Teal'c decided to take his meditation in the garden that morning. It was very calming out there and no one seemed to mind. For the two days they had been around he had been asked many questions about their missing knowledge and people. He had told them all he could, but it was not that much in his opinion. He supposed they were desperate enough to take anything so he had said all he knew. Including about the battles and them defeating the invaders. He hoped it gave them some comfort to know that they existed on in solitude. He sat himself under a tree, making sure he was off the path, and closed his eyes. Soon he felt something watching him and opened them, looking at the little creature. He tipped his head off to the side to get a better look at it since it was peeking around a large bush. "Hello," he said quietly.
"Yous not invaders?" it asked. He shook his head, staying relaxed. "Yous one of those dogmen?"
"I was. I escaped when I found out there were other ways. I help those fighting them now," he told it. It was a strange ambassador but he thought he had seen it somewhere before. Could this be another alien race. "Do I know of your kind?"
Daniel walked out with a mug of tea, sitting next to him. "You're a house elf," he told it. It stepped out from behind the bush, nodding. "You were mentioned to us. The guy who owns the house said you could tell what Teal'c is."
"We's can always tell," the house elf told him. "All of us." Daniel smiled and held out a hand so the house elf shook it. "I's is Bastium."
"I'm Daniel and this is Teal'c."
"Are you an ambassador?" Teal'c asked him.
Bastium shook his head. "No, I's is a house elf." He stood up straighter, looking Teal'c over. "If yous left, why yous here?"
"He came with me to translate a book," Daniel offered, sipping his tea. "It's in Thinial, or some off-shoot of Asgardian."
The house elf nodded, smirking at him. "Book is in Creation. Elders writes in that."
"You knew the Elders? The ones who predate the Asgardians?" Daniel asked.
"House elves was made by them," he said proudly. "We knows the snakey ones. We always knows."
"Then you must have been the defense system of the stolen ones," Daniel told. The house elf shrugged. "When the wizards were stolen, were some of you too?"
"Many of us lived back then," he said sadly. "Many died protecting our masters. Our Masters be snatched and a few of us held on." He bowed to Teal'c. "If yous run away, then why yous come *here*?"
"Because I have some knowledge of the ones who were stolen," Teal'c told him. "I have shared what I know."
The house elf nodded. "Then yous not bad. Wes no worry, come serve yous as well." He walked off, heading back into the kitchen. He told the other house elves, spreading it through their network. Soon, one of them has passed it onto another house elf outside the house and on it went. Until even the ones serving in the Ministry's kitchens knew.
One of the aurors overheard them talking about it and interrupted. "How do you know about that being?" he asked.
"House elfs always know," the house elf informed him, putting more mashed potatoes onto his plate. "Wes always know them, protects against them we do."
"Thank you. Would you be willing to tell the rest of us about them?" The house elf nodded and went back to work. He went to sit with his boss, telling him what he had learned. The aurors were very interested in this gate thing. It could be a very bad thing and they'd have to defeat it. Another house elf walked by them. "Did you know more than the other one?"
The head of the aurors looked at him. "Do you know about these gates?"
The house elf looked very scared. "Dogmen comes through them," she told him. "Three defeated, all stolen they was. Pretty with them. Able with them. Kingly with them." She nodded. "Theys all go after the dogmen so wes protect."
"Thank you." The boss smiled at them. "Would you be willing to tell us more about them?"
"Are there any books about this?" the auror asked. "An account by a survivor?"
The house elf nodded. "Purged but still here. Find them, find them all." She filled their glasses then walked on.
"Purged?" the auror asked. "Knowledge?"
"About three Minsters ago, we had one that was paranoid. He managed to purge anything before Merlin from the archives. We don't know where he put them but we know he didn't destroy most of it."
"Hmm. Could that be something that we protect? We protect a few hidden sites around the country."
"We were an Empire then, there's every chance he sent them to a far reaching spot on it. They could be somewhere in India rotting."
"Would anyone from back then know?" the auror asked. The boss frowned and then shrugged. "I'm thinking Destina Dumass isn't the oldest member revived. She would have been a child, but there are older paintings in their gallery than any other family outside the Snapes and the Malfoys."
"They might know something," the head auror admitted. "I'll let you head up when Tonks comes in for her daily report. She's said they've found some very interesting stuff in that book so far. The etchings in the paper are a map. Not of here." The auror looked stunned. "If they've got one of those gate monstrosities working over there, and are fighting them, then there's every chance that they can use it to fight more."
"Or we might be able to use it to see if we can retrieve our lost ones," the auror noted. "Who would have been the there? Most of the families back then were assimilated."
"Three families have been very firm on there always being a member and always having someone who could be revived," the head auror said quietly. "There have always been frozen Dumasses. There has always been one frozen Snape heir, usually a maiden, and there has always been a Malfoy by some name or another. There have been other families alive that long. There has always been a Weasley, even back then. There has always been a Longbottom for some reason or another. There has always been a member of the Dumbledore clan. There has always been a member of the Flitwick clan, again under many names." The auror looked stunned. "The main book of names is very enlightening. I had to help my wife trace back someone for our son. The thing is so tangled it's not funny, but there are five scrolls that are separate. They intermix sometimes, but not always. The Clans Dumass and Snape, the Clan Malfoy, the Clan Weasley, the clan Flitwick, and the Clan Longbottom. Longbottom's seem to intermix more often than not, like they're the strength under a lot of the families to keep them going. The Dumass and Snapes are mirror families. Their initial family is off the same person, the person who freed them from the Church after bringing them here. Malfoys and Weasleys tend to do selective mixing and Flitwicks are more like the Longbottoms but they go for power and knowledge. There's been no few in the side lines of the Dumass and the Snapes."
"Then what about McGonagall? She's one of our strongest witches today?"
"She's off Dumbledore's, a sideline way back when. One cousin went rogue and formed the family when he was kicked out. Sort of like Justinius Mandrake's family. Technically, he's a Dumass, Alex's only older brother; but they kicked him out for being too dark. The man conjured demons and played with them too often for their tastes." The boss picked up his fork. "Anything new on that MacLeod person?"
"Not a bit. We know he's like Methos but we can't figure out why there's magic around him or how he found the Leaky. I was going to ask one of the Dumasses to look at him, see if they can't memory charm him after doing a good spell cleaning. They seem to excel at that." His fork and knife paused in their cutting. "Has there always been a cursebreaker among the Dumass clan?"
"Supposedly," his boss admitted. "They've always been sensitive to the flows of magic. You can even see it in the Snape line. Something like that monstrosity would probably make the current Snape heir shudder in revulsion. Alex reported he nearly passed out from it's strength." He ate a bite of steak and chewed slowly before swallowing and going on. "I'll tell you what, we could use some of the Dumass clan in the upcoming battle. Alex has found many things over his career and took the time to learn from them. He taught that same skill to his apprentices. You see it when you watch Bill Weasley. I'd like to know what they know that we don't."
"We could ask them to tell us," the auror offered.
Tonks brought her plate over and sat next to their boss. "Hi. I came early, it saved me from Alex pouting because his grandmother had taken his consort cow shopping."
"They're restarting their farm?"
"They had to. Draco told him Destina was very concerned about how expensive food was in this day and age. They're restarting their lives."
"Good," the head auror agreed. "It suited them before."
"I wonder if they'll restart the unicorn breeding," the male auror offered. "They used to be known for it."
"Aunt Cordy said she might," Tonks told him. "She said she wasn't sure. Said there weren't too many pure people in the family these days. In her day one child was always kept pure until another was found and trained." She took a bite of her own steak. "This is really good."
"The house elves know something about this whole alien thing," their boss told her.
She nodded. "One of them faced the alien down in the garden this morning to make sure he was peaceful. He said he had escaped from his former masters once he found out that there was a way that didn't involve slavery." She cut and ate another bite, swallowing as quickly as she could. "Apparently they've got a small resistence going."
"Good," the male auror said firmly. "They need one. The gall of those things is even worse than Lucius Malfoy's."
"True," Tonks agreed. "They've managed half the book already, but they keep running into a few sigals that neither side know. It's marked with a weapon marking but also a food one according to Sandburg and Callahan. I'm not even pretending to know what that means." She smiled at her boss. "They have found a mention of a house elf. They were called helper creatures in the diary."
"They know it's a diary?"
"They know it's a dairy, it was done in about a week and it covered over a year's worth of events. All about the gate. Though Alex will get some use out of it. It mentions others left diaries and hid them with their treasures."
"Did it mention anything about three wizards?" the male auror asked, leaning closer.
She nodded, stirring up her potatoes. "It did. According to the translation I've seen, two wizards and a witch got together to take down the gate thingie while one led the rest of the army. A Snape witch along with a Malfoy and a Weasley wizard broke the thing while a Dumass led the charge. The same one who got them free of the Church. He was nearly two hundred then and starting to look very far gone. They thought it'd be his last act but he was one of those stolen. As were the three others. They were taken as a last ditch move. The Malfoy male died. The Weasley male and the Snape female continued to live on." She leaned closer to her boss. "There is another something interesting. The book says that there was a child. Newborn, barely old enough to move. The Weasley's last heir and he couldn't bare to part with her. She was mentioned in a single line that was then crossed out. We found it under the lettering. She hasn't been mentioned again and she wasn't sacrificed. The line said she lived on."
The head auror dropped his fork. "You can't possibly think that's where Virginia came from," he hissed.
"I don't know. But it would be an accessory Weasley line and she might have been saved or protected. I checked on the family scroll, the child's name is not on it." Her boss swallowed. "If that's true, then we do have a whole branch of Weasleys that haven't been noticed for years. They're probably external wizards and witches."
"Oh, dear Merlin," the male auror breathed. "That would explain why we never found her. It would explain why she's attracted to trouble."
"Not all external magic users are troublesome," their boss pointed out dryly. "Just the ones we've had to deal with. The rest are rather hidden and we don't have to deal with them." He looked at Tonks. "Can you prove it?" She shook her head. "How would we prove it if she's not on the chart?"
"There's a birth chart," she told them. "It's fully accurate of every child that was ever born. Molly used it to show the twins that their wife is having twins. A boy and a girl by the way."
"A Weasley female?" the male auror asked. "When was the last one before Virginia?"
"Three generations or so," Tonks said with a little one-sided shrug. "Weasley women are rare. But, there are muggle tests to tell family relation."
"Yes, but that far down the line?" their boss asked. "It would nearly be out of them."
"She's exactly like them," Tonks offered. "Nearly exactly. Same hair, same face, same wand nearly. Hers, Bill's, and Ron's wands are all different from the rest of the family. They're the only ones with unicorn cores. The rest have plant cores instead. Plus, we know Virginia can feel power flows. That's why she's so good in Defense." She ate more of her food, digging in so she wouldn't be late to check in. "It bears looking into," she said between bites.
"It does," their boss admitted. "Thank you, Tonks. Hurry up and I'll take the rest of your report later." She nodded, shoveling in the food. "You as well," he told the male auror. "We'll have to try to send someone back with them." The male auror beamed and nodded, hurrying his meal as well. He ate slower but enjoyed it more. It was a privilege of command to set the time-tables.
Draco looked at the beasts, then at Grandma Des. "Are you sure we can have animals? I noticed none of our neighbors have any."
"I checked with the town over us, they said it was more than acceptable," she soothed. "We kept them on the other side of the pond, in those fields. There used to be a barn out there too."
"I'm sure it's easily rebuilt," he offered as they continued down the line. He shied away from one nose dripping with snot. "Eww. People consider these beasts *cute*?"
"They are when they've been cleaned up," she offered. She looked at the owner. "I noticed a lot of males. Culled?"
He shook his head. "The business has been down since that whole mad cow thing." He patted the side of a fat cow. "She's due soon."
"Can we test for this mad cow thing?" Draco asked him. He nodded. "Before someone gets sick?"
"All my herd have been tested and immunized. It's not a problem." He looked at Destina again. "I know you." She smiled slightly. "Why are you buying cows?"
"Because I don't like to depend on the outside world if it's not necessary," she offered. "I'd rather have a farm full of beasts than anything else." She looked around. "Have you seen Molly?"
"She's over by the goats," he said with a grin. "Seemed to think she could use a new one." He led the way over. "Molly, luv, how are you finding them?"
She looked at him and grimaced. "Scrawny," she told him.
He chuckled and hugged her. "I know but they're young 'uns. We've got a few plumper, older ones in the barn if you wanted a look see."
"Maybe later," she said, giving him a pinch on the cheek. "You always were so nice helping me pick out chickens." She looked over at Draco. "Didn't like the cows?"
"He thinks they're dirty and nasty," Destina said mildly. She looked at the farmer. "I'm looking to start my own herd of milk cows. A few food animals wouldn't be amiss, but I'd almost rather have milk than meat animals."
"Well, we've got most of a herd around here somewhere," he admitted, taking off his slightly crushed stove-pipe hat and scratching his head. He whistled, making his wife look over at him. "Where's those milk beasts?"
"The north field today," she called back. "The golf cart's gassed up."
"That's good. Thank ye." He led them to the golf carts, flying off with them to look at the herd. He saw Draco's look and grinned. "Sometimes the muggles have good ideas. Much easier to move hay with a tractor than with mules." He zoomed around the herd, rounding them together. "How's that one?"
Destina looked then nodded. "They'll do. It's a nice sized herd. Forty?"
"Forty-three," he corrected as he landed, leading her over. "They're pretty tame. We milk them all the time." He nudged her gently. "We can also make you a good deal on a milking system. Very handy, can do fifty cows in under an hour." She looked impressed with that. "Another piece of muggle technology that's fairly handy." He got out of Molly's way. "You thinking about a milk beast too, Molly, luv?"
"Arthur and I have talked about it but we haven't come to any agreement," she sighed. "I think they'd take a lot of work and more food than they're really worth, he says I'm prejudice against the darlings because I'd rather eat them." She patted one cow's side, earning a startled moo. "Sorry, dear, don't worry about it. You're far from eating age."
Destina laughed. "True, Molly, very true." She opened one cow's mouth, looking at her teeth. "Fairly clean," she said, letting the head go. She walked around it, nodding at the configuration of the back. "How much do they put out?"
"About six gallons since they're all natural. No tampering or steroids given to my beasts," he said proudly. "Most of the herd is Jersey, but we've got a few crosses in there to try out the milk production."
Destina nodded. "Good enough. I'll take them and three meat beasts, one ready for slaughter now would be fine but the other two can wait."
"Yes, ma'am," he said happily, leading them back to the golf cart. "I heard you saying you needed to rebuild the barn. How long do you think that'll take? So I know when to deliver and all."
"It shouldn't take too terribly long," Molly told him, looking back at Destina. "It is the down season for contractors."
Destina leaned forward. "Is that milking machine electric or magical?"
"We've got a magical one but it's more and it's prone to breakdowns because it pasteurizes at the same time." He landed them in front of the barn. "That means that it'll heat it a bit to kill all the germs before cooling it down."
"You heat milk?" Draco asked.
"Only to kill the germs. Only for a few moments," he informed him. "Never seen a milk beast before?"
"If we had any, I've managed to avoid them thus far," Draco admitted, looking at the long line of cows. "They are rather...dirty."
"They can be, but no worse than pigs and they're actually very clean," the farmer told him. He smiled at Molly. "When'll you been needing a new one?"
"We could use a new male," she offered. "But we're going to put that off until the spring births. Arthur always thought them the best." He laughed and nodded. "Destina, is that all you were getting?"
"I would like a few pigs and a few goats as well," she admitted. "I don't want to spend Alex broke though."
Draco snorted. "Don't worry about it, Alex has plenty of money. The boy's got four personal vaults, Grandmother, really. If it makes you happy, spend one of them bare. He likes to see you happy."
"Let me check with him about the prices," Destina offered. "May I summon him?"
"Sure, just don't apparate from there or you'll spook all the cows and they'll stampede."
"Thank you." She created a small portkey and headed home, smiling at her boy when she landed. "Alexander?" He came outside instead of opening the window. "I've found a milk herd and some food beasts but I don't want to spend you blind," she said quietly.
He grinned. "Let me do one thing then we can arrange it. Most of my money went muggle and I'm moving it back now. Tell him you'll pay him on delivery."
"Can you come with me?"
"Of course, Grandmother. I'm going with Des," he called into the house. He took her arm and they portkeyed back, landing beside Molly. "Hi, Molly." He kissed her on the cheek then laid a bigger one on his consort. "Hi, dear."
"Good morning, pervert," Draco said happily, giving him a pinch on the neck. "Do you know what he did this morning, Mrs. Weasley? The man licked up the bridge of my nose. Said it tasted good."
"He forgot to eat dinner," Des said dryly. "He's playful like that, Draco, get used to it. Otherwise you'll find yourself flummoxed when he's in a naughtier mood." She looked at the farmer. "This is my grandson Alex. He handles all the money."
Xander shook his hand. "All our money's being moved back from the muggle places I've stashed it. If you'll give me an amount, I'll have a credit slip made out."
"Well, she wanted forty-six head in addition to some pigs and goats," he offered. "No chickens?" She sighed and looked at Alex. "Chickens?"
"I hated the little beasts but they were good to take your aggression out on. It usually meant we got a chicken stew that night." The farmer and Molly both laughed at that. "We can do that. Give me a pretty figure and I'll head to the bank immediately."
The farmer pulled a calculator out of his back pocket and tapped in a few numbers, showing him the result. Draco and Molly both whistled but Xander shook his hand again. "Let me know when you've got it moved and I'll start work on rounding them up."
"Sure, give me a few," he offered. He walked down the driveway, apparating from down there so as to not spook the animals. It sent some chickens scurrying but nothing else. He walked up the alley into the bank, smiling at the goblins he passed. "Hi," he said happily, pulling out his paperwork. "I'm checking on the status of a move?" The goblin looked at the paperwork, then at him. "What?" he asked patiently.
"The amount being transferred back is not that much," he noted. He showed Xander the entry. "That is what they told us."
"Then they're going to have a problem called death," Xander said, still smiling. "I'll be right back." He apparated there, summoning his favorite sword once he landed. He smiled at the receptionist. "You guys stole my money?" he asked. "I'd like to chop someone's head off over it."
"They're upstairs, sir, in a meeting," the succubus said in her most seductive voice. Xander simply looked at her. "Oh. You're not reacting."
Xander lifted his sword, waving it. "My money, now. Or else I'm going through this place."
"Who are you to threaten us?" she sneered.
"Alexander Harris. Or Xander Harris, white knight of Sunnydale and Buffy's protector." Her mouth opened. "Also known as Alex 'Carnage' Dumass, the Breaker. Also known as the Demon Slayer of Baghdad. Your choice which one you want to call me of course," he said with a sneer of his own. "My money, now, or else I work out some of my frustrations with a translation." She squealed as she ran for cover, summoning someone higher up and the security squad. Xander spun and killed those demons, only wounding the humans and human-looking ones but leaving them all lying on the ground. Then he looked at the higher up as he cleaned off his blade. "I believe you took over seventy percent interest when you moved my money back to Gringott's," he noted. "I'm sure I can be ...reasonable if you can." The bank's president came down personally to talk to him, trying to keep him calm. He had body armor but he didn't think it'd stand against this one. Xander waved at one of the remaining security people. "Sorry about that, but I did warn them I was a tad bit frustrated before I opened up the can of whoop-ass." He followed the president up to his office, being reasonable about it. By the time he left, his affairs were in order and more of his money was heading to Gringotts. He went back to the bank, putting his sword onto his back once he got inside the bank. "Morning," he said as he walked to that goblin. "Has it changed?"
"Indeed," the goblin said, looking down at him. "What did you do?"
"I showed my displeasure at their actions," Xander said with a bright grin. He pulled out a key ring. "I also need to transfer the three gold keys back to this branch and the silver key as well if possible."
The goblin looked at them, then nodded, filling out the forms for it. "Are you a curse breaker?"
"Freelance and training others," Xander told him, bowing slightly. "Alexander Dumass."
"Ah. I've heard of you," the goblin agreed dryly. "I've also heard of your temper."
"They took seventy percent as a fee," Xander told him.
The goblin shook his head. "That is why we do not deal with them."
"I wouldn't have if the main office hadn't tried to fuck me over," Xander told him gently. The goblin nodded, it understood those sort of things. "Will there be any problem?"
"Not in the least," the goblin told him.
"Good, then I also need to do a credit slip for that account."
"Your card took up the allowance we had set aside for the transition period," the goblin told him. "It will be back tonight."
"We're buying farm animals. Can we get a credit slip dated tomorrow?" The goblin nodded and pulled one out, dating it such. "Thanks. I'll need it for sixteen hundred galleons." The goblin looked alarmed. "We're restarting our farm," he admitted. "The rest is for the barn."
"I see. Would you need this cashed?" Xander nodded. "Perhaps we can do two instead then." He made them out. "I am making them out dated today for these other accounts, but I will note there is no charge forthcoming from it. That should help you more until it comes free." He handed them down. "There you are." He handed back the keys after finishing the paperwork. "And those are yours as well."
"Thank you, Master Goblin. You've been very helpful." Xander wandered off, heading back to where his consort was. He handed over the larger slip. "They're being very reasonable today," he told him.
"Why are you wearing a sword, dear?" Molly asked patiently.
He looked at her and grinned. "Because the demon bank I was using while I straightened things out with Gringotts tried to charge me seventy percent of my money to move it back. They decided ten was much more profitable for them. Less hospital bills."
The farmer laughed. "And here I thought your nature was rumors."
"No, it wasn't," Xander told him. "I sharpened my skills while I was on the Hellmouth and magicless." He put an arm around Draco's waist. "I'm going to get someone to build the barn today. It shouldn't be more than four or five days if they use a building spell." He looked at his grandmother. "Milking equipment?"
"There's a magical one that likes to clog or a mundane one that doesn't and you'll still have to pasteurize," the farmer offered.
"I'll have the lines run out to the barn," Xander told him. "Thank you." He kissed Draco on the cheek. "Where to next?"
"We were going to look at horses and carriages," Des admitted. "Did you want to come?"
"I haven't ridden in ages, Gram. I'm not sure I can anymore." He handed Draco back. "He wants to learn though so get with him. Or use more modern ones if you want. I don't mind." He left, going back down the driveway to apparate home. Then he pulled out his floo directory and found the builder who had redone the house. He called him, smiling at him. "Hi. Wanna build us a barn too?"
The contractor laughed. "We won't mind the work at all, Mr. Dumass. Is your family restarting their herds?"
"Milk and food animals only for right now. We're still considering the unicorn herd. It'd be nice so I didn't have to pay retail for unicorn creme, but none of us around here could touch them anymore."
"That's fine. I'll be up in a while to look at the spot you want them on." He cut the connection.
Xander leaned back, satisfied with his day's work. He patted himself down but his keys were handed to him by Draco later that night. He was a good husband.
Xander looked over his translations, noticing they still had a few gaps. "Are all these those funny mixed symbols?" Daniel nodded. "Wonderful. And the etchings?"
"I've almost got those digitized," Daniel admitted, tapping a few more keys. He remembered to save as well since he had blown the fuses last night. He heard a thump outside and looked out. "Xander, someone just made a barn appear."
"It's a building spell. Only the shell so far," he said with a grin. "It's much faster but more costly. Next they'll run electric out to it so we can have a milk herd." He looked at the computer. "You've got a program to translate?"
"It's something we had written for us," Daniel admitted, tapping in another few things. Then he hit the 'go' button and it translated the etchings on the first page. "Just like you thought, it's a map. It's for down here according to the coordinates." He looked at Xander. "How did you want to play that?"
"Is it my stuff or your stuff?" Xander asked.
"Yours. Looks like diaries."
"Then I'd like those. Anything off world, any knowledge that won't get free and isn't strictly magical, or anything magical that can be censored, you can have a copy of."
"That's most of the book so we appreciate that," Daniel said with a smile for him. He heard a moo and looked out. "It looks like your cows are here."
Xander opened the window. "Teal'c, did my grandmother just walk past?"
"She did," he called back. "She said they were moving now instead of tomorrow because of the weather. The barn is new?" Xander nodded. "How?"
"Ask Grams. She's better at them than I am." He grinned and waved before shutting the window. "That is pretty cool. Now we can have real cheddar cheese all the time without having to buy it."
"It takes time to age."
"Yeah, but the fresh has a unique taste and tastes really good in some casseroles. We'll be mostly self-sufficient soon." He leaned closer to the screen. "I know that place," he said, pointing at one. "We had a dig scheduled there about ten years ago. I was deaged then so I don't know what happened." He paged down through the list and stopped. "I know that dig. We found weapons there."
"That's not down here," Daniel told him. "That's in the blue mountains of Teal'c's home." He grimaced. "I will need someone to talk to my boss about what to do in case we find anything of that nature. Do we have a Ministry in the US?" Xander shook his head. "Not at all?"
"You've got a strange things unit in the FBI. That's really about it. I saw her once after the spell we did to take down the Initiative. She's overworked badly. You could send it to us, or even to the Canadians and have them send it to us. Canada's Ministry is part of ours still."
"Yeah, but how would we do that?" Daniel asked. "How do we approach them or find them?"
Blair stuck his head in. "Ask and you shall receive. Jim and I have a friend who's a cop who works with a Mountie." He grinned. "And he knows something about magic so I'd hazard a guess he knew someone who knew enough to know where to go. I can call him." Xander pointed at the phone. "Are you sure? I'll have to call Vegas."
"Call Vegas," Xander said with a shrug. "It's fine with me. I can pay the phone bill." He looked at Daniel. "Can you print that out once we've got it all down? The Ministry locally doesn't exactly use computers. Most of them don't know what one is."
"Sure," Daniel agreed, nodding. "Do you have a printer? I forgot to bring one."
"I do," Blair told him. "It's back at the house though." He dialed Ray K's cell. "Hey, it's me. Put on the Mountie if he's close. Nah, more of the strange that I deal with needing some Canadian liaison." He laughed. "Yeah, I know, it's spreading like a disease. Soon we'll all have Canadians working with us. But hey, it might cut down on our injuries and stress. Think about how much they could do if they got to carry guns and do the paperwork." Ray obviously laughed and handed over the phone. "Hey, Benny, it's Blair." He leaned against the wall, looking at Daniel. "No, we're in a bit of a quandary. If we find something magical in the US, how do we get it out of there?" He listened as the Mountie recited the law. "And what if it's found covertly? And possibly Ancient? I know you said there aren't any rules but there also isn't an official channel either." He nodded and made writing motions, so Daniel handed him paper and a pen. "Okay, got that. And what if we wanted to go through someone more official, say through you guys since the Brits are related?" He smiled and wrote down the address. "Are you sure? No, I hadn't known you had picked up a dangerous and wanted felon wizard. Anyone I knew? Cool!" He laughed. "Thanks for that as well, he bothered me to no end. Yeah, sure. Nope, I'll bring Jim and we'll be out tomorrow if he doesn't have anything. Thanks, Benny, pat Ray's hair for me. Have fun in the land of sin. Sure enough, I can do that. Bye."
He hung up and made another note, putting that part into his pocket. "Benny wanted some real food sent to him." He handed over the notes he had made. "Okay, we've got two options. There's a small form we can fill out saying we found an artifact and describing what we're doing with it. There's also a 'finders, keepers' law about such things. I'm not sure if that'd work if you found it somewhere else and brought it around, Danny." He looked at his old buddy. "There is a Canadian Ministry, as Xander noted. Benny knew their address because he's the one who brought Vachnis in from the snow drift." Xander chuckled at that, that news had even reached him via Ethan. "He also knew their address and someone who used to work there. Do you guys have an arrangement with the Canadians already?"
"We have a small tech arrangement. We haven't needed anything else yet," Daniel admitted. "I'm not sure how Hammond would want to handle that."
"Can we get hold of him and put him in the same room as our Ministry?" Xander asked. "Maybe even face-to-face instead of via chatting device?"
"I could call him and tell him that we needed him," Daniel offered. "He might panic until I told him why but he should be agreeable and it would be easier to liaison about the Ministry coming with us that way."
"That would be the most handy," Blair agreed. "But that doesn't mean whomever's going over can remove items. Personally, the Canadians have the best storage facility for the most dangerous things."
"Sweeden does," Xander told him. "Gringotts has one in a cave that no one can find. It's up near the Arctic Circle and it's totally unreachable by land or magic without special devices and permission. A lot of permission. I had to bring something there once and I was nearly toasted by the emanations before they passed me through." He stood up and stretched. Then he squealed. "Ooh, a unicorn! Aunt Cordy decided to go ahead with it," he said happily. "And she's got a baby!"
Daniel came over to look out the window. "They exist," he said quietly, staring in awe. He could wrap his mind around magic but this made it real. "Is the virgin thing real?" Xander nodded, continuing to stare. "Are they soft?"
"They're very soft," Xander said quietly. "I used to sneak out to nap in the stalls when I was little. We had a whole herd of them for milk and protection. They were really nice." He picked up the walkie-talkie and called the house. "Hey, Ron, come outside and bring Dawn. A unicorn mother and baby is out by the gazebo." He signed off and watched as his little sister got her first view of a unicorn, smiling as her squeal echoed up even through the closed window. He opened it to look out. "Dawn, no touching. The virgin thing is real." He noticed Teal'c staring. "My family used to protect a whole herd of them," he explained. "We used to milk them and everything." He grinned at Dawn. "Look at the baby, it's barely got a horn. We'll have to protect it until it finishes growing one because it's vulnerable." He looked over as Ethan joined the kids, smirking at him. "It doesn't hurt you to be near something so pure?" Ethan looked up, tears on his face. "Chaos has it's own place, Ethan, it means you can play with whatever side you want," he reminded him. "Blair, go get Jim." Blair hurried off to kidnap Jim and Simon from work, bringing Philip and Methos running to see as well. Xander noticed his Aunt Cordy looking at them. "Not your doing?"
"No, but we've always had a very safe-feeling land," she reminded him, barely audible. "Alex, I'll need you to lay protections around a stall in the barn for the mother and child. She obviously won't go into the gazebo with all the stuff we've done in there."
"I've got a better idea," he told her, using his wand to reopen the old hiding place in the garden. "That hasn't been used in years and it's protected by white magic." He looked at the mother. "Test that and see if it meets your needs. If not, we will fill a stall for you in the new barn." The mother stepped over and sniffed at the opening, then inside. She reared back. "I think we've got a new boggart in there," Xander noted.
Cordy waded in and pulled the thing out, throwing it toward the Devil's Snare. "There you go, mama. Try that now," she offered, bowing and moving away. The mother unicorn sniffed and walked inside, then came out and bleeted at her son, who trotted in as well. "Leave the door open, Alex. I'll get her some hay for the floor." She ran off for the barn, going to inform Des and all them.
Xander looked down at Ethan. "Go find Tara and Wes," he said. "They should see this too."
"They were watching out the window and Tara was crying because it was so pretty," he told him. Ethan looked up again. "Anything new?"
"Some map coordinates. Expect some Ministry and possibly some Military people coming in soon." He smiled as Blair, Jim, and Simon came back. "They're in the cave." He pulled back inside and turned to look at Daniel. "See, we're odd and fun," he noted.
"But very special, Xander. I can't imagine that's normal with the way everyone reacted."
"No, but it's not so unusual. Unicorns sleep wherever they want. It's a law." He went back to looking at the book. "I'm still wondering if these aren't biologically based weapons of some sort."
"You can think of those things in front of a creature so pure?"
"It's part of the job description," Xander said dryly. "I can't get near it. I was a slut for nearly thirty years, so bad of one that most people still smile when they remember their time with me."
"Oh." Daniel frowned. "Did you ever sleep with my parents?"
"Nah, I didn't like getting between married couples. It got awkward the next morning when they tried to figure out if they should give me coffee or morning cuddles." He heard Jim laughing and grinned. "They did," he called.
"Shh, you'll scare them," Ethan scolded.
Xander stuck his head back out the window. "Ethan, we used to protect a whole herd. I used to sleep in the bloody barn, man. Give it up, they're used to me by now." He went back to his studying. "Okay." He heard an angry neigh. "Sorry, luv, I won't swear in front of you again," he called. She calmed down and went back to her son. "See?" He picked up the book. "I think I may have a solution. Someone remarked we have a painting from back then, back when they were still considered an anomaly. Come on. Come meet the family." He carried the book inside and into the picture gallery, waving at his family. "Hey, gramps," he called, bringing his founding father back from his nap. "Hey, can you translate stuff?"
"I probably could," he admitted. "Why?"
Xander turned the book to face him, open to the page with the most unrecognized symbols on it. "You see this page?" he asked, tapping a section. "There isn't supposed to be crossover between the food and the weapons markings and yet we have one. I figured you might know something since you were that old."
Xander's founding father chuckled. "Always brash, I like that in you young ones." He looked at Daniel. "You're not one of us."
"No, sir, I'm not, but I do deal with this language. We've recently gotten a stargate to work again."
"Are we being invaded again?" the old man demanded. "I fought the buggers the last time and I'll bloody well come back again if I have to!" he said angrily. "Even if I don't know where my body went when it was snatched!"
"We've managed to beat them back," Daniel admitted. "But this book has places for us to look. I'm going to convince my boss to look for the ones your kind lost so long ago as well. We figure they've got some knowledge that they might be willing to teach us or help us in the war."
"Become more open-minded, boy, it'll only help you."
"The problem is, they found someone's Ancient book on another planet," Xander offered. "Plus, some of the Ancient's technology has been claimed by those things. Hence us getting involved."
"Ah, now I see." He looked at the marks again, adjusting his glasses. "Well, the crossover ones were specialist knowledge," he admitted. "They are weapons. They apparently weren't very useful."
"Yeah, but I'd rather we found them and disabled them instead of letting hapless muggles find them," Xander told him.
"Always impatient," the old man complained, looking just like Xander when he scowled. "I'm getting to that." He looked at the book again. "Bring it a bit closer. It's fuzzy through the barrier." Xander put the book closer. "See this one, the carrot and weapon? It was a small bomb sent in with the food. It's how we fought them best. We did things like poisoned their food or turned it into bombs. That was Sevina Snape's favorite tactic. Went pretty well too. The Malfoy arse decided to attack in running attacks. The Weasley kin did the same, taking the opposite side of the camp so he couldn't hurt his lover. Oh, and here's a mention of a Dumbledore," he said dryly. "The man wanted to sympathize with them. True Hufflepuffs, all of them." He looked at his many-times-removed grandson. "You get on with him now?"
"No," Xander admitted. "Not since that fight." He looked down and found a marking. "What's that, gramps?"
"Hmm. That was...." He grinned suddenly. "That was a power ritual, boy. Sex magic. Ancient as the land and just as powerful. That Weasley, he was something else. Even an old guy like me could see that. Had that Malfoy brat wrapped around his finger."
"You mean we used to sleep with Weasleys?" Draco asked as he joined them. "Xander, the Ministry is here to see you."
"In a minute. Gramps knows what some of these are." He looked at him. "So it's the connotation about the food that's telling what it was?" His father nodded. "Thanks, gramps." He blew a kiss. "I'm sure they built you a nice shrine on whatever world you ended up on."
"I'd certainly hope so. An old goat like me should have a comfortable resting place. Draco, my boy, have you taught Xander what I showed you yet?" Draco blushed and shook his head, running off. "Poor thing, and shy to boot." He looked at his relative. "And you, when are you having more kids?"
"When Des asks for some sperm so she can implant it into someone else so I don't have to deal with kids. I loathe children, gramps, and I always have. She's working around it."
"Good for her. She needs to do it for that young Harry too. Poor boy's not only shy but confused. Thinks that being you're fighting might win."
Xander grinned. "He hasn't realized the power that's behind him yet, gramps. Don't worry, we'll save him." He led Daniel out, letting him take the book while he went to talk to the Minister and Percy Weasley, his assistant. "Morning," he said cordially. "We've got a momma unicorn and baby out back." Percy smiled at that. "My gramps just figured out what the symbols we've been having problems with were."
"Good," the Minister agreed. "What about that muggle?"
"He's just headed back to the house. He was in awe of the unicorn too." He sat down and put his feet up. "What's up?"
"We have some news from the war front that we need to share," Percy said quietly. "Plus, we wanted to talk to the muggle personally about sending an auror back with him."
"We were talking about that earlier. Come out to the workhouse," Xander ordered, standing up and leading the way. "Methos, news," he called. "You as well, Ethan." He led the way up to the workroom, smiling at Daniel since he was on the phone with his boss to get an extension of his time off. "Ask him to come over personally. The Minister for Magic is here personally." He nodded behind him. "That's Percy, Ron's older brother, and the Minister."
Daniel put the phone on his shoulder to shake hands. "Hello. When would you like to set up a meeting? I've got one of my coworkers on the line so I can beg for more time to work on the book. We've nearly got it done." Someone yelled on the other end so he put the phone back to his ear. "Sorry, Jack, officials just showed up. Yeah, that sort. No, they want to make deals with Hammond. I don't know." He looked at Xander. "When would be a good time for the meeting?"
"I'm fine with whenever," Xander offered.
"I'd rather have it in a more official setting," the Minister offered. "In London perhaps?"
"We've only got the flat in London," Xander offered. "You can use it though."
"Thank you, Mr. Dumass," Percy said gently. He looked at the screen. "What is this?"
"It's a computer," Xander said, moving over to show him. "It's storing all the data we've uncovered so far. See these, they're the things that were etched onto the paper underneath the letters. That's what we've been working on. Apparently the things we got stuck on were how they fought the creatures who came over. They did neat things like turning carrots into bombs to kill them." Percy smiled at that. Xander paged down. "These are some of the digs we've got to go on around this world and some on some other one. Daniel's working on that right now. I'm going to take the list to Gringotts later today and look them up in the books to see what was found."
"Excellent news," Percy said, smiling at him. He smiled at his brother as he walked in as well. "Good morning, Ron."
"Morning, Percy," he said amiably. "What news?"
"We've decoded the final things," Daniel said as he hung up and moved away from the Minister. "Xander's relative was a big help with that."
"Also, we've got some war news," the Minister offered. "Thank you, Dr. Jackson." He led Methos and Ron away to talk to them. It would get back to Alex. That way they could edit it for those with hair-trigger tempers.
Percy looked at Xander. "Did you really slay sixteen demons the other day?"
"They stole my money!" he snorted. "Seventy percent of my money was taken as a fee for holding and moving it." Percy winced. "Yeah, so I showed my displeasure on the creatures when they decided to attack me. Why, am I in trouble again?"
"No, not in the least. A complaint was issued but one of the goblins reported why you had done it. Law Enforcement thought it was just as well. I suppose the demons might mind, but they are demons."
"So's my mom. She's in vengeance," Xander said proudly. Percy chuckled and patted him on the back. "I'll hear about it from her if something's going on with me. Or maybe from Anya. Did you guys really capture her?" Percy nodded.
"Anya?" Daniel asked.
"His ex, a former demon who returned to being Vengeance for Women Scorned," Percy informed him. "She's a bit peeved that she lost him."
"That's putting it mildly," Xander muttered. "Anya's trying to fuck up m life again," he said quietly. Percy hit him and he winced. "Ow!"
"No swearing in front of the unicorns. It's bad enough Ron probably has."
"Percy, I can't get near it and the window is closed. Not even Jim could hear me." Percy looked interested. "Ask Sandburg."
"All right, I shall." He nodded at the machines. "Are those difficult to learn?"
"Eeeh, a bit," Daniel admitted. "This one's fairly fussy. We're working on a better design for field work. Translations and the like. That way people who don't know everything can do the work."
"That way one of us doesn't have to know each language we might run into," Xander told him. "It's bad enough all curse breakers have to learn common words in over seventeen languages. This would help that but I doubt most of us would use it." He grinned at Daniel. "You've got me sold though. I still suck at ten of them." Daniel nodded, grinning back. "Think about how much easier it would be on tomb walls to find a name and year. Even if it spit it out in word order instead of grammatically."
"That would be nice," Percy agreed, not understanding it but it was making Xander happy and Xander was a dangerous person he wanted to keep happy. He was even teaching Ron to be like him. He had no doubt that Ron would live on, just like Bill was going to. "Have you seen Bill?"
"I did," Xander admitted. "He managed his exam to be in time for our game against Gryffindor. We chatted after it while he was patting Ron on the back about being knocked out again. Which I'm really sorry for but it was quidditch," he said as Ron and Methos came back in. "No lasting ringing in the ears?"
"Nah, I'm good, mate," Ron assured him with a grin. "You're right, it's quidditch and that's all that needs to be said. But you get to explain to Dawn why it was all right. She still thinks it's a game, like Twister."
Xander snickered. "She would. To her, sports are something you play with friends, not to obsess about." He looked at the Minister as he walked in. "Come see the toy Daniel introduced us to. It can translate things."
"That must be very handy," the Minister agreed. "How many languages do you have stored in there?"
"Sixteen full, including three pictographic, off-world languages," Daniel said proudly. "Plus snippets and pieces of another thirty or so with the right disk in. That's more to identify. Other people are working on them." The Minister looked impressed. "And it fits in a case that weighs about five pounds overall. I can switch the harddrive out and put it into my laptop," he said, patting the scarred and faithful old thing. "It's seen nearly as many worlds as I have."
The Minister spluttered. "How?"
Daniel smiled. "About the same way you have books that have over five hundred pages but are only an inch thick. It's another form of storage media. There are bigger ones on the market. We decided this was the best one to carry because of the weight."
"The Vatican is using a similar system to put their books on computer," Philip admitted as he joined them. "They've got four or five stations now with half of the main archive on already. It's taken a while and some of the translations have been redone now and then. Speaking of, I've been offered a chance to do that sort of thing and I can do it here," Philip said proudly.
"I'm happy for you," Xander said, giving him a hug. It knocked the monitor a bit, making it fuzz up for a second but Daniel quickly fixed it. "Sorry."
"That's all right," Daniel assured him. "I left the line loose in case I wanted to shift it around while I worked." He looked at Percy. "You're very quiet for being Ron's relative."
Percy groaned and shook his head. "Ron is the noisiest of us. I was thinking about how this could change our society."
"While it could, there are too many purists out there, Percy," Xander assured him. "Even if some of us used them for work, most of us wouldn't use them all the time. Certainly most of us wouldn't become tech-heads like some muggles do. And yeah, there'd be a few, but they'd have found out eventually. Computers are everywhere in the muggle world. You can't really escape them."
Daniel nodded. "True. Muggles are moving to put everything on computer, even voting if they can work out a secure system for it. This is just a baby step."
The Minister still looked impressed. He liked gadgets. "How hard would it be to get these things to say, Hogwarts?"
"It runs on electricity and the school's natural defenses would kill the laptop," Xander told him. The Minister sighed and shook his head. "There are ways around it but you'd have to ask Percy's dad about them. He knows people who specialize in things like that. He's doing some work for them now and again when they've got special things in his area."
"The problem then becomes what to do with this knowledge," the Minister pointed out, bringing the discussion back on topic. "We've got a knowledge-sharing pact with the other Ministries."
Blair coughed from the doorway. "We were discussing that earlier. We think that even if you send an auror over that stuff would still have to come back this way," he offered as he walked in to join the discussion. "Xander, you've managed to piss off the unicorn again. Tone down your language, Cordy said so." Xander sighed and nodded. "Thanks." He looked at the Minister again, seeing the mirth in his eyes. "He was swearing up here and she heard." He leaned on the table. "We figured out that the easiest and best way would be to send things through the Canadians. They've got great storage at the Ministry level if you don't want to go through Gringott's, plus they're affiliated with us in a parent/child relationship. They would pass things back to us and we could announce it every few months or simply make it available for study once we figure to what things are. It might make sense to offer some limited research positions from other Ministries, that way they wouldn't get upset either."
"Have the Canadians classify it, do the initial studying at the curse breaker level?" Percy asked. Blair nodded and Xander backed him up by nodding as well. "Would that be feasible?"
"Gringotts has a branch over there and at least one curse breaker I know of comes from there," Xander offered. "Plus, the Americans could go to work for the Canadians, thereby not leaving them out of the loop as well."
"It could be the basis for a whole new level of cooperation among us," Philip noted. "We've never been more than friendly before but it would make sense. The British have stepped up before when things went wonky with other schools or else I wouldn't know Blair, Greg, and Nick."
"Also, we stepped in back in my time when that small private school went under," Xander reminded him. "It was local but unaffiliated. We got McGonagall from there."
The Minister considered it. "We'd have to hold a summit. I don't even know some of the other Ministers."
"Then you send out formal invitations and a press-kit," Percy told him. "Ask them to send you one as well so we can make up a small brochure on who everyone is. We've been too long acting on our own. The cockiness Fudge showed pointed that out greatly. He managed to drive apart some of our greater allies because of his attitude. Not even the Carribean Council will talk to us now."
"True," the present Minister agreed. "I had planned on retiring next year though."
"So retire," Xander said with a shrug. He moved away from the computer before he could mess anything up. "No one's going to care if you retire as long as you put someone reasonable in behind you."
"Someone who can continue this sort of thing," Blair agreed. "Trust me, the world is getting closer each year. With the advent of the internet and satellites people from all over are talking. There's even computers in Africa in some of the classrooms so the kids can take classes happening in other countries."
"We probably should form a committee to look at such matters," Percy suggested gently. "My father would be flummoxed but he knows it's necessary. He found a witch with a rigged laptop the other week."
"Fine," the Minister agreed. "I can agree to that. I think we do need to look at this and see if it will impact us much."
Xander handed over his pen. "The muggle answer to the quill's problems."
The Minister clicked it and looked at the nib. "Where do you store the ink?"
"It's already inside," Blair said, opening it up for him. "That blue stuff is the ink. That way it won't drip unless it breaks."
"Oh." He handed it carefully back. "Are they common?"
"They're so common everyone uses one these days," Xander told him. "No one uses fountain pens anymore unless it's for something formal." The Minister looked upset at that news. "I had the worst culture shock when I got stuck over there. There were so many things that even I hadn't seen and I was considered pretty worldly," he shared. "TV was just one of the things that shocked me. Not to mention computers like these becoming standard. Even little kids use computers these days."
"Plus, technology is moving pretty fast," Daniel told him. "This is over a year old and the Military is already thinking about redesigning it. Looking at the various technologies would mean that you wouldn't be overwhelmed when they started to intrude." He looked at Xander. "You guys still use quills?"
"At school. It's mandatory," Philip admitted. "Things like that pen were normal when we went in, Minister. They're under two pounds now unless you want something special."
Blair nodded. "And cheaper if you go for an off-brand," he agreed. "Computers are the same way. My two-year-old laptop is nearly obsolete but it cost me nearly a thousand American dollars because it was new at the time but off-brand. I can find the same machine now with all the upgrades and more storage for about nine hundred. Less if there's a sale on shipping."
The Minister for Magic sighed and accepted the inevitable. "Then we'll form the committee. Percy, I want your father on it along with his coworker. We might have to move them to a larger office." He looked at Xander. "Please, don't get pushy."
"I'd only use something like that in the tombs," Xander told him. "I don't need a computer, I find it more soothing to write things out by hand. I feel very divided some days, like I'm a time traveler with the wrong handbook."
The Minister smiled. "I can understand that, Alex. And that would be fine." He looked up. "Are those lights?" Blair flicked on the switch and he nodded. "Those are nice. Very bright." Blair turned them off so he looked at Xander again. "Expensive?"
"To install, not really. There's a monthly charge for usage of the electricity. It's one of those 'you have a bad thing with every good thing' deals. I thought it would be more worthwhile for the house to be wired, especially since this is going to become the work house. The lights cost about as much as our former candle bill was monthly, leave no mess, but also cost us in the bulbs. It's a bit more but much more convenient for us."
"I see. Then we'll probably want to talk to you about that on the committee. Percy, I want you to sit on it personally as well. You're an old-school chap, like me, and I'd like to see how far things are going." Percy nodded. "Thank you, boys. I'll be going back to London now to mourn for my beloved quill."
"No one says you have to give them up," Xander offered. "Changing over should be by want, not by force. I'd rather see you make rules to introduce things slowly. Start with the useful things. Gas stoves so you don't have to deal with firewood. The Americans have these people called the Amish."
"Oh! They don't use anything created after 1900 unless it's an update," Blair said excitedly. "I can definitely find some things on their level. It would be an excellent place to start. Start with a few trial homes."
"We'll not be one of them," Molly said from the stairs. "We've got enough gadgets laying around the house."
"Even if you could have an oven that kept the same temperature without you having to fuss?" Philip asked.
"That might be handy, but I'm too set in my ways for all that nonsense," she told him. "Percy, don't tell your father yet, make the official announcement or he'll be floating like he took a featherlight potion." Percy nodded and smiled at that. "Xander, please don't swear in front of the dear thing."
"I haven't sworn in a few minutes," he defended. "I'm trying very hard to keep my language clean. I haven't used any of the harder ones recently."
"That's fine, don't upset her. Her son is a bit ill. His horn shed." Xander shuddered. "I know, but your aunt called a healer already." She gave him a pat on the arm. "What's all this mess?" she asked, looking at the computer.
"It's a computer. It translates and stores stuff," Xander told her. "Things like the book."
"Hmm. Interesting." She looked at the Minister and her son. "Come along. Arthur just called, he's home for lunch. You can speak with him then. He might know something about this stuff." She shooed them off with her, taking them home for a decent meal. That way she could coddle Percy without him fussing at her for it.
"My mom is incredible," Ron noted from his corner of the room. "She treats everyone like one of us." Xander grinned at him. "She even soaped Simon's mouth when he swore in awe," he shared. Xander and Philip both chuckled at that. "C'mon, we've got to have a meeting about the fighting." He led the way back to the main house, where they could swear if they wanted to. She couldn't hear them in there.
Daniel settled down to look at Blair. "You guys really use real quills? Like feathers?"
Blair nodded. "It's mandatory at the school. They're a pain but it's fairly handy. I used to sneak in the older version of fountain pens and got into a lot of trouble for it." He sat down to take his turn with the translations. They were working in shifts so they didn't argue and couldn't get in each other's way.
Xander and Ron trudged back into the school, they were the last ones back because they had been doing some minor shopping for the group. Dawn had their papers with her and her dog, while they had a number of bags, all marked. Xander whistled, bringing his cousin up the hallway to meet them. "Good, half of these are yours. We got asked to deliver."
"We should charge a fee, but we're feeling happy because we got sundaes for lunch," Ron added for good measure. He sat down on the floor, divvying up the bags. "Those are yours. So's this one," he said, handing over the small brown paper bag. "Xan, did you have the other?"
"It's inside the bag with the holiday robes," Xander told him, leaning against the wall. "Most of mine is school stuff. I can't stand real quills, they're making my hands itch."
Severus looked at him. "You will have to use a quill, Alex. It is mandatory."
Xander pulled out a fountain pen with a quill end. "Like it?" He showed it off. "The wood won't irritate my fingers. I even have a note from a healer. I've held them so hard they're splintering into my skin." He looked over as Dumbledore walked down the hall. "Paper supplies for you as well," he said, handing over his note and that bag. He had put it inside the bag earlier for ease of handing out.
"Those are nice," Dumbledore said, admiring the pen. "Expensive?"
"Not really. They even had some unfinished ones so you could have whatever finish you wanted on them. No worse than a box of quills for two pens. These'll last until you break the tips though and you can replace the tips. My note's in the bag."
"Thank you, Alex. I heard from your healer personally. You aren't the first who's had to substitute pens." He looked at the other ones. "Madam Malkins?"
"Dawn's holiday robe, Draco's holiday robe, my holiday robe, Harry and Ron's new school robes because they've grown too much and their holiday robes," Xander said dryly. "Dawn had our papers."
"She's up in the tower."
Ron groaned. "It's the Hufflepuff nature to forget homework," he reminded Xander. "I'll remind her when I drop off the bags so you can pounce the git."
"Ron!" Xander said, frowning at him.
"What? It's still at the playful level between us. It's not like he ducked out of work or anything."
"Yeah, but he had a test today," Xander reminded him.
"That is an excellent point. Professor McGonagall says you all have tests tomorrow," Snape informed them. The students groaned. "You had best go study. Weasley, I do not have Potter's or Malfoy-Dumass' paper yet. Tell Miss Summers that."
"Sure thing," he agreed, heading that way with the remains of the bags. Xander opened the door and they walked inside, finding Draco on the couch with a wet cloth over his eyes and Dawn fussing. "What happened now?"
"Someone shot a hex at him and it gave him a blinding headache," Dawn said quietly. "So Goyle smashed the kid and tried to help poor Draco but he screamed in pain. Madam Pomfrey's on her way down since he got sick when we walked inside from the smell."
"Classic migraine," Xander noted. He handed over Dawn's package, then nodded Ron to put everything else upstairs. "Dawn, homework?" he asked as he knelt to take care of his consort. "Hi, love," he whispered. Draco reached over and patted him on the face, then gave him a little push. "Want me to get Sev too?" Draco shook his head. "All right, I'll be reading over here, we'll watch over you. Who did it?"
"Pansy," Draco sighed, lifting up the cloth to look at him. "Go away. Please?"
Xander nodded and left him alone, going to grab his Transfiguration book. He was learning things from Minerva like he hadn't Dumbledore. He wanted to impress her with the fact that he was learning. So he would actually try on her test tomorrow. He had more free time since he had all the Charms down for the year, he was tutoring in it mostly. Runes was all done for the year with the paper from the book. Herbology was not on his schedule because he killed plants. Magical Creatures was more a suggestion in his mind, he went whenever he remembered her had it or when Draco reminded him he had it. He didn't have Potions and Astronomy was done after they retired for the night. All-in-all he had a pretty easy life this year. The door opened and the Runes teacher walked in waving his paper. "It's done," he noted quietly, going back to his watching his mate.
"What do you call this? It is not the appropriate translations at all!" she said angrily.
"Shh!" Xander ordered. "Draco has a migraine!"
"I do not care! This is not suitable for my class, Mr. Dumass! You may think you know more than I do but I know you do not! I have studied this language for many years!" Draco moaned on the couch. "You missed class today as well."
"He has a backlash migraine and you can either moderate your language or leave," Xander said hotly. "I won't have you harming my mate with your screechy voice!" He stood up and faced her down, she was a bit smaller than him, only came up to his neck. "That is the approved translation, as approved by not only Gringott's but by the Minister, who also doesn't like Budge and his funny meanings. The man got it wrong," he argued quietly, yet still managing to get some ice in his voice. "That is also the language that is being used in other places. If you don't like it, yay. I *used* the language for years instead of studying it. Not only can I translate technical manuals, I make things work with them. Yours has a totally wrong meaning and it shows! Now, you can either wait until a more appropriate time, one in which my consort is not ill, or you can take this up with the Headmaster and screech at him."
"Fine," she said, glaring at him. "I will prove I'm right."
"Go for it. We've got copies of the original upstairs for Madam Pince. You can check it out from her later today." She flounced out, managing to slam the portrait. "I'm sorry, Draco."
"Your voice was still quiet. Hers was like a saw through my brain," he admitted. "Sit quietly and stare if you want." He lifted the cloth as the door opened, admitting the school nurse. "Tell me you have something to make this better," he begged.
"I have something to make you nap," she told him. "Only time can really cure those." She gave him the potion, making him fall into a deep sleep, then she looked at Xander. "Did you yell at her?"
"No, she yelled at me and I told her the truth, Budge is crap," Xander said firmly. "Budge totally got his translations wrong. He confuses the main markings and says that food and clothing are in the same one. He's even gotten food and animals mixed up, Madam Pomfrey. I can't sit by while she teaches the students wrong. The same as you couldn't let some quack teach students the wrong way to heal bodies. This was my life's work, it still is."
She nodded. "I was simply asking, Xander, calm yourself." She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I do like her as a friend but I know she's got some blind spots and Budge is one of them. She's yelled about you often." She smiled and looked back at Draco. "Keep him napping. You might also want to move him upstairs and close the curtains. Lunch would be a bit much for him." Xander nodded. "Do you know about migraines?"
"Wills got some a few times from the magic and I've had one of those in the past," he admitted. "Do you think Midnight would be guardian enough?"
"He should be. Your consort won't be moving for a good few hours. Have someone check on him every little bit while you're in class." He nodded so she left.
Xander picked up Draco and put him up in their bed, making sure the room was dark. Then he cast a tell-tale on Draco, attaching it to a dot he put on his hand. It was pink, meaning sleeping, so that was fine. He went back down the stairs, going back to his studying. He checked the dot obsessively. It was his consort and nothing should harm him.
Dumbledore walked into Hufflepuff a few hours later, finding Xander asleep in the chair. He noticed the dot was a dark blue and went up to check on Draco himself. "How are you?" he asked quietly.
"I can't fall back asleep," he whispered. "I still hurt."
"I understand, my boy. Let me call Poppy back down for you."
"He's asleep in the chair. I'll send him up to rest with you."
"I don't think I could stand it," Draco admitted. "Have him sleep on the couch. He gets a terrible crick in his neck."
"Of course," Dumbledore agreed, leaving him alone for now. He walked down the stairs and rang the house elf bell, waking Xander.
"No, Draco!" Xander shouted, flailing until he fell out of the chair and woke himself up. "No, he can't be dead," he said, starting that way.
"I just checked on him, he's fine," Dumbledore soothed, stopping him from rushing up the stairs. Xander got free and headed up anyway, making Draco moan. "Boys." Xander came back down the stairs, giving him a sheepish look. "It is common to have nightmares about things happening to those you love." A house elf appeared. "Would you please send Poppy back down with another sleeping draught for Draco? He's woken up already." The house elf nodded and disappeared, going to do that for him. Dumbledore pointed at the couch. "Sit, let's discuss this Runes problem, Alexander. Besides, it will be much more comfortable when you fall asleep again." He sat down himself, looking at the poor thing. "What is your major problem with her?"
"That she's not teaching the language," Xander told him. "Budge got so many things wrong it's not funny."
"Yet, the NEWTs will have Budge on them. The examiner was most fond of him in his day."
"Be that as it may, she's teaching the students crap. She's even teaching Budge wrong. She's teaching so much of it wrong, I'm running a second class for my crew anyway so they know and understand. Thinial has very strict language laws. Their grammar laws are so strict that if you see something out of the ordinary you should consider it a fake from Budge himself unless you can date it some other way." Dumbledore nodded. "Take the book we just got done with for instance."
"She handed me your paper. It made sense."
"Thanks. There were some things in there that should not have existed together. Each word has a marking that distinguishes it in a category for usage. Food, weapon, clothing, wood, beast, and so on." Dumbledore nodded. "They *never* cross over. In the book they did because someone had turned the food into weapons. That's why we needed those extra days, because it's not supposed to be that way. According to Budge, the marking that had carrots being a weapon should have been a shirt that was part deer." Dumbledore chuckled at that. "According to the teacher, she had Budge saying it was a pair of pants made from living cows and pigs."
"Ah." He nodded. "So you're correcting them?"
"I've given up. Like I said, I'm running a second class for my crew. I don't know it all, but I know enough of the common language to translate tech manuals and get things to work." Xander shifted closer. "Even Philip could do a better job, Dumbledore. He didn't know that much Thinial and yet he pulled his own weight in the translation and looked up things with the rest of us. Even Ron did better than she did."
"I understand." He sighed but he was smiling. "She has threatened to quit on us, Alexander. Even if I remove you from her class."
"Can you remove me, Draco, Ron, and Harry from her class and keep Dawn from it?" Dumbledore nodded. "Then what are you going to do about her making her students flunk their NEWTs?"
"I'm going to call the examiner. I'm going to have him sit in on her class. I told her such when I heard what your problems were with her from Poppy. If she's teaching wrong, then we may not be able to use her any longer. She was the only one who knows multiple languages however. She was not extremely fluent in any of them but she knew enough to teach them."
"Then get Philip back here. He knows seventeen enough to translate fluently and he has taught kids before."
"Seventeen, really?" he asked.
Xander nodded. "Mostly Church languages but he's the best in Celtic, even acknowledged by the Runes teacher. What happened to the last one anyway?"
"He's on sabbatical to study on a site. Field work is important to him."
"It is to me too. Can I take her to where I was in Iran and have her get eaten when she mistranslates what's in that crypt?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "No, I don't think that would be appropriate. I believe she might get hurt by that." He patted him on the knee. "I know this is frustrating for you. You still have to let her teach if she meets the examination board's standards."
"But she won't," Xander told him.
"I'm having that looked into." He stood up. "I'll have your students take you instead of her, at the same time. Can you teach it in your meeting room?" Xander nodded. "That's fine then. Thank you, Xander." He left him there, going to check on Poppy since she hadn't shown up yet. "Dear, what happened," he said, frowning at the students.
"One of the Ravenclaws got a bit out of hand in class," Pomfrey said, grimacing at a few beds. "She attacked Miss Lovegood, who got stood up for by Miss Weasley and most of the Hufflepuffs, and also a few more of her own house. Yelled something about being a tainted and unnatural creature I believe." She looked at him. "I really can't give the poor thing another dose, he might quit breathing."
"Then I'll have Xander bring him back up here and put him in isolation."
"That ward smells worse. It's the antiseptic smell that's bothering him." She went to help one girl who was regrowing a broken arm. "There, there, it'll be fine soon," she promised Ginny. "They threw around desks and things as well. Professor Flitwick had to be quite stern with them."
"As he should be," Ginny told her, sounding a touch bitter. "Can I have a few days off?"
"Of course, dear. Did you want Xander to teach you as well?" Poppy asked. Ginny sighed and shook her head. "Then how about you ask him to let you look at the unicorn? They have one on their property shielding her colt, who's shedding his horn badly."
"That wouldn't be so bad," she agreed. "And I'm still pure so I wouldn't have much trouble." She looked at the headmaster who nodded. "Thanks, sir. I promise to put it to good use." She shifted until she was comfortable again. "Not like blokes like me anyway," she noted.
"I know, dear." Poppy went to help Luna, who was slowly changing back from the transfiguration her yearmate had done to her. "You'll start to feel sick soon," she warned. "Try to get rid of it instead of breathing it in," she instructed. She moved to take care of the girl in the next bed. "This was simply horrible."
"I'll have the perpetrator in my office as soon as you release them," he told her, going back to tell Xander what was going on. He wasn't pleased but he did admit he wanted to see his mate living. Ginny was given a free pass back to his house as well and sent on her way while the headmaster watched, then he went to deal with the idiot student.
Philip looked up as the Headmaster came out of the floo, smiling at him. "Morning, Headmaster, problems?"
"Alex has suggested I talk to you, Philip," he said as he sat across from him. He handed over the current book, making the man snort. "In there are the notes for this year's class. I know you learned some Budge in your years. I need a second opinion. The Examiner said that she was mucking up badly."
Philip looked at the notes and groaned. "She is," he agreed, handing it back. "How Budge could get his own language wrong I don't know but he contradicts himself in this one he made up to tie the Ancients together. See this mark?" he asked, pointing at it. "This also means food source. Not just dragon. It's not even changing via the context, it just changes whenever he wants."
"I see. And the teacher's contribution?"
Philip looked the notes over, shaking his head. "She's mucked him up farther, trying to fix it." He looked up and a tied scroll was handed over. "What's that?"
"This year's language curriculum. I know you only deal with a few of them, but I wanted to know if you knew of anyone who might be able to do the job as well as you would. I know you've turned me down in the past."
"I was a priest then," Philip reminded him. He looked them over. "I can teach all but Thinial. I only know enough to translate from the books and to break up the sentences." He looked up. "That's the base method but it's all I can do."
"Yes, well, we do have Mr. Dumass there. It seems he and the teacher had quite a shouting match in the halls yesterday. She accosted him over your translation and told him that the introduction was not real. That no Thinial work had such a thing." Philip snorted. "So he responded about where he had personally seen them and she stomped off, leaving a note of resignation on her desk."
Philip laughed. "I understand. He can be a bit trying on the nerves now and then. I love the guy, but he's very hyper about protecting what's his and what he knows. "
"He always was," Dumbledore agreed dryly. "That's why he duels so very well." Philip's laughing turned into giggling. "Would you come and fill in for the rest of this year? Our usual teacher is off doing field work. If you consent, I could give you a nice room in the castle. I could also give you a nice paycheck. You only have to get past the Examiner's questioning first."
Philip nodded. "I can fill in for a bit."
"Thank you, Philip. I believe you've saved my sanity," he admitted as he stood up. "You will have to teach some Budge."
"I can teach both at the same time, the same way Alex is. I'm the one who worked out the charts for him to use to teach."
"Good. Excellent in fact." He smiled. "I've made an appointment with the Examiner for this afternoon at three. Please?"
Philip checked the clock. That gave him nearly an hour to get ready. "Sure. Why not. I've not got much to do outside of going over Alex's old books."
"He wrote books?"
"On curse breaking," Philip told him, shaking his hand. "I'll give you the results later."
"Thank you, my boy. You have saved us from Alex teaching it." Philip snickered and Dumbledore nodded. "He has no patience. Even worse than Severus I'm afraid." He went back through the floo.
Philip went up to shower and change, laying out his materials to take with him. He was missing one of the charts, but a house elf found it for him. They had been studying it when there wasn't any work to do.
The Examiner for the OWLs and NEWTs looked Philip over, nodding at his written resume. "Very impressive." He looked him over again. "I know you attended Hogwarts." Philip nodded. "How many of these have you worked with in the past?"
"Not only did I do on-the-fly translations for the Legacy, I also did a lot of the translating for the Church and taught Modern Languages for some schools of theirs as well." The Examiner looked impressed. "Most of what I've done since I graduated has been in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin, but I've also learned more since I graduated. The only weak spot I have in the current curriculum is Thinial and I'm at the base level appropriate to work with that."
"And how do you intend to compensate for the difference between Budge and the Gringott's meanings?"
Philip pulled out his charts. "I worked these out with a curse breaker for his apprentices."
"Yes, I had heard Mr. Dumass was back in Hogwarts. Very unorthodox."
"He's protecting them and coddling his consort," Philip said with a touch of a smile. "As you can see, I've put both in the chart. He's been teaching his apprentices this way and they seem to pick it up readily enough. He gives them practicals from the dig archives to test them."
"Interesting." The Examiner looked Philip over again. "Do you think you could handle teaching at Hogwarts? Teaching muggles is a bit different."
"It is, but I also taught the littlest hellions at Catholic schools," Philip said dryly. The Examiner laughed at that. "Some of them are. A few were boarding schools and I do know how the system at Hogwarts works. Besides, if I get stuck, I have references and Mr. Dumass there. He knows enough Budge to counter it since the Headmaster said you include mostly that on the exams."
"I wouldn't like to switch it for this year alone."
"Then I can teach both," Philip offered. "It is the seventh years and they should be able to wrap their minds around the fact that there are two different systems and that one is accepted by some and not others."
"Good point. I grade the Runes portions myself so I can make the distinction of those who are using the not-Budge when the test does not state a style of translation." He nodded. "I will accept you."
"Thank you. I know the Headmaster has his heart set on his usual coming back but he was in a sweat about this. The teacher had a shouting match in the halls with Mr. Dumass about our translation. Something about the introduction not being there in Thinial." The Examiner winced. "Exactly. Xander quoted chapter and verse on it, plus gave references from other things he's seen. I may laugh at Budge, but I can teach it since it is so prevalent."
"Thank you, Professor Callahan. We accept Headmaster Dumbledore's choice. Have fun at your greeting feast tonight." He shook his hand. "May I keep the charts?"
"I can get another copy off Alex," he promised, handing the set over. "They're a bit out of order. The house elves have been browsing them." The Examiner gave him a look. "Alex said it was fine since he's done so much with it in the past. That way they know what not to touch."
"Agreeable. With what he does it would be better if they didn't touch certain things." Philip stood and shook his hand again before leaving. The man rang for his house elf. "Bring me my medicine," he requested quietly. The house elf nodded and left to retrieve it for him. "An interesting case," he noted, reading over the notes.
Draco looked up as the Rune's classroom door opened, nudging Ron to make him wake up. Then he nodded at their new teacher.
"Good afternoon," Philip greeted. "I am Philip Callahan and I'm your substitute Runes teacher. I do things a bit differently so let's work on that for the moment." He put down his bag and picked up the chalk, writing his name on the board, then he turned around. "First of all, I believe everyone is equal, no matter what house and no matter who you are," he said, looking at Ron and Draco. "I will not tolerate slackers or excuses. That means you have two missing people?"
"They're in the infirmary," Hermione told him. "Someone attacked Harry and Xander had to give permission to have him treated. They had to remove a third ear from his forehead," she added when he looked at her.
"Thank you, Miss Granger. I appreciate that. In the future, please raise your hand." She nodded, accepting that. "I teach in the old style, the same way Professor Snape does, only without the favoritism. I believe Slytherins are like everyone else, capable of learning if they put their minds to it. In here, I will have you working. I will also have you writing papers. You are seventh years, you should be able to do that." He looked at Draco and Ron. "See me after class about that agreement you made with the other." They nodded. "Thank you. The next point I wish to make is that I'm teaching you *both* versions of Thinial. I'll be doing so by means of a chart. On one side you'll have Budge and on the other you'll have the Gringott's and field translations that some of you have learned from Mr. Dumass. The Budge is more widely used on the exams but there are places for the other and I have talked with the NEWT Examiner. He knows that I'll be teaching both." The class slumped. "I also have no problem if you need help understanding. First, let me give you a copy of my notes." He pulled out the copies he had made onto regular parchment and bound together with ribbons. "To get you caught up and a complete copy of the charts. I will not only be teaching you what I know of this language, but also the basic laws underlying it and how to translate properly if you're ever in a situation where you'll need to. Any questions so far?"
One Slytherin raised her hand. "What about those of us who are confused already, Professor? Mr. Dumass managed to confuse some of us greatly."
Philip smiled. "That's because there's two different schools of interpretation. The Gringott's method, used in the field by the curse breakers. They started it first and have done more work on the language. The second is the Budge method. Budge, for anyone who knows the first method, messed things up. Unfortunately he was more photogenic and made things simple for those who were really confused by how the Goblins conjugated and things of that nature. The only problem is that he decided Thinial was actually another form of Egyptian and took off from there without looking at the foundations or the grammatical structure of the languages. They are two totally different languages and no one with much sense could force the two together because they are so different. It'd be like a Weasley with black hair." The group laughed at that. "So he made up his own language to put between them, which in turned mucked up his translations even more. If you read early Budge instead of late Budge you find that he's changed his mind over time about what each thing means as his own personal language evolved, even within in that changed. There are still some muggles who believe Budge is right about Egyptian as well but we know he's not because we have directly translated documents from them instead of just the Rosetta stone. The only reason Budge is on the NEWTs is because he's popular." She nodded. "We'll be backtracking a bit so I can give you the full chart. It should help some. If not, come see me and I'll gladly help you or any student."
A girl in the back row sighed. "He's so noble," she told her best friend. "So very cute."
"He just undid his vows to the Church. He's been celibate for years."
Philip looked back at them. "I'm the same age your parents are," he told them, breaking all romantic notions. He didn't want to have to deal with panting girls. He might have to get mean about it. He needed a real woman, not a girl. He looked at Hermione and saw the same look on her face and swallowed. "Oh, dear," he muttered. "That's not good. She looks like she's about to go off too." Wouldn't anyone save him from those girls?