Ryan looked at the owl coming down to where he was sitting outside the police station. "Hey, girl." He looked at the address then around. "He's not here right now. Can I take it for him? I promise to deliver it as soon as I see him. He's in court." She hooted and let him take the letter. "Thank you, love. I have some chips if you want some." She nibbled a bite then took flight again. He waved Frank Tripp over when he saw him. "When should Horatio be back? I just got a letter for him."
"I saw an owl."
Ryan grinned. "A friend's trained one for short notes. He hates email."
"Is it really critical?"
"Probably not *critical* but maybe important." It had the US Department of Magic seal and the British Ministry seal. It was official news.
"Probably around one. You could drop it by the courthouse."
"With my luck I'd miss him."
"Then give it to Speed."
"I told the owl I'd deliver it." That got a nod and he walked off. He texted Horatio to see if he was done yet. He got back an 'I'm at lunch, Mr. Wolfe. Join me.' He packed up and went to deliver the letter with a smile as he walked up to him. "Official post." He leaned down next to his ear. "American DoM owl came up to me because she couldn't find you at the courthouse," he said in his ear, getting a nod. He pulled out the letter and handed it over. Horatio gave him an odd look. "With the seals it's something official. I was hoping it was good news you'd share."
Horatio shook his head but he did slit it open and read the enclosed announcement. Then a second and a third time. "Excuse me?" he muttered.
Ryan looked. "That's like a knighthood," he said quietly. "Ours is like a rank raise for you, boss. Congrats." He patted him on the shoulder. "That's really great news." He walked off happier. Wait until Eric heard this.
"No spilling it, Mr. Wolfe," Horatio called after him.
"Yes, Horatio." He was still happy for him. He'd never do anything to warrant that sort of award. He hoped. Most of those were given posthumously.
Horatio looked at it, staring at the words. "I will beat Xander to death if he did this." He found his phone and called him. "Did you have anything to do with an award from the Minister and the Americans?" He listened to his opinion that it was Dumbledore getting them back for being nosy. "Why do you think that?" His answer of 'Draco and Harry both warned me he did something that gave the Minister a bad case of the cackling evils' made him smile. "I see. Thank you, Xander. No, don't warn the others. We'll hear when they do." He hung up and tucked the notices into his pocket. He didn't need medals and he didn't need awards, even though they were nice because they gave him a raise. He went back to the courthouse, going to see his boss for a second, handing him the notes to read.
"Congratulations, Horatio. Very good work," he praised, handing it back with a smile. "If I could, I'd give you one too."
"You do and I quit, sir."
"I know, Horatio." He patted him on the arm. "Have a party. Let Lucia quit pouting."
"I'll think about it." He walked off shaking his head. Lucia had been pouting about not cooking for anyone. He called her. "We are doing an announcement at the house tonight, Lucia. Yes, you can tell them all. Thank you." He hung up and went back to waiting for it to be his turn to testify.
Don looked up at the hoot, staring at the owl. "Hey, baby." He looked around. "Who?" She held out the letter, letting him take it. "He's over there, I'll hand it over. Thank you, baby." She hooted, letting him scratch her eye ridge, then he was gone. He walked the letter over since it was him, Mac, and Danny. "Owl post."
"Owl?" Mac asked.
"Yeah, they use trained owls," Danny said. "Like Harry's owl Hedwig, Mac."
"Do you have one?"
"I have giant rats that'd eat one. I use the public post when I need an owl and email the rest of the time."
Mac shook his head. "Very strange," he muttered. He opened it, staring at the notices inside. "Huh?"
"Very erudite," Danny teased. "Shows all your higher education very well." Mac scowled. "Bad news?"
"They gave me a commendation!"
Don plucked the letter to look then grinned. "Wow. The British one is like a knighting. Ours is what, equivalent to stars in the military?" Danny nodded, taking it to look at.
"I don't need medals or shiny stars," Mac ground out, taking it back. "No laughing."
"Someone decided you deserved it, Mac," Danny said with a grin, patting him on the arm.
"Think this has anything to do with Xander's?" Don asked.
"Don't know. We can call and ask." Danny's phone beeped. "Message from Horatio. Ah, it was Dumbledore because we're nosy assholes." He let them see the message. "So I guess you're not the only one, Mac." He got out of range of the glare of death he was getting. "It looks good on you and the department."
"I don't need it."
"So? Can't hand it back. Though the American one is usually given post-heroic death."
Mac folded it up and put it into his work case. "Get back to work, both of you." They smiled and got back to work. "No telling Stella. She'll complain."
"She'll giggle," Don teased. "The image of you in Merlin's robes or in a suit of armor will get to her."
"I look very good in light armor, thank you," he shot back.
"Really? Some Ren Faire in your past, Mac?" Danny teased.
Mac looked at him. "Want suspended without pay for the rest of today?"
"Not really. Have to do a bit of last minute shopping with this check."
"Then don't ask." He got back to work and so did they.
"Heard from Wolfe down in Miami," Danny said as he knelt. "They found flobber worm on a site."
"Why?" Don asked. "I didn't think they'd be that far south."
"Don't know. They were hungry, they were trying to nibble on Eric. Someone killed with a blessed blade sort of thing."
Mac shook his head. "Flobber worms?"
"I'll show you the creatures book when I get back from dinner," Don told him with a grin. "You're going to tell Stella, right?"
"No. I'm going to ignore it."
"Um, Mac, they'll be on the bottom of every single piece of magical mail you write for the rest of your life," Danny told him. "It's automatic upon winning it and it can't be removed."
Mac walked off moaning. He had been having such a good day!
Don and Danny shared a smirk but they got back to work looking for the missing body part.
The head of the American aurors decided to deliver one of them personally since they were only up the road a bit. He could use out of the office. He went over to NCIS, checking the telltales they had on DiNozzo just in case he was out. He was there. He walked in and looked at them. "Boys," he said. "Follow."
Tony blinked at him. "Peter?"
"You too, Gibbs," he ordered.
They groaned and went upstairs to the Director's office. "I'm going to spare you both some press, but some awards were handed to us by the Brits to give you and we decided it was only fair to give you equivalent to theirs."
"No thanks," Gibbs said.
"Too late," he shot back evilly. He nodded at the director. "Have to hand these over, Ma'am." He unrolled the scroll, letting Tony close and silence the door, which he enforced. "For the help you gave the British Ministry with the Voldemort issue, they have granted you the Third Order of Merlin." He withdrew the pins to hand over. "Even though Gibbs is a muggle and should not have been involved, you both provided invaluable assistance, especially during that last raid to get Voldemort. Along with these pins you will have that notation put below your name on any magical correspondence until such a time as you die or it's removed from you for turning criminal." He rolled the top back up and unrolled more of the bottom. "In accordance with their awarding you the Third Order of Merlin, we in the American Department of Magic feel that you should be awarded an equitable award and commendation so we have hereby awarded you the Commendation of Nissolhm. He was one of our bravest early fighters. He jumped into the Revolutionary War and won a lot of battles for us, a few very critical ones, with his use of magic and strategy together. Since Gibbs has a military rank, this is the equivalent of being made a Captain for bravery on the field of battle." He rerolled it and handed it to Gibbs. "If you need a separate copy, DiNozzo, let us know." He nodded then turned and obliviated the stunned director. "Have a good day, boys."
"I don't need it," Gibbs said.
The head of the aurors smirked at him. "Then quit doing things that count, Gibbs." He walked out much happier. The looks on their faces was priceless. He should've taken pictures.
Tony pulled Gibbs out of the office before the director woke up. "Elevator so we can call Xander?" he suggested. Gibbs handed over the scroll and pin. "If you're sure, boss."
"I am. Put it with the others."
"Sure, boss. I know you don't need medals for doing the right thing. The same as I don't, but it's kinda fun. Can I tell Probie?" he hissed. "Please?"
"Let him read it." He gave him a dirty look. "Never mention this again."
"Sure. Just remember, it'll be at the bottom of any magical letters." He dropped the scroll on McGee's desk, sitting down to put the pin with the other medals he had of Gibbs'. His own went into his award box. McGee spluttered and choked. "Don't get it wet." He tossed it back on his way to choke in the bathroom.
Gibbs shook his head. That was mean but oh well. He got into his email, finding one from Horatio. "Horatio said a certain old coot did it to get back at you guys for being nosy after he heard about Xander's award." He looked at him.
"Headmaster old coot?" Tony asked. Gibbs nodded. "Interesting. I wonder who got what." He went looking. "Hmm. The local department has a link to the story in the Prophet. It's online?" He shrugged and settled in to read it, his eyes going wide. "Boss?" He came over to read. Gibbs winced. "Yeah. Someone's going to hit the roof."
Gibbs checked the header. "This is tomorrow's edition," he said. "An advanced copy of it for notification purposes." He printed it and went back to his computer. "Send me the link?" Tony did that. "Let me send it Taylor and Caine. Just in case." He sent it, shaking his head. He was going to kick someone's ass when he found the headmaster and Minister for Magic the next time.
Tony was wondering if this meant he had to buy funny robes or a suit of armor.
McGee finally came back, giving him a dirty look. "It's real," Gibbs told him, letting him see the original article. His computer hacking agent sat down and whimpered in fear. Giving Tony a medal might be the sign of another apocalypse. He had John Winchester's email, he'd ask him that.
John opened up the email from Gibbs, reading the message. "I don't know. Giles, Gibbs wants to know if DiNozzo getting a medal and commendation are the sign of an apocalypse."
"Not unless they come with an award for stupidity for a mortal born and an award for an officer of Justice," one of the research watchers called back. "Though mortal might have been a mistranslation. The original one looks like muggle for some reason. Must've been a personal nickname."
John read the article then went to find Giles. "Read this. One of the pains in the library just said there's an apocalypse based off this convergence?"
Giles read then shuddered. "Well, yes, but nothing too terrible. The hellmouth is being opened again." He went to find the original so he could read it. It was in Latin and John could read Latin. "Are you proud of your sons?"
"For doing it, yes. For getting noticed, no. Dean's going to flip out." He thought about calling him but he decided they might be able to hear the scream even though Dean was in Ireland at the moment hunting a poltergeist with Sam.
Dean looked up, pointing at the owl staring at them. "Owl."
"I like mail owls," he said, smiling at it. "Do you have Xander or auntie mail for us?" he asked. The owl hooted and hopped down to sit on his arm, letting him take the two letters. "Thank you. We have some bread if you want some." It flew off. "Have a good flight."
"It's an owl, not the staff." He looked then took his letter. "Isn't that a Ministry seal?"
Sam looked at his and nodded. "What's the other?"
"American Department of Magic." He opened his letter, looking at the pin that came tumbling out first. "Um, Dean. Don't scream and rant. You'll scare off the poltergeist." He moved to the second page of the notice, which said about the American award, and the Department of Magic would forget, for now, about how they had funded their hunting activities. "Really, don't yell." He looked over. Dean's face was red. His blood pressure was very high. He was very upset. Sam ducked and put his fingers in his ear. Dean let out a shriek like he had when he was six and something had bitten him that was supposed to be harmless. Sam looked up at him. "Did you read them both?" he asked. Dean snarled but he flipped to the second one. Sam put his fingers back in his ears.
Dean glared at him, kicking him on the ass. "We can hand it back."
"No, we can't. No more than Xander can hand back his knighthood."
Dean gave him a horrified look. "They gave us *awards*, Sammy! We can't fade off into the shadows when we have *awards*!"
"You know, with the way they explained the Nissolhm one, Xander may have one named after him some year."
Dean looked at him. "Don't I usually throw out the strange lines that make you give me odd looks?"
"Well, yeah but you're huffy so I figured we'd change places this time. This means I get to drive, right?" he asked with a bright grin.
"Hell. No." He stomped off to put the stupid letters and pins in the car then shut it carefully before stomping off. "We have to get this poltergeist then we can make someone sorry."
"Think anyone told Dad?"
Dean turned to look at him. "Why do you want to kill our father that much? Is it being in England? Are you channeling Shakespeare?"
"No, just wondering if he'll have a good reaction or not."
"Not, Sammy! I can assure you it won't be a happy one when he hears we got *awarded* for hunting demons and Voldemort!"
"Okay," he said dryly. "Think this is a sign of an apocalypse?"
"It must be. You just gave me a look I used to give you when you freaked out at the shadows in the creepy motel rooms." He stomped off again. They had to kill the poltergeist then they could go kill someone at the Ministry. That should get it taken away, right?
"Think they got Xander again?" he called as he followed. He was upset but watching Dean have a Buffyish hissy was fun. "He might have two knighthoods or something."
Dean turned to glare at him. "If he comes sobbing after blowing up the Ministry, you hold him. I don't cuddle." He stomped off again.
"Sure. I'll let him cuddle. You want to tell the aunts and Dad?"
"Hell. No! I don't want to hear his fit!" Their shared phone beeped. "What now?" he muttered, looking at the message. "Horatio said the headmaster did it. Think we can stop by to beat his ass?"
"He's in Scotland and there's no roads nearby. Otherwise, I'd say yes."
"We could use the staff."
"If we use the staff, it'd confuse a lot of people and they'd have to add autoshop to the curriculum because they'd be in awe of the Impala. We haven't even looked at vocational school yet."
"Will we be?"
"I'm going to ask."
"Good. They're usually good careers." He continued to stomp off in a steaming huff. How dare someone do this to them! It was totally unfair and it would cut into the hunting. He had a bad feeling when that staff had shown up. Now he knew why. That gave him a pause. He had a prophetic feeling. Nah, it was a one-time thing since it was about Sammy being in trouble. He could excuse one time feelings. He wasn't turning into a Psychic Friends Network sort.
Sam grinned behind Dean's back, knowing what he was thinking. He paused and looked around. "Dean, shh. I think I hear another owl."
"There had better not be!" he said, looking outraged.
Sam snickered. "Your face is so priceless right now. The body language too. You remind me of Mrs. Weasley when she thought we had stolen Harry." Dean growled and lunged at him but Sam dodged around a tree. "Temper, temper, Dean. I'll tell Xander you need a lot of cuddles to get over this trauma."
"He'd give them anyway," he said, walking off in less of a snit and more of a sulk now. That had been a good prank. He'd have to get Sam back. Again. Especially for saying he had looked and sounded like Mrs. Weasley. That was unforgivable.
At breakfast that morning, Harry and Draco both looked up at the Ministry owl coming in and landing in front of the professor's table, hooting at McGonagall then hopping over to hoot at Professor Snape. It was an odd thing to happen. A few other students had taken notice too and were watching in interest.
Professor Snape read his and cleared his throat. "Mr. Malfoy, an announcement so you can clean your head of family up for his presentation." Draco gave him an odd look. "Unless you want him to wear one of those loud shirts and a pistol to be thanked by the Ministry?" he asked dryly. He came up to get it but ended up giving his teacher a horrified look. "Indeed," he said smugly.
"Who in the bloody hell gave Xander more honors?" he demanded loudly. Harry snickered. "Potter, if this was you, I'll gut you with your own wand," he snarled.
"No, I don't think this was his doing," McGonagall said. "Mr. Potter, come forward, please?"
"I'd rather stay here, ma'am."
"Tough. Someone has seen fit to remind someone that they owed you a bit of thanks for helping in the war."
"Can I join with Draco in gutting them?" he asked, not moving.
"Not in front of the other students, Mr. Potter. Come here. Don't make us drag you."
Hermione gave him a helpful shove. "Gee, thanks, stick up for me," Harry muttered on his way up. "I don't need thanks, Professor. I was happy to get the freak out of my head when he was gloating and off this plane so he didn't hurt anyone else."
"Yes, well, the Ministry wasn't satisfied with that, Harry. The Ministry has announced that they have awarded you the First Order of Merlin for your participation in the war. As well as the Americans awarding you an Order of Contigra. That is analogous to you getting another Second Order of Merlin." She looked down at him. "I know you will wear your pin better than Percy did his Headboy pin?"
"I think it'd be best if it was put safely away where there was no way for it to be damaged, Professor."
"It could be, yes," she agreed with a hint of humor. "Also be aware that both awards will be under your name automatically whenever you write magical correspondence."
"Ooh, yay me," he mouthed. She held in a smile at that. "Thank you, Professor, for handing on that bit of news. I'm sure someone at the Ministry feels much better now that they've thanked me. I'll remember them in my holiday wishes." He went back to his table, grabbing his bag so he could put the pin and letters up in his trunk. The bottom of his trunk.
"Mr. Malfoy's letter was to announce his Head of Family was also awarded a First Order of Merlin and a Sword of Roses, for not only his participation in the war at Potter's side, but also for his prior work on the hellmouth. There will be a formal presentation of both awards on the twenty-first," Snape said. "They wanted to make sure Mr. Malfoy could make sure Mr. Harris shows up. Plus give him a way to brag."
"I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun getting Xander there, sir." He finished his breakfast. "May I use your floo for a minute, Professor? Just in case he hasn't heard?"
"You may," he agreed. "Use my classroom one. I'll be right there." Draco walked off to do that. Following a few minutes later would let him miss out on much of Mr. Malfoy's alto screaming like a girl about this award. It was a great honor but a man like Xander did not do things for honors or awards. He smirked evilly at the, as the Americans put it, freaking out going on over his classroom floo. He walked in. "You must attend. Or else they'll summon you. Or send Tonks after you."
"I don't want it!"
"So?" He shrugged. "By the papers, you weren't the only one awarded."
"Someone get me a copy of the Daily Prophet!" Xander shouted back at his house elves. He looked at Draco. "The blue outfit?"
"I'll dress you," he promised, hanging up. He looked at Snape. "He's going to kill them all for this."
"They wanted to get the idiots out of certain offices. That would certainly do that." Draco walked off shaking his head.
Xander called Horatio. "How much explosives would I need to blow the Minister's office up and do you think an owl would carry a letter bomb? I'm only good at big applications of explosives."
//Calm down, Xander.//
"Fuck calm! They gave me a First Order of Merlin, a Sword of Roses, and then the Americans gave me one called the Order of Contrigra. I feel like calling the Order of Taraka on them!"
//What do they do?// Horatio asked.
"They're demonic assassins."
//I don't think it'd help make them go away any faster, Xander. Stay calm. It can't be that bad.//
"They sent it to Draco to make sure I'd appear! They announced it at the school! I knew he plotted to get one of us but I didn't need another one!"
//Since the headmaster is using this to pay us back for sticking our noses into his school, I'm not surprised. Stay calm. Gibbs got an award, so did I, Tony, and Mac.//
"Harry too," Xander said. "Sam and Dean you think?"
//Lucia handed me an email with a link that led to a Daily Prophet story about them. They got the Second Order of Merlin. Probably the same Order of Nissolhm the rest of us got from over here.// He nearly smiled at the huff of irritation. //You're starting to sound like a girl who can't decide which shoes to wear, Xander. Calm down. We'll accept our awards gracefully. Then we'll go drink ourselves stupid.//
"They're giving me mine on the twenty-first."
//The papers say mine too,// he agreed. //We'll be there together. Calm down. We can use this to annoy people for ages. Think about what your friends Buffy and Willow will say.//
"They'll say it's the start of another apocalypse."
//I'm sure they won't. Stay calm ad we'll be okay. We'll talk about it after the meeting. All right?//
"Yes, Horatio. Thank you for calming me down. Why can't they leave me alone? The one was cool but now I have *four*!"
//I know. Calm down. Go take something for your headache. It'll be okay.//
"Yes, Horatio. Thank you." He hung up and went to take something for his headache and find that Daily Prophet article himself if he had to. "Fucking Ministry. Why do they have to award me things?" he complained to himself as he stomped. "I didn't need awards and they make it really hard to sneak around. People will want to shake my hand or name their babies after me. This is *horrible*!"
The listening house elves decided he wasn't mad at them. He was mad at the Ministry. Which was fine with them. They had heard the Ministry was full of stupid people before. They ran after Xander to take care of him. He needed them more than ever today. He didn't have his lap Dean or snuggly Sam with him right now.
Tonks came out of the fire on the twenty-first. "No, leave the explosives and the weapons," Horatio was saying upstairs. "I know you want to but you can't bring them, Xander. No one will try to attack you. I promise. Now please put that up before I remember that when I get home and make note of it."
"If I have to put on a bloomin' skirt, he has to put on a tie," she yelled up the stairs.
"Ties are evil and strangle people," Xander called back. "I don't own any."
"That's metaphorical," Tony told him. "Have you ever seen a tie strangle anyone on its own?"
"Yes. It was possessed but yes."
"Mine's not possessed and it'll look good on your outfit, Xander."
"Don, that tie's fairly ugly," Horatio said. "I have no idea what you wear it with but it's ugly."
Mac laughed. "We've stopped taking bets about which one's the worst," Danny told him.
"I like my ties," Don complained.
Tonks walked up the stairs, making Xander beam at her. "Yes, I'm wearing your present, goofball." She looked at them. "Robes, people. This is a wizarding award." She looked around. "Gibbs primping in another room?"
"Gibbs doesn't accept awards. He sends me to accept them for him," Tony said, handing her a note. It was from the director about Gibbs never accepting his own awards and him sending Tony to do it for him.
"I doubt that'll work," Tonks said dryly, handing it back.
"He's hiding," Tony said smugly. "Willow's helping hide him wherever Sam and Dean are hiding."
"We invited Willow, Buffy, and Giles to the presentation," she said. "I'm sure we can convince her to cough 'em up. Robes, people. We have to be there in thirty minutes."
Draco walked in with boxes. "Thankfully Madam Malkin knows this was an emergency and we can do a few tailoring charms if we must." He put down boxes and looked around. "Don, tie, ugly." He took it off him and handed him his robe, then gave the others theirs.
"I'm not getting anything," Don complained.
"You'll make the group look bad. Especially Stella. No." He looked at his head of family. "Off with the weapons."
"They won't let me carry any either," Tonks told him when Xander pouted. "Even if there's an attack."
"Don't say that, you'll jinx us," Harry complained.
"Seconded," Xander agreed. Horatio gave him a gentle cuff on the shoulder. "I can run now, right? The staff can take me to visit John?" It flashed negatively. "Why not? You like John. You think he's neat. Or hey, we can go hide with Sam and Dean." It flashed happier at that. "See, we can do that." Tony kept him from grabbing the staff, handing it to Draco. "Mine," he complained.
"Draco can hold it until we're done," Tony said, brushing the lint off Xander's back. "I didn't think you had animals."
"I was petting Hagrid's dog in the Leaky Cauldron the last time I wore this one."
Draco looked at him. "You must look perfect today," he said tightly, taking him to his closet and looking. "Where are your clothes? Tailor!" He came running in. "Where are Xander's clothes?"
"His room, Master Draco sir." He disappeared.
Draco looked around. "This is the master suite."
"This room is drafty. I need to fix a window." Draco groaned and let Xander walk him over to his room on the other end of the, thankfully, short hall. "See, my clothes."
Draco looked then at him. "How did you wrinkle *everything*?"
"I don't know. But see, I can't show up!"
"Bull." He growled as he stomped into the closet, finding something he liked him in. He came out and found Xander gone. He looked at the staff. "Bring him back. He'll embarrass the family if he doesn't take it like a man this time." It pulled him out of the bathroom. He looked at him. "No one will mind the muggle underwear." He handed him the outfit and went to hand someone else a shirt he cast an ironing charm on. "Don, here. Less ugly." He walked off with a sigh of displeasure. He looked at Tonks. "You're *not* wearing that."
"What's wrong with it?"
"It's ugly, brown, and did I mention ugly?" He huffed and looked up. "I need my mother for times like this," he complained. Altera floated in. "Good. Dress Tonks. She has to accept an Order of Merlin today and she's an auror so she has to be able to duel at the least if necessary." She nodded, taking Tonks out to the storage area to get her clothes. Draco went to iron the cloths on Xander for him. He found his cellphone and called Sam's. "You will appear. You will appear in robes. Or else you are embarrassing your family and mine, Samuel. I will make your life a miserable, bloody hell if I must because no one embarrasses my family. Now get your ass dressed and here. We'll appear together." He hung up and looked at Xander, frowning. "Did you grow?"
"They shrank in the wash when I got demon goo on them."
Draco got a different pair of black pants and handed them over, using a lint roller first and then an ironing charm. He'd use a pressing one but he might kill Xander with it. He really might.
"Calm down, Draco," Stella ordered. "It'll be okay. He won't embarrass the family. We won't let him go armed or anything. He won't blow up the Ministry. It'll be okay. Quit stressing before you break out. Your future wife won't like pimples."
"She's at home. Did I tell you that?" he asked Xander.
"I thought she was coming in tomorrow."
"She decided the bad weather they're having meant she could come earlier. I found them in the garden staring at Mother's roses."
"Did you tell her your mother had planted them?" Xander asked.
"I did when I found her. I rather blurted it out but she smiled and said it was good to remember my mother and they were beautiful roses. So she'll leave them alone. She even wanted to cut one for her bouquet she thinks."
"Good," he said, smiling at him. "Now I can escape, right?"
"No. Not in the least. She'll be there. So will her mother. Do not embarrass the family." He looked at Stella. "No."
He stunned her then floated her off to wherever his great-however-many-times- grandmother was. "Her too, please?"
"She looks cute enough," Tonks complained.
"The skirt is practically not there."
"So? It's the way muggles are."
"This is a wizarding award." He walked off. "The top was fine."
Altera shook her head. "Must get it from the inbreeding," she shared. She found the perfect skirt to go with Stella's sparkly top and tossed it onto her then got out a dress for Tonks. "This is a bit longer and should fit you, dear. It'll look good on your coloring too."
"I'm a metamorpahgus."
"That's even better," she said happily, pulling out something. "My first daughter's courting dress." She handed it over. "Still a bit short on you but it'll look darling if you darken your complexion just a bit. Plus she always said she wore it because it was her most comfortable dress." Tonks nodded, retiring to the bathroom to dress. Don came in. "Do dress her in that skirt please?"
"She took nearly forever to choose hers."
"Trust me. She'll look fantastic in my choice. Plus no one will say anything." Don shrugged and did the changing spell for her. The satin with velvet accents did look good against her darker tights. "Ah." She found a pair of boots. "Here, borrow these." She floated off to check on Xander, who was frozen stiff. She smiled, watching as Draco checked to make sure he wasn't getting dirty or anything. "I did that before many family portraits."
"My future wife's mother and she will be there today," he told her.
"I look forward to looking in on her, Draco." Stella woke up complaining. "Do behave please." She floated back. "I knew that would do well on your taller form. Modern women are much taller than in my day and those boots go wonderfully. You look cute."
"I can't fight in this if something happens."
"That's why there's aurors, dear." She went to check on Tonks, who was staring at the straps in consternation. "Cross back and forth." She did that, letting her relative show her how it was done. At the end, it was fit fairly well and comfortable. Draco walked in and looked then did a tailoring charm on the back to make it a bit tighter around her waist and chest. She nodded. "Not totally modest but she looks good." She floated in a pair of shoes. "Here, wear those, dear." She slid into them and bent to tie them up. She floated out. "Draco, you're all sweaty," she chided. He gave her a panicked look and went to fix it, pulling out and unshrinking his spare outfit. She smiled because the first thing he did was his hair. Then he got dressed once it was perfect. She nodded and they went to gather the others. Stella was still staring at herself. "It suits your figure and no one can say you weren't trying, even though it's mid-calf, Stella. The boots look good against it and the top could probably be tighter but that's fine."
"There's the top that goes with it," Don said, holding up one. "Or wouldn't it go?"
She looked then nodded. "We'd usually wear that over a top." She found one and handed it over. "Try that. Not too tightly but it should be fine." Don did the changing charm again and then Draco came in to play with hers and Tonks' hair and makeup so it was perfect. When he was done Stella looked like a portrait but she was cute. The top dipped low like her normal ones did, but it was a fitted waist and it looked kind of peasant-y. With the skirt it looked odd. She changed back to her skirt and it looked good to her. That got a nod from Altera and it was too late for Draco to make her change. So they went that way. Draco made sure they were all dusted off after they appeared and repressed Xander.
"Quit," he snapped.
"Yes, Xander." He sighed, going to take his place next to his future wife. "Clothing traumas," he excused.
She leaned closer. "Relax. You're flushed, Draco."
"I don't want him to embarrass the family. He wanted to bring weapons."
She smiled. "Men like him do that." She patted his hand, taking it to hold. The doors opened and the group walked in together. Some of them sitting down, some going up to the dias to take their proper, marked seats. The Minister stepped up and looked around. Tony handed him a note, getting a look back. Before he could retort, the doors opened and Sam walked in with Dean, properly dressed and Draco prayed his thanks to Merlin for that, and John sat down in the back since he was in muggle clothes. They took their seats, looking around to nod at the others.
The Minister for Magic smiled. "With one exception we're all here and one of them feels medals slow him down in the field. So we'll go present it to him at work instead." He looked at the group. "Thanks to these people, the war was won. Not just them but these ones stepped in late and brought with them skills that made for decisive victories from a series of raids this summer. Until then we had only caught twenty death eaters, ten of them thanks to Mr. Harris and them trying to eliminate him." He saw the looks from the other Council members. Xander shrugged. "After they stepped in to help us, we arrested over a hundred within a month." That got some polite clapping. "Then the rest of them joined in for the final two assaults, which netted us the rest of the death eaters attending meetings and Voldemort himself."
That got louder clapping. "It would have taken us much longer if we hadn't had the help they provided." He turned to them. "Let's go in order of announcement. Mac Taylor?" He stood up and stepped forward, going to parade rest. He smiled. He pinned the medal on him. "We award you the Third Order of Merlin for your work on the raids that netted us the most death eaters and Voldemort." He nodded his thanks and sat down. He liked that, he hadn't tried to make a speech. "Horatio Caine?" He stepped up and accepted his award in the same manner. "Anthony DiNozzo." He stepped up and got his award then sat down. "We'll be presenting Gibbs his at work since he said he was too busy on a case to appear and someone's life may be in jeopardy." He moved that tray and opened the next one.
"The Second Order of Merlins go to three of you. Auror Tonks, I believe it's still women first?" She stepped up to get her award, nodding her thanks before sitting down again. He wondered about her dress. It looked very darling and sweet on her. "Auror Tonks was the one who got the most death eater arrests because anytime one of the others wanted to go on a raid they'd call her personally to help them. She made quite a dint on our ink supplies in the Ministry." That got a few laughs. "Her boss was most happy with her writing cramps and her ability to lead a raid or follow those who know various styles of raiding while integrating it into her own taught style. The other two Second Order of Merlins belong to a pair of brothers who did a lot of the planning for all those raids. Even when someone tried to keep them out they wouldn't.
"We'll go by age this time I believe. Dean Winchester?" He stepped forward and went to parade rest. Interesting. He didn't know he was military trained. "For exceptional work even though you only knew about our world starting this summer." He pinned the medal on him. There was some light applause from their family and friends. Dean nodded and sat down. "Samuel?" He stepped up and took his own medal as stoically. It was like they were about to be shot. He'd have to talk to them about gracious award acceptance. The applause came back before Sam could sit down, teasing a slight smile from him. He put that tray aside and pulled out the other two. These were larger medals. They went up in size as you went on.
"For the First Order of Merlin we have two exceptional people. One who was told at a mere eleven years of age that it was going to be his duty to fight the Dark Lord. The other who jumped into a war that wasn't his, even if the other side wanted him as a prize. The first, Mr. Potter, has saved us all by casting the final curse that ended Voldemort's reign forever." We hope. If he came back again, someone was going to be quite pissed. "He fought for many years, even when the adults tried to force him to stop because they didn't understand or weren't paying proper attention." Ha, take that Albus! "In his fighting he has saved lives, he has lost a few, but on the whole he has saved many lives by casting that final curse and doing as well as he could while still in his education. We know Mr. Potter will go on to do many great things. Harry?" He stepped back, standing still. He pinned it on him. "Thank you from all of us," he said quietly.
"I did what I had to."
"We are all glad you did, lad." He got a nod and Harry sat down. "The last one, well, he's a bit more than just a fighter for us. Mr. Harris has fought for quite a while on his native hellmouth. He has aided a slayer through numerous apocalypses and the more minor and mundane patrols to ensure the continued health of most of the population in his town. It was his planning that got his slayer through some of the worst situations. An ascension. A military unit trying to take over the town to torture demons. A hell goddess. And most recently he leant what help he could while he was helping us to aid her in the apocalypse that ultimately pulled the hellmouth into itself with most of the town. Even when we at the Ministry tried to get him to stop he would not. He took it upon himself to sneak into the Dark Lord's chamber to start the first raid. He even got to make fun of him for being unable to stop him." That got a bit of laughs from those who knew Xander. A few more looks by the older men on the Council with him as well.
"Then he moved on to help the Winchester brothers plan the other raids, going on each and every one with them. When the situation in Sunnydale spilled into our world, he managed to have a time turner accident to save a lot of lives in the Watchers Council, some of which are our people. He managed to make sure the special weapon the slayer needed was going to get to her. When his personal family was attacked, he comforted the remaining member and found out why he was spared, then let us have that information so we could save others who were threatened. He is a major influence on the Founders Council and behind a lot of the good ideas we've had. So we do not only award Mr. Harris the First Order of Merlin for his help in this war, we award him the Sword of Roses for his past heroics that have benefitted not only our world but the entire world, muggle and magical."
Xander stood up and walked over to him, getting pinned with the medal. Then the Minister hefted the heavy sword. It was a very heavy, solid sword carved with roses up the blended silver/iron blade with a leather wrapped silver handle. He handed it to him.
That was when the doors broke in and a demon came running in.
Xander reacted, stabbing the demon before it got closer than the foot of the stage, kicking it off the end of his blade with a foot. He tossed his staff at Draco. "Black bag, on my dresser. Now." Draco disappeared because the staff made him do so. The other demons came in and Dean pulled a gun. Sam pulled a gun.
"Oh, dear," the Minister said, backing away behind the rest of the Council and Tonks. "Why are they doing this?"
"They don't like Xander being rewarded for taking them out," Tonks said. "Ooh, there's Buffy and Willow too," she said, pointing.
"Got another one?" Horatio asked Dean.
Draco reappeared on the stage, handing the bag over. "What's in that?"
"Supplies," Xander said as he used the sword to cut the head off another demon. "Guys, silver bullets and holy water rinsed, blessed ones in the bag," he noted. Dean and Sam reloaded. Horatio found another gun. Mac got one. Buffy and Willow took out the edges to keep them away from the others. John helped get the doorway finally blocked off. Xander and the boys, plus Horatio and Mac, got the rest of the demon clan. Xander hopped off the stage, taking off his robe to toss to his future cousin-in-law. "Hold that for me please?" he asked with a smile. He stomped out, taking point, Buffy and Willow behind him, John behind them, and his boys behind him with Mac and Horatio covering the rear since all they could do was shoot. "The blue ones don't react to blessed anything or silver," Xander noted. "Willow, take them? Buffy, get the red, hairy ones. The rest, take out the others. They'll die with it." They opened fired and he got anything that came closer. Thirty minutes later the last one fell. Xander panted, looking around. "Well, that was fun," he said dryly. "Injuries?"
"A small scratch," Horatio said.
"A few bruises and a bite mark," John said.
"Let me look at that, just in case," Willow said, coming over to look at the bite mark on his ankle. "Looks okay but I'm dosing you when we get back to wherever. Xander?"
"A few scratches and a bite too." He waved at his leg. "One got me as he was falling to the stab in the chest." He looked at Horatio and Mac. "Welcome to demon hunting. Yes, it's always like this." He checked Dean and Sam, who were panting. "You two okay?" He moved to check them over. "Dean, you got bit."
"It happens." He brushed him off. "I'll be fine with some neosporin."
"I'm good." He let both Dean and Xander look him over to make sure then his father. "Guys, I'm not four! I can handle a few bruises!" he complained.
"Shut up, Sammy. You may be a giant brain but you have little sense when it comes to how serious your injuries are. Like Xander. Xander, is that cut on your back bleeding maybe?" John asked dryly.
Xander looked then used a hand to pat at it. "It'll clot soon. It's shallow." He walked inside, using his ruined shirt to wipe the blade off. He nodded, taking his bag and staff back. "Home," he whispered to Draco, getting a nod. He smiled at his cousin-in-law. "Thank you for holding that for me, dear. Most kind of you." She smiled back, nodding a bit. "Are you coming for dinner in a few days?"
"Draco said we were."
"That's wonderful. I look forward to meeting you for more than tea. Do ignore their manners. They were raised by inferior demons." He walked out, waving his staff. "Anyone need a lift back to the house?"
"Me," Buffy said.
"We've got you, Dad," Sam promised. "Should we just leave? It seems like things should still be going on."
Xander shrugged but he waved his wand. "Incendio demons." They went up in a blast of heat and light. Then there was only blood and a few bits and pieces strewn about. "Not too bad of a mess." He disappeared, taking Buffy with him.
"Show off," Sam snorted, taking his father and brother with him.
"Are they insane or is it us?" Mac asked Horatio.
"Them. Tony?" he called. "Tonks?"
"Guarding the doors," Tony said, leaning out. "Hey, he even mostly cleaned up. I'm impressed. Buffy leaves them laying around sometimes from what we heard. I'll bring Tonks and Harry." He went back inside. "Minister, Xander cleaned up most of the mess. There's a bit of blood and stuff, but otherwise the hallway is clean. Draco?"
"I'll get there."
"Sure. Tonks, want a lift?"
"I'll make sure Draco and his guests get there since Tony froze me to my chair."
"Sorry, Harry. Finite incantantum." He swished his wand then took Tonks with him.
Harry got up. "I probably should protest," he told Draco. He looked, grabbing the two expended clips to put into his pocket. Then he walked over there. "We can take you back if you want." They nodded, taking his hands. "Draco?" He came over and grabbed his arm and they were gone. He landed them in the library. "This is the ancestral home instead of Malfoy manner and this is the main library. Let me go check on them while Draco gives you a tour." He hurried off to change and check on the others. "Do I need to get a mediwitch?" he called as he jogged up the stairs.
"Yes, they're all drama queens. I'm sure Xander's very sorry about that," Draco told them, getting a laugh.
"Attacks happen when they do," his future mother-in-law promised. "He handled it well, without swearing and sneering."
Draco smiled. "I'm sure it's because he thought there might be sensitive ears in the room. Let me give you the tour while they change and clean up a bit." He took Bindi's arm and led them out to show them around the common areas of the house. "Xander has decided this is his favorite house of all of them but he does have an apartment within a few blocks of Diagon for meetings and late nights that way." That got a smile. He led them to the center garden, the one in the center of the protections, off the kitchen and dining room. "The house elves have been busy rehabilitating the gardens. They were completely wrecked when we reopened this house. It hadn't been in use in centuries and not even the strongest of flowers were able to be revived. He'll be planting all new this coming spring. This one is mostly used for cooking herbs but it looks like it'll turn out as a nice, quiet place to sit and read during the summer. With a canopy from the eaves so you can even watch the rain." She nodded so he led them through the rest of the house and into the main gardens. "This will be the formal gardens. When we got here, the grass was waist high. The bushes were tangles of nettles. So far they've done a great job getting it ready to be replanted.
"The house elves have been doing a wonderful job restoring this old one," the mother said, looking up. "A cracked window?"
Draco looked up. "Xander used to work in carpentry. He's insisting he's fixing all things like that by hand to preserve the integrity of the house." He smiled at the paddock. "Come meet some of the guardians." He led them that way, pointing. "Look there. She's fading in and out in the sunlight."
She looked then cooed. "It's a ghost foal."
Draco smiled. "They come out to play in the paddock at night. Xander made me come play tag with him and then a few months back. He enjoys coming out to play with them." She smiled at him and kissed him on the cheek, moving forward. The horse came over to look at her then nudged her playfully before galloping off to his mother. "Xander will probably be out tonight, little one." That got a nod from the mother. "This is my fiancee, Bindi, and her mother." The horses studied them then nodded again and faded out. He smiled at them. "Some of them have been here for ages untold." He led them back inside through the study door. "This is Xander's study." He led them back into the main hallway. "Are we nearly ready to eat?" he called.
"Food is being finished and cut now," one house elf called. "Plates are being laid."
Draco went to check. "We are using the dishes for this house?" They pointed. "No!" he snarled. They flinched. He pointed at a cabinet. "Use these." They went to unmake the table and then remake it with the matching dishes. "I thought you put those back."
"Xander said he didn't mind most of them being in here. Just not funeral set," one said timidly.
"That's fine for him but we have guests." The house elves looked then looked upstairs, adding more food. He went back to them. "Sorry. We have a different place setting for each house we own and the elves put those out instead of the matching set. It shouldn't be too much longer if you'd like to look around the front or the library again?"
"I'd like to look in the library again," Bindi said. "Yours was large but this one's larger."
"This is the home where all the other books come from." He led them back into there, letting her look around. "The way the charms are laid all you have to do is ask for a book on any topic. I want a book on... then name it. If we have one it'll float down."
She smiled. "I want a book on the family history of the Malfoys." Two thick books floated down. "That is an excellent spell for such an old building."
"It wasn't in use for a long time so it wasn't worn out." He looked at the books, sending one back. "That one's written by cousins that were mad at us. The other's a fairly factual account of the history of this family. All branches. I have the specific Malfoy family history back at the Manor. Oh, Aunt Lucinda," he said with a smile when he spotted the child ghost. She waved and grinned at Bindi. "Her mother is one of my ancestresses. This is Lucinda and her mother is Altera Malfoy. The men of her time were against strong women so they dosed her but she's a happier ghost now who picks on Xander's taste in shirts as well." Bindi's mother laughed. "He does like to wear some loud, muggle clothes." Lucinda floated closer. "Are you bored?"
"Mommy said to quit bossing the house elves around. It could've shown her the various properties."
"I was going to take her on a tour of them for our honeymoon. That way she could see them in person. Besides, it's not acceptable with guests. With family it's fully acceptable as long as it's not the wedding set or the funeral set." Xander walked in and smacked him on the head. "Ow. Fine. I'll chastize more gently next time. Sorry, Xander."
"Thank you, Draco." He smiled at Bindi's mom. "We're eating in about ten minutes if you wanted to freshen up. The bathroom's that blue door behind you. It shifts now and then but it's mostly there." He walked off, his t-shirt and jeans pressed but clean.
Draco shook his head. "Go ahead and I'll escort you." He stepped out of the room, running into Altera. "Well?" he hissed.
"She's a beautiful young woman, Draco. You look nice together and she seems to care for you. I would heartily agree to this union if you were my son." She smiled at Bindi as she came out. "No towels?"
"Plenty. I used some of the hand sanitizer as well."
"That is neat stuff," Lucinda said. "Xander uses it on cuts instead of the stingy stuff." She floated over. "Are you going to marry Draco and have babies like me?"
"I hope we will someday," she agreed. The girl beamed and faded out with her mother. "She is very smart."
He smirked a bit. "It is a family trait. I have quite good grades at the moment, even with all the hecticness that's been going on this semester." Her mother came out. "Ready?" She nodded. He led them that way. "Did I tell you that I caught the snitch during our game against Ravenclaw?"
"You hadn't. You mentioned you play seeker on your house team." He nodded, helping her into her seat then her mother. She smiled at her mother. Draco was growing up into a more polite young man than they had heard. He sat down on her left. "I got your present." She touched it.
He blushed a bit. "I'm glad you liked it. Hogsmeade was limited in scope for presents unless you'd like some candy?" She giggled but shook her head. "I thought that would look beautiful around your neck. It sets off the complexion of your skin and the tan you have." She blushed at that, giggling a bit. He kissed the back of her hand then put it back onto the table. "I've still got to wrap your Yule gift. We only got back yesterday and I made Xander take me shopping so we could both complete our shopping. Plus he has very nice taste in presents. He was the deciding factor on which one I got. It might be a bit odd...."
"Spoiling it," Dean said as he came in. "If not, go get it."
"I can wait."
"You have three. I can give you this one now." He went to get it, bringing it back. "It may be a bit odd, but Slytherin is the House of the Snake at our school." He opened the box to show off the snake bracelet. "I chose one that was from around your homeland. It's charmed to bite anyone who would harm you." He put it on her, watching her shiver. "I know, it will take a second to sense you. It's a very good charm. I wore one when I was younger and my father dragged me everywhere with him. The bite will not harm you, only someone who grabs or scares you that you sic it on. The instruction card is in the box with the coded phrase to use for it." She looked then smiled at the assurances on it. "This way, even if you're alone and you run into something you can't handle, it can help you handle it. So you're not lost to your family or me." He stroked her cheek with a gentle smile.
She smiled back. "It's a lovely and thoughtful gift, Draco. I'm sure it'll help me if I'm in a situation that could hurt me that I can't handle." He grinned at that. She showed her mother, who nodded. "It's back into a normal feeling bracelet."
"As it should be," Willow said, looking at it. "That's very complex magic. I might look at it for a last resort sort of weapon for the slayers." She sat down with Sam's help. "Thank you, Sam. You looked very distinguished earlier."
"We went to a place in Ireland. It was a nice little shop." He sat down, standing when Buffy walked in. "Is Tonks joining us?"
"She'll be right in." She sat with Draco's help on his other side. "Hi. Buffy Summers."
"Bindi, future wife of Draco."
Buffy grinned. "Watch out for Xander. He used to threaten Draco with marrying me if he was behaving like a little snot." Bindi giggled. "It worked. He's a much nicer guy to be around now." She looked at his hair then fixed a piece. "There, better. You shouldn't look mussed unless she did it for you." She smiled at Tonks when she came in and the men stood as a sign of respect. "I need to date guys like these."
"How did the last one work out?" Horatio asked as he walked in. "I thought he was a nice young man."
"He was but he was scared of a strong woman. He couldn't accept that I could kick his butt in sparring. It made him pout more than me without chocolate."
Draco gave her a look. "Polite conversation topics?"
"I wasn't talking about when I *need* chocolate, Draco, just when I wanted it." She smiled at Bindi. "He's got his panties in a twist again. It's that British thing since Giles and the other watchers do it too."
"I suppose it could be," she agreed. "Though he is cute. He'll burn at my home but he's cute."
"They make sunscreen," Harry assured her. "I learned how to apply it after a bad sunburn during my trip to Miami."
"I've never been, how was it?"
"It's a beautiful city. I spent a lot of time with Horatio's nephew Ray. I spent some time on the beach. Ray taught me how to body surf. We ate ourselves sick on the food. It was good. You two should go."
She smiled. "Maybe we'll go for an anniversary." Draco shrugged. "You wouldn't mind?"
"Travel is supposed to be very broadening. It's very fun, educational, and good for you. I wouldn't mind doing some light traveling a few times a year."
She nodded. "That would work for me." She took his hand to hold. "Is anyone else coming?"
"Tony's on the phone with Gibbs about the assault. Dad's coming but he's having a quiet argument about us jumping in and accepting our awards. That's why he pulled Dean back out."
"You didn't want them?" Bindi's mother asked.
Sam shook his head. "We're demon hunters. If there's too much fame attached we can't live in the shadows like we need to and people will follow us around and get hurt. Unfortunately we couldn't get out of it this time. Draco got pushy."
She nodded. "He can be forceful when he wants to be." The missing members walked in and dinner was served. She smiled and patted the house elf giving her the plate on the head. "Thank you."
"Bindi is welcome." She moved onto feed the others. "Master Draco sir, is everything all right? You is not being eating."
"It's polite to wait for the women to eat first," he told her. She nodded and left.
Bindi took a bite and moaned. "They do *very* well, Xander."
"Thank you. I'm not a bad cook myself but they do much better than I do."
"They do nearly as good as my mom did," Buffy said.
"Joyce could make a mean pan of brownies," Xander teased back. Buffy nodded. "How's Dawn?"
"Frustrated. The other Watchers think she should be doing preschool somewhere. It's worse than I gave her back in Sunnydale."
"You have a younger sister?" Bindi's mother asked.
"She's fifteen. We treat her like she's five, but she's fifteen. The old Watchers that're left treat her like she's two. I pointed out she's got some skills and knowledge. They don't even want to let her train to become one of them."
"Then they're stupid and something else will happen that'll prove their inflexibility is a problem when it kills them," Xander reminded her. "Sunnydale nearly killed Wes before he grew up. When he did, he realized it wasn't all black and white and fixed himself. That's why he became an asset to Angel."
"I guess." She ate another bite. "By the way, thank you for the house elf place's address. John got pitifuled to death and brought home seventeen. They're *very* helpful around the campus."
"Campus?" Bindi asked, eating another bite.
"The new Watchers Council is sitting on a small private campus. That way all the older watchers can have one building and whine to each other about the old days when they turned us into machines that died when we broke down. We're doing okay rebuilding. It's going slowly but we're doing okay. We could use more watcher trainee candidates. They didn't go after the research watchers, mostly the field watchers, and the research guys are better but not trained or able to do combat."
Xander gave her a look. "Then recruit from police and military who've seen it. Not Initiative boys but guys like John. He knew somewhat before. You've got officers around you that know. Agents who know. Recruit from them."
She nodded. "I'll suggest that to Giles. We're still looking for the basics. A doc for after patrol bang-ups. A new weapons master since John wanted to find a good one for us. Someone to do the physical training at the advanced levels because Giles is good but not perfect. We need more witches to associate with and so Willow can take lessons."
"Tara got offered a learning spot with the Devon coven," Willow told her.
"If you move over here that means I'm the last one left over there and I'd have to move too. It's not fair. The British are recruiting too fast. They give medals and award and neat stuff."
"I didn't want an award," Dean told her. "It makes it harder for us to hunt if people know who we are. We have to spend too much time on the edge of the light to find the bad guys that any light on us keeps us from working. Today we had to. There seemed to be a compulsion to show up." He glared at Draco.
"I did not. I left it at a nasty phone call," he defended. "Xander can't not go, it looks bad on the family. You guys not supporting him looks like you don't care for him."
"We're friends, Draco. The potion was broken," Sam said.
"Friends would've still been there to support him," Draco said. "If I were getting one, I'd want my family and friends there. You're some of his closest friends and you didn't want to show up."
"We were going to come in disguise so we could show up for him," Dean corrected. "Just not ours."
"What would your aunts say?"
"That it's not practical to wear shiny things all the time. It attracts attention."
"They were pleased but they wanted us to be subtle about it. With the rumors that have to still die down it's been harder on them recently."
"At least it was broken. Now you two can heal your thing and it'll be fine," Xander told them.
"We've pretty well gotten back to normal, Xander," Dean promised. "When am I getting my Christmas present?"
"Christmas morning," he teased. "You have to wait four more days. I know it's a horrific wait but I'm sure you can do it."
"I'm sure I can too. It already wrapped?"
"Both parts are and Sam's is wrapped too."
"Good. Then we'll go sneaking around."
"Did I get one?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, I'm overnighting them to Giles tonight so he can hold them for you."
She frowned. "I love you."
"If you did, you'd be evil," Draco quipped, making Bindi swat him on the arm. "Xander draws evil women," he protested. "He always has."
"He has," Buffy agreed. "We've had to stop a few of his girlfriends from ending the world. We'd like it a lot better if Xander would decide to keep a Dean or a Sam around all the time. This new gay him is pretty relaxed and happy."
Dean gave her a look. "I do try but I still have to be me, Buffy. I'm not going to give up hunting for a while."
"Sure, I get that. You can take Xander with you and fill in all the gaps in his training, right?"
"We've been teaching him how we do things," Sam promised. She beamed at him. "But if we ever go back there, the bonding potion comes back. So we have to think very carefully."
"Even if only one of you goes back?" she asked.
"We're not sure yet," Dean admitted. "We're still seeing." She nodded at that, digging in again. "So, Bindi, all we've heard about you is that you're smart, pretty, accomplished, and nice. What do you do for fun?"
"I ride horses and I help around the estate. Sometimes I go sort some of the new gems because I'm taking gem evaluation lessons. We've been talking about expanding our horse breeding operation recently. I'm taking the time to plan the weddings carefully so I know exactly what I want."
"Would you rather have an outdoor one or an indoor one?" Buffy asked. "I know Xander's got to do a lot of work on his garden."
"I was going to offer Malfoy Manor for it," Draco assured her. "We have a beautiful walking garden that could host it. It's been cultivated now for over a hundred years straight." She smiled at him. "If not, there's that large ballroom on the mezzanine. We'll be able to hold it in there."
She nodded. "Either would suit me. I'd like to see the garden in the summer first. Most plans would be good for either site."
"Having a backup in case of rain would be best anyway," Xander agreed. "That way if you wanted it in the garden and it rained you could go inside."
"Very true," she said happily. "You wouldn't be opposed to him having a traditional Hindu ceremony at my family home?"
"Of course not. We'd love to travel over for it," he said happily. "You'll have to give us pointers on how to dress and act. I haven't been outside the US except for here and the only traveling I did before was limited. Where I'm from isn't very diverse."
She nodded. "I can send you tapes and books if you'd like."
"Wait on the tapes. I have to run electricity out here. The home's ancient but it shouldn't be a problem." Draco gave him a horrified look. "Maybe on the other side of the manor? The back side? That way it comes through the woods? There's more things that need fixing over there. It'd be easier to run."
"If you say so. I say the power lines are an ugly eyesore."
"They can be but they can also be hidden and buried," Xander said with a smile. "Since we're only two miles from the nearest city's edges, it shouldn't be too hard to have it run this way."
"If you want. It's your house now. I don't see much use for it."
"To recharge your phone?" Xander teased.
"That could help, yes."
"Have one of the house elves charge it at the apartment."
"I have been. Every Sunday night. Snape does not like the phone you got me. Said it's an annoyance and a distraction that no student needs. He also called it worthless."
"The next time you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, you can debate that with him."
"You got him a cellphone?"
"I got him a satellite phone so I could reach him at school, once he's outside the boundaries that won't let any electronics in. What are they going to do when the wizarding world goes electric?"
"We never will," Draco told him.
Tonks snorted. "I love the stuff. I have a loud alarm I can set with a few buttons. A stove that keeps a constant temperature without having to load wood and watch the gauge. I love my hair dryer, my washer and dryer. All that."
"You don't dry things on a line?" Harry asked.
"I live in a flat, Harry."
"Oh." He nodded. "How do we dry things at Hogwarts?"
"No clue," she admitted. "You'd have to ask a house elf."
"I probably should. Just to see how." He looked at Xander. "Are we thinking it'll be in the next few years?"
"I think that there's a lot more muggle born witches and wizards that aren't being educated. I think that was to hold the status quo. Then again, I also think that the major breeding population for purebloods was cut down to a third recently thanks to the Dark Lord. All those arrested and people being in prison, they can't have kids. So that means more muggle borns coming in and more kids from mixed relationships. Which means that more and more of them are going to be expecting to see things like electric lights, which are great for studying, Draco. All you have to do is flip a switch and you have real light. It'd cure the problem in Slytherin within a few minutes. Even just more lamps that have a multiple glow setting. That way if you wanted it dark and gloomy you could turn it down. Or brighter for the really dank nights." That got a shrug. "I also think that there's more things that students are going to be looking for. If they want to go to any sort of college these days they have to know how to use a computer."
Harry grimaced. "I hate those things."
"Oh, they've gotten tons better in the last five years," Willow promised, pulling out hers. "This is a blackberry device. From it I can send emails, check online, watch some videos, send text messages like on your phones. I keep a calendar on it. I even keep a helpful spell file on it so I have the recipes and stuff." Harry took it to look at. "That's where computers are going. Smaller and hand held."
He handed it back. "Can it help us take notes?"
"I use my laptop and type what I'd usually write. Then I go back to flesh it out with the book's notes. It means I can revise and correct stuff without rewriting everything. I can save it down for years at a time if I need to on small storage media that doesn't weigh a lot or take up a lot of room." She pulled out a data key. "This is a two-gigabyte memory card. That means I can hold all the information on Xander's computer twice on this little stick."
"Do you have anything that can mimic a floo?" Tonks asked.
"Not the traveling part. I have one magically that can mimic apparation but not the floo system. For talking? Yeah. I can put a camera on any of my computers and a microphone so I can chat along with someone else who has the same stuff and an IM account."
She shook her head. "You're catching up to magic."
"You guys will catch up to the rest," she said with a small grin. "Honestly it's going to be a long while before we get instantaneous transport. That's futuristic science fiction stuff."
"So were computers back in the eighteen hundreds," Xander said. The others nodded. "Then again I've seen some really ancient sci fi that had things like telephones that dialed themselves and radios that could contact outer space, and even televisions."
"So what's one person's future fiction is another's present and someone in the future's history," Harry said. Horatio smiled at that. "I would like to learn how to use a computer. Email seems easier than sending Hedwig over there."
"It would be," Mac agreed. Stella nodded. "Faster too. Anything I need to send over this way I send to Sam or Xander and let them owl."
"I think there's a way for you to go to the post and have them send it to a closer station through the floo," Bindi said. "There is in India."
"There might be," Xander agreed. "No clue. I do what Stella does or I pop around. I'm more impressive in person."
"You certainly are," Dean agreed. "The sword okay?"
"It's a pretty decent weapon. A bit heavy. I'm thinking it's a blended silver blade. It didn't hold the original edge perfectly so I'll spend some time sharpening it tonight. It's pretty though."
"Very," Harry agreed. "Now I know to run if someone ever offers me one."
Xander grinned. "Me too." They all laughed and went back to eating, talking about sports and other things to include Draco and his guests.
Later that night they went to play with the ghost horses. Xander grinned at Draco, who was giving him a begging look so he pulled Harry out and taught him how to play tag with the ghosts. Bindi sighed in pleasure. "They're a beautiful sight. The ghosts playing and acting like real horses." She took Draco's hand to hold. "He's very fit."
"He is. The time he pulled me in to play with him I only lasted about twenty minutes."
"I don't mind if you two take a walk under the moonlight as long as her mother doesn't," Xander called. They nodded and walked off with her mother following them so they couldn't get into any mischief.
"How far do the lands extend?" Mac asked.
"I think all the way through the woods. I need to have it resurveyed and magiced. I know the city claimed some but there's no way they claimed this far back. We're on the edge of the city." The Minister for Magic appeared and he consciously snubbed him by looking at Sam. "Come play?"
"I make ghosts nervous." Xander hauled him and Dean in, letting the ghosts sniff him then play with them. Sam laughed, grinning at Xander. The foal that was it tagged him so he got to chase the others, tripping Dean to get him. "You're it."
"I'm getting you back for tripping me." He chased after them. Xander and Sam both avoided the horses like they were real. Harry accidentally stepped through one and apologized. "Do they mind?"
"I would," Harry said with a grin, dodging away from him. He looked. "Why are there headlights coming up the driveway, Xander?"
"Don't know." He went to greet them. "No, don't bother getting out of your car. This is my house," he told the officer.
"This thing has been condemned for years," he said patiently.
Xander shrugged. "All it took was some love. I still have to do one side and a few windows but it's back in shape. None of the other heirs had wanted to live here."
"It's been abandoned for generations."
"There had been a few murders here," he said. "None of us wanted to live here. Since I had it recleaned it doesn't bother me that much. Why the worry? I've been here now for over a month. Are we being too loud?"
"The city was going to have this place torn down next month."
"There were no posted signs. No one bothered to contact the family. Since the other house is about three hundred miles or so up the road...."
He grimaced. "I'll let him know it's been fixed. They were going to make all this a park."
"You guys have a beautiful park in the middle of the city."
"Been there?" he asked.
"Yeah, and the same day I tied someone to a light pole for being rude." The man gaped. He grinned. "This is the ancestral home, you can tell him that and that I'm the new head of the family. Unless they have a *very* good reason to try for the house, I'm working on rehabilitating the parts that need it. It was actually in good shape and I know he didn't get into it. Or else he would've said something about the body we found." The cop shuddered. "So let him know, huh?"
"I will, sir."
"Harris. Xander Harris. New head of the Malfoy family." He held out a hand. The cop shook it. "If he has a problem I have a local cellphone. He can call." He wrote the number on his complaint pad. "There. He can call. If a destruction crew comes out here I'm going to have to protest in court and bankrupt the city."
He nodded. "I understand, sir. Have a good night. Are those ghosts?"
"Yeah, ghost horses. We're play tag. They were here first and they need some excitement."
"I'm sure they do. Have a good night." He restarted his engine and backed down the driveway.
Xander walked over there. "Harry, do you often say things and have them happen?"
"The nice officer said that they're trying to claim and tear down the house to put up a park."
"Probably a probability problem around me," he said dryly. "It's happened before." He went back to his playing. "Tailor, I need my phone." The house elf brought it out for him. "If it rings and I don't have it beside me, bring it to me immediately, please?" He nodded and left them to play.
Horatio and Mac shared a look then shook their heads. Sometimes things happened around both boys that made you wonder.
The Minister for Magic coughed. "We've decided not to award you lot for helping us with that invasion to come get you earlier since it was like pulling teeth to get the present one."
Xander looked at him. "Good." The it horse nudged him and he grinned. "Sure, I'll be it for a while." He raced off, chasing Dean to tag him, then he switched and got Sam. "Ha! Not watching each other's backs," he crowed, running off again.
Sam shook his head but took off after Harry, who Xander was teaching diversion and escape strategies to. "If we ever have kids we can use this to teach them the same way," he told Dean.
"Yeah, that'll work." He panted then cornered Harry for Sam but Xander distracted him and Harry got away but Sam got him anyway. Then Harry turned and got Xander back. "Remember, tag is each man for themselves, alliance are short lived," he taunted.
Xander smirked back, kissing him. "It." He ran off again.
Dean smirked. "That's playing dirty."
"We're not wrestling in the mud," Harry said, looking very confused. "How is that getting us dirty?"
Horatio moaned. "Come here, Harry, let me explain girls to you."
"Can you explain why Hermione's such a twit some days and others she's like the Goddess and bent on proving it to Ron and me?" he asked, heading over to let Horatio give him that important talk.
"I can try. Some women are just like that though." He walked them off into the formal gardens.
Mac shook his head. "They don't teach sex ed in the schools?"
Xander shook his head. "It's quietly spread through the students when someone asks. Most of the girls are told 'your husband will know' and most of the guys are taught contraceptive charms so there's no illegitimate kids with whatever curious girls they can find to try it out with. I'm guessing pregnancy is still the major marriage encourager in this country."
Mac shook his head. "If birth control works...."
"That'll help a lot," Dean agreed, coming over. "Minster, was there other happy news you brought?"
"I was waiting to see what Xander was going to do with the muggles."
"Sue them if they try. They never got into the house to see how worn down it was. No one screamed about the bodies. I told the cop that too. And that they had run into me before when I took out some guy with a bomb." Sam gave him a look. "He was rude while I was trying to shop for your present and one for Buffy."
Sam shook his head. "You're the one who tied that guy to the light pole?"
"The agent didn't tell you?"
"I wasn't listening, I was watching the people around us for the most part."
Xander shrugged. "It happens." He grinned. Sam snuck in a kiss. "I did good?"
"You gave Dean one." He walked off grinning. "So, Dad, staying tonight with Buffy and Willow?"
"I think they want to claim the kitchen," he said, walking off with both his boys. "Evening, Minister."
"You as well." He shook his head, heading back to his office to talk to the local authorities up that way to make sure they knew the Malfoy estate was off limits.
Xander walked into the Mayor's office the next day, smiling and holding out a hand. "Xander Harris, new head of the Malfoy family."
He shook it. "You're very young."
"Most of us that're left are." He sat down, looking at the man, pretending mentally to be Giles so he wasn't looking too American. "Sorry if it left a shakeup but there were no posted markings. The house was nowhere near falling in."
"It's been abandoned for years."
"It was built a long time ago and it was meant to last for centuries with little upkeep. In fact I have the back line of the square still to fix but I've got the rest cleaned up. With the exception of a few windows and running some electric to one side of it, it's nearly done."
"Only one side?"
"We'll move on from there. Modernizing without destroying the structure and beauty will take me a good, long time. So I'll make myself a tv room and internet room on that side and slowly move it to the rest of the keep."
He nodded, frowning some. "From what we could see it's in bad shape."
"How far out were you looking?"
"Ah. You're one of those sort of families. I do know of our hidden community, Mr. Harris."
"Better than I do. I haven't found them yet."
"They're down behind the department store."
"Thank you for letting me know." He smiled. "Yes, we are. That was probably a shield on the house. I'm going to get the gates fixed too and put on new wards to keep people out since I found people sneaking through my woods."
"Why did you claim back that far?"
"We've already claimed the whole thing," he told him.
"Without contacting the family that's illegal, sir." The man went pale. "Since there's been a lot of heirs and the last person who took over until a *good* head of the family could be found was still alive until about ten weeks after I took over, you could have and didn't. It's not like it's that hard to find Lucius. Or even his wife."
"I'm sure you did try. You still haven't proved that to me. If we have to go to court I will and I am the vindictive sort. That is the family's ancestral home. I can guarantee that you won't get it." He spluttered. Xander stood up. "I was willing to be pleasant if you were. Pity." He paused. "Anything else?"
"We need the area for a new housing development."
"It has high ground water, poor soil for building in because the bedrock is so high, and you'll never recoup the money to build them if you try. Yes, I did work construction." He walked out, calling the family's attorneys. "It's Xander. The city near the ancestral home is trying to claim that they did notify the family so they could claim the lands and have gone to court. I need an injunction filed today. If we have to I can do a tour. Also, get someone out there to ward the land better," he finished quietly, calling Draco's phone to let him know. He'd get it when he got up. He walked into the sunlight and looked at the reporter. "Are you that bored?"
"We heard there was a rumor that someone was trying to claim the ancestral home for the city."
"Not that it'll help them any. We'll go to court over it. He tried to be pushy." He walked off smiling. He hadn't had a chance to show his nastier side in a while. This might even be fun. He met the attorney where he had said to and they went to file the injunction together. The judge looked startled when he was introduced. "There's been a constant heir for centuries. They only live about three hundred miles away, sir. It wasn't that hard to find Lucius or his wife."
"The head of the family, yes. Draco, Lucius' son, is my present heir until I have one."
"Oh. You're how old?"
"Twenty-one." He leaned down. "Even if he won, they'd be a losing proposition for the city. The bedrock's too high to build in. The water table's high because of it. Anything they built there would flood. Like the stables do." He straightened up. "That's beyond the point that they illegally seized it because no one told the family. The house isn't a wreck and hasn't been. If you had gotten next to it, you would've screamed about the body we found." The judge went pale. "Looking at it from the road is often deceptive."
He swallowed. "I'll allow the injunction against destruction." He signed that order. "But I want someone to make sure the house is liveable."
"I have no problem leading a tour of the parts I've fixed already. I've got a side of the square and a few windows left to do."
"It's a keep with a center garden."
"Oh. I'd like to look as well."
"Of course. I haven't really decorated for the holiday yet. I would also like to file a complaint about them taking our woods. That is part of the family's home." He put down the original document he and Draco had found in the office late last night. "That is the original survey. I can see taking it for the road since we have land on both sides."
He groaned, looking at it. "These measurements are ancient. I'll have to look them up."
He pulled out something else. "My cousin Draco's future wife is very skilled in estate management and she translated it for me into distance, which I went out and looked at for GPS coordinates."
He looked then nodded. "That is in the other side of the woods, against the former royal preserve."
"The family used to hunt with them probably," Xander said, shrugging a bit. "That's the ancient past. Like I said, I can see the road and the stuff on that side of the road. It's better ground to build on anyway. Though I wouldn't put a housing development out there. There's no way the city needs one or could afford the losses when they do build one."
"There is that. You know finances?"
"No, I know construction and how much it takes to build a house that'll attract today's yuppies and young professionals. I doubt anyone wants to eat the tax burden a bunch of new multi-hundred-thousand dollar homes would bring until they're all sold some year far down the road when they've depreciated down to under a hundred grand. That's beyond the fact that all that land but a corner is outside of marked city boundaries. That would've made it a county matter, not a city one. My construction crew had to deal with that tapdance in the past."
"That is true," he said, considering it. "I'll reopen the petition to claim the lands. Would that suit you?"
"As long as it was fairly done, yes," Xander agreed happily. "I knew I couldn't get you to throw it out."
"Then you're at least reasonable."
"And I'm not sobbing. I'm sure you've seen a lot of that with this move."
"Oh, indeed." He looked at the attorney then at his calendar. "I have an open spot in March. Would that work for you?" He looked then nodded. "You should hire this one. He argues well."
"He's a Malfoy. They all learned how to argue and bargain very well. It's a family trait." The judge laughed. He looked at him. "Can we deliver that for you?"
"Please do. I'll have a copy sent to the company that the city hired to destroy it and build the houses. Thank you, gentlemen." He shook their hands and they left with a copy of the injunction. He called them. "It is Judge Phillips, I have issued a stay on the destruction of the manor house. Yes, today. Because none of you took the time to look for heirs. I just had a very peeved one in my office who has construction experience. We're reopening it. It'll be March. Go ahead and give them the holiday off. I'll send over the order immediately." He hung up and had a courier take a copy over there.
Xander walked into the mayor's office with a smile. "You might also want to look up the difference between outside your city, which means you have no right to claim it, and county property, sir. We're outside your stated city limits by all but a corner of the property. Beyond that, I'd watch the crook who's trying to defraud the city and who is going to be costing you a lot of money to upkeep those houses before they're sold. You don't have enough people who're willing to buy expensive houses in this economy." He strolled out again, nodding at the lawyer. "Will I need to do anything else?"
"No, Mr. Harris. We've got it all set and are doing research for you. We'll keep you informed."
"Please let me know when the hearing is." That got a nod. Xander strolled off, going to find the department store. He wanted to look in this wizarding's area. Draco would be horrified that he was shopping on his own but he was only going to window shop and maybe look in the broom shop if they had one. He hadn't replaced the one Dean cracked on him.
The lawyer shuddered. The boy was every bit of Malfoy evilness when pushed to it. Lucius was more open about it but that one made it so you felt the evil when you went against him. He went back to the office to report to his superior. He'd be very happy with how today went and how Mr. Harris was proving himself as head of the family.
Xander smiled at Bindi and Draco as they walked in. "Did more muggles show up?" he asked at the disgusted look.
"One came to the door huffing that you could not know the local economy or how to build houses at your age."
"Yet I did build houses and part of a school. Hmm." He gave him a look. "Why did we put this here?"
"I don't know. I thought we took over one after overrunning the last owners." He shrugged. "We've done it before. We might want to warn the wizardig neighbors."
"Oh. Sure, let them know." Draco nodded, going to send out letters, shaking his head at Xander's cluelessness sometimes. Bindi laughed and gave him a kiss, making him smile, so it was all right. He sent off the letters and they went back to Malfoy Manor. It was safer and Xander couldn't horrify anyone that way.
Xander looked at the house elves. "We're expecting a judge and possibly a few others to come in and look around because they think the house is a wreck. If so, stay out of sight." They nodded, going back to work. "How are we doing on Christmas dinner?"
"You said to fix whatever. Elves were going to fix stuffing sandwiches."
"We're feeding, Dean and his whole family, including the aunts and John, and me, plus the others in the family and friends may pop around." They squealed in horror and went to shop for that. That was nearly an emergency. There was only three days to cook!
Xander looked around, finding they still didn't have a tree. He grabbed a wood axe and went to find one in the woods. He could do that much. He ran into someone out there. "Hello."
"What are you doing?"
"Cutting one of my trees."
"The city's trees."
"There's an injunction as of this morning," he said sweetly, smirking at the horrified looks. "Get off my land before I shoot trespassers. As is my right." The guy showed his badge. "Good for you. Want to help me haul back my tree? I've got to decorate and I haven't gotten to yet. Too much stuff going on."
"Um... I still don't think you can do that with the injunction, sir."
"They never notified the family. They also tried to claim lands outside the city's limits." The cop winced and hissed. "What are you doing out here?"
"Cutting a tree," he admitted. Xander looked at the one he had chosen then shrugged. "You sure?"
"I'm sure." He smiled, going back to it. Xander walked off to find his own. "You guys'll find I'm a nice guy. Just don't piss me off. You do that and I do things like tie people to light poles." The guy stiffened and looked at his back, then shuddered and went back to his tree. His wife would be happy and so would his kids. He'd warn his boss if he hadn't heard. If the guy had disarmed a bomb and a person who had self-defense training to tie him up that way, what else was he trained to do? Especially being American and how violent they all were!
Xander looked at his chosen tree, frowning. "Is it too high? Metta?" She popped in next to him. "Is this one too high?"
She looked then nodded. "For main library, yes, Master Xander sir." She looked then pointed. "That is good sized." Xander looked then went to cut that one down. She giggled and the other house elves appeared, taking it, roots and all, back to the house.
Xander grinned. "Sure, we'll replant it." He headed back to the house, stopping to get some branches for wreathes. He knew how to make those. He had some nice wire in his new work area to make them bend into shape. He found the tree planted in a room and frowned. "Am I going to have to fix that?"
"No," Tailor squealed. "Supposed to be like that. Will replant later on." They nodded and Xander helped them decorate the tree, bringing out the presents to put around. Then Xander got to work on his wreathes. They oohed at what he was doing. They heard a car and they all went to hide in the attic or the pantry in the kitchen to work.
Xander opened the door to hang the wreathe, finding the Chief of Police and the judge. "Hi, guys. Welcome to the ancestral Malfoy home." He hung the wreathe and nodded. "You can come look."
"The roof, sir?"
Xander looked up then at him. "Oh. It's to throw people off." He led them into the barrier and they looked up, then sighed in pleasure. "Come on, I can give a tour. I'm only hanging wreathes." He led them around to let them see the parts he had gotten done. "A lot of it only needed a really good scrubbing. We've kept the house in very good condition through the years." He spotted Synch, another of the house elves and waved, making her disappear from her fluffing beds and pillows job. The judge gave him an odd look. "What?"
"I know what those are," he said quietly.
Xander grinned. "Xander Harris, White Knight to the Slayer," he said quietly, holding out a hand. The judge moaned. "Head of the Malfoy family. I was chosen this summer."
He shook it. "We'll do what we can." They kept looking around, nodding that even the parts he hadn't gotten to yet only really needed cleaned. "Why was it abandoned?"
"There had been a pretty gruesome massacre here. They even left a few of the bodies. So they moved to Malfoy Manor and sealed this one up. Then the family staff got lost for a bit thanks to another governmental body and a person who wanted more power. Since that picks the new head of the family it wasn't official until it got free this summer and chose me." He heard another car. "Sounds like someone else with the holiday cheer." They went back that way, finding Horatio answering the door. "Off on break?"
"I wanted to borrow a book from the library for Speed."
"Sure, borrow away." He nodded at the mayor, who was giving him a horrified look. "It really only needed cleaned up." He shook his hand and pulled him inside, letting the wards around him relax. Then he blinked and stared in really horrified shock. "What else did you expect from the family, sir? It only needed a lot of cleaning and some new windows. Which I'm still getting to."
"He's done a good job restoring this place," the Chief of Police agreed, looking at something on the wall. He blinked. A *covert* knighting? Those only usually were given to intelligence people. The reason given made him mentally swear. "So, Mr. Harris. Where did you grow up?"
"Sunnydale, out in California. It's about three hours from LA but it's a small town. The one that recently got sunk into the ground." They all stared at him. He smiled. "Fortunately all my friends got out even if my family didn't. Horatio, what book did you want to borrow?"
"A history one?"
"There's a whole section on history." He walked him that way. "Horatio needs a history book suitable for a muggle who knows and wants to learn about magical history." Two floated down and he looked at them. "Can't tell you which one is better."
Horatio looked. "Can I?"
"Sure. Bring them back sometime." He walked him off, watching him disappear from the kitchen before going back. He smiled at the man staring at his knighting. "I helped save some people that were going to be blown up. The building still went but a good portion of the people survived. It was related back to what happened in Sunnydale." Someone else stomped in so he shook his hand and pulled him inside more gently. The man gasped in horror. "It only needed a good scrubbing and a few windows for the most part." The man stared at him. He smiled. "How are you today. Xander Harris, out of Sunnydale. Head of the Malfoy family."
The man nodded. "This is old."
"Very. We've had this keep since the six hundreds if I'm not mistaken. Draco and I were talking to see if we built it or if we conquered it. There's been some great knights in the family during things like the Crusades."
The contractor stared at him. "You were in construction?"
"We were a smaller crew because the town was smaller but I was acting crew chief when I left to take up my duties. They did pretty well without me. Finished the school project we had started. Finished the few houses we had contracted for after that. We did good work, the remaining houses in Sunnydale were mostly our work."
"Oh. So you really do know about building."
"I do. I studied very hard to know what I was doing. Including noticing when we had special problems because of the high water table in some areas and bedrock issues in another. Like we have over most of this property. The basement floods most springs but I'm working on that next. You have to have a sold foundation to build anything, even knowledge."
The man studied him then nodded. "You don't think the houses will pay off?" the mayor asked.
"To attract them I think you're going to have to build upper crust homes, in the hundreds of thousand dollar ranges. Unless you're building poor housing?" He grimaced and shook his head. "That's a need that most cities have."
"It is but we just put up a new development to help some of them buy their own homes."
"Mayor, sir, I don't know many people who can afford to put down money on an expensive home like that," the Chief of Police told him. "Not even your sister," he said, reminding him of the scandal of his sister having her house foreclosed. "The housing market is down."
He nodded. "That's a good point. High bedrock?" Xander nodded. "You gave the judge information that your family's lands extend to the other side of the highway?" Xander went to get the originals of the copies he had given the judge. He looked and blanched. "That's up to the former royal preserve."
"It's also outside city property limits," Xander told him. "We're in the county's property out here."
The mayor slumped but nodded. "We'll see what we can work out."
"Thank you. Did you never see the sneering blond man with the ponytail and his nose in the air?" The Chief of Police laughed but nodded. "That was Lucius, the acting head of the family."
"We though it had been abandoned," the contractor said.
"If it's that old, wouldn't the historical preservation people have to go over it first?" the Chief of Police asked. Xander nodded. The contractor and Mayor both looked embarrassed. "I think we'll leave you alone, Mr. Harris. Good luck finding matching windows."
"I've found ones that are hand formed; it's taking some time to get them to me. It'll be fixed beautifully for the summer. Then I'll have to worry about the gardens. Fortunately my cousin is marrying next summer and his future wife seems to know a bit about them. She's agreed to take over protecting his mother's favorite roses in their family garden."
"That's wonderful," the Chief of Police said, watching them walk out. "Can we count on you if something happens?"
"Not for rioters but if it's something major. Major demon, alien invasion, invasion by the Swedish Bikini Team...." That got a laugh and Xander nodded. "There was a very nice man from MI-6 who asked the same thing of me. I'm not stepping in for normal things or rioting, but if you need my tracking skills or hunting skills for demon things, let me know. If we have an invasion, let me know because I'm damn good at sabotage." That got a nod. "Did you know about the guys behind the grocery store that meet there to talk about blowing things up?"
"No, I hadn't. This morning?" He nodded. "We'll have someone snoop that way."
"They stopped when they saw me."
"I'll keep that in mind." He patted him on the shoulder and walked out, getting back into the car. "He's a very nice bloke, isn't he?"
"He is," the mayor agreed. "His family's known for being evil."
"He's American, he's trained in multiple weapons because he disarmed that one guy we found tied up." The Mayor stiffened. "He's trained enough to let me know that he found a group of guys talking about blowing things up today and warned me they were overly cautious when they noticed him. That means we'll need to go undercover to spot them. He also told me he could be gotten for missing kids and things because he's an excellent tracker and hunter."
"Think he's former military?"
"I think if he was it was part of a group that was so special ops they couldn't tell anyone. If not he was trained by someone who was. I also think he knows what he's doing."
The mayor nodded. "We'll leave him alone. If he wants to retire out here, then more power to him as long as he's peaceful and not planning a take over." He backed them down the driveway.
"He said we could come to him for help if we were invaded by aliens or the Swedish bikini team," he joked.
The Mayor shook his head. "Good to know." They got back onto the road and headed off. "What did you think of the three men in the attic?"
"The father was going over things with his sons. He might be the one who trained the boy. His mannerisms screamed military. The boy he called 'son' did too."
That got a nod. "Then we'll leave him and his lands alone."
"That might be a good idea, sir. He did tell us he was thinking about running electric out to the far side of the house then spreading it across. So we'd have to bury lines out this way."
"I'm sure he can contract that with the company." He turned onto the main road and headed back into town, wondering if the city would let him expand boundaries so they could tax him and his property. It would help the city's coffers a lot.
to part 17