't worry, they'll fix you up nicely before you get Kissed. Can't put someone who's unhealthy to death you know, it's the law," she cheerfully reminded him.
Ron wandered out of the room and hugged his father. "Is he still gasping for air?"
"Yes, son, it was a beautiful sight." He smiled at Draco. "Feel better?"
"Much," he agreed. "Headmaster, can you either call those of us who need it a tailor or a mass shopping trip? I can't be the only one who can't fit into his pants without a spell."
"Of course, Mr. Malfoy. This weekend fine with you?"
"Good with me," he agreed, wandering off. "I'm going to Potions."
"It's not for an hour," Ron called after him. Draco waved a hand. "Huh. Snape will be dancing around in joy later."
Arthur smiled at his boy. "I'm glad you got the devious genes instead of Ginny, Ron. Don't be too mean though. Let him enjoy his victory while we do the same." He let his son go. "You need some new clothes as well, don't you?" Ron nodded, looking pathetic. "Then we'll figure it out. Your mother will know which way will be easier." He waved and wandered off whistling a jaunty tune.
The Headmaster laughed. "I think you helped make his century," he said with a fond smile for Ron. He saw the unhappy look. "They're still pushing to know?" Ron nodded. "Maybe you should confide in one person? Just one? One who won't get the boy beaten up if possible, but telling someone the whole story might make you feel better."
"Maybe some other day," Ron told him, giving him a weak smile before walking away. He had seen Percy walking up the drive. He didn't want to go through that again.
"Ron," Percy shouted, following him. He stopped his younger brother and smiled at him. "I have news for you and Ginny. Bill's coming in this weekend and you're being slipped free for a visit. I've got the signed slip and everything."
Ron's world brightened. "Thanks, Percy. How long is he in for?"
"Just for a few days. Some sort of meeting with the higher goblins. Maybe even a new assignment, he wasn't specific, just said he wanted to be here."
Ron looked at him. "Did you write to him or did dad?"
"I did," Percy admitted with a sigh. "I know you favor talking with them and I know you need to let it out. Even Ginny's said so," he said at the angry look and the opening mouth. "Even Harry and Hermione have suggested it. Please, talk with him? Just for a few moments?"
"Fine, but I don't like being pushed."
"I wasn't trying to," Percy soothed. "I was trying to be a good big brother and look out for you." He gave him a slight smile. "Bill had a...similar incident happen to him."
"He got stuffed up?" Ron asked wryly.
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
"Fine." He got free of the restraining hand on his arm. "When?"
"Thursday night, you'll be allowed to skip Friday and Monday."
"We're supposed to be getting help with clothing stuff this weekend," Ron told him.
"Mum's arranged to take you shopping. She said you'd need it. You'll be going with the rest of them probably."
"All right. But I'm not telling you anything."
"I respect that," Percy agreed. "I couldn't understand anything of what you're going through not having been there myself."
"Good." Ron gave him a faint smile. "We got Malfoy."
"The older," Ron said with a smirk. "He was drug out of here by the aurors having a heart attack."
Percy laughed. "That is good news. Congratulations. It's good that it was one of us." He patted Ron on the back. "You'd best go to class, I'm going to hand in your forms. You behave or beat the twins over this."
"Ginny's keeping the ledger of who gets what time." He strolled away, heading down to the kitchens. "Can I please have some of that nice cheese that settles stomachs?" he asked. A plate of it was handed to him. "Thank you. You guys are wonderful." He walked away, heading to his next class. He was a little early, but Snape didn't seem to mind much when he walked in.
"What is that?" Draco asked.
"Cheese that cures the stomach flu feelings." He held out the plate. "We found a plate on each of our beds the night we all found out."
Draco nibbled on it and nodded. "I'll have to remember that. Our house didn't get anything like that."
"Yeah, but one of the elves used to be yours," Ron pointed out as he sat in his usual seat. Harry had his school bag. "He probably won't come near you, but he loves Harry."
"I'm sure he's thrilled with that adoration as well," Snape told them. "May I?" Ron stood up and let him have a piece as well. He sniffed it. "Common potion, but effective. I'll have some made up for the house tonight."
"Thank you, sir. If I have to listen to one more bout of morning sickness, I'll start getting ill myself," Draco told him. He looked at Ron. "You're looking a little too pleased for life."
"One of my older brothers is coming in and I'm getting sprung for the weekend. He wants to talk to me."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Why? Was he in this situation?" He saw the quick glare. "Never mind. I can only guess."
"Don't," Ron suggested.
"I wasn't going to speculate on who, Weasley, I don't want to know that much about anybody but myself."
"Good." Ron ate another piece of cheese. "Are either of your henchmen up?"
"Crabbe is. He's presently lying in the infirmary whining pitifully about his stomach pains."
"Pity. Hate to see his kid. With his face and arms, not even Miss America would make it look pretty."
Draco snickered. "I'll have to remember that one."
"Remembering the hemorrhoid crack as well?" Ron suggested with a grin.
"Definitely," he said with a sneer.
"Do I even want to know?"
Ron finished swallowing. "Madam Sprout was talking about some the practical plants she was having us work with, including one for that. Goyle didn't know what a hemorrhoid was so she told him it was him."
Snape pressed his lips together, making it look like he was either pissed or trying not to laugh. "I see."
"She got it slightly wrong, telling him it was a piece of flesh instead of a vein, but he's still rather upset with her about it," Draco told him.
"Yeah, he tried to jump her last night but Fred got 'im." Ron shoved the rest of the cheese into his mouth then went to put the plate into the sink. He heard students coming and went back to his seat instead of going to get a drink. He could get one later, after the smells got too bad.
Snape looked at him. "Did you need something else?" he asked slyly.
"Just a drink later when the cheese quits working over the fumes, sir. If I may?"
"You may. I'd rather not see how this potion reacts to vomit." He looked over as the rest of the students filed in, including the ones with the extra books. "Where is Ms. Granger?" he asked when everyone was in but her.
"She's in the infirmary, sir, having some stomach troubles," Harry reported. Ron looked at him. "She tripped in Herbology."
"Tripped or pushed?" Draco asked.
"She said tripped and I'm not going to counter that argument since I didn't see it," Harry told him. "You're scary when you're nice."
"I'll have to remember that." He looked at Pansy, who was pale. "You wanted to add something?" he snapped.
"No, I agree, you're scary when you're nice," she told him.
"Did she trip or was she pushed?" Snape demanded. She ducked her head. "Answer, now."
"Pushed," she said weakly.
"By?" Snape demanded. She shook her head. "You'd rather have their punishment?"
"No, I didn't see which hand, I only saw a hand."
"I see. Then you will make it official?" She flinched. There was a rule in place that there was to be no fighting or dueling anyone who was a victim of the spell. Expulsion could be the consequences if it was too serious. Like if she miscarried. She gave a small whimper and silently pleaded with him.
"Now," Draco snarled. Pansy nodded quickly and moved away from him. "Thank you." He stood up but Ron and Harry were already out the door. "That was quick. I've never seen him move that fast, even with a broom."
Snape snorted. "The father is one of them, Mr. Malfoy. Why are you so concerned?"
"Because there was a prophecy about that child," Draco told him. Everyone looked at him. "The son of the one who defeated the dark? Sounding familiar to any of you?" A few other children of Death Eaters groaned and hit their heads on the table. Snape still looked confused. "I'll have a copy sent for you, sir. It's very enlightening. He'll only have one. If she miscarries, then we're doomed to a repeat performance."
"Drat," he said, looking around. "Stay here while I see if there is anything I can do to help. That's all the world needs." He headed up to the infirmary and was stopped at the doorway by Poppy. "How is she?"
"Sedated. I managed to stop it. Have you heard of this one?" He shook his head. "Neither had I but Albus brought up a copy." She let him inside, watching as he read the held-out book. "We'll need to keep her up here for a few more days, boys. Go back to class."
Harry looked at her. "Bloody unlikely, that's my kid she's got."
"Go to class," Snape said firmly. "Now!" he said when they didn't move. Ron moved, but Harry slid up to sit on the foot of the bed. He grabbed the boy by the ear and pulled him out of the room. "If you hover, it will upset her more. Which will cause a chain reaction that will make sure that your child is not born. Do you want that?" Harry shook his head. "Then come back after classes, when she is stable, and not before." He let the boy go, watching as he walked away. He walked back inside, slamming the door shut. "How serious and certain is this one?"
"Very," Dumbledore told him. "It's been around longer than the Dark Lord has existed and has held true every other time, including for myself." Snape shuddered. "If this child dies, it can be used to bring him back for another go-round. We cannot allow that to happen."
"How long of a window do we have to protect her?" Poppy asked. "Months, weeks? Until she delivers? Until the child is an adult?"
"As far as I know, until she delivers. I've never heard different. I've started some people researching this one already. We should be able to help her without upsetting her."
"I'll make whatever you need." He stopped. "How would the unborn child bring him back?"
"It would be made of his blood, and his blood is tainted," Dumbledore pointed out. "They could do the spell again."
"The bones were pulverized this time," Poppy protested.
"Yes, but all they need is a bit and a follower. In this case, the spell is powerful enough to have charged the baby with extra energy."
"It will be worse," Snape said flatly. Dumbledore nodded. "Then we'll do our best. If she miscarries we'll simply have to hide the child's remains."
"Are we sure it means he won't have another?" Poppy asked, wringing her hands.
"This incident is enough to put him off ever having another," Dumbledore said kindly. "It's enough to do so for me and I am not even remotely thinking about a family."
"Me as well," Snape agreed. "How anyone could put a woman through this seven times I'm not sure. It should be criminal."
"I'm sure they were happy about it," Dumbledore told him, giving him a smile. Inside he was laughing. "Molly always carried very easily."
"She'd have to have to do this so many times. From what I've seen around my house, I'd be afraid to ever inflict this on another human being."
"It gets better," Poppy assured him. "After all this morning sickness comes the weight gain and a few more hormone swings. Everything settles down around the sixth month if I remember right." She smiled at them. "Why don't you both go back to class and I'll inform you both if there's anything she might need. Oh, and check Ron Weasley for me please, Severus. He's been cramping again and won't come see me."
"I'll send him back," he told her, heading back to his classroom. He saw Weasley first. "Go back upstairs now, Weasley."
"Because the nurse is requesting your attention. Now." Ron left, taking his bag with him. "The rest of you have a potion to do." He flicked his wand at the board, making it appear. "Do so."
Malfoy raised his hand. "Did you read it, sir?" Snape nodded. "There's two different endings."
"Send them both to me please. This is being looked into."
"What?" Harry asked.
Draco looked at him, giving him a nice smile, because he wanted to be scary this time. "There's a prophecy that says if you start to have a child and it dies, then it'll bring back the Dark Lord." Harry went green. "That's why we're all looking out for Ms. Granger."
Harry ran from the room, getting sick in the hallways instead.
"It worked, I am scarier when I'm nice," he said cheerfully. His bodyguard shifted away, but was nodding the whole time.
Snape shook his head, going to get him the dust to clean that up.
Ron looked over the back of the couch as his brother walked up to him. "Did you run everyone else off? The house is nearly silent."
"They're all lurking in the kitchen," Bill admitted. "Wanna take a walk?"
"He's supposed to rest!" Molly called.
"Yes, mum," they called back. Bill closed the door to the living room and put a silencing charm on it and the walls. "There, how's that?"
Ron snorted. "Have you met the twins yet?"
"They're outside," Bill told him. "Mum sent them to chop firewood."
"Good one." Ron sat up, freeing the other end of the couch. "Do you know the sort of hell this has put me through?"
"No, but I can guess having seen women do it the same thing on the job." He sat and looked at his little brother. "Favors?"
"I got tricked into it, blackmail," Ron sighed. "I'm not telling you who."
"I don't really need to know. Was this...." He searched for the word, playing with his earring. "Planned I guess is the best way of putting it."
"No, he grabbed me in the halls when I went out for some air."
"Oh." Bill shrugged. "It happens. I got caught about the same way." He patted his brother's foot. "You're definitely making a name for yourself in the family this way. None of the rest of us have done this. First grandchild even."
Ron brightened up a bit. "I guess," he agreed. "Not what I want to be known for." He hissed and rubbed his stomach. "She said it was normal," at the worried look. "Mum had them with all of us. Worse with Percy, but we all gave her cramps."
Bill chuckled. "I'm surprised we weren't all terminated as soon as she found out after Charlie. Think of the hell his birth put her through. Five days of labor and nearly a month and a half of false pains." Ron winced. "Sorry."
"That's okay, it gives me something to hope against," Ron admitted. "I could use some of that."
"Hope that the kid isn't like the twins or Percy?" Ron laughed at that. "Seriously. Everyone's worried about you, Ron. You've lost your temper a lot recently and you managed to scare mum yesterday. That's why I was called in by the worrywart, because he thinks you'll talk to me. Which you can. I'm offering at least if you want."
"I'd like to, but I don't want to do it here," Ron hissed. "This is the disadvantage of having a large family. They're nosy."
"That and the whole sharing the clothes and bathroom thing," Bill agreed. "I remember doing some nasty things to Charlie so I wouldn't have to wear a particular sweater or some such." Ron chuckled at that. "Speaking of, mum's pulled the stored baby clothes out of the storecloset. You're in for a lot of knit stuff."
Ron shifted over. "I don't know what to do most days."
"Want to tell me the whole story?" Ron shrugged. "I won't judge you."
"It happened because I lost my temper."
"A lot of things seem to happen that way," Bill pointed out. "You became friends with Hermione indirectly because of it." Ron nodded, looking a bit more cheerful. "We can go scare the ghoul if you want. No one'd dare walk up there and bother us."
Ron looked at him. "Why couldn't I have been born nearer to you instead of the twins?"
"Fate sucks that way sometimes. You guys went from the cooler older two to Percy, then it tried to move back toward cool and got the twins, then they managed to warp you so you couldn't be like us oldest two."
"And now Ginny's a sly little creature in the making. I swear I saw her looking longingly at a Slytherin robe the other day."
"That's because she's the only girl," Bill told him, patting him on the back. Ron would get back to it. He was just making sure everything would be okay if he spilled it.
Bill walked Ron into the kitchen, waiting until he had made a sandwich and walked outside. Then he kissed his mother on the cheek and looked at the twins. "Count me among the people who want to kill you," he said quietly. "You tested it on him. Directly."
The twins flinched. "We didn't know. All we knew was it was supposed to be heavy mischief and make a lot of memorable memories."
"Which it will," their mother agreed. She looked up at Bill. "Are you sure?" He nodded. "Twins, get out of the house," she said quietly, her fists clenched together. They ran out the front door and headed into the woods. "Bill, is he in serious trouble?"
"I don't know. He doesn't know. His may be a day earlier, or it could still be affecting him. He said he's still feeling the same way, even beyond what the nurse said was normal." He sat down in one of the twin's seats. "Could it hurt him if he scratched that itch?"
"Possibly. I don't know. I was uncomfortable doing so when I was pregnant, and I don't know who to ask." She calmed herself, slowly uncurling her fists. "How could they have been so careless."
"If the spell didn't say it directly then they might not have known."
"Still! They should know better! He's their brother, not some lab rat!"
"Of course they should. For right now, Ron's asked me to talk to the school nurse and ask all the uncomfortable questions he can't. So I'm going to floo to the school and do that."
"She'll be helping the children go shopping today," Molly sighed. "You can come with us. I'm due to join up and help." He smiled and patted her on the hand. "Wait until your father hears."
"I'm going make a suggestion, that they get set up in their own room with all the remedies that they might need and be used that way," Bill told her. She smiled. It was a brilliant idea. "You said they have to be open to the whole school, so it'd make it easier to find them. Give them the recipes for all the cremes and lotions and potions and make them brew it. They've proven they can so let them." She laughed. "Also, give them a special table for doing backrubs. I remember how much you liked them when you were carrying Ron and Ginny."
"That is an excellent idea. I'll suggest it this afternoon," she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "I knew you were brilliant. Why couldn't the twins have been more like you." She went out to talk to Ron, giving him all the reassurance he wanted.
Bill relaxed. A half truth is better than full truth it seemed. His mother would scream and rant if she knew whose child it might be. He pulled another chair closer and put his feet up, grabbing a magazine off the table. A pregnancy one. "Might as well. I guess I'll have to know some day." He flipped to the section on what the woman would be going through at each stage to check and make sure Ron was on target. He was a moody bastard most of the time. This wasn't going to make it any better.
Ron walked down the street, looking at all the shops. His mother led him to a nice little clothier near the back of Diagon, making him smile. "They'll take me here?"
"They'll have to, dear, you're starting to show," she reminded him, letting him walk inside first. They were the first set of males in there. "Within reason," she reminded him. "We'll still need uniform pants."
"We have those as well," the salesgirl told them in a most perky and cheerful voice. "Hogwarts?" Ron nodded. "How far, dear?"
"I'm a fifth year."
"Not what I meant. How many months are you? That way we can gauge how much room to leave when you're fitted."
Molly patted Ron's shoulder. "They're all about the same," she told her.
"Oh. Okay." She led him to the back. "What else did he need besides his uniforms?"
"He'll need some off-time clothes if they're on sale," Molly told her. "The Ministry only gave us fifteen galleons each."
"That's fine," she said with a wave of her hand. "We can nearly get him a whole new wardrobe for that." Ron's outlook brightened. "We'll even be able to have them adjusted back if he doesn't gain too much weight."
"That'd be wonderful," Molly agreed. She looked at her son. "I always liked how they had these sliding belts on the side to adjust for growing girth."
"Those are neat, aren't they?" the salesgirl agreed. She hurried to get some clothes for Ron, the platform he stepped on had given her a size number. It's a good thing they had heard and told their manufacturers to make some male clothes. She came back with her arms full. "I only brought a few shirts because I don't know what you wanted." He looked clueless. "The normal maternity shirt flares around the stomach."
Ron shuddered, not even able to imagine himself in that look. He'd never hear the end of it. "Things that won't make me look like a girl?" he asked.
"We can do that. T-shirts and the like, sweetie?"
Ron nodded, looking happier. "I like that idea. Sweaters too?" She nodded. "Cool." He tried on the first set of pants, watching how she adjusted them. "That is nice. How far does it go?"
"About three more waist sizes. If you mother's willing to pay a bit more, we have ones that go up five." She looked at Molly. "How did you carry?"
"With him, not too big. With the first few I was huge," she admitted. "How much more are they?"
"It's six sickles more for each pair of pants." Molly hissed. "Sorry." She looked at Ron. "You might be able to stay with these, but I can't be certain. He's at that awkward growth stage I'm guessing and so skinny." Ron grunted. "I'm predicting anything over eight pounds and he's going to be huge."
Molly looked at her son, mentally counting up the cost. "Well, they did say they'd give us another shopping trip in your eighth month," she said finally, "but I don't want to count on that. There's already a public outcry to throw all of you out of school." She slumped. "We'll afford it or find a way, Ron."
"Mum, get these," Ron told her. "If you have to, you can add in a placcard or something, like what you did with Charlie's old uniform for Percy."
"That's true," Molly agreed, starting to think harder. "That would look funny though."
"I doubt I'm going to be tucking in my shirt anytime in the near future," Ron pointed out dryly. "My butt's already huge." Both women looked at him. "My sister suggested hiding it."
"That would help," his mother agreed. "This is where being a woman in this situation is helpful. You can wear too large a size and gradually grow into it if it's a dress. Pants aren't that helpful for pregnant women."
"I loved mine, I wore bike shorts under everything," the saleswoman told her. Molly looked stunned. "It kept some of the swelling in my stomach down as well. I had horrible fluid retention."
"Another lovely thing to look forward to," Ron said, starting to get into that dark funk again. "That and getting Goyles." Again his mother looked at him. "Madam Sprout told us about hemorrhoids and Hermione correctly named him one."
Molly laughed. "Knowing the father, I can see that," she admitted.
"Yup, a painful blight on the bum of humanity," Ron agreed, brightening up again. "I hate hormones."
"I know, Ron. I said much the same thing when I cried because I was cutting up a dead chicken."
"I've just went from moody to happy to joking in less than five minutes," Ron told her.
"I noticed," Molly agreed. "Don't worry, they get worse!" she said happily.
Ron looked down at her. "Does that mean that the rumors are true? Pregnancy rots a vital part of the brain that regulates some of your sanity and memories?" His mother laughed and swatted at him. "Just making sure. I can't be much more of a loon at times, it'd look bad."
The salesgirl laughed right along with them. "So, the three sizes slide?"
"For now," Molly agreed. "If I have to, I can fix it." She watched as her son was fitted, only having to put in the tax at the end. Shirts, pants, uniforms. Even shoes. They walked out with large bags. "Your robes do fit, correct?"
"As long as my arms and shoulders don't grow, they'll be fine," Ron told her. "I don't have to close them."
"Good point." She patted him on the lower back and felt the tension in the muscles. "We'll meet up with the others and you can sit down," she promised. He shot her a grateful look. "Next time, say something. I don't read minds."
"Bet me," Ron told her. "You always manage to catch mine whenever I have a bad thought."
"That's parental timing. You'll find that one out as your own grows," she calmly pointed out. "I always thought Charlie or Bill would be giving me grandchildren first. Not one of you younger ones."
"It's not your fault, Ron. You tell Hermione to find a mimicking spell for those cruel older brothers of yours so they know what it feels like. It'll help them later as well, when you complain of cramping and they can't tell where."
"Yes, mum," he agreed. Mentally he was cackling about what sort of problem that would be for the twins. His mother shot him a look. "And you say you can't read minds," he scoffed.
"No, dear, you have Charlie's timing. He'd be rolling around on the floor by now, wondering if he could get it to work for all of you at once."
"Hadn't thought about that," Ron said with a smirk. They ran into the rest of the group at the ice cream parlor, which allowed him to sit down and get a glass of water.
"Were they having a sale?" Hermione asked.
"No, but they're very understanding," Molly told her, giving her a short hug. "How are you feeling, dear?"
"Much better, Mrs. Weasley. No more pains." She saw the sighs of relief and glared around. "What was that?"
Ron thought quickly. "You're ahead of us on all the problems so we're watching you to see what's going to come next for us," Ron told her. She looked startled. "Since you missed morning sickness, you've got the hormone stuff faster and all that, so you're our thermometer."
"Oh." She perked right up again. "Okay. I guess that's fine." She smiled at Molly. "Do you think I'm doing okay?"
"I think you're doing wonderfully, Hermione," Molly assured her, smiling at her son for his brilliance. So quick on his feet. "Are we all back?"
"The twins have the Slytherins," one of the other Gryffindor males told her. "They took us first to each of the shops now they're doing them. That way we didn't overload the salesclerks," he said with a smile. "Wasn't that so sweet of them? Thinking about someone else for a change?"
Molly nodded, smiling at him. "Yes, it was rather thoughtful." Apparently more than Ron thought on his feet in the family. The twins came back with everyone but a certain blond. "Where's Malfoy?" she asked.
"Getting his final fittings. He wanted a new robe," one of them said with a shrug. "We weren't allowed in the shop with him."
"Fine," she sighed. "Which shop?"
"He'll be along," the other said. "I pointed out that the portkey took off whether or not he was there." Molly groaned. "What?" he asked cautiously.
"Never stint his shopping, it's one of the few pleasures he's going to have in the next few months," Hermione snapped. "Telling him he'd have to walk back is just cruel!" She started to cry. Molly pulled her closer, patting her back as she cried against her.
"I'm sorry," the first twin said, turning around and heading back down to get the missing member. He met him halfway. "Hermione was crying over you."
Draco snorted. "It's because I look better than she ever could," he said firmly. "I glow more brilliantly than she does." He walked back to the meeting area and smiled at Mrs. Weasley. "Are we done?"
"Unless you wanted to buy everyone lunch," she told him.
"No, I don't think I could afford to feed your son. He tends to eat like an elephant."
Ron stood up and glared at him. "Say it again," he encouraged. Draco dropped his bags. "Go on. I can still trounce you right here and now. You're not that strong or that mean."
Draco backed off. "I wasn't going to fight you," he said, holding up a hand. "If I miscarry, my father comes back." Ron sneered. "Oh, you shit." He pounced him, trying to hit him.
The twins pulled them off each other, standing between each other. "Stop it," one of them said. "Fighting can get you both expelled. Remember that."
"Fine," Ron spat. "I don't eat that much!"
"That's why your table has double food of ours?" Draco sneered.
"I think it's because your girls don't eat at all, trying to be little sylphs and they're all never going to make it. I hope they starve to death some day. It'd serve them right for not eating when they needed to."
"Enough!" Molly yelled. Ron flinched. "Ron, you don't eat that much and you're not fat. I promise you you're not fat." She looked at the Slytherin women. "On the other hand, I'm surprised Poppy hasn't started to forcefeed some of you due to your weight. By now you should have gained at least five pounds. Have you? If not, you need to talk to the nurse because it's not good for you or for your child. Do we have an understanding?" Everyone nodded. "Thank you. Draco, apologize this instant or I'm reporting you when we get back."
"Fine," he spat. "I'm sorry."
"Thank you," Ron said, sitting back down. "I know I'm not fat, the woman at the store just told me I'm still gawky."
"That's right, she did," Molly soothed. "Come on, let's get back to the school. Ron, take your bags." He grabbed them all in one hand as they moved around the portkey they had left there. As soon as everyone was on, Molly activated it. As soon as she had all the children back, she went to hide in a long hot bath. She had thought she was bad. Four months along and her son was pouting because he was fat. She cackled, remembering that the twins would have to deal with hundreds of people thinking the exact same thing. They'd have to flatter, charm, and downright lie about how sexy everyone still was for months on end for each one of those students. Yes, quite a fitting punishment.
The twins looked around their room, not liking this in the least. Their portrait didn't lock. There was a work bench and a lot of shelves. There was a book waiting on them, done in Professor Snape's careful and cramped handwriting.
Fred looked at George. "Think we'll have to make all of this?"
"Every last one," George agreed. He pointed at the padded table. "I wonder what that's for. It looks odd to sleep on."
"It's for giving backrubs," Snape said from the doorway. "Or feet, ankle, and calf ones depending on the person." He sneered at them. "Good, you found the book. I've set everything you need in the secondary storage cabinet. For whenever you need to brew a new batch." His sneer got more smirk like. "I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun doing your duty to each and every one of the students you cursed. Do have fun. The bathroom is next door if you need it."
"Do we have a connecting door?" Fred asked.
"It's that door," he said, pointing at one.
"I thought that was the closet," George told him.
"There isn't a closet in this room. You'll have to make due with dressers and the small vanity that we found for you. I'm sure sharing won't be that big of a deal." He swept off, his robe impressive in his wake.
"Have you noticed his robe flows higher when he's pissed?" Fred pointed out.
"No, I hadn't. I try not to get that close to him." He shrugged. "Do you want to brew or unpack?"
"I want to unpack," Fred decided. "You start with the most necessary ones for right now. The stretchmark creme especially. I've already been asked for something for that and promised to find something." Someone knocked on the door so he went to answer it. "Lee," he said happily. "Come in, man."
"I'm still pissed at you," Lee told them. He handed over a few things. "We found these hiding in the tower in other people's laundry. We thought you'd like them back since most everyone wants to shred what little you do have." He smiled brightly. "Having fun?"
"Loads," George told him. "Want to help us brew things?"
"Not a chance. You two got yourself into this one, you get to do all the work yourself."
"Think about how many women we're going to get to give backrubs to," George told him.
Fred put a free arm around Lee's shoulders. "How many things we can test. All the lines will be useful right about now and it should still be safe."
"We'll have to check on that," George reminded him. "Madam Pomfrey told us to come check with her before we did anything of the sort."
"She looked over our old list already?" Fred asked. His twin nodded. "Did we lose anything?"
"A few. She did suggest we make something that would make the people eat sometimes. Or something to hide your appearance." Fred smiled at that. "But then again, we'll be very busy doing all this for now," George sighed. He pulled over the book. "Stretchmark, right in front." He flipped through it. "This is divided by what month we might need it in. Thoughtful of Professor Snape."
Lee got free of Fred's arm. "He's probably worried that you'll panic and come looking for him for something." He looked at both twins. "You two are insane. Your names are going down in history for a different reason than you think." He left them alone, passing by their brother. "They're starting on the cremes and stuff now."
"Good, but I was going to bring them Ginny's book. She wanted them to look it over." He walked into the room and handed Fred the book.
"Ginny's made you an appointment book. That way you still have time to sleep and all that good stuff. She's trying to find the charm to make a mirror copy so you each have one. She's even put in a symbol code for what each person needs."
"Wonderful," George said, coming over to look at it. "That's not hard to understand. Why did she put in a bruise one?"
"So that when people like me came down to hit you, you'd have enough time to run for some ice," Ron told him. "So help you Merlin if I end up like this again, mum's going to be missing children, two of them." He walked out, leaving them to their paranoia in peace.
"Do you think he meant it?" Fred asked.
"That we'd have enough time to get ice? Probably not," George told him. His twin gave him a little shove before going to do the unpacking for the both of them. "Stretchmark stuff first you think?"
"I think it'd be best. Besides, it's probably easiest if it's a creme. How hard is it?"
"If we had a big enough paddle and a stirring system, we could make whole vats of the stuff," George offered. "It's a traditional beauty creme. Some herbs and stuff into some paste then mix." He flipped to the next page. "Here's one for becoming Goyle."
"Hmm. Can we intentionally give people those?"
"No, it'd be cruel and we need to stay clean or Dumbledore's going to give us to the Prophet. I don't feel like being avalanched by hatemail this month. You?"
"Good point," Fred agreed. "What's the next one?"
"Oh, something to soothe the ache after sex."
"What?" He hurried over to look down at it. "That's a lubricant."
"It is," George agreed with a smirk. "We'll copy that one for ourselves if we can't keep the book." He wrote out a list of what they'd need and went to get it from the supply cabinet. By the time he got back, Fred was spreading around their things to make it look more homey. "Not the pictures, someone will smash them on us." The pictures went somewhere safer, on the other side of the bed, and one of the bed curtains was put up to separate their beds from the rest of the room. Their first patient came in while they were mixing and arranging, and sat down to watch them, he still liked them somewhat. "We're mixing stuff for stretchmarks," George told him. "Did you need that or something else?"
"I need someone to look at a bruise," the boy admitted. "It's tender and I don't want to bother Madam Pomfrey because she had a headache earlier."
Fred helped the boy up and led him over to the funny padded table. "Lay right down," he encouraged, waiting while the boy moved his clothes. "That is a nasty bruise," he agreed.
George came over to look. "That is nasty. Have you had any pains?" The boy nodded. "Then I think you need to bother her anyway. That one girl in Ravenclaw had a similar mark when she fell down the stairs and miscarried."
"Fine." He was helped up and held until he was steady again. "You're sure?"
"I'm pretty sure," Fred told him. "We were ordered to send things like that directly to her."
"Will one of you walk with me?" he asked. "I'm still dizzy."
"Sure," George agreed. "Fred, wear your arm out, it won't incorporate." He walked the boy up to the infirmary, keeping a steady hand on his arm the whole way in case he felt like he was going to pass out. He tapped on the nurse's office door. "Madam Pomfrey, he's got a big bruise and it's worrisome."
She opened the door looking like she had been crying. "Let me look at him," she said.
George touched her on the hand. "Are you all right?"
"One of the boys' fathers decided not to listen to the truth and tried to harm his son. He's in a coma at the moment." George's face fell. "Perfectly nice boy."
"George, you didn't know," the other boy reminded him. "He could have not gone to his parents."
"His father checked him out to have a doctor look at him and didn't like the news. He was having a girl."
"Blasted stupid pod person," George said hotly. "How dare they! For a girl? What, because this is bloody China!"
Madam Pomfrey shrugged. "To some it's more important than others. He might be fine, they're not sure yet." She led the boy into the office and closed the door.
George trudged back to their room to share the news. Fred looked just as grim. They decided to do a little praying to their God tonight to hopefully get some protection for those kids who didn't have parents like theirs.
Strife looked up as he heard a prayer to him. "It's them," he said glumly. Hera glared at him. "They're asking for help for some of the kids who got caught. They didn't know. It's not specific."
"Then I will listen as well," she decided. She frowned at what she heard. "We will protect those other children, they need it." She looked at Strife. "You will not go to them again."
"What if I can help them fix it?" Strife asked. "Make it not happen?"
"The paradox would be too great," Ares said from his seat. He handed over a stem of grapes. "Here, you look like you need the help."
"Thanks, Unc." He nibbled on the grapes while he thought. "Maybe with some letters to fix the stuff that still needs fixed?"
"You can't do that to a whole generation," Hera told him. "You can't stop this event from happening."
"Can we go back and lessen it any?" Cupid suggested. "Make it so they only hit a third of the people or something?"
Hera thought about it, then shrugged. "You can ask the Fates. I don't know what they'd say on the matter. I say you should have thought of that earlier."
"I'm not the mad Arab who put that spell together," Strife pointed out. "This isn't my fault! If I had remembered it, sure, none'a you woulda been infected, but still! Hell, only Joxer, Cupe, and I are preggers. The rest of you managed to deal with it somehow without being harmed."
Ares stood up and moved Strife back to Cupid's side. "That is true, Hera. They're not at fault. Even you can tell when Strife's not lying. He didn't remember what this spell did."
"Still," Hera said coldly. "I don't like this happening."
"Neither do we, but hey, it did," Ares said, matching her coldness. "You can't punish Strife and Cupid for not knowing something that hasn't happened in eight hundred years! For that matter, why are you punishing Joxer at all?"
"It can't be removed from him without permanently corrupting his energies," she told him. "That is not my decision. It is a medical fact."
"Then maybe someone ought to find a way to fix it," Ares pointed out. "We've got two Gods of Medicine and we can't find a way to fix that, or fix Strife's weeping wounds?"
"I've been working on that," Apollo put in. "It's not working yet."
"Well, work faster," Ares sneered. "Maybe if you spent more time working and less time working with your libido, things might get done around your temple. But then you wouldn't have anything to bitch about, would you," he told him. He looked back at his mother. "You can't punish those kids for what they didn't know, the same as you can't punish Strife for what he didn't know. Ignorance can be cured if knowledge is shown to them."
"Yeah, the spell said memorable memories," Eris put in. "While this fits, it's not exactly what I would have interpreted it as."
"Fine, then I will take all onus off these children. Strife, you may go visit them and tell them that we're protecting the children who were tainted." He nodded and disappeared. "Cupid, you need to be in bed."
"I'm not going anywhere without my Strife," he said firmly. His wings twitched as another cramp hit him. "Ow."
His father walked over and sent him to his own temple, then Ares turned to look at everyone else. "Is there anything you can do to help that situation?"
Hecate cleared her throat. "There are special spells not known to the mortals. I shall give them a glimpse so they can make those potions instead. It will settle all the problems that they're having. Changing into a woman is most difficult for the men," she said with a cold smirk of her own.
"Yeah, thanks," Ares told her. He waited until she had disappeared. "Huh?"
"It's an adaptive spell as well," Athena said meanly. "That means that all men will grow the appropriate opening." She stood up. "I have more important matters than this. May I be excused?" Hera waved a hand so she disappeared.
Ares looked at his mother. "Do the mortals know this?"
"Yes," she sighed. "I'm expecting someone to get a power surge off that once it starts happening." She stood up. "I will work with the people. As you pointed out, they didn't ask for this and those stupid dolts did not know what would happen." She walked away. "Try to keep the tempers in check, Ares. It will get worse. Over a hundred young people, in the middle of their ordinary hormonal times, pregnant at once."
Ares shuddered. "I'll do my best," he promised. That would be a bloodbath not even he would want to see. He looked around but the rest of his family had already left. "Fine, I'll go check it out myself," he decided. He found where Strife had went and sent himself there. Invisible of course. These mortals didn't know that Hecate had helped set up the school. They believed they were myths. He wandered among the students, watching them as they went to class and lunch. He managed to soothe most of the frayed tempers, but a few people he couldn't touch. One male in particular nearly made him shudder. His temper was horrible, and with good reason. He had other problems to deal with before his temper could even get affected by him. That chip on his shoulder wasn't getting any smaller either. Perhaps a quiet word with his aunt, but then again she didn't really pay much attention to the males.
Hecate appeared beside him. "I've given over a scroll with some information that they'll need." She saw where he was looking and sighed. "One of my favorite high priestesses' sons. The youngest son of six sons, with a girl child after him." Ares shuddered. "He's often found to be foul and moody."
"Trying to find his own place would do that." He looked at the twins coming toward them. "They're the ones," he said in astonishment, looking to the sullen boy and back. He watched as the boy attacked one of the twins. "They're his brothers?"
"Indeed, now you know why. Truly Strife's chosen." She grimaced. "Can you help the problems?"
"Without naming him to a position? I don't think so. I tried earlier to make him calm down and it didn't work." They watched as another boy came running and got the first one off the twins. "Isn't that...."
"That Potter boy, yes. That's his best friend."
"Ouch. Bridesmaid syndrome again." He shook his head. "Not even Athena could chill that temper."
Hecate smiled at him. "I doubt she'd try."
He grinned. "Me either. What about Aphrodite?"
They considered the boy. "He has the makings of a great one of her sluts," Hecate decided. "But not in this state. Once he's done maybe." She put a hand on Ares' arm. "Will you be staying around?"
"I think I'll be doing something so I have to stay," he decided. "If we let this happen, this whole community may be dead by these childrens' hands. Or wands," he said when he saw one. Hecate laughed. "Gee, thanks."
"No, just thinking about something. Since the dark haired boy has started no Defense teacher has ever lasted a year. Good or bad."
"I can work with that," Ares decided. "Which one is the defense teacher? All I see are defensive people." He pointed at one coming up the hall. "What is that?"
"That is a potion's master, and one of the best in the world today. He still honors my ways with his particular nature and desire to rid the world of ignorance. Leave him be, Ares."
"Definitely. He looks like he's wanting the job though."
"Oh, he does. He's seen the dark and desires to make up for what he did while he was visiting it's shores. Do be wary of him, he's not an ordinary mortal or else he'd have been caught in this as well. He fought off the compulsion."
"Wow." He looked impressed. Even he hadn't been able to fight off the compulsion to have sex. Lots of sex. Lots of hot sweaty sex. Hecate dug her nails into his arm, bringing his thoughts away from his lover's back and the sweat that dripped off it. "What?"
"I was saying be careful." She gave him a knowing look. "I will make sure he is fine for you." She disappeared.
Ares saw the headmaster and smiled. "Okay then. Another not-normal mortal."
"Yeah, but he's fun. He likes pranks," Strife said from the nearest hallway. "Go see him, he does understand. He believes. He might freak the fuck out, but he believes."
Ares nodded and went that way, following the man up to his office. "I can feel you breathing down my neck, please quit that as it's most distracting." He sat down and looked around. "Come out and show yourself." Ares appeared. "You're a bit bigger than I thought Strife to be."
"That's because I'm Ares," he said dryly. "Strife's downstairs trying to help those twins deal with their brother."
"Ah, then it was Ron who brought you."
"Actually, I'm here to help the anger problem but I don't think even I can help that one."
"It's a shame. He's not found his own yet and until he does he'll keep feeling put upon and left behind."
"He's got bridesmaid syndrom. He's never the bride."
"Exactly," Dumbledore agreed. He opened a candy dish. "Lemon drop, Lord Ares?"
"No, thank you. My current lover eats enough sweets for the both of us and I find it distracting." He sat down and swung a leg over the arm of the chair. "I'm here to help and it was suggested that I take a position within the school to keep the bloodflow down."
"It would help. We've had a few severe beatings of second parents in the last few weeks. As the knowledge sinks in deeper, the anger seems to rise."
"I can deal with that for the most part."
"Wonderful," Dumbledore said happily. "How would you like to do that? Pretend to be a house elf? That would get you all around the school and I'd make sure that it was known that you were to do only light work."
"I was thinking something a little less menial," Ares admitted with a slight smirk. "You are an old coot, are you?"
"I'm afraid I am," he said with a twinkle in his eyes. "Yet, I do my best to help this school thrive. I was all for the twins until this incident."
"Yeah, so was everyone else," he said with a shrug. "What's the Defense teacher look like this year? Hecate said you've had a few problems with them."
"He's a bit of a flake, but he knows what he's about. You do realize that taking a job like that means you'd have to be here all the time until the end of the year? No quick trips off."
"As long as I can lock my room to get some of my own we'll be fine," Ares assured him with a smirk. "Am I in or not?"
"If you promise not to hurt the dear man too much. It really isn't his fault he got hit on the head a few too many times."
"Sounds like someone I know," Ares said dryly. He stood up. "Let me make up an excuse. What's his thing?"
"Then let's send the poor guy to ... Athens," he decided, sending a major demon over there. "Oops, looks like it's going to nest in the populace." He winked and disappeared.
Dumbledore summoned the Defense teacher, handing him the letter. "It was sent via floo," he told him. "It's apparently a very bad problem."
"A full nest, I'd say!" the defense teacher said immediately. He looked at his boss.
"You may go. The person I nearly asked is able to take the job, I already checked."
"Thank you, Headmaster. I'll try to be back for next year, if possible."
"Not a problem," Dumbledore said with a smile. "May you help all of them."
"Hopefully without having to kill the infected ones to free them," the teacher said happily. "I've been wanting to try something new on them, an exorcism spell." He hurried off to pack.
Ares reappeared, dressed more appropriately. Leather pants, tucked in dress shirt. A large book in one hand. "He wants to do what?" he asked.
"It would make it easier if he didn't have to kill the whole nest," Dumbledore pointed out. "That way has devastated cities in the past."
"Still," Ares said, shaking his head. His hair grew, back down to his shoulders, and lightened slightly so red highlights were added. "There, now I can't be confused with my painting in the library." He smirked. "Which floor is his class?"
"Come, I'll show you. You won't have another one today as the day is nearly done, but we'll announce you at dinner." He walked the man downstairs, nodding pleasantly at all the people they passed. He opened the door and let the poor man inside. "Here we are."
"That was fast," the old teacher said with a smile from the office.
"Arion," Ares said, shaking his hand.
"My, you're positively huge!" he said in appreciation. "What's your speciality?"
"Weapons and strategy. Yours?"
"Demons of the mental class," he said with a fond smile. "Do beware of the upper forms. With this *horrible* problem going there's been a lot of tempers being tossed about. Especially watch out when you have the twins. They're the cause of the problems and everyone in the castle wants to hit them a few times."
"I've heard," Ares said as he watched the man pack, speeding up the spell a bit so he could leave faster. The man gave them one last smile then ran off. "Well." The Headmaster laughed. "I can decorate?"
"Of course, Professor Arion. Do as you will. Please, no torture victims for a bit though, it might upset some of the students after last year."
"Fine with me. That's what I have a home for," Ares agreed, licking his lips. He waved his hand and the room was repainted, the stones turning to black marble with white and green accents. Then the furniture was changed so it matched his mood more. A long trestle table replaced the old desk out in front. The desk in the office suddenly had one of the best armchairs ever created behind it. A few of his favorite weapons now hung on the walls. "There," he said happily. "My sort of spot."
Dumbledore started to laugh again. "I'm sure you'll find it most pleasing. Would you like to see your rooms?"
Ares looked over at him. "I've caught them from your mind. I figured I'd deal with the student coming toward us instead."
"Indeed," Dumbledore said happily. "I'll tell Severus."
"Tell him Hecate said hello." He winked. "She likes his nit-picky nature." Dumbledore's laugh followed him down the halls. "Come in!" he called at the timid knock.
Hermione stuck her head in. "Sir, I noticed our old teacher leaving and I was wondering if he left our last tests."
Ares picked up the stack of papers that had been left on the desk. "If it's in here," he said, handing them over.
"If I may ask?" Hermione asked as she flipped through them. "May I take my friend's as well?"
"They can get theirs the next class."
"Thank you, sir." She smiled at him. "You seem fairly pleasant. What's your name?"
He smirked at her. "You might be careful of using that line in the future. It's a favorite pickup line in bars." He looked her over. "You'd be Ms. Granger?" She nodded, starting to frown. "Professor Arion." They shook hands. "When do I have you?"
"Next Tuesday, second afternoon class for a double session," she said promptly. She pointed at the class schedule hanging beside the board. "This is your term, sir."
"Thank you, Ms. Granger. Please, let me be a surprise tonight. I want to see the look on everyone's face when I'm introduced."
"Of course," she agreed quickly. His smile started a warmth flowing through her, one she tried very hard to ignore. "What's your speciality? I ask because I'm not sure our books will have it. We have a specialized book."
"That's fine. I'm not big on the book. You'll find I'm going to do things a little bit differently," he assured her, helping her turn around and steering her toward the door. "Relax, I'm not evil. There's no need to panic. I'm simply a substitute teacher," he said, making it a 'suggestion' that would stick in her mind.
"Thank you, Professor Arion." She noticed Snape coming up the hall. "I'd better go, I'm not one of his favorite people." She scurried off.
Snape walked into the held open door and it was shut behind him. "What was the meaning of that message?" he sneered. "Are you acquainted with her?"
"She's one of my favorite aunts. Did a lot more for me than my mother did," Ares told him, shrugging casually. "Want some tea, Severus?" The professor's mouth fell open. "Relax, I'm here to keep the violence down."
"Thankfully. Can you fix Weasley?"
"Not really, but I can give him an outlet," he said with a faint smirk. "Tea?"
"Definitely." They went into the office and Severus looked around. "This is different."
"I imported some of home's best qualities." He turned and found his sister in his chair. "Eris, this is Severus, one of Hecate's favored ones."
She waved. "Hey, how are ya," she said with a bright smile. "I just got a fuckload of a jolt. One of the dickwads in Slytherin is planning on setting off some fireworks inside the castle to scare some of the kids."
"Hmm. Anyone important?"
"You know the rules," Eris said, tipping her head at Snape. "Just one or two."
"Then I'll stop them," Snape told her. "That is my job after all."
"Cool. Either that or let the blond one get them. He's in a mood today as well. Almost seems like me in the mornings." Ares shuddered. "I'd better get back. You want me to watch over that thing going on in Turkey?"
"Sure, thank you," Ares told her. She waved a hand and disappeared. "Expect to see her and Strife on occasion."
"He watches over the twins," Snape said coldly.
"He didn't realize it either," Ares admitted. "No one's used that one in eight hundred years. I'm still wondering how anyone gets ambrosia down here."
"I had wondered where that vial had went," Snape said, glaring in the direction of their room. "I will find the rest of it."
"Cool." Ares handed over a cup. "Liberally laced. I figured you could use it by the way you're moving today."
"I had the sixth years," he said with a shudder. "They're morose and sullen on top of being incompetent." He sipped at the tea, smiling as the liquor moved through his system. "How long are you here for?"
"The rest of the year. There was a small nest of possessing demons in Athens that the other guy went to deal with." He looked the man over. "I got the feeling that you've resented the other teachers."
"I do, and I will resent you," he assured him, "but I can't help but realize you're better suited as the God of War."
"Thank you," he said with a small bow. "I was thinking about doing something fairly odd, but that would let out some of the aggression. How are the kids at fighting?"
"Abysmal. It's not taught here at all." Ares shook his head. "They don't usually see the need for it, what with the wands and the like."
"Yes, well, that's about to change. I think some of them need a more physical outlet for their energies and frustrations. Besides," he said with a smirk, "I hate grading tests."
Snape laughed. "I can understand how it would impinge on your valuable free time, Professor Arion." He finished his tea and stood up. "Thank you for letting me know."
"You're welcome. I figure I can trust you. You've done more than enough secret keeping in your day." Snape tipped his head in acknowledgment. "I'll see you at dinner."
"Of course. Enjoy the free time, by then the news will be all over the school. Granger does gossip a bit." He walked out, sure that the position was at least in good hands, if not his own. He noticed a few students looking at him. "Yes?" he asked them. "You needed something?"
"Sir, I...." the boy in front started.
"Sir, we wanted to know why it was so bad that the older kids all got caught," the second year Slytherin told him.
"Because they're pregnant and not prepared."
"Yes, but that doesn't explain why they're so miserable all the time. Mr. Malfoy nearly took all our heads off earlier because we were studying near the fireplace."
"Ah." Snape smirked at them. "Study up on hormones, it should provide you with all the clues you'll need. Or you could try asking someone. I believe the Weasley twins have more than enough information on that subject if you're worried."
"Should we be worried for our lives?" the first boy blurted out, then he blushed.
"Not at the moment. That may change later, depending on how badly Mr. Malfoy carries this child. There is a chance that the state will not agree with him at all." He swept on, going back to his classroom. He nearly laughed. Those children looked more scared of Draco than they did him. He would have to make sure that they knew who to worry about.
Dumbledore stood up at dinner, making everyone look at him. "As you can see, the normal Defense teacher has had to leave on an emergency case." He smiled at them. "Fortunately, the one person I truly wanted to teach you was available on short notice and has agreed to fill in for the rest of the year." He waved a hand at Ares, making him stand up. "This is Professor Arion." One girl whistled. "Yes, he is adorable." Ares helped it along by flexing a muscle. "I'm sure he'll be delighted to let you stare at him during classes." He sat down.
Ares looked out at the students. "I'm sure we'll get along very well," he told them in a near purr. He saw the shivers go through the crowd. He still had it! "Expect some differences, I'm not usually amused by testing students to death." He sat down and dug into the food.
"That was rather heavy handed," McGonagall pointed out with a smile. "You'll have the poor girls drooling at your feet."
"I go by the adage of 'flaunt it if you've got it,'" he retorted. "Let them drool. They'll still have to pass their tests." She laughed. "Would you like to come see my weapons later?" he teased. She blushed and quickly picked up her glass to take a long drink. "My office is always open to my fellow staff members." He smiled around the table, making Snape cough to hide his laughter.
Down at the student tables, Hermione leaned closer to Harry. "I talked with him earlier, he seems very nice. Has a thing for marble and weapons, but he said he's not evil. He was even gentle when I stammered."
Harry looked interested. "What's his area?"
Ron brightened up and picked up his fork. "Really? Think he'll teach us to use some?"
"I don't know," Hermione said, smiling at him. It was good to see Ron chipper. He had been miserable all day. "You could ask him, as I said he seems rather nice. Fairly well-wound as well. Not in the least bit mental."
"That's a first," Ron said in appreciation. Harry looked at him. "We haven't had a decent teacher since Lupin."
"Good point," Harry agreed. He dished himself up some peas. "Ron?" Ron shook his head and stirred his potatoes and meat together some more. "Please eat," Harry pleaded. "You haven't eaten all day and your mother demanded I tell her when you do that. She all but made it a compulsion, Ron."
Ron took a bite. "Happier?" he asked once he had swallowed. Harry nodded, giving him a smile. "I'm fine. I had a snack earlier."
"I wondered where you had gotten the carrot sticks," Hermione told him. "Tell me the next time you're going down there, please. I'd like some of those myself I think."
"Sure thing," Ron promised, eating more. He was hungry, even though this wasn't what he wanted. A new bowl appeared down the table and he eagerly snatched it, dumping a good majority of it onto his plate to inhale it.
"Boiled cabbage?" Harry asked.
Ron nodded. "Been craving it. This kid is nuts. I don't even like the stuff, but it's soothing and necessary." He ate another large bite.
"Have you tried the salad?" Hermione asked. "They've put a new dressing on it this time. Light and tangy."
"It wasn't quite it, but I'll have more later," Ron told her, shoveling more food into his mouth.
Up at the head table, Madam Pomfrey was smiling at her most problematic patients. They all looked much better tonight. She looked at the other problem patient and saw him pouting, glaring at the Gryffindor table. "Oh, that poor thing."
"He wants sweets and he's restricted from eating them," Snape told her. "He's already made himself sick once today."
"Just a small treat would soothe him, Severus. Let him have a small piece of something."
"He wanted honey and nuts," Snape told her. "I have no idea what to get him."
"Oh, I know just the thing," Professor Arion told them. They looked down at him. "My mother used to make it. Baklava. It's philo dough, honey, and pistachios. I have a small bit upstairs in my room as a treat. She recently made a large tin for me."
Snape motioned the boy closer. "If I could find you a suitable treat, would you wipe that pout off your face for a good few hours? You're annoying."
"Yes, sir," Draco said quietly. "I'm sorry I'm annoying you."
Professor Arion looked down at him. "If I can manage to find you the one treat you're craving, would you behave?" he asked dryly. Draco looked at him. "I have Baklava upstairs in my room. I'd be willing to give you a single piece if you'd quit upsetting the other students." Draco scowled. "You did just send six girls running from the room in tears."
"They were being mean and I gave it back to them," he said firmly, but cooly. "I don't know who you are...." The Professor looked into his eyes and he recognized the power behind the man. "Yes, sir, I'll behave."
"Good boy, Draco. Come to my office after dinner, I'll have some down with me."
"Thank you, sir."
"Now go eat," Madam Pomfrey scolded. "Right this instant, Mr. Malfoy." He slunk back to his table and sat down, listlessly eating the food that was making his stomach whine.
Madam Pomfrey looked at their newest teacher. "How did you know?"
"It soothed my sister when she was pregnant," Ares told her. It had been created for her as well, some villagers wanted to be free of her mood swings so they had created the sweet and sticky treat specially for her. "Like I said, my mother makes a lot of it."
"Wonderful. Please, if you can make him and Mr. Weasley calm down, it would be most appreciated. I worry about those two the most."
"I'll see what I can do," he said cheerfully.
Ares looked up as Draco tapped on his office door, and nodded at the small paper cup with the treat in it. "There."
Draco came in and looked it over, then sniffed it. "What is this?"
"Pistachios, honey, and philo dough. Sticky as well," Ares said as an afterthought.
Draco took a nibble of a corner and his face lit up. "This is amazing! Who invented this?"
"The ancient Greeks. My sister liked it as well." He put his feet up on the desk. "You remind me a lot of her. This moody slinking around." He looked the boy over. "You're carrying high, so your back must be killing you. Are you sleeping well?"
"You've been here?"
"No, but I've seen others go through it. A few times," he admitted with a small smirk. "I have children of my own, but we don't talk these days." Most of them had died mortals and they didn't always like him. "My own nephew is currently under a similar spell. He's not particularly kind and generous at the moment. Hence me deciding I could come here at a moment's notice."
Draco laughed, sitting down to eat the rest of the piece. "This is muggle?" Ares nodded. "I guess some of them aren't worth wasting after all."
"I've sent the recipe to those little house elf creatures. That way you can have more made if you can convince them to do so." Draco's world brightened even more. "All you have to do is to quit making the others cry. Deal?"
"Deal," Draco agreed quickly. "Do they already have it?" Ares nodded. "Thank you, Professor. I think I might not even make fun of you behind your back."
"Make fun of me if you want. You're a lot like my first son when he was expecting his first child with his wife." He watched the boy go. How true it was, Cupid had been that same pouty, sullen, and moody brat that this one was becoming. What was it about blonds and mood swings? He went back to his book. The children were at least learning the basics this year.
Ron looked up as the teacher walked into the classroom, looking him over. His pants were tighter than they were at dinner that night. He stopped himself from drooling and looked around. He wasn't the only one staring. A lot of the guys were. Of course, it could be the impressive muscles showing through the shirt. Or even the ones in his thighs. Someone nudged him and he glared at them. "Sod off," he warned. The girl flinched back and shifted so her foot couldn't come in contact with his chair.
Ares decided to get this out of the way. "Who read the assigned homework for the day?" he asked. Most of the students raised their hands. "Okay, then let me tell you how I'm going to be different. I see a lot of you older children need a physical outlet for this aggression problem you seem to be starting. Not that I blame you. If it were me, I'd be pissed and whiny too," he said with a smile. All the girls sighed, even Hermione. He looked at the Gryffindor side. "I know there is a ban on physical fighting, but I am more than good enough not to hurt you while teaching you elementary self defense along with all the creatures in here. So from now on, those of you who have read the material will get a chance to face off with me." He raised a hand at the gasps. "I promise not to hurt you. As I told one of you, I'm supremely familiar with the state most of you are in. That doesn't mean I think you can hurt me," he added with a smirk, "but I'll let you try. In the meantime, you'll get some basic hand-to-hand training." Harry raised his hand. "Yes, Mr. Potter."
"How can you promise not to hurt them? Some of them are very delicate."
"I'll expect those people to have some sense and write the short paragraph assignment I'll assign that night instead," he said with a nod for him. "Very good question. You guys go on the point system don't you? What's the usual scale for decent answers?"
Ron raised his hand and got nodded at. "Five to ten points. It's rare to get over that for anything."
"You did," Draco snorted.
"Yeah, but I was helping fight the Dark Lord. If you could play chess and get along with others then you could probably have helped me." He smirked at Draco, making him scowl. "I think that's the last time anyone got over twenty points for anything, sir."
"Fine. Potter, you just earned your house five points, as have you, Mr. Weasley." He smiled at the others. "Now then, I'll take ten of you today. Who read it again?" Less hands went up this time and Ron looked eager. "Who has brothers and sisters? Older ones or smaller ones who you pick on?" A few more of the hands went down. "Fine, Mr. Weasley, I'm sure your brothers pick on you a lot."
"All the time," Ron said grimly. He got up and walked down. "What did you want to know, sir?"
"I want you to explain the creature in the reading while you try to hit me, Mr. Weasley. Don't worry, you won't harm me."
Ron shrugged. "Angry punches or calm ones?"
"What's the difference?" Draco said in derision. "Just hit the man."
"No, he has a point, Mr. Malfoy. Anger gives your fighting special qualities, like speed, but it can be dangerous because you lose your head when you're angry. Fighting while calm is a good thing because you can keep your head and plan your attack, but your attacks usually lose strength and focus. A combination of both is the preferable answer, but not everyone can do so." He looked at Ron. "I think I can handle either one, Mr. Weasley. As noted, I'm a trained professional. I teach self-defense classes."
Ron nodded and balled his fists. "Last time's reading was a little blood sucking creature," he said, taking a swing at him. The teacher ducked it and slapped at him, making Ron smirk and throw a better punch, connecting this time to the teacher's hand. A few students gasped but he kept his focus on the teacher. "They're like magical leeches and they tend to go for boys more than girls because our blood runs hotter. They want the warmth of the blood." Ares grabbed him by the throat and spun him around but Ron stomped on his foot, kicked him on the shin, then tried to kick him in the balls, managing to get him on the inside of the thigh. The arm loosened so he slid out from under it and kicked the man in the stomach, making him go 'oof'. "They really want to burrow into semi-conscious bodies and can keep a victim alive for as long as a month if they find someone to work with." He tagged the teacher on the chin then backed up with a nasty smirk. "How was that?"
"Just what I'd expect with older brothers," Ares said with a smile. "How many?"
"Five and one sister."
"I saw her yesterday," he told him. "Do you feel better?"
"Yes, sir, thank you." He bowed to his opponent, as they had been shown in dueling club. "May I go back to my seat or should I try to beat you up more?"
"No, go ahead. Very well done, Mr. Weasley." He walked back and the others clapped him on the back and stared at him in awe. "You saw how gentle I was with him, I'll be the same way with the rest of you, even the girls. Though I know women are tougher than men, as proven by most of my family. I'm surrounded by sisters." The group laughed. "Next?" One girl raised her hand. "Then come down. You can add onto what Mr. Weasley said." She hurried down to try her hand at him as well. If it had cured Ron's bad mood, it must be good for them.
The twins looked at the new teacher, wondering if he had heard what they had done. He looked at them and smirked. Oh, yeah, he knew. They had heard about the other classes and wondered if they were going to be used as test subjects, but the smirk turned into a laugh at, they presumed, what Dumbledore had just told him. They both swallowed nervously. This guy was big, with real muscles, and they weren't that good of boxers. A few rounds with their older brothers hadn't prepared them to be trounced into the floor in front of everyone.
Professor Arion cleared his throat and everyone quieted down. "I'm assuming you've heard what I've told the other upper classes. The same does go for you lot," he offered. One girl stood up and trotted down. "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" he asked pleasantly, letting her take off her robe.
"I have an older brother and he's a horrible bully," she said primly. He smiled at her so she took a swing at him, stunning those who hadn't heard. He dodged and laughed, giving her a gentle swat on the arm. "Last night's lessons were on vampires and their sexual predatory nature." He nodded, letting her hit at him again, this time an ineffective girl swat.
"Punch, dear, not catfight."
She grimaced. "I am a girl." She took a heavy roundhouse swing at his head and he moved back just in time, or so it looked to her, which made her happier. "If I remember right, the predatory nature is their way of attracting new victims. They take the time to lure their victims in so they're thoroughly hooked and don't want to back out before being bitten."
"Very good," he praised, blocking a good punch. "Excellent one, Ms. Pucey. Thank you, you may sit." She beamed and trotted back to her seat. "Who wants to expand on that topic?" No one moved. "Come on," he cajoled. "I'm not that mean today." He smiled at the twins. "Either of you since you're giving me such intense looks?" They quickly shook their heads. "Pity. You look like the little guy earlier who really did very well."
"You fought with Ron?" Fred asked.
The Professor nodded. "Yes, I did. He went first. He even got out of a chokehold. I'd say you and your older brothers trained him rather well." He pointed at George. "Come on. I know you read."
"Actually, I got it read to me while I mixed more hemorrhoid creme," George admitted, standing up and taking off his robes. "You don't hit hard?"
"I try not to. If I do, tell me and I'll ease off on your delicate skin." He watched as the boy walked down to where he was standing. "Which one are you?"
"Can we take a turn?" one girl called.
"No. You can hit him later, dear," Ares told her. He nodded at the boy. "Pick up where she left off."
"Vampires do things like go to dance clubs these days," he said, throwing his first punch. He nearly caught him too, he could tell by the surprised look. "We're only the next step above Ron."
"Ah! That's where it's coming from. Continue." He swatted George on the side of the head, making him throw another punch. "Now."
"Fine. Vampires do erotic things on purpose, picking their targets because they respond. According to the book," another punch, but a ducked one and his chest stung from the last blow, but not too badly, "vampire Masters will turn only prettier people now because the erotic thrill is so much of the hunt these days. Why turn someone who can't feed himself or herself?" He threw another punch. "Some seem to be the sensitive and mysterious type to gain attention of willing victims." Another punch, straight at the teacher's nose, but he moved back in time. "Some of them come off as aggressive and firm, almost dominating. They attract a different sort of victim depending on their approach due to the finickiness of human sexual appetites." He backed off. "How was that, sir?"
"Very well done. Not much style, but some technique. Go back to your seat." George went back to his seat, rubbing the sore spot on his chest. Little did he know that he had been tagged by Ares for Strife. "Would the other one like to finish where his brother started off?"
"Not particularly, I'm the brains."
Ares laughed. Threw his head back and everything, making the students shiver. "That's a good one. Do you have to time-share it?"
"Not usually," Fred said sadly. "Sometimes it does get borrowed though."
"You can say that again," Lee muttered. "Ginny musta had it that night."
"You," the teacher said, pointing at Lee. "You look like you had something add?" Lee stood up and took off his robe and tie, putting them on top of his books. "Any siblings?"
"One older, but she doesn't pick on me about more than my taste in girls." He balled up his fists in the classic fighting pose. "I'm not great."
"You'll learn," Ares assured him. "Go on."
"Vampires weren't the only creatures in the reading, unless the teacher messed up the numbers again. There were other sexual predators in that same section and frankly they scared me more. The paralyzing abilities of vampires is something that can be fought. Siren's aren't." He threw his first punch, which Ares blocked in fine fashion, of course, with the palm of his hand. "Sirens were the next to last creature covered in that section." A few people groaned. "Oh, get over it. I'd rather have one of them bite me any day over a corpse. All their hype is romantic nonsense." He threw another jab, which the teacher again blocked. "You're good," he said in appreciation, backing off.
"Thank you. I should be." Ares smirked at him. "What about their origins?"
"The myths that say they're associated with the sea are partially true, but not totally. It's thought that the original ones were some sort of sea creature crossbreed, but today's modern sirens hold many positions. They follow all the arts, not just singing as supposed, and they're mostly like normal people, only they have to feed every now and then on the populace to stay strong enough to do what they do in defensive situations."
"It's actually their food source," Ares corrected. "Have you met one?"
"Once. She passed me over. I knew she was one because I heard her humming and it drew me."
"Wonderful," he agreed. "Five points, boy." Lee nodded and went back to his seat. "Those are the sort of answers I want. Of course, anyone who answers correctly doesn't have to do the paragraph paper on the creatures tonight. I'll take up to ten of you a day, and I promise to go easier on the pregnant ones." He smiled brightly, making the class swoon dreamily. "Next?" he purred.
Professor Snape walked between the tables and stopped beside Ron. "I will expect you to be less surly in my class," he said quietly. "Your outlet should take care of the tantrums you've been throwing recently."
"Yes, sir," Ron agreed, looking pretty happy about the prospect.
"Good." He looked at Draco, who was looking smug. "You, do the potion," he snarled, tired of the boy's mood swings. Earlier today he had run to him *crying* about something stupid, his robes not closing. This situations was trying all his patience. He checked the other students, sending one of the other pregnant ones crying from the room. "Well." He sniffed. "I didn't even have to do anything."
Draco smirked at him. "She's been like that all day, sir. Cried because Professor Flitwick gave her points."
"Wonderful. Shouldn't you be working by now?" he said coolly. Draco pulled over his ingredients to start preparing them. Snape went back to his seat and found a glass waiting on him. Sniffing it made him smile. The new professor was looking out for his temper as well it seemed. He sipped the brandy slowly, watching as everyone worked. Ms. Granger threw down everything and stomped off, sniffling already. He took a longer drink. He saw Potter staring at the door and waved a hand. The boy wouldn't get anything done anyway. He heard the angry screaming and smirked. Perhaps the reason for her bad mood was being overprotected. She stomped back in and started to throw things around. Potter was outside, he could see him leaning against the opposite wall. "Ms. Granger, do not throw that at Mr. Weasley or suffer my wrath when you scrub the bookcases tonight," he said quietly. She burst out in tears, putting her head down to sob. "Out!" She ran out again, this time letting herself be soothed. He saw Ron's look at her prepared ingredients. "Do your own, Mr. Weasley." Ron went back to chopping his own things. "Thank you." He finished his drink, liking the relaxed feeling he now had. It lasted nearly the whole class, until Neville Longbottom had his potion boil over and he ran out crying. "It was supposed to do that if you didn't cool it," he called after him. "For once he gets it right and he does that," he sneered. He saw the glare sent his way. "The offer to clean bookcases applies to you as well, Mr. Weasley." Ron cooked his potion quietly, shooting occasional glares his way. Much nicer. A few more rounds with the new professor should do the trick for that volatile temper.
Ms. Granger walked back in, her face freshly scrubbed by the water droplets in her hair. "I'm sorry, sir, I don't know what came over me," she said quietly. "May I brew this one tonight after dinner, before you do detentions?"
He nodded, surprised. "You may."
"Thank you, sir." She slunk back to her seat and set about righting the ingredients so she could pick them up later.
Severus felt like kicking his heels. Potter came back in and took his seat. "Do you want to join Ms. Granger tonight, Potter?"
"If you wouldn't mind, sir," he said quietly, taking his seat.
"Fine. Right after dinner if you wouldn't mind."
"Yes, sir," they agreed. They finished tidying up and sat there quietly, not even talking to anyone. It was refreshing.
"You should be done by now," he announced, standing up. Draco looked at him in horror. "Now, Mr. Malfoy. Bottle a sample and bring it up to me." He did another round of the students, noticing who was going to be flunking, including Mr. Malfoy. "Perhaps if you had started on time," he said as he walked past him, watching the bottles being put on his desk. Yes, this time was most interesting and stressful. He watched as everyone left, led by the storming Draco Malfoy.
Ares looked up from his letting Ron beat him to find his son floating outside the window. He nearly did get hit that time. "Good. Go sit down while I take this message." He walked over and opened the window. "What did you need?"
"We've got a major meeting and grandma said she wants you there," Cupid said, smiling at him. "She said now, pops."
"Tell her I'll be up after my day ends. She can always fill me in if necessary."
Someone coughed, making him look at the students. "Sir, what is that?" one of the girls asked.
"He's...." Ares thought quickly. "He's a special type of messenger. Associated with love. I found him when he was young and helped raise him. He has a partner who should probably be around here." Strife appeared then flashed back out. "He's shy. You'll have to excuse him," he said casually. "Would you like to come in and introduce yourself?" he suggested. Cupid looked panicked. "It's all right, you did very well the last time you had to give this sort of talk, namely to your son."
"I don't think so," Cupid said, fluttering his wings.
"Do you have wings because you're associated with love, as a homage to Cupid perhaps, or were you given to love because you had wings?" Hermione asked.
Cupid blinked a few times as he flew into the room. "I don't know," he admitted, looking at his father. "I've never thought about it."
"You have wings because of where you were meant to be," Ares told him, clapping him on the back. "This is one of my might-as-well-be sons," he announced, sending a silent apology to his son, who just grinned at him. "I've raised him since he was fluttering around bumping into the ceiling." The crowd laughed. "He's very tame and usually nice."
"He's cute," one girl said, smiling around. She looked at Ron. "Don't you think so?"
Ron looked at him, then shrugged. "He's a blond. I guess he's cute but I could never get past that."
"You don't like blonds?" Hermione asked. "Since when?"
"Since the only blonds I know are prats," Ron said dryly. "The only one who isn't treats me like some puppy and the others have permanently ruined blonds for me."
"I have?" Draco asked coldly. "How did I do that?"
Ron glared at him. "By being your usual charming self, bitch." He saw the hurt look. "Yes, you! You've made sure that I could never look at another blond and wonder if they might be nice." He got up and stomped out.
Draco stormed out in tears.
Ares blinked a few times. "I'm going to deal with that. Cupe, teach the kids." He walked out, going to track down Ron. "Do you think that was fair?" he asked casually.
"Yes! Have you seen how many blonds there are in the school?" he demanded. Ares thought about it then nodded. "The only one who treats me nicely treats me like I'm some puppy that my brothers brought with them. The others treat me like shit. I can't ever see a blond now without wondering if they're going to snap at me or pat me on the head like I'm deficient."
Ares patted him on the shoulder. "Not all blonds are like that. I know you'll see a difference once you're in the wider world."
"Maybe," Ron agreed bitterly. "If I make it that far." He stood up. "I'll apologize if I have to," he agreed. "I won't mean it."
"That's fine. Go back to class while I find Mr. Malfoy. He was more upset than you." He walked off, tracing the traces of misery down to the basement. He found his grandson sitting in the boy's lap, giving him a hug. "Are you helping?" he asked.
"He not happy, needs happy," Bliss said sadly. "Who mean?"
"Another kid he's picked on since the first time they met." He sat down next to the boy. "He's got a point, you've been a bastard to him since the first time you saw him." Draco sniffled and hugged Bliss harder. "I don't think you've *ruined* him, but he does have a point. Every blond he's met so far has been mean to him. I think he'll change his mind, but for now you've got to make a truce, kid." Draco glared at him. "This is up to you, kid. You're the one making the bad decisions and it's affecting others. If you change, it might help a lot of people feel better about you and like you more."
"I don't need the people like Weasley to like me," he said bitterly.
"No, but it'd be nice, wouldn't it?" Ares asked. Draco shrugged, putting his chin on Bliss' head. "He's comforting, I know, but don't squish his wings." The hands were shifted so Bliss' wings were freed. "Thank you. You want to sit down here and sulk?"
Ron stormed in. "I want to talk to you, you bitter old queen."
Draco stood up, handing off the baby. "I think you've said more than enough."
"No, I haven't. I haven't given you back nearly as much as you've thrown my way. All the shit will stop or I'm going to start fighting back harder." He looked him over, then sneered at him. "If you can't take it, you shouldn't dish it out, Malfoy. I used to take it easy on you because I was worried about your father trying to harm mine. That's not a problem anymore is it?"
"Ron, Draco, stop it," Ares warned. He was tired of this battle. "Before I lock you two together in a room."
Ron snorted. "I can open locks and so can he."
"Not if I do them," he told them. Both boys flinched away from him. "Thank you." He waved a hand and the door shut.
"You're a freak!" Draco told him. "That's the third time you haven't used a wand."
"Yay, a little piece of wood between me and my innate gifts." He changed his sword to a wand and waved it around. "See, wand. Why would I need to use it?" He put it back in his pocket. "I know what's wrong, and I even know how to cure it, but you won't like it, boys." He put Bliss down, watching as he went to hug them both, bringing them closer together to do so. He smiled at his grandson. "My grandson has the right idea. You two are without someone to help you." Ron opened his mouth. "They're not paying attention to you and it might suck, but open your mouth and have to stay seated for a week." Ron shut his mouth, starting to pout. "Thank you." He flicked some of his hair back. "As I was saying. You two need someone to be there for you through this. Having someone to lean on would help you a bit."
"You're offering?" Draco snorted.
"Sort of. I'll help you two if you two help each other."
"I'd have to kill him," Ron told him. "I can't stand to be in the same room with him most of the time."
"Thinking I'm too hot to handle?" Draco sneered.
"Like I said earlier, you've ruined me for ever liking blonds," Ron said bitterly.
"What the hell is with you, Weasley! You act like you're some tragic hero. That's not your spot, it's Potter's. Get over yourself." He looked him over. "I don't know who the father of that child is, but they're probably hoping you die so they're not embarrassed." Ron slapped him, sending him to the floor. "Oh, so mature!" he said as he stood up.
"Enough," Ares said tiredly. He rubbed a hand over his face. "You're both right. Yes, there are a lot of bad things between you, but you're all alone in this. The twins can't give you enough attention to make you feel better. No one is giving you the attention that other people are getting and it's irritating you, which is making everyone else feel worse. Now, if you could stand helping each other a bit, I'd be more than willing to help you both. If not, you're shit outta luck. No more sweets, no more fighting to wear out the anger. None of it." They looked miserable. "Now, can we do this?"
"No," Draco said, shaking his head. "I don't want him anywhere near me." He stormed off.
Ron shrugged. "You heard him. It wouldn't be good for either of us, sir."
Ares sighed and shook his head. "You'll have to get over this childish problem, Ron. You both know that growing up means you have to quit baiting the other side. He might surprise you if you try being nice to him."
"I tried that once, when he did, and we went back to fighting a day later. It won't work." He sat down, his chin resting on his knees, barely. "I hate this."
"I know, kid. It's not pleasant for the rest of us either. Why don't you go rest in the infirmary?"
"Because she'll nag again. I'll be fine down here."
Ares sent a shock at a mouse, making it go running past, which Ron only looked at. "Maybe you shouldn't. No one down here can watch you."
Ron looked up at him. "So?" He smiled grimly. "I'm good at taking care of myself, sir. I've done it on and off for a while."
"I understand, but I don't want you to be down here alone. I was told to watch out for you and I'm trying to do my job."
"They warned you about me?"
"That too," Ares agreed with a smirk. "Now get up and go up to your own bed or go to the infirmary." Ron sighed and allowed him to help him up. "Good boy."
Ron nodded, heading off to his room. He collapsed on his bed and curled up around a pillow. Someone came storming in. "Go away," he called.
"I will not," McGonagall said, opening his curtains and sitting near him. "Are you all right?"
"Malfoy and I got into it again," he admitted. "I'm fine."
"Then why are you cramping?" she asked, pointing at the tense muscles.
"Wonderful for you." She stood up. "Go to the infirmary. You're not allowed up here during the class day."
"Professor, I was told to come up here by Professor Arion."
"I'm sure he tried to get you to the infirmary first and I'm going to demand it. Now, scoot, before I have to give detentions."
Ron groaned as he tried to get up. "I can't."
"I'll help you," she said with a grimace, helping him up. She stopped him, patting him on the stomach. "She's a very strong girl," she told him gently. "She'll live through this and so will you, Ron. If you relax, it will get easier. The more defensive you become, the worse the situation gets." He nodded. "Thank you." She smiled at him. "When are you going to tell me who the father is?"
"Never. There's things you don't know," Ron said, getting free. "I can't talk about it, ma'am, and I really wish everyone would leave me alone about it. All of you." He walked off, heading up to the infirmary. McGonagall was serious, she would punish him. He found Harry already up there. "You left class?"
"Hermione started to cramp again," he said grimly, pointing at the door to the office. "What about you? How are you doing?"
"Some tension." Ron slid up onto a bed. "I was told to come rest in here."
"Do you want to talk?" Ron shook his head. "Are you *sure*, Ron? It might make you feel better."
"It might," he agreed, "but I'm not telling you."
"I wasn't going to ask," Harry assured him, giving him a smile. "I was going to offer to let you rant and scream at me again."
"Maybe later," Ron said with a faint smile. He lost it as Draco walked in and climbed up onto a bed. "How is she?"
"She'll be fine," Harry told him. "But with the prophecy they're not taking any chances." He gave Ron a pat on the arm. "I'd better go back to my spot. Madam Pomfrey told me to wait there and she looks like she's had another stressful day." He went back to his seat.
Ron curled up on his side, using his wand to steal a pillow off another bed to curl around again. He left himself drift off into his thoughts, not making any attempt to conceal what he was doing. When Madam Pomfrey walked over to him, looking quizzical, he refocused. "Everyone told me I had to skip up here," he told her.
She made a decision. "I'm tired of this problem," she decided. "Mr. Malfoy?" He grunted in annoyance. "Did you hear me? I am tired of this situation."
"I'm not thrilled with it myself," Draco told her. "I hate being pregnant."
"Not that," she snapped. "You two." She walked back so she could look at each of them. "The sad fact is that the twins cannot take care of everyone and give them enough attention to prevent problems from happening. Therefore I've been doing linking spells between mothers and the second parents. Since neither of you have admitted who you slept with, I see no option but to link you." They started to complain. "Do stop now, thank you. It will be a physical link. If one of you is in trouble, the other one will know. I will expect the one not in trouble to help the other one up here." They groaned. "I will also expect you to soothe the other's temper. These tantrums are not welcome by the rest of the residents. They are not healthy for either of you."
"He's a blight!" Draco shouted.
"I'm the blight?" Ron said, incredulous. "I'm not the one who goes around pushing his weight around or making the people forced to be around him miserable. I'm not the one who wasn't taught manners. Can you not say 'please' and 'thank you' when things go well for you? Or even 'excuse me' before you shove someone out of the way?"
"Enough!" she yelled, making both men shudder. "I have had enough! You students are making my life a living hell! I will not have it any longer! You will help each other and like it," she snapped. She cast the spell to bind them. "There. It is done. You will help each other whether or not you like it. I will expect to see you both up here for regular checkups. I will see you in better humors. I will also hear that you have quit fighting in the halls and class. Your behavior has gotten atrocious and I will not have it." She went back into her office and slammed the door.
Ron groaned and laid back down. "Are those your cramps or mine?" Draco called.
"Yours. I was fine until a moment ago."
The nurse came back out. "What cramps?"
"Just some tension," Draco told her. "Nothing we haven't had before."
"How would I know? Neither of you show up for appointments," she snapped.
"Yes, Madam Pomfrey," Draco said, flipping onto his back. "This is my set of them."
She gently prodded his stomach, then grimaced. "You are staying in that bed until I say otherwise." She went over to check Ron. She grimaced more. "How long have you had those?"
"Not long," he admitted. "A few weeks."
"You've been having false labor pains for a few weeks without having said anything?" she asked.
"I thought they were normal cramps. Mum said she's had them."
"I see." She swatted at him. "You're not getting out of that bed either."
Professor Snape walked a young man in. "He cut his hand and stood there squealing," he said in disgust.
"You poor thing," she soothed, walking him over to take care of the large slice into his fingers. "How did you do that?"
"Slicing slimy stuff, ma'am," he said pitifully.
"We'll get you fixed right up," she decided. "Severus, I need something to stop false labor pains for Weasley. Malfoy needs something to calm him down. Would you be so kind as to make them something before I find a goblin hammer and use it on them?"
"If I must," he agreed dryly. He looked at the boys. "Are their problems solved?"
"I latched them together, like I have the other ones." She fixed the slice and patted the boy on the head, giving him a peppermint. "There you go, back to class after you wash your hands." He nodded and went out to the bathroom. She turned around, seeing his amused look. "The others all have someone. It was the only way." She looked at them, noticing the looks of pain. "You are allowed to scream in pain," she pointed out.
"I'm not in pain," Ron said stiffly, flipping onto his other side, but he quickly flipped back because it was more comfortable and settled for closing his eyes.
Draco snorted. "I'm fine. The cramping has slowed down."
"Good," Snape said. He looked at the nurse, who rolled her eyes. "I'll get on those potions. I'm sure you'll need a lot of it." He walked out.
She looked over both of them and went back into her office to put her feet up. Those two alone were going to make her have a heart attack. Maybe this would cure them.
Ares strolled into the infirmary and smiled at his two favorite students. He handed both of them little pieces of baklava.
"I thought this was my treat," Draco said, starting to pout.
"He deserves a peak at what special something you're getting," Ares said patiently. "You both deserve a treat." He smiled at both of them. "Are you feeling better?"
"Wonderful." He smiled at Ron. "I'm not allowed to let you beat me until you're better. So hurry up, kid, you're about the only one who has promise." Ron smiled around the fingers he was licking off. He looked at Malfoy. "You are still my favorite spoiled princess."
"Prince," Draco said firmly. "No matter whether or not I've got that thing growing down there."
"Hey, it gives you a new thing to think about," the professor said cheerfully. "Test it out and the like." Both boys shuddered in revulsion. "Of course you don't have to if you're not adventurous."
"It's bad enough having something down there that's growing and itching and you can't scratch it," Ron pointed out. "All day every day."
"Shaving that might help," Ares offered. Both boys gave him a disgusted look. "I'm sure they have charms for it so you won't have to take a razor to it."
Ron whimpered. "No! Please, not that. That's nasty."
"It should be done before you give birth anyway," Ares told him. Both boys looked sickened. "Sorry," he said, staying cheerful. "My office is always open to you both if you need me. As I said earlier, I'll help you if you help each other." Ron raised his hand. "Need someone to talk to?" Ron nodded so he walked over and closed the curtains, putting up a privacy screen. "What's wrong?"
Ron swallowed. "I need some advice."
"Okay." Ares looked at him. "You're one of those who talk around the point until you're comfortable, right?" he asked dryly. Ron nodded. "Then at least give me the general topic so I can sort the threads out."
"Ah!" Ares nodded slowly. "There's only one cure for that, coming clean with whatever was going on. Anything else gives them power over you, and you end up like this." He gave Ron's arm a pat. "Everything else is up to you, Weasley."
Ron sighed. "What if it brought on things that were worse?" he asked quietly.
Ares leaned closer. "Then you run screaming and crying to someone and tell them about it. Preferably someone who can do something about them. Bullies aren't to be tolerated. They're worthless in life." He stood up. "It took me a long time to figure that out, but when I did, I realized I was surrounded by idiots."
Ron laughed. "Can you share that bit with the blond prat?"
"Sure." He gave him a smile. "Did you want to talk about it?" Ron shrugged. "Whenever you're ready then. I can listen." He took down the screen and walked over to spend an equal amount of time with Draco so he wouldn't pout and get pissy. "Ron told me to share some wisdom."
"He has some?"
"I have some that I shared with him. Bullies are stupid, Malfoy. They're wastes of sperm and worthless in a real fight because they depend on their size and intimidation factor instead of their skills."
Malfoy nodded. "I know, but they were assigned to guard me."
"You can break that now," Ares pointed out gently. "I agree with Granger, they're hemorrhoids." He walked away, going back to his office to think about what he had just learned. No wonder the boy was paranoid and angry. Where were his brothers? For that matter, where were his friends? Someone tapped on his door. "Enter."
Harry walked in. "How is Ron? I saw you coming out and I know he'll lie to me."
"He's paranoid about people learning some things. He's got some false labor pains. He was ordered to be a buddy to Malfoy so they can help each other." Potter winced. "Do you have any idea what that boy's been through?"
"He refused to tell me," Harry said immediately. "Even when I pushed." He hated being on the defensive. "I tried to get him to talk, to tell me anything, and he refuses. I'm his best friend and he still won't tell me anything!"
"Calm down, kid, it'll only make you feel worse. There are some things that people, especially men, can't share. I don't know everything, but you have to start watching out for him without seeming like you are."
"He loses it when I fuss," Harry admitted, sitting down, looking dejected. "I've tried, Professor. I've tried a lot and I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Hermione and Ron both need me and I'm doing my best, but I can't fix it."
"Then don't try. Do the little things. The thoughtful things. Spontaneous things even. Expect to get rebuffed sometimes as well. Pregnant people are nothing if not picky, and being teenagers in the middle of the normal hormone cycle makes it worse. Try walking up to them and giving them a spontaneous hug or a backrub. Even my sister, the evil bitch queen of death, liked the spontaneous backrub." Harry laughed. "You think I'm kidding, but they named that spot after her."
Harry stood up. "Thank you, sir. Is Ron still up there?"
"And expected to be there for at least a day longer because of the false labor. Go see him. Give the guy a hug."
"Thank you, sir." Harry hurried off, going up to see his friend.
"I wasn't *that* bad," Eris said as she appeared. She smirked at him. "But the rubs are a good idea. They're a wonderful thing when you're carrying an extra twenty pounds." She punched him on the arm, making him grunt. "Two hormone bombs under your direct control."
"Nothing new there," Ares reminded her. "How is Cupid?"
"Cranky," she said succinctly. "Strife's a fussy being and he's driving Cupid nuts. Bliss has taken to sitting on the end of his fathers' bed and patting his father's feet. It's driving Cupid even more insane. Aphrodite and Hephaestus had to step in. Hephie has him down at the forge." Ares chuckled. "So I'm guessing it'll be fine eventually," she said with a lighter tone. "Can I do anything to help?"
"Not unless you have something to help those two. They seem to be a lynchpin. Weasley scares some of the others and Malfoy rules his house. They're looking at them in fear and reverence."
"Hmm. Maybe your beloved sister showing up might help."
"Remember not to yell at them, Eris. They're having enough troubles already."
"Fine," she sighed, changing her clothes to something more acceptable. She looked out into the classroom. "I don't usually bite, you can come in and talk to him. I'm down for a visit."
Hermione walked in and smiled at her teacher. "Is Ron all right?"
"Mostly. You could try to see him," Eris pointed out.
"I seem to set him off and he gets pissed," Hermione said sadly. She sniffed and wiped her nose with a handkerchief from her sleeve. "I want to give him a hug but he shoves me."
"I'll walk you up," Eris told her. "I've heard a lot about them from my brother and I wanted to meet them anyway." She walked the girl out, shooting her brother a look over her shoulder. As soon as she walked in, the argument between Ron and Draco stopped. "Good, I like when I have that effect," she said with a smile. She let Hermione go to her friend's side. "I'm Professor Arion's sister, Eris. He suggested I come up and talk to you guys to give you a different take on what labor is like." Draco looked interested. Ron frowned at her. "Not to put your mom down, kid, but it's different for everybody. Just because your mom is good at it doesn't mean you will be." She walked over and hugged Draco. "At least you glow prettily," she teased. He growled and she smiled brighter. "Don't worry, kid, I won't pick on you too much." She walked over to look down at Ron, then suddenly put a hand on his stomach and rubbed in slow and gentle circles. "False labor sucks. I had it for a few weeks." Ron relaxed. "I can teach someone to do that for you if you want."
"If you wouldn't mind, could you teach me?" Harry asked, smiling at her.
"Sure, kid." She smirked at Ron. "Better?" He nodded. "Then calm down. Stress is causing this. Paranoia is a bad thing in this situation. Trust me, been there, done that," she said flippantly, but looking down at him to let him know that she knew and meant it. He relaxed more. "Now, you rest and I'll come back once your friends are gone since the other guy seems to need visitors more." She walked back to Draco's side, going to chat with him and help him through this stuff. Did the kid not have any friends?
The twins looked out at the group of people in front of them, especially the two who were sitting with their backs to each other. Their brother was still brassed off. How wonderful for him. Well, now he was going to have to figure out how to soothe each other's aches. Fred cleared his throat. "A new thing has recently been shown to us, thanks to Professor Arion's visiting sister. We're going to teach you how to give excellent stomach massages, fit to soothe any pain," he told them.
George nodded. "I used it myself last night to ease one of the girls' aches and pains. It really is easy and helpful. She said you could even do it during labor to ease some of the pains the mother or father was feeling." He gave them a winning smile. "I see everyone's got their partners so let's break the group in half so we can each get a group." The pairs split off, shifting away from each other. "Good. Now, the stuffed up one get on your back and move your shirts out of the way," he ordered, still smiling. "Ron, pick."
Draco flopped onto his back and moved his shirt. "I'm having cramps again," he told Ron.
"I noticed," he said glumly. "Not very bad ones though."
"Every person has a different tolerance for pain," Fred soothed as he walked past them.
"True, he didn't have Charlie and Bill to toughen him up," George agreed. "I'm going to demonstrate on Draco since Ron's looking none too pleased." That got a few laughs. "Okay, I want you to flatten out your hands and use your palms. Not too much pressure of course, and little circles first," he instructed gently. The other second parents started to work on their mates. "Now I want you to move down to the sides, sweeping movements."
"Pull diagonally," Fred added. "We're going to work those nasty love handles that none of you have yet." That got another few laughs. "Good," he encouraged a few of them. "Now stroke along the curve of the stomach toward the groin area, meeting under the bellybutton and moving back up."
George let Ron try it, smiling as Malfoy moaned. "Good job, Ron. Excellent even." He clapped him on the back and went to help Neville, who was looking uncomfortable. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"I ache and this is making it worse."
"She said that happens sometimes. Try it this way instead," he said calmly, stroking small circles over the round part of the belly. "Just with your fingertips." Neville giggled. "Ticklish?" he teased.
"Yes, please don't! I'll wet myself."
"She said that was a common problem too since the baby's sitting directly on top of your bladder and the pressure can be stronger than the muscles. Did you get those exercises?" Neville shook his head. "Who didn't get those pelvic exercises?" Most everyone raised their hands. "Hmm."
"Madam Pomfrey was supposed to tell you about that," Fred admitted. "Okay, these things are fairly easy. You tighten those unused muscles, you hold for as long as five seconds, then you let them go. Repeat as many times as you want, especially when you're bored and need something to do." Everyone tried it, getting mixed results.
"Don't worry if you can't hold them right off," George told them. "It'll slowly build up. This will help that little leaking problem some of you are getting and it will ease the birth later."
"My mother sent me a yoga book if anyone wants to look at it," Hermione offered. "She swears by the stuff. Said it's supposed to make you more flexible so you can get into the better positions for labor."
"Madam Pomfrey bought both stirrups and chair for those who don't want to give birth on their backs," Fred put in.
"Chair?" Neville asked.
"Like you sit and squat instead of being on your back and pushing. Gravity helps a lot in that case from what we were told." George smiled at him. "How does that feel?"
"Really good. Thank you, Fred."
"I'm George, Neville. Don't worry, even Ronnikins gets us mixed up."
"Usually because you want me to," Ron called. Draco gave a low, visceral moan under his hands. "I don't think I'm doing this right."
"Do it anyway," Draco encouraged hotly.
"Okay. Is this okay for him to be doing?"
"Madam Pomfrey said it would be fine," Fred agreed. "Up until you're no longer comfortable with it. She did say the guys were going to quit spurting as far as she could tell." Draco gave another moan and Ron nearly backed off. He and George walked over to help him. "Keep it up," Fred encouraged. "It'll only make him feel better and then he can do the same for you."
"I'm not sure I want him to," Ron said, working it just a little harder. A hand grabbed his and moved them back where he wanted them to be. "Fine." He worked that area, making Draco get off with a long moan and a head toss. "Better now?"
"Much," Draco agreed with a sleepy smile. "I'll do it for you later."
"Nope, sorry, you have to be able to do the same for him as he does for you," George said quickly. He got Ron settled and let Fred deal with the limp, sleepy creature. "How's this?"
"Odd. I feel like you're molesting me," Ron said dryly. The twins grinned down at him.
"It's a good thing that you were born ugly, Ron, or we'd have turned you to the dark side long ago," Fred quipped.
"Mum would have killed you and Percy would have helped," Ron pointed out. "If Charlie and Bill didn't get you first."
"How can you joke about such sickening things?" Draco demanded.
"It comes from having to watch the git take baths when he was a baby," George told him. "You can do that when you're a close family."
"Oh." He shuddered. "That's still sickening."
"Good, then you do it," Fred encouraged, patting him hard on the back, making him move closer. "Go ahead, you have to learn as well. Otherwise Ron won't ever help you rub out another cramp again."
"Are you sure this is wise with the false labor he's been doing?"
"If he doesn't get off, it should be fine," Fred assured him. "Madam Pomfrey and Professor Snape both said that you couldn't get off once it was nearly time or it might start labor contractions." He smiled at the rest of the group. "How are we doing?" he asked, going to check on them.
George smiled at them. "Just relax and do what feels natural," he encouraged gently.
"I feel like pinching him for making me stay awake," Draco told him.
"Not that natural," he said with a frown. "Remember, we will protect Ron, even if it means your line dies." He got up and went to check on his group.
Draco shrugged and worked a little more, making Ron flinch. "What?"
"That hurts. Quit." The hands were removed and he was helped to sit up. "I think I'm good enough." He groaned and leaned over, holding his stomach.
"Ron!" The twins converged on him, helping him up onto the padded table.
"Calm down," Fred told him, working on his stomach.
"It's just another set of cramps. You've had them before," George added. He did what Eris had told him to do, gently stroking across the tense flesh until it settled into a more relaxed state.
"Take some deep breaths," Fred said quietly, working on his brother's shoulder and neck. "We're right here and it's all good. Mum's coming up this weekend with Bill. He's decided to pop around again to check on you." Ron gave him a sleepy smile.
"You rest," George told him. "I need you to rest and relax. Fall asleep and everything will be just fine." Ron nodded and let them help him onto his side, letting them settle the pillows around him. "There, you nap, brother." He turned around. "If *any* of you get that sort of pain, I want you drug upstairs. Ron's on medicine to take care of it for him."
"Too true," Fred agreed. "Madam Pomfrey said that she'd beat us for you if she found out you were having false labor and didn't see her." Everyone nodded. "Good, now let's get back to the lessons."
"Shouldn't he be taken up there?"
"No, his calmed down and stopped. We'll have to watch for another one, if he has one then he'll be up there for another day. The medicine usually takes care of all that." Draco stormed out.
"We'll deal with him later," George decided. Fred gave him a look. "Teach him how to do it correctly." Fred smirked. "If not, we'll be teaching Bill this weekend. He's got fairly nimble fingers due to his job." He switched groups and went to give them the benefit of his experience. "Let's move onto calf and below," he said happily.
"All that nasty extra weight is sitting directly on your ankles so a good foot rub is often one of the best things in your life. Our mum said she got one every night because Dad always knew when she was in pain."
"Or else he ended up sleeping on the couch," George added for good measure. The groups laughed again. "Of course we're willing to help you all with that sort of thing, but we're not going to let you crawl in with us."
Ron looked over at the nurse as she walked toward him. "I'm fine."
"Shut up," she told him. "The more you protest, the more pain you're in. I've finally gotten that point." She checked him over and forced him back onto the bed. "What set of this round?"
"I was doing them myself this time," he defended.
"I'm going to shorten the leash between you two," she decided. He grabbed her by the wrist. "You wanted to complain?"
"Doing so will only make us both miserable," he said quietly. "If you force it, one of us will either die or jump off the school's highest point." She grimaced but nodded. "I'm fine."
"No, you're not," she said, getting free. "You're stubborn, you're in pain, but you are not fine."
Dumbledore breezed in. "Harry nearly ran through me a moment ago trying to find you, Mr. Weasley. How are you today?"
"Sore," he said honestly. "Is my mother here yet, sir?"
"Just flooed to tell us she would be up in the next hour," he said jovially. "Harry said something about feeling a kick."
"I've got a few of those," Ron agreed. "They weren't that nice."
"For some, the knowledge doesn't sink in until they feel such things," the nurse reminded him. "She's probably over the moon at the moment."
"Actually, Harry looked a bit panicked. Like she was ready to hurt him or something."
"That's about right," Ron agreed, smiling at them. "Can I go now?"
"No! You'll be staying there until the medicine takes effect. I want you to stay calm and rest. No more wild running around."
"If I wanted to, I couldn't," he pointed out. "I haven't been able to run in a while."
"Good point," Dumbledore agreed. "Try to keep it that way, Mr. Weasley. I'll send young Harry up."
"Thank you, sir." Ron watched as he walked out then sat up. "I'm leaving, unless you want to stun me." She pursed her lips. "I promise to sit in a chair and wait on my family. I'll be really good the whole weekend and you can torture me next week. Deal?"
"Next week is your next physical," the nurse pointed out.
"If you shove that bloody cold metal thing up me again, I'm going to hurt you," he muttered as he slid off the table. She swatted at him. "It's the truth! That thing hurts and it's cold!"
"I thought Malfoy was the princess," she said snidely.
"No, he's whiny. I'm tired of this shit. There's a difference." He walked away, doing up his shirt. He did as promised, going to find a seat on the front steps until his mother and older brother got there. When Percy came with them, he looked at him. "You as well?"
"I had some free time, thought I'd try to steal some of it with Bill," Percy told him with a mildly reproachful look. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm escaping the evil that is the infirmary again. She's not being fair."
"Of course not," Molly assured him. "I hated my exams as well, always made me feel so exposed and dirty." She gave him a hug. "You're showing more," she said happily.
"And the baby's a brat," he agreed in the same tone of voice. Molly and Bill both laughed. "Where should we go sit, since I'm under orders not to run or jump or play?"
"How about the twin's new room? Do they have seats and stuff?" Bill asked.
"Sure. They're in class but the portrait never locks." He let Percy help him up. "I swear this baby is bigger than the girl who's carrying twins." Bill gave him a hug, making him smile. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. You're a little guy and all little guys need lots of attention to grow up to be like me." Ron laughed but he kept smiling. "Show us where the idiots are staying, Ron. I'm sure you've been down there once or twice."
"Yeah, a few times," Ron agreed, leading them back to the room. He found one of the Slytherins in the cabinet. "They're making more stretchmark stuff tonight," he said as he moved to the padded table. The girl spun around guiltily. "If you're sabotaging stuff, I'd hate to have to break you in half." She ran away quickly, so Ron went to check. "She opened all the fume stuff." He recorked the bottles and pulled down the ones that had been opened, making a short note in case he wasn't there. "There, all done." He turned and found Percy pressing on the padded table. "It's not too bad to nap on. Did it a few times myself." He slid down next to Bill on the pile of cushions with a sigh of relief. "No more ankle pain."
"Why were you in the infirmary this time?" Percy asked.
"More false labor. I set it off by rubbing my own stomach."
"That's not good," Bill told him. "Can I help?"
"It's not hard, but I don't take well to it apparently. Every time I try, I get cramps."
"You're probably pressing too hard," Molly told him. "Do you want me to try?" Ron shrugged. "Back or front, sweetie?"
"Front. I'm not allowed to have my back done anymore. That set off the most major set of cramps to date." He got a helping hand up and put himself up onto the padded table. "Professor Arion's sister showed us this technique that works for everyone else."
"I'm betting it's a lot like what we'd do to a girl anyway," Bill put in. He stood up to help his mother. He nearly laughed when Ron went limp under their hands.
"Oh, good, it's you," Fred said as he walked in. "Someone said they saw a group of people enter. I was hoping it wasn't an irate parent." His mother glared at him. "I can handle you, I had to face Hermione's parents the other day, mum."
"I'm sorry," Percy said with a smile. "Were they cruel?"
"Very. Now I know where she gets her mouth from." He looked at the bottles. "What're these?"
"I found one of the fourth year Slytherins in them," Ron told him. He moaned and arched up off the bed. "Mum!" She laughed. "Thank you, mum."
"You're welcome, Ron." She kissed him on the forehead. "Get your shirt on and I'll take you to lunch? We brought a picnic with us."
"Okay." He heaved himself up and pulled his shirt back down. He did feel better now and all this was going to be for the best in the long run. He even allowed Percy to help steady him as they walked. His balance was shot to hell recently and it was horrible. They walked outside and found a nice spot by the lake to eat, settling in. Bill nudged him so he handed over half the salad.
"Not that, I want to pat her again. I've never gotten to pat a baby before they're born."
Ron shifted closer and let him pat his stomach all he wanted. He didn't usually get such treatment. He relaxed fully for the first time in weeks and wouldn't you know it, that's when the princess decided to show up.
"Here you are. Madam Pomfrey cornered me and told me to make sure you ate today." He looked down at Ron, then at Bill. "You really do have an odd family, Weasley. Another one wanting to touch you?"
"Yes, because some of us happen to adore the fact that we're getting a new niece or nephew."
"Niece," Ron told him, smiling at his happy look. "I found out last week."
"Wonderful," Molly said happily. "That will make decorating so much easier."
"Teddy bears, mum. Like you promised. Please no girly stuff or I'll get sick," he whined. She smiled at him so he ate another bite of salad. "See, eating. Go away."
"Fine. If you get in trouble, it's all on you now."
"If I get in trouble, it's always my own fault," Ron reminded him. "Unless you caused it." He ate another bite. "Go away, Malfoy."
"Going." He backed up a few steps. "Would you be willing to work on my stomach tonight?"
"Nope. I don't get anything in return."
"You get sick or cramp whenever I try!" Draco defended.
"I think that's easily solved," Molly told him. "Draco, would you like me to give you some attention?"
"No thank you," he said stiffly. "I can manage." He looked at Ron. "You're a selfish twit."
"Who still is carrying worse than you," Ron pointed out. "You haven't even offered to work on my legs for me. Or to look at me when I work on your stomach. I'm not your whore, Malfoy."
"Fine," he spat, stomping off.
Molly rolled her eyes. "I hated that part of being pregnant. All the mood swings and the feeling that you're alone."
"I'm not sure that's his problem," Bill said gently. "Ron, what do you do to that boy?"
"His stomach's got sensitive spots," Ron admitted.
"Really?" Percy asked, looking interested. "Is he normally like that?"
"You'd have to ask him," Ron pointed out, waving his fork. "I only manage to get him off by rubbing his stomach."
"That's rather a sickening thought," Percy said, turning a little green. "Does he expect that every time?"
"No!" Draco shouted.
Ron hopped up, putting the food aside, to go see what was wrong. Halfway there, he pulled his wand and snuck up behind the few men, noticing more people were coming running. He gave Draco a nod to let him know what to do.
"How dare you come here and defile this school!" Draco said angrily. "Go away!"
"We only want what's best for you students," the man in front sneered. "It's not like any of you need these kids."
"No, but not having them may kill us all. We're rather stuck this way," Draco said firmly. "Trust me, my father did try to end it."
The man looked him over. "Is that because you look like a little girl, all helpless and round?" he sneered.
"I AM NOT FAT!" Draco shouted, bowling into one of them to beat the shit out of him the muggle way. "I am not fat! Not fat in the least! I'm constantly being nagged because I'm underweight, you bloated excuse for a hemorrhoid!"
Ron got the rest of them from behind, stunning merrily along. When the rest of the people made it to them, the men were screaming in pain and begging for mercy.
"Stop," Professor Arion ordered. He looked at Ron. "It's all right, you can stop now, before you hit Malfoy." He pulled Draco off, holding him upright until he calmed down. "You're not fat, they have no eye for beauty," he soothed. He nodded at Ron. "Go back to your family, we'll handle this."
"Yes, sir." Ron headed back to where his family was watching. "I'm hungry, let's finish lunch." Bill was the only one who followed him.
"That was smashing, little brother."
"Yeah, well, I had to learn it anyway," Ron said with a light blush. "Being around Harry and all that."
"I understand," Bill said, giving him a pat on the back. Ron leaned into his hands. "Is that a cramp?"
"Probably, but if you tell on me, we'll have to finish lunch in the infirmary."
"Why are you doing so much of that?"
"Because my muscles aren't adapting. Madam Pomfrey said they were too strong and rigid to let go and allow themselves to grow in different ways. My stomach's fighting itself." He sat down and picked back up his salad, shooing the flies off it. "Go bother Hagrid and Fang," he told them. Bill laughed and sat behind him, working on his shoulders. "That's so good," he said, going limp. "Thank you."
"This is what big brothers and buddies do," Bill assured him. "Tell me if I hurt you, and I mean it."
"I will," Ron assured him. "I wouldn't do that to you." He finished off the salad and made a small grab for a seedcake. His mother walked up to where they were, shaking her head as she talked to Percy. "That's the second set of angry people we've had, mum, relax about it. None of them have been serious yet." He nibbled around the edged then licked off some of the seeds. He moaned as his big brother hit a sore spot. "Thank you, Bill. This is more than worth it. Even if I only get this."
Molly smiled at him. "It will all be over in a few months, Ron," she comforted, patting him on the knee. "Have you decided which way you're going to give birth?"
"At home," he told her. She shook her head. "I'm not having it here, mum. I don't care if I have to crawl into the forest, I'm not having this child in that school."
Percy cleared his throat. "Ron, would this have something to do with the issue of who the father is?"
"Definitely. I'm hoping the baby looks more like me than not." He finished off the seed cake and his mother pulled out a chocolate one for him, handing it over with a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, you guys." He sniffed. "You guys are really nice."
"It's all right," Molly assured him. "You can cry if you want. I may not allow you to give birth in the house, but I won't force you to hold in the mood swings, it only makes them worse, Ron." He nodded, nibbling on the icing. "Percy, drop that subject please," she said firmly.
"Yes, mother. I only wanted to know his reasons."
"Because I'm not sure the father even realizes it's him," Ron told him between bites. "I'd like to keep it that way. Hence me not saying who the father is, among other reasons." Bill gave his back a pat. "If I have the kid here, then things are going to quickly get out of hand and messy. I'd rather not deal with that."
"Still, Ron, with all the troubles you've been having, going into labor here is probably better for you," Percy pointed out. "We wouldn't want to see you permanently harmed because of this."
"Neither do I, but I'm not arguing about this. Like I said, if I have to, I'll crawl out into the bloody forest and have her there."
"As long as you're safe," Percy told him, smiling at him. "We don't want you to be unsafe or unwell."
Molly smiled at the both of them. "I'm sure we'll figure that out closer to the time. Right now, the major thing is to keep Ron calm and stop these horrible cramps. Everything else will come later. Except for the name, it gives you something else to concentrate on."
"I haven't even thought about that," Ron admitted, grinning at his mother. "Got any suggestions?"
"A few," she admitted, pulling out a piece of paper from her purse and handing it over. "I think these are darling with our last name." Percy and Bill both groaned. "It is a consideration, boys. Choosing the wrong first name could haunt the poor child for years until they find a good nickname."
"Yeah, we got the easy names," Bill agreed, nudging Ron before going back to his backrub. "This okay?"
"That's wonderful. I haven't had feeling there in weeks," Ron said happily. He smiled at him.
"You need to suck that lettuce off your teeth and not look like you're going to plant a sloppy kiss on me for it," Bill warned. Ron chuckled and cleaned the lettuce off his teeth. "Let me finish this so I can talk to something other than the back of your head." Ron leaned forward, resting against his mother's shoulder. "Good boy, Ron."
"Thanks. This is much better than the big, long needle into the stomach Professor Snape was warning me about." Molly gave an indignant noise. "He said the muggles have to go through it to do some testing."
"That's got to hurt," Percy put in, nibbling on his sandwich. "Here he comes again."
"Relax," Bill warned. "You just tensed up again and undid all the good work."
"No, don't get up," Draco said as he walked up next to them. "The Headmaster wants to see you whenever you're feeling better. He said he's worried about you and he's going to ground me to my house because you're not feeling well. So quit it before I have to beat you."
"You mean have the hemorrhoid beat me?" Ron quipped.
Draco grunted. "True. Though I guess I could talk Peeves into helping me." He smirked at him. "When are you going to be done?"
"Whenever Bill decides he can't feel his fingers. Probably sometime around dinner."
"Fine, I'll tell him you said that." Draco looked at Bill. "Are you good at that?"
"Yeah, but I only do it for my brother since no one else does," Bill told him, giving him a look.
"I would, but he's not supposed to be having his back worked on and I seem to make him cramp every time I go near him."
"It's probably your history," Bill told him. "If he didn't have to worry about slugging you ever few days, it might be easier." Draco snorted but left them alone. Ron went back to being limp. "Whose idea was that?"
"Madam Pomfrey's. She's decided we're the only two without any support. We're supposed to be supporting each other."
"He's obviously the reason you're cramping," Bill pointed out. "Can't you get her to change her mind?"
"Not yet. I've tried, but she's worried about him."
"She's worried about you as well I'm sure," Molly said firmly.
"Then why would she put him with someone who aggravates him so?" Percy asked. "It was obvious that those two are hurting each other."
"I'm sure they'll come to a truce soon enough," Molly said firmly. "It is for the best. They both need the support."
"Why isn't Harry helping him?" Bill asked.
"He's stuffed up Hermione and there's a prophecy about her having a live child or the Dark Lord returns," Ron told him. "She's been having a lot of stress because of it."
"Wonderful," Bill noted. "Where does that leave you?"
"Sleeping in the infirmary a lot," Professor Arion told him as he walked over and sat down. "Arion, Defense."
"I'm Bill, that's Percy and our mother," he said, shaking the man's hand. "You're a bit bigger than the norm for the teachers."
"I'm a weapons specialist," the professor said with a smile. "I'm also trying to be the buffer between those two and give Ron an outlet for his amazingly quick temper."
"I'm sorry I lost it last class," Ron said quietly.
Ares reached over and patted him on the back. "I understand, Ron, I really do. It's not easy being in your position." Bill and Percy both gave him a look and he gave them an easy smile. "I'm sure we're all very proud of how well Ron's been learning this term."
"If I have to memorize stuff to get some time to beat the crap outta you, it's fine with me," Ron admitted with a grin. "You don't even pretend that you're not letting me win, but I appreciate it all the same."
"You let him hit you?" Percy asked, looking stunned.
"I'm an excellent fighter, I teach self-defense lessons. Letting the kids take a turn swatting at me isn't that big a deal. Ron's only tagged me twice, but it's better than most of the other students." He ruffled Ron's hair. "Besides, he reminds me a lot of one of my children."
"You have children?" Molly asked, looking interested.
"Yeah, a few," he said with a smile. "Their mothers usually decide they can't put up with me after a while and leave, but I still manage to spend some time with most of them."
"Plus he's got this messenger sort of creature that he helped raise," Ron told her. "He's kinda nice, very sweet guy. Has big fluffy wings and blonde hair. Wears a kilt for some reason," he said with a shrug.
"He said it's easier with the new baby on the way. He's got a son of his own as well."
"Well." She looked impressed. "Did you bring them in to show them off?"
"No, he was delivering a family message. We'll see him every now and then because of that. Or the other one, dedicated to War."
"The one with the wings is dedicated to love, mum," Ron told her. "They're together that way."
"Hmm." She brightened up. "It sounds like it's interesting at least. You say Ron's doing well?"
"He's doing very well. Three out of five days he's one of the ten people I let answer questions that way. Most of the students don't even bother, but the aggressive nature he has is helping him a lot. It's made him want to learn about many of the creatures we're studying."
"I have to give out what they are while I'm trying to hurt him," Ron told him.
"What a very novel approach," Percy said in his most neutral tone of voice. The teacher looked at him. "I couldn't imagine myself going through such lessons. What do the other students do?"
"They write a paragraph about each creature after we've discussed them. I don't have to do more than check that they've done it and it solves a lot of my grading headaches until tests." Ron groaned. "Don't worry, it'll be essay questions. You write what you know in an understandable, linear format so I can follow your train of thought." Ron brightened up on that. "I'll be listing a list of fifty names and you write about half of them. Good enough?"
"Wonderful," Ron said happily. He moaned as Bill made a knot release. "Thank Merlin you've got hands," he moaned.
Bill laughed. "I'm usually happy to help, you know that, Ron. Can I hold her?"
"Sure," Ron said easily. "For this, you can help me figure out what to name her."
"We'll owl back and forth after I go back to work," Bill agreed. His mother smiled at him, but Ron didn't see it. "So, Professor, any other interesting tidbits we should know about this union of hell he's in?"
"Nothing much. He and Draco are only at odds half the time, usually when Ron's fighting whatever Draco wants. He can be a bit demanding." The family looked at him. "Okay, a lot demanding, but he's having his own problems." Ron nodded. "Again?"
"Again. Goyle just cornered him by the way he's feeling."
"I'd better go stop that before Snape has to beat one of his own house. By keeping Malfoy calm, it keeps his house from falling apart." He stood up. "It was nice to meet you. Ron, are you heading home for the holidays?"
"We won't be there," Molly told him, giving Ron a look. "I'm sorry. Your father has to travel for work in late December. That's the other thing we wanted to tell you today."
"I can do another holiday here," Ron told her. "I've done it before." He laughed suddenly. "I can see Madam Pomfrey's face. I bet I'll spend the whole time in bed."
"I'm sure it would be helpful," Molly agreed, giving him a relieved smile. "We'd take you with us, but we can't, Ron. I wish we could."
"That's okay. I'm not sure I want to be seen like this anyway," he admitted, patting his stomach. He felt a kick and looked down. "No more kicking, kid."
"Oh, may I?" Percy asked. "I've never felt a baby kick before." Ron nodded and shifted so he could still have Bill working on his back and Percy could touch all he wanted. He laughed when he felt the push against his hand. "She's very active."
"Especially in the middle of the night right before a test," Ron agreed.
"That would be stress, Ron. If you learned how to manage that, it'd be much better. Otherwise the pre-holiday exams will make you hurt more."
"I know, but it's hard sometimes." He gave her a pathetic look. "I'm trying to be good."
"I know you are, this is stressful and painful for you, dear. I know you're going to get through it though. I have faith that you'll make it through this and be a wonderful father." He grinned. "Now, we have to discuss what we're going to do about your schooling, young man."
Ron frowned. "I've been thinking about it," he admitted. "I have no idea though. If I don't bring her back to school, then I'll lose out on all the important bonding stuff that everyone says is so important. If I do bring her back to school, I risk going insane trying to keep her from everybody, trying to do my schooling while taking care of her, and even of jumping off the school in frustration."
"Then we'll talk and make that decision as the time runs closer," Molly told him. "That's one of the important ones."
"You might think about a concealment spell," Percy offered. "If you're that worried about the father then it would keep him from knowing her on sight."
"How would you explain that to the child?" Bill asked. "It'd make them feel homely and unloved."
"Easy, you'd tell them that you love the way they look but that you're protecting them from some people who want to harm them," Molly told him. "If done right, there won't be too many doubts, especially if you only fudge the baby's image a bit. Make the nose a bit more or less prominent. Change the hair color maybe. Done correctly the child will look mostly like itself, but just enough off to confuse. If you do that until the child is old enough to understand, say three or so, then explain it to them they shouldn't have many doubts about it being about their looks."
Ron looked happy with that idea, giving his mother a thoughtful look. "I'll have to look those up over the holidays."
"Depending on how you do them, they're not that difficult," she assured him. "Pregnant women are known to use them to hide their bulk for important events where they want to look trim and beautiful."
"I really am going to be a cow, aren't I?" Ron said, looking down at the bulge.
"Only for a few months," Bill soothed. "Then you can lose all that weight. Who knows, it might fill in those hollows you were complaining about last year."
"Maybe," Ron agreed, relaxing again. He started to nod off, making everyone around him smile. "You're nice," he mumbled.
"I know I am. Just wait until Charlie hears about this," Bill teased. Ron laughed and curled up in front of him on the grass. "You sleep, little brother. You probably need it a lot more than anyone else." Ron nodded and got comfortable against his legs. "Is this normal?" he asked as soon as Ron started to snore.
Molly nodded. "I'm afraid so. At four months, he's had the hormone swings a bit too early but that seems to be a family trait."
"Then I'm hiding from Ginny when she decides to go though this," Bill announced. "Ron's the nice one."
Molly laughed. "I'm sure Ginny won't be as bad. After all, she won't have to deal with the more adaptive parts of the spell."
"You mean he's growing girl parts?" Bill asked. Percy nodded. "Oh, dirt," he said, shuddering. "That's got to be nasty."
"He's reported that it itches as it grows, and of course you can't always scratch that portion of the body," Percy told him. "Mostly it's the unbalancing of the spell because of the adaptation."
"How long does it last afterwards?"
"They people looking over this group think six months."
"They're doing a study of these poor children?" Molly asked, sounding outraged.
"For future reference," Percy defended. "In case someone else gets caught. That way we'll know what can happen."
Bill looked down at Ron, then up at Percy. "Then there's something you should probably know," he said quietly, unaware that their guests were coming back. "They tested it directly on Ron. Gave him a whole ball." Percy's eyes narrowed as he stared to look furious. "You might want to make a note that he's not the average case."
"I'll do so," Percy said firmly. "A whole one?" Bill nodded. "What form were they in?"
"Balls. About six grams," Bill told him. "Just under palm sized from what he said."
"Could that be what's causing so many problems?" Molly suggested. Bill shrugged. "Do you think the nurse knows?"
"He told me he told her."
Professor Arion coughed to alert them to his presence. "I've been the one doing the research on the spell," he said as he sat back down. He gave Ron an 'aw' look then looked back at his mother. "Everyone else got hit by the residue." She sucked in a breath. "We don't *think* it's adding more than frustration, but it could still be sending the same sort of shocks through his system that caused this situation."
"Would that be bad?" Percy asked.
Ares nodded. "It could complicate matters farther. There's a historical mention of someone getting pregnant while already pregnant, basically growing a second uterus or whatever the boys have." They all shuddered. "So we're trying hard to keep him sane but it's driving him insane. I can't find a safe way for him to scratch that itch."
"He could top," Bill suggested. The professor shook his head. "No?"
"We've had a few cases where the only fertile person was on top," Percy said grimly. "What about doing it himself?"
"That's not worked that well so far apparently," Ares told him. He waved Draco back over. "Come sit. We'll talk about your stomach now."
"My stomach is fine," Draco said as he sat down with a grunt of pain.
"Hit a rock?"
"Sore rear," Draco corrected.
"The twins have some creme for that," Molly pointed out gently. She knew that boy would throw fits if she suggested he should check for hemorrhoids. "Try to carry around a little pillow as well. Sitting on it would help that some, it always did me, Draco."
"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley," he said patiently. "I can't get the creme in the right spot."
"The cure for that is a really good friend," Ares told him, making him shudder. "You've let someone back there before, I don't see what the difference is now."
"It was a moment of bad judgement," Draco said firmly.
"I'm sure you could blackmail someone into helping you or some such," Percy told him. Draco brightened up. "Make sure it's not our brother."
"Eww," Draco told him, glaring at him. "I don't want him that close to such sensitive areas on my body, thank you." He glanced at Ron to make sure he wasn't awake. "I heard him earlier say he was ready to jump off the top of the school. You might want to keep a closer eye on him."
"Isn't that your job?" Bill asked.
"Like he's going to let me watch over him," Draco pointed out. "This is the closest we've gotten to a truce in a month."
"Well," Ares said with a strong clap to Draco's back, "you're just going to have to work harder on supporting him, won't you, Malfoy?" Draco gave him a heated look but slumped. "Good boy. I'm sure if you put your mind to it you could make Ron feel a lot better."
"He'd be surprised if I tried to be nice to him."
"Then make him come with you when you treat yourself," Ares said like it was the simplest and most obvious thing.
"He'll be suspicious," Percy told him. "They've been at odds since the first day. Any sign of niceties could be taken wrong."
"Yes, but Mr. Malfoy is a *smart* and socially capable young man," the teacher told him. "This isn't any different than what he'll have to do with the people in his social class to curry favors and make them see his point."
"A Malfoy being nice to those around them?" Percy snorted. "That would be amazing." Draco glared at him. "His father threatened and paid off whomever he needed," he added.
"Then it's high time Draco leaned those other ways of dealing with other powerful people. Threatening someone doesn't give you the same control as if they come to you of what they think is their own free will."
"You sound like you come from a similar background," Molly told him.
Ares smiled. "You could say that." He looked at Draco. "Have a private dinner tomorrow night. Spoil yourself rotten and invite him along because you don't have anyone you'd rather eat with." Draco smiled. "Make sure he goes, even if it is under duress. He'll feel better afterwards and so will you."
"Yes, sir," Draco agreed.
"Good boy," he praised with a smile. Draco blushed and looked away. "Are you staying over the holidays?"
"Probably. I gave my parents six months to get out of the house and I don't want to see my mother trashing it."
"It would give you some added protection to stay," Bill pointed out. "Plus having the nurse there in case you have more problems."
"Good point," Draco agreed. "I guess I am staying."
"All right. I'll be leaving for a few days right before Yule, but I'll be back afterwards. Just a short skirmish I'll have to oversee, unless the people in charge turn into greater blundering idiots." He pulled an apple out of a pocket that no one saw he had and took a large bite. He noticed Molly watching him and smiled. "Even I need lunch," he told her. "Eating in the Great Hall is a little loud after living in a quiet house with the messengers."
"Your children don't stay with you?"
"I consider them my children and the rest of them are spread throughout the world. They're mostly grown up and out exploring the world to make their own names." He took another bite and licked the juices off his lip. In the distance, he saw Bliss and mentally groaned. "That's one of the messengers now. His father was the larger one the class saw," he said, pointing him out.
"He's adorable," Molly cooed. Bliss' head popped up and looked at them. He flew over, landing in front of her, tipping his head off to the side. "You are such a little cherub," she told him.
"They're painted after him," Ares told her. "Bliss, this is Ron's family."
"Hi." He waved and looked down at Ron. "He happy?" Ares nodded. "Good." He giggled and pointed at Draco. "You happy!" he told him.
"I try to be," Draco agreed. "You are a very good cuddle," he told him.
Bliss giggled and hugged everyone. He decided to stay in Percy's lap because he needed the most happiness. Even if the man did shift uncomfortably. "You need to be happy," he said very seriously.
Percy looked down at him. "Really?" Bliss nodded.
Bill smirked at him. "It figures."
Molly laughed. "He is an adorable little creature. Are they human crossbreeds?"
Ares considered that one quickly. How to answer that and not blow their cover? "Yeah, I guess there was some in their past," he decided on. "They're pretty nice." Molly gave him a look so he checked her. Hecate's mark. It gave him an idea. A little more blown of a cover would be fine. "Actually, they sent for me. Him and his dad Cupe."
"Really?" she asked, sounding interested. She looked him over. "Professor Arion, wherever were you hiding?"
"Greece," he told her. He could see when the clue caught. "The temple I served in was very well hidden, it took them to come find me."
"Wonderful." She reached over and stroked down a wing. "I've only heard stories about you, but I've never seen one of you before." He giggled and shifted, letting her straighten out his feathers for him. "You're exactly like your Great Aunt told us you were," she said quietly.
"Mum?" Percy asked. She gave him a smile. "Would you like to hold him instead?"
"No, he's chosen you, Percy. It's a great honor." She finished with his wings and gave him a quick pat on the head. "You're a good boy, Bliss."
"Thank you," he said kindly. "How you know me?"
"In my younger days, I used to read a lot written by Hecate's priestesses. They said a lot about your family and their origins."
"Oh." He grinned, brightening up the immediate vicinity and gave her a short hug. "You're a nice Grammy. We'll have to visit you again sometime." He looked at Ron then leaned closer. "She's Daddy's and mine," he whispered, then he disappeared.
Percy started but settled himself. "How very odd. Are they all like that?"
"No, Bliss is really unique among his kind," Ares said dryly. "Between his two fathers, he's become a little strange." Molly smiled at him, a very knowing smile. "I guess I should probably get inside. Lunch is almost over. You can have Ron for the rest of the day, I'm sure Professor Snape will be thrilled not to have to deal with him." He brushed himself off before helping Draco up. "Come on, you still have to eat."
"Yes, sir," Draco said automatically. He was still blinded by the power this man exuded. As they walked, he looked over at him. "You're not a normal human," he said quietly.
"That's very good. You're perceptive, kid. Remember to look at the whole world, not just the things only you can see." Draco glared at him. "Sorry, have to give out some cryptic advice every day, it's part of the job description." He patted him on the back. "Let's get you fed and down to Potions."
"Yes, sir." He tapped him before they separated. "Can I do what you've done? You're nearly blinding with the power that's flowing out of your skin."
"Probably not," Ares admitted. "It's fairly hard. Usually you're born one of us or you're not. Very few exceptions are ever made. Be satisfied with what you are, Draco. It's healthier and makes you happier in the long run." He went up to the head table and took his seat. "I had a lovely talk with Ron's mother," he announced.
"I noticed he was napping when I looked outside," McGonagall told him. "How is the poor boy feeling?"
"His brother's cured all his current aches and pains, plus we've gotten a bit of help in the area of calming him down again. By the end of the holidays, he should be settled nicely into a decent pattern of behavior again."
"Excellent news," she admitted cheerfully. "It'd be nice to hear him laugh again." She smiled down at Harry, who was eating alone since Hermione decided she was hiding today. They couldn't find the girl anywhere. "Should we send Potter down for a visit as well?"
"Maybe after lunch," Ares agreed. "They really wanted to spend time with Ron today from the way they were talking."
"Then I guess he'll see them after dinner," Dumbledore said quietly. "She will be staying on for a bit, as will Percy to do some follow up paperwork with Madam Pomfrey." He looked at the new professor. "I saw your nephew earlier. He was wandering the halls talking to his favorite people."
"As long as he was behaving, it shouldn't be a problem. He knows better than to interrupt classes."
"He was surprisingly well behaved," Dumbledore agreed.
"Was that the thing in leather?" Snape asked. Ares snickered as he nodded. "What was he wearing?"
"He picks his own clothes. He's always felt more comfortable in leather, it's a family trait."
"Really?" Madam Sprout asked. "Is their kind usually fond of leather?"
"Sometimes. In this case it really was more of a family trait. Something you can identify the true members of the family with." He gave her a smile. "How are your plants?"
"Very well. Not much student-caused damage so far this year. I'm impressed actually, there hasn't been a single plant abuse moment this year. Even the Slytherins have been decent toward the plants."
"That's because they don't know which ones they'll be needing soon," Snape told her with a smirk. "It was pointed out to them, by Granger I believe, that they were looking at a group of plants that will be the things taking away the pain of squeezing an eight pound baby out a ten centimeter hole. Since none of them knew which ones were which, I'm assuming they decided to leave them all alone, just in case they're deprived of pain medicine."
She laughed. "How very nice. I'll have to ask her and give her points if it was her." She stood up. "Speaking of, I'd better go water that patch. We want those plants to grow big and strong before they're needed." She walked off.
Ares pulled another apple out of his non-existent pocket and started on it. "Weasley and Malfoy will both be staying over the holidays. One's family is traveling and the other doesn't want to see his."
"I'll start on the list tonight," McGonagall assured him. "At least they'll be quiet enough. We shouldn't have too much trouble from either of them, as long as we don't have to hunt them down to check on them."
"You won't," Ares promised. "I'll send my messengers around if I have to while I'm gone for a week or so." Dumbledore looked at him. "Small campaign I have to help set up."
"Ah. Have fun on your break then," he said with a smile.
"Not a problem. I expect to have my lover by my side and have him begging before too long." A few teachers looked stunned. "I have him delivered in every now and then by my messengers, but it's not really the same as having him over for a long week." He shrugged. "We make due."
"I've never seen anyone near your rooms," Snape told him. The Defense professor smirked at him. "Can your messengers camouflage themselves?"
"Somewhat. When it's needed." He finished his apple and stood up. "I'd better get back to class. Today's going to be so boring without Ron there to beat up on." He strolled away, smirking at the sighs as his well-formed rear passed by most of the students. Yup, he still had it.
Bill walked up to his brother's office, tapping on the door.
"Come!" Charlie yelled. He looked up and smiled. "Why are you in this part of the world?"
"I'm on my way home and mum suggested I stop in and share some family news." He closed and locked the door, shrugging at the confused look. "Have you been getting the Prophet?"
"Now and again we get one delivered," Charlie admitted. "It's hard to get a regular subscription." He leaned back in his seat, putting his hands behind his head and his feet up on the desk. "What's been happening up there that's so important."
"Well," Bill said, wincing as he sat down. This wasn't a fun subject. "You remember meeting our twin brothers?" he stared. Charlie gave him an 'are you insane' look. "They decided to try and make a name for themselves." Charlie nodded, smiling. "Nothing that you wouldn't expect, but the spell they chose had a lot of side effects. Including the one that made a third of the school pregnant." Charlie's feet hit the floor with a thump and his mouth fell open, his hands dropped to his sides. "Including our brother Ron," he finished.
"Ron got some girl in trouble?" he asked in shock.
"No, Ron's in trouble. He's not the only one either. There's a lot of pregnant men around Hogwarts."
"That's impossible," Charlie whispered. Bill handed over the copy of the paper he had brought, watching as his brother read. "Holy shit!" he said, jumping up. He looked at his brother. "Are the twins living?"
"So far. Their punishment is that they have to help every single person they got." Charlie got a small smirk at that. "Including Malfoy. Who's been linked to Ron so that they're pregnancy buddies together."
"Who slept with our baby brother!" he demanded.
Bill shifted uncomfortably. "That's a bad subject and we don't talk about it." Charlie glared at him. "It's a blackmail thing. He wouldn't tell me who, just that it was that and then they demanded *favors* to keep quiet. One of them jumped him at the wrong time."
"One of them?"
"That's all he let slip," Bill said quietly. "He's getting angrier and angrier every time someone mentions the issue of the father. Percy's helping them as well," he said in a lighter tone. "The Ministry is studying to see what effects the spell has now that it's been cast and they put our younger brother in charge of doing the paperwork and followups."
Charlie sat down again, still looking stunned. "Ron though? Ginny I can see being that dumb."
"We've all done things we don't want to get around," Bill pointed out. "I'm hoping it's something important instead of something minor that got him caught, but I'm supporting him. He's been having some pains and problems, mostly because of stress."
"Being linked to Malfoy would be enough to make him kill himself," Charlie said thoughtfully. "Are they joined or something?"
"From what Ron said the thing is making them able to tell when the other's in trouble," Bill admitted. "Nothing more or less. Though he is the cause of most of the stress." He smiled. "The good thing is that he's found a mentor this year. The new Defense teacher is really good to him and is looking out for him. He's being the buffer between him and Malfoy."
"Wonderful. Who is it?"
"Arion? He's supposed to be a weapons and strategy person. Big bugger, dark hair, muscles to make most men jealous or hot." Charlie chuckled. "But he's genuinely nice. At least to Ron. He's managed to get Ron to beat up on him to wear out the impressive temper that managed to skip Percy and the twins to land fully on him. He has them memorize creatures and those who get picked get to beat up on him while they explain what they read. Ron gets up most every class from what he said."
"I'm glad someone's helping him get over it. That boy's temper will get him killed one day." He looked down at the paper. "Ron's really stuffed up?"
"Really. It's a girl by the way." Charlie looked at him. "He told me the other day, when I went with mum to visit. The boy was one big knot of tension."
"I'd be one too if it were me," Charlie agreed, grimacing. "How is it getting out?"
Bill shuddered. "It's an adaptive spell."
"Eww," Charlie agreed with his own shudder. "How did the twins do this?"
"They didn't realize the spell would do this, or be sticky. They spread residue all over the school," Bill said dryly. He looked at his nails, then started to pick out the stuff from under his left thumbnail. "Since the fifth year Gryff/Slytherin potion's class is right after them, they got hit worst. Hermi got caught." Charlie shuddered again. "She jumped poor Harry."
"That's a nasty thought."
"The nasty thought was the orgy McGonagall had to break up," Bill corrected. "Two nights in a row."
"Oh, Merlin!" Charlie shouted, looking green. "That's got to be the worst yet." He stopped. "How did Ron get caught then?"
"He left the tower. The guy caught him in the hallway. He got a bit more than everyone else because the twins directly tested it on him."
"Shit," Charlie said in disgust. "They directly got him and they're still living? Mum and dad haven't killed them yet?"
"It's been close. They're doing their best to help everyone to make up for it. They're going to be coming back next year to babysit during classes, and probably the year after that as well. They're helping the kids who're adopting find parents. They're teaching how-to classes. They're holding hands. They're making a lot of cremes to help the problems." He grinned. "Hermione snapped at one of Malfoy's guards, calling him a hemorrhoid. They're now known as Goyles around the school."
Charlie burst out in giggles, very unmanly but refreshing. "I can see that! I saw his father once and he reminded me a lot of a torn butt." He gripped the desk. "Oh, Merlin, that's so bad."
"I know," Bill said with a smirk. "What's better is that our baby brother is beating Malfoy out in the princess race. He's thrown so many fits, even Snape steers clear of him most of the time."
"Well." Charlie got control of himself. "What does he still need?"
"Some sanity. Since he got the bigger dose, he's still feeling rampantly horny and can't get it to go away. He's not found any names yet, but mum handed him a long list. She's been pulling out the old clothes and furniture. Mostly, Ron needs someone understanding who doesn't judge him. He's decided he's not having the child at the school, threatened to have it in the Forest if he had to."
"The father isn't going to know?"
"I don't think Ron wants anyone to know. He hasn't told *anyone*, not even Potter, who the father might be. Or even who the candidates might be." Charlie's face tightened up. "I'm guessing it wasn't exactly of his free will, but he wasn't being beaten. Blackmail can be that way."
"I remember. One of the girls in the year behind me got trapped that way. They nearly killed her with their demands. Is he all right?"
"Physically, for the most part. Mentally, he's a bit shaky but he's stable. Wanting it all to go away. A bit depressed because Harry's having to help Hermi."
"I'll start to write him," Charlie decided. "He won't mind?"
"He'd probably adore it. Everyone's walking on eggshells around him. Even when he wants company he can't really get it. I'm writing him every few weeks to see how he's doing."
"I'll start doing the same," Charlie decided. "How is ...." He shook his head. "Never mind. He's got to be odd in the head."
"He's normal, more or less," Bill assured him. "A little teary now and then. A little pissed at the world more often. Fairly panicking about the father issue."
"Then I won't mention it. I'll tell him you told me the good news and that I want to hear about the future niece. That I'm sure that he's all the parent that child will ever need and that I'm looking forward to being a doting uncle." He smiled. "I'll tell him that the other father isn't going to get near the baby because we're going to hog it anyway."
"He might like that assurance," Bill agreed, smiling at him. "Want to go to lunch?"
"Sure. Not many places out here."
"Eh, anything beats cooking over an open fire at the moment. Having to go from mum's cooking to a campfire cook is a bit of a shock on the system."
"I understand. Our caf isn't that great, but it's still a shock." He stood up and opened the door. "Come on, I'll even treat." He clapped his brother on the back as he walked past him. "Is he fat?"
"Getting there. He's carrying low and his stomach was tight before so it's fighting."
"Hey, Charlie," one guy called. "Did you see the paper?"
"I've seen one," Charlie admitted. "Which one do you have?"
"The one that has a picture of your brother being fat and glowing," he said with a laugh.
Charlie punched him. "It's not his fault," he hissed. "The school got hit by a virulent spell and he got caught by it. He's not the only one." He glared down at him. "My brother is wonderful and cute like that, got it?"
"Got it," the man agreed with a grin. "He does look cute in that picture. Fairly pissed as well." He handed over the paper.
Charlie read it as they walked to the caf. "That is a good picture. We should cut it out," he said, handing it over.
"Another attack?" Bill asked, frowning as he looked at it. "He's stunning with his wand drawn like that. We should cut it out for him." He handed it back. "I'll make sure mum cut it out for him."
"I can do that as well. How is Percy taking this?"
"Stoically," Bill said with a grin.
Charlie laughed. "Good old Percy."
Ron looked around the empty library. Everyone had left earlier and he needed to do some research. This would give him time to do it in private. Only Harry was staying in their tower, everyone else had went home to get comfort from their parents and Ginny was sleeping over with a friend in Ravenclaw. He walked up to the librarian. "Can you show me where some stuff is?" Ron asked. She gave him a smile. "I'm looking for concealment charms, long term ones if possible. Maybe even ones that would be put on something?"
Madam Prince gave him a pat as she walked around her desk. "Follow me. There's two in the restricted section if you want to get permission for them. Other than those, this section would be most helpful," she said, stopping in front of a bookshelf. She tapped one. "All the books are right here." She looked down at him. "I've heard you have a problem with the father of the child, is this about that?" He bit his lip and nodded. "Then try this one, or get permission for the two in the restricted section," she suggested, handing it over. "Come back to the desk and I'll let you check it out while I write down the titles." She gave him another encouraging smile as she led him back to the desk. She had learned not to give any of the group a non-specific pass into the restricted section, but she guessed it wouldn't hurt him to get into those two books. One was the diary of a warrioress who had been pregnant during a great deal of battles and how she dealt. It would only offer encouragement and a realistic look to the poor boy. She finished writing out the slip and handed it over. "Get Professor McGonagall to sign it," she suggested, checking out the book for him. "If you need any more help, you come back and see me. I've gotten some excellent books on rearing children and childbirth if you need them."
He nodded. "Thank you, Madam Prince." He walked away, going to his favorite teacher. McGonagall was yelling at Peeves and he didn't want to interrupt her for this. Not that she wouldn't understand, but he didn't want to know what she'd say about it. He tapped on Professor Arion's door, and he opened it. "I know you're getting ready to leave, sir, but would you please sign this form?" He held it out, looking earnest, but innocent.
"Let me see," the professor said, looking it over. "Just those two books."
"Thanks to Hermione we can't get unrestricted passes into the restricted section," he said with a shrug. "She nearly died trying to cast something from there."
"Good idea then," he mumbled, signing his name. "There you go," he said with a smile. "Have a good read. Remember to go to dinner and all the other meals, young man."
"Yes, sir," he said with a grin. This professor was always so nice to him. It was like having a favorite uncle. "When are you coming back?"
"Hopefully within a week, but I'll want some time alone that first night to finish calming myself down from the battle. So you behave and I'll see you once I'm finished calming down." He let Ron out of the office and locked the door, changing back into his normal battle gear and leaving.
Ron went back to the library and handed over the slip. "I managed to catch him before he left," he said happily.
"He does seem like a very nice man," she agreed, going back to get those two books for him. She checked them out and handed them over as well. "Go read in your room or play in the snow, young man. Whichever you're supposed to be doing." He nodded and hurried away. "I feel so sorry for that boy some days," she sighed. "I want to know who hurt him that badly." She frowned. "I'm sure Minerva will wiggle the information from him and fix the situation before it can get worse," she told herself. "There's no need for you to get sly and start restricting access and adding on fines."
Ron found something that made him sit up on the couch. "How on earth?" he muttered, rereading the section. "Huh. You can hold off labor for weeks on end if you have to," he mumbled. Harry coughed. "Sorry, found a surprising entry," Ron said, shooting a grin his way.
"Ron, would you like me to work on your back or anywhere?" Harry offered. "I noticed you've been shifting a lot."
"Thanks." He flipped onto his side, facing the back of the couch, and continued to read the account. He found the spell she used and carefully read it. "Harry, can I ask you to look at something without you asking why?" He got an assenting noise. "Then look over this and tell me if you think it'd work." He handed back the book.
Harry looked it over, then looked at Ron. He had promised not to say anything. "I think it might work. I'm not sure it's not dangerous for the parent or the child," he qualified at the happy look. "Is this because of the false labor pains?"
"No, I haven't had any all day," Ron admitted, taking the book back. "It doesn't say she had any problems."
"What was she doing that she needed to do that?" Harry asked, starting on the tense lower back muscles. Ron was always tense there.
"She was a warrior who ended up having to fight through when she was due. It's a really fascinating account from her own hand. She did the spell so she wouldn't have to worry about going into labor during a battle." He came up with a convenient lie. "I was thinking that all of us were going to go around the same time and Madam Pomfrey might want it to spread us out some, so she wouldn't be overloaded."
"That's really nice of you, Ron. You might ask her if she wants it," Harry suggested. "I know she's been stressed over all of you starting to have mood swings." He worked the muscles in small circles, earning moans of contentment. "Is Draco doing okay with you? I mean, he's not picking on you or stuff?"
"No, not recently anyway," Ron admitted. He rolled over, smiling at his friend. Then he kissed him. "Thanks, Harry. You're a great friend." He stood up and went up to their room.
Harry leaned against the couch, considering everything. Ron was odd like this, but he was starting to calm down again. Of course, now that no one was pushing him, he didn't have much to get angry over. He heard a crash and looked up the stairs. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," Ron called back. "The twins put an exploding smokebomb in my bed again."
Harry grinned. "What color is it this time?"
"Blue." Ron came back down the stairs. "I managed to toss it into the bathroom. Be careful when you go in there." He flopped down in a chair and put his feet up. "Did you see Malfoy watching me earlier? I wasn't even having pains."
"I don't think he was watching you because he thought you were in trouble," Harry offered. "It looked like he was thinking about something in our direction." Ron grunted so Harry moved closer, picking up a leg so he could work on the swollen ankles. "What's it feel like?"
"Like my body's been invaded by those aliens muggles talk about all the time," Ron admitted. Harry snorted, but he was smiling. "It does. You've got this little creature growing in you. They're taking food and drink from you. They're sapping your strength and making you wish you didn't have to get up in the mornings. Then again, they're sitting on your bladders so you have to get up in the mornings. Sometimes, it's like everyone's happy about it but me," he said, staring down at his stomach. "I don't begrudge her being born, I just wish it had been under different circumstances. Maybe when I was older and more ready. Out of school at least."
"With a woman carrying it?" Harry suggested, switching to the other side.
"Maybe, maybe not," Ron said, smiling at him. "It's incredible because I can feel it move. It's not something you can describe, but it's really special, and scary, and a really good reason to get angry or pout. All at once."
Harry nodded. "I guess it would be. How's the other problem?"
"Itchy," Ron said with a small grunt. "Not there, Harry, that aches." Harry moved his hands up, working on the legs. "Thanks for this."
"You're welcome," Harry told him. "I wanted to do this earlier for you but Hermione is taking a lot of my time. Otherwise I'd be doing as good as Bill did for your back."
"I'd like that," Ron admitted. He grinned. "I'd like it a lot."
"I'll do what I can," Harry agreed, smiling at him as well. "Maybe we'll figure a way to do each other?" he suggested.
"Hermione screams whenever I get near her."
"She says you do the same."
"That's because she's nagged me for the last month," Ron pointed out.
"I know. I'm trying to stop that. She doesn't get the point that you have the right to keep that knowledge for yourself. She doesn't see how anything can be that bad in the school."
"Gee, maybe I should tell her," Ron said bitterly. "Spoil that innocence she has left."
Harry smiled at him. "She'll find something new to nag about over the break. I'll have a firm word with her about leaving you alone about it," he assured him. "She's wrong to keep pushing when you don't want to talk about it." He looked up. "Of course, if you want to talk about it, I'm willing to lock us in a room and put up a silence spell while we talk."
Ron smiled at him. "Not yet, Harry." He pulled on his arm until Harry stood up so he could give him a hug. "You're a great friend and I'll tell you someday," he quietly promised. "Just not right now."
"Whenever you're ready," Harry agreed. He sat on the arm of the chair. "You're not planning on having the baby here, are you?"
Ron shook his head. "I don't want to. Like I told mum, I'm willing to walk out into the forest and have it out there if I have to. I do not want them to see this baby. Not after what they did."
"Agreeable," Harry told him. He nudged him. "If you decide to walk out into the forest, tell me! I'll go out with you and make sure that you don't have to do it alone. We could probably even talk Hagrid into helping us."
"Fang would love to play with the baby," Ron agreed with a grin. "Licking it clean like a puppy."
"That's one reason. But also so that Hagrid could protect us from the creatures out there."
"Yeah, I don't really want to have to beat off the spiders again," Ron agreed, smiling at him. "Do you want to cut the cord for her?"
"If you want," Harry agreed. "I'm going to be the Godfather," he said firmly.
"Yup, you are. I'll be the daddy and we'll make up some convenient lie about the mother until the kid's old enough to understand."
"You can say she ran away screaming because your temper was too bad."
"Funny," Ron said dryly. He gave him a little shove. "I'll be a sweet father and spoil my kid rotten."
"At least until your mother gets hold of her."
"Too true. She'll keep the kid from being too much of a terror." The portrait opened and admitted the twins. "Back for something you forgot?"
"To come check on you," George told him. He walked over and put a hand on Ron's stomach. "How are we?"
"We're sleeping. Please don't wake her up," Ron told him. "Harry just got my muscles relaxed again."
"That's wonderful," Fred said happily. "It's time for dinner and you hadn't shown up yet."
"I didn't realize," Ron admitted, letting George and Harry help him up. "How much more weight am I going to gain?"
"Right now, you haven't gained that much," Fred said, looking him over. "It's more that you ache whenever you try to stand or sit. We're worried about you, little brother." Ron gave him a hard look.
"We didn't realize how bad we were until this happened," George admitted. "We're trying to make up for it."
"I'll forgive you some day," Ron assured them. "Mum'll make sure of that." The twins looked happier. "Let's go eat. She's hungry."
"How much more weight will he be gaining?" Harry asked as he followed them to the Great Hall.
"Mum said she thought about another twenty pounds. She wanted to know if you need more clothes yet."
"Not yet. I've still got some room on the slides," Ron admitted. He stopped and hissed, leaning against the wall. He turned so his forehead was against it. "I hate those."
"They're normal," Fred assured him, rubbing his back gently.
"Molesting him in the halls now?" Draco asked as he walked past them. "Madam Pomfrey is out today if you needed help."
"Gee, thanks," Ron said bitterly. He took a deep breath and pushed off the walls. "I want those to stop."
"Mum said they'd stop within weeks," George assured him, giving him a small backrub of his own. Ron relaxed as soon as Draco had moved past. "I think she did the spell wrong. Can you feel him as gets closer?" Ron shook his head. "Then why do you cramp that way?"
"I don't know," Ron said miserably. "I do it at other times, but the spell tells him and makes him come check on me."
"I guess we'll have to stop the cramps then," Fred said firmly. "After dinner, we're working on your back and stomach."
"Okay. I'll let you play with the baby after dinner." Ron started to walk again. "Come on, I need to eat."
"We're coming," Harry said, looking at the twins. "He found an interesting spell that you need to look over," he said as he walked past them. "I hope we have pork chops tonight," he said as he joined Ron's side. They walked in together and nodded at the teachers before sitting at the joint table for the remaining students. Ginny was already there and smiled at them. "Good evening," he told her.
"Good evening," she said with a large grin. "How are you tonight, Ron?"
"Hungry," he told her, accepting the bowl of salad. The baby still liked leafy green things and, while annoying, the nurse had told him to humor her. He handed it off to the twins, Harry wouldn't eat salad unless there wasn't anything else around he could stomach. "Can I have the pork chops after you're done, Harry?" The plate was handed to him. "Thanks."
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "How are you feeling tonight?" he asked Ron and Draco, the only two pregnant ones staying.
"I'm fine," Draco told him. "I felt a kick earlier. The baby was not happy with the material I was reading. Apparently it's already scared of Professor Snape."
Snape looked at him. "Really? Does that mean that she'll force you to behave in class?"
"Probably," Draco admitted wryly. He accepted the roast and dug out some slices from the center, mostly pink. "She didn't like the potions at all."
"Then we'll be sure to assign more homework so she'll get used to it before she has to take the class," Snape assured him.
Ron grunted and rubbed his back. "Calm down," he told his stomach. "I'm tired of that kicking crap." Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Sorry, sir, but it's bothersome to be kicked all the time."
Harry reached over and rubbed small circles on Ron's back. "Calm down," he soothed. Ron relaxed. "She's a bit upset today."
"I should eat more salad." Ron ate more and she calmed down. "Thank you," he said when she quit kicking.
"Try loosening your pants," Fred suggested. Everyone looked at him. "Just the button. The way you're sitting could be putting pressure on her."
Ron undid the button and relaxed even more. "I think that may have solved it," he announced. Everyone went back to their dinners.
Harry smiled at him. "Feel better?"
"Between the salad and the unbuttoning, I feel wonderful," Ron told him. The baby shifted, but didn't kick and he smiled. "The alien's getting comfortable."
"You're claiming aliens are the other father?" Draco asked.
"No, he said earlier it's like a muggle possession by aliens when he was trying to explain it to me," Harry defended. "Like certain movies."
Dumbledore laughed. "I've seen one of those!" he said happily. "The alien took over the host's body and made it do odd and strange things," he explained.
"That would fit," Snape agreed cautiously. He looked at Ron, who smiled. "Are you still having cramps? I'll need to make more medicine if you are."
"He had one in the hall," Fred reported. Ron glared at him. "A short, intense one."
George nodded, swallowing quickly. "Then Draco came past and we were wondering if he was somehow causing them?"
"My own body pulls me toward him whenever he's in trouble," Draco admitted. "It's the spell the nurse put on us against our wills." He looked at Snape. "It was like a hard kick and a muscle cramp put together centered in his lower back on the left side."
"He's been better since we started working on his back ourselves," Fred put in.
"Madam Pomfrey said my muscles were fighting, where they were built up so well over the years," Ron explained.
"She told me," Snape reminded him. "I think I have something new to try, I'll brew some tonight if you're willing to try it." Ron nodded. "Good. It should be ready by morning. Take a long bath."
"Not a problem," Ron said happily. "She likes the water. Feels very comfy in it as a matter of fact."
"Good. Harry, you'll watch over him of course," Dumbledore said with a smile.
"Sure. I'll bring a book in and we'll both read," Harry agreed. Draco looked at him. "It's not like I'm going to crawl in there with him," he scoffed.
"He might like it," Draco pointed out with a smirk. Ron threw his knife at him, making him yelp and duck. "Sorry, just trying to be thoughtful."
"Well, don't," Ron ground out. "Harry's not like that!"
"If he wanted me to join him, he can damn well ask himself," Harry said quietly. "We are more than capable of dealing with that idea without your help, Malfoy."
"Fine, trying to be nice and make you feel better," Draco offered. "It's not like it would invalidate that prophecy or anything." Dumbledore choked.
"What?" Ron asked, becoming confused.
"The prophecy stated he'd only have one child," Draco explained.
"There's a current thought that you got more so therefore the spell can take on more than one child," Dumbledore told him.
"Um, not exactly looking forward to that thought," Harry pointed out.
Ron patted him absently. "So you're saying I could do the same thing to someone else if I slept with them?"
"There's a historical mention of someone getting pregnant twice, the second time after the first had already been accomplished," Snape said calmly.
"That's why Madam Pomfrey told me to not have sex?" Ron asked.
"That and she believes it would set off more cramps," Snape agreed. He looked him over. "If you choose to go ahead and do it anyway, Mr. Malfoy is indeed correct. It would invalidate the prophecy if he did get pregnant."
"I'm not really wanting to do it that way," Harry said, blushing brightly. "Besides, I don't find Ron attractive that way. He's a handsome chap, but not really my type."
"Prefer blonds perhaps?" Fred teased, nudging him.
"Not really. I simply like girls," Harry told him, blushing brighter.
"We're all happy to hear that," Snape told him, smirking at him.
George looked at Harry. "Think we can do something to find you a good girl to break that prophecy?"
"Not yet," Harry told him. "Let me deal with this first. Then I'll work on a girlfriend."
"You and Hermi not sticking together?" Fred asked.
"She said no," Harry told him. "She's said her parents are adopting the child and raising it as her sister." He glanced at Draco then back at his plate. "She said she wants to go our separate ways once we graduate. She doesn't even want to date."
"You'll still be friends," George soothed. "You won't lose that, even through labor pains."
Fred sighed. "It can't be lost, not with what you three have done together." He looked at his brother. "The same as you can't lose us."
"I don't want to lose you, just beat sense into you," Ron assured him. He smiled. "I got a letter from Charlie. He suggested the name Herecta. It's the name of one of his best friend's dragons." He ate a bite of pork chop. "He said I should paint you with honey and send you running into the Forbidden Forest. If you came out, I should accept your sobbing apologies then."
"That is an interesting punishment," Draco offered. "I didn't know your older brothers had such vivid imaginations."
"Charlie's got a lot of time to think up bad things. The dragons don't mind when he says mean things about your family."
"I'm glad I can be of entertainment," Draco told him, sending him a sly look. "Since we're the only two here who are afflicted and I'm having a skin care specialist coming in tomorrow, would you like to share?"
"I can't afford it, and you know it," Ron pointed out coldly.
"Did I say anything about money?" Draco asked in the same tone of voice. "It's either that or I'll have to talk to your idiot older brothers while she cleans out my pores. Up to you of course."
"No strings?" Harry demanded.
"Some polite conversation and less snarking," Draco told him.
"I've never had anyone clean my skin for me before, besides being bathed as a little kid."
"It's not too horrible. A warm towel on your face. A mask or two, depending on how bad your skin is, then some stuff on pads. It should only take a few hours."
"Okay, I can try that. But the first time you say something cruel or mean I'm leaving."
"Fine. Leave me to treat myself," he said with a hand wave. "See if I care."
Ron looked at him, getting a steady look back. "When?"
"Just after lunch. I'll come get you." He cleared his throat. "Speaking of houses," he said, looking at his own head of house. "I came up with a flaw in our nurse's healthcare plan. If one of us is in real trouble in our houses, how is the one supposed to get to the other?"
Snape looked at Dumbledore, who shrugged. "We haven't worked that flaw out yet," Snape admitted.
"You can't give him our house's password," Harry said in outrage. "He'd let the other Slytherins know and they'd come in and wreck stuff."
"We might be able to set up a special password," Dumbledore said thoughtfully. "There are other couples who would have similar problems. Cross-house relationships and the like." The twins looked down at him. "It would be given to you as well, of course, though the first prank found in another tower would get you severely punished." The twins grinned at each other. "As in you would be given to Professor Snape for a month," he said to break the good humor.
"Yes, sir," Fred told him.
"We'd be good," George agreed.
"One password for all of them?" Draco asked, looking interested.
"No," Snape told him. "I have no wish of hearing the head of Hufflepuff talk about you wandering through her house one night to scare the little kiddies," he said coolly.
"Fine," Draco agreed. "I'll go peek in on the Gryffindor beauties," he said, eating a bite of his roast.
"If you do, you'll be living in there permanently," Dumbledore told him. "We'd even resort you."
Draco shuddered. "Never mind," he said weakly.
"Did you know the hat nearly put us in there," George told everyone.
"You would have died," Snape said firmly. "Within hours."
"We might have done things differently if we had been under your direct tutelage," Fred offered, trying for flattery.
"They might have been normal, but our parents would have had them killed," Ron assured him with a smile.
"I would have had them killed," Snape assured him. "Painfully and in front of everybody in the house. There might have even been a party."
"Oh, be real," George taunted. "It would have been an orgy. After all, we all know what Slytherins do in their free time."
Fred grinned. "Yeah, they sit there and try to be as brilliant as us! When they figure out they can't, they go back to trying to create a *smart* Slytherin who can match our brilliance."
"Which, of course, is why we *never* sleep with a Slytherin," George added for good measure.
"Just in case," Fred added.
Snape looked down at them, carefully putting down his cutlery before he was tempted to use them. "There are many of us who are quite brilliant, we consider other pursuits to be better suited to our brains than mindless pranks." He sneered at them. "Some of us have taste and brains, that's why we never took up the cap of a joker and instead turned our minds to improving the world."
"Not this current crop," Ron told him. "You can't tell me Crabbe will *ever* do anything to benefit the world."
Snape opened his mouth, then closed it. He carefully decided on his phrasing. "I didn't say all of them, I said some of us. There will one day be other brilliant Slytherins who will do many great things."
"Hey!" Draco protested. "What am I? Pate?"
Ron looked at Harry. "Pate?"
"Chopped goose liver," Harry told him.
"Oh. Yuck." He shuddered. "How people ever started eating nasty stuff like that I don't know. Livers get all sorts of contaminants. You might as well eat kidneys or bladders."
"What do you think those giblet things are from the turkey?" Fred asked.
"Something you and Dad eat," Ron said promptly. "I have more sense than that. That and haggis are both sickening."
Dumbledore laughed. "I feel much the same way, Ron. Eat, please. Before your daughter decides she wants to try those things."
"I don't care if she does, I'm not giving her any," Ron told him, but he did eat some more.
Snape looked at Draco. "I'm sure you'll do something good for the world some day," he said quietly.
"I am brilliant," Draco pouted.
"You get good marks," George soothed. "It's what you do with them that counts, Malfoy."
"Good point," Draco said, pulling himself free of his pout. "I will do something great." He stabbed a piece of roast and ate it.
"I'm sure you will," Fred placated. "For now, eat."
"I am! Nag your brother."
Ron grabbed the salad and dumped the rest onto his plate. "I am eating," he protested. He shoveled it into his mouth but waited until everyone else had a chance with the refilled bowl before refilling his bowl. "This kid is nutty, eating greens. It won't even let me eat Chocolate Frogs or Bertie Botts," he said miserably. "The kid'll be miserable it's whole life if it doesn't straighten up."
Fred patted him on the back. "Percy will make sure it's spoiled, if only to make up for his own life."
Ron paused with a forkful of salad on the way to his mouth. "Quit picking on him. He's been nice to me recently. Pick on him if he becomes a prick again." He ate that bite.
"It's surprising, but Percy has been very nice to all of us," Harry told him. "He hasn't even given Hermione a sly look recently or asked her how I was." George spluttered, choking on his sip of juice. "She told him she didn't remember," he told him.
Fred looked at him. "Are you doing things that normal people don't?" he asked, only smirking a little bit.
"You know very well she pounced me," Harry said firmly. "You were both there being great pervs and watching."
"They watched?" Draco asked, an odd look on his face. "Why?"
"We didn't expect the orgy," George admitted. "We were stunned stupid until Hermi threatened our lives."
"Thankfully we were out of there when McGonagall came in to break you all up," Fred agreed.
"I think that's the first time I've ever seen Professor McGonagall head for my liquor cabinet," Dumbledore told them. "Not the last this year of course, but the first time." He looked at Harry, who was tomato red. "Did you at least enjoy it?" Harry squeaked. "In the future, do try to enjoy it, my boy. Life's too short not to."
Snape looked at him. "You're over a hundred-fifty, I'm sure you've enjoyed enough of that sort of thing."
"On the contrary, Severus, life is too short not to enjoy every minute to the fullest. Even at my age." He smiled sweetly at him. "Perhaps you should find something to enjoy that doesn't involve a cauldron?"
"I find my life quite satisfying as is," he said firmly. Heaven forbid the Headmaster try to fix him up with someone.
"There's a difference between satisfaction and enjoyment."
"Sir, with all due respect, if he wants to lurk in the dungeons and be gloomy, then let him," Fred told him. "It'd be odd to see him happy and cheerful."
"Many things make me happy," Snape sniffed. "Your eventual leave-taking will be one of those."
"I was sticking up for you!" Fred pointed out.
"I didn't need the help."
"We'll make you wonderful fireworks," George offered.
"I'm sure I can do my own," Snape assured him. He took the salad bowl before Ron could grab it for a fourth time, dishing himself out some more. "Here, finish it," he told him. Ron grinned at him. "How are you feeling otherwise?"
"Pretty good, sir. I've been pretty calm all day. I checked some books out of the library and am currently looking through them. Harry gave me a wonderful backrub earlier and I nearly fell asleep on him."
"Good." Snape looked at Draco. "You?"
"Fine. I've spent all day working on a name list."
"Your family has a set list of names," Snape told him. Draco frowned. "I believe if you look, you'll find that you will be kicked out of the family if you don't follow the name list."
"I'll have to check that out," Draco sighed. "Would the family barrister know about that?"
"Probably," Snape agreed. "Usually by now they've managed to track down all the females having children and told them which name the child will carry."
"Maybe you can pick a middle name," Ron offered to ease the pained look on Malfoy's face. He wasn't sure *why*, but he thought he looked sad. Draco looked down at him. "Our mother had to name Charlie after an uncle, but she got to pick a middle name."
"True," the twins agreed.
Filch limped in. "You won't believe this," he hissed. "It's another group of idiots."
"Again?" Ron said in disgust. "Draco, do you want point this time?"
"No, have it," Draco told him. "I've had enough of them and I want the chance to harm them this time."
"Fine with me," Ron said, sliding off his chair and heading for the door. Harry swallowed one last bite and hurried after him. "Do you know the usual pattern?"
"Distraction and hit," Harry told him. "It won't work this time since none of us are already outside."
"Fine, then we'll improvise," Ron said with a smile. He found McGonagall in front of the door. "Oh, move," he whined. "I want to go hurt them. They're robbing my daughter of her salad."
"You may not go out there!" she said shrilly. "Neither of you!"
"I got the last few," Ron told her, dodging around her and heading outside. "You idiots!" he yelled. "Go away!"
Harry shrugged at their teacher. "I have to help him or he'll get hurt and his mother will kill me," he explained as he went outside as well. "Ron, calm down. We don't want your daughter to get too upset," he soothed, rubbing Ron's back. "You heard him, leave! The Headmaster doesn't want this activity to continue!" he said haughtily.
"Boy, get out of our way! There are unnatural people in there," one woman yelled.
"I know, he's one of them," Harry told him, glaring at her. "Ron Weasley, mistaken masses; mistaken masses, Ron Weasley," he introduced.
"Yay," Ron said bitterly. "I have enough problems without you lot. Leave!" He pulled his wand and the people laughed. So he looked at Harry. "Harry, can't I kill them? My daughter is making my cranky anyway."
"No, Ron, you can't kill them. That would be overkill. Scare them off, like you helped me do in our last fight."
Ron grinned at him. "You're bloody brilliant, Potter, you know that?"
"Thanks," he said with a faint smile and a light blush. The crowd mumbled and backed away from them. "You're scared of me and not the pregnant and mood swinging ones?" he asked incredulously. "He's scared bloody Snape once!"
"Enough," the Headmaster said quietly as the teachers walked out. "I'm sure Mr. Weasley only scared him because he was taken aback by his unreasonable anger at that time." Snape nodded. "Boys, go back inside."
"No!" Ron told him. "They interrupted my calm and peaceful moment. I was feeling really nice until they showed up." He turned back to the crowd, who stepped back farther. "Go away! Now! Before I have to get really angry and swing again!"
Harry led Ron out of the way, off to the side. "Calm down, Ron," he said quietly, holding him. "It's okay, they won't hurt you or the baby, I won't let them," he promised. He saw a flash. "I don't believe it!" he said angrily. McGonagall kept him from going down there and kicking whomever had the camera's ass. "I don't think they need to be taking pictures of Ron when he's like this," he shouted.
"Are you and he together?" someone yelled.
"We're best friends, you bloody nit!" Harry yelled back. Ron chuckled. He spun to look at him. "What?"
"Usually it's me yelling," Ron said with a smile. He smiled at the crowd. "No, he's not my boyfriend. Get your head out of his shorts and back into your own. I'd hate to have to kick it back into it's proper spot."
"Weasley!" McGonagall said sharply. "You may not lose your temper today. I will not have you in the infirmary without the nurse being here!"
"Yes, ma'am," Ron sighed. "Can't I kick their asses a little bit?" She pursed her lips and glared at him. "Fine, we'll stand right over here and cheer on the rest of you." He pulled Harry aside. "Let them beat their asses," he said, leaning against Harry's side.
Harry put a hand behind him, starting to stroke circles on Ron's back. "You get to explain to Hermione and your mother if that picture makes it into the paper."
"Fine. Mom knows I'd never sleep with you, you're like my brother, Harry."
"Good point," Harry said with a smile. Another flash went off. He had to stop Ron from stomping down and taking the camera to stomp on. "No, let the teachers do it," he said, catching him by the waistband.
"His pants are coming off!" McGonagall said in shock. "Get back inside, the both of you!"
Ron looked down and did back up his pants. "She quit kicking when I unbuttoned them," he explained. "I'm not going starkers."
"Good, because I have no desire to see your knickers, Mr. Weasley!" She pointed inside. "Now!"
Draco strolled out, and stopped to belch. "Sorry, ate too fast." He looked around as he walked over to where the other students were, standing sideways. The crowd gasped. "Up for shocking them?"
"If you try to kiss him, I'm popping you one," Harry warned.
Draco smiled at him. "Where's your sense of fun!"
"Upstairs, safely in bed."
Ginny came out giggling. "Guys, quit." She blew kisses as the crowd. "The twins want to know if they can harm them," she called.
"No, dear, they don't deserve to be punished by the twins being set on them," the Headmaster said calmly, smiling at her. The twins ran out, getting past all restraining hands. Small flashes went off in the crowd as they ran for the forest and the side of the school. They cackled as the smoke settled, turning everyone funny colors.
Draco looked down at one woman who was an unflattering shade of green. "I think I threw up something that looked like you," he said thoughtfully. He looked at the teachers, who were goggling. "What? It was right after that ham breakfast last month."
"That was rather gross," Ginny told him. She smiled at Ron and Harry. "If you get to hurt them, can I help?"
"No," Ron told her, pushing her back into the school. "Stay in there! Before I tell mum you're becoming a boy." He slammed the door. Everyone was looking at him. "Mum said I had to protect her from herself. Or else she'd be taking on everyone and showing how she was too tough to be a girl." He looked down at the crowd, starting toward them, but Harry all-but tackled him to the ground to hold him still. "Oh, come on," he whined. "I want to hurt them too!"
"Go inside!" Snape yelled. "Now! Your behavior is disgraceful."
"That's why they're Gryffs," Draco pointed out.
"You as well," Snape told him as he grabbed him by the arm and shoved him back into the school. He held the door open and pointed. "Now, both of you!" They trudged inside.
"We got to beat up on the other ones," Ron said miserably.
"You can beat up on people later," Harry soothed.
Ginny looked at her brother. "You're strange like this, Ron. I hope I stay normal when I get pregnant." She flounced over and sat on the stairs to wait. She heard screaming and jumped back up.
"Stay!" Harry told her, heading out to check on them. "Innerviate!" he said harshly, stopping the crowd.
"Impedimentia!" Ron said from behind him, casting over his head.
"Boys!" Snape and McGonagall shouted together. "Inside!" They looked at each other and shook their heads, not believing that they were working together.
Draco strolled out again, smirking at them. "Since they got to cast one, may I?" He gave them a winning smile.
The Headmaster looked back at him. "Just one simple one," he sighed.
Draco stepped forward and considered it. "Distensia." The crowd inflated and he was proud of himself.
"Inside!" Snape said coldly. "Go back to the Great Hall!"
"I'm not hungry anymore," Draco told him, looking at the deadly twosome. "You two are so cute, leaning on Potty like that. You do look like you're together."
Ron pulled his head off Harry's shoulder. "He's just the right height," he defended. "I'm tired."
"Then we're going to go inside and let you rest in a bath," Harry said, leading him back inside by the hand. "That was a really good curse, Ron. You got most of them." Ron beamed. "Want a warm bath or a nap on a couch?"
"I want a bath in the prefect's bathroom," Ron decided. When the teachers came back in he stopped to look at them. "Can I get into the prefect's bathroom?" he called.
McGonagall stopped and looked up at him. "Why should we after that showing of your arse?" She tapped her foot. "You disobeyed explicit orders to curse the crowd and nearly harmed yourself and the baby by doing so!" she said angrily.
"Like that's so different," Ron snorted. "Please, Professor McGonagall? I promise I'll be good."
"Fine," she sighed, stomping off.
Dumbledore walked back inside and closed the door. "The current password is nymphs I believe. Remember not to make the water too hot, Mr. Weasley, and bring Mr. Potter with you just in case something happens. That was a well-thrown curse. Very effective." Draco stopped and looked at him. "Yours was rather amusing. I'm proud of you both for doing it so effortlessly." He walked on, going to unlock his liquor cabinet. "I won't tell your mother, Mr. Weasley, but I won't hold her back if she shows up with tomorrow's paper either."
"She's in the Soviet Union," Ron called after him. He looked at Harry. "She's not that fast, even when she's so mad she wants to smack me around." He led the way up to get their towels and stuff, then nearly ran back to the prefect's bathroom. Draco was already in the water. "Hey! I was told I could use it!"
"I'm a prefect," Draco pointed out smugly. "There's enough room for you as well." He pointed at the other end. "Sit over there and relax."
Ron shrugged and stripped down. It was worth it to be in the neck-deep warm water. Besides, the tub was big enough for six or seven people. "Harry, want to come in?"
"Sure," he agreed, stripping off and climbing in. Ron sighed as he found a lower seat. "Feel better?"
"Much, she likes the water. She had started to shift again but now she's laying there floating as well."
"How are you feeling her already?" Draco asked. "I only started feeling mine today."
"Ron was in the middle of a growth spurt," Harry told him. "He was in that funny underweight stage of it. He's caught up to his right weight and now he'll start gaining baby weight."
"Oh." Draco shrugged. "At least you know she's all right. One of my house's women went home not sure her baby was doing good at all. Her mother was going to take her directly to a healer."
"Hopefully she'll be all right," Harry said quietly. "How is Pansy?"
"Oh, normal then," Ron said with a grin.
Draco nodded. "Basically." He smiled. "Are any of the others either of yours?"
"Not unless it happened without us being involved," Harry told him.
"You?" Ron asked.
"Not as far as I know," Draco admitted. "Half of the ones in my house is from one seventh year boy. I wasn't in the house the first time we went off." He sighed and shifted. "It's probably a good thing. There's a part in the will about only having one heir."
"Why? " Harry asked.
"So the family fortune doesn't get divided up."
"What happens if you have twins or something?" Ron asked.
"It's only happened once and it was allowed to continue, but the twins were set against each other so one of them ended up killing the other," Draco told him. "Then that one died and a new heir had to be made." Harry and Ron both shuddered. "Some of the people in my family have been a bit cold about having a suitable heir."
"It's good that my parents never thought that way," Ron pointed out.
"It's often that way in the pureblood families," Draco offered.
"My family's just as pure blood as yours, Malfoy," Ron said coldly.
"Yes, but you don't have anything to worry about having heirs to hold," Draco reminded him.
"Enough!" Harry shouted. "No fighting! I don't want to listen to it and Ron doesn't need it."
"Fine," Draco agreed.
"My family guards other things," Ron told him. Draco shifted to look at him. He smirked. "Not that I can tell you what."
"It's half a seal," Draco told him casually. "My family has the other half, that's why we've been at odds for centuries." He stretched out to float. "I needed this."
"We both did," Ron agreed, curling up on his side. Harry reached down to work on his shoulders. "You're a great friend, Harry."
"I try really hard," Harry told him. Ron grinned at him. "Do you need anything?"
"A drink would be great," Ron admitted, "but I'm good enough."
Draco reached out and rang a bell, bringing an elf popping in. "We need something to drink."
"Lemonade?" the elf suggested. "Wes just made some, very nice and pink."
"Cold?" Ron asked. The elf nodded quickly. "Please?"
"Right back!" it said happily, popping back out.
"Our house's elf," Draco said smugly. "He lives to serve." The elf popped back in but another came with it bearing a large tray.
"Hi, Dobby," Harry said with a smile. "Is that for Ron?"
"For Harry Potter," Dobby said firmly. "You not eat dinner, you eat!" He pulled over a tray holder and put the tray on it, giving him a look. "Yous eat! Weezy too! Baby needs food!"
"Of course she does," Ron agreed with a smile. "Thank you, Dobby. You're a great house elf." He swam over to the edge to look at the tray, his mouth watering. "How did you know she wanted breaded cheese?"
"We always knows," Dobby said wisely, then he disappeared.
Draco accepted the tray with the glasses while the elf set up the holder and poured. "That's fine," he said. The elf nodded and disappeared. He looked at the tray of finger food. "He decided you were that hungry?"
"Me too," Harry said, nibbling on some of the meat rolls. "We might share."
"He brought three glasses," Draco admitted, coming over. He made himself a little plate and went back to his side, putting the plate on a shelf beside him.
Harry swam over and walked back with their glasses of lemonade. "Thank you for getting us this," he said politely.
Draco shrugged. "I wanted a drink myself."
Ron looked over at him. "You're tolerable this way, Malfoy. If you had been this way most of the time, I might have thought you were cool."
Draco laughed. "Thank you. I think," he said before stuffing his mouth. "I guess I'm growing up."
"You're growing up into a better person than your father," Harry offered. Draco looked at him. "You haven't threatened Ron's father yet."
"Good point." Draco saluted them with his glass. "Thank you." He nibbled on a piece of broccoli. "Why does Dobby treat you like you're a God?" he asked finally to break the silence.
"Because he came to warn me," Harry told him.
"He's also behind our thing with the flying car," Ron added.
"Yeah, and my arm bones leaving after that match," Harry added.
"Plus you freed him," Ron finished. "Getting him a job here."
"Ah! That's why my father was whining about you that time." He dropped his current nibble and frowned at it, carefully picking it out and dropping it onto the floor. It disappeared instantly. He picked up his next bite and nibbled on it, then grimaced and put it aside. "Blue cheese?"
"It's not my favorite," Ron admitted. "Put some of the yellow sauce on it and it tastes really good."
"The elves crave cheese when they're pregnant," Harry told him. "Dobby told me he's expecting two."
"Oh. How nice." He accepted a small spoon of the sauce and put it on the cheese, tasting it. "Not bad," he admitted. "Not my thing."
"Salads aren't mine, but the baby's demanding," Ron told him, nibbling on veggie spear. "I wish she'd let me eat chocolate without souring it, but she won't."
"Try eating it as a dessert," Draco offered. "Instead of as a meal."
"I have. The chocolate mousse we had the other night soured in my stomach." He relaxed against the side of the tub and closed his eyes. "She'll have to give up sometime, I'm not going without chocolate for the next four months."
"Seventeen weeks," Draco corrected.
"Or longer if you're late," Harry offered.
"Don't even joke about it," Ron told him. He grabbed another veggie spear and nibbled on it. "I'm eating like a rabbit."
"But it's good for her," Harry said with a grin. "She'll be a big girl, Ron, very strong and able to kick the twin's butts for herself."
"Yeah, but I'd rather she get big *after* I give birth to her." Draco snickered. "Think about it. A ten centimeter hole. An eight or nine pound baby." Draco quickly shut up.
"Eat more chocolate," Harry encouraged. "That way she doesn't rip you in two." Ron smiled at him. "Or more cheese."
"Cheese binds you," Ron reminded him. "I can't eat too much or I'll spend all day in the bathroom."
"They make medicine to counter that as well," Draco pointed out from across the tub.
"Let's not talk about that stuff," Harry pleaded. "Especially not in the bath."
"Fine," Draco and Ron agreed, then they glared at each other.
Ron grunted and used his free hand to rub his stomach while his best friend freed his other hand for him. "Stop it," he warned the baby. She pushed harder.
"They're expansion pains," Draco told him. "I've been having those as well and Madam Pomfrey said I should expect them for the next few weeks." He stroked his own stomach. "Has she screamed at you recently?"
"Not for two weeks. I'm avoiding her," Ron admitted.
"Smart move. Since that one girl, Talia, in Ravenclaw miscarried she's been hellbent on getting us all into safe spots and yelling at us for whatever we do that's not particularly safe. She yelled at Professor Snape the other day for one of the potions we have coming up, and McGonagall for her transfiguring other humans lessons."
"But we all take those," Harry pointed out.
"She's probably only had to deal with one or two births before, if any," Ron reminded him. "She's probably anxious and paranoid about what's going on herself."
"In this case I think he's right," Draco admitted. "She's got training but no practical experience. That's why so many kids have their own doctors."
"Are you having yours here?" Harry asked. Ron nudged him and he looked at him. "What? It's an innocent question."
"I'm betting Weasley doesn't want to answer a similar one," Draco pointed out. Ron nodded. "I hadn't planned on moving from the school until after this one's born. It's not safe until my father is Kissed and my mother runs away to hide. Neither of which has happened yet."
"What if he isn't Kissed by summer?" Ron asked.
"Then I'm hiring bodyguards and we'll be spending the entire summer somewhere nice and cozy which isn't at my house."
"Good thought," Harry agreed. "Crabbe and Goyle?"
"Will be nowhere near this child unless I'm standing there or someone I trust is. I'll hire professional bodyguards, thank you."
"Good idea," Ron agreed with a smile. "If anyone comes after mine, they'll have to go through my family. I guess you'll have to compensate for the numbers we've got."
"Probably," Draco agreed wryly. "Are you raising her?"
"I think I am," Ron admitted. "Mum said she'd help. In her last letter, she offered to watch over her while I was in school so I could finish and find a job. I'll have her during the holidays and whenever I can sneak home for an afternoon or so. It'll stop some of our bonding moments, but I'll still get to be there."
"I'm more worried about Hermione and her parent's plan to adopt the baby," Harry told him. "I mean, they're nice, but this kid is definitely going to be a wizard or a witch and they're very down on us at the moment. I don't want the kid to live with someone who thinks like the Dursleys."
"I doubt anyone thinks like them," Ron pointed out with a nudge. "Would you please calm your future Goddaughter down? She's using both feet to push my stomach further."
"Sure, Ron, not a problem." Harry shifted to the seat next to him and turned so he could rub the tense stomach. "She really is pushing, isn't she?"
"Yeah," he sighed, closing his eyes. "That's nice."
"Hermione said she's getting a massager for a present and her mother's going to let her enchant it so she can do this for herself," Harry told him.
"Hands are better than any vibrating thing any day," Ron said with a big grin.
"Vibrating thing?" Draco asked. "Like a toy?"
"No, well, I guess," Harry said with a shrug. "Only this one will work on the muscles instead of other parts."
"Oh. Fascinating. Muggle?" Harry nodded. "Why?"
"Because not everyone has a friendly sort who'll give them back and stomach rubs," Harry told him. Ron moved his hand off to the side. "Sorry. There?"
"There," Ron agreed. He sighed in pleasure as the stroking started again. "I'm going to miss this part of being pregnant. Not anything else, but definitely this part."
Draco shook his head. "I'll be sure to ask someone about getting a masseuse in next term," he said as he made himself comfortable. "I wish these were padded." A waterproof pillow popped off the wall and landed in front of him. "Thank you." He sat on it and wiggled, finding the most comfortable spot.
"Goyles?" Harry asked with a smirk.
"The creme shrunk them," Draco admitted. "I'm still sore."
Ron opened an eye. "Is that you or me?"
"What?" Harry asked worriedly. "Another cramp? Am I hurting her?"
"No, the random horniness," Draco told him. "It seems to come and go in waves. There's been almost as much shagging recently as there was on the nights we conceived."
"Thankfully *most* of you can't get pregnant a second time," Ron said bitterly.
"I'm sure there's ways around that," Draco said helpfully. "Potter, you were raised muggles, how do they keep from getting stuffed up?"
"Yes, but they don't have the spells," Draco pointed out. "What do they use instead?"
"Well," Harry said, thinking back to what he had learned in his old school. "Our class on reproductive health said that women took pills or shots. Oh," he said happily, remembering something better. "Men use condoms."
"What're those?" Ron asked.
"They're latex, this thin plasticy stuff, and they roll down your member. They're a barrier. All the guys whined whenever they were mentioned, I guess they weren't that fun to use, but they're supposed to block out disease and pregnancy."
"I'll have to check those out," Ron said thoughtfully. He gave Harry a hug. "You may have just saved my sanity."
"I'm sure we're all appreciative of that. Tell me if they work," Draco offered. "It might be a novelty."
"Sure," Ron said, frowning at him. Draco smirked at him. "You're still odd."
"Thank you," he said with a hand wave. "I enjoy being unpredictable, it makes it easier to put people off their stride when I have to deal with them later. They don't expect the fits when they inevitably come."
"Unlike us, who know that they'll come back sometime," Harry said dryly.
"Touche," Draco agreed. "As of this moment, I feel very...satisfied is the best word I guess," he said after some thought. "I'm sure it will change by in the morning." He yawned. "Is there an anti-drowning charm in here? I've never asked." He rang the bell and the house elf reappeared. "Is there an anti-drowning charm on this tub?" he demanded. The elf nodded. "Thank you." It disappeared. "Good. Maybe I'll stretch out a bit." He put himself back into the corner, putting his head on the side of the tub so he could stretch across his seats. "This is even nicer. I'll have to get one of these for the house if the Master suite doesn't have one," he said sleepily.
Harry and Ron smiled at the other boy as he fell asleep. He didn't look quite so pompous or scary this way. He looked kind of human actually. Nearly likeable if they didn't know what he was like when he was awake. They giggled as soon as they looked at each other. Ron swatted some water at Harry then grabbed another piece of breaded cheese, nibbling away. Harry floated closer, giving his stomach a nod. Ron stretched out with a grateful smile and let Harry grope the baby to his heart's content. He had very talented fingers and she obviously already loved him.
McGonagall tapped on the Prefect's bathroom gently. The elves had come to get her because the boys were still in there. Hopefully not dead in the tub, but they hadn't went back to their rooms last night. Snape stormed up and she put her finger against her lips, nodding at the door. He grimaced and nodded, walking in behind her. They both stopped to look at the threesome curled around each other.
Ron was stomach to stomach with Harry and Draco was behind Ron, with a leg thrown over the other boy's. Harry's fingers were gently stroking Ron's stomach and the other wasn't visible. Draco was making happy whimpering noises against Ron's shoulder and shifting against Ron's backside.
The two teachers looked at each other and shook their heads. McGonagall coughed, waking Harry up. He started, which made Ron open his eyes and grunt at them before rolling over and using Draco as his pillow. Harry squeaked and poked Ron's back, earning a swat from Draco. "Teachers!" Harry said, finding his voice.
Draco looked up at them. "Go away. I'm finally comfortable for the first time in a week," he growled. He put his head back down onto Ron's shoulder, biting him on the neck when he dared move. "Stop it." He spanked him, making Ron shove him. "Stop it!"
Snape stepped closer and pulled Draco's hair until the boy looked up at him. "You do realize you're curled up around Mr. Weasley, correct?"
Draco looked at his comforting toy and then nodded. "He's comfortable and Potter gives good backrubs. So?" Snape sighed and shook his head, leaving them. He went to get a camera. He wanted proof of this one the next time Malfoy got on his nerves.
McGonagall smiled at them. "Go back to sleep, boys. We'll get you up in an hour." She turned her smile on Harry. "Be good to them as they both seem to appreciate you more than Ms. Granger at the moment," she said before sweeping out. She passed Snape in the hallway and noticed the camera. "I'd like a copy if possible," she quipped as she went on to breakfast. She walked in and smiled at the other teachers. Professor Arion was back very early. "Did your play battle not go as planned?"
"They were wooses and ran home crying to mommy," Arion told her smugly. "Where are the boys?" He knew, but he wanted to see everyone's expression. It was his daily dose of being naughty, which he lived for these days. He had been keeping a portal open to watch those two and Potter. Very enlightening.
"Curled up together in the Prefect's bathroom," she said, making the Headmaster choke on the juice in his mouth. "Draco told me he was comfortable and Potter gave wonderful backrubs." She took her usual seat. "I've requested a copy of the picture Severus is now taking," she said smugly.
"Maybe we should hook all three of them together," Arion suggested. "Let Granger be protected by someone more like her?"
"We don't have anyone here who can protect her that way," Dumbledore said, wiping his mouth off. He looked at his usual cohort in mischief. "They fell asleep curled up together?"
"They probably drifted together during the night," she soothed. "Potter seems to like girls."
"He's probably never tried it," Ares said dryly. Dumbledore gave him a panicked look. "Don't give me that look, he's too much a hero for my taste. I like my lovers naughty and less holy and perfect. Male or female."
"I suppose you would," Dumbledore said, giving him a look. "Have you given any thought on how to let Mr. Weasley wear out those surges?"
"Condoms," Ares told him. The Headmaster coughed. "Muggle invention of birth control? Dates back to the venereal plagues in the Middle Ages? Thin latex device that goes over the penis and blocks most everything, including at least half the sensation?"
"Yes, I've seen one or two," Dumbledore said, shooting a short glare in his direction. "We really shouldn't encourage that sort of behavior among the students, Professor Arion."
"Why not? It'd solve most of the problems Ron's having," he offered. "I bet it'd even make him a happy kid again."
"I'd definitely like to see that," McGonagall agreed. "Are they expensive or hard to find?"
"Nah," he said with a hand wave. "They're a few pounds each box and they're available nearly everywhere, and even have some speciality shops." He smiled. "Easily found with a short trip into a muggle town that has a pharmacy."
"I don't think we need those sort of things roaming around the school," the Headmaster said delicately.
McGonagall snorted. "If it helps, I'm all for it," she said firmly. "I'm sure they won't share. They need it too much and a well-placed threat to take them or have their brooms taken away will solve that problem," she reminded him. "I'd like to see Ron being more chipper and less angry." She looked down at the Defense teacher. "Can you procure some for him? Please? Just to spare me from becoming a drunk?"
"Sure, I'll have one of the messengers run out for them," he said with a smile. "I'm not sure who they'd solve that problem with, but I'm sure they can find someone, even if they have to sneak into town." Snape came back in, his brightest smirk ever seen on his face. "Are they cute?"
"I got them when they were still asleep and all looking up at me," he said cruelly. "They won't misbehave again."
McGonagall cackled. "I'm sure it will be adorable when I blow one up to put in my office." He handed her the camera. "Thank you. I'll have it developed and copies made today. I'll even pay for it." He nodded, and they smirked at each other.
Ginny and the only other girl staying in the whole castle walked in together, both sleepily rubbing their eyes after their latest sleepover. "G'morning," she said through a yawn. "Where're my brothers?"
"Sleeping in the Prefect's bathroom," Ares told her. She gave him a smile. "Are you awake enough to be down here?"
"I put on clothes, I'm going to eat if only for that reason," she mumbled, sitting down in her spot with a rampant blush on her cheeks.
The other girl looked down at the teachers. "They're in the Prefect's bathroom?" she asked. "Together?"
"They both needed the long soak," Dumbledore told her. "Mr. Potter mediated last night."
"Oh. That's probably cute." She smiled at Ginny, who had punched her on the arm. "Just because your brother's a bit moody doesn't mean he's not cute like that. With his tummy just showing," she cooed. "Think he'd let me touch it?"
"You'll either get your head bit off or he'll grin goofily and let you," Ginny told her. The twins wobbled in, leaning on each other. "Long night in the bathroom?" she asked. They looked clueless so she looked down at the teachers again. "You left my brother and Harry in there with Malfoy *alone*?" she asked. "Do you not like my family at all, sir?"
McGonagall smiled at her. "We kept very good watch on them from afar," she assured the girl. "Nothing untoward happened. They were perfectly polite to each other."
"Our brother?" George asked.
"Polite?" Fred added. "To Malfoy?"
Ginny looked at them. "They said they shared the bathroom all last night."
"Sick again?" Fred asked as he sat down.
Snape looked smug as he looked at him. "In the baths actually." Both twins choked and bolted from the room, going to check on their baby brother.
"That was mean," Dumbledore said, but he was smiling. "Do you feel better now?"
"Until I get my copies of the pictures," he agreed.
Ron looked over, glaring at the shaking portrait. "G'way!" he yelled, putting his head back down. "Bloody nuisances. Have enough of that at home. Must be at least sixty other baths in this building. Don't have to share."
Draco gave him a pat on the head, still mostly asleep himself. "They'll go away soon or I'll curse them for waking me up so early." Harry grunted in his sleep and shifted against his back, which was what made him wake up more. He gave the two other people in the water with him a bleary look. "What are you doing?" he asked Ron. Ron gave him a shove. "Weasel!" Ron opened one eye and gave him the two-fingered salute, then closed his eye. Harry grunted again, making Draco look over his shoulder. "Get off me! I don't like you like that!" The door shook again and the twins started to scream to be let in. "Oh, sod off!" he yelled. "I'm having a crisis at the moment! I don't need more witnesses!" Harry started to stroke down his back, which made him purr and relax. He nearly went back to sleep but the baby kicking his baby, and his kicking back, kept him awake. "Why are we together?"
"Shh," Harry whispered, wrapping an arm around him to stroke gently over his stomach. "Sleep, the baby is fine."
"Potter," he said in disgust.
"Malfoy," he whispered. "Shh. Trying to sleep."
"At least you didn't call me by someone else's name," he said in disgust. The stomach stroking continued and another hand came around to do his back for him. He guessed it was fine for now after all. This was rather nice. He could stand being held for this. He started to drift off again, using his wand to silence the creatures trying to end his massages. They were obviously evil, underbred, and lacked any sort of decency that would suggest them to decent people as fellow human beings. He drifted off, starting to snore into Ron's ear, which got his head moved to the firm, yet somewhat spongy, shoulder instead. He murmured his thanks and let himself fall back into a deep and restful sleep.
When the twins finally made it through the door, they stopped and gaped at the sight in front of them. "Ron?" they asked in unison. Ron flipped them off as well, but he didn't wake up.
Fred walked forward and knelt beside the tub, using the best method to wake a cranky Ron up, playing with his top lip until he swatted then holding his nose shut. Ron opened both eyes and looked up at him, repeating the salute. "Do you realize who you're holding?"
Ron looked down at himself, slowly thinking about it. Then the back of Harry's hand stroked his stomach and he shrugged, closing his eyes again. He nearly got them open again when Draco's hand came around to work on his back, but it was too nice to wake up for. This was a really nice dream. "G'way," he mumbled, burying his face back in Draco's hair.
George finally shook himself free. "I'm telling mum. She won't believe this."
Harry threw something at his head. "Go away!" he shouted. "I'm trying to bloody well sleep here!"
"Shh," Ron said, reaching over blindly to pat him. He got Draco's shoulder and Draco shrugged his hand off, letting it slide over to touch Harry's head. "Sleep, we'll wake up for lunch." He fell back asleep in that position, hugging both men to him.
The twins looked at each other, then Fred stood up and took off to grab that camera. They wanted a picture of this as well. He had to wrest it away from McGonagall, and she followed him back, but they got their pictures of the cuteness. Ginny followed them as well, giving the men in the tub her best 'aww' before taking her own picture. "I want a copy of that one if it's not too expensive," she told her teacher, then she wandered out. Wait until she told Bill and mum!
McGonagall led the twins out of the bathroom and firmly shut the door. "Am I out of film yet?"
George checked it. "It says two more pictures," he said, handing it over. "They've been like that all night?" She nodded, smirking. "Huh." He looked at his twin. "Ron's really gay?"
"I'm wondering about Malfoy. I can almost see Ron with Harry if he could get past the whole 'brotherly' thing he's feeling for him," Fred said thoughtfully. "Though, having him with Malfoy would be beneficial to the family." McGonagall swatted him. "Sorry, thinking out loud." He walked her back to the Great Hall, helping her into her seat like a gentleman. His mother would be proud. "They're cuddling now," he announced.
Snape looked at McGonagall. "More pictures?"
"Oh, yes," she said with a fond air. She looked at Professor Arion, who was looking a tad bit smug himself. "Did you think this would happen?"
"I think they've both been sleeping so poorly that it doesn't matter to them. Is the water staying warm?" The teachers nodded. "Then let them wake up in their own time. I'm sure the shrieks will alert us if the streaking bodies don't."
"None of them can run," Fred said helpfully.
"I bet it won't stop them from it this time," Ginny put in. "They did look adorable. Was Harry playing with Malfoy and Ron's bodies or was he rubbing the babies? I couldn't tell." For the second time that morning, Dumbledore choked on his breakfast. She gave him a bright grin. "Sorry, sir, but they say that certain times during your pregnancy make you extremely horny."
"That's my girl," Fred said proudly, patting her on the head. He looked at his brother. "Only *our* little sister would dare utter that word at breakfast."
"Especially around teachers," George agreed with a smile of his own. "Smashing point, Ginny."
"Oh, shut it, you two," she said with fond intolerance. "I am old enough to realize what I just said and who I said it to."
McGonagall cleared her throat. "Mr. Potter was rubbing Mr. Malfoy's stomach, nothing below his navel," she assured the girl.
"Poo. I always wondered how gay men did it," she sighed in defeat. Everyone but Ares looked at her. "Well, it's got to be different, doesn't it? There's no direct spot to stick things or to play with."
"We'll tell you how it's done later," Fred assured her while George patted her on the back. "Were you thinking about asking to go between two gay men?" Dumbledore choked again and glared at them. "I know a few who might not mind."
George looked at him. "Who?"
"I'll tell you later," Fred told him. "I was sworn to secrecy when I caught them in Filch's office last month and the other set in Herbology during classes."
George nodded. "Please. It's mean not to share such juicy things with your own brother. It's not like I haven't shared everything with you since we were a single cell. We even shared bodily fluids at one point in time."
"Enough," Dumbledore said firmly. He carefully put down his silverware. "This is not a breakfast discussion. I'm not sure you should be having it inside the school at all, so please do it in private and away from a spot where you might be overheard."
"Yes, sir," the twins said in unison.
"Yes, sir," Ginny said a moment later.
Snape shook his head. "Or where I can hear it," he ordered. "I don't need to know that much about anybody's life."
"Yes, sir," Fred told him. "Oh, you're out of the paste that goes into the stretchmark stuff."
"I'll order more this afternoon," Snape agreed casually. "How are you coming with that last one? The one to ease aches?"
"The lubricant or the other one?" George asked.
"The last one. The pain killing syrup and gel."
"It's not coming together exactly right. It's staying amber and smells very strongly of cat urine." McGonagall's spoon hit the bowl. "Sorry, ma'am."
"I'm sure it's necessary, but that's not something I want to hear about either. I'd almost rather the other topic of discussion came back."
"We can do that," George offered with a grin.
"No, you can't," Dumbledore told him. He looked at the younger seeming professor. They listened to him and he seemed to have it well in hand so far. "If you wouldn't mind waking the threesome upstairs later?"
"Not a problem," Ares agreed with a smile. "I think they'd be cute if they could work out a way to not kill each other."
"Malfoys and Weasleys are ancient enemies," Ginny told him. "Otherwise I might have thought Malfoy cute."
"You have better taste than that," Fred said firmly. He tickled her until she squealed and agreed by nodding. "Thank you. Our sister will not shag a Malfoy."
"Imagine the babies," George said with a horrified tone of voice.
"Imagine mum's face when she found out," Ginny countered.
"Dad's," Fred countered.
"Oooh, Percy's!" Ginny said, trumping him. The twins both groaned and shook their heads, letting out a little shudder.
George perked up, thinking of something. "Professor Snape's," he said with an evil smirk for the teacher. Ginny made a 'huh' noise. "Because some of us were marginal anyway, including you, so the child would have to go to Slytherin, and he'd have to deal with it."
"Please, no more," Snape begged quietly. "That is the most disturbing thought I've had since I found out Mr. Malfoy was pregnant and figured out he must have become that way." McGonagall stared at him. "Think about the child being in *your* house," he offered.
"I wouldn't have to, Severus, I'd be drinking myself into a coma at that point," she said with a smile.
"No Weasley should be allowed anywhere near Slytherin," Snape told her.
"Better you than me at the moment," she offered. "You could probably have handled Mr. Weasley's temper better than I have."
"The hat had reasons for putting him into Gryffindor, Minerva," Dumbledore told them as he stood up. "I believe I have paperwork to do for the Ministry. I'll see you later." His 'if I regain my appetite' was left unsaid but understood by all. The other teachers quickly followed suit, Professor Arion grinning at them as he walked away.
"I believe we drove them off," Fred noted.
"Indeed, smashing of us of course," George agreed. They laughed, leaning on their little sister to hold themselves up.
"Does this mean I get to tell mum about Ron's dick rubbing against Draco's and Harry trying to molest Draco from behind?" Ginny asked. The twins looked horrified and ran out to try and wake them up again. She snickered. "Suckers. Loony as a bird and so very gullible." The other girl looked at her and she winked. "It pays to be the youngest sometimes." Someone screamed from the hallway. "I think someone got them with something," she said innocently, taking a bite of her bangers.
"Your whole family is strange," the other girl told her. "Very funny, but so very strange." Ginny smirked at her. "Please don't do what they did and get our year pregnant as well."
"Only a man could have come up with that spell," Ginny said with a snort. "No woman would ever make other women pregnant. Now the men," she said, smiling again. "That was a pure stroke of genius. The original person's wife must have added that part. We've been doing it so long. It's about time they know what we go through."
"Do you think any of them will ever have another?" the girl asked.
Ginny shook her head. "I heard a great quote from my mother. If men had to have the babies, we'd all be only children." She ate a bite of egg. "Want something from this side of the table? Professor Arion left some of that jello stuff he has to eat for his stomach condition down here." The other girl shook her head so Ginny grabbed some for herself, nibbling on it. She spit it back out. "Eww. Tastes nasty. Now I know it's medicine." She pushed the bowl away.
Upstairs, Strife had just popped into his uncle's office. "I just saw the little spitfire taste some of your ambrosia," he said smugly. "You forgot it on the table."
Ares grumbled something impolite and waved his hand, bringing it to him so he could eat it himself. "Did she ingest any?"
"She tasted some and spit it back out. You got damn lucky. I can't imagine Zeus or Hera puttin' up with her."
"She's definitely lighten the place up," Ares said optimistically. "Strife, I need you or Cupid to run an errand for me." His nephew looked attentive. "I need you to pick up the boys some condoms so Ron can scratch his itch in safety." Strife's face brightened up. "Just something nice. Without all those nubs, just in case he's too sensitive."
"Sure. I found this great condom place online. I'll get him the sensations pack and a box'a the ones he'll like most." He winked and left with a flourish.
"Ginny Weasley wouldn't make a half-bad Goddess," Ares told himself as he ate his ambrosia, "but I agree, Hera wouldn't be able to stand her. Though, neither would Athena and it might just be worth it to see the look on that wench's face." A roll of thunder went off outside his window. "Yes, Zeus, I won't forget it on the table again," he agreed, finishing off the bowl. "There, happier?" It disappeared.
Strife appeared in the Prefect's bathroom, grinning down at the boys who were starting to wake up. "Get up," he said, moving to dunk them. Harry swatted at his hand.
"Strife," Ron growled.
"Damn, you do sound like Unc," Strife said with a grin. "How'd you know, kid?"
Ron looked up at him, blinking hard. "You glow in the dim lights around here. It's kind of obvious. What are you doing in here?"
"Arion sent me to get some stuff for ya," he said, handing over the bag. "Don't get 'em wet."
Ron flipped over so he could open them on the side of the tub. "What're these?" he asked looking at the boxes. "Condoms?"
"Birth control," Harry told him sleepily. He lifted his head to look at them. "A lot of birth control. Ron, did you need that much?" He noticed their visitor and looked at him. "Who're you?"
"Strife, God of Mischief," he said with a grin. "Also known as that messenger who helps Professor Arion. He wanted Ron to have those." He sat in midair, looking down at the boy. "Do you know how to use those or should I find Cupe to give you a lesson?"
"Cupe is Cupid?" Ron asked. Strife looked impressed. "Does that mean that Arion is Ares? He kinda looks like the picture in the library."
"You'll have to ask him, I can't talk about those sort of things," Strife said immediately.
Draco opened his eyes. "As fascinating as this lecture in muggle birth control is, it's not like it's not a little late."
"It too keep him from getting hit again," Strife pointed out. "Now, can ya figure it out or not?"
"I think I can," Ron said, opening one of the ones he had a lot of to look at it. "I roll it on me?"
"Just like it's rolled there," Strife agreed, nodding. "Try it now, that one's able to be used in water." Ron slid it on. "Leave a little room, that's what that funny thing at the tip is for." It was adjusted and rolled down. "Good job. Now, is the slimy side out or in?"
"Out," Ron told him. "This is kind of neat." He looked at him. "That's all there is to this?"
"Ya might need some extra lube or stuff. I brought you some," Strife said, pointing at the tubes. "Remember to change between times and either have one used whenever someone's taking you or when you're taking someone. Whoever's doin' the penetration stuff." Ron nodded. "Plus, I bought more than enough so you could share with blond boy." He winked and fizzled out.
"Wow," Harry said, looking at the condoms. "Extra thin? Mint? They come in flavors?"
"Why?" Draco asked. He picked up the box. "Oh, for safe oral sex." He shook his head as he put it back down. "That's what germ spells are for."
"Muggles wouldn't have those," Ron pointed out as he touched himself. "These are kind of thick. I guess it'd be hard to feel as much through them. I guess that's why there's extra thin ones." He looked at Harry. "Now all I have to do is find someone to use them with." Both boys looked at him. "What?" he asked cautiously.
"That was the most blatant suggestion I've ever heard," Draco said smugly. Ron splashed him. He wiped off his face. "Not me then? I'm hurt."
Ron shifted closer. "I don't think you could keep up." He gathered all his treats together and put them back into the bag, then climbed out of the tub. He heard the soft noises behind him and turned. "What?"
"You're really showing now, Ron," Harry told him, getting out to trace the bulge. Before the baby had been a slight bulge, just something to fill in the missing weight and start to make Ron's body change. Now his stomach was protruding and it looked so adorable. Ron moaned as he stroked over the sensitive lump. "You're going to be huge," he said in appreciation.
Draco stood up and looked down at himself. "I'm not showing that much. I guess I'm not carrying large," he said, sounding happy about that.
"What did your mother carry like?" Harry asked absently.
"I don't know, I didn't ask her." He shrugged when both boys looked at him. "It's not like we talk."
"What about pictures?" Ron suggested. "My mum has one from each of us at about this stage and one right before she delivered."
"My mother banned cameras coming near her."
"You'd think she was the bloody queen," Harry said in disgust. "Most women see giving birth as a privilege, not an encumbrance."
"Yes, but my mother only had me so she had an heir," Draco pointed out miserably. "No joy at all in having us."
Ron gave him a hug. "It's all right, you can change that in your family. Since there's no siblings, you parents can't go around you."
"Good point," Draco agreed, brightening up. He looked down at him. "You look odd like that."
"I know." Ron looked down at himself. He shrugged. "I guess I'll get used to it."
"You're only supposed to wear them during sex," Harry pointed out gently. "Not all day."
"I had plans of using some of them," Ron told him with a big grin. "Wanna help?"
"RON!" Harry blushed bright red. "I...I'm not like that!"
Draco snorted. "That's because you've never tried it." He grabbed his robe. "What time is it?"
"I don't know, sometime after breakfast I bet," Ron told him, looking out the window. "I'd say nearly noon."
"I'll see you at lunch then," he said as he walked away, filching a few of the new things to try out himself. They might not be so bad and they were definitely a novel experience. He met his head of house in the common room. "Sorry, sir." A picture was handed to him and he frowned. "Blackmail won't work on me. They were giving me wonderful rubs all night while attending to my every desire."
"They weren't touching you like that," Snape said smugly, sure he had him this time.
"Do you think they're going to go with my version of events or yours?" Draco countered? "Mine will only get them picked on a little. Yours will get them trounced by their own house and family." He strolled up to his room to shower and get dressed. He heard the muttering and grinned evilly. "You need practice," he told himself. "Maybe I'll tell them about the pictures." He went to wash himself. Not that he was dirty, but his hair could use the help.
Ron and Harry stumbled into the tower and found the twins standing there, shaking their heads. "What?" Harry asked.
"Sleeping with Malfoy?" George asked.
"We didn't *sleep* with him," Ron snorted. "We napped in the same space." He smirked at them. "Trust me, if I had gotten hold of him that way, he'd be limping." Both twins looked shocked so he had done it properly. "Come on, Harry, I want to read about these condom things before I use them." He led his stunned friend up the stairs to their rooms.
"What's a condom?" Fred called.
"Muggle birth control," Ron called back. "It's really kind of neat."
The twins hurried up the stairs and into their little brother's room, looking at his nude body. "Is that it?" Fred asked. Ron nodded. "How does it work?"
"It's a barrier," Harry said, laying down on his own bed.
"Well," George said, smiling at his brother. "Who are you going to use them on?" Ron shrugged. "You haven't chosen?"
"There's not many people here," Ron pointed out. He took it off himself and went to the bathroom. "I'm showering."
"Save me some hot water," Harry said automatically.
"Didn't we take that spell off?" George asked his twin.
"I guess not." Fred waved his wand at the bathroom. "Finite Incantantum," he said. Ron howled. "Sorry, cold?"
"No, hot!" he shouted, and the sound of the water changed. "There, better."
"What did you do?" Harry asked.
"So many of us wanted cold showers that we put a finite limit on the hot water," George told him. "That way we could all get in there."
"Oh." He nodded. "We don't do much of that this year."
"Just wait," Fred said knowingly. "Any word from Hermi?"
"I haven't gotten any mail today," Harry pointed out. "What time is it?"
"About a half-hour until lunch starts," Fred told him, smiling at him. "Do we have to threaten you to treat our brother well?"
"I like girls," Harry said firmly.
George snorted. "That's because you've never tried it."
"I'm tired of hearing that," Harry told him, but he was smiling. "I'm more than capable of going up to someone and asking them what they got out of it."
Both twins shook their heads. "Dumbass," George told him. He went in to talk to his brother. "If you jump Harry, you'll have to use restraints at first."
"Why would I want to jump him?" Ron asked. He stuck his head out of the shower. "Who said I was going to jump him?"
"Oh." George shrugged. "I figured he'd be your first choice, he's safe and you know him." Ron glared at him. "Okay, never mind, it's your life and you can shag whomever you like, Ron." He backed out of the bathroom. "Harry?" he asked. "Who has our brother been shagging?"
"He doesn't share that with me," Harry reminded him.
"Oh," Fred said, looking toward the bathroom. "Ron, is that what you've been trying to hide?" A curse hit him, making him wobble and fall over, screaming in pain.
"Nice one," George called. It hit him as well. He fell on top of his brother.
Harry looked down at them. "That's an interesting one, which one is it?"
"Jelly legs and pain mimic," Ron said as he came out of the bathroom. "All yours." He waited until Harry had went in and closed the door, then got down to look at his older brothers. "Drop it," he said coldly. "If I wanted you to know about my partners, I'd tell you or mum." He smiled, staying cold. "Do not question me that way again, especially not in front of Harry." Both twins smirked at him. "You have no idea what you've just stumbled into, so back out now and never mention this topic again," he said, then he stood up. He freed them. "Now go away. I'll see you at lunch." They stood up and grabbed him, dragging him up to their old room.
"Give!" George demanded, not looking pleased.
"I'm not telling you!"
"Now!" Fred put in, crossing his arms. "We wanted to know if you were in trouble, Ron. You knew that. How could you get into trouble and not tell us!"
"It's not like you could have helped, it would have made it worse!" Ron shouted. "You have *no* idea what goes on in parts of this school. Not a single bloody clue so leave it be!"
"Ron," George said, trying to sound reasonable. "The only place we don't go is down to that little room on the first floor past the dungeons. If you've gone down there, we would have heard."
Ron snorted. "That's not the place I'm thinking of." He turned but his brothers caught him and made him face them again. "I'm not telling you."
"Then let us fill in some things that we've figured out," George said. He nodded at he door and Fred went to close it so there wasn't anyway Harry could overhear. "You're being blackmailed or forced to do things somehow." Ron's mouth opened. "The only thing we don't know is what it's over. If you tell us, we can fix it."
"Especially if it's blackmail," Fred offered. "We can beat them fairly well."
"Oh, yeah, because that'll help. My big brothers to the rescue," Ron said bitterly. "It's bad enough I have to live with you two's reputations, plus everyone else's. If I told you, this would get so much worse and *everyone* would know. Neither of those is worth it."
Fred blocked the door. "No, let us finish." He put an arm around his shoulders. "We think we know who. So just nod."
"I'm not going to!" Ron shouted, getting free. "Do you realize how bad that will make it for me? I'll have to transfer! Or just leave!"
"We watched Percy go through some stuff, Ron, it can't be as bad as that."
"Bet me," Ron snorted. "I can guarantee it is."
"Nobody laughed when his came out," George offered. Ron glared at him. "Fine, keep it inside. I'm going to ask Bill."
"Bill doesn't know everything either, just what you've already figured out. There is *nothing* you can do to fix this." He took a deep breath before he lost his temper again. "I might have been able to live through this year and gotten free if it wasn't for your arrogance and desire to cause me problems! Do you have *any* idea how much longer you prolonged this for me?"
"Ron, tell us and it'll stop!" George shouted back. Ron shoved him, knocking him back onto someone's bed.
"That was childish," Fred pointed out casually. "If it's not downstairs then you must be part of that group in the rom below Divinations." Ron shook his head, starting to laugh. "Then it's not sexual?"
"You have no idea," Ron repeated, leaving the room. He stomped back downstairs and got dressed, then headed down to lunch without waiting. He found his favorite teacher waiting by the doors. "Can you teach me something to eliminate older brothers?" he asked as he breezed past him. The teacher grabbed his arm and drug him out, down the hall a bit. "What?"
"How did you realize he was Strife?"
"You guys all have your pictures in the library," Ron pointed out. "You should have removed it or made it obscure or something. I sit across from it every time we go in there because Hermione likes to sit under Athena's picture." He smirked at him. "Not that I'm telling anyone."
"Thank you. I'm here to keep this from going postal."
"Mail?" Ron asked.
"Exploding rage," Ares corrected. "American postal workers sometimes lose it and end up shooting their coworkers over frustration."
"Wicked," Ron breathed. "Can I have a gun to blow my brothers away?"
"No, but you can tell me why and I'll help protect you," Ares offered. He saw the indecision. "Think about some of the thoughts I've seen and heard over the years, kid, it's not that bad to me." Ron leaned closer and whispered, making Ares close his eyes and shake his head. "So you got caught?" Ron nodded. "Let me guess, they've taken over as a form of *favor*?" Ron nodded, looking grimmer. "Then you leave it to me."
"If they found out, my life is gone."
"If they're not stopped, they'll try for your sister next year." Ron snorted. "You think she won't? I'm thinking it's not that hard to do. They may have even set you up."
"I'm sure they did," Ron agreed. "I'm still not wanting to tell anyone or let them know anyone knows."
Ares smirked. "I can make it seem like they're being punished for other things, really. They're all fuckups and don't deserve a nice kid like you." He gave him a pat on the back. "You still don't like blonds? Cupid said you were cute."
"Wonderful, but I can't touch a blond without shuddering."
"Eh, I still say it'll be solved when you're older." He led the boy back into the Great Hall. "Relax. It's handled, Ron. Leave it to me to worry about them and see me after lunch for a sparring spell." Ron nodded, taking his seat. Harry rushed in and relaxed when he saw the smile. "Ah, the other one I wanted to see," Arion said dryly. "Because of what happened this morning, I'm going to have to insist that you be the buffer between Ron and Draco, Potter." Harry's mouth opened. "I know you don't like him, but they're too emotional about all this and everyone else has someone who isn't pregnant attached to them. It should help in the long run."
"I didn't know Madam Pomfrey can change her spell," Ron said.
"She can't, but she can link him to both of you if Draco doesn't protest too much."
"As long as I get more backrubs," Draco said with a shrug. "Weasley, are we still on for my skincare person?"
Ron looked stunned. "Sure, Malfoy. Thank you for inviting me."
"Not a problem. I hate doing things like that alone. It leaves you without anyone to talk to." He looked at Harry. "He's still gaping."
"It's not every day that you get told you're going to have to help your enemy," Harry told him, coming over to sit down. "Does that mean I'll feel the cramps?"
"No, you'll be their buddy. The one they practice breathing with and all that," Arion told him. "Ron, not the forest." Everyone looked at Ron. "Promise me."
"I'm not having this kid in this school," Ron told him. "You know that."
"The forest isn't a better choice," Ares pointed out. "Hide down at Hagrid's or something." He smiled. "I'm sure he knows something about birth."
McGonagall looked down at Ron. "We will not allow you to leave the school for the forest when your time comes, Mr. Weasley. We will take the utmost precautions to make sure no one sees the child until your mother comes up, but we will not let you go into the forest."
"I'm trying to talk mum into letting me deliver at home but she's being firm."
"Flooing would be worse," McGonagall assured him. "You'll do it here and you'll be protected." He nodded. "Thank you. Though if you told one of us why it'd be easier to protect you." Arion tapped the table, making her look at him. He gave a subtle nod. "Oh. You did?" Ron nodded. "Fine. Then I'll let him arrange for your safety since it seems that you'll be worried about that."
"Oh, there's a reason and he was right not to share it with you," Ares told her gently. Harry sighed. "Or you." Harry nodded. "So we'll let me handle him and blond boy. You get the twins."
"All afternoon?" she asked with a smirk. Ares nodded. "Good," she purred, looking smug. "I think I can find a few things for them to do around the castle." Snape and Dumbledore walked in. "We will not say anything more on this subject," she assured Ron, but looked at Draco. Who shrugged.
"I've already said I don't care to know," he pointed out. "It's nothing to do with me. I know I'm not the one he's in danger from." Snape looked at him as he sat down. "Weasley let more slip but in a way that would protect him further."
"Good. Do you need help protecting him?" Snape asked Arion. Ares shook his head, smiling. "If you need something from me, come tell me."
Ron coughed. "Professor Snape, how is Madam Pomfrey doing with the plans for everyone giving birth at once?" Snape looked down at him, looking confused. "I ask because I found a spell while researching concealment charms that would delay birth for a few days."
"Hmm." He looked thoughtful. "I'd have to see it to make sure it had no side effects. Bring it to me later."
"Yes, sir. I'll send it down with Harry."
"Thank you." He smiled at the boy. "How are you feeling?"
"Much better. She hasn't kicked or squirmed since I got out of the bath."
"Wonderful news," McGonagall said happily. "And you, Draco?"
"Just fine, Professor. A tad bit hungry." He nibbled on a piece of chicken. "It was very soothing to rest that way. The baby didn't complain at all."
"If necessary, we'll arrange for you to spend more time in the water as you get larger," Dumbledore decided. "I've heard it takes some of the strain off your back and legs." The twins walked in. "So good of you to join us. Where is your sister?"
"She's come in and made a sandwich or three and left to sit outside and watch the snow fall," McGonagall told him with a smile. "She said the light was making it very pretty from the mezzanine."
"Oh, indeed," he said happily. "One should always take time to appreciate beauty." He smiled at the pregnant people and Harry. "I heard you were going to be linked to them. Is that all right with you?"
"You know I'd do anything to help Ron, sir. What about Hermione though?"
"I think she and Mr. Longbottom would do nicely together. They've been chatting a lot recently and they seem to be getting closer." Harry nodded. "Then that would be fine with you?"
"Sure, if she's not going to throw a fit."
"I think she'll come back very calm," McGonagall said. "This is the time when you start feeling like a Goddess according to my sisters. You feel like a real part of nature and stay calm for most of a month."
"Hopefully," Ron agreed. Draco looked at him. "I'd like to feel calm."
"I'm sure you'll feel calm soon," Harry said encouragingly. "After you're done with him, want to have a snowball fight?"
"Sure!" Ron said happily. He accepted the chicken from Draco, but not the salad. "I think she's veggied out," he said happily, pulling down the chocolate pudding so it rested in front of him.
"Ron, the presents are in our room," Fred told him. "Do you want them in the common room or at the foot of your bed, like usual?"
"Either's fine," Ron told him. "What did Ginny want?"
"A tree in the common room, like it was home."
"Then that's fine with me," Ron agreed happily. He gave up on the real food and dug into the pudding. Not scooping it into another bowl, just diving in with his spoon. There was another bowl on the table already. He caught Harry smiling at him. "If I eat veggies late at night, think I'll get to eat a frog tomorrow?"
"Hopefully," Harry agreed. "Have fun. Remember to eat something like real food eventually though. That way no one can nag."
"Good point." Ron dug back in, scooping some of the pudding onto his chicken. It was grilled and bland, this perked it right up.
"Try doing that with the banana pudding," Draco encouraged. "I found it rather refreshing."
"Next meal," Ron told him. "I've missed chocolate." He dug in, not seeing anyone's faintly disgusted looks. Though Harry continued to smile through his disgust. It looked a little more plastic, but it was still there. He scraped his plate and took the bowl of pudding with him when he followed Draco from the room.
Harry looked down at the teachers. "Is that normal?"
Ares nodded. "Definitely. My sister used to eat pickles and ice cream. Raspberry ice cream." The other teachers looked sick. "You have to learn to sit there and not watch them eat, but stick up for their choices. Pregnancy is a new way of learning coping skills." He finished his ambrosia and put the bowl aside. "I think I'm going to go for a walk in the woods. See if there's anything out there that could use a good fight." He got up and walked out.
Harry looked at Dumbledore. "Sir, didn't you have children?"
"Yes, but I was traveling when I found out. I managed to miss this the first time." He smiled. "I've been wondering if she cursed me to go through it again." McGonagall patted his hand. "Thank you, Minerva." He finished his own lunch. "You'll have to persevere. We'll remove anyone who's food gets too disruptive."
Harry gave him a grateful look. "Thank you, sir. I don't think I could take someone like Professor Arion's sister eating near me and keep my own food down." He dug in.
The teachers gave each other a lackluster look and put down their utensils. That was too much for them.
When everyone came back from the holidays they were surprised. Ron Weasley was calm. He was glowing. He was walking upright and not angry in the least! He even told jokes in the halls. There was mass speculation about what happened over the holidays, some of it eased when Draco emerged from the infirmary the next day and was in the same condition. Of course, more rumors spread, including why they were both glowing like that at the same time. Neither boy paid any attention to it, but they did listen, laughing with their friends when they were alone.
Hermione stopped Ron on her third night back. "How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Much better. My mother took me to a doctor and she said I was right on track and those lulls were natural. She said it was nothing."
"You have a female doctor?" Ron asked, sitting beside her. She nodded. "Wow. Is it much different?"
"Not really. She was surprised that the school wasn't sending me home early this year, but I explained that we had a full clinic here. My mother wants to bring me home to deliver in a hospital."
"Then how would Harry see it?" Ron asked.
She frowned. "I'm giving her to my parents for adoption, Ron, don't you think that'd only hurt him?"
"I think you should ask him that," Harry said from behind them. He smiled at her. "I still want to see the baby. However much time I can get actually. I'm going to have to talk to your parents about asking to be a favorite uncle somehow. I'm not abandoning this child."
"You can't be serious," Hermione told him.
"Think about it, this is his only family," Ron said delicately. "He'll want to know them. Especially if it's his only one."
"I'm not sure my parents would go for that," she admitted. "I can write and ask them."
"No, I'll write and ask them," Harry told her. She nodded. "Thank you, Hermione." He gave her a hug. "Ron, want something worked on?"
"No thanks. I'm pretty good. No more pains or anything." He grinned. "Am I really glowing?" Harry nodded. "Wow." He looked over as someone stumbled on the stairs. "All right there, Neville?" he called.
"Fine, Ron, my foot slipped," Neville said, giving him a smile. "Any more cramps?"
"I don't think so. I haven't had one in over a week, it's nearly a record for me." Hermione grunted. "Are you okay?"
"Just fine. Harry, may I have you work on my shoulders?"
"Sure. Get a chair I can do that from or we'll move to a couch if you want," he offered.
She smiled and stood up, taking over a half-full couch, but sitting sideways so he could reach her back. "Thank you for still taking care of me," she said quietly.
"You know I'm not abandoning you," he reminded her.
"I can't imagine how bad it must have been with Ron and Draco bound."
"We still are and he wasn't that bad," Ron said, stopping all conversation in the room. He smiled around. "He was pretty decent to me so far. We're staying polite if nothing else." The other kids gave him a funny look and went back to their books. He heard one whisper about the parent of his daughter and threw a pillow at his sister, who looked shocked. "No, he's not," he said coolly.
"That's the Ron we've gotten used to," Angelina Johnson teased. She gave him a hug. "I know you have better taste than that, Ron." She went back to her friends.
Ron relaxed in the chair, getting comfortable. He drifted off, chin on his chest. The rest of the house tiptoed around him, just in case the angry Ron came back.
The time came, as it does in every pregnant person's life, when they no longer have to be pregnant. Of course, the resident princess had to go first. In the middle of the night. When he was comfily tucked into his bed in his house and far away from the people who could help him. The discomfort woke him, as the fake labor pains had been doing. But this one got worse and worse, making him grab onto the headboard and hold on for dear life while it flowed over him. His scream woke most of the rest of the house, and the few who weren't woken by him were woken by Ron pounding on the portrait.
Their portrait had refused to participate in the special passwords program and refused to let him into the house, even if Draco was with him. The portrait decided to stick this time and not let anyone open it to let him in so Ron hurried to get Professor Snape from his room. He would make the portrait open. He pounded on his painting, getting an answer in the form of a pissed off teacher. "Draco's in real labor and the portrait won't open from the inside this time," he said quickly.
"Let me get my robe," Snape said, grabbing it off the foot of his bed and hurrying after the young man. The portrait opened by force and they hurried inside to get the young man out of the house before it got stuck again. They found Crabble and Goyle surrounding Draco and him begging for Potter because at least he wouldn't kill his child. Ron shoved both men out of his way, taking the direct approach to get Draco out of bed. "Breathe," he reminded him.
"Breathe, Malfoy, or I'm going to hit you again," Ron told him.
"You haven't hit me in years," Draco sneered as he came down.
"And? I can still hit you again." Ron helped him up as soon as he could. "Professor Snape, would you please get Harry up?" The professor looked stunned. "He said he wanted him there, I'm going to honor that wish." He walked Draco out and up to the infirmary, putting him into a bed until Madam Pomfrey could finish getting dressed. He even got him stripped down and covered with a sheet. "How's that?"
"Better," Draco admitted. "Oh!" He grabbed Ron's hand and squeezed, panting through the pain. "I hate this."
Ron waited until the pain peeked. "At least you're not having a kid the size of Goyle," he said, making Draco huff in laughter as he came back down. "Repeat that to yourself. The kid's not as big as him. Or Hagrid."
"No, not that big," Draco agreed, starting to breathe again. The nurse hurried in. "It's about time!" She glared at him. "I'm in pain!"
"The pain is natural," she assured him. "It's prepayment for the pain you'll cause the child."
"I'm going to be a bloody good father!" Draco yelled.
"I think she meant the little things, like when you ground it because it tried to beat up on your mother for you," Ron soothed.
"That's why I don't anyone from my house in here. I've gotten reports that she's put a price on the baby's head. Plus mine if she can manage it. She's apparently wanting to be a mother again," he said bitterly. "If I die then she'll have to provide another heir."
"And think what that one will be like," Ron quipped. He gripped Draco's hand as the pains started again. "They're rather fast."
"Let me get the tray I've made up so I can check him," Madam Pomfrey told them, hurrying to get it. She came back and checked him. "I think you're about six or so," she told him. "Probably by morning or at least by lunch."
"Then I want something for the pain!" Draco demanded. "I've had enough of this, thank you." He looked at Ron, who looked like he was in pain. "I'd better not feel it when you go off. It was bad enough feeling you get kicked last night."
"It's a mirror, Mr. Malfoy, it won't hurt you as much."
"Then he's got to be in stunning pain," Draco told her. "His daughter kicks strongly."
"Let's concentrate on getting you through this before we worry about me," Ron told him. Secretly, he wasn't looking forward to this, even though the spell was holding off the labor until hopefully the end of school. There was less than a month left and he could hold on that long. If horses and unicorns could hold off for weeks until they felt safe, he could too.
Draco looked at him. "If I have to go through this twice, I'm going to make your child an orphan," he hissed as the pains started to get worse. "Can't you bloody well cut it out!" he demanded.
"No, Mr. Malfoy. This isn't that bad."
"Millions of women have went through this."
"I'm not a woman!" he shouted, throwing the pillow at her. "I'm going to kill the twins, Weasley."
"Go for it. I'm sure others will say the same thing," Ron agreed with a smile. Draco glared at him and he smiled brighter. "It's not twins."
"Another good thought," Draco agreed.
Snape stormed into Gryffindor tower and up the stairs, slamming open the door to the fifth year boys' room. "Potter!" Harry sat straight up, looking scared. "Your presence is requested in the infirmary."
Harry put on his glasses and looked around. "Ron? Why didn't he wake me?" he asked as he climbed out of bed and pulled on shirt and his robe.
"Malfoy," Snape corrected dryly. "He thinks you'll protect the child from the assassins his mother's hired."
"Sure thing, Professor," Harry said as he grabbed his wand. "I'll stop and get him some ice on the way up." He jogged past him, heading down the stairs at a run and down to the kitchen to get some ice for Draco to suck on, and some drinks for him and Ron. As soon as he had it, he hurried upstairs and pushed past Draco's usual crowd. "Ron!" he said, moving into the cubicle. "Half of Slytherin must be out there." He handed over the cup of ice chips. "To suck on since you can't have a real drink."
"If I could, I wouldn't be in pain," Draco told him. He took a slow, deep breath. "How far apart are they now?"
"About five minutes," Ron assured him. "By morning definitely." Draco nodded and let Ron sponge his forehead. "I hate this," Ron told Harry. The nurse came back in. "Is anyone else going off?"
"No, but I've sent the others off." She looked at Potter. "You can put your wand away."
"No," Draco said firmly, overriding her with a glare. "My mother offered a thousand galleons to kill the child if it's born alive. I want Potter to have his wand out and my head of house to be sitting up here as well."
"He's on his way up, he's making you some pain medicine," she said, watching as he started to breathe hard. "How long between them?"
"He's having three and then there's a five minute gap and three more," Ron told her.
"That's not unusual for a witch," Madam Pomfrey assured him. "Is this the second or third of this set?"
"Third," Ron told her.
"Good boy. Tell me if he has any that make his voice go up, that's an indication that he's dilating faster." Ron nodded. "Feed him the ice chips between, not during." She bustled off, letting the Headmaster through the students in the hallway. "He wants you to go back to your own house!" she told them. "Leave! You're upsetting him!"
"He asked for his enemy," Pansy pouted. "We have to protect him."
"He's very well protected," Dumbledore assured her. "He's more worried about someone taking his mother up on her offer and knows Potter won't hurt the baby. You may see them both tomorrow, probably after breakfast." They started to trudge off.
"What offer?" Pansy demanded.
"His mother offered money to have someone kill the child, because it would mean that Draco wasn't emancipated and their former position in the family was resumed," Snape said from behind her. "He has every reason to worry." She started to cry. "Go back to the house. I'll watch over him myself." She nodded, walking off with the last of the Slytherins. "How is he?"
"Grouped sets," Madam Pomfrey told him.
"Two or three?"
"Three." She led him back to the cubicle and let him into it. "Everyone else has been run off," she told him. "I'm going to be at my desk." Everyone nodded so she left.
Draco looked at his head of house. "Tell me you have pain medicine," he begged.
Snape smiled. "I might."
Draco came off the bed and grabbed him by the throat. "Then go get me some," he growled in his face. "Before this fucking child rips my insides in two and I die from it!"
Ron got his hands free. "Please, Professor, he really would like some pain medicine," he said soothingly. He let Draco crush his hands as another one came over him. "Relax and focus on the happy thoughts," he said gently.
"It's not as big as Hagrid or Goyle. It's not twins," Draco started to repeat, over and over.
Snape rubbed his throat. "I have some started but it will take another ten minutes to finish warming. One of the twins will bring it up as soon as it's the right temperature." Draco relaxed as the pain ended. "I'm going to be standing outside until they bring it up." He left them alone, taking the ice pack Dumbledore had for him. "He's very strong," he noted.
"I think you should probably have more pain medicine on hand," Dumbledore said gently. "At least for your house and Ms. Granger."
Draco screamed, his voice going up.
"Oh, good, he's dilating more," Poppy said with a smile. Harry came out. "I heard, dear, I'll check after this one is done with," she said with a smile for him. "You really could put it away."
"He wants me to have it out and I agree. His father's a slimy bastard who'd stop at nothing to get his hands on the family fortune again," Harry told her. He went back in and Draco started to swear again.
Professor Arion breezed in. "Sorry, had to send my lover back home," he said with a smile. "Where is he?" He got pointed at the cubicle the swearing and panting was coming from. "He's first?"
"So far," Madam Pomfrey agreed. "He's a week early." She looked at him. "It's a bit crowded."
"You should move him to isolation," Snape advised. "That way he'd have more privacy and the others would have chairs."
"Good point." She led the way back inside. "We're moving you down the hall to isolation, Mr. Malfoy. That way you can scream your bloody head off and no one will hear you." He gave her a weak smile as one of the twins came in with a large beaker. "Ah, here it is," she said in relief. "All that, Severus?"
"Sixteen grams of it," he said, handing over the right amount. Draco slugged it back with a grateful sigh. "Can we move the bed or should we try to have him walk?"
"I can carry him," Ares offered. "Where is the isolation ward?"
"Down at the end of the hall," she said, getting out of his way, and the two boys following him. "That was easy enough," she said briskly as she followed him. She watched as they arranged themselves around the bed and checked him again. "Good, yes, definitely up to seven now. Another few hours, Mr. Malfoy." He giggled and waved at her. "Are you happier now?"
"Immensely," he said in a slightly tipsy voice. "Thank Professor Snape for me, ma'am. He's brilliant and a saver of my sanity."
Ron looked at him. "I want some of that when my time comes." Madam Pomfrey laughed as she left them alone.
"I want you to have some of that too, or else you'll slug me," Harry agreed. Ron grinned at him.
"You should be having his," Draco slurred. "Not letting wonder bitch have yours."
"I don't think he'd enjoy that," Ron told him, giving him a pat on the hand.
"The rest of us would," Draco said with a funny looking smirk. "It'd invalidate the prophecy as well. Make a lot of people less anxious about him."
"I'll knock someone else up this summer," Harry promised. "I'll even let her announce it to the world."
"Good. You do that. Get Ginny or someone nice who'll be a good mother." His head rolled in the other direction. "Or him, he'd be able to protect it."
Ares snorted. "Kid, I don't bottom for anyone."
"I said the same thing," Draco told him happily. "Look at me now! With girl parts."
"Yeah, but I mean it and can enforce it," Ares assured him, patting him on the hand. "No more pains?"
Draco shrugged. "How should I know? I can't feel my body anymore."
"I think he took too much," Harry told him.
"Bite me," Draco told him. "It's better this way." He smiled again. "Just wait and see, you'll go through this some day. Ron might be fertile forever!"
"What?" Ron asked, stunned. He looked at their professor, who shrugged. "Is he right?"
"There's a thought that says you got so much it might happen that way," Ares admitted with a wry look. "Of course, with the amount of ambrosia in the potion, you might have become the God of Fertility as well."
"Gee," Ron said, then he shuddered. "Eww. I'd never get sex again!" he whined.
"I'd sleep with you if I liked boys," Harry assured him, giving him a pat on the back.
"You do like boys, I've seen you looking," Draco smirked. He shifted onto his side with a sigh of relief. "I like that better." He looked down at himself. "Oops, I think I had an accident."
"I think that was your water breaking," Ron said dryly. He got pulled over and kissed. "Thank you, what was that for?"
"For being so nice. You haven't made fun of me once." He smiled at Harry and grabbed him, kissing him harder, making the boy go limp. "See, you do like it. Now kiss him."
"I think he's had enough shocks for the day," Ares put in.
Harry looked at Ron, licking his lips. Then he kissed him. "It's not so bad, but you're not soft in places like girls. I like soft things." He sat back. "Feel better now?"
"Definitely," Draco agreed with a smile. "Promise that the child will be safe," he asked.
"I promise, I'll do my best to protect the baby for you, Draco," Harry told him. Ron nodded. "If we have to, we'll take you both and hide you in our tower." Draco grimaced. "You'd rather we came and stayed with you?"
"You'd have to die if you did that," Snape said as he walked in. "How is he?"
"His water broke," Ron told him. "Just now," he defended at the angry look. "We were going to call in a moment, once he finished molesting Harry's lips."
"I see." Professor Snape looked down at the boy. "You and the child will be fine. You'll be moving downstairs for the rest of the year, I've already had your things packed." Draco nodded, his head flopping around. "What's wrong with him?"
"He said he can't feel his body," Harry told him. "We think it was a bit strong."
"Probably," Snape agreed, frowning at him. "Can you feel enough to push?"
"If it's too soon, will he be able to?" Ron asked.
"Hopefully," Ares told him. "If not, I'm sure we'll improvise." He looked at Severus. "At least he's not screaming."
"Ow," Draco whined, holding his stomach.
"Madam Pomfrey?" Harry called. "He's feeling this one and his water broke!" She came trotting into the room and stopped to check him. "Is he all right?"
"He's just fine. He'll go quickly. It'll be just fine, Draco. You relax and rest. I'll get you cleaned up." He closed his legs, not letting her near him. "I'll have to so we can deliver the child."
"That's nasty," he said glumly. "You don't like it."
"No, dear, I don't. I think you're much too cute of a young man to be beleaguered this way. I promise to use the charm instead of a razor and we'll use the nice tape to tape your penis up."
He pouted. "I don't want you to."
"Want me to do it, kid?" Ares asked. Draco gave him a hopeful look. "Fine." He looked at the nurse and winked at her, pulling his sword out in it's form of a wand. He cast the shaving charm, removing all the hair to the towel she had put underneath the boy's rear. "How's that?"
"Exceptional," she agreed. "Now we'll have to tape his penis out of the way. His balls as well I suppose," she said thoughtfully. Draco's legs inched closed and she paralyzed him. "How should we do this?"
Ares took the tape and taped them both out of the way. "How's that?"
"Probably just what we'll need," she agreed, smiling at him. "You're a very handy man to have around." She checked him again and nodded. "Just as I thought, he's still dilating. He'll go by dawn. He'll be able to bring the baby to breakfast and show him off." She bustled off. "I'll be back with the birthing equipment." She went to have a small drink to fortify her. If they were all this way, she might have to kill the twins herself. She found Percy waiting on her. "What are you doing here?"
He smiled at her. "Filling out the forms on the baby," he said, holding them up. "How long do you think it'll be?"
"I think it'll be another few hours. You could nap and we'll wake you up if you want," she offered. He nodded and went over to curl up on a bed and sleep. She shook her head and found her flask of medicinal sherry, taking a good slug of it. Then she gathered everything up and took it back to the other room. Draco was sleeping, somehow, and on top of Potter for whatever reason. "Is he comfortable?"
"Very. He said he might hurt my stomach and the baby," Ron told her, continuing to stroke Draco's hand. "How long before he comes down?"
"Maybe another half-hour," she said in her most reassuring manner. "Your brother Percy's here to do more paperwork on the birth."
"Yay. Is he coming in?" Ron asked.
"No, I told him to nap in the other room and we'd wake him up when it was time." She gave him an understanding smile. "No pains of your own?"
"Not yet," he admitted. She gave him a look. "Seriously. He's down to four and a half apart."
"That's fine, I'm sure we can handle this."
Ares looked at her. "If you can't, I've delivered kids before," he admitted. "It's not that hard. You catch, you cut free, you clean and make them cry."
"Very true," she agreed as she started to relax. If an untrained man could do this, so could she. There was a first time for everything. Draco grunted again, tensing up, so she checked him after he was done. "Nearly there," she said happily.
Draco hobbled into lunch, clutching the child to his chest. His table stood up and he smiled. "It's a boy," he said, removing the blanket.
"It's human?" Pansy asked. He glared and nearly hit her, she could see it in his eyes. "I was just saying about the wrinkles."
"All babies come out like that," Ron said as he strolled in. "It comes from soaking in water for nine months or so. Like the wrinkles you get only worse. Madam Pomfrey said it'd take about a week to be perfect."
"Like me," Draco said smugly. He sat down with a hiss. A pillow came flying in under the power of Harry's wand and he accepted it gratefully. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Harry said with a smile. "He is adorable, Draco. I'm sure he'll look like you." He helped Ron sit down at their own table and handed him food. "What do you think your daughter will look like?" he asked.
"Probably about the same, only with redder hair," he said with a smile.
"Was it nasty?" Ginny asked.
"Pretty muchly," Harry agreed. "It came out red and white and slimy. The pain even came through the pain killer."
"Not while we're eating," someone else pleaded. "Get together tonight and discuss it." A girl nearer to the head table groaned and held her stomach. "I guess the dam broke."
"I'm not having them that frequently," she protested.
"You could still get checked," Hermione told her. "I did when I felt my second one and I was nearly twenty minutes apart."
"Will you go up with me?" the girl asked. Hermione nodded. "Thank you."
"You're having pains and you didn't tell me?" Harry asked.
"You were busy protecting his child," Hermione pointed out. Someone on the other side of the room screamed in a bass voice. The sound of a body hitting the floor came a second later.
"I warned you not to get near my son," Draco said coldly. "No one touches him."
"He okay?" Ron called. Draco nodded. "Can I hit him for you?"
"No, please," the boy begged, backing away from the table. Snape caught him and hauled him to his feet. "I only wanted my own kid to be secure," he begged as he was pulled out of the Great Hall.
A few more kids studiously went back to their meals. That thousand galleons didn't look like such a prize now.
Within two weeks, everyone but Ron had given birth. He knew people were watching him everywhere he went, and he hated to disappoint them, but he wasn't giving birth in the school. He was uncomfortable as hell, couldn't sleep at night, and he was miserable. He was sweating all the time and not even the dungeons were cool enough for him. Madam Pomfrey checked on him every day but she didn't see any signs of him going into labor either.
Finally though, someone decided to remember the holidays and decided to have a talk with his aunt. You can do many things to get around Mother Nature, but she always gets you in the end. Gaia listened to her nephew and gave him cookies as he whined about Ron. "Of course I'll help the poor boy," she promised. "I don't know what the problem is, but I can stop that spell. I stopped it the last time after all." She patted him on the knee. "How is the school doing? Are you going to go back next year, Ares? You have such life in you and it looks like this is a good thing for you."
"No one's mentioned anything," he said with a shrug. "It has been kind of cool." He sipped his coffee. "I'm worried about him, Auntie. He's not happy. He's showing signs of being miserable and dying. I can even get him to wherever he wanted, but I'm willing to protect him." He heard Eris scream in outrage. "Gee, what a shock, bad timing," he said dryly.
"I'll look over him tonight," she promised before he left. "That poor boy." She headed to the school and looked over him, clucking in the back of her throat. She ran a hand over his back, making him wince and scream out. "Sorry, dear, but it's been building up," she whispered in his ear. "Ares is off on a mission, he'll be back tonight." Ron looked right at her, surprising her. "Mother Nature said it's time, before you both die," she told him. He groaned again. "Send yourself home."
Ron stood up. "I'm going for a drink," he said when the teacher looked at him. "Leg cramp." She nodded and let him go. He walked out into the hall and got himself under control. He slowed his heartrate and got himself calmed down. He saw Draco coming up the hall. "I'm fine."
"I'm sure you are," Draco agreed, stopping in front of him. "I felt that."
"I know. I'm not in labor."
"Weasley, there's only the exams left. We can protect the kid." He stepped closer. "Let me handle it?"
"No, I'm fine." He walked down the hall. "I'm heading out to hide. I'm fine."
"I'm sure you think you are," Draco muttered, watching him leave. He thought about his next move. "Snape or McGonagall?" he asked his son, who was strapped on his back. The baby made a groaning noise. "Ah, a wonderful choice." He went to Transfiguration and tapped gently on the door, waving her out. She hurried out. "Weasley's hiding," he said quietly. "He just had his first labor pain and Arion is missing."
"Blast!" she muttered. "Which way did he head?"
"Outside or the front stairs," he told her. The baby groaned again. "He decided we should tell you."
She smiled and patted the baby on the head. "You're a good father so far, Mr. Malfoy. Continue that trend." She went back into her class and told them to study, she'd be back. She headed out to try and find Ron. Nowhere. Not even the Headmaster could find him. She stomped her foot in frustration. That boy! She gave up and went back to her class, letting the Headmaster deal with it. He could find nearly anything, he would find the boy eventually.
Ron snuck into the staffroom and through the floo, heading for home. He didn't have that long left. He fell out on the other side, groaning in pain.
"RON!" his father shouted, standing up. "What's wrong?"
"He's in labor," Molly said, taking her son's arm. "What are you doing here?" He gave her a look and bent over again. "Arthur, go clean off Bill's bed. He won't mind." She got him up the stairs. "Really, Ron, you should be back at the school. You're late and something is probably wrong."
He squeezed her arm. "Did a spell to hold it off," he moaned.
"You stupid idiot!" she yelled, slapping the back of his head.
"Ow, mum, I'm in enough pain as is!" He allowed himself to be put into the bed and stripped off.
"How far apart are they, son?" Arthur said as he went to get some cloths and water.
"A few minutes. Maybe two," Ron admitted. His mother frowned at him again. "I'm nearly there, mum, just an hour or so? Please?"
"Ron, we'd never endanger your life, that's why I wanted you to go at the school!" she told him. She checked him. "You are nearly there. The baby's crowned. You went through the floo this way and you could have been lost or killed!"
"Mum, hit me later!" he whined. He groaned and grabbed his stomach. "Please?"
"Fine." She let Arthur help her clean him up and then made the bed ready for him to give birth in. He rolled to the side and stood up, bracing against the bed. "Are you sure you want to do it that way?"
"Why is he standing up?" Arthur asked.
"Because it's supposed to be easier that way," Molly assured him. She saw a few drops of blood and forced Ron back onto his back so she could look at him again. "Oh, there's the head!" she said happily. "Arthur, I need a knife and something to tie the cord." He hurried out to do that, coming back to leave the warm water for her and leaving again. "Push, Ron, it's time," she said in her most soothing voice. She let him grab her hands so he could curl up while he pushed. "Come on, you can do this, Ron." He groaned as he pushed, then fell backwards, shaking his head. "I promise, you can do this, Ron. I gave birth to Charlie and he was larger than this. I had the twins this same way." He gave her an incredulous look. "Women have been known to have quadruplets this way, you can do my granddaughter."
"I'm in awe of any woman who does this with four of them," Ron whispered, grabbing her hands again. His father came back and took the hands for him, letting him try to break them. He screamed as the pain picked up, then there was a release and a sliding feeling. "Oh, shit," he muttered, falling back onto the bed. "Tell me that was all of it."
"It was," Molly assured him. "One more gentle push. You've got the bigger parts out now." Ron gave a weak push and the legs came out into her hands. "There we are. A girl!" she said happily, holding her up.
"Slimy," Arthur said, frowning. "I had forgotten how nasty newborns were." He heard footsteps. "Either that's Percy or Harry," he said with a fond smile as Harry came in. "Want to cut this thing?"
"He promised I could." Harry took the knife and slit the cord. He smiled down at Ron. "You bloody git! You robbed me of my best soothing routine. How was I supposed to comfort you if you couldn't be found?"
"He couldn't be found?" Arthur asked.
"He hid all day long," Harry told him. "Not even the Headmaster could find him." He accepted the baby to help clean her up. "I've got to say she's prettier than Draco's son when he was first born. More slimy but less wrinkly." Ron chuckled weakly and moaned again.
"That's the afterbirth," Molly told them. "Only half as bad." She finished cleaning up the baby and handed it to Arthur. "Take her and Harry downstairs while we finish up." She shooed them from the room and turned to look at her son. "You managed to avoid the Headmaster?"
Ron nodded weakly. "Yeah, all day long." He grinned. "Can you *please* make this stop? I don't want anything more."
"Next time, get the woman to do this," she teased.
"If I had been able to, I would have, mum," he promised. "Next time, I'm going to let my wife do this." He closed his eyes.
"You've got to stay awake for this part," she reminded him. "You've got to do some gentle pushing."
"My stomach muscles are flaccid," he whined.
"I know, but it's not that bad." He nodded and pushed for her. "Good boy, Ron. Give me another few good ones and it'll be over with."
Downstairs, Harry was cooing at his Goddaughter. "I get to be her Godfather," he told Arthur. "I think you're beautiful, even prettier than my own little girl. She came out bald." The baby started to cry. "I'm sorry, it's okay."
Arthur took the baby and cuddled her closer. "It's fine, Harry, new babies are notorious if the mother's not there. She's listened to Ron's heartbeat for the last few months and that's the only thing that will comfort her." He looked upstairs. "As soon as he's done, we'll let you visit for a few minutes then send you back."
Harry nodded and took his Goddaughter back to hold. "I 'm the one who used to give you those incredible backrubs, little Tasha. You know me. I'm the nice guy." She settled down and blinked at him. "Hi, yes, you're a pretty and good girl, Tasha."
Molly came down the stairs. "He's fine. Just perfect." She smiled at the little girl. "Hello, dear. I'm your grandmother. What's your name?"
"Tasha," Harry said as he handed her over. "Can I check on Ron?"
"Go ahead, he's mostly asleep." She watched as he ran up the stairs. "You're a beautiful girl, Tasha. Just like your father and aunt." Arthur laughed. "You've got to admit, the last two were the prettiest when they came out.
Draco tapped on Snape's door, waiting until it opened. "He's had her."
"Good news at least," he said dryly. The baby made that groaning noise at him. "Is that normal?"
"Some babies make happier noises. I think he's still stoned from my pain killers." He smiled. "Should I tell anyone else?"
"I'm sure Potter has been sent along." He nodded. "Then I'm sure we'll hear all about it."
"Yes, sir. We're going to bed then." He walked away, taking his son back to their special room.
Snape shook his head. That boy!
Ron walked into the Great Hall two mornings later and dropped a picture in front of Draco. "Mum said I had to hand out pictures since the baby's the prettiest thing she's ever seen." He walked away and handed them over to the other tables as well before sitting down.
"Where is she?" Ginny demanded.
"Mum has her. You'll see her in two weeks."
"Good. I want to spoil her rotten. Get mine in before Bill and Percy get hold of her." The kids around them laughed. "How are you?"
"A bit sore. Mum found something to take away most of the pain after having Charlie. She gave me some before sending me back." He smiled at Harry and Hermione. "Did you see?"
"Is that the altered picture?" Harry asked. Ron nodded.
"Then you decided to go with the concealment charm?"
"Only on the picture," Ron told her. "We'll work on that this summer before taking her around."
"Good on you," Hermione decided. She looked at Harry. "I have a letter from my mother for you."
"I noticed it when it came," he told her. "You know I'll fight her."
"Harry, you don't have the resources to raise a child," she chided.
"He's got a half-vault full of gold," Ron pointed out. "He's better equipped than I am. Besides, it's his child and may be his only one. He does deserve to see her." She snorted. "You're the one who jumped him, Hermione, not the other way around. You chose him as a father and now you've got to deal with it. It's his daughter." She looked at him. "If it were mine, I'd be beating you up by now over her and would have taken her back to the Burrow. He's in her makeup as well."
"I know that, but he's still a boy," she told him.
Ron blew a raspberry. "So? So am I and I'm raising mine. Mum had to talk me out of taking a year off to have her by my side. If you asked around, most of us want to have something to do with our children."
"Your parents are lucky that I haven't taken them to court yet," Harry told her. "I can contest custody. My name is on the birth certificate and I'm more than willing to take a blood test to prove I'm the father."
"You're still only a boy!" she said firmly.
"I'm more than that, Hermione, and we both know it," Harry said coldly. "If I have to take them to court, I will. You might warn them of that." He accepted the letter from her bag and read it. Then he handed it to Ron. "Think your father would help me?"
"Hell, I'll help you," Ginny put in. "I know mum would if you asked and told her." She glared at Hermione. "Just because he's young doesn't mean he can't handle responsibility. I think he's proved he can." Professor Arion walked in. "Ask him if you don't believe me."
Arion walked over to their table. "How is she?" he asked Ron.
"Perfect and beautiful," he said, taking the picture from in front of Harry to hand over. "That's a doctored one to hide her identity, but I think you can see enough of her."
"She's pretty," he agreed as he handed it back. He took the letter from Harry's hand, having seen part of it. He looked down at Hermione. "He could take the child completely from them, young lady." He handed the letter back. "Ron, you up to sparring today?"
"Only if I get a promise that you'll not knock me on my rear," he said with a grin. "It's still rather sore, Professor Arion."
"Sure, not a problem. We'll box." He strolled up to the head table. "Good morning," he said.
"How is he?" Dumbledore asked.
"Better. They're already shielding the baby. The picture was a bit doctored but if you know the spell you can see through it. She's got his nose."
The Headmaster smiled. "Good."
"Hopefully she won't have his freckles," McGonagall said quietly. "Is he really fine?"
"He should be." He smiled at her. "You could ask to see the picture."
"I'd rather see the real thing," she pointed out. Ron groaned and everyone looked at him.
"It wasn't a pain, it was a bad joke," he told them, frowning at them. The students quickly went back to their meals. The pictures slowly came back to him, all but the one from the Slytherin table.
Draco strolled into Potions the next day, ready for his test. He politely handed over his son at the held out hand, he could trust his head of house not to harm him. He nodded at Potter and Weasley as he moved to the table across from them. He took out the picture of Ron's baby and handed it over, subtly showing off his bruised knuckles. "You forgot to pick up the picture yesterday," he said quietly. Then he sat down and accepted his quill and special paper.
Ron looked at the picture, which had the illusion broken on it. He smiled at Draco. "Thank you for bringing this back." He tucked it into his pocket. "She'll be up today."
"Good, I'd like to see her." Draco looked up at Snape's cleared throat. "He's bringing his daughter up."
"I heard. She needs to be looked over." Ron looked stunned. "Your mother called while I was up there, Mr. Weasley. I eavesdrop on occasion." As soon as it was time he closed and locked the door, walking back to hand out the questions for that part of his test. He noticed the bruised knuckles and looked at Mr. Malfoy, who stared back. "Do try not to talk during the test," he told him, moving on. When he got back to his desk, he sat down and looked at the baby, using an illusion breaker for himself to see the baby's real looks. He nearly laughed. There was only one person who could have lent the baby that much skin tone. He waited until Draco came up to look at him. "Something you wanted to share?" he asked quietly.
"We were having fun and he turned it around on me," Draco hissed. "You cannot tell. I'll never hear the end of it."
"I think the child will be adorable and quite a shock when he starts school in eleven years."
"I say so as well." He winked and accepted his tray of potion ingredients. "Thank you, sir." He went back to his seat to work on the potion. He quickly weeded out the extra ingredients. He could worry about announcing his son looked like the perfectly prepared cup of light cocoa later.
Ron grinned over at him. "Mr. Weasley," Snape said firmly. "Eyes on your own paper."
"Sorry, sir." He quickly finished up his questions and handed them in.
Hagrid looked out as the new students came off the train. One of them ran right for him and hugged him around the waist, smiling up him and showing off a missing tooth. "Where did you get that, Tasha?"
"Uncle Fred got me with a ball by accident," she said happily. "It won't stay in so I'm getting a false one in a few days." She looked over as a moody and sulky boy slinked their way. "Hi, Adonis!" she said, waving. He glared at her. "Oh, you fussy creature! You need snogged into the carpet!"
"Not for a few years he don't," Hagrid said firmly. He looked down at the boy. "Which one are you?" he asked politely.
"Adonis Malfoy," he sneered. "My father told me about you." A girl walked up behind him and shoved him. "Stupid creature," he told her.
"Ah, little bitty Potter," Hagrid said with a fond smile. "How are you, Missy?"
"I'm just fine, Uncle Hagrid. Can I have a hug too?" she asked sweetly. He gave her a hug. "Thank you." She smiled at Tasha. "Hi. I didn't see you on the train. I started to worry."
"Daddy put me on late. Work let him off late and he was running to meet that nice dark haired guy he's been seeing," she said with a shrug. The other first years were gathered by Hagrid's booming voice while they talked. They followed him to the boats and across the lake, all of them being stunned by the sight of the castle.