The Next Great Wizard

"Ron, you've been messing up the birth control potion!" Xander yelled, making Ron jump and give him a horrified look.  "Ethan told Sev.  He's teaching her the correct method now.  I suggest that your streak of luck continues and that she *never* *EVER* get pregnant, Ron."

"No, never, Alex," he said, eyes wide.  "Oh, Merlin," he muttered.  "I've been buying mine already made," he promised.  "I know I can't make one to save my life, Alex.  I promise I'd never knock up your little sister until she wants a kid."

Draco cleared his throat, then grabbed Ron by the balls.  "I suggest that you remove even the thought of a child between you from your head. I have enough problems with you dating my little sister and possibly having sex with her.  I do not need details," he said, squeezing harder, "nor do I need to know the specifics of how your birth control may have failed."  He gave them the hardest squeeze yet, making Ron fall to his knees and pull the balls from his hand.  "I suggest you never defile Dawn that way again, Ronald.  If she wants sex she can jump you from now on, correct?"  He nodded quickly.  "Good," he said with a smirk.  "I like the fact that my sister is innocent and special.  Not the fact that you make her sweaty and wet.  By the way, you've been broadcasting about her and talking in your sleep while you have dirty, nasty dreams about my little sister.  Do stop it now, thank you."

"You'd rather he have them about his buddy Harry?" Paulo asked with a smirk.

"I don't care if he buggers Potter night and day until he can't sit on a broom.  I do care that he seems to want to do it to my sister.  As what he was babbling last night showed."  He glared at Ron again.  "Remember, I'm being polite now.  I can be worse."

"Draco, honey, that's enough," Xander soothed, patting him on the back.  "I'm sure you won't have to watch him defile Dawn and neither will I for a very long time."  He led his mate off, taking him to their bedroll to cuddle him into better humor.  "We won't have to know the specifics of Ron and Dawn's sex life and we won't have to face down a kid of theirs when they steal the cookies."  Draco nodded, putting his head on his mate's chest.   "Don't worry, there won't be any kids from those two for a very long time and by then we might be dead on the job."

"That's a cheerful thought," Draco agreed more happily.

Paulo helped Ron up and out to the mouth of the cave, watching as he got some snow to ice the swollen and aching parts of his body. "Think about how you'd be with your sister in the circumstance," he said gently.  "I about killed my sister's first boyfriend when I found out they were having sex and they were married at the time."

Ron moaned.  "No, Ginny's still pure.  She works with unicorns.  She'll be staying that way if I have my way."

Paulo smiled. "Good boy, Ron.  Be a good big brother."

"I try," he admitted.  "Damn, that hurt.  Draco's damn good at that.  Got the hairs too."

"I figure he's probably held Alex's enough times to know just what not to do," Paulo agreed with a smirk.  "Think you can go back to work?"

"Yeah, I think I can, as long as I can sit," Ron offered, going back inside, wiping his eyes off.  That had ached!  He was still walking funny.  He might still be walking funny when he met up with Dawn again.


Emilia looked up as an owl flew in off their porch, taking the letter it dropped and letting it have some of her toast to peck at while she read the letter.  Her sudden bout of laughter made everyone give her an odd look so she waved the paper.  "There's a new plot to take over the world.  They want Dawn and Greg to have a kid," she said, laughing harder.

Greg looked horrified. "I'd never touch her, she's a kid," he complained.

"She is also a powerful witch," Severus said, considering it.  "She's power incarnate and you're control and balance.   The child could be the next great wizard."

"I'd have to kill her," Emilia said, smirking at him.  "Even if it was done in a petri dish and implanted, I'd have to kill her."

Greg gave her a long look.  "*You'd* have to kill her?" he said incredulously.  "Think about what my poor sperm would have to go through in *her* body!  There's no way in hell!  This has got to be the newest Death Eater plot," he muttered, going to pace out by the pool so his beloved daughter wouldn't wake up from her nap.

"Honey, it could be worse, it be you and Luna," she called, smirking at his slam of their patio door.  "It could," she told Severus with a smirk.

Severus considered it then shuddered.  "That is a disgusting thought," he noted dryly.   "I've found the worst child possible.  If Lovegood and the Weasley chit have one, then they mate with the inevitable Dawn and Ron offspring."

Emilia shuddered, wrapping her arms around her stomach.  "If that ever happens, warn us so we can evacuate the country.  Please?" she pleaded.  "I'll even talk Greg into naming you 'San's guardian while she's at school."

He shook his head.  "No, thank you.  I don't like children."

"And yet, you teach," she said dryly, smirking at him.  "You teach kids like Dawn."

"Fortunately I didn't have to teach Alex," he said happily, smirking at her.  "You should probably calm him down."

"He'll be back in a few minutes," she said with a hand wave.  "He's trying to keep me calm."  Catherine and Grissom walked in together.  "Someone came up with a sure way to end the world.  They want Dawnie and my pookie to have a kid."

"Which one was Dawn again?"

"The third of the trio with Luna and Weasley," Severus told him.  "The one who makes outrageously loud squealing noises for no reason."

"The fashionable brunette you only saw the back of, Gil.  She was the one lip-locked with Ron the whole time they were in last time."

"Oh, her," he said, smiling at them.  "Why?"

"She's power and he's control," Severus told him simply.

"Though, according to the note, they want Greggy to be the mommy," Emilia said with a smirk.

"I didn't know wizards knew about DNA manipulation," Grissom said happily.

"Most wouldn't," Severus said thoughtfully.  "Not even most creatures or potions people.  Gregory!"  Greg came back in, taking deep breaths.  "She found a new wrinkle.  They want you to be the mother."

"That would mean someone knew how to manipulate eggs and sperm," Greg said thoughtfully.  "I want them, before I get nightmares."  He pulled his wife up to cuddle.  "Please make them stop?"

"We'll protect you from her," Emilia soothed, stroking his back.  "Can I sit, Greg?  My back still hurts."  He carefully sat her down again, sitting beside her to rest his head against her thigh.  "Thank you."  She stroked through his hair until she heard a squeal.  "Either the girls are back or 'San's picked up on a new habit," she said grimly.

"We'll have to stop that one," Greg agreed.  "'San?  We're down here."  She came to the top of the stairs and sat down, bumping down them on her butt.  "Good girl," he praised when she got to the bottom and ran over to climb in his lap.  "Good, Cassandra."  He kissed her on the temple, letting her crawl over him to get to the mother.  "Sure, you have the mommy.  She's very comfy to cuddle."

"You can have some later," she promised, smiling down at him.  "Then maybe we'll talk about breastfeeding."

"That is more than I wanted to know about your personal relationship," Severus said dryly, frowning at them.

She gave him a long look, then smirked at him slowly. "Why, Severus, are you *jealous*?  Should I hint at Holly?"

"If you do, I'll force your mate to spank you in an unfun manner.  Then I'll make sure certain young, excitable women continue to botch their birth control potions."  He smirked meanly.  "Which you'll get to teach when I retire."

Greg whimpered, shaking his head slowly.  "She's doing what?" he asked finally.  Severus' smirk got colder.  "Tell me she's just routinely botching it by making it too strong?"

"Too much moss."

"She's making fertility potions!" he asked, jumping up, grabbing his mentor/big brother by the lapels of his robe.  "She's doing it on purpose?"

"No, Dawn doesn't like kids," Catherine soothed, removing the white-knuckled grip from the soft fabric.  "Don't worry about it, I'm sure it's an innocent mistake."

"It had better be, she's making a fertility potion!" Greg said, edging toward hysterical now.  "The only worse kid would be if Alex and Ron had a kid!"

"Or him and Tipsy or the twins," Grissom said smugly.

Greg winced.  Then he shuddered.  "No, they'd be hellions but Ron's got control problems.  He's got no blockage between his mouth and his brain.  He's got a temper nearly as bad as Alex's.  He'd be worse.  The twins have some control."

"Here's an idea, Penn and Alex?" Emilia asked with a smug look at her mate.  He gave her an odd look in return.  "Think about it."

"The kid would be the mage of destruction," Greg snorted.  "Or the most flamboyantly gay stage wizard ever."  His wife cracked and laughed.  "I've got one.  Alex and the Prof.  Alex's mouth and the prof's patience and temper."

"Nope, I think he had the best one," Emilia told him.  "Sev suggested Luna and Ginny having one and then they breed with Dawn and Ron Jr."

Greg paused, then moaned and rubbed his forehead, letting out a whimper.  "By then, we'll be retired and 'San can teach them."

"You'd do that to our baby?" Emilia asked, starting to pout. "That's *mean*, Greg!"

"Please don't pout," he begged, hugging her again.  "I'd be in the shadows behind her.  I'd help her by letting her vent and all that good stuff.  I'd even sub if she needed me to," he promised.  "I wouldn't leave her *all* alone with the hellions."

She kissed him on the cheek.  "Still, you'd be mean enough not to warn her."

He kissed her gently, nibbling on the pouting lips.  "Of course I'd warn her.  I'd have to because Holly would if I forgot.  Sev might be that mean, but I never would," he promised.


Grissom shook his head.  "I can see the next group meeting where someone brings those up.  Sandburg will probably be able to find worse."

"Probably," Emilia, Greg, and Severus agreed in unison.  Blair did have an odd mind, it was well accepted in the group.

"If not, Tipsy surely will," Emilia added with a smirk.  "Any idea where the girls are?"

"It's only been four hours, they're still at the mall," Catherine said wisely.  "Dawn's been mall deprived while at school."

"You guys don't have malls?"

"More like lots of little shops usually tucked together," Severus told him.  "More of a bazaar feeling than not at times."  He rubbed his forehead again.  "I think I've given myself a headache.  Do you have anything, Greg?"

"Kitchen, second cabinet to the right of the sink," he said immediately.  Severus dipped his head and walked that way.  "So, any bad kids this year that'll rival Longbottom?"

"Not yet," he said, sounding a bit happier.  "No one's exploded the entire dungeon yet.  Some minor accidents but nothing that disastrous."   He sniffed the potion then took one.  "Thank you," he said as he came back out.  "I put the vial in the sink."

"Not an issue," he promised happily.  He stroked his kids, making them shift under his hand and his wife grunt in pain.  "Sorry."

"No, it's okay.  They were napping for a long time.  It's good to know that they're still fine."  She stroked his hair again.  "How long before we should expect the ladies?"

"Probably a few hours.  Enough time to get dinner started," Catherine offered.  "I brought some rib stuff, it's still in the car."

"Then go get it," Emilia encouraged with a smile.  "We can 'cue in the back."  Catherine smiled and they went to start on the dinner, knowing that Severus' peculiar and picky nature meant that he'd be helping soon enough, and so would Greg even though he couldn't cook.

Grissom flinched at the large air displacement 'boom' that went off in the living room.  "Hello," he called.

"We are free!" Alex shouted.  "Their first real job and they're free!"

"Cool.  Why are you here?" Greg asked dryly.

"Because there's not enough hot water in all of England to make me feel clean and our hot water heater's broken at home," Draco admitted.  "Sorry about the stench.  We've just spent the last month in a cave without running water."

"Go, bathe," Greg said, shaking his head as the three men ran for the upstairs bathrooms.  "Anything gross in the bathtub and you clean it," he called after them.  Alex waved a hand.  "Dawn's still at the mall.  She'll be back soon."  The boys had already disappeared so they were more concerned about their hygiene at the moment apparently.  He went back into the kitchen.  "The three troubles are here."

"Should we make extra?"

"I seriously doubt Alex is staying for dinner.  Ron might if we let Dawn stay but I doubt he and Draco have had any privacy recently."

"Most likely not," Draco agreed.  "Gregory, do you have anything to dose a cut on Alex's back?  We got hit by a small rock slide earlier thanks to that military group."

"It's in the medicine cabinet in our room," Emilia told him.  "Do you know what it looks like?"

"Of course," he said with a smile.  "We simply ran out."  He went to grab that for his mate, taking it into the bathroom to deal with the scrapes on his back when they got out of the shower.  "Greg thinks we didn't have the privacy to do anything."

"No, I don't care how many people hear me bugger you," Alex said with a leer.

"Shower first, love.  We're both rather nasty," Draco ordered, stepping into the running water.  Alex followed to get clean for him.  It was a sign of true love when one would shower for you instead of with you.


Alex appeared back in the house with everyone, including Dawn since she was due back and they hadn't been able to pry Dawn off Ron's lips again.  "We're back, again," he called.

"Good," a voice called.  "Get into the dining room and sit down, Xander."

Xander raised an eyebrow, heading back to the kitchen, looking at the Aunt Cordy looking person.  "Where's the real Aunt Cordy?"  The woman looked stunned.  "She's never called me Xander, she wants to believe that was a hallucination of mine.  She's refused anyone to even call me that among the aunties and cousins.  Now, who are you before I tie you up and send for the Ministry?"

The woman looked too stunned to talk so another of the aunts stepped in. "Alex, that's your aunt Sycanda.  Your mother's other sister."

"Who died in the Amazon looking for people like her," he said.  "She wouldn't know about that life of mine either," he noted dryly, still staring at her.  "Give.  Shift back.  Now, before I start to lose my patience."  He noticed what she had been making.  "Someone call Ginny in to check the unicorns.  She was making their mash."  One of the house elves went to do that, knowing that it was going to get messy in the kitchen.

"Really, Alex, I am who she said I am," she said, frowning at him.

"And I never spent any time in Sunnydale around demons," he said bitterly.  "Change, now.  I can already tell.  Before I call Mom and the Ministry.  Or worse yet, Molly."

"I'm not sure Molly's worse than the Unmentionables," the aunt noted, going back to her part of dinner.  "Are all of you clean, dear?  I made a roast with veggies."

"Yup, we are.  We begged and pleaded at Greg's, then cleaned his bathrooms."  He sniffed at the stove.  "What sort of roast?"

"The one that was in the freezer?" she suggested mildly.

Xander walked over and lifted the lid, then suddenly pulled his wand and cast at the demon, making her shriek and fall back, changing to a smaller, gnome-looking demon with large claws and purple skin.  "No wonder.  Auntie, you didn't taste that, right?"  She shook her head. "Good.  There's only one thing in the world that colors water that shade of blue when cooked and it's a unicorn's blood."  She gasped and turned off the stove, backing away from it.  "Get Sev, he's at Greg's.  Get Ginny to check them.  Get ...."

"I'm here," Severus said as he walked in.  He removed the pot and the others to the back yard to check on them.  He looked up as Ginny and Luna came running through the external floo, Ginny running for the paddock the unicorns had been grazing in and Luna for the house.  "Stay," he ordered Luna.  She gave him an odd look.  "There's a demon in the house.  They've already gotten one."

"Then they're fucking toast," she said firmly, glaring inside the house.  Someone shrieked and the demon came running.  Luna wove a net around it and trapped it, making it gurgle and plead from the pain around it.  "Alex?"

"Coming.  Dawn got her with me," he said, walking out rubbing his upper shoulder.  "The thing's really fast."  He pointed his wand at the demon.  "Wingardium Leviosa," he said, floating her up to attach her to a hook on the outside of the house.  "She can't fly so she's safer there.  Ginny?"

"There's two missing," she called as she jogged back.  "There's signs of a struggle and the baby's really freaked.  One's his mother.  The other's the older stallion.  He may have wandered off, the ladies weren't sure.  He's been showing signs of being forgetful."  She panted as she came to a stop in front of the pot, pulling her wand to test it.  "It's the mother," she said sadly.

"Then let's get the baby up to the school," Severus noted.  "We can bottle feed it there."  She nodded, going to get it.  "Alex, you'll have to test the rest of them I'm afraid," he said sadly.  Killing a unicorn was a horrible and evil thing, but consuming one was worse, on levels of magnitude worse.

"I can do that," Luna admitted.  "Or I and Professor Callahan can," she offered when he stared at her.  "It's not hard to find someone who's been damned."

"Good point," he agreed softly.  "Retrieve him."  She nodded, going to call him from the external floo.  He looked at the house elves. "Have any of you eaten any?"

"One did, she sick, we lock up," one of them said frantically.

"Then we'll take her to St. Mungos, it's the kindest thing we can do," Xander decided with a sigh.  Philip stepped out, wiping the crumbs from his robes.  "Someone put a flank of unicorn in the freezer," he noted.  Philip stopped, gaping at him.  He nodded, looking at his aunts.  "There's two missing from the herd that's gathered."

"There may also be a house elf who's eaten some," Severus noted.

"Then we'll deal with that later," Philip agreed.  He and Luna whispered together then pulled each of the other humans in the house out one by one to check them over.  Only two showed signs of taint and they went to the hospital with the house elf who was trying to rip her own head off, Philip doing the escort duty.

Luna looked at Xander.  "Welcome back, Great One.  How was Tibet?"

"Cold, dirty, and tiring," Draco noted as he came out of the house.  "I searched the freezer, there's some missing.  Ron's calling his mother to make sure they didn't get given any of it."

"Thanks, dear," he said, giving him a hug.  "Philip and Luna only found two with taint."  He looked around.  "Sev?"

"I'll be taking Miss Weasley and the unicorn back.  Maybe you could stay with the twins?"  He shrugged at the hurt look.  "I only have a couch and I have no desire to hear you two go at it."

"Like we'd do that.  We did plenty of that in the cave," Draco assured him.

Ron came back out, his hair already standing on end where he'd been tugging on it again.  "Mum was making one but she hadn't even tasted it.  I called Philip to send him there in case.  Who would do this?"

"Someone who wanted to earn my eternal wrath," Xander said, glaring at the demon.  "I think you should tell us what's going on before we end you horribly.  I don't believe in not torturing demons to get information.  Ask my mother or her boss.  We've met in the past."

The demon shuddered but remained mute.

"Fine, have it your way," Alex said, pulling down the net and taking it off to deal with it.  The garden shed rang with screams but he came back out with a whole demon.  "They're moving on the unicorns again.  It's another demonic movement to remove pure things.  I've already called the other person who got part of the unicorn."  He shook the demon.  "You're going to be in a world of hurt.  Luna, could you please call your Ethan snuggly?" he asked nicely.  She nodded, looking stunned, but did call out for him.  He landed with a shaking of the house.  "Don't destroy it, I don't want to have to build it again, Rayne."  He held out the demon.  "She killed a unicorn with some others and sent the meat out to some people as beef."

Ethan looked stunned, then shuddered, backing away from the smaller demon.  "Who?  Is anyone tainted?"

"She called me Xander, I found her before most of the family was," Xander offered.  "Two aunts and a house elf that we know of."

"Fine," Ethan said, taking the net carefully.  "I'll take her back for divine justice.  Thank you for not destroying her, Alex."

"Some of the others with her nibbled too," Alex assured him.

"Then I'm sure they'll hate her all the more for tainting herself that way."  He took the demon off, kicking it across the audience chamber to get it away from him.  "Lords, she burns," he warned.  "She killed a unicorn with some others and ate it with them, plus handed the meat off to some humans disguised as beef.  Two humans and a house elf were contaminated that Alex knew of."

"Alex?" the High Lord of Hell asked.

"Xander Harris, sire.  His natal name is Alex Dumass."

"Ah.  At least he figured it out.  It would be a shame for him to be down here, damned to watch others suffer."  He looked at the small demon.  "She burns?"  Ethan held up his hand to show the burns on it.  "Very well.  We shall deal with her ourselves.  Take her to the pits," he ordered, opening a portal.  "She'll have to be burned clean first."  The demon started to squeal and scream but she wasn't getting free of the guardians coming to grab her.  "Then clean your hands."  He looked at Ethan, who was already burning his hands clean.  "Good job, sorcerer. You have pleased me."

"Thank you, sire.  I like Alex.  He's fairly decent to my consort."  He bowed.  "If I may, I wish to have horrible nightmares about this."

"Go, rest," he agreed with a small smirk.  Ethan was always good for him. Ethan trudged away, going to his quarters to rest.  "Find the others, I will speak with them," he ordered.  The other guardians of hell ran for the known friends of that demon.


Xander walked up to the school, finding Ginny sitting on the front step with the unicorn baby.  "He okay?"  He stopped a few feet away, knowing he would freak the baby out if he got closer.  "Philip said he knew someone who did healing on animals."

"He's fine," she said softly, stroking his back.  "Keelian took one look at him and decided he was a nestmate.  Poor Hagrid won't have a table with them lying on it," she said with a small smile for him.  "How's Dawn?"

"Still tossing fits," he admitted.  "She wants to go to hell to help torture the demons."  He looked over as Dumbledore and McGonagall walked out together.  "I'm checking on him," he said, pointing at the unicorn.  "Dawn'll be back in a bit, once Ron and Molly get her calmed down.  She demanded the right to go hurt people and demons."

"As would I," Ginny agreed lightly.  "If I could convince Ethan to get me there."

"I'm sure Ethan's boss and my mom are going to kill them," Xander said with a mean smirk for her. "The demons hurt one of Mom's aunts.  Her favorite aunt, the one who was her godmother."

"I almost feel sorry for the demons," McGonagall said, moving around the little creature to give him a hug.  "How was Tibet?"

"Cold, dirty, and cold," he said with a grin.  "Everything but two items were there.   They're easily traced.  The thieves left the notes.  Speaking of," he said, pulling something out of his pocket and enlarging it.  "For Madam Pince.  I borrowed it and it's slightly overdue."

McGonagall looked at the inside cover.  "They were checked out when you were a fourth year.  That's not slightly overdue, Alex."

He grinned.  "Yeah, but I put it to good use," he pointed out.  "Besides, did you *really* want that book in this school with the Weasley twins around?" he asked smugly.

She looked at the cover again.  "Arabic tricks, pranks, and evil Gods of the undead?" she read, opening the book.  She stopped at the first page, giving him a horrified look.  "It's how to summon them!"

He nodded, smirking more now.  "Yup, sure is."  He waved at Ginny.  "Yell if you need anything.  I'm not sure if you guys have got formula or not."  He smiled and leaned across the beast to hug her.  "You behave and keep Dawn calm. Or else she'll snark herself into a duel."  He waved and jogged off, heading back to the house now that his naughtiness for the day was done.  "One book left for Lindsey on the personal defense capabilities of the world's oldest pranks, and one book left in the school to make their lives more interesting."  He apparated home, heading into the house, where Philip was reblessing it.  "Hey," he said as he walked around him.  "I just returned a book to the school's library while I was checking on the baby unicorn.  He's fine.  Ginny's got him nearly in her lap and Keelian loves him again."

"Good," Philip said absently, going back to work.   "Your Aunt Martha called out for pizza at Ron's suggestion.  It's in the work house."

"Coolness."  He headed that way, going to get some dinner and do some work.  "Hey, Ron, everyone okay at the house?" he called as he walked in.

"Just fine, Alex.  They all passed their physicals and the house is being fixed and charmed again tonight just in case."  He held up a plate.  "Get me another piece?"

"Ron," Draco sighed, shaking his head.  "Simply go get a box and bring it out here."

Xander got the box and brought it out, grabbing two pieces to hold in his hands.  "There had better be at least three more in there for me," he warned when the boys reached for seconds.  "I returned that library book you found in our library, Draco."

"I'm still wondering why you had a book on how to summon dead Gods who dealt with pranks," he said impatiently.  "You're not like that usually."

He smirked.  "Because sometimes chaos is very sweet to sit back and watch," he said fondly.  "Someone tried to raise Tiamat in my year."  He ate another bite of pizza, then winked at Draco's shocked look.  "Think about how some people would have tried and nearly killed themselves, and been found out," he said wisely.

"Are we talking Tipsy's sister?" Ron asked.  "Or are we talking the dead idiot from last year?"

"Either or both," Draco noted.  "Plus a good many Slytherins.  They might have even worked together to call up something.  Even my father might have worked with someone."

"For that sort of power, probably," Ron agreed.

"Yeah, but it takes *so* much power, not even Dawn could do it," Xander said smugly.  "Thereby letting you know who wants power enough to fuck the world for it."

"Alex!" one of the aunts yelled.  "Language!"

"Sorry," he called back, but he was grinning.  He winked at Draco.  "If your dad had, I wouldn't have you so I guess I can't be that upset with that part at the moment."  He saluted him then took another bite.  "I also left Lindsey a book."

"Oooh," Ron said, shivering.  "Greg will kill you.  He's said she's his adopted one now."

"He's sponsoring her, that makes him a close godfather sort of person," Alex corrected. "The same as your mom sponsored Hermione and Harry."

"No wonder you saw her each year," Draco said dryly, smirking at Ron.  "Get any?"

"Hell no," he snorted.  "I only tried once and she gave me this look like I was beneath a garden gnome."  He ate another bite of pizza, chewing fast.  "The twins saw it and they teased me but they got her a lot."

"Draco, what's left on my to-do list?"

"Do the city's excavation with us," Draco noted.  "Find Potter a real woman instead of one he has to conjure or blow up.  Put Dawn in a chastity belt that can't be removed until New Year's to make sure she can't botch her contraceptive potion again.  Are we encouraging Sev to have children?"

"Sev hates kids," Xander said smugly.  "As for the chastity belt, it's not such a bad idea.  I know how to find a few magical ones that'll never come off, even if you took the skin it was attached to off."  He nibbled thoughtfully.  "I'm guessing we could get that off Gringott's.  It was used on nuns, but still."

"Try it and I will kill you," Ron noted, giving him a fond smile.  "I will turn so dark that everyone will know that the old Dark Lord was nothing compared to what I can do to you. Plus I'll get the women in our lives to help me."

"I knew you had a mean streak, Ron.  It had better never come out around me," Dawn said from the doorway.  "No Ginny or Luna?"

"Ginny's got the baby unicorn all-but in her lap," Xander offered.  "Luna's back at the school too."  He looked back.  "It was suggested that we put you into a chastity belt to make sure you remembered to always do your contraceptive correctly."  He ate another larger piece of pizza.  "Or we're telling Buffy."

"She'll get you, not me," she said smugly.

"Bet me," Xander said with a fond grin.  "She'll get *who* for *you* messing up a potion you're doing at school?  One you make without permission and without someone watching you?"

"Hey, I have Luna help me," she defended.  Ron and Draco both choked at that news.

"Ethan, Luna's been helping Dawn brew batches for both of them," Xander yelled.

"Why can't I go on the pill like normal girls?" she complained.  "The potion's icky."

"Because you'll forget them," Xander said simply.  "You can't remember to use deodorant each day, Dawn.  Would you really remember a pill each and every single day?"  She pouted but shook her head.  "Therefore you shall take the monthly contraceptive potion."

"Monthly?   Nah-uhn.  The recipe we found said to take it once a week," she told him.

"Oh, dear Merlin," Draco whined.  "You're taking a fertility potion once a week for how long?"

"Since school began?" she said, shifting away a bit.  "Ron makes his own."

"No, dear, Ron *buys* his," Ron said simply, giving her a look.

Draco gave him a grin.  "Thank you, Weasley.  It's the smartest thing you've done since getting involved with Alex."  He frowned at Dawn.  "Severus and I will be sitting down with you next weekend to teach you three how to do so properly.  Before one of you is forced to be celebrated as a goddess of fertility."

"My sister doesn't need it," Ron defended.

"I'd rather she knew," Draco retorted.  "Before it's necessary.  Otherwise her first time will soon become your niece or nephew.  She's pent up the energy and it will act on her body at that time, no matter who it's with, and then what'll you do?"

"Kill him," Ron said with a happy grin.  "Then let the twins and Charlie and Bill have him to finish mutilating him."

"Ron, you're a scary man," Dawn advised, reaching over to pat him on the head.  "Ginny is allowed to like boys and to have the sex with them.  It's what girls do.  Or hadn't you noticed that your sister was a very pretty girl who had a few people panting after her?  One of the more decent Slytherins is even begging and pleading to make it so she can't work with unicorns anymore."

Ron looked at Draco.  "Does that mean we get to kill him and then hand him to you and Snape?"

Draco considered it while he nibbled on his crust, then shook his head.  "No, we'd have to hex him first and then send him over to you for you to finish him off.  We'll inflict more emotional and mental damage and trauma, we can't do that if he's already dead."  He looked at Dawn.  "There's no such thing as a Slytherin male who's nice enough to hit on Ginny Weasley and treat her well.  She'd be a conquest.  Especially if it's Spires."  He popped the last bit into his mouth.  "Hurry up and take your three before I eat one of them," he ordered.

Xander snatched his three pieces, the last in the box, and guarded them.  Three barely legal guys ate like they were a whole quidditch team.

Dawn came in and sat across from them.  "Xan, someone mentioned that there's an equivalency exam.  Can I take that?"

He growled.  "There are no GED witches in this family," he said firmly.

"But I want to be around kids my own age," she complained.  "I'm a third year and I should be a sixth year.  I like the girls in my year, but I'd like to be able to relate to the same things that they do instead of being the wiser, older woman.  I had to have The Talk with one of them recently," she whined. "I want to be around kids my own age, like Luna and Ginny.  They said I could take them."

"If you try, I'm going to get Spike to come pounce you," he warned.

Draco coughed.  "Dawn, at your level of teaching your wand would be broken," he said calmly.  "No matter your age, it's the level of experience."

"Remember how hard it was to fit your first one?  Well, you'd be without, young lady," Xander said firmly.

"Excuse him, he's panicking," Ron said with a small shrug.  "I thought about it too, Dawnie.  It's really not that hard to get, but you've got to be a sixth year or higher and you usually can't get much of a job with it.  Not even with Gringott's as a breaker. I asked Bill and he about kicked my ass via letter.  That's what girls who get stuffed-up do so they don't have to go back to school.  It's not what bright witches and wizards do who want a future outside of a play area."

Xander forced himself to be calm.  "Dawn, I know it sucks, but I want you there.  I want you to study under Sev and Flitwick for as long as humanly possible.  Having seen other females in the field, I know what it's like for them.  The ones who come in later, instead of right out of school, have better survival odds.  They also have happier careers because they're not being pushed into things.  Yeah, you've lived on the hellmouth," he said when she opened her mouth.  "But are you prepared to walk into a tomb and be the one who might activate any of the mummies to coming back?  Or even to endanger someone's life by stepping on a part of the floor that looks identical to the rest?"  She slowly shook her head.  "Right now, Flitwick has a lot left to teach you.  In his mind, outside of the classroom, he's got tons he can teach you.  He was one of us when he was younger and he quit because the job got to him; he went theoretical instead and loved it better.  That's beside the fact that I don't want any Willowish 'oops' moments and that I promised your sister that you'd be old enough to traipse around the world with me when you were ready.  You're not.  These two and Harry are still learning charms, stuff that Flitwick could have taught them but he didn't think he needed to."

Draco nodded slowly.  "I learned how to defeat a zombie the other day with only my wand."

She shuddered.  "Ick."

"Well, get used to it.  It's part of the life.  The same as not bathing for long stretches is," Ron advised.  "We were so dirty we were coated," he assured her.  "We got washcloth bathes for the three weeks and four days we were gone.  Greg's showers were so far out of hot water that we didn't mind the cold water.  I wore out my bath brush scrubbing."

Xander nodded.  "I've had whole years like that.  In the desert there's a definite lack of water.  You don't get even that much water a day for bathing.  It's all for drinking.  You scrub off with sand at night."

She shuddered again, curling up in her chair.  "Why would you do it?"

"Because it's necessary," Draco told her.  "Do you know how much stuff he's brought back that's important?"

"More often than not, I bring back dangerous stuff," Xander offered with a grin.  "I seem to be drawn to it."

She nodded slowly.  "All right.  I'll stay and talk to Flitwick if you want, Xander.  But if I get good enough, may I?"

He shook his head.  "Hell no.  I'm giving you extra years of being the prettiest and most popular girl in school before you leave that life for one of two bags of worldly possessions and a lot of grime."  She looked dubious.  "Don't believe me?  You'll be joining us this holiday.  Buffy already knows," he said at her opening mouth.  "She knows we'll reappear for Christmas dinner itself.  Nothing else.  The same as the aunts do."  She nodded once, standing up and taking the box with her.  "Boys, you too."

"Yes, Alex," they agreed, smirking at him.

"Then I suppose I'm going to be going to my mother's this year," Draco said thoughtfully.  "Weasley?"

"Probably the same.  Charlie and Bill will both be up this year so she'll expect it of us."  Xander sighed.  "I'm sure she'll understand."

"No she won't," he scoffed.  "Fine, if we make good progress, you guys can have two days.  How about that?"

"That's fine," Draco agreed calmly.  "Will there be weekends to restock supplies?"

"Maybe once a month," he admitted.  Ron looked stunned.  "Curse breaking isn't like other jobs, guys.  You do it until the job is done and then hope for a vacation or a few days off at least.  I've went two whole years without more than a few hours off.  You keep going until the job is done, not until you're tired.  You spend a lot of hours doing the work, then collapsing to get up and do it again the next day.  There's no days off in the center to celebrate little things.  That's called dinner, which are only routine on holidays.  Your crew needs to have you fully there and ready to break balls, even your own, every single day."

"Alex, quit scaring them," Dawn said from the doorway.  "Bill never said it was that bad."

"Bill's assigned to a desk," Xander corrected.  "He's got a set area and his only job is to find new sites and to map entrances.  Those of us who do the job outside of a steady desk area, like Cairo and Russia, end up doing all the little jobs and end up doing them back-to- back for years at a time.  Bill took over my job because I trained him to.  There were sixty others waiting for that job who had more experience and better ratings at the time.  Guys like Paulo thrive on the hunt and the capture.  Guys like Bill thrive on the knowledge and the pleasure of the skills they use. Guys like Bill out in the field get morbid and quit.  That's why so many women quit after a few years.  That and they hate the potion that takes away their periods because it can start to fuck with their magic."

"There's a potion for that?" Dawn asked.

"Yup, and you're starting on it next month," Xander said firmly.  "That way you're used to it long before we hit the desert. There's almost no water and nowhere to clean up or to store tampons, clean or dirty."

"Hey, won't hear an argument from me," she said quickly.  "I hate the things.  I'll gladly stop them, even if it does block my magic."  He grimaced at her.  "Sorry.  It can't be that bad."

"It can and it is," Xander said.  "Speaking of bad, one of you two is going to have to learn how to cook since I can't and Dawn's going to get teased as being the cook for the group.  The guys are like that."

Ron and Draco stared at each other.  "I think you should," Ron said finally.  "Cooking is like potions with food and we both know I suck at it."

"I'm sure you can learn some simple things so I'm not stuck doing it all the time," Draco agreed.

"Honey, we're talking pit with fire and a pot," Xander reminded him.  "Soups, stews, and bread baked in the ashes.  Even I can take a can of veggies and some jerky, add some water or some stock, and make soup."

"We saw that in Tibet and it didn't taste that great," Ron said dryly.

"Hey, it's what you had.  Just because we're wizards doesn't mean we'll have the energy to pop around for supplies every few days.  Work is hard and tiring.  Especially when you're doing without a full crew or when you're finding a lost one."

Draco nodded.  "That's fine, Alex.  I'll learn how to cook from the aunties and we'll figure out how to make good camps from you and Bill when he's in.  Is he joining us in the desert?"

"Nope.  We're going to be in upper Iran."  They gaped at him.  "We are," he insisted.  "At least it'll be during the winter, but yeah.  Definitely upper Iran.  Then next spring I've got one offered in Kashmir.  That'll be harder.  There'll be more people around and it'll be in a jungle environment."  He looked at them.  "At any time any of you can tell me it's too much and I'll get you to specialize somehow.  You could always work in the main office defeating things or categorizing things.  Or you could learn how to scuba and do underwater stuff.  I don't want to pigeon hole you guys, but I don't want you to come into this thinking that it's all as easy as Tibet was.  I was Bill's *second* teacher.  His first one died right after taking him on during his last solo mission.   Bill was very aware of how bad things could get in the field.  I want the same for you guys."

"We'll deal, Alex," Ron reminded him.  "I'm not some soft society boy and Draco's not as soft as he looks.  Even the nastiest of the nasty can be beaten at times and endured at others.  You're a good teacher."

Xander gave him a long look.  Then he nodded, standing up and heading for his floo.  "Still need me?" he asked their goblin contact.  The goblin nodded, grimacing at him.  "Then Ron and I will go."  He hung up.  "Ron, change.  We're going to find some Lost Ones.  Now.  Pack a single pack, it should only last two days."  He went to his room to grab some clothes from his supplies of clean stuff.   He came out with a pack to be filled from the stores in the closet.  By the time he was done, Ron was back in jeans and his leather jacket.  "Good choices.  Boots?"  Ron lifted a foot.  "Even better.  Pack food and water.  Pack a blanket too if you haven't.  We'll have to camp and we can't put up a tent."  He went to kiss Draco.  "We'll be back in two days."

"Sure," he agreed, cuddling Dawn.  "Be safe."

Xander grinned.  "Me?"  He led Ron into the backyard and took off for the main office with him, going to get the portkey to the nearest location the team had been last known at.   Ron appeared behind him, looking around.  Xander spied the packs in a hollowed-out tree, heading over to look at them.  "Their names aren't marked," he said grimly.  "They're always marked on our packs."

"Why?" Ron asked.

"Because things like this happen," he said gently.  "How else do you know who you're going after?"  He searched their things, coming up with their Gringott's passes, which made him sigh.  "A husband and wife team," he said bitterly.  "I knew them too."  He put everything back and stuffed his pack in there.  "Yours too, Ron.  We won't be able to go in with them.  We'll clear the front of the entryway and then come back for them."  He strode for the entry he could see, letting Ron catch up to him.  He stopped to touch the stones, sensing the energies flowing around him.   Ron mimicked him on the other side.  "Feel that darkness?  They got caught by a trap. You took the anti-poison, right?"  Ron nodded when Xander looked at him.  "Deep breath.  It's not going to be pretty or fun.  You only step where I do, Ron."  He nodded, following his teacher inside.  Xander felt the tripstone under his foot and backed up, then pushed Ron to the floor as the poisoned darts flew over them.  "Damn it, refilling," he complained. "I hate some of the Ancients."  He got up carefully and pulled out his telescoping rod to tap on the floor in front of him.  Something snapped at it from the shadows and he sighed.  "Snakes too.  Right behind me, Ron, only in my footsteps."

Ron nodded, concentrating on what was around them.  "Xan, there's something behind us."

"It's only a trap if we turn around or turn back, Ron.  Ignore it.  It won't eat you yet," he said grimly.  "Six different people have started this cave.  Most of them died in the entry.  These two got farther than the first trap, I'm impressed.  That means we're dealing with experienced breakers."  He got past the snakes slowly and turned sideways to look at the walls nearest him since they were so close.  "These compressed but they're back.  Hurry up, Ron.  The longer we dawdle the longer their family grieves.  Time is of the essence.  What killed them is probably refilling even now and it can get us."  Ron hurried, stepping on the head of one last snake, making Xander sigh and pull him into the narrow passage with him. "Before they attack.  We'll have to get past them on the way out too.  Hopefully they'll eat each other."   He heard a grinding noise. "Run!"  He ran for the end of the corridor, ducking at the last moment, and Ron wisely followed because the swinging blade nearly tore his head down the center and cut into his neck.  A neat 't' shaped design.


Ron came back three days later bloody, bruised, and ready to cry.  He went to the training camp and nodded at the guard. "Can I have Harry?" he asked in a calm voice.  The guard gave him a long look.  "I'm Ron.  Really, I am."  He pulled out his passes.  "Please?  Before I start to bawl out here?"  The guard nodded, leading him into a meeting room, then he went to get their seeker from practice.  Ron jumped when Harry came in.  "Harry," he said, starting to sound hysterical.  "It's horrible!  I hate it!  And I know I have to do it!  Oh, Gods, now I know how you felt!"

Harry hugged him, patting him gently on the back.  "Someone has to, Ron.  If not you, it'd be someone with less experience and more chance of getting dead," he said quietly.  "What happened?"

"Snakes and fire and blades and dead people and then the magic had the Lost Ones and we had bring them down before we went back through everything to come back out!"  He started to cry.  "Oh, Merlin, Harry, we had to kill them again, twice on her, because the trap had them as zombies."

Harry sat down, letting Ron curl up on him.  "Shh, it's all right. You survived, Ron.  That's what's important.  You and Uncle Alex survived."

Ron looked up at him.  "He said it wasn't the worst he's seen," he said miserably.  "I know I have to do this.  No one should have to see their kids like that!"

Harry nodded, letting out a sad smile.  "I know, Ron.  Relax, calm down.  You can find Dawnie later and hug her until you're better."  He stroked his back, looking over as Oliver opened the door.  "I'm going to need a few more hours, Ollie.  He just got back from finding some dead Curse Breakers."

"Poor little guy," Oliver said quietly.  "He okay?"

Ron looked at him and shook his head.  "But I have to do the job.  No one else will, not even Bill."

"Then that's the test of strength," Oliver noted.  "Listen to Alex.  He's done that before probably.  I'll tell the coaches you're unable to do anything for two or so hours."  He closed the door, locking it for them.  He looked at Bear and shook his head. "Not right now, big man.  They had to retrieve some who were already dead."  He patted Bear on the arm.  "Where's the coach?"

"Out on the field tapping his foot again."  He shrugged, following him.  "At least Harry knows and understands."

"And now Ron understood what drove him," Oliver agreed in a lighter tone of voice.  "Good thing because I would have broken under the strain."  They walked past their coach. "Ron's nearly in tears.  He had to help retrieve some dead curse breakers."

The coach looked stunned.  "They do?"

"They do," Oliver agreed.  "Someone has to for their families."

"Good point.  I'll leave him alone then.  The kid okay?"

"Ron's nearly in tears," he admitted.  "It's bad."

"That's fine, he doesn't need much practice, the rest of you need to get on his wavelength now and then.  The chasers can do that later.  Go warm up, boys."  They grabbed their brooms and took off to warm up together.  "Merlin, poor Potter.  Maybe he'll stay in the game once he hears."


Bill looked up from his reading when Ron came through his floo, giving him a long look.  "What happened?"

He handed over the letter.  "We found the guy you were best man at his wedding for."  He scratched his throat.  "I'm sorry, Bill."

Bill took the letter, frowning at it.  He opened it and read the short notice, then let it fall to the desk.  "How, Ron?"

"Traps.  Alex said that a lot had tried it.  They got past the snakes, the darts, the crushing walls and the blades but the next trap poisoned them with gas and then turned them into zombies."  He hugged his brother.  "I understand now why Alex does it," he said softly.  "I know why you don't."  His big brother looked at him.  "It's necessary, someone has to."  Bill nodded, giving him a longer hug, complete with hard slaps on the back.  "Thanks, Bill."

"Not a problem, Ron.  Be a good curse breaker like Alex is.  You can be one of the best.  If I retire I'll put you in for my spot if you want to slow down.  How is he?"

"He's sulking but he seems normal, just quiet."

"That's his way, Ron.  We each have our own ways of dealing with those things."  He gave him a long look.  "Now you've seen the bad side of it.  You can die."

"I nearly did twice," Ron admitted, rubbing his throat again.  "The swinging blade nearly got me on the way back out and the gas started to affect me as we were...releasing them."

"You killed them, Ron, say the words.  The pretty mock-words that we use don't do anyone any good."

"Fine.  We beheaded them, twice on her.  She got up again because Alex didn't quite make it through her neck the first time."  Bill shuddered.  "Then we got the hell out of there before the poison killed us.  Alex may still be a bit ill from it."

"Now what?"

"Now, I just got done with Harry.  I felt I should come tell you personally that I understand. Alex says you're a knowledge hunter.  I wish I was.  I know I'm not like Paulo."

"No, Ron, you're not.  You're a cross between the two.  Try not to go on any more of those for a few months.  It'll make it easier.  Doing them one right after the other wears you down.  I did that for six months; I retrieved seven Lost Ones to return them to their families.  At the end I broke down in tears on their body and had to be retrieved.  That's why I don't go on them anymore."

Ron swallowed. "I get it, Bill.  Alex is stronger, that's what he does a lot of.  Probably because no one else will."  Bill nodded, being honest with him.  "Then I'll be another one.  Never make me retrieve you."

"The goblins wouldn't let you anyway, Bro.  Never worry about that, Ron."  Ron nodded, giving him another hug.  "This is when you're supposed to cling to your girl."

"She's in Potions.  Snape wouldn't like that."

"Then go sneak into the school and hide in her room," Bill encouraged.  "When are you guys going to the desert?"

"Next month.  We're making our lists now for supplies and what we need to brush up on.  Oh, Alex wanted to know if they ever figured out what made you sick from that translation potion."

"Not a clue," Bill admitted.  "It could have been all the other stuff I'd had to take.  They rushed my training to get me to my first teacher since I came in so high.  I got almost all my potions and shots within a few weeks."

"Good, I'll try to avoid that," Ron agreed, giving him a weak smile.  "It gets easier?"

"Only if you lose your humanity," Bill warned.  Ron nodded, leaving him there.  He went back through the floo.  Bill hung his head, touching the notice.  "Gods, Alex, my brother?" he hissed. "How could you?"  He went to clock out for the day.  He had some time coming and he needed to go to their funeral.  His friends hadn't any family left and he was going to be there for them.  His boss nodded, already having the form filled out for him. "Ron said it's necessary sometimes."

"So did Alex when he was younger," he said calmly.  "So did you after your first one, Weasley.  Not many see the duty as well as the hunt."

"Well, Ron certainly does now," he said bitterly.  "Can I smack Alex around a bit?"

"We had no one else to send and they are his students.  They needed to see that.  Not everything is the hunt and that is the surest way to make them see the worst of the job.  Many don't see that and they burn out or they die from the first trap that defeats their gadgets.  Or their arrogance gets them," he said, tapping a finger on the form in front of him.  "They were in that temple because they were sure Dumass had done it so they could."

"Alex nearly died there!" he complained. "So did I!"  He stopped, then glared at his boss.  "He took Ron into there?"

"There wasn't a choice," he said simply.  "They were Lost.  They were a trap unto themselves.  Alex had to go to save them.  Ron went because Alex couldn't go on this one alone.  He turned it down and then something made him change his mind.  Now your brother understands.  He won't be someone who destroys but someone who moves with and around the Ancients."

Bill slumped.  "I'd still rather have him living."

"I'm sure he will be.  He's been strong so far.  This was probably a horrible thing to have him see, but it made him see.  No more fairytales about the job."

"Yeah, but he's just a little kid."

"As were you and Alex did the same," he said with a small smirk. "Or don't you remember finding things inside a muggle mall?"  Bill shuddered.  "Same thing, different job.  That's what was up at the time. I'm sure he would have liked something more gentle.  Your brother survived and he learned how to trust Alex and to follow orders.  Feel lucky he has such a strong teacher."

"I do, but I still want to punch him in the nose for taking him *there*," Bill said grimly.  "I'll go tonight.  Watch my fish for me."  He walked out, heading back to his apartment to pack a small bag.  He couldn't attend the funeral in jeans and a leather vest.


Ron looked at the portrait over Hufflepuff's door, grimacing. "Please let me in?  I *really* need a cuddle badly," he whined.

"I'm sorry.  Only Hufflepuffs and those who know the password," she said primly.  She looked him over.  "I could have sworn you were a Gryffindor."

"Yeah, but I need Dawn to hold me. I just had a horrible job," he said softly.  "Please?  I can unstick the door if you prefer but I need her right now."

She considered it, then opened. "Go inside and up to her room.  I'll let her know you're here."

"Thank you, you're a peach. I promise I won't have sex, just have cuddles."  He jogged up to the girls' dorm, going into her room.  He knew it was her room, she'd told him a few months back.  He laid down on her bed, curling up with her puppy, who was napping with the dragon.  "Hey, guys.  It's me," he said softly.  Midnight nuzzled him for attention and the dragon curled up against his stomach to form a little ball of warmth. "Thanks.  We'll wait for the Dawn together," he said softly.  He didn't want to get caught.  He could go to jail for a month for sneaking into the girls' dorm.  The door opened and he looked over to see Madam Sprout.  "We had to retrieve people who were dead and were being used as a trap," he told her.  "I had to help kill the zombies who used to do my job."

She walked in to give him a hug.  "I'll have her released for a bit, Ron.  You stay here."  She went to find Dawn, finding her in a double Potions lesson. "Professor, a word?" she called softly.  He walked out, closing the door behind himself.  "Weasley is back.  They had to retrieve some who were dead and part of a trap.  May he have Dawn?"

Snape considered it, then nodded.  "Fine.  This time."

"That's all I think he'll need," she assured him, giving him a pat on the arm.  "Thank you.  He looked like he was ready to cry.  Poor thing.  I wonder where they were."  She hurried back to her greenhouses and her potting.  It was time to put the plants into pots for the winter.

Snape walked back into his room and stopped beside Dawn's desk.  "You're wanted back in your common room," he said quietly, making her look up at him.  "Something about someone being ready to cry from the job."

She cleaned up quickly and hurried out, jogging up the halls and the stairs, going into her house without needing the password.  She ran upstairs and found Ron cuddling her dog.  "What happened?"

"We had to retrieve some Lost Ones," Ron told her, lifting an arm.  "They were part of the trap.  They were zombies attacking us so the poison gas could make us like them."  She curled up next to him, holding him tightly.  "Thanks."

"Welcome, Ron.  That's what your girl should do for you.  The job sucks, but no one else would do it."

"I understand Harry now," he admitted.  "So much better."

She shifted so she was curled up behind his back, holding him like he needed to be held.  "Shh, I'm here.  You can tell me all about it."

"If I do, it'll make you dirty."

"It won't, Ron.  Remember, I've seen the worst some demons can do.  I've been in the middle of the worst some demons can do."  He nodded, relaxing under her arms.  She was there for him and that's what he needed.  How had Harry gotten through everything without someone doing this for him?  It should have driven him insane but he still kept going and had happy moments.  She guessed someone did and he didn't admit it, but she would be helping her Ron deal with this horrible thing.  No one should have to deal alone.  She gave him a squeeze, making him go limp.  "Good boy, Ron.  Tell me so I can help you."

He shook his head but let her comfort him. "Not yet."

"Sure.  Whenever you're ready.  I'm uber-support girl."

He smiled slightly at that.  "Yeah, you are," he agreed, patting her on the hand.  "Where's your ring?"

"My bag.  I was in potions and we're doing something corrosive."

"Good."  He took her hand to hold, making himself feel much better now.


Greg apparated to the place he had the last time in Chicago, then hailed a cab, getting in clutching the picture.  "27th Precinct please."

"You in trouble?" the cabbie asked.  "There's closer ones."

Greg smiled and shook his head.  "Nope.  I've got a few friends who work there and a friend's kid who's coming to school up here."  The cabbie nodded and took off, heading through the mid-day traffic like it was nothing.  Greg paid him, including a nice tip, and got out so he could head inside.  He walked up the stairs and into the detectives' squad room, pushing open the doors brashly.  Everyone looked up and he grinned.  "Vecchio."

"Sanders?" he asked, looking confused.  "Another problem?"

"Nah, just a cordial visit and a small favor."  He sat down next to his desk, smiling as Stanley came over.  "I've got a friend whose kid is coming up here for her education, my sort of education, and I was wondering if I could refer you or Stan as a decent person to depend on."  He pushed over the picture of Lindsey.  "Her."

"That's Catherine's daughter," Stanley said, grinning at it.  "She is?"  Greg nodded.  "Cool.  I'll be a pseudo-uncle if she needs it."

"Yeah, not a problem.  Just a watch and call if something bad happens?"

"Maybe some checking on her now and then because her mother's got separation anxiety," Greg admitted wryly, smirking at him.  "She's not happy about this in the least."

"Sometimes schools have to be farther away," Stan noted, picking up the picture.  "She looks cute in that robe."

"Doesn't she though?" Greg agreed.  "It's one of Emilia's old ones, but she loaned it out for her first official dinner as one of us so we could celebrate her getting her letter."  He grinned at Vecchio.  "You know how it goes when kids go off to school and leave worrying parents behind."

"Oh, yeah," he agreed, smirking at him.  "Sure, not an issue.  Should we meet her at the train station or something?"

"You know, I don't know how she's supposed to get up here.  I was gonna pop around today and ask."  He grimaced.  "'Mil's over the moon.  'San's on the list of foreign students to go to our school.  So are the new two if they're like us.  She's looking pretty decent, even though her mother caught her with a book Alex left for her," he admitted dryly.  "Pranks and defensive hexes are not something her mother seems to appreciate.  Anyway, I was gonna bring her up this weekend to do her shopping since the day we were up here the shops were closed.  Can I introduce you guys then?"

"Sure," Vecchio agreed with a grin.  "The family's never too big.  We even accept Stan most of the time."

Stanley glared at him.  "Your mother likes me. I give her compliments."

"You mean you suck up," Ray snorted.

"Guys, don't fight in front of me," Greg pleaded.  "It's my day off."  They laughed, shaking their heads.  "Thanks, guys.  I'm gonna go there, then head home and bring her up this weekend, Saturday probably.  That good or don't you guys work weekends?"

"No, I'll be here," Vecchio admitted, waving a hand at his stack of paperwork that never seemed to go away.  "It's like it's a curse."

Stanley looked then nodded. "It is."  He smirked and glanced around, then cast the counter, making the pile look smaller.  "There.  I'll see you guys Saturday sometime in the afternoon.  Have fun."  He waved and walked out, part of his mission accomplished.  He wanted Lindsey to have someone to run to in case something bad happened and those two understood enough to be safe and little enough to not get in her way if she had to act at some later date.   He walked into the bathroom and checked it before apparating to the school's foyer.  "Hey," he said, smiling at the guard who jumped to attention.  "I'm the sponsor of an incoming student and I need to know a few things, like date and travel arrangements."  The guard looked stunned.  "Sorry, I went to Hogwarts and the train was part of the experience."

"No, we pick up children from the airport and the train station," he admitted.  "We let people apparate in that morning only.  Hold on, we've got a letter.  Hasn't she gotten it yet?"

"She did but she was doing something and one of the pages caught on fire," he sighed.  "Without even using her wand.  She was trying to cook," he explained at the horrified look.

"Oh!"  He smiled and nodded.  "Good enough.  Name?"

"Lindsey Willows.  Las Vegas."

He headed into the receptionist's office and had her copy off the letter, bringing it back.  "Here you go.  Her equipment list, her travel date and instructions, and her forms that we need back."

Greg looked at that one and pulled out a pen, filling that one out right then and there.  He held up a key and handed it over. "For her school expenses.  We've done an auto-draw order through the bank."  The guard looked impressed.  "What can I say, I'm an alchemist," he said smugly.

"Wow.  Which one?"

"I'm the Wizard of Blood."

"Wow!" he breathed, looking on in awe.  "I heard about you!  You like her?"

"She's a friend's daughter," he said with a small, smug smirk and a slight shrug. "Lindsey's also a great babysitter for our kid."  He folded the paper up and put it into his pocket.  "Anyway, I just got done finding her a pseudo-uncle or two locally in the police force if she needs help.  I put that on there.  They're the local contacts if you can't reach us."

"Yes, sir," he said respectfully.  "Thank you, sir."

"Welcome.  Thanks for the help.  Can I leave from here?"

"The official port is in the next room," he said, opening the door for him.  "There you go, sir."

"Thanks, man.  Have a nice afternoon."  He apparated back to his house, smiling at Catherine and handing over the letter.  "Stan and Ray both said they'd watch out for her if something happened," he assured her.  "I said I'd be bringing her around Saturday for a few minutes to meet them officially."  She nodded, not looking happy.  "I also filled out the emergency contact sheet for her.  It's got your number first, ours second, and theirs third.  That cool?"

"Very," she said, perking up a bit.  "Now what?"

"Um, shopping's left."  He took the letters back to look it over. "Hey, no fair, they don't have uniforms," he complained.  "Where's the fun in that?"

"Do they at least get robes?" Emilia called.

"Yeah, overrobes instead of dress robes," Greg called back.  "Stan and Ray said hi.  We'll be going back Saturday to introduce her."

"Good."  She came down the stairs with their daughter, who ran over to hug her father.  "See, I told you he'd be back in time for a story.  She's been fussy since you left."

"Did you feel me pop off, sweetness?" he asked with a grin for his daughter.  "That's so brilliant of you!  Good girl!"  She beamed up at him then pulled down one of his hands to chew on his fingers.  "Sure, you gnaw on me for a bit."  He sat down to continue reading.  "Hey, they were serious.  They use computers there."

"Wow.  That's got to be easier than quills any day," Emilia agreed.  "Until I got the spell checking quills, I had to rewrite so many papers it wasn't funny."  She sat down and stole the list.  "What's left on it?"

"Wand.  Trunk.  They're not allowed familiars until their third year."

"That sucks," Catherine said bitterly.  "Why?"

"Probably because they want them mature enough to take care of them without help," Emilia offered absently as she read.  "Either that or they're the sort of people who want the supposed stereotypes to die off."

"Huh?" Catherine asked.

"You know, all witches have black cats?" Greg asked dryly.  "Those sort."

"I thought most of you had cats," Catherine admitted.  "I've seen cats at Tip Top's house."

"They had a garden cat follow them home one night," Emilia said, looking up.  "Are you *sure* you want her to go there, Catherine?"  Catherine nodded.  "They don't even need potion ingredients."

"Maybe they supply them," Greg said with a mild shrug.  "The guard knew who I was, he looked stunned when I told him I was the Wizard of Blood."

"Hmm."  Emilia nodded.  "Fine.  I'll still be popping around with her mother now and then to check up on the poor thing.   I know Salem still teaches potions."

"Salem was full of elitist snobs," Catherine said bitterly.  "New York was like an airhead's convention."

"That's the beauty of the system we were in," Emilia noted.  "It was standardized.  Everyone had to meet up to certain standards and everyone had to learn everything.  Even if you sucked in something, you still learned *something* from the experience of five years of the class.  I even learned some from Divination."

"I did that one on my own," Greg reminded her dryly, smirking at her.  "So, 'San is going to Hogwarts even if we have to move, right?"  Emilia nodded quickly.  "Good.  These two too."  He looked at Catherine.  "If something bad happens, we'll sponsor her over there too," he promised with a light grin.  She pinched him so his daughter swatted her with a fierce scowl.  "You show her, 'San," he agreed, hugging her gently.

"England and Scotland are *way* too far away," Catherine complained.

"Yeah, but that's only if something bad happens," Emilia offered gently, giving her a hug.  "You'll get through this.  By next month, you'll be happy that you don't have to drive her to school or worry about her."

"Bet me," she snorted.  "I'm going to be worrying more.  Chicago's a dangerous city.  It's nothing like Las Vegas.  They have worse crime out there."

"Not really," Greg reminded her. "Besides, she'll have two very good detectives looking over her shoulder and Ray probably will try to invite her over to dinner at least once a month to check on her. You can call her all the time.  It's not like Hogwarts, where there's no phones.  Did the letter say she could have a cell?"  Emilia nodded.  "Then we can do a prepaid one for her so she can call you each weekend," he soothed, patting her gently.  Cassandra patted her too, making cooing noises.  "That's a good girl, 'San. You help keep the auntie calm."

"Plus, you can help us spoil ours," Emilia offered with a bright grin.  Catherine frowned at her but she eventually smiled.  "See?  It'll be fine."  She gave her a hug, then groaned and held her stomach.  "Fine, guys, I won't hug others."

"It's okay, they'll learn to love hugs too," Greg promised.  "Even if we have to force the first few on them, they'll learn to love them.  They'll be cuddly little guys who love everybody."

"You want to turn our kids into Hufflepuffs?" Emilia asked, looking stunned.  "Really?"

"Well, no," he admitted.  "Just nice, sweet, good boys that girls'll go gushy over," he admitted with a sheepish grin.  "Like Blair, only without the wild hair and the women stalking him."

"Speaking of, what is wrong with Sandburg?" Catherine asked.

Emilia and Greg shared a look and Greg got up to get her the reference work she would need.  "Here.  I think you'll understand," he offered as he sat down again.

She checked the title, then opened it and started to read from the marked spot.  She stopped after a paragraph and looked at him.  "He's a what?"

"Jim's a what, he's a Guide," Emilia told her simply.  Catherine looked stunned and let the book drop.  "Then Jim got married and his wife took over those duties."

"Usually Guides in the wild would go insane faster," Greg agreed.   "They'd do things like jump off really high trees or wander into the jungle to be eaten."  Catherine shuddered. "So we're maintaining Blair's sanity for him at the moment.  This is not something to spread around however."

"Not a problem.  It's not like I can believe in that sort of stuff.  Magic yes, that no."  She picked the book up and put it onto the counter behind her.  "Now what?"

"Now, we plan on how to get Lindsey shopping and not take 'San," Emilia said dryly.  "She already loves to shop.  You know, they don't even need formal robes?  Nothing close to formal gear."

Greg frowned.  "We didn't need any until our fourth year."

"They're totally forbidden to bring any jewelry, any high heels, and anything that is deemed to be thought of as 'cute'," Emilia offered.  "They're also apparently doing their own wash since the list said to bring laundry money."

"I'm really not liking the sound of this," Greg offered.  "It seemed much nicer than that when we visited.  That sounds like some scuzzy dorm."  Emilia gave him a look then glanced at Catherine.  "Then again, maybe we should ask Teller.  He went to Chicago a long time ago.  Maybe it's not what it seems."  He shrugged.  "He's included in our area as someone to talk to for guidance."

"Maybe," Catherine sighed.  "She has to do her own laundry?"  Emilia nodded.  "Why?"

"Because apparently they don't have house elves," she said with a shrug.  "Seems odd to me, but then again we were spoiled at Hogwarts."

"The new kids have it better, they've got a reliable heating system," Greg quipped.

"Finally," Emilia agreed.   "Still won't keep Divinations from being chilly though.  You know how she is about freely moving cold air."

"Yeah, but one of these days she'll get sick too," Greg said happily.  "Or some kid will get really sick and their parents will ream the school good."

Catherine snorted.  "Wonderful.  Where was that classroom?"

"One of the towers at the top," Greg offered.  "She likes to keep a window open up there so the spirits can come in and chat with her."  He looked down at his daughter, who was napping.  "That was fast, not even a story needed."

"Indeed," Emilia agreed.  "Put her on the couch, Greg."  He slowly got up and carried her in there, putting her down on a comfy sleeping spot for her nap.  "Thanks.  Hug?"  He hugged her gently, stroking her back when the babies kicked.  "I don't know why they don't like hugs, but it's not making me happy."

"I'm sure they'll be fine," Greg promised.  "They'll have to stop it soon, or else they'll be born."  He kissed her on the forehead.  "Hungry?"



"Nope."  She grinned at him.  "And not cuddlesome either."

"Shoot," he sighed, sitting back down.   He got up and went to get the shopping guide they had picked up during their tour of the Chicago school system.   "Hmm.  Wands are way out in the middle of nowhere and it's marked as a non-apparating zone," he complained.  He looked at Emilia.  "Non-portkeying too."

"That's why there's always Olivander's," Emilia quipped.  "Wanna come, Catherine?"

"Not tonight, guys, I want to have a girl's night with the daughter."  She stood up and stretched.  "I'll leave you guys alone and go pick her up.  Greg, don't make the baby kick her.  She'll get upset with you again."  She hugged them both then left before Emilia got kicked harder.  "I don't want her going over there," she complained to herself. "England is too far away."

Greg shifted stools to hold his wife.  "Diagon?"

"When we take Lindsey," she reminded him.  "I don't need anything."  She kissed him on the cheek.  "We need to ask Teller if it's that scummy or not.  The dorms looked clean."

Greg grabbed the phone behind her and dialed the resort where they worked, leaving a message on the voice mail.  Then he hung up and nuzzled her neck.  "Are you sure you're not hungry, thirsty, or cuddlesome?" he pleaded.  He loved to please her.

She winced as the babies kicked, but his hand calmed them down immediately.  "Thanks, babe."  She kissed him properly, making them settle down completely.  "But you know how much sex irritates them.  All that moving around bothers their tiny little tummies."

"'San was an easy baby to have compared to these two," he complained. "She always wanted to be cuddled and touched."

"Soon, Greg.  Very soon, I promise."  She nuzzled him and then winced again, holding her stomach.  "Would you two or three mind not doing that?  I need cuddles."

Greg bent down to kiss her stomach. "Guys, upsetting both parents is a bad thing. Learn that soon, huh?"


Inside the watery sack, the twins looked at each other then at the one that never answered them.  "Is that you or me this time?" the first one asked.

"Me I think," the second one answered.  "Why does he keep showing up?  He never wants to play or talk."

"I don't know," the first admitted.  "Maybe the people who keep talking will know."  They looked at the illusion again then curled up next to each other.  It was extremely hard when they were being squeezed, but they didn't care.  They wanted a cuddle.


Greg pulled Lindsey into the shopping area and looked around.  "Okay, we've almost got everything for you.  All that's left is your trunk, your wand, and your stone set."  He grinned at her.  "And a broom if you're allowed.  There's not much quidditch played on this side of the pond, but I know Salem still has house teams."  One of the nearby parents gave him an odd look.  "I trained at Hogwarts."  She snorted and walked off with her nose in the air.  "Ah, another fine Salem graduate," he said dryly, leading his charge onward.  "Trunks first.  Alex really splurged on Dawn's, but we should be able to find you something decent to hold everything without being *too* unsafe."  Lindsey gave him an odd look.  "A bottomless trunk has the danger of trapping someone who's pushed into it," he said wisely.  "We got Lucius that way once.  He ended up pissing on all his clothes before anyone thought to look inside for him."  She snickered.  "Seriously. The idiot had just ruined about a year's worth of work on my mastery.  'Mil and I shoved him into his trunk and locked him in there."  He opened a door and let her go inside first.  They both smiled at the shopkeeper.  "Trunks?"

"In the back," he offered, pointing down an aisle.  "For school?"  Lindsey nodded.  "We usually suggest suitcases these days."

"I'd rather she had a footlocker," Greg offered.  "They lock."  The shopkeeper smiled at him as they went back to look at the various trunks.  "These are what we carry over there," he admitted, touching one. "They're nice and usually roomy enough.  Then again, you've got enough stuff to need two."  He looked at the smaller footlockers.  "Here's one," he said finally, pulling one down that had wheels.  "How's that?  Portable with a lot of storage room."

She opened it to look inside, then nodded and closed it, thumping on it.  "Is it pressboard?"

"We can cover the insides again if you want, or even more handily, line it with fabric and enchant it slightly."  She beamed at him.  "Plus, hey, wheels," he offered again.  "Stairs and trains and things won't be too big of a problem."

"Then I like that one," she agreed happily, taking it up to the counter.  She stopped to look at the old-fashioned carpet bags.  "How did people only have one of these in the old days and store everything in it?"

"Because back then, you had about three or four outfits," he noted, leading her on.  "You mixed and matched and you did about the same amount of wash."  She shuddered.  "Exactly.  You know, Dawn's going to have a problem with that too.  Being a curse breaker isn't going to be fun for her first year.  She'll be without a lot of bathing facilities, without most of her wardrobe, and taking some magic blocking potions."

"Eww.  Why?"

"No running water for those inconvenient times of the month," he said dryly.   She shuddered again.  "Exactly. That's why there's a potion for that."

"You still use the potion?" the shopkeeper asked.  "There's all sorts of alternatives to it in the muggle world."

"They can block magic too," Greg pointed out.  "Plus, a hormonally charged curse breaker is one who's careless and tends to die quicker," he offered.  "We want Dawnie to live for a long time.  Her sister might have to have her resurrected if she didn't."

"Do you think Buffy ever feels odd about that?" Lindsey asked.

"Probably.  I would.  Especially with how Willow did it," he agreed.  He shrugged.  "You could probably ask her sometime.  I'm sure you'll have to do a paper sometime on someone semi-famous and she'd probably fit."

"Maybe," she agreed, smiling again.  "Now where?"


"How are we getting there?"

"Well, first of all, I'm going to shrink the trunk once I pay for it," he said, handing over his credit card.  For some reason, everyone around here took them.  Maybe it was because this was an American spot.  But LA's didn't and neither did New York's shops.  He guessed it was just Chicago's thing.  "Then we'll cab to the 27th so I can introduce you to your pseudo-uncles while you're in town.  Then we'll cab to the wand shop."  He signed the slip and took his card back, doing as promised by shrinking the trunk.  "I'll show you that one so you can do it before you leave."

"Sure thing, Greg.  Thanks."  She gave him a hug.  "I know Mom'll help you when 'San goes off to Hogwarts."

"Hopefully," he sighed. "I may have to pop back to get some comfort.  It's going to be a hard thing to let my little snookums go."  He led the way out, heading for the entrance to the small mall-like area.  "Okay, cab," he said, summoning one with his wand, which was barely poking out of his sleeve.  "Another handy charm," he said with a wink before opening the back door and letting her in first.  "27th Precinct please."

"You in trouble?"

"No, just visiting some friends," he said with a mild grin.

"Sure thing," the cabbie agreed, speeding off.

"Greg, how am I getting to school?"

"Up to you, Linds.  Do you want to fly fast, fly normal, or train it?"

"Going fast would probably be better for mom's mental health."

"Yeah, but she'd try to cling."

"Maybe, but I'm sure Emilia and Grissom could pry her off," she offered.  "Besides, I like that form of travel."

"Cool.  As soon as you're old enough, I'll teach you," he said with a wink.  They pulled up outside the precinct and he paid the cabbie before leading her out and upstairs.  "Ah, two Rays in a row," he said happily.

Vecchio snorted, still typing.  "I hate reports."

"Of course you do," Lindsey agreed. "You're about a decade behind most departments by not using a computer."  Both Rays grinned at her.  "Hi.  I'm Lindsey."

"Hey," Stanley said, waving at her.  "How's your mom?"

"Which one are you?" she asked.

"Stan or Ray Kowalski, depending on who you talk to," he said with a bright grin.

"Oh, *you're* Stan.  Did you know Sarah's afraid of you?"

He smirked and nodded.  "Oh, yeah," he promised happily, making her giggle.  "So, you're off to shop some more, kid?"

"Just one more thing," she sighed, sitting down between them.  "That last little item that I *have* to have."  She looked at Ray. "So you're Vecchio?" He nodded, smirking at her.  "Mom said you were a decent guy with sucky luck at the tables."

He nodded again.  "Yeah, that about describes it," he agreed happily.  "Greg, sit."

"Sure."  He pulled a chair over and sat.  "No one else is even on call?"

Stan snorted. "Hell no.  They'd never give us that much help," he said bitterly.  "Never become a cop.  It's tiring."

"I had a neighbor call me out of bed this morning at four to arrest her husband, who was molesting their little girl," Ray Vecchio reminded him.  "Didn't even think to call an ambulance, nothing.  Just called me, the friendly cop neighbor."

"Wow," Lindsey said.  "You guys get that?"

"Yup.  The same as I do for the other wizards who need potion stuff," Greg said with a small shrug. "What did the Great One say about the dorms?"

"That by May they're scuzzy and nasty, to never leave my wash alone, and to stock up on treats because getting out of there is few and far between."

"Make friends in the upper years, they usually have more freedom."  She shook her head.  "No?"

"Nope.  He said he got out about once a semester.  That's all they were allowed."

"That sucks," Stan offered.  "You could call and we'll spring you for a night of pizza and soda."

"That's something I make take you up on," she agreed happily.  "Especially if it gets to be too bad.  He said that a few of the dorms were known for dirty tricks."

"Honey, you've got three prank masters at your disposal for advice," Greg gently reminded her.  "I'm betting that the twins and Tipsy would *love* to help you get back at any idiots who try you."

"If not, Alex seemed like he'd be one to help," Stan offered.  "Not to mention Ron and Dawn."

Greg nodded, looking a bit smug.  "Oh, yeah.  They'd help.  A full breaker, two of his apprentices, and three people who run a joke shop would definitely help."  Lindsey let out a giggle, but yawned in the middle of it.  "Didn't get to sleep last night?"

"I was going over Ron's first year charms book.  It's got some neat stuff in there."

"It does," Greg agreed.  "Very useful too."  He patted her on the back of the head.  "Well, we've got one more stop before we can go home and I'm only hoping he's open at all.  He was behind in his creation."  He stood up.  "Say bye and we'll head to get your wand."

"Bye, guys, and thanks for agreeing to look out for me.  I'm sure my mom'll call in the middle of the night to have you check on me."  She hugged them and followed Greg out.  "Do you think I'll get one I like?"

"I don't know how this guy is.  I know Ollivander prides himself on beauty as well as function."  He got them a cab and gave the address, getting a funny look.  "It does exist."

"It burned the other day," he told him, turning to look at them.  "You sure you want to go there?"

"Shit.  No, then we're done for the moment.  Can you take us to the mall?"  The cabbie nodded and Greg leaned down.  "Don't worry, not an issue," he whispered. "Ollivander is open."  She nodded, taking his hand to soothe herself.  He paid their fare and led her inside, taking her to one of the bathroom areas and disapparating with her.  No one was around so he was safe.  They landed in Diagon and he gave her a moment to wheeze and catch her breath.  "You good?"  She nodded, following him, patting his pocket. "It's still there," he said, grinning at her.  "I promise, you won't be without anything you need."  He pushed open the door.  "In."  She walked in, looking around in awe.  Ollivander came out from between the shelves.  "She's starting in Chicago, Mr. Ollivander, but the cabbie said the address of the wandmaker over there burned.  I didn't want to chance it."

"That's fine," he agreed happily, looking at the new student.  "They do start later over there?"  She nodded.  "That's wonderful."  He pulled out his tapemeasure and started it running.  "Do you know her areas, Gregory?"

"It looks to be technical.  Transfiguration probably, with some charms and potions added if they teach them there."  Ollivander gave him a look.  "They don't make them buy herbs or potions supplies."

"Odd," he agreed.  "What about books?"

"No, those I got a ton of," Lindsey said, watching the tape measure work.  "Is this really necessary?"

Ollivander laughed and took it back, going into the back to find a few he thought might suit her.  "Here, try this one," he offered, opening a box and handing over the small wand.  "Swish it, dear," he instructed.  She swished it and nothing happened.  "Hmm.  Interesting."   He reached behind him and pulled down another, handing it over.  It was rough, but it created a cascade of sparks, just not in harmony.  "Ah, that's why."  He went to look for a few more of them.  "It appears that she's got some specific talents, Gregory.  You'll want to watch her."  He came back with a box and handed it over.  "Try that one, dear.  Ash and veela's hair, nine inches, very flexible for charms work."  She swished it and a beautiful cascade of fireworks went off.  He sighed.  "Not quite.  I had such high hopes for that one."  He took it back and went to find another one, coming back with an even happier smile. "This one nearly jumped off the shelf.  Ash and unicorn bone."  She took it delicately and swished it, earning the beautiful blue sparks this time. "Wonderful.  Not very delicate, but not the most sturdy.  Definitely not for someone who deals with creatures or heavily with potions ingredients."  He handed her the box.  "Take good care of it.  Polish it weekly to keep the wood healthy, it's from a burned out area.  The last surviving tree."  She looked impressed.  "Seven, Gregory."  He counted out the galleons and handed them over.  "Polish is by the door.  Grab a bottle for her."  He nodded, walking Lindsey out with her new wand and the bottle of polish.  "Dear, she'll be back," he said, watching Greg as he walked.  "That one is quite specific about its owner.  The unicorn was a fussy herd stallion."  He cleaned up the small mess and put the others back.  That had been one of the easiest fits this year.


Greg walked Lindsey back into the house. "Sorry, Catherine, but the wand guy in Chicago apparently got burned out," he said bitterly.  "Ollivander only had to try three out on her though."

Lindsey pulled her wand, showing it off proudly.  "What do you think, Mom?"

"I think it's very pretty," she admitted, hugging her. "Any special care instructions?"

"He said I had to be careful because it was a bit delicate and that I had to polish it now and then," she reported.  "I got a bottle of polish too."  She pulled back to look at her mother. "He said it was the last tree standing after a forest fire."


"What's the core?" Emilia asked.

"Unicorn bones," she said, letting her see it.  "Ash and unicorn bones."

"Hmm, flexible, swishy, not a wand for someone with grandiose gestures," Emilia noted, handing it back carefully.  "So I'm guessing you're going to be a lesser swishy one."

"Let's see," Greg offered, pulling his wand.  "Do this, Linds."  He did the classic swish and flick.  "Wingardium Leviosa."

She followed the movement.  "Wingardium Leviosa," she repeated.  The bar stool in front of her moved and floated slightly, making her squeak and break her concentration, which let the stool fall.  "Wow!  I did magic!"

Greg gave her a hug. "It's always a great feeling the first time," he shared, winking at Catherine before handing her over for a hug.

"You sure did, baby.  You did magic," Catherine agreed. "You did it very well."  She looked at Greg.  "Is that everything?"

"But packing her up."  He pulled out the trunk and resized it, letting her get a good look at it.  "It's got wheels too," he offered proudly.  "It'll fit everything but a broom, but we don't know if she can have one or not anyway."  Emilia shook her head. "No?" he asked, starting to frown.  "Just as a first year?"  Emilia shook her head again.  "Why not!  They're a vital part of our world!"

"They actually have driver's ed," she said grimly.  "They don't teach flying at all."

"That's fine, we'll teach her on her downtime," Greg said firmly.  "Potions too if I have to."

"They teach modern medicine," Catherine told him.

"Which is great and all, but that doesn't cure some things, like the after-effects of a hex."

"They're not allowed to do that stuff to each other," Emilia said dryly.

"Neither were we, but look how many we got fired at us on a daily basis," he snorted, crossing his arms.  "Catherine, if something that wrong happens, I'm going to beg the Headmaster to take her or get her into the land of happy people in Cali.  Agreeable?"  Catherine frowned at him.  "Quality education."

"She'll be years behind."

Greg smirked.  "You think?  With all of us working with her for the rest of the year?  Emilia's on house restriction.   Xander's going to be frustrated soon because his apprentices are getting the harder lessons and they're not going to love it like he does."

"Ron found a calling," Emilia offered as she came over to kiss him on the cheek.  "Calm down. It's not that bad, Greg."  He gave her a long look.  "Besides, maybe Mortimer will go with her," she offered with a grin.  He hugged her, letting the twins, or whatever, kick them both.  "Cat, we'll handle it, but if someone touches her that school is going to go down."  Catherine nodded and hugged her own daughter. "It'll be fine.  It's not an inner city high school."

"No, it's not.  It's got a bunch of egotistical brats with powers," she said bitterly.

"Yeah, but I'll be one of them, mom," Lindsey said.  "Not that much of an outsider.  Plus, I know some pretty cool people, like Dawn. That'll score me some popularity points, especially since her last letter said there was a picture of us together in Witch World Weekly."

"Fine," she sighed.  "You're sure you want to go?"

"If she doesn't, then she'll be blocked from ever using it and it'll lead to things like a weakened immune system, suicide, and possibly cancer."  Catherine gave him a long look and he gave a slight shrug.  "The kids who've had theirs blocked tend to get it more often, we don't know why.  There's no direct causal link that we can find."

"Fine," she said sadly.  "I will be called each and every Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, Lindsey.  Even if you've got a stack of homework as high as Hogwarts."

"Yes, mom," she said dutifully, though inside she was dancing around in joy.  She was going to be going far, far away from her mother for most of the year!  Yes!  Greg gave her a look and she smiled at him.  "Can you teach me more so I don't go in behind everyone else, Greg?"

"Sure," he agreed happily.  "Grab your books and come with me to the backyard.  It's easier around water for some people."  She did that, grabbing the books she had been covertly practicing from since she had gotten them.  Ron had even marked the ones she should study first, just in case.  That lock opening spell seemed pretty neat.


Lindsey landed with George's hands on her shoulders and her trunk at her feet.  Unfortunately there had been a massive case of missing people and Greg and her mom were on call.  She looked up and grinned bravely, not so sure now.  "We're here?"

"We're here, Lindsey," he agreed, giving her a gentle hug.  "Now, remember, I added those two books on pranks and the treats into the *left* side of your trunk and Fred did the *right* so tell us how they work," he said with a grin.  He looked up as the guard came closer, smirking at him.  "I'm dropping her off for her guardian, her mother, and a few other worry warts," he said calmly.  "This is Lindsey Willows."

"Yes, sir, right this way if you wouldn't mind," the guard said, watching as Lindsey picked up the handle of her trunk and followed him.  "Is her laptop in there?"

"It's in my backpack," she said, turning to show it off.  "That way I can get my books to class with me without having to float them down the halls or carry them and hurt myself."

The guard nodded.  "That's sensible."  He opened a door.  "Headmistress, Lindsey Willows has arrived."

"Send her in."  She smiled at the young lady and the man behind her.  "You don't look like one of the people who came with her.  Her father perhaps?" she asked, holding out her hand.

"No, just temporary guardian.  Her sponsor and her mother got called out on a multiple missing persons case.  They're scene techs with the Las Vegas Crime Lab."  The woman looked stunned.  "I'm George Weasley."  She paled and his smirk picked up.  "This is Lindsey.  Greg's like a big brother to us so I volunteered.  It's getting me away from the shop and a vexing issue with an illusion prank."

"I still say you should let it form whichever family member you want, unless it's to specifically scare someone," Lindsey offered.

He nodded.  "I probably should, but I want to scare Ron with an image of Percy," he said smugly.  "That'll keep him from shagging Dawn into the carpet again this month."

"Maybe an hour," Lindsey advised, giving him a pat on the arm.  "He likes her a bit too much at the moment.  Fortunately she said that Draco and Professor Snape fixed her contraceptive potion errors so she's not going to have any more troubles, while Ron still buys his," she finished happily.

"Good," he agreed.  "Those kids will be worse than ours."  He smiled at the stunned looking woman again.  "Sorry, are we that odd?"

"No."  She blinked a few times.  "Thank you for dropping her off.  If I may ask, why didn't she go with your kind of wizard if you're such good friends?"

"Because my mother about threw a hissy with me going *this* far," Lindsey said dryly.  "She's a bit protective since she deals with criminals all day."  She dropped her trunk.  "Is something wrong with my paperwork?"

"No, dear, we were going to do your placement exams."

"Go ahead, I'm sure Greg will want to be able to tell her mother how high she placed," George agreed, waving a hand as he sat down.  "We've been working on her Potions, Charms, and Transfiguration work.  Her defense is still a bit shaky, though she's been doing wonderfully with the theory at least."

The Headmistress nodded once then held out a wand. "Here, use this."

"I've got mine," she said, pulling it out of her sleeve, like Greg had shown her.  "Ash and unicorn bones."  The headmistress nodded.  "I'm about two chapters into Charms and Transfiguration.  They seem really neat.  Potions is okay, I'm decent enough in science, but I'm better in those two.  Do I have to take Herbology though?  Greg wasn't sure if you taught that or Potions here."

"We do not teach potions.  We feel that they're the old ways," she instructed.

"Hmm, then I'm guessing he's going to be going into teaching overdrive this summer," she said dryly.  George nodded, smirking at her.  "Fine, and if I can I'll come help you guys."

"Sure, Lindsey.  Remember, at that same time he's going to be teaching Cassandra how to do potions too.  He's a master after all, his kids are going to be good at it."

"We hope," she reminded him.  "They may not like it.  'San likes to go into the lab with him and help him stir, but that doesn't mean she won't be miserable."

"True," he agreed.  "Turn about."  She did so.  "Where should she start?"

"Let's start with something easy.  Floating."  Lindsey cast the charm perfectly, levitating her trunk.  "Well."  She smiled.  "Now, let's move onto the second year things.  How about a folding charm?"  She gave her a look and took off her jacket, doing that.  "Very good."

"That's actually in the first year books of ours," George told her.  He pulled out a copy of his textbook and handed it over.  "Here, compare away," he offered happily.

She looked through it, then at Lindsey.  "Well, that means you'll be short a few of the first year charms.  Locks and things you know."

"I know the basic 'alohamora'," she offered.  "Greg made sure since I lost the keys to my trunk once already."

"Excellent.  Only that one?"  She nodded. "Very well.  I'm going to start you in the second level of the first year courses for charms.  Now, about transfiguration.  We mostly study the theory behind it but you will get some hands-on practice.  We mostly do the inanimate.  The animate transformations are usually considered higher, senior studies."

"Shoot.  You mean I'm going to be stuck turning pine needles into sewing needles?"  The Headmistress gave her an odd look.  "It's all Greg could find other than hair and I did that well enough.  I'm also usually okay to change color and form; our family's toaster is now purple marble but it works just as well."

"Then I think we can probably move you into the advanced lessons there as well," the Headmistress said firmly, moving on.  "Computers?"

"I was in Las Vegas' main school system," Lindsey told her simply.   All schools these days had computers and computer requirements.

"Fine.  What about your research classes?"

"Not my most favorite thing," Lindsey admitted, "but I've had to do some papers in classes before."

"Fine.  Good in fact."  She smiled.  "Now, about your electives.  Arithmancy, Runes, and Languages?"

"I'm good in languages and literature classes.  Greg said Runes is helpful because some of the better research materials are in other languages.  Arithmancy was basically algebra the way he described it and I was in that class last year."

"Fine," she agreed happily.  "We teach normal math and science here though.  The only languages we offer are Spanish and French."

George snorted. "Yet she's supposed to do research in books that are written in Latin?  Lindsey, don't worry, we'll teach you a neat translating charm during the holidays, baby girl.  Even Alex has to use it now and then and he's got a pretty good grasp on the basics of a few languages, like Thinial and Latin."

"Who?" the Headmistress asked.

"Alex Dumass.  Another friend of her sponsor's," he said with a grin.  "Great guy, very nice, even though I am going to kill him for making Ron help him retrieve a few dead curse breakers.  It was too hard for his experience level," he said when Lindsey looked at him.

"Alex was showing him the worst it could become," she pointed.  "Ron was thinking it was all fun and games, and it broke Dawn's ideas about it all being fun and games.  They understand it more now, George."

"Yeah, but Ron broke down.  I don't like that method of training."

"Look at what he'd been doing," she protested.  "He thought it was all easy and nifty fun.  It's not.  It's a hard job and he'd have to learn that sometime or else he might die on the job.  Xander's making sure he survives and carries on the legacy of the curse breaking tradition."

"Point," he agreed, still smiling, "but he still made my baby brother cry."

She rolled her eyes.  "Then make the poor guy babysit your twins, George.  They're punishment enough since he hates kids."

"Good idea," he agreed happily, reaching over to pat her on the back.  "You'll be wonderful at our job if you wanted to learn it, Lindsey."

"Mom would die," she reminded him patiently.  He shrugged.  "Good point," she agreed happily.  She looked at the Headmistress again.  "Why is it that over at Hogwarts they get specific classes in magical history and we don't?"

"Because the United States doesn't have that much magical history," the Headmistress told her.

"So, no wizard battles during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or any other war?"  She slowly shook her head.  "Huh.  I think Alex owes me a galleon then," she said smugly.  "He said there had to have been."

"The only way to find out is finding a book to prove it one way or another," George reminded her.  "Hence the language lessons you'll be getting."  He stood up.  "So, she's in the advanced classes all the way around?"

"Why wasn't she sent to Salem?"

"Because her mother didn't want her around the elitist snobs," George said plainly.  "Greg offered to sponsor her into Hogwarts but her mother about needed drugs and therapy for that idea."  He gave her a hug.  "Now, remember to call your mom and one of the Rays weekly to check in.  Write emails too for those who have them and I'll get Philip to write down the language spells for you.  Maybe he'll even send you a beginning book of Latin or something."  He patted her on the head.  "You behave and make a lot of friends.  Oh, Harry said he'd be over here for some sort of convention in a few months and he'd take you to lunch then if possible so you behave.  No losing lots of house points or getting detentions."  He gave her a hug.  "Ready?"  She nodded so he left, apparating off from that spot.

"Okay," she sighed, turning to look at her Headmistress again.  "Dorm assignment so I can stuff myself in my corner of the dorm?"

"You have your own room, we do it that way instead of a single room for each year," she said quietly, handing over a paper.  "You're in Group A.  I'll expect great things from you, Lindsey.  Don't disappoint me."

"I'm here to learn the things I need to so I have control and conscious decision making over my powers," she said.  "And possibly to find a good job when I'm older.  The only person I'm looking forward to pleasing is myself."  The Headmistress nodded.  "Thank you.  Robes at dinner?"

"Some children do, some don't," she admitted.  "Most of the muggle borns don't.  You may if you want but it may set the wrong tone for the others."

She snorted.  "They either like me or don't," she pointed out, taking her trunk with her when she walked out.  She smiled at the guard.  "Hi again.  Group A?"  He pointed up the staircase.  "Thanks.  See you later."  She drug her trunk up and found her room, it had her name on it.  She walked in, looking at the painted cement walls and the bed in the corner.  Across from it was her wardrobe and dresser plus her desk.  She dropped her trunk and took off her backpack, getting ready to move furniture.   This needed some help.  Fortunately Teller had told her to bring posters because the dorms were bleak without them.  She had even found a moving quidditch one that she liked.  It had Harry and his team flying around.  It looked pretty cool, she wished she could learn that.  But maybe over her first break.


Catherine listened to her daughter's rambling monologue about her dorm room and her placement, smiling in relief.  "That's fine, Lindsey.  Did you find anything you forgot?"  She smiled. "I had Greg forward your shampoo and back brush this morning.  Sure.  No, you rest tonight.  Remember, first days are always longest."  She smiled.  "Love you too, Lindsey.  Behave and be well.  Call me in a week.  Love you too.  Bye."  She hung up and gave Grissom a tired look.  "It's a dorm room."

He nodded. "I expected that much," he admitted.  "I doubted anywhere in the US could be like that one we visited to help with that one case."  She nodded, looking sad.  "You could always ask if she could go over there.  That would give Dawn someone else to chat with."

"I'd never survive her being over there," Catherine sighed, sipping from her bottle of water.  "At least Greg got the two cops over there to agree to watch over her.  That way I don't have to worry so much.  Vecchio's an over-protective guy from the old school."  He nodded, looking sympathetic.  "Where is Greg?"

"He said something about Emilia and the babies," he said with a small shrug.  "I'm assuming they're doing more fun things that new parents do."

She pulled out her cell and called Greg's, getting Blair.  "Where's Greg?"  She sat up and put her water down.  "Why?  No, we'll be right down.  Keep him calm, Sandburg."  She hung up.  "Emilia was having some false labor and they admitted her to the local hospital."  Grissom got up and pulled her up, walking her out so she could drive them to check on them.  Emilia meant so much to Greg, he'd be destroyed if something happened to her.


To Part 7
To Index