Notes: As always, thanks to Intertran for the wordage.
Kat looked at her school friends. "No, it was really great," she told them, sitting on the old wooden fence around her school's playyard. "It was a great big manor house. I got to play all I wanted outside and all that stuff, they were just kinda weird."
"Weird how?" one of her groupies asked.
"You know that haunted house at Disneyland, the one no one can figure out how they made the ghosts?" They all nodded. "Well, they had pictures like that on their walls. The owner said something about holographic technology and all that, but it was really creepy when the pictures moved or seemed to be visiting each other. But he explained it away very well. Then there was the tour," she sighed. "One of the schools that wanted to see me I don't remember much of. It was kinda drafty and old, castle like. One of the students paraded me through it to meet a few of the teachers. That was my second-choice school though. My first choice had a friend of the guy I was staying with's step-son leading me around." She grinned and leaned closer. "Let me tell you, hot, tight, chocolate are the only words to describe Daryl. He's an American too, his dad's a cop and they're doing some sort of country-switching plan. He'll be graduating the end of this year." She grinned brighter. "He said it was nice to hear normal speech again but that he *loved* it there. Not only do you live in the school, thereby getting away from nosy parents, but you only had a small set of rules to follow. The uniforms were pretty cool, fairly pleasing colors and fabrics, but he was the real reason I'd go over there. He made it seem so ...hip and cool to go to school like that."
"Then why did you come back early?" one of the other girls asked, pouting slightly. "Didn't you get to sightsee or anything?"
"Two words. Paranoid. Mother." They giggled, knowing Kat's mother's antics from a long time of going to school with her. She rolled her eyes. "Seriously. I started to stay with the creepy paintings guy but then he noticed how uncomfortable I was so my guardian had another friend who also had a house over there and so I went to stay with him. He was kinda crowded because of some sort of celebration they were having but he was nice enough to have me taken around for a few days." She looked over as someone walked out onto the playground, grimacing. "Looks like Fedman."
"He's been by once already," one girl hissed. "And he's looking for you."
"I was perfectly good while I was over there," Kat said, still glaring at the man. They were off to the side and in a big shadow. "I'm gonna slip off. Cover for me." She slid over the fence and into the landscaping around the playyard. Then she snuck through the small trees and brushes, heading for the road. Fortunately, she had her phone on her. She called her mother first. "Mom, Fed guys are here. No, my crew said they were looking for me." She hung up and headed to where her mother had told her to go, hiding out beside the road until her Mother's boss' Range Rover pulled up. "Philip," she called, rushing over to get in. "When did you get back?"
"Nick called, they're in the middle of a case," he said, giving her a smile as he drove on. "What did you have to leave?"
"My backpack and jacket. I've got my phone and my ID on me." She slumped down as they passed the driveway to the school. "This royally sucks."
"Yeah, and your Ma is still paranoid. I'm takin' ya out to the island." He looked at her. "What did you tell them?"
"Nothing about the freak-o house. Just that he had paintings like the Disney haunted house that no one knows how they do the ghosts in," she admitted when he glanced at her again. Philip could tell when she was lying. "What are you going to do now that you're not a priest?" she asked.
"I'm not sure yet," he admitted. "Right now, I'm doin' some studyin' for someone. After that, I might just go back to college, get my Ph. D." He shrugged as he turned onto another road. "Who knows right now."
"Maybe you should pray over it," Kat suggested.
"Maybe," he agreed, smiling at her. "How's your head?"
"Just fine. Why?"
"Because they darted someone the other day while trying to get him."
"He didn't even see me. I was in my usual watching post."
"That's not a half-bad idea," Philip told himself. They made their way back through the city, heading down to the ferry docks. "Shite." He pulled out Kat's cellphone and dialed the house. "Derek, it's me. I've got Kat. No, they're buggin' the ferry. Where does she need to go?" He grimaced. "Are you *sure*? What about her Ma? She'll throw another fit." He heard shrieking in the background and sighed, handing the phone to her. "Listen to the argument for me, I'm gonna pull in somewhere safe to wait." He pulled into a nearby parking garage, one that gave him a view of the docks and the entry, just in case.
"Mom, stop it," Kat said sharply. "Geez, you'd think that you'd know better than that by now," she said with a great deal of disgust. "Oh, quit! I'm sixteen, mother. I know my own mind on that matter already." She pulled the phone away from her ear. "For you. Mom's being a bit irrational again."
Philip took the phone back, hearing the screaming. "Stop it," he said sharply. She quit. "Doing that isn't solvin' anything. Now quit!" He smirked as Derek took the phone back. "Maybe you should sedate her or something." He chuckled and reached over to pat Kat on the head. "So then she doesn't like you and Nick either?"
"She probably is in denial over it," Kat said, slumping down a bit. Another car was parking down the way and she didn't know those people either. "This sucks, I don't want to be afraid for my life."
"Yeah, well, you were safer in London," he told her. He listened to the click that meant he was coming off the loudspeaker and sighed. "She was," he told the person on the other end. He smiled at Rachel's assertion that she wanted her daughter near her. That she was her best defense. "Including against the Fed's on the ferry?" He listened to them discussing it on the other end, looking down at the entry of the parking garage. Someone down there had a listening dish. "Shite, we'll call back," he said, hanging up. "Let's go," he said, pushing her down as he started the engine. He went the normal speed, not wanting a high-speed chase and also not wanting to draw any extra attention. Once he had paid the attendant and left, they pulled onto the street again and took off. "Okay, it might be safe. We've got tinted windows." She slid back up and buckled in again. "You okay?"
"Majorly freaked," she admitted. "Nothing more." She pointed at an intersection two down from their present location. "Is that Nick?"
Philip shook his head. "Nick's at your Ma's fixing her security system. He was drivin' this one today." He touched his arm when the light turned red, getting an answer. "He's still at your Ma's, it's a copy." A copy down to the license plate. He drove her off, heading for a safer place he knew. It had payphones. When he got there, he left the engine running but took the keys with him as he went to call the island again. "They had a copy of Nick's car," he reported when the phone was answered. Rachel started to cry. "Where, Rachel?" He listened. "That's fine then. Sloan'll gladly take her in. Send her passport over there, got it?" She gave an assent so he hung up and went to turn off the engine and pull Kat to him. "I know you had a bad portkey last time, this time we'll have to do it though. I can promise he won't try it again because we're not going there first." She gave him a trusting look and a nod. "Okay, let's go." He created the portkey and put his arm around her, taking off after taking a quick glance around. This time, he picked the biggest center of mystical convergence of good he could. Diagon Alley. He appeared and held her steady while she shook and had a few dry heaves. "Didn't like lunch?"
"Hated lunch," she groaned, straightening up. She looked up at him. "Where are we?"
"Behind the twin's shop." He tweaked her ear. "C'mon, let's go see the twins."
"Let her have some tea first," a male voice called. "I'm in the kitchen."
"Thanks." He led Kat into the kitchen area, sitting her down gently. "The Feds came for her."
"But I thought Ron said she was mute magically."
"She is, but she's in the other category and they probably don't know the difference," Philip pointed out as he pulled the whistling tea kettle off the stove. "No business?"
"Tea break. Fred's dealing with a hysterical wife out in front." He held up his cup, letting Philip pour the warmed liquid into it. "I know it's not the official way to do it, but we put it in there to warm it back up for you." He dropped in a sugar cube and stirred it slowly. "So, Katherine, how was school?" he asked. She giggled. "I'm getting in practice for our twins."
Fred came back, hair messed up. "I put her into bed and made her take a lie down," he said, grabbing his mug and some tea to go back out front. He gave Kat a pat on the head as he passed. "Nice to have you back. Tom had a muggle phone put in just outside the Leaky."
"Good," Philip agreed. "I've got my cell though."
"It won't work in the alley," George reminded him, grinning slightly as his twin left. "Especially not in here." He looked at Kat again. "Feeling better?"
"Slightly." She looked at him. "Why do they want me? I gave up magic."
"Yes, but you still have the potential," Philip reminded her. "Plus, they probably can't tell the difference between a seer and us."
"See, there's three classifications," George told her. "Two main ones, wandless or wand- using magic users. We call them external or internal. You were an external before you bound yourself. Then there's the other category." He took a sip of his tea. "It includes things and people who can use magic, but don't do it the way either of the first two do."
"Some demons, some seers, some people like you," Philip agreed. "They've already started on the 'other' category in the past by going after the harmless demons to get them to work for them." She opened her mouth. "Not the sort we deal with, Kat, the more corporeal ones. The ones from the other dimensions. Not the Host of Hell we deal with."
"Oh." She sipped her tea, adding some sugar after taking a sip. "So, I'm an other?" They nodded. "Can I break my binding?"
"That would put you back as an external," George offered. "Seers who use magic are firmly between their two groups. You could, but it might not help."
"No, but it'd give me a means of self-defense," Kat pointed out. "Besides carrying a big, huge, honkin'-ass weapon."
"Which you won't be able to do over here," George pointed out gently. He looked at Philip. "At least Daryl goes to the school most squibs go to."
"True," Philip agreed.
"Non-magical person born into a magical family," George told her.
"Oh, so if one of your brothers was born without it, they'd be a squib?" He nodded. "Okay. Understanding that remark more." She looked at Philip. "Won't that draw attention?"
"Not really. The Headmistress there is used to dealing with magical families," Philip told her. "A good third of the students are squibs." He looked at George. "They'd still have to call for records."
"They would," he admitted. "Can't they get around that? Placement tests or something?"
"Derek has a copy of my grades," Kat told him. "It's part of my personnel file."
"That's another thing, you don't want to mention the Legacy, Kat. Everyone here knows what they do, but they're not well liked. Derek's Da caused a few hellacious splits," Philip told her. He gave her a small hug. "Fortunately, Sloan liked this school too and we can get Derek to pay for everything." He stood up. "You wait right here." She nodded. "I'm gonna call Sloan and have him call Derek. He won't expect us in yet." He walked out of the shop, heading out of the alley and outside. He looked around the street, noticing there were two cop cars. "Shit. Who got us into trouble today?" he complained. He dialed the London house. "Sloan, it's Philip. We're here. Is Derek still under siege?" He smirked. "No, there were Feds on the ferry and one came to her school. She's here again. With the twins." He choked. "Excuse me?" He sighed. "Can't Derek handle that?" He relaxed. "Thank you. I'm not a kidnaper," he pointed out. "I was saving the girl." He listened to the explanation of how the Feds were saying she was kidnaped. "That's fine then. You fix this and I'll be hiding." He glanced around, stepping back into the shadows to lean against the side of the building because the cop cars were coming back. "Any instructions yet?" He grinned. "That's what we were thinkin'. Yeah, some of ours go there anyway so she's used ta it. Definitely. That's fine, tell me what we need? I can so," he said sharply. "That's fine, then we can go to Scotland Yard and tell them what's going on." He hung up and went back inside, shaking his head at Tom's look. "The Americans are bad," he shared, leaning on the bar. "I had to go rescue a kid's friend who's a seer. They've decided to tell everyone I kidnaped her." Tom handed him a stout without a word said. "Thanks, Tom."
"You looked like you needed it," he said with a smile. "Gonna go turn yourself in?"
"Maybe." Philip sipped it. "Have any of us been through?"
"Nah, not today. Even Dumass has been busy. His cousin restarted their dueling club." Philip snorted. Tom looked toward the door. "Where is she?"
"With the twins," he said, looking that way himself. "Crap, wonderful thing, the internet." He looked at the cop standing in the doorway. "Come on over." The cop walked over. "Hey, Philip Callahan," he said, shaking his hand. "I was rescuing her. She's gifted."
"Oh." The cop looked impressed. "So why were they saying she was kidnaped?"
"Because it's the Feds who came for her," Tom told him. He went to turn off the floo for a moment, then thought better of it. "Philip, take him upstairs for a few, let me send to the twins to get her." Philip nodded, taking his stout with him. "One of you lot go get the twins, we need the girl here," he told them. "The floo'll be goin' off for a few minutes." Someone ran off while he finished locking down the place for a bit.
Philip led the way into the sitting room, flopping down onto an old couch. "How did you get in?"
"My brother is one of you, sir," he said dryly.
"Ah. Kat's a seer. The Americans are goin' after us all."
"Shit." He hung his head. "Were you willing to come down and clear this up?"
"Sure," Philip agreed. "I can even give you the number where her Ma is." He looked up again. "I have no doubt they've tapped the phones, but we've got friends over here."
"Thank you, sir. We understand how hard this must be."
"Not an issue," Philip admitted. He took a sip. "Me portkeying in might be however."
"Oops." He chuckled. "Well, that'll mean they'll have to explain the time difference somehow." He smiled as Kat was walked in. "You're all right?"
"Philip didn't steal me, he saved me," she told him. "Philip, the bartender said there were more outside."
"Not a problem," he promised, putting down his mug and pulling his wand to clean his teeth. "Come on," he said, standing up and putting an arm around her shoulders. "You too," he told the cop. They walked out, waving at Tom. "Another day in the life," he quipped. Tom chuckled, shaking his head as he watched them go.
"They'll forget the address again," the cop assured him. "We always do, anything on this street." He walked out after Philip, waving off the person ordering Philip to get onto the ground. "He didn't snatch her," he called. "He was saving her from someone who wanted to snatch her. He's an old family friend." His boss put down the megaphone and looked at him. "Really. We can call her Ma and check."
"I called their hotline."
Kat snorted. "That would be run by the people who wanted me," she told him, leaning against Philip. "Philip's an old family friend. You notice my mom hasn't been on tv yet? She's one who'd jump first and then ask questions."
"Good enough. We're still gonna separate you," the officer in charge told her, smiling at her. "That okay with you?"
"Not really. How do I know the Feds haven't gotten to you guys too?" They looked stunned. "I'm gifted," she said quietly.
"Oh. Oh!" He nodded. "We've had an influx of people like you recently. You can ride in my car," he promised. "If I disappear, my whole unit shuts down. Good enough?" He pulled out his wallet and showed a picture of his two kids."
Kat felt something funny and looked, glancing at another officer. "I know your type," she told him. He blanched. "I'm Katherine, Derek Rayne's pseudo-niece." The man bowed over her hand, kissing the back of it. "Thank you. Are you here to harm me?"
"No, my dear, I'm here to figure out what's going on."
She leaned closer. "There's a sweep for all of those like us," she told him. He shuddered. "Deal?"
"I won't hurt you, Katherine, I'm not Ethan."
"I met Ethan, he's a bit disgusting but fairly obvious." He nodded. "Thank you. Who's safe?"
"The commander is. Your escort is as well. I'd trust such a white-lighter any day."
She grinned. "I know. Philip got to answer a lot of awkward questions for me in my youth." She went back to the commander's side. "Sorry, making a non-aggression treaty."
"That's fine, Katherine, come along," he said, letting her into his car. He watched as Philip was put into the front of another one. His men knew the truth usually so he'd believe this one for a bit longer. "Do you have your mom's number?"
Kat looked at him. "I'm sixteen, dude, not six." He laughed as he drove them off. "But yeah, I've probably even still got my cellphone." She patted herself down. "Or not, I guess I left it in the SUV." One appeared on her lap and she smiled. "But I seem to have Philip's. Should I call my mom or should I call the local people my mom sent me to?"
"Go ahead and call the local people. I'd like to have a neutral adult over here to watch over you," he suggested. And it would give them a chance to see if this was a greater conspiracy.
Kat picked up the phone and looked at the phone book, finding a listing for 'Alex'. She dialed it. "Hi, Auntie Des. It's Kat. We're back in the UK and we just got arrested because the Feds announced Philip had kidnaped me." She had to pull the phone away from her ear. "No, it's okay. We're not under arrest, we're going to Scotland Yard. Can you send Uncle Nick down?" She laughed. "Okay, if he's not available, then how about Blair or someone from London?" She grinned. "Good deal. Thanks, Auntie Des." She hung up. "One more." She dialed the London House from memory, getting a wrong number. So she checked Philip's recent outgoing log and found it. She dialed it and sighed. "Morgan, put on Sloan." The cop stopped the car and looked at her. "What?" she asked. "William Sloan is my sorta-uncle's best friend." She listened to someone grumping on the other end. "Hi, Uncle William, it's Kat, again. We're in the UK, heading for Scotland Yard. You wanna come help with this since the Feds said that Philip kidnaped me?" She laughed and handed over the phone since he wasn't driving. "For you."
"Hello?" he asked cautiously. "Really?" He swallowed. "Of course." He heard the real reason and started to shake. "I understand. No, I'll tell them that she's safe. That we've determined that it isn't a kidnaping after talking to the girl and her family. Yes, Mr. Sloan, thank you, Mr. Sloan." He handed it back. "He said we're to bring both of you to him, right now. " She nodded, putting the phone back in her pocket. "Then they're going to hide you better, young lady." He looked at her. "I know what they deal with, kind of, what do you do?"
"I'm a seer," Kat said honestly.
"Shit." He started driving again, telling everyone to go home but to bring Philip with him. Then he pulled out an ear bud and used it to call his boss. Who called his boss, who called up the chain to the PM's office, who then called the Americans and called them stupid idiots and told them to stop it before they revoked their independence. Amazingly enough, the story stopped later that night with a notice that the girl hadn't been kidnaped, the person who had her had been saving her from someone else.
Daryl looked up as his name was called over the PA system, nodding at his teacher that he was going to go. She let him out of the room and he jogged up to the office. It must have been big to call him out of a class. He found a young woman standing in the office, wearing the school uniform. "Hey, Kat," he said, giving her a hug. "I thought your Mom pulled you home."
"She did, and then the Federal Bureau of Idiots came for me because I'm a seer," she told him.
"Wow." He looked at the Headmistress. "I take you understand that sort of thing?"
"Traditionally, the non-magical members of magical families have come to us," she said calmly. "We understand those in the 'other' category as well." She smiled at them. "Daryl, I'm putting her into your house. Would you please escort her around for the rest of the day? I'll have her schedule tomorrow and I'll have one of her teachers put her with a helpful one in her own year."
"That's fine," Daryl agreed. "It's getting me out of reading in Literature." He took Kat by the arm, leading her out. "Bags?"
"They were brought to the house."
"Cool. Let's go there first so you can drop your hat and cloak." He led her that way, going up to the main doorway. "This is Grayson House. You'll like it in here. We've got a kick- ass band starting in your year." He let her inside and up to the girls' side, showing her the room she would be sharing. "I know it's a dorm, but it's usually all right. Also," he said, pointing at a bed with a jacket on it. "Get to know her. She's nice, not snarky or mean, and she's pretty cool overall." Kat nodded, putting her hat and cloak down onto her bed. "Come on, it's one more class until dinner but I think we can get you something to nibble."
"I'm okay waiting for a few hours. William gave me tea on the way up."
Daryl nodded. "We do that once a week here to teach us the proper etiquette. It's usually Friday afternoons, sorta a break at the end of the day. Then we have a late dinner that night." He led her back down. "Let's see, we did the main areas during your last tour so let's do some of the classrooms. Any idea what you'll be taking?"
"I was taking Advanced Algebra," she offered. "Chemistry because my mom demanded, and two English classes."
"Here you'll only get Literature," he warned, leading her that way. "This way I can pick up my own school bag. Things are a little different here from the American system but it's clear that we warped it."
"I've always went to private schools, just never a boarding school," she assured him. "I understand about the power hierarchy and all that good stuff."
"You won't find too much of that in our house but in the others it's a pain." He tapped on the door and the teacher came out. "This is Katherine, she'll be starting tomorrow. Can I get my bag?"
"Of course, Daryl," she said, her Canadian accent very soft from years of being over here. She shook the young woman's hand. "Nice to meet you, Katherine."
"You can call me Kat," she offered, giving her a smile. "Are you the head of our house?"
The teacher laughed. "Not exactly. I'm over one of the other ones, but I'm the counselor for all the students who are squibs."
Kat grimaced. "I'm not quite like that," she said, pulling the teacher down the hall a few steps. William had told her to level with them. "I'm one of the ones they were trying to get in the sweep, but I've bound myself." The teacher nodded, still smiling. "And I have the Sight."
"Oh." She looked so happy and hugged her. "I've got a few others like you around here. Don't worry, we're mostly a clique unto ourselves. Try to get along, dear, a few of them are rather...odd sometimes."
Kat grinned. "I've done private school my whole career."
"That will help you some," she agreed, leading her back to Daryl. "Are you showing her around?"
"Until her schedule is set tomorrow," Daryl told her. "Then she'll have someone in her own year."
"Good. Excellent in fact," she said, patting Kat on the back. "You just run along and have some fun. Both of you. You'll have more than enough time tonight to learn where everything is, Katherine. Go play while there's sun." Daryl nodded, taking her that way. "Such a nice young woman, and American too," she said as she went back to her class.
Philip looked at Sloan. "Thanks," he said quietly as they drove away.
"It's not a problem, Philip. What the government over there is doing is wrong. It makes me ill. I have a great desire to correct it."
"And to help Derek?" Philip asked, giving him a long look. Sloan grimaced back. "It was rather obvious, William."
"It was a long time ago, Philip, and I could never give him what Nick does - someone to make him feel young again. How is he?"
"He was needed so he's fixing Rachel's alarm system. We expect him back in a few days if nothing serious comes up."
"I'm sending Kristen back there for a while to help Derek while Nick's on leave from his house. We want this war solved first, Philip. There's every chance that the sweeps will slow down if that happens."
"They won't stop?"
"I don't think they'll stop fully until the present power structure is out of office. That means electing a president who has a different set of puppet masters. I'm not sure if any of the current candidates have that."
"One never knows until they show their hand," Philip agreed. "I know one's been courted by a demon, a higher up. " William shook his head and groaned. "I know, but it makes sense." He grinned. "It could be much worse. One could be a direct minion or consort."
"I know, but it's still bad," William reminded him. He smiled. "What are you going to do now?"
"Right now, I've still got some research to do. After that, who knows," Philip said dryly. "I haven't decided yet."
"You could go to the Watcher's Council. They always need people who can translate."
"I'd have to work hard to change some things. I've heard some bad things about how they treat the girls."
"Us as well," William agreed. "Or you could go down into the basement lair tonight and pick up the book that's down there. It came addressed to you in a lead box."
"I can do that as well," Philip agreed. This was a positive sign. Maybe his meditation last night had been helpful after all. "When did it come in?"
"Right after you left last time. It seems it was necessary." Philip's phone beeped and they both looked at it. "Anyone you know?"
"Dumass Glen," he said, answer it. "Hello?" He smiled. "Hi, Alex. No, we dropped Kat off at school and then we're heading back to London." He looked at William, then shrugged. "I don't care to. What's going on? What do you mean you were sent a book of Thinial?" he demanded. "By who?" His mouth fell open. "Since when!" He laughed suddenly. "That's too good, mate. I'll be in soon." He looked at William, who was instructing the driver to stop for a moment, as he hung up his phone. "Alex got sent a book done entirely in Thinial. It's an ancient magic language. Said to predate Atlantis." William looked impressed. "The curse breakers only get some minor lessons in use- language."
"Things like 'bad, good, and don't touch'," their driver/bodyguard asked, turning to look at him.
"That and things like 'archive, storeroom, and weapons'," Philip agreed. He looked at Sloan. "This is older than Linear A and B."
"Go," William said tolerantly, shaking his hand. "Check in with us each week, Philip, so we know you're living."
"Thank you, William." He got out of the car, patting himself down.
The window went down. "I'll send you everything," he offered.
Philip smiled. "Great." He apparated into the library, startling a house elf. "Sorry. The book?"
"The dark arts study," she said, covering her ears. "Dunnie not hear or see yous. Mistress be very mad."
"Thanks." He jogged that way, smiling at Des. "You called?" he asked. Xander handed over the book carefully, a shocking thing. He had thought the boy would toss it. "Let me see," he said, moving closer to a lamp. "There's something on the pages," he said, running his finger over the engraved lines. "Hmm." He went back to his looking. "Definitely in Thinial."
"The big problem is that the Runes teacher is having a Budge moment," Xander told him, leaning on the back of the couch. "She and the Goblins have a very different translation of about a third of the glyphs. We've had a few stunning arguments before I gave the boys my notes on what they were really."
Philip looked at him. "No one ever said we were experts," he pointed out gently. He went back to touching the marks. "I'm not sure what this is."
"Blair said the same thing," Xander admitted. "Then he got really frustrated and went to look for reference books in the Gringott's library with my ID. I'm guessing they don't have anything since they're the ones who sent it to me to work on."
"It's a life's work all in one small book," Des told him.
"Yeah," Philip said happily. He looked at him. "What do you think it is?"
Xander came over, touching one of the lines. "That's map coordinates. The lines etched into the paper underneath seem to be a height measurement of some kind but I can't be sure since I've never seen this before. None of my caves or tombs have had etched in extra writing." Philip nodded so Xander carefully turned a page. "This is definitely a map, but I'm not sure of where. Unless Middle Earth really exists, then it's somewhere else."
"I know someone who might have an idea," Philip admitted. He looked at Xander, who groaned. "How strong was that memory compulsion?"
"I set mine so they'd remember if I ever had to show back up. I do that with people I think I'm going to need the next time we run into each other. Danny had an extra one put on by the goblins."
"Hmm." Philip shrugged. "I'll help Blair and Draco."
"You can't steal my mate and turn him into a total book nerd," Xander complained.
"I'm not, but he is good at this stuff and this'll be his life's work," Philip reminded him, starting to smile. "Your lip's hangin' down, Xander."
"Fine," he sighed. "Sandburg's going to come up to our library afterwards to look for more references. Come back with me."
"Sure." Philip put the book back into the box and followed him. "Love you, Des," he called over his shoulder.
"Boys," she said, shaking her head. One of the house elves laughed. "I know, he's too old to be called one, but he still acts like he's a teenager." She tidied the desk up a bit, finding the current stack of bills. She sat down to look them over. Some of them were very high. She called Draco, holding up the grocery bill.
"Xander pays them this weekend," he said, smiling at her. "That's not too bad. He's not complaining."
"It's very high."
"A gallon of milk costs two dollars and some," Draco told her. She blinked in shock. "Really. Inflation. Don't worry about it."
"We should start the farm back up," she told him. He shrugged. "Do you think Alex would mind?"
"I have no idea," Draco admitted. "I know he's gotten over riding a lot. Other than that, I don't know." He grinned. "Are you coming up for our first game?"
"Of course," she said firmly. "Have someone save us a few spots." She waved and then kept the connection from closing. "Draco, Philip will be looking for you soon. Alex got sent a book in Thinial." His face nearly split from the smile. "They should be heading for the school's library."
He nodded and signed off, then picked up his things.
"Mr. Malfoy-Dumass, class is not over," Professor McGonagall told him, sounding a bit pissed.
He grinned at her. "That was Des. Xander got sent a book in Thinial. He's looking for me with Philip."
"A whole book?" she asked. He nodded. "How large?"
He shrugged. "She didn't say, but Philip's helping him with it so we don't have any more incidences with the Runes teacher and her funny interpretations." He gathered up his things. "I'm going to library. Give me detention if it pleases you." He hurried out, jogging up the stairs until he could pounce his mate and give him a hug. This meant someone thought his consort was the best person for the job. This was great! It was recognition of his brilliance! This would mean more work in less messy areas of the world! No more deserts! He pounced Xander, giving him a hug. "I'm so happy for you."
Xander beamed and cuddled him back. "I am too. This is a great thing."
"No snugglin' in the library," Philip reminded them, pulling down some reference books. He put most of them back after a look at the table of contents. "Budge."
"He managed to mistranslate a few languages," Xander explained at Draco's curious look. "He's the one the Runes teacher is listening to instead of the goblins who found it and worked on it for years before Budge even heard there was an ancient language."
Ron and Harry ran in and looked at the stack of books. "Runes?"
"Thinial," Draco said proudly, patting Xander gently. "Someone sent him a whole book of it. None of it's decoded."
"Wow," Ron said, smirking at Xander. "I guess we're doing book work for the next year?"
"Possibly," he agreed, looking at Harry. His great-nephew looked a bit clueless. "This means that we're considered the best team for the job," he explained.
"That means no more deserts," Draco agreed. Harry and Xander both laughed at that and Harry gave his uncle a hug. "Where should we start?"
"I'll need your textbook," Philip told him. "Plus whatever sheet Alex has given you lot." Ron pulled his out of his bag, they had been in Runes. Philip looked at it and groaned. "What happened to the old ones?"
"Forgotten in the sands of time," Xander told him. "My year didn't have a Runes teacher so we didn't have a copy of the texts," he admitted. "I took it as an elective theory class. I worked out of the library."
"Can we go to Flourish and Blott's?" Harry asked. "Would they have anything?"
"The less books we have to buy the easier it'll be," Philip told him. "But we might have to. Madam Pince?" he called. She looked down from the upper level. "Do you have any of the Runes books from our year? The ones not by Budge?"
She grimaced. "We have one in the Restricted section but it's not a textbook. It's a diary of a conjurer." Philip and Alex both shuddered. "I know there are some. I could contact the publishers to see if we can get you some. Did you want to buy them?"
"We probably should," Xander told her. "Just to donate to the school if for no other reason."
Draco beamed at her. "He got sent a book of Thinial, non-decoded, to work on."
"Congratulations," she said, beaming at them. "I'm sure Philip and Blair will be a great help to you."
"We could get Hermione and Dawn to come help tonight," Ron offered.
"Yes, you could," Philip agreed. "This isn't going to a short thing. The book's thick and heavy. Also, it's got etched in words underneath it in something else. I can't be sure it's Thinial yet," he told Xander. "One of the pages I touched had something like Linear B."
"Eww," Xander told him.
"I know, but it's sometimes necessary." He looked at the librarian. "Do we have *anybody* that you know of who can do things like that?"
"Not that I know of," she told him.
"We could see if Greg knows a muggle way to solve that problem, maybe bring up an image of the tracings," Harry offered.
"Great idea, Potter," Draco praised. He was too happy to worry about him having praised that one. "Let me do that. Shall I tell Professor Snape as well?"
"Hopefully it's not a potion," Xander told him, looking very serious. "I think it's map coordinates but I can't be sure."
"Fine, don't let me brag."
"Hey, brag away," Xander told him. "And while you're at it, go ask Methos if he knows any of it." Draco nodded, going to do that.
Madam Pince looked down at them. "I'm sure you'll figure it out, Alex. If you need my help, let me know." She went back to shelving books from last night's studying.
Draco walked into the teacher's lounge. These two had time off together this year. Both teachers gave him a look, as did the Headmaster, who was having a game of chess with Methos. "My consort just got sent a book of Thinial, completely not-decoded," he announced.
Methos looked stunned. "Not decoded in the least?" Draco shook his head. "Dirt!"
"What?" Draco asked.
"I've always wanted to see one of those going on and it'll take forever to decode it." He grimaced. "That's not fair."
"So go look," Draco told him impertinently. He smirked at his head of house. "It's also got some tracings underneath the words."
"I doubt we could do it with charcoal," Snape put forth. He touched his arm, waking Greg up from a nap. He laughed, sending back what was going on. Then he looked at Draco. "He'll ask around but don't expect a lot of help."
"Potter thought there might be some muggle technology that could help with that. Something about images?"
Snape shrugged. "He'll look. It may take him a few days."
"That's fine," Draco agreed. "Do we have an expert in Thinial that's not Budge? Or do you have your old Runes book? Philip wanted it."
"In my personal study," Snape told him. "I'll bring it up to the library."
"Thank you, Professor. Professor Methos, are you coming up?"
"After classes," he told him. "I can't be of much help, I wasn't even aware that magic was real back then. I didn't figure that part out until Greece."
"That's fine." Draco went back to the library. "Good news, Professor Snape has his old textbook still," he announced. "He's willing to lend it to us. Professor Methos said he can't be of any help, he didn't know magic existed until he was in Greece." He sat down beside his consort, subtly leaning against his side. He'd have to reward him later if his mate didn't forget to talk to him in the excitement. Xander reached down and gave his knee a gentle caress, making Draco very happy. Xander wouldn't work all the time and not give him any attention.
Blair walked in and sat down at the large table, putting his contribution down. "How did Budge get such a foothold?"
"Easy, he's easy to understand," Xander said dryly, looking at him. "Can I have my book back, Philip? Please?"
"In a sec," Philip said, feeling the edges of the page. "There's some sort of notation down here in English." He grimaced. "Someone's tied to decode it before." He slid it over, turning it so Xander could touch the same spot.
"I'm not good at Braille," Xander warned but he did touch it. "How can you tell?"
"Trace the lines like you would a carving," Blair offered. He checked his watch. "Crap, I'm gonna be late for class. I've already canceled one today." He hurried off. "Xander, if you can't get that, I know someone to talk to," he called as he walked out.
"I wonder if that's why Jim said he bounces," Ron told Harry. Harry grinned at him. "Where do we start?"
"We start with a magical copying spell," Philip told him. "We'll give you each a page. Start by putting in what you know some of them are. They can change in context but not that much." They nodded and stared at Xander. "Alex?" he asked quietly.
"I can't tell," he admitted, handing it back. "Me too? Do I only get a page?"
"I figured we'd go page by page," Philip said, giving him a smile. "We can have two each." Xander grinned at that and Philip copied the pages for them, putting them onto normal parchment. "All right, don't use black ink, boys. Let's start with purple," he said, pulling over the purple ink and some spare quills he had gathered earlier.
"We could each do a color," Draco offered. "That way you would know who screwed up what."
"That'll become blinding," Philip pointed out. "We'll all stick to one, do revisions in another, and do a final one in a third. That way we don't get confused." He handed out the pages, making sure they were numbered. Then he went to hand the book to the librarian so she could put it somewhere safe until they'd need more pages. He came back to find Xander already making notes on his. "What are you doing?"
"Most times, Thinial comes in groupings. Sort of like sentences without the punctuation. They always ended with a verb and I know most of them so I'm separating out the groupings." He glanced up. "It's how I work best, Philip."
"That's fine, Xander. I had forgotten that they didn't use punctuation." He sat down to do the same with Ron's, then Harry's, then Draco's, numbering each one so they could write out lines further down the parchment. "How's that?"
"A good idea," Draco admitted. "Now I can figure out where I am." He blocked off a grouping, looking in the textbook he had claimed to start on what he knew. He also marked which word it was in the sentence. It made it a lot easier on him. His whole page only had three glyphs that were in the book so he'd have a lot to do. He looked down at Ron and Harry. Ron seemed to have a page-full of things he could already translate. "Did I get the harder one?"
Philip looked at him. "Thinial is very progressive. It starts out with a standard entrance about them and who they were. Then it moves on to introduce the topic of the tomb or cave. That's always within the introduction. But yes, you got a page right after it. I figured they'd get tired sooner."
"True," Harry agreed, marking his own page. Now he was glad Xander was making them learn both forms instead of just the one in the class. "Philip, will our NEWTs have Budge on them?"
"They might, depending on who updated it," Xander told him. "Mine was more of an on- your-own class so I only had a written. The goblins gave me an oral exam."
"Ours had a bit of Budge but not all of it," Philip told him. "You can write and ask if you have a doubt, or ask the tester when they come in."
"I might have to write and ask," Harry admitted. "The teacher will never accept the non- Budge interpretation."
"Yeah, she and Xander got into a few spectacular fights," Ron agreed. "She started out saying that this might be a bit different and Xander countered all but four that first day."
"Five," Xander told him. "By then I was hoarse." He looked up. "Did you know that Budge said the 'archive' glyph meant food?" He looked down and cleaned off the blot of ink. Then he summoned his school bag and pulled out his special muggle pens, handing them out to his crew. "Here, they won't drip, like mine did." He looked at Philip. "Do you remember what that one was?" he asked, pointing at it. "I thought it was meat but I'm not sure."
Philip looked at it. "Without the purple, as long as there was a dot of some kind, it meant deer."
"It didn't have a dot," Xander told him.
Philip smiled. "Then it probably still meant deer, just baby deer. The word before it was hunt."
"Okay." Xander put that one in red instead of green. All of his sure ones went down in green. Anything he wasn't sure of went in red. "Red is for maybes, green is for positives," he ordered.
"That works too," Draco agreed, cleaning his parchment and rewriting the few he had.
Hermione, Dawn, Luna, and Ginny walked in with the crew after dinner. "A whole book?" Luna asked. Xander nodded. "I've got to help with that. May I?"
"Sure," Xander agreed. "That means less work for us." She hugged him and skipped off to get the book from the librarian so she could copy her own page. She came back with ten pages of newly copied text, handing them out to the four women and putting the rest onto the middle of the table. "Thanks, Luna," he said, handing out the new sets of pens he had ran out to get. "Green is for sure ones, red is for maybes. We'll use the purple for corrections and the blue for the final draft." Everyone nodded. He sat down with his journal, writing out the meanings he already had and what page he had. Then he started on the next line.
"You've obviously had to do this before, Xander, any other suggestions?" Hermione asked as she pulled out her notes and Ron's copy of the non-Budge translations.
"Yeah, expect to want something to nibble," he warned. "I usually do within an hour."
"Not in the library," Luna warned. "She's a beast about that sort of thing. Even in the back rooms."
"We could work in a classroom or down in the room where Xander was teaching courtly graces," Harry offered, getting down to work. "Xander, dueling club tonight."
"I know," he admitted. "Tell me when it's time. I get lost."
"Sure," Ginny told him. "Can you teach me that gold charm? That way I can use it on some of my own hair?"
"Unless your hair has no oils on it, it won't be very good in grade," Philip told her absently, still working. "You can't usually cash it in. Someone tried to cash in their foot once and the goblins got really ticked off at them." He smiled and marked another glyph, moving onto the next one. "I've missed this."
"So work for a translating firm," Luna suggested. "They're supposed to make good money."
"I specialize in ancient," Philip pointed out.
"So do French," Xander offered. "And work with some museums."
"Maybe," Philip agreed.
An hour later someone cleared their throat. "Dumass, we did have a meeting tonight," Snape said dryly.
"Nearly done with this word, I'm conjugating," Xander said, finally putting down what he thought it was. It was some form of 'have'. He put everything aside and tapped people. "Dueling club?" Most everyone got up and went to that. Luna even went, but she was reading a book as she walked. Philip agreed to come as well, he needed a break, his neck was sore.
"Let me, Philip," Harry said quietly while they waited, working on his neck muscles for him. Philip moaned, drawing attention. "We've been bent over a table studying," he told everyone. They went back to what they had been doing. "How's that?"
"Thanks, Harry. Sorry to have you busted," he said quietly.
Harry grimaced. "I like girls."
"I know you do," Philip agreed with a smile. "Some day you'll find one that'll knock you for a loop." He turned back around at Snape's cleared throat. "Sorry."
"Thank you." He looked at him. "Would you like to come up and demonstrate this move?"
"I can," Philip agreed. "I haven't dueled in nearly forever." He hopped up onto the stage and took off his overshirt, tossing it to Dawn to hold. Then he pulled his wand and bowed. They went back to back and paced off the three steps, then turned and Philip paused. Snape waved his wand. "I never attack first."
"Very well." Snape cast a curse and Philip put up a shield. "Very well done," he praised dryly. "A bit slow."
"He's out of practice," Hermione defended. "Besides, he's one of those nice people who only attacks first when someone's life is in danger."
Ron leaned close to Harry. "Think she's in love?" he whispered. Harry swatted him, giving him a disgusted look. He gave his best friend a steady look and Harry nodded finally.
"Let's not warn him," Harry whispered back once no one was watching them. "She deserves a good hunt."
Ron snickered and swatted him back. "Grumpy."
"Boys," Snape snapped. "Get up here. Let's see how well you do since you're not listening." They shrugged and got up onto the stage, doing the formalities before pacing off. Ron fired first and Harry managed a weak shield. Ron's answering one was much stronger. "Obviously you learned to protect yourself from the twins," he said bitterly. "Potter, yours needs work. Like Potions, it takes concentration and desire not to be harmed."
"Think of it like putting out a shield of light," Philip offered. "It's very useful."
"Okay," Harry said, trying it again. This time it was stronger. "How's that?" It fell. "Damn."
"Language, five points off," Snape said immediately. He looked at Xander. "That is one thing he shouldn't have taught you."
"I knew it before him," Harry said, giving him a smug look. "All the bastards who tried to kill me used them often." He went back to his former spot, leaning against Ron's side. "Is that how you lost thirty points in potions?" Ron nodded, grimacing. "Think we make him go back to his rooms and let out a long invective string?" Ron snickered, nudging him. "What?" he asked innocently.
"What are you two going on about now, Potter?" Snape asked impatiently.
"Just wondering if you went back to your rooms at night and swore about us, sir," Ron said cheerfully.
Snape looked down at him. "I don't feel enough about either of you to use such strong language. Unlike some, I don't sound like I work on a dock." He went back to instructing his Slytherins while the other houses were taught by Xander and Philip.
Harry stepped back a bit but Dawn stopped him, making him frown.
"Let me," she hissed, subtly pointing her wand at Snape. "Lepor lepos is man's sermo muto ut is fatur , planto him sanus amo ancient dies quod planto suus sermo discedo." (Charm this man's speech to change when he speaks, make him sound like the ancient days and make his speech go away.)
Xander looked down at her. "Dawn Summers! I felt that! That's much too complicated. The easier form is Morph lingua Latin, use it next time."
Philip looked at Snape. "Severus, you might want to uncharm yourself," he warned.
Snape opened his mouth but what came out was unintelligible to most students. He glared at Dawn, who grinned. "Sorry, sir, I thought you'd like to figure out some new conjugations for some of our spells that we're having problems with."
He stomped out, going to get the Headmaster to fix this so he could complain about the girl. After all he had done for her too!
Dawn jogged after him, stopping him. "I only did it because Harry was going to do it. Besides, you always say that we conjugate our charms wrong," she offered. "Let me take it off?" He shook his head. "I can so."
"And you'll be doing so with me," Holly said as she walked up the halls. "I felt strong magic." Snape said something to her and she swatted Dawn. "Bad girl! Go sit in the corner!"
"I'm not four!" she said. "At least I cast an easy out!" She pulled her wand and concentrated. "Release this man for he is keen, let his speech come clean." She swished at him, doing nothing but it still seemed to help her. "There." She grinned at him. "Pretty good, huh? And Harry didn't get into trouble or make it permanent."
"Your attempts to gain attention have now netted you two detentions and more lessons with myself and Holly," Snape told her. "Obviously, Lovegood and her mentors are warping you to the wrong side of the battle." He continued off to swear in peace.
Holly put an arm around her shoulders. "Yes, you have," she agreed. "This mean streak of yours is pretty cool, but fairly dangerous. Remember, your intent will change the spell." She led Dawn down to her rooms and started her working on her next lesson, one to help her get all those impulses out.
Upstairs, Ron was giving Harry a look. "She's pretty neat, even though she did take it off him."
Harry nodded. "That was very cool," he agreed. "Did she do it wandless?" Ron nodded proudly. "Good on her, mate. You've got yourself one hell of a witch."
"Mr. Potter!" McGonagall yelled down the hallways. "I heard that!"
"Dawn language charmed Snape," Ron called back. "We're really proud of her." They ran off, going to hide from her for the next little while, at least until she calmed down. It'd be a nicer detention that way. They cast 'ignore me' charms and snuck back into the dueling meeting but Xander obviously saw them because he looked right at them and smirked. "Shit," Ron muttered. "Busted."
Harry shook his head. "It'll be okay. He'll only teach us more stuff."
"Good point," Ron agreed, cheering up again.
Blair looked up as the group came back from wherever, grinning at them. "I see we're taking the non-Budge, yet conservative approach." He got out of Philip's chair, pulling one over to sit beyond Draco. "How can I help?"
"We're still looking some of them up," Ron told him. "That idea you gave us worked."
Dawn grinned. "I cast it my way and took it back off."
"Good job," Blair praised, smiling at her. "I always wanted to do that to a teacher."
"We had one that spoke so we couldn't understand anyway," Philip reminded him. Blair looked at him. "Arthimancy? Norwegian teacher with the heavy accent?"
"Oh, yeah, him," Blair agreed, nodding. "That's why I learned that one from the book." The students giggled. "Really. He was a big guy with no hair, a worn out body, and an accent so thick you'd think he wasn't speaking English at all."
"I'm glad we don't have any of those," Ron admitted. "I have a hard time with accents sometimes."
"You'll get used to them," Xander assured him, back into his work. "Okay, here's a new one. It's a weapon, with a vegetable marking, like it's a carrot gun."
"Maybe it was a carrot gun," Harry offered. "They would hurt going at a very high rate of speed."
"Probably not," Philip told him. "Thinial has distinct markings for different sort of things. Food and combat are two different ones." He took Xander's page, finding it quickly. "That is odd," he agreed. He handed it down to Blair. "Did you see that in Runes?"
"No," Blair said, shaking his head and patting his old notebook of notes. "I've never seen that one." He handed it back down to Xander via Draco. "Interesting. Maybe they did have a gun that shot vegetables. The ancients were odd enough to make machines that could suck a person dry once it was attached to them."
"They did?" Harry asked, looking at Xander. "Can we use one of those?"
"We can't let them get loose, otherwise I'd lead the raid to stick it on the bastard myself," Xander said quietly.
"Okay," Harry sighed, getting back down to his work.
Ron looked down at Dawn, then grinned. "That's it, some of us need a good snog. Come on, Dawn."
She frowned but let him lead her out into the hallway for a few minutes before coming back alone. "Ron is not the least energetic."
"Summers! Dumass! Malfoy-Dumass!" their quidditch captain yelled from the doorway. "What are you doing? We had practice earlier."
Dawn looked at him. "Someone sent Xander an entire book in Thinial to decode."
"Wow," he said, shaking his head. "That's not my sort of thing. It's a good thing you got some Ravenclaws and Granger. Come on, you still need work."
"I know," she agreed, kissing Xander on the cheek. "I'll see you later."
"No shagging in the broom closet," he mumbled as he looked up that sigal.
"Of course not, that'd be dusty and nasty," she agreed as she walked over to join him, taking her broom. "Sorry."
"That's all right. The other two are in Potter's class, you're not yet. Come on. You can ever get Ron to help you if you want."
"He's off bouncing around," she said, waving a hand around. "The studying got a bit much for him." She spotted a house elf and jogged over to it. "Hi, Sunny. Can you please tell my Ron that I'm outside practicing?" She nodded, grinning at her. "Thanks." She caught up with her Captain again, heading out to do her house duty. It was a really fun sport. She didn't know why some, namely Draco, Ron, and Harry, took it so seriously but it was fun to play.
Sunny popped up to Gryffindor, looking around to make sure there were none of those nasty clothes laying around. She found Ron reading a book and tapped him gently on the arm. "Sunny has message for Weasy," she told him. "Mistress Dawn say shes outside practicing, sends Sunny to tell Weasy."
"Thanks, Sunny," Ron said, giving her a grin and a piece of candy from the dish behind her. "I think that's much better than the dusty studying stuff." He headed out to help her. He wanted to face a real keeper, not one who played around. It would only make him better after all.
Neville smiled at Sunny. "You can have a few more if you want. Most of us don't like that. I bought them." She took two more and disappeared, handing them out to the little kids among them. "Can we stop Hermione's clothing drive?" he asked the others in the common room.
"Hell yes," Dean yelled from across the room. "I'm tired of making my own bed." The others nodded, some of them heading up to confiscate Hermione's knitting stuff.
Blair and Philip shared a look as they looked at the pages they had done. There was less than half. Even on their own pages. They looked at Xander, who was drooling onto his journal. Fortunately Draco had charmed it to be waterproof earlier. "We need help," Blair decided.
"We do," Philip agreed. "If the goblins couldn't then I'm not sure who could."
Xander snorted and sat up, wiping off his mouth. "Sorry, needed a quick nap."
"It's been an hour, Xander," Philip said, giving him a friendly smile. "We think we need help."
"We probably do," Xander agreed, putting his head onto his hands. "I don't know anyone who could do it though."
"I do," Blair offered, "but you met him when you went to rescue them from the unholy things."
Xander winced, stretching his back. "I did the charm so it would undo if they ran into me again but I'm not sure about Jackson's memory charm from the goblins."
"We can check," Blair offered. "I know where he's stationed."
"I had to deliver something there to him," Xander told him, looking over at him. "How did we do?"
"Maybe half. Including the greeting; there's a lot in there that I've never seen before."
"Me either," Blair admitted. "And you know it's got to be obscure if neither of us know about it."
Xander nodded at the wiseness of that one. "Is it safe for us to even call him?"
"Probably not," Philip agreed, "but it'll drive us nuts otherwise." He shrugged at Blair's look. "It will me if I don't know what it means."
"Fine, I'll check with the people who sent it, see if that's acceptable to them," Xander decided, pushing back. "Let's clean this up. I can put it up in our room."
"Won't Draco throw a fit? You're paying more attention to it than you do him," Blair pointed out.
"If he does, I'm spanking him," Philip said with a slight smirk.
"He's mine to spank, Philip. If you want to spank someone, Hermione was giving you looks all night long and she's not taken," Xander said sweetly, grinning at him.
"She's too young for me too," Philip said firmly.
"Yeah, because she's so young mentally. She's a genius, Philip, they're not like normal kids. Really, we're not." He helped gather everything into a carryable pile, then followed Xander up to his room.
"Wanting to chat with Draco?" Xander asked.
"Wanting to ask Dawn something," Blair admitted. "Maybe give her some advice on how to block shots."
"You need kids of your own, Sandburg." He opened the door and walked up his stairs. "Someone get Dawn for him."
Dawn looked up from the couch she was laying on. "How did the research go?"
"Slowly," Xander told her, heading into his room. He immediately pounced on his consort because he was giving him a hurt look. "I'm sorry I fell asleep in the library."
"You're forgiven. I'm sure it's given you extra energy to make it up to me tonight," Draco said, giving him a nip on the lip. "Whenever you've showered and all that."
Xander put everything onto his very clean desk and went to do that, one never kept hot little love moneys waiting. He might go pounce Blair if he got too desperate.
Xander looked at the goblin who had sent him the book. "There's a lot we can't find in the books," he offered. "We're moving along but that's stopping us. It's even in the introduction. A good third of it." The goblin looked impressed. "I've got Sandburg and Callahan working on it with my crew for the moment." That got an even more impressed look, with a touch of worry. "And we don't know what to do about that beside asking one of Blair's old friends to help."
"Who?" the goblin asked.
"The one you met on that dig?"
Xander nodded. "Him. He's an Archeologist. He admitted he's seen Thinial before in his current job, though he thinks it's alien, but he's not one of us."
"Hmm. An interesting quandary." The goblin looked at him. "How did you charm him?"
"I charmed him to break it if I showed up again. But you guys charmed him too."
"We use that one usually," the goblin told him. "Could you do this without endangering him?"
"I don't know," Xander admitted. "He knows what I am. He knows nothing else, but he knows what I am. And Bill and Gruinth too," he admitted. "I was having a slight breakdown due to Rosenburg when they came to look over that archive." The goblin nodded. "I could bring the book to him. It's got tracings on it, and if it's alien like he thinks then maybe he could use it too. I still think it's map coordinates but some of them have no relation to this planet. Plus there's those stupid etchings on the pages."
"All true," the goblin agreed. "I have no problem with you calling him in. I know none of us do very well with Thinial and you seemed to run into more of it than anyone else."
"Yeah, I did kinda have the feel for it," Xander admitted, grinning sheepishly. "Anything you want to order me to find out of that?"
"No, just see if it is a find," he ordered. "If it is, then you've done a lot of hard work and can claim the sites. If not, then you've done a lot of hard work and you can claim the work." He shrugged. "That does not bother us. What bothers us is Bill Weasley's recent temper problems."
"Bill's throwing fits?"
"His coordinates have been off each time. He keeps landing in a closet. It's been upsetting him."
"Is he ill? He was the most accurate apparator I've ever seen."
"We're sending him up your way to check. Our own mediwitch is still on maternity leave and the local hospitals refuse to do our exams for us."
"Fortunately, Madam Pomfrey is a really nice lady," Xander told him. "So, no issues?" The goblin shook his head. "Thanks, I'm off to see the Minister." He waved and apparated off, heading to the Ministry. He registered his wand and took the little dot that showed him where he needed to go. First, he popped in on Arthur. "Hi. Came to tell you Ron's not the most scholarly," he said as he opened the door.
"No, that's never been Ron's forte," Arthur agreed, putting down his quill. "What's going on? You'd probably not come up here unless there's a problem."
"Actually, I'm on my way to see the Minister, just thought I'd pop in and tell you Ron's been slacking off in Runes again. Not that I expect otherwise. He's getting the use language down very well but the more esoteric stuff is going over his head." Arthur nodded. "Other than that, he's doing very well. He's got a game tomorrow so I figured I'd see you and Bill then."
"Bill's coming up for the game?"
"No, the goblins are sending Bill up for an exam. He's been landing in the closet when he apparates up for a check-in." He shrugged. "No clue. Probably exhaustion. That's what it was last time." He waved. "I've got to go up and make his ever-loving week. Later, Arthur." He wandered off, following the jewel. It led him right to the secretary. "Hi, I'm Alex Dumass and I made an appointment to talk to the old coot?"
She looked up at him over the rim of her glasses. "Mr. Weasley is in there."
"Arthur came up to talk about me?"
"The other one."
"Oh, Percy," he said, nodding. "That's fine, I can wait," he said, sitting down. He handed back the jewel and she gave him a funny look. "I'm a curse breaker, I've got my way memorized."
"Ah." She put it in a small tube and sent it through a chute, back to the reception area. "That must be very handy."
"Unless I'm in the mall," he admitted. "Too many people mess it up." He looked over as the door opened and Percy walked out, looking very smug. He stood up, resisting the urge to swat him. That boy had made Molly upset but he was trying to get better. He walked into the office. "Did you sort it out with him finally?"
"Percy only agreed to come back when I came into the job," the Minister said, looking at him. "What did you need, Mr. Dumass?"
"The goblins sent me a book in Thinial."
"A whole book?"
Xander nodded. "Totally in code with some strange etchings on the pages."
"Oh, dear." He sat back, clasping his hands over his stomach. "And?"
"Daniel Jackson. He admitted he'd seen them before, he just thinks they're alien."
"I saw a report with his name on it," he said, searching for it.
"It was probably last Christmas."
"No, since then." He found it and reread the section with his name in it. "Ah, here we go. He managed to find another Thinial artifact among a museum collection." He looked at him. "He didn't remember us."
"I used the same memory charm the goblins do for the people I'll have to work with amiably in the future," Xander admitted. "So they'll remember when they see me."
"Good, and the problem?"
"He's muggle, he's American, and he's somehow working with the military about these aliens."
"Uh-huh." He nodded. "And you want to do what?"
"Maybe bring him here, set him up in a hotel, and see if he can figure out the ones Callahan, Sandburg, and myself can't find in the books." He leaned down a bit so he could talk quietly. "Besides, if there are aliens and they're using Thinial, I'd rather have a guy like him have some knowledge than none at all. I'm not really in the mood to save the world again this year. I'm too busy."
"You've done it before?"
"I regrew up in Sunnydale."
"Oh." He shuddered. "I had heard you sent someone over in your place."
"Yeah, Brad went for a year for me. Since the reunion. He came back when Sunnydale imploded after a Hellgod came after my little sister Dawn."
The Minister blinked a few times. "Do we have an account of what you've done over there?"
"No, but the Watchers do," he offered. "I know you've got someone over there."
"Yes, but they listed you as a hanger-on. Nothing very useful outside of bait."
"Well, I did do a very good impersonation of a worm, but that's mostly because of the shields Dumbledore put on me when he drop-kicked my ass over there. May I?" he asked, pointing at a chair. The minister waved a hand. "Thanks." He sat down and stretched out a little, getting comfortable. "I was magicless until I came back for the reunion. The shields kept me from accessing my memories and everything. It was so bad, it took three of us to free me from them and I had to be unconscious, plus the school nurse. That's why I'll defend Poppy Pomfrey to the death."
"Interesting. What did you do without magic?"
"You mean besides battle plans, helping my friends at the time - including a slayer, and defeating an ascension, sending a semi-souled vampire to hell so he'd quit stalking us, and having a staking count of somewhere over sixty vampires?" He grinned. "We also took down the government's first attempt at using demons in the military. We blew up the Judge demon. I nearly got killed by a life-sucking Incan mummy girl and eaten by a shape changing praying mantis woman. Oh, and let's not forget helping to close the hellmouth when Rosenburg started to black out by feeding her my energy. Not to mention playing many games of checkers with a few master vampires and playing kitten poker with a few demons each week."
The minister wanted to be impressed, but that sounded like bragging. "Prove it."
"Call the Watchers," Xander offered. "And tell them that whomever was watching should really have asked us what we did within the group. Even Cordelia had some uses in Sunnydale."
The Minister stood up and went to a mirror on his wall, tapping a decorative mark on it with his wand. A new head appeared. "I have one Alexander Dumass in my office. May I please have his file?"
Xander stood up and waved. "Me."
"Bloody-ever-loving-fucking-hell, they made you regrow on the Hellmouth!" the head shouted.
Xander nodded. "And they made me do it magicless."
"Then we need to revise your file, Mr. Harris. Should we get that from Mr. Giles?"
"Barely," the Watcher offered. "He's still not all there. Glory did a number on him." He frowned and opened his mouth.
"From the reunion on, I had a not-me there to help out. A young auror named Brad."
"That explains most of it," he agreed, nodding. "Give me a moment and I'll bring the corrected version myself," he told the Minister. His head disappeared and he went running for the head office, bursting into Quentin Traver's office. "Did you know Alexander Harris was really Alexander Dumass, deaged and magicless?"
Travers choked on the air he was breathing. "He was?" The younger watcher nodded. "Then I think his file is wrong. Go find out what he did."
"He was more than their moral support and bait I'm sure, Travers. I need his file, the Minster for Magic has requested it." It was dug out and handed over. "Thank you. I'll be back later." He headed off, going to talk to the man, and possibly the vampire Buffy. She was an interesting case study.
Xander and Blair walked up to the front gate of the base where Daniel was stationed, Xander grinning at the familiar looking security guard. "Hi. We need to see Dr. Jackson?"
"No jeep this time?" he asked.
"No, we traveled a different way," he admitted. "Is he in today?"
"Well, he's not quite here," the guard admitted.
"Can you call his boss for us?" Blair asked. "He'll understand why we need to see Daniel."
Xander nodded. "We can even wait right here if necessary. It's not cold today."
"Let me check," the guard said, calling his supervisor. "Sir, that man from the jeep is here again, this time with someone else and they want to talk to the big guy downstairs."
"Or Hammond, whichever one is around," Xander corrected.
"And he knows who Hammond is." He listened. "Yes, sir, they said they'd wait right here. Thank you, sir." He hung up. "General Hammond is here and he's calling him to come up."
"Cool." Blair pulled an envelope out of his pocket and held it out. "Did you want to check it first? I know you guys are kinda paranoid these days."
"That's all right, if you'll open it?" the guard asked. Blair opened it and let him look inside. "Aw, more nerd stuff," he said, shuddering. "Dr. Jackson gets a lot of that."
"We're going to try to beg him for a touch of help," Blair admitted with a grin. "Danny and I did some schooling together. I haven't heard from him in years." He nudged Xander as a bald man strode out of the tunnel.
"That's a really cool likeness of Hammond, but I met him on the dig in Iran," Xander told him, loud enough so the double could hear. The double stopped and looked at him so Xander leaned against the side of the guard shack. "I promise, he knows us. Have a camera point our way and let him view if it makes him feel safer."
"Look up please, sir," the guard requested.
Xander looked up and waved. "Hi, it's me again," he said, saying the release code to his spell. Blair nudged him. "What?" he asked innocently. The next guy who came out was Hammond and he had a guard carrying a gun with him. "I'm not that mean," he noted.
"Mr. Harris. And you are?" he asked, looking at Blair.
"Sandburg. I'm an old friend of Danny's and I need help translating something."
"And you couldn't call him at home?"
"He's never there," Blair told him.
"Good point," he muttered. He looked behind him, then at them.
"I've spent most of my life in tunnels and tombs. Besides, it can't be worse than the Sunnydale base after we got through with it," Xander said patiently. "We only need some help from Danny, personally if possible, to decode some Thinial. There's a few odd glyphs that aren't in our books and he said he's run into it before. Since it predates Atlantis, well, you know the rest of the tale of woe about lack of researchers," Xander said. "Just don't try to capture us, huh?"
Hammond swallowed. "We've heard and I'm not part of that operation."
"Good. We like that in a human being," Blair said happily. "We can wait out here for a bit. I brought cards."
Hammond chuckled. "I see you do know the military."
"Not personally, but my roommate's a former Ranger."
"Ah. Mr. Ellison. Where is he?"
"We're doing an exchange thing in Scotland. I'm teaching at St. Andrews at the moment."
"Your records from Customs said that," Hammond pointed out. He looked at Xander. "Yours don't seem to be complete."
"That's because I hate paperwork. It gets on my nerves. Sorta like the guy with the itchy finger." He looked at the guard. "I can promise you, that bullet won't hit either of us if you try to shoot us. It might ricochet, but it won't be hitting us." He looked at Hammond again. "If we show you the glyphs, can you at least tell him we need to confer?"
"If you'd like. I've got him coming back through. May I?" Blair handed over the envelope, watching as he pulled it out. "Oh." He looked at them. "Your kind deal with this?"
Xander wiggled his fingers. "My kind deal with this. Blair is a hapless researcher I've sucked in to help me with the book I got sent. Hence my protective attitude toward him."
"All right. There's a conference room right inside the interior gate. We'll put you in there until we can get Dr. Jackson back." He walked them that way. "Why did I have to come up personally?"
"The memory charm was set so I could deactivate it if I ran into you again, just in case I needed the support or help."
"Oh." He nodded. "That makes sense. It doesn't waste a resource but we can't be a pain either."
"No, you can't and you also couldn't find us. You still probably won't want to."
"Like I said, I don't like that program. I think we get enough willing volunteers as is." He let them into the unused conference room. "Stay here. If you step outside, you'll probably be shot."
"Can I hit the water cooler then?" Blair asked. "I've got a flask I can fill up."
"Let the guard get it for you. It's further in." He looked at them. "How did you get here?"
"The same way I got my very British jeep here," Xander told him. He gritted his teeth and grabbed the table's edge. "Merlin, what is that!" he said, trying to control his reaction to the flux of magic. Very chaotic magic.
"He can feel power flows," Blair explained, handing over his flask. "Just some water, please?" he requested.
"Yes, sir." The guard left, going to do that. He brought it back and it was still damp on the outside. "Here you go."
"Thanks," Blair said with a grin. He took a sip then put it onto the table. "Xander, are you gonna live?"
"I'll have to, you suck at getting back to the school," Xander said, starting to calm down. He looked at the general. "Do you get a lot of computer malfunctions around that thing? The chaotic energy flux is massive and painful. It's got to cause others problems."
"We shielded everything before we let it near, but it's something to test," the general offered, giving them a nod before leaving them alone. He had the guard stay there while he went downstairs, shaking his head. "Holy Hannah, what next?" he muttered. He walked into the Gate room and frowned at his favorite decoder. "You've got visitors here. One Dr. Sandburg. One Alexander Harris?"
"Harris?" he asked, grimacing as he headed out. "Why?"
"They've got some Asgardian."
"They do? The strange language from the Iran dig?" The general nodded, realizing his person wasn't out from under the memory charm yet. "Where are they? I haven't seen Blair in forever. Why didn't he call the house?"
"The nice Anthropologist pointed out that you're never home," Hammond told him. "They're in the conference room right next to the interior gate." Dr. Jackson nodded and walked off, muttering to himself. "And you can't have more than a week off," he called after him.
"Thank you, sir. I'll keep that in mind." Daniel walked out to the elevator then headed up to the front gate, smiling at the guard who opened the door for him. "Thanks." He walked in and the door was shut.
"Hi, it's me again," Xander told him. Daniel shook his head. "Clearer now?"
"Much. You found one that worked?"
"It was in that last shipment." Xander leaned on the table. "You remember the Thinial I showed you?" Daniel nodded, sitting down and taking the envelope. "I got a whole book of it. We can only decode about half of it. I know some of it has map coordinates for around here. I figure you could probably use the knowledge since you seemed rather excited to see it in that tomb. We'd like to offer you a chance to be our willing slave for a few days to help us."
"Slave?" Daniel asked.
"We treat them well, but we'd expect you to be like Blair and I and live in the library. That's what my grandmother calls us, slaves to the books."
"Ah." Daniel looked at the copy, touching the paper. "Parchment?"
"Standard issue among my kind," Xander told him.
"Neat." He looked at the images. "This is a really old book, the images are blurry."
"The person who made the copy was a little tired this morning," Blair admitted. "How have you been?"
"Great. You?" He looked at him and grinned. "Sentinel?"
"Yeah. Aliens?" Daniel gave him a look. "Oh, no." Daniel shrugged. "Man! I don't need that, I've got a bad guy who's turned himself into a half-snake to fight, not to mention freshmen."
"Snake? Like inside him?"
"No, like he's changed himself until he's half snake," Xander told him. "It made him more powerful and scary. We're expecting to kill him any day now, that way he can't commit more genocide."
"I thought you were kidding when you said your people are at war," Danny said, looking upset.
"It's not any worse than the US trying to round us all up and make us work for them," Blair told him.
"You are?" Daniel asked.
Blair nodded. "Yup, sure am. For the longest time, I thought you were."
"No, I had an interest in the old ways, but nothing further." He looked very upset. "Since when?"
"Since I went to school for it at eleven," Blair offered. "I'm sorry, Danny."
"No, I understand, I just never figured you for being so...odd."
"Danny, you deal with aliens," Xander pointed out kindly. "We're about the same sort of odd. I deal with demons, Blair deals with native things and deadly plants."
"I guess." He looked at the paper again. "Is the book any better?"
"Much better," Xander promised. He leaned closer. "Like I said last time, I don't care if you guys have stuff that'll help you. I doubt most anything in that book will definitively point to the existence of our kind. In which case, you can easily have information from it, but not the original because it's kinda priceless. Deal?"
"And I have to go to England?"
"Well, yeah," Xander admitted. "Because I'm not going to be darted and captured like some wild creature for anything, not even decoding this book."
"You were serious?" Xander nodded. "Why? You have free will."
"You remember that file on the Initiative?" Daniel nodded slowly. "They had free will too, they were simply different. We're a more human version of different."
"Oh." Daniel sighed and put down the paper. "Can you get me there or should I arrange for a flight?"
"There's a special portkey that can move you as well as us," Blair offered. "We've had some problems with them recently."
"If he tries to hijack it, I'm going to kill the snakey bastard," Xander said firmly. "Harry or no Harry." Blair looked at him. "You'll find I like action, Blair. I jump into things. I like jumping into things. It's saved my life a number of times. In this case, I'm sure we can jump in and kick his ass at least enough to get us free."
"Maybe," Blair admitted. "I don't like combat though."
"So don't. You guard the brains and I'll be the brawn."
"If it's not safe," Daniel broke in, "I could take a normal flight."
"The book is over four hundred pages long," Xander told him. Daniel's mouth fell open. "Yeah. And I know you can only get limited time off for this sort of thing. I was possessed by the a private first class, I know those things. I understand fully. Mostly, I want you to see if you can tell what the etchings on the pages are. There's little tiny things etched into it and we can't figure out how to get it short of dirtying the page with something like fingerprinting powder."
Daniel snorted. "No, there's a computerized imaging system that would work. We could borrow the book and do it here, then give it back."
"I can't let it out of my sight, Daniel. It's literally a priceless artifact. It was found in the tomb of a guy who habitually stole from the library in Alexandria. It should be in a library. The goblins trusted me with it and said I can't give it out."
"I can understand that. We've got a portable system. It's not as powerful but we can handle that," Daniel offered. "Or we could order you one?"
"I could probably use it, even though I do more with cave walls than anything else. Is this where Archeology is heading?" Daniel nodded. "Then I wouldn't mind the advice. Our fields are similar and we do it for similar reasons, only we usually get there before you guys."
"I'd rather you guys got there first. It took me a week to heal from that thing behind the door trying to kill me." He stood up. "Let me head downstairs, grab my bag and stuff. I'll be right back up. We'll head to the airport and do this the normal way."
"I'll get your tickets," Xander offered. "Did you want more exposure and to stay at the house? If not, we can work something out and come over to bug you."
"That'd be fine, thank you, Xander." He headed down to his office, grabbing his journals with the language information he'd need, his usual travel bag - which was always packed these days - and a few pads of paper to go with the journals. He could transcribe it later if he needed to. Someone knocked on the door. "Hey, Jack."
"It is not O'Neill," Teal'c said as he walked in. "What has happened?"
"Do you remember the Iran dig?"
"I was not there for it, but I remember hearing about it from others. Has something new been found?"
"Well, yes and no. You see, we found an off-shoot form of Asgardian at the dig, on the walls. The people who joined us were from a small community who had some claim on some of the things in the tomb." Teal'c looked startled. "And now they've got a book full of this new language. The person who's working on it says it has map coordinates. He said we can share anything relevant. So I'm going to England for a few days to work with him."
"I see." He looked impressed. "Are these wizards going to put you up?" Daniel stopped dead, looking at him like he hadn't seen him before. "We know of them DanielJackson. They have been known to us for many years."
"Well, yeah, these guys are wizards," he admitted quietly. "Don't say that too loud, apparently the US is trying to conscript them."
"I see. That would be bad. They could conceivably kill everyone." He shrugged. "May I come with you?"
"I have no idea," Daniel admitted. "I can ask."
"While you gather your things, I will retrieve something to show them. I have something that may interest them." He went to his locker, pulling out his backpack and putting in the book he had found his son playing with. It was not their sort of thing and had been forbidden ever since the wizards had been found. He rejoined Daniel in his office, helping him gather up notes. Then they walked back up the stairs. He nodded politely at the two men. "Which one of you is like the great Merlin?"
Xander raised his hand. "Me. Why? And you are?"
"This is Teal'c. He's an ally and part of my team," Daniel told him.
Teal'c took off his backpack and pulled out the book, handing it over. "I had wondered if that was of your people. Every now and then, your knowledge comes into our hands though it is forbidden."
Xander's mouth fell open and stayed there. Blair nudged him but Xander didn't move. He tugged at the journal, making him let go of it. "What is this?" he asked as he looked at it. "Holy shit, that's Ancient knowledge." He kicked Xander under the table. "Can he come too?"
"Yeah," Xander said, nodding, looking up at the big man. "You want to come? Can you handle a bit of strange stuff?"
"I have no problem with strange things. After all, I find many of your sports to be that way."
"You've never seen Quidditch," Blair told him, standing up again. "Danny, did you drive in?"
"Sure did. You guys didn't?"
"No, we kinda popped in to talk to you," Blair admitted, taking Xander with him before he could bug the nice man for the knowledge long gone. There would be enough time for that once they got home. "We think it would be better if you both flew the normal way. Less questions asked. We'll pick you up at the other side."
Xander handed over the reservations he had made. "This is for you." He handed over his unlabeled credit card, a wizarding crossover run through Gringotts. "Get him one too and it's fine if you guys upgrade to first class. I got you business since first class was really tiny the last time I flew British Air." He clapped Teal'c on the back. "Can I bring the book with me for a bit? I'll hand it back as soon as you land."
"If you would like," he agreed. "Do you have anything from your new project?"
"All we brought was a copy," Blair said, letting him have it.
"I know this one. I have seen it before. It is considered a sacred text from your people," he told Xander. "Interesting."
"Thanks." Xander grinned. "Okay, we're going to walk down the road and then blink out. You guys follow. We'll be meeting you as far into the airport as possible."
"Go ahead and blink out here," Daniel told him, walking them toward the gate. "We're used to strangeness."
"You're sure?" Daniel shrugged and nodded. "Cool. Thanks." He took Blair with him once he felt the camera swing away from his position.
Daniel looked back and grimaced. "I thought they were kidding."
"They can do such things. That is one of the reasons my people do not mess with them."
"Probably a good idea, Teal'c. Xander is a very strong man. He defeated the thing that nearly killed all of us." Teal'c looked impressed. "You two will probably have some battle stories to swap."
"Hopefully. How long are we going for?"
"Six days. I only got a week off." He checked them out at the gate and headed for the parking area, they only had two hours to get to the airport.
Xander landed them in the Ministry, right beside the reception desk. He tossed over his wand and took off running, heading for the Minister's office. He barged in. "It's too important to care," he said as he walked past the secretary. The Minister gave him a look when he barged into his office. Xander put the book down in front of him. "I've found one of those protagonists we've theorized came with the invaders to steal us. With the tattoo on his forehead. Just like in those cave drawings. He's coming over with Jackson."
"Then you can't keep him at your house. House elves can tell when someone has a symbiot." He picked up the book and his mouth fell open. "This is...." He looked at Xander. "He had this?" Xander nodded. "Why?"
"He said that it pops up every now and then among their people, but that it's listed as a forbidden thing among his people. He asked me if I was like Merlin."
The Minister laughed and stood up, hugging him. "Then you are allowed to pump this nice man for all the information you want. Did you need some Veritassium?"
"Nah, he's working with Jackson, said he was an ally." The minister crowed. "Shit, we may have a big thing going on, or we could find those lost people who were taken during that ritual. We might even find their diaries!" Xander said happily. "I'm gonna put him up in the village in near our house. Or in the house out back so he doesn't spook the house elves. Oh, they've got a gateway. It's doing a strange chaos flux. You might want to warn whoever you send to them. It's really disorienting."
"I'm sure it is," the Minister agreed. He looked at the guards. "Dear Mr. Dumass found someone who has knowledge from the Ancients. They brought a book with them." The guards gave a half-smile, all they could do until the woman with the pink hair pushed past them.
Xander handed her the book. "We found someone who had this," he told her. "It's Ancient knowledge. As in from the Ancients. They had a working gateway doing a chaos flux. He's coming over." He knew her, Harry had told him about her, said she was all right. "I'm putting him out in our guest house."
"Wow." She looked at him, handing him back his wand. "You left this."
"I figured it'd take too long. They're flying over. They leave in about," he checked his watch, "an hour and a half. We're still at Dumass Glen if *you* wanted to come out." She gave him a look. "Harry vouched for you around my antiques and books."
"Oh. You're him?" Xander nodded. "Thank you. I'll meet you with them. People like this need a proper welcome."
"He's an ally."
"The US got their gate to work that well?" she asked, sitting down before she fell down. "Oh, damn."
Xander shrugged. "Who knows. Daniel works with it. I'm guessing the flux I felt was him coming back. I got him because I got a book sent to me in Thinial, totally in code. He knew a bunch of it while we were on the dig over last Yule. I asked permission first."
"Hey, not an issue," Nymphadora Tonks assured him, standing up again. "I know you know how to protect the community. You did it for years, Alex. Let's get Sandburg and head back to your house. Can we keep the book?"
"I told him I'd give it back when he got off the plane."
"How long is a plane ride from wherever they are?" the Minister asked.
Xander grinned. "Ten hours or more. They'll be here at approximately one am our time."
"Then I'll have someone copy the sucker and bring it to us," Tonks told him, leading him out. "I don't blame you for running up the halls, I'd have done a dance up them and I'm not exactly a dancer."
Xander grinned and grabbed her, spinning her around a bit. "I don't know, you pretend well enough." She swatted him and he laughed, letting her go. "Sorry, couldn't resist. I had to play joker for too long for that." They dropped the book off in the archives. "You've got until midnight to copy it," he told them. "I promised to give it back as soon as they stepped off the plane." The archivist squealed and went to copy, multiple times.
Xander faced down his crew, Greg and Emilia, and the Headmaster and Snape, along with his family. "Okay, big news, most of it good." Some of them nodded and Draco looked bored. "Do you remember all those stories about the guys in the dog armor?" Everyone blinked at him. "I've met one. He's an ally now. At least of the US, and the nice US at that. The general over his unit said he didn't like them snatching us and promised us we'd be safe." Des opened her mouth. "He handed me a book on Ancient defense and ritual magic for raising power. Said it was forbidden among his people."
"No way," Emilia said.
"Way," Xander said, tossing over a copy of the book they were going to keep. The archivist had made seven copies so far and was now working from the copies. The original was in a sealed bag on the table behind him.
Greg whimpered and snatched it to look at. "Oh, damn," he said, looking at Xander in awe. "Is he friendly?"
"Not only is he friendly, he's an ally. He's helping them use one of those gate monstrosities that we destroyed so long ago." Dumbledore's eyes widened. "I felt it go off myself, it's got a strong chaos flux so it's not calibrated correctly, but it does work. That's how Danny Jackson's getting there."
"He's the one you went to go see," Aunt Cordy said, still frowning.
"He is, and Teal'c, that's the big guy's name, is working with him. Personally vouched for and all that." He looked at Des. "I understand house elves can feel them. Do you want me to put him in the nice secondary house out back or would you like him at an inn in town?"
"You're bringing him over?"
"With full permission," Blair told them. "We're supposed to pump him for more information like that."
Snape took the copy to look at, the Headmaster looking over his shoulder. "This is authentic," he admitted. "I've seen partials of this one charm." He looked up. "Are we sure it's safe?"
"What's he gonna do, have us invaded?"
Blair patted him on the back. "The risk is minimal. Even if a memory charm doesn't work on him, the knowledge is forbidden among his kind. Besides, the people using the gate have an offshoot of Thinial they've been working with. My buddy Danny said so." He looked at Des, who was white. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," she squeaked. She looked at him. "If he acts up, you kill him," she ordered firmly. Xander nodded. "Dead and gone, right?"
"Dead and gone," Xander promised. "I know he won't attack us. He's a guard, not one of their fake God wannabes."
"He had the gold tattoo thing on his forehead."
"Oh." She looked a little more impressed. "That is good." She looked around. "The Ministry?"
"I've invited the one auror Harry spoke for over to help," Xander told her. "Nymphadora Tonks."
"She's a nice lady," Ron told her. "She even played chess with me when we were bored. She can handle nearly everything."
"She's Sirius' cousin," Harry agreed. "She's calm and collected. Xander, can we share the information they have?"
"I promised to share the information that didn't directly lead back to us with Daniel. He's got other artifacts that are partially on the line. I still don't think that the book will lead back to magic totally. In which case, they can probably use some of it. Daniel said that the things we pulled out of Iran were going back to these same people. They're so deep in the government not even the government knows they're there."
"Does that mean one of the aurors will get to go across this gate thingy?" Emilia asked. "Just to see what else they have?"
"I honestly don't know," Xander told her. "I expect the Ministry will approach Danny about that."
"It would be dumb to not test the water," Snape agreed.
Xander looked at his grandmother again. She was still really pale. "Please don't die on me today? Wait until after Emilia and Tipsy have their babies so they can have someone older to hold their hand and coach them."
Des swatted at him. "Naughty boy!" She gave him a pat. "I'd never dream of dying already. I still have a few things I need to do." She glanced at the Headmaster and he swallowed. Then she looked at her grandson again. "The guest house would be fine, they can both stay out there, that way they don't get exposed to much magic. You had it wired with that electricity stuff anyway. Speaking of, the workman was out there yesterday, said the lines you had put in were fine, it was a fuse that was set too low." She shrugged. "Whatever that means. He put in a few new fuse boxes."
"That means that Danny's also going to help us with the stuff engraved onto the pages," Xander told her. "He's got some sort of imaging system and he said he'd tell me about the new ones other people like him are using in the archeology field."
"Good. That means you can get all that dusty old crap out of your bedroom so I can clean it properly," Aunt Cordy told him.
"You mean you didn't like the fertility statue at the foot of the bed holding clothes?" he asked. "I thought it'd be the perfect place for them."
"The iron phallus is just the right shape to hold socks," Draco agreed.
"I'll use it on you both, the correct way," Des warned. "Clean it out and move it out there over the holidays."
"Yes, Grandma," Xander said complacently. He had wanted that house for his workroom anyway. "We'll have to export my study too."
"Fine," Des agreed. "We can have the house elves help you shift some of the things, but nothing too heavy." She looked at him. "What was that joke you played on Angel anyway?"
Xander grinned. "I sent them a house elf."
"As?" she asked, knowing there was more.
"Strip-o-gram, then she was freed and turned into that Cordy's housekeeper," he said, moving out of range of her hands. "It freed her from a very bad life."
"You need your head examined, boy. I do not know where those sort of thoughts came from, but you will keep them out of my house."
"Yes, Grandma," Xander said meekly. "It's not like I sent one to Bill or anything," he said innocently.
"He told me about that when I asked," Ron mentioned. "He said he's still going to get you back for that some day soon."
"Bill is a sweet kid, but he has *nothing* on my naughtiness," Xander said cheerfully. "Okay, guys, let's go check out the new work area." His crew followed him out. "Thanks, Grams."
"I'll get a favor in return sometime," she called after him. Then she looked at the rest of the family. "When did Alex become like this? He used to be very thoughtful and kind to us."
"He is," Aunt Cordy protested. "Or at least he is to me. Then again, I'm not the one bothering him about producing an heir either," she reminded her.
Xander's father snorted. "Don't even start. Alex has always done this to Des. This was always how he showed his affection to her. It was this and taking care of her when she was sick. Or don't you remember the snake in the soup?"
Des groaned and held her head. "I tried to block that out," she said as she walked away. "Cordy, let's talk to the house elves. Before they panic."
"Coming," Cordy said, smiling at her brother-in-law. He was one fine man.
Xander waved as Daniel walked toward them. "There they are," he said happily. He handed back the book as soon as Teal'c joined them on their side of the security gates. "How was the trip?"
"Long," Teal'c noted. "The waitress was very interested in learning about me."
"She flirted the whole Atlantic portion of the trip," Daniel said. He looked at the woman. "Blair, you've changed a lot."
Xander snickered. "This is Tonks. We thought it'd be better to have a bit of security on the way home. We got a death threat earlier from one of the bad guys." He led them out to the car. "Don't worry about it, they're presently begging for mercy at the hands of some of Tonk's friends."
"Wonderful," Daniel told him, looking at Tonks. "Intelligence?"
"Auror," she said. "I'll explain in the car," she told him. They climbed in and Xander took off, the muggle way since he couldn't be sure Teal'c would go with them if he moved the jeep by magic. "It'll take us two hours to get there. We're nearly in the middle of nowhere," she said once they got under way.
"That's not true, there's a very quaint village near the house," Xander said, shooting a quick grimace at her. "I hate airport traffic." He glanced back at Teal'c. "Tell me something; if we move the jeep, will you go with it or fight against it?"
"The only thing of that type that has gone against me was an attack and I successfully fought that off," Teal'c told him. "I was resisting at the time. Would this get us there faster?"
"Within minutes," Xander told him. He pulled out of the airport and headed for a back road. "Okay, give me a five-count and if we move and you don't, I should be back within a minute to get you," Xander explained.
"That would be fine."
"Cool. Danny, hold onto something, you're a little light and hard to work around too. We want you in good contact with the jeep."
"I didn't know you could turn something the size of a jeep into a portkey," Tonks said quietly.
Xander pulled off the side of the road and grinned at her. "It's a camp moving spell. Bill and I found it during his initial year. Saved me a lot of trouble." He concentrated, creating a bubble around the car. That's when the cop pulled up beside them. "Just chatting with my friends," he explained. "They've just got here and I couldn't wait," he said with his usual impish grin. The cop nodded and went on, so Xander stared again, taking Tonk's hand to feel her magical nature. That way he could calculate for it. "Five, four, three, two, one," he muttered. Teal'c made a very unmanly shriek as they moved but he came with them. Danny didn't, so Xander went back and got him. "I thought I told you to hold on," he complained as he created a portkey and took the bag that hadn't made it either. He must be sleepy. "Sorry, tired and all that." He moved them to the house, watching as Tonks calmed down Teal'c. "It's all right," he soothed. "This is home. Your place is in the rear because what you are scares house elves." He led them that way, letting them take their own bags. He found Blair napping on the couch with Methos giving him an 'aw' look and Philip sacked out in a chair with his feet up next to him. "Tired?" he asked.
"Yes, they are. Your guests probably have jetlag as well," Methos pointed out. He nodded at Daniel. "Good to see you again."
"You died," Daniel told him.
"Not really," he noted with a smile. "I do that a lot." He waved at the stairs. "This is going to become the work area after you two are gone. Xander, the house elves have laid out food in the kitchen in case they were hungry, but nothing that won't keep with some refrigeration."
"I'd rather set up the scanner and see if I can get something started tonight," Daniel offered. "This is really intriguing and I'm not sure what we're going to do if this gives us something new."
Teal'c nodded. He patted his bag, noticing the book was gone. He even opened his mouth to say so.
"I've got it. It fell out onto the seat," Tonks told him, swinging the bag. "Which way, Alex?"
"Up the stairs and to the left," Xander said, leading them up there. "We've just upgraded the electric in here. It should be good enough for anything short of a nuclear generator." Daniel snickered. "Sorry, but I like my safety features. I spent way too long as an American to not like them." He pushed the door closed. "Speaking of safety features. This is the fuse box for this room and the room next door. Just in case." He bowed and pointed at the glass case on a single table. "That's my precious."
"Big fan of Middle Earth?" Methos asked as he joined them.
"No, I think I'd have something against Elves. They seem kinda smug." He looked at him. "I guess that's why I called you a fairy elf my first year," he said happily.
"I never did get around to kicking your ass for that," Methos reminded him.
"You could consider it a compliment. The elves in that book were powerful creatures," Teal'c pointed out.
"True, but they were prigs," Methos offered. "Seclusionist and pureblood prigs." He looked at Xander again. "And yet, you put up with Draco?"
"Leave my consort out of this before I have to challenge you in front of the whole dueling club," Xander warned, his voice growing colder.
"Fine," Methos agreed, backing down. Xander had a temper and it's boundary was his family. He could understand that. "You've changed him a lot since you took him in."
"Thank you." Xander bowed to him. "That was a very nice compliment of my baby." He looked at Danny again, watching as he removed the book to look at the first few pages. "The first two hold the ritual introduction."
Teal'c looked at it and nodded. "I have not seen this one before."
"Yes, but we have other questions to bother you with," Xander said, giving him an evil grin. Teal'c looked at him, one eyebrow going up. "Around the same time as your gate thingy was first destroyed, some of us were taken."
"There is a colony of those like you. We do not bother them," Teal'c admitted. "Each time we have, they have some sort of warning system that tells them we are near and bad things happen."
"Bad things?" Daniel asked. "Usually you're much more graphic."
"The Go'auld have not attacked that colony in nearly five hundred years. Even those who had memories of it from their symbiot do not talk about it," he informed him. "The memories were too horrible to talk about."
"Cool!" Xander said happily. "Do you have any information about them?"
Teal'c shook his head. "Not a bit. There is not a gateway on their world. They disabled it." He bowed to Xander. "May your house live long and prosper."
"I certainly hope so. If Ron doesn't eat us out of it," Xander said dryly. "The bedrooms are upstairs. We can start work on this tomorrow if you want. My whole crew has permission to take the week off as long as we all write papers on it for classes." Daniel gave him a look. "My consort's in his seventh year and I was asked to attend it with him so we could help protect the school."
"Ah." Daniel nodded. "That must be fun."
"Not in the least," Xander sighed. He waved. "I'm going to bed now. You guys can arrange yourselves however. The blond young man is my consort. The redhead and the one with black hair are my apprentices and the female with the redhead is his girlfriend and my little sister Dawn. Don't feed Ron and don't take anything off him if he looks innocent. His twin brothers run a joke shop."
"Are they triplets?"
"No, the twins are two years older." Xander grinned. "I adore them, they're neat guys, but I don't want to have to fix anything tomorrow. I'm still really tired." He jogged down the stairs. "Night, guys," he called as he shut the door, waking Philip.
Philip snorted and stood up, yawning and stretching. Then he went up the stairs where Tonks was pointing. He found the work they'd already done and headed up, meeting the two new guests. "Morning," he said quietly.
"Hi." Daniel smiled at him. "Which one are you?"
"Philip Callahan, former priest. Scholar of dead languages." They shook hands. "Xander was having us help him with the book."
"Xander?" Teal'c asked.
"He goes by either," Philip told him. "One's a second identity." He shook his hand as well. "I'll be the one translating your book."
"Do you need help?"
"Do you know any of the language in it?"
"I know there's a key in the back somewhere," he offered, holding out the bag it was in. "You may check if you want."
"Thanks." Philip sat at the table, pushing over their pages. "This is what we've done so far. Alex's been doing his formal one in a journal and has it with him. That's also our notes on what everything means and a textbook. Not Budge."
"He was one of you?"
Philip gave a little shrug but he was smirking. "He was a squib, a non-magical one in a magical family. He butted in often to gain attention. Got a lot of things wrong."
"I feel the same way about his hieroglyphics." Daniel set up his scanner. "This is a digital image scanner. I can set it up to read 3-D so we can get the grooves. Hopefully they're deep enough."
"Hopefully. The only thing we could see doing was a light dusting of fingerprint powder or something." Daniel looked horrified. "That's why Blair and I suggested we call you. Xander didn't like it any more than you do."
"I guess he does know how to treat an artifact," Daniel said happily. "I caught him throwing something while we were working on that dig together. Teal'c, you could sit. It's going to be a few moments."
"If it would not be any trouble, I believe I should go up to bed," he said, bowing to Philip. "Good night."
"You too," Philip told him. He watched as Daniel looked over everything. "Missing something?"
"Yeah. I had an optical cube and it's not here," Daniel sighed.
"I'll go back and look," Tonks called up the stairs. She jogged up them a few minutes later. "It dropped. That case and this bag," she said, handing them over. "They were off the side in the grass."
"They're highly technical and calibrated for the energy fluxes at work."
"Yeah, Xander told us that you had a high chaos flux there. Maybe you should get Ethan to look at those. He might be able to shield them better." She looked at Philip. "Are you staying here?" He nodded. "Am I staying here?" He nodded. "Where?"
"Next to Greg and Emilia. You'll have to ask a house elf," he said quietly. She nodded and went to do that.
"What are house elves? That's the third time someone's mentioned them and I don't know that species."
"They're nice little guys. Bred and born to serve, and they like it. It happened long ago, so far back no one's sure how they came to be. All we know is that they like to clean and cook. They tie themselves to a family for their lives, until they're let go by giving them clothes. Never hand one a single piece or only a few pieces of laundry, let them take the whole basket."
"Okay, I can handle that," Daniel agreed. "That's odd and sounds like slavery, but I guess it works for them. Cultural relativity and all that."
Philip snickered. "We've heard that before. If you talk to them, they like this life. It makes them happy. They can sense your friend, so you won't see them over here but you might see one in the garden. Oh." He snapped his fingers. "If you go through the garden, there's a large vine on one side. Stay away from it. If it traps you, freeze and it'll let you go. It only works well at night, but it likes to catch everyone. It caught a house elf yesterday."
"I can deal with that," Daniel agreed. "What's it called? Some sort of jungle vine?"
"No, it's a Devil's Snare, it's a creeping vine when it gets the chance." Daniel looked at him. "What else did you expect from us?"
"Does Alchemy work?"
"That depends on who you ask," Philip told him. "The same as Wiccan magic depends on who you ask."
"Okay then," Daniel said, leaning on the table. "Spill, all of it." Philip chuckled. "I mean it. I don't want to know but if I don't it'll drive me insane."
"I'll let you read some of the textbooks on your down time," Philip promised. "We'll have Alex's study over here soon enough."
"Thanks. But still, you seem really normal. Magic?"
Philip pulled his wand and gave Daniel blue bunny ears. "I learned that from Greg," he admitted with a grin. "I'll see you tomorrow. I'm over in the main house, where all the strangeness is. Come over whenever you're ready." He left him alone to feel up his new ears.
"I can hear better too," Daniel noted, hearing Teal'c humming while he showered. "Okay, they're real. I can accept that. I will figure that out later, after I do some translating work. If he's right, that might lead us to a new ally, one who can kick everyone's ass and be happy with it."
Xander walked into his bedroom, already pulling off his shirt. He saw Draco curled up on the bed in a little ball and decided to forgo a shower. That was too tempting to miss. He slowly crept over and climbed in behind his consort. Then he pulled him closer, earning a small snuffle and a wiggle from the younger man's backside. Xander got a wolfish grin on his face as he leaned down and oh, so very gently bit Draco on the shoulder.
"Xander," Draco moaned, swatting back at him. "No sex. Tired. Hufflepuffs will come up and try to help again."
"The only Hufflepuff here is Dawn," Xander whispered to him, leaning in to nibble on the small earlobe. "And she won't break in. She's too busy getting some of her own." He moved down to taste the warm neck, enjoying the sweat on it. Draco hadn't showered either. He grabbed the lube and slicked himself up, subtly shifting until he was in the right position, then he started to stroke and knead his lover's body, making him moan and stretch out to get more. The warming oil only lasted for five minutes but it was a favorite of his. Draco could have very cold skin sometimes. That blue blood didn't move oxygen very well it seemed. As Draco shifted, Xander positioned himself, slowly sliding it the hole he had prepared and used earlier in the day. It still had a bit of give so they'd be fine.
"Xander," Draco groaned, reaching back for him. "More."
"More you can have," Xander agreed. "More you shall get." He pushed all the way in and cuddled him, holding him tightly. "You are my sanity and my insanity," he confessed. Draco turned his head to look back at him. "You are."
"While that's very sweet, that's something to tell me to get me *into* bed, not during lovemaking, dear. I'll drive you insane tomorrow and cure it. How about that?"
Xander shook his head. "I wish it were that simple." He started to move, just gentle thrusts, only moving an inch or two. "You are the one who keeps me calm and who can do the most to drive me insane." He stroked over the firm stomach. "I realized earlier that I would hurt anyone for you."
"That's sweet," Draco agreed, pulling free and turning over to rest against his lover's chest. "I'm glad you're that involved in me. It makes me happy. No one really cared how I did before as long as I was living somewhat and able to produce an heir." He looked up at him. "You've freed me so much, Xander."
"Then are you happy with me out of gratitude or because you actually like me?" Xander asked.
"At first it was out of gratitude, but then you *freed* me to be myself. Whoever I wanted. You accepted me for the sometimes cruel and thoughtless being, but also the one who's always wanted something or someone to cling to. I need my touchstones and you're it." He slid around until he could climb on top. "That's why I'm happy with you, because you don't try to change me."
"Except for the hairgel thing," Xander said.
"Except for that," Draco agreed, smiling at him. "We'll talk about that some other time. I believe I was in for a long, slow, tender ride this time?"
"Said who?" Xander retorted, flipping them over and pinning Draco under him. "I could be warming you up to have one of our marathon sessions."
"Then we can't work on the book."
"Hmm. Good point." Xander slid back inside the ready hole and Draco shifted up to meet him. "I like this, Draco. This peace, this quiet. This lack of fighting every day."
"So do I. I don't know how you survived over there for so long," Draco said, reaching up to touch Xander's face. "Even if you suddenly reverted to your real age, I believe I'd stay with you."
"Even if I told you that they had to revive me twice during the epidemic?"
"Even if you were a nasty and dirty vampire like Spike," Draco promised. "After all, you bite me like one."
"I crave your taste," Xander whispered, starting to move. "That's why I lick you each morning, to make sure you're real." He set himself a little higher, looking down at him. "It's times like these that I don't feel out of place in the modern world. Like you anchor both my lives together." He started to work again. "You're the one who joins the old school me and the new me and makes them form some sort of distorted puzzle, but it's only distorted a little bit," he explained as he continued to work himself in and out of his husband's body. "Like the two are a prequel and a sequel to a story, only in reverse if you get me."
"I do," Draco admitted, reaching up to run his hands around Xander's chest. "I do understand. Though I think we're the sequel now, not the prequel." He grinned. "Or else you're going to have to go back in time and do that all over again."
"Not unless you're coming with me," Xander moaned, starting to move faster. "I don't think I could take it without you. All this is getting to be a lot to take in and I'm not sure what I'm doing most days anymore. Am I reliving my childhood? Am I making the same mistakes? Is it going to take the same path, like that demented movie only over a longer time?"
Draco pulled him down to hold him. "I swear, you're not making the same mistakes. The last war you weren't that active in it. This time you are. You're much different now."
"I know, that's why I don't feel like myself some days. I used to live on my horse in the summers and now I hate riding. I can't stand the foods I used to consider my favorites before and I don't know why. It's like some odd puzzle box and I'm the prize in the center."
"Then let me work out the arrangement," Draco soothed. "You're not that mixed up. Most people would need mental care after being deaged and forced to deny everything that they were for nearly fifteen years." He stole a quick kiss, calming Xander down. "I've never known anyone who could lie about themselves that much. Yet you created a whole new you and learned to live like those people, even went back through their crappy school." He stroked up the tense back. "If you wrote your story down, no one would believe it. No one would believe that you've managed to fight demons and vampires without what made you special in the past. I heard one girl asking another if it was a punishment for you being bad in your former life."
Xander lifted his head. "Who said that?"
"That Melody girl, the one with the tie problem."
"Oh. What was the answer?"
"She asked Dawn and Dawn said it was a reward for her sister for being so good and patient. That you were like some present from the Gods to help her. She also said that she didn't deserve you, that you were too special to be a normal person." He stole another kiss and pushed up a bit. "More, love."
Xander relaxed and went back to their gentle lovemaking. "I feel so out of sorts. I used to write books and when I went back through them I sounded so pompous. I was like your dad, only more pure and more wild. I was the freak of my school years. I was the freak among the curse breakers. Did you know that I saw Bill once, right before I got shipped off to Sunnydale. I was only barely conscious at the time but he was sitting beside my bed wondering if that was a punishment for me being myself."
"It wasn't," Draco said firmly, pinching him on the back. "It was not a punishment. You did nothing to deserve any punishment. The only thing you did deserve was a reward. You did things that no one else could. So what if you were pompous! You deserved that attitude. You saved other curse breakers. You rescued some of the Lost so families could have their grief. You found untold treasures that even today people wonder about and you managed to survive through living in Hell for fifteen years. It wasn't a punishment, it was a test to see if you deserved me."
Xander chuckled. "Maybe you're right."
"I know I'm right," Draco said firmly. "You've done so much, more than most kids out there today. Hell, you've probably forgotten more than Weasley ever knew. And yes, I mean Bill. This was not a punishment, Xander. A test possibly. A necessity probably, because without you the world would have ended. That ascension would have spread. Most wizards would have died trying to fight it. You managed to save your town and a bunch of people when you saved the school from blowing up. You managed to save the town again when you took down the Initiative, and who knows how many foreigners you saved when you took them down."
"That was a lot more Buffy than me. I helped with the spell and did some minor work."
"Xander, you were blocked from your powers. You forced yourself to do magic that was unfamiliar, painful, and harmful to you to save people. You got injured to save others. You ought to be made an official knight, not just some Lord. To those of us who know you, we know we can count on you. Even if you're having a slacking day, we know you won't abandon any of us. You've reacted in your sleep before when Dawn was having nightmares."
"I did that once. I thought that it wasn't that bad of an emergency and went back to sleep. The massacre was brutal, Draco. I vowed to never do it again."
"And most of the rest of wizardkind would have cried about how sorry we were."
"I did that too."
"Yes, but then you moved on. People can and do count on you."
"Yeah, but why me?" Xander asked. He pulled out and flipped onto his side. "I don't know why people count on me. I'm like some freak out of time. Like a time traveler who's got the year wrong and using the wrong handbook."
Draco slapped him on the stomach, making his lover wince. "Stop that. You're very in- touch with today's world. You've lived in it more than most of us have." Xander looked at him. "So what if you prefer the old ways? How many of us don't have electricity in our homes at all? Shit, the Weasleys heat their home with firewood. They have gas lamps. They're one of the most muggle-loving families out there and they don't have electricity. I've seen Arthur looking around your study, liking the lights and things. He's envious because you know things about the muggle world that he doesn't."
"Maybe," Xander sighed, putting his head onto Draco's shoulder, underneath his head so it could be cuddled. "I don't want to be a freak among my own people."
"Then don't be. Find yourself a new horse. Teach me how to ride. Des was thinking about restarting the farm anyway. Or if you want to, let Dawn be the one to teach wizards how to be mugglefied. I'm sure she'd be thrilled to have her CD player working again." He pushed his head up, looking down at his mate. "Are you done with your monthly bout of feeling odd and guilty?" Xander nodded, looking at him. "Good. Now get me back into the mood."
"I think you're beautiful when you're being logical," Xander said, running his thumb across his consort's cheekbone. "I also think you're beautiful when you're defending me." Draco caught his thumb to suck on, making him moan. "You really like me?"
"I really like you," Draco admitted once his mouth was free. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. Even if my mother had agreed, you'd have been stabbed by now and the world would have ended without you. So let's get over this pity party....."
Xander pushed himself up and kissed him, hard. "Show me?" he begged.
"Of course I can," Draco agreed, shifting enough to grab some lube and apply it to himself. They didn't do this often, but it was very nice when it did. Usually Xander clung to him afterwards. It was like a reaffirmation of their bond, only it made them hot and sweaty and they got very noisy. He slowly prepared his mate, gently calming him down. "You are my prize," he hissed as he got on top of him and pushed himself inside. Xander groaned but a few seconds rest was all he needed. "You are my prize. If anything, you were deaged so you'd be around when I was ready. No other reason, just my selfish needs." He started to go harder, Xander liked it harder. Most of the time. This time he wasn't responding so he slowed down and pulled out. "On your side." Xander slowly shifted, laying as requested. Draco slid back inside and pulled his lover back against him, holding him tightly. "Some higher being knew that you'd be needed now more than ever, Alexander. It knew that I'd need you and that Dawn would need you." Xander relaxed in his arms. "It knew that the world would need what you can do and that I especially would need what you could do. Think about what a brat I would be without you in my life."
Xander chuckled so Draco went on. "You are my rock of strength. You make me want to act better, even to the stupidest muggle-borns. Your influence actually had me feeling guilt. Do you know how rare that is, for a Malfoy to feel guilt, and about something they hadn't done? We've spent centuries training that emotion out of each of us. Yet, you made me feel it because I knew that not switching would get a lot of students hurt. You made me feel more than I ever have before. Before, the world was like those black and white pictures that you get on late night TV. Now, my life is in vivid color and the sounds are so loud they're deafening. All because you had the courage to stick out the horrors of your life and come to me." He kissed the back of his mate's neck and heard the soft sigh. So he lifted his head up and looked over Xander's shoulder, seeing his eyes closed. He was nearly asleep. "Want me to stop?"
"Never. I'll spank you if you stop."
"That's fine, I won't stop then," Draco promised, refusing to speed up. He could finish off after Xander was asleep. "Before I couldn't even imagine me sleeping in the same room as my lovers. I thought it was dangerous, I had to worry about them killing me in my sleep." Xander snorted, slowly drifting off. "I trust you, Xander. With everything. Otherwise I wouldn't have locked you in the closet last week and done you stupid and nearly blind." Xander gave a soft purr and Draco came. That contentment was all he needed. He realized it made him happy. "It's a good thing I'm not the poufy vampire. Or else we'd have a return of the old me," he whispered. Xander snuggled back against him so he gave him a squeeze. "You rest. You'll need your energy to move books tomorrow because I'm not getting sweaty. I have an appointment to go to with Des." Xander patted his side until Draco found his hand and held it. "Shhh, you sleep, Xander. You need the rest. This week is going to be really long."
Xander nodded, relaxing back against his lover's body like he was boneless. This was the life he felt happiest in.