Harry was still sleeping when Artemis emerged from their suite a few hours later. He’d left a note on his pillow, letting his fiancé—his husband—know that he was tying up the loose knots regarding the demon. They had both awakened two hours earlier to warm croissants and hot chocolate, which they had fed each other before Artemis had made quiet love to his twin flame again, delighting in every moan that fell decadently from those kissable lips.
A small creature, with large tennis ball eyes and bat-like ears was waiting just outside the door. “Master Artemis,” it squeaked, bowing low. “I is Dobby and is to be taking you to Master.”
“Who’s your master, then?” Artemis inquired in confusion.
“Master is Malfoy, sir.”
Artemis nodded. This would solve his problems of having to find the man himself. “Lead the way, then.”
He didn’t directly notice where he was being led, his thoughts too tied up in the upcoming interrogation and all the repercussions, his body humming in pleasure from the sweet and passionate lovemaking with Harry. Artemis tried not to let his thoughts linger on soft lips, sweet gasps, smooth skin, and a feeling of warmth and love as he rocked his beautiful fiancé to completion—there would be plenty of time for that. Now he just needed to focus. He would keep his small family safe, the husband of his heart and their future children, and nothing and no one—not even the delusional Albus Dumbledore or a demon that was intent on kidnapping a human would get in his way.
Portraits watched their progress and Artemis saw them flicking in and out of frames as he passed, down winding corridors to a nearby suite.
Dobby bowed at a set of ornate doors and Artemis knocked politely, waiting to be allowed entrance. A moment later and a refined-looking Lucius Malfoy answered the door and gave him a tight smile, belying the stressful situation.
“Do you still have the imp?” Artemis asked quietly and he stepped through the door, noticing the ornate apartment.
“I have whatever it is,” Lucius corrected. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Artemis nodded and walked forward to what appeared to be a magically erected cage. The small imp, with blood red eyes and green skin stared out at him.
“Minister Fudge and Headmaster Dumbledore have both tried to gain custody or access to the—creature—but I’ve managed to keep them out of the private rooms and cited an old wizard law that states that captive magical prey belongs to the hunter. Archaic, I know, but it was useful in this instance.”
Artemis nodded. “It might be best if we’re alone.”
Lucius raised a thin blond eyebrow, before nodding his head. “If you think that is best.”
“I do,” Artemis murmured, his eyes never leaving the small imp.
He heard a soft door click behind him.
“Now,” he began. “You’ve been stalking a human and then captured a little girl. Explain.”
The imp swallowed nervously.
“I can keep you here indefinitely,” Artemis murmured, his eyes cold. “You know who I am. I can see it in the way you hold yourself and you know I’ve done things that wizards could only dream about—and all without magic.”
The young demon shivered and then licked his lips.
“The LEPrecon won’t be here to save you,” Artemis continued to whisper, a vampire smile spreading across his lips, making his face unearthly and frightening. “Other demons can’t make it past the doors of this castle, I would imagine. I could keep you here indefinitely and, as Lucius pointed out, wizard’s law will let me do it.
“So, we can do this now, or in a week, or next year. Whenever you choose—but the sooner you tell me, the sooner you can leave and perhaps have some of the answers you and the other demons are looking for.”
“Harry Potter.” The words were said so softly that Artemis almost didn’t hear them.
The young demon’s eyes were wide and watering. It was clear this imp was young and inexperienced.
“Yes,” Artemis concurred. “You’ve been stalking him for years—why?”
“He was promised to us,” the demon admitted, eyes turned away. “He is greatest wizard living—he has enough power to take Hybras back out of time and keep it there.”
Artemis’s eyes widened. “You want Hybras to return—to how it was?”
The imp didn’t answer at first, but Artemis waited patiently. “Some of us. The younger ones,” he finally whispered.
Artemis nodded. “And the elders do not?”
“They are not as afraid.”
Two unearthly gazes held before the small imp looked away.
Artemis tried to hold in a sigh. “Harry Potter is dead,” he quietly admitted—it was the truth in a way. Artemis had been present when the identity of Harry Potter was completely destroyed and Hyperion Black rose from the ashes like a phoenix reborn. “I saw it happen.”
The imp looked up, startled. “Dead?”
“Yes,” Artemis whispered. “You have my word.”
“But you—you’ve been there—watching—“
“I’ve been trying to protect him,” Artemis admitted, feeling the closer to the actual truth he could get, the better. “But there is one whose machinations have driven him to the edge. He’s gone now and he’s never coming back.”
The little demon’s lip trembled and purple colored tears swelled in his eyes. He was a sorry sight, and yet Artemis felt little compassion. This fairy had wanted to use his twin flame to rip the Demon island of Hybras away from time again, had been stalking him, would have taken him and held him imprisoned where Artemis would never be able to find him.
He had no sympathy for it, especially when he had already had to rescue one human away from demon influences. He scowled just at the thought of Minerva Paradizo.
“I’ll tell you who is responsible,” he whispered sternly, his mismatched eyes flashing, “if you tell me exactly who promised Harry Potter to you and why. You will even be free to go if you promise to leave Scotland and not attempt such a ridiculous feat again—especially without the sanction of older and wiser demons.”
The imp nodded quickly, and his words began tumbling out of his mouth. “There are two who helped—one who watched and knew—the other who did everything. Crouch and Bagman. Crouch begged us younglings to put his son out of time. The son was bad man and should be in prison. The boy now sleeps forever under his father’s eye. This favor bought his silence.”
Artemis’s mind turned back to the story of Bartemius Crouch Senior and his Death Eater son, how there had been only one body when both his wife and his son died so close in time to each other, and nodded. It made sense. He was indebted and would turn a blind eye if he didn’t know anything that would directly break the law—as he was breaking it himself.
“He gambles. He owes the goblins money and even us implings who like to mingle now that we are back in the time stream. He could not pay his debts; they were too high. We don’t care for human money, but we wanted a strong enough wizard—and Bagman promised us Harry Potter. He said he was on the board of this tournament and he could make it impossible for the wizard not to compete.”
Artemis’s eyes widened. “He put Harry’s name in the Goblet.”
“Then Harry Potter left. Bagman lied about the contract being magically binding,” the small demon scoffed, though thick purple tears still ran down its face. “Harry Potter was supposed to swim to the bottom of the lake where we could take him and no one would ever know. When he did not come, we tried to take the girl instead.”
The demon shrugged. “She is powerful. She is part Veela. You came, however. Now there is nothing for us and we must return. We have been gone too long from Hybras.”
“Yes,” Artemis agreed absently. “You will never return here.”
The demon nodded. “You promised to tell me who is responsible.”
“Albus Dumbledore.” His voice was as cold as ice.
“He is a strong wizard but his magic is fading and dying. He has not much time left—ten years at most.”
Artemis didn’t respond. He could see the glimmer in the imp’s eyes and wondered what the demon children would do to him, now that they considered him responsible.
It was no longer his concern however. He knew he was responsible, and they would be punished. The Malfoys would be helpful in this and Harry was now completely safe as his previous identity had now been completely laid to rest.
Carefully, Artemis opened the cage, which hummed as he touched it, and then he opened the window, knowing the demon would leave through it when Artemis’s back was turned. He looked around the beautiful sitting room for a moment and heard a flutter behind him. When he turned to look the cage was empty and the window was swinging in a cold wind.
He grimaced. It had been easy—almost too easy, he mused. Then again, it always seemed too easy after one of his encounters was over. Harry’s life had been hanging in the abyss, however. It had made it seem more perilous to Artemis—Harry was irreplaceable, too precious, the father of his future children, the love of his life.
Artemis wasn’t certain how long he just sat in the room before a knock sounded at one of the inner doors and Lucius entered the room a moment later. He looked momentarily surprised at the empty cage and open window, but said nothing.
“I trust you discovered the reason for this plot?”
“Bartemius Crouch, Sr., broke his son out of the wizard prison, replacing him with his wife, most likely, and his son now resides with him just out of time, asleep. He needs to be punished. Bagman owes large amounts of gold to both the goblins and the demons. I think it is time he paid them.”
“The demons were promised Harry Potter in return for the favor of putting Crouch Sr. to sleep and erasing Bagman’s debt to them. When Potter,” the word sounded wrong on his tongue, too heavy, “didn’t arrive, they took the most powerful captive. I have informed them that Harry Potter is dead.”
His eyes were cold and unreadable, and Lucius just nodded his head in acceptance.
“You are a wizard. I trust you can deal with all of this? I wish to take Hyperion away from all of this for awhile.”
“Of course,” Lucius admitted as he came to sit in a comfy armchair across from Artemis. “A few words in the right places. The Prophet would be happy to get an exclusive on both situations and I’m certain I can arrange an unexpected raid on Crouch’s property, given the fact that his son was a convicted Death Eater.”
“But not all of them were convicted, were they?” Artemis asked quietly, his haunting gaze meeting Lucius’s stunned eyes. “I ran with Hyperion across the campsite last summer and pulled him into those woods.”
“Yes,” Lucius answered carefully. “Not all were caught. It would be difficult to do so—and from what I understand it was merely a demonstration against Muggle influences on our way of life.”
“You agree with them,” Artemis whispered perceptively.
Lucius, however, didn’t answer, and only held his gaze.
“I trust that Hyperion is safe from such anti-Muggle sentiments, although he was raised in a Muggle orphanage and is married in everything but name to me.”
Nothing but his blue eyes betrayed Lucius’s surprise at the revelation that Artemis had just admitted that he and Hyperion were now as good as married. “He’s so young,” he murmured to himself, before shaking off his thoughts. “Hyperion is a pureblood and changelings are more common than is generally acknowledged. None as pure as yourself and Hyperion, of course, but many of the old families have lingering traces. Fairies are well-respected although they chose to withdraw from our world centuries ago.”
“Good. I wouldn’t hesitate to leave the wizarding world with Hyperion and never look back if he weren’t safe.”
The silent message hung between them, unspoken, but recognized. Both knew that Artemis would take Hyperion and never look back, even forsaking Hyperion’s newfound family if necessary.
Lucius shifted in his chair. “I hope that won’t be necessary. Draco is fond of Hyperion.”
“As Hyperion is fond of Draco,” Artemis supplied.
“Then that is settled then.”
The two men lapsed into silence again, regarding each other contemplatively for several moments, before Artemis spoke again. “I need to speak to Headmaster Dumbledore. I have seen some things that have me worried.”
“The fact that he discovered the Dark Lord’s body and burnt it despite the fact that it should have been reported. He’s now delusional enough to think that despite the body, he will return. I’ve watched him manipulate the one called Harry Potter to the point where he took his own life to escape his machinations.” His blue and hazel eyes glinted fiercely and angrily. “I do not care to dream such things.”
Lucius gasped. “Potter is actually dead?”
“Yes,” Artemis purred. “Very much so.”
Now no one—even someone who might notice a similar bone structure between Harry Potter and Hyperion Black—could ever link the two together.
“Let the governors handle it,” Lucius finally said, his voice hard. “Narcissa and I can vouch for your visions. You have seen things that are private and secret, and our word won’t be doubted, especially given the fact you are a changeling. I don’t want the old man to think he has any more power than he has.”
“If you think that is best,” Artemis conceded, glad that the confrontation with the Headmaster was taken out of his hands. He wanted to focus on Harry and his happiness, and leave England on an extended sojourn. He got to his feet.
“I hope you and Hyperion will consider spending the Easter Holiday at Malfoy Manor. I know Narcissa would be pleased, as well as Draco.”
Artemis inclined his head. “I’ll have to ask Hyperion, of course, but I think he would like that. He’s never had a family before.”
“No,” Lucius agreed, “but now he does.”
Artemis stared at the door that hid the private bedroom and then at the clock on the mantle. It as half past eleven and Narcissa had yet to emerge. A smirk briefly glinted in his eyes. “Are congratulations in order?” he murmured, and Lucius startled.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You and your lovely wife. You were going to try for another heir so that Draco might bond with Krum if he wishes.”
Lucius’s eyes widened despite his overall poise, causing the glimmer of a vampire smile to cross Artemis’s lips.
“Yes, thank you,” he finally said, a full smile spreading across his thin lips. “We haven’t told Draco as it’s only been a month and half—“
“Of course,” Artemis responded. “You need say no more.”
“Narcissa likes to be active,” Lucius conceded, “but carrying Draco was difficult for her and so I’m forcing her to rest as much as possible. She’s not very happy with it.”
“No, probably not.” Artemis briefly wondered what his own mother was like when carrying the twins, but he pushed the thought aside. They had already turned two when he returned from Hybras, making them seem more like interlopers than actual brothers, although he did care for them in his own way.
“Artemis,” Lucius began after a hesitation. “I normally wouldn’t ask—but you’ve gotten to know my son these past few days—is he happy? There are some things a parent can’t know from afar.”
Artemis turned and saw the concern on Lucius’s face. He knew the man had received relaxed and happy letters from his child, but still every father would want confirmation that their children were well cared for when they were beginning to fall in love, as Artemis suspected Draco was.
“He was elated at the Winter Ball,” Artemis supplied after a moment. “I did not see him before this Christmas when he entered Hyperion’s life, but he is happy and Krum knows that I’ll kill him if he ever does anything to your son.”
Lucius raised a polished eyebrow at him. “How did he take it?”
“Quite well, considering the fact that he’d just threatened to do the same to me if I harmed Draco’s cousin.” A hint of a smirk played at the corner of his mouth, but he didn’t show a hint of an emotion otherwise.
Lucius laughed fully, his face transforming in his amusement. “You are both coming from the heart then,” he agreed.
“I should return before Hyperion awakens,” Artemis murmured and, without looking back at the happy father, he left the suite, all the while feeling Lucius Malfoy’s eyes on him.
Dobby was waiting for him and quietly led him back through the halls, students now milling about, perhaps in the process of going in between classes as it was a bit too early for lunch. Many of them stared at Artemis, their heads turning noticeably and their necks craning to get a better look. Artemis supposed he must be a bit of a local celebrity, given his impromptu dive into the Black Lake without any noticeable use of magic to help him breathe, and then returning to the surface a mere five minutes later with the missing captive.
He could see the questions in everyone’s eyes, but he would never answer any of them. Only Harry knew the secrets of this latest mystery, and he was the only one who needed or deserved to. Everyone else, even the Malfoys, were ignorant, although Lucius Malfoy had handled his hidden curiosity with poise and grace.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Hermione Granger, and he grimaced at the sight of her. Their eyes caught and she began to wend her way toward him, but Artemis ignored her, instead following Dobby until he reached the doors that hid Harry from prying eyes.
He slammed the door with a loud clang in Hermione’s face.
A moment later his arms were full of phoenix-flamed hair and kissable lips were upturned toward his own. Artemis met them desperately, relief flooding through him at the thought that Harry was now completely safe. In a matter of days it would all be over—Lucius Malfoy would take care of it. In the little time that Artemis had observed him and then known him, he could see that family meant everything to the man, and that his wife was precious to him. She was a Black, and Hyperion was her cousin’s child—her last link to a once great family that had been torn apart by war and disinheritance.
“Take my name,” Artemis breathed desperately, his lips only a hair’s breath away from Harry’s.
“What?” Harry asked, clearly confused as to where this conversation was going.
Artemis sighed. “I want to make you mine. Completely. I c-can’t—I love you so much,” he admitted. “You are everything. Take my name. The bonding will be a formality in two and a half years.”
Harry was clearly startled. “S-Sorry?”
“You can refuse,” Artemis continued artlessly, his arms wrapped around Harry’s lithe waist. “But I’m a Fowl and once I want something, I get it. I decide it’s mine and as soon as it is, I will never let go, Harry. I came too close to losing you—if you had been in that lake—“ He broke off. “It doesn’t matter that we cannot marry legally in the Muggle world, or that you’re too young in the magical one. Even if it were the case, I would never let you go, not after you gave your word.” He took a deep breath. “There would be nowhere on earth you could hide without me finding you, my flame, you have to know that. That’s how possessive I am, and I will become more so.”
Harry blushed. “You want me that much?”
Artemis didn’t bother to respond. They both knew the answer, their minds turning to the previous night.
“I thought, after last night, it was everything but official.”
“Yes,” Artemis agreed, pulling Harry toward a cozy armchair. He sat down, drawing Harry into his lap, Harry’s legs on either side of his hips so that he was straddling Artemis. “I want it to be more official, however. I know the Black name is important to you—our children can be Blacks, if you desire and my brothers can continue to the Fowl name, but please, Harry, please.”
“What’s wrong?” Harry whispered, but Artemis shook his head, not wanting to think about how close he possibly came to losing his twin flame. If he had taken the fairy dust potion a few months later, if Harry hadn’t run away after the First Task or had been unable to, thinking he was magically bound to compete.
Harry sighed and kissed him gently, deeply, lovingly. “And the other way round?”
Artemis arched an eyebrow at him.
“I want the whole picture.”
“I will always be yours. Everything I possess will belong to you, everything I do will be for you or the glorification of our family. I will never leave you, I will always want you, need you, Harry. No infidelity on my part, even after years of being together. I know what I want and I never stop wanting once I have it. You’ll be treasured, I’ll keep you safe, take care of you,” he elaborated.
“Are you saying you’re in love with me?” Harry teased, biting his lip.
Artemis grinned and Harry deeply kissed him, arching into Artemis’s touch. When they finally drew away, Artemis smiled. “Is that a yes?”
“As if there was ever any doubt,” Harry agreed, his fingers playing with Artemis’s hair. “You knew that for me this was forever—especially after—“
Artemis smirked. His hands slid underneath Harry’s sleeping top and Harry arched into the touch, a soft gasp leaving his lips before Artemis swallowed it with his mouth.
Harry pulled away, a brief frown covering his pretty mouth. “I’d rather have my name hyphenated. The Black name should be recognizable—“ he began, but Artemis just captured his lips once again.
“Of course,” he breathed. “Whatever you desire, Harry.”
He would have the papers drawn up in a matter of hours and faxed to wherever he was as soon as they left Hogwarts. The Fowls had a history of prenuptial agreements even with people they couldn’t legally marry. It had everything spelled out, tying them legally together.
The Goblins would have to be informed of the early agreement, but that was just a side note. Harry would still be head of the Black family, their magical children would be either Blacks or Black-Fowls. It could all be arranged within a matter of minutes and then with a signature, Harry would never be leaving him, no one could take him except by force and, if demons ever got the idea that Hyperion Black-Fowl would be a suitable replacement for Harry Potter, they would automatically know that Artemis was not one to be crossed and that Harry was his. Being worth millions upon millions of pounds sterling came in handy. No one would be able to touch Harry and he would have the full backing of the family fortune and name with just the sign of his name.
“I love you,” Artemis murmured. “Forever and a day.”
Harry smiled against his lips, his own warm hands now pressing against Artemis’s abdomen, pulling the shirt up to reveal a patch of ghostly pale skin.
“I love you,” Harry repeated and pulled away minutely. “Take me to bed,” he commanded, a playful light in his eyes, and Artemis lifted up his husband, Harry’s legs wrapping around his waist. He doubted they would be emerging from the suite for a long time yet.