Life Crusades

Chapter Two


It was perpetual winter in the southern most part of the realm. Even in the summer. The temperature may rise and the weather warm, but even then it wasn't warm enough to melt the ice or snow covering the hundreds of miles of land in the south. Miles and miles of icebergs and ice islands was the only thing anyone could see at the southern most point of the realm. Ukatae in fact used some of these islands. Magically enhanced and burrowed out. One such island rose out of the icy ocean for a mile, over and under the frozen water. Within it was an ice palace, centuries old. Another haunt of Demai'Tah. From the outside it was unassuming, due to the wards and glamours around, but in fact there were many doors leading in and windows around the icy structure.

Ron stood looking out of one of these carved windows. His eyes roaming around the sea of ice, watching Demai'Tah's troops training. Watching as more supporters arrived and regrouped everyday. He watched, smirking, as they shivered and trembled from the cold, while he stood before an opened window and felt nothing but warmth around him. For the most part he liked it here. Liked looking out at all the frozen cold. The scenery reflected how he usually felt. Numb.

Being ignored by his master should have been a miracle, but after two long weeks of it, of being locked away in a room within the Kibosh without any contact of any kind and then being transported here by someone he'd never seen before when Demai decided to lay waste to the Kibosh compound… Ron hadn't spoken to his mate in all that time. He hadn't really spoken to anyone.

He spun away from the window, his eyes taking in the chambers around him. Everything here was also white and blue. Ice. But it was beautiful. The walls were like crystal glittering in the cold sun, the tables, chairs, even his bed. The frame was ice encased in magic. But nothing here was cold to the touch. Sometimes Ron wished it were cold. He had splendid connected rooms and lived like royalty, and yet he was still a prisoner. Not allowed out of these four rooms. It was a horrid existence. He was alone and Demai'Tah had promised he wouldn't be.

Why hadn't his master killed him yet? Why did Demai'Tah want to keep him when he wasn't even visiting for torture sessions? Ron was aware that he'd screwed up big time. He was aware that he might have been half responsible for the defeat in Borsteria. And he sorely wanted to fix it. Despite everything, he still wanted what Demai'Tah had promised. He wanted Potter and Malfoy destroyed and he wanted a part of that. And… he wanted to please his master.

But how would he be able to do any of that when it seemed Demai'Tah planned to keep him locked away for whatever reason. Ronald growled and spun towards the door to his right that would lead to his bedroom. There were other things to worry about… such as this painful tug in his gut and the blazing fire in his blood. It had been getting worse as the days passed. He'd been dealing with it for the last week and a half. It was easier to deal with, Ron knew, after being subjected to Demai'Tah's torture sessions. He suspected without those previous lessons, this inner pain now would leave him writhing on the floor in pain, going out of his mind. The worse thing was, Ron had no idea what it was or how he could make it go away.

Ron settled down on the bed and closed his eyes. That burn was back. And the pull that was making his body shake and causing him to sweat all over his body. It was like he was sick. He'd only thought to try and find sleep when he heard the door outside being unlocked and he bolted into a sitting position. Excitement suddenly filing him. He knew who it was. Who else would come? No one used that door. When he needed food, it suddenly appeared. Same as everything else he needed that wasn't already available in his chambers.

Ron knew it was unhealthy and completely mental to be excited that his master had finally come to him, because certainly he was going to be punished for many many things. But he didn't have it in him to care. He wanted his punishment. He wanted to take it and then move on. He wanted to ask if he could help. He wanted to make up for being an idiot and allowing Potter to get the best of him. He wanted to learn how to fight. Why shouldn't he when everyone else could?

The first thing he noticed when the doorway was filled with Demai'Tah's presence was the way he was being devoured by sight. "Do you feel sick?"

This startled Ron. Demai'Tah's first words were to ask about his health? No way. The redhead tensed, but he answered truthfully anyway. "Yes." Looking closely, Ron noticed Demai'Tah didn't look any better.

"I will put a stop to it. I have neglected you on purpose."

"Yeah, I figured that," Ron couldn't help but snap and then immediately recoiled when Demai'Tah was suddenly standing next to the bed, staring down at him. "I'm sorry," he mumbled. "I deserve every punishment you want to give me. I failed you."

"Yes, you did."

Ron lifted his eyes when he noticed the lack of censure in his master's voice. "But you will be given the chance to make it up."

"Are you—Will you teach me more?"

Demai' Tah suddenly turned away from the bed and strode over to the window, waving the curtain to the side so that he could see out. As he watched the elves below, he began to stroke his goatee, thinking things over. He'd already had a plan in regards to his mate, and that was to beget an heir and then kill him. At first. But… after ignoring him for a few weeks, Demai'Tah knew killing him would be impossible. And perhaps, perhaps he could strengthen this one. Give him what he so craved. A chance. He could mold this young one to however he wanted. He would break with companionship and kindness and see how that affected the way the young one pleased him. It would give the redhead more incentive to not fail again.

But first there were several things needing to be done. First he would take care of both of their needs. As he turned back to Ronald, a feral smile grew on his face. He was very much aware that the young one liked the rough coupling. His smile grew when Ronald held his breath upon his approach, his young mate knowing exactly what was coming.

Ron grimaced as he sat where he was ordered. The night had been long. And it had been painful. And he was dismayed to find he was glad for it. The pain, torture, and even the fucking made him feel alive. It gave pleasure to his master. That's what he could live for in this fucked up nightmare.

"First I shall explain why I've kept you locked away," the elder elf began, leaning back and relaxing, while Ron remained stiff as a board. "I've lost my command over the assassins. And there are those, two in particular, that we should both be wary of. One of them, Dagon, would kill you in an instant the moment he found you. Myself, he would have a harder time killing, but it was your protection I was thinking of. The other assassin… I'm not sure whom he'll go to now. I will not know until I've had word from him. Do you understand what I've just told you?"

"You've kept me here, locked up for my own protection against assassins."

"Yes. Very good. And do you believe me?"

Ron nodded. That made sense. Merlin only knew how many people would love to find some way to hurt Demai'Tah. What better way to do that then kill his mate? Not that Ron believed Demai'Tah gave a shite about him, but maybe one day he could make it so.

"You've missed very important details," Demai'Tah went on with a deadly softness as he turned suddenly to his bruised mate, lightly stroking red hair away from Ronald's face. He smiled when the young one flinched at his touch. "Here. Have a look. I had this fetched from the mortal world."

Demai'Tah lay a paper onto his lap and Ron was almost too afraid to look. This softness from his mate could only mean one thing. More pain. But look he did and found it was The Daily Prophet. The edition was some weeks old. On the front was a picture of the Malfoy family plus one. A baby boy. Ronald's eyes flew wide. Potter had a baby?!

"Now then, let me explain something to you. We dark elves give birth five to six months after conception, little one."

Ronald's eyes slid closed. He'd failed again. Potter was surely pregnant for months while he'd been spying. Pregnant with an heir right under his nose. Pregnant with an heir Demai'Tah no doubt would never have wanted to be born.

"I do not blame you for the loss of my assassins, nor of the loss of Borsteria," Demai went on, his fingers curling painfully into Ron's hair. "But I do blame you for this," he hissed with a sharp tug. "And I blame you for the loss of my prisoner. My wonderful Ozemir and the fun I could have had with him."

"I- I'm sorry…"

Demai'Tah grabbed Ron's chin and jerked until they were face to face. A manic gleam roared brightly in his master's eyes. "You will make it up!" Demai snarled.

"Yes! Please!"

"You will train. You will learn our magic, and when I think you are ready…" Ronald leaned in eagerly. "You will destroy the entire Weasley clan." Ron pulled back in shocked horror. Demai'Tah grabbed his chin and jerked him forward again. "You care nothing about them. You said so yourself. You disowned them. And I am your family now. I am your Master. All you need is me. Isn't that right?"

Ronald nodded even as a whimper escaped him. Demai'Tah released his chin and cupped the young one's face in his hands. Once again the soft gesture disturbed Ron more then anything else.

"They betrayed you, little one. They ignored you. Cast you aside for another boy not even of your clan's blood." The dark look of fury on the young one's face was especially pleasing. "Yes," he whispered. "They betrayed you. And you will have your revenge. Will you not?"

"Yes, Master."

"Not only will you kill off the Weasley can, but you will also be tasked with destroying the new blood heir."

"That spawn!" Ron snapped immediately. "I will do it!"

"Of course you will," Demai'Tah whispered against his lips, his fingers curling and nails pressing painfully into his face. "I am your world now. You would never want to displease me again."

"No master."

Such an eager boy. Ronald would probably understand in short time what Demai'Tah was doing. That he was being molded. But Ronald Weasley wouldn't mind. Already in his soul he wanted this. He had already given himself over completely to his master. Demai'Tah smiled as he slid his lips down the youth's throat. Perhaps having a mate wouldn't be such a grievance after all. It was clear Ronald was eager to do anything he asked.

As he sunk his fangs in and began to drink his fill, Demai'Tah thought this was probably what he was missing. His mate would be the ultimate solider and servant, standing behind him. Doing whatever he asked. And not because of an assassin bond. But because he wanted to. Doing it of his own free will. That was the kind of power Demai'Tah had always dreamed of having over another being. He would have it with his mate. The realm may think he was weakened, and by force numbers that was true, but in other areas it was not. He still had his magic and he still had knowledge of things that would gain him more magical power. Magical power that could destroy in seconds. Ronald would help him gain these things.

Lucius hissed under his breath as he left the bedroom, Sirius behind him shaking his head. "You want me to calm down when there is someone in our home. Someone who most certainly does not belong!"

"Luce, I'm only saying… whomever it is, they've been helping the twins. Gave Mila back her weapons. Didn't attack last night. I don't think they mean any of us harm. In fact, whoever it is, I think they're having a bit of fun helping out."

Lucius spun around to face his husband and life mate, eyes blazing so fiercely Sirius sucked in a delighted breath. "That is beside the point!" With a firm nod, he spun back around and sauntered away to the nursery. Sirius shook himself and quickly followed.

They entered to find Kaego beside the crib, as was usual. He smiled softly when he spotted the parents. "Your babes no longer need the incubation spells."

The two smiled in relief at that. "Does this mean we can take them outside now?" Sirius asked because he knew Lucius was impatient to show off their children to the world. But because the triplets had needed the incubation spells, they couldn't be away from the crib for too long at any instance.

"Yes," Kaego answered and departed back to his room.

A soft smile appeared on Lucius' face as he bent over the crib to pull Talynia into his arms, before passing her over into Sirius' waiting arms. He passed over Eadric too before holding Peria close to his chest.

"Siri, you aren't going to faint?" he asked with a laughing voice, watching his husband staring down at his children in awe. Sirius was swaying on his feet, his breath held as he stared transfixed at the tiny perfections in his arms.

Sirius didn't even bother to respond to that. Instead he continued to watch Eadric and Talynia for a few moments before sighing. "Don't want to go to work."

"We'll come visit you."

Sirius moved forward and pressed a soft lingering kiss on Lucius' lips. "Promise?"

"Of course. There are several errands needing to be run. We'll drop by at the end."

"All right… Lucius, you have to wear a glamour." Sirius laughed when Lucius frowned. He knew his husband had been planning to conveniently forget, but Tom had left standing orders that any of the Ukatae still in the human world had to remain glamoured out in public. "But," he went on quickly, "you don't need to glamour the triplets. Just make sure they're wearing caps."

The blond sighed in resignation. Sirius grinned. He couldn't help it. Lucius looked so much like he did when they were kids. When they were still in school, before the horrid and silent break up. Before Lucius hid most of his emotions away behind a cold and emotionless mask.

"Love you, Luce."

Lucius smirked before answering, "what's not to love?"

"Well actually, I made a list when you broke my heart. Want to see—Merlin, I'm sorry. Lucius, I didn't mean it."

The blond smiled weakly and turned away to place Peria in the portable bassinet. Then he turned to Sirius and did the same for Eadric and Talynia. "We'll come visit later," He murmured and the walked out of the room, the portable basinet floating close behind him.

Sirius curled his fingers in until his nails were biting into his flesh. He hadn't meant to say it. Never mind the fact that he had actually made a list back in seventh year… everything he hated about Lucius. But everything he hated was also everything he loved. After making the list and realizing this, he'd promptly burned the thing.

Having their visages go back to looking as they did in school… those heartbreaking memories had been popping up more and more, and he was certain for Lucius as well. Sometimes he would catch Lucius staring at him with a mountain of guilt and it killed Sirius. Running his hand through his hair, Sirius growled in frustration. He didn't want those memories! There wasn't any need for them. Because now he understood why Lucius had done what he did. He understood and had made peace with it. Lucius did what he did because he thought it was the only way to protect Sirius. And none of it mattered now anyway. They were finally happily married with children. As far as Sirius was concerned, his life had never been more perfect. With the exception of his worry over Harry, Draco, and the others in the realm.

Sirius pushed all that away for the time being and headed to work. He Flooed to the Square so that he could pop in at the twins shop before going to the office. It always put him in a good mood, even if the twins weren't there. But today they probably would be, which meant he'd leave with a smile. Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes had been doing well since their opening, but it was empty at this time in the morning, and that was normal. The busiest time came after lunch. Stepping in, he moved quickly away from the front door and headed to the back where he saw both twins, Mila and Similae. Luna was also there, talking quietly to all four.

"Similae is too afraid to ask you," George began to Luna, simultaneously waving at Sirius and ducking away from his mate's attempted punch, "but are there still Dehjinae in the realm?"

Luna smiled dazedly at the short elf. "Yes, but you must go searching at the outskirts of the realm where they've taken refuge away from the civil wars and Demai'Tah's selfishness. Many were hunted and killed."

Similae gasped in outrage. "Hunted?!"

"Yes. Demai'Tah wanted his very own Dehjinae, but none would bond with him. One by one they turned him down, and by doing so met their end by his sword. And then, he stopped trying to bond and decided if he couldn't have one, no one would and the hunts began. But you ad I know Dehjinae are brilliant intelligent creatures. They ran and hid soon after the hunting began… perhaps they would return if you asked, Similae?"

"We still have the mission," he whispered morosely. It was obvious he'd rather go and fetch the horses.

"Your mission is complete," Luna said, laughing. "Word has spread around the human world, reaching all Ukatae ears. They have all gone home."

"How do you know this? How do you know any of that?" Mila inquired. "And how can you understand our language? I've been meaning to ask that."

"Um, Mila…." Similae started, having realized neither he nor anyone else had told her about Luna.

Fred grinned. "Our Luna is the Mother of us All," he said without hesitation. Mila looked around at all their faces, and then lingered on Luna's dazed smile and frowned.

"Oh very funny. Ha ha," she turned and walked away. "As if I'd fall for that one."

Mila stormed out of the store with a snarl, slamming the door behind her. Sirius shook his head in amusement at the three boys who were snickering at her disbelief.

"One too many pranks on her, I'll wager."

Similae grinned and hopped onto the counter. "Mila's always been a cynic… which doesn't make sense because she's also very gullible."

George rounded the counter until he was behind Simi and dragged his back until Similae was reclining against his chest. "Luna says it's probably Dagon that's been following and laughing at us," he told Sirius.

"He hasn't anything to do now, does he?" Luna murmured. "When he and Ozemir were one, the demon was mostly asleep when Ozemir had control of the body. Many times when they were ordered an assassination, Ozemir did it himself, because he liked to. And still Dagon slept. And now that he's free, Dagon has found he has a lot of time on his hands."

"Why'd he pick us?"

Sirius laughed. "You all are amusing."

George pressed against Similae's back and tightened his hold around the blue haired elf. "You don't think he might plan to do us harm?"

Luna was suddenly looking very serious. "It's not Dagon you need to worry about now."

Before they could ask her why her voice had suddenly gone ominous, Luna twisted around and departed.

"Well that wasn't reassuring at all," Fred said, the others nodded.

"Simi," George whispered. "How does this sound… you and me? The back room? Now?"

Similae spun around and nodded vigorously, his smile playfully wide. George picked him up and carried him away. Fred blew out a breath and leaned against the counter.

"This happen often?" Sirius asked, studying Fred's face.

"Suppose so."

Sirius moved to place his own elbows on the counter, leaning in so they were eye to eye. Clearly the twins weren't together so much any more. It must be odd.

"I notice Similae tries his best to include me in when they're talking and such. And the three of us have a blast when we're working on things for the store. He's a great addition to our work force. I will never resent the relationship he has with my brother," he answered Sirius' unasked question. "It's not like I'm sad about it… it's just odd. This isn't the only time one of us has been in a relationship when the other hasn't, but then those times… It's just different now. George really loves him. Fiercely." Fred grinned then. "He's never been happier. And Mia and I keep each other company when our brothers go off to SHAG AT EVERY TURN!" Fred laughed again when George yelled out that he was jealous. "It's just odd," he repeated.

"You haven't met anyone yet?"

The blush covering Fred's face shocked Sirius. "Of course not!" Fred laughed and waved a hand in front of his face. "When would I have had time?"

"George found time." Sirius then smirked. "Why're you blushing?"

"I'm not!"

"I have never seen you or George blush like this. Who were you just thinking about?"

"Don't know what you're talking about—Mila! Thank Merlin," Fred ran away from Sirius when he saw the girl had returned. She had a box in her hands. Sirius watched closely as they interacted and came to the conclusion that Fred had met someone, but it wasn't Mila he was thinking of that caused that blush. Sirius sauntered over to them, saw Mila had bought pastries for the boys and plucked a Danish out as he moved by, calling that he'd see everyone later.

Fred watched him go from the corner of his eye and blew out a breath when the Animagus was gone. "Something the matter?" Mila inquired.

"Nope. All good here… um, don't go into the back room."

Mila rolled her eyes. "Again?"

"Of course. Good thing it's slow in the mornings," Fred answered as they went back to the counter.

"Where are your employees?"

"We sent them to the other stores," Fred murmured as he rummaged around the box for an éclair. "George and I wanted to man this store since we're here. Haven't had the chance before."

"Hmm, well! Since our brothers are being… what do you say...wankers! I think you and I should go shopping when they come back. Leave the store to them. What do you say? I really want to get some new clothes."

"If we leave them alone in the store…"

"Nonsense. Please?"

"Okay. Only cause I can't resist the wide pleading eyes of a pretty girl," Fred replied with a grin.

Mila playfully shoved him. "Liar. I know you have dreams. And they do not star a female." Fred's eyes widened. She smirked. "Yes, I've heard you murmuring his name in your sleep. I do not think the other two have heard you," she quickly went on before Fred could panic. "Do not worry. I will not say anything."

"Thanks. I'm trying to forget I've ever had them," Fred whispered as he moved away, insanely glad a customer had walked in then. But Mila was having none of that and as soon as he made sure the customer didn't need immediate help, she cornered him behind the counter again.

"Why try and forget?" she asked, going back to the human tongue in light of a human being near.

"Mila. It's wrong. So wrong. And it's only dreams. A few. Not a big deal…"

"And yet you dream about him."

"I've had lots of dreams like that about other people… besides, he's not hard on the eyes."

"You like the big muscular type then."

Fred shrugged and wished she'd get off this. "He's not my type, personality wise. And even if he was… waaaaay out of my league."

"George said that about Similae, and you told him that was stupid."

"This is completely different and since you know who it is, you know I'm right. Let's drop this or I'm not taking you shopping."

Mila pressed her lips tightly together, acquiescing as she leaned against the counter. Though she couldn't help but smirk every time Fred avoided her gaze. It just wasn't something the twins did, avoid people. Making Fred uncomfortable felt like she was getting him back for all the pranks they played on her.

"It'll be great when we have Dudley back," Sirius said hours later where he, Rodolphus, and Rabastan were meeting.

"As much as it pains me, I must agree," Rodolphus murmured.

"Is that because of work or because of Petunia?" his brother asked with a laugh.

Rodolphus sighed. "Both. Petunia's not used to being away from him for so long."

Sirius stood with the other two. "Well he'll be back soon, after Neville and Harry go off on their campaign. Shouldn't be long now."

The three left the office and traveled down stairs, preparing to head over to the new sites to check up on progress before the workday ended in a few hours. Stepping off the last stair, Sirius spotted Lucius at the end of the hall speaking with Frank. A floating stroller hovering next to the blond. Sirius grinned. He'd been sure Lucius wouldn't have kept his promise, no doubt to get back at him for the stupid remark he'd made that morning. But here he was, and Lucius smiled when he saw his husband jogging towards him.

Rabastan chuckled. "You think Lucius will let us get close to the babies today?"

"Doesn't seem to have a problem with Frank standing so close. He wouldn't have brought them out in public otherwise."

Sirius pecked Lucius on the lips before bending to extract one of his babies. One with a pink cap on her head. Lucius retrieved the baby with a purple cap and handed the baby over to her waiting father. The Lestrange brothers couldn't help but smile. Sirius looked like he'd been given the world as he stared down at the drowsy babies in his arms.

"You don't want to be left out either, do you?" Lucius said softly and lifted Eadric and cradled him closely. Then he noticed Rodolphus and Rabastan standing a few feet away, uncertain if they could move closer. They'd nearly had their heads ripped off the last time they approached Lucius and the babes. "It's safe now."

"Did you have fun showing them off?" Sirius asked Lucius.

The blond's chin raised and smirked. "Of course. They even had their pictures taken for The Prophet… We'll be going to Hogwarts to dine with Severus after this."

"We can meet with Remus too!"

"Do you think you can leave early?"

Sirius glanced at his partners. "We don't have a problem with that," Rabastan answered. "Go now if you want."

"Thanks. Appreciate it."

A door down the hall opened and a handful of witches and wizards filed out, all talking animatedly. "Corr! C'mere," Sirius called to the old American witch who was at the front of the line. "Luce brought our babies!"

Lucius hissed in annoyance at his husband, for that instantly brought over all the females who were in the hall. The men followed slowly after, but they followed nonetheless and soon they had a mildly large group surrounding them. Lucius was stiff with tension, but he didn't feel the need to maim anyone who dared ask to hold his little ones.

"Tiny beautiful things," Corr murmured, not asking to hold one, but simply running a finger over Eadric's tightly closed fist. "You two are certainly proud."

"The proudest!" Sirius exclaimed. "And I lived through the pregnancy! That's a double bonus!"

"Barely," Rodolphus intoned, and then smirked when Lucius sneered at him. "Simply stating the truth."

Soon Lucius announced it was time to leave. The babies were stirring and they would need to be fed. He wanted to be within Hogwarts before doing so. Sirius led his family up into the office before casting a circle and transporting them directly into the Headmaster's office.

"Now can I-"

"No, Luce. We keep the glamours on."

"If I see Severus without his, then I will dispel mine," Lucius muttered as they stepped out of the office. Sirius didn't say anything to that. Severus wouldn't drop his glamour until he was away from the students. Which meant it would be safe for them to let go of their glamours as well.

"Wonder if he's received word from Hermione?" he asked as they stepped off the rotating staircase and headed down the hall, bypassing wandering students who were eyeing the baby stroller that hovered along in front of them as they descended the castle into the dungeons where Severus preferred to loiter.

"We'll soon see," the blond replied, smiling slightly when Sirius' arm slipped around his shoulders. When they reached Severus' office, they found both the Potions Master and Remus within the office. Sirius was relieved Lucius had gotten over his dislike of Moony, otherwise the blond would not have gone within twenty feet of Remus with their children.

"They're healthy enough to leave the manor?" Severus inquired in surprise and he and Remus stood to greet the family.

"Obviously," Lucius drawled. "Otherwise we would not be here."

Severus rolled his eyes at his friend. "Indeed."

Remus and Severus bent over the versatile stroller to peer inside at the three tiny sleeping babes. "They really are still very small," Remus whispered.

"Kaego said we could take them out."

"And now that you're out and about, what do you plan to do?" Severus asked as Lucius and Sirius sat, pulling the strolling to rest between them.

"I've several meetings lined up next week at the new Ministry. I've also been searching for muggle born teachers for the Nest. There are several children who will be turning eight soon and their studies will begin."

"I thought you only had the one. Michael."

"Yes, and Catherine is seven. She'll be eight next month."

Sirius nodded along. "And more snatches will be going on over the weekend, to gather all the eight year olds and students who will be starting first year in the fall. These lessons begin after Hogwarts dismisses for the summer."

"We'll be kept busy for the next few months," Lucius murmured, looking to Severus. "Are you still certain you want to go to the realm when Hogwarts lets out? I could use your help here."

"I will go. But if they have no need for me there, I'll return here to help you. Though… the thought of dealing will all those brats ripped from the muggle world turns my stomach sour."

Sirius snickered. Severus would never change. It was a relief. Lucius suddenly stood and approached Remus. "I have something for you and Nymphadora. From Tom." the blond pulled a vial out of his pocket and handed the light brown liquid over. "There is a whole store of it within the potions lab at our home for you two."

"Luce?" Sirius inquired softly, staring at the youth potion in question.

"It was Tom's order. He doesn't like that Harry is upset Remus hasn't joined our immortal race."

"I've explained why," Remus replied softly, not meeting any of their eyes. His fingers lightly gripping the vial.

"You won't be turned. Only slowly de-aged. You won't be immortal, but at least you'll barely age until you've stopped taking the potion. This way you don't need to worry about the lycanthropy being affected. It's your choice, really. But Tom says if you want to keep taking the potion, you may."

Remus finally smiled. "Harry was upset, wasn't he?"

"Oh yes," Severus answered with a snort. "Being particularly spoiled and selfish with his reaction."

"He wasn't the only one," Sirius muttered. Remus looked at him. "You're my best mate, Moony. You think I want to watch you grow old and die? You'll leave me here with Snape and Lucius. Who am I supposed to go to when I want to rant?!"

"He has a splendid point," Lucius agreed with a smirk.

Remus laughed and pocketed the vial. "I'll speak to Nymphadora about it."

Sirius beamed. That meant Remus wanted to agree and only needed to convince Tonks. And he knew she probably wouldn't mind.

They soon left Severus' quarters and headed to the Great Hall for dinner. Minerva was ecstatic to see Sirius, Lucius and the triplets and once again Lucius found a group surrounding him. Teachers and students wanting to get a look at the babies.

An arm wrapped around his waist and squeezed lightly. "Stop looking so bothered, Luce. You know you enjoy the attention."

"Take your seats," Severus called out to the students with a cold look around. The students scampered away at the order and soon dinner was underway.

"Any word from the other side?" Lucius inquired a little time later.

Severus shook his head, eyes scanning the heads of the students beyond them. "Not directly. But Luna has been by. Giving me cryptic messages in which she seems to say they are all doing well so far." Severus frowned after saying this. Lucius eyed him as he softly rocked the stroller/basinet situated in between his chair and Sirius.

"Something wrong?"

"I worry about Harry. And Draco. When they separate. But mostly Harry. Luna said something about the black cat being scared and needing to overcome his fears. I'm certain this stems back from his time with Dursley."

"Pup will manage. Though you're right. It'll be harder without Draco."

"Worse since he'll be separated from Caellum as well," Lucius murmured, picking up his own son who had began crying fitfully. The blond's nostrils flared, and immediately he passed Eadric over to Sirius.

Remus laughed when Sirius balked at the horrid smell coming from his sweet looking son. Lucius handed him the triplets diaper bag as he stood, and the Animagus quickly excused himself to the small chamber off the Great Hall.

"His turn, I take it," Remus commented as Sirius raced away.

Lucius smirked. "It's always his turn."

The prestigious Ukatae Academy was a deserted shell; it had the feel of a cold tomb as Hermione and Tom toured through it, level after level, room after room. The palace staff hadn't been completely refilled at this time and so the Academy had not yet been opened for cleaning and preparations for a reopening. Dust lay everywhere. Hundreds of year's worth of dust. Books lay open and forgotten upon tables; chairs toppled backwards to be left lying on the ground as if the occupants had rushed away in a panic, never to look back.

"This is unacceptable," Tom growled as he and his sister stood in the center of the massive library. A library that was also many levels, each level equipped with many sitting areas. The center was open and looking up, Hermione eyed the railings closing off the five higher levels. She liked that the center was opened, that people could stand by the railings and look down. It gave the place a nice open feel, less suffocating. She suspected the Academy library was also always packed with people when it was opened.

Hermione sniffed her displeasure. The place was a dream school. And it pained her to see it in such disarray. Half of it had been damaged when the Saen housing was attacked by black magic. "I know what I'll be doing for the next few months."

Tom nodded. "First things first. We need a cleaning staff. Then we need to find recorded Scholars and teachers who would like to return to their posts… Hirsha, we need cleaning staff now!"

Hermione giggled. Her brother looked so overcome by the Academy's dilapidation. Despite everything, it was funny to see the torment on his face, as if Tom were about ready to cry his soul out for the horror this learning institution had been put through. They were definitely kindred spirits.

"Ozemir could help us out. He taught here before. We'd probably have an easier time with his help."

"Agreed. He taught here and would know whom to contact," Tom murmured as he grabbed her hand and forcibly pulled her along, hurrying to leave this cursed place but silently promising to return and transform it back to the glory that it had once been.

"How do you think it's going for him? With Brumek's family?" Hermione wondered as they departed.

"Nothing can bring Ozemir down. And I dare anyone to try."

They rounded a corner that would bring them out into one of the Academy courtyards. Gray stone everywhere, but it wasn't droll looking. There were statues… some had been destroyed. Others in perfect condition. Three fountains spread throughout the place. Grass malls and splendid exotic trees. Stone benches and tables. Hermione gazed around with a smile. She could imagine students lingering about, sitting at the tables and benches socializing and studying. Other students relaxing on the grass doing the same. Debating with each other, helping with studies, simply reading for enjoyment.

But now the courtyard was presently deserted, save for one bench. "Zynfrae!"

"Greetings, young ones. I have been waiting for you. Have you finished your tour?"

"It's horrible, what's happened to this place," Hermione answered as she and Tom approached the wizened Scholar.

"Yes. I do agree."

Tom studied the Scholar as the old elf stood with the help of his staff, and had to restrain from helping Zynfrae stand. He didn't think Zynfrae needed the help. In fact he was sure the old Scholar liked to act as if he were frail when in reality he was not. "Will you help us?"

"Yes. I think I will."

"Did you teach here?" Tom questioned as they moved through the courtyard towards the gates standing at the opposite side form where Tom and Hermione had exited the Academy.

"Lectured here often, but was not a permanent instructor. Instead I chose to take those who wanted to train to be Scholars under my personal tutelage. Away from the Academy. There is much to be learned outside of the classroom. I'm sure Ozemir has taught you this. I do hope."

"Oh yes!" Hermione exclaimed eagerly. "Ozemir is one of the best professors I've ever had!"

Zynfrae looked at her from the corner of his eye, a small smile playing at his thin lips. "I do hope you are not saying that only because you care for him."

"No," Tom answered. "Ozemir is a splendid teacher. I can find no fault. You taught him well I suppose."

"Ozemir is a treasured pupil, despite his wild nature. Did you know his status as Scholar is well known? I'm proud to say he brings honor to the Scholar circles."

"Was it you who taught him how to harness the sun's power?" Tom asked suddenly, stopping just inside the gates to stare at the Scholar.

Zynfrae returned his study before finally replying. "He did mention you wanted to learn that power… I haven't decided if you are worthy."

"Who are you to decide if I'm worthy or not? It's if I have the power and I most certainly do."

"Tom Riddle!" his sister hissed disapprovingly. "Don't speak to him in that way!"

Zynfrae tisked as he began to move down the lane, indicating the young ones should follow. "Apparently Ozemir has not taught you the meaning of respecting one's elders… typical Ozemir."

Hermione smiled a little. Zynfrae's words were heavily weighted with fondness. "He's gone to visit Brumek's family. He was worried."

Zynfrae chuckled under his breath. "Taosek will believe Ozemir falls very short of the standards he has placed for the mates of his offspring. But my pupil will prove him wrong, and have fun doing it."

Brumek Shadowed Ozemir and Zohrek to the end of a very long lane. He stood there in complete silence for a few minutes, announcing to the inhabitants of the land that visitors were on the way. If one was not a foe, it was always wise to wait until your presence was acknowledged before moving any closer to the home. When the warrior felt his father's magic reach out to his, he grunted lightly and began moving down the lane. Only to stop moments later, noticing Ozemir wasn't beside him.

"Ozemir?" he questioned, fining the Scholar standing where they'd landed, holding Zohrek close to his chest. "Don't tell me you're scared?" he asked, amusement shining in his eyes.

Ozemir straightened up, affronted. "Never!" yet still he did not move and blocked his face by nuzzling Zohrek's cheek.

"Everything will be fine," Brumek assured as he returned and drew the Scholar into his arms, kissing his mate's white hair.

"What if they hate me?" Ozemir whispered.

"So what? It's not what they think. It's what I think. And you know I love you. That is all you need, isn't it?"

Ozemir smiled brightly. "Yes," he breathed. Brumek wrapped an arm around Ozemir's shoulder and began to lead his family down the lane. But a moment later he stopped, staring off towards his clan's home. "Brumek?"

"I will probably regret this later," Brumek muttered, "but I want you to be yourself, Ozemir. No matter what happens, no matter what you may hear my father say. Be yourself and know that I was drawn to you even before we were mates."

He turned then to look into Ozemir's face and thought no, he would not regret it. He smiled in the face of Ozemir's goofy grin, violet eyes lit up beautifully. "You say such sweet things!"

Brumek sighed. "Please, none of that in front of my siblings. They'll never let me live it down. And watch out for Dillek. He may take a liking to you."

"Oh? Am I his type?"

Brumek scowled. "Yes."

"You laughed at him, didn't you? Called him ridiculous for being attracted to elves such as me. Elves like me were annoying and useless."

This time Brumek didn't answer. Only continued to scowl, which grew when Ozemir giggled knowingly. Soon they rounded a bend and Brumek's childhood home came into view. Ozemir gasped in delight at the beauty of the place. It was a midsize castle, which indicated the rank of Brumek's clan. The structure was made of gleaming crème stone. It had three towers. One at the back and two at the sides. A bridge curved in the air and connected the two side towers and several platforms on the higher levels. Ozemir could not see it from where he stood, but he knew within the homestead there were probably courtyards and outdoor meeting areas connected to the balconies about the place.

And upon the high bridge, standing in the center was an elf. A female, Ozemir saw. With light hair wearing a gorgeous forest green gown. As soon and he and Brumek had rounded the bend, the elf began waving her hand erratically at them.

"Corae," his mate whispered, his tone content, pleased. "My youngest sister. The youngest sibling," he murmured. "You and Corae will surely get along."

Just as he said this, Corae jumped onto the stone railing. She spread her wings and jumped off. They stopped and watched her glide across the expansive field towards them. Brumek stepped to the side, putting a few feet in between himself and Ozemir and bracing himself. Ozemir glanced at him oddly and then his eyes widened. Corae never slowed down and sailed right into her eldest brother's chest, laughing happily.

"Brumek!" she squealed as they went tumbling to the ground. And then she pushed up on her knees and hands, glared down at her brother. "Oh, Brumek! Haven't seen you in ages! You… you rogue!"

Ozemir just stood back and watched in amusement, feeling strangely warm at the sight of happiness on his mate's face, brought from being reunited with his little sister. Brumek laughed before answering. "This is very undignified behavior, Corae. What would father say?"

"I don't care! We haven't seen you in two years!"

"I've sent word."

Corae's voice dropped, her smile slipping a bit. "Father doesn't seem to care about passing your news to us. Haedya, Dillek and myself have only been hearing about you recently. In town!"

"What exactly have you heard?"

And then she was smiling brilliantly, her face full of beaming pride. "You are also now a guardian of the new-"

Zohrek chose then to interrupt the two siblings. Waking and wiggling fitfully in his mother's arms. Ozemir shushed him quietly and began to softly bounce Zohrek in his arms. Corae's eyes widened slightly on them, and then popped up to her feet racing over to Ozemir and Zohrek.

"Please forgive me!" she gushed. "Being guests of Brumek, I should have greeted you first!"

"That's all-"

Corae gasped in delight. "This babe looks like Brumek!" She gasped again, taking a good look at Ozemir and then Zohrek, before spinning around to stare at her brother. "Brumek?"

The warrior smiled and returned to his mate's side. "My mate, Ozemir. And our son, Zohrek."

Corae was silent long moments, simply staring between the three in front of her. And then she exploded. "Well this is news! For shame, brother!" And then she surprised Ozemir by throwing an arm around his waist and pulling him away from Brumek, leading Ozemir and Zohrek down the path. "You must tell me everything. Have you had a bonding ceremony yet? But of course you haven't, otherwise we would have been invited. How old is this cute adorable little one? I haven't seen a babe in so long. How did you and Brumek meet? Was he a terror to catch? He was always going on and on about not needing a mate," Corae paused and took a breath before going on. This time pitching her voice low to mimic Brumek. "'I don't need a mate, and I'll never want a mate.' Really, Haedya and I have been waiting for this day so that we may laugh in his face!"

Ozemir laughed delightedly. Brumek shook his head and began to rub his temples. He felt a small sliver of terror. His baby sister and Ozemir... Instead of the Scholar becoming deterred by his sister's exuberance, Ozemir matched her energy and the speed with which she talked, and as they made their way to the homestead, Brumek hardly caught a word between the two of them. Though he knew one thing was clear. Ozemir was going to call him on his annoyance. If he had a sister like this, Ozemir was going to want to know why his disposition always seemed to annoy the warrior.

Corae led them up the stone stairs and through the tall wooden doors into the welcoming courtyard. Brumek paused just inside the doors, his eyes scouring the courtyard. Nothing had changed, he noticed. There were still trees lining the central stone path up to the double doors. The canopies of those trees white from the budding flowers. There were gray roots curved around the stone at the base of the castle. The courtyard was relatively plain looking now, but usually it was decorated splendidly for certain events and balls… Brumek grimaced at the thought of the last one.

Standing at the end of the path was his father, his sister Haedya, and youngest brother, Dillek. Brumek wasn't very concerned about not seeing his other brothers, Sahr and Renael. They had made permanent homes away from this homestead years ago, as was the custom when occupational training was completed. It was the girls who remained home until they were mated. Dillek stayed at the homestead simply because he was lazy and their father didn't seem to mind it.

His father didn't look any different. The unfeeling emotionless mask was on Taosek's face as usual, though his eyes narrowed on Ozemir and their son once focused on them. Ozemir paused and pulled away from Corae, noticing the others in the courtyard and Brumek moved again, striding to stand beside him and grasping his arm. Brumek noticed in response to his father's cold stare, Ozemir's smile widened. Inwardly Brumek grinned. In response to any challenge, Ozemir preferred to fight with cheerfulness. Brumek knew this would bother his father. Taosek would frown upon the Fates for choosing such a mate for his eldest. Brumek wasn't concerned about this either. He would make his father see. No one was better than Ozemir.

Corae hurried to stand beside her serene looking sister and rose on her toes to whisper in Haedya's ear. A moment later Haedya was blinking rapidly at Ozemir and Zohrek with a growing smile and Corae was giggling happily. Unlike Corae, Haedya was nearly an exact copy of their departed mother; in looks and temperament. Their mother had been the calmest and most serene being Brumek had ever known. Dillek, he saw with a fierce frown, was eyeing Ozemir. Just as he knew his youngest brother would. Which meant Dillek had yet to find his own mate. Pity.

"Father." Brumek left Ozemir a moment to embrace his father, whom returned the embrace. Taosek may be unfeeling to the rest of the world, but he loved his children and was not afraid to express it. Though he still remained a bit rigid because of Ozemir's presence. "Ozemir," he beckoned for the Scholar. "My mate and our son… Dillek, keep your eyes to yourself."

Dillek was a slim elf with dark brown hair and cool blue eyes, and he smirked at his eldest brother while ignoring the warning look Haedya sent him.

"Ozemir…" Taosek murmured, studying the white haired elf.

"Yes. Very nice to meet you!"

"Hmm. You are the renowned Scholar, are you not?"

The corner of Brumek's lips lifted when Ozemir preened. "One of them."

"Yes, you were a pupil of Zynfrae. A very wise elf. You are also a guardian of the new blood as is Brumek. Correct?"

"Yes!" he exclaimed, bouncing on his toes excitedly.

Taosek's eyes narrowed and swept over the Scholar once more. "You are a new blood guardian?" he repeated in disbelief.

"Father," Haedya stepped forward. "Let us invite them in."

Brumek sent her a look of thanks, but Taosek ignored her suggestion and took to studying the babe in Ozemir's arms. "At least," he finally said to his son, "your babe mostly resembles you. Let us hope he carries other traits of yours, son."

Taosek turned on his heels and strode to the doors leading into the keep, leaving his children in the courtyard. Brumek released a breath, one of suppressed anger. Ozemir smiled softly and pressed against his side.

"Brumek, we are happy you've come," Haedya spoke as she stepped forward to embrace her brother. "Father is very proud of you."

"Yes, I know this," he murmured as he returned her embrace. Haedya stepped in front of Ozemir next and embraced him as well.

"You are very welcome to the family. You must forgive our father. Nothing impresses him."

Ozemir was about to burst in giddiness. "My! I never knew Brumek could have such siblings with the way he is. Thank you for the warm welcome."

"May we hold our nephew, Ozemir?" Corae asked eagerly and Haedya's eyes expressed her wish to hold Zohrek as well. It took a few moments, and a soothing hand on his back before he released Zohrek to Corae, whom immediately began cooing at the little one.

Dillek sauntered over then, and it was clear he planned to give Ozemir the same welcome as Haedya had. Brumek's arm shot out as Dillek passed him and grabbed his younger brother's neck. "My mate, little brother."

"Brumek, I was only going to say hello."

Ozemir laughed. "Oh you have a silky voice. Must work splendidly for you."

"Does it?" Dillek asked with a roguish grin, ignoring the hand squeezing the back of his neck. He was well used to his brother's rough handling.

The Scholar turned to his mate and beamed. "I prefer a rough no-nonsense voice."

Dillek laughed with good humor. "You're as bright as the sun, aren't you?" it was clear to anybody that the mate bond had nothing to do with the Scholar's feeling for his brother. "Whatever do you see in Brumek?"

Ozemir's smile was bright when he answered. "I see everything."

Brumek growled. "I told you none of that in front of my siblings!"

They arrived in the evening and soon dinner was being served. Ozemir ignored the speculative looks he received from Brumek's father throughout the meal and easily grew comfortable with his mate's siblings. He liked them very much and appreciated the way they steered the conversations always to light topics. Brumek, like his father, was silent beside him. But that wasn't something new. And unlike Taosek, the Scholar could feel how pleased his mate was with him and his siblings. And though the warrior was silent, his eyes expressed a great deal whenever they chanced to look at each other.

After dinner, Corae and Haedya took charge of Ozemir and Zohrek, leading them away for a tour around the homestead. Dillek sauntered off to Hirsha knew where, and Taosek and Brumek adjourned to Taosek's private parlor to catch up. Before anything could be said, Brumek handed his father an envelope with a silver and red seal on the back. The seal was of a Gryffin with a snake coiled around its neck.

"A summons?" Taosek inquired as he peeled the seal off and pulled the parchment out.

"Yes. All landholders and overseers of villages and cities are required to meet with the Emperor on the date ascribed," Brumek explained as his father read the missive.

"Then I shall attend," the elder elf replied after finished with his reading. He walked over and placed the parchment and envelope onto the table before motioning for his eldest son to sit.

At Taosek's insistence, Brumek filled his father in on what was happening outside their lands. About his missions to the human world. Though he didn't give up any information that needed to remain a secret. Taosek seemed pleased with Brumek's descriptions of the new blood, with what the young ones had accomplished already. And their determination to see the Empire to its full glory immediately.

After a little time, Brumek asked a question that had been on his mind for a while. And maybe he asked because he was annoyed with his youngest brother as well. "Why have you not sent Dillek out? He needs to make himself useful. He is educated. He's had the best physical training. Allowing Dillek to remain here and bask in the clan's wealth is not to be tolerated. Not now when we're at war. Is it true Sahr and Renael have joined the Reserves?"

Taosek allowed a quick smile. "Yes, they did. Though they haven't been called to arms as of yet."

"They will, soon enough. After the census has been taken… And yet Dillek is still here, spending your coin and chasing after the mates of others! It's a wonder he hasn't been killed in a duel!"

"What use can Dillek do out in the realm?"

Brumek smiled grimly. "I'm sure I can find some use for him, Father. With your permission, of course."

Taosek waved the air in front of him. "Yes, yes. Take him with you to Borsteria when you return… Brumek, I wish to speak about your mate." Brumek steeled himself. He had known this was coming. The moment he thought about brining Ozemir here. "You seem to have a problem with controlling your mate. You must not let that go on."

Brumek knew why they were having this conversation. Taosek blamed himself for his mate's death. Thought that if he had been a little more controlling she would still be alive. Instead of giving in to her whims and allowing her to journey with her friends, Taosek believed his mate would never have met an end. Brumek also knew Taosek only wanted what was best for his offspring. He knew his father never wished for any of his children to go through the pain he had to go through every day without having his mate. This was why Brumek refused to become angry with his father whenever the elder elf started conversations similar to this.

"Controlling Ozemir is impossible," he stated.

Taosek narrowed his eyes and Brumek knew he was quickly changing tactics. "Brumek, you are the Second in Command of the Imperial Forces. People will talk if they see you with such a weak mate. You must groom him. Beauty isn't everything."

Brumek thought he'd better put a stop to this now. The current topic amused him. "Father, Ozemir has the strength to best me in any type of battle. In fact, Ozemir has the skill to best even the Commander."

Taosek sighed. "You speak with your heart."

Brumek shook his head. "I speak from fact. His strength is well hidden. But it is there. Have you ever known me to speak falsely? If you don't believe me, perhaps you would like a demonstration. Ozemir is a showoff. He would not mind displaying his skills."

"I would like to see a demonstration."

Brumek scowled and turned towards the door. "Who gave you permission to eavesdrop, Dillek?"

"My name was mentioned…"

"You are very much like the new blood. Acting like a young one whenever you have the chance."

Dillek sauntered into the room as if he'd been invited. "Not all of us can claim your title and level of maturity."

"You wouldn't be jealous of my position if you went out and did something useful instead laying about being an elf of leisure."

"I'm not jealous. What do I want with your responsibilities? Though… that is not quite true," Dillek amended with a grin. "I'm quite jealous that the Fates bestowed upon you such a mate. He really is refreshing, Brumek."

This was a sincere compliment. The words were spoken without any kind of leer and underplayed message, and so Brumek nodded in acceptance without scowling at him.

"And Father," Dillek turned to Taosek, "he is not weak. You only need to watch his eyes to see it."

"And how close to his eyes have you gotten?" Brumek snapped. Dillek laughed at this show of jealousy.

"It would be rude to demand a demonstration," Taosek replied. Before Brumek could say anything on it, his father turned to Dillek. "You will travel to Borsteria with Brumek and his mate, Dillek. I agree with your brother. It's time you did something productive."

"I did hear that." Dillek sighed dramatically. "I suppose a change of scenery might do me some good."

"I think a drastic change will serve my purpose. I may even send you to the human world on a mission."

Dillek's eyes widened, horror quickly filling them. "Disgusting," he spat. "I will never set one foot upon human soil. Never."

Brumek bared his fangs in a dark grin. "We'll see."

They were interrupted by a brisk knock on the door and turned to find Haedya and Corae standing there with Zohrek tucked snugly in the latter's arms. Haedya looked worried. "Brumek, your mate told us to leave and bring to you your son."

"Why?" Brumek demanded as he strode forward to take Zohrek.

"He said a visitor was there to see him."

"Nonsense," Taosek said. "I would have felt an intruder."

Brumek frowned. "Ozemir's senses are beyond yours… and if someone could get past your wards without being noticed…."

"Someone spoke too!" Corae informed. "Someone we couldn't see. This person demanded a mirror from your mate, Brumek."

The warrior's eyes widened and he strode out of the room. "Where is he, Haedya?"

"The right wing conservatory."

When they arrived outside of the large exotic greenhouse, Brumek was unsurprised to hear the sounds of Dagon's growling. Brumek pushed open the glass doors that were covered in condensation due to the humidity in the air within the conservatory. The room was full of trees and exotic flowers, all kinds of fauna and flora. It had been a favorite of his mothers when she still lived.

Ozemir was bouncing on his toes, weaponless, and wearing a grin. His gaze up and away from the doorway, looking into the light blue canopy of a cluster of tress. "Shall we battle for it, demon?" the Scholar asked. "I refuse to hand it over to you without a challenge." Behind Brumek, his father, brother, and sisters wondered whom the Scholar could be speaking to.

"I've been waiting for the chance, Scholar."

"Who is that?" Taosek demanded, trying to push past his eldest son. He may not be pleased with whom the Fates mated his son with, but Ozemir was still his son's mate, and that made the Scholar his responsibility. No intruder would be allowed to harm Brumek's mate.

"Do not interfere, Father. It may cost you your life," Brumek murmured, grabbing onto his father's arm before he could step in further. "Ozemir?"

"Oh, I'm fine, dear heart. You can stay there and watch. Don't get too close."

Dillek laughed. "Dear heart?!"

Brumek growled and shoved Dillek away. Corae giggled. "That's so sweet, Brumek. You must dote on your mate."

"A shocking vision, I'm sure," Haedya replied softly, her lips twitching.

"Try not to damage the plants and trees!" Brumek barked in annoyance.

Ozemir suddenly jumped into the air, high and weightless like a bird. Without the help of his wings. He laughed and something glinted in his hands. A dagger. He threw it across the room and it embedded into a tree. "Hmm," he mused as he dropped back to the ground in a crouched position.

Laughter floated around the room. "You need to train more, Scholar. I moved away long before you threw it."

Brumek shifted so that he could see his mate. The Scholar was hidden behind a bush. Ozemir was still crouched low to the ground, but now his eyes were closed and he was breathing deeply. Brumek noticed the lack of weapons in his hand and he wondered, despite what his mate previously said, if the Scholar had lost his skills when the demon was pulled from him. No one had seen the Scholar fight since.

But then a smile appeared on Ozemir's face. "Yes, you are correct. I must train more. But then… so do you!" metal flashed and then sailed through the air behind him. Brumek opened his mouth to warn his mate, but Ozemir had already moved, flashing across the room while his arm moved in a blur to release another dagger from his hidden trove into the air. Though he wasn't quick enough to dodge the second dagger thrown his way and that pierced his thigh.

Ozemir yanked the dagger out as he turned around, seemingly ignorant to the pain he should be feeling. In fact he bounced on his toes as he always did, looking terribly excited. "Got you!"

Dagon finally appeared in view of everyone, glowering at his illuminated twin as he yanked Ozemir's dagger out of his forearm. "You've ripped my tunic!"

The Scholar grinned cheekily at him as he crossed his arms. "You've ruined my trousers," Ozemir called back with a chuckle. "And you're correct. We should both train. Obviously the separation has done damage to both of our skills."

"Well come on then," Dagon goaded. "You can choose the next weapons."

"Hmm," Ozemir lifted his finger to lightly tap against his curved lips. They fell away moments later, revealing a smirk. "I'd rather not use a weapon."

Dagon smiled malevolently. "Good. I wanted to kill you with my bare hands."

Ozemir bounced on his toes, a goofy grin the answer to Dagon's threat. They waited five heartbeats before moving. Those standing in the doorway, with the exception of Brumek, gasped at the speed in which they moved. It was so fast, the Scholar and demon faded in and out of vision. Both becoming invisible at times. And other times their moves were blocked by the trees and thick bushes around. The entire fight was like that as well. Forceful punches were thrown and equally blocked. Arms and legs working so fast it was as if they had more then one set. The two fighters moved all around the observatory. High into the air. Crouched low on the ground. Running along the glass walls.

For the most part they didn't near those who were standing within the doorway watching, except for one time when they suddenly appeared right in front of the doors. The occupants backed up a step. Brumek winced when Dagon suddenly slammed the side of Ozemir's head against the doorway. Ozemir immediately retaliated even though he must have been dazed after that hit. Ozemir kicked out behind him. His boot connecting with Dagon's knee where it certainly broke. Brumek was well acquainted with the sound of breaking bones. The demon jerked and his grip on Ozemir's head slackened. Ozemir easily slid away and around, wielding his claws and slashing across the assassin's back.

Brumek was astounded at the complete lack of noise the two were making. Beyond the sound of the punches and tearing of flesh, no sound left the lips of Dagon or Ozemir. The discipline it must have taken for them to learn to do that. To keep from expressing pain in any way.

"Brumek, shouldn't you…" Haedya whispered.

"Does it look like he needs help?" Brumek knew better then to step in. Ozemir would be highly insulted.

"They both do actually. Surely they'll die from blood loss soon?"

And that was true, Brumek thought as the two disappeared and then suddenly appeared at the other side of the room, directly across from the door. Both had gashes all over their bodies. Ozemir's hair had come undone somewhere along the way, and as he moved it was swinging around his body. Brumek grimaced when he noted the blood matted in some areas. He also noticed his mate's temple was bleeding from where his head had been slammed into the doorframe. His clothes were torn. He had a massive gash across his chest… but Dagon looked no better. Though there was less blood shown. But Brumek knew that was because the demon's clothes were black, hiding the blood.

Suddenly Ozemir let out a shrill cry; one full of pain and shock. Everyone went still, holding breaths. Dagon jumped back and away from the Scholar and Brumek was surprised to see the demon wasn't smirking smugly at whatever he had done to the Scholar. Ozemir stood, slightly hunched over with his hands pressed against the top of his head, high above his left temple. The Scholar's eyes were watering as he stared across the room to where the demon was standing.

"My hair! My lovely beautiful hair!" he wailed. Everyone, including Dagon, looked to the demon's hand where there were many, many strands of long white hair clutched within his black claws.

Dagon's eyes went wide and shot back to Ozemir. "Scholar, it was an accident." Brumek's jaw just about dropped. Dagon's voice wavered in fear. "It was an accident!"

"You did that on purpose!" Ozemir shrieked.

"I did not! It isn't my fault your hair came free and got in the way!"

Ozemir dropped his hands and they balled at his sides. A low feral growl filled the observatory as the Scholar's eyes narrowed on the dark being across from him.

"Oh, he's beautiful."

Brumek frowned and looked down to where the voice had come from. He found Corae there sitting on the ground with a bowl of fruit in her lap. Dillek was crouched beside her, taking pieces of fruit out along with his sister and popping it into his mouth as they watched the show.

"You're going to pay, Dagon!"

"AN ACCIDENT!" the assassin yelled as he dropped the strands of hair and backed away from them as if that would save him from the Scholar's wrath. It was then Brumek realized they really weren't fighting because they hated each other. They were fighting because it gave the two some sick kind of enjoyment. But now it was no longer fun and games for Ozemir.

"No it was not, you mean demon!" Ozemir yelled as he shot forward, a sword suddenly in his hand.

"Where are those weapons coming from?!" Dillek asked in wonder.

"Do not know, but this is entertaining," Corae responded before plopping another borry berry into her mouth. "And father thought Ozemir was weak."

"Yes, I see the folly of my thoughts," Taosek murmured moments before the sound of swords clashing rang out in the room. Dagon had conjured a sword just moments before Ozemir could chop his head off. Brumek crossed his arms and smirked. Clearly he'd been mistaken. Ozemir had lost none of his skills as an assassin.

"I find it truly amusing that your mate was hurt more by the hair pulling then all the other wounds he's acquired over the last several minutes.

Brumek looked to his father. "Ozemir is a very vein creature."

"He has every right to be. He's beautiful."

Brumek accidentally let his knee jerk forward to roughly hit Dillek square in the back, sending the idiot sprawling onto his hands and knees.

"Brumek," Haedya chastised softly as she held Zohrek close and stroked her nephew's soft chubby cheek.

"He's salivating over my mate, Haedya! I will not stand for it."

"Quiet," Taosek intoned. "I want to watch this."

The sword fight was much like the hand-to-hand combat. Most of it was unseen due to Ozemir and Dagon's swift movements. One moment they were across the room, sparks flashing as blades connected. The next moment they were up in the air, flying over each other. Brumek watched as Ozemir jumped over Dagon with a fierce cry, his blade being thrust down towards the demon's head. And though Dagon blocked that powerful shot, he did not catch the underhanded move of Ozemir's. The Scholar kicked down, bypassing the swords. The sharp tip of a dagger appeared from the heel of his boot. As he kicked down, Ozemir cut the side of Dagon's neck.

Dagon dropped back to the ground and quickly rolled away, a hand pressing to his neck. "A cheap trick, Scholar."

"One you were preparing to use yourself. Don't pretend otherwise," Ozemir replied. "I could have killed you, Dagon. I missed on purpose."

Dagon hissed and vanished his sword. Apparently the fight was over. Good thing too. Neither could take much more abuse from the other. "I want the mirror!"

"Since it's obvious I won this little duel… no!" Ozemir exclaimed before dropping to his knees and laughing lightly, his breath coming out raspy. "Why should I hand it over? I created that mirror. And I created the temple all on my own."

"It's called Dagon's Treasure! Half of it is mine!"

Taosek made a strangled noise at the back of his throat and the warrior realized his father must have finally realized who and what was going on. He would need to explain before his father tried to throw Ozemir out of his home. Brumek stepped into the conservatory and strode over to his mate. He crouched down behind Ozemir and pulled the Scholar back until Ozemir's head rested against his thighs.

"You and I will take a trip to the temple together," Ozemir suggested, sighing blissfully as Brumek brushed the bloody strands of his hair away from his face. "I will not give you my mirror. Only Hirsha knows what you might do with all my things!"

"I would certainly redecorate!" Dagon sneered.


"Hush," Brumek murmured to his mate and then glared at Dagon. "You will concede to his compromise." Before the demon could say anything to that, Brumek looked over his shoulder to his family. "Haedya. Will you call a healer?"

"Yes, brother." She passed Zohrek over to Corae before turning to go summon the healer who attended their homestead.

"You'll see me soon, Scholar," Dagon growled lowly before disappearing.

"Brumek, he pulled my hair out! Can you see?"

"No," Brumek lied about the small patch of bloodied scalp he could see. Ozemir would go into hysterics when he saw it, and until the Scholar was healed, he wouldn't allow Ozemir to think upon it.

"Several things must be explained at once," Taosek whispered harshly as he approached the two. "You called that one Dagon," he said to Ozemir. "Dagon is the feared treasonous assassin of the realm! You and that assassin look exactly alike! He spoke of Dagon's treasure being both yours and his…"

"Treasonous only because we were made to be," Ozemir replied. Not the least bit intimidated by the cold look in Taosek's eyes. "And I'll have you know I'm much prettier then he is!"

From somewhere behind him, Brumek heard Corae giggle. "Father," he stated darkly, "none of this leaves our home. And you don't know the half of it, so I beg you not to jump to conclusions."

"Conclusions? Do you mean the conclusion that my eldest son, the Second in Command has been mated with one of the Kibosh? With one of the treasonous curs that destroyed the great Royal family? Shall our clan fall into dishonor because you've mated with this?!" he shouted furiously.

"Father!" Dillek shouted over Ozemir's pained gasp.

Taosek had managed to do what no one thought was possible. Make Ozemir doubt himself again; make him remember he had at one point betrayed everything and everyone that he held dear. His words hurt Ozemir far more then any of Dagon's inflicted wounds had. The Scholar whimpered and turned away from those cold eyes. Eyes that resembled his mates. He curled into a fetal position and hugged his mate's thighs, closing his eyes tightly. Brumek glowered as he gathered his mate into his arms and stood. He towered over his father. He had been able to do so since he'd reached adult hood. But this time the look on Brumek's face was what intimidated Taosek when before he had never been intimidated by his son.

"Ozemir is the most loyal being you will ever find in this world," Brumek hissed. "He deserves respect. Not censure. I will not allow you to talk to him or about him like this ever again." Brumek spun around, intent on carrying Ozemir to his bedchambers where they would wait for the healer. "Once he's been healed, we will go."

"Brumek, no! Don't go," Corae pleaded as he passed her. "You've only just arrived! Father?" When she received no answer, Corae hissed petulantly and then ran after her big brother, holding Zohrek close to her chest.

Dillek studied his father. The elf stood silent and still as a statue, staring off away from the door. "You were only waiting for the chance to hurt him. It should have been clear early on that nothing you could say would change Brumek's affections." Still Taosek said nothing. Dillek shook his head. "When the time comes, if it comes… No one else will want to bring their mates here if this is the reception you've planned for all. Ozemir may have poisonous thorns that are well hidden, but still. You've just trampled on a rare flower, Father. Brumek's flower."

Brumek stood outside of his bedroom, barely listening to the healer go on about the wounds he'd healed. All that Brumek cared about was that Ozemir was healed. And since the healer had said that right off, Brumek ignored the rest while Haedya, ever the hostess, listened to the rest of his babbling.

"Brumek," his sister prodded him from his thoughts.

Brumek turned his attention to the now silent healer. He bowed his head. "Thank you for healing him."

The warrior said nothing else and didn't wait for a reply; instead he walked around the healer and entered his room, shutting the door firmly behind him. Ozemir was awake and sitting up at the edge of the bed when he pushed away the rich brown drapes sectioning off part of his large room.

Ozemir turned, met his gaze and smiled. "It's alright, Brumek. I came here expecting he wouldn't like me," he murmured as he rocked the cradle sitting in front of him. "And I know you came here half expecting it. I'm not bothered."

"My siblings like you already," Brumek replied.

Ozemir laughed and Brumek was relieved to hear it was a light hearted one. "Well yes. I am a charmer after all."

"On occasion."

Ozemir smiled as the warrior sat beside him. "I like them too. Perhaps next time I'll meet your absent brothers."

"Yes. But now we're leaving."

"We don't need-"

"Now. We are leaving now," Brumek returned gruffly. Ozemir sighed. There was no arguing with the warrior when he was like this.

"Very well."

Brumek reached over to fondle a strand of white hair. Ozemir had not put his hair back up. In fact he'd parted it differently so that the patch Dagon pulled out was no longer visible. The warrior snorted when thinking of his mate's reaction to the hair pulling.

"What's so funny?"

"Err… nothing," he quickly said, knowing it would be cause for pain should he tell Ozemir what he'd been thinking. He stood and headed for the door. "I will collect Dillek. When I return, we'll go."

Ozemir watched the warrior stride away, a small smile playing on his lips. And though he thought leaving was a bit dramatic, he couldn't help feel pleased at the way Brumek was trying to protect him from his father's harsh words. Standing, the Scholar passed a hand over his sleeping babe's cheek before turning away to once again study Brumek childhood room. His smile grew. It was exactly like he thought it would be. Dark and full of weapons. A clear sign the occupant was a warrior. Above the headboard of the bed was a shield with two battle-axes crossed on it. Over on the wall was a large map of the realm. A coat of armor stood against the opposite wall next to a massive fireplace, which had a large broad sword mounted above it.

The Scholar moved beyond the curtains closing off the sleeping area, smiling as he trailed his fingers against the silky brown material. It was a deep brown. Like dark chocolate. Ozemir liked that. And though he wasn't usually a fan of dark depressing colors, he couldn't help be attracted to this room because it was Brumek's and it fit the warrior perfectly. He'd expected the rest of the castle to be like this, but it wasn't. Brumek's father was not a warrior. He wasn't the first born of his clan and was instead a landholder and merchant. Also a politician from what he'd gathered, though Taosek had left politics when the old blood had been slaughtered.

Beyond the curtain was a small sitting area. Nothing extravagant. Simple and rough. A table, a few chairs. Another coat of armor standing beside the door. Following the curtain around, Ozemir paused at the corner, looking to his left. There was an archway leading out onto a balcony. To the right Ozemir spotted something more of interest and he approached it. A painted portrait of a female. Ozemir touched the frame as he took in the features of the elf. She was very beautiful. Auburn hair shined brightly as if she were outside being kissed by the sun, and yet the picture clearly had been done inside a room. Her eyes were a striking amber color, and gleamed with contentment. The smile on her face was one of serenity. Ozemir smiled in return. This was Brumek's mother.

He stroked the frame once more before turning away. And as he turned, something else caught his eye. Something strange. A sconce set into the wall very near the entrance to the balcony. He found it odd because the room with lit by glowing orbs and the natural light from outside. And the sconce wasn't lit, nor did it hold a candle or torch. Ozemir grinned and strode to it. He didn't even need to ponder on it before grabbing and pulling. The sconce dipped in his hand and immediately the floor shifted behind him. Ozemir released the light fixture and twirled around, watching as the floor moved and lowered, turning into steps.

Tapping a long slender finger against his grinning lips, Ozemir immediately descended. He knew his mate well and therefore was not surprised when he was soon standing within Brumek's private training room and arsenal. Weapons of every kind lined the walls. Swords, spears, axes, bows, maces, daggers, shields… Ozemir looked away from the walls to stare at the scarred and scuffed wooden floor beneath his feet. He smiled brightly, easily picturing Brumek as a young one and training on his own and in his own time. Completely dedicated to his role even if he hadn't chosen it at his birth… but being the first-born meant he would be a warrior. Some may not have chosen or liked it, but Brumek clearly wouldn't have chosen anything different for himself. There was a reason why he'd made it as Second. He was an ambitious warrior.

Looking around, Ozemir then wondered what Brumek's home looked like. They hadn't gone there yet. Brumek had said he hardly went to his own home and that was understandable. When would he have had the time? And though Ozemir liked being surrounded by things that reminded him about his mate, the Scholar sincerely hoped Brumek's entire home wasn't exactly like his personal quarters here. If so… well, there would be some changes coming in the future.

"Always snooping around," Brumek murmured from behind him, though there was a smile in his tone. Ozemir turned to face him, looking unashamed for having snooped around.

"Are we ready?"

Brumek nodded and turned, indicating Ozemir should precede him up the stairs. The Scholar smiled and moved by him. Brumek watched him saunter in front of him, watched his long white hair swaying along and swallowed thickly. Once again he was brought back to the time he'd first seen Ozemir standing up on the highest tower of the citadel. His expressive violet eyes and smiling face. Brumek jumped a stair and blocked Ozemir's way with his arm. Ozemir turned to face his, a coy look in his eyes as he pressed back against the warm stone wall.

"Is something the matter?" he asked softy, voice low and arousing.


"Why have we stopped then?"

"I want to look at you," the warrior murmured, his gray eyes fixated on Ozemir's face.

Ozemir blushed. Brumek's simple words always seemed to do that. The Scholar watched with uneven breaths as the warrior's gaze finally shifted, taking in all of his body, and by the time Brumek was done, Ozemir was heated with a desperate need for more then a look.

But he was not to be satisfied at that moment and he suspected Brumek enjoyed his obvious need. The warrior smirked and took his arm, leading him up the stairs. Ozemir pouted. "You're mean too."

This was answered with a dark throaty chuckle that did nothing to quell Ozemir's desire. After leaving the secret passage, Brumek closed it while Ozemir went behind the curtains to retrieve their sleeping son and then they left, only stopping a few moments outside in the front courtyard where Haedya, Corae, and Dillek stood waiting.

"Brumek, there is no reason why you cannot stay," Haedya whispered when he embraced her.

"I will give father time before we return. It's not forever. We'll come back."

Corae pouted. "But I don't want you three to leave!"

"We'll be back," Brumek promised again and prepared for her enthusiastic embrace.

Ozemir said his goodbyes and then gave Zohrek over to be fawned upon. Sensing eyes upon him, he turned and looked up to see Taosek standing upon the bridge Corae had first been spotted on. Taosek didn't move a muscle and neither did Ozemir. He was being judged, but Ozemir didn't flinch because he had nothing to hide. Not from his mate's father. He was glad Taosek learned the truth, no matter what the outcome was.

"Come," Brumek murmured, grasping his elbow and waving Dillek along so that they could travel down the lane and pass the wards in order to Circle away.

"He'll come to accept it," Dillek murmured to Brumek.

"Whether he does or not, I don't care."


Said elf turned to find his mate grinning and running towards him down one of the smooth stone streets occupying the merchant area of Borsteria. Draco paused in his steps, shifted Caellum into a sitting position within his arms, and waited for his hyper mate to catch up. Once Harry was in front of him, Draco opened his mouth and prepared to ask if it were necessary for Harry to run everywhere. They had an image to maintain after all and they were very much in public. But before he could say this, something juicy, sweet, and a little bit sour was thrust into his mouth.

Harry laughed as he took Caellum and watched Draco consume the piece of fruit he'd nearly choked him with. "Isn't it great! It's called borry and grown on a vine," Harry told him as he fed a little piece to Caellum. "They make wine out of it too!"

"It's good. Where did you get it?"

"The shop down the way. The elf who owns the shop is really sweet. She gave me a bag of borry for free!"

"Harry, you're the Emperor. Of course she gave it to you for free."

"Oh yeah. Right, forgot."

"How could you forget something like that?" Draco asked in shock as he took Harry's hand and they went on.

"Well… everyone is really nice here. When I talk to them, beyond the first greeting of bowing, they don't treat me like a deity, you know? I really like it."

A smile touched Draco's face his eyes scanned the street they were on. He suspected it was Harry's temperament that caused the elves to react a certain way with him. It was a type of allure. When Harry was happy, everyone else tended to be as well. This pleased Draco tremendously. If there was one thing he didn't want, it was Harry feeling uncomfortable or unhappy here. What Draco was really looking forward to was when someone commented on Harry's seemingly happy go lucky attitude in a negative manner. The blond anticipated it with much enthusiasm. Because then Harry would need to remind whoever it was there was a reason why he should never be underestimated. He would remind them there was a reason why people wanted to keep him happy. Oh yes, Draco couldn't wait to see it.

"Caellum likes the borry too!" Harry said and was already in the process of giving the reaching baby another piece.

"Our son likes anything that is edible," Draco deadpanned.

"He's a growing boy! Aren't you, love?" Harry cooed, nuzzling Caellum's cheek. "And you're growing so fast too. Ukatae must have metabolisms that go through the roof to keep up with the rate of growth for elf children."

Draco hummed in absent agreement; his gaze trained at the end of the road, near one of the city gates. The blond narrowed his eyes, squinting as he saw visitors to the city being checked out by the guards. Once he could see them clearly, a smile appeared on his face. "Harry."

The brunet pulled his eyes away from Caellum to Draco, and then let his gaze travel to where Draco was pointing. Harry gasped in delight even as Draco's arm staked around his waist to Shadow them to the gates.

"Hey guys!" Harry cried, smiling brilliantly at Fred, George, Mila, and Similae.

"They may pass," Draco told the guards, who immediately lowered their spears and allowed the four to enter.

Once the six greeted each other, they all turned and headed back towards the palace. "We didn't think we'd be seeing you this soon," Draco said.

"Well Luna told us our job was done."

Harry passed Caellum over into Fred's waiting arms. "Yeah, Falde's been saying elves have been coming in from the human world everyday."

George nodded. "Apparently word spread of our elf hunting and they came before we could demand it. Last two places we looked, the elves had already left. So we're here now."

"Falde will want to debrief you now that you're here," Harry thought aloud.

"I thought Falde would be off pouncing and trouncing the enemy," Fred commented as he bounced the happy little prince in his arms.

"No. He'll be staying in the city for a while. He said something about researching," Draco answered. "He can command the troops from here easily enough and I'll need his help in the coming weeks."

"Question is where would he be right now?" Harry pondered, watching George and Similae move on ahead of them. Similae had grasped George's hand and was pulling the redhead down the road, pointing at the shops they passed and talking animatedly. Apparently Similae was quite familiar with the city and very glad to be back.

"That's easy. Either he's training or with his books and maps," Draco answered.

"Where's Gin and the others?" Fred asked, looking around the road with wide curious eyes. The last time he'd been here, it had been dark. There had been rain and fog and a lot of smoke obscuring the view. And it was a different viewpoint in the day when there weren't the remnants of battle around.

"They went off exploring the city, like us," Harry replied. "Though I think Nev and Dudley are holed up somewhere in the palace…"

Draco groaned. "I don't need you to put mental images into my head!"

Harry snickered. "Anyway, we're all gathering soon so you'll see everyone then."

"Mila! The seamstress is open! We can get realm clothes!"

Mila gasped happily and ran over to join her brother and George. "Finally!"

"Oi," Fred called. "Didn't you just buy loads of clothes… with my money?!"

Draco and Harry stopped to stare at Fred's grinning face. "With your money?" Draco asked, a smirk curving his lips.

"No, it's not like that," Fred returned firmly, rolling his eyes. "She's just—I felt bad, cause we're always pranking her and using her as a test subject and she can do this thing with her eyes. And there may have been some blackmail involved…"

Harry blinked at that. Before he could ask about that, Draco commanded the three who'd run off to come back. Draco immediately created a Circle when the three returned. "You don't need to go into the store. We've people who make our clothes."

Similae looked around as the Circle activated. "You can Circle and Shadow into the palace?" he asked in surprise.

"Only those who are keyed into the protections around it. There are very few."

Falde indeed had been training, but he was soon brought word of the four returning and he was the one to seek them out. He found those he sought within the Royal family room/saloon. They were all there. Harry, Draco, and Caellum. Neville and Dudley. Pansy, Ginny and Blaise. Hermione and Tom. And the four who had just returned. Sitting around in various chairs and lounges, engaged in relaxed conversations.

The Emperors were draped along one lounge. Draco had his arms tightly around his husband, holding Harry as if he would never let him go while they were speaking with the twins, whom had chairs pulled up in front of the lounge. One of the twins held the little prince on his thighs, softly bouncing the happily gurgling baby.

"We thought we ought to come back now. Get orders if you have any for us and relay some news," one of the twins said. Falde thought it must be Fred because the other twin holding the baby kept looking over towards the balcony where Similae stood with Blaise and Tom, making eyes at the short elf.

"What news do you have?" Draco asked, smiling as Harry played with the fingers of one of his hands.

"Well… more snatches happening soon," Fred began. "The primary school will be opening at the start of summer. The gang is preparing for that. The construction of the city is still going good. But Dudley is missed there, we've been told. Hmmm… Luna's okay too. She's having fun with the kids at the Nest. And she can be seen frequently at the Ministry. Both the old and new buildings. I think she's snooping out potential problem makers."

"What about Kaego?" Harry asked.

George frowned. "Didn't see much of him after he freed Simi's wing sacks. Sirius says he never really strays from his room at the manor. Luna's been visiting him too, but…"

Draco stared up at the ceiling while Harry started chewing on his lip, staring across the room to where the captain of the Saen stood quietly. "When the babies are strong enough and don't need constant supervision, we should bring him back here."

"Oh! Forgot!" Fred pulled something out of his back pocket and handed it over to Harry and Draco. "We thought you might like to see this."

Harry lifted the paper to see and though his face was hidden, Falde watched as Draco's face brightened up with pleasure. Harry giggled, "look at him. Your father looks so…"






"Trying to look like he's not posing when he really is?"

Harry laughed at the twins. "All of the above. Also happy. He looks very happy."

Behind him Draco nodded. "Tom! Hermione, come here!"

Falde remained within the shadows of the doorway and watched the siblings amble over and Draco handed them the paper. At once Hermione gushed over the picture and in a way that had Falde thinking it was a picture of Draco's father with his new babies.

It was then Harry caught sight of Falde. "Hey! We were just going to go find you!"

"Yes," Falde smiled as he entered the room, "you certainly look as if you are preparing to leave Draco's arms."

Harry blushed and only burrowed further against the blond's chest. "He's comfy and warm," Harry defended. "And here," he whispered more to himself.

Falde heard and nodded in understanding as he stopped beside the twin holding Caellum. "Have you kept a number of the elves you have found in the human world?"

"Yep," George chirped before turning to his brother. "What was the number, Fred?"

Fred's eyes remained on Caellum as he recited the number. "Four hundred fifteen."

"Honestly?" Draco asked. "That's great."

"That is a good number," Falde agreed. "And how many did you need to dispose of?"

"Luckily not many. Maybe twenty at the most," George replied.

"Hmm…" Falde's gaze moved away to stare at nothing, obviously in thought. Only when George returned Caellum to his mother and Fred stood to move away did the warrior speak again. He quickly reached out and grabbed Fred's arm to keep him from moving away further. Fred tensed and went still as stone under his grip. Falde lifted an eyebrow, wondering about that while at the same time speaking. "Gather the other two and follow me. I want to hear the details of your mission."

George smirked. "Every detail?"

"Your private business excluded," Falde replied with an eye roll as he released Fred's arm. George called Similae and Mila and soon the four disappeared with Falde. As soon as they were gone, Harry sat up and looked at his mate with huge eyes.

Draco sighed. "Yes, I sensed it. Don't really want to think about that right now."

"You will be allowed to stay in the palace until I've decided what to do with you," Brumek murmured to Dillek as they moved through a corridor.

"You needn't make me sound like a burden, brother," Dillek replied as he curiously looked around as they moved through the newly awakened palace. "Need I remind you it was your idea for me to come along?"

Brumek ignored him and turned to Ozemir. "I must find Falde."

"Hmm… I'll see to Dillek and you may go seek Falde."

"No you will not see to Dillek."

"I haven't a problem at all with Ozemir helping me settle in," Dillek purred.

Ozemir smiled brightly at him, amused with his flirting and knowing Dillek only did it to annoy his big brother. Ozemir looked away from his seething mate when Zohrek began wriggling and crying, face scrunching up in displeasure.

"Oh, my lovely. You need to be fed, don't you? Yes," the Scholar murmured softly, lifting Zohrek to cradle against his shoulder and walking away from the two brothers. Apparently his offer of helping was now void in the wake of his son's needs. "Perhaps a visit with Caellum is in order as well. If he's still awake."

Dillek watched his brother watch as the Scholar walked off, mystified by the softness of Brumek's face. "It is truly astonishing."

The warrior snapped back to attention with a scowl. "Follow," he bit out roughly.

"So you've returned."

Brumek spun around and glowered at his Commander. "Hate when you do that."

Falde smirked. "Only because it's been years and still you cannot sense my approach. And who is this person you've brought into the Royal palace?"

"Dillek. My brother. He needs something to do," Brumek introduced and was pleased when Dillek showed his respect to Falde by bowing as he was supposed to. "I thought about sending him to the human world, to our small team there searching for our kind."

Before Dillek could announce no such thing would happen, Falde spoke. "The Mother has sent them home. Here. Seems word has been spread in the human world. Everyone has returned home for the war."

Brumek ignored the sigh of relief coming from beside him. "Maybe I'll send him anyway. I'm sure Draco's father could find use for him."

Falde looked amused, which meant he knew Brumek was trying to agitate his youngest brother. "I've just come from debriefing the four. Seems they had an unlikely helper within the human world. I'm inclined to believe Dagon is bored and has been trying to amuse himself."

"Making trouble wherever he goes," Brumek hissed. He launched into Dagon's visit when Falde's brow rose in question.

"Ah. Well at least he's being relatively harmless."

Brumek sputtered. "Relatively harmless?!"

"He could do worse," Fade replied in amusement. "Come, we'll discuss this in the-"

"Who is that?" Dillek interrupted, though it was clear he was talking more to himself and hadn't realized he'd interrupted the Commander of the Imperial Forces. Brumek and Falde turned to see where Dillek's attention was. He stared off down the long corridor, near the doors of the Central Garden.

"That's one of the new blood," Brumek responded. "Fred or George."

"I am uncertain," Falde began with a frown, "but I think that is Fred. George is never without Similae now. Why must they always wear the same clothes?"

"Because they know it annoys everyone," Brumek said as he eyed the redhead. "Wouldn't it be something if the unmated one happened to be a submissive. Then he would gain wings and could no longer fool people."

Unknowing why, Falde frowned at the thought. As if he could feel their eyes on him, the twin turned and spied them. He took one look and spun around, quickly striding away out of the doors leading into the dark garden.

"That was strange," Brumek murmured. "Usually curiosity gets the best of he and his brother. Whichever one he is. I felt he was running away just now—where are you going?" he asked Dillek, his hand once again grasping the back of his youngest brother's neck.

Dillek's eyes took on a gleam. "I want to meet him. Fred, you say?"

"Most likely and no. You cannot meet him," Brumek growled, backed by a firm nod from Falde as the Commander turned to continue down the corridor, hoping whichever twin had run out into the garden that he planned to stay out of trouble. It was a wasted thought, he knew.

"Why have you returned so suddenly? You didn't even stay the night at your father's home."

Brumek scowled and said nothing. Dillek was the one to answer. "Father is not pleased with Brumek's mate. He said some things…"

Falde stopped short and turned to Brumek. "What did he say about my little cousin?"

"Dagon was there, as I told you. An unfortunate circumstance-"

"Not so," Dillek interrupted. Again. "Father was able to see…" he trailed off when both warriors glared balefully at him for the continued interruptions.

"And father put two and two together when Ozemir and Dagon spoke," Brumek went on. "You can see where this would lead, Commander." This was all the younger warrior was prepared to say. He didn't want to go into details because it wasn't anyone's business besides those involved. Falde understood this and let it go.

"And Ozemir?"

"Very good. He let it affect him for a few minutes and then moved on."

"Excuse me," Dillek said, catching their attention, "but did you say Ozemir is your little cousin?" Falde nodded with a glare. Dillek sucked in a breath and looked at his brother. "Father insulted the Commander's cousin!"

"He should be more worried about having insulted me," Brumek growled.

All too soon the day came when Neville and Harry would leave on their campaign. Draco and Harry hadn't left their bedchamber until well past midday and even after weren't one inch away from each other. Nor was Harry away from Caellum at all after they'd finally left the bedroom. Draco finally broke after dinner and had to take himself away to be alone and was now standing silently in the Royals' private family room. Standing in front of the massive fireplace, looking above it to the portrait hanging there. A large portrait of him and Harry, just moments after they'd been married.

A scowl resided on his face as he stared at the lovely portrait, as he drank in the sight of his mate smiling as brilliantly as the sun. The scowl was to mask his true feelings at the moment. Fear and panic. Harry was leaving in less than an hour. Leaving for who knew how long. Harry was going, and would most certainly throw himself into danger time and again to prove himself and there was nothing at all Draco could do about it. And that was really the least of his concerns right now. Least because Neville was going along, and he would do his job as Mar'raeh well, which meant keeping Harry from doing crazy things without thought.

But what he was really concerned about was his own sanity. Draco's heart was beating wildly with the thought of being separated from Harry. Merlin, it was heart wrenching. Harry was his anchor! Harry was his entire life! How would he make it past a week without seeing his lover's face, hearing his lover's voice? It doesn't count if it's inside my head, Draco thought petulantly. How was he supposed to function without half of his soul constantly beside him?

"Draco, you must calm down," a soft voice said behind him. Draco spun to face Ozemir, who had a smile for him and held a wicker basket in his hands.

Draco blinked in confusion. "I sealed this room. How'd you get in here?"

"I find it funny you still ask me things like that," the Scholar laughed as he approached the blond.

"I wanted to panic alone," Draco hissed, turning away from the white haired elf.

"Brought you something. For you and Harry. I know…. Well I don't know what you're feeling right now, but I can guess. And I know this separation will be difficult for you. More difficult then even Neville and Dudley. They've had practice with being separated, while you two have never spent more then a couple of days apart since you bonded-"

"You are not helping."

"I've brought you this!" Ozemir exclaimed cheerfully as he placed the basket on the table. "It's quite like what the Mother uses to communicate across worlds. But it's not a silver basin and you don't need blood. You simply need a connecting orb."

Draco moved to stand beside Ozemir and reached in to pull out one of the two pearly blue orbs. It was mildly small, barely fitting in the palm of his hand. And when Ozemir reached in to take the other orb, both began to glow. "How do they work?" the blond ask.

"Speak my name."

Draco looked at the orb. "Ozemir." The color of the orb changed until it was transparent, until he could see his hands beneath it. Only a moment went by before his hand disappeared and he was looking at Ozemir smiling visage.

"Hello!" The scholar exclaimed, his voice echoing around him, both from the elf and from the orb. "And if you want, you can set it down in front of a wall or anything flat really and the image will be displayed there as well. All you need to do is speak the right word. Look."

Ozemir walked over to a table, summoned a small cradle to hold the orb and placed it down. He waved a hand and the light in the room dimmed. "Liyalmo," he whispered, and gestured to the wall. Draco watched as his own face suddenly appeared on the wall, a look of interest on his face as he looked from his orb to the orb sitting on the table. The image was clear. And it wasn't just Draco's face Ozemir's orb produced, but the entire room itself.

Draco smiled and returned his orb to the wicker basket. "Thank you, Ozemir. These are brilliant."

"I know it's still not Harry. But at least you'll be able to see each other every night instead of only being able to mentally correspond. It should hold you over until you and Caellum can make private trips to visit Harry."

"Really, these are wonderful. And you have managed to calm the nerves a bit."

Ozemir smiled understandingly. "Only a bit. I know."

Draco, why is our family room sealed?

Draco breathed in deeply and waved his hand in an arch, disabling the wards. Moments later Harry strode in, his brow cocked in question at the blond. Ozemir smiled at both of them before silently making his departure, though he didn't think they noticed for they were much too busy staring at each other.

Draco cleared his throat and turned towards the orbs, beckoning for Harry to join his side. "Presents from Ozemir," he said and passed one of the orbs to Harry before explaining what they were and how they worked. By the time he was finished, Harry held his orb tightly within hand and was staring up at Draco with wide frantic eyes.

"I- I don't want to-"

"You have to. We have to."

They'd had this conversation many times over the last fortnight. Both knew the separation was needed, but neither wanted it. And it wasn't always Harry that suggested they give up on this plan. It just so happened this time it was Harry. The look on Harry's face expressed everything Draco was feeling. "Come here," the bond murmured, grabbing Harry's hand and pulling his mate to the nearest available seat. Draco sat and lounged back. Harry immediately settled over, straddling Draco and snuggling against his chest.

"Caellum's with Hermione," Harry murmured before Draco could ask, sighing moments later when the blond's hands began to stroke his wings. Reaching up, Harry placed his hands on Draco's cheeks, running thumbs along the blond's gorgeously defined cheekbones and softly pressed their lips together. The kiss was chaste, and yet the heat boiled between them as it always did. Draco sighed against Harry's lips, both their mouths parting slightly to breathe the same air.

It was a favorite pastime of theirs. Snogging. Their friends would probably be shocked to know it, but they could snog for hours and not end up fucking. It was the same as talking, but so much more was said and felt with traveling hands and connected mouths. Harry loved it when Draco's arms would encircle his waist and stay there, holding him close. Draco loved it when Harry's eyes opened during a kiss and remained open so that he could lose himself in a sea of green.

Draco shifted until Harry was trapped between him and the back of the sofa, until he was wrapped solidly around him mate. Harry burrowed against him, pressing his face against Draco's chest and inhaling. Draco doing the same with Harry's hair. "You're going to have fun, Harry."

The brunet shook his head in disbelief. "You'll have more fun then me. I'll be attending meetings and political galas."

Harry snorted. "That's your forte, Draco. You'll enjoy yourself… you will take good care of Caellum, won't you?"

It was an unneeded question, because Harry knew without a doubt Draco would never let anything happen to their son, but he couldn't help ask anyway. Draco took no insult and kissed his temple, whispering the promises Harry had heard before, both knowing them to be true. Draco planned to stay at the palace for the most part and have the dignitaries and politicians come to him. That way insuring both Caellum's parents didn't leave him behind on their missions.

Harry raised his head to say something else, and missed Draco's hands as they traveled down to his sides. "Draco, do you—Ah! Stop it," he laughed as the blond's fingers began to tickle him without mercy. Harry's laughter filled the room as he wriggled and panted where he was trapped by his larger mate, who was grinning and staring into his laughing face. Draco wanted to remember Harry's laughter and smiling eyes.

Harry wiggled beneath him and tried valiantly to push the hands away from his sensitive sides, but no matter what he did, Draco could not be defeated. Only when Harry started wheezing from lack of oxygen did Draco stop. Sitting up, the blond pulled Harry closer until he had arms and legs wrapped around him. "Let's go see the family. They'll want to see you before you go," Draco whispered as he stood.

"Yeah," Harry agreed as he released the blond. He ran to the table and grabbed one of the orbs before heading for the door, smiling when Draco instantly pressed against his back, wrapping an arm around his waist as they walked in unison.

Draco dropped his chin against the top of Harry's head. "Had I known it was that easy to beat you, I would have instigated tickling duels years ago."

Harry laughed. "Had you done that, we would have been shagging years ago."


Time flew by way too fast for Harry as he spent time with his family and extended family because all too soon Falde was standing before him, announcing it was time to leave. "Your belongings have already been sent to Tihac's camp and the troops await your arrival."

Draco wrapped him into a tight embrace, so strong that Harry couldn't move to return it until Draco lessened his hold. I will see you soon, lover

I'll make you pay if you don't keep that promise.

Harry reluctantly stepped away and lifted Caellum into his arms, planting a soft lingering kiss against his son's forehead. He pulled back and smiled at his son, tracing Caellum's features, wanting his son's image to remain with him. "Love you, little one. Be good for your father." Harry handed Caellum over to Draco before stepping away from them to stand beside Neville, his determination helping to push down his reluctance. But Caellum was squirming in Draco's arms. His little hands reaching out for Harry while his mouth was open, emitting sounds that sounded suspiciously like, "ma, ma, ma." Harry's eyes grew wide and started to water. Neville quickly reached out to grip Harry's arm tightly.

"Go," Draco said to Falde. "Now."

Falde nodded and a moment later he, Neville, and Harry were gone. Hermione bit her lip as she watched Draco practically sag, squeezing Caellum against his chest.

"Caellum," he murmured. "That was… I know you don't want your mother to go. But you didn't have to do that. You didn't make this any easier on him."

Tom shook his head and walked to his brother to throw an arm around his sagging shoulders. "Your son is a devious little thing."

A/N: Chapter two is done! Yay! Really annoyed it took me this long to get it out, but what can i say? RL wasn't too kind and i may have gotten side tracked with my HP/LV story.

So, there are things in this chap I hope was picked up and i'd really like to hear feedback on it... though I'm not going to say exactly what it is i hope you picked up on ;D That prob made no sense.

Anyway, thanks so much for your support and have a great weekend!