Harry and Ron walked up onto the porch of the house they would be living in while on the preserve, looking around at the quiet woods. Charlie opened the door at Ron's knock, letting them in with a smile. "This is really nice."
"Yeah, this new spot means we don't have the dorms anymore," Charlie said happily. "Hope you don't mind, but we're sharin' a place."
"I shared smaller places with you before," Ron pointed out. "As long as you don't mind Harry and his nudity problems."
"Harry, you have problems with nude people?"
Harry grinned. "No, Ron occasionally has problems with me being a nude person."
"Then that's not a problem," Charlie told them. He pointed at the door on the right of them. "That's your room. I wasn't even going to try and separate you two. The bed's pretty new and the mattress is even more new." He walked them in there, watching as the boys looked around the good-sized room.
Harry tested the bed. "It squeaks."
"Sorry if we keep you up," Ron told his big brother with a grin.
Charlie waved a hand. "As long as it's not habitual." He clapped his hands. "Okay, let's get you guys shown around. We're moving the nursery first, and that'll be your job for now. Then the hospital wing comes. Then the rest."
"Won't that cause problems?" Harry asked.
Charlie waved a hand and grinned. "Not a bit. We'll move a few of the males first. They'll claim most of the land and as the others move in they'll beat the shit outta them and it'll settle down within a few months. They do it every few months on the preserve when the soil gets stale in their home area. We're used ta it. Come on." The boys dropped their bags and followed him out of the house and to the infirmary, which was about a half-mile away. "Now, while we're settin' up, I'm the boss. Got that, Ron?" Ron nodded. "The real boss is traveling around looking at the other spots. We're going to get along fine, but I'm going to need your help to set up diversions now and again."
"You want us to take over the recreation stuff?" Harry asked.
Charlie clapped him on the back. "That's the sorta attitude I like in you young ones, always jumping in to help. Sure, Harry. I'm sure you can handle setting up a few ad-lib games. Just remember, the beater positions go to whomever signs up first. It'll save you the hassles I had." The boys nodded. "Good job." He opened a screen door, letting them proceed him. "This is the outer chamber of the nursery. In here we'll have smocks and things. Maybe a few starting nests that we'll do holding in until the real ones are ready. Follow me." He walked through a doorway and into a large cavern, flicking on a light with his wand. "This will be the real nursery. Ron, we'll need you to help us build some nest boxes." Ron nodded. "Good. Harry, you get to hay them. You'll want cushy, but not too fat since you'll be in there to check and turn." The boys nodded. "Good job. Right this way." He led them into another chamber, turning on the lights in there with another flick of his wand. "This is the nursery for the newly hatched. Those," he said, pointing at the large tubs hanging on the wall, "are for feeding. Try not to get between the babies and the food if possible, they've all got sharp little claws and come out with teeth already in their heads." He looked at the boys, who nodded slowly as they looked around. "Think you can handle twenty or so by yourselves?"
"Just us?" Harry asked.
"For now. We've got about sixty eggs we're crating up right now. We'll have to ship them overland so they don't get too upset or cold. There's about twenty young at the moment and most of them are newbies. Not one's more'n six months old. That means they're all fussy like Bert was when you last saw him."
"How are Pansy, Crabbe, and Goyle?" Ron asked.
"Doing tolerably. They've settled in fine. They were joined by another female, one who was snuck on and claimed before we could do anything to stop that one. They're packing up too, and Bert's coming here. The other's headed for warmer climates. Don't worry, you won't have to deal with them much." He clapped them on the back. "Let me show you the wood and hay piles. You can get that stuff started tomorrow." He led them back outside, turning off the lights as he went. In back of the nursery building was a large pile of wood planks and a number of bales of hay. "Ron, we'll need boxes with bottoms, fully sixteen feet on each side. As many as you can get." He saw the look at the wood. "Don't worry, we'll teach you how to groove it and how to nail. We don't dare magic around the eggs for the most part. They're fragile and attuned to it. We had one massive steamer come out evil because someone was practicing his floating charms near it. Good enough?"
"What about the mess?" Harry asked.
"That's called the kitchen," Charlie said with a grin. "Which of you can cook?" Harry and Ron both raised their hands. "Good," he said happily. "I can't. I'll do the physical cleaning. We'll be getting laundry soon. You two can divvy up the rest of the chores between yourselves." He led them back to the house, letting them get settled in. "Do we need anything else?"
"Radio," Harry called. "I can't live without noise."
Charlie grimaced. "No electricity, Harry."
Harry looked at Ron. "What does your generator run on?"
"Magic. I charge it once a week." Ron shrugged and hooked it up, then plugged in the radio Harry had brought with him. He flipped on one of the CD things that Harry had brought, then had to turn it over and restart it. The noise was welcome and fairly happy.
"Harry!" Charlie said, frowning from the doorway. "A generator?"
"It was Ron's Yule present," Harry defended. "I bought it for his tattooing gun." He grinned. "I told you I couldn't live without noise. I'll get another one if it'll help. That way we can even *vacuum*."
Charlie shook his head. "You're daft, Potter." He went back to his room.
Harry looked at the bed, then at Ron. "Magic the sheets on so I can jump you and break in our room." Ron beamed and did so, putting on the comfortable cotton sheets. Then he slowly stripped for his lover, making him drool. "Good," Harry noted, lunging and capturing him. "I like this much better than I do unpacking." He stole a kiss and forced Ron onto the bed, summoning the lube to his hand so he could get Ron ready. "Just think, I've got what you need," he said gently, smirking when Ron looked at him. "It's just me and you and your brother."
"Harry, I'm not into incest," Ron pointed out.
Harry beamed. "I know. Isn't it a great thought?"
"Only if you hurry up. I'm a greedy shit, Potter, remember that." Harry slid into him and he moaned the whole way in. "Thank you." He braced himself against the headboard, letting Harry give him the breaking-in ride of his life. He came with a yell and went limp, then Harry let his cockring spell go, making Ron mumble in joy. They had fixed that nasty two-to-one orgasm ratio last month and Harry was much happier about his single one to Ron's two or three now. Ron held on for dear life because Harry was in the mood and it showed.
"Bloody Hell!" Charlie yelled. "If you do that while I'm trying to sleep, I'm going to castrate one of you!"
"I'll tell your mother you're hindering my link to self-control," Harry called back. Charlie opened the door and blushed, turning around. "Your mother has decided that I went a bit insane during that last battle so she's charged Ron with being my link to sanity." He thrust in particularly hard and Ron squealed. "This is where he's at his best."
"Still!" Charlie complained. "You're noisy."
"I've had worse," Ron panted. "Harry!" he screamed when Harry's hand did the one thing that made him scream and thrash in a good way. "Not in front of Charlie!"
"Ron, you're the one that wanted to have sex in public all the time, deal with it," Harry told him, making Ron come again. Then he grinned and didn't give him a rest, pounding him relentlessly until he finally came, leaving Ron at the point where he was starting to get interested again. He fell to the side with a sigh of delight. "Thanks, Ron. I'm sane once again."
"You're gonna finish me off, right?" Ron asked, shifting up slowly and carefully so Harry could finish sucking him off. Then he'd join him in a nap.
"I don't need to know," Charlie complained, going back to his room. "They're worse than they were last fall," he complained to his parent's picture. They smiled and nodded at him. Ron's loud yell and something hitting the wall made him wince and shake his head. "Did he hit himself?"
"No, that was the headboard," Harry called. "We'll be moving it soon."
"Yes, you will," Charlie agreed. He flopped down onto his bed, wondering how long it would be before the boys sought him out for company. He was kind of lonely.
Within a month, Harry had quite enough of their creaky bed, and so had Charlie. Charlie's boss thought it was funny the days Charlie had come in with dark circles under his eyes, but Charlie had threatened to put them on separate shifts if they didn't let him sleep so they were quickly coming up with a way of fixing the problem. Charlie had even been mean enough to suggest that the boys have separate weeks off so they couldn't have sex last night. It was getting desperate. That's why Harry decided some shopping was in order. He had flooed them to Florence, the nearest major city with a lot of wizards and a wizard shopping area. They were now in the bed store looking at the new models.
"We need something sturdy," Ron was telling the salesman.
"Something quiet, sturdy, and durable," Harry told him. "We work on a dragon preserve and we're driving his brother bonkers."
The salesman smothered his laugh. "That's fine, boys. Just the two of you?"
"As far as I know. Ron hasn't said anything about doing any orgies and they'd better not happen in my bed," Harry told him. The salesman did laugh at that. "Seriously though, we have one right now that squeaks. We need one that won't, and one that won't hit the wall. Plus it has to stand up to the occasional escapee. We had one of those last week and he shredded our sheets on us."
"I think I've got just the thing. I take it your rooms can hold a King?" They nodded, they could make room with some furniture arranging. "Then come this way and roll around on this one." He led them to the back corner, letting them test the bed there. "We get a lot of call for these from the upper crust brothels. They're locally made and very sturdy. They've also got an anti- smell charm on them so you don't have to air them out as often. We can change the scent to whatever you want, though I've heard the citrus, especially the lemon, are very good." He watched as they rolled around and bounced. "Plus, the base does not move. You can use a sticking charm on it easily." Harry hit himself on the forehead. "It's not that easy with most beds, sir. They usually have wheels on the frame."
"Plus, this is bigger so we'll have to buy all new sheets to test out," Ron leered at Harry.
Harry shoved him off the bed and laid down on it. "Okay, you've sold me. How much and can you deliver?"
"Delivery might be a problem, but we are in an apparation-friendly zone. As are the clothing store, the herbologist, and the sex shops down the street."
"Sex shops?" Ron asked, starting to drool.
"Forgive him, he's not used to monogamy," Harry said dryly, giving Ron's head a shove. "After we do the necessary things, Ron."
"Thanks, Harry." He stood up, dusting his butt off. "Okay, so we'll take this one. Do you guys do sheets?"
"No, but the people up the street do. There's a muggle department store if you've got exchanged funds. Speaking of, did you need this to be a credit slip with your bank? I notice you're British."
"Yeah, unless you can run a muggle Bank Platinum card," Harry agreed with a small shrug and a sheepish grin. "I had some transferred over to muggle accounts since I wasn't sure when I was going to hit a Gringott's again."
"Not a problem, sir." He smiled and went to get the forms for them. "So, you want this one then?" he asked as he returned. Ron nodded, grinning fiendishly. "And did you want the scent changed?"
"I like oranges," Harry said, looking at Ron.
"Do you have a rotating scent pattern?" Ron asked.
"We do, we have the one that rotates all of them or we have the one that rotates only the most popular. That one contains a few flowery ones, a lemon, an orange, a strawberry, and newly mown grass."
"Then we'll start with that one," Harry told him. "How would we change it?"
"It's in the instructions," he said as he filled it out, letting Harry sign it and put his vault number on the form. "Thank you, sirs." He smiled at them. "Finish the rest of your shopping and then come pick this one up." Harry nodded, leading Ron out. He shook his head. "I've never met two cuter gay men," he said happily. He put a sign on the bed saying they were taking that one then went to submit the order. The local Gringotts had a quick service that would tell him if it was approved or not. It came back with an approved nearly instantly and he happily filed the forms away.
Charlie woke up to the sounds of moving furniture, and found himself on the couch. "Why am I out here?" he groaned.
"Because we're being nice," Harry told him, leaning over the back of the couch, giving him a maniacal grin. "Ron and I decided that we'd spare you the creaking bed so we bought one that didn't. We're giving you ours. We probably could get another sixteen months use out of it," he offered.
"Which means you'll get about ten more years since you're not quite as active as we are," Ron beamed from the kitchen. "Mum sent cookies and muffins. She's insisting we make Harry gain weight again."
Charlie looked at them. "You guys gave me your bed?"
"After we cleaned and aired it out," Harry promised. "Come see?"
Charlie nodded, letting Harry haul him up and lead him into their bedroom. The furniture had been shifted some to make room for the bigger bed, which was laying against the back wall along its side. On the dresser was a bigger stereo, one that said it held ten CD thingies. The line leading from it led out a small covered hole in the window frame. He looked outside and saw the generator sitting there, a bigger one than Ron's little one. He looked at Harry, who beamed. "Needed it?"
"We figured we could use it," Ron agreed as he walked in with a muffin for each of them. "This one runs on solar power."
"From the sun?" Charlie asked.
Harry nodded. "You slept through Ron putting the sensor on the roof. It should do most of the time, and even when it's rainy we can recharge it via magic, like the smaller one. This one can handle up to six outlets at a time so if you have something you want to run that's fine with us. Plus, I had to get Ron a hairdryer," he said, looking at his lover's waist-length hair.
"Gee, I wonder why," Charlie said dryly, flicking at Ron's braid. "Doesn't that bother you?"
"Not presently," Ron said with a bright grin. "Sit, that thing's the most comfortable we could find."
Charlie sat on the bed, smiling because it didn't squeak, squeal, or creak. "This is nice. Expensive though."
"Yeah, a bit, but I can afford it," Harry pointed out. He gave Charlie his most insane smile. "We also decided to help on the morale issue. Since you said that there's nothing and no one around here to sleep with we decided to get some surrogates."
"Huh?" Charlie asked.
Ron rolled his eyes. "He's missing Hermione. He means we stopped at the sex shop to get some new straps and ended up buying most of their stock in toys and cleaners." He flipped open his old school trunk to show all the boxes and bags. "We've numbered each one and have a form for the others to sign one out if they want," he said happily. "We only demand that they clean them before they bring them back and that they stay in good shape."
Charlie looked at the couple. "You guys are insane," he said happily.
"He doesn't do me enough to keep me sane," Harry agreed with a grin. "I haven't been blown in days."
"I offered to do you in the shop, but you said we couldn't because people would want us to help them," Ron reminded him.
"That they would," Charlie agreed, standing up. "Thanks, guys. I'll enjoy the creaking bed while I enjoy not having it wake me up." He ruffled both their hairs as much as he could and went to his room. They hadn't moved anything in there, only switched the bed out. He looked out his window onto the porch and noticed where his old mattress was laying, giving it a fond smile. "The springs were cutting me anyway," he said, not in the least perturbed. He waved at a friend walking past and they came up to chat. "The boys bought their own bed," he said happily. "I got their old one."
"Cool." She grinned at him. "Did they get anything else?"
"We got sex toys to be checked out," Ron called.
"They did what?" she asked, laughing a bit.
"The insane ones bought sex toys that can be checked out," Charlie told her. "All they ask is that you clean it."
"Hell, anything's better than trying it with my finger," she said, coming inside to talk to the boys. She found them mostly undressed and Ron on his knees, but that didn't bother her. It wasn't any worse than what the dragons did when they mated. "Where'd you stash 'em?" she asked.
Ron pointed at the trunk, but Harry answered since his mouth was empty. "We let them out for three weeks at a time. We ask that you clean them before you bring them back. We even bought cleaner with us if you don't like the one-to-ten bleach and water solution." He patted Ron on the back. "It was this naughty's idea. He used to love his orgies."
"Harry," Ron mumbled.
"Sorry, Ron. I promise to use some on you later out of our private stock." Harry grinned at her, patting Ron on the head as he continued. "There's a signup sheet in there somewhere. Browse away."
She grinned. "I knew Charlie's brother was insane, he said so often enough, but I wasn't aware that he had brought you down too. Thanks for this." She knelt and poked through the trunk, coming up with the one she liked the most, signing it out and taking a bottle of cleaner with it. "Thanks, guys. See you on shift."
"We're in the nursery," Ron said as he pulled back. He grinned at her. "Sorry not to talk and all."
"That's okay. I remember being your age. Have fun." She shut their room door and went to talk to Charlie. "They got a good selection," she told him. He groaned and shook his head. "Since you don't want the old mattress, want to help me move it to the infirmary? The healers always need something."
"Sure," he agreed, getting up and helping her shift it over there.
Ron looked over as Harry selected his clothes for the day. "You've got nursery while I've got eggs," he reminded him.
"Yup, and I'm going to wear something to get cuddled in," Harry agreed, pulling out his clothes. He handed Ron an outfit and went to take a shower, passing Charlie on the way. "Are you cooking or are we?" he asked as they walked past each other.
"Harry, you've got that tryout in a few hours," Charlie pointed out.
Harry looked stricken. "That's today?" Charlie nodded. "Ron, that's today!"
"I'll pick you out flying clothes then," Ron called. "Go shower, you smell like a brothel."
Harry hurried into the bathroom, hoping for some hot water. After all, he probably did smell like a brothel, Ron and his week off had ended last night. Then he stopped to think about it. If he made a team, he'd have to leave. He'd spend a lot of time away from Ron. He'd be spending a lot of time in the company of people who would be watching him again. People who would be expecting him to do things. Even people who would want things from him like autographs and pictures. The very thought made him ill and he shuddered, turning up the hot water.
"Save me some," Ron said as he climbed in with him. He gave him a hug. "It's all right. You don't have to go if you don't want to. We know you don't like the publicity and it'd be part of the game." He stroked Harry's back with the sponge, getting him clean. "You can go if you want, that doesn't mean you have to accept any offers, Harry. I'll support whatever you want to do."
Harry hugged him, clinging to him. "I don't want to be stared at the way Viktor was. Or the way Oliver was mobbed in the store the last time we saw him."
"Then don't go. You've got cuddly creatures who appreciate you more than any fan. It's an open tryout so you didn't have to make a reservation and I'm sure everyone will understand."
"There's probably people already there waiting on me. Oliver said he might pop up to watch."
"He's not, Harry. I called him last week and he said that the tryouts were closed to anyone not trying out. He said you might feel that way and the coaches said it's hard enough without the press there." He patted him gently. "Go and try out, then come back if you decide to. That way you won't be miserable next year wondering if you should have went."
Harry looked at him, giving him a small smile. "You really can read my mind."
"Sure can," Ron agreed, giving him a short kiss. "Now finish getting dressed. I want to make sure you fly your best and the stuff on you will only slow you down." He stole another kiss then the bottle of shampoo to start the time consuming process of his hair. Harry was fully done before he even got it all conditioned. He smiled at his lover's back, knowing how stressed he was by the way he was trying to put on his underwear. "The other way around, Potter," he sighed. Harry shot him a grin and put the thong on the correct way, then the rest of his gear. By the time Ron was done, Harry was gone. Charlie was sipping a mug of coffee in the kitchen so he took his own. "Think he'll bomb on purpose?"
"No, I think he'll try, but I don't think he'd go for it," Charlie pointed out. "He hates being watched and that'd get him watched."
"Yeah, it would," Ron agreed with a grin. "I guess I'll go turn eggs." He took a toast sandwich with him to eat on the way, going to work. By the time he had all the eggs turned and checked over, it was nearly the end of his shift, and Harry wasn't back yet. He would have worried but there were too many people up there who would help him if he needed it. By ten he was a bit worried but figured Harry had begged either the twins or his parents for a bed for the night. Harry came in just before midnight and he was smiling. "You took it?"
"No, I didn't make it," Harry told him. "They said I'm really good, but that I'm about average for the pro leagues and there's enough of them right now. The coaches were really nice, said I should try for a league down here if I wanted to play since Britain has so many outstanding and noteworthy players but that places like Albania don't."
Ron gave him a hug. "You're a wonderful seeker, Harry."
"I know I am. And I'm satisfied. I realized that on the fly back from Athens. The Greek team did try to recruit me but figured that my present job would get in the way of everything." He grinned and gave Ron a squeeze. "I have an open invitation to join the Greek or the Albanian team whenever I want."
"Congrats," Ron sighed, happy with his life. "The babies missed you. Some of them even came to help me turn eggs because I smelled like you."
"I missed the cuddly ones," Harry agreed. "Ron, would you fuck my brains out so I don't realize what I'm giving up?"
"You're giving up a lot of bother from fans and the press," Ron reminded him.
"Yeah, and a really good pay that could go to support your parents in their old age."
"Yeah, but we can manage. We always manage." He led Harry into the bedroom and undressed him, getting him under the covers so they could cuddle and make slow, gentle love that night. It's what Harry needed.
The next morning, Harry walked into the nursery and his charges all looked at him, seeming to smile. He was rushed, knocked over, and nearly cuddled to death by the little ones. And that was before he put the food down. That got him licked by a number of tongues before they headed for the meat. Ron beamed at him. "See, I told you they loved you." He went back to his eggs, crooning at the little suckers. Harry got them when they were old enough to cuddle, he had decided that he was teaching them to cuddle before they hatched. They were alone in the nursery, as usual. He walked up and down the rows doing his cursory check before getting ready to turn anyone, and found a few with disturbing marks. He walked over to the floo and lit it up, calling Charlie. "Charlie, I've got some with dents and cracks. It's not the normal cracking pattern."
"I'll be right there, Ron." He cut the connection.
"Harry, can you come in here for a moment?" Ron called.
Harry trotted out, giving him a hug. "The blue one just pounced me and tried to breastfeed off me," he said with a grin.
"I still say that one's odd and it's not my fault." He pointed at the nearest cracked one. "What do you make of that?"
Harry climbed up to look at it, frowning as he gently touched the lines. "That looks like a hammer dent," he said finally. He looked and found Charlie standing behind him. "Hey, it looks like a hammer dent, a large hammer dent." He hopped down to let him look, lighting more of the lights for them. "Hey, Ron, go ahead and deal with the babies for a few and I'll check the wards we put up." Ron nodded, going to do that. Harry was definitely better at defense than he was. Harry walked around the room, checking each of the wards he had put on the room, then on the outer room. Only one had been disturbed. "I found something," he called. Charlie's boss, the one over them all, walked over and he highlighted it. "This one's been breached. See, the lines are broken."
"Why did you ward the place?" Charlie asked.
Harry looked at him. "Nasty habit," he said simply. Charlie flinched and Harry looked at the boss. "They're all passive and alarms."
"I realize that." He traced the route of that one. "I don't recognize that particular one. Where did you get it from?"
"Bill." Charlie winced. "I did the research myself, Charlie. Quit." He looked at the boss. "It was a security alarm. It was meant to warn someone when a tomb was broken into. I thought I had laid it right over the doorway so it'd glow blue and flash."
"Could it have done this?"
"Ron and I laid it before any of the eggs were brought in," Harry told him. "We did the same on the nests themselves." He walked over and examined the closest nest. "See, this one's got the 'authorized personnel only' one violated. It's meant to scream if someone who's not supposed to steps on the platform."
Charlie looked at his boss and shrugged. "We knew Harry was paranoid." He looked at him. "Magic, around the eggs?"
"Firmly in place, like the lights, and all non-radiating," Harry defended. "You couldn't tell they were there until I lit the telltale up."
"Good point," Charlie's boss agreed. He had visited with the first batch of eggs and hadn't felt any magic in the least. "Who could have done this, Potter?"
"My notes are in a sealed box under Charlie's new bed," Harry pointed out. "It'd have to be someone very good at Charms and versed in some of the older forms."
Ron came out holding a small dragonette, letting it curl up on Harry's shoulders. "She was moaning pitifully because the big orange one wouldn't let her eat. I poured her some chow of her own but she still wanted you. Wouldn't settle down for me at all."
"Thanks, Ron." Harry stroked the baby carefully. "We'll need to get the healer to look at your shedding, you're not doing it like the others," he told her.
Charlie tried to take the baby but it hissed and sunk its claws into Harry's shoulders. "Jeez, Harry!" he complained.
"Sorry." He lifted her down, letting Charlie look at her back. "The healer agreed to pop around this afternoon for a routine check."
"That's fine. You're doing good with them," the boss told him. He smiled at Charlie's small glare of discontent. "That's what makes them nurtures, Charlie. The ability to have littles cling to them and be happy around them. I bet Harry's ready to have a few start playing flying games."
Harry nodded. "Yup, sure am. That's one of the reasons I asked the healer to come in and check them over, to see if a few of the bigger ones weren't ready to step up."
"Good job," he said, clapping Harry on the back. The dragon hissed at him. "None of that," he said with a smile, scratching it under the chin. "You're not friendly in the least."
"No, just to him," Ron said from the doorway. "Harry, how do you calm down the big ones?"
"I usually put them in their own group by the window and keep the smaller groups away," Harry said with a shrug. "They're due to step up soon."
"Cool. Thanks. They just tried to eat one of the newer ones." He walked out. "Anything?"
"Some of the wards were broken," Harry told him. He tapped the one that reset them all three times with his wand tip and they flashed once, then hid themselves. "There. Just like usual."
"Good job, Potter," the boss agreed. He smiled at Charlie. "So what happened to the eggs?"
"I'm more concerned that they won't be hatching," Ron pointed out.
"I called the healers as soon as we started over. They're backlogged with the burnt workers at the moment," Charlie assured him. "Are they near hatching?"
"A few," Ron admitted. "I color coded them. The blue are the nearest. The deeper the color the older they are. The red are the newest ones, it's a reminder to me to be more careful with them."
"Good job, Weasley," the boss agreed. Charlie openly gaped at him. "We each work differently, Charlie. This works best for them. You could memorize each egg, they don't." He shrugged. "Besides, it's easier to train new ones this way if we get them helpers."
"I asked the night shift guys and they said they didn't mind," Ron assured Charlie. "They thought it'd be easier to remember which nests were older. I change the colors each week." One of the eggs that had a deep blue sticker on it started to rock. "Oops, Hilda's coming." He walked over, patting it gently and crooning. "It's all right, come on out. We're waiting on you, little one," he soothed. The first large crack appeared and the dragon's wingtip came out. "Harry, wings."
"I'll get the larger bucket then," Harry told him, handing the baby to Charlie so he could do that. He came back with the ten gallon bucket of raw meat and set it down, getting up to help Ron remove some of the shell. "Hello, you're a pretty shade of purple," he said with a smile for it. "Come on," he crooned, letting Ron help him get him down onto the floor. Ron went for a towel while Harry let the starving one eat its fill from the bucket. "Hello, I'm Harry. That was Ron. You'll be seeing a lot of us over the next few weeks," he said, taking the towel once Ron handed it over. They dried the new baby off, making it squeal in fear. "It's all right," he crooned. "I'm the food source. You can trust me. Not many other people, but you can trust me." They got the wings dried and the baby settled down to finish off her meal while Ron floated off the egg shards. Harry looked at his boss. "Neat, huh?" he asked with a grin.
"Harry, they're not supposed to like people," Charlie pointed out delicately. "It shortens their life span."
"Charlie, they usually start to hate people once they turn into teenagers. As babies they're supposed to like their caregivers, otherwise they don't eat."
Charlie threw up his hands. "Whatever, Potter."
"He's right," the boss pointed out. "You did the same thing."
"And then Helgan chewed me a new one," Charlie reminded him.
"And I chewed her one for doing so. He's right, they're babies and babies need the attention. When they step up to the next unit, they get used to having less interaction. This way they know they can trust people, but they're not friendly to us. Hey, Weasley, when do you tag?"
"Right before they step up," Ron said as he came back with some water for Harry and the little one. It gulped once Harry had rinsed off his hands. The blood in the water convinced it that it was okay as food. "They get their last cuddle from us while they're being tagged then we send them to the next group. The person there pets them a bit, but a lot less. I checked on the last group and they were playing with each other and ignoring me so I guess they made the transition easily enough."
Harry looked at Charlie. "Why are you so bothered?"
"This looks like the work of a hunter, and Charlie loathes hunters," the boss told them. He handed Ron the baby and it leapt to Harry, attaching itself to his back. "Fine, be that way then," he said with a grin. "Let's do an egg check, Charlie, and it'll be fine."
"Sure." He looked at the younger men, noticing how easy they were with the dragons. Ron even helped them shift a few of them out of the way before going back to his rounds of rolling the warm side up and the cool side down. Charlie winced as screaming started in the nursery but it stopped within a few seconds. "You all right?" he called.
"Just fine, the bullies decided to try and pick on the littles again," Harry called back. "Ron, I think we should tag them today."
"I think so too," Ron called. "After our shift, when the healer gets here."
"Sure." Harry stepped out, dragging one of the big ones with him. "This one just came out with an interesting something." He nudged the tail with a foot and the dragon made a fist. "Could that have made the marks?"
"Definitely," the boss agreed. "Egg aggression isn't unheard of."
"There's a night shift person on nursery though, and on the eggs," Ron pointed out.
"They might have taken a break," Charlie said with a shrug. "Most of these will hatch normally I think." The healer walked in. "It looks like we may have had some egg aggression."
The healer looked at the growling lump of flesh near Harry's foot and sighed. "I hate the mean ones."
"Oh, he's a bully and he's got six or seven friends," Harry assured her. "All bigger. Dudley here is the worst though. He seems to instigate."
She got down and dodged the first.
"Hey!" Harry snapped, grabbing him and pinning him against his legs. "Do not hit her." The dragon cried pitifully and he could feel his friends coming up behind him. "Ron," he called. "I could use some backup."
Ron walked over and glared at the bullies. "Out here, you lot, now," he said, pointing, his voice clearly angry. They shuffled out, giving them dirty looks. "They're our present trouble."
"They were magic infected at the last place," the healer said calmly.
"Ron, are you aware you just sounded like mother?" Charlie asked dryly.
Ron flipped him off. "I'll have you know I copied Dad for that," he said firmly, going back to his eggs. He found another trying to hatch. "We've got a hard shell." The healer came over and gently cracked it for him, then went back to her check. "Thanks. Oh, one of the really littles has scale chipping."
Harry nodded. "I was going to have you look at her anyway." He shifted so she could see the dragon attached to his back.
The boss shook his head. "Charlie, your family is warped, but very good at what they do." Charlie frowned at him. "Encourage them to stay," he hissed. "They're wonderful. I've talked with the step-up's watchers and they say these two are magnificent with the littles," he said gently. Charlie shrugged and nodded. "Besides, unless they're going to have a bunch of children, these two won't have anywhere to spoil children and they seem to thrive under it. Ensure they stay."
Charlie sighed and nodded. "Fine. They work differently."
"They do," the boss agreed, moving closer. He winced at the large crack, peering inside the shell. "This one's alive, but the shell's too fragile."
"Can we bind it?" Ron asked.
The boss shrugged. "I leave those distinctions up to the healer." He saw the hurt look. "Hey, no crying. Sometimes eggs don't result in babies and you've got to toughen yourself to it."
"I know, I don't know why I'm upset," Ron complained, wiping his face off.
"It's like your girl miscarried or something," Charlie sighed, pulling him over for a hug. "It's understandable, Ron." Ron nodded, letting himself be soothed. "Lots of handlers can't stand the thought of letting them go. That's why they leave the work. Can you do that?"
"No, I don't mind if they grow up. I know they're ours for a little while. We're fostering them so they can go to better parents. We're starting them off right and then letting them go free. I get that part, I just hate it when they die in the shell," he told his big brother.
"I wasn't particularly fond of it when Dudley and his crew ate one of the smaller ones either," Harry put in.
"It happens," the boss pointed out gently. "This caring nature is what makes you guys so good, but it's also what can make the job so draining. You've got to strike a balance." He patted Ron on the cheek. "I think you guys have got what it takes to do the work, I really do, but you've got to toughen up a little. Okay?" They nodded. "Good boys." He came down to help the healer, restraining the one trying to hit her. "How's that?"
"Much better," she said with a smile. "I think we've not only got an aggression problem, we've got a small problem with the other nursery attendants, boss. The one with scale chipping looks underfed."
"I have to feed her separately thanks to these ones, but she does eat a lot more than I expect," Harry offered. "First feeding is always a lot larger than the others."
"Could the night shift not be doing anything?" Ron asked. "I hate to ask it," he said when Charlie looked at him, "but I noticed a few of the eggs weren't turned either. That one in particular," he said, pointing at the one with the severely broken shell.
Charlie sighed. "I'll check on them tonight."
The boss smiled at him. "It wouldn't be the first time, Charlie, and we both know it. This is seen as an easy job that you can skip out on. I'm surprised we haven't had a total massacre yet."
"They could be here but napping," the healer offered. "I've seen the lights on, but I never hear Johnny singing anymore and his medicine does make him sleepy."
"Who's working it with him?" the boss asked.
"Conrad," Ron said with disgust.
Charlie looked at him, but it was the boss who answered. "What's that old boozer doing in here?"
"I won't let him work in the infirmary anymore," the healer noted, standing up. "You're right, they can be moved up, or we can gentle them now as a group, your choice, Harry, or Charlie."
"Which would be easier?" Charlie asked. She shrugged. "Then I'll leave it to you." He looked at the boss. "He can't do the older ones or we'll have problems with them going near people. He can't break anymore because he's too old. He's retirement age but he won't go. I had to stick him somewhere and I decided here would be best."
"It's all right, Charlie. We all have to make the hard decisions when we set up schedules." He sighed and looked at the creatures. "I think we should break them now," he decided. "That means we'll have to pull someone off their normal assignment, but it's easier to do it at this age than when they're older."
Ron coughed. "I know we're short on staff, and Charlie's suggested this before, boss. What about getting some new graduates in to do an internship? Like what we're doing or not?"
"You could even make cute signs like the Peace Corps does. 'Spend a year on a dragon preserve and be changed forever' or something," Harry offered with a grin. Ron nudged him, shaking his head. "Sorry, my sense of humor is as warped as Ron has made the rest of me."
"Sure, blame it on me," Ron snorted. He looked at their boss. "There's got to be some kids who could do their homework long distance and spend two months here, right? Give them a chance, see if it's for them. Give them the shit jobs, like shoveling the infirmary after a lot of bad beef." Charlie smothered a laugh, he had told Ron that story.
"Either that or have them watching," Harry offered. "I know that the ones who get raised by their parents are watched to make sure they're not abandoned. It's a more glamorous job than this one is, but it's not as nasty as the shoveling."
"Plus, there's not much else to do but their homework. If you get a herbology sort down here they can do accessory papers on the plants and eating habits for creatures."
"It is a good idea," Charlie agreed. He shrugged. "We're about desperate for the help, we were before we moved."
"I know," the boss agreed. "But we've got to do background checks and all that good stuff."
"You could hire that stuff out. There's people who do that for a living," Harry offered. "I'm guessing it's a small fee for each person."
"What are we doing about the meat farms?" Ron asked.
"Those are a bit easier. We can use muggles for those," Charlie pointed out. Something nudged him and he smiled. "Hello, you are orange, aren't you?" he asked as he squatted down to scratch that one behind the ear. "What's your name?"
"We tend to call them by color and size, figuring that the older groups get named because they've got more personality then," Harry told him. "That one's the orange one."
"The one still clinging to Harry is usually just called Cuddly," Ron said dryly. "Either that or the one who follows him home."
"He only did that once. I've been really careful about checking my back for him since then," Harry defended. "It's not like I intended to cart him home with me. I simply didn't feel him after four hours of him hugging me."
"Harry, the dragons aren't your kids," Ron pointed out, grinning at him. "Keep it up and I'm going to have to tell the twins and Bill on you. They're going to get mad at you for ignoring my needs."
Harry snorted. "Ignoring your needs? You've gotten more than I have recently, Ron. I give you blows all the time and you hardly ever give me any. When is it my turn?"
"Right now if you want," Ron said with a sexy grin. "I'm for it if you are."
"Ron, the babies," Harry sighed, rolling his eyes. "I don't like having them watch. Adults I could care less about but I feel like I'm screwing them up somehow because dragons do it differently. They don't blow each other."
"Hmm. There's some shady corners and the outer room," Ron offered.
Harry grinned. "Okay." He peeled off his outer shirt, and the dragon attached to it, putting them carefully onto the floor before letting Ron lead him to a dark corner.
"Boys!" Charlie called. They gave him guilty looks. "You two have got to quit getting lost in your own little world. It's damn annoying."
The boss chuckled, swatting Charlie hard on the back. "It's kind of cute. I thought they were really fighting."
Charlie glared at him. "They went out and bought a bed that didn't squeak so they quit keeping me up."
"I'm presently on the hunt to find him a nice witch," Ron pointed out, dragging Harry away anyway.
"At least they don't need contraceptives," the healer noted, smiling at the boss. The little dragon on the shirt cheeped at her. "Did they abandon you to snuggle each other?" she cooed, picking it up to hug. "You're a beautiful little viper dragon, sweetling."
The boss looked at Charlie. "Remind me to give you a bonus for finding those two. They do liven up the place."
"Them and their library of sex toys," the healer agreed. The boss laughed so hard he had to lean against the wall. The orange dragon walked over and nuzzled his legs to comfort him. "I'm okay," he promised, reaching down to pet it. "It's all right."
Charlie shook his head, looking up. "Why am I surrounded by loons?" he asked.
"Because you're one of us, even when you don't admit it," the healer noted. "I agree, you need laid, Charlie. You're getting serious again."
"You could send him back to the schools to recruit," Ron's voice floated out. "Harry!" He moaned. "Oh, Harry, more!" he shouted, then he groaned. "Bastard."
"You taught me," Harry's voice floated out. He blew a kiss and apparently went back to teasing Ron from the noises he was making.
"Oh, shit!" Ron yelled, then he sighed. "Thank you, Harry."
"You're welcome, Ron," Harry sighed. "Can I have one now?"
"Sure." Harry squeaked before Ron apparently pounced him.
"Ah, young love," the healer sighed. "This is why I got married."
"Ready to leave him yet?" Charlie teased.
She grinned. "Only if you want to go between us, Charlie. You know our bed's open to you, dear." She put down the little dragon, watching as it stomped over to interrupt the nursery attendants and demand its rightful share of attention.
Harry's squeak said it all, it was trying to help.
Ginny looked at her list for the school year, frowning at it. "I've got more books than they did last year," she complained.
Her mother gave her a hug. "Of course you do." She looked at the list. "Ah, Professor Flitwick is doing the special class this year," she said happily. "He's the one who makes you buy the books." She gave her a pat on the back and went to make herself some toast. "We'll go this afternoon." They were back at Grimmauld place because Harry had lent it to Hermione for a while and she had invited them up for a few weeks.
Hermione walked in, yawning. "Hi, Mrs. Weasley," she said through it. She gave Ginny a hug, looking at her list. "Sorry, I only have one of those." She sat down and grabbed a short kiss. "Are you ready for this?"
"No," she said honestly. "Mum, can we test out of the sex ed class if we know it all already?" Her mother frowned at her. "Mum, I like girls. The class is set up to teach those who like the opposite sex and I could almost teach sex ed for lesbians. Please?"
"You'll have to ask the teacher, Ginny," she said, rolling her eyes. She noticed the mail coming, and frowned. "What is that?" she asked, glaring at the larger owl. She opened the back door to let them in, then closed it before any of the neighbors could suspect anything. "Ginny, I believe this is for you," she said, handing over the silver envelope.
Ginny opened it, smiling at the short message. "Ron and Harry sent me prezzies from their last trip to Florence," she said happily. "It's at the twins' store."
"We'll pop around today," Molly agreed. She took the small box off the other one, then squeaked as it enlarged. "What is that!" she demanded.
Hermione looked at it, then shrugged. "It says it's also for Ginny," she pointed out.
Ginny stood up on her chair and opened the box, letting out a shriek when she saw the contents. "It's Percy!" Her mother moved her and lifted him out of the box. "Is he living?" she asked, biting her lip.
"So far," Molly noted, checking him over. He was naked, he was tied together, and he was asleep. She looked at Hermione. "Go call someone, dear. Now if you wouldn't mind. I'll put him into a bed." She floated him up the stairs and into one of the spare rooms, letting him down easily. She cut the ropes binding him and got him flattened out just as McGonagall appeared. "Minerva, they sent him in a box, tied up," she said, flustered.
"I checked the box, there was a note but it wasn't signed," she said grimly. She checked Percy over, then shrugged. "He's fine as far as I can tell." She looked at Molly. "We can wake him up whenever you're ready."
"I'd rather have Arthur here," she said, going to call him. She ran into the Potion's Master downstairs. "Oh, Severus, excuse me, I need my husband."
"Already called him," Hermione called from the kitchen. "He's in a meeting. I left a message."
Severus walked her back up the stairs to look over the young man himself. He noticed the signs that he was being kept asleep, and the cause. "Who on earth had that bad of taste," he said in disgust.
"What bad taste?" Molly demanded.
"Someone decided to make him Snow White," he sneered. "Poisoned apple and all. The sleep spell has a love trigger."
"He doesn't have a lover," Molly said quietly. Arthur pounded up the stairs and into the room. "Someone poisoned him and it's got a love trigger," she told him, sounding like she was in shock.
"Who would do such a stupid thing?" Arthur demanded. "It's not like he's affectionate with anybody." He looked at Snape, then at McGonagall. "Is there any chance of defeating it without testing at least half the known world for someone who could stand him?"
Snape shook his head, holding in his laughter. Percy had been the only one of the Weasleys that hadn't bothered him greatly. Not that he saw or heard much from the boy, but even his seventh year had been quiet. Not a single incident from him. He looked at McGonagall, who had a planning look on her face. "Are you planning on taking an ad in the paper?" he taunted.
She glared at him. "Not in the least. I was wondering if he ate if of his own free will actually." Molly hiccuped. "Sorry, but it is the fad recently among lovers."
"But he didn't have anyone," Arthur reminded her.
"Still," she said with a shrug. "Severus, is there a counter?"
He shrugged. "It's not my area of expertise, I only knew because there have been a few interesting stories about assassins using it." He crossed his arms and looked at the bed. "I have no idea how to counter this."
Ginny slipped into the room. "Mum, dad, what happened to him?" she asked quietly.
"He was dosed with a love struck apple," Molly said, giving her a gentle hug. "We'll have to figure out what to do about him."
Hermione walked in, her nose buried in a book. "The legends say that someone who even has a crush on him, as long as he's mostly pure, can counter it." She snapped it shut and handed it to Molly. "Has anyone ever had a crush on him?"
"You mean besides you?" Ginny asked, grinning at her girlfriend.
"I was young and easily pleased," Hermione noted. "That ended with the bad taste I showed over Lockhart."
"Hmm. Still, it might work," Molly noted, reading the section for herself. She passed it to the teachers, they were better at this sort of thing than she was. "Would you mind trying, Hermione? Please? He'll be so much easier to kick out once he's living again."
Hermione shrugged and walked over, kissing him. He blinked up at her. "Good morning, Percy. Who gave you the poisoned apple?"
"Pear," he groaned, holding his head. "Bertina." He opened his eyes and looked at his parents and younger sister, then squeaked and pulled the sheet up over his shoulders. "Mother! She doesn't need to see me!"
"She saw you when you were tied up in the box," Ginny told him. "And she likes girls, thank you. You boys made sure I wouldn't ever sleep with any male." She took Hermione's hand and went to kiss her stupid, just to make sure she couldn't revive her crush on Percy.
Arthur looked at his misbegotten son. "Bertina?"
"Bertina Malliance. She works in the Species office," he said weakly. "She said she wanted to try something that would make sure she liked me."
"Well apparently she was wrong," Molly said firmly. She glared at him but Arthur led her away.
"Do you want to make a report," McGonagall asked, looking down at him.
He nodded. "I probably should. What day is it?"
"Tuesday," Snape told him. Percy blanched. "When did you let her try this unorthodox experiment?"
"She made the request after dinner on Monday and I know it's been over a week." McGonagall pulled out her wallet to show him the date. She then watched as he passed out. "I'd say it wasn't last Monday," she told her fellow teacher.
"I feel sorry for the person in Law Enforcement who has to stop this stupidity," Snape agreed, walking out with her. "He's succumbed to the dark again," he told the family.
"He passed out after seeing the date," McGonagall assured them. "He said he wanted to make a report."
"I'll have someone come up," Arthur promised. "I was trying to remember the last time I saw him in the halls."
"He said it happened on a Monday evening," Snape told him.
Arthur frowned. "Stupid boy," he said, glaring at the stairs.
"It's too bad you never taught him common sense," Ginny said meanly. Her mother swatted her. "Ow! Meanie! You made the rest of us normal, his personality must have come from somewhere else."
"We had him checked for possession," Molly reminded her. "The tests came up negative."
"It's often that way in socially climbing families," McGonagall assured her. "Look at Mr. Malfoy."
"Hmm. He's not so bad now that his cohorts have been moved to Albania," Snape said, almost smiling. "I'm sure your sons and Potter enjoy dealing with them."
"I'm sure," Molly agreed, smiling at him. "Thank you for your help. Would either of you like breakfast?"
"That's all right, dear. It's a small light of levity in an otherwise long day doing lesson plans." The teachers went back to the school and everyone started to get back to normal. Law Enforcement was called and headed up to talk to Percy. Molly fought the urge to have him kicked out into the street naked. Arthur went back to work to make discreet inquiries about this Bertina person. He loathed Percy most days, but he was still his son and she had attacked him. Hermione and Ginny spent the rest of the morning curled up together on the couch necking, except when Percy fell over again on the stairs. Then Hermione had to go kiss him awake again.
When they went to Diagon, Ginny told her big brothers *all* about what had happened that morning while she opened her present. They looked so confused! She squealed at the clothes they had sent her from the wizard's bazaar. They had gotten her a belly dancing outfit and some dresses. Even a veil and outer robes. The chocolates were buried in between shirts. The coins were in the pocket of the robe. The real treat was the portkey to where they were if she ever needed to escape, written on in Charlie's handwriting. A free pass onto the preserve. She hugged it to herself, still wearing the belly dancers outfit when her mother walked in to check on her.
"What is that?" Molly asked with a frown.
"Ron and Harry went to the wizards bazaar," one of the twins told her. "They sent it."
"They also sent the whole veil and all-covering robe as well," the other twin assured her.
Hermione walked in and grinned at her girlfriend. "I like you in that. It's obvious those situps are starting to work, Ginny." Ginny blushed. "Sorry," she said with a small chuckle of enjoyment. "What else did you get?"
"They sent me a pass," Ginny said, holding it out to her.
"Going to wear that around the dragons?" Hermione teased. Ginny blushed. "Ginny Weasley! Such thoughts!" she said, laughing at the astonished look on her mother's face.
"Unlike certain people in *your* year, I can promise that there are no boundary crossers in my year, Hermione Granger. We'll have nothing of the sort in my class."
"You'd better not," Molly said firmly. "Change back into your regular clothes, Ginny, and we'll get on with your shopping." Ginny nodded, heading for the bathroom to change. Molly looked around the store. "No shoppers?"
"It's lunch, mum. We're closed at the moment," the twin closest told her.
"Though we should be stocking," the other pointed out.
Hermione smiled. "I'll help so you don't get behind. That way Ginny can try on everything."
Molly pitched in to help as well. She wanted her sons to do well, even though she was still frustrated with them for not having real jobs. She wished they had the desire to help people, but they weren't going to change at this late date.
Ron and Harry looked around the nursery, then sighed and shook their heads. Someone had definitely fucked up on the night shift. Ron went to call Charlie while Harry went to check on the sleeping babies. Most of them looked half dead so he went to call the healer as well, bringing her running. They stood back while everyone looked everything over, then looked at Charlie for guidance.
Charlie shook his head. "I don't know what to say, guys."
The healer came out, glaring at Charlie. "That's it. They're hurting the new ones and the breeding program, Charlie. I want them gone."
"We don't have the people," Charlie pointed out, already running his hands through his hair.
"We're going to have to do something, Charlie. They drugged the young!" the healer said firmly.
Ron and Harry looked at each other. "Tent?" Harry suggested.
Ron shrugged and pointed at the eggs. "We can't bring them."
"No, but they can probably find someone to come in and turn them. The babies are going to be more soon, when the new hatchings happen next week."
"Point," Ron agreed, counting the eggs with the dark blue dots. "Shit, that's over half of them, Harry."
Harry shrugged. "Two weeks?"
"Two weeks," Ron sighed. They both looked at Charlie. "We can pitch a tent in here if we have to," he offered. "Not for long, and you're gonna owe us majorly because we'd be over our vacation, but we can do it for a few weeks while you find someone else."
"Or get someone off the infirmary's list," Harry offered.
The healer nodded. "We do have a few who need eased back into the work," she admitted. "They'd be healthy enough in about a week or so." She looked at Charlie. "I guess it's up to you. You can do that, you can pull a few trainers, or you can find us some part-time help."
"Hermione's in school," Harry said, counting off on his fingers. "The only Hufflepuffs we know who did creatures very well are probably looking for a job."
"I heard one of them went to work with firebirds," Ron put in. "Abbot."
Harry shrugged. "What about the rest? Most of our year had a finer touch with animals and Hagrid did train us to do nearly anything." Ron shrugged. "That leaves Justin, Seamus went to work for Gringotts in the offices, Neville's doing an herbology internship at the biggest greenhouse in the UK." He looked at Charlie. "Write the schools."
Charlie sighed. "The boss already has sent letters but we only sent them yesterday."
"Fine," Ron agreed. "Then we'll pitch a tent and you guys can shift our vacation back by a week and a bit." Charlie gave him a grateful smile.
"I'm still not having sex in front of the newbies," Harry said as he and Ron walked out, going to get their camping equipment.
"Harry, that means we won't have sex for two weeks," Ron whined as he followed him.
The healer snickered. "Those two are so cute."
"They are," Charlie agreed dryly, glaring after his little brother. "I'll floo the boss. He's in the Pacific somewhere." He went to do so, getting his authorization for the firings and to pop around on the school. Maybe they had a few people who could be talked into doing some papers. His boss suggested that he go to the other schools too, and he decided it was a good enough reason to breach custom and go visiting the other schools. They really didn't like it when people who didn't graduate from there came calling, but they'd get over it he supposed. He went to pack a bag, tell the boys, and order in fresh supplies. It'd be a long trip.
Ginny looked up and squealed when she saw her big brother waiting on the train platform. "What are you doing here?" she asked, slapping him on the chest. "You didn't tell me you were coming up."
"We've had a small staffing problem at the preserve. Harry and Ron are the only ones on nursery duty," he said grimly.
"Oh, damn," she said, eyes wide. "Are they okay?"
"For now, but they're doing it over their time off already. I'm here to beg some of the seventh years to do a short internship with us. Then I get to go to Drumstrang since our one graduate of Beaubaxtons agreed to go there for me."
"I'm sorry," she said, giving him a hug. "I'll see you later. I'd better go eat." She hurried over to get in with some of her housemates.
Charlie watched as Hagrid came off the train. "Hey," he said weakly. "I've come begging yet again."
Hagrid clapped him on the back. "I heard ya might be. I've got a few to talk to. We'll do it tomorrow afternoon. Dumbledore already arranged it."
"Cool." He followed him down with the first years, going to help them across. There was an awful lot of them this year and there had already been three fights that he'd witnessed and broken up. He pitied McGonagall in some ways.
Ginny walked into her sex ed class and took the front seat, smiling at the teacher. "Sir, my mother said I could ask before things got in-depth. I'm not exactly het and I've read most of the books for my sort of lovin'. Do I really have to sit through the nasty het stuff?"
Professor Flitwick laughed. "It is mandatory, but there are no tests." He gave her a pat on the arm as he walked past her. "You might find you want a child some day and it could come in helpful then."
"Professor, no offense, but I don't like men. My brothers are nasty, all men are sickening to think about that way, and I hope like hell I can kill myself if one of them ever touches me that way."
He nodded. "I understand, Ms. Weasley, and for that I'll allow you to sit in the back of the room and work on your other homework but I cannot allow you out of the class. It is mandatory." She nodded and headed back to a corner of the room next to the window. "Thank you for being honest."
"Not a problem. Plus, I'd even be willing to give that part of the talk," she said with a smile. Professor Snape walked in and she shut up. He didn't like her any more than he liked Ron.
Snape looked at the students, then at Flitwick. "I was told to take over this section so I don't have to deal with my own house," he said.
Professor Flitwick shrugged. "That's up to you. I don't mind either way. I can take both if you'd like, Professor Snape." He shook his head. "That's fine." He glanced at Ginny, then back at him, noticing the other teacher had noticed his glance. "I think you'll want to ask him that question, Ms. Weasley, just to make sure."
"Yes, sir," she said immediately. She swallowed as Snape walked up to her. "I make no secret of it, Professor, I don't like boys. May I sit here and do homework since nothing in this class actually pertains to my sexual preferences?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Nothing?"
"Nothing. I loathe the male form and it makes me ill, as I think you saw with Ms. Granger this summer." She smiled. "Of course, if you need me to, I can nearly teach a class on lesbian sex."
He shook his head. "Just sit there and stare out the window or something. You may write as long as you do not appear to have other classes' books open." She nodded, that seemed fair enough. "Thank you for your honesty."
"I'm not my brothers, sir, I know what I want and that room in the dungeons is not for me."
He laughed, seeming to laugh at her. "If you say so." He went back to the front. "Unfortunately, the Headmaster has decided I am to take over this section of this class so I do not have to deal with my own house." He counted heads, then looked at the books. "He had you buy them?" Everyone nodded. "Fine. Sort yourselves by houses and genders. Ms. Weasley, you may stay in your corner." She nodded, getting comfortable by putting her feet up on the chair in front of her while everyone else switched around. "Now open your books to the first chapter and read it. We will be discussing it in twenty minutes." He looked at her and she rolled her eyes. "You as well. Reproduction is something you have to know."
"That's what turkey basters are for," she noted cattily. He glared at her so she opened her book.
After the class, one of her roommates caught her by the arm. "Why don't you have to pay attention?" she demanded.
"Because I don't like boys," Ginny told her. "There's almost nothing in there on what I like to do and what there is, I knew two years ago. I can teach a class on how to do girls." She got free of her. "My girlfriend suggested I ask since I'd be ill otherwise." She walked off.
The girl frowned at her. "Freak," she called. Ginny flipped her off.
"Twenty points from Gryffindor for that display of bad taste," a voice hissed behind her. She blanched and turned to look at him. "You do not bring the subject of this class out into the hallways. We do not spread this knowledge to the younger students." He walked off, going to have a talk with McGonagall about her girls. She needed to know.
The girl stomped off and went to tell their other roommates about Ginny's proclivities. They deserved the right to know, though most of them seemed to already know about it.
Charlie smiled at the group of students waiting on him. "Sorry I'm a bit late. Had to call the preserve." He clapped his hands. "We've got an exciting offer for you guys," he started. "We've just moved our preserve to a larger space and we're behind in hiring people. That's why we're willing to offer a short internship to anyone who wants to know if they can handle the work, or even anyone who's interested in living on a dragon preserve for a few months. While there, we'd have the others of us help you with your schoolwork, and you'd be assigned small tasks. Not the training and breaking-in stuff, but nursery and infirmary duty or watching duties." A few of the students looked bored. "We'd be able to pay you guys a bit to do it, and like I said it'd be for about two months."
One girl raised her hand. "Would we get preferential hiring?"
"We'd consider it a test and base whether or not you got hired off it," Charlie told her. "We make everyone do a year's internship at the moment before formally hiring them on as a worker. As a matter of fact, my own brother's working in the nursery right now. He's filling in a critical shortage with the babies."
"Him and Potter?" one of the boys asked. Charlie nodded. "Do they like it?"
"They seem to. Harry's dealing with the newly hatched and Ron's dealing with the eggs. We'd give you guys a dorm and all that good stuff. I won't lie, there's not a lot to do there, but we can definitely get you working on your classwork. Hagrid's said that any of you who go can write a paper about your experiences and not have to do another one until the spring." That got a few interested looks. "We've got a healer who's able to do potions if you're taking them, plus Ron and Harry have agreed to help you with any charms or defense work, and possibly anything in transfiguration if I can't help." He clapped his hands again. "It's not going to be hard work, and it might be fun, but it'll be two months worth of work. I'd like you to think carefully about it. Your teachers have nominated you for this opportunity."
The girl who had asked the hiring question raised her hand again. "What if we decided dragons weren't our thing? Would you be willing to send letters to other prospective employers?"
"I think I can arrange that," Charlie agreed. "The boss never said but I guess it's not a problem. Especially if you went to work on another preserve." She smiled. "I'll ask you guys for permission slips in two days if you can go. Talk to your parents and your teachers. Like I said, we're critically short and behind in our hiring, but we do want to give you guys a fair shot." They nodded and left. He gathered up his things and went to start the portkey the headmaster had created so he could get to Drumstrang. It was a long trip, and a cold one, but it had to be done. He walked up to the front gate, nodding at the man standing there. "Hello, Charlie Weasley. I wrote your headmaster for permission to talk to him?" The guard let him in, watching him as he walked up to the school. He tapped on the large bronze doors, smiling at the woman who opened them. "Hello, I'm Charlie Weasley?"
"I am expecting you," she noted. "We felt you coming in." She led him up to an office with a roaring fire, which he appreciated. "Why did you feel the need to breach protocol and write us?"
He scratched his eyebrow with his thumb. "We've recently moved our preserve to a larger spot and a few of our workers decided not to come with us."
"Ah." She smiled and nodded. "I thought it might be something like that. What can you offer our students?" she asked, getting comfortable.
He smiled. "We can offer them a two month trial in Albania, easier shifts of work, and a real trial to make sure they want to do the work. My boss said we could pay them a little bit of salary and we'd be willing to help them with their homework."
He shook his head quickly. "Nursery, infirmary, and watching duties only. Nothing extremely dangerous. My own brother and his mate are working in the nursery. We had to let the night shift go and they're filling in at the moment."
"Had to let them go?"
He sighed. "One of them was ill and his medicine had him walk off two nights ago. We haven't seen him since and we're willing to take him back once he's got it straightened out and he's back to normal. The other drugged the poor littles and then had a go at the eggs." She shuddered. "I can't promise that they're all nice, but Harry's got them to not attack the workers who are supposed to be there."
"Potter?" she asked, sounding shocked. He nodded. "He's working on your preserve?"
"My brother brought him in with him. They're mated." He grinned. "Pretty funny sometimes too. They're all but joined at the head some days." He leaned forward. "We wouldn't be here, but we're behind in our hiring and it is a good experience for the kids. If any of them wanted to hire on after they graduate, we'd look almost exclusively at their time spent on the preserve to see if they could handle it. We give most people a year's internship anyway."
"Hmm." She pursed her lips. "Will you stay for dinner?"
"Sure, I can do that. I'm not expected back at Hogwarts for another two days," he said easily. She smiled at him. "It's in the middle of nowhere. The students wouldn't have much chance to run wild. There's actually not much to do on the preserve."
She nodded. "I understand. I will talk with our teacher." She stood up. "Come, I'll show you to your room." She led him down the stairs and up another flight to a small room overlooking the back courtyard. "Stay in here, I'll have dinner sent up." She left him there, going to her office to call on her teachers.
He winced when he heard the lock engage but knew they couldn't hurt him. They hadn't taken his wand and he did have defense experience. Ten years of breaking and training steamers did that to one.
Three days later, Harry found himself on that same cold doorstep, knocking and smiling politely. "Hi. My boss is here and I need him to sign some stuff for the preserve," he said as he stepped inside.
"And you are?" the woman asked.
He held out a hand and smiled. "Harry Potter." She gasped and his smile turned a bit more warm. "It's okay, that's why I went to work on the preserve." She laughed and shook his hand, squeezing it hard. "Is Charlie still here? Without his signature I can't authorize any recreational activities or leave."
"He is. We were hoping for some more time with him," she said as she led him up to her office. "You work with dragons?"
"I do," he agreed. "I work in the nursery section with the newly hatched ones. I take care of them up until they're about three months old, then they go to our step-up unit to be shown how to live like a real dragon." She nodded, looking enthralled. "It's much nicer this way. I hardly ever get bitten. At that age, they're all cuddly little things, even the steamers for the most part, and I don't have to worry about a lot of things going wrong or them escaping." He grinned again. "Actually, most of the time I spend my day sitting there watching them figure out how to move properly. I left one chasing her tail around and around because that thing was following her and she couldn't understand why."
She laughed. "I'm sure you've already gathered many interesting stories." She picked up a quill pen to fiddle with. "We were hoping to have this exceptional opportunity all to ourselves."
"We'd like to humor that request, but we really did just move to a new preserve that's four times the size of the old one and we're already getting the overfill from some of the other preserves. Especially since we're the only one that does major rehabilitation and actual breeding." She looked interested so he leaned closer. "Unfortunately, we're also the only preserve that deals with those humans who have...unusual tastes. We try to wean them apart and back into the world. The students shouldn't ever see them, not even the higher level trainers see them."
"I had heard of such people," she admitted, putting the pen down. "In truth, now is not the optimal time for us."
"Then how about we stairstep the groups? We've got a guy who's got weather aches and he said this winter's going to be hard, even for the area. Hogwarts doesn't get snow until December and I don't think Beaubaxtons does at all. If you wanted to suggest it, you could probably arrange for the students to come later in the year." She looked interested so he went into the idea Ron had put forth last night while they were trying not to have sex in front of the hatchlings. "You guys celebrate Yule later, correct?"
"January sixth," she agreed.
"Well, if we take the Hogwarts students in the next few weeks, say, by the middle of September, then they'd be done by the middle of November. We could bring in your group at the beginning of November, before they left to foster some new friendships and to make the training easier on us. That would get your kids back by the New Years, and they'd have some holiday left. Also, in case the weather got really bad, we'd have a bit of leeway to get them back up here before your spring term started."
She nodded. "I like that idea." She smiled at him. "I had no idea you were so smart."
He grinned. "I try," he said with a hint of embarrassment. "Charlie's brother Ron came up with the original idea, I simply fleshed it out."
She laughed. "We were worried that you would not really want us. Your letter was addressed to the headmaster."
"We didn't realize you had changed over. That was the last information we found."
"Well, we did change over just this year," she admitted. "I suppose that is acceptable enough." She looked out the window. "I always thought that inter-school friendships were not good for our younger students, but that tournament a few years back made me reconsider. Usually in a much worse light I admit."
Harry chuckled. "We found a death eater among the teachers. He was the one who put my name in the goblet. He was looking for a way to have me killed without raising any suspicions so his master could rise nearly unchallenged."
"Ah. That does explain it then." She nodded a few times. "At least you survived."
"I did, and I learned a lot about combat after that." He leaned forward again. "Besides, in the real world, we have to work together sometimes. Jobs don't tend to discriminate on which school you went to. I personally work with the healer who went to the school in Istanbul. She's a very nice woman and is very concerned about my hatchlings. Always has a generous head scratch for them and the like." She smiled at that. "We've got to get along sometime. A few weeks won't breach the great divide between the schools, but it will let them see we're not monsters and demons, that we're normal people just like them."
"Good point. I will accept that offer. Let me retrieve your Charlie. He is most fascinating to talk with."
"He doesn't get much company down there that isn't me or his brother Ron," Harry agreed. He grinned again. "Besides, without his authorization I can't plan the first quidditch match of the year."
She laughed. "Why do you not play?"
"Because I don't like the publicity. I want to have a normal, quiet life. When I tried out, I was told I wasn't quite good enough to play for Britain, but for some of the smaller countries I could definitely play for." He relaxed. "I have a standing invitation to play with Greece or Albania, but that would take me from my lover and force me back into notoriety and I don't want it."
She smiled. "I understand. That is why I took up teaching instead of an embassy position." She walked out, leaving him there while she went to get Charlie from his room. She smiled as she opened the door. "Your worker just showed up with an idea. If you would agree, it would be the best solution to all our problems."
"Which worker?" Charlie asked.
"Oh." He scratched his head. "What solution?"
"He said your brother Ron came up with it. An idea to stairstep I believe he called it. To send the other schools now and to send us in November, right before the other schools leave. That way they are not polluted with the snow your people are predicting."
Charlie laughed. "That is a great idea. I'm glad Harry thought of it."
"He said your brother did."
"I'm sure he's being modest. Harry likes to do that," he said as he walked through the door. "Hey, Harry."
"Hey, Charlie. It was Ron's idea, I simply fleshed it out and came to rescue you before he had to tell your mother." He waved a hand around. "The boss went to Hogwarts for you. They're coming in two weeks and I need your signature to authorize the first quidditch match for the weekend after the first official local game." He pulled a paper out and handed it over, watching as Charlie signed it. "Thanks, boss." He stood up. "Since I'm not needed to rescue you, I'll go back to my babies. I left them chasing their tails and trying to figure out why some had wings."
Charlie patted him on the back. "You could stay until I'm ready, we can portkey back together."
Harry shrugged. "Okay. You get to tell Ron why he can't have sex again tonight."
"Ron will live, I promise," Charlie soothed, giving him a short squeeze. He smiled at the headmistress. "So, can we plan you for early November then?"
"If you'd like," she agreed. "Do you have a list of what the students will need?"
"Sure," he said, sitting down to write one out, Harry taking a seat behind him. The negotiations went smoothly and everyone walked out pleased. Charlie took Harry's arm as they walked back through the gate. "How did you get here?"
"I cast a location charm on you specifically." He grinned. "Ron thought of that too."
"Remind me to spank the little shit later," Charlie said with a grin. "He deserves it for making you come."
"I am better at defense and rescues," Harry pointed out gently.
"Good point." Charlie nodded. "It was a nice room, even if the door was locked. Thank you, Harry."
"Not a problem. Let's get to Hogwarts so Ginny quits throwing fits." He let Charlie create the portkey and away they went. They walked up to the school together, going to talk to their boss. And Ginny. And Hagrid. Harry stopped over near the Magical Creatures area, smiling at him. "Hey, Hagrid, all viper dragons are like Bert," he told him, giving him a hug. "In the future, you'll want to pick up a viper dragon if you seriously can't live without one. I've never been so cuddled in my life," he told him, getting free with a wink and a wave for the Slytherins before going into the school. He found Ginny squealing and hugged her, handing her his cloak. "Hey. Are you going to come down?"
"Nah, mum said I couldn't," she said with a shrug. "She said I could visit but I couldn't work there. That I'd be too enticing for the beasties." She kissed him on the cheek. "I see you kept all the holes."
He beamed. "I sure did. Ron's wanting to do a navel ring on me but I won't let him yet. He's starting to get itchy to pick back up his tattooing too." He walked her to where Charlie was talking to the teachers, taking his spot behind them with his arm around Ginny's shoulders.
"What sort of education will they be receiving?" Professor Flitwick asked.
Harry coughed. "Most of us older kids have decided to chip in and tutor while they're there. If you'll send a list we'll work on it with them." Snape glared at him and he grinned. "Hi, Professor Snape. We've got a healer trained in Istanbul who can sub in for you. Ron and I are doing defense, charms, and some of the transfiguration stuff when Charlie can't. Herbology is one of the trainers. Magical creatures is pretty much a given. Astronomy they can do on their own. Runes are the same way. Divination will probably need an assignment sheet and so will arithmancy."
Professor Flitwick nodded. "I like that idea," he decided. "You certainly learned most charms well enough, Mr. Potter. How are you liking it?"
Harry grinned. "I'm working with the newly hatched ones. I get them while they're trying to learn how to walk, figure out what their wings are, and chasing their tails. It's very rare that I get a mean one who likes to eat people. They tend to go to another preserve." That got a laugh. "It's so funny. We know they're ready to be moved up when they've accepted their tails and can walk without attacking it, and when they start flapping their wings to try them out."
"I'm very happy for you then," McGonagall said firmly. "You are keeping up your studies?"
"Of course. There's nothing else to do during nap times and Ron's usually doing an egg-turn about then."
"Wait until you see the reaction to the first snow. Even the older ones get out and romp," Charlie assured him with a grin. He looked at the teachers again. "We promise to treat them well enough and feed them."
Dumbledore smiled. "I don't have a problem with it. Though only four of ours have gotten consent to go." Charlie shrugged. "That would help?"
"Any'd help. The first two go with Harry and Ron because they're doing it all by their lonesome at the moment."
"And then we get our week off," Harry said with an evil chuckle. Ginny poked him. "Hey! Be nice or I won't send you anything else from the bazaar."
"Mother didn't let me bring the belly dancer's outfit anyway," she told him.
He grinned. "So we'll have to find you a second one," he told her, pinching her on the nose. "That way you can lounge around in it and find someone who doesn't push you to read history books for fun." Ginny snickered, shaking her head. "I know, I'm bad. She is my friend. I shouldn't say such things about her. All perfectly loyal arguments that your mother would approve of I'm sure."
"Yeah, but she's also been Percy's cure recently." Charlie looked at her too so she beamed at them. "You hadn't heard?" They shook their heads. "Percy's last girlfriend gave him a love struck apple. Then sent him home tied up in a box after three weeks of not being able to cure him." Charlie's eyes narrowed. "Dad dealt with her," she said with her most sweet and innocent voice, the one that made all the older Weasley boys shudder with fear. "Hermione's former crush on him has been the only thing that brings him out each time he falls under it. It's happened seven or eight times since we got him back."
"There's a disturbing thought," Harry put in. "Hermione and Percy? Their kids will be the biggest nerds on the face of the earth." Charlie glared at him. "Sorry, but they will."
"True," Ginny agreed. "She's insisting she's being helpful. I'm meeting her in town the next weekend we have free."
"Give her a hug for me and remind her that children should have fun, so therefore she had better bring you pranks," Harry told her, making her laugh. "Hey, I get a dividend each year. I'm only supporting Ron's sugar habit."
"You are so bad, Harry." She gave him a hug. "So, can I come anyway, Charlie?"
"Not if your mother didn't agree," McGonagall said firmly. "You can visit them some other time."
"Yes, Professor," she sighed. She let Harry go and left to go back to class.
Harry smiled at the teachers. "Should I help the little darlings pack?"
Snape glared at him. "I'm sure they've managed that feat by now."
"Yes, but they won't need their whole trunk," Harry pointed out. "We've got a laundry."
"Go ahead and check their bags," Charlie agreed, giving him a smile. "You know what not to bring."
"Yup, anything like what's in our room." He walked out, going to meet with the new trainees. "Hi," he said as he walked in. The kids looked at him so he grinned. "I'm here to check for excess baggage. Who actually followed their lists?" One of them raised a hand then blushed and put it down. "Good. Excellent in fact. Which one is yours?" She pointed to the messy, bulging backpack. "Then let's start with yours for a repack and show the others how easy it is." She nodded, letting him help her refold everything. She only had to take out one thing and it wasn't that important to her anyway. She probably wasn't going to need formal robes while there. The others had sat down to work on their packs, following his lead. By the time Charlie came for them they all had one bag and their school bag neatly packed and as compact as possible. "All set," he told Charlie, standing up. "Let's go, guys. The babies are going to be mad that I abandoned them. They do it whenever I have a few days off." They trooped down onto the front lawn, gathering around the portkey.
They got there just in time to be charged by a runaway steamer.
"Bethel, sit!" Charlie ordered, pointing with his left hand. The dragon sat and gave him a pitiful moan. "What's wrong?" he asked in a kinder tone, moving closer. "Did someone steal your shiny ball again?"
Someone else laughed, walking closer. "I still want to know how you did that," she told him, taking off her hat to wipe her forehead. She waved at the kids. "Hi. The others are already here. Harry, the dorm is above the infirmary." Harry nodded, leading them off.
"I worked with her when she was first released for nearly a year," Charlie was saying. "I trained them just like my mother trained me. The first thing they learned was 'no' and then a 'hold still' so they could be looked after properly." He patted the poor thing on the side. "You're not tagged with the new system, Bethel, we'll have to get Ron to fix that for you."
"I'm sure he'll appreciate the practice," the other trainer said with a smile. She blew him a kiss. "How was Drumstrang?"
"It already had snow," Charlie told her. "They wear fur capes for a reason up there." She laughed and let him deal with the dragon.
Harry walked the kids into the dorm, smiling at the other students. "Hi, guys. This is the Hogwarts crew. We'll let you guys get settled in tonight and then we'll hand out assignments tomorrow if you don't already have one." The kids nodded and went to their half of the room. "The Drumstrang kids will be here about a week before you guys leave, that way you can mix and mingle. I look forward to working with whichever of you gets the nursery with us." He waved and left, going to check on his littles. "Hi, guys," he said as he walked in. The dragons glared at him then ignored him totally.
"They hate it when you abandon them," Ron said from behind him. He grinned when Harry turned around, giving him a hug. "How was Drumstrang?"
"Cold. They've already got snow. They'll be here in November." He grinned. "Charlie didn't believe it was your idea."
Ron rolled his eyes. "He'll soon learn I have a lot of good ideas." Something pitiful sniffled against his leg, making him look down. "Hello, precious." He picked it up, letting Harry see her. "She just hatched a few hours ago and the others won't come near her yet."
Harry sat down on the floor, taking the little one into his lap to hold and pet. "Guys, I'm sorry I had to leave, but we had to get you guys some people to help during the night shifts." They shifted but didn't get any closer. "Would it help if I fed you?"
"I just fed them an hour ago," Ron snorted, sitting down beside him. One of the steamers ran over and launched itself at him. "Yes, we love you, greenie." He patted the tense back. "See, he came back. Sniff him, you know which one he is." He let the little one sniff Harry and then it bleated and nuzzled his arm before going back to his Ron cuddles. "I guess they'll pout at you for the rest of the night."
"Hopefully tomorrow we can start our week off," Harry sighed, leaning against Ron's side. "I'm tired. I could use a long night of sleep."
"Go crawl into the tent. We'll leave the flap open so they can come visit and cuddle if they get upset." Harry blew a kiss and crawled that way with the newest hatchling, making Ron smile. He looked down at the one he was holding. "He had to go get you some more people to love you," he soothed, stroking down the scaly back. "Oops, feels like someone needs washed," he said with a grin. The dragon squealed and the others picked it up so Ron went to get the hose. He loved playing water games with the hatchlings. They enjoyed everything so much.
Charlie walked into the nursery three hours after shift change, smiling at the pile of dragons flowing out of the tent. "Guys?" he called quietly.
"Harry had some nightmares. They're taking turns getting cuddles," Ron called back. "You can squeeze in."
Charlie ducked inside the tent and over to the room where Harry was curled up on the floor. "What were they about this time?"
"Not a clue," Ron said with a shrug. "He didn't really wake up, but most of the hatchlings came running and pounced him. I guess they're over their pouting because he left them with me." He stroked the back of the one in his lap, the newest hatchling was still being ignored. "We need to have this one checked tomorrow. The others are ignoring and shunning her."
"I'll take her over now if you want," Charlie offered, holding out his arms. The little one hissed at him. "Hey, now, I'm his big brother. I adore you little ones." He was handed her and held her tightly. "I'll bring her right back. Are you not coming back tonight?"
"I'm guessing no one has assignments yet. We haven't been replaced."
"We'll make sure someone's in here tomorrow," Charlie promised, taking the little one outside. He turned when he heard the pitiful wail, smiling at the other baby trapped behind the protective barrier. "Give it a few weeks, you. Then you can come out and play." He took the one he had to the infirmary, nodding one of the healers over. "Did you guys monopolize the students?" She blushed and nodded. "Send two over tomorrow to spare Ron and Harry, will ya?" She patted him on the chest and took the baby from his arms. "Ron said this one's new and being shunned. The littles usually pounce the newest ones to test them."
"Hmm." She checked the hatchling over carefully, then looked under her tail. "I think she's got a small infection. It looks like she was clipped by the shell as she came out," she noted, letting him see the large cut under her tail. "I'm guessing it's letting more intestinal smell out and they're not sure what's wrong with her. Give me a few days." He nodded and clapped her on the back. "Go sleep, Charlie. You look as tired as Ron did when I saw him this morning."
"I bet the littles pounced him all night," Charlie said with a grin. "He's good in there, the both of them are."
"We do need a steady hand in the nursery," she pointed out. "It makes it easier over the long run. Keep them there, we don't need them switched over for time with us or in the breeding pens."
"If you say so," he agreed, going back to tell Ron what had been found, then head to bed. He found one of the students wandering around. "Hi." She smiled at him and he felt himself react. He had to sharply remind himself that this girl was the same age as his own sister. "Out looking at the stars?"
She nodded. "I think the star patterns are fascinating. Not the constellations, just the patterns they make as a whole. How it shifts over the course of the night."
He nodded. "I agree, it is stunning." He listened. "It doesn't sound like we've got any coming this way so you should be fine. Have a good night and get some rest sometime." He walked off, going back to his original plan, tell Ron, then hit his own bed. Ron was asleep when he walked into the nursery so he left him alone and simply headed for his own bed.
Harry looked up as their new trainees were led inside, waving around his current sip of coffee. "Welcome to the nursery," he said once his mouth was free. "Ron's not up yet." He stood up and walked around the piles of bodies. "Which of you has night shift?" Two people held their hands up. "Okay, we'll give you guys a short lecture so you two can get some more sleep. Then we'll give you the detailed instructions tonight." They nodded. "Ron, newbies," he called.
"Harry," Ron groaned. He walked out of the tent and smiled at them. Especially at the one girl. "Hello." They waved. "Okay." He clapped his hands and stole Harry's coffee. "As you can see," he said before taking a long drink and handing it back, "we deal with the unhatched and the newly hatched. I do the eggs mostly and Harry does the new hatchlings. There are some hard and fast rules. There's a sheet on the wall behind you that tells you what the sticker code under the nests mean. All viper dragons are cuddly by nature. All steamers are pissy most mornings, and they really don't like people. They like to bite actually and you never want to expose your ankle to them. Anything with wings will trip and fall over them, you've got to make sure they don't tear a hole in their wings. Anything with a tail will be chasing it every few hours because they don't understand yet." He smiled at the short laughs he got. "Harry likes to read to them and they seem to like it."
"I've been reading defense texts to them, they're very good about laying down for a nap during that time," Harry put in. "Come on, I can show you the feeding stuff for the one who's going to be doing what I do. The other Ron will show how to turn eggs. Then we'll switch for the noon meal or tonight for the next shift." They nodded, breaking up by school. He led them to the cool chest with the piles of meat, measuring out the meat for the new ones and showing them how to measure the supplements they mixed in. "It's important that everyone gets to eat, one of the main things you have to watch for is the ones who are being excluded. At this age, these guys don't store fat and they go through six or seven feedings a day. There is one exception and he's a pit viper, he'll only eat four times a day. You'll be finding him on your back most of the time." He brought the buckets over, pulling down the feeding trays. The dragonettes came running, tripping and stomping over each other to be first at the food. "Another important rule is never get between them and their food. They will go through you." He proved his point by almost being knocked over by one who wanted the bucket for themselves. He watched as the girls picked up the buckets and emptied them to help. "Good job. Now rinse off in the drinking water. It's how we accustom the babies to drinking from a pool." They all did so and he walked them around the various areas. The toys got some light laughter, but they did need to learn new things at this age. When they were done, they went to check on Ron. "Any new ones coming today?"
"Probably one," Ron admitted, patting the one he was checking. "We're firm and two weeks at deep blue."
Harry looked at the ones he was tutoring. "When there's a new hatchling, you fill a bucket full. Don't do the supplement then, just get them fed. You'll have a towel and you'll need to dry every crevice of them because egg fluid sours quickly and it smells rank. Their mother would usually bath them, we towel them and everyone gets to play in the water at least once a day." They nodded. "Ron, rocking," he said, nodding at another one.
"Good spotting," he said happily. "Come on, you've all got to know this one." They followed, helping him peel back the shell under his careful watching. When the new one came out, Harry was ready with the towels and the bucket of food. This one simply looked at him and bleated. "Oh, come on," Ron sighed. "Eat already. Don't make us worry."
Harry picked up a piece of meat and held it out. "Come on, you know you want it," he encouraged. The little one continued to scream. "Okay, someone get the healers." One of the girls went running while they checked it over. "Maybe it's a blockage," he said with a confused look and a shrug.
"Maybe," Ron said grimly. If it wasn't easily fixed, they'd have to put this one down. Or actually the healers would, they weren't going to be there and the healers knew it.
"Let me try," one of the females from Beaubaxtons said, sitting down across from them. She cooed as she pulled the dragon closer, stroking it gently. She took a piece of meat, rubbing it against the scaly beak. "You must eat," she told it. "The healers do not like it when you do not eat. You must eat to be happy."
"Actually, he's got to eat period," Ron told her. "The lines are too vast if this is a repetitive inherited problem." She looked upset, and he had to shrug. "He won't survive by himself. It all depends on what sort of problem it is."
"Some birth defects are easily fixed," Harry offered. "Those usually are. The more extensive and inherited ones are the problems that we worry about. These guys usually come out ravenous and try to eat you as well as the food you're offering. If they don't, you coax, then you call a healer. We had one last month that was born without most of its brain. We lost that one and one other that month because of problems."
"The other was from an incident overnight in the nursery. The steamers tend to become great bullies," Ron told her. "Sometimes they'll even attack a smaller one and rip it apart." She shuddered. "All we noticed the next morning was that one was missing."
"Oh." She looked green. "That is not making for happiness," she said gently, stroking that one. "They are soft."
"They are," Harry agreed with a smile. "Watch out. You've got the pit viper coming up behind you. Just relax, he likes to cling to backs. I've taken him home one night by accident." The girl and the healer walked in together. "He still won't eat."
"Let me have him," the healer said calmly, looking it over. "Oh, dear, you've got a funny gut," she told it.
Ron looked hopeful. "Fixable?"
"Probably. We'll try," she said with a smile. "You two have a better average than Charlie did when he first started, that's why he asked to be moved." She smiled at the girls. "If you need us immediately and there's not time to run and fetch us, the floo works between us and the nursery. Call out for the infirmary. All the floos are local within the preserve for the moment."
"Except for the one in the office and the one in our house," Ron told them. "Our mother forced someone to hook us up, just in case." The girls laughed. "My mother worries a lot."
"I can understand that with Ginny," one of the Hogwarts girls giggled. She gave the baby one last pet. "What are our duties now?"
"The ones for night shift can go back and get some more rest. You can't sleep while you're on duty," Ron told them. Those girls nodded and left. "You other two get to help."
"Rocking," one of them said, pointing at the egg Ron had been talking about being overdue.
Ron and Harry got up to check it over. "Can you stay, Ingrid? This one was supposed to hatch two weeks ago by the estimates."
"Sure, Ron. This one isn't suffering yet." She watched as Ron deftly cracked the shell. "Nicely done." The large Chinese dragon slithered up and out of the hole, wrapping around Ron and hissing in his face. "Hmm. Harry, food?"
"Hand me the bucket," Harry ordered. One of the girls handed it over and he held out the first piece, drawing its attention. The dragon went nose down into the bucket and Ron managed to get free and get the thing into a control collar. "These are the only types you will find these on," Harry told them. "These types are poisonous and they will kill you. It'll be moved by tonight to a separate holding nursery. They'll attack anything around them." The girls nodded, letting them deal with it. "I thought this one was going to be a steamer."
"So did we," Ron offered. "We thought we saw wings."
"It was probably the mucosa membrane," the healer offered. "Let me get Charlie in here. One of you girls get this one more food." One of them ran off and she left with the poor little one needing her skills. She ran into one of the trainers outside. "Ron just had a Chinese Fireball hatch," she said briskly as she walked. "They're stuffing it full. It's collared."
"I'll get the handlers," the trainer offered, running for them. Those things were dangerous before they got sense. They were dangerous afterward too, but at least they recognized people once they were older.
Harry looked up as people came running. "Watch out, hatchlings out of the nursery," he said before they could enter the egg chamber.
One of them walked in at a slower pace. "Thanks for that. Ah, vipers," he said fondly. "Cuddling time?"
"It's their usual reading time," Ron admitted with a grin. "Harry reads defense texts to them to make them nap." He handed over the dragon. "We'll need you guys to come check the others, we swore that one had wings."
"Sure, Ron. We'll do it tonight after dinner," the handler promised, holding the baby at arm's length. The other came in and grabbed the bucket of food for it. It was safer when it was eating.
"Thanks, guys," Harry called after them. He stood up, dislodging the two dragons in his lap. "Let's go read, guys," he called, heading for the nursery. They ran behind him, going to get prime spots on either side of his seat.
Ron shook his head, then looked at his helper. "He is insane," he noted. She laughed and nodded. "Okay, so we turn them a quarter turn," he reminded her. "Put your one hand on the apex and turn to the right until it's barely inside the nest." He demonstrated. "The ones with the red marking we don't turn, they're too soft. Those we put a thermal blanket on and take off. Two hours on, half an hour off. Got it?" She nodded. "Good job. So let's work with the older ones first." He walked her to the end of the line. "Another thing is that you've got to listen. If you hear a sound like jello and the egg's not at a red stage, there's a bad problem and we'll have to candle it. That means we'll back-light and look through the shell." She nodded again. "Good job." He let her turn the first one, smiling and clapping her on the back. "Wonderful. Now remember to check the stickers." He walked down to do the more delicate ones. She'd be up to them later in the week, and by the time they got off next week she'd be able to handle them all. He frowned when he saw one. "Harry, we've got an early crack," he called.
"If it's the second or third from the red end, you reported it a few days ago," Harry called back. He stuck his head out of the nursery. "Is it the same crack?"
Ron considered it. "Maybe. It has been enough time to turn it all the way around. I'm going to put a mark on it so I know I've reported it." He pulled out a marker and put his initials and the date on it. "There, no more confusion."
"As long as it doesn't soak through. Otherwise the others will make fun of it for wearing your mark," the girl teased.
Ron laughed. "Yeah, but it shouldn't. Shells are pretty impenetrable once they're hard as leather." He looked over as someone walked in. "Hey, Charlie. Did you finally get up?"
"I did," he admitted with a sheepish grin. "I can't quite seem to make it up when I don't hear you taking forever to do your hair." He looked at the shell. "Is that the same one?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out," Ron admitted with a grin. Harry was already back in the nursery when he glanced that way. "We do get next week off, right?"
"Yup, all next week and we'll owe you another two days some other time," he promised. He smiled at the girl working with Ron. "You look familiar."
"One of my cousins came for the tournament," she said quietly, going back to her turning. "This one has a crack as well." She sniffed. "It smells bad."
Ron walked over and took a sniff himself. "I think this one's a steamer," he said with a faint grin. "It smells like sulphur." He tapped on the shell but nothing happened. "I think we've got one stillborn, Charlie." He stepped away, taking her with him. "I don't like dealing with them. Usually I let the healers make that decision."
Charlie looked at her. "Ron's fairly sensitive." He tapped a few times, then pressed on the crack. Black fluid came out. "Yeah, this one's gone. We'll float it out in a few," he promised, going to get one of the healers. They had special charms that didn't affect the eggs. When he came back, Ron and the girl had moved the egg by the door for them. "Thanks, guys."
"Welcome," Ron said, giving him a wave. "When are we getting more eggs? We've got open nests."
"We're in the slow season," Charlie told him. "Dragons tend to lay in the spring and summer. Winter is usually too cold to keep the eggs warm and it's got bad hunting." He helped the healer take the egg out and put it into the light so they could look in it. They couldn't see the dragon at all. "Are we cracking this one or burying it?" he asked her.
"I'd like to crack it. I've never seen something like this before." He nodded, helping her get it into the surgical suite. "We had one earlier that had a gastric blockage. Fortunately a small one near the top of the stomach and easily cleared up." He sighed in relief. "Those girls are having one hell of a first day. A fireball, a dead one, and one in trouble." She shook her head. "At least they're getting practical and realistic experience."
"We've got three out on nest watch," Charlie told her, scratching the back of his neck. "They should be fine."
"Hopefully," she agreed. She used her wand to finish cracking the shell and they both gagged at the smell. "I'm thinking this one was bad all along."
"Yeah, I think so too," he gasped, running from the room.
She lit the remains on fire, cleaning up the putrid fluid so it couldn't taint anything else.
Harry looked over at Ron, then slowly started to glare. Ron was chatting up the girl from Beaubaxton's. He couldn't believe this. He was doing it again! He turned over care of his nursery to the night shift and packed his bag and the tent, taking it back to the house. Then he took a shower and went to hang out with some of the trainers. They usually had some alcohol and a card game going.
Ron finally noticed Harry had left and frowned at the corner they had put the tent into. The girl in the nursery looked at him and smiled. "He left nearly an hour ago, Ron."
"Shit." He waved. "Have fun. We're with Charlie if you need any help. That's two buildings down to the North," he said, pointing just in case, "and we've got the floo hooked up under Charlie's name." He walked out, going to check on his boyfriend. The house was empty. He unpacked the bags, tossing most everything into the laundry, then went to take a long shower. He had bathed but a long, hot shower was something he'd been craving for the last few days. A bath was nice, but it didn't get his hair done properly. By the time he came out, Charlie was in his bed snoring. He shook his head. His poor tired brother. He walked back to his room and laid down with a book he'd been wanting to read, getting comfortable while he waited on Harry. It wasn't like he could be in trouble.
Around two in the morning, Harry stumbled in. He was thoroughly drunk, he was wobbling, and he noticed there were four doors instead of the usual three. He frowned and they consolidated a bit, so he went into the middle one. He didn't want to talk to Ron tonight. They'd fight and Charlie would get woken up and blame him undoubtedly. So he took refuge with the big brother person. He could use a cuddle and Charlie needed one he reasoned. He stripped down and crawled in behind Charlie. The other man was a bit chilly so he wrapped himself around the other body to warm it. He hated it when Ron was cold in the night, it always froze him.
Charlie continued to snore, too tired to care that he was being used as a teddy bear.
Charlie woke up and looked at the window. He could hear Ron's alarm going off. He could hear a grumbling noise that meant one of the dragons had come with them last night. He hadn't remembered bringing one, but that wasn't so unusual. Harry could have brought one home and he never would have known about it. It dawned on him that the rumbling was in fact someone snoring into his chest and he looked down. Dark hair was all he could see. "I didn't bring anyone back last night," he said, still confused. He lifted the covers and winced. "Harry," he groaned. He sniffed. The boy smelled like scotch. Wonderful. Simply marvelous. He hoped Ron would head directly for the shower instead of trying to get him up. His prayers were answered by the sound of the shower coming on. He nudged Harry, making him wake up and blearily look at him. "What are you doing in here?"
"Din' wanna fight with the asshole," he mumbled, letting himself drift back off. "Wake me up for work."
Charlie gave him a harder shove. "Get up, it is time for work," Harry sighed and struggled to sit up but the blankets had him. He finally gave up and flopped backwards. So Charlie did the gentlemanly thing, he got out of the nice, warm, comfortable bed and pulled the covers off to free him. Harry was now sprawled on his stomach and you could tell he wasn't wearing anything. "Harry!" he said in disgust.
"What? I didn't touch you. You were cold anyway," Harry complained. "Let me sleep, please?"
"Fat chance. The littles will hunt you down."
Harry sighed and climbed out of the bed, stumbling into the bathroom. He relieved himself then splashed his face with water. He noticed Ron was in the shower and checked on him, he was still doing his hair. So he did his own hair in the sink and went to get dressed. The little ones never cared what he smelled like when he came in as long as he came in. As a matter of fact, they usually took a long time each morning after breakfast to sniff him. Hopefully they wouldn't be offended by the cigar smoke and liquor smells. He threw on the first clothes he came to and headed over there. He relieved the night shift with a nod and set out the morning feed, watching as his darlings attacked it like the creatures they were.
Ron stomped in. "Where were you last night?"
Harry looked at him. "Did you actually care? I thought you'd be spending it with the new friend."
"You heard me." He turned back when he was nudged, getting down to let the baby sniff him. It wrinkled its nose and wandered off again.
Ron grabbed him and pulled him out to the egg chamber, sniffing him himself. "You smell like liquor and Charlie's aftershave."
"Well I wasn't going to sleep with you while you were doing her," he said bitterly. "At least I know nothing happened to me last night." He got free of the squeezing hand and went back to help the little ones play with a large ball. They adored chasing it around the open area and it increased their coordination. He gave a few sad smiles when he saw them trying to flap to run faster. It was time for them to go. He called over to the healer to have her come in soon to do an exam so they could be moved up. She came right over and brought something for his headache as well. "Thanks," he croaked after taking it. "Card game."
"I heard. You played with my husband half the night." She ruffled his damp hair. "Why don't you go shower, Harry? Ron's obviously out and Charlie was heading for the office." Harry shook his head. "It'd make you feel better."
"I'm fine. They don't much like how I stink, but they've got to get used to it. I'm sure some of the trainers in the field drink a lot and they don't get regular baths."
"Good point," she agreed. She rolled the ball, watching the ones who were playing. "It looks like you've got a hearty group here, Harry. Another wonderful job." She gave him a pat on the shoulder. "Let me get Ron to tag them and we'll start the exams." She went to have a word with Ron. He glared at her. "Give me that look again and I'll tag them myself, young man."
"Sorry," Ron mumbled. "What's wrong with him?" She gave a pointed look at his belt and he looked down, groaning when he realized he was hard. "I don't know what's going on."
"Oh, I think I do," she said smugly. "Go get your needles. We'll do a lot of them today." He nodded, going to grab his kit for tagging. They brought out the older ones, Harry cuddling and petting them while she checked them over. Ron got his cuddles and pets during and after the tagging. Most of them were approved for breeding, they'd only have to fix a few of them. It nearly emptied the nursery. She saw Harry's sad look and gave him a hug. "In the next few months, the females will be going into heat so they can lay during the first months of spring," she promised. "You'll have so many eggs you'll have to move some of them in here so you have room to walk. Then you'll have a whole nursery full, Harry. Remember, you can visit these ones if you want."
"That would foster a dependence on us," Harry said softly. She nodded, giving him another hug. "Thanks. Make sure she takes good care of them. And that pit viper only eats four times a day so don't worry about him."
"That's fine, darling. You behave and give the remaining few a lot more cuddles. They're mostly vipers this year it looks like."
"Vipers abandon their nests more readily," he said with a grin. "It's a good thing for us." He waved as the littles left, following the rope she was trailing behind her. It was a game he had taught them.
Ron walked over and gave Harry a long hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I'm sorry it was so soon."
"She's right, in six months we'll be up to our ears in babies," Harry said firmly.
"It doesn't make it any easier," Ron pointed out, giving him an extra squeeze. "I'm sorry, Harry. I don't know what's going on. I didn't sleep with anyone last night and I got really cold and lonely." Harry looked at him. "I promise. I don't know what's going on or why I'm reacting now. You stink and need a shower."
"I'll take one when we get off," Harry told him, getting free. "Sorry, Ron."
"Not a big thing," he said happily. "I know you didn't molest Charlie, he was scowling when I saw him." Harry gave a weak laugh. "Besides, he could probably use cuddles too." He checked the eggs. "You'll have another seven soon. They should last you most of the way to Yule, then we'll scrub down for the spring."
"Yeah, I guess," Harry agreed, going back to the remaining ones. They crowded around him so he picked up a children's book, sitting down to read to them.
A few hours later, one of the handlers from the stepup unit walked in, smiling at Harry. "I was wondering why this lot kept looking at my bag," she said, making Harry jump. "Sorry." She sat down next to him, letting one of the babies into her lap. "You read to them?"
"Yeah, twice a day. It puts them into a good mood and they usually nap in the sun," he said with a grin. "Does that cause you problems?"
"Nah, by the time they're missing it, they've found all the new toys." She clapped him on the back. "I came to check how many more we had. We're planning burrow assignments for the rest of the winter."
"We've got these guys and Ron said he's got seven left out there," he said, giving her a pointed nod at the corner. "That one's shy around new people. She likes Ron though."
"Good." She whistled, making all of them look at her. "Come on, you can come see me," she said soothingly. "I take care of the bigger dragons. All your friends came to me today." The little one in the corner shifted closer. "That one looks bigger."
"She was here when we came but the healers said to leave her," Harry admitted. "She's very good with the newest ones. Gets them settled and protects them. She'd be one hell of a mother dragon, but she's marked as being infertile."
"Interesting." She cooed and the dragon came closer, sniffing her hand. "You should be with mine but I understand why the healers did it. Some dragons do better as nursery mates. My second year stint in the nursery had one of those." She clapped Harry on the back. "You'll probably have her until spring. Go ahead and start taking her outside on the leash and see what she does."
"I did that last week," Harry admitted with a blush. "She was getting really frustrated. She headed right for a tree and tried to climb up it but then realized she couldn't do that and got angry, beating it with her head."
"Vipers can be that way," she agreed dryly. "Let her play. She's obviously in good hands. If everything goes well, maybe we'll introduce her to the group up by the border."
"Pansy's?" Ron asked from the doorway. She smiled and nodded. "How are they?"
"They're doing fine from the gossip. She got a bit flustered when it was moving time, but one of the other humans helped her understand the various signals and the bell codes out there. Maybe now that she's stuffed up we can introduce a female dragon and Bert'll be happier with her than with Pansy." She let the babies go and stood up. "So, six in here, seven eggs. Any more coming?"
"Not unless they're shipped," Ron pointed out. "If so, we'll warn you immediately."
"Thank you, boys. We're keeping the older ones over the winter since it's supposed to be so bad this year and we're about to run out of room."
"I can keep a few of the younger ones here if you need us to," Harry offered.
"No, that's okay. We should have just enough room plus one or two bunks." She smiled at them. "You guys behave and cuddle each other. I suppose you probably need it after losing half the nursery earlier." She left them alone, going back to her unit to make plans on where to set everyone. She smiled at her partner. "They've got six born and seven eggs. Harry's looking miserable. It was over half the nursery I bet." Her partner gave her a hug. "Ron'll take care of him. He seems to be a lot like his big brother. Oh, and they've got a nursery nanny. I expect we'll have to start introducing her to Bert to wean the humans away from him."
"Good. I don't like how he's gathered a harem. Who knew he could find so many corrupt people in one spot? And in a school."
"They were Slytherins," she offered with a cruel grin. "The house of the snake."
He laughed. "Good one. We'll do whatever we can. You might want to stop the steamers. We're going to have to do a split group."
"Fine. Get Charlie to come help us and we'll start soon. He could use the break from the paperwork and the boss is supposed to be back today." She went to check on the stubborn and mean ones. They were her favorites overall, they seemed more like dragons to her than the cuddly little vipers.
Ron was nuzzling Harry's neck in the corner when the shift change happened. He felt himself start to react and looked over his shoulder, smiling at the girls. "Sorry, we'll get out of your hair soon." Harry pushed him and walked out, going to say good night to the babies before leaving. "Harry!" he called, following him from the room. "Come on!"
"Did you give instructions?" Harry asked as he stomped away.
Ron glared at his back. "You're being a bitch."
"It's a good thing you taught me that then, huh?" Harry called back.
Ron glared at him. "What is your problem?" he shouted.
"Ron, enough!" Charlie said sharply. "Go back to the house, Harry, I'll have a word with him."
"Good, have one about not using others." Harry kept walking, going past the house so he could sit in the spot he had picked out to think on. He sat on the small hill and watched the sun set, enjoying the colors and the cooler air.
Charlie pulled Ron off to the side of the walking path. "What is your problem?" Ron looked hurt. "You're going off over a younger girl in front of your lover."
Ron groaned and shook his head. "I don't know what that is."
"Well, fix it. I like Harry but I don't want to sleep with him again tonight." He walked off.
Ron walked slower back to the house. He needed to think. Harry wasn't in their room so he claimed it to think in, closing the door but not locking it. Why was he reacting to a girl? He didn't like girls all that much. It was true he missed how girls tasted every now and again, but he got everything he wanted and needed with Harry and none of the emotional crap until now. So what was going on?
Harry finished his sulk and an idea came to him. He went back to the nursery and saw the blush on his victim. "You're related to Fleur?"
She nodded. "Her cousin."
"That's why Ron's been reacting?"
"Usually most men don't," she admitted as she turned the next egg in the line. "Maybe his family is sensitive. I'm sorry if I'm causing trouble."
"No, it's okay. As long as there's a reason we can figure it out," he promised, giving her a reassuring smile before going back to their house. He slammed the door and went into the kitchen. For some reason he baked when he was thinking. He felt arms go around him and knew they weren't Ron's. They weren't Charlie's either. He looked behind him and grinned. "Hi, George. Did you come to beat up Ron?"
"No. Should I?" he asked, letting Harry go. He watched as he mixed the batter. "Fred's with Charlie. What's wrong?"
"We've got a part-veela among the students and Ron's reacting like he did during the tournament."
"Ouch," George agreed. "Did you kick him around yet?"
"No. I got drunk and curled up with Charlie last night, but I haven't hit him. Yet." He grinned. "He has the worst timing. Today he did it while he was trying to talk me into bed."
George snorted. "How about you come up for a business meeting during your time off this time?"
"I shouldn't. We're supposed to stay close-by unless we give warning in advance. That way we can get here quicker if there's a problem." He popped the batter into a pan and then into the oven, turning it on. He turned to find Ron standing in their doorway. "Decided I was worth paying attention to again?"
"I never stopped thinking that," Ron offered. He walked over and sniffed. "Muffins?"
"I guess," Harry said with a shrug. "I mixed stuff together." He looked at George. "She's here until November."
"Harry, I don't know why I react," Ron promised. "It's not like I want her."
"It could be that you're missing having a varied life," Fred offered as he walked in with Charlie. "Ron, mother's calling a family reunion and we're to help with the planning." Ron nodded and shrugged. "Now, what's the problem?"
"One of the girls from Beaubaxton's is Fleur's cousin," Harry said dryly. "She likes to walk in while Ron and I are going at it."
"Ouch," Fred said, wincing. "Ron, leave her alone."
Ron threw up his arms. "I don't know why I'm reacting!" he said unhappily. "Harry, I swear, okay? I'm not going to go for her. She can emote or whatever that is all she wants. I don't want her. She's younger and she reminds me of Ginny on a snide kick."
Harry frowned at him. "I like it when your sister gets mouthy and stands up to you, Ron. You usually deserve it." The twins winced and shook their heads. "Keep it up, I don't have to lend you the money to expand," he pointed out.
The twins pulled him between them to hug. He obviously needed one since Ron was falling down on the job.
"Mine!" Ron said as he stole Harry back. "Get your own Potter." He walked Harry into their room and slammed the door. "Now then," he said, glaring at his lover, arms already crossed. "It's not like I can help it. You react to her." Harry shook his head. "Yes, you do. You did earlier."
"I was reacting to you, Ron, not her. You pulled away from me to chat her up. Not exactly what I expect from a boyfriend." He sat down on the bed. "Maybe I should let you think for another night."
"If you curl up with Charlie he's promised to kick you out," Ron told him.
Harry shrugged. "That's what couches are for, Ron. Did you think they were only for snogging on?" He grabbed his pillow and a blanket, walking past him to get out of their room. He flopped down onto the couch. "So, how were you two expanding?"
"We wanted to add a secondary storage area. We're renting one but it's a bother to get things from it," George told him.
"Still fighting?" Fred asked.
"He pulled away from me to chat her up," Harry said grimly. "I'm not sleeping with someone who'd rather be somewhere else. This way he can go find her and do her until his eyeballs fall out."
"Hmm." George looked at Charlie. "Should we take him now?"
Fred shook his head. "If we do, mum will get involved."
"Think she'd let me spank Ron?" Harry asked, starting to pout again. Ron opened the door to frown at him.
"I can have her shifted to a different duty," Charlie pointed out.
Ron gave him a grateful look but Harry was shaking his head. "If you do that, she'll know it's her fault, Charlie, and she's good at the job," he said quietly.
"Now I know you need mental help," Ron snorted. "It's making you miserable."
"And having someone worse in there wouldn't?"
"I can have her shifted to night shift then," Charlie offered. "There's not many littles after today's migration. We don't need four on each shift and we could use more watchers." Ron nodded and Harry shrugged. "Would that soothe you some?"
"I don't want her hurt. She can't help resonating, Charlie."
"Huh?" Ron asked.
"She's Fleur's cousin," Fred told him.
Charlie groaned. "Okay, so we're all susceptible to them. Some of us more than others I'd say, but that's also all right. We can deal with it. I can't have her put into the field, but I can have her shifted to the infirmary. That'll give the guys a reason to get better faster." He went to talk to their boss, who was sympathetic and did move her to the infirmary and take off the extras from the nursery. They were still short of personnel and he could use at least double what they presently had. Charlie came back and smiled at Harry. "She'll be in the infirmary from now on. All the ones you've trained so far will be heading there and all the infirmary ones will be heading to the breeding pens."
"What about the night shift?" Ron asked.
"They'll still have two kids there, though you may be getting a new set," he said with a grin for his brothers. "They're talking about giving you the boys."
"We prove they can be nurturing at our age," Harry said dryly. He sniffed and got up to check on his creation, looking inside the oven. "I guess it's biscuits." He shrugged and closed the door. "Ten more minutes, they look doughy."
"When did you learn to cook?" Fred asked.
"I cooked breakfast most mornings," Harry told him.
"Oh," the twins said together, then they shuddered.
"No offense, but I'd rather not risk sickness."
"He usually does very well," Charlie told him. "That aunt of his may have been a mean old bird but she did teach him how to not ruin food." He looked at Harry. "Do you feel better now?"
Harry walked over and kissed Ron, giving it his best shot. Then he looked him over and shook his head. "No." He went into their bedroom and slammed the door.
Ron looked down at himself. "That never happened before," he said dryly. He walked over and tapped on the door. "Harry!"
"Go away, Ron. You're obviously still affected."
"No, we can work through this," he offered, walking in and shutting the door again.
"I think that's their second fight since they got here," Charlie told the twins. "Why did you come to Harry for funds?"
"Because he's got them," Fred pointed out.
George nodded. "We could take out a loan but the goblins are being very stingy at the moment. They wanted us to insure it with something bigger than patents." Someone shrieked and Ron came running out. "Problems?" he called.
"No," Harry called back. He walked out and checked on his food. He shrugged and pulled it out. "That was frustration. He'll be out soon." He upended the biscuits and broke one open with a spoon. "It should be fine. It's cornmeal mostly." He grabbed the butter and dropped some inside, taking it with him while the butter melted. As soon as he was safely away from the house the twins grabbed the biscuits to try, humming in appreciation. They were good.
Ron came out of the bathroom. "Is he sulking again?" Charlie nodded. "I'll deal with him tomorrow."
"Remember to apologize," Fred advised.
"Oh, he'll be getting an apology," Ron said darkly, glaring at the door. He grabbed a biscuit and broke it open to nibble on. "They're a bit dry."
"Put butter on it, it fixed that problem," Charlie said patiently. "Maybe you two should take your vacation sooner?"
"Why? It's no fun going to the sex shop by myself," Ron snorted, heading back to his room.
"That boy will never learn how to be romantic," Fred sighed, shaking his head.
George nudged him. "When did we?"
"Oliver explained to me a few times what I should do when I fight with a girl. Didn't he get you when he was on the outs with his girlfriend?"
"Only the one time he crawled after her."
"Hmm. That was impressive."
George nodded. "I thought it was a bit over the top myself, but it seemed to work all right. She certainly kissed him hard enough afterwards."
"That's what's been bothering me," Charlie announced. "They're not doing that anymore."
"They're not?" Fred asked.
"It's natural to them," George pointed out. He looked at his twin, then they nodded in unison. "Can you arrange for them to be farther away this trip? We've got an idea."
"It's to take the picture of Hermione and Percy out of our heads," Fred agreed. "Delightfully simple of course."
Charlie grinned. "Sure I can," he agreed smoothly. "The boss loves those two. They deserve it, they ran the nursery all by themselves for three weeks." He grabbed the last biscuit to break open, handing the twins the other half of it. "Here." They fixed them and nibbled for a bit longer. "So, what else is new? And why is Percy still reacting?"
"Stupid bint got the potion wrong," Fred told him with a mean grin. "Percy's fallen over about nine times recently. Even once during her trial. They had to bring Hermione in early to testify so she'd be on hand for him."
George's grin was meaner. "He's on a paid leave of absence for medical reasons so he's helping Hermione with her schoolwork. Mother's very hopeful."
"Those kids would be some unwizardly nerds," Charlie pointed out.
The twins nodded. "Either that or completely opposite," George pointed out.
"They could be more like us as a form of permanent rebellion," Fred agreed. He looked at his twin. "I wonder if mum's threats for us to have children like us will stand up to theirs?"
"Percy would drown them at birth," Charlie reminded them. "He'd never be able to handle someone with a sense of humor."
Fred snickered. "Ginny is not pleased that her big brother is taking her woman."
"Mother wasn't too pleased either but she's hoping Ginny finds a nice effeminate boy soon."
"She really is on that grandchildren kick, isn't she?" Charlie asked with a grin.
The twins nodded. "She's even tried to fix us up," Fred told him.
George's eyes went wide. "Such a dowdy little witch too," he offered. "Just like mum, only twenty years younger."
"I'd introduce you around but I doubt you'd get many of the ladies around here to leave," Charlie offered. "Well, maybe Ingrid, but she'd end up coming back sooner or later." The boys looked interested. "She's one of our healers. Has a double degree. Very nice lady, but kinda odd sometimes."
"When can we meet her?" Fred asked.
"Just to make sure she knows Ron isn't the real Weasley in the family."
"We figure Percy tried to taint him somehow," Fred agreed.
George laughed. "It must have been when he was helping bathe him. That's probably what happened to Ginny too."
Fred snorted. "No, I think she's been tainted by Bill. They seem to like the same sort of woman."
Charlie spluttered. "Don't say such things! I'll be seeing him in a few weeks."
Ron came out again and sat on the couch. "Is Percy coming to the reunion?"
The twins nodded. "Mum said he was allowed and he could bring Hermione so she could keep him awake and in line," Charlie answered. "Did you want to go?" Ron nodded. "Will Harry?"
Ron looked at the door, then sighed. "I don't know, Charlie. You'd have to ask him about that." He looked at the twins again. "How do I fix him?"
"Beg," Fred told him.
"Pleading," George agreed.
"Chastity belt at work?" Fred offered, looking at George.
"No, I don't think they make those for men."
"Yes they do, they're these tube things with locks," Ron told them. The twins looked at him and he shrugged. "I've seen one on the rack."
Charlie glanced at the clock on the wall. "If I let you go, can you run and get one within two hours?" Ron nodded, starting to look happier. "Then get that and get him a present. Something that doesn't have to do with sex. If Harry were a girl I'd say get him jewelry."
"Thanks," Ron said, blowing a kiss. "Where did I leave my wallet?" He got up and started to dig on the desk.
"That's mine," Charlie said before Ron could take it. "Yours was in the medicine cabinet the last I knew." Ron jogged that way and he gave the twins a look. "What a very good idea. Now we can talk with Harry," he said with a smile. He watched as Ron came out and sent himself off via the floo, then went to pull Harry back inside. "You need to talk to them before the reunion." He sat down on the couch and put his feet up. This was much nicer. He wished the preserve was closer to home sometimes, he missed his family.
The twins pulled Harry into the kitchen to tell him their ideas, making him laugh and giggle for the first time in weeks. Yes, Harry definitely needed the break. Maybe a couple of days off with Ron would cure his present sulkiness. Charlie had a sudden thought: was this vacation going to make Percy a tolerable person again? He hadn't become an ass until he was a second year, maybe this was his first vacation since then? If so, he would force Harry and Ron to go on their breaks so they didn't turn out like Percy. He refused to let Ron turn out that way.
Harry was asleep on the couch when Ron walked back in and leaned down to stroke his cheek. "Harry?" he asked quietly. Harry swatted at him. "Can I crawl in with you?"
"Please? I can't sleep alone," Ron whispered.
"Don't be that way," Ron pleaded, stripping down and climbing in next to Harry, even letting him lay on top of his chest. "I left to buy you a present."
"So I can feel," Harry said, forcing his eyes open. He saw the key Ron was holding out. "What's that?"
"It goes to the lock I'm wearing," Ron said quietly. "There are two keys and I put the other on Charlie's dresser just in case one of the babies eats that one." He gave him a timid smile. "I had to go to Paris to get it."
Harry shoved himself up so he could look down at Ron. "What is that thing?"
"It's the male version of a chastity belt."
"Ron," Harry sighed. "You didn't have to do that." He unlocked him.
"I did. I don't want there to be any doubt. My hormones may tweak at her, but they throb for you. I'll wear this all the way until she's gone if I have to, just to prove to you that I'm yours."
"You didn't have to," Harry said as he laid back down.
"I did, it makes me feel better to know that my hormones can't take me over." He stroked down Harry's back. "I bought you another present too."
"I didn't need one, Ron."
"Harry, don't argue," he sighed. "Please? It's making me feel better." He wrapped his arms around him. "I know you're not used to getting presents or apologies but the graceful thing is to forgive me."
Harry glared at him. "Why should I? You just admitted you can't control it."
"I can," Ron said firmly. "I will. Give me two days."
"Ron, you all but drowned Fleur with your drool as you followed her around."
"She's not Fleur and I didn't have you then," Ron pointed out gently. "Now that I have you, all I want is you, no matter that my dick does sometimes think for itself. It's usually very happy with you too."
"When is it not happy with me?" Harry asked. "When I get too demanding?"
Ron grinned. "Nah, it likes you best then." He stole a quick kiss. "There are times when it thinks it wants other people, like what it used to have, but it's getting used to the idea of being with only you. Besides, it never really liked girls before, they're kinda slimy on the inside."
"So am I," Harry patiently pointed out.
"Yeah, but you're like that because I want you to be, you don't smell funny because you're horny." He grinned, it all made sense to him. Harry rolled his eyes. "Please, can we try? At least until we can go on break? Then we can fight and argue all we want, I promise. Right after we sleep for the first few days."
"Fine, I'll let you prove yourself," Harry relented. He put his head down. "We need to rest, Charlie told me we're getting an inspection tomorrow by the Albanian ministry and they're going to be an ass to us."
"Fine," Ron agreed, summoning over his present. "Will you open this first?" he begged.
Harry opened the medium sized box, smiling because inside was a singing card. In Ron's voice. Apologizing for his former habits of being a slut. He laughed and hugged Ron. "Fine, I'll forgive you this time."
"Thank you." He stole a longer kiss. "We should go to bed, Harry."
"The twins are in it."
"Oh." He grimaced. "I don't want to curl up with them. There's no telling what they do in bed together. Twins are odd you know."
"Sorry." He grinned. "Still forgive me?"
"Sure, but only if you let me sleep. Otherwise I might have to hurt the idiot coming tomorrow." He put his head back down. "We leave the day after tomorrow."
"Cool. Are we staying here?"
"No, the boss gave us permission to go to the reunion." He snuggled in. "Night, Ron."
"Good night, Harry. Have pleasant dreams of making me beg," he whispered. Harry pinched him. "No?"
"No! But I will if you don't quit and let me sleep."
"Fine. I'll play tomorrow."
"We can't let on that we're together. Apparently it's not an acceptable thing in the wider parts of Albania."
"Well, damn," Ron sighed. "Maybe we can get shifted to the islands?"
"Charlie said we might be killed and then our bodies mutilated if we did that there," Harry told him.
"Dirt." He squeezed Harry tighter, needing the comfort.
"Air," Harry squeaked. Ron let him go a bit. "Thanks." He closed his eyes. "Sleep, Ron, I'll do more than cuddle tomorrow night, once you prove that you can hold her off."
"Okay." He closed his eyes and thought happier thoughts.
Harry looked at the ministry representative as he walked in, nodding at him but not shaking his hand. He sat in the chair the man pointed to. "What did you want to know?" he asked.
"You were seventeen when you signed on," he said, smirking at him. "You are underaged."
"Technically, I was of age to sign a contract because I'm an orphan," Harry told him. "We didn't travel down here until I was eighteen."
"Yes, you came in with another Weasley," he said, checking his pad of paper.
"We're best friends, have been all the way through school," Harry snorted.
The man looked at him. "Still, you were underaged when you signed on. That makes your contract invalid. By our rules, you cannot sign one for yourself until you are eighteen."
Harry shook his head. "The company is headed in Britain, there I can sign when I'm seventeen. Especially since we went to a judge and had him authorize me as a legal adult a few months early." He summoned his paperwork and put them down on the desk.
"You did magic while underaged?" He smirked harder.
Harry snorted. "I'm over eighteen now. I've been considered a legal adult since I was seventeen." He stood up. "You can think whatever you want, but my contract is valid in the country where it was signed and in the country that houses the main branch of the group who runs the preserve. The petty local government is not of my concern."
The man sneered. "You think not?"
Harry nodded. "I know so. The same as I know that in your wallet is a picture of your Minster of Magic and a blond man. Lucius Malfoy." He leaned down, getting in the man's face. "The same as I know how he died because I killed him during a battle. His son threw a fucking party when Ron and I left Britain, what makes you think he'd want me back?"
The man's eyes narrowed. "How did you know about my picture?"
Harry snorted. "All of you carry one. It's regulation." He crossed his arms. "Do you have anything else to level at me? You're taking me from my duties."
"Yes, you work with your lover," he said. "We do not allow such relationships around here."
"Prove. It." The man gaped. "You have no proof of anything except a very deep friendship forged in battle conditions."
"You are underaged and you did magic in front of me. I can have your wand broken."
Harry sneered. "If you had bothered to read anything you'd know my birthday was *before* we joined the camp. Not only am I eighteen, I am fully an adult citizen of the world, able to do any magic I damn well please." He leaned closer. "For that matter, if you ask anyone around here, they can tell you when my birthday is. It's nearly a holiday in some places," he hissed. He stood up again. "Now, I would appreciate my boss being here."
"We do not allow employers in these interviews, they cow the employees."
Harry laughed. "What makes you think he could? Voldemort didn't, Dumbledore didn't, McGonagall and Snape didn't when they worked in unison. My bosses can't cow me. There's not much I am afraid of."
"You say his name!" he said in outrage.
"I killed his ass when he came back for the third time and did the original killing, plonker!" Harry said angrily. "I can bloody well say his name, I deserve it after taking a chainsaw to his remains. I can summon the vial with some of his remains in it if you want to make sure he's dead."
"You are an evil man!" he sneered, standing up. "I will have you thrown out! Let us see what you do then!"
"Sweetheart, I have money. I don't have to work, I do so because I enjoy it," he said patiently. "If I have to leave for a bit, I'm going to come back tanned, relaxed, and not needing a vacation like I do at the moment." He looked him over. "I killed Malfoy in a battle; if you take me on, I can recreate the conditions," he offered. "Let you see how it went."
"You cannot kill someone like him."
Harry chuckled. "He was dead when they pulled the mask off his head in Hogsmeade," Harry told him. "He was still dead when he was buried a few weeks later. He was even dead when someone tried to dig him up to revive him. He's still dead as far as I know, and if not, he's not that big of a threat to me or my happiness, or even my nursery duties. He was a whiny and manipulative wizard who had not a tenth the sense that one of my newly hatched ones has." He looked over as the door opened and the boss walked in. "He thinks I need a vacation too," he said dryly.
The man coughed. "He was underaged when he signed."
"He was declared a legal adult due to lack of a family and circumstances that would get him killed if he was not allowed to act in his own interest," the boss said firmly. "As those papers say." He looked at Harry. "You have a temper?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, a very good one. I'm a bit more calm than Ron, but I hate people like him. It makes me want to explode and do odd things," he said, and the door slammed shut and locked itself. The boss' eyes widened. "Sorry, I'm still really tired."
"A family member should have signed for him. In our country, even cousins can do so."
"My only cousin is the same age I am," Harry told him. "My aunt and uncle were planning on sacrificing me for my eighteenth birthday. Again, something you would have known if you had bothered to ask anyone, even one of the students. It was a fairly well reported trial. I know it made it to the local papers down here because Charlie sent me a clipping for Ron's scrapbook of the event." He shrugged. "Now, do you have any other objections? If not, I'm going to have a cup of coffee, go back to the nursery, and play with the babies."
"People like you should be shot," the man spat. "You run over all our good traditions."
"You first," Harry retorted.
"Hey," the boss warned. "None of that, Harry. I know you're stressed because it's nearly your break, but do not insult him. It makes it harder for the rest of us."
The man got a certain gleam in his eye. "I could overlook this, for a small consideration."
"A bribe?" Harry laughed. "I'm not a Malfoy, I don't have to pay bribes to have things overlooked." The man blanched. "For that matter, if you try and harass myself or any Weasley, you will find yourself and your ministry on the wrong side of a civil suit in your own courts. I'm sure a good investigative journalist could find anything that needed to be found." He looked over the man, showing contempt. "Leave my presence. Go bother someone else, and forget you ever saw me. Otherwise, I might have to get meaner and actually do some research to see what I can find out about *you*." The man gathered his pad of paper and left the room after fumbling open the lock. Harry picked up his papers and stuffed them into his back pocket. "Sorry, sir, but I'm a tad bit pissed this morning."
"Go calm down with cuddles, Potter. I knew they were going to try something with one of us."
"Well, he picked the wrong one of us. If he had bothered to do any research at all, he'd know I was not the one to fuck with and he would have tried for someone nicer, simpler, and with an obvious secret. After all, everything about me has been in the press and at least one unauthorized biography." He waved as he walked away, heading back to his nursery. He found Ron and the veela in a clinch, so he cleared his throat. "This is not the way to win my forgiveness, especially not after I had to threaten the ministry rep."
Ron looked stunned. "Harry? Save me?" he pleaded.
She smirked at him. "He is mine."
"Wrong, bitch, he's mine," Harry said, pulling back out his bastard act. "Why did I suddenly sound American?" he wondered, then shook his head and grabbed her by the hair, pulling her away from his mate. "Do you see all those holes? He put them in his body for me. He pierced his cock for me. What makes you think you can take him away from me? All you've got are some hormones and a big set of tits. I've shared his bed, his feelings, his life, and his blood over the years. Ron has sacrificed himself for me a number of times, the way I have for him. There is nothing you can have of him." He drug her out and down to the main office, pushing her in first. "I found her lip locked with Ron and he begged me to save him. She said he's hers," he sneered at the receptionist. Her eyes went wide and he looked behind him. "Hey, Charlie. I'm going to check on Ron. He looked pretty out of it."
"He still is," Charlie agreed. "I met him on the path and had the healers take over his care for a few moments. Where is the key?" Harry pulled off his necklace and handed it over. "Thank you." He left them there, going to release his baby brother and get the boss in on that. He had never seen Harry that pissed before. The story their mutual employer told him made him shudder. Harry was not in a good mood. Someone needed to save that poor girl from him, not the other way around.
The boss walked into the office, smiling at Harry. "You nearly got us kicked out."
"They can't do that," Harry pointed out. "If he tried, then you can shut down the Ministry. They're so corrupt it's not funny. And from my research, everyone in the system knows it's about to collapse. Making a strong stand means they can't use us a pawn in future problems." He gave the girl a shove. "She's been influencing Ron on purpose. She just tried to suck him dry and he begged me to help him."
She sniffed. "He is mine, he reacts to me and my sister and mother both told me to take this time to find myself a suitable mate."
Harry looked at her. "Ron's family doesn't have money," he told her. "Ron has money because *I* have money." She looked stricken. "Try for a Malfoy. The younger one might not have a mate yet." She stomped off. "Fucking bitch," he snorted.
The boss patted Harry on the back. "Why don't you go pack? We'll send you off on your break tonight, Harry. It's obvious we kept you here for too long and the stress has started to rot your brain."
"I'll take her back if I have to," Charlie said as he walked in. "Ron's been poisoned by what she was giving off. Between the device he put on to keep her off him, and to keep Harry happy, and the chemicals she just injected into him through her lips he's not in the greatest of shape. They're cleaning his system now."
Harry looked at him, starting to frown now. "Can I help?"
"Yeah, they'd like you to help. The fastest way is to get him off multiple times." Harry nodded and jogged from the room. "What did you expect, Steve? Harry's never had much of anything so he's very possessive of what's his." He grinned. "He was right though, the local ministry is on the verge of collapse and they won't be able to use us anymore."
"Still, he nearly got us kicked out."
"How? We own the land," the receptionist pointed out. "They could make it difficult, make up new rules for new permits, but they can't do anything else. Their official state animal is a dragon and having us here was a coup for their government, Steve. Harry just saved us a lot of political backbiting." She laughed at his stricken look. "I still think you're right, he's a tad bit too angry to be believed at the moment, but then again he is Harry Potter and he has fought his whole life. He probably decided this was another battle and went in with wands blazing."
"Yeah, he did," Steve agreed. "Between the thing with Ron, his lack of sleep, his stress levels, and his possessive nature, he certainly scared that guy."
"Eh, Norbert got him as soon as he walked outside the building," Charlie said happily. He waved and walked off, going to find the girl so she could pack.
Harry knocked on the school's door, smiling at the man who met them. "Hello, we need to talk to Madam Maxime about her student," he said in badly accented French. The man let him in and he dragged the girl by her arm after him and into the office. He smiled at the large half-giantess sitting behind the massive desk. "Madam Maxime," he said, kissing her on each cheek. "You grow more lovely each time I see you. I'll be sure to tell Hagrid that I saw you when I write him."
"Mr...Mr. Potter," she said, blushing a bit. "Was there a problem?" She had noticed the unhappy student.
"It seems she was not..suitable to her duties," Harry said with mock sadness. "She was also not up to the job of stealing my mate, the wonderful younger Weasley."
"Oh." She looked at her, then at Harry. "You are with the young lady?"
He chuckled and shook his head. "No, Ron. The youngest son. She tried to poison him to make him accept her instead of me." He let her go and watched as she rubbed her arm. "I'm sorry she was given such bad orders behind your back, Madam Maxime. I know you're an honorable woman from your conduct during the tournament." She smiled at him. "Plus, Hagrid went on for nearly a year about how nice and decent you were." Her smile fell a bit but she nodded. "It is with regret that I'm handing her back to your excellent care." He gave the girl a harsh look. "I think perhaps the more upstanding members of her family should be warned that she was given orders to find a mate, even if she had to separate a bonded pair." He looked at the Headmistress again. "I am sorry for her behavior. She was doing well enough in the nursery before then."
"Will you have tea while we get this matter settled?" the headmistress asked.
He shook his head and gave her a pitiful look. "Unfortunately I cannot. I deal with the littlest of the littles and they get fairly upset when I'm not there to read to them." He bowed. "Thank you for understanding and not holding it against us. The other students you allowed to come are far beyond what we could hope for in skills. They've taken to their assignments like they were born to it and have earned a lot of praise for it." He bowed again. "I will see you soon, when we bring the students back." She smiled and nodded. "Have a good term, headmistress." He left, heading back to the preserve. As he walked down the hallway he could still hear the yelling from the office. That girl would be very sorry for trying to take his Ron. He apparated to Diagon, they were spending their break at the family reunion and he had promised to pick up something for the dinner.
Ginny looked up as Snape snapped her name. "Yes, Professor?" she asked.
"What are you doing?" he demanded. "We are actually covering a subject that should be of interest to you."
"I'm writing something to soothe my nerves since my brother stole my girlfriend. There may be a lot of het porn floating around this school, but almost nothing in my own manner of sexuality." She heard the gasp and glared at the other students. "What? I know I'm not the only one in the school and I have to amuse myself somehow since none of the other girls around here interest me." She looked at the Professor again. "Did you want to spare your voice and have me answer questions about female sex, sir?"
He shook his head. "That is not necessary. I'm sure I can come up with things even you don't know about," he said smugly.
"Really? The Joy of Lesbian Sex was pretty thorough." He spluttered. "Ron got it for my last birthday, professor, so I wouldn't have any questions."
His eyes narrowed. "You have that in your room?" She nodded. "You will bring it to me. Such materials could get into the wrong hands and that is not allowed."
"With all due respect, sir, there are two lesbians in the sixth year who are very confused. Should I suggest that they fumble around and possibly get hurt?"
He groaned. She was just as trying as her brother had been. "No. You tell them to wait until next year and everything will be explained to them," he said patiently.
"That's fine, sir, but I've already have to counsel one of them after she got hurt." His face went paler. "Sorry, professor, but it was necessary. She wasn't going to go to the nurse and she needed to."
"Why would she need to?" one of the boys asked. "How can you get hurt doing it that way?"
"They were using an odd surrogate and it scraped her internally," Ginny told him calmly. "She bled for a long time. They sought me out for advice."
"I see," Snape sneered. "Do you suddenly feel qualified to advise on your form of sexuality?"
"For beginners. Not for the more advanced. I know there are women with more experience, but I also know all my precautions and can talk to someone about why they want to try that form of sex. The girl I went to for advice just asked me if I was sure and I told her that the male form held nothing for me."
"Then how are you going to have kids?" one of the other house's girls asked.
"Baster." She licked her lips. "It's a fairly simple procedure. I ask a friend for a sample, they shoot it into a cup, we pick up a special baster or an eye dropper, and insert the sample into me. It's been done now for centuries by women like me."
Snape nearly squeaked. That girl was so blunt! She had one weakness that he knew and he could use it to bring her down. "What about your former girlfriend? Did she not share the same view?" he taunted.
She sighed. "Hermione likes smart people. She doesn't really look at the genitals when deciding what sort of person she goes for, Professor Snape. In this case, she found someone who needed her, was smarter, and who could give her what she desired over all, someone to be there to listen to her espouse her views. Percy won and I'm not that unhappy about it. She was constantly reading me something."
The whole class laughed, they still remembered Granger quite fondly apparently.
He wouldn't have given up normally but it was time for them to be dismissed. "That book will still find itself within a professor's desk drawer by tonight," he ordered.
"Yes, sir, I'll give it to Professor McGonagall. I've memorized the good parts anyway." She picked up her porn in the making and left with the rest of the class. She looked at her best friend. "He wasn't so scary today," she noted.
"You're insane, Ginny, you really are," Luna told her.
Harry looked at the other members of the family, then at Ron, who was sulking in a corner thanks to his sister. "We really need to get Molly something nice this year for her birthday," he pointed out quietly, knowing she was in the kitchen.
"We've tried before," Bill pointed out. "She always seems to love them but she never wears them."
He smirked. "Then we'll get her something that she'll have to wear." He looked at Ron, nodding him back closer. "What about a bracelet with each of your names on it and a wellness check on them?"
"We've looked at those in the past, but they only go up to six kids," Fred put in.
"A charm bracelet would let her put however many she wanted on there," Ginny offered. Harry nodded at her suggestions. "We could each get her a charm that would represent us. They're inexpensive and the bracelet could be less than pricey depending on where we get it."
Ron grunted and they leaned back in their chairs, switching the discussion back to quidditch, asking Ginny how the house team was doing this year. Molly smiled at them, not at all bothered by the topic, she expected them to be talking about quidditch, they usually did.
Once she had went back into the kitchen, Harry flopped a catalog onto the table. Bill grabbed it first. "This is really nice stuff, Harry. Where is it from?"
"Athens," Ron said, glancing in the kitchen. "We've ended up there a number of times to look for new earrings." He smirked at Bill's shocked look. "I've only got two sets. The good set Harry gave me in apology when he ran out last year to fight the idiot, and my piercing set."
"Do they have a good selection?" Charlie asked, leaning over to look at the book.
Molly came back out. "Why are you looking at jewelry?" she asked, looking hopeful.
"They're helping me pick out something for my next girlfriend," Ginny told her quickly.
"Oh." She frowned. "The boys need to join themselves first, dear. You have time to find someone nice."
"Mum, I'm not getting married," Bill pointed out. He looked at Ginny. "Why is it that we share a taste in women? Except Hermione?"
Ginny laughed. "Because you used to bring home the flirty little creatures and they were the only women I knew outside of mum," she retorted. "Though there is one very nice young girl I've been writing to at Beaubaxton's. She's working with you guys, right, Ron?" Ron nodded. "So I save on post."
"I said I'd lend you Pig," Ron reminded her with a shrug. "I've got Harry's owl and she's not doing anything."
"I send out letters with yours," Harry agreed. "So does Charlie. So I can lend her Hedwig if she's agreeable."
"I like Hedwig," Ginny agreed.
He looked at her. "I meant Hedwig. You know how she is."
"Good point," she agreed with a smile. "Then I will graciously borrow Ron's Pig and leave you with the fussy one." Molly snorted. "What? This way you get more letters from me, mum."
"Good point," Molly agreed. "I want to meet this girl before you start doing more than writing letters."
"Well, she'll be going back to school in early November," Harry told her. "I'm not sure what she's doing for the holidays."
"You could come visit, mum, we'd even clean the house," Ron offered.
Charlie looked at him. "Really?"
Harry grinned. "Okay, you'd clean the house and we'll clean our room and the kitchen," he noted.
Charlie shook his head "Mother, these two are horrible. They're still keeping me up nights."
"If you weren't eavesdropping you wouldn't be awake," Ron said smugly.
"Ron, you yell," Bill told him. "That's how we knew when *you* were dating Hermione." Ron laughed nervously.
"He wasn't dating Herm, he only had a crush on her," Harry told him. "He never did anything about it because he thought he wasn't good enough for her." He smiled at Ron. "Good thing I like you, huh?"
"Can you ever forgive me, Harry?" Ron begged, falling to his knees and hugging Harry's waist. "I'm sorry she drew me and I reacted. I didn't mean to hurt you further."
Harry stroked through his hair. "She was targeting you, Ron. I'll forgive you for it. Never do it again?" Ron looked up with the biggest grin, shaking his head. "Good boy. Then sit before your knees get cold and achy." Ron climbed back into his chair and shifted it closer. "Charlie, do you feel odd without having a dragon nearby?"
"Usually," he agreed with a grin. "Missing the weight on your back?" Harry nodded.
"I'm wondering why there's no smell of hay," Ron admitted.
Molly rolled her eyes and shook her head. "You'll learn to appreciate clean air again I'm sure."
"We have clean air, mum; it's just that they're inside most of the day with the babies. Ron and Harry only do nursery and egg duty. Harry's had a nursery full of viper dragons since he came and Ron's been surrounded by hay nests."
"All viper dragons are cuddly," Harry told her. "Bert was not the exception."
"He's worn one or two home a few times," Ron said dryly. "They like to cling to his back."
"They get less cuddly as they grow up," Charlie told them. "Bert is the exception for his age."
"Yeah, but I only see them from hatching to about three months," Harry reminded him. "I get all the cuddly, awkward, deviant darlings before they grow up."
"I'm sure you're a very loving surrogate parent," Molly assured him, giving him a pat on the shoulder. The doorbell rang and she rushed off.
"Page 26," Harry told them, getting back to the prior conversation.
"Oh, Albus," Molly's voice drifted out.
"And two over has different charms," Ron offered. "All of them are about six sickles changed over and pure silver. They're muggle but that should please her and dad."
The catalog disappeared into Ginny's school bag when Molly came back out. She smiled at them. "Look who showed up," she said happily.
Ron waved. "Hi, headmaster. Are you enjoying not having us there?" he asked with a wicked grin.
"Definitely. There hasn't been a single piece of leather in the entire school so far this year," he said as he sat down. "Harry, how are you? Keeping up with your studies?"
"I read defense books to the babies," Harry told him. "Why? What's happened now?"
"Mr. Malfoy came to see me the other day. He seems to think you were hinting that you were going to come back and take over the country."
"Malfoy always did overreact," Ron said with a shrug.
Harry snorted. "It's more than that, Ron. The ministry person I got into it with yesterday was a big supporter of Lucius. Lucius was a big supporter of their Minister. I pointed out that Draco had thrown a party when we left Britain and that he'd probably send a hit squad or something equally nasty if anyone forced us to come back." Charlie choked and groaned. Bill shook his head.
Ginny giggled. "I'm sure he'd send Crabbe and Goyle after them since they are down there."
"We just found out Pansy's pregnant by one of them," Ron told her. Molly gasped. "Not the dragon, mum, that's impossible." He looked at Charlie. "It is, right?" Charlie nodded. "So it's human."
"The stepup handler was saying that our nursery nanny might be the one they'll introduce to Bert to break that group up," Harry told him.
"Good. Maybe they'll break the poor dears of their bad habits," Molly said firmly. "When will they send her home, Charlie?"
"If they try to separate her while she's preggers, Bert will snap, mum. It's like taking his egg-heavy mate to him. So we'll remove the baby as soon as we can and send it back to her parents."
"They're both dead," Dumbledore told him. "As a matter of fact, I have letters for each of those three about their family estates. The Ministry is just now getting around to dealing with the estates of the late Death Eaters." He pulled them out of a pocket and handed them over. "They're the last relatives, except a cousin of Goyle's who is underage."
"Wonderful," Harry said dryly. "So, how long should we dose Bert to keep him there while they travel?"
"We might have to chain him up again," Charlie said sadly. "He will go ape."
Molly clucked her tongue. "I'm sure they'll be fine. Your group handles such rehabilitations."
"They do," Ron agreed. "It's a slow process though. The baby might be weaned before we can get Pansy back and the guys won't let her be alone with him I bet."
"They won't," Charlie agreed. "That's why they joined her there." He tucked the letters into his jacket pocket. "I'll hand 'em over once I get back in a few days."
"That's still faster than owls," Dumbledore said with a smile. He looked at the boys. "Your little plan has netted the school an astounding amount of money and the Board of Governors wanted you to decide how to distribute it, Harry, since it was your idea in the first place."
"The quidditch teams' uniforms. Madam Hooch should get some. Snape probably needs some vile, expensive thing," he said with a shrug. "Who needs it?"
"As you thought, Madam Hooch did suggest we get some replacement brooms. We have a few that are all-but dead. Professor Snape has not put in a request for any of it. Professor Flitwick has asked for a new stand."
"If there's enough money, then do it," Harry said with a shrug. "I don't care."
"Thank you." He gave him a gentle smile. "I see you kept all those holes."
Harry nodded. "I'm still resisting Ron's tempting offer to do my navel."
"You'd think with all the tagging duties he has that he'd be tired of poking holes now," Charlie sighed. He looked at Ron. "You're not doing any on me."
"You're sure? A girl might like it when you finally find one," Ron teased with a bright grin. "They do feel incredible."
"The sort of girl I like wouldn't like that sort of thing," Charlie said firmly.
"The girls I date think my earring's wonderful," Bill told him with a smirk.
The twins coughed. "Let's get us mated first. We could use the help at the shop."
"I said I'd come work with you guys for a bit once I graduate," Ginny reminded them.
"And while that's a lovely thought," Fred offered.
"We need inventors," George finished. "We're dreadfully behind between the lab and the store."
"So let me run the store and you guys work in the lab," she pointed out. "We can try it over the holidays."
The twins looked at each other, then shrugged. "Fine," they agreed in unison.
"Will any of the rest of you be able to come back for the holidays?" Molly asked.
"Our holiday break is in early January now," Charlie told her. "We're in an Orthodox country. Bill?"
"Ramadan comes in January this year too," he offered. "Gringott's follows local holidays for each branch." He shrugged at Molly's hurt look. "I'll try, mum, but most everyone else goes off then too. I don't have seniority at the moment, there's one guy higher."
"As long as you try," she said. "I'd like to have an old-fashioned holiday this year."
Ginny patted her on the arm. "We always try, mother, you know that. Maybe we'll even bring good news of future lovers with us."
Dumbledore looked at her. "I was requested to talk to you about your small writing habit, young lady."
"I have to have something to stimulate myself. It's not like I go into the rooms downstairs, Headmaster. There is no lesbian porn running around the school so I had to make my own. Otherwise my roommates would worry that I was considering them – nasty though they are in that thought."
He pursed his lips, looking a lot like McGonagall at that moment. "I understand. Try not to spread it around. Also, please refrain from teaching the younger students. Even if they ask."
"I'm not going to let someone get hurt by doing something dumb," she said firmly, her eyes narrowing. "It's bad enough I had to help those poor girls last year who got attacked." He flinched. "If they feel comfortable coming to me, then I'm all for it. At least I have the safety and practical knowledge that they need. It's not like it's included in the sex ed classes."
"That is true," Harry agreed. "There were six or seven of the guys in our class who were having gay relations and almost nothing was said on it. For it being an open and admirable trait, as McGonagall told us, it's being treated more like the things Snape told us about." Charlie turned green. "Sorry if you have nightmares," he said with a grin.
Percy walked out of the house with his faithful shadow. "As requested, I brought her," he said coolly.
"Sit and shut it, Percy," Ron ordered. "Hey, Hermione," he said, giving her a smile and a wave. "Haven't killed him yet I see."
"Ron," Molly said firmly.
Ron looked at her. "He made you cry. I'm not forgiving enough for that, mother." She sighed and shook her head. "Sit, Percy. You look like an ass standing up." He looked at Harry. "Were we going to do any shopping for the group while up here?"
Charlie coughed. "Your trunk doesn't need refilled," he said firmly.
"We've had a few that were bought off us," Harry said with a grin.
"Fine," Harry agreed. "We'll only shop for personal use."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "What are you two going on about now?"
Charlie started to open his mouth then shook his head and blushed deeply. "Boys, you tell them."
"It's really lonely down there, Hermione," Harry told her. "Most of the trainers and handlers don't have mates of any sort. So we incorporated a few toys that we let them check out. It's not the same, but it adds a bit of variety to their lives."
She frowned. "You two are disgusting."
"We have them clean them," Ron offered. "It's a big hit."
"It is," Charlie sighed. "The potential mate market is pitiful unless you take up with a local and then you'd almost have to be married first. The few witches we've seen down there don't seem to believe in dating."
"That's not much different where I'm at," Bill offered. "The local witches are always under careful watch by their families and you can't go on dates with them unless you bring the entire family." He scratched the bridge of his nose. "Though one was offered to me the other day for seventy galleons. Her father was a bit pissed at her."
"You bought her?" Ginny asked, looking disgusted as she shuddered. "Mother, I promise I'll find a good girl as long as you don't offer me for sale that way."
Bill reached over to pat her on the knee. "I didn't. One of the other guys did and freed her of any obligation, though she is standing around mooning over him at the moment. I think his parents are going to force him to keep her."
"Make sure you get a nice one if you have to free some poor thing that way, Bill," his mother instructed. "That way you can send her back here and we can help her get back on her feet and independent."
"Yes, mother," he said dutifully, glancing at Charlie, who was shaking his head. "No one like that around you?"
"We've got farm folk around us," Charlie told him. "Ones whose families will want a lot of children to stay on the farm to help out."
"You did meet that nice administrative assistant," Ron reminded him.
"Yeah, I did," Charlie agreed with a grin. "She was nice, if a bit stiff. Her life is the Ministry though so I doubt I could entice her to join the team."
"I don't know, Charline was saying she missed her family," Harry pointed out. "We could use a good person to take on some of the office duties so the boss isn't overloaded and doesn't forget to pay people."
Charlie smiled and shook his head. "She and Steve are together, Harry. That's why she's stayed so long."
"I don't think she's going to stick around," Ron pointed out. "Besides, no one said the boss had to take up with this new one, you could have her."
"I'll keep her in mind if Charline leaves." He heard a pop and looked behind him. "Speaking of. Hi, Steve. What's happened now?"
"We've had the nursery cleared." Harry and Ron both opened their mouths. "One of the eggs split and it was already sick with the mumps. One of the students brought it. The hatchlings were moved up, Harry, all except her," he said, pointing at the one pitifully crying by his feet. "This one can't be moved up. She's not ready and none of the rest of the eggs hatched live."
"Ooh, you poor thing," Harry said, getting up to retrieve his precious burden. "Did they all leave you?" She clung to him, snuffing into his chest. "It's all right. You're a good girl and we'll take good care of you," he cooed.
"That's the biggest reason I'm ignored," Ron told his mother. "I'm not as cute as a newborn."
She swatted him. "Behave. Harry, may I see her?"
"Sure. She's a cuddly sucker. Odd for a steamer," he said as he passed her over. "That's Ron's mum. She hatched him and Charlie," he soothed, stroking down the shivering back. "You're freezing I bet." He took off his cloak but Charlie had his off first and wrapped the poor thing in it. "Boss, did you want us to keep her with us?"
"She's still a steamer, Harry. I don't want to think that she'd hurt anyone but accidents do happen and they are stronger than the average pit viper." He gave him a pleading look. "We don't really have any room for her and I can't allow her to get too used to humans."
"Hagrid," Ron said firmly. Everyone looked at him. "Hagrid's nuts over dragons, he'd take her in and she'd be as wild as she could be. He'd feed her table scraps and treat her like his dog, but Fang's still pretty wild."
"Hmm. Wouldn't he nurture her to death?" Harry asked. "He'd do the same thing I would, keep her around all the time so she became a pet."
"Not if you foster her out for six months," Charlie suggested. "Bring her back in the spring so she could have a few months with the step-up unit to make sure she could handle it?"
"Hogwarts has a unicorn, we could have a dragon," Ginny put in. "We do have a magical creatures program and Hagrid does know his beasts. Would it be so bad if it was a bit tame and stayed? If we kept it on the school for the purpose of teaching?"
"It's a steamer, Ginny. They've got frightful tempers," Charlie told her.
"So the kids like Malfoy duck really fast when they become arses," Harry pointed out. Charlie frowned at him. "We do keep a number of restricted creatures up there. How big was her mother?"
"Her mother was Fawn and her da was Meldrake," Steve told him. "Not that large on her ma's side. Her father's the biggest steamer we've got and he's got one ass of a temper most days. He's even worse than Norbert."
"Still, we could keep her as a beast to be learned about," Dumbledore put in. He smiled at the older handlers. "It would be a feather in our cap and Hagrid would force her to hunt. She wouldn't be a lap-dragon but she wouldn't be fully wild no matter which way you went. It would also make sure we didn't have any more Bert-like incidences."
"That's for damn sure," Ron snorted.
"Ron!" his mother warned.
"Sorry, mum, but steamers will bite whomever they think shouldn't be around them." He looked at their boss. "Go check up on our creatures. We can keep her here for a few days. Building her a house among the wood pile won't be that hard as long as someone could buy her food."
Steve nodded. "I can check but I won't promise anything."
"Just think, we could have more handlers in the making," Harry offered. "None of the other schools have had a dragon in years probably."
"About fifty of them," Steve told him. "Ours was the last one in Australia." He shook his head. "Fine. You keep her here for now and I'll check with your species people, see if there's any regulations. If not, we'll deal with it when you guys come back. Maybe she can live on your porch for now."
"Steve, it's been cold already," Charlie pointed out. "At least it's warmer up here."
"Yeah, me too. The school might be the best place for her. You saw how she went to a strange person. She's even now clinging to my mother."
"May I hold you?" Ginny asked, taking the baby dragon. It sniffed her then tried to burrow inside her shirt with her. "How old is she?"
"Not more'n a day," Steve told her.
"That is unusual for a steamer," Harry pointed out. "All the recent steamers have tried to eat me at least once. She's not even steaming."
"Our healers said she's capable but she doesn't." He shrugged. "I don't know what's going on."
"We get ones like that," Charlie pointed out. "We don't usually let them breed."
"True," the boss agreed. "All right, you keep her here. Try to make sure she isn't a pet, Harry and Ron. I'll check with the school and the locals. Oh, and Harry, you were right. Someone's already trying to get us on their side in the fights."
Harry snorted. "Fry them. Or have Norbert fry them. He doesn't seem to like politicians at all."
Charlie laughed. "That's so mean," he told him.
Harry nodded, beaming. "I know."
"Harry!" Molly said, shocked. "Did you threaten someone?"
He looked at her and nodded. "Hell yeah. He was threatening me so I verbally kicked his bum and made him cry. It was his own bad luck that got him nearly eaten."
She shook her head. "Ron, quit warping Harry."
"I warped him, Mrs. Weasley, not the other way around," Harry assured her with a bright grin. "After all, he hasn't gotten into a fight in a while."
"While I'm thankful he's settled down, I'm sure he could be keeping you more calm." She glared at her son, who shrugged. "Try, Ron."
"I do, mum. Harry's like a force of nature when he's pissed. All you can do is hold on and ride out the storm then pray it doesn't happen again." Harry punched him on the arm.
"That's fairly apt," Charlie agreed, smirking at Harry. "We were about to take bets on you hexing him."
"I would have punched him but I already hurt that morning," Harry assured him.
The boss left, shaking his head. He rode roughshod over some damn strange people.
Harry carried the poor darling up to Hagrid's hut and kicked the door with his foot. "Let me in," he said when it opened. Hagrid let him in with a smile. "You were told you were going to get a very special creature to finish raising?" Hagrid nodded eagerly so Harry lowered the cloak he had thrown over her. "This is her."
"Oh, she's adorable," Hagrid said happily. "What sort is she?"
"Short-nosed steamer." He put her onto the bed, watching as she sniffed everything. "She's only five days old," he told her. "Those are spot marking moves, Hagrid." The baby was quickly taken outside and held over an old bush, then cooed at when she watered them. "Good job. You need fast reflexes with them that young." He got comfortable. "I deal in the newly hatched so we made a deal. If you can make sure she grows up as dragonish as possible then you *might* be able to keep her for the school. The boss wasn't sure if it was okay or if it was possible." Hagrid beamed. "If she grows up too much like a lap-dragon they'll put her down," he finished. Hagrid frowned at that. "She's in a unique spot. There aren't any others her age and the nursery was infected with mumps so we'd have to raise her in our house too. She can't get too used to the human world, Hagrid, she simply can't. I won't lose my kits to that."
Hagrid sat down with her in his lap. "I'll do my best, Harry. Does she have a name?"
"Not yet. I don't name them, I wait until they're older and they start to have more personality." He leaned closer. "We're giving you a really hard job, Hagrid. She's already too cuddly for her own good. She's like a viper dragon instead of a steamer. She likes to cuddle for more than warmth."
"I'll make sure she's as dragonish as she can be," Hagrid said firmly. "Only five days?"
Harry nodded. "She was found a few hours after hatching and clung to her rescuer. I personally think that's what the problem is. If you can teach her to hunt, to protect herself, and to act like a dragon you'd be doing her a great favor. She's got to be more like a dragon to survive. The human-liking ones don't last because they go to play with the humans who live around the preserve and get killed."
"I'll protect her," Hagrid promised. "Can she sleep with me?"
"It'd be better if she slept with Fang in front of the fireplace for now," Harry told him. "If it's really cold, bring her into the bed, but don't let her get used to it." He pulled out a paper. "This is our usual feeding schedule and the supplements we use on the newly hatched. They're easy enough to have mixed if you can talk Snape into it. And I bet if you offered him her shed scales he'd do it without a lot of grumbling." Someone pounded on the door.
Hagrid set the little darling on the table and got up to answer it. "Professor Snape, we was just talkin' about ya," he said as he let him inside.
"I got your owl, Potter. What is the big emergency?"
Harry pointed at the dragon. "Our nursery got infected with mumps. She's five days old. We're letting Hagrid foster her to make sure she ends up a dragon instead of a lap-dragon." Snape looked at the little creature, who bleated at him. "That's why."
"She's too friendly by half," Hagrid said as he pulled another chair over. "Harry's got some supplements she'll have to take and he said I could give you anything she sheds."
"An admirable trade," Snape agreed. He looked at the list. "Chitin?"
"It makes the scales hard," Harry told him.
"I see." He picked up the beast and she whined. "I thought she was a steamer."
"She is. She doesn't like to steam people," Harry told him. "Rabbits she attacks. We found that out last night when one tried to invade her temporary home in the Weasley's woodpile." He smiled at Hagrid and stood up. "I'm available for whatever you need, Hagrid. Watch out for furniture. At that age, they like to nibble on it to teethe." He nodded at Snape. "If you can't handle or find the supplements she'll need, tell me and I'll have them ordered for you. I know you could use some of her byproducts and Hagrid will do excellently at raising her."
Snape looked at him. "You're too accommodating." He put her down, and she bleated at him again. "Is that why?"
Harry nodded. "If she isn't trained in how to be a real dragon, they could put her down. If she can be trained to be a real dragon, even if she stays a bit too friendly, there's talk about leaving her here for classes and training. If she stays as friendly as she is now, she'll have to be put down because otherwise she'll go find humans to live with and they'll kill her." He shrugged. "It's a matter of defending her. You could use the byproducts. Hagrid can train animals to be wild. The very fact that he put up with Norbert proves that. Together you two can make sure she doesn't curl up inside Gryffindor."
"Then I'll see what I can do about the supplements," Snape agreed. He looked at Hagrid. "Which beast of yours was Norbert?"
Harry laughed. "The reason we were out of bed that night, sir. Hagrid had found a dragon egg and had it hatch in here. We were sending it to Charlie." He looked at the sheepish Hagrid. "You'll be happy to know that Norbert is the meanest shit on the whole preserve. He ate a politician the other day. None of the trainers like to deal with him because he's so mean."
Hagrid beamed. "Good on him!" He patted this new one on the head. "Can I name her?"
"Go ahead. We do basic training with all the dragons so they'll hold still for the healers. We do sit, stay, hold, and come commands." Hagrid nodded, diving for some paper to make notes. "We also feed them six times a day. Keep her warm, keep her active or her wings may lock up. Expect her to trip over them a few times and make sure she doesn't hole them. Play 'chase the string' games like you would with a cat. That's how we move them around the preserve; we tag a long rope behind us with scent on it." Hagrid and Snape both nodded. "With that said, I've got to get back to the Weasley's. We're leaving tonight to go back. Charlie will come up every now and again to check on her. Try not to force her to eat things, Hagrid. She will attack rabbits and chickens." He shook Snape's hand. "Sorry if this seems rushed, but we're on a tight schedule. It's Molly's birthday tonight, sir. I'll be sending one of our favorite books with the students when they come back. By the way, the lone Slytherin is doing very good. She has just enough meanness to train and enough will to do it well. I think they might offer her a job." He clapped Hagrid on the arm. "Have fun with her. Remember, do not cuddle her. She already likes it. Oh, and she likes to be sung to for some reason. I found Ginny doing so this morning." He winked and left, heading down to the apparition point to go back home. He landed behind Ron and gave him a hug. "I put Snape and Hagrid working with her," he said as he wrapped his arms around him.
"I'm sure Snape was thrilled," Ron said dryly. He showed off the charm he had liked. "What do you think? Me?"
"Very you, Ron," he agreed. He kissed him on the back of the neck. "If you behave, I'll let you beg me later."
Ron beamed. "Okay." He put the charm onto the counter and bought it. The man even put the wellness check onto it for him. Then he connected it to the charm bracelet the others had put together. His was the last. "Did you want to buy one?"
"I'm not really one of her kids," Harry pointed out dryly. "This is for you guys."
"She'll try to add one for you and for Hermione anyway," Ron pointed out.
"Then that's her choice, Ron, not mine." He accepted the package and paid for his part of it, then walked Ron out of the shop. Ron shifted and looked at the shops around them. "You need paid before you go shopping," Harry reminded him.
"I know, I just wanna look," Ron pleaded. "Please? I won't even ask you to buy me anything but you could get an idea of what to get me for Yule."
Harry rolled his eyes and followed Ron around the shops, ending in the twins' shop as they were closing up for the night. He handed over the list of what Ron had given loving stares when Ron was looking at something on the other side of the store. He winked and handed over the box with the bracelet. "Come on, Ron, we've got to go. Remember, we leave later tonight."
Ron came back to his side. "Sure, Harry. Hey, Fred, can I bring back some of the flashers?"
"No," Harry said patiently. "They'll spook the dragons."
"That's why I want them, to put into my wilderness belt."
"That would be an excellent usage," George noted. "We'll ask Charlie what he thinks." He let them go in front of them through the floo back to the house, then looked at his twin. "What an odd use," he said with a smile.
"It'd keep him from being eaten," Fred pointed out. "Harry would not like that, he might gut the poor thing for it's bad taste. You can go first." He watched as his twin left, then set the alarms on the store and followed before they could get him.
Molly looked up as her boys brought out the cake, clapping in joy at the decorations. "Oh, it's so pretty," she told them, kissing each one on the cheek, including Harry and Hermione. "Thank you."
"That's not all," Ron said with a grin as he presented the box to her. "We all got this for you and it only works when you wear it."
"So this year you can't wear it for one night and pack it away," Bill told her.
She blushed. "You usually get me such pretty things and I don't want to ruin them."
"Mother, that's why we give them to you, because they're pretty," Charlie pointed out. He nodded at the box. "Open it."
She opened the ribbon and then lifted the lid carefully. She squealed when she saw the bracelet. "Oh, this is adorable!" she told them, lifting it out. "And a charm for each of you."
She glanced at Percy, who put a smaller box on the table. "I wasn't sure if you wanted it on there or not, mother," he said calmly. Hermione had shown him how bad he had been to his parents and why he was such a miserable bastard.
She put the bracelet on, admiring it. "It is beautiful, but I'd break it."
"It's got an anti-wear charm on it," Harry assured her. "They each bought their own charm and I bought the bracelet for you."
Ginny grinned. "The charms are wellness charms."
"But you've got to wear it constantly to power them so they work correctly," George put in.
"Or else they'll go flat and pout at you," Fred agreed. Charlie looked at him. "I had ours set so it would."
Molly hugged each of her children, and Hermione and Harry again. "Thank you all. I suppose I'll have to wear this year's then. Arthur, do you like it?" she asked, letting him see it.
"I do. It's an adorable idea," he said with a smile.
"It's a muggle tradition, dad," Ron told him. His face brightened. "Mothers get mother's day presents with their children's names and birthstones on them."
"Unfortunately there were too many of us for one of those," Ginny told him. "I'd have to have my own and let the boys have theirs."
"This way you can have all your children nearby, even when we're thousands of leagues away," Harry finished.
She wiped a tear off. "You are all so thoughtful. Thank you all." Arthur gave her a hug. "They are darling."
"They are," Arthur agreed with a smile for his children. "It makes me wish I had gotten you something better than a new dress."
"It's a lover's or a mate's prerogative to dress their significant other in a manner that pleases them," Harry assured him.
Fred looked at him. "Is that way Ron wears leather?"
Harry nodded. "Definitely, it makes his rear look cute." He grinned at Ron, who was blushing. "Think I'm kidding?"
"Keep it up, Potter. We do have a few days left and I will get you back," Ron reminded him.
Harry blew a kiss. "Then you can buy your own chocolate frogs."
"Never mind," Ron said quickly, grinning at him. Harry winked and shook his head. "Oh, come on, Harry," Ron begged. "Don't take away my frogs. I like my frogs, nearly as much as I like you. If you take away from frogs I won't have anything sweet to nibble on at night."
"Except him," Bill pointed out dryly.
"Hush," Ron said, shooting a glare at him. "I don't *nibble* on Harry. That'd be gross." He pulled his lover closer and hugged him, whispering in his ear. "I'm sorry, Harry. I really am. I'll fight my dick tooth and nail so it's satisfied by having you, the same way the rest of me is. I promise I won't follow that anymore." Harry gave him a short kiss. "Please? It's almost as bad as making me sleep alone."
"Oh, propose already," Bill said, rolling his eyes. "You're smarming the rest of us and making us sick, Ron."
Ron got to his knees. "If that'd make him happy," he offered with a shy grin.
Harry gasped. "Ron, you'd miss others," he said finally.
"No, I'm going to miss you if I go for others," Ron corrected. "Please?"
Harry pulled him closer and gave him a real kiss, noticing that Ron reacted like he used to for the first time in six weeks. "We'll see," he decided. "I'll buy you more frogs."
Ron nestled his head in Harry's lap. "Thank you. Hey, Charlie, when do we get paid again?"
"Next week, Ron," Charlie sighed. "You can buy him whatever special thing next payday." He looked at Harry. "Do you see what you started when you spoil him?"
"I like spoiling him," Harry said firmly, frowning at him. "He needs to be spoiled. It's not like you guys tell him he's doing a good job." He frowned at Percy when he said it. Percy ducked his head. "Besides, every now and then Ron needs spoiling, it's a fundamental human drive to crave approval."
"It is," Hermione agreed. "Ron seeks approval in many ways, the same as the rest of us do. I've seen him do some pretty dumb stuff to gain laughter, which made his whole week. Of course, I've seen him do incredibly nice things and not get noticed at all," she noted, giving him a smile. "If I never said it, thank you for that drawing, Ron. It was very pretty and it hangs on my wall even now."
"You're welcome," he said, blushing again. "Can we talk about something else?" he begged.
"Sure," Fred said, clapping his hands. "Who wants to come help us move stuff tomorrow?"
"We got the new space rented just today," George agreed.
"Wouldn't it be cheaper to buy the whole building you're in?" Ginny asked.
"It would, but it's not up for sale," Harry told her.
"When it goes up, it's ours," George assured her.
"Until then, we're paying a lot of rent to the estate of Draco's mother."
"Don't let him know that, he'll have you removed," Ron pointed out.
"There is a shop for sale up the street, but it's too near Knockturn for our tastes," Fred offered.
"There's that one next to Ollivander," Harry pointed out. The twins looked at him. "As we were walking past today they were taking down the sign. Mr. Ollivander was shaking his head sadly at it."
"We could check on that."
"They've got a fantastic amount of space in there," George agreed, looking at his parents. "Care to ask around with us tomorrow, mum?"
"You always did have the knack for squeezing extra out of a large space," Fred noted.
She smiled. "I'll come up in two days and help you look around," she promised. "I heard the herbologist was moving as well. They sent out announcements."
"Yeah, but that places smells and probably always will," Charlie reminded her.
George frowned at Harry. "Speaking of smelling, what was with the grass scent on your bed?"
"It's a rotating scent charm," Ron said proudly. "The type of bed we bought is made specially for active people. It came with the charm."
Harry nodded, sipping his drink. "The bedding store said it's used in many fine hotels and other accommodating places."
Arthur's eyes went wide. "Really?" he asked with a smile. Harry grinned and nodded. "Well. I haven't seen one of those in many years." Molly nudged him. "Sorry, but they are very well-built mattresses, Molly."
"They are," Charlie agreed. "I got the one I had given them. It still squeaks but I don't bounce and thrash around each night so I don't get woken up by the noise from it."
Percy cleared his throat as he stood up. "Perhaps we should let the boys go back to the preserve tonight," he suggested. "Before they embarrass themselves further." He suddenly fell over and started to snore.
"Well, dirt," Hermione whined. "I hate it when he does that." She stood up. "Every time he thinks about bed he passes out these days. That's on top of the other times." She gave him a rude shove. "Wake up!"
"I thought you had to kiss him," Bill teased.
"Sometimes I don't." She sighed and gave up, kissing him gently. "Percy Weasley, you shameless tramp, get your rearend up!" she demanded. He slowly woke up and blinked at her. "Good morning. Perhaps you should go home, not everyone else."
"I'm sorry," he said, standing up. "I don't know how to fix this yet." He hurried off, heading home.
"I think you embarrassed him, Hermione," Ginny pointed out.
"He probably deserves it," she said grimly, waving before she followed him. She found him lying on the stairs, curled up and snoring, and had to wake him up again to put him into bed. In the morning she'd probably have to kiss him to wake him up; it was like they were lovers or something.
Back at the house, Charlie was helping the twins enact a plan. He was had created the portkey back to the 'preserve' for the boys so they wouldn't have to concentrate so hard due to their continued tiredness. He handed it over and smiled as they left. Then he and the twins burst out laughing.
"What did you do?" Arthur asked patiently.
"We gave them a way to sleep a lot more and to finish this fight in private," Fred told him.
George nodded. "We created a little haven just for them and paid for it for a week. Charlie made sure they had enough time off."
Charlie beamed. "They're in a special hotel room. One without a door. Without a window. Without a tv. No books. No radio. No nothing except for them, some lube, the bathroom, and a few carefully selected presents marked as coming from the other," he said smugly. "Steve helped."
"Your boss helped them with their marital spat?" Bill asked.
Charlie nodded. "Yup. They don't have anything to do right now. The healers have the nursery quarantined for the next week so they can't start the cleaning. They're not mean enough to work in the infirmary or the breeding pens and I don't want them training or handling the adults because they'll get hurt the first time they try to cuddle them," he said dryly. "Steve decided that their fighting was bringing morale down so therefore they get a few extra days off. They already had a week and three days, so it'll only be an extra two or three." He grinned at the twins. "Of course, I owe them a few scales."
"I'm sure we can find a good use for them," Fred said. George was rubbing his hands together.
"It had better not be more pranks," Molly said firmly.
"Mother, surely you don't want us to go out of business," George sighed.
Fred groaned. "Our own mother is joining the ranks of those people who think we're destroying all the good things about the wizarding world by perverting it," he agreed, shaking his head.
"It's a sad day when your own mother wants you to give up a good paying job that you love," Ginny agreed. Molly swatted at her. "Easy, mum, that bracelet will scream if one of us are hurt. It might even be enough to keep Percy awake."
"He's had a very trying time," Molly assured her.
"Mother, there's nothing trying about being liplocked with Hermione. Trust me, I'm nearly an expert in the subject." She stood up. "With that bit shared, I'm going to go do my homework so the parents won't think you're corrupting me. My other penpal wants a letter about you guys." She strolled into the house, going to write some more porn. She'd ask Bill later if he thought it was any good. He seemed like he'd like it.
Molly looked at the boys. "Don't encourage her. You may have turned out to be great sluts, but she doesn't need it."
"Mother, she's only dated two girls," Bill told her.
"Two?" Arthur asked. "I only heard about Hermione."
"She's having letter sex with her French girlfriend," George said with a grin.
"Virginia Weasley!" Molly shouted as she stood up and walked into the house.
The twins burst out in giggles, leaning against each other.
Bill looked at Charlie. "And you thought our weekend with Harry and Ron last year was fun," he taunted.
"I still think that one was more fun. Mum wasn't there to yell at us," Charlie pointed out.
The twins giggled. Their older brothers were cool after all.
Ron and Harry looked around the room they found themselves in. "Did you redecorate?" Harry asked.
"I have better taste than this," Ron noted. "I have always had better taste than this."
"Yeah, I guess you have. You never demanded a round bed," Harry said, frowning at it.
Ron turned to look at it. "That can't be comfortable unless you cuddle."
"I think that's the point," Harry noted. He looked at Ron. "Charlie?"
"The twins," Ron groaned, slumping a little. "Fred and George kept telling me I should apologize faster." He gave Harry a hug. "I'm sorry they trapped you in my hell."
"Your *hell*?" Harry asked.
Ron waved a hand around. "It's maroon, Harry. Everywhere in this room is that awful color mum used to force me to wear. It's all maroon."
"I think it's supposed to be blood red," Harry offered. Ron shuddered. "You know, like valentines hearts?"
Ron looked around again. "Then someone's color blind."
Harry looked around again. "There's no tv."
"What's a tv?"
"That thing you watch movies on." Harry moved away, stepping further into the scary room. He heard a ding and pulled Ron behind him, his wand instantly drawn and pointing at where the ding had come from. A small tray popped into view and on it was a note, a flower, and a pitcher of juice. "Uh-huh," he said. "All this and no noise. I'm going to be insane by the end of a few days."
Ron got free of Harry's hand and walked over to grab the note. "The twins," he announced, waving it. "It's a honeymoon suite."
"We're not married," Harry said patiently, taking the note to read. He grimaced. "I will get Charlie back for this."
"He was trying to help me, Harry, don't be mad at him."
Harry looked at him. "Ron, when I said I needed noise to stay sane, I meant it," he told him. "I loathe the quiet. I hate it. It makes me shudder and have nightmares. I adore you because you snore." Ron looked hurt. "Think about it, what happens when you're in a forest and everything goes quiet?"
"Danger's coming," Ron blurted, then he suddenly looked like he got it. "We'll look around, make sure you have your noise. I don't want you going barmy on me while we're here. I might end up needing a healer if you find another chainsaw." Harry winced. "Yes, I heard about that," Ron said patiently. "It was in the papers, Harry. All about your insanity. It stretched across many pages."
Harry whimpered. "Sorry, Ron. I didn't want you to have to see that."
"Don't worry, I love you in spite of your insanity," Ron admitted with a grin. "Come on, we might as well look around this version of hell." He led the way into the bathroom, noting the large tub. It resembled a champagne flute and had a short set to stairs up to it. "You can't take a bath in that," Ron said. He looked around. "No shower? How am I supposed to do my hair?"
Harry moved the door and pointed at the small shower stall. "In there, Ron. It's even got a pulse head. This place is meant to make you feel romantic and cuddly."
"It's giving me a headache," Ron told him. "Can we escape and go somewhere nice? I'll even pay you back."
"Ask the twins," Harry reminded him. "I didn't plan this." He looked around and shuddered again. "Eww, bug!" he said, backing away from it.
Ron stomped on it. "You'd think you were me," he snorted, going back out to the bedroom. He grabbed the juice and drank a glass while he searched the desk for some paper and a pen. Surely they could request things. He found something he wasn't quite sure about and coughed, bringing Harry. He pointed at it. "What's that?"
"It's a headset," Harry said, grabbing it and putting it on. He smiled at the pleasant voice on the other end. "Hi, this is Harry Potter. Yes, in that room," he said with a nod for Ron. "No, we just found a huge bug, looked like a roach, in our bathroom. No, like size ten shoe size. Yes, one of those," he said quickly. "No, we were put in here by his well-meaning older brothers. We've had an ongoing spat recently." He gave Ron's a thumbs up. "Really? No, I hadn't been aware of that. Sure. Please, by all means, that would be fine. I'm sure you'll find us a stunning place and it'll be wonderful." He pulled the headset off and put it back onto the table. "Fred and George have worse timing than Ginny does in the changing rooms. This place is supposed to be torn down next week, not even a day after we leave. They're going to relocate us after they tell Fred and George." He looked around. "Hopefully to a nicer place."
"Yeah, one with a large shower. I like baths and all, but I like doing my hair."
Harry looked at him. "You and your hair are very involved. Are you planning on marrying it?" he teased. Ron pounced him, tickling him until he gave up. "I'm sorry!" he begged. "Please don't hurt me! I've got to use the loo!"
"Fine," Ron agreed, letting him up. He grabbed their bags and went back to the spot they had been standing in, waiting on Harry to come back. Another ding signaled another tray, this time with another note on it alone. "Harry, come on." Harry came out, doing up his pants. Once he was presentable, he walked into the slightly darker circle and took the paper to read as well. They counted backwards from five like it said and the portkey took them off again. This time they landed in a room decorated in gold and creme, a sitting room to be precise. Ron nodded. "Much nicer decor."
"And you thought I sounded gay in the clothes shop?" Harry asked. Someone coughed so they turned to look at him. "Hello, the other hotel sent us here?"
"Yes, we got the call from them. We're sorry about the mixup, gentlemen. Would you like to sit down while we work this out?" They nodded and sat, watching as he made a few calls. He finally grunted in annoyance as he put down the phone. "This would have to happen during convention and tourist season," he said in disgust. He looked at them. "They've put us in a very awkward spot, gentlemen. We don't have any rooms here, they've long since been booked up. The person who booked your room did so in error because the patron hadn't checked in yet. He did that a few moments before you arrived however." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm not sure what I can do for you right now, but you can stay in here until we figure something out. Feel free to use the floo if you need to." He walked out, closing the door behind him.
"I didn't know wizarding places were this nice," Ron said, glancing around again.
"This is a place for people like Draco," Harry said, heaving himself back up. "Think the twins are at home or at the Burrow?"
"They'd be at the Burrow probably," Ron offered, watching as Harry went over to call them and tell them their diabolical plan had failed. The part about Ron throwing him over for his ponytail made Molly crack up and the twins soon showed up and took them off, leaving a note that they had fixed it.
Harry and Ron found themselves in a third room. Not as opulent as the last one and definitely nicer than the first one. This one had a lot of wood, a huge bed with a lot of pillows and a fluffy comforter, and it had a television across from the bed. A basic hotel room. Ron walked over and flipped open the chart lying next to the phone, then frowned, handing it over. "It's in Arabic," Harry said, frowning himself. They'd be killed if someone thought they were together in an Islamic country. He turned the page and it was in Dutch. "Okay." He kept flipping until he came to the English page. "We're in Sweden," he announced. He looked at Ron. "We're in a four star mixed hotel in Sweden. There is a gym downstairs if we want it. There are three restaurants. There is even a large bar. There is pay-per-view. There is satellite service. There are a number of things that even I don't know how to use." He handed it over, smiling at him. "The only drawback is that it's ten degrees outside."
"More incentive to cuddle," Ron said with a leer as he tossed down the booklet and advanced on his mate. "I should torture you for that crack about my hair, Harry."
"Why? You spend more time on it than you do talking to me most days."
Ron stopped and looked at him. "Do you honestly believe that?"
"Ron, I've counted. You spend more time washing your hair than you do talking to me most days." Ron slowly shook his head. "Yes, you do. I'm becoming your bitch again and I really don't like that feeling."
"I talk to you all the time," Ron told him.
"Maybe in your head, but I never hear it."
"Oh." He frowned. "Does that mean I didn't tell you about my sixth birthday party?" Harry shook his head. "Yes I did, I told you about it six days ago."
"Ron, I wasn't there that day," Harry reminded him. "I was at Beaubaxton's."
"Oh." His smile fell away. "I'm sorry. I guess I wanted to tell you and I decided what to tell you but I never actually said it out loud. I guess you can't read my mind."
"I can sometimes," Harry offered, more to ease the hurt look on his lover's face.
"It's nice of you to say, Harry, but you can't," Ron told him.
"I can sometimes. Sometimes you're very easy to read," Harry told him. He pulled Ron closer, hugging him. "I'm sorry, Ron. I didn't know it wasn't intentional."
"That's okay. I guess it's a good thing they decided to lock us in somewhere so we could get through all this, huh?"
"Either that or we take advantage of the library and do some dark arts research," Harry said finally. Ron gave him a look of disbelief. "There are things that will allow us to be closer bound that our earrings." He touched Ron's ear, frowning. "You lost yours."
"Yeah, about two weeks ago, I told you about that too I thought. I lost it in the shower."
"No wonder!" Harry said, hitting himself on the forehead. "We need to replace it. It's what was linking us so closely. I noticed earlier Hermione wasn't wearing hers anymore. You lost yours. I'm still wearing mine. That's what was creating that closeness link."
"Then maybe I shouldn't replace it," Ron pointed out. "So we can make sure it's us and not the earring?"
"We'll replace it in a few days," Harry promised, giving him a hug. So many things made sense now. "This is probably why I've felt so lonely recently too," he said quietly against Ron's neck.
"I'm sorry, Harry, if I had realized...."
"Ron, you're cute, but I'm the brains in this outfit," Harry joked weakly. Ron nodded and snuggled in harder. "Sorry, it was supposed to be a joke."
"I am cuter in leather," Ron reminded him.
"Yes, I am," Ron said with a grin, pulling back to wink at him. "I also get approached more when I'm in leather than you do. Remember the last trip to Athens?"
Harry frowned. "They thought you were selling yourself, Ron, I'm not sure that's a compliment. And one of them was a cop."
"Well, yeah, but more people still approached me than you," he said smugly. "Therefore I look better in leather than you do." He stole a quick kiss. "I'm going to check out the bathroom."
"Sure. Have at it," Harry said, laying back on the bed. He shifted a few times. "The bed's smooshy."
"Joy," Ron noted. "We've got a standard bathroom. Nothing special. He came out when he heard the popping noise of someone apparating in. The twins were frowning at them, their arms crossed. "Didn't mean to send us here?"
"No, we didn't," George admitted. "Fred got the coordinates backwards."
"Wouldn't changing them put us in Antarctica?" Harry asked.
"No, it'd put you on a small island," Fred told him.
"Who lives there?" Ron asked.
"No one, but Lee said it was nice. He honeymooned there."
"Do they like gay people?" Harry asked.
"That's what landed you here," George admitted. "He's horrible at making portkeys so he puts a safety charm on each one so he doesn't end up somewhere odd." He rolled his eyes. "If either of you were a girl it'd be so much easier."
"Ron has the hair for it," Harry pointed out. Ron glared at him. "Sorry, but you do."
"I do not. You'll be thankful of all this hair if I start to go bald like dad is."
Harry looked at him. "If you start to go that bald, you're cutting it all off," Harry told him firmly. "You'd look funny with all that hair in the back and none on top."
Ron waved a hand. "See what I have to put up with?"
"So where are we going this time?" Harry asked.
"Somewhere much nicer," Fred assured him, grabbing him and Ron. "Get the bags, George. Since Lee's idea was your idea, you can get the bags." He took the boys with him, going to lock them into a small room in the very top of their shop. Next summer it would probably become Ginny's, but for now it was perfect to lock the guys into. It even had it's own bathroom. The bags popped in after them and then he left, making the door disappear behind him.
"Well," Ron sighed, sitting down on the bed. "It's comfortable."
Harry looked into the bathroom. "It's very nice in here too. A big bath and a shower head or two."
Ron looked at Harry. "Can we stay here for a bit? My stomach's upset."
"Sure," Harry agreed, giving him a kiss. He led Ron over to the bed and decided simply cuddling him was the best thing in the world, again.
Ron and Harry apparated back onto the preserve and went to the office first to check back in. "We made it back," Ron announced.
"The twins were insane," Harry agreed.
"You ended up staying with relatives?" the boss asked, kicking back and putting his feet up onto the desk.
"Oh, yeah," Ron agreed, nodding. "First it was the cheesy maroon hotel that had bugs, then it was a really nice one that couldn't find us a room, then it was the nice one in Sweden we went to accidentally, then the twins finally took pity on us and locked us in their attic."
"I thought you were going to the family reunion," he said, looking confused.
"We did," Harry agreed. "This was after that. When we were supposed to have come back."
"Ah. Charlie said something about that. Is it fixed, boys?"
Ron played with his new earring, it was screwed in and then soldered shut. "It is," he agreed. He touched Harry's earring and felt the warmth flow across to him. Harry's new one was the same way. "We figured out what went wrong, talked a bit to get the underlying things resettled, then put in a new set of linking earrings."
"You guys have linking earrings?" the boss asked, looking confused. "Why?"
"Fighting," Harry said with a shrug. "It seemed like the best idea at the time."
"Okay then." He grinned at them. "Does this one have any differences?"
"The old ones made us close, but I lost mine," Ron admitted. "This new set are much closer and much more intense. Gave us a headache for the first day until we figured out how to get rid of the nasty confusing barriers between us. Now we're pretty well cozy and right."
"And still not completing each other's sentences," Charlie called from the back room. "Is that what that was all about?"
"No, it was losing it that made me feel more alone so I noticed things like Ron had quit talking to me."
"Then the veela thing happened," Ron put in.
"Then all those other insecurities," Harry agreed, smiling at Ron.
"Plus the lack of sex," Ron added.
Harry nodded. "Definitely." He looked at Charlie again. "We don't tend to complete each other's sentences anymore, Charlie."
"It makes people give us funny looks and Harry hates being watched," Ron finished.
"You guys can do it around here," the boss offered.
Harry shook his head. "Nope, we can't."
"Yeah, some of the older trainers started to make fun of him," Ron admitted. "I'd rather not have Harry lose his temper on one of them."
"Me too," Charlie said quickly.
"I don't lose my temper that often," Harry pointed out dryly. "It's been months since the last bout."
"A few extraordinary months," Ron agreed. "You only really lost it twice while we were in school."
Harry beamed at him. "I remember the look on his face. It was rather charming and confused."
"Definitely," Ron smirked.
"Huh?" the boss asked.
"Oh, Malfoy," Ron said, waving a hand.
Harry nodded. "Right before the leaving feast he cornered us and went off, and me, having had the crappiest of days," Harry told him.
Ron butted in, "We're talking the most horrible of the horrible. Like Snape on the rag sort of horrible."
Harry shuddered. "So when he started to sneer at us, I lost it," he finished with a shrug. "For the second time in his presence things flew around without me using my wand."
"A chair nearly brained him," Ron added, smiling at his mate.
Harry chuckled. "He got so pale the ghost that came to check on the disturbance thought he was going to die too, welcomed him to the other side."
Ron groaned and shook his head. "Thankfully no one made us clean up the mess. The duel was kind of amusing though."
"Duel?" Charlie asked.
Harry beamed at him. "Snape decided we should have one duel to end it. One duel with mostly harmless hexes and charms so I couldn't really kill Malfoy." He shrugged and leaned against Ron's side.
"He crawled away begging for mercy," Ron said smugly. "Harry cast one curse and it made him fall to his knees and beg. He even crawled over and hugged Harry's legs."
"And probably cast a 'may your life be interesting' wish or something," Harry finished with a hand wave behind Ron's back. "Hence our life." He grinned.
"Damn," the boss said, looking at Charlie. "What did you cast?"
"Impotencia Totalis," Harry said smugly. The guys burst out laughing. "He didn't want to be the bitch in his arranged marriage either." He picked up their bags. "We're back, and we bought special clothes so we could scrub with bleach and not ruin our usual things."
"Excellent. You can do that tomorrow, boys. The healers have just declared that you guys can get in there and clean." They nodded, heading back to their cabin. "Wow."
Charlie clapped him on the back. "I knew it was something more than the stress but not something major. See, the extra two days did them good and you didn't have to pay them for standing around."
"You're right, this time," the boss agreed smugly.
One of the older trainers walked into the office. "Was that the two fairies who act like twins?" he asked. The boss raised an eyebrow.
"Why?" Charlie asked.
"Because we could use help out in the field since they're not busy."
"They have nursery duty because they have a gift for the young," the boss said firmly. "I wouldn't put them out in the field. They'd have the dragons tamed and eating from their hands within days." The man looked stricken.
"As for them being *fairies*," Charlie said firmly. "I didn't see any wings at all on my brother's back, or any other part of him." The trainer backed away, looking scared now. "In case you didn't know, the other of that pair is Potter."
"P...Potter?" he stuttered.
The boss nodded. "Yes, that one. And he's got the gift of taming anything he wants to tame. Did you really want to work with him?"
"Hell, no!" he said quickly. "That boy's dangerous! Let him deal with the littles. Non'a the recent ones have gone bad so he's got to be good there. Wouldn't want him hexing my Daisy into bits because she snorted him once too often." He turned and left as quickly as he could.
"Harry's reputation is not getting any better," Charlie sighed, sitting down and putting his feet up on the side of the desk. "He doesn't like it when people are scared of him."
"I bet he doesn't, but he probably expects it these days," the boss said soothingly. "Any luck on that paperwork?"
"No," Charlie moaned. "Why did she have to leave?"
Ron walked in, beaming. "Harry heard." Charlie and the boss both shuddered. "He's not mad, he doesn't want to go ruin a dragon by making it like people too much either. But he did send me to give you this floo message that's apparently been on our floor for the past two days." He handed over the scroll. "Wasn't she the secretary?"
Charlie beamed. "You're a saint, Ron. Go ahead and use all the hot water tonight."
"Harry's figured out how to put a heating charm on the shower head," he said smoothly. "There will be enough hot water all around." He strolled back out, going to pick up the boxes they had the shops send instead of bringing back themselves.
Charlie stood up and walked over to the floo. "I may have a date tonight, Steve, all right if I go?"
"Sure, bring her back with you," Steve said, watching as the boy pulled out his smooth act for the prettyish woman. Not stunning surely, but pretty enough in a homey way. She looked like someone's kid sister. Dark brown hair, slightly chubby cheeks. Glasses. She forgave him instantly and agreed that they could go out that night. She had an event to go to and hadn't had an escort anyway. She even sympathized that their former secretary had left. She even offered a friend of hers in return, who had worked in the species department in Germany until she had quit over her boss trying to bed her. Wow, that woman was wonderful! He did hope Charlie got in with her. He needed a distraction.
Ron walked into the office, smiling at the nice woman behind the desk, or at least she was nice to him. He handed her the flower he had picked out of their garden. "Morning, love. Any news on our checks?"
"Steve's presently pulling his hair out over them," she told him as she fussed the flower into place in a vase of fresh tea, the local water wasn't good for them according to her earlier rants about it killing the flowers he had brought her before. She smiled at him. "You are so sweet, Ron, why do you stay with *him*?"
He beamed. "Because he understands me." He nodded at Steve's door and she waved a hand. "Thanks." He walked into the office and gently closed the door. "You can hold it back until we get time off again," he noted as a greeting.
"If I do that, it screws up the paperwork," Steve assured him as he tossed his pen down. "Somehow one of our accounts was eaten in the records."
"No, back at home. We're sure it was one of the Board." He shrugged. "The bank knows about it." He leaned back in his chair and stretched. "This is why they pay me the meager salary and the bonus of liquor."
Ron laughed. "So you cut checks that you don't hand out."
Steve looked at him. "I can't do that, Ron. It'll mess with the books too bad. We need a real accountant back in Britain." He sighed and closed his eyes. "I wish I could mail a dragon to someone so they'd get eaten over this."
"So send Harry." Steve chuckled. "Seriously. Or our brother Bill. He's off for the next month and bored. He's at the Burrow, we talked to him last night over the floo."
"Hmm, not a bad idea." He smiled. "Thanks, kid. You are smart."
"Yeah, even if Charlie won't see it." He nodded back toward the door. "Anything you need us to do? We're still scrubbing the nursery portion down."
"Nah, just that. Remember to ventilate the place so you don't get sick." Ron nodded. "Have fun, kid. We've had one female in heat so eggs should start coming in within a month to a month and a half."
Ron beamed. "That'll make Harry so happy."
"I like to keep him happy, him being happy seems to make others around here happy."
"Yeah," Ron said, scratching the back of his head under his ponytail. "I don't know how that rumor that he was insane and dangerous got started." The boss laughed. "I don't," he said with a further shrug. "It's like someone's trying to drive him off."
"Nah, it's in reaction to what he did to that politician." Steve grinned. "Besides, everyone thinking he's dangerous keeps the other guys from pranking you."
"No one had better prank us," Ron said firmly, crossing his arms. "I don't like being the butt of jokes. I get enough of that at home."
"I figured as much. Just continue to keep your mate happy and everything will settle out soon enough. We both know that Harry's steady on and more than capable of doing the work."
"Did someone say he wasn't?"
"Yeah, but that's okay. There's always some bitter people after we fire someone. This time it was two of them so they're really down on anyone near them. Don't worry about it. You got your job on your own merit and we keep Harry because he's good with the newborns. Relax and it'll settle itself out soon enough."
"Sure, Steve. We trust you and Charlie." He waved. "Don't worry about our pay bags for the moment. We can be paid last." He walked out, giving the secretary a smile before he headed back to the bleach and his scrub brush.
She stood up and walked to the door. "Steve, is Potter really unbalanced? I didn't think Ron was someone who'd stay with someone dangerous."
"Harry's only dangerous to those who threaten him," he said gently, giving her a smile. "The guy's a neat little guy and very good at what he does. We've never had a better nursery keeper than him. The littles all adore him and he protects them against some stupidity that you wouldn't believe. He even took care of someone who came in drunk and wanting to kick one of them last week while watching the step-up unit." She nodded. "I don't know where you heard the rumor from, but he's not dangerous. Though," he admitted with a grin, "the more fuss we make about this rumor and the way some people stare at him, the more likely he is to snap. He doesn't like that stuff."
"He doesn't?" Steve shook his head. "But I heard he was in it for the glory."
"Then why did he turn down a spot on the Greek and Albania professional teams?"
"Oh." She pursed her lips. "I didn't realize he had." She went back to her desk to think while she wrote up letters. "Dear Mr. Malfoy," she whispered as she wrote. "We have in our books that you promised us a substantial amount of money last year and have no notation of it ever being gifted. Due to our current Board of Governor's problems and the recent theft at the bank, we are in dire need of your help at this point and ask that you remember your promise, before we have to send back some of our wonderful animals and trainers. I know you went to school with a few of them and would desire to see them back in the country but we would like to keep them here, if only we can be assured your donation is on the way. Otherwise we may have to cut our staff by half..."
Ron looked up as Charlie walked up to him a few days later. "Hey," he said with a grin. "We've finally got the full nursery scrubbed. Any sign of eggs?"
"Not yet." He handed over a letter. "It was addressed to you. It's from Malfoy?"
Ron pulled his bootknife and slit open the envelope, frowning at the paper's contents. Then he burst out in giggles. "Harry!" Harry came running. "They hit Malfoy up for his father's promise."
Harry read the short note, then burst out in giggles. "We'll send back a note saying that I had no plan of going anywhere near him on my infrequent trips back to check on your family and to thank him for his generous donation."
Charlie snatched the letter to read for himself, slowly smiling as terse message started to make sense. Malfoy had promised them a million galleons if they only kept Potter and Ron there. That if he was vexed by their proximity he might have to get very upset and refuse any further donations to the preserve, though he would allow that the holidays were important enough that he would graciously allow them back into the country of their birth for such matters. As long as they stayed away from him. He shook his head.
"I'll write him a thank you note tonight," Harry called after him. He hugged Ron's side. "That was so cool of our new secretary."
"It was," Ron agreed, kissing him on the forehead. He noticed one of the trainers walking down the path stared at them and he patted Harry on the rear for good measure, earing a frown. "What? I make him happy."
Harry beamed at the person who had started all those rumors about them. "Any signs of eggs?"
"Not yet," he said dryly, walking their way. "Still feeling odd?"
"I haven't felt odd since we finally got to take our time off," Ron told him with the biggest grin.
The man looked him over. "You sure about that?"
"Yeah, I get shagged regularly again and all my funny mental issues seem to have disappeared." He looked down at Harry. "Yours?"
"Mine never were more than a bad temper and a desire not to be a pawn," Harry pointed out. "I might have been nicer to that politician if it hadn't been for the other problems and needing a vacation."
The trainer snorted. "You didn't get one?"
"Nope," Ron told him, shaking his head. "Without anyone competent in the nursery, we ended up working it twenty-four/seven for nearly three weeks straight." The guy's eyes widened. "That's why he was in such a bad mood."
"That and the veela trying to steal you," Harry snorted. He heard a small sounding bleat. "Was that a goat?"
"No." The trainer looked around. "I've heard that a few times, I was looking for the source."
Harry let Ron go and whistled gently. Any of his young knew that and came running, just like the older trainers had taught him to teach them. He heard the bleat again and headed for the tree it was coming from, smiling at the little creature in it. "Well, hello there, pretty one. How are you today? Are you stuck?" It bleated at him again. "Hey, Ron, get me my broom," he called. "I think we can unstick this one easily enough." He heard a larger dragon coming their way and glanced around. The little looked so scared. "Was he picking on you?" he asked, frowning and putting his hands on his hips. "That just is not allowed." Ron came back with Harry's broom and handed it over. "There's an adult around here, I think it scared her." He floated up, pulling level with the branch. "How did you get all the way up here?" he soothed as he floated closer. He saw the claw marks and winced. "You poor baby. Come on, let's get you to the infirmary. The nice ones are on duty today." He gently grabbed the baby and held on with his knees while it struggled a bit. "Shh, I've got you," he soothed, petting it until it calmed down. Then he slowly landed them and let Ron catch his broom. He walked the baby toward the infirmary, but was stopped by an adult. "Out of the way," he ordered. It leaned down to sniff him. "Move! Now!" The dragon stared him down and Harry tapped a foot. "I'm not in the mood for you older ones. Move, now." The baby was shivering in his arms. "Now!" The dragon looked away and twisted it's head away from him. "Thank you." He walked the baby into the infirmary. "I think this one's going into heat a little early. She was up a tree."
The healer clucked and took the baby from him, looking it over. "Oh, you're a small little ridgeback, aren't you?" she cooed. The baby bleated at her then nuzzled Harry. "I think you made a friend."
"I saved it from the big one outside."
"Ah." She grinned at him. "Without your wand?"
"Just stared it down," he said with a blush, looking down at the little one. "How old is this one?"
"It looks to be a late hatching. Maybe as old as your last set." She smoothed some salve over the scrapes. "We'll send her to the step-up unit once she's better, Harry. Thank you for saving her."
"Ehh, it got me away from one of the people who thinks I'm dangerous to everyone."
She kissed him on the cheek. "If we're ever attacked, I'm hiding behind you," she promised with a grin. He blushed further and walked out, going back to Ron's side.
Ron turned Harry's head and frowned at the lipstick on his cheek. "Kissing girls now?" he taunted.
"Tabitha kissed me."
"Fine." Ron wiped the lipstick off with his shirt then handed Harry back his broom. "Yours I believe?" He grinned. "What did you do to that dragon?"
"I stared it down." He shrugged. "It's a good tactic." He went back into the nursery, going back to the scrubbing. This place would be spotless if he could make it that way.
Ron walked back inside as well, leaning against the doorway. "You do realize that was Norbert? That no one's nice to him and he's never nice to anyone?"
"Really?" Harry grinned and shrugged. "He got out of my way fast enough."
"Hmm. Now there's going to be a rumor that you're charming the dragons, Harry."
"Yay. Anyone who checks will find that I haven't." He pulled his brush out of the water and attacked the wall again. "Come on, we've only got a month at the most to finish this."
"Good point. Besides, the first group's throwing a party tonight to celebrate the new kids coming in." Harry grinned at him. "We're going?"
"We don't have duty," Harry pointed out. "I'd rather get to know the kids who'll have duty with us before we have to teach them."
"Good point," Ron agreed, picking up his own brush to start working on the walls himself. All the nests were already done, they were down to the back wall and the floor.
"Potter, what did you do to Norbert?" Steve yelled as he walked in.
"I stared him down and ordered him to get out of my way," Harry called back. He shot a grin at him. "I didn't use my wand or any magic, Steve. Why? Was I complained about?"
"A bit," he admitted with a grin.
"Told you so," Ron said with a nudge and a grin.
Steve shook his head. "I know you get some odd complaints, and I know it's just that you're not like everyone else here, Harry, but can you please try to act like you like the other guys?"
"I do!" Harry whined. "I'm always very nice to them."
"I guess it's a personality conflict then," Steve sighed. "I know you try but they're kinda set in their ways. They'll gentle to you soon enough I guess."
"Steve, I adore you, but I'm not changing. They can either accept me as I am or not," Harry said patiently. "I'm not abnormal."
"No, you're forceful. Most of the guys around here are fairly laid back and easy going. You and Ron sometimes seem to act like you're on a crusade, or at least that's what I was told," he said with a bright grin. "Try, okay?"
"I do try," Harry said again. He started to pout. "I'm very normal."
"Potter, you have sixteen pieces of metal in your body, that's not really normal according to most of the guys. They'll settle down. Why don't you guys go to the party tonight?"
"We had planned on it," Ron told him. "We like most of the students and we want to get to know the ones who'll be coming in to help us once we start getting eggs."
"Good," Steve said happily. "Don't get drunk, and don't bring your wands. People seem to think that you're ready to snap and fix *any* problems." He and Harry shared a look. "Not that I mind. The next time we have hunters, I'm sending you," he said with a grin. "Have fun. How much more do you have?"
"This wall and the floor," Ron told him. He patted Harry on the butt. "Don't worry, I'll have him on his best behavior tonight. No shagging in plain sight and no boozin' until dawn."
"Thanks, Ron." He beamed at them both. "It's mostly that you're younger and a little bit odd because of what you've done. It's like meeting one of those movie stars and having them pitch in to help you."
"As long as you don't use me for recruitment," Harry snorted, getting back to work. "I'll do my best to be like the other guys, only without the liquor," he promised.
"Thanks, Harry." He wandered back outside, looking up at the sky. It was starting to cloud over again. They might get another storm soon. He'd have to keep an eye on it just in case someone got stuck in the field without a tent. Some of those kids were coming back each night from watching the various nests. He went to his office to check on Charlie's progress. He was picking up the new ones and they had liked him a little too much the last time for his comfort.
Harry and Ron strolled into the party together, smiling and waving at the kids. One of the girls bounced over. "Excited to be going home soon?" Harry asked her.
She nodded and said something in rapid french. Ron laughed. "Good for you, sweetheart. I'm sure this'll make everything a lot easier. Just remind everyone that you had a dragon curled around you to nap last night and that he might be tracking you. All those nasty bullies will leave you alone." She laughed and bounced off again.
Harry waved at Charlie and the group of students near him. "There's your brother."
"Okay, let's talk with him first." They walked over and grinned at Charlie. "You didn't get captured this time?"
"No, there wasn't a single problem," Charlie said, glancing at the kids. Harry flicked an eyebrow up and he grinned and shook his head. "Seriously. The headmistress was very nice and the kids here were already packed and waiting on me in the front hall. They're real excited to start work."
"Who're we getting?" Harry asked. He smiled and waved at the group. "Hi, I'm Harry, this is Ron, we work the daytime nursery shift. We're scrubbing down for the next group of eggs at the moment but we should be done soon."
Charlie looked at the students. "I'm thinking you're going to get this set," he said, pointing at a dark-haired, tough-looking female and a pale blonde girl that reminded you of a wraith. "Their forms said they'd like something more nurturing so we'll start you off with them for night shift and then switch them off to the infirmary until we've got some to take care of."
Harry shook their hands. "Welcome to the crew. It's a fun job. We get all the littles while they're tripping over their feet and chasing their tails. Plus, you get to do pretty much whatever you want as long as you can find a way to include them." The dark-haired one smiled and the blonde stiffened. "Seriously. I read to them all the time. Ron sings." He patted Ron on the back as he looked around. "Charlie, we've got a few students missing."
"They're coming back from watch," Charlie said patiently. He rolled his eyes at Ron's smug look. "Seriously, Potter, relax."
"I am," Harry retorted, with a grin. "I'm simply looking out for them. The temperature's dropped since sundown and some of the girls from Beaubaxton's barely had warm enough clothes for today."
"Good point. I'll tell Steve about that," he said, excusing himself.
"You are Harry Potter?" the blonde girl asked.
Harry nodded. "Yup, we're doing our trial year. This is Ron Weasley." He waved. She smiled at them. "You've heard of him?"
She nodded. "Very muchly. Viktor was most appreciative when he came back of how you two work together." She nodded at Ron. "Do we game soon?"
"We've got a scrimmage match next weekend," Harry told her. "If we can get enough for a second group, we'll play a student game too." He looked around and suddenly whistled. "Guys, the sign-up sheet for next weekend's match is still nearly bare. We've only had one beater sign up so far. Don't you guys want to play with the rest of us? I promise Ron'll take it easy on you."
The majority of the older people laughed. "We'll work on that tomorrow," Steve called. "One or two games?"
"I was thinking one for the students and whomever's pushed out and one for the rougher, older players."
"I would like to play with them if there is a position open for a chaser," the blonde girl said firmly. "I am good enough."
"Cool," Ron agreed, leading her away to talk to the only other person who he knew played in all the games. "You guys, do we ever have enough chasers?"
"Usually about two extra," Tabitha told him, smiling at the girl. "You play chaser?"
She nodded. "Viktor trained me personally. He said I am the equal of anyone."
"Good, I look forward to playing against you then," she said happily. She looked around. "We usually have a lot of beaters around but they seem to be outside at the moment." She looked at Ron. "Any idea why?"
"A few of the girls aren't back yet from watch and the temp's dropping," Ron said seriously. Tabitha sighed. "The girls from Beaubaxton's had to borrow some of our warmer clothes this morning."
"I'll floo the infirmary and make sure the water heater's on and going full steam," she said, patting Ron on the back. "They worry about the younger kids but they're really nice. Ron, any luck on doing that new tattoo pattern yet?"
"I've drawn it out on Harry's thigh but he's not letting me ink him until he's sure he likes it," Ron said, smirking at Charlie's choking. "Something wrong?"
"Ron, no tattooing in the house and no piercing things either," Charlie said firmly.
"It's my house too," Ron reminded him. "Besides, I need the practice."
"He is worried that you will attack him one night," the blonde told Ron.
Ron nodded, grinning at her. "Probably. He knows I'd only do it if he asked though. He's my big brother and I like him most of the time."
"Keep it up, remember I have the balls."
"Harry has his own set," Ron said smugly. He left her there, going to talk to Harry, who was waving him over. "What's up?"
"We may have a small problem," Harry said quietly, glancing around. "I just talked to the step- up worker on shift, she's got two missing from our last batch."
"Well, dirt," Ron said, starting to frown. "Want to floo to the nursery?"
"I was going to run over there and be right back," Harry told him. "She wanted you to check the house."
"Deal," Ron agreed, going to tell the guys on the porch where they were going . They found a light snow falling and groaned. "Steve, we've got missing littles."
"Go for it. We'll be breaking up early tonight anyway."
"We should be back by then. We were asked to check the nursery and the house," Harry said as he walked out with their cloaks. "We'll be right back." They ran off, going silently into the night.
"Why aren't they crunching the leaves?" one of the trainers asked.
"Because they trained for running in the woods," Steve pointed out, looking at him. "Harry wants a normal life, guys, really. He wants to be a normal guy who doesn't have to fight ever again. That's why he did the chainsaw thing." He went inside to call the step-up unit and didn't get an answer so he headed over there instead. He found a few of the littles cuddled together in a corner, shivering and clutching at each other for body warmth. He started the fire, smiling at them. "It's all right. Where are your mistresses tonight?" One of the vipers waddled over and nuzzled him before getting near the fire. They were more cold-blooded than most being from Africa. The rest soon followed, leaving him free to find the rest of them. "Kylie?" he yelled. "SaraBeth?" No answer. Time to go to the backup plan. "Potter!" Harry came running up the path. "Any luck?"
"Both of them are in the nursery curled up in a closet," he said, frowning at the pens. "Where are they?"
"Most of them seem to be missing and I don't know why. Can you track either worker?"
"I don't have a telltale on anyone but I do have one on one of the dragons. She grabbed my wand when I was working on the one for Ron's favorite hairclip." He pulled his wand and carefully cast the charm. "She's inside."
"Dirt. Weasley! We've got missing!" he shouted.
Ron panted as he ran up to them. "Charlie's back at the house. He found Mabel and brought her over to get warm." He looked at the pens. "What happened?"
"We think there's a hunter, right?" Harry asked.
Steve looked grim. "Quite possibly and I bet neither woman is dressed for the snow." He led the way back to the party. "Guys, we've got a problem. The step-up unit only has about seventeen dragons."
"It's got nearly fifty," one of the day shift people retorted.
"Not at the moment and there's no one there."
"Shit, I'm heading there then," she said. She looked at the students. "All you with me. It's safer. If someone's been there once they won't be coming back. The rest of you take your assigned areas and search radially toward the outer edges." They nodded and the party quickly broke up. The students followed her back, getting their first lessons while she set up perimeter warnings.
Harry and Ron joined the group of people who weren't assigned an area. The trainer over them looked at them. "Either of you fly in snow?"
"I've flown a game in light snow," Harry offered. "If you want, Ron and I both have our brooms and we can sweep the edges of the preserve faster."
"Do that, go as a pair. With the way it's looking it's going to get worse before it stops." They nodded and summoned their brooms, heading out into the night again. "Anyone else?"
"Some of us do have brooms," one of the older trainers pointed out. "Flying in this will be cold but it's possible."
"Go ahead, the rest of you search the main paths. They couldn't be stupid enough to not take them in this." They nodded, heading out. He went to the infirmary to inform them that they were getting an influx of patients, if only from frostbite. They gave him a grim look and set up for both human and animal patients. Then they sat down to wait.
Harry and Ron found a small group of people and flew down closer to make sure they weren't theirs. He saw that one of their students had noticed him and gave her a nod to move out of the way. He and Ron hexed the people into unconsciousness then floated closer. "Okay, was this all your group?" The girls shook their heads. "Then head back to the camp."
"Which way did the others go?" Ron asked.
"Toward Pansy's cave," the lone Slytherin told him, chattering.
Harry got off his broom and handed it over. "Send it back to me with your wand when you're back at the infirmary." She nodded and got them heading that way. He climbed up behind Ron and they took off for the caves. There were only three paths in this section of the preserve and two of them were still rough paths. They found Goyle standing guard over a few more. "Hey," he said as they landed. "Did any get past you?"
He shook his head. "The rest are inside, along with two dragons."
"Thanks. Why don't you take the whole group back to the infirmary," Harry suggested. "Get them checked over, let Bert herd the littles." Goyle nodded.
Ron beamed at him. "See, all those hexing fights we had came in handy after all," he joked.
Goyle grinned. "Definitely. The infirmary is where?"
"Six buildings down from the office," Harry told him.
Ron coughed. "Follow this path back to the main branch. It'll have three paved roads and a few more paths. Take the paved one going North, then switch at the second interchange. It goes right next door, which is the nursery. Go to the south and that's the infirmary. It should have a lot of lights on." He nodded and went to gather everyone. Ron took off again. "You suck at giving directions, Harry."
"I have other strong suits, Ron." He pointed at some footprints. "Those are leading away and they are dragon ones."
"Then we'll head that way," Ron agreed. "It's only a little off the path." He flew slowly that way, noticing that more trails were joining it. "I think we may have found the meeting place," he said quietly when they found a lot of lights. "You're the planner. Got any ideas?"
"Yeah. You go back, find a lot of warm bodies, leave me here," Harry told him, motioning him to land. "I've got my wand."
Ron gave him a look. "This is dumb, Harry."
"Yay," he said with a grin. "It's just like the old days." He heard a noise and ducked, kicking the person behind him in the stomach, which made him fall to his knees. "Go, Ron."
"I'm going, but I don't want to see you hurt." He flew off at top speed, going to tell on those people. Even Harry needed backup.
Harry punched the guy in the jaw and carefully moved closer. He could hear other people in the woods around him but not who they were. They were quiet, which meant they were used to working in the woods. By the time he got to where the campsite was, he was starting to sweat. If all these were with these people, there was a big, huge problem. He heard someone coming up behind him and camouflaged himself by hiding under a fir tree. The person walked past him and he shuddered. Nasty, big, huge person that made Hagrid look puny. For some reason he was dressed like a viking and had an axe over his shoulder. "I hope this isn't a time distortion," he muttered as he snuck closer. He found the students and used his wand to loosen the knots in their ropes. One of them glanced his way but he shook his head. Fortunately it was one of the Hogwarts students and they got the clue. He hissed something at the girl next to him and they undid each other, then worked on the people on their other sides.
Harry felt someone come up behind him and turned, lashing out before he could stop himself. Fortunately it wasn't a killing blow since it was Charlie. "Oops, sorry," he hissed, dragging him off under his tree. "I'll let you torture me later," he whispered, hiding when the few people came to see what the noise was. Then he checked the camp and stepped out. His head was grabbed but he was ready for that. He kicked backwards, connecting with a knee. Not hard enough to shatter it, but more than hard enough to hurt the guy. He dodged and motioned for the students to run. They took off into the woods. "East!" he yelled after them since they were going in the wrong direction. He heard them change and head down the trail. Harry defended himself against the people who had come running, one lucky shot hitting the iron cage holding the dragons.
The next thing he knew there was a roar and a bigger dragon was joining the fray, along with most of the little ones. "Go home," he shouted. "They want to hurt you." A big tongue licked him and then went back to smoking the intruders. "Okay then." He spared a second to think at Ron, hearing the panic in his mind. He groaned and took out the next person in the group, then spun and got the one coming up behind him. The winged dragon stepped on him on her way past. Harry caught her and swung himself up. "Steve's in trouble," he told her. She was broken to ride, she had strap marks on her side. She took off, taking him back across the preserve. He landed with a few well-thrown hexes and grabbed Ron to bring him. The team that would be joining them climbed up as well and they headed back before he could protest.
"Harry, do you know how much you look like a fantasy novel cover?" Ron shouted.
"Yeah, but it was faster." They landed in the middle of the skirmish and the dragon stomped a few people for them. By the time they had slid down only one dragon was injured and there were only a few people left. Harry took care of the baby while Ron got to fight the rest of it for him. "Oh, you poor thing," he cooed. "I even brought help." It growled at him. "I know, you ache. Come on, we'll get you to the healers," he soothed, picking it up. It wasn't one of the ones he had helped but all the dragons would respond to someone cooing at them while they were in pain. That's how the healers talked to them too. He got that one settled next to Charlie for the warmth and took off his cloak to pad it a bit. It had a broken leg and he didn't want to hurt it further. He jogged back when Ron shouted. "Are you all right?"
"Just fine," he said with a grin, brushing his hair back. "He got some of it. It's uneven."
Harry gave him a short hug. "We'll fix it later, Ron, I promise." He looked at the babies. "Hi, guys." They gathered around for attention, even taking some from the people they didn't know. "Um, Ron, I kinda got Charlie too. He's fine, just knocked out with the injured one under a tree."
"Harry," Ron sighed, rolling his eyes. "You're going to have to watch where you hex. It was bad enough you got me that time, and Hermione a few times because she couldn't duck."
Steve and the rest of them ran up, checking the babies.
"I stuck the injured one and Charlie under the tree," Harry said, pointing. "She's got a broken leg, he accidentally got knocked out by me," he said sheepishly. "Is the step-up unit all right?"
"Just fine, Harry." He looked at him. "Why did you fly on the dragon?"
"Because Ron had his broom, the first group of students we freed had mine, and Ron was panicking."
"Oh." He nodded shortly.
"I told him he looked like some hero out of a fantasy novel," Ron said with a wide grin. "Are we missing any?"
"Just one or two. I'm sure they're on the grounds," Steve promised, checking them over.
"Harry, what did you do to Charlie!" one of the healers called.
"Somnulus. It's a quiet one to cast and very effective in a fight."
"Harry, you're an odd duck," one of the trainers called.
"Yeah, but I didn't *want* to need to learn that," Harry retorted with a grin. One of the kidnapers woke up and groaned so Harry got free and walked over, arms already crossed, a scowl that would have done Professor Snape proud on his face, one foot tapping. "What did you think you were doing?" he asked, then mentally shook himself because Ron agreed, he sounded like McGonagall. "You came onto protected land, kidnaped students and protected beasts, then made me fight you? How dumb are you?"
The man looked at him and blinked. "Potter," he said, his eyes going wide.
Harry leaned down a bit. "That's right," he agreed dryly. "And *I* am the guardian of these beasts. Got it?" The man nodded quickly. "Good!" He bound him then walked off. "Okay, everyone back to the infirmary. It's fucking cold out here!" he shouted. Steve gave him an amused look. "We need to check the dragons anyway."
"True. Everyone back to the infirmary. Someone tie these suckers up and we'll drag them behind us," Steve ordered. He put an arm around Harry's shoulders. "*You* guard these beasts?"
Harry beamed. "I can keep in practice that way, just in case Malfoy goes bad?"
Steve laughed. "You're unique, Potter. I'll have to remember that. Come on, Ron. Grab your brother and we'll walk behind the littles." They nodded and herded the dragons in front of them.
Harry looked back at the two girls. "Good job," he told them, giving them a bright smile. "You were efficient and very well trained. If you need to talk or shake in reaction, just yell our way. Ron and I have that down to an artform." They smiled and nodded, following behind with their captives.
"Harry, can I have sex tonight," Ron asked.
"If you're bottoming," Harry snorted, nudging him a bit. "I'm still sore, Ron."
"That's fine," Ron agreed with a grin. "I want to have one of those full body, inner and outer body cuddles."
"Cool. If you're nice, I'll even wear the leathers for you." Ron gave him a harder shove.
"Boys," Steve sighed, shaking his head. "Talk about your rewards later, when there aren't impressionable people around. Some of the older trainers might be traumatized by your horseplay."
"Sure," they agreed together.
"I'm proud of them, neither of them mentioned restraints," Charlie's closest friend called back from the front. A few of the trainers laughed and the rest looked at the boys like they were aliens.
"He wiggles," Harry defended.
"Me?" Ron snorted. "I don't move half as much as you. Besides, we use them on you more, Potter."
"Ron! I doubt they wanted to know that much about our sex life. It's bad enough you wanted to make out in front of the littles."
"Boys!" Steve said, once again breaking into them. "Do you do that after each fight?"
Ron looked around Harry and nodded, nearly tripping over a moving tail. "Ever since we got together and his chainsaw incident."
"Well, shit. You guys can have tomorrow off to recuperate then. Harry, no more riding the dragons, you're not trained and you could have hurt it."
"Sorry, Steve. She was there, she didn't make a fuss. She went right where I wanted her to. I don't even remember using the reins."
"Wonderful. No more riding the dragons, Harry. Stick to a broom." He let Harry go so he could check on Charlie. He found him awake and trying hard not to complain. "Your brother is insane but I understand why he has to tie Harry down."
Charlie shook his head. "Don't get them started. They'll do it in front of you. They did it to me last week," he said weakly. "Can I beat Harry?"
"Sure," Steve said happily. "Have Ron tie him down so you get a fair shot."
The healer snorted. "He should have known not to sneak up on him while he was fighting. Harry's nearly hexed a few others and that was in the nursery, where he felt safe." He pinched Charlie's arm. "Be thankful it was a sleep hex, not something more potent. A few of those guys are dead."
Charlie nodded. "I am. I'm very thankful Harry's got enough control to realize I wasn't one of the attackers and not kill me. That doesn't mean I'm not making him tell my mother."
Steve laughed. "I'm sure he'll get some sympathy from her after she's done shrieking at him, Charlie."
"Then I'll make him tell dad too," Charlie told him. "Plus the twins and Bill. Let's see how he holds up with them."
"Your family loves Harry," Steve reminded him. "It'd be no worse than if Ron had done it."
"Maybe, but I bet he's never going to do it again," Charlie assured him. "Or else he's sleeping in a tent on the porch for the next month. Alone."
"If you say so," the healer agreed. She would let him have his delusions for a bit longer. They could cure those too.
Ginny looked at her latest work and nearly purred. It was good. It was very good. She leaned back on her bed as she reread it, nodding when she came to her favorite parts.
"Are you writing more smut?" one of her roommates demanded.
"Yup, just got done," Ginny said with a grin for her irritation.
"Maybe you should find a new girlfriend," one of the other girls suggested.
"There's almost no one here in the school who wants to do that sort of thing with me, they're all scared of Ron coming back to pound them into the ground," Ginny said dryly, smiling at her. "I'll find a full-time girlfriend once I start working." Someone tapped on the door so Ginny rolled up her scroll while someone else went to answer it. "Hi, Professor McGonagall," she said happily. "Is there a problem?"
"Ms. Weasley, I need to talk to you about some knowledge that has gotten around."
Ginny sat up and crossed her legs, leaning on her knees. "I only help the ones who come to me personally for help, ma'am. It's not like the system is set up to educate us in our peculiarities."
"I see." She sat on the girl's bed. "We have one girl who is most upset. Did you talk to Ms. Hayes?"
"Are you certain?"
Ginny nodded. "Very certain. I've only talked to one Hufflepuff and one Ravenclaw this year and last year only one other Ravenclaw came to me for advice outside those who were injured."
Professor McGonagall nodded. "Thank you. Do you have any idea how she might have gotten hold of one of your...stories?"
Ginny grinned. "I do occasionally share with the Ravenclaw. We trade off. I write tamer stuff than she does though. Was she really confused?"
"She thought to try it and one of her roommates decided it was not proper. She's in the infirmary with a black eye and a broken nose." Ginny winced. "It was stopped fairly quickly but we did find one of your stories in her things."
"As I said, ma'am, I only trade with that one Ravenclaw. She's a seventh year and able to hold such things."
"Thank you, Ms. Weasley. Please be more careful about who sees them. I do not like the fact that you have them, but it is not any worse or better than the mass of materials we confiscated off the fifth year Slytherins." Ginny beamed. "I might also add that your grammatical structure seems a bit heavy. Try to lighten it up. You're not writing a paper." She walked out, going to talk to the girl in the infirmary.
"It's too heavy?" Ginny asked, pulling out the scroll to reread. "Why?"
One of the girls took it and rolled it up, hitting her on the head with it. "Before you do anything else, we're going to age charm them so only those of legal age can read them." Ginny beamed at her. "As a Prefect I can't let you go without a punishment."
"I can do your hair for you tomorrow," Ginny offered. "McGonagall didn't punish me."
"Good point," she said with a grimace. "Fine. Then your punishment is...." She thought of something so bad that it would stop Ginny's little habit. She considered the girl in trouble because she was resorting to pornography instead of an actual human. If she had been doing it with someone she wouldn't have cared but pornography disturbed her. "You will ask Professor Snape for his honest opinion. Until you do, you may not write another word. If I catch you, I'll hand you over to Filch and tell him you're the one tossing your tampons in the loo and making Moaning Myrtle throw them back out." Ginny shuddered. "Now go. Before curfew."
Ginny snatched her scroll. "Fine. Maybe he'll help me age charm them too." She stomped off, going bravely down to the dungeons. Hell, her brother had stripped off in front of the man, she could face him down about the written word. He was the advisor for the entire group of seventh years and could not punish them for being themselves; the rules forbid him levying unfair punishments on any 'awkward or unusual' seventh year. She knocked gently on the picture frame, smiling brightly when he opened it. "Sir, Professor McGonagall said some of my works have gotten out of the hands of the people I've given them to. My Prefect suggested I come down and ask you personally for an age appropriate charm." His lips thinned a bit as he pressed them together. "Then Professor McGonagall said I should ask someone for writing advice and my Prefect said I had to ask you or she was going to frame me for something I hadn't done in the loo. May I please have a few moments before you get drunk?"
Snape glared at her. "Why would I need to drink?" he sneered.
"Because my Prefect and Professor McGonagall said my writing style is heavy and my Prefect made my punishment having you give me suggestions of how I can fix it, sir."
He blindly sat down. "Which Prefect?" he asked suspiciously.
He groaned. That young woman had it in for him. First she simpered at him and now she was sending him pornography. Granted, it wasn't something involving her and him, but still! He would get Minerva to stop the girl before he cursed her to hideousness. "Let me see." She handed it over and his eyes widened as he read. He looked at her.
"Sir, I do not like men and I needed something to stimulate me. Professor McGonagall said it wasn't half as bad as some of the stuff they confiscated from your house's fifth year recently." His lips thinned again. "Professor McGonagall said it was too heavy, and I don't understand her meaning."
"The prose is too flowery, too ornate, and too wordy," he said, handing it back. "You only need one adjective usually. Try for simpler descriptions." Ginny nodded, making that note on the back. "Was there anything else?"
Ginny smiled at him. He was so nice about this subject! He hadn't growled at her once or made her feel stupid! Damn, she could almost see what Percy and Hermione saw in him. "May I come back and have more honest criticism, Professor?" He did growl then. "That's fine, sir, I've taken up a lot of your valuable time already. I'll go back to my room now." She hurried out, her stomach starting to unknot. That hadn't been so bad. Maybe she'd write him something for his own personal use. She met with her Prefect in the hall and smiled. "He gave me a very good idea of what I was doing wrong," she said happily, trotting back to her bed and her parchment.
The Prefect was still blushing. Professor Snape had talked to her, she had heard it, and he hadn't called her a name. Something odd was definitely going on. She was going to have to watch Ginny from now on. Professor Snape was only nice to her, even if he didn't stop the little girl.
Ginny walked up to her porn buddy in the halls and tapped her on the shoulder. "We're having to charm everything now," she said as she handed over her rewritten fantasy.
"That's fine. I got the same orders," she said with a smile. "She somehow stole the knight epic." Ginny shivered, making her grin and wink. "Don't worry. She's fine. I've talked with her and she'll make an interesting friend." She winked and walked away.
Luna grabbed Ginny by the arm. "What are you two doing now?"
"Trading stories." Ginny gave her a hug. "I wish you were like me. I'd like that." She hurried off, she had Herbology next.
Luna looked at her back, shaking her head. "Poor thing, and deluded too." She headed for Transfiguration. They were doing paper today so maybe she could work out some of the energy Ginny had transferred to her.
Harry looked at how Ron was stretched out on the bed, smirking at his devious plan. He had watched Ron check out a few of the other people while they had been helping in the infirmary. He knew what Ron needed and he was going to give it to him, in his own fashion. He slid the blindfold over his boyfriend's head, settling it into place before tightening the buckle in the back. Ron shifted but didn't say anything so he laid out his instruments on the towel beside him. The pot of lube was already prepared, it had been emptied into a shallow dish so he could roll the toys in it before their use. He positioned the other special things he had ordered next to where they would be needed, smirking at his ingenuity. Ron liked having a lot of people, this would be as close as Harry was willing to let him get. He finished the preparation and turned to Ron's back.
He was already stretched and waiting, but his back had a few drops of water from his hair. Harry leaned down to lick at them, making his boyfriend moan. "Shh," he whispered. He picked up his wand. "Silencio," he cast on the room in general, making sure that no noise would come from either of them. Then he picked up the first toy and lubed it before using it to pierce his boyfriend's body. Ron wiggled and probably moaned but the silencing spell made sure nothing was going to carry over. After a few minutes, he reached up and used one of the ones by Ron's head for his mouth, making him move in a more frantic way. So he shifted a hand off that one and pulled over the fake vagina, with realistic hair, and let Ron have that as well. He switched out the rear toy, changing to a thinner, longer one. The one in Ron's mouth came out and wasn't replaced but the fake pussy stayed for a bit. Then Harry removed it and put the fake breast into Ron's mouth while he worked the toy harder. He switched them back and forth, working up a heavy sweat and a lot of passion. Finally he subbed himself and slid inside his boyfriend's body, making him arch up and finally come. He leaned down to lick at the damp, sweaty flesh and gently rode him for a few minutes before pulling out and resuming the toys. This time it was a much larger one. Ron writhed under his talented hands and he put the fake twat back, then replaced an earlier toy in Ron's mouth. Ron seemed to be sobbing as he tried to get off again. When he finally did, Harry removed all the toys and canceled the silencing charm, sliding himself back into Ron's well-opened hole. "I love you," he whispered, working to get the both of them off for one last time. Ron screamed as he came, a purely pleasurable shout of joy and release. He went limp under Harry, looking back to give him a boneless grin. Harry removed the blindfold and finished himself off, coming with a small grunt as he collapsed.
"Harry, I...I don't know what to say," Ron whispered as he pulled his mate closer to hold. "That was fantastic."
"My arms hurt," Harry admitted with a grin. He stole a kiss. "I know what you've been craving, Ron, and that's as close as I'm willing to let you go if you want to keep me."
"Wow." Ron put his head down on Harry's chest. He smiled as he listened to Harry falling asleep and continued to smile as he remembered all the things Harry had just done for him. It had definitely been for him, Harry wasn't into toys or any of that. "If I can move in the morning, I might just have to make him sore," he said sleepily as he drifted off. Harry was smiling in his sleep. Life was all good to him.
Ginny finished her latest masterpiece and rolled it up with the note she had carefully written out earlier. The man really was very dear to the seventh years. Besides, he was probably just lonely. She hadn't liked writing the het stuff but she guessed she did good. It was kinda neat in a way, even though she didn't want to do anything like that herself. Her roommates gave her more than enough information for her to cover for her inexperience. She headed down to the kitchens to grab some juice and bribe a house elf into taking it to Snape with an ear scratch. He was going to be so happy that she had been thoughtful enough to write him a gift.
Professor Severus Snape looked up in shock as an unasked-for house elf intruded his domain with a mug of cocoa of all things, and a scroll lying on the tray with it. He assumed it was a thoughtful gesture from Dumbledore so he took them both, waving it to leave him. He took one small sip, it was very good cocoa, before opening the scroll. The note fell onto his lap and he had the good sense to read it first. Thankfully the cocoa was far enough away that it wasn't tipped onto the student essays as he hopped up in alarm. "She did what?" he shouted. He reread the note thanking him for his help and his 'nice attitude' toward her writing, how she knew that the seventh years were routinely trying but how it was very pleasant to be acknowledged by another adult as becoming one. He flopped down into his seat, flabbergasted. There was no other word for it. There really wasn't. He glanced at the other scroll but he knew what it had to be. He had recognized the handwriting as Ms. Weasley's. He noticed she had changed things so it was a heterosexual couple, but that she wasn't in it. It was also a fairly long scroll. Probably nearly two feet in length.
He took a closer look at the first paragraph and noticed that it was an acrobat and himself. Why did she think this was something he had wanted to try? For that matter why had she assumed he needed something of this sort? He was going to have to talk to Minerva about that girl! The chocolate of the cocoa called out to him so he soothed himself by sipping more of it, letting the mellow properties of the chocolate soothe his fraying nerves. She had improved. Her wording was much better this time.
That's when he remembered her saying she valued his honest criticism of her work.
He smirked and grabbed his grading pen, treating it like he would a particularly vulgar essay. Honesty, yes, but still marking all the grammatical mistakes and making notes. At one point he had to stop to get himself a cool towel. She could paint a very...vivid picture when she chose. Though he wasn't sure even the most flexible people could get into that position. When he was done, he had it set out for her in the morning mail, hoping that would discourage the girl if she had to open it at the breakfast table. Then he went to take a long, cold shower. That girl certainly painted some very vivid pictures for his present.
Ginny opened the familiar looking scroll, noticing that it was rolled up to show the first markings and the first critique as she opened it. She read that note: "Most people could not get into that position. Even though you accounted for a great deal of flexibility in the heroine, even she should not be able to bend backwards that way." She giggled and read the rest of the corrections, determined to make it better for him this time. Maybe she would revamp her knight and maiden piece for him. She shot him a quick smile and pulled food onto her plate as she continued to read.
Up at the head table, Professor McGonagall was looking at her colleague. "Did Ms. Weasley just *grin* at you, Severus?" she teased.
He cleared his throat. "I've been meaning to talk to you about that. One of your Prefects, Ms. Mallen, forced her to come to me for writing advice. She sent me a story as a present last night."
"Of course you sent it back?" Dumbledore asked gently, knowing it was only appropriate.
"Of course, after I had corrected her grammar and a few issues she had with the human body being in impossible position," he said firmly. "With a note not to repeat such presents."
McGonagall pursed her lips together. "I'll have a discussion with both ladies, Severus. Don't worry. I'm sure she's not attracted to you."
"No, she said it was a gift for my honest critique of her earlier work. Something about a horse trader and a lowly, lost witch."
Flitwick choked. "I've seen that one," he noted. "Was that the first or the second draft?"
"I saw the heavier, older form one," he said dryly.
"Ah! The newer one is much better. You helped the poor dear quite a lot, Severus."
Dumbledore looked at him like he was little odd. "I don't think we need to encourage this hobby anymore than we needed to encourage Ron and Harry's," he said gently.
Severus shuddered. "With our luck, she'll start publishing it while she's in school trying to outdo her brothers."
"Her mother would flay her and force her to cook and eat her own skin," McGonagall reminded him.
"Good morning all," Hagrid said as he walked in. He smiled at Professor Snape. "You look especially happy this morning," he noted. "Have a good test?" He sat down and poured himself out some juice.
Severus wiped his mouth. "I believe I'll go back to grading normal essays. They should be handed back soon." He hurried from the room.
"Was it somethin' I said?" Hagrid asked.
"No, not in the least, Hagrid," McGonagall assured him with a smile for him. "He's had a trying night, that's all."
"Ah. Had a few of those myself recently. Little Cratzenstern is doin' just fine but she had nightmares last night." He pulled over a few rolls to butter. "Speaking of, I needed him to come down and look at some scale shedding. I've been oiling, but I think she's shedding and I promised him the skin."
"I'm sure he'll be very appreciative of that gift," Dumbledore told him. "I think it was very nice of you to name her after your great-grandmother, Hagrid."
"She reminds me of her a bit. Very mouthy and outspoken about many things. Demanding like." He grinned. "She' a little gem and Fang just adores the little thing. They snuggle up each day and he even helps her hunt down a few rabbits. Oh, I forgot to tell you. Fang followed her into the Forest yesterday, ran into Aragog, who thought she was just darling, then they ran into some centaurs. She steamed one's tail," he said proudly. "Didn't like it in the least. Not that I blame him, I don't much like that one either. He brought her and Fang back to me to complain and I pointed out that she was a steamer and to be thankful she didn't bite. She only really attacked rabbits and chickens. He thought it was nice that she could tell he wasn't either of those."
Flitwick laughed. "Good for her, Hagrid. I think you're doing a splendid job with Cratzy. She's an adorable dragon and very tough and strong. She even steamed at me the other day when I waved at her."
Hagrid beamed. "I'll have ta tell Charlie that when he comes in next. He's watchin' us awful close to make sure she's normal."
"I'm sure she'll be fine, Hagrid, you're very good at raising animals," Dumbledore praised.
Hagrid beamed and stuffed a few rolls in his mouth.
Ginny walked up to Professor Flitwick. "I know you're not over our class, Professor, but may I have your honest opinion as someone who likes this form of activity? I think something's off and I don't know what."
He took the scroll and started to read it, then fell off his pile of pillows and squeaked. "Oh, dear." He looked at her, his eyes wide. "Is this another present?"
Ginny beamed. "He sent the first one back with corrections so I'm doing as he said and trying to be more realistic. I'm not sure I got the descriptions right of the male form though. Or how it would react. I'm sure he'll like this one much better. I used a quill with a grammar checker on it."
He nodded slowly. "Give me a day please, Ms. Weasley. I'll make my own notes on a separate form and give it to you." She gave him a strong hug and hurried off to dinner. "Oh, dear, she thinks he's being nice," he moaned. Still, it was a very...interesting story from what little he had read. When he got to the description of the leading man, he realized it sounded a lot like her brother Bill. "She must have walked in on him in the bathroom once or twice," he decided, moving on quickly. She definitely had those things right, even though she was overly generous with the male form. That was his first note, that no man was actually fifteen inches long and six around.
If her brothers were actually built like that, he felt sorry for them because they must never find agreeable women.
Ginny walked into her detention with Professor Snape and put a scroll onto his desk. "For your comments, Professor," she said happily. "Professor Flitwick pointed out a few inconsistencies already but I still like your method of correction better." She put down her bag and got to work on the piled cauldrons without even being ordered to clean them. She loathed dirty dishes, her brothers left them lying all over the house. The second time she had stepped onto a plate that had warm cheese bits on it she had vowed to never leave another dish lying around.
Professor Snape sat there, stunned stupid by this new occurrence. He finally shook his head and looked at the young woman. "Ms. Weasley, it is not appropriate to show me such things," he said firmly. She gave him a hurt look. "I am your teacher."
She shrugged. "We both know I'm not hitting on you, sir, you have dangly things that make me gag. I only wanted your honest criticism and you're decent enough to give me what you really think about it. It's not like I'm Prefect Mallen and her crush on you, Professor."
He found he couldn't really refute that argument. The only counter-arguments he had ready were that she was doing this as some way of showing that she considered him worthy of her attention. Since that was obviously not the case, he was stumped on how to stop this. She would continue writing even if he turned her in. He couldn't very well take away all her writing materials or she'd never be able to take classes. Plus, he had left himself open because he was the one who was supposed to be teaching her this sort of material. That's what the advisor for the seventh years did, they kept the little horny creatures at bay. He was no more up to this than he was Granger and her body additions. He would talk to the Headmaster about this he decided. He had the authority to make the girl stop. He snatched the scroll up and started to read the story, noticing where she had to make corrections. Apparently Flitwick had already corrected her grammar and a few indelicate remarks.
When he was done he had to admit that this one was...better. He dismissed her and she ran off while he went to take a shower. He left the scroll on the desk for her to pick up if she came back, his notes in the margins. There were quite a few remarks about her descriptions but overall he only had praise for her.
Unfortunately, one of the Hufflepuffs he was supposed to have detention with came in with a note from the nurse and found the scroll there. He laid the note on the professor's desk and took the tied scroll thinking it was an assignment for him to do. When he got it back to the dorms, he looked at it but it didn't have anything on it. "Oh, it's a blank one," he said, then he shrugged and put it down onto a table, untied of course since it was blank.
The current Head Boy found it later that night when he was shooing the first years up to bed and it made his head spin. He picked it up and started to eagerly read. People could do those sort of things? And why did it have correcting marks on it? Was this just a draft? It was more than good enough for his tastes. Though there definitely wasn't enough cuddling and kissing in it for his tastes.
Yes, there definitely needed to be more kissing, touching, and holding, but he did enjoy it enough to roll it up so he could read it after he was done in Herbology tomorrow.
Professor Sprout took the scroll from the boy reading and giggling, looking at what he was reading. "What is this!" she said warmly. The Head Boy blushed and looked pitiful. "Where did you get this?"
"On one of our tables in the Common Room," he said miserably. "May I please have that back? The writer was just getting to the cuddling part."
Professor Sprout looked at the writing. It looked familiar so it had to be a current student. The red marks however were distinctive. "I think we should have a talk with Professor Snape," she said. "I'll be right back. The rest of you get back to work. I'm shocked at you, Mitchell. Utterly shocked." She stormed up to the school and down to the dungeons, glaring at the man letting the students out of his classroom. She waved the parchment. "What is the meaning of this?"
It was almost comical how wide his eyes got. "I assure you, I was trying to keep it from spreading around. The author wanted my literary criticism," he said smoothly, snatching it back. "I thought she had taken it back."
That's when it clicked in her head, she recognized the writing. "Is that Weasley's?"
Snape grimaced. "Indeed," he said distastefully. "I'm giving her a great many criticisms so she gives up."
She gave him a pat on the arm, transferring some seed pods onto him. "You poor man. Don't worry, give her to Flitwick. He handles these things very delicately. He won't bruise the girl's ego. There was absolutely no cuddling in that small part I saw. She needs to be told about such things."
"She likes the softer sex. She's said she's writing this way to spare me from those visions."
"That's so thoughtful of her," Sprout said, smiling again. "You're doing very well in making her temper her writing, but give her my note as well, Severus." She went back to her greenhouses, happier now that she knew he wasn't in a relationship with that young girl. She obviously needed some help if she didn't know about cuddling and kissing. Perhaps Severus would give pointers in the next sex ed class.
Professor Snape grabbed Ginny from the halls and marched her off, taking her to McGonagall's classroom. She was waiting on them. He closed them in and handed her the scroll. "It was found by a Hufflepuff," he said dryly.
"I age charmed it, Professor Snape," she said earnestly, giving him a big-eyed look.
"Yes, we've traced it back," McGonagall said dryly. Ginny looked at her. "Come closer, dear, let's talk about this habit of yours." Ginny walked down to sit at the first desk. "It seems that the younger Hufflepuff boy thought it was blank, so he put it down on a table after opening it." Ginny winced. "The Head Boy picked it up," she continued. "He read it in Herbology, which lead to some uncomfortable questions from Professor Sprout."
"I'm sorry, Professor Snape. Should I charm them so only you can read them?" Ginny suggested.
"I don't believe it would be appropriate for me to give you any more literary criticism, young lady," he said stiffly. "This nearly got me into trouble today. While I might have been able to stop some of your habits, I cannot take this one. Therefore I am turning you over to Professor McGonagall's care." She looked pitiful but he held firm. "Also," he added, sneering slightly. "Professor Sprout mentioned that she believes there should be more cuddling and kissing."
Ginny looked like she had just gotten the brightest of all ideas. "That's a great idea, sir!" she said, hurrying out to start on that idea.
"No!" McGonagall called after her but the girl was already gone. She searched for her but she didn't appear to be in any part of the school. "Where did she go!" she said angrily.
Dumbledore walked past, giving them pleasant nods and smiles. "Do you remember where DA used to meet?" he suggested.
"That girl!" Minerva shouted, heading up there to stop her. No matter how many times she paced in just the right spot, the door stayed hidden and she couldn't get in. She settled herself down to wait, but fell asleep before the girl came out for the night.
Ginny mailed off her newest pieces to her brother Ron, he would be the most honest about all that stuff, and went down to breakfast. That's when the teachers caught up with her. She gave them happy smiles. "I sent it to Ron for his opinion," she told them as she got away. "One for each house's type of person." The teachers stood there, stunned stupid.
Minerva looked at Severus. "You do know that she's slowly corrupting all of us, don't you?" she asked quietly.
He nodded. "I had noticed. She's already gotten us, Flitwick, and Sprout. Should we write Molly or Arthur?"
"First, I'm going to write Harry and have him try to discourage the girl. Then I'm going to write to Arthur. Molly will get hysterical and we'll have to calm her down before she does anything." She went off to do that, her spine stiff. She even borrowed Fawkes to take the message to Albania so it would beat Pigwiddeon.
Arthur opened up the letter, smiling at the praise of his youngest. Then he came to the disturbing part. He let the paper flutter from his fingers. "Oh dear," he said finally, licking his lips.
Since he was having breakfast with the twins, one of them snatched it. "She's doing what?" he asked as his brother snatched it from his hand.
"Our little sister, supplying the school with porn?" the other said, though he said it fondly. "And to think, we only did pranks."
The first one nodded. "Maybe we can convince her to write some with pranks in it, it'd be good advertising."
"Maybe we could pay her a few galleons for a good story," the other suggested.
"Boys," Arthur said, taking the letter back. "Doing that would only encourage that. She's distressing the teachers."
"So did Ron and they lived through him piercing his John Thomas," the first one snorted.
"Snape even lived through him disrobing to show it off a few times." Arthur frowned at that one. He didn't like to be reminded about that. "Oh, come on, dad, you know you're proud of her," the second one pointed out.
Arthur shook his head. "You know I don't care what you children do as long as you're happy and you're not bothering other people, but this is clearly bothering other people." He incinerated the letter so no one else would know. "I'll write her a note about being more discreet," he said, making his strange little twosome happy and full of pride for him being so cool. He would not be telling his wife about this. Molly would throw fits.
Harry carried the letter over to where Ron was sitting, handing it over. "Ginny's freaking out the teachers worse than we did," he said proudly. She was the one he wanted to adopt into his personal family.
Ron took the letter and snorted, handing over Ginny's. "She's figured out a classification based on the 'finer attributes of each house' as she put it. Using the first letter of each house as a rating for content. H for Hufflepuff, and for the more cuddly and romantic pieces. S for Slytherin and for the more wild or kinky things. Directly opposite the H rating. R for Ravenclaw, for the more scholarly places or for pieces about people experimenting to 'just know what it feels like'. G for Gryffindor, for the more wild and nice sex, like Slytherin only without all the mess and restraints, less kinky."
"She's never heard you go off on what we do, huh?" Harry said genially as he read her letter. "Well. Was it any good?"
"I got through two of them. She's definitely gotten the H rating down. She's taking each scenario, writing it for each type of sex, het or not, and then for each house. She sent the ones for doing it in the library. The H one is them doing gentle handjobs at the study tables."
"Hmm." Harry checked the markings and picked up the one with the S and gay on it. "Ooh, in the Magical Creatures section against the books," he said proudly, reading through it. "Very well done. Still kinda stiff but nowhere near as bad as the stuff Bill was complaining about."
Ron looked at his lover. "You do know that my mother is going to kill her for this, right?"
Harry waved a hand. "I always wanted a sister, I'll adopt her."
Ron gave him a nudge. "I don't think she'll be able to hide behind you."
"We forged Charlie's signature to give her an emergency portkey," Harry reminded him.
"Oh, yeah." He beamed. "Okay, so she might be able to hide behind you for a bit. Until Mum makes it through the floo." He looked up as the wind started again. "It's going to snow tonight."
Harry gathered up everything, letting Ron take the letters, and they went inside. "Hey, Charlie," Harry called.
"Don't tell him, he'll go lecture her," Ron said, making a grab for it.
"What, Harry?" Charlie called, coming to the door. "Those look like family letters," he said happily. Ron shook his head. "No?"
"Well, it's a letter from Ginny and a few things that she's been writing," Harry explained. "And a letter from McGonagall to try and get us to put pressure on her to stop writing smut."
"Our little sister writes smut?" Charlie asked. He crossed his arms and frowned. "How bad can it be?"
"What sort do you want?" Ron asked, looking at the group of scrolls. "We've got all sorts, gay, het, and lez." He looked at his brother, who looked stunned. "She got bored in sex ed."
"Give me those!" Charlie said, snatching them from Harry. "What's the code mean?" The letter was handed to him. He frowned and went for the worst first, S het sex. He started to read, then suddenly sat down, his eyes wide and his cheeks flushing. "How did Ginny learn about this?"
"The girls gossip," Ron said dryly. Harry nodded that he remembered that when Charlie looked at him.
"Oh, dirt," Charlie said, finishing it quickly. It wasn't long, but he could see the appeal of it. He looked at the next one, taking the H, lesbian one next. That one was much more tame, very much like the Hufflepuffs he remembered. He finally looked at the younger duo. "How many of these did she write?" he asked calmly.
"A lot," Ron said, nodding.
Harry beamed. "She's been writing to soothe her own needs, and passing it along to a Ravenclaw with similar desires. Then she got caught and she was ordered to see Snape for writing advice. She nearly got him kicked out of the school because one was picked up by another student and it got back to Professor Sprout."
"Oh, dirt," Charlie repeated, going limp on the couch. He frowned and stood up, and noticed the boys looked guilty. "You messed on the couch?" he asked, looking pissed.
"No!" Ron snorted. "We were only kissing there. We didn't do anything else on the couch. I don't want to do that stuff in front of you, you might take Harry away for yourself."
Charlie gave him a look, then patted him on the shoulder. "I wouldn't take Harry, Ron, don't worry about it."
"Hey!" Harry protested. "I'll have you know I'm very cuddly and good."
"I figured as much, but I couldn't stand the thought of touching some of those piercings," Charlie said in his most pleasant voice. "I'm going to take Ginny's stuff and burn it."
"She made copies," Ron pointed out as he gathered them. "She wanted my opinion on them." He snatched them and took them into their room to lay down and read. His sister was really good.
Harry looked at Charlie and shrugged. "It could be worse, she could be doing what she writes about." He went to help Ron read, and to take the edge off his need when he got too hot.
Charlie sat down in the wet spot and whimpered. His mother was going to kill his baby sister. He would miss her!
Ginny smiled and squealed as the twins pounced her in Hogsmeade, giving them both hugs. "Why did you come up!" she said excitedly.
"Because McGonagall sent a letter to dad and we saw it," George said smugly.
Ginny had the grace to blush. "I'm happy with what I do," she defended.
"Good. We were going to ask you to put out one with some pranks," Fred assured her, leading her to the Three Broomsticks so they could sit at a real table.
"What sort? I've instigated a rating system for content," she said proudly. The twins looked at her, letting her enter first. "See, I took the first letter of each house and used what I think they're like as that rating, then I add on whether I'm writing het, like me, or like Ron."
They looked stunned for a second then hugged her. "You are wonderful," Fred promised.
"Absolutely splendid," George agreed. "How much to get one with pranks put in? One of each say?"
Ginny sat down and figured it up in her head. She could milk them for a lot of money, but she only needed a little today. "How about a galleon each?"
"That's a good deal," George told her.
"Advertising is usually much more expensive." Fred pulled out some money and handed over thirteen galleons. "One extra because you're our sister."
"Cool," she breathed. Someone stomped over and she smiled at the blond prat standing there. "Mr. Malfoy, are you shopping today?" she asked, tucking the money into her pocket. Now she could get the really good quills and paper.
"I'm here for the first Decency meeting," he said firmly. "Did you just make a deal to advertise for them?"
"Just to write stuff for them," Ginny said innocently. "Remember, I'm the *good* Weasley child." He stomped off again. "Prat," she snorted.
The twins laughed and ordered butterbeers, getting their tab even so she could shop later. They gave her ideas of what they wanted and she swore to work as many as she could in. Over the course, she might get them all in, but in different stories. They assured her that was fine before they left her to her shopping. She paid for her butterbeer and skipped down to the paper and quill shop to get herself some new supplies. This way she wouldn't have to keep using the Room of Requiment's supplies.
Charlie got the next letter before the boys could, unwrapping the mass of scrolls. "Again?" he said angrily. He'd have to stop her soon.
Ron snatched the letter to read, smiling at him. "These are copies of the ones the twins wanted her to write for them," he said, handing it to Harry. "They even paid her."
"Wow," Harry noted as he read. "They must really like her work. Give me the G gay please, Charlie?" It was slapped into his hand and he went into the bedroom to read it. He wrote out his comments and put in a PS that he had put Snape's kink lecture into Dumbledore's pensieve, that way she could go in and get it out for future use. He thought it was just great.
Ron was sitting down reading the Hufflepuff lesbian version, laughing his butt off as the pranks attacked the students, driving them into a locked room with candles that lit themselves and a silk covered bed. His sister was so cool!
Charlie sat and read the het Gryffindor version, just so he'd have something to tell his mother. She was going to get Ron because he had obviously warped their poor sister somehow. Maybe it was all the piercings and stuff? Maybe their wild times had shown her that it was okay to do this stuff? He heard Harry's sudden laugh and shook his head with a moan. He didn't want to know. He really never wanted to know this much about his sister.
Ginny looked up as Dumbledore walked past her and caught her arm to walk her away. "Was there a problem, Headmaster?"
"Indeed, but we need to discuss it in private, Ms. Weasley," he assured her. "Up to my office and wait on me please." He let her go and shook his head behind her back. Then he went to empty that memory before anyone else could access it. How she had transferred it he wasn't sure but she had managed it quite well it seemed. He knew that lecture would come back to haunt someone. After he had emptied that memory out of the new pensieve and had stored it away in a locked cabinet, he went up to face down his budding authoress. "Ms. Weasley," he sighed as he walked in. "I am most disappointed that you managed to break into my office that way and steal."
She shook her head. "I didn't, sir, I used the Room of Requirement. I thought it might be able to copy the pensieve and I was right."
He looked stunned for a second. "I had no idea it could do that. Thank you for that information. Still, you should not be putting out some of those things. It is not appropriate, young lady."
She snorted. "Yay. I'm very happy with what I'm doing, Headmaster," she said confidently. "I'm fairly well liked and my stories seem to be well received among my year-mates."
"That's not the point," he said gently, giving her a smile. "Do you not feel that it is slightly...odd that you, a popular young woman, writes this sort of thing?"
She snickered. "Sir, have you really not had a talk with anybody about me yet?" she asked, standing up. He looked confused. "The reason I started writing this stuff, as you put it, was because there's no one here who interests me sexually. It's amazing, but your practical class on breeding the next generation doesn't apply to those of us who happen to like the same sex. Nor anything besides doing it for breeding purposes. Ron and Harry had the same problem, but they had each other. The only other lesbians in the school are of *no* interest to me and together. That leaves me with no outlet for my sexual urges and my roommates giving me funny looks because one of them thinks I might hit on her, when in fact she disgusts me. Having shared a room with her for the last six and a half years has shown me that she is not what I want in a woman. I prefer brains and *honest* reactions." He still looked confused. "Headmaster, to be perfectly blunt, unless you're going to suddenly get some new women in here who like other women, there's no other way for me to relieve these urges without scaring someone. As you know, some of the fading flowers are quite scared of people who might be attracted to them."
"Surely there are others...." he started. She gave him a steady look and he sighed. "Fine, there is no one here for you. Could you not find a less graphic manner of expressing these urges?"
He tried to come up with something but drew a blank. It was true, either she needed a girlfriend, or she needed to find some other outlets. "What about some of the pleasant local girls?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yup, my gaydar works wonderfully, sir," she said as she sat down again, crossing her legs. "I have been writing one of the delicate French flowers working with my brother but she's decided that she wants someone to dominate, not someone who's an equal. I'm not that delicate."
"What about an effeminate man?" he suggested.
She shuddered. "That's an even more sickening thought than a normal one," she said in disgust. "I don't like the male form, don't want it anywhere near me, and certainly don't want some fading little flower boy after me. You men and your parts make me so violently ill that I wish there was a handy Amazon tribe around some days, sir. Just so we could cut them all off." She stood up. "I've taken every precaution asked of me, including age charming them so only those of us in the seventh year, and a very few sixth years, can read them. I've managed to make myself happy. I'm sorry if that upsets you but, like Harry and Ron before me, I could care less. No one said you had to read them, sir." She flounced off, going to her next class.
Dumbledore sighed as he tuned toward the fireplace. "Molly Weasley," he called out, bringing her head up. "Molly, I believe we should have a discussion about your daughter's current rebellion."
"Has she been introducing girls to her thing?" she asked.
Dumbledore shook his head. "No, as she just told me there's no one here who interests her. She's been writing out her fantasies instead and trading them with another girl. They've gotten rather...popular, and it's become uncomfortable for some of the teachers."
Molly sighed. "I don't know how to stop this, Albus. It's not like I can convince her to date a man."
"Molly, she just expressed an urge to castrate all men."
"Oh." She blinked a few times. "I thought this was a phase." She frowned and disappeared, going to write her daughter a letter laying down the law of the land. She could experiment and have fun all she wanted, but Ginny would find herself a real relationship. Nothing else would be acceptable. Her parents wouldn't have allowed that for her and she had found happiness, her daughter could do the same.
Ginny opened the letter and slowly went pale. Then she calmly stood up and went back up to her room, finding the portkey in her trunk. She wrote out a note for whomever came looking for her and went to talk to someone who gave a damn about her. Fortunately she remembered her cloak since it was the middle of a snowstorm when she landed and she couldn't see anything. She noticed she was on the porch of a building and tapped gently before walking in, smiling at the familiar man on the couch. She sobbed as she ran over to hug Ron as tightly as she could, letting her shield him for now.
"What happened?" he asked. She pushed the letter into his hands and continued to sob. He read the short, terse missive. Then he carefully set her aside and went to get Charlie up. They had the day off since they couldn't find their work sites in the blizzard and Charlie was sleeping in. Ron's pounding on his door woke him quickly. He stomped in and handed over the letter. "I'm growing a Harry-sized anger problem," he said simply, going out to deal with Ginny. He got her out of her cloak and warmed in front of the fireplace, letting her settle however she wanted on the couch.
Charlie came out of his room, tightening his robe around his middle as he walked. "Ginny?" She looked up at him. "What's happened, precious?" he asked as he sat beside her.
"Mother sent that," she said, wiping her cheeks off. "Apparently I'm now no longer part of the family because I won't breed."
"Shit, you can breed without a dick and she knows it," Ron said angrily. He glared at the fireplace. "Should we tell someone you're safe? Dad'll stick up for you."
"I left a note at the school," Ginny said tiredly.
Charlie pulled her against his side, hugging her gently. "It's all right, we'll deal with it, Ginny. We accept you as you are, filthy mind and all." He gave her a little squeeze. "Some of your stuff got out down here and they were a great hit, though we had to explain the rating system at first," he said gently. She gave him a timid smile. "Really. It goes really well with Ron and Harry's library of toys."
She giggled. "Thanks, Charlie. I needed that." She looked around. "Where's Harry?"
"In bed with a headache. He had to go retrieve one of the lost ones last night. The whole patrol came in with the sniffles," Ron told her. "We should probably tell either Dad or the twins."
"I'll let you call Hermione," she offered. "That would get back to Dad through Percy."
"Deal," Charlie agreed. "Go ahead and call her, little sister. You can hide here for a few days." He ruffled her hair. "How did you get here?"
"The portkey you sent me."
"Really?" Charlie asked, looking back at Ron.
"We forged your signature on a safe passage pass," he admitted with a grin. "It's got four uses."
Charlie waffled but he decided it was for the best. "I'll stick up for that use this time. Are there any others?"
"I gave the coordinates to the twins," Harry said from his doorway. "What's going on? It sounded like shouting and crying." He saw Ginny and came over to give her a hug. "What are you doing out of school?"
Charlie handed over the letter. "Mother upset her."
Harry read it, his eyes narrowing. "I never would have expected this from your mother," he offered, handing it back. "We'll shield you as much as we can, Ginny. You're the sister I always wanted." She gave him a hug around the legs and then let him go to call her father, deciding Ron was right after all. "Good girl. Should I make us something?"
"You'll sneeze on it," Ron pointed out, getting up to put Harry on the couch. "Let us cook for now. You can do dinner, after you feel better." He went to put on water for oatmeal, the best he could do besides toasting something.
Charlie sat there to support his sister while his father read the letter for himself. He couldn't believe his mother had done that. What was wrong with her?
Arthur walked up to where his wife was sitting, sitting beside her. "Would you like to explain that letter to Ginny?" he asked calmly. She looked at him and shook her head. "I think you should," he offered again. "She's gone to see Ron and Charlie because you upset her so greatly."
"She'll have to get over it."
He patted her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "You hurt her, Molly. She's normal, and I accept her as she is. I thought you did as well."
"I thought this was some fling," she spat. "I won't have her doing...that for good. The same as I won't have Ron."
He gave her hand a stronger squeeze. "You can't change what the children choose for themselves," he said calmly. "The same as you cannot rip Harry and Ron apart. It would destroy Harry."
"He should find a nice girl too," she said firmly.
"Molly, think about it. Harry doesn't like people. It's a miracle he's settled down with anyone, and the fact that it's our son Ron is an even larger one. Ron's not the sort I would think would suit him but they do well with each other, when our son's not sticking his foot in his mouth," he admitted. She looked at him and he nodded. "Really. The children are who they are."
"I was made to give it up."
"I didn't know that," he admitted, shifting closer. "Molly, I adore you. If I was a second choice, I can only hope you've been satisfied with it."
"I have," she said stiffly. "That's what I was trying to tell Ginny."
"Molly, Ginny's not you. She won't settle. The world is a different place and she's moved on with it. She and Ron both."
"She's moved onto something that will destroy the family," she said bitterly.
"Only if you let it."
She glared at him. "You're sticking up for her?" He nodded and she started to stand up but he pulled her back down. "Arthur, let go."
"No, Molly," he said firmly, "I'm not. You're going to listen in this instance. Ginny and Ron can and might have children some day. If *they* want to. Not for any other reason. There are ways around that. Including the fact that Ginny's found out how, she gave a graphic description of the process in her practical education class." He gave her a sad smile. "You're not going to make them leave their lives the way you were. If Ginny wants to take up with some nice girl then I'm all for it. If she's not that nice then we'll have cause to worry. The same as Ron and Harry are a pair. You will not be budging them from each other, Molly. You have to accept this or the children will never speak to you again, except possibly Percy. He seems a bit distressed about Hermione's casual disregard of sex in her partners." He gave her hand another squeeze. "Think long and hard before you call Ginny at Charlie's tonight, Molly. This will be the one reason that the children will never come near us again." He stood up and walked away, leaving her to think.
She sat and brooded, knowing she was right. She had a horrible sudden vision of this escalating into a fight that would get one of her children put into a hospital bed, if not something worse, because they would still be fighting during an emergency. She shuddered and curled up on herself. She didn't want to see them hurt, only satisfied.
One of the twins walked over and sat next to her, leaning closer. "If this is about Ginny and Ron, forget it, mum." She glared at him. "Think about it. Ginny doesn't like kids. She's more than happy to be an aunt but she doesn't like kids and doesn't want kids. If Ron, Charlie, or Bill have any, they'd have to ship them back to one of the rest of us because their jobs are so dangerous." She started to open her mouth. "Mother, this is not the Weasley way, and you know it."
"How would you know?" she asked bitterly.
"Because someone taught us what it was supposed to be about. Nothing was ever said about sacrificing what we were to make the parents happier with us. Fred and I prank, mother, the same as Ron is with Harry and Ginny only likes flirty little girls. Bill and Charlie are both bachelors and unsatisfied but being practical. Percy's a confused asshole and he's got the stick- in-the-mud syndrome. You can't change us so you might as well move on to things that you can change."
"I like Hermione," she said stiffly. "Plus, Percy's gotten much better recently."
"He's still confused and his attitude leaves something to be desired, mother." He stood up again. "Dad asked that we stay out of this, but I'm not like that. I get it from you." He strolled off, going to do some minor shopping. Otherwise he'd have to eat his twin for dinner.
She considered it. Could he be right? She had to admit, if only Percy and the twins carried on the family name it was going to be lost within generations. Still, the others could chip in and help.
Harry came out of the bedroom as the yelling started. "Shut up!" he screamed. "You're making me feel worse." He crossed his arms, glaring at Molly. "I don't know what the problem is, and I don't care, but you're not taking my Ron. For that matter, if I have to, I have a method of adopting Ginny into *my* family if necessary. Now, sit and discuss this like a civilized lot and let me sleep!" He walked back into the bedroom and slammed the door.
"He caught a cold looking for a lost watcher last night," Ron told his mother. "He has a headache."
"And a bad case of 'what ifs'," Charlie added with a grin. "What was he talking about?"
"Well, Harry did save Ginny's life. She was all-but dead when he found her in the Chamber." Ginny shuddered and smooshed herself against his side. "That would create a blood debt that he could conceivably call on to take Ginny and adopt her as his legitimate sister. Just to increase his family name of course."
"Of course," Ginny said dryly. She looked at her mother. "If all I am to you is a way to get grandchildren, I can walk out that door and be done with that obligation in five minutes, mother, but you'll be raising it, not me. I'm not going to be someone's mother."
"You used to like kids," Charlie pointed out gently, but looking a little confused.
"Last year I figured out what it took to be a parent. All the sacrificing, the duty, the neverending toil. You end up becoming a slave to your offspring and I don't want that in my life. I'd like to travel and do fun things, not be tied to a crib and a wife." She looked at her mother again. "If all I am to you is a brood mare, then I'll gladly get that out of the way so you can have your precious grandchild and I can move on with my life while you raise it. Or while Percy or the twins raise it," she conceded at Ron's whispered reminder of their parents' ages.
"I'm sure we've just got a misunderstanding here," Charlie put in. "Mum knows you're not a brood mare, Ginny. The same as she realizes that I can't have one because things are too dangerous here to have a baby around. They could easily get killed and eaten, even in the nursery." Molly opened her mouth but he held up a hand. "It's a rule, mother. If one of us brings a child onto this preserve we will be fired because it's endangering the thing's life. Some of the dragons may be cuddly, but they're still dragons. Even the babies Ron and Harry work with have teeth, claws, and tails. Any baby around here would be lucky to live for a year, if that."
Molly slumped. "I only want everyone to be happy. This won't make you happy and it won't make anyone else happy."
Ron let out a rude laugh. "Since when has this family ever cared about what anyone else thought, mum?" he snorted. "I could care less what people think of me, other than they think I'm cute and really strong for having captured Harry. That's all I care about. My eggs, Harry's littles, and my art. Well, and Harry," he admitted when Molly gave him a frown. "Harry means so much more that he's really far above that list. I might be persuaded to give all that up as long as I had him."
"I hear wedding bells," Ginny teased, pinching him.
"Keep it up," he warned. "With Harry sick, someone who doesn't snore is going to have to sleep with his fevered-ness. That leaves me and Charlie out."
"Which is a good idea if you two ever decide to have kids," Charlie put in.
Ron nodded. "True." He grinned at his sister. "Though I'll have to obliviate you to the experience so you don't crawl after him." She pinched him again. "Really, one of the girl-only girls in Hufflepuff said she decided he was the only man she would ever touch again."
"Boys," Molly sighed, rolling her eyes. "This is not right. We all know that."
Ginny glared at her, making her flinch. "Mother, I don't care that Grandmother made you give up your girlfriend, I doubt she could do it to me. Even if she had me tied up and handed to a man and forcibly married, which is the *only* way it'd happen, one of us would end up dead within a week. And unless it's Harry or Malfoy, I doubt it'd be me." She stood up. "The offer stands, mum. I can go out and get knocked up within fifteen minutes and leave you to raise it. If you're that concerned about the family name, adopt." She stormed into Ron's bedroom, going to curl up with Harry. He was very comforting, even when he felt nasty.
Molly hung her head. "I'm concerned."
"Of course you are, you carried us nearly forever," Charlie snorted. "But we're still adults and we're still not brood animals. If I decide to leave the preserve and have a few little ones, I'll gladly let you come over and play with them and teach them what you did us."
Ron nodded. "Right now though, you're going against everything you ever taught us, mother. I won't let you hurt me or Harry, and I will let Ginny shelter behind me."
"She might need to," Molly pointed out. "She might be expelled for leaving that way. Did you think about that when you sent her that portkey?"
"She's had it since before school started," Ron pointed out. Harry came out of the bedroom and he grinned at him. "How's your head?"
"Better," Harry admitted, coming out to sit beside Ron. "Ginny's asleep. I knocked her out." Molly glared at him. "Don't you dare," he warned. "I won't have my sister hurt, nor Ron."
"I'm going to hit you if you don't add yourself to that sentence," Ron warned. Harry gave him a kiss and he grinned stupidly. "Never mind."
Harry looked at Molly again. "You may not be able to accept us being together as long as possible, but it's a valid thing. Even here in Albania. Even the local Ministry recognizes our union."
"You had a union and didn't tell anyone?" Charlie asked.
Harry threw a pillow at his head. "It's considered as such because Ron's being seen as the one who's keeping me sane," he said, his eyes a bit wild at the moment.
"Calm down," Ron soothed, stroking up Harry's back and making him shiver. "She'll see that she's not taking me away from you. Nor Ginny from whatever person she decides on. We all know she's the stubborn one in the family and I was just practice for her will." Harry grinned at him and they cuddled together, leaning back as one.
"Mum, can't you see that you're going to make her miserable? Ginny meant it. Unless she finds the one, single man that she can stand then she's never going to see one socially. There are ways around the continuation of the line. We won't lose all that history, and we won't lose everything we've ever stood for just because Ron and Ginny like their own playmates. If Bill and I worked in less dangerous places, you might already have a pack of grandkids, but you won't until one of us retires and I don't see that happening. Percy will breed true and the twins will carry on their side of the family, just like Dad's dad was." She grimaced. "They will and you know it."
"Percy's infertile until that blasted spell is fixed," she admitted. "The twins aren't looking toward themselves."
Ron sighed. "Mother, the family will continue. I swear, even if we have to adopt someone, there will always be Weasleys."
"Ron, I still don't like kids," Harry said gently, giving him a pat on the thigh. "Human babies scare the shit out of me." He saw Molly's mouth open and he shrugged. "It fit."
Ron nodded. "It did." He looked at Harry. "You don't want a little Harry?" Harry shook his head quickly. "Not even a little James?"
"Ron, kids scare me. I'll end up with a kid like my father, or like me. Besides, we can't have sex if we have kids."
"You can so," Molly defended. "Arthur and I manage every now and again. At least once a month."
"A month?" Ron asked. He looked at Harry, then licked his lips. "Am I upset about our future prospects or disgusted by hearing that?"
"Both," Charlie supplied. He patted his mother on the hand. "If you calm down and look at this logically, you're complaining to the wrong people."
"I want a kid some day," Ron defended. "Just not now. When I'm ready to settle down and be a dad, I'll do that. Until then, I'm not going to give Harry up and Harry's going to be the step-father of my future son." He gave Harry a squeeze before he could say anything. "We'll discuss it next year, when you've had a chance to get used to the routine and bored."
"You still can't have kids on the preserve," Charlie reminded him. Ron looked at him. "Kids are vulnerable. One wrong step and one of the littles could pounce it to play too rough, or one of the older ones might eat it. It's a sad fact, but there's a reason why the rule was made."
"Then Ron needs to go play pro so the kid can go with him and they can come visit a lot," Harry put in hopefully. Charlie shook his head. "Not *on* the preserve?"
"Nope. Not while living on the preserve."
"Then we'll find a way to take a house right outside the boundaries, and come in to work each day," Ron said firmly. Harry looked at him and he grinned. "That way, no one can say a damn thing about the noise we make."
Charlie snorted. "I'm glad you found the silencing charm. It's a nice change."
"I won't have you fighting," Molly said firmly.
Arthur came out of the floo and stared her down. "Molly, are you bothering Ginny already?"
"Quit, pops, she's fine," Harry said with a wave when Arthur looked at him. "She's napping on our bed. We're figuring a way around all this since Ron wants kids for some reason."
"I like little kids," Ron said firmly.
"I'm sure you can babysit a future nephew or niece and get it out of your system," Harry said hopefully. Ron gave him a look and gently kissed him, making him calm himself. "We'll talk about it," Harry relented.
"Thanks, Harry." Ron cuddled closer, making Harry push him away a little bit. "See, it could still happen, but not if you push."
"I'm trying to make sure the family lines continue, Ron. It's important that the history we carry with us isn't lost."
"How could it be lost? We wrote most of it down," Charlie put in.
Harry groaned and grabbed his forehead, blacking out for a few moments. When he came to, he was laying on the couch and everyone was giving him worried looks. "Someone stole the head. He's giving an interview, reliving his past greatness." He tried to stand up but Ron had a firm hand in the middle of his chest. "Ron, I've got to save the reporter. He's talking her into letting him use her body."
"Harry, you're in no shape to go anywhere," Ron pointed out. "Let Dad have someone go."
"He's supposed to be in a tank in the Mystery's department," Arthur pointed out.
Harry considered it. "He's with a reporter he's calling....Simpson, but that's not her real name. He's near the sea and it's a choppy spot if that helps. He's still in the UK somewhere, dad."
"I'll go tell on him," Arthur promised, heading to do that.
"Why hasn't his head died yet?" Charlie asked.
"They wanted to find out how he did some things," Harry said with a shrug. "It's been very educational. I know now how to become immortal like he was." Molly's pursed lips made her objection known. "I never said I was going to do that, just that I now knew how. After all, I'd have to find someone else to anchor my sanity." Ron gave him a hug, making him 'urp' as the air left his lungs suddenly. "Thanks, Ron," he squeaked. Ron slowly let him go. "One of us should go retrieve him. Just so we can walk him back to his assigned spot and stick him in the tank with an ever-sticking charm."
"I'll have the people responsible for him do so," Arthur said firmly, heading to do that.
Harry let himself settle against his mate's side, getting comfortable. "Why does this keep happening?"
"You said he was going to try and regenerate," Ron reminded him. "That was why you ground him up and put him into little bottles."
"Yeah, we did," Harry agreed.
Three days later found Harry walking up Diagon, swinging the head as he walked. It was complaining, a lot, but he didn't really care. The reporter had committed suicide once she realized he was 'convincing' her to bear him an heir he could possess and take control of. He nodded at a few people he knew as he took the back way into the Ministry, holding up the head in explanation. "I'm returning stolen goods," he told the guard. "I know the way." He headed to the Mysteries department and this time he stuck the head in the container with a sticking charm and added the stasis solution himself. "I was right, he's regenerating," he told the people watching him. "He used to only have an inch of neck and now he's got three and a bit of skin looking like it's going to become shoulders." He waved and walked out, heading for the preserve, but going to sit on his hill. It was still snowing and he got turned around in the woods, but he would be fine. He knew enough of the surrounding area that he could make it home eventually. He found a small building and tapped, but no one answered. When he walked in, there were cobwebs everywhere and very little else. The cot had sheets and a blanket on it. The fireplace had a cauldron in it. There was wood, a table, and a chair. He lit the fire and gathered some of the snow into the pot to warm so he could drink, and sat down to wait out the snow. It was supposed to have stopped soon.
Arthur looked up as someone barged into his office. "Yes?" he asked pleasantly.
"Where is Potter?" the woman hissed.
"He should be at work," he said with a happy smile. "Why?"
"He took the talking head from someone, audaciously brought it back through Diagon, exposing it to who knows how many people, and then left before he could even be asked a question!" she said angrily.
"Well, Harry really doesn't like this situation," he pointed out gently. "Harry would rather have that head cut into smaller pieces and put into vials as well. I'm sure if you asked he would answer whatever you wanted to know."
"We called, he hasn't made it back there yet!" she shouted.
"Now, now. Please don't do that," Arthur said calmly. "Let me call my son. He and Harry are still bound." He turned to his floo and called Charlie up, getting a quick answer. "Charlie, is Harry there yet?"
"No, dad, not at all. Hold on. Ron!" His head turned. "Dad wants to know where Harry is."
"He's here somewhere," Ron called back. His head popped into the fireplace. "Hi, dad. I know he's somewhere on the preserve and in a building but he's not here yet. I think he got turned around and he's in a shack or something." He shrugged. "What's wrong? Can I help any?"
"Do you know where Mr. Potter got the head from?" the Mysteries person demanded.
Ron nodded. "He got it from Bath. It had moved and was on it's way out of town. He said the reporter had committed suicide last night because she realized he was talking her into giving him an heir so he could start over again." He made a paper airplane and launched it through the fire. "That's the note he left this morning. I'll have him call when he gets back if you want."
"No, we want to see him in person," she spat. She wiped her mouth. "He has once again taken the law into his own hands."
Ron snorted. "It's not like you guys were stopping him and he was regenerating." The woman's eyes narrowed. "Harry said so last night," he said with another shrug. "Voldie was apparently mentally crowing about it. He didn't even think to block Harry out."
"Fine!" She stomped off.
Arthur smiled at his son. "Let me talk to some people before she does," he said quietly. "Keep him there." He signed off and called the new Minister of Magic. "Claus. Harry apparently upset the Mysteries people when he brought back the talking head."
Claus Henderson shrugged. "It happens. I think they're more upset that he walked it through Diagon and scared a bunch of people. Though I heard that they were confident that he was handling it since it was him." He winced as a loud 'crack' went off in his office. "Ah, Maribel. Are you here about Mr. Potter's unorthodox retrieval yesterday as well?"
The floo suddenly cut off and Arthur sighed as he stood up, heading up to straighten this out. Ron would be most upset if Harry was arrested for stepping in. He found the current Minister dead in his chair and got a guard, watching as they removed him. "Hmm." He looked at the secretary, who was just returning. "When did you go to lunch?" he asked.
"I think we can handle that, Minister Weasley," the law enforcement agent in charge coughed. He smiled at him. "What was this about?"
"Harry brought back Voldemort's head," Arthur sighed. "Mysteries got rather upset with him for it. I was talking with Claus when he said Maribel came in and then the floo went blank."
"Maribel Sanders from the Unspeakables sent me to lunch," the secretary said helpfully. "She looked frightfully pissed."
The law enforcement agent smiled. "Thank you, dear. Why don't you tidy up everything and head home?" She nodded, getting to work to make sure everything would be smooth when the next person came in. She really hadn't liked this one, he was a bit slimy. Reminded her of a puddle of oil really. The law enforcement agent took Arthur down the hall to talk to him. "What did your son-in-law do?"
"He retrieved the head from where it was working on a reporter and his autobiography," he said grimly, starting to grimace. "He walked it through Diagon, probably because he thought it'd be safer, then he handed it over and headed home. He's somewhere on the preserve at the moment."
"They've been having a few blizzards," Arthur said gently. "Ron said he's safe."
"Good enough. Do you know who's next in line?"
"The Vice-Minister I suppose," Arthur said with a shrug. "Where is he?"
"We're not quite sure at the moment." He went to supervise some more, hoping to find the Vice- Minister soon enough. Not that anyone liked the man, he was an idiot of the highest caliber. How he had gotten so high when he could barely speak a sentence intelligently he wasn't sure. Inbreeding was bad and he was the posterboy.
Ron looked around as dark fell. "He's still in that shack," he said quietly.
"He's fine, Ron," Charlie said from the sofa. "Relax."
"I don't want to relax." Ron turned to look at him. "It's bad enough we can't get food shipments in, he's only got snow and whatever he picked up on his way up there. Besides, he's alone."
"Ron, we're talking about Harry Potter. He can take care of himself, no matter what's coming for him." Charlie turned the page on his book. "As for our food situation, we'll have some here soon enough. The snow's supposed to stop tomorrow."
"Charlie, it's over the edge of the porch now. We'll be digging out for a long while."
"Yay. We're not going to starve." He looked at his little brother. "We always have at least one bad snow, Ron, it's fine. Put on that stew you were talking about earlier. It should last until tomorrow and I'm sure Harry can be home by then."
"If he's not, I'm going looking for him," Ron said firmly as he went into the kitchen.
"Only if you're bringing a tracker with you in case you get lost," Charlie called after him.
"If I have to," Ron agreed. He worked on starting the stew, making something warm that would still be around when Harry came back tomorrow.
Harry looked around the small cabin. There was nothing to eat. Not even a trail ration. He looked outside and couldn't see the ground anymore thanks to the snow being halfway up the lone window. So maybe he was stuck here for a bit. He listened but he couldn't hear anything outside that he could kill and eat. He got a flash of Ron worried that he was going to eat his own hand and laughed. "Not yet, Ron," he whispered. "Soon though. I only had a pretzel when I left earlier." He sent back 'safe and warm' feelings and got a mental nuzzle in return but it felt odd. He snapped at that with Ron and felt it scream. It served the head right for interrupting them. Ron laughed at something and he sighed. Ron was happy and okay at least. He sent a small mental query at Ron to put out a few trail bars so he could summon them but apparently Ron hadn't gotten that thought because it didn't work when he tried. He wished those stories about portals were real, he would like to have one at the moment. If for no other reason than he'd rather be starving by Ron's side than alone. He winced as the wind picked up, but it was the noise he needed to not feel like he was totally alone and about to be ambushed.
Harry knew it was a paranoid thought, but that's what the quiet reminded him of and he felt paranoid whenever he was surrounded by complete silence. He really hated silence. He really, really hated silence and he was going to go insane, Ron's mind being in his or not.
Ron woke up the next morning and grimaced. Something was definitely off about Harry's mind. He obviously hadn't slept at all, but it felt less firm somehow. Like Harry was on the verge of another screaming fit. He sat up. Harry needed noise. Harry hated silence, it made him paranoid. Even during their tests it made him jumpy and antsy. He walked out and found Charlie staring at the half-wall of snow against the door. "Harry's having a breakdown," he said gently.
"Why?" Charlie asked absently.
"He can't stand silence." Charlie looked at him. "It makes him paranoid. He's tense and waiting for an attack. He hasn't slept yet."
"Can't you fix that by sending him noise?" Charlie asked.
"I can send a feeling but nothing as concrete as a thought," Ron told him, starting to frown. "Did it stop?"
"Yeah, but we'll have to dig the paths out."
"Shit." Ron closed his eyes and sighed, pointing. "He's that way."
"There isn't even a trail going that way," Charlie pointed out. Ron gave him a harsh look. "Sorry, of course you're more worried about him. You don't have any dragons you're watching over."
"Charlie, if it was anybody else, you'd be panicking and trying to get to them too," Ron said bitterly as he went to make himself some coffee. He made a brief detour through Harry's bookshelves and found a book on fighting in the snow to flip through. "Here's a snow melting charm," he said as he sipped. "It may leave ice."
"We could have a few of the dragons out tromping around in it," Charlie said dryly. He shook his head and went to call Steve. "We're still blocked in and Harry's somewhere on the edge of the preserve."
"How?" Steve asked patiently.
"He got turned around when he came back last night," Ron called. "He's in some sort of shack."
"Um, Charlie, which direction is he in?" Steve asked cautiously, bringing Ron over to look at him. "Really." Ron pointed. "The only shelter that way is kind of haunted."
"So? We had ghosts at school."
"By the ghost of a cannibal, someone who died during a snow storm and slowly starved to death after he ate part of himself," Steve finished.
Ron grimaced. "Harry said he's not that desperate yet."
"Is anyone else missing?" Charlie asked.
"One of the Drumstrang sweeties was out on watch when this storm started. She's from the steppes of Siberia, I'm sure she knows how to handle a blizzard."
"Fine. Then we'll set off for both of them," Ron offered. "Which way was she?"
"She was up by Pansy."
"Then maybe they've found her." Ron frowned and looked around the room. "Goyle had the floo hooked up to the infirmary for Pansy."
"Then we'll call from over there," Steve agreed, nodding quickly. Ron was obviously just like Harry, or had been infected by him. "Any idea if Potter's all right?"
"He's paranoid. Silence and he aren't friends," Ron said absently. "He feels like he's about to be ambushed. He hasn't slept all night."
"Okay then, I'm only going to allow you to go looking for him then, Ron." Ron turned to scowl at him. "I'm being practical. Harry won't kill you if you show up. The rest of us aren't that sure of that fact."
"Harry wouldn't hurt anybody," Ron defended.
"He's in battle-mode, Ron, you said yourself that he's paranoid. If someone shows up, we'll be lucky if he pulls his punch like he did with Charlie."
Ron grimaced. "Fine. I'll go looking for him. I'll need some trail rations, we don't have any here."
"Fine," Steve said quickly. "Give us an hour?" Ron nodded. "Thanks. Charlie, I'm going to put you in charge of check-ins while I check with Pansy's crew to see if that one watcher ever made it there." He nodded. "Good, head to the infirmary, I'll meet you there. One hour, Ron."
"Deal." Ron went to braid his hair and find his warmest clothes. Then he sat down to read a bit more of the book, just in case he needed it. He hadn't seen this one before. It was a good manual on snow survival.
Harry flinched when he heard whistling, looking around wildly. That wasn't Ron, Ron couldn't whistle. He could barely hum most days. He grabbed his wand and backed himself against the wall next to the cot, looking at both the fireplace and the door. He noticed a mist was forming again and mentally groaned. "No," he whined. "No more visitations! I won't put up with it! I'm not dying here and I'm not eating myself!" he yelled. "Go away!"
The mist formed more of a body but it was still indistinct. He couldn't really see any features or anything. It was still whistling though.
"Go away!" Harry shouted, aiming his wand and casting at it. The hex landed against the wooden walls and rebounded harmlessly.
The whistling went on.
Ron kicked open the infirmary's door, dragging Harry in. "He's still in shock," he announced. One of the healers came over to help him. "The ghost there was driving him insane." He pulled a stool over and sat on it while they worked on his boyfriend. He subtly stretched his aching back then pulled off his hat to release his hair and the sweat trapped in it. "We need to tear down that place."
Steve came out of the floo, looking at him. "What happened? Is he okay?"
"Probably," Ron told him. "The ghost was taunting him until he went nuts. He thought I was the ghost there for a few minutes." It had been a long two-day search. "The ghost had gotten trapped during a blizzard and had to eat part of himself." Everyone who heard shuddered. "We really need to burn it down."
"It'll be one of our spring projects," Steve promised him. They could use the ground anyway. "Did you mark it?" Ron nodded. "Thanks, kiddo." He gave him a grin and looked over at Harry. "How long do you think he'll be down?"
"He's hungry, hadn't slept in three days, and he's a bit paranoid," Ron told him. "Do we have eggs yet?"
"We do," Steve agreed. "That one small warm snap we had a few months back started a few into spring heat. You've got about twenty eggs heading for you." Ron beamed. "Think you can handle them and Harry?"
"Sure, Harry won't be a problem once he comes to his senses," Ron said with a hand wave, which he turned into pulling out his hair fastener so he could fully release his hair and let it air dry. "Much better," he sighed. "I forced a food bar onto him last night and again this morning. He was still looking at me like he wasn't sure I was real."
"It'll be fine," the healer assured him. "We could probably handle it if you wanted to go change."
Ron gave her a look. "Do you have your defensive spells ready?" he asked patiently. She snorted and nodded. "Cool, then I'll be back in about an hour. I could use a good bath too." He stood up and headed for the door but Harry yelled and broke free of the people to grab him, pulling them both into the corner. "Harry," Ron said patiently. "I'm gonna go get us some clean clothes and take a shower. Let me go." Harry whispered something too quiet for him to really hear. "No, this is the infirmary," he said, responding to the only part he had heard. He saw the blatant look around. "We're at the preserve," he reminded him. "Not the school. I promise, Harry, Madam Pomfrey isn't going to jump you anytime soon." He got free and handed his mate back with a grin. "One hour, okay?" Harry gave him a pathetic look. "I'll even use the shampoo you like."
"What happened to your hair?" Harry asked quietly. "It was never that long before."
"He's retreated back to a safer time," the healer said, gently steering Harry to a bed. "Don't worry about it, Harry, Ron will be right back and we'll take good care of you until he comes back to explain his hair to you." Harry gave her a look. "Trust me, I'm much nicer than Madam Pomfrey was. Would you like some tea?" He nodded quickly. "Good boy. You stay there and I'll get you some tea."
She went to put on some water, and Ron walked over to give her a very quiet warning about the person in Harry's head. His shields were probably a bit down and Voldemort wouldn't mind taking advantage of that at all. Then he went to have his shower and put on clean clothes. Charlie pounced him coming out of the shower, giving him a little shake. "He's fine, he's living back in the school years." He got free and went to their room to find himself an outfit for the day. "The ghost was driving him insane." He stopped talking as he pulled on a shirt. Then he looked at his big brother. "He'll be fine with some rest and food. He'll come back to his senses as soon as he realizes he's safe."
"What about the thing in his head?" Charlie asked.
"I warned Ingrid, it's listed in his medical records as well. If anything, he'll probably try to make Harry more paranoid." He shrugged and sat down to pull on a pair of pants, sans underwear. "Did you hear, I'm going to be getting eggs soon."
"I did," Charlie agreed, walking in to look at him. "Are you sure he's going to be fine?"
Ron looked at him. "He'll be paranoid for a bit but otherwise fine. Why?"
"Because some people who retreat into their heads don't come back out," Charlie reminded him.
Ron summoned his brush and shifted so he could brush his hair and look at his brother. He really needed one of those self-brushing brushes. "He'll be fine. He realized who I am and asked me about my hair. He's talking and looking around, this was a paranoid reaction to being tormented by that ghost. It's not like he was under the Cruciatus for a long time. The cannibal only fucked with his head." He got the big knot out and his brother took the brush, doing it for him. "Thanks, Charlie."
"You're worse than a girl with this stuff," Charlie grumbled. "I'm coming with you."
"That's fine. Let me pick out some jammies and an outfit for Harry." He winced as his hair was yanked. "Easy. Otherwise I'll be as bald as Dad." Charlie snorted but was more gentle with him from then on, even braiding it for him. "Thanks, Charlie." He grinned at him. "Can you grab him some cocoa mix?" Charlie nodded and went to get it while Ron picked out Harry's favorite worn-out fleece pajamas to take him. He'd had them since their seventh year, he should remember them. He met his brother at the door, taking the mix and adding it to the bag he was carrying. "C'mon. Before he worries himself sick. I told him an hour." They trudged down the path as quickly as they could. Harry's head popped up when they walked in and he grinned at them. "Hi, Harry. I brought you jammies and an outfit, just in case they keep you." He gave him a light kiss, shocking Harry totally. "You don't remember us starting off with that stuff?"
Harry nodded slowly. "Kinda."
"See, I told you he'd be fine," Ron told his big brother. "Charlie came to see you too."
"I had him put some cocoa mix in the bag," Charlie offered with a grin of his own. "How are you, Harry?"
"I'm okay, I guess. Just kind of confused," Harry told him.
"If you'd drink the rest of your tea and take a nap, it'll help that," Ingrid told him from her desk. She looked up and smiled. "You can use the bathroom to clean up and change into your pajamas. I'm afraid you're staying tonight."
"That's fine I guess," Harry admitted, finishing his tea. He took the bag and pulled out the pajamas, smiling at Ron. "My favorite pair?" Ron nodded. "Thanks." He gave him a tentative hug and headed into the bathroom.
"He's really okay?" Charlie asked.
"Sure. It hadn't gone on long enough to do more than make his mind fuzzy. Ron, does he have nightmares?"
"Sometimes," Ron admitted. "Don't try to pat him during it unless he's already on top of you. He whaled me a good one last month with that problem."
"That's fine," she agreed with a slight smile. "I'll let you stay long enough to tuck him in." She went back to her book. There hadn't been any patients outside of some minor frostbite in days. This was much better than a hospital setting. Harry came out, freshly showered and in his pajamas. "Those are adorable," she told him.
"I helped him pick them out," Charlie told her. Harry laughed, but it still sounded nervous. "Your last year, big shopping trip with all the Weasley boys?"
"Oh yeah," he agreed, sliding into his bed. He let Ron tuck him in and looked at him. "How long before I remember?" he whispered.
"Hopefully by tomorrow, Harry." He gave him a long hug. "You behave for Ingrid tonight and I'm just a floo away if you need me." Harry nodded, giving him another smile so Ron gave him a deep kiss, making his lover moan. "Harry."
"None of that in front of me," Ingrid told them, breaking them apart without having to move.
"Oh, let them. It might help," Charlie pointed out with a grin. She frowned at him and he turned up his boyish charm, making her laugh. "Just for a few minutes?"
"Fine. Pull the curtains, Ron. If anything, it'll help him sleep." She shook her head, looking at Charlie once the curtains were pulled. "Naughty you. I'm going to find you someone to tie you down and abuse you yet."
Charlie laughed. "I'm sure we're all looking, Ingrid. It'll happen when it does." Harry moaned Ron's name and he blushed. "Maybe I should head home," he said quietly. She laughed, making him blush worse. "I hear enough of that at home, thank you." He waved. "I'll be back later tonight."
"Okay. I won't hide." He was laughing as he walked out. "Silencing charm, boys," she reminded them. "Even Charlie needs his rest."
"Oh, Harry, more," Ron begged.
Ingrid shook her head. Young love was amazing, but usually not that long-lasting. Boys their age didn't have the stamina to go all night.
Ginny looked up as one of the fifth year Slytherins walked up to her, giving the boy a look. "What?" she asked patiently.
"I hear you've got some dirty stuff," he said, glancing around. "Can I buy some?"
"It's age charmed," she told him, giving a little shrug. "That way it wouldn't be confiscated."
"You can't copy it for me special?" he pleaded. "I'll pay extra."
"All my paper and my quill have the age charm on them," she told him. "Even if I wanted to, I'd get kicked out of school for it." She brushed some of her hair over her shoulder. "I'm sorry, but I can't. You might try asking some of your housemates to copy some for you." She got up and walked away, going to find a new book for a paper. When she came back, her books were missing, as was her bag. She walked up to the librarian. "Did you see who moved my things?" she asked.
"That boy who was begging took them," she said. "I've already noted it to a Prefect." Ginny gave her a smile and let her check out the book. "Did it have your homework in it?"
"Yup, it did," Ginny told her. "Plus my specially charmed quill and paper." A few of the girls looked at her. "That means I can't write anything until I get it back."
A few of the boys casually strolled out to liberate her things for her. They depended on Ginny's dirty little mind now, it made their lives more interesting. And sometimes their girls even agreed to try some of the things she wrote.
Professor Snape looked at the meeting of the teachers, giving them a look. "Why does it fall to me to deal with this student?" he demanded. "I thought we had settled the matter so I would not have to deal with her again."
"She still seems to like your input," Dumbledore told him gently, giving him a smile. "Besides, you're the least open to rumors about sexual matters, Severus. Finius is very open to that sort of thing, whereas no one would believe you'd sleep with a Gryffindor."
Snape snorted. "I'm sure they think I wouldn't sleep with anyone," he said coolly. Some of the teachers nodded. "What did you want me to do with her? She has done everything we've asked and her writing has only gotten more prolific as a result. It has allowed her to branch out into other areas if what I confiscated last night was hers."
"It might not have been, I've seen a few Hufflepuffs trying their hand with their own erotic fantasies," McGonagall told him.
"It's not right, they're little kids," Hagrid put in. "Can't we stop them?"
"Miss Weasley is eighteen, Hagrid, she's more than old enough to be married now," Dumbledore gently reminded him.
"Yeah, but she should have a boy for those things," he said firmly.
Snape frowned at him. "She prefers the female form and has stated repeatedly that the male body makes her ill." Hagrid looked shocked. "Hence her starting off with lesbian pornography." He looked at McGonagall again. "I will work with you on this matter, but I do not feel comfortable dealing with the little girl alone. Even I am not above people starting rumors."
"That's fine," she agreed. She cleared her throat. "Did they beat up that one boy very badly?"
Snape smirked. "No worse than he deserved for stealing her books and school bag."
"They did what?" Madam Sprout asked.
McGonagall looked at her. "One of Severus' fifth years asked her to write something for him, going against the age charm she agreed to use. When she turned him down and walked away to find a book, he took her possessions to search them for things he could read. A few of your house decided to track the boy down and save their future scrolls." Madam Sprout blushed. "Apparently they jumped him in one of the bathrooms and pointed out that he'd get worse from his own house since they bought more off her."
"She's selling them now?" Dumbledore asked. "I hadn't heard that."
"One sickle above the cost of the paper and ink," McGonagall said dryly. "She asked my opinion on the matter first."
"She really needs to stop," Dumbledore told them.
"Well, I simply wish someone would tell her that Ravenclaws do happen to enjoy the physical pleasures as much as everyone else," Finius Flitwick put in. "She always has us doing things to experiment and never because we want more than that."
McGonagall patted him on the hand. "I'll tell her. Anything else?"
Madam Sprout looked at her. "Some of us do like to do more than be gentle," she reminded her, "though it usually starts or ends that way."
"I'll be sure to broaden her horizons," McGonagall said with a wink for her. She looked at her boss again, noticing he still didn't look happy. "She's got another four months, Albus. That's all."
"Yes, but what happens if we have someone take her place next year?" Dumbledore retorted. "It's bad enough we had to make rules to cover body jewelry last year."
"As long as I no longer have to look at them, I could care less," Snape reminded him. "Next year, you will have someone else do this job, correct?" he more stated than asked. Dumbledore looked at him. "I have been calming down the odd little creatures for ten years," he reminded him. "Find someone else to mentor them, please."
"Fine, Severus, I'll have someone else do that duty," Dumbledore agreed. "You've been so good at it that I had wanted to give you a raise for it."
"Be that as it may, I've been the person who has been traumatized first by the seventh years' antics for the last ten years. I no longer want to talk to anyone who has their genitals pierced, for whatever reason, nor do I want to judge new tattoos or new haircuts. Nor do I want to answer more summons to pick up drunk students, or rescue those who have decided to take mind- altering concoctions, usually of their own making and very ill-made. Find someone else."
"Fine. Would anyone else like that job?" Dumbledore asked. "Give Professor Snape the year off?"
"I'm never doing it again," Snape informed him. "They can all die of gangrene as far as I'm concerned. It would stop the sexual antics as well."
Hagrid held up a hand. "I'll do it if no one else won't," he offered generously. "How hard can it be?"
McGonagall looked down at him. "Do you remember Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley's trials?" He nodded, smiling at her. "Severus deals with at least fifty of those a year. Usually they only get a single hole put in."
Hagrid looked stunned. "You mean others do that too?" Snape nodded, giving him an odd look. "But we never see 'em."
"That's because the most usual place is either their nipple or their navel," Flitwick told him. "I'll do it next year," he offered. "I've got a good handle on what the children are going through. Some of the purported properties are supposed to be very interesting as well."
Dumbledore gave him a smile. "Thank you, Professor Flitwick." He stood up. "I'll leave you to talk about this newest problem. I believe I'm for a headache potion." He walked away. He hadn't know it was this bad. When had the students started doing that? In his day, they'd only had sex and gotten drunk.
Ginny Weasley walked into the dungeon and paused when she saw the students doing their detentions. She had been summoned by a note. "Yes, Professor?" she asked politely.
"The Headmaster has seen fit to curse me with your problems again," he told her. "He is concerned about your level of output."
"Why? My grades aren't falling, I'm doing really well, and I amuse people," she pointed out. "Is he bothered by the frank nature of the scrolls?" He nodded. "Then I'm really sorry for him. Even guys his age should be able to enjoy having a long snog now and again." She crossed her arms. "What was that other thing about?"
He sneered. "Professors Flitwick and Sprout had some criticism for you. He said that Ravenclaws were more than their brains and Professor Sprout pointed out that not everything has to be gentle."
"Then I'll gladly show her some of the other stuff I hadn't put around yet," she said firmly, smiling and nodding. "Thank you, sir. Did you want approval before I put things out?" She reached into her bag and pulled out a few handfuls of scrolls. "These are my backlog." She put them down onto his desk and pulled out some more, including one tied bundle. "That one's a complete set," she said with a smile and a wave, then she trotted back to her writing.
He groaned. "Come back here," he shouted. She didn't hear him apparently or she was doing this to vex him.
"I'll...I'll proof a few of them," one girl offered, stuttering slightly. She hoped he was this nice to her year when she was a seventh year the year after next.
"They are all age-charmed," he said firmly. "Get back to work." She went back to her scrubbing. This was not his year. The only bright point was that this girl didn't write him into anything. One of the other attempts he had confiscated had done so, which is how he had found it. The girl had been *giggling* in his class while watching him stalk around the room. He snatched the first one, checking the rating. One for his house, he would have to remember to tell her not everyone in Slytherin was a deviant person. Some of them did enjoy the finer things. He got three lines into it before he had to put it down. She was still very good at drawing mental images and he hadn't wanted to picture someone like Malfoy doing things of that nature with a woman. Why he had pictured Malfoy he wasn't sure, but now the image was stuck in his mind.
Maybe if he held onto them, she wouldn't try to take them back, thereby cutting down her production?
"No, she's probably got a working copy," he muttered as he stood up and went to make himself something for his headache. He heard the sixth year in detention mutter something about proof readers and decided to make it a double dose.
Ron looked up as Harry walked into the nursery. "Feeling like yourself again?" In response, Harry pushed him against the wall and ravaged his mouth, brutally kissing him like there was no tomorrow. "Harry," he panted, groping him. "Desperate?"
"Very," Harry breathed, leaning down to nibble at his neck. "The talking head was trying to get me so I had to block him out, and while I was doing that I heard some guys talking about the latest scroll they had ordered off Ginny." He gave him another hard kiss. "It was us, I swear it was, and it sparked everything in my head. My shields have never been firmer and neither have I."
"We need stuff," Ron panted, letting go. He was more than willing, any time, any place. If Harry wanted to shag him in Steve's office, with most everyone and the dragons watching, he would go for that. "Please?"
"I'm ready," Harry promised, ripping off Ron's shirt and tossing it behind him. He stepped back and stripped himself, then worked on Ron's belt. "Please?" Ron helped, stepping out of his clothes as quickly as possible when one's wearing boots. Then Harry found himself on his back, looking up at his grinning lover. "Do you want this?"
"More than usual," Ron admitted. "I like it when you're desperate, Harry." He pushed in, moaning at the long, warm, slick slide he was doing. "Damn, you're good," he groaned as he pulled back some. "Ready?"
"For everything," Harry said with a grin.
"Really?" Ron asked, leaning down to bite him. "Does that mean I can do odd things to you?"
"Only if it's you and only if you move right this instant," Harry pleaded.
Ron beamed. "Sure thing, you know that." He pulled back and slammed in again, making Harry writhe under him. This was how he liked it best. He rode Harry very well, and Harry was a champion pony under him. The scratching of their sweaty bodies against each other made a nice counterpoint to the sounds they were both making. Ron stole a kiss every now and then but he was concentrating on making it great for his lover. Harry shifted so his hips were higher, he obviously wanted the full Ron experience so he gave it to him. Harry's shout brought people running. "Do you mind?" Ron asked as he continued. "He needed a good shag to get back to normal." Harry waved a hand and then pulled Ron's head down for a kiss while he got off. Ron pulled back to beam at him. "You ready for more?"
"I'm always ready for more," Harry promised as he wiggled out from under Ron and flipped over, presenting a pretty target for his man.
Ron took advantage of it, ignoring the gawkers. His Harry was a beautiful sight, spread out like a meal for him. He licked and nibbled up and down Harry's back while he pounded him, making Harry wiggle more when he hit all the right spots. He finally got close and pulled Harry's hips up, ending on a long, hard, strong rhythm that was going to kill his knees later. Harry got off again and Ron finally came, satisfied with that one to Harry's two, for now. They cuddled together on the floor, Ron casually wiping sweat off his mate's body. "You feel better now?"
"I feel energized," Harry told him, grinning at him. "It's a damn good thing we don't need birth control."
"True, but then again you'd probably already be stuffed up," Ron pointed out, giving him a long, slow, gentle kiss. His favorite sort for afterwards. Harry's mouth was his favorite post-coital snack. Harry moaned and pulled him on top. "Easy, you're still breakable," he warned.
"You're not that much bigger than I am," Harry pointed out. He pulled Ron's head down, taking another kiss. "I missed this, Ron."
"I miss it every night you're on top," Ron said with a wink. He looked up and found everyone still standing there and a few extras, including a young dragon. "Hi. Good show?" he asked. They mumbled and wandered away so he looked down at Harry until the warm nose got between them. "Hi, you," he said, scratching the young female under the chin. "Do you feel better too?" She purred and curled up against Harry's side, settling in for a nap. "See, others like you as much as I do," Ron offered with a grin.
Harry pinched him. "I'm happy about that, but really. Did we need the help?"
"No. I'm sure her handler will show up soon," Ron said with a wink, stealing a quick kiss. "This floor can't be making your back feel good."
"I like feeling squished," Harry offered.
"Up, Potter, or no more flying later." He got them both up and redressed, stealing a few licks in while he helped them both. The dragon pouted at them but she could only have head scratches. She decided to seek her fun elsewhere instead and waddled out, leaving them to turn the eggs together.
Harry got a wicked look on his face. "Hey, Ron, have you ever tried to have sex on a broom?"
Ron laughed. "Not yet," he admitted. "Later, Harry."
"Okay." He winked and helped turn the next soft egg.
Ginny looked up as Luna Lovegood joined her at the table in the library. "Hi, Luna."
"Men are dumb," she said in greeting.
Ginny nodded. "Especially ones you're related to." She grinned. "Another fine reason why I like girls."
Luna looked at her, then nodded. "That's a reasonable statement." She lunged over and kissed Ginny, startling her enough that it turned into a french kiss instead. Luna soon had her on top of the table and halfway out of her uniform.
The students around were either watching or pouting. Watching, because those two were hot, or pouting because their supply of smut might be drying up.
"I'm going to give you naughty ideas like you've *never* had," Luna vowed.
That cheered the rest of them up, even though the librarian was coming to separate them.
"What are you doing!" Madam Pince shouted.
Ginny looked up and panted, "Research." Then she pulled Luna back down for a kiss. "Room, now," she ordered. Luna grinned and tugged her up, hauling her up to the room of Requirement to do whatever their filthy little minds could come up with. Luna definitely had some very naughty ideas.
Ginny all-but danced into the Potion's classroom and handed over her latest work. "For you to authorize," she said happily.
"Miss Weasley, are you smiling?" he sneered.
She beamed. "Yup, because I've got an excellent woman, she likes oral sex, and she's willing to let me receive it too," she shared, then she skipped out, going back to help Luna with her first story.
He looked at the scroll, noticing it had only the fact that it was lesbian marked on it and sighed as he unrolled it. The first paragraph made him take it back to his room and to his bathroom specifically. He'd need a cold shower after this one. The girl had gotten *more* graphic and she painted very good mental pictures. Not even he could fight this one.