Rupert Giles looked up as a slimy toad of a man walked into his store wearing an ugly robe and a bowler hat. He nearly rubbed his eyes but Xander had described him perfectly. "Can I help you?"
"Are you Rupert Giles?"
"I am. What can I do for you, Minister Fudge?"
He stared. "You know of me?" he asked happily.
"I can tell who you are," he corrected. Xander had said this one especially was deathly afraid of those who didn't use a wand for magic. Fudge stepped back. "What can I do for you? Supplies? Books?"
"Did you know your protege is sleeping and consorting with demons?"
"Usually it's former demons but I do understand why. The boy has the worst taste in women. His last girlfriend is Anyanka, over women scorned. She temporarily lost her powers," he said with a smirk. "Is this one nicer? She told him all sorts of ways to torture others. Though she was the first that didn't want to kill him after dating him."
Minister Fudge blinked. "Then he's done this before?" he demanded.
Giles shrugged. "On the hellmouth there's not that many humans. He couldn't date the witches we work with, they're together, and my slayer only likes dangerous men who can match her in a fight. Xander's good but he's not on par with a slayer's gifts."
Fudge let out a small whimper. "He's slept with other demons?"
Giles laughed. "His first girl was the Slayer Faith, Minister Fudge. His next was a cheerleader who sucked his energy, time, and money. The first one he got interested in was actually a resurrected mummy who was sucking life force from people. She loved him enough to not kill him but take the others to protect their relationship." Fudge turned pale. "As I said, his last one was Anyanka and she's not exactly pleasant all the time. It's interesting how only the most deadly things are drawn to him and he flirts back. I do hope this one is more harmless than most."
He nodded. "I'm sure she is. That one, Winchester, told someone about her and said she was."
"Then she's just a fling," Buffy said as she came out of the back. "Xander's like that. Not too many humans left around here." Fudge just nodded. "Is Xander in trouble? If so I can come help."
"Um, no, I believe he found out and canceled the demonic contract against him," he said, starting to sweat. "Are you one of the witches? I heard one of you was blonde."
She smirked. "No, I'm Buffy." He went very pale and wobbled. "Don't pass out. I was just doing my nails and I'd hate to mess up the polish catching you." He nodded and fled the store. "Idiot. Giles, I feel slimy," she complained. "And he stared at my breasts. He's way disgusting and can't even imagine as high as he'd have to get to get me."
Giles smiled. "That is how Xander described him. That is the head of the wizarding government where Xander is."
"No wonder they want Xander in control of stuff. That's sickening and I hope he doesn't breed with real people." She went back to her nails. She'd have to tell Willow and Tara about him.
Giles snickered, going back to his reading. Yes, if they were all like that man, Xander could do their government a lot of good after he got done driving them all insane. Though he did wonder about his new girlfriend. Xander had some horrible taste. "John, have you heard anything from your boys?" he called back into the research room.
"Your boy went to someone named Ethan to get the contract the same guy set canceled. Ethan's heading for the Caribbean; Xander said he heard it's pretty but he's never been. One of his new family set the contract with the other death eaters."
"Interesting. I'll have to write Ethan," he muttered. "Anything on the new girlfriend?"
"Xander said she's harmless, good in bed, and only wanted another night with him."
"Even better," Buffy called. "Because Xander has really bad taste and we want to encourage him to go gay too."
John's laugh came out very clearly.
Xander looked out across the field. He wasn't sure why he was in a field. He had been in a harem just a moment ago. Of course he knew this was a dream so he wasn't *too* concerned. He looked at the woman who appeared beside him, shrugging at her curious look. "Got any sort of idea? I had been having fun in a harem."
"If from beneath you it devours, and the one who cannot see must see, then why is the sky purple and the ground dead?" Willow asked.
He frowned, staring at her. "That's more cryptic than usual. Should I research part of that?"
She tweaked him on the nose. "Honk." Then she disappeared.
Xander looked around the field, memorizing it. It was apparently important. He woke up with a gasp, staring at the man standing there. "Draco?" He nodded. "Paper, pen, muggle pen, now. Dream." Draco got some and handed it over, letting him write it down while he remembered everything.
"You have visions?"
"No but I think it's important," he said, blinking up at him. "What time is it?"
"Ten. You have a meeting?"
"Oops." He got up and grabbed clothes, heading for the shower. "Tell them to give me twenty please?"
"Sure." He went to tell the council that. "My head of house was having some sort of odd dream that may or may not be prophetic," he announced to them. "He's bathing and he'll be right here."
"Prophetic dreams?" Mac asked with a snort.
"How likely?" Danny asked, looking serious. Draco shrugged. "Have him bring it."
"If you want. It was a jumble of words to me." He went back to get it for him, handing it over. "Danny said to bring it."
"Thank you, Draco. You're a great helper." He headed back via his staff, taking his cousin with him. "Sorry. I had been in a harem and then I had a Willow and Tara dream. No clue why." Danny nodded so he tossed it over. Watching his face was nearly comical. "What?"
"The first part is a prophecy that's fairly well known in the American schools," Danny said, looking at him.
"I'll call them later." He took it back and looked. "No Sam either?"
"Sam's presently off getting stitches. Someone tried to kill him on the way in and he got them back," Mac told him.
"Better than strange dreams." Xander nodded at Horatio. "Morning. Sorry."
"It happens." He pointed. "This is our newest member of the Council, Patricia."
Xander nodded. "The last one was a good man who we liked to work with. He even explained things to us."
She smiled. "I'll do what I can, Mr. Harris."
"Xander, please. Mr. Harris is still back in Sunnydale rotting."
She nodded. "That's fine then." Sam came in with Stella. "Are we all here? I noticed a few empty seats."
"Harry has two," Horatio told her. "The other unfortunately died out."
"That's a shame."
"Plenty of the families are looking like that. I'm the last in mine. Horatio?"
"I have a niece, a nephew, and apparently a cousin somewhere in Russia."
"I've got two maiden aunts, a father, and a brother who's driving me insane. Anyone want custody of Dean for the rest of the weekend so he can pick up girls?" Sam asked.
Mac laughed. "I doubt we'd be hitting somewhere like that, Sam. Sorry."
"Draco, do you need pointers in how to pick up girls from bars?" Xander asked.
"I don't think so. I tend to go for exclusive establishments where my name is whispered in awe," he said dryly. "Thank you anyway."
"Okay. If I have to, he can come sleep on my couch, Sam. That way he can hit some clubs in London." He pointed at Tony's chair. "Missing, working, or in trouble?"
"His director handcuffed him to his desk," Danny said dryly. "We've called Gibbs, who is on his day off. He'll be here soon."
"Okay then. No rescues needed." He looked at Sam. "Tylenol?"
"Had a pain potion and they're very nice."
"Even better. Okay. Horatio, can I move that we start this meeting?"
"You can do so." He banged the small gavel on the table. "I'm calling this meeting to order. Tony can come in quietly when he gets rescued." He looked around. "As noted earlier, we do have a new member chosen for the Council. Patricia D'Ortens. As a matter of future reference, do you work or have any hobbies that might benefit the board? Myself and a few of us are officers, a few of us are demon hunters. Harry's still in school."
She cleared her throat. "I do appraise art as a job. I garden as a hobby. I have two children." She looked around, seeing nothing but smiles. "I don't know what else you want me to say."
"No, that's good," Xander said with a grin. "We know now that if anything arty comes up to come see you."
She smiled. "Of course. Is the Malfoy collection going to be appraised anytime soon?" Xander and she both looked at Draco.
"I'd have to ask Mother. I don't deal with that, it's her passion. That and her jewelry." She nodded at that. "If so, I'll see who we use and if we can let you do it if you want." She smiled at that. "As a helper, I do have to mention something. We have no set schedules for meetings."
"Good point," Sam agreed. "Would that work for the officers on the board? I know your job often calls you out of bed and things."
"It would work very well for us," Mac told him. "That way we can schedule our weekends off in advance."
"Then I make a motion we look at that today," Sam said.
"Seconded," Stella agreed.
"We can put that on the agenda," Horatio agreed, writing that down. Tony walked in. "Are you healthy?"
"Few handcuff marks, nothing critical or painful." He sat down. "Sorry for being late. It was unavoidable. My director is trying to keep me from doing my duty and I'm about to have something eat her."
"There's four things in the DC area that could do that," Sam said with a grin. "Want their addresses?"
"Or for the local demon bar?" Xander asked. "You can probably find something there and talk it into eating her as a dare. She's got to taste nasty." They all gave him odd looks, even Draco. "Spike said politicians do. I figured he'd know since he's eaten a few."
"I still can't believe your Watcher was making you live with a vampire," Sam said.
"He has a government chip in his head thanks to that project we brought down. He couldn't eat me, just annoy me to death. He did a damn good job of that and sleeping with my ex too."
Horatio shook his head quickly. "If Tony should need such help I'm sure he can come to either of you sometime when there's no one taking notes," Horatio noted.
"Can you kill them, Sam?" Tony asked.
"I'll let Dad know," he promised with a grin. "I won't be back for a bit. Dean might be heading back for a month, not sure."
"Please? I don't want a demon eaten body on my case load. Ducky would take forever trying to figure out what ate it."
"Mallard?" Xander asked, frowning some. Tony nodded slowly. "Giles knows him from his schooling. He mentioned he told wonderful stories to the Watcher trainees. He was teaching them physiology while healing from a badly broken leg or something."
"Then I'm sure we can handle it," Tony quipped. "Thanks, Xander. I'll ask him and tell him your friend said hi." Xander tossed over a card. "I'll hand that over too." He tucked it into a pocket. "What else was on the agenda today?"
"We were going to make sure that there weren't any problems with the last few issues the council looked over, then move onto new business. The only new business put forth so far is looking at meeting schedules."
"Then I want to add one," Tony said. "The aurors are once again not doing a whole lot. Except for six of them. Can I make a motion that we look at getting them someone to look at their caseload to see if they're taking on other departments' work or something?"
"I can add that," Horatio agreed, noting that down.
"Do we think they are?" Patricia asked.
Tony grinned. "I think that they don't have a clear-cut idea of 'this is what cases we handle' and they've tried to take over a few different investigations where they got sent away. It's leaning toward them not being able to do anything. Maybe some clearer cut boundaries would let them actually get to work. Hopefully without fear of reprisals. That has been mentioned a few times."
She nodded. "Do you know someone who can?"
Tony grinned his best politician's grin. "My direct boss, Gibbs, is a former Marine Gunny Sergeant. He's been an NCIS agent, that's over Navy and Marine crimes, now for 19 years." She looked impressed at that. "He's the one who molded me into the agent I am now. He's tough, but he's fair and he's a very good motivator. Tonks has had dinner with us once if you wanted to ask her. She's an auror."
"I know of her," she said, leaning back. "I'll have to ask her opinion of him when we break for lunch." He nodded at that. "I heard that we have three appeals coming in front of us, Chairman?"
"We do. We have three appeals to some of the laws we removed during the marathon session the last time. Someone wanted them put back. Two of them are species related laws. One is faintly unusual." He smiled. "We'll get to that while we look over any problems associated with the changeover. Minister Fudge, have you been told of any problems?"
"No. In fact some of the judges on the Wizengomet are very pleased," he said, looking miserable. It was undoing all his good work. No one would remember him. "Has anyone else been told of some?" he asked, sounding a bit hopeful.
"I'm told that the two referendums are useful but they'd still rather have them as laws," Tony said.
Stella nodded, putting down the water she was sipping. "I've asked a few of them and they said it's easier to make decisions and prior case history is still pertinent but not as important in some cases. It's let them move forward with a few very difficult cases. Speaking of, Tony. I heard your family's case was just heard?"
"It was and it was all given back, plus interest," he said proudly. "The rest of the family is moving back to their own homes and the few who were being forced to work in muggle jobs aren't any longer. They're taking the time to find good jobs around their homes that'll support their families." That got a mass of smiles and nods. "The judge also threw out the original complaint against them since no one could prove they were wearing a dark mark." He looked at Xander.
"Lucius said he was under the Imperious curse," he said dryly. "As he's not the head of the family, they can't do that this time. I had the goblins check and make sure that, if something like that were to happen, the family's assets and properties would be safe." That got a nod. "It's now also a clause for getting your inheritance by the last will. They agreed that was a good rule under the 'no abnormal practices' clause that was already established. We've already had a talk with someone from the Ministry who wanted to do that but it was pointed out Lucius was taken out of control of the assets once things were handed to me. They've agreed that it will not be happening while I'm in control." He reached back to tap Draco. "Did you get that note from the bank?"
"I did. Mother and I both got that letter." He made himself look relaxed. Xander's letter had explained it and why, and it was protecting them and the rest of the family. His mother wasn't marked, Voldemort didn't like women in his service unless they were extraordinary. He couldn't argue with that one. "Thank you for looking out for us."
Xander smiled. "It's what I do." He looked at the board again. "I haven't had the chance to meet with any judges due to the moving and shifting of stuff. Giles sent me nearly three hundred books last week for some reason. I don't know why. Were there any negative comments about the new ones beyond complaints that we didn't code them, just made them non-binding?"
Horatio looked around. "Has anyone heard anything?" No one said anything. "Then let's move onto the three specific ones they wanted back. I have two from the Species department," he said, pulling them out. "Citing pertinent laws and clauses, they would like back and why." He passed them to Harry first since he was on his left, past the empty chair. "I'll give everyone a chance to read those over before we discuss things."
Xander took them after Harry, reading them slowly. He pointed at something, leaning closer to Harry. "Isn't that a type of dragon?" He nodded. "Thought so." He went back to his reading, frowning a bit and handing it on. "I wasn't sure we needed those. It seems to be common sense."
"If sense were common, everyone would have it," Stella reminded him. "And the law books would be a lot shorter."
Xander nodded. "Good point." He waited until Patricia and Fudge had read it then raised his hand. "I don't mind the second law but the first one was stated in a way that made no damn sense to me."
"I second that," Mac agreed once he had read it over and handed it to Danny.
Danny read it over then nodded. "I can agree with putting the second back. If I remember right we argued over needing that group of laws over that one dinner. We decided it was unnecessary because no one would probably do anything like that."
"Actually, there are people like that, even among wizards," Draco said grimly. "The same as the muggles have ones who go after their animals."
"True but we put in one that should have covered it," Mac said, opening the book to find it. "Here we go. No one shall attempt or enact any sexual act with any creature that does not have free will and has not consented to such acts."
"That covers unsentient beings and ones who are sentient but don't consent," Xander said thoughtfully. "Can we talk to them? Would that be acceptable? Ask them how that particular rule doesn't cover? I didn't see that argument given," he said when Tony glanced at him.
"That might be reasonable," Patricia agreed. "I didn't see that argument either."
Mac looked again. "It's not there. We could bring them down to see if that one needs another clause added to it. Horatio?"
"That would be reasonable and acceptable to me. Any dissent?" No one said anything. "House elf?" One appeared. "Twirpy, can you please get the person who wrote this from the Species department or someone higher up if they're not available?" he asked, handing over the scroll. "We had some questions if they ask." He nodded and disappeared. "While we wait, I have the third one here. It is from Minister Fudge and it deals with some of the clothing issues we took out." He passed that to Harry.
Tony took it and frowned, then looked at him. "You do realize that there's some atrocious fashion out in the alley? I saw someone wearing a bright pink hat with a featherless chicken on top and a lime green dress." He handed it on.
Danny coughed. "Minister Fudge, one of the reasons we took those out was to not impede progress since the Wizarding World is so out of touch with the rest of it."
"They look like harlots," he sneered.
Danny shrugged. "Modesty standards have changed. You have kids and parents who're coming in from the muggle world and being horrified because of the fashions you have. Beyond that, it would allow for the designers to pick up new ideas and use new materials, like elastic. We've had it for a long time now and it's very handy."
"Elastic?" Draco asked.
"That stuff that holds up underwear?" Xander suggested. Draco looked confused so he shifted. "Here, this is elastic." He showed him the edge of his. "It stretches and contracts to hold it against your body. Much easier than the ones that tie. They fit tighter, they don't shift. Occasionally the elastic wears out but it's very handy." He righted his clothes and tucked his shirt back in. "Has anyone else noticed no one uses zippers outside of the school uniforms?" Everyone nodded. "Another very handy invention of the late eighteen hundreds that could be good for a lot of wizards."
"By not restricting things we'd let society take the place of the law, letting it set how and when to change fashions so it would move on. Right now you're stuck with clothes that haven't been popular for over a hundred years," Mac told him. "It was felt that that's society's job, not the law's job. Even with the ugly clothes."
"Because what I find ugly and you find ugly is probably a bit different," Xander added. "I personally find the fur stole Patricia has on to be slightly offensive because of the way and times I grew up in and because I know how mink is harvested." She gave him an alarmed look. "I'm not going to force an anti-fur view on anyone," he assured her. "If you want to wear dead animals, go for it. I wear my dead animals in leather." She nodded at that, relaxing again. "While it might be fashionable, it's not really my place or your place to tell her what to wear."
"Nor is it the law's place," Sam agreed. "Would you feel better if she had eaten the mink or something, Xander?"
"Probably. I've rationalized leather that way. That and it's light armor."
Fudge slumped. "I'm trying to uphold decency standards."
"But that's not the law's job, that's society's job. That's the job of people like Draco's mother and magazines like Witch World Weekly," Stella told him. "Coding it into law means that no one can move on and people can be punished because people like Xander like Hawaiian shirts."
"Hey!" Tony complained.
"And apparently Tony, even though he wears designer suits," she added.
"I'd like to own them, not wear them."
"I own and wear a lot of them," Xander said with a grin.
"I've seen that. You could preserve them as clothing relics of Magnum," Tony suggested.
"Off the topic," Horatio noted.
"Sorry," Tony said.
Stella smiled at him. "It's okay. We know you're a goofball part of the time." She looked at Fudge again. "What's going to happen when the rest of the world moves onto other forms of clothes? You're already over a century behind. People are moving toward less and less clothes all the time. You've got to let the people decide for themselves if they want to join in. That's how innovation happens. Because trust me, no woman wears a corset of her own free will if she doesn't have to. They hurt."
Patricia nodded. "They do. Muggles don't wear them?"
"No. We could go on another trip to the park," she suggested to Horatio. "Let Minister Fudge and our new member both see what muggles really wear these days."
"If they wanted to I wouldn't care to do that," Horatio agreed. "If you want that would give you an opportunity to see how far fashion has gone on from where you are."
"I gave the last guy a library book on fashion," Xander reminded him. "He found the current ones and then moved forward."
"I was wondering about that book." She pulled it out of her bag. "This one?" He nodded. She found their current fashions and let Fudge see, then slowly moved forward, gasping at some of them. "Some of those are indecent."
Stella handed over the magazine from her bag. "I was reading it to kill time earlier." They flipped through it and they both shuddered. "We're not saying you have to go there today. We're saying that keeping it static by making it a law means that you're going to have a lot of problems in coming years when more and more people end up in the muggle world to work or to live. We're saying to let society pick out the trends that it wants to set and the decency level it wants to set instead of making everyone look like they're from a Dickens novel."
She nodded, handing the magazine back. "I can understand the reasoning. It would create some dissent in society."
"It's that sort of dissent that creates change and brings new ideas," Tony told her. "Beyond that, the horrible clothing clause still isn't reasonable. What you find horrible I might find cute and everyone looks different in each outfit. Even that one woman in the venom green robe might look good in something that looks horrible on you."
She nodded. "Then I can see why it was removed."
"Can we vote on Minister Fudge's suggestion?" Horatio asked. Everyone nodded. "Anyone for it?" Fudge raised his hand. "One vote by Minister Fudge. Anyone against?" Everyone else raised their hands. "The other votes are against it and the motion to dismiss is carried," he said.
"Read the handbook on how to be a chairman?" Mac teased.
"I did." He smirked. "I figured I should do this the most official way for now. We can relax rules later on as we get used to our jobs." He looked at Minister Fudge. "If you had a specific one, one that leaned on the decency laws, that might be more suitable to the sub- committee who rewrote it."
"I'd still be wary because tastes and decency standards change with each generation," Stella said. "My mother's generation couldn't sit down in their skirts and would've been horrified by the pants we wear today."
"True," he agreed. "But one stating that wearing of indecent, as defined by showing too much of your sexual portions of your body or something like that, in public might be more acceptable?" Everyone nodded. "As long as it was fairly worded, didn't try to set clothing standards, and was reasonable."
Fudge nodded. "I'll look into amending that."
"That's fine. We'll hear it when you've got it," Danny agreed. "The five of us were the sub-committee over the laws since we deal with them daily. Yell at us if you need help." That got a nod. The house elf came back. "They not in?"
"Will be down in twenty minutes. Needed to gather books," he said. "Twirpy get tea?"
"Please," Patricia said. "Plus something to nibble on for those who missed breakfast?" He nodded and disappeared, coming back a few minutes later with a tea tray and floating one of snacks. "Thank you, Twirpy." She served the tea and passed it to who wanted it, putting food in front of Xander. And Harry. "You're still both very young and need it."
Xander grinned. "I'm twenty-one but I am hungry so thank you."
"You don't look that old."
Xander grinned. "It's nice to hear. Especially after last night." He nibbled while he texted the dream to Giles via Buffy's phone in spurts. You could only text so many letters at once. She was probably going to be yelling about it but oh well. Not like Giles had a fax machine.
Draco leaned over his shoulder. "What are you doing?"
"I'm using my cellphone to send text messages back to Buffy about that dream last night." He let him see. "Her phone will get the same message and she can pass it on. If Giles had a fax machine or believed in email I'd send it that way. This way he can start to look things up before he calls to demand a better account than I can type in this." He grinned. "It's very handy."
"Very," Horatio agreed. "You can pass on limited information nearly immediately."
"Finally got a local number?" Mac asked.
Xander tossed over his phone. "Hit send for me. It's on the main screen and I haven't memorized it yet." He did that and looked then wrote it down for the rest of them, tossing the phone back when he was done. "Giles hates computers. Thinks they're the spawns and sign of Satan coming." That got a few laughs. "He doesn't even like the ATM or the timer on his coffee maker. If I text Buffy, she'll decode the message and pass it on once she gets up." He checked his watch. "Though she may still be up. It's patrol time." He shrugged and put his phone up. He even got to eat most of his breakfast before the Species person walked in with an armful of books. Harry helped him, earning a grin. "Used to books?"
"Hermione does the same thing now and then." He sat back down. "Good morning."
"Good morning." He did a doubletake at recognizing Harry. "Um..."
"Yes, it's me. Get on with it," he said blandly, giving him a look.
"Of course. I hadn't seen your law, I must have missed it on my first go-through," he admitted. "But it doesn't fully cover every situation. In the past we've had people who've assaulted magical creatures in other ways."
"Did we include one for harming animals?" Horatio asked.
Mac looked. "One for harming animals and a fine, plus jail time if the judge agrees." He let the man see it. "That should cover that situation as well."
He shook his head. "Mystical creatures have never been covered as mere animals, sir."
"Okay. Could an amendment be offered to include mystical creatures?"
"What about for potions?" Draco asked calmly. "They do sometimes require parts."
The species person looked at him then sneered. "Are you studying that, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Quit sneering at my cousin," Xander said quietly. "Unless you have proof he's done something like that."
"His whole family...." he started.
"Draco is not his father and it's up to him to decide where he stands on any issue. That's part of becoming an adult. I would be disappointed if Draco become someone who hurt animals or mystical creatures on purpose and for shits and giggles but he knows he has to make up his own mind about things." The man stepped away from him. "He is still a minor. Again, if you have evidence or allegations that he's been doing bad things, bring them to me and we'll see if they can be proven." The man nodded curtly and turned away from him. He looked at Draco, who shook his head quickly so he looked at the man again. "What did the old laws state? Do we have a copy of them?" he asked the man.
"I...I do." He let him see them.
"One establishing intelligence in some species. One against harming them except for necessary reasons. Three more that make no sense with how they're worded. Someone speaks Yoda." That got a snort from Tony.
"We found a lot of that," Danny admitted. "Any others?"
Xander turned the page. "Looks like one establishing rules for potions components and procurement. And it looks like the last one is an anti-cruelty one?" he asked. That got a nod so he handed it to Horatio through Harry. "What are the three that make no sense for?"
He looked at the book. "Two we're not sure of ourselves. The other one was supposed to be an early anti-cruelty statute."
"So an amendment saying that mystical creatures, intelligent or not, are protected by the anti-cruelty and the anti-molesting rules, plus one for the potions people setting out fair guidelines?" Sam suggested. "If we make it more general instead of having to name specific species, would that help or hurt your department?"
"It would probably help. We've found a few that weren't covered before and had to get them covered by legal order in the past."
"Would that sort of wording work for you?" Xander asked. "All mystical and mythical creatures, intelligent or not, are hereby covered under rules.... Name them and then go on to add in another clause stating ethical guidelines for gathering potions ingredients or harvesting from dead animals?"
That got a quick nod and a smile. "That would be of benefit to my department, yes, Mr. Malfoy."
He gave him a horrified look. "You hunt demons!" he shouted.
"I do. The ones that're attacking. Buffy and our team does not go after everything. If it's not causing problems, we're too tired to deal with it and could care less until it does. The only exception we make is vampires and we stake them all unless they've been resouled or chipped."
The man snorted. "How would you know if they're harmful?"
"We usually get them mid-attack or find out that they're the cause of someone being attacked afterward. We don't take preemptive action unless it's an apocalypse and Giles tells us what each thing is when we run into things we don't know about. That's part of a Watchers job."
"You still kill them."
"Yup. Otherwise more people would die. Then again we have noticed that our hellmouth seems to drive some species closer to insanity and blood lust. We've had a few different species that are usually peaceful that have attacked people and had to be dealt with. The same as our team does work with some of the less harmful demons. Kitten poker aside."
The man swallowed hard. "Still, you kill them."
"Chaining them up doesn't do them any good and if they get free we have to get them again. Besides, the temptation would be too great for the Watchers to follow in the footsteps of the Initiative."
"We heard you were involved in that," he sneered.
"Yeah. We brought 'em down. Twice," Xander said with a cold smirk. "They liked Buffy but she didn't like their ideas of research equaling torture. Especially when they got a friend." The man stepped back. "If you wish to speak on this matter at a better time, I'm in town and living nearby. You can call and I'll gladly tell you what's been going on out there and our methods of hunting."
"No, I doubt it'll be necessary. Are you hunting locally?"
"I took Draco to show him how to stake a vampire one night. We got two fledges rising and a swamp demon that had been stuck on my ass by a contract."
"Language," Horatio said.
"Sorry. I'll try to modulate it."
"Thank you." He looked at the man. "Yes, we do know what Xander does in Sunnydale. We all did a background search on him when the new board came together. I've never heard it said that he was doing anything but going after those who hunted and hurt humans."
The species person grimaced. "It's still not right."
"It's about how I feel about wearing fur," Xander told Horatio. "Again, if he wants to talk to me, I live nearby and he can come talk to me."
That got a nod. "That is the most reasonable alternative." He looked at Mac, who had figured out how to word it, taking it from him. "That's nicely stated." He let him see it. "Would that work to cover that gap?"
He looked then smiled. "It would."
"Pass that on, we'll vote on it," Horatio said. Everyone read it over. "Anyone opposed?" No one said anything. "Anyone for?" Everyone raised their hands. "The motion is carried. We'll have the amendment printed tonight."
"Are we reprinting the whole book?" Fudge asked.
"No. It can go out as a single sheet and stuck into it," Danny said. "The next full printing will contain it but there's no reason to reprint for only one new law. That wastes taxpayer money."
Horatio nodded. "I think that's a good way of doing it. If too many more are found, we might have to issue a supplementary pamphlet. A reprint won't be run for probably another year."
"That would work for us as long as the judges knew," the species person agreed.
"Of course. They hear first," Xander assured him. That got a stiff nod. "Does that cover all your gaps that your department has seen?"
"It does as far as we can tell," he agreed.
"That's fine. We're setting a meeting schedule later on. If there's more, come to us," Horatio told him. He nodded and left with his books. "Twirpy, can I please have Percy Weasley again?" he called. He flashed in with Percy. "Mr. Weasley, can you please have them print this single law? No need for a full reprint but it's an amendment and an addition to the law code."
He nodded. "I can do that. Anything else going that way?"
"We'll be announcing the meeting schedule publically. It shouldn't have to be posted. Unless that's Ministry standard?" Mac asked Fudge, who nodded. "Then we'll send that later. Thank you."
"You're welcome." He nodded at his boss before going to do that, then went to save his tea.
Draco smiled. "At least you didn't catch him in the loo."
"We'll request him next time," Horatio said. "I'll apologize later for the abrupt summons."
"I'm sure he's used to it," Fudge said dryly. "My assistant knows he has to be able to snap to attention at any given moment."
"It was still impolite of me," Horatio countered. "I don't work that way. Even if my own people do work very hard." He looked at the schedule. "It looks like we're down to the meeting schedule." Everyone who worked pulled out their work schedules. He sighed. "I can change my weekend off to the one you have, Mac. Does anyone not have the tenth off?" Harry raised his hand slowly. "Where will you be?"
"At my aunt's. The headmaster said it was still important that I go back there."
Xander smirked. "If you have any problems, you let me know. I'll come get you, Harry."
Harry gave him a look. "They need the blood in their bodies, Xander. Thank you anyway."
"Dean can get him," Sam said. "He has tact when he wants to use it." He grinned. "The same as you can come stay with us. The aunts said you could. They're missing having someone to complain about Dean's music with."
"I'll see if that's possible," Harry said. Xander gave him a look. "I pointed that out but he said it was to protect me."
"The best protection is still a muting charm so no one can feel you."
"We can figure that out then," Sam said, patting Xander on the hand. "We'll do what we can to protect Harry." That got a nod and Xander relaxed again. "I'm not doing anything that weekend that I know of."
"Me either," Xander agreed.
"Then we'll schedule the next meeting for the tenth and tentatively schedule the one after that for approximately the same time?" Horatio suggested. Everyone looked.
"The weekend after that," Danny said. "We've got an S&M convention and we usually get at least one jealous person who kills. Since we're the felony lab..." He trailed off with a smile.
"Does anyone have anything against the weekend after that in July?" No one said anything. "Patricia?"
"No, I'm off every weekend."
"Boys?" he asked. They both gave him odd looks. "Fine. If you have to go back, let us know, Sam?"
"Thank you. Tony?"
"I'm good. We have the weekend before off but I can switch. Besides, the director switches those things all the time. It's possible she'll hear I'll be over here and switch it back that weekend."
"Can a memory charm help her?" Patricia asked.
"No, she's a bitch," Tony told her. "She's power hungry, she's changing rules for no reason. She's trying to make people conform to standards that no one can and will. She's hired people who aren't qualified without background checks. She nearly lost us all funding. We're a government agency and she nearly lost us all funding." She winced. "Exactly. A memory charm would have to go back a few years to be effective."
"If you have problems, let us know," Horatio reminded him. "Like Sam, you have the right to pick a proxy if you can't be here."
"If I can't be here, please let Danny vote for me," he said. "That way it doesn't have to be so complicated. Unless I can send Gibbs, Danny can do it."
"Agreed. We'll make note of that," Horatio said, writing that down. "Any dissent on the tentative meeting?" No one said anything. "Good. We'll have those posted later. I do believe we're to Tony's suggestion of looking at the auror's duties to see if they can be simplified or clarified to give them an easier path of working. Minister Fudge, have you seen any problems with them being able to work? I've heard the main complaint was pressure from others about cases."
He shrugged. "I never noticed it."
"All right. Then we'll talk to them after lunch. Xander, please go invite them to see if we can discuss it?" He nodded, going to do that. "Any other topics we should take up?" No one said anything. "Then let's have a snack break while Xander gets someone."
Patricia raised her hand. "You all seem to be friendly with each other."
"Mac and I do the same job. Stella and Danny work with him," Horatio told her. "Tony basically does the same job they do but he does it for different reasons. His job is to look at Navy and Marine crimes, our jobs are to look at felony crimes to see who did them. We've worked cases together in the past." She nodded slowly at that.
"We're what's called criminalists," Stella explained. "We use science and forensics to find out who did what crime. Like fingerprints, I can take anyone's and see if they've been at a crime scene or not. The same with blood samples, tissue samples, gunpowder residue, things like that." She nodded more quickly at that. "That's what we all do. Tony's does the same thing but we do more analysis and he does more legwork than we do. He does more questioning and hunting down while we spend longer in a lab working on cases. They have someone who does that for his agency."
"Oh. So was it coincidence?"
"We have no idea," Danny admitted. "Three of the staffs showed up on a crime scene Mac and Stella were working on. I and the detective got there after they showed up. Tony said his tripped him and basically kidnaped him during an arrest of a suspect."
"Mine caught me doing paperwork and filled it out for me before taking me to the family home," Horatio told her. "Xander?" he asked since he was walking in. "How did you get chosen?"
"I thought it was a stick on the ground that I picked up to hit a demon with until it killed the demon for me. I had just lost my sword to sticky blood and we were being overrun by things that eat people when they're in heat. A minor apocalypse since there were so many of them."
"Mine appeared in our hotel floating in midair," Sam told her. "We tested it to make sure it wasn't possessed. Then Xander and his friend Tara appeared and told us what had happened to him before disappearing. It gave us enough time to pack then brought us, car and all, to the aunt's house."
Harry shrugged. "The first one woke me up in the middle of the night and flashed at me. After looking at it, asking Ron and Professor McGonagall what it was, the second one appeared on my bed. We talked to a family friend then I went back to bed until the next morning. It was a long night." The auror came in. "Good morning."
"Good morning, Mr. Potter. What can the council ask of us this time?"
"We've heard that there's blockades to you guys getting things done," Tony said patiently. "We were wondering if we might do something to help with that. Maybe solidifying some boundaries with some other departments so you don't have to go out on calls they're on. Or giving you more oversight if you need it? What do you guys need to do your job the best that you can?"
He considered it. "We're usually okay."
Harry coughed. "It's been told to me by a few different sources, inside and outside of your department, that you're having political pressure to solve cases certain ways?"
He nodded. "That happens to all officers I'm sure."
"No," Horatio said, shaking his head. "I get it very rarely and I run my department." The auror gaped at him then moaned. "Tony?"
"We get more because we're in DC and we do higher profile crimes. Then again my boss scares them off."
"Mac?" Horatio asked.
"I get some from my higher ups but it's usually to solve certain cases faster than to solve them a certain way."
"I do get that on higher profile case," Horatio agreed. He looked at the auror. "Is there a way we can help you with that?"
He shrugged. "Make all the politicians disappear?"
"Oh, if only I could," Tony said dryly. The auror gave him a confused look. "I work in Washington, D.C. The capital of the US. I get to arrest politicians sometimes."
"I don't envy you that job," the auror told him.
Tony grinned. "It has its perks." He leaned on the table. "Is there anything we can do to help you guys be more efficient and effective? Talk to the Americans so you can have some updated technology to look at, ease some restrictions?"
"No, we're pretty good unless you can get rid of the politicians."
"I could see putting in a hefty fine for trying to interfere in an active investigation," Sam told them.
"That could backfire if someone has to investigate on their own or they hire someone to do a private investigation," Tony said. "Though I have seen times when PI's uncovered things we'd never have gotten."
The auror looked at him. "PI?"
"Private investigator. Basically someone who looks at situations for someone else. A lot of times they're used to see if someone's cheating or to do background checks for new hires, but I have seen some who've been investigating older crimes and other, newer, crimes that the police weren't finding important."
"We don't have those."
"Yes you do. There's three just off Diagon," Malfoy said dryly.
"Oh, them. Yeah." He shrugged. "They don't get in our way that often. Usually it's the politicians pushing for us to do things the way they want so they come out the way they want."
"We could put a fine out for that," Harry said. Fudge shifted uncomfortably. He knew, and they all knew, whom they were talking about. "Are you feeling overstaffed or understaffed?"
"I do have two or three that're looking to transfer to the Unspeakables or Mysteries," he agreed. "We're working on that between us, Mr. Potter."
"Sure. So if you have problems you can let us know?"
"I can do that." He looked at him. "Where are you heading after school?"
"The Headmaster would like me to head to my relatives'. I'd rather go stay with Sam or Xander to see what they can teach me this summer."
"That's not a bad idea. Anything like that could help you."
"I do have to ask," Mac said. "I'm a former Marine myself, and this topic has come up before. Does the Ministry have a competent emergency plan in case of another attack? Evacuation, all that?"
"They won't be coming back here," Fudge said snidely.
"The Ministry, like Hogwarts, is a symbol that would be very powerful used on their side if they can take it down," Sam told him. Xander nodded to back him up. "If they could do something like bring down the building, it'd be a good sign that their side was going to win and would let him recruit more scared people. It would also cause a general panic. Something no one needs to deal with."
The auror looked at them. "We have one but we're still tweaking things. Your staffs can get you out."
"Most of us are stand and fight sorts," Xander pointed out. "We would like to see it once it's finished. That way we know as well."
That got a nod. "We can do that. It'll probably be a few weeks. Have we heard they're coming this way?"
"It's a bold move but not unlikely in my experience," Xander told him. "Like killing a slayer, there's always another one but it'll take some time for her to be as good."
He considered it then nodded. "I'll ask the captives we've managed to recapture about any plans in that direction."
Xander grinned. "Did Tonks bring the ones that put the contract out on me?"
"They did. Gave her hand cramps from the forms," he said dryly. "We kept all but one who claimed it wasn't him and we couldn't break him under truth serum. We're watching him. The one who set it?"
"Somewhere in the Carribean. He's been a pain to our group in the past. Our Watchers former buddy from his youth. It was a paying job for him and he's staying out of it unless we come begging for help."
He nodded. "Understood. Always better to get them out of the way and make sure they're not helping the other side."
Xander smirked. "He follows Janus. The other side is chaotic, but not enough for him." The auror quirked an eyebrow up. "He once set up a costume shop for Halloween. Then he turned all the people who bought costumes into their costumes." The auror gave him a horrified look. "They're not chaotic enough for him."
"Bloody hell that must've been a mess," Harry said, giving him a horrified look.
Xander grinned. "You have no idea and I'll have nightmares." They just nodded at that. "Would fining politicians who interfere when you bring them to us help you?"
"A lot. If we get one that's too pushy we'll come complain," he assured him. "Next time, pick on another auror?"
"Tonks broke into my place to ask me questions. Next time send someone else."
"Sure." He looked at Horatio. "Anything else?"
"No. If you do have those sort of problems, let us know."
"Of course." He nodded politely then left.
"Think a fine would work with my director?"
"Have Gibbs spank her. That'd work for most everyone but your Abby," Mac said dryly, shooting a smirk at him.
"Abby might enjoy it," he agreed with a grin of his own. "I'll suggest it and duck the head smack." Horatio laughed. "Anything else on our agenda today?"
"I do have a point to make," Fudge said, standing up. "It's come to our attention that none of you are married?"
"I'm grieving for my wife," Mac told him.
"I just recently lost my second one," Horatio said.
"I lost my fiance to the demon that's hunting my family. I can't even start to date until that's solved," Sam said.
"My last one was Anyanka, over Women Scorned," Xander said, watching him shudder when he realized what that meant.
Patricia looked at him. "You have dangerous tastes."
"No, not really. She made me take her to the prom then she kinda moved in and jumped me for sex, then never left." He shrugged. "She didn't try to kill me. I'm happy with that. It's a first for me."
"We're fixing you up with nicer women," Draco said firmly. "My mum said so."
"Sure." He grinned. "As long as they don't expect me to be your dad or high society."
"I'll remind her." He rolled his eyes once Xander had turned around.
"The rules were rewritten so that those who aren't attached to someone have time to decide on someone," Harry pointed out. "I'm nowhere near ready to settle down and I can't until the war's done with. The prophecy was very solid on that point and I refuse to leave a grieving widow behind. Or to make them a target."
Fudge grimaced. "Surely we're going to get married?" he asked Stella.
"I'm very well respected in my field and marrying right now would take that away. Beyond that, I'm not ready for marriage. I'm not particularly looking forward to being a mother either. We've decided on a second-in-command for the Council seat and he is married, with three children, and does have some sense. So even if I get shot on the job we'll be okay on that matter."
Mac nodded. "Tony?"
"I've dated a lot of women but none of them stuck with me. Especially when they hear I had the plague and it might affect me having children. Or that my father and I don't get along all that well. Most of them are in it for the money though." He leaned back, looking at him. "I work seventy hour weeks, Minister Fudge. I've had plenty of cases where I stayed overnight and even for a few days at a time to get it solved quickly. A wife would complain about that. Unfortunately I'm called to my job and no woman has understood that."
"You could marry Stella," he said.
"I could but we're in different cities. She's over three hundred miles away from where I am. She works hours like I do. Even if we did, we'd never see each other."
"Oh." He sat down. "So it's not looking hopeful?"
"It might happen but a few things have to settle in first," Xander corrected. "Sam has to get the demon that's hunting his family or else no one's safe. Harry has to get the demon hunting him so that whoever he chooses is safe. Stella needs a promotion to a desk job so she's not working so many hours."
"Suggest that to someone and I'll kill you," she said bluntly. Danny cracked up. "You either."
"I know better than to even try," he teased with a smile. "I'm like Tony. I've dated a lot but none stuck. Partially because of the job."
"There is that clause..." Fudge started.
"That would be kinda difficult," Sam interrupted. "That means I'd have to marry a great-aunt, my father, or my brother. They're the only ones left in the family." Fudge moaned. "I know you don't want to encourage incest."
"No," he said weakly.
"I'm the last in my family," Danny said. "The ones that gave birth to me expelled me because I wouldn't join them in crime. They're not even on the family tree." Fudge slumped.
"I've met some nice people and I've been in serious relationships but none have ever gone farther," Stella said. "If it happens, it does. If not, I'm satisfied and I've made arrangements for things like this seat."
Mac nodded. "I might never remarry. I lost my wife six years ago and I don't feel ready to date yet. Like the other officers, any spouse of ours would have to understand the long hours we work. I work more hours a week than Tony and Horatio does more than I do."
"When the staff showed up I thought it was a hallucination from the bad sandwich I had from the machine in the break room and the stale coffee I washed it down with," Horatio said dryly. Xander snickered at that. He smirked at him. "You?"
"I didn't notice it was pretty until it ate the demons. It was a piece of wood I picked up until then."
"We can be a bit crafty now and then," Draco said smugly.
Xander smirked at him. "Yes you can." He looked at Fudge again. "If it happens, it does. If you try to force the issue, it'll piss us off. It'll never happen and then we'll get to make others miserable."
"Very well. What about some nice teas to introduce you to others?"
"Would they understand why I do my job?" Stella asked.
He shuddered. "Probably not. I don't."
"I do my job for the same reason the others do," she told him.
"Someone has to speak for the victims and make sure the right people go away," Horatio finished. She nodded. "If we don't, no one does."
Fudge fully slumped at that. "I'll ask around, see if anyone would like an introduction. That way you know some of the more influential people in society." Draco snorted. "A problem, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Slight sneeze, Minister Fudge. A bit of dust."
"Oh. I'll have the house elf dust better."
"Thank you." He looked at Xander. "Are we having dinner?"
"If you want. Sam?"
"We didn't plan on it. Harry?" He shrugged. "Want to have dinner with me and the aunts? I can send Dean to Xander's couch later."
"Sure. I wouldn't mind. If no one else does?"
"I think it's good to have friends around your own age," Mac said with a smile for the boys. "Maybe Sam can work on your hand-to-hand tonight, Harry."
"I might like that. Sam?"
"Sure, I can do that." They grinned at each other. "Any other business?" No one said anything. "Then I move we adjourn for the day and come back tomorrow to see if there's any new problems. That should take us about twenty minutes. Then we can check in on whoever and head back home." They all nodded at that and Horatio adjourned the meeting. Sam walked Harry out to the floo, taking him back to his house. "Hey, ladies. Harry and I are going to work out in the backyard. Dean, Xander said you could have his couch so you could go pick up women in a club."
"Thanks, man. Love you." He came down the stairs. "Hey, Harry."
"Mac suggested you guys could do more work on my hand-to-hand?"
"Definitely," Dean agreed, leading him off. "Then you learn how to use your wand with it."
Sam smiled. One of the aunts frowned. "He needs it." He grabbed them some bottles of water from the fridge and headed out to help.
Xander looked across the small table at Draco. "What's up?"
"I'm worried about a few things." Xander nodded. "Are you willing to settle down and raise heirs to the family?"
"If someone comes along that's suitable and who wants to stay with me." He ate another bite.
Draco considered it. "It might help ease some fears if you at least dated. It would tie you to the community better."
Xander smirked. "Who would've thought I'd be the problematic member of the Council." Willow appeared. "Hey. I ran into someone who hates me for hunting demons."
"Wonderful." She gave him a hug around the neck. "Giles wants an account of the dream. He didn't want to call long distance."
"I was going to do that later on." He grabbed it and handed it to Draco. "Can you do the same copying spell?" He swished and it was done. "Thank you, much easier." He handed the copy to Willow. "There you go."
She looked it over, frowning. "Not good." She patted him on the head before leaving again. "Giles, it's very not good," she called as she appeared.
Xander grinned at Draco. "They'll research and let me know if I'm needed."
"Good. What about tying yourself more closely over here?"
"I'm doing what I can. Baby steps. All my money is now over here. I moved all my crap here. Plus the good stuff I have. I moved a lot of Giles' books over here. I'm looking for a job to do during my off hours." Draco smirked at that, nodding a bit. "I can't not work. Even if I won the lottery I can't not work."
"Some people are like that I suppose. You should also learn how to use your wand and the staff."
"I know. I'm working on it. I got a first year book of charms and I'm working my way through it. Want to tutor me this summer?"
"I might, depending on what's going to happen."
Xander winked. "Oh, it'll be spectacular. Sam and I are seriously hunting now and it's going to be ended before you graduate."
Draco nodded. "If you're sure."
"If we have our way and we are experienced."
"Then I wish you luck." He ate another bite of dinner. "She froze some of it for you?"
"Yup. Just as good out of the microwave."
"Could you teach me their form of magic?"
"I can let you have access to the books and let you call them," Xander offered. "I've only helped now and then. Like I said before. Magic goes screwy around me sometimes."
"I think that would be reasonable," Draco decided. "That would also mean that you didn't embarrass us by not using magic. I don't know why the staff picked a squib like Tony."
"It went for the best suited. Remember, magic is only one way of doing things. The world's wider than just magic."
"True, and he does have some very good ideas. He's also very strong and stubborn."
"Yup. He sticks up for his family as well."
He nodded. "I guess." He ate another bite. "Finish up and we'll start the tutoring tonight since Professor Snape gave me tonight off."
"Sure." He finished and put the dishes in the dishwasher, turning it on and making Draco jump. "It's to wash dishes. So you don't have to do it by hand. It uses less water than doing it by hand too." He found his wand and came over to go over what he had learned and what he was still working on.
Draco came out of his professor's floo the next afternoon, giving him a look. "He's a lunatic," he said calmly. "But he likes bigger bangs, he likes weapons, and doing color changing spells makes your hair change colors but not his." Snape gave him an odd look. "A bit of remedial tutoring."
"How bad was it?"
"Incredibly. I'm not sure if the energy that he's got stored in him is doing it, if it's the staff, or what, but it does indeed go strange around him. He did a flame charm to light candles and it set the couch across the room on fire. The water spell came out steam. The ice spell worked however." Snape moaned. "Exactly. We're working on it though."
"I'm sure you'll have him using it well enough within a year."
Draco snorted. "Maybe. I'm not certain of that but if you think I'm that good of a teacher."
"Not particularly. I believe he's more stubborn and he'll study on his own." He gave him a once over. "Are you back?"
"I am. I understand better why the staff chose him."
"He's very stubborn. Very strong physically as well as emotionally. He's been able to combine them to even out-stubborn that Sam boy and the others." He licked his lips. "Power I'm not sure about. He may be very powerful but it's very warped. Honor he does believe in. Which puts him above my father."
"Has he done anything about the Ministry's move to confiscate Death Eater properties?"
"He told the one in charge that he was in charge now, my father was in deep trouble with him, we weren't supporting my father, and they agreed with the goblins that being Dark Marked before you're of legal age counts under the 'abnormal practices' clause in the will. I was stopped yesterday and told by that same person that if I should be found with one afterward then they would try to take the Malfoy estate directly under my care. I showed him my arms and he walked off smirking."
"Interesting. So he's protecting your family very well?"
"Quite well. Mother agreed with him when he sent notice from the bank of what had happened." He sat down. "He barely knows us."
"That would be part of being honorable," Snape reminded him.
"Not something I'm used to."
"No, but it is something you could learn from."
"True. Did I tell you that he gave my mother permission to look farther afield for a suitable wife for me?"
"You hadn't. He didn't like the one you're contracted to?"
"He said it looked like a desperation move. All she was bringing was her pure blood and nothing else, like skills, to the family. He wanted me to find someone who brought more skills or wealth to the family. Plus he was uneasy with our degree of relationship; even at fifth cousins he felt it was too close. He suggested we look in the East. Mother's found a few good ones she's writing to."
"Very interesting. What if you're called, Draco?"
He shrugged. "I do not know. Mother does not want me to leave school for it. Not unless I can somehow produce a suitable heir by then. I'm the last in direct lineage according to the family tree."
"Your new head of family?"
"Wants me to think and make the decision for myself. He does say that he can't see me in a true battle. That I'm more of a thinker than I am a physical fighting sort." Snape nodded slowly at that. "Then he took me to stake my first vampire."
"He told me how it was like a battle since the nasty thing attacked me to get a nibble. I couldn't stake but I did manage an impressive cutting hex. Got him on the arm." He smirked. "He wasn't even upset. He had handled another one and the demon someone had contracted to kill him. They said it came from Lucius but he wasn't one of the ones called."
"It was your father's idea," Snape assured him. "He had to get someone else to do it since he's back in prison."
"So I heard. Xander does have a very Slytherin attitude about looking good to the outside world, even if we're a wreck inside." He leaned forward. "Are battles really like that, Professor?"
"I have no idea how your experience went," he said. Draco found the pensieve he kept and dumped the memory into it, letting him see it. He considered it and the talk they'd had afterward. "It can be. You hope that the other wizards are farther away. Or else they can hurt you physically or grab your wand," he said finally. He looked at his student. "The killing is the same. He was quite correct in that. You would be watching them fall in the same manner. Injured or dead, bleeding everywhere." Draco turned green. "Do not vomit in my office, Mr. Malfoy."
"Yes, Professor." He sat down again, looking at him. "I'm not sure I could handle that. Here in the halls. Probably one-on-one. Not like that."
Snape nodded. "It is a consideration. The same as you can support the same force but not be a foot soldier. Your mother would be most displeased that he did that with you."
"I told her. She wasn't pleased but she agreed it gave me a way to think about battles without relying on some story written by a bard who's never been in one."
Snape nodded. "It did."
"So he's right?" Snape nodded. Draco turned green again. "Then I believe I won't be leaving school for it. Someone has to take over for Harris when his next girlfriend kills him."
Snape smirked. "That is entirely possible," he agreed. "His life has been a lot of danger. He might be missing it."
"He said it's strange but he's dealing right now."
"It will still become a need again. It does for others."
Draco nodded at that. "Then I had better learn from him how to head the family."
"You should. He has much he could teach you."
"Think I could do what that Willow girl does?"
"I have no idea." Draco nodded and left, going to think. "You did not need to leave that memory," he called after him.
"Use it for the others who have doubts."
"Fine." He smiled. The Harris boy was very brutal in his honesty. Making Malfoy think was a very good trick. It wouldn't change much but it was a good trick. He winced as his mark started to burn, grabbing it. He headed off to meet with his Lord and Master, bowing as was proper. "You summoned me?" he asked.
"Yes. I have heard much of this new head of the Malfoy family and my spies say that the boy is back. Have you talked to him?"
"Just now, My Lord." Which meant the man had some sort of magical spy in his office. He'd have to find it. "His head of family is trying to protect the rest of the family from what Lucius has been doing. He's blocked the Ministry from taking the family's assets and made it so someone like Lucius could not fund you directly with the family's vaults."
"Interesting. What of the boy?"
Snape took a moment to organize his thoughts. "Harris has shown the boy what combat could be like," he said. "Draco is not a gentle boy by any means but some are not meant to stand in a battle and fire on others. Harris has led some battles in the past and been part of others. He gauged him as one would a soldier under one's command and found him more suited to more scholarly pursuits. Especially since Draco appears to be the only suitable one to follow him so far. Seeing how he turned green after a short battle with a vampire, one which he did physically and magically fight, I can understand his hesitation in sending Draco to you. He wants the boy to make his own decision so he knows what he's asking for when he requests to take his Mark."
"Very interesting. Is he pushing the boy toward the light?"
"He's more pushing him to think on his options and perhaps to step back for a bit until there's a better heir to follow him. Draco is the last in direct line from the Founder. The assorted cousins are numerous but less than acceptable. The staff headed directly to him instead of checking anyone nearer to it. I'm sure he's checked on the others and has found Draco to have the most sense of them. Harris must look out for the family first and then the others. He's also made the Ministry not confiscate the Malfoy assets by promising that Draco would not have his Mark before he turned of age. After that it would be only his assets that could be taken."
"A wise move. Does he fancy Narcissa do you think?"
"I think he tolerates Narcissa, Lord. I do know he has given Narcissa permission to look at farther flung young women who might be suitable for Draco because Harris thinks they're still too closely related. Plus the girl brings nothing to the family. Draco said that was his main argument for not ratifying the marriage contract immediately. He wanted someone who would bring new skills or wealth to the family and someone who was of a pure bloodline that hadn't mixed in."
"It is good for the future children should it go that way," he admitted. "The one he's tied to. She's a fourth cousin?"
"Fifth, my Lord."
"That is still related," another said as he came in. "Is the Malfoy head of family pushing against the contract?"
"He said Narcissa may find someone who is less related if she desires," Snape told him. "He's also told Draco he'd prefer to have someone who brought more to the family than another Dark Mark."
"If he's a strategist, that could give us an in when we move toward that country's people," the other Death Eater noted.
Voldemort considered it then nodded. "It would be good for the boy and the bloodline. How far afield are they looking?"
"I have no idea. I do know that Mr. Malfoy has been looking up information on Arabic and Hindu customs."
"Interesting," Voldemort said, still looking thoughtful. "Do you believe the boy would serve?"
"His mother and head of family both want him to wait until he is out of school. There's no one to follow Harris if something happens due to his demon hunting. It would also give Draco more time to be able to stomach a true battle."
Voldemort nodded. "Why is someone for the light giving one of my future higher ups such help?"
"He is family," Snape said. Though he doubted that was truly why the boy was making Draco think. He didn't think he could fully turn him though. "He does not want the best hope for the family continuing to die off in a pointless battle when he freezes. That's why he is making Mr. Malfoy think on his own decisions."
"That would make him more loyal when he joined us," Voldemort decided. "I will leave Harris alone for now."
"A caution, Lord. Harris is not one to take lightly. From the sources that the others have checked with he is powerful even if magic does go oddly around him. He has even out- stubborned some demons in the past to make them let him go." Voldemort laughed. "Beyond that we're not sure our magic works right around him. A wand he may have but it still goes wrong and Mr. Malfoy noted last week that he seems to be actively drawing in magic for some reason. With his hellmouth taint, there is no telling what may happen around him if we attack."
"Certain spells always work."
Xander uncovered himself from the invisibility cloak. "Really? You so sure about that?"
"Crucio!" he cast.
Xander slapped his ass and looked at it then at him. "Was that supposed to pinch?"
Voldemort gave him a horrified look. "Why did it not work!" he shouted.
"Because you're pitiful. Hell, I've seen master vampires with more class and sense than you." He walked closer, looking him over. "Bad transformation. The mayor made it to a full snake demon." He shrugged. "I've seen what I need to see. You're not worth the effort. Maybe I'll let Buffy handle you." He walked off, swishing the cloak back over himself, dropping the charm Tonks had given him on the way out the door. He cleared it and then called her. "It's down. He's there." He hung up and stepped back to help when the aurors appeared. They got a bunch of lower death eaters but Voldemort managed to disappear before they could make it into the main room. Xander grinned at Tonks. "You didn't say he was so pathetic."
"Yeah. And that crucio thing. It's supposed to do more than pinch your ass, right?"
"It's supposed to make you hurt all over," she said, stepping away.
Xander shrugged. "Guess it's the hellmouth stuff." He grinned. "Need more?"
"No. Thanks, Xander."
"Welcome. Let me know if I can help more." He took his staff back home with his cloak. It was very pretty and he'd have to thank Harry for letting Tonks borrow it for him.
Tonks straightened up as her boss showed up. "Sir."
"What did we do?"
"We managed to get someone to drop a tracking charm so we could capture more death eaters, sir. We netted another sixty. The big git wasn't here. He left as we were breaking into the inner chamber."
"Who brought the tracking charm?"
He shuddered. "How?"
"He used his staff to get here while cloaked, made fun of him for a second, then dropped it on his way out. He followed us in to help."
"The *Malfoy* head of family?" he demanded.
"Who fights for the light on his hellmouth," she reminded him.
He groaned. "Sixty you say?" She nodded. "Good work, Tonks. No more bringing in non-trained people."
"Have fun doing the paperwork."
"I'm not the only one here this time. Learned my lesson the last one." He walked off laughing. "Let's clean up, people," she shouted. "Boss's is here!" They finished cleaning up the mess and searching the house. She smiled at her haul, bringing them back to the office to question and put in for trials.
Harry came out of Xander's floo the next morning, Draco right behind him. "Morning."
"It's in the kitchen, on the table. It got a bit damp from the ground. Thanks for the lending, Harry."
"Welcome. I had no idea what she wanted it for."
"Did you follow me back to the school?" Draco asked.
"No, I had the staff watch where she wanted me to and I used it to send myself there." He ate another bite of ice cream. "Your intended was in there."
"She was?" Xander nodded. "Any other news?"
"Any idea why that crucio spell felt like a pinch on the ass?"
Draco blinked, staring at him. "No. No idea."
Xander grinned. "Figure it out and tell me?"
"Definitely," he assured him, smirking back. That would be a helpful bit of information to have. "You used an invisibility cloak?" Xander nodded. "Anything else I should know?"
"I told him our mayor got his transformation better. He's pretty pathetic, he makes everyone fear him but not respect him. They can and will leave him if they can be protected from him getting them back."
"He can harm them through their Marks," Draco said.
"Huh." Xander considered it. "Then it sounds like I should have Willow or someone look at the marks. Huh?" He ate another bite of ice cream. "Did I rip it, Harry?"
"No, staying out of family stuff."
"Get breakfast if you need it."
"I'm still at school. We ate this morning. Why are you having ice cream?"
"Because I'm single, twenty-one, and I'm not the sort to live on beer for a while." He looked at Draco. "Know anyone we can get a good look at the Mark from? There may be a way to cut it or loosen it."
"Yes. I'll ask them." He stood up, staring at him. "Snape told him that you want me to stay out of it due to the heir issue."
Xander nodded. "That is one good point to you staying out of it. I'd rather you made your own decisions because you wanted to make it. I can't stop you from going bad if that's what you really want to do. I can keep you from doing it out of stupidity and arrogance. I can keep you from doing it out of family allegiance. It's up to you to decide if you go over to the dark, Draco. Not me."
"True. It's my life and if I want to take that chance for the power then it's up to me." Xander nodded. "Snape agreed with you about the battle thing."
Xander grinned. "I'm sure he did. He seems like he'd been in a few when I met him that first day." Draco nodded. "Remember, I'm here to talk to as well."
"Thank you." He looked at Harry then at him. "You should practice more."
"I probably should. I'll do that after my ice cream." Draco snorted, heading back through the floo. He grinned at Harry. "Tonks have a sore wrist from the paperwork?"
"Yup. Her boss said you two did good work but no more bringing you."
"I offered." He smirked. "Need more help?"
"Something to cut the link to him so he can't gloat through my head. Had bloody, nasty visions all night."
Xander looked up. "Willow?" he called. She appeared. "Two things. Well, three. The crucio curse in that one book. Why did it feel like a pinch on the ass?"
"It can't get through the hellmouth taint probably. You've got a lot more than most people." She grinned at Harry. "Hi, part of his new family?"
"Nope, this is Harry Potter. He's sitting on two seats. He's the local one who has the stupid prophecy about him."
"Ooh. You poor thing." She gave him a hug.
"He's also got some sort of link back to the goober that's giving him bad visions and bleedover."
"Hmmm. Interesting." She looked at the scar. "From whatever you did the first time?" He nodded. "We can look at it. What else?"
He grinned. "Somehow he has a mark on them that he can use to summon, hurt, and kill his minions with. Since he rules by fear...."
"If we can remove it we can entice people away from him," Willow said. Xander nodded. "I'll need to look at one."
"I know someone," Harry said. He walked over to the floo, finding Snape alone. "Sir, a question or three have just been posed to that nice girl Willow who works with Xander. She needs to look at a Mark to see if it can be broken and removed," he said quietly.
He looked at him. "I don't think it's possible."
"If Xander can make the crucio feel like a bum swat and she can close hellmouths, she may be able to do it. May she look at yours?"
"She may," he decided. "Are you at his flat?" Harry nodded. "Let me step through." Harry got out of the floo for him. He nodded at the witch. "The memory charm didn't work?"
"Never do," she said cheerfully. She looked at his arm, gently touching the area around it. "Hmm. A small bit of contagion into your body." He looked startled. "Does cutting it off work?"
"No. Others have tried and one had his burned during an incident." He looked at Xander.
"I told him to leave me alone." He finished his ice cream.
"Wash that," Willow snapped when he put it on the table.
"I'll put it in the dishwasher in a minute, Willow. Chill. My house."
"Fine. You'll still get bugs."
"I live on the sixth floor. No bugs this far up."
She glared. He huffed but went to empty the dishwasher and put the bowl in there. "Thank you." She grinned at the professor. "It's so hard to house train boys these days." She went back to it while he fought not to smile. She gently ghosted a finger over it. "There's three ways I can see but I think it'll take a bit of looking up."
"There's some in custody if we have to try it," Harry said. "That way you have it foolproof before you hurt someone who won't be kissed soon."
Snape nodded. "That would be for the best." He pulled his arm back and put down his sleeve. "You do think you can cut it?"
"I'm pretty sure I can at least cut the link. I'm not sure if I can remove the contagion at the same time. That might take a separate spell. Then the removal of the mark itself would be easier."
He nodded. "Should you, you'll let me know?"
"Of course. Once I've tried it on someone so I don't hurt you and make you end up a vegetable."
"That would be good of you," he said dryly.
She grinned. "Quit scowling. It's a beautiful day and you survived to see another one." She looked at Xander. "I'll look at the other two. I think we have a good book on stuck mental brains." She hugged Xander then left.
Xander grinned. "Before you can ask like Draco did, I used the staff to follow you. I didn't follow him back and then you that way."
"I figured you had. He thought you had flooed after him?" Xander nodded. "He's a foolish boy."
"He's young. Most young boys are like that." He gave him a look. "Thank you for sticking up for me making him make his own decisions."
"It is only right. Do you need Mr. Potter again?"
"He came to get his cloak back."
"That's fine. Let's go, Mr. Potter."
"Sure. See you soon, Xander."
"Of course. Remember, all you have to do is ask and we can come rescue you." Harry nodded, heading back to the school. He stopped Snape. "Has anyone actually watched his relatives?"
"No. I don't believe any of us could stomach that."
"Make the old fart do that. Before Dean goes badass on them."
"I'll suggest we watch the house more closely."
"Not the house, the people. If Harry has scars like I do, and he's not demon hunting, how did he get them?"
Snape gave him an appraising look. "I'll have him look into that possibility." That got a nod and Snape left. That boy did meddle so. For good reason but he did meddle.