Probing The Old Wounds.
Anastasia Malfoy-Weasley opened her trunk and stopped, frowning. "Well, damn," she complained. She pushed the lid down and grabbed her bathrobe, heading up a floor to her sister's room. "Simone?" she called as she walked in. Simone came out of the bathroom, scrubbing her face. "Mum packed your old clothes instead of my new ones." She sat on her sister's bed, as noted by the phoenixes resting on it. The mommy and one of her babies were napping curled up against the pillows.
Simone disappeared to rinse off and came back a moment later. "How do you know it's mine?"
"Because it's the wrong size and the robe on top has worn spots where your shoulder brace went." She blew some hair out of her eyes. "Can I borrow some clothes?"
"Hon, you're still an inch bigger than me and my shirts would never fit you." She looked down at her small chest, then at her sister's more generous one. "Let me check with Denver. You can usually fit into his, and if not, Iggy's still his roommate." She grabbed her school robe and walked over to the boy's side. On the way, she ran into the new Head Boy, a nice Irish boy from last year. "Michael, our mother packed Anastasia the wrong clothes. Can I pop in on Iggy and Denver?"
"Knock first," he said with a tolerant smile. The kids on both sides had gotten used to the other members of that group popping in.
Simone jogged up to the second years' dorm, and pounded. "Denver, Anastasia needs clothes." The door opened, and the shy one looked at her with a hurt look. "Hey, I was giving you a chance to get dressed, Igbert." She smiled and slid past him, going to paw through her brother's clothes. "Our mum packed Anastasia my clothes from last year instead of her clothes." She found a pair of pants and an undershirt, then went to Iggy's trunk for a regular shirt. She turned and found her cousin and brother standing there. "Mum got the packages mixed up."
"Eww," Iggy said, wincing. "Is she okay?"
"Fine. She's just got my stuff from last year, which won't fit her. Can you call mum and tell her before she disappears for the day?" Iggy nodded. "Good. What about a robe?"
"Can't she wear one of yours?" Denver asked. "The rest of mine are on back order. Madam Malkin's supplier was running behind this year."
"Mine would hang off her like she was playing dress-up," Iggy noted.
"She can't fit into mine. She's wider across the chest and shoulders," Simone told them.
"She can have one of mine," one of the other boys said. "But she can't get it messy. My mum would yell."
She looked him over. "She wouldn't fit into yours either. She's got shoulders like Melvin, and Uncles Fred and George." She looked around. "Can she wear one of Melvin's?"
"No, his has his house's badge on it," Iggy reminded her. He grabbed his robe and slid it on. "I'll meet you downstairs. Uncle Ron's got to be waiting on us." Simone nodded and left. "I'm going to call Aunt Ginny." He headed down the stairs, going to his father's house to use the floo. "Aunty Ginny? You packed Anastasia the wrong stuff," he said once she answered her floo. "She's got Simone's stuff from last year."
"Oh, crap," Ginny sighed. "I'll find it and bring it up in a while. Thank you, Iggy."
"Welcome." He stood up and stretched, finding his Uncle Fred behind him. "By any chance, you don't have any of your old robes around, do you?"
Fred frowned, then shook his head. "No, all ours went to Ron and he's in the Great Hall already." He shrugged. "Have someone write her a note so she doesn't get points taken off." He patted Iggy on the head. "Let's have a *calm* year this time please?" He walked away, going to open the shop.
Iggy grabbed his books and headed back to the house, meeting up with the girls in the common area. "Your mum's bringing your stuff today. Uncle Fred suggested we get her a note so no one says anything." Anastasia nodded and steeled herself before walking out.
"It's not that horrible," Simone told her, patting her on the shoulder. They ran into Professor Lupin first. "Sir, can you please write my sister a note? Mum packed the wrong clothes."
"Sure." He smiled at Anastasia. "Ready for your first day?"
"Not really," she admitted. "The pains in the rear on the train showed me I was going to have to pull out my princess act at least once today." She accepted the note. "Thank you, Professor Lupin. Do I have you today?"
"Tomorrow," he told her, watching the group walk away. They met up with Melvin further down the hall. "Another year like last year," he sighed. "Maybe I'll take a long vacation this summer to one of the preserves." He strolled away, going to join the other teachers at breakfast.
Draco walked into the Slytherin's house, looking over the students gathered around. "You, you, you, and you," he said, pointing at them. "Brush off the animal hair. We must set a good impression the first day. We can't go out there in shabby robes and covered in animal fur." A few more of the students went to change. "Ryan?" he asked, noticing him brushing at a sleeve. "They make devices to take off lint."
"It's residue from the tissue paper, I have most of it off," he said absently. He looked over at the girls' stairs. "I'm waiting on Agatha."
"Of course you are," he agreed with a smile. It was a daring move, something he would have dared to do when he was in school - if there had been anyone worthy of his full attention back then. He wholeheartedly approved of the union the boy was building with his 'niece'. She walked down the stairs, shirt askew and misbuttoned and hair out of place. "Agatha," he said sharply, making her jump. "Go change into a decent outfit. That will not do."
Ryan stood up and walked over to her, looking her over. "Do you have anything that's ironed, straightened out, and bring me a brush."
"I can do my own hair," she snapped.
"Then I suggest you do. The image you put out today will be the one that everyone will remember," Ryan said calmly. "Now go change please." She stomped off. "And don't make me help you," he called after her. Her slamming door was his answer. He looked at Draco. "Was that defiance?"
"No," Draco said dryly. "That was her usual morning nature. She's appeared in worse clothes on sleepovers with Simone when she was younger." He picked off a piece of lint for the boy, releasing it onto the floor. "There, much better. Get one of those velvet brushes. They'll help that more than a lint roller. You may borrow my extra one until you can write your mother for one." The boy nodded, watching to see how his princess was going to come down this time. Fortunately, for her, she came down properly attired and her hair french braided. "Much more proper," he said with a fond smile. "A proper look for a Princess of Slytherin." She looked up at him. "Remember, I am here if you need help with such matters." He let them precede him out of the house, smiling as they walked past Professor Snape. "Helping with attire problems," he said as he breezed past.
"Of course you were." He watched Agatha walk, noticing she was limping. "What happened to her?"
"I don't know. Agatha? Why are you limping?" Draco called after her. She flipped him off. "Do remember I can take points off, young lady."
She stopped and turned to look at him. "For your information, I tripped when I went back upstairs. It's a minor ache at the moment and should be fine by first period. Anything else you needed to know...sir?" she asked coldly.
He smiled. "No, dear, just wondering if you needed to see the nurse."
She snorted and turned, heading off after her protector. She knew very well all her 'cousins' were going to be in the Great Hall and would be watching her. Both men had been right, her attire and presentation was very important, it was the first layer of her defense. Her attitude and clothing were an outer shield and she had to keep it up whenever she was outside of the house. Ryan had been quite instructive last night when he had helped her unpack. She took a seat on his left and he smiled at her, handing her down the food as he took some. Oh, she was going to get him someday. Once she had enough position, the tables would be turning and she would be the one smirking. She noticed the teachers looking at her and stared back, staying calm. Her father would have her killed if she got expelled. He had made that very clear when he had visited her last night with the aid of his invisibility cloak. She saw her 'Uncle' Xander walk in and frowned at the birds perched on his shoulders. "They allow them in here?"
"Oh, yes. The phoenixes bring great renown to our school," one of the older Slytherin girls told her. "They're allowed to have nearly anything they want, though we are to tell if we go missing things. The little buggers like to steal."
Agatha nodded. "I remember. I grew up with Simone."
"Ah." The girl smiled. "So you know Glinda?" Agatha nodded. "Is she really cranky all the time?"
"No, it's a new part of motherhood," Ryan told her. "She was nice to all Slytherins until she found her mate and got stuffed up." He looked around, noticing Professor Snape hadn't made it in yet. "I wonder what happened? Our Head's not in yet."
"He was just in the halls," Agatha reminded him.
"Which is why it's weird," the other girl told her. "He's *always* in here by now, even on the first day." She glanced around. "Well, Iggy's still here so it can't be that important," she said with a light shrug.
"True," Ryan agreed. "Do you know if the three who got expelled over Reams' potion were killed yet?"
"Two went to Drumstrang on probation periods, one was found in his fields crying and sobbing, with a sign saying he no longer had any family," she said with a cruel smile. "Really, to be that dumb! They jeopardized all of us with their little stunt. We might have lost the house cup last year over that."
"Ms. Reams?" Agatha asked.
Ryan pointed at the girl. "She's your cousin's best friend and she's blind. We're all under orders to leave her alone."
The girl leaned closer. "They did a spell last year to give her partial sight, but it was too strong and she sees onto the astral plane now," she gossiped. "Then she was kidnaped and nearly killed! The people must have been insane. *Any* and *every* Gryff has fierce protectors in their Heads and they'll always be found."
"Uncle Xander would probably come looking for me," Agatha told her.
Ryan patted her hand. "Mr. Malfoy is like a son to Xander so we're all protected," he assured her. He handed over the basket of scones. "Scone?" She took one and opened it to butter it generously. "How are the schedules looking?"
"Oh," the girl said, passing the stack over. "Take yours and pass it down, Ryan." He nodded and dug both of theirs out, handing Agatha hers. "Eww, Magical Creatures first," she said sympathetically. "Have fun with the dogs."
"I get on well with dogs," Agatha told her. "Is Hagrid still teaching it?" Everyone nodded. She smiled. "Then we'll be fine." She finished her breakfast and stood up but Ryan pulled her back down. "I know where our class is going to be."
"He's still up there. It wouldn't do to look too anxious." He scraped his plate and stood up, grabbing his books. "I'll show you the best place to watch the other classes on the way out. It's on the mezzanine." He nearly jumped when he heard the giant snore. "Oh, dear."
Dumbledore was looking at Hagrid, as was most of the rest of the staff. "Take him down to his rooms," he ordered gently. "He must have had a bad night." He stood up. "Care of Magical Creatures today will be a study hall," he announced. "Please use the time to familiarize yourself with the library." Xander leaned down and whispered in his ear, making the older man nod. "Then take him upstairs please," he said calmly. "If anyone feels the start of the wizard flu coming on, please see Madam Pomfrey immediately," he announced, then he went back to his breakfast.
It was really comical. Iggy and Snape stood up at the same time, both wiping their mouths after shoveling in one last bite, and both headed down to the dungeons, the apprentice behind the master. A few of the kids snickered, knowing that Iggy wouldn't mind too much. Simone glared at them though, stopping it rather quickly.
Ryan led Agatha out, going to show her his favorite spot to watch the grounds before they went to the library and he helped her familiarize herself.
Anastasia walked into potions and handed over the note before Professor Snape could say anything. He raised an eyebrow. "My mother packed the wrong bundle into the attic," she said dryly. "They're coming today, sir."
"Very well. I will forgive your attire this once. Next time, borrow one." He looked over her lithe body. "Never mind, you'd never fit into anyone else's, would you?" She shook her head. "Go find a seat and leave Ignatius alone."
"Yes, sir." She went to sit next to one of her dormmates. "What's going on?"
"Nasty business, wizard's flu," the girl said, smiling at her. "You don't have any robes?"
"My mother bundled the wrong set of clothes into the attic and gave me my sister's clothes from last year. I don't fit into them at *all*," she sighed. "These are the boys'."
The girl tittered. "You fit into Denver's pants?"
"And Iggy's shirts," Anastasia agreed. Iggy glanced at her and smiled. "I'll have to wash them before I give them back."
"Yes, you will," Iggy agreed, stirring the pot gently.
"Did I not tell you to leave him alone?" Snape asked from the front of the room.
"He initiated contact," Anastasia told him in her most queenly voice, pulling out her favorite mannerisms. She had been willing to give him a chance because Iggy said nice things about him, but let him pick on her just once. She stared him down and he chuckled evilly. "Sir, are we doing potions today? I noticed you didn't demand us to bring down our cases and cauldrons."
"No, next class," he told her. He counted heads. "Agatha Potter?"
"Getting a drink," Anastasia's seatmate told him. "She got overheated last class." He nodded. She leaned closer. "She'll be the one he'll favor so just relax. You can only make it worse for the rest of us."
Anastasia smiled at her. "What makes you think he hates me already? I'm very likeable if you don't get on my bad side."
"Yes, you do remind me of your sister and father," Snape agreed as he walked back to check on Iggy's progress. "Why won't that thicken?"
"Because the fire's starting to go out and you told me to let it go out," Iggy told him. "It's thicker, but not the double thickness you wanted."
"Very well. Keep stirring." He turned and looked at Anastasia. "Don't make your sister's mistakes," he warned, heading back to his desk.
Anastasia burst out laughing. "My sister and I share almost nothing in common," she told him. "I'm not the mouth she is and I'm not the tomboy either." Iggy snickered. "Nor do I play quidditch." She glared at him then looked back at the teacher. "I think you'll find I'm the perfect meld of my parents, whereas Simone is my father's daughter and Ravena my mother's." He tipped his head in acknowledgment. "By the way, my father suggested that I do something horrible to you, just once. I told him it might be funny, but I'd have to think about it."
Iggy giggled. "I'm sure Uncle Draco will be happy to hear that you're not going to be expelled."
"Stir, boy, not talk."
"Yes, sir." Iggy scraped the sides of the large cauldron down and continued to stir. He glanced at his cousin, who really was a princess. Oohhh, two princesses in the same school. That was going to be an interesting explosion when they got together again. He bounced excitedly, the potion was thickening rapidly. "Sir, I need you to come lift this," he announced in the middle of the normal 'scare the first years' speech. "It's getting too thick." The cauldron was lifted away and put aside with a flick of Snape's wand. "Let me get a drink and I'll come bottle," Iggy told him. Snape nodded, releasing him to do so.
Snape went back to his lecture. "I don't expect any of you to be any good at potions," he sneered. Agatha Potter walked in. "How nice of you to join us," he told her, looking down his nose at her. She handed him a slip from the nurse. "Take your seat." She sat across from Anastasia. "Another seat if you please. I do not need another Malfoy-Potter war." Agatha obediently took another seat, on the other side of the room from Anastasia. "Thank you. As I was saying, I do not expect any of you to be any good at this subject, but you will learn at least a little from me." He watched as Iggy walked back in with a crate of glass bottles, nodding them at the work table by his desk. "We will forgo the usual lesson for the day and bottle the potion as a class. Together it might all get done this class." A loud crash happened behind him, making him spin and glare at his apprentice. "Did you fall?"
"No, sir, I was pushed," Iggy said, sitting up and examining his hands and knees. He glanced around. "By what I'm not sure, but I felt a hand in the middle of my back."
Anastasia raised her hand and waited patiently for Snape to look at her. "Sir, I did see a ghost there, but not one of the ones at the feast last night," she said. "A small outline, possibly a teenager."
"Moaning Myrtle?" one girl suggested.
"She wouldn't dare come in here," Snape snapped. "Ignatius, clean up that mess and get more bottles."
"These were the last that I could find, sir. I can go get some." Professor Snape looked at him. "With a note of course," he finished with a grin. "I'm in Magical Creatures right now after all."
"Fine. Clean up that mess and I'll write you a letter." Snape used his wand to flick the cauldron over to the work table. "You," he said, pointing at Anastasia. "Since you are so sharp eyed, you will measure out the correct amounts of potion into large beakers and hand them out to be poured by your classmates." She nodded, going to grab the tray of large beakers and carry them over to the work table. "We'll want sixty grams in each beaker." She pulled out the scale that was under the worktable and searched for weights. "I'll find them for you in a moment."
"Yes, sir," Anastasia agreed, setting things out in a way that was best for her.
"The rest of you will be measuring out two grams per bottle and pouring that amount into the bottles, once we have them." He spun and grabbed the weight set off his desk, handing the correct one to the girl, then went to check on the bottles. Two trays were mostly undamaged. "Check your bottles carefully," he announced, putting those out. He wrote a short note and handed Iggy some money. "You have twenty minutes," he told him.
"Yes, sir," Iggy said with a grin. He disappeared from there, making everyone else gasp.
"He's gryphon born, they can do that," Agatha said in the quiet. She accepted two of the bottles and the first beaker, reweighing it just in case. Then she set a bottle on her scale to allow for the weight of the bottle before weighing. She poured the first one and handed it to the teacher for checking. "Is that correct?" she asked. He nodded, giving her a small smirk. "How many are we making?"
"Five pallets worth. We'll need to stock up on this before anyone else gets sick." He put the bottle carefully into the tray and turned to correct the rest of the idiots. Obviously, she had learned something from her mother before she had went bad.
Iggy popped into Diagon, letter already out so he could wave the school seal. "Bottles," he said whenever anyone looked at him. He walked into the potion's shop, handing the letter over. "I got shoved by something," he explained at the look the shopkeeper was giving him.
"It'll take me a minute to get these from the back. Why don't you go get yourself a treat, Ignatius?"
Iggy grinned and took the letter. "Thanks, man, that's really nice of you." He jogged out, going to get himself some Twizzlers. He loved his Twizzlers, and he could eat them in the lab. He came back a minute later and looked at the bottles. "We need the two gram ones," he complained. "Wizard flu outbreak. Starting with Hagrid."
The shopkeeper winced. "We're out of two grams. We've got three grams or the one and a half."
"Let me pop back and I'll be right back." He put down one of his thumbtacks on the floor and left, going back to the lab. "Sir, they're out of two gram bottles. Did you want one and a half or three?"
"Three would be fine," Snape told him. "And how long will it be?"
"I don't now yet. He sent me out while he hefted and toted." Iggy went back to his thumbtack and smiled. "The three would be fine and he wanted to know how long it'll be before we get more two grams."
"Probably another month. The glassmaker I used just changed ownership when the old man died." He smiled at the obvious bag of treats. "Most kids your age like chocolate."
"Ah, but these I can eat in the lab," Iggy said with a grin, stuffing one of the strings of cherry licorice into his mouth. He touched the pallets of three gram bottles and disappeared with them. "Here we are," he said around his treat. It was taken from his mouth and tossed out. "Hey! He told me to get a treat while he brought them from the back." He pulled out another one and stuck it into his mouth as soon as his mentor's back was turned. "The glassmaker he uses just died and someone else took over so it's going to be about two months, possibly a month at the least." Snape nodded. "Want me to lift these?"
"No." Snape turned and found him chewing on another one, glaring at him. "Do put those away, Ignatius. It is not proper etiquette to eat in front of others."
"Anyone want a piece of cherry licorice?" he asked. Anastasia turned and opened her mouth so he stuck one in there. "Anyone else?" A few other kids held up a hand so he stuck them in their mouths too. "Do not touch that potion to the candy," he told them. "Not only will it eat the candy, it'll start eating your flesh. You'll just have to learn to eat it without your hands while you're working." He smirked at his favorite professor. "Anything else I can do, sir?"
"No. With the ghost targeting you I wouldn't want you to carry the full ones up the stairs."
"Okay. I'll go tell Madam Pomfrey that you've got some bottled so she can carry them." He skipped out, going up to the infirmary, where his next lesson was anyway. "Hey," he said as he walked in. Denver looked over at him. "No medicine?"
"Knocked in the head," he said, moving the washcloth away from his forehead to show off the gash.
"Eww. Corner stone?" Denver nodded. "Then let me get that." He pulled his wand and closed the small wound gently. "There you go. Have her check it." He looked over his shoulder smiling at the nurse standing there. "Did I do it correctly?" She nodded. "Another quality lesson learned in the junior quidditch league," he said happily, hopping up onto the bed as soon as his cousin was gone. "I was shoved by something ghostlike so we're putting them into three gram bottles. Professor Snape didn't want me to carry them since whatever it was had already shoved me once."
"That's fine, I'll have that nice Professor Malfoy go get them for me," Madam Pomfrey told him. She pointed at the bag in his pocket. "What are those?"
He handed her one. "Cherry licorice. I can eat them without using my hands." He stuck another into his mouth and slowly slurped it up as he chewed.
She shook her head and walked away. "I'm going to assign you to learn anatomy this term," she announced. "Come get this book and read it."
"Yes, ma'am." He slid off the bed and went to get the book, taking it down to the library, where everyone else was, to get into it. Simone reached into his pocket and stole a Twizzler for herself. "I only got the small bag," he complained.
"Yay. You always share with us." She ate her licorice happily, then noticed he was looking at a graphic picture of guts. "Eww. What's that?"
"The small intestine," he said, pointing at the caption. She shuddered and moved away from him. "Hey, I've got to learn healing. That means I've got to get used to guts and muscles and all that other good stuff. That's why I got to stay awake when Lucien was born."
"Point," Denver said as he joined them. "Your dad's on a rip."
"I had permission to leave. I was getting bottles." He looked over his shoulder, staring intently at the hallway, sending that message to his father. He got back a sigh and an eye roll. "He's okay with it now." He went back to flipping through the book for interesting pictures before starting to absorb it.
"Is that a brain?" Denver asked, pointing. Iggy nodded. "Eww. You study gross stuff."
"Yeah, but I have to because healing potions are the most normative ones we do." Iggy flipped the page. "Oh, look, newborn baby slime." Both of his cousins moved down another seat. "What? It's not that bad. We've seen that before on Lucien and Maeve."
Madam Prince tapped him on the back of the head. "Do lower your tone, young man. You know better." He gave her a smile and a nod. "Thank you." She looked at his book. "I had no idea you were starting that course already."
"Madam Pomfrey said I should since I show a knack for it. She's hoping I'll follow her instead of Professor Snape I think. Do we have any other anatomy books around here? For cross-referencing."
"In the second section from the door, all three blue books are anatomy texts from the usual class." He nodded and went to get them, and she smiled at his back. She adored that boy. Always so good in her library. She snatched the piece of licorice from Simone's fingers. "No food around the books, young lady. I won't have you making them sticky." She tossed it out and went back to her desk, knowing Iggy wouldn't need help.
Iggy came back with three more books and spread them out to cross-check with his primary source. The class change gong rang and he sighed, picking up his books to check them out.
Iggy looked up as his room was invaded by a screeching golden bird. "Hey, you." He accepted her onto his bed and took the message. 'Want to sneak out tonight. Si'. He snorted and grabbed a quill. "My father will kill me, like locking me into Slytherin's library and disabling the release mechanism kill me," he wrote. He handed the message back. "Go to Simone," he told the baby, giving it many head pets before it would leave. That one needed a bit more training.
"Yes, he will," his father called from the doorway, apparently walking past it. "Meeting."
"Yes, daddy," Iggy said, putting down his new textbooks. He pulled back on a t-shirt and headed down to the common room. "Hey," he said as he joined the other members of his house team. "How long before we start practice?"
"We're not doing anything until we have a new Captain and the rainstorm that's supposed to be coming stops," the other beater, now a fifth year told him. He looked over at him. "Cute shirt, kid."
Iggy looked down at his father's old smiley face shirt, then shrugged. "I did the laundry, I get to steal the old t-shirts." He looked over his shoulder as his father came down the stairs, moving a few of the older kids in front of him. "What's up?"
"The annual speech we missed last night," Xander told him. "Ron's sick too." Iggy winced. "How does that medicine work?"
"Supposedly it makes the flu go by faster," he told him. "Does he have it in the bad sense like Hagrid does?" Xander nodded. "Okay, then I'll check on the potion myself tomorrow." He looked at his teammates. "Who gets Captaincy this time?"
"We'll meet about that tomorrow," Denver told him. "Right after dinner."
"We'll make sure to take your books from you," Simone told him.
"Good. Thanks. Guys, usual speech," he yelled. Most of the other kids slowly moved closer, and the few who were upstairs were gotten by their dormmates. "Go ahead, dad."
"Thanks, Iggy," Xander said with a grin for his son. "Okay, first off. Anastasia, Ginny called me. Your clothes are in the back of the attic and she had to move stuff to get to them, but she couldn't do it today. She'll bring them up tomorrow, so I guess you're either going to have to wash those or borrow more." She nodded. "As for everything else, I'm Professor Xander Harris, co-head of Gryffindor with Professor Weasley. Ron's in the infirmary with the wizard flu so you've only got me right now." Most of the older kids nodded. "This is basically the same speech as last year," he noted, and most of the seventh years left. They had gotten a horrible paper handed to them earlier in Transfiguration by Professor Black. "For those of you who didn't get to hear last year's, here's the quick rundown. No one picks on Andrea Reams or they'll face my wrath, which is very mighty." The members of the family nodded, looking totally serious. "My rooms, and Professor Weasley's rooms, are in an adjoining tower and you're allowed to come use our living room as a common area as long as you don't get annoying or hog the tv. If you're over there, the blue chair is mine and the red throne chair is my husband's. Everywhere else is fair game."
He clapped his hands and a small body attacked him. "Hey, Vinnie." He smiled at the little boy. "We have children, both Professor Weasley and myself. This is Vinnie, Ron's son, and he has two twin sisters, Minnie Ramona and Gwen Stephanie. They're all blond. As for mine, Iggy is mine, Maeve is mine - but you'll see her a lot with Professor Maclay - and William Steven is mine. There's another one who likes to pop around, named Lucien, and he's a blonde too. He's Simone, Denver, and Anastasia's youngest brother. You'll find that they like to come over here and visit the older kids so you'll probably see as much of them as you do me. So help you Merlin, if I find you picking on the kids this year, you'll wish you had detentions with Snape." The older kids all looked at the kid who had picked on Gwen last year, and he blanched. Apparently he had gotten the point. "Other than that, I'm usually a very nice guy, as is Ron. We welcome all you guys to our house as long as you're not being annoying. We answer questions and butt in frequently. I'm one of those people that you can ask anything or come to me about anything. I only turn in kids who need it to save their lives. As for what I've heard, I've heard *everything*. I've helped a few kids who were under death threats, literally, and I've helped some who had more minor problems. So, whatever's worrying you isn't that bad and I can deal with it if you want my help." The kids nodded. "Good. Guys, did I forget anything?"
Iggy raised his hand. "You forgot the lecture for us."
Xander stared down at him. "I was hoping not to have to give you another one after the talk we had before school started." Iggy and Simone both looked down at the ground. "Good, glad the point got through." He smiled. "Anything else?"
"Sir, what's the deal with Agatha Potter?" one of the fifth years asked. "We noticed she wasn't expelled."
"No, she wasn't," Xander said, summoning a chair over so he could sit.
Vinnie climbed up into his lap, he had been good so he got to come over here with the Uncle. He gave the Uncle a hug and grinned at his cousins, all of whom smiled back. "Good me," he said happily.
"Yes, you were a very good boy, that's why you got to come tonight," Xander agreed, giving him a pat. "Agatha Potter was warped at a very young age by her mother and her mother's desire for power. Her mother, and her father as you know, used to be part of this house. Her mother ended up turning to chaos magic after leaving and was warped by it." He held up a hand to silence the discussion. "I'm not telling you this so you can pick on her. Picking on her is a sure way to get hurt. I'm telling you guys this so you don't pick on her. Got it?" They mostly nodded. "No one picks on the Slytherin Princess and everyone survives. I have no doubt that she'll do something very drastic if you pick on her, dampening bracelet aside. She's safe and she's promised not to hurt anyone so just leave her alone." He looked at Anastasia, who shrugged. "I mean it."
One of the Prefects smiled at Xander. "If they get a Princess, we should have one too."
"That would me be," Anastasia said as she stood up, letting everyone see her in her brother's tanktop. "If anyone around here is a princess, it's me."
Iggy snorted. "Yeah, because those elves said you were."
Simone swatted him. "I got taken too, thank you."
"Yeah, but she looked better in the outfit," Denver pointed out.
Simone shrieked and smacked the both of them as hard as she could.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," Iggy told her. "But Anastasia has always been the princess of the family. You're too tough to be a princess. Princesses don't play beater, they play seeker."
"Yuck," Anastasia told him, looking disgusted. "I don't play quidditch. Sweating is for boys." The girls all laughed and clapped. "Thank you. As my loving cousin pointed out, I've always been a princess at heart. The elves capturing me last year just brought it a bit more forward, especially when I'm upset with you. So I'm really sorry in advance if I pull it on any of you. I'll calm down within weeks."
Xander nodded. "If anyone's got the title of Princess, it's her. She's got the crown and the lineage to pull it off." He smiled at Simone. "And truthfully, aren't you more happy not to be a princess? Having to watch what you do and say?"
Simone snorted. "Bloody great with me," she agreed.
"Simone, if we have to have another discussion about your language, Dumbledore has promised at home suspensions this time, and Ginny's said that you're going to be going to work with her or Percy." She shuddered and snuggled back into her brother and cousin's arms. "Thank you." He stood up, letting Vinnie sit on the floor. "Was there anything else?"
"When are tryouts?" a first year girl asked. "I always wanted to be a seeker."
"The first game's in two months," Iggy told her. "Flying lessons start next week and tryouts are after your third lesson traditionally." She nodded, turning to talk to the girl beside her. "The team is going to meet tomorrow to find a new Captain."
Xander nodded. "Good. You could probably use one." He looked at the larger group. "Do learn from last year's mistakes, all right, guys? Last year was horrible for most everyone and we don't want a repeat. If only so that I don't have to do classes by signs again." Iggy got up and hugged him. "Thanks, son."
"Don't get hurt this year, dad, we don't need you hurt again." He looked around. "In case my dad didn't mention, and you didn't hear it from the first years already, I'm a gryphon born. If this is going to cause anyone any trouble, yay. Get over it already. My father is the source of pranks for the castle, having a direct link back to Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. I'm a potion person. Simone is Transfiguration and animals. Denver is great in the Defense stuff. Our other cousin is in Hufflepuff so you'll be seeing a lot of him too. His thing is Herbology in case you needed any help."
Andrea laughed. "Good. I missed Melvin over the summer." A few other kids nodded and made assenting noises. "When are we expecting him?"
"This weekend," Simone told her. "Uncle Xander, what are the arrangements this year?"
The Head Boy stepped up. "I understand why Gregory let you guys into each other's rooms, and I'm going to allow it to continue, with a few alterations. No being on the other sex's bed. That means that you can pull a chair up if someone's having nightmares, but you can't climb into bed with them." Iggy glared at him. "Sorry, man, but it does set a bad precedent and the older kids will claim the same right and do other things besides sleep. If you need that sort of holding," he pointed at a large couch in the corner, "that's really comfortable to sleep on. Done it myself a few times and there's enough room for five of you younger kids. Got it?" The fab foursome nodded and Vinnie giggled. He smiled at the boy then looked at the group. "As for visiting privileges, they're the first to go if I have to deal with the mouth from Hell." He looked at Simone, who smiled sweetly. "And you have to get permission of the other inhabitants each time you go to visit. Andrea, honey, I know that Pumpkin is getting old, but she's shedding so can you please brush her tonight?"
"Sure. I can even give her a bath if you're willing to surrender the downstairs bathroom."
"Not necessary," he told her. "The smell would kill the seventh years right now." She nodded. "Just brushing would be good. Any other questions?" One girl raised her hand. "Yes?"
"Who're you?' she asked.
"I'm Michael, I'm the Head Boy. On the hierarchy of power around here, there's the Heads, then me and the Head Girl, then the Prefects." He pointed them all out. "If you're having problems with one of the other students in the house and you think it's too trivial to go wake up Xander, you come to one of us and complain. Got me?" She nodded, looking happier. "Any other questions?"
"Are we going to have to babysit?" one fifth year asked.
Xander shrugged. "We don't demand it and someone usually escorts the kids over when they want to come play." Iggy raised his hand. "Yup, usually him or one of the other cousins. There are occasions when we'll need a real sitter, and we pay for whomever we pick for those times." She nodded. "But if you mean, when they wander over are you responsible for them the answer is no. Unless you catch them doing stupid stuff like trying to play with the fire, they're usually being watched by Iggy or Simone."
Vinnie walked over to the girl talking and grinned up at her, tugging her skirt when she didn't notice him. "Hi!" he said happily. "You give huggies?"
"Of course," she sighed, bending down to hug him for a second. "How's that?"
He giggled and kissed her on the cheek. "You nice! Me like you!"
"Vinnie, no new girlfriends," Xander told him. The little boy came back to his side, with a short stop to hug Denver. "If you'd like to have him leave you alone, don't read to any of them," he advised.
"And with that speech, you're officially adopted until you graduate," Iggy added, cracking a bunch of the older students up. He smiled at that one. "Don't worry about it. If they get annoying, you come find one of us and hand them to us. We deal really well with the kiddie issues. Gwen is the hardest because she'll do cute to get you to like her."
"Yeah, Gwen doesn't always take hints," Xander agreed. "Then again, neither does Lucien during meals."
"They'll be eating with us?" one first year boy asked.
"No, the kids have their own table behind the teacher's table," Xander told him. "Occasionally they wander down to help you guys eat, or to pick on the Slytherins, or in Minnie's case the Ravenclaws because they wear pretty colors, but they eat with us." The students nodded. "If they get *really* annoying, then you simply come and give them to us. That's what's worked so far. If anyone has any problems, I'm going to be in my chair watching HBO." Iggy raised a hand. "No, your books still aren't in." Iggy sighed. "Anything else?" No one said anything. "Then you guys finish settling in. I'm sure one of the older kids will show you where the connecting hallway is if you need anything." He walked out, taking Vinnie with him, even though he tried to go play with his new friend. "No, you can play with her some other time," he told him. "It's time for a bath and Uncle Fred is up." Vinnie quit wiggling to get away and kicked him to make him go faster, just like he had seen people do to horsies. Uncle Fred gave good baths!
Iggy looked out his classroom window, frowning when he saw Madam Hooch lying on the ground. Professor Binns called his name so he pointed outside. "May I be excused, sir? Madam Hooch is on the ground and has been for the last few minutes." Professor Binns nodded so he disappeared, running out of the hallway and down the stairs, thinking hard about having one of the healers coming their way too. He skidded to a halt beside the prone body, squatting down to check her over. Stunned or out cold. He looked around at the worried faces. "What happened?"
"Shouldn't we get a nurse?"
"I summoned one," Iggy said, straightening up. "What happened?"
"I couldn't control it and I ran her over," one girl sobbed against another kid's side.
Iggy came over and gave her a hug. "It's okay. Something bad happens every year. This year it was just in the middle of the scale." The girl looked up at him. "My first flying lesson three kids took off out of control. One toward the school, one straight up, and the one I went after was heading for the Whomping Willow. Two brooms were killed but none of the students. This is middle of the road bad, don't worry so much." He looked around as he heard running feet. Denver and Simone. "Okay, since none of the student healers are coming, someone go get ...." Madam Pomfrey hurried out with her stretcher. "Hey, good timing," he called in greeting. "Everyone back in your lines." The students looked stunned. "I'm one of the chasers for Gryffindor and I've been flying since I was five and a half. I can do this part until we know how she is."
Simone nodded. "The only way to get over this is to get back on and try again." She looked at the amassed Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. "Melvin!" she yelled, knowing he was in the greenhouses. He came puffing around the side of the school. "Good, you're drafted." She pointed at some of the students in Hufflepuff. "You six are with Melvin. You seven Ravenclaws are mine. The other two remaining groups go to one of the chasers each." They split apart a little bit.
"Okay," Iggy called. "I'm assuming we're doing up and downs. So everyone on their brooms." Everyone mounted. "Float up a foot and only a foot." He held his hand about his waist height in front of the first kid. "Come up and touch my hand with the front of your broom," he said in a gentler tone of voice. The kid came up and nearly nudged him. "Few more inches. This is about control." His hand was smacked. "Okay, back down and try it again." The kid tried it again and again, getting it on the third try. "Good. Land." The kid landed and beamed at him. "Good job." He moved to the next one. "You too, up."
"The broom fought," the girl who had been crying said. "It didn't want to land."
"Honey, I'm right here," Iggy reminded her. "I can snatch you off that broom before it takes off with you. Trust me?" She nodded and swallowed, floating up until the broom touched his hand and barely moved it. "Now push the tip down and try to land." She pushed it down and the broom vibrated, and he grabbed her right before it took off. "We've got probs," he said, pointing at the broom that was still going.
Simone whistled, bringing one of the chicks. "Go fetch the broom," she told it, pointing at the fastly departing piece of wood. The phoenix chick took off after it like a shot. This was fun! "Murphy, follow just in case, it's spelled," she called when she noticed Murphy resting nearby. Murphy cheeped and took off after his granddaughter, going to help her. Simone looked at the other kids. "Like Iggy said, we can grab you off the brooms if something happens. Trust us." She moved to her next student, helping her come up. She rose quickly and Simone reached out to steady her. "Slower. This is about control not speed. Speed is another lecture." The girl nodded and landed then came back up, moving up to touch Simone's hand. "Good." She moved onto the next one since that one had no trouble landing. This one had another funky broom and Denver ended up jumping up and catching the poor kid as he took off horizontally backwards.
"Let's pile the strange ones in the center," Melvin suggested, helping his students. He moved his hand up a bit for the next one. By the time they got done with all students, the phoenixes had retrieved three brooms and there were a total of five piled in the center of the group. Melvin looked at the others. "Iggy?"
He raised his wand. "Accio broom," he called, bringing his old broom to him. Simone and Denver both stared at him. "My old one," he said, showing it off. "I'm not giving out my quidditch broom." He moved to the five students and helped them see that it was okay on a good broom. "Denver, see if you can tell what the spell is. Simone, go see if Madam Pomfrey needs help." Together he and Melvin got the students working on their ups and downs, varying heights on them to target. By the time the class change bell rang, Madam Pomfrey had finally moved Madam Hooch and Dumbledore had come out to watch them. Iggy turned and clasped his hands behind his back. "Sorry, sir, but I saw her lying on the ground and came out to help. I thought keeping the students occupied would be for the best."
Dumbledore smiled at him. "Very good work, all of you. Ten points each." The other kids all smiled.
Denver nudged Simone. "Must be a change, you winning the house points." She slugged him in the stomach, then patted him on the back. "Never mind," he groaned. "Won't pick on you again today."
"Thank you," Simone said sweetly, smiling at the Headmaster. "Is there another one today?"
"Indeed there is, but Professor Harris will be filling in while you're in Potions." They all nodded. "Do have a good time for the rest of the day, children." He pointed at the small pile. "Are those the ones that weren't working right?"
Denver straightened up. "They're enchanted to fight if forced to land," he explained. "That's all I could tell, just the 'fight against landing' function of the spell."
"Very well. I'll take them inside and have someone else look them over." He looked at Iggy. "Why use your hand?"
"That's how dad taught me to fly," Iggy said with a shrug. "Uncle Fred told Dad to teach me one day while he was bored so he took me out back and did just that with me. It gives you a worry that you're going to hurt someone so you want to control it faster."
Dumbledore nodded. Interesting. "Thank you, Ignatius. Please go to class. You'll find someone took all your books for you to Professor Weasley's class."
"Who's teaching it since Uncle Ron's in the infirmary," Simone said as she started to walk.
"I'm afraid we've not decided that much yet," Dumbledore told her. "This year is starting out slow."
"Beats last year," Denver quipped. The other kids nodded, going to their respective classes. Melvin had Transfiguration this period, while they had it next time.
Dumbledore frowned at the brooms. Why were they acting up? They'd never had this problem before. A student perhaps? He gathered them up and took them into the school, ignoring the struggling going on in the old wood. He walked into the dungeon and stopped, noticing Professor Snape face-down on the desk. "Oh, dear." He checked him over, then summoned the nurse. He found the students staring at him in shock. "When did this happen?"
"He just collapsed," one of the fifth years said. "We weren't sure if we should check on him or not. He'd usually yell at us for getting near him."
"Very well. Sit there and I'll have Ignatius come down and run your lessons." He turned and found Xander standing there. "Nothing much you can do about this one."
"Iggy?" he called. His son came jogging down the stairs. "Run the lesson the right way," he said gently. "Then look over the potion for the flu." Iggy saw his mentor lying on the desk and moved to him but his father stopped him. "I mean it."
Iggy nodded and checked Professor Snape, then looked at the class. "Usually you'd have one of the seventh years right now, but you've got me." He lifted his mentor's head carefully and pulled out the lesson plans to look at. "Page six of your books please and start on the potion. I will be deducting points for stupidity." He hopped up to sit on the workbench so he could watch them. "Stupidity to me is defined as carelessness with intent. That means you had better measure everything this time. I'm not cleaning up your messes again." One of the Slytherins laughed. "Yeah, yuck it up. Last year you nearly destroyed the hallway with something. You should have been cleaning it up not the kids on detention that night. Now, get started please, or have a problem with time."
Everyone flipped open their books. Any official words from Iggy's mouth were as if they came from Snape's mouth.
Dumbledore smiled at Iggy. "Very nicely done," he said quietly. "See me after this class is done. He has a free period." Iggy nodded and went back to watching the kids.
"Take the time and do your Transfiguration homework," Xander suggested, getting out of the way of the school nurse." He headed back to his room, he was one of the few teachers who was holding classes today.
Madam Pomfrey came over and touched Iggy's arm. "Come up to the infirmary first. I'll have him awake by then so you can talk to him about the potion. It's not working." Iggy nodded. "Thank you, Ignatius."
"I live to serve," Iggy told her with a grin. He pulled out a piece of chocolate frog and nibbled on it, looking up every now and then as he did his homework. He had to pass Transfiguration no matter what and he sucked at it. Theory was not his thing.
Iggy leaned over his mentor to give him a hug. "I'm sorry you got sick," he said, backing away. "Where is the potion, or didn't you write it down?"
Snape opened his mouth but no sound came out. He licked his lips and nodded.
"Okay, is it in the big red book, the big green book, or the big blue book? Or one of the others?" His mentor paused then nodded. "The big green book?" Snape nodded again so he summoned it, sitting down with his copy of the potion he had made yesterday. He copied every spell he did for his master so he could refer back to the notes he made. "These are different." He yawned. It had been a long day. Not only his classes, but then teaching kids how to fly and then two how to measure properly. "I took five points off Gryffindor for you, sir," he said as he read. "Blatant stupidity. Throwing handfuls of ivy stems in without measuring or chopping." He looked up and grinned. "And I took ten off Slytherin for similar offenses because I wasn't cleaning that one up." Snape shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Hey, I'm not the head of their house. It was bad enough that I had to teach someone how to measure with weights and another with measuring cups." He shook his head. "These are two different spells, sir." He put them together and handed them over, hopping up onto the end of the bed to watch him read. "Which one is the right one?" Snape tapped the book. "Okay. I'll get on it with the sixth years." He yawned again.
Snape purposely dropped the book, bringing the nurse. He pointed at his student and she checked him over.
"Oh, Iggy, you've got it too," Madam Pomfrey sighed. He shrugged. "You'll have to stay up here."
"Bet me. I've got to go make the potion so it works." Snape snapped his fingers and shook his head. He tapped his wrist. "You want *Agatha* to make it? If she does, I'm not drinking it." He slid off the bed. "I'll be okay for a while, and the potion only takes two hours to brew." He looked at the nurse. "Do I have that much time?" She nodded. "Then I'll go down and start on that. Can you please have someone call Melvin, I still suck at herb identification." His mentor sighed. "You knew I had faults when you chose me," he teased with a grin. "Come check on me in about two hours," he requested, going to do the potion. He thought at Dumbledore, knowing the old man could hear him and would meet him downstairs. He ran into someone carrying Simone and stopped to check her over. "It's the wizard flu. Take her up, I'm working on an improved potion. And someone tell Denver if he's not collapsed." He jogged the rest of the way. He didn't have any time to waste if it was getting Simone. They hadn't been apart all day. He walked into the back of the Headmaster. "The potion was the wrong one," he said, pulling down his copy of the book and finding the spell. Yeah, this was the right one. He summoned the biggest cauldron available and set it up. Melvin hurried in. "Get me anything stemmy and herby," he ordered. "It calls for a fine mince on everything except for the sleeping draught components." Melvin nodded and went to the supply cabinet. He had done this before for both of them. "Sir, with no offense, but I've probably only got two hours before I collapse."
Melvin coughed. "'Scuse me?" he asked.
"Simone just collapsed."
"Shite," Melvin swore. He grabbed the book so he could start pulling out drawers. "How much are we making?"
"Enough for the whole damn school," Iggy told him. He smiled at Dumbledore as he moved past him, lighting the fire in the main fireplace so they could work in there. "Is my dad still okay?"
"Your father has an amazing constitution," Dumbledore told him. "Are you sure you have enough time?"
"Snape just caught me yawning and Madam Pomfrey agreed that I had it, but that I probably had enough time. This only takes two hours to brew. I can force myself to stay up that long." The Headmaster nodded and gave him a smile. "Just make sure I get some of this, okay?"
"Of course. If it works on you."
"If it doesn't, then please write my penpal and have *her* come fix it. She's got access to all the gryphon healing potions ever created and would know what to use." Dumbledore nodded. "Thank you, sir." He got out of Melvin's way as he carried over the first batch of ingredients. "Oh, and, sir, please call a study hall for Potions. I can't run the dunderheads and do this."
Dumbledore laughed. "Of course, Ignatius. I'm sure you're getting in good practice for when you take on this job."
Iggy snorted. "And have to deal with *teenagers*?" he asked, sounding horrified. "Oh, sir, please, no!" he mock-begged. "Not hormonal time bombs of disinterest." Melvin snickered. "Sure, stick up for me. By the time Snape retires, Madam Sprout will be looking for a replacement too." Melvin looked horrified.
"At least you'll be together," Dumbledore said with a fond air as he went to check on everyone else. Something was going on and he wasn't sure what. How had Severus done the wrong potion? He decided to stop in and ask him.
Xander looked around the flying class, giving them a smile. "All right. The problem with the brooms yesterday was found so you're all safe today. Anyone who's flown, move to the left end of the line." A few kids on each side trickled that way. "Anyone who's scared spitless on the right side so I can spend the most time with you." One or two kids moved to the right and got in line. "Good. Now, we're doing ups and downs first. Put your hand over your broom and say 'up'." The brooms all came up. "Excellent. The year I learned a few didn't." He checked to make sure everyone had them. "Now mount your broom and lift off no more than a foot. Just enough to be floating off the ground so your feet can't touch." One of the Gryffs started to hyperventilate so he headed for her. He noticed someone walking toward him. "Hey, Harry," he said with a smile. "Come to help?"
"Yeah. Dumbledore said you needed it." He looked around. "Where are the ones needing help?"
"Start up there and make sure they can touch your hand with their broom and land. It's a precision exercise I taught Iggy with."
"I remember you teaching Simone and Denver too when they first came to the Burrow with their new brooms, " he said with a smile, heading for the more experienced riders. "Hi," he said with a smile.
"You're Harry Potter," one of the Slytherins said, then looked at his daughter.
"Hi, dad," Agatha said dryly. "Filling in for the sickness?"
"Yes." He put his broom in the holder on his back. "Okay, up to touch my hand," he said, holding it chest height. The first kid went up so he moved back and forth down the two lines, not showing his daughter any favoritism when she didn't get it right the first time. "Try again, Agatha," he said gently. She smacked his hand and moved down. "Thank you. Good try. Now try for control." She did it again, this time with less force. "Excellent. Now land." He moved on, missing her frown at his back. He stepped in front of Anastasia. "I know you hate flying, but you've still got to pass it."
"I can fly, but I don't like to," Anastasia corrected. She flew up and touched his hand with the most gentle pressure then landed. "How was that?" she asked with a smile.
"Excellent control, Anastasia. You obviously learned from your Uncle Charlie." She nodded. He moved down the line, missing her smirk at her cousin. The next kid started to rise too fast and he pulled him off the broom. "You don't want to have to be caught," he said with a gentle smile. She shook her head and rested in his arms until he put her down. "Now, climb back on and try it again, Ms. Shelly." She climbed on and did the exercise correctly, letting him move down the line. He met up with Xander and the problem students. "Now what?"
"Now we do it again, this time with a higher margin. Fly up and hover about four feet up and have each one come up and pull parallel to you." Harry nodded and removed his broom from it's carrier, going up and flying down to the end of the line. "No hurry," he told the girl he was working with. "You'll get there." She nodded and floated up, then surged again. "Loosen your grip," Xander told her. "And land." She floated back down and landed. "Okay, no white knuckles. If you can control your wand, you can control this too," he assured her calmly, pulling out everything he had used to teach four five-year-olds to fly to help him now. "Relax and grip it loosely, like you do your wand." She tried again and smiled brilliantly when she got it. "Very good." He patted her on the back and moved down to the end again, flying up to match Harry. "Now, you first, come up and pull even with me." The girl gripped her broom. "Ah! What did I tell you about too hard?" She nodded and consciously relaxed, floating up to join him. "Good," he praised. "Very nicely done. Now land." She landed and beamed. "Excellent work." He turned to get the first person in Slytherin. "Come on up and join me."
Dumbledore looked at his remaining staff later that night. "The good news is, we have the correct potion made."
Black raised his hand. "Why did Snape make the wrong one?"
"The parchment changed from when he copied it," Dumbledore told him, then he looked at Xander.
"There's one of us without control?" he guessed. Dumbledore nodded. "Have you narrowed it down?"
"To a house. I know it's a Ravenclaw."
"Wonderful, because they all *love* me," Xander said with mock-fondness. "Any idea which year?"
"It would have to be a first year," Madam Pomfrey suggested. "Otherwise it would have happened before."
"You mean like the fairy portal just opening when Simone walked down there?" Xander suggested.
"It opened because she is a female," Dumbledore told him. "Though the timing was odd. It didn't open the first time."
"Her power signature could have been masked by Iggy," Black told them.
"Little known fact, but they're both gryphon-born," Xander told him. The few teachers looked shocked. "It's further back, but I'd put her in Charlie Weasley's power class. Denver too. Melvin I'd probably downgrade to Bill's, but Ravena and Lucien are the more powerful ones in that family."
"Which side?" Tara asked.
"Oh." She smiled. "That's kind of nice." She looked around. "What are we doing about this?"
"The potion should be working by tomorrow," Dumbledore told them. "With any luck, we'll hold real classes next week."
"What about Madam Hooch?" Xander asked.
"She'll be out for at least another week I'm afraid."
Xander grimaced. "I guess I can teach both sections of hers but I'll have to alternate weeks on the Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw section."
"Let me," Draco said as he walked in, looking tired. "Denver was just brought in and I could use something to do." He sat down next to Tara. "How is Severus?"
"Asleep. Iggy passing out for twenty minutes made the potion stronger because he didn't pull it off the heat fast enough." She ran a hand through his hair. "Are you sure you want to teach the Hufflepuffs how to fly?"
"No, but I'm experienced and Potter's taking over the Defense classes until Ron's better." He looked at Xander. "We'll deal with that one tonight."
"Okay," Xander agreed. He looked at Dumbledore. "You know my schedule, where else can I help? And please don't say potions. I suck at it still. I can barely mix kool-aide." Tara giggled.
"I wouldn't dream of asking you to fill in for those classes," Dumbledore said smoothly. "Severus should be up by next week." He smiled at him. "I do have instructions from your son to talk to his penpal if this potion doesn't work for him. He thought it might not." Xander just nodded. "We will do everything we can to help him through this so he doesn't get left behind."
"He's only behind in my class," Black snorted. "The kid's a year ahead in most everything else."
"He's still a year younger so we're not pushing him," Xander told him firmly. Black nodded, shifting away from him. "It's hard enough on him being here a year younger than everyone else. Putting him into third year classes of most everything, a special advanced potion's class, and a second year transfigurations isn't going to help him feel like he fits in."
"No, it won't," Dumbledore agreed. "We normally don't even consider moving students ahead until they're in their fifth year, so we have some time before that becomes an issue." Xander relaxed again. "For right now, hold whatever classes you can. The flying class has been covered. Potions will be a study hall. Defense is covered. Each of your classes and history is covered." He sighed. "The divinations teacher I had chosen decided at the last minute to not come because of this epidemic. Xander, I'll expect you to start with the hiring committee again once everyone's better. Tara, could I ask you to fill in for some sections for now?" She nodded slowly. "Thank you. I know you don't like your gifts getting out, but it's the only thing we can do right now." She nodded again. "Is there anything else that needs to be discussed?"
"What's wrong with Madam Hooch?" Draco asked.
"She hit the back of her head on a rock I'm afraid. Quite a nasty bruise on her brain. She's in London at the hospital. We're hoping she'll be teaching again in two weeks. Can you cover her class next week as well?"
"Definitely," Draco told him. "It's not a problem. My coach has me on suspension because the team's owner didn't like me having my son."
Xander reached over and squeezed his shoulder. "We love Lucien and that's all that's important."
Draco looked at him. "I know. Get off." Xander grinned and reached across Tara, giving the younger man a hug. "Get off!" he shouted, pushing him back. "Bloody great bugger!" Draco sighed, smoothing down his now-wrinkled robes. "You had to do that before my date tonight?"
Xander nodded. "Of course."
Tara chuckled and waved her wand, smoothing out his wrinkles and giving the robes a light starch, just what she did to hers. "How's that?"
"Thank you, my lovely dear," Draco said, kissing her on the cheek. "If you ever get tired of Severus, do think of me." He stood up and winked down at her to show he was teasing. "I'll be back tonight. Lucien is with Ginny." He smirked and left.
"He's stepping out on Ginny?" Black asked. "Is he suicidal?"
"They're in one of their 'out' phases," Xander and Tara said together. He reached over and tickled her, making her squeal.
"I'd say we were done," Dumbledore said with fond amusement. They left those two alone to play. It was good stress relief.
Harry walked out onto the practice pitch and waved at his coach. "Sorry, someone had questions," he explained. "But the good news is that Ron should be back by the middle of next week. He stopped throwing up today."
"That is good news," his coach said, giving him a smile. "Why don't you start warmup?" He looked around. "Oh, didn't know if you'd heard, but we executed a trade last night."
"I'm being traded?" Harry asked.
The coach laughed. "If we traded you, your fans would burn down the stadium, boy. Even if you didn't play that well." Harry nodded, understanding the truth. "No, we traded out our old keeper and a second string chaser for a new keeper. Wood!" he called.
"Oliver," Harry said, lunging over to give him a hug. "How are you? You're on the team now?"
Oliver nodded, pulling back with a grimace. "Yes. My rotator cup got torn season before last so I've been on reserve." He rubbed the sore spot. "Have any rub?"
"Even better, I've got this stuff Professor Harris uses on his knees. It's great, works wonders."
"Harris? I don't remember them."
"Remember when we had that group of muggles in?" Oliver nodded. "Okay, he was the dark haired normal guy among them."
"The guy who turned out to be gryphon born?" he asked, looking confused. Harry nodded. "What does he teach?"
"Paranormal side of the Defense program. Does a great job. His kid's attending now. He's married to George."
"Wow. Things have changed. Never figured George going for a bloke," he said, starting to smile. "Do they get on well?"
"Very well," Harry said with a grin. "You've got to come back with me tonight and meet everyone. Harris performs miracles, even got Malfoy to quit being such a blight on the face of wizardry."
Oliver snickered. "I'm sure it's a nice change. Do you two regularly hang out?" Harry nodded. "He changed that much?"
"He's changed that much. He's only slightly evil, but he's passed on his former traits to his kids."
"Malfoy's got kids?" he asked in shock. "Who slept with him?"
"Ginny Weasley," Harry said with a smirk. Oliver's mouth fell open. "She got knocked up her sixth year, just before that fight." He glanced at his coach, who shuddered. "Sorry."
"S'okay. You two can catch up during practice. I'll let him toss you balls to catch." Harry nodded and grabbed his broom. "Go up and warm up, both of you." Oliver nodded and remounted, heading back up, talking to his former teammate. The coach shook his head. He agreed with Potter, Harris did perform miracles. Maybe he'd be able to work some with Potter's eldest - before she got put into prison. He grabbed his own broom to join the practice. "I want a short scrimmage today," he called out. Everyone nodded and broke out into first and second string teams.
Xander looked up as the infirmary door opened, smiling at Harry. "Hey. Just checking on Iggy."
"Still out?" Harry asked, coming in to look down at the boy. "Why isn't the medicine working? It worked on Simone and Denver."
"It's the degree of bornness," Xander told him. "Iggy and I are both too close to the originator of our line to have all muggle or even normal wizard medicine work on us. Simone and Denver are both about twice as far back as Iggy and I are," he sighed. "So it's a gryphon potion for him. We're waiting on his penpal to figure out which one we should be using. She's a medical potion person." He looked around and noticed the stranger. "Hey," he said, waving. "What's up, Harry?"
"This is Oliver Wood, he taught me how to play quidditch. We're going to take over the house tonight for a get together if you don't mind."
Xander shook his head. "Not a problem. Want me to call the terrible twosome? They're at Molly's."
"Please, if you wouldn't mind," Oliver said politely.
Xander grinned at him. "Call my husband? Why would I mind?" He scrunched up his face then laughed. "I caught him mid-bite and he choked," he laughed. Harry snorted. "He'll be right there. Come on." He kissed Iggy on the cheek and followed Harry out of the infirmary. "Sorry, we're just getting over a bout of wizard flu."
"Xander, can I show him that stuff you use on your knees?"
"Sure." Xander shook Oliver's hand. "Welcome to the family, I'm sure we'll be adopting you too soon enough," he said, sounding serious.
Harry laughed. "The flock's big enough," he teased, giving him a light shove. "No more adopting in until you're sure you like Oliver."
"Hey, he likes George and you, I think that's good enough recommendation," Xander said, smiling at him. "Don't worry, we're all strange around here."
Oliver nodded. "That's what I'd expect with you married to George." Both other men laughed so he had gotten the joke right at least. He followed Harry up to a tower. "What is this?"
"It's actually the original Slytherin house but we were given it because of the kids," Xander told him, holding the door open for him. "Ron, visitors!" he yelled.
"Bloody hell," drifted down the stairs. He came down with a crying infant and nearly dropped poor Gwen. Harry had to save her. "Oliver?" he asked. Oliver nodded. "Wow." He grabbed his former friend and gave him a hug. "Great to see you, man. When did you get in?"
"He got transferred back last night," Harry told him. "He's on my team."
"Even more reason for me to sneak out and watch a game," Ron said, laughing and pounding him on the back.
"Ron, sit, before you fall," Xander said, sitting in his chair. Ron sat and then hopped up to go get the other kids. He came back down with the missing twins. "Hey, guys. Are we sick too?" he asked, stealing Minnie. She sniffled and buried her face in his chest. She didn't like people. "It's okay, this is a friend of your father's," he told her, patting her gently. "They're not really feeling great either. Ron gave them his flu and they're just getting over it."
"They're in the frequent nap stage, but have to have their father," Ron said proudly. "That's Gwen, and Minnie, and Vincent," he said, pointing at each of them. A little blonde head popped up behind him, making him jump. "Hey, Maeve, are you back?" She giggled and went to hide again.
"She's mine and George's," Xander told him. "Maeve, this is Oliver, he's a friend of your daddy George's."
"Friends?" Fred asked as he came out of the fireplace.
"Might be a bit too strong," George agreed. "After all, it's not like he writes." He hugged Oliver then had to let him go because Vincent grabbed him by the balls.
"Vinnie!" Xander snapped. "I warned you. Sit, now." Vincent sniffled and went to sit in the corner.
"Gee, dad," Ron said dryly.
"You were too slow and those are mine," Xander reminded him. Ron burst out laughing and George blushed. "Sorry, dear," Xander said with a grin. He handed over Minnie to Harry and pulled George down for a hug. "How was your day?"
"Strange, as usual," Fred told him. "We've got a letter for you at the shop."
"I'll come down tomorrow for it," Xander told him, letting go of his husband. "Okay, it's not a party yet. Where's the entertainment?"
"Draco's back out on a date," Harry told him.
Ron burst out laughing. "I'll be sure to tell him you think he's entertaining."
"Of course he is. His son is a kicker and likes to screw with his hair all the time. Entertains me to no end watching those two."
Oliver looked at the strange group. "You really accept Draco Malfoy and his newest one?" Everyone nodded. "Why?"
Xander raised a hand. "He's one of our other adopted ones." He grinned wickedly. "I turned him onto muggle stuff and made him like it."
Oliver laughed. "You're kidding?" Everyone shook their heads. "How?"
"Monty Python," Fred told him. Oliver continued to laugh. "So, give, since you never write."
"Sorry, but I was too busy last season." He sat down beside Ron and nearly instantly had a child in his lap. "Hello, which one are you again?"
"Gwen," Xander told him. He pulled something out of the pocket of his chair and tossed it over. "That's hers. It'll save your hands." He watched as the obvious non-parent looked at the teething ring then shrugged and handed it to her, watching as she chewed on it.
"Is that good?" Oliver asked her.
Gwen smiled up at him, showing off her teeth. "More!" she said happily.
"Yes, you're getting more teeth," Ron said, smoothing down her hair. "Sorry. She's teething and is a biter. Bit Hagrid the other day on the ear." He stole his daughter back since Oliver looked so uncomfortable. "So, give already," he nearly whined. "What happened?"
"After the fall, I spent a lot of time training and getting back into shape," he said with a shrug. "Everything fell aside for a bit. I'm sorry."
"It's not a problem," Fred assured him, sitting on his other side. He noticed his brother heading for a real chair. "Not taking your usual spot?"
"I don't think Ollie wants to watch me snuggle my mate," George told him. He looked over as the door opened and Simone and Denver trudged in. "Hey, guys. This is Oliver Wood, he taught Harry how to play quidditch and used to make fun of your father."
Simone smiled at him. "Gee, haven't seen him since he was an evil bastard, huh," she said. He shook his head. "That's okay, I took his spot." She ducked her brother's swat. "What? I have."
Denver looked around. "Anastasia's really upset. Mum still hasn't brought her clothes."
"Shit," Xander sighed, rubbing his face. He looked at the twins. "Hogsmeade?"
"Still open," George told him. "For about another hour." He stood up. "I'll be right back." He went to grab the poor dear and get her some clothes of her own. He stuck his head back in. "Honey, I'm taking your allowance for the week."
Xander frowned. "Get me some more rub and get an extra tin for Harry then," he requested. George nodded and disappeared. "Sorry, but Ginny packed the wrong clothes for Anastasia and she doesn't fit into anyone else's."
"I've made sure all Iggy's stuff got back into his basket," Denver said as he settled into his uncle's spot. Simone shoved him and sat down in his former spot. "Hey! Grumpy prat!"
"You should know, you're the cause if I'm grumpy," she snorted.
Oliver looked at Fred. "They're Malfoy's, aren't they?"
Fred nodded. "The blonde is Draco's and some other girl's. Simone is one of Ginny and Draco's four. Anastasia is the next down, then there's Ravena and Lucien, the new one." Simone waved. "She's a great brat and nearly managed to put the house into negative numbers last year," he noted dryly, glaring at his niece. "If it happens again this year, we're going to have a discussion, young lady."
"They're Gryffs?" Oliver asked. Everyone nodded. "How?"
"Since dad quit being the evil bastard, he qualifies as one of you," Simone told him with a smirk. "Actually I'm the loveable one, Denver's the problem child from hell."
"Simone," Ron warned nicely, smiling at her. "Do you really want to Michael take away visiting privileges?"
"Visiting? They get to visit each other's rooms?" Harry asked.
"It's more practical that way," Xander told him. "Between these two and Iggy, they'd end up sleeping in the common room each night." Harry nodded.
"Yeah, nightmares suck," Simone agreed. Xander reached over and patted her on the shoulder. "Thanks, Uncle Xander."
"Welcome." He looked around. "Okay, Ron, pull out your amazing food act and create munchies."
"No need," George said as he came back in carrying a tray. "It was sitting outside. Anastasia is getting measured. They've even got robes." He set everything on the coffeetable, carelessly kicking some of Iggy's books out of the way.
"He'll tickle you for that," Denver warned.
"I'm bigger," George told him. He shoved Simone out of his seat and sat down. "Okay, it's food." He watched as Xander turned on the tv, putting it onto a music channel. "Good choice, hubby."
Fred patted Oliver on the arm. "Don't worry, it's a lot to take in. Even those of us who were there for everything have a hard time dealing with Xander."
Oliver snickered. "I'm sure he's a perfectly nice person, even though your twin has gotten his hooks into him."
"I do try," George said dramatically. Xander tossed a pillow at his head. "Hey, watch the hair. I'm going to sic Draco on you for messing up my do." He patted his short hair back into place.
"He said you needed a trim," Xander said dryly, smirking at his husband. "Be good or no snuggles tonight. I'll make you sleep on the bed while I hog the kids in the nest."
"Grumpy," George snorted. "You sleep sedated, I can always steal them back."
"Boys," Fred called. They both stuck their tongues out at him. "Kiss and make up. Don't traumatize poor Oliver, he's not used to you two playing."
"There aren't any handcuffs so it can't be real play," Simone told him.
Oliver burst out laughing, leaning against Ron's side. "Oh, yeah, she's a Malfoy. Just like her father."
"Yes I am," she smirked.
Denver poked her. "Does that mean we can go beat up on Aggie? She was writing nasty shit about Ana again in class."
"No," Harry told them. "Leave her alone unless she directly does something. We don't need another fight, you two."
"Isn't Agatha yours?" Oliver asked him.
Harry nodded. "She was warped by Hermione when she went dark. So my daughter's a Slytherin."
"It got all mixed up when Xander got here," Ron supplied. "Draco became a good guy. I got a woman finally. George quit messing with me."
Xander pulled his wand and turned Ron into a Ron/Dog creature and made it start to dance. "And every little once in a while I get to mess with him instead."
"Dear, let the poor boy go," George said, giving him a smile. "I'll reward you later." Xander beamed and let Ron go, then stole a kiss. "Good boy. You behave and I'll let you loose in the lab this weekend." Xander wiggled, looking happy.
"No making naughty things," Fred warned. "I've had enough of the dancing...." He saw the kids looking at him. "Toys," he finished.
"Did one of them start talking again?" George asked. Fred threw a pillow at him. "Hey! I only needed one."
"Not only did one of them start talking, but she enjoyed it. Keep your dirty minds out of my bedroom, boys." He turned back to Oliver. "You thought we were bad together? Let those two get together. I'm now the serious one."
Oliver looked at Xander. "Congratulations. I never knew there was worse than the Weasley twins."
"Of course, get the three of us together on a prank and it kicks ass," Xander said modestly. Everyone else nodded, having heard about that prank before. Draco came out of the fire, dusting himself off. "Hey, son. Look who just got transferred back."
"Oliver Wood?" Draco asked. He smiled. "Welcome back. Xander, I just checked in on Hooch, she's not coming back this year. She's dizzy and they're doing tests to see why."
"Damn," Xander sighed. "Okay. Are you off suspension yet?" Draco shook his head. "Then we'll be okay for now?" Draco nodded. "Good. You get to tell Dumbledore."
"I saw him there. He's the one who told me." Draco picked up Maeve, who was crawling out from under the couch, and gave her a hug and kiss. "You behave. You're going to get trapped down there soon." He handed her to Oliver. "Let me go change, I'll be right back." He headed up the stairs.
"He lives with you guys still?" Harry asked.
"He keeps clothes here since he's still teaching part of the advanced class and now half of the flying classes." He looked at Oliver. "Madam Hooch got run over by a broom that was spelled to fight landing and hit her head on a rock."
"Oh, that poor woman," he said. "Is she okay?"
"Mostly. She's apparently a bit dizzy," George said. He patted Xander's hand. "He's taken over half of her classes and Draco's teaching the Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw section."
"How is Aggie doing?" Simone asked. "I ask as an interested party who might have to play against her."
"Good enough. She'll play chaser if anything," Xander told her. "Why?"
"Because I'll need to bone up on my defensive moves if I'm playing against her. I'll be her first target out there."
"Point," George agreed. "We'll work with you this weekend, Simone."
"Chasers have practice this weekend," Denver told him.
"Dumbledore's written Iggy's penpal Raena to see if she can find the gryphon equivalent," Xander told him. "Don't worry, he'll be ready for the first game."
"What do you guys play?" Oliver asked.
"Beater," Simone told him.
"Iggy and I play chaser," Denver told him.
"And Percy's son Melvin plays second string chaser for Hufflepuff," Simone finished.
"Wow. What about your younger sister?"
"Anastasia hates sweating."
"She'd be one hell of a seeker," Harry told them. "But she doesn't want to play."
"Yeah, but we need one," Simone pointed out. "Ours graduated last year."
"And we still need a keeper," Denver groaned, holding his head. "Can I go find that asshole and beat him senseless for doing that in the middle of a season?" Xander reached down and patted him on the head. "I know it's okay because he didn't get her, but I still want to hurt him."
"Son, that's my job," Draco reminded him, coming down in normal clothes and carrying a fresh robe. "Are we having a party? I could call Ginny."
"Yeah, call Ginny," Fred agreed. "Where's Lucien?"
"With her. Ravena refused to give him back for a few days," he said with a smile. He went to steal his children and coax Ginny out of her work.
"What happened to the team?" Oliver asked the group at large.
"Our seeker ended up taking over when our keeper tried to make drugs to take away someone's will," Simone told him, turning serious. "It's only because of Dumbledore that they left alive."
Xander smiled at her. "Trust me, if they had found that drug in your system, they wouldn't have." She beamed at him. "Any prospects?"
"Not a one. The signup sheet is up and we've got two people who want to try out for keeper, but no one for seeker." She shrugged. "Without forcing Anastasia, we can't find anyone."
Oliver sighed. "The house went downhill, didn't it?"
"Just a few kids now and then," Harry assured him. "We had our own share of arseholes and idiots. Oh, and Neville's a guard at the Courts."
"Wow. I never would have figured him for that."
"He said it was as close as he could get to the good fight," Fred told him. "Had him over for dinner the other day." He nudged Harry. "Can you talk to Ana?"
"Sure but I don't think it'll help any. She hates to sweat."
"Yeah, but it beats having no one," Simone put in. "Get her to play for a year."
George hopped up. "I'd better go get her. Be right back." He headed for the floo, running into Ravena as she came out. "Good evening, princess. Go sit." She hurried past him and he flooed out as soon as Ginny appeared, going to get her daughter and her hopefully done new clothes.
Raena looked up as the classroom she was in was entered by someone. "Yes?" she asked, putting down her books. She was teaching a beginning class and did not know this very large person.
"I'm here on Hogwarts business," Hagrid told her. "Can I talk to you for a bit?" He nodded at the hallway and she followed him. "I have here a letter for you from Dumbledore personally," he said, digging it out of his many pocketed coat. He handed it over with a smile. "Reubus Hagrid, ma'am."
"Raena Tallias," she said, shaking his hand. "Iggy's spoken of you." She opened the letter and read it quickly, frowning. "The normal ones don't work?"
"They've tried everything in his father's library but Iggy's not got a full set of potions books at his disposal yet so Professor Snape can't find a thing to help the poor boy. They're keeping him sedated so he won't get sicker."
She grimaced. "Let me get someone to cover my class. I know just what you need." She walked to the room across the hall and said something to the teacher, then nodded at him to follow her. "I know Professor Snape has access to some of the gryphon healing potions. Do you know if he has full access?"
"As far as we know. We know he's allowed to mix anything that Xander and Iggy have ever needed."
"Good," she said with a smile. "But has he mixed the more advanced? The very advanced are a bit different." She walked into the library and to the restricted cage, waving the letter at her mother. "Iggy needs a healing potion," she said when her mother came over. "Wizard flu outbreak."
"Oh, dear." She took the letter to read. "Just for him? How is he mixing it?"
"With all due respect, ma'am, but our own potion's master is making everything for him right now. He's allowed to mix the gryphon healing potions whenever either Iggy or his father need it."
She smiled at him. "I remember Severus. He was always competent, but I don't remember him being interested in the gryphon potions."
"He's got to be now, with two gryphon-borns there, mother," Raena said as she brought a large, heavy book out. "It's in here," she said as it hit the table. "Let me copy it for you." She looked at her mother, who shrugged. "Can you check and make sure I can give this to him? Just so I don't get whined at again?"
"Of course," her mother said smoothly, going to call her husband, who was with the gryphons. It took her calling them, and them calling Stonehenge, to get an answer. She finally came back. "They are allowed, but the Elder of the colony in Stonehenge doesn't think he's ever dealt with anything of that class so you might have to go over with them. I'll talk to your advisor if you want."
"Please," she said as she copied it down. "Hagrid, would you like some lunch while I finish this and pack?" She smiled at him. "It's a few more pages and you can't magically do it from this book."
"No thanks. I brought some. I think I'll go sit in the sun and wait if that'd be okay." She nodded, continuing to smile. "Thank you."
"Of course." She went back to her copying. This was one of the most outrageous potions she'd ever used, but it worked on nearly everything. One of the original healing spells from the first Amsterdam colony. And she'd get to see Iggy in person again, and meet another Potions Master. A wonderful side trip. He mother came back with a bag and her phoenix. "Thank you, mother." She continued to write.
Dumbledore walked down the front stairs, smiling at his Gameskeepr and the young woman with him. "Hello," he said, shaking her hand. "You must be Raena."
She flipped back the hood of her cloak, showing off her glistening brown hair. "Indeed I am," she said politely. "This is Hilda, I believe she came from here?"
Dumbledore sucked air through his teeth, making greeting noises at the young phoenix, who nuzzled him. "It's wonderful to see you again, little one. Come, I have alerted Severus that you were coming. He's waiting in his classroom for you." He took her arm and led her down to the dungeons. "Did you attend Beaubaxton's?" She nodded. "How did you find their potions program?"
"Fairly dull once I got ahead of them," she said honestly. "The Mistress there wasn't interested in training me beyond what she thought my talents were. She didn't want the competition to be frank." She smiled and shook Severus' hand. "Professor Snape, my mother said a great many things about you before I came." She opened her bag and pulled out the copy of the potion. "This is one of the original healing potions from our colony. It's so old we don't even know who to attribute it to." He looked impressed. "I've also brought the local ingredients in case you couldn't find them around here." She pulled out her component case, putting it onto the table. "What can I do to help you make it?"
He pointed at the cauldron. "Get the water started if you would."
"Of course." She went to do that while he read over the spell. "I wasn't sure if you had done anything in that class before, my mother couldn't remember you taking those specialty classes while you were at Braun."
He smirked. "I had no idea I would need them." He put down the potion. "It is very oddly written."
"It's over six thousand years old."
"Good point. You've done it before?"
"I did it to gain admittance. My mother was ill at the time," she told him honestly. "I botched it by adding too much mugwort, made it a bit too strong, but it cured her." She smiled at him. "I packed enough clothes to be here overnight if I could spend some time talking to you. It's not often I get out of the school."
"Once we cure Ignatius."
"How is he?" she asked, pouring the correct amount of water into the cauldron without having to weigh it.
"Still sedated. His father is very worried."
"I'd be worried if he were mine too," she agreed. Then she blushed. "Sorry, didn't mean for that to come out that way. I've been trying to discourage his crush on me."
Snape chuckled. "I'm sure, but he is a persistent young man. Otherwise I never would have taken him on. He's been bothering me since he was eight." He pulled out his components to start preparation. "Do the herbs if you don't mind."
"Of course. The local ones I brought or all of them?"
"As many as you can. We'll meet somewhere around there on the list." She nodded and started at the bottom of the component's list, chopping and slicing deftly. She knew she was being watched and it thrilled her to have someone so famous working with her and judging her abilities. Maybe he would even write her an evaluation for a position when she graduated next year.
Iggy woke up and the first face he saw was one he usually only saw at night in his dreams. "You came to see me while I was sick?" he asked, rolling over to give her a hug. Then he promptly rolled to the other side of the bed and threw up. "Sorry," he gasped between heaves.
"We understand," Raena soothed, patting him on the back. "I've had this version of the flu myself. It was rather nasty if I remember right." She smiled as Snape walked in with a steaming beaker of potion. "We've made you something to help you get better. You have to drink all of it and it's going to taste nasty."
"There's got to be a way to flavor things," Iggy moaned, starting to throw up again. Once he was done and he had wiped his mouth off on the washcloth that had been sitting beside his bed, he forced himself to sit up and take the large beaker. "All of it?"
"Yes," Snape told him. "It should get you out of here by tomorrow evening."
"Hey, for that, I'll drink swamp slime." He sniffed and grimaced but gulped the potion as fast as he could, only gagging on the last bit. He handed that part back and tried his best to hold the rest of it down. "Tastes like it too," he said, taking the bucket Snape was holding to throw it up. "Eww. Can we work on making it taste better, sir? Please?"
"As long as some of it stayed in you it should be fine," Raena told him, brushing some of his damp hair off his forehead. "How are you feeling now?"
"Better," he admitted. He smiled at her. "So, you came to see me while I was sick?"
"The potion's so old that I had to translate some of it," she told him with a quirk of her head. "Besides, you looked so pitiful and obviously needed some more comfort."
"They've had to do a spell to keep his cousins out of here," Snape said with a snort. "His father will be up as soon as we tell him we've given him something. I have no doubt that everyone else will be up here soon enough."
Iggy nodded and hugged his penpal again. "Thank you. You're really nice." He started to blush, mentally chastising himself. He had memorized a dictionary and all he came up with was really nice?
"Don't worry, Iggy, I think you're nice too. If you were older I'd date you in a heartbeat. Too bad you're over half my age."
Iggy giggled. "Yeah, because we're so short lived," he snorted. "Wait until I'm eighteen, then we'll see some wooing of the finest nature. I'm taking lessons from all my uncles."
Snape groaned. "Don't take lessons in love from Mr. Malfoy, Ignatius."
"He's obviously got a good front game but Aunt Ginny is keeping him from the follow-through," Iggy told him. He took one hand off his crush and patted Snape on the arm. "Thanks, man. I'll catch up this weekend."
"Yes, you will. I'll have a list drawn up of what you've missed." Iggy nodded and he gave the boy a meaningful look, making him withdraw himself from the young woman's personal space. "She'll be here for another day before making an obligatory call on your colony to tell them how you are; you can talk to her later."
Raena smiled at Iggy. "Don't worry, phoenix mail is just as fast as it's always been," she told him. She laughed when she heard swearing from the hallway. "You described Simone and Denver exactly. I knew just who they were when I met them."
"It's hard not to know them for who they are," Snape told her. He flicked his wand at the door, letting the annoyances in. "If you cause a disturbance, you will be removed," he warned.
Simone piled onto the bed, hugging Iggy as hard as she could. "You're getting better," she said happily.
Denver shook Raena's hand. "Hello, Denver Malfoy."
Raena smiled at him. "Raena Tallias. Iggy's penpal."
"Oh, you're *her*," Simone said knowingly. She looked her over, then at her cousin. "You have good taste in women, cuz."
Denver groaned and pulled his sister off the bed. "You'll have to excuse her. We just fed her stupidity candy. It's a family specialty." Snape snickered, hiding it behind his hand.
"When did Uncle Fred and daddy start making that?" Iggy asked. He looked at Raena. "You'll have to excuse my cousin, she was raised by someone in denial."
"My dad is not," she huffed.
"Your mother, goof," Iggy told her. "She keeps denying what she feels for your dad. He damn near took out a billboard to prove he loved her that much."
"My mother says that settling down is for older people, who are ready for staying home all the time. She's happy with her life."
"Doesn't mean she's not hurting father," Denver pointed out.
"Point," Simone agreed, "but I'm sure mum will see sense sometime. Even if one of us has to hit a bludger her way to make daddy go gushy over her again." She smirked her most evil smirk and waved, walking away. "I'll bring you notes."
"One of these days she's going to drop the Weasley portion of her name," Denver quipped. He smiled at Raena. "Thank you for curing our cousin. The house team needs him a lot right now. Uncle Harry's going to try to talk Ana into playing seeker tonight."
"Oh, poor him," Iggy said. "Can you bring me twizzlers?"
"Nope. Not until you can eat real food," Denver told him with a shrug. "Your dad said so." He waved and left, going to spread the good news. Maybe he'd even be able to stop some rumors before they got back to Tara. He found George in the hallways and gave him a hug. "He's flirting so he must be feeling better."
Denver grinned. "His penpal is here and he has such a crush on her." He chuckled and left, going back to class.
George walked into the infirmary and stopped, watching his son try out his moves on the obviously older woman. She must have been his age! "Son," he said with a smile.
"I'm feeling better," Iggy pronounced. "Not throwing up."
"Good." He came over and gave him a hug. "Thank you both," he said, smiling at them. He shook the young woman's hand. "I'm his father George."
"I'm Raena, his penpal." She smiled at them. "I'll leave you two alone. If you would care to continue our discussion, Professor Snape?"
"Of course." He led the way out, taking her back to his office. she was a fascinating woman who had some wonderful ideas and access to some very interesting potions.
Anastasia heard the whispered comment behind her and turned to look at the girls. "What do you mean someone was packing my things?"
"There was a redheaded woman packing your things," one of the other first years said.
Anastasia smiled brightly. "I bet it was my mother finally brining me my clothes." Both girls looked upset that she wasn't getting kicked out, they didn't have any more good gossip. Anastasia raised her hand. "Sir, may I please be excused?" she asked when Professor Binns nodded at her. "My mother's finally brought my clothes and I'd like to get into something of my own." He nodded, frowning at her. "Thank you, sir." She grabbed her books and hurried up to her room. She ran into her mother, giving her a hug. "You finally found them," she said happily.
"Mostly," Ginny told her, sitting on the bed to watch her daughter change into her own clothes. "I accidentally sent them to the resale shop." Her daughter's face fell. "They found most of them."
"But I had something in one of my robe pockets," Anastasia told her.
"That's how they found them," she said, pointing at the picture of the house elf she had brought with her. He was the one who always snuck her snacks. "Madam Malkin bought most of them back, but I had to guess on everything else. If the bras don't fit, we'll get you more this weekend."
Anastasia slipped into her shirt and winced. "The bra was fine, it's the shirt that's too tight," she said, trying to move her shoulders. "This hurts, mum."
"We'll fix it this weekend," Ginny sighed, standing up. "I'm sorry, I did the best I could."
"I know." Anastasia gave her a hug. "Thank you for getting me clothes. I can wear the stuff Uncle George bought me."
"George bought you clothes?"
"I'll have to pay him back for that," she said with a faint smile. "Will this work for now?" She nodded. "Then I'll see you this weekend." She gave her daughter a hug. "You behave. I'll treat you to all sorts of good girly stuff this weekend."
"Victoria's Secret?" Anastasia asked hopefully.
"If I have to," Ginny sighed, leaving with the old clothes.
Anastasia followed her down the stairs, still fighting with the too tight shirt and outer robe. She ran into her father in the hallway, waiting until her parents had talked to give him a hug.
"What's wrong with your shirt?" he asked, holding her out to look at her. "That looks horrid and uncomfortable on you." He pulled her up to the tower to make a call. His tailor showed up a few minutes later with an assistant, a stool, and bolts of cloth. "She'll need her school uniforms fitted properly," Draco said, sitting down in Xander's chair and putting his feet up to watch his daughter be pampered.
"At least mum got the right bra size," she quipped. She looked at the assistant. "The rest of them are in my room."
Draco nodded. "I'll send a house elf to get them."
"Oh, why," Iggy said as he was led in by his father. "I'm sprung!" he said happily. He looked at his cousin. "Too tight already?"
"Mum had to guess. She sent everything to the resale shop." She turned when prodded. "Can you make the chest a little less fitted," she said, looking at herself in the mirror. "I got some funny looks from the older girls because I have better tits."
The tailor smiled at her. "We can fit it so they're minimized," he assured her. He looked her over. "Third year?"
"First," Draco told him. The man looked shocked. "Like her cousin, she bloomed early."
"Yeah, Simone hasn't even hit puberty yet."
Simone came running in. "Why were you kicked out?"
"Mum brought my stuff."
"Oh." She smiled, then grimaced when she noticed what was going on. "Wrong size?"
"Too tight in the usual spots." She turned again at the pushing. "Daddy, why are we doing this now?"
"Because you never told me earlier," he pointed out. "If you had, you wouldn't have been wearing your cousins' things for the last week and a half."
"But she looked okay in the tanktop and shirt combos," Simone said, sitting down to watch her sister be fitted. "Daddy, can they do the fitting on my clothes next year? Her clothes look better on her than mine do on me."
Denver jogged into the room. "Oh, it was Ginny," he sighed. "I'm going to go tell Michael."
"Tell him to come see me himself and bring me the rest of my stuff," Anastasia told him. She smiled at her siblings. "Mum's taking me to go bra shopping this weekend. Need anything?"
Simone shook her head. "No thanks."
Denver looked at his sister. "Having seen you in a tight t-shirt last night, I'm going to have to argue," he told her. She glared at him. "Hey, you're getting tits, get over it."
"Denver, do not remark on your sister's breasts, it's icky," George told him. "Iggy, bed."
"Yes, daddy. Can you send Raena up if she comes over?"
"Sure." George sat in his usual chair and got comfortable. "Denver, Michael?"
"Oh, yeah." He hurried off to get the Head Boy.
Draco looked at his daughter, noticing how she was hunching over to hide her burgeoning chest. "You'll have to wear one some day," he told her.
"It'll help you when you fly, smush them out of your way," Anastasia said hopefully. "They make a lot of special bras for sports-type people."
"Maybe," Simone grumped. "But I don't need one yet."
"Okay," her father said. He'd let her come to him. He understood this could be very embarrassing for young women, especially ones who weren't into girlish displays of cleavage. "Whenever you're ready, we'll go find you something to control them."
Simone blushed and shifted away from him. "Whatever." She glared at her sister. "What about you? Are you going to try out?"
"I hate to sweat."
"Yeah, but we need you on the team," Denver said as he came back with the Head Boy. He put the rest of her clothes onto a small table near the couch. "We don't have a seeker, Ana, and you're the best hope we have." He flopped down beside his sister and gave her a nudge. "Michael already stopped the rumors."
Anastasia smiled at her Head Boy. "See, I'm still here. Still having clothing problems. Ow!" She glared at the tailor's assistant. "That's my butt cheek. Quit poking it with needles." He blushed and moved on around her hem. "Daddy, can I go back to the long skirts now?"
"If you prefer, princess," Draco agreed tolerantly. He looked at the Head Boy. "Would that be fine with you?"
"It's fine with the dress code," Michael agreed, sitting down near the Professor. "So, will you play, Ana? You could probably get lessons from Harry."
Draco looked offended. "I do play seeker also."
"And your father," he finished diplomatically, smiling at Draco. "Can you teach her the position?"
"Of course, if that's what she wants."
"Daddy," Anastasia whined. "I don't want to play."
"Then play for a year," Denver suggested. "Until we can get someone else in. Little Ron's coming up next year and he can play seeker."
"Yeah, he's just like Uncle Harry, only with his mum's hair," Simone agreed.
"Do it until someone is found," George agreed. "Fred and I may not have been able to come help with the flying classes, but we can spend some time getting you up to speed." He smiled at Simone. "You too, dear."
"I practiced all summer," Simone reminded him.
"Yeah, and you've gotten worse aim too." She glared at him. "You took down a tree."
"You knocked down a tree?" Michael asked, looking impressed.
Simone nodded. "Took three blows, but the old thing came down. It kept grandfather from having to cut it down."
"You mean it kept Charlie or Bill from having to cut it down," George corrected. Draco gave him a look. "Dad and mum don't trust us with axes and Percy's been banned from heavy work around the Burrow."
"I saw him yesterday, he was helping Ginny look something up. She's being frustrated by this new hybrid potion she's found," Draco told him. "She kicked Bill and myself out of the office and locked us out recently."
"Where are the kids?" Anastasia asked.
"Having a sleepover with Percy and Tananda."
"Ah." Simone nodded. "He likes having a house full of screaming kids. I don't know why."
"Because having a house full of noise keeps the walls from moving in on you," Draco told her. She frowned. "It's much the same way I felt before the house blew up. That's why I used to fight to bring you all back with me."
"My grandma used ta say 'a quiet house magnifies your worries'. She hated living alone after my grandda died."
"It's much the same way for Percy," Draco agreed. "He lost his wife six months before this group started school."
"So he's trying not to remember?" Denver asked. Draco nodded. "Is that why you don't like to have a quiet house, father? Because it brings back memories?" Draco nodded again. "Oh. I guess I'll make more noise when I'm home," he said happily.
"That would be fine, as long as you're not destroying the house," Draco noted dryly. He watched as his daughter's favorite style of skirt was brought out by the tailor. "At least you'll look good in that style," Draco told her. She smiled at him and stepped down to get into the skirt, very unselfconscious of her state of undress. "Why are you wearing that," Draco hissed, getting up to put her into the skirt faster.
"Daddy," she said, slapping at his hands. "It's cute and I feel pretty in it." She stepped back up onto the stool, letting them deal with the hem. Her father sat back down. "I wear lace underwear every day, daddy. I always have." She smirked at her sister. "As opposed to she who wears boxer shorts."
"I like boxer shorts. Nothing crawls up my butt," Simone reminded her with a smile. "I haven't had a wedgie in years."
"Bully for you," Anastasia said, frowning at her older sister. "Mine actually fit me so I don't have that problem either. Or I wear those muggle thongs."
"Your mum must be shitting bricks about that," George told her. He looked at Draco, who was frowning his most deadly glare at his daughter. "I'm sure no one else is going to see them for a few years," he soothed, reaching over to give him a sympathy pat, which Draco moved away from.
"You will not wear muggle thong underwear until you leave school, young lady," he said coldly.
She straightened up and glared back at him. "It's my arse that has to be covered and if I want to wear a thong, I will. It's not like I'm flashing it to everybody in the school, like you used to. I heard all about you and a certain quidditch game from mum last year. Oh, and something about you shaving...." She smirked when he went pale. "I won't finish the story if you calm down again."
"No thongs," he snarled. "You're too young."
"Father, in some countries, I'd be married by now."
Simone choked. "Not a good argument," she put in. "Just don't wear thongs where he'll see them," she pleaded, not wanting to witness this fight.
Draco stood up and walked over to where his daughter was standing, and she was nearly his height because of the stool. "You will not wear the underwear chosen by sluts throughout the world," he said in his iciest voice. "You will wear real, full backed, solid underwear or I will make your life a living hell until you beg to have me buy you some."
She laughed. "That's cute, daddy," Anastasia said, smirking at him. "Do you know that I found your special diary last year? That's why mum told me about that quidditch match." His frown increased. "How many kids do you think I can look at and say 'gee, your mother slept with my dad'? Do you want me to try and keep count?" He growled at her. "Father, I'm not giving up what's comfortable to me. You know very well I 'm not sleeping around. I have no desire to have some nasty, dirty, vulgar male anywhere near my lacy thongs or my pushup bras. When I do, of course I'll tell you all about it so we can swap stories, but until that point you have no reason to fear my underwear choices. It's not like boys *clean* those things."
"How would you know?" Denver unwisely butted in.
Draco glared at him. "Stay out of it," he snapped. "You're grounded and won't have an allowance this year."
"No fair," Denver protested. "I just asked a question."
"Because I've noticed this smell coming from your room, dear brother," she said, sounding her most evil ever. "Not only have I noticed it from your room, but Uncle Xander and George's room, Uncle Fred's room, and even Uncle Percy's room. So I suggest you shut up now." Denver wisely curled up against Simone's side and shut up. She turned back to her father. "As for you, who happens to be fucking around on my mother again, I'd not protest anything in my clothing. After all, I helped mum do the laundry and found this really nice pair of shiny, slinky, green ...."
He covered her mouth. "You do not need to discuss those, Anastasia Romani. I am an adult and came make my own choices. You are still a child and can't. Therefore you will obey me or find yourself in line for the most horrid political marriage I can find for you," he hissed. "Do you understand?" She smiled and winked at him. "I'm not kidding."
She got free of his hand and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Do it and watch the sucker die," she pointed out happily. "Then I'll be a widow and can grandly screw anyone I want, without anyone saying a word against me. Wouldn't that be cute?" His eyes narrowed. "You're not winning this one. It's not like you can check my clothes every morning or even every hour, and I can always change. You won't win and I'll end up having to show them more often - every time I have to change." She stepped down to look in the mirror. "I like this, but I'll need a slit up my right side please," she told the tailor. "For ease of walking. Say, knee height?" The tailor nodded and she got back up onto the stool, letting him fix it. "As for the lacy underwear, father, I wear what's comfortable for me. You do the same, give me the same right to know that regular underwear makes me itchy."
George stood up and got between them. "Draco, it's not like she's showing them off," he said quietly. "She's not going to sleep around or go for your record, I promise. Xander and I would snatch her out of whomever's bed and drag her to you for punishment." Draco looked at him. "You know that. Don't stress over this. It's not that important. It's not like she's doing stripteases on the Gryff table in the Great Hall." Draco relaxed some. "You know she's not going to do anything with them until her fifth year. Worry then and put her into a chastity belt." Draco nodded and sat back down, glaring at his daughter.
"Father, if you continue this, you're going to end up like Uncle Percy, with an over-stressed heart and on medicine daily. Do you really want that?"
He growled and continued to glare. "I'm sure I can take on you and your underwear issues and not end up in the hospital, daughter."
She merely grinned. "If you say so." She looked around, then accepted her cousin's vest from him, putting it on over her shirt. "Do I look cute?" she asked.
Her father smiled. "You look quite sophisticated," he admitted. "But once you turn fifteen, I'm outfitting you in the latest fashionable chastity belt."
She giggled. "I'm sure you'll try," she agreed, making her father laugh.
Ginny walked out of the fireplace carrying a bag. "Already complained?" she asked dryly.
"Daddy made them come and fix my shirts," Anastasia told her with a smile. "Now I'll have enough clothes to last me for two whole weeks," she said happily. "Oh, and mum, Simone needs a sports bra."
"Ana, I'm going to kill you," Simone told her. "I don't need a bra."
"We'll get you one once they start getting in your way," Ginny told her. Simone smiled at her. "Ana, behave or no bra shopping this weekend."
"I believe we should talk about your giving in to her underwear urgings," Draco said quietly, glaring at his girlfriend.
She smiled at him. "You try telling her no. Besides, they fit and she doesn't complain about them. It was either that or the thongs like you like."
He shook his head. "Wearing thongs is not genetic."
"If you say so," Ginny told him, still smiling. She leaned down to get into her elder daughter's face. "Whenever you're ready, I'll help you find something to get them out of your way." Simone nodded. "Trust me, they're not that bad."
"You sigh like you've just had sex every time you take them off," Simone told her.
Ginny nodded. "That's because I'm stubborn and wear the wrong size. We'll make sure you'll find something that fits." She sat down and watched as the new clothes were pawed through and fitted against the girl's body. "We need a changing screen," she said, using her wand to call the one from Draco's room upstairs.
Denver thoughtfully got up and snatched the thong hanging off the upright and handed it over. "I'm going to get my school books. Ana?"
"In a few," she called after him. "Can I have some water?" George got up and got her a bottle of water from the refrigerator. "Thank you, Uncle George." She smiled sweetly at him. "Just a few more minutes."
The tailor nodded. "Yes, most of your clothes fit you quite well so we'll only have a few adjustments to make." He got out of her way. "Try on your next shirt please."
She stepped down and went behind the screen to change so her father wouldn't have another fit.
Anastasia walked into the house behind her siblings, smiling at the shocked looks. "Yes, I finally got my own clothes," she told them as she walked past with her second, smaller, trunk. "It's amazing what a little tailoring will do." She walked into her dorm room and found something on her bed. "Gee, flowers, for me?" she asked, looking around. She picked up the thistles and put them onto her bedside table. Then she unpacked everything, sighing in relief when she got down to the bottom of her real trunks and the pictures in it. "Thank you, mother," she called; everything she had brought was in there.
One of her dormmates popped in. "Is that how you normally look?"
Anastasia nodded and turned so the other girl could see her. "This is how I look whenever I'm not wearing my siblings and Iggy's clothes," she agreed. "This is me." She pulled out her books and put them into her underwear drawer, including the dirty one. "There, all done, finally." She grabbed her school books and headed down to the common room. A few people were still looking at her. "That redhead was my mum," she told them. "She managed to misplace my clothes all the way to the resale shop." Simone laughed. "Sure, laugh now, but you better tell her if you want to keep anything of yours."
"I have my quidditch robe and my normal clothes." She shifted over so Anastasia could sit beside her. "Feel better?"
"Much. Having a bra finally is doing wonders for my backache." She smiled at the fifth year girl who had just snorted. "You don't notice a difference when you don't wear one?"
"Yours is padded, kid."
Simone and Denver both shook their heads. "We're all hitting puberty early," Denver told her. "She's got a wonderful set of tits that not even Iggy's shirts could hide." Some of the boys blushed and laughed. "Of course, anyone hits on her before her fifth year and father will make Simone hurt you." The boys went back to their studies.
Anastasia took off her vest and flashed the other girl, who frowned at her. "Still think it's padding?" she asked.
"Shirts on please," the Head Girl said, not looking up. She smiled into her book at the fifth year girl's sigh. "It could be worse, she could be after your boyfriend."
"Cynthia, I'm not after a man, they smell bad and don't keep themselves clean. I don't think I'll want a man until I'm a sixth year at least."
Cynthia looked over at her. "You'll change your mind once you find out what boys are for."
"I have books that show and tell me what boys are for and they still don't clean up well enough for me. I prefer my lovers freshly washed and I doubt any of you louts would be willing to scrub up for a girl." The boys all nodded. "You would?"
"Usually right before a date," Michael told her. "Trust us, you'll like them better once you're older." He patted her on the head. "You do look like our princess."
"I told you I was one," she retorted. "I even have a tiara at home."
"They let you out with the crown on?" Simone asked. "I lost mine."
"Yeah, I came home with jewel strands woven in my hair and my tiara still in place. Plus this ungodly lace outfit that bound me horribly. I tried to whine my way into leather, but father wouldn't agree."
"Who wears leather?" Cynthia asked.
"Uncle Xander," the siblings said in unison.
"For fighting," Simone added. "He used to have this really neat leather bodysuit but it got ripped up by a vampire legion."
"When did that happen?" Michael asked.
"The year he started teaching. That's how he and George got together, over him being in the infirmary."
Anastasia looked at her. "Uncle George told you to never repeat that story because it still bothers him. Uncle Xander nearly died."
"I didn't tell everything," Simone argued.
"Still, they don't like to think about it. It was a very bad time in their lives." Anastasia went back to her reading. "Why do Goblins have such ucky names?" she asked the room at large.
"Because they're goblins," a few of the older kids answered. Then they laughed.
Ron walked into the house and smiled at his niece. "Feel better?"
He leaned down. "What did you do to make your father that upset?"
"He saw my underwear and didn't approve at all," she said innocently.
"Ah." He straightened up. "Remember, most parents don't want their children to live the lives they did. Try not to upset him again. He's pacing about and telling Lucien that he'll be the best little boy in the world."
She laughed. "If any of us are going to be Slytherin it's going to be him."
"Maybe, but there are a few things that he doesn't want to think about you following his lead about. Remember not to upset him, Ginny's putting him under enough stress about that stupid hybrid spell." He straightened up. "Any luck on tryouts?"
"If Ana will agree, we've got a seeker," Denver told him. Anastasia sighed and nodded. "Thanks, sis."
"You're welcome, but I'm only playing until Little Ron gets here."
The new captain rushed over and gave her a hug. "Don't worry, we'll have you trained in no time."
She smiled at him. "I hover, or I cruise around, I go into sudden action to either put off the other seeker or when I find the snitch. I float high enough to stay out of trouble. Do I have the basics?" He laughed and nodded. "Father said he could train me this weekend."
"And we can probably get Uncle Harry here so they can fight about it," Simone said jovially. A few of the older kids laughed. "I'm sure between the two of them they could train you easily."
Denver nodded. "And we could get Little Ron and Mellie over for the weekend too. They'd probably like to get out of the house."
"How soon is this Little Ron getting added to the house?" Michael asked.
"Next year," Anastasia told him. "He's Harry's first normal child. Looks just like him but unfortunately has his mother's hair. And you'll love Mellie. Just a little cutup."
"She's a sarcastic little mouthy brat," Denver told her.
"Only to you. To me she's a wonderful playmate and dear little creature." She smiled at her older brother. "If you played with her she'd like you too."
"She only wanted to play dolls."
"Yes, she's a little girl, they do things like that. Feel thankful that Aggie hasn't managed to warp her yet."
"She tried?" Cynthia asked. She came over and looked at them. "How often and has she gone bad?"
"Not yet and she's more using her for her power. She wants to drain her more than anything, though Little Ron is her favorite target to hurt." Simone looked up. "We've always tried to protect the younger two once we figured out what was going on."
"The younger two will be joining us here," Denver told her. "They're nothing like Aggie."
"Good. We could use some good lines continuing in the house." Cynthia smiled at her Prefects and they nodded. "We'd like a chance to talk to them before they join. Would that be okay?"
"Fine." Anastasia looked around. "Does anyone care if I get my familiar this weekend? Uncle Xander promised to take me shopping for one soon."
"Remember, phoenixes don't like cats," Simone told her.
"Yay, phoenixes don't like me. If I want a cat, I'm getting a cat. I'll make sure to get one who likes to cuddle as well, that way I have a bed warmer."
"It's your cat's life," Simone told her, going back to her studies. "I'm not taking responsibility for it."
"It'll be my cat and your birds are annoying, sister dear. Keep them out of my room and they won't get hurt by my cat." A few of the nearby kids moved out of hitting range. "Don't worry," she said, smiling at them. "This is an old argument. The world doesn't revolve around Simone, it revolves around me. She's got to understand that."
The Head Boy laughed. "I'm sure you two will understand the meaning of life soon enough." He jumped out of the way as Denver shot up off the couch. "What happened?"
"Bloody biters! Simone, keep your fucking birds away from my arse!"
Simone looked over the back of the couch. "If you do it again, they'll make you go back to the nest," she said dryly. The bird cheeped pitifully. "It wasn't me you bit, apologize to him."
Denver glared at the bird. "Bite me again and we'll see if you taste like chicken or not," he told it. It gave him the pitiful look. "Not working, I grew up on Murphy doing that. Go play with someone else's rear." The bird flew off and nestled into one of the Prefect's laps, nuzzling up to her breast.
"What are you doing!" she shrieked. "I'm not breastfeeding you!"
The portrait opened and Dumbledore walked in. "I wondered what was going on. Out, now," he ordered the bird. "No fluffing up to the humans. They're not going to mate with you. Now out." The bird launched itself up and flew off. "Do call me if you have anymore problems." Simone waved a hand. He left, going to talk to the bird about it's unorthodox liking for humans and their genitals.
"Anyone objecting to the name baby for that one?" Simone asked. The whole common room burst into laughter and everyone went back to work.
Iggy escorted his penpal into the Great Hall. "If you want, you can sit with us," he offered. She smiled so he sat her down in his section of the Gryffindor table. "Here we are. Of course, you've met my cousins. Have you met Anastasia? She's their sister." Anastasia waved.
"You would look so cute if you wore glasses with that outfit," Raena told her.
She smiled. "In a few years." She passed down the food to the new couple. "Here you go. Iggy, there was a problem with a bird earlier. It decided to bite Denver on the rear."
"Ah, that one," he said, nodding. "I've had a few encounters with the biting creature myself. Got me the other morning while I was trying to nap." Raena laughed. "You think it's funny, but Hilda is one of the calmest phoenixes we've ever had born here. The others all have...quirky behavior you might say. They're rather fond of doing odd things." A little body attacked his leg. "Hi, Maeve," he said, smiling down at her. "How are you today?" She giggled at him. "This is Raena, she's my penpal, Hilda adopted her. This is my little sister Maeve."
Raena looked down and waved at her. "Hello, Maeve. How old are you?"
"Just under a year and already about six months ahead of schedule," Simone told her. She looked under the table. "Where's Lucien?"
Maeve laughed and pointed.
The group turned and found Lucien curled up against the ample bosom babbling at the Hufflepuff holding him. Simone shook her head. "Father, do you know where your pride and joy is?" she called.
Draco looked up and choked. "Lucien! Leave her lap this instant. She has to eat as well. Get back to your table."
"Maeve," Tara called gently. Her daughter ran out from under the Gryffindor table. "Would you please call Lucien and have him come finish his dinner?" Her daughter looked at her favorite playmate and he scrambled down to join her at their table. "Sorry about that. Continue dinner."
Xander walked in with William. "Here we are, the last of the terrible ones." He put his son down at the kids' table and patted him on the head. "You guys behave and I'll make popcorn tonight for the movie." The triplets all cheered. "Good boys and girls." He smiled and took his seat. "Sorry I'm late," he said with a smile at Tara. "Dumbledore?"
"Returning the one everyone's now calling Baby back to his nest. He caused a bit of trouble in Gryffindor."
"Oh, him," Xander said, nodding. "Got George yesterday and Fred the day before. You should have heard the squeals of outrage." He dished himself up some dinner. "Where's Snape?"
"Fixing a book of things for your son's penpal to take back with her," she told him. She ducked her head and started to eat, hoping he wouldn't notice anything off about her.
Xander followed his son out the door, keeping a strong hand on him so his son wouldn't try to leave with her. "Say goodbye," he reminded him.
"Thank you for coming," Iggy said, getting free of the hold on his shoulder and giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I'll try to join Braun for summer classes in two years, when I'm eligible."
She smiled. "Hopefully, by then, I'm going to have finally graduated with my Mastery." He looked hurt. "But you can come visit if your parents say so. I'm not looking to move far away from my colony." She gave him a hug and let him go, stepping away from him. "I'm off to see your elders. Wish me luck."
"Pluck one of Bill's pinions for me," Iggy said with a grin. "He hates it when I do that."
She laughed and took the portkey from Dumbledore, disappearing to perform the ritual duties. She landed in front of the guardian, clutching the book Snape had given her to her chest. "Just a social call. I'm the one who went to help Iggy." The portal opened and she stepped in, bowing to the elders sitting there. "Hello. I just came from Hogwarts, healing the wizard flu outbreak. I'm Raena Tallias, of the Amsterdam colony." She bowed again and smiled confidently.
"Ignatius has told us quite a lot about you," one of the elders told her, bending down to get near her. "You are his penpal?" She nodded. "How is our young problem?"
She laughed. "Doing much better. I used our oldest healing potion to cure him." She handed over the courtesy copy she had made. "I found he's quite well trained already. My advisor will be really happy to hear about him."
The elder laughed. "I'm sure he'll regret it once he spends all summer with him. Ignatius is still quite hyper for a child his age."
"He's only eleven," she pointed out. "He's supposed to be hyper. It's the way of children everywhere according to my parents."
All the elders laughed. "Yes, it is so," the elder sitting on the left agreed, a very old gryphon by any standard. "He will do well enough, especially under such good tutelage. Did you have time to evaluate him or his abilities?"
"My last day there was spent working with him and his mentor. They were both excellent and Iggy made a point to answer questions put to him and stand up for himself when he felt it was necessary. It's easy to see he likes to bait the professor helping him but he's a great kid."
The elders all squawked at each other then laughed. She smiled too, understanding gryphon quite well.
Xander woke up and patted his head. Something felt off. He mentally checked his body and decided something had been playing with his hair, and since Murphy was off visiting with Charlie in Romania, it had to be something else. He looked around but nothing appeared to be wrong. So he slipped out of bed and went to the bathroom to check his hair. On it he found his first gray hair. His mouth opened and a hiss of pain and loss creeped out. Then he decided he had to check his sources, he might be wrong. He jogged down to his library in his lab, pulling out book after book until he found that not one of them was the one he needed. He headed for the library, stopping only to pull on a robe. He walked into the library and met Irma Pince, who was having some tea while she read. "I need one of my books." She nodded and led him to where she had stored the greater majority of them. "I need my maroon leather one."
She nodded. "Around the corner and right beside the window, Xander. What's going on?"
"I need to check something," he said as he walked around the corner and pulled it down. He flipped through, coming to the life section. Right there it was. A gray hair meant that a gryphon born was starting to age rapidly and was quickly going downhill. He put the book down on the table and went to visit the only person who could make him feel better right now. He slipped into Tara's room and curled up next to her, hugging her for all she was worth.
"What happened?" she murmured, waking up to being squeezed to death. She looked at the person holding her. "What's wrong, Xander?"
"I found a gray hair," he whispered, eyes squeezed tightly shut. He didn't want to think about it, just to be made to feel better. He could face dying in the morning.
She patted his back. "It happens to the best of us." She looked over as her door opened again and Snape walked out of the bathroom. "He found a gray hair."
"Is that all?" he sneered.
She shook her head. "You don't understand."
"Pull the thing out and send him on."
"It'll only make more grow," she argued, knowing he still didn't understand. She had read that book with him because he wanted her interpretation of it.
Snape reached down and pulled the obvious gray hair. "There, it's gone."
"Now he'll grow three in it's place," Tara told him. He rolled his eyes. "A gray hair on a gryphon born means it's not got long to live," she hissed. Snape's mouth fell open. "This is a bad thing." She rocked Xander gently. "It's okay. We'll get you to see Bill tomorrow and we'll figure out what's wrong. It has to be curable if it's just showed up." Xander nodded but didn't let her go. "Want to go wake up Poppy? Have her scan you?" Xander shook his head. "You'd rather not know?"
"I doubt she's going to find anything," he told her, shifting his head so he was resting on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, but I needed the comfort."
"I understand," she soothed, patting him until he fell back asleep. She looked back at her man. "We've got to find something to help him."
"I'll talk to Poppy myself. Surely she'll find something wrong with him." He climbed in behind his woman and smiled at her. "Do you want to tell him?"
"No, let him find out on his own. It'll be fine." She closed her eyes, very comfortable in the middle of the two men. She would have to help Xander tomorrow, this was bad. So very, very bad.
Xander watched as Poppy ran her wand over him slowly, then closed his eyes when he saw the head shake. "There has to be something."
"It could be so small that we're not seeing it manifest yet," Tara offered. "We'll find it once it's come up far enough."
"All I could sense was some troubles with his stomach, but that's probably due to stress. Besides a little bit of excess power in his aura, I really can't find anything."
Tara climbed up onto a bed and relaxed her mind, turning on her other sight. She looked him over. "It's not nothing. He's always had a strong blue and red aura, the dark tones that look so good on him. Now it's pink and pasty white." She shook her head, returning to her normal sight. "That's not right."
"No, but it could be some power bleaching. It would explain the white hair," Poppy said, pointing at the small patch of white that he now had.
"Power bleaching always starts at the temples," Snape reminded her. "Xander, what exactly did your books say on gryphon borns and their life expectancy."
"There's not one."
"There's not one?" he repeated. Xander nodded. "Not a standard one or not one mentioned?"
"Not a standard one," Tara told him. "It's different depending on your degree of bornness. They only get gray hairs when they're about to die. Usually a year or two before hand." She slid off the table and came over to him, touching the white spot. "When he hopped into bed with us, it was only one hair, then Severus pulled it out."
"Now it's closer to twenty and growing," Poppy noted. "I say we call the elders, have them look at him."
"There's nothing they can do," Xander told her. He came off the table. "Not a word of this to the family. I'll tell them eventually." He ran a hand through his hair. Then he looked at the new couple. "If something happens, you're watching Iggy, right?" They both nodded. "Good." He walked away, heading out of the school to go think.
Tara took Severus' hand and squeezed it. "It'll be okay. We'll find whatever's wrong and fix it."
"If possible," he agreed. He pulled her closer. "We have to tell the Headmaster. I know he's not up yet."
She shook her head. "We can't. He'll yell and scream if we tell Albus before he's ready." She let him go and walked away. "I need breakfast."
Snape looked at Madam Pomfrey. "What would you have me do?" he asked her.
"Have a sedating potion ready. It's all we can do." He nodded and left her there with her thoughts. "Oh, that poor man," she sighed. "And with the child too."
Xander walked into the colony and bowed to the elders. "Where's Bill?"
"Is it important?" the new female elder asked.
Xander tipped his head down to show her and she hissed. "I want to know if he can figure out why."
"Why is as individual as each of you," she said gently.
Xander shook his head. "I got checked out. I'm perfectly healthy. It just showed up a few days ago." She shrugged. "Where is he?"
"In his library, but he cannot help, young one."
Xander shrugged. "At least he can tell me that himself." He headed back to the library, bypassing the usual living quarters. He found his buddy in their version of the stacks and tapped him on the wing. "I need your help."
Bill looked down at him and squeaked in alarm. "What happened to you?" He used his front paw to lift some of the hair, now in a spiderweb across his head. "When did this appear?"
"Three days ago. I had our healer there check me over and all she found was some funkiness in my aura."
"Then we shall check you over. Have you talked to your husband yet?" Xander shook his head so he leaned closer. "Why not?"
"What do I tell him? Gee, honey, I woke up three days ago and found out I've got a few months to live. Wanna screw now?" he said in derision. "I'd rather have answers before I have to face anybody."
"As would I. Come, let us go find the healers and have you looked over again. If it has cropped up this quickly, it must be noticeable by now." He led the way, forgetting his books.
Iggy woke up with a moan of pain. Late practice had left him sore and achy. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, then ran a hand through his hair. Something stopped him and he climbed out of bed to go look in the mirrors in the bathroom. "Whoa," he said, touching the large white streak on the left side of his head from his temple to his ear. "That's not a good thing." He pulled on some clothes and ran out, heading for the infirmary. "Madam Pomfrey," he gasped as he ran in. "I've got problems."
She looked at him and started to tear up. "Not you too," she said, pulling him in to hold.
"Me too?" He looked around but the infirmary was empty. "What me too?" He pulled back. "Which one of us?"
"Your father," she whispered. "Three days ago." She pulled her wand and ran it over him, but again could only find a little wrong with his aura. "I don't know what to do. He left to talk to someone and hasn't come back but you're showing the same symptoms."
"Did he go to the colony?" She nodded. "Then tell whomever that I'm headed there too."
"Iggy, wait," she called, but he had disappeared. "Oh, dear." She called out for her boss, hoping he was listening for her. This was terrible.
Iggy landed in front of the elders. "Where's my father?" he asked.
"You as well?" the female said, looking down at him. "What has happened up there? Why are you both ill?"
"I don't know but I'm damn sure going to find out. Now where's my father?" he asked.
"In with the healers. They can't find anything wrong."
Iggy nodded and headed back, ignoring the pitied looks he was getting. "Have you found out what's wrong yet?" he asked as he walked in. Both his father and Bill hugged him. "Get off. Just tell me what's going on!"
"We don't know," Xander said, being honest. He touched the white streak. "Today?" Iggy nodded. "Then whatever it was has gotten you too." He looked at the healer. "You can't find anything?"
"Other than some warping and none of my research has led me anywhere," she told him. She looked this new case over. "Same symptoms, but still nothing concrete." She shrugged. "I'll go look some more."
"Do it," Bill told her. He looked at them. "You are both welcome to take refuge here. We will send word to your family that you are needed here for a while." Xander nodded, grabbing his son to hold. "Come, we'll set you up in a quiet corner." He led them to one of the smaller caves, leaving them there. He was needed to help with the research. He sent an owl back to Hogwarts, addressed to the potion's master. They would probably need his help as well.
Dumbledore looked at Xander's third years. "Apparently Professor Harris has had a personal emergency."
Tara walked in. "We'll get started in a moment. Let me put the outline up on the board." She looked at her boss. "I agreed to take over when possible," she said quietly. "Severus has a letter you need to read." He nodded and left her alone. She smiled at the students. "It's been a while since I had to deal with this side of life so forgive me for reading directly from Xander's notes." They all nodded. "He'll hopefully be back soon." She picked up some chalk and the day's notes, reading over them. She actually remembered dealing with one of these. Wonderful.
Dumbledore read the letter, then sighed. "When did this happen?"
"Four days ago. He found the first gray hair and it had turned into a handful by dawn." Snape closed his office door so no one would hear them. "Ignatius disappeared yesterday. Poppy told me."
"Then it's something which has to be dealt with. I need you to go get someone to fill in from that nice Wesley person."
"Is that wise?"
"You'd rather have Tara teaching both classes in her condition?" he asked.
"No. I'll go during my free period. Did you want Rosenberg?"
"If she wishes. I'm not going to force her to come back."
"Very well. I know he's trying to find a cure."
"What do we know for sure?"
"Tara noticed a bleaching of his aura, it's now light pink and pale white. We noticed something going on with his power structure. Other than that, we've found nothing. You'll need to check with them to see if they've found anything. It's more their field than ours."
"Indeed it is. I'll go to them today." He smiled and left, going to meddle a bit. It really was too bad that Xander had ran. His family would be quite upset with him for it.
George walked into the caverns and everyone got out of his way. They were all giving him strange, pitying looks as well. He shrugged it off. He had faced down everything else with his husband, he could do this as well. He found their little hole in the wall and walked in. "Xander," he said calmly. Xander started to sniffle. "Don't you dare." Xander grabbed him and cried on him. "Oh, damn. What's happened this time?" He noticed the white hair. "Where did this come from?"
Iggy walked in and turned his back so he wouldn't have to watch that scene. "Bill wants to see you and explain some things to you."
"You've got one too," George said, touching his son's white spot, now most of the left side of his head. "What's going on?"
"It's a sign that we're going to die soon," Xander told him, pulling back and wiping himself off. "We're looking really hard to figure out what it is."
George stood up. "So you came here to hide this from me?" Xander nodded. "Why?"
"Because, father, it's hard enough going through this without having to watch the rest of the family go through it too," his son snapped. He hung his head. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's all right," George said, pulling him down to give him a hug. "We'll deal with this and find out what's wrong, come hell or high water." He stood up. "Let me go talk to Bill and the healers. You both stay here. I don't want to have to search you out again." He headed for the library, the surest place to find the elder. "Any idea what's going on?" he asked in greeting.
"Not a bit," Bill admitted. "All we can tell is that their powers have been warped. In your son's case weakened, in Xander's strengthened and he's out of control again." He saw the frown. "We're doing all we can."
"And not telling me would be part of that?"
He leaned down. "Your mate wanted to come to you with answers, not more worries. He didn't want to make you worry about the both of them."
"So he disappeared without a word. How nice," George said in his driest tone. "Now then, what do we know and what can I do to help?"
"Unless you've suddenly found a way to read power signatures, a lost art among us, all you can do is soothe them. Your mate and son need you more right now."
"How would one read power signatures? Is it something that someone like Tara might be able to do? If so, there's another witch I can go and ask for help. I don't like her, but I'm willing to ask her for her help to save them both."
"You can ask them, but I have no idea if anyone among their type would know either. None of the other colonies have anyone."
George nodded. "Then I'll do that. I'll be back in a while, after I tell them what I'm doing." He glanced around. "Keep Xander from doing stupid things, please," he said quietly, then he left. He hugged them both and said he was going to talk to someone who might know, then left them there to go report in and get some help. Even if he had to beg the bitch for it.
Melvin looked at the family meeting, frowning when he noticed a few people missing. "What's happened this time?" he asked his father.
Percy cleared his throat. "We've found some sort of disease in Xander and Ignatius both. It's been hidden in their power flows for a while now and they're looking into it."
"Another year of hell," Simone sighed. "How long before it's fixed?"
"It may never be fixed," Fred told her, frowning at her. She always took things too lightly.
"Excuse me, not be fixed?" Anastasia asked. "Wouldn't warping someone's power like you're obviously talking about hurt them?"
"No, it might kill them," Percy told her. "We're searching for something to help them but we're missing someone who can read power flows in people."
"Isn't that like reading auras?" Simone asked. "Could Andrea do that?"
"We're not sure. George asked that same question," Percy told her, smiling at her for the helpful comment. "If not, we're not sure we can cure them. In a gryphon born, they get white hair before they get this ill. Both of them sprouted it a few days apart."
Denver stood up. "No. This is not happening. Uncle Xander's too damn strong to let anything like this happen to him. I'll be damned if he's going to die because he's been warped!" He looked around but no one else looked like they were willing to fight. "Fuck this shit." He headed for the floo, ducking his Uncle Fred. His father could fix anything, he could find a way to fix this too. He ran into Aunt Ginny. "Where's father?" he asked.
"Down the hall getting a drink." She glanced up from her books. "What's wrong?"
"They didn't tell you?" She shook her head. "Iggy and Xander might die. And you're sitting here not helping!" He ran for his father, hoping he could fix it this time too. Draco caught him and held him. "Fix it, daddy," he whispered.
"What happened?" Denver looked up at him and he knew it was bad. "Which one and what happened this time?"
"Someone hurt Iggy and Uncle Xander."
"Shit." He hugged his son close. "Let's go figure out what's going on and we'll find out if I can help at all." He led his son back to the floo fireplace, taking him back with him. "Explain this to me," he ordered.
"Sit," Percy said tiredly. "Simone just headed up to sit on a roof."
Xander looked up, hoping that it was someone who knew something. Instead, he got Willow. "Hey," he said listlessly. He was so tired.
She knelt beside the bed. "What happened?"
He shrugged. "Somehow my power got warped."
"Oh." She smiled at him. "Wesley knows how to do that. He's got a book and everything. He's talking it over with your mate." She brushed some of his hair off his forehead. "Where's Iggy?"
"Healers. They wanted to scan him again. He's so much worse." He grabbed her hand. "Fix him, Wills, please?"
"I'm going to do my best," she promised. She stood up and let the human lead her back to the library. What she saw made her whistle. "Damn, even bigger than ours." Wesley smiled at her. "Xander's looking really weak. Can we do this now?"
"We'll need to clean somewhere so I only read him and not the residual energy of the place. After that, it's a small ritual. Also, I'll need a chaos person to help." He grimaced. "I don't have access to one of those."
"Xander kept in contact with Ethan," George said quietly, holding his son. "He's in London somewhere with Spike. Murphy isn't coming to me though."
"Hey, we can find Spike," she said with a smile. "We have people who track him." She looked at Wesley and he nodded. "Then I'm heading for London to get him. I'll be back soon enough. Floo?"
"Main fire," Bill told her. "Move any pots out of the way first." She nodded and left. So he looked at George. "Was she the one who went bad while pregnant?" Both men nodded. "Ah. She shows the same sort of warping. Just in a lesser amount."
"So if Xander got pregnant, he'd turn evil too?" George asked weakly.
Bill nodded. "Probably." He glanced around. "Where's your middle child? Did we ever remove the link between him and Xander?"
"No," George groaned, handing over Iggy. "Let me go get him and Tara." Bill looked confused. "She's still linked to him too if you haven't taken it off Xander." He disappeared, landing by special permission in the headmaster's office. "I need William. He's still linked to Xander."
"Oh, my," he sighed. "I'll bring him. Will you need Tara?"
"And that Ethan chap if Willow can't find him. Murphy's not answering to me at all now." He sat down. "Bill just said Willow shows the same warping."
"Really? Then it might have something to do with where they grew up."
"Iggy's never been to the hellmouth, Albus."
"No, but if Ryan shows it, then it could be genetic, passed on from the parent they're most like."
"Oh." George brightened up. "Can we look him over?"
"I'll bring him with me to check it out. Go check with them and I'll bring Tara and William." He nodded and left. "A possible reason leads to a solution," he said as he stood up. Tara walked up his stairs with William in one hand and Ryan behind him. "You heard?"
"I felt." She handed Ryan over. "He's not thrilled."
"I'm more like my father," Ryan pointed out.
"Yes, but it might not matter. He spent many years there himself." He took them both and helped them to the colony, smiling as they landed back in the main section. "This is Willow's son," he told the healer walking toward them. "Bill told George that his mother showed the same warping. If it came from their childhood...."
"Then he should show it too. It will only take a moment to check him out." She smiled at Tara. "Coming for a visit?"
"We never disassociated the link between us and him," Tara told her
"Then we'll do that first." The healer led Ryan away, and came out a minute later smiling. "He shows it. It's the hellmouth."
"Yes," Tara said happily. "Do I show it?" The healer examined her then shook her head. "So Maeve won't?"
"We've seen her recently and she was fine," the healer told her. "You had a very good thought," she told Dumbledore, patting him on the side of the face. "Worthy of one of us." She left them there to go report on this news.
George walked out of the floo in their tower and everyone stared at him. "A bit of news, good at that. The hellmouth they all grew up on warped them and it passed on to the kids." Draco choked. "Ryan Rosenberg shows the same taint."
"How do we fix it?" Ron asked.
"That no one's sure of yet, but we've been able to push some of it back once we separated William from Xander and Tara." Draco stared at him. "Really, I don't know. The thing's closed. It's like it's radiating through them for whatever reason."
"Which means we'll have to talk to the git," Ron added. George nodded. "Well, the Watchers have him."
"Willow's telling him to see if he has any idea."
"Can we kill this hellmouth?" Draco asked.
"It's a portal to hell," George told him. "You can't really kill it. It's not a monster, it's a pool of energy."
"Then can it be drained?" he asked patiently.
"Not a clue. The Watchers have spells to close it, which Willow did three times. It's still closed as far as the Watchers can tell." Dumbledore walked in carrying William. "It's their old hellmouth, sir."
"I heard. Tara's come back as well." He smiled at everyone. "Xander will be back in a few days time, once he's stronger. He'll be taking back his normal jobs, without teaching flying. It was agreed he didn't need the stress right now, but he felt he had to start teaching again so he could continue to live here." The adults nodded. "Iggy has been cleared to fly in the next game as well, he begged until they told him he could. He's to rest more often than not otherwise." The kids nodded, looking happier. "Here we are," he said, handing William to George. "Take good care of him. We will fix this, George, do not fear losing him yet. Even with just this spell, he'll be around for another two years." George nodded and held his son tightly. "I'll be around if you need to talk to me." He nodded at them and left.
Draco stood up once he was gone. "All right, so how do we fix this hellmouth thing so it's gone? I'm not letting it kill people. A mystical hole isn't a good enough reason to die."
Ron nodded. "True. I'm thinking a drain, or a filter and a drain." He looked at his older brother. "Anything from that chaos person?"
"Not yet. He helped Willow do the spell to heal Xander and Iggy," George said quietly into William's neck. He looked up. "I don't even know who would know."
"Then we'll start with the two obvious sources, the people who closed it and the people who use the magic of it," Ron said firmly, standing up. "Which do you want?"
"Watchers," Draco told him. He checked his attire. "Or not. Maybe I'll go see the vampire and the chaos person. They'll probably need more encouragement to help." He smiled and left, heading for London. Someone had to know this Spike character. Xander had said he was well known.
Ron stopped to pat his brother on the shoulder, then left to talk to Wesley. They had met a few times and he liked the man, he reminded him of when Hermione was a good girl. He landed in the fireplace and smiled at the witch meeting him. "Hello, Amelia. Is that nice Wesley person around?"
"He's in the next room," the woman watching the baby told him. "Pulling books down about hellmouths." She picked up the baby. "Who're you?"
"Ron Weasley, Buffy's man."
"Oh." She smiled. "I heard about that. We're sorry for Giles' conduct." She led him to the secondary library, showing him back to the tables.
"Hey, Ron," Willow said with a smile. "You want to help?"
"Please. Draco and I both want to kill the hellmouth before it does in Xander. How do we do that?"
Wesley laughed, but it wasn't done meanly. "You can't kill it. You might be able to drain it, or possibly change it, but you can't kill it completely. Power naturally gathers there."
"So put in one of those speed bump things. Make it a hill instead of a valley."
"He's got a point," Willow agreed. "If we could move the stupid seal, we could do a lot more."
"There's a park over that spot now," Wesley reminded her. "With a memorial right in the way."
"It's a statue of a human. If it starts walking one night, will anyone notice?" Willow asked. Wesley frowned at her. "Hey, it could dig for us. It's stronger than I am."
"We'll figure this out. We have two years, dear."
"You two are together?" Ron asked, smiling at her. "I'm happy for you."
"Thanks." She smiled back. "Who's the ho my son latched onto?"
"Harry's eldest." Wesley hissed. "He offered to control her and teach her the proper way to be a snake. She's learning really well how to be the princess of their house. He even agreed not to beat her."
Willow shook his head. "My son and I need to have a talk it seems. Christmas okay with you, Wes?"
"I think we should probably meet the girl. It doesn't sound like it's a short term thing." He pushed some books over. "We want those back, but those have the closing spell in them. It's a good place to start. The pink one is the diary of someone who studied the bloody things years back."
Ron hefted the books. "Thanks. We'll be careful with them." He nodded his head and left.
"Can we do this?" Willow asked quietly.
"It has to be done. Someone will have to do it," he reminded her. "If not, you're in just as much danger as he is. As are your children."
"Point," she agreed, getting back to her work. "We need more research people."
Wesley smiled. "Around here? Research people? Wherever shall we find them?" he teased.
"Good, you call the meeting and I'll explain it to the staff," she agreed. He got up with a sigh to call the late night meeting. "And bring sodas," she called after him.
Draco tapped on the door of the address given to him, not expecting someone who looked a lot like him to open the door. "Oh, my," he said, looking the man in leather over. "You must be Spike." He held out a hand. "Draco Malfoy."
Spike pulled him inside and looked him over. "Why're you here? Bit young to be playing with raw power, aren't you?"
Draco laughed. "I'm nearly as old as Xander is." That shut the vampire up so he looked over him again. "So that's what I'd look like in leather. Interesting."
"Who is that?" another man called as he walked down the stairs. "Oh, damn," Ethan sighed. "I'm not sure what I can do to help him further, boy."
Draco smiled his most endearing smile. "I want to kill the hellmouth and you're probably the only person who can use it's powers that Xander trusts. Tell me how to do it?"
Ethan laughed. "Kill it? A mystical portal?"
Draco shrugged. "I don't care what it is, it's messing with my family." He took off his gloves and cloak. "Shall we talk?"
"Yes," Ethan agreed, leading him into the drawing room. "Spike, would you please get me the green book entitled 'Hellmouth'?" Spike grumbled as he went into the library. "How is he?"
"Resting at the colony still. He'll be back in a few days." Draco made himself comfortable. "Personally, the man turned me away from the truly hideous path I was on and let me pick my own. I owe him my life for it, and for that of my children. I want to do whatever I can to stop this from sucking him dry and killing him as his family stands by and watches."
"He'll leave before then," Spike said as he walked in with a large tome, dropping it onto the table in front of them. "Anything else?" he asked dryly.
Draco smiled at him. "Are you the one who found Vincent?" Spike nodded. "Then you should probably have this." He pulled out his wallet and handed over a picture of the triplets. "Ron's meant to send you one via Xander."
Spike traced the little faces. "They're getting big."
"And mouthy," Draco added with a smirk. "Quite the little shits some days."
Spike laughed. "Buffy would'a loved that." He slipped the picture into his pocket. "What're you going to do?"
"Anything possible. George won't let Xander leave again and they're not letting their son go hide either. That leaves the stronger of us doing something about it."
"It could warp you while you were fixing it," Ethan told him, trying to stay nice to this strange wizard.
Draco smirked at him, all but reading his mind. "I'm not nice and I don't expect it from you. I could torture you for the information if it'd make you feel better, or give you a fair trade."
"What do you have that I want?" Ethan asked.
"Access the phoenix chicks at Hogwarts, some of whom are ready to bond now. Or I could tell you where they're hiding Rupert Giles. I had to hold Ron back a few weeks ago when he wanted to go hit him again."
"He came back!" Ethan shouted, hopping up to stare down at him. "When?"
"The same day they came to take Ms. Reams," Draco told him. "Showed up and collapsed in the Great Hall. The school nurse tended him for a few days, until Xander was well enough to question him, then Xander picked him up and went to Wesley, dropping him physically on the desk. They've got him locked up now in their version of the nuthatch." He smiled. "Which would you prefer?"
"The phoenix," Spike said. "Damn handy birds." He sat down and put his feet up on the book, but Ethan knocked them off. "I'm still not your toy."
"I won't finish disabling the chip if you don't quit acting like an arse," Ethan snapped.
"Oh, I can do that," Draco said, pulling out his wand. "Mechanical?" Spike nodded. "Is it already disabled or is it partially working?"
"It's fused in there and has a repair feature," Spike said, starting to look interested.
"As long as you never eat one of mine," Draco told him, swishing and flicking. The chip landed in his hand and he showed it off, little bits of brain and all. "Now, if you try to eat one of us, I'll have it put back in, only stronger this time. Ginny can do that you know."
Spike got up and danced around. "I'm free!" he shouted over and over again.
"Dear God, you've created a party monster," Ethan sighed as he sat down again. "I'll help you for the name of the facility where they have him."
"He's in their basement. The secondary building, some sort of clinic is overtop of it."
Ethan hit himself on the head. "Of course they wouldn't let him out of their sight." He pointed at the book. "This is the basic book on all hellmouths. Sunnydale's has a special section in the back because it's been active before. I suspect that it's pulling energy from them to try and open again, or someone's trying to open the hellmouth and Willow's spell is drawing energy from them to keep it closed. Whatever happens, you cannot let it open or hell will emerge on earth and we're all screwed. Got it?" Draco nodded and picked up the book. "I want that back."
"Fine. I'll send it back." Draco shrunk it and put it into his pocket. "Thank you for your help. I'll be back in a few weeks if I need anything else." He put on his cloak and left, going back home. He even waved at the nice Ministry person watching the house. He and Ron got back about the same time and compared books.
"Enough," George said. He pointed at them. "Lock them into the special library and we'll start this tomorrow, after we've all slept." The boys nodded and put the books into the library, Ron sealing it again. Then they all went upstairs, Draco following George to give him some time without sleeping alone, just until he fell asleep.
Xander walked into his room and stopped, smiling at the pair in his nest. "Replacing me?" he said, loud enough to wake them.
"Not in the least, he needed someone to thump him in the middle of the night," Draco said, blinking at him. "You're glowing."
"It's an after-effect of the spell." He slid in behind his mate, hugging him tightly. He thought about making a quip about Draco filling in after he was gone but George flipped over and kissed him. "Sorry."
"I'm not replacing you, ever. If you leave me, I'm going to wither and dry up like the plant in your lab until you come back and haunt me forever. Do you understand?"
Xander nodded. "Yup." He gave him a short kiss. "I'm sorry I ran, but I had to know." George stopped him by nipping his lip.
"Don't do it again. We're working on fixing this for you." Draco slid out of the nest and headed for the bathroom. "Do whatever you would normally do."
"I wish," Xander sighed. "But I can't. I'm not allowed to have sex for the next week."
"I can live with cuddles for that much longer," George told him.
"George, I want to ask something and not have you hit me," Xander said after a few minutes of cuddles.
"Yes, you do have life insurance and we'll be taken care of. It's all right, Xander. Dad gifted us with a policy for the wedding."
"Oh. Good. He thought you were going to kill me?"
"Probably," George agreed, hugging him harder. "You're not leaving when you get sick again. I won't have it." Xander shook his head. "No, Xander, I mean it." He lifted his head up so he could look at his husband. "On the second anniversary, I'm going to wake you up in such a way that you'll have to spend the whole day in bed resting."
Xander smiled. That was so sweet. "So you'll kill me yourself?"
"If I have to, but I'm hoping to go with you. You know that."
Xander put a finger over his lips. "Not until the kids are grown. Promise me, George. I don't want them to have to live with someone else like they're a burden."
"Love, that's what family does. Charlie's already offered to take them on, even said he'd quit his job to do it if he had to. Mum and Percy both offered too. No one's going to be put out by taking care of them for us." He heard the 'bad thought' thought and sighed. "I don't want to think about it either, but I'm trying to be practical. I doubt I'd be much of myself if you die on me. I'd be the burden on the family, not the kids. I don't want to go on without you."
"But then how can I haunt you," Xander tried.
"Easy, we'll come haunt Draco together," George told him with a faint smile. "We'll taunt him until he marries my sister and makes an honest woman out of her." Xander chuckled but it was still weak. "We'll figure all this out this summer, all right?"
"Yeah, I'd like to forget about it too," Xander agreed. He closed his eyes and reveled in the feeling of being held. This was all he really needed.
Iggy slipped back into his house, nodding at the few kids who were up early, and headed up to his cousin's room. He slid into bed with her, giving her the hugs she probably needed. Simone was a very fragile person. She flipped over and gave him a squeeze. "It's okay for now," he whispered.
"I heard. Daddy's working on it with Uncle Ron so they'll get it fixed really soon." She gave him another squeeze. "How do you feel?"
"Like I need a nap." He snuggled in, closing his eyes. "I'll even take the detention for it."
"They can bloody well fuck off if anyone tries," Simone told him, making someone else in the room laugh. "It's Iggy."
"I figured as much. Close your curtains so we can run around naked in the morning."
Simone reached over and closed the thick, heavy curtains so no one would complain.
Things continued as normal for the next few weeks, everyone trying to ignore the problem unless they were working on it, and life went on. Until Xander headed down to the potion's dungeon one morning, passing by Tara. A very bright and brilliant Tara. He pounced her and hugged her. "I'm so happy for you!" he crowed. "When are you due? Can I help? Do you need anything yet?"
She pushed him off, but was smiling. "I'm okay, Xander. The cravings have barely started." She laughed when she saw Xander straighten up and heard the distinctive noise of heavily starched robes coming up the hall. "Be nice."
"You're my acknowledged sister," Xander told her. "I'm always nice to you." He kissed her on the cheek then looked at her boyfriend. "If you hurt her, I'm going to do stuff so nasty to you that even my mate will shudder and beg for mercy for you," he told Snape with a smile.
"She's not yours."
"She's my remaining family, hence it is my prerogative and fun to threaten you with bodily harm." He stepped closer to the older man, still smiling. "She had better never come to me and say you've hurt her, or you'll get double what you gave her. That means that if you slap her, expect to hit the wall twice when I do it to you. And so help me her Goddess, if she ever comes to me while crying and said you've been mean, I'm going to go find a resurrection spell and will have to use it a few times." His smile got brighter and wider. "That would be *before* I sic the kids on you."
"You care about her that much?" Snape asked, starting to look shocked. He had thought they were friends.
"The scoobies were my pseudo-family, hence my getting protective. Since she's the last remaining one, I'm going to get even more protective." He stepped closer again. "Like I said, never hurt her. I'll make your life a living hell until she begs me to stop." Snape nodded and Xander stepped back. "Having done that duty, I have to say that I like the two of you together. You're solid and safe for her and she gets someone she can tease and learn with. Therefore I heartily embrace your union and expect to see an invitation to walk my dear little sister down the aisle." Tara swatted him. "No?"
"I'm following the Ginny Weasley relationship plan," she told him with a smile.
Xander laughed. "Would that be until the parents start to complain to Albus or until someone calls the Prophet and tells them, so they cause a general stink among the wizards?" Her mouth opened and he kissed her cheek. "I'll stick up for you in whatever you do as long as it doesn't hurt either one of us or the extended family, Tara, but I foresee a shotgun in your future, my dear." He gave her a hug and shook Snape's hand. "Iggy just got a packet from Braun and we wanted you to come up and look it over tonight if you're not too busy. Oh, and he needs more of the headache potion." Snape nodded. "Thanks. Have fun and remember to lock doors because students walk in on things." He waved and went back to his classroom.
"How odd, no one's ever threatened me before," Snape said quietly.
She smacked him on the chest. "He loves me like a sister. It's what brothers do where we come from. If he hadn't, I would have worried." She took his hand and walked him up the stairs to her classroom. "Are you coming in to help with the spell today or tomorrow?"
"I've cleared my schedule so we can do it today," he reminded her. Her aura flashed, showing she was happy. He removed his hand from hers before they entered her classroom; it wouldn't be seemly to be caught groping in such a manner by the students.
Xander looked up as someone tapped on his classroom door. "It's open," he called, putting aside his grading pen. "What's up, Fred?"
Fred handed over the envelope. "This came last week but you forgot to get it." He sat on the edge of the desk and watched as he read it, frowning when he noticed the grimace. "Bad news?"
"High school reunion," Xander sighed, tossing the letter onto the desk. "They want to have a get together for my graduating class." He shrugged. "Another Sunnydale function I don't want to go to." He looked up and smiled. "It's not like I can answer the question 'so what do you do now?' with a reasonably polite answer anymore."
"Tell them you're a husband and father. That you stay home full time and tinker with stuff," Fred suggested with a smile. "You Americans have strange rituals. First you hold great ceremonies for graduation instead of a large party, then you're supposed to periodically go back and check out everyone else?"
"It's a ritual of one-ups-manship. You're supposed to measure your success against the other people you supposedly cared about back then," he noted dryly. "Not that I gave a damn about most of them, but hey." He smiled. "Another thing I'm not going to."
"But if you go back, then we could look over this Hellmouth place and see if it can be fixed."
"Fred, Sunnydale's dangerous. I know it's been a while since we visited, but if I take you and George and Iggy, at least one of us will end up in the hospital and that's just from the flight over. Besides, the hellmouth is under a park and memorial statue now."
"We'll have to go there anyway to fix this problem, what better time?" Fred asked, smiling at him. He picked up the envelope and turned it around. "And someone decided you were going anyway, brother-in-law."
"Shit," Xander said, taking it to read the note in Willow's handwriting. "She accepted for me. How nice. Why do I now suspect something hellmouthy calling the rest of us back to kill us?" He tossed it aside. "It's during spring exams, I can't go."
"On the other hand, you'll have to go because as soon as I tell Ron and Draco, we'll all be drafted." Xander groaned and put his head down on his desk. Fred patted him on the back, smiling even more when the classbell rang. "Just think, you can show your son all the places where you nearly got eaten."
"Fuck you," Xander mumbled into his desk. "Iggy's not coming."
Fred laughed, and was still laughing as the fourth years walked in. "His high school just contacted him for a reunion," he announced once most of the kids were in.
"I don't want to go," Xander whined. "Please, Fred, don't make me go back to that horrible place." He looked up, giving him his best attempt at puppy eyes. "Please don't make me go back there? I promise I'll be good and pick up my dirty laundry from the bathroom and everything."
Fred shook his head. "This is the best chance we have of seeing what's going on. I'll have Draco make the arrangements tonight." He slid off the desk and took the letter with him, going to tell his twin the wonderful news.
"What! I am not going back to the hellmouth!" George shouted, running out of the lab. "We can fix this without any of us heading back there. There's no reason to put all our lives in danger!"
Fred just smirked and showed off the envelope, still written in Willow's handwriting. "We'll need to see the energy flows to figure out how to fix your husband and son," he reminded gently.
"I'm telling mum," George said, narrowing his eyes. "She'll beat you for this."
Fred nodded. "Maybe, but I think the six of us should be more than enough to handle anything that they can throw at us, George."
"Fucker," George snarled. "Six? Who else are you talking into this besides me and my husband?"
"You, me, Draco, Ron, Xander, and Bill if we can get him."
George's mouth fell open. "You're going to risk half the family to the hellmouth? Mum really will kill you."
"If Bill comes then we'll be protected. Plus, we could talk Tara and Snape into coming. Even more protection."
"You're daft," George told him, walking away. "I'm not going."
"Fine, I'll go in your place and show everyone just what you two do," Fred called after him. George flipped him off, making him laugh. "I'll tell your husband you said so."
"Tell him I'll be waiting with holy water and a cross!" George said, slamming the door to the lab.
Fred snickered. "That wasn't dramatic in the least. This should be fun." He headed back to the school to talk to the other interested parties. The boys would help him make sure they could go back. Little did he know that they were going to end up bringing the Advanced class too. All at Lupin and Dumbledore's suggestion. At least they had a few months to plan.
"No! Absolutely not! You're not going back there!" Wesley screamed at his fiancé. She crossed her arms and nodded. "There is no earthly reason for you to go back to that place!"
"Hello, have to go back to fix me and Xander," she pointed out calmly. "Besides, something's going on and it is still my duty to try and fix the shit."
He goggled at her. "No bloody way! You're not going back. I...I forbid it. You are not going back for that stupid reunion. You can't find a reason to make me let you go."
"A, we have to go see the hellmouth anyway to see what's going on. B, we have to be in close contact to fix it probably. C, I want to go see what's going on."
"You want to go trade inane comments with people who barely talked to you back then?" he asked in shock.
She nodded. "Basically. I'd like see who else survived this long. And hey, if it's a problem then I'll be there to help fix it." She smiled. "See, three good reasons."
"Not good enough," he snarled.
She patted him on the head. "Relax. You can come if you want. I'm sure George isn't going to let Xander head back there by himself."
"You accepted for him too?" he screeched.
She nodded. "Yeah, they came looking for the both of us. A clue, sherlock." She sat down and continued to smile at him. "Besides, it'll be nice to get back to somewhere sunny. I haven't had a real vacation in years."
"That's not a vacation, it's a fight for your life."
She frowned. "You mean it's not the same?" He threw up his arms and walked away. "It'll be fine, Wes, we'll have fun and stop the people who are doing whatever."
He turned at the door. "You think it's connected," he said, shutting the door again. She nodded. "Why?"
"Gee, twelfth reunion? Not exactly normal." She picked up the letter. "An informal meet and greet in Memorial Park to celebrate the survival of the class." She handed it over to him. "Coincidence, on the hellmouth?" she asked in her most snarky voice. "Can we say 'has to be fixed soon'?"
"But why you," he sighed, sitting down beside her. "I can understand your primary reasons, to go see what's happened to the hellmouth. I don't understand why you have to fight this battle too. There are others now."
"Yeah, and where will they be when whatever happens?" She patted him on the hand. "Don't worry, I'm going to be standing behind Xander, off to his left. You can have the spot behind me if you want, or you can stand at my side." He shook his head. "Or you can stay here and watch the Watchers go nuts. Your choice."
He frowned. "You're willing to risk your daughter...."
She laughed. "Who said I'm bringing Amelia? She's staying here. I'm not bringing her or Ryan, no matter what my son said in his letter earlier today."
He grimaced. That boy had reamed his mother out for daring to go back to 'that place'. Suggested she was trying to get herself killed and leaving her poor son in his care. He would have to speak to the child when he came home for Christmas. "If we have to go, I'll make arrangements to give us some help. I still have contacts in the area and the present girl is still over there." Willow nodded. "You won't argue?"
"Hey, if you want to do a spot check of the new Slayer, have fun. I'm going to wander around town and see who's still living." She patted him on the knee. "We'll have fun, Wes. Trust me." Then she smiled like a used car salesman.
He shook his head. This wasn't going to be a pleasant trip in the least. He would have to talk to Xander to see how he was getting there.
Tara smiled at Severus from across the width of the couch. "Would you like to go back to Sunnydale with me?" she asked sweetly.
"You're not going."
She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I am. I'd like to see how the town turned out."
"You don't have any roots in the area and weren't invited to the party," he pointed out, trying to stay calm. She wanted to go where? Had this pregnancy rotted her brain?
"I went to college in the area and I'd like to go back. It'll be a nice vacation," she told him. He shook his head. "Then I guess I'll bring you back a souvenir."
He lunged and trapped her against her arm of the couch. "You are not going to that godforsaken place," he snarled.
She kissed the tip of his nose. "Let me go or I'm going to go tell Xander you're being mean to me." He backed away from her. "Thank you. You smell like a sleeping draught." She stroked a hand over her stomach. "I'm not going so I can get in on the assault, but we could be needed. It's not a normal occasion in the least."
"Yes, the prospect of a twelfth anniversary was a bit odd. Unless they were doing a temporal spell, why that specific year? Most traditions would have demanded a thirteenth."
"And they went to all the trouble of tracking down Xander and Willow. They didn't get letters for the fifth or ten reunions. That tells me that someone's planning something." She shifted closer, giving him a hug. "Besides, I'm the stronger one right now of the remaining scoobies so I have to go. It's my sacred duty."
"What about him," he said, putting a hand on her stomach.
"We'll be fine. I won't be ready to deliver by May." She nuzzled his neck, making him go boneless. "The only question is, are you coming or not?" she whispered in his ear.
"The other one would be whether or not I can chain you to the bed for a weekend," he said in his nicest sneering voice. She laughed and kissed him but he wasn't going to give in to her. He wasn't.
Arthur saw the article in the paper and folded it up so his wife wouldn't see it. She wasn't going to be happy about her son and son-in-law heading to that place. He suspected her fit would make a few of the children wonder if she was possessed again. Yes, it was better to hide it from her.
She smiled from beside the stove. "I already saw it, Arthur. Besides, Fred told me yesterday." Arthur swallowed hard. She had that look on her face and it scared him. "Don't worry, I'm sending Bill and Charlie with them. They'll be just fine." She served him some more sausage. "Did it say if the children were going with them?"
"The article said that the advanced class had petitioned to go with them," he said sourly. "You're not upset?"
She nodded. "But I got it out last night, dear. Percy and Ginny are staying here."
"You do realize that we're sending five of our seven children into certain danger and possible death?" She nodded. "Then why are you so calm."
She kissed him on the cheek. "Because I checked the cards. They'll all live, as long as they stop the spell." She went back to making herself some breakfast.
"Spell?" he asked.
"I don't know, all it said was a spell," she said with a shrug. "I'm assuming a temporal one since it's their twelfth anniversary."
"Oh." He shook his head. "I'll be sure to spread the word around to those who need to hear about it."
"I thought that was the purpose of the Prophet," she said with a smirk. "Did you want to go too?"
"Merlin, no!" he scoffed. "What would I do there, except be in the way and worry. I'm not a young wizard, and I was never one to rush into danger. I'm going to stick here with the remaining children and grandchildren and hope for the best."
"Good. We can worry together," she told him, sitting down with her own food. "Eat, dear, you have to be at work soon."
He dug into his extra helping of sausage, thinking over all the implications. This could be quite bad. He hoped that Xander knew what he was doing. His wife smiled at him. "Did Xander plan this yet?"
"Oh, it's not him. Fred's doing it all this time." He choked. "Xander's still being unreasonable and George is agreeing with him." She took a bite of food. "Eat, Arthur. Otherwise I'll have to bring you lunch."
He ate another bite and started to pray to whatever deity looked over the wizarding community.
Xander looked at the doorway and the smiling pregnant woman. "No! You're not going. No way in hell, Tara."
"But, Xander, I can help," she told him.
Xander looked at Snape, who looked helpless. "You can't make her stay? Knock her out or something?"
"I've tried to change her mind but she won't allow me to do so." Snape closed the door. "How are you planning on leaving?"
Xander shrugged. "Ask Fred, he's the one who's forcing this. Him and Willow." He glared at Tara. "No. Having the baby born on the hellmouth would be a bad thing. It'll turn out like me."
She laughed and gave him a hug. "Remember when you told me that whatever I wanted you'd give me?" He whimpered. "Well, I want to go back and see how the town's changed. I promise not to come to the event."
"Still, honey, it's dangerous there," he reminded her, shifting so he could pull her down into his lap. "It's really dangerous. You could get eaten. Or the baby could get infected by some nasty and slimy demon. You don't want that, do you?" She shook her head, but she was still smiling. "Then why don't you stay? I know you want to help, but you're on the reserve list so this little person doesn't get hurt." He patted her stomach and Snape growled at him. "Easy! I'm not groping your kid." He smiled at him. "Are you planning on coming too?" he asked.
"I'm not letting her to go by herself," Snape said angrily.
"Okay then." Xander put her back on her feet and looked at the couple. "No. There's no way I'm letting my future godchild be born on the hellmouth. Tara, you always go early," he pointed out when she opened her mouth. "There's no handy nurse there that we can get if something happens and there's no way in hell I'm putting you or the baby in danger. I might take Severus if he wants to go or someone gets pushy, but I'm not taking you. You're out of the game until the little person quits drinking nourishing stuff from you." She started to pout. "Don't do that," he begged. "Please? Listen to reason this time, Tara, please, honey. I'm begging. I'll even get down on my knees," he said, starting to do so, but Snape stopped him and shoved him back into his chair. "Groveling works on women," Xander told him
"Only demonic ones," Snape retorted. Xander flipped him off. "Have you talked to her?"
"I try very hard not to *think* of Anya."
"But she's being very helpful," Tara told him. Both men stared at her, mouths open. "She is. Willow and I got together the other night and talked to her about it. She thinks they're going to try to do a switching spell, changing something about graduation. She's trying to get some help from her friends and now you've got all yours in line. Every scoobie, past and present who's walking." She smirked and left them there to whine about her to each other.
"Want chains?" Xander asked.
"I have some, thank you," Snape told him. "Do you have any soft handcuffs?"
"Second drawer of our dresser. Try the blue ones, they absorb sweat and stay soft." They looked at each other, then shook their heads. This was going to be an uphill battle on a muddy field.
Draco looked up as his home office was invaded by a fairly well-dressed Fred. "I read the paper," he said, going back to his reading. "When are we leaving?"
Fred laughed. "I knew I could count on you. Since Willow started this mess, I think Xander will need more help than Tara can give him and George is still adamant that he's not going."
Draco put down his book and stood up. "Tara's going?" Fred nodded. "Whatever for?"
"Because she said so," he said with a smirk. "Word is that someone's going to try and do a spell to switch something that happened during graduation, probably to save someone. That leaves you and Ron time to deal with the hellmouth during the fight, which will probably help a lot, and Bill and Charlie to help during the fight."
Draco snorted and shook his head. "That's a loose battle plan."
"It's not until May. We can change bits and pieces until we get there."
Draco sat down again and put his feet up, thinking about it. "We'll need to portkey in and then travel by muggle means. I'll get with Wesley about that. He's probably got someone in the area already. Something like that can't be left unguarded by a Slayer." Fred sat down to watch him think, which hyped his ego a bit. "We could probably portkey in to the Canadian Ministry, but we'll need papers."
"Xander and George portkeyed in to Disney," George offered. "They went to Florida, but there's one out near there. I remember seeing specials about it on the Disney channels."
"Good to know." Draco made a note on his calendar. "All right, I'll set up travel arrangements. How many of us are going?"
"Six so far in the immediate family, plus Tara and Snape, plus however many will be coming from Wesley's group." Fred stood up. "Now all we have to do is force Xander to go."
Draco nodded. "I'm sure he's thrilled about all this. Why did the women take over?"
"They think it's connected. Willow still thinks like she lives there. Xander's settled down into his life and has learned to relax because he's not being attacked every night anymore." Draco nodded, that made sense. "So we've still got to force George. Want that task?"
"Chains might help," Draco offered. "I have a wonderful set of light chains that could be used on him to get him there."
"I've still got the gag Percy got that first year from Xander."
"Xander got Percy a gag?"
"To help him stop us from picking on him."
"Ah. Interesting choice of toys to do that with. I would have handed him a worse prank and helped him set it off. Is Ron onboard already?"
"He's raring to go, but a little scared. He's heard so many stories about that place."
"Yes, but it could be a good thing, letting him exorcize the last of Buffy's ghosts from his life." He leaned back and smirked. "I think we can do this. A bit of a fight perhaps, but it shouldn't be too hard."
"Good. Then you're in charge of the planning things." Fred smiled and left, going back to work.
Draco smiled. Yes, a small task to prove his brilliance. Then maybe he would get to rest on his laurels for a bit. After all, if they cured Xander he wouldn't need to step into his place for a few more years.
Dumbledore walked into Tara's classroom and smiled at the cute couple. Such contrasts, yet together they created the most pleasing shades of gray. "I need to talk to you about your plans," he said, turning to close the door.
"I'm going to Sunnydale," Tara told him.
He stopped to look at her. "If you think it's wise," he said finally. "I'm not here about that. I'll deal with that problem once it's closer." He walked over and pulled a chair out to sit in. "I'm more concerned about your present problems." She looked clueless. "Your present glow is quite illuminating."
She giggled. "What a cute pun. I'm following the Ginny Weasley plan of relationships."
"I'm sure you'd prefer that, but we do have to be conscious of what the students will see."
Snape cleared his throat. "I have offered."
"I'm sure you have," Dumbledore soothed. "I know that you didn't have any problems with your last one, but you were quite vocal about carrying it for Xander and George. Unfortunately, you're not doing it this time. People will say things, my dear, and I'd like to protect you from the things that those people will say and do." She shrugged. "If you remember, Ms. Weasley had a lot of problems when she was pregnant with Simone and immediately after. The wizarding community is still very old-fashioned and people will protest if you're not married." He stood up. "We can hold it off with the explanation of too much stress from the school year, but I can't hold everyone off forever. As much as I would like to," he finished with a sigh.
"The Board of Regents is going to protest," Snape agreed. He had expected a demand for marriage and she was disturbing him by not accepting. Didn't she actually care for him?
Tara glared at him and hit him on the arm. "Stop it. Of course I love you, but where I come from marriage isn't an automatic thing when someone gets pregnant."
"Yes, but you're not over there, Professor Maclay," Dumbledore reminded her gently. "Over here it is still expected. Otherwise I'll have to stand up for poor Severus when he comes to cry on my shoulder about you not loving him enough."
She grimaced. "You're evil."
Dumbledore laughed. "I've been accused of that before believe it or not," he admitted. "This time, I merely have your best interests at mind. Imagine what you would do if the Board of Regents voted that your position should be cut."
"Then I'd tell them that I'm having his child for him," she argued, pulling out every bit of stubborn. "Sev could claim that he's carrying on his lineage."
Severus snorted. "They all know me well enough to know that I never expected my family line to be carried on past myself. They will talk, Tara, and we'll both be in danger of being fired for violating our immorality clause."
She sighed. "Fine. If I have to be forced." She glared at her boyfriend. "But we do it my way."
"Of course. You don't even have to have it legally done," Dumbledore pointed out. "As long as you can claim that you followed the rituals of your own faith, they can't really complain. Can they?" He smiled. "Tell me when you plan it for and I'll make time for all of that." He looked at Severus, then back at her. "As for your plan to go to Sunnydale, I do understand your reasons, but doubt your sanity in this matter, my dear. No one volunteers to go to the hellmouth."
She laughed. "But I came from there, Headmaster. It's not that bad if you're used to it." She patted her stomach. "Besides, Xander will need help and I'm still stronger than Willow is."
Severus sighed and grabbed his head, trying to stave off the upcoming headache. "I don't want you to go."
She pinched him on the rear. "Don't try to order me, Sev, you'll lose." He shook his head and walked away. She looked at her boss. "You're enjoying this," she accused.
He nodded. "Quite a lot. Your group does liven up my life. There are days when I wish for less excitement, but it is always something different." He left her alone to plan for her class. He had some planning of his own to do. Five teachers gone right before spring exams. It would be difficult to go on as usual.
Xander looked around the house, frowning. Everyone was staring at him. "What?"
"Just wondering why you were tapping your foot," George said, giving him a smile.
"I'm still pissed about the reunion thing."
"Ah." George nodded. "Understandable. I'm not thrilled with the situation either. Especially not with Tara. Or Willow," he added as an afterthought. His husband grinned at him, looking just like his usual self, with the exception of the white spiderweb pattern through his hair. "Can I cuddle?"
"Sure." Xander patted his lap. "Always open to you, hubby." George walked over and sat on his lap, cuddling in. "I missed this," Xander said before stealing a kiss.
"I missed that," George said with a naughty grin. He looked around. "Go away," he told the kids. They got up and went back to their houses. "Much better," he purred, diving into his husband's mouth, testing every corner of his mouth for new or unusual tastes. He pulled back with a moan and found a hand on his stomach, stroking him gently. "I need this," he whispered before kissing him again. "Need you."
"I agree, I need you so bad," Xander told him, moving his hand to play with more of the covered flesh. He tugged impatiently at the tucked in shirt, then pulled back and ripped the shirt off his husband, earning laughs. "Can't think with that on you. I'll buy you a new one soon." He leaned down further, tasting the warm and previously covered flesh. "You taste good. Not like me but good."
"I'd love to taste like you," George said, running his fingers through the pale hair.
Xander sat up and removed the hands. "Don't play with those."
George gave him a kiss. "It's part of you and I'm not going to avoid it. I don't avoid your scars and I won't avoid them."
Xander rested his forehead against his mate's chest. "I don't want to give them the pleasure of you liking those," he said quietly.
"I don't like them, they're still pissing me off, but I won't avoid them. Avoiding them is dumb and gives them more power." He lifted his husband's face and gave him a kiss. "It's part of you and therefore precious to me. I can deal with them." He ran his fingers through the scratchy hair. "I'm going to do your hair in the morning." He stole another kiss. "Right after I suck you dry in the morning."
Xander smiled. He loved his husband. He couldn't imagine being with anyone else. He kissed him again, then went back to playing with the hard chest. "You're special."
"I know," George agreed. He tickled his mate, bringing them both to the floor so they could roll around together. He snuck in another kiss, then a second and a third. Before long, they were going at it like they usually did. That's why they didn't see the door opening or Anastasia and Michael sneaking in to grab the left textbooks. He was there to protect her, but she ended up dragging him out by his collar so he wasn't stuck watching them go at it.
Xander looked up, he had thought he heard the door open. "Hello?" he called. No answer. He shrugged and went back to kissing his mate senseless. He moaned as his pants were unzipped and willingly went onto his back so his mate could top him this time.
Draco came out of the fire and paused to look at them, shaking his head. "A bed would be nicer on everyone's backs," he said as he headed up to his room. His kids were back with Ginny and he felt lonely.
George looked up. "But having sex in the living room is a reason for having a living room," he called after him. He smiled at his mate and prepared himself to climb on top of him. His husband could pout, but it was his turn to be taken. Xander steadied him and smiled at him, giving him exactly what he wanted.
Ron snuck up the stairs, trying hard not to look at them. He didn't want to know that much about their sex lives. What he had already caught tended to haunt him sometimes, he didn't need more visions. He snuck into Draco's room and closed the door. "How long have they been going at it?"
"I've been here for twenty minutes and they were going strong then," Draco told him. "It bodes well for our future. If they haven't slowed down then we shouldn't."
"They're only a few years older than us."
"Yes, but their mileage is so much greater," Draco told him.
"Not for you," Ron pointed out. Draco smiled at him. "I caught your daughter sneaking back to her house with the head boy. Apparently she got an eyeful too."
Draco nodded. "She'll see what a loving couple does. It's not like she doesn't know the basics already. I caught her reading trash last year." He shifted over so the man he had an uneasy truce with could sit down. "Where are your three?"
"Fred stole them. Elizabeth's not over tonight and he's lonely. He figured that those two wouldn't be able to stand it too much longer."
"Two weeks, must be a record," Draco agreed. He put aside his trashy novel. "How are you doing?"
"Fine. I'm a little bit wary about going to Sunnydale, but I can handle it." Draco patted him on the arm. "You're being touchy-feely again."
"I'm in a good mood, humor me," Draco said dryly. He smiled. "I found the spell to filter the damn hellmouth and turn it back into a normal part of the flood."
"All chaos or just that sort?"
"It was written for the stupid thing so it should work on it. Hopefully." He shrugged. "What does one do at a reunion?"
"What you do when you meet up with your chums in a pub," Ron told him. "You drink and tell stories I guess." He shrugged and got comfortable. "How do you handle being alone most of the time? I'm asking because I'm starting to realize how alone I am and I'm nowhere near ready to start dating. Even if everyone is trying to convince me to give blokes a try and go for Percy's assistant."
Draco shook his head. "He's a bit forceful outside the office. I doubt he'd make a pleasing partner, probably would only want to be on top." Ron looked shocked. "I tried it, once or twice, but never really felt an affinity for it. They owed me more than that and I collected."
Ron grimaced. "You used to have favors that paid out in sex?"
"Sometimes. I let them pick the manner of their payment. Some of them decided sex was the most valuable thing they had." He smirked. "I haven't had a virgin since then, thankfully."
"Buffy wasn't one. She'd had two or three boyfriends before me. Are they that bad?"
"Imagine having to teach someone everything so you can have pleasure." Ron shivered. "You think you'd like it? I know somewhere."
Ron shook his head quickly. "I'd like to think that I wanted more than a transaction. It's not the same."
Draco patted him on the arm. "No, it's not, but it does relieve some of the ache."
"But you don't wake up with them snoring in your ear."
"Exactly," Draco agreed with a grin. "No ties, no clinginess, and no snoring." Ron shook his head. "Not your thing?"
"Not my thing. I like the holding afterwards. She spoiled me."
"Yes, she did," Draco sighed. "If you ever need it, I can introduce you." Ron shook his head. "Fine. How are you doing otherwise?"
"Better than Percy. I talked to him the other day. He started to cry when he realized he had a wet dream," he said quietly. "I don't know what to do to help him, he seems so much worse than I do."
"He loved her more than anything," Draco pointed out. "More than enough to do many things to her in front of your parents. He loved her like Xander loves George. And when he lost that it destroyed a part of him." He shrugged at the look the other man gave him. "It's like Xander said. You have to know people to get anywhere in life. I have to deal with them when I handle my inheritance, when I sit on the Board of Regents, when I'm sizing up an opponent or when I'm out looking for a bed partner. I've made it a habit to study those around me." He smiled. "From you, I sensed a deep like, but it was more of a friendship with Buffy. She was your buddy and someone who listened to you. She gave you the attention that you lacked from your family and gave you the tenderness that you craved." He smiled. "Did I get it right?"
Ron stood up and looked at the other man. "How..." He shook his head and paced around. "When did you see that?"
"Within the last few months you had with her. Watching you realize the same thing while you watched her stomach grow heavy with your children."
"Oh." Ron sat down on the end of the bed and looked at the carpet. "I tried so hard to love her like she needed."
Draco nudged him with his foot. "She got what she wanted from you. She wanted someone there who paid attention to her and listened to her ideas. She felt old before her time and you cured her of that feeling. It was mutually beneficial."
Ron shook his head. "She needed more than that."
"Sometimes everyone does, but the basic nature of your relationship was about being there for each other."
Ron slumped. "Maybe," he agreed. He glanced over. "When did you get so smart?"
Draco laughed. "Believe it or not, I actually did do most of my own homework while we were students. I hardly ever had someone else write my papers or do my homework. I briefly thought about studying to become a marriage counselor but I decided that I couldn't stand all those people whining about not thinking before they got married."
Ron chuckled. "I can understand that. I can't imagine what would have come out if Buffy and I had gotten together in a more permanent manner. I'd probably have been abused at least once."
Draco nodded. "And she probably wouldn't have realized it until after you said 'ouch'." He sat up. "What are you going to do now? You'll have to start dating again sometime."
"Yeah, but not today," Ron said, smiling at him. "I don't think I could handle having to go out on a date dragging the three with me."
"No, most women don't like to meet their date's children on the first date," he agreed. "The second one maybe. You can't really lie to them about having them."
"Point. Maybe someday soon." He stood up and stretched. "Think it's safe to head over or are they still downstairs?"
"They haven't come up yet, Xander still stomps on that one hollow stair."
"What's under there?"
"It's the key to the new room that no one knows what it is. I'm sure we'll figure it out soon. Maybe Spring Solstice or so. It seems to appear every spring."
"With any luck, we'll all still be here." Ron waved and peeked out the door, then ran for his room so he wouldn't have to see anything else from the couple groaning somewhere in the house.
Draco shook his head and picked up his trashy novel. Ginny had been right, it was worth a read. Decent enough sex scenes too.
Xander looked over as the floo discharged something. He got up and looked at the thing lying on the floor. A small silver cube. "Cute," he said, looking at the fireplace. No head so no one was trying to tell him what it was. He picked it up and felt a tingle run through him. Magical device, oddly carved designs. "Hey, a puzzle box," he said when he realized what it was. He sat back down to study it. No visible catch so a master made this one. He poked and prodded at the carvings and sections, but nothing popped up or moved. He growled and continued to try and open it. He felt that something was inside, something really spectacular, but he couldn't get it open! He continued though, some pretty box would not beat him!
When it came time for his class, he absently got up and continued to try it one handed all the way down the hall. He walked in and waved, putting up the map he had used earlier. "Three minutes," he announced.
One girl cleared her throat. "Sir, you seem distracted. Is that one of those muggle rubick's cubes?"
"No," he ground out. "It's an annoyance that I can't get open!" He slammed it down onto his desk and looked at the class. "I have to get that open and it's not cooperating. Where were we?" He looked at the board. "Oh, them. Yay. Water demons don't really like surface dwellers, but occasionally they decide to take one as a love slave. The problem is that air breathers can't breathe under the water. They're usually killed by cutting, especially if you get into their tails or heads. Any questions?" They all shook their heads. "Dismissed." He picked up the cube and went at it again.
The students filed out, talking to each other. That had been strange. One of them looked back into the room and then shook her head, heading down the hallway to Professor Maclay's room. She tapped and walked in, smiling at the teacher alone in the empty room. "Professor Harris seems preoccupied," she said, walking in to sit across from her. "We just got a two second lecture on water demons."
Tara nibbled on her celery stick. "Was it a good one?" The girl shook her head. "What else was he doing?"
"Playing with this silver cube thing. He said he had to solve it."
"Huh." She nodded. "I'll talk to him in a few. Thank you." She smiled. "How are you doing in there?"
"Okay. It's not my favorite subject, but I understand the subject and why my mother said I had to take it. We have a vampire living down the street from us. Some blonde guy who's really noisy and comes home singing drinking songs at the top of his off-key voice."
Tara giggled. "I know him. Believe it or not, I've worked beside him before. Spike's an old friend." She stood up. "Tell your mom to tell him Tara said hi the next time he's acting up."
The girl got up. "Okay. She often yells at him out the window, then pretends to be upset when he flips her off." She smiled. "You really know him? He's so annoying."
"Yes, he is, but he's a good Master," Tara told her, walking her out of the room. She went back and grabbed another celery stick then headed down to Xander's classroom. She walked in and frowned at her friend, sitting on the floor, playing with something. "What's that?" She grunted as she sat down beside him and took it, handing him the rest of her celery stick as the compulsion started to work on her. "Have you tried doing a pattern on the patterns? Like touching them in certain orders?"
"I've only gotten through one complete circuit," Xander told her, leaning his head on her shoulder to help her by adding an extra finger now and again.
That's how Snape found them, when Tara was supposed to be in class. "Should I be upset about this?" he asked them. Both of the looked up and pointed at the puzzle. "What is that?" he asked patiently. Tara would cry if he snapped at her. He repeated that fact over and over again.
"It's got something fantastic inside it," Xander told him.
"Yes, but Professor Maclay has a class now."
"Okay, we'll move this in there," Xander told him, getting up and helping Tara to her feet. His cane and bag were grabbed and they walked down the hallway, still trying to open the stupid box.
Snape glared at their backs and snatched the cube. "Go teach, the both of you. I'll give you this later." Xander sighed and headed for his other classroom and Tara went to hers. "Children," he complained as he walked back to his classroom, sitting down at his desk. It was the second years and they had a potion going from last class. He put the cube on his desk and stared at it, but the carvings interested him so he picked it back up. He started to poke and prod it, not knowing what was going on, but he wanted to see what was inside too.
Iggy looked up and frowned. "Professor Snape?" he asked. His mentor looked up. "What's that? It's emanating."
"You can feel it?" Iggy nodded. "Then come help me solve this." Iggy slid out of his seat and came up to help. "Is your potion done?"
"Three months ago, it was part of that batch I handed you right before everyone got the flu." He took the block to look over, then grimaced. "It's got the feel of being made by one of you, but it's built like we would build something." It was snatched back. "I think we'll have to use building sense methods to get it open." He traced the power lines, 'ah-ha'ing when he felt a catch. He opened the catch with a slim knife blade. That figurine popped up.
Xander walked in and leaned over the desk, taking that and adding onto it. He understood it now. You had to follow the pathways.
The three of them ignored the rest of the second years. At least until Xander got a section to pop up. "Yay me," he said happily. He played with it and played with it, but it didn't come up any farther and it didn't depress again. It did turn round and round, but nothing else. It was starting to get frustrating again and it was pissing him off. He started to throw it, but the top point of the piece bent under his hand, making another pathway evident.
"Wow," Iggy said, taking it to trace that pathway with his mentor. Another piece came up, giving it horns. They fought for the rest of the day, ignoring the students coming and going, ignoring hunger and bodily needs, even ignoring Tara and Dumbledore when they came in to help.
Dumbledore frowned at the three men, then shook his head. He tried to take the block but they snatched it back and went back to working on it. "You will have to put it down sometime," he told them.
"Shifts?" Xander suggested.
"Shifts," Snape agreed. "Ignatius, sleep, we'll wake you at dawn so you can work on this."
"Yes, sir." Iggy walked into the office and laid down on the cot in the room.
Dumbledore frowned at the men, then shook his head. He would get the block somehow.
Dumbledore walked into the potion's classroom and found all the men asleep. He smiled and lifted Xander's hand carefully off the block, taking it with him as he left. He sat down behind his desk and stared at the cube. Then he slowly picked it up to look at it. He would resist the urge to play with it. He would. He put it back down and stood up, going to his room. It took two hours for him to come back and get it. In another hour it had been put back in a fit of frustration.
Iggy woke up and rubbed his eyes, looking around. He walked out to the classroom and glanced around, but no cube. He frowned and acted on his sleepy suspicions, teleporting himself up to the Headmaster's office. He placed one of his special thumbtacks under a chair and took the silver block lying on the desk. He went back to his classroom, working the whole way. There had to be another pathway to follow!
Draco woke up and stared around his bedroom. He had decided to try and come home that night because the tower was too quiet now. Something had woken him but he couldn't hear anything. He started to close his eyes, but a chuckle woke him up more. He sat up and looked around. "Hello?" he called.
He slid out of his bed and walked around his room, checking for beings. No house elves. No children playing a prank. Nothing. He stopped in front of his bed, taking a long look around. A faint glow drew him to his dressing mirrors. In it there was a faint glow of something or someone. He turned and looked at where it should be, but there wasn't anything there. "Oh, please," he sighed in disgust. "It's not like I'm not used to ghosts. I lived with them for seven years. You don't scare me so quit this instant." He looked in the mirror again but all he could see was a faint outline of a face. A pointed chin. A larger than average nose.
"Oh, fuck," he sighed, backing away from the mirror. "How did you get out of hell?" The face laughed again, trying to scare him. "It's not working. I've seen worse. You should try Xander first thing in the morning. He's much more scary than you."
The face glared and the room turned cold, but then it disappeared.
Fred walked into Percy's office, frowning at him. "Do you have anything to pick up a block without using your hands?" he asked, sitting on the edge of his brother's desk.
"I have something that helps us pull books off inconvenient shelves," Percy offered. "Why?" He put down his pen and looked over his brother. "You're not smiling so it's not a prank."
"No, not one of mine, but possibly one from someone else." He pulled out a drawing someone had made of the cube, complete with arrows to show how the pathways they could find were flowing. "This is making the rounds among the teachers. Our beloved nephew, his father, his mentor, and Tara are all tied up trying to figure it out. Xander's been giving half-minute lectures. Tara's been eating while she plays with it. Iggy woke up this morning with a letter on his bed, which contained the message 'nice try, you lost ten points' and one of his special spot-marking thumbtacks." Percy started to laugh. "Seriously, Xander and Snape haven't been seen outside of their classrooms now for days. They're not eating unless some house elf is bringing them food. This is a bad thing and we need to fix it."
Percy stood up and walked out to look at his employees. "I have a problem that needs looked up," he announced. Everyone looked at him. He took the picture from his brother and handed it over. "This appeared at Hogwarts and has been keeping attention off classes. It's presently relating only to the professors, but it's keeping classes from going on. We need to know what it is and where it should be."
Someone, one seriously dangerous looking man, pulled the drawing over. "I found that in a history book last year," he said, going to the history section. "Here it is, Percy. It was given to Caligula; said to be the reason for his insanity. Keeps attention and makes the people working on it believe it's got something magical inside it." He put the book on the table, letting everyone see it. "It's got a mythical origin. Supposedly Hecate had it made when she found out Apollo was being born and that he was going to be over music. Caligula decided it was mathematically based, because of course nothing that good could have been created outside of Rome, and sent for the best people to figure it out. He had them killed when all he got was a prong that spun around and twanged."
One of the other people smiled. "I've heard of that. It's also called Apollo's Pacifier or Apollo's Lyre. It's music-based instead of magically-based and it does have something in the center if you can figure it out."
"That's a myth," the dangerous one said patiently.
"So are we," the second one said, obviously this was an old argument. "Still, it was supposedly sent into a closing portal between planes or realms so it could never entrap another person again. How did it get back here?"
Fred shrugged. "Xander mumbled something about it coming out of the floo. That was right before Dumbledore stole it again so they had to go to class." He looked around. "What do we do about this?"
"Throw it to someone else," the dangerous one suggested. "Just don't let it trap you."
"We could toss it on with a note," Percy suggested. "Or perhaps lock it up again."
"But how would it get out from between planes?" the mythology person asked. "That's impossible for any of us."
Fred frowned. "I don't think that's a primary issue. Right now, we have to get them free of it. If we use one of those book grabber things, will it affect us?"
"It depends on you looking at it," the mythology person told him. "You get lost in the patterns first."
"Okay. Give me one of those book grabbers and I'll go steal it from them and send it somewhere. Any ideas where?"
"Send it to the Watcher's Council," Percy suggested with a mean grin. "They've been rather stodgy about their loan policies, even though we've been more than pleasant to them when they needed our help."
"That's mean," Fred told him, but he was grinning wickedly. "Maybe Willow will pick it up." He took the book grabber. "If I don't come back, come check on me, Perce." He headed back to the school, going down to the dungeons first. He found the box sitting on the middle of the table and a group of grown men arguing over it. So he took it with him and headed back to the staff room. He paused before tossing it, holding it in his hand. "What a prank," he sighed. And there he stayed.
Draco walked into Ron's classroom and slammed the door. "My father came back," he spat. The kids all gasped. "Sorry, I forgot," he sighed, rubbing a hand over his tired face.
"Go nap on the couch and I'll come help you in a while," Ron said soothingly. Draco nodded. "Is he a ghost?" Draco nodded again, starting to glare again. "Go rest and I'll be up after class." Draco nodded and left the room. "Back to the lecture," he ordered. "Pollywogs. Wonderful little creatures that bite you from the water. Not the baby frogs that most muggles think of when they hear the name." He pointed at the drawing on the board. "It's one of these." The kids wrote and scribbled notes and drawings.
Xander looked around, something was wrong. "Where's the cube," he said in outrage. He looked at Dumbledore, who shrugged. "You didn't steal it?"
"No, Xander, I didn't take it this time. I was right here the whole time."
"Well who has it then?" Xander asked, sounding like a petulant six year old. "It's my fun!'
"Our fun, father," Iggy corrected. "Did anyone see anyone come in?" No one said anything. "Dirt. I guess we have to go find it." They started out by searching the room, just in case it had decided to move itself.
Percy walked out of the floo fireplace and smiled at his brother. "Give it to me, Fred," he said like he was talking to his daughter. Fred frowned at him. "Come on, it's time to give the shiny thing up."
"It's the world's best prank," Fred told him.
"But it's also dangerous. It's listed as one of the most dangerous magical artifacts in the world. You can't keep it, you'll be arrested if you keep it." Fred pouted but he handed it over. "Thank you, Fred. Let me send this on and I'll give you a wonderful treat." He disappeared, taking it directly to the Watcher's council personally. He put it down on Wesley's desk and leaned down, his hand covering the designs. "It's one of the most dangerous magical artifacts in the history of the world. It brought down one of the Emperors of the Roman Empire." Wesley nodded, starting to smile. "It managed to end up at Hogwarts, and enslaved a great many of the teachers. Would you kindly hide it somewhere far from view?" Wesley nodded. "Thank you. And don't look at it or it'll enslave you too." He let go of the cube, stepping away from it.
"What is it?" Wesley asked, holding it at arm's length. "It looks like a puzzle cube."
"It's nicknamed Apollo's Pacifier."
Wesley's mouth opened. "And you trust us with this?"
"Well, I don't trust *us* with that," Percy told him, smirking at him. "Your organization, though they have many of our books overdue, has a history of hiding things. Hide that with a warning and I'll take off part of your fines."
Wesley laughed. "That would be wonderful, Percy. Thank you." He shook the wizard's hand. "I'll talk to our researchers about your books as well. From now on, send any late letters to me directly if you please."
"Actually, I would be delighted," Percy told him. "You seem like you understand the necessity of keeping books in the library."
"Indeed. Libraries are one of my favorite places. May I have a tour when I bring back your books?"
"If you put that somewhere far from the wizarding world." Percy walked back to the floo fireplace, heading back to Hogwarts. He found Fred and Xander standing there waiting on him. "It's gone and it's never coming back," he announced. "If it shows up again, I'll have to report you all." Xander pouted at him. "You, stop it immediately or else," he warned. Xander turned up the pout, making Percy feel bad. "Fine, you may have a new toy, just not that one. Apollo's Pacifier is not to be taken that lightly. Not by any of you." He disappeared again, going to make a report. If no one else would stand up against that blasted device, he would. He walked into the Unmentionable's department. "I just sent the fifth worst magical item in the world to the Watchers Council," he told the woman manning the desk.
"Name and description?" she asked, giving him a smile.
"Often called Apollo's Pacifier. Silver cube about twice the size of my first. Has patterns and pathways. Drove Caligula mad."
She looked up at him. "But that was lost."
"Well, it's not now. I handed it over to the head of the Watchers Council personally. He assured me he was going to put it somewhere far from anyone at Hogwarts."
She giggled. "I'm sure he will. Is he a wizard?"
"Not that I'm aware of. There is a witch in his employ, but I doubt he's going to trust her with it."
She nodded and finished filling out the form. "We'll go check on it as soon as we get someone immune. Thank you for handling this matter, Under-Minister Weasley."
He smiled at her. "You're very welcome. It had my brother-in-law trapped." He leaned closer. "Do you have anything on hellmouths? It's a personal project of my family at the moment."
She bit her lip and looked around, then leaned closer to him. "We have a book but I can't give you permission to take it out. You'll have to talk to my boss, sir. He's at lunch right now if you wanted to pop in on him."
He smiled at her, flirting a bit. "I'll do that. Thank you." He left and she sighed.
"He is so cute and tragic. It makes me want to give him a hug." She signed the form and took it to one of the bosses, letting him deal with it. She wasn't high enough to be a field operative.
Draco looked at the face in the fire. "No, I can't take the kids this weekend," he said tiredly. "There's a small problem at the house."
"Did it blow up again?" Ginny asked.
He shook his head. "It's haunted. I don't want them there until the ghost is gone."
"Draco, we lived with ghosts for seven years. The Burrow has a ghoul in the attic. They can deal with it."
He shook his head. "Not this one. I don't want to deal with it and he's just spiteful enough to try and possess someone."
"Who is it?"
"I don't want to say his name, he might be able to follow me here."
"Let's just say I still live in his shadow," he said dryly.
"Oh, dirt," she sighed, shaking her head. "Okay, I'll keep them this weekend. Or you can come over and watch them while I go out."
"If I can get permission, I can bring them here," he offered. "Who're you dating now?"
"Just some guy," she said casually. "You'll probably meet him sometime soon." She looked behind him when she saw a body pass by. "Who's that?"
Draco looked behind him and frowned at Xander. "What happened now?"
"Percy took away my toy," Xander pouted. "It was pretty and shiny and frustrating." He looked at his 'son'. "Why are you here? You don't teach for another day."
"I taught yesterday and my house is haunted."
"Fun," Xander told him. "By?"
"Ah." Xander nodded. "I expected that on some level. Bring the kids here until you can get him to go away." Draco smiled. "Anything else?"
"Can we send over Harry's?" Ginny called. "He's having a game this weekend and his last one against this team went on for almost a day."
"Sure," Xander called. "We like Little Ron and Mellie. The kids have been looking forward to having them over." He stood up. "I'm going to go mope in the shower."
"All right," Draco said, watching him leave. He turned back. "New toy?"
She shrugged. "I'm sure we'll hear about it. I'll ask Fred tonight." She looked behind her. "You guys want to spend the weekend at Hogwarts?" They cheered. "Okay. Go pack a bag." She waved and disappeared.
Draco went back to the couch and sat down, turning on the tv. He missed his wall-sized tv at home.
Willow looked across the table at the woman she had once loved and hurt so very badly. It was nice that they could sit down and have tea together. Or in Willow's case lunch since she had driven into London for the day and night. She wondered what would have happened if she hadn't turned into the uber-bitch. But one question kept running through her mind. "Tara?" Tara smiled at her, and it was like they were back together again, she just knew what she was going to ask. "Snape?"
Tara laughed lightly. "Yup, him." She stuck her spoon back into her ice cream and leaned forward. "Do you know how lonely I've been?" Willow shook her head, but she started to look sad. "Honey, we were over long before then. The pregnancy was just the final straw." She patted her on the hand. "I got a little depressed last year when I realized that there were *no* women around that I wanted to date, no one that even had a hint of attraction for me. It made me sit down and look at what I was looking for in a girlfriend." She smiled. "The moment that I realized I had two people who fit my criteria if I took off the physical requirements I burst out laughing and Remus came in to check on me." She sat back up, that position was bothering her stomach. "He's been so sweet and I could have fallen for him so easily, but he's got so many demons of his own to fight and I wasn't up to that task."
"So you decided on Snape?"
"Well, he does fit my criteria once I took off the silly no penis rule," Tara agreed. "He's actually quite knowledgeable and he's very good to me."
"And while I'm happy for you, you never seemed to like him."
"A lot's changed since you left, Willow. Snape and I work together a lot because I pick at least three spells a term that have potion requirements. While we were discussing a really hard spell for the advanced class to try, we got to talking. He's not the evil bastard you used to think he was. He's got a ...sweet side that he never shows." She grinned. "And he's very gentle with me. The only thing wrong with him is that he's got dangly things and I figured out I can get over that minor problem because he's got everything else I wanted in a mate. Plus, he's willing to accommodate my distaste for the dangly things on occasion," she added with a smirk.
"Still, you two aren't exactly alike."
Tara snorted. "He thought I was some pure little Goddess and that he was going to dirty me, Willow."
Willow snickered. "I'm sure you've abused that notion by now. How many times have you jumped him wearing nothing?" Tara blushed. "Really?"
"During a class. I let mine go early to go clean up from the spectral slime and I headed down there to wait on him because we were supposed to spend our free period together going over the next term's spells. I forgot to put anything on under my robes though. He was a little miffed at me for it." Then she burst out in giggles. "You should have seen his face, Will."
"I imagine," she said, leaning closer to share the laugh. "Did his mouth hang open?"
"Not half as much as Iggy's did when he caught us. Then he blushed and stammered that he expected me to treat his mentor correctly or he'd do horrible things to me. Then he ran off. Thankfully he didn't tell his father."
"How is Xander taking it?"
"Like the perfect big brother. He even threatened Sev for me."
"It's good that he's taking it like he normally would," Willow sighed, picking up her tea to drink. "So, what is it?"
"Boy," Tara said with a smile. "He was so happy when I told him. He actually held my hand in public."
"Boy, what a wild man," Willow said dryly.
"So he likes to keep it private," Tara said with a shrug. "That's fine with me. I get more than I could ever need when we're alone."
Willow blushed. "TMI, Tara, really."
Tara leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "I'd gossip but you probably don't want to know what naughty things he's learned over the years."
"Not unless you want to hear what things Wesley has."
"Um, no, thanks," Tara told her, rubbing her stomach. "Fine, I'll feed you more ice cream, Zach."
"I like the name. He's arguing with me right now. He wants to carry on the 'S' name thing."
"Ah. Have Xander bounce in and annoy him until he gives in."
"That's a wonderful idea," Tara said happily.
Little Ron Potter walked out of the general floo entrance at the stadium, a paper clutched in his hand. He looked around. It had been months since he had been here. He saw a guard approaching and pulled out his father's pass, showing it to him. "I'm Potter's son and I need to talk to him. It's important."
The guard looked at the pass then looked at him. "Well, you look like him. Go to the second swinging gate and down the stairs. They're flying on the regular pitch today, kid."
"Thank you." Ron headed that way, finding the second gate and opening it. It squealed slightly, alerting the other person in the stands. "Hi, Uncle Oliver," he said, giving him a hug. He liked this guy, he told neat stories about his father when he was in school. "Can I talk to dad or is he really busy?"
"He's not that busy," Oliver said with a smile and a hair ruffle. "Harry!" he yelled, motioning at the boy.
Harry floated down and smiled at his son. "What's wrong? Did the house elf leave again?"
Ron shook his head. "No, worse."
Harry looked at him. "Want to fly with me for a few minutes?" His son nodded so he pulled him onto the broom and took off. "What's wrong?" he asked quietly, steering them away from the practice game.
"Can I have your firebolt when I go to school?"
"If you make your house team," Harry agreed. "Is that why you showed up? Is Mellie at home?" He nodded so they floated there for a minute. He noticed the paper in his son's hand. "What's that?"
"It came in the mail today," his son said, handing it over. He looked up at his father's face as he read it. "I don't want you to yell, but she scared me."
"Shh, it'll be okay," Harry told him, giving him a hug. "I'll deal with her, Ron. She's not going to hurt you at all."
Ron nodded. "If you yell at her, then she'll get me for telling on her."
"No, she won't. I promise. Do you want to go stay at Xander's this weekend? You and Mellie both?" He shrugged. "I promise she won't come anywhere near you, Ron. You'll be surrounded by Simone and Denver."
"And Iggy," Ron added with a slight grin. He liked Iggy, Iggy understood his desire to fly.
"And Iggy, and I bet he'd beat her up if she comes anywhere near you. You know Simone and Denver will." His son nodded. "Do you want to go over there while I play?"
"Okay. Did Uncle Xander invite us?"
"Yup, whenever you wanted or needed to come over. This way I'm sure you'll be fine." He smiled at him. "Why don't you go home and pack a small bag, and I'll come pick you up after practice, okay?" Ron nodded, firmer this time. "Good boy. Remember, I love you." He gave him another hug and floated down, putting his son back into the stands. "Can you make sure he gets back to the floo?" he asked the coach standing there. "I've got to go to Hogwarts after this." His coach nodded and led the kid away. "Oliver, he and his sister are going to be at the school this weekend if you wanted to stay at my house." Oliver shrugged, he was still looking for a house, but kids scared him to no end. "Good. I'll see you in a few." He headed back to finish his practice for the day. If he hustled, he'd be done in about an hour. He carefully tucked the letter into his pocket and focused on the game again. He saw the look his coach gave him and shook his head. "Daughter," he said as he floated past him.
"Hurry up and you can go kick her ass," his coach told him. Harry smiled at him. "That bad?" Harry nodded. "Then I feel really sorry for you, boy. Go catch." Harry flew off. "Poor kid, to have a daughter like that."
Harry walked out of the floo at Hogwarts and smiled at the teacher sitting there. "I need to meet with the Headmaster. Is he in his office?"
Snape looked him over. "Is it important?"
Harry nodded. "And I'll need to see you too. It's a house matter officially."
"Then I'll meet you in his office after I retrieve your daughter." Harry nodded, heading out to the Headmaster's office. "What has the girl done now," Snape groaned as he stood up. He was so tired. He found his least favorite student in the Great Hall and pulled her up by her robe, dragging her with him up to the office, her guardian running behind them. He walked into the office and sat her down as hard as he could. "What happened this time?"
Dumbledore handed over the letter. "Harry's son found this in his mail this morning."
"I didn't write anything to the brat," Agatha sneered. Ryan nudged her. "What! I didn't! I don't write to him at all!"
"Rosenberg, retrieve her notes for the day so we can compare the handwriting," Snape ordered. The boy nodded and left. "Agatha, if you wrote this, it is grounds for expulsion," he explained. "This letter is something so bad that we will not tolerate it." He handed her the letter, watching as she read it.
She sneered and handed it back, turning it on her father. "I hate him that much, but I didn't write that trash. The language is piss-poor and grammatically incorrect. I write better than that."
Ryan walked up dragging another first year girl and Agatha's books. "She has something to say in the matter, sirs. Here are the books she had with her." He nodded at Harry. "I've kept her out of trouble so far, but this time apparently she had someone else do it for her." He slapped the other girl across the back of the head. "Confess or suffer the whole house's wrath."
"Rosenberg," Snape warned. "That is my job."
He shrugged. "Sorry, sir, but this irks me." He glared at the first year, who started to cry. "Now."
"Yes, do tell us what you know, Ms. Chester. Preferably before I have you expelled."
She sniffled. "Agatha was saying how she hated her brother and missed picking on him so I wrote him a letter to scare him," she confessed. She looked at Agatha, who was glaring at her. "I didn't mean to get her into trouble."
"Did she have anything to do with it?" Dumbledore asked. The girl shook her head, starting to cry harder. "Very well. Severus, deal with this matter with the judiciary board." Ms. Chester was led out of the room. "Ryan, leave." He nodded and left, going to the bottom of the stairs to wait. "Agatha, did you do anything to encourage her? If you tell me now it will go easier on you. If I find out that you had something to do with this later, I will not hesitate to toss you out on your rear."
She shook her head. "Besides complaining about the little whimp, I didn't do anything. She did it herself."
"Very well. You are suspended to the tower for this weekend." She opened her mouth. "I doubt you want to see either of your siblings while they're here." She shook her head and stomped out, remembering to take her books with her. "Harry, I'm sorry."
"It's all right," Harry told him, sitting down in the chair his daughter had vacated. "I can't believe she didn't encourage it."
Dumbledore nodded. "Ms. Chester is rather suggestible. We are watching her." Harry nodded. "How is everything else?"
"Rather hectic. First game's this weekend and it's our rivals. Ron's trying to get ready for school next year. He is getting in, right?" Albus smiled and nodded. "Thank you. He's been worried. Now I don't have to be optimistic, I can be sure. It'll make him feel better." He heaved himself up. "Thank Xander for me please? I think seeing his cousins will help him a lot."
"Of course. Plus, I'm sure Simone is more than strong enough to guard him if something should occur." Harry smiled at that thought. "Do be careful on Saturday, I'll be listening." Harry nodded and shook his hand, then left. "At least she didn't do it directly," he noted, writing down the encounter in his journal. It was what kept his memory fresh and problems at bay. He only wished Fawkes was there, he'd probably need her to send out a letter to the girls' parents. He supposed he could use one of the other chicks, they could use the practice anyway. He pulled out his favorite pen and some parchment, drafting the letter he was going to need.
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