Xander looked over from the couch as Draco came back, getting up to steady him from the floo. "How are you feeling?" he asked gently, settling him onto a couch. "Any orders?"
"I'm to spend the next three days in bed, the freezing spell was making the baby catch up." He looked so tired. "I'm not supposed to be alone."
"Hey, I can snuggle with the best of them," Xander reminded him. He helped Draco up. "Come on, I'll tuck you in and curl up behind you." He looked over as Ron came out of the floo. "Any medicine?"
"Iggy's making it." He took Draco's other side, helping up the long staircase. He left him at the door. "I'm going to talk to mum. You rest and I'll be back later."
"Bring the triplets," Draco told him. "Lucien has been bored." He opened his door and looked at the bed. He looked at Xander. "You're sure?"
"I can watch over you and nap tomorrow. You need me now." He walked Draco in and settled him into the bed, tucking him in like he did the rest of his children. Then he crawled in beside him and let Draco settle against him however he wanted. He got snuggled into and smiled, wrapping him in his arms. "You rest," he said quietly. "I'm here and nothing bad will happen." Draco nodded, succumbing to the medicine.
"Is he out?" Ron asked from the doorway. Xander nodded. "He's got a list of instructions." It was put on the dresser. "He's to rest for the whole three days." Xander waved a hand. "I'll be right back with the kiddies. You want Maeve?"
"She'll probably follow you anyway," Xander said with a shrug. "Bring her and William if they're there." Ron nodded, leaving them alone, closing the door behind himself.
"Lucien will hug you," Draco murmured.
"She's going to like it just as much as he will," Xander told him, stroking gently down his arm. "You rest, son, I'm here." He settled himself in to nap as well. He was still really tired.
George came out of the floo and headed for the noise. "Hey, guys." He smiled at his daughter- in-law. "Where's Xander's silken prison?"
"He's in with Daddy," Simone said, looking up at him. George frowned. "He needed a hug and Uncle Xander excels at that stuff."
"He had to go to the hospital earlier," Denver told him to ease the growing frown.
"I'm going to pop up and check on him," George said. He headed up the stairs, and found the master suite easily. It had double doors. He tapped and walked in. He found his husband wrapped around their 'son'. "Did you want to tell me something?"
"The baby had problems," Xander told him. He smiled. "He's very cuddly."
"I see." George walked in and saw what Xander was wearing. "I see you also found clothes."
"George, don't start," Xander sighed. "This is comfort. I'd give the same to Fred or Ron, or even Charlie or Bill." Draco moaned and he gently rubbed the taut stomach. "The freezing spell he was under was going odd and it sent him into early cramping." Draco groaned and rolled toward his hand. He gave him a little pat. "You rest, son."
"Xander?" Draco opened his eyes and saw George. "You show up now?"
"I thought I should. Our son yelled at me for nearly an hour earlier."
"Gee, I'll have to thank him for that," Xander said dryly. "You could have shown up before now, really, dear, I wouldn't have minded. I've seen everyone but you and Ginny recently."
"When did Fred show up?"
"Oh." George looked at them, noticing how comfortable Xander was with holding the other man. "Should I be worried?"
Xander slid out of the bed and got up in his husband's face. "If you start this shit again, I'm not coming home until you figure out that I'd never cheat on you," he said in a deadly calm voice. George flinched. "That's the second time you've decided I was cheating when you know I wouldn't ever do it. Apologize."
"Xander, it doesn't look good," George told him.
"Fine, when I leave here, I'm going to head back to the school. When you find some sense, come find me." He stomped into the bathroom and slammed the door.
"George, has it occurred to you that I like women?" George glared at him. "Give me that look again, I can make you sorry." He sat up, grunting a little bit. "I was in so much pain earlier that I had to be taken by the paramedics. I refused to let Xander come with me so he's making up for the missed fussing now. Even if Xander stirred me that way, I wouldn't be able to steal him from you. Not even when you push him away like you just did." He grunted again and took a few deep breaths. "If you knock on the door and apologize, he might not sulk for days on end."
"Draco, stay out of it. I don't need *your* help." He stormed off.
Ron stuck his head in. "Do I get to tell Fred on him?" he asked with a naughty grin.
"If you want." Draco continued to rub his stomach.
"Want help with that?"
"No, I'll be fine. Go tell Fred or your mother so everyone knows that they're fighting again."
"I'm fine." Ron left, heading to tell on his stupid brother.
Xander opened the door a few minutes later. "Is he still here?"
Xander walked over and climbed in next to him, stroking his stomach gently. "Calm down. The stress isn't good for you and you'll end up in the hospital again." Someone tapped on the door. "Come."
Bill walked in and paused to look at the picture those two made. "Stomach problems or are you cheating?"
"Stomach cramps," Xander told him. "George just thinks I'm cheating."
Bill shook his head. "I don't know what's up with him."
"He won't even let him wear green," Draco told him, starting to relax.
"You lie back down," Bill told him, walking over to help settle him back into the bed. "What happened?"
"The freezing spell didn't automatically come off," Xander told him. "We had it removed yesterday and the baby decided to play catchup today." He shook his head at Bill's look. "I was locked in my room. Ron took him." Now Bill looked really confused. "Draco's keeping me hostage until I admit that I need help sometimes."
"I'm sure you're enjoying the rest. I came over because I was wondering why Iggy and Raena were camped on my couch. Said something about George being as dictatorial as mum." He covered Draco back up and gave him a pat on the head. "You rest. I'll handle the meetings tomorrow."
"Ron said three days."
"It's Thursday," Bill said with a smile. "This captivity stuff is good for you, huh?"
"I've finally caught up on all my sleep," Xander agreed. He continued to stroke the hard stomach under the sheets. "Need anything? I was going to head down for a snack."
"Some juice would be nice," Draco agreed. He waited until Xander was gone to look at him. "Why did you really show up?"
"George came over on a rip, said you were stealing his man."
Draco shook his head. "I couldn't steal Xander for anything. He can't be bought, I'm not the sort he'd go for anyway, and I doubt I want a man right now. I don't think I want a lover at all, except for some stress relief."
"You probably can't do that for a few weeks," Bill pointed out with a grin. He knew that feeling very well. "Does mum know anything beyond the fact that you're this way again?"
"No. I haven't said anything about any of this. Unless Ron told her."
Simone came up the stairs and walked in. "Are you really all right or not? Grandmum wants to know if she should offer to take us."
"You're not annoying me and the party for the family is this weekend," Draco reminded her. "Tell her she can come over is she wants."
"The problem with that is that George took Maeve and William home," Xander said as he walked in, glass of juice on the tray he was carrying. "Dinner. We seemed to have missed it and the elves are worried about you." He put the tray across Draco's lap. "Eat it all, or else I'll pout." He smiled at Simone. "Tomorrow, if I can get free, we're going to do something together. Dress casually and be ready to pack."
"Yes, sir," she said with a smile. "Moving back to the school permanently?"
"Only if he doesn't wise up damn fast," Xander told her. "I'm not cheating, I've never even looked at another person, and I'm tired of this. If I was going to cheat, why would I do it with your father!"
"Calm down, Xander. I'll try to beat sense into George tomorrow. Leave off the moving until after the weekend." Bill smiled. "Fred should be able to help some."
"Don't make him get in the middle. He hates it when we argue."
"Didn't I see Fred kiss you once?" Draco asked.
"They both used to tease me but then I settled on George because he seemed to really like me. I thought I had hurt Fred for a while, but he said I didn't and I don't know if I did or not. All I know is he hates it when we fight." He took a deep breath and let it out. "I'm going to shower, drain some of this energy off into the water before I blow up the house." He walked into the bathroom and slammed the door, then kicked it a few times for good measure. "I hate this shit!"
"He'll come around," Draco called.
Ron popped in. "Mum wants an answer."
"No, we're fine here," Simone told him. "That way I don't have to deal with the clothes demands. I'm comfy in my boxer shorts and sports bras, no matter how much she wants me to be a girly- girl." She crossed her arms. "What does father need?"
"Sleep and calm," Ron told her. "No stress, lots of food, and lots of rest." He heard something get broken in the bathroom. "You okay?"
"Fine. Draco, I broke your oil jar. I'll fix it or buy you a new one tomorrow."
"The blue one?"
"No, the green one."
"That's fine, the blue one was the antique." He shook his head. "Help them, not me," he requested when something else broke. "What was that?"
"I don't know. Wasn't me."
"Who broke that?" Simone called.
"Me!" Denver yelled. "My mirror fell off the wall. There's a big wet spot behind it."
"One of the pipes must have burst," Bill said.
"It connects with Ana's shower, it's got to be hers," Draco sighed. "Both of you use the guest room until I have someone fix it."
"I can do that," Bill told him.
"We'd have to rip up the wall," Ron put in. "Heck of a job and all."
"And? Did it at my old place often enough. Hell, I can even hang wallboard."
"It's plaster and there's a crawlspace in case this sort of thing happened," Draco said quickly. "The entry for that section is in the attic and there's a ladder down."
"Then we'll do it tomorrow night," Bill said, looking happier. He liked being of use. "Anything else need fixing?"
"The house elves were mowing earlier," Xander told him through the door. "Everything else should be fine."
"Can you move my mirror?" Simone asked. "It's right in the way of where I toss my thinking ball and I don't want to shatter it."
"I can look at it," Bill agreed, getting off the bed to follow her. He paused in the hallway, then shook his head to clear it. He looked at how the mirror was anchored and nodded. "Hell fire, yeah, that can be moved easily."
Simone looked at him. "You're talking funny. Are you all right?"
"It's a Gringott's spell ter let us know where we're sposed ter be next. Last time I ended up speakin' Farsi for days before I could check in. Sucked ass."
"Want to use the fireplace downstairs?"
"They won't answer the bloody floo. Goblins are like that." He winked at her. "I'll move it this weekend if yor dad don't kick us out." He strolled out, sending himself to the Main Office, not the one in Diagon. "Wot?" he asked the goblin who met him. "I quit, right, remember. Take the bloody fuckin' spell off me."
"We have a special assignment for you," the goblin told him.
"Not going." He crossed his arms. A folder was held up and he gave the goblin the two-fingered salute. The spell was taken off him. "Thank you and I'm still not interested. I've got a very nice weekend planned for myself." The folder continued to be held up so he eventually snatched it and read it over. "This isn't my area at all."
"It's in a supposedly holy cave."
"Then it's really not my area. I don't break into holy places, no matter who held them holy. There's always something nasty waiting in there for the people breaking in. Sorry, but I'm not going in there." He handed back the folder. "Get it yourself. If you're lucky, whatever they held holy will be dead and gone by now." He turned and walked away.
"We can force you. Ten percent of the profit found."
"Not interested. I've heard stories about places like that." He left via the special floo, heading back to his mother's house. "I'm going to stay at Draco's this weekend," he said, leaning down to give his father a hug.
"What's happened now?" Molly asked.
"Nothing much. He's having some cramping problems again. He's trying to keep Xander from beating up George for upsetting him. Little things like that which he doesn't need at the moment." She looked up at him. "Isn't that why you asked if you should take the kids?"
"Ginny wanted to see them."
"Oh." He shrugged. "They're having a family pool party this weekend, have her come over then. He's allowed out of bed in three days." She grimaced. "The freezing spell that happened automatically wasn't removed until yesterday. The baby tried to catch up today."
"That poor boy," Arthur agreed. "Does he need anything?"
"Less stress for a week or so." Bill shifted and leaned on a chair. "Gringotts just tried to call me back for a special assignment. Breaking into a holy cave to retrieve some jeweled crown or someat. Told 'em I wouldn't go."
"Do you think they'll try and force it?" Molly asked. He nodded. "Can they do that?"
"If they call in a favor," Bill said with a shrug. "It depends on who wants it that badly. So if the Ministry come tomorrow, send them over there." He smiled when he heard the kiddie laughter from upstairs. "Did George bring back the tots?"
"No, I went to get them," Arthur said with a smile. "I've been gone for the last few days and wanted to see them. I wore them out and they're napping in their usual room. What did he say this time?"
"All but accused Xander of sleeping with Draco."
"He considers him a son," Molly snorted. "He wouldn't do that."
"Xander was holding him because it comforted him. George is paranoid about being left for some reason and Xander's not having it. He's threatened to move out until George comes to his right mind." He stood up. "I'm headed back. Just send whomever they send on." He left via the floo, you couldn't apparate into Draco's house, or most of his yard, because of the shields.
Molly looked at Arthur. "Should we get involved this time?"
"Molly, luv, I think we should stay out of it and talk about you forcing Simone into being something she's not." He looked at her and she blushed. "I know you were a gorgeous girl, but so is Simone and she's happier that way. All the grandchildren are very individual."
"They're wearing clothes not even a self-respecting tramp would," Molly protested.
"And they all have their own parents to deal with those issues. If Draco lets the girls wear skimpy bathing suits when it's just them, then it's his problem when they misbehave, not ours. For that matter, I doubt you're ever going to get Simone into a dress unless she wants it. Let them grow up on their own. They'll become outstanding young women if you don't piss them off. Otherwise, they won't come back. You know Simone's threatened to do that."
"I know, but she doesn't dress like she appreciates her body."
Arthur shook his head. "Just because she takes greater pleasure in her mind and her muscles doesn't mean she doesn't appreciate her body, Molly. Times are different from they were in your youth. Now, young women are expected to be pretty, smart, and strong. Simone is all that and more. From what I hear about the office from the parents, she's actually managed to scare off most of the boys because she's so strong."
"Exactly! She shouldn't be able to scare them off. If she was truly being feminine...."
"She'd be miserable," Arthur interrupted. "It's not her. She's the way she is and that's it, Molly. You're going to have to accept the fact that none of our granddaughters are feminine little darlings that will let you do their hair and makeup. You'll never get the granddaughter you were hoping for so enjoy the ones you have." He smiled at her. "Plus, this new one might be a girl and you'll have other chances at getting the little feminine darling that you wanted. Percy went out with that nice Annette darling again."
"Do you think they'll get together?"
"Only time will tell," Arthur pointed out. "We can't rush him any more than we can change him into someone like Charlie."
"Him," she snorted. "He'll never find a woman. He's a male version of Simone."
"Or she's a female version of him," Arthur said with a smile for his wife. "At least we don't have to worry about being great-grandparents for a while."
"Are we sure of that?"
"Iggy and them did the infertility spell under Percy's careful watching. They're safe for ten whole years."
"I was thinking about Melvin and his darling."
"Andrea is rather sweet on him," Arthur agreed. "She's very feminine and loves to let him dress her up because he takes into account her other senses. Word was that he bought her something naughty for her birthday." She gasped. "Tasteful of course, but nothing that should be shown in public from what I hear."
"Percy let him?"
"He let Percy approve of his choice. It was Percy who told me, Molly." He smiled at her. "I remember feeling like that about you." She chuckled. "You mean I haven't bought you anything naughty in a while?"
"Not since the weekend we made Ginny."
He winked at her. "Go look in the living room, love." She got up and walked in there, coming back with the little purple bag and a bright blush. "Would you wear it for me?" She swatted at him affectionately and went to put it on for him. A silk nightie, how very naughty of him. He smirked at having distracted her. Maybe the granddaughters would come back next weekend. He put down his paper and went up to see how it fit her.
Denver looked at his sister as she came out of her bedroom. "Not a chance," he told her. "Go put on something decent." She shoved him and started to walk away. "I'm telling father."
"Tell me first, he's at the door and I've got first approval. I'll even be nice," Xander called from the main bedroom. His water was off so he had borrowed the shower. Anastasia walked in and he looked her over. One of her new bikinis, and it was so tiny he could see a lot more of her nipples than he should probably ever see. As a matter of fact it only covered the nipples, and not even all of the peaks. He stood up and grabbed a marker off the desk, uncapping it before he grabbed her and held her still with an arm around her throat. He drew lines on each breast, avoiding her slapping attempts, marking out places that needed to be colored and shaded them in with long lines. Then he turned her and did the same to her butt. He finally let the struggling girl go. "Now go cover those." He held up the label, permanent marker. "Your father would turn you into something slimy if you tried to get outside in that." She stomped off. "I mean it, cover those areas or I'm going to make them bigger!" He looked at Denver, who had on a very modest pair of swim trunks. "Very nice. How's Ravena coming along?"
"She's braiding her hair. She looks good in her suit, I've already seen her. Simone's outside making sure everything's set up. Father's in his suit. Why aren't you dressed already?"
"Because I have to put on my support hose in case I want to stand all day and I can't swim in them."
"Then don't put them on," Denver told him. "We can make sure you sit down often. We'll make Father sit with you." He grinned. "I hear guests." He hurried to greet people.
Xander stood up and pulled no his support hose, then his pants. He buttoned the shirt up and grabbed the cane, going to check on Anastasia. "Are you ready, people are here."
"You ruined my perfect skin."
"There are ways of taking that off, but I'm not going to tell you until you put on a decent suit." She opened the door, showing her still in the same outfit. "I don't know who you're trying to show off for, this is the family. No one here will be interested in you in a romantic sense and none of us want to see your nipples. Change now, or I'm going to find a way to make the marker stay forever." She slammed the door in his face. He walked down the stairs, going slowly because he ached just a bit and was out of medicine. His son walked past him and handed him a potion vial. "Pain?"
"Pain." He waited until Xander took it. "Where's Ana?"
"Getting changed." Draco looked over from where he was settling the kids into their playpens. "I had to show her graphically where the good places to cover were." His daughter was handed to him and Draco headed up to yell at his own daughter. And yell he did because they all heard some of it.
Molly smiled at Xander. "How are you feeling, dear?" She kissed his cheek and stole Maeve from him.
"All right I guess. My leg's bothering me today."
Draco came down the stairs with a suitably suited up daughter. "Not swimming?" he asked Xander, picking up Lucien before he could topple his grandmother by trying to climb up her. "If you're good, you can play with her in the pool."
"My Maeve," Lucien demanded, giving them his 'dangerous toddler' look. "Give me my Maeve."
"Say please," Molly chided.
"What a little Malfoy," Bill accused with a smile. Lucien grinned at him. "Wait a few, you'll get her after the rest of us have gotten hugs from you both." Lucien gave him a hug then went back to trying to crawl up to repossess his friend. His father grabbed him and tucked him under his arm, but it got him within touching range of his friend so it was all right with him. "Hey, Draco, what's this I hear about a barbeque?"
"We decided it was the only way to fill all the bottomless stomachs coming today," Simone told him. Bill grinned at her. "Not you. Iggy, Melvin, Denver, and Uncle Xander."
"I'm fine. And I don't like barbeque sauce so save me some without any."
"We're doing fish, you can have some of that," Simone said, glueing herself to his side because he looked wobbly. "Why don't you sit down?"
"Because I don't want to."
"Sit and hold Tananda," Percy suggested, handing over his daughter, which made Xander sit because she was a big nine year old. "Did someone forget to tell Fred and George?"
"Gerd and Forge are running late," Ron told him. "Fred's got customers and George is sulking."
"I've had enough of that," Percy announced, going to do something about it.
"Percy, don't," Xander called after him.
"Shush," Simone told him, sitting next to him. "Uncle Fred has to admire my new suit. Did we forget to invite Uncle Charlie?"
"He can't come, he's working," Arthur told her. "I asked when he called last night. He said he's very busy so he'll see you in a while, when you get there, and to not pack anything frivolous."
"Me?" Simone asked. "I'm packing normal, durable clothes, and my normal gear. My sisters I am not."
"I could do it," Anastasia told her.
"I'm sure," Simone snorted.
"They'll be camping, dear," Molly told her. "No running water, nothing comfortable to do all day. Dirt and dragons only." Anastasia shuddered.
"Sounds nice to me," Simone said, smirking at her. "Sounds like a wonderful vacation actually. Plus, maybe he'll tell me if he's seen any boys like him." That stopped all the conversation in the room. "It'd take someone like him to really understand me. Likes beasts, plays sports. Is active and funny. So if he finds someone like him, maybe he'll introduce me."
Her father nodded. "Too bad he's a relative, men like him are really rare."
"Hopefully he'll know someone my age," Simone told him. He nodded and she smiled. "Daddy, can't you make Uncle Xander swim with me?"
"Honey, I need the support hose today," he told her, ruffling her hair. "I can't swim in it."
Bill grabbed Xander, hoisting him up over his shoulder. "Had enough of this as well. His room?"
"Last door in the main hallway on the right," Denver told him. He looked at Xander's red face. "Damn, Uncle Bill, you're strong."
"It comes from having to haul shit for twelve years." He carried Xander up the stairs and only let him down once he was in his room. He closed the door and looked at his brother-in-law. "The only way to make George sorry he said that is to look wonderful and look like you're having fun. It'll make him miserable, which will make him come to his senses faster."
"I still can't swim with the hose on."
"So take 'em off. We'll make sure you sit. We've dealt with the leg for two years, Xander, we know how stubborn you are about it."
"I don't need it."
Bill hit him on the side of the head. "Wise up or you'll have to take a year off because you'll still be here." Xander glared at him. "I mean it. You've just come against the wall of stubbornness, Draco. I'm going to back him up and so will Ron. Now change before I have to get upset and force you to change."
"I can't go into the bathroom or I won't be able to get out."
"So?" Bill turned around and started to whistle while Xander dug around in his closet. He heard the swearing. "What?"
"The others are still in the wash." Bill looked over so he held up the new green one that had been bought for him. "I don't think it's a good thing for today."
"It might make George fall to his knees and beg," Bill said with a grin, "but I don't think the rest of us want to see you in that, no. Wear one of the other ones."
Xander searched through the laundry, finding the one he had worn the longest ago. He sent a short cleaning spell through it. It wouldn't take all the smells out, but it would kill all the germs. He slid them on and sat down to slide off the hose. Or try to slide it off.
"You done yet?"
"Just trying to get these things down," Xander grunted.
Bill turned and frowned. "Those do look odd together." He came over and rolled them down, managing not to catch any hairs in them. Xander looked at him. "I've had to do it many times with regular hose. It's something we straight guys have to do."
Xander grinned. "None of the women I dated wore hose. Or if they did, it was for entertainment purposes. Anya wouldn't wear pantyhose, only thigh-highs."
"I'm sure you enjoyed it a lot," Draco said from the doorway. He watched as Bill took off the other leg's hose and raised an eyebrow. "Why were you back in those?"
"I've got some minor swelling. Probably all the salt I've eaten recently." He stood up and grabbed the cane, leaning on it until he found his balance. "If I have to swim, let's go."
"Are those clean?" Draco asked.
"The house elves are behind in the laundry, I used a cleaning spell," Xander told him. Draco looked at him. "I'm not wearing the green ones, I told you that." He walked away, meeting Simone and Denver in the halls. "Coming to check on me too?"
"Getting away from she-who-primps," Denver told him. "Want a frog?" He handed over a chocolate frog. "Simone gets the card. I've already checked."
Xander handed her the card and nibbled on a back leg. "Thanks, Denver. Let's head down, I can poke Anastasia until she stops."
"Ravena," Simone corrected, stealing half of the frog from him. "She's primping for Little Ron. He's enjoying it as well. He said she's as pretty as his snitch."
Draco coughed. "I'm sure it's wonderful, but let's go downstairs. Before your other sister gets into trouble. At least I trust the Potters not to take advantage of my youngest girl."
Simone took his arm as he walked past her. "Do they know what it is yet?"
"Not yet," he told her.
"We need another boy to make it even," Denver told him.
"It's not like he can decide that," Xander pointed out. He started down the stairs and almost immediately wobbled. Draco caught him. "Not you. If I fall, I'm not taking you down with me."
"Shut up." Bill grimaced at him and motioned Draco away. "Though he's right. Ron would kill him if you fell." He took Xander's arm. "I'm nearly as cute as George," he said at the confused look, grinning at him.
"It's fitting since he carried you up the stairs," Denver agreed. He took his father's other side, being very gentle with him. He was only allowed out of bed today. As soon as they were downstairs, they shoved him into a chair and went to chat with Iggy.
Xander was escorted over and pushed onto the couch beside Ron and the triplets. "Thanks, Bill."
"You're welcome. Stubborn creature." He walked over to pick on Iggy and Raena. They were holding hands, back to back, talking to people in opposite directions. It was too cute to be left alone.
Fred came out of the floo and held up a pie. "Madam Rosemerta sent this," he said when Melvin tried to snatch it. "It's for Draco, she said she's happy for him. She wants you to come back often and buy the whole town dinner again." He presented the pie to Draco, who shook his head. "Shall I tell her you'll be back soon?"
"Please. When are you coming over?"
"As soon as I can run everyone out. The shop's busy today but I'll be back soon." He winked at Xander. "We're working on it." He left again.
Xander shook his head. "This is between me and George, we can fight it out ourselves."
Molly laughed. "That will never happen, Xander. You knew that when you married us." Her husband nodded to back her up.
"I know, but I really need to argue about this with just him, not the whole family." They broke up in laughter. "It'll only make him more upset."
"He's one of us, he'd be used to it," Ron told him, handing over a messy faced Gwen. "Here, you deal with the chocolate fiend."
Xander picked her up and licked off her face, making her giggle and squirm. "If you get that messy again, Uncle Draco won't allow you in the pool, Gwen." She pouted at her favorite uncle, who shrugged and smiled. "See. Eat the chocolate don't waste it by smooshing it around your face."
She snuggled into his chest, happy to be with him. She had missed his cuddles. "Read to us?" she asked sweetly.
"If you want me to," he agreed. "Get me a book from the nursery. Ask Lucien to help you."
Lucien was released and nearly made a dash for Maeve, but his Uncle told him what he was going for and a story was as tempting as his friend. Besides, he could cuddle with her while they were read to. He helped the Gwen monster find a book; she was *so* messy and she liked to beat up his toys, but she was his cousin and knew how to treat books. As soon as their uncle had the book, he whistled, bringing the other little kids. He climbed over most of them to get to his Maeve, picking up some of her hair to suck his thumb with. Someone took a picture and he growled.
Xander looked down at him. "If you pull her hair, you can't hug for the *whole* party." Lucien let go of the hair and picked up her hand instead, sucking on her thumb.
"At least it's better," Arthur said with a smile. "Did he put those marks on her too?" Draco nodded. "We might have to separate them then. They are first cousins."
"Salazar said they weren't going to get that close, just very close friends," Draco told him. Xander looked over at him and he smirked. "Yes, him. The same one who told me to kidnap you and make yo rest."
"Remind me to deface his grave later," Xander muttered, opening the book. "Only this one? Usually you guys want more than one."
"Pool," Minnie pointed out, pointing at the back yard. She squealed when she saw a house elf, getting up to stalk it and play with its ears. Mellie had to run after her and drag her back to the story area.
Molly looked at Draco. "Now you know why we don't have any of those," she said smugly.
He shrugged. "A few of mine like children, one of them watches Lucien whenever I need to be away for any length of time." He shifted and Xander looked over at him, frowning. "My rear's numb, it's not a cramp," he said easily, frowning back. Xander went back to reading for the kids. "Overprotective git."
"I heard that," Xander called. "Just for that, I'm going to make you sleep alone tonight."
Ron looked at him. "You didn't do that for the last few nights?"
"His water's off," Bill told him. "It's easier than releasing him and walking him down the hall. If you had been here, you'd know that."
"Fred needed me. Besides, I spent all yesterday looking at resumes for the new Theory post." Draco looked at him. "We got yours, and your desired curriculum."
"How many applicants are there?" Arthur asked.
"We've got fifteen resumes and only four that are worthy of further consideration so far. We want someone experienced. Dumbledore has final say about who goes in which pile, but I can say that there's only been four so far." He looked at Draco. "Sorry, I can't tell you."
"I understand," Draco agreed. "I can easily go bother Dumbledore as a Regent." He smiled. "Everyone go out back. It's a nice day and I want some fresh air." He got up with some help from Bill, and led the way out of the house through the library. He left those doors open in case any more of the family came by. Ginny, Fred, and George were still missing and all of them knew this way out. Besides, this way the children could run in and get books for entertainment. He noticed that Xander was immediately shoved down into a chair at the tables he'd had moved out here for this and smiled at him. At least he did until Ron did the same thing to him. "I'm fine."
"Wonderful, but you also can't cook," Ron reminded him.
"Is this a muggle one?" Bill called. "Ours used to have a grate."
"Get the racks out of the oven," Xander suggested. "That's how we used to do it." Bill nodded and headed in to do that, meeting the elf at the door with the racks for him. Xander smiled at him. "They're like that sometimes. They don't like people in the kitchen."
"That's because the older children used to ambush them," Molly pointed out. "They're scared you're going to continue to do so." She patted Xander on the head, then did the same to Draco. "You two rest and let us handle the cooking."
"Mum, I don't think you're going to be much help either," Bill told her. "I don't remember you roasting anything over a fire." She frowned at him and he shrugged. "It's the truth. You don't cook with a spit and I've done it now for twelve years."
"Missing it again, son?" Arthur asked as he relieved the house elf of its tray of meat. "Thank you." It bobbed its head and hurried off, babbling something about bringing more. "We're going to eat all this?"
"I planned for the party to last for a few hours," Draco told him. "That should cover lunch and dinner, and anything that you and Molly, or Bill, or anyone wants to take home." Xander opened his mouth. "Not you."
"I wasn't going to say me," Xander said, punching him on the arm. "I was going to note that the snitches don't look happy together." He pointed at where they were knocking into each other. Little Ron and Ravena were both jumping to try and reach them, but they were a little bit too short. "Harry, catch those so we don't have to get up."
Harry smiled and walked over, catching both snitches before they could fly off. He said something to the children and the snitches were petted by both kids. They huddled together, talking to the little balls, making sure that they would get along from now on. Harry walked back shaking his head. "Why did you get her one?" he asked Draco as he brought over cans of soda for them.
"Because Ron's is getting a bit thin," Draco told him. "The wings are nearly see-through. This way my daughter can make him happy and catch his attention, which she'd very much like to have."
Harry nodded, but he was still smiling. "I'm sure they'll be happy together. They're the only ones who can understand each other. Even I can't understand Ron some days." He glanced around. "I've been wondering something." Draco nodded. "Why did Slytherin like gryphon-borns? I was told he was the major push behind only having pure-bloods in the school."
"He was raised by one," Xander told him.
"Plus, if you think about it, it does make sense," Draco added, reveling in the chance to teach him something. "Why pick anyone who's not had full control of their magic, who's not proven to have a stable line, and who's not already as powerful as they can be for such an experiment?"
"They bred them to the pure-bloods?" Harry asked, frowning. "But then how...."
Draco laughed, interrupting him. "Not all of them. There are still quite a few who think it's abominable and a crime against nature and the blood. The few that didn't fight over it decided it would only add to their power, which was most of their ambition - to have powerful children and carry on the lines in a similar manner."
"So there were once a lot of borns in the Slytherin house?" Xander asked.
Draco nodded. "As the definition got warped over the years and the knowledge of which family had participated, more of them landed in other houses. There seem to be a lot of them in Ravenclaw."
"They hate us," Xander told him. "They've managed to take the track that we're creatures or freaks of nature." Molly looked at him and he smiled at her. "They do. If you look at the people behind the new push to have us all killed and sterilized, the greater majority were in Ravenclaw. Even the current head of their house has admitted it."
"I wonder what Ravenclaw herself would have said about that," Molly said thoughtfully. "She was more for the pursuit of knowledge if the histories we learned were correct."
"When we find her body, we'll ask her," Xander told her. Molly looked stunned. "We're supposed to be finding each of them and asking their ghosts to update the Sorting Hat." Harry coughed. "Yeah, because of people like your kids, and his kids," he said, pointing at Draco. "The hat didn't know where to put them because they were so torn between protecting the family and their powers."
"Slytherin had a long yell at it," Draco said helpfully. "Said he thought your daughter was truly one of his house. Told her to find a few minions now and train them to serve her." Harry frowned. "Trust me, it does help. Especially in the later years when you'll need their notes to pass your OWLs or NEWTs."
"Crabbe and Goyle took notes?" Ron asked.
Draco nodded. "I had to teach them, but they did take notes so I didn't have to always listen in class. It was good having the three different copies, it allowed me to put them together into a more comprehensive set of notes. Hence my nearly perfect score on my NEWTs."
"How close did you get?" Harry asked.
"One and a half points," Draco sighed. "I missed a point on one of the essay questions and I only remembered half an answer on one of the Transfiguration questions. You?"
"Three points off perfect. I was rather too busy to study."
Draco smirked. "That's what you get when you leave it off to the last minute, Potter." He saluted him with his soda. Harry groaned and glared at him. "I was just as busy as you were."
"Yeah, running from Ron," Harry taunted.
"And from the twins," Bill put in. He smiled at Draco. "I've got to admit, we like you a lot more now. You grow on a person, like a weed."
Draco threw his unopened soda can at him. "Weed am I?" He struggled to get up, and finally managed when Xander helped him. "Weed?"
Bill handed back the soda with a smile. "Yup. One of those things like ivy on the side of the old houses. Once you straightened up, you grew better with age."
Xander snickered. "He's got you there, Draco. You were a little shit when you were younger."
Draco glared at him. "Just for that you are sleeping in your own room tonight." He sat back down and tapped the soda can a few times, settling it down. He opened it and took a long drink, much to the disappointment of Bill. "You learn a few things watching the great born idiot with his daily infusion of caffeine."
Xander gave him a gentle shove. "Call me that again and I'm going to hold you down and tickle you until you piss yourself." Draco looked at him. "Try it."
"You can't catch me."
"You can't run with that extra weight, he'll be able to this time," Harry told him.
Xander swatted at him. "My playmate. Go play with Ron. He's been in a bad mood recently."
"I've had to listen to Sirius Black whine about not getting laid for the last few days. You try it. I don't know how Lupin stands it."
"The same way you listen to me wonder if I'm ready to date?" Harry suggested.
"Point," Ron agreed, grinning at him. "Want to go swim without the kids?" Minnie glared at him. "You'll get your chance."
"If you do, you can't drag grass into the pool later," Xander told him. "Grass is icky when it sticks to you."
"Fine," Harry agreed, following Ron. Maybe they'd get in one of those talks again. He *really* wanted to know how Ron had gotten Draco pregnant. He didn't believe that contagion cuff story Percy had told him at all.
Draco looked at Xander. "There's a cleaning spell."
"It doesn't work on grass. I had to pick some out of my hair after my last swim." He nudged Ron's chair over with his cane and put his feet up with a sigh. "Ah. Better now." Arthur and Bill both looked at him. "It's just a little swelling from all the salty stuff I've eaten recently," he told them. "I'm fine."
"Have you told your doctor about that?" Molly asked in her best mother's voice.
"Yup, and he told me to lay off the salt," Xander agreed.
"He hasn't seen him since before he went on his forced trek," Draco told her. "I've made him an appointment and am dragging him down there on Tuesday." Iggy's head popped up. "He wanted to see you as well," he called. Iggy nodded and went back to planning how to ambush Anastasia because she was being insufferable.
Molly looked at the girls. "I must say, their suits look much more proper today." She noticed Anastasia's dark spots. "What's wrong with her suit?"
"I had to color in the places she needed to cover," Xander said dryly. "Permanent muggle marker." Draco laughed. "What? She was wearing that peach one and it *only* covered the peak of her nipples. I could see everything else. The marks should still be there when their friends come."
Percy coughed. "Are you having two separate ones?"
"No, I expect Ravena and Agatha will have one side of the pool and the Gryffindors the other," Draco told him.
"They make ropes so you can separate out the sides. Maybe even a large net so they can play water volleyball."
Draco shoved him hard. "That's a muggle game. I doubt any of the Slytherins would be willing to play one of those."
Xander put down his soda and got up, then pounced Draco, tickling him until he screamed. "I warned you." He dodged the kicking feet, and slapping hand, continuing until he heard him start to shriek in a different key. Then he got off him and helped him up, watching as he headed back into the house. "Hey, Simone, want to learn how to play volleyball in the pool?"
"What's that?" Iggy called.
"Remember that beach movie we saw a few weeks ago?" Iggy nodded. "Remember the game with the ball and the net?" Iggy nodded again. "That's volleyball and there's an in-the-pool version."
"It looked complicated," Raena told him, smiling at him.
"It wasn't. Someone hits the ball, you sent it back and forth." Iggy shrugged. "There's probably a few rules. Do they sell kits with rules and everything?" Xander nodded. "I'll have to check that out. It'll be our contribution to the pool party."
"It's not like you need to bring anything," Simone pointed out. She looked him over, then back at his face. "Cousin, would you please gain some weight? If you did, all the girls would be envious of Raena, but you look like a scarecrow."
"All boys go through that state," Ron told her, grabbing her to tickle her. She shrieked and fought him. "Quit picking on the Iggy. He's a rare and protected breed."
Raena nodded. "Yes, he is. Though I agree, he could do with some weight. Oh, Uncle Bill, your refrigerator's empty. Iggy made breakfast."
Bill shook his head. "I remember those days fondly," he said with a smile.
Draco came back out, his attire and hair returned to their perfect, and grass-free, state. He sat down. "Would someone please get the marinade and the fish so we can start cooking? I'm hungry."
"Sure, mommy," Bill said with a grin for him. He loved picking on the guy, he was so cute when he got flustered, like then.
Xander patted him on the hand. "We all know you're the father and Ron's the mommy, you were simply the strong one so you got to carry it."
Ron spluttered from the door of the pool house, he had been drinking. "What!" Xander grinned at him. "I'm going to get you for that some night when we're back at school."
"You're welcome to try," Xander agreed. "I'm not sleeping sedated anymore."
The kids ran past, breaking up their taunting. "Go play!" Draco called. Someone found an ever- bouncing ball and it was sent out so the kids could chase it around.
Fred showed up as lunch was being served, and he looked tired. "Long day?" Xander asked, handing him his plate of fish. Fred handed it back with a frown. "It's good."
"It's got a funny aftertaste," Bill noted. Xander frowned and shook his head. "It does. Trust me."
"Someone put a pain killing solution in the marinade," Raena told them as she handed Fred a plate piled high with barbeque. "St. Louis style. Uncle Draco has a cookbook of American foods."
Xander beamed at her. "He had them make me fries, real fries."
"I'm glad you finally got some," Iggy said, coming over to steal his wife from his father. "We're going to go nibble together. Barbeque sauce is messy after all." He grinned and led her back to where he had set them out a spot.
"We should remind them of the no sex promise they made," Fred said as he picked up some of the meat. He didn't know what it had been, but it looked good. He bit in and moaned, wiping off his mouth. "The kid wasn't joking, it's really messy."
"I lick it off for you!" Gwen said happily from the kids' table.
"No thanks," Fred told her, smiling over at her. "That's what napkins are for."
"Uncle Xander licked the chocolate off me."
"Then Uncle Xander's much braver than I am," Fred told her. "I'm still scared of baby drool."
She giggled and ran over to give him a hug. "It's okay. I understand. You're not a daddy yet." Then she ran back to her own plate of cut up meat.
"And I'm not planning on it either," Fred said quietly before taking another bite. Xander smirked at him. "I mean it."
"We said the same thing and look at us," Xander pointed out. He looked over as the door opened and Ginny walked out. Then he coughed, getting Draco's attention from the spit he was carving off of. Draco shrugged and cut off another section of ribs for Melvin. "Hey, Ginny. You look nice."
"Thank you, Xander." She sat at the open spot at his table. "Where's Simone?"
"Swimming. She's trying to get a stroke perfect." Xander nibbled on his fish. "Grab yourself something, we're not being formal today." She got up and walked over to where Draco was standing, accepting the plate he handed her. "Oh, damn," Xander sighed. "I don't think we need a fight today."
"She's behaving," Fred assured him. "She won't upset him too much." She walked back over and sat down again. "How did your meeting go?"
"Fine. The Under-Minister in Dad's department thought he had found a gryphon artifact among the muggles." Arthur looked over. "It's another something passed down through a family line that forgot their heritage. You'll be seeing him Monday to see if you want to tell them." She smiled. "Hi, mum."
"Dear." She blew a kiss. "I haven't seen you in a while. How are things?"
"Fine. I've gotten a lot of the repairs on the house done since Draco's still got the kids. My newest former boyfriend was very good for that." She smiled at the raised eyebrow. "He got jealous of the time I spent talking about the kids. Thought I should spend more of it talking about his chest muscles."
"That's why my next one will be smart," Ron said, and Bill nodded.
"And yet, you dated Buffy," Xander noted with a grin.
"That's how I learned that lesson," Ron told him. "Every few days she had to work on her figure because she thought she was about to lose it with just one more cookie. I swear there are a few months that I spent more time helping her adjust her weight set than I did talking with her." He stuffed his mouth with some squash.
"It's a very good sign that you can remember the annoyances," Arthur told him. "It means you might be ready to take another step forward."
"Possibly even dating again so you can find happiness," Molly added.
"Mum, most witches don't want a family already built," Ron reminded her. "Nag Charlie and Bill, they've not been in serious relationships that we know of."
"Charlie had one in school," Bill told him before taking a bite. "She died in a stupid accident over the holidays in their seventh year."
"I liked her so much too," Molly sighed. "Such a very nice girl. Took up that muggle sport bungle jumping or some such."
"Bungi jumping," Xander corrected. Ron frowned. "Tying a big rubber band around your feet and jumping off something very high, hoping that it'll stop you from hitting the ground."
"Why do muggles do things like that?" Ginny asked.
"For the thrill. It's an adrenaline rush. Let me guess, her friends talked her into it?" Molly nodded. "You should always go through a credible outfit if you want to try dumb stuff like that. If they're licensed, they should know what they're doing and know how to check all their cords." He ate a bite of fish and pulled out a bone. "I don't know why you said it tastes funny, Bill, it tastes normal to me."
Draco came over and took a bite, then shook his head. "It does taste a bit off. I've got a new batch being made, without the pain potion, if anyone wants it."
Ron came over and tasted a bite. "Tastes like cum," he said, frowning.
Bill and Denver both handed over their plates to Draco. "We'll wait," Bill told him with a smile.
Draco looked at Ron. "How would you know?" he asked as he walked away.
Ron blushed, realizing he had said that out loud. "Um, sorry." He went back to his seat and dug into his barbeque.
Bill looked at Simone. "Looks like you lost your title of most offensive thing said at a family meal." She laughed. He looked at his younger brother. "I think we're going to get many, *many* years out of this one." Ron blushed and hid his face behind his dinner.
"I'm sure most of us don't want to know," Molly admonished. "Let Ron have his secrets."
"Mum! I don't do things like that!"
"You're the one who said it," Xander told him, continuing to eat. Draco replaced his plate on him and he frowned. "It tasted fine."
Draco got down next to his ear. "That's because you taste that often," he whispered, then he patted him on the back. He replaced everyone else's fish as well and went put the old dish in the kitchen where the house elves could eat it if they wanted. While in there, he decided he was going to be a bit forceful. He teleported to the shop and found George polishing cases. "That's so much more fun than my children, my pool, and your mate in a bathing suit?" he asked, arms already crossed over his chest. George grunted a greeting and went on with what he had been doing. Draco kicked the stool out from under him, sending George crashing to the floor. "By continuing it ignore him, you're only hurting yourself. He's already instructed my daughter to help him move. He's also sulking so badly that even your mother's offered to come pound your stupid arse into the ground." He sneered down at him. "All because you got jealous. Of me."
"I'm not jealous," George spat. "Leave my husband alone." He stood up.
"As if he'd ever go for me." Draco walked closer. "You will attend the family event. If your sister could pull her ass out of her bed, the least you can do is show up. Before the rest of us have to get involved." He saw the anger and smiled. "What makes you think Xander could ever fall for me? Money? Nice house? Children? The fact that yours like me more at the moment?"
"If you wish, but you will attend or I will send Simone to get you." He took a step back and teleported back home, landing in the kitchen. What was wrong with him? Hell, if Xander had gone for his type, he might have pounced him years ago, but he didn't. No matter how charming he had been to the man, he saw him as a son. He shook his head and brought out more drinks, running into Xander. "He'll show up soon enough."
"Did you threaten him?" Xander asked. Draco shook his head. "Are you sure? You don't want to change that answer or anything?"
"I stated facts. Ginny did show up, he's being an ass, and he's the one in the wrong. All perfectly non-threatening. Did he say I threatened him?" Xander nodded. "Then he needs his hearing checked."
Xander gave him a short hug. "Stay out of it. I don't know what's wrong with him but you getting in the middle won't help any." He took the drinks and carried them out himself. "I just heard from George, he's on his way."
"Wonderful news," Arthur said with a smile. He took the tray from him and started to pass them around. "Soon?"
"Hopefully." Xander sat back down and accepted his new drink. "I do want to thank you all in advance for staying out of it. Whatever funny thing his mind is doing is all him and I'm not creating a family war over it." Percy looked at him. "Including you." Percy smiled and shook his head. "I mean it, Percy. Leave the fight alone. He'll figure it out or I'll move out until he does. It's up to him."
"Even I don't know what's going on in his head," Fred admitted. "It's like a light suddenly went on and he's insecure about everything. They haven't been this way since...." He stopped and stuffed his mouth with a roll.
"You can talk about it," Molly said gently. "I wasn't myself and the thing in me did it." She reached over and patted him on the back. "Don't worry, Fred. I'm sure they'll be able to straighten it out quickly. After all, George does have that crystal that allows him to hear Xander's thoughts and Xander can hear his."
"Yeah, but he's blocked me again," Xander told her, between sips. Another roll was put onto his plate. "I don't need it, Bill."
"You do. You look like you've lost weight."
"I haven't. I've gained five pounds since I was captured." He handed back the roll. "I'm full."
Draco looked at him. "Eat."
"I did. Two pieces of fish and a lot of veggies. I'm full. After my requisite half-hour of inactivity, I'm going to do laps so I have room for dinner." He stretched out and sighed in relief. "This is nice."
"You need leg rubbies?" Minnie asked, looking helpful.
"No thank you, Minnie, my legs are fine today." She pouted. "I'm sure your daddy might like his arms rubbed. He's been having cramps in them." She hurried over to help her father by rubbing the sore stuff for him. "I'm going to nap in a lounge chair." He got up and walked to the nearest one, flopping down into it. He pulled his hat down further so he wasn't staring up into the sun, and closed his eyes. He was mostly content at the moment, he could nap.
Draco waited until he heard the snores then nodded at Ron. "Go cover him. He'll burn." Ron got up and covered their mentor, then came back. "You look like you're dying to ask something so you might as well get it out before it hurts you." He nibbled on the American-style rib, trying to decide if he liked barbeque. Maybe if it had different spices. He'd have to try some of the other recipes in the book for this sauce. "Well?"
"When the doctors wanted to talk to you alone, did they say anything?"
Draco shook his head. "Not really. It was more yelling at me for doing this again." He grunted and shifted. Ron started to move. "I'm fine, it wasn't a cramp. It was a statement that I've eaten too much and now I have gas." Ron grinned and relaxed again. "They didn't say anything about the child at all. It's too young to tell anything really."
Iggy stood up. "I started some stomachache soup a few hours ago, it should be about ready if anyone wants some," he announced, looking directly at his Uncle Bill, who had just belched loud enough to have startled Xander into not snoring for a second. Then he looked at his Uncle Draco. "I'll expect you both to take some." His wife pulled him back down and kissed him, shutting him up.
"We'll have to wait a half-hour before going in to swim," Draco announced. Most everyone wiped off their mouths and went to help clean up the kids. It took a hose and a few washcloths, and one adult to hold while another scrubbed and yet another worked the hose. Minnie was the worst, it took three adults to hold her. Lucien and Maeve started to lick each other's fingers clean, but Arthur and Molly separated them, holding them still while Ron scrubbed and Bill used the hose. By the time all the kids were done, it was time to swim. Minnie was allowed to wake up Xander, who screamed when she poked him on his scars. "Minnie," Draco yelled, brining her running. "What did you do?"
"Touchie legs," she said, starting to sniffle and look very upset. She didn't like hurting the uncle. "He okay?"
"I'm sure he's fine," Draco agreed, patting her on the head. "Run and help your father get wet." She ran off and he went over to check on Xander, who was rubbing a sore spot. He sat on the end of the lounge chair and picked up the leg to look at the scars. "They look bad."
"That's the swelling."
"I noticed that as well," Draco noted. "Why did you scream?"
"She put a piece of ice on them and they ache." Xander moved his leg and sat up. "Is she all right?"
"She's fine. I told her she didn't really hurt you. You're going to the doctor on Tuesday."
"Yes, Draco," he sighed, standing up. He helped his son up and walked him toward the pool. "I'm sure it'll be fine. I'm going to be told to eat less salt." He opened the door and walked in. Harry and Ron had all the little kids in the shallow end with Molly and Arthur. Ginny was talking to her daughters off to one side as she lounged about to finish digesting. Simone didn't look happy. "Simone, did you tell her that you learned three new strokes?" Xander asked as he walked past her, giving her a hug. She was wearing one of her new sports-style suits. "I think we got you the right suit. It looks very comfortable."
"It is. It doesn't rub, there's no seams across my nipples, and it accents my waist," she said, giving him a smile. She looked at her mother. "Accept me as I am or I'm not going to see you for the rest of the summer," she demanded, then she dove into the pool, swimming most of the width with wonderful breath control and near-perfect form.
"Xander, quit influencing her," Ginny hissed. "She's already not getting anywhere with the boys."
Xander looked down at her. "Ginny, she's fifteen. She needs a boy like you need another one. For that matter, maybe you should talk to her about the boy who fell to his knees in front of her when he saw her in her workout clothes." He crossed his arms. "I'm glad that she's found something that makes her happy. If you're not, yay. Like Molly, you're going to have to learn what your daughter is really like. She's not some girlie little girl who wants lace and delicate things. They annoy her. Lace makes her physically ill when she's forced to wear it." Anastasia and Ravena both nodded, they had seen that earlier in the summer. "Your daughter is the girl she is, not some little dress-up doll. Get over it and hope that Anastasia will let you dress her up. She's like that." He turned and smiled at Simone, who shrugged. "Sorry, kiddo."
Ginny pushed Xander into the pool. "Leave my daughters alone before they all turn out like you."
"Ginny!" Draco snapped. "Leave him alone." He looked down and saw Xander had bobbed up. "You're damn lucky he can swim." She snorted and sat back down. "Simone is the way she is and she makes *me* proud with how she is. Women like you disturb me. If all you care about is your clothes and your hair, then you have nothing a real man wants." He watched as Xander swum over to the ladder and hoisted himself up. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine." Xander looked at her and shook his head. "You're still acting spoiled, Ginny. Grow up before your children become more mature than you." He walked over to his usual lounger and sat down. "Ana, that suit wasn't a thong earlier."
She smoothed the back of her suit out, giving him a smile. "Do you really think men prefer women who think a lot over pretty ones?"
"I think most men want both in a woman," Xander told her. "Your sister is incredibly beautiful, even in her baggy clothes. The only reason she isn't being hunted is because most of the boys haven't seen through the facade to the woman underneath. She'll need someone who understands her main goals in life and there's not really anybody like that in the school. As she said earlier, she needs someone like your Uncle Charlie and men like that are rare."
"Yes, they are," Simone said as she came out of the pool to give him a hug. She looked at his leg, then frowned. "Shouldn't you soak that or something? They make me soak my feet when they swell. I've got some salts upstairs."
"I'll try that tonight," Xander said, giving her a pat. "Go play." She smiled and went to go play with her brother and cousins. "Ana, go play. You need to test that suit before your friends show up."
"She can wear something skimpier," Ginny told him a little coolly.
Draco looked at her. "That is the most appropriate suit she has. Everything else is meant for tanning." He looked at his daughter and she blushed. "Thank you. Go play. You can talk with your mother in a moment." Anastasia and Ravena both went to sit on the side of the pool and talk to Melvin and Andrea. She had been invited over to the Burrow for the rest of the summer and her parents had allowed it. He walked over to look down at her. "Quit picking on my daughters or you won't get to see them again," he warned coldly, but in a near whisper. "Simone is wonderful the way she is and all the boys watch her walk past. Anastasia, thanks to your mannerisms, has a bad reputation and many of the boys are looking at her as the future tower slut." She pressed her lips together and ground her teeth. "Ravena is the only stable one and that's because she's the perfect Goddess that she wants to be. They are fine the way they are." He turned and walked away, sliding down into the shallow end to help with the young children. "Come to me, Lucien. We'll splash Maeve." He lunged over and swam a whole two strokes, earing a few claps. "Splash her," Draco said, turning his son around so he wouldn't get the brunt of the water.
Maeve squealed and splashed back, getting more water on Draco than her friend, but that was really her intention. He had stolen her Lucien. Her father came over and grabbed her, making her squeal in outrage as he tried to take her away. "Mine!" she shouted, pointing at Lucien. "My Lucie!"
Draco shuddered. "Please don't call him that. Lucien, sweetheart."
"Lucien," she repeated with wide eyes. It was bad to upset the Lucien's daddy. "My Lucien?" She looked cute and pitiful, a deadly combination against this particular adult. He was handed over and Draco grabbed William and Zach instead.
"Not like water," Zach reminded him. He shifted uncomfortably.
Xander handed over the twosome and took him, giving him a very close hug as he sat on the stairs, making the water come up to the boy's shoulders. "Why don't you like water? It's not scary if you know how to swim."
"No swim," Zach told him, looking very upset. "Water bad! Daddy no like!"
"Ssh," Xander said, starting to cuddle him. "Your father doesn't like water for a lot of reasons. I won't let the water hurt you. I'll even teach you how to float if you want." Zach, still looking very scared, nodded slightly. So Xander stood up and put Zach on his back. "Just relax," he cooed. Zach tensed up. "It's all right, just relax. I won't let you go. The water won't hurt you." Zach started to relax. "See, it's not so bad."
"Ears," he said, covering his left one.
"Okay," Xander said, lifting him out to give him another cuddle. "You did very good. I bet your mommy would love to teach you how to swim. I know she does it very well." Zach shook his head. "She won't?"
"Daddy say older," Zach told him.
"I can agree with that, but we have special things that'll let you paddle around until then," Draco told him. "Would you like a set of floaters, Zachariah?"
"Of course. They're over beside the chair. Someone will have to blow them up for you, but Lucien wears them all the time."
"Me too!" William shouted, bouncing on his grandfather's hip. "Me want one!"
"You can have one as well," Xander agreed. He put Zach on the side of the pool. "They're under the blue chair. Get one and I'll help you blow it up." Zach toddled that way as fast as he could and came back with two boxes. "Yup, those," he said with a smile. "Very good boy, Zach." He climbed up onto the side and sat there, blowing them up for the boys, handing the first set done to Fred so they could be put on Zach. Then he took Zach out into the pool, letting him see how the arm bands and the tube around his waist made sure he floated. William got his set and he bravely started to paddle, his waist tube holding him up very well. His grandmother helped him steer and he made it over to Zach's side really quickly so they could splash each other.
"Go swim," Fred told him. "I've got the little creatures."
"Not a creature," William said, looking very serious. He didn't even retaliate a hard splash he got. "I'm a boy."
"I know, I was teasing. You're not a creature, you're a wonderful little boy," Fred assured him. "Whoever told you that you were really a creature was lying and dumb." He checked on Zach, making sure he was still right-side up and happy. "Do you like that, little man?"
Zach smiled up at him. "Yup." He giggled as Willie tried to pounce him but scooted away. "Get me!"
Xander grinned at Fred. "Thanks. I'll be up in the big people's end doing laps." He winked and waded off until he could dive.
"Oooh," Zach said, pointing, starting to cry. "Him hurt, hurt!" He tugged on Fred's arm. "Under water!"
"I know, it's all right. He knows how to swim and can do that so it won't hurt him," Fred said gently, giving him a pat on the head. "Big people can swim that way." Xander surfaced. "Wave, he thought you were hurt." Xander waved and swum back, narrowly missing Melvin when he tried to get away from a dunking. "See, he's all right. Big people can swim under the water and be just fine." Zach looked up at him. "I promise. I'll have your daddy tell you that when he gets back." He stopped William from moving away and hurting himself. "Stay nearby."
William moved closer and kissed Zach on the cheek. "It's okay. My daddy knows how to swim and can save us."
"Okay," Zach agreed, starting to relax again. "Do it again?"
Xander bobbed down, holding his breath until the little boy started to look upset, then he came back up. "How was that?"
William frowned, not looking like he was sure it was all right.
"You'll learn once you're seven or eight," Xander told him, giving him a gentle pat on the head. "Then I'll teach you how to swim across the pool under the water." He tweaked Zach's nose. "Do you guys want to play with me or Fred?"
"You!" William said, splashing him. Xander squealed and splashed back, getting both of them. So Fred helped the kids, getting Xander back.
From across the pool Maeve and Lucien giggled at the boys. Silly boys. Let the uncles play and they could come play with them. "Play us," Maeve yelled.
"In a few," Xander yelled back.
"Not you," Lucien told him. Xander grinned at him and got hit with the ball from earlier when Simone threw it. Lucien giggled. "Funny, sissy."
"I know I am," Simone told him, swimming over to give him a quick kiss on the cheek and to steal him away. She swum away with him, and he didn't complain too much. He loved his sisters. They were almost as nice as his Maeve.
Severus opened up the Daily Prophet, the day's before due to travel time, and promptly started to choke. Tara snatched the paper and looked at it, smiling at the cute picture of their son in the pool, playing with William and Xander. And Fred or George, one of the two. "That's so cute," she told him, cooing.
"It's not cute, he's much too young."
"See those?" she asked, pointing at the floaters. "They're flotation devices for little kids. It makes sure that their heads stay above water and they can't drown." She handed the paper back. "Draco's arm was off to the side so he must have been there as well."
Snape looked at the picture, seeing who was wearing the floaters and who wasn't. "Isn't that Lucien?" he asked, pointing at a blur in the background. Tara looked then nodded. "He's not wearing one."
"That big blur holding him looks like one of the girls. I'm sure Draco was taking very good care of all of our darlings at his party. Did the article say anything?"
"No, it was just a picture." He looked all through the paper. "It says he's having a party for the children later today."
"That one was probably for the family and Draco will probably hurt someone for taking the pictures at his estate." She smiled and nibbled on her toast. "I'm sure we'll hear all about it when we get home."
"Still, he's a bit young."
"Severus, Xander was on the swim team in high school. He's one of the better swimmers I know. If that was Draco's pool, then he must know how to swim as well. Not to mention Iggy, who knows how to swim, Simone, who probably does, and all the other kids. Zach was well-watched and hopefully well behaved while he was there." She leaned over and kissed him gently on the tip of his nose. "Relax, no one would dare allow our son to drown. He was safely playing and if he had even gotten a scratch, Iggy would have come found us by now. We can even call him if you want to check on him."
"He got a bad bellyache from the barbecue," Raena said as she popped in. She handed over a long letter. "From Xander. He's back in captivity today because his legs started to cramp and swell at the party." She sat down next to them. "So, having a good vacation?"
"Usually," he agreed. "You?"
"Fine. We're being watched closely so nothing happens, but otherwise we're good." She smiled at him. "Zach is partially over his fear of water." Tara looked at her. "He kept saying it's bad. Xander taught him how to float and he enjoyed playing in the floating things."
Snape shook his head and took the letter to read. "As long as he was watched."
"Very closely. We all got to play with the tots and make them laugh. Simone is an incredible swimmer thanks to my father-in-law. She's trying to perfect a stroke called the breast stroke?" Tara nodded and Snape looked shocked.
"It's an overhand stroke," Tara explained. "Call such because that's the part of you that comes out of the water I guess. It's some sort of two-armed stroke at the same time thing while the rest of your body does dolphin-like motions. It's very hard to get right."
Raena nodded and stole a piece of toast from Tara's plate. Severus' was pushed closer. "Thanks, but I only needed the nibble. The waiter is giving me funny looks."
"Thankfully this is a wizard place, or you'd be in really big trouble for teleporting in."
"I checked first," Raena reminded her.
Snape handed over the letter. "You'll have to talk to him when he gets back."
She looked at the address at the top and smacked his hand. "Don't read my mail!" She settled in to read the letter, smiling by the end of it for the five pleas for release. The part about the fighting pissed her off, but she could get onto George when she got back. She guessed the twin in the picture was Fred after all. She folded the letter up and put it in her pocket. "We'll have to butt in when we get home."
"Uncle Draco said that Xander's fighting anyone getting involved, except him of course." Raena looked at the waiter walking over. "I'm his apprentice, just delivering the mail." She smiled and finished the piece of toast. "We're having another party today if you wanted to pop up. Iggy and I can come get you."
"I don't think the children will need more chaperones," Tara said with a smile. "Xander and Draco should be enough."
"Xander, Uncle Draco, and Uncle Ron. The hiring committee isn't up today."
"They called it already?" Snape asked.
Raena nodded. "From the rumors we've been getting, there's six out of twenty-two that have made it to the second step and the deadline's tomorrow. We're sure that Uncle Draco is one of them."
"He'd better be."
"Uncle Ron's sitting on the board with Professors Lupin and Black, plus Madam Pomfery and the Headmaster. He's got his in, now he'll have to prove it."
"That is the correct way," Snape agreed. "I had to prove my worth." He looked at Tara. "I believe you proved yours during that first visit, as did Xander and Rosenberg."
She nodded. "Basically. Thankfully the two really good teachers have stayed."
"Only if Uncle Xander isn't forced to take a year off because he's still being so stubborn," Raena noted with a smile. "Uncle Draco's escorting him to see his doctor about his knee and the scars that are swelling, then Uncle Xander is being forced to escort him to lunch." She winked at Tara. "I never knew he was so forceful."
"He taught Ignatius everything he knows about women as well," Tara told her.
"Hmmm, might have to do something more ...personal then. He still thinks I'm cute. Not sexy, not wonderful, cute."
Tara gave her a giggle. "He'll probably continue to see you that way even afer you break him in, Raena. At least you're not being compared to a snitch."
"No, but Little Ron did tell Ravena she was as pretty as his." She stood up. "With that bit of family gossip, I'll let you get back to your vacation." She waved and teleported back to the Malfoy estate, meeting her husband in the woods for a short walk.
Tara looked at her husband. "Are you sure you want to take that extra month off?"
"Yes. I think we'll let the drama play out before we go back." He touched her on the hand, making her shiver. "Are you done eating?"
"Nearly. I barely ate anything." She gave him a sexy smile. "Give me twenty minutes more of stunning you with my beauty in this light and then we'll go play, Sev." She dug into her food, eating quickly. She wasn't sure she could wait those twenty minutes herself, but she did need to eat.
"Anastasia!" Xander called as he walked down the hallway. "Suit check." She opened her door and showed herself to be in the proper suit. "Go downstairs if you're done."
"I need to find my shoes, my wrap, and finish my braid."
"Your father's down there and can finish your hair." He looked around and pointed at her vanity. "There's the other two. Go." She grabbed the necessities and headed down, and he locked her door so she couldn't change later. He walked down the hall, tapping on Simone's door. "Simone?"
She opened it and showed off her tighter and skimpier version of the sports suit, this one ended at the bottom of the center of her ribs, a handspan above her navel. "Well?"
"I'm sure someone will kick themselves for not asking you out." He patted her hair down, noticing it was crunchy. "Gel does not belong in the pool, young lady."
"It's daddy's old hair spell. He helped me change it to make mine spike up. It won't dirty the water at all." She grabbed her wrap skirt and shoes, walking down the stairs. "Don't lock it, Glinda's in there."
"I know we don't have to worry about you," Xander said quietly, going to check on Ravena. She opened her door before he could knock and showed that she was not only ready, but nearly shining in her jet-black two-piece suit. A little skimpier than Simone's, but not trashy. Very covering and demure, yet it showed clearly what sort of woman she was going to become. "Grab your wrap and your shoes. Your father's downstairs to help you with your hair."
She grabbed two black laquer sticks and quickly twisted it up, then grinned at him. "Am I hot?"
"Sizzling. He won't know what hit him." He kissed her on the forehead. "No makeup, right?"
"None needed yet," she said proudly, heading down to join the others.
Xander continued his rousing. "Denver?"
"He's already in the kitchen nibbling," Raena called from her and Iggy's room. She opened the door, showing her mate in a towel. "Tell him he looks fine in that suit. It's very European."
"Speedo?" Xander asked.
"Tight speedo," Iggy agreed. "It makes me look like you." He took off the towel and noticed his mate was drooling so maybe it wasn't so bad. "May I? She seems to like it, even if I feel skinny and scrawny in it."
"Go ahead. Speedos are for the young," Xander told him. He looked at Raena's tasteful bikini. "No ring?"
"I took it off so it wouldn't come off in the pool," she told him, letting her mate put the necklace with it on it around her neck. "It's a half-size too big right now."
"Ah. Then that's a good compromise," he agreed. "Come on. I've already locked Ana out of her room."
"Not swimming?" Iggy asked.
"I'm headed to change now," Xander told him, giving him a pat on the back. He went back to his room and showered, coming out to put on the spandex pants and tank-top Draco had thoughtfully gotten him, still in green and silver of course. He picked up his wand and changed them to silver and black. It would look better to the house. Then he headed back down to the living room. Ana was pointing her wand at the door. "Nope. You don't need in there." He grabbed her and turned her around, leading her down the stairs. "I found her trying to break in."
"I wanted some perfume," she pouted.
"You don't need it. Every woman has a unique smell that's wonderful. Men enjoy smelling you, even if you're sweaty sometimes."
"No man I date will like sweat," Anastasia reminded him. "I like my perfume."
"It'll come off in the water," Iggy told her, his lap carefully covered by a towel. "When are they supposed to get here?"
"Within the next ten minutes," Draco told him. "Officially in half an hour." He looked at how Iggy was sitting. "Stand up, let me see." Iggy stood up and he nodded. "Very nice. Raena, do stick beside him. He'll get hit on otherwise."
"They waited too long," Raena told him, pinching Iggy on the butt. He squeaked and looked at her, looking shocked. "It's mine. I have the right to pinch it."
"If you pinch me again, something more might happen and then we'll get in trouble." She smiled up at him. "I mean it. I'm already feeling randy and you're hot in that suit." She laughed and stood up, giving him a kiss. He moaned and slumped against her, his hands wrapped around her waist.
Xander cleared his throat. "No more. The next one will have to be in front of everybody to clearly mark her claim." Iggy sighed as she released him, eyes still closed. "Thank you." He gave his son a poke on the shoulder. "You, wake up. It was all a dream."
"I know," Iggy said, sitting down with his wife and nuzzling her neck. "She makes me have very good ones."
Draco picked up a water gun and squirted him, making him yelp since it had been sitting in ice. "Stop it. Sixteen more months before you can do that."
Raena moaned. "Can't he age himself a year?"
"No," Xander told her. "You knew it was going to be hard going into this and you did it anyway." He sat down and put his feet up, crossing them. "Is everything set?"
"If Denver hasn't eaten all the food," Simone agreed, smiling at his suit. "Very practical."
"They act like the support hose and are a bathing suit," he told her. "I'll be the life guard today."
"Wonderful," Draco agreed dryly. "What about me?"
"You get to sit on the Slytherin side and do the same thing." Xander looked over as the fireplace discharged Agatha and Little Ron. "Hey, guys. Get comfy."
"Those look tight," Agatha said as she moved past him to sit on the couch Ravena was on. "You look decent enough I suppose."
"The offer for me to beat you still stands," Draco reminded her. "My daughter looks better than decent in that. She's becoming quite the woman. Wouldn't you say so, Ron?"
Ron swallowed quickly. Ravena was a girl! He nodded. "Very nice," he agreed. "Even better than at the family party." He sat beside her and held out the snitch he had borrowed to get accustomed to it. "Thank you for letting me borrow your version of the Goddess."
She smiled at him. "You're welcome, Ron." He beamed at her. "Do you want to go out back and play for a while? There's a tent setup so we don't burn today and we can pick out our own corner."
"As a hostess, you have to mingle some," Draco reminded her. "He can escort you on your rounds if you like."
"Thank you, father." She beamed at him and led Ron outside to show him around the large tent.
"So transparent," Xander sighed. He looked at his own son. "Just like you before you two got together."
Iggy gave him a sappy grin. "It is cute, but I was much worse. She is my Goddess." Raena gave him an ineffectual swat. "You are. You're my light of sanity and hope that everything will be all right for a very long time."
"Enough sap, let's go out back," Agatha said, standing up.
"We have to stay and greet people," Anastasia reminded her. "Ravena will be back soon." Someone outside shrieked and she stood up, but Simone went past her very quickly.
She pounced on the person standing at the edge of the tent, knocking him to the ground and starting to pound on him.
"Let your uncle up!" Draco yelled from the doorway, walking out to pull her up. "Wood?" Oliver looked up at him. "Are you all right?"
"I startled 'em," he groaned. He sat up and rubbed his sore ribs. "Damn you're strong," he told her, but he was smiling. "No wonder you can hit a bludger and aim it at people." She got off him and helped him to stand up. "Nice reflexes."
"Sorry," she said as she brushed him off. He moved before she could finish the job. "I heard the scream and reacted."
"That means you're ready for *real* training," Xander said gleefully. "You're mine now."
"I've always been one of yours, goof." She looked at her uncle again. "Did I hurt you a lot?"
"No, just some stiffness worked out. I won't need to go to therapy today after all." He smiled. "Harry sent me on since he couldn't be here."
"Why not?" Ravena asked.
"He made second alternate to the World Cup team and he has practice. The person who made the team was beaten up by a fan." He grimaced. "Harry's not thrilled. The coach suggested he get a bodyguard."
"Gee, I know a few of those," Xander put in.
Draco looked at him. "I doubt he'd want Spike to live with him."
Xander laughed. "Not him. There's a security firm that's been started by one of the girls in your advanced class and a few others that have taken it. I got a letter from her the other day."
"I'll pass that on to him," Oliver said with a grin. "I'm sure he'd be happier with that than he would a vampire." He looked around. "Where's your son, Xander?"
"IGGY! GET AWAY FROM HER NECK!" Xander yelled.
"I'm not near her neck," Iggy yelled back. "I'm putting lotion on her back."
"You can do it out here," Draco called.
Draco rolled his eyes and went in to greet everyone, his kids following him.
Xander showed Oliver into the tent and made him a small ice pack. "I know how hard she can hit. You're lucky nothing's broken."
Oliver smiled. "I think she hit me gently this time. I've had worse." But he took the ice pack for his ribs.
Simone looked over at the boys admiring her and smiled. "What? Do I look funny?" she teased. They were Melvin's friends, invited so he'd have someone besides them to talk to.
"You've got a...." The boy speaking swallowed.
She shook her head. "Ass? And a cute one at that. Why do you think I work out so hard?" She wiggled it for them and then walked away, continuing to cruise on their side of the pool. They were cute little geeks, but they still wouldn't ask her out. Even the boys who admired her prowess wouldn't do more than stare at her and whimper as she walked past them. Wimps. She sat on the end of Iggy and Raena's chair, looking at the young man they were talking to. "It looks like it's about time for food. Some of the guys look really hungry."
Humbert, one of Iggy and Denver's roommates, looked at her in awe. "You look even better close up."
"Now if only one of you guys would get off your asses and ask me for a stroll we'd be all set," she told him.
"But you've always been one of the guys, Simone. If we ask you out, then you can't come over anymore and we won't feel comfortable talking to you. No matter how great of breasts you have." He blushed. "Please don't hit me."
"Honey, I'm not going to hit you." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you for taking notice. It's a wonderful new experience for me." He looked shocked. "Really, one of the guys I might be, but I'm still a girl and I still have those things that you guys like to touch." He blushed brighter. "Even if it does creep you out."
"It'd be like dating my brother," he told her, nearly whimpering. He could see cleavage at this angle! Wait until the other guys heard about that. It was really dark down there so she must have had a good set. "Sorry, Simone."
"Why don't you hit on one of the older guys?" Raena suggested.
"We'd still start to see her as a girl and wouldn't let her over," Humbert told her. "It's not fair, but we'd all be embarrassed to take off our clothes in front of her."
She patted him on the knee and his face turned bright red. "Humbert, I used to share my bath with Denver. You've got nothing I haven't seen before. Really. The only difference now is size." He squeaked and got up, hurrying to the bathroom. "Sorry," she called after him.
"You made his summer," Iggy said with a slight shrug, moving the hand on his wife's stomach. "We invited Cassidy for you, Simone. Go pick on macho guy and bring him down a few pegs. Or else he'll try to hit on Ana too."
She stood up and headed over to where he was sitting, surrounded by girls. "Hey, Cassidy, how is this group doing? I'm about to call out for food to be started." She sat down across from him and daintily crossed her legs. He was the new Head Boy for the house this year, third in command to the Head Boy for the school. He nearly drooled. "Do you think you can wait for an hour to eat?" Anastasia stomped off. "Excuse her, she's jealous. Uncle Xander didn't have to lock *me* out of my room so I couldn't go change."
"Why would you want to do that?" he asked, looking her over. The rumors were true, she was female after all. "You look nice."
"Thanks." She smiled, then closed her lips and sucked the snack off her teeth, she could feel the cheese. "Sorry, had a bite a few minutes ago."
"Not a problem. I spent most of the summer eating." He looked her over again, this time taking his time to take it all in. "Who helped you pick that out?"
"Believe it or not, it's a sports style that's popular right now. I did it all by myself this time." He laughed. "Really. Uncle Xander pointed me at the rack and said, try that color." She shrugged. "How else has your summer been?"
"Boring. I got so bored I did some of my homework already." He leaned closer. "Have you got any of yours done? I could give you a few ....tips."
She chuckled. "I'm sure you could, but daddy made sure we got it out of the way during the first week so nothing would interrupt our playtime." She straightened up. "Did you know there's this rumor going around that you think my ass is hot?"
"I didn't start it, but I won't disagree with it," he said casually. "Why? You looking for a man finally?"
She leaned closer. "I could only go out with a man who could keep up with me, Cassidy. Is that you?" He nodded, grinning like he was going to get it then and there. "Let's see, shall we?" She kissed him and he went limp, mostly. When she pulled back, his lips tried to follow. "Do you still think you can keep up with me?"
"How...how did you learn that?" he asked, wiping the sweat off his brow.
She leaned close again. "My father's picture collection," she mock-whispered. "And I'm still looking for a man who can keep up with me." He did whimper and shift so it wasn't so obvious that he *really* wanted to continue. "Do you still think you're good enough?"
"I'd love to give it a try. Can I forget who your father is?"
She giggled. "Sure, and the rest of my relatives if you'd like." He nodded. "Then you'd better ask me out once we get back to school, Cassidy." He looked hurt. "Really. My father is watching today." He nodded. "I'll give you that long to write and ask me officially for a stroll around the mezzanines." She stood up and strolled away, her little low-heeled mules clicking on the tiles.
"Are you going to start dating her?" another girl asked.
"I don't know. She might kill me." He got up and headed into the bathroom, meeting the other boy in there. "Simone?"
"I saw down her shirt," he moaned. "That top is still pushing her down."
"She kissed me, man, and I thought I was going to die." Cassidy leaned his head against the wall. "He needs to put stalls in here."
"Yeah, with those three daughters," Humbert agreed.
Outside the door, Ravena giggled and went to share the news that her sister had scored a direct hit. Now if the putz asked her out it would be perfect. Little Ron grabbed her and tossed her into the pool, making her squeal and him laugh. "I'll get you for that this year on the field."
He grinned. "You can try but the snitch is mine."
She pushed herself up, standing in front of him, dripping wet and her hair coming down. She pulled the sticks from her dark auburn hair and handed them to him. "For you to eat crow with." Then she strolled away in the finest Malfoy manner.
He looked at the sticks. "Ravena, who eats with sticks?"
"Asians." She turned and put her hands on her hips, and she knew she looked fine when he stopped breathing for a few seconds. "Like I said, you'd better learn how to use them, Ron. I'm not known for my mercy." She turned and finished walking away.
The other girls leaned over and talked to each other. That girl had set her sights pretty high, Little Ron Potter didn't even *look* at girls, only his snitch. Then Agatha reminded them that Ravena was like that too, and Ron had taught her how to appreciate it the same way. She approve of the little Princess and her brother. She would teach Ron how to beg for mercy very well. She noticed Ravena looking at her and smiled at her. Yes, she would make her little brother pay and pay and pay for every little thing he did wrong. She might even steal his beloved snitch away. Ravena pulled a shiny one from her cleavage and let it go, watching as it flew off and went to her brother. His came out of his pocket and flew up to join it. "What the hell?" she asked. One of the girls looked at her so she pointed at the snitches. Plural. "When did he get another one?"
"Her father gave her that one," Emily told her. "She got it the day she got that suit and officially got her first bra." She smiled as the two kids tried to catch the snitches. "Let them outside," she called. "Go fly." The kids finally managed to catch them and took them outside to play with them. She laughed. "Those two are so cute and somewhat obvious."
Agatha grimaced. She hated cute. "Emily, I've been meaning to ask you. What's with the blonde roots?"
"It's power bleaching," Emily said stiffly. "Some girl at Salem lost control and I had to call on some magic that I wasn't ready for to stop her before she destroyed everybody. I'm slowly going to growing out white hair as dye won't stick to it. Excuse me, I wanted to ask your Uncle something about my homework for Defense." She got up and wrapped her wrap back around her waist, going over to talk to Draco and Oliver, and Xander since he was sitting there as well. "I suggested Ravena and Ron go outside and play."
"I saw," Draco said with a smile. "Should I beat subtly into Agatha for her father?" She laughed and smiled at him. "I heard, your Uncle was very impressed with what you were able to do, but so very angry that you had to do it."
"Was she a born?" Xander asked.
Emily shook her head. "No, a wiccan like Tara who went bad and lost control. She called on her Goddess to destroy some girls who were picking on the boy she liked while she was drunk one night. I ended up grabbing her and..." She shrugged. "I don't know much more. All I remember is the other girls lying on the floor slowly bleeding to death and someone pounding on the door."
"You short circuited her," Xander told her, smiling gently and reassuringly at her. "I've known a few witches who went bad. Including Ryan's mother. She dabbled a little too closely to the edge of the dark and it called out to her while she was pregnant both times. It happens to anybody who isn't careful, not just doubly-powered witches like Tara and that girl." He patted the seat. "Want some of it? I'm told I'm very comforting. I can even give you blackmail material on Ryan if you want." She smiled at sat by his feet. "What do you want to hear about? His spree of breaking into offices to pee on ungraded papers or his dance of love at one of the Slytherin Prefects?"
"What about the time he decided to walk up to Severus and tug on his clothes to get his attention, not realizing that his shirt and robe were unbuttoned because he had just got done cleaning up after helping in the infirmary?" Draco offered.
"Hmm, that's nothing compared to the time he tried to crawl under McGonagall's robes to hide. Thought she was a tree for a few weeks until it was explained to him that she was really a person under all that green. Of course, Iggy had done it the week before so he knew she wasn't a tree." Oliver started to laugh. "Oh, let's not forget the time he talked Adrian and Iggy into that show." Emily looked clueless. "They decided to moon the whole leaving feast one year when they were six. Wrote on each other beforehand, all six cheeks emblazoned with the word 'bye' as the kids mooned everyone from the front of the dias." She laughed. Draco moved off and walked to the side of the pool. "Needing CPR?"
"No, some undoing of tops. Stop it!" he commanded. "The school's policy on touching does apply." A few guys looked at Simone and Anastasia and sighed. "Three centimeters from the edge of any *proper* piece of underwear."
"I still say they should take into account those of us who don't wear full-backed underwear," Anastasia said. Some of the girls around her nodded. "Anyone want to touch my sister's ass, she's desperate."
"Anastasia!" Simone yelled.
"Anastasia Romani Malfoy-Weasley, you are grounded," Draco called. "One more sentence like that and you'll be forced to leave as well." She made herself as tiny as she could in her seat. "Simone, beat her up later."
"I may not have people panting after my ass, but at least I didn't have to be drawn on to show where the appropriate boundaries for clothes were."
"Stop it," Xander yelled. Simone glared at him. "You got her back, drop it until after the party. Then kick her ass."
"Oh, I've got something better," Simone said, reaching down and hauling up her sister. She picked her up and threw her in the pool, ruining her hair. "There, now you're wet, and your hair shows it." She stomped off, back to where Iggy and Denver were. "I hate sisters."
"It's all right, we all know you've sent two guys to the bathroom already. That's one more than her," Denver assured her.
"You do look hot in that," Raena agreed. "Did Cassidy ask you out?"
"I told him if he wanted more than a kiss, he'd have to," she said with a smile. She continued to smile as her sister got out of the pool and slunk back over to her friends, who babbled at her in rapid pace. Apparently they were scared of her too. She turned back to the people who liked her, finding another boy there. "Yes, Rockney?"
"We all think you're hot, even though you're still kind of scary," he admitted. "You look nice today." He hurried away, blushing brightly.
She sighed and leaned against Iggy's arm. "Why is it like that? Admiring from afar won't get me cuddles."
Denver patted her on the back. "I'm sure it'll happen some day. You too will find yourself in the greenhouse one spring night." She snorted. "Or in a storeroom if you want furniture."
"I'd prefer it," she told him. Emily burst out in giggles from across the pool. "Uh-oh, it sounds like Uncle Xander just pulled out the embarrassing stories."
Iggy looked over there and his father smiled back, sending him a mental pat. "I'm only peripherally mentioned. He's telling her about Ryan as a child." He sent over a thought that made his dad crack up. "He forgot about the butt crack incident."
"Butt crack incident?" Simone asked. "You never said anything about that."
"Ryan sat in some poison oak," he said with a smile. "While wearing clothes that were too big, so they rode down. He ended up getting a *raging* case of poison oak in his butt crack. He was about seven or eight at the time, I think it was right before his eighth birthday, so he was unselfconscious at the time. He walked around all day for two weeks asking people if they would scratch his itchy spots and then pulled down his pants and grabbed his ankles." They all giggled. "Needless to say, once Willow heard the screaming was heard all the way in town. I was at the shop that night and I *swear* I heard her going off on him." He smiled really big. "It was Snape who told her. He got him during a class of sixth year Hufflepuffs." Raena laughed harder and Simone had to lean against him. "I was in the back playing quietly because we all had the sniffles and he was preparing Adrian and I some medicine. He literally walked in and tapped Severus on the leg, he had learned not the pull when he accidentally disrobed him one day."
"What was he doing with everything unbuttoned?" Denver asked. The man was always covered from his neck down in heavy material.
"He had just finished helping release a really gross cyst on someone's back. It was one of the shooting kinds that comes from certain nettle stabs so he had taken off his shirt for the procedure. That way he wouldn't have to change. He was putting it back on when Ryan tugged on it and pulled it all down on top of his head." He grinned. "Anyway, Ryan, little shit that he still is, walked in and without asking this time dropped his pants and bent over, spreading his cheeks, and declared that he was itchy." Simone giggled harder, she could just see that happening. "Snape went off! I mean he spanked him for disrobing and presenting himself in such a manner, then he forced his clothes back on him and carried him to the Headmaster's office to have him tell Willow. She was being scary and everyone thought she might have been pregnant again. Then he stormed back into the classroom, growled that none of us were to talk about incident in his presence and told Adrian and I that we were not to follow his example."
"What did you say, dear?" Raena asked. She could see the line in his head, but....
"I told him that I'd never bend over and show him my butt, but that if he really wanted to I'd show him my other stuff because I wanted it to fall off. Maybe he could figure out a way to give it to Ryan since his was so much smaller." Simone fell onto the floor and Denver collapsed on top of her, giggling madly. "That was the day I think Severus realized he was going to have some problems with me. When he said it wasn't possible, I asked him why, and his face got *very* red. So he explained how you couldn't transplant those things, and I retorted that if Madam Pomfrey could regrow bones and reattach arms, why couldn't she attach mine to him and give him a normal sized one? Poor Severus' face turned so red and he ended up sending the students away so he could go have a drink. I heard Dad talking about it later, he had found him in his office with a bottle of scotch, *swearing* that he was going to quit before I started school."
"You proved you were a brilliant mind even then," Raena said proudly.
"That's the day he really looked at me as a little adult, capable of real thought. If you ask Adrian, he won't talk about it, his mother threatened him." He looked at where Adrian was sitting with a book. "Hey, Adrian, we're telling embarrassing Ryan stories since he's not here. Want to share one?"
Adrian looked at him. "And have my mother murder me in a most horrible manner?" He looked at the giggling twosome. "The leaving feast?"
"Poison oak," Iggy said with his most naughty grin. "Though I was going to tell them about his dance of love at that Prefect."
"He'll kill you, Iggy." He shook his head. "I'm almost looking forward to Simone kicking his ass again. I'll be off to the side cheering randomly in case he wins." He pulled his book back up and went back to it.
"What leaving feast story?" Raena asked, running a fingernail down his arm.
"We were six, and like all really great mischief it came from Ryan's mouth. He had this Prefect in Slytherin that he adored. So much so that he climbed up onto a table and stripped as he walked down to where she sat, then wiggled for her." She giggled. "He was so sad that she was graduating that he decided we should all do something special. So he talked Adrian and I into writing the word 'bye' on each of our cheeks and mooning the leaving feast." Simone started to giggle harder, she apparently remembered that lecture - it took most of the summer. "I don't think I sat for weeks," he told her. "Daddy George tried so hard to scrub that off me. Daddy Xander wasn't any help at all because he kept laughing about my handwriting even back then." He looked over and caught his father smiling at him. "I wonder if it's still on his rear."
"Is that what those faint lines on your butt are?" Raena asked. He shrugged. "Iggy, honey, did you write on yourself?"
"We were six," he reminded her. Then he gave her a kiss.
"And your handwriting's still bad," Xander called over. "Get off her."
Iggy gave her another kiss and looked at his father, giving him a defiant smirk.
One of the house elves ran in and rang a gong, announcing that dinner was on. Then it ran away to serve.
"Dinner's ready," Draco called. "Everyone head over to the tent." The children trickled out in twos and threes, heading for the buffet. Draco checked the pool to make sure no one had beaten the anti-drowning charm, then turned and found Emily had helped Xander up. "Come along, I'm sure you could both eat." Oliver slid past him, heading for some more ice and dinner, giving him a smile. He followed everyone out and set the lock on the door so no one could get back in until the requisite time had gone by. Someone pounded on the door so he let them out, smiling at the young Gryffindor who must have been in the bathroom, and the Head Boy of the house who followed him out. "Having fun?" he asked as he did one last check then locked the door again. He pointed at the door and one of the elves came over to guard it in case anyone else was trapped. He accepted his plate and went to sit with his family. Little Ron moved out of his way and gave him a smile. "Are you having fun?"
"Yup. Would you tell me how people eat with sticks, Uncle Draco?"
Draco patted him on the head and took the hair sticks, showing him how they would be used if they were real chopsticks. "Like that." He opened and closed them. "A number of Asian societies use chopsticks to eat with." He handed them back, watching as the boy tried it for himself. "Like that," he agreed when he got it right. He took a bite of his fried eggplant. "Why did you want to know?"
"Ravena said I'd better learn how to eat with them because she was going to get me on the field and I was wondering," Ron said honestly.
Draco smiled at his daughter. "I'm sure this year's game between the two of you will be just as interesting as last year's was." She beamed at him. "No matter which of you catch it."
"I am, to pay him back for throwing me in the pool," Ravena told him, smirking at her somewhat boyfriend. "Then he'll be eating crow with them."
"I'm sure it will be interesting," Xander said as he joined them, making Simone move over. "Oliver had to run home for something, he'll be back soon."
"Did I really hurt him?" Simone asked, nibbling on her chicken.
"No, sweetie, not really. Nothing worse than taking a bludger sent by a normal person to the ribs." She smiled. "He got a call and had to run and talk to his coach. Apparently the defensive coach for the World Cup team was also beaten up and they've picked a new one. Oliver was needed to retrieve the guy because he was the only one who knows where he went on vacation." He picked up his fried chicken and looked around. Emily Snape was looking around, trying to decide on a seat. "We need a bigger table." Draco pulled his wand and lengthened it, so she came over to sit with them. "Hey, sweetie. The other girls gossiping again?"
"About some boys who I don't know or care about," Emily agreed. "Has anyone heard from my Uncle?"
"I saw him this morning," Raena told her. "He looked very calm and relaxed. Tara was teasing him. He took your letter to read, Uncle Xander." He groaned. "Aunt Tara swatted him for it." She smiled at Emily. "He'll be back on time and he has no after effects of the poisoning he took."
"Wonderful," Emily said, smiling back. She glanced around. "Professor Harris-Weasley...."
"Xander," he corrected. "I'm only a professor during classes."
"All right, Xander then." She glanced around again. "I was told to talk to you about some lessons controlling my sudden outbursts of power. I've been having surges and they're fairly powerful."
He gave her hand a gentle pat. "Don't worry, I can help you with that or Melvin can." She frowned. Melvin sighed and nodded. "Melvin can touch pure magic and he had the same thing as a first year. Professor Dumbledore taught him how to deal with it. I use a blocking method and he uses a separating method."
She looked at him. "You play with chaos magic?"
"No, I play with the pretty stuff hiding under the grimy chaos magic."
"Oh." Her eyes brightened. "Then perhaps I could talk with you a bit this afternoon?" He nodded. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Simone was going to steal Andrea anyway."
Simone nodded. "She's my friend, I saw her first."
"Technically, I saw her first," Denver told her. She punched him on the arm, making him wince. "Of course I was only holding your place so you can monopolize her," he grunted, putting his glass on his arm. "Don't bruise me, I don't want the fitters to think I'm being beaten like they did last year."
"That was amusing," Little Ron agreed, smiling at him. "Can we scare the shoes salesman again this year?"
"I hope he's learned his lesson," Simone told him. "If he had looked at my present shoes, he wouldn't have tried to put me into anything girly or with heels." She looked at Emily. "Are you going school shopping with us?"
"If you wouldn't mind. Your grandmother said she'd take me."
Simone shook her head. "If you do go with her, watch out for lace, she's been wanting a dress-up doll and tried it with me."
"I'm sure Molly will get her good clothing and nothing too fancy," Draco assured her.
"She only really needs to correct your clothes," Anastasia put in. Xander reached over and smacked her across the back of the head. "Sorry."
"Ana, are you on the rag?" Iggy asked. She glared at him. "Well, you're acting like it so straighten up. We're tired of the bitch fit. This was supposed to be a fun time, not a time for you to pick up boys or for you to snipe at your sister."
"I'm sorry," she sighed. "I'll behave better."
"You had better," Draco agreed. She looked at him. "I'm not particularly fond of this attitude problem of yours, daughter. Remember that." She nodded and ate some more. "Thank you. Ignatius, put it a bit more delicately next time."
"Yes, Uncle Draco," he said, but he was grinning.
Melvin looked over as the tent's doors opened and groaned. "Look who finally got free," he said dryly.
"Oh, hey, it's poison oak boy," Simone said a little loudly. He glared at her. "Or should I say...." Draco covered her mouth. "But, daddy!"
"No, Simone. Pick on him at school. Not today." He uncovered her mouth. "Welcome, Ryan. The food's still warm if you'd like some." He casually took a bite of food.
The boy nodded and headed over to grab some food and sit with his princess. He could get Iggy later.
Xander looked up as his doctor walked in, moving the paper blanket off his legs. "I'm swelling and sore."
"I can see that." He sat down to touch the scars gently. "Have you been eating a lot of salt?"
"Not in the last two days and they still haven't unswollen." Xander put down his book. "I don't know why, but the pain is throwing me off-balance badly."
The doctor looked around and saw Iggy and Draco sitting beside each other, talking quietly. "Where's George?"
"Being an ass," Iggy told him. "He's suddenly turned insecure and pouty."
"Oh, I see." The doctor smiled. "I'm sorry."
"That's all right, he'll come to his senses damn fast or he's going to find himself as separated as we can get."
"Your kind don't believe in divorce?" the doctor asked.
"Our kind is a little different from Uncle Oliver," Iggy told him. "He's the standard model of us and we're just a little bit more special." The doctor chuckled. "Really."
Xander nodded. "Yup, we are. It's a heritage problem, some very specific intermixing that most wizards didn't take part in."
"How interesting. I didn't know that you weren't a unified community."
"We're as unified as the muggle world is," Draco told him. "I've had him in captivity at my house for the last few weeks. He's stayed in bed, swam a lot, and not had much movement."
"How much salt has he eaten?"
"I told my servants to make everything low-salt, as directed by the recipes in the cookbook I got for his pleasure. As far as I know they've been doing that."
"The fried chicken yesterday did need salt," Xander agreed. "But I was good," he finished when the doctor look at him.
"Ignatius, do you have something like a diuretic?" He nodded. "Can you make a very light dosage and have him on it for the next two weeks?" Iggy nodded again. "Good. Stand up." Xander stood up, wobbling only slightly. "Your knee's swollen as well. What have you been doing? Swimming wouldn't do this to you."
"No, but there was an incident that he didn't inform you of," Draco told him. Xander glared at him. "Partially my fault as the little person tripped my old spell." The doctor helped Xander back up onto the table and looked at him, looking ready for anything. "I changed him into a cat once or twice." Iggy snorted. "And his niece, just manifesting, managed to trip my spell. Unfortunately he was outside of the school and had to run halfway across the country in that form to find help."
The doctor looked at Xander, looking him over. He motioned him to take off his shirt and listened to his heart and lungs, then checked over his shoulder joints. He poked him on the flat stomach and made Xander grunt. He moved the fake knee around, checking it for stiffness. "I think he might have pulled a few muscles. What did your healers say?"
"That I was swollen and sore but not badly hurt," Xander admitted. He flexed his other knee and it popped. "That's been from this year."
"I had noticed that at your last appointment. Can you do it again?" Xander did it again so he checked that joint as well. "Did it get worse after your trek?"
"Yup. I couldn't move that knee for nearly a week after I got back without pain. It bore most of the weight in my hind legs."
"I can understand that. When did this happen?"
"Two weeks after you let him out of the brace," Iggy told him. "We did what we could to ease his pain after the healers said it was all right, but with this swelling I can't be sure it's not related."
"It might well be, or it could be the swelling some people get in their scars over the summer from the humidity." Xander nodded. "Do you normally get some of that?" Xander nodded again. "Does this feel like that?"
"Those ache, the others just itch," Xander told him. "I don't know what that is, but it fucking hurts and I'm tired of pain." He sat up. "I almost wished this morning that I had lost it instead."
"I understand." The doctor ran a gentle hand over the worst patch of the scars, making him wince. "Can I send you to another specialist? With any luck I can get you in for a quick consultation today."
"Sure. If he'll make them quit hurting, I'd be really happy."
"Have you been taking your pain medicine?" the doctor asked.
"Steadily for the last three weeks," Xander admitted. "I ache. Even when I don't do anything."
"Then I'll definitely send you over to him. He's here in the building, and he'll probably want blood drawn as well." He looked at Iggy, who shrugged. "Nothing will show up?"
"It'll look like the herbal supplements they are. Nothing bad."
"Good. Then I'll send you down for the bloodwork myself and let him look at the results. How's that?" Xander nodded. "Let me call, put back on your pants."
"He's reverted to the support hose again, was that the right course of action?" Draco asked him.
"I'd say it's probably helpful. Is it?" Xander nodded. "Then that should be fine. I'll be right back." He left them alone.
Draco stood up and helped Xander back into the support hose, then stabilized him when he stood up. "How long should this take?"
"There's a cafeteria downstairs if you want something," Iggy told him, handing his father his cane. "Thankfully this one is stronger, or you might have broken the other one."
"Yeah, I guess I might have," Xander agreed. The door opened and a woman walked in, not dressed as a nurse. "Who're you?"
"I'm with the Daily Prophet," she said with a smile. "I wanted to know if you had a comment about using muggle technology for your injuries? It's not seemly and people are wondering why so I'm doing a story on it."
Iggy flicked her with his wand, knocking her out. "I'll be right back. I'll pop into the downstairs bathroom if I don't feel you here." He grabbed her and teleported her away to report her to the Law Enforcement people. She had just broken a whole bunch of laws. He landed in their office and dropped the body. "She just walked into my father's doctor's appointment and asked if he had a comment. No permission, nothing."
"His muggle knee specialist?" the agent who came over to meet him asked. Iggy nodded. "Doesn't he know?"
"He had a whole office full of people and look how she's dressed," Iggy told him. He pointed at the garish pink rose splattered robe with gold trim and gold shoes. "Plus, she literally walked into the exam room and asked my father for a comment, without having his permission to invade his privacy yet again. Do something about her before my father has to go after them again." He felt around and found his father still in the same spot so he teleported back there. "The Ministry has her."
"The question being will they do anything about her," Draco noted. He looked over at the doctor. "What time is it now?"
"Ten-thirty," Iggy said. "When's the next bout of doctors?"
"Two hours," Xander told him. "His partner's got a lunch break she's squeezing me into. We're off to the lab next."
"Fine with me," Iggy agreed. "I can hop over to the caf and get something." Xander took the forms and stood up. "Do I need to do anything else?"
"No, but her helper is still in the waiting room, thankfully dressed a bit better than she was. I had noticed her and wondered about that."
"Reporters are stupid," Draco agreed as he stood up. The doctor looked at him and opened his mouth. "Xander found the spell, the same one who tripped his cat one did mine," he said with a sigh.
"But we're pregnant?" the doctor asked. Everyone nodded so he looked at Xander. "You're really not the average of your kind, are you?"
Xander grinned. "Why be normal and boring?" he quipped, following his son out of the office. "Thanks, doc." He paid his bill, thanking the exchange rate again, and followed his sons to the elevators. "Ground floor, we have to head over to the hospital and check in first. That should take most of the two hours."
"Fine, we'll do lunch after this is over with," Draco agreed, getting onto the elevator and pushing the buttons for them. "I'm going to leave you for a few minutes and go to the bathroom."
"Fine," Iggy agreed. "I've heard that people in your spot need to do that often."
"Very often," Xander agreed. "Ginny used to go every half-hour. We used to have to plan things around bathroom stops." The doors opened and he walked off with Iggy while Draco followed the signs to the bathroom. He signed the form to be put in line to be checked in and sat down with a groan. "Remind me why I didn't beg them to take it off again?"
"Because otherwise you would have had to hop around for the rest of your life?" Iggy suggested, leaning against the wall beside him. The waiting area was full. "Maybe we should get a muggle phone for a while," he suggested quietly. "For times like this."
"It'd be disabled as soon as we took it into the school," Xander told him.
"I know, but sometimes it's handy. Uncle Draco has one for things like this. We could have used it to call out today, or to hear the test results."
"It's fine, son. I can come back for test results." He gave him a small pat. "It's not worth the money most of the time for us." His name was called and he stood up, walking over to sit in the little window. He handed over his form and let the woman read it over.
Xander looked at this new doctor, a small Asian woman, and then down at his legs. She had put something gel-like on his legs and was looking at an ultrasound. "Is it something important?"
"I'd say it's just normal swelling," she told him, turning the machine off. "It hurts that badly?" He nodded. "Is it throwing you off when you walk?"
"It's waking me up when I'm asleep, and I sleep with a mild sedative some nights."
"Oh." She stood up and pulled his left leg, the worse off, up to look it over. "Your bloodwork was fine when it came back. I wondered about a few things."
"I take mostly herbal supplements due to my religion," Xander told her. Iggy's lie at the Poisoner's Convention came in very handy in such situations. "My son's actually the one who makes them, he's in training at the moment with one of our masters."
She looked at him. "Is this healing or religion?"
"Both. We use minor herbalism in our religion as well as for healing most things, but his knee and burns were far beyond what we could do so he came to a burn center here in town. It works very well. He hasn't been sick in years besides those."
"I see." She ran a nail over one scar and he winced. "It's definitely worse in this leg."
"Which is really bad," Xander pointed out. He had already told her he had decreased feeling in that leg from the nerve damage. He still couldn't feel his foot, but he damn sure could feel the scars. "My joint doctor suggested a diuretic to relieve some of the swelling."
"I would go along with that," she agreed. "I can give you a creme to rub into it that might help that as well." She looked at Iggy. "Would that be fine with you?"
"I accept the fact that he's been taking good pain medicine for the last little while. Let's face it, it stopped some of the worst of his cramping from stress as well."
"What do you have stress from?"
"I teach ethics through mythology lessons," Xander told her. "Giving the kids things to think about while they grow up." She looked impressed. "It's a small school, basically just our followers."
"I suppose that could be stressful. Are you having trouble because you're coming to us?"
"No, not really. There's a few people who look at me funny, but they also won't look at the scars on my legs either," Xander told her. "My son's healing teacher said it's a wonderful thing for me to come to you guys because this is beyond her scope."
"You're learning the healing side, kid?"
"Actually, you learn them both at the same time, I'm just more gifted as a healer. We've got herbal equivalents for nearly everything you guys do, except for the most strong pain medicines, those in the morphine class, and some psychiatric drugs. My father had an as-needed prescription for some anti-anxiety medicine to combat the stress cramps."
"Interesting." She smiled at him. "Aren't you young?"
"I'm a prodigy," Iggy told her. "I've already been accepted into our higher classes because of how well I do in most things. I'm counted as an adult because of it." He grinned. "It's really heady. My wife is a healer as well and she's just as thrilled as I am."
"Did you get to pick her?" Iggy nodded. "Are you close?"
"She's my age and we're adorable together," Iggy told her. Xander nodded. "We aren't allowed to do anything yet, but hey," he said with a shrug.
Xander nodded. "Not until you're sixteen, son. Sixteen more months."
"Fifteen more months and three days," Iggy corrected. "We have a calendar already marked."
The doctor laughed. "I'm sure your life is quite full. Are you going to give him a diuretic?" Iggy nodded. "That's good, then I'll give you an order for the creme and hopefully they'll work well together. If not, I can write you a prescription for a diuretic and the creme." Xander shook his head. "You're sure?"
"Yup. I've been on your diuretics before, when I started having stomach problems as a teenager. They sucked. I was always thirsty."
"I'm sure you were." She checked his knee joint and frowned. "You've got some dragging, is that normal?"
"They had to go in and scrape off some scar tissue that had grown in there," Xander told her. "They did it at Christmas."
"All right." She touched the scars again, noticing how he winced. "If they're hurting that much, it's got to be more than swelling. I'm going to give you a different creme, this one will kill some of the feeling in your skin. I want to see you again in two weeks." She wrote out the prescription. "Sooner if his diuretic doesn't work." Xander and Iggy both nodded. "What happened to the man with you?"
"He's in the bathroom," Iggy told her. "He's got a bad case of the bloat right now." She perked up. "It's nothing unusual for him, he's had it before. It went away after a few weeks of treatment."
"Good." She smiled at him. "You seem like a pretty neat kid. No mother?"
"I'm with his other father," Xander told her. "We're fighting right now."
"I'm sorry." She gave him the forms. "Take this to any pharmacy, though I know the one downstairs doesn't carry this in that size. It's a controlled substance so be careful how much you use. If you run out sooner, I can't really give you more until it's time. Anything else?"
"Should he be wearing the support hose?" Iggy asked. "He's had to recently to get any comfort at all."
"If it makes him feel better, it shouldn't hurt. I would recommend that he not wear tight pants overall because that can make the blood pool in his feet if they're cutting off the blood supply. The swimming should be fine, but be careful about your trunks. Wear something skimpy, maybe it'll help with your husband." She smiled and picked up the chart. "Anything else?" They shook their heads and she left.
Xander slid off the table and picked up his pants, putting them on. "Maybe I shouldn't wear those trunks after all." He put the hose into his pocket and took his son's arm when it was offered to finish steadying himself. They met up with Draco in the waiting room. "I've got to get some medicine."
"That's fine. There's a pharmacy up the street and we can get Iggy some of Denver's ingredients as well." Draco stood up and looked him over. "No hose?"
"Nope, but I was warned to lay off the tight spandex."
"We'll get you some different trunks this afternoon then," Draco said easily. "See if it helps." He took Iggy's place and walked Xander out to the elevators. "Anything else?"
"The diuretic and this creme," Iggy told him. "It deadens the skin so he won't feel them so much."
"Hopefully a combination of the three will work," Draco said optimistically. The doors closed and they were alone. "You'll be happy to note that the morning sickness has started."
Iggy looked at him. "I told the doctor you were absent because of bloat. You'd had a case of it before."
"True, and he's presently glued himself to his best friend I bet," he said with a smile. What an interesting excuse. They walked off and headed for the pharmacy on the other side of the hospital. The creme only took a few minutes to be found, and then they called a wizard cab to head back to Diagon.
Draco and Xander walked into the Three Broomsticks and were waved at by the barmistress. He settled Xander in at a table and waved her over, and she came with breadsticks already in hand. "It's only us," he told her. "Unless his husband or brother-in-law wants to come down."
"That's fine," she said, smiling at him. "Would you like something soothing? We've got some cold soups."
"That would be wonderful. Gazpacho?" She nodded. "I'll take a bowl of that and some of those crusty rolls. Xander?"
"Can I have Fred's mushroom dish and that cheese thing?" She nodded, smiling at him. "And I'm not supposed to have a lot of salt."
"That's fine." She gave him a gentle pat and noticed the bags. "Needed to go shopping?"
"His doctor thought some of his swelling might be from the suits I made him get," Draco told her. "He had to find new ones."
Xander nudged him. "And you kept trying to get me into green. Naughty you."
"I do try," Draco said dryly. Madam Rosemerta walked away laughing. "Do you like them?"
"Very much. Thank you, son." He got comfortable and put his feet up on the spare chair. The waitress brought them mugs of water. "Thank you, Cassandra."
"When are you coming back?" she asked with a little pout. "Fred doesn't bring me little things like you do."
"Soon," Draco told her. "It depends on whether he needs more watching over or I do." She smiled at him. "Don't worry, we'll hopefully both be back up here soon enough."
She giggled and pulled the hose sticking out of Xander's pocket out. "Helping someone change?" she asked with a naughty titter.
"No, those are mine. They're to help with the scars," he said, taking them back. He shoved them back in his pocket. "Nothing at all like yours, these are tight for support, not irritation." She laughed and walked off. "Hopefully I won't have to use them tomorrow or the rest of this summer."
"It would help if Ignatius could make you a herbal version of the creme. Was it really that expensive?"
"Barely under a hundred pounds. Medicine is always expensive." He shifted to get more comfortable as the door opened. "Hey," he said, waving at his mate. If he wanted to be civil, he could be as well. George came over and looked down at him. "The doctor put me on more medicine. A creme and a diuretic to help the swelling."
"That's nice." George looked at them, then at the bags. "Buying him more presents?"
"It's something to hopefully ease a bit of the swelling," Draco told him. "The second doctor told him to quit wearing so many tight things."
"Really?" George asked snidely. "And why was my husband wearing tight things around you?"
"Because I enjoy watching him swim and the most effective swimming trunks are that way," Draco answered coldly. A few nearby people moved away. "Don't worry, it won't come to a duel. I won't do that to Xander."
"So you do want him," George said, sounding like he really believed that.
"Stop it," Xander said, his voice making George back away from him. "I'm not putting up with this. Our *son* is making me happy by treating me nicely. He knows damn well I'm yours and there's nothing that can break apart our marriage, short of you pulling this shit." He put his feet down and moved the bag. "If you want to talk to me, you can sit down and we'll have a discussion, but I will not tolerate this sniping at each other." He started to stand up but grunted as another cramp hit him. "Sit down and talk or go away," he said, rubbing out the cramp.
"Not doing it for him?"
"He didn't ask," Draco noted. He stood up. "Leave. You're upsetting him and he's already had a trying day between the two doctors and the dolt who couldn't find his vein in the laboratory. He doesn't need this shit now. If you want, you may come over tonight and talk to him in private while I have dinner out with my children." Xander groaned as the muscles tightened. "Calm down." He put a hand on Xander's shoulder, giving it a quick squeeze. George hit him, knocking him down.
"Stop it," Xander hissed as he stood up, glaring at his husband. "You had no reason to hit him. I have *no* idea what's wrong with you but until you're back to normal I'm sleeping in the school. You can come see me when you're over whatever this is."
"No," Draco said, standing up with a little help from one of the barmaids. "Let me." He slapped George as hard as he could, knocking him down. "Don't even touch me again, Weasley. Never. It's more conductive to your continued health. Also, do not stress him out this way. Neither doctor wanted him under any more physical stress and you're creating it at the moment. You're the reason he's swelling and aching. Until you come to your senses, the rest of the family will have to step in and watch over him for you. We'll be waiting for you to come crawling back when you're normal again." He picked up the bags. "Madam Rosemerta, may we get that to go?" She nodded and went into the kitchen, coming out with a small basket. "Thank you," he said with a smile, paying her. "We'll see you tomorrow when Xander comes to move his things about." He led Xander away.
"You stupid bastard," she said, looking down at George. "You're throwing away the best thing in your life."
"Stay out of it," Xander called. He smiled at her. "I don't want to involve the town or make them pick sides. This is between me and George." He watched as George sat himself down at the table and took off the lover's crystal, putting it on the table. That did it. He took off his ring and walked back over. "Give it back when you're ready to admit you're acting badly. Until then, we're going to have a separate nest household. I refuse to be treated this way by you." He walked away, heading out the door.
Draco looked at him, watching him look at the ring. "You really did mess up this time, Weasley. Perhaps you should spend some of those very lonely nights you have coming thinking about what you just did to him." He walked away, following Xander. The bags went into the basket as he strolled down the street, knowing where Xander was headed. He walked into the shop and shook his head at the remaining twin. "Don't ask. It was that bad. Your twin needs you right now. I'll call your mother over if you want."
"Please." Fred hurried away, leaving him in charge.
Draco went to make the call for reinforcements, then went back to help Xander. He found him packing things. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"He's being an ass, I'm not allowing myself to be treated that way again." He finished packing that drawer and moved onto the next one, then slammed it because it wasn't his clothes. He went through the rest of the dressers, but almost nothing was his. "When did I move up there?"
"You've been moving everything back and forth," Fred said from the doorway. "George said he's sorry."
Xander looked at him and shook his head. "I want to hear it from him, not you. I could care less if he said it to you." He shrunk everything and put it in his pocket. "I'll be at Draco's for another week then I'm going back up to the school."
"Ron said you could stay with him. He came in right after you stormed out."
"I'd rather stay at the school. I want time to think, not to play with the kids right now. Cheerful people are going to annoy me."
Fred smiled. "Snape doesn't get back for another month and a half."
"I can wait," Xander told him. He looked at the hallway and saw Gwen, nearly in tears. "Come here, sweetie." He held out his arms and she came over to give him a hug. "I'm sorry if I upset you. I just can't handle you guys right now. Maybe next week, okay?"
"Not forever?" Xander shook his head. "Then you still love us?"
"More every day," he assured her, giving her a squeeze. "Go tell your father thank you for me and I'll see him in a few days. Okay? I'll read to you guys then, I'm going to sulk right now." He waved and teleported away, taking himself and Draco with him. He gently settled Draco onto the couch and grabbed the swimsuit bag, heading out to the pool.
Draco groaned. How had it gotten this bad?
George walked into the school and ran into his little brother. "Is he here yet?"
"Draco locked him up for another week of sulking," Ron said, looking him over. "Dumbledore won't be back until tomorrow. He went to that conference." George nodded. "How could you even think that!"
"Easy! Do you see him spending time with me?"
"Did you not get an invitation to spend time with him?" Ron countered. George glared at him. "What? At least he's proven that he's better than *some* people in the family! He doesn't fuck around on his mate, and he doesn't say shit to intentionally hurt his children. Both of those put him higher than you and Ginny combined in my book. And before you say a word, mum and dad agree, George. You fucked up so badly that it's not funny and you'd better fix it before Xander gets too used to sleeping alone. Because he's the sort that won't come back after a while. Not even if you beg." He walked around his brother and left, going to rage outside. It was a pretty day and the kids were playing with the newly returned Hagrid by his hut. "Gwen, honey, would you like a story?" She nodded and went to get a book, and her triplets followed her silent cues. Daddy looked like he needed the intense hugs from all of them.
"Problems?" Hagrid asked.
"Xander and George are fighting."
"Because George is a shithead and somehow thinks that Draco is trying to steal Xander from him."
"He's staying with him," Hagrid pointed out.
Ron looked at him. "In separate bedrooms, except for when Draco had all those cramps! George has an open invitation to go visit and spend time over."
"Why can't Xander come back?"
"Because Xander's having health problems with his legs. The scars are swelling and he's on medicine that requires careful watching. Between that and the fact that he needed a small vacation from all the stress, Draco kidnaped him and made him rest." He slumped a little. "This is wrecking the both of them."
"Maybe they should be locked in a closet until they've fought it out," Hagrid suggested.
Ron shook his head. "George is too irrational for that. He won't even let Xander wear green any more." Hagrid laughed. "I know, it's like the house rivalries all over again with Xander as a prize, but I don't want to get caught in the middle." Gwen finally found a book and settled into his lap. "Where are the other two?"
"They're finding their own books," she said proudly. "We all cuddle you since Uncle Xander so sad." She patted him on the hand. "Now read please."
He flipped open the muggle book and smiled at her. "The Pokey Little Puppy?" She nodded, she liked dogs, as evidenced by the dog slobber all over her. The puppies had pounced her. He chuckled and gave her a squeeze, turning to the first page.
Minerva McGonagall walked into Weasley Wizarding Wheezes and smiled at the twin standing behind the counter. "Fred, how are you?"
He smiled at her. "You usually can't tell us apart."
"I thought your twin might look more morose right now and need a shoulder or a voice of reason." She smiled at him and looked around the semi-packed store. It was apparently allowance day in town as all the children were in and babbling over some new thing or another. "Where is George?"
"In the lab, but he doesn't want anyone else involved."
She laughed. "When has he ever? Sometimes it does help though. I remember when those two were dating and it was so explosive."
"Sometimes literally," he said dryly. She laughed. "George, visitor!"
"I'm not seeing anyone," came out of the back.
"Go back and smack him around if he argues," Fred said casually, ringing up one little girl's new ever-bouncing ball. "Did you lose your last one?"
She nodded. "The cat has it. Mum said I could have one that wasn't slobbered on." She took her ball and the egg it went in, and skipped out.
Fred watched the boys look at the new annoyance toy. "We can't sell that to anyone who doesn't look older than eight," he told them. "The auror who got one used on her said so." The boys bent togther and one boy smiled at him. "Yeah, you look like you're about eight." They cheered and bought three of them. Anything that could take on an auror they wanted.
She laughed. "An auror was it?"
Fred nodded. "One of Xander's former students. She came down for something for her own daughter, one of our newborn packages. They annoyed her to no end."
She laughed as she walked away, heading back to the lab. She noticed that the rock was now sitting in a lab somewhere. "Did you see that the fish had disappeared?" she asked as she opened the door.
George started and looked at her. "Sorry, you startled me." He looked at the picture. "It's cleaning time. They do it every few months. Here in a minute or so you should see some soapy water and a big brush." He smiled at her. "Down for a visit?"
She closed the door and he groaned. "It's not as bad as all that, George." She pulled a chair over. "I saw Xander yesterday, he brought up Maeve and William. I was wondering if you wanted to talk to me about it. I do remember when you were very young, and even when you two started to see each other. How insecure he was because of all of this, and how even Fred used to tease him. Now you seem to have switched places."
He sighed and hopped up to sit on the counter. "I don't know what's wrong with me. It's like I'm jealous, and I can't help it."
"That's an insecurity," she said gently. "When did it start?"
"One day when I looked around the store and noticed that Xander's section was bigger than mine. Then I looked in the closet and noticed that he didn't have hardly any clothes down here. I don't know what I'm about any more."
She stood up and walked over, giving him a motherly hug. "It sounds like you're jealous that he's so very good at the things you introduced him to. Are you jealous of Ignatius?" He shrugged. "This isn't like you, George. You used to revel in the fact that someone could prank you." She tipped his face up. "He's not leaving you. He never will." She noticed his necklace and lifted it up to look at it. "A Lover's Crystal," she said with a wonderful smile. "That can only be used when you love each other that much."
"I can't hear him through it anymore," George said miserably. "Draco stole his attention and then started to take care of him better than I could, even dresses him these days."
She snorted and shook her head. "Draco Malfoy will only ever see Xander as a father figure. Even if he were to be attracted to your mate, he's your mate. No matter if he dresses him in his old team uniform, he's still your mate." George looked even more miserable. "Where is Xander now?"
"At *his* house." He looked up. "I don't feel comfortable going there."
"It's all in your head, dear boy. Trust me. Xander will remain yours, no matter how many other people pay attention to him or try to help him about. He made his promises to you."
"He took off his ring when I removed the crystal," George admitted.
"Then you'd better get him to put it back on right now," she said sternly. "Xander won't let you come back if you wait too long."
"I can't go there."
"Of course you can. Draco was like your son as well, wasn't he?" George nodded. "If Ignatius was paying him a lot of attention, would you mind?"
"Draco's not our natural son and he's making Xander smile and laugh."
"You're not so someone had better," she said dryly. "He tends to get into worse trouble when he's not happy. Why did he take him?"
"Because Salazar's ghost said to. He said Xander had to learn how to let the younger guys take on the fighting and guarding stuff while he acted like the elder he was now. So Draco kidnaped him and put him in a room at his big, fancy house and feeds him anything he wants. He even let Xander crawl in with him sometimes."
"All things you should be doing," she agreed. "Surely you can't be jealous of the Malfoy name or possessions?" George shrugged. "Do you not have more than enough money to live comfortably?"
"More or less, a lot of it still goes to the kids and into the store. We've got savings to live on for the next two years comfortably." He shrugged again. "It's not the house or the jewels he could be showering my husband with. It's the fact that they're always together."
"If you got off your arse, that would be you," she pointed out. He looked up, stunned. "You quit paying attention to him and Draco moved in to substitute for you. I'm sure even he realizes that he can't buy your mate. Or any good mate. It's bad enough that his original one has went funny."
"Ginny wants to be eighteen again and relive her life."
"Then have her ask your mate for it," McGonagall said with a snort. "I've heard he can do that." George nodded, starting to smile a little bit. "All of this occurred because you were pouring so much energy into this part of your life and not that part. Xander is one needy young boy. He never got the attention he needed and you were his source for it. Now you have a pregnant rival who needs the attention himself. Together they satisfy some need in the other, but it's not sexual. I'm sure even if Mr. Malfoy got that lucky, he couldn't hold onto Xander. He prefers short term relationships that he doesn't have to work too hard to maintain."
"Actually, he's been trying to settle down, but Ginny fucked him over," George told her, grimacing. "You don't think that they'd be compatible?"
"Merlin, no!" she laughed. "I can't see those two as more than friends. Xander's practical side and Mr. Malfoy's impertinence would never get along."
"He's actually quite the reader."
She tipped his face up to look him in the eyes. "If you like him that much, then put him between you once or twice. He's not the rival you think though. Even if he's threatened to keep your mate, he's tied to you and cannot get free of that obligation."
"There's a tradition of having separate nests when things like this happen," George told her.
"As I said, put him between the two of you. Perhaps you'll see why your husband cherishes his friendship so much. He lets Xander play like the little boy who's been trapped inside him his whole life. You used to do that, but then you got caught up in your drive for the store. An admirable thing, but not if you forget about your mate and children."
"They're staying with him."
"I've heard, and seen." She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Would you like to go with me to lunch?"
"I'm banned from the Broomstick until I get Xander back. Madam Rosemerta is pissed at me for punching Draco."
"You hit a pregnant person?"
"I didn't mean to, I just ... lost it. I blocked out the fact that he was delicate and fragile and I hit him in the mouth for daring to help my husband through a cramp."
"You need to talk to Mr. Malfoy and your husband," she told him. She patted him on the hand. "Call someone and I'll go to lunch with both of you. Your brother Ron never shares any good gossip about your family these days."
"Okay, but you get to tell Madam Rosemerta I'm trying to behave."
"I'm sure she'll appreciate it," McGonagall agreed.
Xander looked up as his bird flew into his room, holding up his arms for a hug from Murphy. He was stuck in bed because his legs wouldn't unswell for anything. "Hey, Murphy. How's the school?"
Murphy nuzzled his father, cooing gently at him. He had a message for him.
"Come to make me feel better?" Murphy trilled a bit and showed him the message.
"I'm sorry. Can we talk?" George.
"Tell him that he has to come here in person. I'm not using you for this. You don't need the mental buggers I've already got." He gave his bird a gentle head scratch. "I love him, big guy, but I can't put up with this shit. It hurts, you know?" Murphy cheeped and leaned down to get into his face. "I know, you treat your mate very well and she's happy with you. I thought I was, but apparently I was wrong." He shrugged it off and sucked air through his teeth, making Murphy settle down on his chest. "That healing thing you do, can it make swollen things go down?"
Murphy hopped down to look at the injured legs, then hissed, using a claw to bat at it. Xander screamed and Draco came running, with Simone. "What are you doing?" she asked, lifting Murphy off the bed. Murphy continued to hiss at the scars. "Is there something on there?"
"It might be a fungal infection," Draco said, knocking Xander out. Murphy had opened a thin place in his leg and it was bleeding. Plus, it stopped the yelling. "Murphy, is it a bad growth or something in his blood?" Murphy grumbled. "Get Glinda. We'll do this before you have to leave tonight." She nodded and put Murphy back onto the bed, going to get her own phoenix.
Murphy hissed at the bad things in his human's leg. Then he looked at the extra son and showed him a picture of the true son. He batted at the leg with a wing, and Draco nodded.
"I'll get Iggy for you," he agreed.
Iggy walked in. "Thought steams," he said with a grin. He nodded at Murphy. "What can I do for you?"
Simone walked in with Glinda. "That was fast."
"I heard the panicked thoughts about finding me. I was at the Burrow. What's wrong?"
"Murphy looked at his scars and started to hiss and scratch at them," Draco told him. Murphy batted at the scar again. "See? He got him with a claw."
"Hmm. Can you translate, Si? Is it a bad thing on the skin or in the blood? And is it a growth or some other bad thing?"
Simone put Glinda down there. "Tell me what he means," she told her bird. Murphy and Glinda cheeped and talked, then Glinda stared at her and passed on the message, in Ron's voice. "Some sort of bad growth thingy, but it's not on the skin? I think."
"Let me try something," Iggy said. He patted himself down then pulled his wand. He pointed it at the small wound. "Incendio." The skin hanging off burned and he sniffed. "There's a fungal component somewhere. What has he taken of ours?"
"Just his pain medicine and the diuretic," Draco told him.
"Then let me get Pomfrey." He disappeared.
"Hopefully he doesn't need the hospital. I don't think he could handle going through this again." He caught Murphy before he could attack more of the skin. "Fungus? Here?"
"Probably in his blood or resting in his skin," Simone told him. She patted Glinda. "Are you coming with me?" Glinda gave her a snort of derision. "Does that mean you're leaving me to be eaten by a dragon?" She screech angrily. "Then come help me pack my bag. I know I forgot something."
"I'll check it in a moment," Draco said, staring down at the man on his bed.
Iggy flashed into the meeting of the hiring board. "Um, sorry to interrupt. Poppy, can you look at Dad's legs? Murphy just caught something unusual and I'm not sure what. I think it might be fungal though. I did the burn and sniff test and it smelled like grass."
"Of course." She stood up. "Let me grab my supplies. You can walk with me and tell me what was so important that you broke into two of my cabinets." She led him from the room.
"Need help?" Ron called.
"Not yet." Iggy closed the door. "Technically, I didn't break into either of them," he told her. She gave him an 'oh, really' look. "Really. The Headmaster got the Merlin's Tears for me and let Raena put the dragonsbane solution into your cold cabinet."
She stopped. "Dragonsbane? Who used it on a muggle?"
"Someone at the poisoner's convention." She pursed her lips. "They got the convention, and the Ministry in Venice uses muggles to investigate crime scenes." He shrugged. "Twenty-six wizards and fifty-three muggles. You've got the rest of the solutions in Raena's basket." He sneezed. "It was so bad that one of the master's apprentices tried to use the counter-poison, even though he *knew* it would endanger their lives later on." He grinned. "So I went in as a healer in training from our faith and gave them the holy herbs of healing and blessing until we could make the antidote, which had to have come from one of us because only one who had went bad would use one of the sacred herbs that way."
She shook her head, but was smiling. "I heard about that part. At least leave a note next time." She led him up to the infirmary. "Why did you do the burn test?"
"Murphy attacked his leg. He opened up a spot so I did it on the flap of hanging skin. It smelled like really old grass, like the stuff that's been mowed but it hasn't ever been raked? The stuff you smell after a rain and there's newly mown grass?"
"That decomposition smell?" she suggested. He nodded, looking happier. "That does sound like a fungal infection. I can't imagine where he might have gotten it from."
"Unless he got it from the pool, or here, or Diagon, he hasn't been anywhere else."
"Is your uncle still keeping him there?" she asked as she gathered the necessary ingredients.
Raena popped in. "Can I help? Draco's nearly frantic. Murphy attacked him as well and is starting to get frantic again."
"Hmm. That narrows it down a bit at least."
"I asked him, through Hilda, if I had any of the smell and she nearly took off my hand."
"That means it's probably the school, his house, or the pool," Iggy said. "We need someone who hasn't been in there."
"We'll need Severus anyway, you don't know how to make any of the anti-fungals," Poppy reminded him. "Raena, do you?" She shook her head. "Then you take me and Iggy will find Severus for us." She took the girl's hand and disappeared.
Iggy thought about it, and made his entrance subtly, in the bathroom. He walked out, adjusting his new long coat so it was suitably muggle. He found Tara standing in front of a statue, but he had searched her out. "Where is Severus?" he whispered in her ear. "Draco and Daddy need him badly."
She smiled at him, turning her head. "Behind you."
Iggy looked back and smiled. "Big major problem. Murphy's found something like fungus on Raena, Daddy, and Draco. He's laid into dad's legs for it."
"Take my sleeve so we can do a comparison," Severus told him. "Tara, we'll be back. Ignatius, this is a Ministry facility."
"Good, I'll do paperwork tonight," Iggy said dryly as he took him back. As soon as he landed in his father's room Murphy started to hiss. "I guess you have it on you as well."
"That means it's in the school somewhere," Poppy told him. "Severus, find me the mold so we can treat it."
He nodded and Iggy helped him get to the school faster, landing him right outside the dungeons. "Where would a fungus be hiding?" Iggy mused.
"Swab the air vents first," Severus told him, pulling down a box of swabs. "I'll do ones of the tables."
Iggy took some and floated himself up to check the air vents. "Eww."
"Green and black stuff, inhalable," he said with a cough. "When was the last time this was cleaned?" He came down with a large chunk on the end of the swab. "I think this might be it."
"Probably. Put on a mask and separate it out. We'll see what sort it is soon enough."
"It's nasty, that's what it is," Iggy told him, but he obediently followed orders. Fortunately it was a common spoor and they had a ready antidote and dissolver for it. "Would this make Dad's legs swell?"
"Yes." Snape looked at the tests. "If it's in his blood, then it could conceivably make his scars swell greatly. Have they been?"
"He even saw a second specialist," Iggy told him. "They never mentioned any spoors in his bloodwork, but then again we told her that he's taking herbal remedies so she might not have noticed."
"I'll pull some myself and do an analysis over my holiday. It won't take long." He finished pouring the antidote into the larger pitcher. "Take this back there and feed three drams to each of them." Iggy nodded. "Including yourself and Poppy. I'll make up more for those of us here."
"Was it here during classes?" Snape nodded. "Then we'll be making a *lot* more."
"Yes, you will be," Snape agreed with a smirk. "Go now and I'll leave everything here and supplies on their way." Iggy disappeared, and a drop fell onto the floor. "I don't feel pity for him," he reminded himself. "This is his calling after all." He wrote out the formula the boy and his wife would need, then called to order supplies. He made enough for himself and his mate, plus enough for anybody in the school, before heading up to administer it. He tapped on the meeting room's door, walking in with the tray. "We have a fungal problem in the vents," he announced. The caretaker looked over at him. "I've left Ignatius with the formula to use to dissolve it. It's inhaled. Take one each of you." Each one of them took it and slurped it down, each wincing at the bitterness. "Have Poppy check you over tonight."
"Severus, this is usually your job," Lupin told him. "May we steal a moment of your valuable time for some advice?" Snape paused and nodded. "We're down to three entries, but one person on the board has a problem with one of them because of their name. One isn't really favored by any of us. How would you get past that in a non-biasing way?"
Snape thought about it. "Have you tried copying their forms without their names on it and taking an objective look?" Black nodded, clearly it was him who was having the problem and it was probably with Draco. "Then I would ask the last ones to write up a sample test and have the others answer them. Have an independent neutral party grade it. What areas are we looking at?"
"Beaubaxton's is getting rid of their theory program and their Master is one of the applicants," Lupin told him. "He's the only real threat to Draco getting the job, but he's got a very narrow approach. Draco's got a much broader approach and expects the students to do a lot of work, which frankly mystifies me." He handed over both proposed curriculums. "That's for a beginning class."
Snape looked them over. He snorted. "From my own teachings long ago, I can tell you that the Master from Beaubaxtons is going with the popular trend and not expecting the students to know more than that, even though it's countered by at least six other theories." He looked over Draco's. "He does have a marking where he expects to end, if he has to run short." He handed them back. "The same as all the applicants for my job had to do a potion, make them do a test. Don't have them put their names on them, but ask someone from one of the universities to grade it."
"Brilliant," Ron said with a grin. "Thank you. Do we have to worry about frequent dosings?"
"As long as it's fixed shortly it shouldn't be a problem," Snape told him. "If you'll excuse me, everything is set up for Ignatius to fix this problem and I'm going back to my first vacation in nearly fifteen years." He left them there, walking down to the apparation barrier so he could return to his spouse's side. He had to explain himself, but everything was all right within moments. He would draw blood later when Ignatius got panicked again and came for him.
Iggy finished writing the announcement and handed it over for approval by the Headmaster. "Has he finished spraying yet?"
"Not yet," Dumbledore told him. "Should we hold off the start of the year fora few days? I can change the date on the letters."
"If he'd get his ass in gear and spread it like Hagrid suggested, it wouldn't be a problem," Iggy told him. "The dissolver even takes the slime off a few of the outer dungeon walls." He shifted, sliding down a little more. "Dad's better."
"Has your other father showed up?"
"He tried but Uncle Draco sent him away because daddy was still unconscious. He was in a lot of pain. Morphine sort of pain." Dumbledore nodded. "It was suggested that he come back today and talk to daddy, but you know how stubborn he can be." He played with his wand. "Would it be ethically wrong to change Aunt Ginny into a gerbil or something small and furry so she couldn't speak to Simone ever again?"
"Probably," he agreed with a smile. "What now?"
"She sent the girls a letter saying that she was going to take them shopping and Simone was expected to attend, meaning she'd have to come back from her trip to the preserve early."
"I think a gerbil would be a bit extreme. Does she know where her eldest is?" Iggy nodded. "And she demanded that she come home?" Iggy nodded again. "What did Draco have to say about that?"
"He sent it back, complete with a flame charm to burn it in front of her. Ana stuck up for Simone and reminded her mother that Simone was doing good stuff for her future. Ginny's got her head up her ass again and the rest of us are really tired of it."
"I still think a gerbil would be a bit extreme. Have your uncle turn her into a hedgehog or something of that size." He smiled. "Or have Ron do it. He could use the stress relief."
"Have they made a decision yet?"
"Not yet. They're waiting on the tests they were asked to submit so they can be forwarded to the other."
"I saw Uncle Draco's. When they said not more than five pages of questions, he thought you meant front and back. He knows his shit like I know potions." He stood up. "Is that okay enough?"
"It's fine, Ignatius. Are you staying here?"
"Not if I have to take that potion again. In the future, can you get the guy to do it once every two years or so? It might help."
"Argus used to do it every three, but the new caretaker hadn't been told of the problem."
"Filch gave explicit orders," Iggy reminded him. "I know it was on there somewhere if he put how high, in decimeters, that each blade of grass had to be." He shook his head. "I'm off for the Prophet. If you hear a loud explosion, it was me." He teleported away with the announcement.
Dumbledore laughed. He would talk to the caretaker. It should have been done by now.
Simone sipped her morning tea, looking at her favorite uncle. "Uncle Charlie, will you tell me how to attract a man like you?" The other student with them spluttered and choked. "Not him, that'd be gross, but I need someone like him to understand me."
Charlie smiled at her as he broke off pieces of jerky and handed it to them. "A man like me is a rare and precious thing, Simone."
"Yeah, but you'd understand my side that likes creatures, and you'd understand my sports side. A man like daddy wouldn't."
"He might, if he meshed with you on some things. You don't want to be totally the same, but to have an appreciation for the differences."
"Is that why you're still single?" the other boy asked. "Because you need someone like Simone?"
Charlie laughed. "Maybe. Women like her are even more rare than men like me." They stopped talking until the very egg-heavy dragon had walked past them. She was a tad bit cranky at the moment and really didn't like humans at the best of times. "The best piece of advice I can give you is wait it out and be yourself. Men like me hate artificial women like your younger sister, or your mother." He grimaced. Ginny had sent him a letter saying to send Simone back to her house, preferably before he corrupted her. "Any idea what's wrong with her?"
"She wants to be our age again and unmake her mistakes, namely me."
"Then she needs to grow the fuck up and get over it. No one forced her to go to your father's bed and get knocked up."
"She's only been this way since we hit puberty and Uncle Ron said something about grandmother being the same way with mum." She stopped as a large tongue lapped her. "Hey, you." She looked up at the most fearful dragon on the whole preserve. "Did I taste good?" Charlie moved away from her. "If you do that again, I'm going to insist on a ring." The female nudged her, sending her onto her back, making the other student scream. Her tail whapped him into a tree - he was out. She looked at Simone, then grunted and turned sideways. "Are you in trouble, Big Red?" she asked, sitting up and reaching out to touch the protruding lumps. "Uncle Charlie, I think she's in trouble. Those eggs seem pretty hard, much harder than Glinda's when they hatched."
"Fuck me. Okay." He searched through his stuff and came up with the special whistle, the one that went right to the office and would bring help running. "Simone, Big Red, I want you to head back toward your nest, all right?" The dragon looked at him and he could swear he saw intelligence in her eyes. "I know, girl, but that's why we're out here, to help you if you have troubles." She lapped him and picked up Simone in her teeth, carrying her off to the nest. "See if you can feel the blockage," Charlie called after her. He checked on the student, who was out cold. He tossed the poor boy into the tent and zipped him in, then went running for the nest.
Fortunately, his boss and a few experienced people were within screaming range. "Charlie!"
"Big Red's havin' troubles," he yelled back. "Knocked out one, has Simone with her." He waited while they caught up. "She said the eggs felt too hard through her side."
The healer stopped to catch his breath. "Phoenix eggs would be softer." He winced at the squeal. "Simone? Are you all right?" he asked, heading in first. It was his job to treat any injuries to the staff, or the animals. She was covered in ick. "What happened?"
"She had a stuck egg. It was stuck in the opening. I pulled it out." She held out her arms so the ick could drip off her. "It broke."
"I know, princess, but you did good," Charlie assured her, not getting anywhere near close enough to hug her. "How'd you know?"
"I yelled at Iggy and he told me how he had done the gryphon's earlier this summer." The healer looked interested. "At the end of the long day of dosing wizards and muggles at the Poisoner's convention, he went to make the necessary courtesy call to any local colony elders." She shook her head, splattering everyone with the goop. "While there, he had to help a poor gryphoness who had a broken egg and a backed-up tube. He ended up inside her to fix the veins that had been cut by shell fragments and to pierce her second sac." She looked down at herself. "I bet he looked something like this."
"Gryphon blood is dark blue or black," the healer told him. "Dragon blood is a very pleasing shade of Slytherin green." He smiled at her. "Very nice work. What's this about the eggs feeling too hard?"
"They feel like stones."
"All right, let me check. Red?" She blew some steam at him. "Just your side, my dear." He patted her gently on the side, knowing the exact places to push to make her contractions harder and faster. They waited until the next egg came out and he sighed. "She was right, it's an unborn." Charlie turned and kicked the wall, muttering a few choice words.
"What's an unborn?" Simone asked, gently patting the writhing side.
"A baby won't come out of it," Charlie told her.
"Like there's no baby or like the shell's too hard?"
The healer looked her over. "Not many people are smart enough to ask that question," he admitted with a smile. "It's too hard, the infant dragon won't be able to break through at the right time and will suffocate."
"You can't soften the shell?"
The healer sucked in some air and then shrugged. "We can but it's very risky and we'd have to take them from the mother. She won't be able to sit on them all. The shells will become the consistency of jelly. We have the facilities and the potion, but it's very dangerous for the young."
Simone looked up at the worried mother. "Big Red, we can take the hard ones from you and try to get them born?" The dragon moved her head closer. "Shit, I need a translator. She only knows that she's in trouble."
"What did you do with the broken one?" the head wrangler asked.
"I put it in the darkest corner so she wouldn't have to see it. Iggy said so," she admitted. "He said it would be mean otherwise."
"It would be. As far as we know dragons don't grieve like humans do," Bo told her. He looked over as the other student walked in and was swatted at. "Hey now. He's here to learn about you lot. Let him watch too."
"Simone, your bird's back from her morning forage. She was frantic." He continued to rub the back of his head until the healer swatted his hands and checked him over.
"Glinda!" Simone yelled. Glinda came in and started to shriek abuse at the dragon, who yelled back. "Enough! She's in trouble and you're going to help even if you don't like dragons."
"Dragons and cats," Charlie told his boss with a grin.
"What a combination." He watched as Simone calmed her bird then gave her a message, asking her to translate it into dragon. "That's efficient."
"I swear, Bo, I thought Big Red understood me or her there for a few minutes." The dragon looked down at her. "See?"
Bo looked up and saw the spark of intelligence. "Looks like you guys are evolving into true intelligence. One day you'll over take us." She licked him and listened to the little annoying one babble. She grunted and pushed, then shook her head. "She stuck?"
Simone looked up at Glinda, who squawked something and flew down to push on her side. "I think so." She reached around, finding a stoppage. "If I have to go back up there, someone's scrubbing my back for me."
The healer laughed and came over. "No need. Dragons have some delivery pressure points on their sides. I haven't had to crawl up one in years."
"Now you tell me," she sighed. She pushed where the healer pointed and the next egg came out, a normal, squishy one. "That one's good."
"Yes, it is." He looked up at the mother. "That was a normal egg, my dear. Bring out more of those." She swatted at him with her back foot and blew really warm steam at him.
"She's got to be in pain, she'd have toasted us by now if she wasn't," Charlie noted. He came over and took Simone's spot. "Let me, honey, I'm a little stronger than you. Go shake off or something." Simone walked outside and tried to scrape some of the ick off her. "That's why she's here," he told Bo. "This and quidditch is her life."
"I'm good at Transfiguration too, but Ravena's better," Simone called. Glinda cheeped her agreement. She came back in and looked up at her. "Well? Would you rather have live young or less young?" The dragon nuzzled her off her feet and against a cave wall, nearly purring at her.
"First time she's made that noise," the healer noted. "I'd say that was a yes. Glinda, would you be willing to let some chicks come see us? I know Charlie didn't take to anyone's fancy, but I'd be more than happy to give it a whirl." He gave another push and another of the stuck eggs came out. "Bo, I'll need the hard ones removed and packed. Charlie, are you staying?"
"I probably should. She might not like anyone else coming in here." He looked at the kids. "You up for it?"
"Sure," Simone said cheerfully as her stomach was pushed against and purred into.
The male student nodded. "I'd like to if I may. This is really fascinating."
Charlie nodded. "This is definitely more interesting than the norm. Simone, you need help yet?"
"I'm good, it's making her happy to nuzzle me to death. She's not paying attention to how many eggs are coming out bad." Another one plopped out and she scratched the proud head. "We'll do what we can to make sure they're fine. As soon as they hatch, we'll give 'em back, sweetie." Big Red nuzzled her harder. "Hey, need those intestines in that space," she told her, but she was smiling.
Charlie smiled at her. "Give us a few more hours and you can get down. She'll be done by then. Hopefully, otherwise we're going to get woken up with her big head." The male student moved closer and the dragon glared at him. "C'mon, Red, he's a sweetie. He thinks you guys are the most brilliant creatures on the earth today."
"I think she's beautiful," the student told him. "Her scales are nearly perfect, except for that small flaw." He pointed at it and she swatted him harder.
Charlie and Bo both groaned. "Never mention that, kid. She got shot there once and she's still pissed about it."
"Yes, sir," he said in a tiny voice. "What a powerful woman. I want a wife like her." Everyone looked at him. "Human if possible, but I'm good with some scales if she'd transform."
"I can't imagine laying eggs as a human," Simone said, looking at her uncle. "Wouldn't that hurt?"
"Probably," he agreed. He looked at Bo, who shook his head. "He'll learn if he comes here to work."
Bo nodded. "Definitely. Never piss off the dragons, boy. It hurts when you do that. They're bigger." The boy nodded. He understood that now.
Simone giggled, the purring was getting more fierce. "Is this where one of us suggests we all get a beer together?"
"Sounds about right to me," Charlie agreed. "Too bad you're underaged."
"Fuck my age, I think I deserve a glass of wine or something."
"We'll see," Charlie and Bo said in unison, then grinned at each other. That wasn't a half-bad idea.
Iggy sat down at the table and saluted Draco with his cup. "Congrats, your daughter just got slimed by a dragon." Draco put down his fork and waited for it. "One of the dragons pounced her for help. She ended up removing a stuck egg and it broke on her."
"Eww," Xander noted. Raena and Denver both nodded. "Is she all right?"
"Yeah, the dragon and she are getting along really well. Uncle Charlie was attempting to rescue her and she's fine."
"As long as she's fine," Draco said, but he didn't pick back up his fork. "Where were they found?"
"At their campsite. The dragon walked past then came back and pounced on her for help. Her eggs were too hard."
"That means that they're unborn and will be harder than normal to birth," Draco explained. "She would know that she needed help and probably smelled Glinda on Simone." He picked up his glass. "Tell her I'd like a call later."
"I did when she yelled for advice." Iggy dug into breakfast, his free hand being under the table on Raena's thigh. He was zapped from behind and glared at the woman standing there. "Oh, look, it's the future hedgehog."
"Where's my oldest?" Ginny asked.
"Presently being nuzzled by a dragon," Iggy told her. "Covered in ick because she had to help remove a stuck egg." He smiled. "And we still don't have letters yet. They're coming with an announcement so they're going to be a day late."
"What announcement?" Molly asked as she walked in. She kissed Iggy on the head. "I saw your note in the paper. I'm very happy that you're getting to dose everyone." She sat down.
"It's the same announcement," Xander told her. "We're doing it on the train up."
"They'll be captive at least," Molly agreed. "Did you have to work very hard?"
"No, this one was pretty standard mix and pour," Raena told her. "The hard part was figuring out the weight mass of the student body and how to compensate for the people who will lie."
"That's easy, you bring a scale," Xander told her. "You run each of them one at a time through an unused compartment and swear upon your last breath that you won't spread around how much each girl weighs."
She smiled. "I suppose we can do that. We were going to do it magically."
"Someone will be able to tell," Ginny put in. "Do it with the scale, it's kinder." She glanced around. "Where are the other two since you couldn't get Simone away from that horrible place?"
"I've had enough," Xander told her, pulling his wand. He deaged her to eighteen. "There, you wanted it so much, go have fun. Relive all of your mistakes and quit bothering the rest of us."
"Daddy, you're picking up Simone's morning problem," Iggy said gently, giving him an understanding look. "Crawl in with someone if you can't sleep without a person beside you."
"We would have let you have the foot of our bed," Raena agreed with a smirk. "Or Draco might allow it."
"Draco?" Ginny snorted, looking at her unwrinkly skin and the return of her freckles. "Why did I get these back?"
"Because I felt like it," Xander told her meanly. "Now go away before I stomp you flat."
"Xander, do have more caffeine," Draco said with a smile. Xander sipped his soda. "Ginny. Out." She stomped off. "Thank you. I'll send the girls to you when they're up."
"We still don't have our lists," Iggy pointed out. "We'll need them for textbooks."
Molly shook her head. "You could get uniforms," she pointed out. "That's what Ginny wanted to do anyway."
"She'll have to put her half of the children's vault's contents in first," Draco told her. "She hasn't done her court-ordered duty and I'm not putting up with her attitude anymore. Hopefully this will teach her something."
"She was cuter as a young woman," Denver pointed out. "She's been looking a lot like a hag recently. I bet if she had agreed and married you all those years ago she'd have looked better by now."
"I'm thankful that she didn't agree, son. I got to do an amazing amount of things that I wouldn't have been able to do with her around. Things like travel, or...." Something crashed in the living room. "What was that?"
"Me, Uncle Draco, I tripped," Little Ron called. He brought in the vase. "I'm really sorry, I'll glue it back together later."
Xander looked at the pieces and started to fit them back together, using his crafting talent to meld the pieces together. "There, a lot better."
"The flowers are crooked," Draco pointed out.
"I'll fix it later." Xander grinned at him, then at Harry, Mellie, and Agatha. "I thought you'd be with Willow by now."
"They're facing a crisis so Ryan came to us, he left this morning," Harry told him. He looked around. "Ginny told us to meet her here."
"Letters are going to be a day late because of the announcement of the mold potion," Raena told him. She smiled at the two girls. "Are you excited, Mellie?" She nodded. "Are there any other things that have to be done today?"
"Spike's phoenix is due any day now," Xander told her. "We'll need to keep track of that or he'll go off on Fred when it happens. Birth isn't really something he understands, death is more his thing." Agatha rolled her eyes. "Then we've got to find Ginny and kick her butt out because I think I just heard her go up the stairs." Draco got up and went to check on that, coming back with a sleepy Ravena, still in her pajamas. "Good morning, Goddess Ravena. We have guests." She squeaked and hid behind her father.
"Those are cute cloud jammies, Rav," Ron said with a grin. "Where'd you get 'em?"
"The mall. I liked them." She slowly moved out from behind her father. "Sorry, I just got up. Mum woke me." She looked at Xander. "Did she do an aging potion?"
"No, I gave her her fondest wish, to go back to eighteen. We'll see how she copes for a few days and if it gives her new insight into her current problems of being cast out." He looked her over. "Cute slippers."
"They were a gift," she defended, her poor fluffy chicken slippers.
"Dumbledore says the same thing about his cartoon pajamas," Xander told her. "Sit and eat."
"Yes, sir." She sat down daintily and put her napkin over her lap. "Would you like to eat with us, Uncle Harry?"
"We already ate. I have practice." He looked at Draco. "Can you?"
"If you'd like. I wasn't going to do much today, I've already sent in my finished test."
"Test?" Agatha asked. "Aren't you a bit old for that?"
"The Theory position required me to prove my knowledge, so I did. I wrote out a test for the other person and took his myself. He obviously is stuck on popular thought instead of examining the evidence for himself. He didn't pay a bit of attention to anything outside of Nordstrom and his group of merry idiots. Strings and pearls of magic indeed," he snorted. "No evidence at all."
"Who's grading them?" Molly asked.
"The head of the Theory department at the Royal Academy of Magic." Iggy smiled. "Yes, your institution. Did you get anything done this summer?"
"Two books," Iggy said proudly. "I'm getting myself some reading material before the semester begins, and expect to bring back half of it when Severus sees it."
"Why do you get to call him that?" Agatha demanded. "He's our head and we don't."
"You haven't stayed up with him until all hours of the night brewing desperately needed medicine for a student either," Iggy reminded her. "I'm not his student, I'm his assistant, therefore in social and non-school settings I can call him by his first name if I think it's appropriate. Never in school unless we're alone and never in most other situations. Unlike some, who would use it for their own gain, I'm actually behaving in potions."
"Iggy," Xander warned.
"No, he has a point," Harry agreed. "Agatha, I did ream you out for the letter I got from Snape, correct?" She nodded, giving him a classic eye roll response. "I'll expect not to get another one without some part of your body attached to it, young lady. Like your lips. He will do it. He nearly killed one of the Slytherins in my sixth year." He looked at Draco. "Didn't he?"
Draco played along, always happy to help Snape's reputation as a scary individual. "Yes, he did. I used to like her quite a lot before he scrambled her brains. That was right before you got there, Xander."
Xander nodded. "I heard." Agatha stomped off. "I'd better not see you in a similar condition, Agatha."
"You three are rotten," Molly said with a smile."That would have made the news." She looked at Iggy, giving him a fainter smile. "Did it feel good to pick on that reporter, dear?"
"Hell yeah. She barged into daddy's appointment with his doctor and demanded he give her a statement. They should give up now before he sues them again. Even we hold conferences with doctors to be confidential and she was so very obviously listening at the door."
"I thought about it, but it would escalate the hatred," Xander told him. "We don't need the money."
"You do if you and daddy are going to split for good," Iggy said quietly, looking at him for reassurance.
Xander grinned and zapped him lightly with his wand. "We're not splitting permanently. We're taking a break until whatever is wrong with George is gone so it can't hurt you guys. Got it?" Iggy nodded, looking happier. "Good. Explain it to William. He can't understand it."
"Where are the tots?" Molly asked.
"In the nursery playing quietly," Draco told her. "Maeve's still asleep so Lucien wouldn't consent to leave. I had breakfast sent up to them. I expect it's all over her and the walls by now."
Anastasia wandered in. "Why is mother younger?" she asked as she sat down.
"Because I got tired of it," Xander told her. "Catch the clue, Ana." She glowered but nodded. "Thank you. I won't put up with your shit this year."
"You could always hand over the control fully to Ron," Molly reminded him.
"If he does, we're stealing him," Ravena told her. She smiled at her father's choking. "Well, Salazar did find him worthy. That means he could help Professor Snape with us. We could use the firm yet understanding boot of the adult some days." She smiled proudly. "Besides, he looks better in our house colors than he does Gryff's."
"Honey, the Sorting Hat said it would have put me in Gryffindor," Xander told her.
"Pity, we could have done a lot for you." She slopped some peanut butter onto her toast and took a bite. "Weren't you supposed to find bodies this summer?"
"We've pinpointed two of them," Draco told her. "I've already explained to the Headmaster about his incapacity. He agreed that we could have a little while longer."
"Are any close to the school?" Xander asked.
Draco nodded. "We're leaving this weekend to get two of them. One's off the map toward the south. We'll have to take the time to find her. Ron's coming with us."
"Wonderful news," Molly said with a smile. "Take Percy as well so he can record what happens." Draco looked at her. "That way Gryffindor can see more of his house than Ron. He's not a good sample of all of them."
"I'm going," Iggy told her.
"Bet me," Xander snorted.
"Just to talk to Gryffindor. I want to see what he'd say about me." He straightened up at the sound of running feet. "Sounds like Maeve's finally up." He was pounced by his little brother, William always got him from behind. "Hey, Willie. How are you this morning?" He picked him up and put him into his lap. "Would you like breakfast?"
"Already eat," he said happily. "Got you."
"Yes, you did," Iggy agreed, smiling back at him. "Will you be good for Grandmother while I'm gone with all the daddies?" William nodded. "You're such a good boy," he cooed, kissing him on the forehead before handing him to Raena for similar treatment and then his father for more of the same. "When are we leaving this weekend?"
"Thursday night. Ravenclaw is in Kent for some reason and Gryffindor is in Scotland. Hufflepuff may not even be on this plane."
"She wasn't with the fairies, they would have had a huge shrine to her," Anastasia told him. "How's Simone?"
"If I told you, you couldn't eat," Iggy told her. She burst out in tears. "Hey, she just got icked, not dead. Uncle Charlie's looking out for her. She's fine, but she had to deliver a dragon's egg and it shattered on her."
"She's not dead?" Anastasia said, looking miserable.
"No, she's not dead," Raena assured her. "You'll see her this weekend I think." Ana nodded, wiping off her face. "Maybe you two should have a talk." Ana nodded again, looking at little happier.
"Think about living in both their shadows, plus the rest of yours and Father's," Ravena put in.
Ana gave her a hug. "I'm sorry, Rav." She got up and went to blow her nose.
Xander looked at Draco. "Maybe we've seen the changing point."
"Hopefully. She's been torn trying to live up to multiple expectations," Draco told him. "Trying to become her mother's daughter has been the worst so far. That was most of her problem." He sipped his morning tea. "Ravena, eat."
"Yes, father." She woke up more and pulled over some eggs, falling asleep again with the spoon in her hand.
Xander grinned. "Awwww," he cooed. Molly snickered. "Maybe she should go back to bed."
"I'll set her on the couch," Denver said, getting up to pick up his sister and carry her out. When he came back, Ginny was following him. "She's in the study. Knuppy is arranging your books again and the new, old female elf is yelling at her and correcting it." Draco got up and walked that way. He sat down and looked at Iggy. "Did you want company looking for the bodies?"
"We've got three weeks to find three bodies, and we only know where two of them are," Iggy told him. "Plus, your dad can't teleport because of the baby. Are you sure you want to volunteer?"
"Not really," he agreed with a grin. "At least you'll be on brooms."
"Very true," Draco said as he walked back in. "I think I've solved the color-coding of my library once and for all. Xander, you do still fly, correct?"
"Good. We'll take the house brooms." Denver looked alarmed. "Not yours. Yours is too small for him."
"I can take my quidditch broom," Iggy told him. "Raena can have the old Nimbus, it'll keep up." She nodded. "That leaves you your game or practice broom and Dad's, which is nearly cobwebbed."
"I cleaned it and used it before school ended," Xander told him. "It's fine. It's slower than all of yours, but good enough."
"You could use this opportunity to indulge yourself with a new one," Denver pointed out with a grin. "You're going to start flying again, right?"
"Yes, but they're damn expensive," Xander told him. "I don't want to drain our savings to buy something that I'll only need for a few weeks."
"If you're going to be playing on the new fun leagues, then you'll need one, daddy," Iggy told him. "When are they starting that?"
"The Official League got pissed and they had to put in more forms," Draco told him. "They've just got permission so the word is that they're going to be starting this fall sometime. Though my son is brilliant and correct, you'll need it."
"So will George and Fred," Xander pointed out. "Besides, I've had bad experiences buying brooms. I always end up with something crappy and overpriced when I go to the shop itself. Even the twins couldn't help the last time I officially bought one."
"How did you get your present one?" Iggy asked.
"Madam Hooch found it for me," Xander admitted. "It was used even then. It's slow but it's reliable."
"For this, we'll need faster and steady," Draco told him. "There's no way we'll get to all of them if you plod along behind us."
"Whose idea was it to wait this late?" Xander told him dryly. Draco shrugged. "If you had waited until *after* finding them to capture me, we'd have already been done and wouldn't be racing around the world to find them."
"True, but it's more exciting this way," Draco told him with a smile. Molly shook her head. "Sorry, but can you watch the tots?"
"Percy's taking next week off work so I'll have the older ones help me," she agreed. "Melvin's very good with the little kids."
"As long as I don't have to give baths," Raena said. "They splash me." Molly smiled at her. "It'll be a flood in the bathroom if I have to."
"That's fine, dear, Melvin can do it." She nodded. "Are you leaving during the day or the night?"
"We'll leave right after breakfast, or lunch," Draco told her. "We can pack the night before, have food baskets packed that day, and leave as soon as they're done and we're all awake." He looked at Xander. "I'll send a message back to Fred to help you find a better broom."
"I don't need..."
"Shut up," Draco warned. Xander's mouth clamped shut. "You'll need it for now, if not for later. So you'll buy a new broom and possibly even talk to your husband while doing so because he'll probably need a new one as well. Don't make me yell this early in the morning." Xander glared and went back to his breakfast. "Thank you."
"This isn't over," Xander told him.
"Oh yes it is," Draco argued. "If you continue this, we'll leave you here, stuck in the bed until after we're long gone and you won't be able to catch up." Xander dropped his fork and left the room. "Xander," Draco said, hurrying after him. "This is practical," he said, stopping the older man. Xander glared at him. "Bring up your practical side. What would you say to someone who was slower in a running battle." He winced when he saw the rage blooming. "Not you, someone else. I know you'd keep up, even if you had to crawl there. This time, you're not slower because of something wrong with you, but because of outdated equipment."
Xander relaxed slightly. "I'm still not going to buy a new one. It's good enough. I'll keep up."
Draco glared at him, having had enough of that. "Is this a money issue?"
"Then stop it. You have the money and will need one. Your old one is fairly broken down from what I remember." Xander crossed his arms, looking like he was letting him hang himself. "Did it not refuse to start a few months back?" Xander gave a curt nod. "Do you think it's reliable for this situation?"
"It'll keep up. It's a broom."
"One that's much slower than the ones we're going to be riding. Iggy's and mine alone will leave you miles behind. If Percy comes along, I'm not sure how his broom does."
"Percy doesn't like to fly," Xander admitted.
"Oh, that's just peachy. I guess we can go there and then teleport back and get him," he said thoughtfully.
Iggy walked past them and stopped to look at them. "*I'm* going to end this argument. Uncle Fred agreed that all three of you need *new* brooms. You're meeting him in Diagon this afternoon to look around and check prices." His father opened his mouth. "I don't care, father. You won't be able to do this in the time allotted, no matter which reason we're running short on time, if you're flying your old clunker. It'd be like driving an ancient muggle car in a race. It won't work this time. You can keep your old broom if you want and ride it any other time, but not this time. For that matter, if Denver comes with us, he's riding his quidditch broom as well and so is Simone if she's joining us for extra protection. So deal with it and move on to other matters, as you usually say." He continued up the stairs, going to check his gear to see what he was going to be taking. His wife had told him, flat out ordered him, that she wasn't going with him but that he had to go, if only for medical necessities.
Xander shook his head. "We can't afford them," he called after his son.
"Mine was only sixty," Iggy called back. "Uncle Fred said to remind you that they ripped you off the last time you were there and that you *do* have the money." He disappeared down the hallway.
Draco looked confused. "How much did your last one cost?"
"The last one I bought at the store in Diagon was a hundred for a three-year-old one." Draco hissed and looked upset. "It had been more, but the sticker changed as we walked out."
Draco patted him on the arm, smiling at him. "My one for games, brand new, only cost me one- hundred-thirty. They ripped you off. That shouldn't have been more than forty."
"With the condition it was in, it should have been even less," Xander admitted, starting to relax. "I still don't think I need one."
Draco grabbed Xander by the ear and twisted, looking into his eyes. "You're getting one. Don't argue with me, Xander. Even if I have to escort you there myself." Xander winced as he squeezed. "Do you understand? I won't let you ride about on something that's more likely to quit in mid-air. That broom of yours is dangerous. You're getting a new one, even if you keep that old piece of crap that you've had for nearly twelve years." He let him go, watching as Xander rubbed his ear.
"I haven't had it that long."
"You've had it longer than that," Draco corrected. "You got it the year you got married. You came up to get me out of the house on it." He crossed his arms and looked smug. "No one keeps their brooms that long, not even the really poor folk. Not when you can get a decent used one for around twenty galleons. Your broom is so far out of date, I'm betting that the people at the store won't even recognize the model."
Xander grimaced. "It's been in the closet."
"I realize that. That's the only thing that's saved you from dying on it. I saw it stall a few months back when you were trying it out. That scared me and I was meaning to coax you into buying a new one. This is just a necessity. So you will buy a good one, as supported by Fred and George."
"If he comes," Xander said glumly, heading up to his room.
"Oh, he'll be coming," Draco said in a deathly calm voice. He went to make sure of it, going to beat the shit out of George if necessary. He walked through of the shop and out the back door, to where George was hanging up laundry. "When did you want to go broom shopping?"
"I'm Fred," Fred noted. "And this afternoon. Are you coming along?" He looked at him. "George did want to talk to you if you've got time. He's in his room being miserable."
"I'll see him in a moment. Late this afternoon?"
"Say two hours before closing," Fred agreed. "That way Ron can get free by conning McGonagall into watching the triplets."
"Molly's at our house. She's taking all the children while we travel."
"Really?" George said as he joined them. "Are you coming?"
Draco looked at him. "That depends on you and if you're going to throw another fit. Oh, speaking of fits," he said with his most cold smirk. "Ginny got her wish this morning. She's eighteen again." Both twins shook their head. "He swears he'll change her back in a few days."
"I suppose it's better than the blast-ended skewrt that I wanted to turn her into," George said with a shrug. "Do you have a few moments?"
"The only thing I was going to do was talk your mate out of a sulk." George sighed. "Come along, let's talk." He led George back to the living section, letting him pick the room - living room or bedroom. He chose the bedroom so he walked in and sat on the bed, getting comfortable. "Why are you worried about me?" he asked as George closed the door. "You know I can't steal him. If I had been able to, you wouldn't have gotten married."
George sat on the bed beside him. "Did you try?"
"I tried to impress him," Draco admitted with a faint smile. "He preferred you more."
"Was that during your senior year?" Draco nodded. "No wonder. You were still a kid back then." George relaxed. "I'm sorry. I know I've been bad recently."
"Your insecurities are starting to wear on everyone's nerves," Draco agreed. "If you'd like, you can come over and talk to him."
George looked at him. "I'm not sure I'm ready for that." He groaned. "Some of my problems are that *you* have him."
"Just me or just anybody?" Draco asked. George gave him a shove. "You don't desire me?"
"Draco," George groaned. "Not really the issue." He rolled onto his back. "I don't know what's wrong, but it does center around you."
"He told you that you have to come to him and talk, George, he's not going to accept anything else. If you'd like, you can come over tonight after the shopping trip and we'll all talk, or you two can talk while I hide in my room." George looked at him. "Am I not getting the point again?" he asked when he saw the look.
"I've seen him react to you, Draco. More than once."
Draco smiled and shrugged. "Many people react to me, George. I consider it a compliment of the highest order. He obviously has good taste." George groaned and pulled a pillow over his head. "You do as well," he told him. "As I said, it doesn't bother me. It's a part of life. I am hot."
George hit him with the pillow. "That's half of the problem, idiot."
"Fine. Come with me. I want to give you a book to borrow." He stood up and hauled George up and drug him after him, all the way back to his house and into the library. He pulled a key up off the shelf and opened an ornate locked cabinet. "My father used to keep his personal torture library in here," he noted as he opened it. "I find it more useful for my special collection of first editions on the nature of sexuality." He pulled down one and handed it over. "That is a special first edition copy so be careful of it. I want it back in good condition."
"What's this one on?" George said, opening it to the index page. "The nature of lust?" He looked up. "I need this?"
"You do because it can clarify some things for you. Now go play with your husband and be careful of my book."
"Why do you keep them locked up?"
"Because the children would drool on them," Draco told him as he relocked the cabinet. "Go play." George walked out, heading up to Xander's room to crawl and beg until his mate forgave him. Or he would once the guy woke up. He looked so cute! George crawled in, grimacing at the forcefield as it washed over him, and settled in to read.
Draco came up the stairs thirty minutes later when the sound of a thump alerted him to a problem. He tapped on the door. "Was that my book?"
"No," George called.
Draco opened the door and found his book lying on the other side. He looked at the men on the bed, then had to duck the thrown lamp. Thrown by no hand, and crashing into the door behind him with enough force to shatter it. "Well, that's interesting."
"It took the book," George said with a shrug. He looked down at the sleeping man and something came flying at his head, making him duck. "I think it's him."
"It would be the same as a frustration bomb," Draco said, sitting in his usual chair. "It's his nightmares, again. He turned on his shower the other day and flooded his bathroom. It took Bill two days to fix the mess he made." A candle went flying past him, but not near him. "He can feel me here." Something went at George's head, a harmless piece of clothing. "You might want to talk to him before he brains you."
George leaned down. "Xander, please don't hit me with anything." A shoe went at his head and he moved off to the end of the bed.
"You may get up," Draco told him. "Xander, your mate is here," he said. Xander snuffled and hugged the pillow George had been leaning against. "He'll wake up eventually."
George grabbed the book. "I'll be back at the shop. We'll talk this afternoon." Draco nodded. "You're...."
"You're not disappointing me. You're disappointing him."
George nodded and left them alone.
Draco looked over at the snuggly Xander, and sighed. This was not the best of all problems, but he could handle it. He might not be able to pull his life together, but he could certainly help those two with these minor issues.
Draco walked Xander into the Quality Quiddith Supplies with a pat on his back. "I promise, these people won't cheat you. They're not the last owners, or the ones who were forced to sell the business to cover their legal fees two months ago. These people know what they're doing, they're former players according to the news article I read." He saw a slightly familiar figure behind the counter and a light clicked on in his head. "It's nice to know that good chasers are appreciated in various fields." She jumped and looked at him. "Spinnet. How are you?"
"Malfoy," she said with a smirk. "Not happy with your specially-made broom?" She looked at Xander then back to him. "Why are you here?"
"Believe it or not, I'm meeting your former beaters here," he said dryly. "And one of their husbands." He patted Xander on the back, making him grimace. "What? He was there."
"So I smelled. He came to watch me sleep?"
"You're living together?" Alicia Spinnet asked, looking faintly nauseous. "Why?"
"Just me," Xander said. "The adopted son is putting me up while George and I fight, and because we've got something to do for the school this summer." He looked over his shoulder as Fred and George came in. "I'm told that we're all playing on Hogsmede's new fun league - if I ever get trained."
Fred smiled at him. "Don't worry, we'll get around to helping Oliver train you." He looked at the woman behind the counter. "Alicia?" She nodded and he grabbed her, giving her a tight hug, spinning her around. "How are you! You never write or stop by!"
"Put me down," she shrieked, bringing her partner. "Katie, make them stop!"
"Put him down and hug me, you pains in my ass." George hugged her the same way and eventually they traded off, making them laugh. "You two are going to start playing again?"
"Yeah," George said, smiling at them. "We're already signed up on the same team and we're going to train my mate. If we ever quit fighting." Xander looked at him. "Talk with me tonight?"
"If you're willing to come back with us."
George nodded. "I should. I'm an ass."
"Never thought I'd hear him day that," Alicia told Katie. Her friend and fellow former chaser nodded. "Do you all need brooms?"
Xander nodded. "And I need something to keep up with him and our son. We're going to be doing some heavy flying in the next two weeks."
"I think we can find you something," Katie told him, leading him away. "So, give, you married one of *them*?"
Xander nodded. "George swept me off my feet and has kept me mostly happy for the last fifteen years. We have kids and everything." He pulled out a picture and showed it to her. "Our son Iggy is in school right now."
"Well," Alicia said, coming over to look at the picture. "You two do look happy. Fred, what about you?"
"He's dating someone," George said, looking at the picture. "When did that one get taken? I don't have that one."
"Two weeks ago, after the pool party," Xander told him. "If you had shown up, you could have seen Ravena and Little Ron getting closer and even snuggling togther to talk." She handed the picture to him. "I need fast, quiet, and safe. I can fly, but it's been a while for me due to life's little problems."
She looked him over. "Are you bringing your cane?"
"We're going to use a sword sheath sort of device," Draco told her. "We're bringing the Sorting Hat to the Founder's bodies."
"Oh, shit, that's your job?" Katie asked. They nodded. "I wish you luck." She pointed at the brooms. "Firebolt and Nimbus both straightened up and started making for quality again."
"I'm more worried about price," Xander told her. "Most of our money is still going into the shop."
"Xander, we're fine on money," George told him. "We need them. We'll get the best and it'll be good for us."
"The bank's closed. It's a Goblin holiday," Alicia told them. All the men groaned. "But we can hold the brooms for you until tomorrow."
"That would be wonderful, my dear," Fred told her, giving her a grin. "What sort of goodies do you think we can get?"
"Oh, we have things for you two," Katie told him. "Special line built by Nimbus for beaters." She opened a cabinet and showed him. "Nimbus started a task-oriented line last year. Their rep said something about your brother suggesting it."
George beamed. "I knew he was good for more than snogging Buffy during those years," he quipped.
"Buffy? The blonde thing that came with...." She looked at Xander. "It's you." He nodded. "You came with the blonde muggle and her friends." He nodded again. "Wow. Small world?"
"I teach demonology at the school," Xander told her. "Draco's applying to teach Theory."
Both women nodded slowly. "I'm sure he's going to be hell on the students."
"I did learn from the best," Draco agreed with a smirk. "Speaking of which, I need a repair kit, I've got three bent twigs in my tail and my handle's drying out." A repair kit was handed over. "Thank you. I'll recommend you to the children."
"Those monster Gryff's are yours?" Katie asked. He smiled and nodded. "How? And how does that little girl hit those bludgers so hard?"
"She's not little," George told her with a smirk. "Simone is just as strong as I am. She's off training with Charlie until the end of the week. She helped a dragon deliver eggs from what we've heard."
Fred snorted. "Got covered in ick and didn't say a word about it. Dragon nuzzled her for helping."
"And the chaser with his son is ours," George added. "Iggy's one hell of a kid."
The women nodded. "We caught a game. Where were you two?"
"In the infirmary," Fred told them. "We heard you were around, but the nephew was injured so we were sitting with Percy so he wouldn't get too upset."
"How is the former Head Boy?"
"Widowed," Xander said, leaning against a counter.
"Do you need a chair?" Katie asked.
"Nah, I'm okay. I just got up from a nap." He grinned and pointed at the case. "Those aren't for me, right?"
"No, I think the general Nimbus, or a General Firebolt would be better," Alicia told him, opening another case. She looked at his body, then closed that one and opened another one. "This one I think." She handed it over. "Go try it out if you want."
"I'm coming with you," Fred assured him. He looked at the new owners. "The last time he was in here was with the thieves. They were going to charge him sixty for a broom that flew opposite of the steering." They laughed and let the two of them pass.
"Sixty for a wonky broom?"
"They charged him a hundred for a three-year-old *horrid* one that an imp was in," George told her, wrapping his arms around both ladies. "Do impress me though. I want something to keep up with my niece." The girls looked from him to Draco and back. "He had them with Ginny, all but the chaser. We accept him anyway because we've been civilizing him. Hasn't uttered a single threat against a muggle in our hearing."
"He threatened one last year during dinner," Draco said as he read the instructions on the polish. He looked up. "She was a mouthy shit and pissed him off on one of the days when his medicine wasn't working well enough. She deserved it for making fun of his dizziness."
"I'll have to point out that there are more subtle ways," George told him. "Maybe even something from the shop."
"Oh, he did," Draco agreed with a slight smirk. "That's why the bug bomb went off in the tower."
"Hmm, a fine product from Xander's line," George said, starting to grimace.
Draco nudged him. "You're the one who taught him to make them. If you're upset that he's making a successful *part* of the store's business, then you're worse off than I thought and you need professional help." He paid for the repair kit. "Find yourself something so Xander can go back to his rest. His leg's still a bit swollen."
"What happened to him?" Alicia asked.
"He's the one who got burned a few years back," Katie told her. "The lightening to protect the school."
George nodded. "Yup, that was him. That was our last major fight. This time, we're going hunting the rest of the founders."
"Which one have you found so far?" Katie asked, hopping up onto the counter.
"Slytherin is now buried on school property. He came to talk to us already. Spent a good while yelling at the hat and admiring mine and their children," Draco told her. "And Snape's."
"Snape's got kids?" Katie asked in disbelief. When had she walked through the portal to the alternate universe? She didn't remember it at all. "With whom?"
"Remember the two witches that came at the same time?" Fred said as he came out. The girls both nodded. "Remember the blonde one?" They nodded, stronger this time. "Her."
"Wasn't she with the redhead?" Alicia asked, bracing herself for this tale.
"Willow went psycho when they decided to start their family. Tara left her. It took her seven more years to see Snape as human, and a round ten to bring him to his knees," George put in. "She hunted him down. It was so cute, Snape tried so hard to fight the little woman off. And then she refused to marry him right off, just wanting to be with him without the legalities."
Katie choked. "That was about Snape? I thought that was about Malfoy."
Draco shrugged. "Ginny did the same thing to me. Snape's was fixed by Xander's son and I sued Ginny for custody."
"I heard something about a Harris-Weasley and wondered which one of you it was." George raised his hand. "Are you happy?"
"Usually. Not at the moment, but I'm figuring out where I went wrong." Xander walked out and he smiled at him. "Can we talk tonight?"
"Aren't you coming with us?"
"I could," George agreed, looking at Draco, who shrugged. "Who else is on this tour?"
"Percy, Ignatius, Ron, you, and probably Potter if Dumbledore gets his way," Draco told him.
"Harry's got practice. We saw him recently," Katie told him. "He's now first alternate to the World Cup team."
"Wonderful for him."
"Jealous of him still?" Alicia asked.
Draco looked at her. "I didn't even think about trying out. I have a bigger problem at the moment. Speaking of which, do you have a bathroom?"
"In the back by the practice area," Katie said, watching him walk away. "He really is?" she asked them. The guys all nodded. "How?"
"Gryphon-born," Xander said, grinning at her.
"Me. The spell works on him. Ron's daughter tripped it."
"Oh." Alicia looked at George. "No wonder you snapped him up. Does he work in the shop at all?"
"He makes the annoyance and punitive lines," Fred said proudly. "He accounts for five percent of our profits every year for the last three."
George didn't look so happy. "Yeah."
Xander shrugged at their stunned looks. "It suits me and I have free time because I'm only teaching three classes." He leaned against the counter. "That one was fast and quick, but it felt a little light. Like when I tried my son's broom."
"Hmm." She led him back to the regular Nimbus case and looked at their stock. "How bad an issue is price?" Draco slid past them and she didn't even have to jump, he hadn't touched her body at all. It shocked her, she had always thought he had grown up to be one of those slimy creatures that try to hit on you in bars.
"I'd like not to bankrupt us. All my brooms before this have been used."
She patted his arm in sympathy. "It's hard to start out with a great one if you're supporting the idiot duo. Did they ever mention us?"
"All the time. You're the ones that we're molding Simone into, only as a beater." She beamed at him. "Do you have anything heavy? I know I'm a hefty guy and I need something that won't break and make me fall off."
"The firebolt people are making a general purpose one, but it's still lighter than you're talking about."
"What about the Nimbus for chasers?" Draco suggested. "Would that be heavy enough? Though he doesn't weigh as much as he thinks. I've had to lift him before." George glared at him. "He fell. Did you want me to leave him there?"
"No," George said, sounding like he was starting to pout. Fred looked at him. "That should be me."
"It would have been you if you had come over," Xander pointed out, not looking at him. "I told you that you had to come over and apologize, not send my bird to do it for you." Now he did look and saw the stunned look. "Murphy did it on his own?"
George nodded. "Probably. I was thinking about coming over and asked him if I should."
"He said you were sorry and asked if we could talk."
"Phoenixes can alter messages," Fred broke in.
"I do suggest you talk tonight if you're coming with us. I won't be able to stop myself from screaming at you if you don't start to work it out," Draco told him.
Katie looked at the specialty Nimbus line and shook her head. "They make one for the bigger people, rated right up to Hagrid's weight class, but it's really expensive, it's kind of slow, and I don't think it's what he needs for what he said he's going to use it for." She looked around the shop and her face brightened. "Though we do have that one," she said, pointing at the black cabinet.
"That's the prototype," Alicia reminded her. "We aren't supposed to be selling it."
"From who?" Draco asked, frowning at the broom as they brought it out. "That looks even thinner."
"It's been magically strengthened to fifty times the normal strength of the wood," Katie told him, laying it on the counter. "It looks delicate, but it's not."
"It's also very fast," Alicia put in. "Seeker quality fast."
"Which means I could keep up with you at least," Xander said, coming over to look at it. "It's pretty."
"It's silver and black," George told him. "You'd look evil on it."
Xander looked at him. "Yay! I look good in black, just ask the vamp me that happened that once." He turned back and saw the confused expressions. "Alternate Universe. My ex's fault. I was hot though." He picked up the broom carefully. "What's its ability to stay undinged in a school setting?"
"It should be fine for it," Katie said, taking it from his hands and giving it to Fred, who was nearly salivating. "It's a prototype for year after next's models."
Fred checked it over, then shrugged. "Give it a whirl and we can beg the people. Nimbus or Firebolt?"
"Nimbus," Katie told him. "Firebolt doesn't do specialty lines very often. Their new prototypes were a little cheesy as well. Fairly lightweight again."
"Ron did say he used to have to straighten any wood they used," George noted, watching as Fred took Xander back to try it out. "Why not give it to me?"
"Because you look like you're pouting and we wanted to know if we could help," Katie told him.
"Loves, you're wonderful, but it's my fault this time. I got jealous of the prat." He pointed at Draco.
"It's not my fault that Xander likes to protect me. You proclaimed me your son in front of the colony as well," Draco sighed. "Do get over it soon please. You're starting to annoy me." He glared at George until he backed off. "If you don't fix it, you can't come with us. I won't have him upset."
"You're protecting his husband?" Alicia asked. Draco nodded. "Why?"
"Because Xander changed him," George told them. "Made him into a tolerable human being and the like. Hence Ginny getting with him every now and then."
"Not any longer," Draco said dryly. "Has it ever occurred to you that Xander and I might be friends? He asks me about my day and takes an interest in my life. He's one of the few people I know who protest when I buy him a dinner because he's not close to me for my money." George opened his mouth. "Even you occasionally look at me for my vaults and ready supply of cash."
"Only in emergencies," George said quietly. "I'm sorry, Draco."
"I understand. I've always understood. It was your mate who taught me how to read people. Perhaps you should take that same lesson." He grunted and sighed, rubbing his stomach. "Fine, I'll calm down."
"Are you all right?" Xander called.
"Fine, just having a discussion and the baby shifted."
"All right then," Katie said. "Let's see. I wondered what a pregnant male looked like the last time." He lifted his shirt and exposed his stomach, letting her touch it gently. "Not hairy in the least."
Alicia came over and looked over Katie's shoulder at it. "It's cute. Just a little lump."
"Unfortunately the spell will make me gain all my weight up front and then slowly shift from water to baby weight. I'll be huge in a month." The bell dinged and he dropped his shirt, and she pulled back his hand. "Iggy, is there a problem?"
"Simone sent me. You got an owl." He handed over the letter. He looked at his father. "Daddy?"
"In the back trying out a prototype broom." George smiled at him and Iggy shook his head. "You're still mad at me?"
"Yup. You called me a scrawny little brain the other day and haven't apologized yet."
"Son, I didn't mean it."
"Yay. It still hurt and I don't know why you're yelling at me when you're not mad at me. Fucking work it out with daddy before all the kids have to get involved. Between the older six or seven, I'm sure we can come up with something that'll make you sorry." George glared at him. "I mean it. I won't have daddy hurt."
"I'm fine," Xander said as he walked out. "Don't threaten your father. It's not nice. I don't care what he said to you," he said at the opening mouth. "We do not fight in public and you do not threaten your father with things. Or else you're grounded and I'll have Snape lock you out of the potion's dungeon for a month." Iggy hung his head and nodded. "Thank you." He pulled him close and gave him a hug. "I wanted you guys to stay out of it, and I still do. Even if George does occasionally take out his frustration with life on everyone else." He gave him a kiss on the forehead. "Give him a few days and he'll apologize."
"I..." Iggy looked at him, then at his other father, then at Draco. "Is he coming?"
"Not unless those two make up," Draco told him, giving him a faint smile. "It's an acknowledgment that they got my test and sent it on for grading. Nothing major this time." He gave the boy a pat on the back. "How is your broom? Does it need any work before we leave?"
"Yeah, I've got a few wonky twigs." Iggy disappeared and both women gasped. Then he came back with his broom, his Uncle Ron's broom, and Draco's broom. "Ron was looking them over. Little Ron cracked his handle badly."
"Are those Venegals?" Katie asked, taking them to look at them. "Wow. We never see those around here." She looked at him. "How did you do that?"
"Gryphon-borns teleport," Iggy told her. "It's very handy when you sneak out of the school for stuff."
"You guys got really good brooms," Alicia noted. "How did Potter's son crack his?"
"Sudden dive at his snitch and ran into the house. Broke a window, his wrist, got a cut on his head that needed fifteen stitches and another on his upper arm that needed closer to fifty." Draco shuddered. "He's fine. All settled into his room with his pet snitch in his hands. Ravena was visiting him and she brought back his broom so Ron could look at it." He nudged Draco. "Are you cramping again?"
"Slight twinges, nothing else." Xander came over and rubbed his back, making him groan. "Damn you're good," he sighed as all the tension leaked out.
"I spent my formative years rubbing out my own cramps, yours aren't that different," Xander reminded him. George turned away. "What, you wanted me to let him suffer? He is our son as much as Iggy is. Get over it." He looked at the two women. "Sorry, we don't mean to fight in front of you, it just seems to happen." He looked at them. "What happened to your broom, son?"
"It got crashed into by Simone one too many times," Iggy told him. "She ran me over during our last practice." He shrugged. "It's just a few twigs. I'm hoping they can be replaced."
"Yeah, we can do that," Katie told him. She looked at Xander. "Did you like the prototype?"
"I'm trying to decide," he admitted. "It felt nice, but I felt some sort of shimmy as I turned around. And it still had that light feeling that bothers me."
"So you want a heavy feeling broom?" Alicia asked, just making sure. He nodded. "You really don't need one."
"I'd rather have one though. I know it seem stupid, but I've always felt more safe on the heavier ones. Like they wouldn't break under me."
"They're also usually wider," Fred agreed. "I prefer a heavier handle myself for that reason. Less chance of getting wedgies because of it."
"Then let's try this one," Alicia said, opening a cabinet under the counter and pulling up a broom. "We don't usually carry these. They're Russian made. Krum used one in his last game. Very heavy wood, but still fast."
"What did he play?" Xander asked, taking it to look it over. It felt heavier than his last one had. "I like this. It's like lead, but I can get used to that." He took it back there and tried it out with her.
Fred punched his twin on the arm. "Quit picking on him. He's been like this. He gave Draco a lot of attention during his last pregnancy and you didn't feel left out."
"No fighting," Xander called.
"Please," Iggy agreed. "It upsets my stomach and I hate to be around fighting people." George looked at him, looking sorry. "Can you please fix this before school starts. The house won't be happy with you."
"You could always ask to be resorted. With Salazar having talked to the hat, you could qualify for Slytherin," Draco offered. "We'd be more than happy to have you."
"Uncle Draco, then I'd have to deal with Agatha and Uncle Harry would end up mourning her loss," Iggy said honestly. Draco nodded, he understood that. "Aggie and I don't get along and never will. No matter how much everyone tries to get us in the same room. Aggie and I will end up hurting each other within hours and I'll win because I know more than she does about dirty tricks, fighting, and regular brawling."
"Fine," Draco said with a smile. "Dash all of the Founder's hopes for a potion's master in his house again."
"Hey, when Raena and I have kids, I'll try to make sure that the little ones end up over there if they're going to end up Masters." The other adults looked at him. "All the other potion's masters have gone through Slytherin. My wife and I are the only ones who aren't and we've run into a lot of problems because we're not directly under Snape. At least there he'd be able to watch over us more closely so we don't have to keep explaining why we get special privileges and why we spend all hours of the night in the dungeons. Not to mention having a few anti-book Prefects over the years."
"True," Fred said, smiling at him, "but you're still a Gryff. The hat said you didn't have the temperament for over there and you made your family happy because you're a Gryff."
"I'm sure they would have adjusted," Iggy told him. "The same as I'm sure we're going to have problems this year with Cassidy. I caught him leering at my wife once already."
"Wife?" Katie asked.
"He captured and marked her in the potion's dungeon," Draco said proudly. "Wonderful girl of his own age. Another potion's master in the making." Iggy nodded, getting his sappy grin back. "Is she finally awake?"
"No, she's dreaming about me." He bounced his head about. "I'm cute to her."
"You're cute to us as well," George told him, reaching over and giving him a pat. Iggy let himself be hugged. "I'm sorry, Iggy. Bring her back to the shop tonight for dinner?"
"Sure. We can even stay over if you're not coming to the mansion." Iggy pointed at his broom. "Is it reparable?"
"Fully," Katie told him, smiling at him. "It should be ready by tomorrow afternoon."
"That would be fine. We're leaving early Thursday." Draco straightened up with a groan. "This is the bad thing, the weight gain."
Xander bounded out of the back and hugged both women. "I love it. It's a little heavier than what I'm used to and steers like a tank for me, but I like it."
"Then we'll put you on the slightly less heavy version," Katie told him, taking that one and handing over the girls' broom. "Technically for women, but you're about their women's size over there." He beamed. "Go try it out." He walked back and soon was whooping in joy. "I think he likes that."
"Is that really for women?" Fred asked. Katie nodded. "Their women get that big? That broom looked strong enough to hold Hagrid and all of us combined."
"That's an industrial broom," Katie admitted. "But yes, that was the female's version."
Xander came back out with Alicia. "It's still a bit too heavy. Get the one that Krum used."
"She said that first one was," Xander told her.
"I meant a few years ago. He went heavier as he got older." She handed that one back and accepted the other one. "I think this one should be just right," she told him. He walked back there and giggled, so she followed him. She found him against the ceiling. "A little faster than you're used to?" He nodded. "What position are they going to train you for?"
"If I'm any good at all, Keeper. I don't have the hand/eye coordination anymore to throw things and I was never good at hoop games in my youth."
"Didn't you start out muggle?" He nodded. "They have games with hoops?"
"Basketball. I was American."
"Oh! No wonder. I guess it would be analogous. Does that one work?"
"It's really fast."
"Krum was a seeker, he retired this year." She crossed her arms and looked at him. "Come down a little bit, Xander." He floated down, using his legs to steer until he got away from the ceiling. "I'd say you were good on that one. How does it feel?"
"Wonderful," he nearly purred. "It's been so long since I've flown." He landed and dismounted. "I like this one. How much?"
"Fifty. It comes with a repair kit and a cover for the twigs."
"That's a really good deal," he agreed. "Much nicer than my last one as well."
"We usually try to get people to buy British, but in cases like yours the only option seems to be foreign. We don't often see people like you in here. Do you guys not use flying spells or something?"
Xander giggled. "You're not the first one to ask me that. No, we don't. We usually teleport if it's a common destination, or portal if it's a formal one, but most of us stick close to the nest. Trust me, if I could grow wings, I'd do it." She nodded, smiling at him. "Do you want me to spread the news around? A lot of the borns do fly, even though we don't do the whole 'up' thing that Madam Hooch tried to get me to do."
"Why do they fly?" Alicia asked, taking the broom back to hold for him until the bank opened.
"Because the young *love* to play tag," he said with a grin. "And some of the older ones as well. Every time I'm there, I spend at least half of the day in the air playing. The rest of the time, someone else usually has my broom so I can get stuff done. A few more brooms up there wouldn't be a bad thing."
She pulled a pamphlet off the desk and handed it to him. "We love you guys. We can't fit a full gryphon in here, but we'd gladly sell to the borns. As far as Katie and I are concerned, we're in it for the flying and if you guys like it that much, we like you."
Xander beamed at her. "You don't like me at all, do you?"
"I don't like the fact that George looks miserable."
"That was all him. He suddenly started to accuse me of stuff that he knew I wasn't doing. All I'm doing is waiting for him to get off his butt and realize he's taking out his frustrations in the lab on me. Again. We did this before."
"That's what this is?"
Xander nodded. "I think so. Possibly some sexual frustration as well." He blushed lightly and she chuckled. "He's been devoting his life to the shop and forgot about me again. We do this every few years. Eventually he'll get so frustrated he come and yell at me and we'll have hot, sweaty sex, or just a shouting match, and he'll figure out that it's just the lab getting to him. This time he's taking it out on Draco and I won't allow him to hurt others." He shrugged. "End of explanation. You're more than welcome to sit and monopolize him for a few days if you want. I'm not jealous. It might even help him."
She nodded. "I might take you up on that. He looks like he could use a friend."
"He's got tons of them, he just managed to piss nearly everyone off when he hit Draco the other day." He winced and bent down to rub his calf. "Sorry, I tense when I get stressed and it leads to cramps."
"Are you all right?"
"Yup. Just fine." He walked out with her, nodding at Fred. "I like that one. It's fast, it steers well, I can guide it with my knees if I have to. Son, take this to the colony." Draco took it and disappeared. He came back a minute later with four new people, who all went right to the most expensive brooms - only stopping to hand Xander something. "What's this for?"
"Your allowance," one of the born, the formal head of the borns who served the elders, told him. "Bill said you've been neglecting your own training and he wants you to finish it soon."
"I thought I was trained," Xander sighed, looking in the bag. "Gee, a clothing allowance for me?"
The head born swatted him on the arm. "Yes, for you. Bill said to spoil yourself and get your mate pregnant so we can have more useful people." One of the borns gave him a pitiful look. "Not you. Once you're finished with your training, you'll be just as useful as Xander is." She looked happier. "Bill said something about the Anxtara books and how you still needed to finish going through them."
Xander hit himself on the head. "The specialty building spells," he groaned.
"Yup, those. They're waiting on you at your mother-in-law's. Who's quite a woman I might add. Ran right over Simone when she said something nasty to her younger sister."
"Was Anastasia starting again?" Draco asked.
"No, your younger one suggested that Simone tart up one day and sit around in the common area at school. Suggested it might give her a better chance of finding a man interested in cuddling with her. Simone's response sounded like something a married person would say, that if they needed the help of seeing her in a push-up bra and panties, then they didn't have enough imagination for her to be with them."
"That's Percy's statement to Melvin," Xander said with a grin. "Thank you, Horace."
"Welcome, Xander." He noticed the tension then grimaced. "When was the last time you got laid?"
Xander blushed. "Damn if I remember," he admitted. He tossed the bag to Fred. "For part of the broom since you're handling finances." The born leader looked at him. "I have paper and ink back at the house. I use them for classes as well."
"Good point. Can I see the one he's getting? His are usually just a little lighter than I like."
"Then try this one," Katie said, handing over the Russian women's broom. "If you need any help, just ask. We're in it for the flying." The borns all talked to her at once, making her come over and help them pick out the ones they needed.
Xander looked at the ones on the counter. "Have you guys decided?"
"We're going to try the beater's brooms," Fred told him. "Give us a few more."
"I offered Alicia the chance to catch up with you guys while we're gone," Xander told him. "Have Ron watch the shop."
"Not a bad idea, and Harry could probably pop in as well," Fred agreed, looking at his twin. "That would be fun."
"It would be," George agreed. "You can't remember?"
"It's been over three months," Xander said honestly, keeping his voice neutral. George opened his mouth. "I couldn't pull you away from the lab long enough to even get cuddles. Why would I have expected anything else?"
"You lock yourself in the lab?" Alicia asked, coming back with a nod. "He liked that one." Another person asked to try it out and went back there with her.
"It's a more adult version of his former spazzing in the tower at night because nothing was working," Fred told Katie, who was looking skeptical.
"I remember those. You do know that they make lock spells for doors?" George sighed and nodded. "Honey, if he were mine, I wouldn't let him go three *days* without attention from me." Xander blushed more. "He looks like the needy and cuddly sort that will eventually have to break and find it somewhere else."
"Are you and Alicia together?" Fred teased.
She snorted and shook her head. "No, we both still like men. I had one like him and he left because I was too wrapped up in the shop."
"It wasn't to Ginny, was it?" Draco asked.
She shook her head, smiling at him. "No, he's one of the few around here that she hasn't gotten. He went willingly to some blonde succubus just out of school. Want the lock spell he used to use?"
"I think I have a few that are perfect for the situation," Draco told her. "I've been keeping Xander in bed with a forcefield spell so he'd have to rest. I can use the same thing to cover the laboratory door if that's what it takes." He looked at Xander, who was leaning on his other son. "Sit! Now." Xander looked at him. "You're cramping again. I can tell you are."
"Sit," George agreed. "We wouldn't want that."
Katie laughed. "You can't honestly think that he'd go for the Malfoys can you, George? Merlin, they act like you and Fred do toward each other." She shook her head and went back to helping. "Take the one out of the case and try it out," she encouraged Fred.
"Yes, dear." He blew a kiss. "You do look wonderful. Want to come up this weekend? We've got minimal hours."
"We've got hours on Saturday, but we've also got a helper," Katie agreed. "Friday night be fine with you?"
"I've got a date, but I can cancel it," Alicia called from the back. "Can they put us up?"
"Sure," Fred called, grabbing the broom and going back to try it out. "Yes! They got beaters to design it!"
George smiled at her. "I'm not that bad," he told her.
"If it's been months, you are," she told him. She gave him a gentle pat on the chest. "You were the same way back in school when you were hot on something. I'm sure he understands." Xander nodded and George looked even more upset. "Fix it, idiot," she said with a fond smile. "He's waiting on you. Otherwise he might snap some night and go molest the Malfoy prat."
Draco snorted. "I only appreciate being on top and I doubt he'd like it that much."
George glared at him. "Don't even *think* about it. My husband only bottoms for me."
Draco shrugged. "I wouldn't have thought about it, but now that I've heard it's been months, he probably needs some sort of release."
"He's got to ache by now," Katie agreed, then she grimaced. He laughed. "You really have changed."
"Yes, and it's all because of Xander so I'd willingly repay him that way."
"Kid, stop it. That's just icky," Xander said with a frown. "Pick on Ron's sex life, not mine."
"He's had some more recently," Draco told him.
"Really?" George asked, frowning at him. "How? Did you two finally...."
Draco shook his head. "Another one that wouldn't be able to live up to my standards. I introduced him to someone for that particular need."
Xander patted Draco on the cheek. "I think you'd find that you couldn't keep up with me, Draco, not the other way around. Remember, I got stamina from dating the demonic ho. I know more ways of making my lovers pass out with a smile on their face than Dr. Ruth does. I think you'd find me more than meeting up to your standards, but we're not going there are we?" Draco shook his head, smiling at him. "Good boy. For that, I'll give you belly rubs tonight." Katie burst out in giggles. "He's like my son. I can't do more than cuddle him, no matter how good everyone says he is. It'd be wrong to me mentally."
"Not if you were blindfolded," Iggy said helpfully. Both his fathers looked at him. "What? I've got to amuse my mind somehow in the next fifteen months and two days before I can touch her!"
The born leader snickered. "Bring her down, Iggy, we'll at least let you cuddle with her."
Iggy grinned at him. "Thanks, Horace, you're a life saver. I'm about to go mad with the need to touch her."
"I didn't say you could touch her," Horace said with a faint smirk. "Just cuddle. We'll even give you a semi-private nook off the library so you can blow yourself off numerous times."
Iggy nodded. "We'll be down the weekend before school." George shook his head. "I promise I won't touch her, but that doesn't mean she can't touch herself," Iggy pointed out. Xander raised an eyebrow. "I promise. We'll have separate beds and everything for most of the time."
"You had better," George told him. Katie snickered. "Trust me, they're so hot for each other it's pitiful sometimes. She can blow a kiss at him and make him go off."
"She's hot that way," Iggy agreed. "Tomorrow?" Katie nodded. "Then I'll leave you with the fathers and uncles. Nice meeting you. Come up and watch a game sometime." He disappeared.
"Raena must be up," Horace said in his driest tone of voice. He noticed Xander looking upwards. "Yes?"
"Yup. Just out of the shower. He's doing her hair for her. They are literally perpetually cute, Katie. Even when they fight. Even Severus has said that they're cute." He looked around. "Need me for anything else?"
"Not a bit," she told him. "I'll put your broom behind the counter and you can pick it up tomorrow when the bank opens. Did you need anything else, Mr. Malfoy?" He shook his head. "Then I'll see you tomorrow as well?" He nodded and walked Xander away, talking about getting a sundae. "George, word of advice from someone who's been there. He's ready to move on if you don't come back." She took the broom from his hand. "Do you like this one?"
"A lot," he agreed with a sigh. "I know I need to talk to him, but I don't feel comfy going over there."
"Why not? Your son is over there, your mate is over there."
"Actually, all my children are over there. Draco's youngest son has latched onto our daughter as the greatest thing since wands."
Fred came out of the back. "Ooh, Maeve and Lucien," he said with a naughty look. "Fortunately they're projected to only be very close friends or we'd have to oblivate them to get them to forget each other." She looked interested. "Maeve lets him suck on her neck, her thumb, her toes, and lets him sleep with her as her teddy bear."
George laughed. "Lucien will fight to get Maeve if you try and take her away from him."
"Who'd have thought that your two families would join together that way," Katie said, smiling at him. "Are you happy with it most of the time?"
"I remember being happy with it," George admitted.
"I'm going to lock you out of the shop," Fred told him. "No lab time for either of us until after school starts." George looked hurt. "We *both* need the time off from creating, George. Both of our loves are getting very pissed at us. Elizabeth wouldn't even talk to me last night when I tried to call her."
"We'll pop over for lunch if you want," George offered. He liked that woman, she was good to his twin.
"I probably should find her a gift first," Fred noted. He handed over the broom. "Try it out." George went into the back and he leaned on the counter. "Did we do this back in school?"
Katie nodded. "All the time. You two oafs even ignored us sometimes." She pinched him on the chin. "Did that one suit you?" He smiled and nodded. "Good. If I had known you guys were going to be playing, I might have signed up."
"We've still got room in the ranks. They've had to separate it out into two classes: those who never played and are doing it for fun, and those of us who used to play on our house teams. We've got a chaser spot open on our team if you want to try out for it."
"I might," she said with a wink. "Now, give. What woman?"
"You know that darling little restaurant up the alley?" She nodded. "I'm dating the head chef. Or at least I think I still am. She said something last night about not seeing me for weeks and I thought I saw her last weekend." He grimaced. "I think I'm going to have to grovel for a while."
"Does she thrill you in many different ways?"
Fred smiled. "She did. She spawned my muses into creating a lover's line. Now I don't know what's going on."
She kissed him on the forehead. "If she's for you then she'll understand your wacky nature the same way that Xander guy does your twin."
"It was close, I nearly stole him away from George at one time, but George pushed it when he got injured in a fight. I guess I'm too slow and methodical to get the wonderful ones."
She patted him on the head. "If it helps, you only drove me away because of the tests. Studying drove us apart." He grinned at her. "Did you know you're getting a small bald spot?" she asked. He groaned and put his head down. "Having seen your father about recently I suppose it's genetic."
"Probably. That's why George keeps his short."
"I want to know how a redhead and a guy with black hair have a kid with white hair," she teased.
"Gryphon borns only get gray hairs when they get sick. Iggy was being drained a few years back and came within seconds of dying. Xander's gray hairs come from the same reason."
"Oh. That poor kid." She sighed and he nodded. "You really do lead an interesting life up there, don't you?" He nodded. "Give me some advice, should we set up a small shop up there?"
"Love, we'd give you part of ours if you wanted a temporary home," George said as he came out of the back. "We don't have many corners, but you can have one of them. Or pitch a tent behind us or something. The town could use someone who deals with broom problems, if only for the school."
"There wouldn't be a lot of business, but having a spot open every two weekends or so would be wonderful," Fred agreed, standing up. "Did you like that one?"
"It's a little heavier than I like. What's the chaser's feel like?"
"Like a lead stone. It's meant for back and forth. The seeker might be good for you, or the keeper." He took the keeper and she put the special broom behind the counter with Xander's for Fred. He came back and handed it over fairly quickly. "Didn't like the puttering?"
"It spit," George told her with a grin. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that you had charmed it that way."
"Not me," she said innocently. "That was Nimbus blowing their own horn."
"The beater version will be fine for me as well," George told her. "It steered well and I can get used to the thick handle."
"It won't go up you if you crash," Fred said cheerfully. He had one of those many years ago and remembered his mother screaming at him, even though it hadn't been his fault, it had been Charlie's. Katie snickered. "So, are you coming up or should we come down?"
"We'll come up and look around," she told him. "We really can pitch a tent behind you?"
"We've got a pretty open field and a very distinctive building," George told her. "All you have to do is say 'we're behind the cave' and everyone knows where you're talking about."
"Xander rebuilt the building," Fred told her, nodding. "It looks a little like one. The kids around town love it. We have programable portals to show things in the windows if we want."
"Hmm, I moved the fish portal the other day and we had a lot of gawkers. A few thought we were selling fish," George added. "It went back to the one in the back fairly quickly. But the kids adore us."
"Especially during the school year," Fred said dryly. "Explosions this year to celebrate?"
"Fireworks more likely," George agreed. He started to look happier. "Are you going to let me make them?"
"No, I'm going to talk Bill into it," Fred told him. George looked hurt. "He's been wanting fireworks, let's see what he comes up with. I'll let you make the banner this year."
"Good enough for me," George agreed.
"Every year, as everyone's getting off the train, we light up a display of fireworks. The shop's name, an invitation to the students."
"It's handy. The first time they're allowed down they all run to us and say they saw it. We sell a lot of toppers during that visit."
"Wow, you guys are doing good then," she said in admiration.
Fred nodded. "Ten percent profit every year."
"That's wonderful." She smiled at them. "Any certain time this Friday?"
"After close of business is fine. We're open until eight, but we can wander around with you. Ron can watch the shop for an hour or so. The kids'll love the time with the rocks out back."
Iggy ran in. "Daddy George, Draco's cramping again." He panted. "Daddy just took him back to the hospital. Come on." George took his hand and Iggy brought him to the hospital to wait. "We're family," he told the nurse coming toward them. "Draco's my acknowledged brother."
"Has his doctor been called yet?" George asked.
The nurse nodded and led them to the waiting room where they had locked Xander in. "I believe he's yours?" George nodded. "Then keep him calm. We don't need to treat him as well."
Xander stood up. "What's wrong with him?"
"The doctor's in with him now, please sit down, sir," she told him. She let them into the room and relocked it, leaving them alone. Hopefully this would be solved. Men having children, of course there would be problems. She walked into the cubicle at the panicked yelling. "Your family's locked in a waiting room," she assured him.
Iggy walked in and sat beside Draco's head. "Nothing locks us up." He squeezed his hand. "Are you okay? Want me to get Simone or Denver?"
"No," he ground out. "I want this shit to stop." He took a swing at the doctor, who had been expecting it. "Don't do that!"
"It's all right, Draco, your body's finishing up the catching up. It'll be fine in an hour. Do you want some pain medicine?" Draco nodded. "That's fine, I'll get some for you and we'll monitor you. With any luck, the baby should finish catching up in an hour or so and you can go home to rest."
"We have an assignment for the school starting Thursday," Iggy told him. "Will he be able to travel?"
"Maybe. Broom?" Iggy nodded. "As long as the cramping has stopped and he's not having any other problems, everything should be fine. You can check for yourself if you want." Iggy came over and put his hands on Draco's stomach, feeling the baby's energy. He smiled. "What did you feel?"
Iggy looked up at him. "She jumped a little ahead."
"A girl? The next defender will be a girl?" Draco demanded, feeling for himself. "Dear Goddess no!"
"Many women are very tough, just look at your eldest daughter," Iggy reminded him. "Or at Buffy, a perfect example. Oh, and she's not Buffy. I can't feel anything Buffy-like in her." He gave Draco a hug. "You rest, it's almost over. The time spell finally snapped." He let him go. "I'm going to tell my family and the Headmaster. I'll be back." He put a thumbtack in the corner and left.
"How did he do that?" the nurse asked.
"We gryphon-born," Xander said as he walked in. "We're masters of lock spells." He looked at his 'son'. "I heard good news?"
"It's a girl. The spell finally snapped and moved her a bit ahead."
"That's wonderful!" Xander said, giving him a hug. He took Iggy's spot. "George went to tell Ron and everyone." He looked at the nurse. "The worst thing you can do is lock one of us up, it focuses us on the need to get back at the people who separated us." She snorted and walked away. "How long before he can go home?"
"We'll want to watch him for a few hours," the doctor said, smiling at him. "Have you thought about doing this since you like children so much?"
"We have enough," Xander told him. "But I did consider it. I don't think I could wrap my mind around it as well as he did." He gave Draco a squeeze on the shoulder. "He's really fine?"
"He's wonderful. The child is going well and should be fine." He left them alone, making notes on the chart as he walked away. It was nice to have happy emergencies that didn't call him out of bed.
To part 3