Fred looked at his business partners. "The appeal has been filed," he announced. "The store's lawyer was so indignant he decided not to bill us for this part. He did suggest we counter-sue the creature for the disgust we feel for him."
"I can't believe the judge jumped on us for having it in a locked cabinet! The wires were corroded, he didn't even listen to our side."
"Which is the basis of our appeal," Xander said calmly. "I paid the taxes on the house and the county people were very impressed with us paying it two years in advance. Thankfully Draco was there with me and he said he was paying it for us. Just in case the judge hears about it." He grimaced. "We need to do something for the babies."
"Katie said that if you'd give her a foot rub again she'd name it after your middle name," Fred offered.
"You want a son with the name LaVelle?"
"Not particularly," Fred said with a grin of his own. "Thank you for not egging her on for the wedding plans."
"Again, not a problem," Xander told him. "I'm sorry you had to push them back."
"Yeah, but her doctor said he wanted her in bed. She's not so upset about it. She's making everything more elaborate. Just the way she wanted. I'll go along with anything as long as it quits making her cry."
"Hormones are wonderful," George agreed. "Is Tara pregnant?"
"I think Severus is trying," Xander told him. "We'll have to wait and see. Are you coming up tonight?"
"I think I'll stay down here," George said with a small grin. "Give you some bonding time with Ron and Draco."
"Sure. Sarajane is out tonight with Mary so he'll be alone too." He stood up and stretched. "I guess I'll go up and skulk around the tower. I still have essays to grade." He waved and disappeared, landing in the living room. Nearly on top of Severus. "Problems?" he asked dryly.
"I needed to get away," Severus admitted. "Tara's been on a rampage today." He sat down. "Have you seen anyone upsetting her?"
"Not really. Have you asked Adrian? He's been upset too." He sat down and put his cane beside him on the floor. "Or have you asked Ryan? He and Adrian still talk, which is odd but acceptable to Tara apparently."
"I tried asking Ryan if he knew what was going on. He gave me this look like I was someone pretending to be me." Snape relaxed as he heard a door slam nearby. "Someone's coming."
Xander tested the mind. "Simone." He smiled as she walked in. "Why is your man jumpy?"
"Because he thinks he might have knocked me up. I keep telling him it's not possible, but he's dead certain he has. I even dragged him up to see Madam Pomfrey and she agreed with me." She sat down. "That would also be why Tara is edgy," she told Professor Snape. "For some reason, she's on a kick that *everyone* is pregnant."
"Sounds like it's going to be a boy," Xander told Severus.
Snape shook his head. "We haven't tried for another one."
"Maybe Adrian did something in class and he's projecting," Simone pointed out. "I'm still taking Iggy's anti-problems formula. I'm not getting preggers until *I'm* ready. I did learn that lesson from my mother."
Severus nodded. "Good." He stood up. "I think I'll take her up to Madam Pomfrey myself. See if we can find anything."
"Ask Andrea, she squeaked when she saw Tara and Adrian the other day," Xander suggested.
"Another excellent idea," Severus agreed. "Draco must be rubbing off on you again." He smirked as he walked away.
"Just because I let him buy me clothes doesn't mean I let him rub off on me."
"Dirtyness," Simone said with a grin. "Uncle Xander, I need help shopping for presents this year."
"Sweetheart, if this thing with the asshole isn't solved by then, Christmas is going to be really thin this year. We can't get into our other vaults without the judge finding out about them and trying to freeze them as well."
"But they're out of the country."
"He's found a loophole. It's all through Gringotts." Xander crossed his feet. "Who are you worried about buying for?"
"Ana. She's still paranoid about her upcoming marriage. She hasn't even met a man yet, but she's worried about it."
"It's a big worry. She's worried that she'll have to compromise on someone that she can stand, but doesn't love. She wants someone to love."
"Then she'll take a lover in a few years, after she's had a kid," Simone told him. "That's how it's usually done."
"I know, and so does she, but she doesn't want to have to go through that step. I think she's worried that she'll end up like your mother during her search for youth."
Simone smiled. "I get it now. Should I try to talk to her?"
"Probably not. I think she needs a more understanding person, maybe even someone who's been there." He shifted. "I don't know anyone, but Albus might. Ask him if he'll talk to her, or find someone who will, but don't tell your father. He's worried about her already."
"Thank you, Uncle Xander." She blew a kiss. "I'll see you down at dinner." She left him alone.
Xander shifted again, feeling off-centered. He checked on George but he was fine. He touched the links he had to everyone and found them all fine. He decided to call around, starting with Percy. "Hey, what's going on in your end of the city?" he asked when he got connected.
Percy's hair was standing up and he looked tired. "Xander, was there a reason for the call? I have seventeen forms that have to be in tomorrow or the department will start a riot."
"Just feeling unsettled."
"Ah." Percy put down his pen. "Have you checked on everyone?" Xander nodded. "Nothing further than a funny feeling?"
"No, it's not a funny feeling, it's a bad feeling. Like that waiting for the storm to hit one."
"I see. Was it related to me?"
"I don't know."
"Even more curious." He frowned around his office, looking at the pictures Xander knew were across from his desk. "Let me call Arabelle, maybe someone's said something to her." He waved and signed off, calling his wife. "Xander just called."
"Is he having that waiting for the other shoe to drop feeling as well?" she asked, frowning at him.
"Yes. Are you getting it?"
"Some. It's definitely part of the flood." She shrugged. "I think we'll know soon enough, but it's not a good feeling. Can't you feel it?"
"I've been doing paperwork all day," he admitted. "If I don't get these evaluations done, father's threatened to withhold paychecks."
"I'm sorry." She smiled. "Hurry up and I'll give you a backrub." She winked and let him go, settling back onto the couch. She hated being on medical leave. He needed her. She felt the feeling snap and her frown came back. Something had definitely happened. Not something good either. She called Xander but didn't get an answer, so she called the headmaster. "Where's Xander?"
"He left a moment ago," Albus said with a frown. "I heard an inarticulate scream and then he flashed out. Did you feel anything?"
"We've had a waiting feeling for the last hour," she admitted. "I'll call the shop. Thank you, Albus." She cut that connection and called the shop, but again no answer. She called her mother-in-law. "Molly?" Molly started to cry. "What happened?"
"Someone stole George," she sobbed.
"You stay there, I'm coming," she told her, forcing herself off the couch and through the floo to comfort her. She found her father-in-law pacing around. "Xander?"
"In a rage," Arthur said, pointing at the backyard. "Draco and Ron are with him." He shook his head. "How could anyone do this? George isn't powerful. Xander isn't that powerful."
"He has enemies," Arabelle reminded him. She called her husband again. "George was taken," she told him.
"I heard," he said grimly. "I'm on my way there now. I've already dispatched your favorite team to the shop. Wait at the Burrow for me." She nodded and let him go. Percy signed his name on the form in front of him and headed to the shop himself, letting Fred hug him. "What happened?"
"They broke through the door and stunned us," Fred said, pointing at the door, which was hanging off it's hinges. "When I woke up, George was gone."
"Can you feel him?" Percy asked. Fred shook his head. "Has Ignatius shown up yet?"
"No. Not at all," Fred said, starting to frown.
"Then I'll head up and find him and Melvin. Both of them should have felt something." Fred nodded. "Go guard Arabelle for me, Fred. Please. She's at the house."
"All right." Fred headed to the Burrow.
Percy looked at the team. "Have you weeded out anyone yet?"
"They had a wand," one of the technicians told him. "It's definitely wand magic. The residue tests conclude a petrification curse so strong it made them both black out. They didn't touch anything so they knew what they were doing."
"I got a phoenix resonance when I checked," another technician told him. "But it's not their natural wand. There's the feeling of it being a struggle to use and the power was off."
Percy nodded. "I'm headed up to the school to check with the victim's son and my son. I'll be right back." He teleported up, it'd be faster and easier. The Headmaster met him. "George is missing, someone took him. Where's Ignatius?"
"He's in a shielded room. Tara had him doing something with Raena and Adrian." He frowned but led him down to Tara's classroom, tapping on the door. The shields fell as the door opened. "Ignatius, your father's missing."
"Daddy Xander?" Iggy asked, his chin starting to quiver.
"The other one," Percy told him, opening his arms. "Come along. Albus, do you need to keep them tonight?"
"No, we'll let them go for the night. Take his wife and your son as well if you want." Percy nodded. "I'll have Melvin taken out of potions."
Iggy looked that way then shook his head. "He's taking a test. I'll get him." He jogged that way, bursting into the room. "My father was just kidnaped. I need Melvin. Now, please," he said when Snape looked at him.
"Which one?" Melvin asked as he picked up his things.
"George. Your dad's here. We're heading to the Burrow to wait for news."
"All right." Melvin handed in his partial test. "Thank you for your indulgence, sir," he said before leaving. He didn't care if he flunked at the moment. He met up with the others in the front hall. "Let's go. I want to see this place."
"He was taken from the shop," Raena told him, giving him a pat on the shoulder. "Katie was just moved to the Burrow as well. Uncle Bill brought her." Iggy and Melvin both nodded. "Come on, let's go wait." She took them with her, going to the designated spot in the backyard. Bill was pacing. "Anything?"
"Not a thing," he admitted. He smiled at Melvin. "Percy wants us to go check on things, see if they left a curse."
"All right." Melvin handed over his bag to his cousin. "Let's go."
"We have to wait until the officials are done," Bill sighed, sitting down on a chair and holding his head. "This is dumb. Why would anyone take George?"
"To get back at Daddy?" Iggy suggested. "To make him do something? Possibly even to get something from the shop, me, or Raena. They're fucked, but that's what I'd think."
"Either possibility is reasonable," Melvin said thoughtfully. "Coming after your father would make you or your father crazy. Coming after just him would indicate that it was about your family instead of the whole family. Otherwise they'd have tried to take both twins, or Uncle Charlie, or even Uncle Bill. Especially if it was about Grandfather." He started to pace. "I don't like this in the least. Iggy, do you have anything other than the stones that people want?"
"We're potion's prodigies," Raena pointed out. "We can do a lot of things that will drive people crazy with lust."
"Yeah, but I want to know what would drive someone to hire a team," Melvin told him. The others looked at him. "I heard it from my father's mind. There was more than one attacker, they used a wand not their own, and they attacked as a group."
"Then it's either someone looking for elixir of life, or someone after Xander," Iggy told him. He looked over as Percy showed up. "Anything?"
"Nothing," Percy told him. "What were you thinking just now?" he asked his own son.
"Reasons for taking just George as opposed to the twins," Melvin told him. "Xander, Iggy, or Grandfather?"
"I don't know," Percy told him, giving him a hug. "Ignatius, I want you to stay here. You're the most vulnerable of all of us right now."
"Why?" Raena asked.
"Because he'll fly off in a blind rage and do something stupid," Draco said from the doorway. "An owl just came. There's no demands yet." He let Iggy fall into his arms. "He's fine. They said he's fine and they know we'll kill them if they hurt him," he assured him, even though he wasn't so sure himself. "They didn't even mention you."
"That doesn't make me happy," Iggy pointed out. He pulled back. "Where is the letter? Can we get a trace off it?"
"Not even a magical signature," Draco told him. "Percy's people are already here." He led them back inside, letting Percy boss his own people around. He looked at the family. "I don't know what this is, but I'm tired of it."
"We'll let you help beat their asses," Fred told him. "Until then, sit and quit worrying everyone. If you explode, then the rest of us will feel justified in joining you before it's time."
Draco sat down and smiled at Katie. "Browbeating him again?"
"Not yet," she admitted. "He's being too sweet for that."
Iggy shot up. "I'm going to get our stone. If it's a matter of ransom, we can't get into the vaults."
Draco put a hand on his arm. "Your fathers can pay me back," he said quietly. "I know they have it."
Xander walked back in. "What note?"
"It's not got a lot of information," Draco told him, pointing at the living room. "They're in there."
Xander walked that way but one of the agents stopped him at the door. "Let me go or I'm removing that hand," he growled. The man blanched but he wouldn't let him go. "Now."
"Xander, calm down," Percy chided. "We're working on it and your anger will only cloud the delicate instruments." He looked at him. "There's nothing on it. I'll let you see it in a moment." Xander nodded, crossing his arms, but not moving. "Thank you." He bent back over the letter and the owl, listening to the quiet words from the person beside him. He shook his head and looked at Xander. "There's really nothing yet. They said an hour before the next letter."
"Then let me see it," Xander told him. "Something might give me a clue if they wrote it to me."
Percy handed the sealed letter over, watching as he read it. He saw the sudden calmness. "What?" he asked carefully.
"They're speaking something other than the standard wizarding British." He handed it back.
"I got the feeling that it was a younger person," Percy told him.
"Percy, all my enemies are older. The Watchers, some Americans. People who speak Draco and Snape's version of English. I'm not sure this was about me. Iggy may be right, it might be about him."
"Or it could simply be about money," Percy pointed out.
"At which point, they'd have to know how much we had. None of the papers said how much we got, just that it was large."
"So if they ask for a lot of money, they had to have known somehow," the technician said. Xander nodded. "That might narrow it down. Can you feel him? I heard somewhere you have a bond with him."
"I can't. I've been trying. He's unconscious. Sleeping sort, not knocked in the head sort."
"That would fit with the spell they used when they took them," Percy agreed, starting to run through the possibilities in his mind. "Either it's someone you know or it's someone you don't know who's thinking they got lucky. Nothing to do with your son?"
"Almost no one knows what he can do. The stone isn't known about. They let it slip that they were trying to make one but that the one they had didn't work because it was too small."
"It's the easier lie?" the technician asked. Xander nodded. "All right, so...." He shook his head. "That still doesn't compute with the letter."
"It's not a student," Xander told him. "None of my personal students would harm me. They all like me, or they fear me. One of the two or possibly both depending on the student. That means I'm not the target, the money probably is."
"An excellent point," Percy agreed, smiling at him. "Go find something not dangerous and possibly constructive to do while we wait." Xander glared at him. "Then go outside and toss garden gnomes around until the next owl comes." Xander went back outside and came back, tossing the gnome at his brother-in-law. "Fine, you can wait in here," Percy agreed, shifting so Xander could sit beside him. "What else are you thinking?"
"That Molly's going to kill me when she realizes I let a gnome into the house?" Xander suggested.
"Yes, she will," Molly called. "Xander, get it out of my house!"
Xander summoned the little creature and tossed it out the door, watching as it ran for freedom and a safe spot. One of the phoenixes grabbed it, tossing it to another one.
"Not now!" Draco ordered the babies. They all squawked angrily at him. "Fine, whatever. Take it outside!" They took their new toy outside to play catch with it, ignoring the protests of the potato-shaped creature.
Ron walked in. "What are they doing?"
"Xander tossed it at them," Draco told him. "Took you long enough."
"I had to check on Sarajane and Mary. They're fine." He looked at the two pregnant women. "You both look terrible. Go rest." Fred looked at him. "Now! Otherwise you'll start to get sick again. I've seen it before and I don't think vomiting is needed right now."
"Gee, Ron," Fred said dryly. "Thanks for that wonderful graphic. Go bother someone else."
"He's right, I could use a nap," Katie agreed. "The stress isn't good for us." Arabelle nodded, they were both under orders to rest. "Come on, we'll play cards upstairs." They headed up under Ron's watchful gaze.
"Just because Buffy...." Molly started.
"They're both under orders to rest. You were too strong for your own good, mum," Ron interrupted.
"I would have sent you upstairs as well," Arthur agreed. "It's the overprotective instincts of a father." He smiled at Ron. "They can easily escape from upstairs before anyone knows they're up there and there's more chances to hide from danger."
Ron nodded. "Plus, they've both been ordered to rest. Shouldn't Katie be in bed?"
"No, but Arabelle should," Fred agreed. "I wanted her close."
"Nothing says you can't go with them," Ron pointed out. Fred nodded and headed up to 'guard' the women. Or get cuddles from his woman.
Ron took Fred's seat. "Anything?"
"A first letter, no demands," Arthur told him. "What did Albus say?"
"To take a few days off and fix this. He thought it might have something to do with what Iggy and Raena can do."
"Dad thinks it's about money," Melvin told him. "So does Uncle Xander."
"Mind reading is a wonderful gift," Molly said with a smile for him. "Owl!" she called, noticing one flying in from the side yard.
Percy's people ran out to get it, capturing it so they could release it and see if they might be able to follow it back. Percy took the letter to read, then shook his head as he handed it to Xander. "Money."
"Just what I thought." Xander read it over and shook his head. "That's a hell of a lot of money."
"How much?" Draco asked.
"Sixty thousand galleons," Percy told him.
"Done," Draco agreed coldly. "You can pay me back."
"No, I can use this to free our accounts," Xander told him. He frowned. "Why only one day? The news that the lawsuit is freezing our account is all over the press. They know it'd cause a problem."
"Then they're dumb." Draco smiled at him. "Want a bodyguard?"
"Please. Otherwise I'll strangle the stupid bastard." He let them do their tests, still coming up with nothing, then took it to go argue with a judge. He found the man in his office, it was still daytime after all, and knocked politely.
Xander walked in and slapped the letter down onto his desk. "You caused this, thank you very much," he said with his most deadly voice. "Because of you and your warped version of the law, people know I have money. People want that money enough to take my husband." The judge shifted back, rolling his chair away from his desk. "Now, would you please unseal my accounts so I can pay this fucking ransom and get my husband back?"
"I can't do that," the judge told him. "It's sealed until your appeal is over with."
Xander growled and Draco pulled him back. "That would be wonderful, but you're now endangering people's lives. If he doesn't pay there's no doubt that these individuals will harm his mate. Which could kill him, which means that the accounts would have to be unsealed anyway when they passed onto his minor children, who would be under my authority. Since I have plans on taking these bastards down the path to hell for their stupidity, I'm not sure it's going to be relevant any more. Now, sign the order before his husband dies. Please."
The judge shook his head. "I can't do that. You can take it to the judge over his appeal and have him write me a letter, but I'm leaving in twenty minutes."
"No, you're not," Xander said, pointing his wand at him. "Up." The judge stood up, looking like he was going to pee himself. "March. To the other judge's office." He followed him, ignoring the looks sent his way. The door opened because of the guard standing there. "Thank you, it's not harmful."
The higher judge looked up. "How dare you do that to him," he said calmly.
"It's not the Imperious," Draco assured him. "It's the gryphon version, which isn't illegal." He handed over the letter. "He's refusing to listen to reason. George's life is in danger."
"Why don't you pay for it?"
"Because I still have to go through my financial manager for large withdrawals and he's out of town," Draco admitted. "I'm not sure that they'll be willing to extend the deadline until tomorrow night."
"You can't get in there without his authority?"
"I can, but it will take most of the night to do the paperwork. Xander doesn't have that problem. He only has a problem because of this state-sanctioned stupidity."
"I've looked through the appeal." He looked at Xander. "Release him please." Xander released him. "It's not the Imperious?"
"Test him if you don't believe me," Xander told him. "I have a very strong signature."
"Fine. Guard?" One of the guards ran in. "Take him to the clinic in the Ministry and have him looked over. Check for what spell Mr. Harris-Weasley used."
"Yes, sir." He led the first judge away.
Xander sat down. "Sorry, but my leg is aching."
"I understand," the judge told him. "What happened?"
"The lightening I called burned me," Xander told him, pulling up his pantsleg. "Between that and the replaced knee, I have some problems with that leg." He lowered the cloth again. "All I want is into my accounts. It's not like I give a damn about that settlement. I could care less about the money most of the time. At this particular moment, I'm willing to kill people to get into it. My husband is my life."
"I understand that, Mr. Harris-Weasley." He smiled at Draco. "Pull up a chair. I want to hear your side of this lawsuit. While you talk, I'll figure out what to do about your funds."
Xander nodded. "We admit to making the revenge toy. That's all it was. My husband and I designed it together. We sent it to a group of testers, students from the school, but they didn't like it so we shelved the last two in a locked cabinet. I didn't know that there was a leak in there."
"Then how did this person get this..toy?" Xander nodded. "What was it supposed to do?"
"Make really loud noises, spit out some sparks, and scare the shit out of someone in the middle of the night."
He nodded and smiled. "I can understand that. There have been a few people I'd like to send one to."
"We have a few other things like that, but that one wasn't liked. Most of the remarks said it wasn't loud enough and that the sparks were annoying." Xander shifted, grimacing when he moved his foot. "Sometime in the last year, the shop was broken into. We thought it was just some of the kids in town. They try to grab stuff every year so we didn't check the inventory. During my brother-in-law's wedding we got this very nice letter from that other judge saying we were being sued, he had blocked off our known accounts, and we were on the defensive." He shifted again and took a deep breath. "Then we got this problem today."
"Now you're stuck needing the funds." The judge looked him over. "Are you all right?"
"I tense when I get upset and I cramp because of it. This whole day has been one large cramp waiting to happen."
Percy stormed in and swatted at Xander. "Don't do things like that to a judge!" Xander shrugged, not looking the least bit sorry.
"He's a tool," Draco told him.
"Be that as it may, father's just got complaints and all-but ordered to arrest you." He handed over the letter. "The only thing saving you is that your command spell isn't illegal and can't make people do bad things."
"It can't?" the judge asked.
"No, it can't. Unlike the Imperious, it can't make you harm another person."
"It's like a worse version of hypnosis," Xander said, reading the new letter. "Well, that's nice," he said, handing it to Draco. "They decided to give us complicated drop instructions."
"Neutral bag, charmed against spells. Muggle place to drop it." He looked at Percy. "Muggle money?"
Percy smiled. "We think it might be that roving band of idiots who broke into all the shops in Diagon earlier last year."
"The one who got Madam Malkin?" Draco asked. Percy nodded. "Then that explains it. Aren't they supposed to be on drugs?"
"Muggle drugs no less," Percy told him. He looked at the judge. "Tell him, Xander, he's fair."
Xander cleared his throat. "We can find a way to work around this, partially. The two off-shore accounts can't take all that amount of random, but we could get most of it."
"But if you do so, then we can try and seize them as well," the judge agreed. "Does this have anything to do with the suit?"
"I don't know," Percy admitted. "I don't think there's a connection. I think it's two greedy bastards wanting what they don't have and finding a way to get it."
"How much do you need out of your normal ones?"
"About six thousand," Xander admitted. Draco looked at him. "That would close one of them and I'd still need until tomorrow night to do that because of the time difference."
"So you'd still need into your normal accounts." The judge leaned back and picked up the folder with the appeal in it, rereading it with this new information. He found the section that stated the particulars of the case and nodded slowly as they matched up with the official report from the court documents in the earlier one. "I can't believe the law will reward those who steal and get hurt doing so."
"It's not worse than a thief suing because he was shot trying to commit a robbery," Xander pointed out.
"Where did that happen?"
"Good point, but that's the Americans." He put the folder down. "I'm going to authorize the appeal. I will unseal *one* vault." Xander relaxed. "Not the most extensive one, but one of the others."
Xander leaned forward and pointed at the third one. "That one. It's got enough to cover it plus any additional expenses for the store. We're in the slow season and I only make a teacher's salary."
"You're all living on your salary?" Draco asked. Xander nodded. "How?"
"We did it when the store first opened," Xander reminded him. "We don't eat out, we don't go shopping, and we make do with what we have. Though I still need to pay the cable bill. It's a month behind."
"We'll worry about that tomorrow," Draco told him. "Will it have enough?"
"Yeah," Xander said, starting to perk up. "It will. Plus, if we can catch the bastards, then we'll get it back."
"Hopefully we'll get them when they grab it," Percy told him. He looked at the judge. "Thank you for your tolerance."
"Problems like this bug me, young man. You shouldn't be able to steal and get away with it, much less be rewarded for being so stupid. I will hear the appeals next week, on Monday?" Xander shook his head. "No?"
"I have a test to give that day and a doctor's appointment to work on my pain medicine. I'd be here otherwise."
"The lawyers can come that day?"
"As far as I know," Xander told him. "Our lawyer isn't that busy."
"Good. Then I'll send letters around notifying of this decision." He stared down Xander. "I will excuse your actions this time, young man. This is an emergency and a stretch of every law known to us. In the future, refrain from harming a judge."
"Your honor, I didn't want to hurt him this time but he decided to tell us he was leaving in twenty minutes and looked at me like I was an unreasonable person," Xander told him. "You can ask anyone, I'm usually very nice. I'm decent, I'm a protector, and I'm even one of the good guys. In this case, my family is threatened and I couldn't hold back. I'm not willing to risk my husband's life because of some homophobic asshole."
"I understand. No more compulsions, none."
"Yes, sir. I try very hard not to use it. Except on the occasional student from hell." He grinned as he stood up. "And I keep even that rare." He shook the man's hand. "Thank you. I don't care if you want to hold this against us in the case as long as I get my husband back."
"I understand, and I try to be fair." He watched them leave. "Minister Weasley," he called. Percy looked back at him. "It's not illegal?"
Percy walked back in and shut the door. "Not only is it not illegal, it's actually not on our books," he admitted with a smile. "It's a gryphon spell used on the arrogant young when they fight their parents. Their version of a 'go stand in the corner'."
"Very well then. It's not harmful?"
"Not as far as we've been able to tell. I've seen it used on my own son and all he did was be very embarrassed. They have other such spells, minor compulsions. Xander has one that he uses on mortal enemies that makes them kiss. He has another one that makes them dance." He smiled. "They are harmless. Perfectly innocent and harmless. Xander is a protector."
"I've heard of him. A rather impertinent one at that." He smiled. "Is this what they said?"
"I'm staying out of it, but as far as I could tell, yes. George didn't ask for my help and Xander wanted to prove their innocence themselves."
"I can understand that. He could have gotten Mr. Malfoy to make this disappear for him."
Percy snorted. "He could have gotten Draco to make the dolt disappear for him. Draco is his acknowledged son." The judge looked stunned. "Those two are so close it's sometimes nauseating. I only hope this doesn't tear them apart." The judge shook his head. "Draco was the one who made the hospital settle."
"Then I hope they can work through this. They seem very close."
"It's odd, I share Xander with him, I always thought I'd hate him." Percy stood up. "Did you need anything else?"
"No. Tell them they have my wishes for his husband's safe return and their continued happiness." Percy nodded and left.
Xander looked over as someone walked up to his bench. He gave the person looking in the trash can a steady look and patted the bag. The man glared and stomped over. "I want my husband before you touch this. I'll hand it over, but he'll be by those trees within an hour or else I'm walking away and I'll start a manhunt to kill you all for daring to touch my family," he quietly threatened. The man looked stunned. "Not the person who took him?"
The man backed away a few steps. "I don't have him."
"Then you'd better get him. I know where he is. Our bond's that way," he said very quietly. "Either he's here or I'm leading people to him. People who can get there faster than you can. Oh, and if one hair's harmed on his balding head, you're all dead anyway. Nothing will save you and nothing will get you away from me or those I send after you."
"Fine. One hour, those trees. Bring the money."
"I'll be sitting here," Xander promised. He patted the bag again. "With this stuck to the bench." The man turned and ran off, going to report. Pretty soon, he was back. "My rules, my husband, your lives," he said when the man opened his mouth. "I can save my husband while sitting on this bench." He smiled. "I can call down the beasts of hell on your head without moving a muscle."
"What? You're going to summon a demon?' the boy snorted.
"Muggle, you're a stupid bastard. I'm training Agatha Potter. Tell your masters that." A wizard walked up to them, his lapel flower was singing and it was very noticeable. "Your boss?" The muggle backed off. "Wonderful. My husband comes here or I don't unseal the money."
"The bag can't be charmed or he dies."
Xander flicked his wand and a portal opened, showing him where his husband was tied to a chair. "Think about what I could do if I wanted to kill you all. Gryphon-borns are known for killing people who come after their families." The wizard blanched. "My husband, here now, or you don't get anything." Then he smiled. "Or I'll get my loving niece Agatha to do you in with me. I think I can justify killing people like you to my white knight side."
"I could kill him now."
"I can torch the building with a thought and leave him sitting there and safe," Xander assured him. "I nearly did it the last time someone came after my family." The bench around him started to smoke. "Some of us are very fire sensitive. Including this bag with the paper money in it."
"Fine!" the wizard snapped. "One hour, here. Don't burn the money." He looked Xander over. "I want to see."
Xander opened the bag and showed him, mixing it up so he could see it wasn't blank paper. "Husband, now, or it's torched. I don't care about the money. I have a good paycheck and I have my husband's shop. I can make more money and I can live with what I have. I don't need this."
"You're an asshole!" the muggle told him.
Xander closed the bag. "Maybe, but I can guarantee you that the cop walking toward us is going to hurt you more than he will me. After all, I can prove you're here to try and kill me if I don't hand over the money." The muggle looked and went pale before running off. Xander looked at the wizard. "And?"
"One hour if we're not arrested," he said, sitting down as well. "Officer," he said when the cop walked up to them. "Is there a problem?"
"Stand up please."
Xander stood up, holding out his arms. "Go for it. This man has my husband and I'm trying to get him back." The cop tried to get the bag. "Sorry, I glued it down." He grinned. "I want my husband," he told the other wizard, who squeaked and apparated out. "May I sit? My leg is throbbing."
"Fine." The cop watched as he sat and then noticed the cane. "What's that for?" Xander pulled up his pantsleg, making him hiss. "Drug lab?"
"No drugs. I'm a wiccan. I run a joke shop. That man has my husband." He nodded at Arabelle as she strolled up to them. "She's handling the case."
The cop looked her over. "An inspector?"
She pulled out a fake badge and showed it to him, activating the charm to wipe his memory. "Xander, that was dumb."
"He'll be coming back." He pointed at the portal. "Can I kill them now?"
"No, dear." She sat beside him and kissed his cheek. "You can't kill them. You can't even make them miserable. Let us do our jobs and if we fail, then you can make them miserable." He nodded, not looking happy. "Are you sure they're coming back?"
"I have the money. If they don't, or if they hurt George, then I'm going to kill them," he said with a sweet smile. "Has Percy traced the portal?"
"Yes, dear." She patted him on the leg, watching as George was taken out of the chair and roughly dragged out of the room. A head appeared in the portal and a sign held up. "Oh, they're coming back. Good guess."
"I study people. They're desperate. I'd guess they fucked with the wrong people." He got comfortable, reaching over to touch her stomach. "Hello, little one." The baby moved. "When are you going to find out what it is?"
"When it's born. I don't really care." She patted his hand. "Percy said he was going to take your hand off if he saw you groping me again."
"Percy's not here." Someone grabbed him by the back of the neck and squeezed. "I had to do something to kill time," he complained. "Besides, pregnant tummies are nice." He looked back at his pissed brother-in-law. "What? I get to touch all the other pregnant tummies. It's not like I'm going to steal her from you. She's not made in my favorite configuration."
Percy let him go. "Behave, Xander. You nearly cost us the bust and George."
Xander shook his head. "I'm not doing anything that they didn't expect. Ask them after you have them." He looked at the paths. "Here they come." Percy disappeared. "Can I touch some more?" he teased.
"Not unless you want to die."
"Fine, be that way," he sighed. He looked over as his mate was drug up to them. "Hey, babe. You all right?" George nodded as he was shoved to his knees. "Let him go."
"Unstick the money." He watched as Xander unstuck the money and dropped the bag onto the ground. "Kick it over." He pulled his wand and pointed it at George's head. "Now, stupid."
Xander shoved it closer. "Here. Like I said, I don't need it. Give me my husband."
"Fag!" He opened his mouth again and found himself frozen. He whimpered.
Xander stood up and walked up to the man, looking him over. "You stupid bastard," he said calmly. "The only thing keeping you alive right now is that very nice woman." He pointed at Arabelle, who wiggled her fingers. "The only reason you're still alive and your hideout unburned is because of her. The only thing keeping my temper in check is the baby she's carrying." He unfroze the man's head. "Do you understand how very close you came to dying?" The man nodded, starting to whimper louder. "Then I'll let you go to her and you had better treat her with every bit of respect, or else I'll come after you for that too." He unfroze him and lifted George to his feet. "Come on, babe. Let's get you checked over and bathed." He walked George away.
"Xander, the money?" Arabelle called. She smiled at the waved hand. "George, we'll bring it later."
"I don't care," George called. He hugged his mate. "Home, Xander. Please?"
"If you want. I just want a cuddle."
"That's fine." Xander gave him a kiss. "You're home and safe, even if I can't kill them." He teleported them home, surrendering his mate to Poppy Pomfrey's expert hands. "He's fine."
"I'm sure he is," Molly said, hugging him. "Xander, where's the money?"
Xander looked at her. "I could care less." She gasped. "Arabelle has it." He shrugged. "I would have given it to them." He took his mate from Poppy and led him up the stairs, taking him to cuddle on a bed. When Draco came in a while later, he looked at him. "I don't want to talk to you right now, but we'll be having words later."
"Don't," George said, shutting Xander up. "It's not his fault." Xander nodded. "It's not his fault, Xander. He didn't force them to give us the money." Xander didn't move. "Draco, climb in." Draco shook his head. "Now!" Draco climbed in behind him. "Now move between us." His husband gave him a questioning look. "He didn't cause this. This was idiots wanting what they didn't have. The same as the person who's suing us. They didn't even know about the settlement."
Draco shifted closer to George. "I'm sorry, Xander. I didn't mean to make this happen."
"I don't want my family to have to be paranoid every day of their lives because of people like this."
George pulled on Draco's arm, forcing him over his side. "Stay there." He glared at his husband. "They didn't even know about it. It won't be happening again." The door opened and Percy walked in, looking less than pleased. "What happened this time?"
"The idiot is begging because Arabelle had a false contraction while she was dragging him away. He thinks Xander's going to kill him."
Xander sighed. "Tell him he'll live, for now." He looked at George. "It's an irrational thing, I know this, but I don't care! I don't want to need bodyguards or a security system. I don't want it!"
"Calm down," Percy warned. "You cramped earlier."
George looked at him. "Do you understand this?"
"No, but I do." Draco lifted Xander's chin, making him look at him. "You won't need bodyguards. I can promise you that you won't. This isn't a society where crazy people are going to come up and harm you to get notoriety. This isn't somewhere that will give your family stalkers. There aren't people like that over here. They didn't show up the first time and two idiots hatching a plan to get whatever money you had doesn't mean more will come. It's not going to happen. You scare people, word has already gotten around that you'll hurt whomever touches your people. The only people who might come after you are those who would come after me. Higher dark powers. People who think that you're a threat to their plans. You've been dealing with them for years."
Xander opened his mouth but George shook his head. "He's right. I'm going to be terrified for the next few months, but I'll get over it. People aren't coming after us because of the money. Hell, I thought they wanted Iggy's stone at first." Xander visibly relaxed. "Now, I need cuddles. You can either both cuddle me or Draco can run away screaming." He smiled. "Or Percy could run away screaming if he wanted."
"Arabelle's down on the couch. I think I'll get one from her." Percy kicked the bag. "You can put this back whenever you're ready." He left them alone.
Xander got up and picked up the bag, then tossed it out the window. "Fuck that shit." He crawled in behind his mate. "If you want a hug, you get that side."
Draco hugged George. "I'm sorry. I had no forewarning at all."
"They were a bunch of scared little kids who were high and got in trouble with their dealers. They saw the shop doing well and decided to hit us up since there was more than one of us. Let's face it, most of the other shops are run by a single person. We're lucky they didn't take on the ladies. They're much more vulnerable." He smiled at Draco. "Are you comfy?" Draco nodded. "Then you can stay, but let's shift back to the center of the bed if we can." They scooted over.
The door opened and Bill walked in, dropping the bag on the floor. "Don't try and hit me with it again. That shit's heavy." He glared at Xander. "Deal with it."
Draco lifted his head. "Give it to Charlie?"
"Or Oliver," George offered.
"Yup," Xander agreed. He looked at the present brother-in-law. "Can you get them for us?"
"No!" He frowned at George. "Don't give him ideas, he's not mentally competent. He aimed for my head."
"It was shiny," Xander said with a grin. "You're getting a bald spot too."
"I can fix mine, mine was from a spell. George's is going to be permanent." He grinned and walked out, locking them in. "He's still wanting to get rid of it," he announced as he walked down the stairs. Molly shook her head. "He wants Charlie and Oliver."
"Oliver's out back," Fred told him. "Charlie's probably still at work. Did anyone tell him?"
"I can," Simone called.
"No!" Molly shouted, standing up. "You leave him alone. He doesn't need that sort of stress."
"Bet me! He told me to tell him when things like this happen. He feels left out of the loop." She grinned. "Besides, there's the new chick and she liked him." She petted the small baby phoenix in her lap. "Can I at least take her?"
"No. You're staying here. You're only allowed here, your Headmaster said so."
"Iggy?" Simone called. "Can you please get me permission?"
"No, but I can take you there. He's in pain anyway," Iggy said. Molly frowned at him. "Something just tried to bite him. He's mentally swearing about being old and slow." He shrugged. "Your choice of course."
"Do not mention a thing about what happened to George. He doesn't need the worry."
"Yes, Grandmother." He took Simone and her chick with him to the preserve. "Ouch," he said, looking at the injured arm. "And Grandmother thought what just happened was bad." He smiled at his uncle. "We brought you a possible buddy."
Simone looked at the injury. "Iggy, don't you have something for that?"
Iggy looked at the local healer. "Don't you?"
"I'm not done mixing it yet. Who are you?"
"His nephew Iggy." He shook the man's hand. "He's immune to that one."
"Kid, drop it," Charlie told him. "Don't make him feel insecure." He smiled as the chick cheeped at him. "Hello, little one." He used his uninjured hand to scratch the little redish head. "You have feathers like my hair."
Simone sat on the bed beside him. "She saw your picture and started to show your picture to everyone so I thought I'd bring her down to check you out. She's not quite old enough to bond to another person, but if she likes you, I'll work with her so you can use her around here."
The doctor smiled at her. "That's very nice of you, Simone. The eggs came out fine."
"Uncle Charlie sent me pictures of them," Simone told him. "Iggy, add some of that purple stuff you used on my back."
"I can't do that, Raena has it," Iggy told her. The doctor slapped at his hand. "It would help. I can get some here if you want."
"What is it?"
"Super healing elixir. Rogers solution mixed with Tyvers Animix. We had to use it on daddy recently when we removed the blockages from his wrists."
"Who blocked him?" Charlie asked warmly.
"The Watchers," Simone told him. "Him, Aggie, Andrea, Melvin. Uncle Percy said one other case might have come in to the hospital, but Aunt Arabelle's department handled it and he wasn't sure." She let the chick up onto her shoulder, and then over onto his. The baby sneezed. "I know, he smells like a dragon. But that's okay. He needs protected from them."
"Gee, thanks," Charlie said dryly. "Iggy, is that purple stuff any good?"
"It's very good. It's a wound cleaning and a healing potion together. I usually mix it into a pain killer because it makes them all stronger. I can get Raena to send me one." A vial landed beside his hand on the table. "Ah! She was listening." He held it up. "All up to you."
"Are you a healer?" the doctor asked him.
Iggy looked at him. "Potion's prodigy with an emphasis in healing potions. Ignatius Harris- Weasley," he said with a shrug and a grin.
"I heard about you at the healer's convention. Took a big risk with that one girl." He took the vial and sniffed it. "You're sure about this?"
"Very. Unless he's allergic to one of them."
"Andrea had to have the spell, otherwise she would have died," Simone told him. "She agreed to it, knowing what it could do for her."
"And to her?"
"And to her," Simone agreed. "They're working on unwarping it. She still uses it every day, only for a few hours at a time."
"We're working on it," Iggy agreed. "She drug me along to the doctor's with her to explain everything about it before they did the tests. They found that it opened a few new pathways in her head. Hence the seeing into the astral and spirit realms. He thinks he can slowly rearrange it to give her some pain relief and let her control that part of it."
"So she said," Simone said with a smile. "Is your dad listening?"
"Yup. He still wants Uncle Charlie up there." He grinned at him. "Grandmother said we couldn't share much gossip with you. Nothing at all about what's happening to the twins. She doesn't want you to worry."
Charlie snorted. "Give me that with the purple stuff and tell me what's going on. Why does Xander need me now?"
"He wants to dump some money in your lap," Iggy told him. "It was from the ransom."
"Ransom?" Charlie asked. Simone nodded. "The twins?"
"Just George. You remember those high little pricks who were going around robbing shops?" Charlie thought, then nodded. "They decided to try and hit up the shop for a ransom. Uncle George is fine."
"Wonderful news," the doctor said, mixing them together. "It's not integrating."
Iggy took the bowl and stirred it, stabbing at it. "It needs to be a paste." Once he had it mashed he spread it on the wounds. Charlie hissed. "It's cleaning out the dragon spit, calm down. Was there any poison?"
"No, it was a non-poisonous one," the doctor told him. "Would it matter?"
"Not really," Iggy told him. "It'd take more." He accepted the bandages and wrapped the whole arm. "There. Give it ten days and you won't even have a scar," he said with a grin.
"Ten days to fully heal?" Charlie asked.
"Two days to close the more shallow parts. Five days for the center of that toothmark, ten days to finish everything off so you won't have a scar." He crossed his arms. "Expect some bleeding through the skin if there's any contaminants in the blood. It shouldn't be too much unless you were poisoned."
"Cool," Charlie said, grinning at him. He used his free hand to ruffle the boy's hair. "I still say you're amazing, kid." He looked at the doctor. "Can I have a few days off?"
"Sure. Have fun with your family, Charlie." He grabbed Iggy. "You're staying." He smiled at the rest of the family as they wandered off. "You do that often?"
"Break in and usurp authority?" The doctor nodded. "No, only with the family. He really is immune to that pain killer."
"He's built up an incredible tolerance, but he wasn't in pain."
"He was. He was broadcasting pain. The same as the creature outside is. Why do you have a gryphon here?"
"He landed. His wing is injured. We think a muggle got him." He looked him over. "You're their healer, right?" Iggy nodded. "Then let me watch you work on your own kind."
"Technically, Charlie is as much my kind as you are," Iggy said gently. He walked outside and bowed to the young male. "Hey. Want me to look at that?" The gryphon looked down at him, then shook his head. "I'm Iggy Harris-Weasley." The gryphon nudged him then held out a wing. "I speak Gryphon." He looked at the injured wing. "Some damage to the webbing. A small fracture. Oh!" He looked up. "It's going to hurt. Brace yourself." The gryphon looked away and Iggy slid the small bone back into place, making the gryphon roar. "Sorry. One of the bracing bones was dislocated." He stroked over the joint between wing and body. "Is that starting to feel better?"
The gryphon put his head down and rested it against his healer's shoulder, speaking quietly.
Iggy laughed. "Sure, dude. I'll tell them. Can I call your colony for you?" The gryphon said something. "Good enough." He looked at the doctor. "Do you have anything to heal the webbing? I don't have any skin solution made up."
"We have some," the doctor agreed. "We'll have to pluck a few feathers."
"We can do that, but without the plucking." He pulled his wand and denuded a small spot to show the injury. "Yeah, we've clotted and it should be fine." He waited while the doctor went to get the skin graft plates so they could spread it over the poor young gryphon's wing. "I'll go tell them myself," he promised. "Hopefully she'll be back there." The male nodded, relaxing.
"Kid, who are you?" an Aussie voice said from behind him.
Iggy looked back. "Hey, Bo, I haven't seen you since I was six." He grinned. "I'm Iggy."
"Oh, yeah, Charlie's nephew. Where is he?"
"I helped his arm and he's at home for two days. Now I'm working on this guy's wing. He got hit during a mating flight."
"Ow." Bo looked sympathetic. "You're theirs, right?"
"Technically I do healing potions for both species. I'm good like that," he said with a grin. The doctor came out. "Can I leave this with you so I can check on his mate?"
"Sure, go ahead. Bo, I let Charlie have a few days at home. Iggy said his arm'll heal in five days but it'll take up to ten days to remove the future scar and any contaminants." He put down a stool and put the bag on it. "This'll be cold," he warned. "Please don't move. Can you lifted it out and maybe tip it up a bit?" The male complied, gently sitting back up.
"He's probably got a sore leg as well," Iggy said thoughtfully. "Let me go check with your family." He waved and smiled at his uncle's boss. "Simone thinks she found a chick for him."
"Wonderful news," Bo said with a grin. "He could use it. Tell him to give me a call tonight?"
"Only if you don't yell at him. The family's a bit stressed right now. We barely got my father back." He shrugged and left, heading for the colony marker he could feel nearby. He landed in the greeting chamber and bowed to the female standing there. "Is Buvern one of yours?"
She looked at him. "He is," she agreed in human. "Why? He's been missing. And who are you to barge in here?"
"I'm Ignatius Harris-Weasley, one of the potion makers. I was visiting my Uncle at one of the nearby dragon preserves and found him there. His wing was injured." She relaxed. "He's got a small hole but they're working on it for him. If you have a healer, I'll gladly take them back with me so she can see for herself."
"We do have a born who heals. I'll send for her."
Iggy relaxed. "Thank you. They're very nice there. Even if they do look at me like I'm some little kid." He grinned. "He was also worried about the female he was flying with."
The female laughed. "She's fine. Scared to death, but fine. Could you tell what it was?"
"No. They thought it might have been a human weapon, something like a gun perhaps. It's a hole about this big," he said as he measured it out with his hands. "It also dislocated a bracing bone, which I put back in place. He may also have a sore foot from his landing by the way he was standing."
"My, you're smart," a female human said as she walked out. "Who are you?"
Iggy looked at her, noticing she was someone in one of his wife's pictures. "Raena's mate Iggy."
Her face brightened. "How is she?"
"Very well. We're very happy together. I'll have her pop around if you want." She nodded. "Would you come with me to see the young male?"
"Of course. How badly embarrassed is he?"
"Pretty much, though he's more worried about the female he was with." He took her hand and brought her back to the preserve. "They had some dragon skin substitute so they're using that."
"It'll heal underneath and push that off," she said optimistically as she walked up to the male. She waved as Raena appeared. "Hey, girl!"
"Suzette!" Raena gave her a hug. "What happened to you?" she asked the male. He mumbled something. "You stupid git!" She slapped him hard on the chest. "Pay attention next time." He hung his head.
Iggy gave him a hug. "I know how all-encompassing being with your chosen female can be. Don't fret so much. She's fine."
"Worried sick but fine," the healer agreed. "You don't tease the ones at your colony?"
Raena rolled her eyes. "He hates to fight or argue. His father tainted him that way."
"Wife, bite me," Iggy told her, glaring at her. "Some of us don't need the added stress of fights." She looked away from him. "They're women, they don't understand the male mind," he told the gryphon, who nuzzled him some more. "Do you want one of the pain potions from home, Raena?"
"No, I brought one." She looked at him, silently telling him they'd be talking.
He glared at her. "Yes, we will be talking." He nodded at his uncle's boss. "Newly married," he said at the frown. Bo smiled. "This is our version of the toothpaste argument according to Uncle Bill. I'll tell Uncle Charlie to yell your way after my dad is done with him." He waved and disappeared.
"He's young," Suzette noted.
Raena frowned at her. "Don't take his side. He'll have to learn that the rest of us like a good argument. He won't even fight with me."
"It probably hurts him to do so," Bo put in.
The doctor nodded. "He's a very sensitive young man. He felt this one's pain." He laid on another layer of fake skin. "This won't bother your people?"
"Some will pick on him because of his smell," Suzette told him. "His girlfriend will probably pick on him some." The male hung his head. "You'll live." He glared at her. "Fine, I'll tell her to be gentle with you. It must have been humiliating to be broken out of a mating flight that way." She ran a hand over the back of the wing, smiling at the firm feel of the bones. "One small fracture. The joint he said he relocated is only swollen. Very nicely done." She looked at Raena. "Your doing?"
"I know her. Very competent and nice."
"She's Iggy's main teacher, after Poppy and Severus." She chatted with her friend as she shook the pain medicine. "Open up, you great lout." He opened his beak and let her pour the small amount of potion into his mouth. "There, now take a nap." The doctor finished that side of the hole and waited until the male laid down to start on the back. He ran a hand over the feathers and Suzeette removed them. "Where did you learn that?"
"From Helena at a training camp."
"Your mate did the same thing," the doctor told him. "Should we bring him inside?"
"Nah. He'll be fine. Do you have a nest?" The doctor nodded. "Then float his big, heavy butt into it and let him nap."
The doctor looked at Raena. "He's really a healing prodigy?"
"No, we're potions prodigies with a healing emphasis. He started out on people and worked his way up from there. He's very good. I'm only a prodigy because I deaged to be with him. He's actually only sixteen."
The doctor nodded. "Then I'm very impressed. Who should I address the note to?"
"Severus Snape, Hogwarts." She grinned. "Was he an arrogant prick again?"
"Somewhat, but genius is often like that. I was when I was younger. Aren't you supposed to be softening that for him?" he gently chided.
Raena sighed. "I'll fix him later. He's going to have to learn to get over some things."
"Raena, as you pointed out, he's only sixteen," Suzette reminded her. "When you were sixteen, you had the most major crush on Scott and couldn't seem to do anything right in his eyes. Now you're like that to him. Ease up on the boy. Boys are often more delicate emotionally at that age. My own is eleven and can't seem to get over the thought that he's inadequate. Your husband looks like he's still got the same problem."
"Iggy doesn't deal with people very well," Raena admitted. She groaned. "He's shut me out again. I'd better go help him. I'll pop around during the holidays?" Her friend nodded so she gave her a hug before disappearing. "Iggy," she shouted as she appeared in the backyard. "Get down here!"
"Fuck off for a bit," Simone told her, slamming the door behind her. "How dare you make fun of him. He's a sensitive little boy." She grabbed the girl and slammed her against the house. "Didn't I warn you to treat him right?" Raena looked scared so she let her go. "Then I'd go fucking fix this right the hell now before I finish getting pissed at you. Regular fighting is bad enough, this shit is destructive to what little self-confidence he has."
Raena shook her head. "He's very confident."
"He's faking, Raena. Those of us who *know* him know that. Maybe you should listen instead of trying to change him. Because if you don't, I will kill you to release him from his marriage to you. He deserves a happy marriage with a spouse who supports him, like his father has."
"I thought I was."
"By making fun of him?"
"We pick on each other, Simone. That's how gryphons and borns are."
"That's how *you* are. Iggy's not like that. He's never been like that. His whole family's not like that. Accept his idiosyncracies or leave him. You won't change him." She walked away to calm herself down. Her cousin had nearly been in tears earlier and it was making her so pissed she wasn't seeing straight anymore.
Raena walked into the house, heading up to where she could feel her mate laying. She tapped on the door.
"Not now, Raena," George called. "Later."
"Yes, father-in-law." She turned and went downstairs to talk to his grandmother. She knew her mate and could advise her. Or she'd be talking to her own mother later.
Oliver walked into Xander's room and stopped when he saw the cuddling going on. "Can't have just one?" he teased, closing the door.
"Iggy and Raena had a fight," George told him. "She's picking on him again." He shifted, which woke up his mate. "Xander, Oliver's here and Charlie's downstairs."
"Hey, Oliver," Xander said sleepily. "Draco, shift over so I can breathe."
"That's Iggy, dear."
Xander looked down and smiled. "Okay, both of you shift a few inches so I can breathe." They shifted for him. "Thanks. Get Charlie?"
Oliver opened the door. "Hey, Weasley!"
"Which one?" Bill yelled.
"The other one."
"Coming," Charlie called, heading up the stairs. "I've got to find out what's in this stuff. It's amazing. All the gunk is already running out and I can feel it healing." He walked in and shut the door. "What'cha need, Xan?"
"I want you two to pick up that bag by the door and split it up," Xander said seriously. "I want it to disappear. Do something useful with it."
"Why did you bring it out?" Oliver asked.
"It was my ransom," George told him. Oliver opened his mouth. "I'm fine."
"I figured as much or you'd be on the bottom of the pile. How much did they want?"
"Sixty thousand galleons, turned into muggle money," Draco told him.
Charlie whistled. "That's a hell of a lot of money. What do you want us to do with it?"
"You mean your preserve couldn't use it?" George asked.
"Well, yeah. But still, it's an awful lot of money, guys."
"Then spread it around to a few different preserves. I don't want to look at it again," Xander told him.
Oliver beamed. "Okay, I can give it to a few of the sports charities." Charlie looked at him. "I work with two of them. Plus the junior league could use some money."
"I like that idea," Xander agreed.
Charlie walked over and sat on the foot of the bed, looking at his brother-in-law. "You're sure?"
"We have a lot more," George agreed. "I can't change his mind on this but he'll quit trying to get rid of all of it."
"Personally I don't care if you keep it as payment for babysitting the kids," Xander told him. "We've got too much as is and this way I know it's going to good things and not being wasted."
"Fine, I'll take it with me and figure out where to send it, but I don't want to hear about how you're trying to force my baby brother to live in poverty."
Xander sat up and whispered in his ear, making his eyes go wide. "Now do you see why?"
Charlie nodded. "I do, and I understand, Xander. Even if they don't." He patted him on the chest. "Go back to your nap. Oliver and I will be quiet while we divvy it up." He stood up and sat down with the keeper to sort out the money. A second bag was called up and they split the bag evenly.
Charlie walked back onto the preserve two days later and smiled. "Bo!" he called, nodding toward the office. "My brothers send their love and stuff for you." His boss followed him to the office, closing the door behind him. "Are you still in charge?"
"Yeah. The nasty bugger finally got fired. We won't be getting a new one for at least a year because no one's answering the job search. Why?"
Charlie pulled the much smaller bag out of his pocket. "I was sent out to do good work today. This is my last stop and then I'm heading back to work." Bo picked up the bag and opened it, his mouth opening as he looked up. "My brother-in-law Xander is one of those simple guys who only needs enough to live on and a safety cushion in case something happens. That was part of George's ransom actually so he gave half of it to me to spread around to a few preserves."
"Well." Bo sat down and counted out the money. "This is really nice of him." He smiled. "Did we get more?"
"Yup. We're getting ten percent more than everyone else." Charlie stretched. "My arm's mostly healed, but I still have an open gouge. Almost all of the crap's outta it as well." He uncovered the damaged area, showing it off.
"That nephew of yours is amazing. Can he share that recipe?"
"He's working on a list of stuff for me to bring down. Including allergy problems and the like. How's that gryphon?"
"He went home yesterday, fully healed enough to fly. Their healer was really nice to our doctor. Even helped with a few of the babes in the hospital. Want to work in there?"
"Sure, I don't care. I'm tired and happy. I'd suggest we either use it to up the food in the caf, or to buy some more of the surrounding lands."
"I was thinking about expanding the lands," Bo agreed. "But I'm thinking we deserve a steak night soon." He grinned. "Thanks for this, Charlie."
"Not a problem. Xander likes this sort of thing. Hell, we've got a sea monster in the lake outside his house." He waved and walked away.
"They're real?" Bo called after him. Charlie waved again. "Arrogant bugger," he said fondly. He put the money into his safe and made sure it was locked tightly. The board would be really happy with this anonymous donation.
Xander came running down the stairs and knelt in front of Arabelle, putting his head against her stomach. Percy swatted at him but he caught his hand, putting it over the moving muscles. "She's in full labor. The baby's fussy." He smiled at her. "Are you having it here or at the hospital?"
"Hospital," she said, frowning. "How can you do that?"
"He did it with me," Draco said as he joined them. "Five or less minutes apart?"
"I'm timing this one," Xander told him. The next one hit a few minutes later. "Eight."
"That's fine, we'll go anyway," Percy agreed. "Thank you, Xander." He helped his wife up and led her away, letting her go through the floo first. He came out the other side and hurried after his wife, who was groaning. "Wait for me."
"Percy!" Arabelle told him. "Quit panicking or I'll have them knock you out. You don't need the stress."
"Bite me, woman, this is my child and I'll stress all I like. I took my medicine this morning." He grabbed her hand as soon as she was on the examination table. "Did she tell you she was only eight minutes apart?"
"Yes, sir, she did," the nurse assured him. "First time?" she asked with a smile.
"Third, but the first with this wife," Percy told her. "She's very fragile and delicate." She hauled off and hit him on the arm. "OW! What was that for?"
"For fussing. I'm just as tough as you are. Keep it up and you're having the next one, Percy Weasley."
"Yes, dear. I will if you want."
The nurse giggled. "He loves you so much. It must be wonderful."
"When it's not frustrating. Keep it up, Percy, and I'm having my favorite strike team come hold you down while I have this child."
"Yes, dear." He kissed the back of her hand and smoothed down her hair when she winced. "You can even yell if you want."
The doctor walked in and smiled. "How far apart?"
"Eight and he's a loon," Arabelle said, blowing out a long breath. "It doesn't even hurt that much yet and he's already gushy and dumb about it."
"Yes, well, I did lose three others," Percy reminded her. "I'm not losing you. I refuse to let you be hurt by anything."
"If you say you want me to quit, I'm hurting you," Arabelle warned.
He laughed. "Why would I do that? Your people protect you just like I would." He smiled. "I think it's wonderful." He looked at the doctor. "Are you admitting her now?"
"Let me check her first, Minister Weasley. Then we'll decide." He checked her gently, making her hiss. "Good news, you're dilated at three and a half. It shouldn't be longer than tomorrow."
"Let me go call everyone," Percy said, hurrying off.
"He really does love you. He only fussed over his son like that, or when Kandy had a miscarriage," the doctor told her with a smile.
"You took care of her?"
"And his sister Ginny through most of hers," the doctor agreed. "He's worried since you've been under so much stress."
She snorted. "I know that much, but he needs to calm down. He has a heart condition."
"Yes, but he's happy with this fussing. Let him until you get tired of it and then send him on a short errand, like to check on everyone else," the doctor suggested. "He's always hyper whenever he's in here for this reason. Even when it was his sister on the bed, he was pushy and fussy." He smiled at her. "Let's get her moved upstairs. Expect a lot of people to come help." The nurse nodded and made notes on the new chart, going to find an orderly to have her moved. "Don't worry, dear, he stops after the first six months, usually." He left her alone.
"Six months?" she called after him.
Percy smiled at his wife. "Arabelle, I want her to sleep with us. I like having Elizabeth nearby all night."
"Percy, I love you, but that's why some smart person invented cradles, which I'll even let you pull next to your side of the bed if you want. She's got to sleep without us sometime, it's better to get her used to it now. Before I roll over her again."
"You'd never hurt her, I know you wouldn't," he assured her.
Xander walked past, stealing his niece while they were focused on each other. He smiled as he closed his door. "Come on, Liz, we'll nap together while they argue about you getting a bed of your own." He laid down with one arm stretched protectively over her chest, letting her snuggle in. He didn't even mind when she tried to nurse off him since she gave it up at the taste of his shirt. They fell asleep together, the baby loved him as much as she did her parents and it showed.
Percy blew the door in, not waking either of them, and stole his precious daughter back. "Did he steal you, Elizabeth? I'll have to talk to him about that, won't I?" he said as he walked back downstairs with her. "Here we are, suitably rescued from the evil, child snatching uncle."
"He misses having one that young," Arabelle said gently, putting a hand on his thigh. He looked at her, raising an eyebrow. "Yes, dear, I'm allowed to grope you. We are married."
He kissed her gently. "Don't do it unless you're ready for me to grope you back," he warned. "I'm dangerously close to desperate. I might even let Xander watch her for us so we can have some time to cuddle ourselves."
They both looked as Iggy and Raena walked past, fighting about how emotional he was. "Get over it," Arabelle yelled at them, startling her daughter. "Sorry, Liz." She smoothed some of the fine down on her daughter's head, watching as Iggy came in and flopped down on the other side of Percy and stole the baby. "She'll come around soon, Iggy."
"Not unless I do something drastic," he mumbled. He snuggled the baby closer. "You smell nice, Liz." Percy rolled his eyes. "She might as well get used to it now. All kids should have a nickname. Full names are for when you're in trouble."
"What are you doing out of school, Ignatius?" Molly shouted.
"See?" he asked with some humor. "I got signed out by daddy George. He said I was to come and check on Aunt Katie."
Molly came in and stole the baby. "How is she?"
"Fine. Uncomfortable. She's having false labor now and is getting anxious." He stole the baby back. "My snuggle."
Molly leaned down to get into his face. "Go lock yourself in a lab and experiment, young man. And give me my granddaughter." Iggy handed her back. "Thank you. You only get to snatch your own from my hands." She noticed how Arabelle was practically vibrating. "Percy, shag her. She needs it." She walked away. "Come, dear, I'll teach you how to make brownies. I think you deserve to know the special family recipe." She held up a box. "It's this," she said with a smile. "But don't tell anyone." The evidence was quickly hidden and the brownies started, the baby resting against her shoulder. "I mean it, Percy. Not on in the living room though."
"Mother!" Percy shouted.
Iggy was giggling as he walked past, a happy sound she had missed so much while those two were fighting. She knew it had been a bad idea to let them do this so young, but they were as stubborn as any of her children. Or all of them put together sometimes.
Iggy jumped as something exploded against the sealed door of the lab, but it held against whomever was out there. He walked over to look out the peephole and sighed, going back to his experiments. He nearly had it, she could go leap. He wasn't going to change his fundamental nature for her. He loved her, but not enough to lose himself, especially not the parts he enjoyed. Outside, silence fell and he relaxed. At least until someone knocked politely on the door. He tested it and shrugged. "It's open, Severus," he said, flicking his wand at the seals on the door. His mentor walked in and he resealed the door. "Sorry, I don't want to contaminate this."
"What is it?" Snape asked, coming over to look down at the gloop on the table. "That looks like the last of the unicorn blood I was looking for."
"I ordered you some more, the herbologist in Mortal was out. It's on backorder and should be in tomorrow. Expect a delivery tomorrow night." He continued to work the substance until it was taffy-like. "Help me stretch this please."
Severus grabbed the other end and helped him pull the strands, noticing it wasn't sticky. "What will this become?"
"Something to help with those who are possessed. I got the idea while Grandmother was sick a few years back. Everyone wanted something blessable that wasn't water and that she'd have to ingest. This is my answer. It's basically the taffy version of a communion wafer."
"Interesting. Holy or unholy?"
"That would depend on how you bless it. I've got both formulas made up but this is the first I'm fully forming, just in case. I always do the antidote first." Severus nodded, flipping over the substance so the bottom was exposed to the light. "Unicorn blood, a few of Tara's sacred herbs, and some certified kosher sugar. I had a hard time balancing it out in the taffy recipe I chose, that's what's taken me two weeks."
"Your spouse is worried. She can't hear your mind and she believes you're upset with her."
"I am," Iggy admitted. "She can't see me for who I am, sensitivities and all. I feel for my patients, I haven't learned to be cold and cynical yet, and I refuse to become that way. She doesn't understand that this is what makes me so good at what I do. I feel for the people I'm treating and it makes me want to work harder to help them. My calling isn't a duty, it's a privilege. I'm staying in here until she gets that point."
"I had noticed you were taking classes with the other two houses."
"I'm too pissed to talk to her. If I do, I'll say something hurtful and it'll start all over again. So either she'll figure out why she's doing this and stop it, or in two weeks I'm going to file for temporary separate nests status. I'm not remaking myself in her image, and I don't expect her to do it either, but I won't let myself be harassed until I no longer feel anything." He put his side down and pulled a knife, chopping a little piece off to test. He smiled when it showed up as pure on his test and handed another piece over. "Try it?"
Severus looked at the piece of candy. "At one point in time that might have hurt me to touch."
"Yes, but you're on the path to healing from that now," Iggy pointed out, still holding it out. It was taken and chewed. "Good, huh?" He grinned. "I know you hate me flavoring things like it's candy, but in this case I think it should taste good enough to go unnoticed."
"It would help. Alerting the possessing spirit to the holiness of this simple thing would make it reject it." He nodded. "I like that. It's very subtle. You can barely taste the blood or the herbs. They balance out very well. The grape flavoring was a little odd though."
"It's all I had with me. I've been making a lot of headache potion for Aunt Arabelle. Liz's colic is so bad it's driving her nuts."
"Yours did the same to me," Snape told him. He regarded the boy. "Shouldn't you tell her what the problem is?"
"Everyone else has," Iggy said with a shrug. "I'm tired of the broken record responses I was putting out. I've changed as much as I'm going to."
"Would you like me to talk to her?"
"If you want," Iggy said, looking at him. He looked so tired, nearly done in by exhaustion. "If you think you can get through to her, try it. I talked to her mother the other day when she called to scream at me. I told her the absolute truth, being very brutal about it. I heard Raena crying later that night, but she's not changing anything. Earlier this morning she told me I was a prissy little bastard." He went back to cutting up the pieces. "Did you want to store these or should I keep them in here while I work on the anti-holy parts?"
"Leave off that side for now," Snape advised him. "I can't think of an occasion where we might need it at the school." Iggy shrugged and nodded, wrapping up the pieces in food-quality parchment paper. "Are you going to submit this one as well?"
"I'm still waiting to hear on my last one. It's been two years."
"Board recognition is often like that," Severus agreed dryly. "I had to wait six years for one of mine to go through my own board, much less the one for the Ministry here. I'm still waiting on that and it's been close to ten years." He sneered. "They have a very narrow definition of useful potions and anything outside of it is stonewalled with frustration."
"But you have to go through them to keep your accreditation to teach," Iggy reminded him.
"Yes, but they don't make you post new formulas to them for that. That process is only for those who want to have their potions included in the official books. There's many of us who gave up on it and wrote out own books for those who would look for them."
Iggy snorted. "I thought about it. Maybe when I'm older. For right now, I think I'll stick to publishing papers. Did you get my last one looked over?"
"I did. I corrected one spelling error and sent it off for you as well. Is the Royal Academy pushing you to publish? Braun always did us."
"My advisor over there said it might be a wise thing to start doing now. Getting my name out there now means I'll get a lot less of the 'who are you and why should I be listening to you' problems later on." He put all the little pieces into a tin box and sealed it. "There, all done," he said, holding it out. "Give me a minute to get a clean copy of the formulas for you."
"I have time. I only have one person in detention tonight. Your cousin Melvin is still paying off his."
"I'm sure he's thrilled with you. Want me to take him tonight?" He looked around the lab. "It could probably use a good scrubbing. My next planned project is going to need a sterile environment."
"I'll send him down tonight," Severus told him, watching as he copied the formulas by magic, so it could be read, and handed them over. "I'll take them to the Headmaster later. I'm sure he'll be happy to tell the appropriate people that we have them if they wanted to test them for you."
"Thank you, Severus," Iggy said quietly. "For putting up with all this shit and all that."
The older man patted the boy on the back. "It's hard sometimes. She's got more worldly experience and it has jaded her. She can't see that you haven't had that sort of time yet and doesn't understand how you can be so free with your enthusiasm. Remember, this isn't new to her."
"We were doing stuff that was brand new," Iggy told him. He flinched as his mind was invaded by a more powerful one. "I'll be right back, I have to answer that summons. It's Bill." He teleported out, landing in the center of the audience chamber. "Stay out of it, Bill."
"Stay out of what?" the female elder, Delilah, asked. "The ruin of your relationship?"
"And it's all his fault," Raena raged.
Iggy looked at her. "I'm not the cynical one who's trying to change my mate," he said gently. "Get over it, Raena. I'm going to stay this way. This is me. I accept you for all your supposed faults, accept mine!"
"Being enthusiastic isn't a fault," Delilah told them. "Neither is being too caring. It's the marking of a good healer to care about your patients. Not to get wrapped up in them," she said when Raena opened her mouth. "Not to ignore one's studies for them," she said, looking at Iggy.
"I've been doing my classes in the other section so we wouldn't fight," Iggy told them. "I'm not going to fight now. She either accepts me as I am, or I'll wait until she can remember how she used to see me as this wonderful being in my own right, not just because I'm brilliant." He shrugged. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a kid coming in to clean the lab I'm living in so I can set up a quarantine and sterilization field for my next project."
"What have you done during your separation?" Bill asked gently.
"Nothing important," Raena snorted. "Probably read his comic books."
Iggy ignored her. "So far I've made about a galleon on headache potion for an aunt with a colicky baby and about twice that in back pain medicine for the aunt who just had a baby. I've made a taffy that's able to be blessed as a holy object to aid with depossessing someone. I've made a new temporary sterilization potion that only works on men. I've been working on a new formula to use in the shop for a pattern changing effect that will work with the color changing formulas they use. I've also been working on a design for my future laboratory. I've managed to finish my homework for the year, get ahead on next year's and do all my current assignments for the Royal Academy, not to mention working on a strategy for our first game in a week's time during practices. I've been fairly busy so I don't have to think about my wife, the one who I love more than anything, betraying me suddenly and turning into a shrew." He crossed his arms. "May I please go back now? My cousin Melvin is the one serving detention under me and I wanted to ask his opinion on something."
"Go ahead," Delilah told him, smiling as he disappeared. "Is that true, Raena?"
She huffed. "I don't know what he's talking about. He blows everything out of proportion. He won't even let me pick on him!"
"Of course he won't," Bill agreed. "Xander was picked on his whole life, as was your mate by the other children around him. Why would he want to continue that trend from someone who's supposed to understand him?" She opened her mouth. "This is something you will have to learn to live with. This isn't his problem with wearing purple and green together. This isn't even a problem with him feeling the need to work all day long, which we might not mind if you worked on as long as you did it gently and got him to give up work to play sometimes, without nagging him about it. This is a part of him that you will not change. He doesn't like to be teased, or to fight, or even to get into playful arguments and slapping contests."
"I agree," Delilah told her. "This is who he is, Raena, and you knew that when you married him. He's as serious as he ever was, but now he's learned how to shove everything into his work. The pain you're causing him is making him work too hard. Do you really want him to end up like his uncle? Sick with a bad heart from all the stress?"
"I always said that boy was abnormal to be working so hard," the third elder pointed out. "The boy never wanted to play with others."
"He was an only child," Bill reminded him.
"He played with his cousins," Raena defended. "Sometimes with Adrian and Ryan as well."
"They usually drove him to hide," Bill corrected. "His cousins weren't always around, and his father couldn't make the boy play most of the time. He's always had his nose in a book."
"I've always thought it was a subconscious push from Xander to make the boy work and achieve," Delilah told them. "He works too hard as well. Even when he's being playful he's thinking about his training schedule and all that sort of thing." She waved a paw. "They could both use some downtime."
"They could," Bill agreed. "They won't go for it though."
"We could bring them down for a weekend of looking after the littles," the third elder suggested. "That would make them both spend time flying and playing."
"With our luck it'd be the weekend that it rained so hard they couldn't go out and he would simply bring down pranks," Bill told him. "They're both very complex men. Xander didn't do so well when he was Ignatius' age. He's making up for those faults now. Ignatius has seen his father struggle to be the best and has set his mind that he should always be the same way. His gentleness comes from that source alone. Xander is a very caring man. He adopts those students of his temporarily and helps them grow up. All of the borns coming out of that school say he is a very strong influence on them, mostly in the positive and to do good things. William is becoming the same way, only without the desire to learn things. He's more of a physical person."
"He likes to build things," Raena told them. "Maeve is a princess in every meaning of the word, including spoiled, but she's also very active. All day long she's trying to do something, usually with the result of making Lucien laugh and everyone else scream." She scrubbed her face. "I'm at fault. I admit I'm pushing him, but he'll have to toughen up some. The first time he loses a patient will kill him."
"What makes you think that he hasn't?" the third elder asked her. She looked at him. "He has lost a patient already when your aunt miscarried. He's also had to watch a terminally ill person die because he was helping out at the hospital in London." Bill looked at him. "I'm sorry for eavesdropping, but I wondered why he was crying."
"That's fine. I'm sure he wouldn't mind too much. He's a very delicate and gentle soul. Even after losing a child born unhealthy last year."
"He's been working at the hospital?"
"They suggested he do a few hours a week to get used to working with the different specialties," Delilah told her. She and Bill both neglected to tell her he was working on a dual degree now, going for his healer's license. That was for Ignatius to tell her, not them. "He still seems to gravitate toward those who are pregnant and newly born. I think they were hoping the same thing you were, to toughen him up enough to let him not get emotionally trampled during a crisis."
"He doesn't handle emergencies well," Raena told her.
"He has never handled a crisis well," Bill said dryly. "Even when he was playing and it was only him who was injured he panicked. He doesn't like to see people in pain and his need to help them overwhelms him because he knows he's not good enough to save everyone. Sometime in the past, someone has put that boy down once too often."
"Ryan probably," Raena agreed, thinking about her husband. "Can you help me get into his lab?"
"Not if he's got a quarantine barrier up," Bill reminded her. "You'll have to get him to come out. You might send word to him that you're sorry. It might start the healing process and he might even come out of his own free will. If not, you'll have to get some help from his father."
"Xander's pissed at me as well," she admitted sadly.
"Well, Simone did say he's been napping with her recently because he's getting new nightmares. You might tell her that you're trying to fix it and see if she'll help you. I understand that she wants this to stop as well. She doesn't like it when her favorite cousin is upset, even over minor things. This is probably driving her insane."
Raena nodded. "It is. I'll talk to her and Severus tonight. Thank you for your help."
"You're welcome. Fix this before we have to meddle, young lady," Delilah warned. Raena nodded and disappeared. "Do you think she sees him now?"
"I think she will have to. Ignatius is very firm on this point. He's changed as much as he's willing to. He's mystified by this sudden change in her."
"As am I. I wonder if this is because she's becoming an adult again, trying to undo some mistakes."
"It might be," Delilah agreed. "It doesn't excuse it though. She'll have to work this out for herself. In this case, it's her problem. We can only point out the river, not drown her in it."
"I'm sure that thought has occurred to Xander as well," Bill said with a full grin. "Wasn't he just here?"
"He listened in and then left to tell his mate that we had helped her see her faults," Delilah assured him. "Does he feel less animal to you?"
"He does, but he felt that way after every child was born," Bill told her, thinking about it. "Do you think he's intentionally tainting the family's children? That hyena trapped in him would want the pack to be closer and they are extraordinarily close."
"I think we might mention it to his oldest son," the third elder pointed out. "He has a good grasp of theory and should be able to find a method to test them."
"Yes, I think that might be wise," Bill said, heading back to his personal chamber to make the call. It was too bad that Mr. Malfoy-Harris-Weasley wasn't very sensitive to the thought streams of those outside his family. He settled himself before his fire and called out to his student. "Ah, Draco. Are you alone?"
Draco shook his head. "Give me an hour and I'll have the rest of the afternoon free. Did something happen in that soap opera that is my younger brother's marriage?"
Bill nodded. "That as well. Come up when you're free so we may talk." He signed off and relaxed. An hour gave him time for a nap. Maybe he'd see that little minx of his in his dreams again.
Draco walked up to Xander outside the Great Hall after dinner. "Xander, have you been tainting the family?"
"No. I've opened them up to their guardians so they'll have help if they need it," he admitted.
"I basically marked them for help from the pack. That way I can find them if there's an emergency and any of the spirits that help me can find them if it's a real emergency. I never tainted them."
"Why did you do such a thing?" Draco said patiently.
"Because the pack has to be protected, Draco. The pack is everything and the only important thing. The pack has to be safe."
"Ah." Draco zapped him and leaned down over the prone body. "I'm taking it out of them."
"There's no taint," Tara said as she walked up behind them. "What he did was mark them as family so they could be helped if they called on a spirit guardian." Xander nodded, struggling to get up. "Stay down there." She looked at Draco. "Nothing more."
"Is that why the children are so close?"
"No, I think he did that manually," Tara told him. She smiled. "He was always pushing the kids together and urging them to get along. He never allowed to fight or any of that stuff that kids do."
"I do not understand this mindset."
"I don't think you ever will," she admitted. "Not unless you can crawl inside his head with him."
Draco glared down at his father. "Is this what opened Simone and the others to the other side?"
"No," she said with a light laugh. "That's all them. You've very open as well. It's part of that smarmy and slutty side I guess. Nothing at all to do with him."
Xander used his wand to summon a book once he had finally gotten up. "Here, read," he said, then he limped away, moaning in pain. Damn that had hurt! He hadn't attacked the family!
Draco thumbed through the book. "Did you find this for him?"
"No, he actually found it for himself. Xander was a research person when we were younger, Draco. Never underestimate the man. It's a deadly mistake too many creatures and demons have made. Don't be the next one. I won't put up with you two fighting like Iggy and Raena are." She walked away, heading for her classroom. "The Goddess is merciful to those who protect their own," she reminded herself. "He is a protector and his family is everything to him." She paused mid-step then shook her head as the strange thought finished forming. "I wonder who the hyena will go to if he dies." She finished her trek and worked on some exams. "Theory, yuck," she sighed.
Draco walked into Xander's bedroom and stunned him, tying him down before he could come out from under the shortened stun spell. He sat beside him, tapping the book on his thigh while he waited. When it had been ten minutes, he reached over to touch the warm neck. "I know you're in there. Come out, now. Before I have to find your next son." Still no answer and Draco started to get worried. He nearly called for Iggy to come help him, but he knew he hadn't hit him that hard. He checked around the bed, no vials indicating a sleeping draught. He checked the man's pulse and shook his head. The house elves must have taken the vial and put it in for cleaning. He turned on a light and decided to wait some more. If he had knocked Xander back under the potion, there was no telling how long he'd be under this time. Nearly dawn was probably a good guess though.
Iggy came out of the lab and yawned. "Ignatius!" Albus yelled down the hallways. "My office, now."
"Yay me. Can't I eat first?" he muttered, heading that way. He hadn't even snuck out for a shower yet. He walked up to the office and sat down, smiling when a tray appeared on the desk. "Thanks. What's wrong this time?"
"Your father's not waking up. Would you know which potion you fed him last night?"
"Sleeping draught with a dream suppressant. The standard formula that Severus makes. He even made that one. I only summoned it for him. Why isn't he waking up?" He dug into the generous breakfast.
"Your uncle, er, older brother...."
"Yes, him," Albus said with a smile. "He just had to go and muddle that family tree even more." He rolled his eyes. "Anyway, he went up to have a discussion with him about marking the children and stunned him to keep him calm enough to bind him down."
Iggy paused between bites of eggs. "Are we sure he's in his body?" He shoved that bite in his mouth. "Has anyone asked Salazar if they're having tea at this moment."
"I hadn't thought of that," Albus admitted. "Thank you. Finish up. I want you to attend class the normal way today." Iggy shook his head. "You may still go with the other sections, but I want you to do it otherwise normally. Fortunately, you have Severus this morning and he'll excuse you long enough to take a shower." Iggy nodded, taking the plate with him as he walked up to his family's tower. He walked past his wife, ignoring her.
"Iggy, wait," she called, turning to walk after him. "I'm willing to talk. Will you listen?"
"No. I'm not willing to change anymore, Raena. This is me, see me or don't talk to me." He handed her the empty plate as he walked into the house, heading for the bathroom. "He might not be in there," he called as he closed the bathroom door. He found his niece standing there naked. "Hi. Are you done yet? I need a quick shower." Gwen giggled and ran off to tell her father. "Thank you." He stripped down and climbed into the stall, enjoying the warm water flowing over his skin. He had bathed in the sink for the last few days so this was very nice.
Draco slammed the door open, Ron right behind him. "What do you mean he might not be in there?" Ron demanded. No answer. "Ignatius, answer me," he said coldly.
Iggy finished rinsing off his face and turned to look at them. "Simple. He was under a standard sleeping potion with a dream suppressant. He might have partially woken up earlier, but you zapping him might have sent him out of his body. You might want to check on that and see. I really don't want him to die like Trelawny did."
Draco glared at him. "The standard one quit working on him."
"Severus made it, I simply summoned it to him. I even sniffed it, it was the standard sleeping potion. Maybe you put a little bit too much pissedness into your hit, Draco." He pulled down the bottle of shampoo and started on his hair. "I'm going to be late for class, the Headmaster already knows this, and there's nothing I can do that won't get my ass in trouble with someone."
Snape stormed in. "You're late."
"I'm bathing. Give me ten more please," he whined. "Go check on my father. Draco stunned him while he was under that sleeping potion." Snape rolled his eyes but stormed back out to check him. Iggy rinsed his hair and did a quick swipe of the rest of his body, hitting all the high and potentially smelly spots. He turned off the water and was drying off when his mentor came back in. "Out of his body?"
"No, submerged in his own mind. It turned the dream suppressant part into a trapping dream. He's coming around now." Draco stormed back out. "What's his problem now?"
"Daddy marked some of us kids with a marker to protect us and get us some help from the spirit plane if we needed it." He wrapped the towel around his waist and walked out. "Let me get dressed and I'll be right down. Who's running the class?"
"Your wife," he noted dryly. "She's late to Herbology." Iggy sighed and headed for his father's closet. "Those won't fit you."
"My shoulders are smaller, but I can wear them," Iggy noted as he pulled on some of his father's clothes. Without underwear because he was out of clean and he wasn't about to wear anyone else's. He buttoned up his shirt and grabbed a black robe from the closet, walking out. "Sorry it's not my uniform, but I need to do wash," he said as he walked past him. He summoned his bookcase and strode down the halls, exuding calmness, radiating authority. A few of the younger students, and one seventh year Slytherin, got out of his way before he could get anywhere near them. He walked into the Potion's classroom and everyone shut up. "You can go," he told Raena. She looked at him. "Out!" She picked up her books and calmly walked out.
One of the sixth year Hufflepuffs raised his hand. "What is going on with you two?"
"Small marital tiff," Iggy told him, raising an eyebrow. "Isn't that supposed to be grey by now?"
The boy quickly added his next few ingredients and Iggy took his cauldron before it could explode in his face. "I'm sorry, Iggy. You scared me. You're turning into Professor Snape, only with more colors in your wardrobe."
"That's a wonderful compliment," Iggy said dryly. "Would you like to try that potion again?"
"There's not enough time for that," Snape said as he walked in. "What happened?"
"He scared me, sir, and I dropped in two ingredients at the wrong time."
"I see." He looked at Ignatius. "You, scary?" he asked with a slight sneer.
"I'm radiating it apparently. Gibbons jumped out of my way like I was going to kill him," Iggy noted in the same tone of voice. "Hurley!" he shouted, stomping back to take her cauldron from her as well. "Ten points. You do not make a love potion in class!" She blushed and ducked her head. He gave her one last glare before handing off the cauldron to his mentor.
"Go sleep in the back," Snape suggested. Iggy gave him a look. "You look like you could use it."
"I'm fine, sir. Thank you anyway." He looked across the classroom, smirking at Melvin. "Need help?" he asked in a kinder tone of voice.
"No. I'm staring into space. I thought I heard Arabelle yelling at my father."
"That's always a possibility," Iggy agreed. "They probably had another job clash. Are they kissing yet?"
"No." He frowned. "Can you hear them?"
Iggy homed in on his uncle's mental signature and laughed, sending him a message about not scaring his son to death by thinking they were breaking up. Arabelle told him to butt out so he told her exactly what Melvin was thinking and she quit fighting as well. "Done," he told his cousin. "Work now, this is graded."
Melvin went back to chopping up the weeds in front of him. "Thank you, Iggy. Want to eat lunch at our table today?"
"No, I think I'm going to be yelling at Professor Malfoy about his stunt with my own father last night. He obviously doesn't understand." He sat down behind the desk and looked at his mentor. "Why don't you try to talk your son out of eating the pickled toads, sir?"
Snape hurried off to stop his son from making one of the worst mistakes of his life. Pickled toad taken orally was a super laxative and the boy would remember that feeling all his life. He certainly did.
Iggy looked at the class. "Now that he's gone, those of you who just added the purple flowers twenty minutes too early, put your cauldrons in the sink and go to the library to look up that ingredient and write a ten inch explanation on why you nearly killed everyone in this room." Half of the class put their cauldrons in the sink and hurried off. "You too, Melvin." Melvin slid out of his seat and added his to the pile, helpfully releasing the dry ice into the sink to neutralize the problems before they exploded. "Thank you."
Snape walked back in with his son under one arm and Lucien under the other. He looked at the empty seats. "Too early?"
"Too early. Ten inch explanation on how they nearly blew up people." He looked at the boys. "Did you *really* want to poop orange for three months?" he asked them. "Painfully at that?"
Lucien looked at him and nodded. "Yes, please." He grinned.
Zach laughed. "Funny."
"I'm sure your mother would think so," Iggy said, taking Lucien from him. "Come here, little man. You need a cuddle to make sure you become a good boy."
"I am good," Lucien protested. He grinned again, a naughty grin this time. "I got morning cuddles."
"I heard," Severus said, taking one of the stools for himself. "You need to stop pestering the Slytherin females. They are not your personal harem, no matter what your older brother has told you."
Lucien giggled. "But they're nice and pretty. And they smelled good today. Sweet and flowery like those sugar roses mummy bought me."
"Blast," Snape said, hurrying out to go find those girls before they were jumped.
"Lucien, if you ever smell that scent again on another person, I want you to tell a teacher, all right?" Iggy told him. "That potion is very dangerous." Lucien gave him a serious look and nodded. "Thank you. You're a good boy, Lucien."
"Shh," one of the Ravenclaw girls hissed.
"Shut up. He's sensitive to that stupid pixie potion." Her mouth fell open. "He went to cuddle some of the Slytherin females this morning and found a few of them had added it to their body powder." She giggled. "It's very important that he tell us these things, the same as it is for you to tell us these things. Pixie potion is responsible for some of the most odd children on the face of the earth today. Or ever."
"I wonder if Snape's mother took some," one boy muttered.
"Expelled," Iggy said harshly, pointing at the door. "One hundred points off and get the hell out now. Go tell on yourself before I have to tell someone you said that."
The boy blanched and carefully slid out of his seat, heading out of the classroom before Iggy could attack him with his hands as well. "Sorry," he squeaked before he ran away.
"I tolerate a lot, disrespect on that scale is not on the list." The remaining students bent down and worked on their potions. That boy had just put him into a bad mood for the *entire* day. Snape would be even worse. They almost felt sorry for the boy once the Slytherins and Gryffindors coming next heard.
Draco looked down as Xander woke up. "I read the book. You're an idiot. They didn't need the help."
"Fuck you." Xander looked at the ties binding him and opened his mouth.
"No, you will listen. I'm sorry I got you trapped in your dreams, but this is the only way I wanted to have this discussion," he said calmly. He got comfortable. "You didn't have to do that to them. They're perfectly well protected."
"We can't always be there," Xander reminded him. "This way they have someone to protect them when we can't. The pack has to be protected."
"The pack," Xander agreed. He used his small ability to push magic around and undid himself, sitting up. "Don't do that again. I don't let people attack me. Not even family." He patted him on the knee and stood up, grabbing his cane.
"Lay back down!" Draco ordered. Xander looked at him and he lost it. "You gave my children a mark that would give them a guardian which we don't even believe in! You're pushing them toward a system of belief that I'm not comfortable with. Now, down!"
"I'm not the dog," Xander pointed out. "It's also not a belief system. I don't particularly believe in the same way as the people who gave me my helper, but I still get help."
"You still should have asked."
"Why? I'm protecting them."
"Xander, this is not normal. Think about the other members of the family."
Xander shrugged. "I'm protecting them," he repeated.
Draco shook his head, rebinding him. "Stay there until I get someone who speaks the same language." He stood up and walked away.
"But I have to go to the bathroom and I have class today!" Xander called after him. His wrist bindings were undone and he gratefully got up to do what he had to do, and to go to his class. He was pulled out by his collar a few minutes later by Percy. "What?" he whined as he was drug back up to the house. "Read the book!"
"I did read the book," Percy told him, turning to look at his brother-in-law. "And while I'm grateful, how did you mark them?"
"With my own."
"With your own...."
Percy shook his head, then decided to shake Xander. "Do you know how dangerous that is? You could have tainted them, Xander."
Xander got free. "I know what I'm doing, Percy! Give me a little bit of credit!" He turned and walked away. "Test them all if you want. You won't find a bit of taint. If you do, come tell me." He slammed his classroom door and locked it, going to sulk at his desk. He had only been trying to protect them. He pouted.
Percy looked at the rest of the family, minus Xander. "We've checked. There is no taint."
Arthur nodded. "I didn't figure there was. Is this really that horrible?"
"It can be," Draco told him. "If he had done it wrong, it could have let some of his possession transfer to the children. As is, there's a chance that it could jump from him and move to one of the children."
Percy cleared his throat. "I found a mark on you as well," he admitted. "As well as both of the twins and myself."
George raised his hand. "And? Why are we even talking about this? We all know Xander's only trying to protect the kids. If it's not harmful, why are we picking on him this time?"
"Because he didn't ask?" Fred suggested. "I'm not fond of thinking that at some point in time I'll end up being possessed by a hyena's spirit."
"Yours isn't, it's a lynx," Percy told him. Fred looked clueless. "Small wild cat?"
"I know what one is! Why is it in me!"
"It's not *in* you," George told him, reaching over to pat him on the hand. "It's a marker so that it can find you if you ever get into a situation where you're going to die without some help and we're all too damn far away or dead to help you."
"I still don't like it," Fred told him.
"Bottom line, can you make him stop?" Bill asked.
"No," George told him. Everyone looked at him. "For two good reasons, if we need them. One, it will set the other kids apart. This is part of what makes them so close. They can see that they're special or something. I don't know more than that. Xander said it's not true, but the only kid that hasn't been marked so far was Agatha." Arthur opened his mouth. "He tried, Hermione blocked it."
"Oh. That explains that. Could it have helped her?"
"It would have helped her fight at least one of the offerings off," Percy agreed. "That's the sort of situation it's for."
Fred nodded. "Then I can live with it. I'm not really happy with it being my kid, but ...." He trailed off and looked at his older brother. "You knew before. That's why you wouldn't let him have Liz."
"He got her in the womb, like he has most of the kids," George told him. Arabelle looked at him. "Black, shiny ball?"
"Black, shiny ball?" She looked at her husband. "Do we have one of those?"
"It's in your jewelry box, Arabelle. I left it in there once I found it this morning." He looked at Fred. "Yours hasn't been done."
"Why not?" Katie asked. "He's had plenty of chances. Doesn't he like us?"
George looked at her. "He tried, dear. He really did. I even caught him at it once. It didn't work."
"Then we'll need to get him checked out," Fred said firmly. "There's got to be something wrong!"
"It's a magic clash," Draco told him. "I can't work anything on him either. Neither can Ignatius. He admitted to trying to cure his diaper rash earlier when I talked to him." He tightened his ponytail. "George, what's the other reason?"
"It'll destroy him. He was only trying to help. This is his pack and this is an instinctive reaction to want to protect them. He's pouting right now and has canceled classes for the day so he can sulk."
"Is there some source of information the rest of us can read?" Katie asked. Draco tossed a book onto the table. "How long have you had that?"
"Since he gave it to me this morning." He looked at Percy. "There's one other who isn't warded this way, Iggy. Either it didn't stick or he didn't know how. I don't know how he's protecting him."
"It's on Iggy, he put it on when he was six."
"It's not," Percy agreed. "He had me verify it. Again, we're not sure why it didn't take."
"Is he in more danger?" Molly asked, looking back at the kids.
"No, he's not," George told her. "This isn't going to affect him."
"It does explain why Iggy had to run away to get out from under the watchful gaze of his father," Arabelle pointed out.
George shook his head. "That was mostly me. Xander was always letting him play behind the shop and up in the school without supervision."
"Oh." She looked at the two men standing in front of them. "Is that why he's not close to anyone?"
"He and Simone are as close as Maeve and Lucien, only without the cuddling," Fred told her. "Iggy's not a natural people person."
"It may have been why he was never without a book," Percy admitted.
"That was Xander and his wonderful insecurities about being idle," Fred reminded him. "Why won't you let him hold Liz?"
"Because I'm as overprotective as George was when Iggy first came," Percy said a little coolly. "I like to hold my daughter myself. It's not such a bad thing."
"No, it's not," Fred said with a grin. "I don't like others to hold Keivgn either. I thought you'd be over this by now since she's your third."
"No, he's possessive of all his children," Molly assured him. "Xander did get the same way. None of us got to hold any of the children unless either he or George were right there watching us."
"Then the real question is, do we need to do anything about this," Bill pointed out. Everyone shrugged. "Good, then we'll leave it alone."
"There will be more children someday," Arabelle reminded him. "Do we let him do it to them?"
"I don't think you could stop him," George told her. "He can do it from a distance."
"Besides," Iggy put in from his corner, "with as much trouble as this family seems to draw, I think we'd all like to have a bit of extra protection. I'm sure as hell going to need it some day because I don't fight that well. Simone might not, but then again she might be able to draw on hers to make a better battle plan." He shrugged and turned his head to look out the window. "Phoenix chick."
Simone got up to get it and take the message. "That was Baby. Spike needs Uncle Xander tonight."
"I'll send him down," George assured her, thinking at his husband. He didn't hear anything but he knew Xander had heard him. "He's still sulking so much he won't even talk to me." He stood up. "I'm going to go back to my husband's side. Is there anything else?"
"Can we get that spirit out of him?"Bill suggested. "It's been in there a long time, I'm sure he'd like to be free of it sometime in his adult life."
"I'm not sure it can fully be taken out," George admitted. "Salazar's ghost pulled some of it, and a priest in Italy got some more, but it's still very strong."
"I'm not sure if the people who cured Molly could get it out of him now," Arabelle told them. "It's integrated into his psyche, that's why we're having this meeting. He told Draco we were his pack."
"A gryphon would have used flock," Simone said thoughtfully. "That's got to be odd. A gryphon and a hyena inside him advising him."
"Yes, it probably is," Percy agreed, smiling at her. "I couldn't let this go on without telling all of you. Personally, I'm not sure where I stand on this issue."
"We're letting it happen," Arabelle told him. He looked at her. "I want my children protected, Percy, no matter what form the protection takes as long as it's not evil."
He gave her a disgusted look. "I'm sure we can protect them all perfectly fine," he argued. "We'll get into this at home."
"Percy, it's happening, even if I have to help Xander do it. Our children are in danger because of what we do. There are plenty of people who'd like our children so they could force us to do things. If this helps keep them safe, then I'm all for it. The same as I had a portkey commissioned for each of the children that will bring them here if they need to run away."
Percy smiled, a little thinly. "We'll discuss this at home."
"Fine," she sighed, waving a hand. "You can discuss this, my mind's made up." She gave Simone a hug. "Thank you for the books, sweetie, they're very nice."
"I found them in a muggle mall, but I thought they'd come in handy at this age. Reading to the baby makes them smarter and Iggy started out on purely muggle books."
"Yes," George said with a smile. "Xander used to pull out muggle books and read them to you all the time. Forced himself through some of them, but at that age the voice reading to you was more important than the pictures. He must have went through almost every classic of muggle literature by the time you were three."
"And then some since I saw him reading sports magazines to him," Fred agreed, smiling at his nephew. "Over all, should I worry?"
"No," George and Percy said together.
"Only about why it wouldn't work," Percy pointed out.
"My mother was immune to gryphon magic," Katie admitted. "She used to tell stories about being friends in school with a born who did some amazing illusions, but how she could always tell."
"That would explain it," Percy agreed. "Fred, you only have to worry about things exploding in the shop. This sort of help wouldn't really do anything in that situation. You shouldn't have to worry about any of this."
"Personally, I think it's kind of neat," Bill admitted with a grin. "I'll probably let him do any kids I might have." Molly looked at him. "Sometime in the future, mum, not anytime soon."
"You might want to watch out, I think Xander's looking for a mate for you," George warned. He smiled as he headed for the floo. "I'm going to remind my husband that he's not to wear leather tonight."
"His veela side out in a demon bar might be a bad thing," Ron agreed. "Has he marked Mary?"
"Yes," Draco told him. "She's got two marks on her."
"Her father might have put the other on," Arabelle told him as she stood up. "I have a staff meeting about a raid. Have fun." She disappeared, heading back to the office.
Percy gathered up his daughter. "Unfortunately, we have another case of possible possession to capture tonight. This one might even have more than one human in him." He left as well. He could argue with his wife over dinner, after he'd made up his mind.
Draco looked at the rest of the family. "Now that his staunchest supporters aren't here, what are we going to do about this?"
"Make him ask us?" Bill suggested. "Did he get Morgana and Minnie?" Draco nodded. "Then make sure he knows he has to ask us to do it to the rest of the family as they're born."
"I agree with Uncle George, daddy, he won't stop doing it. I remember when he did mine and it was like a happy burst in my head, like something really liked me and was there for me. The feeling faded by that night and by the next morning I didn't think anything of it."
"How old were you?" Bill asked.
"Six. He didn't figure it out until then," Simone told him. "I asked him a few years ago what that was and he told me. There's also three other books in his personal library that mention it. It's in one of the three other tomes on possessions."
"The Dark Arts section in the library has some books on that as well," Ron said thoughtfully. "As well as some of the stuff Rupert got us when he first came."
"You mean he wasn't always a bastard?" Denver asked.
"No, he was some of the time. Now it's more of a chronic problem. What happened to him anyway?" he asked Draco.
"He's locked up in a mental health ward. Someone decided he wasn't mentally competent to stand trial. Something about demons. You'd have to ask Percy." Draco shook his head. "What does it matter?"
"Easy. Tara, Adrian, Ryan.... Other people who should know? Plus I want him as far away from my first three as possible."
"Good point. Ask Tara, he might have told her." Draco shrugged. "I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this."
"Daddy, it's only marking us as more than his colony. We're his personal flock, his family, and we now share similar markings with him. Deal with it and move on. I've got an Herbology paper to write."
Denver nodded. "Me too. Melvin?"
"If you want to come help me in my detention," Melvin offered. He looked at his other cousin, who was sleeping in his chair. "I want to know why he's so tired."
"He's probably been using his time turner again," Arthur told him. Everyone in the room looked at him. "He was granted access to one so he could brew critical potions for Madam Pomfrey. Since he's been working in the lab for the last few weeks straight I'd say he's probably been turning back his days to pull full-time in there."
"The energy would have to come from somewhere," Bill agreed. "Poor kid. Did they ever get it worked out?"
"She's trying to apologize and he's not listening," Draco told him, sitting down. "Those things are dangerous."
"I want to know why he needs his invisibility cloak in the lab," Melvin offered, trying to get Iggy free from some serious yelling later. "Can't he pretty well wander the school at night and not get in trouble?"
"Only if he's supposed to be in lab," Simone told him, looking at their cousin. "You don't think he's been playing with the paradox principle, do you?"
"If he has, I'm beating him myself," Draco told her. "You can only be in the same spot in time once usually, and up to three times for unusual circumstances. If you try to include those over too long, the time continuum starts to unravel for you and you end up creating an unfixable paradox that traps you in the loop."
"You can do up to two safely if you're not seeing yourself," Arthur told him. "If he has been doing that, you have my permission to swat him and take it away from him. Not that it hasn't been tried before, but I'm sure he'd listen to you more than he did to the Headmaster when he was caught playing with one."
"Albus never should have left a clever child like Ignatius in his office alone," Molly pointed out. "There's no telling what he might have done."
"He undid his solar system and redid it so it was 'better'," Draco offered. "He also got into the Headmaster's pensive if I remember right."
"You mean Iggy got into more trouble than Harry and I did?" Ron asked with a grin.
"He did that when he was eight," Simone told him. "Remember all those stories you and Uncle Harry used to tell us about the Marauders?" Ron nodded. "Well, Uncle Albus once said that Iggy got into more trouble than both versions. Together."
"There was another version?" Denver asked.
"Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Harry's mum and dad," Ron told him. "Plus the creature who got Sirius put into prison. They had the map, Harry's invisibility cloak, and the desire to cause trouble."
"Thankfully, the map is locked up," Arthur said with an eye roll. "I can't imagine what you older ones would have done with that."
"Professor Lupin has it hanging on the wall of his office," Simone told him. "I saw it during a detention. He was watching Ronnie."
"It's not the original," Arthur told her. "The original is locked in our vault. Harry didn't want to risk Hermione getting her hands on it." He smiled at them. "Don't even think about trying for that record, young lady."
"Grandfather, I have no intention of ever doing something that would get me notoriety," she said innocently.
"Got enough of that your first year?" Fred suggested.
"Definitely." She smirked at him. "Though the idea of being an animagus is pretty neat."
"No," Draco told her. "Absolutely not."
"The caretaker is as mean as Filch ever was, and I heard he nearly caught and killed someone's cat when it was out last month. Besides," Ron added, "if you do it then you'll not only have to register, but the younger children will feel the need to follow in your footsteps."
"I'm glad the twins never tried for that," Arthur said, smiling at his wife.
"Who said we didn't?" Fred asked him. "It would have been wonderful, but we couldn't get the spell to work right." He caught his father's eye and looked at Iggy, then back. Arthur rolled his eyes and nodded slightly.
"Uh-huh, if he gets to try for it, we do too," Melvin told him. "We're not being left out of this one."
"Your father would kill you," Draco told him.
"No he wouldn't. He'd say I was very smart and wonderful, but that I obviously wasn't thinking. I've gotten that speech a few times, I can go through it again."
"I can agree with that," Simone told him. She smiled at her father, turning his insides to goo. "Daddy, do you have a book on that? Just so I could see if it's feasible?"
"No," he lied with a smile of his own. "Malfoys aren't animagus, dear." He stood up. "Don't even try. I'd hate to have to force you into a political marriage as punishment." She slumped and pouted. "Thank you."
"Don't worry, Si, if he does I'm sure we'll kill him for you," Denver assured her. "Ana's going into it willingly, but we won't let you be forced to become a housewife." He patted her on the thigh. "Where do you think we could get a book for that?"
"Ask your cousin, he seems to have a book for everything," Katie suggested.
Fred smiled at her. "Or Raena. She seems to have a decent enough library as well."
"Speaking of, can I butt in and kick their asses if they don't work it out?" Simone asked. "I'm tired of this. It's wrecking the group."
"He'd probably appreciate it," Arthur told her.
"No physical fighting," Molly chided at the same time.
"Yes, Grandmother." Simone stood up. "Are we done?" The adults nodded. "Cool. Melvin, come help us now and we'll sneak down to see if we can help you with your detention. Who's it with tonight?"
"Lupin. I don't like how I'm getting passed around." He pouted as he followed his cousins back through the floo.
"Do you think they will?"
"Simone has never let anything stop her from getting what she wanted," Draco told her. "She decided her first year that she wanted to be a Prefect and look at her now."
"She did it, potty mouth and all," Arthur agreed. "Not to mention how she learned to fly by taking your broom one afternoon," he reminded the father.
"Or how Lucien can easily twist his oldest sister around his finger and get her to do anything for him," Fred put in. "What do you think she'll be?"
"Not a clue," Draco admitted. He smiled and walked away, going to hide all his books on animagus from his daughter.
Iggy looked up as his workroom door was opened. "What do you want, Simone?" he asked, going back to his stirring.
She closed the door and walked over to him, giving him a hug. "Two things," she whispered in his ear. "I want to help you fix this fight with Raena and she's agreed to do that dreamwalking thing tonight to apologize. She really means it, Iggy. She's sorry. She had no idea that you were using your time turner to have the time to do all this and go do some rounds at St. Mungo's." He stiffened. "I'm not jealous. I don't have anything that I need to do that badly." She turned him around and grinned at him. "The other reason I'm here is because we *know* you're working on an animagus spell and we want in. Me, Denver, Melvin, and Andrea. Whatever you need from us, we want to help you with it."
"I suck at transfiguration," Iggy reminded her.
"I know, and yet I'm sure you've talked to McGonagall a few times about all this stuff." He blushed and looked away. "So let us help. I am, after all, excellent in the subject. Melvin's herbs will come in handy. Denver and I could both use it in our future line of work. Plus, it'll pull the group back together again. We're drifting and Denver and I aren't comfortable without you and Melvin being so close. Hell, we even accepted your additions to the team, but I want us to be that close again." She hugged him again. "Think about it, running together under the moonlight, playing tag when we're supposed to be in bed."
"Such naughty thoughts, Ms. Prefect," Iggy teased. "How did you know?"
"I stole your potion's notebook," she admitted with a grin. He pinched her. "Ow."
"You deserved it, take it like a woman." He wrapped his arms around her. "I'll let you guys help me," he agreed. "I'm not sure it will work on me because of how born I am, but I'd be happy to help the rest of you and finish learning self-transformation charms to keep up with you."
"Then we'll warp the spell so it works on you," Simone said simply. She pulled back with the most naughty grin. "You're good at warping potions already. I'm excellent in theory, as is Denver, thanks to our father getting pushy last summer. We can do this and not even get caught."
"Okay," he agreed quietly, staring into her eyes. "Why couldn't I have fallen for a girl like you?"
"Because I would have killed you if you locked yourself in here all the time. She's what you need, Iggy, but she's having trouble adjusting to the fact that she doesn't have to be an adult anymore. By the time she was this age the first time, she was a moody and secretive bitch because she could only count on herself. She didn't have people like me and Denver around. She's not used to being closed in on from all side and helped. Go dreamwalking with her tonight and then come visit me in mine and we'll work on the spell together."
"All right," he agreed. "If you're sure she's sorry."
"I'm so very sure, Iggy. Besides, you obviously need the nap." She grinned.
"How did you find out about the time turner?"
"Grandfather spilled it while you were napping. Expect my father to take it from you so you can't create a fucking paradox."
"I got myself out of my last one," he whined.
"I know, sweetie, but all those adults keep underestimating us. Think about what they would do if they knew what we *really* did with those invisibility cloaks of ours." She winked and walked away. "I'm going to pounce Adrian for a while. You behave and go to your own bed tonight."
"Yes, cousin, dear," Iggy called after her as the door shut. He looked at the ghost in the corner. "I take it you agree?"
"I do," Salazar agreed, floating closer. "I wonder what her father would say if he knew how much like your father she really was."
"He'd probably go off about that mark thing again," Iggy said with a shrug. "Besides, my dad was the one who played with us most of the time. Her dad taught us to study our actions and to be careful, my dad taught us to be sneaky, brilliant, and to occasionally do something wicked." He grinned. "I wonder what Daddy George and Uncle Fred would say if they knew we four were worse than either original group of Marauders could ever dream of being. Or that Daddy Xander was just as bad all by himself."
"They would probably have fits and seizures," Godric Gryffindor said as he joined them. "Remember, you have to put in paperwork *somewhere*, Ignatius. I doubt your uncle or grandfather would want to arrest you for not reporting yourself."
"I already have the forms. Wouldn't they go to the Species office?" he asked with an evil smirk.
Salazar burst out laughing. "That's my boy! Use the bureaucracy against them. They'll never know what hit them."
"And they'll never be able to fuck with the family again, no one will," Iggy agreed. He winked and turned back to his potion, pulling it off the fire. "Okay. Now what do I do, Salazar?"
"You cool it until it turns a medium purple then bottle it. It should keep for years, Ignatius." He wanted to pat the boy on the back. No one had made a temporal potion in years. Not even Severus. "I'm so proud of you, my boy. If I could, I'd adopt you as my own."
"Thanks," Iggy said, blushing slightly. "Where do I store them?"
"In the potion's dungeon, of course. Severus won't know what they are. Tell him it's a new experimental design for something that he'll never use."
"Or tell him a half-truth, that you're working on an update to one of Snake's spells and he can't touch it because it's dangerous."
"I can do that," Iggy agreed, letting the potion cool.
Severus walked into Transfiguration the next day and grabbed his apprentice, walking him out without a word to the teachers. "What are those bottles?" he asked as he drug the younger man down the halls.
"Something for your house," he said patiently. "Did you take a strength potion, sir? Usually you can't drag me this far."
Severus let him go, watching him as he turned around. "I want the truth."
"It's an updated version of something Snake was working on. He gave it to me to update. It's nothing harmful, unless you don't know what you're doing when you ingest it." He grinned. "It can even fix some of those nasty inequalities that your house feels against mine."
"What does it do?" Severus said in a deathly quiet voice.
"It's..." Iggy glanced around and got a nod from the ghost watching him so he stepped closer. "It's a time turner in a bottle. One drop per hour."
Severus gave him a steady look. "You made a temporal potion?" he said flatly. Iggy nodded. "Where did you find the potion?"
"One of his journals. He was working on it before he died but never got it finished. The protection part of the potion wasn't working with the temporal aspects. It's poisonous if it touches the skin, but neutralized if you ingest it with milk or bread, or yogurt I guess since it'd have the same cultures in it." He grinned again. "Cool, huh?"
Severus gave him a long look. "I don't think I can teach you any more," he said finally.
"Because you couldn't do it or because I'm an arrogant shit?" Iggy asked.
Severus laughed, scaring the students in a nearby classroom. "Mostly because of the first. The second has always been true and is now apparent that it is because of your genius." He bowed to his equal. "Good work, Ignatius."
"Thank you, Severus. Think I can get this one pushed through the board?" he asked as he started to walk down to the dungeons with him. "Does this mean I can get out of a few other classes?"
"No, but I'll gladly let you run a few sections of my own," Severus told him. "First years?"
"Wonderful! I like getting them off to a good start. Oh, that would clash, wouldn't it?"
"Very much," Severus agreed with a smile. "Tell me the rest of what you're working on? I won't tell your fathers, but I would like to know what you've been doing behind my back."
Iggy pulled out his potion's notebook and unbuttoned it, handing it over. "You never asked to look, Severus. If you had, I wouldn't have kept any of it from you. To be truthful, I could have used your help a few times. It might have cut down on the frustration factor when things weren't going right." They walked into the classroom and back to the office, closing the door so they could talk in private. The fifth year Gryff/Slytherin class sighed in relief, they weren't fighting.
Notes: //means done in animal speak.// I wasn't going to go here, but someone wanted to see it. Blame the little eight inch high people in my head. ::swatting naughty muse::
The two foxes sat in the long grass in the shadows and watched the children in the circle. The, to his utter and permanent annoyance, red fox looked at the silver one and grinned. //Think they'll manage it?//
//Possibly. We've always known that Iggy and Simone could change the fundamental nature of the universe if they put their mind to it and worked together.// The silver fox shifted closer, for warmth of course. //How much longer, Draco? I want to go for a run.//
//It shouldn't be too much longer. They've got everything set up as far as I remember.// He winked and whapped the other fox with his tail. //Where should we go for a run tonight? School, Burrow, or here?//
//Either the Burrow or here. I'm not up to being caught by the grumpiest of ghosts tonight. Ravenclaw was really pissy the last time she saw us. She's the one who told Hufflepuff, who was the one that narked on us to Albus. By the way, quick thinking. Good job.// He nuzzled the other fox's neck. //You deserve a cookie for getting our asses out of trouble that day.//
//It was brilliant,// Draco agreed. His ears perked up as he heard the spell start. //Finally.// They moved closer to see in better detail what would happen.
Iggy took the first sip of the potion that went with the spell and grimaced, handing the cup to his left to his mate, who then drank and handed it to Simone, then to Denver, then to Melvin and Andrea, and finally to Adrian Maclay. They felt the spell take hold and all of them cried out, rolling around on the ground clutching their stomachs. As the groans became more animal, none of them noticed a small flash up in the trees.
Out under the trees, the foxes looked at each other and smiled. //Let's see them talk their way out of being caught,// Xander said.
//Hmm. Definitely. Two wolves, two bunny rabbits, and a rat. Did you see mine?//
//Adrian's a white mouse, not a rat.// Xander stood up and looked over at the group. //Um, I think they're your kids definitely.// He sat down and grinned at his usual partner in crime. //They're the most troublesome creatures known to humankind.//
//They're *ferrets*,// Draco said with disgust. Xander nodded. //That blasted spell. Why couldn't they have been foxes?//
//Ferrets are just as clever, but they get into smaller spaces,// Xander said soothingly. //It could come in handy.// he stood up. //Come on, let's go before they hear us.// He zipped off, heading for a long midnight run. He wasn't even limping in this form and it made him ecstatic to run and jump and play. He knew Draco was somewhere behind him, he could feel him gaining on him. //Think we should share this with the spouses, Ron, or Percy?//
//Percy will shout when he finds out you've been doing this for a few years and didn't register yourself,// Draco pointed out. //I doubt Ron'd be a fox. That means we couldn't play with him. As for your mate, he said it didn't work on him when he tried it before.// He nipped the tip of Xander's tail and took off in a new direction.
//I'll get you for ruining my perfect tail,// Xander said as he hurried after him.
Back in the clearing that used to be Lucius' favorite meeting spot for his death eaters, the children came to and looked at each other. //I'm a wolf,// Iggy said happily. He scratched behind his ear. //This is going to take some getting used to.//
//What about the invisibility potion?// Simone asked. //Do we have it?// She scampered over. //Why am I so small?//
//Ferrets are the troublemakers of the animal kingdom,// Adrian told her. He stood up on his back feet. //Wow, I can really sneak around the library in this form. Irma won't know a thing.//
//Remember to watch for traps, Hagrid's been catching mice for some of the owls,// Raena told him as she stood up, wobbling on her paws. //I can't believe I went through with it this time.// She looked at everyone. //Melvin?// His head popped up. //Don't do what your nature is dictating. Your father would shit bricks.//
//Or possibly boulders,// Emily Snape said as she walked out of the woods as a lynx. //Hi! Good job warping the potion to work for you guys. By the way, there was just another few around, watching you. I got the sense that they were older. They ran off playing tag.// She nosed Denver, who squealed and ran to Iggy's side. //Relax, I wouldn't eat you. You'd taste funny. All those women have tainted your scent.// She grinned at Iggy. //Can I come on runs with you?//
//Sure. But we have to be careful. Albus is watching for us. Hufflepuff mentioned seeing two....// Iggy trailed off. //That disgusting asshole!//
//Which one?// Denver asked.
//Our fathers. What were they, Emily?//
//Foxes. One red, one silver, cuddling closely under that tree.// She pointed with her nose.
//That would fit daddy,// Simone agreed. //Think we're in trouble?// She froze when she felt the apparation. //Hide!// she shouted, running for cover. The animals ran for cover, as many of them going up the trees as possible. Simone ended up with Iggy in a hole under what used to be a statue's base. //I'm going to explore, I can't help myself,// she whispered, then scampered off down the tunnel. She found a few bones and a large, dead snake down there and hurried back to the surface. The Ministry officials were looking hard, but nothing was coming out to help them in their search. She hid under her cousin's tail, making him jump and swat at her. //Sorry.// One of the humans got close to where they were hiding and they stilled, crouching down as far as they could.
"I know you're out here somewhere," one of the men said in disgust. "We're not going to hurt you, just make you register. Three forms in triplicate and a picture." A wolf howled off in the woods and he jumped. "Those aren't native." His men headed after the sounded. "I promise, we won't be pissed with you. It's all right, we simply need to register you. Not a word said to your parents or anything."
Arabelle snorted from where she was looking at the spell ingredients. "Bet me. I can't imagine why Draco left the children home alone without a guardian. He had to have known they were trying something." She sniffed the remaining potion. "This isn't the standard." She stood up and looked around. "Ignatius Caramel Harris-Weasley, get your furry ass out here now before I tell your uncle!" Nothing came closer. "Either you do or I'm telling your Grandfather as well. I'm sure they'll be more than happy to help you register yourself." She looked down at the scratching in the dirt. The mouse was writing something. She frowned at it. "You're not Iggy."
He only made the potion for us.
"Yeah, right." She snatched the mouse up and looked at it. "Turn yourself back," she said, smirking at him. The mouse bit her and jumped from her hand, running for the high grass that the foxes had hid in. He could smell them on it. "I'm telling your mother," Arabelle yelled after him. "Some of us can tell auras, Adrian Maclay. I'm sure she's going to be thrilled with you." He stopped and looked back at her, then shimmered back into human form. "Thank you."
"Don't tell my mother, please. She'll only throw a fit. You know how she can be. I've already got the forms back in my room and they're all but filled out. All they need is a description and a picture attached. Please, Arabelle? I thought it'd be helpful to get into the sealed archive rooms when we needed something from them. I'll beg, or bribe."
"Kid, I'm going to have to tell someone higher. It'll get back to her."
"No, it'll get back to Severus, and I'm going to tell him myself," he said quickly. "Mother doesn't listen to Ministry gossip. I promise, I'm filling out the forms. You know I can't work for Percy if everything isn't in order."
"Fine. Get the forms, come right back here, young man. Or else I'm hunting your ass down." Adrian nodded and ran off, still as a human, to get his forms. "Now for the rest of you," she said dryly, looking around. "The picture showed three of you. I don't know how two wolves are hiding out here, but we'll get you. You might as well come out. Remember, if you don't file, you can face criminal charges."
Melvin looked at his woman and shrugged. She nodded and they hopped out together, wiggling their ears at her.
"Well, gee, you two aren't the wolves we saw," she told them, reaching down to pet them. "And my own son as well," she said with mock-fondness. "Change, now, Melvin." He and Andrea changed. "Thank you. Forms?"
"Already all but finished, the same as Adrian's," Andrea assured her. "We were filing them tomorrow." She looked around. "I checked for telltales on the grotto."
"We left a magic tracer in one of the trees. It went off and took a picture when the spell took hold," Arabelle told her. "Rabbits?"
"We are mostly harmless," Melvin told her. He grinned at his fiancé. "Then again, I was thinking naughty thoughts about her. The same as she probably was about me."
"You get to explain this to your father, Melvin. I'm going to be hiding far *far* away when you do so at breakfast." Melvin nodded, giving her a pathetic look. She snorted and shook her head. "Not working on me, kids. Go finish your forms and head home." They ran off. "Next!" she called. Nothing else came out. "Ignatius, if you're out here, think about what your fathers will say."
"They'll say he's bloody well brilliant," one of her men grumbled. "How is a wolf hiding out here?"
"I don't know. Check for holes in the ground." She saw a wolf escaping with an odd lump on it's back. "I think that was their burrow." She stopped when she heard the slithering noise. "Um, snake!" she shouted, moving farther away from the hole they had come out of. "I don't touch snakes, someone get it!" Her crew rushed over and grabbed the snake coming out of the hole, wrestling it into a bag. "Is it one?"
"No, ma'am, it's Voldemort's old beast. They must have woken it up." He tied the bag tightly. "What are we going to do about those kids?"
"They have a week," Arabelle said loudly. "If paperwork isn't filed, I'm going to file charges against them." She stomped off, going to do paperwork. Her men gathered up everything and followed her.
Adrian ran into his stepfather's bedroom and tugged on his arm. Severus opened his eyes and he nodded at the hall. He got a pointed finger at the office and headed that way, waiting on the desk in his mouse form on top of his forms.
Severus walked in and stopped when he saw the mouse. He closed the door and glared at him. "What is this?"
Adrian changed. "Congratulate me. We even got caught!" he said with mock-happiness. "Will you help me tell mum or fill out the forms please?"
Severus sat in his desk chair, looking at the boy. "How new is this?"
"About fifteen minutes ago. Arabelle caught us. There must have been some sort of watcher on the grotto behind Malfoy Mansion that Andrea couldn't see."
Severus groaned. "Idiot," he told him.
"Thank you, stepfather, but I consider it pretty neat. I'm a white mouse." He grinned. "Melvin's a bunny. So is Andrea."
"Didn't get caught," Adrian said with a smile. His stepfather glared at him. "They're wolves."
"Appropriate I suppose," Severus said with a short eye roll. "Change back, let's get this done before they decide to arrest you on general principle." The boy changed back and he wrote down his description, noting how much was already filled out. "You knew you were going to be a mouse?"
"I thought I might. I've been having dreams about mice for the last month, since we started preparations for it. By the way, that improved formula tastes like shit. Kind of literally, sir."
Severus nodded. "It should." He picked up his camera and moved to stand, taking a picture of the little white lab mouse. "There." The boy changed back and he handed off the camera. "Help the others. You'll have to tell your mother yourself, at breakfast." Adrian blanched. "You were strong enough to do this, you're strong enough to face down your mother, Adrian. I, of course, will be sleeping in tomorrow." He smirked as he walked away. "Have fun with the rest of the paperwork." He closed his office door.
Adrian used that floo, sending himself to where Melvin and Andrea were working on their forms. "I've got a camera. Who else got caught?"
"Just us," Melvin told him, looking at the form in front of him, then at his fiancé. "Okay, do me. I think I've got it all." She rolled over and he marked down the auburn splotch on her stomach. "Got that too." Andrea changed and he reformed himself, letting her look for incriminating markings on his body as well.
Andrea looked at Adrian. "What did Professor Snape say?"
"Nothing. I didn't mention Emily of course, but he said I'd have to tell my mother myself. I'm guessing I'll have to admit it on my application for my internship as well," he said thoughtfully. He took a picture of Melvin for the form. "Once you're done, let me do you as well." She changed for a moment and he took a picture of her. "That should do it. Do you think that the two foxes were Xander and Simone's father?"
"Probably," Melvin agreed as he changed back. "They're probably going to be in as much trouble as we are too." He smiled and kissed his girlfriend. "I still want to hop around with you."
"We can always practice once we get the forms filled out."
"You'll have to make sure that no one finds out," Adrian pointed out, looking around the empty kitchen. "Where did your grandparents go anyway?"
"To London for an overnight in a fancy hotel," Melvin said with a grin. "It's only us here. We're house sitting." They all giggled.
Percy looked up from his morning paper as his son walked out of the floo, and promptly rolled up the paper to hit him. "Stupid boy, what were you thinking! You didn't have any supervision! You could have been killed!"
"I'm fine, father," Melvin said patiently as he sat down. He handed over the three filled out forms. "We made sure that someone not doing the spell with us was there."
"I heard," he said dryly. "One of Arabelle's people told me. Called me up at four this morning. Were you thinking when you came up with this?"
"Yes," Melvin defended. "I thought it'd be very neat and fairly handy in case something happened. I also think I'm rather an adorable rabbit as well." He straightened up. "I'm happy with my choice last night, father, quit fussing. I wasn't hurt. There was supervision there, and we're fine," he defended, leaving out that they hadn't known about the supervision. It wouldn't hurt anything.
His father stared him down, but his son stared back. "Fine. You're a rabbit. Wonderful for you. Now what? Any other plans that I should be made aware of?"
"I'm going to elope with Andrea before the end of next school year. We'll still have the regular ceremony but I'm not waiting any longer."
Percy opened his mouth. "I say not!"
"Father, it's either this or I'm going to piss you off by giving you a grandchild sooner than you wanted," Melvin said patiently. "We can't wait any longer. She's agreed, and as I said, we're still having the regular ceremony for everyone else. We'll warn you so you can stand up for us if you want, but my darling had the most wonderful idea when she suggested it."
"It's her idea?" Percy asked, calming down.
He nodded. "Definitely. She's more tired of waiting than I am. She wanted our wedding night to be our first night and isn't going to change that. Even doing other things isn't good enough anymore. I want that part of her as well. I'm sorry if this disappoints you, but I want to bury myself in my wife's body and make her go off many times."
"No wonder you're both rabbits," Percy sighed. He shook his head. "You will be registered."
"Of course I will. That's mine, hers, and Adrian Maclay's forms right there." He watched as his father read them through. "Where do we send them to? All I know is that Iggy found them somehow."
"We'll take them to the appropriate department together, son. I am proud that you could manage this, but I'm still rather upset with you. You should have told me. This was dangerous and I wanted to know. I still do if you're planning on other stupid things."
"Only the eloping," Melvin offered. "As far as I know. I would have told you, but I didn't want you to stop me."
"Son, I would have let you do it here, that way we could monitor you. Why did you pick Malfoy Manner anyway?"
"Draco is off at a game and left the kids alone last night."
"What did Simone and Denver become?"
"Who said they were there?"
"Father, I'm not telling on anybody else. I'm not getting anyone into trouble. Yes, there were more people there, Arabelle knows that. I'm not telling on them though."
"Fine. They have exactly one week or they could go to prison for a year. Do they know this?" Melvin nodded. "You're still not willing to tell on them? As long as they're registered, they won't get into trouble."
"If they're registered, people could find out and trace them that way," Melvin pointed out.
Percy smiled at him. "I am sorry I corrupted you to think that way, son, but I'm proud that you thought about that. Even though it goes against everything I believe in." Melvin smiled at him. "Let me finish my roll and we'll head in together. Where is Adrian?"
"Telling his mum. She's probably screaming their house down around his ears at the moment."
"I see." Percy sipped his tea, thinking about it. "I believe you're probably right. Oh, well, he can stay with us for the summer if necessary. Or he could probably stay with Agatha or Simone." He finished his last bite and stood up, brushing his shirt off. "Come along. Grab my briefcase for me." He led his son through the Ministry to the office that dealt with such matters. "Here you are, son. Hand in the forms."
Melvin cleared his throat as he walked inside. "Ma'am, I'm here to turn in some forms," he said with a weak voice. The old hag glared at him. "We attached pictures like it said to." He handed them over, watching as she read through them. "Did you need anything more?"
"Change now, let me check your markings. We'll have to interview the others." Melvin hopped up onto the counter and changed, letting her poke and move him to look for everything. "Thank you, Mr. Weasley." She glared at him. "Does your family know, young man?"
"My father is outside. I told him this morning. We only did it last night."
"I heard," she said, still glaring. "The others that were with you?"
"I'm not telling. That's their job, not mine." He hurried away, letting his father take him back to the archives. They met Liz and Arabelle up there. "I handed it in," Melvin said when she looked at him.
"Good, now your grandfather would like to see you upstairs." She smiled. "You're in deep. Did you tell her about the others?"
"No, I refuse to get anyone in trouble. I handed in my papers, and those that were entrusted to me, but it's not my job to tell her about others who have done the same thing." He walked out, heading up to face off with his grandfather. He smiled at the secretary. "He told Minister McKinley that he wanted to see me," he said politely.
"Go right in, young man. I'm sure we'll need the silencing charm this time." She gave him a disappointed look.
"I turned in my paperwork," he defended. She laughed so he went in. "Good morning, Minster Weasley," he said as he shut the door. He felt the silencing charm take effect. "I know what this is about. I just filed my paperwork, and that for Andrea and Adrian Maclay. We're all legal now. The old woman down there even poked my privates to make sure they weren't funny colored."
Arthur looked at him. "Did you do it at our house?"
"No, sir. We took an hour off house sitting to head to Simone's. We used the grotto that her grandfather used to use for death eater meetings."
"I see." Arthur frowned at him. "Melvin, you should have told us you were thinking about this. We would have helped you make your decision."
"I'm old enough to make that decision for myself, grandfather. I am eighteen. I'm a man by legal standards. I'll even be reprimanded legally for not turning in other animagus. I've made my decisions and I stick by them."
Arthur smiled. "At least you thought about it." Melvin nodded fiercely. "Good boy. What are you if I may ask?"
"A brown rabbit. Andrea is a light grey one with auburn markings." He frowned. "You didn't know?"
"No, I was going to pay you for house sitting for us," Arthur said with a smile. "Though you confessing is very enlightening. Anything else you'd like to tell us?"
Melvin leaned closer. "We're thinking about doing double ceremonies so we can get on with our lives this last year of school. An elopement then the ceremony her mother's planning."
"That would be something else to think about. Does her mother know?"
"I think she's told her that she was considering it. From what she's told me her mother hasn't screamed and yelled yet."
"Very well. If you do elope, I want to know, young man. I want to be there for both ceremonies."
"Yes, grandfather." He accepted the few galleons of payment. "Thank you, sir. Did you want us back tonight?"
"Do you think your father's going to let you out of his sight for a while, Melvin?"
"Well, technically, I don't think he cares at the moment. I left him and Arabelle sucking face in his office with Liz watching on." He grinned. "You aren't mad?"
"No, but I wish to know about these important things. There were consequences that you couldn't have known about. There are a few wizards and witches every year that the Ministry has to help change back because they only got half-way, and usually one each year that ends up dying because they're in so much pain or the transformation went horribly wrong. We've even had one or two that we had to help die over the last few years because it was more merciful and we couldn't change them back. They used non-standard potions." Melvin blanched. "Tell me you didn't."
"Iggy made it for us," he admitted. "Grandfather, if I tell you, will you not tell anyone else?" He shook his head. "Grandmother?"
"She's not obligated to. She might do it anyway to make sure everyone's fine."
Melvin shook his head. "Then I won't go to her. I know everyone's fine. I've seen them since then, but..." He shook his head again. "I'm going to visit Simone, rant at her for a bit. Tell father I'll see him for lunch." He hurried out and Arthur chuckled.
"I knew she was in there somewhere. Those four are just too close to not have been together. Arabelle probably realizes that as well."
Melvin rushed into Iggy's room, shaking him. "Wake up." Iggy opened and eye and flipped him off. "Did you know that the Ministry had to put down a few people in the last few years because the potions weren't correct?"
Iggy yawned and sat up. "Melvin, I checked and double checked it. Ours was perfect and everything was correct. It wasn't us. It would have been people who were arrogant and not careful, like Denver can be, or people who found a fake potion and went with it. I heard about those others in my studies. I did do the research you know." He yawned again. "Did you get busted?"
"And talked to, and turned in our forms." Iggy looked at him. "Adrian, Andrea's and mine."
"Oh. Wonderful for you three then. I think I'm going to try and remain outside of that league."
"If you do, father said you could face a year in jail, Iggy."
"If I don't, then people can hunt my butt down and kill me as well," Iggy pointed out.
"Hunters can do that anyway," Draco said as he walked in with a breakfast tray. "There's enough on here for you as well, Melvin. How was your night?" he asked with a smile.
"Mine was rather boring. The game ended early so I went to have some fun." Iggy looked skeptical. "You don't believe me?"
"I do, just wondering what sort of fun you had," Iggy told him. He accepted the glass of juice, nudging his wife. "Food."
"Later," Raena mumbled. "Need to sleep. We ran for too long."
"How did you find out?" Iggy asked Draco.
"I have my spies, young man. Now eat. Raena, sit up and eat as well. You'll need your strength when they come to question you. Because they will come. You'll have to decide to admit to it or not."
Iggy leaned closer. "Uncle Draco, I already sent in my forms. To the Species department."
"But they don't handle it," Melvin said, frowning. "Why send it there?"
"Because it will stay hidden," Draco said with a smirk. "Very clever, young man. Using their own chaos against them. How long do you think it will be before your forms surface?"
"Probably over a year considering I addressed it to someone in a different department who retired last year."
Draco burst out laughing. "That was very well played, young man. I'm proud of you. Eat up. I want to get a copy of your potion later to put into my library."
"Yes, sir. If you want, I'll let you copy my potion's notebook."
"Iggy, there's over nine thousand potions in there," Melvin reminded him, stealing a pastry. "Thank you, Uncle Draco."
"You're welcome. I figured you hadn't eaten yet." He left the food with them and went to check on his two eldest. "Simone!" he said, knocking on her door. He heard a squeak and grinned, walking in. "Good morning, my princess." He kissed her on the top of the head, noticing how she had the blankets pulled up to her chest. "Did you have a good night?"
"Please don't beat me or force me to marry some ungodly creature from hell pretending to be a wizard," she begged.
He laughed. "I wouldn't do that to you, Simone. I'm impressed that you made it work."
"So you were watching?"
"No. Someone informed me of it," he lied. "I'll have breakfast sent up. Are you filing yourself?"
"I know it's the law, but I don't want to," she pouted. "Even Iggy's plan means that someone will find out some day."
"It's protection in case you get caught by the muggles and sold in a pet store, or in the worst case, used for food."
She shuddered and leaned against his side. "What should I do, daddy?"
"I think you have a week to decide that and to give me an answer. You made this decision and I can only advise you on how to follow it through."
"If you were me?"
"You can't keep a secret for very long," Draco reminded her. "Neither can your brother."
"He was going to pull Iggy's trick."
"I see." He smiled at her and patted her on the head. "I'll have breakfast sent up so you can eat. I'm sure someone will come knocking today to check you over and make sure it wasn't you." He stood up and left her alone with her thoughts. He wouldn't care if she wanted to break that foolish law, but she really couldn't keep a secret long enough. She'd probably get caught in the school. If only she knew how often she had been seen in her midnight wanderings with her cousins and their lovers. Maybe he should tell her. He smiled and went back to do so.
Percy walked up to Xander and grabbed him by the ear, pulling him away from the woman he was talking to, back to his office. "How dare you break the very things that I have to protect! I thought you cared more about me than that, Xander."
"I'm talking about you and your other form," he said hotly. "You've not only embarrassed me but you've put me to shame. I thought I had indoctrinated you better than that."
"Percy, I'm not an animagus," Xander told him. "I can use self-transformation spells, but I didn't think I had to register those."
"Xander," Percy warned. "I can tell a lie."
"I can. Want to see?"
"I've already heard."
"Yeah, but I can do more than one," Xander told him. "Proving I'm not an animagus. Besides, gryphon-borns of my level of relativity can't do things like that. Everyone knows that."
"Would you like to explain how your son got caught last night then?" Percy asked calmly.
"Probably doing the same thing I do," Xander pointed out.
"You still have to register it. I won't stand for you being tossed in a jail cell for not telling people and filling out a few forms. I won't have it, Xander, do you hear me."
"Percy, you're my best friend, not my parent and not my husband," Xander said calmly. "I didn't think I had to or I would have registered it earlier. If you want, you can walk me down there and I'll gladly quit making you look bad."
Percy sniffed. "I didn't mean it that way, but I will escort you." He walked Xander down to that office. "They're cracking down and if anyone found out that you could do this and hadn't told us, then it could endanger all of the family in the Ministry."
"Chill, Perce. I'm going to do this, even though I think it's wrong. It's not like I'm going to break into things and stuff. Most of us don't get into trouble, or get caught." He opened the door and walked in, weathering the stare by giving her a glare of his own. "My beloved brother-in-law told me I have to tell you that I can use self-transformation spells when I fight."
"I see. How many forms do you have mastered?"
"Three, but I have problems changing back from two of them sometimes." He changed to his fox form, then to his cat form, and then to a ferret. Then he went back to the fox form and back to human. "The last two I have problems when I get uptight or stressed."
"That's fine. We'll have to take pictures and find markings on you."
"Cool, but if you touch my balls, I'm biting your hand off."
She laughed. "That would be fine as well, sir. Let's get to this. We have a special room in the back." She pointed the way, following him back there. "Are you a gryphon-born?" He nodded. "I thought so. Your kind can't do animagus, can you?"
"Not that anyone's said. As far as I know, none of us can."
"That's what I was told as well. Why did you decide to do this to yourself?"
"Because I fight things and sometimes being small and furry is the best thing to be. Being able to change, scamper away, and take another approach after changing back has helped me kill many demons." He sat in the chair and changed to his fox form, letting her mark down his very common markings.
"Do your clothes reflect?" she asked between changes.
"I've seen one outfit that did. I got some highlights about my neck in one green outfit."
She wrote that down as well. "Thank you, now change to your next one."
Draco looked over as Xander came out of the floo. "I heard Percy guilt tripped you into registering." He handed over a beer with a salute of his own. "Here's to being a born."
Xander grinned. "And part veela. It's wonderful how the two interact. They don't think we can be animagus either." He beamed at his partner and drank up. "Kids?"
"Pool. Simone's decided to register because she's not sure she'll be able to keep the secret her whole life. She's doing what your son is, sending it to the wrong department in a former worker's name."
"A brilliant strategy. Did Severus come here to hide yet?"
"He's in my library." He smiled merrily. "He was quite happy with the boy for being so strong."
"Well, his biological father was nothing if not strong-willed," Xander said firmly. "Rupert could call major demons at Adrian's age and control them. I'm not surprised he could do this." He accepted a bit more beer and sipped it. "Should we tell Severus anything?"
"No. If he wants to know, he'll ask us about self-transforming spells and the like." He winked. "How did Percy take the news?"
"He said I was an embarrassment to him and the family. I'm going to have to get him back for that." He heard the fireplace whoosh. "Someone's just come through."
"Xander?" Molly called.
"Back here, mum."
She walked into the kitchen. "You naughty boy, lying like that," she said, pinching his cheek. "Arthur sends his love and a back pat as well for covering up your duplicity for so long." Xander smiled at her. "We know you can do both, dear. Arthur can tell those sort of things. Fortunately, no one's taught Percy or Arabelle." She kissed them both on the cheek. "Next time, don't raid for cookies in fox forms. You nearly scared poor Arthur to death."
"We haven't done that in months," Xander told her. She frowned. "Maybe you have another fox near the house. You might want to check and make sure it's not one of us."
"Hmm. Possibly." She shrugged and continued to smile. "I'm sure it will be fine. Draco, are you going to admit to that much?"
"Since the Ministry is cracking down, he probably should," Severus said from the doorway. "You're not mad at them?"
She laughed. "Why would I be mad? This is the sort of trouble gryphon-borns get into, Severus." She beamed at him. "How is your son? Percy came over at lunch and was complaining about him."
"Proud of himself. His mother passed out and he ran off before she came to. I believe he's visiting Ryan at the moment." He smiled at Draco. "I would also like a copy of that formula."
"Ask the son," Xander told him. "He had to have made it."
"How did you do it?" Severus asked him.
Xander gave him a naughty grin. "I'm not telling. After all, I only use a simple self- transformation spell that Minerva taught me," he said innocently. Then he cackled. "Let anyone say differently. After all, no gryphon-born can really do animagus well." He finished his beer. "I'm off for a swim as well. Have fun." He headed out to change and hop in for some laps.
Draco shook his head. "He still has all that energy to wear off. I wish I had some of it." He finished his own beer and put both glasses into the sink. "Would you like a snack?"
"No, I'd better get back. Melvin and Andrea were kissing on the couch when I left." Molly hurried off and Severus shook his head, going back to the library.
Iggy looked up as his lab door opened, waving in his favorite uncle. "Hi, Uncle Bill," he said, turning back to his potion. "Draw up a stool and don't yell."
"I wouldn't yell. I'm not the one you're harming by ignoring your duty," Bill pointed out.
Iggy gasped. "Guilt, from you? How could you do this to me?" he mock-wailed.
"Keep it down or I'm castrating you," Raena yelled.
"Sorry, she's having a migraine," Iggy said with a grin and a shrug. "What did Uncle Percy tell you?"
"That you're being a right shit and not following the rules."
Iggy shook his head. "I'm doing what I'm supposed to."
"You filed yourself and he didn't hear?"
Iggy looked at him. "I sent in forms," he said innocently.
Bill looked at him. "To where, kid?"
Iggy grinned. "That would spoil my fun," he admitted. "Or even Uncle Percy's fun. Has my father gotten him back yet?"
"Not yet. He's still standing and whining about you kids." He ruffled the boy's hair, flinching when he moved back. "Sorry."
"Hairs in this potion may create a child instead of an infertility potion." Iggy giggled. "I can see giving Ana that and watching her get pregnant without any help."
"Her father would kill you," Bill said with a grin. "Got anything I can do to help?"
"Unless you want to paint," Iggy offered. "Melvin needs help with his gardening stuff. Simone needs help with some of the new crop of chicks, we're hiding from that chore actually, and daddy is probably off being naughty again. I think he drug Severus with him this time instead of Uncle Draco."
"He's got a match today. A home game. Want to go?"
"I wouldn't mind," Iggy admitted, finishing off his potion. "There, all it needs is bottled. Raena?"
"I'm going to throttle you," she warned.
She walked in and poured herself a mug of it, taking it back to her room. "I'll bottle it as soon as I feel better. Go play somewhere else."
Iggy looked at Bill. "Do you already have tickets?"
"I do, but I got stood up by your father. He called and had the most wicked look on his face. Said something about Washleters."
"Washlatters are water demons. They're like succubi of the water only they're trying to attract you because they want you to love them, not to hurt you. I'm sure daddy's off picking on them and making them frustrated." He stopped to think about it. "Bringing Severus with him would make him happy and wicked both," he decided. "Let me change and we'll watch the game. Which Uncle is flying today?"
"Harry's scheduled. The team's a little tough though so he might get taken out early. Their coach thinks he's fragile."
"He is," Iggy agreed, heading for his room to change. "I'm going to a game."
"Yay," Raena called from the bathroom. "Go away so I can rest."
"Yes, dear," he called back, pulling on some clothes that weren't stained with potions. He felt funny so he slipped his shrunken component's bag into his pocket and rejoined his uncle. "Okay, I'm ready." He grabbed his money bag, his keys, and followed him through the floo. He settled himself into the excellent seats and waved at his Uncles, who were already warming up. "They look good up there."
"Harry always did," Bill agreed. "I never watched Draco play outside of the fun league practices in the back yard." He clapped and cheered as the team was announced.
Iggy watched as the game started. Harry was flying funny. It was almost like he was uncomfortable on his broom. When he fell, he waved and stood up, wandering off the field as soon as Draco came out. "No one checked on him," he said thoughtfully.
Bill looked at him. "Huh?"
"When Harry fell, no one checked on him and he didn't head back to the pitch."
Bill put a hand on his arm. "You won't be allowed near them, family, healer, or not. You'll see him soon enough."
Ron flopped down on Bill's other side. "Sorry I'm late. Where's Harry?"
"He just fell and wandered out to the parking lot," Iggy told him.
"Huh. That's the second time," Ron said thoughtfully. Then he shrugged. "We'll talk with him after the game. We won't be allowed until then." He smiled at his nephew. "Don't even think about it. They won't let you near him either." The ref blew a whistle and a time out was announced.
Iggy watched as the doctors fro each team checked their players over. His uncle had a cut on his arm bandaged. "When did he get that?" he asked, pointing.
Ron shrugged. "I saw him this morning and he was fine. Look, there's Oliver." He waved when the keeper and teacher looked their way. Oliver leaned over and said something to Draco, who looked right at them. Ron grinned.
"Fuck me," Iggy sighed. "Something's wrong." Both uncles looked at him. "I just heard someone say something about a drugging not working. How much longer is all this World Cup stuff going to go on?"
"Finals are in two weeks," Ron reminded him. "We've got tickets."
"The team will be sequestered after this game if they win," Bill added. "We're hosting again this year no matter what."
Iggy slumped and watched as the other team flew. Something was very wrong out there. Draco was slow. He was almost lazily flying around. Harry had wandered off and not reappeared. One of the coaches was missing as well. He perked up when he saw the snitch, pointing it out for his uncles. "There she is."
Ron hissed and put down his arm. "Don't, you'll influence the game."
"Other people are."
"They're not family," Bill reminded him. "Behave or I'll send you home."
"Send me down to the team's pitch, they need help," Iggy snorted, relaxing again. He mentally called his wife, asking her for her opinion. She grumbled but told him the antidote for most druggings. There was a blood cleansing potion that was harsh, but effective in most emergency cases. He winced as Draco nearly got knocked off, but his Uncle had shoved back at least. Yes, something was definitely wrong. Even the announcer was saying that something was wrong, that their team was too slow. He heard footsteps and looked over his shoulder, smiling at the Defense Coach for his uncles' team. "Hey, Miller." He shifted so the man could sit on the bench beside him. "What's wrong with them?"
"I was hoping you'd know," he said in a quiet tone of voice. Both uncles looked at him. The coach shook his head so they went back to the game. "You're looking concerned."
"I heard someone say they had drugged someone. From the way Uncle Draco's flying and the way Uncle Harry flittered off, I'd say it was them. Uncle Oliver looks fine. So do both beaters. Two of the chasers look like they're hallucinating with the way they're throwing," he said quietly. The quaffle was stolen and the boxes around them hissed and booed. "My wife said there was a blood cleansing potion, used for emergencies. It's harsh, but it kills all blood contaminants," he said quietly. The coach nodded slowly. "If they took anything, I'd doubt it was voluntary. Besides, Uncle Draco didn't have that cut this morning when I saw him at breakfast. I would have seen it since he was pulling on his shirt as he walked in."
Ron looked over at him. "You're serious."
"I am, look at how they're playing. That isn't exhaustion and that isn't dizziness. It's something worse than both of those. It can't be natural."
The coach nodded. "I saw the same thing, but the League people are here and they said everything was fine."
"In other words someone probably has a bet in," Ron snorted. The coach nodded. "You've got to be kidding me."
"I'm not. Your family faced him last summer as a matter of fact."
"Well, fuck me," Iggy sighed, pointing at Harry. "Illegal man on the field."
"Shit. Come down later and talk to the family, guys," he encouraged, running off to pounce Potter before he got them fined. He was too late, but the referee suggested that Harry get examined by the doctor, so the fine was waived.
As soon as the game was won, by their side, Iggy headed down. The guards tried to stop him but he smiled. "Coach Miller encouraged me to come talk to my uncles. Please?"
"He's on the list," Oliver yelled.
"Fine." He let them through, then blocked the next people. "Family only," he sneered.
Iggy walked back and checked Oliver's shoulder first. He had gotten knocked into a goal post and had held it for a few minutes. "It looks like it's just tender," he soothed. "Some ice, a long bath, you'll be fine." He grinned and moved over to help the team's doctor. "Yes, it's me again," he said at the dirty look. He looked down at his uncle. "Uncle Draco, how did you get that cut? I didn't see it at breakfast."
"Slight knife fight in the lot," Draco moaned. "Go away, Ignatius. I feel miserable."
Iggy leaned down to check his eyes and shook his head. "What do you expect when you're given morphine? You're on your way down, Uncle. You probably shouldn't tell Simone."
Draco laughed. "No, I'm not telling her anything." He let his head fall back. "May I please have a dark mask? My head's hurting."
"Of course," the doctor said. "How did you know?" he hissed.
"Easy. Do you know how many years I've had to work with painkillers? Between a replaced knee, the usual fighting, and the burns my father's had since I started school, I'm excellent at pain killers." He looked up then grinned. "My wife wants to know if we need to make you some detoxification potions."
"I'll get back to you. Go check your other uncle."
Iggy walked over and lifted Harry up until he was sitting, then handed him the bucket. "Don't puke while lying down, you'll drown on it and die. Then I'd have to raise Mellie and Ronnie." Harry gave him a look before continuing to throw up. Iggy pulled his wand and looked the older man over, ignoring his shove away. "He's not right. It's not the flu. It's not a disease curse that I know of. It feels like one, but I don't know which one." The doctor came over and did the same tests, then hummed. "Good, bad, or I'm going to be brewing something?" he asked dryly.
"Iggy, calm down," Ron warned. "You're getting hyper again."
Iggy looked at him. "My wife has a migraine, I haven't been shagged senseless yet today."
The beaters laughed. "I'm sure she's good, kid. Which nephew are you?"
"Iggy. I'm Xander's son." They looked clueless. "I'm the potion's prodigy with healing skills." They still looked clueless.
"He's Simone's male partner in crime that isn't her brother," Draco said from under his dark mask. "Iggy, describe the curse."
"Old. It feels like an older spell, like it's been used many times and it's comfortable to the user. Nice catch by the way."
"Thank you. I'm sure I made my daughter proud."
One of the chasers snorted. "I can't believe she didn't bounce around and offer to take your place with as slow as you were, Malfoy."
"You're the one who was leering at your ex and dropped the ball six times," Draco shot back.
"Enough!" Iggy snapped. "No more fighting. Fighting won't win the cup." They all looked at him. "What? I head my own team, help my father head his, and run roughshod over Draco's kids on the field. Fighting doesn't win games."
"Oh, you're that other chaser," the beater said, finally recognizing him.
Iggy nodded. "Yup, that's me." He grinned. "I also make a kick ass potion for backs. Want one? It's not even bad tasting."
"Sure, he could use one," the team doctor said. He looked up. "You flavor yours?"
"I have to flavor mine. I wouldn't take the regular one and I do seem to work with a lot of kids," Iggy pointed out as he pulled out his component case.
"Damn, kid, you're like a dealer or something."
"No, if I were a dealer, I'd give you this one," Iggy said, holding up a small bottle. He put it back and pulled out another one. "Grape, for really bad pain, or cherry for more minor pain?"
"Cherry," the beater said, taking it to swallow quickly. Then he shook his head. "That's nasty."
"I know, but for little kids it works really well," Iggy said with a smile for him. "Give it ten minutes to circulate." He bent down over Harry again, moving Ron out of the way. "I still say this is an old curse."
"Would Severus know?"
"I have no idea," Iggy admitted. "He's off fighting water lovers with my father."
Ron laughed. "I refused to go. They seem to like me too much." A little girl screamed and he looked back. "She's mine," he called. Mary was let in. "Why are you here?"
"Mummy said to come bother you," Mary said happily, giving him a hug. "She said I was too naughty for words so I tracked you here. Grandma help me."
"I'm sure she did," Harry said, smiling at her.
"Ucky man," she snorted. "You're not good right now. You need spanked." The guys around them laughed and she waved. "Hi. He's my new daddy."
"I sure am," Ron agreed, picking her up. "Now let's behave and I'll help you blow up the shop later, all right?" She nodded happily, reaching over to play with some of Iggy's hair.
"I'll let you braid it in a bit, Mary," Iggy said absently. "Go give Uncle Oliver a shoulder rub." She squealed and got down, going over to help him. He flew, so he was great in her book.
"Gently now," Oliver cautioned, looking at Ron. He smiled when he felt the careful touches. "Yeah, like that, princess."
"Yes, Uncle Oliver. I like you. You're neato."
He smiled. "I think the same thing about you. Did you terrorize the twins this morning?"
"Uncle George had to close the shop. I blewed up the cold jellies," she said proudly. The whole family looked at her, even Harry. "It was accident," she assured them.
"They're stable and non-flammable," Iggy told her. "What happened?"
"They splooshed all over the room," she said proudly.
Draco lifted his mask to look at her. "You are definitely in the right family now. You're one of the Weasleys of Destruction. Congrats, Ron."
"Keep it up, we're wishing beaters on Ravena," Ron told him. Bill snickered.
"Don't do that to my daughter, she wouldn't know what to do to train them," Draco told them.
"Easy, she'd send them to the father and Uncle, or to her sister," Iggy said, still looking Harry over. "Uncle Harry, what sleeping potion are you using now?"
"A prescribed one," Harry said, pointing at his bag.
Iggy walked over and rifled through it, coming up with the medicine. He snorted. "Why are you letting him drug you into stupidity? This stuff can cause brain damage if you use it too long." He walked back and handed it to the team's doctor, who frowned at it as well. "Okay, first, you should have come to me." Harry opened his mouth. "I have a sleeping potion that I use on dad that's not only strong enough to counteract any nightmares, but it doesn't leave you wasted in the morning, which yours does. Secondly, this is my business before you say anything. You're family." He stood Harry up. "Where are you guys heading to? I want him in a bed. Uncle Ron, can you and Uncle Bill get Draco to a bed as well? He's coming down and morphine doesn't react well with wizards." They nodded. The coach coughed. "He's going to be getting this nasty headache and start throwing up soon."
"Which?" Coach Miller asked.
"Both of them. Hotel?"
"Up the street, wizarding place, has a blue feel to the marker."
Iggy searched and nodded. "We're checking him in so I can yell at him in private." He took Harry with him and checked him in, noticing how green he looked from the teleport. Once they were up in the room, Iggy locked them in. "Okay, now you can yell."
"Iggy, you're not a doctor."
"Yet. And while that's true, I am better than the average physician who doesn't know his drugs. Besides, that's on the banned list for the league." Harry shuddered. "Now, if you're ready to talk to me, I can help you. My way is non-addictive, fairly pleasant, and isn't a dream suppressant so you can use it for months on end when you have to. It's also safe enough to be used on little kids since I had to dose your daughter with it last year." He shifted over, sitting beside his uncle. "You should have come to us, Uncle Harry. Remember when we had to go to the Hellmouth and we talked about paths and steps?" Harry nodded, looking at his lap. "We'll, instead of going forward, you went sideways this time."
"I think I went backwards, I'm back to the old nightmares," he admitted.
"Well, since I can't give you my potion until that one's been out of your system for two days, I think I can help you even more." Harry looked up at him. "What? You expected Dad to come running?" Harry nodded. Iggy shook his head. "He only comes running in emergencies. He expects you guys to come to him the rest of the time. I'm sure you'll be seeing him later tonight if I don't send him to fuss over Draco." He shifted, forcing Harry to lie down. "I can do neat things," he said quietly, giving him a hug. "I can dreamwalk." Harry started. "That's right, I can bring you into my head, or help you fight your own nightmares in your head. I can even act as a guide for you if you want. We *can* defeat those visions of nastiness. If you'll let me help. If my way doesn't help, then I'll have a discrete word with Sev and have him make you one of the more potent sleeping potions that I can't make until I'm eighteen. All right?" Harry nodded, yawning. "Yeah, you nap and I'll be right beside you." Harry's eyes fluttered closed and Iggy changed, startling him. He licked him to calm him down.
"So you're the one Percy was ranting about," Harry said with a faint smile. Iggy nodded. "Okay, you're comfortable and I'm used to napping with the animals. We can do this?" Iggy nodded again and licked his cheek. "Thanks. Let's see what your way can do. Mine is about out of options and I'm ready to go through an exorcism at the moment."
Iggy changed back. "They're mental boggarts, Uncle Harry. Remember, in the dream plane only you make the rules."
Harry shook his head. "It can't be that easy. I'm getting attacked by Voldemort."
"He's a doorway, a guardian if you like," Iggy soothed, gentling his uncle into sleep. "I'm coming, wait for me," he whispered. Harry nodded, shifting onto his side. "There you are, you rest," Iggy murmured, even more quietly, working on getting himself down as well. He changed back, a furry would be more helpful to Harry than a body would. He wasn't used to sleeping next to anyone anymore. As soon as he was in the correct meditative state, he joined Harry in his head. His uncle looked the same, which boded well for his self-confidence. If only he could get over the trauma of that fight! He winced as Voldemort came running out of the shadows at them. "He's a mental boggart," he said. "Use your wand."
"I don't have a wand."
Iggy pointed at the one in the fog around his uncle's feet. "There it is. I promise you, if you're not afraid of him, he's a mental boggart. Use it."
Harry picked up the wand and looked at it, noticing it was his wand. He pointed it at the figure and winced as he cast the spell. "Riddikulus!" he shouted. Voldemort ended up in a flowery dress and a floppy hat, much like what his friend had done when they had been introduced, back in their school days. "Ha!" The figure faded.
"Change it again, Uncle Harry. Put him in Ravena's bikini."
Harry cast it again, this time the laughter was more natural, and therefore stronger. The figure faded more. One more change, this time to a bunny suit, was enough to do it in. He slumped against his guide. "Now the images come."
"But they're not from your mind," Iggy reminded him. "Remember that. They're ghosts of badly lived lives of other people. They flowed into you and a few got stuck, but it's not the end of the world. They're not yours." He held his uncle while the ghosts flowed past them, shuddering at some of the images. "Let them pass, don't touch them," he warned when Harry reached out to one.
"That one's mine," Harry pointed out. "I caught her at it once."
"Then that one will be a bit more solid. I promise, you won't lose any that are naturally yours." He gave him a squeeze at the disbelieving look. "Trust me, I learned to do this on the people that were tortured by the Ministry. They're not yours, Harry." He noticed an image of Ron. "What is that one?" he asked, drawing attention to it.
Harry smiled. "That's our sixth year. Ron and I snuck out to get drunk in the broomshed. We wanted to try it once and we got caught while we were snoockered. Molly yelled at him for nearly an hour," he finished with a fond smile. He whimpered as he saw another one.
"It's not your memories, Uncle Harry. This is how the assholes saw it, not how it actually happened." He turned Harry to face him. "People remember things differently than how they happened. It's part of being a human, you can't remember everything the exact way it happened." He turned him back to look at the picture of Ron. "Was he really that buff in your sixth year?"
Harry shook his head. "We were both scrawny little beanpoles." The image of Ron changed, becoming more like what he had looked like. He looked at his nephew. "I really can control this?"
"You really can control this. This is your head, only you can make the rules in here. I can only point out the problems. Look, it's coming again." He pointed at the returning nightmare. "Get him again, Harry."
Harry raised his wand, smirking as the boggart came closer. "You're not real. I defeated you. I helped kill you." The ghost tore itself apart, becoming wisps of smoke. "Iggy?" He turned but his guide was gone."Iggy?" He heard a choking noise and forced himself to wake up. "Get off him!" he shouted.
Bill was holding Iggy tightly against his chest. "It wasn't me, I was trying to help him. We caught someone coming out of your room." He held the wolf until it calmed down. "Change, before someone gets here," he whispered in Iggy's large ear.
Iggy shifted back, still coughing. "Ow," he croaked. "Bad people?"
"Very bad people," Bill agreed, helping Iggy into the bathroom. "Calm yourself." He gave him a pat on the back as he started to throw up. "It's all right, it's a normal reaction to waking up being choked." He went back but Ron was sitting beside Harry and Draco was in the chair. "Is he all right?"
Ron looked at Harry and grinned. "He's getting back to the cocky kid he used to be." Harry nudged him. "What? You are. Did it help?"
"It helped a lot. Iggy showed me how to beat the creatures in my head." He grinned at Draco. "Did he do that for you?"
"No, I haven't needed it," Draco admitted. "My problem isn't nightmares, it's people. I don't want to see how they watch me. I'm tired of being watched." He looked back as Iggy started to get sick again. "Are you all right?"
Draco stood up and walked back to check on him. He held the heaving shoulders. "It's all right. You did the right thing," he whispered.
"Some of the images were so bad. He caught some of the flashback from the torn-apart souls," Iggy whispered. He rinsed his mouth and flushed the toilet, then let himself be soothed by his favorite uncle. "I can still feel him."
"Build your shields, like you were taught," Draco soothed, rubbing his back. "Lean against mine until you get yours back up."
"You're where Simone gets hers from," Iggy told him, resting his head on his shoulder. "Who was it?"
"One of our opposing team today. Their backup chaser. He was ...disappointed with what happened today."
"In other words, someone told him that we'd lose and that the game was rigged," Iggy said. Draco nodded. "How much did he lose?"
"Ten thousand galleons."
"Ouch." Iggy pulled himself back together and finished pushing Harry out of his head. He took a deep breath as he stood up on his own. "Okay. I'm good."
"Good. I can hear Law Enforcement out there."
"Wonderful," Iggy said dryly, but he started to cough again. "Ow."
"I know. It'll hurt for a few days probably. Your fathers will hurt me because you got hurt."
"Simone's going to kill whomever did it for touching her best buddy," Ron said from the other side of the door. "You ready to come out? Arabelle's here as a favor to someone."
"Coming." Iggy walked out and accepted his hug. "Uncle Harry?" Harry looked at him. "I'm going to have to suspend your sleeping potion anyway. Can you do without it?"
"Sure. Come sit. Your throat's bruised."
"The dolt had big hands." Iggy slid onto the bed and waved at the curious looks. "Reporter, out!" he ordered, pointing at her. She ran out. "Thank you." The door was slammed. "Much better." He looked at Arabelle. "I was dealing with mental boggarts."
Arabelle smiled at him. "Good for you." She pinched Harry's cheek. "You better?"
"Getting there," he admitted.
"He'll be the cocky boy he used to be in no time," Ron agreed. He looked at his nephew. "Can you fix the fuckups that Hermione caused?"
"Ron!" Bill said, swatting him. "Don't swear."
"You sound like your mother," Draco noted. Bill glared at him. "I've heard the boy say it a few times and he might as well be an adult most of the time." He looked at Iggy again. "Can you make the detoxification potion?"
"Sure." Iggy looked up and a bottle fell onto the floor beside him. "Nice toss, wife," he called. She appeared and handed him one this time, then glared at the people before disappearing. "Enough for both of you," Iggy said, tossing Draco that one. He handed Harry the other. "How are the chasers?"
"Fine enough. They were dosed as well. Someone put drugs into the eggs this morning," Arabelle told her. "The head over Sports and the head of the league are in conference right now. They're finally ready to say things are out of hand."
"As opposed to when people got beaten up and kidnaped?" Harry asked. She nodded. "Well, isn't that nice."
Iggy nudged him. "If you do this, you'll end up getting sick for the rest of the night. But you'll be fine by in the morning. Hungry, clean, and able to sleep for a good few days."
"I can use that," Draco told them, slugging back the potion.
"Not all of it," Iggy told him. "That was a double dose. If you take all of it, you'll end up so clean you'll squeak." Draco looked at him then finished it. "It's your ass that's going to hurt when you're in the bathroom for the sixth time in an hour."
"I want this out of my system. I can put up with some discomfort." He ran to the bathroom.
Harry looked at the potion, then at his nephew. "Half of it?"
"Or a third if you want. A third won't work out that sleeping potion though."
"Plus, we'll have to do drug tests tomorrow morning," one of the coaches said from the doorway. "The report of everyone being on drugs was put around already."
"I kicked out a reporter," Iggy offered.
"I'm sure they'll hear about it too." He walked in and tipped Iggy's head up. "Damn! What happened to you?"
"Someone tried to choke me. I was fixing Uncle Harry's nightmares."
"Are they done with?" the coach asked, sounding hopeful.
"Time will tell, but he's got a coping strategy," Iggy told him. "Give him until the big game to find out."
"We may have to replay today's game," the coach told them. From the bathroom Draco groaned. "What's wrong with him?"
"Double dose of the detoxification potion," Harry said with a grin.
"Couldn't happen to a nicer guy," the coach agreed.
"Hey! I like my Uncle Draco. He spoils well." Iggy slid off the bed. "We should probably get him back to his own room."
"We're shifting rooms. Oliver had been in here with him but I think we'll put these two together. They can get sick in peace," the coach said. "Where is Wood?"
"With Fred and the girls," Arabelle told him.
"Oh." He smirked. "I wondered when they were going to work it out."
"I'm sure those two can make them both see whatever viewpoint they're putting forward," Iggy agreed. The males in the room looked at him. "What? I married when I was almost fifteen. My wife screwed with my head for *years* now," he said with a smirk.
"Don't you mean in your head?" Ron suggested.
"True, we managed to find ways around that no-groping thing very well," Iggy agreed. Arabelle coughed. "Don't do that? I can show you how."
"I know how, Percy can't," she admitted.
"I can show him how as well. A wizard like him should be able to do that." She shook her head. "Okay. Whenever you want." He settled himself against his uncle's body, yawning. "Now I need a nap."
"Sleep, kid, I'll let you rest here," Harry assured him. He put an arm around the boy, letting Iggy rest against his shoulder. "If we're going to be secluded, I'm going to have to do something about my kids," he said quietly.
"If you want, you could seclude everyone at your house," the coach offered. Harry gave him a dirty look. "Or half of it. You, Wood, and someone?"
Draco came out of the bathroom. "I could conceivably take the rest at my house," he agreed, falling onto the spare bed. "Remind me to listen next time."
"I will," Ron assured him with a grin. "Want me to go pack your stuff?"
"Please. I unpacked a few outfits."
"Cool. I'll get to tease you about your little blue things again," Ron said with a grin, heading to do that. Oliver let him into Draco's former room, and he waved at the keeper. "Why aren't you with Fred and the girls?"
"They're having a long discussion in the bar and I wanted to change. I spilled stuff down my front."
"Katie can make me do the same thing," Ron said with a grin. "You're already moved?"
"Yeah, I only had a bag of stuff. I didn't even unpack yet. Want help getting all of Malfoy's stuff?"
"Wouldn't mind. He unpacked."
Oliver rolled his eyes. "He should have known better." He grabbed the bag from the closet and helped stuff things into it. "Any idea who I get for a roomie now?"
"Not a clue. They were arranging for seclusion space."
"But we're here," Oliver pointed out.
"Yeah, but Harry was attacked," Ron reminded him. "They're talking personal homes."
"I could take someone," Oliver offered. "Not that I get along well with anybody, but I can do that." He snapped his fingers. "The male keeper, keep him away from the girls. I caught him looking at a young girl the other day. She was probably sixteen or so."
Ron beamed. "If anyone tries anything against the kids, I'm siccing Simone on them." Oliver snickered. The door was knocked on. "That's probably one of the ladies wondering where you are." He zipped up the bag and started on the second one from the drawers. He walked past Oliver and Alicia, she had pounced him against the door. "Good show," he said as he slid past them. "Harry and Iggy are fine," he called as he walked down the hall.
Alicia pulled back. "Why wouldn't they be, Ron?"
Ron turned to look at her. "Ask Wood." He winked and headed back to the room, managing to stop his stepdaughter from 'helping' the technicians look for magical signatures. "Mary, why don't you tell Draco a story? He hasn't had one recently." She climbed up next to him and started to tell him a story about her getting to pet her cousin Melvin. Because he was a cute bunny.
"Yes, he is," Arabelle said, looking at Iggy.
"He's a gryphon-born," Ron reminded her. "They can't be animagus."
"Xander can use self-transformation spells," Draco told him. "Percy guilted him into registering that fact. He hadn't known," he defended at Arabelle's hot look. "What color bunny is he, Mary?"
"He's brown, with red spots," she said happily. "Just like his hair." Draco nodded. "Plus, he's got big, huge, floppy ears, Uncle Draco." She smiled at him. "Will you teach me how to fly? Melvin said he would, but I want someone who does it really well."
"Of course I can," he agreed with a smile.
"Good." She snuggled into his side. "Daddy, when can we get cookies?"
"In about an hour," he assured her. "We'll head back for supper and then we'll have cookies." She grinned at him. "You are such a great kid."
Draco laughed. "You're besotted," he teased.
Harry pulled off his shoe and tossed it at him. "He's happy, leave him alone. You don't pick on Percy for having the same look on his face."
"I don't get on with Percy like that," Draco reminded him, tossing the shoe back. Iggy shifted against Harry's side, grabbing him so they could roll onto their sides. Draco snorted. "Comfortable, Potter?"
"Actually, yes. He is rather comfy to rest against." He considered it. "It's almost as good as resting against his father's chest." Arabelle looked at him. "It was one of those 'after holiday dinner' naps on the couch at the Burrow. He's very snuggly."
"So I heard," she agreed. "Percy said the same thing."
Bill looked at her. "Didn't you know that mum once tried to get all of us to take him away from George?"
Arabelle laughed. "I'm sure you all just wanted him for yourselves. From what he does to George, I'm surprised that he doesn't have stalkers and people begging."
"He does," Bill, Ron, and Draco said together.
"Especially when he runs around without underwear on in Diagon," Draco added. He had to have the last word.
"He was wearing sweats," Ron said at her shocked look.
"I never get looks like he does when I do the same thing," Bill said with a mock pout. "I need a woman."
"Ask Xander," Draco suggested. "He's fixed up Percy, Fred, Ron, and tried once with me." He shuddered. "He knows. He's heading here."
"I think I'm going to disappear," Bill noted. Ron nodded. "He won't hit you. I'm the one who took Iggy out."
"He will so. He's like a lion guarding his pride. That man is scary when people threaten his family."
Arabelle nodded. "It says something when the reporters don't go near him while he's pissed." She crossed her arms and looked at the technicians. "Anything?"
"Not really, ma'am. I'll finish up here and head back to do some analysis. By your leave?"
"Go for it," she agreed with a wave of her hand. The technician packed up and headed back to the office, taking the officers with him. "How are you going to do the seclusions?"
"They can't use the house," Draco reminded her. "Xander won't allow it."
"I know," she sighed.
"Potter and I both have large houses. Wood has two free bedrooms as well, or he could stay at the shop for a few days and give them his house."
"We could do hotels, but Draco and I both need to be at home for our kids," Harry pointed out to his coach. "I don't want the chasers though. I saw the look Henderson gave that little teen the other day."
"I can agree with that," Draco noted dryly. "Bother Wood for his house and have him stay at the shop. That will fit everyone else and he's so far out in the middle of nowhere that you can practice out there," he suggested. "Have Wood stay at the school or the shop. Have Potter and I at our houses in case we need to move the teams. We'll both have bodyguards from the family."
Harry looked at him. "I want Simone as mine."
Draco nodded. "At least she won't hit on you. She knows she's more than good enough to play professionally. She won't need the in."
"We'll still have to do school shopping," Harry pointed out.
"I can take them all. No one would dare attack me physically or magically," Draco reminded him. "Take Angelina and head to the Burrow if you have to. The kids can come stay with mine. Or Agatha can stay with a friend of hers or the Ravettenas if she wants."
"Only if you make sure Ronnie stays out of your daughter's pants."
Draco shrugged. "I leave that up to my daughter. She knows what limits I sent. She's more than capable of making that decision for herself. If she wants to debauch your son and make him beg, then there's not much either of us can do about it."
"Those two seekers are *together*?" the coach asked. Both parents nodded. "Well. That's got to be one hell of an inconvenience when they play against each other."
"They make childish bets for things like homework help and backrubs," Harry told him. He grinned. "They're actually cute, but fairly young. I want Ronnie to wait until he's out of school to be in a committed relationship."
"Too late," Arabelle told him. She smiled. "They'll work it out. Oh, you might want to listen to their plan for the pro's. It's interesting and would negate your coach's worries." She nodded at Iggy. "Want me to take him with me?"
"He'll be fine until Xander gets here," Draco assured her. She nodded and left. "They want to offer themselves to the same team," he told the coach. "Basically split the job between them."
"That would be interesting. Plus, they could ask for the best salaries. It wouldn't be too bad for them." He shrugged. "Unless Potter quits, we won't have an opening."
"We've got a few years before that becomes an issue," Harry reminded him. "He's only a fifth year so she's a fourth."
"Potter, no offense, if I get they're offer, I'd fire you," the coach admitted. "Those two are more amazing than you are and they'd draw more people to the games. You could have second string." Draco smirked at him. "You as well, Malfoy."
"I have other things I can do," Draco reminded him.
"Good, keep those other things in mind. Remember, your team's up for sale again," the coach said, then he smiled and left them alone.
"Have I mentioned I dislike him?" Draco asked Harry. Harry nodded. "Good. Remind me to tell him after the last game." He put his head down and got comfortable. "I miss Lucien. He'd be giving me a backrub by now."
"Who's watching them?"
"Anastasia." He forced himself to stand up and head back to the bathroom. He heard the quiet laughter, but ignored it. He would be better by in the morning. Potter was taking it too slowly so he'd still feel miserable tomorrow.
Iggy woke up in his own bed and found his father sitting at the end with his feet up on the foot of the bed. "Get your shoes off the covers or wash them," he said weakly. He touched his throat. "Raena?"
"Shopping. She left this for you," he said, handing over a bottle. "How are they?"
"Better. I think I gave Harry the clues to help him get out from under some of the nightmares. He had a figure blocking the images he had blow through him because of the flashback." He sat up against the headboard and took the potion. "Eww, what was that?"
"Anti-swelling for your throat. Severus made it for you."
"Obviously. I don't think Raena knows this one." He shifted. "How is Draco?"
"Still crapping out his stomach lining. He said to tell you he's listening next time." He grinned. "You're a great kid, Iggy, and I'm proud you're mine, but no more getting into danger. I will kill someone if you're ever hurt." Iggy smiled. "Arabelle managed to convince the idiot who choked you that he was living on borrowed time so he gave up who helped set up the game." Iggy nodded. "Your grandmother is waiting for you to show up over there for some time with them. Whenever you're ready of course."
"I spent all last week with them," Iggy told him.
"All the Malfoys are over there. She's wanting a full house again." He stood up. "Come on, get a shower and I'll make you breakfast." Iggy nodded and slid out of his bed, grabbing his robe when he realized he was naked. "That was your wife," Xander said when he saw his son scurrying into the bathroom.
"She was probably playing with the scar on my butt again," he called through the door. "Eggs?"
"If you have some," Xander agreed, heading out to cook for his son. He felt content. It was a nice feeling.
Harry Potter walked onto the field of the World Cup and looked around, smiling happily. He knew his picture was being taken, it wasn't a look often seen on his face, but it was a good feeling. He was happy. He was content. He had slept for the last two weeks without a sleeping potion. It was like he was starting his life over again. He looked off to his left, seeing his most ardent supporters' box was empty and frowned, but then he saw then sneaking in with a big, huge banner which lit up with his name on it. Yes, they were here for him. Draco nudged him to move but even that didn't ruin his good mood. Maybe Draco would get to play for a few minutes, give him a sense that he earned his championship ring.
To epilogues 6-7: