Notes: the cockney, as translated by the Dialectizer (http://rinkworks.com/dialect/) on pages 106- 108, 299-300, and 580 (around there) is intentional. Yes, the program said it's spelled that way. Also, as usual, I'm sorry at how badly I suck at writing house elves. It's better this time, but nowhere near perfect.
Xander woke up warm and comfy, but he knew he wasn't in his bed instantly. His bed didn't have satin sheets on it, nor did his nest, and this one also had drapes around it. He took an inventory of his body before opening his eyes, just in case it was someone hostile.
"You should listen when you're told things," Draco said from across the room, casually turning the page of his book. "Otherwise, they tell me and force me to do mean and horrible things to you."
Xander opened his eyes, frowning at the smugness he could see. "What are you doing?"
"Reading. It's a pastime I enjoy in case you hadn't noticed." He closed his book, marking his spot with his thumb. "How are you feeling?"
"Was I hit in the head again?"
"No," Draco said with a smirk. "You forgot to listen." He shifted. "Since certain people were so very sure you weren't going to follow orders, they asked me to help you accept them from now on." He started to grin. "As you see, you're in my house, in one of my rooms, and you're staying in that bed unless I give you permission." Xander tried to get up but there was a forcefield around the bed. "What did I say?" he asked patiently.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because, unlike you, I follow orders from higher up the food chain of power." He stood up. "Now, if you're going to be good, I'll allow you to get up and go to the bathroom." Xander grimaced, but he nodded. "Thank you. You may get up." Xander slid off the bed and stood up, looking around. "I know you don't need it."
"If you don't use the muscles, they will atrophy," Xander said grimly. Draco calmly walked over to the closet and took out a cane, not his. "Where's mine?"
"In my safe. I'm not about to be hit by you with your accessory wand." He went back to his seat. "The only place you can roam is to the bathroom. I'd go there now if you have to." He opened his book and went back to the theory it held. With any luck, he'd be the one asked to teach theory when it started as an elective this fall.
Xander muttered the whole way to the bathroom. Once he was in there, he thought at his husband or son, but apparently the house really was shielded against his kind. He would get Draco for this, just as soon as he got free. Then he'd learn that shielding spell as well. It'd come in handy when George was sick. He got a drink and used the facilities, then walked back out into the bedroom. "Why did you take me? You could have asked."
"You wouldn't have listened," Draco said, pointing at the bed. "The corridor only leads from the bathroom to it. You can't get free of it." Xander sighed and went to sit on the bed, staring at him. "Thank you."
Xander knew what this was about, and he had been being good. "I was cutting back."
"You were also going through your normal katas yesterday morning."
"It's a new day?"
Draco nodded, not looking up. "You slept through. Apparently you needed it." He glanced up. "I didn't even encourage it after knocking you out at the station." Xander groaned. "If you're hurting, there's a glass of juice beside the bed and some of your medication."
"It wasn't that. Do you know what George is thinking by now?"
"That someone's watching out for you," Draco said as he stood up, looking down at his mentor. "Now then, you should have listened. Until you allow yourself to be spoiled for a whole day you're staying here. I was commanded to do so by the head of my house."
"Salazar. He visited me after he got done with you." He smiled. "I'm not doing this to be mean, I'm doing this so your family will continue to have you around. The only way you're allowed to fight is if the family is attacked by bigots while you're out with them, or if you personally are attacked. That is what an elder of the flock does. Do learn your new position so I don't have to spend all day up here with you reading." He grunted and rubbed his stomach. "Sorry, he's being a bit upset with my breakfast."
Xander frowned at him. "Why?"
"Because I had sausage and he hated the spices." He smiled. "As you can see," he said, waving a hand at the bed. "You're trapped back in there again. Food will come at regular intervals, and even be things that you like. I've set up the bed to float you every once in a while so your back doesn't hurt you too much. I've also gotten you clothes to wear while you're incarcerated here." He pointed at the wardrobe he had been sitting in front of. "If you'd like to talk to me, I'll be in my room and then down in the study. Yell for me and I'll hear, or one of the house elves will hear and get me. Finish your nap."
"You're enjoying this," Xander accused. "You're getting a kick out of this."
"Yes, I am," he agreed, walking out. "It's amazing what sort of practical things my father had taught me. I never considered using it in this way, but it seems to be quite fun so far."
Xander mimicked him under his breath and decided to get comfortable. He was going to be here for a long time because he wasn't going to give in. If there was one thing he knew, it was stubborn. He crossed his arms and thought, trying to plan an escape. The shields shouldn't be that hard to weaken.
George tapped on McGonagall's door, smiling when she opened it. "Is Albus here?" She let him in. "I'm sorry to disturb your meeting, but have either of you seen Xander? He never came home last night and he's not at the Burrow either."
Dumbledore pulled a sealed letter from his pocket. "This was given to me for you," he said with quiet amusement. This was rather funny, and he knew about all of it. He smiled at McGonagall. "Do tell her about little Maeve, she doesn't believe me."
"I can bring her by for a visit if you'd like," George offered, breaking the wax seal.
She chuckled lightly. "I would like to see the little darling Tara carried for you. Is she sweet?"
"Only to Lucien, Draco's son."
She laughed harder. "I'm sure they'll be great friends then."
"The Big Guy said so?" George read. "Ron? My brother wrote this?" He looked at the rest of it, but there wasn't anything further. "What is he playing at now?"
"I do believe steps were taken to make sure that your husband understood his new position in the hierarchy," Dumbledore told him. George groaned and shook his head. "Give them a few days, George. Perhaps Xander will learn something useful."
"He'll get so frustrated he'll blow up the house," George told him. "Do you remember the last time Xander was forced to be inactive with nothing to do?" Both older people laughed. "Now think about Draco's house."
"I'm sure it's built to withstand such things," McGonagall told him. "After all, he's one as well as are his children."
"Point, but he's mine. I should be the one tying him to the bed and treating him roughly, not our acknowledged son." He grimaced. "I don't even want to see that picture."
"I'm sure I didn't either," McGonagall told him. "When can you bring the tots for a visit? My next student won't be here for a few more weeks.'
"And I am heading to Bermuda tomorrow," Albus said with a smile and a salute of his teacup. "Severus left yesterday with Tara. Zachariah is being watched by your mother I believe."
"I know, I ran into him this morning. He was chasing William around." He ran a hand through his hair, it was getting long again. "I can bring them up tomorrow afternoon if you'd like. All four of the little ones and let the bigger ones come another day that way you're not overloaded with children."
"That would be delightful. I'll pick up some cookies and we'll have tea." She smiled at him. "Just those four?"
"Ron's rented a house in town for the summer. He's down behind Gladrags if you wanted to pop around. I'm sure he's about ready for an adult voice."
She laughed. "I'll pop around on him later this week, invite him and the triplets up for some fun. I do have a nice garden for them to play in and I could easily be convinced to give him the afternoon off sometimes."
"I'm sure he'd appreciate that." George smiled at her. "I'm so glad that you're better. We've missed you around the school. Iggy might not have dared to get married in Potions if you been there."
She spluttered. "He did what?"
Albus patted her on the hand. "I was about to tell her of that incident. Why don't you join us and you can tell her all about your son's recent activities?"
"If it's not a bother," George agreed.
"No, sit." She summoned another cup over and poured him some tea. "He's married? I thought he was only fourteen."
"He is. So's she, now."
Xander looked up from his sulk as the house elf brought him a tray. "I'm not hungry."
"Master be very angry," house elf warned, giving it to him anyway. He hadn't seen a captive in the house since his master was very young, but he was treating this one much better than Master's father had. He smiled. "You eat. Good for you. You like? Sunny make special."
Xander looked down at the tray and saw real french fries, not the London version, the American homemade version. Complete with a dish of ketchup, a dish of vinegar, and a dish of ranch dressing. On the side was a hamburger, a small one. "I do like, thank you," he said, giving it a smile. "What's your name?"
"His name is trouble if he's begging you for something," Draco said from the doorway.
"He wasn't," Xander told him. "He asked me if I liked my fries." He smiled at the elf, who smiled back before slithering away. "You had them make me fries?"
"I figured you were missing them since that's about all you ate when we went back for the reunion." He came in and pulled the chair closer, sitting down again. "Did you have a good sulk?" Xander glared at him. "You may get up if you wish." Xander got up and went to the bathroom to wash his hands and use it again. When he came back, Draco was lying on the bed on his back. "Would you please make the creature calm down?"
Xander sat next to him, making sure the tray was out of the way. "Cramps?" he asked, stroking the growing stomach gently. He had needed this last time as well. "That anti-stretch mark creme must be wonderful. You don't have a single one."
"I have two on my left thigh," Draco admitted. He groaned in pleasure as the knots were released. "Thank you." He slid off the bed and went back to his chair, getting comfortable. "Eat. I've had dinner already so you won't insult me." Xander dipped a fry into the ranch dressing and ate it, moaning at the still-warm goodness. "Did they get it right? I had someone buy an American cookbook."
"Just right," Xander agreed, eating another one, this time with ketchup. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Draco smiled at him when the other man looked his way. "Really. I'm doing this for your own good. Besides, George will like this spoiled you when he shows up."
"Does he know where I am?"
"Ron left him a cryptic note. I'm sure he'll figure it out soon enough." He stood up. "Do you need anything else?"
"Some soda? I have a withdrawal headache."
"In the bedstand beside you is a cooler full of sodas, Xander. Drink all you want. I'll be back in a few hours to release you again. Yell if you need me."
"Come back if you have more cramps. That one was worse."
"I know." He walked out, leaving him to eat in peace.
Xander looked at the doorway thoughtfully, nibbling on another fry. What was his 'son' playing at?
Tara looked out her hotel room window, smiling at the romantic couple sitting in the boat on the canal below them. She sighed in contentment. No students. No kids. No cranky husband, he was doing something in the bathroom, probably trying to look even more scary for the conference. There was a formal banquet tonight and she was dutifully dressed in as deep of a blue as he could find for her. She looked okay she guessed, but it really wasn't her style. Then again, she'd get Severus back next summer because he had agreed to go on retreat with her. Little did he know it was a nudist retreat for wiccans, but hey, what he didn't know he couldn't complain about until he saw for himself. She did grin at that, it was a very wicked thought she was having.
He walked out of the bathroom and looked her over, nodding at her presentation. Very suitable for the event. She turned to look at him and smiled and he shook his head. "Don't even think about misbehaving tonight, young lady." She cackled evilly, making chills go up his spine. "I mean it. If you do, I'll have to correct you in public. They'll expect it."
She walked over and straightened his collar for him. "Are you going to spank me, Severus," she teased. He groaned. "I promise not to embarrass you if I can help it." She gave him a little peck on the cheek so she didn't mess up her lipstick. "Are we ready?"
"Take this," he said, handing her a little vial. She looked at it, then at him. "It's a general antidote. Someone always tries something to improve their reputation." She obediently drank it and he smiled. "Thank you. Come, and don't touch anything or anyone. You never know what's been coated."
"Are all of you this paranoid?" She slipped her arm through his, his preferred method of walking instead of holding hands.
"Six conferences ago, my second, we had sixteen people die because someone was showing off." She stopped and looked at him. "Hence the antidote. It won't happen again, but someone always tries."
She walked up to his side and took his arm again. "If I get poisoned, I'm siccing Iggy on you."
"I'm sure he'll yell for quite a long time," he agreed. That boy thought Tara was his to protect, and he acted like it all the time. He would have to correct him some day. Not until after this was over with though, just in case they needed a healing potion done by him.
"Can we brag on the Iggy monster?"
"Indeed, though we may have to explain a number of times why I'm apprenticing him at this point."
"Because you're the only potion's person at the school?" she suggested. He smiled down at her. "Besides, as he pointed out to his interviewers, it's the mirror of your own specialty. He uses his to change bodily processes for the good, and you don't."
He nodded. "That is the best way of looking at it. Did he share his interview with you?"
"Just that part. They asked why he was learning from you as well." She pushed the button for the elevator but he steered her toward the stairs. "We have to walk down three flights?"
"The entrance is almost as important as your appearance," he told her. "Only young masters would dare to take the elevator." Besides, he didn't like the things anyway. Too confining with horrid music. She smiled up at him, it was like she was reading his mind - which she could do if she wanted to. "Do stop that," he admonished gently.
"I will if you take a ride on a gondola with me."
"Do you know what's in the canals?"
"Yup, back to the very earliest history when they used to dump bodies into it. I still want to go, no matter how bad it smells. It can't smell worse than that potion you had Iggy make up for the hippogryphs needing an enema."
He smirked. "It was a nasty smelling one," he agreed. He gave her hand a pat and walked her down the final staircase, setting his face back into its neutral look. A few people looked up and marked their entrance, but most everyone was involved in a discussion. He walked Tara up to a very old man, his own teacher. "Tara, this was my training master."
She nodded at him. "It's nice to meet you. You did a wonderful job."
He smiled at her. "She's very pretty, Severus. Also very pure. Going for the light now?"
Severus shrugged. "She suits me. She keeps me from killing my students." His master laughed. "I do have news, but he probably won't be here for a few days."
"Oh, really?" The master stroked his mustache. "I had heard you had an apprentice or two."
"Two now, a bonded couple. A pair of prodigies." His master looked impressed. "Both the gryphon-born healers in fact."
The Master looked really impressed. "Quite a task from what I've been told about that boy. Wasn't his mate older?"
"Originally, but the Amsterdam people did their usual stupidity and drove her away. She willingly joined him in youth."
"They married in the potion's dungeon," Tara put in. "During a class."
The old master chuckled. "I'm sure it was a sight to behold. Did she capture him and mark him?"
"The other way around. He brought the ring up and marked her," Tara told him, smiling proudly. "Iggy is such a little beast some days."
Even Severus laughed at that, it was so true. "He'll hopefully be joining us later this week. He had some things to do for the school during the holidays."
"I'd be happy to meet him, see if you've passed on everything I taught you." Severus blushed. "Ah, I see not."
"He's got a Malfoy as an uncle, he didn't need those lessons."
The Master nodded, looking like he understood. "I've met young Mr. Malfoy as well. He was looking for pure silver for a ring he was making with a piece of the old philosopher's stone."
"It's Iggy's wife's ring," Tara told him.
"Ah. Most fitting if he dabbles?" Severus nodded. "Then he'll be an excellent addition to the community, even though he is a healer."
"He sees it as the mirror reflection of our own art," Severus told him. He nodded at someone walking up to them. "Alica. How are you?"
"Doing well enough. My brood has increased by another child." She looked at Tara, then back at him. "Your own?"
"I have one son, she has a son by a prior marriage and graciously agreed to carry one for another couple."
"Oh." The female master smiled at Tara. "Any more coming?"
"Not for a while," Tara said with a smile. "I'd like to leave diapers out of my day for a while before we have any more."
"You have a child?" the older master asked.
Severus nodded. "A son. He's taken up with Xander Harris-Weasley's younger son."
Tara giggled. "It's so cute, but he gets so upset. Little William is just like his father and so is our Zachariah."
"I'm sure that will be an interesting friendship," Alica said with fond tolerance. "Do you have yours brewing yet?"
"He likes to come in and help," Severus told her. "He enjoys the stirring."
"Wonderful news, old friend," she said happily. "Hopefully he'll be your next apprentice."
"We've got three more years of Iggy and Raena," Tara told her. "Maybe he'll be theirs for a year."
"Perhaps," Snape agreed. Though the thought made him shudder. Ignatius could be very forceful when watching over the younger students, he had even yelled at a few of the second years who never got anything right. "We're taking a year off once they're done with their schooling to recuperate."
"I'd say you needed it with two prodigies who're married," Alica agreed with a grimace. "How you manage to keep them on track I don't know."
"They're both masters in their own right," Snape said with a shrug. "I give them the same potion or complimentary ones. That way I don't have to hear about their relationship in the laboratory." He nodded again and led Tara on. "Do be less enthusiastic."
"This is me, Sev, you knew that when you took up with me," she said quietly as they approached another group of people. "The old man looks familiar."
"He should. We saw him Christmas in Spain. He was the one who came up and talked to me about the jumping potion." He nodded a greeting at them and walked past since no one there was worth his notice. The next group had his Poison's teacher from Braun so they stopped to chat with her.
Draco walked back into Xander's room. "You may get up if you want to take a shower."
"Why would I want to do that now?" Xander asked, starting to pout.
"Because otherwise you can't get into the pool."
"You have a pool?" Draco nodded. "Since when?"
"Since the house was built. I had it put in. It's in the building out back." He smiled. "Your son uses it now and then, whenever he can get away."
"Iggy needs to tell me these things," Xander sighed as he got up and went to the bathroom. He paused on the way. "I don't have a suit."
"I have one for you to use," Draco said patiently. Did he really think that everyone wasn't meticulously planned out? Xander raised an eyebrow. "I got them for you when your pajamas were ordered. Now go bathe or no treats later."
Xander sighed but went to do as he was told. For now. He had missed swimming. He'd do it in the lake at the school, but the giant squid hated him. He stripped down and got into the shower, doing as he was told, but also sending his awareness back up the water stream to a point where there weren't any shields so he could send a thought to his husband so he wouldn't worry.
When he came out, a suit was on the bed and Draco was missing. He changed into it and waited patiently, sitting on the edge of the bed. He would get his 'son' for this, after he had a long swim. But he would keep the suit, George had never seen him spandex. Draco walked back in and released him, walking into the safe corridor to escort him out by taking his hand and leading him across the barrier. "Thank you."
"I know you've missed it. I wondered why you hadn't begged already." He smiled at him. "You look nice in those. I guess I got the right size."
"You did," Xander agreed, looking down at his legs. The shorts ended just above his knees. He noticed he had a small bulge popping out of the bottom and frowned. "I'm gaining weight again," he said miserably.
Draco noticed where he was looking and shook his head. "Spandex does that to even the most fit," he pointed out. "Even Simone, who is as trim as they come, has one of those underneath her tank tops." He walked Xander out the door and toward the building behind the house. "Here we are." He pushed in the combination for the magical lock, letting them into the building. He nodded at the house elf holding his son and it left. "Lucien," he called. His son smiled at him. "Do you want to play with Uncle Xander?" The boy squealed and stood up. "Walk down the first two stairs only and we'll meet you over there." The boy carefully held onto the railing and walked down two stairs in the shallow end, grinning up at him when he was in the right spot. "Very good. Wait for us." He let Xander go and dove in, swimming over to join his son.
Xander stretched first and dove in, a much cleaner dive than his son had, and swam underwater for far longer. He surfaced and continued toward the other side, ending up against the wall, nearly a straight line. The little boy clapped. "Thanks. I used to be on my school's swim team."
"Were you good?" Draco asked, taking Lucien to bounce him in the deeper water. His son squealed and splashed, happy to be playing. He wiped some of the water off his face. "Splash him, not me." Lucien obediently splashed his uncle, smirking the whole time.
"You are such a little Malfoy," Xander said, splashing him back. He swam closer, playing with the baby. He wondered how his younger two were doing.
"Molly has them," Draco reminded him. "They're being spoiled at the moment."
"Hopefully," Xander agreed. He kissed Lucien on the head. "I'll be right back, I want to do some laps. You splash your daddy for me." He dove off, surfacing halfway across the pool and starting some gentle laps.
Draco shook his head. Even when forced to be sedate Xander was active. He was also impressive, he had just swum the width of the pool without breaking for air. He looked down at his son. "Maybe he'll teach you how to swim." Lucien cheered and tried to paddle to the deeper end. "We'll wait until he's done," Draco told him. "Let him have his own fun." He attached himself to the side of the pool and floated, his son safely on his chest and stomach floating with him. This is why he had put in the pool.
Tara looked at the other diners, though no one was eating. She had earned a hand slap when she had reached for her water glass. Okay, so they were at a dinner full of paranoid people. "Can't we use a discern spell and figure out if it's safe?" she suggested.
He shook his head. "One of the rules is no obvious magic."
"Fine, then I'll do it my way. I'm hungry." She cast her own spell, smiling down at the food. "The chicken's got arsenic on it, and the mashed potatoes have that funny green stuff you were trying to teach Iggy the other day." She picked up her fork and dug into the mixed vegetables, and everyone around her looked at her in shock. "The chicken and mashed potatoes have stuff in them, but I couldn't find a thing wrong with the veggies," she said with a bright smile. Severus groaned. "Oh, give it up. You're feeding me now or running out for something later." He looked at her. "I mean it. I'm not starving myself for you. I happen to like my body too much for that." She took another bite and smiled at him.
He shook his head and picked up his fork as well. "Do the rolls have anything?"
"Which are?" the older man on Tara's other side asked.
"A pest that eats grains. That would have come from the kitchen itself." She took another bite.
"How can you tell?"
She leaned closer. "Because I'm good," she told him, then she smirked. He laughed. "You think I'm kidding?" She went back to her meager dinner. "Severus, you're buying me fast food tonight."
"Yes, Tara," he sighed. He knew when he was beaten. This time he had lost. Hopefully nothing was on the silverware. He looked around, noticing no one looked very pleased with themselves. It must have been safe. He took a bite of the mix and nothing popped up to warn his highly trained taste buds. She had been right after all. He took another bite and everyone around them slowly started to eat. He smiled mentally, no one had accused her of casting anything. Her other form of magic was rather handy in situations where everyone expected one to use a wand. The waiter brought over a dish with mushrooms and Tara shook her head. "Not all right?"
"They smell off. It may just be the cheese, but I wouldn't eat them."
He smiled at her. She was very impressive in her own right. They would definitely be the talk of the conference. His new poison was being introduced tomorrow and she was the belle of the ball as it were. She smiled at him and licked her lips. "Eat," he said quietly. "I'll get you real food later."
"I think I've decided what I want," she told him in that special voice that always made him react. He sat up straighter. "When do we go back up?"
"After we eat." She shoved an extremely large bite into her mouth. Yes, it was going to be an interesting conference this year, he mused.
George found his younger brother in the shop waiting on him. "What Big Guy?" he asked as he joined him and Fred.
"Draco got orders from higher up the food chain," Ron told him. "I just wrote the note." He smiled. "He's fine."
"I'm aware of that much, I wanted to know why he was taken."
Ron shrugged. "Draco said he was going to keep him until he behaved more appropriately. That's all I know."
"Which food chain?" Fred asked. Ron shrugged again. "All he had you do was write the note?"
"Yup. Vinnie!" Ron yelled, stopping his son from digging into the cold jellies. "Get your butt out of there." His son gave him a cute look. "Now or no bedtime story." Vinnie walked back over and gave his leg a hug. "Thank you. I told you to stay out of the stuff. Go help your sisters watch the fish."
Ron looked back at the hallway that ran between the shop and the lab, then walked back there when he didn't see his daughters. He found them outside the back door, playing some game with the rocks they had found. "Inside. You know better." They smiled at him. "Now, please." They picked up their rocks and went to play behind the counter, where they wouldn't get in the way.
"You're importing the outside?" Fred asked them, getting out of the way of their game.
George looked over the counter. "What are you two doing?"
Ron watched. "Looks like a game of baby checkers, only without the board," he noted. He shrugged. "I'll help pick up the rocks before we leave." Both twins nodded. "You'd think you never had children in here."
"Ours stayed in the back," George reminded him. "Where the toys and beds and stuff are."
Fred laughed. "Iggy used to pretend to be the monster under the bed. Every time we'd go back there, he'd be under it wrapped in a sheet."
"Bill told him that," George put in. "Can't wait to see what he'll do if he ever gets it up and gets married."
"For all we know, he may have two or three sitting somewhere in Cairo," Ron pointed out. "He never said anything about his private life and only Charlie ever went to visit him."
"I'd like to think he'd at least have told mum," George said. He shrugged. "Or brought them with him when he came back. I can't see any of us abandoning a child."
"Where's Uncle Xander?" Gwen asked.
"I think Uncle Draco has him, sweetness," George told her. "Can I help?"
"He was going to buy me books." She smiled. "He said he'd teach me how to read this summer."
"I can do that," Ron told her, giving her a smile. "Why don't we go to mum's and see if she's got any books for you to start on?" The kids cheered. Maeve, William, and Zach were there, and maybe even Lucien. "Pick up all the rocks and put them back where they belong." They went where the kids decided they belonged, into their pockets, then their father waved for them and took them to Grandma's. She always was ready to play Jump with the rocks. She even helped sometimes.
Fred picked up a missed stone and put it on the counter so he wouldn't step on it. "I've decided I don't need kids, I've got yours and Ron's to keep me amused."
George patted him on the arm before giving out the universal parent's advice. "It's always different when it's yours."
Draco walked into Xander's room, looking for his son. He found him curled up against his uncle being read to. "Which book is that?"
"Pooh," Lucien told him.
Draco gave the adult on the bed a questioning look. "Like from that muggle show South Park?"
"No, as in Winnie the." Xander showed off the cover. "That's the bear's name. Winnie the Pooh."
"And he likes honey," Lucien said happily. "Just like me."
Draco sat on the bed to look at the first few pages. "There are no females in here. Nowhere."
"There's one, and she's a mother, but all the other animals are adults," Xander told him. "Kanga is female." He squeezed Lucien. "The writer was a British muggle who went to America."
"I'm sure he found it dreadfully dull then," Draco said, but he handed back the book. "Did you grow up on this one?" Xander's face set. "Never mind, I'm sorry." He gave his son a fond look. "Are you ready for bed?"
"Nope," Lucien said happily. "Uncle said I could stay up."
"Did he now," Draco said fondly, smiling at Xander. He shook his head. "It's his bedtime and yours as well." He took the book back. "He'll read more to you tomorrow because he's not going anywhere for a while. Go get into your sleep shirt." Lucien hurried off and he noticed Xander watching him. "Yes, he's got free reign of the house." He stood up and backed out of the safe corridor. "You may get up if you want," he told him, sitting down in his usual chair.
Xander stood up and headed for the bathroom. "You're not going to break me, Draco. You should give up and admit defeat now."
Draco laughed. "Be defiant if you like, I will win." Xander stopped to look at him. "Albus said I could continue this once we're back at school. He thinks you need to slow down as well it seems." Xander looked hurt. "We aren't saying that you're getting old, but..." He closed the door. "He does realize that you're starting to slow down. In your case your injuries are making it harder for you to hop out of bed at a moment's notice. The same as he feels most days. He said he'd like to see you admit that you've gotten past the blush of youth and accept that you can no longer run down the halls with wild abandon so you can catch your mate and fuck him greatly." Xander shook his head, but he still looked hurt. "We're trying to help you, Xander, not harm you. You needed the time off anyway and you need to learn to pace yourself. If you're not old, you shouldn't need a nap every afternoon as soon as your classes are done." He stood up and walked into the safe corridor, giving him a gentle touch to the arm. "If you think about it tonight while you're trying to defy sleep you'll realize that I'm right," he said quietly. "You're not a youth of eighteen and you don't have the same strengths you did then. Take this time to figure out what your new strengths are and how best to use them to get back at me." He walked back out of the safe corridor.
"I'm fine," Xander said, but he realized he sounded tired. "I know I can't run down the halls anymore."
"Then why are you always late for class?" Draco asked.
Someone tapped on the door. "Daddy?" Lucien asked, sounding hesitant
"Sorry." He opened the door and smiled down at him. "I needed to have a talk with your uncle." He picked the boy up and looked at the shirt he was wearing. "Isn't that Iggy's?" Lucien smiled and nodded, looking happier. "Then we'll have to take a picture of you in it and show him, won't we?" He looked back at Xander. "Think of it as some odd resort, Xander. You do need the rest at the least." He walked away, leaving him alone to do whatever. He settled his son into his bed and kissed him on the forehead. "Sleep well, son. I'll be in Xander's or my room if you need me." He faded the lights out so it left a soft glow and left the room, closing the door gently. He walked back to Xander's room and found him sitting on the floor but not on the bed. "It's more comfortable."
"I want to be able to get up whenever I want."
"In a few days," Draco agreed. "Once I see that you've rested a bit more." Xander shook his head. "You've got bags under your eyes and you look like you're having nightmares again. You've got to rest or George will end up killing you by accident one night." That got a faint smile. "By now he's figured out where you are so he'll be here soon. I'll even let him stay over sometimes, but you need this break. Let Iggy do his own thing this summer under the overly- watchful eyes of his grandmother. Let George think up mean things to do to me for capturing you, which his twin will steal and make for the shop. They can do without you for a week or two."
"I've got stuff I've got to do this summer," Xander pointed out. "The visit back to Morocco. Finding of the other founders' bodies. Cleaning out the tower so you can have your own set of rooms."
"I can do the last. George can do the first and the second will still be there in a few weeks," Draco pointed out gently, for him. Xander looked even more upset though. "I'm sorry, but you do need this time off. The world won't stop if you're not working on something." He stood up. "I know that Iggy got his need to be doing *something* all the time from you, but even you have to slow down sometime and catch your breath. Look back at all you've accomplished."
Xander looked up at him. "It's not that great a list."
"Are you so sure about that?" He left, closing the door behind him. He found his son in the hall and picked him up. "Sneaking about?"
"I was going to get him to read more," Lucien said with a slow smile. His daddy wasn't mad at him for it, no matter what the grandfather had said. "Can we go see Iggy tomorrow?"
"How about if I bring him here?" Draco suggested, carrying his son back to his room. He settled him back into his bed. "You've been looking worried, son. Is there something you think is wrong?"
"Grandfather say you want lots from me," Lucien said, picking at his blankets. His hands were covered so he looked up at his father. "Are you mad at me? Am I not good enough?"
Draco smiled. "No, Lucien, you're the perfect little boy I always wanted. You're much better behaved than Denver was." Lucien wiggled in joy at that. "Did the ghost tell you that?"
Lucien shook his head. "Nope, other grandfather. The one with Iggy and Grandma."
"Ah." Draco frowned. He would have to talk to Arthur then. "Lucien, there is nothing wrong in you being who you are. My own father couldn't see that and I used to get very mad at him for it. So I swore you'd be raised differently. You can be whatever you want, even a muggle-lover, and I'll only complain a little." His son giggled. "I'm not upset with you. If I was, you'd know."
"But you closed door in my face," Lucien told him.
Draco shook his head. "That's because I needed to talk to your uncle. He needed to hear a few things that you didn't."
"Not for little ears?" he asked, paraphrasing one of Simone's ways of telling him to bug off.
"Exactly," Draco agreed. He tucked the blankets a little higher. "You go to sleep and he can read to you tomorrow. All right?" Lucien nodded and yawned. "Good boy. I'm very proud of you, son. Remember that the next time someone says something dumb." He gave him a kiss to the forehead and got up, closing the door behind him as he left. Yes, he would have to talk to Arthur tomorrow. He paused outside of Xander's door, but the lights were down so apparently he was thinking or trying to sleep. That was excellent. Maybe it wouldn't be as hard as he thought it would be.
Iggy looked at his cousin as he came down the stairs, handing over the small vial he had made up last night. "I'm going to have to run out and get the stuff to make you more," he said, going back to his book.
Denver carefully sat down, clutching the table and the back of the chair to do so. "How long does it take to make it?" He slugged the potion down and noticed Raena was looking at him. "I have vertigo, very, very bad vertigo."
"I'm sorry. Do you want me to make you some more potion while you work with Iggy and the quaffle today?"
"I'll have to run out and get most of the ingredients," Iggy told her, giving her a grin. "But I can give you the potion if you want to brew it. We usually do it in the fireplace or in the sink while we're here."
"You brew in the sink?"
"Waterproof fire," Iggy told her. She looked like she suddenly got it. "You thought I was brewing in the actual sink bowl?" he asked with a grin. She nodded. "Grandma would never stand for me wearing out her sink like I do my cauldrons." She gave him a gentle shove and he blew a kiss, going back to his book. "The herbologist doesn't open until eleven so we've got time to play anyway. You could come help."
"I want to see what outfit Ravena and Anastasia are terrifying Simone with today," she admitted.
Denver shook his head. "No, you don't. I caught a peek of it. She's pissed today. Not only is it pink, with ruffles, they made her hair grow out and have put it up in pigtails." Raena whimpered. "She looks like one of those three-year-old muggle girls with the ruffled panties and the really short dresses."
She winced in sympathy. "Ohh, maybe I'll go with you guys today," she agreed. Iggy patted her on the thigh.
"I saw that," Molly called from the living room.
"Not unless you can see through walls," Iggy called back. "It was only her knee." He shook his head. "Denver's potion is on page sixty of my notebook if you wanted to look it over." He kept his hand right where it was, resting the book on the table so he could turn pages. "It's got to take months to make a philosopher's stone."
"If we have to we can use my ring in emergencies," Raena offered.
Iggy looked at it and shook his head. "It's too small. It has to be at least six kilograms of stone before you can use it to make the elixir of life or the healing potion from it."
"How big is the fragment on the Headmaster's desk?" Denver asked.
"Four kilograms," Iggy told him. "Raena's was only point-six of a kilogram. The old stone was about twenty to twenty-five kilograms we think." He closed his book. "The healing potion that can be made with it is so powerful that a single drop is diluted into 22.7125 liters of water. Roughly six gallons if we're using one of Xander's measuring cups. That single drop in all that water will make enough potion to cure seven hundred people of an unusual sickness, nine hundred of a fairly common sickness, such as pneumonia, or twelve people of a deathly one."
"But to do any of that, we need a working stone," Raena finished.
"Plus, if we do get a working one we have to report it to the Ministry and report every little thing we do with it, including the times we bring it out to polish it," Iggy added for good measure. "I asked Uncle Percy and he about shit bricks."
"I heard that," Molly said, walking into the kitchen. "Language, young man."
"Yes, grandma, but it's true. The Ministry's pissed because there's six known stones sitting in Gringotts that they can't touch and it's making it harder on the healers because of it."
"Would you make gold?" Anastasia asked as she joined them. She sat beside her brother and looked attentive.
"Maybe a piece to make sure it really worked," Raena told her. "We have access to any funds that we may ever need. Gryphons used to make nests like dragons do now. We won't ever need anything money-wise."
"A mostly-correct philosopher's stone will make a weaker version of the elixir of life. The problem is the healing potion won't work at all when it comes from an incomplete stone, and neither will the gold function. So we'll have to change a single piece to make sure it's really real and working correctly. After that, why would we need to? All we have to do is go ask our elders for it and they'll gladly give it to us. The vault for the Stonehenge colony is the *entire* bottom level of Gringott's vault section. There's two dragons guarding the door because it's so massive. Little ones, but they're ferocious beasts."
"Have you been in there?" Molly asked.
Iggy nodded. "Last week. Bill wanted my opinion on a vial that had been resting in there for years. Turns out it's one of the last remaining vials of Storn's solution."
"Which does what?" Denver asked.
"Something so mystic it's forbidden," Raena told him. "If we told you, Percy would have to obliviate you."
"Oh." He looked impressed. "Wow. Did you dump it out?"
"Are you kidding?" Iggy asked. "There's not a chance." He looked at his mate. "I think we should ask to go through there and see if an old stone is in the stash. If we can borrow it until we can make our own, it'd make me a lot more comfortable."
"Iggy, nothing that's going to necessitate it is going to happen," Molly told him.
"Grandmum, that's like asking for it to happen," Iggy told her. "Think about how many things that potion could have cured in this family alone? Besides Denver's ears permanently, possibly, it could have cured my father's legs with only a few applied drops. He never would have gone to the hospital, gotten the fake knee, or anything like that. It would have cured Simone's field injuries nearly instantly as well. Plus, with what this family has been assigned to do? I want some around just in case." Raena laid a hand on his, giving it a gentle squeeze. "I know, I should stay calm, but I know something's going to happen and we'll be screwed if we don't have one ready and waiting."
"With your luck it will happen to Tara and Severus," Ravena noted from the doorway. "Owls." She walked in and sat beside Raena. "Are you going to Diagon today?"
"I'll have to, I'll need to pick up the stuff for Denver's potion." Iggy smiled at her. "What did you need from there?"
"Something fun to do?" she suggested. "Little Ron's not going to be here for the next few weeks because he's got the wizard's flu."
"His father must love that," Anastasia said dryly. "He's got to be quarantined as well."
Iggy nodded. "I've made them the potion but his coach refuses to let him anywhere near the rest of the team until Little Ron is pronounced clear of it."
"He can't very well have the whole team go down," Molly reminded him. "Is anyone hungry?" Denver raised a hand. "What would you like, dear?"
"Not to smell food for another twenty minutes, grandmother?"
"Of course," she said with a smile. "I understand." She took the mail off the owls and sorted through it, sitting down with the Prophet. "Oh, your father's in here, Denver and the rest of you." She handed over and took the rest of the mail from Ravena, frowning at her. "Expecting something?"
"Yes," she said with a smile. "The letter from the vet's?"
"It will probably go to your father's," Molly told her. She frowned as she handed over a plain envelope, addressed only to her. "That's yours. Simone, your mail is down here."
"I'm not coming down unless someone sets me on fire," Simone called, sounding like she was *trying* to stay pleasant and nice.
Molly stood up and went to look at the girl, it couldn't be that bad. It was, but she kept herself from saying anything. "If you had kept better check of your mouth, you wouldn't be in that outfit," she reminded her. "Though you do look adorable."
Simone clamped her lips together and walked away, going into the room she shared with her sisters to scream her head off. She came out a minute later and was back in her normal clothes, and the hair was gone. "There, I feel better now. If father wants to torture me that badly, he can come after me himself," she said in a nicer tone of voice as she walked past her. "Mount up. I'm pissed."
"The pads are in the bathroom," Raena told her. Simone stopped and looked at her like she hadn't heard her right. "The protective chest guards and those? We washed them last night."
"Oh." Simone nodded. "Thank you. I thought you meant the other type." She shook her head as she walked out the door, going to read her mail in peace.
"I'm telling father," Denver called. He found a letter with his name on it and opened it, then dropped it. "Um, we might want to call him anyway," he said, fakely sweet. "I don't think he wanted us to get death threats at our age from the Slytherin chasers."
Ravena opened hers and frowned. "I'm their seeker, why did the dolts threaten me?" she said in disgust. "That's it. DADDY!" He came out of the fire a minute later, still in his pajamas.
"Those thought threads are handy, huh," Iggy said smugly. Draco glared at him. "You're the one who said you didn't need to know how to harness them." He tossed down his letter. "Your house, you fuck them up."
Draco sat down to read the letters, taking Simone's when she brought it in. "You look nice today, dear," he told her, giving her a pat on the back. "Very nice job, girls. She looks very feminine today." Simone looked smug. "Though I thought they'd have you in pink by now."
"If I had worn it one second longer, I was going to light myself on fire in disgust," she said, leaning on his shoulder. "Where's Uncle Xander?"
Draco looked up. "Sleeping." He went back to reading then smiled at his children. "Forget these were ever sent," he said pleasantly. "Good morning, Molly. Have they been behaving?"
"Mostly," she agreed.
Iggy cleared his throat. "I'm going to have to get more stuff for Denver's potion, Uncle Draco."
"Come over when I'm more coherent," he said, standing up. "I'll see you later, and I'll bring Lucien because he wanted to come over." He took the letters with him, he could do something about them later, when he was more awake. As he walked out of his floo, a house elf handed him a mug of tea and disappeared before he could start in on his usual morning swearing. He sat down to enjoy the sweetened tea, considering which person to threaten first. Or perhaps an official complaint? It would look more seemly. And it would bring the little snots down a peg when they realized they were far below his usual level of action or threat.
Draco got done reporting the disturbing letters and causally strolled over to Arthur's office. He pointed at the doorway as he walked in and the secretary nodded and shrugged. He smiled at her and walked into the inner sanctum and slammed the door, making Arthur jump. "So, you think my son doesn't live up to my ideals?" he asked, sounding normal.
Arthur swallowed. "I think you might have some very high ones for him," he corrected.
"I'm quite aware of what my son can and can't do, Arthur," he said, his voice starting to drip ice. "In fact, if you had actually watched me with him, I'm usually found trying to make sure he doesn't turn out like another of your grandchildren." He leaned closer. "Never say such things about my children again," he warned. "You won't like the consequences."
"Draco, I don't know who told you...."
"Lucien. Strangely enough, it upset him to the point of nearly crying last night as he sought out my approval." He saw the remorse and lightened up. "Now, do we have an understanding?" Arthur nodded. "You will never see my son finding a closet to hide in, just in case someone bad comes up again. You will never see my son asking his mother why father comes home smelling like blood and asking if he works someplace icky, which he had always said was beneath him. Nor will you *ever* find my son searching for my approval and not getting it. So you will lay the fuck off my son from now on or we will have words."
"I'm sorry, Draco. I never meant to assume anything of the sort. I was more concerned about how he's always trying to do more than the other kids his age."
"That's because someone has convinced him it's fun. That same someone who was going to teach Gwen to read this summer." Arthur nodded, looking morose. "I'm glad we came to an understanding before I made sure you never saw him again." He turned.
"Draco, wait. Where is Xander? Do you know?"
Draco nodded. "I was instructed to make him take a break and make him see that he can lean on the rest of us sometimes. He's doing so." He walked out, not seething half as much as he had when he had went in there. He nodded politely at the secretary then left.
The secretary sighed and went to see if her boss needed a friendly ear. She didn't know what the yelling and hissing had been about, but with who his visitor had been, it could have been about anything. "Do you need anything, Mr. Weasley?" she asked with a smile.
"No, Nita, thank you. Just a small family misunderstanding." She frowned and looked at the door. "He's the one who helped Ginny have her children and we had some miscommunication problems. Everything is fine now."
"If you say so." She gave him another smile. "Want me to hold everything for the next ten minutes?"
"If you wouldn't mind. Unless it's one of my children." She nodded and left him alone.
He slumped in his chair. That had been close. He had almost lost the right to see all of his grandchildren by Draco. That man was a fierce protector of his family and he shouldn't have said those things, especially not in front of his grandson. He calmed himself again and noticed he had a meeting with the Minister of Magic in ten minutes. He started to gather his materials together, he couldn't be late. The man might shoot him with his muggle pistol.
Iggy walked into the herb store and gave the little old Romanian woman a smile. "It's me again," he told her. She laughed. "I need these things." He handed over the copy of the potion. "I'm not sure what the flowers look like this time of year so I'm trusting you to figure that out for me." He leaned on the counter while she gathered everything. She came back with some bundles and he looked them over. She patted one and he nodded. "Thanks. One of these days I'll get that right." He grinned. "How much this time?"
"Two-three." Iggy counted out the two galleons and three sickles, handing them over and taking the packages to put into his pocket. "What about that one, the dramamine?"
"It's a muggle item. You'll have to go to one of their pharmacies for it. It takes half a pill crushed."
"I noticed. How do you know?"
"I asked. You order so much of it up there I started to wonder who was dizzy."
"My cousin has vertigo."
She nodded. "I hear that can be horrible." She smiled at him. "Nothing else today?"
"Not for a few days." He felt a small pinging from his telltale on Tara and frowned, pulling out the guardian stone he had created to show how she was doing. "Um, hold that thought. I might be right back," he said, tucking the stone back into his pocket and doing up his robe before teleporting to her. Her aura shone in the flood so it was easy to see her. He found her curled up in bed moaning in pain. "Tara!" he said, rushing to her side. He checked her over, carefully touching her in case whatever poison was on her. "Severus?" he called. He heard a small groan and walked around the bed, finding his mentor on the floor. "What happened to you two?" He helped him back onto the bed and checked him over too. Poison, rare, animal based. "Didn't you take the general antidote?" Severus nodded. "Then how did it get you?" The thin hand pointed at the door. Iggy walked over and looked at it. Sure enough, there was a very thin coat on the knob. "Well, they're fucked now," he said as he stood up. He scraped as much as he could and tucked it into his pocket in the clean envelope he always carried, just for occasions like this one. "Let me analyze this and I'll be right back." The potion's master whispered something so he leaned down to listen. "You took the Fergae?" Severus nodded. "All right, I'll keep that in mind. Will you both live until I come back?" They nodded. "Good, be right back." He teleported back to the shop. "I need one of the poison test kits," he told her. She lifted it off the counter. "Expecting this?" he asked with a smile as he started to work.
"I heard it was another conference year and that your master was going," she admitted. "Is he badly off?"
"Both of them. Someone poisoned their doorknob." He finished separating out the sample, starting the standard tests to see which type of poison it was and if there was already an antidote handy. He dropped another three galleons on the counter and carried the test kit back a few feet so he could carefully send the both of them back to the Burrow. He landed in the kitchen and set the set on the counter to watch. "Raena, make him his potion," he said, taking off his robe and handing it to whomever was behind him. "Someone got Severus and Tara at the convention by using their doorknob."
"The general antidote didn't work?" she asked as she came in and took it from Simone. "Which one did they take?"
"Fergae. I'm thinking that the Yeager may counter it, but it's so damn volatile. No one's even sure why it works." The first test started to register. "Animal based. I already figured that part out."
"Do you need another cauldron?" Ravena asked worriedly. This was the head of her house after all, not just Iggy's teacher. "I can get father's set."
"We have a complete set," Raena assured her with a smile. "Come help me, Ravena."
"But I suck at potions. I'm better at Transfiguration."
"Can you chop and measure?" Iggy asked, not looking at her.
She nodded. "You taught me."
"Then you can help her. That's most of it, and stirring."
Molly tapped Iggy on the shoulder. "Can I get the roast behind you or is it going to be ruined?"
"It's fine," he said, checking it. "A little dry, could use a marinade," he offered, picking it up and handing it to her. "I'd try some lemon or orange juice personally. It gives it a tang."
She rolled her eyes. "I taught you that, Ignatius."
"I might not be here for supper anyway," he pointed out. The next two tests came up, one negative and one positive. "That leaves out Yeager, but might mean Crinies." The next one nearly made him swear. There were only two places that had the solution for that particular test, and both of them were presently under lock and key that he didn't have the keys too. "Honey, we may need break into the infirmary. I'm coming up with the Slyvestrinick positive."
"Damn." Raena came over. "That's the oddest poison result I've ever seen. Yes to one side of Yeager and not to the other. Positive for lead but not for lead?" He nodded. "What the hell is this?"
"Dragonsbane," he told her, frowning. "I've read about it. I need my deep red book, and a suitably dark robe. I'm going to have to go back. Find my wand while you're at it if you can please." She hurried off to get it for him. "Ravena, that all needs a fine chop and we'll still need something from a muggle pharmacy. Dramamine?" She grunted in annoyance so he looked at her. "Simone, I need you to hit a muggle place."
"Are we out of soda already?" Simone called as she walked back in front of the living room. Iggy shook his head. "We need the anti-motion sickness medicine from the muggle place?" Iggy nodded. "Yes, dear. Grandmother, I'm off to see the wonderful goblins of Gringotts. Do you need anything from that way?"
"You're not going alone, missy!" Molly shouted, following her up to her room. "It's much too dangerous for a girl your age to be wandering alone."
"There's a pharmacy not six blocks from Diagon," she pointed out. "On the other side of the hospital where Uncle Xander got his knee fixed. I can pop in and back out again in no time."
"No! You're too young to go by yourself."
"I can bring Denver with me if it'd make you feel better," she said dryly.
"Your mouth is getting you in trouble again," Molly assured her.
Simone sighed. "Fine, I'll get Uncle Percy to help me. Okay? He's got lunch soon enough for it to get back here in time."
"That would be more acceptable, but you'd better ask him if he'll help you first."
"If not, Denver can't have his medicine. The thing we need is part of it." Molly frowned. "It's to stop the spinning. Our version's too weak so he's on part muggle, part wizard medicine. Now, do you need anything from down that way? I'll need to hit the bank anyway to get money changed."
"Hello?" Percy called.
"Uncle Percy," Simone called. "Wait." She ran down the stairs and gave him a hug. "You're supposed to escort weak and helpless little me into muggle London so I can pick up Denver's dramamine."
He smiled at her. "Of course. Are you going to the bank first?"
"Unless you've got muggle cash on you, yuppers," she agreed, smiling at him. She waved at Melvin. "Don't bother the Iggy monster. Someone just poisoned Aunt Tara and Uncle Severus."
"Why?" Percy asked, shocked.
"They're at the poisoner's conference," she told him. "I think it's expected, but this time they pulled a dirty trick and Iggy said something about a doorknob." She shrugged. "Can we go now or do you need to see Grandmum?"
"I need to see her for a moment and then we'll go. Take off your robe." He walked up the stairs and found his mother straightening up the girls' room. "Are you all right? I know she can be a bit forceful."
"It's fine, Percy, dear," she said, giving him a smile. "It's just been a long summer already. With her punishment and the problems associated with that, plus they got nasty letters this morning from some of their schoolmates. It's been a bit much."
"I'll talk with her, mum." He gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Do you need anything from that way?"
"We could probably use some more grape soda," she agreed. "Possibly some of those nice pastries you found the last time?"
"That's right near the pharmacy," he agreed. "We'll be back soon enough and I've got the afternoon off because we're spraying for bugs." He smiled and walked down the stairs, taking Simone to Diagon. "Dear, you've got to lighten up on her," he told her as they walked toward the bank. "She's not as young as she used to be and you lot are very tiring."
Simone grimaced. "I'm sorry, Uncle Percy, but they put me in some pink lacy and ruffly thing this morning. I'd rather have been burned to death." He laughed. "I know, but it was horrendous. Father would have even taken pity on me."
"I'll leave Melvin, he can keep her calm and occupied. Now what's this about the convention going wrong?"
"All Iggy said was something about a doorknob and them being poisoned." She shrugged. "Not a clue otherwise." She opened the door and walked in first, patting herself down for the key she had gotten off her father. She walked right up to the goblin over the vaults and handed it over. "I'm Simone Malfoy-Weasley and I need into the family vault. This is my Uncle, my temporary guardian while my father is doing other things."
The goblin looked her over, then looked at the key. He checked his books and found her name on the list of people who could open it. He waved the cart tender over and handed him the permission slip. "Take her down to vault 3546." The cart goblin led them away and he made a note that she had been there.
Iggy finished mixing the best antidote he could on short notice. It would take care of some of the symptoms at least and his wife was working on the real one while he was gone. He put on the black robe and put his wand into his pocket, then picked up the flagon of solution and teleported back to the hotel. The room was empty. He frowned and searched for Tara, finding her in a muggle hospital. He groaned and sent a quick note back to his father so it could be passed on, then headed there, teleporting into the stairwell. He walked out and headed to where he could feel everyone with the poison in them. They had stuck them together in the same ward at least. He counted seventeen bodies, six more than he had potion for, and called his wife, asking her to bring some more and would she please come up with a convenient lie? He smiled at the nurse, turning on his translator spell. He had practiced it for weeks so he would be ready for the conference. "I am with the group that was brought in for poisoning?"
"Poison?" she asked.
"Isn't that what you call it when someone is given something that is destroying their body?" He smiled as the excuse came over. "I am of their faith and we have rituals that we have to attend to. It is necessary that I give them this now." He held up the flagon. A curious doctor came closer. "I am a cleric of their faith, part healer and part representative of the higher powers," he explained. "It is our ritual to give them this fluid when they are sick. It would be equivalent to you giving them Last Rights I believe. In case they die while they are sick?"
The doctor nodded. "Then it's a holy healing elixir?"
Iggy nodded, smiling again. "Exactly," he said with relief.
"Where are you from? I notice your speech is near-perfect but you don't look like one of us."
"We're all from the British Isles. We were here for a conference and it went wrong. Unfortunately I was delayed or I might be in there with them." He shrugged. "We are from a small group that took the new faith, the one you probably practice, and blended it with ours."
"Oh." The doctor nodded, looking like he understood. "I've heard there are still groups like yours around." He looked at the nurse, who looked less than convinced. "Are you a fully certified doctor?"
Iggy shook his head. "I'm in training, but my mentor is in there with his wife."
"The dark-haired one that was with the blonde woman?" the nurse asked. Iggy nodded. "Do you know his name? There was an official from the Tourism Board who wanted to know if they needed to contact anyone's family."
"I've already been in touch with them. As a matter of fact, my wife will be coming shortly with the rest of the elixir because she's at our quarters calling everyone that's necessary." He looked down the hall as someone walked up to them. "Ah, an official," he said with great fondness. An auror. Someone knew something was going on. "May I? I am one of their religion, a cleric in training. This is the elixir we use when anyone gets sick."
"I've heard of you," the auror said in perfect English. "Your training master is in there and he's in bad shape. Do you know what this is?"
"No, but I intend to pull my wand of office and pray for an answer," Iggy told him, still smiling. The auror smiled back. "May I? My wife is coming with the rest."
"You're very young to have a wife," the nurse noted.
Iggy nodded. "I am considered a prodigy among my people, so therefore accorded adult status. I chose my life mate from one that is my own age, a beauteous woman who stirs me intellectually and physically. She will be here soon, you will see her." He bowed to her. "I know it is a problem as I'm not from here, but please. It is our ritual and it must be carried out."
"Go for it," the doctor told him. "I don't have any idea what happened to them."
"He said it was a poison," the nurse told him.
Iggy nodded. "Indeed we think it might be. There are many strange things in the world that we don't partake of. Most modern medicines. Many of your activities. There are many things that might be the cause of this. They would be poisonous to us because we've never been exposed to them before."
"Good point," the doctor agreed. "May I escort you?"
"If you wish." Iggy was led into his master's room first and smiled down at Snape. "Where is your wife?" he asked with fond tolerance.
"We put all the women in another room," the doctor said, closing the door as the auror walked in. "Cute lie, kid. Iggy?" Iggy nodded. "He's been asking for you."
"He's our local muggle contact doctor," the auror told him.
Iggy held up the flagon. "It's a temporary relief but I'm looking for the right antidote right now. Raena, my wife, is bringing more."
"You're really married?"
Iggy nodded as he pulled out an eyedropper and sucked up some of the potion for his master's mouth. "Take it and don't whine at me because I flavored it this time," he warned. Snape wheezed, but he accepted the medicine. "Thank you." He moved on. "I thought there were only eleven. Tara gets this though." He moved around the room, dosing all the men there, then allowing himself to be moved on to the women's room. He smiled down at Tara as he fed her some. "More's coming," he said at the inquiring looks. He nodded at the door and it was shut and locked as well, and the auror disabled the camera that was there to protect the women from unwanted advances. "Okay, the poison was on the doorknob of their room," he said, and Tara moaned. "I know, they were dumb, but in a smart way." He smiled at her. "I'm working on the real cure at this moment." The door was tapped on and it was opened, showing a priest. "Thank you for attending to my flock," he told the older man.
The priest looked him over. "Your robes are strange."
"A robe is a robe," Iggy said with a shrug. "Where I come from, we do not sort people by colors or cloth."
"Which faith are you from?" the priest asked.
"We are from the," the word popped into his head. "Tradelias religion," he finished smoothly. "A small group really, not very open with outsiders unless they were part of the tribe that had moved away during the witch hunts."
"Then you believe in the old ways?"
"With a mix of the new ways in it," Iggy agreed. "I'm a cleric in training. This is my Master's wife." He patted Tara gently. "My own wife is coming with more of our ritual solution."
"Explain that to me," the priest offered, sitting on an empty bed.
"In our tradition, we are always given a special mix of herbs that promote healing, yet are holy and blessed. That way they are blessed in case they die while sick, yet are aided if they can heal. It's been passed down since the days when we split with the Celts for them being so radical."
"Oh." The priest nodded. "Very interesting. I've been in your area of the world. England?"
"Technically, my father's English. He moved away from the tribe a bit, setting up a safe place for others like us who are coming in from the outer world. Our home base is in Scotland, near the Western coast. Over the years, we've bought up the surrounding town and pretty much made it our own."
"You're very young for this calling."
Iggy grinned. "I'm a prodigy at making our healing potions so I'm accorded the status of one who's learning the arts. Which is why I was allowed to marry my wife recently. She's my age, and is mine now."
"I see." The priest looked at them. "Would you mind if I blessed them anyway? I know it's a counter to your faith most likely."
Iggy looked at Tara, who shrugged. She pointed at herself and shook her head. "Some might not mind, but you'd have to ask each individual one. My Master's wife was originally Wiccan before she found us."
The priest looked impressed. "That's interesting. I'll ask each one." Iggy bowed to him. "Thank you, young man."
The doctor coughed. "How often do you have to do this ritual?"
"Every six hours," Iggy told him. "Unless you find out what it was and then I'll look through our sacred books for something to help and give them that at the six hour interval instead."
"Your tribe holds the number six holy?" the Priest asked.
"No, but the blessing is a minor blessing and the healing herbs in the elixir of blessing wear off about then," he admitted. The priest smiled. "Thank you for not pushing against us."
"Many priests would, but you are visitors. Why did you come to Venice?"
Iggy laughed. "For the same reason American doctors take conferences in places like Bermuda. It's a vacation as well." The priest nodded, laughing as well. Raena slipped into the room. "Ah, my mate." He accepted the other flagon and went around, dosing the rest of them. Then he checked his watch. "May the spirit of the great higher ones protect you until I can come back," he intoned. "I will tell the Elders that the healing rites have begun and will help look for a cure." He nodded at them and walked out of the room, taking his wife with him. He smiled at the doctor. "Have you figured out if it was an environmental cause or not yet?"
"Not yet. We have people going over the rooms," the auror told him. "You said you were going to pray specifically over one, hoping to get a feeling for the disease?"
"I am, I'm going to do it over my master, that way he can confirm what I do. It's always better to have backup in situations like this. Raena, my sweet, did you bring your own holy wand?" She nodded and pulled it. "Excellent. Would you run a check on Tara? We'll compare once we're done." She nodded and walked away.
"She takes the same lessons?" the priest asked.
Iggy nodded, starting toward Snape's room again. "She's quite gifted, just as I am. That's why she understands me so well," he said with a gentle smile. Snape glared at him as he walked in. "May the great higher power known as Dumbledore forgive me for getting into the books I'm not supposed to have access to yet if necessary," he intoned, running his wand over the slim, shaking body. Just as he had thought, Dragonsbane. He laid the wand in the middle of the warm chest, tip facing up, and did a second check, this time of his master's power structure. The herbs were helping some. "I think I know what caused this. One of our own has gone bad," he told the auror. "It is a sacred herb which has been banned from untalented hands." Snape looked up at him. "As you can probably tell, the Dragonsbane has gotten out." A few of the room's occupants groaned. "I think you will find that it can affect others, even ones who do not eat our holy herbs daily. I'll need to know how many have been in contact with any of their blood, direct contact to the skin, and anyone who's been in those rooms."
"How is it applied?" the doctor asked.
"Usually it's in a gloop, or a gel. It's very slimy, very sticky, and nearly transparent. When it's misused, as in this case, it's usually meant to kill off those of us who do believe by someone in the group who's turned away from our ways. They usually put it on things like phone receivers, doorknobs, things of that nature, because it can't be seen, only felt."
"I'll tell them," the auror agreed, smiling at him. "You'll need to make enough for at least seventy more people." Iggy nodded. "Plus many of those will have been people who don't partake of your special herb diet."
"I know," Iggy said confidently. "That version of the cure is known to us as well. Trust me, it's not the first time someone's turned against their own kind and hurt us all." He picked up his wand and put it back into his pocket.
"May I?" the priest asked. "Other holy artifacts have always fascinated me." Iggy shrugged and handed over his wand, handle first of course. The priest touched it delicately. "No carvings?"
"Only for those who have special callings," Iggy told him. "As you can see, mine is intertwined because I have such a destiny. My cousin has one that has ebony and silver embedded in hers. Very pretty and quite heavy, but she's extremely special. We think she will be one who might make it to the highest level of talking to the higher powers some day. If she doesn't pursue sports for a living. She's torn at the moment because she's so good at it."
"Soccer?" the priest asked. Iggy nodded. "What does she play?"
"Ah. Little and fast?" Iggy nodded. "How old is she?"
"She'll soon be twelve. It's a difficult age with many tough decisions, but the Goddess aspect of her life does call out to her quite often." Snape wheezed again, obviously trying to laugh. "If you do that, you'll throw up the blessing," Iggy told him. Raena rejoined him. "Dragonsbane?" She nodded. "Then we know where the cure is. We shall brew it as soon as possible and come back."
"Do you need any space here?' the doctor asked.
"Or in our offices?" the auror asked.
Iggy shook his head. "We have our quarters. We picked them because we can brew the blessing elixir and not bother anyone. For now, we'll need to go herb shopping." He bowed to them and took his wife's hand, leading her away. "We'll be back in six hours."
"Eight," she corrected.
"Six. The healing part of the blessing wears out in six." He smiled at her. "Trust me, it can be done if we both work at it." She nodded, smiling at him, realizing that he had a plan. Once they were out of sight, they teleported to Diagon, Iggy going to herb shop, Raena going to steal some money from their future allowances. Iggy walked into the herb shop. "Oh, we are so screwed," he told her. "It's Dragonsbane. I'll need everything to brew *both* sides of the potion because the aurors employ muggles to check out scenes." She shuddered and walked away. "How much will it be?"
"Close to sixty galleons," she called back. She noticed his eyes went unfocused. "Telling someone?"
"My wife. She's getting the money." The herbologist nodded, not moving any slower. She knew him, if he didn't pay her for it, Severus would put it on the school's tab. "Are you missing anything? She needs to know."
"Part of the muggle one is Merlin's Tears. We never have any."
"The infirmary does," Iggy said thoughtfully. "And I have no idea where Poppy is." He put his head on his arms, on the counter, and thought about it. "Oh, well, I guess I'm breaking that lock. I'll leave her a note. We've got about a hundred cases. At least seventy muggle," he told her. "I know seventeen are wizards definitely so I'll make enough for thirty and store it if I have to."
"It's only got a shelf life of six months."
"Not if you freeze it," Iggy pointed out, standing up again, accepting the large basket. "Everything but Merlin's Tears?" She nodded. He thought at his wife again and she teleported in, bumping into him. "Pay the nice lady and we'll go brew."
Raena put the sixty coins on the counter. "Thank you." She nodded at her mate. "Bill wants a word."
"Fuck him, he can come up. We're only an hour away from him at the Burrow." He handed her the basket. "Okay, I need you to go start this. The one for wizards is in the dark red book. The one for the muggles is at the school and I'm going to get it and the Merlin's Tears we'll need. Did Poppy tell you where she was headed?"
"Overseas somewhere. A cruise I think."
"Then I'll have to leave her a note. She'll understand or chew me a new one later on." He stole a kiss and teleported back to the school. He landed in the office, facing the headmaster. "Hi. Sorry to use your name in vain and all that, but it was all I could think of." The Headmaster had obviously just come off the beach, he was still covered in sand where his shorts and tank-top didn't cover and was sipping from a large drink inside a coconut.
"I understand, and it's quite all right. It's quite a happy thought to be thought of as a higher power," Dumbledore said with his usual twinkle in his eyes. "What do you need from here?"
"The muggle Dragonsbane potion and Merlin's Tears from the infirmary."
"Poppy keeps those tightly locked up."
"Then I guess I'm ripping the door off," Iggy told him. "The aurors there employ muggles to look at crime scenes." He sighed and sat down, taking a few deep breaths. "Okay, I'm ready," he said, standing back up. Dumbledore joined him in standing. "Which do you want?"
"I'll try to get you the tears, you go find the book. I'm sure you know which one it is?"
"I can summon the spell," Iggy told him, heading for the storeroom holding all the books moved from the library. "Where are they!" he shouted. He saw movement and tracked it, doing just as his father had taught him to do. He followed the movement deeper into the shadows and behind an old mirror, right to a...door? He watched as the creature opened it and slipped inside, then followed it before the door could be closed on him. That other room had lights in it so he saw what he had been tracking, a house elf. "Did you take those books?" It nodded, looking scared. "Hey, I'm not going to yell at you, but I need one of them. I need the one with the Dragonsbane potion for muggles or a lot of them are going to die." He looked over the creature while it thought. This was an old house elf. Scared of humans, or just of him possibly, stooped over, what little hair it had once had was now all red for some reason. He reached out with a smile. "I'm not the scary guy. I'm Iggy."
"Iggy," it whispered. "You found us."
"Ignatius!" Dumbledore yelled. "Where are you?"
"Look for the mirror," Iggy yelled back. The elf cringed. "No, that's Albus, he's really nice. I've known him since I was born. He used to come play with us and everything. You'll like Albus." The door opened and Dumbledore walked in, but he stopped to look at the house elf. "He moved all the books, said I found him."
"I'd say you have. He's possibly the oldest elf I've ever seen," Albus said, smiling at him. He propped the door open with a convenient brick lying around, probably for that purpose anyway, and walked closer. "I'm the headmaster, Albus." He held out a hand.
The elf peered at him, staring at him like it wanted to know something specific, then shook his hand. "He found us. We serve him."
"I'm a student, but you could serve the school," Iggy told him. The elf cringed. "I promise, if you don't want to, I know some people who can help you find *great* places. Uncle Harry's elf just left on vacation so I know he could use one temporarily at least, and he knows lots of people who spend all day away."
"Bad man?" the elf asked. "He gone?"
Dumbledore caught on. "Yes, he's gone. Actually, we've defeated a few of them since you've been down here. Do you know what year it is?"
"Sixteen?" the elf guessed. "I's not good with numbers, Albus, sir."
"Does he mean the year sixteen?" Iggy asked.
Albus nodded. "Did you get bonded to the library?" he asked them. There was another one coming out from further in the room.
The elves both nodded, looking happier now. "We go home?"
"If you can find it."
Albus put a hand on Iggy's shoulders. "We've just found Gryffindor's library. He bound his favorite elves, the ones he depended on, the ones who loved him so much it was unearthly, to his library."
"Excuse me, they're *millennia* old?"
"Many years?" the second elf, a female, asked.
Albus nodded, looking sad. "It has been *many* years since you were bound. Do you have a family?" The female nodded. "Then we welcome you all to Hogwarts as an honored guest until you and your family can find a place, or here to work if you wish." He bowed to them. "Now, there is little time for this one. Iggy, find that book." Iggy waved his wand and two different books came flying at him. "Which one was it?"
"I've only seen it once. One could be a translation I guess." Iggy shrugged. "I don't know, I'm going to go brew this. I'm at the Burrow if you need me. Harry's at home with Little Ron and the flu, Uncle Draco's at his house keeping my dad in a bed." He took the vial and disappeared.
"He is strong," the female said. "Snake would like him." The male nodded.
Dumbledore smiled at them. "He did, he was here not even a few weeks ago." He waved a hand at the door. "Can you leave? If you can, I'll have the elves working here come up and serve you."
The female snapped her fingers and the room lit fully. "We watches these."
"Oh, my," Albus said, looking at the high ceilings in this storage room/office space/library. "I'd say you did an excellent job," he told them. He smiled. "Let me step out and get one of the more modern elves. He can tell you everything." They nodded so he stepped out of the room. "DOBBY!" The house elf came scurrying in. "I've just found a family of very old house elves hiding here. Help them with whatever they need." Dobby nodded, his tea cozy sliding to the right. "And please, don't upset them. They've had enough problems so far. Give them the guest suite if they want it, for them and their family, and make sure they've got food and water plenty." Dobby nodded again. "Thank you." Another elf came in and stopped, squeaking when she saw him. "Dobby," he said with a smile. "Does she like you?"
Dobby smile. "Like me. Like Harry Potter, have son." He puffed himself up. "We help!" She hurried forward and they went in to talk to the old elves. They told him all about how Albus was a great man, a great wizard, and about Harry as well.
Albus snuck off to make a few calls. The first was to Draco. "We've just found Gryffindor's library," he said happily. "And his personal elves."
"What?" Draco spat his tea. He coughed a few times. "How old are they?"
"They've got red hair. I've never seen one that old before."
"They're cousins?" Lucien asked helpfully from beside his father. Eventually his head popped up as well. "Hi, Uncle Albus." He waved. "Can we come see?"
"Of course. I would love to have your father help me with this."
Draco nodded. "Fine. Are you calling in Potter? If I remember right, he has a way with house elves."
"Of course. I assigned Dobby to help them." Draco shook his head and he disappeared.
"Lucien, tell him to let Uncle Xander wander for a bit, all right?" He signed off and called the Potter residence. "Harry, my boy," he said with a wonderful smile.
"I know that look. Something's happened, hasn't it?" Harry asked, but he was smiling as well.
"We've found Gryffindor's library, along with his house elves. Dobby thought you might want to meet them."
"I'd love to, but we're under quarantine. They won't let us go even though Ron's not sneezing anymore."
"Good point. How much longer do you think?"
"They're coming back tonight. I just hope they're fans. I've got a game tomorrow."
"If you can, come up tonight. All right?" Harry nodded. "You can even bring Ron if you want. Iggy's handling an emergency with Severus and Tara."
"What happened now?"
"It was a poisoner's convention. Someone proved they could beat the others with Dragonsbane."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Wonderful for him. Happy brewing and all that. I'll be up if I can." He signed off.
Mellie popped up a moment later. "Can I come up or should I go to the Burrow?" she asked sweetly.
"They're very old house elves, Melantha. If you want to come meet them you may, but you have to be very gentle around them."
"Okay. I'll come up. It's very important that they see good children. Agatha is going to the Burrow to sulk." She waved and disappeared.
Dumbledore laughed. That family cracked him up.
Malfoy came out of the floo with Lucien, putting him down so he could walk. He had pointed out earlier that he was a big boy and could do so, and he was a bit heavy these days. He saw the house elf standing there. "Dumbledore called us."
"He say you go guest suite," she said, sounding faintly Chinese, like she had just immigrated.
He nodded. "Thank you. Come, Lucien."
One of the old house elves saw him and squealed, "Foylfans!"
Her mate gave Draco a look and shook his head. "Flaymol."
"Actually, they merged and we're all Malfoy now," he told them, then he shook his head. "You truly served Gryffindor?"
The female nodded. "Occasionally Snake as well. He was nicer to us."
"That's because you worked harder when he was nice," Albus pointed out as he walked in. He looked at Dobby. "Harry's still in quarantine. It'll be tomorrow before he can get up here."
"Why?" Lucien asked. "I like Little Ron."
"He's got the flu," Draco told him. "You don't need it, son." His son pouted and it looked exactly like a picture of him taken at that age, at his birthday party if the label had been correct. He had wanted his very own house elf and hadn't gotten one. He smiled at his son. "You'll see him soon enough."
"Yes, father," he sighed. He looked at the female house elf, tipping his head to the left to see if it helped. She did so as well, making him giggle. "Are you really old?"
She nodded, straightening up. "Indeed I am. We served Gryffindor for many years."
"You don't speak like a house elf," Lucien pointed out.
"Our master abhorred it and taught us differently," she told him. "How old are you?"
"Nearly three," Draco said, patting him on the head. "He's very advanced for his age. Always questioning something." He looked at them. "I am one of the Regents, and I must say I've never seen any elf as old as you both are, or even as old as your children are. What do you wish to do now that you are free?"
"We free?" the male asked.
Dumbledore nodded. "If you so choose. Or you could stay in servitude to the school itself. The library you've guarded for so many years will be added to the collection we found of Slytherin's."
"Snake's libraries found," she said in awe. "All of them?"
"We found nine," Draco told her. She snorted. "There are more?"
"The school is made for the hunting," she told him. "You must search."
Draco looked at Dumbledore. "Iggy will be pleased. Where is he anyway?"
"Tara and Severus were poisoned at their conference. Dragonsbane." He sighed. "The Italian Ministry uses muggles to investigate scenes of crimes."
"Merlin," Draco swore, covering his eyes. He was quickly growing a headache. "Do they need help?"
"Not at the moment. He's got the books and the materials. I had to break open the safe in the infirmary for him to get the Merlin's Tears he needed. I'm sure he knows what he's doing."
"It takes weeks to make that potion," Draco told him. "I doubt they have that long."
"Iggy age it," Lucien said happily. The adults looked down at him. "He can. He showed me on a flower once. Back and forth." He grinned. "Really pretty in backwards time."
Draco nodded. "I had forgotten he knew how to do that. At least there's some hope. What do house elves do when they want to retire?"
"We've had a few die on the job, and a few who have disappeared," Dumbledore said with a shrug. "I was going to leave it up to them, and to have you help them find suitable places if they didn't want to remain here."
Draco nodded. "I could use one who understood what a library was. All of mine want to change the books around to match the colors together." The female house elf stared at him. "I have a nice sized collection going."
"Yous have room for us?"
"I have a current group of three and could probably accommodate two more. Potter may have more room since he's moving."
"Yes, I heard," Dumbledore said happily. "Did he find a house and sell his?"
"Wood bought his and Potter's moving closer to the Burrow. It's a fairly large sized house and he's only got one elf."
"I ask," Lucien offered. "How many more?"
The female elf smiled. "We have three children, but one wants to stay here."
Lucien frowned. "How many is that, father?"
Lucien nodded and hurried over to the fireplace to call out. "Uncle Harry's house!" Harry's head popped up, with a little help from the Headmaster. "When you move, you need more elves? They're nice." He smiled.
Harry laughed. "I'm sure I could use a few more. The new house is bigger and Agatha will have her own suite of rooms so she can be left alone when she wants to be."
"I had forgotten about her," Draco said thoughtfully. He looked over at the fireplace. "There's two elder house elves who need a spot. What about her?"
"She leaves them alone, but Mellie loves house elves. She likes to scratch their ears," he said with a slight grin. "They can come over and talk to ours. He's already seen the house and suggested I get on with hiring."
"Can you be sure Agatha won't harm them?"
"I can have you ask her yourself, she's pouting in the living room. Aggie?"
Agatha's head popped up a moment later. "Yes, Headmaster, Uncle Draco. Hello, Lucien," she sighed when he made a face at her. "What did you want to know?"
"We have two elder house elves that need a spot," Dumbledore told her. "We need to know if you're suitable."
Agatha snorted. "I don't talk to the one here, you've got the wrong kid." Her head bobbed like someone had slapped her. "Ow! Father!" She sighed. "No, I won't harm them if they come here. I leave the one we have alone because it's fiercely protective of Mellie and it likes to bite me if I come near her. I won't touch those two if they come here."
"Thank you, Agatha," Draco said. She looked at him. "No Ryan?"
"The wedding's next week. I'm heading over this weekend." She smiled. "Willow promised to help me get back at him for turning me into a statue."
"I'm sure she will," Draco agreed dryly. He looked at the worried parents. "There is a small problem at the house that can take on the two of them together. Their eldest daughter," Agatha waved, "has been warped by powerful chaos spells. She promises to leave you alone, but we can get their current house elf up here to talk to you all if you'd like."
The female nodded. "Do so. We not want them hurt."
"Very well." Draco looked at the fireplace again. "Can he come?"
"He's on his way up right now," Harry told him. "Thank you, Headmaster. I'll see you tonight or tomorrow." The fire went out.
"Potters?" the male elder elf asked.
"They dropped the 's' a few years back," Dumbledore said tactfully. Draco looked at him. "They thought it was the year sixteen."
"They must have had a sleep spell then," Draco said thoughtfully. He stood up. "If I may look at this library?" Dumbledore nodded and motioned Dobby over. "So this is where you went to?"
"Yes, Master sir," Dobby said respectfully.
"Do you enjoy it?" Dobby nodded, even taking his tea cozy hat off. "Then I'm happy for you. Your mother's still at the house. She's the one who's trying to color code my library." He followed the small being out, his son skipping along behind him.
Dumbledore shook his head. That boy and his son were just as amusing as Harry and Little Ron were some days.
Iggy walked into the hospital, looking worn out. "Okay, we figured it out," he told the doctor, giving him a smile.
"One of the other Master's apprentices are in there," the doctor told him.
Iggy winced. "This won't be pretty." He walked in and looked at the apprentice. "Did you mix the antidote or the counter-poison?"
"The counter-poison," he said haughtily. He sneered at him. "Why, are you a *healer*, boy?"
"*The* healer, stupid. The counter-poison will leave a taint and make it fatal at the next exposure." Snape coughed. "I've got the antidote, and the stuff everyone who's been in contact with it will need." A wand came up and fried the camera newly put into the room. "Thanks, Severus." He walked over and held up the pitcher. "Want some?" Snape nodded so he pulled an eyedropper out of his pocket and gave him three good pulls from it. Snape relaxed as his chest congestion cleared and he could suddenly breathe again. "Who else wants...." He trailed off when he noticed the orange spots appearing on his master's flesh. "Is that how my father and Uncle Fred found the color changing solution?" Snape rolled his eyes, but shook his head. "Oh, well, it's probably temporary at least. Daddy said he's never seen a *permanent* color changing solution." He held it up. "Anyone else want it?" They all raised their hands so he went to dose them as well. "Move, dunderhead," he told the other apprentice.
"I'm a Master in my own right," the apprentice sneered. "You're still learning."
"Yeah, but you *obviously* missed a few lessons. Learn the mirror image of the art so you know what effect your shit does on people. That's the mark of a real master, not arrogance, ego, and an unwillingness to yield to a more knowledgeable person." He dosed the simpleton's master, moving onto the next wizard. "Thankfully, whomever did this wasn't being creative."
The door opened and the doctor walked in. "The cure?"
"Is right here. Did Raena get done with the women?" The doctor nodded. "I'm almost done here and we'll go dose the muggles."
"Why?" the apprentice said with disgust.
"Because the locals got exposed to it and that exposes us as well," Iggy said patiently. He looked at the guy's master. "Do you put up with this at home?"
The master shook his head. "Not at all. I think we'll be having a talk later, once we're back in our room." The apprentice looked away. "Did you want his help?"
"Nah, there's only seventy or so of them so Raena and I can handle it." He grinned at his own master. "Cute jammies by the way." He dosed the last person and left before Severus could summon up the strength to retort. He knew his master was probably groaning by now so he smiled. He needed to lighten up again. He followed the doctor to the room where Raena was and smiled at everyone standing around. "Hi." Everyone looked at him. He looked at the aurors, who shook his head, not everyone knew about the magic then. "I'm Ignatius Harris-Weasley." He noticed who looked like they had heard his name before, and the one who was frowning. "I'm helping with the poisoning since it was our ritual herbs that were used against the people upstairs." The same people who looked like they had heard his name looked confused and Raena made note of which ones they were so they could be given the wizard's version. "Since most of you aren't ours and haven't had exposure to our herbs, we've got some solution for you to take, just in case you came in any contact with it. As far as my wife and I know, it won't react with any other medicine you may be taking and it shouldn't do anything further to you." He smiled at them. "So, if you'll kindly line up we'll administer it. It's five quick squeezes of an eyedropper into your mouth and then you're done."
"The people upstairs are already starting to recover," the local doctor told them. They nodded and started to line up.
Iggy looked at the obvious half-giant in the group and smiled. "I'm going to have to ask you to sit back down, please. I made the calculations for the average person of 5'10" and about 92 kilograms. I'm going to have to adjust it since you're so much bigger."
The half-giant smiled and sat back down. "I'm used to it," he said patiently.
Iggy smiled at him. "Do you know a man named Hagrid?" The half-giant smiled and nodded. "I'll tell him you said hi when I visit him tomorrow."
"What happened to my half-brother?"
"Really?" Iggy beamed. "He mentioned meeting you last year." He moved closer. "We'll talk after this, okay?" The half-giant, who he remembered was named Michalin and the two shared a mother, nodded. Someone tugged on his sleeve and he looked down at the tiny person. "Don't worry, the solution won't be too strong for you," he said with a smile. "It's acceptable down to sixty kilograms." The dwarf nodded. "Okay." He walked back to the table and picked up one of the cups and the eyedropper Raena had cleaned out for him. "This won't be touching anything in your mouth so don't worry about anything being transmitted," he said with a smile, dipping out the first eyedropper full from the paper cup his wife had poured out for him. That one was done and the line moved quickly, the auror making a motion when a wizard stepped up. So he switched cups to another one. "From our tribe? A lost one?" he asked, administering it.
"So I've been told," the wizard agreed. "How are your Uncles? shop? I met them at a convention a fear years back, they had a stand set up so the parents in the group could bring things back for their children. Souvenirs Against the Stodgy Image or some such."
"George is my father and it's doing wonderfully," Iggy told him as he dosed him. "They've created a few really neat things. Raena, did Uncle Fred give you the catalogs to spread around?" She handed over the thick catalog. "Pay attention to the blue section, they're discontinuing those or making them special order only."
The wizard smiled. "Thank you. My kid loved that light thing they created."
"Page 12," Raena told him with a smile.
He smiled and walked away.
And so it continued, dosing each of them, the wizards and witches being pointed out. When everyone had gotten some, and Michalin had the address for Hagrid's room at St. Mungo's, Iggy flopped down onto a chair. "I'm tired."
"You still have to check in with the local flock. It's a matter of courtesy and we record things like this. There's still a group of borns in the caverns."
"Yes, dear." He gave her a kiss. "I'll do that if you want to go home and nap."
She laughed. "I'd love a nap. Hurry up and you can join me." She winked and cleaned up as he moved away.
He found the marker that meant a colony and teleported to it, nearly running into the wall it was on. He turned and found a few gryphon-borns walking up the corridor toward him. "Hi, just a formality. I'm one of our potion masters and I was just handling an emergency. Can I make a report and go nap?"
One woman looked him over. "We only have one gryphon here."
Iggy shrugged. "It's protocol. May I?"
"If you wish." Another female looked at her. "Perhaps he can help her."
Iggy raised an eyebrow. "Technically, I'm a potion master in training, but I'm learning the healing arts. I'll do what I can. If I don't personally know, I probably have or can find a book on it for whatever is wrong." The lead female nodded and led him back to a solitary nest. "Hello, great one. I am Iggy."
She leaned down and hissed in his face, but it was in pain. "You are a healer?"
"Training to be one of the healing potion masters. I was taking care of a poisoning among the wizards." He stroked her beak. "What can I do to help?" He looked at her nest, and the new eggs lying there. "You are having problems with laying?" She nodded. "Then let me check you over. Externally first," he soothed, taking off his robes and shirt. The less material to get in the way, the less it could trap something in that most delicate system. He ran a hand over her side, then moved to the other side and did the same. He could feel the blockage. "It feels like you have three trying to get out at the same time," he told her. "How long has it been blocked?"
"It's been six hours since she's pushed an egg out," the lead female told him. "We think there may be a broken one."
"Accio book case," Iggy said, calling his case with his books to him from Raena's pocket. He unshrunk it and opened it, heading right to the gryphon healing manual he had been made to copy. He unbuttoned the practical band and it grew in his hands, becoming quite large. He sat down to flip through it and smiled when he came to the entry on possible broken eggs. Then he shut it and stood up. "Okay, I can do this. I'll need some warm water to clean myself up. I'll need a sheet or a blanket, because if it's broken it can't stay in the nest or it will harm the others, and I'll need a healer from my colony eventually." They nodded and went to do as he said, at least two of them.
"Why a healer from your colony?"
"Because a blockage such as this can often cause an infection," Iggy told her. "Each egg is wrapped in a coating of something slick to make it come out easier, but if it's allowed to stay inside her body, it's toxic. Just like with a woman's placenta and amniotic fluid." The female head nodded. "I can get my wife to bring one of our healers. We're from Stonehenge." He thought at his wife and encountered a shield, so moved back down the tunnel until he could hear her, telling her about the problem and what he needed. Then he walked back and washed his hands carefully under their watchful gaze. "Our colony's main healer will be here as soon as possible," he assured them. "I've never seen a female in nest before. They're usually kept away in our colony. Is it not so in this region?" He moved up to her side and patted her gently. "Can you shift away from me? I'm going to go in and remove the broken egg," he told her in gryphon. She looked at him but did as he had said. "Thank you. That's enough if it's comfortable for you." She completely laid on her side, she must have been in some pain. "Wonderful, now a deep breath," he prompted, and while she was breathing he entered her birth canal with both arms. "Damnit." He looked around. "We'll need that blanket. I can feel a foot. The shell's completely gone on the bottom."
The lead female bit her lip. "She's here as an emergency. She was flying home and felt the first contraction to push, and we were closest. That's an old nest left over from the original clan. We laid new hay. We even ran off the Gringotts goblins who think they own this area of the city."
"It wasn't your fault. It happens sometimes," he told her, giving her a faint smile as he worked his hands up to the point where there was a shell. "Only the bottom is broken off, that's good at least," he told himself, then repeated it in gryphon. The mother nodded and he grunted, finding the top of the egg. "I'm going to pull the broken one out," he warned in gryphon, starting the exacting process of pushing the egg down. "Be ready, when this one comes out, the dam should burst and the rest should come out quickly. Unless she wants to grieve, take the broken one away quickly." The lead female nodded, motioning the one with the blanket over to be ready. Iggy shook his head. "I can feel shards, we'll have to stay and check her once this is over with. Some of them are very sharp."
"They're soft," the one with the blanket protested.
"So are an infant's fingernails, but they can cut nearly anything," another born pointed out. "Will she be all right?"
"I'll be checking for infection and making her something to make sure she'll be fine once all her eggs are laid." He slowly pulled back, then 'ah-ha'd when the problem young came out. "A born?" he asked as he handed it over.
"It's the position, those are paws," the lead female told him.
Iggy sighed. "Sorry, but it's been a really long day." He looked up at the mother. "I'm sorry I mistook it, I'm very tired. I just worked on two antidotes and dosed nearly a hundred wizards and muggles." She cooed and the baby was brought closer. She took it in her front paws and stood up, putting it down in front of her to mourn the loss while the rest of them came out. Iggy looked at the surrounding people. "Spread the eggs out in the nest so they don't pile up under her and crush the earlier ones." A familiar woman hurried down the halls. "She had a broken one and there's shards. I could feel one pressing into another egg."
The senior healer from Stonehenge sighed and bowed to the female gryphon. "I am sorry for your loss, great one. I will help my student check you over once you are finished laying." The gryphon nuzzled her and showed off her young. "It looks like it was a weak shell, not a deformity." The gryphon said something and the healer glared at Iggy.
"I'm sorry, I'm tired! We just got done doing the poisoner's convention because someone used Dragonsbane."
The healer shook her head and looked up at the female. "He's sorry," she said in gryphon. "He is young and tired. It's time for his nap." The other borns all laughed and Iggy nodded. "How many have come out?"
"They're coming now." He pointed. "Isn't that blood?"
"Yes, and too much blood, but we can't do anything about it until the eggs have cleared," she reminded him. "Do push, great one."
The gryphoness pushed and pushed again, and suddenly eggs started to slide out. Both healers got out of the way so the other borns could move the eggs around. Iggy watched the blood come out, frowning at it. "I think she got pierced by a piece of shell."
"Then we'll have to go in and feel about for it," the senior healer noted calmly. "It wouldn't be the first time." As soon as the last egg was out, they walked back to the gryphoness and told her what they were seeing, and asked if she would let them examine her further. She nodded and said something. "You're one of those?" she asked, looking apprehensive. "We'll have to work fast, Iggy, that second sac could break any time now." They nodded and both their arms went into her to feel around. She frowned. "I found one."
Iggy continued, he could feel blood flowing down his arms. "There. I've got a small one, but it feels wound around the vein."
"Break it off in small sections and remove it. Don't pull."
"Yes, Helena." He broke off the larger bottom part and the blood flow slowed down. "The weight's gone on mine and it's coming slowly around." As soon as he could grab more of it, he broke that off and freed the part that had gotten into the vein from the pressure of the contractions. With a few passes of his wand, the wound was healed and the blood flow restored correctly. He felt around some more and found the opening to the second sac. The gryphoness moaned. "Easy, I'm just seeing if it's ready to break." He felt the contraction around the opening and looked at his teacher. "I'd move faster, this second one's about ready to break."
"It's embedded, I can't get it out," she sighed.
Iggy frowned and shifted over to feel it as well. He took a chance and did something he barely knew how to do, teleporting the shard out into his waiting hand. Part of the vein came with it and she squeaked, filling in the void left. She glared at him. "What? It's going to break and we're going to get hurt or she will. Hurry up." He pulled out and looked at the shard. Someone took it from his hands. "Oh, hello," he told the much older woman. "Are you a healer as well?"
"From her colony," the healer said with a frown, examining the vein wall. "Stuck?"
Iggy nodded. "Very. We couldn't get it out. Helena, even more senior help is here."
"Good, because I'm getting scar tissue that's going to block the passage." She got out of the way of the more senior healer, letting her fix it. "It was a nice attempt," she told him with a smile.
The even more senior healer backed out and nodded. "It is done, but her membranes need ruptured. They're pulsing and angrily infected looking."
"I can do that much," Iggy told her.
"You'll have to get your head in there so you do not hit an egg," the older woman told him, looking him over. "Never mind, you're one of us."
"Actually, I'm a potion master in the making," he told her. He carefully climbed into the nest and partially crawled inside there. "Pin?" he called, holding down a hand. One was handed to him and he carefully poked at the thick membrane, then got out of there in a hurry because it had started to rip. "Move," he called, jumping off the nest. More eggs started to come out and Iggy wiped at the ick on him. "Eww." He flicked his wand, sending ribbons of blood and amniotic fluid off it.
"It's often that way for healers," Helena assured him. She bowed to the other woman. "Are you from her clan or colony?"
"Her colony. We're from Iran. Sygentha." She shook their hands.
"Helena, Stonehenge colony's senior healer, and I'm Iggy," Iggy introduced. He looked down at himself. "I'd go home and bathe, but grandmother's going to get pissed if I clog up the drain." He searched for Tara's mind, finding her and Severus back in the hotel, in a different room, and she invited him over for a nap. Apparently they had just stopped being intimate and were close to napping themselves. "Tara's invited me over. Do I have to go to Iran's colony or do you, Helena? I was only here to tell them about handling the poisoner's convention."
"Again?" Sygentha asked.
"Dragonsbane," Iggy told her. "Both wizards and muggles. My wife is already napping." He waved. "Unless you need me?"
"No, go ahead and go. I'll do the report," Helena told him, giving his back a fond smile as he picked up his book case and put it into his robe's pocket, making sure it was nowhere near the ick on him. "He really is a good student."
"I've heard," the older woman said with a smile. "We got word that she was having trouble so I was on my way up here already. What happened?"
"Broken egg," one of the born told her, pointing at the blanket in front of the nest.
"Take it away immediately, she can mourn once she's out of her egg laying. It could taint them mentally." The unfinished baby was taken away. "Did he tell them to do that?"
"He said to take it away unless she wanted it to mourn," the lead female told her, bowing to her. "He just showed up and offered to help, said he was qualified."
"He is," both healers told her. "Mostly," Helena qualified. "He's still in training. I'll get him to make up an anti-infection potion for her tomorrow."
Sygentha waved a hand. "Don't worry. I've already got one started. They're not that hard." She yawned. "Ah, for the energy of being his age."
Helena nodded. "You have no idea. That was the most tired I've seen him since he was deathly ill a few years back."
"I had wondered about the silver hair. A growth?"
"His family's hellmouth draining him," Helena said dryly.
"Oh, he's *that* one," she said, suddenly understanding it. "I'm glad he was here then, he's quick enough to do most everything she needed." She looked at the shard and vein piece. "You might want to work on him for precision."
"It was helpful," Helena said with a shrug. She walked the older woman away to sit and talk with her while they waited.
Iggy landed in Tara and Severus' bedroom in the suite and dropped his things. "I'm taking a shower."
Snape looked up at him, then grimaced. The boy's head, chest, and arms were dripping with something dark and slimy. "What have you been into?"
"This is gryphon blood and the egg coating. It's also nasty, cold, and sticky. You don't want any, right?" Severus made a disgusted face and put his head back down. "Thanks." He walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower, sending warm and happy thoughts at his mate to tell her what he had done. She gave him a sleepy mental pat on the head and turned over in their bed. He smiled, she was so cute when she was tired, unlike his cousin. As soon as the water was as hot as he could stand it, he finished stripping and climbed in, letting it rinse all the stuff off him. He slowly fell asleep under the warm water, it was so nice and soothing, like a warm bath. He liked to nap in the bathtub, always had. He stayed in there until the water ran cold, then quickly scrubbed himself and got out, drying off as much as he could. His boxers weren't dirty so he put them back on and thought about going home, but he'd miss with as tired as he was.
"Come nap," Tara called gently.
He smiled and padded out, crawling in next to her chest, putting his head right down on it. He mumbled something and was quickly snoring.
Snape looked at her. "What did he say?"
"That Raena's were a nicer pillow, but mine were very good for napping on and that he thanks me for being so nice." She wrapped an arm around Iggy's tiny waist and held him closer, just like she would her own children. Snape rolled his eyes. "He's cute."
"Make sure he does nothing inappropriate. I'd have to harm him greatly and his father might get displeased so I'd have to hurt him as well."
Tara reached back and pinched him on the stomach. "Behave. He's got his woman, the same as you do." She pulled one of his arms over her own waist, making him hold her. "There, now we're all comfortable." He snorted but didn't let her go. She briefly wondered if this was what it was like every night when you were part of a threesome, but gave it up as she fell asleep again.
Draco led his two new servants back into his house, showing them around the downstairs. "You will be responsible for my study and library, the entertainment room, and my son's suite. If the other children are here, you'll be responsible for the youngest daughter's things as well." They nodded, it wasn't too much. Draco whistled, bringing another house elf running, Dobby's mother. "These two are here to work. Show them about, they have their assignments." She led them off, whispering about each room as they passed it and about his bad morning problems. He smiled when he heard the description of his scowl and went up to visit his guest. Lucien had come back a while ago and had released Xander to play in his room. He found Xander on his bed, looking upset. "What's wrong now?" he asked, coming in and sitting on the foot of the bed.
"We were supposed to go out tonight," Xander said miserably. They had planned this months in advanced and he had really wanted to go see it.
"You and George?"
"And Iggy if he was around," Xander admitted. "It's the last night of the Fantasia 3 performance."
Draco considered it. "I'll go with you and George if you want, and he can spend the night over." Xander brightened up. "You shower and get changed. I'll check on him."
"The tickets are on the dresser in the jewelry box," Xander said, looking more happy. He gave a pointed look at the edge of the bed.
"You may get up," Draco told him, sliding off the bed himself. He went back down to the floo and sent himself to the shop. "Fred, where's George?"
"In the lab, having one of *those* days."
"Ah." Draco nodded. "I'm going to go bother him." Fred shook his head quickly. "No?"
"If you do, he'll throw a fit. Nothing's been going right and we've got a test panel in tomorrow." Draco frowned. "Why did you need to see him?"
"Xander wanted to go out tonight."
"Oh, shit," Fred sighed, hitting himself on the head. "Fantasia." He nodded. "Come on, we'll go together, it'll be safer for both of us." He walked back and tapped on the door.
"Go away, Fred!" George called, sounding angry. Draco frowned and walked in, glaring at his 'father' until he looked at him. "What?"
"Fantasia?" Draco said simply.
George moaned and turned to lean against the counter, putting his test tubes together in the holder. "I can't go. This isn't working out right at all."
"Take some time off then look at it again," Fred encouraged. "Xander really wanted to go. He's been bouncing around about it for months now."
George added one of the test tube's contents to the flagon he was working on and it burst, but the new glass inside didn't. He sighed and looked down, watching as the glass that hadn't broken turned back into sludge and flowed away. "I can't get it right."
"We've got seventeen other things to show them tomorrow," Fred pointed out. "Plus I've got one or two things that are near completion." The bell dinged. "Go with him. Xander wanted to share this with you." He went out to help the people who had just come in.
George looked at their 'son' and shook his head. "I can't. I simply can't until I get this right. It's the reason we called the panel tomorrow."
Draco sighed. "I can take him then." George gave him a grateful look. "Would you like to spend the night over anyway? One of the earlier versions is on television tonight."
"Only if I can get this right," George said, waving his wand at the mess to clean it up. "I don't know what's wrong."
"Have you tried making the final ingredients a solution together? Or making smaller solutions and mixing them together?" Draco asked. George nodded. "Then perhaps you have the wrong chemical."
"You saw that it mimicked it, but it wouldn't stay up. I didn't have time to mix in the last chemical and I can't find Iggy to ask him for help."
Draco thought, searching the flood for his nephew. What he saw made him shake his head. "He's curled up against Tara's breasts, while his Lord and Master holds onto her. They're at the convention."
"Wonderful," George sighed. "Just when I need him too."
"Then call for him in a few hours. He'll be up then." Draco looked around. "What will this mimic do?"
"If I put it on a brick, it will mimic the brick and stay that way for about three hours, supposedly," George told him, letting himself get comfortable on the counter. "I found it in one of the gryphon books and translated it with Xander's help, but you've got him and Iggy's in Venice." He pushed himself off the counter. "Would you please tell him I want to go but I can't? And that I'd really like to come see him tonight, but I'm having one of those days where I'm so frustrated that I'll end up yelling at him if he gives me a hug?"
"If you wish," Draco said with a shrug. "I'll ask around, see who else wanted to go." He smiled at him. "Try the multiple solutions. You'd be surprised how many problems that fixes." He turned and walked away. He could give advice like that, he was very good in potions and had gotten higher marks than either of the twins had. He stopped at the desk. "Would you like to go instead of your mate?"
"Sure," Fred agreed. "Want the tickets now?"
"If you don't want to bring them to the theater."
"They have dinner reservations in a half-hour," Fred told him.
"Then I'd take a very fast shower and I'll have someone call over to say we'll be late." He walked away, heading back to his house to shower and change as well. He found his son sitting on his bed. "Will you be good while I take Uncle Xander out tonight?"
"Are you dating him?"
Draco stopped and looked at his son, giving him a smile and a head shake. "Not at all. What gave you that idea?"
"You treat him nice and you give him presents. You did that with mummy from what Denver said."
"Ah." Draco suddenly understood. "No, Lucien, I'm not dating your Uncle, I am merely spoiling him. It makes me happy to see him happy. All right?"
"Okay, but if you do date him, can I spoil him too?"
Draco nodded, understanding now why his own father hadn't had any luck in turning him to the dark. He had never been around enough to give off the proper model. Thank Merlin. "I'm going to shower. Go tell your nanny that I'm leaving for the evening and we'll be back. You may watch television with the older children when they get here." Lucien scampered off, nearly bounding in joy because his big brother and sisters were going to be there with him for a while. Draco smiled, he had his family and they entertained him to no end some days. He went in to take a quick shower. Not that he smelled or anything.
Xander looked up at the restaurant. "How did you know?"
"I told him," Fred said, giving him a pat on the back. "Did you exchange money?"
"It was on the dresser in the envelope," Xander said, starting to frown. "Didn't you get it?"
"Oh, I did, I thought that was for something at the theater."
"Popcorn's not that expensive," Xander told him, walking inside. "Harris-Weasley?" he told the attendant. "Sorry we're late."
"That's fine, sir. Three?" Xander nodded. "Smoking or non?"
"Non," Draco told her. "I'm allergic." She smiled and led them to a table as far away from the smoking section as she could, leaving them with menus. "How long do we have?"
"I planned an extra hour in case we were running late or wanted to take a walk in the park," Xander told him. "Since when?"
"Since I don't like the smell and I refuse to smell it all night," he said gently. He opened his menu and nodded in appreciation. Very well thought out dishes it seemed. If the taste lived up to the descriptions, he would be very pleased and have to remember this place. "What are you getting?"
"I always get the steak," Xander told him. "The one with cheese on top."
Draco looked at it. "It's fattening," he said in appreciation. "You can spoil yourself."
"George ends up eating the topping," Fred told him. "Is that what this is about? Him needing spoiled? George does do that."
"No, this is about giving him some time away from all that nasty stress he's usually under. It's also about giving him time to think and finish adjusting himself to the realities of his life. He seems to have not done that. Mostly this is about me being obedient to my higher authority. He said so."
Xander grimaced. "I'm fine, Draco, really."
"No, you're not. I found you doing situps this morning in your bed." He nodded the waiter over. "I'll have the Chardonnay, a glass please." He looked at Fred.
"I'll take some of that American iced tea. Lemon on the side?" The waiter nodded and wrote it down. "Xander?"
"Can I have a regular coke and a glass of water?" The waiter nodded and ran away to get it for them. Fred smirked at him. "What? I miss coke some days. Diet sucks." He smiled. "I think I'll have the steak and pasta pie."
The other men looked at their menu, then a Xander. It didn't sound very appetizing. "Have the steak and cheese dish, but eat the topping," Draco suggested mildly. Xander shrugged. "Or you could have that shrimp dish. The one with the pasta?"
Xander looked at it and frowned. "It's expensive." Draco sighed. "Fine. But you have to buy your own popcorn."
"That will be fine I'm sure," Draco told him. "How expensive is that?"
"About six pounds now for the big one," Xander told him.
Fred pulled out the envelope and counted it out. "Xander, you've got four hundred for the night," he said quietly. "Get what you want and enjoy it. I'm having the grilled shrimp and steak dish."
Xander nodded. "All right." When the waiter came back with their drinks, they placed their orders and relaxed. They had time. "I was going to get us a hotel room for the night so we didn't have to try and travel back tonight."
"That's the beauty of teleporting," Draco said quietly, though there wasn't anyone near them. "No need to stand in line waiting to go home."
"Can you still?" Fred asked.
Draco nodded. "For another month and a half. We'll be fine to get home tonight and everyone can find a nice bed and use them." Xander grimaced. "I'm sorry, maybe he'll be over tomorrow night."
"I know, I wanted him there though. He was supposed to share this with me and be happy with me."
"So you'll explain it to us and be happy with him when it comes out on DVD," Draco said, sounding practical. Xander was pouting and it was such a step in the right direction. He was pleased with his good deed. "What is Fantasia about?"
"It's music and pictures," Xander explained, shaking off his unhappiness. "The stories are what the artists saw when they listened to the music. It's not really an interpretation of the music, but the story that the music gave them, sort of like the music was their muses."
"So, the music and the story may not be connected?" Fred said. Xander nodded, looking happy. "Then why are we going to see it?"
"You'll see," Xander said as their waiter came over with their dinners. He accepted his shrimp dish and took a deep sniff. "Mmm." He dug in, slurping the pasta greedily. This was the life he wanted. It would only be better if his husband and son were with them.
Draco looked around the theater. They were in the second story line and it was something that Xander said he hated with so much loathing in his voice that he couldn't possibly be interested. He noticed the mouse directing the brooms to get water and snorted in derision. Close, but not close enough. Xander patted him on the thigh. Draco smiled at him, but Xander was watching, no matter how much he hated it. So he continued to watch the crowd. Some of the less mature wizards and witches were throwing things at the screen.
Xander nudged Draco and pointed at the screen. "Someone got one to stick," he whispered.
Draco pulled his wand and flicked it at the popcorn, dislodging it. He just as subtly put it back. Half the crowd were muggles. These showings were for some children's charity that Disney was part of. It was a good cause, even if he wasn't quite sure why this was so liked. The explanation earlier had made it a little more clear, but he had different visions and he couldn't quite fall into these because of it. He glanced at Fred and noticed he was having the same problem. He shrugged, it was worth it. Xander hadn't been this happy in years. The next song was introduced by someone who was probably supposed to be funny, and it started. This one he understood a bit more. He settled in to watch this one go on. He'd have to watch the first two later. Maybe he would understand this one better if he had seen them. Xander shifted, wiggling almost. Yes, it was worth it.
Xander bounced around as they walked out of the theater, talking excitedly. He noticed the small table. "Ooh, the first two in special edition," he said happily, grabbing the envelope from Fred's back pocket and walking over. "Do you have any left?"
"Just one," she said with a smile. "Did you enjoy it?"
"Very much. Though I wish they would do away with the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Put in something new, or bring back the Dance of the Hours or something. But I have to say the remastering they did was *excellent*! So much better." She chuckled as she took the money and handed him the silver metal box. "Oh, it's got a space for the last one to join it." He smiled at Draco. "Thank you for bringing me."
"You're welcome," Draco said, taking Xander's arm, letting Fred get the box, so they could leave. "You enjoyed it?"
"I think that fact that the artists came up with such *vivid* fucking pictures after listening to the songs over and over again is amazing!" he said a little loudly. A few of the nearby wizards and witches looked at him. He smiled at them. "You didn't read the program?" They shook their heads. "That was what the animators, the artists who drew everything, saw when they listened to each piece of music. It's not an interpretation of the music, it's their muse popping up. This is what *they* saw. Even if you have different visions as the music played, it's still all right to float along and let the music carry you. That's what it's for." A few of them nodded and most of them looked like they understood it, so he turned back to his companions. Fred looked happier now and Draco looked thoughtful. "We can watch the first two tonight if you want. I wouldn't mind at all."
"I'm sure you wouldn't," Draco agreed. "We can do that. The children are watching the second one tonight anyway." He led them away, heading down to a darker part of the street. "Xander, you take Fred and I'll get myself back to my place." Xander obediently took the box of DVD's back and Fred's arm, teleporting them back. Draco looked around, then sent himself home. He walked into the entertainment room, where he could hear squeals of delight, and smiled at the picture everyone made. Xander had been pounced by Ravena and was being tickled. Simone had stolen the DVD's and was looking them over. "Is the player working?"
"No," Simone called out.
"Sears is still open," Xander gasped. He flipped them over, attacking Ravena, and Denver when he waded in to help his baby sister. He even got Lucien when he came to help, or get some tickling for himself.
Draco smiled at the happy picture and went to get some money. It would be a fast trip. Iggy had left a thumbtack at the mall. He disappeared and came back twenty minutes later with the new machine. "Who wants to figure out how this goes?"
"I can," Denver said, getting off Xander's chest, where he had been sitting to hold his uncle down while Lucien tickled him. He accepted the box. "Sis, knife?" Simone pulled her knife out of her bra and handed it over, still reading the inserts from the DVD's. He opened the box and pulled out the new machine, looking it over. "Okay, I think I've got it." He got pushed gently out of the way and his uncle put everything together efficiently. "So that's what you do with that extra port." He took the first one from his sister and slipped it into the holder, sliding it inside.
"We'll have to get the stuck disk out of the other machine," Draco said as he sat down to watch. Xander leaned against his legs and Fred took the free chair. The previews came on and Xander fast forwarded it, shaking his head at one that went past. "You don't like Tarzan?"
"Not really." Xander hit play as the main feature screen came up. He relaxed into his 'son's legs and got comfortable. Simone tossed down a pillow and he shot her a quick grin as he put it under his knee. He got lost in the music again, not caring about the stupid grin on his face.
Fred looked down at Xander, then at Draco. "Good job," he said quietly. He went back. "They really did brighten up the picture," he said, noticing how much better the one they had seen earlier had been.
Draco nodded, reaching down to pat the soft hair. Xander looked up and smiled, then went back to the movie. Yes, he was very happy with his good deed of the year.
Harry looked over as the elves came out of the fireplace. "Hello." He smiled. "Welcome to our home. We're moving next week so don't worry about it being so small." They nodded and peered around. "Agatha's up in the tower reading. Ron's in bed and Mellie's on the couch." He stood up and shook their hands. "Thank you for coming to work for us." He nodded at the kitchen. "I opened cans of soup for a snack." His house elf shook his head and went to fix them real food. The other two followed him, talking in their strange language about the new house.
Harry smiled and went back to the decorating suggestions his daughter had made. They were...interesting to say the least. Purple walls in the living room? With dark blue furniture and blood red highlights, carrying those colors over to the tapestry curtains. Was she a vampire? He looked over at her. No, she was still breathing and rosy cheeked. He shook his head. He'd leave it up to the professionals. He could pay someone to do that for him so he wouldn't have to bother with it. That sort of thing was not his area.
A golden blur flew down the stairs and hovered for a second, just long enough for him to catch it. "Hello, Ron's snitch. Is he napping again?" He stood up and walked it back upstairs, putting it in his sleeping son's hand. "You rest, Ron, you need it," he whispered, backing out of the room. He closed the door and turned, finding his daughter standing there. "They're here."
"Wonderful, I only wanted some milk."
"Then get some," Harry agreed. He watched as his older little girl walked down the stairs. He started to wonder if Hermione knew how badly she had screwed the girl up, but shook it off. She didn't know anything anymore. Her mind had been completely erased. Even if they walked up and introduced themselves, nothing in her memories would click. He was free to move on, but he wasn't sure he was ready to. He went into his room and laid down, thinking about that. Maybe Ron would let him babble at him once they were out of quarantine. He would understand and might even be able to tell him what he was really thinking about. He flipped onto his side and listened to the new elves talk to Mellie downstairs. She loved the elves and they adored her. But she started to cry and ran up the stairs. "Mellie?" he called. She ran in and climbed in with him, giving him a hug. "What happened?"
"One of the new ones said I can't help them," she sniffled.
"Then you can still play with the other two, Mellie." He kissed her on the top of her head. "Why don't we all nap? We'll have a later dinner." She nodded but didn't move. "I promise, it'll be okay, Mellie. They'll learn to love you." She got out of his bed and went to her own and Harry called his usual elf up. "Did they not like her?" he asked quietly.
"They no watch children," the elf told him. "Want dinner now?"
"How about a late one?" Harry suggested. The elf nodded, looking happier. "Then we're going to nap while you talk with the new two." The elf nodded again and left his room, closing the door behind himself. Harry settled in to take a short nap. Maybe he would have some nice dreams this time.
Draco walked down to Xander's room, frowning. One of the elves had just woken him up and told him Simone wasn't in her room. He knew she hadn't snuck out, the shields were still up, she couldn't apparate, and her broom was locked in his closet because she was still grounded. So there was only one probable place for her to be. He tapped gently on the door and walked in, smiling at the picture the two of them made. Simone was napping on Xander's chest and he was slowly stroking her hair. "Can I have her back?" he asked. Xander shook his head. "Why not?"
Xander shifted and got up, pointing at the boundary. He was let out and walked over to the bathroom. "She's having boy problems."
"I didn't know she had one."
"That's the problem. Everyone else is dating but her. Even the guys who wanted to worship her body while she was possessed won't come near her now."
"I see." Draco looked at the bed and smiled at his daughter, who was awake. "Didn't want to talk to me?"
"You'd give me the 'it'll happen in time' speech," she said as she sat up, then she yawned and stretched. "I could walk naked into the Great Hall and no one would do more than drool."
"You are known to be very tough," Draco pointed out. He came over and sat beside her, giving her a hug. Xander walked into the bathroom to give them some privacy. "You've gotten the reputation of liking to be one of the guys and most boys your age don't like that. Unless they're like Wood."
"There aren't any boys like that right now," she pointed out, but she was starting to feel better. "Can you get one transferred in for me, daddy? Please? I'll be good and treat him very nicely."
Draco laughed. "We'll see, dear one." He kissed her on the side of the head. "I'm sure someone will pop up in the next few years." She sighed. "I know it's hard with Iggy now being irreversibly mated, and Melvin taking up with your best friend, but I promise there will be someone for you."
She leaned against him. "Only if I decide I like girls. Or I go for Uncle Oliver."
"Potter would stand in your way. He'd protect Wood from you."
"Does he think I'm scary?"
"No, you'd be too young. He's had to drive off a few young girls for Wood, all of them wanted to give him a child to carry on his fine traditions."
"I'd never be that obvious," Simone snorted.
"I know, dear, but he would still stand in your way."
"Little Ron would hurt me if I beat him up," Simone said thoughtfully. Her father poked her and she sighed. "Yes, daddy, I'll try to find someone who's like him and can understand a strong woman."
"Thank you. I'm sure he'd appreciate that," he agreed dryly. He looked over as the bathroom door opened. "Xander, do you think there's anyone around that school who will see her for the girl she is?"
Xander came out and sat against the far wall. "None that come to mind. I can see a few who'll try for Ravena next year." Simone sighed. "I think she'll need someone a bit more serious about her interests. You might ask your Uncle Charlie if any of his friends have sons your age."
She brightened up. "He would understand," she agreed happily. "I'm going to be seeing him in a few weeks anyway." Draco nodded and Xander frowned. "I'm getting to visit the preserve and see if it's something I'd like to do for a living instead of just working with phoenixes."
"Glinda would protect you while you worked," Draco agreed. "Murphy occasionally helps Charlie." He gave her a squeeze. "Go to bed and you can write him a letter tomorrow."
"Yes, daddy." She gave him a kiss then stood up and walked over, giving Xander one as well. "Good night, Uncle Xander."
"Night, Simone." He smiled as his niece walked out. Draco glared at him. "What?"
"He did play, and was supposed to have been very good. Plus, he understands about her animals." He forced himself to get up and only made it partway. He glared when Draco stood up. "I can do it." He tried again and had to grab the doorframe to help himself. "See?"
"Yes, but I also heard your knees pop and your back settle," Draco told him. "We can help you stand up. It's not a sign of weakness. You do it when I can't get up."
"You have a condition that makes seats suck you down," Xander said as he walked pat him. "May I swim tomorrow?"
"If you'd like." Draco pulled his wand once Xander was in the bed and floated him up, making the other man squeak. "You can ask me for help and I won't mind, even if I'm busy." Xander gave him a dirty look. "I'm sorry I snapped at you that time, but that isn't how I usually react and you know it." He crossed his arms. "Would you let your son help you?" Xander paused then nodded. "Have you not said repeatedly that I'm your son as well?" he continued patiently. The man had so many layers of defense mechanisms it's a wonder anyone ever got through them. Xander nodded, smiling slightly. "Then why won't you let me help you?"
"Because I didn't need it."
Draco grimaced. "You did. You still do because you're not getting down." Xander opened his mouth. "No, don't say it. Don't say a word. Let me let you in on something, Xander. For you to proclaim me your son, you had to mean it. I know you know that much about the clan structure." Xander nodded, more firmly this time. "That, in all legal senses within the community, makes me your son. That gives me the same rights as Iggy to your time, your wallet, and your life." Xander grimaced. "Not that I'm going to push any of them," he said smoothly, "but it also gives me the right to yell at you when you're being dumb. Follow all the rules or none of them!"
Xander frowned. "I never meant it like that."
"What, I'm not your son?"
Xander grabbed a pillow and tossed it at him but it was stopped at the barrier. "No! Stupid."
"Thank you. At least now you're talking to me like you do your other children."
Xander groaned. "Fine! You're just like the other children. Happier now?"
"This means that I have just as much right to help you off the floor as your other children, and the same right to nag you about it until you realize this fact."
Xander rolled onto his side. "Fine, you can help me stand up, even though I didn't need it."
Draco zapped him, making him squeal. "You did. If you had to grab onto something, it could have been me but you were feeling stubborn. From now on, you'll let me help you stand and other things when necessary, the same as you would Ignatius."
"I wouldn't have let him help me up off the floor."
"Xander," Draco warned. He looked closer. "What did you hurt."
"Nothing," Xander lied.
Draco shook his head and walked into the safe corridor, handing over the pill bottle and a soda. "Take one. You obviously need it. You can't lie worth a damn." He crossed his arms and tapped his foot until Xander took one of the pills. "Once you're ready to give in gracefully, I'll let you down. It's probably taking some of the weight off your sore joints anyway."
"I'm not that sore, I just twisted my wrist," Xander told him. Draco snorted and walked back out of the safe corridor. "May I please get down? I promise, you can grab me and help me up like Iggy does."
"Is that why you let him help you?" Xander didn't say anything. "Xander? Do I have to get forceful with you?"
"No," Xander sighed. "This is me, Draco, get over it already. I'm not going to suddenly become needy and whiny."
"No one asked you to!" he shouted. He calmed himself. "No one's asked you to become needy or whiny. All we'd like is for you to act like your body's the way it is and admit it when you need help. We'd all be more than satisfied with those major steps. For that matter, I'd like it immensely if you'd stop acting so stuck up about needing help."
"I'm not stuck up."
"You are, you act like the rest of us aren't good enough to help you."
"You are, all of you, but I don't need it."
"Xander, can you honestly tell me that you didn't need help getting up off the floor?" Xander nodded. "Really? If I put you under truth serum."
"I knew I could get myself up off the floor. I've done it for a while now."
Draco shook his head. "Xander, listen to yourself, please. This attitude of defense is not only annoying, it's damaging any further recovery you may have. Most people encourage someone to at least cheer them on when they've been injured and need to heal."
"I've already healed," Xander said, his voice starting to get cool.
"No, you haven't. You had knee surgery last Christmas. You had a very traumatizing incident right after your brace came off. You never had the chance to heal."
"Gee, I seem to remember those. I was there," he pointed out, getting a little colder.
Draco stopped to look at him, then shook his head and climbed into the bed, standing on it to get in the older man's face. "Stop it. I'm not accusing you of anything beyond being stubborn, and you freely admit to that state." Xander nodded. "You still need to finish healing. If I have to, I can get your doctor here and have him tell you the same thing."
"He said my knee was fine and as good as it was going to get."
Draco tipped the fallen chin up and looked him in the eyes. "Then why are you wincing when you move that leg?" he asked gently. "Why do you still need pain medicine so often? I think if you had let him look at your knee, he'd say you had probably pulled a few muscles on your cross- country run." Xander grimaced. "Did he even see you after that?"
"The healers said I was fine."
"Would they know a fake joint?"
"It's not that bad!" Xander told him, getting his face free. "This isn't fair."
"No, it's educational," Draco said with a faint smile. "You need to finish adapting to the wizard's life, Xander. You can't kick in a door anymore, so you need to learn the spell that will do that for you. There are other methods of doing everything that you used to do and I'll gladly help you find them if you'd quit being so stubborn. Admit that you're not the young idiot you used to be and let me teach you how to kick in doors and decapitate vampires with your wand."
"I can still fight."
"Yes, you can, but you should keep it rare. Why give your enemies the advantage of seeing you as anything other than weaker?" He saw the interest. "With your cane and gait, they'll think you're weak and not able to defend yourself. You can use that to your advantage. Learn how to compensate and then I'll take you to fight in a cemetery of your choice." Xander nodded. "Thank you. Sleep now, we'll start tomorrow after your swim." He hopped off the bed and grabbed his stomach, pausing to let the poor thing settle. He walked toward the door.
"Draco, can I come down now?" he asked. "I don't think I can sleep like this."
Draco waved his wand and Xander slowly lowered to the bed. "There, how's that?" He smiled and left him alone. He found his son in the hallway. "Yes, Denver?"
"I heard yelling?" Denver asked.
"The normal argument. Go back to bed. You'll see Xander tomorrow." Denver nodded and went back to his rooms. Draco sighed and went to his. It was an impressive step, and now he knew how Iggy got past the stone wall of stubbornness.
Iggy woke up and found his mentor looking at him. "What?" he asked, yawning in his face.
"Go brush your teeth and we'll talk."
Iggy nodded and headed into the bathroom, using the toothbrush in the box on the sink. He guessed it was for him. After he was done, he cleaned his face and finger-combed his hair, french braiding it for now so it'd stay out of his face until he could find a band. He noticed what he was wearing and frowned, but his clothes were missing. He walked out and looked around.
"I sent them to be cleaned," Severus told him, pointing at the chair. "Your wife sent that for you."
"Thanks," Iggy said, going over to the bag and pulling out a complete outfit. He went back into the bathroom to change and came out in the all black outfit. "Did you pick this out or her?"
"I did, but it was already in your closet," Snape told him with a fond smile. "Your presence was requested at the conference. You may help me today or go to any of the symposiums."
"Wow." Iggy nodded. "All right. Let me find a robe." He grabbed his red one out of his bag and left it open over his outfit. "Suitable?"
"Very nice," Tara said as she walked in from the other part of the suite. "And no ick anywhere."
"It happens," Iggy said with a shrug. "I was helping a female gryphon with a broken egg and a backed up delivery chute. Then I had to remove some shards from some veins, and then I got to pierce an egg sac. What fun."
"Wouldn't you have to crawl up inside her for some of that?" Tara asked. Iggy nodded, looking a little green around the edges. "I'm sorry."
"It's not so bad. It's a big open space once all the eggs are out of there. It was just icky for a while." He grinned. "When's breakfast?"
"I just brought up food," she said with fond tolerance. "Raena will join us later today."
"'Kay, thanks." He walked into the next room to give them some privacy. He found the bags of fast food and the one with his name on it, so sat down to eat the greasy food as fast as he could. Severus had been mostly dressed so he must be nearly ready to go. He actually had ten minutes to digest everything before his mentor came out with a steaming cauldron. "Want me to take that?"
"It's not necessary," Snape told him. He looked him over. "Do tie it back if you have to. You look odd."
Iggy ran his fingers through the braid, bringing it down, and went to find a hair tie. He found one of his uncle's leather cords in his bag and used it. Charlie wouldn't complain too much. He checked himself in the mirror and took off the robe when he noticed the spot on the back of it. His other red one, this one a little more slinky of a color and fabric, was pulled out and put on. It was still all right, though a little wrinkled around the hem. He walked out and looked at the chair. "Did someone pour water on it?"
"I sat on it to work out my hair," Tara told him with a slight shrug. "Sorry." She fixed the wrinkles for him and took his arm, walking him out. "Are you excited?"
"Fairly so, even though this isn't my conference. Do we have one?"
"Next year in London," Snape told him. "You've already got an invitation on my desk."
"Cool." Iggy let Tara go as they entered the ballroom, letting her switch side with him so she was on her husband's left. He nodded at a few people he had treated and went to look at the list of activities for the day. He found Severus standing behind him. "I think I'm going to go to the Potent Poisons ones if it's all right with you."
"That would be fine. It's usually very interesting. Did you not find the note taking materials?"
Iggy patted his pocket. "They were already in here. Muggle notebook and pen so I don't have to worry about ink or a lapdesk." Tara smiled at him. "Thank you, Aunty." He blew a kiss. "I'm going to be late. Have fun announcing your new poison." He walked off, his robe billowing behind him.
"The extra two hours did him good," Tara told him as she walked her husband to his room. Everyone smiled at them. "Iggy's at the Potent Poison's lectures."
One man sighed. "Too bad. I wanted to talk to him about an antidote for this one."
"I've already created one with his and Poppy Pomfrey's help," Snape said, taking the lectern. "Am I the only one this year?"
"Our other presenter is running late so it's all yours," the head of the panel for the Advancement of Poisoning Technology noted. "What's steaming?"
"I had to put it in a warm water bath. The Weasley twins' cold gel worked a little too well. It was frozen."
"Is it still viable?" another member asked, the one who had wanted to talk to Iggy.
"It is. It's meant to be frozen and unfrozen." The members made notes and he went on with his presentation.
Tara sat back and relaxed, watching her lifemate do the work he loved. It was thrilling to see the look in his eyes as he talked about kill ratios and survivability even if she thought they were icky subjects.
Iggy slipped into the room and took a seat in the back. The man setting up in the front looked back at him and frowned. "What? I have to know anyway," he said with a grin for the people who turned to look at him.
"Your Master let you go?"
"My Master is my Master only because he's the one I train under. I'm not his apprentice in the formal sense. He's my teacher, not my keeper."
"Oh." Most everyone nodded and turned back around, watching the man set up. He looked nervous.
"Ignatius, what did you do with the rest of the Dragonsbane potions?"
"It's frozen in my grandmother's freezer, clearly marked just in case." He shifted. "My wife took them home with her."
"Will she be attending?" the presenter asked.
"Later today." Iggy grinned a silly, happy grin. "We'll probably slip out and wander around for a few hours before dinner." He straightened up. "Does anyone know who did it? I'd like to smack him or her."
"No, not yet," the presenter told him. "No one's crowed and no one's said anything."
Iggy grimaced. "Then I think I want to look at those samples again." He sat back and continued to frown as he talked to his wife and she looked over the test set again. Suddenly he sat up. "That fucker! The absolute fucking mental boogers he has!" He groaned. "He added wolfsbane to it."
The panel and everyone sighed and someone got up to go mix something for that. He patted Iggy on the back. "It takes two days for that to show up," he reminded the boy. "It isn't your fault."
"No, but the two work together to form something to give you the worst case of the runs ever." He stood up but the man pushed him back down. "I can do it. They'll trust me."
The man smiled. "I'm a healer as well, Ignatius, don't worry about it." He walked out, going to tell this new development and check his own test set.
Iggy looked at the door. "He is?"
"He teaches at Beaubaxton," the presenter told him. He smiled at the boy. "Are you prepared to take notes on the new chapters for the book?"
Iggy pulled his pen and notebook, waving them a bit. "Tara got them for me. I'll transcribe them onto parchment later."
The presenter nodded. "Very wise. Better than most of the healers in the room." He smiled at the stunned look. "As you pointed out once, it's the mirror image of our own science."
"Yeah, it is, but I hadn't heard more of us were here." He shrugged. "Okay." He opened the notebook and made a note at the top about what the notes were from and all that. He looked up as the first slide was put up in the ancient device. Interesting. A snake-venom-based one from India.
Raena checked the containers in the freezer, fully frozen. "Let me take these up to the school and then I'm heading to Venice," she called.
"That's fine," Molly assured her from the laundry room. "Are they finally frozen?"
"Some of the ice in the freezer melted as well," Raena agreed. She stuffed the containers into a basket and closed it tightly, putting her personal sign on the lock so it couldn't be opened without her knowing. Then she put on her robe. "We'll be back tonight or tomorrow, Molly." She and her locked basket left, finding Dumbledore wandering toward the doorway. "Where does everyone keep solutions and antidotes?"
"In the freezer section of the infirmary," he said, turning around to lead her to it. "That's a very interesting method of locking it away."
She smiled at him. "I learned really quickly to hide my Mastery potion in one. There were a few people who were jealous." He laughed. "Really, it's the main competitive sport at Braun, screwing everyone else up." She watched as he opened the frozen section, smiling at the room ready for her basket, the shelf had magically adjusted for her. "Here we are." She slid it inside and watched as the case was relocked. "No one will get into this?"
"As far as I know. Poppy will be back in a few weeks, so you'll need to call her and have her check on it." He winked. "Have fun in Venice. I hear it's very pretty to wander around in."
She nodded. "Very. I spent a few weeks there with my parents the first time I was this age." She smiled and teleported away, finding Iggy easily. She stepped over his feet and took the seat next to him, looking at his notes. She had to squint but she figured out most of what it said. "Personal attacks?"
He nodded and gave her a kiss, then turned back to the presenter. "Venom charms."
"Wonderful." She settled in against his side to listen. She knew some of this, but some of it was the updated information her teacher had been working on for years. Yes, he was still a thrilling teacher after twenty years of doing so. He sought her hand and entwined their fingers, giving her a gentle squeeze. This was a wonderful vacation. Poisons or not.
Xander walked into the pool area and found he had it all to himself. The kids must still be sleeping. He stretched up, listening to his back pop in sequence. "Ah," he sighed in relief. He put his arms down and waved them some to get the blood flowing. Then he dived in, doing easy laps back and forth across the pool. On his first lap back, he noticed someone had been standing there. "Hey," he said, waving, then he turned and started back again.
Simone sat on the edge of the pool, watching him move through the water. "Why don't you come over more often?" she asked when he stopped to catch his breath, about ten minutes later.
"I didn't know you had it until two days ago."
"Oh." She nodded and slid in, treading water. "May I join you?"
"Sure. Take that side," he said, pointing at the half he wasn't using. "Isn't anyone else up?"
"Denver only swims when it's hot and he likes to splash around. It's the adult version of what Lucien does in the pool." She frowned at him. "Can you teach me that stroke? I do a bastardized version of it, but yours looked so much smoother."
"Sure." He helped her into position and moved her through a few of the basics, then let her go, watching as she swum off. "Put your face down," he called. She did so and came up spluttering. "Now try the breathing-in thing only when you tip your face to the side," he said with amusement. She glared at him but started off again. She caught on fairly quickly and rejoined him in the deep end. "Very good. Want to learn the backstroke too?"
"There's a *back* stroke?"
He nodded. "It's basically the same only you're on your back. Try it. Kick off from the wall and do the same thing, only face the nice shiny mirrors on the ceiling." He looked up. "Why did he put mirrors on the ceiling, and what is that mark around the drain?"
"A cleaning charm in case Lucien or Denver do nasty things in the pool and an anti-drowning charm." She pushed off gently from the wall and did what she had been doing, getting it fairly quickly as well. "I like this one."
"If you're really nice, I'll teach you how to breast stroke," he said, taking off to do a few laps in that style.
"That looks like hard work," Draco said as he joined them with his own son. He jumped in and bobbed up. He quickly got out of his daughter's way as she tried it. "Xander, come teach her this before she sprains her back again."
Xander swam over and held her up. "Think dolphin." She arched up and he supported her chest for her, putting it into the correct position. "Try it now." He let her go, watching as she tried it. "Come up further or you won't be able to breathe," he called. She did another one, getting closer. "Not perfect, but good enough for non-competitive swimming." He dove under the water and flipped over, coming up back stroking down the length of the pool.
Denver looked at his father. "Do other people do that as well?"
"He's swimming for exercise, as is your sister," Draco said patiently. "Most people swim for fun." He looked around. "Where are your other sisters?"
"On the back lawn getting some sun," Denver told him as he slid into the water. He watched the two athletic people go for it and shook his head. "I admit, it's impressive, but it doesn't look relaxing."
"I'm sure you get into a rhythm and lose your body to the motions, letting your mind wander," Draco told him, giving him a pat on the shoulder. He got out of the way and pounced on Xander, forcing him under the water. "Stop it, you're making the rest of us look bad," he said once Xander bobbed back up.
Xander grimaced and splashed him. "I'll have you know I was nearly turned into a fish person because I was so good."
Simone stopped and she and her brother stared at him. Then Denver looked at his sister. "Maybe you should stop before it happens to you too."
Draco splashed his son. "I'm sure it was something to do with the Hellmouth." Xander nodded and took off again. "You won't get out of telling them that story so easily!" he called after him.
Simone laughed. "I'm sure he's fine, father. After all, he survived being possessed for half of his life, he could get through nearly being made fishy." She launched herself off, enjoying this backstroking thing immensely. She looked good in the mirrors and .....what was that on the bottom of the pool. "How did that cube get here."
"Dirt!" Draco sighed. "Son, get a towel and don't look at it." He climbed out and went for his wand, summoning the cube from the bottom of his pool. It was wrapped in the towel and Draco threw on a shirt over his swim trunks, spandex like the ones he had put on Xander. "I'll be right back." He carried the bundle in to use the floo, sending himself to the Ministry so he could complain to Percy. He walked into the archives and paused because everyone was staring at him. "Yes, I know I'm dripping wet around the books, but I found this blasted thing on the bottom of my pool." He handed it, towel and all, to Percy, then walked away. He smirked at the admiring looks he was getting, including the woman who turned to watch his ass as it walked away. Hmm, he could get used to this tight clothing thing on occasion. He sent himself back home and walked out to get back in the pool. He only stopped to put towels over his daughters' bare bodies. "You'll want tan lines," he told them, finishing his trek back to the pool.
"But, father," Ravena sighed. "I don't need tan lines."
"Get them anyway. You never know who might apparate in, including your grandmother," he called, waving a hand at them. "I mean it or no shopping."
"Yes, father," they said in near-unison. They climbed back into their tiny swimsuits and flipped over to get evenly brown on their backs. It's not like the strings covering them really covered anything anyway.
So when Melvin, Molly, and the little kids came a half-hour later, there was some screaming at them to put on clothes, and for Maeve to not help by undoing their strings for them.
Denver popped his head out of the pool. "The rest of us are in here. Ana, you're getting red," he called.
She got up and walked in there to look at herself in the mirrored ceiling. "I guess I've had it for the day then," she sighed. "Ravena, I'm starting to burn, it's time to quit." Her sister stood up, showing off her burgeoning figure in the tiny Brazilian bikini. "Come swim."
"That won't stay on you," Melvin said as he walked past her to jump right in. "Hi, Uncle Draco, Uncle Xander." Xander waved a hand, helping Maeve swim around in the shallow end. She had her floaters on and was kicking happily because Lucien was trying to get her again - even though his father wouldn't let him go.
"Put on some real clothes," Molly snapped at them.
"These are real bathing suits," Anastasia told her. "Unlike our older sister, we wear things that make us look good."
"You look like tramps."
Draco looked at her, frowning, and she lightened up. "Girls, do at least tie them tighter. You're falling out, Ravena." He looked at Molly again. "It's not like it's anyone outside the family. Were there guests around, I would have to insist that they wear their larger suits."
"This is my larger suit," Ravena told him.
"Then we'll buy you another one soon enough." Lucien was stolen from his hands by his sister, who helped wipe his face off. "What were you doing?"
"Trying to blow bubbles." She grinned. "Just like you taught us." She brought him closer to Maeve, and he automatically pounced her, making her squeal and sink a little bit. "We need to get you some of those floaty things as well."
"His popped the other day," Draco told her. He looked her over. "Isn't that one of your workout outfits?" She nodded. "Why aren't you wearing a swimsuit?"
"Because all of mine are too small. I'll look like the tart twins in them."
"Take that back," Anastasia yelled, stomping her foot. "I am not a tart."
"I can see the pink part around your nipples, sister dear, you're dressed like one." Anastasia adjusted her top but it didn't help very much. "Father, I think Grandmother has a legitimate complaint this time. Their suits are too small."
Xander looked over from the task of trying to separate the two kids. "We could get more."
"I know, but you're not coming," Draco told him.
Xander grinned at him. "Ashamed of me?"
"Hell no, you make me look bad next to you." He grimaced. "How you manage to tan year round I'm not sure."
"It's my sunny nature," he said with a wink, finally getting his daughter back from Lucien and taking off with her so he could play with her. "How is my Princess today?" he asked. She patted him on the face and pointed at Lucien, giving him the most pitiful look. "You can have him later, Maeve, play with me for now." She sniffled, looking even more pitiful, so he handed her over and grabbed William from where he was carefully playing on the stairs, taking him in deeper to play with him. "You love me, right, son?" William beamed at him and splashed him as hard as he could. "That's what I thought. Hi, Zach."
"Water's bad," Zach said from the side of the pool, pouting because his best friend was in there. Draco held out his arms but he shook his head. "No, bad."
"I won't let you drown," Draco assured him. "You can pounce William if you come in." Zach scooted forward and allowed himself to be brought down into the water, only because he could pick on Willie more. Draco checked to make sure Simone had both tots, but Molly had them both now, one on each hip as they splashed each other. He got out of his daughter's way. "Do it in the other direction," he snapped. She sighed and went to swim cross-ways in the deep end, where no one else was.
"Be thankful he didn't put in a diving board," Xander called. "Then you'd have to compete with cannonballs."
Draco looked confused. "Those hard metal things?"
"It's a dive meant to create the most amount of splash. A favorite of boys everywhere. It comes complete with bellyflops, buttflops, and reddened skin from where you hit the water so hard."
"Oh." He shook his head and moved closer so the boys could babble at each other more quietly. "I knew there was a reason I didn't put one in."
"Uncle Xander, can you do those off the side of the pool?" Denver asked. "They sound fun."
"They are, but you ache after a good one," Xander told him. Denver shrugged. "I'll show you once all the kids are out of the pool." Melvin swam past him. "You do that very well, Melvin."
"Dad taught me in the pond at the Burrow," Melvin said, pausing to tread water as Simone swam past him. "Move farther down the pool, Simone. I want some of it too."
She stopped and looked up. "I started out down there."
"It's not easy to swim in a straight line," Xander told her. "You've got a stronger right side because that's the side you bat with and it's pulling you."
"Oh." She nodded, that sounded reasonable. "Okay. I think I'm done anyway, my shoulders ache." She moved to the side of the pool and her brother decided to be nice, coming over to rub them for her. "Thank you, Denver."
"You're welcome, Simone. Did you write Uncle Charlie or are you going to surprise him?"
"There was an official letter of notice given to all the staff," Draco told him. "No names of course, but then again it might be a pleasant thing for those two to spend some time together." He smiled at his daughter. She did love her creatures. "Where is Glinda?"
"Outside in the bird bath scarring off the songbirds," she said lightly. "She doesn't like the water, father."
Ravena squealed as Lucien got her top's strings and opened them, catching it before it could fully fall off her. "Lucien! Naughty! You're too young to see breasts! Father, make him stop!"
"Lucien, you shouldn't tease your sister about her breasts," Draco called. "You'll get to see plenty of them when you're older." Lucien smiled and laughed evilly, reaching for the others around his sister's back.
"If you wore a proper suit, you wouldn't have those problems," Molly noted.
"No, I'd just be uncomfortable, have air pockets around my stomach because nothing fits around there, and not be able to swim at all," she shot back, not exactly in a happy mood.
"The female problem potion is in the medicine cabinet in my room," Anastasia told her with a smile. "I think it's about time we introduced you to it, Rav."
"Bite me. I don't need it. I'm not having my period!"
Draco looked at her. "That's good to know, none of your sisters started that at your age. You'll probably start somewhere in the next year though. Your attitude is telling, daughter."
"Sorry, grandmother, Ana." She finished putting the top back on and swam off, going to have fun by herself.
"Father, you were saying something about having a pool party for us this summer," Simone reminded him. "May we still?"
"If I must," he sighed. "Make out your guests lists. No more than thirty people total." The girls and Denver nodded, gathering to talk about it.
Xander nudged him. "If you are, you're going to have to get them new suits." He looked at the kids. "And possibly some toys."
"We can go to the pool store today," Draco agreed. He looked at Xander, who looked pitiful. "Did you want to come?" Xander nodded, looking happier. "And you won't run away?" Xander shook his head and Zach poked him repeatedly. "Yes, Zach?"
"Of course." He waded to the side and let the little boy back onto the patio area. Zach walked over to a chair and curled up in it, covering himself with a towel so he wouldn't be cold. William joined him because he whined and reached until Xander let him go as well. Together they curled up and talked.
Draco looked at Xander. "You promise to behave?" Xander nodded. "If you behave, you can have a treat."
Draco nodded, giving him a tolerant look. "You may have chocolate if you behave." He whistled, making all the kids look at him. "If you're serious about this pool party, then we'll have to make lists of food and go shopping today." They all started to talk. "Make out a list of foods you'll want. We'll be leaving in an hour so bathe as well." Anastasia and Ravena hurried out immediately to get ready. Simone and Denver shrugged, helping Melvin plan what to get for food. Draco shook his head. His children were odd.
Xander swam down and took his daughter back, swimming her away, much to Lucien's displeasure. "My Maeve, give her back!" he shouted, struggling to get to her. He managed to get out of his grandmother's arms, and tried his best to swim for his friend, but his grandmother caught him and held him more tightly. "My Maeve!" he shouted louder. "Give her back!"
Draco waded over and looked down at his son. "You'll get her back, but her father deserves to spend time with her as well."
"My Maeve!" Lucien whined. "Want her! Mine!"
"Lucien, behave," Molly warned.
"Mine! Want her!"
"You can have her back soon enough," Xander said, glaring at him. "My Maeve first, then yours." Lucien whimpered. "No, I get her first. She's my daughter. You can have her after I'm done with her." Lucien pouted but relaxed back into his father's arms. "Thank you." He swam his daughter off, saying something quietly so she laughed.
"Son, she doesn't belong to you," Draco told him gently, swimming away with him. He used the attaching spell to lock himself against the pool so they could float together. "She's not yours, son. She's your friend."
"My Maeve," he said at his most pitiful. "She mine."
"She's his, you're her friend. Just like you're mine and her friend." Lucien continued to look pitiful. "You can hug her again later, but you're going to start spending more time away from her if you're going to throw these fits."
"You said you always wanted a sister to lord over and protect," Molly pointed out.
Draco nodded, smiling at her. "I probably would have acted the same way at his age if I had access to a wonderful little girl who let me cling to her." Lucien patted him on the face. "Yes, son?"
"My Maeve now?" He pointed where Xander was putting her up onto the side of the pool. She ran over and climbed down with him, making her uncle grunt in pain. "My Maeve," he said with a sigh of relief.
"Yes, your Maeve," Xander said, rolling his eyes. "We're going to have to do something about this before school starts."
Draco shrugged. "If I get the teaching position, then it might not be so horrible. Maybe they'll get tired of each other."
"I'm sure they will," Xander said dryly, smirking at him. "Is it time to go?"
"No. Not yet." Simone and Denver got out of the pool, both of them helping heave Melvin up. "How much longer?"
"A half-hour, father," Denver called. "Come on, you can use our shower," Denver told him.
Xander heaved himself up to sit on the side of the pool and lifted out each of the little kids, letting them sit on the flagstones. "I'm going to shower too."
"That would be good," Draco agreed. "You'll smell like the pool all day otherwise."
"I'll probably smell like the pool all day anyway. I'm going to sneak back down here without the kids." He grinned and stood up, grabbing a chair to help himself. "Come on, guys, time to shower all that nasty water off." All four little bodies followed his hobbling step.
Draco climbed out and helped Molly out, then hurried to help Xander back into the house. He hadn't brought his cane down. Xander glared at him. "You need it, you'll ache otherwise," he said, reminding him in his most gentle 'talking to the infants' tone of voice. "Accept it or else." Xander nodded and continued to grimace. "Thank you."
"The only thing I could do is hit you and you might like that," Xander told him.
"If you hit me, you're going to be grounded to your bed and will stay there for the next two days," Draco told him. He helped Xander up the stairs, going extra slowly because it was hard for him to make it up the wide steps. "Here we are. Children, go clean off," he said, stopping at the nursery. All four of them walked in, Lucien leading them into the bathroom. One of the house elves came running to help them. That way they couldn't make a real mess that she'd have to clean up. "Come on, Xander."
"I can walk."
"I know you're capable, but I'm enjoying this. Don't take my fun away."
"How long are you going to keep up this game?"
"Until you quit being so stubborn," Draco reminded him. "Then I won't have to fight with you and it'll be much more fun to see you actually saying that you need help. That itself will keep my good humor in check." He walked Xander into his room and led him back into the safe corridor. "There you are. Shower. I'll be back in a few minutes." He left, going to his own room. He heard a thump and headed back, finding Xander on the floor of the shower, sighing in disgust. "What happened?" He helped the older man up and checked him over. "Did you fall?"
"Cramp," Xander winced.
Draco helped him sit on the sink and rubbed the cramping calf until it gave up and relaxed. "How's that?"
"Thank you, Draco."
"You're welcome." He smiled. "Can you stand?" Xander slid down to stand up, mostly steadily. They were nearly eye to eye at the moment and very close. "How does it feel?"
"Better, thank you." Xander moved around him and went to the shower. "How's your stomach?"
"Small cramps but nothing very bad. I haven't had one as bad as the other night since then."
"Good." Xander turned on the water. "Are we just heading to the pool store?"
"Did you want something else?"
"I was thinking a small trip down Diagon. Ravena needs more clothes. She's starting to pop out of her shirts."
"I noticed." Draco leaned against the sink. "I was going to suggest that she allow me to take her bra shopping, but I'm not sure how to bring it up."
"Ask her," Xander told him. "Or let me make a suggestion. Just don't joke about it, she seems to be a bit embarrassed."
"I wouldn't do it normally. I even try not to snap at her when she comes out wearing something inappropriate." He shrugged. "I'll let you bring it up, but I'm taking her shopping. I doubt she'd want what you got Simone."
"One of the places we went had prettier bras, more like what Anastasia wears."
"Then we might go there. Take a shower." He walked out, leaving him in there. He selected an outfit out of the wardrobe and laid it on the bed. Then he went to take his own shower. He smelled like the pool and his hair was going to be a wreck if he didn't fix it. He found his daughter sitting on his bed, brushing out her hair. "Let me shower and I'll help you with that, Ravena."
"Yes, father." She continued to try and comb through the snarls. "Can I still have a bikini?"
"We'll see what's there. You might not like anything that's suitable." He walked into his bathroom and climbed into the shower, groaning as the warm water flowed over his back. This was a nice thing when the weight gain started. When he was done, he walked out and put on a robe, stopping to fix his hair before walking out. He sat behind his daughter and braided her hair for her. "Ravena, I wanted to talk to you about your recent clothing choices."
She slumped. "I know everything's getting too tight. I try to pick out the loose stuff, but even that's getting tight."
"If you had told me, I would have taken you shopping, Ravena." He gave her a hug. "I think it's time we talked about bras, daughter."
She laughed. "Me too, but mine aren't going to get huge like Ana's. Hopefully."
"I don't think so either. I think you'll have my mother's set, small and high." He let her go. "We're going bra shopping this afternoon. You can have anyone you want with you."
"Can Uncle Xander come so I can get some practical stuff for games?"
"If you'd like," he agreed. "What about your sisters?"
"Do I have to? Denver will laugh if we bring him."
He leaned closer and smiled. "The store I'm taking you to has other things and he'll spend the whole time drooling over the lingerie, wondering if he can talk a girl into wearing some of it for him."
She giggled and hugged him. "Thank you, father. They can come if they want. I want to see his face."
"Hello!" Harry called.
"Up here," Draco yelled. He stood up and walked over to his walk-in closets. "Leave so I can get dressed." She nodded and went to see if Little Ron was down there.
Harry walked in. "Is Molly here?"
"She was out in the pool. She might still be." Draco shrugged out of his robe and grabbed some underwear to put on.
"DRACO MALFOY!" Xander yelled.
"Wear them," Draco yelled back. He shrugged at the stunned look. "He needed to have a short break so I'm incarcerating him here."
"Wonderful," Harry said with a smile. "Has he pouted yet?"
"Many times," Draco agreed, pulling down a pair of pants and a shirt. He dressed himself and grabbed a robe, and turned to find Harry sitting on his bed. "That bad?"
"Ron's so bored he was running around in circles. Not chasing anything, no purpose, just running around in circles."
"Ravena used to walk around in circles and scream," Draco said with a smirk. Harry nodded, smiling, he remembered that. "Did you want to leave Ron with us for the day?"
"Please?" Harry asked. "I'll take all the little ones. Mellie would love to watch them. One of the new elves won't talk to her."
"Why not?" Simone said from the doorway. "She's their best friend."
"I don't know. They won't tell anyone." Harry stood up. "Where are the little ones?"
"Aren't you moving this week?" Denver asked as he walked in. "Father, Uncle Xander is sitting on his bed refusing to get dressed. Something about thongs?"
"I'll talk to him. Go talk with Ron. Apparently he's coming with us."
"Do we have to invite Mellie?" Simone asked. "She's younger and won't know anyone."
"We'll have one for the family," Draco said thoughtfully. "Try everything out first." She smiled and walked away. He looked at Harry. "We're having a pool party, courtesy of my children."
"I'll make sure Little Ron has a suit," Harry agreed. Denver nodded. "Any particular theme?"
"They're supposed to have themes?" Denver asked.
"I don't think we need one," Draco assured him. "Just food and a few toys. We're going shopping for Ravena," he said as he walked over to talk to his son. "You may come or not." Denver sighed and looked disgusted. "I promise, there will be things there that will interest you."
"He needs one?" Harry asked with a grin.
"No, but I was thinking about the lingerie that the store holds." Denver started to look interested. "If you do come, you may not pick on her, or Anastasia. You will not help Simone shop for a bra. You will not ask Uncle Xander what a woman looks like in one of the outfits."
"You're bringing him?"
"Unless he wants to come home. We were going to do it all at once."
Harry stood up. "I'll definitely take the kids for you. That way you don't have to try and pry Lucien off Maeve for anything."
"Thank you. You might check the pool house, Molly might still be out there." He put on the robe and headed down to Xander's room. He tapped and walked in, closing the door behind him.
Draco opened the door and looked down at Maeve. "You can hug him once he's dressed."
"Okay. I wait," she said cutely.
He closed the door again. "You have a problem with the clothes I picked out?"
"It's a thong."
"Yes, it is," Draco agreed. "I find them comfortable."
"The only one I've ever worn made me pick it out every few minutes."
"This one might surprise you. Try it before you complain." He crossed his arms. "Well?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "I used to share a communal shower, and I've seen you naked before." He turned around anyway. He heard slithering noises and frowned but turned around at the cough. "Does it feel all right?"
Xander grimaced. "It feels like it's crawling up my butt."
"You may get up and walk around if you wish."
Xander slid off the bed and shifted, moving around in the tight underwear. "They're uncomfortable. It's soft and rubbing."
"Try it for a few more minutes, give yourself time to adjust." He watched as Xander paced in the small safe corridor, smiling at the look of ease slowly coming across the other man's face. "Feel better now?"
"Maybe. If the pants don't make it ride up."
"It won't. I wear that type myself and they generally stay put. Unless you're wearing silk." He shrugged. "Finish getting dressed. Potter just dropped his son with us."
"I'm sure Ravena will blush a lot more because he's there."
"I think he'll be staring at the lingerie himself."
Xander shook his head. "He's not like that. He might give them a few minutes, but it'll be more like he's wondering why women wear them. He likes women like him, simple pleasures and the like."
"Possibly. We'll see." He watched as Xander finished getting dressed, ignoring the blushing he was doing. Did no one ever watch the man? George was remiss if he hadn't watched him at least once. "Ready?"
"Yeah, all but my shoes."
"They're on this side." He walked in and led Xander out by the hand, giving him the cane. Xander frowned at it. "You can't have your other one back until you've decided to accept help."
"Can I at least have my wand?"
"That I can do, but I'm blocking it from hitting me." Xander shrugged. "You promise?"
"I promise," Xander sighed. "Nothing mean, no zapping, no deaging, nothing mean."
"Nothing at all," Draco corrected.
"Nothing at all," Xander agreed.
"Thank you. We'll stop and get it on the way out." He took Xander's free arm and led him out of the room. "Children, are we ready?"
"Nearly!" Anastasia called. "My hair's being horrible."
"Just pull it back, no one's going to care," Simone called in exasperation. She smiled at Uncle Xander. "Do you have something to curse certain people with a bad hair day?"
"No, but I do have something to make her hair slick back and lie flat," Draco told her. "Come on, Anastasia Romani, or no new clothes and you can't go to the pool party."
Her door opened and she walked out, pulling her hair back. "With my luck, I'll be having female problems," she said grimly.
"We can look at the calendar," Simone reminded her. "You're one week, I'm the next. We'll have it in three weeks, when we're both fine again." Anastasia nodded, looking happier. "Food and suits?"
"Suits and toys if we're doing it in three weeks," Draco told her. "Food next week. Then we're going clothes shopping for Ravena." Simone looked at him, then sighed and rolled her eyes. "You may not pick on her. You either, Anastasia."
"Fine," they grumbled.
Xander tapped Simone on the head. "She'll need some help for games."
"Good point," Simone said, brightening up. "Are we going to the place where you took me?" Xander nodded. "Cool." She nudged her sister. "It's not a sports store, it's where I got the velvet one."
"Then maybe I'll find something," Anastasia agreed. "Are we taking the boys?"
"Yes," Draco told her, sounding like he was running out of patience. "We're leaving!" The boys came out of Denver's room and followed all the girls down the stairs. "Send yourself to Diagon, I'll be there after I get something out of the safe." The kids all left, leaving him and Xander, and Xander was looking stubborn again. "Go ahead, I'll join you."
"I can wait. I can also watch the kids while you get into your vault."
"On the dresser."
"We can get it for you if you want."
Xander shrugged. "I don't need anything."
"Yes, but you might find something."
"But I don't *need* anything."
"Fine," Draco said, walking away. He retrieved the wand from his safe and took out the small bag of money to weigh it in his hand. He should probably add more to it later. He gave himself a mental shrug and rejoined Xander in the living room. "Here you are." He handed it over, but kept hold of it. "If you do anything to me, I will make the rest of your incarceration unpleasant," he warned with a smile.
"I won't do anything to you," Xander agreed. "Even if I want to."
"Thank you. Let's go before they terrorize the Leaky Cauldron." He let Xander go in front of him. By the time he got there, Xander was at the bar getting a drink and someone was talking to him about his possessions. "Let's go," Draco said a little loudly. "You promised to keep the children out of trouble." Xander finished his drink and said something with a smile to the man, then left, herding the children in front of him. He walked behind his brood, and the other children, and everyone got out of their way. Apparently he was still considered scary, or he looked that bad. He was sure he didn't look bad though. "Bank," he called when Denver and Simone started for Qaulity Quidditch Supplies. "Then the pool store, clothing, *then* brooms before we finish for the day." Ravena looked at him. "After we drop off the other things, dear." She nodded, looking happier. "Xander, will you take them to the pool store?"
"If I knew where it was," Xander agreed.
"I know," Denver told him, pulling on his hand. "Come on, he'll be done long before the girls find good suits." He dragged his uncle toward the pool supplies store. There was a floating seat he had wanted last time. Maybe it was still in. The girls and other two boys followed, talking about what they wanted for the party. Denver looked at his younger sisters. "Get something that you're not hanging out of," he ordered.
Xander smiled at the girls. "They'll have to anyway, their father has to approve of it for the party." The two younger daughters sighed and followed Simone over to the suit rack. He looked at the one Simone was looking at. "That's for racing, but you'd look nice in it," he offered.
She shook her head and dug through, coming up with the two-piece version. Bright blue with a sports top that zipped up the center and low-cut bottoms. "How's this?"
"I think you'd look good in that style," he agreed. He smiled at the saleswoman. "They're all outgrowing their present suits. Plus they're having a party."
"I see." She looked at Simone's. "It's daring, but covering. She'll have to shave of course." Simone grimaced. "The boys will appreciate it."
"The boys leave me alone because they're too stupid to realize I could do lots for them," she retorted. "Ana!" she snapped.
Xander walked over and looked at the rack, pulling out a silver one in the same style. "Try that one," he told her, giving her a hug. "Anastasia, suitable, not like that."
"This is for daily wear," she sighed. "To tan in."
"Bet me," Denver told her. "Boys like tan lines." Melvin looked at him like he was insane. "She's my sister!" he protested.
Melvin looked at the suit, then at her. "You'll look like a whore. Your breasts are too big for that style and it'll look like you're doing it intentionally. Get something like the pink one by Uncle Xander's hand." It was handed to her. "Push up, soft fabric that will cling well, and I'd love to see Andrea in there." He sighed. "Is she coming?"
"Yes," Simone told him, coming out of the dressing room. "Well?"
Xander looked her over and smiled. "You look hot."
"Thank you, Uncle Xander." She looked at the saleswoman, silently asking for an honest opinion.
"I think that looks very nice on you, but it's not what you want to wear if you want the boys to look at you."
"I like to swim laps."
"Then that's perfect," she agreed. "How about something like...." She searched through the racks, coming up with something skimpier. "This?"
Simone opened her mouth and walked over, hand already out. "Simone Malfoy-Weasley."
The saleswoman shook her hand. "I understand. How about these?" she suggested, showing off the more sports oriented suits with skimpier halter tops. "Or you could unzip the zipper on that one a little bit."
Draco walked in, looking a little stressed. "It's interest counting time," he noted. He looked at his eldest daughter and shrugged. "You look nice enough I suppose." Anastasia walked over and unzipped the zipper by three inches and he frowned. "Not quite that far." It went up two of them. "Or that far." It was lowered again and Simone looked at herself. "I like that one fine. Get something for the party." The saleswoman held up the halter topped one. "If she likes it," he agreed.
"Anastasia wants something skimpier," Xander told him, pointing at the dressing room she was in. "Melvin pointed out that she would look trashy so he picked out something more subtle. Ana?" She came out, adjusting the bottoms. "How's that?"
"She should be wearing underwear under it," the saleswoman noted. "We do insist."
"It looked funny."
"She'll take that one as well," Draco told her. "I think it's a bit too ...strong of a statement. You don't need a boy to be leering at you."
"Yes I do."
"No, you don't," he said more forcefully. She went back in. "You're getting that one and something more suitable."
"Did you want her to have something minimizing? We have some full suits that she would look adorable in."
"Nothing Playmate worthy," Xander told her.
"Well, I was going to suggest one that wold make her look so cute, but if you say so." She got all of them out and handed them over, including the one she had wanted the girl to try on. "Do wear the appropriate undergarments, please." She looked at Simone as she came out in the second suit. "I like that," she noted. "You look very cute."
Draco looked and shrugged. "I like that. It looks a little big. The bottoms fit right?" Simone shook her head. "Then get the right size." It was handed to her and he turned to help Ravena. "No." She put back the string bikinis she had been holding. "Get something tasteful and demure. You're too young for anything else."
She pouted at him. "I don't know what to get." She glanced at Little Ron but he was searching for his own suit. "Help, please, father?"
"Of course, my Goddess." He looked through the rack, coming up with a very pretty one-piece suit that would make her look slim and gorgeous if the color looked good on her. "Try that one on."
"It's not my size." He looked but they didn't have one. "Do you have this in my size?" she asked the saleswoman. She looked over as Simone came out of the dressing room. "I want to look like that."
Melvin handed her a bathing suit and walked over, adjusting a strap for Simone as he took over the changing room to try on his own suit. "Thanks."
"Welcome, Melvin." Simone held out her arms. "Well?"
"I like it," Draco agreed. "Is that terry cloth?" She nodded. "Won't it get a little thin once you start swimming around?"
"I think that's the point," Xander told him, smiling at Simone. "Does it feel okay?" She nodded. "Can you wear it all day and not tug, pull, or lose them?" She shrugged. "What isn't right?"
"The bottoms are still a little looser than I'm used to."
The saleswoman came over and tested them by giving the waistband a tug. "I think you'll have to get the bottoms in a different size. Let me see if we have any."
"If not, we can always look in the mall," Xander suggested. The saleswoman looked offended. "Sorry, but if you don't have it, we'll have to."
"I'm sure we have something for each of the children," she said stiffly. She handed Simone a different suit but it was rewarded a shudder. "You don't like flowers?"
"I like hitting things with my bat, swimming laps, kicking ass. Flowers are my sisters."
The saleswoman went back to look for something else, but Anastasia walked out in the suit she had picked out.
Xander licked his lips and looked at her. "When I said nothing that looked like it came from Playboy, I meant Penthouse, Hustler, and Beaver as well," he told her.
Draco closed his mouth and simply pointed. "Change!" She tugged the cross-straps that were all there was of the top and smiled. "Now!" She walked back into the changing room and closed the door. He glared at the saleswoman. "She's a fourth year."
"Not a Bunny or a porn star, yet," Xander finished. Draco glared at him. "Hey, she looked like it! I have pictures of girls in that same outfit in the porn collection."
Draco shook his head. "My daughter will have more taste than that." He watched as Melvin came out and he smiled. "Very nice, Melvin. Thank you for being reasonable."
"It's textured so Andrea can get a kick out of it too," he said happily.
Draco groaned. "No sex at the party, Melvin. None at all." Melvin looked hurt. "I mean it!"
"Yes, Uncle Draco," Melvin sighed and he kept his hurt look. "We've kept our promise."
"Wonderful," Draco agreed, "but you still can't do anything at the party."
"Kissing and the underwear rules apply," Xander told him.
"Yes, sir." Melvin went to change back into his regular clothes, coming out and handing the changing room back to Simone. "I can get this one?"
"You may get that one. I'll make your father pay me back later." He looked at the one Denver held up. "Son, sunglasses and all that," he noted dryly. Bright orange? Ravena came out shaking her head, she hadn't liked that one at all.
"For Ron?" Xander suggested. Denver nodded. "Then I think he'd probably like it. He wears my size." It was handed to him. "Yup, that's it." He handed it to Draco. "So the triplets can come for the family party."
"Good point." Draco accepted Simone's first choice and watched as Anastasia came out in a more suitable suit, this one had chains covering the bare stomach section. "It will rust."
Xander took the direct approach, walking over to look at the other suits. He found one that was suitable and handed it to her. "You don't need the flash, you need the subtle to tone down the flash you already glow with," he told her. "Do simple, with a braid, let your body speak for itself."
She went back into the changing room to try that one on.
Xander looked at Ravena's newest choice. "Draco, help her."
He looked at Ravena and steered her toward the rack that Simone had found hers on. "Try one of those. You'll still look cute in it, and your very flat stomach will be shown off wonderfully." He pulled a white one out and held it up. "Try that one?" She grimaced and shook her head. "Not white?"
"Daddy, we don't know when...." She gave him a helpless look.
He smiled and put the white one back, pulling out a dark blue one. "Try that one then, my Goddess." She took the two piece, jet black and shiny, in to try it on. When she came out, he smiled and nodded. "I like that one and you'll still be able to tan in the others you picked."
She smiled and looked at herself. This one didn't have a zipper, it dipped down in a scoop neckline and had a little bit of support to push what little breasts she had up. It also ended three inches above her belly button. She looked back at her father, and the boy standing behind him who had his mouth open. "I like this one. Find me another one for the non-family pool party?"
Draco smiled and searched out another suit for her. He handed them over and watched as she took over Simone's changing room to try them on. "As long as they fit," he agreed. She smiled, catching his point. He understood the need for a wonderful entrance. He looked at Simone's latest suit. "I like that on you," he told her. It looked like the one she had been wearing earlier, a unitard that ended above her knees. "Do you like it?"
"I could use one." She held up the last one she had been handed. "This one?"
"I think you'll look hot," he told her. "Try it on once she's done." He looked at Anastasia as she came out and smiled brightly. "Much better," he said happily. "That one lets your natural beauty shine without detracting from it or making you look easy."
She shrugged. "I'm not so sure." She ran her hands down the slick sides. "A different color than salmon?"
Xander looked through the rack and held one up. "Here." She came over to get the light rose pink one. "Much nicer," he agreed quietly. She nodded, accepting he had been right.
Draco walked over to the rack for his and Xander's size, holding up a black one. "Try this one, Xander." Xander raised an eyebrow. "You'll need a new one."
"You just bought me three of them," he protested. Draco got his version of the 'resolve face' on so he walked over to get it. "I have plenty. I hardly ever swim."
"Argue and be grounded," Draco said quietly. Xander slumped but went to try it on. He grabbed one he liked on the way but it was taken from him by Denver. "Hey!"
"Nothing hideous. I'm joining my father's crusade to stamp out loud prints."
Draco shuddered. "No. Something tasteful."
"I shouldn't even have to worry about it, it's not like I'm going to swim in front of anyone who's not family."
"Your scars aren't that bad," Draco told him.
"I don't care."
"It'll be mostly Gryffs," Denver pointed out. "We've seen you in shorts before, Uncle Xander." He patted him on the back and smiled at him. "Go try it on. We'll invite your husband and make him beg."
"For that he'll need to wear one of these," Draco said, holding up the swimsuit equivalent of the underwear the other man was wearing. It made him blush. "You don't like?"
"No one looks good in those." He walked into the changing room and tried the suit on. He did look good in it, even though he would have to wear tight hose to keep his leg from swelling that day. He walked out. "How's that?"
"Nice," Draco told him. "You're getting it. And these." He held them up and Xander shook his head. "Yes, you are. Because I said so."
"If you're stamping out bad taste, you should start with those," Xander told him. "No one looks good in those."
"I think I do."
"You don't have my flabby butt," Xander said, starting to whine again. He noticed the saleswoman looking at his rear and frowned at her. "Married." She walked away. "Draco, no. Things like this. Longer shorts. Nothing that tight or revealing. It's been years since I could convince myself to get into a speedo and I'm not going back now." Draco crossed his arms. Xander did the same. "No. Not happening. I'll have to wear support hose anyway that day."
"No one but your husband will see it," Melvin pointed out. He grimaced. "Uncle George won't laugh." Xander glared at him. "He won't!" Melvin told him.
"Come with me," Draco said, walking Xander back into the changing room. "He's not going to laugh. I know he won't because he's going to be horny and whiny by then." Xander shook his head. "It would probably make him happy to see you in something so skimpy."
"He thinks those look silly too. We talked about them during our last vacation and he made fun of all the guys on the beach wearing them."
"I know he won't laugh at you," Draco told him. "I wouldn't if you were mine." Xander shook his head. "Are you really this insecure?"
"My butt jiggles, I don't belong in that sort of suit. I'd have to finish getting back in shape to ever wear one again."
"Your butt doesn't jiggle, it's your imagination," Draco told him.
"Gentlemen?" the saleswoman called.
"Try one for me. The kids don't have to see." Xander shook his head. "Just humor me and I'll buy you a box of chocolate frogs."
"Fine, but I'm not getting it, even if no one laughs."
"Fine. Thank you." Draco walked out and shook his head, tossing over the dark green shimmery one. It was still subtle enough. "He'll be done in a moment." He looked at Ravena, and smiled. "I like that, dear, but only when there's no one else about." She adjusted the top some more. "Even better. Yes, you may get that one." She gave him a hug and went back in to put on her street clothes. He leaned against a nearby rack until he heard the startled noise. "Xander?"
"No. I'm not showing you."
"Yes, you are." He walked over and opened the door, slipping inside. He looked at the tight body, he wasn't sure why Xander thought he was hefty, he wasn't. He looked hot. "You're getting it." Xander looked panicked so he turned him to look in the mirror. "Examine the man in the mirror, not as yourself but as a hot young stud. Or a statue with all these muscles."
"I look stupid and I look like I stuff."
"You look like you've got a big dick and like you're ready to be slinky for your husband," Draco told him. "You're getting it."
Draco frowned. "Surely he can't be that petty."
"He won't wash my green shirt."
"I'll talk to him and you're keeping that one. You can get a red one as well for your Gryffindor darling." He walked out and went to find one. "The only ones they have are a size too small," he called.
Xander came out and shuddered. "No, those were tight enough."
Draco looked at him. "You look good in green."
"Then hit on Uncle Fred, he'll appreciate it," Melvin noted. He grinned. "Are we done?"
"I want a floating chair," Denver said, pointing at the box.
"Fine," Draco agreed. "You get to blow it up." He let Simone pick out a few floating logs as well. He grabbed a few sets of kids' floaters and waist blowup rings as well. Then everything went into a pile on the counter. One down, more to go.
Xander walked Ravena in, smiling at the saleswoman he always seemed to run into, and she was wearing a manager's tag today. "Congrats on your promotion."
She smiled. "Another niece?"
"And her father, and sisters, and brother, cousin, and cousin," Xander agreed dryly. "This is the last stop of the day." He whistled. The boys looked. "You three, go that way." He pointed at the lingerie. "Learn to appreciate women in them if they're willing to wear it for you." The girls moved to the things that interested them. "Good, less stress for you." He gave Ravena a squeeze. "She likes the fancy stuff, but she's another sports player so she'll need both types."
"That's wonderful," the saleswoman said, smiling at the blond man. "Your daughter?" He nodded and her face lit up like she had been hit by an epiphany.
"He's my acknowledged son," Xander told her. "My husband is two years older than he is."
"Oh." She nodded, not understanding quite as well as when she had thought they were together. "We're going to look and see if anything strikes her fancy. Please remove the young man from the crotchless panties." She walked Ravena away, talking about her daily life.
Draco walked over to get his son out of there. "Not in the store," he told him. "If you want them that badly, buy them and use them at home."
Denver's face lit up. "I can?"
"If you must," he sighed. He found Melvin testing fabrics and cleared his throat. "A birthday present hopefully, not for your own use?"
"Once we get to school. Her mother would throw fits if I sent it to her at home." He pointed at Anastasia, who was checking out some serious bodysuits. "You might want to stop her."
Draco walked over and tapped his middle daughter on the shoulder. "I doubt you need them."
"But they're very pretty, father. I bet I'd look stunning." She smiled up at him. "Some of them I could even wear without a shirt." He shook his head. "For under my uniforms?" She held up a pretty white lace contraption that made Simone shudder in revulsion.
"She wanted a corset too," Simone noted. She held up a new style of sport's bra. "I'll be right back. You can yell at her in peace." She went to try it on.
Draco looked around the store, then at his daughter. "Next year. Or once you have a boyfriend. Not until then. Not even under your uniforms. They don't need the encouragement. Next summer, I'll take you to the best lingerie store I can find and let you pick out anything you want. Not this year."
She held up the white lace thong teddy again. "Just the one? I promise I won't show it off."
She pouted, he shook his head. She whimpered, he shook his head. "I won't tell mum if you buy it, but if you don't, I'll get her to." She smiled.
He leaned closer. "Grounded," he told her. She looked hurt and offended. "And I mean it. Keep it up and no pool party for you, young lady."
"I have an allowance."
He laughed. "Which I control, which you didn't bring, and...." Someone handed her the money and she danced away. He turned to look at the man behind him. "Percy, how could you! She's much too young."
"She'll stop whining, otherwise we'd have to hear about it for *months*. Or she'd sneak down anyway and get it behind your back." He smiled. "Pool party?"
"One for the family and one for their friends. I got Melvin a suit since he was instrumental in putting Anastasia and Ravena into decent ones." He heard a squeal and winced. "No!"
Xander laughed. "Your son found the naughty stuff," he called.
"He doesn't need any either." He shook his head and walked that way, Percy following behind him. "I don't care if you buy a pair of panties, son, but the whole damn store is a bit much." He saw what his son was looking at and nearly drooled himself. He could imagine a great many people in those clothes. If he'd had a steady woman, he might have to lock the drawers to keep his son out of them.
Percy blushed and covered his son's eyes when he came over. "You don't need to see that." He swallowed. "I don't need to see those either." He walked his son away. "Did you find anything you thought Andrea might like?" His son dragged him over to a rack and pulled out the one he was thinking of. Tasteful, covering, it looked comfortable enough. "How much is it?"
Percy winced. "That's rather a lot from your allowance." Melvin pouted. "Do not pick up further bad habits from your cousins. I will not humor them."
Little Ron came over, playing with something in his pocket. "It's less than a galleon with the exchange rate." He smiled up at his uncle. "Why do girls like this stuff?"
"Because they think they need it to be beautiful, when most women are wonderful enough even without it, Ron." He put an arm around the boy's shoulders. "You see, men sometimes seem to be deficient in imagination so they convince their women to buy this sort of stuff to wear for them. They tell the women all sorts of trash about how it looks good on them and makes them get even warmer feelings for them, when in fact all it does is pinch and feel uncomfortable usually." He smiled at him. "I found that the best thing I like on my women is one of my shirts and a pair of socks. Of course, I have more imagination than the average man, but that's not saying much."
"Single?" a saleslady asked him.
She smiled. "I'm sorry, but you sounded so much like some of our single men." She patted him on the arm. "How long?"
"Nearly five years," Melvin told her. He looked at his father. "You think she wouldn't like it?"
"At least that one's comfortable looking," he told him.
"It is, I've got one at home. It's much better than the ones I usually get. Very comfortable, it's washable, and it feels nice against the skin." She smiled at him. "Plus, it's on sale this week. If you pool the sales together and it's over two hundred pounds, we'll take twenty percent off the entire order."
"I suppose," Percy sighed, handing over the money. "Between the girls and you, it should be that much."
"With just Ravena it might be that much," Xander told him. "Percy, he was mean. He made me get a thong bathing suit."
Percy shook his head. "I'm sure you can convince my brother to take pity on you while you're wearing it."
"Oh." Percy grimaced. "Well, I guess we'll have to get George over that color then won't we?" he said happily. Really, he wouldn't let Xander wear anything green and it was quite dumb. Draco walked over and took the thing from Melvin's hand. "Are the others done?"
"Ravena is, Simone nearly is, we're leaving before Anastasia buys everything."
"If you spend over five hundred pounds today, we'll take off forty percent," the saleswoman offered.
Draco looked at her. "While that's wonderful, if I don't get my middle daughter out of her, we'll be spending at least three times that much and she's not going to be allowed to wear it for another year anyway."
"Daddy?" Simone called, holding up something. "Can I have this one?"
He looked at it. Very feminine, leather, soft material where it wasn't leather. No wires it looked like. "Do you like it, Simone?" She nodded so he walked over to look at it. "Why?"
"Because I looked hot in it," she told him. "If I want to make some poor boys drool, I think I'll have to run around in something like this. They never say anything any other time."
He kissed her on the forehead. "They're too blind to see you for the full woman you are. When they do, they'll see you and will all start to drool and beg."
"It's gratifying to see them beg now," she told him. "Even if they won't go any further."
"Oh, let her get it," Anastasia sighed. "It's a wonderful step in the right direction. She's wearing girl's underwear."
"You are so going to get it," Simone told her.
Percy coughed. "Melvin and I were just talking about this subject. I think, after having been married for a few years, that the most sexy thing a woman can wear is her husband's clothes. If you have to buy trashy lingerie to impress him, he's obviously mentally deficient in the imagination department and not worth the time and energy to dress up for."
"I feel pretty in mine," Anastasia defended.
"It'll tear the first time you wear it," Denver told her. He handed his father a small pile of things. "These, please?" Draco looked at them, then at him. He grinned. "Just a few things to jumpstart my imagination."
"Stay out of my underwear drawer," Anastasia warned him. "Freak." Xander swatted her hard. "Ow!"
"I don't know why you're emulating your older sister when she hasn't woken up fully, but stop it before I get you again."
She stomped off, going to help Ravena.
"Thank you. Most timely. Yes, Denver, you may get a few things to jump start your imagination, but you will stay out of your sister's drawers."
"Why would I want in their knickers?" Denver asked with a naughty smirk. "Ana smells funny most of the time, all flowery and nasty. Give me a woman like Ravena's turning out to be any day." He looked at his older sister. "Sorry, Si, but you're just a little bit too much like a guy for my tastes."
She stuck her tongue out and left to put her new things in the growing pile. "Daddy, she's got more than one."
"I'll check through them in a moment," he called. He handed the things back to Denver. "If you want to use them, be man enough to put them in the pile." His son slunk up there and nearly tossed them in, much to the amusement of the clerk. "Anyone else?"
"You've still got mine," Melvin told him, giving him a smile. He gave the same one to his father. "I like Andrea in my shirts too. She likes to put on my t-shirts on Sundays." His grin got sappy as he walked away.
"At least I don't have to worry about this with Iggy," Xander pointed out happily. "She can buy her own."
"That's why I came to find you," Percy told him. "There's a gryphon at mum's wanting to know why girls need such clothing allowances. They're presently having a debate, though it was amiable." He smiled. "Apparently she didn't shrink that much and the rest of her things were just sent. She's got clothes that would make Anastasia blush. Mum's about ready to shit bricks."
"Have her move them to the store," Xander told him. "They've got a room there."
"I did. She walked it through the floo and came back, and found mum going through the rest of her clothes because a lot of what she had wasn't appropriate for a girl her age."
"A married girl her age," Xander corrected. "Do you want to have a talk with Molly or should I?"
"George did," Percy said with a naughtier grin. "Yelled at her for at least half an hour. Told her off in all sorts of ways. They're going back to the store tonight unless they want to come stay with you at Draco's. By the way, how much longer will this last? Fred's getting worried because George thinks he's stealing you again."
"The man needs some common sense," Draco sighed, going to pay for all these things. He nearly winced when the total came up to over a thousand pounds, even with the discount. "What cost that much?"
The saleswoman handed him the receipt. "I rang up what was in the pile, sir."
He glared at his middle daughter. "You're in so deep it's not funny," he warned. He paid anyway, making her take the bags. "You can't wear them so they'll be staying home when you go back to school in a few weeks." He took Xander's arm and led him out, making sure he followed. "Did you want or need to stop at the toy store?"
"Toy store?" Xander asked, brightening up. "Can I have legos?"
Draco stopped walking and looked at him. "Not that sort of toy store, Xander. Though yes, you may have legos because you kept my temper in check, and the chocolate frogs if you want." Xander beamed. "I meant the adult store."
"Oh. I only buy those things with George. Unless I'm buying them with Fred as a surprise for George." He smiled at the woman giving him a speculative look. "I'm married to a twin. Occasionally he helps me buy surprises." She walked on. "Do you need to go?"
"I think we could go, if only to teach certain people how not to get arrested for having things shipped to her post box." Simone had the decency to blush. "We'll swing by there and pick up a catalog, and something for my own use, and then we'll head home. Percy, are you and Melvin coming over?"
"No, I think I'll take him back to mum's or home if she's going to rest. You might want to keep the older children with you tonight. I'll pick up whatever he got early tomorrow." He smiled and walked away, his son holding onto the bag with his present like it was the holy grail.
Draco nodded. "All right. We'll swing by there. Go home. Get Iggy and Raena to come to my house for a bit to spare his other father their cuddling. Then we can all collapse and take naps."
"I take one every day," Xander told him. "Now you know why."
"Because your son's the perpetual motion monster?" Little Ron suggested. He grinned. "Uncle Draco, why did you buy Ravena her own snitch?" he asked as they walked out of the mall.
"Because she's begged and pleaded now for months," he told him. "Hers is yours to play with just as yours is for her to play with." He got grinned at, and the kid looked almost exactly like his father, but for his hair. A fairly odd thing for him to be thinking about. "I'm sure your own snitch could use a vacation from being handled. They're only supposed to be used in regulation play for six years."
"Oh." Little Ron pulled his hands out of his pocket. "Mine's still in good shape though."
"I know it is, but you'll have to start being careful of the wings, they're growing more fragile each time you use it." He patted the boy on the back. "Let the two of them play together."
"Just keep it away from Ana's cat," Xander put in. He held open the door for everyone and used his wand to summon a cab, carefully shielding it behind Simone's back. One of them pulled up and they all piled in.
Draco sat down on his son's bed, looking at the things he had bought. They were in colors that would definitely not get mixed up with the girls' things, and they were also things that he wouldn't have minded seeing on a few of his lovers. "Son, do you need to talk?"
"No, father, I need you to keep your promise and take me somewhere to teach me what to do with the stupid thing," Denver said honestly. He flicked his wand at the door and shut it. One of the littler children had been walking outside the door earlier and he didn't want to contaminate them too early. "I know some of what to do with it, but what do I do with a girl? I'm guessing that yanking myself in front of them won't do much for them."
Draco smiled. "That's usually very true. I have plans to get you trained before school starts again. You and Simone both if she wants."
"What about Iggy? I know he's been worried about not being able to keep up with Raena once they finally get that far."
"If he wishes. I'm sure Raena would like to do that for herself." He shifted closer. "Do you know why these turn you on?"
"Because I look at that one and see the cute blonde from Slytherin wearing it, and that one and see the sixth year redheaded Gryff who likes it when I drool about her. And the orange one reminds me of..." His father covered his mouth. "Sorry."
Draco removed his hand and wiped the palm off. "I understand. I felt much the same way at your age. Then someone offered it to me and my hormones took over."
"Yeah, that's about how Iggy and I feel about our dicks as well." He slumped a little. "Can I have porn like Simone's got? I liked hers a lot when I found it." His father gave him a questioning look. "She told me to get her a bra while she was in the bathroom getting changed. It was right under all of them."
"Oh. I see." He shook his head. "I did buy you some earlier, and I bought her some with naked men in it. It's in my room, in my first closet, in the purple bag." Denver hopped up but he stopped him. "You are not to spread it around the tower. You may not give it to another boy. You may not let it out of your personal belongings or let Simone or her friends have it. There were enough things from Simone's small collection that made it around the school and I got blamed."
"Yes, father. Thank you." He gave him a quick peck on the cheek and tore out to check out his new inspiration.
Draco groaned. "Sweet Merlin, the boy is a miniature me." He heard giggles and went to peel Lucien off Maeve again. He had taken to sucking on her neck instead of his thumb. It was getting them looked at again.
Simone strolled into her father's room in the middle of the night and opened his closet, finding the purple bag easily. "Thank you, daddy."
"Get out," Draco groaned.
"I'm just getting my new toys." She grabbed her broom as well. "My time's up."
"Get out or you won't see it for a year," he growled.
"Yes, sir." She quickly hurried out with the purple bag and her broom, closing the door behind herself. She didn't even want to know why his room smelled funny. She walked into her own and smiled at Raena, who was sitting on her bed. "I got it." She handed over the bag and lovingly checked her broom. Then she squealed in outrage. He had disabled it! That bastard! She would have to get him later. She put it aside and dumped out the purple bag, wondering at all the marvelous things. "Wow! Het and gay porn." She opened the cellophane wrappers and flipped through, looking at all the pretty pictures. "So that's what gay sex looks like." Raena snatched the book to see for herself. "Remind me tomorrow to ask Uncle Xander if that hurts."
"He said it doesn't when Iggy asked him a few years ago. I asked him." Raena handed it back. "Iggy came to me with this brilliant idea of your father's, to get him trained at a whorehouse?"
Simone nodded. "That way he has a clue what to do with you and won't shoot off immediately upon seeing your naked breast."
"Oh." She grimaced. "I can teach him everything he needs."
"True, but so can they and he'll come to you already knowing something so you don't need to fumble around." Simone curled up against her pillows. "Daddy says breaking in virgins can be very hard and trying at times."
"I remember, but still. He's mine."
"It isn't an insult against you, just an offer to get him ready for you. Maybe with some training he won't have to run to the bathroom after every class that you have together."
"Point, but I could train him. I'd love to break him in," she said with a feral smile. "Teach him how to beg and plead, and how to lick and suck as well." Simone giggled. "What? It's a good thing to me and he's willing. He's said so."
"Just think, in another year and a half, you'll look at him and go 'if you want it, come get it,' and he will."
"Which is a wonderful thought." She leaned back, laying on top of a few magazines. "I'll think about it, but I think I can work him up. Even if I have to give him a book and a diagram, I think I can teach him everything."
"Then tell daddy that he won't need it, and be sure to smirk. He'll appreciate it."
"That's a wonderful idea. I'll tell him at lunch." She stood up. "Have fun with your magazines. I'm going to go dream with Iggy, he's got some very odd ones. He's somehow gotten a thing for blindfolds and silk scarves." She shook her head then left.
Simone giggled. Leave it to Iggy to not be normal there either.
Charlie walked back onto his preserve and took a deep breath of appreciation. No giggling third years. No slutty seventh years trying to hit on him. Just the nice normal smells of home.
"Hey, Charlie," his boss called, waving at him. "C'mere!"
Charlie smiled at the large Australian and headed for the office. "I'm back."
"When is Hagrid due out?"
"Just before school starts. I'm still free, pending them not being able to find another sub if they need it." He fell down into the chair and smiled because the world was good. Two weeks of vacation and now he was back home. "What can I say, I did my best. I even managed not to get pinched most days." Bo laughed. "Trust me, it's harder than you think."
"I'm sure it is." Bo slid a letter over to him. "It came yesterday from your part of the world."
Charlie frowned as he picked up the letter, then he shook his head. "I'm heading out into the forest then."
"Ya can't, mate, trust me." Bo smirked. "We've got their permission slips, all your former students, all but one's about to be a sixth year."
"Which one?" Charlie asked, starting to see a pattern. One was held up and he started to swear.
"Is she any good?"
"She's excellent, she's got Glinda." He took the rest of the stack and paged through them, dropping a few of them back onto the desk. "Those you don't want to let your sight, they'll walk right up to one and try ta snuggle." He pulled one last sheet, not a permission form, but the funding form. "He paid for everything?"
"He got permission to send his daughter and someone suggested it wouldn't cost any more to send another five or six," Bo said with a shrug. "I heard something about this being his good deed of the year or century or someat." He grinned. "So, those we'll watch out for. Any you want to personally walk around and gross out for a week? Your niece maybe?"
"Oh, we'll be talking," Charlie assured him. How could she do this to him? He flipped the page over, reading her reason for wanting to come. At least she sounded sincere, most of the rest were looking for a story to tell their mates over butterbeers in the Three Broomsticks next year. "I'll take her and him," he said, pulling out another kid who he knew wanted to do the job. "I'll take 'em out to Big Red's territory and we'll work out there."
"That's wonderful, though you're still on nursery duty."
Charlie shook his head. "Not if you want to keep me. I just got done with the noisiest bunch of children ever seen. Give those ones nursery duty. Let 'em scoop," he said meanly.
Bo laughed. "Fine with me. You sure you want to take those two out there?"
"Simone can follow orders and knows enough to do as I say. The other's one who'll be applying if we don't scare him off." Bo looked interested. "This way, he can see the worst and decide that way."
"Good point. She's just mated anyway." He smiled. "Have fun getting singed again."
"I brought back some of the twin's cold gel stuff. Works wonders on all sorts of burns." He kicked his bag. "Can I go sulk now?"
"Sure. Go grab a tent or two and set up out there."
"Just the one. No one gets in Simone's face like that. She's too tough."
"Is she the beater?" Charlie nodded. "Then I won't worry about her. She know how to fire a tranq gun?"
"Ron taught 'em how to shoot muggle and she's probably got dueling from her father already." He grinned. He was going to get Draco for doing this to him. "Have fun with the story-hogs." He grabbed his bag and went to grab a tent out of the store room. Nothing at all like what they had taken to the World Cup, you couldn't use much magic out on the range without attracting attention of the wrong sort. Getting stomped on wasn't his favorite experience and he didn't want to repeat it.
Bo just smiled and finished sorting the kids by their essays. He wondered why Charlie didn't say anything about this one girl, she seemed sincere. Hmm, had a fear of high places. Maybe she wanted but wasn't suitable to the bigger creatures then. He carefully sorted them by groups and went to hand out assignments for babysitters. At least it was only a week, and they couldn't really block access to students or they'd never replace the guys who got eaten.
Draco looked up as someone knocked on his office door. "Enter!" Ron walked in. "What's wrong?"
"You want the little kids at a pool party?" Draco nodded. "When did you get a pool?"
"When the house was built. It's in the building out back." He shrugged. "I find it soothing to float about in it."
"Oh. Okay. Then I guess we'll come once I find them suits."
"Denver thoughtfully got you one but the pool store didn't have anything in the triplet's size. They don't seem to think that very young children might like to play in the water as well. They carry floaters, but not suits." He dug around and found his card file, and he pulled one for him. "That's where we went to get Maeve and Lucien one. He picked hers out."
Ron grinned. "Those two are so cute." He heard a bellow. "He's still here?"
"He's still here and George hasn't shown up." He got up and walked to the door. "You may get up."
A house elf came running down the stairs crying. "I's sorry." She scurried past.
"Sounds like someone leaned on his knee," Ron noted. "Can I see him?"
"I think we'd both better go." Draco led the way up to Xander's room, tapping gently before walking in. Xander was curled up in a ball. "What happened?" He walked over and sat beside him, checking him over. He was breathing a little bit fast, but there weren't any obvious injuries. "Xander?"
"She peeked," he said, sounding stunned. "I was napping."
Draco frowned at the doorway. "I'll discuss this with her later. Are you all right?"
"Just scared. I woke up and her head was under the covers." He looked up. "I don't want to see that again."
"I understand." He patted Xander on the shoulder. "Ron's here."
"Is he here here or in the pool here?"
"He's outside the door here," Draco told him. "Do you want to see him?"
"Can he hit George with his beater's bat?"
"I'm sure I can try," Ron said from the doorway. "You all right?"
"The house elf decided to be curious with him." Draco groaned and Xander reached out, stroking his stomach for him. "Thank you. I'll talk to her, you visit." He stood up and smiled at him. "You may get up if you wish." He handed over the robe and left them alone, closing the door. He noticed his son had the same look on his face and gave him a perfunctory pat on the back. "I'm going to have a talk with her." Denver nodded, still looking upset. "Are you all right?"
"I woke up and she was there, father. It's disturbing." He shuddered. "Eww."
"Climb in with your sister or Raena, warn them as well." He walked away, heading down to where the elves hid most of the day. "You," he said, pointing. "Where is she?"
"Sobbing." She pointed at the closet and got out of his way. This was morning grumpiness only worse. "What she do?"
Draco grimaced. "She decided to go peek in on our guest and my older son. It is not acceptable."
The house elves all covered their ears and gasped. "No," a few of them said, shaking their heads. That was just wrong!
"She be fired? I have cousin who needs job," one female asked.
"I haven't decided yet." He walked over to the closet and opened it, dragging the crying elf out and away to yell at her. The others already knew about his temper and how wrong it was, they didn't need to hear this. He came back a few minutes later, missing his tie, and frowned at the one who had offered her cousin. "Get them here. Make sure they understand the rules."
She nodded. "She loves to make shiny!" she said happily, going to write the letter of invitation.
Draco walked back out of the hiding area and went back up to Xander's room. "She's gone for good," he announced as he walked in, finding Ron curled up on the bed. "Did you get stuck?"
"Xander's in the bathroom. How's the little creature?"
Draco patted his mostly-flat stomach. "Not too terrible so far. Not so much weight, some cramping. About the same as I had with Lucien."
"You were bigger with him by now," Ron reminded him. Draco frowned. "Really, you were." He sat up and the forcefield stopped him. "Why does it work on me?"
"I set it for George. You may get up."
Ron slid off the bed and walked over, after getting a hand out of the safe corridor. "May I?"
"If you want. There's not much there to feel so far."
Ron gently rubbed the small bump, but something felt off. "I think you should see someone. You were bigger last time."
"I'm fine," Draco told him. "I feel fine."
Xander came out and saw Ron's worried look. "Are we taking him to the doctor's today?"
"Yes," Ron said firmly. Draco gave him an 'oh, really' look. "It's mine too and I say I want someone to look at you."
"I agree, if it matters," Xander put in. "May I please have some clothes?" Draco got free and got him some, handing them to him. "Thank you. At least call the doctor and have his opinion." He walked back into the bathroom and closed the door so he could get changed. "Not again!" he called.
"Tough, wear them. They're all I got you." Draco looked at Ron. "I feel fine."
"The baby doesn't. Do a check spell if you don't believe me."
"Did you do many of those with the triplets?" Draco asked as he sat down, putting both of his hands on his stomach and feeling his child's energy. "Fine, we'll go, even though I can't find a thing wrong."
"Thank you," Ron told him, starting to smile again. "I bet if you called, the doctor would come here."
"I'll have to go in anyway for tests," Draco reminded him, standing back up again. He thought about it. He was lighter this time. Maybe it was the spells that had been laid on the child. Xander came out and he helped him out of the safe corridor and gave him back his wand. "I'll call over and you two can chat downstairs for a while. Everyone else is probably still sleeping."
"Iggy and Raena are up, I saw them out back sitting in the sun reading," Ron told him. He led Xander down the stairs. "George hasn't shown up yet?"
"No, and I'm starting to worry about his mental state," Xander admitted grimly. "He's always had this thing about thinking Draco was trying to steal me."
"Which is silly," Draco said from behind them. "I really do enjoy women more." He stopped and frowned, then shook his head. "Small cramp."
"You're calling him or I am," Xander told him. He let himself be placed on a couch in the study and curled up. "Thank you."
"Welcome. I'm getting in practice for when Draco has problems walking." He took up the other end of the couch. "Did you hear about Mum and George going at it over Raena's clothes?"
Xander nodded. "Percy told us. Are they still speaking?"
"Not particularly. Mum's pretty picky about normal clothes. She got the same way once Ginny was fifteen. Suddenly, all our shirts were returned and Ginny had to wear proper girl's clothes."
"She's just going to love Simone's fall wardrobe then, isn't she?" Xander said dryly, keeping an eye on Draco as he called his doctor's office. He saw the sigh. "How long?"
"Two weeks." Draco stood up.
"Then I want to take you to the healers at the colony and have them check you over." Ron nodded. "They'll know more anyway."
"Maybe," Draco said, rubbing a hand through his hair. "Fine, let's go. You've got me paranoid." Ron stood up and helped Xander up. "You could stay."
"Bet me. You're my son," Xander said with a grin. "I wouldn't let you go through this alone. I would have been beside you last time if someone hadn't knocked me out." He followed Draco through the floo to the main fireplace and waved as he pushed his son into the back.
Ron came out behind them and smiled. "Just a check on the baby." He jogged to catch up.
The female elder looked at Bill. "I've never met that one. How many more are there?"
"Ginny and Xander's husband are from the same family, that's Ron, who's between the two. There's seven children in that family."
"Oh. How prodigious for a human." She shifted, lifting her tail feathers up. She had gotten some of that cold gel and it was working very well. "How is he pregnant?"
"The spell was reactivated by Ron's daughter, the future Slayer, and the ghostly being that I yelled at gave him the second donor from her former nestmate."
"Ah." She nodded. "I remember you yelling about that. Did anyone ever think to take off the freezing charm?"
"No." He got up and walked back there, having a word with the healers on the boy's behalf.
Denver looked over as an owl came to the window. "Father!" Draco came out of the study and came to get his mail. "Is it good news?"
"It's an invitation to apply for the Theory position," he said happily. "They've called a hiring board together."
"Who's sitting on it?" Ron asked from beside his nephew, slurping another bite of cereal.
"I think you are," Draco said, handing over the letter. "You're listed, Black and Lupin, Pomfrey and Dumbledore."
"Well, as far as I know you've got my vote," Ron said with a shrug. "Two weeks long enough for you to get together everything?"
"I think I'd like to ask someone for some advice on how to order things, just to force myself to think through it again, otherwise I've got everything already done." He sat down and accepted the glass of milk Ron handed him. "Thank you. You haven't gotten a letter yet?"
"The kids are a mum's so it's probably there." Another owl came to the window and landed in front o him. "Or not." He took the letter and scratched the poor thing's head. It was hot again today. "Thank you, Finnigan." He opened the letter. "Yup, it's official, I'm on the board. We've already got one application so you might want to hurry it." He showed off his letter. "You're going to have to work hard to impress Black. He hasn't gotten any in months and he's on a rip."
"I noticed," Draco said dryly. "He was rather surly at the leaving feast." He finished the milk and Ron handed him the pitcher. "I've had enough."
"I'm sure, but they said you had to drink a lot of milk," Ron reminded him. Draco glared so he shrugged innocently. "I'm just watching out for their orders. They said the freezing spell staying on for so long might've weakened your bones. So drink more before I have to tell on you." He grinned.
Draco picked up the milk pitcher and tipped it over Ron's head, pouring it out. "I've had enough."
"I wanted more of that," Denver said pitifully. His father looked at him. "That was the last of the milk and I wanted more cereal." His father gave him an 'oh, really' look. "I'm a growing boy," he reminded him. "I'm supposed to want to eat everything in sight." He grinned. "Besides, Uncle Xander hasn't eaten yet either."
"I'll get more milk," Draco told him, standing up. "Clean up the mess, Ron." He left them alone, going to buy more milk. He got a cramp and decided he'd better send a house elf for it. He leaned against the wall, slowly trying to work the cramp out. He hated expansion pains, he really did.
"Are you all right?" Simone asked, pausing to look at him, still rubbing her eyes. He shook his head. "Then go sit down, jackass. You should know about these things by now."
He grabbed her by the chin. "Grounded for yet another day." He let her go and groaned.
"Uncle Ron, daddy's being unreasonable," she called, heading into the dining room.
Ron hurried out and grabbed Draco, maneuvering him to a chair. "Sit. Another cramp?" he asked worriedly. Draco nodded. "A bad one?" Draco glared at him. "Want to go to the hospital or to the colony?"
"Hospital might be good," Draco said lightly. "I think I'm in a lot of pain at the moment." He grunted and bent over.
"Want me to call the paramedics?"
"If you wouldn't mind. Denver, watch everyone." He slid to the floor and shooed Ron away. "Now!" Ron ran off to use the floo and summon someone to help him.
Denver poked his head into the room. "Are you going to see someone?" His father nodded. "Then I'll let Uncle Xander up."
"No, Holy Merlin, please no," he whined, curling up on his side. "He'll fuss, I'll have to kill him."
"He'd want to be there," Ron said as he walked back in, leading the paramedics. One of them looked at Draco, then at him. "One of my daughters trips old spells, got him a few weeks ago. He didn't plan on this."
"Oh." The lead paramedic got down to gently probe the stomach, narrowly dodging the swing at his head when he hit a tender spot. "We're going to take you to the hospital, Mr. Malfoy. Did you want anyone in particular to come with you?"
"I'm going," Ron told him. He looked at Denver. "Give us a ten minute head start before you wake up my mum, George, or Xander." He nodded. "In that order."
Draco groaned as a small dropper of fluid was put into his mouth and squeezed.
"Just relax. Did you want this George or this Xander with you?"
"They'll fuss," Draco told him. "I just want my doctor. Please?" He grabbed him by the arm as another set of cramps started. "I don't like this."
"I'm not surprised."
"I'm going to find the healer that saw you," Simone called. "Hospital?"
"Hospital," Ron agreed. "Or send Iggy, he can grab her and make her go instead of threatening her."
"Yes, sir." She went to call Iggy, who was at the shop at the moment. She got out of the way as her father was carried away. "We'll be there soon."
"Stay!" Draco ordered before being sent away.
Ron patted her on the head. "Finish the plans for both parties and figure out what you're taking to Romania." He hurried after him, going to fill out forms and get Draco's doctor down there one way or the other. When the doctor answered the page, Ron hopped up and babbled at him. "My daughter tripped the spell. He's real bad off, cramping all the time like labor pains. The freezing spell was only taken off yesterday, it was slowing the baby down. The healer's on the way."
The doctor put his hands on the young man's shoulders. "Slow down and try that again. Your *daughter* tripped the spell that got him pregnant last time?" Ron nodded. "How old is she?"
"Three," Ron said pitifully.
"Oh. She's manifested in this manner?" Ron nodded. "Okay. Is it yours?" Ron nodded. "How?"
"Contagion cuffs. My former girlfriend decided to force the issues. She locked us in a room and did it while we were asleep."
"What did you do to her to piss her off that badly?"
"She's dead and thought we'd be cute. Buffy was like that," he said with a grimace. "Please help him. He's in so much pain he's admitting it and asking for help."
"Sure. Just one more thing. Freezing spell?"
"When Minnie tripped it, there wasn't a second donor so the spell froze itself. It stayed on until yesterday, when we had to have it removed. The baby's running at half-speed. The healer's ...."
"Here," Raena said, stepping out of the floo with the healer. "She did the healing yesterday." She handed the healer over. "Iggy's a tad bit pissed at his father at the moment. Something about abandoning his father to the luxury prison?" She smiled at the doctor. "Is he all right?"
"We're going to check on him right now," the doctor told him, taking the healer with him. "Freezing spell?" he asked her as they walked.
To Part 2