Note: Timline: This would have taken place right before Willow's failed memory charm that got the whole group.
Offers of Retribution and Penance.
Giles looked up as his door was knocked on, frowning as he walked over to answer it. "Xander?" he asked.
"I thought we should probably have a discussion sooner rather than later," he said calmly, taking a deep breath. "Do you want to do that now or in the morning?"
"You're giving me a choice?" Xander nodded. "Why?"
"Because I used to believe in honorable combat." He stared into the dark eyes, seeing the shock in them. "That was before I was deaged and the great conspiracy was enacted to keep me here." Giles opened his mouth, his eyes starting to blink hard. "Before you say anything, I've felt your magics on me. I felt them on my shielding when it was around. I felt them on my things to keep me in that house. I felt them on my being that week you decided I was worthless and I saved everyone from blowing up." He crossed his arms over his chest, erecting his stoniest glare. "I'm giving you a chance to explain yourself before I decide to interpret the information I have in the way I want."
"I...I did...um, help keep your shields up, I thought they were necessary and falling, though no one ever mentioned them to me."
"So, the reason they were skewed to the right so drastically wasn't your meddling?" Xander tipped his chin up. "I should warn you, I examined the shield a number of times. The other was bad enough, it kept me unable to do anything. The fact that you added to it made me the biggest target in town and there's no way you wouldn't have known that." Giles' face fell. "As a matter of fact, the people who removed it said it was like I was wearing a costume of myself over my body, that's why I was bound in this inferior shell of a body and left here." He heard something outside and kicked the door shut, stepping further into the house. "I want to hear your side of it before I blow up."
"I...I'm sorry, Xander. I thought I did what was best."
"By whose orders?"
Giles looked at him. "I was warned before I came over that there was a dangerous magic user growing up here."
Xander nodded. "That would have been Willow. She's gifted and untrained, plus she has weak self-control. Who told you it was me?"
"Travers said it was the one with the shield on them."
Xander nodded once. "And did he give you specific orders?"
Giles shook his head, leaning against a small bookshelf for support. "Not in the least. He only told me to keep you under watch and control. That's also why I reacted so strongly to Ethan."
"Yeah, Ethan's an interesting case. He offered to try and help me, but his price was higher than I wanted to pay."
"I erased his memories of you after that first disastrous meeting," Giles quietly admitted with a small moan of mental pain. "We nearly killed you."
"No nearly about it, Giles. I *nearly* died more than once these last few years. And now that I'm myself, I'm going to be myself. Flaming asshole and all. If you had thought to make some hint to me about what was going on, I might have confided in you." He took a deep breath and let it out, uncurling his arms. "Ethan's back in town. He's got a few artifacts I'm going to retrieve from his care. Did you want me to pass on a message?"
"Just be careful. He's not as stable as he once was."
"He's just as stable, only now he's undergone torture at the hands of the people you turned him over to." Xander walked out and didn't slam the door, which made Giles slump down and start crying for all the damage he had caused. Xander forced himself not to sneer, sneering was the old him, the him that would have been proud of making the man cry for what he had done. "Punishment is not my job," he told himself as he walked off. He looked around and felt the vampire closing in. "I'm a wizard, do you really want to try and eat me?" he called quietly. Whoever it was ran in the other direction. "Thank you." He trudged all the way across town, to Ethan's rented apartment. He tapped gently on the door, giving the man who answered a bland look. "I'm the magical collection agency around here. You have in your possession things that are going to make my life more difficult. Hand them over."
Ethan Rayne looked at him and laughed. "What?"
Xander forced his way inside. It was time Ethan knew the whole truth. "Alexander Dumass," he said, shaking Ethan's hand. The man's eyes went wide and he started to babble and shake his head. "Yes, it is," he said patiently. "Get over it," he snapped finally. Ethan pulled himself back together. "Hand them over, Rayne. If you want to hurt Giles or Buffy, you go the usual way. You don't bring in external artifacts because they'll become unbalanced. Which then makes it my job to clean up. So hand them over and we can both get a good night's sleep."
"You can't be," Ethan spat. "He's eighty or something."
"Actually, I was deaged," Xander said dryly. "About fifteen years ago. That's what was up with the shield. Any other stupid questions?" Ethan backed away from him and he knew he was glaring, but really. He glanced behind himself and saw Willow standing there. "Leave, now," he ordered. "I'm only collecting the dangerous stuff." She snorted. "Now, Willow. I doubt you've taken up demonic magic."
"No," she agreed with a wry smile, "but Giles wants him."
"Then Giles can get in his little car and drive his unhappy ass over here," Xander said snidely, making her back away. Xander rolled his eyes and pulled out a box, heading into the living room. He saw the small chest and the attempt at translating it. "You've mucked up the language, Rayne. It's in Romanian." He swept the house of artifacts, leaving a stunned Ethan behind as he went from room to room. The last one, the statue of Janus, he left beside the bed. He wouldn't touch someone's personal icon of faith. He sealed his box and put it back into his backpack, then walked out, finding Ethan standing in his way. "I left your blessed statue. Shouldn't it be covered in libations this time of year?" he asked as he pushed past him. "I'm going to get these out of town before they decide to work in concert. Willow, I've reshielded my house. Don't try to break the locks." He apparated onto his front lawn and strolled inside, locking himself in for the night. By the time he got everything cataloged, the weekly goblin pick-up was there and he gladly handed over most of the artifacts. There was one he wanted the boys to study. "Thanks."
"Where did you get the high concentration of demon holding items?" the goblin asked, poking at the currently empty box of holding.
"Ethan Rayne. He brought it into town." He shrugged. "I'll keep that one. It'll probably come in handy." He took it back and crossed it off the list, then watched as the goblin counted out his commission for finding these things based on their fair market value. He could have waited and gotten the amount after the auction, but that was too much of a hassle to keep track of. When the last galleon was handed over, the goblin handed him a piece of parchment. "What's this?"
"A specific piece. It's rumored to be here and someone has asked us if we can acquire it."
Xander looked at the paper, then snorted. "We found that years ago. The Watchers have it." He handed it back. "Check with them."
"They're the ones who want it," the goblin told him.
Xander sighed. "Then I'll keep an eye out for the cross to come back. I know a few people who could use it for the right reasons if I held it back for a few weeks." The goblin shrugged, their client wanted it bad enough to wait apparently. "Cool. Thanks. Anything else?"
"Your account statement. That way we don't have to risk an owl," the goblin said as he pulled it out of his pouch to hand over. "You'll find that some of the money we had originally put in was removed since you didn't come back to work for us." Xander looked at him and the goblin shivered. "Head office's orders, Cursebreaker Dumass."
"That's fine. I expected it sooner, when I announced I was going back to a freelance status. The signing bonus isn't enough."
"If you would care to take on regular assignments, we can put you on the board. We've got two retrieval situations at the moment," the goblin offered. "You always were the best at those."
"Any who are still living? I deal in death these days and it's tiring." The goblin shook his head. "Either of my apprentices?"
"No, not presently," it admitted. "Cursebreaker Weasley is going after one of them." Xander nodded. "If something should happen to him, do you want notified?"
"Yeah," Xander said tiredly, knowing someone had seen something if the offer had been made. "When?"
"He'll be pinned, not killed yet," the goblin told him. "Next month we think."
Xander slumped a bit. "Then send for me immediately and I'll gladly get him out. Bill is like my little brother."
"As you wish it, Cursebreaker Dumass." He bowed low. "Thank you for giving us such interesting items. May your future hunts be as prosperous."
Xander gave him a weak grin. "I'm waiting on my apprentices to come over for a long break. We've only done half of a cemetery." The goblin looked impressed. "The hellmouth covers many sins."
"We've heard that," it agreed. "How are your shields holding?" he asked, handing over a copy of the day before's paper. It nodded and left him alone, going up to the floo fireplace so it could go home.
Xander read the paper, then groaned. "Those stupid people," he sighed. He decided to leave it alone for now. Someone probably answered in his defense. If not, he'd do it tomorrow. He stood up and locked up his workarea, going down to make himself a snack. He found an uninvited guest standing in the middle of his kitchen. "Like it?" he asked. "It's the mirror of my family home's kitchen."
"It's beautiful," Ethan told him, looking him over. "You seem more tired now."
"I just got done with a goblin transfer." He looked at him. "Did you steal the DuLac cross from the council?"
"No. Did someone?" he asked casually, sitting himself at the table while Xander made himself some tea. "I take mine with milk."
"I figured as much," Xander said dryly, bringing everything over to the table and warming the pot with his wand. Ethan gasped, shifting away from him. "Understanding more now?"
"I do," he breathed, looking at the pot. He touched the tip of Xander's wand reverently. "I've heard of your like."
Xander chuckled. "There's a lot more of us than there are of you, Rayne. So, why did you go to all the trouble of finding the emergency entrance?"
"I have some disturbing news. Rosenburg's starting to go off. I'm sure Ripper's ignoring it, but she started to radiate chaos energy once you were gone."
"When isn't she?" Xander asked as he poured the tea into two bone china cups. "My own special blend," he said fondly, pushing over the milk. "It's creme."
"Thank you for the warning." He used his pinky to test it for strength and moaned. "What animal did this milk come from?" he begged.
Xander grinned. "Unicorn." He took it to pour some into his tea, then took a long sip. "Perfect, just like usual. Try it, it even beats Giles' special headache tea."
Ethan gently sipped the tea, eyes closed in pleasure. "Dear Merlin, do you need a love slave?"
"No thanks, I've got two apprentices and a new being in my possession. Besides, I don't take love slaves, I only go to the same well once until I'm ready to settle down again."
"Wise of you. Relationships can be messy and nasty things. Just look at mine and Rupert's," he sighed, taking another sip. "Where did you get this?"
"I thought that was a myth." Xander gave him a long look. "Touche, Mr. Dumass. Could you possibly teach me a bit?"
"You'd have to have a wand," Xander pointed out dryly, taking another sip of tea. "Almost all your stuff's already went bye-bye, Ethan." Ethan smiled at him. "I did keep the holding box, I figured I'd need it some day."
"Too true," Ethan sighed, adding a drop of creme to his tea and tasting it again. "This does compliment it rather well," he congratulated.
"I know. It's damn hard to come by though," he said with a shrug. "Good thing it keeps nearly forever if you don't freeze it." He poured himself some more tea and took another sip. "Why else are you here? Rosenburg's going to take a minor miracle to fix, and I think the only person who could understand her would be someone like you."
"Yes, well, I don't want to deal with the girl. She's rather...."
"Dangerous?" Xander supplied.
Ethan smiled. "Exactly. She is dangerous. Even I take pleasure from doing some things the normal way. Especially with my wardrobe. Did she actually buy that shirt she was wearing earlier?" Xander shook his head. "If that was a copy, I'll eat part of my hand."
"It wasn't, but I'm not sure she realizes she snatched it from the store." Xander stood up and went over to the fridge, pulling out a plate of cookies. "Want one?" he asked as he brought them back.
"What flavor?" Ethan asked.
"Toadstool." Ethan gave him a disgusted look. "Sorry, couldn't help it," he said with an unrepentant grin. "They're chocolate and peanut butter chip."
"Thank you." He selected one and took a careful nibble. "This is one scene I never expected to have. Ripper tried so *hard* to keep us apart."
"That's because Travers told him I was dangerous," Xander said dryly. "How long did it take you to defeat the memory block?"
"As soon as I left the town's influence. He was drawing on it for power." He took another cookie to eat more of, humming in appreciation. "Who made these?"
"Willow. She mangled a shrub and did it in penance. She's like that still."
"Interesting. What should we do about her? Being the only two sane and powerful magical beings on the hellmouth?"
Ethan put down the remains of his current cookie. "I have to, Mr. Dumass. I've taken on a task that requires me to sit in the center of the biggest hole of chaos to weave the spell. It's the only way to do it and not harm myself in the process."
"Who gave you the commission to weave a chaos cloak?"
"A man you might know," he said with a gentle smile. "Methos?"
"The Prof? Yeah, I know him a lot." He grinned. "He taught me."
"I figured as much. I must say, you keep yourself amazingly well for someone your age," he joked.
Xander chuckled. "I should. It's all the ass I get." He stuffed his mouth with a cookie, smirking at the shocked look.
"I had heard of your reputation, young man, but that was something so fantastical even I couldn't believe it. I'd almost rather believe the rumors that you're Dumbledore's son."
Xander winced. "Who said that? The old fart was the one who left me here!"
"Sorry." Ethan grinned ruthlessly as he took another cookie. "Saving his best defenses for the current crisis?"
"Not a clue," Xander admitted with a little sigh. "The timing fits, but I don't want to think that badly of him. I already think badly enough of him due to that little shield thing he put on me that made me trip over my feet."
"Hmm. Good point." Ethan saluted him with a cookie. "Incoming Rosenburg. She's still radiating like the sun in the desert."
"Wonderful," Xander said dryly, getting up to get a third cup. He replenished his and added a touch of creme this time, he was in the mood for something sweeter. Willow appeared beside the table and they both looked at her. "Another errand?"
"What did you say to Giles?" she demanded, stamping a foot.
"I asked him why he had helped repress me to the point where I nearly died," Xander said calmly.
"Yes, well, I didn't want such abilities to go to waste. I had hopes of freeing you during your last year in high school and training you myself," Ethan told him. He smiled at her. "Ripper tied his magic so tightly at one point, he drew every nasty in town, yet could not defend himself because the bonds wouldn't even let him think. Do sit and have some tea like a civilized creature, Rosenburg."
She 'humphed' as she sat down but did let Ethan pour her a bit of tea. She looked at the creme. "Is that any good?"
"It's sweet and strong," Xander warned.
"Oh. Like clotted creme?" she asked as she poured a few drops into her tea. She took a sip and arched her eyebrows up. "You weren't kidding, but it's got a sour undertaste."
"To anyone who uses chaos energy, unicorn milk would," Ethan pointed out. Her mouth opened and he pointed at Xander. "His tea and fixings. Though he did say you made these excellent cookies. Might I get the recipe?"
She blinked a few times, then looked at Xander. "What did you do to him? He's not smarmy or nasty."
"Tea is a civilized institution," Xander informed her. "Among the truly powerful magic users, of both sorts, tea is used as a time-out or a truce-making opportunity."
"Indeed, even the non-magical Brits used to take time out from battle each day to have a tea break," Ethan agreed. "It's the one bit of civilization they counted on during any horrible war because it kept their sanity in check."
Xander looked at him. "You know they didn't do that *every* war, right?"
Ethan nodded. "Only when the most practical. After all, your enemy might not always be civilized enough to let up for an hour in the middle of the afternoon."
"True," Xander agreed.
Willow shook her head. "You really do come from the land of Giles," she said with a frown for her best friend. She took another sip. "It's not bad."
"Giles prefers more herbal blends, I prefer to go for smoothness and flavor," he told her. "Though that was the only reason I hung around with Giles so often, so I could have *some* tea and remember my more civilized times."
"You sound like one of those old codgers who fought in the 'great war'," Willow pointed out between sips.
Xander nodded. "Been there, done that. Personally punted a number of Death Eaters to the other side." He saluted her with a cookie. "Willow, do yourself a favor, the next time I bring the boys around, do not hit on Harry. He's a sixteen-year-old boy with a destiny." He bit into the cookie and looked at Ethan, who was spluttering. "What?" he asked with a smug look. "He and Ron are my apprentices."
"Then you did take the consort veela as yours?"
"I started the right of reparation on Lucius," Xander admitted. "I told him not to go near my family, he didn't listen. The same way you don't if you go near that trunk of gems in Shady Rest. It is cursed."
"I know," Ethan sighed. "I'll let you deal with that. Are you cleaning the entire town?" Xander nodded. "Good. Any chance I can pick and choose what I want before you send it on?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't know. I know I can trust the goblins to keep the worst things in a safe vault, deep under Paris. Can I trust you?"
"You'll know what I'm taking," Ethan pointed out. "Fair market value and all that good rot. What do you make now, ten percent?"
Xander grinned. "Fifteen. I'm that good."
Ethan laughed. "How much did most of my things tonight net you?"
"Um, about seven hundred galleons. For all of ten minutes worth of work."
"True," Ethan agreed amiably. "I would have paid you at least double that."
"It's still not worth it to let you keep some of those things."
"Hmm. Good point. How about this? You let me have first look and I get to negotiate."
"How much is a galleon worth?" Willow butted in.
"Um, let's see," Xander said, pulling something out of his back pocket to look at. "Today, they're worth about three hundred pounds."
"With today's exchange rate, as of 8 P.M. when I did some banking, that's about 500 and a half dollars, US, each," Ethan told her.
"For simply retrieving the bad things and handing them over?" Willow asked. Xander nodded. "That's a ripoff."
"Actually, it's hardly ever that easy. One of the things that Ethan's clearly going after, as noted by the taint on his aura, will take a lot of charm work to get it free. Either he'll have to break the hiding spot or I'll have to break the hiding spot to remove it. That should take most of the night, but it's worth about twenty-one million."
"Which would be 21 million of those gallon thingies and about ...." Willow started.
Ethan pulled out a calculator. "Just over thirty-five million," he noted, putting it away. "Which he earns fifteen percent of."
"Which means I'll be getting about five hundred thousand for wearing my butt out, getting those things off the street and out of reach of most people, outside Malfoy's family, and doing about three hours worth of work," Xander finished.
She gaped at him. "No wonder you have money!" she said angrily.
He smiled. "I only had to come back to myself to get it." He looked at Ethan. "If you try for them, I'll have to take them from you. You know that, right?"
Ethan smirked. "I only want one of the stones. One of the main cursed stones is an emerald. I'd like to have that one."
"I'd charge what the goblins would."
"Yes, but you don't pass along the finder's fee to me," Ethan pointed out. "Plus a commission fee for my representative, since I doubt I could get in with these goblins myself." Xander shrugged. "I'd also probably have to pay them other fees, such as auction fees, payment exchange fees, things like that. I feel that you would be more reasonable."
"Good point," Xander agreed. He looked at Ethan for a few moments. "I'd have to research it. You know what I am." Ethan nodded. "Did you need it soon?"
"Not until next year at the earliest."
"Then I'll have my boys do the research on that set and see if it's something I feel like selling."
"There's not a clause in your contract that says you have to go through them?" Willow asked.
Xander gave her a bored look. "There didn't used to be, and they know they depend on their freelancers for the dangerous things. If they tried something like that, all I'd have to do is call for an independent auction and they'd be out a shitload of money."
"Oh." She swallowed another sip. "I guess that makes sense."
"It's happened in the past," Xander said with a grin. "They only protest the things that make them a lot of money and they can only send someone else over here to gather things for them. As a freelancer, I've got a lot more wiggle room in what I want to do with things." A goblin appeared behind Willow's chair. "Already?"
The goblin nodded. "He is pinned and trapped, along with the body he was going in for. Holy traps got the first and he did balk."
"Then he was smart. Holy relics are not what I like doing," Xander said as he pushed his chair back. "Give me a few. Oh, Ethan Rayne, this is the goblin who handles the Cursebreakers who freelance. He's looking to buy some stuff, thinks I'd be cheaper."
The goblin looked at Ethan, then at him. "Your contract...."
"I'm still a freelance," Xander said as he walked away to go change. "Should I try to bring the boys?"
"No, it's too dangerous for apprentices," the goblin called after him. He looked at Ethan. "We can be...reasonable," he noted.
"I'm looking for the Delarey Emerald."
The goblin nodded. "Go through him. We'd break up the set, but he would be cheaper, he can only charge fair market price." He looked at Willow, then back at Ethan, his ears going up slightly.
"Tea?" Ethan suggested, going to get down a cup for him when he nodded.
"Hmm, unicorn's creme," the goblin said when he sniffed it. "I see Cursebreaker Dumass is back in his usual form." He noticed the interested looks. "He used to pay extra to get it in his rations." He added a lot and sipped it. "I always preferred his blend. It's very soothing." He looked over as Xander walked back into the kitchen wearing a pair of tight leather pants, heavy dragon's hide boots, and a tight red t-shirt underneath a black motorcycle style dragon's hide jacket. "Back to normal?"
"I try," Xander said with a grin. He picked his wand up off the table and stuck it into his waistband. "Map?" It was handed over with a snap of the goblin's fingers. "Where did you want him when I bring him out?"
"Send him to the school," the goblin said with a wave of his hand. "That way he can be cleaned of all spells and the students can learn. St. Mungos hasn't been doing that recently and it's irking the higher ups."
"Deal," Xander agreed. "Ethan, please make sure Willow makes it home in one piece, and put the creme in the bottom drawer of the fridge, not the freezer." He waved and disappeared, apparating closer to the spot so he could zero-in on the direct spot. He found Bill's camp by the talisman he had given the guy for his birthday one year, then followed the magical map up to the cave's opening. "Blocked," he said dryly. "Okay, first things first. Call the school." He pulled out a small bag of floo powder, smiling at the head who came at his call. "Hi, Madam Pomfrey. I got sent to retrieve an injured curse breaker and the goblins said I was to bring them to you. I portkey in, right?" She bit her lip and nodded. "Cool. It should take me about two hours, there's a rockfall in front of me and I can feel the magic behind it. It's Bill Weasley if that helps. The goblin seemed to think one of his legs was pinned." She gave him a tenuous smile. "The other guy's dead so I've got to drop him off in Paris, at Headquarters. So expect us in a few hours." He waved and signed off with a blown kiss. He adored that woman ever since she had helped free him from his shield. He had sent her a three-hundred flower collection of poppies in honor of that feat. He stood up and faced the wall, considering it. He pulled his back-up wand and blasted a single rock, starting the slide moving again. He heard a yell. "Give me a mo, Bill. I'm coming."
"I'm under half of that," Bill called back.
"Cool beans," Xander called back. "Give me a mo to figure this out." He decided floating things off would be the best bet and started at the top, clearing the rock fall to get to the magical shield that was pinning Bill down. "Hi," he said happily. "Where's the lost one?"
"In the back," Bill said tiredly. "I didn't even see this one coming."
"That's because you need a vacation," Xander said patiently. He searched for the weak spot each shield had and warped it backwards, sliding Bill out from under it. "Okay, your things?"
"My pack's in there," Bill said, wincing as he was moved. "That kinda hurts, Xan."
"Yup, I know." Xander summoned the pack, bringing it around the shield. "Okay, we're going to portkey you to the infirmary."
"Not until the other's out," Bill said firmly. "I'm not that badly off."
Xander smiled. "You make me proud, Bill. You're a great breaker." He found the small passage around the shield and wiggled his way through it, finding the trigger on the other side so he could disable it. As soon as that one was down, he worked on the next trap, moving closer to the Lost One's body. When he finally got the body free, he floated it out and into the bag Bill had opened for him, then took everything in the camp with them. It was a useful moving spell. The first stop, Hogwarts. The camp made a nice break in between the beds. Then he took the body to the Main Office and handed it over, filling out the incident reports while he was there. It was well past his usual bedtime by the time he got back, and he found Ethan asleep on his couch. "You needed something?" he asked.
"I was going to suggest myself to wear your libido out," Ethan said dryly as he stretched.
"Cool. We'll use this bedroom," Xander said, leading him in there and flipping on the lights. Ethan smugly followed and enjoyed it enough for him to appreciate the gesture.
Xander walked into the main Gringott's office with a large trunk. "Found it," he grunted as he put it on the desk. "Who wanted this thing anyway?"
"The former owner's family," the goblin said, checking it off the list under Xander's name. "Very well done." He looked at the waiting man. "Did you need something else?"
"It's not like I do this job for the pleasure," Xander pointed out dryly.
"Are you on our list?"
"I'm a freelance and you'd better be joking or you're in deep shit." He gave him his most winning smile. "I can get into the higher up's offices in Paris if I wanted."
"Who are you?" the goblin asked, pulling out the book that listed all of them.
"Dumass. Alex Dumass, reactivated to freelance status."
"I can't find that notation," it said.
Xander picked up the trunk. "Fine. I'll see you in Paris."
"You can't...." it started but Xander had already left. It made a quick call to its boss, who called Paris to warn them.
Xander kicked open the top goblin finder's office and put the trunk down on the desk. "Fuck with me and I'm going to go off," he said with his most sweet and innocent voice.
"And you are...."
"Cursebreaker Dumass," another goblin said from a hidden doorway. "Come this way please. Leave my secretary alone."
Xander looked at the door, then at the goblin in front of him. "You've got a shield?"
The goblin stepped out of his office. "Of course I do. Do you know how much money I deal with every day?"
Xander shrugged. "Like I care," he pointed out. "The one in London decided to play this nice game of not being able to find me in the book. Only found my old status. Since I've done three shipments through you guys recently, I doubt that's what's going on."
"No, it's not," the new goblin agreed. He clicked a remote, making the other disappear. "Sorry, the new mechanical trial." He waved a hand and the doors shut. "You're presenting us with a bit of a problem, Cursebreaker Dumass."
"My apprentices, my area, or my consort?" he sighed, taking a seat.
The goblin laughed. "All three, but your age is the worst." He held up a hand. "I know what happened. Nearly everyone in our world knows what happened to you. That's why there are a number of cries for your death from Malfoy supporters and from people who demand that Mr. Potter stay over here."
"I can't really live over here full time," Xander said dryly. "I'm still working on rebuilding my house."
"Which is wonderful," the goblin said with a scary-looking smile. "I hope your consort adores it as much as you said you used to." Someone tapped on the door. "Go away!"
Another goblin opened the door and blanched when he saw Xander. "He took that from the London office."
"I brought it into the London office and they never signed the paperwork," Xander told him. "Leave. Now." It looked at its boss, who nodded. It ran off, leaving the doors open. "Who decided I was going to kill you all?"
"There's that nasty rumor going around that you can't control your actions," it said soothingly.
Xander snorted. "That's pure bs and you know it."
"I do, which is why you're dealing with me and not the mechanical shield." He gave him that scary smile again. "What should we do about this, Cursebreaker Dumass?"
"Well, you can either pull some strings and fix it, or I'm going to go get my apprentices and we're going to clean Sunnydale over a few weeks, then hold our own auction. Your choice," Xander said as he stood up. "Tell me now."
The goblin considered him. "Would you give us a day to decide?"
Xander snorted. "Like a day's going to get you a decent breaker onto the hellmouth and able to work?" The goblin's ears lowered and he looked a little bit embarrassed. "Choose. I'm going to take down the paper after this."
"Fine. Do whichever you want. You are in *my* book, but the London office is being rather touchy at the moment, what with Fudge and all."
Xander shrugged. "You've got more power than the Minister there. Fuck with him if it pleases you, but don't try it with me. You will lose. Remember, I can and will transfer everything I have into another bank. There is that competition of yours...." He trailed off, making his point. The goblins made an obscene amount of money off his money. It lowered its head. "I see you get my point?"
"I do. Do whatever you wish, but know that you are still in my book."
"Thanks. Then we're going to clean Sunnydale. Send someone if it amuses you. There's more stuff there than I can conceivably carry." He disappeared, making it back to the main London branch of the other bank, which served the demons and wizards like Ethan. "Hi, I need to set up an account and have my Gringott's accounts mostly transferred," he said with a pleasant smile for the earth elemental manning the reception desk.
It looked at him, then pointed off to its right. "Go there."
Xander went that way and was met by a succubus. "Huh, I killed one of you last year," he noted as he took a seat in front of her desk. She looked him over. "Alex Dumass. The goblins just pissed me off." She sat down and pulled out a stack of forms. "Just a simple, interest bearing account." Most of the stack went away and it was now a single form. "Thanks." He handed over three of his four keys. "I'd like these vaults transferred over."
She looked at them, then at him. "How much is this?"
"Approximately fifty billion galleons."
"Oh, my." She nodded. "Of course. How much interest were you willing to buy?"
Xander gave her a mean smile. "You're an in-between step, dear, and I meant it. My usual use name is Harris. Xander Harris." She whimpered and the form magically got shorter. "Thanks. Like I said, I only need it for a bit. I'm going to be transferring some of it to muggle holding agencies and buy tacky things for my houses."
She nodded. "Of course you are." She filled out the few lines and handed it over to watch him sign it. Then the key went to a demon-tough who went to take it out for him.
Ron walked up to the Headmaster's office, wanting to peek around the door to see what was going on before he walked into the death trap, but Draco shoved him from behind and Harry wasn't complaining. "You called for us?" he asked as he slid into the room. Xander waved, his mouth currently occupied with a drink. "What's wrong?"
"The goblins have decided we're too hot to touch, so therefore they're going to try and screw us over majorly," Xander announced once his mouth was free. "That means I want to take you guys out for about two weeks to do a thorough raid through Sunnydale. There's no one up there that I trust to handle most of that stuff."
"On the other hand," Dumbledore said tiredly, "you really can't be absent from your coursework for two weeks."
Harry snorted. "Oh, please." He looked at Draco. "Your doing?" Draco shook his head, but Xander was nodding. "Yes, no, make up your minds," he teased.
Xander grinned at him. "Now I know where you get your sense of humor from." He stood up, showing him in the same clothes as last night. "Technically, this is due to the things in the paper recently, which shall be retracted tomorrow. Or else." He beamed at Ron. "How's Bill?"
"Fussing. They called in our mother," he said with a naughty grin. "She's gotten him to the point where he's begging to be sedated."
Xander grinned. "I figured she was like that." He patted them all on the heads. "I can definitely teach you charms, defense, and defensive herbology. Magical creatures will probably be a few quick lessons in demonology, and...." He was interrupted by one of the ghosts flying through him on the way to tell the Headmaster something.
Dumbledore coughed. "Rosenburg's on her way up with someone. Someone older, dark hair."
"It's either Giles or Ethan," Xander said with a shrug. "A Watcher or a Chaos person." He looked at the boys. "Of course, Ethan can do a few potions lessons. His form of magic, like Willow's, depends more on them." Draco raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, she's going that way. Does that cover everything?"
"Transfiguration and our electives," Harry quietly put in, looking at the door and shivering. "Whoever it is feels bad."
Xander stuck his tongue out. "That would be Willow," he noted, giving Harry an extra pat. "Before she gets up here, Headmaster, I'd like someone to try and do an intervention on her. Philip, Nickie Boyle, Methos, Snape, someone." He nodded to show how serious he was.
Ethan dragged Willow in by her arm and planted her in front of the desk. "It seems the colonies don't have anyone to deal with someone like her. She just tried to suck the magic from one of my chaos texts. She's dangerous."
"No shit!" Ron said, grinning at him. Dumbledore sent him a short frown and Ron shrugged. "Some of us knew that the first time we saw her. She's teetering on the edge." He looked at Draco. "Maybe you should show her what evil looks like."
"My father was finally buried," Draco said coldly, shooting a glare at him. Then he looked at Xander. "Two weeks?"
"Two weeks in leather and jeans, doing real work, and then a short rest while we research before the auction. Which seems to be something you're very good at, Draco." Draco gave him a small smile and rubbed the ring on his left first finger.
"Oh, kiss him already," Harry sighed in disgust, turning away to look at the Headmaster. "If Ron's mum allows it, may we go?"
"Fine," Dumbledore sighed. He looked at Willow. "I'm afraid you'll have to stay here so you can't touch anything there."
Xander nodded. "I'm setting up my old vault with all new spells and charms, far away from there." He looked at Ethan. "I volunteered you to help me give them a few lessons in what you do, including a few potions lessons. In return," he said at the opening mouth, "I'll give you ten percent off your first purchase at the auction."
Ethan's eyes lit up. "They are doing you wrong?"
"Very wrong. I had to move some of my money earlier," Xander sighed, sounding and looking disgusted. "They tried to pretend I wasn't on the books." The door slammed open and his wand was in his hand nearly as fast as Ethan's fireball came up. "Oh, it's you," he said, putting his wand slowly away. "It's okay, Ethan, he's not that scary a dude." He looked at Dumbledore again. "Where might Molly be?" He ignored Willow staring at the dark man in the doorway. She looked like she should either fall to her knees or be very scared of him, an interesting reaction to his cousin.
"Tutting herself sick in the infirmary," Harry told him. "I'll run up and get her."
"Go for it," Xander said with a grin. "Ron, if we do, do you guys have *any* decent clothes outside of what I've gotten you?" Ron shook his head. "We'll have to fix that in London tonight." He looked at Draco, then gave him a gentle kiss to the forehead. "There, the mentioned kiss," he said with a small, pleased grin. "You'll get to see the new/old house in a few days."
"Thank you." He got them out of the way of the door, watching as Molly stormed in with Bill hopping behind her on his crutches. "You'd think it was an attack," he said dryly.
Molly looked at Xander. "Why?"
"The papers," he said simply, then shrugged. "We'll be pulling everything then doing gradual auctions until I'm satisfied that I've made them fucking suffer for it."
"Language," Molly said firmly, scowling at him.
He grinned. "We curse, Molly, every cursebreaker does it. Even Ron, who had the mouth before he took on his apprenticeship."
"I've soaped him before," she pointed out. "I can do you too, you're not that old."
He blew a kiss. "Behave," he teased, "or I'm going to tell Bill what you were thinking." She blushed and looked at Willow. "So, you'll keep her?"
"We'll keep her here and see if we can't fix her," Dumbledore agreed. "Severus, perhaps you could start by testing her skills?"
Severus Snape glared at him. "I have no desire to get near this creature. She makes my skin crawl."
"Hey! She's *trying* to be good. She's being trained by someone who helped warp that shield on me a number of times."
Snape glared at him. "Still...."
"She could use the training," Ethan put in gently. "She really used to be such a sweet little girl, until most recently. Then she's had a power explosion and no one's quite sure what to do with her."
"Yeah, that whole 'my will be done' spell wasn't something that endeared her to the group," Xander agreed dryly.
Snape looked at him in alarm. "She manipulates?"
"Sometimes, sometimes only on herself." Xander slung an arm around Ron's shoulders. "If you can help her, she'd be a big asset in the war. If not, then even I'm not sure what to do with her." He looked at Molly. "Two weeks, we can get them most of their lessons while we're there. I can even hype their charms skills so much that Ron will look like a savant in the field. Deal?" She continued to scowl but nodded shortly. "Thanks. Okay, guys, go pack. Talk the house elves into feeding you. We'll meet you out by the barrier. Ethan's nearly begging to be taken to Hogsmeade." Ethan started to drool. "Meet us at the barrier in one hour." The boys nodded and ran off, going to put up their books and grab real clothes instead of their uniforms. Xander gave Molly a gallant bow and kissed the back of her hand. "Ron will be like my own, exactly like I treated Bill when he was so new." Bill snorted. "Okay, gentler since he is younger," he said with a wink. "I'll even get the Slayer to help us a bit. She's got to like the idea of not having those things egging on the hellmouth." He nudged Snape. "She's a good girl underneath it all, never saw a horrible thing before her first vampire. Then it all got dumped onto her. Her first spell was levitating a pencil. Her second was closing the hellmouth." He nodded for Ethan to follow him, going down through the school with a quick stop at McGonagall's classroom. She had the best sensing abilities of any teacher. "What do you think about him?" he asked, pointing at Ethan.
She considered him. "Too old to learn our sort," she said firmly. "Are you taking them? I saw Molly follow the boys."
He grinned. "The goblins are believing what's in the paper. We're holding our own auction. What are they studying?"
"Simple personal transformations. We're working our way up to temporary animism." He nodded. "Thank you. Try to keep them safe?"
"I'm going to do my best, Minnie. You know me that way." He kissed her on the cheek. "Rosenburg's back. Ethan drug her up here for some intervening. She'll be here while we're gone so she can't touch anything we bring out." She pursed her lips but nodded quickly. "Snape's got her right now. Have fun." He winked and walked Ethan out, taking him down to let him see what real wizards did. Ethan whimpered and whined until Xander showed him how to change some of his money and then helped him shop for everything he wanted.
Xander looked at his crew, frowning gently. "We've got two things we can do," he told them. "I can do a memory dump and you guys can do the whole watching it thing. Or we can do a few quick charms lessons first. There's a few things you will absolutely have to know before I take you out into the cemeteries on such a task." He looked at each one in turn. "Got any preferences?"
"I'd rather do a memory dump," Harry told him. "Pensieve or straight dump into our heads?"
"Well...." He sighed. "Ethan?" Ethan walked out of the kitchen, bringing the pot of tea. "Thanks," he said with a grin. "Harry wanted to know if you could do a memory-sharing sort of thing. Like a shared viewing."
"I can," he said happily. "It might show more than you wanted though, and it could show their memories as well."
"Then I'll all for a pensieve," Draco put in, accepting his tea. He moaned at the taste. "What is this in it?"
"Unicorn creme," Xander said happily. "Do you have the sweet or the sour undertaste?"
"Just enough of both to even it out," he said happily, leaning back to drink it greedily.
Ron grabbed his cup and sipped it, then grimaced. "I've got a bitter undertaste."
"That's because you're a horny bastard and you haven't done much with it. Unicorn creme tastes the most sweet with the people who fix those things," Harry told him. Ron looked at him. "I asked when I saw some in Diagon," he said with a blush. He sipped his own then smiled. "Just barely sweet, more like what Draco was describing."
"Don't worry, Ron, I'm sure you'll find someone to break you in soon enough," Ethan said cheerfully, giving him a pat on the arm.
"I have!" Ron squeaked.
"His girlfriend's a mini-Willow," Xander told him.
"Ah!" Ethan nodded, smiling down at Ron. "Try Harry there, then. He should have a lot of fun with you." He clapped his hands. "How does a pensieve work?"
"I dump memories, they watch them like they were there."
"Ah!" Ethan smiled happily. "I've never seen one of those."
"You're taking notes to annoy him, aren't you?" Draco asked.
"Very good reading," Xander said, giving him a brilliant and happy smile. "When did you learn that?" Draco shrugged and poured himself some more tea. "Go easy on that, we forgot to pick it up. We'll have to send Bill out to get some more to get him away from the mother of doom." Someone knocked and he flicked his wand at the nearest door. "Come in, Buffy." She walked in and waved, smiling at everyone but Ethan, who she ignored as usual. "Willow's at my old school. We're doing a massive cleaning of the local area. Want to help plan the raids?"
"Sure," she agreed, leaning down to hug Draco. "Anything to get less magic around here I'm all for."
"Cool beans." He held out his cup. "Want some?"
"That tea thing of yours is freaky," she said in the same pleasant voice. "You're a scary man, Xander. Don't make me slay you."
He laughed. "Sure thing. Let me get the pensieve ready, you look at the map I've got on the table. Ethan, can you help her?"
"Of course. Are you going for the most powerful first?"
"The most dangerous first," Xander corrected. "Some of the weaker seeming things are still more dangerous. Oh, did anyone tell you? We found the Challis of the Damned again." He left, going to fill the pensieve with the memories the boys would need to have.
"Well," Ethan said, frowning after him. "Drop something like that and then taunt me," he complained.
"Every day," Buffy told him, smirking at him. "Xander's still a good guy, even if you two do have a temporary arrangement."
"I'll have you know I'm helping the boys with their schoolwork," he defended. "I'm teaching them potions."
"Speaking of, I brought my books," Harry told him. "They're up on my bed." Ethan gave him a smile. "Thank you. Draco's the only good one among us at potions."
"I'm sure I can give you a good reason to learn them," Ethan smirked.
"There will be no demon summoning," Buffy said firmly. "Making them do an unsummoning potion is not how we want them taught."
"Fine," he sighed, going to look at the books.
Buffy looked at the guys. "Two whole weeks off?" They nodded, grinning at her. "What is that in the jar?"
"Unicorn's milk creme," Harry told her, holding out his cup. "I've got some in my tea. It's very mellow."
She sipped it then smiled. "A little sour," she noted, then shrugged and handed it back, going back to planning the best way to hit all the red spots first. It was how Xander marked maps and she was used to that. Besides, it'd give her a different routine to follow while she guarded them.
Willow looked over as her room's door, or as she was calling it her cell door, was pushed open by a little creature with no hair, big ears, and huge protruding eyes. "What are you?" she asked.
"I's is Snatchy, the house elf," she said, smiling and holding out the tray "Snatchy brought you food."
"Thank you," she said as she accepted the tray. "How long are they going to keep me here? I'm feeling much better now."
Snatchy shrugged. "I's not know. I's go ask if you want."
"No, that's okay. If you ask your jailors when they're letting you out, they'll probably keep you longer. Thank you for dinner."
"You's is fine. We's take care of yous." It bowed and walked out, closing the door again and locking it.
Willow sighed and took the cover off the tray. The food was real and it smelled wonderful, plus they weren't drugging her. It was a lot of food too. She leaned back against the headboard and dug in, happy to be eating at all. It could be much worse she supposed. They could be drugging her, or they could be torturing her for a small slip up. An idea hit her mind, making her smile. "Maybe if they let me go soon, I'll have enough time to torture Xander before he brings the boys back." That thought made her mind groan but it made the rest of her happy enough to eat enthusiastically.
The portrait on the wall reported everything back to the Headmaster, shaking her head sadly. This one needed help and badly before she fully went over and they had two problems on their hands.
One week and four days later found the trio of boys helping a limping Xander and a bruised Harry and Ron helping each other up the stairs to the house in England. Draco was glancing around and Harry had to be prodded past all the portraits that someone had saved. They had finished moving everything and most of the injuries had come from that instead of from the finding.
"It doesn't get worse than this, right?" Ron asked.
Xander looked at him, then slowly smiled. "Ask your brother."
"Uh-huh. I heard how he got hurt," Draco said dryly. "How did that one die?"
"He died?" Harry asked, looking at Ron. He wasn't firing on all cylinders. "How did Bill die and come back?"
"The guy he was retrieving died," Ron said patiently. "Did you hit your head when you slipped on those stairs?" Harry nodded, grinning at him. "Then we'll get you cleaned up and into bed shortly, Potter."
"Thanks, Ron," Harry said happily. He looked around. "I thought we brought the Buffy with us."
"We did, she's napping on a couch," Draco informed him. He watched as Xander pointed at a door and both Weasley and Potter headed that way. He continued to help Xander into his suite, smiling at the homey touches. "Which one is mine?" Xander pointed at a door on his left. "Yours?" Xander pointed at the one next to it. "Why is that?"
"This is how the original master suite was set up," Xander said with a shrug. "I wanted to keep it like it had been. The rooms on the other side were for the nurseries." He flopped down onto a couch. "Thank you, Draco," he said gently.
Draco gave him a hesitant smile. "It's not a problem, really. You didn't make me do the nasty work."
Xander grinned at him. "You cleaned the slime off the stairs with a really strong cleaning spell. Buffy will definitely thank you for sparing more of her clothes after that acid spitter got her favorite shirt." Draco snorted and shook his head. "With her life, she's supposed to take pleasure in the small things." Someone pounded on the door. "It's not locked yet."
Arthur Weasley walked in, frowning at him. "What happened?"
"The *person* the goblins sent over arranged for a few small demonic attacks," Draco said bitterly.
"Yeah, well, I warned you guys about Spike. There's a reason why he's called the Big Bad." He grinned at Arthur. "Most of the injuries were more recent than that. Slimy stairs into the new moat around the new Swamp."
"Oh." He looked over Draco. "You look rather all right."
"A Malfoy must always look as good as possible," Draco reminded him, smirking at his disgusted look. "I cleaned the stairs with a spell so Potter wouldn't slip again. My main job is research."
"At least you're good at it. The other two are more action oriented." He smiled at Arthur. "Next summer is SCUBA lessons."
Arthur shook his head. "I don't know why we let you take on the boys."
"Because this way we get a realistic view, dad," Ron said as he wandered in. "Xander, do you have any healing salve yet? Harry's back is starting to look nasty again."
"If I've got any, it's in the bathroom," Xander said, pointing that way. He smiled at the worried father. "They did really well, Arthur. That's one of the hardest things to do, to do a timed and planned clean-out. They handled it magnificently and the boys earned their pay these last few weeks."
"How much are we getting paid? The contract didn't specify during-school pay," Ron called. "There's a head on your mirror."
"If it's Philip, tell him to come over tomorrow afternoon and check things. If it's any other Bane, tell them to bring healing salve and metal polish if they come over. That's what you guys can do when you're not researching." Ron groaned. "Yay, suck it up, I've had to do the same damn thing, Ron."
Ron came back out. "It was Philip and he said he'd bring both over with him tomorrow morning. He expected us to be up in time for a reasonable brunch to show him how to get down through the new moat, and he also said to hug you for being that stubborn because you just made his life more interesting." He gave him a brief hug. "No salve."
"I'll get Molly to bring some over while you tell me what you've found," Arthur said, grabbing his son to take him for a long talk.
"Hey, Arthur, he thought unicorn creme was bitter," Xander called after him.
"Good!" Arthur called back. He smiled down at his son. "Don't become a lech like him, son. It doesn't make one happy, it makes them desperate because no one's there when you need someone."
Ron gave him a pat on the chest. "I have Hermione, dad, don't worry about it. It's just that she's more interested in her books than my bum and I'm working on changing that."
Arthur blushed. "I'm sure you'll work it out eventually. Remember, no sex yet and no children, Ron."
"Of course not. Kids would be hard on this job, dad." He led the way back into his and Harry's room. "It's not as nice as the other house's suite, but we manage," he said at the admiration for the room.
Draco strolled in, handing over a pot. "Xander said this used to be his younger sisters room. The boys room was next door." He strolled back out, going to run himself a bath. He felt nasty and dirty and this working stuff did not suit him in the least. He'd have to remember to stick to the research and hide when they were moving anything. He found that chaos wizard in his bedroom and looked at him. "You needed something from me?"
Ethan smirked at him. "I know what you are and I wanted to see if I could learn from you."
Draco felt the need inside him twitch. "Unfortunately, with what I am, I can't touch others," he said dryly. "It will make me go uncontrolled and destroy us both. Sorry, even if you wouldn't mind showing me things." He walked into the bathroom to start his bath, then back out when he found it already run. "House elf?" Ethan nodded. "Well," he said happily. "We were waiting on one to get to Sunnydale."
"I'm sure they'll be there next summer," Xander said from the doorway. "I promised you a personal house elf and I meant it, Draco." He glanced at Ethan, then at the boy. "If you wanted to do what your cousin did, the book you'll want is in your bedside drawer. I found my wonderful one's books in the vaults." He left, going to his room and shutting the door firmly.
Draco walked over and opened the drawer, taking out the small black book lying there. He sat on the bed and flipped through the first few chapters, then suddenly smiled and turned toward the wizard. "You really want to serve me?" Ethan grimaced but shrugged. "Then you shall, for tonight only." He gently created the spell, binding Ethan to his will for the night. "Strip, then follow," he ordered once the look of need entered the dark eyes. "You will bathe me for now, then you will show yourself off for me. I don't know how your sort do it." He stripped himself and walked into the bathroom, letting Ethan fight the bond for a bit before he extended the need toward him. "Now."
Ethan moaned as he stood up, going in to bathe the boy like he had been told to. This was not what he had expected, but it was definitely a learning experience for him.
In his room, Xander sighed unhappily, but he was a touch smug. The boy had the natural affinity to control the powers if he wanted to. He could feel how he had bound Ethan and it would make for a good story later when he met with Emilia next month.
When Philip came, he came with a few helpers, a large basket of food and salves, and a smug look for the despondent looking Xander. Whom he immediately gave a hug to. He noticed Draco watching him, looking fairly suspicious, and grinned at him. "The poor one needed a hug," he pointed out. "Blair and I are gonna teach you how to research today while we look at the first few things." He pulled out a small pot of healing potion and handed it to Ron as soon as he limped in. "Dose yourself, dose Harry, then dose the other two. They'll be sittin', but Nick wants ta work you two ta death." Ron sighed but headed back up the stairs to do as he was told. "Good boy."
Blair smiled at Draco. "Come on, let's get you fed first of all. Every person has to learn how to do minimal cooking so they don't starve." Draco opened his mouth. "Even house elves get sick sometimes and Xander can't cook." He led the boy into the kitchen, where Emilia was working on something in a large pot and Greg was reading a book. He watched as Draco immediately hugged Emilia as hard as he could. "See, I have good ideas."
"Good, stir the pot," Greg ordered absently as he read. "It's to help with Harry's head injury."
Blair stepped up to stir the pot's contents. "How did you know?"
"Emilia said Draco told her in a dream," he said with a shrug.
"When did I do that?" Draco asked. Everyone in the room looked at him.
Emilia grinned. "It's a family gift. We can only do it between the members of the family. I'll tell you how to reach your mother later, smug one." She tweaked his chin. "A chaos sorcerer?" Draco blushed and groaned, hanging his head and shaking it. "It's all right, they're very interesting and that one did want to learn about us." He blinked at her. "How did Xander take it?"
"Shitty," Blair put in. "He had the most hurt look on his face this morning." He lifted up the spoon. "It's eating it."
"Add the salt," Greg ordered quietly, looking over at Draco. "Don't worry about it, I'm sure it's something to do with the house back in Sunnydale."
Draco shook his head. "No, I don't think so." He walked off, grabbing Xander from some big, dark-skinned man's grasp and dragging him into one of the work rooms. "You want me," he said quietly.
Xander gave him a sheepish look. "I see traits in you that I like," he admitted.
Draco hit him on the arm as hard as he could, basically swatting him. "You shit! Did you plan that whole right of reparation thing?" Xander slowly shook his head. "No?"
"No." Xander put up a privacy barrier because every person on the other side would be trying to listen. "Draco, I didn't plan that. That came on the spur of the moment and then I had this sudden feeling of rightness. You're still too young and you've got a lot to learn before you're near ready to take on even a temporary mate." He sat the boy down. "I'm trying my best not to influence you. You've got to be able to make a decision on who you want without anyone getting pushy about it. Let's face it, I'm not that easy to live with. I have bad habits and people want to kill me."
"A lot like your grandson," Draco pointed out, staring into his eyes.
"Don't try to read me, Draco, there's a lot there that can confuse even me and I lived through most of it."
"You're in pain," Draco said quietly, touching him on the forehead. "Do I remind you of her?"
"No, she was a redhead. Ginny reminds me a lot of her, especially her caring nature. You're just...you."
"I am, aren't I," Draco agreed, smiling a little smugly at him. "Did the ring mean anything?"
"That I like to spoil people?"
"All along, you've been showing me what and who you really were," he said, stroking the tense forehead lines again. "You made sure I would see you at your worst last week." He felt the air shift. "I swear, Sandburg, I will blast you," he yelled. "Privacy is not an artform to be looked at and then passed over." He smiled at Xander again. "I'm not that much younger than you."
"In a lot of ways you are. I may look eighteen but I'm not really. I've fought in a war already. I've seen people die and had to kill people and things. Many, many things."
Draco flicked him on the forehead. "Tragedy beside the fact, we do work together well enough. You have the time," he decided, taking the neutral path. "Though I'm never beyond accepting gifts." He stood up quickly, managing to sneak in a kiss. "Thank you. Now, I believe you were going to take some healing potion for your back and hip. I am going to eat, even if I have to gnaw on someone, and then you'll take Harry around to introduce him to the portraits."
"You're bossy," Xander sighed.
"Of course I am. I am a Malfoy." He winked at Xander, then grinned slyly. "I'll be in the library after I eat someone." He strolled off, slapping Sandburg across the back of the head as he walked past him. "Do not eavesdrop. Otherwise I will broadcast because I think it'd be amusing." He grabbed Emilia's arm and led her back into the kitchen to have a quiet word with her about what he could and could not do. He found Greg still reading. "Xander's back and hip are hurt," he told him. The other man held out a small vial of purple liquid. "Is that to heal him?"
Draco took it and walked back out to where Xander was being soothed, handing it over without another word or look, then went back to his discussion. It was time that Xander Dumass learned about how sneaky Malfoys could be when they were trying to prove a point.
Harry looked at the portraits, smiling at the brass plates underneath to tell them who each one was and where they fit in relation to Xander. "Hi," he said, waving. He got some interested looks and moved further down the hall so the earlier portraits could look at him too. There were a lot of people who had messy hair, just like him, and the rest looked like his mother. "Wow." He smiled at Xander. "Are these all the family?"
"Only the ones that were saved," one elderly woman sniffed. "We missed a few of the younger generation." She looked him over, then looked at Xander. "Dear.... Explain."
"This is James' son, Harry," Xander introduced. "He is the current last of the line until he gives in and breeds." Harry blushed. "Sorry." He grinned at his grandmother. "You remember Doreen?" She nodded. "She was James' grandmother."
"Ah!" She smiled at the boy. "Then I expect you to be fairly wise."
Harry shook his head. "Not in the least."
"You weren't raised among us," a male said, looking Harry over. "Alex, you are not in a robe," he chastised. "How dare you mingle among others while half-dressed."
"Dad, bite me. Harry was forced to be raised by muggles. I happen to enjoy part of my less than wizardly life and you knew I went on to become a cursebreaker. Leather is much more suitable to me than robes." Draco tapped on the door and walked in. "Come here. This is my dad," he said, pointing at him. "Mom's portrait was never completed so we lost her earlier than we should have."
Draco put a hand on Xander's arm, looking at all the family. "And I thought the Weasleys had children."
Harry snorted. "It was like that in the olden days. Most families had a lot of kids I bet."
"True, my generation had me, two sisters and three brothers," Xander agreed, smiling at Draco. "One died right after being born and the rest died in the plague."
"I'm sorry, Xander. I didn't want to make it worse," Harry offered.
He gave him a smile and a pat. "I came to terms with the fact that the germs won that battle a long time ago, Harry. Don't worry about it." He patted Harry on the back. "He's gotten the family skill at charms and creatures, but also the family lack of ability in potions." Most of the portraits laughed. "So I'll leave you guys alone. Harry, if any of them start to sound like Draco's father, ignore them. Some of them didn't know any better." He walked Draco out. "What's gone wrong?" he asked as soon as the soundproof door was closed.
Draco grimaced. "Sandburg managed to trip something that created a shield and his love-bunnies are panicking."
"Can't Philip take it down?" Draco shook his head and they headed to the work areas. "What sort of shield is it?"
"Fairly dark. It feels like it's drawing you closer to eat you."
Xander followed the feeling now that he knew which one it was and opened the correct door. He flicked his wand, bending the shield inward. "Back away, Blair." He shoved it all the way over to the box, then lunged and grabbed the box, letting the shield wrap around him as the tastier object to try and absorb. He found the catch and unlocked the hinges, letting the lid close. The thing howled as it went back inside, trying to bring books and papers with it. "Why is it that the supernatural always has a wind storm?" he called out to Philip and Nick. He relaxed once it was over with. "Don't open it," he pleaded, letting Draco lead him to a seat. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Draco said patiently. "Bloody heros need to be helped around afterwards." He looked over as Greg walked in already carrying a few mugs of steaming things. "Tea?"
"Holiness extract," Greg told him, handing one to Xander, then one to Blair. "Drink, now." He crossed his arms and glared, reminding everyone of a mini-Snape, only less evil.
"It's clear who taught you," Ron snorted, looking up from where he had been hiding. "Is the demon gone?" Everyone nodded. "Thanks. Seen enough of those for the year." That got some laughter. "I did. One of them tried to get me to work for them." Everyone but Xander looked at him, mouths open, eyes wide. "It thought I would do good for its side. Of course, I told him I could only go over if Harry did and I think Harry made him cry or something." He grinned. "No worries."
"We had better not have to," Philip pointed out. "I'd hate to have to pull out my most special routines for you."
In the stunned silence, the doorbell was clearly heard by nearly everyone. Even Harry heard it. The thing was a gong that shook the house.
"I forgot about that thing," Xander said bitterly. "Used to wake my ass up because my old room was in front, underneath the bell." He trudged that way, but Draco grabbed him and pushed him back into a chair. "I can answer my own door."
"There's sixteen people in this house, I'm sure one of them can," Blair argued. As a matter of fact, his sentinel Jim was heading that way. "See?"
Jim opened the door, looking at the little woman standing there. "Hello?"
She smiled and held out a hand. "I'm Kethrina Moreson. I'm here to see the landowner?"
"He's presently got a headache. Is it something his friends can help you with?"
"On the contrary, I think it's something I can help him with."
Draco walked out and she blatantly looked him over. "You are?"
"Kethrina Moreson. Are you the landowner?"
"No, I'm the landowner's present houseguest and student. What did you need?"
Harry came jogging out. "Sorry, got lost." He smiled at her and she didn't react. She wasn't a witch then. "What did you need, ma'am?"
"Are *you* the landowner?"
"His nephew," Harry told her.
"Oh, good, finally someone who can make a decision. I was told to come here today to talk to the landowner? One...." She pulled out a paper from her briefcase. "Timinia Holloway?"
"They're the next driveway down," Draco said firmly. She frowned at him. "There are hardly any women in this house and no one by that name."
Harry smiled. "Really, I think they live on the left. This is my first time visiting my uncle." He shrugged, giving her his best 'trust me, I'm an innocent and good boy' look.
"Oi, Harry!" Ron called, walking out. He looked at the petite woman, then at Harry, then at Jim. He tapped Jim on the shoulder. "Blair's bouncing around your other friend, and he's groaning."
"I'd better stop that before Simon gets upset," Jim announced, withdrawing from the strange staring contest.
Ron looked at the woman again. "Who did you need to see?"
"The Holloways? They're supposed to be at this address."
Ron shrugged. "They're not here and they're not us, lady." He smiled and closed the door, taking Harry's arm. "Show me these portraits. I've wanted to see your family since that mirror thing in our first year."
Draco stared out the peephole, she was still standing there. She had pulled some little silver thing out of her briefcase and was talking into it. He went to get Xander, this was going to take him to deal with. "Xander?" he asked calmly. He smiled at him from behind the workbench. "There was some woman here asking about the Holloways? Said they were supposed to be at this address and she was supposed to meet them today?"
"They're six houses down on the left fork of the road," he said, going back to his work.
"She was insistent that it was this address, even after we told her it wasn't us."
"Fine." Xander tucked his pencil behind his ear and followed Draco back to the door. The woman was talking on her cellphone, still, and complaining to someone. He opened the door, startling her. "Hi, were you looking for the Holloways?" She nodded. "They're on the left fork of the road, not this one, and they're six houses down it."
"They're supposed to be here," she said firmly. "I'm their decorator. They said they're moving."
Xander snorted. "I doubt it. I had to rebuild the family home as was." She looked disgusted. "Sorry, not needed here. I kept my grandmother's things around. She had wonderful taste in antiques." He shrugged. "They're on the left fork, six houses down." He looked toward the road. "That's a car," he noted, seeing the dust trail. "Draco, go find Blair's Simon. He's a police officer and I'm getting the feeling that we might need something of the sort." Draco nodded, hurrying to find him in one of the libraries. He leaned against the doorway, noticing the frowns of the people getting out of the expensive car. "Did you need something in my house?" he asked them.
"We just bought this land," the woman said, waving a paper.
"I doubt it, it's never been up for sale," Xander said firmly. She glared at him. "Sorry, lady, it's the family home. It's never been up for sale." He shrugged. "I had to rebuild the family home after a fire a few years back, but it's never been up for sale."
"But the tax people said it was," she said shrilly.
"Then you'd better get them up here," Xander told her. "And you'd better bring the county mounties too." She stomped off, going back to the car to use their phone. He smiled at the remaining man. "Hi. Alex Dumass." They shook hands.
"I remember your family when I was younger," he admitted. "Are you sure it's never been up for sale?"
"Very. There was a paperwork glitch about seventy years ago that had it listed for all of one day, but we were gifted the lands by royal decree. As a matter of fact, we own the land under a few of the houses on the right fork in the road by that same decree but we've never been pushy about it." The woman stomped back, looking triumphant. "They'd better be on their way," he noted dryly. "'Cause I'm not moving."
"The house went up on the market ten years ago, when it was discovered no one was in residence."
"There were two heirs left in the family but they were too young to rebuild the house," he told her. "I'm only nineteen and I just got finished rebuilding it. I and my nephew Harry are the last in the line." She looked stunned. He smiled slowly. "Simon, can you handle the cops while I get something to drink?"
"Sure," Simon said from behind him. "Why?"
"Because these people think they bought the lands." He went into the study and made a quick call to the family lawyer, who he had paid just the other day. "Here, now," he said. The lawyer looked startled. "I mean it." He poured himself a small beer and went back t the doorway, leaning against it again as the cop car came up the drive. "See?" Simon nodded, lighting his cigar.
"Those things smell," Draco noted as he rejoined them.
Xander grinned at him. "I don't nag people. He knows what it smells like and what it's doing to his body. It's his choice, but I know he won't be putting ashes in the carpet." He grinned at Simon as the cop car discharged three people. Behind him he could hear the floo going off. "Draco, please bring the family attorney. He just came in." Draco nodded, going to retrieve him. "You decided I was dead?" he said bluntly.
"There hasn't been a house here in years," the first cop pointed out.
Xander sipped his beer. "Nearly fifteen of them. Lightening strike and both heirs were too young to have it rebuilt. Harry's still too young."
The man looked him over. "Which one are you?"
"Alex Dumass. Son of the last owner." He shook his hand. "Dad moved us to America right after the house burned because he thought someone was after us. He always paid his taxes though."
"True but someone had the lands declared vacant."
"I was in London," Harry put in as he walked over. He smiled at the goblin. "Xander, I think there's been a small mixup."
Xander looked back at the goblin, whose 'eep' was loud enough to get him some attention. He ran off and the fireplace dinged, discharging someone else. "We're out here," he called. The distinguished man strolled out. "Lord Havers," he said with a nod. "Can they do this?"
"Not with heirs on record," he said calmly. He took the paperwork, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, but this is not acceptable." He looked at the proper authorities. "I'm afraid to say that you cannot do this while there are heirs on record. I know Mr. Dumass' father's death was never put in the books."
"He only died two years ago," Xander pointed out, playing along. The Lord, the one who dealt with all royal land gifts to wizarding families for the Queen, smiled at him. "Harry's been in London and he was clearly an heir. His mother was well-known among the family."
Lord Havers nodded. "I've heard." Harry squeaked and he smiled at the boy. "I've heard that much," he corrected gently. "You are young, aren't you?" Harry nodded quickly, mumbling something. "Good boy. Why don't you go back to what you were doing."
"I've got him out of school to help with a few things around the house," Xander admitted sheepishly. "He's going back on Monday."
"I'm sure he is, Alex." He looked at the officers again as another car pulled in, this one marked as a car belonging to the local village. "They wouldn't even have jurisdiction over this plot of land. Their boundaries extend to the other side of the county."
The obvious politician, portly, balding, and female, got out, waddling over to them. "Who're you?" she demanded. "We sold this land fairly."
"With two heirs too young to protest? Without the crown's approval?" Lord Havers asked. She flinched. "Besides, correct me if I'm wrong, m'lady, but doesn't your town's province go in the other direction?" She blanched and backed up. "Lord Havers," he said with a bow. "I handle all land gives from the Monarchy in this part of the country." She went paler. "You have managed to upset the young heir. His father only died two years ago. It's bad enough someone from the town made him fear for his life. Earl Dumass was not a happy person."
"We're earls?" Harry asked, his voice going up. "Since when!"
"Since about my grandfather's time," Xander admitted with a small grin. "We haven't taken the formal title in years though. My dad thought it was pretentious."
Lord Havers looked at him. "Wouldn't that have been your grandfather?"
"He helped raise me, I can call him whatever I want," Xander protested, silently thanking him for fixing that slip. The man gave him a pat on the back. Then they turned back to the muggles. "So you see, you didn't buy the land. They didn't have the authority to sell it. And if I wanted to be picky, I could evict a few more people out here because they gave us 20 miles in each direction from the new hearthstone we laid to cement the deal." He pointed behind himself. All the muggles but the cops went very pale and started to waver. "I'm not that mean though. Just take good care of it for us," he said with his best naughty grin. He bowed to the women. "I'm going to leave this in the hands of the people who speak legaleze. Thank you, Simon." He drug Harry away, taking him back to the portrait rooms. "Dad, they tried to sell the land. You were right," he sighed, saluting him with his beer. "I'm going to talk to Lord Havers about the Weasley grant. I heard it was about to run out." He went back out, tugging Lord Havers out of the way. "Hey, one other question." The man nodded, smiling at him. "The Weasley grant?"
"That one's extremely old and the current Queen wasn't sure there were any heirs."
"They've got seven kids in the current generation. I've got one of them apprenticing under me."
"Oh." His whole face brightened. "Then I'd like to talk to him after this is done. I couldn't get to them by floo."
"It might have been while Molly and Arthur were working on a problem at the school," Greg pointed out as he walked out to them. "You're an Earl?"
"We never use it," Xander said, rolling his eyes. "Can you find Ron?"
"Sure. Ron!" he yelled. Ron came jogging out from the main library. "This guy needs to talk to you, or your parents."
"Dad's just went home and mum's supposed to be coming to feed us," Ron said with a grin. "What's up?"
Lord Havers laughed. "I see some things do breed true." He touched Ron's hair. "Your family was given their land because the King at the time had sheltered there and the Weasley stablekeeper had amused him with the color of his hair." He smiled at Ron. "Can you get them here soon?"
"Sure," Ron agreed, going to call his parents.
Lord Havers went back to the discussion with the boring people. These sort of things really did annoy him.
Xander finished his beer and went back to work. There was time enough for someone to yell at the family attorney later. He found out later that Draco had done it for him and he was pleased at the way the guy was handling the little things around him.
Xander wandered the house late that night. It was quiet, even though everyone was stuffed to the rafters. Actually, Blair, Jim, and Simon were sleeping in the attic because they said the breeze was nice and reminded them of home. He walked into the kitchen and found Ethan looking out the glass doors. "It's a family habit to wander the halls at night," he said, making the sorcerer jump. He grinned. "Sorry."
Ethan shook his head. "It's not a problem. I can feel something going wrong back on the hellmouth. I have a feeling it's Ripper's fault."
"Want me to send you there faster?" Xander offered. "The floo's still active and my house is outside the city's boundaries."
"If you wouldn't mind," Ethan said with a gentle smile. "Thank you for letting me learn from your ways, Alex. It was most instructive."
"Feeling puny?" Xander asked, leading him to the study.
"Indeed," Ethan sighed. "You can do so much more than I can, and all you have to do is flick your little wand. It doesn't even wear you out."
"It does after a while, but it takes a good few castings," Xander explained. "If McGonagall had said you were right for it, I'd have taken you to get you fitted." He summoned his wands out of Ethan's back pocket. "Thank you." He grinned and prepared the fire. "Go ahead. Harris Hall."
"I'll see you sometime soon." He stepped into the prepared fire. "Harris Hall," he said, then closed his eyes as he took off, spinning halfway around the world.
Xander grinned as he went back to his roaming. He almost wanted to see Giles baby Ethan for what he had learned and because he was so depressed. He wandered into the portrait gallery, finding his father awake. "Hey."
"Son," he said with a smile. "I see the night roaming was passed on."
"I'm used to late nights. Patrolling with the Slayer made me like this." He summoned a stool and sat down, facing him. "Are you disappointed in me?"
"No, son. You're doing what you love. You've got a potential mate that you're trying to woo. Your nephew is a wonderful boy. Speaking of, I was wondering if you could bring the small, spare portrait back to the castle for him. That way we could talk."
"That depends, are you going to nag him?"
His father laughed. "Not in the least, son. The boy doesn't need nagged. If I had hold of his aunt, I'd wring her scrawny neck."
"That does fit Petunia," he agreed. "I had a discussion with her of the inheritance sort. She seems to understand now." He glanced back toward the door. "Did you tell him about Doreen and me? It's the only way I'm related to him on that side but I didn't want to upset him."
His father shook his head. "I figured if you wanted the boy to know, you'd tell him." He winked. "She was rather pretty if I remember right." Someone tapped on the door. "Which one do you think?"
"I think it's Draco. Come." Draco opened the door, smiling at him. "Sorry, night wandering is a family habit. It's a holdover from the days this used to be a keep."
"I do a bit of it myself," Draco admitted as he walked in. He nodded at the portrait. "Your family is much nicer than mine."
Xander's father laughed. "Of course we are. Veelas are known for their emotional storms." He looked the boy over. "How old are you?"
"Seventeen in two weeks," Draco told him, standing a little straighter. "Why?"
"Because we've got to throw you a party."
"Dad, I have Draco because I settled a blood debt with his father," Xander said gently. "I'm letting him decide if I take him in further."
His father scowled. "Stubborn bastard. You like him. Take him to bed!"
"Dad, he's a halfie and his family's the one with the mate curse."
"Fine," he said, rolling his eyes. "Young man, do you like my son?"
"He spoils very well," Draco admitted. "He makes me laugh at odd times. Of course, he's frustrating, arrogant, and a slut."
"Don't worry, that will change once you get hold of him properly," Xander's father noted. "Any Veela worth their salt can cure that sort of thing. He's got enough energy to feed off him for months at a time."
Draco looked at Xander. "He said he'd let me go if I wanted and if Harry survived the war."
"How did he take you?" Xander's grandmother asked.
Draco cleared his throat. "My father kidnaped Harry and all the Weasleys one night, endangering them totally. Xander caught him, made him commit suicide instead of being arrested, but he demanded me as a reparation since both Harry and I are the last of our lines."
She frowned at Xander. "Really?" Xander nodded. "Spunky. Devious. I like that in a grandson. You'd almost do your mother proud, boy."
"Yeah, she was a manipulative bitch," Xander agreed with a fond grin. His father burst out in laughs. "She was."
"That's true. She was. Did I ever tell you that she kidnaped me and forced me to marry her?" Xander shook his head, smiling at his father. "She did. She was a horrible woman in those days. Hired three raiders to snatch me out of my bed, take me to some god-awful hut, and kept me there until I agreed. Had a rabbi on standby even."
"I didn't know Mom was Jewish," Xander put in.
"She wasn't. She simply liked the man and he agreed to do the civil ceremony. It was bad enough I was tied to the bed while we did it, she wouldn't even let me bathe."
"Yeah, but you loved her," Xander pointed out.
"From the first moment I saw that little brat," he agreed happily. He smiled at Draco. "She knew, deep down in her heart, that I was the only one she could ever stand."
"I feel something like that with Xander, but with the war, I've got to take my time," Draco offered.
"What war?" Xander's grandmother demanded. "That young one didn't say anything about a war!"
"The same one as last time, Grams, only now he's risen from the dead and is hunting Harry. That's why he has that scar, the idiot toasted his family one night and couldn't kill him."
"If I had my body back, I'd hunt the idiot down myself," she said firmly.
"I bet you would," Draco agreed.
Xander gave him a light nudge. "She was the most formidable defense person of her generation. Made Professor Methos cry once." Draco looked stunned. He nodded, grinning. "She taught me Defense." He looked at his grandmother. "Did you meet the Slayer before she left earlier?"
"I did. Little bitty thing she was. Obviously dangerous if she's over eighteen."
"She's the same age I am right now," Xander told her. "Nineteen going on three hundred. We've fought so many battles, Gram. I'm so tired."
"I know, sweetness. We'll be fine. You can rest over here for a bit. That way you don't have to go back there for a few months."
"The chaos sorcerer just went back there because he felt something was going on."
"Pfft. Probably someone trying to build their power resources from the hellmouth there."
"I seem to remember an American Hellmouth," Xander's father offered.
"You should. You and your new bride took your second honeymoon there. That would have been about six years before Alex was born."
"Which is what made my younger, older sister so odd," Xander agreed with a grin. "Grams, did you like Harry?"
"I adored the little fellow. He needs some feeding up though. How old is he again?"
She looked alarmed. "What did your niece do to that boy?" she demanded.
"Which part of the story do you want to hear tonight from me?" Xander asked, shrugging at her incredulous look. "I scanned Petunia."
"No wonder," she said in disgust. "Stupid brat ran off with a blasted muggle."
"And they had their own son, who's so fat he won't be able to walk soon," Xander offered. "They think the world of him, but you know how she felt when she ended up being a squib."
"Hmm. No wonder. You'll be bringing that boy back here this coming holiday and the summer. I want to talk to him. Maybe I can give him some finer points of defense. The poor thing looks battleworn already, the same as you do."
"Yes, well, the asshole manages to try for him at least once a year," Draco said, ignoring the headshake Xander was giving him.
"WHAT?!?" She glared at the ceiling. "Bring that boy down here tomorrow, Alex. I will instruct him in the family's version of home defense. The school's obviously falling down on its duty to him."
"Grams, he's tired," Xander pointed out. "The little guy's nerves are like a pincushion and he's on edge. If you lay into him about what he can do, he might snap. Buffy and I are helping him. Dumbledore's trying to help him."
She sniffed. "I'll have a talk with my cousin's family. There must be one Snape left." Xander nodded. "Then I'll need to go to the school with the poor little one. We'll go to his room and talk with him."
Draco's mouth finally closed. "You're a Snape?"
"My sister was, her mother died in childbirth and I've always been considered one since my mother raised her," she pointed out. "We're like two sides of the same coin, family-wise. Many of the older, pure, families intermarried over the decades and centuries, Malfoy."
Draco nodded. "I realized, but I hadn't thought your family was over here then."
"Oh, we were. We came with the Church, hiding among them in plain sight," Xander's father told him. "The Church used to have white mages, wizards and witches who did what they called God's work. Our family was all-but kidnaped and forced to work for them, or else they'd have us killed for being what we were. Six generations lost to them," he said sadly.
"Yeah, but we got free, Dad. The only priest I know now is Philip, and he's a wizard too. He's their supernatural expert."
Xander's dad snorted. "You give him the family diaries, boy. Make sure he knows the danger he's in." Xander nodded.
"They made him break his wand," Draco told him.
"Still, they're going to kill him one of these days, and that'll be after they use him to death."
"He's got language skills, that's how they're using him, dad." Xander reached out to touch the painting. "I wish you were here," he said with a light sigh. "The world would make some damn sense again if you were." He stood up. "I'm going to go back to bed. Have a good night." He gave Draco a faint smile and left him there in case he wanted to talk to them.
"Boy," Xander's grandmother said once the door was closed. "Tell us about yourself. You must be special if you've made Alex give up his whoring. The boy used to wear himself out with it."
Draco considered it. "He hasn't slept with anyone in nearly a week." All the portraits who had been listening in opened their eyes and stared at him. "Is that bad?"
"Is he ill? The only time he's ever given up was during the plague," his father said gently.
"No, not true. He gave it up for *her*."
"Hnm." His father looked Draco over, then nodded once. "You'll do. Make him happy, or else. There are dark arts to take the essence out of us and bring us back."
Draco nodded. "I do try. He's so arrogant sometimes though."
"Yes, but he's like that because he's lonely," the female in the painting beside the grandmother's said. Draco read the card, it was Xander's oldest sister, Katya. He gave her a small smile. "You will do, but you had better treat him right. I can and will come back. Alex may have irritated all of us to no end, but he was my younger brother. Just like the Weasleys stick up for each other, so does the Dumass clan."
Draco nodded. "I'll try. We've only known each other a little while."
"Good. Then read him deeply. Get past the pain and his past life. The little guy's gotten better over the years."
"No, he's gotten hurt," Grandmother corrected. "I think I need to find a way to see this Dumbledore chap. If he's the one I'm thinking of, they don't have lick of sense among the whole family." She smiled at Draco. "Learn how to bake and surprise him with cookies. He's always had this thing for sweets."
"Is that why he drinks unicorn creme in his tea?"
She laughed and shook her head. "That is a fine family tradition. We used to raise them." Draco smiled at her. "Now go to bed. Where did he put you?"
"In the room next to his."
She smiled. "Then you've already worked your way under his skin. Behave with the boy." He nodded and left. She pushed the barrier of her painting out to look at the sister. "You will not be reborn before the rest of us."
"If I am, can I be reborn a Weasley? That one was pretty nice earlier."
She laughed. "If you'd like. I'd rather come back as part of the family."
"Alex said it's just him and Harry now."
"True. And neither's really looking forward to having children. We'll see what we can do. Methos will help us, I know he will." She sat down again. "We should rest. Tomorrow we'll have to find a way to get to Dumbledore and chew him a new one."
"That's easy enough, we ask the priest. He seemed decent enough," the father put in.
The paintings around him nodded and made assenting noises. That was a wonderful plan. They could travel within the house and Philip had one of them in his room.
Philip woke up and found a strange man staring at him from the portrait over his bed. "You were field mice last night."
The man laughed. "That's my other form," he said happily. He smiled at Philip. "The other paintings would like for you to find this Dumbledore chap and bring him around for a short talk about Harry. Would you be willing to do that?"
"Sure. I know where he is. Anyone else?" Philip asked quietly.
"Well, one of us really wanted to talk to her other relatives, the Snapes. And one of them wanted to talk to an older chap named Methos."
"All doable, they're at the school."
"You don't say," he said, looking interested. "Doing what?"
"Snape does potions. Methos is teaching defense again. Dumbledore's the headmaster. Why?"
He smiled a brilliant smile, which hid the intent to come out and beat the shit out of someone if you knew him better. "Then we'd like to talk to all of them if possible. The whole family would if you could get them here for tea or something."
"I'll try," Philip agreed. "Anyone else?"
"No. We've talked with the delightful Molly Weasley earlier and she assured us she was taking good care of our young Harry monster. By the way, there are some family diaries that Alex is supposed to give you. Remind him about them, hmm?" He winked and changed, going back to his animagus form, a field mouse.
Philip rolled onto his side. "Now I know what I blocked out about the school," he murmured, going back to sleep.
Nick looked over from the other bed, then at the painting. "If he won't, I will," he said quietly. The mouse nodded. Nick knew someone was going to get their ass chewed for something and he was hoping it was Dumbledore. The man had hurt Xander on purpose. He slid out of his bed and padded into the bathroom to get dressed before going down to present himself for breakfast. Molly cooked wonderful meals for them, and sometimes it was her and Blair so the food was multiplied in greatness. He gave her a sheepish grin. "I'm missing my daily run for some of your muffins," he said as he picked one up to nibble.
She laughed and kissed him on the cheek. "Did the paintings wake you?" He nodded. "Then you should try the couch in the study, it's very comfortable. I found Ron on it again this morning."
"Thanks, Molly." He headed that way, forcing Ron to get up and go eat. Not that a growing boy needed encouragement to gorge himself on good muffins, but it got him the couch faster.
Severus Snape looked up as someone knocked on his door. He scowled at the class before opening it, stepping into the hall. "What's happened now?" he asked the student standing there. Ron was not in school uniform so he couldn't be back yet.
Ron handed over a box. "These are the things we've done so far, we won't be back until Tuesday because of Harry's head injury. Plus, the paintings of Xander's family wanted to see you, Professor Methos, and the Headmaster. At the moment, I consider you less scary." He grinned. "One of the paintings was apparently one of your relatives, nearly, and wanted to talk to you specifically about the current situation with the evil bastard."
Snape's mouth fell open. "They what?"
Ron nodded. "Xander's grandmother or someone was one of your relative's half-sisters and said she was always considered one of you. Harry said she used to be great in defense if it helps, was the top of her generation or something." He shrugged. "I'm only the messenger and I get a chocolate frog for delivery." He waved and trotted off, going back to the house now that his duty was done.
Snape looked down at the box, sure that was a hallucination. Weasley hadn't even cringed when looking at him. He had *smiled* at him! That bastard had warped Weasley! He put the box on his desk and stomped off, going to talk to the man himself. This was not allowed. Weasley could not be unafraid of him, he had another year to go before he could escape his reach. He found Methos in the teacher's lounge. "We were requested and invited to talk to some portraits at Dumass' house," he said bitterly.
Methos looked at him, raising an eyebrow. "And?" Snape glared. "What's gotten into your boxers this morning, Severus?" he asked languidly, giving him a smile. "Did they teach the boys not to fear you already?" He sipped his coffee, then walked over to the fireplace. "Anyone else?"
"The headmaster," he ground out.
"I'm sure they want to chew him a new one. We've probably been asked for to see what we can do to help the boys." He tossed some floo powder in. "Go ahead. Let me drink some more coffee." Snape stomped into the fire and took off. Methos chuckled as soon as he was gone. "Headmaster, you might go over once you're done for the day," he called, knowing the old coot had a way of hearing him. He sent himself there with his coffee, smiling when it hadn't spilled. "Wonderful skills I have," he told himself as he exited the fireplace. He looked around. "A good restoration."
"What put you into such a good mood?" Nick asked from the couch.
"Oh, a little bit of this and that," he said smugly, heading for where the portraits had been. Dumass was a sentimentalist, if he had restored the study, he had restored the rest of the house as well he bet. He was correct. He found Snape paler than usual and shaking while crouching on a stool. "Good morning, precious," he said, blowing a kiss at the dear woman. "How are you this fine morning."
She looked him over. "Take a head?"
He nodded. "A very pretty one." He looked at the rest of the paintings. "It's too bad he couldn't save you all."
"It was," Xander's father agreed. "Methos, Severus, we've got a bit of a problem. Shield us." Methos did so and he looked at them. "We're a bit worried about Harry."
"Potter," Snape sneered.
"Yes, that starved, depressed, lonely little boy who's hearing things from the git," Xander's grandmother said firmly. Snape recoiled again. "Thank you." She sniffed and smiled at Methos, then back at Severus. "You could try sitting, that way you don't pass out, dear. I'm just like all the other paintings."
"If you were, you wouldn't be able to read his mind," Severus pointed out, calming himself. He had dealt with portraits like this at his house, he could do it here. "Aunt, why call me?"
"Because I know you, Severus. You're fighting him somehow." She saw his flinch and let out an ungodly shriek. "You did what!"
"It was a mistake, I spy now," he said quietly. "I train the boy, not that he ever listens."
"Why would he? You do your best to scare him so bad he can't even have wet dreams anymore," Methos pointed out, finishing off his coffee. "The boy wouldn't come to you for help because you're an ass. Dumbledore put me back on because he was hoping I could get through to him, past all the anger and the rage he's feeling." Snape shook his head. "You don't believe me?"
"No, I do, but I cannot see that boy that way."
"Why?" Xander's father asked. "Is it because of who he is? I heard they picked on you, but really, Severus. Your family has always been kin to ours and we like you. You could have come to one of us."
"The only ones around were Dumass, who was somewhere, and Lilly," Methos pointed out. "Who would he have run to?"
"Lilly tried," Severus admitted. "She did stick up for me."
"Good." The grandmother gave him a smile. "I wish I had arms. You and Alex both need a good old-fashioned hug. You're both wrecked mentally and emotionally sore." She stroked the boundary of her painting. "It's almost enough to make me want to pull some of the dark arts out and come back."
"You'd be a zombie," Methos pointed out. "Alex would feel duty-bound to kill you."
She gave him a bright smile. "There are ways around that, as the big prat proved. Since I died of natural causes, all I'd have to do is have someone reanimate and heal my body back to health. We've always demanded anti-decay spells be put on us." Severus swallowed. "They didn't?"
"They did," he whispered. "It's what used to make people look at our families and decide we were the darkest of the dark, Auntie," he said quietly. He felt like he was a teen again, facing down the old woman who could have healed the world if she had wanted.
Methos stroked down Severus' arm, not minding when he was pushed away. "There are worse things to be thought." He looked at the paintings. "What did you want me to teach him?"
"There are books in the library, Methos. If someone saved them, my working journals were in there," the grandmother told him. "If not, there were copies at the Ministry."
Snape coughed. "Someone had them pulled and hidden," he told her. "We're not sure who."
"Oh, I am," she said bitterly. "We'll be talking with him later." Snape shuddered and curled in on himself a bit more. "There, there, dear one. I would never hurt *you*. You've made some mistakes but you're trying so *hard* to get better," she said with a smile. "Give me a grin, little one?" He frowned at her. "Now." He gave her a hesitant attempt at a smile. "It's obvious you need something to take your mind off your duties. Why didn't you marry?"
"Lilly married the prat," he said simply.
She sighed. "I knew it was something like that. Very well then, we'll have to find you someone else. I will not allow my kin to be miserable." He gave her a glance and she smiled. "Don't worry, the worst I could do for you is Ginny Weasley. Such a sweet and caring young thing," she said sweetly. "Reminds me of Alex's *her*."
Methos sighed. "I had wondered why he avoided her."
"Which her?" Severus asked.
"Her, the one who nearly killed him when she died." His father grimaced. "You know about the veela thing?" They both nodded. "That same year, they found a young woman in the woods behind the house. A beautiful thing, mystical as you could want. She glowed with white magic. They were both attracted to her."
"And she was ill," Methos said dryly. The father nodded. "It was her death that set of Xander's intended's death?" Everyone nodded. "Damn."
"I see some of that same fire from his veela now," he said gently. "The boy will be good for him. It's like he's both women rolled into one. Try to protect the blond. He doesn't know his own strength yet."
Severus cleared his throat. "He's in my house. My godson." That earned him some smiles. "I'll do my best. What about Potter?"
"He's broadcasting pain, has been since he stepped foot in the house," the older sister told him. "It's not from his recent blow to the head either. The prick's in his head taunting him. Can you fix that?" Snape shrugged. "Then you'll have to move around Dumbledore. I'm not liking the vibes I get whenever Harry talks about him. He hurt Alex, he hurt Harry, that makes him a double enemy of the clan."
Methos shuddered. "Then I feel sorry for the old coot." He blew her a kiss. "Katya. I do miss you most days."
"I know, Methos. I miss you too. In time we'll meet again. I swear it. Even if it's only in your dreams." She smiled. "When the boys go back, we're going to be bringing a few of the portraits back with them so we can switch around and talk to the boys." They nodded.
"I'm going to look over them," the father pointed out.
"As am I," a rough voice from down the hall offered. They all looked that way. It was like looking at an older version of Xander in ancient clothes. "Don't give me that look. Both boys need me, but that young one needs me more. Xander's got a few friends. Not that he trusts anybody, but he's got a few people he can let go on. Harry's only got the Weasleys and they're an emotional lot." Some of the portraits rolled their eyes. "Besides, if the boy's going to fight the dark, who better to teach him than the one who freed us from the church by nearly destroying it?"
"Good point," Methos agreed lightly. That patriarch scared him, even as a portrait. That man had nearly destroyed the Church by himself in his day and he knew things that even the darkest of the dark arts people couldn't dream of knowing today. "Did you need us to get anything for you?"
"Just my case. My traveling case. It should have made it past the purge as only being a suitcase filled with old clothes." He smirked at them, a mirror, meaner version of Snape's own. He had helped start their line way back when, bedding the first female in the line to gift them with the power they had. "If you can find it, give it to the boy tonight. I'll go visiting. I take it Weasley will be with him?" Snape snorted and nodded. "Good. He'll have an anchor."
"Ron's going to be a guide," Methos told him.
"Even better," he said with a cruel smirk. "Young ones, find the rest of our things. Wherever they ended up, it's not right that they're not here. I've seen how barren the library is. The books are only stacked in single piles three deep to a shelf." They nodded. "Good boys. Now you trot back to your classes. We won't keep you from helping those young ones. They obviously need it with the world today."
"What do you think about Remus Lupin?" Methos asked.
"Haven't met him. Heard about him from young Harry's mind, and Ron's, and even that one, Philip's, mind. By the way, taint him. He can't go back. They're using him already." He smiled at them. "Werewolves are fine in my book, and he obviously gives a damn. I'm all for that at the moment. The rest of us will see what we can do about the current situation." They nodded and left. "Now," he said, calling the family meeting to order. "Who wants to cast the truth spell on Dumbledore?" A chorus of 'I do's answered him. "Who's best at it? I want to question the man as the patriarch of the family line." A few of them shuddered, including Xander's father, but it was decided that Katya would because she was the best at it.
Xander found what he was looking for with some 'helpful' assistance from a painting and pulled out the small carpet bag. "Bad news, it's got a hole in it."
"It always has. Let me see," the portrait told him. He held it up, spinning it slowly. "It should be fine. Open it, he said there should be clothes on top and books underneath." Xander did so, smiling when he found the old coat. "Good?"
"In excellent shape," he agreed, holding it up. "And a ton of books inside." He looked up. "For Harry?" The man nodded. "What about for me?"
"We want you to quit fighting, Alex. You're exhausted mentally and emotionally. You need a few weeks off."
"If I don't, that means Buffy's down a few people."
"Then send that might-as-well-be-you helper back there," he said with a shrug. "You need a vacation. You haven't had one in years. You used to take vacations."
"I used to need them," Xander pointed out. "I'm not working."
"No, you're fighting, which is much worse for the body. You took a nap today and it wasn't even for sex." Xander frowned at him. "When was the last time that champion stud libido of yours came out?"
"Um, two weeks ago I think," Xander admitted. He ran a hand through his sweaty hair. "There's so much to do, Uncle."
"I know, boy, but others can help. It's not like they've got tons to do at the moment. Now go hand off those books and tell Harry to pack his things over top of them so they're not found. We do not trust that headmaster. He's obviously against the family." Xander nodded, going to do as he was told. The old man shook his head. "I'll have to knock him out, I know I will." He went to look in the kitchen. That nice older veela was in there. "Dear," he said pleasantly. "How is your husband?"
She smiled at him. "He said one of you might be approaching me." She held up a small bit of paste on the end of a wooden tongue depressor. "He said to lace Alex's food with this. The flu good enough for you?"
"Good enough," he agreed happily. "I'll have your cousin take care of him." He hurried off, going to talk to Draco alone for a few minutes. The boy was in the portrait gallery anyway. "Good news," he said happily. "Someone anticipated Alex needing a long nap."
Draco gave him a worried look. "He'll yell."
"Not at you. You'll only be helping him recover." He smiled at him, then winked. "Use the time wisely, young one. Or else you might not get another chance." He faded, going back to his other portrait, the one in the nursery. It would never be used probably, but he liked the view.
Xander started to feel faint and groaned, holding his head. He pushed the book away from him and put his head on the cool wood of the table, hoping it would help. "Who dosed me?"
"One of the paintings demanded," Blair told him. "Something about needing a break?" He looked over at Xander briefly. "You'll live, after you take a long nap."
Ron coughed. "Who's going to watch him while we're gone? You guys are leaving Sunday and we go back Tuesday."
"I'll bring him back to my room," Draco said quietly from his table. Ron looked at him, mouth starting to open. "That would be part of my duty to him, Weasley, and at least then we'd have the nurse around. I can't afford to miss many more classes either."
"No, it'll be fine," Xander said firmly. Then he coughed. "I hate it when they do that."
Blair grinned at him. "That's what families do, they worry about each other," he pointed out. Jim frowned at him. "What?" he asked patiently.
"They made him sick?"
Blair nodded. "They decided he needed a rest, it's a light case of the flu."
"Oh." Jim looked at Xander, then back to his guide. "Isn't that manipulative and cruel?"
"No, it's a punishment," Ron told him, winking at him. "They've decided Xander's too stressed."
"The way the portraits put it, they decided he's so stressed he's a danger to himself and others," Harry put in. Xander gave him a hurt look. "I disagreed," he offered.
"You do have a temper," Draco agreed, with a small smug look at his keeper.
"I've always had a temper. It used to be worse," Xander told him. Someone pounded on the door. "Hmm, someone who's been here and knows about the doorbell," he said, getting up to answer it. "Snape," he said, letting him in. "What's up?" He turned his head and coughed.
Severus gave him a smug look. "They did it again? Aunt used to tell stories about how you had to be stuck in your bed for three days each time you showed up on vacation."
Xander gave him his most dry glare. "They decided I'm under too much stress and I'm a danger to Harry."
The nearest painting coughed. "Severus, put the boy in a bed," a female voice called. "He hasn't had sex in over two weeks."
"What?" Emilia yelled. She came out of the study, delightfully rumpled. "Two weeks?" Xander gave her a pathetic look and a shrug. She felt his forehead. "Were you feeling off before this?"
"I went years without," he pointed out, ducking away from her. "Stop it before I tell Greg to spank you."
"What makes you think I wouldn't enjoy that?" she snorted. "Or that I didn't do that to Greg earlier?"
"Em!" came the embarrassed sounding groan.
"Sorry, pookie." She grinned at him. "Bed, mister! And with someone I might add!" She turned him around and smacked him on the butt. "Now!"
Severus shook his head, leaning into the library. "Your woman is molesting him."
Greg looked at him. "She wore me out, Severus. If it helps her, I'll let her get him off, as long as only I get her off," he said calmly. He looked stunned. "I do know her nature and I'm not making her quit. Her broadcasting isn't cheating in my book."
"Thankfully he's a smart man who's more than enough for my tastes," she said as she walked back in and draped herself across Greg's chest, making him settle further into the old couch. "There, I'm comfortable."
He blew a kiss. "Get your knee away from my crotch or you won't get any tonight, Em." She shifted, making him smile. "Thanks." He looked at his former master again. "Isn't he in bed yet? I can hear him wheezing from in here."
"No, he's not," he said with a frown, going to force Xander to at least sit down out of the way. "The Headmaster is on his way, as are the Weasley twins."
"Ron! Family," Xander called weakly.
Ron's head came out of the library. "Which part?"
"The twins," Snape said grimly. "They're *cheerful* as well." He forced Xander into a chair and stuck him there with a sticking charm, then headed for the portraits to give them some warning. Then he went to hide in the library so he wouldn't be there while they took the headmaster down a few notches, or whatever. He noticed Potter was all-but asleep in his chair and Ron was grinning at him. "Put him to bed!" he snapped, making everyone in the room jump. "One of you should have enough sense to know that a head injury patient shouldn't be reading heavy books on arcane artifacts."
"He's doing homework for your class," Ron pointed out.
Ron shrugged and got up, waking Harry and taking him up to their room to tuck him in. He was coming down the stairs when the Headmaster and the twins came in. "Hi. The portraits are in their hall, Headmaster, did you need an escort?"
He smiled at him. "No, I know the way. I've had a few walks through this house in the past." He headed that way, leaving Ron and the twins.
Ron waited until the Headmaster had turned the corner then nodded. "C'mon, we're all hiding." He led them back to the library, letting them take the other side of his table. "What's wrong?"
"Percy," George said simply.
"Did dad kick his ass?"
"Language," Jim warned. Then he groaned and shook his head.
Blair grinned at him. "It's okay, it's not a paternal instinct, Jim, I swear it's not." He gave him a pat. "You and Simon can bond in the morning when he brings Daryl back with him and do non-fatherly activities while the boys play." Jim swatted him with his book but went back to it quickly.
Ron grinned at Blair. "Xander said all cursebreakers swear and that my mouth was one of the things that meant I was gonna be a good one."
Fred snorted. "Good one," he agreed. He swatted him. "Dad didn't kick his ass, and I am over age, thank you," he said before anyone could complain.
"He came back to the house and collapsed in tears against mum's stomach," George finished. "Someone's fucking with his life and he's not sure how to fix it."
Ron shrugged. "Bummer, as the boss says."
The twins snorted. "Mum said we have to stick up for him until he goes prattish again."
"Then the git can damn well jack-off in the closet to whatever name his boss wants him to yell when he calls for him," Ron told him. Jim let out a strangled moan. "Sorry, Jim. You've yet to meet Percy and I know you'd feel the same after doing so."
"He was odd when he came back," Fred told him. "Wearing jeans."
"Dirty jeans," George added.
"Dirt, on Percy?" Snape asked. The twins nodded. "Did he have a breakdown?"
"Mum thinks so," Fred admitted.
"Dad thinks his girl broke up with him and he's suddenly realized he's lonely," George offered.
"They make substitutes for those, Xander has a few catalogs of things that'd help him. I'll ask him if you wanted to bring one back," Ron said, smiling his sweetest, knowing he was being cruel. He hated his brother for making his father cry, and he wasn't going to forgive him for a damn long time, probably not ever if he could help it.
Jim let out a strangled moan and got up, leaving to sit with Greg and Emilia. At least they only had sex in front of him, he didn't feel the need to correct them.
"Ron," Blair sighed, shaking his head. "I'm going to sic Philip on you and make him initiate you as a junior Bane." He went to find Philip and Nick. They had to hear this one!
Ron gave Snape a guilty look. "Sorry to have shocked you, sir."
"You have not," Snape said calmly. Mentally though, he was rolling on the floor in laughter. Xander had certainly freed Ron's nature to it's fullest and it was a rather ...nasty observation. "Mr. Malfoy, I did not see anything of yours in the box earlier."
"I wasn't up when Weasley brought it," Draco noted. "The house elf was busy fixing my lunch while I napped and word never got to me."
"You brought one of your family's elves?" George asked.
Draco looked at him, shaking his head. "Xander bought me one." He went back to his book. "Professor, do you know Danish? Every third word of this work is in it."
"No, I do not. I do know a translating charm but it does not work on magical books," he offered.
Draco shook his head. "Not on this one then. I guess I'm for another lesson with the Father," he sighed as he stood up and left the room.
"He's taking lessons?"
Ron looked at him. "Xander demanded he learn at least one language if he wanted to help us with the work," he explained. Then he shrugged. "He's doing three so far I think." He looked at the twins again, seeing the shock. "Xander sat him down for a talk and pointed out that he didn't want to release Draco and have him be helpless and unable to support himself. So they came up with a way for him to help with the work and be able to support himself after the war's over and Harry's won. He's going to take extra charms and defense work too."
Snape shook his head, pulling down another book to read. Someone had gone through and straightened the usually-messy library. It had always looked like a whirlwind had gone through it when he had visited as a youth.
The twins looked at each other, then at Ron. "Tell us more," they encouraged with smiles.
Ron snorted. "No way. I'm not jeopardizing my training to give you guys ammunition."
Greg walked in and over to Snape, whispering in his ear. They walked out again, their steps sounding hurried in the hall.
"I wonder what that was about," Ron said, craning his neck in hopes to see what was going on. They were in the room across the hall. They were in the room Xander had been coughing in, but it also had the secondary floo so it might have been a call. Someone went running down the halls a few moments later and soon they heard the quiet voice of Molly Weasley, the family matriarch and the one able to make everything all right in the world again. Ron and the twins got up, walking over there to check on Xander. "He all right, mum?" he asked when he saw her bending down to check Xander.
"Just fine, Ron. The medicine they gave him was a little too strong this time I think." She kissed Xander on the forehead. "You try to sleep, dear, it'll make you feel better."
The twins nudged each other, then Ron when they noticed Percy was standing in a corner, pressed back into it like he was expecting an attack. Ron looked him over. Percy looked nasty. His face was dirty, like he had been rolling in the dirt. His hair was messy. He wasn't wearing his glasses. His clothes were rumpled. He wasn't wearing a robe, simply a sweater their mother had made him a few years back and a dirty pair of jeans. He looked like he was a lost little boy and his mother wasn't anywhere nearby that he could see. Ron stared so long Percy felt him looking and glanced at him. That look made Ron shiver. There was no life in those blue eyes. Nothing. No feeling, not a single emotion. He slowly walked over and looked at Percy, measuring him silently.
"Ron, get away from him," Molly said sharply. "I won't have you hurting him further."
"I won't," Ron said quietly. "What happened, Percy? You look like you had to stake your best friend."
Percy swallowed. Then he shook his head. "Not exactly." He looked up at Ron, who was a hair taller than he was now. He swallowed again. "Please don't hit me."
"I won't, not now," Ron offered. "But if you *ever* upset the 'rents that way again, you and I will be going 'round the garden until I put you under it," he hissed. Percy nodded, tearing up. That more than anything disturbed and shocked him. He pulled Percy closer, giving him a strong hug. "Who died?"
"They attacked her," he whispered. Molly sat down, with some catching by the twins. "She died in my arms."
"Shh. It happens during a war. Time does heal it," he promised. He walked Percy up to his and Harry's room, taking him in there to talk. Harry should know about any and all attacks so they could keep track. He had a map in his things because everyone associated with the Banes was trying to figure out where the main group of Death Eaters were. When Percy let it slip that it had been the aurors, who weren't able to stop when a Death Eater was found in a group they had illegally stopped and searched in a store, Ron's face closed up and his anger became palpable by the way Harry leapt out of his bed and looked around frantically. That made Percy break again and the boys soothed him while Ron told him what had went on. Harry's anger was enough to move some of the furniture and together they worked to calm him down again.
Downstairs, Molly was telling everyone who had been gathered together everything she knew. How Percy's girlfriend had been pulling out her ID card, which had been on a ribbon around her neck, and the aurors had killed her for moving after they had told them to pull out identification. How the Minister of Magic had told Percy that nothing was going to be done because doing so would weaken the aurors. How Percy had managed to snafu the Minister's office so badly before walking out that nothing would get done for months on end. Percy had gone from there to the Daily Prophet and told what had happened. It had run in a special edition but the Ministry had confiscated most of the run before it had gone out. Then she gave them the hard news. Their father had walked off his job in protest after the paper had been shut down. There had been a job offered to him within an hour by a private firm working on changing muggle things to magical ones. He was considering it and he was also helping those who were pushing a lawsuit against the Ministry. This new place said they didn't care if he did it, but he wasn't so sure yet because this was going to get nasty.
"Molly," Xander said weakly. She gave him a small frown. "Don't even argue. You will cash the check I sent you to help with Harry's care. Since your land was a royal grant you don't have to pay taxes. Cash the check and use it to pay the bills ahead, then use the rest of it to bulk up the house just in case you need it. You might not let me support you but I refuse to allow you to starve because the shithead at the Ministry is being a prick."
She scowled at him. "We don't need it."
"Hang it, Molly. Cash it or else I'll have to be devious and go around you. I helped the Snapes when they were badly off during one of these episodes a few decades back, I find you just as worthy to help. And if you argue, I'm going to up Ron's pay so he can send more of it home. Then I'm going to up Harry's and tell him what's going on."
She stood up, glaring down at him. "You will do no such thing, young man. I forbid it."
"Yay," he said dryly, then coughed up some more crud dripping down from his nose. "Take it. It's not a loan, but I will float you one if you need it." He looked her in the eyes. "You will take it," he said, using what little bit of empathy he had. "You will take it and put it to good use. " She flinched and backed away. "If you don't, I'll send more directly to your vault and I'll *still* go around you to make sure you don't starve or get attacked."
"Won't you need it for your future family?" George asked.
Xander snorted. "What future family? I hate kids. The first time I got a pregnancy scare, I got myself reversibly fixed. I'm no more having kids than your parents are going to have more."
"Alexander Michalin Dumass, I will kick your bloody fucking ass if you don't carry on the family name," one female portrait shouted. She stormed into the nearest painting and glared at him. "Your mother would have bloody kittens if she heard you had done that! Not only kittens, she'd have dragon kits! You are one of the last of the line, it is your *duty* to the family to have at least one son and one daughter to carry on the family lines. If you do not, we will have ourselves taken out of these paintings and reanimated so we can kick your white, bony, underfed, overworked, abused, mother-fucking ass!"
"Yes, Aunt Cordelia," he sighed, closing his eyes again. "Go tell Harry that, 'kay? He's much more receptive. He might like kids. The little emotion-suckers give me hives."
"GRANDMOTHER DES! ALEX SAID HE'S HAD HIMSELF FIXED!" Aunt Cordelia screamed.
Everyone got away from Xander, particularly Snape, who headed to Percy's corner to cower. She stormed into that painting and glared at him. "You did what to yourself?" she demanded, albeit calmly.
"I loathe children, great-grandmother. They give me hives. I had myself reversibly fixed when I was fifteen."
She scowled at him and even he flinched, even though he didn't see it. "I don't care if they make you react so badly you go into shock and die, young man. You will help carry on the family name, come hell, high water, or you implanting your sperm into another man's body for a night. If this house does not have three of your children by ten years from this moment, you will be the sorriest wizard on the fucking planet." Snape whimpered, she never cursed unless she was mad enough to attack, and since she was an expert at defense she could and would kill you easily then laugh at your broken and mutilated body. "I heard that, Severus, you will have one also," she snapped. "You, Potter, and Alex."
"Mate, quit complaining, the number of kids go up each time someone yells," George hissed.
Xander glared at him. "You're not helping." He forced himself to sit up. "Grams, one more word and I'm cutting the fucking thing off." She flinched and stepped back some. "I do not want children. Harry can carry on the family line. He can even have one's name changed to carry on the name. I am *never* going to raise a child, not even if it's you being reborn." She stepped back farther. "Do we have a clear understanding of my current state of mind?" She glared and he may have flinched a bit but he wasn't backing down.
Grandma Des looked at Molly. "Please beat him for us," she sweetly requested. "I've got to get back to helping torture the dumb idiot who sent him to the place that warped him so badly. He wasn't like this before he was deaged."
"Yes I was," Xander put in. She scowled and he did flinch this time. "I didn't want kids before unless they were Valena's. She would have made it decent enough but I refuse to have some off someone that I don't feel that way about. Ever. I can easily hex myself and ruin my testicles so I can't have any if you get pushy. It won't hurt me in the least, not in any meaning of the word." Draco opened the door and he calmed down a bit, giving him a small smile. "The family's getting pushy about me having children."
"I'll have to have one some day to carry on the family name," Draco pointed out. "That's what surrogates are for." He walked in and forced Xander to lie down, covering him up again. "You rest. No more threatening to hurt yourself or I'll have Ron's mother put you in a straight jacket while I go around the house and rearrange the furniture on you." Xander looked pained and he saw the fear in his eyes. He gave him a slight smile. "Children are nasty creatures," he nearly whispered. "But we can get through that with some help. I don't want any either, Xander." He looked at the women in the painting. "First you have him dosed so he's ill, then you verbally attack him about something that he loathes? Are you *trying* to have him join you?"
Grandma Des flinched this time. "Not in the least. We had to make him see sense. If the family line dies out, so do a great deal of gifts and so does a lot of history. We cannot allow that to happen, young one."
Draco shrugged. "I don't think he'd care as much when he wasn't ill." Xander snorted and he nudged him with a knee. "But you forcing him is not what he needs. You *encouraging* him would have been easier. Now you've really got a fight on your hands and I'm staying out of it." He looked at Snape, who was still in the corner. "You're scared of a painting?"
She sighed. "Severus, I'm sorry I scared you, boy. I won't fly into a rage again. It's not like I can throw around the house this time and nearly brain you with a chair." He came out. "Draco, you are interfering in things you do not understand."
He crossed his arms. "Bet me I don't. My family's just as pure as the Snapes. My mother had this same talk with me before she left for Paris and nearly every year since I first got hard. Forcing the issue of children only makes one more stubborn not to have any. Especially if they're already like Xander to begin with. Now, please, leave off the subject until he's better at the very least." He turned away and walked out, going back to his tea making. It was calming and Xander wouldn't be dosed again if he had his way. By the time he brought the tray back, everything was back to normal and Xander was moaning in misery on the couch. "Here, I made you some tea," he said gently. "Nothing but tea."
Xander gave him a weak smile. "Thank you, Draco."
"You're welcome." He poured him a cup and sat beside his feet, sipping his own. Molly gave him a smile. "This way no one can dose him again."
"I'm sure it comforts him that you're looking out for him this way," she said gently. "Where is Ron's room?"
"Top of the stairs to the left," Draco told her. "The blue door." She nodded and headed up there, going to check on them and especially Percy. She found him napping on one of the beds and Ron forcing Harry to take some medicine. "How's his head?"
"Just fine," Harry told her.
"He's still got a knot and he's still fuzzy-headed," Ron corrected, letting her deal with him. "What happened? The painting up here started to yell about Xander."
"His great-grandmother demanded he have children to carry on the family name."
"At least one of us will be able to," Harry offered. The painting above him erupted in yelling. "Stop it!" he snapped. "I'm about to start a war and there's no telling if I'm coming out of it or not! It's no use protesting, I know what happens during a war; I've already fought enough to know that," he said sharply at the protests. "I'm not leaving a child behind like I was." He turned his back on them, giving Molly a sad smile. "Did they convince Xander?" She shook her head. "Then that's a shame and I hope they can some day." He laid down and pulled the covers up again. "I think I'm going to nap."
"Sure, Harry," Ron said gently, smiling at him. "We'll be back down in the library if you need anything. Send one of the fussy creatures down to yell at us." He stood up and walked his mother out, flicking off the lights so they could nap in peace. Once outside, they were stopped by Great-Grandma Des. "What? You want us to convince him?"
"No, I want you to watch out for him. He said *her* name tonight and didn't break down or go cold. I'm not sure it's a step in the right direction, even if his father is." She disappeared.
Ron looked at his mother. "Want to help me look up artifacts," he offered with a grin. She patted him on the back, letting him lead her down to the library. He found Nick putting books in order. "Odd, I would have thought Blair or Philip."
Nick gave him a sheepish grin. "I like to have my references in order, that way I don't have to search so long to find anything. It gets me into the field faster." He gave a half-shrug and went back to what he was doing. "Besides, I'm looking for a book so we can look up someone."
"Which someone?" Molly asked.
"Valena. Was that his *her*?"
Molly sighed and sat down, resting her chin on her fist. "That was the name of the veela he was in love with, Nick. It was said she was a perfect angel, but her jealousy of the other one, the sick one that they were both attracted to, set off her family curse. There were songs written about that relationship."
Draco walked in. "What was wrong with the other one?"
"She was a mystical creature pulled out of her realm," Molly said gently. "She was sick from the transfer and our magic only poisoned her more. Valena, Xander's consort at the time, was not only jealous, but in love with her. Their family curse was one against being with someone of the same sex. Like yours is touching without a firm commitment." He slumped a bit. "There was a lovely ballad written about the situation, but it was so sad. It always made me cry. Everyone thought Xander was going to die."
"Then the plagues happened and he had to be strong while he lost everyone else," Ron said quietly. She smiled at him for his astute guess and nodded. "No wonder he hates people."
"He wasn't always like that," Nick told them, bringing over a smallish red book, which he handed to Draco. "The song." He sat down next to Molly, putting an arm across the back of her chair, much to Ron's disgust. "I'm not hitting on her, chill." He looked at Draco again. "He used to need to be around people after the plague was over. Methos told us that this desire to be left alone comes from his time in Sunnydale. Philip's been wanting to counsel him but we're not sure he should try yet. We figure Draco may cure some of that since he seeks him out."
Draco let a negligent shrug fall from his shoulders. "If he wants to. I'm not going to force anything on him." He walked away, going up to his room. He wrote a letter to his mother, including everything he knew. She was closer to the council that kept records on all he veelas in the world, she could get the information for him.
Back in Vegas, it was early Thursday evening, right around dinner time, and Sarah's husband Yun had gotten lost looking for the bathroom. He finally found a dressing room and walked in there, smiling at the men leaning against one of the lockers. Then he took a few steps back and watched what they were doing, licking his lips.
"Who are you?" one of them asked, not stopping the one giving him a blow.
"Yun, Sarah Sidle's husband," he said, shifting closer. "May I... help with that? She's great and all, but she's temporary." The cops laughed and let him join in to give a helping hand...er, mouth. They were done quickly, they'd been going at it for a while. When they were done, Yun was cleaned up and sat down.
"Listen, kid, it's a morale building exercise between our unit, but we have weekly... meetings you could probably call them, each Thursday at five at my house. Do you think she'd mind if we brought you along?"
Yun smiled. "There's only so much a fake cock can do for you," he pointed out. "Besides, I doubt she'd mind much as long as we're discreet." The door opened and he stood up. "Sir, sorry, I just ran into these nice gentlemen while trying to find a bathroom."
"And you are?" the unit's Captain asked.
"CSI Sidle's husband," one of the cops said with a grin. "The rumors are true, she married one of the gayest of the gay, sir."
The Captain smiled at Yun. "Really?" He nodded, starting to look eager. "Hmm. Then bring him around Thursday. Yun, can you come back later?"
"Sure," he agreed, winking at him. "I have to bring her dinner anyway, she forgot it." He slipped out of the room, heading back to Sarah's desk to tell her he was leaving. She waved absently and he nearly danced out to her car, getting in to take himself home. Once there, he prepared himself for anything and then fixed her dinner. When he brought it back and ate with her, he broached the subject with her. "Sarah, did you know there's a few people who share my interests around here?" he asked casually between bites.
"Really?" He nodded, so she smiled at him. Then she took a sniff of him and noticed the hint of chemicals. "Why are you lubed?" she asked, glancing around to make sure no one heard. That's when she caught the clue. "Those interests?" He nodded quickly, stuffing his mouth again. "Did you already talk with them?"
"A bit," he admitted. "Nothing too much." He gave her a cheerful smile. "I've been invited to their group meetings even."
She shook her head. "Yun, this could get me into major trouble. We have to depend on these guys in the field."
"I doubt they'd do anything to you. Doing so will hurt me and the rest of the unit."
Nick sat down, smiling at them. "Hi, Yun. Hey, you can cook," he said in appreciation of his sandwiches.
"A bit," he agreed with a smile for him.
Nick laughed. "Sarah, let him go for it. We already knew." She gave him a look of open-mouthed shock. He pushed it up with his thumb. "It's Thursday night, Sarah, time for *head*lines."
She shuddered. "That's nasty and copyright infringement." She looked at Yun. "You will be careful and this will not hurt my reputation or I'll take you to the real Mistress I know and have you trained," she warned. He beamed and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Go. We'll arrange things later, when I get home." He nodded and hurried off. She glared at Nick. "Everyone knows?"
"Yup. It's an exercise in brotherhood and they were talking about the new brother. Warrick heard and he said it's about time Yun found someone he could do those sort of things with." She looked hurt. "Sarah, we knew from day one that he was gay. It was obvious." With that he left her alone to finish eating.
She slumped down in her chair, thinking about it. Maybe she would take him to Mistress Heather anyway. Her houseboy was a slut and he needed a stronger hand than she had sometimes.
Willow looked up as her cell door opened and admitted a stunning older woman. "Hi," she said calmly.
"Dear, we'd like to look at your magic. Would you grant us that?" Willow nodded, standing up and following her to a classroom. There she was sat at a desk and asked by the older woman and a short man to do various things. Most of them were really easy and she was having fun. The magic felt different here and it was easier to do things, but she also felt slightly off. When they were done, they both smiled at her. "Did I pass?"
"Definitely," the small man told her with a bright smile. "Seldom have we seen someone with your sort of magic capable of doing the harder things."
"Which you did quite easily," McGonagall admitted. "Willow, there is still the concern that you're in over your head."
"I'm fine," Willow argued.
"Then why did you break with your girlfriend?" McGonagall asked as gently as she could. Willow looked struck. "The one who brought you came back with her and we talked to her. She's waiting in my classroom for you, Willow, and she's just as worried as we are. " She stepped closer. "Now, we can help you, or we can bind you, but we will have to do something because she's accused you of a heinous crime and is willing to file charges against you if it means you'll get help."
"She doesn't understand that over here help is not usually available," the little man told her, staring in her eyes. "Which is why we're intervening."
"The other one said I should be confined," Willow said sadly.
"I'm sure he did. You are dangerous at the moment, Willow," McGonagall said sadly. "Now, if you'd like our help, we can gladly send you with some books and check on you every few weeks for now. Xander will be helping with that I'm sure." Willow looked at her, giving her a tenuous smile. "But in return, you must agree to willingly bind your own magic against manipulating others, especially their memories. Doing so is heinous and criminal in all wizarding societies. Do you understand?"
Willow nodded, biting her lip. "I won't do it again."
"You had better not," the little man said. "If we find out that you have, then we do have the report your Tara filled out and we will send it in. Severus will gladly lead them straight to you." She shuddered. "Now, if you think you're ready to learn real control, we'll give you the list of books and let you see your Tara. She's staying in a different room and we want to watch you for a few days before we send you back."
Willow nodded. "Yes, sir." She stood up. "Thank you. I try to be good."
McGonagall gave her a short hug. "I know, but the fact that you're using your magic for every little thing is the bad part. It does warp one. You're not the first," she assured her. "Just the strongest in a few decades. Xander's great-grandmother had that sort of skill as well. She had to fight constantly to get free of the urgings of the magic. You can learn to ignore it and make it come to you, not use you." Willow nodded, tipping her chin up. "Good girl. Come along." They led her back to the transfiguration classroom, watching as she and Tara hugged.
"We'll give you an hour for now," Flitwick told them. "Then we'll take you back to your rooms so you can rest and start again tomorrow." He smiled and they walked out, but grabbed Potter's invisibility cloak to put around themselves and snuck back in via a hidden doorway. They watched as Willow and Tara talked.
Willow glanced at the magical flare she could feel, then at her girlfriend, smiling at her. "Thank you, Tara."
"You're welcome, Willow," she said with a small smile. "I'm glad you're getting better. Dawn sent you a letter," she said, handing it over.
Willow sat down to read it, but in the back of her mind she was planning how to get around these restrictions. They couldn't possibly understand. She was her magic and it was her. It was her soul and her blood. For them it was something they wielded. For her it was her life. She could get around them and they'd never realize it.
Headmaster Dumbledore walked out of the portrait gallery, barely, thinking very hard about what he had been accused of. He thought he was trying to help, but it seems that he had mucked up rather badly when dealing with this family. His list of regrets was getting longer each time he ran into the Dumass clan. Perhaps if he followed his heart instead of his instincts when it came to them? His first challenge of that came in an unusual form. Mr. Malfoy was standing on the stairs waiting on him. He gave the boy a smile. "How are you this evening, Mr. Malfoy?"
He nodded. "Tolerable. I'd be better if Xander hadn't taken as sick as he did from his relative's machinations." He straightened himself up. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to bring him back with me, sir."
Dumbledore took a deep breath. "That's not usually allowable."
"I can't leave him here with only the house elves to watch over him," Draco said stiffly.
Dumbledore nodded as he considered his options. "Very well. He may join you in your room. I know you have some...care for the boy. Treat him well and be sure to tell Madam Pomfrey how he is doing." He smiled as he heard the coughing. "Shall I tell him now?"
"No, I'll let him know once he's settled in. He's a bit grumpy at the moment." He walked down the last few stairs. "Headmaster, if you hurt Xander ever again, you will not be dealing with his family, you will be dealing with mine. My mother put me into his care knowing how I felt about this situation, but I am honor bound to protect him to the best of my abilities. Do not harm him." He walked away, going to check on Xander and tell Molly the news.
Dumbledore sighed mentally. His life may have just gotten harder to make things right. The Dumass clan had been very strong at one point in time, hence the portraits being strong enough to cause him physical pain. Having Harry be one of them was going to cause him even more pain. The boy's future was fairly bad looking at the moment and he wasn't sure what was going to happen if Harry lost the war. He walked outside, feeling someone was watching him from a window. He looked up but the curtain was closed. A spy? But for who? He apparated back to the school to make arrangements for Mr. Dumass to be in residence for a few weeks. He really had sounded miserable.
Xander woke up and blinked at the bright lights. "What is going on?" he asked weakly, forcing himself to sit up. There was nothing but lights. "Hello?"
"Shh, little one," a strong female voice whispered from behind him. He turned and found himself standing, facing his mother. She gave him such a sad smile. "Do not worry about their threats, my shining one." She reached out to stroke his cheek. "They know what they risk if they come out of their eternity. They know you would lose them and be alone so they will not do it." She stepped closer, giving him a gentle hug. He was still tense. "It is a dream, son. Relax, for me?" He relaxed and hugged her back. "Such a good little boy for your mommy. I am so proud of you, my precious."
"Mom, you're using the voice that means you want something," he noted, not letting her go.
She laughed. "I am, and I do, but not from you. Not at the moment." He pulled back so he could look at her. "I know you feel alone, but one day you will join the rest in their paintings. It's not the same as physical holding because they'll be energy, but so will you." She gave his cheek another stroke. "You are not alone, Alex. The family line spread through Criminia and through Destina when they were married."
"I searched for their lines, mother, and there's nothing of them left," he said quietly. She shook her head. "There isn't. I've done all the searches I could. I even sent things to the magical agencies and there's nothing."
"I know how you did it too, and I'm sorry you had to do such things to step around those shields. Those deals were not healthy, son, and I'm sorry you had to go through that. I nearly killed those parents he put you with. Albus forced them to marry to take care of you, that's why they hated you and each other." She tweaked his nose. "Tell me about this new veela? She sounds fascinating from what I can see in your mind."
"Mother, Draco's a male," he said patiently. She frowned and he shrugged. "He's the Malfoy heir."
"Oh, dear." She gave him another, shorter, hug. "Does he make you happy?"
"I don't know. Draco's still very young. I'm letting him see the real me, that way he can make an informed decision."
She nodded. "Good. Excellent in fact. Should I go visiting?"
"Mother, you're a demon now, why would he want to see you?" he asked patiently. She laughed then shook her head. "Sorry, but it had to be said. And don't go bothering Harry either. He's got enough to deal with already without knowing that my mother got trapped into being a spirit of vengeance."
"Fine, son." She gave him a light kiss on the chin. "Then let me say this one for you. There are family members left. Long forgotten, and long abandoned because of their skills. You've made friends with one of them. One is a relative to one of the families you protect. One is even your cousin Severus." She gave him a pat on the chest. "You're weak, son. You need rest. Therefore, I am going to work in your favor for the moment. I will personally go warn that young bitch Anya what's going on. By the way, I was most disappointed in how she treated you and I'm going to make that clear." He groaned. "Shut up, son." He quit, staring at her. "Thank you. Remember, you do have the Hosts of Hell on your side. My Lord is not that anxious to see the present asshole win either. He thinks that Voldemort would make life more difficult for him." She gave him another smile. "Until then, I will have you resting. I will let Draco know that I have been the one keeping you asleep. By the way, those books that ...mysteriously disappeared are in the work closet at the school. He hid them where he could just in case Harry needed them. Make sure Draco finds them as well." She gave him another crushing hug. "I miss you, son."
"I miss you too, mom, but please don't manipulate Draco. Let him make his own decision."
She pulled back to look at him. "What did those mortals do to you!" she demanded. "You haven't been this meek in your *entire* life! You came out fighting with your father and continued to fight someone every minute of every day after that." She sniffled. "My poor baby!" she wailed, clutching him again. "I loathe what they've done to you! I should kill them all! Get Justinius to go after them!" She pulled back and wiped her face. "Sorry."
"That's all right, mom. Having someone cry over me instead of because me is a nice change. I enjoy it a lot."
She rolled her eyes. "When was the last time your body overruled your mind, son?"
"It's been months, mother. I haven't touched anyone since the boys started school."
She gasped, staring at him. "Oh, damn." She blew a kiss. "You go back to your nap, dear one. I'll see you at Yule. Or possibly All Saints." She smiled and gave his cheek one last stroke. "Be a good mommy's boy and I won't tell Draco that you used to want to be a bard." She disappeared in a swirl of gold light.
He slowly opened his eyes, looking around the room. He remembered this room, it used to be his. "The dorms?" he asked.
"I wasn't about to leave you in that house alone," Draco said quietly from next to him. Xander looked up at him so he put down his book. "The Headmaster agreed that you needed watched over. It seems your mother came to him last week."
"How? I just saw her and she didn't know."
"She said time runs odd on her plane. She stepped back three feet and it was last week. Speaking of, she also had a few packages sent to Severus. He's got them in holding for you." Xander nodded, shifting uncomfortably. "We found the hex Molly put on you so you wouldn't hit on Weasley," he said with a grin. "The family made her realize how that was making you build up energy and how you could possibly destroy the school with it." He brushed some of the dark hair out of Xander's eyes. "So you're probably feeling like usual."
"Draco, I shouldn't be in the same bed as you," Xander pointed out.
"Nonsense. My mother said I was to cuddle you tightly because you were a sick man and you needed it to return to normal." He shifted after putting his book down, laying on his side, resting his head on Xander's shoulder and forcing him to put an arm around him. "Did you know that mother heard a rumor that you had done a house elf?"
Xander shook his head. "Totally not true. I like my lovers feisty and able to flip me over and give as good as I give." He realized how comfortable he felt and traced the source of the feeling back to his bed partner. "Why are you broadcasting at me?"
"Because the bed is lumpy and I'm making myself more comfortable this way." Draco gave him a pat on the chest. "Believe me, it's much nicer this way, Xander." He looked over as the door was tapped on. "Enter."
A house elf walked in, holding a tray. "Professor sir said for Dobby to bring soup for the masters," he said, not looking at Draco.
"Thank you, Dobby," Draco said calmly. "Put it on the bedside table." The house elf did as he was told then nodded and left. Draco looked at Xander. "See, I can be nice when your mother scares the shit out of me."
"I told her not to," Xander offered.
"It's fine. I understand. Your mother said she was the Justice of Women Hurt By Men. I think she should be scary to every man. I suggested she go look in on the Death Eaters because none of them liked women in the least, especially not their wives." Xander chuckled and gave him a squeeze. "I've never heard anyone laugh from the inside. Do it again." Xander gave him another squeeze but obediently laughed. "Thank you. It echos in there. Have you not been eating again? I'm going to have to correct that."
"How long did she knock me out for?"
"Two weeks. You didn't even do more than whimper when we took you out of the house, which made Potter and Weasley give you those disgusting 'aww' looks most people give children who have just learned how to walk." He sat up and fixed Xander some soup and a mug of juice, then helped him sit up so he could eat it. "You are supposed to go see Severus and Methos tomorrow," he said while Xander ate. "The Headmaster said that your payment for me being allowed to take care of you was for you to help with a few lessons."
"I suck at potions," Xander told him. "Really horribly suck at potions."
"Worse than Longbottom used to be?"
Xander looked at him, then shook his head. "Ask your godfather. I'm sure his father told him something about it. That side of the family has always been better at potions and transfiguration than my side, which excels at charms and defense. Then of course there's the odd healer but most of that side of the family left when one of them married a russian wizard who wasn't treating her nicely."
"Why would she marry him then?" Draco asked.
"It was an alliance marriage. It let half of us go to Drumstrang instead of here, mostly those who excelled at the dark arts and defense." He shrugged. "I had the choice but I refused to leave my family at the time. I used to idolize my sisters," he sighed. "Then I figured out what a shit they were during my first year. Not a single letter."
Draco gave him a short pat. "Ravenclaw?" Xander grinned and shook his head. "Tell me your sisters weren't Hufflepuffs."
"Yup, both of them," he said dryly. "And my younger brother, the only one who made it into the school before the plague hit, was a Ravenclaw. The hat hates to see us coming. If I'm forced to have a kid, I expect it's going to refuse to sort him." He sipped more of his soup. "Dobby makes really good soup."
"He should. My mother used to take sick when I was little and he always made it for her."
"No, he was freed by Potter being an arse. Though my father did deserve it at the time." He grinned. "Long story, and Potter tells it better." His grin turned a bit wicked. "What this about wanting to be a bard?"
"She promised she wouldn't tell," Xander whined. Draco laughed. "Don't do that, I'll go sleep with Ron."
"I'm sure you could if you wanted to, but you were mumbling about it late last night. You woke me up with that horrible singing you do." Xander blushed and buried his face in his soup to take a longer drink from the bowl. Draco patted him on the shoulder. "Should I send word that you're awake?"
"No," Xander said, then he yawned. "I think I want another nap. Hopefully a shorter one." He put everything aside and wiped his mouth off, then laid back down. "Where would the work closet be around here?"
"Weasley said he found the books two nights ago in the infirmary. Said he walked right in and opened the closet, and there they were behind the bandage stacks. Madam Pomfrey apparently yelled bloody murder at him but he took them anyway and Dumbledore refused to intervene when he found out what they really were, though he has been looking a bit worried recently."
"Grams said she was going to come out of her painting, be reanimated, and kick his ass if he didn't help Harry more," Xander said through another yawn. "I don't know why I'm so tired."
"Because your body is nearly numb with exhaustion. I sent the not-you back to Sunnydale and had him use his illusion. He said the house was much nicer this time and that he's in awe of you because you lived with *them*. His emphasis," he said with a faint grimace. "What were they like?"
"Mother said Dumbledore forced them to marry to watch over me."
"So they hated each other and you," Draco finished. Xander nodded. "Very well then. Did you know that Spike was living with him?"
"Doesn't really surprise me. Spike's got that innate need to nurture and take care of someone. I'm guessing he thinks the boy's helpless." He closed his eyes. "I can move if you want your bed back."
Draco leaned down, then snuggled in to get comfortable. "If you move before you're fully healthy, I will track you down, paint you with olive oil, and send you screaming into the forest by making you see Dumbledore, Snape, and Hagrid naked in your head," he hissed in his mate's ear. Xander made a small whining noise. "Do you understand?"
"Yes, dear. Thank you for taking such good care of me." He opened his eyes and grinned at him. "I haven't had anyone to do this in years."
"I know. That's why I'm doing so." He gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Now you rest before your mother comes back with mine this time. It's bad enough she found one of Severus' sisters."
"He has three of them, which did she send?"
"Acrimonia. She was not happy and let everyone in the bloody castle know about it. So get better. Emilia had to hold her off the last time." Xander laughed. "You think I'm kidding but I'm not. Oh, and Blair's about right now. Professor Sprout was nearly killed by one of the plants going rogue in Greenhouse three thanks to a stupid hex thrown by a Ravenclaw at a Hufflepuff who refused her attentions. He's teaching Herbology."
"He's good in there," Xander agreed. "Top marks and he tutored the other Banes in there so they got top marks."
"It must have been fascinating to go to school with them," Draco said quietly, hoping to lull Xander back to sleep.
"Unfortunately my school years were more like now, bitter rivalries that nearly get people killed. We actually had two students die from duels in my fourth year. I ended up binding each of the winners because I was sent to monitor all the duels as soon as they were known about." He yawned again. "You're very comfortable."
"Thank you. I do try for those who exceed my standards." Xander pinched his back, making him jump. "Hey! No getting frisky! Unlike my housemates, I don't enjoy pain while cuddling."
"Slytherins are odd little beasts," Xander agreed. "That's why I wasn't so upset when I got resorted, though I had been hoping for Hufflepuff to offset my reputation."
"I'd never take up with one of them," Draco said firmly. Xander grinned, but kept his eyes closed. "It's bad enough you're a bloody Gryff in part. Do you know how much teasing I get because of you and our working relationship?"
"Point out that you've now got access to some of the darkest of the dark artifacts in existence. That should shut most of them up," Xander said, his voice softer. He slowly drifted off to sleep, and felt someone nudge his mind into nicer dreams, which he silently thanked them for.
Draco let his mind go and settled in to read some more. Just because he was doing this didn't mean he could slack off with his schoolwork. His mother and Xander's great-grandmother had made that very clear. He glanced at the portrait, seeing the field mouse wave and nod his encouragement. He snuggled in a bit tighter and went back to his mystery. He had managed to use it for a paper and now he had to read it.
Severus Snape looked up as his classroom door opened, frowning at the man wobbling there. "You're not ready to get out of bed yet."
"The house elves shooed us out while they aired the stench out," Xander said with a small shrug and a grin. "Can I hide down here from them? Narcissa said someone's passed around a rumor that I've slept with one and I don't even want to think about what would happen if that got around here."
"Sit," Snape agreed, pointing at the most comfortable of the student chairs. "How are you this evening?"
"Better. My head's less stuffy. My chest hurts. Draco bit me last night during one of my nightmares to get me to wake up." He rubbed the sore spot. Severus shook his head, but he looked like he was trying not to laugh. Xander sat in the chair and sighed in relief. "I hate being sick."
"I'd say you've got about another week in this bout. Then you can help in Charms and Defense."
"I was hoping I wasn't going to have to help yours."
"As was I," Snape assured him. This time he did barely let a smile crack his stubborn expression. "I suppose you want the things your mother demanded I find for you?" Xander nodded. "That's fine, you sit there and I'll retrieve them." He stood up and walked into his office. "I've had to keep them under special lock and key so Potter and Weasley don't try and 'find' them on you. They've done so twice now, you'd be pleased with Weasley's efficiency at locks." He came out with the small wooden trunk and stopped to look at the sleeping man. "Maybe more than a week," he decided. He heard running footsteps and used his wand to close and lock the door, knowing it would make Potter growl again. He so loved frustrating the boy.
"Let me the fuck in!" Draco shouted. The door was unlocked and opened. "Thank you." He looked at Xander. "Sandburg's gone. Totally out. I can't feel his bouncing at all."
"I see." Snape handed over the books. "Watch these and do not let your associates have them. I'll check on the irritating professor pro-tem." He walked out, going a bit more quickly than usual as he exited the school. He walked out into the greenhouses and found a small flag and nothing else. He cast a reflective charm on the flag and grimaced. "Headmaster!" he called. Dumbledore walked in a few minutes later, slightly out of breath. He held it up by the tip of his wand. "Mr. Malfoy felt him be taken. His nature was flowing that way."
Dumbledore took the flag to look at. "Again?"
"Apparently." Snape crossed his arms. "We should probably alert someone, at the very least his mate and the other Banes."
Methos came trotting in. "What's happened now? Simon just called while I was on the road for a run." He took the flag. "Who was this?"
"Mariana Ortenic. A stupid little Hufflepuff who decided in her second year, and Sandburg's first, that he was going to be hers. She attempted to kidnap him at least once a year. Fortunately she was horrible at hiding him."
Methos nodded. "Sandburg's sentinel warned me he was kidnaped a lot." He walked away, going back down to the barrier to call Sandburg's house. Simon could lead Jim to them with some help. Though the 'of course he was, it's Sandburg' answer was a bit confusing and he smelled a story that he wanted to hear from someone. Most likely Sandburg or Simon's son since they told tales very well. He next called Philip, who was closest. Philip actually swore and promised to be right there. Which he nearly was, it only took him four minutes to apparate from his house. He took the flag and went to find Jim, and by the look on his face he was not liking this in the least. He laughed all the way back to the castle. Those kids were hilarious when things like this happened. He felt power massing behind him and pulled his sword, looking at the womanish thing standing there. "What?" he demanded.
"Where is my Xander?" she asked.
"Go away. He's in protective custody, that which is not yours." He walked away, going to warn Severus. He found him trying to wake Xander. "Don't, he won't wake until he wants to. There was a demonic entity here to see him. Female, light brunette. Haughty expression. She said he was hers," he drawled, noticing that Draco was in the room as well.
"Oh, really?" Draco asked, sliding off the desk to go find her. He could track energy flows, Blair had taught him how, and he quickly found her in the Headmaster's office. He knew exactly who she was. He had seen her picture. "Anyanka," he said in his most cold, yet socially polite voice. "How very unpleasant to see you. Why were you here again? To try and take what's mine?"
"Calm down please," Dumbledore begged. He could feel Draco gathering his 'skills' to him. "Please don't act against her in that manner, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco looked at him. "This is the whore who you allowed to subvert Xander's naturally affable nature until he's the way he is now. I believe she and I should have a talk."
Anya stood up. "Do you really think you can beat me, boy? I'm Vengeance for Scorned Women."
Draco snorted, waving a hand. "I'm a consort veela." She backed up a step. "Xander is mine, as is fitting someone of his status. Should you come near him or act against him again, I will have his mother come back. I believe she was granted a higher position in the hierarchy of Hell." She shuddered. "Leave. Now. Or if it pleases you and you're willing to work out some energy, go find the Death Eaters. I'm sure they'll be happier to see you than Xander will."
She snorted, crossing her arms. "I doubt it. No one's ever glad to see me."
"I wonder why," he noted as he looked her over. He looked into her eyes and she shuddered. "Leave," he said quietly. "Before I decide to unleash my barely trained gifts." She squeaked and left. "Good riddance," he said, stomping back down to the dungeons, the Headmaster behind him. "I want her gone," he snarled.
"Calm yourself," Snape snapped. "Now!"
"Fine!" Draco said. "Tell me who took Sandburg and I'll go work on her!"
"Ortenic," Snape told him. "She's in York, in a small family home. She's been fascinated by him now for years. Call on the Banes."
"Thank you." Draco walked over to the fireplace and sent himself to Philip first. He was gathering things. "I'm upset and I'm working out my anger on someone. She should do," he said firmly.
Philip dropped his bag. "What happened now?"
"Xander's ex, Anyanka, came to try and reclaim him," he said in a voice dripping with ice. "Can we go now?"
"Give me a moment," Philip said, going to call Nick and have him call on Xander's mother. When he came back, Draco was examining a dagger. "We're not killin' her," he said firmly.
Draco put it back in its holder. "I had no intention of doing so. I don't like the sight of blood, Father." He took his hand and they apparated together, going to where Jim and Simon had already been sent. "He's in there, I can feel him. He's a tad bit pissed," he sneered as he walked up to the door. He looked at it, then pulled his wand. "Praemium!" The door exploded inward, splintering fully. "What cheap wood," he said in disgust at all the sawdust. "At least my house's door would have lasted two blasts or been large pieces." He stepped inside and walked up the stairs, kicking in the door this time. "I believe you have someone who is a friend of my consort," he noted. She gave him a fear-filled look and he finally got to sneer at someone that day. "Give him back!"
She handed over the handcuff key with a shaking hand and opened the hidden door for him. "Thank you. The tall, dark one is his mate, do not forget that." He walked in there, whistling now because he was much happier. No one had *shaken* when confronted by him in years and it made his evening. He unlocked Sandburg and walked him out, shoving him at Simon for a cuddle. Then he looked at her, watching as Philip pointed out that kidnaping was wrong. His lesser adversary walked through an outer wall. "Who called you?" he demanded.
"She did," Anyanka said smugly. "Someone called for vengeance?"
"He's mine!" Ortenic shouted, pointing at Blair.
"He's never been yours," Philip said firmly. "You may kidnap him now and again, but he's not yours. He's gay, you daft woman!"
Draco snorted. "That's putting it mildly," he noted. Philip glared at him. "Father Philip, this is Xander's ex, Anyanka, Vengeance of Scorned Women."
Philip glared at her and she smiled and waved. "I can remove you," he offered. "It's not a legitimate call. She's not got him and never will."
"I'm the judge of that, thank you," Anyanka said happily. "And I say he's hers because she had possession and it is nine-tenths of the law you know," she said, talking down to him.
"Who is that?" Jim asked.
"A demonic bimbo, she latched onto Xander and made his life a living hell with her demands that he take care of her," Draco told him. She glared at him and he smiled. "Is it my turn now?"
Philip looked at him, then shuddered. "Jim, take Simon and go. Now!" Jim did so, running with them. "Draco," he said calmly.
"She tried to reclaim my mate, it's only fair I fight for him," Draco pointed out.
"You're not old enough to have claimed him," Anya sneered.
Draco let loose, wrecking the room with his power. Philip moaned and pressed himself into a corner, but it wasn't focused on him and it wasn't affecting him as much as the women. They were crying in pain as he touched the core of their sexual desire and stripped it away, ripping every desire they may ever have had from their minds. "Stop it!" he shouted. "Now, Malfoy! I can't allow this!"
Draco gave him a look and with a half-hearted wave cut off the flow of energy. "Feel better now?" he asked sarcastically.
"Much," he said, glaring at the boy. He grabbed him by the ear, dragging him off. He'd come back to deal with this later. On second thought, he touched his right forearm and sent everything to Emilia, she could handle this. She laughed but said she'd be right there. Draco was dragged back to Xander's family house and put in front of the portraits. "He just cursed someone to be unemotional for life. He claims he's Xander's consort, you deal with him," he said firmly, stepping back so they could rip him a new one.
Draco gave them a most pleasant smile. "The bitch Anya came for him," he told them. A shriek made every painting in the hall wince and look at the corner where Xander's mother was forming. "Did I hurt her enough?" he asked.
"Not hardly," she sneered. "I'm going to have Emilia nudge her to want it and be unable to follow through." She walked over and tipped Draco's chin up. "Keep it up and I'll share my job with you," she said sweetly. He blinked a few times. "Got it?" He nodded quickly. "Good boy." She kissed him on the forehead. "Though I do like you. You've got fire and you'll push my baby to be himself again, and to get over that fucking town. Therefore, I accept your proposal as his consort once you're of age." She smiled and disappeared.
Xander's father shook his head, getting comforting hugs by his gathered family. "A manipulative bitch, but a strong one," he sighed.
Draco looked at him. "I'll try to reign in my emotions better."
Grandma Des snorted. "Veelas are an emotional lot, Malfoy. Good luck. And go watch my baby. Now!" He nodded and hurried off. "Thank you, Father. Have you left the Church yet?" she asked nicely.
He frowned at her. "They're not hurtin' me."
"Bet me," the old man at the end said quietly. Everyone shut up and let hm speak. "Philip, even I can see it. Your power's warped. Your energies are off. Your abilities are locked down. Your emotions are running high because they've got you so out of balance. You're a neutral wizard, son, be what you are. Not what they want you to be."
"I'm a force for good," Philip said firmly.
"Most of the time," the old man agreed. "But are you a force for good when you let shits like Anya keep working?"
"I can only banish her."
"You could have, but you didn't. You left with Draco, the lesser evil at the moment. Your mind and your heart know what I'm saying is true. Examine yourself or have yourself examined and spell-cleaned. You'll see that there are very bad problems." He gave him a sad smile. "Such as it was in our family, such as it is now with you. They're draining you for the shield over the Vatican. Not over Rome, not over the orphanage attached to the Vatican. Just over the Cardinal's wing. Check on it, know I'm right, boy. You can be so much more."
"I was called."
"So you were," the old man agreed with a smile. "One can serve God in many ways, Philip. Being a priest isn't the only way. Being a holy knight is another job entirely." Philip hung his head. "You knew?"
"I've had the summoning dream," Philip admitted. "My confessor said it was a trick of Satan or a frustration my subconscious mind was pushing forward to deal with the crud going on in the Church today."
"Pfft. Satan wouldn't call for you to be a holy knight. He'd call you to a position that would make you weaker. He does want you, badly from what I've heard around, but this way you would be stronger, not weaker. Go with God, my son, and be at ease. You have a place here with us. My journal is in the locked cabinet in the smaller study. Retrieve it if you want."
Philip nodded. "Thank you, Father." He walked out, going to retrieve the book. He found it right where it was supposed to be and smiled at the decent handwriting. He almost never found readable handwriting when he worked on journals. He took it with him back to the school, going to check on Blair. He found Jim giving the portraits a wary look. "Leave them be," he said with some humor. "Jim's not like us. You creep him out."
"Isn't that too hip a saying for you?" Jim asked, grinning at him.
"I taught high school for ten years," Philip told him. "My 'street' stops in the eighties." He smiled at Blair. "Xander's founding father is a trip."
"He is," Blair agreed with a grin. "Going to go for the calling you should have had?"
"Aunt Cordelia was just in here checking on me for Xander."
"Ah." Philip smiled. "We've got to initiate him yet." He waved the book and went up to the school to talk to Methos. He had a clear view of both sides of the battle of good vs. evil. He could help him sort things out.
Xander woke up in the infirmary this time and yawned at the nurse leaning over him. "What now?"
"You wouldn't wake up. No one could find a source of suppression this time, Alex," she said gently, testing his forehead with her hand. "I'm sure you'll be fine, but I worry."
"Of course you do, that's why you're a nurse," Xander pointed out, forcing himself to sit up. "Hey, I feel better," he said happily.
"That's good since I had to dose you a few times," she noted. She heard running feet and rolled her eyes. "It sounds like it's visiting time. Those boys will be the death of my sanity yet. Minerva and I have agreed to become drinking buddies thanks to your apprentices and consort."
"He said so," she said with a light smile.
"Xander!" Harry called as he jogged in.
"Whoa! You topple me over, you stitch me back up," he warned, making the boys stop before they ran into his bed. "Now, what's happened?"
"Twenty minute break," Ron told him, smiling. "We raced."
"You're going to fall and kill yourself one of these days," Madam Pomfrey chided.
"You sound like my mother," Ron told her.
"Besides, if we died that way, someone would have to bring us back thanks to the prophecy," Harry said smartly. She glared at him and he ducked his head. "Sorry, Madam Pomfrey, it was a bad joke."
"It was," she agreed, going to her desk to get a sip of sherry. Those boys were going to drive her to really drink one of these days.
Xander looked at them. "Good breath control, guys. You're not even breathing hard."
"It's not that far," Harry said smugly. Ron nudged him. "Sorry. We were in Charms before this." He heaved himself up onto the bed, looking at his uncle. "No blond prat?"
"He's got double Herbology today," Xander told them.
Ron gave him a smug look. "Pay up," he demanded, holding out a hand. Harry sighed and put a sickle in his hand. "Thank you. You're making my stomach very happy next weekend." He grinned at Xander. "I knew you liked him."
"I...." Xander blushed. "Ron, I'm not discussing this with you," he decided.
"That's fine," Ron said smugly. "You can discuss it with Bill when he comes in and he'll tell us." He stepped closer. "Do veelas wear white when they marry?"
"Not with how much Draco's gotten in the past," Harry pointed out.
"Guys!" Xander whined.
"Sorry," they said together, beaming at him.
"The auction's tomorrow night," Ron told him. "You promised to get us sprung and dressed."
"Yeah, you said we could even wear leathers under our robes," Harry agreed. "Bill said we were being cheeky but that we'd probably enjoy it."
"Fine," Xander agreed, nodding. "If I don't go back to sleep, I'll take you guys out tonight so you can get new clothes for the first of the auctions." They cheered. "And I'll even pay you the two percent commission tomorrow night."
Ron beamed. "I'm going to spoil mum with a prezzie. She needs one."
"Um, Ron, did your mother tell you anything?" Xander asked a bit too casually.
Ron nodded. "Bill did," he admitted. "He set it up so Harry and I can deposit part of our checks into the vault directly, without mum knowing or being told. Though dad's new job seems to be going pretty well. Oh, Percy's healing," he shared. "He quit crying a few days ago."
"Good. I hate it when people are done that way." Xander nudged Harry with a foot. "Are you sure you want to wear leathers?"
"I'm an apprentice cursebreaker, Xander, I want to wear the uniform. The formal one this time since dirty jeans and a t-shirt won't look as good."
"You just want one of the rich girls to flirt," Xander teased.
"I do not!" Harry said, blushing hard. "I don't need a girl."
"Yup, sure you don't," Xander agreed, smirking at him. "I'm going to ask Emilia and Catherine to sit you down and have The Talk with you."
"I got a thorough muggle education in that subject," Harry said firmly. "Health class was most informative."
"It's a right of passage, you have to go through it this way," Xander told him. "Ron will to."
"The twins sat me down and told me before we came back," Ron said with a blush. "They do strange and icky stuff with candy."
Xander looked up at the ceiling, trying hard not to laugh. Then he shook his head and gave up the effort, laughing so hard he was nearly rolling off the bed. He grinned at Ron, who shuddered. "Too bad," he said.
"Fine," Ron groaned. The bell rang and the boys ran off, waving at him.
"Later, guys. I'll take you out after dinner," he called after them. Xander slid out of the bed and over to the fireplace, finding the floo powder quickly. "Philip's Den of Iniquity," he called. An older man smiled at him. "Hi, Phil. I've got a special order for you. I'll be in tonight with my two apprentices, who are fifth years." The man's smile brightened. "Can you make up gift packs for them, and a special one for my mate?"
"Of course," the man said with a thick Hungarian accent. "Come right after dinner, Xander. They're wizards?" Xander nodded. "Good, good. I'll have it all ready for them when you bring them." He winked. "The paper mentioned you had stolen a veela from a family. Is he any good?"
"He's a good boy and still too young for me," Xander said firmly. "I'm giving him time to make his decision."
The other man laughed. "That's fine, Xander. I'll provide some of the more interesting self-pleasing things. Emilia's already talked to me about your boy." He winked and cut the connection.
Xander groaned. "Oh, man. It's in the paper?"
"Last week's," Madam Pomfrey assured him. "Mr. Malfoy was most pissed and they quit running the story the next morning, after he went to have a discussion with the editor. I think he told him what his father was trying to get him to do and how you had saved him, and how he was more than happy with you, so to leave you alone before you came to jump on them."
"Draco does do a lot of fixing for me," Xander agreed, giving her a gentle smile. "Is that a good thing?"
She helped him up. "I think it's a good sign," she agreed. "You don't want the boy dependent on pleasing you that way, but if he's doing it because it makes you happy then I'm sure it will be fine. This honeymoon stage is often filled with nice things. In a few months you'll start to be yourself and so will he I'm sure."
"He's a good kid," Xander pointed out. "He had crappy rolemodels." He let her put him back into his bed and tuck him in. "Don't do my feet," he pleaded. She smiled and untucked them. "Thank you. Can you let Draco come see me too?"
"I'm sure that can be arranged." She walked out, finding Draco leaning against the wall eavesdropping. "He wanted to see you too," she said gently, giving him a smile.
"Does he think I'm pretending?" he asked.
"No, I do," she said firmly. "You've never been this nice and pleasant to deal with in the past."
He looked at her. "I have good incentive to change," he said stiffly, heading in to talk to Xander. "I am being myself. This is me, accept it."
"You haven't snarked in weeks, Draco," Xander said gently, giving him a smile. He shifted some, curling up on his side. "Sit?"
"Of course." He sat beside Xander's stomach, looking at him. "You've given me incentive to change a little," he pointed out.
"Yeah, but you're still being way too nice on average. You're hiding all the bad sides from me. It's a normal thing, you want to be pleasant to make me think more of you." He took his hand to squeeze. "I'm still letting you make your decision when you're old enough."
"I'm almost seventeen."
"Um-hmm," Xander agreed, smiling at him. "I've got to get you a birthday present."
Draco smiled. "I haven't had a present in a few years."
"Then what do you want?"
"I want...." Draco considered it then shrugged. "You've given me the big thing, the right to think for myself. I don't know what I want."
"Jewelry? Books? Clothes?"
"I get those anyway," Draco reminded him, smiling at him. "You spoil too much, but I enjoy it."
Madam Pomfrey cleared her throat. "I'll only butt in for a second. Xander, you are spoiling him a lot to make him like you more. Draco, you're liking the attention because it's good for you and you're realizing that you've never had this sort of attention before. It's flattering. Think about each other's faults. Can you live with them?" She smiled and closed the curtains around their beds. "With that advice, I'll leave you alone."
"I have faults?" Xander asked.
Draco snorted, laughing and nodding. "You snore. You cuddle, even when I don't want you to. You occasionally thrash me off the bed during nightmares. And you hog the covers. Plus you have that sweets thing going for you."
Xander frowned. "Anything else?"
"You're needy, wanting a lot more attention than even I can give if I spend all day with you, yet you want to get things done while I stand there and give you adoring looks for being so smart/brave/strong/etc. Your ego matches my own quite handily, and yet you still consider yourself the top person in the world."
"I am," Xander defended, but he was grinning. "What about you, sarcasm boy? No mean jokes today?"
Draco beamed. "Only one, at a second year who was in my way." He looked at the hand still holding his. "Is this why you wanted me to wait to make my decision?" Xander nodded. "Then I'll agree to it and not be hurt that you're pushing me away."
"I'm not trying to, but I don't want to bind you to me in a way that you'll regret when you finish growing up." He shrugged. "I'm being gentlemanly. Cherish it, it doesn't happen often."
The curtain was flung open. "There you are," Trelawny said, glaring at them. "What will you do when you have to decide? To take the hand of the one who can destroy the world to stop them or to follow your heart and have the war take more?" She screamed and grabbed her head.
"Huh, Dru had that reaction to me too," Xander said dryly. "Madam Pomfrey, she's having a headache caused by my magnificence." She hurried over. "I seem to do it to seers a lot."
She grimaced at him. "Of course you do. Know many?"
"One of my ex's, a vampire, and now her," Xander said with a point at the writhing woman on the ground. He looked at Draco, who was pale. "We'll have it checked out," he promised, giving his hand a squeeze.
Draco looked at him, then at the woman on the floor, then at him again. "What was she talking about?"
"I think someone else has the idea to latch you to a future victim for you to calm down," Xander said calmly. His chest and head were ringing with pain, throbbing in time with his heartbeat, but he forced himself to seem normal for Draco's peace of mind. "I'm figuring they think you can calm the world-wrecker down enough to make them stop, or you can choose someone you love and be happy, but the fight will go on."
Draco shook his head. "I don't want that duty."
"Now you know how Mr. Potter feels," Madam Pomfrey told him with a short glare. "Quit picking on him about it." She helped the teacher up and onto a bed.
"No! He must choose love! It must be, no matter what! He will not save her or us! He has to be happy if the world is to end properly."
Xander lifted his head up. "I've stopped the world ending before, I'll do it this time too," he called. She gave one last shriek and went limp. "Thank you." He put his head back down, giving Draco a bland look. "Hey, maybe one of those is me."
Draco squeezed the hand holding him. "For some reason I think they're both you."
Madam Pomfrey walked past muttering 'she's never had these before' as she went to the floo.
Xander grimaced at Draco. "Do you think I could destroy the world? I'm not really that sort of guy."
"Wouldn't that depend on the circumstance?" Draco asked. "We've all had moments when we wished we could destroy everything."
"Maybe you're the first one then," Xander noted. He shrugged. "I'll send it to Willow. She'll pour through the books to see if she can ferret it out."
"Don't say that word," he said with a shudder.
"Sorry," Xander said, giving him an understanding grin. "When you're older, I'll help you work on an animagus form if you want."
"With my luck, I'd turn into one of those things," Draco pointed out. He shifted a bit, having a numb spot on his butt, and realized what his butt was brushing against. He gave Xander a sheepish look. "Numb spot."
"It's okay, my hip's numb too." He flipped onto his back, rocking the bed. "I should probably be more careful if I don't want us to end up on the floor."
"Yes, you should, but if you want, I'll curl up behind you for a bit to help you go to sleep. It seemed to help while you were sick."
"Sure. Get the curtains so you won't be rudely embarrassed." Draco tightly closed the curtains and waited while Xander flipped onto his other side, then got in behind him to hold him. "This is nice," Xander noted. "I wish I remembered this stuff from earlier."
Draco smirked down at him. "Don't worry, I only let Snape give you a bed bath." Xander shuddered, making him laugh. "And you wondered where my usual nature was," he teased.
"Now I know. No more disgusting images, Draco, please?"
"Of course not. Why would I want to do that?" He laid down, pulling Xander back against his chest. "Sleep, you need it."
"Yeah, I think I do," Xander agreed. He yawned. "Are you doing that?"
"No, the urge to crawl into bed with me and be comforted is all you," Draco assured him. "I'm hoping the need to nap is worn out soon though, I don't think could take that permanently." He wrapped his arm more firmly around Xander's stomach. "Sleep, old fart, so I can assuage all those nasty, lusty thoughts. That way you don't get in trouble for jumping a student. Or McGonagall again."
"We were students together," Xander complained. "We were both sixth years."
"It's hard to imagine her being that young. Was she more fun back then?"
"Sometimes. Sometimes though she was a lot like Granger." Draco chuckled, his breath moving Xander's hair. "I like that, do it again," he requested.
Draco smiled in the dark hair. "I know things you don't about the lust in this school," he said quietly into Xander's hair. "I know who lusts after who, and how bad it is for them. I've even seen some of the momentary flashes of lust that can so confuse a boy. Ron had one. For Hagrid. Just a momentary thing," he said at the shudder. "He then looked confused for the rest of the day."
"Ron probably just wants someone bigger than him. He's going to be tall and I doubt he'll want to be the dominant one in his 'ship. He's too caring for that."
"Hmm. Can we make Potter grow then? He's been watching Ron recently. Had a few of those sudden urges."
"Harry's trying to suppress so they're coming out all over the place. Ron needs someone like Charlie and Harry needs someone like Ron." He yawned again. "You're very comforting but don't tell me about my cousin and the headmaster."
Draco shifted. "I wouldn't do that to you. Besides, I think that's a fatherly thing."
"Hopefully. It's an icky thought."
"Yes, it is," Draco agreed smugly. "You did it to yourself though."
"Mmm, I did, didn't I?" he asked, smiling and nearly asleep. "Tell me more?"
"Why not? Did you know Emilia had jumped Greg at work? In his boss' office?" Xander chuckled. "I caught them coming out. I also caught that detective looking at her." He shifted a bit, stroking Xander's chest.
"S'nice. Don't stop."
"I won't, Xander. I'm not stopping." He waited until Xander was asleep, then pinched him to make sure. He got a grunt of annoyance. "Xander, I'm going to do something incredibly mean. Wanna help?" he asked. Xander shifted, rubbing back against him. "Good boy." He pulled the knife out of his pocket and opened it with his teeth. Then he made a small knick on his finger. He brought it up, letting Xander suck on it for him. "Good boy, you make it all better," he soothed. Xander sucked hard, making him moan. He could feel the connection starting to take hold. Emilia had been right, it was an incredible feeling. He did the same to Xander's finger, licking off the few drops of blood. Then he tucked his knife away and went back to his cuddling. He did enjoy this and it was worth it to be cuddled and held on a daily basis.
Emilia looked around the office, then over at where Greg was working hard. She grimaced, going to find her newest best friend. She was such a great woman. "Hi," she said, leaning in the doorway of the lab. "Busy?"
Catherine Willows smiled at her. "Greg involved in a test?"
"Yup." She walked in a few more feet but stayed clear of the work table and anything that might be work. "Xander sent me a message earlier," she said casually. Catherine nodded. "He wants us to give the boys The Talk."
Catherine nearly dropped the swab in her hand. "Us?"
"Two of them are normal guys. The other needs a special discussion after the regular one." She grinned. "He thought it'd help you when you wanted to tell your daughter."
Catherine shook her head. "They don't have mothers?"
"Remember meeting Molly? The brash little redhead who talked a lot?" Catherine nodded. "Ron's her youngest son, right before the only daughter." The other woman winced. "So his brothers apparently took him aside."
"Tip Top's boys."
Catherine moaned, shaking her head. She had met those boys. Fun, but deadly. "Did they teach him anything?"
"Candy tricks?" Catherine asked.
Warrick stuck his head in. "Have you seen Nick?"
"Garage I think," Catherine told him. "Hey, Warrick, Xander wants to give the boys he's working with The Talk. Wanna help Emilia?"
He shuddered. "No! Please, anything but that! Even the thought of giving that speech makes my skin crawl. Have fun." He walked away as fast as he could.
"One day he too shall have children who will need such wise advice," Emilia said dryly, cracking Catherine up. "So, are you in?"
"Sure, why not. Lindsey will be getting it this year so I can see it as practice. Besides, boys are different than girls."
"Cool. Can I have a strand of hair?" Catherine looked at her. "See, he's getting them goody bags and they've got a lock on them until after they've had the talk. So I was going to lock it to your DNA so only you could open them." She grinned. "Plus I told him to add a sucker to Ron's."
Catherine shook her head. "You're insane, Emilia. You really are insane."
"Not really, just a bit perverted," she said with a smirk. She reached over and yanked a hair. "Thank you, dear. I'm going to bundle this off to London and then jump my pookie."
"Don't do it in Grissom's office this time. He noticed something was off but no one's told him what yet."
"Cool. How about the changing room?"
"That area seems to attract sex. Just watch out for Nick. He's been skittish recently."
They shared a smirk and Emilia sent the strand of hair off to the shop before going to jump Greg for his lunch hour. The guy wouldn't get much nutrition, but he was definitely going to have a full course dinner. She walked into the lab and found him reading an email. "Ready for me?" she whispered in his ear. He smiled at her. "Then come on, handsome. I've got a special dinner planned for you."
He grinned and followed her into the changing room, pushing her against a locker to kiss her, making her moan and slump against his front.
"Not in front of me," Nick said, running out. He found Brass in the halls. "Don't go into the changing room. They're at it again."
"Newlyweds," Brass reminded him.
"Still! She's already half-naked, I know she is."
Brass chuckled as soon as Nick had gone to complain to Grissom. "Frat boy can't take it?" he said as he went to his office.
Dumbledore looked up from his paperwork, frowning at the magical currents around the school. Something had just smoothed out the bumpiest parts of the flow. All the little hormone bombs that usually floated around the upper years were smoothed over, like some sort of rolling pin had been taken to them. He smiled, deciding it must have been Mr. Malfoy getting a bit more control of himself.
He wondered if he could entice someone else to tell Xander about Mr. Malfoy's last leak, and the resultant orgy, since he had promised not to.
Xander woke up, feeling warm, comforted, and odd. He ran his tongue around his mouth and then grimaced while he searched for the bleeding spot. Nothing was bleeding though. "Draco!" he said firmly.
"What did you do?"
"Emilia said I could do that much. Just a few drops," he said quietly against the back of Xander's head. "She said it wasn't a manipulation, simply a protective measure against your ex and to make sure you knew my interest." He stroked Xander's chest again. "You know very well that it can still be broken if one of us decides differently."
"I'm not getting the taste of a few drops."
"Well, you did suck on my finger," Draco agreed, nuzzling the back of his head. "But you still didn't get more than a few drops. Just enough to mark my potential claim."
Xander shifted until he could look at him. "Draco, do you know what you did?"
"Yes, I do. I also know that I'm not going to be bothered when you sleep around and you're not going to be bothered by my aggravating nature when I leak." He looked down.
"You leaked where and when?" Xander asked gently, tipping Draco's face back up.
"In the library," he sighed. "One minor frustration and it all came out. Fortunately the librarian got most everyone stopped. Emilia was amused, she said hers had been in Potions."
Xander groaned and shook his head. "So she told you to do this so I could help you more?"
"No, she told me to do this because I begged to know what the first step was," Draco said honestly, then he smirked at the surprised look. "Did you think I'm not pushy and sneaky?"
"No, I realize that you are," Xander noted, still frowning a bit. "I don't want you to make that sort of move until you're old enough to fully understand everything that could happen, Draco. There's a lot you still don't know about your abilities."
"On the contrary, I know more than you think. I sent my mother a letter asking her to talk to the Veelas over there for me. They sent me a book and some very interesting papers." He felt Xander stiffen. "I wanted to know, that's all. It was her official paperwork and I only asked my mother to look her up for me. That way I could get a better feel for what you liked," Draco admitted, putting his head on Xander's shoulder. "They sent me everything as a warning I guess." He smiled as he traced patterns on Xander's stomach. "She did look just like Ginny Weasley, didn't she?"
"Almost exactly, only with different eyes," Xander agreed, patting him on the back. "If you had asked, I would have told you."
"Your father said to do it this way so you wouldn't have more pain," Draco said quietly. "Your great-grandmother told us to watch you because you had said her name without going cold or breaking down. She thinks you're in trouble emotionally."
"She might know," Xander admitted.
Draco raised his head. "After Anya, I'm surprised you didn't jump off somewhere very high." He put his head back down, smiling at the stroking his back was getting. "We do very well together, Xander. Crackpot prophecies to the side, I'm comfortable with you. You encourage me to be my snarky, slightly evil self and enjoy it with me. You don't want me to change. Plus, I think it's a wonderful thing that you're the first man I could ever see touching me sexually, and having me enjoy it. I can't see anyone else doing that."
"Except that blond thing we saw at the mall?" Xander asked.
"And him," Draco admitted, grinning at him. "He was rather hot and tasty, but not my type. He was more for a moment. I think I was more attracted to the lust flowing off his body."
"Yeah, incubi can be like that," Xander agreed.
"Really?" Xander nodded. "Cool. Now I know what they feel like as well." He settled in. "It's nearly dinner. What were you going to make me wear tomorrow night?"
"You were part of the team so you could wear leathers as well," Xander offered. Draco shuddered. "You're sure?"
"I am. I have a pair of leather pants and I hate wearing them. They're stiff. Give me silk any day."
"We can do that too," Ron agreed as he walked in. "Though I'm looking forward to the leather. That new jacket of mine is comfy enough to sleep in."
Xander smiled at him. "So was mine until it got worn out. No Harry?"
"He was held back to talk to Professor Methos." He hopped up to sit on the foot of the bed. "So, where are we going?"
"Madam Malkin's back room. She's got a special room for special needs. Costumes and things too." He smiled at Harry stormed in. "What did the old fart want this time?"
"For me to take up another form of training. He said my present one was making me angry. I pointed out that it was human beings who were making me angry, and then walked out."
Xander laughed. "Well, he would know more about fighting styles than anyone presently alive," he pointed out gently. Harry grimaced. "We'll talk about it later. Maybe you can weave the two together."
"Maybe," Harry agreed. He noticed Draco attached to Xander's side, then noticed his ring. "You put it on funny this morning," he pointed out.
"I had a swollen joint on my first finger, it only fit there," Draco told him. Xander lifted up the hand, looking at the emerald ring worn on the ring finger. "Sorry. It really was about the swollen joint."
"I know. Veelas don't wear wedding rings. They're marked with something else," Xander told him.
"They are?" Ron asked.
Xander nodded. "Yup, they are. There's a special pendant that's worn embedded into the skin on one's chest. The veela and their mate both wear one."
"Oh. What about consort veelas? Those who are stronger and freer than the norm after they attach themselves to one person?" Draco asked.
"The same thing. That way you can do your job without being asked if you're married." Xander gave him a light pinch. "I'm surprised Emilia hasn't shown you hers yet."
"She doesn't have one on her chest," Ron told him. Xander looked at him. "I walked in on her topless once. She was really nice and smiled at me, told me to quit staring, and then pushed me out of the bathroom."
"Hmm. We'll have to rectify that," Xander said with a smirk.
"Maybe they haven't registered themselves over there yet," Harry offered. "I heard there was some sort of test you had to pass."
"Yup, and it's nothing special. They put you alone in a room and stare at you." Xander shrugged. "I passed it once. I'll talk with Emilia tonight." He forced himself to stand up. "Okay, let me take a shower and then we'll get you guys prettied up for tomorrow night." He climbed off the bed, holding onto it to steady himself. "I could probably use a snickers bar," he told himself as he walked into the bathroom.
Draco looked around, then got up and rang a bell sitting on the desk. A house elf appeared, giving him a fearful look. "Bring Mr. Dumass a piece of fruit or something to tide him over until dinner," he ordered. It nodded and disappeared, coming back with a small bowl of berries. "Thank you." It nodded and left. Draco walked back to the bed, waiting on him. He nibbled one and smiled. "Someone crossed passion fruit and blueberries."
Ron and Harry each took one, nodding that they liked the strange tasting thing. When Xander came back out, the bowl was half empty, but he got the rest while Draco found him something clean to wear. He really hated wearing pajamas around them and he couldn't go shopping that way. When he was finally dressed and fed, he walked the boys down to the Great Hall for dinner, feeling much better now. He looked at them as they abandoned him. "Hey!" he complained. "Which one am I sitting at?"
"Sit with Draco," Harry said with a smirk. "You need to figure out what he's wearing anyway."
"Good point," Xander agreed, walking over to sit across from him.
"Aren't you a Gryff?" Pansy sneered.
Xander gave her a bland look. "Technically, I was one of you first. I was only kicked out because the petty people decided I was too pretty and they weren't able to get laid at all because everyone only wanted me." She glared and moved down the table to get away from him. He smiled at Draco. "Sorry, was she a friend?"
"Not particularly, more a former plaything," Draco told him, glaring down at Pansy. She burst into tears and ran from the room.
"Draco, that wasn't nice," Goyle complained. "Her mother's trying to get her to go for you."
"I doubt she'd want to deal with my peculiarities," Draco told him. "After all, I am veela enough to broadcast and to need special treatment." Goyle blushed and looked down at his plate, silently talking to the food. He grinned. "Sorry about that. Arithmancy was getting to me that day."
Crabbe looked at him. "Math makes you hot?"
Draco groaned and shook his head. "I have a shield about my energies, when I got frustrated it broke a small hole in it."
"Oh," Crabbe said.
Goyle looked at him. "We'll remove all annoyances for you, Draco. Just, please, hit Hufflepuff next time, okay?"
Xander laughed. "If he had that much control, he could do that. His cousin can and he'll learn how some day."
Draco smirked at him. "She did tell me the secret to doing so. I've been wondering how I would practice that." Both his guards blushed bright red and whimpered. "Not on you two. I have no desire to see you two go at it." They sighed and slumped against each other. "I could test it on Potter and Weasley I suppose."
"I suppose you could, but wouldn't that annoy you to no end? The fact that they're the center of attention?" Xander asked. Draco looked at him. "With the level of your skills, you'd make whomever the hottest thing on two legs. You're too untrained to pare the outflow back. By the way, you'd better have permission or I will smack your ass until you cry and beg for forgiveness."
"Yes, Xander," Draco agreed, still staring at him. He swallowed. "After I dealt with your ex, your mother saw me." Xander nodded for him to go on as the food appeared, digging in to dish himself up all his favorites. "She said I could easily split her job."
Xander looked at him, then shrugged. "You probably do have enough of a mean streak to do the job well, Draco. It's all in how you use it." He put down the spoon for the potatoes, handing it on. "Did you want a position like that?" Draco shook his head quickly. "Then I'd watch what I did with my abilities. That alone will determine if someone offers you a spot. Of course, you can be offered a spot and not take it. Willow was once. She was offered Anya's spot after she did a 'my will be done' spell because everyone was trying to help her move on after her boyfriend left her. She put Buffy and Spike together and made them want to get married."
Draco shuddered and dropped his fork. "Don't say such disgusting things while I'm eating," he said, kicking Xander under the table. "That is simply nasty!"
"Sorry." He grinned. "So you see, you can be partially bad and still get an offer, but I know what she was saying. You do have it in you to be a bastard like she and Anya are while working. It's up to you to control that spark."
"I suppose I'll have to. My mother would never forgive me if I turned into a spirit of vengeance. The mortification might humiliate her and make her miss a Season."
Xander snorted. "My mom got talked into it by accident. She agreed while raging at my father."
Draco shook his head. "Then we probably shouldn't fight."
"One good thing though. Mom said that her boss hated your father's friends." Draco looked interested. "She said he thought the big goober would make his life harder so therefore he wants him gone too."
"Light and Dark working against him? How very...poetic in some ways," Draco noted, grinning at him. "Eat, before I slice my finger and put more blood into your food."
"Yes, Draco." He saw the amused and horrified looks around him. "I'm helping him stay in control," he pointed out.
"Shit, if you make him stop, I'll bear kids for you two," one girl down the table told them.
"If my family hears you say that, they'll force you to," Xander told her. "They're getting pushy on the subject anyway."
"Yes, how is Potter supposed to have an heir?" Draco asked. "He doesn't seem to like girls enough for that."
"Harry likes girls," Xander defended. "He's just awkward around them." He dropped his fork. "I just had the worst thought." Draco looked interested. "If Harry managed to get killed or too badly hurt to deal with people, I'll have to have kids." Draco did shudder at that thought. "A few of them probably."
"I'm sure they can live with their mothers," Draco soothed, reaching over to pat him on the hand. "You won't have to deal with the little snot-nosed, whining things." Xander gave him a smile. "Feel better now?" Xander nodded. "Then we'll have to start helping Potter work on his defense skills. That's the best way to make sure he has the kids."
"Yeah, I'll make sure he's got everything he needs that way and help Methos train him," Xander agreed. "Tonight even." Draco gave him a smile. "So, what are you wearing tomorrow?"
"If I must," Draco agreed.
"Are you going out on a date?" Crabbe asked, smiling happily. "You two do look cute together."
"I dress up his drab existence," Xander and Draco said in unison, making the kids around them laugh.
"Sorry, but no, not a date. Tomorrow night is the auction and because he did a lot of the research and helped with the removal he gets to attend," Xander told him.
"Plus, I get a two percent commission," Draco agreed.
"I do," Draco said firmly. "I did as much work as Weasley and Potter, I should get paid the same."
"Okay," Xander agreed, nodding. "I thought you were going to take the large wooden box that you were trying to hide for your reward."
"I...." Draco closed his mouth and then shrugged. "I'm not sure which I want."
Xander considered it. "Unless the auction draws really small prices, then you could probably buy it with your part of the commission over all. The problem is that we're only doing a tenth of the stuff tomorrow night."
"Good point. Plus, we've got the Gringott's offer tomorrow," Draco reminded him. Xander nodded. "Are you unpissed at them yet?"
"Mostly. I got sent a letter of apology along with the request to look at any items and the offer to make private bids for the most dark things. Apparently they thought I was kidding about there being a lot." He grinned. "Most of the dark stuff isn't in this lot. That's why they're coming to look at them tomorrow."
"I suppose I should pack good clothes then," Draco noted. "How much is all that stuff worth on the fair market system?"
"If I had been finding for them, I'd have gotten a fifteen percent commission on everything. I would have about doubled what's in my vaults at the moment." Draco looked impressed. "There are three artifacts in there that are so valuable that they're listed without a price. Anywhere. I'm going to push for those to go to the goblins since two of the three I don't trust to fall into benevolent hands."
"Good idea," Draco agreed. "Plus the two blessed statues."
"Plus those, plus the ones with beings trapped within them. I don't want to deal with those things and my old boss understands that. We'll be selling them at a slight loss but not by much." Xander ate a bite of food. "Oh, I heard from Bill that someone's found a new shipwreck. Another fantastic find filled with gold bars."
"Are all cursebreakers like you?" Goyle asked.
Xander looked at him. "No. Not all of them are capable of working on their own like Bill Weasley and me. The few that are earn a small commission on what they do, but we have to pay for everything ourselves. All our camp supplies and travel, everything comes out of our pockets. For those on salary, the goblins pay it for us, but they get steady pay. A find like that shipwreck may only come once in a career if you're lucky. I managed to get myself sent to the one place where mystical artifacts were hidden, that was both my bad and my good luck. Most cursebreakers break into old tombs and do a lot of research."
"Oh." Goyle nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Dumass. Is it hard work?"
"It's hard, filthy, and back breaking work at times," Draco told him. "Most groups are a pair of curse breakers and if they need a hole dug, they have to dig it." Goyle nodded. "There are jobs like that available."
"I doubt that would happen. The goblins have a tamed family of trolls for most of those things," Xander told him. "On the other hand, there are the need for human guards because some of the items will react to magical creatures like the goblins. All that job requires is being big, strong, and not wanting to steal it."
Goyle smiled. "Who would I talk to about that?"
"Um, let me get back with you on that," Xander offered, frowning at him. "I'm not sure which goblin is over that at the moment." Goyle nodded so he looked at Draco. He raised an eyebrow, but he could see that Draco was confused also.
"Greg, I'm going to need a guard the day after tomorrow. Would you and Crabbe like to help us? You'll have to associate with Weasley and Potter, but my mate there said that you can't harm them."
"Sure, Draco," Crabbe agreed, looking at Greg. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, just fine. My dad wanted me to find a job." He shrugged. "He said it'd make me a better son and heir to his skills."
"It often makes you think in different ways," Xander agreed. "Survival and all that. I'll have them released the morning after the auction." Trelawny screamed from her seat. "Or maybe with you guys," he said, getting up and heading up to the top table. "Draco just suggested we bring his guards with us to watch over the money until we can take it to the bank," he told Snape. "That okay with you?"
"That would be fine." Snape looked down at Trelawny. Then at Xander. "What did you do to her? She just had another flash vision of all of you dead."
"I seem to set off seers," Xander said lightly, giving him a smile. "I make a lot of them have headaches."
"I see." Dumbledore looked down at them. "Mr. Dumass seems to set off seers."
"I see," Dumbledore said. He smiled at him. "Do you know why?"
Xander shrugged. "Not a clue. I set of Druscilla. I set off my ex, who's now a seer. I set her off too, I guess." He gave her a smile. "Sorry."
"You will take more precautions than you are now," she demanded, her eyes nearly shut in pain. "The world will end if all of you are killed."
"We just decided to bring Draco's guards with us to make sure nothing happened," Xander assured her.
"Fine. Bring more. And watch out for *her*."
"Her?" Snape asked. He looked at Xander. "How many women are after you now?"
Xander shrugged again. "I didn't think I had any *after* me, only some that wanted to sleep with me." Methos snorted into his cup. "What does this her look like?"
"Like a demon in gray leather," she told him. "Strong, fast, deadly."
"Oh! That's probably Antoinette Andrena. Lovely woman. Hell with a sword." He went back to his seat. "It looks like one of my godchildren is coming for the auction," he told Draco. "You'll like Annie. She's a card and a half, but a bit bitter sometimes. And watch out for her sword. She's very good with it." Draco's eyes went wide. "What?"
"Sword?" he squeaked.
He nodded. "Sword. She's a master of it. Said it wore out her extensive energy and it keeps the bad men away from her. Only men who appreciate her come anywhere near her."
"I see." Draco picked up his cup and took a long sip. "Good for her. Will she like me?"
"Probably not. She's got this thing against Veelas, but she'll deal or she'll sleep on the lawn," Xander told him.
"Thank you." Draco took another sip and put his cup back down. "You know odd people."
"I had to make my own family," Xander pointed out with a smirk. "The ones I picked are more normal."
Draco looked at him. "Having talked with Des, I'm not surprised." Xander giggled. He leaned closer. "I was told to remind you to look for relatives here in the country."
"Mom did say some of the cousins intermarried within the country," Xander agreed. "I was going to do a search tonight. I had the family tree in my bag."
"It's under my bed," Draco promised.
"Cool. I wanted to see if it was off Justinius' line." He ate a bite of veggies. "So, green silk?"
"I do look wonderful in it," Draco agreed.
Harry walked behind Xander, not noticing where they were going because he was still mentally fuming at his professor. So when the door chime went off, he noticed it sounded different. That combined with Ron's gasp of surprise made him look up and around. "Xander!" he said in disgust. "Can't you do this without us?"
The thin man behind the counter laughed. "Why would he want to?" he asked with a heavy accent. "He called us to get you some presents." He handed over to Draco with a wink. "The blue one is for you, young one."
"Thank you," Draco said smoothly, handing the other two the pink boxes. Then he looked at Xander. "Why did we need these?"
"You'll find out tomorrow night." Xander tossed the man a bag. "Thank you, Philip."
"You're welcome," he said with a bright smile. "Getting them off on the right foot makes me happy, Alex, you know that. Besides, ones such as your consort need special things to make them happy." He smirked as Ron tried to get the box open. "Only one person may open it and you'll be seeing her tomorrow."
"Fine," Ron sighed. "Embarrass us in front of others." He followed Xander out, jiggling the box to listen for a rattle. "Is there anything breakable in here?"
"No," Xander said, giving him a grin. "Just be sure to show Bill the box tonight. He'll have a nice long laugh and it'll make him feel better."
"Fine," Harry agreed. "Why did he have a whip hanging beside him?"
"Because he always wanted to be Indiana Jones," Xander told them. Harry burst out in giggles. "We'll show you two later," he promised, patting Ron on the shoulder. "Okay, up the alley, take a right, and go to Madam Malkin's special store that you're not supposed to know exists." They tromped that way, Draco rattling his box now and then to see what was in it. Xander opened the door and let the boys proceed him inside, smiling at the woman meeting them. "Hi. My apprentices need leather for the auction tomorrow night, something to make them look hot and tasty. Draco just needs to look smooth, cool, and calm." He took the box from Draco's hands. "I know yours has something breakable." He pushed the boys forward. "Go ahead, she won't bite."
"She's a vampire?" Ron asked.
The woman laughed. "Well, technically," she agreed, leading Ron back to the fitting area. "But I never eat my customers. It means they can't come back and buy more." She looked him over. "How well do you do leather?"
"I love my new jacket," he told her. "It's so comfy I slept in it last night."
She pursed her lips. "Good enough. I've got some supple calfskin in the back. And you, precious?" she asked, looking Harry over. "Suede?" He slowly smiled. "That's fine then, babe. Give me a mo." She went to give Xander a deep kiss then retrieved the outfits she had in mind for them. She looked Draco over, walking around him. "I have just the thing."
"Not the bad one," Xander pointed out. "Mine, Abby."
"Fine," she sighed. "He's yours. I should dress him in the potato sack." Draco glared at her and she smiled sweetly. Xander grabbed her by the back of the neck, making her scream in pain. "Sorry," she begged. He let her go and moved back to his former position. "Fine, you like them snarky and mean, not nice and sweet like those two." She went into the back and came out with a small box. "Try that on." She went to help Harry, fitting the pants to him. "Now you have to be careful not to flop down too hard. The seams are a bit weaker than I'd like but you can't really do a thing about that in leather." Ron glanced at her. "Okay, fine, there's another pair," she pointed out, taking Harry's pants and going into the back to find them. She finally found the large trunk in the back and hefted it out, letting it fall onto the floor.
"Hey, that was mine," Xander complained.
"None of it fits you," she reminded him. "Besides, your mother never picked it up." She kicked the large steamer trunk and it popped open. "This was to have been his school trunk for his fifth year." She smiled at them and dug around, coming up with the outfits she had wanted for both boys. She held them up for Xander's inspection, getting catty smiles in return. Then she let the boys get redressed, though she did keep out the redhead's outfit. He looked marvelous and dangerous in it. The dark-haired one came out first, tugging at the pants. She quickly fixed it for him, letting him look at himself in the mirror. "How's that?"
"Wonderful," Harry told her. "It's not leather, but I look good."
"You do," Draco agreed, still trying to get the box open. Xander flicked his wand at it and the ribbon undid itself, earning Xander a smile. Inside was a pale gray silk outfit, very thin but so soft it was like baby's skin. He walked into the dressing room to try it on, coming out in the pants and shirt. He did a short turn and Xander beamed at him.
Abby sighed and shook her head, looking at the other two. "Are they nauseating yet?"
"Xander's calmed Malfoy down," Ron told her. "He's less of a prat and he makes Xander happy." He looked at himself, then shrugged. "Which do you like better, Harry?"
"I like them both, Ron. I'll buy one if you want."
"Let them have both sets," Xander said, moving forward to take a closer look at Draco. "You do look nice in that color. The fabric's a little thin."
"It's pure silk and it's very strong," Abby offered. "I've got a few more outfits in that fabric and more shirts already made if you like them."
"Can you make my school uniform out of this?" Draco asked.
She laughed and shook her head. "They won't let me, sorry." She turned back and found Ron looking at the leather outfit. "Twenty for both."
"Deal," Xander said, tossing a bag at her without looking. "For both of them. Fit the rest of the trunk too." He licked his lips. "Your mother would sing choruses of praise over that outfit," he said quietly.
Abby cleared her throat. "No sex in my shop unless I'm involved."
Xander frowned at her. "He's not old enough yet."
"Then maybe I should put in him a sack after all," she said dryly. He glared again and she grinned. "By the way, Dru's in town."
"Fucking hell," Xander mumbled, stepping away from Draco. "For how long?"
"Two weeks now. She's been looking for you."
"Fuck me," Xander said bitterly.
"She's got someone to bring her to the auction tomorrow, sweets."
"Okay, that's it, I need someone to curse me very badly."
"No, you need to bring Snape," Ron said with a sneer and a nod. "Let him handle her." He noticed Harry's confused look. "That's the name of the female Spike had. The loony bint."
"You're not taking up with a vampire," Draco said firmly. "Even if I have to stake the bitch myself."
"Hmm, maybe he does deserve Alex," Abby muttered as she fit Harry.
Draco looked at the top outfit in the trunk. "You owned tweed?" he asked, looking horrified.
"My father's idea," Xander said quickly. "It's a riding jacket." He shrugged at Draco's sideways look. "I couldn't argue with him back then."
"He wanted Xander to treat someone better than he treated his horse," Abby put in.
"Abby, I'm going to stake you, Madam Malkin frowning at me or not," Xander warned.
"Fine, sorry, sweets," she said, grinning at him. "Speaking of the Spike and Dru show, where is he?"
"Sunnydale, panting after a certain petite blond," Draco told her.
"Still? That's why she said she dropped him for the slime demon, because he was too into the slayer." Xander nodded. "Bummer for her. Anyway, the Dru babe wants to talk to you again, Dumass. Said she knows something you need to know."
Xander shrugged. "I guess we'll be fine at the auction. She won't be able to do anything while everyone's there and I'm not letting her stay over." He turned his attention to the boys while Draco went to change back into his own clothes and the rest of the outfits in that material were found for him. When everyone was finally done, he sent the trunk on ahead and walked the boys out into the night with their special boxes, taking them back to the school.
"Mr. Potter," Snape greeted at the front door. "Did you think you needed *more* clothes?"
"They were going to be mine," Xander told him. "They're what father bought me for my fifth year, but then everything happened and I never got to use any of them. Abby found them before telling me something interesting. We're going to need a stronger guard than we thought, one versed in the dark arts."
"The loony bitch vampiress Dru is after him," Draco said bitterly. Snape flinched. "You know her?"
"I've heard of her," Snape admitted, looking at Xander. "Would you like me to go as well?"
"Sure. The more the merrier. There's no telling what Dru wants. She said she wanted to tell me something but with her, it could be that I'm going to die by her bite." He shrugged and smiled at Draco. "We found him an outfit that makes him look wonderful."
"Even more so than usual," Draco agreed. He lifted his bags and his box. "I'll see you in my room?"
"Sure, give me a few," Xander said. He watched as the boys disappeared to their rooms, then grabbed his cousin to lean on. "I am so dead," he whispered. "He looked hot, I nearly fell to my knees and begged, cousin."
Severus gave him an awkward pet. "I'm sure you're stronger than you think. Now get off me." He walked off, going to have a long drink. He thought better of it and sent word that Xander could sleep in his room tonight if it would make him feel more adult. It came back in a pile of ashes with Draco's family ring in the center of it. He smiled. It wasn't often you got a Malfoy to do battle, but when they did the world should beware because each of them would fight to the death if necessary. He settled in with his drink and the last essays he had assigned, laughing as he marked through whole sections of inappropriate ideas.
Xander looked at Draco after he had shut the door. "What was that?"
"Your cousin being an interfering git," he said firmly. "Thinks you should nap on his couch instead of where you belong."
Xander grinned. "He's trying to save my virtue."
"I think it's a bit late for that," Draco purred, stalking over to his prey. He noticed Xander felt the need to swallow. "Wouldn't you be happier if you didn't have to wait for another year?"
"And two weeks," Xander ground out. "Draco, stop, or I will go sleep on Severus' couch, or even in my old room."
Draco laughed. "What makes you think I'm letting you out of this room? According to our standards, I am old enough to take you and make you mine. My mother signed the appropriate forms in case I decided you were good for me." He stepped closer, making Xander look up at him. "We will talk about *my* choice tonight."
"I can see up your nose," Xander told him.
Draco laughed. "If that was an attempt at trying to change the subject, you should know I have my father's focus, and the willpower of both parents put together. You are mine, Alexander." Xander shivered. "If you want, you can try to run, but you won't get far." Xander moaned. "Now, all I have to do is make you mine. Mark you as mine." He leaned down, biting Xander on the neck, making him moan louder. "That should do. For now." He stepped back some and smiled sweetly. "Do you have anything you want to say?"
"I'm sorry, but I should go," he mumbled, standing up. Draco pushed him back down and that cleared Xander's head. "Draco, you're not old enough yet."
"I do know my mind, Alexander. I knew my mind on this subject as soon as you got pushy. That's why my mother agreed. Because I told her to." Someone knocked on the door. "Unless you want to be dead, go away," he called.
Greg walked in and smiled at Xander, grabbing Draco. "Sorry, my wife wants the lust bomb."
Draco struggled, getting free. "Out!" he ordered, pointing. "I am making my consort status known."
"You're upsetting him," Greg argued.
"I can fight for myself," Xander said weakly.
Greg looked at Draco, shaking his head. "He's emotionally fragile, Draco. You're taking advantage of his lustful nature."
"No, I'm not! I'm making myself known as his consort. He's not going to end up my pet, he's going to be mine!" He stepped closer. "Alexander is mine. You can tell Emilia I have decided and I will make it so." Greg nodded, stepping back. "Now, out! Before I have to send you home to her begging and pleading for something you won't be able to do for days."
"Fine. I'm sending Emilia instead," Greg warned.
"Go right ahead, she'll stick up for me," Draco assured him. Greg nodded and left, going back to get his wife. Draco slammed the door and looked at Xander. "Sorry, sometimes the half-bloods and lesser ones have bad timing," he said with a grimace.
"Draco, you're still too young," Xander said gently.
Draco walked over and pushed Xander back onto the bed. "I am no more mentally my age than you are," he snarled. "You are mine, even if I have to kill people to get you away from them."
"Whoa, where did that come from?" Xander asked.
Draco smirked. "Inside me, the same place that was making you drool earlier. Emilia does not know, but Malfoys are very possessive of what's theirs."
"I promise, I'm not going to touch Dru," he offered, starting to shift backwards on the bed. "Draco, I'm feeling like a novel damsel, like there needs to be a hero on a shiny horse."
Draco snorted, grinning at him. "I promise I won't pounce you tonight, Alexander, but it will be soon." He stood up and moved around until he was on his pillow. "Coming?" he asked as he laid down on top of the covers. "I promise to only talk and touch the upper half of you. Nothing licentious."
Xander carefully moved until he was facing Draco. "How's this?"
"I like that, but you're tense," Draco said, starting to frown. "I thought you liked me."
"I do," Xander said quickly, "but I'd like to get to know you before I ruin your life, Draco."
"Ruin," he said, starting to chuckle. "There is no ruin. You are mine, that is all there is to it." He leaned closer and stole a quick kiss. Xander moaned against his lips. "That's what I want to hear from you right now," he whispered, moving lower. He found his earlier bite mark and sniffed it, taking the time to lick and suck on it as well. Xander was shifting under his careful touches, and the lust was flowing off him in waves. It felt like heat to Draco, like the heat he needed to live. He soaked it up but did not feed on it. He didn't have that right yet. Soon though, very soon. As soon as Xander went limp, he went back to the mark, slowly biting into it. Xander stiffened but he didn't push him away. Once the skin was broken, Draco lapped up the blood. The heat going through him magnified until it was like he was in the center of the sun and the light was all Xander. He pulled away, gasping for breath. "Dear Merlin," he whispered hoarsely.
Xander gave him a kiss. "Do you feel better now?"
Draco looked at him and let his shield fall, knowing Xander had a touch of empathy, his whole family did. Xander gasped and pulled him closer, dropping his own shields. They let their skills merge, finding the complimentary spots. Xander bit Draco's collarbone, making him scream in pain but it was the fastest way to feed off him. Someone pounded on the door, but he didn't care, the heat was taking him. The heat was all around him. It was him and yet it was Draco. He lapped at the bruise he had created, then grabbed a kiss, a long, slow, passionate kiss that would make others weep with envy. That's why he didn't notice it when the door burst inward and Emilia walked over to look at them.
"Stage one's complete," she announced. Then she grabbed Xander and pulled him back, pulling him onto the floor. Draco tried to struggle but Snape held him too firmly. "Cousin, you're an idiot," she said bitterly. "He was giving you time on purpose. You're not ready yet!"
"Bet me! Test us," he snarled, struggling to get free. "I demand you test us!"
Emilia sighed and looked at them. Then she nodded. "They're well suited. But you're still too young, Draco. I should take Xander and hide him from you until next summer. Or at least put him next to Ron."
"If you do, I will kill anyone in my way," Draco growled.
Emilia looked at him, the boy meant it. She looked at Severus, who shrugged. "Up to you, he's officially yours until the end of the school year."
Draco was tired of this. He could feel his mate on the floor. He wasn't feeling well. These people were in his way, getting between him and his mate. He let everything loose for the second time. This time the maelstrom was bigger and brighter. He could feel students all over the school groan and clutch themselves as his anger washed over them. "Mine," he growled. Snape let him go and he cut it off as soon as he touched Xander.
Emilia sighed. "Fine. He's yours. When you come back down, you're going to be in a world of hurt, young man. Mostly from my foot up your ass."
Draco glared at her. "You haven't marked your consort," he pointed out. "I have." He touched the side of Xander's neck. "He is mine. No one and nothing is going to touch him. Not you, not him," he said with a nod at Snape, "not even some demonic whore."
Xander's mother appeared in a flash of gold light. "Well said, Draco. Are you willing to die for him?" Draco looked at her, still stroking Xander's neck and chest. "Are you?"
He shrugged. "If he demands it."
"The family has a test to pick true mates," she told him. "Tell me, Draco, what would you do if I brought Anyanka here?"
"Even if she held in her hand something that would save my son's life?"
"Then I'd kill her and take it off her useless body," Draco told her.
"Even though she's more powerful than you are?"
"She's not! I kicked her ass yesterday!"
Xander's mother smiled at him. "Yes, but as a demon, we can all boost her energy, future-son. We can make her stronger than you. Would you be willing to die for him, to save his life?"
Draco looked down at Xander, then back at her. "If that's what I have to do to prove myself, give me the fucking knife," he said firmly.
She sighed. "He is definitely a Malfoy. They've all got that problem where their mouths get them into trouble, but I see no reason why they should not be joined." She looked at Emilia. "He's right. You haven't marked Greg yet, Em." She gave her a smile. "Do so soon, all right? We like Gregory. He's amusing and charming." She heard footsteps and shook her head. "That would be your friend's husbands." She disappeared.
Emilia opened the door, showing the twins and Ron. "All of you?" she asked.
"We felt Draco go off," Ron told her. "Blair's been teaching me how to calm people in emotional distress. They came anyway." He walked over and squatted beside Xander's unconscious body and listened to the growl. "Hi, Draco," he said calmly, using what he had of the Guide voice. Draco glared at him and shifted more over Xander's body. "Is he sick?"
"They're trying to take him from me."
"They can't do that. There's nothing that can take him from you except one of you two." Ron gave him a gentle stroke over his hair. "You can relax and let everyone else go. I promise, no one's taking you from him. No one's taking him from you." He gave him a smile. "Put him into the bed, before he gets sore from the uncomfortable surface. Then you can latch onto him and suck him dry if you want."
"I've been wanting to try that," Draco agreed smoothly. He let Ron help him up and grabbed Xander, putting him onto the bed and slapping at anyone who tried to help. "Mine!" he announced. "Out!"
"Then kindly let the school go," one of the twins told him. "We can't take much more of this, Draco. Our mate is in Europe at the moment."
Draco laid down on top of Xander and soothed himself, stroking him gently. "Take them with you," he ordered quietly. "I need to be with him."
"Sure," the other twin said, taking everyone but Ron with them. Ron had shaken his head and wasn't going to move. As soon as the door was closed, they felt the powerful rush of energy trickle to a stop.
"I'm so glad I couldn't have Greg until I was older," Emilia put in.
"So were the rest of us," Snape assured her. "How many more such incidences will we have?"
"None. Draco's probably latched onto the bite mark again and he's sipping that which binds them." She touched her chest. "I don't want to hurt him."
"Hurt who?" one of the twins asked.
"Hurt Greg. Draco was correct, I haven't officially bound us yet. It means a small link so he could hear me at work."
"And? He said he'd be willing to help you at work," Snape sneered. "If I find you're playing with him, I will help Alex get you."
She shook her head, then hauled off and hit him on the arm. "Asshole." She stomped off, going to tell Greg the bad news. There was no stopping a Malfoy when they saw something they wanted, and this one was stronger than the whole of the Banes together.
Snape looked at the twins. "Out, now! You do not belong in Slytherin."
"On the contrary, we think we fit in quite well," one said, then he changed into a mouse and ran off, startling Snape enough to make him squeak.
"He's the flashy one, I do things a bit more subtly," the other said, changing into a lion and padding off after the mouse.
Snape looked up at the ceiling. "Why me?" he asked it.
Someone down the hall opened a door. "Is the emergency over with? Can I get back to who I was doing?"
Snape glared at him. "That had better not been what you meant to say," he noted coldly. "Just in case, I will search your room first." He walked in and the girl screamed, running out with the sheet wrapped around her.
"That's no fair. If Malfoy gets to have sex, we should be able to too, especially when he's broadcasting," Crabbe complained from his bed.
"Yeah, she said she'd come down and help us celebrate leaving tomorrow," Goyle agreed.
"Shut up," Snape ordered, making both boys give him pitiful looks. "That is not acceptable behavior."
"My father said you used to get laid nearly every night," Goyle told him.
"Yeah, my mum said you had free access to Ravenclaw," Crabbe agreed.
Snape turned bright red and stomped out. "Those are lies," he shouted as he walked. "Do not repeat them or suffer!"
Crabbe looked at Goyle. "My mum said that the only reason he stayed a Snape instead of a Dumass was because he knew potions. Otherwise, they might have changed his name. She even said there was some doubt about that one being Alex Dumass' son."
"That would have been funny to watch. I can't imagine him going over there and getting some from the stuffy girls."
"Maybe they were different in those days," Crabbe said with a shrug.
Zabini walked in with the girl that had been entertaining them, and locked the door behind them. "Sorry about that. Pansy stopped her for us and Millicent gave her the nightie." He helped her remove the sheet and the boys all chuckled as they came over to touch what she was showing.
The next morning Xander woke up and again had an odd taste in his mouth. "How much did you give me this time?"
"You bit me yourself," Draco said gently, stroking him on the stomach. "You made me miss my first period."
Xander opened his eyes and looked at him. "If you're having those, we should probably have a longer talk," he joked. Draco gave him a short kiss. "Draco," he groaned. Last night came back to him and he pulled back. "You're not of age until you're seventeen."
"Then you only have two weeks to protect your virtue. I suggest that you sleep with Weasley or Potter now if you had designs in that area."
"Sorry. Just a thought. I've seen you watching Ron."
"He reminds me of Bill."
"Obviously. The same as I noticed that you probably had a very close relationship with Bill," he said as his hand shifted lower. Xander caught it on his stomach. "I'll allow it before, but not afterwards."
"Draco, you're pushing it."
"I am, aren't I?" he asked with a grin. He leaned down. "That's because you have many fascinating things you can teach me, Alexander." Xander shivered. "Whenever you're ready of course."
"You're not ready yet."
Draco snuggled in. "I'll let you have your delusion of control for another two weeks, then I'll unleash all of myself onto you." He went back to stroking his fingertips down Xander's chest and stomach. "You will be able to teach me how to do those things, yes?"
"Of course." Xander gave him a long squeeze. "I don't want to rush you, Draco."
Draco looked up and smiled, and Xander sighed in happiness. "Of course you don't. I'm not leaving you so you might as well get past that fear. You are mine and I am possessive," he said with a small smirk.
"I should get Philip to check you for possession."
"If it amuses you, go ahead. If not, get him to witness whatever vows you'll want to make to me."
"I'm an old-fashioned guy, Draco. I want the whole thing if I link myself that closely to someone."
"And in me you get a stunning package of someone who would kill for your very pleasure."
"And who's very young and can change his mind."
"Xander," Draco sighed with disgust. He lifted his head. "I'm not leaving. Where would I find someone else who takes care of me, listens to me, and lets me be myself? Or even who spoils me more rotten and gives me my every desire, but one."
"I haven't met one?"
Draco gave him a kiss and smiled at him. "Two more weeks since you're so insistent."
"Hmm." Xander flipped them onto their sides, holding Draco tighter. "I like this sort of stuff."
"As do I," Draco agreed. "I never realized it before but I like the quiet moments the best." Down the hall someone slammed the door and stomped down the stairs. "There went Crabbe. Goyle left ten minutes ago. It must be nearly third."
"Want to go?"
"Hell no. I want to skip today and have lunch on you."
"No, on you," Draco said with a smirk. He came up with an idea. "Xander, until I turn twenty-five, you own me. At the very least, give me that long, all right? I can't escape you. I can't get free of you even if I wanted to. So give us that long and if we suddenly find we loathe each other then you can let me go at that point and I'll have to make my decision. As of this moment, I know I'm not going to leave because you are everything I've wanted in a mate plus some. Would that help you any?"
"Some," Xander admitted quietly. "That's too much like a muggle marriage though. They get divorced all the time these days."
"So they do," Draco agreed. "We're not. I promise you I'm not going through a real divorce. Besides, that's seven years. Within six months we should know if you're having more doubts."
"You don't have a single one?"
"Oh, I have a few. I have one that wonders if I can really contain all your lusty nature or if you'll need more than me to make it normal. I have a few doubts about how things happen and whether or not it feels good. I even have some doubts about being the weaker person in our relationship because I'm used to being dominant. I have no doubts that we will be good together however, nor do I have any doubts about whether I plan on running away from you anytime in the foreseeable future."
Xander gave him a hug. "At least you're honest."
"It's a fault."
Xander laughed. "Only sometimes." He kissed him on the cheek. "We really should eat breakfast."
"We probably should, but I'd rather snack on you at the moment. Last night was... it was like standing in the center of the sun and being glowed upon. It was like liquid gold rushing through my veins and it created this ache I can't seem to get rid of," he said quietly, stealing a kiss.
"I felt that," Xander agreed. "The liquid gold feeling was you taking in my lust and my emotions and just letting them flow through you instead of nibbling on them."
"I didn't feel like I needed to. You're not a real food source or else I'd be having you for breakfast," Draco joked.
Xander grinned. "In a few more weeks, I'll teach you how to do that."
"Good. I could use the lessons."
"You've never been with a guy?"
"I've had that one time where I did one who was already prepared for me. My father made sure I knew what that was like. Other than that, no."
"Hhmm. Virgin territory," Xander said with a wicked grin. "I am known for conquering such places." He stole a kiss. "I'm getting mushy."
"You are," Draco agreed with a smile. "I'm enjoying it if you wanted to continue." Someone knocked on the door. "We're clothed," he called. The door was pushed open and the headmaster was standing there. "I was relieving some doubts of his."
"I'm sure you were," Dumbledore agreed. "You still need to go to lunch." He looked at Xander. "And your mate needs to meet with Professor Flitwick and Methos to see what he can do to help them with a few lessons before you disappear on us for another long weekend."
Draco slid off the bed. "Yes, sir."
"Draco, you're rumpled," Xander told him.
"I've got a spare outfit in the bathroom." He gave him another smile then left them alone.
"He's so young," Xander moaned, covering his head with a pillow.
"He is, but he knows his own mind. His father made sure he never participated in normal childhood things. He's mentally about on the same level as you, only without the battle experience. Do not harm the boy, Alex."
"I'm trying really hard not to," Xander defended.
Dumbledore smiled. "Then I'm sure you won't. Now get dressed and come eat. You'll need it if you're going to fend him off until his birthday."
Xander groaned as he got out of the bed, heading in to take a shower.
The Weasley twins looked up as a familiar owl hooted at them from the paddock fence. They smiled at each other and casually drifted over to take the note. It was only a short note, but it was an important one they knew. Either that or a love missive.
"She can be quite mushy," Fred pointed out, holding it in his hand.
"She can, but I doubt this is that. It's on the wrong paper." George took it and opened it, then burst out in giggles, making everyone look at them.
Fred snatched it to read. "Watch out for him." He looked at the back side. "And the Bane marking." He looked around, then shrugged. "Love note." The other students went back to their grooming duties and Fred looked at his twin. "Which him?"
"Oh, I think I know," George said with a smirk. "Which one man do all the Banes want to have initiated and who's the one who needs protection to keep his virginity intact?"
"Hmm. We need to work on our shielding then. Remember last night?"
"Do I," the other said in disgust. "It wouldn't have been so bad if she had been here, but really!" They went back to their animal, making it shiny and pretty for mating season. They nodded at Hagrid before walking back into the castle and sneaking off to their hidden work room. No one knew it was down here, not even the Marauder's map. They had found it by accident, but it was perfect for them. And it was all theirs! They looked at each other and collapsed laughing, holding onto each other. This was going to be so great!
Upstairs, Xander was showing the fifth year Charms class how to do an illumination charm, a handy thing to have in a dark space. It created a ball of light that floated three feet in front of you and would turn colors if you were in danger if you cast it well enough. The students picked up their wands and tried it, a few of them getting it. One boy's immediately read danger and he ducked away from the students around him, who somehow managed to make something explode. "See, handy," Xander told him with a small smirk. The Professor clapped and walked forward. "Was there anything else you wanted me to teach this group?"
"You could teach them lockpicking but I doubt they'll need it legitimately," Flitwick pointed out with a smile.
"I've got a better one," Ron pointed out. "He taught us how to find a weak spot in a wall." Professor Flitwick looked interested. "Think about how much nicer it'll be when we have to kick our dorm doors in thanks to a sulking roomie."
"Possibly," Flitwick agreed. "I'll ask him what he thinks is appropriate for someone your age to legitimately use." Xander pulled over a scroll and handed it to him with a flourish. "Hmm." He looked at the young man then shook his head. "Impetuous."
"Yup, and stubborn," Xander agreed with a grin.
Flitwick laughed. "Good." He read the list, nodding at a few of them. "All right, after you get back from the auction we'll work on some of these. The rest of you continue to practice. Mr. Longbottom please do not make your book explode again," he said, going back to his seat. This was rather fun. He wondered what Dumass was going to do in Defense.
Xander checked his watch then grinned. "Guys, it's time to go." Harry, Ron, and Draco all left, going to grab their things. "I'll see you guys Monday," he said cheerfully as he too left the classroom. Crabbe and Goyle ran after him, passing him by to get their things too since they had remembered that they were going as extra guards. This was going to be an interesting night, even if he did say so himself.
Later that night, after everyone had been kicked out of the house, the goblins had carted off all the stuff they had bought, and every last artifact that they had was bought, Xander flopped down onto a couch, putting his feet up onto the table. "Let them research it," he told the frowning Ron.
"I am. They've got a whole staff of people to do that stuff," he said with a grin. "The cursebreakers hate relying on them because we get less of a commission for something we can't sell them on, but then again it's usually more ancient that way." He waved a hand. "I'm happy that we sold everything. That means we have a lot less work this year."
"I'm really glad that the swamp was emptied by them," Ron noted, getting comfortable. "There was a lot of stuff we put down there that gave me the creeps." He looked over as the door opened and Draco walked in. "Hey. How are you feeling?"
"Prosperous," Draco said smugly. "You? Feeling different now that your two percent is so large?"
"Definitely," Ron said with a grin. He stood up. "I'll leave you two alone to suck face. You don't need me to watch." He left them alone, only stopping to answer the door. It was Sandburg so he let him in. "You missed a spectacular auction."
"Tip Top did all our bidding for the group," he said with a shrug. "Where's Xander?"
"Sucking face with Draco in the Dark Arts study." They had decided to name it that due to all the defense books in there. "Have fun wielding the pry bar." He trotted up to his room, closing and locking the door. He smiled at the napping Harry, he looked exhausted. He had just sat down and taken off his boots when Draco's power snap went through the house, making both boys groan. "Who did it this time?" he wondered, going down to the study again. He found Draco unconscious on the couch and no Xander. "Sandburg?" he called. He noticed a note and picked it up, frowning at the script it contained. "Draco!" he said coldly. Draco moaned. So Ron shook him. "Malfoy! Someone stole your husband and the note's in old english." He held it out so Draco could read it.
"They've taken him for his own good. He'll be returned for my birthday," he said, his eyes narrowing. He looked at Ron, who shook his head and backed away. "You let them in!"
"I only let in Sandburg," Ron said quickly, running away to lock himself in their room. "The Banes snatched Xander for his own good."
"I guess Draco's going to be getting comfortable with his hand again," Harry noted dryly. Ron looked at him, and he shrugged. "Sorry, couldn't help it." He yawned. "You might want to warn the twins."
"Good idea," Ron agreed, leaning against the door to listen. No one was in the halls. He snuck out and down the stairs, going to the main study. He activated the floo and waited. One of the twins' heads appeared. "The Banes just snatched Xander. Draco's not looking too sane," he warned. The door slammed open and he flinched. "Bye." He cut the connection and looked at the panting young man. "We didn't do it, Draco, and you know they won't hurt him."
"Bet me," he snarled.
"Fine. Snape's upstairs. Go tell him." Draco stomped off, going to do that. "Merlin, that boy's going to kill someone yet," he whined. He went back to his room and locked them in again. He wasn't going out until one of the paintings said it was all right.
Xander woke up in a fluffy bed with thick covers and a few very comfy pillows. Obviously not his and not Draco's bed. He looked up at the ceiling, finding the scrollwork interesting. "What now?" he called.
"We're going to get you back into optimum health," Philip said from the foot of the bed. He opened the curtains, showing most of the Banes standing there. Then he grinned. "Sorry 'bout the rude snatching, but this way Draco has to learn patience. It's not really in him yet."
"He sees it like a pretty picture on the wall, it's an abstract artwork to him," Tip Top agreed. She grinned at Xander. "Besides, we need you here to brainwash you so we can mark you, and then you'll drag your apprentices and your consort with you." She looked smug. "Or else I'll unleash my boys on you."
"Dear, you already have two eighteen-year-old boys, you don't need a single nineteen-year-old," Xander complained, forcing himself to sit up. That's when he noticed he was naked. "Get a good look?"
"Some of us have seen it before," Emilia said with a smile. "I think it's really cute that your scars didn't deage with you." She sat on the foot of his bed, patting him on the foot. "Now, where should we begin? The torture? The brainwashing? The reeducation?"
"The torture," Philip said. "Nick, Blair, bring it in. He needs it." Everyone got out of the way while the two who cooked very well brought in food by the tray-full for him. Then they left Xander alone to eat in peace.
Xander smiled at the door. "You guys," he said with a touch of fondness. Now he didn't need to worry about his control around Draco, they had taken care of everything. Though he wondered if he had any clothes here. Not that he cared if he had to run around naked. That's just the sort of person he was.