Draco looked up as his floo activated, frowning at the head in it. "What happened?"
"I think you need to go to the Law Enforcement division's main office," Albus Dumbledore told him quietly. "Mr. Flint's mother attacked someone while he was with her. They were both arrested."
"Yes, Headmaster." He stood up and grabbed his robe, heading to save the poor boy. He couldn't have attacked anybody, he didn't even have a wand yet. He landed outside the doorway and strode in like he owned the place. "Where is my charge?" he demanded.
The officers around the boy looked at him and most of them backed off. "He's your charge?" one of the dumb ones asked.
"I do watch over all the future members of my house. Did the boy actually do anything?" They shook their heads. "Then give him to me. I doubt you have someone appropriate to take care of him in his father's absence."
One of the officers looked down at the boy. "Do you want to come here again, boy?" he hissed. The boy flinched and shook his head, trying to get away from him. "Then I'd learn better. The next time we see you, you're going straight to the dementors, or to the ward where they *like* little boys like you."
Draco punched him. "Do not threaten a child with being molested, you sick fucking individual. There was no call for such rudeness."
"Mr. Malfoy," the boss called. "Please don't hurt my people. We'd hate to have you as a guest as well."
Draco kicked the shit he had put on the floor. "He threatened the boy with being molested."
"Then we'll deal with him." He walked out and looked down at his underling. "Go wait in my office," he said coldly. The man crawled that way. He looked at the boy, then at the older man. "You're being the patron saint of your house again?"
"Yes. His father's out of the country and I don't remember many of his family being alive. Outside of one of you if I remember right."
"He's out of the country as well. Tracking his brother down." The Minister rubbed his eyebrow. "Fine. I'll let you take the boy. You're more than high profile enough for us to keep an eye on the both of you and you are said to be an excellent father to your own children. Will you be taking him to your house?"
"I think that would be best in this situation. Come, Mr. Flint. We'll be leaving now. Did you have anything with you?"
"My mother was doing my shopping early, sir," the boy said, looking scared.
"That's fine. Where are his things?"
The Minister snapped his fingers and the packages were brought. "There you are. Please inform his father of his current circumstances."
"I'm well aware of his father's circumstances," Draco told him, then he tipped his head. "Thank you. Come along." He took the boy with him, taking him home. "Simone!" She came running down the stairs. "This is Mr. Flint. His mother just lost her mind and attacked a mudblood witch in the middle of Diagon. Show him to a guest room and make sure he's got everything he needs for a few days."
"Yes, daddy." She smiled at him. "Don't worry. We're pretty nice. Ravena's even here so you can get to know some of the top people in your future house." The boy nodded and followed her up the stairs. "Are you eleven?"
"Just," he agreed. "You're her, aren't you?"
She grinned. "Of course I am. Ravena?" She popped her head out of her room. "This is Mr. Flint. I think he'll be one of yours this fall."
Ravena came out and shook his hand. "Good evening, Mr. Flint. I'm Ravena Malfoy-Weasley. I'm one of the top females in the house power-wise, if not in official position. Which room, Si?"
"I was thinking the back one. I doubt he wants to look out at the garden." The boy shook his head once. "Then I'll leave him in your more than capable hands, sister. Father's on a rip." She strolled away.
"Come along, Mr. Flint. What's your first name?"
"Manelin. My mother's a Persian witch and it's from her native tongue, it means prince of princes." He blushed. "You're very pretty."
"Thank you. I'm also very taken," she advised. She opened the door for him and waved him inside. "You saw where my room was, come get me if you need anything. Don't worry about breakfast, most of us don't get up that early. We serve lunch just past noon." He nodded. "Wear anything you want."
"All I have are my school clothes," he said.
"Don't worry about it, we'll be calling over to your house tomorrow to get your things. All right?" He nodded and closed the door. "Have a good night's sleep, Manelin." She hurried to tell her father to call the boy's house. She found him writing out a note. "He needs some of his own things from his home."
"I've already called, Ravena. Thank you for taking him under your wing."
"He'll be one of mine anyway," she noted as she sat down. "Should I worry about protecting him next year, father?"
He looked up, putting up his pen so it wouldn't drip. "I don't know, Ravena. His father's wanted by the Aurors. His mother just made her fatal slip. There's every chance he might be an orphan by this time next year. Try to help him if you can of course, but treat him more like a younger brother if you must."
"Yes, father. Is there anything else I can do?"
"No, dear. Thank you."
"You're welcome. He's in the back bedroom. Simone thought he wouldn't like looking out at the garden." She walked away, going back to her choosing what to bring with her. She'd need formal gear this year and she had to look her best. She could hear the boy crying and went to soothe him. Ronnie could wait on her a little longer.
Draco walked through the park with his youngest daughter, smiling at the man walking up to them. "How nice to see you again," he said, giving him a hug. "Walk with us?" The supposed Ron nodded and walked with them.
"How is the boy?"
"Manelin is fine. He's calmed down and hasn't had a nightmare recently. He's excited about school. He told me to tell you his wand was ash, seven and a half long, and had a unicorn hair in it." The supposed Ron nodded. "He'll do fine. Ravena's taken him under her wing. I'm sure it will all be sorted out soon." He nodded at his daughter. "Even she's won him over. He's been playing with her for the last few days."
"He adored his sister," the supposed Ron told him. "She died three years ago of a high fever that we couldn't bring down. I'm sure he's happy to have a little girl to spoil again." He smiled at Morgana, who clutched his arm. "Hello, precious. Are you watching out for the new boy?" She babbled at him. "You're very strong."
"She is," Draco agreed, taking her back. "You'll be able to write him. Just be careful about it. He's expecting a letter to show up within a week of school starting." The supposed Ron walked away, knowing he didn't have much time to get away before the polyjuice stopped working. "Come, Morgana, you need ice cream and I can hear one of those annoying muggle carts ahead." She squealed and bounced in his arms, urging him to go faster. "Yes, you may have a popsicle." He saw the person who had been watching them shake his head but smirked at him. Even if that first dose had worn out, Flint had taken double dosings of different people. One of them would still be working. He carried his daughter to get her a treat. She would miss her newest fan terribly when he left in a few days.
Severus Snape met with Xander in the Headmaster's office, though the resident of the office wasn't there yet. "Do you have any idea what this is about?"
"I know there's a student involved," Xander offered.
"There's still three weeks until school," Snape noted, settling himself in a chair. "It worked, the scars are gone. Thank you."
Xander smiled at him. "Like I said, you deserve it. I'm only happy I could help." The door opened and the boy walked in with the ghost. "You summoned, Albus?"
"Yes, Xander, I did. I think this boy will need some of your unique help. Severus because he happens to be up-to-date on language charms, and you because you could probably understand the boy without needing a translator." He smiled. "Introduce yourself, my boy."
"Ashley DeMo'and," the boy said, holding out a hand.
"DeMoranth?" Xander asked, shaking the boy's hand. He smiled and nodded. "Wonderful. Give us some more, just so we can make sure which language it is."
"I go t'Merricks Academy in New Yo'k City. Slap mah fro! I'm whut ya' would classify as some dird year. Ah be baaad... One uh my dude students cursed me wid dis charmin' speech pattern and ah' wuz sent here cuz' ya' dudes might gots some idea uh a cure."
"Okay," Xander said slowly. "You're talking like one of those funky Blacksploitation films. I'm guessing Jive?" The boy nodded, smiling at him. He looked at Severus. "He's a third year, one of his fellow students got him, and we're the only one who might have a cure."
Albus cleared his throat. "If you can't find one before school starts, his mother has granted him permission to study with us for a year. Xander, he's been sorted into Gryffindor." Xander nodded. "Severus, try to help the poor boy."
"I'm sure he'll fit in with the girl who speaks Cockney and the girl with the thick Scottish accent as well. Have you called Mr. Brittany?"
"That's his first name and I'll call him," Xander offered. Albus smiled at him. "He's our roving translator." He stood up. "Is he staying in the house or should I take him into town?"
"Please take him into town. His wardrobe was a bit skimpy because his mother wasn't sure what he would be needing clothes-wise for an entire year. She set up an account with the local Gringotts," he said, handing over a letter. "You can deal with it however. Severus, you're looking incredibly fit. I take it everything went well?"
"Yes, it did," he said simply, smiling at him. "It's gone."
"Wonderful news! It's times like this that I want to be able to hug someone again. I am very happy for you." He was still smiling as they all left. "What an amusing pair to be best friends," he noted for himself. Fawkes woke up and gave him a look that said he was insane, but he was used to it from her.
Xander walked the boy into the twin's shop and waved at his honey. "Dear, this is one of our newest students. He's been cursed with obscure speech patterns and he's here until he can be cured. Ashley DeMoranth, this is my husband George and his twin is somewhere around."
"Hello," George greeted. "Do you like pranks?"
"Good mo'nin', sir. Ah be baaad... Yeah man, ah' do love pranks and it's too baaaad there ain't some place likes dis near mah' crib academy. Slap mah fro!"
"Dear Merlin, you're going to drive Severus insane," George said with a mean grin. "Welcome to Hogwarts." He looked at his husband. "A Gryff?" Xander nodded. "Well, a few of the other kids are in the back. Kids?" Simone, Iggy, Raena, and Anastasia came out. "Guys, this is Ashley DeMoranth. He's here to get a curse removed."
"Hello," Anastasia said, waving. "I'm the house princess. I'm a fifth year. You?"
"Oh, you poor boy. Did you kill the one who did this to you?" Raena asked. He shook his head. "Well, we'll try to help as much as we can. Simone and Denver are the sixth years Prefects. Do you know anything about this sort of system?" He nodded. "Good."
"Honkeys...." Ashley shook his head. "Homies," he said with great effort. "Any help would be appreciated." He slumped. "I dink I'd likes t'snatch some nap now if ah' may."
"Sure. I'll take you back up to the school and you can crash, Ashley," Xander agreed. He waved at them. "I'll be up there tonight since it's only me and Severus in the whole castle." He saw the confused look. "Everyone else is off gathering supplies and books. They decided to go in a group this year for safety. One of them got a death threat." He waved and walked the poor boy away, going to put him into the tower. He noticed the Fat Lady was giving him a frown. "What?" he asked her.
"He doesn't give passwords," she sniffed.
"Dear, he's been cursed with a language curse. He probably couldn't get it out correctly." She swung open. "I tell you what, let him in for now and we'll figure out how bad it's going to get once school starts. All right?" She nodded as she swung closed. "Maybe we'll have it cured soon. If not, I'll assign the other third years to help him."
"Yes, that would work," she agreed regally. "I must say, you do make sure the students are having fun. It's a nice change from the last head."
"McGonagall?" She nodded. "Thank you." He grinned. "I'm only sorry I didn't go here myself." He waved and walked back to the tower, finding Ron and his new girlfriend playing with the triplets. "We've got a new admission," he said happily. "Cursed to speak Jive." Ron snickered. "He's a third year, Ashley DeMoranth. Severus is working on a cure now so he and Precious and Smythers don't gang up on him." He flopped down and Gwen crawled into his lap. "Hello, dear. How has your day been?"
"I go shopping," she said happily, pulling out her shirt so he could see it. "Pretty?"
"I think it's very pretty, Gwen. Did Sarajane help you pick that out?" She nodded, smiling at her daddy's girlfriend. "Well, I think she did a very good job."
"Can I be a girlfriend when I grow up? Daddy said you had to answer that one because he couldn't."
"It stumped me," Ron admitted.
Xander considered it then looked down at his niece. "Well, usually, you would be a girlfriend a few times," he told her. She nodded for him to go on. "But then you eventually find someone who you want to be more than a girlfriend for and marry them, making you a wife."
"Oh!" She grinned at the new girlfriend. "When are you going to move on to wife?" she asked. "Is there something we can do to help make Daddy help you across that bridge?"
"They'll have to get married for that," Xander told her. He pinched her ear. "You'll definitely be able to help with the ceremony to change her status from girlfriend to wife."
"Let's not rush things," Sarajane cautioned.
Ron grinned at her. "You mean I can't get down now and beg you to marry me?" She looked stunned. "I don't exactly have...." Xander pulled something out of his pocket and tossed it at him. "What's this?"
"Your mother told me to give that to you when you quit shaking in your shoes and finally get down to beg." He grinned. "She's apparently just as anxious to help Sarajane across that bridge."
Ron laughed and looked inside the box. That stopped his laughter. "It's Grandmother's ring," he said in awe. He looked at Xander, who nodded. "Why didn't it go to Percy?"
"Because he's had one designed," Xander said proudly. "Well, actually, Arabelle has but it's all great. Kandy had her own heirloom and I couldn't wear it so you're the oldest one getting married to a woman. It's yours."
Ron showed the ring to her and she melted. "It's my grandmother's."
"She also said something that I'm supposed to repeat." He cleared his throat. "Ron, waiting is tragic, look at the rest of the family's record on waiting."
Ron stared down at the ring, then handed it to her. "If you want it, it's yours. My mum's right, I shouldn't wait. Waiting cost me Buffy, waiting cost Fred Xander, and waiting cost Percy Kandy."
"Kandy and Percy didn't wait for much," Xander pointed out. "Just for all those nice coupley things like vacations. That's what he missed with her, the together time that makes all the good memories."
Ron slid to the floor on both knees and took the ring out of the box. "Please?" he asked.
"Yes, Ron." She smiled as the ring slipped onto her finger. "It fits."
"It's not resizing itself," Ron said, frowning at it.
"Why would it, it fits?" she pointed out.
He touched it. "Well. I guess it was meant for you." He grinned at her as he stood up. "Should we call around now or go have fun and a picnic?"
"Picnic!" Gwen requested, sliding off her uncle to come see. "Oooh, sparklies," she said, pointing at it. "I want one of those, daddy."
"Not until you're ready to go from a girlfriend to a wife," Xander told her.
"Okay! I need a boyfriend. Help me find one?"
"Honey, I'm still working on one for Draco. You're right behind him, okay?" She nodded happily and went to try and talk Hagrid out of a puppy for their picnic. That way the big people could cuddle and they wouldn't be bored watching them.
"Gwen, get back here," Ron called. "No dogs."
"I like dogs," Sarajane told him.
"They're going to steal one of Hagrid's dogs to bring with us."
Xander shrugged when everyone looked at him. "George told Maeve that she couldn't have a dog for another year. We're going to pound then."
"Let's do that and then go for a picnic," Sarajane offered. "Mary would love a dog too." Mary looked up from her book and nodded, grinning. "Dear, would you like to be a big sister?"
"Yes please," she said happily. "I like the triplets."
"Good. Then it's settled. You'll be a big sister, I'm going to snog your mother until she begs me to stop or the Weasley fertility problem rears its head."
Sarajane laughed. "The *Weasley* fertility problem?"
He looked at her, nodding. "We're all like this. The day that my old fertility charm wore off was the day that the triplets were conceived. Katie got pregges the first time she slept with Fred. We're all like this."
"The only thing saving me and George was the fact that it takes a spell," Xander put in.
"Been meaning to ask about that," Sarajane told him. "Why didn't you go through with it?"
"Because I thought I'd have more trouble wrapping my mind around it than I was wanting kids. Does it bother you?"
She nodded. "Some. I was kind of upset when I heard Draco had went through it. It was like he was taking something sacred away from women."
"Dear, most men wouldn't do it, no matter how much they wanted a child," Ron assured her.
"Besides, now Draco is possibly one of ten men in the entire world who understands what a craving feels like," Xander offered.
"I did eventually work through it in my own head," she told them, "but it's disturbing that they've been able to do this the whole time and don't want to."
"I can honestly say you'll never have that problem with me," Ron assured her. "I love kids, but I know how much pain pregnant people go through. I can promise that I wouldn't put myself through that."
"Even if I couldn't have any?"
He slumped. "Then I'd think about it," he told her. "I'd think long and hard about it because I want more kids, but I don't think I could put myself through the crap that Draco went through. The cravings, the pains, the rushes to the hospital in the middle of the night. All of it was scary to watch."
"Frankly, that spell has been around since the War of the Ancients. It's how the first borns were created," Xander told her. She nodded, smiling at him. "It's a handy spell to have, especially when you're in mine and George's place, but being practical means that I'd know thirty percent of all men wouldn't be eligible because of their health. Another fifty percent wouldn't even consider it. They'd rather go through muggle technology, even though it's invasive and more of a pain to go through. A lot more costly as well. The few men who are man enough to go through with that spell either have a woman who can do it for them, or they already know and probably think it's very hard and costly. There's a reason why we don't let the spell get out, but there's also a reason why Draco went public the second time. There have been six infertile couples, one gay the rest not, who have petitioned the colony to use the spell on them."
"I think it's good that so much care has been taken, but if you guys could have done this all along, why haven't you?"
Ron snickered. "Because we're men and we don't like pain," he pointed out. She kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks."
"Don't worry, I won't make you have any, Ron. I think you'd be very cute like that, but it's *my* job in our relationship."
"I can agree with that and I'll gladly pamper any needs you have when you get that way." She jumped him, kissing him hard. "Wow. I should be sensitive more often."
Snape breezed in. "Stop that while in my presence," he requested. She held up her ring and he shuddered. "You're having more?" he asked.
"I'm nice," Vinnie said, starting to pout and sniffle.
"Yes, you are," Xander agreed, "but he wasn't talking about you. Severus remembers when Ron lost Buffy."
"Oh." He blinked his big, wet, eyes up at the potion's master. "Daddy's happy. Not snarl at him. Be happy with us?"
"I'll be happy with you once your father comes down from his giddy state. I'll expect not to see a repeat of Xander and George's behavior problems from the year before their marriage."
Ron grinned. "Sure, I won't shag her in the halls and I won't jump her in your classroom. Not a problem with those."
Snape nodded. "Thank you, especially for the second one." He looked at Xander. "The new student?"
"Ashley's in bed. He met a few of the kids, met George, and even got a moment free of it but he had to fight really hard against it. Did you figure anything out?"
"I found the way to tell which curse was used. As long as it's a standard one, we might be able to cure him before school starts. If it was an individual curse, it may take Tara all year."
"She can put it up as a student project," Xander offered. "He's a third year so he'd be in mine unless she wanted to petition to get him instead. Where is Merrick's Academy?"
"It's an exclusive, all-male, private institution for teaching magic, particularly charms," Severus told him. "That means he's either very talented in charms or he's rather wealthy and they were going by name."
"His mother set up a line of credit for him," Xander told him. "I just filled in his wardrobe in town." The door opened and Xander waved in Simone. "Why are you up here?"
"I had to drop off something for Iggy. The new boy's having nightmares. Should I introduce him to Emily?"
"I wouldn't mind," Severus agreed, looking at her. "Why were you thinking along those lines?"
"Because he's thrashing and saying something about the bad lights. I thought they'd have similar nightmares, sir."
"Very good reasoning. You can introduce them at the entering feast. Until then, you're not supposed to be here."
"I know. I was just dropping off this year's supply of books, sir." She waved and used the floo, heading back to the shop.
"She's a good girl," Xander reminded him. "Iggy had been sorting out his books for this year."
"We need one last weekend at the house," Ron told him.
"Go for it," Xander sighed. "I've got shit to do for classes. My book's publisher wants me to consider merging mine with this other textbook, which is so very wrong it's not funny. I wrote back and noted all the irregularities and inaccuracies, but I haven't heard back from them yet. If they try it, I'm going to have to find a new publisher and kick the Watcher's asses over it since they wrote the book. Either that or find an older edition by another author and have that be ordered. Either way means some updating of my curriculum and a possible rewrite of my book."
Snape winced. "I remember doing that once. It wasn't a happy time for me either."
"See, I have this great idea and the research for a new book, but I'm not sure I want to go through all this again and there's not any sort of conference I can give it at. I feel like I've been wasting my time again."
"Have you talked to Wesley?"
"Yup." Xander gave him a grim look. "He thinks his person is right. Even when I told him how I knew, he said that Spike couldn't possibly know how to kill all those things. He's only about two-hundred-fifty and killed most of them personally, you know, how could he know all those things."
Severus smiled at him. "There is a small publisher that I could refer you to. They did both of mine when I was still active in that area." Xander smiled at him. "I'll find their card for you."
"Did you write textbooks or regular potions books?" Sarajane asked.
"Texts," he told her. "I set out my perfect textbook and it was used for my first five years, but it wasn't picked up for further publication so it was lost."
"Iggy has a copy probably," Ron offered.
"I never asked. I might do that later this evening when we meet about this year's studies." He crossed his arms. "Has he mentioned anything else about this curse of his?"
"No, not a word," Xander told him. He heaved himself up. "I'm going to head back to the classroom and dig through the piles of crap I'll need to do." He walked away.
Severus looked at Ron. "Should we worry about you doing the ceremony here?"
"Here or at the Burrow?" Ron asked her.
"I'd rather have it at the Burrow," she told him. "Less to do with work and less chance for me to blow up things."
"Then we'll talk mum into it," he agreed. He smiled at Severus. "I'd let you in the wedding party, but with all my brothers we'll have problems finding her enough helpers to match them."
"That's quite all right. We'll be happy to attend and be satisfied with that." Ron grinned at him. "I'll let the Headmaster know he doesn't have to plan for a grand wedding celebration."
"Well.... Xander was talked into renewing his vows sometime," Ron told him. "But George wants to do it skyclad and they haven't set a date yet. You might want to warn him about that."
"I'll pass on that news," Snape agreed, walking away. Skyclad? Not that it would be so different for those two and their usual playing, but he didn't particularly want to watch that. Especially not here. He ran into the headmaster, nearly literally, as he rounded the corner. "I take it you heard?"
"About Ron's upcoming nuptials? Yes, I did," he said happily.
"Ah, that." He smiled. "I can't really allow them to run around naked during the school year," he pointed out. "If they wanted to do it here, they'd have to do so in the summers. Which wouldn't make it mandatory to attend, except for his friends."
"You're being evil," Snape told him.
Albus cackled. "Me?" he asked with as much innocence as he could muster. "Why would I ever be evil, Severus?"
Xander jogged up to them. "Save me." He hid behind Severus, doing a good job.
"Xander!" George shouted, storming up the hallway. "Have you seen my husband? He's wearing midnight blue and carries a cane." He saw the edge of a sleeve and grabbed for it, but Xander dodged him. "Get back here!"
"What's this about?" Severus demanded, separating the two.
"He won't let me play with his newest scars," George told him. "He won't even tell me how he got them. He's hiding stuff and I want to know what."
Xander peeked out from behind Severus, sticking out his tongue. "You don't need to know how I got that scar! You were there and didn't see it!"
"Boys," Albus said patiently. "George, you probably remember how he got it. Wasn't it your teeth in his shoulder?" Xander nodded. "It was during the after-game snog session you two went through. The one where you shattered windows."
"I don't remember much of that night," George defended. "He knocked my brains out of my head."
"Why did he hit you?" Severus asked, glaring back at Xander.
"Not that way," George told him, smirking at him. "He put me into this space in my head where I floated. I found out I did a lot of stuff the next morning and he won't tell me the rest." He made another grab for his mate and succeeded this time.
"Help me," Xander called as he was drug away. He managed to slip out of the robe he was wearing since George only had hold of that and teleported away with an evil cackle.
"Xander! That's not fair!" George called. "I can't do that!"
"He's probably either in Mortal Alley or at Mr. Malfoy's," Severus pointed out as he walked past them. "You might stop and talk to your brother first."
"His engagement? Xander already told me," George said with a wave of his hand. "We'll get him tomorrow so they can have a night of peace and quiet." He headed for the nearest floo, the staffroom, and sent himself to Draco's house. If his mate was hiding in Mortal Alley, Draco could get him in there, and if not he might hand him over to watch them go at it. Draco was like that. Draco looked up and shook his head, smiling. "He ran past?"
"I think he's in the pool," Draco told him. "Hopefully in a suit. If not, you have my permission to spank him. Just don't have sex in front of my children." He went back to the folder he was reading from as George stormed out.
George walked into the pool house and stopped. Simone was swimming next to his very naked mate. "Simone!"
She stopped and looked at him. "What? I have my own man-twat. I'm not looking at yours." She started off again. "Get over yourselves. He's not built that great. I have pictures of guys who are bigger in my room." She changed directions and headed the other way.
"I'm telling your father and boyfriend you said that," George told her.
"Father bought me the pictures," she said as she flipped about again. Xander grabbed her, making her squeal. "Not a body shield, thank you!" she protested. "Damn, do kinky stuff in the bathroom. Don't foul the pool with it."
"Yes, dear, that's a very good idea," George agreed. "Xander?" Xander gave him a look and darted for the side of the pool and the ladder. "You're naked and dripping, there's nowhere else you can hide."
"Bet me," Xander said, grabbing a towel and heading for the Burrow as fast as he could teleport. Arthur spluttered. "George is being mean to me, daddy. Just need some clothes." He ran up the stairs, past Percy and Arabelle, who were coming out of his room.
"George still trying to make you tell him what he did that night?" Percy called.
"Yup!" Xander dove for their room and his emergency stash of clothes, but George was in there. He eeped and thought about disappearing, but he was pounced from behind and held down. "Arabelle! I'm nice to you."
"That's why I'm doing this, dear. So he can do you until you're blind." She got off his back and rejoined her boyfriend.
"That was a very nice tackle, love. Teaching that in your seminar next week?" Percy asked as he led him away.
"Are they going at it yet?" Arthur asked from behind his paper.
"Arabelle tackled Xander so he couldn't leave again," Percy said proudly. He looked over as Ron came out of the floo with his girlfriend, and hissed when he saw what was on her finger. "Grandmother's ring?"
"He's the oldest getting married," Molly pointed out. "You didn't want it for Kandy so I thought you wouldn't mind too much."
"No, not really, but I thought it was saved for one of the older two, mum."
"I think it's a sweet tradition," Sarajane defended. "Besides, it fit me. Didn't have to resize or anything." She showed it to him.
Percy smiled at her. "As long as you make him happy, I'll stand up for him."
"I was wondering if you'd like to walk me down the aisle actually," she offered. "My own father's dead. My mother's not talking to me since she's still a supporter of Voldemort and I'm not and never have been. It's either you or Flitwick."
"I'd be honored," Percy agreed. "Not our father?"
"I thought he'd be escorting Ron."
"Good point." Percy smiled at his own girlfriend. "We'll gladly do anything we can to help. Here or at the school?"
"Here if possible," Ron said, looking at his mother. She smiled at him. "I'll hire caterers if you want, mum, that way you can enjoy it all and not have to slave over the stove that week."
"Thank you, dear. I'm sure we can work everything out so it's a wonderful day." She looked at Percy. "What about you two?"
"We're not ready for that yet," Percy told her.
Ron cleared his throat. "Xander gave me some advice, Perce. Waiting is tragic, especially in this family." Percy choked up. "I'm sorry, man, but you need to hurry up too. You're wasting precious time when we all know she's perfect for you."
"It's all right, I can wait a year," Arabelle assured her lover, glaring at Ron. "Don't say such things to him."
"No, he's right," Percy agreed, taking her hand. "I waited for too many things before and I lost them before I could savor them. I'd rather have what little time we have together be wonderful than waiting for a perfect date to occur. Marry me, Arabelle?"
She looked into his eye for a long time, then nodded. "I will. I know you're sincere, even if your brother is rushing you."
"He's not, not really," Percy objected. "Ron's pointed out something that I've been ignoring, the same as he has. We've both gotten bitten by the procrastination demon before and we both regret it. I don't want to regret things with you." He kissed her hand gently. "Please?"
"Sure." She gave him a hug. "I don't want to regret things either, Percy, but we'll take however long you want."
"Then we're getting married next month," he told her. She gasped and looked at him. "Here, in the backyard, unless you want somewhere else?"
"With as big as the family is, we'll have to use the side yard," Molly pointed out. "For both of you." Percy smiled at her. "We still have the book from the first time. Most of the caterers will still be in business, and you did overdraw the list a bit. I'm sure you can find more than one person in common that you both like."
"I know the perfect place to host the rehersal dinner," Arabelle told her. "Catering is going to be harder."
"There's a wonderful one down in Mortal Alley," Percy assured her. "We'll check on them if you want. Or we could always ask a certain blonde who's doing all his events. I rather liked his last party's snacks."
"I can agree with that," Arabelle agreed. "Don't expect me to wear white though."
He snickered. "I'd never dream of making you wear white, Arabelle. You're not exactly pure." She punched him on the arm. "Ow! Cruel woman. Are you going to abuse me throughout our whole married life?"
"Only if you say things like that," she said dryly. She looked at their boss. "I guess we'll be needing some time off, Arthur."
"Of course, dear. I think I can even arrange for it to be together," he said with a smile. Percy frowned at him. "I'm only teasing, Percy. I adore Arabelle. She's a wonderful young woman and suits you perfectly."
"You know, with Xander's track record at finding mates within the family, maybe we should ask him to find Bill someone," Molly suggested. She smiled at them. "Did we want to do it together?"
"I want a spring wedding," Sarajane told her "With the new flowers and the fresh grass."
"I can wait that long," Ron agreed, smiling goofily at her. "Oh, Harry!"
"Dear, you're not going to run off to Harry's after we consummate our union, are you?" Sarajane asked him. He blushed and shook his head. "Thank you. I know you love Harry and all, but I didn't want to face him being in the bed with us."
"No, we're just friends. Though Albus did suggest it at one point in time." He kissed her and hurried off to share the good news. Of course, Harry was practicing so he got to share the news a little faster than he had wanted to. He came out of the floo at the practice pitch and the guard waved him through. He had been here a few times. He bounced down to where the coaches were sitting.
"Need Malfoy, Potter, or Wood?" he asked. "We just started so none of them are deeply into it yet."
"All three for a few minutes would be fine," Ron said with the goofiest grin on his face.
"Congrats, Weasley. I hope she makes you so happy that you keep that look." He blew his whistle. "Wood, Potter, Malfoy!" he called. They flew down. "An announcement."
"I'm getting married this spring," he said happily. Harry bowled into him, slapping him on the back and Oliver wasn't far behind.
Malfoy looked a little hurt. "Congratulations," he said quietly. "Spring?" Ron nodded, grinning at him. "Did you need my help?"
"I wouldn't mind if you stood up for me," Ron offered. "That means you'd have to help Harry and all, but I want you there. Percy needs to talk to you as well. They want your caterer for their event in a month."
"They're getting married too?" Harry asked. Ron nodded. "That's wonderful news!" He hugged Ron again. "I'll have to have Angelina help me shop for a present this weekend for you both."
"You can put mine off until after Christmas," Ron told him. He got free and walked over to Malfoy. "You're pissed."
"No, just feeling odd," he told him. "I'm happy for you."
"Thanks." Ron pulled him down by grabbing his broom. "Don't pout," he said quietly. "I'm not giving up my friends and I do want you there. I'm sorry if it hurts."
"It doesn't," he said in the same quiet voice. "Just recognizing that it's everybody but me." He smiled. "Spring Solstice?"
"We haven't set an official date yet. Percy's is in a month though and he wants your caterer." Ron grinned. "I wouldn't mind. I thought those little spinach things were brilliant and tasty."
"All right. I'll find that file and bring it over tonight. Any other news?"
"Oh, yeah. We got an exchange student today. Cursed with a language curse. He talks like that Shaft movie you were watching last week. The original one." Draco shuddered. "Merrick's Academy. One of his classmates got him. He's one of mine though."
"Better you than me," Malfoy said with his usual smirk. "Now let me go before people start to say things about your hand on my broom." Ron let it go, but he was smiling brightly. "If you don't care what your fiancé thinks, I'm sure it'll be fine."
"She only warned me not to go running to Harry after we consummate things."
Harry spluttered. "Ron!"
"What? The first thing I thought about was running to tell you." He grinned. "I'm going to go bounce around at the Burrow. I'll see you guys later this week." He waved and jogged off.
"Well, that is surprising," Oliver noted. "He's going to bounce around at home instead of at the school?"
Harry smiled. "She's probably there. Do you remember Sarajane? I don't."
"She played keeper for Hufflepuff your first few years, Harry. Pretty girl, but a walking disaster."
"No ice sculptures," Draco noted. "Exploding ice can be deadly."
Harry swatted at him. "Behave, if that's possible. I'm sure she's gotten it under control. Even Xander found some control."
"I wonder if George is still bugging him about what happened that night," Oliver said as he mounted back up and took off.
"Probably," Harry agreed.
"George chased him through my house a bit ago," Draco told him as he joined them in the practice.
The coach shook his head. "That's got to be one insane family," he said to himself. "All those kids are probably like that for a reason. Good players though, a little insanity is always good on the field."
Draco walked into the Burrow and stopped, looking over the tall blonde woman standing there. "Did you need something with the family, Mrs. Ravettena?" he asked calmly.
"I'm here to pick up Agatha," she said with a smile. "Draco, may I talk with you for a moment as well?" He nodded, leading her outside so they could have some privacy. "A friend of mine came to me and asked about you the other day. It seems her daughter has taken a small liking to your name and picture, but hasn't met you."
"I really don't need the help, but thank you anyway," he said politely, inwardly cringing.
"I thought I'd ask, dear. You do seem so lonely sometimes. Taking your daughter around isn't the same as having a real date on your arm."
"Very true, but I don't think I'm ready to settle down yet."
She gave one of those tinkling, amused laughs. "I'm not sure it would come to that. She's got a bit of a crush. She's a little younger than you, was two years behind if I remember right, but I thought I'd ask you both to dinner? You can never have too many contacts."
"Contacts of that nature usually burn you," he pointed out gently, smiling at her. "Though if you find my ideal woman, send her to Xander."
"He still looks out for you?"
"He all but adopted me," he reminded her. "He's also very good at matchmaking. He's recently set up two brothers brilliantly."
"I heard from Mrs. Weasley." She kissed him on the cheek. "If you'd like to meet her sometime soon, send me a letter and I'll arrange a small dinner party. Perhaps one of her friends might be more to your liking. She's a bit of a....."
"Society wife?" he suggested with a smirk.
"Indeed," she agreed. "You're not looking for that?" He shook his head. "Then you're still pining after the girl who bore your children?"
"I want someone like her, but with a stable personality. One who's found herself, is secure in who and what she is, but still thrilling and exciting. I'm probably setting my goals too high, but I want a woman who can keep up with me and enjoys it."
"Then you might want to give Ginny another look. She seems to have settled out very well."
"I noticed, but I can't take that again," he said quietly. "I thank you for your help, but please don't set me up with the vapid little society women."
She laughed again. "I won't, Draco. We enjoy you. You are one of us, even though you pretend to be of a lower social class. Besides, I've also heard from someone about your daughter." He did look interested. "The Klinsons have an unmarried son. He's a bit older at twenty, but he greatly admires strong women like your Anastasia. She's sixteen now?"
"Fifteen. She's a fifth year and won't be sixteen until March." He thought about it, then shook his head. "I don't like his father's stance on anything and I heard he was a suck-up to him. My preference is for someone like the Crosswind's daughter, only male. If you find one, please send them my way."
"You *do* have high standards," she said with some appreciation.
"Why give myself or my daughter anything but the best?" he quipped, bowing to her before heading inside. "Percy. Here you are. Ron said you wanted this name and number." He handed over a slip of paper. "My caterer."
"Ah!" Percy smiled at him. "Ron told you about us as well?"
"He let it slip while bouncing around and hugging Potter," Draco admitted. "Congratulations. Are you registering anywhere in particular?"
"We've got a full home of everything so we weren't going to ask for presents at all," Arabelle told him as she walked up behind Percy. She looked at the name. "I know them. I usually don't like their work."
"I only work with the older brother and I seem to scare him somewhat," Draco told her. "Feel fee to mention my name," he said with a grin.
"I'll do that," she agreed. "Thank you for the offer, but we really don't need anything. Your attendance will be more than enough present for us."
"Particularly if I can find him a date," Xander called from somewhere in the house.
"Prat!" Draco yelled back. An amused laugh came from behind him. "He is," he told Mrs. Ravettena. "Oh, Charlie," he said as the man came out of the floo. "Home for another conference?"
"No, just a weekend away. It's birthing season," he said. He stopped when he saw who was standing there. "Sheila."
"Charlie." She smiled at him. "How are your dragons?"
"Doing pretty well. How's the donations circuit?"
"Boring as usual." She patted him on the arm. "We should have dinner some night."
He frowned and pulled her into the kitchen, then outside since Denver was in the kitchen. "Is she mine?" he asked.
"Do you remember any of the conventions you went to that year?" she retorted. He frowned and then slumped. "I cherish her for the creature she is, Charlie, but she does know. She's got a raging crush on your nephew Ignatius," she admitted with a smile, "so I had to tell her. She said she's satisfied with how her life is so far."
"Does he know?"
"Andrew has always known. The only redhead in my family is my brother and he knew I wouldn't sleep with him." She kissed him on the cheek. "She's a wonderful girl, but she likes how she is."
"You didn't tell me!"
"I thought about it, but what would you have done? Come and challenged my husband over me?" He slumped again. "That's why I left it so long. I even considered sending her to America to school so you wouldn't find out, but I decided that she had a right to know. She seems to adore parts of your family. She and Ravena are close friends. Do you want to talk to her some day?"
He straightened up. "Not if she doesn't want to."
"I'll tell her you said that," she promised. "She's a good girl, but she really is satisfied. Her father dotes on her like she's the moon or a most precious gem. He's very good to her. She's been raised with as much love as we could both give her, as much as you would have given her."
"I still wanted to know. I'd have set up correspondence or something."
"You still can. I'll offer her the chance. She's more than old enough to work through her feelings and decide for herself." She saw the unhappiness. "You'll never be her father, but she might let you close. She is very loving. Take it slowly though. She's very fragile." She patted him on the shoulder. "I wish things had been different."
"Yeah, if you hadn't been for your family...." He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault. My father went to his death knowing that I hated him for forcing us apart. I found some happiness, I only wish the same for you." She walked back inside, gathering up Agatha for her week with them and leaving quickly.
Denver walked out and shut both halves of the door. "Was she the one who got away?" he asked.
Charlie smiled at him, looking pretty sad still. "Yeah, she was. Her father was an arse and forced us apart."
"At least she found someone who treated her almost as good as you did," Denver told him, trying to make it better.
"Thanks, kid." He gave his nephew a hug, squishing him a bit. "I'd better go hear the family news."
"Maybe you'd rather go get a beer or two first," Denver suggested. Charlie looked down at him as they walked inside. "They're so happy it's annoying, Uncle Charlie. Uncle Ron's bouncing again," he complained once they were back with the family. His father gave him a knowing look and he nearly kicked him for ruining his carefully crafted image.
"Bouncing? Must be about a girl then," Charlie said, smiling at his siblings. "Who's got what news?"
"Ron and I both do," Percy told him.
"Together? Isn't that against the law?" Charlie teased.
Percy glared at him. "Not funny. I could never put up with a spouse like Ron. Fortunately Arabelle only bounces occasionally."
Charlie hugged him. "I'm happy for you, Percy. When is it?"
"A month. We're setting the date tonight," Arabelle told him from the living room.
"Ron's getting married in the spring," Denver added.
"Well. Two more of us gone to the altar. Who's next?"
"Fred," Xander called from somewhere upstairs.
"Was that a plea for help or an answer to the question?" Charlie called. "And where are you?"
"George locked me in the closet by the bathroom. Let me out? Please? Before I die of suffocation from a moving towel?"
"I'm coming," Percy said, smiling at his older brother. "Really, that man turns into a drama queen sometimes," he muttered before going up to save him. He found the imp in the closet and captured its leg before it could get away. "There you are, Xander, no more imps or moving towels." He went down and handed the creature to Ron, who put it into a jar he stole off his mother. He could use it in class. "Where is George?"
"He headed back to work after making me sore," Xander said pitifully.
Draco patted him on the shoulder. "I'm sure you'll feel better after a nap."
"I've got stuff to do," Xander said, waving at everyone. "Tell me what I need to do sometime this weekend. You can save me from the paperwork of possibly finding a new publisher for the textbook." He trudged to the fireplace and sent himself back to the school. He was too sore to teleport.
Draco shook his head. "Those Watchers need to be stopped," he noted. "They're upsetting him again," he explained when Percy gave him an eyebrow-lifted questioning look. "They're the ones trying to correct his book on him again."
"Dear Merlin, again?" Arabelle complained. "I've had enough of their research department. I'm going to have to have a talk with Rosenberg-Wyndham-Pryce this week about messing with him."
"Or I could," Percy offered.
"Dear, you'd rip them apart. I'll be calm and logical. Or put them on a hunt list, one of the two," she said with a smile, matched by his. "Do either of you know anyone who could help me shop for a gown? I hate shopping and your mother agreed with me that this was the worst thing to shop for."
"I'll go," Anastasia offered. "Ravena and I both have excellent taste and we'll need one soon enough." Her father smiled at her. "I will get to *like* this person at least, correct?"
"I'd never let you enter into a loveless marriage, Anastasia. You know me better than that."
"Thank you." She hugged him. "When do I get all those supposedly nice boys shoved at me?"
"Agatha's sponsor thinks she might know a few," Draco admitted. "I'll presort them and then we'll have some small dinners next summer to let you meet them. That's the way this sort of thing is done if the contracts aren't done at birth."
"I guess I can put up with that," she admitted.
"You're letting him arrange a marriage for you?" Arabelle asked her. "That's very traditional."
"There's no boys at the school who I like. Some of them are mildly interesting, but they can't keep up with me. The one boy I find fairly interesting, enough to be seen talking to, is one I'm sure father wouldn't approve of."
"I haven't met him," Draco pointed out. "I might surprise you." He looked at Arabelle. "You know that half of my house's marriages are arranged. I want the best for her, but I do have to keep in mind the fact that she's the only one of my daughters so far who is minded toward marriage. I'm trying to strike a happy balance."
"Why weren't you betrothed off?" Percy asked.
"My father wanted to make sure that I lived that long," Draco said dryly. "He was disappointed in me before I was born and wasn't sure I wasn't going to be killed as a power sacrifice."
Arabelle cleared her throat. "Percy, there is something you don't know about me, dear."
He looked at her. "I know which house you were in, Arabelle. I remember your earlier faults." He smiled. "I'm happy that you changed so much."
"So am I. I'm much happier now." She blew a kiss at him. "I'll gladly let you help me shop for a wedding dress, Ana. I want something simple, ivory, and without a long train. We'll be having it in the yard."
"Okay. Let me look up bridal places. Are you going for robes or a muggle gown?"
"I'd prefer a robe. I'm not sure Madam Malkin would have what I want though."
"There's a bridal robe maker in Diagon," Percy told her. "Tucked back into a little corner down by the toy store. Their window is so small they only have one robe out at a time, but they seem to be very nice."
"And if not, there's always the one that most Slytherins go to," Draco pointed out. "They do exquisite hand-made gowns. Sewn completely by hand, no magic involved so any charms are pure and strong."
"Only a Slytherin would think they need a beauty charm on their wedding day," Ana snorted.
"Most of the time, they're fertility charms," Draco told her. "To insure that the couple has at least one heir. Some of them also have illusion spells to cover up anything that rips when the bride trips, or even if they decide to go with part of a gown." Arabelle snorted. "I take it you remember that wedding?"
"Very well," she agreed. She touched Percy's hand. "The poor girl decided to wear a gown that bared her breasts. They had to put an illusion spell on it for the ceremony. White silk. It might as well have been lingerie."
"He appreciated it though," Draco told her. "Flint was very happy with his new bride."
"How is his son?"
"Despondent. His father's letter told him what was going on. Is he actually guilty in this case?"
"No, but the aurors aren't listening to that. The glory of their department is going down so they want to capture someone spectacular."
"He's guilty of other things that he wasn't charged with," Percy put in.
Draco nodded. "I knew about most of them. He was very honest with Manelin. The boy had to destroy the letter afterward. Is he somewhere safe? I haven't been able to figure out where he is yet."
"He is. He's in America and they're not exactly talking to us at the moment. A bit embarrassed about their seventeen year vendetta against Xander blowing up in their face. Their newest president knows about them and was not amused," Percy told him. "He ordered them to lay off him and leave us all alone. So we're carefully pussyfooting around each other and being very cordial."
"They don't have a full Ministry there anyway," Draco pointed out. "They barely have a Species Protection department. All they are is aurors and Law Enforcement with a few of your type thrown in to scare the rest." He snapped his fingers. "Speaking of scaring. Was that one officer let go?"
"Suspended two weeks without pay," Arabelle told him. "He really threatened the boy with being molested?"
"He said that if he ever came back to them, he'd either be tossed in with the dementors immediately or tossed into a cellblock where the prisoners would *like* him," Draco said with great distaste. "Trying to scare him straight is fine, but I do draw the line there. It's bad enough there were six of them menacing him when I walked in."
"Stupid prats," Percy agreed. "Half of that squad has no idea what they're doing. They're bullies and thugs. I'm rather surprised that your two goons didn't get offered jobs."
"They did," Draco told him. "They laughed and walked away." He smiled. "How is Ms. Goyle doing?"
"Much better," Ravena said from the stairs. "I got an owl from her the other day. She and her father had a blistering row with her stepmother. Kicked her out if what she wrote was correct." She came down and looked at Arabelle. "I'll help you as well. That way you get something less princessly and more queenly." Ana glared at her. "What? I do have better taste in formal wear than you do, sister."
"You're still not bringing that white robe with you," Draco told her. "You look like some virgin sacrifice in it. Though if Arabelle wants to borrow it and change the color, I'll allow it."
"Father," Ravena said, swatting at him. "I'm not a sacrifice. It's for the ball."
"No." He stared her down until she nodded. "Thank you. I don't care how much he wants you to wear white. Wear something that won't make him think of altars and knives."
"Yes, father, but my other ones are all too small."
"We can fix that," he reminded her. "The same as we'll be buying everyone else a new one."
"I'm wearing my one from last year. I hate robe shopping," Denver told him. His father glared at him and he wilted some but he remained firm. "I looked good in it and I liked it enough to keep it. I can wear it again."
"It's not fashionable, son. You will be getting a new one. Besides, it doesn't fit you, your shoulders are wider now and you've grown a few inches." His son backed down and huddled up beside his newest aunt. "I'll make it as painless as possible, I promise."
"I've already got one," Simone said from the kitchen.
"You're not wearing that," Draco shouted. "I forbid it." He stormed in to glare down at her. "I don't care what you think, you are not wearing that hideous robe."
"Not that one, I stole one of your old ones and had it retailored. I look very nice in it and I don't have to shop for another stupid formal robe."
"Can I do that?" Denver asked hopefully. "Maybe one of his more colorful ones? I'd even wear green. Or silver."
"I don't think we need to start recycling clothes," Draco told them. "We give the old ones away for a reason."
"So you don't feel guilty buying a new wardrobe every season?" Simone suggested.
"She's got you there," Molly agreed with a smile. "Let them go through your old ones and have them updated. It's much faster and they won't have to deal with the people at the stores."
"I can take them where I shop and they won't have to deal with anybody but a single clerk," Draco told her.
"But I hate shopping," Denver whined.
"Try it my way, son, and then we'll talk," Draco told him. Denver nodded, giving him a hug. "Thank you. We should probably do that this afternoon. Arabelle, did you want to come with us since I have to find them all decent outfits."
"I have one," Simone reminded him.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the chair, pushing her toward the floo. "Send yourself to Diagon or I'll take away all your brooms."
"Yes, sir," she said pitifully. She sent herself off.
Arabelle came out of the living room with the other two girls. "I wouldn't mind doing some browsing today. Where are you taking them?"
"Cholorson's." He smiled at her gasp. "I spend most of my wardrobe budget there. A bit more expensive, but you don't have to deal with off-the-rack or gawkers as you're fitted." He waved at the floo. "Shall we? Anastasia, please get my money bag from my office."
"Yes, sir." She hurried off to do that. She loved shopping.
"I swear to Merlin if he touches my tit one more time I'm smacking him," Simone hissed at her father.
"Calm down, Simone. I'll get you another fitter." He waved the manager over. "My daughter doesn't seem to like that fitter. His hands are a bit...large for her tastes."
"We've had that problem before," he said with a frown. "Let me get her our best fitter, Mr. Malfoy." He hurried to fire that one and get their oldest female fitter. She used to dress the girl's grandmother so she should be able to find something to suit that one. Even though she was a bit tougher than their usual female clients.
"Hey!" Denver shouted, rubbing his butt. "Don't do that! I get plenty of that from my women."
"Sorry, sir, my hand slipped," the younger woman said with a smile for him. He grinned down at her. "Forgive me?"
"Of course I will. Don't do it again though," he said, turning back around. He smirked at his father and went back to watching the robe take shape around him. He missed his father's and the fitter's shared look of rolled eyes.
"I don't know what is wrong with you two," Ravena told them. "I adore shopping like this. Madam Malkin is great for some things, but I'm liking some of these styles much better. The pants fit better. They make my vests to suit my chest, and I look adorable in the robe pattern I picked out."
"Yes, you do," Simone agreed. "Unfortunately, some of us aren't like you, Rav. Some of us could care less about showing off our assets in everyday wear. I like wearing my pants loose because they don't bind on me when I sit down. The same as I like the underwear I wear, I'm not in it for fashion. This whole ball concept is a pain in the arse for people like me. Forced cuteness for one night."
"You enjoyed yourself last year," Draco reminded her.
"Once I was there. My robe fit well enough and I was too busy to remember I was uncomfortable. This year, I'll have a date and won't have the wild dancing I did last year. I'll itch all night, be uncomfortable in the too-heavy fabrics, and will probably drive him off with my whining."
"You will if you keep that up," the fitter coming over to help her agreed. "I remember your mother fondly, Mr. Malfoy. I was sorry to hear of her passing. Now, girl, what do you do normally?"
"I play beater," Simone said, turning to look at her. "I'm not a fashionable person. I like comfortable things, and most of my comfortable things are either skin tight or fairly loose. I don't wear heels, makeup, or jewelry that could be spoken of. I work out, I sweat, and I fight."
"That's fine. Do you like the heavier silks? They're very hearty and won't rip, even if you end up rolling around the floor with your entire team." She pulled out a swatch book and turned to the correct page, handing it over. "Something like that perhaps? It won't make you itch, will fall gracefully about your body to highlight your exquisite form, and comes in colors that would suit you."
Simone fingered the sample. "I like that," she decided. "It's a little heavier than I want though." Another swatch was pointed to and she shook her head. "That will rip. I had a robe in that and it ripped when I sat down."
"Very well. How about this one?" she asked, turning to the last page in the book.
"That I like," Simone agreed. "Was my grandmother fond of that one?"
"In her youth. Her husband bought most of her clothes for her so she would match his fashionable nature."
"Yet mother taught me how to shop," Draco said dryly.
"Your father was watching if you remember. He only stepped out for a bit and then came back to lurk and watch how she trained you," the fitter reminded him. "Is that suitable for you as well?" she asked, handing over the sample.
He felt it and nodded. "I can see her in that. It's very soft. Feels like silk."
"It is, but it's elven silk." He smiled. "It does suit some people but not everyone. It will set her apart."
"I think it will suit her. Her Uncle wears elven outfits now and then." Simone looked at her. "That leather outfit that had you drooling because you wanted the pants was elven made," he told her.
"Daddy, can I have some of that?" she asked, smiling her sweetest.
"I'll take you to Mortal Alley tonight, dear, and let you loose in the leather shop. You might find something you like or your cloak might be in." The fitter laughed. "You know of the leather shop?"
"We have the same supplier. What color for her?"
"She looks stunning in pastels but hates them," Draco told her. "Black is too dark, as are most grays, but I don't want her in silver or white."
"Let me see what's in the back," the fitter told him, going to check on the quantities. The book told her something was back there and she was sure the deep forest green would look excellent on the girl. She came out with the small bolt. "It's only five yards, but more than enough to make her a robe out of it."
Simone nodded. "I look splendid in that color usually." It was held up against her and she looked at herself in the mirrors. "I like it. Father?"
"I like it also. Get her one in dark blue as well if you wouldn't mind. A midnight sort of color." The fitter nodded and went to retrieve it. "That way you have to go to the Ministry ball with me," he said with a smile. "It's time you learned the names of the people over the preserves, Simone."
"Yes, daddy. If I have to dance with the old, boring men, I'll do my duty."
"I won't force you to, dear." He nodded at the two choices she brought out. "Would you like plain or with silver highlights, Simone?"
"Either's fine with me," she agreed. They were put against her skin and it made her shine. "Eww, I look like I need to clean my face." The fitter laughed. "Not really?"
"The silver woven one is specifically for veelas, young lady. Your great-grandmother was one, that's why elven clothes suit you."
"Then why do they suit Uncle Xander?" Simone asked.
"I don't know," Draco told her. "Speaking of, I think I should cure his problem robes soon. Stay here until I get back." He disappeared, snatching Xander from his desk and forcing him back to the fitters they were using. "Here is your next client. He's a teacher. He's my adopted father. And yet again, he looks wonderful in elven fabrics."
"I just bought robes, you nutty thing," Xander protested. But he was forced up onto a fitting stool and frozen.
"Over half of your wardrobe has holes in it, Uncle Xander," Anastasia chastised. "Even your mate said you needed more decent wizarding clothes. You can't wear leather in classes any more either. The Headmaster thought it was funny up until you got staked that once."
"He got staked?" Draco asked.
"Did I forget to tell you that?" Xander said nervously. "Not very deeply. It hit a rib."
"I'm going through your clothes myself tonight," Draco told him. "Even if I do have to have George's help." He stormed off to do that, coming back a half-hour later with a content smile.
"My new ones?" Xander asked.
"They're in there. As are about six others and all your new clothes. All the old ones are now in a bag destined for some charity. Your husband agreed with me, Xander, I made him help me." He noticed what his daughter was wearing. Very old design, Celt in origin. A low scooping neckline, a simple line for the robe, and a long belt that trailed to the front hem. Loose sleeves that could be pushed up. It framed her body very well. "I like that," he decided.
"I'm getting the other two in this same fabric," Simone told him. "Uncle Xander, why do you look good in elven stuff? Are you part veela too?"
"I don't know, sweetheart. As far as I know I'm not."
Draco looked him over. "You could be. Your attraction in leather is very telling." He looked at his other children, who were in proper outfits. "Anastasia, I don't like that. A corset at your age is outrageous."
"Tara wears them."
"Tara is an older woman. You are not."
"There will be a top under it," the fitter told him. "Let me put her into that as well." She walked away, coming back with the fitted top, putting it under the corset. "She wants it for a less formal look, possibly to meet those nice potential mates you have coming."
Draco considered it. "No, I don't like it. If she wants to wear a corset, make it a full one with straps. More like a vest or something." She nodded and added material in the appropriate places. "Yes, more like that."
"She looks like she stepped out of the Middle Ages," Denver pointed out. He looked at Simone. "You even look like an elf."
"Fuck off. Nasty bugger."
Draco swatted her. "For that, I'm going to make you grow your hair again this year as well."
"Daddy!" she whined.
"Don't pick on your brother," Xander snapped.
"Yes, sir," she sighed, turning to look at herself. "I like this, daddy. Can I stay with this style for a few years?"
"You'll only have to wear formal robes for the balls," he pointed out. "We'll see how you look next year." She slumped and the fitter spanked her, making her straighten back up. "Thank you, Mistress Marta." His daughter stuck her tongue out at him. "Anastasia, have you been fitted for your formal robes yet?"
"Yes, father, but I was rebuilding my ready wardrobe since I outgrew all mine and you won't let me wear white either."
Simone mimicked her sister's words and her father zapped her good. "Keep it up," he warned. "No leather shop."
"Yes, daddy," she agreed pitifully.
"You all look like some exotic sacrifice in white," Draco told them. "I don't want to see you in that color for that very reason. There are still people out there who would take you up on the offer you present. I don't want to give you to them in gift wrapping." Simone whimpered when the fitter came toward her with another gown. "Simone!" She stopped making the pathetic noise. "For that, I'm dragging you with me to the robe shop in Mortal Alley as well."
"They only have heavy fabrics," Xander complained. His own fitter spanked him. "Do it again and I'm ripping it off," he warned. She nodded and bent back to fixing his hem. "Unlike most of these people, I'm taken and my mate would expect me to rip things off people who touch my butt."
"But you said I could," Draco said with a sly grin.
"Well, you're allowed," Xander told him. "You're the one who volunteered to look at that infected spot."
"Good point. I'll do that once we get home." Denver gave him a funny look. "It's not like he can take care of a wound on his own rear end," he reminded his son. "George doesn't like taking care of wounds, it turns his stomach."
"Father, we don't want to hear about you and Uncle Xander's rear," Ravena told him, reaching over to pat him. A seam ripped. "I think it's too tight, like I thought before," she noted haughtily.
"I agree," Draco told the fitter. A chair was brought over for him and some tea handed to him. "Thank you." He smiled at the manager. "Now I know why I don't do this all the time."
He smiled. "With this many children, I'd take them one at a time on different weeks so you have time to recover between them."
"Next year," Draco agreed. He took a sip and nodded. "Very nice. Just how I like it." The manager smiled and hurried away to take care of the customers in another private room. "It says something when your tea comes to you already laced with brandy, children. Don't make me get drunk tonight." Xander looked back at him. "You either."
Xander shrugged and the fitter sighed in disgust as he messed up everything. He gave Draco a pleading look and got a headshake in return. "Damn," he muttered, holding still. This was the worst part of fittings.
Xander was drug through the door of the other robe maker kicking if not screaming. He didn't want another few hours of this torture. He was being good! "I don't need more, Draco," he whined.
Simone pushed him from behind. "If I have to be tortured, you have to be tortured...." She stopped as she saw one robe. "I like that," she announced, pointing at it. "That would be wicked to fight in. I'd look good in that."
The clerk came over. "It's meant for fighters," he told her, pulling it down. "A bit large, but we might have something to fit you in this style." He looked her over. "Let's see. You're wearing men's fashions so I'd say you'd take a medium?"
She shook her head. "I usually take a large because of my muscles." She flexed for him and he looked impressed. "I'm a beater and my uncle's protégé."
"Very well then, let me look for a large for you, my dear. If you'll step to this section, you could probably find more of what you and your uncle were looking for." He smiled at Xander. "I've seen you about. You're Ignatius's father?"
Xander nodded. "Xander Harris-Weasley. This is my acknowledged son and pain in my ass Draco Malfoy and these are his kids. That's Simone, this is Ana," he patted her on the shoulder. "The other two are Denver and Ravena."
"Ah!" He face lit up with his smile. "A most auspicious occasion!" he said happily. "Right this way, both of you. Girls, there's a nice section of women's robes back toward the back. Denver, this section would be yours as well." He led them to the racks of fighting clothes. "Try something on."
"I need something durable," Xander told him, touching some embroidery. "I don't do laundry as often as I probably should."
"I understand fully. These are copies of some of the more potent Arabic designs, but these clothes are specifically for fighters. Please, try something on." He snapped his fingers and a veiled woman came out. "Help the other daughters." She nodded and went back to help them. He watched as Xander carefully tried on something and started to smile as he shifted and swung his arms in it. "You like?"
"I like a lot," Xander agreed. "It's a bit heavier than most of my clothes, but I like it."
"It looks nice enough, but you don't need that much more black," Draco pointed out. He pulled out some things and handed them to Xander. "Try those, and this," he said, finding one last thing. He looked for himself and found a few things that he liked as well, allowing them to be shuffled off to the men's changing area. He came out to find Xander in a glowing black robe. "You're emanating again," Draco pointed out. He looked in the mirror and he was glowing as well. "Elven?"
"Veela," the man said happily.
"I'd rather not shout that point," Draco told him.
"It will fade in time. In the sun no one would notice."
"I teach part time at Hogwarts."
"Ah!" He took that robe and got him another one. "Try this instead."
Draco put it on and nodded. "I like this one for winter. I agree with Xander, it's a bit heavier than I usually wear." He looked at the fitter. "We're used to the climate."
"I like this heavy woven one for winter," Xander told him. "But I don't want to glow. It would defeat the purpose of night patrols." It was taken from him and another one was handed over, this one sucked light. "This I like," he agreed.
"I'll need one of those as well," Draco told the man. He hurried to get him one in his size. "Did you want to go to the other one as well?"
"There's another shop?" Xander asked. "Besides the two general clothiers and the leather shop?"
"Yes, Xander, there is," Draco told him. "Didn't you read the map?"
"No. I wander instead of reading maps. It's more fun that way." He decided on what he wanted and handed them over. Then he caught sight of a price tag. "I think I'll only take the first two," he said.
"Xander, money is not an issue. There is a bank branch over here and you have plenty of it."
"George said I didn't need that much," Xander protested.
Draco swatted at him. "Shut up. You can pay me back later." He looked at the price tag, then at the manager. "Imported?"
The manager nodded. "We have a family of weavers at home who only work for us."
Draco looked through everything for everyone and picked out what they would be getting. "These," he decided. The manager happily rang up his sales. He looked at his daughters. "We'll be going to the bank so I can replenish my funds, then we'll be going around the alleys. Behave or no treats later." They all nodded. "Simone, we'll do leather next then head for the bookstore?" The kids all groaned. "Fine, I'll do that on my own some other time. Xander, did I give you your key?" Xander shook his head. "Good." He accepted the bags and handed them to his son, already shrunk. "We'll be looking for a present for Percy and Arabelle," he said as they walked out the door. "Bank," he said when Simone wandered off in another direction.
"Horse!" she said, pointing.
"Fine, take up your cousin's obsession," Draco sighed. "Stay there." He drug Xander to the bank and made him go to his vault as well. He would pay him back for that Father's Day robe by dressing him like Severus, even once. When they came out with full money bags, Simone was petting two horses. One of them was the one that Iggy liked, and the other was a palomino. "You have good taste," he said as he walked up to her. "The others?"
"Ana and Ravena are in the clothiers on the left. Denver is inside looking at the other animals," she said, pointing at the door. "Do we have a stable, daddy?" She turned on her best begging look.
"When you have a house of your own," Xander said firmly. The manager laughed. "That's what I had to tell my own son."
"I remember him. He acts like this one was a woman." He patted her side and she stepped away from him.
"Are you sure she's not?" Draco asked, reaching out to touch her. The manager frowned and he pulled his wand, doing a quick test to see what she was. "She's a unicorn!" he said.
"I'm petting her," Simone pointed out.
"She's been corrupted because of the spell." Draco looked at the manager, who looked scared. "Xander, call someone," he said calmly.
"Yo!" Xander shouted, bringing his nieces, his nephew, and a cop. "My acknowledged son thinks this is a unicorn and the manager got a very scared look when he said so," he told the officer.
"Let me check," he said, nudging Simone aside. He tested her himself and stunned the manager. "I think we'll be having a long discussion, Erasmer. We had the same one before and I *know* my boss told you to cut it out." He looked at the palomino and shook his head. "She's formerly human." He blew on a whistle that he took out of his pocket, bringing more people running. "He's selling changed creatures," he reported to the guy with the most decorations on his uniform.
"Again?" He glared at the manager and then at the family. "Thank you for your help. Do you know of anyone who can take off such spells? We're short on that."
"Professor McGonagall," Draco and Xander said together.
"She taught Transfiguration for nearly fifty years," Xander told him. "She lives up by Hogwarts. Send a message to the school and they'll get it to her, or send it to my mate at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, he'll get it to her as well."
"Thank you, Mr. Weasley." He smiled at them. "Have a nice shopping trip." He turned his back on them, motioning for someone to write down the names.
"Come along, children, we have one more clothier to visit." He took them to a small, dark looking shop in a corner that didn't appear to ever get any direct sunlight. As soon as they walked in, he relaxed. This was the sort of place he was used to. "My children need some minor outfitting if you have something appropriate for their ages and personalities, plus I and my acknowledged father require formal clothing for our teaching positions."
"Of course, Mr. Malfoy-Harris-Weasley. We've been expecting to see you. I have some things pulled out in the back for you if you'll follow me to our fitting rooms?" He led the way back there, one foot slightly dragging. He got Xander up there first and into an outfit before he could protest.
Xander looked down at himself. "I look like an evil me," he said. "Or a younger Severus with cleaner hair."
Draco looked at him. "Yes, you do," he agreed, but he was smiling. "This will be a wonderful reward for buying that Father's Day present." He smirked when Xander looked at him. "He tends to wear colors, but nothing hideous please." He looked through their style book and smiled. "I'll be right back." He went to steal Arabelle again, bringing her back. "This one," he said, pointing it out.
She squealed. "I like that one," she agreed. "The one I was looking at was almost but not quite. I like this."
Xander craned his neck then looked at her. "You'll look beautiful in it, Arabelle." He was poked so he turned back around. He was in another outfit, this one still heavy and flowing, but in a different pattern.
"No patterns," Draco told him.
"I like this one."
"No patterns. He gave me nightmares with one of his robes once. Suitable to be seen with me please."
"Yes, Mr. Malfoy-Harris-Weasley."
Draco frowned. "Since when did I take your name?"
"Since I announced I was taking you for my son," Xander told him. "According to the colony books, Simone's last name is Malfoy-Weasley-Harris-Weasley."
The old man laughed. "That's quite a mouthful. You're actually related?"
"My mother is his husband's sister," Anastasia told him. She looked at the book labeled for young women. "Father, I want to shop here from now on," she announced. "I look good in most everything in here."
Draco looked over to see the image of his daughter in each outfit beside the drawing. "You do," he agreed, turning the page. "That one would look wonderful at the ball this year." He looked back at Xander, who was in some softly woven material. "I like him in that," he announced.
"It's outrageously expensive," Xander told him. "One outfit only."
"It will last forever," the fitter told him. "It's meant to be courting clothes." He adjusted the overrobe. "I do like this on you. That style fits you very well."
"I don't like all the extra layers on the shoulders," Xander told him. The robe was switched for another one and he nodded, this one was simpler, he liked it more. "I like that better." The outfit changed while he blinked. "Gee, maybe I'll shop here for most everything too. I hate being fitted."
"We're fitting them all in the back," the fitter told him. "Then we'll put you in them again to make sure it's perfect for your body." He changed the outfit with a wave of his wand and this new one made Xander purr. "Yes, I think that should do. That for his teaching job?" he asked Draco, who was clearly in charge.
Draco looked at the simple, but flowing, overrobe, the pants and dress shirt combination. He nodded. "I like that. It can be dressed up or down. It's fairly simple. He can fight in it if he has to. Does it have a wand pocket?" It was shown to him. "Then I definitely like that. I'd prefer more ornate for my own selections, but that style suits him. In a few colors if you wouldn't mind."
"A wardrobe mixer set?" the fitter suggested.
Draco nodded. "Yes, I think so." The fitter nodded and went to get the swatches so more fabrics could be picked out. "It does drape your body impressively," he told Xander.
Xander gave himself a critical look over. "I look kind of hot," he decided.
"You do," Draco agreed. He looked at the swatch book where Xander couldn't see and picked out everything he wanted to see his stepfather in. Then he pointed at the ones he liked and another note was made for him. He was put up onto the stool and the outfit was switched around until he had one that he liked. A vest, an overrobe, pants and dress shirt. Nothing overly flashy, nothing like his father's taste for velvet, but definitely less-than-mundane daily wear. More like Snape's personal sense of fashion than his father's if he was being truthful. The dear man wouldn't mind too much, he might even be flattered. Their clothes were tried on them again, whizzing over their bodies then packed away in bags. He got this bill as well, much more reasonable. He accepted the card, the first one of the day, and walked his children out. Simone was curled up in her new cloak on a bench, rubbing her fingers through the velvet sections, and Denver was playing with his new leather coat. "Home, children." They all nodded and allowed him to take them home. Arabelle had already left with her special gown so Molly met them with a hug each and a kiss on the cheek. "I thought it was most suitable for her figure," he defended.
"She looked so good Uncle Percy will either get off or pass out," Denver put in.
Molly hugged him as well. "Yes, she was very beautiful in it, dear. Don't say such things in front of the others though. You'll embarrass Charlie." She looked at the bags. "He needed that much?"
"Some of it is ours," Simone told her. "I actually found someone who dressed me like I want to be dressed."
"He's expensive and you don't need that heavy of clothes," Draco told her. "Did you like the last one?"
"I guess. It was fast at least. The first guys were less creepy."
"True," Xander agreed. "Molly, he made me buy an outfit that makes me look like a younger Severus."
"I'm sure he'll be flattered, dear." She patted him on the face.
"More bruise potion, grandmother?" Simone asked. Molly nodded and went back to her brewing. "Why can't there be a necessary potions class for those of us who aren't like Iggy?" Simone asked her father.
"You get them, you simply get many other things first. That one will be taught this year probably."
"We still need our letters and stuff," Ravena reminded him.
"They're on the table," Molly called. "One of the house elves brought them."
"Tomorrow," Draco groaned, going to sit down and sort out the packages. He sent the ones for Xander back to George, so he could put them away, and his own headed to his bed at his house. Everything was quickly sorted out and he was allowed to relax. At least until Ana came in sniffling. "What?"
"There won't be a ball this year," she complained, handing over the letter.
"I'll talk with Albus personally, but you still have the Ministry ball, dear." She nodded, curling against his side. "Why don't we all go home and take a nap?" She nodded again. "Molly, we're heading home for a nap."
"That's fine, dear," she called. "Xander's already went to protest how much fun he had."
Draco laughed. He had a new project to occupy his thoughts this first term so he'd have some fun at least. He took his children home and waited while they all went up to their rooms before putting in a call to the librarian. "Irma, I need the book of records searched for Xander's family." She frowned at him. "Someone noted today he was part veela, that's why he can wear elven clothes so stunningly. I'm sure he's in one of them. Can you either do the search or let me do it?"
"I can call over to their records officers and ask them for any. I have his family tree here, he put it in with his other books."
"Thank you, Irma, you're a darling woman," he said with a smile. "Can you also swat at the ghostly one for removing this year's ball?"
"He said he wanted to talk to you about the holidays anyway," she told him. "Tomorrow?"
"That's fine, I'll be over late in the morning. If not, send a rock from the school through the floo and he can come visit." He smiled and broke the connection, heading up to his own bed. He deserved a nap. This power shopping stuff was difficult. His new clothes were already put up and arranged by color for him. His house elves were very well trained. They had even laid out a set of pajamas for him. Wonderful little creatures.
The day that the students came back was as usual a day of dread and anticipation mixed together. The teachers were holed up in their rooms, working on first tests or first plans, depending on how anal they were, until the noon meal. Draco came and picked up Xander, smiling at the perfection of his outfit. The dark green looked good on him and the fabric hadn't wrinkled all day. His own outfit was still as good, though he had to take out one wrinkle earlier. They headed to the Great Hall together for the usual pep speech, meeting up with Severus in the hallway outside.
"You decided to copy me?" he asked with fond tolerance.
"He dressed me, it's his fault," Xander said, pointing at Draco. "He made me buy all these new clothes in soft colors and fabrics."
Severus touched the sleeve of Xander's robe. "I like that. It suits you." He touched Draco's as well. "Are they available to the rest of us?"
"If not, I could be talked into taking you down there," Draco said with a smirk. "Doesn't he looked better?"
Ron walked past them. "You three look too gloomy for words. Very somber and unfun." He grinned and winked at Xander. "George stole your new vest since he said you couldn't have any more leather."
"But I needed that," Xander complained, following him inside.
Snape looked at Draco. "Payback?"
"No, that's a different outfit. Would you like to help me with a project?" Snape shrugged. "Xander's apparently part veela as well."
"That would explain his attraction to elven clothes," Snape agreed, pointing inside. Draco shook his head. "You don't want him to know?"
"I think I'd rather figure it out first. We might be related."
"That wouldn't change much."
"Yes, but I'd rather come to him with conclusions than suppositions. He won't mind in this case but it could help us guard William better."
"It's a thought," Snape agreed, walking inside. "I'll help you if you want. Cross-referencing doesn't take that much energy." He sat in his usual spot, next to his wife. She was staring at Xander. "Mr. Malfoy took him shopping."
"I heard." She looked at her mate again. "I hadn't realized how well built he was. That shirt practically clings to each muscle."
The Headmaster looked at Tara, then at Xander. "Xander, is that elven?" he asked.
"Ask the son. He put me in it this morning."
"Not that I remember," Draco told him. He smiled as the anti-stain charm worked for Xander. "See, it's worth the extra to pay for that."
"Yeah, I guess," Xander said, making sure that the gravy was gone from his tie. "I like that charm. I need it for everything else."
"I've got it in my large notebook in my classroom," Professor Flitwick offered. "I know you don't usually do charms, but some practice wouldn't hurt you, Xander."
"Thanks, Flitwick. I'll grab it on the way up tonight. George can help me practice." The tiny professor smiled back and dug into his dinner. "Why is everyone staring at my chest?"
"Because that shirt should be criminal," Tara told him. "You look hot."
"Thank you. I still can't take any credit for it though," Xander told her. He pointed at Draco. "All him."
Snape cleared his throat. "This may not be relevant, but why did you always wear such loud and obnoxious colors, Xander?"
"Because I felt good in them?" he suggested.
"Was it more like hiding?" Draco asked.
"Why the twenty-questions?" Xander asked carefully.
"Because you're glowing like you're under a lust charm," Vector told him. "Veela in his background?"
"Someone else thought so too while we were shopping," Xander said, looking at Draco. "Is that why you wanted to get into my stash of books?" Draco nodded. "But my family was human, so muggle it made Harry's aunt and uncle look tolerant by comparison."
"Yes, but it could have been from a few generations ago and you'd never know. In which case, we'll have to shield William before he is old enough to attract people."
"His and Lucien's friendship would be part of that," Vector pointed out. "Two part Veelas drawn to each other."
"It could," Draco agreed calmly. "I had to have a special charm to make people leave me alone."
"It broke during your fifth year?" Flitwick asked with a smile.
"Yes, actually, it did," Draco agreed lightly. "How ever did you guess?"
"That would be the first time you were caught in a closet," Snape reminded him.
"No, it broke about a month before that," Draco told him. "Remember the night that everyone kept sniffing me?" Snape groaned. "That night. The plant in Herbology grabbed it and broke it on me. I had fun though." He smiled at Xander. "We want to figure out where in your history it was."
"Okay. I always thought it was some curse from one of the demons I used to attract."
"That would be another sign that it was relatively recent in your family," Snape told him, pointing with his fork. "The uncontrolled nature of your gifts would have been bad enough, but if you were broadcasting, it might have driven them all mad."
Xander stopped and frowned. "You mean like the lust spell that went horribly wrong mad or like the majority of vampires on the hellmouth cruising by my house mad?"
"Either or both, Xander," Albus told him. "If it is so, then we'll definitely want to shield Maeve and William, plus Lucien."
"Speaking of shielding, no ball?" Tara asked. "I liked it."
"I refuse to attend," Snape told him.
"The simple fact is that we're working on some of the renovations over the holidays. We won't really have time for the ball."
"I don't have a problem with the decorating, I have to do it anyway," Flitwick told him. "Taking it down early should take about a day if I can have some help. Since we'll have students here, I can teach one of them as an extra credit assignment."
"If you want we'll have it, but we'll be doing a lot of construction over the holidays. The castle will be shifting itself into some new rooms."
"Why couldn't we do that over the summer?" Xander asked.
"The buildup took too long. As is, we might only get half of it done."
"Shit, Albus, if it's raw power, let me and Aggie do it," Xander pointed out. Everyone looked at him. "Hello, gryphon-born. We filter chaos magic? Big pool of it under the front stairs? Between me, Melvin, and Aggie, we can probably supercharge the school and have it done today."
"Yes, you probably could," Albus said thoughtfully. "I can have the train stopped. Tara, can you set up some containment spells?" She nodded. "Mr. Malfoy, help her with that. Do that this afternoon. Eat, Xander, you'll need it."
"Yes, sir." Xander dug into his lunch, eating quickly while he told his mate what he was going to be doing. George was annoyed, but he encouraged him to do this. It would be a great feat and something he could brag about. He finished and stood up. "Tell me where?"
"They'll be stopping at a planned stop in about a half-hour. Pull those two off and anyone else you want to help you," Albus told him.
"I'll help with the containment," Snape told him.
"All right." Xander sent himself to the second stop, where Aggie was waiting. "Hey, babe, wanna help me blow up the school?" he asked with his best evil smirk.
"Xander!" Harry said, shocked. "Why are you harming the school?"
"We're going to power the shifting of the rooms. You, Agatha Potter, are going to be the focus. You, me, and Melvin if that's all right with you?"
"I can't work with Melvin, we clash."
"Ah! But I channel and filter chaos magic into his form," Xander reminded her. She grinned. "Good. Get her stuff on and I'll grab Melvin." He winked at Harry.
"Uncle Xander, who dressed you?" Mellie asked.
"Your Uncle Draco did, sweetness. He thought I needed clothes that made everyone drool. Even Tara." He patted her on the head. "I see we couldn't wake up Ronnie again."
"He's worn out. He forgot a piece of homework and was up all night doing it," Harry told him. The train pulled up and he blinked at the extra steam. "I think they blew a side vent."
"It's a seam. Easily fixed," Xander told him. "I read up on how the train ran so I'd know how to get people off of it in case it crashed." He hopped up as soon as it slowed, taking Ronnie from Harry's arms. He had to go back that way anyway. He found the family compartment and tapped on it. "Let me in." The door opened and Denver looked at him. "Good, you're not having sex. Take him, he's heavy. Where's Melvin? I'm pulling him for a special project."
"With Andrea, the next compartment back," Simone told him. "They're snuggling."
"Not any more." Xander walked back and tapped on the door. "Melvin, I need you for something."
The door opened. "Is someone sick?"
"No, we're going to do great things this afternoon. We're going to work on the school together." He grabbed the boy by his collar and pulled him away. "Come on, the headmaster said we could play with the pretty pools of magic under the front steps again." He handed him out to Harry and waved at Black and Lupin. "We're doing the room change today," he called. "Not a big problem." He noticed some trunks being pulled off. "Put them back," he told the elf. "We're going to move rooms around." They babbled and put the trunks back on, then the conductor blew the emergency whistle. "Shit." He walked up and looked at the split. "Can't build steam?" The conductor shook his head. "Force field spell work well enough for now?"
"Maybe. We've got a welding crew coming."
"Okay. I'll tell Albus when I get back there. How long do you think?"
"Not more'n a few hours at the most. Certainly not overnight."
"Great news," he said. He waved and walked back to hop up into the teacher's compartment. "We're working on the room change so I'm taking the light and the dark with me. Did you hear about the train?" They nodded. "I'll tell Albus when I get back. Iggy's on so I'll send any news back through him." They nodded again. "Have a fun wait, you guys." He hopped back off and noticed the trunks were being offloaded again. "What are you doing?"
"Switching cars," one of them said fearfully. "No room."
"Oh, okay. As long as you don't leave any of it. You guys work so hard. I'm going to leave a bowl of peppermints on my table tonight, all right?" They smiled at him. "The kitchen should be the same as always. I don't think it was getting changed at all." He took Melvin's and Agatha's hands, taking them back to the school. "Minor problem," he called out.
"I heard," Albus said from behind him. "This way is so much faster," he said when Xander started. He smiled. "Peppermints?"
"Yeah. The little guys like peppermints." Xander called his mate and had him pop down for some. He got more grumbling but George would do it for him if he ever wanted to know what had happened that night. He led the kids back to the room where the plans had been laid out, setting them on either side of him. Yin and Yang, with him being that funny line in the center.
The kids, all tired and most of them cranky, walked into the school and stopped. There was a wall in the center of it. It shifted out of the way and merged with the normal one.
"Go back outside for ten more minutes," Snape ordered, coming out to shoo them outside again. He nearly got caught by the stupid stuck wall, but it disappeared into the floor before it could touch him. "Out!" They backed outside and he waited at the doorway, watching for the signal that everything had finished. There were only a few walls that had refused to move like they were supposed to and the planners had told them what was wrong, so they should be almost done. The sparkling started and he sighed in relief. He stepped in and that wall came up in front of him. "Xander," he hissed. It shattered, floating into the normal walls to fill in the cracks. A bright flash and then it was done. "Now you may come in. Those of you who know where you're going, go up to your dorms. The rest of you head for the Great Hall." The kids who were too tired went up to their rooms. He watched as most of his house went to their house, followed by Agatha, who was yawning. "Is it done?"
"Mostly. There's an extra wall in your classroom that I'll personally remove tomorrow, sir," she said with an impish grin. "I feel so jazzed up, but I'm so tired. This is odd, but fun." She headed to her new room.
"I'll get the wall in a minute," Xander said as he walked out, letting Melvin go as well. The poor boy looked more worn out. "We had to reach for a pure part of the flood," he explained. "A long nap and he'll be fine." He clapped him on the back. "First years?"
"Mr. Malfoy is going down for them."
"Wonderful. I need a snack and then I'll work on the bottom level. Increase the kitchen, increase your main classroom. Things like that." He headed for the Great Hall himself, grabbing some food. "Hi, guys," he called to the Gryffs waiting in there. "Almost done." He walked out the back door and headed through the new secret tunnel down to the basement. It was always better when he could touch the walls he was working on. It went much faster now, without the kids. Everything was finalized by midnight. He smiled at his handiwork. Most of the walls were even clean. He heard a chuckle and looked around. "I know you're here, Godric. Come tell me what you think."
"I like it. It's a better compromise. No unusual rooms. The few extra walls strengthened some weak ones. There's only one problem. You walled off the dungeons."
"Oops." Xander headed back down that way. "I moved that down the hall."
"It's gotten hit with so many potions it's going to stay there," Godric told him.
Xander looked at the wall. "Okay, but you're going to be broken up a bit." He felt the wall shimmy. "Just into long strips. That way I can enlarge the room a little more." He broke it up and sent them to the two back corners. "How's that?" The walls settled into place and made friends with the stones next to them. "Good. Any other problems?"
"Salazar found one. Your tower is now partially disconnected."
"Another oops. I thought I had extended the hall to give us more warning, and to put in another bathroom that way, but I hadn't thought I had disconnected it totally." He hurried that way, going to fix the minor problems. That was solved by putting in some grand openings like in the mezzanine, except in the spare bathroom, and adding a ceiling. Then he went to collapse on the couch. A few of the walls shifted overnight, but they didn't get in the way. The one hallway that got blocked off got a new entrance and a former unused classroom now became a more grand entryway. An extra floor was added to a few towers, including Xander's, and everything went to sleep that night, content with the new look. Like a really good hairdresser, Xander had done a wonderful makeover and the castle was pleased.
Xander strolled into breakfast and applause broke out. "It wasn't that bad of a job. The castle is magic and it wanted to look good for you guys," he told them as he sat down. He smiled and nodded at his fellow teachers. "I feel good this morning," he announced.
"Your back doesn't hurt?" Albus asked.
"No, not even sleeping on the couch is marring my good and happy mood. How did everything look when you did your dawn rounds?"
"Very nice," Albus agreed. He coughed. "Xander, you seem a bit....glowing this morning. Are you high on the magic perhaps?"
"Possibly, why do you ask?"
Draco and Ron walked in and grabbed Xander, taking him to the back hall. "We'll have him drain off some of this," Draco called back. He pushed Xander against a wall. "Drain yourself. You're attracting people."
"Black was drooling at you," Ron agreed.
Xander shuddered and tried to drain off some of the excess energy in himself, but he felt like he was blocked somehow. Like there was a wall between his hands and his arms. "I can't," he admitted.
Draco took one of his hands to look at it, touching the magic he could feel. "Someone tried to bind you last night," he decided. "Let me get some help. Take him to his backup classroom, the one where he works with the borns. It should be shielded enough." He turned and found his mentor and the Headmaster standing there. "He's been blocked. He's super-charged."
"Take him to the dangerous potion's lab, it's got more shielding," Snape ordered, heading down there with them. "You both have classes."
"I'm all but his son, I'm not leaving him to go through this alone." He frowned at his mentor. "You know what can happen."
"Not liking the ominous overtones," Xander noted. "Is this deadly?"
"Only to those around you," Ron told him grimly. "Can you feel George? If so, you'll have to shut him out for a bit."
"No, but I usually can't unless I reach for him, and then we're connected anyway," Xander told him. He was led into the room and sat on a table. "Explanations would be of the good here," he suggested.
"Simply put, someone decided to be cruel last night, Xander," Snape told him, shutting and sealing the door so nothing could get out or in. If they died, then Xander probably would as well, but the school would still be standing. He took off his outerrobe and the others followed his example. "Someone blocked the path that your magic usually takes to reach your wand." Xander nodded slowly. "That's the easiest way to block another wizard, to block the magic's path. You can get around it, but it's painful, or you can unblock it, but it's dangerous."
"Then why are you all in here? I don't want to blow you up or burn you to a crisp."
"You won't," Draco assured him. He looked at Ron, then at the door. "Out," he ordered. Ron glared at him. "I don't care. It's up to you to watch George and the children if something happens to us. You can stand on the other side of the door, but I'm not having your life destroyed when it's finally back on track."
Snape took the direct route and knocked Ron out, sending him outside of the room and resealing them in. "There, that should be less harmful in the long run. His own energy is rather chaotic at the moment and could only wear on yours." He took one of Xander's wrist, slowly feeling along the energy currents. "I wish we had a more fully trained pure magic user here, this is where their gifts excel."
"Percy and Arabelle both are," Xander said quietly. He shook his head. "If it's that dangerous, I don't want them in here either."
"The danger is in you releasing the energy once you're unblocked," Draco told him. "It could basically be flashback."
"Then I definitely don't want to hurt either of them. Percy's had enough pain and I wouldn't do that to Arabelle."
"You might not have much choice," Draco told him.
Xander shrugged. "A little pain is better than possible death."
"It won't drain it enough," Draco noted, looking at the small scars. "When did you get these? I don't remember them."
Xander looked at his wrist, frowning. "I didn't have those yesterday. Someone snuck into the tower? I had the floo turned off."
"You're the only one without a portrait entry," Draco reminded him. He took the wrist back to look at it. "Is that iron in it?"
"Most likely. It would be the fastest way to set up the reaction that is blocking him." Someone pounded on the door. "No!"
"Let me in!" Arabelle yelled.
"No!" Xander yelled. "I'm not letting this out near you." He looked down at Draco, then at Snape. "Can you send him away too?"
"No. It will take at least two of us." Snape gave him a small smile, trying to be comforting. "He has very good shields and can protect himself against you, as can I. You don't have to worry about us, Xander."
"Yeah, I do. Tell me what I have to do and leave me in here."
"Shut up," Draco said, smacking him lightly on the side of the head. "I choose to be here. It is my duty. Argue again and we'll do this the really easy way, by transfiguring you."
"Would it hurt?"
"A lot," Draco agreed. "But it would take less time."
"No, something smaller and more easily manipulated. Jellyfish or something probably." He looked at his mentor, who shook his head. "No?"
"It could work, but the only person who I would trust we can't bring into the school. She's still rather bipolar while she's inside these walls."
"I dealt with McGonagall on the rag, you guys, it can't be worse."
Snape looked at him. "As have I, but she is worse."
"It's been nearly a year since she was in the school," Draco pointed out. "Might that help some?"
"Could we set this up in a different place? I have a small wreck of a cabin that I pay the floo for so I have a place to escape. It's up by the house but not *at* the house."
"That could work," Severus agreed. "How dilapidated is it?"
"Partial roof, animals, a bed that's been used as a nest. Dirt floor."
"That would be ideal actually," Draco said thoughtfully, letting Xander go. "We could risk putting up a drain there and tying him to it for a few hours. If we did it right, we could then remove it and have it destroyed so it wouldn't be a danger to him."
"That would be easier," Snape agreed. He looked over as he felt a disturbance to his shields. "Can you teleport us there?"
Xander nodded and took their hands, disappearing with them. He looked around the small cabin. "I think Hagrid would love this place," he decided. "There's birds in the ceiling, mice in the floor, and a large something on the bed," he said, pointing at it.
"I think it's a pony," Draco said, going over to look at it. "A dead unicorn, how charming," he declared, backing away from it. "It was in a fight, not done by a human."
"Then it would be correct to harvest from it," Snape reminded him. Draco looked sickened. "It is dead, it won't feel anything."
"Have fun," Draco told him. "I'm not touching it. I learned my lesson from the Dark Lord and his eating unicorns, thank you."
Snape glared at him. "There's no onus to us if we use one that's already dead, dolt. Only if you personally kill one."
"Enough," Xander said tiredly. "Can we do this now?"
"Let me get McGonagall," Draco said, starting a fire and taking off. He came back a few minutes later with the former teacher. "There he is."
"What is that?" she asked.
"It's dead," Snape told her. "There are claw and teeth marks."
"Poor thing. Werewolf?"
"Possibly," Snape agreed. "Can you help him?"
She looked at his wrists. "Either we turn him into something that would repel the magic, or we'll have to change him into something that will regenerate if we cut off his hands."
"No, not that," Xander said calmly. "George likes my hands how they are. Thank you though." He smiled at her.
She smiled back. "I understand fully, Xander. Then let's do this. Start building a drain, boys."
"Can we use this?" Draco asked, pointing at the obsidian obelisk standing in a corner.
"That would be good," she agreed. "Tie him to it, Severus. Draco, play bodyguard." He nodded and started the containment circle. "Xander, tell me, how pure will I have to make you?"
"Um, not sure I'm getting the right point," he admitted.
"She needs to know if she can turn you into a pure magical creature or not, boy," Snape told him. "A pure magical creature would be able to defeat the binding, but if you've done something to make yourself too unpure we can't change you into one." Xander leaned closer and whispered in his ear, and Snape shook his head. "No, that wouldn't do it." Another thing was whispered. "That might though, yes." He looked at McGonagall. "You can't. Something attempted to turn him when he was younger."
"Did he take any blood?"
"Six drops," Xander told her, looking miserable. "I was tested and they said it had no effect."
"I know, but that would taint your essence."
"Do I want to know?" Draco asked.
"The Cordy bitch."
"Ah, her," McGonagall said with a delighted smile. "I remember seeing her when she showed up that night. Rather amusing what your family did to her." She clapped her hands. "Not a pure magic creature then."
"It was years ago and there's been no effect on his abilities," Draco pointed out. "You might be able to use one of the lower pure magic creatures."
"Well, using his heritage, we could use a gryphon, but they're chaos based. As are most of the bi- and multi-creature beings. I don't want to use a hippogryph or a unicorn though, he'll mess that up too much." She considered him. "What is that made of, Xander?"
"We think he might be part veela," Snape admitted.
"That would work," McGonagall agreed. "I've never seen a male one though." She frowned and shrugged. "All right, then we'll do this the easy way." She looked at Draco, who finished and nodded, then at Snape, who nodded as well. "Close your eyes, Xander, it will only hurt for a moment." He closed his eyes and clenched his fists. "Relax, you won't die from this."
"Can we not talk about that?" Xander ground out. "I already feel like I'm in front of a firing squad."
"Of course, Xander," she said soothingly, waving her wand.
Draco walked into the shop and dropped the two-foot obsidian obelisk onto the counter in front of Fred. As noted by the fresh hickey on his neck and the woman sitting next to him. "We'll have to destroy this or hide it somewhere that *no* one can get to it," he announced.
"Vault?" Fred suggested.
"I'm not sure I trust the goblins that much," Draco admitted. "Someone bound Xander, Melvin, Andrea, and Agatha last night using power blockages in their wrists so they couldn't let the magic out of themselves. By all rights, this should be considered toxic by now." He patted it. "If I could clean it, I'd keep it, but I don't know how."
"You should know how to do that," Katie told him. "Weren't we all taught that?"
"That sort of cleaning won't work this time. It's been used as a power sink before." He patted it. "It's a beautiful thing, but you'd almost have to shield it so it wouldn't leak out and taint other things."
"What about Iggy's vault? It's got special shielding on it already," Fred suggested. He went rigid and then suddenly limp. "He said that'd work. Can you spank him for me? He knows not to do that to me."
"Of course," Draco agreed. He pulled something out of his pocket and put it on the counter, scratching it until it uncurled. "It was the easiest way," he said at Fred's glare. "He's already healed and he's been napping in my pocket most of the morning." The tiny furry thing opened its eyes and yawned, then turned back into Xander, who was still yawning. "There, back to normal."
Xander smiled lazily and curled back up on the counter, falling back asleep.
"What did you have to do?" Fred asked, touching Xander's bare side.
"I'd like to know where his shirt is," Katie asked.
"They're on his bed," Draco told him. "Shirt and robe both. We had to turn him into something that would repel the iron which was put into his wrists, then we changed him to the ferret so he could heal faster. The healing potion works better on them and needs less given. They're pure chaos creatures it seems."
"After what you went through, you turned him into a ferret?" Fred asked, starting to grin.
"He is my father," Draco said with a smirk of his own. Xander grabbed him and pulled him closer, cuddling against his chest. "You need to finish your nap in your room, Xander. Come along."
"George, he's back," Fred called. "And human." George came up from the basement, staring at his mate. "Draco just turned him back into a human."
"Good. I'd hate to have to beat him for doing that again." He got Xander free and helped him back to their bed. He came out a few minutes later, shaking his head. "His hands are itching."
"That's the power draining off. Have him do something later tonight to wear it out. He's due back for the feast, we delayed things by a day so we could sort everyone today. Are you attending this year, George?"
"I'm going to try. Are there any other precautions?"
"There shouldn't be. McGonagall did all the transforming herself, I simply put him back." He nodded at the obsidian obelisk on the counter. "Can you call Ignatius?"
"No, but Raena's downstairs helping me with something," George offered.
"That would be fine," Draco agreed.
"You're calm," Katie accused.
"I got hit with some power off Melvin," Draco said with a grin.
"Ah, then you're stoned," she said happily. Draco nodded. "Wonderful news. Percy wants to talk to you."
"He can wait. There's no way I'm going to the Ministry like this."
"Go back and relax at the tower, he's probably waiting on you by now," Fred suggested. He smiled as Raena came up and shut the door quickly. The explosion made it shake. "Bad?"
"No, but you'll have to do this one outside from now on." She opened the door to let the smoke out. "There. Give it a few minutes." She looked at the stone, then at Draco. "What is that thing?"
"A power sink we found at this old cabin that Xander pays the floo on. This, a dead unicorn killed in battle, a few birds, some mice....." He trailed off. "Severus took the unicorn back to Hagrid so they could use it." He shuddered. "I wasn't even going to touch it."
"I guess we're doing the elixir of life and unicorn horn potion after all then," she said thoughtfully. "Is it heavy?" He nodded. "Help me get it to the bank and then you can go be stoned in peace." He took her hand and they took the stone together, though the goblins who raced toward them really didn't want that thing in their bank. A special vault was leased for a more minimal than usual fee and the stone tossed in before it could contaminate anything or anybody. Raena went to gather the necessary ingredients for the potion she had been wanting to try, the small vial from her own vault in her pocket.
Draco walked out of the floo and Arabelle pounced him. "He's fine," he said with a smooth smile. "Sleeping back at the shop."
"Could you tell anything about who did it?" she asked. She saw the look in his eyes and led him over to the couch, sitting him down. "Draco, I know you're feeling very calm, but I need to see your memories to tell if you knew who did it." He nodded, so she sat on the table, touching his temples while she delved into his mind. "Long distance, similarity, fuckers!" she said as she drew back. "I am dealing with them this time, Percy can whine." She patted him on the head. "You did very well, Draco Malfoy, and I'm proud of how well you kept your calm. Take a nap now, it'll seem so much better later." He nodded and laid down, so she covered him before getting up. She found her fiancé standing behind her. "Finally figured out that trick?"
"I asked the gryphon ambassador when she was up if she could help me learn it," Percy admitted. "She taught me a lot during her last visit. You're not going to the Watcher's."
"Bet me! They hurt my future son."
"Which is why you're not going and neither am I," he said calmly. "Father said so."
He pulled her into his arms. "No matter how much I want to go, we may not go. We can't risk killing the arrogant bastards, not yet. So calm yourself. We can follow the strike team in, but we may not fight."
"Fine," she said, relaxing against his chest. "Do you think they were going for Melvin and got the rest?"
"I'm not so sure that they weren't going for all of the students and only found this many," he admitted. "Come. You can tell me about your dress."
"No. No previews before the wedding day." She smiled at him. "Not even from the kids, Percy. You know that."
"Fine," he sighed. "Stun me stupid that day instead of letting me build up a slight immunity so I don't make an arse of myself staring at you."
"I'm sure we'll wait until you recover, dear." She let him take them to the starting point, the Watcher's front door. "We're going in peacefully?"
"Yes, ma'am," her second in command said. "We have a warrant for their arrest." He handed it to her. "Since you're now in charge." Percy gave him an amused look. "Sir, you're the parent, I can't give it to you. You might attach a spell to it."
"That's sounding like a good idea," Arabelle said, but she didn't do it because everyone was watching her. She watched as the door was pounded on and Wesley opened it. "We have a warrant to search for the asshole who decided to try and kill Xander, my future son, and a few other kids in the family," she said coldly, handing it over. It stunned them, forcing them to help them look. The Watchers who tried to resist were quickly stunned and put in a small room. They found the Watcher they were looking for in one of the back rooms, hiding from the people he had escaped from. "Where do I know this one from?" she asked.
Percy glared at the man. "That, my love, is Adrian and Ryan's father," he said in an equally cold voice. Rupert flinched. "Was it him?" Their people came forward and tested him, then the head of the testing team nodded. "Then take him. Take anyone who helped him as well. It's time that these yokels learned not to mess with us. We may tolerate them, but nothing further," he said as he walked Arabelle away. "Dinner tonight? That way you can tell me what I'm wearing?"
"You're wearing the new midnight blue outfit Draco bought you, Percy." She unfroze Wesley and Willow. "We've found him, and surprisingly he acted against Xander." She pointed at where Giles was being drug out. "You'll be allowed to come to the trial. Don't fuck with our community again. We do tend to fight back." She stared down Willow when she opened her mouth. "Have a complaint?" she asked. "Considering he nearly harmed your son as well?" She shut her mouth. "You'll be happy to know that someone managed to take the cold iron out of Xander's wrists." Willow gasped. "That's right. Xander, Melvin, Andrea, and Agatha all got hit last night by him and his friends. We found the start of the spell on your own son."
"Melvin's not dangerous," Wesley said thoughtfully. "I don't even know this Andrea."
"You might know her by her surname, Reams?" Percy suggested. Wesley blanched. "I see you recognize the name now. Wonderful for you. As my coworker said, you'll be invited to the trial. Do not come armed or with a strike force. They'll only die." He walked out, following the aurors who had come to take the prisoners. "They're ours," he told that Minister. "They acted against some of our own in the middle of the night." The head of the aurors backed off and nodded quickly. He smiled. "Thank you. I'll see you back at the Ministry." He turned and walked back inside, shoving Wesley against a wall. "By the way, Xander does have his book correct according to *our* archives. Perhaps you should ask some of the creatures who fight what kills the other sort like he did. Leave him alone as well, he is my family after all." He let him go and ignored the people with their guns pointed at him as he walked away. He took Arabelle's hand and teleported her back to work so they could fill out all the paperwork. He brought the copy of the warrant and the arrest notice up to his father personally. "Here you are, sir," he said as he handed it over. "By the book."
Arthur looked at the forms, nodding slowly. "Thank you, Percy. I'm very happy that you were able to hold in your temper." He smiled at him. "Relax, it won't happen again. I'm sure you reminded them not to do something similar in the future."
"And to leave Xander alone permanently as well," Percy agreed. His father frowned at him. "They had to have helped, father, and we both know it. There would be no way for Rupert Giles to get some of Agatha's hair, some of Melvin's hair, or even some of Andrea's hair without them helping."
"Are you sure it was hair?"
"It was still woven together in the plate. He hadn't cleaned up after himself yet." He crossed his arms. "I might respect them for their abilities, but why are we tolerating their problems?"
"Because they have as much right to live their lives as we do," Arthur said patiently. "Really, Percy, I know I taught you that as a boy."
"But they cause so many problems," Percy pointed out, sitting down. "I don't want to have to keep going back there every few months. This is the second raid in six months and my people are already thinking about burning them out." Arthur shook his head. "I told them that it wasn't allowed, but you know how some of the old-lines are. The way some of them have been talking, they'd even like to take on Tara."
"I've heard similar remarks in the commissary, but I was sure we could handle it."
"Father, they're looked on with more disgust than my kind are. If they think we're evil, what do they think people like Willow are? It will come down to a massive fight and I'm not sure I can stop some of my people, and frankly neither is Arabelle. She had to stop someone earlier from killing all their guards because they had weapons. Not that they'd have hurt us, and they know it, but still. It's getting out of hand."
"Then I'll write a memo, Percy. Or we'll call a staff meeting tomorrow about it."
"Thank you, father. I knew you'd be better to handle it than I am." He nodded at the door. "Want to go to lunch with us?"
"No, thank you. I have a meeting with your mother actually. She even scheduled time in."
"Are you sleeping in the office again?" he asked with a small smile. Arthur shook his head. "The last time she made an appointment, she hadn't seen you in nearly a week and wanted to know if you were alive."
"This time she wants me to take her shopping for something to wear to the next reception." Percy groaned. "Need to do some of that yourself?"
"Yes. The last new outfit I got was nearly a year ago. Arabelle had to send Draco to buy me something for the wedding." He ran his fingers through his hair. "I could probably use some cleaning up. When is that again?"
"The night after next," Arthur reminded him. He made a note. "I'll send out a memo about that as well. Thank you for reminding me. Have a nice lunch, son."
"You as well, father. No snogging in the fitting rooms and all that." He walked away, shaking his head. He hated those receptions. He wondered which ambassador was coming this time. "Arabelle?" he called as he walked into her office. "Did you know we're having a reception tomorrow night?"
"No, I was checking the calendar because someone pointed out that our rehearsal dinner is at the same time as one."
"Well, they can do well enough without us," he said firmly. "That and our wedding day, plus our honeymoon. Have you decided where you want to go?"
"Somewhere quiet," she said with a smile. "No bad wizards and no problems with the family." She wrote out a letter to her father-in-law and sent it with a small interoffice owl, then sat down and put her feet up. "When do we have the next one?"
"The night after next."
"Again, a day when Arthur can go jump himself," she said thoughtfully. Percy frowned at her. "Dear, have you forgotten that we promised to go to my best friend's baby shower?" He groaned and sat down. "Let me go talk to your father."
"He's going to lunch with my mother," Percy said as she stood up. "They're going shopping."
"Something we both need to do," she reminded him. "Come along." She tugged him up and led him upstairs. "Is he still in?" she asked Beatrice, his secretary.
"Just," she said with a smile. "He's gotten your owl."
"Yes, well, we're going to have to decline on the one in two days as well. I have a baby shower to throw." She walked in, still dragging Percy. "Arthur, sir, you've got to ease up on all the receptions. It's bad enough we can't come to the next one, but you planned one during our rehearsal dinner."
Arthur smiled at them. "I can't let you out of the next one. The one during your rehearsal and over your honeymoon I can let you out of," he offered.
"Arthur, I told you three months ago that I was taking the day after tomorrow and the next day off because I have to throw a baby shower. You've had Percy's paperwork since the day after I handed mine in. It's scheduled for the same time. I'm good, but I still can't be in two places at once."
Molly chuckled. "I'm sure it will be fine, Arabelle. Can you make a token appearance?"
"At the baby shower?"
"No, dear, at the reception."
"I can't. It's my equal from somewhere else." She shrugged and looked at her boss again. "I told you three months ago."
"Arabelle, work does come first," Arthur said gently.
"Then I quit."
Arthur sighed. "Why do these things happen to me?"
"Fudge was champion for it as well," Percy offered with a smile. "She is right though. You've had the paperwork now for three months, father. Perhaps you should let Mother deal with that? Bring all the leave forms home and figure out important dates?"
"Personnel does that. I only get a listing." He searched and came up with a file. "Your name's not on here," he said thoughtfully.
"They probably didn't think it was an important enough event," Arabelle said scornfully. "Either way, Minister, I'm not going. You can accept my resignation, or I can take a short leave of absence to get everything done on time."
"Dear, calm down," Percy urged. "It's not that horrible. I promise, I'll help as much as I can."
"We have someone to plan everything with minimal input," Molly told him. "It's the stress of the act itself." She frowned and looked at Arabelle. "Are you feeling well?"
"I've been sleeping badly and I've had some headaches recently," she admitted.
"Percy, take her to get checked out. We can't have her falling sick. Arabelle, I promise. I will go down and pull all the leave request forms and deal with them after I send out two memos and write a letter of apology to the incoming Minister about you not attending. Will that suit you?" She nodded, starting to look pale. Molly thoughtfully handed over a wastecan before she got sick. "Dear, what's wrong?"
"I don't know," she said miserably.
But Percy and Molly were smiling at each other. "I think I may know what it is," he said, smoothing back her hair. "Father, with all due respect, I'm going to take her to the clinic downstairs. We'll pop over for dinner tonight." His fiancé threw up again at the mention of food.
"It's the family curse," Molly agreed, smiling at her husband. "I will gladly help you sort through the various dates tonight, dear. We'll try to get things done for the rest of the year so people can arrange around the events." She patted Percy as he led the poor girl away.
"You think she is?"
"I'm fairly certain she is and that Katie is as well," Molly told him. "It's been a while since she miscarried and she was so happy and bouncy earlier when I popped around to check on her." She stood up with a smile. "Come along, we'll hear from them soon enough. I'll even walk you down to Personnel so you can tell them what you need so they have lunch to do it in." She patted his hand as they walked. "More grandchildren, dear."
"It will be nice to have little ones in the house again," he agreed with a smile. He stepped into Personnel and had a few choice words with the wizard in charge down there, including 'fired' when the complaining started. Then he left orders and walked out to meet his wife again so they could go make her gorgeous to more than just him.
Xander woke up with a yawn and looked around. "What time is it?" he mumbled.
"Nearly time for the feast. You have just enough time to shower and get dressed," George said from behind him. "How do you feel?"
"Like I need to wear some of it off." Xander gave him a kiss and got up, heading for the shower. "Come scrub my back?"
"Of course." He joined his husband in their shower, enjoying the time spent with him. "Xander, what did I do that night?"
Xander turned and kissed him, then wiped off the soap bubbles. "Don't you worry, honey, it was loud and beautiful and I'll tape it next time." George blushed and shoved him under the water, making him laugh.
"Guys, don't mind me," Katie called as she rushed in to get sick, again.
"Honey, how long have you been doing that?" Xander called.
"Two days. I hate the wizard flu."
"You're much too bouncy for the flu," George told her. She glared at him as she got up to rinse out her mouth. "Seriously. Would you let Poppy run a scan on you?"
"If I have to," she agreed. "But can you not tell Iggy? He thought I was fine."
"The doctor said you were too," Fred agreed as he walked in. "Are they shocking you?"
"We're being good," George said, helping Xander scrub his chest. "Dear, trust me, Iggy wouldn't have harmed the baby, not even by accident. He's been dealing with babies since he was about five and Tananda was born." He started on his own body since he was going to be going up too. "I'm sure we'll watch you closer this time."
"Remember, I spoil pregnant people," Xander called before rinsing his hair. He grabbed one of their towels and stepped out, drying himself off where she couldn't see him. Fred handed him one of the bathrobes from the hooks and he smiled. "Thanks. It's almost time for the feast. I really can't be late." He winked at Katie. "If you are, we'll throw you a huge party with food you'll hate and with music you'll kill us for." He giggled as she swatted at him, heading to put on some of his new clothes. By the time he was done, George was dry and nearly dressed himself. "Ready?"
"Nearly. Where are my shoes?"
"Under your bed," Fred called as he walked past the door. "Iggy just popped down."
"We're on our way now," Xander called, taking his mate's hand so they could teleport up. It was faster this way. They landed behind the head table, earning some looks from the students. "Sorry, I was napping," he said to ease the glares. He sat his mate and then himself. "Sorry about that."
"It's quite all right," Albus said patiently. "Ignatius is back so it's fine."
"Did he hear?" Dumbledore nodded. "Is he all right?"
"Not particularly. Do you think it was a magical clash?"
"It might have been," Xander said thoughtfully. "If it was, then we'll have to shield her and make sure he knows what went wrong. I'd hate for him to feel guilty."
Poppy walked in and smiled at everyone, nodding at Xander. He grinned. "She's fine. And no, it wasn't anything other than her body. I called her doctor on the floo when she raised the point of Iggy saying she was fine. He had thought so as well. Apparently it wasn't meant to be."
"Twins?" George asked hopefully.
"We can't tell yet, dear. All we know is that she is and that she's much more relaxed about your son checking on her now. Were they going to announce it before or after the wedding?"
"I have no clue," Xander told her. "I'm not sure they do." The few teachers who had figured out what they were talking about laughed, including Oliver. "You're not upset?"
"No! Fred'll treat her right or I'll beat him with his own bat," Oliver said simply.
"After I get a few hits in," Xander told him. George looked at him. "You don't disrespect a woman like her. You treat her gently and kindly, giving her sweet attention and gentle touches until she's tired of you and screams at you to go away."
"That's very true," Albus agreed. "I'm sure it will be fine." The door opened. "Ah. A visitor. Xander, I believe he's here to apologize to you."
"Why would he have to apologize?" George asked.
"They're the ones who did the blockings," Draco told him quietly. He watched as Xander stood up, heading out with Agatha and Melvin. Andrea was left sitting between his children, guarded and protected like Melvin had ordered them to. Simone had actually held her in place until the door shut again. "Should one of us listen in?"
Albus looked at him. "If I feel him about to explode, I'll tell you," he calmly assured him. He looked at Severus, who had stood up. "You as well."
"I doubt I'm going to leave Agatha alone with them after what was done to her. She's bound to be upset with them." He walked out, going to help his student. He might be the only thing that kept her from exploding. He heard running footsteps and turned, finding Draco catching up to him. "Already?"
"Better to be safe than sorry." They walked down to the staffroom.
Agatha opened the door. "I'm fine," she told them, her jaw tight and her teeth pressed together. "Perfectly in control."
Severus nodded, giving her a small smirk. "I know you are, I'm here to make sure someone else doesn't lose their temper, like your cousin."
"Melvin?" she said incredulously. "When was the last time he lost his?"
Melvin looked at her. "When I attacked Willow for attacking Iggy," he told her simply. "Though I've been feeling that same urge again." She blanched and stepped away from him. "Thank you." He stared them down. "Do you have any idea why he decided to try and harm me?" he asked coolly, a near perfect imitation of his father at his worst, only with more fire.
"Calm down," Xander advised. "I'm sure they're going to tell us why we were attacked."
Wesley swallowed. "Giles decided you were all dangerous to the Watchers," he told them.
"I am," Xander agreed. Wesley stared at him. "You know very well not to come and fuck with what's mine. That means me, my family, and this school. Did you authorize him to do this?" Wesley shook his head and Xander looked him over. "You're lying."
"Xander!" Willow said sharply.
"I didn't authorize it. I did know he was thinking about it and did my best to talk him out of it," Wesley told them all.
Melvin looked at him. "I could have died," he said simply. "I'm not a threat to you, or at least I wasn't. Now I may make it my life's work to see your organization destroyed."
"We do good work," Willow argued.
"According to whom?" Draco snorted. "According to the girls you brainwash into obedience? According to the parents that you take them away from? I'm very glad that Xander's training Minnie now."
"Yes, well, that may have to change," Wesley told them. "She'll need more specialized knowledge."
"You think Spike, Ethan, and I can't give it to her?" Xander snorted. "Spike's killed nearly every sort of demon there is, mostly for fun. Ethan used to be one of you so he knows the secret handshake, and I'm more than good enough to do her physical training. If you touch my niece, you will all die, Wesley." He looked at Willow. "Sorry, but this is my family." She backed away from him. "My family comes before all of you."
"You don't use the same sort of magic," Wesley said, trying to sound reasonable.
"She's one of ours," Snape assured him. "I've seen her powers coming out myself. Xander was a victim of it at one point in time." Wesley swallowed. "She'll have a wand, not a few herbs and a spell."
"Of course," Draco interjected smoothly, "we'll be putting her into Tara's classes as well, just in case she needs that sort of help. Leave and never come back. You're not welcome here."
Willow stared at him. "My own daughter is going to be one of your sort of witches."
"Hopefully by then we'll have forgotten what you did when you taught here and how badly you've hurt this school," Melvin said. She flinched away from him. "Do you know you're the first person I ever really attacked? That it felt good to defend my family?" She backed further away from him. "I suggest you leave now, Professor Rosenberg. You're not getting my cousin. Over all of our dead bodies perhaps, but I'm sure that either her father, my father, or Uncle Xander has a backup in place for that contingency as well." Xander nodded, crossing his arms. "Your apologies are accepted in the matter of nearly killing us last night, and every one else if we had truly lost control of our abilities."
"You're that powerful?" Wesley asked.
Melvin looked at Xander and Draco. Draco shook his head. Xander shrugged. "It's your life that you're putting in danger. Your father can always obliviate them later."
Melvin looked at Wesley. "I use pure magic, the stuff hiding under the chaos magic in the flood." Wesley went pale. "Between myself, my girlfriend, who is usually in communion with my mind, and my cousin Ignatius, we could have destroyed this country by becoming an open portal to the flood so it would redistribute. That's not counting what Uncle Xander could have done since he's about twice as powerful as I am when he loses control. Being what he is means that he's permanently tapped into the chaos flows so he can smooth them out. Iggy's somewhat removed from that because of his calling, Xander isn't because of his. You could have caused the next apocalypse last night. Congratulations on nearly ending the world. Now, please go away. You're interrupting one of our sacred rituals of passage." Wesley nodded and led his wife away.
"Ask Minerva, Willow, she had to fix his mistake again," Xander said quietly as they walked away. Willow looked at him and nodded once, then followed her husband out. "You're in communion with her?" he asked his nephew. "Since when?"
"Since this summer when she had that last vision. I got the splitting headache as well," he admitted.
"Does your father know?" Snape asked. Melvin shook his head quickly. "Then you should tell him."
"He's at the Burrow tonight. I'll take him for a short trip," Xander said, leading Melvin away. "You're liking the naughty thoughts, aren't you?" he asked as they disappeared. He landed beside the table. "Melvin has a confession to make," he announced.
"Not engaged after all?" Arabelle asked lightly.
"No, I got a splitting headache when Andrea had that vision this summer," he admitted.
Percy shook his head. "Well, it's better than being broken up I suppose," he said, but he was smiling. "We'll work on that over the holiday's son. For now, sit and hear some family news?" Xander sat down as well. "Arabelle?"
"I'm pregnant," she said with a grimace. "Just started to get sick."
"You and Katie both," Xander told her. Melvin looked at him like he was insane. "She was doing it while we were getting ready for the feast." He grinned. "Congrats. When's the shower? Tell me now so I can shop and actually find something for the baby? I couldn't find a thing for Melvin when I tried. George did immediately but I was stuck."
"Not until the seventh month," Molly told him. "That's traditional. Have you found them a wedding present?"
"Yup. I found that one earlier while Draco was shopping for them." He beamed. "Now that I'm calm again, we'd better get back. Want me to tell George and Ron?"
"If you wouldn't mind," Percy agreed. "We're a bit tired with all this plus this is visiting season at the Ministry." Arthur snorted. "Father, I'm not doing anything near her due date either. You might as well pencil us out for that as well," he said with fond tolerance.
"Percy, you'll have to attend some of them. The Russians are coming about that time."
"You want me to talk to some smelly creatures wearing fur while my wife is ready to give birth?" he asked.
"Good point," Arthur said, making a note. "Boys?"
"Sorry, I find this stuff really fascinating," Xander admitted. "I've never planned anything before. Elizabeth and Fred did most of George's birthday party that time." He stood up and tugged on Melvin's arm. "Grab a hug and we'll head back."
Melvin hugged them both. "Twins?" he suggested.
"No, we're not adding more twins to the family," Arabelle told him, frowning at him. "Do you really want to hurt me, son?"
Melvin grinned. "Grandmother said triplets were more usual, the twins were aberrations."
"Yes, they certainly are that," Percy agreed once those two had left. "Don't even think of it, mother. If she's having triplets, she'll have to take off more maternity leave, the doctor will insist on it probably. Father would be lost without us."
"She could take over the archives temporarily," Arthur suggested.
"Arthur, he's already found his dark side, don't encourage it any farther," Arabelle suggested.
"Fine, spoil my fun," Arthur sighed. "Arabelle, I'll need paperwork from your doctor about when you're going to have to start slowing down and when you'll have to go on leave, dear." He smiled at her. "Did you want to take a year off?"
"If I take a year off, the guys will never listen to me when I get back," Arabelle pointed out. "They learned to respect me because I'm such a tough bitch, if I go soft and gooshy over the baby they'll stop respecting me."
"I'm sure the baby can come to work with me," Percy offered. "My main office is rather quiet and it's just upstairs from yours. That way you can be tough and not coo in front of those men you run roughshod over."
"We'll figure that out once I have this little Weasley," she told him. "As for right now, we'll have to talk to my guys about not letting me do things," she said with a grimace. "Otherwise they'll overprotect me and die doing it."
"You're going to keep going on raids?" Molly asked, looking very upset.
"It's my job, Molly. Being pregnant doesn't change that. Though Percy does more dangerous stuff daily." He and Arthur both coughed.
"Oh, really?" Molly asked, glaring at the two men. "Why wasn't I told about this?"
"Because you'd worry, mum," Percy said quickly, standing up and kissing her cheek, then leaving with his fiancé before she could work up a good head of steam.
"She's very well protected and is trained well-enough to take Xander in a fair fight," Arthur said as he went back to his arranging. "Well," he sighed. "They'll get their wish. Most everyone has asked for the day of the reception off. I'm calling a staff meeting tomorrow." He grimaced. "There's two when she's due. I'll have to arrange that as well probably."
"The others can still go."
Arthur looked up at her. "Molly, I love you dearly, but you can't make up for two out of eight full Ministers being gone from a reception. Even two out of the seventeen Minister and Under- Ministers will be noticed."
She rolled her eyes. "Arthur, it will be fine. They can't expect to not have things like this happen. Their own people get pregnant as well." She shifted over to look over his shoulder. "Can you move that one to the other one?"
"They're mortal enemies. I'm not stepping in the middle of that." He kissed her on the cheek. "Relax about it, they're both very well protected. Everyone knows that something bad will happen if Percy ever got hurt." She frowned at him. "Xander, love, not me. I'd only fire people," he admitted with a smile. "Xander would go on a rampage, possibly even go after them astrally if we knocked him out." He patted her on the hand. "Love, may I please have some more of that steak? I'm a bit hungry still."
She smiled and got up to get it for him. "This discussion isn't over."
"I didn't think it was," he sighed.
Xander smiled as he reappeared in the school, behind Ron and George in Gryffindor, interrupting the yearly speech. "Arabelle's preggers," he announced. George and Ron cheered, hugging each other. He looked at the kids and waved. "Hi, guys. Percy's fiancé is pregnant." They cheered as well, especially the family. "As is Katie," he told the family. They giggled and laughed. "What part of the yearly speech are we up to?"
"Quidditch," Ron told him. "Where's Melvin?"
"I dropped him outside his own house. He's very excited." He beamed at them. "Who's the captain this year?"
The older players looked at Denver, Simone, and Iggy. The oldest one coughed. "It's one of you three. We figure we'll get advice from any and all parents, but it's between you guys who wants it."
"I've got enough power," Simone said, looking at her brother. He shook his head quickly so she looked at Iggy. "You're it."
"Okay," he said calmly. "Daddy, can you please tell me how to plan games like battles?"
"Of course, son," Xander said proudly. George was tearing up. "What? You're not happy?"
George lunged and hugged his son. "I'm as proud of you now as I was last year when you made that stone," he whispered. "I love you, son. You're a great follower of tradition." He stood up and hugged his mate.
"Take lessons from Oliver as well," Ron encouraged. "He was a captain himself."
"Yeah, and he likes to help me plan as well," Xander agreed. He smiled at the kids and a few girls sighed. "Still taken, kids."
"Yes, sir, but a healthy fantasy life is important to those of us who are growing up and finding our own mates," one of the sixth year girls pointed out. Xander smiled at her. "You won't take points off?"
"I will," George told her. "My man. No peeking, not even when he's in leather." He looked at the girl who had tried to stake his husband. "Do it again," he encouraged. "Find out how destructive six children can be up close and personal for the rest of the year."
"Yes, George," she said pitifully.
Ron nudged him. "Six?"
"Your three, my two, and Lucien," George told him.
"Nine then. Morgana, Mary, and Zach."
"True, but Zach hardly ever stays over these days. Severus is afraid of Lucien and William pouncing him too often and making him like it." That sixth year girl squeaked. "Don't even consider it," he warned.
"Just the mental image of a little Professor Malfoy, a little Professor Harris-Weasley, and a little Professor Snape, sir. It was laughter, nothing else."
"Eww!" Simone said, tossing a pillow at her head. "That's my little brother you're thinking about! Stop it!"
One of the first year boys raised his hand. "Is it always like this around here?"
Xander nodded. "Yup." He looked at the boy's robes. "Why are you in here?"
"Because I got lost," he said miserably. "They said they'd lead me over after we were done."
"I'll do it now," Xander told him, taking his hand to pull him up. "Come on, let's get you back to your house." He walked the boy over to Hufflepuff and tapped on the door. "He got a little lost and someone was going to bring him back later, but I decided to be really, really nice tonight and do it myself," he said, handing the boy over.
"Thank you, Professor Harris-Weasley. Are we to bring clothes to our first class with you?"
"Please," he agreed. "Congratulations on your promotion." He walked away, heading back to his house. Ron had it well in hand and he wanted to go lose his temper. He found Percy and Arabelle waiting on him. "Hi." He sat on Percy's other side. "What's up now?"
"Escaping from mum," Percy assured him. "Dad spilled the beans about how dangerous my job is."
"Ah. But you're well trained," Xander told him. "You've worked yourself very hard to get as good as you are. You could probably even kick my ass in a head-on fight if I didn't fight dirty," he admitted with a grin. "You and Arabelle both. I respect you both for how scary you are besides how nice you are." Arabelle reached over and took his hand to squeeze. "How do you feel?"
"Pretty good. How do you do with pregnant people?"
"Ginny begged and stole Ron's sex oil so he'd give her backrubs," Percy told her. She snickered. "Really. She used to pick on him about stealing that particular oil, especially while she was pregnant with Simone."
"Do we think that's what caused her to be so horny?" George asked as he walked in. "Dear, the sixth year girls have decided you are the fantasy of the term. You're to wear leather every once in a while to thrill them. They've even promised to protect you." He sat down on Arabelle's other side, patting her on the leg. "What would you need most? The cradle Hagrid made us? Our supply of left-over books? Some comforters?"
"I still have all the furniture from the other two," Percy assured him. "Comforters would be nice. No pranks until the baby can open them itself. Some clothes would be wonderful."
"I have the cradle from when I was born," Arabelle told him. "Hand carved and passed down through six generations so far."
"Then we'll bring it over and integrate it. Tananda didn't sleep in a cradle, she went from our bed to a crib."
"See, wonderful things. Do we have any idea what it'll be?" George asked hopefully.
"Not for another two months," Arabelle told him. She patted him on the knee. "Wait until then if you want. That will still give you another two months to shop."
"What about Fred and Katie, do they need anything?"
"I don't know," George admitted. "Let me call them up here for a bit." He went to the floo and called the shop. "Fred!" He grinned. "Percy and Arabelle are here. They want to talk baby stuff."
"It's not time for that yet," Katie told him.
"We'll be needing some too," Percy called. Fred and Katie burst out of the fire and hugged them tightly. "Thank you. We're about three months along. You?"
"About two," Katie said, sitting next to Arabelle. "We're doing the big talks tonight, but we needed a break anyway."
"We're getting married," Fred said firmly. "I won't have you embarrassed and shunned like Ginny was." Percy nodded. "We can do it whenever you're ready, even if we do have to lie and say the doctor said you couldn't until after you gave birth so you could be slim and beautiful again."
Katie blushed. "I think we could do it before then."
Percy looked at Xander. "Weren't you supposed to be renewing yours as well?"
George coughed. "Albus said we could do it this summer if we wanted to do it here and wanted to go skyclad."
Katie and Arabelle both looked at Xander, who shrugged. "It wasn't my idea. George had to talk me into it, I always thought it was odd. But he wants to do it so I guess I'll do it for him."
"You're going to go naked in front of people?" Katie asked. She looked at Fred. "Are you going to overreact then as well?" she asked.
Fred nodded. "You'll be wearing a blindfold so you can't start thinking about him."
"He's bigger?" Arabelle asked.
"According to Draco," Percy agreed with a frown.
"Hmm," Katie said, looking at Xander's lap. "Having seen Draco nearly naked once, many years ago, I've got to say I'm impressed."
"I can tickle you," Xander warned. "I'm average for an American." He grinned. "There's a reason we invented underwear models."
"I'm sure there was," Snape said as he walked in. "Family meeting?" he asked.
"Sharing good news," George told him. "Can you please make sure Iggy knows how to make anti-nausea and anti-swelling potions? I know he's got some in his book, but they'll be needing it soon."
Snape looked at Arabelle. "Really, Ms. McKinley?"
She grinned. "Yes, Professor Snape, I am. Three months along."
"Then I'm happy for you," he said, smiling at her. "You were always an excellent student, even in my class." He looked at Xander. "You may want to have a talk with Melvin before he's released tonight," he noted gently. "He was still in a rage when he overheard Black making some snide comment about you. I had no idea he was that powerful."
Percy groaned. "What did he do this time?"
"It's only his second offense in his whole school career," Xander pointed out. "Second time attacking a teacher as well, but only the second one."
Snape sat down. "It seems he's trapped Black in his other form. Something about wanting to act like a bitch, he should stay a bitch." He smiled. "It was rather cute. Even Lupin laughed about it." Percy shook his head. "He's in the headmaster's office at the moment if you'd like to handle it."
"I'll have to," Xander said. "I head the family while they're in the school. Percy, stay. I'll be right back." He got up and walked out, not caring that both women looked at his butt.
"He is," Snape told them. "I've seen him enough while treating him." They giggled. "Send me an invitation for the baby shower."
"Both of them?" Fred asked.
"If you wish," he agreed, standing up. "He won't be put in front of a disciplinary committee for it. We're considering it extraordinary circumstances because of what happened last night."
"Rupert did it," Percy said quietly. Everyone hissed and Snape nodded. "He's under arrest. The trial will be next week sometime."
"I'll make sure the Veritassium is properly made," Snape agreed. "Does he know?" Percy nodded. "Then I'll also make up some more sleep potion as well." George smiled at him. "You're welcome. Make sure he wears out some of his excess energy tonight." He walked away, heading back to his lab. He found Iggy brewing something, frowning at it. "Anti-nausea?"
Iggy nodded. "I want to make sure Aunt Katie has the best."
"Along with Ms. McKinley?"
Iggy looked at him. "Arabelle's pregnant?" Snape nodded. He smiled. "Wonderful news then. Percy deserves all possible happiness." He went back to his stirring. "They said I wasn't the reason she miscarried the first time, but I was so *sure* she was going to be fine."
"She had a blood vessel rupture, it wasn't something you could predict," Snape said gently. He walked up behind his apprentice and patted him on the shoulder. "We'll watch her very carefully this time. I'll even show you how to check on her from afar." Iggy nodded. "Relax, she's not in trouble. I checked on her myself. She's fine. So is the child."
"Still, I should have felt something," Iggy told him, turning to look at him. "I'm supposed to be great at this stuff already. I feel like I failed so miserably at some really important test, and I don't like this feeling. It's like I let my family down, or like I've been lying about what I can do all this time, like I'm some sort of phoney."
Severus brushed some of the white hair off the boy's face. "None of us are perfect, not even you. She took a very hard hit to the abdomen. You couldn't have seen the bruise that early and no one could have predicted that the bruise would rupture. You are not perfect and you have to accept that. There will be times you will fail. People may die. You can only try your best and be confident in what you do know." He stepped back and smiled at the boy. "Now, finish that potion and bottle it up. You shouldn't be down here tonight, it's the first night and you'll need your rest. You have me first tomorrow."
"I'll try to wake up," Iggy said with a faint smile. "Thank you, Severus."
"You're welcome, Ignatius. This is what mentors and Masters do for their students. If you ask your wife, she'll tell you the same thing."
"She told me to quit thinking about it. That it wasn't my fault."
"I think she needs to learn to be more gentle with you," Severus told him.
Iggy shrugged. "Sometimes I need the toughness."
"Yes, but a gentle touch would have been more soothing in this case."
"Please don't say anything. She'll only get frustrated and pick a fight."
"I won't, but I will have a talk with your fathers about helping her see how tender-hearted you are. They should be able to teach her to treat you better."
"She treats me great, until she's frustrated with me." He shrugged. "I can put up with it. It's from where she was older before. Sometimes I'm still a little kid to her. I'll grow up and she'll stop being so frustrated with me."
"You're you, this is where you two aren't so compatible. You were raised to be a gentle and caring person. She was raised to be more critical about the world. You'll mellow each other out and meet somewhere in the middle some year." Iggy nodded. "Now finish that up and get to bed."
"Yes, sir." Iggy checked on his potion and used his wand to get the fallen spoon out, much to his teacher's amusement. "It happens," he said with a smile.
"To all of us. I dropped one last week." Iggy giggled. "Hurry up. I want to go to bed as well."
"Yes, sir." Iggy pulled it off the fire and started to bottle the necessary potion. He'd send it around tomorrow.
Snape flipped open his book on language charms, reading while his apprentice worked. He wanted that boy to speak correctly before he got called a honkey again.
Percy nearly fell over when he saw his bride. She was glowing. She was beautiful. She was barely showing. He had to swallow deeply as she was led down to his side, otherwise he might have run up and carried her off to try and debauch that angel of his.
"Told you that the wait was worth it," she whispered as she joined him. He swallowed again. "Percy?" she hissed.
"Shh," he whispered, staring into her eyes. "I'm trying to regain control."
She smiled at him. "Why?"
"Because I don't want to do something lewd in front of everybody." She looked stunned. "Now, let's get through this so I can take care of this urge I have."
She blinked at the person officiating. "Can we do the quick version?" she mouthed.
He laughed as he opened the book. "As many couples have come before me, these two lovely people wish to make this part of the festivities go faster. In that case, I shall omit my usual speech about fidelity and tolerance for differences. I doubt they need them anyway." The crowd laughed lightly and happily. "Arabelle Avalon McKinley, do you take him as your wedded husband?"
"Yes," she said in a slightly shaking voice. She was thinking 'please, now'.
"Percy Weasley, do you take her as your wedded wife?"
"Yes." He smiled at her. She flushed and gave him a look, so he smiled. "Do it faster," he encouraged.
The officiate laughed, as did the crowd. "Fine. I can cut out the other speeches as well." He looked at them. Then at the crowd. Then back at them. "Say your vows and you can disappear for a few minutes to giggle at each other."
"Mine," Percy said, looking at her, passion burning out of his eyes. "Mine, all mine, and only mine. No matter what. Even if you push me off my ladder in the archives. Even if you kick me out. You are mine."
She blushed brighter. She'd never seen him like this. "As you're mine, Percy. I'm not letting you escape again. I don't foresee kicking you out or hurting you, but if you try my patience too much, the couch is yours. Until that point, expect to be begging later." A few shocked gasps were heard from behind her. "You are mine and I will make sure you know and realize that, even if I have to brand my name onto your backside. Even if I have to kill the people who look at you. Even if I have to pounce you right now."
"I pronounce you married, you may kiss and seal the union," the officiate said quickly.
Percy grabbed her and kissed her hard. "My room," he said against her lips. "Now." He walked her back down the aisle and into the house, hurrying her up the stairs. That gown was perfect, it made her glow. It made him pant. It made a pleasing sound as it hit the floor.
Downstairs, Molly was still blushing. "Well, I guess we should go to the tent now," she announced. She looked at her husband, who was smiling. "I know he gets that from you," she chided gently.
"I wanted to do the same thing on our wedding day," Arthur admitted. He took her arm and led her over to mix and mingle with the other guests. He greeted everyone happily, smiling at all the guests, and the Ambassador who had shown up unexpectedly. He found George and Xander talking in the corner. "Don't pick on him."
"Hell, I felt the same way," Xander told him. George nodded his support. He looked around. "Where did Fred and Katie go?"
"She's still a bit ill," Arthur said quietly. "The potion wasn't strong enough this morning." He clapped George on the back. "When were you thinking about renewing your vows?"
"Possibly next summer," George told him. "We're still working out the kinks in what we want."
"He still wants to go skyclad," Xander said, sipping his drink as Fred walked Katie over. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," she said, smiling at him. "That Canada Dry stuff worked well, thank you." She looked at George. "I saw the boxes that were marked 'present' as I was running out the door this morning. Did you make him send us stuff?"
"I did," George agreed. "I figured the surprise would be great for you ladies. You can get together and squeal in delight over your reward for winning the championship."
Arthur waved Xander over. "Son?" Xander strolled over. "We just got a letter," he said, handing it over. "It looked important since it was marked with a court seal," he nearly whispered.
Xander nodded and opened it, reading it. He shook his head and rolled it back up. "Someone's suing us," he said quietly.
"Damages. They're suing George because he's listed as the maker of the toy." He waved at the worried twins. "I'll talk to them. It's a notice that the judge froze our main vaults until everything was done so we couldn't hide any money from a possible settlement. We'll deal with it," he said before walking way. He handed the letter to George.
"How are we going to live on your paycheck?" George hissed.
"We have the emergency stash in the house and there's a few things that they didn't mention, including the secondary vault," Xander noted quietly. "Do you remember that toy?"
"We never sent it out," Fred told him. George shook his head. "When?"
"We sent it to the testing panel and they didn't like it," he reminded his twin. "We had two extra. We'll be doing an inventory count later tonight."
"Yes, we will," Xander agreed. He glanced around. "We need a lawyer."
"The shop has one," Fred told him. "Relax about it."
"Then I need to talk to him. We have two vaults that aren't on that list." Fred looked at him. "I hid some of the money from the paper settlement so I couldn't easily get to it and spend it all. Plus I dumped some of this one into a hidden account because Draco suggested it as a precaution. I don't know if I need to disclose them or not."
"We'll pull him down tonight as well," George said, trying to calm his husband down. "It'll be fine, Xander. I don't even remember this person."
Percy and Arabelle walked in, looking perfect and calm again. They accepted the well wishes of everyone, wandering around shaking hands. They made it to the family corner and Percy smiled at him. "They're assholes, they aren't on the test panel, and you might want to check the inventory. You also don't have to report any off-shore accounts." He hugged George.
Arabelle smiled at Xander. "Did you give the ladies their presents yet?"
"I had them delivered this morning," Xander told her. "You look beautiful."
"Thank you. I love this gown. I'll have to remember this style, I adore it."
"I don't want you to wear it again," Percy told her, smiling at her. "I don't want to have to pounce you in public, dear." A few nearby people laughed. "Come, let's go do the official things so the music and food can start. I find myself hungry for some reason." She giggled and followed him to the dias to sit in their spots. The crowd clapped. Percy smiled at them. "I want to thank you all for coming. Should we eat?"
People moved to their seats, talking to those near them. The family was seated near them. The food was brought out and people dug in, talking with those at their table. It was then when Arabelle decided to become her usual naughty self. "George, didn't I hear right? Weren't you thinking about renewing your vows?"
George blushed darker than his hair. "We're doing it next summer we think," he admitted. The crowd clapped.
"You could do it today, we wouldn't mind," Percy offered. "Make it more of a family holiday." He smirked at them.
"It doesn't exactly fit in with my plans," George pointed out.
"You won't be doing that today," Molly agreed. "Not unless we do it later tonight and in the house."
"But why?" the ambassador called.
Arthur cleared his throat. "They wanted to follow some of the older traditions since their first marriage was so untraditional," he announced. Draco choked and his daughter patted him on the back. "All right there, Draco?"
"Fine, Arthur. The attendants wouldn't have time to perform all the rituals if they did it tonight."
The ambassador laughed. "I'm sure they could improvise. It would add to the happiness."
"Xander?" Arthur asked, noticing his son's face was so bright he looked like he was about to pass out. "It would have to be a closed ceremony of course." The ambassador looked at him and he shrugged. "Really, it would have to be." Snape choked at that. "If they wanted to, they could retire to the house to do their rituals."
"If they wanted, they could use the front room," Molly agreed, eyes wide. She looked at her son. "George, are you all right?"
"Fine, mum, thanks," he squeaked. His twin handed him a glass of wine. "Xander?"
"We could," he agreed, forced smile on his face. "My attendants?" Ron, Draco, and Snape stood up. "We'll take the bathroom first?" George nodded, standing up and taking Fred, Bill, and Charlie with him. Xander let himself be led out, and started to feel sick. "I'm going to get him for that," he muttered as he followed Draco.
"He's doing the ceremony," Draco reminded him. Snape looked at him. "He's licensed and fits the rules by now being married. I'll need to pop home and get the bag I've made up. Does everyone know what they have to do?" They nodded. "Good. Severus, you're in charge of the drapes." He headed for the floo as soon as they got inside, going to get a drink and that bag. He would find a way to get Percy back. Maybe a blessing on his child?
George sat on the bed, wringing his hands, his head bowed.
"Calm down," Charlie reminded him. "You're already married, this isn't a big problem. It's not like you haven't already gone over this before." George looked up at him like he was insane. "Xander's in the same circumstances and you can't get sick."
Bill patted him on the back. "Calm down, George. Remember, your man's waiting on you down there."
"It could go so horribly wrong," George reminded them. "Someone interrupting. Someone wanting to watch. That ambassador wanting to find out about the old ways dad cited." He shuddered. "Can I just be shot? Or put under the Imperious for a bit? Say I was out of my mind?" He flopped backwards. "I now know why Xander didn't want to do this. There are so many things that could go so horribly wrong or become embarrassing. Mum will kill us if someone wants to come in and witness this."
"It's not like it was the family's idea," Bill put in. Charlie looked at him. "Arabelle's only been family for a few minutes, she's excused."
From down the hall Ron started to swear. "Sounds like someone just got told to go shave or something."
"You all right?" Charlie called.
"No!" Ron shouted. "He's driving me insane. I'm going to hurt him."
"Xander!" Bill shouted, starting for the door. Charlie stopped him, they weren't allowed to mingle with the other side yet.
"Not him! Draco!" Ron shouted back.
George whimpered and pulled a pillow over his face. "Can I hurt her?" he asked.
"No, Percy won't let you hurt his Arabelle," Bill reminded him. "Not until she's had the baby."
"Why couldn't she have picked on Fred and Katie?" he whined.
"Because their ceremony is in three weeks and it would ruin it for Katie," Percy said from the doorway. He smiled. "You two don't really have a special day to ruin at this point. This is just a naughtier day for you to spread everything about again." He crooked his finger and handed over a small box. "Xander sent this for you. It's traditional to give a present to the other groom."
George blanched. "I didn't get him anything yet!"
Bill bent over a chair and pulled something out of his jacket pocket with an eye roll. "I stopped by the house and snatched it for you. Iggy had it." He handed it to Percy. "From him and the children."
Percy smiled. "Ten more minuets. Nearly everyone's left. We saved you some food and cake. The liquor cabinet wasn't emptied. It'll be fine." He left them alone, going to Xander's side. He walked in and handed over the present. "From your mate, and the children."
Xander opened it and smiled at the little necklace. "Iggy?"
"Definitely," Draco agreed. "I helped him shop for it. He charmed it to flash when true love kissed you. Not that the charm's worked in eight hundred years, but he did the ritual properly."
"It had better flash then, huh?" Xander said, smiling at him. "Can I panic now?"
"No," Ron told him, slapping him on the back. "Everyone gone?"
"Nearly. There's a few people still dancing. Arabelle's waiting on us. Start down the stairs. We'll let you be the abductor if you want."
"Since it's the family house, he should be the abducted one," Snape pointed out.
"Good point. Then wait here and I'll send George down." He left them and went back to where George was trying to open the puzzle box. "It's the purple block, I helped him shop for it." George got it open and smiled at the necklace inside. "It's the traditional gift. Meant to flash with the touch of true love." George beamed at him. "Since Severus pointed out that Xander would have to be the captured war groom you'll have to go down first."
"Fine," George agreed, standing up. He nearly sank to his knees but his attendants caught him and led him down to his fate, just like the reluctant groom was supposed to be led.
Thankfully, the family hadn't had to go steal his mate for him. He waited until he heard the quiet call from his wife, who sounded like she was trying not to laugh, then went to 'escort' Xander down the stairs to his 'fate'. He opened the door and looked at Xander. "Come along, captured war groom. It's time." He led the procession down, smiling at his wife, who was holding George upright now. "Was he made to consent to marrying the one the family captured for him?"
"He did," Charlie agreed, grinning at Xander, who was hard. "Looks like we found him a good one too."
"Hopefully," Percy agreed. "Shut us in, the ceremony will take place or the captive will have to kill us all to get free." The door was locked and the curtains firmly sealed shut. "Is this man an orphan?"
"He is," Ron agreed. "His family was all driven off and haven't come looking for him. There will be no protest."
"Is his future secure?" Percy asked.
Snape nodded. "His dowry was captured with him and has been handed over for profitable distribution."
"Has he consented?" Percy asked.
"He has," Draco agreed. "Minimal force was required, it is now his will." He looked over at Xander, then poked him. "Speak."
"I want to marry this man," Xander said quietly, looking down at the ground like he was required to do. In the old day he might have been blindfolded and bound. "He will be the owner of my heart and lands, my future and my progeny will come from him. Any children of his are now mine and all mine are his if he wants them."
"I want them," George agreed. He swallowed when he noticed his mate was getting harder. He was liking this acting thing then. He decided to play a little bit. "Look at me now, mate, and see who you will be bound to." Xander slowly lifted his eyes up his body. "Do you appreciate what you see?"
"I do," Xander agreed, the corner of his mouth starting to twitch. "Please don't hurt me. I will go quietly and easily to do my duties to you and your family."
"Only me," George said, stepping forward. "He is mine. I have what was once his and is now ours."
Percy smiled. "That's good to know. Do you agree that all you have shall go to protect and provide for the mate the family captured for you?"
"I do. I will work hard to make our house a prosperous, happy, and fun home for my spouse. I will dress him in clothes to show I appreciate him. I will feed him food that will keep him strong and make him happy. I will soothe his moods and even out his rages while he gets accustomed to our ways."
Ron stepped back to relock the opening door and kick it. "Go away, kids." He looked back at Percy. "His children weep for their father's safety. Either that or yours has a camera."
"It probably is mine," Percy agreed with a smile. "Melvin's been itching to do something naughty all day since Andrea wouldn't dance with him." He cleared his throat. "You will humor any reasonable requests this new mate may make?"
"I will. No matter how odd the request, if it is within my ability to humor it I will. I understand his ways are odd and he may want things that are unusual and even offensive to me. I will gently teach him to like our things and crave our ways."
Snape stepped forward, grabbing the sword that had been left on the couch. "You will prove that you are worthy of him or you will relinquish him to another person's care."
George grabbed his wand from Bill's hand and pointed it at him. "Put it down. He is mine!" he snarled. "No one takes what's mine from me! I saw him first!"
Severus truly backed away, looking scared. "He is yours," he agreed. He dropped the sword.
"You protect your charge well, there's no onus against you," Charlie assured him. He put a hand on George's arm. "He can't steal him from you. He lost his chance long ago." George nodded and handed off his wand again. "Proceed so we can get on with the party?" Charlie suggested to his younger brother. "I'm sure you have something you'd rather be doing."
Arabelle laughed. "I don't know, standing here watching this is rather fun."
Percy looked at him. "Eyes above the waist, wife, no peeking at my brothers!"
"I'm not. Why do I need to peek? You're more than man enough for me."
"It seems like I've heard that before," Fred noted. Arabelle punched him on the arm. "Ow! Mean woman. Beat your husband."
"I'll spank him later. You need more correcting." Someone knocked on the door. "Not quite done yet! Fred won't behave."
"Children," Molly said.
"No!" the boys shouted together. They heard a laugh and someone leaned against the door but quit trying to get in.
"Let's finish this," Percy suggested, trying hard not to reach for his robe. "George, is he acceptable to you as a spouse?"
"Xander, is he acceptable to you as a spouse?"
"Then bind them, cut them, and let's get dressed," Percy suggested. The fireplace behind him lit but Ron was faster, it was put out with a hearty dousing of water. "Quickly if you wouldn't mind."
Snape stepped forward. "As we have taught you the new ways of this family and guarded you until it was time for this occasion, now we'll let you go into his hands for the rest of your education." He bound them with a complicated knot, dictated by tradition and by Xander's circumstances of life.
Then Draco stepped up. "This shouldn't hurt, I sharpened it myself." He looked at both of them, then made a small cut on each other's shoulder, smearing some of the blood from the other over. "There, now you're officially bound. His is yours and yours is his. Kiss before the children decide to come help. I can hear Lucien outside."
Xander and George kissed, and the pendants did flash. Though no one saw Snape hiding his wand again. A sentimental gift for the happy couple.
Percy handed over a special robe. "Dress him as one of us from now on."
George slid the robe onto Xander's body, letting him unwork the knot around their wrist. He managed it finally and let himself be dressed. "There, now you're officially a member of the clan. Give me something to put on," he hissed as he noticed the doorknob starting to turn. All of them dove for their clothes, getting fully dressed before the door opened.
"Shoot, we missed it," Denver said with a grin. "Smile." He took their picture then ran off. "They were dressed," he called out to his cousins.
"I'm sure we can get a picture of them later," Simone soothed. She smiled as the rest of the family came out. "So, captured war groom, do you feel better now? Or does the caveman instinct keep coming?"
'Traditionally there'd be six days of celebration," Percy told her, kissing her on the cheek. "In this case I think there will be six days of inventory and meetings."
"And a possible ass kicking," Xander said happily. Snape and Draco looked at him. "We got notice this morning that the store's being sued by someone who never bought the toy they said hurt them."
"That's incredible. The system is that screwed up?" Denver asked. Fred nodded. "Then I wish you many happy hours of kicking the idiot's ass and maybe you'll be able to countersue for the mental anguish the violence will give you or something."
"Probably," Xander agreed. He groaned. "We have a tax payment on the new house next month. I'll have to get into one of those other two accounts."
"If you do, they'll know about them," Draco pointed out.
"He can't seize accounts from outside the country," Arabelle told him. "I've seen this trick played before. Go have a drink, eat something, and then go do inventory."
Xander kissed her on the cheek. "Did I give you your wedding present yet?" She slowly shook her head. "Come get it tomorrow, dear. Bring Percy with you." He smirked as he walked away. "Dear, I have to pick something up tonight."
"You can't put on more clothes than that unless I dress you for the next month," George reminded him.
"Does that mean he's going to go to class naked?" Simone asked.
"George is jealous, daughter, he won't let it happen," Draco assured her, giving her a hug. "Come, let's go eat. I'm hungry since *someone* pulled that stunt before we got through the first course."
"It was the perfect time," Percy agreed, smiling at them. "Besides, now no one can unbind them." He winked. "Not even that little girl in Gryffindor who wanted to fantasize about Xander."
Snape groaned. "There's at least one every year."
"I had three last year," Draco said, leading his mentor away. "Someone thoughtfully told the girls in the fifth year all about my own years there. Apparently one of them's mother remembered me fondly." Snape swatted at him. "What?" he asked innocently.
"I will find the curse that makes you this way," Snape swore.
"My grandfather blessed me. He said he blessed me with knowing myself and my will." He smiled at Xander. "What are you getting the happy couple?"
"A second present," Xander said innocently. He winked. "It'll be fine, son, don't worry about it."
"I guess I'll have to quit calling him the stepson now," George said thoughtfully, looking at his twin. "That means you get to call him nephew and pick on him like you do Melvin."
"I can, can't I," Fred said happily. He smirked at the man who was now officially his nephew according to the family's traditions.
"Doesn't that mean that Morgana's conception is now considered incest?" Anastasia asked. Her father glared at her. "Even though we all know nothing really happened."
"Mum said she thought it was that way before," George told her. Ron groaned. "Problems?"
"Mary asked the same thing. Asked me if it wasn't wrong to have a baby with my nephew. She thinks Draco really is Xander's son."
"It would explain why we're in so much demand," Denver told Simone. "We take after our uncle Iggy." Iggy tossed a carrot at his head. She giggled.
"This is one complicated family tree," Ravena agreed. "Grandfather Xander, you didn't ever officially adopt Uncle Harry, right?"
"No, dear, that was Molly. I accepted him as Ron's brother." He smiled at her. "That'd only make you cousins if she ever made it a formal announcement."
"Thank Merlin she didn't," Draco noted. "I'd hate to have to break those two up. They irritate Potter so very much." Ron snorted and nudged him. He smiled at him. "It is fun to watch."
"Sometimes," Ron agreed. "You are so naughty."
"They're the ones who were hard," Draco said, pointing at the happy couple. He noticed Molly and Arthur turning and walking away. "We'll change the subject," he called.
"A guest just came back," Arthur called. "End it before we get back."
"Sorry, I couldn't help myself. My mind went to a happy visual place and got stuck there. I could see George riding up behind me on a horse and snatching me from my family."
"Did you have long red hair?" Percy asked. Xander frowned, then nodded. "I saw that. I don't know why."
"Possibly a resonance from a past life," Snape offered. He sipped his champagne. "Ignatius, I would like to talk you tomorrow if I might."
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry you had to watch us grope in the lab the other night."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "You were doing what in the lab?"
"Ooops. Never mind." He grinned. "What did you need to talk to me about?"
"Removing part of the bonding solution. The liquid part you gave her."
"Ah!" He stepped closer. "Run a dab of yours around her cervix and it will cancel it for forty- eight hours," he whispered. "You'll have to do it while she's willing, but you don't have to tell her why. There's a whole lot of things that can be done with those little pots. A touch to the back of her neck will instigate an immediate bond between your minds. One to her forehead will break any illusion spell on you for her alone. A touch to her lips and she'll .... let's say it's the first proven aphrodisiac in history," he said with a smirk. "Have fun, Severus."
"Thank you." He smirked at him. "I want that book."
"I'll send it to you after I obscure the pages with the formula on it. You're not allowed to know how to make it." He smirked. "And you can't ever make more. You only get that one pot." He walked over to hug his fathers. "Thank you for doing this, daddy. I know how much Daddy George wanted it, and you still did it even though it bugged you."
"You're welcome, son. You know I'd do anything for your other father."
"Thankfully they didn't chose to do one where George would have had to claim him in front of us," Fred said with an eye roll. Molly walked back into the tent without her husband. "Dad get sucked into politics?"
"No, there's been something strange happen. Draco, wasn't your father dead?" Draco nodded. "And he was an only child?"
"He said something about having a half-mad uncle, but apparently he was the one who we killed at the school," Draco said thoughtfully. "Why?"
"Because someone brought Arthur a picture of your father walking down Diagon yesterday." She sat down, looking at him, still looking composed and calm. "The Prophet's editor brought the picture as soon as he saw it. He didn't want to be threatened again." She looked at Ron.
"It wasn't me who wrote the editorial," he defended.
"It was the Wyanth third daughter," Percy agreed, frowning. "How is that possible? Voldemort needed a lot of prior work and did it because he was paranoid about his followers killing him for power."
"My father was every bit as big a prat," Draco pointed out. "It's possible, but he would have needed to have some blood from either Potter or Xander if I understood the ritual right."
"No, Harry's blood brought back Voldemort because the original curse had tainted him somewhat, he was carrying part of the dolt's power," Ron argued. "That's what Albus told him."
"Then how did my father come back?"
"Could it be a more distant cousin or something?" Xander suggested. "Possibly from a sideline? Or even another bastard son? You do have a half-sister."
"Good point," Draco agreed. "May I see the picture?"
"They're waiting in the house for you," Molly told him. "If it is true, then we'll still protect you, Draco."
"Thank you, Molly." He headed up to the house, sipping his wine slowly as he thought. He tapped on Arthur's office door and walked in. "My father's back?"
"Maybe," Arthur agreed, handing him the photo.
Draco looked at the man in the photo, but something wasn't right. "He's not him." He frowned. "He's not moving the same. I get my stalking walk from him and this one is smooth, not predatory. I don't know who it could be though."
"We'll be on the lookout for him," Arthur assured him. "Have you had any visitors?"
"No, not a one." Draco sat down, still staring at the picture. "This isn't him at all. He's wearing leather? And I know it's not Spike."
Xander walked in. "I just got something," he said with a grin. "From a very old friend." He handed the journal over, already open. "Spike found it and sent it as a point of interest to the shop and June pounced Fred when he headed back because she wasn't sure how to get Baby to go away." He sat down. "He saw him too."
"Who is this by?" Draco asked, looking at the page. "LaVernesse?"
"They're a fairly old family, but French," the editor told him. "About your social class, though more benign than your father ever was. If it was one of them, I'd be shocked. They all have dark hair back three generations. There was a blonde back then, but I thought she hadn't married." He smiled at the confused looks. "I used to run the engagements section. I also used to run the sports section and her grandfather was admitted to their hall of fame as a beater my first year on the paper."
"Then who is this?" Draco wanted to know, reading the page carefully. "Who's this silversmith?"
"Silversmith, a fairly old Greek family," the editor told him. "Name got changed due to marriage last generation. Only a daughter this time so far. She's about marriageable age if you're looking for someone for your son. Pure bloodlines, older family, not very wealthy. Fell on hard times during the World Wars."
"I'll keep her in mind," Draco agreed, frowning as he continued to read. "All right. Why is it this page?"
"Turn the page," Xander said gently. Draco did and gasped. "Silversmith was one of three brothers. This is told by the wife of one of them, and mentions the other two in this section." He handed over Spike's note. "He said something about the guy feeling cursed to be that way."
"Is he dangerous though?" Arthur wanted to know. Xander shrugged. "Spike didn't say?"
"Spike didn't know. He's a chaos person and Ethan tried to avoid him. The only person who might know would be the Ravettena's."
"I can ask them," Draco decided, taking the diary and the picture with him. He apparated to the marker they had set up and rang the bell. "I'm here to see Sheila," he told the man answer it.
"Do you have an invitation?"
Draco glared at the man. "I turned it down for a wedding, this is Council business." The man stiffened up and led him to a small drawing room on the first floor, locking him inside so he couldn't taint the other guests.
"My, that's an...unusual outfit," Mr. Ravettena said as he walked in. "Council business?" Draco handed over the picture and the diary. "Ah." He smiled at the boy. "How was their bonding?"
"They think he's my father returned to life."
"Which is an admirable reason to panic," he agreed. He smiled at him. "It's not your father."
"Spike sent the diary."
"Ethan Rayne's vampire?" Draco nodded. "Well." He looked at the picture again. "Misfortune follows this one. He was cursed to sow chaos because he fought with his father. It was his father's final parting shot on his deathbed." He handed them both back. "The boy refused to marry the one who had been arranged for him and his father got a tad bit pissed with him." He spread out his hands. "I have no idea why he's in town. He hasn't visited the Council at all."
"That picture's in Diagon," Draco pointed out in a gentler and calmer tone of voice.
"Ah! So they went to your father-in-law and he brought it to you, so you're dumping it in my lap?"
"No, I need information to deal with him," Draco reminded him. "LaVernesse?"
"By birth. His mother was one of theirs. Technically, his name is Lawrence Silversmith. His wand was broken during the curse. It's said that if he can find control, the curse may be broken. The woman he was to marry was killed so he can't break it that way. His father's dead so he can't break it and his brothers won't because they'll lose what little fortune they have by the terms of their father's will. Interestingly enough, he does have a sister somewhere, but she was older and had been married off when he was about ten. He might be looking for her, but I don't know who she married."
"That's a start. Could he be going to Ollivander?"
"That might be a reason for him to be down there as well, but that was so far down the alley. He might have been heading for Knockturn as well, possibly looking for something down there."
"Good point. Thank you." He glanced down at his outfit. "The bonding went well. We managed to keep everyone out so no pictures were taken. Severus made the charms flash for them in a purely sentimental gesture. I'd best go back before the editor leaves." He smiled. "Thank you for your help."
"It's not a problem. Oh, and the Burton's have a son as well. Your daughter Simone's age."
"Simone will end up working," Draco said with a shrug. "Though I like the family. Would he be interested in meeting my Anastasia?"
"He might. He's looking for a decent wife. He's a bit of a braggart and an arse, but suitable for his lineage. I'm sure proper attention could fix most of his problems."
Draco gave him a cruel smirk. "The first wrong step any of my children's mates make may well be their last, but I would accept him meeting her. I've not heard bad things about him other than he's a bit wild." He shrugged. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. If you change, you could come back."
Draco shook his head. "I've got to help Denver pick out an outfit for tomorrow. We're doing family portraits and you know how the oldest two can be." He opened the door and stopped, then looked at his associate, pointing at the young woman. He shrugged, but smiled. Draco rolled his eyes and headed back to share the better news. "Its' not my father," he announced as he appeared in the Burrow. "It's Lawrence Silversmith."
"I've heard of him," Arthur said thoughtfully. He looked at the editor. "Wasn't he a LaVernesse?"
"His mother. He's cursed you know."
"As I found out. He wouldn't go through with his arranged marriage so his father cursed him to sow chaos from his deathbed." Draco sat down across from them. "Mr. Ravettena doesn't know why he's down there. He pointed out that he had an older sister somewhere. He also said that he might have been heading down to Knockturn or even to Ollivander's, though he's farther along than that in the picture."
"His sister," the editor said, thinking back. "I've never seen an article on her."
"She was married when he was ten or so."
"Then I'll look through the back archives," the editor said, standing up. "Thank you for hearing me out, Minister. Mr. Malfoy." He nodded at Molly and left them alone.
Draco slumped. "I'm going to change back into my own clothes. I'll be right back." He headed up to the room he was borrowing, stealing his robe from his middle daughter. "What's wrong?" he asked as he gathered fresh clothes to put on.
"Daddy, I'm worried about my own marriage. What if I'm not that happy with him after a year?"
He kissed her on the head. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Remember, I'll always help you out, dear. Even if he's just a boring sod." He went to the bathroom to change, running into Bill as he came out. "Couldn't stand it?"
"Lucien threw up on me," Bill said with a grimace. "Now I remember why I don't want to be a father."
"It happens," Draco agreed. "The smiles make up for it usually, until then they do it again." He shrugged and slipped inside to get changed, ignoring the man humming in the shower. As soon as he was properly dressed, he headed back down to the kitchen. Molly put some leftovers in front of him. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Where are Xander and George? I haven't seen him since he ran out chasing his husband."
"Probably shagging in the garden," Draco said dryly. "They seem to like doing that."
"I think they're dancing," Charlie said as he came down the stairs, rubbing the water from his hair. "Were you in there?"
"I was changing clothes quickly. Ana is in my room worried about her future happiness."
"Surely you'll find her someone who she likes," Molly told him. Draco nodded. "Good. I'd hate to have to hurt you if you didn't."
"Me as well," Draco agreed, smiling at her.
Arabelle walked into the shop and took a deep sniff. "Someone made cookies," she said with great appreciation. She accepted one from the plate George was holding out. "Normal?"
"Mostly. They're a bit high on the alcoholic side. Xander forgot to measure the brandy." He grinned. "He's in the back."
She nibbled on the cookie. "Any idea what he's getting me?"
"Not a clue. He had to have Draco help him find something in Knockturn." She frowned and headed back there, nibbling on the alcoholic cookie. She tapped on the bedroom door when she didn't see him in the living room, walking in at the quiet call. "What did you get me?" she asked, smiling at him. He patted the bed so she sat beside him, letting him touch her stomach. "Comfy?" she asked after a prolonged silence. He looked up and she gasped. "Xander! What have you been doing!"
"Shh," he whispered, picking up a small black orb. He concentrated on it and his eyes slowly changed back to brown. He handed it to her, watching as she looked at it. "So the pack lives on." He grinned and pointed at the medium wrapped box in the nest. "That's your real prezzie. The orb is for the baby and any future babies."
Arabelle gave him a worried look as she got up to get the 'real' present, opening it slowly just in case George or Fred had helped wrap it. Inside was a pretty set of blue leather cuffs and matching accouterments. "These are so cute," she told him.
"I want my sacrificial set back please. It took me years to find that complete set."
"I'll send it over tonight. Now that I have a complete set of my own, I won't need yours. Thank you." She kissed him on the cheek. "Now, about that other gift."
He grinned at her. "You can't say a word, Arabelle. The pack will live on, and Percy would get a bit pissed if he found out I had given you that." He stood up and grabbed his cane. "Come on, let's show everyone what your present was." She blushed and he laughed. "If you want to play with handcuffs and toys in this family, you have to be willing to brag about them. It's nearly a rule for the family reunions." He led her out, making sure the orb was in her pocket. Right next to the baby. Just like he had done for the older cubs. It would make sure she forgot it was there.
Arabelle left the shop, going home to show her husband their newest present before they left for St. Petersburg. He blushed as well, but helped her bundle up the borrowed set and send it back to the school. She patted herself down to make sure she had everything and found the ball.
"What's that?" Percy asked, frowning at it. It seemed like he had seen that somewhere before.
"I don't know," she admitted, putting it into her jewelry box. It was tiny enough to fit in there and nearly everything in there was either magical or wards. It would be safe enough while they were gone.
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