Xander looked around the next meeting.  "Sam, Patricia?"  They smiled.  "Go ahead.  It's your project, I just got you started."

"We have been looking at the educational standards.  Sam and I both feel that they are far below standards."

"Last year students doing ninth grade work," Stella agreed.  "What're we doing about it?"

"First, we're sending three teachers and a ministry person to an educational conference."  The Minister for Magic raised his hand.  "In a minute.  That way they can report on the various standards the other countries are using and how far behind we are based on the current one at Hogwarts."  That got a nod from everyone but the Minster for Magic.  She handed something over.  "Between Xander and Sam we've gotten this far already using Mr. Potter's sixth year curriculum as a guideline.  The pencil marks are one student trained in New York.  The blue pen is one who was trained in Orlando.  The red are their department of education's standards for when those things are taught."

"We're doing brilliantly on test scores," he complained.

"We're not testing on the same things," Xander told him.  "The NEWTs are like their third year tests."

He gave him a horrified looks.  "Are you sure?"  She handed over the study guide.  He looked at it and whimpered.  "So we're testing well but against what they're testing..."

"They should be in that special facility, yeah," Stella agreed.  "The pencil and blue pen are our age.  The US is still behind a few other countries.  We're probably right above cannibals right now by some lists."

He handed it on and went back to the test guide until he gave up.  "Who's paying?"

"I did," Xander said.  "For most of it."

"Thank you, Mr. Harris.  Who's going, Patricia?"  She handed over the confirmed registrations.  He smiled.  "One Ministry.  Three teachers.  One's a deputy headmistress so it'll be her headache soon.  Have we seen if they have special primary schools to get them up to that standard?"

"I never asked," Sam admitted.  "We can."

"We can ask at the convention," Harry said.  "I'll pass on suggested questions to the teachers."   That got a nod and smile.  "Does that mean this summer we're going to be doing a marathon session in education?"

"Probably longer meetings, more frequent ones, or possibly partial council meetings," Patricia told him.  "Have something planned, Harry?" she teased.

"Mac said I could visit New York this year.  I went to Miami last year."

"I saw that in the Daily Prophet.  You looked wonderful with a tan," she praised. "Even in those silly shorts."  He blushed a bit.  "I have a doubt if we should go year by year or just set goals and let the teachers work it out?"

"I think setting goals at first should work then if they're not met, setting tougher standards," Danny said.  "I went in New York and it's a lot tougher than Harry's is.  I looked at that and we were doing most of that our fourth year, first year of high school."  Harry winced.  "Yeah, kiddo."

"We're that far behind?"

"As Snape put it when I told him that he was matching up on year level standards, he's taking seven years to push four years of potions into your heads."

Harry whimpered.  "They only take it for four years?"

"The last four.  Probably a safety precaution," Xander told him.  He patted him on the back.  "That means that it should take effect after you graduate, Harry."

"Thank Merlin!"

"If we set it this summer, they can slowly move up so the students aren't hit in a blintz," Mac agreed.  "Make them for the incoming year this coming year?  By graduation you have to have accomplished to this level.  That gives them a year to warm up and then six years to meet standards."

Horatio considered it.  "What about the current years?"

"The teachers will have to ramp up theirs so they're ahead of the other students," Sam pointed out. "We can't make the kids graduating with Harry catch up to four years of work, Horatio."

"I know.  Make it so the years before have to at least come up to a certain standard and starting that incoming year they have to meet up to full standards?"  Everyone nodded. "Do we make it a percentage?  They have to meet to at least sixty percent of the standard set?"

"That could work.  We'll ask the teachers when they get back," Patricia said.  He smiled and nodded.  "Did the war really impact us this much?"

"I was doing the same thing and I graduated before the first war," the Minister sighed, looking at her.  "You graduated during the in-between time?"  She nodded.

"I would've thought that would've pushed standards up higher so people could defend themselves better," Xander said.  "It makes sense to me."

"It does in a lot of ways," Mac agreed.  "Then again most of the teachers were involved in fighting that war."  That got a nod.  "So this is a future warning of a lot of work coming?"  Patricia laughed but nodded.  "That's fine with us.  I'd like to have good education if I ever have kids."  He looked at the Minister for Magic.  "It was nice how you decided we're all marrying soon."  He went red.  "I'm still grieving for my lost wife.  Even if the asshole Fudge did put a bonding potion in that lust potion he fed us.  As we found out when a reporter told Xander."  He went even more red.

"About that.  Talked to a lawyer in the US I was referred to by the auror Tony talked to."  She pointed at Tony's empty seat.  He was sitting on a stakeout.  "She said it may be that the US court would consider us British citizens but if they did rule the Brits didn't have to recognize it.  It might start a diplomatic war if they didn't however."

"What about Dean and me?" Sam asked.

"I specifically cited you two and she said it's reason in the US and if the Brits won't, you still can't appeal over there.  Just don't tell anyone if you slip and sleep with your brother so we don't have to arrest you for incest."

"Gee thanks," he said dryly.  She smiled back.  "Can I sic my dad on the judges?"

"With the way he's ranting and picking on us, he might enjoy it," Xander said.  "Oh, side note, off topic.  John went to get house elves for the Watcher compound.  He went intending to get about six.  That was the recommendation Kneady and Frost gave him.  He came home with seventeen moaning about the pitiful looks he was getting."

Patricia smiled.  "It's good that they can stop even the strongest man from walking away," she said.  "They do me every time."  She looked down then at Horatio.  "Excuse me for a minute."  She left, going to the bathroom.  She winced at what she saw.  It was only a spot of blood but her personal healer was in the hospital.  She left, only stopping to grab her gear.

"Need walked?" Mac asked.

"It's only a block.  Thank you."  She left, heading off as fast as she dared.

Mac sighed.  "That poor woman."  The others nodded.  "What else needs discussed?"

"Can we make the NEWTs optional?" Harry asked.

"Nice try," Danny congratulated.

"Shoot."  He stood up.  "I should get back to studying if we don't have anything else?"

"Two reports for the health department."

"Anything's better than Hermione nagging me to revise."  He sat down again, taking them to look over with a smile from Horatio.  "It is.  She nags worse than Mrs. Weasley."  He read them over. "I'm confused."

"So are we," Horatio said.  "That's why there's a healer coming, Harry."  He nodded, calling their house elf for some tea.  It was going to be a long afternoon.


Xander flopped down that night, turning his head to look at Dean's Aunt Sniffella. Who apparently had a mother with allergies and a mean streak.  "I'm ready to give up the health department idea."

"It'll be fine once it's finished, Xander."

"No it won't."

"Yes it will," Dean said as he joined them.  "Did you vote?"

"We have an in-between meeting in two weeks for that vote.  Open to the public."  He held up his arms.  "Please kill me now?  Kiss me first but kill me?"

"So you can go happy?" Dean teased.

"Or at least distracted."

Dean kissed him anyway but made him sit up to work on the muscle rocks in Xander's shoulders and neck.  "What was it?"

"Technical healer lingo."  He whimpered.  "Bad healer lingo.  Disease this and cure rate that.  Do and don't work ratios and shots this and shots that and shoot me please?"

"Nope.  We'd miss your ugly shirts.  Not even Sammy can wear ugly shirts like you can."

"I'll leave them to him."

"He still would only touch them nicely in the closet, Xander.  Who would horrify Draco then?"

"I'll haunt him?"

"That might work."  He kept working making Xander moan and go limp under his hands.  "Good boy."

"Not that young."

"You're two years younger than Sammy, Xander.  Yes you are."

"Harry's young.  I'm an adult."

"Uh-huh.  Then quit whining."

"Yes, Dean," he sighed.  "Can I beg for more?"

"Sure, beg all you like.  I like begging.  It's good to hear begging."

"Does that mean I should tell you about the harem I liberated to keep Stella from being stolen?"

Dean smacked him on the head.  "No, because I heard already and you went in alone.   Dumbass.  Smarted off to the military?"

"It was Buffy's ex.  The remaining Initiative guys."


"I let them do rear guard on the way out so the women would be okay."

"Uh-huh.  Still yay."  He gave him a gentler swat.  "Impressive is nice.  Living is better."

"Yes, Dean," he sighed.

"By the way, Dad was the one who told me.  Buffy and Willow went to make sure that nothing else was going to come for them.  They were impressed.  Dad was impressed.  Dad was pissed when he heard you did that by yourself.   He told me to spank you."

"I don't like spanking games.  Anya tried."

Dean snickered.  "I'm sure she did.  Just to control how much lust you put out."

"No, she complained she wasn't getting enough."

"Xander, you give way more than most people.  If she wasn't getting enough, she should've gone to work in a brothel."  He gave him a look when Xander gave him a hurt look.  "Honestly.  Remember, you nearly killed us.  How many did she want a night?"

"Ten if possible.  Six was good and she'd praise instead of complaining."

"Was she hard to get off?"

"Sometimes.  Usually she was a sneezer.  She even had a lot of toys."

Dean's aunt blushed and went to check on the house elves.

"Women like that don't enjoy it as much as others, the ones you take time to draw it out on," Dean told him.  He went back to work on the tense spots.  "If you draw it out it's always better than just going at it unless it's an emergency, gotta have it now, type of thing."

"Apocalypse sex," Xander agreed.  "She never complained about that.  I tried to do the drawing it out thing, she got bored."

"Well, you never have to worry about that with us, Xander," he said dryly.  "You only have to worry about us dying on you."  Xander blushed.  "I know your experience has been limited to bitches, but really."

"Faith and Anya.  Cordy and I groped, kissed, and fondled."

Dean shook his head.  "Faith?"

"First time.  Five minutes.  She was on top and kicked me out afterwards."

"Poor guy."  He gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder, which made him twitch.  "It should be better than that."

Xander nodded.  "But I was tired and the girls were kicking me to the curb because I was normal."

"Not now you're not."

"I didn't think I was then either.  They were having cranky days."  He turned and gave Dean a hug.  "For the backrub.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  Learn to take your time and explore, Xander.  It'll make it better for you and whoever."  He nodded.  "Good.  Now get off my lap.  I don't cuddle that way.  That's Sammy."  Xander got off his lap and stretched out again, putting his head on Dean's thigh.  He smirked.  "Smartass."

"I'm not on your lap."

"Not the same way.  I guess it's fine since you're so tired from the healer stuff."   He patted his hair down where it was sticking up.  "I'm more used to talking kill ratio than healing ratio too.  I probably would've napped."

"Horatio ordered Sam and Harry to nudge me if I started to drift off.  She noticed and I told her I had no idea what a healer did beyond make me yelp and whine when I was stuck in a bed.  Someone would tell me if it was a good thing or not.  She used simpler language.  It was nicer then but it was still 'this shot does this and works on this percentage of our people'.  Which I don't care about."

"Did you get all your boosters?"

Xander shrugged. "No clue.  My shot record's in hell somewhere."

"Speaking of hell, Willow said she had a letter from the insurance company for you."  He handed it over.  "He had her send it since she was bugging him."

"Cool."  He opened it and read it.  "How is there an act of God clause in a life insurance policy?"  Dean shrugged.  "I'll let the family lawyer talk to them."


"No, the Malfoy family lawyer.  We pay him for this stuff."

"We have one on retainer?"  Xander nodded.  "Criminal?"

"Doesn't specialize.  He has two goblins working under him for each side."

"That's pretty cool.  Will we have to ask Draco?"

"If I do I'll hand him the letter.  It'll piss him off."  He shifted, rolling onto his side. "Comfy now.  Thanks."

"Welcome."  He went back to petting Xander, watching as he fell asleep.  Sam came in.  "Stayed late to talk to the teacher?"

"Horatio wanted to know if there was a way to keep Xander awake for the boring parts."  Dean shook his head.  "He napping?"  Dean nodded.  "I was joking.  Patricia wanted to talk about the education stuff."  He moved Xander's feet and sat under them, taking the letter to look at.  "I didn't know there were act of God clauses in life insurance policies.  Have to call them tomorrow."  He put it into his bag and looked at Dean.  "How was your day?"

"Talked to Dad.  Did you know this one took on an elite guard troop and a gorg demon to get some women and the rest of the Initiative's boys free?"  Sam slowly shook his head.  Dean nodded.  "It wanted Stella so Xander disappeared to beat its ass.  Got the guards, got him, got the women out after smarting off to the military boys.  Had them guard the women's back on the way out.  Went back to see Don like nothing had happened according to him."

Sam nodded.  "We need to make him the special medal."

"It's on his desk."  Sam went to get it, coming back to pin 'stupidhero of the day' on his chest.  Then he sat under his feet again.  "Anya was sometimes hard to get off, had a lot of toys, and demanded ten orgasms a night, but if she got six or more she wouldn't complain in public."

"He told me she complained in public a lot."

Dean nodded.  "Often.  Buffy said she knew more than she wanted to; even if she was dating him she didn't want to know that much."

"Hmm.  We'll have to break him of that habit.  It's bad for him."

"And us."

"And us," Sammy agreed happily.  They shook hands on it.  If they had to keep Xander they were going to make sure that the heart-stopping sex only happened now and then, not every day.


Horatio looked up as his boss walked into his office. "One last form, sir."

"No Lucia?"

"She's at home fixing dinner."  He finished it and handed it over.  "Your note said I had to personally fill those out, not give her orders and let her do it."

"I did, didn't I?" he taunted with a smirk.  "Good for you now and then, Caine."

"Not really.  It hurts my hand.  I need to switch brands of pen to one with a better grip."

His boss laughed.  "Of course you do.  Now, what is going on with you and Speedle?"

"Nothing.  We've talked and we've agreed to leave it alone for now since there appears to be nothing we can do without setting off an international diplomatic war."

"Even the brothers?"

"No, sir.  The judge advised them not to admit they were doing more than Xander."

"Ah.  That old dodge.  Why do they like this?"

"They're claiming it lends stability to the lesser families and calms Xander and Sam down since they're a bit bouncy."

"Are they?"

"Now and then.  Especially on chocolate.  They're also young.  They have time to quit bouncing so much."  He leaned back, looking at his boss.  "Why the interest?"

"I haven't heard any rumors of you two being together yet."

"He's desperately dating some blonde girl with a nasty attitude who likes to steal his favorite t-shirts."

"Denial is the first step to acceptance," he quoted.

"Only if you're going to die," Speed said from behind him.  "Can I get you to blow up her house?"

"No.  Not worth the jail time, Speed.  You didn't learn anything from the reconstructions we've had to do?"

"I have.  It'd look better if someone else did it for me."

"Hire someone," their boss said dryly.  "Get in here."  He walked in and closed the door.  "Are you two okay at the moment?"

"It's a bit weird.  H is a great husband but he doesn't cuddle enough and he hates my books."

"I hate that your books lay *everywhere*.  If they laid beside a chair or two and the bed and the bathroom, I wouldn't care.  Instead your house looks like it's built of books."

Speed shrugged.  "Sue me I like books."

"You need more bookshelves."

"I don't have any room for them."

"I have noticed that, yes," he admitted.  "Move to somewhere bigger?"

"As much as I've heard about your ancestral home, it's still somewhere overseas.  I can't commute like that on my bike."

"You could store some at Horatio's house.  I hear he has a room with nothing in it," the Chief said.

"That's called his kitchen and the house elf would beat me."

The Chief snickered.  "Lucia doesn't leave leftovers?"

"She cooks so well you can't stand to leave any," Horatio defended.  Lucia appeared, giving him an expectant look.  "I'll start driving home as soon as the boss is done with me."

"Is Speed sir coming?"

"We'll see," Speed said.  She pouted at him and he sighed.  "I hate it when you do that."  She grinned.  "Fine, I'll come eat and then go home and read."

"Speed sir should do mating, giggly dance with husband.  It's only right and how else will Lucia have babies to take care of."

"We're both males, no babies possible," Speed said, mentally shaking his head at what she called sex.  "And I don't giggle."

She huffed.  "Do so!"  She glared at the chief.  "My boys needs to eat.  You go!  Shoo!  You have own male wife to deal with!"

"I have a female wife," he told her.

She snorted.  "Male wife wears pants and panties.  She more boy than girl most days.  You married her for being boy, so quit fussing and go make giggly, happy noises with him."  She disappeared.

"Sorry," Horatio said, trying not to smile.

"She's right, my wife is very strong willed.  I'll have to tell her what she calls her."  He walked off.  "Have a good dinner, boys."

"Yeah, thanks," Speed said, looking at Horatio.  "Aren't the other house elves less pushy?"

"Not to hear Buffy complain about hers."

"It must be being in the US then."

"Ride over.  I'll be behind you."

"I thought you liked it the other way," he taunted with a smirk before leaving.

"I should do like she suggested and make you giggle," he called after him.

"Not likely," Speed called back.

Horatio grabbed his things and went to trap Speed in the elevator, tickling him until he was giggling then getting off and leaving him like that.

"I'll get you for that," Speed yelled.

"Sure you will, Speed.  It was an order."  He put on his sunglasses as he stepped outside, smirking at Frank.  "I'm being a good boy and following orders."


"Lucia's.  She said I should make Speed giggle.  He has a very high-pitched giggle."  He walked over to his hummer, sliding in and closing the door, starting the engine when Speed stomped out.  He backed out with a smug look at his second-in-command.  "Let him be a brat again," he said dryly.

Speed growled. "I'm going to get him for that."

"Uh-huh.  You giggle?"

"I do NOT giggle!" he shouted.

"If you're sure," Frank said smugly, walking back inside.  He went to the operations room so he could look at the elevator camera.  "Aww."  They all laughed at that.  "Lucia told Horatio he needed to giggle more."  They all laughed as he went back to his desk.  That was priceless.


Tony looked at Gibbs.  "Boss, want a beer after work?  I'm having issues that I need to talk about."

"Issues?" McGee teased.

"From the dosing, Probie," he said coolly.  He slunk down again.  He had been ranting to Abby and McGee had heard so he knew everything.  "We heard back from the one Stella talked to."

"Any good news?"

"Here is easier, it won't be recognized in England, and it'll start a diplomatic war."

"Then I'll take that as a no."  He looked at him.  "The issue would be?  Since we're alone up here."

"Dating, my life, if I move from here, that stuff?"

"Fine.  We'll talk after we finish these forms."  He got back to work.

"Are you going to leave?" McGee asked.

"I guess that depends on the bitch upstairs," Tony admitted.  He looked at his staff.  Not glowing or humming.  His bracelet.  Not glowing, humming, or tingling.  Then what had that bit of magic been?  He looked up.  "Boss, go check on her?  I felt magic and it wasn't mine."  He went to go check on the director.  He looked at McGee, who was looking confused.  "Am I a dog?"

"No.  Not in the least.  Why?"

"I felt it right after calling her a bitch."  He heard the laughter and groaned, calling the auror they worked with.  "It's DiNozzo.  I felt strange magic and had the boss check on the thing upstairs.  He's laughing. It's not a good sign."  Gibbs came down with his camera phone, picture up.  "Oh, good, a partial transformation into a dog."  He hung up, putting his head down.  "This is not good for my career."

"No, it's probably not, but it's cute," he said dryly.  McGee looked so he let him see.  McGee took the phone and downloaded the picture, handing it back to him.  "I want a copy."

"Emailing it now, boss."  He did that and one to Abby too.  She needed a laugh. He swore he could hear her cackle all the way out there.

The auror came down the stairs behind Tony.  "Let's get you tested again, Tony.  I think you just manifested, dear."  He looked up at her.  "Honestly.  That means you can use a wand."

"Ooh, yeah.  Years behind even the Hogwarts students."

"They'll catch up and so will you."  She nodded at Gibbs, who waved.  She took Tony back to the office to have him tested for magic.  They held the staff and bracelet during it but he did test as having some.  It tested stronger this time too.  So he got to go wand shopping that weekend.


Xander looked at the judge that had wanted to speak to him.  "So, what's up?"

"There's been some debate about the potion you were dosed with."

"I agree with Stella.  Making us stay bonded to them would be like making someone marry their rapist.  None of us were in control and I had the misfortune to jump both brothers."  He shivered.  "They're nice, sir, but we're just friends and they're still brothers.  Their father's in a royal level snit."

"Hell.  Well, we might be able to break it for one of them, but the potion would still be tainting them.  Though the analogy you both used is correct, there's nothing we can do about the potion."

"Would anyone know how to do it?"

He shrugged. "You might ask Professor Snape."

"I've thought of that but they're in the middle of heavy classwork at the moment."

"Even he gets a day off now and then."

"I know."  He shifted.  "I don't know what we're doing yet.  We're friends, we can joke and play, but they're still brothers and while I'm young and have stamina they'd probably get tired of me since we're all fairly heterosexual."

"While that's a problem, there's a time-honored tradition of mistresses, Mr. Harris."  He gave him a look.  "I know, it's an american ideal to not need one, but you're the head of your family.  Have you considered the fact that this union may be very good for your family?  As alliance marriages go, it's not a bad one.  Even if his is smaller and less wealthy."

"First, no heirs would come from it.  With the shrinking the family just went through due to the death eaters being caught we'll need more kids being born."

"You could have one with a surrogate.  It's not unheard of."

"That would be breaking my vows and Draco could contest them being heirs.  As could some of the snot noses little cretins further out in the family that I haven't gotten to correct yet."  That got a nod.  "I honestly wouldn't care but Dean and Sam are still brothers.  It's freaking their father out badly.  If I had to stay in it I could easily do that but I don't want to hurt the bond they have.  That bond is what makes them an incredible pair of demon hunters.  Even if they do have to do that over here for now."

"If they had a sister, would you have taken her hand instead if it was proposed as an alliance marriage?"

Xander nodded.  "I know my duty to the family is to find a strong spouse that can help me shape the family and keep it strong and going forward. Sam or Dean would fit that.  But a trio isn't legal even to you guys, unless it's twins and they're not.  Plus this is killing Stella's friendship with the one who helped her.  He's been one of her oldest friends and there for her for a long time through some very bad shit.  It's a shame she's having to lose it due to being forced to marry him before either one was ready and when neither one was looking in that direction.  They were like siblings before.  And she blames herself because she jumped him."

He sighed.  "That is a difficult position.  I understand this is hurting them but they can prosper in these relationships."

"No, she can't.  She can't work and he works with her.  This is ruining her reputation.  Her reputation being in the crapper will get her killed some day soon on ht streets when no on wants to back her up.  Plus it'll keep her from advancing even if she doesn't die of being shot horribly by some criminal."

He slumped.  "I hadn't known that."  Xander nodded.  "The others?"

"One jumped his male, three-times-divorced boss, who is a Marine.  Their director is trying to have them both fired and Tony put in prison because of this.  Horatio's had a lot of awkwardness with his male second-in-command that he jumped.  Mac jumped one of his CSI and they're still acting like nothing happened.  Sam and Dean aren't as comfortable around each other as they were because of this."

He nodded.  "If Professor Snape could find a way to break the bonding potion, then the legal argument would be easier taken."

"I'll talk to him this weekend.  It's a Hogsmeade weekend and it'll probably be some free time for him.  Thank you for that advice."

"You're welcome."  He shook his hand and watched him leave.  He hadn't known that it was going to destroy them and their personal lives.  They looked to be solid relationships to him.  Friendships often made a good relationship.  Then again, some were torn apart by the relationship.


That Saturday Xander walked into the castle, smiling at the teacher he saw.  "I have an appointment to ask Professor Snape about a potion.  Is he in his rooms?"

"His office most likely," she said.  He nodded his thanks and walked on.  "He's such a polite young man.  Not at all like the thug the papers say."

"Only when I have to fight," he called back.  She laughed at that.  He found the potions classroom and looked at the painting.  "Do I knock or ask that you get him for me?"  One of the bats flew in to get him.  The painting opened and he looked at the imposing potions master.  "Am I late?"

"No, not in the least.  Come in."  He let him into his office, watching as he checked the chair before sitting down.  "I don't often toss books on chairs."

"I've had teachers who used their visitor chairs for graded papers."  That got a nod.  "I'm here because the judge that's advising us on this potion fiasco that Fudge made us go through said I should talk to someone of your caliber and skills to see if there's a way to break the bonding potion."

He studied him.  "That is a difficult request."

"I managed to jump two brothers, Professor."  He winced at that.  "They do the same thing I do and the bond that made them a great team that would outlast most of the others in the field is being eaten away by this weirdness. Stella's career is nearly shattered and her closest friendship was with the person she bonded with.  She can't focus at work.  Horatio and his second in command are very awkward in any situation and they have to depend on each other in the field to protect each other's backs.  They can't do that when they're avoiding looking at each other.  Tony's boss wants to put him in jail for this.  By US law, since they're military, she can have them both tossed out, take their retirement accounts, and have them blackballed from working in any sort of job ever again."

"Those are troubling," he agreed.

"Troubling is Horatio nearly got shot last night by one of his department's people because they heard he and his second were together and he didn't like it.  Walked up to him in his office and tried to shoot him."  Snape grimaced at that.  "He'll go to prison for it, but he won't be the last probably.  If we could break the bond, that would let those who it was forced on make that decision on their own.  Without the problems we're experiencing.  Beyond that, we're still looking at this issue because this is like being forced to marry the person you raped or them to marry their rapists, depending on which side was dosed."

He considered the young man in front of him.  "Draco has said you're close with yours."

"I am but it's still destroying their lives.  We're friends and I don't want to see their bond destroyed over this shit he forced on us.  If it had happened normally, I wouldn't have cared to marry either one as an alliance marriage.  We're all fairly decent friends even if they don't fully understand me."

"There is a potion.  It is extremely difficult."

"Tell me who to go see about it and I will," he promised.

"It is well within my skill range."  He stared at him.  "I can make it.  It will be costly."

"Define costly?  I have my personal funds leftover from the US I can use and I don't think Draco would mind me using the Head of Family's funds for this as long as I didn't bankrupt the family."

"Around a thousand galleons."  Xander leaned over and wrote something, handing it over to him.  It was a slip permitting him to bill a certain vault for ingredients for a potion he was concocting for them.  That got a nod.  "It will take me the better part of a month to brew it."

"We can last that long.  Will we need medical watching after we take it?"

"No. There is the clause that if you go back to the one you bonded with, even once, it will come back into being."

"I'll let them know that.  Thank you."

"You're welcome."  He shook his hand.  "Also, thank you for pushing for more light in Slytherin's common room."

"You can't study in the dark.  I tried many nights while on patrol."

"How would you do in potions?"

"I cook very well but I don't know.  Draco hasn't tutored me there yet.  We're staying with charms and transfiguration at the moment.  The practical things that could save my life in the field.  Potions I can buy, a sword I'm screwed if I don't have when I need it."

"Good point," he said, trying not to smile.

Xander grinned.  "You can.  Buffy did."  That got a snort.  "Thank you for being so nice to Draco recently.  I know he's had a bit of a transition and it's been rougher on him than he's let me see."

"He hasn't shown much strain to me either but that is how he was trained."

Xander nodded.  "Still, you could have made it a lot more difficult for him."  He got up.  "Call us when it's done please.  I'll let the others know."  He nodded and Xander left, nearly dancing in joy.  He went to where the others had decided to have a picnic, in the Winchester aunt's back yard.  "There is a potion," he announced.  They all smiled at that.  "If we ever revisit the ones we're bonded with it'll come back, but Professor Snape said he could make it for us.  He said it'll take about a month."  That got a nod.  "That means if you decide to go back with them, you're stuck," he warned.

"How expensive?" Danny asked.  "I know some potions are horrible."

"I've already written him permission to withdraw it from the stuff I brought over from the US.  Don't worry about it."  Dean gave him an odd look.  "The judge said that if the potion was broken, the arguments would be easier swallowed."  That got some nods and they went back to chatting.  He pulled Dean aside, making Sam follow.  "While I might want to stay bonded to you two, and I love you guys, this is wrecking *your* bond.  It's making it weird between you two and that can kill you.  I want you both to live long, happy lives, but I'm not going to be the one that breaks up your team.  So if you two *want* it after it's broken, then I won't say anything."

"You're right, Dean and I aren't like we usually are," Sam said, looking at his big brother.

Dean nodded.  "True.  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the 'bonded and married' part."

"Which is why if you want me, come back to me," Xander said, smiling at them.  "Okay?  Even though I love you guys.  I want you to stay too.  The house is way too quiet."

"Sure, we can continue to stay over," Sam promised, giving him a hug.  Dean just patted him on the back.  "There, now go eat. You missed breakfast."  Xander went to eat.  Sam looked at him.  "He's right."

"I know.  We'll fix it then figure out if we want him."  That got a nod.  "Think Draco will scream at him for it?"

"No.  Draco watches people and he gave us odd looks for fighting the last time he saw us."

"That's fine."  They went back to the rest of the picnic, patting Don Flack on the back.  "Relax.  We don't bite.  Often."

Don smirked at him.  "Good to know."  He stared at Stella, going over to talk to her.  It was like having to gentle and train a wild owl with her sometimes.  "Hey."

"Hi."  She smiled.  "So, maybe?"

He grinned.  "I'm sure it'll work and then we'll figure out what we really want without the pressure."  He pushed some hair back behind her ear.  "You missed some."

"It wanted me to chew on it I guess."  She fixed her hair.  "We'll figure it out," she promised.  He nodded.  "So, how was that game you were watching?"

"Pretty good."  They switched back to mundane topics.  Something he was very used to.  "We didn't win but it was okay."  She nodded, walking him over to the food.

Mac gave him an encouraging look then went over to Horatio.  "You all right?"

Horatio nodded.  "Upset but it was only a graze.  Lucia freaked and healed it on me, screaming and ranting the whole time.  They had to pull the guy away from her magicing him into the glass wall."  That got a smile and a nod.  "Speed heard and came in on his day off to yell at the guy."

"It happens," Mac reminded him.  "Every bigger department has at least one."

"True.  I'm wondering how many more we'll have."

"Probably not too many.  Are you putting up extra security?"

"The chief posted a guard within the lab so he could move around and make sure nothing was going on.  He wanted me to put an ID card reader on the main doors into the lab but I pointed out that might not work if we were carrying a lot of stuff.  Plus other officers had to come see us sometimes and they wouldn't have access.  He asked the others and Calleigh nearly shot him for thinking she'd let us be hurt.  She hadn't been there or the guy would've been dead."

Mac patted him on the arm. "It'll be better, Horatio."

"I hope so.  Lucia was taunting Speed and said we should make giggly, mating noises again."  Mac walked off laughing.  Horatio went to talk to Dean.  "If you want him, you can have him."

"He was right.  This is straining mine and Sam's 'ship with each other."  He looked at him.  "Then we'll see about him.  We have to be right with each other to work together."

"The same as I and Speed do," he agreed.

"Only ours are more focused on killing us than getting away," Dean said.  "Plus everyone else they can."

Horatio nodded.  "I've seen that."  He looked around then at him.  "Don looks upset."

"I think he could move that way but she's seeing a lot of issues that've been cropping up and she doesn't want to trap him," Dean offered.  "Where's Gibbs?  I thought Tony was bringing him since he was involved and dosed."

"Gibbs is at home working on his boat.  He didn't want to come.  He'll let Tony tell him what was offered."  That got a nod.  "How much do you think it was?"

"He had about three grand in there changed over from dollars from what he was doing with the balancing sheet the other day."

"I'll add some for Snape's use then."

"I've got it," Xander called over.  "Really.  Well within my personal funds, Horatio.  Don't worry about it.  Spoil your nephew."

Horatio smiled sadly.  "He and his mother moved to Brazil, Xander."  The younger man walked over and gave him a hug.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  It's hard when you lose family.  Remember, they can still write."

"They're hiding."

Xander poked him on the shoulder.  "Can the people they're hiding from divert emails?"  He shook his head.  "Then video chat with him."

"That's not a bad idea," he said.

"Or ask the staff to get you down to see him," Harry said.  "Or portkey."

"Another good idea," he agreed.  "Thank you, boys."

Xander grinned.  "Some day you'll have to find a new nickname for us."

"You'll still be younger than I am," he taunted back with a slight smirk.

"Don't let Fudge hear you say that, he might do a deaging potion next," Danny said dryly from his seat, then ate a bite of his burger.

"Then we'd all have to go to Hogwart," Tony agreed.  Horatio laughed, which was what they intended.  "No Speed?"

"He's on today.  He's in charge and is probably picking on Eric and Ryan to make them quit fighting."

"Handcuffs and a closet?" Xander suggested.

"Don't tempt me."  Xander walked off laughing.

"Maybe make them both bitches and put them outside in your yard to fight it out?" Dean suggested.  "That'd make them stop and think and if they still wanted to fight they could battle but not kill each other."

"It'd keep Ryan from turning him into anything too," he agreed. "Last week Ryan was too tired and sneezed, turning him into a turtle because Eric had been being slow to his point of view.  He figured out how to change him back finally."

"The aurors said there were refresher courses," Tony said dryly.  "Which I am now enrolled in for any spare time I have available for the next six months, except council meetings."

"You finally broke out?" Don asked.

"I was thinking of our director as a bitch and she halfway changed to one.  The auror found her looking in her bathroom mirror, touching her new puppy ears, nose, and whiskers."

They all laughed.  It was good to laugh for a change.


Horatio reappeared in his office and froze Stetler since he was in there nagging but in front of him.  "Problems?"

"The usual.  You're bad, I'm stupid, Wolfe's a bastard who takes bribes and has issues, Eric's a slut who's getting paid for it.  I was letting him rant before I asked Lucia to make him part of the windows so he could see outside for the rest of his life.  How did it go?"

"There is something that can remove the potion from us, but if we ever go there again it'll come back and be permanent this time."  Speed nodded at that.  "It'll take about a month."

"I can hold off that long," he promised with a smirk.  "Want to unfreeze him so we can get with the embedding?"

"I don't want to stare at his back forever, Speed."  He unfroze him but changed him to a baby alligator.  "There, go bother Eric, he's used to your kind."  The alligator trundled off and Horatio sat down, looking at him.  "How was it?"

"I'm going to shoot both of them non-fatally and then put them in adjoining beds so they have to work it out."

"Speed, with how bad a shot you are, they'd die," Horatio said simply.  "Then we'll have two new CSIs to train.  With the ones who applied, they'd be horrible."

"Fine.  It was a good evil plan."

"Then have Calleigh do it."

"I could do that," he agreed.  Somewhere Eric screamed.  An auror went running.  "They might be pissed at you for making him look like a normal one."

He shrugged.  "It's been a long day.  Anything else of note I should see?"

"Not at the moment.  Why does he think Ryan takes bribes?"

"Ryan makes some money on the side doing magical work so he thinks I do that.  Though I do gamble now and then if he mentions that."  Ryan leaned in.  "Horatio, you're supposed to make him funny colored so he doesn't get mixed up and sent to the pound."

"I'll remember that next time."

"I'll tell her so she doesn't yell at you.  Good news?"

"There is a way to break the bonding potion.  It'll take a month."

"Good."  He smiled and went back to his lab, looking at Eric.  "You know they're planning on stopping us from fighting any way they can, right?"

"If you weren't such an annoying prick, it wouldn't happen so often."

The auror looked at them.  "Don't make me turn you both into toddlers for the week."  They stepped away from her.  "Go away.  Let me change this one back."

"We have samples out, we can't," Eric said.  "Take him up the hall to the darkroom beside AV."  She nodded, taking him that way to deal with him.  "That was mean of you."

"Not me.  H."

"Then that was mean of H.  What did alligators do to him?"

"They keep attacking you when you're working," Calleigh said as she walked in.  "Did I see a baby alligator?"

"Stetler," Ryan told her.  "Horatio's back."

"Good to know.  You?"  He shook his head.  "Fine. Can you two please do a bonding exercise or something?"

Xander leaned in and grinned.  "They will be.  Can you finish up for them, dear?  I'm sure you're better than they are combined."

"Of course I am.  Who're you?"

"Xander."  He grinned and took both of them with him to the place he wanted.  Then he shoved them into the arena.  "They learn to get along and Eric learns to respect magic or else they get a second one," he told the ring master.  Who shrugged.  It wasn't a real match but they wouldn't know that.  He sent in something harmless.  It was huge, slobbery, looked really dangerous but it was a puppy underneath.

Eric pulled his gun but Ryan stopped him. "It's not harmful."  He pulled his wand and moved closer, making sucking noises.  The dog tipped its head to the side then licked him.  He smiled, giving it a good scratch.  "Good boy," he said after a glance back. "Very good boy."

Eric gave him a horrified look.  "How did you know to do that?"

"Specialized education."  He waved his wand. "Somulous."  It fell asleep.  He looked at Eric.  "I take it we can talk here?" he called.

"Go ahead," Xander called back.  "You two aren't getting out of there until you're no longer annoying bitches worse than slayers with PMS.  You have an hour then I'm sending in something harmful."

Eric snorted.  "Who is that?"

"That is Xander Harris.  The guy from Sunnydale Horatio had us look up for a background check."

"So?  What gives him the right...."

Ryan held up a hand.  "Someone asked him to make us figure out how to get along. If you huff about it, he'll send in something harmful in an hour we'll have to fight and possibly kill.  You huffing will take a good few hours and it'll probably get worse as it goes on."  Eric slumped.  "So let's talk.  We can work this out before we both get eaten."

"Fine," he muttered.  He picked a spot and sat against the wall, letting Ryan sit near him.  He was still in control.  "Why put us somewhere you'd be more knowledgeable?"

"Who said he did?  The next thing might be something you've dealt with.  Xander's supposed to be experienced in combat.  He knows what breaks a decent team up."

"The fighting we've been doing," Eric agreed.  "It's bad enough H and Speed are strange with each other."

"Yeah and we have to watch out for them but if we can't work together then that leaves Calleigh to cover where those two are skipping parts by trying to stay away from each other."

"You know why?" Eric asked.

Ryan sighed.  "Remember the lust potion he got dosed with?"  Eric nodded slowly.  "That's bad enough.  It breaks all your inhibitions.  You can't control yourself.  If it had been given to you and you were next to your mother, you still would've jumped her."  Eric shuddered at that.  "Honestly.  It's outlawed because of that problem.  There's a more minor version that's used on wedding nights for arranged marriages when the people don't like each other."  He shifted, looking at the sleeping dog then him.  "As part of that, there were other spells and potions put into that one that they didn't find out about until later."

"It's bad enough H ended up jumping him, that made things strange and tense between them, but this is worse?  They would've talked that out."

"There was a bonding potion in it was well.  Xander found that out later when someone asked him."  Eric looked clueless.  "Like it sounds, Eric.  It's a pre-marriage or handfasting level of bonding.  It's also permanent.  Even if the court annuls it, they're still going to show the potion forever."

"So what if Speed dates?"

"He did date."

"He got really frustrated."

"Exactly."  Ryan glanced at the dog then at him again.  "There's a rumor of a potion that could break the bonding potion.  I haven't been able to find it.  If I had, I would've offered to give it to someone I know who does great in potions."

"So not only did H lose his mind thanks to this, he jumped Speed, which he wouldn't normally do.  So he's feeling like he either took advantage of him or nearly raped him.  And then they're married?"  Ryan nodded.  "Is it legal?"

"About as legal as a common law one by magical standards.  The potion has been found to exist even after death.  Those who know can also use it to track the other bond member."

"So H is really mad at himself and he's trying to give Speed room?"

"I think Speed forgave him for jumping him.  Things were getting back to normal before someone told Xander about the bonding potion.  Remember, he showed up that day with the book and needed that sample?"  Eric nodded, he had heard about that.  He glanced at the dog again then back at him.  "He's waking up."  He sighed.  "Right now they're trying to figure out what to do about that.  That's why they're edgy and tense around each other and Lucia is making comments about them getting together for real."  They heard something bellow and he looked around.  "That didn't sound good."

"Harris dealt with it," another voice called.  "Pudgy, come on, boy."  The dog came over and laid down beside Ryan, letting him pet him some more.  "Fine.  I'll get you in a few minutes."

Ryan smiled.  "You can pet him.  He probably needs love."  Eric came over to pet him.  "I had the same sort of education you had, Eric, except for middle and high school.  The rest was the same way you did."

"Middle and high school?"

"I got my letter when I was eleven, started when I was twelve.  Birthday cut off rules."

"So you take how many years?"

"Seven total.  There's magical colleges but my parents wanted me to be in the normal world so I went to college and then the academy."

"So you went for seven years then gave it up?"

"No, I use it at home but I'm forbidden from showing it to anyone who doesn't already know.  Even though your cousin went and you know some I'm not supposed to show you more of it to break the barrier further."

"Do you have a house elf?"

"No.  They're for richer families and those with big homes or a lot of kids.  I have a modest condo.  I don't need a house elf.  I clean perfectly well and I can cook."

Eric smirked.  "The OCD?"

"I don't have that many cleaning at home rituals for OCD.  My gun, a few others, but not cleaning at home.  Honestly, half the time I run the vacuum by magic and then swish and flick the rest of the stuff back into place.  Except in the kitchen.  I break glasses when I wash them by magic."

"You can do dishes that way?"

"Yeah.  A scourgify spell."  The dog shifted so he went back to scratching behind his ears. "It's what parents use to soap their kids mouths too."

"So you can do some great things."

"I was taught to do normal things.   While I can study and do great things, I chose not to because my parents threw a fit."

"Was there any subject you were good in?"

Ryan smirked.  "Transfiguration but I always had a problem turning things back."

"Uh-huh.  Probably because you wanted them that way."

"Well, yeah.  You should ask Stetler about his week as a footstool."

"You did?"

"He came to my house at three in the morning to yell at me about how I sometimes gamble.  Brought my former shift supervisor, who looked at me strangely anyway because of the OCD.  Apparently this was the first normal thing I had done around him."  He looked down.  "You're a good puppy."  The dog moaned and tipped his head, letting Ryan hit an itchy spot and let Eric have his other ear.  "I snapped.  I had barely gotten into bed.  I had a double the day before and for the last week because we were short.   Being the strange, young guy meant I got the crap shifts.  So I snapped.  I changed him into a footstool then growled at my supe.  Who knew.  His sister went.  He stuttered that out and told me I had the next day off.  I put him in my living room and waited until someone felt the magic and came to look.  Took them a week.  The aurors are really nice."

"Right," Eric said dryly.  "Do most people get away with what you do to him?"

"No but she talked to him."

Eric burst out laughing.  "So he changed her mind and she decided it was reasonable?"

"I guess.  She never yells.  Just sighs and complains."  He shrugged.  "Every now and then I have to switch animals or he'll get too comfortable as it and then stay that way.  I started out with hedgehogs but he was too cute and people wanted to pet him.  So I switched to orange salamanders, normal ones not magical ones that can set fires.  Then I moved to pink toads.  Now I guess I'm going to have to pick a new one.  I've played with a few but none of them seemed to suit him and I can't change him into a dog, he might bite someone."

"Can you turn him into a house elf?"

"I'm not allowed to change him into something sentient."


"Yeah.  Well, then maybe he'd learn how to cook.  I heard Yelina say he was a bad one once."

Eric smirked.  "That was a bad relationship.  We think he did it to get back at H and so he could find more dirt on him.  He's still trying to blame his brother on him."

Ryan coughed.  "I ran across something because of a case."  Eric leaned closer.  "Ray never died, Eric."  He gaped, leaning back again.  The dog made whining noises so Eric came back to pet him.  "I ran into it by accident because of that drug dealer case."

"So, Yelina and Ray Junior going to Brazil?"

"I'm guessing Ray Senior was on the plane too."

Eric nodded.  "H has got to be torn up."

"He probably is but he won't let anyone make him feel better.  Speed would usually get some of it but with them being strange..."

"He's feeling pretty lost.  We've got to fix that for him."

"If I had a way I would."

Xander appeared, looking at them.  "It was pointed out earlier that he could video chat and the staff could take him down there if he needed to.  It can take you to any family member to check on them."  That got a nod.  "Do you two think you can keep up this civil discussion back at work?"

"A lot of that is stress," Ryan told him.  "My OCD, being the new guy."

Xander shrugged.  "Then Eric should take you drinking, get you laid, and then make you feel like one of the team.  Not try to rip you down because you're like that.  The same as Speed did to him when he showed up.  The same as Calleigh got when she showed up."  He looked at Eric.  "Huh?"

"I should've," he agreed.  "It was stressful.  Speed had been injured..."

Xander held up a hand.  "You're damn lucky the person on shift at the scene was a healer, Eric.  I asked.  Speed said he was healed and then transported.  They got there before full death."

"So they brought him back?" Ryan asked.  Xander nodded.  "But...."

"It's not that hard.  I've done it with Buffy.  Willow did it with Buffy."  They all nodded.  "So can you two pull your heads out of your asses before the Feds shut you down or you two fighting causes another death?"  They nodded. "You sure?  Because I respect and like Horatio and he doesn't need this right now."

"Ryan told me why."

"Then Horatio can spank him later," Xander answered.

Eric nodded.  "I can get along better.  I'm not dealing well with things at the moment."

Xander leaned down.  "That's why you have friends and that's why someone intelligent became the first therapist.  Pick one, Eric, talk about it.  It'll make you feel better.  Because if you die, it doesn't help any of the ones you're concerned about."  He straightened up.  "Got me here?"  He nodded, realizing he was right by the look in his eyes.  "Now, you could go distract Speed's mind for a while.  He could probably use it.  You can talk to Ryan, you guys made a good start.  The nice blonde lady seemed like she might listen too.  She was obviously pissed at you two for your fighting stuff."

Ryan nodded.  "We'll do that."

"Good.  Now, let's let the doggy go eat the person who runs the gladiator arena for demons."  The dog looked at him so he said something.  The dog howled and ran off, going to do that for him.  He hauled them both up and took them back to the station, dropping them in front of Horatio.  "They've learned how to communicate under penalty of me sending deadly things at them so they have to learn to fight together."  He smacked them both on the heads.  "Next time I take you vampire hunting.  There it's watch each other's back or die."  He looked at Horatio.  "By the way, the demonic fighting arena you have here in town might be changing hands but I'm going to tell Buffy and them so expect the girly patrol of ass kicking girls."  He grinned and disappeared, landing in Cleveland.  "Are we leaving the kill or be killed gladiator demon arenas alone?" he called.

"Hell no!" John said, coming out of an office.  "Where?"

"Miami.  I just had the owner eaten by a nice demon dog.  It was more than happy to.  I found one of my relatives there as a concubine.  Sold herself off."  He disappeared, going to the school's infirmary.  "Sorry, had to go back for the ones I had put there to talk or else.  Do I need to call her mother for you?"

"No, dear.  I've already written her mother.   She wasn't answering the floo."

Xander looked at the staff.  "She at home?"  It flashed.  "Okay.  Thanks."  He looked at her.  "Do I need to sign more permission to treat stuff?"

"I'd like to move her to a special ward at St. Mungos," she admitted.  Xander nodded.  "It'll heal some of the demon marks on her.  Plus treat the other symptoms of her incarceration."

"But he promised us power," she whined.

"It'll also cure that thinking," Madam Pomfrey told him.

"I've seen others with that thinking.  That doesn't bother me."  He looked at her.  "Paper?"  It was handed over and he read it.  "If I sign this, you will be healed.  If he survives then  you can decide to go back once you're of age.  You're underage for making demonic contracts.  Otherwise, I might've left you there."  She pouted.  "Don't start.  I'm from the hellmouth, girl."  She slumped and cuddled her pillow.  "Once you're an adult you can make that choice.  You're underage.  The contract was void because of that."  He signed it.  "Until she's an adult, then she can decide to go back to that or not."  Madam Pomfrey nodded, going to call them.  He nodded at Professor Snape when he joined them.  "Found her having made a deal for power.  She's underage for that though."

He looked at her then at him.  "You're admitting her to the special ward?"

"Until she's an adult and can make that choice on her own.  Yes."

"Her mother?"

"The nurse sent an owl."

"That's fine.  I'll call her myself."  He looked at her.  "I am most disappointed."  He looked at Xander again.  "So far it's going well."

Xander grinned.  "Thank you."  He patted him on the arm.  "Let me know if any of the rest of the family are causing you problems.  I'll handle it if I have to and their parents aren't available or won't."

He nodded.  "That's acceptable to me."  He watched him leave.  He looked at the girl.  "You have a year yet.  Make a better and more rational decision."  He went to call her mother.  Once she had her head in his floo he stared down at her.  "Your daughter sold herself to a demon for power."

"She said she was going to."

"The head of your family found her.  She is underage.  He has stated that she has to be of legal age to do that.  He's removed her and Madam Pomfrey is sending her onto St. Mungos."

"She's my daughter!"

"The head of your family said so," he sneered.  "That is his ruling.  Be of age or be rescued."  She disappeared and he snorted.  "Weak."  He looked over and found Draco at the doorway.  "She's already gone on."

"I wondered where she went.  Pity but a desperation move."  He came in and held up something.  "Do you think she'd like it?"

He looked at the delicate necklace.  "It's a good first present.  She would take into account that you could only get to Hogsmeade."  Draco smiled.  "He's already left."

"I know.  How is the unbonding potion going?"

"So far the base is going well."  He went to check and stir it then looked at him.  "Do send that on."

"Should I write a note as well?"

"That is generally acceptable when you send a gift, yes," he said dryly.  Draco went to do that.  He rolled his eyes.  "He's trying in whole new ways now."


Xander looked at the Wizengomet.  "No, what I said was that if she wanted to make that decision when she's of age, that's up to her.  She is underage.  Her mother could not be contacted.  As she's underage, she's under my jurisdiction in matters of marriage."  He glared at the mother.  "Or being taken as a concubine."  She sniffed and raised her nose, looking away.  "So I rescued her and brought her back to the school since she's supposed to be there.  I consented to initial treatment since she was bleeding from a few places. The nurse tried to get her mother while I went to talk to a few others I had left there to talk and work things out.  Then I came back and found out her mother had not been found so I made my decision as head of the family.  If she's of legal age and wants to go back, she can do that.  Under legal age and the contract was void anyway so whatever she was hoping to gain she wasn't going to get.  He was going to use her and kill her before she came of age.  That's how it usually goes," he said when one opened his mouth.  "Then I had her admitted to the special ward under the nurse's suggestion.  She said they deal exclusively with things like this."

"They do," one of the judges agreed.  "They strip the taint, they heal the injuries, they do any mental health care that may be needed for those who were taken against their wills.  Were there other humans there?"

"I only saw her but I also sicced the slayers' council on them," he said with a grin.  "They'll go find more if there's more."

"Good.  That's a reasonable precaution.  You told the aurors?"

"I told Horatio.  That's in his city.  That way they could handle any normal runaways or call the aurors if they needed it."

"Again, a reasonable action," Dumbledore agreed.  He looked around then at the mother.  "The head of the family has the right and responsibility to take care of all family matters.  Including underage children when their parents are lax or absent.  As you could not be found in a timely manner he stepped in, as was proper for a head of the family.  Does anyone have any dissent to him agreeing to treatment for the minor child?"  No one said anything.  "Then I don't see a problem with him agreeing to her treatment.  She clearly needed it by the records Mediwitch Pomphrey supplied."

"If she wishes to go back as a legal adult, you'll let her?" another judge asked Xander.

"I can't stop her from sending her life to hell, literally or not.  I can rescue her if she asks.  I will as long as she asks.  I won't do it so she can go to a different one and I'll make that clear to her.  If she's a legal adult I cannot stop her from entering into a legal contract but I would not look favorably on any member of the family that did that.  I have a lot of experience seeing the bad side of those deals.  Plus it doesn't look very good on the family.  I would suggest she keep it out of the press and say that her daughter had been taken unless proved otherwise because a scandal for the family would create an inner-family war.  I don't want to see what someone like Draco would pull up if his marriage was canceled due to that.  He's a bit creative."

"Indeed, he's shown that his entire school career," Dumbledore said dryly.  "Especially on some of his homework assignments."

Xander shrugged.  "He's bored."

The head judge banged his gavel.  "Then I suppose we're in agreement.  Mr. Harris was acting in the best interests of his family.  Even if the family's members don't like it.  The same as he had many death eaters stricken from the family."

"But any heirs they have will be allowed on the family tree," Xander said.  "I marked through them and made a note saying that their conduct had embarrassed the family so their heirs could be recognized.  The bank said that would be better."

The head judge nodded.  "That's a logical thing to do.  Thank you for handling that quietly."

"Why embarrass the whole family or even her single part of the family for a daughter who wanted more power and made a bad decision to get it."  That got a nod.  "Are we done?  I need to eat breakfast."

"Go," the judges said tolerantly.  They watched him leave, looking at the mother.  "He has made himself quite plain about the conduct he expects to see from the family.  He's also made it well known that he used to hunt demons.  I would be more subtle or find a way to remove her from the family before she decides to go back."  She nodded and the judges looked at each other once she was gone.  "That was an interesting case."

"But he is a very upstanding young man," Dumbledore said.  "Even if he does jump into everything."

"Aww, are we smarting that he's taking on education next time?" another judge asked.  "I heard he and that Winchester boy are both focused on that issue and got Patricia into it."

Dumbledore nodded.  "He proved to her how far behind we're falling and she came to us to send some of us to a conference then they're going to take it on as an issue for their second year. I fear the next incoming class will have quite a lot more work to do."

They all smirked at that.  "Whatever's best for the students, Albus.  Remember, some of them have to be able to find jobs overseas and we have to keep up with the other countries."

"Indeed but I had no idea we were so far behind."  They all gave him odd looks.  "In the US they teach potions only for the last four years.  As they found out, Severus is teaching year appropriate things right now to his sixth years.  Minerva and Filius as well for most things.  Apparently what we test for on NEWTs they test for some starting in their third year."  A few members slumped.  "So we're looking at how to improve the curricula over the next year."

"We're that far behind?" the Minister for Magic asked.  Dumbledore nodded.  "I saw that sheet but I thought it was just the US.  They're always pushing ahead and doing things with technology."

"I got study guides from the Japanese and Mexican schools as well," Dumbledore said.  "The Mexicans had been behind us the last time I knew.  Now they're teaching NEWT level things on their OWL equivalents.  It's most distressing."

"We'll fix it and be the crown of the magical empire again," the Minister promised. "They all want us to move a bit more forward into the current century.  Did you know our clothing standards are over a hundred-twenty years behind?"  They all shook their heads.  He nodded.  "Harris got a book from a muggle library that shows fashion through the ages.  Finding ours was easy enough but they've had a lot more in the muggle world.  That's why the decency statue was written the way it was."

"They're definitely pushing us ahead so we can start to keep up with the rest of the world, but what about the magical world?" one judge asked.

"The French are ahead of us but not by much," Dumbledore admitted.  "At least socially speaking.  In education they've had a good deal of teachers that are quite excellent.  They wanted me to use muggle pens in the school.  That it'd be faster and easier for all the students, plus take a handicap away from the muggle borns who didn't grow up with a quill."

"It'd be easier, cheaper, and help you take notes," one judge agreed.  "I know some of the muggle born have probably tried."

"Yes, but the other teachers have noted that they have to use quills."

"Try it with a few select students, a good mix of muggle born and not, see if it does work better," one suggested.  "What did he say about the other schools?"

"They're behind as well.  The whole system is behind and they found a lot of fault with the facility for those who are born with birth defects.  Including that many of them there were capable of doing normal work if allowances were made for their physical problems.  I was ordered to go back over it since I had been involved in the first curriculum so very long ago.  They also found issues with how the students were being treated."  That got a few winces.  "So I would suggest that more than them go look into that matter.  As they have pointed out a few times, I'm a very busy man and can't do it all myself."

One of the females nodded.  "I'll gladly go look in on them, Albus.  Want me to report to you or them?"

"Either or both would be acceptable.  Thank you."  She nodded.  He was still worried that someone would decide to close a school.  They were all fine institutions even if they did need updating.  Then again, they were saying that there were a good number that weren't being taught...  So maybe another school was the answer?  He cleared his throat.  "They mentioned another point.  We're missing muggle borns who show magic.  They said we're only getting two-thirds."

"The schools are at capacity," one of them said, frowning some.  He worked at another school.

"Then that may cure both problems," the female noted.  "If there are students in that facility that could do the normal work if allowances were made for physical infirmity and we need to house other students to teach them, then what about setting up another school.  Boarding or not?"

They considered it, then Albus nodded.  "That's the only way I can see those needs being met.  Plus it would give them a good place to show what the updated curricula would be doing.  They could use it to set goals and standards beyond what they'll have the Ministry set for us."

"Where would you put it?" she asked.

"We can make suggestions.  They're open to them," Albus pointed out.  "During their last inspection they listened to some of mine and added a few of their own.  They're not unreasonable and they do tend to ask people in the correct fields for advice.  As they did with the laws they had to fix."  That got some smiles and nods.  "I will warn you that all but Mr. Harris and Mr. Potter have graduated college or nearly so.  Mr. Winchester was nearly there when his last girlfriend was killed by a demon.  He was going to law school.  The officers all have advanced degrees and possibly some going toward Masteries."  That got some nods.  "They are serious about the schools being up to date, fixed and in working order, and being safe."

"How did Hogwarts fare?"

"Our spells are starting to get old.  They need recharged and that should fix most things," he said happily.  "They'll be done over the holidays and the students shall come back to a sparkling clean, well adjusted and fixed school."  That got some smiles.  "So we'll see.  They said if we meet up then you only get one inspection a year.  We've had one about every five months so far.  They even said they'd do them near the end of school or the summer."

"Even better.  That way they don't have to worry about whining students."

"Ours did have some reasonable complaints.  The Slytherins needed new lamps.  One of the girls' staircases hasn't been working as a security device.  The students were most happy to talk to them."

That got some nods and plans were made for their next inspections.  If they wanted to hear from the whiny students they would make some available to the council.


to part 14: