One of Those Days.
Dawn looked up as the mail came in, smirking at owl that looked exactly like her big brother's. "Oh, you're so good," she cooed, scratching the owl gently on the head. "What did they send me this time?" She smiled down at Midnight, who quit pouting at her. "No, the owl isn't taking your place, Middy. Like Pig's not." She scratched him behind the ear, then opened her new package. On the top was a small box and underneath was some tissue paper. She carefully unfolded the tissue paper, pulling out the thin black gown to give it a look. "Hey, Luna?" she called. Luna looked over, giving the dress an odd look. She waved her over, putting the gown back into the box, then took out the smaller box to unwrap it. "Oh, wow," she said in awe. "It's obsidian," she said happily. She pulled out the pieces to look over, noticing how they had to fit together and that it was a full collar. "Wow."
"Very wow," Luna agreed, looking over the gown again. "You'll look like Ron's sex slave in this, Dawnie."
Dawn pinched her. "Naugyt perv," she teased. She picked up everything and took Luna to the nearest bathroom to try it on. She came out adjusting the built-in cups on either side of her cleavage. They held her up nicely and the black fabric was just thick enough to not show her skin, but thin enough to hint a lot at everything she had. She turned to look at her butt and grimaced. "Well?"
"I think you look charming," Luna sighed. "I could never wear that." She handed over the necklace. "Here, try it on with it."
"Over the neckline?"
"Um, no," she said, taking the lining off her throat and back down where it was supposed to be. It gave some extra thickness to the bosom part. Now it had a scooped neckline that was about three inches this side of pornographic. She helped Dawn into the collar, smiling at the picture she made. "Wow."
Dawn shifted her neck a little. "It's kinda tight." She fiddled with the closure and it snapped, then suddenly loosened. She felt a burst of power go through her and let out a squeal that carried down the halls.
At the head table in the Great Hall, McGonagall's head popped up at that noise. "I wonder what's happened now," she muttered, getting up.
"I believe that was Miss Summers," Madam Sprout offered. "It sounded like her squeal."
"Yes, but that wasn't pleasure." The teachers headed out together to see whatever could be wrong this time. They found Luna looking at the collar around the girl's neck. "That's not exactly appropriate for the school day, Miss Summers," McGonagall said dryly.
"It got sent with the collar. The collar just sent a flush of power through her and I can't get it undone," Luna told her quickly. "The dress came with it."
"Ron had the collar, he found it," Dawn said lightly, looking at her teachers. "I'm in deep shit. I can feel the curse on it."
"Down to Professor's Snape's classroom," Madam Sprout ordered, gathering up her things to put into her bag. "Midnight, go with her to guard her." Dawn's dog barked and headed down with her. "Thank you, Minerva. Perhaps you should call Mr. Weasley so we can kill him?" she asked lightly as she went to tell the professor she had volunteered. "Severus?" she called from the doorway, waving him out. He grimaced and she stamped a foot, scowling at him. It was so uncharacteristic that he had to join her in the hallway. "Whatever it was that Mr. Weasley sent her this time didn't have all the curses removed from it," she said quietly. "She can't get the collar off and the dress is making her glow. Miss Lovegood said that a burst of power went through her. I had her put into your classroom and Minerva has called Mr. Weasley."
"Why my classroom? I don't have shields on it."
"Bull," she snorted. "You have a lot of them in there, I know you do. Besides, even if everything exploded, it'll cause less hell than if it was done in the Headmaster's office or around Minerva's animals."
"I'll get Flitwick," he noted, going to get him. He walked up to the table, giving Flitwick a long look. "You're needed in my classroom, Finius."
"Why?" he asked, smirking at him. "Problems with the door charms? Did Alex get you from afar this time?"
"No, Miss Summers seems to have put on a cursed obsidian collar." Professor Flitwick hopped down and scurried under the table, following him down to his classroom. "I had hoped that Alex would teach Mr. Weasley some sense."
"It's possible that he couldn't find one," he moaned. "Or that it's not the one he wanted to send her." He opened the door and moaned. "No, that wasn't in Sunnydale," he said bitterly. "That was at the Ministry up until last week. It was stolen. It was in the paper," he said, looking up at his fellow professor. "Help me up there, Severus. I need to get closer." He was helped up onto the table and pulled Dawn over to look at the collar. "Yes, see, this one has no tracings. The one Mr. Weasley found had silver around the opening." He cast a 'reveal' charm, watching as the lettering came up.
"Wow, like the Rings books," Luna gasped. "Is that Elvish?"
"Goblin actually. It was a mad sorcerer I'm afraid," Professor Flitwick offered as he read. "I can't make total sense of this. There's conditions that apply."
Ron walked in with a yawn, looking at his girlfriend. "Well, it's a pretty dress, but I haven't sent your collar yet, Dawn. Where did that one come from? Yours hasn't been spelled cleared yet." He came over to look at it, then grimaced. "Well, fuck," he decided. Snape growled. He smirked at him. "No, I'm not in school now," he said meanly. He went back to looking at the collar. "It's in Goblin."
"I noticed that," Flitwick offered. Ron sighed and touched his arm, bringing Alex running. He had been drinking his coffee. "Good, Mr. Dumass. Read this for us."
Xander read the collar, then blushed and cleared his throat. "As a token of my love and affection I have given this to you, my beloved Esme. Wear this in good health and should you not be mine, it will always remind you of me and my passions for you. If you should desire to take it off you must be faithful and true to me, you must love me for at least a fortnight, and you must," he said as he moved to the backside, "um, bear me an heir. Love always, Heirram McGalin." He grimaced. "Wasn't he the mad guy who always cursed the women he loved?" he asked Professor Flitwick, who nodded. "Damn it. Ron!"
"It's not mine. Mine's sitting on your desk so you can double-check it for me," Ron said. Dawn's body jerked and she gasped, grabbing his arms. "Can we break this thing off her neck?"
Xander shrugged and wiggled the closure but it zapped him and he ended up sucking on the end of his fingertips. "Nope."
Ron gave him a look, then grimaced. "Have you not had *any* coffee yet, Alex?" Xander paused for a moment then shook his head with a grin. "Damn it. Concentrate! No hands are touching my woman but my dirty hands!"
"That's what soap is for," Luna pointed out dryly. "Women prefer men who use soap quite often, even every day."
"Funny," Ron growled, glaring at her. "Not." He paused to look at the puppy in her arms. "Why is it nursing off you?"
"Because it's a hellhound," Xander said with a shrug. He finally got the feeling back in his fingers so he bent to look at the closure again. The gong rang and he sighed. "Severus, class?"
"First years," he complained. Dawn squealed and grabbed Ron again as another surge went through her. "I see I'll be missing them today."
"Is there a current heir?" Luna asked. "Maybe they can remove it."
"Who do you think stole it?" Flitwick asked dryly.
"Fine, I'm trying to help," she complained.
"No, it's an idea," Xander noted. "I can go threaten him, that's not an issue."
"If anyone gets to threaten him, it'll be me," Ron said firmly. "She's my girl."
"Guys, not getting this off my neck by arguing!" Dawn shouted. "Get it the fuck off my neck!"
"Miss Summers," Snape snapped coldly. "You still in school. I can and should take points off you for such language."
"Try," she said bitterly. "It's not like this collar isn't sending shocks down my spine to my ...womanly spots," she finished delicately.
"Hell, I'll kill him for that," Ron muttered, glaring at the collar. He ran a hand along the letters, tracing the magic he could feel. "Permission to take her out for the day?"
"Would rest with the headmaster," Professor Flitwick reminded him.
"Headmaster!" Ron shouted. "She's been cursed!" He walked in a few minutes later, looking quite calm and smug. "It's not the one I sent her and it's cursed." Dawn clenched his hands with a moan. "I want this thing the hell off her before I rip the person who made it apart at the atomic level."
Dumbledore blinked a few times. That was quite a strong statement from Ron, and he didn't seem like his usual angry self. "Very well. What does it do?"
"It's the obsidian collar that had been stolen from the Ministry," Professor Flitwick said worriedly. "I can't break it and they're up much too early to do anything yet."
"Not true," Xander noted calmly. "There is a charm on it. I can see the charm but it's like it's backwards." He pointed at the area. "Cast a reveal there." The tiny professor did so and they stared at it together. "Isn't that a mobius?" He nodded. "Then we can break it, it'll just take some delicacy of action, which I'm not up to without at least some tea." He stood up and looked at Ron. "It can be broken, but it'll take some study."
"The longer she stays in it the more accustomed she comes to the surges," Flitwick told him. "It may never be regular for her again."
"Bet me, I can cure that too," Ron said smugly. Dawn swatted at him. "Sorry, love." He kissed her gently and she gasped, grabbing her throat. "I'm guessing that's part of it?" He backed away until the collar quit squeezing her windpipe. "Sorry, Dawnie."
"Not a problem," she panted. "Who is this idiot so I can kill him?" she asked calmly.
"I'm not sure, but I know there's an heir," Flitwick told her.
Xander activated the nearest fireplace, using some floo powder he always kept on him to call home. "Aunt Cordy, I need to know who the heir for the McGalin line is. They sent Dawn a cursed collar that's making her want them and Ron wants to have a talk with him."
Aunt Cordy gave him a long look. "He's a Bogones. He's former Minister Fudge's cousin or some such," she told him. "Is she all right?"
"So far," Dawn noted. "No more touching, boys."
"I can find a female curse breaker," Xander offered lightly.
"What is a mobius charm and how do you break it?" Luna asked. "I'm good enough and I already know how to work around Dawn's unique energy matrix."
"It's like a mobius figure. That twisted figure eight that goes back onto itself," Professor Flitwick told her. "The charm feeds off itself and powers itself, but when it's activated, it becomes stronger than steel."
Luna moved Alex out of the way and looked at the reveal charm still going, studying the mobius. "Isn't that the weak point," she asked, pointing at spot just before the twist. "It looks like the power's a bit thinner there."
"It is," Alex agreed. "But if you break it and there's another one, we'll need her out of the collar. The one that chokes her is a separate curse."
"Then can we work backward?" Luna asked. Ron shook his head. "No?"
"No. A mobius covers all the other ones but if it's broken it'll usually snap."
"Then we pull some of the more impressive wandless magic into play," Luna decided. "Professor Snape, where is Holly?"
"She's been recalled to her father's side for a chat. She'll be back in a few weeks. Apparently he's concerned that I'm much older than she is."
"Gee, I thought you were about the same age," Alex said, grimacing. "Then again, knowing Justinius and his wife, they're being fussy about such things. Hey, Aunt Cordy, are you still listening?"
"Of course, Alex. Want me to call them and get Holly free?"
"Please. Invite her back to look over the dragon." He looked at Dawn again. "This sucks," he decided. "Can I get some very strong coffee?" The professors looked at him. "I'll need a clear head. The last time I broke one of these, I was mightily drunk and I don't remember how I managed not to kill the person." Snape sent for a house elf, who came back with a pot, three cups, and some of the leftover unicorn cream. "Thanks, little one," Xander said, smiling down at him. "You guys are the perfect house elf size. I saw one recently that was up to Ron's shoulder." He poured himself some coffee, adding some of his special cream. The house elf gave him an awed look and he nodded. "Really. You guys are the perfect house elf size. You guys and goblins are both so much better than us bigger people because you're so tiny. We like you to be tiny. I guess that's why that really big house elf was lonely. He was playing bodyguard." He sipped his coffee slowly, staring at the collar. "This royally sucks," he announced, getting up to deal with this. "Okay, Luna. Do you know how to cast an extra space charm?"
"Yes, but isn't there a negation?" she asked, pointing at the front of Dawn's neck. "Casting a reveal here shows another curse."
Xander came around to look, then sighed and nodded. "It is," he agreed. "Good work. Then we'll need a physical blocker. Something to hold the space open. Dawn, I'm sorry this is going to be uncomfortable."
"As long as I get to kick the ass of the person who sent me this and made me think it came from Ron," she said firmly. "A bit of choking among friends is fine."
"Good." Xander looked at Snape. "Do you have anything for the extra space?"
"I do," he admitted, going to get something from his shelves. He came back with it. "It's thick, stiff, and has null magic woven into it because it's partially made of dragonhide." Dawn shuddered. "It was old and spared the mercy of dying in a battle," he assured her. "I only use ingredients from things that are old and near the end of their lives." Midnight barked. "Sit," he ordered, pointing at a corner. The dog seemed to snort at him and laid across his mistress' feet. "Fine, stay out of the way," he ordered.
"Midnight, move," Dawn said calmly. "I don't want to hurt you if this thing hurts me." He moved but didn't seem to like it. "Thank you, love." She glanced at Ron. "Who broke this thing last?"
"Chadlin," Flitwick told her. "It took him six days and Esme was dead, but he did finally manage it."
"Great," Ron said bitterly. "The greatest curse breaker ever, and the victim still died?" Ron asked.
"The problem with Chadlin was that he always relied on bold, brash, pure power, not subtlety," Xander assured him calmly and quietly. "Chadlin's approach to anything was blast it open. He probably killed Esme with a blast instead of the collar doing it and considered it a merciful action. He was an asshole to women. He was in his last few years of teaching when I entered my training and we all noticed that. One of the other teachers had to continuously correct for his 'power first' approach." He looked up at Ron. "It won't kill her, I won't let it. Take the curse on the front. Can you break it?"
Ron examined it with the special affinities he had, then looked back at him. "I feel there's a weak link, but I'm not sure which spot it's in. It's a tangled mess."
Luna looked and pointed. "Hit at the pink spot. That's the keystone of the charm. Is that the choking charm?" Ron nodded, staring at that spot, unraveling it in his mind. "What can I do to help?"
"Catch her," Alex said, shooting her a look. He went back to studying it. "When I get this one, you get the clasp, Professor."
"Of course, Alex. After all, I taught you that charm," he said easily.
"Another case of being just the right size for the job," Xander agreed with a grin at the collar. He pulled his first wand, his main one that was the one which had chosen him first by coming flying off a shelf at him. Ollivander had been surprised, but not unduly so. He said it happened all the time to cursebreakers when they chose a secondary wand. It was the one he used most of the time. His other one was nice but it was more for charms work than for breaking work. It was a bit more delicate. He nodded at Ron that he was going to start and shot a small strand of power at the curse's weak spot, slowly eating away at the edges. It finally snapped and then Ron worked on the choking part, which was trying to activate, getting it undone before it could get through the thick dragonshide. Professor Flitwick got the clasp on one side while Alex got the other one, and Dawn sagged as the hitching section was taken out. "There," he said proudly. "No six days and no dead victim. Dawnie, you okay?"
"Fine," she said weakly. Ron pulled her up and kissed her, holding her as tightly as he could.
"Do I need to see this?" Snape asked.
"It's the normal reaction to seeing your loved one in jeopardy," Alex said with a grin. "That's how you know it's love instead of lust in our lives." He patted the diminutive professor on the back. "Thanks, Prof. Anything else around here we need to worry about?"
"No, there's been no attacking statues, no funny happenings with the locks, and no attacks so far this year," Professor Flitwick said dryly. "Thank you for that, Alex."
"Not an issue, Prof." He smacked Ron on the arm. "Give her up so I can hug her." Ron let her go slowly so Xander stole her to hug. "Oooh, I'm so glad we were procrastinating on our trip to Tibet," he whispered. "I'll let Ron kick his ass." He pulled back and kissed her on the forehead. "That dress is very cute on you though."
"I like it," Ron agreed. "That's why I ordered it to go with the collar I found. Which is not cursed," he assured her. She swatted at him, making him grin. "Keep it and wear it this holiday if I can make it back?"
"Fine, Ron. But no collar. Spell clean some of the other obsidian stuff."
"Sure." He gave her another kiss. "We'd better go before they try to keep us," he said with a wink. "Then I could be a Hufflepuff too." She laughed and swatted him again, joined by Luna.
"I believe we'd put you in Slytherin instead," the Headmaster noted. "Thank you, boys. Have fun in Tibet." The boys left and he let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Merlin, for not letting them want to stay," he muttered, leaving the teachers to handle it. Fortunately it hadn't really been life threatening. This time. He would have to institute a check for charmed items coming into the school.
Professor Snape looked at the two younger women. "Take your dog, go change, and head to your classes," he ordered.
"I'm going to the infirmary first," Dawn told him. "Just to make sure there's no more curses on me and that collar didn't do funny things when it shot all that power through me."
"Fine. Do so. Miss Lovegood may escort you then go to class." They left with the dog and Professor Flitwick. He sat down behind his desk, holding his head. The only bright spot of this morning was that he had managed to avoid a class of first year Gryffindors for one day.
Draco called the goblins as soon as Xander had left the house after Ron, giving him a bland look. "We're running a bit late," he said. "It appears someone sent Dawn a cursed choker in Ron's name. They're getting it off her."
"I would expect nothing less from Mr. Dumass. Is she all right?"
"As far as I know. It's obsidian. That's all I got when Ron called him."
"Obsidian? A collar?" Draco thought back and then nodded. "That was stolen. Where is it now?"
"The school. I'm sure they've put it safely away."
"One would hope so." He looked over Draco's shoulder as Aunt Cordy walked in. "How are things at your house?" he asked politely.
"Busy, as usual," she said with a smile. "How are you?"
"Fine. Tell Alex I want a report before he leaves for Tibet. I will warn your guide that you may be as much as a day late." His head disappeared.
Draco looked up at her. "Some cursed obsidian collar."
"The one Ron was working on?"
"No, a different one," he admitted, standing up and dusting off his knees. "I'll let you do that. I've still got to finish packing the travel packs. Are the biscuits done?"
"Just now, Draco. I wrapped both pans for you boys. I know how you young men eat." She patted him on the cheek. "You watch out for our boys. Cursebreakers are cursebreakers because they're drawn to trouble." He snorted, then started to laugh. "I know, it's a bit late, but that is how they tell these things most of the time. So you be careful up there. Some of those mountain paths are quite treacherous."
"I'll do my best to bring him back in one piece and Weasley as well," he agreed, kissing her on the cheek. "I'll miss decent cooking for this month." He went to check the travel packs, adding the extra vials of healing potions he had been working on. He knew they'd need them. Alex and Ron never did anything major without needing at least something to heal a scratch, a bite mark, or something. Fortunately Severus had told him where he could find some good travel bottles and had given him a book on field healing procedures. Since no one else in the family could brew worth a damn, it was up to him. Not that he minded, it gave him a reason to go along all the time. He packed the extra bandages he had bought, then backed away, nodding in pleasure. The packs didn't bulge, they weren't overly stuffed. He tried to pick them up and winced. They were heavy however. He lifted them out one set at a time to the main entryway. By the time he was done, he was sweaty so he went to take a shower, getting dressed in his leathers before coming back down to sit in the entryway. He noticed the packs were gone. "Did they leave already?" he called.
"No, dear. We moved them to the backyard. Most of the long-term apparations or portkeys go from there." She came out and squealed when she saw him. "You look so adorable in that. Pack a cloak, remember there's already snow there." He nodded, grabbing his heaviest velvet and leather cloak from the front closet. She checked his boots, handing him a set of braces that went over them. "For the ice," she said at his confused look. "They're ice spikes."
He smiled. "Thanks, Aunt Cordy." He headed into the backyard to wait with the packs. It was pathetic, but he was going to make sure Alex would be taking him. How else was he going to be able to make sure that they came back alive? Finally, Ron appeared and stomped into the house. He raised an eyebrow. He had been in a snit of epic proportions so someone was going to get thrashed. Alex appeared and he grinned. "We're ready if you are," he reported. "The goblins warned them we may be up to a day late due to the collar. They also want a report."
Xander bounced something in his hand. "Good. Ron wants to kill the guy who sent it to her." He grinned at him. "Do I need to check it for everything?"
"I went by the list in your third book, plus extra bandages, generic thermal shirts, vials of healing potion in travel bottles, and books on field healing. Plus, Aunt Cordy gave me some ice spikes."
"Good job," Xander agreed, kissing him. "Food and canteens?"
"Canteens are in the blue pack and the food is spread along the top of the others," he offered. "You can check if you want."
"No, I trust you and we can always trust our guide to have some things or we can hunt when we run out of food. Where's your bag?"
"It's underneath the blue one. I brought the blue dragonhide one you got me."
"Good job. Extra boots, right?" Draco nodded. "Good job, Draco. It'll be maybe an hour if you wanted to go relax and read." He headed inside to calm Ron down, wincing when he heard him shouting at someone through the floo. "Ron, no threatening over the floo, it can be considered a conspiracy," he said calmly. He looked at Molly on the other side. "She's fine." He grinned. "Ron won't really go kill him but I'm sure someone will want to investigate it. It was stolen from the Ministry's storehouse." He waved and went to another floo line to call the goblins. Once his contact appeared he tossed the binding piece of the collar to him. "The rest is at the school, we left it in Professor Snape's classroom. We tore the curses apart on it, all of them."
"Good job, Mr. Dumass. This is?"
"The hitching part. It locks it into place and starts the curses. I figured you'd want to keep that separate, just in case."
"Oh, we do," he agreed. "Do you know who?"
"Professor Flitwick had a few ideas, namely that it was a relative, who is a distant cousin of Fudge. He sent it with an owl that looked almost exactly like mine according to Dawn and Luna." He tossed something over. "Luna wrote it out for you."
"I'll be up to personally take control of the collar, Mr. Dumass. Should I expect a report from you?"
"Sure, I'll write in my journal tonight around the campfire while the boys complain that ground isn't really flat," he said dryly. "My lover's anxious to be off so I'd best humor him. Later." He signed off before they could request the report right then, and make it an order. He went up to his room to shower and change, coming down in his usual working outfit of jeans, black t-shirt and red overshirt, this time in velvet and long sleeved. He was carrying his heaviest cloak and an extra one was in his bags in case he needed them. That shrinking spell was really very handy. Ron tromped down the stairs. "Dry your hair. We're going somewhere that's already cold, Ron."
"Yes, Alex," he said bitterly. "Are you *sure* I can't kick his ass right now?"
"Why? He'll still be here, and maybe the Ministry will get him this time. If not, we'll be back in a month and it'll give him enough time to become paranoid or to think you're not coming for him. Do I need to check your pack?"
"No, I packed it, but I couldn't fit all the stuff inside," Ron said sheepishly.
"Shrinking spell, Ron. Go repack." He nodded, jogging back up the stairs to repack his bag. Alex walked into the backyard, smiling at Draco's open-mouth shocked look. "Did you remember the shrinking spell?"
"I did, and I've got half of my wardrobe in there, all the warmer things, two extra pairs of boots, another two cloaks, one of which is my old school one in case we need them for the animals, and the books I might need to brew any additional potions I hadn't thought of. I also helped Greg rework our field kits and cases. They're full, they got delivered last night."
"Good. Any other good news?"
"Not really. Is Dawn really all right?"
"She's fine. She got a bit choked at first but then we got that charm gone too." Ron came back out. "Extra cloaks, extra boots, all that stuff?"
"Yeah, and I've got my trench on under my cloak," Ron admitted. "Are we done?"
"We're done," Draco agreed, standing up. "Aunt Cordy, we're leaving," he called.
"Here, we made you some sandwiches," she said, hurrying out. "Eat these first, boys, and I made an extra two for your guide." She kissed them each on the cheek, then Alex on the forehead. "Come home, dear. Or else I get to spoil Harry rotten." She backed up as they worked the camp moving spell, waving as they disappeared. Then she burst out in tears. "I hate it when they leave," she sobbed, heading inside to let one of the other aunts comfort her. "I'm always worried they won't come back."
"They always do," the other aunt promised, patting her on the back. "Why don't you call Alex's father. He'd want to know, dear." Cordy nodded and went to call him. He was doing a bit of traveling at the moment to find the rest of the strewn family. She had always liked him but her sister had moved first.
Xander landed the group on the target, smiling at their guide. "Hey, Paulo," he said, clasping hands with him. "Aunt Cordy made you two sandwiches this time."
"I always loved your aunts, Alex," he laughed. He waved a hand. "No donkeys, only llamas this time, sorry."
"Can we ride them or do we walk?" Draco asked.
"You can't ride them," Xander told him. "They're pack animals. Which is good because we brought a ton of stuff. The tent, Draco?"
"I didn't think there'd be caves each stop," he pointed out. "Besides, we can use it to block the front of a cave as well to keep the wind out."
"Good point," Paulo agreed. He took the sandwiches. "Hey, roast beef." Ron groaned. "There's ham and pork chop too," he offered, handing over the bundle.
"I want the ham," Draco and Alex called, grinning at each other.
"That's fine, the pork chop are more sturdy," Ron agreed, handing those over to their rightful owners. "Are we eating now?"
"Didn't you get breakfast?" Draco asked.
"Yes, but then we went and broke some nasty curses."
"Eat if you're hungry or eat it on the trail, Ron. It won't matter much," Alex assured him. "Okay, let's get the beasts loaded up." He pulled his wand and floated the packs closer to the llamas, letting Paulo help him hitch them on.
"He yours, Alex?" he whispered.
Xander grinned. "The blond is. That's my consort."
"Ah." He smirked at him. "He's pretty."
"He's also smart. He's a good potions person. He's trying so hard to fit in." He tightened a cinch, making the llama let out a groan of protest. "Oh, quit, it's not that heavy or that tight," he said, patting her on the neck. "Did everyone remember gloves?"
"Yes, and I put yours in my personal bag, right on top," Draco agreed. He smirked at him. "All that time in Sunnydale made you forget what snow was like, Alex."
"Probably," he agreed happily. "Thankfully I'm not there anymore." Paulo laughed. "I'm not!"
"No, you're not." He looked at the boys. "There are two small villages on the path up," he told them. "Both muggle."
"That's fine, we won't pull our wands," Draco agreed.
"Won't they stare at us?" Ron asked.
"No, they're to people taking journeys into the mountains. We won't get much interest but we may be able to buy dinner or breakfast at one of them. The other doesn't have an inn and is barely sustaining itself most of the time."
"The other problem is that the Chinese Army keeps roaming these mountains trying to wipe out the Tibetans," Alex told them. "So if you see even a hint of a uniform I need to know. Got it?" They both nodded. "Good. We can get past them as pilgrims but they won't like us and they'll try to detain us. That is the only excusable reason for using your wands on them. No other reasons, Ron."
"No worries. Only if they do something like fire on us," Ron agreed.
"Do we have a cover story?" Draco asked.
"Yes, I'm a linguistics researcher and I came to look at some cave drawings," Xander told him. "You're my faithful graduate assistants. Got it?" They nodded. "Good."
"Cave drawings? They've been studied to death."
"They found a new set according to National Geographic," Alex said with a shrug. "We're comparing." He checked the packs one last time, then put their personal packs on top of the others, each one on one. They had all overpacked in case anything got lost. "Draco, you did spread the medical stuff out, right?"
"Yes, across all the packs. They've each got at least my notes on the healing potions, at least six vials of the healing potions, and some of the bandages, ointments, and food."
"Good job," Ron praised. "We ready?"
"Yeah. Put on your cloaks. It'll be colder the farther up we go," Paulo warned. He put on his own cloak and took a lead rein to lead one set of llamas. Alex had the other set of reins. "Why are we doing such an intense check?"
"Geneva, Paris, Stonehenge, and Antarctica all got looted," Xander said bitterly. "I'm so glad I'm not a Specialist. They're in a blind panic so we're searching all the storage areas." He looked ahead of them. "Already?"
Paulo looked and groaned. "I know that unit, they are against anyone studying things. Do you speak any of the Asian languages?"
"I speak a bit of Mandarin," Alex admitted. They waited while the small troop marched down to where they were, giving them a full half of the path to be polite. "Hello," he greeted in Mandarin. "I am on study scholarship in Beijing." He grinned. "It is good to see such a strong military presence. Has there been much snowfall?"
The commander looked at him. "Who are you?"
"I am Alexnader Gronski. I am an exchange student at the University in Beijing. I come to study the pictograms with my fellow students." He waved at them. "They are exchange students from Britain." He bowed again, still smiling. Better to seem foolish than dangerous.
"I have no papers on you," he said, his eyes narrowing. "How did you get here?"
Xander pulled out his passport and papers the goblins had forged for them. "Here you go, kind sir. I knew that some would ask for them." The commander looked them over, then spat on the other side of the path before handing them back. "May we go on or is there danger on the path at this time?"
"No, no danger. The snows have been gentle so far this year," he said with a sneer. "I hope you can make it."
"That is why we will be asking for a guide at the villages," he said happily. "Thank you for your blessing on our travels. May your travels bring sweet endings at the end of the night." He and the boys followed Paulo quickly up the trail. "That was about the extent of my language skills," he complained, rubbing his throat. "I really do need to learn more than the basics sometime soon. Gringotts offers language lessons free for us."
"We should all take some," Ron agreed. "I still need to work on my others, especially theirs."
"Your accent stunk too," Paulo said dryly. "Wanna let me handle that, Alex?"
"Please, man. I forgot you spoke the native tongue."
"It's not a problem." He looked behind them, checking Alex's llamas, then grinned at Ron. "We've got a follower."
"No waving things until he gives up," Xander ordered. "We can do this the manual way."
"Yes, Alex," his apprentices said together, not liking that idea. Not that they had a choice....
Ginny slid in beside Dawn on the bench outside, handing over the extra sandwich she had made. "Where did they go this time?"
"Tibet. They left after they got done removing the cursed necklace from me," she said glumly.
Ginny nudged her. "Just think, three more years and you can go with them," she said cheerfully.
Dawn brightened up at that. "I can, can't I? I can learn a lot to help them by then. Draco's been making their potions and things, but I can do a lot with my skills. I should talk to Professor Flitwick about that."
"You should," Ginny agreed. "How's the baby dragon?"
"Hagrid named him Keelian. He's a charming little steamer for him too," she admitted with a grin. "We could go see him. He's inside Hagrid's hut and it is lunch."
"Sure." They took off for Hagrid's hut, knocking politely instead of just busting in. "Hi," Ginny said happily. "We came to check on the baby dragon."
"That's fine," he said, smiling at them. "This way, girls." He let them into his hut, letting them look at the dragon. Which was sleeping in the middle of the table. "He's a bit spoiled," he said fondly. "Likes that spot no matter what else is going on. Keelian?" The dragon raised his head and smoked at the two girls, then cheeped at Dawn and fluffed himself up as he stood to stretch. He wandered over, letting her pet him gently. "Just like a cat," he said proudly.
"He does move like one," Dawn agreed, scratching the head gently. "See, I told you you'd see me all the time, Keelian."
The dragon cheeped at her then sniffed at Ginny before climbing up her held out hand for his inspection and crawling down her shirt to nestle against her stomach. He let out a sigh of pleasure and fell back asleep right there.
"What are you doing?" Ginny asked, peering down the top of her shirt. "He's asleep!"
Hagrid laughed. "He thinks you'd make a great mommy, Ginny. Can't say as I blame him none, you have it in you."
"That would take a willing man to participate and they seem to run from me," she reminded him. "That's why I'm helping the Dumass clan with the unicorns." She untucked her shirt carefully and undid the bottom two buttons, right when the door slammed open.
"What are you doing, Miss Weasley?" Snape demanded.
"Getting the dragon out of my shirt," she complained, turning to let him see. "See, totally proper still." She lifted out the dragon, letting it rest on her shoulder since it was complaining. "You can't nap down there unless you're an enchanted prince," she chastised. "Then mum would welcome it, but until you turn into a human boy you can't do that." She did back up the buttons and tucked her shirt back in. "There, quite proper again, ey, Sir?"
"Fine," he said with disgust. "What is it with that dragon?"
"Stomachs are comforting and they make growling noises," Dawn reminded him. "To someone with very sensitive hearing, like Keelian, it would make them all the time as it worked. I'm guessing it reminds him of his mother."
"It is a good supposition, but one unable to be proven or disproven," Snape noted. "The Species department is here to examine the beast, Hagrid."
"That's fine. Do they want him up there or down here?"
"Up there, in the Headmaster's office. Your cohort, Miss Lovegood, had been noted carrying around her ...puppy as well," Snape sneered. "She's already under examination."
"Boy, won't they be surprised," Ginny said dryly. "We'll start up with him, Hagrid. You come up once you've found the journal you keep on his care and feeding."
"Sure, go ahead," he said with a grin. "They're good with them."
"They are, but only with the young of the species," Snape said dryly. "Has he shed anything else?"
"A few more scales. I put them in a paper envelope for you," he said, handing it over. "Also, Ginny brushed our unicorn if you want the hairs." Snape's eyes lit up. "She thought you might. Gathered with a pure silver comb into paper blessed with holy water. Traditional even." He smiled as he handed that mass over as well. He found the journal and walked up with the other professor, heading to talk to the people watching his baby for him.
Ginny and Dawn walked into the Headmaster's office, both of them smiling. "The dragon decided her stomach sounded like the mother," Dawn shared. "Just dove down her shirt again. Professor Snape was not all that impressed."
"His face was priceless. I only had the bottom three buttons undone but he looked like I was doing a full striptease for Hagrid." She handed over the sleeping dragon. "Watch out, he just fell back asleep."
The Species boss sat down, letting him rest in her lap while she checked him over. "He's well tended. Some light shedding, which is normal at his age. Smoking still?"
"He smoked at us until he recognized our scents," Dawn reported. "Are they short- sighted?"
"All these sorts don't have the greatest of all eyesight," the official admitted, looking at her. The dragon bit her on the finger, making her yelp. "Yes, you are definitely a dragon. I can pay attention to the girls." The dragon snorted at her, blowing out a bit of steam, but put his head back down to watch her hands. "Sorry, would you like me to pet you or not?" She stroked down his back and it raised under her hand, but the rest of him stayed limp. "Ah, just like a cat." Hagrid came in and handed over the journal. "Thank you, Hagrid. He looks very well tended. Well oiled, full stomach, good tail action," she said when it hit her on the upper arm. "Stop that."
"Keelian, don't hurt her. She's the one who will keep you with the daddy," Dawn reminded him. "She's a nice person who's making sure you stay." The dragon settled down and purred on her lap.
"Thank you, Miss Summers. Do you still go by your sister's name?"
"Most of the time," she agreed. "Occasionally I'm accused of being a Dumass though." Everyone adult in the room laughed. "I know, but it just comes for me, really."
"It's one of those things that they used to look for in future cursebreakers. The more trouble that finds you the greater you'll be."
"Well, gee, I had a Hell Goddess after me once. Where would that rate me?"
"Up there with Alex," Ginny assured her, giving her a pat on the back. "Hey, Luna, where's your puppy?"
"In my bag. He hated her on sight and you know he and Keelian don't get along."
"Which is a good thing. We don't want your friend to taint the nice little dragon, do we, Miss Lovegood?" she asked archly.
"He's still trying to nurse," she complained. "Bloody well hurts too!"
"As it should," Dumbledore agreed. "Your body was not made for nursing hellhounds. It's only logical." He smiled at her. "Is there any word on when his mother will be coming back?"
"Not a clue, sir. I tried to call her but apparently she's still busy."
"That's fine, Miss Lovegood. Remember to keep him quiescent and calm most of the time. Do not let him chase after Professor Flitwick's hat again if you could."
"I tried the last time, he thought it was a quail." She shrugged. "Dawn's dog has done the same thing."
"Yeah, but Midnight only wanted to lick poor Professor Flitwick to death," Dawn said dryly, giving her a look. "I'll help you train him."
"Welcome, dear." She nudged Ginny, looking down at where the dragon was trying to sneak over to her and up her skirt. "Maybe you should stop him."
"That is not an acceptable means of getting close to my stomach," Ginny said firmly, removing him and holding him up to look him in the eyes. "Do not try that again, Keelian, or no cuddling." The dragon gave her a pitiful look so she let him back down her shirt, where he got comfortable and went back to sleep, making all the adults but Professor Snape chuckle.
"Is there some sort of problem?" Hagrid asked.
"Well, we had to report the incident to the Brazilian Ministry and they're not happy, but the person who supposedly owned him didn't even realize his dragon had hatched, much less run away." She looked at Ginny's stomach again. "We've assured them that the dragon is in the best of possible hands, it's not going to make potions, like it could have been slated for, and it's got some very dedicated caretakers. I'll need to copy your journal, Hagrid, just in case."
"That's fine," he agreed happily. "I'll even let 'em come look at him if you want. I'd love to keep him. He's just like me own Fang. Just a tiny baby steamer."
"Has he tried the trick with sleeping on your throat yet?" Dawn asked. "He tried that the night before we came up."
"He tried it on me as well, but I awoke before he could get too comfortable," Snape agreed. "I have no intention of harming the dragon, but I will be using anything he sheds willingly, any poisons that he may present at some point in time, and possibly draw blood off now and then without harming him any."
"Which is wise and compassionate," the official agreed. "That's the smartest course anyway. They do that on the preserves according to the people I've talked to down there. He is doing fine?"
"He's just a loving little guy," Hagrid assured her. "He loves to go out and steam at the unicorn and the students. Some of the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws come down to oil him now and then. They think he's precious too."
"Would it help if we students wrote letters to the Ministry down there?" Ginny asked. "We can assure them how good the dragon is treated." She looked down as the dragon shifted and curled up again. "Comfy?" she asked dryly. The dragon gently steamed her stomach, not hurting her at all. "See, he knows me and doesn't want to hurt me presently. That'll change when he's older but by then even Hagrid may be dead. Charlie said these sort live to be at least seven or eight hundred."
"They do," she agreed, smiling at her. "How are you liking your present duties with the Dumasses?"
"I like it, but it sucks that I can still work with unicorns," Ginny said bitterly. "I'd like to not scare the boys off."
"Give it time, everyone will forget Ron eventually," Luna promised her. "Then no more unicorns."
"Yeah, but I might miss them. Unicorns are really soft," she explained.
"They are," the official agreed, smiling at her. "At least wait until they've found someone else to help them, Ginny. You're doing a great service."
"I know, but they're not going to find anyone anytime soon. Who're they gonna get, the twins' kids? They're so dark already they probably can't touch the unicorns."
"That's not true, the twins played with the school's unicorn all the time," Hagrid told her. "I don't know why, but they loved to brush her each month."
"They were gathering potions ingredients," Snape told him. Hagrid scowled at him. "Seriously. A great many of their pranks call for a single or a partial hair of a unicorn. So they took the unicorn's shedding without hurting her or needing to buy them." Hagrid slumped.
"It's not your fault, Hagrid. They were quite gentle with Matilda," Dumbledore reminded him. "They always cared quite a lot for her and treated her with respect."
"I do the same thing for the Dumass clan," Ginny assured him. "They put some of the hairs into candles for some reason."
"It makes them suitable for working spells with them," Snape told her. "Do they have a good store?"
"Aunt Cordy said if you asked me I was to shoo you back to the house so she could feed you properly, get Holly free of her evil father and mother, and then you can beg and plead her for a wedding one since her father's getting demanding," Ginny said, obviously quoting since her eyes were closed. "Oh, yeah," she said, opening her eyes. "She also said to tell you our brush needed to be replaced and if you could tell her who did that presently she'd even give you a good portion of the closet full of candles that she's made."
"Closet full?" he whimpered.
"Of varying quality. The first few times I didn't gather them properly. They touched the ground and my pocket."
"Still, they would be useful for most things," Snape agreed. "I'll talk to her tonight. Thank you for that interesting note. Who is Holly's father trying to marry her off to?"
"Anyone but you," she said seriously. "Preferably someone like Ethan, before he went demonic."
"I'll smack him around until he cries," Dawn said firmly, hands on her hips. "No one hurts Holly that way and lives! She's a member of the family and we stick up for each other!" She stomped her foot. "Headmaster, may I please have a few personal hours to go to Amsterdam?"
"Denied, Miss Summers," he said patiently. "Unless Professor Snape takes you along." He looked at Severus. "Who did you want to cover your classes?"
"I don't think that will be necessary."
Dawn looked at him. "Either you go or I'm sending Harry." He scowled at her. "He's family too, Professor. Plus, she likes him." She grinned. "I can always call him." She checked her watch. "He doesn't have a game for two weeks. He's probably at practice right now."
"No, I don't think it will be necessary. She can easily walk away from them."
"Um, permission to butt into your private life sir," Luna started.
"Denied, Miss Lovegood."
"Fine, then I won't tell you about the will removal spells or anything like making her a maiden trapped in her home waiting for her skinny, nasty, greasy knight."
"Miss Lovegood, your mother would be appalled at your mouth," the Headmaster said firmly. "For that you will serve a detention with him when he returns."
"Fine," she agreed happily. "Not a problem, as long as someone goes before *I* take Dawn with me."
Dawn turned to the fireplace and tossed some floo powder into it. "Harry Potter." His head spun and he blinked, then disappeared before coming back. "Harry, Justinius has Holly trapped and is auctioning her off so she can't marry Snape. He wants to give her to someone like Ethan was."
Harry nodded. "Okay. When do we go?"
"Just like that?" Snape demanded.
Harry looked at him. "Yeah, just like that. I consider that a worse fate than being married to you, sir." He shrugged. "I'll be done in an hour. Give me another ten to shower please." His head disappeared. He looked at his coach, who had his mouth open. "Sorry, sir, emergency. One of my cousins is being forced into a marriage away from her choice and against her will. I'll be gone for a bit tonight to go see my Uncle Justinius."
"Justinius?" he asked blandly. "The one your family kicked out?" Harry nodded, looking placid and calm. "What daughter?"
"Holly, the one who likes Snape."
"Someone likes Snape?" Bear asked. "Why?"
"Holly's a wiccan," Harry told him. "She's a neat woman, very nice and sweet. She can also kick ass like each and every woman in my maternal family. I saw her during the final battle and she did some stuff that scared the hell out of me, including taking on Rosenburg." He looked at his coaches. "So I'll be a bit late for late practice tonight, sir."
"Fine, Potter. Do you need to leave now?"
"No, I told him practice ended in an hour and to give me another ten to shower. That I'd go with him then. Or go alone or with Dawn if he doesn't want to go."
"Fine. Be careful. We can't afford to lose you and it won't get you out of your contract."
Harry grinned. "That's fine, sir. I'm always careful." He zipped off to tell Oliver. "We're apparently going to rescue Snape's true love tonight. So I'll be late."
"Snape's in love?" Oliver asked. "With who?"
"Remember the picture of Holly?" He considered it then nodded. "Her. She's Alex's brother's step-daughter. They're forcing her to marry someone slimier and nastier."
"Bloody hell. Need help?"
"No, we'll get it done," Harry said with a quick wink. "I've got some experience in that sort of thing." He darted off, catching the snitch. He flew to hand it to the coach. "Weren't we still playing?"
"Yes," he agreed. "Run another scrimmage. Harry, play opposing beater for a bit against Bear."
"Yes, sir," he agreed happily. His uncle had taught him a bit about the position so he wasn't hopeless but it wasn't his best skill. He almost made a better keeper instead. He caught the bat and swung as he flew off. "Come on, Bear, now he's crossing me into your spot in case you have to cover for Oliver."
"Good," Bear agreed happily. "You are strong, this will make you stronger. When will you work on getting through the chasers?"
"Probably tonight since they're due then," he said happily. He liked this life, except for the fans.
Snape knocked on the door, giving the woman answering it a long look. "I've come to see Holly."
"She doesn't want to see you," the mother said sharply. She slammed the door.
Harry considered it, then kicked it in. "We'd rather hear that from her, thank you all the same," he said politely, smiling at her, then at Justinius. "Sorry, we're keeping Dawn from coming for Holly. Where might she be?"
"In her bedroom. She's to be married today," he said, crossing his arms. "Who are you to barge in here like this?"
"Alex's great-nephew and possibly his grandson on the other side. Don't recognize me?" He stomped up the stairs. "Holly, it's Harry," he called. "I brought Severus." A door opened and Alex's sister Mel stepped out. Harry slugged her. "Sorry, I don't normally hit girls, but I don't consider you a girl. You're more like a demon in my book." He checked the room, heading to the one at the end of the hall, where he could hear crying. He kicked in that one as well. "It's never quite as impressive as when you use your wand, but I find I need some physical threat every day," he said the gaping woman. "Ready to go? Severus is downstairs."
"Please," she begged, heading down the stairs at a dead run. "Sev!" She launched herself at him, hugging him as hard as she could. "Oh, Gods, you came. I tried to fight but they did this nasty spell and they kept giving me to these people, but they died. Oh, please, God, take me away."
"Come along, we'll leave," he agreed. He looked at Harry as he came down the stairs. "Are you done being impressive?"
"Yeah, for now. Then I've got more practice later," he said with a grin. "Come on, Holly. Alex is in Tibet so it's up to us to get Dawnie into trouble."
Holly laughed and hugged him too, a light, brotherly hug before going back to her man's arms. "Please take me from here."
"Take hold of the portkey," Severus whispered. "We'll follow." She nodded and let it take her off. Severus looked at Justinius. "Des was right, you are evil. Much more so than I could ever be. I would never torture my own children." He turned and walked out, Harry taking long enough to cheerfully wave and grin at them again. "Do stop that, Potter, they're not your *adoring* fans."
"No, but it irritates them more than anything," Harry said dryly. He flicked his wand at the door, casting the sticking charm Alex had taught them. Severus looked at him so he beamed at him. "Sticking charm straight out of a tomb in Egypt. Works really well too. Not even Hermione could break it when we used it on her history book." He apparated off, heading for the pitch while Severus sent himself back to the school's gates.
Severus shook his head. "They're all insane," he said grimly. "Every single one of them." He sent himself to the schools' gates, then hiked up to the school. The portkey had put her just on the edge of the Dark Forest. Albus had created it specially for him. He found his woman leaning on Dawn so he walked past and took her from his young charge. "Come, you can clean up in my room, Holly," he said gently.
"Thank you, Severus. Gods, that was horrible. I prayed for a savior and you came. The last time I prayed for help, the last three grooms died before they could touch me."
He looked at her. "Good, it is no more than they deserved. No real man would ever touch you against your will." He gave her a gentle kiss and understood what Alex was talking about now. "Let's get you cleaned up and calmed down. You may have my bed tonight and I'll be on the couch."
"Don't," she whispered. "I don't want to sleep alone. You can even have the top of the covers," she suggested hopefully when he didn't look like he was going to budge. "Please, Sev?"
"If you wish, as long as it is of your free will," he assured her. He let her into his apartment, noticing that someone had laid a dinner out for them, complete with special candles by the smell of them. He mentally groaned. This push to see him mated was a bit much in his mind. "I did not do that," he told her when she stared at it.
"I didn't think you had. Only Dawn knew that I like squid." She shrugged before heading into his bathroom. "Do you have a big shirt I could wear, Severus?"
"You left a few things here," he admitted. He pulled out the present he had bought for her before he had heard she had been recalled home, handing it to her. "I found that for you as well."
She looked inside then at him, raising an eyebrow. "Okay." She went into the bathroom to clean up, coming out in the light green, spaghetti strap dress. He openly gaped. "It's not my normal statement."
"No, but it does suit you," he said with a touch of smugness. "Since they laid us out food, you should eat," he offered, helping her into her seat. He noticed she wasn't wearing shoes and had to hold himself rigidly in check. He loved pretty feet on a woman. He sat down across from her, giving her small smirk at her surprised look. He poured the wine for her, letting her pick out what she wanted from the dishes laid on the table. Then he gently touched his free hand to hers, their fingers barely brushing. She relaxed and went along with what someone else had planned for their evening. "We can get them later," he promised.
She laughed. "Sure. Do you want Dawn or the house elf she bribed?"
"Actually, I think I want Potter since he must have planned it with her."
"I have no idea, but I will be finding out or she and her little dog will be spending the better part of the year in detention." He gave her another smile. "You missed it, she put on a cursed obsidian choker and a very slinky black dress she had thought Ron sent her."
"Ron sends her naughty clothes? The girl needs more?"
"Apparently he enjoys dressing her up," he said lightly.
"Like you do?"
"I thought you might like it," he said humbly, glancing down at his plate. Her fingers clasped his so he looked at her again. "You do like it?"
"I do like it. It's like a silken torture against my skin," she said happily. She used her toes to tug on his pantsleg. "Don't be shy, Severus. You saved me from a really horrible fate, or suicide. One of the two or possibly both. He was going to marry me off to someone stronger than Uncle Ethan ever had been."
"I would have killed him for you," he assured her. She gave him a light smile. "Eat. They obviously thought you needed a lot of food."
"I am a bit hungry."
"Then eat, you should eat as much as you want," he assured her. "You'll be working it off helping me torture Dawn."
"Good point." She put more onto her plate and dug in. "Sorry, but I am really hungry."
"I don't mind," he promised. She had the best manners, even when she was gulping her food so fast she couldn't possibly taste it.
Up the hall, Professor Methos smirked as he canceled the scrying pool, looking at Dawn. "Better?"
"Much," she agreed happily. "Don't worry, I won't give you up."
He gave her a gentle hug. "Don't worry about it, he deserves to be happy and needed my personal version of playing Cupid," he said with a wink. "He won't touch you, Dawn. Go hide in your tower tonight." She nodded and skipped out, going to brush her dog. Methos laughed, cackling madly. It was so good to get back into the stream of mischief. Severus was just an adorable target for him.
"Miss Summers," Professor Snape said as he walked into breakfast the next morning. "I would like to thank you for the *thoughtful* action of making sure I ate last night," he said dryly. "For such a kind act, I would like to offer you in return a whole month of detention scrubbing my classroom."
"Dinner, sir?" she asked, trying to look confused. "I didn't do a thing about your dinner, sir."
"Miss Summers, you are an incredibly bad liar," he said smugly. "You do not have it in you to lie, especially not to me."
"Oh, there you are, Professor," Methos said as he walked in, clad as usual as the Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. "Did you enjoy the dinner I had the elves send you last night? I figured you would need some stamina after rescuing such a beautiful woman. Where might Holly be?"
"She's having a meeting with the Headmaster," he said, looking at him. "You sent dinner?" Methos gave him a smug smirk along with his nod. "Why?"
"Because Miss Summers had been quite worried that you'd be too worn out from the rescue to eat with the rest of us. She thoughtfully told me what Holly's favorite dishes were and was nice enough to even help me talk a house elf into preparing them. After all, a political marriage is often a fate worse than death. Is she all right?" he asked as he slid past him.
"She's quite fine," he said, glaring at the straight back. He glared at Dawn. "You didn't send dinner?"
"No, sir, he asked me what her favorites were so I told him what I knew," she admitted. "I was more worried that Justinius might hurt one of you. After all, he's more evil than Luna's Ethan snuggly if he did that to his little girl. Is she all right? We like your wife, sir."
"She's quite fine. Wife?" he asked, a bit loudly. Surely she didn't think....
"Wife?" one of his Slytherins asked with a happy grin, breaking into his mental worries. "Oh, congratulations, sir," he praised, clapping. "He's finally married that woman of his," he told them. "That's why he's been off these last few days." The whole table stood up to cheer and clap for him.
"Stop that," he hissed, and they obediently stopped. "We are not married as of this moment."
"Oh, an engagement," one of the girls said happily. "Sir, if you need help planning, just ask me, I've had to help my mum with hers recently."
Snape gave her a look, then nodded once and walked out, heading for the office. He slammed open the top door. "I want you to fire that smug bastard," he said coldly.
"Severus, there are many smug bastards in this school who could be fired, you among them," Dumbledore said dryly. "Which one?"
"Your Defense teacher. He set us up. All my house believes we're shortly to get married thanks to his and Miss Summer's intervention."
"Methos set you up?" Holly asked, grinning at him. "Why?"
"I believe he takes perverse pleasure from watching me squirm," he said bitterly. "I want him gone."
"Severus, he was only trying to help you a bit," Dumbledore said patiently. "It's clear to me that you both like each other quite a lot. Otherwise you would have come to dinner last night. One of the elves told me that they had ordered something special for you both. I had assumed it was a bridal dinner as well." Snape gaped at him. "Really. Otherwise I can't really let her stay. It's not exactly appropriate in front of the students and you know Lovegood is getting us watched quite closely. Now, if you want, we can do this fairly quickly and quietly, then announce it at dinner. I'll even make it a special banquet in your honor if you want. I had already planned on that actually," he admitted. "That's why I let Holly sign the contract I had waiting on you to return."
"Contract?" he spluttered. Dumbledore handed it over. "This is a marriage contract!" he squeaked.
"That is quite true," Dumbledore agreed. "Holly, would that really bother you? I know you've just been through a horrible experience."
"No, not in the least," she said, her eyes wide. "You really are nearly as bad as my father, do you realize this?"
Dumbledore smiled at him. "Yes, but I do what I do for better reasons than your father ever did. I'm afraid we'll have to do this without Alex, but I'm equally sure Ancordina will be planning a reaffirmation ceremony for the rest of the family."
"I'll slug the old biddy," Holly told him. "Aunt Cordy had better leave off my love life."
"Well, she may be a bit preoccupied. It seems she's been taken by Alex's father. Apparently his first wife approved of him dating her sister." Dumbledore shrugged. "Sign the paper, Severus."
"I will not."
"Then we'll have to relieve you of your duties," Dumbledore said simply. "I know Greg would willingly take over so his offspring could go here." Snape gave him a hurt look. "It is against the moral code of the school to let unmarried people live together, Severus."
"Um, excuse me, but we're not exactly living together. I'm still a virgin," Holly noted.
"Really? Hmm. Still. It is for the best. Even you can see that," he assured her with a smile. She stood up. "Of course, you could leave, find a residence elsewhere. That is your choice."
"Fine," Severus said, signing it. "It will be in name only until she is ready," he declared.
"Sev?" she whispered, looking at him. She saw what his intentions were and kissed him, praying hard that the Goddess let him be her one and only. She felt the spell around her part and allow him inside and mentally sent a brief 'thank you' along with a burst of lust. "I was waiting on you, Sev. We Dumasses are not known for our patience."
He moaned against her lips. "I still claim right of vengeance against Methos."
"Fine. Get Tipsy to help," she agreed with a small smile. "She's been bored."
"That is a good idea," he agreed. He glared at the headmaster, who was chuckling gayly from the safety of his desk. "One day, Albus, I will get you for this."
"My dear Severus, I only want what's best for you and what will obviously make you happy, as she does." He waved a hand then chuckled again. "Shall we get witnesses up here? Minerva and Finius? Dawn perhaps, or even Miss Lovegood?"
"Oh, no, I don't think we need Miss Lovegood and her nursing hellhound puppy," he said bitterly. "To take the wind out of your sails, we'll be going to the Ministry." Dumbledore handed over the floo pot with a totally fake pout, but Severus had the time to come up with an interesting means of getting even with him. He took his wife off to the Ministry and into the Office of Registration. "We are getting married," he announced. The woman behind the counter squealed and tried to hug him but his horrified look made her calm down and get an officiant since they already had the contract.
"Ooh, three children?" she asked Holly. "Are you sure, love?"
"Children?" Severus asked, looking at the contract he had snatched. "That bastard!"
"Who?" the officiant asked.
"Dumbledore," Holly told her. "He set us up with Professor Methos."
"Oooh, that poor thing," the woman sighed.
"You're a Hufflepuff, aren't you?" Holly asked. She and her minion both nodded, grinning at her. "Figures. Let's just do this. We can negotiate about kids later, Severus. I'm not looking forward to being a womb."
"I do not particularly like children," he noted. "We will work that out." He handed it back. "Do so now."
"Yes, Professor Snape. Do you love her and swear yourself to her and her life and happiness?"
"I do so vow," he said calmly.
"Do you Holly swear yourself to his life and his happiness? Do you love him enough to do this with him?"
"I do," she agreed, clutching his hand.
The officiant stamped the contract then handed it back. "Kiss if you want, or go plot your revenge." The new Snapes walked out and she squealed, hugging her coworker. "That was so cute of Albus!" she cooed. "They are so well suited!"
"Plus, it'll give the Weasley twins something to do that doesn't include Percy. Think I could date him now?"
"Maybe," she offered. "Run down there and ask him to dinner. It's a day for big moves if Professor Snape finally got married."
She giggled and jogged down the halls, heading for Percy's office. She stopped and smoothed herself out, then tapped and walked in at his irritated grunt. "Percy," she asked softly, closing the door behind her. He dropped his quill to look at her, looking a tad bit guilty. "There's some news that made me want to come down here and ask you out to dinner. Would you like to go? I'll treat," she offered.
"It's only proper that I pay," he said quietly. "I would love to." He gave her a gentle smile. "What news was that?"
"Professor Snape just married his woman. Albus set them up beautifully," she said with a smile. "He even included children in the marriage contract." He burst out in giggles, covering his mouth. "Oh, celebrate! It's good news," she chided, leaning over to gently kiss him. "I'll come by after work?" He looked stunned, then grabbed her to kiss her, making her moan. "Oh, maybe breakfast too," she moaned. He laughed at that, letting her go. "Percy?"
"I've been fighting it, Marilyn."
"Really?" she asked hopefully.
He nodded. "I didn't think it was right of me," he said quietly.
"No, Percy, you have to move on sometime. She would have wanted it." She kissed him again and of course they were interrupted by Arthur. "Oh, sorry," she said with a blush. She winked at him. "Dinner, Percy." She hurried back to her office. She ran into her coworker in the hall and squealed. "Dinner! He kissed me!" Her coworker's squeal echoed back down the hall, making Arthur smile at his son.
"I think she's a wonderful girl, Percy. I'll tell your mother not to wait up for you to tonight."
"It would be a first date," he said, sounding shocked.
"Son, I know that look. I gave it to your mother right before we created Charlie and got married." He smirked at him. "What other news was there?"
"Apparently Professor Snape got married today. Dumbledore set him up."
Arthur burst out laughing. "Good on him. Severus deserves every happiness after the life he's had to live. Would you like to go to lunch with me or did you already have plans?"
"No, I'm free. We made a date for dinner." He stood up and grabbed his robe.
"I believe I heard breakfast mentioned," Arthur teased. His sweet and gentle son blushed bright red. "Wait until Ron hears about this," he teased. "He'll squeal, Draco will scowl at someone, and Alex will demand that she treat his son well."
Percy snorted. "If you think so."
"Oh, I do," Arthur said smugly. "Want to stop by and grab the twins? Tipsy's out today."
"If you want," he agreed. He and the twins had made peace and they deserved the good news. He had no idea that they would be the ones telling Ron.
Alex woke up when Ron shoved him. "What?" he complained.
"News from the school," Ron said, looking quite serious.
"Another attack? Who's that dumb?"
"No, Dumbledore, Methos, and Dawnie set Snape up so he had to marry Holly."
"Excuse me?" Draco asked, sitting up. "He did what?"
"He married Holly. Went to the Ministry to deflate some of Dumbledore's glee at helping set them up. Methos and Dawnie set them up a candlelight dinner after her rescue from Justinius. The next morning, Dumbledore told him he'd have to marry her or quit his job because they couldn't be together at the school if they were unmarried. He even wrote children into the contract without either of them knowing about it until the officiant read it over." He smirked at them. "The twins wanted to know if either of you wanted to go back there tonight. Dinner's in about five hours."
"Oh, I am so going," Draco announced. "Just to give her the most charming Slytherin welcome that has ever been seen." He climbed out of the blankets and cloaks, still dressed. It had been too cold for sex last night. "Alex?"
Alex stood up. "Hey, Paulo." Paulo lifted his head, eyes only half open. "Me and Draco will be back in a day. Stay here, man. Guard Ron and keep him from getting into too much trouble. Teach him how to do the curses you do so well. My son just got married without warning me in advance." Paulo nodded once, then his head flopped back down. "Ron, try to make the camp a bit more permanent today. Maybe a cave? The snow is coming tonight and I don't remember one higher up."
"Sure, Alex," he agreed happily. "Can't I come?"
"Nope, sorry." He patted Ron on the back. "Call Harry if he doesn't have a game."
"Bugger," Ron sighed. "I wanted some of Dawn's lips."
"It'll only be three more weeks," Draco reminded him as he changed clothes. They sent themselves back to the main house, then dusted off and sent themselves to the school in secret, coming out Methos' floo outlet. They winked at him and headed for the Great Hall. It was about dinner time. They snuck in with the gathering students, each taking a side of the hall. Draco stood beside the Slytherin table, motioning them to ignore him. They nodded and went back to their discussions. Xander took the Gryffindor side, winking at Ginny. She giggled and spread the word of why there was a celebration. Snape and Holly walked in together and Draco led the cheer with an "It's about time!" The rest of the house cheered as Snape spun to glare at them. Draco smirked at him. "Like I'd miss this," he said dryly, walking closer. "Treat him correctly, Holly, or else you will find out exactly how cunning the best of all Slytherins can be." He kissed her on the cheek, then handed her back to Snape. "Treat her well, old man. Don't want my mate to steal her, do you?" He waved at Alex.
Alex stepped forward, looking them over. "Well, I should have been told in advance. There should already be a ring," he noted. Snape groaned so he handed over the one he had gotten off Cordy. "Aunt Emmajean's." He looked at Snape again as he stared at it in shock. "Yes, your Aunt's, son," he said dryly. "I will expect you to treat each other quite well. Or else I will have to take offense on the part of the hurt party," he said, staring down Holly until she swallowed.
"Leave her be, Alex," Snape said, stepping between them. His father smirked at him and he glared at him. "You knew?"
"No, Ron got told and woke us up." He hugged him. "Be happy, Severus. That's all I ever wanted for you." He pulled back. "I meant it. She hurts you, you tell me and Draco. You hurt her, she'll tell me and Draco."
"Draco and I," she corrected primly. A few brave Hufflepuffs laughed at that. "Aren't you supposed to be in Tibet?"
"Yes, but this was too important to miss," Alex assured her.
"It's about time you found something to make you quit looking like you're wearing the wrong size of underwear," Draco agreed. "We'll pick up a present on the way back of course."
"It's not necessary," Holly said, blushing bright pink.
"Who needs to wear underwear?" Severus hissed. He turned his wife around and looked at the staring students. "Yes, it is true," he admitted. They all cheered and when he turned to look the duo were gone. "Remind me to add them to the list," he whispered in her ear, making her grin up at him. He led her up to the head table, putting her into her seat. "You stay there," he announced. He pulled out his seat and found a baby dragon. "Hagrid, why is Keelian in my chair?"
"He wanted to congratulate you too, Professor," he said happily. "Got away from me though."
"Ooh, you are adorable," Holly cooed, picking him up to put him in her lap. "Yes, you are quite cute for being a steaming little beast." Hagrid laughed at that. "Dawn, isn't he *yours*?"
"He's Ron's actually," Dawn noted. She came up to repossess him, winking at her. "I only told him what you'd want," she said innocently. She took the dragon back with her, where he was petted by every single Hufflepuff and fed by most of them.
"To celebrate this momentous occasion, we are having a banquet tonight," Dumbledore announced, clapping his hands. "There will be cake at the end, that is why there are no desserts." He sat down, smiling at Severus. "Aren't you happier now, Severus?"
"I'll kill you some day," he said sweetly, smirking at him. The other teachers laughed at that.
"If he doesn't, I will. He set us up," Holly announced. The teachers nodded, and chatted so apparently they had expected that. She took Severus' hand, giving it a squeeze. "In which order, love?"
"Methos first," he said, glaring down at him. Methos saluted them with his goblet and went back to his drinking. They both about jumped at the sound of badly played music. "What is that?"
"They're early," Methos complained. He glared outside the door, subtly touching his tattoo on his arm. The noise stopped. He smiled at Severus. "Don't worry. They'll come back later."
"Oh, dear Lords Below. They're going to serenade us?" Holly asked.
"Until you scream in pleasure," Methos agreed smugly. "It's a favorite tradition of mine."
"Pervert," McGonagall said fondly, smirking at him.
Methos nodded. "Sometimes," he agreed happily.
Professor Flitwick leaned closer to Holly. "I've charmed a room to disappear for the night," he hissed. "It's up in the East tower, just above the Gryffindor house. You reach it through the attics. Severus should know how to get there. Go in there, lock the door and use the charm 'maric'. It's one of my own creation," he assured her. He went back to his dinner, smiling at them.
Holly shared that information with Severus, who nodded politely at his fellow teacher. They hadn't counted on Tipsy hearing him through the open link to her tattoo, but she was a bit busy at the moment with the horny husbands clinging to her body.
Oliver opened his door, smiling at the women walking in. "It's about time," he said, hugging them each. "Oh, I've missed you three." He let them in, leaving the door open for any others who might come up. "Where have you been?"
"Busy working," Angelina admitted.
"That and being married to a stupid plonker," Katie noted, grinning at him. "Did you hear, Snape got married."
"I did. Harry told me," he said with a grin. "Harry?" Harry came out of the kitchen with trays of food. "We got it catered," he assured them. "The twins have not been allowed near the food. Nor their twins."
"I had to stop Joxer from helping," Harry agreed. "She's gotten really good at reaching for things." He set down the food, then looked around. "Where are the twins?"
"Snogging probably," Oliver noted with a grin. "The same as they always seem to be doing these days."
"Who's Joxer?" Alicia asked as she picked up a piece of meat and bread to nibble.
"One of the twin's twins," Oliver said with a grin. "I pay them a little rent and babysit for them now and then for the opportunity to live up here safely away from my fans."
"They're very strict about who he brings up here usually," Harry agreed as he relaxed. "Kids?" They came crawling out to climb on the new people. He touched one of his tattoos, making Fred finish up and George help his wife up and into the shower. "They've got to shower. You were right, they were shagging," he told Oliver.
"How do you know?" Katie asked, grinning at him. "A new side gift of the scar?"
"No, charm we did between us so they would know what Ron was doing," Harry said with a wink. "He's in Tibet by the way. He, Draco, and Draco's consort - who is our teacher."
"Isn't Dawn coming?" Oliver asked.
"Nope, I couldn't get her sprung. The Brazilian Ministry was coming up today to look at Keelian."
"Who is...." Katie asked.
"The dragon," Harry told her. "It adopted Ron in Rio." He grinned at them. "It's amazing. We get to get into trouble for a career now." The three girls laughed, shaking their heads. "Didn't the twins invite any of the older players?" Harry asked Oliver.
"I'm not sure. I was a bit busy in practice. That's why I let them send the announcements," Oliver admitted. "Harry's still a treat on the broom. My coach is making him learn the other jobs too so he can cover in case something happens during a game. Took right to beater."
Harry grinned at him. "Of course I did, I've practiced on Draco and Ron." They all cracked at that. "Where are the twins?" He picked up Joxer and stopped Iolaus from heading down the stairs. "Your mum would kill me, little guy. Get back in here and be worshiped like the future quidditch player you'll be."
"The twins really got married?" Katie asked. "We thought the announcement was a joke."
Oliver shook his head. "Nope, and they pouted to beat all because you haven't talked to them since then. She's older but she's a prankster too. She's having twins again." He grinned as footsteps came up the stairs.
"Iolaus, you know better. Stairs are not for babies," Fred said as he picked up his son. "Sorry, caught us mid-shag. Harry, is bad timing another cursebreaker trait? You and Ron both seem to have it. He just got jumped by a military unit a few hours earlier."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "A desperate plea for help?"
"No, mum had us call to make sure he was fine," George noted as he led their wife in. "Up, Harry. That's got the footstool." He helped Tipsy into Harry's chair, kissing her gently. "There, love. You rest now." He patted her on the stomach. "Hello, it's the daddy. Want some nummies?"
Tipsy belched. "I don't think they need more," she noted. Both her men grinned at her. "Boys," she warned. "We're around decent folk."
"Please! We used to date two of them," Fred said with a wink for his ladies. "No other kids for ours to terrorize?"
"Cassandra's down for a nap," Harry offered. "Emilia sent her on. Apparently Greg got a bit fiery earlier and took her again and again. They're on their way up to see Snape."
"Good on them. Greg was his apprentice," Tipsy agreed. She smiled at the shocked younger women. "I know, you're not who I expected."
"No, but you make them quit pranking us, so therefore you're obviously a goddess," Alicia assured her.
"If you can put up with those two night and day, we'll worship at your feet," Katie agreed happily.
Angelina smirked at her. "Besides, it's a good thing they have kids to wear out that extra energy on. Can you imagine the shop going global otherwise? There'll be kids in Africa wanting to come to Hogwarts to copy them."
"As long as they don't bomb the charms class," Harry said with a shrug. Everyone stared at him. "Those two who got Dawn's charm lessons last year?" he reminded them.
"Hmm. They're still quite sorry," George said smugly.
"We saw them before they went back this year. They promised us they were going to try to behave and not piss off the Ungodly trio. Apparently that's Luna, Ginny, and Dawn's new nickname around the school. Even the Slytherins are committed to leaving them alone."
"As they should be," Harry agreed smugly. "Can you imagine Draco going after his house again?"
"Malfoy?" Katie asked, looking confused. "When did he turn good?"
"He married my great-uncle Alex and got screwed into the bed a few dozen times," Harry told them honestly. "He's a consort veela."
"Oh, wow," Angelina hissed. "No wonder everyone in the school wanted the little twerp."
"Right now he's in Tibet with Ron getting into trouble with him and my great-uncle Alex," Harry said happily. "Dirty, nasty, sweaty, cold, and still working as a curse breaker."
"You're a Dumass?" Katie shrieked. "It all makes so much more sense now!"
Harry grinned and nodded. "Doesn't it though? The coach briefly thought about offering Alex a job on the team, but then he remembered the game."
"What game?" Oliver asked.
"See, Dumbledore last year decided to implement a plan to protect all the houses in case of an attack. He spread his greatest fighters among them. Hermione went to Ravenclaw, Ron and I got Gryffindor. Draco and his consort, my great-uncle, went to Hufflepuff and the whole of Slytherin decided to shun him for it. Now, my uncle's no slouch and Draco's not bad. Dawnie's on the house team presently as a keeper but she believes it's only a game. So the annual game came against Slytherin. They weren't that great this year but they were dirtier than under Flint. Seriously," he said, holding up a hand when everyone else laughed. "We're talking someone snuck their wand to try and choke one of our chasers during our game against them. She ended up falling off her broom and had to be uncursed. I got to do that too," he said proudly. "Then we creamed them into the ground. Well, when dear, sweet Hufflepuff played them, there was...an incident or six. Or seven. It was so bad that one parent complained to the Ministry."
"A Slytherin parent complaining, who would have guessed," Alicia said dryly.
Katie shook her head. "I saw that game. I had no idea why Malfoy was playing with Hufflepuff, I thought he had been resorted or something." Harry shook his head, smirking at her. "It was bad, ladies. We're talking the Slytherins not only snuck wands, they hurled literal curses. Someone hurled a cruciatus at them at one point. We couldn't tell who, just that it was one of the beaters."
"It was Bronston," Harry told her. "Anyway, my dear, sweet, kind, nice great-uncle Alex Dumass plays beater. The Ministry got complained to because Hufflepuff had a professional quality player beating up on the other teams. Then the game was replayed via someone's omnioculars. The whole thing. I was watching and cheering and even I don't know how Alex managed to knock the seeker out of the air with the bludgers."
"Both of them," Tipsy agreed. "He went to St. Mungoes."
Harry nodded. "So did three of the other players. Uncle Alex is a great man, but he is a possessive man about his Draco snuggly. Not that Draco minds," he said lightly, grinning at them, "but Alex was offended that not only were they playing that dirty but that they had been shunning Draco so far that year. So he took it out on the *entire* team."
"The keeper got six broken ribs," Fred noted.
"And a broken ankle from where she fell from the middle goal during a catch," Harry added. "The seeker had a skull fracture. Both beaters ended up blocking shots with their bodies to save their teammates. Their bats were dropped at one point when they ducked the assault. They literally saved their captain by blocking both bludgers with their body, then the Hufflepuff chasers knocked the captain off anyway. He got a broken shoulder. Both beaters took abdominal hits. The other two chasers tried to forfeit but the Hufflepuff captain was having a lot of fun getting back at the Slytherins who had been invading their house now for a few years. Dawn stopped them the year before last. Alex stopped them last year. They vowed to never do it again, under penalty of him visiting them to prank them. Not to hurt them, but to prank them." He smirked at them. "My uncle is a wicked player and with a good team behind him he could damn well take the world cup from anyone. He and Bear together would kill any and all opposition."
"Dawn's not bad," Oliver noted. "She needs some training up. Ron wasn't that skilled himself, Harry."
"I know, and I tried to explain some of it and went over the moves on paper, but I'm not a keeper, Ollie."
"Good point. You bringing her around soon?"
"Maybe. She's got next weekend off. It's a Hogsmeade weekend."
"Sure, let's see if we can work it out some," Oliver said with a wink. "Ron needs his head unswelled."
"Hey, Ron's a fantastic curse breaker. He saved her life the other day. That obsidian choker from the papers landed on her neck." The girls all winced. "Yeah, so they had to postpone their trip to Tibet for a few hours while Ron and Alex worked on it down in Snape's classroom. Ron got the choking one undone long before it could hurt her, even with dragonhide between her neck and it. Alex got the back ones undone with Flitwick's assistance. Ron'll be one of the better ones in the business. I'm hoping I can match him someday."
"You will," Katie said, patting him on the thigh. "No girl, Harry?" Harry blushed. "Harry?" she teased.
"No, no girl," he said sadly. "No time to date."
Oliver snorted. "That's intentional. It'll cause a problem if you or I date. Our fans would tear them apart and cause no end of problems."
"Hey, if Snape could find a woman who likes him enough to put up with him, then I'm sure our Harry can," Alicia said loyally. "Is it really just us?"
"Just us," Fred agreed happily, turning on the radio.
"In late breaking news, we have news of a small hostage situation in Hogwarts. It appears that the entire house of Hufflepuff has taken a foreign Ministry official hostage," the reporter said lightly. "It seems they're fighting over a baby dragon that the school has been gifted with. Apparently these people have never tried to take something away from a good child." The radio was shut off with a groan and a head shake.
Harry snickered, shaking his head. "Poor Dawn is probably trying to stop them and failing miserably."
"Either that or she's in the middle of it egging them on," Tipsy pointed out. She moaned and held her stomach. "Ow, kids." Her husbands lunged to stroke her to make them stop.
"Wow, you guys are good," Angelina said dryly.
"If you had been that good, we would have kept you," Katie agreed.
Oliver snickered. "I can't see you two being the supporting pranker's wives," he laughed. "Watching as your spouses went to create in the lab and not come out for days."
"Instead I just go in with them," Tipsy said smugly.
"Yes, love, that's what drew us to you. You've got a marvelous mind that draws out our naughtier side," George agreed.
"Joxer," Fred snapped. "Iolaus." Both babies quit heading for the stairs. "Harry, door?"
"Sure." He got up, dragging both kids inside and closing the door. "Sorry, guys. I put up a shield."
"We noticed. That's fine." Someone in a back bedroom let out a frightened squeak. "Go get 'San up." Harry nodded, heading to do that.
"Cassandra is a friend's daughter," Fred said with a grin for her. "Snape's apprentice many years ago and his wife, who is Draco's cousin."
George grinned at them. "Don't be embarrassed. They're at that same stage of pregnancy where everything is an overt play for sex." He wiggled his eyebrows.
"Cheat on me and I'll have a wife and a husband," Tipsy assured him. The girls laughed. "Seriously."
"He'd never do that to you," Fred promised. "I know him better than that. He likes to flirt, love."
"Which is fine, just giving him fair warning," she said happily. She looked over as Cassandra came toddling out. "Hey, you're walking," she said happily. "'Mil didn't tell me that. Come cuddle, princess?" Cassandra spit at her and went to pounce Joxer to wrestle with her.
"Maybe you were wrong about the other kids pouncing yours?" Harry suggested dryly.
"Hey, if she chooses Joxer, I'll only go on a binge the night of their honeymoon," Tipsy promised. "If she chooses Iolaus I might cry but her getting with Joxer would be fine."
"Which one is which?" Katie asked.
"Joxer's the girl," Fred said, pointing at the one trying to get out of her shirt. "'San, quit stripping my daughter, please. You're too young for that stuff, dear."
Harry got down to play with the girls, tickling them. Iolaus, like a loyal twin, came to defend his twin by pouncing Harry and pulling his hair from his back, like he was riding a horsey. Harry got to his hands and knees, slowly crawling around with him on his back. Iolaus giggled and kicked him to go faster. "Iolaus, you have sharp heels, little man, and I can't crawl faster. I'm a slow, old pony." He stopped beside Oliver, who plucked the baby off and went back to playing with the girls.
"Sit here with normal guys, Iolaus." He waved at the girls. "This is their son, Iolaus. He's a very fast crawler. Made it out onto the pitch the night I met him before his fathers had realized."
"We had to take up jogging again," George said happily.
"The new two are going to drive us nuts," Fred agreed lightly.
"Then why are we having more?" Tipsy asked.
The twins looked at her. "Little, tiny, shiny, gold shorts," they reminded her together. She blushed and kissed each of them.
"That's what got you three in trouble in the first place," Harry called happily. "'San, please don't pull my hair out! I'll go bald and no girls would ever date me." He lifted his head. "'San, your parents are here." He opened the door. "They're up here," he called. Then he closed the door. "Guys," he said patiently when he noticed they were kissing again. "I doubt Oliver wants you to break in his bed for him," he said with a smirk, once they turned to look at him. "Greg and Emilia are here." Someone knocked on the door so he stretched over to answer it, letting in the proud father. "No Emilia?"
"She's staring in horror at the sour baby pops, meant to make babies cranky and pucker faced," Greg said, grinning at the twins. "Thanks for babysitting guys."
"It wasn't a problem," Oliver said with a grin. "They dropped her off with their two while they went for a quick shag."
"Or four," Tipsy said dryly. "Face it, Oliver, you've been adopted now. You might as well be my step-kid."
"Wouldn't that make you a naughty woman for marrying your step-son's friends?" Alicia asked her. Tipsy burst out laughing and nodded.
Greg shook his head, holding out a hand. "Greg Sanders."
"Oliver Wood," he said happily. "They've been good as gold. She just got up from a nap and Joxer there pounced her to try and strip her."
"Joxer," Greg said with a grin down at his goddaughter. "You've got to wait for that, baby girl." He patted her on the head. "You can have 'San back later. We're going up to the school."
"If you can get in. Hufflepuff is holding a Brazilian Ministry official and a dragon hostage."
"I'm sensing the oh-so-very-unsubtle hand of Alex," Greg noted.
"Ron actually. The dragon decided to hatch and adopt him in a muggle marketplace while we were in Rio. Brazil lets you own dragons and use them in potions so Ron's been fighting to keep him here. We let Hagrid raise him and Dawn's like his step-mom. I'm guessing the Brazilian was going to given custody back to the original owner, who didn't know his dragon was missing or had hatched. So they're all locked in there."
Greg went to the fireplace. "It's local, Oliver."
"Sure, go ahead. Bring Dawn back if you can."
Greg gave him a look. "Wearing earplugs?" he joked.
Emilia walked up the stairs. "Guys, why did you make stuff to make kids act *worse*? Are you horrible parents? If you are, my daughter and the new twins are not coming back."
"That's okay, I'm Oliver, their part-time babysitter," he said, holding out a hand. "You're Malfoy's cousin, right?"
She smiled. "I am," she agreed, shaking his hand. "Was 'San good?"
"She was excellent. She laid right down on my bed to take a nap and dragged the other two with her. They curled up on each side of her, then she came out to play after the other two had woken. She pounced Joxer to strip her. Kids," he warned. She blocked the surging baby, dragging it back into the house and checking the hallway before closing the door. "Thanks, I worry about them. They're really fast."
"That alone makes you a good babysitter in my book," she agreed with a grin. She looked down at Harry, who was still being swarmed by the kids. "Having fun?"
"Very," he agreed. "I'm getting my exposure to kids for the year that way I don't have to have any soon."
"Did you get the catalog, 'Mil?" Tipsy asked, stroking through Fred's hair since he was still on her stomach.
"I did, and it's a great idea, Tipsy. Penn loved it. He and Teller are making a *huge* order." She sat down, staring at the other wizards. "You wouldn't believe it if I told you. Greg forgot to pick up the baby."
The other parents all laughed at that.
"It wasn't my fault," Greg complained. "I had just pulled a ten-hour shift, crashed, gotten up and went back to work. I apologized greatly."
"Yes, you did," Emilia agreed happily. "I had Penn watching her while I worked with a new veela that's just come into her powers over there. Teaching massage techniques so I was a bit tired myself. We got a nice call from someone in the police department, who recognized Cassandra from running into her at the CSI unit, who called Grissom to ask where the baby was and did he know that Penn had her on stage?" Greg winced. "Seriously! He had a show to do, no one there to babysit her for him or Teller. He'd had fun with her all day. She was a smiling and happy baby on the stage. Until they did that bullet trick, and then it decided to pause in midair while my daughter scowled at it."
"Oh, you marvelous thing," Harry cooed, waving at her. "Did you manifest already? Aren't you so special!" He tickled her, making her giggle. "Did they do okay?"
"Yeah, they made up an excuse about the baby being too impressionable for that one and moved on. She was a big hit because they used her in some of the acts. Explained that the mother was a close, personal friend, who was running a bit late and this one wanted to be a stage magician anyway." She smiled at her daughter. "Did you like the stage, 'San?" Her daughter crawled over until she got near the furniture then she pulled herself up and toddled over happily waving her arms. "Oh, you precious little adorable creature!" Emilia squealed, hugging her. "Greg, she's walking!"
"Already?" he asked, sitting up. He heard a laugh and looked at Snape. "About time, old guy. We're coming over. Can we actually get in?" Snape nodded. "Cool. 'San just walked." He beamed. "We're bringing a wedding present and a killer story of how our most precious one manifested on stage." He waved and cut the connection. "That's enough warning. We'll be back in a while, guys."
"That's fine," Oliver agreed, grinning at them. "Wow. They look really happy."
"They waited nearly seventeen years to get together," Tipsy told him. "Their first night, they kept *Snape* up from Slytherin's house." Oliver looked stunned. "They both were actually. Greg's a potion's master and an alchemist."
"Wow," he hissed. "I've never known a Slytherin I would willingly associate with. All the ones in my year were crap."
"At best," Harry agreed dryly.
"It sounds like Malfoy's mellowed," Katie offered.
"He has," Harry agreed, getting up so he could drag the kid over to pounce her fathers. "That's mostly a lot of work on Alex's part. He's got this really great caring and nurturing nature. He told Draco he could be a snarky little bastard if he wanted, but he was not to be cruel around him." He shrugged. "They seem to have worked it out."
"Harry, language," Tipsy said, scowling at him. "That's another bad habit you picked up off Ron."
"I had it before then. I had all my cousin's friends trying to kick my bum on a daily basis. They were very kind to stretch my vocabulary while they did so."
Oliver shook his head. "You poor thing. Should we coddle you now, Harry?"
"Try," he said with a mean smirk. "I can lift you now."
Oliver nodded, looking at the girls. "He can. I saw him do it the other day in the weight room."
"Sometimes we have to rescue other cursebreakers," Harry defended. "Ron can too."
"Ron was a big guy to start with," Katie said gently. "You're not, Harry."
"Yeah, but I'm about at my max weight limit too," he reported, getting comfortable. George squealed as Joxer bit him on the side. "Good one, little girl."
George looked down at his daughter, who was grinning up at him. Then she cackled and he sighed, hugging her tightly. "No biting, Joxer. Bite Uncle Harry, not the daddies." He kissed her on the top of the head, letting her roam free again. "Isn't this a party?"
"I didn't think you wanted to hear about the crying Hufflepuffs," Fred complained as he turned back on the WWN network. Fortunately it was music for now.
The friends caught up and chatted, ignoring it when Tipsy went into the kitchen to find something to nibble on that was sweet and had pickles. Oliver finally relaxed and everyone noticed, grinning at him. "Sorry, last time I had a place it got robbed by a fan. She even wore my undies and took pictures in them. Left some of them on my dresser," he said with clear disgust. "That's why I've been hiding at the training camp."
"If you had told us, you could have stayed with us," Angelina said, swatting his knee. "Naughty, Oliver, making us worry that way!"
"Sorry, but he couldn't have," Harry said quietly. "The press would have eaten you and him alive," he told them. "If either of us even look at girl they're hounded until they do something violent and then it automatically looks bad on us as being like that as well." He shrugged. "We've seen it happen to the other guys. That's why the teams manage most of the press for us. I've gotten in trouble for talking to them on my own. We're both under orders to not date unless we absolutely find the one we want to be with forever, and then to give the coaches some warning." The girls shuddered. "It sucks but it's the price we pay for playing the game we love. They wanted me to stay at the training camp with Oliver, but I pointed out the dozens of fierce females at the house where I am living. All the Dumass clan will protect me, except maybe Mel and Justinius." He grinned at Tipsy. "Did you want to help Sev deal with them or with the Headmaster, Dawn, and Methos?"
"Oh, we're helping both sides," she said happily. "Luna's gift of incubus blood came in quite handy. It seems Justinius may be having an infestation of crickets, without many of the bugs. As soon as he kills one, two or three more are called into the house and eventually he'll run out of crickets and get frogs and toads instead. That's the starter course," she said proudly.
"You are so wicked," her boys breathed, kissing her.
The three chasers looked at her. "No wonder they love you that much," Katie said, eyes wide. Tipsy smirked at them. "Well, hell, we'll accept you for that much alone. You make them calm down and be happy people. We like you until that changes."
"Thanks, ladies. Can one of you stop Joxer from pulling the tray onto her head?" Alicia reached down to pluck the baby from danger, putting her into her lap. "Watch out." Joxer had felt a nice set of breasts and decided she was hungry, so she latched on. Alicia squealed and pulled her off, handing her off. "Sorry. Joxer, don't you have a bottle?"
"She went to sleep with it," Oliver said, getting up and handing over Iolaus so he could hunt it down. He found it dripping on his bed. He guessed he'd have to change the bed later. He brought it out, letting Joxer have it. Of course Iolaus screamed for one too. "You only brought one," he tried. He blushed and looked away as Tipsy let him latch on. "I didn't need to see that," he muttered. "Why don't you two use my bedroom? Without the twins coming in to help?" he said, stopping them when they tried to follow. "No shagging on my bed unless I'm in the middle of it," he told them, giving them looks.
"Sorry, Ollie, we'll invite you over later," Fred said with a grin, hitting him on the arm.
"Oliver, were you aware that the bottle leaked?" Tipsy called.
"Yeah, I'll get the sheets later."
"Too late. I put on the blue and green set." Iolaus squealed and she grunted. "Easy, son. I'm not a cow."
Oliver snickered, but he was still blushing as he sat down. "You two suit her," he told the twins. They beamed and nodded. "How do I get through the minefield you created outside?"
Fred dug something out of his pocket. "Put it on." The small silver horn or flask, he couldn't decide which, went around his neck and the sound of clinking went off around them.
"Now play with the bottom," George instructed. Oliver did and the clinking happened in reverse, including opening the door for him. "How's that?"
"Good," he said happily. "Do I have to take it off or anything?"
"No, you must leave it on," George instructed. "That'll get you through both sets of wards, the store's and up here. If you take it off, we'll have to reset it."
"There is no safe place to walk outside as long as you're not here. When you are or when you're walking there's safer places to walk, but not wholly safe."
"The only safe place for the shop is the front stoop and the back steps."
"We set ours to our wands though," Fred finished. "We'd add you but that would also give you access to the labs and we don't want you to get hurt, Oliver. We don't even let the kids in there; Joxer likes to release the bludger we've got in there."
"That's fine," he agreed happily. "I'm good enough with this, guys. Thanks."
"Welcome," they agreed together, smirking at him.
"An update on the hostage situation has been handed to us," the radio announced. "It appears that the Hufflepuffs were not the hostages, but the ones taking hostages. It also appears that the baby dragon this was over is staying," he said cheerfully. "The boys and girls convinced the nice foreign minister, who was the hostage, that they should keep him. They promised that their house would always look out for the little baby dragon. They have released the Minister and the dragon is safely back in their care. Thank you for your patience and I'm sorry to all the parents we've worried unnecessarily today. I repeat, the children were not in danger, they were the ones taking hostages. The few students who found themselves trapped outside of their house did help to resolve the situation. It was a very peaceful protest, more of a chat session with the Minister than anything else they reported. We all know Hufflepuffs would never *hurt* anyone so everything should be fine soon."
Harry laughed. "I'm wondering if Dawn was inside or outside." He looked at Oliver. "Weren't you?"
"What is it with you guys and trouble?" Alicia said in awe.
"Bill told us that a natural cursebreaker, one destined to be great, will always have trouble attracted to them," George explained.
"He said he used to wonder if we'd become ones," Fred added, grinning at them.
"So, the greater the trouble, the greater the breaker?" Angelina asked. The twins nodded.
Alicia looked at Harry. "So you and Ron are destined to be the top of the top?" she asked.
"Believe it or not, Uncle Alex was worse," he said fondly. "He came in as the dueling master of his generation. With a sword, weapon, or wand. Whenever there was a duel he was sent to watch over them. Apparently half of his first year was spent defending himself. Then the rest of his six and a half years was spent refereeing, sticking up for girls who were insulted by the boys and who didn't have a man of their own, things like that."
"Not to mention Harry said that he was so good even back then that the league sent him *women* to tempt him to play pro instead of becoming a curse breaker."
Harry nodded. "He said they did. Gifts of brooms and expensive liquors, women, and he had songs written about him. Those got other women to apply to Hogwarts. Then he got a veela of his own who he loved, but she died, then the family mostly died, and he moved on. He said he's only ever lost one duel and that was a forfeit because she was a girl. She destroyed the inn around them because he wouldn't fight her; he said he told her to come back when she was old enough to be out that late without a chaperone."
"He also apparently slept with a good half of the world," George said dryly. "Tipsy said during his earlier days he was wenching his way through each and every job."
"Draco once said that he was going to take the memory of all his other lovers out of his head. Then someone asked him if he ever kept a list of names, for reference or in case something happened. He pulled out books like phone books for the muggles," Fred said in awe.
George nodded. "Small type so you had to use a magnifying glass. Names, what city he met them in, and a brief description based on a code he had worked out for hair and eye color, plump or thin, and how big chested they were."
"The sad thing is he said he never went to the same well twice," Harry sighed. "That and he banged McGonagall when she was a younger girl. They went to school together before he was deaged." Oliver and the girls all gaped. "Yeah, apparently she was one hot chick in her day," Harry said with a shrug. "I couldn't imagine it, but then again he seemed to have wonderful taste most of the time." He gave the twins a long look. "You know what? That just brought up a thought. Your mother blushed every single time she ran into Alex for the first six months. I'm wondering why. Was she embarrassed by his free ways or was there something else?"
"Harry, please retract that sickening thought before we turn you into dog food," George said firmly.
"Mum said she didn't always date dad," Fred offered. "But that doesn't mean anything. You know how our mum gets about sluts and loose women. I'm sure she's the same way about loose men. Alex put a whole new level of definition on the term you know."
"I do, that's why I was wondering," Harry admitted. "That could explain Bill."
"Nah. The parents were together then," Fred assured him. He nudged George. "Right?"
"Right," George agreed. "Harry, dirty thoughts out of your head for a bit please? If you do, we'll help you find a wonderful young woman so you can turn into Draco."
"Why would I want to be blond?"
"Okay, then we'll turn you into Ron with his girl. It's not like those two don't get just as much as we do, and there's two of us," George pointed out.
Harry giggled, shaking his head. "You have no idea, guys. Really." They gaped at him. "Remember, she's our age minus a year."
"Oh, bloody hell," Fred said in awe. "Is that part of being a curse breaker too? Bill never seems to be able to sit straight when we see him."
"I always thought that Bill was gay," Oliver noted seriously. "He never seemed to want to look at the girls from what I remember of him when I was younger."
"No, Bill likes the ladies," Fred assured him.
"We're not sure about *Charlie*," George offered, "but we know Bill likes girls. He's always got at least one on the side somewhere. Do you realize what'll happen if mum finds out?"
"We'll be making statements to the press how it was temporary insanity and she really loves us all?" Fred suggested. "After she kills him."
"She'd only kill him if there were grandchildren," Harry pointed out gently. "Otherwise she'd just pout and sulk until he brought her around for a *long* visit and they talked about grandkids. Now, Ron she'll kill at even the merest hint of a grandchild. Engaged or not."
"Can you really imagine a baby between those two?" Tipsy asked from the bedroom doorway. Harry considered it then nodded. "How?"
"Easy. It'll either be the best cursebreaker ever, or it'll be the next generation of Luna, or possibly a slayer," he admitted. Everyone blinked at him. "Dawn's sister, sounding familiar?" he suggested with a grin.
"So she's a trouble magnet too?" Katie asked hesitantly. Everyone in the room nodded. "You don't think that they'll have a kid like Percy, in retaliation for being like that?"
"If they do, I get to laugh," Harry assured her with a bright grin. The others laughed at him. "He promised I could."
"I can just imagine Ron's pep talk on the way to the platform," George groaned.
"Now, you've got my looks and your mum's hair, so you'll be the studliest little nerd in the school," Fred imitated. Everyone cracked at that.
"You mean he'll be one of the rare Weasley Hufflepuffs?" Katie teased.
"Or the even more elusive Weasley Slytherin," George agreed dryly. "Dawn was borderline Gryff and Hufflepuff, but she's got sneaking and plotting down to an artform. That's why Draco likes her so much."
"Plus, Ron's not exactly the brightest and Dawn's not a genius either. She's smart, but she's not exactly a Ravenclaw in the making," Fred added. "I love the girl, but she's power, not brains. Like Ron's power and strategy, not brains."
"Like Alex is," Harry agreed. "Or I am." He smirked at the twins. "You do know Alex wrote books, right?" They looked stunned. "Sixteen of them on the shelves back at the house so I'm guessing there's at least one he hates. Mostly on curse breaking but some on some specific curses and a hypothetical one. That one I want to make work. It'll shift dimensions. He worked on that with some arithmancy nerd guy."
"Jorepson. It was quoted in our senior level book," Angelina agreed. "It was supposed to be quite precise. Besides, he's not as bad as some of the nerds were. I've read worse books."
Harry nodded. "I thought his other ones were pretty neat, if a bit dry. Like most academic works, they tend to be a little bit boring and plodding. He feels the same way. Says they're the best way to ensure he gets a nap outside of Draco."
The girls giggled, shaking their heads. "I can't see him that way," Katie told him. "I wish I could, but I can't. He used to be too mean and nasty for words and he's suddenly changed?"
"We got his free of his father. Alex demanded him in reparation for Lucius trying for me and the Weasleys. Draco wasn't pleased at first but then Alex talked himself up a bit more and made some generalized rules and set out some goals, and let Draco be whoever he wanted to be without pushing him to do anything. So, suddenly we have a human Malfoy with a control problem and consort veela powers that came out each and every time he got frustrated. It made for a few interesting months in there until Alex finally relented and decided to let him pick his time and place." Harry shifted some, putting his feet up on the coffeetable too until Oliver gave him an odd look. He put them back down with a grin. "Sorry, forgetting I'm not at home." He shifted to look at the ladies. "Generally, Draco's still a snotty asshole."
"Harry, I'm a parent, I can ground you," George reminded.
"They're getting to the age where they'll ape anything and I'd rather not have that one," Fred agreed.
"We really should keep Draco away from them then," George told him. "He still has the worst timing with some phrases, especially about the stupid and unpure."
"Hmm. True," Fred agreed. "We'll warn him when he gets back."
"If you do, he'll teach the kids all those words to spite you," Harry warned. "Let Ron watch them for a day and then have him watch them. Let's see what they learn off Ron first."
"Harry, again, we'd rather not have the kids swearing at their tender ages."
"But it'd prove the point."
"Yes, but it'd be impossible to cure," Oliver told him, giving him a smug look. "Teach him one word, one that embarrassed the heck out of Malfoy."
"That's one thing, never ever call him by his old name. He will, and has, slugged someone over that," Harry warned. "He goes by both names together or by Dumass alone. Not Malfoy. He hated his father with every bone in his body." Oliver looked stunned. "He didn't have much choice you know. He got more tolerable just because he didn't have Lucius there to order him around anymore." He scratched the back of his neck. "Who's over my shoulder watching us?"
Oliver looked then grinned and waved. "A reporter."
"Oh, goodie," Fred said, getting up to close the curtain. He flipped the guy off before doing so, that salute showing as he pulled down the shade. "There, I feel better now." He sat down with a wicked grin for Harry. "Feel up to testing some stuff for us?"
"It depends, will it make my drug test go wonky before the game next week?" Harry asked.
Both twins winced. "Before each game?" Harry nodded. "Have you eaten any of the specially treated peppermint mice?"
"No, not in months. I've been good actually," Harry said with a grin.
"I have and I shared part of one," Oliver asked. The twins groaned. "What? We can declare things!"
"It was treated with that new dust, the one they're trying to ban now," George told him. "They dusted them at the factory, long before we got them. We've put out an ad in the Daily Prophet about that, and have had a few returned. You'll need to take the ad in with you and hand it over. There's every chance that the test will pick it up."
"What happens is you do test positive for something?" Katie asked.
"We get banned until we do another test and if it comes back positive we're banned for a year, up to three for the serious muggle drugs or steroids," Harry told her. "They're real strict too. I heard of one guy who got it for eating too much chocolate."
"Man, Ron would hate that," Alicia said, shaking her head. "Hopefully it'll be okay. If you can declare it, it should be fine."
"I hope so," Oliver said worriedly. "I can face fines too, on top of the other stuff."
"The makers dusted it, not us," George reminded him.
"We're found a few other things so bring the whole ad into your coach and tell him you had one of them. It went out last week on Thursday so it was in all that weekend's I think."
"If he has any questions about it, tell him to call Tipsy," George added. "She's been handling this for us. The wife's amazing. She should have a staff but she does it all herself. She's got a law degree too you know. Mostly patent stuff but definitely worthwhile to us."
"To all of us," Harry reminded them. "Did she get my card for that?" They nodded. "Cool. I like that." He looked at Oliver, then at the door as it was knocked on. "What?"
"Let me in, please?" Greg called. "'San's just gotten sick again."
Oliver hopped up and let him in, taking the baby back to the bathroom to help him. "Come on, pumpkin, what's wrong with your bellies?" he cooed.
"She tried to lick the baby dragon," Dawn called as she walked in. "Hi. I'm Dawn." She shook the women's hands. "You're the pretty ones from Harry's quidditch pictures." They giggled and nodded. "Coolness." She flopped down beside Harry. "Before you say it, I was outside with Luna when they did it. I walked in to talk them all down and got them to explain what they were thinking to the nice Ministry official. She agreed that it was a workable solution and that if we couldn't keep Keelian for whatever reason it should go to a preserve because she hates potions masters." She patted him on the thigh. "How is Ron? Snape said something about some soldiers?"
"I haven't thought to check, I was giving them some time to make sure they had finished with the fight," Harry admitted, touching the tattoo on his arm, sending it directly to Ron, and accidently to Methos, who sent up a complaint about being woken up from his nap. So he sent an apology and thought harder at Ron, making him giggle. "He says he's fine. Draco and Alex appeared, literally, as the soldiers came back. They tried something but they charmed them all to ignorance and ignoring them." He let go of his arm. "Ron said to kiss you but I'm not risking his wrath that way."
Dawn smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "There, that's good enough," she decided. "He'll be back in about three weeks, I can jump his sexy bod then." She smiled at Tipsy as she came out. "Oooh, did you get hungry," she cooed, taking the baby to hold. "Yes, it's the Auntie Dawnie," she said, rubbing noses with the baby. "How are you today, pumpkin? You should talk to the Cassandra. She licked the dragon and got really sick."
Tipsy went to the bathroom to help. "Let me, Oliver. I'm great at getting sick stuff off babies and shirts. Ours had the worst case of regurge for the first few weeks." He nodded, letting her have the baby. "Oh, you are under all the bubbles," she said happily when the baby patted at her. "I almost didn't see you, 'San."
"Funny," Oliver chided. "Give it here, mate, I've got a washer."
"You sure? I can easily take it home with me."
"No problems. Give." Greg handed over the shirt. "I'll toss it in with her stuff." He took the baby's clothes to his washer and tossed them inside, then turned it on. He loved the mugglefied and magiced washers and dryers he had found. He walked back into the living room, smiling as Emilia came in. "He and Tipsy are trying to get her clean. Their stuff's in the washer if you wanted to toss stuff in."
"No, I'm good. He was holding her when she lunged to suck on the dragon's ear. Fortunately it wasn't Luna's hellhound puppy." She went to help her daughter, coming out with a clean daughter, a best friend, and a semi-dry husband who was toweling off. "We're sorry to barge in this way, Oliver."
"Eeh, if Tipsy's family and you're her family, then we're all related," he said happily. "I can never have too many friends."
"Good boy," she said, pinching his cheek. "Now all we need to do is to find you and Harry nice girls from among the kids of our friends. Unless you like older women, because I do know a few," she admitted with a grin.
He laughed, but shook his head. "Someone near my own age, please. Has to like quidditch like I do and want to watch me play."
"Sure. I'll keep that in mind. Juliette's daughter only likes girls or else I would have set her up with Harry already."
"I tried, but we have the exact same taste in women, Emilia. I wanted to get between them and have them both snuggle and comfort me. That's what I want, either one of them."
Emilia looked thoughtful. "I do know someone," she admitted. "I'll have to talk to her mom, see if she's doing much right now." She sat down next to Oliver, giving him a hug. "You're very nice, Oliver."
"Thanks," he said with a blush.
"Ah. That's what I was waiting for," she said with a giggle.
"She's a consort veela, their entire natures are teasing," Greg said tolerantly. "One of these days though I'm going to have to spank her for it. Or else pout and refuse to sleep in the same room." His wife pouted at him. "He's young enough to be our kid, Emilia!"
"Hey, he's older than my two," Tipsy reminded him.
"Yeah, but you went for guys like you. She's going for looks. She's not that into quidditch." Oliver pouted at her.
"That can change," she offered lightly.
"Excuse the scary pregnant woman, guys. She did this the last time too. It's some veela switch."
"Then let's hope Draco never gets pregnant," Harry said dryly, cracking Tipsy and Emilia up. "Here, Oliver, come sit with me and I'll protect you." Oliver shifted over and Greg sat next to his wife. "Remember, last time you had to rescue him from Catherine's couch."
"Oh, I do," she said, giving her husband a 'sorry' look. "Sorry, pookie."
He kissed her gently. "I understand, 'Mil. I've seen it before." He used his wand to slam the door before any of the kids could make it near there, earning baby pouts and scowls. "Tough, deal with it and move on. Play with each other."
"Or pounce each other," Tipsy said as Cassandra pounced Joxer again. "She's very good at that. Maybe she should have been a Tigger."
"We thought about it with the way she was bouncing up and down inside me, but then we figured someone would pick on her because of it," Emilia shared. "Maybe this time."
"There will be no Junior," Greg said firmly. "No second, no junior, nothing like that."
"Yes, dear," she said sadly. "That means I can't have a son just like you."
"Dear, you will so have a son just like me. Like 'San, I'll have him in the lab with me within days of being born. You know she's already getting a good feel for potions. Even though sometimes she comes in to chew on my cauldron."
"I told you she was anemic," Emilia retorted with a grin.
"It's pewter, dear, not iron."
"Then it's got to be some other mineral she's lacking."
"I told the pediatrician you said that and he said it might be. That's why he did the extra bloodwork," he said patiently. He kissed her again. "Take a nap, 'Mil, you need one."
"Fine, be that way," she sighed, leaning on his shoulder. "Sorry if I snore, but he's right. Half of this silliness is me needing a nap. How's the troops in Tibet?"
"Better now that they've obliviated the local army guys," Harry said with a grin. "Want my cloak as a blankie?"
"No, I'm good," she promised, resting against her husband's side. She closed her eyes and let him stroke her back until she fell asleep.
Greg grinned. "Sorry," he said quietly. "Give her ten minutes and we'll be able to shout without waking her."
Oliver pointed at the hallway. "Bedroom?"
Greg shook his head. "I'd rather have her close by. The baby's been fussy recently. The other's a calm little darling." He grinned at the first snore. "Okay, it's fine," he said in his normal voice. "Hey, Harry, where are they?"
"Halfway to the first village. They had to take some time out to come back and threaten Snape and Holly to treat each other well. You guys missed the torture...I mean serenading. It was a lot of fun to torture Snape. He's vowed that vengeance will be his."
Tipsy nodded. "He said he'll be coming by to pick up stuff for that," she noted.
"We'll have to make sure he only gets harmless things," Fred offered.
George smirked. "When it comes time to do their blessings for their kids, can we wish a kid like Harry on them? Strong, talented, and slightly smart?" Harry picked up a nibble and tossed it at him. "Hey!"
Harry gave him a long look. "I'll have you know I'm quite smart when I'm interested. Just because I wasn't interested in potions or many pranks doesn't make me dumb, it makes me have situational genius. Wish that on his kid."
"Oh, I don't know. Wishing a kid to be as powerful as you are would give him a thrill," Greg said with a grin. "Of course, as soon as he found out he'd kill us all." The other Banes in the room nodded.
"Blessing?" Katie asked.
"Blessing ceremonies. It's an older tradition but our group upholds it at Alex's insistence. He said his whole family still does it and look at him, Holly, and Harry."
"Hey, that rhymed, Tipsy, good job," Dawn told her with a grin. She picked up some food and threw it at her, but Dawn caught it in her mouth. "Thanks, needed that." She swallowed then leaned closer to Harry's side to look at Oliver. "If I begged and pleaded, would you come back to the school to run a short, maybe a Sunday, class on how to be a decent keeper? Gryffindor's new one sucks. I'm the only one from last year and they're mostly new teams." Oliver whimpered. "Just a few hours?"
"If I can arrange it I will," he promised. He grinned at her. "That's a good idea. We might be able to do that anyway. It would increase the good nature of some players and take off some of the bully reputations. Bear's a great teacher. He'll make a great coach."
"You did really good with me," Harry reminded him. "You and Bear together would make a fantastic coaching team. You've got the drive and he's got the cushioning when you want to be blunt." Oliver beamed at him, that was one hell of a compliment in his book. "It might work. The coach probably would go for it. You and I were both graduates. One of the under-coaches was. One of our chasers was I think."
"Yeah, he went many years ago, but he's our backup chaser now," Oliver reminded him. "He's a bit bitter because he's slowing down." He looked at the group. "There's the big open tryout next week," he offered. "Girls are allowed and so are older players."
"I tried to get Draco to go but he didn't think he wanted to be that far away from Alex," Harry told him. "He was bored but then he started doing the field potion stuff," he said with a look at Greg. "Thank you, he's quit moping and distracting Alex all the time. Now he's working instead of sitting in Alex's lap while he works."
Greg grinned at him. "Always happy to help." His daughter toddled over and crawled into his lap. "Hello, 'San. Tired of playing with Joxer and Iolaus?" She babbled at him and tugged on his shirt. "What?"
"I think she wants your shirt," Oliver told him. "My sister was the same way when she was younger."
"She's not magical, Potter."
"I'm sorry." He gave him an odd look. "You know, there's a theory going around Gringott's that the kids with one person in their family and then the rest aren't, that there's actually some sort of block. That it's like a latent ability and that some of them will break through with the right incentive."
Oliver considered it. "Maybe," he agreed. "It's interesting to think about. What are they doing with it?"
"Not a clue," Harry admitted. "All I know is that I heard some of the goblins chatting about it as they walked back to the break room while we were handing in stuff a few weeks back."
"If that's true, then we could conceivably open them up," Tipsy noted quietly. "That would make for a lot of happy parents."
"It would be tampering with nature," Greg told her. "It'd be genetic tampering most likely and it's dangerous and ethically unclear for most people."
"Even if you and 'Mil had a kid who was a squib?"
"Even if," Greg agreed. "I'd love it no less and no more than the others. I'll love all my kids, even if they turn evil I'll still love them. I may hate what they do, but I'm still going to be their parent."
"Damn it, if I die can I come back as one of your kids, Greg?" Harry asked. Greg gave him a long look. "It's always a possibility in my mind. There's still some out there who hate me because I took away their hero."
"Good point," Greg agreed. "If that happened, we'd welcome you as the new kid. Even 'Mil would and she said you should have been supported and cuddled like every other kid. She still wants to kick your aunt and uncle's butts."
"Too late," Harry said happily. "They're gone now."
"You're a bit too cheerful about that," Oliver pointed out.
Harry looked at him. "Oliver, if you had lived it, you'd feel the same way," he assured him lightly. "Trust me. Until then, you can't know what I went through every single day of my life with them." He shifted up to get something to stuff into his mouth. "Come on, guys, I didn't cook it." Everyone grabbed some food, changing subjects back to happier things, mostly the new school teams.
Dawn whispered in his ear. "I understand, Harry. I support you." He relaxed and grinned at her. She pinched him on the cheek. "But you're still not allowed to play with my clothes ever again. You mixed them up and I couldn't find my sequined top this morning." She looked over at Emilia, who was smiling. "Happy dreams?" Greg grinned and nodded. "Good. She needs some. She's having twins, that means it'll make her a lot like Molly. Or like Tipsy possibly."
"No we were special cases," Fred assured her. "We drove mum that way because of who and what we are. Not because of some special twin thing."
"Sure," Dawn said, nodding. "Because no other twins pull that stuff." They smirked at her. "Tipsy?"
"I'm a fraternal twin," she pointed out. "Besides, I hate my twin sister. I'd like to smack her in the head a few times until she joins reality. I can't wait to see the note after this announcement. Last time she sent a note about being pathetic."
"Love, where does your sister live again?" George asked. "I'd like to introduce myself."
She pinched him on the cheek. "Wait until she shows up. She always does," she promised.
"If and when, I want ringside tickets," Harry suggested. "We'll even bring pom-poms and do our best to cheer you on."
"I heard your sister was boil on the bum of humanity," Dawn told her. "I can let you borrow my sister, maybe she'll snack on her or something."
"No, then she might turn and we'd all be in trouble from the Puritan wannabe." Her boys shuddered so she kissed them both gently.
"'Scuse us, Oliver, but we've got to run home for a few minutes," Fred said, standing up and pulling his wife with him. "Be right back, in about a half hour. Don't end the party without us." They apparated out, waking Emilia slightly but Greg helped her go back to sleep soon enough.
"You've really got to excuse them. Molly said all pregnancies have that spot," Dawn told the others. "They're just like that most of the time though."
"At least it wasn't in the closet at school," Greg taunted.
"Yeah, but no one ever sent your woman panties with a lipstick print in the center of the used portion," Dawn retorted. "Someone did my guy and I staked my claim quite firmly in that closet, thank you." She beamed at him.
"Someone sent Ron panties?" Greg asked.
Harry smirked at him. "No, a lot of women sent Ron panties," he assured him. "Right after that interview to clear up the rumors. Ron got more mail than I did daily there for the longest time."
"Until the 'hunt the Harry' incident," Dawn reminded him.
"Oh, yes, until every girl who knew me pointed out that I did like girls, but I was shy. That got me hunted through the school." He looked at the girls. "You would have laughed. It was like I was the last piece of chocolate on the face of the earth by the way some of those girls looked at me. I almost made it into the Chamber, but some of the Slytherins caught me and drug me down to their first years' dorm for the girls. They're so far down they're underground. They also had some very ...weird ideas of what to do with me. By the time they got me out I was so traumatized I clung to Snape crying to be set free." He gave Dawn's knee a squeeze. "She took me down into the chamber to get me calmed back down. The rest of the girls in the school beat up the Slytherin females for wanting to hurt me and for stealing my wand."
"They also set guards in the bathroom in case you came back up," Dawn reminded him.
"Yeah, that's true. There were a few more of them, but nothing like the first one."
"One during Des' funeral," Dawn said bitterly. "I would have liked to have stomped some of those creatures flat."
"Me too," Harry soothed. "Calm down, you're glowing again." She muted her aura and grinned at him. "Good job, Dawn." He ruffled her hair. "Before anyone asks, I'm her big brother figure and that's it. We'd never get on like that."
Oliver snickered. "I'm sure but you two are very close."
"Well, yeah," she said sarcastically. "Almost all my other friends are gone, my lover's gone, my remaining family is thousands of miles away in each direction. Of course I'm leaning on Harry. I'll do it even more next year when Ginny and Luna leave me there by myself, older than my year and miserable."
"There's an equivalency," Katie pointed out gently. "Prove you know four subjects out of the major seven or eight."
"I'll have to ask Alex about that," she said happily. "Thanks. That's a good idea. Then I can go work for real while Harry plays his games, until he's tired of the fans and then we get him."
Harry gave her another gentle pat. "I'm sure it'll all work out," he promised. He smiled at the others. "Think Emilia was joking about finding me a woman?" They shook their heads, smirking at him. "Good, 'cause I could use one now and then. Especially if she liked to help me polish my broom and work with me on that technique for matching flying that Alex taught us."
"He taught you what?" Oliver asked.
"How to match ourselves in flight," Dawn told him. "Like the big, flying dragons do to mate." Everyone there whimpered slightly. "Sorry, was it supposed to be a secret?"
"No, most wizards do like Draco did once and put someone in front of them on the broom," he assured her. "You and Ron matched nearly perfectly and Alex and Draco were sexy and dangerous as they zipped and zagged to tease each other. I was fully impressed with them."
"Me too," Dawn agreed. "I thought you flew really well but you were kinda at odds with Draco."
"That's just a long-standing argument," he said with a grin. "It'll never happen between us. I hate him most of the time."
"I can understand that," she offered, snuggling back into his side. "I feel really cold right now."
"I don't know why, but I've got a chill too," Harry agreed. He looked behind him, then pushed her down and walked around to peek out. "Wonderful. Ollie, female stalker person with a rifle?"
"Get her, Harry," Dawn pleaded. "I don't need to be shot today."
Harry pulled his wand and pointed it at where he could see her, saying something under his breath as his wand waved a bit. She cried out and went stiff, dropping the gun onto the roof beside her. He put up the shade and looked around, spotting the reporter, so he opened the window and whistled, then pointed at the woman. "She's got a weapon," he called down. He looked stunned, but hurried up there to help out. It would be a fantastic story! Harry pulled back inside, looking at the others as he closed the shade again. "I love fans," he told Oliver. "Don't you?"
"Makes the game worthwhile," Oliver agreed dryly.
Stanley Kowalski looked at his partners, then at the beast across from them that they had been called to track down since Benny was so good at that. It was Vecchio who asked the pertinent question however. "I'm not up on my fantasy creatures, but isn't that a dragon?" Vecchio asked.
Benny Fraser nodded. "It's actually an ice dragon, Ray. It appears to be trying to cool down the surrounding areas so it can form an ice nest and lay eggs."
"Why would an ice dragon be around here?" Stan asked. "It's pretty and all, but Chicago in September is horrible."
"It's probably migrated due to the encroachment of humans onto their native habitat. You see it all the time with other animals, why not dragons. Most likely, with their probable habitat, it was some oil company. Someone should tell them what they're doing."
Vecchio could see his best friend going up to an oil drilling site and trying to reason with them, then getting shot. He looked at Kowalski. "Do you see any possible alternative to taking them on?"
Stanley pointed at the kids in robes. "Looks like they know what they're doing, but isn't Stupify a stunning thing?"
"It is," Benny said, going down to talk to them. "Excuse me," he told the teacher. "You seem to be trying to kill a protected beast, even in this country." She spun to look at him, mouth open. "I do not believe that is wise. You're only making her more upset. There's every chance she'll attack your students soon."
"Who are you? There's no Ministry in the US!"
"No, ma'am, I'm a Mountie," he said with a proud smile. He ignored the kids mumbling that Mounties were mythical creatures. "I have had to work with others of your kind before however. I am aware of the lack of appropriate watchdog agencies within this country, but you must realize that even the US has signed a treaty to save these incredibly rare beasts. Since there's less than five hundred of them left."
"What would you suggest instead?" she demanded.
"How about you try putting it to sleep?" Stanley suggested as he came down to join them. "She just got the other group of people in robes."
"Chicago PD," he said, pulling his badge. "I know a few like you guys." He looked up at the dragon and Benny got him out of the way. He looked back at Vecchio, who was now frozen, then at Benny. "Blair?" he suggested.
"Blair," Benny agreed readily once he saw the teacher be frozen. They ducked out of the way and used his cellphone to call their buddy, wherever he might be in the world this time.
"Blair, buddy, it's Stan," Stanley said with a grin. "Yeah, it's been a good few months. At least until the ice dragon just showed up. Yeah, I said ice dragon. No, I'm at home. Because it's shooting ice with its breath and Benny said it's an ice dragon that was probably shoved out by an oil company or something. No, it got the locals. Is there anyone who deals with ice dragons over here?" He grinned. "Thanks, man. Hey, anytime. I've got a couch. Vecchio's Ma's got a whole spare room too. No, he's presently frozen. Sure. We'll wait here. Thanks, Blair." He hung up and looked at Benny. "We've got to clear the area. Call Welsh," he said, handing over the phone. "I'm going to try to move Vecchio out of the way of another blast." He jogged over to his partner's frozen body, dragging him out of the way by his arms, being careful in case he'd break.
Greg stormed onto the scene, his ID already on his belt. He looked at Philip, who was giving him a tolerant smile. "This is the third one in the US this year and the second I've been involved in helping handle. Someone around here needs to start dealing with dragons. Set up a preserve or something!"
"Sure they do," Philip agreed. "Where?"
"Do I look like I care?" Greg shouted. "This is getting to be a bit too much. Where is a dragon tamer when you need one?"
"You whined?" Charlie said as he appeared. He dropped the portkey, shaking out his hand. "Alex makes those really strong."
"Usually," Philip agreed. "He said someone should have a preserve over here."
"There's one in Canada, but they're full," he offered. "Get on the Canadians to expand it." He looked up at the big dragon. "Shit, she's nesting. We may have to move the whole building for a few minutes."
Greg gave him a look, then pointed at the large skyscraper. "That's about a hundred stories of steel, glass, paint, furniture, and probably at least a few people. Not even Alex is that good." Charlie frowned at him. "This is the third one this year and the second one I've had to deal with. I'm a potions person, guys."
"Good point," Philip agreed. "Go unfreeze people then." He grinned as Greg hurried to do the easy job. "Now that he's gone, can we move her?"
"I have not a damn clue," Charlie admitted. "If she's already laying eggs, we'll have to take the nest too or she'll try to come back for it thinking she's left an egg or three."
"Can we make the nest unstable, catch any and all eggs, then move them all?" Benny suggested helpfully. Charlie looked at him oddly now. "Sorry, Constable Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police." He held out a hand with a smile.
Charlie shook it. "Friend of Blair's?" He nodded with that same smile. "Figures. He always picks the odd ones. Did any of the kids call you a myth? In our world you guys are."
"I did have one and I had to refute it because I do clearly exist," he explained. "She's still not too sure she didn't get hit by a stray curse."
"Yeah, she would be," Charlie agreed, looking up at the nest again. The female up there let out a bellow and the first egg came out. "Hell," he said bitterly. "We can't move the eggs by magic."
"The zoo has a cold area," Benny offered.
"Zoos are nasty, unhealthy places to store animals for them to be gaped at like they're creatures," Charlie retorted. "Or they're places where people do experiments. We don't let our precious ones go near those places."
"That's fine as well," Benny agreed.
"We can't leave her there, she's a danger to the public," Philip pointed out.
"I usually deal with steamers and smokers, guys," Charlie reminded them. "I've only run into people who deal with ice dragons. Constable, do you know the number for the Ministry up in your neck of the woods?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," he admitted, handing it over. "It's under maintenance in our directory listings. Called the Ministry for Internal Affairs. They can easily transfer you."
"Thanks, man," Charlie said, walking away with Philip's cellphone to call them. "Hi, my name is Charlie Weasley. I'm presently in Chicago with an ice dragon. Please, if you wouldn't mind. The locals here and I don't have a clue, plus the local school tried to do stunning spells so they were frozen. She's laying eggs on top of a skyscraper." He hummed along with the catchy hold music, stopping when the other end was picked up. "Sorry, catchy music there. I'm Charlie Weasley...." He smiled. "Chicago. Constable, what's the exact location?"
"112 East Twelfth street," he replied quickly.
"Thanks. 112 East Twelfth street. No, we've got one of your constables here. Fraser. Yeah, he did find the number. Why?" He grinned at the man. "At least he only gives it to us," he pointed out. "Yeah, we've cleared the area. We've put around that it was a movie promo stunt that went wrong. One of the local muggle cops said so. He knows Sandburg, which is who called me and Sanders." He beamed. "Even better. Thanks." He hung up and handed the phone back. "Thanks, Philip. How are you enjoying the single life?"
"Women no longer see the collar and go limp next to me," he told him happily. "No more throwing themselves at my feet or anything."
"Congratulations, Philip," Charlie said happily. "Ron said you did a bang-up job teaching Runes last year. You still going?" Philip nodded. "Good on you then. The school could use some new blood."
"Did you hear? Professor Snape just married his girlfriend Holly."
"Really. Dumbledore tricked him into it," he said fondly. "Made sure the contract had kids included too." Charlie burst out in giggles. "Exactly," he agreed. He smiled as someone popped in. "We're over here," he said, waving the woman over. "I'm Philip Callaghan. This is Charlie Weasley and Constable Fraser."
"Thank you for giving them our number, Constable. In the future, try not to give it out so often?" she said bitterly.
"I've only given it to the British Ministry and these ones," he protested. "Plus Dr. Sandburg I believe."
"Yes, we've heard from all those sources, plus the American military. Whos bright idea was that?"
"They've got one of those gate thingies going," Charlie told her. "I know an auror who's going back and forth to encourage the other beings to leave us alone."
"Yes, we've seen Tonks too. If the universe thinks we're all like her, they'll definitely leave us alone."
"They were thinking about asking Alex Dumass to go with her," Charlie said brightly.
The woman paused, shuddered, then winced. "No, that would be bad. Very, very bad. Thank someone for stopping that idea."
"He did," he assured her. He looked up as the dragon let out another bellow. "That's egg number three."
"We've got special moving equipment coming," she said calmly. "It's disguised as a moving truck." She looked up. "How will we move the eggs without magic?"
"We could roll them out and have something catch them," Benny offered.
"They're very fragile crystal," Philip told him. "It'd break and they're seriously endangered."
"We've got to do something, she can't stay here," Greg pointed out as he walked back over. "Hey, Stanley." He grinned. "Blair said to give you a hug but I don't want hit so I won't do that, and he said to smack you around some. He was in the middle of talking a girl up."
"I keep telling him I've got a couch he can stay on," Stan said with a grin. "So, you're still a CSI?"
Greg nodded. "DNA tech and learning to do field work."
"Good. Wanna switch cities?"
"I like my house, man. Otherwise I might. The desert's really pretty but I'm getting ready to have kids two and three and the wife complains about the heat." Stan happily thumped him on the back.
"How do all you guys know Sandburg?" the Canadian official asked.
"Pinkerton went belly up during a power struggle so we got switched to Hogwarts," Greg told her. "He was in the same year as we were. My wife and Philip were both native."
"Oh, that fiasco brought more trouble," she said grimly. "Good to know. Where do you work?"
"Even better. Can you maybe smack Penn around a bit for being a smug bastard?"
"I'll ask him and see if he likes it like that," he said with a grin. "My wife has him babysit our present one." She went stiff. "Yeah, Cassandra's ours," he said with a grin. "I'd just had one hell of a shift and crashed then went back for more. She was teaching a new one over there. So we kinda forgot since we knew she'd be so safe. Usually our sitters would call us with these things." They stared up to watch the next egg come out. His phone rang so he answered it quickly, knowing who it was. He had promised to call his boss back a half-hour ago. "Yeah?" He checked his watch. "No, I'm not due in yet, Grissom. Turn on the news. Something about Chicago on it?" He smirked. "Yeah, I'm there. I'll be on time. We all know this isn't my area. Oops. Sorry. Um, call the house. 'Mil's at home. Thanks, Grissom. Love you too, man." He hung up and sighed, shaking his head. "Emilia felt ill so she asked Grissom to watch her for a few hours and hasn't picked her up yet." He looked at everyone. "Okay, I've got to leave within a half-hour. What can I do to help more?"
"Go unfreeze more people," the official noted. He nodded and went back to that. "Good. Charlie, how do you know the Wizard of Blood?"
"He's a Bane. One of my brothers is a Bane."
"Well, I knew that. Especially the pranking ones," she said dryly.
"They're buddies," Philip explained gently.
Charlie looked around. "You'd almost think there was a curse breaker around here somewhere," he complained. "They seem to get called into this a lot." He looked at Philip. "Anyone you recognize?"
"Probably one of the students," he suggested. "Can we cradle it without infecting the eggs?"
"No," he said sadly. "I wish we could, but it's a no magic rule totally. Or else they're damaged. Especially at this stage."
"We still can't let her stay," Stanley pointed out. "I wish I could, but I can't." He glanced around again. "Okay, here's an idea. Can you guys do the suspended animation thingy?" Philip gave him an odd look this time. "I don't know exactly what you guys can and can't do. If you can, would it hurt her to be put into it for a bit while you move her and the ones she's still carrying, then your transport picks up the eggs and takes them to her?"
"Secondary problem, we're not sure where to put her," the Canadian official noted.
"Well, we can't handle an ice dragon in Romania. We get cold, but not year round," Charlie told her. "I thought you guys had a preserve."
"We do, but it's full."
"Any free land around it?" Stanley asked. She nodded. "Can't you guys claim whatever it is that lets you claim land and pay only a little bit for it?"
"Eminent domain?" Philip suggested.
"Yeah, that's it," Stanley agreed.
"We could. It's on native land."
"Most natives would care for them," Benny pointed out gently. "I know the Inuit tribe I grew up with probably would if they had the resources." The official gave him a long look. "My grandparents were the librarians and my father was also a Mountie."
"Oh. Good for you, Constable. That is a good idea. I suppose we could. Let me talk to my people." She pulled out a phone and smiled at their shocked looks. "It's the only way up there. Floos are so old fashioned."
"Yeah, but England's like that," Charlie noted. "It's easier with so many null technology areas."
"The school still uses quills," Philip agreed. "Quality education, just not technological by any means."
"Gods. Our best schools give out laptops for papers," she told them. She gave them a horrified look. "How do you guys run on parchment and quills?"
"Slowly," Charlie and Philip assured her. Greg drug Vecchio over.
"We're working on the problem, detective," Philip told him. "Just be patient for a few minutes longer."
Stan looked at him. "Want a beer and a pizza after work?"
"Hell yes," he agreed firmly. "Plus some explanation?" He sneezed. Greg handed him a vial. "Antibiotics?"
"Something to take care of the cold," he told him. "It's a pepper up potion. Perks you up and makes you feel warmer."
Vecchio handed it back carefully. "No thanks, I like modern medicine. If I want peppers, I'll get some on my pizza tonight." Greg smiled and shrugged, tucking it away again.
"Great One, aren't you supposed to be getting to work?" Philip teased.
"Yuppers, thanks, guys. It's been fun. No more dragons. Medical, potions, even herbology I can deal with but I can't do dragons very well." He disappeared, heading to the station first to pick up his little girl. He walked in shaking his head. "Movie promo stunt gotten out of hand," he said as he walked past Brass.
"Good. Want a ride home, Greg? Your wife never answered and Gil sent me to check on her." Greg stopped and looked at him, frowning. "Or is your way faster?"
"Much," he said, glancing around. He headed back outside to his chosen bit of shadow and popped home. "Emilia?" he called. No answer so he trotted up to their bedroom, assuming she'd be taking a nap. No one, but the bed was messy. He called Penn first. "Is my wife there? She's not at home. She called Grissom to take 'San and said she was feeling really tired. No, I called you first, just in case. Thanks." He called the hospital next. "Hi, I'm Greg Sanders and my wife is pregnant with twins. She's not at home even though she said she was going to be. Was she brought to you guys?" He waited while the nurse checked, then grimaced. "No? Yeah, please." He wrote down two numbers for the other emergency rooms, making sure not to touch too many things, just in case. Maybe he was paranoid, maybe not. "Thank you very much." He hung up and dialed the next one.
"Bedroom," he called. "Sorry, ma'am. My name's Greg Sanders and my wife's pregnant with twins. She's supposed to be at home resting and isn't. I was wondering if she had been brought in. No, just if she's there or not, I don't need any other information than that. Yes, Emilia. She may have had her old ID, which had the last name of Dorekson? She's a Brit by birth." He listened while she asked the other nurses and checked the check-in sheet. "No? Thanks. Yeah. If she does, I'm a CSI with the LVPD. Thanks." He hung up and called the last one as Brass walked in, holding up a hand. "Hi, I'm Greg Sanders and my pregnant wife seems to be missing. I needed to see if she was brought there." He waited, looking at Brass. "Last one."
"That's fine, kid." He waited, looking around at the messy room. "She not big on cleaning?"
Greg looked around, then grimaced. "This is way messier than usual," he noted. "No, I'm still here. Talking to one of the detectives I work with. No? Thanks, please. No, I'm with the CSI unit. Yeah, thanks." He hung up. "No on all three. No pregnant women brought in at all."
Brass nodded. "Then let's call Grissom, Greg. You call your friends to search for her from outside." Greg's face hardened. "You know the rules."
"Yeah, I know. Let me check my lab and lock it, just in case," he said quietly, heading that way. He found the door cracked and walked in, noticing the mess. "Someone tossed it," he reported. He checked, his backup stone was missing. His main one was still hidden but he hadn't been able to get rid of all the contaminants from the last exposure it had gotten. He backed out carefully. "I can only allow Catherine and Grissom in this room," he reported. "Warrick I trust, but it's chemicals and I don't want him to get in trouble since his certificate is lapsed."
"Fine," Brass agreed. "Go wait by the pool, Greg." He nodded, heading that way. Brass sighed as he pulled out his phone. "Bring the daddy his little girl to hold while we search his house," he ordered quietly. "She's missing. His lab's trashed and he said only you and Catherine in it because Warrick's certificate is expired?" He grimaced. "That's fine. No, he's by the pool trying it his way." He hung up and went down to the door to secure the scene. He noticed the security system. "Greg, do you ever turn this thing on?"
Greg stuck his head back inside. "Each and every time we leave. We don't normally have it on when we're at home." He walked in to look at it, then grimaced and hit the reset code. "It's dead." He started to move it but Brass swatted at him. "Just checking, there's a loose wire in there. We've had to have it fixed before."
"Out, Greg. Grissom's bringing Cassandra to you." Greg nodded and trudged back outside, going back to touching his arm and looking like he was thinking very hard. "Tracking charms?" he called. He walked that way.
"Tried it, she's blocked," he called back. "Damn it, Alex is still in Tibet! We need him!"
"You've got other friends," Brass reminded him from the doorway. "Any other who are cops?"
"Blair's a former advisor. Philip's a former priest. Harry's playing a game today. Dawn's in school. Sev's a potions master. Holly's a wiccan and maybe she can get something I can't. I've asked everyone to try a tracking charm though. The twins are at the store selling deadly pranks." He called the phone out there over to him, handling it carefully by the edges as he dialed Penn's number again. "She's missing. We can't even use a tracking charm. No, we've got an ice dragon in Chicago and Alex is in Tibet." He calmed himself. "Yeah, I had forgotten about Nick. Thanks, man." He hung up and concentrated on Nick's mental voice. He couldn't hear him. He called the house the muggle way, getting a frantic Alex. "Is Nick in trouble? Because I need his help too. My wife's missing," he said bitterly. "No, it's Greg. No, he'll hear it. Um, check dark and big places. Warehouse, by the sea, water's really close too. Maybe a boathouse? Big and dark. Sorry, Alex." He hung up. "And he's missing." He tossed it onto the other lounger, listening to the squishing noise. "That's not supposed to do that." He shifted over to look at the other chair, then grimaced. "The neighbor's hose struck again." He went back to his own chair, thinking at his friends. It was a lightening quick exchange that went round the world and back again, but still wasn't helping. Not even Philip reminding him to keep his temper was helping very much. Even Alex and Ron reminding him to keep his temper wasn't helping very much.
Brass turned to look at the first people through the front door. "He's out there communing with his arm." Grissom nodded, taking the baby and the diaperbag out there. "Catherine, the bedroom's a mess. His lab's a mess, and he just said the chair net to him was wet from the neighbor's hose."
"I call the lab," she offered, heading up there. "Is anything missing?"
"His backup stone." She paused to look at him. "He's already made a few calls."
"Then we'll do it our way," she said firmly. "The two can work together." She went to work, starting from the doorway. Everyone had to touch a doorknob to open a door and most wizards didn't think along the lines of gloves from what she had seen.
Grissom looked down at Greg as he cuddled his daughter. "Anything seriously odd?"
"My backup stone is missing. I found my lab door open," he said, looking at him. "Penn hasn't heard a thing," he admitted. "Teller answered the phone and he said Penn was venting in the closet. They have a show in an hour but he'll be listening." He looked down at his daughter, then up at his boss again. "I will kill someone for this," he said honestly. "And I'll probably enjoy the hell out of it if she's the least little bit hurt." Grissom nodded, heading inside. Greg nuzzled his daughter gently. "It's okay. We'll find the mommy or else the daddy will rip apart this whole fucking planet if he has to," he whispered. "We will find the mommy. Grissom is good at finding lost mommies. So is Auntie Catherine." The phone rang so he called it back over to answer it. "Yeah?" He listened, sitting up straighter. "And you are?" he asked coolly. "No, you'll talk to me now or I'm going to destroy you. You've got demands, you tell me." He could see Brass ordering a trace from the corner of his eye. "Do I care, man? You've got my wife and my unborn kids. I want them back. You've got needs and I've got needs. If you meet my needs, I might not kill you today. I can't promise, but I'll sure as hell try. No, Alex Dumass is a friend of mine, but I'm not a curesebreaker. Why?"
He listened to the other man ramble until Brass gave him a thumb's up. "I want to talk to my wife. Again, do I care what you want at this moment? Unless I talk to my wife, I'm going to find a way to track you, kill you, and then revive you and do it all over again. Now let me talk to my wife." His daughter babbled at the phone, patting it. "Not now, 'San. Let daddy talk first." Emilia gasped something. "Honey? Are you all right?" he asked anxiously. She hissed something and he nodded, understanding that. "That's fine. Give me an hour. Put the putz back on." He could hear the slap. "My wife will be in the same condition you found her in or better or I will find my soul of vengeance," he warned coldly. "Now, what do you want? Give it now, man, before I have the opportunity to track you down. Bet me I don't. I've got a demonwhore on my side and her army of hellhounds." The man listed his desires. "Fine. Doable. One hour." He hung up and tossed the phone at the other chair, then cuddled his daughter. He stood up and handed her to Brass. "Keep her for a few please. I'm going to go get into a duel. He wants my spot and my life."
"No," Brass said. "You can't leave her alone, Greg."
"I can't not show up. He knows me." He knew he looked odd, Brass was giving him a wary look. "I'm not the best dueler, but I've been taking lessons again." He left, heading to the appointed spot, where he dropped one of Grissom's tracking devices. He waited, impatient to say the least, until his opponent showed up. "You're late. She's not to apparate, you can hurt my children."
"We portkeyed," he said, shoving her out of the way. "Ready?"
"No formal duels? Barbarian much?"
"No, I prefer the realistic ones."
"Fine," Greg agreed. "Crucio." The man howled in pain as Greg walked over. "You touched what was mine and mine alone," he hissed, squatting down beside him. "I can very easily pull up the rage to kill you. I was a Slytherin for a very long time, little boy. You fucked with the wrong one of us. We're Banes for a reason."
"Greg," Emilia gasped, grabbing his arm. "Hold me?" He nodded, holding her as tightly as he could. "Release him. Let the law handle him. He still kidnaped me." She watched as her husband called in his location, the tracking device and all, then broke the guy's wand with a simple snap of his hands. Then he was back to holding her again. "He wasn't the guy who looted the lab."
Greg pulled out his cell, pulling his antenna with his teeth to call Catherine. "Here, tell her," he ordered, holding her some more.
She put the phone close to her ear. "Cat, it's me. No, he saved me. The lab was looted when I got home. Yeah. Someone was. Thanks." She hung up and dropped the phone, hugging him back. "I'm sorry he made you worry, Greg."
"Not as much as I'm going to make him paranoid," he promised. He looked down at the wizard. "If you think I'm scary, you should see my friends. They're all coming this way. Call Penn, love."
"You called him?"
"I had to know if anyone had let something slip." She picked up the phone, resting against his chest as the cops came rushing in. "Hey, I'm the kidnaping victim," she complained. "The one holding me is my husband. The guy on the ground had me."
"What happened to him?" one officer asked. Greg glared at him. "Oh. You're a possessive spouse," he said, nodding his agreement. "Very well, sir. We'll need to take a statement from your wife."
"Only if I'm standing there," he retorted. He pulled out his credentials and they all winced. "Got it?" They nodded. "Thanks." He took the phone when he heard the shouting. "Sorry, cops thought I was kidnaping her again." He smiled as he looked at the gentle way they were handling his wife. "Guys, she's pregnant. I want her checked over by our doctor. No, he can make house calls." He listened again. "Yeah, him. Is he there?" He smiled. "Thanks, man, you're the best overlord we could ever wish for." He hung up, noticing the odd looks. "Private joke," he defended. "He's a great source of information and calming me down when she's in pain." He followed them, taking his wife's hand to hold on the way back to the car. He got into the back with her, holding her while they went to the station. A big man in black walked up to them once they were inside an interrogation room and he looked up at him. "Doc. She was taken. She's pregnant."
"So Penn told me," he said gently. "May I have some privacy?"
"Sure," Greg agreed. He moved to the doorway, but didn't leave. The doctor looked at him. "My wife!"
"Good point." He smiled at her and laid a hand on her stomach, casting a small charm around her. "You look fine. Your blood pressure is up. Your heartrate is slowing down again. The children look fine as well. A bit stressed by your ordeal but nothing I wouldn't say was normal. Twins?" he asked with a smile. She nodded. "Triplets." She shook her head, eyes wide. He nodded. "Yes, dear one. Triplets. Two are exactly the same however." He glanced at Greg. "There's one possibility for still having twins. Most masters of an art can occasionally manifest in the womb and create an illusory second one. But that is very rare."
"I did it before I was born," Greg admitted, deeply in shock. His mind wasn't processing beyond the fact that she was fine and the doctor might be seeing an in-utero illusion. "That's how someone knew I was going to be a wizard. One of the nurses had heard of it and called in a friend."
"Greg, remember how you wanted to run away before?" Emilia asked.
"It's still very rare. I would still say triplets," the doctor offered.
He swallowed. His wife was scary. "Triplets? Draco only saw two. Are you sure?"
"Two are exactly the same and on the same wavelength. If all he was looking at was power flows, then that's all he would get. Is he a consort veela like yours?"
"My cousin," Emilia said, touching her arm to send a scathing remark at her beloved cousin. Something along the lines of 'I'm going to get you for this too, bastard'. She looked up at the doctor. "We're sure I'm fine?"
"I'd like to put you on bedrest for a few days," he offered. "Drink a lot of juice. No potions, husband." He backed away, canceling the charms. "I hope you many years of pleasure from the boys and the girl." He bowed to each of them before leaving.
"See, I knew I'd like him more," Greg pointed out. "Being a shaman and a doctor is really good."
"Greg, triplets?" she demanded. "Three little heathens?"
He grimaced. "Okay, not what I wanted exactly," he admitted. "All I wanted was a little boy, I promise." He walked over to hold her, relaxing once she was back in his arms. "Sorry, 'Mil."
"You'll deal," Grissom said as he walked in. "What did you do to him?"
"Remember the guy who got me in the hallway?" Greg asked. Grissom nodded. "That." He looked stunned. "Hey, it takes rage and I had it. You're lucky he's living. She stopped me, made me take it off him." He squeeze her again.
"Ease off, Greg, I need to be able to breathe," she complained. He sat beside her, holding her hand and kissing it occasionally. "Merlin, you'd think I was never in trouble, Greg."
"You're not," he reminded her. "If you are, unless it's really dangerous, I don't want to know." He gave her a look. "You knew I was a worrywart the day you met me when we were eleven, Emilia. That hasn't changed."
She grimaced. "I noticed." She looked at Grissom. "The doctor just found evidence for triplets."
He smiled. "Congratulations. How are you?"
"He only grabbed me, tied me to a chair." Greg moaned. "He slapped me once, and that's probably why Greg's gone homicidal."
"Quite likely," he agreed. "Greg, go get her some water." Greg glared at him. "Now, Greg, or I'm locking you in my office alone." Greg got up and walked out, only slamming the door a little bit. Grissom shook his head. "I've never seen him like that before."
"Love does odd things to your head," she reminded him. "Losing me for real would probably send him over the edge or kill him," she said quietly. "That's why I retired from my usual job, Grissom."
"I understand. Now, what was the kidnaping about?"
"He wanted to face my husband to take his spot in the hierarchy."
"Another one of you guys?" She nodded. "That's fine. I'm assuming since you do work for the Feds that one of them will magically appear and save us a lot of paperwork?"
"If they do, they can get Greg for casting that, Grissom. He's harmless now. His little talisman was broken." Grissom sat up straighter. "Greg had every right to do it. The man was going to kill me if Greg lost. He might have killed me anyway, he hadn't decided yet. Breaking his little wand was totally appropriate. They can't charge him for that."
"If you're sure," he agreed. He made a note on his pad. "Where did he come in?"
"He came in off the roof," she told him. "Came in on the second floor balcony. He started to drag me back there but I protested about being pregnant." She rubbed her stomach. "That's when he hit me the first time, calling a cab to come get us. He warned me not to say anything or else. Whatever he wanted to do basically. He's very indecisive. You can tell it in his eyes." Grissom made another note and she squeaked in fear as the door opened. "Oh, Gods, scare me!" She looked at the man. "Who are you?"
"I'm an associate of Nick Boyle's. I was told I could find Gregory in here?" Derek asked calmly.
"He's up the hall by the men's bathroom throwing a fit," Emilia said. "I was just recovered." She looked at him, touching her arm. "He's still living."
"Yes, but we can't find where."
"Then get Philip, Derek. He is one of us. He's in Chicago." His face lit up. "And he can get you back there faster too," she advised. She called Philip personally, bringing him running as quickly as possible. He actually ran into Derek's back. "Take Greg's 'key, Philip," she said quietly. "Greg felt water, darkness, very on the water, like he's next to it in some sort of big space."
"Thanks, Emilia. You're all right?"
"For now. Apparently the twins prediction was a bit off. Triplets." Philip moaned. "I think I'll be making that same noise soon. Don't bother Greg. He's having one of those angry days." They nodded, leaving together once Philip had found the portkey with Catherine's help. She had recognized him. She looked at Grissom. "It's been one of those bad days," she said softly. "I hate days like these."
"So do I," he assured her. "Want me to remind Greg that you needed the water?" She shook her head, taking his notepad to write down her memories of all this day, starting when she woke up. When she was done he took it back. "Thank you, Emilia. Anything I should skip over?"
"I was hoping for some mid-afternoon sex when Greg got back, but that was only part of the reason I had you watching her. I really do feel nasty."
"You're having three kids, I'd feel nasty too," he assured her.
She smiled at him. "Someone's figured out how to do that." He looked stunned and she nodded. "Just recently. Offered it to the twins." He laughed, walking out to leave her alone. Greg came back a few minutes later with his personal mug with some water. "Thank you, love. I had Philip take your 'key to Nick's. Derek was here. Funny, Nick never said he was so much older than him." She sipped the water, taking his hand to hold. "Can we go?"
"I'll ask," he promised, standing up again. Warrick came in. "Oh, crap, you're mad."
"No, I'm not," he said, shaking his head. "Everyone's accused me of that today." He gave him a long look. "You all right?"
"That's understandable I guess. Any Feds coming, Brit or not?"
"If they do he may be in trouble," she admitted. "Send him to prison, please."
"Fine." He gave them a long look. "Babies?"
"Triplets," she said between sips. "Two of them are so identical the doc had to search a different way to see them apart. I'm going to be a whale."
Warrick smiled. "No you won't. You just think you will." He came over to help her up. "Grissom said to go to a hotel for the night. We're still working on Greg's lab and he knew you'd want to be safer. Catherine has 'San in her office. Brass got scared when she cooed at him." He looked at Greg. "It was correct to point that out. It would have blown the case."
"I didn't want you to get into trouble," Greg admitted. "I know how the sheriff is looking for any excuse to tighten our budget again." Warrick nodded. "Be safe, man. We'll be in Penn's hotel probably. That way he can come up and check on his trouble buddy." He walked his wife out, heading to the cab stand. He passed up two of them, getting an odd look from the driver he finally chose. "She was just kidnaped. You look more trustworthy."
"That's fine, sir. Which hotel?"
"The one that has Penn and Teller's show," she ordered gently. He nodded, taking off slowly. "You can go a bit faster. I'm pregnant and I really need a bathroom." He sped up to normal cab speed, only bending a few speeding laws. She let him pay for the cab, then got him inside, heading directly for a bathroom. Greg was waiting when she came out, key in hand. "How did you do that? I know you wouldn't leave that spot."
"Teller walked past and handed it to me. Apparently he's psychic now too." He led her to the desk, letting her sign them in since they were in a secured suite. "Thanks," he said gently, taking his credit card back. He led her to the elevator. "I'll spoil you tomorrow by taking you shopping."
"I'd like that," she agreed happily, smirking at him. "We'll still never find a shirt to fit me once I'm six months along." They walked out of the elevator and into the suite. "Ooh, I like this one," she told him. "Expensive?"
"So?" he snorted. "You're worth it. I don't spend my paycheck on anything much at the moment." He led her to a soft couch and sat her down, casting his own check charms on her. She appeared fine so he finished relaxing, curling up with his head in her lap, nose pressed against his future kids. "We forgot 'San again."
She called over the phone and called the precinct, getting Catherine immediately. "I'm sorry. It's been one of those days, you know?" Catherine laughed and promised to bring her over in a few minutes, as soon as she could. She even said she'd stop and get them some diapers if they reimbursed her. "Sure. Thanks, Catherine. Watch out, she's walking and she spent the weekend with the Weasley twins, the next generation. She spent the whole time pouncing poor Joxer and trying to strip her." Catherine laughed as she hung up. She patted Greg on the head. "I don't like days like this."
"Me either. Thankfully they're rare," he mumbled against her flesh. "Good babies. You don't kick right now. We love you guys." He blinked heavily, suddenly needing a nap. "Night."
"Good, you nap, I'll watch," she agreed. She smirked as he fell asleep then Penn walked in. "Good job."
"Thanks. I figured he'd be a bit possessive of your tummy." He patted it for her. "How are they?"
"They are actually three. Two of them are so close in twinness that they have the exact same pattern of energy. Doc found the difference." He winced. "So yes, triplets. I'm going to be bigger than Tipsy was."
"Yes, but you'll still be prettier," he said with a wink. "You okay, kiddo?"
"Fine. He slapped me a few times but nothing major. He was being indecisive. Greg snapped his wand."
"Good! I also heard Greg was able to cast something really painful?" he asked archly.
She looked up at him. "If it was your wife, you would too," she reminded him gently. He nodded at that, accepting it as truth. "Anything new?"
"No, not really. No daughter?"
"Catherine's bringing her."
"Someone put in a suggestion that we bring her on stage with us once a week to do special shows."
She gave him a long look. "My daughter is not a stage prop, Penn." He grinned at her. "Only if I can make sure she's not harmed. She's walking now."
"Good. I'm sure she'll climb into bed with the triplets many times once they're born."
"As long as it's not before they're born," Greg complained, turning over to look at him. "Problems?"
"Came to check on her," he said gently. "Go back to sleep, Greg." Greg grimaced but felt compelled to listen. "Good boy." He smirked at her. "Works every time."
She laughed, it was a nice feeling after the day they had all had.
To Part 5