Draco looked up as his floo discharged Xander, and then a beautiful young woman. He stood up, smoothing down his own robes until she had patted herself to make sure she was all there. "Hello," he said. "Xander, who is this?"
"This is my cousin Myan. Myan, this is the adopted son, Draco, the one I've been praising all afternoon." They shook hands. "We're going to dinner. You're coming. Go change into something more stunning."
Draco smiled at him. "What a wonderful suggestion." He noticed the pile of things that had come with her. "You fly?"
"No, we're teaching her how to tonight," Xander told him. "Go change." Draco looked at him and he smirked. "You said you wondered what a female me was like. Now you'll find out."
Draco hurried off, muttering to himself. Then he stopped to think and turned around. "You sneaky prat," he said with a fond smile. He went up to go change. He had asked for a female version of Xander. He had found one. He wouldn't be wasting this opportunity. He put on his most stunning outfit and paused at his jewelry box. He decided and pulled out a small cameo necklace, taking it downstairs. "Here, wear this. It will suit the subtle patterns in your outfit."
She blushed. "You don't have to let me borrow this." She looked in the mirror, smiling when she saw how perfect it was. "Gee, all we got you was this," she said, handing over the small box. "Xander helped me pick it out as a host's gift."
He opened it, smiling at the little dragon statue, which roared at him to shut the boxtop so it could nap. He carefully put it on his desk. "That is a wonderful host's gift," he agreed, taking her arm. "Xander, where to?"
"That new wizard place," Xander told him. "It's a bit more informal, but it should be good. I've heard nice things about it." He teleported them all, holding his cousin until she regained her balance. "There you are. Draco, did you know we've run into nearly everyone but Percy and Charlie today?" he asked as they walked in. "I flooed ahead," he told the receptionist. "Harris- Weasley, party of three?" She nodded and led them back to a private room. "Ah, perfect," he said, tipping her. "Thank you." She winked and walked away. "Sit," he encouraged, letting Draco do the gentlemanly thing for her. He watched those two interact and smirked to himself. Yup, he was *good*! Halfway through dinner, he excused himself because his floo phone was ringing. He opened it and saw his son. "What's wrong, Iggy?"
"Uncle Percy wants to talk to you," Iggy said dryly. "Something about a new cousin and you beating up on someone again in Diagon."
"He was picking on Elbert and I saved him from Simone." He glanced at the other two. "I'll be right there." He hung up. "I'll get the check, you two stay and talk." He hurried out, praising himself for arranging that convenient interruption. He paid the check and left a nice tip for the waitress, then hurried off to his son's place. Iggy opened the door and showed Percy sitting on his couch. "It wasn't the signal?" he asked.
"No, he's really here about the fight. How is it going?"
"They're going to have one of those explosive relationships. Sort of like Sev and Tara." He winked at Percy. "I take it you've heard about my cousin?"
"I have." He tossed over a folder. "She nearly destroyed her town."
"Someone burned her house with most of her family in it," Xander pointed out as he sat down to read the file. "Hmm. Hadn't known she was tested."
"While she was as she was waiting in line at Customs. Very strong. Almost as strong as you," Percy noted, leaning forward. "Please, don't beat up on the idiot wizards, Xander."
"I only hit him once. He's the one who fell on his ass." Xander looked up. "If he couldn't take the consequences, he shouldn't have been picking on a twelve-year-old boy. He's lucky I saved him from Simone." He handed back the folder and got comfortable. "And?"
"We thought you should know."
"She's taking over my spot in the fighting hierarchy. She's got two second-degree black belts and is quite the woman. If she killed the son of a bitch who burnt her whole family to death, then I'm all for it," he said with a shrug. "He should have known better."
"Very well," Percy agreed. "She is under your protection?" Xander nodded. "I'll make a note of it. Please get her up to speed on our community."
Xander grinned. "We're teaching her to fly tonight." He stood up. "Iggy, bring the kids to the mansion to meet her. You'll like her, I promise." He waved a hand and disappeared, heading back to relax until the new couple got done with dinner.
Draco came in four hours later and leaned over the back of the couch. "That woman is the most infuriating creature," he said quietly, but he was smiling.
"I figured you two would have a Severus/Tara sort of relationship," Xander told him. "You like her?"
"I do," he agreed. "She's funny, charming, and has wonderful table manners. She's naughty enough to revel in pranks and naughty things, and calm enough to sit and read with. If I can stand her laughter, I think I may just have to thank you in a deeply appreciative way."
"As long as you don't hurt her, Draco. Because you won't survive."
"Yes, Xander." He leaned down and kissed him. "I'll see you in the morning. We'll be teaching her to fly on the pitch at the school after she meets with everyone." He walked away.
Xander beamed. He was good!
Severus Snape looked at the figure's back before him. He could swear he knew this person. The way the person was standing was very familiar. He coughed and the person turned, smiling at him. He nearly had a heart attack. How had Harris turned himself into a woman!
"I'm his cousin," she said with her most bemused tone. "He warned me you'd be shocked. You must be Severus." She shook his hand. "Myan."
"An odd name," he said in greeting. "Does it have a meaning?"
"My mother forgot the first 'a' when she was writing my name. Post-natal drugs were apparently better back then."
"Ah." He smiled and nodded. "You're his cousin? The Headmaster said you were coming to help my wife, Tara."
"He told me I'd be taking over for her while she took on a year's research project."
"Indeed," he agreed, leading her away. "Where is Xander?"
"Getting someone named Wood. He wanted him to meet me as well." She shrugged. "I figured I'd meet him sometime before school started."
"With his schedule, you might not have. Wood is a fairly busy young man." He led her up to the Headmaster's office. "She's here," he said, letting her proceed him.
Albus dropped his pen, causing a large blot on the letter he was writing. "My," he said with a smile. "You certainly do live up to your reputation, Myan. I see you've already met our resident potion's master, Severus."
She looked at him. "Cool. You're a ghost. I thought the werewolf in town was neat." She nodded at him. "I'd shake your hand, but I doubt you'd like me to stick myself through you."
Severus coughed to hide his laugh. "Should I find Tara?"
"I've called for her," Albus admitted. "Sit, Myan, let me tell you about our fine institution." She sat in Xander's usual chair, the one that would give her warning if the door opened. "I know you're probably tired of hearing it, but you do strongly remind me of a younger Xander. Back when he was newly married."
"I wish the shit had told me, I'd have come over sooner," she told him. "I guess that's one of those letters my mother stopped from getting to me."
"Yup," Xander said as he bounced in. "Sorry. Myan, this is Oliver, he's going to help Draco and I teach you how to fly. This afternoon Iggy's going to dump his textbooks on you, and we'll go for a drink in town tonight so you can get accustomed to it. Where did you put your broom?"
"In the closet in my room?" she suggested.
He grinned and patted her on the head. "Cool. Sev, bring her out to the pitch if you wouldn't mind." He smirked at the headmaster. "You can't hog all of her attention. I haven't seen her since I came over here the first time." He let Oliver shake her hand then drug him away, babbling at high speed about how wonderful she was.
"Hurricane Harris," she said with a smile. "You'll find I'm calmer and I babble less."
The two men laughed.
Oliver looked at the rest of the family, shaking his head. "She really is just like him," he said, then he took a sip of butterbeer. "He went back to babbling. I was impressed because I understood some of it."
"That's better than I did," Draco noted. He looked at where Xander was introducing her to everyone. "Do you think she'll be staying?"
George looked at him, then slowly smiled. "Thank you for finding someone other than my husband to like." He clapped him on the back, making him frown. "We'll be more than happy to help you form a strong relationship with her, stepson. We think it'd even be cute." Fred nodded. "We'll even be nice and not lock you in the closet together."
Myan came over and sat down. "Why would you want to? I'm more than capable of chasing down the man I want and hogtying him until he agrees to have sex with me." She smiled at Draco. "You up for that, blondie?"
He spluttered. "I'm used to more gentle women."
"Maybe that's the problem. They're all so fragile. I'm not. I'm fun-loving, neat, and you already get hard whenever I walk past you." He swallowed. "You'll find I like aggressive men."
"*That's* where Simone gets it from!" Oliver said, just a tad bit loudly. Fred snickered, Ron joining him. Myan looked clueless. "Xander basically adopted Draco."
"He did adopt him according to the clan rules," George pointed out.
"All right, then he officially adopted Draco," Oliver agreed. "The running joke of the family is that all of Draco's children get their bad traits from him, but obviously Simone gets her nature from you." He kissed her hand, earning a kick under the table from Alicia. "We thought it was all Xander and his horniness."
She giggled, looking at Draco. "Is that so? I adore Simone and I'll gladly be the reason she's like she is. She reminds me of a younger me."
Draco decided right then to turn on his usual charm. Not that he'd need it, he felt connected to her in some strange way. Like he liked Xander because he was like her. He smiled and flirted with her.
The other members of the group shared an eye roll as they talked about the new tier for the fun league, those people who needed some time playing at the pro level to get good enough to play at the pros. Like a junior pro league if you would. And the Weasley clan would be headlining it.
Draco stormed into the house, his hair flying in every direction and his eyes wide. "Xander, I'm going to kill you," he said as he walked past him, heading for a beer. He gulped one as Xander walked in. "Your cousin is insane."
"Well, yeah, but you knew that about the both of us," he said, leaning against the doorframe. "What did she do?"
"She...." He shook his head. "I can't even say it."
Xander walked in and stroked down the thick hair, soothing him gently. "It's all right. I'm sure she was either teasing or didn't mean it." Draco glared at him as he moved to get another beer. "What did she do?"
"She pranked me in front of my team!" he complained.
"That bad?" he asked. Draco glared at him again. "Okay. What did she do?"
"She used one of those new tail toys and gave me a dragon's tail," he complained. "Just before I took off so I had to find out because my balance was off. I nearly fell." He brutally twisted off the next cap. "I felt like I should have killed the whole team because they witnessed it." He slugged most of it. "They laughed!"
"People can be mean," Xander agreed, holding in a smile. "I'm sure your teammates were thankful that you didn't kill them. It showed a lot of maturity."
Draco gave him a disbelieving look. "This is all your fault!"
"Albus told her to come over," Xander pointed out.
"Still! You introduced us!" He slammed down the empty bottle and walked away. "I'm going to bathe." He stomped down the hall but was stopped when he was grabbed and kissed. He pulled back. "Stop it. I'm upset with you." He continued to stomp up the stairs.
"You're cute when you pout," Myan called after him. She followed the laughter and found her cousin. "What is wrong with him?"
"You bruised his ego. He hates to be laughed at."
"Well, shit," she sighed, heading up the stairs. She found the double doors and decided it was probably his, or else it'd be one of the kids and they'd tell her where she was. She opened the door and smiled at the sound of the running water. She snuck in and stripped, then pounced him. He had been lying there, with his eyes closed, so that made him fair game. "I didn't mean to make them laugh, I meant to make you laugh," she told him between kisses. She slid down his body, making him moan. "I'm sorry I upset you."
He grabbed her hips, stopping her from moving any further. "I'm not using this as an excuse."
"I am," she said with a grin. "Makeup sex is good sex."
He groaned and shook his head. "I'm past the time when all I wanted was a quick fuck, girl. Don't start something if you're not going to finish it."
She licked his chin. "I'm not leaving unless you push me away. You'll find stubbornness is a family trait." He moaned and thumped his head on the tub. "I know what you're saying and I'm willing to try that. And hey, if it doesn't work out then we're great buddies and I can always jump you whenever you need me to." He relaxed. "Besides, I like you. That's a rare thing. I haven't liked anyone like this in years."
He finished relaxing. "You feel it too?"
"This happy warmth that spreads whenever I see you in a tight shirt?"
He pinched her, making her squeal. "Be serious."
"I am serious." She sat up, looking down at him. "I want to be serious. I'm willing to gift you with something that I don't gift other people with, me." He opened his mouth. "What?" she asked patiently.
"You've never had a lover?" She nodded. "Then what do you mean?"
"Well, see, there's ways around that," she pointed out, grinning at him.
He groaned and thumped his head again. "Tell me you're not a virgin," he groaned. She nodded, smiling at him. "Damn, this is like my last year of school." He ran his hand up her side, making her wiggle. "Do you want this? I only want a companion, possibly more. Nothing fast, nothing quick. And no more tails."
"Okay." She slid down his body, wincing.
"Easy!" He slid her off and put her beside him in the large tub. "You don't do it that way, that way turns you off ever doing it again," he said gently, touching her to make sure she was all right. "Let me. I have a bit of experience in this area."
"Most of my school career. That's how I have all my daughters actually. Their mother came to me to break her in and we had a small accident."
"Yeah, I met Ginny. She seems nice enough." She shrugged. "Not my cup of tea. I prefer people who are experienced and fun-loving," she ran a finger down the center of his chest, "plus I like my lovers to want to pound me into the mattress." He shivered. "I like to do adventurous things. There's nothing that I won't do, with a little bit of sweet talking." She grinned as he hissed, then she stole a kiss. "So, I'm offering. Going once, going twice...."
"Sold," he said, kissing her again. "But you let me handle it this time. Next time you can pounce me."
"Hey, I like symbiotic relationships." She laid there and let him play, enjoying it a lot. She hadn't had a lover do that before. It was like he knew her, how to make her squeal, and how to tease her. "I guess all that experience paid off," she squeaked. He chuckled against her stomach. "I like that." He did it again, making her shift and wiggle.
Downstairs, Xander saluted the stairway with a glass of wine with his partner in mischief. "I think that's the end of my needing to be here," he told her. "Come work out with me, Si?"
"Sure, Uncle Xander." She finished her wine and joined him at the school, going to do some weights.
Severus Snape looked up as Draco wandered into his classroom, looking sated and giddy. "Was it good?" he asked.
"She infuriates me like no one else and yet is just so ..."
"Right?" he suggested with a smirk. Draco nodded. "I felt the same way about Tara when we first got together. Congratulations. I'll expect an invitation to the ceremony."
"That's moving a bit fast, don't you think?"
"No." He smirked as he returned to his paperwork. "What did you need?"
"I was supposed to meet Ignatius here to pass on my sacred lists of potions for the young ladies."
"Ah. He's in the gym. Apparently he was a bit frustrated this morning."
"She's probably having another 'don't touch me' day," Draco said. "I had many of those."
"Really? When?" Myan asked as she walked in with her newest favorite cousin.
"When I was pregnant."
She stopped and looked at him. "Exsqueeze me?"
"Pregnant," he said with a grin. "You heard correctly."
"Well, shit," she said. "How did you manage that?"
"Advanced gryphon spells," Iggy told her. He looked at his mentor in all things pregnancy. "She's tender and sore. Plus cranky."
Draco handed over his copied list of potions. "There they all are."
"Thank you. I don't think I can hold out much longer without ripping out my hair." He walked over to the workbench and found the ones he needed, pulling down two cauldrons to start on them. "Is it normal to want to scream at her?"
"Yes," Snape assured him. "I had many moments like that." He heard a scream. "Speaking of wanting to yell."
"It's a boy," Iggy teased, grinning at him.
"Definitely. It's the same mood swings she had last time." He stood up and went to find out what his wife wanted this time. "Tara?" he asked as he walked into their room. "What's wrong?"
"Our son wanted to know if we used a spell or not."
"Technically, we did," he agreed. "You still had a few months left on your infertility potion. I used my part of the bonding set to get around it." He tucked the blankets back around her stomach. "Calm down. I'll take Zach with me for a while and we'll talk."
She sniffled. "He's hiding in the bathroom."
"I understand." He gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Come, Zachariah, we'll go work with Ignatius in the dungeons. He's making something to help Raena feel better."
Zach stuck his head out of the bathroom. "Can I stay with them until Mother feels better?"
Tara burst out in tears. "I'm sorry," she sobbed.
"It's all right," Severus assured them. "It means you're going to have a brother," he said as he led his son away. "We'll let her pull herself together in peace. We'll bring her a treat later."
"Can we make her something to make her feel better?"
"Of course we can. Your Uncle Draco brought over the list of potions he used when he was carrying Lucien. I'm sure something in there will help her." He led his son into the dungeons. "Help Ignatius. I'm sure he's making the same things we'll need."
Iggy looked at him. "Is she crying again?" Zach nodded, looking miserable. "That means you'll get a baby brother so don't worry about it. Hop on up and help me. You can chop and everything."
Zach climbed up and helped him prepare the ingredients. He was very careful, like his father had showed him how to be. "I like doing this, but it's not fun," he told his favorite friend. "It's good, but not fun."
"Well, fun comes later, with some of the harder stuff. For right now, this is what you've got to do to learn how to get to the fun stuff." He grinned. "If you help me, I'll talk my father into letting you help in the shop's lab. That'll be fun."
"All right. Can we make fun stuff down there?"
"I'll ask my dad to teach us how to make the fog and scream potion if you want." Zach brightened up at that.
"Ignatius, I'd like him to follow in your footsteps, not that of your father."
"At his age, it's all about fun," Iggy pointed out. "Teaching him fun things will make him want to do it more." He poured some water into one of the potions and set it to warm. He dumped most of the herbs into that one then swore and tossed that one out since he had added stuff that wasn't supposed to be in there. "Okay, let's start over," he told Zach, who pouted. "I messed up. We couldn't combine them yet."
"All right," he sighed. "But I want to make cold jellies as well."
"I'll tell daddy you said so."
"Thank you." He chopped up more stuff, helpfully separating things into their piles for his friend. This way he wouldn't mess up and they wouldn't have to start again.
"She'll get over it soon enough," Draco promised. "Next comes the stage where she'll want you to touch her all the time."
"Can I skip this one and move to that one?" Iggy asked as he carefully measured more water and set that potion to brew. "I don't want to be grumpy about it, but she won't let me sleep."
"At all?" Draco asked. Iggy nodded. "I don't know what that is."
"Apparently I annoy her when I snore," he snorted. "I've had to sleep at the shop for the last few afternoons. She thinks I'm at the colony and I pop over there and then leave as fast as I can." He hit himself on the head. "I've got to check on Uncle Harry today. Can one of you finish these for me?" He gathered up his robe and put it back on. "I'll be right back."
"Do not teleport when you're this tired," Draco warned.
"I'll floo," Iggy promised. He headed up to the staffroom, waving at Flitwick as he walked past. "Small minor trip. I'll be right back to finish my work in the dungeons."
"You don't have to explain yourself to me, Ignatius," Flitwick said with a smile. "How is Raena?"
"Pissed at me for existing," he said bitterly. "I've got to check on Uncle Harry. I'll tell you all about it when I get back." He flooed over, and was met by Agatha. "Sorry, I got a little bit distracted making the mood altering potion."
"Raena's upstairs. She's throwing a fit at my father."
"Fuck me," he sighed, heading up there. He tapped on the door and walked in. "Sorry, I had to stop and get some potion stuff from Draco and Severus." He smiled at his uncle, who looked relieved. "How are we doing this week?"
"I've already done this," Raena told him.
"Wonderful, and now I'm going to since I'm the one making his potions for him." He walked around his wife. "After this, I'm going to make you something so you can sleep and I finally get some." She glared at his back. He turned to look at her. "I haven't slept in days, Raena, if you want to fight, at least wait until I'm mentally competent to retort. Now, sit, you know what the doctor said."
"I'm fine," she ground out.
He picked her up and put her in the bed next to his uncle. "Stay there!" She started to tear up. "Don't do that!" he whined. "I can't take tears right now." He shook his head and walked back to his uncle's side. "Did you go through this stage too?"
"Twice. She didn't have it with Ron," Harry admitted. "What did Draco say?"
"She'd be moving onto the hyper-sexual stage soon. That I only had to put up with being told I snore and I'm annoying for a few more weeks." He checked him over carefully, smiling at his healthy status. "You've been sleeping well?"
"Very well. I only used the potion once in the last three weeks," Harry said happily. "You're going to be a great doctor, Iggy."
"Thanks." He yawned. "Do you want me to make you a lighter version? I have one and it works about the same."
"No, lighter versions don't usually work on me. That ten years that I took one every night upped my tolerance too much." He slid off the bed. "Why don't you lay down? You look tired and I'm sure Raena could use a hug."
"No, I don't want one," she said petulantly.
"Fine, I'm going to nap at home. Come home whenever you're ready," Iggy said tiredly. He headed for the floo. He knew better than to ever teleport when he was exhausted, he'd end up somewhere he shouldn't be, if he managed to make it anywhere at all. He headed home, trusting someone to either turn off his potions or to finish them and bring them to him. As soon as he curled up, he felt someone calling him. "Go away," he muttered. He heard the less tolerant screaming start and glared. "Fine!" He went back to the colony, glaring at all the bigger creatures. "First my wife won't let me sleep and now you guys. Did you need something that badly?"
Bill looked down at him. "We need your help with one of the littles who was just poisoned. Are you feeling up to it?"
"I can brew an antidote in my sleep," he admitted, heading back to the healer's area. "What poison, which kid?" he asked as he yawned.
"Terminon. I don't know what he ate, he won't tell me," Helena, the top healer for the colony admitted.
Iggy leaned down and forced open the beak, sniffing at him. "Smells like antifreeze. Did it taste sweet?" The young gryphon nodded. "Was it on something?"
"Some meat I found outside," he admitted.
"Is there any left?" The baby shook his head and Helena snorted in disgust. "Next time, don't gulp it just in case."
"I wish you guys could regurge," Iggy said, heading for the stuff he kept here. "We'll have to watch his kidney functions. Let me make a neutralizer and give it to him, then we'll work on supporting his kidney functions and making it run through his system faster." He stewed the antidote together, then handed it to the healer. "Here, force it down his throat."
She looked at the little one. "With pleasure. Come hold the beak." Together they got the charcoal mix down him, ignoring the gagging going on. "Next time, don't eat things you shouldn't," she reminded him. She watched as Iggy made something for the poor baby's kidneys. "Is that supposed to go in there?" she asked.
Iggy looked at what he was chopping up. "No, but it won't harm anything. It'll make it slimy and go through his body faster." He finished cutting up the gillyweed and dropped it in. "It'll help us help him." He yawned again. "Stir this for ten minutes while I catch a nap." He laid down next to the little one and put an arm over its stomach. "Quiet," he said at the squeak. "I'm hiding from my wife."
"What's wrong with Raena?" Helena asked. She looked at him and smiled, he was already asleep. "Fine, I'll ask her myself." She stirred the small pot of diuretic, shaking her head at the little ones. They were all cute at that age.
Delilah stuck her head in. "Is he sleeping?" she asked.
"Iggy is. I'm making something to help the little biter there stay healthy while the antifreeze works through his system. He said Raena's being upsetting again."
"She's with egg, it's understandable. We all went through that at one point or another." She looked at their potion master. "He does look tired. Perhaps we should keep him."
"I think a discrete word to his big brother or uncles should help more," Helena told her. "Here he'll be assaulted with noise and kids wanting to play. There he'll be protected and left alone." She lifted the spoon up. "This is like tar with the gillyweed in it," she noted.
"Add chicken broth," Iggy mumbled.
"Thank you. Are you sure?" He nodded, but didn't completely wake up. "Call one of his uncles."
"I will. I have to stop by the Ministry today anyway because of what happened to Elbert." Delilah backed out of the cavern and headed for the main entry. The one that opened somewhere outside of Stonehenge. She flew to London using her favorite cloaking spell, and landed in the Species Department's yard. "Hello?"
A young woman came running. "You didn't tell us you were coming!" she complained. "No one else is here."
"Dear, it's not a big problem. Would you mind getting the Minister?" The girl nodded. "Why?"
"She's on vacation in France."
"Oh." She blinked a few times. "Are you an intern?" The girl nodded, looking scared. "Don't worry, I'm not upset. This was a quick call to see if we could find out about what happened to one of our young."
"I can get you someone from Law Enforcement," she offered.
"Do that, and Percy Weasley or his mate if you wouldn't mind." The girl gave her a baffled look. "We have his nephew and he's quite tired. We were going to let him take him home."
"Oh! Okay then." She hurried back inside, going to make the necessary calls.
Percy appeared first. "Hello, Elder Delilah. What can I do for you today?" he asked pleasantly.
"Ignatius is presently napping beside one of our poisoned young." The intern gasped. "Some antifreeze according to our healer. We'll be dealing with that matter at an official meeting, dear." The girl nodded and shrank back into the shadows to listen. "He's very exhausted because of his wife's mood swings. We were wondering if you could keep him for a few days. We'd do it, but he'd never get any sleep with all the children begging him to fly with them."
"I can definitely do that," Percy assured her with a smile. "My flat is fairly quiet and I've been working longer than normal hours recently so he'll be fine there. I can even have my son Melvin look in on him. They're in the same boat you know."
"No, I hadn't," Delilah told him. "How far along is his mate?"
"About a month less than Raena is. Are we sure this is her hormones?"
"It's often harder the first time. My own first one was disturbing to my mate. I was alternately irritated and lustful for him. He got quite confused."
Percy nodded. "Arabelle's last one, with the twins, was like that. Maybe I'll have her talk to Raena." She smiled at him. "Was there anything else you needed from me?"
"No, I wanted to check on the problem Elbert had a few weeks back, make sure it was settled and all that."
"As far as I know. That Minister is probably on his way down, he'll have went to find the file and read it again to make sure." The gryphoness nodded. "How is the colony?"
"Doing well. We've expanded into that last cave. Only a few families so far, but they seem to like the open spaces. We've had six nests this year, plus half of our borns became pregnant as well." She smiled as the head over Law Enforcement came out. "Is that dreadful fight with Elbert completely finished?"
"It looks to be done," he agreed. "The boy refused to press charges and the wizard didn't press any against Simone or Xander for stopping him." She hummed and nudged him with her beak. "Thank you. Did you need more from me?"
"She said one of their young was poisoned with antifreeze," Percy told him.
"That could have been done by those Normals who are always outside the caves," she suggested.
"Muggles would be the most likely suspect," the Minister over Law Enforcement agreed, "but I will have someone look into it." He looked at the intern. "Where's your boss?"
"France. I'll be sending her an owl about this meeting as soon as it's done."
"Good girl," Percy told her. "Thank you." She nodded, smiling at him. "Sixth year?"
"Yes, Minister Weasley."
"I'll be looking forward to hearing how you did. We could always use good workers around here." She blushed and giggled. So he turned back to the gryphoness, who was giving him a knowing look. He smiled at her. "I'll come pick up Ignatius in a few hours. How's that?"
"That would be fine," she agreed.
"What happened to your nephew?"
"Pregnancy hormones," Percy told him. The officer grimaced. "His wife."
"Oh." He perked up a bit. "That's a bit of wonderful news. Tell him I said congratulations and all that." He turned back to the gryphoness. "I'll have one of my officers Harris trained sent over. Would that be acceptable?"
"Of course. The boy already ate the meat."
"That's fine. We don't need that sort of evidence. We'll need to know where and hopefully we'll find traces in the grass." He nodded. "Thank you for coming to us." He walked away, going back to assign the case.
Percy smiled. "Thank you for warning us." He gave her a pat then left as well.
The intern came out and smiled up at her. "May I touch you? I haven't gotten a chance to pet one of you yet."
"You may for a few moments," Delilah assured her. "The better of an understanding you have, the better you do the job." She held out a wing, letting the girl run her fingers over the soft feathers. It was worth the ruffled feathers to gain a better working relationship.
Percy woke Iggy up with a gentle shake. "Come along. I'm putting you to bed at my place tonight while Raena and Andrea complain about us men," he said gently.
"The baby?" Iggy asked through a yawn.
"Is doing much better. The poison has made it's way through him and we're monitoring for any kidney damage now. Go rest, Ignatius." Helena pinched his cheek. "You answer questions in your sleep, it's so cute."
He grimaced. "Thanks. Cute, at my age." He slid out of the nest and headed after his uncle, waving at the elders as they walked past. "Thanks for letting me nap," he called.
Percy apparated them to his house and put the boy to bed, watching as he fell back asleep. "Hopefully Arabelle will get through to her," he said as he went to fix himself a small dinner. She always left him leftovers in the freezer for nights like this so he wouldn't starve.
Raena looked up as Percy as he appeared in their flat late that night, her eyes going wide at his disheveled appearance. "What happened?" she asked, standing up.
"I went back to work, and I got summoned back to my apartment. Someone had tried to break in." She started to cry. "Iggy's not in there. I don't know where he is."
"No!" She sobbed, collapsing into his arms. "Who would take my pookie?"
"I don't know, but we're looking for him," he assured her. "He's probably still asleep so he's not in any danger." He patted her gently. "Come on, let's go to the Burrow. Your fathers-in-law are already there and waiting on news." She nodded, letting him take her through their floo connection. "Here she is."
Melvin hugged her tightly. "It'll be okay. My father will find him and kick whoever's asses," he promised, making her sit down beside his own wife. "I promise, you'll be getting him back."
"Could he have sleepwalked somewhere?" George asked. "He used to do that when he was younger and sick."
"There's too much damage. Someone kicked the door in," Percy told him. He looked over as Draco and Myan walked in together. "Anything?"
"Not a word," Draco admitted. "The letter that came was for her." He pointed his thumb at Myan. "What were you working on?"
"Just a little trinket, not dangerous. We were trying to find out how to work it."
"What was it?" Xander asked.
"That's classified," Percy said automatically. His father looked at him so he told him.
"Xander, it's nothing that could be a reason for him to be kidnaped," Arthur agreed.
"To someone it probably meant something," Xander pointed out. "Otherwise you guys wouldn't have it." Arthur and Percy both slumped. "Now then, what was it?"
"It was an odd time turner we think," Percy admitted. "Something to move back years instead of hours."
"Okay. Good. Could it be used to create a paradox?" Percy frowned and shook his head. "Are you sure?"
"It didn't work."
"Are you sure?" Xander asked again.
"I couldn't get it to work and neither could any of the technicians," Percy told him.
"Okay, so that leaves Iggy being kidnaped because of who he is." Someone tapped on the door. "Who gets it?"
"I will," Arthur said, getting up to answer it. On the other side was a no-necked gorilla of a man with a wrapped thing over his shoulder. It was handed over and the man tipped his cap before leaving. "Wait! What is this?"
"We didn't like the fact that he was taken. It pissed us off." He tipped his cap again and apparated off.
"Well." Arthur walked in with the bundle, which let out a mighty snore. "I'd say someone was a bit pissed at whoever did this." He unwrapped his grandson and checked him over, but Xander moved him out of the way to get his own check and hugs in.
"You're all right." Iggy mumbled something and he laughed. "That's my boy. He said something about stones. Someone knows." He looked at Raena. "Do you want a hug?"
"He'll snark at me again," she pouted, starting to sniffle.
"Dear, you snapped at him first," Draco pointed out. She gave him a hurt look. "I know better than anyone here, but Molly, how bad you feel at the moment, but you cannot take it out on your husband. He hasn't slept; it shows because he slept through a kidnaping and rescue. Now, either get over whatever is going on and hug him, or come to me when you're feeling better and apologize to him because I'm taking him back to my house to finish his long-overdue nap."
She kept crying but got up to hug him. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I don't know what this is!"
"It's called hormones, dear," Draco assured her. "They'll make you do the oddest things. I once cried over a soup commercial." She smiled through her tears. "Come along, I think you could use a good night's rest as well. It's a good thing I finished the potions he was working on. Xander, grab your son and take him. Raena, you follow through the floo." She nodded, heading that way first. "Everyone else, come by tomorrow." He shook his head as he left, going to make sure his guests were tucked in.
George sat down, starting to sulk. "He didn't even invite me back."
"He figured you'd be going anyway, you big doofus," Denver told him. "Go, now, before I have to get my sister's favorite whip and beat some sense into you."
George glared at him. "I don't put up with that sort of thing from your father and I can still spank you, boy."
"Yay. Get with the going already," Myan told him. "Whenever he says Xander, he means the both of you. It's too cumbersome to say the both of you." George gave her a glare as well before he disappeared. "Why is he jealous?"
"Because he thinks Draco could take Xander from him," Molly told her. "How are you adjusting, dear?"
"I'm doing pretty well," Myan admitted. "Not really loving all the layers of clothes, but that's okay. I'm guessing they'll come in handy over the winter. Is snow really white?" Everyone nodded. "Huh. I've never seen any." She shrugged and sent herself back to Malfoy Manor as well since she was temporarily staying there.
"Does anyone else find her scary on some level?" Fred asked. Everyone nodded. "Good, then I'm not the only one wondering if someone split Xander in two."
"It happened once," Percy told him, "but they were both male and parts of his psyche." He smiled. "I'm off to finish my inventory now that we know he's safe. Who was that, father?"
"Some big wizard," Arthur said with a shrug. "I didn't ask him his name. He said they weren't happy with Iggy being taken." Percy nodded and left to go back to his apartment and browbeat the Law Enforcement people. Arthur looked around, noticing Agatha's speculative look. "Do you think your mentors had something to do with it?"
"Probably not. I haven't told anyone about Iggy and his amazing stone collection. They might know from other sources, but why would they rescue him? Especially to give him back? Even gratitude wouldn't make Iggy hand one over."
"Could it have been one of Percy's people?" Fred asked. "Big, no-necked wizard sounds like one of his type."
"He has some people who aren't on his official payroll," Arthur said quietly. "If it was, I'm not going to say anything. Not unless someone decides to try and blackmail the poor boy." He smiled. "That was rather cute, how he was still asleep."
"Ronnie does that all the time," Ravena told him. "He hates to get up."
Simone nodded. "His first year, Snape had to come down and check him to make sure he hadn't been poisoned because he wouldn't get up after falling asleep in class."
"I still think it's cute we have to shout about being hurt whenever Uncle Xander's napping," Denver put in. "How does Uncle George get him up?"
"Either that way or he pinches his nose closed," Fred told them. "That tends to get him batted at though so he keeps that one rare. It's considered smarter to let sleeping Xander's lie."
Denver snorted. "It's always better to leave sleeping Harris' lie don't you mean?"
"Very true," Agatha agreed. "Though how my brother fits in that category I don't know."
"Xander influenced him of course," Simone told her.
"With her mother, she might have jumped Uncle Xander and he'd never have known it," Anastasia pointed out.
"Don't say such things," Molly snapped.
"Even if she did, he's still my son," Harry said calmly, smiling at Molly. "Don't worry about it, Mrs. Weasley, we love Xander anyway."
"Humph. That whole family attracts too much trouble for words," she said, going to get them drinks. "Who wants tea?"
"I could use some, dear," Arthur called. He smiled at his children. "I think everyone else was going to head home."
Fred nodded, standing up. "I'd better get back to the shop and make sure no one broke in down there." He started the rush of people leaving, leaving the couple alone.
"That was brilliant," Molly said, handing him his cup of tea. "Do you think he was one of Percy's?"
"I have no idea," Arthur admitted. "I was advised not to ask questions I didn't want to hear the answer to long ago and I'm living by that rule for both of their departments." He sipped his tea, giving his wife a loving look. "Great grandparents," he said fondly.
"More squalling children we can hand back and spoil," Molly agreed with a smile.
"I know you wished that they had waited, Molly-love, but it makes them so happy."
"I know, but they're so young."
"Yes, but Ignatius is *years* beyond his physical age mentally and Melvin is going to be a wonderful and loving father who will spend all day ignoring his job to play with his children. I think Bill's even going to set it up so he can work from home."
"It'd be for the best," she agreed. "You didn't want to leave for work either with any of them. I don't know how the others didn't work for the Ministry with as often as you brought them to work with you."
He smiled. "I'm still working on Charlie. I think he'd do well in the species department, don't you?"
"He'd hate to dress up every day. You know how he is." She gave him a loving swat. "You go to bed now. You've got an early morning meeting with Law Enforcement."
"I was trying to forget that," he admitted, heading up to their bedroom. She made sure everything was cleaned up and joined him, helping him get a good night's sleep.
Iggy backed away from his screaming wife and hurried down to the dining room to get away from her. "What did I do to scare her?" he asked as he took his usual seat.
"You were kidnaped while you slept," Simone told him, passing down the meat. "That was two days ago by the way."
"Want that slower?" Denver asked.
"I'd prefer it to make sense," Iggy told him, looking at Simone. "I was kidnaped?" She nodded. "From the colony?"
"From Uncle Percy's," Anastasia put in. "He took you from the colony to let you rest in his place. You were kidnaped later that same night and managed to sleep through it and your rescue. You've napped for the last two days straight as well and you made your wife panic because she couldn't get you up." She smiled sweetly at him. "Did you need more information?"
"No," he said slowly, looking at his Uncle, who nodded from behind his juice glass. "Huh." He shrugged. "Okay, I guess. Why was I taken?"
"We think they wanted your philosopher's stone," Draco said, putting his glass down once it was empty. "Are you feeling better now?"
"I'm definitely not tired. Are the things I was working on still at the school?"
"They're in my private lab," Draco told him. "I finished them both for you." Iggy relaxed. "She really was worried."
"She started to scream at me as soon as I came out of the bathroom," he said, starting to sulk again.
"It's the hormones," Draco said quietly. "They will settle out. In this case, she's probably still scared. If you offered to hold her for a bit, it might help."
Iggy nodded and got up, heading back up to their room. He walked in and found his wife sobbing on the bed so he laid down next to her, pulling her back against him. She tried to push him away but he continued to hold her, stroking her back and making soothing noises. "You know I'm not good with people," he pointed out. "You yelling at me is hurting, Raena. Tell me, talk to me even, but quit screaming at me."
"I'm sorry." She wiped her face off and looked up at him. "I don't know why I'm doing this."
"Neither do I," he said with a faint smile.
"Don't you dare grin at me, Iggy."
"Sorry." He kissed her on the forehead. "I don't understand any of this. Every time I think I've got it, I end up getting screamed at, pushed out of bed, or told that I'd be less annoying if I didn't exist anymore. If you want to go through this alone, I'll let you," he offered. She hit him hard on the chest. "Ow! Shrew!" He frowned at her. "That's the impression you're giving me, Raena. If you wanted to tell me something different, then I'd tell me now. I'm not getting more than you're irritated with me and I don't even know what I've done."
"Iggy, calm down," was called through the door by a helpful younger cousin. "Trust me, she's not saying that she wants you to leave."
"Go away!" Raena told her. She looked at Iggy. "See, I can say that if I meant it."
"You did, twice last week," he noted.
She frowned. "I did?" He nodded. "I didn't mean to."
"Well, when you figure it out, I'm going to be right here, or at the shop, or even at the colony. If you want to be held, tell me now."
"You're like one of those automated phone systems," she accused.
"Raena, we both know people aren't my thing. You confuse me. I have no idea what's in your head, even when I'm in there. Use plain and simple terms, less tears if possible, and tell me what you want."
"You'll never understand."
"While that's probably true, I'm trying. I'm getting pushed away no matter how hard I try. I don't want to fight. You know that. I think this is some big game to you sometimes." She shook her head slowly. "Are you sure? 'Cause I hate being laughed as more than I hate fighting."
"I'm not laughing at you, but you're going to have to deal with humanity if you want to be a full- time healer."
"I'm only going for my MD because it'll solve problems. I hate people! I've always hated people. I don't want to deal with people." He took a deep breath. "Listen to the words coming out of my mouth, Raena. You are confusing and upsetting me. If you continue to confuse me, I'm going to take a long walk across the Asian continent." She opened her mouth. "Only so I don't have to fight with you. Now, figure it out and please tell me so I have a clue."
"You'd leave me when I'm carrying your child?"
"I'm thinking that's up to you," he told her. She hit him again. "That's not making me want to not take that walk any less," he warned.
"How could you say such things?" she wailed.
"Easy! You told me that I would have been more of an asset to the world having not ever been born!" he told her warmly. "What am I supposed to think, wife."
"It's these blasted hormones. I can't control them!"
"They make stuff for that. I made you some," he reminded her. "I've never heard of another person going through what you're putting me through. So tell me now, or I'm going to go for a fifteen month walk. Your choice of course."
She clung to him, sobbing. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean any of those things. You're so sensitive and I never know where I can draw the line."
"Easy, I don't have a line. I'm me. One of these days, I'll never have to deal with people I don't like again," he said when she looked up at him. "I don't deal well with people. I never have and I probably won't ever get along well with people. Most of all, I don't understand you. So if you would kindly either write me out a primer or give me a cheat sheet for situations like when you told me to quit breathing, then I'd be doing much better and feel less like going for a long walk."
"You don't love me."
"Did I say that?" he asked coldly. She looked up at him, looking scared. "Shake your head yes or no. Did I ever say I didn't love you?" She shook her head. "Thank you. What I said was that I didn't understand you. That you are confusing me. That I am not the most competent person with people, all of which you've known since you met me. Now, it's your turn. You can respond, or you can get up and walk away again, at which time I will go downstairs and eat breakfast and you can come find me once you've taken medicine for these mood swings."
She swallowed. "I don't mean to upset you, Iggy."
"You'd doing a damn fine job of it though," he pointed out.
She snuggled against his chest. "I'm sorry. All these things and feelings keep happening and I don't know how to handle it."
"Taking it out on me isn't the answer. Asking someone who's been there a few times might be though. Perhaps my grandmother, your mother, or even our favorite uncle, who suggested I give you one last chance before I went for my long walk."
She looked up at him. "You're serious?"
"Not about the walking part. My feet would hurt by the time I got all the way across Japan."
"About the leaving?" He nodded. "You really would leave me when I'm like this?"
"As opposed to being told I was worthless and not wanted, yeah. It'd hurt less."
She hugged him for all she was worth. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean those things."
"Try repeating that phrase sooner after the phrase comes out of your mouth if you can't keep it inside." She nodded and he started to relax. "I'm serious, Raena, I'm not going to be put down by anyone. I heard what my father went through when he was my age and I'm not going there. You're going to have to learn that I don't deal well with people. People like Severus are fine. People like Draco are fine. They hardly ever have odd outbursts and screaming fits, even when they're mad at me. Neither of my fathers have fits like that, especially not about me. They talk to me when they're upset with me. I'd like the same thing from you."
"You weren't raised that way, you guys fought because that's how your colony did it." She nodded. "I hate to remind you of this, but I'm not fighting. I will walk away instead of fighting. I refuse to fight. The same as I refuse to threaten."
"But you said..."
"That was a promise. Uncle Albus taught me that. I don't make threats, I make promises. Sometimes outlandish ones, and that's usually a clue that I'm being pushed beyond what's reasonably tolerable to most people in my family, but I don't make threats I won't go through with."
"Yeah, oh." He started to stroke her back again. "Now," he said in a calmer voice. "If you'd like to talk about some of the surges you've been having, I'll listen. I have no idea what they feel like because you shut me out of your head long ago on that level, but I'll listen. I'll probably need it some day." She snuggled in closer. "Or you could go to one of the more experienced parents and share it with them. There might be an unconscious cause that neither of us is aware of. But never hit me again and never scream at me that I'm worthless."
"I'm sorry about that."
"Wonderful. Maybe sometime in the future I'll believe that." She looked up at him and he stared down at her. "You know how I am, I don't take things like that well."
She gave him a shaky smile. "I think you're wonderful."
"Thank you. That helps a little bit." He put his head back down. "Rest, Raena. We could both use it." His stomach grumbled and hers answered. "Or some food, either one."
"Draco told me he'd send you back up here and send up breakfast if you woke up today."
"Yeah, Simone told me about the last two days. It's nice, I don't feel tired for the first time in about two months."
"I'm sorry about that too."
"Just fix it, dear, and we'll be fine."
"I'm going to talk to your grandmother later. Your father said she had one hell of a temper when she was pregnant the first two times."
"She probably did," Iggy agreed. "Both Charlie and Bill are very passionate about what's theirs. Much more so than Uncle Percy or the twins are. I'm guessing it transferred to them. In which case, ours is going to drive all of us nuts someday."
"But you want it?"
He rolled them over, landing on top of her. "Of course I do. I'm very happy that we had this accident, even if we are so young. What makes you think that I don't want it?" She shook her head. "Wasn't I the one working on the nursery?" She nodded. "Wasn't I the one looking over baby furniture?" She nodded again. "I was starting to think that you were sorry about it, Raena. I'm not sorry that I'm going to be a father. I could never regret it. Even if we end up poor and having to work for the joke shop and add an attic onto it for ourselves."
"Thank you," she said, reaching up to stroke his cheek. "I really didn't mean any of those things."
"Then next time please don't say them." He flopped onto his side, letting her snuggle against him however she wanted. "Do you feel better now?"
"Much. Thank you for making me see I was getting cranky again."
"You're welcome. It's nice, your mood swings are getting farther apart."
"You didn't see me for the last two days when you wouldn't wake up. Simone nearly knocked me out."
"Uncle Draco would have stopped her."
"Hopefully." She looked over as the door opened and Ravena walked in. "Breakfast?"
"Juice and toast. The rest is coming with father." She set the tray on a small table, floating it over beside the bed. "How are you feeling, Raena?"
"Better now that Iggy pointed out what a bitch I was becoming."
Ravena smiled. "Good. We were hoping we wouldn't walk in on the argument. Father hates fighting." She left them alone.
"How did the little guy who was poisoned do?"
"I had to brew him a stronger healing potion. His kidneys started to fail." Iggy frowned, slumping in on himself. "You did the best you could."
"I was too tired and had no business brewing anything," he retorted. "I could have seriously injured him."
"You didn't. You managed to get most of the poison out of his system. It's just that he waited too long after the ingestion to tell anyone he was sick. He waited nearly three hours."
"Will he be okay?"
"As far as we can tell. We'll go check on him today." He nodded. "You can't blame yourself."
"Of course I can. I should have taken something to wake myself up while I was brewing. I could have mismeasured, made the potion the wrong strength, or even killed the little guy. I knew better and I wasn't thinking. Now he's paying the price."
"He's paying the price because he hid the fact that he ate tainted meat for three hours after he ate it," Raena countered. "That's not your fault. It says a lot that you made the potions the right strength, even while you were so tired. By the way, that gillyweed addition was very helpful. It got the remaining meat out of his system in about twenty minutes. It lessened his exposure greatly."
"I still knew better. If I had been more awake, I could have helped manage the damage instead of forcing Helena to deal with it by herself."
"She's dealt with worse without you," Draco said as he walked in. "In this case, you being more awake wouldn't have helped. Any potion would have given you a few hours and made you crash harder, and the young one got worse in the middle of the night. They wouldn't have been able to wake you up anyway."
"Which means it's all my fault," Raena pointed out. He shook his head, looking at her. "I'm the one who wouldn't let you sleep."
Iggy got out of the bed. "Your hormones were off, I'll agree with that much, Raena. Not the methods, but that they were off. I caught a few naps whenever I could and I could have walked away sooner. I'll be back after I check on him."
Draco stunned him. "Helena told me to tell you to stay here and rest. She has it." Iggy glared at him. "Really. I helped her brew the cleansing potion myself. It is well within my limits."
"No buts," Draco said firmly. "Get back in that bed now, young man." He let Iggy go, watching as he climbed back in. "Thank you." He tucked them both back in. "You're being irrational. Other people can do the job you know."
"But it's my job," Iggy told him.
"Ours," Raena corrected.
"Mine. I'm the prodigy, the one that they're expecting all this great stuff from. It's my job to brew all the necessary and emergency potions, especially for my own colony. If I can't keep up, then everything I've ever been told about myself was a lie and I should admit that I can't do what everyone expects me to do."
"You're fucked up," Raena said, getting out and heading into the bathroom.
"It's not only your job," Draco said quietly, sitting beside him. "There are healers there. You are a potion's prodigy. You make medicines. You're not a full healer yet and the weight of every sickness isn't on your shoulders." He smiled. "With any luck, it won't ever be totally on your shoulders because you'll have other healers backing you up." He moved some of the white hair off the boy's forehead. "Yes, we expect great things from you, taking on all the world isn't one of those tasks."
"But it is! If I had taken something to wake me up, I would have noticed when his kidney functions started to fall."
"Helena said you noticed it even though you were asleep. You mumbled something about it while you were napping with him."
"Yeah, but if I had been awake, I would have been able to do something about it." He sat up. "Go stop her."
"In a moment."
"Now. She's being irrational again."
"She must get it from you," he said as he stood up, going to stop her from whatever she was doing. He walked into the bathroom and tipped her face up. "It's not your fault either. Even if he had been more awake, it wouldn't have made much difference. Whatever he caught from your mind, stop thinking it now." He saw her defeated look. "Who told you it was your job to take on all the problems, Raena? Tell me so I can beat the shit out of them for ruining your childhoods."
"Why? He's right. As potion masters it is our job to be on call and ready to brew anything necessary. I stopped him from being at the top of his game because I'm not in my right mind. If that baby dies, we can be charged with dereliction of duty because of it."
"No one would ever do that to you two." He gave her a hug. "Come, back into bed. You still need your rest. The doctor said he wanted you to have less stress, not more. I'll personally go check on the baby and tell you how he's doing, all right?" She nodded, letting herself be led back to the bed and put back under the covers. "You two eat. We don't need you getting sick." He left them alone, sealing the door against any visitors. First, he went to Xander, who would know and might have influenced this particular mental problem. "Xander?"
Xander looked up, looking tired. "They're right," he agreed. "It's one of the problems of being what they are. They're expected to be super-competent and always ready for anything. In this case, even though the kid waited three hours after eating the poison to tell anyone, they can be blamed. I asked Bill myself."
"It is," Xander agreed. "But the job comes with great responsibilities. This is why I pushed him to stay under Severus for as long as possible, hoping that some of his common sense and calmness in a crisis would rub off on Iggy."
"It won't. He's always going to be too sensitive to such things."
"And that's life," Xander reminded him. "That was the answer I got. The fact that they had to yell twice for him didn't look good at all and Delilah's seriously thinking about making Iggy step back until he finishes his training."
"I think that would be wise."
"That's what I told her. Bill pointed out that he couldn't do that though. He's the only one they have besides Raena."
Draco snorted. "I may not be a master, but I am more than good enough to make potions for this colony."
"You don't have the time to be at the beck and call of the colony, Draco. Iggy spends about ten hours a week doing things for them." Draco looked confused. "Yeah, him. That's what he does on Sundays. He makes all the possible potions they might need and restocks the healers. That's his job description. That and to take care of all emergencies, like the little gryphon who died early this morning of kidney failure."
"Yeah, but it happens. His mother's been wailing in grief now for hours. Severus had to make her something to put her to sleep."
"He's just a boy! His training's not finished."
"Read my lips, son, there's no one else. That's his job. The same as mine is to give up my life for the colony as a protector, his is to ignore everything else in his to brew things for them. Speaking of brewing, the elders want him."
"They can leap."
"No, they can't," George put in from the other side of the counter. "They won't wait. They know he's awake and they've probably already called on him to appear. Or both of them to appear. He's had more training than most of the healers already. They go on an apprentice system in the colonies."
"No, that's practical. Hogwarts is the only school that will accept borns," Xander pointed out. "Well, Cairo used to but now they won't; haven't for the last twenty years from what I heard." He shrugged. "This is the life he leads. He chose to take on the duties and he'll have to live with the duties. No matter how much I wish I could be there and cushion it for him. No matter how much I wish I could rage and rail at the injustice of it all, I can't. And neither can you."
Xander touched him. "You can't. You swore to uphold the traditions and this is one of them. No matter how much it sucks ass, this is the way it is."
"You're right, it does suck," Draco agreed. "You aren't going?"
"We can't go," Xander said bitterly. "Official summons are without your parents unless you're underage. If we interrupted or even tried to listen in, we could be fined and asked to leave."
"They like you!"
"So? Those are the rules. I can't break that one. No matter how much I want to rip the big feathered creature apart at the moment for saying Iggy should step down, I can't." He looked at his husband. "I'm going to hurt him."
"Not before I will," George assured him. "We'll do it together."
"You can hear them?"
"Iggy thinks loudly," George admitted. "Xander can usually pick him up if he's not shielding himself. I can hear him through his head. Bill just suggested Iggy step down until he finish his training."
"It might be for the best."
"If he does, then he'll lose all the respect he's built," Xander told him. "It'd be like Severus saying he really couldn't make a potion at all."
"Again, agreeing here," Xander said with a bitter smile. "I still want to kill them all."
"Xander, calm down," George soothed. "The mother was within her rights to complain about him. Helena's sticking up for him. She's even mentioned Iggy caught his kidneys starting to fail while asleep. She's a grieving mother."
"Yay! My son did what he could to help hers. She has no right to suggest that he be fed the same poison!"
"Calm down," George said again. "If they try, then you can destroy the colony."
"Can you?" Draco asked.
Xander nodded. "Yes, I can." He walked away. "I'm going to polish my daggers. It'll be soothing."
"Don't cut yourself," George called after him. "Draco, you can't interrupt." Draco looked at him. "It was in your body language. You don't be married to Xander for seventeen years and not pick up on stuff like that." He stood up. "The meeting's over with and they're still living. It's a good sign so far." Iggy walked in and stormed past. "Son?" Iggy backtracked and looked at him. "We heard. You did the best you could. She's a grieving mother."
"Fuck her," he said bitterly. "I don't want to take care of people who don't like me." He went back to his room and slammed the door, locking it against everyone.
"The third elder stepped in and asked Helena the important question," George said quietly. "Would it have made a difference if Iggy had been more awake. Helena said no, that he had caught the boy's kidneys dying before she had even though he was asleep. The only thing that could have saved him was if he had come to them sooner instead of hiding it for three hours. They did everything they could and Iggy wasn't at fault. So he wasn't reprimanded, but the elders did remind the mother that he was there to treat her as well, asked him to give her another potion to calm her down. That they understood her grief. Iggy handed one over and left. He told Bill he'd come back sometime in the future, when he fucking well felt like it. Maybe when they saw that he had done what he could and wasn't at fault." He popped his knuckles. "I think he's had a long, hard week and it's starting to show. Take him back to your house and let him run in the woods or something. It'll make him feel better."
Draco nodded, heading back to the boy's room. He tapped gently. "Iggy?"
"Go the fuck away!" he screamed.
"Would you like to go play in the woods? I'd be willing to run with you." The door opened and the boy looked at him. Draco gave him a hug. "It's painful and sucks, as your father would say. Come run in the woods. You can let it go for a while."
"Maybe," he agreed, taking them both back to the mansion. He walked out the back door and changed, heading off into the woods.
"Do you want company?" Draco called quietly. The wolf swished his tail angrily before disappearing. "Fine, when you want some, send for me." He closed the door and turned, finding his eldest daughter standing there. "He's blowing off some steam."
"Can I hurt them?"
"No. They said he wasn't at fault."
"And then they pushed his job back in his face. They should know better than that. Even Raena bitched them out for it." She smirked. "I'm pleased with the vocabulary she's picked up off me."
"Leave it for now, Simone. As Xander pointed out, this is his job. There's no one else to do it and these are the rules."
"They should still know better. Iggy is a fragile creature and they've known this about him his whole life. Pushing it back in his face that way wasn't something that's going to make him want to help them ever again."
"Possibly, but it's a sad fact of life as an adult. People will expect some impossible things from you and then be hurt when shown that their expectations are unrealistic. He'll get over it and be only a bit more bitter from the experience. By the time his child is born, he'll be talking to them again." He walked her into his office. "Come on, let's figure out how to switch around our memberships so we don't have to share lovers."
Iggy looked up from sunning himself as a shadow flew over him. "Go away," he barked. He curled back up and glared at the elder as he landed. "I don't want to talk to you."
"Don't be that way, Ignatius. It is a function of the job."
The wolf changed back into the boy. "Fuck you, Bill. I know my job. If you don't think I'm doing it properly or not doing a good enough job, then tell me and I'll gladly quit. I have a life and I can still use my skills to work for the betterment of people who don't push it back in my face." The gryphon flinched. "I see you're getting the point. I'm starting to see why some people become so bitter. Especially healers. Now, if you don't mind, I was starting to calm down and you've ruined it. Go away."
"You'll have to come back, Iggy."
"No, I don't," he snorted. "I can pay back everything you've given me right this moment and then some. I can walk the hell away and no one would be able to say anything to me. All they'd say was that I was a spoiled brat and that I couldn't handle my duties. Which, in a way, they may be right. Because I'm sure as hell not going to do anything for that female until she calms down." He took a step closer. "Give me an indication right now, Bill, or I'm walking away. I don't need this stress. My wife is more than enough for me at this moment in my life."
"You'd be willing to lose everything that's ever been your privilege? Even that which sets your family apart?"
"I'm an adult, Bill. My actions wouldn't show on my fathers. Though I think Daddy Xander might support me, even though he'd be miserable." He shrugged and flung his arms out. "Cut me loose, man, give me back a life."
"You have a life."
"No, I have my studies. Do you know that I had to remind my wife this morning about not understanding people? How I've never understood people? All because I've studied too much of my life away. I'd like to have some fun, but that's just not happening."
"You'll still have the rest of your education."
"Bill, I've already got nearly everything done for my mastery." Iggy noticed the stunned look on his face and went on ruthlessly to make sure he understood this time. "I've created six potions of my own in the last year that I can defend and write my paper on right now. All I'm missing is a year's worth of classes." He gave a bitter laugh. "I should be dancing for joy right now because I'm going to be a father in a few months. I'm not, because of this shit. I'm not because I don't understand people and it's a little bit too late for me to learn to get along with them now. Personally, I'd adore to have a job like Sev's right now. Where I could deal with a select group of beings that I get to partially choose and no one else. And the sad thing is that I only have myself to blame because no one pushed me but me." He changed back into the wolf and walked away, going to find a new, private sunny spot. Far, far away from anything that vaguely resembled a thinking being.
Bill sighed. This hadn't gone well at all. Now he knew why the boy's wife had been so upset. He would have to report this instability to Delilah and she would have to report it to the Main Council. Hopefully they'd see the boy in private and calm him down.
Xander accepted the summons and ripped it up, handing it back to the owl to redeliver. "Thank you, but he's resting. He's ill. You can tel them I said so." The owl flew off again. "Son, they summoned you."
Iggy sneezed. "Fuck 'em." He put out the small fire and laid back on the couch. "I'm not moving for the next day and a half, or until the medicine starts to work, one of the two."
Molly walked in with a small purple bottle. "Try this, Iggy, it might help some." She saw a small piece of paper on the floor and looked at Xander. "A new problem?"
"The Main Colony wants him."
"They can wait until he's better," she said firmly. "Should I ask someone to tell them that?"
"No, I sent back my message that he was ill," Xander told her. He watched as his son drank the potion and fell back to sleep again. "I'm worried, Molly. He's not getting any better. This is caused by all that damn stress and they know it. They're doing it on purpose."
"Then go talk to them, Xander. You're his father, surely you still have some standing."
"Maybe." Xander grabbed his cloak and some floo powder, heading for the main colony. He walked in and glared at the few courtiers lazing around. "Get out!" he demanded. They ran, closing the doors behind them. "Good morning."
"I thought we summoned your son," the lead female told him.
"My son is presently starting fires each time he sneezes because of you people. Leave him alone." He crossed his arms, glaring at them. "You have no need to bitch him out farther because he's a normal human being. If you don't like that, he has offered to vacate the post and let you find a new one. I'll gladly stand behind him if he does." The door opened. "Out, Reynaldo. This is a family matter." The doors shut again and he turned to look at the gryphons, looking up at the top male, who had stood up. "I'm not letting you harm my son. Yes, he pushed himself, but he did it for you. No matter how often I wanted him to slow down. I won't let you kill my son."
"We have no intention of physically harming him," the top female said in her most haughty voice.
"He means with stress," the top male said. "Ignatius has always been known to be a caring and gentle soul. How he can be a healer, I'm not sure."
"He does fine, up until he's blamed for not being able to do everything. Or when he's blamed for shit that's not his fault. Between you guys and the pregnant wife, I want to take my son and hide him from you for the next few years, let him have a real life." He gave them his most bitter look. "I won't deny the fact that he made his decisions and he'll stick by them, but I'm not letting you harm my child. Over your dead bodies."
"You can't kill us," the third male snorted.
Xander created a fireball in his hand. "I can. I'm the one you guys keep underestimating. I can and I will do anything to protect my sons. Even if I means I have to wipe your species off the face of this fucking planet or take him to a plane where you don't exist." He extinguished the fireball. "Do you understand now?" He uncrossed his arms. "You have upset my son to the point where you've made him ill. I won't have it. I can and will make him step down if it gets to be too much. I'll send him in a few days, once he's feeling better and he's no longer sneezing up fire. Until then, you can wait and figure out what you want. Give it to him quick and fast, without being mean if possible. That's all we ask." He turned and he left, going back to the Burrow. He found his acknowledged son watching his actual son and smiled at him. "I just threatened them," he said quietly. "I feel better now, even though I know I'll have a bout of self- name calling later." He sat down, watching his son sleep. "I want him to have a few years off."
"Then make him take a few years to get his MD," Draco pointed out. "Yes, he can test out of a few classes, but don't let him. You're his father."
Xander looked at him. "There are days when I'm so amazed by my son, but I wouldn't wish a genius child on anybody most of the time. Not even my worst enemy. Not even your father if he were still alive." Draco snorted, but he was smiling. "Seriously. I never wanted him to turn out this way. I wanted him to have an appreciation for having fun and for playing. I don't know where I went wrong some days."
Draco hugged him. "You didn't. You didn't push him to study all the time. This is how he is. You tried so hard to get him to be like everyone else, Xander. We all forced him to play. We even forced him to put down his books. This isn't your fault."
"It is. It has to be. He's got to get this from me. George is an easy-going guy. This has got to do with me being so bad in school. I know I encouraged it somehow but I don't know how. And the sad thing is, I see the same thing happening to William and Maeve, but I can't stop them."
"Of course you can. Take them on a long vacation before school starts. Make them go to a theme park or something. Show them the lighter side of life."
"I tried that."
"I know, and somehow Iggy decided that books were easier." He shrugged. "It's not your fault."
"I don't like feeling like my son's a curse."
"No, I think he's one of those double-edged blessings," Draco pointed out. "He's brilliant and it's a cause for celebration, but he's missed out on so much and you know he can't make it up, which is the other side of it."
"Yeah, but the sad thing is, I wouldn't change it for him. He's happy this way most of the time."
Iggy moaned and rolled over. "It's not your fault, daddy. I used to hate to play. Now I realize how stupid I was as a child." He looked over at him. "You couldn't have stopped me, even if you had taken away all my books and obliviated language from me. This is how I am."
"I'm not disappointed in you, Iggy."
"I know. You're disappointed for me. There's a difference and I appreciate it. Do me a favor though, make sure my kid plays. Even if you have to possess him or something, make sure he makes mud pies and plays tag and all that good stuff. Because I might not be around that much."
"I warned them not to hurt you," Xander admitted
"You threatened the Main Colony Elder Board for me?" Iggy asked, sitting up. Xander nodded. "Why?"
"Because you're my son and what they're doing is shitty."
Iggy smiled at him. "Wow. That's amazing." He walked over and gave him a hug. "When am I summoned to them?"
"I told them sometime in the next week, as soon as you're better. I'll support you in whatever you decide. Even if you decide to ignore your heritage and turn your back on them."
"Thanks, daddy. I want to be a father like you." Xander kissed him. "I think I'd better nap some more. The world's spinning and sneezing up fires is not a good thing with your past." He laid back down on the couch, letting his older brother cover him up. "Thanks, Draco."
"You're welcome," he said gently. He looked at Xander. "You have one hell of a child."
Xander grinned. "I know."
Raena looked at her mother and father. "I don't know what he's going to do, but he's very close from turning his back on all of us and only doing human potions. He's right, he can do without us. We need him a lot more than he needs any of us." She nibbled on her green pepper wedge.
"What will you do if he does?" her father asked.
"I'll still serve the colonies, but I won't be the official top potion master. I'll serve the local ones and brew any potions that are needed if they're sent to me. Or I'll go out for emergency cases, but I'm not going to let myself be used like they're using him." She wiped her mouth off and looked at her parents. "I agree with him in this case. Even if I were still older, I wouldn't have been able to put up with what they're dropping in his lap. I realize it's been a while and they're getting used to having someone who can do all these things, but I don't care."
"You know your father-in-law threatened the Main Council with extinction?" her father asked.
"Quiet," her mother ordered. "She didn't need to know."
"No, but I assumed anyway. Xander's like that, his family is the only sacred thing in his life. He's nearly died to protect them before. Why should this time be any different?" She shrugged at the shocked looks. "If you had done your research you'd know this, father. He limps because he was saving his nieces from the Watchers. He nearly destroyed the school to save the kids in it, plus the rest of us, from Voldemort. He routinely takes on people who don't like him because he thinks it's right. He's a knight in shining armor in the wrong time period."
"If he does something, what will you do?" her mother asked.
"I honestly don't know. I'll protect what's mine, I know that much. If it means the Main Council changes, then so be it. I won't put myself in danger unnecessarily, but I won't stand by and let my family be destroyed either. My husband got blamed for not being able to cure a poisoning that had went too far to cure. That isn't right and it's not fair. I can understand the mother's grief because I can't imagine what I'd do if it were mine," she said with a rub to her stomach, "but I'm not going to go along with the ridiculous blaming of Iggy for the kid not coming forward sooner. He knew that the meat tasted funny when he first sniffed it. He hid it for three hours. It had gone too far. Iggy did everything he could, even reacting in his sleep to tell our healer that the boy's kidneys were starting to go. He couldn't have done any more than that. Nothing stops the body from dying when the kidneys are shot. Not even elixir of life."
"How is your stone coming?" her mother asked, changing the subject.
"We've completed three of them. Iggy figured out how to do shapes even," she said, holding out her ring. "This is the replacement stone since the last one shattered."
"It's a perfect fit," her father said with a smile. "How much shaving did he have to do?"
"Only about half a carat off one side. This was our last one. The other two are safely stored away and registered."
"Are you happy otherwise?" her father asked. "You could use this to grant a dissolution of your bond."
"He doesn't understand people," she admitted. "He says he probably never will and that I confuse him often." She blushed. "I had a few bad mood swings earlier this month. He gave me a chance to tell him what I meant before he decided to take a walk across the Asian continent to get away from me snapping at him." She smiled. "Otherwise, I'm happy. I can make him relax. I can make him have fun. I can also make him mad enough to actually fight. Which is apparently a miracle."
"He doesn't fight?"
"He doesn't argue, he doesn't tease, and he doesn't let us having blazing rows like you and dad sometimes have. He walks away until both of us are calm and then we talk. His father's the same way."
"That can't be healthy," her father said with a frown.
"I think it might be even more healthy than fighting. He never yells at me. Never. He might raise his voice, but then he forces himself to calm down again. It's odd, but I'm getting more used to it."
"Loving teases are good."
"Daddy, he's been a genius all his life. He's been picked on because of it. He doesn't separate the two. I'm slowly growing accustomed to his sense of humor and him being so sensitive. The few fights we've had have been over that issue. That and what to name the baby."
"What does he want?"
"Nothing that will influence the child's nature. He swears he was influenced by his. I can agree to that. I want to name our first son Spenser since he's looming so large in Iggy's life, but I can wait. I think this one's a girl." She looked at her watch. "I'd best get back before someone worries about me falling down and going into early labor. Iggy gets so paranoid about me getting hurt sometimes." She stood up, grabbing the last few vegetables on her plate.
"Is he possessive?"
"More protective. He was possessive earlier on. Now I'm like his most cherished thing. He said the other day he'd save me before his books if the apartment caught on fire. Out of the blue, just announced it while we were reading together on the couch." Her mother smiled and her father hummed. She kissed them both and went back to the Burrow, where her husband was still napping on the couch so he wouldn't set the more fragile top levels on fire, just in case of course.
Her father looked at his wife. "It must be love."
She swatted him. "You used to feel the same way about me. He's a good boy, even if the Councils are beleaguering him. Did you know he was making six official calls a summer?"
"When did the boy stop to have fun?" the father asked.
"I think that's his father's point," she said gently.
The father smiled. "A child will change that. It did for the rest of us."
The top gryphoness looked over at Raena. "You are egg heavy, you should be sitting down."
"Shut up, I know my limitations," she said without heat.
The females looked at Iggy. "What? That's about the only thing I agree with you on. She's stubborn and I can't change her mind." He looked at them all. "I quit." He smiled. "I'm going to go play now, something I haven't done since I was six. Not since you guys found out I liked playing with potions." They all looked shocked. "That's right, I don't care any more." He kissed his wife's hand. "This is the only thing I care about. You're taking me away from it with unreasonable demands."
"I don't think we're being unreasonable."
"I've hit three colonies for supposed emergencies in the last week alone," Iggy told him. "My wife is pregnant. My school is fucking with me. I haven't had a real life in years. I haven't enjoyed what little life I've been allowed in about that same amount of time. I haven't gone for a fly that wasn't a game or a practice for a game. I haven't done a potion that was just for fun in two years, and I haven't had the joy of doing what every other boy my age has done, get in trouble, in four years. I'm going to go back to being a normal boy again. A brilliant one, but that's it." He pulled something out of his pocket and dropped it on the ground. "Here. Exactly equal to what you've given me over the years, plus ten percent interest."
"How did you come up with that?" the top female asked, looking upset.
"I'm an alchemist. It was the only fun I could work into my schedule because it furthered my chosen art." He let his wife go and crossed his arms. "In case you didn't know, I've been using a time turner since I was ten." They gasped. "Since then, I've accumulated approximately three years worth of travel, six or seven paradoxes, and the ability to live through three days at once without sleep. And I'm tired of it. Yeah, if you need me to, I'll still make potions whenever it's necessary. I'm not going to do every little job that any healer can do. Hell, I'll even train some of the healers to do some more of what I was doing so I don't have to spend the majority of twenty- four days out of each month in the lab. I'm sorry, but I'm not perfect. I'll never be perfect. I'm not even going to try, but apparently my best isn't good enough for you so I'm going to turn my position over to one that has more of a feel for your ways. Because they certainly aren't mine." He stepped away from his wife. "Here she is, the other potion's master." He walked away, heading for home.
"Young man, stop this instant!" the top female demanded. He turned to look at her. "How dare you act like such a spoiled little child!"
"I'm seventeen!" he pointed out. She gasped. "Yes, me, seventeen. Minor child by many standards, including that of my fathers. I may be eons older mentally, but I'm still young. I don't want to get old and bitter before my time like most of the healers you guys have. Personally, I consider that a fate worse than death. Like I said, I'll teach some of the healers how to do most of what I've done. I'll help Raena if she needs me. Other than that, I'm feeling much better now because I don't have sixty thousand beings on my patient list. It's a wonderful thing. I can go hide away from the strange creatures I never got to know called people." He left, going back to the Burrow. He made it all the way to the couch before he felt sick, but his father George was waiting on him with open arms so it was all better soon enough.
Raena looked at the elders. "I agree with my mate. If you want me to work, and to draw him in to help me, I'm not putting up with the shit he did. I'm pregnant and under travel restrictions. I'm not going to leave my future daughter and husband alone unless it's an emergency. I totally agree with him about teaching the healers. They've lost some knowledge over the years because the older ones have died before passing on everything. We'll gladly fill in those spots. Take it or leave it. I'm too tired to give a damn at the moment because of my daughter."
"Are you sure it's a girl?" the second female head asked.
"No, but I feel it's a girl. For right now we're calling her a little girl."
"Oh. That's very nice." She smiled at her. "You really should be sitting."
"My doctor would agree with you, but I saved up and sat a lot earlier so I could stand and face you now." She looked at the fussier ones. "You ruined him. He won't argue. He doesn't know how to deal with people. All because he spent his whole life trying to live up to your expectations," she said quietly. "It won't happen to my child and it won't happen to me either."
"Is he going to finish his schooling?" the second female head asked.
Raena smiled at her and nodded. "He's got one year's worth of mandatory classes to take for his MD. He's made six potions in the last year so he's got his Mastery stuff sewn up as well. Other than that, he's passed through all the other requirements and if he works out a deal with the school, he might even get to bypass most of those required classes in favor of the infirmary and his usual rounds at St. Mungo's." She shrugged. "He's been working hard ever since he started school. I'm not letting him be hurt any more, not by anything. I do enough of that on my own. He doesn't need any more stress than what's already in his life. The Ministry in Britain is screwing with our entire class. The college is being a bit stiff and saying he can't do the equivalencies because he made it all the way to graduation, so if the Ministry doesn't fix itself we'll all end up repeating a year for no reason. Plus the new baby and all of this other stuff. You guys reached his limit and kept pushing. You should have known better. Hell, his own elders should have known better. Since he's cut off all ties with the person who basically helped raise him because of that situation, I'm not sure he'll help you even if it is an emergency and all of you would die. You've hurt him too badly." She straightened her robes. "Tell me if you want me to take over, but I'm doing it on my terms. I refuse to be made miserable like he has been for the last few years."
"We had no intention of hurting him," the top male noted.
"Well, you did, and he's not going to come back," she snapped. "He doesn't give second chances usually. The only two he's given in the last three years have been to me and one of his cousins who picked on him. You guys are going to be lucky if our children are taught the traditional ways." She walked away.
"Take that bag with you," the top female said.
"We don't need it," Raena snorted. "You gave it to him and he gave it back. It's a matter of principle." She went through the portal, heading for the Burrow without saying a word to the local colony's elders. Let them get it from the Main Council, they already knew they had messed up. She snuggled in on her mate's other side, letting him finish shaking against her. "It'll be all right. We'll do what normal people do," she assured him. "No more getting out of bed in the middle of the night for a minor wing sprain." He snorted. "No more drooping tails at dawn." He relaxed against her. "I made myself very clear. I'm not putting up with it. I agreed that we'd teach the healers if they wanted to be taught, but otherwise, I am only there for emergencies."
"Thank you, Raena."
"It's not a problem, Iggy. They were wrong. We'll be happier and more carefree now."
"Until the baby comes," George said with a smile. "A girl?"
"I think so," Raena agreed. "We'll be able to tell soon enough." She saw a large shadow outside. "I always loved that portaling while flying thing." She tipped her head back. "Simone? There's a big creature here!"
Simone jogged in from the back yard. "Can I bitchslap it?"
"No, but can you deal with it for me?" Iggy asked. "I'm not talking to people today unless it's my mentor or my family."
"Sure, cuz." Simone headed outside, looking up at the large gryphoness standing there. "Gee, you're bigger out of your nest, Delilah."
She frowned down at the human. "Where is your cousin, Simone?"
"Resting against one of his father's side, with his mate on his other side. He says he's not talking to anybody." A bag was dropped at her feet. "I helped him while he made it for you. He doesn't want it. He wants very little right now, including some peace and quiet. Can you give him that?"
"He has a duty to us!" she pointed out coolly.
"And you had a duty to him too, you didn't keep up your end of the bargain and turned him into an old man long before his time. He's going to have a normal life now. He's not going to get up at dawn to take care of a drooping tail like he did before one of our games. He's not going to be getting out of bed the morning before a test to take care of a cough that you already had the medicine for. And he's sure as hell not going to be at the beck and call of every being on the face of the planet when his daughter comes. In a way, this was a good time to do this. This way he can enjoy the nicer parts of his wife's pregnancy and be there for his child when it's born. I'm sure he'll enjoy that more than he will a broken pinion feather." She pointed at the one she could see. "You need groomed."
"Get him out here."
Iggy opened the door. "What part of 'go away and leave me alone' don't you get?" he asked. She looked shocked. "Yes, it's me. All me. All tired, pissed off, and hurt me. Go away, Delilah. Right now, I don't want to see any of you. Maybe in a few weeks I'll be nicer about it, but right now I'm tired, I'm worn out, and I could care less." He closed the door and went back to his cuddles.
"See?" Simone asked. "This is all you guys, not Raena. She was just an added layer of stress. The three years done by time turner over the last seven because of his calling nearly killed him more than once. He's taking medicine now for his own health. I'm not losing my cousin because you guys can't figure out how to use a book." She gave the hurt look a shrug. "If you asked nicely, I'm sure Iggy'd teach the healers some of what he knows. He's offered in the past and it'd save some of the wear and tear on his wife if she's going to stay working with you. Besides, he likes teaching. It'll make him happy, which he hasn't been in about four years." She walked away, going back into the house and shutting the door. "You are willing to teach, right?"
"Yup," Iggy said, his eyes closed. "I think I'm going to take an actual nap."
"Nap away, Iggy. Life's too short to miss out on the naps it holds," Simone comforted. Raena smiled at her. "It is. I adore my naps." She winked and headed out back, watching the gryphoness take off. "They are beautiful," she sighed. "Stubborn, but beautiful." She looked at her brother. "Iggy's napping."
"Good, he probably needs one. It's not every day that you ruin your life." He grinned. "Think he'll be up to practicing later?"
"Give him until tomorrow. Let him have a fly for fun tonight," Simone advised. "Or a run in the woods if he wants. That might make him feel better."
"All right," he sighed. "Want to help me then?"
"Sure, you could use it," Simone agreed, punching him on the arm. He winced. "Sorry, forgot you were fragile." She giggled and ran off, letting him chase her.
"Children," Draco said from his seat, behind his book. "Not too loudly. Your cousin needs his rest if he's ever going to get better."
"Yes, father," they called, heading further away to play out there. That way they could get loud.
Iggy looked up as Severus walked up to him, kicking the chair across from him out. "I'll buy you some ice cream if you want," he offered.
"It's not necessary," Severus said as he sat. "What happened?"
"I snapped. I broke. I'm happier now," he said, licking off his spoon. "It's wonderful not having to get up at dawn to restock six colony's potions." Severus opened his mouth. "That was my usual Sunday."
"I never knew."
"I thought it was normal until last year. That's when I realized that Poppy never asked you to do that much and she brewed half of her stuff on her own." He took another bite of his sundae. "Then I went and talked to my advisor. She was shocked and offended for me when she saw how many hours I was doing and how thick my notebook had become since I got accepted into the program. Plus the second and third ones," he said with a bitter smile. "She got me thinking. Then this thing with the baby happened and I snapped."
"You did the best you could," Severus assured him.
"I know that now. It took me a few weeks to accept that fact. It also took me losing another patient in the hospital to point out that I'm not perfect." Severus nodded. "So, I just got done with my advisor." He pulled out a few forms. "Here's what I'll need if we're going to be forced into coming back."
"You only need two-hundred-sixty more hours for your internship?" Snape asked, looking shocked. He looked up at the boy, who was nodding. "How did you accumulate so many hours?"
"Two four hour shifts a week over four years in addition to all my time in the school infirmary. Most of what I need is pediatrics and sports medicine or orthopedics. I'll also need to do some time with a chiropractor. I'll have six classes that everyone has to take and pass once I finally get free, then I'll have my post-graduate residency. That should only last for about a year though since I don't want to practice medicine. My advisor for my healer certification was shocked that I was willing to do all this, especially after I quit. I pointed out I would need it anyway for my emphasis and he decided I was right." He smiled. "He had that same shocked look when my potion's advisor handed over my accumulated hours and all the stuff you guys have been filing on me. He wanted to know if I was sick yet."
"Aren't you?" Severus asked. "I seem to remember making you a lot of medicine over the last year."
"I've made even more for myself," Iggy admitted, putting down his spoon. "My doctor is very thankful I've slowed down. He said I was quickly coming up on the spot Percy was when he had his first heart attack and he was worried for me." He shrugged. "He's one of the muggle doctors I work with at St. Mungo's. He's been really supportive."
"Does your father know?"
"Nope. I'd like to keep it that way. Raena doesn't know either."
"I see." He looked down at the forms. "All that's left is your Mastery paper?"
"Yup. But I was advised to wait and finish it all at once. Want to help me pick out which potion I'm using for that?"
Severus smiled at him. "I'd be honored." He pulled a thick envelope out of his pocket and handed it over. "Your elders delivered this to me today."
"I don't care."
"Open it anyway. I'm curious."
Iggy opened the envelope, reading the enclosed documents. "They want me back." He handed them over. "Like I said, I don't care any longer." He smiled as the waitress came over. "May I please have another glass of water?" She nodded and went to get it for him. "Anything truly interesting that I missed?"
"They're willing to forgive you and lessen your time spent working."
"Yay. I'm going to enjoy my child's childhood. I was too dumb and stubborn to enjoy my own, but I will enjoy my son or daughter's. I'm not going to rob them of having a wonderful father. I had one and I feel it made me a wonderful person."
"I tend to agree with that sentiment," Severus agreed with a faint smile. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"I'm sure. I know what I'm losing. All my time spent in Mortal Alley. All my allowances. Any special privileges I might have had before that I took for granted. Access to their vaults. I don't want it if it means I'm going to have to die to have them. It's not worth it to me personally or professionally. Shit, I've already gotten notice because of what I can do."
"They pushed you toward it."
"I'm grateful to them for it, but you would have done the same thing."
"Probably," Severus agreed.
Iggy grinned. "You took me on as a private apprentice long before they made me official, Severus. You and I both know I bugged you until you relented." He leaned closer. "I also know you were the push behind me getting in a year early, and I wanted to say thank you for that."
"I hate to see talent go to waste," he said, looking embarrassed.
"Wonderful. That means I'm going to shamelessly make you give me an honest estimate of my own children's skills."
Severus shook his head, but he was smiling again. "They can keep you out of Mortal Alley?"
"Not technically, but they can make it uncomfortable for me and my family to shop there. Either you're one of them or you're not."
"I've been in similar organizations," Severus admitted. "It's incredibly shortsighted."
"Yeah, well, pride can be that way I guess." Iggy accepted the check and paid for it, leaving a tip. "Want to go to the bookstore with me? I've got to get my next set of books for my medical classes."
"No, I believe I'm going to go back home. Tara's still not feeling well."
"I'll be up to tonight to look at her if you want. I have to drop those requirements off to Poppy anyway if she's back."
"We're at the house, but you are more than welcome to come up and check on her. Zachariah would like to see you as well."
"I like the little guy, I get to practice all my best daddy moves on him." He grinned at the groan. "Besides, I like teaching him the basic stuff. My own kids are more likely to be fond of transfiguration and I'll never get to teach them potions." He shrugged. "It seems to be how this stuff goes." He put a hand on his mentor's arm. "Can you please make daddy lighten up on himself? I know he's disappointed for me, but he's disappointed in himself as well and it's got to stop. He's being dumb and I can't get through to him."
"He's disappointed for you?"
"Because of all the stuff I missed out on that he considers critical for a good childhood. He thinks he should have forced me to do more childish things and he's not realizing I would have fought him anyway. I made myself this way, it wasn't his fault."
"I'll talk with him tomorrow if you want." Iggy nodded. "Are you disappointed?"
"More determined to not make the same mistakes with my own kids. I will force my kids to go outside and play more often. To give them more times when they'll be around other kids. I won't let them isolate themselves the way I did behind my books. My kids will be coming with me to school and I will be a very hands-on father. Like my own was. But I'm not letting my kid feel the push of being a genius if they are. I won't let my own kid push themselves until they can do without sleep for three days."
"Your father tried to stop you."
"I know. I don't fault him for me being so stubborn and going behind his back to do it. I know he's proud of me for it. He's said so often enough. I figure I'll be proud, even if my child turns out like Draco started to." Severus chuckled at that, making Iggy grin. "Besides, I don't want the limelight. I'd rather be obscure than famous and I'm going to make sure of it. That's why I won't play pro quidditch, because I don't want the notoriety. I'll join this new third tier in the fun leagues and leave myself there. I'll do what I have to do, and then I'll take over when you retire."
Severus snickered again. "I'm sure you will. I'll recommend you for the job if you ever catch your patience."
"Most of that is stress. I guess we'll be seeing that this coming year if nothing else." He shrugged. "I'm off to get my new textbooks. Have a nice afternoon and I'll pop around tomorrow." He walked away.
"He has become an incredible man," Severus told himself. Someone tapped him on the shoulder and he looked down at the young woman. "Yes?"
"You're right, but we'd all like him to enjoy this new freedom," Alicia told him.
"He's determined to. We'll have to see what comes of it. He will do what he thinks is right, he's much like his father in that respect." He walked away, heading back to the floo. He was amazed at how little the boy had left to do. He'd have to make sure he lived only one day at a time this coming year.
Arabelle looked up as her lunch companion joined her. "How are you, Raena?"
"Feeling better now that I've evened out," she admitted, smiling at her aunt. "Why are we having lunch? You never said."
"I wanted to make sure you knew and were all right with what your husband was planning."
"I'm going to support him in his decision," Raena told her. The waiter came over and put down a glass for her so she smiled at him. "We'll be ready to order in a moment." He nodded and zipped off to another customer. "He's actually slept a full night for the last two weeks."
"The doctor told him to cut back, he didn't need it anymore. He completely took away his nerve tonic, his sleeping potion, and cut his heart medicine in half." Arabelle looked stunned. "Which didn't you know about?"
"I was talking about his degree."
"Oh!" She smiled. "He has two-hundred-sixty more hours to do of practical application time and six mandatory classes. His advisor even said he could bring in the baby if necessary. That way the other students could figure out how to deal with children before they had to officially deal with a sick one."
"Hmm." Arabelle opened her menu. "Get whatever you want, dear, this is on my expense account. Arthur said so."
"They sent you to be the nosy one?"
"Of course," she agreed with a smile. "Percy's been a bit grumpy recently and his father's not terribly pleased with him. We've been trying to find the new Education Minister's wife and child and haven't had any luck so he's been running himself ragged again. Arthur had to force him to take a day off and go shopping with Melvin for necessary baby things." She smiled at the younger woman. "How are you doing in that area?"
"Molly's been doing a lot of it with me," she admitted. "We'll have the shower right before school starts, that way no one has to haul stuff up to the school. Is there *any* chance we won't have to take this year over?"
"Not yet," Arabelle sighed. "We're trying, sweetie. We're doing our best."
"At least I won't be the only married and pregnant one," Raena said lightly. She looked up as the waiter came back. "I'd like the pasta florentine without the broccoli and a large caesar salad, dressing on the side. Add some rolls as well if you wouldn't mind." She handed off her menu.
"That sounds tempting," Arabelle admitted. "I think I'll have the caesar salad as well, also dressing on the side, but I'll have the scallops and potatoes dish." She handed her menu off and the waiter zipped off again. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine. I had a few expansion pains last night but Iggy rubbed the nasty buggers out. We've had to teach Melvin how to do good pregnancy massages for Andrea. Xander taught all of us how to do the best we could when he found out Melvin wasn't technically proficient in that area yet." She grinned. "He's taking almost as much joy out of this pregnancy as I or Iggy are."
"That's wonderful news. By the way, you'll be one of six pregnant couples, and one of ten other married couples if they force you back."
Arabelle nodded. "Really. Including an arranged marriage between a upcoming fifth year and one of your yearmates."
"Well. That's impressive," Raena said with a grin. "No wonder the castle didn't want to give out more beds."
"Oh, more will be needed, but not yet. I'm assuming you two will get your old quarters from last year. Melvin and Andrea may have ones near you or Xander and Ron may offer them the spare room in the tower."
"Iggy thought it was so cute that we got Xander and George's former room as our own last year. The cradle was already brought down when we went to check and see if we needed to bring anything up. We couldn't remember if we had taken our sheets with us or not," she said at the quizzical look. "How long before the deadline?"
"Three days," Arabelle told her. "Then, by law, you'll have to do drop out slips to withdraw from the school. Arthur's put forward a challenge to it, but the judge said it couldn't be helped. This rule was put in place for a reason, mostly for funding purposes. The judge thought it was tragic, but he couldn't fix this one without creating a bad precedent. He did point out that some of you could test out of things."
"The Royal Academy said that they'd expel us if we did. Since we got so close to graduation, we'd have to go through with it. If we had heard about this four months before graduation we might have been able to test out, but not now."
Raena shrugged. "I'm not. This year will be interesting at least. A lot lighter. Iggy's going to be doing research and working with Poppy and Severus. I'm doing the same things, and we'll be spending some time helping the Advanced Battling class as well. It'll be the lightest year we've had to date."
Their salads were brought and they both opted for grated cheese on top, then the waiter left them alone.
"Hopefully you'll take time to have long strolls around the grounds."
"Iggy's been thinking about subletting our apartment after we're finished school, possibly to Melvin and Andrea, and buying us a house near the school. He doesn't want to live in London all the time. For that matter, he really wants to fade into obscurity and be an inventor instead of a working master."
"There's money in that and he is good enough," Arabelle agreed, taking a bite of her salad. "The lettuce was frozen."
"It happens in the best of places," Raena quipped, digging into her salad. "I'm so glad morning sickness is over with. I never want to see another pot of soup again."
Arabelle laughed. "I remember that feeling fondly," she agreed, cracking them both up. They switched to gossip.
Iggy looked at his uncle as they fished in the small lake by Harry's house. "I want to have what you have," he announced.
"Three kids and a really good garden?"
"No, a house in the middle nowhere." Harry smiled at him. "I don't want to do the whole withdrawing thing, but I'm going to set myself up as a consultant and a healer for the locals. A house in Hogsmeade and a large family, that's about the end of my ambitions at the moment."
"What about your education?"
"I only have a year left, no matter whether or not I'm forced to go through with this year at Hogwarts. By the way, I need to talk to your team's doctor to get some extra hours in. I need sixty practical application hours of sports medicine or orthopedics. I figure between both teams, I should be able to get that done this year."
"Not in the hospital?"
"I could do them with my father's orthopedist, but I like you guys and I figure sports medicine will come in more handy in the family, plus it's got the ortho stuff already in it. I'll still need to do a month's worth with a chiropractor and a lot of pediatric hours as well."
"How many hours is a month's worth?"
"Eight hours a day, four days a week, for a month. One-hundred-twenty-eight or so."
"Wow. That's a lot."
"It goes by fast," Iggy said with a shrug. "Then afterward, I'll have a year of residency wherever I can get accepted. After that, I'm free to retire and do whatever I want with my degrees."
"Have you thought about teaching?"
"I want to take over when Sev retires."
"I think you'd be good at it," Harry offered. He shifted so he could face the younger man. "Are you regretting it?"
"Not really. I've gotten a few dirty looks when I went to Mortal Alley recently, but the herbologist over there said I can call in orders by floo or just pop directly to his shop. Other than that, the container shop isn't such a big thing. I can get someone else to buy those for me whenever I need them. The bookstore said I could floo directly into their shop as well." He shrugged. "It's been harder on daddy. The clothier he likes is down there. So is the leather shop. They've both been noticeably chillier to him, but he figures they'll get over it eventually. The joke shop owner has still been really nice to Daddy George. They set up meetings in his shop now to exchange ideas that they can't use in their own shops." Harry nodded. "Uncle Draco nearly took someone's head off the other day when he went clothes shopping, but I'd expect that from him. Ana needed some more female problem potion and hadn't taken any, so he was in a bad mood to start with." Harry laughed at that. "It'll calm down eventually. I've got a class with the healers in a week. I don't know if anyone will be there, but I'll definitely still run it." He shifted. "Raena's had to remind everyone that she's got travel restrictions because of her pregnancy. A few of the colonies are claiming favoritism. I'm actually kind of happy not to have to deal with the political bullshit anymore." He grinned and looked down, blushing slightly. "I'm free, and I'm happy about it."
"Then I'm happy for you, Iggy." Harry nudged him. "I have practice today. You can come with me if you want so you can talk to the team's doctor."
"Thanks, Uncle Harry." He gave him a little hug and went back to his line. "Are there any fish out here?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted. "But your father George was right, it's kind of relaxing to sit here and do nothing."
Iggy chuckled. "It is. It's nice not to have a schedule to keep." He leaned back. "I think I'll nap."
"Go ahead, I'll wake you up before we leave." Iggy nodded, closing his eyes. Harry smiled at the boy, he was so much less fidgety now. Before he had always been moving, now he sat still. It was pleasant to be around him now.
Iggy strolled up to the coaches and the team doctor, giving them a smile. The coaches looked at him. "I'm not here for you this time," he teased the defensive coach. "Uncle Oliver's shoulder is wonderful and so is Uncle Harry's hand."
"What did you need, kid?" the main coach asked.
"Actually, I needed the team doctor for a moment." The doctor looked at him so Iggy handed over his forms from his advisor. "It was suggested that I do sports medicine for my remaining skeletal hours of practical since so many of my relatives play."
The doctor looked at the form, then at him. "When did you do all this?"
Iggy pulled a file out of his pocket and enlarged it, handing it over as well. "Then."
The team doctor sat down to look through all the forms, then looked up at the kid. "You're really going for your MD?" Iggy nodded. "Why? You're a potion's person."
"I had to do most of it anyway since I've got an emphasis in healing potions. Besides, how many times did you shove not being a healer back in my face?" The doctor grimaced and Iggy grinned. "It came back to bite you, but I only need a few hours. I thought I'd start with you and Uncle Draco's team's doctor to wear them out."
The Head Coach took the forms to look over, whistling. "Damn, kid, you're impressive." He looked at him. "Plus you play." Iggy nodded. "Going to go pro?"
"No," Iggy said, shuddering. "I don't want the attention. I'll stick to that new tier in the fun league. At least all the players will be in my class, but I won't have little kids asking me for autographs or anything."
The Head Coach laughed. "You going to pull a Potter?"
"Not quite. Hogsmeade is as far as I'm going. I'm going to consult instead of becoming a practicing healer. Both of my advisors thought I was really smart to take this extra step and that it'd help me in the long run."
"You don't want to practice full-time?"
"Nope," Iggy said, shaking his head. "I have no desire to be woken up in the middle of the night by anything other than my upcoming child. I'll be doing mostly potion's work, but I have to have the hours. I could get them at St. Mungo's, but I'm doing everything else there and I thought it'd be a nice change to do the rest of them here."
"And none of the doctors feel like you're wasting their time?" the doctor asked.
Iggy snorted. "They all knew going into it that I'm a potion's person doing this for my speciality. I'd have to do it anyway. Most of them see it as cultivating my potions skills for their future benefit. A few of them think I'll do great things with what I can do and will better their field. Even the muggle doctors I work with who come over think that I'm only a little odd, but that it's reasonable. If you don't want me, I'll gladly go to Uncle Draco's team and ask them."
"No, we want you kid. Can you work games?"
"Sure. I'm taking research time if I have to go back to Hogwarts." The coaches looked confused. "They're forcing my whole *year* back, not just a few of us."
"I thought they fixed that," the defensive coach told him. Iggy shook his head. "In the paper today, someone said that one student had already been passed on."
"Huh. I'll have to ask Grandfather about that," Iggy said, then he shrugged. "I haven't heard anything yet. We're hopeful. We've only got another day until that damn deadline." The coaches laughed. "Yes, I swear. I do it almost as much as Simone does." One of the beaters came up holding his shoulder, making whining noises. "Got hurt already?"
"I want to see you in action," the doctor decided.
"Sure." Iggy stepped forward and weathered the glare. "Shut it, you. Or else I'll leave you in pain." He gently probed the joint, moving it slowly. "It's only a strain. Take a half-dose of pain killer and get back out there." The beater glared at him. "My cousin played with a broken wrist and a dislocated shoulder. Are you saying she's tougher than you are?" The beater glared again and flew back off. Iggy shrugged at the amused look. "She did, our first year's last game. For that matter, I've played with worse."
The team doctor laughed. "That's a good way of thinking about it. Some of these guys can be big babies. Do you have an affinity?"
"Pregnant people," Iggy told him. "Ever since I was a little kid and Anastasia was on the way." The coaches all laughed. "So, can I wear out these hours with you?"
"Sure, kid. I even know a chiropractor you can do that part of your practicals with," the team doctor told him, clapping him on the back. "I'm surprised the colony hasn't counted."
"Yeah, well, I kinda quit on them." Everyone looked at him. "They expected a lot more than I had to give. I was working twenty-four days a month for them, including traveling to and from various places, plus doing all my other homework, plus doing the stuff for this degree and my mastery. I snapped when they expected me to be God. One of the little ones ate antifreeze and didn't tell anyone for three hours. I got blamed because I couldn't heal him or stop him from dying. I didn't think that was very fair."
"No, it wasn't," the doctor said, looking at the kid in a new light. He looked at the forms again. "How did you do eight hours a week at St. Mungo's without it being noted in the paper?"
Iggy smiled. "My father threatened the Prophet if they came near me before I was an adult. The fact that I was using a time turner slipped at one point in time, but otherwise they pretty muchly left me alone. I'm an amazing kid, but I'm still a minor according to the rules."
"If they had made your life more miserable, you'd have been able to sue them," the Head Coach said appreciatively. "That was very smart of your fathers."
"I thought so. I couldn't handle fame on top of the rest of this stuff." He shrugged. "That's the whole sad story. When did you want me?"
"Tomorrow, kid. I'll have your uncles bring you a practice and game schedule. I want you at final practices and all the games, plus here for the next week so I can watch over your shoulder." Iggy nodded. "Good. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Thanks." Iggy waved. "I'm going to go talk to my future child." He disappeared.
The Head Coach looked at the doctor. "He really does know his shit. I used to think he was like Snape, just enough knowledge to be dangerous."
"I'm going to check his credentials tonight. I know one of the people who signed off on some of his hours." The doctor tapped the folder a few times. "If it's true, then that kid pushed himself too hard."
"And it was all him," Oliver said from behind them. They looked at him. "His fathers begged him to slow down a few times. Xander used to force him to go play as a child. The boy's finally got his priorities straight and it's making everyone happy." He grinned. "Is he on?"
"Yeah, he's on. I'll send an extra schedule home with you tonight, Wood. Give it to him." Oliver nodded and flew off. The doctor shook his head. "I'm glad none of my kids were prodigies. They work those kids way too hard."
"Yeah, but it sounds like the kid's going to slow down once he's finished with school. I'm sure he knows what he's doing." The Head Coach nodded. "Go make it official and check up on him. He doesn't need more problems." The doctor nodded and wandered off to go do that.
Percy knocked on Iggy and Raena's apartment door, smiling when she opened it. "Is he here?"
"He's in the library reading his newest Ortho text for tomorrow's lessons," she admitted, letting him in. "Iggy, it's Percy."
"I'm back here."
Percy walked back that way, smiling at the full library. "You seem right at home."
Iggy glanced up. "Our next place will have to have a bigger library," he noted, then he turned the page. "Let me finish this section. Muscles aren't my best subject." Percy sat down, watching him read. "Never seen me inhale knowledge?" Iggy asked, turning the next page.
"Not really. The last time I watched you study, you still moved your lips while you read." Iggy's eyes popped over the top of the book. "You were about six and still sounding out the harder words."
"Oh." Iggy put down his book. "I didn't realize I ever did that." He shrugged and got comfortable. "What's up?"
"I wanted to check on you. Some information got back to me about your medicines being cut back. Do either of your fathers know that you're taking the same heart medicine I am?"
"I'm back to quarter doses," Iggy admitted. Percy continued to look at him. "No. I'd rather that no one knew. Severus didn't know about that one either."
"You do know how dangerous that was, using a time turner with a heart condition?"
"Yup. I pushed myself, Percy, it wasn't all them. That was my version of young stupidity; thinking I could handle it all and be strong enough to be normal at the same time."
"To all who didn't know you, you did appear normal. Melvin said that a few students wondered how you could do all of what you did and still do well in most classes." He smiled and got comfortable. "Apparently my son told them that you were special and you didn't need a full night's sleep." Iggy nodded. "You know I'm going to have to take the time turner back?"
"It's in the case on my dresser," Iggy told him. "I haven't used it recently. Will it be there in case of emergencies?"
"With a heart condition, it could be fatal to use," Percy pointed out.
"I'd only use it in emergencies. Not like I did for the last year, Minister Weasley." Percy raised an eyebrow. "I figured that's why you were here, work reasons. "I'd only use it when the risk of killing myself was outweighed by the health of others. To be perfectly frank, I have a time potion made. Salazar gave it to me. It's in Severus' custody." Percy started to frown. "I can also spot age things like my father can. I don't really need it, but it'd be easier to use in certain cases, like an attack on the school."
"We're not expecting one."
"We never expect one," Iggy pointed out. "That doesn't mean Simone's aunt won't do it."
Percy considered it. "For those sort of situations only, Ignatius." Iggy nodded. "Otherwise, you let everyone else handle it."
"I do. Usually," he admitted with a grin. "Besides, I'm nearly a master of paradox." He put his feet up. "I really am getting better. All the temporal damage I took is slowly healing. Short of the school blowing up, I'm not going there again." He stood up and stretched. "Want to come to practice with me? I'm doing some of my internship hours with Uncle Harry's team."
"No, thank you." Percy smiled at him. "I won't tell your father."
"Daddy George suspects I think, but he's keeping it firmly locked away from Daddy Xander so he doesn't go on a killing rampage. Am I still due to come check on Andrea tonight?" Percy nodded, standing up to give him a hug. "Thanks, Uncle Percy. Feel free to beat some sense into me if I need it," he said quietly.
"One of these days, you'll have to tell both parents everything that you've done." He pulled back. "I know your hours at the hospital took both parents by surprise."
"So did the time turner. I did tell Grandfather that I was having health issues. I was too stubborn to listen to him though. He thought I was starting to have those wobbly heart rates that are the first sign. He warned me."
"Next time, tell the whole truth, Ignatius. We don't want to lose you. Your child will need you." Iggy nodded, grinning at him. "You can share all of it with me, nephew, and I won't tell on you. You know that."
"I know. The same as I know I can tell Uncle Draco and he'll only spill it when my father's gets bloody annoying about the little things." He winked. "He knows most everything. He caught me having the first set of chest pains and made sure I saw someone."
"At least you're letting someone look out for you," Percy said with a smile. "We finally found your paperwork by the way. It appeared to be a tad bit incomplete. I'll expect you to finish it."
"Did you go looking for it?" Percy smiled and nodded. "Well, damn, I was hoping to have a few more years off before someone hunted me down for that potion."
"I'd like a copy of that actually. I know you couldn't have used the standard one."
"Feel free to look through my potion's notebook. Raena can show you where it is if you want." He shrugged. "I've got to get to the pitch. Have fun, Uncle Percy." He grabbed his bag and left, going to do some more hours of bandaging scrapes and bruises.
Percy accepted the unshrunken book from Raena's hand and smiled at her. "Thank you. I won't take it with me."
"Not a problem. We know you can keep a secret, Percy." She rubbed her stomach. "I'm making tomato sandwiches, would you like one?"
"Please," he said, following her to the kitchen. He sat at the bar, watching her easy movements in the kitchen. Then he went back to his real reason for being there. "Where is the animagus potion?"
"Look in the index. He recently had to add it."
Percy flipped to the front and winced when he saw some of the potions. "Severus allowed this?"
"He didn't know until later. Though he was impressed," she noted, handing him a sandwich. "Eat up. You're too skinny and you're making me feel fat."
He carefully ate while he read over everything. He had to tramp down the urge to confiscate the book, but he knew the boy probably had another copy somewhere.
"That's right," Raena said quietly, with a small smirk. He smiled at her. "It's somewhere on the last page of the index." He flipped back to it, then shook his head, glaring at her. "It was what worked, Percy. We made sure it was theoretically and chemically sound first."
"Still, working on new potions can be quite dangerous." He copied that potion and a few others for his archive, then handed it back. "What about yours?"
"My what? I work out of his book. It was easier than doing my own."
"Which one is he putting forward for his Mastery? Has he decided?"
"He's thinking the philosopher's healing potion. We're still not sure about the losing one day part, so we're working on that. Plus we've got three other mixes done with it. It should be more than enough for that."
"What did his advisor say?"
"That she was stunned and awed by us," she said with a smirk. "She hoped that the information would be classified, or at least who put it forward, so that we weren't hunted down for it."
He nodded. "That is a fear of ours. Be safe, Raena, I'm heading to talk to Draco."
"He's got a diary that he makes Iggy write in occasionally. You might ask to see it. It would make him happier to get some of it out in the open. Xander's going to shit boulders when he finds out about some of the stuff in it."
Percy nodded. "I'm sure he will, if only because his son was putting himself in danger." He stood up and left, going to visit Draco. He found him in his study, reading. "I wanted to talk to you about our beloved nephew," he said quietly. Draco looked up at him. "I know about the medicines and the paradoxes, I want to know the rest."
Draco picked up his wand and summoned over two books. "Read the red one first, it's his. Mine is more complete and a hell of a lot more shocking." He went back to his reading. "Those don't leave the house, Percy. They're spelled to burn if they do."
"Thank you." Percy handed over the potion he had copied. "This is the animagus formula they used."
Draco looked it over. "Totally different than the one in my library."
"Yes, I've been meaning to ask you for a copy of yours for the archive," Percy agreed. "A red fox?"
"To my eternal annoyance," Draco agreed. "Third book in my personal lab, the one in the basement. Xander and I both used it." He made a copy of that one. "I think that might come in handy for the grandchildren," he noted, putting it aside and handing back the original.
Percy took it back as he read. "When did the school nearly get blown up?"
"Iggy went back and stomped them himself his first year. He got rather annoyed with them because his family was in there. I didn't realize it either. It would have been the night before Xander had to protect the girls."
"Ah, I see." Percy turned the page, reading in silence. When he was done, he switched to the other book, fear and horror waging war with honor and pride. "Dear Merlin, the boy is insane."
"Only some days," Draco pointed out. "Did you take the time turner from him?"
"He has a temporal potion to use in its place. He promised to use them only if the school blew up." He looked up. "I suppose I should say again."
"Probably," Draco admitted. "Temporal potion?"
"Salazar gave it to him. Severus has it."
"I'll have to knick a jar then. Just to test it of course." He smirked and looked at the other man. "Shocked?"
"Horrified and alarmed, but so very proud," Percy told him.
Draco nodded. "I feel the same way. You do realize that Xander hasn't ever seen those books, correct?" Percy frowned. "I used specially prepared paper, treated with unicorn's blood. The only reason I see them is because I know they're there."
Percy nodded, smiling. "Very bright idea. This might be enough to make Xander go off on you as well."
"I can hide myself and Ignatius will protect me." He sent the diaries back to their proper shelves. "Did you need anything else?"
"Not at this moment, besides that one potion." Draco put down his book and led him down to his personal lab. He looked around the setup, mentally smiling. His intelligence had been correct after all. "Trying for your own stone?"
"I've already got one," Draco told him. "I had one a year before Ignatius did." He smirked.
"I thought it was more like eighteen months," Percy told him. He smirked back. "I have my sources as well. You bought the ingredients too openly, Draco."
"I'll watch that in the future," he said glumly.
"Then you might want to warn the beloved nephew to do the same. Or actually, your daughter Ravena if you would be so kind." Draco looked at her. "She took Ignatius' notes, she's at the beginning stages."
"I'll have a talk with her," Draco agreed. "She can use mine if she needs something." He handed over a copy of his animagus potion.
"Ah! You got this one to work. Excellent." He clapped him on the back. "I'll show myself out while you whine at your daughter." He left, going back to his archives to personally catalog and enter the potions into the secret books. Then he went up to talk to his father, who apparently had known more than he let on about Iggy's life.
Everyone watched the clock as it moved to the next day and then slumped. It was official, they had to take another year of unnecessary education. Raena leaned against her mate's side, sniffing his neck. He gave her hand a squeeze. Melvin was laying with his head in his wife's lap, and they were sharing 'oh, well' looks as well. The other adults weren't as accepting, the heat in the room kept rising.
"Xander," Molly said gently. "We did everything we could."
"One kid got past it!"
"That one was scarier than the assassin who has the Minister's wife and child," Arthur said gently. "Please calm down." Xander slumped, but he continued to glare at the clock.
Draco came out of the fire. "No last minute owls?" Everyone shook their heads. "I tried, I truly did. I'm sorry I failed."
"It's not your fault," Xander assured him, pulling him down for a hug. "Make sure it can't happen again and help me plan a kick-ass graduation ceremony this year."
"I've already started on both of those," Draco admitted. "A very nice ball, a party for the rest of the school, and a feast the likes of which haven't been seen before." Xander relaxed against him so he looked at the children. "We found his family, but we couldn't get them free soon enough," he admitted. "The child is in stasis and the wife is in shock. They sent him one of his daughter's fingers, that's what was used to track it back to them."
"Who was it?" Arthur asked.
"You'll have to ask Percy," Draco told him. He looked down at his nephew. "Speaking of, I need you to go see Percy as well."
"Someone needs some potions?" Iggy asked. Draco nodded. "Okay. Let me grab my kit from upstairs." He headed up, hearing the silent thought sent his way. He grabbed everything he needed, including his time turner and headed back to help. He stopped his watch before he left, making sure he'd come back to the right time. He landed in Percy's office, smiling at him. "Go to him now. He just got a bad surprise," he said quietly. Then he handed over the time turner. "I'm going with you. I got sent back for a reason."
Percy nodded, looking grim as he walked down to the Education department, his people and his nephew following him. They walked in as the owl landed and Percy took the jar from it's pouch. "A finger," he said blandly. He was numb. What sort of person did this? He looked back at his people. "I want this tested to see if the body was still living when it was severed and I want a tracking spell on it now!" They took it and hurried away. "Henderson, we'll get them back for you."
"Sign the papers," Iggy encouraged. The man gave him a bitter look. "I have potions that can cure damn near anything. I'm going to help them, but *please* spare Dumbledore from another year of us."
Henderson swallowed. "If you can find them, I'll do it. I can't before then. He knew about the other one." He handed over the letter that had been dropped by his hand. "He's got a watcher in here somewhere."
"Then go in the hallway," Iggy pointed out. "Shit, go to the archives and sign them! Some of us want to get on with our lives." He followed his uncle out, hiding his small amounts of pain with deep breaths. He followed Percy into his office and accepted the small lemon-scented vial. "Thanks. I've got two vials of the special healing potion and one the elixir of life. That should be more than enough."
"Thank you, Ignatius," Percy told him, sitting down. "It'll be about fifteen minutes. Do you need anything else?"
Iggy patted himself down and shook his head. "I'm armed and I have my wand." He handed over the small bag. "Uncle Draco said I was needed, that's why I'm here."
"All right. You may go. You may not fight."
"Percy, with all due respect, I fight better than most of your people," Iggy told him. "If it comes down to it, I'm jumping in. I can't be of any use to my patients if the asshole hurting them is still hurting them. My father trained me at the same time as he trained Simone."
"I'm not explaining to him how you got killed, Ignatius, nor am I wanting to try and fix a paradox."
"Then don't." He grinned. "I'm a tough little sucker, you know that." He looked down at the people scurrying around. "Someone said she's still alive. We should head down."
Percy grabbed his wand and his weapons, heading down behind his nephew. "Why hand me the bags?"
"Because you won't be getting in the middle of the fight. The healing potion will fix nearly anything, but it takes two minutes to move throughout the body. If either of them's heart stops beating, you'll have to do CPR and it'll bring them back. The elixir of life will hold them steady for six hours because it's a two percent solution." Percy nodded. "Don't let them get broken. I can't get more right now." He walked up to the person doing the portkey. "How much longer?"
"Two minutes, kid." He whistled when he was done, bringing everyone running. The large form was set and they were off, zooming across the countryside. They landed and looked around, spotting the guy in the dark cloak standing over the woman's body.
"Let her go," Iggy said, stepping up to the child. "She's in stasis," he called. One of the agents came and moved her, and he led the way to the mother's side. "Let her go. You've already lost."
"Well, well, the traitor's son," the man sneered. "Come for a fight or to fix them? Or aren't you the healer in the family?"
"I am, but I'm also my father's son." Iggy pulled his wand and a dagger. "You want to make my life miserable, come and try." The man lunged at him, his own wand and a large knife pulled. They fought, casting spells and trying to stab each other.
Percy gasped when he saw who it was. "Asdar!" he hissed. "Stop him before he kills my nephew. Get an ambulance here now!"
"Sir, the kid looks like she's dead," one of his agents called.
"That would be stasis," Iggy said as he fought, keeping his attention on the fight. "If you're there when they wake up, you can reattach the finger, it was in a preservative potion. If not, she'll bleed to death when she comes out. You can cauterize but you won't be able to reattach. Her cells can only die under the spell, not heal." He got the man across the arm and ducked under a tired swing, getting him in the chest with a closely cast curse, sending him flying backwards. Iggy winced as he felt the fire across his shoulder, but it wasn't time for that. Former Minister Asdar stood up again and Iggy decided to fight dirty, like he had been taught by everyone. "Defarmenes," he yelled, sending the man onto his knees in pain. "Didn't expect me to know born fighting?" he taunted. "We may make up our own key words, but we know how to fight." His next one made the man scream and writhe on the ground.
"Iggy, stun him and come here," Percy shouted. "Her heart's stopping."
Iggy cast one last curse, embedding Asdar in a block of ice. Then he jogged over, kneeling in the mud beside the woman. "You've got to pump for her," he said, showing him how to do it. "You'll need to do it as hard as you can, Uncle Percy. Let me get my shock spell out." He pulled out something he had changed from the shop. A joy buzzer. Which now shocked people with about 400 volts. Possibly not enough, but it had worked before. He shocked the woman, making her jump, but Percy had to keep pumping. He turned it up to the maximum setting. "Off!" he said, shocking her again. She took a gasping breath and Iggy listened to her heart with his ear. "Okay. Two minutes, give her the potion." Percy gave it to her. "She lives for two minutes or we'll have to do it again." He hurried over to the child's side, checking on her. "It's a weak static state," he admitted. "She'll need the hospital."
"Iggy, we don't know if he's got more people helping him," Percy reminded him.
"Wonderful. Get me the finger. Bring her here." He looked at his uncle. "I'm going to one of the people I work with. Either send the baby with me or to St. Mungo's."
"Send her to St. Mungo's," Percy told him. "I doubt the one you're thinking of could handle that state."
"All right. Come find us." Iggy held onto the mother's body and teleported her to one of the doctors he worked with's office. "Philip!" he gasped, staggering under her weight. The other one came out. "Richard, wonderful. She's in shock. Help me." They got the woman onto the table. "Okay. Listen closely, I'm only going to say this once," Iggy panted. The doctor nodded. "This woman is going to die if anyone knows she's here. She's been tortured. I gave her one of my special healing potions. It will keep her stable for *exactly* six hours. After that, she's going to suddenly go downhill. She's got a damaged heart and I had to shock her. Deal with it however. Call her Gretchen Weasley, and expect my Uncle Percy." The doctor nodded and Iggy sank to his knees again. "Go now." The man wheeled the woman off, calling for some help as he went from his office to the hallways of the hospital. Iggy groaned, holding his shoulder. "I ache," he told himself, sending himself back to Percy's office. Arabelle was sitting there waiting on him. "I ache," he whispered, collapsing into her arms.
"So I can see," she agreed, taking off his robes to look at all the little nicks and the one large cut on his shoulder. "Your father is going to kill us, Iggy." She looked over her shoulder as the door slammed open. "He's fine, just fainted."
"Where is she?" Percy slapped Iggy gently on the cheeks until one eye opened. "Where is she?"
"Richard. Gretchen," Iggy whispered, passing out again.
"Get him to the infirmary downstairs," Percy demanded. "She's in a muggle hospital." He ran off, going to get some people over there to help him find her. By the time he got there, she was in surgery and the doctor who had first treated her was waiting on him. "How is Gretchen?" he asked.
"Badly off. Iggy wasn't kidding about the six hour limit and her going rapdily downhill as soon as it wore off. I've seen dead people with less trauma." He shook Percy's hand. "Uncle Percy?" Percy nodded. "Richard Montbatten, one of your nephew's advisors. How is he?"
"Passed out. A few cuts and one deeper one. Will she live?"
"We hope so. Are you going to have to move her as soon as we're done?" Percy looked at him. "Iggy said her life was threatened."
"We may have to." He looked over as the Minister was led in. "There she is," he said, pointing down at the body in the operating room. "She's safe."
He sobbed, pressing against the glass. "What are they doing to her?"
"Repairing a few holes someone caused," Richard told him. He looked at Percy. "Can I have an explanation?"
"No," Percy told him. "Some other time." The doctor nodded. He looked at the Minister. "You, papers."
"What about..." He squeaked as more people appeared, all of them dressed like ninjas. Behind them a new body appeared, wand already out and warmed up. "No!"
Draco shot the ones in front of him, making them scream. Percy's people blocked off the hallways and they were quickly taken out. He looked at Percy. "Nephew?"
"Infirmary at the Ministry."
"I'll check on him." He smirked. "It wasn't me." Then he disappeared.
Percy relaxed, smiling and nodding at the doctor. "That was rather close." He looked down at the Minister. "Shit!" He checked him for a pulse. "He's stunned."
The doctor lifted him up and carried him off. "I'll bring him back."
"Bring him around before midnight so he can sign papers," Percy called after him. He pointed two of his people at the hallway. "Follow. The rest of you guard her. Who's got the child?"
"Arabelle's green team, sir," one of his people said respectfully. You didn't mess with this guy or his family. He looked down at the people in pain. "Are we taking them?"
"Yes, clean up this mess. I'm going for my father." Percy apparated out. He landed in his office and looked at the only person standing in there. "Adrian, call my father. Send word to Arabelle that the Minister passed out and is in shock with his wife. I want to know how my nephew is immediately as well." Adrian Maclay hurried off to send off the appropriate calls, taking notes on what he heard. He jogged up to his boss' office and tapped before walking in. "The Minister of Magic knows, sir, and praises your ingenuity. He's with the rest of your family waiting on the midnight deadline, he had been in his office. Your wife said the baby will be fine and they successfully managed to end the static spell without killing the child from blood loss. Someone's working on reattaching her finger now." Percy relaxed. "Your nephew has all but killed the healer down in the infirmary and the healer wanted you to come knock him back out if you would," he admitted with a smile. "Something about a bad heart running in the family?"
Percy nodded, taking a deep breath. "I understand. I'm heading down there now that the hostages have been found. If *anyone* calls for me, send them down there."
"Yes, Minister Weasley," Adrian said, getting out of his way. "Sir, did you want me to shelve the books?"
"Please." He smiled at the boy. "We will miss you if you have to go back to school, but I'm sure we'll be seeing you over the holidays, Adrian." He hurried down, finding his nephew in a fight with the doctor. "Ignatius!" he snapped. Iggy glared at him. "Let him treat you."
"He won't treat me, he wants to stitch my shoulder and I know damn well it can be healed without any telltale scars!" He grabbed his wand. "Give me that, you dick!"
"Are you suddenly a doctor now?" the healer sneered.
"Two-hundred-sixty more hours and six more classes, fuckwad. With a full family who either plays quid or fights."
"That's your wrong hand," Percy pointed out gently.
"If my father sees a scar, he'll freak. He'll beat both of us until we tell him what happened."
"Perhaps you should have thought of that before engaging in a knife fight with a former auror," Percy said dryly.
Iggy looked at him. "If you offer me a job, I'm going to hurt you," he warned. He used his wand to merge the skin on his shoulder together, making one side overlap. It left a small ridge, but it looked like an older scar. Everything else was healed and Iggy took a pain potion. "Thank you."
"What about his heart condition?" the healer asked.
"I'm on medicine for it. It's getting better," Iggy assured him. "I'll pop around to my personal physician tomorrow and have him check me out."
"You'll go now," Percy said calmly. Iggy looked at him so he used Xander's favorite command spell on him, getting the boy moving. "Thank you, healer."
"You're welcome. I'm glad I don't have to deal with kids like him often. He's upsetting."
"You have no idea what he's been through tonight," Percy chastised gently. "Not only did he win the knife and spell fight, he nearly killed the other wizard doing it, and that one was a former auror." He got Iggy moving, taking him to the doctor that had taken care of the other casualties. "I need you to check him out," he told Dr. Montbatten.
The doctor looked from the obviously spelled Iggy to his uncle. "I want that one," he told him. "If you ever find a way for someone like me to use magic, I want that spell. Have him hop up onto the table." Percy waved his wand and Iggy hopped up. "Very nice." He listened to the boy's chest, then frowned. "What has he been doing? He was so much better."
"He took a full dose of medicine earlier," Percy admitted. He glanced around before putting up a silence barrier. "He's been dealing with temporal issues. He came back a few hours tonight to save that woman earlier. I gave him a full dose of the heart potion."
"The lemon one?" Percy nodded. "Good. All right, release him and force him to lie down. I want to get an EKG on him." Percy released his nephew and gently forced him back onto the bed. "Good man. You really are his uncle?"
"One of my favorite ones," Iggy admitted. "Am I in bad shape?"
"Possibly." He hooked up the little pads and turned on the machine, watching as it spit out a pattern he was familiar with. "Iggy, how much did you take of the lemon potion?"
"Sixty milligrams. A standard adult dosage."
"Okay. Do you have anything that would mimic or surpass a rhythm stabilizer? Something like nitroglycerine?"
"Doesn't that explode?" Percy asked. The doctor nodded. "I'm assuming it's in a more stable form."
"We give it in pill form so it's no longer explosive. Iggy?"
"Not that I can think of," he admitted. "It could be this pounding headache I have though."
"Yes, well, your blood pressure is through the roof. Is there anyone who can tell me if there is anything? I noticed he's allergic to a few of our more common stabilizers for pills and I don't want to risk hurting him farther."
"Sev's at home," Iggy told Percy. "Please?" Percy nodded and disappeared. "Now that my overprotective uncle isn't here, how bad is it?" The tape from the EKG was shown to him and he hissed. "Just fix it soon," he said quietly. "I've got to get back in..." He checked his watch, then his doctor's watch. "Three hours."
"All right. I'll hopefully have you stable by then. If not, is there any way we can put you in the hospital?"
"Do you remember meeting my one father? The redhead?" The doctor nodded. "Do you remember how he fussed over that cut on the back of my hand?" The doctor nodded again, grimacing. "He's the calm one. The other one has driven pregnant people to distraction and begging. Three hours."
"I'll do what I can." He looked over as the impressive man in black strode in, making people scatter out of his way. "Is that your potion's mentor?" Iggy nodded. "He looks hard."
"He is, but he accepts me for the shit I am some days." Iggy waved a hand, then let it fall back to the bed. "I can't think."
"Obviously," Snape said, glaring at him. The boy on the bed flinched. "What happened?"
Percy put back up the privacy barrier. "He had to use the time turner to come back and save both family members. Doing so caused his small heart condition to act up. He's had one full adult dose of the lemon heart potion and a pain potion just a few minutes ago when he decided to be an arse and heal his own wounds so Xander wouldn't know, instead of letting the healer there close the worst one with stitches."
"At present, he's a little arrhythmic, the heart's pumping sluggishly, and his blood pressure is through the roof. Which sounds strange together, but his blood pressure has always been a little high as far as I can tell."
"It's stress. I've managed to get rid of a lot of that," Iggy assured him.
Snape glared at him. "Foolish boy! How dare you do this to yourself!"
"You'd rather see Melvin for another year?"
Snape's glare got hotter. "I'd rather see you for another year."
"I'm sorry, Sev. I thought I'd be okay. I will be, I just need some rest."
"You need more than that," the doctor assured him. "What can you do since he's adamant he's heading home in just under three hours."
Snape frowned, crossing his arms. "I have something that will help his heart, but it's hard on the body. He'll have to lay immobile for at least two hours." Iggy whimpered. "Shut up." Iggy went silent and Snape looked at Percy. "His temporal device?"
"In my pocket," Percy told him. "He agreed to only use in emergencies. Asdar had them. He sent the Minister the little girl's finger. Iggy saved them both."
"Be that as it may, he endangered his life."
"No, I think the knife fight did that," Percy told him, smiling at the shocked look. "Hence the healing he did to his own body."
"I see." Snape looked at his apprentice. "You are a very pompous young man, Ignatius. I should tell your father so you're forced to stop."
"If you tell Daddy, he'll get us all," Iggy pointed out.
"Which is why I'm not. I will, however, be locking that temporal potion away from you. Then, tomorrow, we are going to set some limits, young man."
"I know my limits, Severus, it was the fighting so soon after a portkey, which came after a time flip. I took the appropriate medicines and I'll be fine in a few hours!"
"Calm yourself," Percy snapped. Iggy relaxed again, by force. He looked at the monitor and nodded. "His blood pressure is coming back down."
The doctor looked then shrugged. "That's about where he normally runs."
"That's extraordinarily high," Snape noted.
"Stress," Iggy told him.
"Sorry. Just giving the facts. It's my body!"
"And you've proven to be incapable of taking decent care of it."
"I do a good job most of the time. This was an emergency, Severus! I saved them!"
"Nearly at the cost to your own life," Percy said dryly. "That is not what your uncle wanted to happen when he told you to come help us." Iggy raised an eyebrow. "It could only have been Draco. Now, either lay there and accept the fact that you've overstepped your limits, or I'm going to force Draco to tell my brothers everything!"
Iggy sat up. "I know I overstepped my boundaries. I accept that the fight probably wasn't the brightest of all ideas, but I knew I could win it. The healing I did on myself was probably not great on top of it, but I wasn't about to go home with a lot of little pinpricks on my skin and stitches for your mother to find. I am fine. The closer to the time I left, the better I become. The strain is lessening, or at least it was until you started to *scream* at me!"
"Calm down," Severus told him, looking at him. "I realize that you know what you were doing, and that you probably considered the ramifications, that this time was a bit more than you expected. Think about what it would have done to your wife and unborn child if you die now though. In the future, you will not do temporal travel unless *everyone's* life is in danger. Send a message back. Use a cousin if you have to. Or your younger brother. He's more than strong enough to withstand that sort of abuse if he made it here. You are not. The regular stress you are under has weakened you in ways you may not realize. The fact that your blood pressure is so high is an indication that I should start making medicine in case you have a stroke."
"I've just gotten rid of most of my stress," Iggy reminded him. "I was fine until you guys came in here screaming at me. See, check the machines! I'm fine now." He pulled off the pads, handing them off as he sat on the side of the bed. "I realize I was dumb, Severus, but it was necessary in that instance. It's not like I do this all the time. At least not anymore," he admitted. The older man relaxed. "I'm trying really hard here to be careful because I know better than anyone what could happen to me. You know, having the ex-girlfriend of my father show up and tell me merrily how the me in another realm had just died because of the stress he was under made me look at this stuff. In this case, it was an emergency. I weighed the possible outcomes and found it reasonable. No, I didn't expect this sort of pain or stress. It's never been this bad before. Back when I was using the time turner every day, sometimes as much as twice a day, this never happened. When it did start to affect me, I slowed down because I realized what was going on in my own body. As of when Uncle Percy came to me a few days ago, I had already promised myself to only use it in case of emergency. I considered this an emergency because Draco came back and said that nearly everyone, including Percy, had died by Asdar's hand. That I was probably the only one who could get away with going back and fixing it because I could slip through time so easily, like I have been for years. Give me some credit, okay?"
"I do," Severus said, giving him a faint look of pride. "I give you a lot of credit for knowing when not to do something and for being able to reason yourself into trouble." He hugged the young man. "I'll personally make your medicine until you're back to being like every other young man your age."
"I had been down to a quarter-dose of heart medicine, but for some reason this time was worse. I don't know why, but it was." He relaxed into the warm arms. "Please don't tell the fathers."
"No, just the other uncles," Percy assured him. "Even if I have to tell Charlie and Bill personally. There's no need for you to be the hero all the time. Some of the rest of us enjoy that spot as well." Iggy nodded. "Thank you."
The doctor coughed. "As long as you can get his blood pressure down and you can monitor his heart, then he should be fine. He had been getting better. I don't pretend to know what you're talking about but I'm sure he'll continue to get better. No more, Iggy."
"I wouldn't dream of it unless my whole family is in danger," Iggy admitted.
"Thank you." The doctor looked at Severus. "I want to run another EKG on him in a while. Stay in here with him and try not to look so imposing." He looked at Iggy. "If the worst-case happens we can say you collapsed while treating the other patients and have you admitted to your own hospital tonight," he said calmly. Iggy nodded. "I don't know how fast your medicine works, but I'm going to continue to see you once a week, after rounds, and check you over." Iggy nodded. "Take the time to run and jump and play, young man. You're seventeen, enjoy it." He patted him on the shoulder, making him wince. "Down. Now. And let them look at that injury if you won't let me." He walked away, going to check on his other new patients.
"You really are an arrogant little boy," Snape pointed out, forcing Iggy back onto the bed.
"You've known that about me since I was eight," Iggy pointed out. Percy snorted. "He has."
"I'm sure he has. The rest of us realized it when you were six and you told mum that you didn't need to take a bath because you couldn't possibly stink since books didn't smell bad."
Snape snorted. "I can see him doing that. How did you solve that one?"
"Garden hose. Charlie got him if I remember right." He smiled at his nephew. "We fuss because we care."
"Care away," Iggy offered. "Just don't tell my parents."
"If he finds out, we'll tell him it was all because of the stress," Severus assured him.
"It was," Iggy admitted. "Being me is stressful. Even when I'm trying to be good." He smiled. "Can I get wifely cuddles tonight?"
"No," Snape told him. "Not for two weeks." Iggy groaned.
"I had to go two months after my first heart attack," Percy told him. "Feel lucky, Ignatius."
"Yes, Uncle Percy." Iggy curled up on his side, watching his blood pressure fall. "Hey," he said about an hour later. "Look, I'm at normal! I haven't been there since I was fourteen."
"We'll make you something tomorrow to keep you there," Severus assured him. "Or below. You could use that."
"Will I have to take it if I stay at normal?"
"No, but until then you will. That, something to strengthen your heart again, and your nerve tonic."
"Nerve tonic?" Percy asked.
"Necessity of modern life," Iggy assured him. "A light one. My own making. It works pretty damn well if you ask me."
"I'll keep that in mind for the next time I need something like that," Percy said with a smile. "Is this going to impact his time in the lab?"
"No, it's nearly meditative for him," Snape offered. "As is reading. Crises do this to him. As do nagging and yelling people." He looked at the boy. "It would be better if you spent the night under observation."
"Daddy would kill people."
"If you don't get it settled out now, then it's going to be very hard to hold your newborn child from an isolation ward," Percy warned.
"That's evil," Iggy retorted.
"But effective. That day will stress you out as well, Iggy, and you'd better be healthy then, or else it will get worse." Iggy's watch beeped and he restarted it. "Where is that doctor?"
"Probably with the Minister and his wife," Iggy pointed out. He looked at his mentor, who nodded. "Fine, but you tell daddy that I collapsed from the stress of helping the Minister's wife. Uncle Percy can't lie worth a damn."
"That would be acceptable," Snape agreed gently. "We do want you around for a few more years."
"I thought we only had to have these talks with Xander," Bill said as he walked in. "Your father knows something is up, kiddo."
"Which one?" Iggy asked.
"George. Your wife's been in a snit worrying about you for the last few minutes. George sent me to check on you."
"Good news," the doctor said as he walked back in. "She's out of surgery. Everything was fixed and she'll be fine." He smiled at Iggy. "Your gamble paid off in aces, young man." He noticed Bill. "Are you his other father?"
"That's my older brother Bill," Percy told him. "He's older than both George and I. George sent him."
"Ah!" He smiled and looked at his patient. "So? What have you decided?"
"Take another reading. If it's still off, I'll allow myself to be observed for the night."
"Wonderful! I knew one of them could make you see sense." He hitched back up the pads, watching as the machine started to spit out more tape. "Much more stable."
"But?" Percy asked.
"I still want him back on the full dose of his heart medicine and something to make sure his blood pressure stays down. If we can do that, it should be fine within a few months. The heart will fix itself under most circumstances."
"That is possible," Snape assured him. "Let's get him to the other hospital."
"Let me," Percy said, lifting Iggy up and apparating with him.
Bill looked at the tape, then at the professor. "Why does that look like the boy's been doing time jumps?"
"Because he did," Severus admitted. "Did you want to tell the family he collapsed while treating the Minister's wife?" Bill shook his head, giving him an 'are you crazy' look. "Very well. Go to St. Mungo's and watch over him while I tell his family." He watched as Bill accepted the file and left, then looked at the doctor. "How long before he's healed?"
"A few months with minimal stress. As long as he cuts back on the bad parts, he can do most everything he wants to. Don't treat him like he's fragile though, he'll scream at you. I did that once and it was the only time I've ever seen him lose his temper."
Snape nodded. "I've done that before myself. A few months?"
"I'll know more in one or two more checkups. If you want I'll send you the results."
Severus nodded. "Please. He is like my own some days." He swept off, going to the Burrow. As soon as he walked in through the garden door everyone looked at him. "The stress of treating her overwhelmed him and he collapsed," he said quietly. "He's under observation." Raena stood up with some help. "He'll be fine. I've talked with the doctor who was watching over his incredible stress levels before and we've decided on a course of treatment." Xander opened his mouth. "He'll be fine, Xander. I swear to you, I'll mix his medicines myself. It was a small spike in his stress level, it made his heart beat incorrectly for about five minutes, and then he was back to normal. In fact, his blood pressure is the lowest it's been since he was fourteen according to him."
"You're stopping him?" George asked.
"We discussed that before I came over," Severus admitted. "We've set firm limits. Even if the gryphons came begging, he can't go back now. He's in no shape to have that sort of stress. He's chosen his priorities and he's working on settling his life to fit them."
Xander stood up and stared at him. "This has happened before," he accused.
Severus nodded. "A few months back. He didn't collapse, but he did start to feel faint and have heart palpitations. We handled it quietly because he didn't want to worry you. That's when he started trying to figure out how to reduce his stress levels. With quitting, it's done most of that, but this emergency and the doubt about the next year was a bit overwhelming. His usual schedule is not that rigorous and one of his advisors has been keeping an eye on him."
"He's fine though?" George asked worriedly.
"He's fine. He's agreed to stay under observation. He wasn't going to because he didn't want any of you to worry, but Percy and I managed to convince him. He should be settled into a bed by now if you wanted to descend on the hospital."
"Hell yeah we're going," Simone told him, moving him out of the way as she headed for the floo.
Everyone left, Arthur last. "Time?" he asked quietly. Snape nodded. "It's been taken?"
"Percy has it and I have the potion equivalent. He knew before that he was in danger but he considered this to be too important. Your son and a few other people would have died if he hadn't."
"Thank you for taking care of him for us, Severus. You deserve an award." He gave him a pat on the arm before walking past him. "I'll see you at the staff meeting tomorrow? Or are you coming with us?"
"I believe I'll check on him again then head home. Xander will undoubtedly be in fuss mode and will drive me to drink tonight." He followed him through the floo, heading to check on his student. He found Iggy giving everyone helpless looks. "Such is life," he reminded the boy. "Enjoy it because most people don't have it." He checked the chart and made a notation about the potions he had already taken, handing it back to the nurse. She looked at it and nodded, hurrying to inform the doctor that their favorite trainee's family was here. Severus went home and had a strong drink to combat the shaking. That had been too close.
Xander looked up as the shadow moved over him, raising an eyebrow as the gryphon landed in front of him. "What do you want?"
"I wanted to talk to Ignatius. Is he here?"
"No. He's resting at the house." The gryphon settled himself. "I'm still mad at you, Bill. You were supposed to watch out for him when I couldn't, but you didn't. Do you know what I've learned recently?" The gryphon shook his head. "I found out that my son nearly died when he was fifteen due to stress. That he was on medicine back then."
"I didn't know."
"You didn't want to know. He's a boy, Bill, and you didn't care because he was useful. My son's not a tool."
"Xander, we didn't know."
"You didn't ask."
"Ignorance isn't an excuse!" Xander said warmly. "You nearly killed my son! What would be doing if this were your son!" He stood up. "For that matter, there's been a lot of shit that's went on that I don't know about."
"Then read my mind," Bill offered. "I know a lot about some of the fantastic things he's done. We appreciate him, and we admit we were wrong to put that much on him. He was just a boy and we're sorry."
Xander snorted. "That doesn't make me feel better. My son's blood pressure went back to normal for the first time in three years."
"Read my mind, Xander, I will show you what's happened to him. Even the things he's hiding from you." He opened his mind and let the human in. Xander read his memories and started to get sick. "Calm yourself. That is not the worst." He showed him the things he had done, how he had done everything without worrying what it was doing to him. "We are sorry, Xander."
"I saw, but I'm not sure I can forgive you guys. You still nearly killed my son." Xander shrugged. "The fact that he's done amazing things and saved lives doesn't matter to me."
"I understand. Are you sure?"
Xander nodded. "Do you want my books back?"
"Why would we? You're still one of us, as Ignatius is. Tell him we are sorry and would like to talk to him."
"I'll tell him when I see him this afternoon. I'm not guaranteeing anything, Bill. Right about now, you're lucky you're still living." He walked away, heading back into the shop. "The gryphons are sorry." George snorted. "They didn't realize what they were doing to them."
"Did they look?"
"No." Xander smiled at his mate. "But I don't have to give back my books."
"Wonderful news." George stole a kiss. "Go bug the son. He could use some more attention."
"All right." Xander headed for their house, walking out to find his son on the back porch. He saw him writing on thin air and frowned. "What are you writing on?"
"Specially treated paper," Iggy said, glancing up at him. "This way it can't be shared. Draco gets it for me."
"Oh." Xander took the paper but his son slapped his hand. "Sorry."
"It's all right." Iggy put down his pen when he felt the gentle mental touch. "You're not that good, father." Xander glared at him, but there wasn't any heat behind it. "There's things in my memory that I can't share. I can't let you in there because I have people's medical conditions in there and by the restraints of my ethical commitments, I can't let you see them. I personally wouldn't care about you knowing who has a boil on their nose, but there are more serious things in there as well. So please don't."
"I don't want to see those sort of things. I want to know what you were doing with a time turner." Iggy swallowed. "Bill showed up. He let me read his memories to try and convince me not to kill them all."
Iggy looked down at the paper. "In the beginning, it was fun. I liked making the potions, having the important people look at me with respect." He looked up. "Then more things got piled onto me. It stopped being so fun. Then the harder stuff happened and I realized I was learning a lot, even if I wasn't that happy doing it all the time. Over time, it kept growing and growing until I was railing against the responsibility. And then the antifreeze incident happened and I gave up because it meant I could have a life again. Now I'm back to having fun because I want to."
"The time turner?"
"Helped me make all the potions that needed to be made. It helped me fit in little things like rounds at the hospital."
"Iggy, is that what happened this time?"
Iggy grimaced. "Dad, take Grandfather's advice. Don't ask questions you don't want to hear the answers to."
"Ignatius, I'm serious."
"Yeah, it was. I weighed the problems I could experience versus the danger that had happened. I didn't expect to end up on the floor, but while I went back some..things happened."
"A fight?" Xander asked patiently.
"Sorry." Iggy stood up. "Dad, I did what I had to do. I get that from you."
"Yes, but I don't want to put it on your tombstone."
"I can't do it ever again," Iggy admitted. "Do you really want to know?" Xander nodded. "Even if it's going to piss you off and make you go into a rage?"
"If it's that bad, I wanted to know when it was happening, son," Xander said quietly. "I wanted to be there to help you through those sort of things. I never wanted to watch you die from stress!"
Iggy nodded, sitting back down. "I know. I'm starting to realize that now. I guess I thought I could handle it. Even though I never told you, I know you'd be proud of me."
"Son, I would have been proud of you if you had been illiterate and a squib."
Iggy smiled. "I'm starting to realize that as well. I guess that's part of growing up as well, huh?" Xander nodded. "Are you sure?"
"I'm very sure. Show me. Don't hold it in, you'll get bitter and more ancient before your time. You'll end up like a bitter version of Albus."
Iggy laughed. "Fine. I'll show you some of it. There's stuff in there that I don't want you to know about."
"Did you talk about it with someone?"
Iggy nodded. "Yup. Hence the special treated paper."
"Would Draco tell me?"
"Only if he wanted to earn my everlasting ire," Iggy told him.
"I have a right to know as your parent. You were underage."
"Yay. Part or nothing, father."
Xander considered it. "I'll find out some day."
"Yeah, but fifty years from now you'll be less pissed about it," Iggy said with a sure smile. "Part or nothing."
"Fine." He took his son's hand and opened his mind, letting the images flow over him. He held his anger in check, knowing his son hadn't wanted him to see some of those things. When he let go, Iggy shook his hand, trying to get the feeling back in it. "Son, I want you to know I'm not mad at you," Xander told him. Iggy sighed. "But if that slimy bastard comes near you again I'm going to kill him."
"Daddy, you can't kill Ryan."
"Yes, I can."
"No, you can't. It'd cause more problems with the Watchers." He grinned. "Relax, it's all in the past and I handled everything that was thrown at me. Even when I wanted to throw a fit and stomp my feet, I didn't."
"Which makes me even prouder," Xander admitted, giving him a smile. "Anything else you wanted to not tell me about?"
"Yup, lots of stuff. As you say, I'm not going there." He gave him a confident smile. "See, I can handle damn near anything, daddy."
"I know you can, son, but you shouldn't have had to. See, that's the father's job. Or the mother if you had one, but in this case it should have been me. I wanted to know these things."
"I'll tell you the next time Ryan tries to molest me," Iggy offered.
Xander nodded. "Yes, you will. Or Sev. Did you flash that over to Raena?"
"Probably," he admitted. "Hopefully not to the baby. She knew some of it already. We agreed to hide it from you."
"Don't do it again. I'll get you while you sleep." He patted his son's arm. "Medicines?"
"I'm mostly done with them. I'm over most of the effects and I'm under orders to be examined each week for the first month of school to make sure I don't have another stress relapse. I'm fine."
"I'm sure you are. Right now though, I want to tie your ass to a bed and make you rest." He stood up and kissed his son on the head. "You finish writing down what happened the other night and give it to your big brother. We'll face the elders together whenever you're ready."
"Thanks, daddy. I should have known I could count on you to be understanding."
"Oh, I'm not. I'm still processing. You may still find yourself tied to the bed sometime soon." He grinned. "Want to go for a swim or are you still under orders not to?"
"I'm not supposed to be doing anything that would make my heart rate rise. It sucks, but it'll be for another week. Then I can have sex again."
"That's what I'd miss too," Xander admitted. He winked. "You behave, son, before I have to send you to Charlie to give you lessons in common sense."
"I could do that if you wanted the time alone," Iggy offered. "It's midmorning over there, he's probably not doing much since he likes the afternoon shifts."
"If you want. No more keeping it inside. That way leads to no sex ever." Iggy shuddered but he was smiling. "Whenever you're ready to share the rest, I'll be around." He walked away, going to play in the water.
"Xander!" the baby said happily. "What's wrong? You don't look happy," she said as she floated closer.
"I'm fine, it's just some heavy mental thoughts about you kids growing up too fast."
"But being an adult is fun! You get to do all sorts of neat stuff."
Xander slid into the water, giving her a hug around the neck. "Trust me, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Stay little for as long as you can because the fun is less fun when you're bigger."
"If you say so," she told him. "Come play?"
"Sure. Lead the way," he said with an easier smile.
Iggy walked over to where Charlie was watching a few of the younger dragons play in the river, sitting beside him. "Dad said I should come to you to get some common sense beaten into me."
Charlie glanced at him. "I heard a lot of things from Bill recently."
"The human Uncle or the big, fluffy bastard?"
"My brother," Charlie said, pulling him closer to give him a one-armed hug. "How are you feeling?"
"Better." His uncle squeezed the back of his neck. "OW!"
"You deserve it for being so dumb, nephew."
"I wasn't being dumb! Percy and about twenty other people were going to die! I had to go back this time."
"This time?" Charlie asked, looking at him. "I thought you only did little things."
Iggy sighed and opened himself, showing him everything. "I try to only do the little things," he told him when they were done. He pointed at the river. "One's missing."
Charlie looked down there then frowned and whistled, bringing the baby out from under a large plant. "Thank you. Pounce your sister!" He turned back to his nephew. "Why tell me?"
"Because you're reasonable, you won't go into a rage to kill someone about any of it, and I can trust you to know that I'm not going to share most of that with my fathers."
"You think I won't?"
"I think you'll see what sort of effect some of that will have on them. Uncle Draco knows some of it as well. He made me start a journal."
"Never underestimate that one," Charlie said, looking down at his charges again. One of the mothers stomped around behind him and he glanced back. "Don't worry, she's not going to eat you. She thinks humans taste funny."
"I hope I do," Iggy agreed, starting to smile.
"I'm not the one you should have told. I will tell George."
"Yeah, but you won't tell the other one. He's the one who's threatened the Main Colony with extinction."
"I'm about ready to do that myself." Charlie gave him another hug. "I'll give you two weeks before I owl both your fathers. Some of that can't be kept from them. No matter how much you might want to, you're their son. If some of that had been me, even at this age, I'd still go running home to my folks."
Iggy sighed. "That sucks, Uncle Charlie."
Charlie gave him a wry look. "You came for common sense, not coddling. You knew I wouldn't give it to you. Neither would Bill. Percy, now he might have."
"Percy's scary, have you noticed that?"
Charlie laughed. "That's what that sort of job does to you. I think he's a lot nicer now than he used to be when he first graduated. More like a normal person and less like an animated tree." Iggy nudged him. "He's my kin, I can say that."
"Good point. Do I have to?" Charlie nodded. "Do I have to tell everyone?"
"Your parents. Your wife. Draco in case stuff starts because he can protect you more'n anybody probably." He gave him a smile. "Thank you for the trust, but I think I'll have nightmares now."
Iggy nodded. "I had those for years." He settled in to watch the dragons. "Why couldn't this have been my gift?"
"Because this gets boring after a while," Charlie pointed out. "All jobs do." They sat there silently for a while. "If it matters," he said finally, "I think you're on the right path and I'm glad you got out from under them. I'm happy that you're happy, nephew, and it pleases me that you're so strong. You're a lot like Xander in that regard. Too strong for your own good."
"Did you take the Dumbledore Course on Cryptic Advice?"
Charlie laughed, startling a few of the babies. "No!" He nudged the boy. "I was simply saying I'm proud of you, the same way your fathers will be when you tell them everything. They can't help but be proud of a kid like you."
Iggy nodded and rested against his side. "Want to come to dinner when I tell them?"
"Not a chance. Xander still scares me sometimes. Let Bill deal with him." He put an arm around the boy again. "How's the wife and kiddie?"
"She's fine and the baby is smooshing around in there. Mary's decided she wants to be a vampire when she grows up because she thinks Spike is pretty neat." Charlie snorted. "She destroyed the shop again the other day. Daddy and Uncle Fred have taken her on as an apprentice. They're teaching the triplets as well, but Mary's getting special lessons."
"Bet Ron's proud of that."
"He beamed when he found out. He told Sarajane that he must have impregnated her on the astral plane because that child was definitely his." Charlie chuckled. "Everyone says she's a little Weasley of Destruction."
"I can't wait until my vacation this year. She sounds like a pisser."
"Oh, she is," Iggy agreed.
One of the babies walked up to them and honked at him, tipping his head off to the side to look at him.
"No, he's not coming to help you, Tyrone, he's my nephew. He's my baby brother's baby." The baby dragon squealed and honked some more, heading back to play with the other dragons.
"I'm not a baby."
"To your folks you'll always be the little guy who used to fight getting put in diapers. It's a chemical link that starts when you find out you're going to be a parent."
"Huh. I'll have to remember that when my own kid gets to be my age."
"You sure will," Charlie agreed. He let the boy go. "Go tell them."
"I already heard," Xander said from behind them. He sat down on his son's other side. "You keep forgetting that you think very loud, son." Charlie looked at him, smiling. "Thank you for encouraging him to talk to us. Where are the diaries?"
"In the library. They're on unicorn treated paper. Why?"
"Because some of that is stuff you don't want a record of," Xander reminded him. "Tell your big brother to destroy them for you." Iggy nodded and Xander gave him a hug. "I'm no more disappointed in you than I was earlier, son. In fact, I'm even more in awe of you."
"I don't want you to be in awe of me," Iggy protested. "It makes me feel like a freak."
"Okay, then let's say I'm stunned by how much you've managed to accomplish in seven years, how's that?"
"He did it all..." Charlie shook his head. "Never mind. I get it now."
Xander beamed at him. "Are you coming home for the holidays? You'll get to meet the new great-niece."
"I'm not sure when I'm taking it," Charlie admitted. He poked Iggy. "See, he's not destroying anything."
"It's in the past. Even if I wanted to, I'd have to explain why I was doing it and I never did like having to explain myself." He tipped his son's face up. "No more, son. Be naughty from now on."
Iggy nodded. "Yes, daddy." He grinned. "Can I still finish my degrees? I do want that."
"Of course. As long as you want it. I'm happy that you finally started making your own decisions and stood up for yourself. But like I said..."
"Tell you the next time," Iggy agreed. He relaxed. "This is so cool. I thought you were going to lose your temper and blow up the colonies."
"That's still an option," Xander pointed out. "I think I'll leave that to George this time."
Iggy got up and sent himself back to the shop, hurrying to stop his other father. Weasley tempers could be worse than Harris tempers because Weasleys were more creative in their vengeance.
"Ready to be a grandfather?" Charlie asked.
"Hell no," Xander told him, grimacing. "I'm still working on good father."
Charlie laughed. "I think you've got that part down pat. Now work on the spoiling things. That's the beauty of being a grandfather from what dad's said."
"Hmm. Maybe," Xander agreed. "The lake baby misses you."
"I'll get a weekend free soon," Charlie promised him.
Iggy walked into his big brother's study and found both the journals, then looked around. No big brother. "Draco?"
"Kitchen," was yelled back.
Iggy headed that way, giving him a faint smile. "I came clean and Daddy heard." Draco winced. "He's still calm about it. I'm personally amazed, but he's still calm." He handed over the books. "Daddy said to destroy those."
Draco opened the back door and tossed them outside, watching as they burned. "How's that?"
"Perfect." Iggy gave him a hug. "I'm happy."
"But you're bored," Draco with a smirk. His little brother nodded. "Then go make a new potion."
"I'm tired of that as well. I don't want to have to think today. This is definitely one of *those* days."
"I see." Draco gave him a short hug. "We'll still have to do some clothes shopping for school. We could do that if you wanted. The girls were about as bored as you are."
"Yeah, maybe. Daddy's with Uncle Charlie right now though." He frowned, leaning against the counter. Until he was moved so he wasn't in the way of the sandwich making. "You don't eat corned beef."
"Myan wanted something to nibble on while she went over the third year books." He smiled. "We could go with her."
"Maybe." Iggy shrugged. "I don't know her all that well. Will she whine about the mass exodus of clothing?"
"Probably not. We can ask her if you want."
"Yeah, I guess we should." Iggy followed him down to the lab, waving at his cousin. "We have to do something to beat the boredom."
"Shopping?" she suggested with a faint smile. He nodded. "Do you really want to?"
"No, but it kills time. It's either that or I'm going to go through one of the vaults and count money." He sat down in one of the comfortable chairs. "Need help with anything?"
"Herbology is looking pretty difficult," she noted.
"That would be Melvin's area," Iggy told her. "I do potions, Runes, and healing stuff. Raena does those and Astronomy, though Emily Snape does that better. Melvin does herbs. Simone does creatures and transfiguration, along with Ravena, and Denver does defense really well."
"Melvin also does charms very well and Simone and Andrea, Melvin's wife, both took Tara's class," Draco added.
"Wow. So you guys pretty well have the whole spectrum covered?" Iggy nodded. "That's wonderful. What did you need to shop for?"
"Some new uniforms. I can fit into mine, but they're a bit thin. Wearing the same eight sets of clothes for a year tends to wear them out." Iggy shifted some. "Are we having a ball this year?"
"A Yule and a graduation one," Draco told him. He felt a pinging on his shields. "Something big just landed in the back yard. Want me to come with you?"
"Sure," Iggy sighed, forcing himself to get up. He walked upstairs, going out to see which one it was. "Delilah. Did you need Draco or Simone?"
"You." She got down close to his face. "You are still one of us, young man."
"If it means I have to die from stress, I don't want to be."
"Die?" She lifted her head and looked at Draco, who nodded. "Who threatened him?"
"The stress you guys were putting on me did," Iggy told her, crossing his arms. "In case you didn't know, I've been taking heart medicine for the last two years. Not to mention things to help me sleep because I'm so worn out that I couldn't. Welcome to my life, Delilah, you put too much pressure onto me and I couldn't deal with it anymore. I'm under orders to never have that level of stress again because I nearly died a few weeks ago." She hissed. "Now do you see how harmful you were to me? Not only wasn't I allowed to have a normal life, doing normal people things, but I managed to nearly kill myself working for you." He laughed bitterly. "And truthfully, at least half of it was my doing because I wasn't bright enough to protest." He turned and walked away, heading out to the pool house.
"Ignatius, do not walk away. I wish to talk to you," the gryphoness told him. "There must be some compromise."
He looked at her, shaking his head. "I offered to teach the healers, and none but Helena came. I'm sorry. My life is more precious to me now than it was when I was younger. I see what I did wrong and I'm going to fix it."
"You are still one of us."
"And like I said a moment ago, if I have to die to continue to be counted as such, then I don't want it!" He looked at his uncle. "You speak her language, make her understand." He ducked into the pool house and slammed the door. Simone got out of the pool and came over to give him a hug.
Draco looked at the Elder. "He's right, he did nearly die from all the stress he's been under."
"But...." She shook her head. "We did not put that on him."
"No, but you put some on him and the other colonies put some on him, and the main Elders put some more on him. Did you know he was working with a device to warp time for the last four years?" She shook her head, looking grim. "He was. To do everything that was expected of him, he was manipulating time."
"His only responsibility was to us," she said firmly.
"His own education had to come first," Draco said coldly. She glared at him. "His education is what made him be able to do anything for you in the first place. Besides, if he hadn't had your stress to deal with, he and Raena may have had an easier first few years. At least half of their fighting was from the stress they were both under."
"Their jobs...." she stared.
"Their jobs are to be children," he said firmly. "Ignatius is only seventeen. He was a minor the first time your problems necessitated him jumping time. You had an obligation to help him be raised as a decent born and you botched it because he was useful to you. You ruined his childhood, the time when he was supposed to learn how to deal with people and minor stress, by heaping everything onto a child's back. You made it so he hates his very being because you refused to believe that he was still a child." He looked back into the house, hearing someone coming. "I pity you, Delilah. At one point in time, Iggy would have done *anything* for you. Now, I'm not so sure he's willing to look at you long enough to see what's wrong." He smiled as his girlfriend joined them. "Myan, this is Delilah. She's the female head of the local colony, the one I and Xander are part of."
She looked up. "You're a big bugger," she said in greeting, smiling at her. "Where is the beloved nephew, as everyone calls him?"
"In the pool house. Did you need help with a potion?"
"No, I felt him being ready to cry and wanted to know if I could help." She looked up at the elder again. "Was it because of you?"
Delilah looked down at her. "You are related to Xander?" She nodded. "Have you heard of this problem before?" Myan shook her head. "Then perhaps you should stay out of it, young lady."
Myan snorted. "Yeah, because a good Harris will always ignore their family," she scoffed. "You obviously don't know Xander either. But maybe that's the problem. Would you have expected a child born and raised in the colony to do what Iggy's done so far?" Delilah looked shocked. "I see. So it's just the *useful* ones that get that. Damn glad I don't attach myself to any one group. Draco, I'm going to see if I can help Iggy any. Sometimes it's easier when you don't know someone that well." She walked away, heading to help her cousin. She found Simone curled up with him and reached down, giving him a hug. "It'll be okay. Your uncle's giving them a reasonable ass-chewing," she said with a smile. He wiped his eyes off, nodding. "Hey, you can do that in front of me. I even give good hugs if you need them." She sat on the seat next to him. "I am like your father in the fact that I meddle horribly, Iggy. If I can ever be of comfort, you only have to come to me. I like you, you little nerd." He snorted but looked a little happier. "If the world had more people like you, it'd be a much better place. So do the world a favor and breed more, okay?" He nodded, giving her a real smile. "Want to help me find some decent chocolate and eat it?"
"We have some frogs," Simone offered, smiling at her. She'd be a neat stepmother.
"Honey, I don't eat anything that hops around in my hand or my mouth," Myan told her, giving her a smile. "I like my chocolate to lay there prettily and silently beg me to eat it." Simone and Iggy both laughed. "Besides, I keep hearing about this great fudge shop and I wanted to see if I could buy your daddy some."
"It's in muggle London," Iggy said, calming himself down. "We can hit there before we go shopping if you want."
"Shopping?" Simone asked.
"Dumbledore said we'd have to wear uniforms if we wanted to play this year," he pointed out. "We might as well at least get robes. Maybe you can get away with untraditional clothes under a school robe."
"Maybe," Simone said thoughtfully. "I'll have to try." She stood up and stretched. Then she caught him looking. "Perv," she said fondly.
"You're the one bouncing your tits in his face," Myan pointed out. "He's a guy, they all look." She shrugged at the shocked look. "I tend to take a pretty practical point of view about that. As long as it's not a long look, a blatant stare, or a dreamy expression of want, it's all good and natural to me."
"Damn. You are cool. Wanna go to the whorehouse with me tonight?" Simone offered with a grin.
"I think your father might mind," Myan pointed out. She stood up and hauled Iggy with her. "Come on. Tell me where we'll be going so I can plan on begging your daddy for money."
"He was with Uncle Charlie," Iggy told her. "I'll lend you some of mine if you want." He walked her outside, finding Delilah waiting on them. "I thought you'd have left by now," he said, showing no emotion whatsoever.
"I wanted to talk to you, Ignatius. You've done things that I had no idea about."
Simone snorted. "Isn't that your job?" she asked.
"Your mouth is not welcome in this instance. Leave us, Simone," the Elder demanded gently.
"My lawn, bitch, get off it," Simone retorted. "I'm not letting you hurt my cousin." The gryphoness looked offended. "Yay, get over it. Iggy is mine to protect. If I had known what he was doing, we'd have had this talk a while ago. So back the fuck off him and leave him alone until he's ready to deal with the creatures who nearly killed him a few times." She led Iggy into the house. "Daddy?"
He came out of the study. "Did you mouth off again?" he asked, giving her a faint smirk.
"Yup. I feel better now too. Can I go back out there and finish it?"
"No, Simone. That's up to Ignatius. It was his life that they ruined. It's his fun to go yell and scream at them about it." He looked at Iggy. "Whenever you're ready of course."
"I'll go talk to her now," Iggy said quietly, heading outside. He closed the door behind him. "I'd have thought that you would have left by now."
"I want to talk to you. We had no idea what the other colonies were doing."
"That was your job," Iggy pointed out. "Everything was supposed to come through you. You were supposed to make sure that I was protected from all the bullshit they could start. If you had, I might not be under permanent orders to never have stress again. Or else next time I will die. So, I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do to make you feel better and there's nothing I can do to help you either." He saw her stubborn body posture and shrugged. "I can give you my doctor's orders if you want. If that'll get you out of trouble with the assholes in Morocco."
"I had no idea, Ignatius."
"Actually, you did, Delilah. You didn't want to know. There's a difference. You saw me having chest pains and decided you didn't want to know what was wrong with me."
"You said you were fine."
"Humans do that," Iggy noted, shrugging again. "We say all sorts of stuff that's not true when we don't want to deal with it. Especially teenagers. That's why we have parents and guardians, to make us own up to those times and help fix them. You left it there, and I didn't have a guardian that day. Uncle Draco saw my second one and I let him believe it was my first so he wouldn't kill you all." He looked up. "I have no idea why I did that, but I regret it now. If my parents had known, they would have stopped you when I was younger and I wouldn't be such a physical wreck waiting to happen now."
"You're moving, you can't be that sick."
"Delilah, listen to the words coming out of my mouth! I'm on *heart* medicine because I'm a twinge away from a heart attack! I'm on nerve medicine because all the stress drove me to it! I'm on sleeping medicine because I'm routinely too tired to get there myself! And you think you did a good job! Would that have included letting me work all day and night to stock stuff that you didn't really need? Or how about doing that for *all* the colonies every week!"
"That was training," she sniffed.
"I already had that training!" he screamed. "I had it long before I ever met you! For that matter, I should put forward complaints about what the hell I went through so it's on record somewhere, so maybe the next prodigy's parents will find it!" He took a calming breath, this screaming wasn't helping anything, but it felt good. He looked up at her again, seeing the shocked look. "Delilah, you were the main force behind me getting announced when I was sixteen. I appreciate that, but never do it to another of us again. No sixteen-year-old needs the stress of having lives put in their hands. I used to berate myself because I wasn't good enough to save everyone. It took me *years* to realize that I wasn't perfect, all because you guys expected me to be that good. I'm good, but I'm not God. I can only hope the next prodigy who comes along won't go through this."
"You still have a responsibility to your home colony, young man."
"No, I don't. I don't have a colony anymore," Iggy said quietly. She gasped. "I can't, because it'll kill me. I can't have that stress!" he shouted. "What part of that don't you understand! You nearly killed me and now you expect me to continue to do things which I know will take me away from my wife and future child? How bloody stupid are you?" He backed away from her. "I'm not a born, Delilah, take me off the books. I could care less at this moment." He took a deep breath and rubbed his chest. "Leave. Before I end up in the hospital again."
She looked stunned. "Young man, did you even think about *telling* us about this? We might have helped if we had known."
"You were supposed to know what I was doing anyway," he pointed out, glaring at her. She took a step back. "You were the one who all the assignments for the other colonies were supposed to go through. You're the one who was supposed to be training me to do my duty to the flock and colonies. You were even the one who was supposed to make sure that I stayed a child. Yes, I did read that book too," he said at the surprised look. "It is the female's duty to make sure all offspring, or children under her command, are raised properly. Even the useful ones, Delilah. Even me. Even though I knew what I was doing and so did you." He grunted and rubbed his chest again. "Now, go away," he ground out. "I don't want to see you ever the hell again. For all I care, you can die. Maybe in the future I won't feel that way about most of the gryphons, but right now, thanks to you, I do." He slumped in on himself as she took off and managed to calm himself before he walked back inside. Myan was waiting on him. "You heard?"
"I did." She gave him a hug. "Finish calming down. The chest pains go away when you do." He nodded, relaxing against her. "Should I call someone?" she asked when he was still breathing hard a minute later.
"No," he said weakly. "I'm fine." He sniffed. "I hate fighting."
"I know. It's a family trait I think." She stroked down his back, soothing him. "We can put off fudge until tomorrow if you want."
"No, I could use some fudge," he admitted, pulling back. She wiped off his face for him. "I hate them. I really, really hate them."
"I know, kid. It comes with being used." She led him into the study, where Draco was. "Do you have any of his medicine?" Iggy glared at her. "You're still breathing hard, kid, you need it. I'm not going to tell your father that you died."
"I'm fine. I'll be better once I calm down."
"We have that medicine as well," Draco said, pulling out his top desk drawer and pulling out two bottles. "He takes half of the lemon one and a third of the purple one." Myan nodded, watching as Iggy took them. "Should I tell Xander that she showed up?"
"No. He'll go and roast her like a big chicken."
"That sounds like an idea to me," Myan noted, sitting under Iggy's feet. She gently stroked his ankles. "How bad was it?"
"Do you know what a time turner is?" Iggy asked. She nodded, then shrugged. "I used one every day, twice a day, for nearly two years because of them. In a total of four year's time, I logged in an extra three years and almost two months." She hissed. "Doing so causes heart problems."
"Did your father know?"
"No," Draco told her. "We kept some of it from George and kept more of it from Xander."
"And mostly at my request," Iggy said bitterly.
"You didn't know any better," Draco reminded him. "You thought those sort of requests were normal. Xander might not have been able to stop much of it."
"Yeah, but he would have tried," Iggy reminded him. He slumped back into the couch as the medicines started to work on him. "I feel better now," he said in a woozy voice.
"You rest, we'll get you some fudge later," Myan assured him. He nodded and closed his eyes. "Draco?"
"I tried, Myan, but no one felt like seeing what he was going through. There are things that he never told me either. I tried to soften it for him by helping him now and then, but he is a Master already and he knows things that I don't about potions."
She got her stubborn look on her face. "Then I guess I'm going to wade into this fray as well."
"Please," Draco agreed with a smile. "I'm sure another strong female can only help him." He watched as his girlfriend gently stroked the boy's ankles, she had such maternal strength in her.
The third elder watched as Delilah ranted and raved. "Shut up!" he shouted. She jumped and looked at him. "It is our fault! That boy nearly died and you didn't seem to give a damn about his health! Now sit down and shut up, Delilah."
She rounded on him. "I am the female here, Ballan. You will obey me."
Ballen snorted. "Or what?" he asked. "You'll kick me out? I helped found this colony, Delilah. The only reason I'm not in Africa is because I didn't want to deal with the heat. Now sit down and shut up!" She backed away from him. "Now!" She sat on her nest, glaring at him. "Thank you. You abrogated your responsibility to that boy. You made sure he was overloaded and would quit. I don't know why you tried to kill him, he only brought honor on our colony. I don't really care at the moment." He stood up slowly. "I'm going to talk to someone *reasonable* about him, see if there's anything we can do." Bill looked over at him, looking hopeful. "Come." He opened the portal to the main colony, nipping their ambassador on the back of his neck. "Clear the chambers, we've got to have a talk."
Reynaldo nodded quickly and moved forward to put in his request for a closed conference. The guardians quickly cleared the chambers. "My Lords and Ladies, my elders wish to speak with you. May they enter?" he asked formally.
"They may," the lead female agreed. The two males came in and she looked down her beak at them. "Males, here?" she snorted.
"It's about time we stood up to some tyrannical women," Ballen agreed. "You and your sister need to be replaced." The council gasped. "I don't like to bother with this sort of thing, we all know that I should be up there in the second position right now," he noted. The lead male nodded. "We also know that there's been a few things gone wrong recently in my colony. I formally ask that we get a new female Elder and that she and her sister be punished for ruining our potion's master."
Bill stepped forward. "I may be young, but I did watch over that boy. I asked repeatedly if we shouldn't make him slow down and Delilah told us he was fine. The sad thing is, even I didn't know about some of the things he had been told to do." He looked at his superior, who nodded. "The boy told you and you didn't listen either."
"He is a little, they exaggerate," the second female reminded him.
"The boy's no more a little than I am," Ballen said in derision. "That boy was never a little. There was always a push here, or a prod there to do more. Even his own father couldn't stop all of it and had to give up sometimes. The sad thing is, he *told* you and you didn't believe him. By the time he knew enough to complain, he was in over his head and it was too late for him to ever lead a healthy life."
"His heart is sick?" the lead male asked gently, having read it in their minds. Bill nodded. "How bad is it?"
"His doctor, whom I paid a call on, said that he will never be able to work under stress again. That he's not allowed to have stress, ever, because he's so ill. He manipulated time for the last four years, adding an extra three years onto the normal amount."
"Ninety percent for you," Xander said from the door. Everyone looked at him. "You're discussing my son and I'm going to be here. Deal with it." He walked in and took off his invisibility cloak. "My son showed me things earlier that were so horrible that none of your healers would ever willingly go through it. Yet, my son at the age of fifteen did."
"Are you going to threaten us again?" the third male asked.
"I learned long ago not to make threats. I only make promises. I make statements of fact. The last time you saw me, I was ready to kill you. Upon hearing that my son cured a minor plague a few years ago without there being an antidote for him and there being a healer who could do it even better who was a gryphon so the antidote would work on them, I want to harm you all even more." He looked at the top female. "Especially you. It's interesting what you hear when you're invisible."
The top male looked at her. "Did you know about that?"
"It had to be cured," she noted with a wave of her paw.
"You knew he could have died and you didn't say anything," Xander said bluntly. She glared at him. "Yes, I am a man and I am questioning you. How very odd. Humans are like this, even the borns." Bill snorted and nudged him. "You still could have stopped him, even going behind Delilah's back."
"I'm sorry, Xander. I didn't know half of it. What I did know, I was advised to let it go, that he had it. If I had known, I would have tied the boy to a bed a long time ago and told you everything." He gave him a look. "Please, don't end our friendship. You know I won't hurt your children."
"I'm considering it. I have no idea what I'm doing about that right now," Xander admitted. He looked up at the heads. "Finding out I was a born was one of the best things in my life, one of the most important turning events. I'm ready to walk away and become a rogue because of this." They all hissed. "If it were your kids, you'd be saying the same thing."
"That's very true," Ballen agreed, smiling at him. "Thank you for being calm."
"I had to take a potion before I came," Xander told him. "That's the only reason."
"I understand." He looked at the council again. "I demand that you replace Delilah. She may be good at finding nestmates, but she doesn't do much else. She's brought ruin on all our heads by driving off the one creature who can ensure our existence should something horrible happen. She doesn't do the rest of the work she should either."
"She also doesn't have any patience for the littles," Bill pointed out. He looked at the top female. "We know that she aided her sister in all this. I don't know why, but I don't care."
The lead male stepped down and looked at all of them. "I want an outside opinion, just to be fair. Is there one available?"
"Get Salazar," Bill suggested. "He watches over the boy. He'd know at least part of it."
"Iggy leaked his memories to myself and one of his uncles earlier," Xander offered. "Charlie deals with dragons, but he would know what he was shown."
"He leaked memories?" the top elder asked. Xander nodded. "He handed them over?"
"More like opened his shields and pushed them out of his head so they could be copied into ours," Xander admitted. "Iggy thinks fairly loudly if you're listening for him."
The second male, who was mute, walking down and nudged Bill, nodding. The top male nodded. "Can you get this Salazar here?"
"Salazar?" Xander called, tossing a rock from his pocket onto the ground. Two ghosts showed up. "Gee, Gryffindor as well," he said dryly. "You've been watching my son?"
"Sometimes. Even Snake has to stop before he loses his temper. You've got one hell of a kid, Harris."
"If I had known, I would have stopped him," Xander admitted.
"I know. Trust me, if I had known that you didn't know, I would have told you." He looked at the gryphons. "Snake and I are both at your service."
Salazar floated forward, touching the main gryphon's head. "I watch out for the boy and he lets me into his head," he told them as he let them see what he knew, staring straight at the lead female. She got up and walked away. "I don't know what that family has against his family, but it needs to stop." He floated back and let Gryffindor do the same. "You didn't know?"
"Every time I saw him being too tired or starting to get sick, I stopped him as best I could," Xander pointed out.
"Most of the pushing was coming from Delilah and her followers," Bill soothed. He tucked Xander under his wing. "She used to say little things to him. We weren't aware that they were taking root."
"Iggy's very sensitive," Salazar reminded him. "He's still hurt by his wife telling him that the world would have been better without him during some of her mood swings." Bill groaned. "Her head female is from the same family, it probably traces back somehow."
"Can we do a sensitivity transplant?" Gryffindor asked. "I like the little nerd. He's funny and decent." He looked at his rival. "Even for needing to be one of yours."
"I feel the same way about his father," Salazar admitted. "Even though he should have been yours."
"The sorting hat said it would have put me into the house," Xander told Gryffindor, which made him smile. "Just because of the symbolism."
"Ah! It obviously didn't read most of your memories then," Gryffindor pointed out. "Not that I could get past some of them."
Salazar snorted. "It gets worse ten years back, trust me." He smiled at Xander. "I should come haunt you some night soon so we can talk."
"Do it before school starts, okay? I don't think I can handle this upcoming year with no sleep. It's going to be trying enough."
The top male gryphon cleared his throat once he had calmed himself down. "I know you have a suggestion to stop this tragedy from happening again. What is it, Bill?"
"I want Iggy to set up some sort of training program for all the healers." His superior looked startled. "You can't deny that many of the healers have lost information or incomplete knowledge. Half of what Ignatius has done would have been done by the healers back during the Wars. Unfortunately, many of them died before they could give out what they knew." He looked at the group's healer, who was always in the chamber in case something happened. "Your own training, Gweneth, how was it done?"
"Like everyone else's, by apprenticeship. My Master died before I turned eighteen so I had to learn the rest of it by reading because there wasn't anyone else to teach me," she admitted. "Would Iggy be able to do that with a bad heart? That might be stressful."
"He'd already know," Ballen pointed out. "He's seen the inadequacies of the system already and lived to tell how bad it was. Who better to do so and to oversee some of the training?"
"Iggy has no patience for teaching," Salazar told him. "Unless they know nothing, he loses it."
"Badly," Gryffindor agreed.
"He didn't smite anybody last year," Xander offered. "Setting a curriculum wouldn't be that hard on him. He can base it off what he's learning now. He might even be able to get some of his teachers to help him with it as some sort of special project." He looked at the top male. "You may ask him, but I don't want my son to continue to need heart medication."
"He shouldn't have needed it in the first place," the top male said with a depressed sounding sigh. "He wasn't lying. Xander, may I?" Xander stepped forward and let him see what his son had put forth earlier. He winced at some of it and then started to cry. "I want her stopped," he demanded. "Now! She will face charges!" The rest of the council went to gather the women while he calmed himself again. "Xander, I am sorry for what we did to your son." He looked at Bill. "At least he has one who knows what it is like to be pushed. Our last prodigy wasn't treated with respect either and it nearly ruined him as well." Bill nodded his head. "We will make it known that every possibly thing is open to this family. I will not have the boy shunned for being abused in such a manner. I'm surprised that he hasn't given up long ago."
"He said he thought it was normal," Xander told him. The elder looked pissed. "He said by the time he realized, it was nearly too late and the antifreeze case came at the time when he snapped. Otherwise we might be having this conversation at my son's grave." He stepped back. "With all due respect, my adopted son just called. Iggy's crashed on a couch because of Delilah and he wants to talk to me."
"Go," the elders agreed. Xander bowed and left.
Ballen looked at his superior. "I want this stopped. It was wrong. It's also wrong that the boy can't go into Mortal Alley anymore without being sneered at. I'm putting forth that he be our colony's healer trainee permanently. That he not be allowed to move up in rank, and that we keep him for necessary times."
"That would protect the boy and soften the blows of life," Bill put in, "but he doesn't want to see us. Not even me. He yelled at me the last time and that boy never loses his temper."
Ballen shook his head. "He lost it earlier with Delilah, hence his current heart troubles. Holding it in hurt him this time."
"He is like that," Bill pointed out. "No matter how much we push him to let it go, he doesn't."
"He does it in other ways," Draco said as he walked in. "He does it by brewing something that takes a lot of stirring or picking up a book. In this case, we medicated him as soon as he walked into the house." He bowed to them. "If you're going to do something, do it soon. Ignatius has just voiced the desire to change his genetics so he's not a born any longer. He knows that if he stays, he'll end up doing another emergency and he knows his body won't allow it, possibly ever. For that matter, he said that some of the old ways have to change. Things like picking on a male who got shot during a mating flight by a muggle and was made fun of by the healers."
The top elder winced. "There are some things that only a male would understand. Where did that happen?"
"Romania. He ended up at the boy's uncle's dragon preserve. Ignatius said that there should be situations where only a male healer should be handling male cases, the same as only female healers may handle egg bearing cases unless it's an emergency."
"I heard great things about his helping the female from Iran," the top male noted. "Did he really climb up in there to help? Most males who heal wouldn't have even though of that."
"Iggy's like that," Draco reminded him. "The same as he once healed one of you out of the blue because he decided you needed the help. Male healers are at the bottom of the power structure and he said that they should be treated equally. I agree. The female healers can be quite bitter and cold to males when we need to see them. We're supposed to be subservient, but strong enough to not need pain medicine for a broken bone? It isn't right."
"I always thought that was odd." The top male looked at the younger elders. "You will make the announcement and we will send up a new female head." Bill looked interested. "You are *still* without a nestmate?" he asked in shock. Elders always had females vying for their attention.
"I'm young and none of our regional colonies have eligible females. The one I like pretended to be mated so I wouldn't talk to her," he said miserably. He even slumped a little bit.
Ballen snorted. "We need to find you a gryphon version of Raena." Bill perked up. "Someone who shares your love of books."
"Gee, there was a nice one in Germany," Xander said as he walked back in. "Iggy said he's willing to meet with you tomorrow, after lunch our local time if that would be fine with you."
"That would be fine," the top elder agreed. "Thank you, Xander. You match people?"
"Very well," Draco agreed. "Three of his brothers, one of them twice, and myself so far."
"Twice? He wanted two mates?" Bill asked.
"Oh. I had forgotten about his wife dying." He nuzzled Xander. "Germany?"
"Germany. They have a cute little archivist over there. Fairly young girl, about half of your size but I didn't get the feeling that she was immature. She giggled when Iggy asked her for a specific book."
"I'll have to fly over and talk to her," Bill agreed.
Draco clapped him on the back. "Which older one is next? Bill or Charlie?"
"Bill's got the most major crush on someone, but he's not going up to her anytime soon because she's in the process of a very nasty divorce," Xander admitted. "If he'd get off his ass, it'd help them both. Charlie's a bit harder, but there is a woman in his field, who enjoys dragons like he does, and who is supposed to be a lot like Molly. Sweet with that bite of steel underneath that occasionally makes her the Queen Bitch of the Universe. I'm trying to get them together. Oh, and Charlie thinks he may have found a boy like Simone. He's three years younger, is one of those who thinks creatures are better than people, and has an older brother who'd do a bit better he thinks, but he won't fly. He's suggesting that they write to her by showing many pictures of her being cute and pretty."
Draco rolled his eyes. "I'm sure we'll find out about these boys soon enough if they do write to her." Xander grinned. "Your idea?"
"No, I just reminded him and he remembered meeting them." He winked. "They're so cute!"
The top male shook his head. "What is the world coming to when a male has to find his own mate?" They cracked up and the tension eased.
Iggy looked at the elders, and then at the political asskissers who seemed to live in the elder's cave. "You summoned me?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, Ignatius, we did," the main male told him, bending down to get closer to him. "We are sorry for the way you were trained." The crowd gasped. He looked up. "We mistreated him so badly he quit on us." A soft murmur of voices started. "We were very wrong to take away his childhood. We admit that the ones who did are being punished and we want you to stay around."
"I can't be the potion's master you want. I'm not healthy enough to do that anymore. I can't rush off at a moment's notice to treat an outbreak of swamp tail."
"I know. Therefore we are going to name you a junior healer in your colony, permanently." Iggy looked interested. "It would allow us to call on you, but under Helena's direct knowledge. All serious things would be sent to her."
One of the ambassadors stepped forward. "He's staying even though he quit?" she asked.
"His heart is unhealthy." She hissed. The top male nodded. "It has gotten to the point where his own doctors have told him that he can have no more stress without dying. We do not want that so we are trying to strike a happy medium. Just because he can make a potion doesn't mean he should."
"Then what about when we need necessary ones at a moment's notice?" one of the larger males in the back asked. "He came to save us a few years ago, even though it endangered his life."
"And I'm not sorry I did it, just a little pissed that there was another healer who wasn't getting off her ass to help me," Iggy pointed out. "If it comes down to that sort of thing, I'll help my wife. She's taking over my former spot. She is under travel restrictions because she's pregnant, but I'll do what I can without endangering my health." That got some happier sounds.
"We would also like to ask a favor of you."
"You've got balls then," Iggy noted dryly.
The top male smiled. "Yes, and they still work, young man." He nudged Iggy. "We want you to set up a standard curriculum for our healers." That got another gasp. "Everything they know has been passed down, but as many have pointed out quite a lot has been lost to death and sickness. I have spoken to your mentors, and your advisors at your university. They are willing to help you. You might be asked to teach a few of the classes, but nothing more stressful than that. We can even let you have a diary from one of the most ancient of all healers that tells about his training so you have some idea of what was taught once before."
Iggy considered it. "I might be able to do that. I can't promise right now though."
"I understand. Even if you could figure out what to teach, it would help immensely. We could find other teachers for a year of teaching everything."
Iggy called his wife and talked about it. She was happy about it. He looked up. "I'll do what I can with that," he told him.
"That is all we ask." The elder nuzzled his chest. "You sound healthy today."
"I just took my medicine," he admitted with a small smile. "Does this mean I can go into Mortal Alley again without getting shoved and called names?"
"Definitely." The top male stood up to his full height. "We will leave this family alone!" he shouted. "There will be no more picking on them. Otherwise, his father may well kill us all over his son's treatment. He has already promised that he will if this mistreatment continues."
"His father is that strong?" Reynaldo asked.
Iggy looked back and nodded. "Yeah, he is. Plus you'd have to add in anger on top of it." His ambassador looked interested. "He'll be teaching again this year if you wanted to talk to him." He turned back to the main elders. "I am to be a junior healer?"
"Permanently," the top male told him. "There will be no promotion as we are not willing to risk your health. Even if your father hadn't threatened to kill us," he said dryly.
Iggy nodded. "I can do that."
"Good, then take back that foolish bag of money, young man." The elder went back to his nest and tossed it at Iggy's feet. "We do not need or want this. We want you."
"Thank you. I live to serve and all that," Iggy said, stunned. The top male smiled at him. "This is really heady for a seventeen-year-old."
"I know. It is true though, you are a wonderful young man who has already helped hundred, if not more, people. We not only appreciate you now that we know what you've done, but we think you are fairly...neat to use a human term. Now go rest and send your Uncle back so we may see the new product line."
"I'll bring Uncle Fred up within two weeks," Iggy promised, turning to walk away.
"The money as well, Ignatius. We don't want it."
"Do I have to?"
"Yes, young man. Use it to spoil your pregnant wife."
Iggy picked it up. "But I already did that this morning and she whined." He felt the mental slap and sighed. "Sorry, Raena." He rolled his eyes. "I think I'll have to tie her down and teach her how to accept wonderful treats."
"Then do so. It wouldn't be the first time a woman has been too stubborn for her own good." The elder smiled until he felt he was gone. "Now, who had remarks?"
The female from earlier lifted a paw. "He seems fine."
"They had to keep his heart from stopping completely the other night. It was not the first time, but it was the first time anyone brought it to *our* attention." He looked at the empty nest. "The ones who pushed him so hard are being charged. You will need to call a judiciary panel together."
"Yes, Elder." She looked around, nodding at some of the other ambassadors.
One of the borns stepped out. "You want us to spread around the news so that they can go back into Mortal Alley?"
"If you wouldn't mind. His father looked dreadful and obviously needs to go shopping, plus I want to see what they make from Zora's this time." The born smiled. "Ignatius was reviled the last time he went to shop. Mortal Alley is for all of us, even the injured and the rogues. I want that trend to continue, not this annoying picking on him. See that it happens one way or another. Preferably without him getting pity because it will only upset him."
"I remember," the born agreed. "He healed my daughter last year." He looked around. "With your leave, I'll go talk to a few people down there, start a good rumor or some such."
"Thank you." The born walked away. "Anything else." No one stepped forward. "Reynaldo, make sure his allowance is reinstated. Not that he needs it, but I want him to feel appreciated." The Stonehenge ambassador nodded. "Thank you. Now all of you leave while we discuss who has the requisite age and experience to fill the spots left empty by this incident." They left them alone.
The second female looked longingly at the nest beside her. "I'd be willing to move up," she noted.
"I know you would. We'll have to see if anyone is older and wants it first. After all, you are a bit young," the male said with a nip to her cheek. She nuzzled him happily.
Iggy walked onto the dragon preserve and handed his Uncle the bag. "They gave it back and I don't need it. I can always make more," he said, then he started to disappear but his uncle grabbed him. "What?" he asked, looking confused.
"How did it go?" Charlie asked patiently.
"I'm now permanently listed as one of the junior healers for my colony. That way they can ask for my help in extreme circumstances but I can't be overloaded." He grinned. "I also got asked to set up a curriculum for the healers. All of them."
"Well," Charlie said with a smile, giving him a hug. "I'm proud of the way you stuck to your guns over this." He pulled back. "Now, what's in the bag?"
"My repayment of everything they've given me. They said they didn't want it, they wanted me," he said with a grin. "Laters. Gotta go tell daddy, not that he wasn't eavesdropping, but he'll expect it." He teleported back to the shop to tell Fred he had to be ready in two weeks.
Charlie looked inside the heavy bag and shook his head. "Bo?" His boss popped his head out of the office. "My nephew dropped this off for you to deal with." He smiled as he handed over the bag. "Have fun." He turned back to the little dragon he was holding still for its shots. "Come on, girl, it's not so bad. He's really nice with those things and you only have to have it once." She made pitiful noises at him, making him smile. "I've seen worse, love." His phoenix lifted her head and cheeped at the dragon, who hissed, but settled down and lifted a wing so they could get to the muscles underneath it. "Thanks, Bait."
His phoenix sang a short, happy song and went back to her nap.
Bo shook his head, smiling. "She certainly livens up the place, Charlie." He looked inside the bag, then up at his worker. "How did the kid do this!" he demanded.
Charlie looked at him. "He's a hobby alchemist. It was what he picked out to do for fun." He grinned. "You've never seen his wife's ring?" He slapped the baby on the side once the doctor was done, watching as she walked off. "If you want, I can take some of that to Oliver Wood. He's got a few places where Iggy's dad likes to dump some of his extra money now and then."
"I'd prefer we have another steak dinner," the doctor offered. "I miss those things." Bo handed him the bag so he could see. "I think there's more than enough there to even restock some of the food animals." He smiled and handed it back. "How much do you think that is in Galleons?"
"I don't know," Bo said, still a bit dazed. "Charlie, go get this stuff changed," he said, handing it back.
"Because you have family up that way who always want to see you anyway," Bo said with a smirk. "Have lunch with them or something. I'll even let you buy since I know that's a ton of money."
Charlie shook his head. "All I'll have to do is call Xander and he'll buy." He walked away, heading for the floo. "Hey," he said once he had his little brother Percy. "Iggy just dropped this cash on me to be changed and donated. Wanna do lunch since I'll be up there?"
"Of course," Percy agreed with a smile. "I'll bring the children if you want."
"Sure, I like the little buggers. The twins are so cute."
"If only Fred and George would leave them alone," Percy sighed. Something exploded near his head, sending fireworks through the floo. "Sorry about that, Mary is here." He signed off.
Charlie laughed. "Yeah, but she's perfect the way she is," he muttered as he stood up. He sent himself back to Diagon, going to do the necessary chores first. Then he could have some fun.
To epilogues 8-9: