The Trials and Tribulations of Family.
Percy Weasley walked his son into Olivander's and smiled at the men already standing there. "If I had known we were all going to do this today, I might have invited you to lunch."
"Lunch sounds good," George agreed. "Haven't eaten yet myself. I had to deliver my wand to be fixed so I could work today." He looked at his almost brother-in-law. "You?"
"We had a late breakfast," Draco said, glaring at his son's head. "Someone couldn't figure out what to wear this morning and kept us from starting out early to avoid the rush."
"But dad," Denver complained. "Simone was supposed to come today too."
"Ron's bringing her," George told him. "Just as soon as she finds her letter."
"It's the same thing," Draco sighed. "She could have shared."
"It's the point of the thing," George reminded him. "We all had to have our letters in our hands when we shopped too." Draco nodded and relaxed more. "Good morning, Melvin."
Melvin smiled at him, showing off his bleeding gums. "I got hit."
"By what?" Denver asked.
"Tananda. She threw her blocks at me." He shrugged. "She was cranky."
"Indeed," Percy said with an eye roll. "She has colic and her brother was an easy target this morning. That's what kept us." He smiled at Mr. Olivander as he walked out from the back room. "How are you today?"
"Just fine." He smiled at Denver. "Are you ready, young man?"
"Sure," Denver said happily. "Can I really have a gryphon core wand?"
Ollivander shook his head. "The wand picks the wizard, young man." He looked at Draco. "Ash, ten inches?" he asked. Draco nodded. "I was sorry to hear about your father."
"It's better that he's dead. I might have had to kill him if he had come near my son." He stood up, giving someone else the single stool. "Let's get you settled so we can deal with the clothing issue, son."
"Yes, father." Denver bounced in place as a small stack of wands were pulled down. "Wow," he said when the first one was opened. "What's that made of?"
"Ebony." Mr. Olivander carefully pulled the wand and held it out. "Give it a wave."
Denver waved it around and a light, cherry scented breeze came out of the tip. "What's the core?" he asked happily.
"It's a gryphon core, but it's a feather, not as powerful as the special one we made for your sister." He smiled kindly. "I know that you wanted a very powerful one."
Denver shrugged. "She's more powerful, but I'm more sneaky," he said with his best evil grin. "I'm the brains of the outfit." His father cuffed him lightly. "Hey! I am."
"Don't say that. Your sister is just as brilliant as you are." He handed over the money for the wand, waving off the extra. "I'm sure you'll need it for my daughter's." He turned as the bell over the door dinged. "Xander," he said with a smile. "Ignatius."
"Hi," the other kids called.
"I got a gryphon feather," Denver said, waving his wand.
"That's so cool," Iggy said, looking at his wand. He looked up at his father. "Do I get something like that?" Xander shrugged. "Why don't you know?"
"Because your wand picks you," Xander told him, patting him on the head. He smiled at his husband. "Still broken?"
"It's being fixed right now," Ollivander told him. "Mr. Weasley," he said, motioning him forward. He picked up the next box. "Try that one." Melvin waved the wand and the window broke. "No, not that one. Try this one." He handed over the next wand, then had to duck when a firebolt flew out of the end. "Hmm." He walked over to the wall of wands and pulled down a particularly dusty box. He handed it over and watched as Melvin tested it, smiling when nothing happened. "Just as I thought." He took that wand and pulled out another one, handing it over. "A fairy's hair core," he said proudly when Melvin's wand gave off glittering dots of light. "Very unusual." He smiled at his father. "That one's six galleons, fifteen sickles." Percy gladly handed over the money, pulling his son out of the way so Iggy could get his.
"Can I see the really pretty ones?" Iggy asked. "I'd like a really pretty wood on mine."
Ollivander laughed. "We'll see what picks you. Though I don't have many wands that aren't at least somewhat pretty." He headed into the back and came out with George's freshly glued wand, and a small box. "Try this one."
Iggy opened the box and pulled out the blond wand. He waved it around and nothing happened. He frowned and shook his head. "It's not for me. Maybe something bigger? Like dad's wand?"
Xander patted his fifteen-inch wand. "You'll have one somewhere near mine. You're my son." George coughed, giving him a smile. "But I agree, he should have something stunning to go with his personality." He grinned and winked at Ollivander. "Can he have something bright and shiny?"
"Father," Ignatius sighed, rolling his eyes. A box on the wall drew his attention and he walked over to it, tapping it. "Can I see that one please?" Ollivander humored him and pulled it out, letting him hold the twisted wood wand. "It's very pretty." He waved it and a breeze came out of the end. "Is this one meant for me?"
Ollivander pulled down the box under the one Iggy had wanted, handing it over. "Try that one, young man. Phoenix feather."
Iggy waved that one, a twisted oak and ash wand, and nearly got thrown across the room. "Wow. That's powerful."
Ollivander nodded. "It is. You have to be very careful with it." He smiled. "You're a very powerful wizard, young Mr. Harris-Weasley. Try it again, this time with less glee over getting a wand."
Everyone watched as Iggy moved the wand again, this time it looked like shooting green stars. "Wow," Xander said happily. Iggy grinned at him. "Is that one his?" Ollivander nodded. "Then I'll expect you to take good care of it, son." He put ten galleons on the counter, and Ollivander shook his head with a smile. "More?"
"Three more." Even Draco winced. "Trees that grow together are very rare, just like the young man is." Xander put down the extra money without another wince. "Now, who else are we getting from your family?"
"Simone," Denver and Melvin said together.
"She was promised a gryphon core wand too," Denver told him. "By the ambassador herself."
"Yes, she visited me last week," Ollivander agreed.
"Two other professor's kids," Xander added.
"I've seen young Ryan Rosenberg. I expect I'll see young Mr. Maclay sometime later this week since young Ryan said they were on vacation." He smiled at the boys. "No one else that you can think of?" The boys shook their heads. "Well, I hope you continue to be friends once you get to school."
"Them and me both," Xander said as he turned Iggy around. "Thank you, Mr. Ollivander." He herded his kid out into the main alley. "Where to now?"
"Books?" Iggy asked hopefully.
"We're headed for clothes," Draco told him. "We've already done books." He looked down at Melvin. "You?"
"Clothes," Percy agreed. "Then books and animals."
"We could all do it together," George suggested. He looked down at his robes. "I could use a few new ones too." He leaned into Xander's side. "Would you buy me a new working robe?"
"Only if you go and get money out of the bank," Xander said with a grin. "I just spent everything we had out on the dresser."
"Hmm." George took the key his husband dug out, then looked at his son. "Thirty?"
"Or so," Xander agreed. "Unless he needs a new broom."
"He can't have one unless he makes the Quidditch team," Percy pointed out. He patted Melvin on the shoulder. "Fortunately, he doesn't like to play that much." His son played but wasn't that rabid about it and had never accosted him for a special, top of the line broom.
"I'm sure he'll like flying more once he takes lessons," George told him. He looked at Denver. "What about you? Going to try out for a team?"
"Yup. Now that the doctor fixed my ear problems I'm a whiz bang on a broom. I miss playing on the Junior league, I was a star of the local area," Denver bragged. His father nodded behind him. "So, clothes?"
"Yeah, clothes," Xander agreed, helping herd the kids toward Madam Malkin's. "Then books, supplies, and animals last," he told his son.
"Books last," George corrected. "That way I don't have to carry them." Xander shrugged. "Ignatius, do remember that you're not bringing them all with you," he reminded his son. "Show some restraint this time." He walked away, heading for the bank.
"You bought out the bookstore?" Draco asked him.
Iggy gave him a sly smile. "Not all the books in the bookstore in Hogsmeade. I only bought twenty last time."
"Twenty books that you're not taking with you to Hogwarts," Xander noted as they walked into the robe shop. "Hi," he said happily. They were all here on the day that they had gotten their letters so almost no one was in the shop. "They're all starting in two weeks." He patted his son's shoulders. "And he grew three inches in the last four months."
Madam Malkin smiled at them. "Right this way." She ushered the children into the fitting area and went to get them some clothes. "Summer and winter both?" All the parents nodded. "Good." She smiled at Iggy, who was taller than the other two boys, even though he looked younger. "Isn't there another one of you who'll be starting?"
"Simone's presently hunting her letter," Draco told her. He wandered away to look around. "Xander, come try this one," he demanded. Xander obediently walked over and looked at the outfit. "Quite good for a teacher."
"Red or blue," Xander said, pulling out a dark red one. "I don't want to dress in all black. People will confuse me with Snape."
Percy snorted. "I doubt it. You're nowhere near as thin as Professor Snape is." He walked over and pulled out a few robes. "Try those. You'd look good."
Draco put one of them back, Xander didn't need to be wearing stripes. "Please don't encourage him to wear hideous clothes that will give his students nightmares." Xander glared at him. "You did my class," he defended. "You're a teacher, dress like one."
George walked in and smiled at him. "Yes, dear, do dress like a teacher." He slipped the bag of money into Xander's pocket. He pulled out a powder blue one. "How about this one? With your blue jeans and t-shirt?"
Xander nodded and checked the size, pulling out one in his size. He gathered up the other ones and walked back to the fitting areas. "Can I have these?"
Madam Malkin looked up from pinning Melvin's hem. "Of course. Try the first one on and I'll get to you in a minute. Mr. Weasley, we've just gotten in a new section of work clothes," she told him.
"Good. I need a new work robe." He headed to the rack she had pointed to, coming up with a new labcoat robe and an overall. "Dear, I found something," he told him.
Draco growled at the ugly, utilitarian clothing. No one would ever see him in such an outfit! His family shouldn't be dressed like that either!
George smiled at him. "You expect me to wear good clothes in the lab?" he asked with a smile. "With what I get into?"
"Point," Draco conceded, "but most of your family needs a makeover."
Ginny and Ron drug in Simone, who was pouting and trying to get away. "Here, yours," she announced, handing her over to her father. "We'll be in the bookstore."
"Oh, take me!" Iggy begged. He pouted at Madam Malkin. "Am I done?"
"No, son. You can wait for ten more minutes," Xander told him. He looked at Ginny, who grinned and shrugged. "Then you can go be a nerd with your aunt."
"Okay." Iggy shifted and wiggled under Madam Malkin's assistant's hands. "Hurry up! I need more books. I'm even willing to buy everyone else's."
Xander pulled out some money and handed it to Ginny. "Don't let him get too much," he said quietly. "Just his textbooks if you can." She nodded and pocketed the coins. "Thanks." Within minutes, his son was bouncing out the door with his aunt and uncle to go play in the bookstore, money from the other parents in Ginny's pocket too.
Simone pushed her brother and cousin out of the way. "I need good clothes, and no skirts," she announced.
"Princess, you have to wear skirts to class," Draco reminded her. "It is the school uniform."
"She can wear pants, they changed it last year," Madam Malkin told him. "It's a nice change." She smiled at the young girl. "You'll still need a few skirts, dear. Would you like longer ones or shorter ones?"
"Longer ones," Draco said firmly, looking a bit shocked. "My daughter will not wear those muggle mini skirts!"
"Daddy, chill." She looked at the dressmaker. "I have some skirts that I plan on bringing with me. They're in school colors and I asked when I was visiting the last time. They should be fine." She glanced at her father. "But I will allow him to buy me a single skirt." The dressmaker smiled and nodded, going to get her some clothes. "And please, may I have a formal robe this year?"
"No," Draco told her. His daughter pouted at him. "Tough, you don't need one."
"We'll be throwing that Christmas party," she reminded him.
"And you'll be getting one around then so you don't grow out of it," Xander told her. She settled down. "Simone, if you pull that attitude in class, Ron will have to punish you. You know that, right?" She sighed and nodded. "Good. Because making enemies your first day of school will make sure that they're enemies the whole time you're in school."
"Yes, they will," Draco agreed.
George snickered. "Are you regretting not getting on with Ron now?" he teased.
Draco shook his head. "Not in the least. But there are times when I could have had much more...fun if I hadn't driven off all the other houses during my first year." He winked at the adults.
"I think you got enough," Xander said dryly. "You slept with half the school."
"Really?" Denver asked. "Why did you do that, daddy? Weren't you sleeping with mummy then?"
"Not until my last year," Draco sighed, glaring at Xander. "I'll get you for that," he mouthed. Xander blew a kiss. "Son, remind me to stop at the apothecary before we leave. I think there's some things we'll need to pick up for you there."
The other men laughed, but it was Percy who pointed something out. "Ron found a copy of that infertility spell," he said quietly. "The one that worked on him for ten years. We could reasonably cast it again."
"It takes three people," George reminded him. "I'm not sure we should do it when they're this young. It might harm them."
Draco shrugged. "I'm all for waiting until Denver is older, but what about Iggy?"
Xander coughed. "We've had a discussion about that." George looked at him, mouth open. "Sorry, honey, but I caught him checking out Simone so we had a little discussion and talked about sex and stuff. Then he took his allowance and bought some books about it." He shrugged at the dirty look. "Fred and your mom knew, they caught us talking on the back porch."
"Fine, don't tell me that our son is interested in girls," George said, pouting slightly.
Draco patted him on the arm. "At least your son likes girls. Ginny pointed out that certain other children might not." Percy looked at him and shook his head. "Really?"
"If Fred ever had a child possibly, but I doubt you have to worry about it among your four," Percy told him. Melvin launched himself at his father and Percy barely caught him. "Whatever was that for?" he asked with a smile.
"For thinking that I like girls," Melvin told him with a grin. "I think girls are icky still, father, so it's okay."
Percy gave him a tight hug. "I'm glad to hear that you're not growing up too fast, Melvin." He didn't notice that Melvin winked at everyone else. He doted on his father and wanted to keep him happy for a bit longer.
"Can I look at books now?"
"Of course. Go find your Aunt and Uncle." He let his son go, watching him with a fond air. "I wonder if this is how Father felt when we went off."
Xander patted him on the back. "I'm pretty sure your dad watched the train leave with a sigh of relief 'cause now he could have snuggles with the wife." Percy glared at him. "What? You never noticed them sneaking off after the last family dinner?"
Draco coughed and nodded. "They did," he agreed. "Ginny mentioned that it was nice to know that one was never too old for that."
"I wonder..." George started, then he shook his head. "Never mind, a bad thought."
Xander blew a kiss at him. "Naughty thoughts are always encouraged."
"I was wondering if Dumbledore had a girlfriend yet." Everyone else in hearing distance shuddered. "Sorry," he said with a smile.
"Let's get you fitted," Madam Malkin told Xander. She shot George a funny look behind his back. "Just these, Professor Harris?" He nodded and stepped up so she could fit him. The first robe was put aside until the right size was found. "Are you sure you wouldn't like something more sunny and light? These are very heavy."
"I know, but my rooms have turned cold recently," Xander said with a shrug. Then he winced. "The shoulders are really tight on this one," he complained.
"We can fix that easily, Professor." She looked at Draco, then at Xander's clothes. "It looks like you're about to need more clothes."
"I just bought these," Xander whined. "Do I have to shop for more clothes? I hate shopping for clothes."
"I'll go for you," George offered. "I could use more t-shirts." He watched as his husband was fitted for more clothes. "You look stunning in that color," he said, admiring the dark blue robe his husband was wearing. "Want to get lucky later?"
Xander grinned down at him. "Only if you make up the nest."
"Dear Merlin," Percy sighed. "At least you two won't be adding to the family."
George snorted. "Not for mum's trying. She's been mentioning it again." He looked up at his husband. "You might want to discourage her soon, before you end up carrying." Madam Malkin looked at him. "The gryphons have a spell for that," he told her.
She shook her head and went back to fitting the professor. They were quite strange, but enjoyable. Really, men having children. What nonsense.
Draco smothered a laugh at the look on her face. He had seen the spell himself, it wasn't that hard, but it was pure chaos based. He had even copied it, just in case he decided he wanted more children. It wouldn't do to hurt Ginny by making her carry one again. He decided Xander could use more clothes and went to find him some. She was right, Xander did look a bit shabby today. He brought back an armful of full outfits and glared at Xander. "You will wear these, and include all the necessary underthings this time, or I will make your life a living hell."
"I can buy him clothes," George protested.
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Really? Then why is he still wearing hideously loud patterns?"
"Because no one else leers at him in them," Percy pointed out with a smile. George glared at him. "Well, they don't. And please, I agree, do wear underwear, Xander. The last time I saw you like that in public it nearly caused a problem."
"When were you doing that?" George nearly shrieked.
"Last week when you sent me from a nap right to get you potion supplies," Xander reminded him in his drollest tone of voice. "And, Percy, it was only one woman."
"Still!" George said. "You will not go out like that again! I won't have my husband ogled by just anyone!" He tried to think up a good threat but all he came up with was, "I'll tell mum if you do it again and let her lecture you."
"I got one from Ron," Xander said in his defense. "Even Buffy got in on it. And no one touched me, they just leered at my cute butt." He turned a little to show it off. "I worked hard to get my butt this firm again, it deserves to be appreciated."
"Ooh, someone's going to be sleeping on the couch tonight," Draco laughed.
"Bet me," George said darkly. "Someone's going to be getting a lesson to remind him he's taken." He shook his head. "Forget I said that." He walked away, going to sit somewhere and think up suitably horrible punishments for Xander if he went out and attracted attention like that again. They didn't need a stalker.
Percy walked over and patted him on the arm. "He loves you, George. He'd never leave you for someone else. He's proven that time and again." He smiled at his younger and irritating brother. "Remember he has meetings tomorrow if you do go after him tonight. McGonagall isn't as forgiving as Dumbledore was." George smiled up at him. "Besides, where else would he find someone who stimulated his need to be naughty?"
"Yes, but I'd like him to keep his naughtiness limited to me."
Draco walked over. "Surely you can't think someone will steal him from you."
George shook his head. "I know no one can, it's silly."
"Yes, it is," Draco said firmly. "That man gave up women for you. I doubt he's going to touch another person again. After all, you share his nest. He's loyal to his family." Draco grimaced, thinking about the letter he had received last week. "Unlike some, he's not out spreading himself around."
George started to agree, but he saw the look on the younger man's face. "What happened now?"
Draco took a deep breath. "Apparently I have a half-sister. She's in Penryn. She wrote last week."
"Oh, dear," Percy said. "Is she like your father?" Draco shrugged. "You haven't written back?"
"I'm not sure yet whether to be skeptical or not. Father sent away one supposed sibling's mother at one point."
Xander came over and hugged him. "Have it investigated. Do a relationship test or something. She's got to know you won't take her word on it." Draco nodded. "Then you can angst over it once you find out what's going on." He patted him on the back. "Honey, if I be good, will you buy me ice cream?"
"Sure," George said, pulling Xander down onto his lap. He snorted at the tearing sound. "I think these are a bit tight," he announced, letting Xander get up to get them fixed.
Madam Malkin clucked over the rip and helped to fix it. "I'll add more material to the seams," she told Xander.
"I guess it's official," Xander mock-sighed. "I'm getting middle-aged butt spread."
Draco groaned. "That sounded dirty, Xander."
George patted him on the back. "You too will find out about being old, son. Just wait a few years until you start to ache every morning when you wake up."
"Those were old fighting injuries," Xander reminded his husband. "I'm supposed to ache so I have a reminder of being young and saving the world."
Madam Malkin looked at him in the mirror. "How many times have you done that now, Professor Harris?"
"Um, something like four or five," he admitted. "I stopped counting after the second one." He shrugged at her incredulous look. "It was part of fighting with the slayer. She saved the world and I was there with her. And I even saved her a few times." She went back to adding fabric to his rear seam. "George, remind me I want to pick up some rub for my knee please."
Draco shook his head. "I'm glad I was only involved in that one world saving event. I don't think I could take remembering more of them."
Xander grinned at him. "It gets boring, trust me." He turned so the seamstress would quit nudging him. "Oh, hey, did you hear yet? There's someone who's trying to pick up where your dad left off, Draco. Wants to set up a formal hierarchy. I heard her speaking last week. She was really into her subject."
Draco 'humph'ed. "I'm sure we can overthrow her too. Let me tell Potter during our next match. I'm sure he'll be thrilled too."
"She's all talk at the moment," Percy assured him. "No one thinks she'll get enough support to go any further than whining and complaining. Even if your father were still around, he wouldn't have supported her because she's got some very radical ideas that none of the old timers approve of. Including making a new house at Hogwarts for, as she calls it, in-between children." Draco opened his mouth. "Of course, one of the gryphon-born has threatened her. I believe she's starting this year actually."
"Melody's daughter," Xander agreed. Percy grimaced. "Sorry, Percy, but she does have a daughter and she's starting this year. Though I did make her promise to leave Melvin and our kids alone. The daughter even agreed to leave Iggy alone. Apparently she's not real strong and she's kinda sickly so she won't be making too much trouble."
"Hopefully," Draco muttered. Xander looked at him so he gave him his best innocent look. "I'd like all the children to have a calmer time than my year did. What with Potter, Ron, and Granger, it was nearly so hectic that I couldn't study."
"That's because you wouldn't leave us alone," Ron said as he walked back in with Iggy. "Did you know your son could haggle a discount now, Xander?" Xander and George both groaned. "He used it to get everyone else's books at a discount." He grinned. "And I saw your book, very snazzy cover. A few of the parents were remarking on it."
"Spike drew it," Xander told him.
"It represents the subject matter," George offered. Personally, that cover creeped him out. The demons staring down at you from the cover seemed to follow you with their eyes. And it was a muggle picture too. He couldn't hold it in, he shuddered.
"Those are harmless ones," Xander reminded him. "A plant eater, a wood eater, and a clothes eater. The original picture showed much more violent demons." The door to the shop opened and another parent entered with one of Tara's students. "Hey, Bethany. Did you see the new book?"
She giggled. "I did. Aren't those harmless demons?" He nodded. "See, mum, I told you those were harmless ones. He wouldn't have put the *really* scary ones on there." She walked over and gave Xander a hug. She was a Gryffindor and loved him. Even though his brother-in-law was taking over, it was very clear that Professor Harris hadn't abandoned the house or his duty to them. "I saw Professor Rosenberg and her son. Is he starting this year?" she asked as she stepped up onto a fitting stool.
"Yup, Adrian and Ryan are both starting. Along with my son, two of my nephews and a niece."
"Wow. The house will be full of you this time," she said happily. "Is that Iggy?" Xander nodded. "I can't wait to meet the little guy." Xander pointed at where his son was nose-deep into a book in the corner. "Oh, he's so cute." Iggy slumped down a little more so he wouldn't be as noticed.
"He's in a growth spurt," Xander told her. "He'll be taller than I am I think." He stepped down once his last outfit was fixed. "Thanks, Madam Malkin. How much do I owe you?"
"Twenty galleons," she told him happily. This time of year was her favorite. Her mouth opened when Draco Malfoy opened his purse and put the money into her hand. "But..."
"I intend to make sure he doesn't give my son nightmares with his clothes the way he did me," Draco told her, then steered his son out. "Come on, let's go to the next stop. Animals wasn't it?"
"Yup," Iggy said, hopping up to follow him. "I wonder if I can talk Hagrid out of one of the puppies."
"No, son," Xander said as he followed along behind him. He smacked Draco across the back of the head. "I can buy my own clothes."
"Yes, but I have better taste and this way no one will stare in fascinated horror instead of listening to your lectures. Complain some more and I'll gladly fight you over it, and win since you're feeling so old." He grinned and strolled off.
Xander growled. His husband wrapped an arm around his waist. "Let him, it makes him feel better to spoil you," George whispered. "And it means we can go on vacation this year."
"Vacation?" Xander asked, liking this new subject. "Like going somewhere and seeing other things?" George nodded. "Where are we going?"
"Disney World." Xander grinned happily and allowed himself to be led along. "I'll ride all the rides with you if you're a good boy."
"Okay," Xander said happily. "When are we going?"
"The second weekend of school. I figured we'd leave Friday night and come back late Sunday. Is that good for you?"
"Portkey from the travel agency." He gave him a squeeze. "There's a special rate for wizards." He followed the others into the familiar's shop. "No," he told his son, who was staring at a small black kitten. "No cats. Murphy doesn't like them, he attacks them."
"Yes, father," Iggy sighed.
"You can have a bird or a frog," Xander reminded him.
"But dad!" Iggy whined.
"Nope, sorry. You have to follow the rules too, son. Pick out a bird or a frog."
"But I don't like either of those choices."
"Then don't get anything," George said with a shrug. "One less thing to take care of."
Simone skipped in, waving her wand. "Ebony with a gryphon's heart string." She saw the wince. "They were dying anyway," she told her uncle. "They donated it right after they died."
"I don't want to hear about that," Xander reminded her. He was friends with a great many older gryphons, including one who was probably going to die in the next few years. She put the wand into her holder. "Thank you, Simone."
"I understand, Uncle Xander. It's got to be a bummer." Her father looked at her so she looked cute. "What?" she asked innocently.
"Please speak proper English, not what you've picked up from your Uncle's girlfriend, Simone." He gave her a hug. "Otherwise, no one will understand you." He pointed around the store. "Go pick out an owl."
"I don't want an owl. I want a cat."
"Phoenixes and cats don't get along," Xander told her. "Murphy attacks them and Glinda hates them too."
"Poo," she sighed. "Fine, then I guess I don't need anything from here." She watched as Melvin carried out a tawny little owl. "That's cute."
"I'm going to name him Oliver, after Uncle Harry's stories." Melvin smiled at his father. "Do you think that'll be all right?"
"I think it's a fine name, Melvin." Percy paid for the owl then led the way out of that store since no one else needed anything. They ran into Ron and Ginny outside. "Where to next?"
"Iggy still needs some supplies," George said, pointing at the parchment store, then the potion's supply store. "I need to hit there."
"I'll take Iggy and everyone who needs cauldrons, parchment, quills, and ink," Ron offered. "The rest of you go play with the ingredients." The kids skipped after him, money jingling in their hands.
The adults all breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, no kids. The day they went to school would be a nice change. No more hyper children.
Simone stepped off the train and smiled at Hagrid, waving at him. "Hi," she said, walking over to pet one of the dogs. It didn't look like his, but it was okay.
"Don't pet 'er," Hagrid warned quietly. "The girl needs 'er." He smiled as a young girl was led off the train by one of the Prefects. "First years over here," he called, waving his arms. His dogs went among the students, pushing and nudging at some of them. By the time he had all the first years, the one girl was leaning against his side. "We're gonna head to the boats," he announced, pointing the way. His dogs led the way and the girl had one hand on his arm and the other on the strange leash device on her dog's back.
Denver looked the girl over. "You're an odd one," he told her. "Denver Malfoy," he greeted, holding out a hand. He noticed that she didn't take it. "Don't worry, my father cured all the badness in the family."
Iggy nudged him. "I think she's blind," he whispered. "Hi, I'm Iggy, that's my cousin Denver. Simone? Melvin?" They dropped back to walk with him. "These are my other cousins, Simone and Melvin."
"Hi," she said shyly. "I'm Andrea." She waved. "And yes, I'm blind, Iggy." She chuckled. "Like you couldn't tell from the dog."
"No, actually I noticed how he was leading you. There's not many blind wizards, unless they've had an accident," Iggy told her. He held the boat steady while Melvin helped her in. Denver pushed him aside and climbed in, filling the boat so Melvin had to go sit with Simone. "Hopefully we'll be in the same house."
"That'd be nice. I'd like to make friends with a bunch of kids and you seem nice." She petted her german shepard's head. "This is Pumpkin. She's eight. She'll be retiring soon." She squeaked when her head was pushed down. "What?"
"One of the phoenix chicks," Denver told her, patting her on the arm. "They're a bit hyper right now. They've just gotten the ability to leave the nest for short periods of time and seem to like to investigate things."
"Yeah, dad said that he found one in the nest," Iggy told him. "Quite the impertinent little bit it was."
"Your dad has a nest?" Andrea asked.
"My father's Professor Harris and he's gryphon-born. We have a big nest at home and a small one up here at the school. It's a comforting part of the heritage."
"Wow. We, um, don't have to sleep like that, right?"
Iggy laughed. "No, silly, we'll have beds. We'll be in dorms, but ..." His voice trailed off as the castle came into view. It was a beautiful sight, the moonlight cascading over the towers and shining off the water. "Wow."
"The castle just came into view and it's sparkling in the moonlight," Denver told her. He noticed his sister was in the boat in front of them and she was staring too. "Don't worry about much, we'll protect you. It's what Uncle Xander taught us to do."
She laughed. "That's cool, I guess. I know I'll get picked on some."
"Oh, yeah, the Slytherins will do that a lot for the first few weeks, until it bores them. Unless they're brainless like some of the ones my father went with. Then they'll never get tired of it because it's the level of their mentality."
Iggy snorted. "There's a few of those. And a few in the upper years too. I'm sure Professor Snape will put an end to it in relation to her though. It's not like she can help it." The boat stopped and Iggy got out first, steadying it so Denver could help Andrea and Pumpkin out. "The path's a bit rocky," he warned as they met up with Simone and Melvin. "Come on, let's go deal with the hat." He led the way up to the school. Professor Sprout met them at the door and gave their group a smile. He noticed that Simone had taken Andrea's arm to help her around, and listened in as she told her about the changing staircases and what they were passing.
"The nice old man who came to talk to my parents about my attending put a charm on Pumpkin's harness. She'll be able to find any classroom that I tell her to. He was very sweet, Dumbledore was." She paused when she heard the noise. "What's that?"
"The Great Hall," Iggy told her. "It's the dining area. Don't worry, it's pretty easy to get around in. The tables are arranged length-wise to the dias. There's four of them and plenty of room between them. You shouldn't have much of a problem."
"And we'll be happy to help," Melvin agreed. "Even if some of us end up in another house." He gave a pointed look at Denver.
Denver shrugged. "Father said he was happy because I got in. He'd be pleased if I got into Slytherin but he's not expecting it really." He pushed his sister. "I have to watch out for her."
"Stop it, Denver," Simone whined. "Don't mess up my hair!" The door opened and Professor Spout led them in. She kept firm hold of Andrea's arm, glaring at one Ravenclaw who started to say something. They lined up.
"When I call your name, come forward, sit on the stool, and I'll put the hat on your head," Professor Sprout told them. She unrolled the scroll of names. "Alberts, Maxine?" A young, thin, tiny girl walked forward and had to hop up onto the stool.
"Hufflepuff!" the hat announced immediately.
The line slowly shortened until they came to the 'm's. "Malfoy, Denver."
He stepped forward and sat down. "Hmm," he heard in his head. "Quite a specimen. Torn between two types of being. Wherever shall you go, young Malfoy? Slytherin like your heritage or Gryffindor like your nature?"
"Just pick one," Denver sighed. He had a vision of the hat announcing that it had to think about it for the night and the anger it would cause in his father. "I don't care, just stick me somewhere so I can go eat please."
"Fine, then we'll follow your protective streak. Do come up and tell me about your adventures once you have them. Gryffindor!"
Denver sighed and handed the hat over, going to take his place.
"Malfoy-Weasley, Simone," Professor Sprout announced. A few of the kids leaned over and talked to each other. "Quiet!" she demanded as Simone handed Andrea to Melvin and walked up to the chair.
"Hmm, his sister," the hat told Simone. "You are also torn between the power of your heritage and your nature. Power, yes, lots of power. But a lot of control too."
"I could care less," she muttered. "Mum wants me in Gryffindor and Dad would be pleased as long as you don't take all night."
The sorting hat laughed. "I see. Then I best put you where your brother can keep an eye on you. Quite a destiny you have, young one. I would like to hear about it sometime. Gryffindor!"
Simone took off the hat and glanced at Melvin, who nodded. She would help Andrea down when it was her turn. When she was sorted into Gryffindor a few minutes later, she hopped up and help her down the stairs.
"That's Pumpkin's job," Andrea told her. "She's specially trained to help me down stairs and around things."
Simone shrugged. "Yay, it makes me feel happy." She clapped as another boy got put into Gryffindor. Then Ryan Rosenberg got put into Slytherin, much to his mother's displeasure. She was sure that Willow would make good on her threat to talk to her son later that night. "Besides, you'll only have to walk down them once." Her cousin was up next and she nearly stood up when the hat shouted "Hufflepuff". "Oh, shit," she whispered. "Uncle Percy's going to crap house sized bricks." She looked at Denver, who shrugged. "Oh, well."
"Why wasn't Iggy sorted yet?"
"Because he's a special case. They always go last," Denver told her.
"And now," Professor Sprout said, smiling at Iggy. "It has come to pass that a certain young wizard was admitted early so his name is not in the right order on the list. Ignatius Harris-Weasley, step forward."
Iggy stepped forward and sat on the stool, resisting the urge to fidget. "Hello. As long as you don't put me into Slytherin, I'll be happy with whatever."
The sorting hat laughed. "You don't have the personality for Slytherin, young man." It was quiet for a bit. "Just like your father, only more controlled. You'll have to loosen up sometime or else you'll be in trouble." Another pause. "Smart, yes, brave, yes. Impatient, definitely. You will have a great destiny; I would love to hear about your adventures when you start having them. Would Gryffindor suit you?"
"If it pleases you," Iggy agreed. "I really don't care that much. I'm here to learn, not to take up politics."
"Then Gryffindor it is!" the hat announced.
Iggy handed it over carefully and walked down to sit beside Denver. "I think I don't like that thing. It called me impatient," he told his cousins.
Denver coughed to cover his laugh. "No, you're not impatient at all," Simone assured him, tongue-in-cheek. "Why would it think that? Just because you liked to reprimand me for not catching you...."
"Or got Melvin because he wasn't as quick to take up esoteric subjects," Denver added.
Iggy frowned. "I simply wanted you all to be as smart as I am and to have someone to play with. It's not like I can play with your father and mine insist on doing things like playing pranks."
"You do know that pranks are your heritage?" Andrea asked.
Iggy grimaced as he nodded. "I know. My father runs a joke shop with his twin. But I'm doing good in ignoring my baser impulses. I won't play a single prank on anybody."
"This is all because you turned that cunt purple, isn't it?" Simone asked. A few of her tablemates gave her a shocked look. "What? She was!"
Iggy shrugged. "It made me see that I had to take my nature seriously or I'd never be able to control it." He smiled as the food appeared in front of him, the meat tray right in front of his plate. He dished himself out some food and passed them on. "I think I'm going to like it here."
"Just remember not to live in the library," Denver teased. Iggy shoved him. "Hey! You almost made me drop my stuffing."
"Sorry," Iggy said, giving him a grin. "I'll try to behave better."
"See that you do," an older girl said from farther down the table. "Do eat now, thank you."
"Yes, ma'am," Iggy said, snapping off a salute, just like his father did sometimes. "Any other orders of business to attend to tonight?"
"Just because you're smart doesn't mean you can be a smart ass," the girl told him. Another girl leaned over and whispered in her ear. "So? Professor's son or not, I'm not putting up with anything. Besides, one of the Professor's sons was sorted into Slytherin. I don't think they're going to be paying attention tonight." She glared at Iggy. "You won't be getting away with anything, children, so behave."
"PMS much?" Denver asked her. Her mouth opened. "I should warn you, we do stick up for each other. You try one of us, you get the group. Even Melvin." She shut her mouth and returned to her dinner. "Simone, please don't curse her tonight," he said quietly. "I'd hate to have to write father."
Simone smiled. "I'm going to be good. Iggy?"
"I'm almost always good," Iggy told her, giving her a reassuring smile. "Andrea, how does it feel to be adopted into the clan?"
"It's kind of neat. I'm an only child so I didn't realize having siblings could be like this."
"Oh, it's not," Simone told her. "Sometimes it's punching your brother until he leaves you alone, or beating up on your know-it-all cousin because he's being a pain."
"And sometimes it's sneaking off to Diagon through the floo for ice cream," Denver added, remembering their foray three years ago that had gotten them all grounded for six months. "Did Anastasia howl this morning?"
"She spent the night with Gram so we said goodbye then," Simone said between bites. She looked at her phoenix and whistled, but it chirped and nipped Snape on the ear. "Okay, be that way. See if I save you any seeds tonight." Glinda flew over and landed between her and Andrea. "Andrea, this is Glinda. She's a phoenix. One of Iggy's father's phoenix's get. Glinda, this is Andrea. Watch out for her like you would one of us please." Glinda looked at Andrea, peering at her face, then nuzzled her. "Thank you. Please, take some fruit and go find a more agreeable perch." She watched as her best-friend-since-birth stole some of the apples off the table and leapt into the air, going to sit on a rafter high above the illusion on the ceiling.
"Is she golden?" Andrea asked.
"Pretty muchly, with a hint of scarlet on her feather tips," Iggy told her. "She cut Simone's umbilical cord."
"True," Simone agreed. "Mum said Glinda wouldn't move away from her when she was having me. She was the second being to touch me."
"Wow. That beats being picked by a seeing eye dog."
"Oh, she's a troublesome little quim," Simone told her. "Trust me, you'll find yourself missing something shiny soon. She always hides it under my bed."
"Yes, if you're ever missing anything, look under her bed," Denver agreed. "I've found almost everything of mine under there some time in the past."
"Do you two live together? I noticed the different names."
"No, our parents refuse to marry. I'm my father's son and she's daddy's and mummy's princess."
"And next year, daddy said he'd show me a real unicorn."
Iggy snorted. "He wants to make sure you're not living up to his reputation probably," he muttered. She kicked him. "Ow! Grumpy."
"I'm not living up to his reputation, Iggy. It would destroy daddy and get mum on my case like nothing else has."
"Gram too," Denver put in. "She's tired of all the unmarried people in the family. I heard she threatened Uncle Bill with an arranged marriage if he didn't settle down with someone."
"Is that where the picture of him kissing a camel came from?" Melvin asked from behind Simone. "Can I still hang with you guys?"
"All the time," Simone assured him. "Just because you're a different house doesn't mean that we're going to start ignoring you."
"You, back to your house," the Prefect for Hufflepuff said as she walked over to drag Melvin away.
"I should warn you," Simone told her. "The whole clan does stick up for each other, even when one of us is sorted into a different house. He is still my cousin and I will still hurt people over him."
The Prefect laughed. "Good, but tradition dictates that he eat at with his house. You can see each other tomorrow."
Xander and Ron walked down together, frowning at the brood. "Probs?" Xander asked.
"No, just the standard warning," Iggy told him. He smiled at his father. "Are you Murphying Percy or should we?"
"I'm sending him an owl," Ron told him. He scowled at Simone. "Your language was heard and remarked upon," he warned her. "This is your only warning. Next time, I'm pulling a mum and soaping your mouth." She stuck out her tongue, which was a signal to her bird apparently because Glinda came down and tried to dive-bomb Ron.
Xander caught her and glared at her. "Don't even think about it. Murphy will stick kick your butt." Glinda 'cheeped' pitifully at him. "Yay. Go eat somewhere else." He released her, sending her into the air. "We're not cutting you guys any slack," he reminded them. He looked at the Head Girl, the one who had been bothering Simone earlier. "Or anyone else for that matter," he warned her. She blushed and went back to her food. "Good. Now finish up so you can head up for the night. We just got called so we'll be up to talk to the house afterwards." They walked out of the Great Hall together.
"Wow," Melvin whispered. "That's pretty bad for Uncle Xander. It must have been horrible."
Denver looked at him. "You're telling me. Dad must have done something pretty bad."
Simone shuddered. "I have a feeling I know what it is." She looked around. "Did anyone bring a copy of the Prophet with them?" she asked nicely. One was tossed down at her and she quickly opened it to an article she had been reading over breakfast, handing it to her brother. "Wanna bet it doesn't have something to do with that?"
"Who threatened your father?" Iggy asked, snatching the paper to read for himself. "Well, that certainly would explain it." He handed it back to Denver. "I wonder if dad needs any help." Simone and Denver gave him a look. "What? I'm useful!"
"Yeah, but we're too young. Your dad won't let us fight until we're at least fifth years and our dad said after we graduate."
"Point," Iggy said glumly. "But it doesn't mean we can't help."
"I'm going to owl dad," Denver announced.
"Use Glinda." She raised a hand and Glinda sailed down, landing on her shoulder. "Wanna go see daddy?" she asked.
Denver leaned out from the table. "Can I take this article out?" he requested. The person who the paper belonged to nodded. "Thank you." He carefully tore it out and handed it to Glinda. "Tell our beloved father that we'd like to hear more about this, before we have to get upset about it." Glinda bobbed and took off again, heading out of the great hall. "Well, I'd say this was going to be an interesting year," he decided, handing the paper back to the owner.
"Truly," Simone agreed.
"Definitely," Iggy agreed, scowling at his plate.
"Please keep me out of any revenge plots," Andrea requested. "My parents would kill me if I pulled a Granger and got sucked in."
"It's a Weasley," the clan said.
"Uncle Ron got sucked in first," Denver added.
Andrea laughed. "Good to know. Just as long as I don't get sucked in."
Simone shrugged. "Fine with us, but expect to hear about things now and then. Since you've been adopted, we'll have to include you in any and all conspiracies."
"Hey, I won't tell, but I probably can't help."
"You'd be surprised," Iggy told her. "Melvin is usually our lookout and place keeper."
"Place keeper?" Andrea asked.
"Yeah, as a gryphon-born, I can't apparate, but I can teleport, which is much the same thing. I found the spell last year and I tend to take my beloved cousins with me. Usually Melvin watches out for us and makes up our excuses."
"Oh." She sighed. "I guess I can do that."
"Usually Melvin gets an extra chocolate frog for it," Simone added.
"I've never had one of those."
"We can fix that," the three of them said together.
Iggy noticed Snape was watching them and waved at him, sending him his happiest smile. "Nice man, Professor Snape. He'll probably hate me now."
"Yay," Denver sighed. "I suck at potions."
"Yeah, but you're better at Transfiguration," Simone pointed out. "While Iggy excels at anything nerdly and divinations. I'm the beasty person. We all have our spots."
"What about Melvin?" Andrea asked.
"He's great at growing stuff," Iggy told her. "Helped me tons with my potions stuff because I know the name of *nothing*."
"Ah." She nodded. "I don't get to take potions."
"That must be nice," Denver sighed, dropping his fork. "Let's get on with dessert so I can worry all night."
Simone patted him on the arm. "It'll be fine, Denver. I promise. Uncle Xander and Dad will take care of it, even if they do have to call in Uncle Ron and Uncle Harry to help. Plus the rest of the family will jump in too."
"Yeah, but I'd rather be there!" He pounded his fist on the table, then got up and stalked out of the great hall.
Iggy looked down at the older students, who were watching them. "He's gone to work it out for himself. He'll be somewhere looking out a window, but not very far away." Denver was pushed back into the room by a familiar hand. "See?" He watched as Denver stalked back out, and tried to figure out what he was yelling. He stalked back in a few minutes later. "Not the issue?"
"Not this time. Auntie Buffy had some false labor pains." He sat down. "That article was a surprise to them too." He grimaced. "I'd hate to be dad right about now."
In Malfoy Mansion, Xander walked out of the fireplace, followed by Ron. They headed for the nursery first, Ron gathering up the kids, and Xander went to pull his 'son' out of bed. Together they got everyone back to Molly's, where Glinda was waiting on them with the message.
"Stay here," Xander ordered. "Your son's going to have ulcers." He left again.
Ron carefully put down the youngest baby then disappeared too, only grimacing at Draco.
Draco gave Arthur and Molly a helpless look. "What was that about?"
"Someone's hunting down the children of Death Eaters to get revenge for their family dying," Arthur said quietly. He noticed Anastasia looking at him. "Glinda's back," he told her. She squealed and wandered off to find her. Arthur handed over the clipping. "It came with Glinda."
Draco sat down to read it, turning ever so slightly more pale. "Me?"
"You're the most high profile but we can't be sure," Molly told him, patting him on the head. "They were trying to protect you."
"That's nice, but that's my house and it is shielded." He stood up but Molly pushed him back down. "Surely we can't stay here."
Arthur smiled. "We wouldn't have it any other way, son. I'll put the girls to bed." He lifted up the baby and went in search of his other granddaughter.
Molly gave him another pat. "Just relax and nap there, Draco. Ginny will be back tomorrow." She walked away, going to get him some blankets.
Draco shook his head. Is this what normal families did?
Ron and Xander faced down their house, giving them faint smiles. It wasn't all bad news. "Welcome to a near year," Xander told them. "For those of you that remember us from last year this will be quick. Everyone else, expect at least a half-hour meeting." He grinned at his son and family. "And I'm going to put my foot down now. Iggy and the family don't get special privileges but if you pick on them you're not going to make many friends." That got a few laughs.
Ron cleared his throat. "As many of you know, I'm the official Head of this house. Xander is actually my second-in-command and the one who meets out all punishment and anything that has to do with meddling, pranks, or getting into trouble." He smiled. "For those who don't know, I'm Ron Weasley, I teach in Defense and most of you will be seeing me on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Fridays. For those of you that don't know, that is Professor Xander Harris, he teaches in the Alternate Defense program for third and fourth years, plus a seventh year class." The kids all nodded. "Do you have any questions so far?"
"Are you encouraging your son to get into trouble?" the Head Boy asked Xander.
Xander shrugged. "He's not usually the troublemaker. That's Simone, the princess, or Denver, the reprobate." Denver laughed. "But no, Iggy shouldn't get into too much trouble. He doesn't even like playing pranks. But if he does, I'd like to know first," he finished with a smile. Everyone nodded. "Thank you." He looked at Ron, who shrugged because he didn't know what was next either. "Oh yeah. Andrea, I'm sorry now if I embarrass you or am too helpful and you get pissed, meddling is my nature and everyone has learned to deal with it."
"That's fine," she told him. "Should we explain now?"
"Yup," Ron agreed.
Xander walked over and helped her up, leading her in front of the house. "This is Andrea, and her dog's name is Pumpkin. As a few of you have realized, Andrea is blind and Pumpkin is specially trained to help her." A few of the kids nodded, but a few looked clueless. "Andrea, would you care to set guidelines for playing with Pumpkin?" he asked quietly. She nodded so he patted her on the shoulders.
"It's true, I can't see. I can see shadows out of one eye but that's it," she told the assembled house. "Pumpkin is trained to guide me around when I need it, get me around obstacles and stairs, and help me with my daily activities. Because of her training, I've got to ask you not to feed her a lot of treats. It could break her training." She snapped her fingers and Pumpkin stood up, walking over to her side. "Whenever you see her in this harness, she's in working mode and shouldn't be played with either. We've got to stay bonded or her training will break down." She reached down and unclipped the fasteners holding on her harness, releasing her. "Whenever she's not in it though, she's a giant puppy and is more than willing to play. I ask that you ask first because some days she's a giant bitch." That got some laughter. "If you ask I'm usually okay with you patting her on the head or giving ear scratches."
"Can you walk around without a cane?" Ron asked.
Andrea shrugged. "It's redundant with Pumpkin."
"What he means is that there are missing stairs that look like they're there," Iggy told her. "I fell though a bunch of those before I learned where they are." He stood up. "For the record, our family has all but adopted her. So if we find out you're picking on her, you'd better hope my father saves you."
"Iggy," Xander said firmly. His son grinned. "Actually, if I find out that any of you picked on her because of this, then I'm going to get you and make sure you learn that lesson very well." The group nodded. "Good. Want help back?"
"No, I think I can get it," Andrea said, following her dog back to her seat. Simone caught her before she fell off the edge. "Thanks."
"Welcome." Simone raised her hand. "What about the tryouts? When are they being held?"
"Next week," Ron told her. "And yeah, I'm a quidditch tyrant from way back. I was Harry Potter's best friend when he was here and playing against the Malfoy."
"As my husband said last year, he has hopes that the games get that way again," Xander joked. Ron shoved him. "Hey!"
"Your husband needs his head examined." Ron rolled his eyes. "As you can see, my brother-in-law does have a sense of humor, a bad one. I'd like to see the games played fairly, well, and excellently. I have high hopes that one of you will make it onto a championship team." That got a few smiles. "Otherwise I'm done." He looked at Xander.
Xander shrugged. "My earlier message about my room being open to all of you stands. As a gryphon-born I am a meddler by nature. So if you need to talk to me, I'm either here or at the store in town, or at Ron's mom's house infrequently."
"If that happens, I'll lend anyone my phoenix to get him," Simone said loudly enough so everyone could hear her. "She knows him well and can usually find him within minutes."
"True. Phoenixes are very fast," Xander agreed with a grin. "Before George and I started dating, we used to Murphy back and forth from the west coast of America to here. It took three days, so phoenixes are very fast." A few of the kids whispered to each other. "My own phoenix is presently trying to keep his latest brood out of trouble so he's around, but not always *around* if you get my meaning." He snapped his fingers. "Oh, yeah, I'm not going to be here next weekend. My husband's treating me to a weekend away." Ron groaned. "Sorry, dude, but he offered Disney."
Ron sighed. "What if she goes into labor then?"
"Oh, that's the last point," Xander said happily. "For at least a month, sometime in the next four, you will have only me here. Ron's girlfriend is about to give birth to triplets." That got a cheer. "So if you see the fat, waddling, blonde woman tell her she looks nice. She's a former Slayer." He stood up. "Anything else, Ron?"
"Not that I know of," Ron agreed. "We'll let you get to bed now. Come to us if you need us and we will help you anyway we can." The students broke up and Ron caught Iggy. "If you cause me trouble, I'm not going to turn you over to your father, I'm handing you to your grandmother," he warned.
Iggy did his best to look innocent. "But I'm the good one," he protested.
"Yeah," Xander snorted. "You're the intelligence behind the creative chaos you guys cause. Keep it down or we'll be having meetings in my room with your other father." He patted his son on the head. "Go sleep. I'll see you at breakfast." He walked out the portrait to wait on Ron.
Ron grimaced at Iggy. "I mean it. No hurting the other house members and no starting shit. If you have to, react, don't start it." Iggy nodded. "Good. I'm going to owl Mum tonight so she'll know where everyone is. Go to bed." Iggy hurried up the stairs. Ron walked out and grinned at Xander. "How long do you think it'll take?"
"Two days, and it'll be a Slytherin," Xander told him.
"Five sickles?" Ron asked as they headed back toward teacher's quarters.
"Sure," Xander agreed, watching as Ron went through the portrait leading to the normal teacher's quarters. He still had his specially shielded room downstairs. Which was where he was going so he could get some from his husband.
Simone caught Andrea before she could fall due to her newly tied-together shoelaces. "Oh, that's *so* mature," she told the Slytherin.
"Gonna tell your daddy?" the third year asked.
"No, I can kick your ass on my own." She let go of Andrea and stood in front of her. "Dueling or fist fight?"
They were interrupted by Professor Snape. "What is going on?"
"He decided to pick on Andrea," she told him. "I was about to make him see the error of his ways."
"You were going to duel?" Snape asked, smiling. She was definitely a fiery little creature. Very much her father's daughter.
"Not if he wanted to go at it physically," she said with a shrug. "Doesn't matter to me. Bullies are bad enough, but bullies who pick on someone who can't help the way they are should be eliminated and kept from breeding. Too bad no one thought about that before his father did so."
The other boy lunged, but Snape caught him by the back of his robe. "Enough," he ordered. "Ms. Malfoy-Weasley, we expect better of you here."
"Yeah, well, I expected there to be a brain requirement too so I'll gladly serve any detention for protecting those who can't protect themselves." She smiled at him. "Uncle Xander told us all about how that was the ultimate good thing."
Snape hid his smile. "Indeed. In that case, you will both be helping me clean my dungeon tonight at eight. Be prompt or get more detentions." He let the boy go. "As for you, you were warned last night to leave young Ms. Reams alone. I find myself disappointed that you can't follow simple orders." He nodded at them. "Maybe you should go eat."
Andrea smiled up at him. "I wish I had been able to take your class, Professor, maybe I'll be able to work something out for next year." She took Simone's arm and Pumpkin's harness, letting her dog lead her into the Great Hall. "I expect things like that," she said quietly. "It's okay."
"It's not," Simone countered. "He may be a stupid, evil bastard but that doesn't mean he has to pick on you. There's plenty of more satisfying targets and he was going for the easy laugh."
Andrea laughed. "So you're making him work for his laughs?"
"Exactly. Why take the easy route? Doing harder things makes your brain grow. Just look at our family," she said as she sat them down.
"Thank you for saving me. Apparently the charm on her harness works for every room but the Great Hall." She sat, Pumpkin sitting on her feet. "I even found the infirmary fairly easily this morning. With a little help from another dog. He stood there and barked at mine until we moved around a spot on the stairs. Someone noted that my dog must be a familiar because he avoided the blank spot on the way down."
Iggy plopped down across from them. "You okay?" Andrea nodded. "The idiot was bragging and Uncle Ron caught him. Now he's got two detentions." Andrea sighed. "Sorry, but everyone was warned to not pick on you because it would be cruel. Oh, heard a rumor. Ryan Rosenberg stuck up for you last night against his house."
"That would be after his mother chewed him a new one?" Simone asked.
"Definitely," Iggy said with a grin. He really didn't like Ryan, he was a bully. Quite a lot like his father. "But he said that he would help the Slytherins get our whole group and not just into trouble." His grin got meaner. "Apparently he thinks he knows me."
Simone laughed. "Really? Well, I can't wait for that attack. It should at least be interesting." She stopped laughing when she saw her brother walking in. "What's wrong?"
"Forgot to take my medicine up to Madam Pomfrey," Denver said as he clutched the table so he could sit down. "This vertigo shit sucks ass."
"Language," Ron said as he walked past them. He stopped and turned around, noticing how green the boy looked. "Forgot your medicine?" Denver nodded slowly. "Simone, take him up there and make sure he gets it after lunch. You have me and I'll allow it." He turned and continued on to the teacher's table.
"What's vertigo?" Andrea asked.
"It's an inner ear problem that makes me feel like the world's spinning but I'm not grounded to it," Denver told her. "It's like a constant motion sickness, only worse because you feel like you're spinning against the tide of gravity. So there's the wonderful feeling that you're going to fall, plus the dizziness, and then spinning on top of it."
"Yes, it is," Denver agreed. "I have medicine I take for it, but I forgot to take it to the infirmary this morning to have it mixed up. So I've went through classes clutching at walls, which was okay until I walked in here. Because the nausea started up with the food smells."
"Let me make a sandwich and I'll get you up there," Iggy told him. He waved at Melvin as he walked in and his cousin walked over. "Did you remember to take your medicine upstairs yet?"
"Yup. Madam Pomfrey visited us this morning to gather them and talk to us." He grimaced at Denver's green tone. "You want a bowl?"
"Nope, just my drugs."
Iggy stuffed his sandwich into his mouth., holding it with his teeth so he could put on his backpack. Once he had his hands free, he used one to hold his lunch and the other to grab his cousin. "Come on, we'll go now." Denver nodded and allowed himself to be led away.
"That's got to be hard," Andrea said quietly.
"It is. They figured it out when he was five and couldn't sit on a broom without falling off. This was the worst I've seen him in a while." She glanced at the door. "But now that he has his medicine, he's an excellent chaser and hell on a broom. Plus he can walk without stumbling, running into walls that seem to shift to him, or puking his guts up." Simone checked her schedule. "We have flying this afternoon, what about you?"
"I think I have it too," she said, running her fingers over the braille she had on her schedule. "Yup, I'm due to go flying with you, then we have your Uncle's class. Which is kinda silly."
"But it's handy in an emergency," Xander said as he walked up to the table. "Where's the other guys?"
"Denver didn't get his medicine this morning so Iggy's helping him up to the infirmary."
"Good. Can you inform my son that his fathers would like to talk to him about some missing books that used to live in the lab at the store?" Simone nodded. "Thank you." He grinned at her. "Nice catch. I heard about the Slytherin. Remember, don't start, react." She nodded so he went to eat his lunch too. He stopped to have a word with Snape, who nodded.
"Gee, you guys are really protective," Andrea said, sounding like she was complaining a bit. "I'm not helpless."
"No, but you're not used to magical attacks either," Simone pointed out. "By your sixth month, you should be able to handle nearly everything. Denver and I will even teach you some curses if you want." She dished out some of the broccoli. "What do you want for lunch since nothing's near you?"
"Chicken strips smothered in a honey sauce, broccoli, green beans, salad, or pudding in two flavors. It's all on my other side."
"Some of the chicken, the green beans, and the salad," Andrea said, taking the serving dishes. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Oh, we're going out tonight. Did you need anything?"
"I forgot my mousse."
"Mousse? Like the stuff for dessert?"
"No, like the stuff for my hair so I don't have to pull it back," Andrea told her.
"That's cool. If we find some, we'll bring it back." She looked over as Iggy ran in, standing up. He shook his head so she sat back down. He rejoined the table. "That was fast."
"Madam Pomfrey was coming down for lunch and caught him. She's reminding him that he should have come up earlier and that she'll bring down his medicine every morning to breakfast if she doesn't see him up there." He plopped his bookbag and grabbed the chicken, dishing some more out. "The bread gets soggy," he complained.
"We have bread?" Andrea asked.
"No, we had bread, Iggy ate the last few pieces with his sandwich."
"Oh." Andrea smiled. "That's good." She jumped, something cold and wet touched her back and Pumpkin was still on her feet. "What was that?"
"The dog who was warning you about the missing stairs," Simone said, reaching over to pet the big guy. "Hey, Storm. Are you supposed to be in here?"
"Get the dog out of here," Xander called. "Out, Storm!"
Storm barked and growled at him, then nudged Andrea again, walking under the table to lay next to Pumpkin.
"Apparently he wanted to talk to my dog," Andrea called back. "I'll take him with me when I'm done."
Andrea reached down and blindly petted both dogs. "You two talk, I won't refuse Pumpkin friends." Her hand slipped off the table and she started to slip over, but caught herself. "Oops," she said lightly.
"Maybe you need Denver's medicine," Simone chuckled.
"Maybe," Andrea agreed. "But only when I get trapped on a moving staircase for nearly an hour."
"Ooh," Iggy sighed. "That was you?" She nodded. "It's gone around the school. Next time check on the right handrail, there's a spot to depress to make it lock onto a landing. It's near the middle and always a cherub's nose, except on the one up to Gryffindor tower, that one's the house sign. Push it and it'll lock for at least ten minutes."
"Thank you," Andrea said, giving him a smile. "I'll remember that." She dug into her chicken and her watch beeped. "Twenty minutes until class."
"Flying," Simone told Iggy.
"Cool. Denver should be back by then." He looked around. "Are we having it with Melvin?"
"Nope, we have Transfiguration and Defense with Hufflepuff, Potions and Magical Creatures with Slytherin, and Flying and our free period with Ravenclaw." She caught Iggy's eye, then glanced at Andrea and back. "Maybe we should spend our free period in the library."
"Sure," Iggy agreed. "Though I think Dad's caught on that I lifted some of the books from the lab."
Simone nodded. "Yup, you've got an after-dinner meeting with both fathers in his room."
"Shit," Iggy muttered. "But I didn't take the harmful ones."
"Yay. You know how Uncle Fred is about their secret recipes. He doesn't even let your dad read them."
"Point," Iggy sighed. "Well, I guess I'll meet you guys up on the mezzanine walkway afterwards." He scraped his plate and stood up. "Ready?"
"Almost," Simone and Andrea said, shoving the rest of their food into their mouths.
Pumpkin and Storm came out from under the table as she stood up, Pumpkin moving into place and Storm taking her other side. "You'd make a very good guide dog," Andrea praised.
"He's a great dane/mastiff cross," Iggy said as they walked out together. "He's still got about six more months of growth to go."
"And about fifty more pounds," Simone added. "Hagrid told us that they're supposed to get up to two hundred pounds or more by the time they're fully grown."
"That's certainly a huge dog," Andrea agreed. "Still, he's got the right temperament."
"Didn't you say Pumpkin was going to retire soon?" Simone asked. Andrea nodded. "Maybe you can talk Hagrid into letting Storm be trained. It looks like he wants to do the job anyway."
"Usually service animals are raised by special trainers who start teaching them commands at a very young age. I don't know if I could do that."
"You could always owl your parents and have them ask," Iggy suggested.
"I think first we should ask Hagrid," Denver said as he walked up behind them. He was a lot less green now, and was munching on a bar of some sort. "He's devoted to his animals."
"I'm supposed to go talk to him anyway," Andrea told him. "He's supposed to be watching over Pumpkin in case anything happens."
"We'll see him tomorrow morning, first thing," Simone told her. They exited the building and walked slowly toward the flying field. "Hi," she told Madam Hooch happily. "Are you separating those of us who can already fly out?"
"No," she told her. "Everyone starts at the same point." She smiled at them. "Do you play quidditch? I thought I remembered seeing you."
"We three did," Iggy told her. "The local team's coach was really unhappy when we got too old to play last year." He shook her hand. "Are you running a quidditch tryout soon? Or some sort of camp to get everyone up to standards?"
"Certainly." She pointed at the brooms. "You're against the walls. Pick a broom." She looked at Andrea and clucked her tongue. "I don't know why they decided you had to learn to fly."
"Because it's a good emergency thing," Iggy told her. "There are self-guiding brooms. Heard Uncle Ron talking about them." He led the way over to the brooms, looking them all over. He picked his and brought it over to stand next to his cousins, on the other side of Andrea. "Maybe the dogs should back up," he suggested. "The kids will get funny about flying."
"Dad said there's always a mishap on the first day," Denver told her. "He caused one himself."
"He *caused* one?" Andrea asked.
"That's back when he was the evil bastard. Uncle Xander helped cure him of that."
"Unless it's him and Uncle Harry playing against each other," Simone corrected. "He knocked Uncle Harry off his broom yesterday. It was in the paper this morning."
"Is he okay?" Iggy asked. Simone nodded. "Good. Dad would get him for being unnecessarily mean to Uncle Harry."
"Harry Potter?" Madam Hooch asked. All the kids but Andrea nodded. "Is he playing professionally?"
"He started about three weeks after Fang's funeral," Simone told her. "And our dad, Draco Malfoy, was picked at the same camp for another team."
"Whenever they play, they hover and talk," Iggy added. "Do they play again this year?"
"Only if both teams make it to the playoffs," Denver butted in. "But it's kind of cool. Our Grandmother watches all the kids while they play. She gets them to cheer for the other side sometimes and even holds little parties for them."
Iggy laughed. "And it's really bad when the Uncles play against each other. Then we have to cheer for both sides and not tell them." He looked over as the rest of the students filed out. "I could probably help someone if you put a hopeless case next to me. I've been playing since I was five."
"I'll keep that in mind," Madam Hooch agreed, walking over to meet the rest of the students. "Find a broom and stand beside it," she ordered. The students shuffled around until they were all next to a broom and only one was free. "Make sure you are on the left of the broom," she called. "Your wand hand doesn't matter yet." The free broom was taken by someone who had thought the broom on their right was theirs. "Hold out your hand and say 'up'!"
"Up!' the class said, both houses having people who the broom jumped for and Gryffindor having two people that the broom wouldn't come up for. One of them was next to Denver.
Denver pointed at it. "Be firm or be pleading, but don't ask or beg," he advised.
"Up," he kid said in his best 'firm' voice. "Please?" The broom came up and wiggled in his hand. "Thank you."
"You're not the first to have problems with that one," Madam Hooch told him on her way to help the other helpless student. "For those of you with your brooms in your hand, mount it by straddling the broom and kick off gently, floating a foot *exactly* in the air, then tip the nose down and land."
As predicted, a student took off, then another, and a third. Denver was the first one up, he went for the one flying at the school's wall. Simone went for the one heading straight up. Iggy went for the one who was screaming her head off. He saw Denver and Simone catch theirs, but his was still panicking. "Shut up!" He yelled. She started to scream louder. "If you don't shut it, I can't help you." He noticed where they were heading and decided a course of action. A grab and roll it would have to be, before the whomping willow got them. He snatched her off the broom and rolled to the side, swooping away as the tree got the other broom. Denver came up under him and between them they got her settled on the front of Iggy's broom. "Wow," he said as they landed, him hovering so she could hop off and kiss the ground. "You suck at flying." He looked at his cousins, who shrugged. "I'll give you lessons if you want," he offered as he landed. "Tutoring would be of the good." He smiled at Madam Hooch. "Sorry we couldn't save the broom."
"That's fine, dear," she said, patting him on the shoulder. "That was an interesting move."
"His dad taught us that," Iggy said, pointing at Denver. He glanced around, everyone was looking at him. "What? I played on a Junior league." He shrugged and went to sit on the ground, pulling Storm over to play with so someone else could use his broom to replace one of the two broken ones.
The rest of the class got back onto their brooms and hovered, practicing landing and taking off. Two brooms broken and no one was hurt, it was probably a record.
"Can we bring our brooms next time?" Denver called as they walked away.
"You're not supposed to have one," Madam Hooch called.
Denver turned and looked at her. "It's shrunken and I can't get it up unless I make the House team, but I do have one with me. Iggy's is in his father's closet with his father's broom, and Simone could probably borrow that one since her mum put her foot down."
Madam Hooch shook her head. "Not until you make the house team then, Mr. Malfoy. Then you may bring your broom." He nodded and turned, jogging to catch up. "Well, this will certainly be an interesting class," she told herself as she gathered up the brooms.
The Captain of the Gryffindor team sat down next to Simone at dinner that night. "What do you guys play?" he asked.
"Chaser," Denver said.
"Beater," Simone told him. He gave her a look.
"She's great at it," Denver agreed. "Surprised dad to no end."
"I play chaser usually, but I'm an okay backup keeper," Iggy told him. "My dad was hoping that I'd play his position but I'm not that great at beater."
"Wow." The Captain nodded. "All right, then we'll see how you fly tomorrow. Bring your brooms." Denver opened his mouth. "I heard, can you get it up?"
"If I ask Daddy to remove the spell, he probably would," Simone told him. "At least for tryouts."
"Maybe," Denver agreed. "If not, I can play on any old thing." He nudged his sister. "You'll have to write for yours."
"Or ask Uncle Ron to lend me his," she suggested with a grin. She looked at the Captain. "When and where?"
"After dinner, on the pitch, right before dark. There's lights out there now."
"Okay," the three of them said.
"Oh, Melvin's a chaser too," Denver told him. "Fairly good, but not a lot of balance. He only played because it got him out around other kids."
"Will it bother you to play against him in a real game?"
"Not if we talk about it first," Iggy told him. "Simone and I were on different teams in the Junior league for two years. We talked about it and it was okay. It's only one game though, right?"
"Of course." The Captain smiled. "I'm Reggie Whitcomb. Yell my way if you have any troubles before the tryouts." He walked down the table to talk to some others, probably players.
Iggy looked at Simone. "You don't want your broom?"
"Mum said I couldn't have it until I made the team. She won't send it for tryouts." She nibbled on a bite of roll. "Do you think Uncle Xander will lend you his, Denver?"
"Maybe. I can always ask." He stood up and walked up to the teacher's table. "Uncle Ron, Uncle Xander, we have tryouts tomorrow. Can Simone and I borrow brooms?"
"Sure," Xander told him. "Iggy's is too small for him so he's going to need a new one."
"Simone's is crap," Ron snorted. "She definitely needs a new one. And I did promise to get her one if she made the house team."
"My old one's about shot," Xander added.
"Denver's got his dad's old broom," Ron told Xander.
"Hey, no fair," Xander complained.
"True," Denver said with a grin, "but he shrunk it so I can't use it unless I make the team. So can we?"
"Sure," the teachers said.
"Thank you." He looked around. "No phoenixes?"
"The three adults are teaching the younger ones how to hunt mice outside tonight," Xander explained. "It was time. Murphy loves this lesson. He's been chipper all day." He smiled. "I heard about the flying lesson today. Good teamwork."
"Thanks. Dad would probably be really proud of Iggy."
"You helped from what I heard. That's good enough for us," Ron reminded him. "Go eat."
"Yes, sir." He trotted back to his seat. "Uncle Xander said his broom's crap but you can use it and Uncle Ron said yours was too." Simone sighed. "But we can borrow brooms." He looked at Iggy. "Are you getting a new one?"
"Hopefully, my Firebolt's nearly too small." He looked at Simone. "I could sell you my old one if yours dies."
"It's not that bad, it's just got a cracked handle from that collision in my third-to-last game. I flew it after that." She put her elbows on the table and rested her head on her balled fists. "I don't want dad to buy me a broom, he always gloats and gets too cheerful."
"At least your dad gets happy. Mine starts complaining about the price," Iggy reminded her. "My last broom was nearly fifty galleons."
"Eww," Denver hissed. "Mine was like forty. Dad never blinked though."
"That's because he's used to being rich," Simone pointed out. "Xander doesn't like to spend money, hence our father buying him clothes."
"I thought that was dad's fashionable side shuddering at what he used to wear."
"It's a bonding thing," Iggy told them. "He does it to prove to himself that he's part of the family." Both cousins looked at him. "He does. No one but family would let him buy them clothes, so it proves that he's a part of the family. Besides, Uncle Ron said he'd buy us good brooms if we made our house team."
"That's going to be expensive," Simone complained. "We shouldn't make him do it."
"But he probably has contacts from where he made brooms for so long. He'll get a discount or something."
"Hopefully," Iggy agreed. "I'm due to shoot up another foot in the next two years according to dad."
"I can't *wait* to start that," Denver said sarcastically. "Dizzy and awkward, what a joy!"
"You get used to it eventually," Iggy told him, wiping his mouth. "Well, I'd better go get ready to be yelled at. Want to help me carry books?"
"Nope," the Malfoys said together. They were not helping carry heavy books anywhere ever again if they could help it.
"Did you find an inner eye spell yet?" Simone asked.
Iggy nodded, smiling at her. "I've found three different version so far. One's a gryphon spell and permanent. One's a temporary with a recast word. One's a temporary and only lasts once."
"Copy them for me," Simone told him. He pulled some folded papers out of his bag. "When did you do this?"
"During potions, after I finished. Oh, Denver, Professor Snape was mixing your potion personally while you were getting sick this morning. You should have it in mass quantities pretty soon." He stood up. "Going to get yelled at. Laters." He walked away, taking his bookbag with him. His father zapped him on the rear, making him squeal and jump, and turn around and glare.
"Go get those books," Xander mouthed.
Iggy slumped and went to do as he was told. It was only ten books and they didn't have anything that the shop sold in them. What was the big deal?
Simone fell onto the couch next to Andrea and patted her on the hand. "Did you know there were spells so you could see a picture in your mind?" she asked quietly.
"Yup. I had our local research fiend look for them. There's a temporary/works once, there's a temporary with a switch, and a permanent that works like bat sonar."
"Wow." Andrea shifted so she was facing her friend. "Can we try them out?"
"With some help and some components," Simone cautioned. "I'd do the works once one first, just to make sure it worked well enough on you."
"I've missed seeing colors," Andrea admitted quietly.
"You weren't born this way?"
"No, I was an accident when I was two and I had a lot of seizures. They killed my sight. I still remember colors, but it's like some sort of dream." She reached over and touched Simone's arm. "When can we do it?"
"After Iggy talks to Professor Snape. It's a hard potion to make and we want to make sure it's okay first. Since he's the potions guy, we're letting him do that part. Denver, Melvin, and I will cast the rest of it. With any luck, it won't be too bad to get used to."
"Wow." She smiled. "I can't wait to tell my mother if it works. She's working with six other kids who could really use it."
"Magic can't get back to the muggles," Simone reminded her. Andrea's face fell. "So unless you could make it seem like something else, it isn't the best of all ideas to spread it around."
"Oh." Andrea tipped her head down. "I guess that's true, but it's such a ...a downer. I know lots of kids who'd love to have their sight back, even if they only got it for a day or something. The kids I went to school with at the Center for the Blind would have begged for a chance to go through the spell, even if it was fatal if done wrong."
"I know, and we'll see if we can figure out a way, but it might not work on everybody anyway. You're the guinea pig here. Can you handle that?"
"I guess," she sighed. Maybe she could find a way later to help others with it. "What else is going on?"
"Well, Iggy's being bitched out by his fathers for stealing books from their stash. We're going to meet up with Melvin in a few minutes if you want to come."
"No thanks. I think I'll stay here and read my books."
"How do you read books?" Simone asked.
Andrea laughed. "I asked that same question when my mother suggested it. There's a language for us called Braille. It's a pattern of bumps and each letter and number has a different pattern." She pulled one of her books up off the table beside her seat and handed it over. "My mother translated all my books before I came"
Simone ran her fingers over the bumps. "Wow. This is intense. Can you teach us? It'd be a pretty good code."
"Sure. It's not that hard. I'm guessing Iggy will pick it up pretty fast."
Simone snorted. "Iggy will probably suck all the knowledge out of your head with a gigantic slurp and then belch."
"Eww," Andrea said, giggling. "That's a gross mental image."
"Yup, but it's the way he is." She stood up. "You sure you don't want to hang with us tonight?"
"No, I think I'll study."
"Okay." Simone walked out, running into her cousin Melvin right outside the portrait. "Waiting long?"
"Just now. Iggy gave me the 'help me' look as he carried books down to his father's room. Where's Denver?"
"Checking out everyone's broom before our tryout." She led the way to the walkway with the open windows to the outside. "Are you trying out?"
"I might, but we've only got secondary positions open." Melvin gave her a hug. "We can play against each other. It's Denver that I worry about getting rough."
"Yeah, he can get a bit focused. That's why dad pulled him from the league."
"Hey, he only broke her nose," Melvin pointed out. He grinned. "And my father would beat him up if he tried it with me."
"Very good point," Denver said as he walked up to them. "I am working on my aggression problem," he reminded them. "The brooms look good enough and we should be able to use them tomorrow. Iggy still has a little kid's broom so that's yours tomorrow, Simone. I'll take Uncle Xander's and Iggy just got permission to use his father's since Uncle Ron's broom is back at Auntie Buffy's and she's pouting at him." Simone nodded. "Good." He smiled at Melvin. "What should we do tonight?"
"We should go get into trouble," Iggy said as he stomped up to them. "Everyone grab hands. I need chocolate because my parents are *so* unfair." They grabbed hands and Iggy teleported them away.
In the shadows, Xander, George, and Ron looked at each other. "Guess you owe me those five sickles back. I was right. They did teleport to Diagon last year." Ron slapped the money into his hand. "What do we do about this?"
"Leave it for now," McGonagall said as she walked down the hall. "It could be much worse. Your children are all well prepared to face almost anything."
"Are you Dumbledore wearing a McGonagall suit?" George asked.
She laughed. "Not hardly, Mr. Weasley. I did learn from him, and tended to take it to heart before." She smiled at her teachers. "Tomorrow you yell at them."
Xander nodded. "Oh, that's not the issue. We were wondering how to stop them from doing it again."
"I doubt any punishment would be effective in this case," McGonagall told them. "Just talk with them and remind them how dangerous that can be." The parents nodded. "And Ronald, do go easy on Simone tomorrow when she comes to you with an idea. Her heart is in the right place." She walked on.
Xander looked at Ron. "I agree, that was worthy of Dumbledore." He clapped Ron on the back. "So, do we wait up in the tower or get them tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow," Ron told him. "Giggling girls are not what I want to listen to tonight." He leered. "I need to go see my girlfriend." He walked away.
"We could always go snuggle," George offered with a naughty grin. "On the couch even."
Xander leaned over and kissed him. "An excellent idea, hubby. Let's go do that. We can ream the son out tomorrow."
"Let mum and dad do it. I'm sure they'd be thrilled to yell at them. Dad appears to like it with as much time as he spent yelling at Anastasia the other day."
"Hmm. Doable and I'd get to sit back and listen," Xander said, nodding. "Okay, it's a plan." They held hands as they walked away, going to do naughty things, hopefully without any interruptions.
Molly smiled as Ron walked out of the fireplace while she was eating breakfast. "Problems already?" she teased.
"Yup, we caught Iggy teleporting last night, and taking the other three with him." Her cup dropped from her hand. "Oh, and he did it while he was pissed too. Went out for snacks and hair mousse for some reason." He frowned, then shook it off. "And can you find the packet I left here when I quit Firebolt? It looks like I'm going to have to make good and buy the kids brooms."
"Of course, dear." She stood up, kissing him on the cheek. She went right to the 'stuff' drawer and pulled out the packet of information he had gathered. "Here you go." She smiled at him. "Any other news?"
"Haven't gotten the owl yet?" Ron asked with grin. She shook her head. "Expect it today then, mum." He waved and hopped back into the fireplace, heading back to breakfast.
Molly shook her head and picked up a cloth to clean up her mess. She would let Arthur handle this one, and possibly Percy. They would be calm. Teleporting was very dangerous and not something Iggy should be doing at all, much less dragging the others with him. She smiled as her husband walked down the stairs. "I just got a surprise visit from Ron," she said with a smile. "They caught Iggy teleporting his cousins."
Arthur muttered something under his breath. "Well, not much we can do to stop it. I doubt McGonagall will change the shields at the school to block him from doing it." He sat down and picked up the fork his wife had handed him, digging into the plate of food she had lovingly made him. "Good as always," he complimented between bites. "Any other news?"
"Ron's owl's gotten lost again. He sent us house placements. And it looks like he may be buying a few brooms after all."
"Excellent," Arthur said, smiling at her. He glanced out the window. "Is that Ron's beast now?"
"Possibly." She opened the half-door that went to the garden, letting the owl in. "Yes, it is." She took the scroll and sat down to look at it. "Should we call the others?"
"Definitely." He got up and used the floo to summon everyone in. As soon as Percy appeared, Molly untied the ribbon and unrolled the scroll, smiling and handing it to him.
Arthur laughed and handed it to Percy. "You read it, son."
Percy cleared his throat. "Herein lies the house standings of the family, and the interested children around us," he read. "Rather formal for Ron." He saw the first child and sighed. "Melvin was sorted into Hufflepuff." Arthur patted him gently. "Let's see. Iggy was sorted into Gryffindor and they did him last. Ron reports that the hat had a lot of problems with the three of them. Took quite a while and apparently the sorting hat wanted another option because they've got such different natures." He smiled at Draco. "The other two made it into Gryffindor also," he finished with a smile.
Draco shook his head. "It's all Ginny's influence," he complained. "Denver must be getting hell from the Slytherins with his last name."
Percy handed over the scroll. "No, but Simone's already in trouble because of her mouth. Mouthed off to the Head Girl within minutes. Your son stuck up for her."
"Of course he did, we love to protect and smother our sisters," Draco said as he read. He grimaced. "Just what the family needed, a new scandal." He put the scroll down. "I'll have to accept this. Any news on the house team front?"
"Ron said he might have to buy them all brooms," Molly admitted with a smile. She looked at her husband, who nodded. "He also shared something else. Apparently they caught Iggy teleporting last night." Both fathers winced. "With the others."
"What?" Draco yelled. "He teleported *with* Denver and Simone? How could he do that?"
"He's a very powerful little boy," Arthur reminded him. "Just like his father is."
"Xander always gets nauseous whenever he teleports," Percy pointed out. "How is Iggy bringing people with him? And is this dangerous?" Arthur nodded. "Can we stop this?"
"Considering they've probably been doing it for at least a year?" Draco sighed. "I'm sure they're quite good at it by now." He turned and slammed his hand against the wall. "I will be having a talk with my children about responsibility. There is nothing that they need that requires them to sneak off in the middle of the night and go get it!"
"Ice cream parlor," Percy said smugly. His son had been talked into that escapade. Draco glared at him. "They're still young, they'll learn the hard way, the same as Fred and George did."
"At least they don't have that damnable map," Draco muttered. He disappeared from the kitchen.
Arthur looked at his wife. "I think he took that rather well," he said with fond tolerance.
Percy burst out laughing. "True. I would have thrown a bigger fit if I hadn't caught them at it last year. Did you know that Melvin was doing chaos magic back then?" Arthur shook his head. "Thankfully, I convinced him to stop before it got dangerous by telling him about his Aunt Hermione. He saw the point rather quickly and gave up on anything extreme." He got up and got a cup, pouring himself some tea. "Mum, are you watching the other kids today?" She nodded. "Can I have you watch Tanada? She's got a slight fever and her daycare won't let her come."
"Of course I will. She's a delightful little baby. As a matter of fact, Ginny's bringing the other two over today so she can get some work done. It seems they're doing road work outside her office." She sipped her tea. "Should we worry about Melvin, Percy?"
"No, mum, I think he'll be smart about it. Even if he does take up chaos magic more often, he'll not turn dark with it. Though he did say that the power was amazing. He let me feel some of it in a small ritual; it was rather awe inspiring to be that close to the source of magic." He sipped his tea, then checked his watch. "Better go. Don't want to be late. Those historians can get rather picky since the locks were changed and they don't have keys." He kissed each parent on the cheek then left through the floo.
Arthur stood up. "I should go too," he told his wife, giving her a more personal kiss on the lips. "I'll try to pop back for lunch, or call if I can't."
"That would be wonderful, dear," she called after him. She slumped once she was alone. Chaos magic? Not turning bad? Wasn't that a contradiction? She would have to have a talk with the young boy in question before he got into trouble. Very serious trouble. The Ministry could lock him up for that if they thought he was a threat. She pulled her husband's plate over and finished off his bacon. Yes, she would have to put a stop to that behavior before it hurt someone.
Iggy tapped on Professor Snape's door before first period, and walked in at the grunt. "Sir, I have a serious question to ask you," he said as he closed the door. Snape looked up, looking somewhat interested. "In my research, I've found three spells to help give someone a modicum of sight." He handed over the copied spells. "As you can see, all of them require potions that are far outside my range. But we would like to do this for Andrea. She's agreed to try the temporary spell to see if it works well enough, and then try one of the other two, but we're not capable of doing it."
"It's good to see students who know their limits," he said, picking up the papers to read. "Only these three?"
"Yup. Er, yes, sir. One's a once-off. One's a switch on and off. The final one's a gryphon spell that'll turn her magic into a bat-like sonar and will just give her a 3-D map in her head."
"My," Snape said, putting the pages down. "And you wanted me to brew the potions?"
"Or help us find someone to trust. These are very personal and rigid spells. While I think we could do it without help, I'm not willing to botch up the potion and possibly poison her."
Snape nodded. "I will take this into account. Who else have you told?"
"The others in the clan know. Andrea knows. I'm pretty sure Simone was going to talk to Uncle Ron about it so we could have a teacher on our side to give us a space to work in."
Snape stood up. "I will consider this. Until then, do not try it on your own. No matter how advanced you are, you are not ready for this sort of challenge."
Iggy grinned at him. "That's why I came to you."
"Thank you for trusting me with this."
Iggy shrugged. "I know my strengths and weaknesses. The same as I know that we should probably learn to get along well enough to not hate each other." His grin got brighter and bigger. "Plus, with what some of my cousins are into, I'm not the one you should be worrying about."
"Indeed?" Iggy nodded. "Did you have aspirations of joining my house before you came?"
Iggy snorted. "And kill my father with a heart attack?" Snape nodded, he understood that. "I did ask not to be put into your house, and the sorting hat told me I didn't have the personality for it anyway."
"It went on personality this year?"
"Pretty muchly. Though it did tell the rest of us that it wanted to hear about our future adventures."
"Wonderful, the hat is barmy again," Snape muttered. He patted Iggy on the shoulder. "I will consider this and talk with you again in a few days. Will you be buying the components?"
"With our allowances? Sure. It'll only take us a month if we combine them. Or I guess Simone could hit up her father."
"Not Denver? Mr. Malfoy would probably give it to him faster."
"Yeah, but Denver's not as motivated. Simone's happy that she's got another girl her age to talk to and play with."
"Surely the Potter girl...."
"Agatha's scary," Iggy told him. "Simone said Agatha creeps her out big time. There's been a few times when Agatha reminded us a lot of her mother." Snape nodded, he remembered Ms. Granger quite well from her stint here. Iggy raised an eyebrow. "Let me guess, you remember her as Harry's friend and didn't hear about the chaos incident?"
Snape started a bit. "Chaos magic, her?"
"Yup. She liked the power, that's why dad brought her up here last year. So they could clean out her house. She's been banned from touching anything of the gryphons' and they took her memories of the spells."
"Oh, dear. I never suspected."
"Neither did we until something bit Ron junior." Snape shook his head. "And I know how scary chaos magic can be, mostly because I've helped Melvin practice."
Snape went a little paler. "Melvin Weasley is playing with it? And he was sorted into Hufflepuff?"
"Yeah, but he's really careful and we *know* he's not going to go dark. I heard he wants to take over Aunt Ginny's job when he's older so he's learning how. He's doing okay. Really powerful at it, and he still has some surges when he's trying to do Charms work."
Snape's mouth opened. "Do his parents know?"
"Considering I found out about it after he got busted by his dad? Yeah. I think everyone in the family but my dad knows, he never went into worry and meddle mode over Melvin during that time."
"Do you want this to get around?"
"No, but I thought it might help to have someone else who understood, just in case," Iggy confided with a wink. "Just in case something goes wrong and we're not there to stop it." He shrugged. "That's all. I'll be around whenever you're ready to tell us it's okay." He left the dungeon having accomplished all his goals for the morning. The potion would get done, their butts were covered if something happened with Melvin, and it would all be good. His meddling for the year might even be done. He deserved a pastry for that. He patted down his pockets and found the remains of his allowance, so he checked the halls, then left.
Snape tamped down on his first instinct, which was to talk to McGonagall. That Weasley boy was dangerous and would need watched. His second instinct, tell Xander, was screaming at him. Xander was their resident expert on power surges. He would know what to do. He opened his door and found the annoying Weasley standing there. "What did you need?"
"To see what my nephew wanted and why he disappeared from the hallway," Ron told him.
Snape walked out and locked his classroom door. "He found a spell that has hopes of giving Ms. Reams some sort of sight. Unfortunately, it also has a complicated potion which he admitted was far beyond his means."
"Ah, so he gave it to you to do it for them," Ron finished. Snape nodded. "Okay. Don't do it yet. I'd like to talk to the kids first."
"I told him I'd talk to him next week about it." He laid a hand on the other professor's arm. "Did you know that your other nephew was doing dangerous things?"
"Melvin?" Ron asked, confused look out and present. "How?"
"Oh, crap!" Ron sighed. He turned and punched a wall. "He got the books from Agatha I bet." He turned back around, looking at the older professor. "Who told you?"
"Your other nephew," he said dryly. "Apparently he wanted someone powerful and experienced to know about it."
"Does Percy?" Snape nodded. "Wow. Are you going to McGonagall?"
"I was going to put it off until I talked with your usual partner in crime. He would be the best to judge it since he can fathom the depths of chaos magic."
"Good point," Ron said, biting his lip. "Let me tell Xander. We'll tell McGonagall ourselves later today." He headed toward Xander's rooms, opening both doors since Xander had never figured out how to change his passcode. "Up and at 'em," he said loudly when he noticed the happy couple was still in bed. "We've got problems."
"No early class this morning," Xander whined, rolling over to cuddle his husband.
George looked over at Ron. "You have an excellent reason?"
"Melvin's messing with chaos magic."
"Shit!" Xander said loudly. "Since when?"
"Not a clue, but Percy knows."
"And the beloved nephew is still alive?" George asked. Ron nodded. "Must not have been serious."
"Well, if you think about it, Melvin's the last one to get lured in by the powers," Ron pointed out. "That's what Iggy told Snape."
Xander sat up and glared at him. "Excuse me?"
"Yes, your son had a morning conference with Professor Snape about an advanced spell and potion that might give Andrea back her some form of sight, and then warned him about Melvin so they'd have someone covering for them if something happened."
"Yay," Xander said dryly. "Where's our son now?"
"Gone. Disappeared from a hallway." Ron crossed his arms. "You're going to have to do something before word gets around. I warned mum about Iggy this morning when I went to get the broomstick stuff."
"Oh, we'll be having a talk," Xander agreed. "With both kids." He grabbed his robe and slid it on so he wouldn't stun Ron by standing up naked. "I'll come get my son out of your class later and talk to him. When's the free period today?"
"Lunch and right after. I told Snape we'd tell McGonagall."
"Why?" George asked.
"Because the Ministry will put him in jail if they think he's a danger," Xander told him. "They've done it to a few of the born without any reason and I'm sure they'll do it to him too."
"This is you worrying," George pointed out as he sat up. "It could be nothing."
"If he's having surges, then it's not nothing," Ron told him. "That's dangerous and the Ministry will do something to him. Xander's right, George, I don't want to visit Melvin or Iggy in Azkhaban."
"Oh, it wouldn't be happening," Xander told him. "If they come for my son, they come through me. I don't think they want to do that."
"No, I don't think they would, but not even you could take on a whole group of aurors, honey," George reminded him gently. Xander grimaced down at him. "Sorry, but it's the truth. We can promise to give them both private lessons in how to handle that sort of power. It should cool any problems that they'll have with the kids." He grabbed his robe and stood up too. "Any other bad news?"
"Not yet," Ron said happily. "Since these things come in threes, I'm sure it'll happen soon though." He waved and left them alone to get up.
Xander looked at George. "Think everyone else knows yet?"
"Probably," George agreed.
Iggy walked out of his favorite pastry shop and ran into one of the people he really wanted to avoid. "Hi, Uncle Harry," he said, knowing he was busted.
Harry Potter looked the young boy over, taking in his school uniform, his obvious location, and the pastry in his hand. "Decided not to go to school after all?" he asked.
"No, just came out for a treat." He grinned, which was a big mistake. "Sorry," he said as his Uncle dragged him to a floo fireplace. "I'm being good, I was going to go back for classes!"
"Shut it," Harry ordered, dragging him into the Leaky Cauldron. "Tom, just using the fireplace." He shoved Iggy toward it. "Call out to the school."
"Why? I tele..." He coughed. "Never mind. Let me grab some powder." He started to reach for it, but his hand was caught.
"You did what? You're much too young to teleport! It's dangerous, Ignatius."
Tom wandered over, smiling at them. "Taking some time off for an appointment?" he asked Iggy.
"No, just for a snack." He took a large bite of his pastry. "I'm going back to class now." He waved and disappeared before his Uncle could catch hold of him.
Harry growled and grabbed some floo powder, heading off to the school to talk to someone. He came out in the staffroom and smiled at old Professor Flitwick. "Where might McGonagall be right now?" he asked nicely.
"Up in her office by now," Flitwick told him, giving him a smile. "Something you needed to do?"
"No, just a message I have to pass on." He shook his former teacher's hand. "I used the floating charm the other day, first time in ten years." He left the room, heading up to the Headmaster's office. He tapped politely on the stone gargoyle and it let him up. "Professor," he said, giving her a hug. "You'll never guess who I caught in Diagon while I was on my way to get some broom cleaning solution."
"Iggy?" she asked with a smile, waving at a chair. Harry nodded as he sat down. "We found out he could do that last night. His father was not pleased."
"Yes, well, he's going to be even less pleased. I caught his son coming out of a pastry shop. Gave me a cheeky grin and everything!"
She laughed. "If you had been able to do that as an eleven-year-old, you would have too, Mr. Potter."
"Yes, but I wouldn't have been caught. Nor would I have grinned at the person who captured me." He looked at his hands. "I'm worried that some of Hermione's books got out."
She nodded. "They did. Young Mr. Weasley has them from what I understand." Harry winced. "But I do believe that he's not going to turn to the dark because of them. Chaos is a choice, but you can still be relatively good while using it. Your former wife made her choices, Harry, and unfortunately they hurt you," she said in a kinder tone of voice. "I'm sorry we didn't see it coming and stop her, but it could be much worse."
"Yeah, she could be in prison," he said quietly, staring at his hands. "They're doing that you know."
"I've heard. I'm sure it won't be a problem for young Melvin. A Hufflepuff turning to the dark is almost unheard of," she reminded him with a smile.
"He's a Hufflepuff?" Harry asked.
"You hadn't heard? He was the only one not sorted into Gryffindor. Plus, Adrian Maclay was sorted into Ravenclaw and Ryan Rosenberg went to Slytherin. Where he put on quite a show his first day. Started a fight and won from what I was told." She gave him a kind smile, the kind he would have gotten from Dumbledore. "It will all work out as it must, Harry, and you're simply going to have to ride the wave. It could be much worse."
Harry nodded. "I understand." He stood up. "Thank you for listening to me rant."
"You're welcome. I do admire your stamina on a broom you know." She chuckled when he grinned weakly. "Now don't worry about it, Xander is still here and he will definitely be watching over the clan with Ron's help."
"Thank you." He shook her hand. "If I can help, just yell my way."
"Will we be having a problem with your daughter?"
He shrugged. "I seriously don't know. She's so much like her mother some days and it's scary sometimes. She blew her brother into a wall the other day with a wandless wind spell." He shook his head. "I may end up asking her to be blocked a bit if this keeps up. At least until she starts here."
"You can do that. I'm sure Xander would know someone since he used to have a blocking bracelet of his own." Harry nodded and left, leaving her to her thoughts. She really did have to turn in Melvin to the Ministry. She pulled out her map and located Xander on it, using both spells to figure out what he was saying to his husband. She quickly canceled the listening spell when she heard them having fun in the shower. She'd check back a bit later.
Xander walked into Ron's room and dragged his son out by his arm, kicking the door shut behind them. He then picked up his son by his armpits and lifted him until they were eye-to-eye. "You're in so deep right now it's not funny," he hissed. "Not only did you break school rules and leave during the day, you used powers that you're not supposed to have access to until you're sixteen."
"Stop it now. I don't want some lame ass excuse and I won't hear one!" He put his son down. "No more teleporting unless it's an emergency." Iggy opened his mouth again. "Oh, no. I know about your little trip last night and the one this morning."
"Shoot. I thought Uncle Harry didn't come and tell anyone," Iggy sighed.
"You got seen, son! Your Uncle Ron woke me up this morning to tell me all about your talk with Professor Snape." Iggy opened his mouth. "Not only will I be having a talk with Melvin, but you are so *very* grounded. And if I catch you teleporting without a good reason again, I'm going to beat your ass until you're bloody, bruised, and begging. Do you understand?" he hissed quietly. Iggy nodded. "Good. Now, tell *me* about these power surges Melvin's having."
"He's having surges whenever he does charms. He said it's good up until the final flick and then there's a small wave of power that washes over him, which scares him and he cancels it before it can cause any damage."
Xander nodded. "I know what that feels like. How long has he been having them?"
"Since he was ten," Iggy admitted. "Since before his dad caught him doing the chaos stuff."
"Then we'll be having a discussion about it," Xander said calmly. "You're still grounded, even though you went around the family to get someone else to run interference. If I catch you again, not only will your other father have to pull me off you, but your Uncle Fred will have to help. Do you hear me, Ignatius Caramel?"
Iggy nodded again. "Yes, sir. Not without a good reason. I really am sorry that I grinned at Uncle Harry this morning."
Xander grimaced. "That's the least of your worries. Using these powers so young gives them a chance to warp your body to fit them. That means that you could turn out horribly deformed because it fits the magic better." He led Iggy over to the nearby stairs and sat him down on them, sitting next to him. "The gryphons who taught me showed me other kids who it happened to. They reached for too much magic and the power felt a resistance so it changed them. There's even a few rumors of kids being killed in mercy because it hurt them that bad." He patted his son on the back of the head. "I don't care that you can do it, I care that you did it. The fact that you pulled enough power to bring your cousins is even worse. No more."
"Um, I kinda taught Denver how to do it," he admitted with a grimace.
"Then I'll be talking with him too I guess. Is he boosting you?"
"No, usually I draw through Melvin. The power's so *pure*, dad, and it's beautiful."
"Yeah, but it can still drive you insane and turn you funny." He pulled him closer and kissed the side of his head. "This summer, you're going to study with the gryphons if I can arrange it. With your powers, they'll have to relent. You might actually be more dangerous than I was before I was trained."
"But I've been sneaking your books to train myself," Iggy told him. Xander frowned at him, but it wasn't a bad one. "Last summer I accidentally teleported the cookie jar into the living room and figured out that I had gifts like yours, only without the fire," he finished with a grin.
"So you *borrowed* some of the books Ginny was working with and read them to teach yourself control?" McGonagall asked as she joined them. Iggy nodded and grinned at her. "That's very interesting. But I do believe that I agree with your father. You and your cousins will be taking extra lessons in control."
"He said Denver's pulling magic too," Xander told her.
"I heard." She smiled at him. "You're much calmer than I would be."
"I had last night to scream and rant," he said dryly. He looked down at his son. "Hair mousse?"
"Andrea needed some."
"Oh." Xander shook his head. "No more, son. Not even your grandparents will save you if I find you teleporting for frivolous reasons." He patted him on the knee. "Go back to class and send out Denver."
"Yes, sir." Iggy stood up and jogged the short distance to the classroom, and soon Denver came out.
"You wanted to talk to me?" he asked as he shut the door.
"Teleporting?" Xander asked.
Denver swallowed. "I can but I don't. It makes me more dizzy."
"Yay. It does that to me too. You're still too young. Unless you want to be twisted by the magic, I'd suggest you save it for special occasions."
Denver nodded, looking more adult and serious now. "Yes, sir, I understand. May I borrow Iggy's books? I was reading over his shoulder and found a fairly interesting section on the different forms that magic can take." He glanced at McGonagall. "I'd like to try for animagus some day."
Xander shrugged. "I'll ask. Those aren't Iggy's books until I officially give them to him."
"Thank you, Uncle Xander. Can I go back now?" Xander nodded and he sighed in relief. "I'm not in trouble?"
"That's up to your father," he reminded him with a smile. Denver shuddered and left them alone. Xander looked at the Headmaster. "Melvin?"
"Transfigurations. And there's people waiting on you in my office," she told him quietly. "They want to evaluate him for being a threat."
"Over their dead body," Xander reminded her, standing up. "I'll see you up there in a few." He headed to the transfiguration classroom, popping his head inside and pointing at Melvin. "Now." He withdrew and closed the door after the boy. "Chaos?"
"Yeah, chaos. It's so pure, and strong, and it's got really pretty colors," Melvin said quietly. He tugged his uncle further away from the classroom. "You know I'm not going to suddenly turn bad, Uncle Xander. It's not in me."
"We didn't think it was in your aunt either, or in Willow, or in any number of others that have turned bad, or been turned in for being able to play with it." Melvin swallowed. "There's people here to talk to you about it." Melvin nodded. "I will protect you, but I will be teaching you how to stop the surges." Melvin threw his arms around him and gave him a hug.
Sirius Black stepped out of his classroom and shut the door. "Problems?"
"Melvin's able to touch deeper magic."
"Yeah, even deeper than the sweaty, nasty, dirty chaos magic," Melvin told him.
Xander pushed him back. "You can touch the flood?"
"According to the gryphons, magic overlays everything like a flood. Pure magic, which is then taken up and filtered for use by the various creatures and humans. Pure magic is colorful, powerful, and blindingly pretty."
Melvin nodded. "Yeah, I'm getting surges of that stuff."
Xander gave him a hug. "I understand now and I can still help you," he told him. He smiled sadly at Sirius. "The Ministry idiots are upstairs. There's going to be a fight."
"Want his father?"
"No, because if I lose it, he can still get out of there, his father can't." He let his nephew go. "We'll be back. Hopefully." He led the young boy up to the Headmistress' office, giving the Ministry idiots a grim look. "He touches the pure magic, not the chaos layer," he announced proudly, patting Melvin on the shoulder.
McGonagall beamed at him. "How wonderful. Can you help him control the surges?"
"Oh, yeah, not an issue. It's actually easier to sort out pure magic because it's so different. I drew on it for about a month before I learned the trick to sort it automatically."
"Can all gryphon-born do this?" the Ministry idiot, or auror as the case may be, asked.
Xander shrugged. "It's not something we talk about often. And he's not one of the born."
"Are you sure?" the auror asked as he stood up. "The only ones who are known to touch the dangerous magics are the born."
Xander snorted. "Because none of you turn to chaos at all," he said derisively. "Sit down," he suggested when the man stepped closer. "He's not a danger to anyone, unless he pulls too much pure magic and then he's only in danger of burning himself out and going catatonic. There's no danger here."
McGonagall nodded. "Quite true. We've known he has great control since he started. It was very apparently to those of us here who deal with real magic on a daily basis."
The auror pulled out a pair of handcuffs. "I still can't let him go."
Xander smiled his coldest, cruelest smile. "You touch him over your dead body," he said calmly, tipping his head to the side. "And if more of you come, they'll die too."
"You have to step aside."
Xander moved Melvin behind him. "Like I said, over your dead body."
"Sir, you have to step aside. It's an order from the Minister herself." He pulled out the form to show it off. Xander snapped his fingers and it went up in a small, quick flame.
"It's not worth the paper it's written on. Fidders is still the Minister of Magic and he never ordered this. And I'm warning you now, boy, you come after my family and there's going to be consequences for everyone."
He sneered. "Why? Are *you* going to beat me up?"
Xander straightened up, giving him a nasty grin. "I've trained half of the aurors that entered your little happy troop over the last ten years. Not only can I kick their asses, I can kick yours and then piss on your broken, bleeding body." He stepped closer and the auror backed up. "For another thing, if you come near my son, or the others people in my family, any of them, you will pay. I've heard what your kind have done and I've got to point out that history will repeat itself. You're creating the next evil bastard who'll want to take down the Ministry. And if you come near my family, I'd be more than willing to help them."
"You...you can't! You're one of us!"
"Wrong, I'm me. I'm a guardian. I started out with a Slayer and if I end up one over my family, so be it." He turned and put his fist into the wall, trying to bleed the power out. "Get him out of here," he ordered.
McGonagall nodded. "That would be for the best. The boy is no threat and neither are any of his cousins." She looked at Xander. "Melvin, go back to class," she ordered quietly. "You, Phelps, out of my school!"
The auror sneered at her. "You can't hold this place without Dumbledore. You will lose."
Xander turned and grabbed the man by his throat, lifting him a few inches off the ground. His arms ached, but it was *good* to see the fear on his face. "Get it straight, asshole. I did the original spell to take down Voldemort and Harry joined me. I know the release word to give me access to that spell again. I would only use it to protect my family, but you're not worth a moment's thought to me or my kind. Those who touch our families are doomed. Those who do it with malicious intent are not only doomed to suffer before they die, but they'll suffer for eternity after it." He let him go before the strength in his hand gave out. "Now, go away before I lose my temper fully and go off on your pitiful ass." The auror ran from the room. "Melvin, class," he told him.
"I'll escort him. Please try not to destroy the office, I just finished rearranging the books to suit myself." She led the young boy from the room, closing the door behind her.
Xander leaned his head against the wall, leaching his excess energy into the stones. It had to get out of him before it exploded. It would be wrong to kill him now that he was running. It would be wrong to hurt anyone else with it. It had to go away. The Earth wasn't calling to it though, it wouldn't leave him. He turned and looked out the window, then closed his eyes. If he couldn't get rid of it one way, he'd do it another.
Fred looked out the window. "Your husband's going off," he said, sounding disinterested.
George looked up from his journal, watching the pretty fireworks. "My, I haven't seen anything that extreme since the time Iggy wouldn't let us have sex for a month, and that was only in the fireplace." The fireworks slowed and his head went down. The next boom, just as loud and twice as bright, drew his attention again. "Must be really bad this time." He closed his book and watched. This couldn't be a good thing.
"He'll come down pretty soon," Fred reminded his twin. "Anything in the books?"
"Not a bit of a clue," George told him. "I wonder why we can't remember that prank?"
"I wonder why we didn't write it down," Fred muttered. A third explosion of colors drew and held his attention. "Family?"
"As soon as I know what's going on," George agreed. It had to be extremely bad and he was now scared. Xander never lost control like that, not even at his most frustrated had he released energy in those quantities. He started to move as a glimmer appeared in the middle of the store but Xander fell to his knees and crawled over to him, putting his head on his mate's lap.
"I was bad," Xander whispered, eyes closed. "They came for Melvin and I lost it."
George patted him. "They should have expected it," he soothed. "They won't come for Iggy."
"They threatened to take all three of us, and possibly the other kids," Xander told him, his voice still not getting any louder.
"Then we'll fight."
Xander lifted his head. "They've got eight born in a special prison, locked or drugged away from their powers, and torturing them," he told his husband. "If it comes down to it, I'll have to fight. I won't let Iggy or Melvin go through that." He ran his hand over his mate's chin. "I won't let them do it again."
"I understand," George said, giving him a kiss. "All I ask is that you come back to me, Xander. I wouldn't stand in your way."
"Won't that put the rest of us in danger?" Fred asked, not coming any closer. Xander wasn't calm yet so it was still dangerous.
Xander nodded, turning his head to look at him. "Very. I touched the Earth and rode the currents to talk to the Elders. The borns don't have families anymore." Fred opened his mouth. "But I have to stop them before they come for us."
Fred nodded. "I'll spread the word around. You do whatever you have to do, and don't make my brother a widow. I'll kill you for that."
Xander nodded as he stood up. "Thank you." He looked at his husband. "I love you." He blew a kiss and disappeared, landing in front of his colony's elders. "I put myself at your service," he told them. "Tell me what to do to stop them from touching my clan."
The elders looked down at him then bent down to talk to him quietly. Xander understood and bowed.
Arthur looked up as his door opened, admitting his son-in-law. "What can I do for you, Xander?" he asked happily.
Xander shut the door and used his wand to insulate them from being eavesdropped on. Not even a scrying spell would work now. "You can drop the act. You knew about those other born."
Arthur sighed. "They're dangerous, Xander."
"And I'm not?"
"No, you're not," Arthur said firmly. "You've been trained."
Xander put a file down on the desk. "Of the eight they've already gotten, five of them are within training age, and six of the eight didn't even know that they needed trained," he said quietly. Arthur picked up the file to read. "They came after Melvin, Iggy, and myself this morning. It's now a war. I'm very sorry, Arthur, but I'm picking the side that calls out to me."
Arthur nodded. "I understand. Please don't bring everything down on our heads."
Xander shrugged. "I'll do whatever I have to do to protect the family. I'll also do whatever I have to do to stop this from going on." He held out a hand. "File?"
It was handed over. "Are you filing a petition?"
"I've just come from there. Right after I filed for a short leave of absence. I'm going to Percy next. Protect my husband and my son," he said, then he disappeared. The shields fell a moment later.
Arthur rubbed his forehead. This was going to get bad. It could tear the family apart. It would tear their family apart if Xander was captured, and it would be an all-out war if they got one of the kids. He silently prayed to whatever deity watched over his family that Xander succeeded.
Iggy walked into the Great Hall during his lunch period, dragging Melvin behind him. "Come on," he told his other cousins. "We're executing a plan." He looked at Andrea. "You too. I might have to come back for you, but I'm not leaving my clan here."
Simone looked up at him. "What's going on? Where's your dad?"
"They came for Melvin yesterday. Dad's fighting with the Ministry and we're all in danger."
That's all Simone and Denver needed to hear, they gathered up their school things and lunch and followed him down to an unused room in part of the school they'd never been in before. The door was sealed tightly, both with the normal lock and with a magical shield that only another gryphon-born could get through.
Iggy sat them down in the chairs he had pulled in there earlier, ready to explain everything to them. "You three know sometimes I hear things, right? Like through the earth link that everyone shares?" His cousins nodded.
Andrea raised a hand. "You're a telepath?"
"No, I only get flashes of conversations. I get flashes of people talking about me and sometimes things that concern me." He looked at Denver. "I just heard my dad talking to our grandfather. It's bad this time. The Ministry is locking people like Melvin and me up in a horrible little prison and torturing us by locking us away from our instinctive touch to the flood."
"I don't mean to keep interrupting, but flood?" Andrea asked.
"It's how the gryphons see magic," Simone told her. "It floods the earth and everything on it, but that's pure magic." She smiled at Melvin, who had told them all last night what Xander had discovered.
"Ok, so like the Force?"
Iggy nodded, his dad had made him watch Star Wars once. "Yeah, kinda similar. Only pure magic is *real* hard to touch and most wizards and witches can't without either a burning desire to kill everything around them or a lot of hard work and training. Melvin does it instinctively, that's why they're trying to get him. They're after me because I'm gryphon-born and so's my daddy Xander. Who's presently going to try and stomp the Ministry."
Denver winced . "Father won't be happy that this is happening."
"Yay," Iggy told him. "We're all in danger. They're coming here for us. I heard a few aurors making plans on how to take us out of the school without everyone fighting. The plan was to take us either during a meal, using the 'I need to talk to you about your parent' routine, or to sneak in and do a snatch tonight." He pulled his wand and opened up a cabinet on the wall. It was covered with dust too. "I set this place up a long time ago as a refuge," he said, pointing at the supplies. "We can stay here until it's safe, and if we have to, I can teleport us out before they can get through that door."
Denver looked at his sister, who nodded. "Then we're going to our father's, Iggy. He'll protect all of us."
"That's what I had planned, even though the stupid humans will look for us there. You probably know most of the hiding places in that marble monstrosity."
Simone giggled. "And some even Daddy doesn't know about." She took her half-brother's hand. "We found Daddy's Dad's old workrooms. And his personal dungeon."
"Wicked," Iggy breathed. "Are they shielded?"
"So strongly that Dad didn't even know there was a door there when we opened it in front of him," Denver assured him. He looked at the well-stocked cabinet. "We'll have to bring most of that with us. There's no food or water down there."
"There's running water," Simone countered. "The sink works well enough."
"Yeah, but it's nasty and we can't drink it," Denver argued.
"Enough," Melvin butted in. "Are we just staying here?"
"Unless you wanted to go back to class. We'd come save you, but it'd be a bit of a production."
Melvin reached over and bopped him. "Not what I meant. Did you have anything else planned for the day?"
"Nope, but I bought some extra books down today, just in case I needed a few offensive spells," Iggy admitted with his usual hellion grin. "Dad won't be missing them."
"All right then," Denver said, taking his hand back. "Let's pull out our books and actually get some homework done." His sister stared at him like he was mad. "That way we won't get into double trouble if we have to move. If we get it done now, ahead of time, then we'll have less to deal with later on, including playing catchup. Plus, if this all works out, then we'll have the weekend free."
Iggy nodded. "Good idea. If we get those herbology papers done then we can relax and plan for when it's necessary to move." He pointed his wand toward the library and concentrated, bringing two books to a table near them. "We'll need those two."
"Some of us will need parchment," Simone pointed out.
"And ink," Denver added.
"You guys, this was a teacher's room. They're all in the supplies closet." He pointed behind him to the small cubby. "I've had this room for a *long* time. Not even Ryan knows where it is and he used to chase me around the school."
"I never even knew there were classrooms down this way," Simone told him. "How come you never showed us these before?"
"Because they had to stay secret. This is the closed wing of the school." He grinned again. "There's sixty rooms down here that are *never* used. Not even the house elves come down here." He ran his finger through the dust on the nearest table. "No one knows why this section's closed, but it's been this way for nearly the whole life of the school. All I know is that I'm not supposed to be down here and Ryan's scared of it. Though I have noticed that one room is sealed off and nothing I can do will break the seals."
"You think it's a tomb?" Melvin asked. "Like for one of the founders?"
"Slytherin's in our basement," Denver told him. "And Father said that one of them was in Scotland somewhere."
"With our luck it's a massive sucking black hole," Simone sighed. Denver nodded, that was so true. With their luck it was going to kill them.
"Or it could be the forbidden library and workrooms that everyone says are myth," Iggy pointed out. "Dumbledore told me about those."
"Didn't they used to think that the Chamber of Secrets was a myth too?" Melvin asked.
Simone nodded. "Until Uncle Harry opened it to get the cranky asshole Voldemort in a younger body." Her mother had refused to tell her that story and she had always wondered why. "Did Dumbledore ever tell you how that happened? Mum wouldn't say anything when I asked her."
"That's because she was there," Dumbledore said as he stepped through the door and shield. "Very nice work, Ignatius. I'd give you points but I no longer teach here." He smiled at the children. "Are you going to stay here?"
"Yes, sir, that way they can't get us."
"A wise plan," Dumbledore agreed, completing the circle. "I have a message from your father, but I think you already know what it says." Iggy nodded, looking serene. It was the look his father got when he was in a fight and accepted the inevitable consequences of the fighting he was going to be doing. "Are you ready in case you have to move everybody?"
"Yes, sir. I've got it covered and planned out. I have since I learned I was starting with my cousins. They won't get hurt."
"Good, good," Dumbledore praised. "And you know you're not supposed to be down here?"
Iggy grinned. "What better place to hide?"
"Good point," Dumbledore agreed cheerfully. "Just stay in this room. I've resealed the entry you used and this section does not show up on any map ever made of the school, except the original plans." Iggy beamed brighter. "But you may not visit any other rooms in this wing, young man. They are off limits for a reason and we'd prefer you to not know why yet."
"Does that mean I get to take over Uncle Harry's spot as the guy who gets into unreasonable trouble?" Iggy teased. He loved the old guy, he was like a grandfather to him.
"I'd say that was entirely possible," Dumbledore agreed. He patted Melvin on the arm. "There are many things that you will need to know, young man. The first being that you control those surges by separating out the two types of magic. If you create a barrier within you to block the pure magic, it may backfire on you. You'll need to consciously touch the normal magic every time you try something or else you could well blow up at least the classroom." He patted him again. "The second is that you can create a key to take down the separation so you don't have to think about it," he finished with his usual twinkle in his eyes. "Lemon drop?" he offered, holding out a small tin of them.
"No, thank you," Melvin said, but he had caught the clue. "I like the really sweet stuff."
"Is there a book on how to do that?" Iggy asked.
"No, this has to be learned individually and only young Melvin can do it for himself. You can encourage him and help him test it, but otherwise it's all in his head." He stood up. "Now then. Do you need anything?"
"I could use my *special* book," Iggy offered. "Dad confiscated it last year."
"Indeed? He was probably looking for helpful spells." He swished his wand and a book came floating through the wall. "There you go. Please be careful down here. This was once the place where we had portals and some of them are still quite active, going to some very interesting or bad places." He looked down at Iggy. "Do I have your word, young man?"
"You have my word I won't go looking today," Iggy told him.
"That will have to do. Remember, all is not always what it seems. You might want to put up a block against the intangible once I'm gone." He waved his wand over his chest and turned incorporeal, taking his time floating through the door.
Iggy pulled over one of the books he had liberated earlier, using it to set up a third shield. Now not even Dumbledore could get inside.
McGonagall shrieked when she saw the ghost of the former Headmaster. "You died?"
"No, my dear, just visiting." He became solid and sat down across from her. "They're in one of the forbidden sections. You won't find them on the map, or even on Harry's map if I'm not mistaken." He smiled. "I suggest you put it around that they're to be excused for today and possibly tomorrow."
"Why are they hiding? We will protect them."
"Ignatius once told me that he can sometimes hear things through the flood." McGonagall's lips thinned with her displeasure. "Usually things that are about him or about to happen to him."
"The aurors are coming back?"
"And plan on taking all three of them, and probably Ms. Reams if they could manage it. She knows too much for her own good at the moment so they're protecting her too. They'll be fine. They're in Ignatius' hiding spot."
"Oh, dear," she sighed. "However did he find that entry?"
"He was six, Minerva. Boys that age find every nook and cranny in a regular house. We had no hopes of hiding that one from him." He stood up. "I need to go, I've got to talk to someone on Xander's behalf." He grimaced. "This is going to get messy, and I have no doubt that it will impact the school somehow. Do be careful. I'd like to come see you again this summer and see if things have calmed down for you."
She laughed harshly. "Calm, here?" She shook her head. "I know why you always seemed so in control now. If you don't have that inner peace, the school will eat you alive."
"Very true," he agreed. "It took me nearly five years to figure that out. My predecessor didn't have it. He always did remind me of Severus." He smiled again and walked away. His next appointment was at St. Mungos and he only had ten minutes to get there.
"As long as I get through this fight, everything should be fine," she told herself. "I got through Harry Potter. I got through Voldemort, twice. I even got through the Weasley twins. I can get through this." She checked her map but he had been right, none of the missing children were on it. "That's strange. I wonder why Remus is in the staffroom. He has a class now." She activated the spell and listened in. Interesting.
Percy looked up as his door was slammed shut. "Xander?" he asked, looking around. He turned around and found his brother-in-law standing there with a folder held open. "What's this?"
"What they tried to do to your son this morning," Xander told him. Percy's mouth opened. "He can touch pure magic, not the chaos magic. The Ministry came for him today and I lost my temper." Percy made a choking noise, like he was about to cry. "He's safe, for now. McGonagall and Ron are watching out for him, Iggy, and Denver. I'm going to do something drastic because they've already got eight of us." Percy patted him on the hand and closed the file so he didn't have to look at it anymore. "It's going to get bad, Percy. Very bad. Very ugly. And it's going to be a war. The person who took over for Fidders while he's out sick is doing this and has a lot of aurors behind her, and they're using their powers. Almost none of these people have families anymore." Percy nodded, but he still looked ready to cry. "I'll do what I can to protect them...." He was stopped by a bone-crushing hug.
"Protect yourself first," Percy told him. "We can watch out for the others. Be careful and watch yourself. If they're this stupid then they're stupid enough to take you on."
Xander patted him gently. Percy had lost his wife not ten months ago and it had nearly destroyed him. "I'm going to do what I have to do. Nothing is more important than stopping this right now." He pulled back. "I've let Murphy know he's on message detail to you guys. I'll see you again when this is over with." He gave him a lopsided smile. "Be careful and trust me." He disappeared, the file going with him. He had one last visit to make before the courts got to start on this. He'd try justice first. Then he'd do something drastic.
Draco looked up as his office was invaded. The pen dropped from his fingers. "What happened to the kids?"
"Denver and Melvin nearly got arrested by the Ministry for being dangerous," Xander told him. He sat down, his feet hurt. He'd been on them for about six hours now. "They nearly got Melvin because he can touch pure magic." He sighed. "I lost it and went off on the auror sent to pick him up." He tossed the file onto the desk, watching as he read it. "It's now war."
Draco looked at him, shocked to the core. "War?"
"War. Keep reading."
Draco went back to reading, slowly turning green. He finally shoved it away and slapped it closed. "War it is." He looked at his mentor. "What can I do to help?"
"Protect my family like they were yours. And try to help Ron too, Buffy's due any day now." Draco nodded. "The first step is a court battle, which will bring a lot of attention. I wouldn't surprised if they tried something to make me reconsider my decisions." Draco nodded. "Other than that, just hold on. It's going to get bumpy for a while. Probably worse than the last shakeup." He stood up and grabbed the folder. "I'll try and pop around as often as I can, but I don't want to put you into danger too."
Draco leaned back and shook his head. "Don't worry about it. Trying to kill me would raise a lot of questions. I'm very noticed most of the time."
"Wonderful, but your kids aren't you." Draco nodded. "So just be careful, son." He grinned sadly and disappeared.
Draco thought about all the options he had at the moment. He had some connections that could help. He had some power that he could use. But if he did so, it would make him just as bad as his father. For a better reason, but just as manipulative. Inside, his heart screamed and ranted at him about what he should be doing. This was his family they were threatening! They had to die, and horribly! He stood up, ran a hand through his hair, and grabbed a robe so he could leave the house and look his best. He had to do something and even being compared to his father wasn't enough incentive to stop him. It was time to take up the rest of his heritage.
Xander stood in front of the judge's bench late that night and mentally took a deep breath. He could lose everything, he had to be prepared for it. He felt the calmness steal over him and knew it would be all right. Even if his husband denied him and sent him away it would be okay. As long as they were alive and free, it would be fine. He took a sip from his bottle of water, continuing to wait on the judge. He was only a few minutes late, and he was sure the Ministry was trying to contaminate him to their side. When he walked in, he took another mental deep breath, going into his fighting breathing. This was a war, he had to win this battle. All he had to fight with were words and facts, but it would have to be enough. He had the burden of proof but proof he had plenty of.
The judge took his seat and looked at Xander. "This is a very serious charge, young man. Most people aren't strong enough to stand against the Ministry."
"Most people didn't nearly lose their family to the racial bias that they're showing," Xander countered. "I nearly lost my son, my nephew, and my own freedom this morning because I'm gryphon-born and my nephew is able to touch pure magic."
"Pure magic?" the judge asked. "I've never heard of that."
"The gryphons consider magic this way, and have proven it to be true. There's magic flooding the earth, it covers everything so deeply that we can never escape it." The judge nodded. "Certain types of people and species are on this planet to help turn that flood into something usable." The judge nodded again, slower this time. "Gryphons are here to channel that magic and filter it into something more useful for everyone. We're the primary filtering mechanism for the magic that surrounds us."
"This is very interesting," the lawyer for the Ministry said, "but totally without proven facts."
Xander pulled something out of his new briefcase and tossed it at the other table. "Fact, proven scientifically by us. It's over three hundred years old and I know people who knew all this already."
"That is what we learned in Care of Magical Creatures," the judge agreed. "Continue, Mr. Harris."
"The gryphons learned very far back that the only way to stop the greedy humans who were killing them, and make them leave the gryphons alone, was to give them a new level of filtering. This would give the humans a new level of ability and make them quit using fantastic creatures as part factories." He looked at the other lawyer. "That's why the born were created. That's what we're here for. Because someone doesn't like what our ancestors back at least twenty generations did." He looked at the judge again. "We have proof that they're purposefully coming after us and harming us greatly to get their jollies."
The judge patted the folder he had been given when the petition was filed. "I have it here. Do you know where this prison facility is?"
"It doesn't exist!" the Ministry lawyer exclaimed. "We do not have a special facility for dangerous criminals. We send them to Azhkaban! You know that!"
"That's wonderful, but they weren't given a trial," Xander retorted. The judge opened his mouth. "It's in the file I'm about to hand to the bailiff . Along with some other disturbing facts that I think you should be aware of." He handed the file over. "I may not be a lawyer, but I did study a hell of a lot of law when I filed to become a citizen."
"You're a naturalized citizen?" the judge asked. Xander nodded. "Who was over your case?"
"The present Minister of Magic, Wizard Fidders."
"I see." The judge flipped through the file, stopping on one of them. "These people's families are dead?"
"One of them was killed in a supposed accident with her car sitting in the middle of a road, with no other cars on the road all day, no trees near there, and no stone wall around there. The muggle cop who found her a few hours later found her car not running, the engine cold, and there no evidence of anything killing her. I would suggest a killing curse, but I don't want to be killed myself."
"We don't do that!" the other lawyer shouted. "We are not evil."
"No, you only put innocent people in jail and torture them because of what their ancestor did," Xander said sarcastically. He returned his attention to the judge. "I'm not asking for you to stop it totally. I'm asking for you to look into it and stop them once you have evidence that the court gathers. Preferably before my son, or my nephew, or some other member of my family ends up in that nice white building where I was told if I tried to get in, I would be staying."
"You visited there?" the lawyer sneered. "I'm surprised you're here now."
Xander looked at him. "I'm surprised the building's still standing," he retorted.
The judge cleared his throat. "I understand how much this bothers you, Mr. Harris. I am disturbed greatly by this too." He looked at the lawyers. "I want to see your boss, the one ordering this horrible crime, in this court by ten am tomorrow. Until that time, I am going to issue a restraining order. No one will go near any of Mr. Harris' family, including his extended family." He stood up when the lawyer opened his mouth. "It is well within this court's power to set up an inquisition into such incidences. I have before and I will again!" he shouted. "Get her in here by ten am or suffer the consequences."
"I'd like to see evidence of Minister Fidders," Xander put in quietly. The judge looked at him. "I know he's on medical leave, but why doesn't he know anything about this? He's a good guy. I trust him to not be part of this."
The judge nodded. "Yes, he is. I'm sure he'll be called to answer questions soon enough. You will be here to listen to it."
Xander nodded, closing his briefcase. "Thank you."
"This makes me ill, Mr. Harris. Most of these people are muggles." He banged his gavel. "Do it or be in contempt."
"I can't, sir, she's out of the country."
"I'm sure she can apparate."
"No, sir, she can't. She never, um, passed her licensing." He glared at Xander. "If you give us a decent amount of time, we can retrieve her."
"Ten am tomorrow morning, no more, no less." He retook his seat. "Mr. Harris, you could have made more motions."
"I have one written to release them to the gryphons for treatment, but I wasn't willing to push my luck," Xander said with a sad grin. "I would request that they be looked over by a gryphon-born who's a physician, just because they'll understand us better." The judge looked thoughtful. "There's one listed among the books we keep. I have his name and number with me if you'd like it." He looked at the lawyer, then back at the judge. "I'd rather not give it to them so he can't be judged against."
The judge nodded. "I know one myself. I'll be sure to include him. What else do you have in there?"
"Two other things," Xander said as he pulled them out. "One is an appeal to make them freeze their researchers and stop the names being given to the aurors. The second is to restrict the aurros in this matter." He handed them to the bailiff. "I really didn't want to overstep my reach, but it's so bad I'm willing to lose everything to stop them."
"Oh, really?" the lawyer sneered. "Your beloved husband and child?"
"Yes," Xander told him, his voice starting to drip ice. "Even if they deny me, or if my extended family send me away and never talk to me again, it's worth it. It's even worth it to lose my life over this. Are you willing to say the same?"
"No, we're in the right. Those people are dangerous. So are you."
"I'm usually in perfect control," Xander retorted. "It's only when I see people like you that I lose control. What I told the auror this morning was what I meant. I will protect my family up to and including my life, and the idiot's lives. If they come for me, I'm going to fight back. If they come for any of my family I will fight back and I will destroy them. Trying to take me out by taking out my family will only result in mass destruction of a lot of people. Because I'm willing to die over this one," he finished calmly, standing in a ready pose, just in case he was attacked.
"We'll get you yet, Harris. You're not above the law."
"No, I'm not above the law, I signed up to follow these laws. Unfortunately I left one bed of arrogant stupid people and joined sides with a group that was half-full of the same sort. I wouldn't change my decision, but I will protect myself and everyone around me from the stupid people."
"Stupid? At least I went to college," he taunted.
"Yay. I did okay and I didn't. What does that tell you?" Xander snorted. "I nearly got a lawyer but they all wanted more time to get ready and there wasn't any. Any further action will have a good lawyer at my side because I know I need one. I know my limits very well, unlike you."
The lawyer stepped closer. "You and your son are abominations. You should never have been created. All of you should die for what those ancestors did."
Xander smiled coldly. "Pity. Because if we all die, all that pretty magic that you like will dry up and the only stuff you'll be able to draw will kill all of you. Oh, and I should tell you, we can consciously stop filtering the magic. We can make that happen, and I've heard a few of the younger gryphons saying it would be poetic justice to watch you die as the powers burn you out." He waved the man on. "By all means though, if you want me dead, come try."
"Not in my courtroom, gentlemen," the judge interrupted. Xander bowed to him. "You can stop filtering it?"
"I've been told we can. I don't know the exact process, but I'm guessing that it'll be going around by tomorrow night. The elders know how, it's one of the secrets that are passed on from what I understand."
The judge looked at the lawyer. "Are you really willing to risk everyone's lives to continue this petty racism?"
"Your honor, they're creatures!"
"Actually, we're just as human as you are," Xander countered. "And we thought we had rights in the world. This has shown us that now we have to fight for those rights, even if it means losing a few battles and a few of the fighters." He pulled his chair out and sat down, then picked up his water to sip on. "I'm more than willing to leave this in the hands of the court for now. Until they come after us. Then I'm going to pull out all the stops and damn the court." He shrugged. "Sorry."
The lawyer sneered. "What can you do?"
"Well, let's see," Xander said, lifting up a hand to look at it, and to count off on it. "I was the one to first cast the spell that destroyed Voldemort. Yes, I had it removed from me, but I do know the word that will restore it to me." One finger down. "I know other spells, ones to bring things down from the skies to kill everyone around me. Ones to rain fire down on an attacking army. Ones to even turn them into creatures that are more in-tune with the world around them." Another finger down. "I am also pyroclastic. Or pyrokinetic if you prefer. I start fires, sometimes unconsciously. Today, after I drove that auror off, I created fireworks for thirteen minutes straight. I think I could probably focus it on a group attacking my family." Another finger down. "And then there's my nature. Sometimes it screams to me to protect my family and I have to listen. We've had this discussion before, in front of Minister Fidders. In this case, I won't hold back. Protecting my family in the moment supercedes the gryphon code of conduct and I can and will kill anyone who comes at my family." He put his hand down. "Pick one, I can give you more information about how they're going to die by it."
The judge coughed. "No one's doubting you're a very powerful wizard, Mr. Harris, but..."
Xander shook his head. "I'm not a traditional wizard. I'm a gryphon-born and magic is innate to us. Magic, to us, is like having ears that stick out from our head. For you, it's a gift that may or may not show up. For us it's like red blood cells, floating through every cell of our body to keep us alive." He glanced at the lawyer. "That's why this is so disturbing. They're being kept locked away from not only their power, but also from any human contact, any relief from the screaming of their body for relief, and being tortured on top of it." He stood up. "If it comes down to it, I can go free them, but I decided to let justice take its course first. Then I'll react."
"You, all by yourself?" the lawyer asked.
"Me, all by myself," Xander agreed. "Gryphons are earth mages." The lawyer's eyes lit up in anger. "I singlehandedly created the store my brother-in-law and husband run. It may look a lot like a cave from the outside, but it's there." He pulled his wand and pointed it at his hand, concentrating on creating a small stone. Then he threw it at the other lawyer. "We can deal with stones just as well as dirt and air."
"Mr. Harris, please restrain yourself," the lawyer snorted disdainfully. "It's not like throwing stones is going to help you. This isn't the Middle East."
"No, it's supposedly one of the most civilized countries on the planet and look what's going on!" he exclaimed. "You're locking up people because of who their ancestors were. Very civilized."
"And your kind are so much better."
"Yeah, we are. We don't attack little kids and have them locked up." Xander looked him over. "So, why aren't the kid's parents dead? Did they turn her in without being asked or did it take some convincing?"
"That child nearly destroyed her whole town."
"I doubt it. Her neighbors have said that she was a sweet little girl with no powers yet." He smiled. "And then they said that the parents were evil little assholes, just like you." His smile got brighter. "Can we do to your kids what you did to that one?"
"My child is normal!" he spat.
"Are you sure? It's not like you could tell." Xander sat back down and relaxed. "Are we through? I'd like to write my son a letter."
"Yes, we should be. Unless someone knows where Minister Fidders is right this instance."
Someone who had walked in recently raised a hand. "He was resting against the wall, your honor. He was out of breath." She stepped forward and became Willow. "I'd like to offer a scrying spell to look inside this place before you go." She smiled at Xander. "It's only fair that you not announce it."
"If you could. I'm sure they have it shielded."
Willow grinned evilly. "They can't guard against me." She waved a hand and Tara hurried forward with a large copper bowl and a few bottles of water. They set up the spell quickly and got out of the way of the judge as he walked down to where they were. "There," she announced, opening the viewing portal.
The judge watched the cell, then glared at the lawyer. "Come explain this," he ordered. The lawyer shifted closer, looking down the portal. "Why is that man in blinders, ear muffs, and a gag? That is against all treatment rules for prisoners in any sense of the word."
"He attacked a guard," the lawyer told him. "We can't exactly punish him farther."
"Yeah, 'cause he's already isolated," Willow said, enlarging the view so it seemed that the portal was pulling back. "Small cell, padded walls, no other people."
"They interact with the guards."
"Yeah, who come in and torture them. I'm sure it's *such* a *nice* conversation," Willow said snidely. She looked him over, then snorted. "You're not so hot. I have at least ten spells that will make any *really* bad guy laugh at what you become."
During this, Tara had moved over to Xander's side. "Ron disappeared earlier when Fred got an anonymous message through the floo," she whispered next to his ear. "We know he's okay but we think something may have happened to Buffy. I saw something happening to her."
Xander pulled away, looking in her eyes. "Can we stop it?" Tara shrugged. "Can you check on her?"
"The floo's locked," she said. "We'll know tomorrow."
"Murphy's waiting at Draco's. Have him send a message." Tara nodded and backed away.
"Another problem?" the judge asked as he stood up. "We will be talking. Would someone please get Minister Fidders from the hall?" He focused on Xander. "Problems?"
"One of my friends is pregnant with triplets and the father disappeared earlier. We aren't sure if everything's all right yet."
The judge nodded. "I understand this is pulling you away from your life."
Xander shrugged. "This is more important." He smiled at Tara, a warm, loving smile. "She told me what was going on."
"Are they a relation?" the lawyer asked. Xander shook his head. "Pity. Too bad they won't find her."
"Arrest him!" the judge ordered his bailiff. He saw Xander stand up and got out of the way.
Xander put his wand carefully into Tara's hand and walked over to where the lawyer was struggling. "Where is she?" he hissed, grabbing him by the throat and squeezing.
"Xander!" Willow shrieked, trying to make him let go. "If he can't breathe he can't talk! Not a vampire!"
"Yay. He did something to Buffy."
"She was doomed as soon as she retired," the lawyer croaked. "Prophecy would come true."
"Some of them are self fulfilling," Tara reminded him, calmly raising her hand. He slammed into the wall and away from Xander's hand. Willow looked at her in shock. "Speak or I will force you to speak," Tara ordered with all the force she could muster. Which was quite a lot after twelve years of teaching and eleven of motherhood. The lawyer smirked at her and the ball of energy formed on her hand. "Goddess help you if you don't."
"You and your Goddess are puny, that's why we gave them up."
"Some of you," Willow retorted. "Blast him, Tara. He deserves it." When the energy didn't fly, she looked at her former girlfriend. "Tara?"
Tara blinked then shook her head. "His servitude will be known!" she announced, and the energy flew. The lawyer shrieked but as soon as it hit, he started to babble about everything he had ever done, good or bad, starting back as far as he could remember. Soon, a familiar name popped up. Lucius Malfoy. Then Asdar, then Voldemort. He was pulled out of there before anything else could be heard.
"No, wait, the Watchers," Willow told him. "Who are you working with?"
"Philestine," the man told her with an insane smile. "The bringer of destruction will die! There will be no slayer born from a slayer retired!" He laughed as the door slammed.
"Did I miss something?" Minister Fidders asked from the gallery of the courtroom. He walked in slowly, pale and shaking.
Willow helped him to Xander's seat, watching Xander and Tara for signs of another eruption. "Minister Fidders, can you please help us? They're doing horrible things in the Ministry's name to a lot of people who are going to be damaged permanently from this. They're creating the next major bad guy." She glanced at Tara and Xander again, watching them hug. "And they're consorting with forces that are better left alone."
"The Watchers?" he suggested mildly. She nodded. "Yes, I can stop some of this." He looked at the judge, who reached up and grabbed his gavel, banging it for silence. "I have written an executive order freeing those prisoners into the gryphon's custody. The three elders of the closest colony are waiting for them at the Ministry. I have also cut an order to have everyone connected with this brought in for questioning." He held a shaking hand out and Xander moved closer. "My boy, you don't have to lose everything. This time." He looked into Xander's eyes, giving him a smile. "You fight well for a muggle-born, young man." He saw the dark brown eyes widen in recognition. "Do seem less fantastic though, it gives the rest of us a bad name." He looked at the judge. "I hereby appoint you to this matter, to sit in judgement and resolve it in the best interests of the hurt people." He patted Xander's arm. "I also have drafted a resolution to be put in front of the Ministers regarding certain civil rights that we all took for granted." He heaved himself up with a groan of pain. "I'm late for my medicine. I will see you tomorrow."
Xander stopped him, looking into his eyes. The warm green were fading to a piercing blue. "Are you okay?"
The man nodded. "I am fine, young man. Thank you for helping me see the importance of this matter." He shook Xander's hand, passing him a note. "Be well until you return to your duties." Xander nodded and stepped back. "I will see you tomorrow in your office." He left the room on Willow's arm.
Xander sat down in shock. He pocketed the note for later. He had won. No one else was going to hurt and he had won. He looked at the judge, who gave him a faint smile. "Are we done? I'd like to write a letter to my kid."
"Yes, Mr. Harris, we are truly done." He watched as Xander packed up and left the room. Then he turned to Tara. She was next to him, staring down at the scrying spell "Who was that?" he asked quietly.
"Someone who Xander saved before," she responded. She looked at him. "Minister Fidders died of his heart condition earlier this evening, after drafting those resolutions." She gave him a reassuring smile. "We weren't involved."
"I didn't think you were, nor do I think Mr. Harris was." She shook her head. "Then nothing else matters to me." He walked back and officially ended the court case. It was a relief to be out of that situation. It could have gone much worse. Mr. Harris was quite a credit to his kind. He went back to his chambers to have a drink. He needed one so he'd be able to get to sleep, those pictures had been horrifying.
Xander sat on his bed in the Leaky Cauldron and pulled out the note, reading the simple message. "You saved me, now I'm returning the favor."
"Gee, I don't count favors," he said to the air. "But thank you." He laid back, closing his eyes. It had been a long day and he missed his husband. He'd have to see tomorrow if George were talking to him. And what was going on with Ron and Buffy. But for now, he was just too tired to make it home. They would understand.
McGonagall tapped lightly on the door hiding the children. "It's done," she called out quietly. "You're safe now."
"No we're not," Iggy called back, opening the door. "The aurors are still coming."
"They're being brought in for questioning."
Iggy shrugged. "I heard them and I can pretty well guarantee that they're still coming, Headmistress. Maybe not here, but there's going to be one last sweep, just like the old days according to them." He leaned against the door, letting her see the sleeping people. "I taught Melvin how to touch the pipeline I hit, he heard it too." He gave her a sad smile. "It's going to be a while before my dad comes back. He's started having nightmares again, and this time I think it's going to be too much."
"You're a very wise little boy," she told him, giving him a fond smile. "Will you be out for breakfast?"
"I think we'll come out for lunch." His grin go brighter. "I think Denver and Simone would really like to see their father if it's okay with you." She nodded. "I'm sorry if our popping out some nights has caused problems."
"It's not a problem, just keep it under wraps. It wouldn't look right to the other students if they knew." She pulled him closer, giving him a hug. "I know you're a great deal like your father but it has been stopped."
"Yeah, until the next person with a personal bias starts shit with dad in Diagon, or one of the kids here starts crap and he overhears it. He's not going to be great for a long time, Professor. Be patient with him, okay?"
"Iggy, do you see things?" she asked as she let him go.
"No, Andrea did. That's probably why she's here instead of getting private tutoring lessons. She saw another battle, my dad against a lot of people in black muggle clothes. How is Auntie Buffy?" He saw the flinch of pain. "No, not the kids," he said desperately, turning to grab a book.
McGonagall grabbed his arm. "While she and one of the children are missing, they left the other two at her house, lying on a bed. Your Uncle found them and they're all in the infirmary getting checked out. You may go see them if you wish."
Iggy nodded, walking out and resealing the door. "I'll meet you up there." He disappeared. He knew every inch of that room. He appeared right in front of Ron, who was pacing, and gave him a hug. "I heard."
"Where have you been?" Ron asked, pulling him in for a crushing hug. "I was worried."
"We're still safe. There's going to be another sweep tonight so we're staying in my old hiding spot." Ron nodded, but didn't let him go. "Are you okay, Uncle Ron?"
"No," he croaked. He eventually let him go. "You've got the others?"
"Yeah, and we'll be fine. I will protect them. And Andrea." He grinned. "Can I see the new cousins?" He was led over to the bed they were sharing. Both girls made happy baby noises and wiggled. "Wow, you're tiny," he told them, touching their hands. One of them gave him a curious tingle, he'd have to ask someone about that. "What're their names?"
"I don't know yet," Ron admitted, running a hand through his hair. "B...she had it narrowed down to six separate names and we were going to stick them on in some order." He picked up the one closest to him. "What are you? A Gwen, a Minnie, or a Ramona?"
"A Minnie," Iggy told him. "But please, give them normal middle names. The first time Melvin heard my middle name he licked me to see if I tasted like caramel."
Ron smiled. "Your fathers chose that in the hopes that it'd make you smoother with the ladies once you were old enough to date."
"Gee, there's a line. Hi, I'm Iggy Caramel. My dads named me this so I'd be smooth with you." He shook his head. "Can't see it working, Uncle Ron." He patted the other one. "This one's a Gwen, definitely." Ron nodded. "Has Grandma been told yet?"
"It's the middle of the night, Ignatius. I didn't want to wake her up."
"Since when has she cared?" he snorted. "This is a family matter and it needs to be heard about. Grandma must get here and have lunch with us when we get back."
Iggy nodded. "And I even got permission this time too," he smirked.
"Fine, be back by lunch."
"Yes, Uncle Ron." He touched Gwen's hand again. "You are so cute. Just like your mommy."
"Let's hope not. Buffy could be rather...odd on occasion." He grinned. "She hated to clean. Anything. I swear, every time I wanted to cook, I would have to clean something."
Iggy gave him another hug, around the baby. "You can look at this one of two ways, Uncle Ron. The negative, that she's gone, or the positive, that they only got one of the kids and you've still got these two. Try and stick with the positive most of the time, but let the negative out every once in a while too." He let him go. "I'm going to go wake up Grandma." Ron grabbed for him but Iggy was quicker.
"I've got to work on my grabbing. Maybe Harry'll help with that," he mused. Seekers had good grabbing skills.
Iggy landed in the living room facing the wall, and turned to find the rest of his family standing there staring at him. "No, we weren't attacked, yet. Yes, there's another attack tonight, as they put it 'a sweep like the old days' so please lock the door. Or you can go see Ron and two of the babies."
"She had them?" Molly asked excitedly.
"And then she and one of them went missing," Iggy told her. "Ron's got the other two in the school infirmary with him. Gwen and Minnie are absolute darlings, but he hasn't started to panic yet." He grinned. "We're safe." He smiled at his father. "Breakfast, tomorrow?" he suggested, then glanced at his Uncle Draco, who smiled and nodded. "Laters." He disappeared again before anyone could catch him.
Arthur grimaced. "We really do have to speak to that boy about his popping around like that," he said firmly.
"I'll get the doors," Fred said, getting up to get them.
"I've got the windows," Draco told him. He patted George on the arm. "It's over with, and you're all still here," he reminded as he slid past him. "What are these rocks?" he yelled from the kitchen.
"Xander's way of letting us look out from our windows," George called back. "The same as the fishtank."
"Okay then," Draco said as he walked past the doorway. "Kitchen's locked up. I'll lock the floo once you're all at the school." He jogged up the stairs to check and seal all the windows up there.
Arthur looked at his wife. "Does this seem familiar to you?" he asked.
She nodded, smiling. "He's very good at giving orders in tough times." She stood up and took his hand. "Shall we go see the newest grandchildren?" Arthur nodded so they left through the floo, Ginny not far behind them because Ron was going to need some help.
Draco walked back into the living room, where George, Percy, Bill, and Charlie were sitting. "Well, aren't you going to the school too?"
"No," Charlie told him. "We'll see them tomorrow when Mum brings them home for a bit."
Draco shook his head. "Ron won't be letting them out of his sight." He snapped his fingers and went to call Harry. He'd want to know. "Potterville," he called as soon as the floo powder hit the fireplace.
"What?" Harry asked a moment later, his hair in even more disarray than usual. "It's two am!"
"Ron's got twins, Buffy's missing with one of them. They're at the school if you wanted to go."
"Poor Ron. I'll pop over." He looked around but didn't see anyone else. "They all there?"
"No, they're in the living room," George called. "Send the kids over if you want."
"Yeah, I think I might," Harry said through a yawn. "Thanks." His head faded away.
Draco smiled. He enjoyed this good guy stuff sometimes, it was rather nice to be thanked for things. He walked back into the living room. "So, now what?"
"Card games," Bill told him. "It's the way to kill time."
"We have the kids board games," George offered. He looked at Draco, who had come home sweating and nauseous, but had been very effective all day. "You look worn out."
"I am." He stretched. "But I'll live." He smiled as Agatha came out of the fire and headed directly for his lap for cuddles. "Hello, little one. Why don't you go nap on Aunt Ginny's bed?"
"No nap," she said as firmly as a half-asleep ten-year-old could. "I'm too old for naps."
"Let's get them to bed," Bill said, reaching down to pick her up. He carried the little girl up to sleep in Ginny's room, where her father was putting her brother and sister. "You sure you want to go now?"
"Yeah. I've had this funny feeling all night that I shouldn't be home." He smiled. "I'm not paranoid, but it's not always a bad thing to follow the old instincts." He winked and walked out of the room, leaving his children in the very best of care. He flooed to the school and found the Headmistress waiting on him. "I'm here to help with Ron."
"I know. The others are all in Xander's rooms. Do you remember the way?" she asked as she led him out of the staffroom.
"Sure. Spent half of my last year down there," he reminded her. "So, any new news other than this?"
"Xander won the court battle and Minister Fidders signed protection orders before he died this afternoon."
"Who's next in line?"
"Arthur is I'm afraid," she said with a smile.
"At least he'll be fair."
"I don't want it," Arthur said as he met them at the door. "Thank you, Headmistress. We'll try to stay out of the way."
"It's not like you could disrupt the school," she reminded him. "Not even Xander can do that." She chuckled as she walked away, happy now that everything was falling back into place. Children were delightful, most of the time, and she adored having them around. She remembered quite fondly the chaos of having three separate children living here.
Arthur let Harry in. "Who told you?"
"Draco. Had a bad feeling so I left the kids at your house." Ron looked at him, frowning. "Not about you, about staying at home." He walked over and gave his best friend a hug. "How're you holding up?"
"Fine so far. There's still hope that she'll be found." He pointed at the two little girls sleeping in the nest. "That's Gwen and Minnie."
"You named one after McGonagall?" Harry asked with teasing smile. "I'm sure she won't give you a pay raise for it."
Ron gave him a light shove. "Stuff it, you. No, Buffy wanted her named after the mouse. Said she adored her and something about promising a character that she'd name her first daughter after her." He shrugged. "I'm trying to do what she would have wanted."
"I'm sure it'll work out fine, Ron. We've gotten through so much, we can get through this too," Harry assured him. He reached down to touch the smooth, soft baby skin. "You two are chilly." He covered them with the blanket laying on the edge of the nest, making sure that their heads were exposed. "There we go." He pulled Ron away to sit and talk with him. It would keep him from worrying. Someone was surely out looking for Buffy.
Iggy made sure Andrea and Pumpkin were included in the circle this time, then he nodded at Melvin and Denver. He would need a little help for this teleport. He closed his eyes and pictured Draco's dining room exactly as it had been the last time he had been there. Then he sent everyone there. He opened his eyes and smiled, the group had landed beside the table, with Pumpkin still sitting on her mistress' feet.
"Father?" Denver called. His father was always up by now.
Draco walked in, giving the boy a hug. "You're safe."
"Of course. Iggy instituted his hiding plan," Simone told him. Draco switched and hugged her just as hard.
Percy walked in a moment later and smiled at his son, accepting a hug. "Quite a busy few days," he said in greeting.
"You don't know the half of it," Melvin sighed against his father's chest.
"At least you're all safe," George said as he walked in, giving his son a smile. He patted him on the head. "Breakfast?" he suggested.
"Yes, please," Iggy said. He looked at Andrea. "This is Andrea Reams, formally adopted into the clan when she joined us on the boats." He pointed down at the dog. "That's Pumpkin, her service dog. Don't feed it, or she'll whop you a good one."
Andrea giggled. "Iggy! I only did that to you because you were feeding him chocolate and it's not good for dogs."
"Point, but still." He pulled out a chair for her and her dog settled on her feet like usual.
"I've never heard of any of us being blind before," Draco said as he sat down at the head of the table.
"Way to go," George told him.
"Oh, shut up. I didn't mean anything by it, it was a conversation starter. I never have heard of a blind witch or wizard before."
"That nice Mr. Dumbledore told me I wasn't the first, but the first in a very long time," Andrea told him. "I'm excused from certain classes, but I'm taking most of them."
"Including flying," Melvin told everyone. "We found her the place that sells those voice-guided brooms." He smiled at his father, who had helped with that. "It's really neat. Madam Hooch was impressed with her broom."
"I'd be impressed with her broom," Draco agreed. "Does your dog go with you?"
"We've rigged a special harness that allows her to lie down behind me," Andrea told him. She squeaked when she felt something brush by her arm.
"Relax, it's a house elf," Simone told her. "It's time for breakfast."
"Oh, bangers," Iggy said, grabbing some. His father frowned at him. "What? I like them, and they're good for me."
"Save some for the rest of us, son," George reminded him.
"I didn't even take a third of them," Iggy whined. But they stayed on his plate. He didn't like eggs that much so he'd let everyone have his share of that. He caught his father's look and did his best to look cute.
Draco shook his head. "Do behave, Ignatius."
"Iggy, what's your middle name?" Andrea asked. "Melvin told me I had to ask you."
"Gee, thanks so ever much," Iggy told his cousin sarcastically. "My fathers put my middle name down as Caramel. Apparently they were hungry that day." He looked at his father, daring him to say anything.
"Actually, we were hoping the name would transfer to his nature and make him smooth once he started dating," George corrected.
"Yes, his smoothness still needs some work though," Draco said, giving him a smile. "I could give you some pointers."
"Daddy, you may have been a slut while you were in school, but we won't put up with Iggy doing the same thing," his daughter told him.
"Excuse me?" Draco asked, shocked. His daughter had said what?!?
"Daddy, I've heard rumors about you while you were in school from Uncles Harry and Ron. You were the talk of the school."
"Ryan was bragging about getting a plaque next to yours in the Slytherin hall," Denver agreed. "It seems they saved your favorite chair."
Draco turned bright red. "I'll have to go visit it some day and see if that nasty rumor is true," he mumbled. "Simone, never use that word in my presence again."
"Sorry, daddy. I didn't mean anything bad by it. I'm sure you had a lot of fun."
"Um, Simone," George said. Draco waved him off.
"No, it's all right," Draco said, willing his blush to go away. "Yes, I was a bit free with my attentions, but I was always very careful." He saw the look his son was giving his sister, then him. "Until I met your mother that is."
"That was a botched infertility spell," Melvin put in for Andrea's benefit. "My father warned me about those."
Percy spluttered. "When did I say that?"
"While you were toasted last year on your anniversary, that night that mommy was putting on special stuff for you."
"Oh, dear," Percy mumbled, turning as red as the tie Iggy was wearing. "Never repeat that, son. I wasn't in my right mind at the time."
"Gee, and I thought my house was bad with the six other kids popping around all the time," Andrea said with a smile for the adults.
"You have siblings?" George asked.
She shook her head. "But my mum's working with six other blind kids so the house is usually full. There's dog hair everywhere."
George smiled. "I'm sure Hagrid's place is about the same."
"One of the puppies has been helping her," Iggy said, helping himself to some more of the food. "Eat, everybody. We have to be back by lunch, I promised McGonagall."
The dishes were passed around, with Simone telling Andrea what each one was as she handed it off.
"Any news on tryouts?" Draco asked, desperately looking for a new subject.
"Um, yeah," Denver told him. "We're on, but the first game's not for two weeks. I owled you."
"I never got it."
"Hmm, gonna have to get a new owl," he decided.
"I'll see to that this weekend."
"Did you get the Glinda mail?" Simone asked Percy. Percy nodded. "Then you knew?"
"Of course I did. I'll be in the stands cheering you on." He patted his son on the head. "When you play against him, then I'll be cheering for him, but I'm sure you'll understand."
"Oh, yeah. Dad used to have the worst time when Iggy and I were on separate teams," Simone agreed. She looked at Melvin. "I thought you weren't going to try out."
"My team's Captain came and prodded me into it," he explained. "It seems their keeper's going to be leaving school a bit early this year."
"That rule is still in place?" Percy asked. Draco nodded. "I wonder if it's being enforced the same way."
"Only if the girls get caught," George told him. "McGonagall noticed one girl on the first day and had her pulled aside to be talked to by the head of her house. Eight months along and been hiding it all summer because her parents were away." He handed over some bacon. "Quite a stink caused when the girl's parents came in from Italy, where they were still on vacation. They wanted her to stay."
"Imagine, having to take classes while tending a child," Percy said, shaking his head. "I hope mum's doing the babysitting again this year." George nodded. "Excellent, I know she enjoys it."
"And she'll have Gwen and Minnie too," Iggy added. Everyone looked at him. "I told you that last night."
"I think Ron's splitting his class a bit," George told him. Draco nodded. "You knew already?"
"I got asked to come fill in for him," Draco said smugly. "Personal invitation. She thinks it would be an added benefit to the Dark Arts program since I went through it with such stunning marks."
"Daddy, please don't teach our class," Denver requested. "We get enough looks because Uncle Ron's teaching it."
"I'll see what I can do," Draco assured them. "Though I would hope I wouldn't favor you too much."
"Daddy, we get picked on because Uncle Ron calls on Iggy all the time."
"Hey, I just know the answers. If someone else would answer in our class, I'd be more than happy to give up the attention I'm getting."
"No one else answers?" Percy asked. Iggy shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because no one else does their homework," Denver told him. "We're ahead by the way."
Simone poked him. "Don't tell them that, they'll ask us to do something."
George smiled. "Well, I could use some help in the store this weekend," he offered.
"We'll be there," Denver told him happily. He loved to play in the store. Or just sit and watch the fish. "Did that shark give birth?"
"Oh, yeah. I stood there and watched it. Quite fascinating," George told him. "Came out tail first."
"Wow. I wish I'd gotten to see that. Did Uncle Xander ever figure out how to save images?"
"No, he never did," Draco told him. "Shark giving birth?"
"Yeah, the rock's in a shark tank right now, and there had been a pregnant shark. So we got to watch her have birth. Quite odd. Not at all like I've heard humans are born."
"You'd have to ask Xander, he's seen a number of them," Draco told him. He cut into his sausage. "Iggy, do take some more if you want it. I can afford to feed you and there's more in the kitchen."
Iggy snatched some more sausage and greedily stuffed his mouth.
"Slow down, son," George told him. "Chew before swallowing. It helps digestion later."
Percy snorted. "With the noises his stomach used to give off, I'm surprised they didn't put him on a special diet."
"He's never had any trouble after he eats," George told him. "Otherwise, he would be." He ruffled the black hair Iggy had gotten from his father. "Fortunately, it's all been noise and no ulcers so far."
"Did he really belch and wake up Grandma one time?" Simone asked.
George nodded. "More than once."
Iggy snickered. "She said I was just like her."
Andrea giggled. "Is that why your room smells like peppermint?"
"You've been in his room?" Percy asked, staring his nephew down. That wasn't allowed.
"Yup, because I'm the one working on the spell to give her back some of her sight. We're working on it in our room, and before you ask the roomies said it was all right."
Denver nodded. "There's always at least two of us in there with them. And Pumpkin growls at anyone who comes too close to her."
"That's because that nasty Rosenberg boy tried to hex the both of us last week," Andrea told him. "Quite a right little snot, that boy is." She ate a bite of her eggs.
"Hagrid said that he had to deworm Pumpkin," Iggy added for the parents' benefit.
"That must have gotten him into trouble."
"They couldn't prove he had done it," Andrea told him.
George looked at Draco. "That would have been a prank worthy of the old you, son."
"He's your son too?" Andrea asked.
"No, my dad adopted him before Simone was born," Iggy told her. "It's a family joke."
"Oh, sorry," she said with a cute little blush. "It's just that you seemed about the same age to me."
"We are. I'm only twenty months younger than George," Draco told her. "But Xander is Xander and he adopted me much the same way that Ignatius has adopted you."
"Nope, she's my sister," Simone told him.
"Oh, I see. Well, welcome to the family, Andrea. I'm sure we'll be seeing you during summer vacation next year."
Andrea giggled. "Probably not. My parents are very paranoid about me going places." She smiled at Simone. "It's been nice having a sister."
"Yeah, sisters are nice, until their phoenixes steal your necklaces," Denver said.
"I looked, she must have a new hiding spot," Simone said with a shrug. "Sorry, bro."
"When did you start calling him that?" Percy asked. That was a phrasing he hadn't heard yet. Bro?
"From one of Xander's tapes," Simone told him. George choked. "Not those!" she sighed, rolling her eyes. "One of the movies."
"Oh, that's okay then," George said. He looked at Draco, who was grinning cattily at him. "So, where's your stash?" he teased.
"In the secondary master bedroom's second closet, in a large brown box," Denver told him, grinning at his father. "I found it last year."
"Why were you in that closet?"
"Because you were sick and I went to find a blanket to put over you," Denver reminded him. Draco groaned. "Sorry, Father, but it was accidental. Does mother know...."
"Stop there," Percy commanded. "That is not an appropriate breakfast discussion." He glared at Denver. "You know better."
"What are you guys talking about?" Andrea asked Simone. Her best friend leaned over and whispered in her ear. "Oh, that. It's a normal biological function."
Draco quickly filled his mouth with pumpkin juice. He noticed the other adults doing the same thing. Children grew up too fast these days, it was rather scary sometimes. He made a mental note to have a discussion with both of his children before they decided to follow in his...footsteps at school.
And breakfast went on.
George walked up to Ron, giving him a hug. He had twin girls with him, and still no mother anywhere in sight. Ron was looking devastated because it was taking so long. He was also panicking because the kids were crying in unison. "Hey," he said, taking one of them. He stuck a finger in the baby's mouth, shutting her up. "They're just hungry."
Ron nodded. "I figured that out, but Ginny's not back from the store yet." He looked at his kids, then up at his brother. "Why did this happen?"
"From what little Willow could get out of anyone, the Watchers had a prophecy about a retired slayer giving birth to one of her kind, and that one would end up destroying the world." He grimaced. "It's not real clear and makes Trelawny's sound concise." He shushed the other baby. "Stick a finger in her mouth, it'll stop her from crying." Ron did so. George looked at the baby, then sighed. There were days when he missed having a baby to cuddle and hold.
"He collapsed in London. Dad said no one knows where he is." He sneezed. "Sorry."
"That's okay." Ron looked around the room. They were in Xander's room since his was bigger and had the comfiness of the nest. The kids appreciated napping in it and Ron appreciated the quiet when they napped. "Is he coming back?"
"He'd better come back!" George told him. "He's my husband! I'm not losing him over some stupid arsehole of a human being."
"I know that," he said in irritation. "Is there any more fighting to go through?"
"I don't know," George said helplessly. His son had gotten a note but he hadn't. It was putting a lot of doubts into his mind. Maybe Xander had found someone more like him? Or he was still crusading? In either case, Iggy wasn't sharing his note. It must have been bad news. He looked over as something tapped on the door. "What?" he called.
The unlocked portrait and door swung open, letting in McGonagall. "I've had news."
"That's nice," George said bitterly. "From my husband?"
"Not yet, no. From Sirius and Willow. They're staying in London a bit longer to finish pulling together all the loose ends Xander left."
"Then it starts over," George said unhappily. He put the baby down on the nest, watching as she stuck her own thumb in her mouth. He turned to look at the Headmistress again. "Is he coming back?"
"I don't know. I haven't heard from Xander. All I know is that he was sleeping in the Leaky Cauldron until last night. The Ministers are meeting with the judge to find out what was said." She walked further in and looked down at the children. "There may still be some fighting over them," she said quietly. They were adorable little blonde creatures, plump and pink just like they should be. "I've also received a message from a rather strange source, your husband's vampire friend. They're looking for Buffy, Ron." He nodded, but he didn't look happy. "Apparently someone like her is very well known among their version of the supernatural world. They've heard that she's missing and there's interest in finding her. I'm not sure if Xander will join the hunt or not." She pointed out the window. "Murphy's out there sunning himself."
"Do you know what my son's note said?"
"Just that he was safe now and that everything would be back to normal in a few days, after Xander had broken down for a bit." She patted him on the arm. "I know it's hard to be away from him, but this time he needs to be alone to heal. What those others went through hurt him greatly because he kept seeing you, Ignatius, Melvin, and the rest of you in their spots."
"Will they be okay?" Ron asked quietly, staring at his children.
She shrugged. "No one knows yet. The human mind is a wondrous thing and can heal from many things, but even it has its limits. Everyone has a different one so some might heal and some might not. The gryphons have it."
"Do they have him?"
"No." She walked over and opened the window, whistling for Murphy. The phoenix flew in. "He wants to see his mate. Can you get him to send a message?"
"No, I don't want to force him. If he feels more comfortable doing this alone then he should."
She shook her head. "It's not about that, George."
"Then what is it about!" he yelled. The babies screamed. "Sorry, Ron," he said, shooting a glare at the twins. It wasn't their fault. "Why can't I help him this time?"
"Because sometimes the hurt goes soul deep and sparks worries that not even love can ease. He has to work through them alone. He'll be back soon." She left them alone.
"Define soon," George called after her.
"I can see why he'd go," Ron told him. "I can't even imagine what those poor people went through. Dad came home nearly crying after talking to Xander, and he only read the file. Percy came home but he was normal."
"Percy's still in shock from losing Kandy," George reminded his little brother. Ron kicked him. "Hey!"
"Xander saw, up close and personal, what those people went through and now he's lost in the thought that it could have been you and his son. He's probably balled up somewhere crying and begging for mercy from the nightmares."
"Or he could be off looking for peace," Willow said from the doorway. She walked in with a bag. "Ginny's back but she got stopped by Lupin."
"Thanks," Ron said with a smile. He pulled out the pouches that went in bottles and mixed them quickly. He had done this part before for Ginny's kids, he could do it for his own. He stuck bottles in both kids' mouths, relaxing when he got peace. Only two more years of this.
"You've got to hold them," Ginny reminded as she walked in. "What's wrong now?" she asked when she saw George's face.
"Xander's still in London. He's having a slight breakdown," Willow told her. She looked at George. "Believe it or not, he's never had one before. We were all really shocked when he didn't have one after every apocalypse. The rest of us did and we leaned on him."
"And now he's doing his alone," George pointed out. "He should come back."
Willow shook her head. "Nope. That would show a weakness."
"I've seen him poisoned and so sick he might've died!" George said hotly. "There's not much more I can see."
"You've never seen him cry," Willow said quietly. "None of us have. None of us probably ever will. He's like that."
"I've seen him cry," George told her. "He still has nightmares."
"And this is a living one for him," she pointed out, poking him on the chest. "Give him a few days before you worry. It's not like he's going to run away from you and go find someone else."
"No, but he might not want to come back," Ron explained. "They've always been able to lean on each other."
"And this time, the nightmares nearly came true. Too true for him to face. I'm betting he's either with the gryphons, waiting for instructions, or out flying somewhere to try and work through it. He will come back, he always did before."
"Patience isn't always a strong suit," Ron told her. "Especially not in a tight and close family like ours."
"Then send Draco after him," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "Or Percy. But right now, he can't look at you knowing that it's his heritage and his lineage that nearly got you stuck in a little white cell with no connection to anything, not even your body, and tortured by assholes who hate you because of what you are. That's his nightmare, that he brought all this on."
"Which is silly," Ginny told her. She looked at her brothers, who looked thoughtful. "Though probably very male." Willow nodded, grimacing. "Okay, want to help bathe them?"
"I already did that," Ron put in. "Come hold a bottle. I've got to use the loo." He let them feed his precious soul-weights and walked into the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind him. Then he slid down it to rest against it. What Willow had said struck a chord in him somewhere. He could see what Xander was seeing and it was making him want to cry too. Maybe Percy or Draco would be the better person to go find him.
George opened Xander's room's window, letting in Murphy. Did he finally send him a message? He grabbed the bird before it could move. "Got something for me?" he asked hopefully. Murphy nipped him on the nose. "Thank you for the kiss, was that from your daddy?"
Murphy looked into his eyes and released the message to him. "George, I love you, but I need some space, some time to think. I'll be back in a month, but I've got to work through this. I've sent a separate message to McGonagall, and I hope she understands." He smiled wanly. Xander looked so tired, so worn out. "I love you and I'll be back soon. Tell Ron the same and pat the babies for me. I do love you, but I just can't...." The message broke off.
"That's it?" Muprhy phoenix-kissed him again. "I see." He let the bird go. "Thank you, Murphy. I appreciate you going to find him for me." The bird nuzzled him. "Why can't he come and let me share this?" he asked the bird. Murphy made a good listening post. He never talked back or offered bad advice. "I know what he feels and it's getting hard not to blame him because he's not here to help me through this." Murphy cooed. "I know, I know, he needs to work it out for himself, but I could use the comfort too." He laid down on the couch and pulled the throw down to cover himself with. "And we still can't find Buffy or the last little one."
Murphy sang quietly, putting his other daddy to sleep. Once he was sure he was out, he flew off. His daddy needed cuddles and if he couldn't give them to his mate, then his child was the next best thing. But not the wild one, it wouldn't do.
Arthur and Molly both looked up at the pecking on the window, Molly getting up to let the phoenix in. "Fawkes," she said, shocked. Dumbledore's bird was here? Why? "Did he send you?"
Fawkes cooed up at her and nudged her gently. Then she cooed at Arthur and flapped a bit. The pouch around her neck jingled. Arthur carefully reached down into it, pulling out a small ring of keys. "What're these?" he asked her. She nudged the keys, then looked at the mantle.
Molly saw which picture she was looking at. A wedding picture of Xander and George. "Did Xander send those?" she asked. Fawkes let out a gross sound. "Did someone send them for Xander?" Fawkes cooed again. "He's not here, dear one. He's hiding to deal with his hurts himself this time." Fawkes seemed to glare. "What?" she asked, backing away. "We don't even know where he is."
Fawkes ruffled her feathers and sat down on the table, 'talking' to them, telling them that they couldn't leave him alone, not now. Her mate had told her how bad of shape his human was in and he needed his family. Why weren't they going? She shrieked at Arthur.
"Dear one, he told us he wants to be alone," Arthur explained. He looked at his wife. "I wish Glinda were here, she'd be able to interpret. Fawkes, as much as we love Xander and want him back, he told us to leave him alone for a bit. He needs his space to think for now. We can't impinge on that, he has the right to be alone."
Fawkes sighed and all but rolled her eyes. Humans! Didn't they know that was the *wrong* thing to give in to? Giving in to his chocolate habit was bad, this was worse, much worse! The human of her mate shouldn't be alone. He really shouldn't. She hopped up and flew off, going to find someone who understood. Maybe his mate. No, he was stuck in his own problems. But the human needed help. Maybe her human knew what to do. He was smart and knew quite a lot about the boy. She flew home to the small cottage her human now lived in. She landed on his chest and stared down at him until he woke up. Then she told him all about it.
He patted her. "I know you're worried, but I don't know why," he croaked, his throat dry from sleep. An image flashed across his mind. "Oh, him." Dumbledore sat up carefully so he wouldn't hurt his friend. "Yes, I was going to look him up today and suggest he go see his friend in Germany." Fawkes squawked angrily. "No?" She glared at him. "But his mate needs something that Xander can't give yet and Xander needs support from someone who's not affected. That's why I suggested his friend." Fawkes shook her feathers angrily. "Fine, then I'll tell George where he is." He looked at the clock. "After a spot of breakfast I think." She allowed him to get out of bed and start his day the usual way. Humans did funny things with their featherless wings. Pushups, what a waste of time.
Percy tapped on the small flat's door, then used the key that had been sent to him. He walked in and his nose wrinkled from the smell. Six weeks had made something die? "Xander?" he called softly.
"Go away," Xander called from the darkness.
"I can't do that." Percy flipped on a light and Xander yelled, covering his eyes. "I'm sorry." He shut the door and purposefully stepped on a bug as he walked over to his friend's side. Xander looked horrible. Unshaven, dirty, nearly naked. He even smelled bad. "Come along, a shower will do you good."
"Not yet," Xander told him. "Not ready yet."
"Well, tough," Percy told him firmly. "It's time you came out of this funk, whatever it's about. Ron needs your help and so does George. You can't hide here any longer." He pulled the younger man up and drug him into the bathroom, preparing the shower for him. He turned and found Xander leaning against a wall staring into space again. "Oh, do snap out of it," he snapped. "Not even I got to do that and my mate died!"
"I nearly got you all killed," Xander said quietly.
"Is that what this is about? Stuff and nonsense. You no more nearly got us killed than Ron did."
Percy grimaced. "Still missing, as is the baby." Xander slumped a little more. "That had nothing to do with you."
"The Watcher's Council did all this," Xander said, looking at him. "Everything, all because they're bigots. They put forward the idea that we're just animals who need firmer leashes. They developed the plan to take over and cage us all up. They even induced Buffy's labor. She wasn't due for another two weeks. All because they couldn't see past the ends of their stupid human noses."
"Excuse me, but I have one of those too," Percy pointed out, turning the showerhead on. "Strip."
"No thanks." Xander climbed into the shower, letting the warm water wash away all the grime. Suddenly he collapsed, sitting down and crying. "I nearly killed them," he sobbed.
Percy turned off the water and sat on the side of the tub, holding Xander against his legs. "Shh, they survived because you fought. You've fought for all of us and we're waiting for you to come back. Even mum is waiting for you to come back and she doesn't understand a bit of this." Xander shook his head. "Yes, you will come back. McGonagall said either you appear tomorrow for your class or you're fired." Xander sniffled. "And you still haven't seen the twins."
"I don't want to get them hurt too."
Percy slapped him hard. "Do stop that now, thank you. Stand back up, let's get back to the cleaning process." He forced Xander to stand up and turned back on the water, then went to get a pair of scissors to cut those boxer shorts off him. They appeared to have grown onto his skin. It was hard work, but by dinner time Xander was clean, presentable, and still lingering in the well of hell he had created for himself. He looked around the very nasty apartment and decided that only one thing needed to be saved, a picture of George and Iggy that Xander had almost rubbed bare. As he grabbed Xander around the waist, the other man tried to let go. "Be still!" he ordered. "It's hard enough to bring you back to mum's as is."
"I can't, they'll come for you!" Xander got away and went to sit in a corner. "They'll come after you and they won't stop there."
"Xander, no one's coming after us. Trust me, that whole mess ended with a lot of arrests five weeks ago." He pulled the other man back to his feet. "Now come along or I'm going to have to get stern with you." Someone knocked on the door and Percy went to answer it, moving aside for the man standing there. "Headmaster," he said respectfully. "Please excuse this sorry excuse for an apartment, Xander's not quite himself."
"I know, that's why I'm here." He helped Xander to his feet and gave him a smile, which made the younger man hug him. "I know, Xander, I know, but they're not in danger. You solved it." Xander shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because the Council is still coming." Xander looked at him. "I know they are." Dumbledore nodded. "You knew?"
"That's why I'm here. I need you to defend those twin little girls from them. Ron is a father, with a father's rage and protective instincts. You know what that feels like and can counter your own. You're going to have to fight them by yourself this time I'm afraid." Xander nodded, straightening up. "Are you ready to go back now?" Dumbledore held a hand out for Percy to take. "Come along. I find this gryphon teleportation to be quite fun." He smiled as they disappeared. As soon as they landed, someone screamed. "Oh, do behave," he called lightly. He looked over as McGonagall hurried down the hallway. "It's just us," he told her, smiling at her. He turned over Xander. "He's still a bit shaky but he understands that he has a duty to perform for now." She frowned at him. "There's still danger," he reminded her gently. He patted Xander on the back. "Go put him to bed, or into his nest, whichever he wants. He'll need sleep and food soon." He watched as the young Professor was walked away. "Ah, Severus. You get the unenviable task yet again. Are George and Ron about?" Snape nodded his head slowly. "Good. Excellent even. They can't come near him. He still hasn't gotten past the point of thinking that he nearly got them all killed." Snape rolled his eyes. "I know, but that is how he works. He's a protector and he almost didn't manage it this time. In fact, he knows he brought more attention onto their heads and that attention possibly could have led to them being in those little cells." He smiled. "He needs some strength to lean on, but those two are too wrapped up in their own problems to deal with his too right now. Please, give them my sincere wishes of good health and well wishes. You also might prepare a sleeping draught for the boy tonight, he's probably going to need it. I doubt he's slept the whole time he's been gone." He looked around. "Where is that boy? I asked him to meet me tonight."
"He's in the Great Hall, having dinner," Snape told him. The sound of footsteps belied his words. "Or not."
Iggy ran up and hugged Dumbledore. "Headmaster," he said happily. "Is my father back?"
"Yes, Ignatius, he is, but he's still not better yet. He's still seeing you in that little cell and hoping that it's a nightmare."
"Can I help fix it?" Percy asked.
Dumbledore shook his head. "No, this will have to be a gradual fixing. He'll have to *see* that everyone's fine and that they still want him around." Percy looked stunned. "You didn't realize that was one of his greatest fears?"
McGonagall rejoined the group. "How long will he be like this?"
"Give him until Wednesday to realize that he's home again and he should offer to teach by Thursday. He will be fine, eventually, though he will probably have nightmares about this too."
"He has nightmares?" Snape asked.
"Oh, yes, about almost every fight he's ever been in. You see, he was the one without a reason to fight, yet he did. There were quite a few times when he shouldn't have, but had to. This is one of those times. There should have been more people fighting."
"The gryphons wanted to try diplomacy first, but he went ahead with his plans," McGonagall said with a sour expression as she came back. "They're not even talking to Ginny Weasley right now."
"They've talked to me. He's not in trouble with them, but he's not in the best of positions right now either. They're quite displeased with him at the moment. Though, all three elders did say that they understood; if they had been younger, they might have done the same thing. They know this will cause more problems in the long run, but will end up with a firmer solution hopefully."
"Activism is for the young," Ron agreed as he joined them. "Is Xander back?"
"Sleeping on his bed," McGonagall told him. She kept him from moving. "You may not go bother him. He's still rather upset with himself."
"Yay. He has to see the kids."
"He will in a few days, when he's less likely to flinch away from them or scream at you to leave him alone," Dumbledore advised. Ron stared at him. "He's scared, Ron. He nearly got you all targeted and possibly killed. Above that, he had to leave all his support and deal with this because he *couldn't* put it onto George's shoulders, not on top of what you were already going through."
"They're coming, aren't they?" Ron asked. Dumbledore nodded. "Then I'll stomp them myself!"
"No!" McGonagall said. "You will protect those two little angels and let the rest of us fight this time."
"No, you'll protect them and let *Xander* fight this time. It's important that he do so." Ron mumbled something but he nodded. "Thank you. I know it's hard."
George jogged in the front door. "He's back?"
"And we can't see him," Ron told him.
"Weasley," McGonagall warned.
"I am an adult," George reminded her. "And he's my husband."
"Who's having a pity party because he thinks he nearly got you all killed," Percy told him. "Plus he's thinking that we won't want him back because of it."
"Bullshit," George repeated. He broke free of the restraining hand and went down to their room. He tapped gently before walking in, just in case Xander was truly sleeping.
"What?" Xander asked from the dark bedroom.
"Thought I'd come see you since you're finally back."
"Well, you're here, corporeal, and living, I'd settle for that right now." He walked closer and could almost see him in the darkened room. "Love, did you want to talk?" he asked as he sat on the side of the bed.
"You hate me."
"I don't hate you. Sometimes I hate some of your quirks but I sincerely don't hate you." He reached down and brushed a longish hair out of his husband's face. "I know why you're worried." Xander gave a disdainful snort. "I had to have it explained to me, but I do understand. I can't imagine you or Iggy in there."
"But ... but I caused them to come here."
"No, you didn't. Melvin did and he's been feeling just as guilty as you do now. Simone kicked him in the ass the other day so he would stop moping. Their first game is in a week."
"I'd like to see that," Xander admitted quietly. "I can't look at you."
"I know. Every time you do, you see the nightmares, right?" Xander nodded, shifting closer. "If you remember, you went through that same thing after you and Harry got Voldemort. You couldn't look at Ron or Harry for days."
"Yeah, but they fought because they had to, not because I put them into danger."
George smacked him gently on the chest. "I'm not in any more danger than usual, thank you."
"See." Xander rolled onto his other side. "I love you, George, but I still need time."
"If I walk out now, I'm not coming back until after the game," George warned. If this is what he wanted, he would deal with it. Gwen and Minnie made excellent comfort snuggles when he needed one.
"I might be okay by then," Xander said, sounding at least somewhat hopeful. He would have to start teaching tomorrow, get back to normal things, and then maybe he could face his husband and look at him. "Can...can you tell Ron not to bring the kids around?"
"No, if you want him told, you tell him that. I'm not encouraging this depressing thought loop." George stood up. "I'll see you at the game next week." He leaned down and kissed Xander on the head, like he would their son. "I'll talk to Iggy if you want," he offered.
"No thanks. I have to see him in class anyway."
"Why? He's not in any of yours."
"Yeah, he is. He has a free period when I'm teaching the advanced class and he comes in every week so we can spend some time together."
"Ah. Then I'll expect him to tell me what's going on."
Xander sat up. "George, I'm not trying to be cruel...."
"I know, but I also know you're not going to snap out of this if I coddle you." No matter how much he wanted to grab Xander and hold him until he let it all go, he couldn't because it wouldn't help Xander deal with the guilt. He would have to work through this for himself. No matter how much it irked everyone else. "I'll see you next week. Send something down if you want to talk before then and I'll come up that night." He saw Xander nod and did what he had to do, he left him alone. He found Ron in the hallway with the twins. "Do you remember when he couldn't look at you after *that* fight?" Ron nodded, frowning. "He's stuck back in that thought loop."
"Bugger," Ron complained. "I wanted him to at least see them."
"He might yell."
"Yay." Ron knocked on the door, with a little help, and it was opened from the inside. "Hi," he said, stepping inside. "We need to talk about these two buggers." He put them down on the couch and pulled his wand to light the room. "This is Gwen and that's Minnie," he said, pointing at each one. "And their sister's still missing."
"Percy told me," Xander said tiredly as he sat in his favorite chair. "Ron, can't I be left alone?"
"In a minute," Ron told him. "I need help too you know." Xander gave him a hurt look. "She's still missing."
"I heard. I can't fix that either."
"I'm not asking you to, but I thought maybe you might have some idea since you know what's going on."
Xander shrugged. "Someone in the Council took her I guess. With that prophecy, I'm just hoping for them to be alive." Ron turned pale. "I'm sorry. That was callus and mean. I.. I just can't think straight right now."
"Obviously," Ron said, gathering up his girls. "Whenever you're ready to come and be a real part of the family, come see us. We're up in our new rooms next to Gryffindor." He paused to look at his mentor. "All of us have problems, Xander, yours aren't special this time."
Xander stood up. "I nearly got you all killed, them included. How does that make you feel, Ron, huh?"
"Like you need a swift kick in the arse to engage your brain," Ron countered. Gwen burst out in tears. "I'm sorry," he said, jiggling her. "Shh, I'm sorry, I won't yell at your uncle."
Xander put a hand on her head, then one on Minnie's. He felt something funny from them. "They took the wrong one," he pronounced. Ron's mouth fell open. "If they were trying to prevent the slayer's child, who is a slayer, from growing up, it's Minnie." He shrugged. "Sorry, Ron."
"I'm not losing her too."
"Then you should probably stay away from me for a while because everything bad in the universe is attracted to me at some point or another," Xander told him. "It's nearly a universal law now, everything bad happens somewhere around me."
Ron shook his head. "Pity doesn't look good on you, mate. Get over it soon, huh." He walked out, leaving Xander alone.
Xander walked into his bathroom, thinking about taking a long, hot bath. He liked this clean feeling. The thing was, his shower worked but the nozzle for the tub didn't. "It's not like I can drown myself," he called. "I'm a water baby, I think best in it." The spout started to work and miraculously so did the drain plug. He'd talk to McGonagall tomorrow. He didn't have a class until third period so he might even get some sleep. A small bottle appeared next to him on the table he had put in there. "Gee, sleeping potion?" he suggested dryly. "Reading minds now?"
"Not quite," McGonagall said from the doorway. He eeped and covered himself with a towel. "I'm sorry to intrude, but I heard something about your tub not working?" She looked at the running water.
"Yeah, and then I said something about not drowning because I liked the water and it started working again. Then I thought about sleeping and my recent lack of it, and that pretty bottle appeared."
"Hmm, Albus must teach me that trick too," she said, giving him a fond smile. "Are you thinking about restarting tomorrow?"
"If I can. I won't get anything accomplished by sitting around and thinking."
She nodded. "I find much the same. At least while you work, your mind is thinking in the background." She used her wand to call a chair in, putting it a discrete distance away so he could relax. "I don't want you to teach your advanced class. I'll warn Lupin and Black that you're mentally unstable." Xander sighed. "Your lack of concentration will only get someone hurt, likely you, and you've had more than enough time off to last for the next three years."
"Gee, and I tried so hard to come back too," Xander said sourly. "After all, destroying my family is just such fun," he finished on a bitter note.
"You haven't destroyed them yet. You protected them the best you could." She gave him another small smile. "If I were you, I'd be worried about Mr. Malfoy. He seems to have turned quite...manipulative. I've even had him in my office over the last few weeks."
"Why?" Xander asked quietly.
"The first time to get you an extension on your leave. The second to ask my opinion about what's going on right now in the Ministry. The last time was yesterday and I called him to see how he was getting along with his plans to make everything go smoothly for a bit. Said he was tired of the upheaval and could we all please settle down and let him live in peace and contentment with his daughters."
Xander shook his head as he sunk lower. "He needs to watch them, not me."
"A lot of your family seem to think that you need watched. That maybe you're going a bit unstable. There was even talk about checking you into a hospital and seeing if that would help. From what I gather Percy was saying, you were in dreadful shape and it might have helped."
"I doubt it. I nearly had it all worked out."
"Xander, life hardly ever gives you time to stop and ponder the injustices it's dealt you. If you're getting that much time, something's about to happen." She stood up. "I'll expect you down for breakfast."
"You can stay if you want," Xander offered.
"No, I must go stop the Slytherins from sneaking out again. Professor Rosenberg's son has been dreadful recently about getting those children into trouble. Even Severus has quite had enough." She reached over so she could tilt his chin up. "I know you're upset, but it won't help to brood about it, young man. Brooding never solved anything. Action solves things. Apologizing to Ron might solve a few things too, but this thinking isn't doing anyone any good." She let his chin go. "You rest and I'll expect you bright and early tomorrow."
"I don't have class until third."
"Yes, but you've been gone for the last six weeks and I'm sure you'll need to catch up with what your students, and Harry, have been teaching them." Xander looked confused. "I asked Mr. Potter to stand in for you until you got back. If you had been much longer, I would have given him the job permanently." She gave him a stern look. "Next time, come back here so we can at least check on you, Xander. It was most inconsiderate to run like that." She left him alone.
Xander relaxed into the warm water and thought some more. He had nearly gotten out of it when he had been interrupted. If he could just hit that spot again, maybe it would be over soon.
Xander's appearance at breakfast stopped all the conversation in the great hall. He ignored the silence as he took his expected seat and poured himself some juice. Everyone continued to stare at him. "What?" he asked finally. A few of the Gryffindors clapped. "Thanks." He picked up a piece of toast to nibble on and found his plate filled. "Not that hungry," he muttered as the usual morning noise restarted.
Ron shifted, taking Tara's seat. "Tough, you need it. Eat it or I'm telling mum."
"She's going to be mad at me again."
Ron cuffed him on the back of the head. "Stop it now or I'm siccing Draco on you," he quietly threatened. "He offered to take care of you if you needed further time away. Just so you wouldn't end up like you were when Percy found you." He tapped the back of Xander's hand. "Eat. Or no cuddling the darling little creatures from hell who won't let me sleep." Xander took a small bite then glared at him. "Not good enough, mate, I've seen worse." He grinned. "Besides, Draco should be in any minute now. He's quite worried about you. If you don't at least look more normal he's going to be doing this himself." The door behind them opened and Tara walked in, and headed for Ron's seat with a smile. "See, everyone around here knows that you need space, but we're only going to humor you for so long."
Xander nodded. "I had almost beaten it when Percy got there," he admitted.
"Good on you, now forget about it." Xander shook his head. "Trust me, it's not going to happen. Iggy would have teleported away with George even if he had to drag him. They wouldn't have gotten any of us without killing us." Xander dropped his fork. "Sorry."
"S'okay, I've been ignoring that thought. I guess I taught you too well, huh."
"No, we're a lot alike. We worry about the same things. We have similar nightmares. And we wonder if something we do will come back and eat the family. Only you've had more experience with that. So straighten up before you give me a bad image of my future."
Xander gave him a weak smile. "Yeah, Ron, I'll straighten up soon."
"Good." He stood up, then blinked when Harry and Draco walked in together. "They're dating now?" he joked.
"Who knows," Xander said, wiping his mouth. He hadn't eaten much, but it was plenty. "Boys," he said.
Harry gave him a hug. "Thank Merlin you're back. Your kids are scary." He sat down on the other side of Xander but Draco moved him. "Sorry."
"That's all right." Draco sat next to Xander. "I hope you're eating more than that," he said in his best 'commanding the minions' tone. "You'll need your strength to straighten out the mess Potter has left for you."
"Just because I couldn't read his handwriting," Harry started, then he sighed. "Xander, the water demons need to be talked about again. There were fresh-water and salt-water ones, right?" Xander nodded. "Good. The kids kept interrupting me and translating your handwriting. It really is dreadful."
Xander shrugged. "Sorry."
Draco glared at him, making Xander flinch. "Say that word again and I'm going to remove it from your vocabulary. You have nothing to be sorry for. Potter needs new glasses. I read most of it quite easily." He spread his napkin onto his lap and reached for the juice pitcher, which Ron moved for him. "Thank you." He looked at Xander again once he had a glass of juice. "Now then, do I have to reserve a room for you at my house? I can do so if you need the solitude for a few more days. I'm sure we can muddle through this without you."
"No, it's okay. I'm good enough," Xander told him, giving him the same sort of smile he had given Ron. Draco gave him an appraising look. "I even got to sleep last night."
"Sleeping potion?" Harry asked. Xander nodded. "I mix a mean one of those." He smiled. "Really, we can listen if you want, as can your husband. Who by the way can throw awesome fits when he's worried about you. Nearly made Ginny cry."
"Which meant I would have to hurt him, but he stopped before it became critical," Draco finished. He took the bowl of eggs Ron was holding out. "Thank you. And the bacon if you please." That was handed over too. "Eat," he commanded. Xander picked back up his fork and took another bite. "Continue that action, it pleases me."
"Eww," Ron muttered. Harry looked over at him. "I just got a flash of him saying that to my sister." He put down his fork and wiped his mouth. "I think I'm not hungry."
Draco snorted. "I'd never say that to her, she has an instinctual knowledge of what pleases me." He smiled at Xander. "They did put up a plaque to me in my house, right above my favorite chair. Future generations of Slytherins will be influenced by my good habits."
"I wouldn't call that a good thing," Xander told him, trying not to smile. Draco got a slut's award? Well, he probably deserved it, but to encourage that behavior in others? "Aren't you glad your kids aren't in there now?"
Draco nodded. "Quite. Eat, Xander." Xander took another bite. "I'm sure we'll be seeing you this afternoon in your advanced classroom."
"McGonagall told me not to teach that one. She thinks I'll get hurt."
"You might," Harry agreed. "There's one very fast young lady in there. Quite the draw as it happens."
"Beat me," Ron agreed. "Beat Draco two out of three times."
"And she's mouthy," Xander added. "Yeah, I know. I'm going to bring her down a notch yet." He looked at the young Ravenclaw and smiled at her. Her eyes went wide and she ducked her head. "Oh, crap."
"What?" Draco asked, looking around the students. "Something happen?"
"She's doing it to impress me," Xander muttered. He put down his fork and stood up. "Meet me in the regular classroom whenever you're done. I'm going to go look over the grade book."
"I was supposed to give a test?" Harry asked, looking pained. "I can barely read the essays I assigned."
Xander snickered. "I know. It takes a translation spell sometimes. Meet me down there when you're done." He headed out the back door so he wouldn't have to walk past the students.
The three former students looked at each other. Close, but he was a bad liar. Draco nodded, he would handle this one. After all, Xander was his 'father'.
Draco strolled into Xander's classroom, he and Harry had switched off for the day. He closed the door as quietly as he could. "It must be gratifying to know that it took two of us to replace you." Xander looked over at him, then dropped his pen. "Technically, I was here for this when Ron's problem happened. Now we're switching off." He pulled a chair over and sat down. "Talk to me, Xander. I will understand."
Xander shook his head. "I've almost got it beaten."
"Of course you do, that's why your husband's living in town, your son didn't run up and hug you this morning, and you look like hell." Xander shrugged. "Some of us have been there also. After all, anything bad that's happened, like oh say, death eaters appearing on Molly's doorstep, can be attributed back to me." Xander opened his mouth. "Arthur wasn't a big enough cog to interest the Dark Lord, I heard my father ask about taking him out once. He wasn't a big enough annoyance, even with adopting Harry Potter." He smiled wryly. "And then my dearly departed father shows up mysteriously on their doorstep. I know very well why he was there."
Xander slumped. "I'm going to end up getting everyone killed. There's still plenty of people out there that want to see me dead, and not only because I'm fighting for this. I got an anonymous letter last...the month before the trial about that problem with Asdar." Draco nodded, he could understand that. "This is just going to add to it."
"Possibly. There's other reasons to hate you lot though," he said with a fond smile. "The least of which being that the family breeds fast and most wizards and witches aren't having children these days. I overheard a conversation two weeks ago wondering if the Weasleys were going to stage a coup. They didn't sound very happy about the prospect either."
"Well, Arthur is in line from what I hear."
"He's turned down the post. Said the only one of them who really wants the job is Percy, and with the way things are going that he'll get it in a few years." Xander's face fell. "Not because of you. Haven't you been reading the paper?" Xander shook his head. "Ah. Then you don't know. Half of the aurors were charged in the incidences you were fighting against and from a sweep later that night to take more of you out. That was followed by half of the Under-Ministers quitting because they knew they were going to get fired by the next Minister of Magic for supporting that woman. Percy's now an Under-Minister himself, over the historians still I believe. There's also a new department opening up, one to look at the realities of modern life so they can try to bring the wizarding world into a comparable state. The new Minister said that we're still stuck back in the eighteen hundreds and we're falling farther behind the muggles every day. He would like to see someone take some of the technology and make it work for us."
"Computers for every wizard," Xander said dryly. "Wonderful. They can join the Wiccans hiding on the internet in shadowy corners."
Draco laughed. "Truly, but it may be for the best. That's what he wants to find out. This new department took half of Arthur's and turned them into a fact-finding group. So Arthur showed up to tout the beauty of working for the real Ministry the other day to the seventh years."
"I knew we'd get a career fair going," Xander said, just a little more happy with the general world. "What else happened?"
"Only the fact that the new Minister is insane. He had everyone interviewed by the some of the secret people in the Mysteries department. They found three more hidden death eaters. And a woman who got kicked out because she was pregnant and unmarried. She sued and is back in her job, but on suspension pending the matter." Xander nodded. That sounded like the Ministry. "The new Minister was the one who rehired her. Said it's not the scandal it was a hundred years ago and many witches are going it alone these days because a good wizard is hard to find. He's single by the way so he's been seen with any number of unmarried higher ups. It's quite like one of those horrible movies you watch. The ending should either be explosive or should be happy, but I'm not sure which yet."
"They should get Dumbledore in as Minister," Xander said lightly.
"I think it was suggested, but he might be too controversial. There are a few Ministers who are still pissed about his war with Fudge."
"Ah, I remember him unfondly," Xander sighed. He picked up his pen again. "Do you think I'm wrong for not wanting to talk to George and Ron?"
"No, I think you're scared." Xander shook his head. "I think that somewhere in your head is a little voice screaming 'if you talk to them the bad things will come'." Xander shook his head again. "Then what is it?"
"I..." He shrugged. "I can't put it into words, but I still have a fight left."
"And that makes them even bigger targets and gee, that'll mean that the bad things are coming," Draco said in a direct imitation of Xander. It got a smile. "I know that George hates it when you fight, but he also understands."
"But I think this one's going to be bad," Xander said quietly. "Really bad."
"Then that's even more reason to make up with him, so that you won't die with that hanging over you. Then you'd have to haunt him and beg for forgiveness every day for eternity." He grimaced. "Which is not a pleasant thought." He stood up. "Fix this, Xander, before I have to pull out my newly rediscovered forceful charm and use it on you." He put the chair back. "Now then, am I teaching your advanced class this afternoon so Harry can teach Ron's class and he can nap?"
"If you want." Xander looked at him. "The twins are fussy?"
"I have a feeling that they know their sister is missing and they're not happy about it. They hardly ever sleep and Ron's about ready to go off on them." He smiled. "I gave him the pacifier that worked so well on Denver, but it hasn't worked yet at all."
"Maybe they've got colic. Iggy got that for months on end and he never slept, always crying."
"I remember," Draco said dryly. He had done some babysitting during that time. "This time, I think it's them missing their sister. Whenever they're in his arms they stop. He's had to sleep with them in the bed with him."
"He can borrow the nest, at least while I'm in class," Xander offered hesitantly.
"Good. I'll tell him. It is a more natural design for that." He clapped Xander on the back. "See, it's not so hard to get back to normal. Keep working on that attitude and pretty soon you'll even be making bad jokes again." He winked and left the classroom, leaving the door open.
Xander relaxed now that he was alone. Was the son right? Was he scared that as soon as he saw George something would attack? He shook his head. It couldn't be that easy. He picked up his pen and went back to grading. These essays were a mess. He'd have to put his foot down.
Xander stared up at his ceiling. Three days back and he was doing better. His talks with Draco had made him see how bad it was to watch him be destroyed by guilt. So he was getting better. He had even smiled at his students today. But for some reason, he couldn't sleep. He had felt tired when he had climbed into bed. And now nothing. Staring up at the ceiling wasn't helping him any. He had tests to grade. He started to get up but a bright light went off in his head. Shit, he hated those. He had only had three of them before, and he learned to listen to them. It had kept his head on his shoulders the other two times. He slipped on some pants and a t-shirt, grabbed his wand, and left his room as quietly as he could. If the flash had been right, there was a small invasion force on the school grounds coming up to the entryway. This time though, he wouldn't be rebuilding it. He stepped into the entryway and found Mr. Filch standing there. "You saw them?"
"Hagrid sent word with one of the pups," he said grimly. "You gonna go fight 'em?"
"Yeah. I'm stopping them at the door. Go wake up McGonagall." He grinned lightly. "I promise not to destroy the entryway this time."
"Good enough," he said sourly as he walked away.
Xander walked to the heavy oak doors, mentally starting the spell he would use. It would incapacitate the majority of them, and possibly kill a few of them, but it was worth it. He could fight the rest off if he had to. He opened a door and stepped out onto the front stairs, and heard the door slam shut behind him. Someone wasn't taking any chances. "I know you're out here," he called. "You might as well come out because you're not going through me."
"Oh, a slayer's lapdog," a deep male voice said off to his right. Xander glanced at him, but he knew the guy wasn't getting through the door. He shielded it with a wave of his wand. "Pretty, but ineffectual against us."
"Not really," Xander said as the man ran into the barrier. "See, some magic is stronger than others." He hoped no one opened the door. "Now, go away. You're not getting the twins."
"Why not? We already have their mother."
Xander shrugged. "I'm not letting it happen. And you have a thick file on me that proves that I'm not going to let you into this school." More darkly clad figures came out of the bushes and up the pathway from the greenhouses. "If you guys fucked up the greenhouses, Madam Sprout will make whatever I do to you seem pleasant," he warned them.
"Witches are pitiful."
"Really?" Xander asked with his trademark smart-ass grin. "Would you like to say that to one of their faces? There's close to four hundred of them inside." The man backed away and down the stairs. "I'm the protector of this institution and of the children inside, all of them. You're not getting Buffy's daughters, and especially not that slayer." He raised his wand as guns were raised. "I'm faster."
"A bullet's faster than lips, boy, stand down," another man ordered.
"Pity," Xander said, finishing off the last of the spell. From the ground he pulled the blood of the earth, the equivalent of lightening from the sky. It came through the stones he was standing on, up through his legs, making him scream as it burned his flesh. Then it came out of his body, shooting all those around him until it rejoined the earth it came from, either through the grounds or through the castle walls. From the sky more lightening came down, trying to rejoin its twin, scorching the earth and hitting the castle around the burned man. Something in Xander called out to the lightening, and small fires started around him, surrounding him where he collapsed. The men in black, those who still lived, groaned in agony. Much like Xander would have been if he was conscious.
"Fuck!" Draco shouted as he flung the door open. He ran into the shield and fought against it. "IGGY!" The shield came down with a clap of air filling the void. Draco pulled his wand and started to clear off the fires, getting Xander free of it. "Iggy, your other father, now," he ordered. "Harry, Madam Pomfrey. Ron, keep the students back and get someone out here to clean up that filth." The door shut most of the way and he heard people running off to take care of everything. He knelt down, examining the burns. "What did you do?" he hissed. "You were getting better. Now you're sick again." He pulled Xander's wand from his hand as a small gout of flame came out of the tip. "No you don't. I'm not joining you in the hospital."
Xander took a deep breath and moaned. "Are they gone? Running?"
"I bloody well doubt it considering most of them are dead," Draco told him. "Lie still. You're burned."
"Obviously. I saw it come down."
Xander grabbed his hand. "Earth lightening." He winced as he tried to move his left leg. "I'm so screwed when George hears."
"That's putting it mildly," McGonagall said as she walked outside. She looked at the bodies, then down at him. "From now on, do less strong spells, Xander."
Xander raised a hand and weakly pointed. "Forest," he told her. "More." His arm fell back onto the steps. "Sorry. But not destroyed."
"No, you didn't destroy anything." She looked at the scorch mark on the flagstones. "Did you call from the earth or the sky?"
"Both," Draco told her. "He said earth but I saw lightening, regular lightening."
"That's fairly unusual." She looked around. "Did he have a shield or something up?" Draco nodded. "That's probably why, some sort of parabolic mirror or some such." She got out of Pomfrey's way. "Want me to call an ambulance while I get the aurors?"
"Yes," Madam Pomfrey told her. "This is beyond my skills." She smiled at Draco. "Are you going?"
"Unless his husband makes it up here before he goes," he agreed. In the school he could hear a lot of voices. "You might want to get the door," he suggested. "This will probably scar a bunch of the little kiddies."
McGonagall closed the door behind her as she went back inside. "To your houses!" she ordered. "The attack was stopped and we don't need gawkers." She headed immediately for the charm to call the hospital. Those burns had looked horrible.
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