Professor Severus Snape had the unenviable task of telling his superior that he had managed to misplace a student after dinner that night. He had no idea where Lovegood had gone, but the standard theory among the other Banes was that she had followed her....men back to help them. He walked up to the Headmaster's office, finding him addressing next year's letters. He cleared his throat.
"Which one didn't come back yet?"
"The others will come back after breakfast, they fell asleep while we were talking," he said quietly. Dumbledore looked up at him. "All except Lovegood."
"And where is she? Did she already come back?"
"No," he said, choosing his words carefully. "We believe we have lost her for an unknown period of time." The Headmaster blinked a few times, then carefully put his pen up and clasped his hands on the desk, looking very attentive. "You know about her...attraction to certain wandless wizards?"
"She did do that ritual?" Severus nodded quickly. "And where might she be now?"
"She would probably be with them, a little over a year in the past. At least that is the present theory." Dumbledore took a few deep breaths. "They had to go back to the time of the battle at the Ministry. She lent them the time turner she's had illegally now for however long so they could get back there. We haven't seen her since the group left."
"So, she's back in time, helping thwart a demonic takeover of the United States?" Dumbledore asked, just to make sure he had it correct. Severus nodded again. He looked around. "You know that show where the muggles try to surprise others with horrid practical jokes?"
"Not particularly," Severus admitted. "This is not that."
Dumbledore took another deep breath. "Fine, we seem to have misplaced a student. I'm sure they'll look out for her?"
"I suppose. She seems to have tamed a chaos sorcerer." Dumbledore blinked a few times. "He's teaching her his sort of magic as well as Miss Summers."
"Oh, dear." He stood up. "Thank you, Severus. I'm sure the girl went without alerting anyone that she was going to do so. Young people are often reckless and usually don't care about the stress they put others through. When might we expect her?"
"I believe that would depend on whether or not she remembered what date it was," Xander said as he walked in. "Which she did. She's being escorted up to Ravenclaw as we speak by Molly Weasley." Dumbledore and Severus both shuddered. "I believe Molly's being a reasonable parent at the moment," he said with a smile. "I don't want to attend next year."
"Alexander, there is every chance that next year we will be attacked directly," Dumbledore pointed out. "You'd be fighting with the other Banes I know, but that leaves your last relatives and your consort here to be guarded by us. What happens if it's a split offensive?"
Xander glared at him. "That's not fair, Dumbledore."
"I know," he said quietly. "But it is the truth. I leave the common sense up to you. It would only be a year and even you might learn something. I might even see fit to put you back into Slytherin so you could be with your consort."
"There is a tradition of not placing a relative under a relative's care while in school," Severus pointed out. "He is my cousin and it would look bad to the Regents."
"No worse than having me come back," Xander argued. "I'm not going up to Gryff. I'd have to deal with a bunch of kids that I'd end up having to hurt for their attitudes. And we both know it."
"Yes, but you'll find much the same thing in Slytherin," Snape told him. "To be honest, I fear many of my students would be joining the battle if it comes here."
Xander sat down with a grimace of discontent. "I'm not going to become a Hufflepuff."
"If you would consider it, you might find yourself a home in that tower," Dumbledore pointed out. "They're very fashionable so your consort could...aid them in their yearn for being the most fashionable."
"Dumbledore, they're like a hippie love-in. If I brought my consort in there, they'd try to share," Xander reminded him.
Snape tried to keep it in, he really did, but he had to let out the snort of amusement. "I'm sure he'd be able to fend them off." He looked at his cousin, who was scowling. "Besides, you could spend a lot of time with your sister, plus you could help...toughen them up a bit."
"You want me in there so I can run defense practices?" Xander asked. "I'm sure I could, but I'd get complained at about broken nails. Especially from some of the guys."
Snape shook his head, still trying not to laugh. He really could see that with some of the older males. "You could also have mass shopping trips. Sneaking them out of Hogsmeade for a weekend."
"Severus, they're happy and nice people. Draco and I are both a little dark for their tastes."
"We could ask them," Dumbledore suggested.
"Draco would kill you," Xander reminded him.
"Consider it a job of protecting the weakest members of the school," Dumbledore suggested. "I'm sure most of Gryffindor that can fight will fight. Slytherin may or may not fight, but they'll make a decision. The Ravenclaws will also fight, if only so they can go back to their studies. Most of those nice boys and girls in Hufflepuff will probably lock themselves in their rooms and cower under their covers."
"Which is where they belong," Xander told him firmly. "None of the kids should have to fight. Especially those who haven't mastered a shield charm yet." He stood up. "Don't even think about it. I'll consider your offer, and staying in Slytherin, but not Hufflepuff." He nodded at his cousin and walked away, going to tell his consort the bad news. The Headmaster was a stubborn old beast. He would probably want to have his own way. He found Draco watching the grounds so he snuck up behind him and gave him a strong hug.
"You smell like the Headmaster's office," Draco said quietly, turning to look at him. He saw the quirky smile. "What do you think changed?"
"Hopefully nothing for us," Xander told him. "If it had, we wouldn't be wondering."
"Hmm." He rested his face against Xander's chest. "I hate this war."
"You and me both," he whispered back, stroking down his back. "What happened?"
"You didn't hear from Methos?"
"No, my charm's not been replaced fully yet. I can only hear you boys. What happened?"
"Someone attacked the town where Sandburg was again." Xander stiffened. "He's fine. He told Methos about it. He and Jim took them out while Simon guarded the rest of the town with the constables." He pulled back and looked up. "We're on alert now."
"So I'll have to come back," Xander said, tracing his cheek with his thumb. "I look stupid in a tie."
Draco smiled at him. "I wish you could teach instead. I'd be considered very naughty for sleeping with you." Xander grinned at that. "I'll hunt down Snape tomorrow and resuggest that idea. I refuse to go live in Hufflepuff for my last year."
"Why would you?" a timid voice asked from behind them.
The couple turned to find a few of Dawn's first year housemates watching them. From the looks of them, they had been going back to their house from the library. Xander gave them a smile. "We think the war's going to be solved next year." A few of them nodded. "The Headmaster wanted you guys protected more."
"Because you're too loud and you bother the Slytherins?" Dawn asked as she joined them.
"That too," Draco agreed dryly. "We're fighting against it now."
The spokeswoman for the first years smiled. "We might not mind. As long as you keep your house from picking on us and you help us pick out our clothes the way you used to do your housemates," she offered.
Another nodded. "It'd be nice to get opinions from guys who weren't seeking favors when we're older. They're kinda biased to make us feel good about whatever we're wearing. That's why I wore that tie-dye outfit."
Draco shuddered. It had been a hideous outfit. "You should never wear yellow with your skin tone, you'll look ill. Plus, no more bright colors like that. Stick with the pastels, not the ones that glow on their own." He nearly hit himself for offering advice to a Hufflepuff. What was he doing?
She smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Dumass. I'll go through my wardrobe and take out that and the other outfit. My mother bought me something that was bright teal." She trotted away, most of the girls following her.
"See, you'd have a position as our fashion guru and helper," Dawn said, giving him a wicked grin. "Plus, you could probably claim a room as your own."
Dumbledore came down the hall, smiling at them. "I can sweeten this deal." He looked at the couple. "If you do this for the school, you will be co-head boys next year." Draco blinked a few times in shock. "That would give you your own room. It would give you unfettered access to the majority of the school with whoever you want accompanying you. As long as you kept it subtle, you could probably even sneak off now and again."
"Or I could teach an elective and do the same thing," Xander pointed out.
"I've asked Professor Flitwick and he didn't think the students needed to know how to break the lock charms, Alexander." Xander groaned and rested against his mate. "It really is the best way. Plus, you would be here to make sure that Dawn did not get involved in the fight and that Harry wasn't exploited by anyone." Dawn nodded at that.
"I could teach one in art," Xander offered. Dumbledore looked at him. "I do know something about the subject, having seen much of it in my life. Especially about jewelry. I could even include the magical paintings like we have."
"A single class wouldn't necessitate you staying here all the time," Dumbledore pointed out gently. "I really would prefer that you had to stay here the whole time, Xander. If an attack does happen here, it would probably be while you were gone and couldn't get back."
"That's what apparating and portkeys are for," Xander reminded him. "Once I have Methos replace my charm...." Dumbledore looked back over his shoulder. "Prof?"
"I was going to remind you that I needed to do so," Methos pointed out as he joined them. "You called, Headmaster?"
"Xander is giving me excellent arguments why he shouldn't have to join us for his consort's seventh year."
Methos looked at Xander, then at Draco and then Dawn. "I suppose it would be helpful to have two decent fighters here," he admitted.
"Professor Snape is an excellent fighter," Draco told him.
"I know, but at that time, he could be used. I'd rather count on the people I know won't be under an Imperius or anything." He looked at Dawn again. Then at Xander. "I can put back on the mark easily, Xander. It would still be helpful to have you here," he said gently.
"I can teach an elective and still be here," Xander pointed out. "I hated school, Methos."
He walked the boy away. "Xander, I know this will be hard. I can promise that we will end this fight as soon as possible, thereby giving you the rest of the year off, pending Ministry paperwork problems," he said quietly. "Because of the way your charm was first broken we're not sure it's going to be very strong with you. Tip Top and Emilia were both very worried about you." Xander slumped. "You being here would be for the best. Having you here all the time would help me immensely and you can help me find a way to enhance the charm if it is weak on you."
"They're going to make us Hufflepuffs," Xander said, begging. "I'd rather teach."
"You have less patience than I do, Alexander," he said with a small smile. Xander gave him a begging look. "Consider how much trouble you and your consort could get into without getting into trouble for it," he said more quietly. Xander slumped more, starting to whimper. "Stop that, right this instant. I know that you don't want to be surrounded by the students who are a cross between hippies and pot smokers, but it will only last for a year."
"And the humiliation would last for eternity."
"Hey!" Dawn protested.
"Mine, not his," Draco told her. "Any Malfoy not put into Slytherin or Ravenclaw is immediately put to death."
"Your father's dead," Dawn reminded him.
"Yes, but I do have other relatives."
Dumbledore looked at him. "When was the last time one of your family wasn't in Slytherin?"
"There was a rash of Ravenclaws among Perseus's sons three generations back. His daughter was put into Gryffindor and had to be expelled because he wouldn't kill her. She was killed by an aunt who felt shamed by her in her third year. Before that, there have been six or seven other victims of the family's honor killings." He shifted a bit. "The Ravenclaw ones are accepted because they'll be the ones to do the obvious things, and to up the family fortunes. The others of us are considered to be living off their brains."
Xander looked at him. "I saw what my Hufflepuff relatives went through and I refused to go there the first time. The hat suggested it in joking and I nearly destroyed it then with my logical arguments why I wasn't going to go there, including how many ways I could kill it while I was sitting there. It decided I was devious enough to be in Slytherin."
"Then you had to become a hero so you got resorted?" Dawn asked.
"That too," Xander agreed, grinning at her. "I was the last student expelled by a unanimous vote of their house. Started by a very jealous girlfriend. She decided me sleeping with her boyfriend was enough reason to state that I wasn't one of them. Even though I was grieving and it was normal to seek comfort, plus her boyfriend came to me of his own free will and offered. She decided grief was an un-Slytherin construct that had to be eliminated before it infected more of them."
"He is also why the procedure is no longer allowed without an administrative consent," Snape told her. "They knocked him out after taking the vote and threw him and his things into the hallway. He was found there by the Headmaster at the time and helped up to the office."
"I only had a small head injury," Xander told him.
"Yes, but you were apparently very pitiful," Snape opinioned. "Otherwise he wouldn't have offered you the comfort of his arms either."
"I didn't take him up on it," Xander defended.
"He tried to sleep with you?" Dumbledore asked. Xander nodded. "I never knew that." He looked at the boys. "It would make everyone feel much safer to have you both in Hufflepuff. We could even make sure your room had an external exit." Xander started to whimper again.
"Stop it," Snape snapped. "Holly's staying as well and pretending to be my apprentice."
Draco felt guilt for the first time in his life and mentally winced at the weight of it. All those nice little people who went on to breed more of themselves would die if they didn't do this. They were easy targets for all sorts of horrible things. He had heard his father talking about how he liked to torture them best because of their natures and breaking them was so much more satisfying. He could imagine what would happen to them if some of his father's friends came here to attack. And it would be their fault for not doing this simple, humiliating task. He looked at his mate.
"Draco," Xander sighed.
"My father said that Hufflepuffs were more fun to break because they had farther to fall," he said simply. Xander winced and hugged him closely. "If Philip lives with this sort of guilt, I feel very sorry for him," he said quietly. Methos snorted and shook his head.
"I don't want to live with them. I know I'll end up snapping at them and making someone cry, which of course I'll feel bad about," Xander told him. "I might even strike one without being able to stop myself."
"We'll stay out of your way," Dawn assured them. "It'll be like a long slumber party." She gave them her best version of the puppy eyes. "Please, Xander? We really do need you to protect us and Draco to straighten out the clothes stuff."
"I'll announce it is for security reasons," Dumbledore assured them. "I can move Miss Granger to Ravenclaw for the same reason. They won't need as much protecting."
"You could put us in charge of them and not make us live over there," Draco suggested. "Make us safety guardians or something."
"You guys have no idea what my house does after curfew," Dawn told him. "And I can't tell you around the teachers. Please? We'd love to have you after that first week." She walked over to hug them. "If you come over, I won't feel like I have to protect them all by myself," she begged. "I'll feel safer and protected."
That did Xander in. He couldn't let Dawn down. He groaned and hung his head, nodding. Draco gave her a hug and nodded as well.
Dumbledore smiled. "Thank you, boys. We'll finalize everything after the spring break. It will start next year but I'll announce it at the leaving feast." He walked away, mentally making notes about what he would need to do to pull this off. First would be to send letters home to the parents. Then he'd have to get Philip and a few others back to help around the school. He'd rather have them where he could see them and find out first-hand about the various skirmishes. This would win the war for their side.
Greg nervously bounced around the healer's office, looking at all the pictures on the walls. None of them were wizarding pictures but they were very nice landscapes nonetheless. He heard the door open and looked back, giving the doctor a look. "Can we try again?"
"Of course. If you'll get onto the table please?" Emilia slid onto the table and pushed up her shirt to expose her stomach. "Thank you, Mrs. Saunders." He flicked his wand at her stomach, mumbling something. It came out with a split decision. He sighed. "You couldn't hold off?"
"I did!" Emilia said warmly. "I'm pushing the bounds of my sanity right now as a matter of fact."
"Isn't there *any* way to tell for sure?" Greg asked.
"I guess it has to be your sperm seeping through her skin," the healer said thoughtfully.
Emilia looked at Greg. "When did we do that?"
"Not since that night you were teasing me and I came before you were ready," he admitted, blushing a bit. "That's been months though."
"No, with her nature, it's seeped through her body, radiating your carnality through her powers and the like," the healer said tolerantly. He pulled in a machine. "I think this is the only way to tell." He looked at them. "Let me look first, then we'll see if I can tell you anything." They nodded, clutching hands while he spread some cold gel on her stomach and turned on the machine. He rested the wand on her stomach, staring intently at the screen. He pushed a few buttons and then shifted the wand again, repeating it. Then he looked at them and flipped a button.
Luna walked into breakfast the next morning tanned, fit, and smiling happily. Her housemates gave her a funny look but that was something she was used to so she didn't really notice anything different. "S'up," she said as she sat down. "How are my homies today?"
One of the seventh years looked at her. "I believe you're using the verb 'sup' in the wrong context," she said gently. "While we are dining, it is not the evening meal, Miss Lovegood."
Luna looked at her and smiled. "It's actually an untraditional, or street lingo, greeting in the United States," she instructed. "Meaning 'what's up' only abbreviated." She smiled sweetly. "So, s'up this morning with my fly women?"
"Are you more mental than usual?" one of the second years asked. Luna shot a look at her and she shrank down. "Sorry, haven't had my morning tea yet," she explained, picking some up quickly to drink.
Luna looked over as Dawn walked in. "Yo, what's up, sweetness?" she called. She noticed the funny looks, but Dawn was grinning at her. "I am the messenger of all happy tidings from your family and all those gringos and gringettes." Dawn came over to accept the letter from her and Luna noticed one of the first years had slipped up to the head table. "So, what's shakin' today, princess? We gonna hit that thing or what?"
"Oh, hell yeah," Dawn agreed with the biggest grin, nearly leering at Ron. "How were the family monsters?"
"Oh, chillin' and cool. You know Spike." Dawn rolled her eyes.
The first year looked back at her housemate, then at the Headmaster. "I believe Miss Lovegood was infected with some sort of odd language curse," she said quietly. "She called us all houses."
"I'm sure she'll be fine soon," Dumbledore assured her with a smile. "Go back to breakfast, my dear." She nodded, going back to her seat. Dumbledore looked down at his Potions master. "I believe you needed to see her anyway, Severus, for some sort of makeup work she was helping Miss Summers with and you are the best at language curses," he said with a faint smile. He wasn't dealing with this.
Professor Snape nodded and stood up. "Miss Lovegood, Miss Summers, please meet me outside the door," he announced, heading that way. They walked out after him, meeting him on the other side of the door. "Miss Summers, Miss Lovegood, this ....slang of yours is distressing some of the younger children," he said quietly. "Please quit before someone wonders why you were calling them a house."
"I called them homies, which means close friends," Luna corrected.
Dawn shook her head. "It was nice to hear normal speech, but he's probably right. You'll give it away, Luna."
"Sorry, we stayed with some friends of Gunn's, some really cool Jamaicans. It's almost second nature to me now." She looked at the Professor. "Did the Headmaster want an account of what we did?"
"Not that he has said, but if you wish to give him one I'm sure he'd find it amusing reading," he told her.
"Good morning, Dawn, Lovegood," Draco said as he walked up to them.
"Someone tipped it over," Luna said with a smirk.
Draco raised an eyebrow and looked to Dawn for a translation. "She means you look like you got some nookie last night," she told him.
Draco still looked confused so he looked at his mentor. "Huh?"
"They think you had sexual relations last night," Snape said patiently.
"Oh." Draco nodded and smirked. "Yes, I did, and it was excellent. Thank you for inquiring." He strolled into the Great Hall, ignoring the dirty looks from the people who hadn't been able to sleep last night. He had slept wonderfully after he had finished. "Morning," he said somewhat smugly.
"Draco," Millicent Bulstrode said, pointing her fork at him, "you kept up the girl's side last night too. Buy a damn gag and learn it's uses."
He chuckled. "I'm sure you'll be fine," he said smugly. "Get used to it." He looked down as Midnight nudged his leg, pulling him up to pet him. "Morning to you as well, young man. Did you have a better night than the fussy things?" Midnight barked and let him scratch his stomach. He saw something off with the dog and decided to fix that as well, making a mental note to find the dog a good Veterinarian later.
"No beasts at the table," Pansy snapped. Draco looked at her. "Yay, put the mutt down or I'm stabbing you myself. You and your heathen consort even kept up the first years last night."
"I enjoyed it," he countered, sneering at her. "If you didn't, then it's not my fault." He put the dog down as Dawn and Luna walked back in, watching as the dog walked over to sit on Dawn's feet, as usual. He loved his mistress and it showed. He dished out some of his food and started to eat.
Pansy stood up and intercepted Professor Snape. "Sir, would you *please* force Malfoy to quit having sex in the house?" she begged. "He kept us up last night. He even kept up the first years and you know they're so far down that it's nearly in another house. Please, make him buy a gag, teach him a silencing charm, teach his mate to tie him down, something?"
Snape gave her an amused look. "What makes you think it was him making noise?"
"Because he was calling his consort's name, Professor Snape. We knew which one was which."
Professor Snape nodded. "Fine, I will have a discussion with him." He looked at Malfoy. "Your noise issues are getting out of hand again," he said as he walked over.
Draco smirked at him. "I enjoyed the hell out of it, sir." He sipped his juice. Goyle took it from his hand and he had to glare at the other boy. "Remember, my consort keeps me from losing my temper and making what happened in the library look like a flirtation with a pretty toy." He saw Goyle swallow and looked at Snape again. "I'm sorry if they were disturbed by the noise. I could have sworn we put on the silencing charm last night."
"I shall make sure that the silencing charm is applied to your door myself," Snape told him, going back to his seat. "Both matters have been solved with simple warnings," he told the Headmaster.
"What was the other?" McGonagall asked him.
"The anti-privacy charms made Mr. Dumass' silencing charm echo last night." She looked stunned, then burst out laughing. "Indeed," he agreed smugly.
"That too shall be fixed next year," Albus noted, cutting his ham into bite-sized pieces. He noticed some of the teachers looking at him. "We are having a meeting tonight just after classes and before dinner. Nothing too serious, just some advanced planning." He ate a bite of ham and watched the students interact.
Greg walked into work the next night and everyone stared at him, looking very expectant. "What?" he asked. "I changed into real clothes, they're not an illusion," he pointed out. He didn't want to remember that night. No laundry at home, nothing in his locker, and they had all gotten hosed by some vile, oily substance. The illusion had gone well but two of his coworkers could see through them. Brass and Nick had not been amused in the least.
"Well?" Catherine asked impatiently. "Is she?"
Greg sat down and gave her a pitiful look.
The Headmaster looked across his student body. It was the traditional leaving feast and once again Gryffindor had won the house cup. The last few months had been quite hectic, making sure everything was ready for the leaving tomorrow, and for the next year to begin. He had impressed his teachers with his need to follow this course of action and they had rallied themselves behind his stubborn nature. Everything was set, now all he had to do was to announce it. He stood up and smiled, waving for attention. The students quieted and looked at him. "Another year comes to an end and some of our alumni are now going into the world," he said calmly. "I congratulate all of you who came this far and have excelled against all obstacles." He took a calming breath. "For those of you leaving, and those of you staying, the biggest obstacle is yet to come, but we believe it too will be solved soon." The students started to babble and he held up a hand. "I assure you, the school is a sacred place and will stay safe, especially since I am doing some things in an extraordinary way next year. Next year, we will have some people who have been fighting for a very long time looking over the security of each house, in addition to the usual Heads of your houses," he told them. He smiled. "As such, Mr.'s Potter and Weasley will look over Gryffindor's security and will report to me any unusual circumstances. Miss Granger will be overlooking Ravenclaw's safety. She may or may not move to that tower as suits her will." The Ravenclaws stared at him in shock. "I felt that she would most fit in with your house and she is very knowledgeable about protection and security issues." He looked at the other two. "The only hard choice was over Hufflepuff and Slytherin. The person who would normally lead Slytherin's defenses is one that I have need of elsewhere at this time. Though he had fought it very hard, it is my decision that Mr. Zabini will lead Slytherin's defenses next year while the usual leader, Mr. Malfoy-Dumass and his consort, will be heading the security over Hufflepuff." He held up a hand at the outraged noises.
"I know this is an uncomfortable decision on my part. The participants had been warned in advance. Mr. Malfoy-Dumass is one of our best in Defense and in protection. Between he and his consort they can easily protect the least defensive of our houses." He smiled at Hufflepuff's table. "I know you do not wish to hear this from me, but your gentle and sweet natures make you a prime target for harassment, as some of you have seen from your fellow schoolmates. Mr. Malfoy-Dumass' consort will protect you from that even as he helps protect the rest of the school." His smile widened some. "Also, this will cure some of Mr. Malfoy-Dumass' outbursts of power that we've seen over the last year. They have vowed to me to protect your house and your selves to the best of their ability, even against their own house if necessary. They fought long and hard to take over Slytherin, but their abilities are better suited to be with your house. You will find Mr. Dumass had relatives in your house and he does understand you. As such, we will be giving them a separate room in your tower so you may call on them for whatever you need and they are close at hand if an emergency occurs." He looked at the Slytherin table. "This also means that Miss Summers will not be the one fighting you if more shenanigans happen next year." They shuddered. "As I said, they have fought long and hard, but I have given the best people I could to each house in case we need them. With all luck, this will only last a year as everyone who is taking over these duties is graduating next year." He smiled and sat down to watch the reactions.
Pansy looked at Draco. "What did you get out of this?" she asked coldly.
"My consort being here full-time, unlimited sex with him, free run to fix the fashion problems in Hufflepuff, and a move up in the Head Boy competition," he said calmly. "We've been arguing for months, since that small attack."
"Hmph. Dumbledore must really be desperate," Blaize Zabini pointed out. He studied Draco. "I'll need to know where everything is. Will you have time tonight or should I pull you back the first of next year?"
"No," Pansy said firmly. "He'll be leaving the house to go to Hufflepuff. He'll be one of them and no longer allowed in our hallowed house. We do not allow Hufflepuffs in there."
Draco sneered at her. "Just because I may reside over there does not mean I shall become one of them," he retorted. "I am still myself, only now I'll have a second kingdom of my own to fix." She looked stunned, apparently she hadn't thought of that. "Even if my clothes change, I am still a Slytherin, the same as my consort is, even though he was kicked out for finding comfort after his family died and resorted as a Gryff. This changes nothing else, Parkinson." He looked at Blaize. "I am packed, I can show you all the hidden shortcuts, but Gregory is also learning that skill. You should lean on him for some of that as well, it would help his training." Zabini nodded at the wisdom of that. He looked at Pansy and Millicent again, sneering at them. "Not only will I and my consort have our own room, plus free access to Hufflepuff, but we'll also have free roam of the castle. He'll be attending next year as well as a precaution." They glared at him, envy shining from their faces. He touched his necklace, his last present from his mate. "I intend to take next year to learn quite a lot that I hadn't had access to before. Plus be spoiled by my consort."
"You absolute dog," Pansy said in disgust. "You going over there makes you treated special. Why can't they punish you like they should?"
He smirked. "Why would they? What could they punish me for? Doing what's in my nature?" She shivered and shrunk down a bit. "Remember, Parkinson, I am still myself, no matter how nice I may be to my consort. You aren't him." He pulled some food over, dishing it up. "Eat, now. Most of you still have to pack," he ordered.
Crabbe looked at him. "What about us, Draco?"
"You'll probably be allowed in our room," Draco assured him. "I'm not forgetting my friends. My consort says he approves of you and Gregory so do not worry." Crabbe smiled. He leaned over. "Besides, he is stronger. I want you to help Blaize." Crabbe nodded. "Excellent." He handed off the next dish to him. A single owl flew in and landed on the table, holding out a lavish looking present. "Well," he said happily, taking it. "Thank you." It hooted and flew off.
"What did he send you now?" Pansy asked bitterly.
"I don't know, I haven't opened it yet," Draco said patiently. He opened the present and smiled, showing off the tanzanite statuette. A pretty blue dragon with a knight riding it.
"No fair," Millicent pouted. "You're getting spoiled rotten by him. Even if we had boyfriends they wouldn't do that to us."
"That's the beauty of an older spouse," Draco said smugly, taking it out to look at it. Underneath was a simple note, 'It reminded me of us.' He put it in front of his plate and continued to look at it throughout dinner. It salved the open wound of being resorted.
Xander walked onto the train and found the Prefects easily enough. "Granger," he said, motioning her back. "Come on, I've got the plans for the train ride up and back in the fall." She looked interested, following him, but playing with something in her pocket. As soon as they had found a compartment, more people joined them. "And these people are?"
"Harry's group, DA," Hermione told him. "Who made the plans?"
"Professor Methos and I," he told her. "Okay." He did a quick head count. Fifteen kids was good enough. "This is even better than I thought. Is each house represented?"
"Not Slytherin," Ginny told him.
"That's fine, I'll give the orders to Zabini and my consort after this." He unrolled a plan. "This is a battle plan for those who haven't seen one before. Those of you in each house, pick one person to lead your house if there's a battle. I want them covering while the rest of you get the remaining students out of the way. The floo at the station is an emergency use only, it doesn't require floo powder to travel." He pulled out slips of paper and handed them over. "That is the floo address to the Department of Mysteries. It is one of the hardest places to get into in the Ministry and it'll keep the main floo lines open for anyone who wants or needs to use it for travel to the battle. Even if the Ministry itself is under attack, that is the safest place and they can evacuate the students to an emergency meeting place." Everyone nodded. "Good." He pointed at five of the students. "I want you five to be the last through. Pick up any stragglers. Pick up the crying first years, especially if this is on the way up." They nodded. He pointed at another three. "You three man the floo. Hermione, you set it, you guard until everyone is going. Then I want you to guard Ginny and Luna while they remove Dawn back to my house. Dawn either goes first or last, or she flooes from the Ministry. You don't reset it once it's set, you just shove people through. Got it?" They all nodded. "Good." He rolled the plan back up. "The rest of you, help hunt and round up the students while providing cover. I know my great-nephew has hopefully taught you a lot, I'll be teaching more next year from the more ancient defense texts. Things that you'll be able to use easier." He looked at Luna. "You, I want you to use your wand, not the other sort. Using wandless will wear you out faster and we'll need your heft." Luna nodded. "Hermione, you, Ginny, and Luna are to protect Dawn at all costs. She is a powerful witch and therefor a secondary target once she's noticed."
"Why is she so strong?" one of the males in the back asked.
"Dawn grew up on the Hellmouth. Hellmouths are a mish-mosh of energy, mostly chaotic. Anyone who stays there for more than a few weeks get a bit tainted by it and most of them have trouble doing anything. Since Dawn was born and raised there, her powers increased because it's natural for her to be that way. She is a very strong witch and she'll want to help, but I do not want her fighting because as soon as anyone sees how powerful she is, they'll try to take her."
"Which would be really bad," Ginny agreed. "We'll protect her. What about your consort?"
"Draco will be guarding your backs as you leave and he'll be making sure the Slytherins are going as well. I know we won't get all of them to go and some of them may end up on the wrong side of the battle, but I trust each of you to be able to handle defensive and emergency procedures. Got it?" They nodded. "Good, dismissed." They filed out.
Neville Longbottom hung back. "Will this really be necessary?" he asked quietly.
"I hope not, Neville. He tried it the first war and didn't win, but he's been following his old plans. These plans are in place for each train ride until you graduate, and if the war's still going on, I'll be picking new people next year to take your places." He nodded. "I really hope we're overreacting but the irrational bastard had put out feelers about an attack. We don't know if there are real plans, if this is a feint, or what. But I will be prepared and I will not lose any students." He nodded, looking relieved. "Go back and get cuddles. You could probably use them."
Neville blushed. "That would require someone to cuddle," he mumbled as he left.
Xander grinned at the boy's back, then went to find his consort and Zabini. He found them huddled together, taking over the house's defense. "That's easy. There's a back way out of the school through the tapestry in the second year girls' bathroom," he told them. They looked at him, Draco smiling and touching something in his pocket. "You evacuate through it. The password was reset last night to Fortuitous Blunder. Only you two and Severus know it. That way people can get out but not in." They nodded, looking happier about that. He walked closer. "I've got the battle plans for a battle at the station. If it happens, Zabini, I want you to gather the students. The floo at the station is an emergency one and doesn't require powder to use. Use this address," he said, pulling another copy of the address out and handing it to them. "That goes to the Department of Mysteries and is the biggest pain to get into, even if they're under attack themselves." Zabini nodded. "Good boy. Draco, I'm afraid I'll need you guarding the exit and making sure Dawn and her three guardians go, even if you have to shove Granger through it yourself after Dawn is gone. Those three are to stay with Dawn and you can catch up. If we have to evac from the station, she either goes first, goes last, or goes with everyone and then leaves for the house from there. That option is fine. Don't reset the floo unless it's necessary, it wastes time."
"Yes, Xander." He gave him a hug. "I'll help you protect Dawn and follow after her guardians." He relaxed. "Dawn will be my priority, even in front of you." He looked up, slightly, and grinned. "Good enough?"
"Excellent." He stole a kiss.
"What happens if they attack us after the train is moving?" Zabini asked.
Xander sighed, wrapping his arms around Draco. "Then we may simply be screwed. The simplest means of taking out the train is either to blow a bridge under us, or to use an exploding charm to derail it. At which time, the cars will also go off the tracks and probably tip over, which will probably hurt or kill a great many students." Zabini swallowed. "If that happens, you evacuate all you can and let the Ministry know. If you know how to apparate, get everyone moving. Those that have portkeys should use them at that point. If you have to, do a quick and informal 'focus on the Leaky and say 'Apparatum' lesson."
"We were taught the newer one," Draco pointed out.
"Yeah, but that one needs more focus. It's safer, but even if you're splinched you won't die immediately. Your body is basically put into a semi-static state so you don't die from the blood loss or loss of important organs while some of you is elsewhere. I don't know if the killing curse will work while you're splinched but it's better than nothing. The Apparatum charm takes less focus and is easier to use when you're panicking. Also, you can move more than one person if you have to and sometimes, if you're strong enough and focused enough, you can use it like a banishing spell to move someone else once or twice." He looked at Zabini again. "If we're attacked while the train is moving, get everyone to the Leaky. Most of them can floo home from there, Tom can get the aurors and help as quickly as necessary, and the alley has multiple escape hatches as well. Though, that is very good thinking and you deserve points. Remind me next year when we're supposedly going to be head boys together."
"I thought you only moved up in the standings," Blaize said archly.
Draco shrugged. "Dumbledore promised us but there's always the chance that he'll forget. If he does, expect to hear me ranting on the way up." He grinned. "Of course, I'm sure Xander will calm me down."
"I had better if we're going to be moving in things that night," Xander pointed out. "I've seen our room. It's a nice size with older furniture."
"What are you moving in?" Zabini asked.
"My desk. A bookcase. A special wardrobe that I found at an auction years ago," he said smugly.
"You bought that?" Draco asked. "My father used to whine about losing to you; he whined for years about that."
"It's better it goes to me than to someone like him anyway," Xander reminded him smugly. "Any news from your family?"
"I owled them all about the upcoming switch and why. My mother said she understood and I was safe from her. One of my uncles was not pleased but he expected me to rule the house with an iron first and to fix them so they were normal wizards. The one aunt I haven't heard from yet probably will try to kill me but I'm sure we'll be fine." He grinned. "Don't worry if you have to kill her, I won't miss the old bat."
Xander chuckled. "I'll only hurt them in your defense," he promised. He stole another kiss. "Buffy's coming back this summer. That way we don't have to live in the oppressive sweltering that is summer in LA."
"How bad does it get?" Zabini asked.
"Well over a hundred, plus humidity," Xander told him. "With very bright sun."
"I'd burn simply looking out the window," Draco told him. "Last summer was cool and it was like how I imagined Hell to be. We could only work at night because of the heat."
"You should try the desert. It was ninety when I went to work that dig," Xander told him. "Be thankful we're not going to Texas."
"Oh, I am," Draco assured him. "Or Mexico. We went there once when I was five. I still remember getting so badly burned I had to live in the bathtub for five weeks." Zabini looked impressed. "The heat was so impressive I remember it more than anything except the sun poisoning I took." He looked at his mate. "Should we commandeer this carriage for our own use?"
"Sure," Xander agreed with a leer. "Because when we get home, Des is going to bitch at us for not having kids yet. Again."
"She needs to find another topic of discussion," Draco noted, looking at Zabini. "Out," he said patiently.
"This one is mine," he protested, smirking at them. "Go sit with Hufflepuff."
"They're having their own leaving feast," Xander told him.
"Food?" Zabini asked, sounding hopeful.
"Not unless they're using it as sex toys. Which you can do but I doubt they've gotten that far yet."
"Okay then, I think I'll go sit with the Prefects. Please leave my trunk and owl alone," he said as he walked past them, shutting the door behind himself. Then he reopened it and pulled the shade before closing it again. He heard the lock engage and shook his head. Those two were like bunnies or some over-sexed magical creatures during rutting season. He went to check on the other Prefects, nodding at them. "Did he give you the instructions, Granger?"
"He did," she said calmly. "You?" He sat across from her and nodded. "What are they doing now?"
"Rutting in my compartment. They said they didn't want to break in on the Hufflepuff goodbye." She looked confused and he shrugged. "Malfoy's consort said they were having some sort of orgy."
"Eww." She shuddered. "That is sickening."
"With the way those two go at it, they'll be welcome in Hufflepuff," he told her. "They've actually kept up the first three years and their rooms are intentionally put farther down in the house so the uppers can't harass them."
"Really?" He nodded. "That's interesting. Ours are up and down the hall on a single floor."
"Our uppers have a different staircase. The lower three years all have their own section so they can feel safer against the bigger bullies. It keeps initiation rituals down to a minimum." He got comfortable. "Do you know Ravenclaw's exit strategy yet?"
She nodded. "Definitely. They've got a special floating platform. Yours?"
"A special portal to the outside," he told her. "I hadn't known."
"I hadn't either. I wonder what Gryffindor has."
"I'm sure Potter and Weasley will find it and tell you," he promised smugly. She frowned at him. "Not in with them as tightly?"
"I am, but I believe we're keeping the location secret from each other, just in case."
"A good idea, one worthy of my house."
"No, that's more from a lot of experience," she told him. "These things never go the way you plan."
"I heard your last real battle didn't go as planned," he noted. "Though, did we ever hear if Black did die?"
She nodded. "He passed through the veil." Harry walked in and she shut up.
He gave her a hug. "No he didn't. There was an interference. I got a letter from Cordy. He's staying in LA to help them since the Ministry doesn't have any power over there," he whispered in her ear. He sat down next to her. "How's your strategy going?"
"We've got an exit point. You?" He nodded. "How? Generally of course."
"Hidden walkway behind the fireplace and the stairs. They both come out outside. You?"
"Floating platform," she told him.
"Exit through a tapestry," Blaize told him.
Harry nodded, looking content with that. "Hufflepuff's got a hidden exit through the floor from what Xander mentioned. He found it with Dawn last night." He nudged Hermione gently with his shoulder. "You called DA together?"
"Exit plans for an attack on the station." She looked at Blaize. "Did you ask about what would happen if the train was moving?"
"Dumass thinks that it'd be a bit more bloody due to the train derailing or falling off a bridge," Blaize told her. "We're to take any survivors back to the Leaky by apparation or portkey. Leave anyone unable to move so the rest can get help and bring it back." She didn't look happy but nodded. "If we're under fire, we won't have time to gather each and every student, check them over, and then take them. He suggested the Apparatum charm. We won't get fined or shouted at for apparating under those circumstances."
"That would be more sensible," Hermione agreed. "It takes less focus according to the books and most of us know what the Leaky looks like or even just focusing on Tom. Plus we could take others."
"We've got to learn how to make portkeys," Harry reminded her.
"I've got the book in my trunk and I'll send you a scroll with the process later this week," she promised.
"Thanks, Hermione." He grinned at her. "Where are you traveling to this summer?"
"We're staying in town. I told my parents I needed to stay closer in case something happened. They agreed after writing me a stern letter about being careful and complaining that I hadn't told them anything."
"Molly said we could come over the last few weeks as usual," he told her. "Or the whole family could come and stay with Xander and I."
"And Draco," Blaize put in.
"Anymore, it's like there's only one of them in two bodies," Harry pointed out. "Where is my uncle?"
"Having sex in my compartment," Blaize told him. "Ron?"
"Having sex in his compartment."
Blaize snorted. "Maybe the Dumass' matriarch won't have to lecture you guys about having children after all."
"No, she'll do it anyway," Harry told him. "That's why she sent Holly to Snape." Blaize's mouth fell open. "Apparently the Dumass and the Snape families are flip-sides of the same coin. She's going to try and force your head of house to mate with her sometime soon."
"I'm all for careful bloodline management, but that's ridiculous," Blaize pointed out. Harry nodded. "Has she picked out someone for you?"
"No, she only nags me and suggests various ways to have Xander produce an heir. She knows I won't even think about it until after the war is over with."
"There are many pretty younger daughters among your new friends," Hermione pointed out.
"Yes," Harry sighed, "but they're like my extended family now and I'd hate to think about that." He suddenly blushed. "Besides, when we shared memories, I picked up some of the memories of how they came to be."
"You shared memories?" Hermione asked.
"Oops." He pulled his wand. "Sorry, Blaize, Hermione."
"No, that's all right. I'm sure it was the rules and stuff," Blaize said quickly. "I don't know anyone in your little group."
Xander strolled in and kissed Harry on the top of the head. "You shouldn't have told, but they don't know anything else." He subtly slipped him something then looked at Hermione. "Did you want to ask to join?"
She shook her head. "Not really, no."
Harry pushed the button as soon as Xander had left, letting the orb go off. It erased the last ten minutes and any information on that subject from their minds. He felt a nudge against his mind and threw up his shields but the person on the other side forced their way in and gave him back what he had lost. That's why he clutched his forehead and groaned.
"Already?" Hermione asked.
"No," Harry ground out. "Legimancy headache." He looked over at her. "Snape, testing me."
She opened her carry-on and pulled out a small carpet bag, looking inside until she found a bottle marked 'headache medicine.' "Here, Harry."
"Thanks, Hermione." He drank it quickly and listened while he was chewed out, accepting his headache and his punishment from Methos. He did deserve it.
Xander walked everyone into the house with their trunks and the weekly shopping. "We're back," he called. He surrendered the bags to the house elves, watching as they carried them off.
Grandma Des walked out of the Dark Arts study. "Good, go work in the garden. Sandburg planted something in my garden for defensive purposes but I can't identify it and it's ugly. The poor deluded boy thinks we needed it."
"You have chores?" Draco asked his consort, looking amused.
"No. And I don't get on well with gardens anyway," Xander told him. He looked at his grandmother. "Ugly or not he was trying to help. Besides, we just got back. We'll identify it later."
"Grandmother, consort, just barely home, I had other plans," he pointed out gently.
"Fine, I'll go have sex with Draco in the garden then," he told her, walking that way. "I do not uproot defensive plants, no matter how ugly they are. Put a pretty bush around them. Maybe you can help Dawn in Herbology while you're at it."
Dawn chuckled. "Forgive him, he only got some once on the train," she told her with a bright grin. "I can help you plant a few bushes if you want. I really could use the help in Herbology. I feel like I'm letting the house down by not being great in there."
Des pulled her closer for a hug. "I'll help you with that, Dawn. Alex could probably look at the plants and kill them. He gets it from his mother." She led the girl into the study, where Blair was sitting. "Go remove that plant from my garden," she told him.
He grinned at her. "Nope. It'll keep Xander and Draco from having sex in the garden."
Des laughed at that. That was a use she could stand. "I'll leave it there then. What is it?"
"Devil's Snare, an older plant of it. I'll be adding some other defensive plants as well between the flowers and around the edge of the beds, but I'll try for prettier."
"Thank you, Blair." The poor boy had been run out of his village for protecting them so she had let him and his family stay with them, she could be patient with the boy for a bit longer. "Would you like to help him, Dawn, or me?"
"Either's fine. I know Buffy's coming up in a few weeks for a visit, if that's okay. Xander said it was."
"We don't mind that one at all," Des assured her, giving her a hug. "We mind the broody, dark one, but we don't mind your sister, dear." She led her into the kitchen, where she and Simon had been cooking together. "Do you have anything for the starved darling? The food on the train is pretty thin and usually just treats."
"Of course." He smiled at her. "Hello, Dawn, I'm Simon. I'm Blair's significant other." She gave him a hug. "Thank you." He gave her a pat on the back. "Where are the other boys?"
Dawn pulled back. "Ron had to go home. Harry went for a nap. Xander and Draco are having sex in the garden," she reported. He grimaced. "I'm sure they told your son not to watch."
He laughed. "That's not a problem. Daryl's at school for another week. I'm more worried about sunburn."
"Xander tops," Des told him with a negligent shrug.
"Besides, it'll give them a chance to baby each other," Dawn saith a grin. She took the sandwich the nice, tall, handsome African American man gave her. "Thank you, Simon." She sat down at the table to eat. "What happened? Are we having another meeting?"
"No, the town we were in decided we were the cause of the attacks so they politely asked us to leave," Simon told her. He looked down the hallway. "Are we going to have to move Jim into our room?"
"Heavens no," Des told him, giving him a pat on the arm. "We have a whole wing we don't use."
"Where?" Dawn asked. "Xander said he only had one side of the house put up."
Des winked. "We'll be fixing that tonight. We'll probably need the space sometime soon." She heard a bellow and looked outside. "Well, Blair's ugly plant did what it said. It just stabbed Alex in the rear to make him quit having sex in the garden." Dawn snorted her milk, making her cough. "Sorry, precious, calm down. Remember that for when your young man comes over. That's what the gazebo is for." Dawn nodded, looking very serious.
Simon shook his head. "Your family is insane. That didn't stop Xander at all."
"No, nothing stops his champion stud libido. I wish he would use it for the natural processes as well as dinking his consort but that's life I suppose."
Someone Dawn hadn't seen yet walked into the kitchen. "Hi. Which one are you again?"
"Hello, Dawn. I am Melanorma. It's a family name," she shared with a small smile. She walked outside. "Alex! You're giving me nightmares with your puny dick and your inability to keep the world from knowing how bad you use it. If you can't have sex like everyone else and leave them unconscious, you won't get it from practice. So please stop it!" She walked in and slammed the door. "Puny asshole." Her grandmother patted her on the back. "He is."
Xander flung open the door and grabbed his sister to pummel. "You take that back! He demanded. "I am a very good lover, as shown by half the world having been satisfied by me." She fought him back but he was bigger.
"Kids," Simon said patiently. "Xander, you're leaving your lover to lounge in the sun without you."
Xander looked up, flipping some of his hair back over his shoulder. "He told me to come defend my honor against the virgin whore." He let her up and kicked her in the leg. "Nasty snort faced pig." He went back to his consort, soothing him from the insults his little sister had given them.
Dawn looked at her. "At least you two love each other."
Mel shook her head. "I've always hated Alex. He's a glory hog and he refused to play dollies with me when we were little."
"He was four years older than you," Des reminded her. "Get over it already, Mel." She sighed and stomped off. "Sorry you had to see that, she's having a bad reincarnation." She looked outside. "Alexander!" He lifted his head. "Do not insult your sister that way, I'll tell your father."
"She's the one who went after every virgin to try and prove me up. I didn't go looking for them, they came for me," he retorted, using his wand to slam the door again. "There, finally alone again," he said with a leer.
"Which one was that?"
"Mellie, my younger sister by four years. She's usually not such a bitch, she must think I'm capable of sharing you." He stole a kiss. "Should we go sit by the pond?"
"We have a pond?"
"I never showed you the gazebo and the pond?" He pulled his consort up and grabbed their clothes, leading him that way. They didn't have any neighbors, they could walk around naked if he felt like it. Something finally dawned on him and he looked back at the house. "She wasn't alive before."
Draco patted him on the arm. "I'm sure your grandmother was doing her best to repopulate the family," he soothed. Xander nodded and continued to lead him to the nice wooden gazebo, one which had padded benches. Very sturdy and wide padded benches. It also had a marvelous view of the west, so they could watch the sunset after they were done.
George accepted the scroll his mother gave him when she came out of the fireplace with a smile. "The family tree?" She nodded. "Thanks, mum. Did it update itself yet to have new spaces?"
"It did," she told him, watching as he walked it back to the counter to look at it. It was after hours at the store and they were still wondering about whether it was twins or not. She smiled as he unrolled it and froze. "You didn't expect it?"
"No, not in the least," he told her. He looked at her. "This is one hundred percent sure?"
"It always has been," she told him. "It updates at the end of the first trimester, after the risk of miscarriage falls." She looked at the two spots, one in red, one in green. "Hmm." She smiled at him again. "Are you excited?"
"Well, this definitely means more shopping and that's never made me happy, but I'm definitely starting to like thoughts of being a father." He grinned at her. "Fred is presently spoiling her rotten by taking her out to dinner." He looked at the scroll again. "Mum, where's Ginny's name?" She sighed and he stared at her. "Is she all right?"
"No, son, she's fine. She's presently napping on the couch." She leaned on the counter. "A long time ago, we had a delivery on our doorstep, the same way Harry's relatives did. We were never sure who the parents were, but we did take her in as ours."
"That's why the Ministry didn't need you to fill out more paperwork?" She nodded. "Does she know this?"
"No, son, she doesn't. I've never told her." She patted his hand. "We weren't going to either, unless it becomes a necessity." He nodded, understanding how that would destroy his baby sister. "Most Weasleys are incapable of bearing girls. There's only seven on that scroll to date. Weasley women are very rare. As a matter of fact, the last family meeting I called, before the baby incident, was to inform them of Ginny's presence. She looks enough like us but she's not one of ours naturally."
"And we never found out who?"
She shook her head again. "I never really looked, son. Ginny is our daughter. Someone wanted her to be our daughter and we've loved her ever since she came to us as an infant." She stood up. "If you need help with names, I think Ron had a few that he wanted to spread around."
George snorted. "If he's not careful, he'll need them himself," he pointed out. He rolled up the scroll and checked his attire. "I'm going to bring this to Fred. Thanks, mum." He kissed her on the cheek.
"Don't tell him, George, he'll give it away. You were always better at keeping secrets." She gave him a pat on the hand. "If you need any help, let me know." He nodded and she left.
He considered it but it didn't really phase the way he saw Ginny. She was theirs by raising if nothing else. He walked out, making sure to lock the door and set the alarm before heading to the restaurant where his twin and their wife were eating. He smiled at the hostess, who looked a bit confused. "I'm the other one," he told her as he walked past her. He could hear Fred talking about giving their tots flying lessons. "That'll get tiring if they fly off in different directions," he said as he walked up to them. Fred frowned at him and George held up the scroll. "The family tree."
Tip Top snatched it to look at it. "Oh, shit, two slots," she said. Fred stood up to look at it, then noticed the different colors. She looked at her boys, then smiled a watery smile. "Thank you, George."
He gave her a hug and a kiss. "You're welcome, love. Remember, I get you when you come home."
"George, why isn't Ginny on here?" Fred asked.
"I'll tell you some other time," George promised. "It's a longer and interesting story. Mum just shared it with me." He patted his twin on the head. "She said Ron's got some names and offered to help us shop for more stuff." Fred looked at his twin. "Apparently Weasley women are rare beasts," he told him, leaving to give them their time alone. He went to get a sundae for dinner while he thought and made plans of his own.
"Rare beasts, what does that mean?" Fred muttered as he looked at the scroll. "There only seven girls slots on here," he told her. "And someone in the past had a hard time with names."
She laughed and took it to roll up and put into her purse. "We'll figure out names later. We've still got to make plans for Emilia's shower."
"If she's pregnant."
Tip Top gave him a look. "I'm pretty sure she is. She was a little unhappy with food the last time I saw her."
Fred leaned across the table and gave her a kiss. "Then we'll do wonderful stuff while we plan on how to thwart those who would want one of our beloved children and hers to get together."
Tip Top thought about that. "That would be one explosive relationship."
"Hmm. Indeed," he agreed, smirking at her. He suddenly had the naughtiest thought and reached under the long tablecloth to play with her leg. She swatted at his hand but he grinned and continued. "I think we should celebrate this announcement."
"Please, not in the Xander and Draco way," she pleaded. "Not in public."
"I'd never do that to you, Tipsy," he vowed. "I don't want anyone to be able to admire what we get to see nightly." She laughed and his hand shifted up, making her voice go up suddenly. "Ask for a box, love."
"Waiter," she called quietly, holding up a hand to flag one down.
"We've got to tell her, Arthur," Molly said quietly.
Ginny walked into the kitchen, having been listening. "Tell me what, mum?"
Arthur shrugged and shook his head. Molly gave him a look and he eventually nodded. So Molly called in the spare copy of the family's tree. "Dear, sit." Ginny did so, looking attentive. She unrolled it in front of her daughter. "Do you notice anything?"
Ginny found the current family easily enough, they were the widest part in a few generations. "Mum, I'm not on here," she told her. She looked up. "Are you disowning me?"
Molly sat next to her, giving her a hug. "No, dear, we're not disowning you. You're on the official, larger family tree. This is the birth tree." Ginny still looked confused.
"Dear, you...." Arthur slumped a bit more. "You were a wonderful surprise, Ginny, and we feel as if you are truly ours. Even if we never gave birth to you."
"I'm a foundling?" she asked, shocked to the core. Molly nodded. "But... but my hair and all that stuff!"
"I know, dear, and I'm not sure how, but you're very like us. We've never tried to look for your birth family. You've been ours since we found you on our doorstep in that little wicker basket." She touched her daughter's flushed cheek gently. "As far as we're concerned, you are our daughter. You were born while the older ones were at school so they never noticed. Percy was too young to remember you as anything other than his little sister."
"Weasleys have never really had a lot of daughters," Arthur told her. "It's very rare we have one in a generation. It had been three before you were given to us and we were more than happy to have you."
"That's what the auror meant by you having paperwork on file at the Ministry," Ron said from the doorway. Molly looked at him and nodded. He shrugged. "Okay. Shit, she was raised one of us, she might as well be one of us," he told her. His mother soaped his mouth for him and he ran for the sink.
"Your mother and I feel the same way," Arthur assured her. "We've wanted you since we saw you, Ginny. There was never any choice but to keep you. Your mother and I never even considered giving you up to the authorities."
Ginny still looked shocked. "Did you keep anything from the basket?"
"We kept the whole thing," Arthur promised.
"Why wait this long?" Ron asked now that his mouth was clear.
"Because we weren't going to tell her at all but George got tired of waiting on test results and asked to see the family tree earlier. He noticed it and we'd rather she heard it from us," Molly told him.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Ginny noted, hurrying to the bathroom.
"Leave her, mum," Ron advised quietly. "Ginny likes to think on things. Then she'll come in and yell or ask more questions. She does it at school all the time." She looked so sad so he gave her a hug. "It's all right. None of us will give a damn. We changed too many of her nappies for that." He walked away before his mother could soap his mouth again.
Molly frowned at his back. "I will stop that problem of his yet."
Arthur chuckled. "It proves we raised him right, Molly. Even if he did sound vulgar and under-educated." He patted her on the hand. "She'll probably want someone else to talk to, some sort of sounding board, first."
"If she wants, she can have a few friends over tonight," Molly agreed calmly. She stood up and went to tell her daughter that, helping by holding her hair out of the way while she got sick. "It's all right, Ginny. Ron said you were one of us. The older ones won't see you any differently. If they do, we'll smite them quickly." She grabbed a washcloth and wet it, handing it to her daughter. "You can call a few of your friends over if you want."
"Yeah, I might," Ginny told her. She looked up. "Or could I go visit Luna? So I could go think without having to listen to you and Ron fighting about his clothes obsessions?"
Molly chuckled, dropping a kiss onto the top of her head. "Go ahead. Brush your teeth first." Ginny nodded, accepting the help up and to the sink. "We're here whenever you want to talk to us or ask us questions."
"Thanks, mum. I'm sure I'll have plenty of them once I'm not in shock."
"I'd be shocked too. Being adopted by those loony brothers of yours as some sort of mascot," she teased, pinching her on the cheek. Ginny nodded and Molly left her alone, going back down to talk to her youngest son to make sure he wouldn't tell anyone else until Ginny was ready. She found the simple wicker basket sitting on the table and looked at her husband. "Is the letter in there?" He nodded. "Thank you, Arthur." Ginny walked down the stairs. "Your father thought you might like to look at the things that came with you," she said calmly.
Ginny nodded and took it with her to Luna's house. Luna's father looked over from his desk. "Hi. I need Luna really badly. I need common sense and a friend."
"Of course. Which one are you again, young lady?" He stood up and steered her to a couch. "What a pretty basket."
Ginny looked at him. "I just found out I came in it," she told him.
"Ah." He smiled at her. "Give me a moment to find her, young lady." He went to find his daughter, who was reading in her room. "Luna, one of your friends is downstairs holding the basket she came in."
"I thought you said the stork didn't deliver us, father." He didn't answer so Luna put down the book to look at him. "Which friend?"
"Young, red hair, pretty face. Fairly shocked. She said she needed some common sense and a friend."
"That sounds like Ginny," she said, putting on her slippers so she could find her. She found Ginny in the spot her father had left her. "Ginny?" Ginny jumped at the sound of her voice and started to cry. "Shh, none of that," she soothed, helping her friend back up to her room, basket and all. "What's going on?" she asked once they were in her room.
"I was left on my parent's doorstep," Ginny cried. "They told me tonight so the twins couldn't." She handed over the basket. "I came in that."
"Well, they obviously wanted you enough to keep you," Luna told her. "Otherwise you wouldn't be a Weasley." Ginny looked at her, looking sure that she had all the answers. "Come on, cuddle up with me and we'll chat," she promised, settling Ginny in beside her to hold her while she cried. Men wouldn't understand this and her stallions could wait on her. She used her wand to send a message on the system they had worked out. 'Ginny crying, needs me, be over later.'
Fred joined his twin in the kitchen on their midnight raid of the fridge. "So?" he asked.
"Ginny was found on the doorstep and I wasn't supposed to tell you," George told him, handing him the bologna.
"Hmm. Interesting." Fred handed back the mustard so his twin could use it. "She doesn't know?"
"No." They switched cheeses to use both sorts.
"Mum still thinks I can't keep a secret?"
"Not at all," George agreed with a grin for him. He handed over the sandwich he had made for their mate. For some reason, he knew what she was craving before she did.
Fred got her some juice because he knew she'd be thirsty. "I assume mum and dad told her by now. That way we couldn't let it slip to her. Poor thing, we'll have to prove to her that she's a real Weasley."
"What an excellent idea," George agreed with a smirk. "However shall we do that?"
"By making her life miserable in the finest Weasley fashion of course," Fred retorted. "Just like we did to Ron."
"Maybe she's a lost princess," Luna offered as she led Hermione down to the Hall of Records in the Ministry's older building. "Hello," she said brightly. "I'm researching a potential match for my brother. This is all we have on her birth," she said, handing over the letter and the blanket with the initials on it. They had found that last night when she and Ginny had examined everything.
"I doubt they'd put a princess on her parent's doorstep," Hermione pointed out. The records keeper looked at her. "We know she was adopted."
"You'd best try the second door on the left," the keeper said, handing Luna everything back. "All the adoption records are in there and they're required to have parental information."
"Even if the adopting parents didn't know?" Hermione asked. The keeper nodded. "Thank you." They headed that way, finding the second door easily. Inside were two large books on a table. "Which one first?"
Luna looked at the spines. "This one," she announced, patting the second one. "This one's for the last twenty years." She flipped it open carefully, paging back to the right spot. They found Ginny's quickly, it was alphabetical by month and year. "There's nothing," she said.
Hermione looked at the spots. "Unkown," she noted. She considered it. "Let me get the keeper."
"She probably wouldn't know."
"No, but she might know who to ask," Hermione pointed out, walking out to talk to her. "We found the correct record, it's listed as unknown," she said quietly.
The record keeper looked up at her and nodded. "Virginia Weasley's record then." She stood up. "No one ever found a thing about it. We looked for months but we had to settle for that in the end."
"There's no clue other than the blanket and the letter?" The keeper shook her head. "Could that initial be a family name?"
"We checked, young lady. We couldn't find a thing."
"Thank you. Is her birth date right, do you know?" The woman nodded. "Thank you for your help." She went to gather Luna and took her to the nearest muggle library, getting them signed onto the internet. The British government had put all historical records on computer so they were searchable a few years back, she remembered reading about it. "Let's try the muggle side. If they didn't find anything among us, then there's probably a good reason." She typed in the name, but didn't get anything. So she tried the birth date. That got her over a hundred results. She sorted them by gender, ending up with twenty girls.
"If they gave her away, they might have hid her records," Luna pointed out. "Never filed it or something."
"Some of these come directly from the hospitals," Hermione told her, looking at each one. She called up a more extensive view then went to pay for the copy she had printed. She came back with the paper and sat down, looking at each one. "I think we can put a few more off the list by race," she noted, crossing some off. She went back to the computer screen and removed them from her list. That left five. None of which were born anywhere near the Burrow.
Luna had a sudden burst of insight, wrong or not. "She could be like Xander," she pointed out.
"Wouldn't she have memories?" Hermione asked. Luna shrugged. "Who would know?"
"I think we should ask my father," she put forth. "He knows a lot about this sort of thing and he has an archive of old papers."
"Good point." Hermione signed off, then signed back on and did a global search for people-finding agencies. The sort who combed through records to find people for you. She filled in what little she had to give them and paid for it with her mother's debit card. She had said it was permissible. They promised a report in five days by mail. "That should help some too, just in case." She gathered up everything and they left to go back to Luna's house.
Ginny was still asleep, put into that state by Luna last night. She really couldn't stand it when people cried around her.