George looked around in awe at the joke shop, then looked at the woman running it. "How much of this can I steal and make regular wizarding treats?" he asked Madam Zora.
She laughed. "You can try. Most of these are older toys." She pointed at a story crystal. "Those don't work for gryphons, they're sphinx made, but they'd be a great treat." George ran over to pick one up and check it out. "That and we've got a catalog as well," she offered.
George pulled one of out of his back pocket and they exchanged. "Xander's been slowly feeding us more naughty ideas from the born side of things," he admitted. "He does our annoyance and punitive lines."
"He'd be good at it," she said, looking at the hot young man and his entourage. "Who're they?"
"Our acknowledged son and my younger brother," George said with a grin. "My older brother is out helping our son Iggy at the bookstore since he's lost again."
"Hmm." She licked her lips. "Any of them single?"
"Bill and Ron both are, but Ron's got kids. He's a widow."
"Wonderful. Are they happy children?"
"Triplets," George agreed. He saw something that drew his attention and walked over but she steered him away. "No?"
"No, I'm sorry. That can trap the average wizard. It's succubus made."
"Oh." George smiled at Draco and motioned him over. "Succubus made," he said, pointing at it.
Draco picked it up and looked it over. "Interesting." He looked in the peephole and smiled, shaking his head. "Minor striptease." He handed it back with a smile. "I prefer seeing the real thing." He pointed at a glowing ball. "What are those?"
"Those are everything balls. They're the latest in mimics." George walked over and looked at them. "Those I can't allow you to steal. I'm sorry."
"That's okay, we've got a liquid and a putty mimic," George told her, shooting a smile at her. He saw a darkened room and pointed, and she nodded, so he went in there and squealed in delight. "I love these!" he called, hurrying out. "Xander, come look!" He drug his mate in there, showing off all the little things.
"You can have any of those," she called. "They're old news and I never sell any." She smiled at Ron. "Triplets?" she asked him.
He pulled out his wallet and showed off a picture. "My three. Do you have any?"
"I tried once, but apparently I can't have any." She smiled at him. "Are any of them interested in pranks?"
"Oh, yeah," Ron said with a grin. He was enjoying this flirting thing. Bill walked in with Iggy, nearly dragging their nephew. "Did he find something?"
"He found a six *thousand* galleon book of potions," Bill told him. "Six inches thick, eight inches high. He all but offered to sleep with the owner for it." Ron snickered.
"Ask Severus, son," George called out. A small slap to a denim-clad body part was heard. "Ow! What was that for?"
"Six thousand galleons?" Xander said in disgust.
"And only two potions in the whole thing," Bill called.
"Ask Bill, our elder," Xander called back.
"Daddy, can I steal fifty galleons really fast?" Iggy called. "For other books?"
"If you can make it to the vault before it closes," Xander agreed. He grunted and came out, frowning at his son. "Our elder just told me to tell you to go look in their vault on *this* side and to take whatever you needed, within reason. He didn't think that book was reasonable but he said the other six you were thinking of were fine."
Iggy nearly left a drool puddle behind as he ran off. All six? Wow!
Bill shook his head. "You guys spoil him."
"He's special, he deserves it," Xander said with a shrug. Then he grinned. "And we're not paying for them. That's the best part of all of this." He nodded back there. "Come back and see?"
"No, I'll wait until they need a new tester." He started for the succubus cube but Draco stopped him. "What?"
"It's demonic," Draco told him, handing over the tool kit he had been looking at that. "How about that for Percy?"
Bill looked them over. "What do they do?"
"Those are practical, they're not funny," Zora told them. "For small repairs."
"His brother's over the archives at the Ministry," Draco told her. "He's got very little humor." Xander glared at him. "He doesn't. You mate and his twin made him hide it deep within himself so he could get free of their influence."
"Thank you. That's the nicest compliment I've gotten all week," George said, carrying an armful out to the counter. "These, and the crystal, and one of those blue things for Fred." She handed over the long blue string. "What does it do?"
"Nibble it and see," she said with a wink.
George broke off a small piece and then looked up, eyes wide, as he felt it start working on him. He looked around but his mate wasn't in sight. The only one in sight who wasn't his brother was Draco. He jumped him, kissing him as hard and as deeply as he could.
Bill looked at her. "Lust?" he asked dryly. She nodded, beaming at him. "Xander, George just ate lust candy."
Xander walked out from between the shelves and sighed. "George, let go of Draco or we'll have to share him tonight." Draco 'eeped' and got free, heading for the door, but Xander put him behind him to protect him. "Kiss me, you goof, not him." George attacked him, knocking him into the shelves to grope and rub against him.
"I want some of that," Ron said, sounding a touch bitter. "Not that I have anybody to use it with, but then again, maybe I'll find someone."
"Anya knows some succubi," Xander panted. "How much did you eat!"
"A quick bite," George growled in his ear. "Tonight, I'm going to make you *sore*," he promised.
"Okay." Xander submitted willingly again.
Draco added his things to the pile with a wink for the proprietor. "Now I know what to get George for his birthday." She giggled and started to ring things up. "George, did you want anything else?"
"Just him," George assured him. Ron was the only thing that kept him from falling to his knees.
"There's a bathroom in the back," Zora offered. "Make sure the kids aren't in it. I'm watching my niece and nephew." George drug Xander back there and locked them in. She smiled at Ron, then winked. "Want some?" she offered.
He blushed. "I like to take things slowly, sorry. I'm a cuddler." She purred and he shivered. "Do you think you can visit their store soon?"
"Definitely," she promised. He beamed and winked, going back to his shopping.
Draco and Bill looked at each other and shook their heads.
Xander popped back into the store and smiled as his mate joined him with their son and his packages. "Fred, come help," he called, starting to heft things into the living section. It was clearer out here or they'd have appeared back there instead.
Fred came out and looked at his brother-in-law, then at Draco and his brothers. "Did you get turned?" he asked bluntly.
Xander frowned at him. "Huh?"
"You're all in leather. I was wondering if you had gotten turned."
"Oh. No, I just found comfy stuff," Xander said happily. "The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can go make the school rattle and not keep you up."
George handed over two large boxes. "Don't eat the blue strings unless you're prepared," he warned. Then he put the catalog on top. "These are her old line. We're welcome to change them around some." Fred's eyes lit up. "She'll be visiting next weekend to check us out and try to pounce Ron." He lifted up Xander's new sword and put it into the case.
"Where did he get that?" Draco asked.
Bill nodded. "I don't remember a weapon's shop."
"That one's mine," Ron told them, taking it from his brother and putting it on his back, using a sticking charm. "Where's my stuff?"
"Shit!" Iggy sent himself back and came back with the rest of the bags, handing them over. "No one had taken anything yet, sorry Uncle Ron." Ron shrugged and checked, then smiled at his nephew and headed back to the school, taking one of the blue strings with him.
Draco shook his head. "I'm sure we'll all be up tonight." He took his own things and smiled at Fred. "We'll bring you with us some other time."
"What do you think about this for Charlie and for Percy?" Bill asked, holding up the two presents.
"I'll chip in and pay for part of it," Fred told him. "They're perfect."
"Sure." Bill grinned. "Wait until you see his next outfit." He winked and strolled away.
Fred put down the boxes and went to see what everyone else had bought. Iggy had already disappeared and the couple were desperately shagging on the couch. "The girls are coming up tomorrow, don't stain that."
"Won't," Xander panted, clutching George's back, scratching at him to make him give him more friction. "Bed!" he demanded. "Or nest!" he agreed when George looked at him with a smirk. "Now!" George stood up and pulled him back to their room and the nest.
Fred went to find his earplugs, sure he was going to be needing them.
Xander walked into the school and took off his cloak. It had been chilly so he had bundled up. A few of the students heading to class stopped to look at him and he grinned. "What? They're marvelous."
One girl screamed and came at him with a pencil, but he broke her wrist and put her onto the floor with a kick to the stomach. "Vampire!" she screamed.
"I came in from outside!" he said, glaring at her. "It's sunny, Stephanie. Besides, see, not pale and bloodless." He pointed at his rosy cheeks. "For that I should make you take the class again." He looked over as Poppy ran down the stairs. "She thought I was a vampire."
"You don't usually wear leather," Simone offered from the stairs. "Though you look hot. Did daddy pick up any?"
"Some for his present weight and some for when the baby's born," he said with a grin. "Come try this out. This cloak is *great*!" She hopped over the railing and joined him, trying on the cloak. "Isn't that the most wonderful thing you've ever felt?"
She purred and smiled up at him. "This is what I want for Christmas. Tell daddy. Please?"
Snape stormed up. "What is going on!" he demanded. He looked at Xander, then at the student, then back at Xander and Simone. "Turned?" he asked finally.
"She thought so, even though I had just come in from outside," Xander said dryly.
"It's the hickey, uncle," Simone assured him, handing him back his cloak. "Please beg for getting me one of those. I'll even pay for part of it from my allowance if it's too expensive." She smiled at Snape. "He disarmed her, and put her down, he didn't really hurt her."
"Broken wrist, strained muscles in her stomach," Poppy agreed, lifting the poor thing up. She looked over Xander's outfit again. "I used to wonder what you looked like in your former hunting outfit."
"I got another one," he said proudly. "I look hot." The kids laughed and continued the trek to class. "I really was defending myself. Her aim's off, it nearly hit my right lung." He bent over and picked up the girl's pencil, handing it to Severus. A girl behind him sighed. "Class," he ordered. "My ass is taken, you can't even admire it without George never selling to the school again." She pouted all the way to Herbology. He smiled at the stern Potion's Master. "Iggy got nineteen books. All of them on potions." Severus shook his head. "And a new hunting outfit and a sword," he said proudly.
"Wonderful, just what he needed," Snape said, heading back to his classroom. He would need a headache tonic before the day was out he was sure. He found Iggy and Raena squealing over his new books at his desk and shook his head. "Your father nearly got staked."
Iggy looked up. "She'll get hers from Uncle Draco. Simone told him." He held out the book. "Look," he said happily.
Snape downed the headache tonic and grimaced at the blueberry taste. "Quit fixing the medicines, Ignatius. That was more horrible than the usual taste."
"The blueberry was an experiment," Raena told him with a grin. "There's also a raspberry somewhere in the infirmary and a strawberry in the storage cabinet."
Severus shook his head but he took the book to look at the potion. "Oh." He smiled at them. "May I copy this one? I've never seen this poison or the antidote."
"I know. We got that one for you. It's ancient." Iggy patted the rest of the stack. "These are ours."
"I'll look at them soon," Severus promised them, heading back to his office to flip through the various ones and mark the ones he hadn't seen, which was all but two of them. Well, this would certainly help his reputation among his peers. He heard a gentle burbling noise and went to investigate it. "What is that?"
"A mating formula for the New York Colony," Raena told him. "A pair of borns there are having trouble. Her family in the past was not a born but it ate a unicorn way back when and they're having trouble conceiving."
"I didn't know there were any in America," Snape told them.
"Up by Sarah Lawrence. The old colony was in Central Park, but it's gone now." Raena shrugged. "They only moved back there thirty years ago."
"And now they want baby borns," Iggy finished. "We got the letter yesterday."
"That's fine, I will be checking this cross-species potion," Snape told them. They both nodded. "Is it written down anywhere?"
"They sent it to us and we've started a new gryphon and borns book," Raena told him, pointing at the purple book on the desk behind them. "I did the research on this one last night. The variations for the other cross-species spells are with it." She smiled at Iggy. "He found the born shopping area last night."
"I heard he got a sword," Snape said dryly as he opened the new potion's manual and read through the spell. "This seems out of balance."
"It's strong, but that's because the unicorn/gryphon wars and the way they stopped them," Iggy told him. "It has to overcome the whole 'not able to see them' thing."
"The couple can't see each other?"
"They can, but not if they're not watching for them. They can sneak around each other if they aren't concentrating on their bond. It's fascinating in many ways," Raena told him.
Iggy hopped up to sit on the desk, pulling out a piece of chocolate. He handed some to Snape. "To counteract the fumes we'll have in a few moments."
"Classes start in twenty minutes," Snape pointed out, eating the chocolate.
"We got enough for everybody, but the fans will disturb the bottling of the fumes so we couldn't use the dangerous potion's lab. Besides, if we get trapped by the fumes, there's nothing that will stop us getting together." Iggy grinned at him. "Not even chains."
"I'll keep a close eye on you," Snape said, going back to his desk to look through their new books. "Horses?"
"I saw the most beautiful mare last night," Iggy told him, smiling at his wife. "Her coat was the same shade as your hair. If you decided to do the animagus stuff, I want you to turn into her. She was just simply gorgeous."
"If we get a house with space to keep one," Raena agreed.
"Were you wanting to try for that?" Snape asked her, not looking up.
"I considered it back in my first time through school," she admitted. Her mentor looked up at her. "I even brewed the potion, but I couldn't talk myself into taking it. I was scared of what I would become, especially since the other girls had creatures that might eat me. I wasn't well liked because I was smarter and better at most things so I knew the girls would do something to me."
"You could do it now," Snape offered. "We would watch you."
"I've thought about it," she admitted, looking at her husband. "I'm not sure his degree of being born would allow him to try at all."
Iggy shrugged. "You'll either turn into something I can carry around or something I can ride. I'll deal and be happy for you if you do it and get across."
"Did you want to do that as well?" Snape asked.
Iggy shrugged. "It might not work on me. My degree of being born is less than a hundred generations. It's not supposed to work on us, though we can try for some shapechanging spells if we want. I'd almost be obligated to turn into a gryphon if I did it."
"Not necessarily," Raena corrected. "The last one I heard of doing it that way was a Chinese born and she turned into a water dragon. They said it was odd that she turned into a non-sentient species, but there wasn't anything about her not becoming a gryphon being odd."
"Yeah, I can see that," Xander said from the doorway. "Iggy would have to go live with his Uncle Charlie for a few months to learn how to be a dragon." Iggy nodded, grimacing slightly. "Wait until next year, kids. You've got the time." He held out the letter. "From our beloved elders. Delilah wants to see us all this weekend."
"Us? Or all of us?" Iggy asked.
"Me and my mate and you and yours," Xander told him with a faint smile. "Something about shaking the caves....." Snape coughed to cover up his laughter. "Sure, laugh, but what happened last night? Nothing. George and I figured it out. We have to be in complete mental rapport while we're having the intense sexual times to keep it in ourselves."
"Yes, but then you'll have to let the energy out another way," Raena pointed out. "Many borns have ended up pregnant that way, father-in-law." She smiled at him. "Not that you wouldn't be *cute*, but I doubt you want it."
"Maeve could use someone to pick on," Iggy offered. Xander shook his head. "No? You talked Draco into it."
"I did no such thing," Xander reminded him. "He did Lucien all by his lonesome. I had nothing to do with it outside of introducing him to the concept."
"If you do, we'll be watching your behavior," Snape warned him. "We wouldn't want another version of Professor Rosenberg's problems."
"That was the hellmouth," Iggy reminded him. "My father would become cuddly and nicer."
"Very true," Xander agreed. "And crave chocolate." He grinned. "We're due up Friday night."
"Yes, sir. We'll sign ourselves out and not go shopping this weekend, even though I wanted to show her that horse."
Raena smiled at him. "I've seen her, dear. She's very beautiful and loving, and hasn't sold in three years."
"Then we should rescue her," Iggy said firmly.
"There's nowhere around here to keep a horse," Xander reminded him. "No horses, son." He waved at Snape and walked away. "Albus thought it was funny and encouraged me to find my hunting outfit and wear it tomorrow to see what happened."
"That man is insane," Snape muttered. He watched the fumes forming. "Should you be gathering those?"
"On it," Iggy said, sliding off the table to grab their capturing bottle.
Xander looked at the upset team in front of him. "I guess I'll have to start insisting on team practices," he sighed. The women gave him pitiful looks. "What happened out there? You were doing so well, then it fell apart!" He sat down and looked at the lovely threesome.
"Will you still work on my shoulder?" Alicia asked, doing her best to sound pitiful. "We tried, Xander, but they got sneaky and started to play mean, and we weren't ready for that this time."
"I guess I can give minimal ones, just enough to ease the aches," he decided, looking at his husband. "You were knocked off. What happened to you?"
"I was distracted by the woman flashing all of us in the stands."
Katie nodded. "She glowed. She even distracted me."
"Then we'll have to work on the distraction problems," Xander told them.
"Xander, not naked," Fred whined. Everyone looked at him. "He keeps giving the kids in his advanced class these lessons where they're in the skimpiest clothes he can find for them and threatens to have them do an exercise naked."
George and Draco both nodded. "He would, but for the owls he'd get in complaints," Draco agreed.
"Militaries do it for their elite fighters," Xander said, starting to pout. "I wasn't going to demand that you guys do that. I'm sure the ladies would be shy and not want to look at you guys."
"Speak for yourself," Angelina snorted. The other women nodded. "Can we get all the support staff in this exercise?"
"Yeah," Katie agreed. "You guys, Oliver, Harry. Draco if he wants." He smirked at her. "Come on, it'll be fun."
Xander shrugged. "If it'll help you guys win," he agreed. Fred and George both glared at him. "If you're that embarrassed you can wear undies," he offered with a grin.
"Only small and tiny ones."
"Draco knows where to find ones that are somewhat comfortable," Xander offered.
"No, Xander," George said dryly. "I'm not wearing anything he puts me in. It'd be green and I'd have to protest."
"I'd compromise and put you in silver," Draco offered with a slight smile. "I'm not ashamed enough to have to wear clothes in front of anyone."
"Your belly would overhang," Fred noted. Draco hit him hard, making him flinch and move away. "Sorry, I didn't say you were fat, but the baby would get in the way of their ogling."
"I'm still not that big," Draco said firmly, crossing his arms and starting to pout.
Xander gave him a hug. "The baby isn't that big. I'm sure you'd still show underneath her." Draco nodded, starting to look happier. "You're very well built and more than large enough to impress most women who haven't seen me."
Draco slapped him on the chest. "Prat." But he was smiling.
"He's very well built?" Angelina asked. Draco nodded, starting to smirk again. "Then we wouldn't mind. Even though the baby would bounce around."
Alicia smiled and looked over everyone. "If Draco wanted, he could wear those leather pants he was photographed in." The girls giggled. "Just ten minutes each, Xander? Please?"
"Sure. Just enough to get rid of the aches. Let's head back to the shop." He led the way, leading the poor team down to get worked on.
Alicia opened a cabinet in the living room. "What's in here? I've never seen this one before."
"It's the weapon's cabinet," Xander said with a goofy grin. "It's mine." He waved at the couch. "Someone lay down and take off their shirt." The girls shoved and Draco got the couch while they fought. "Not you," he said with a grin. "You'll get yours later, son."
"Can we watch that?" Katie asked, forcing Draco to scoot over so she could be first.
He gave her the driest look he could. "I think you've seen enough of that. Don't you?"
"When you walked in on me in the basement?" She blushed. "That was after a backrub."
"See, he is human," Alicia told everyone. "He gets off with a Xander rub just like us." Draco shook his head and accepted some help into a chair, where he put his feet up. "You're sure? We can wait."
"So can I. After all, I live with him part of the time." He smiled. "He even walks in on me in the bath some days."
"Oooh, scandalous," Angelina teased, looking at George. "Do you *allow* that?"
"Not much I can do about it. He's always in the bath. The screen in front of it isn't that sturdy and he moans."
"It eases my back pain," Draco pointed out, just a little bit stiffly.
"Of course it does and you deserve the pampering," Xander agreed, looking at his mate. "It's not like I haven't caught you over there talking to the baby."
"Point," Fred said, breaking up the argument. "I do believe you promised us to work out our kinks."
"Gee, Fred, I'm not sure my backrubs are good enough to make you give up a kink," Xander said with a grin, sitting down to work on Katie's shoulders and arms. "If you tell me which one you want to give up, I'll do my best to help you though."
Fred groaned and banged his head against the doorframe. "Xander, not those sort of kinks. Thank you, but I don't have that interesting of a sex life. You two are the kinky ones in the family."
"I try," Xander agreed with a grin. George blushed. "What? I do. I let you do all sorts of stuff to me. And I get to lots of stuff to you too."
"Dear, too much information," Angelina said, patting him on the shoulder. "George is one of those private people who like the curtains closed." George and Fred both shook their heads. "He changed that?"
"He pounces me in all manner of places, I had to get over that problem," George told her, mock- pouting. "He even pounced me on the counter once or twice."
"Last month," Fred added. "He tends to leave him drooling and semi-conscious in a lot of places. The counter, the floor out front, that couch, my bed, the shower. Their room here and up at the school."
"On my desk," Xander added, switching ladies to work on Alica's arms. "In the advanced classroom on the mats and on the weight bench." He grinned at the shocked looks. "What? I locked the door. It's easier to keep the kids out of there than it is the tower." George nodded. "And I'm good, I haven't pushed for sex in public since before Ginny got her picture taken in Diagon."
"That was only a few months ago," Katie pointed out. Ron laughed from his sprawl against the weapons cabinet. "Did you marry a monster, George?"
"Of my own making. I had to teach him what to do. I stole him away from the legions of evil and stupid women who didn't know how to take care of him properly."
"And we're all thankful for that," Draco agreed, patting him on the forearm. "Having him stay with Anyanka might have been very damaging to his fragile mental state. Or even that vampire bitch, the one I can't remember the name of."
"There's been more than one?" the seeker asked.
Xander considered it. "No, just the one. Dru tried but I never let her get beyond calling me a pretty kitten." He shrugged. "And Cordy wasn't a vampire while we were dating, that didn't happen until after we all came over that first time."
"She was still an energy sucker," George said bitterly. "Aren't you glad I got you away from them?"
Xander smiled at him and saw his husband relax. "Of course I am, giving up women was one of the best decisions in my life, George, but you still didn't get the facts right. That was my only challenge."
"Life must have been more exciting over there," Katie sighed. "There are days when I would *kill* to have an exciting life."
Xander took off his shirt and she gasped, looking at all the scars. "This is what an exciting life gets you, this or dead. Stories to tell around beers in the pub aren't worth the itching while you heal, or the possible death. Trust me." He put back on his shirt and moved on to the next person's back, it was partially out and he had worked on it a few times for their seeker. "If you want to sit out any of the games, Mellie has agreed to play for you."
"Tell her thanks, I might be taking her up on that offer." He looked back at Xander. "How did you get the big scar on your stomach?"
"Stopping the ceremony a few years back that nearly killed Andrea Reams. I broke up the magical currents by pulling them into me and being stubborn."
"Oh. Hadn't heard that. All we heard was the good guys at the Ministry coming up and saving everyone."
Xander snorted. "Sure, they got there after we finished," Ron told him. "Tried to hit us again too. Xander, me, Draco, and Harry fought beside some of the gryphons to take them down. No aurors were harmed in the making of that fight." Xander smiled at him. "It does suck, not being recognized for doing things like that."
"Not as much as it would if we were plagued with reporters," Xander pointed out gently. Ron nodded, accepting that rationale, even though he didn't like it. "Next?"
"Me," Fred said, shifting so he could take the empty spot. "George can hog you later."
"George doesn't get a fantastic treat today either," Xander assured them all, and George scowled. "Nothing more than the regular sexual athletics we go through."
"So you'll only leave him lying around once tonight?" Katie teased. She smiled at Harry and Oliver as they walked in. "Xander said we all have to practice together, and we have to do it naked." Harry started to choke on his next breath.
"Only if they want to. Draco can find them tiny little underwear if it'd make them more comfy," Alicia reminded her. She smiled at the new arrivals and they nearly bolted. "Behind the Burrow so no cameras are present?"
"Why do you do things like that to me?" Harry asked Xander.
"Someone had their shimmery ho in the stands and her toplessness distracted everyone," Xander told him, looking serious. "They need to get over that."
Oliver whimpered. "I'm sure they can work it out together, without us." He started to bolt but found George behind him. "You wouldn't really do that to us, would you?"
"Think of how tight the team will be," Ron pointed out.
Fred nodded. "If you had done that for us in our fourth or fifth year, we've have worshiped you like a God and done our best to pound everyone for another peek." The girls all blushed. "Oh, how cute," he cooed at them. "We would have. We also would have begged at your feet."
George nodded. "There were definitely many reasons to beg in those years. It would have made us unstoppable back then."
"The school never would have allowed it and we would have beaten you because you'd have been thinking about bouncing breasts," Draco put in. The twins glared at him. "We would have. Young men are easily distracted by nice breasts, if they're straight that is."
"He's got a point," Harry agreed. Then he grimaced and shook his head. "I don't believe I just said that." Draco smirked at him, but then he grunted and Xander was instantly rubbing his stomach. "Kicked?"
Draco leaned back. "Yes. She's a right beast every now and then. Liked to help me play with the pretty women the other day as well."
"She thought the prostitutes were neat?" George asked.
"Probably. She did spend a lot of time cooing at my stomach." He saw the women's looks. "I haven't had a steady date since Ginny went wrong," he pointed out. "It's useful and it keeps me calm."
Xander looked at the women. "When he took Simone, it made her stop swearing, being pushy, fighting, and made her dance around in happiness."
"Wow. I want some of that," Katie sighed. "I haven't had that good in years."
Oliver blushed. "I'm sure you'll find someone someday."
"Offering?" Angelina teased. His blush brightened. "Or I could date you. My husband's an ass and I filed for divorce this morning. It'll make him jealous and stupid enough to give me the house."
He shook his head. "After it's final. I'd hate to be used that way."
She walked over and kissed him on the cheek. "That's not why I asked you out, Oliver, and you know it." She headed for the bathroom, going to shower off some of the sweat. "Where's my bag?"
"On the side of the nest," George called. He looked at Oliver. "She meant it I think. You might think about it. You've been lonely and she does understand you."
"Yeah, maybe," Oliver said, still blushing. He saw everyone looking at them. "Someone ask Harry out as well."
"Oh, me!" Alicia said, coming over to hug her favorite seeker. "I want to see this new house and where your son ran into the window."
Harry smiled at her. "He ran into one of my bedroom windows, and I'll happily give you the tour anytime you want. Even without the date Oliver demanded."
"Honey, as my dear friend said, that's not why I asked you out." He blushed bright red and started to cough again. "Oooh, it's all right. I'm not that wicked, I'm actually very nice and sweet to my men. Be they playthings or real men."
He smiled at her, regaining some of his composure. "I'd hope to be more than a toy."
"Me too," she agreed with a naughty grin. "I'm for a shower. When is practice, Xander?"
"Tuesday night," George told her. "Nothing's going on then."
"I have a staff meeting but it shouldn't be too long. It's about the travel plans for the holidays and who gets to herd kids this year."
"Fine. We'll start without you," Fred assured him. "Katie, not going to ask me?"
"If I did, you might think I was playing a joke or that I only wanted you for your body." She winked. "We both know it's more than that."
He laughed. "Any time you're ready, Katie, any time you're ready." He stood up and helped Draco into his spot, watching as he moaned. "I still say you do naughty things, Xander."
"Oh, I do," Xander agreed with a grin. "Very, very naughty things. Especially when I pounce my mate in your bed." He winked. "Happy nap."
"Not again," Fred sighed, going to check on the state of his bed. At this rate, he'd need more sheets soon. He wasn't going to sleep on something his brother had sex on. He heard the girls giggling, but figured it made them happy so it was worth it.
Draco shifted again, he couldn't get comfortable tonight for some reason and it was wearing him out. He tried to flip over again, but his weight made it not happen, he got stuck halfway there and it really wasn't a comfortable position, especially not with his clothes bunching up under him. But it was the perfect position to get up from. He stood up and smoothed down his pajamas, then decided to head down and get a drink. Maybe that would help. He found Ron sleeping on the couch and woke him up. "Go to bed. That will make your back hurt," he said quietly. Ron nodded and headed up to his bed. Draco pulled out some milk and a glass, pouring himself some and sitting down to sip it while he watched the stars. He heard someone coming down the stairs so looked over.
"Couldn't sleep?" George asked.
"I can't get comfortable," Draco admitted. He finished his milk and put the glass down. The house elves would gather it and clean it for them. "Why are you up?"
"Ron woke me when he went up." He yawned. "Come up and join us." Draco gave him a look. "I promise we won't molest you, but being held might help some of it." He pulled the younger man up and swatted him, making his eyes open very wide. "Upstairs. Now."
"Yes! Xander's not being cuddly but I'm sure he'll change for you." He helped Draco up the stairs and settled him into their bed, snuggling in behind him. He even stayed still while the younger man flipped over to face him. "Relax. We're not going to touch you if you don't want it."
Draco smiled at him. "I wouldn't mind at the moment, but I'd settle for being called something other than fat."
George pulled the blankets up over them and leaned closer, whispering in his ear. Draco chuckled. "Not good enough?"
"No, that was wonderful," he admitted, closing his eyes. Two arms went around his waist and he relaxed, letting the warmth soothe him into a real sleep. Even when Xander nuzzled his neck, he didn't wake up.
George was still awake and he pinched his husband. Xander blinked at him, then looked at Draco. "Don't nuzzle him," he hissed. "I'm not going to like seeing him with a hickey from your lips."
Xander grinned at him. "I thought he was you, dear."
"I'm sure you did. Leave his neck alone or no morning sex."
"Yes, George." Xander pinched him as he sent a lusty thought at his husband. Draco groaned and shifted and Xander quickly put his head down and behaved. That wasn't the reaction he wanted.
George smiled and sent one back, then settled in to sleep.
Draco walked into his classroom and found a vase of flowers waiting on him. He smiled and walked over, opening the small card buried among the stems. He laughed and settled himself in his comfortable chair. He had needed the boost this morning. Ron walked past. "Come look," he called.
Ron walked in and looked at the flowers. "Ginny?"
"Your brother and Xander." He handed over the card.
"For a most satisfactory night?" Ron asked, turning a little pink. "Are you telling me that they put you between them?"
"They put me between them because the baby was being restless. Nothing more." Ron blushed more. "We were all dressed," he said in exasperation.
"Did they do naughty things in front of you?"
"Not that I remember," Draco admitted, but he was still smiling. "Not that I would have minded, as long as they had moved me out of the way."
"Then you're braver than I am," Ron said with a grin as he handed back the card. "Those two scare me."
"They had sex while Tara was sleeping beside them on the bed." Ron's mouth opened. "When she was carrying Maeve. That's why Snape forcefully repossessed her from them. So they wouldn't hurt Maeve."
"I'd still be scared of what they'd do."
"I'm sure they'd leave you alone," Draco said dryly.
"Not that!" He swatted at the other man. "They'd probably roll on top of me or something. Think I was just a lump on the bed." Draco snorted. "They did it to Charlie once. Xander jumped George and George's head landed in Charlie's lap. They never noticed it and Charlie came out of the living room blushing redder than any apple and swore to mum that he didn't have anything to do with them shagging."
Draco laughed. "I can see that, especially during their first year. I think they'd notice now."
Outside the door, Xander smiled and walked away as quietly as he could, thinking at his husband, who he knew was blushing.
Fred looked at George, who was hiding his head against the wall and under his arms. "What?" he asked. "More naughty thoughts?" The parents browsing in the store laughed. "Xander sends him naughty thoughts all the time," he explained.
George looked at him. "Do you remember our first anniversary? What happened in the living room with Charlie?"
Fred burst out laughing. "Yes. That was the first time I wanted a camera in a while, to capture the expression on his face."
"Xander wants us to do that to Draco to embarrass him."
"And the rest of us," Fred noted. "Tell him not to do it when I'm up there."
George looked at him. "I didn't particularly like that moment of realization, thank you."
Fred shrugged. "It'd make him just as embarrassed."
"Xander wouldn't be embarrassed by that!"
"Not him, Malfoy."
"Oh." George shook his head. "I'm not sure I want to do that. Even though he has been feeling fat and unlike himself recently. He curled up with us last night."
"Ooh, a scandal," Fred teased. George threw a jelly ice at his head, nailing him on the ear and making his twin shiver.
"He probably wasn't comfortable," one mother pointed out as she came up to the counter with her two children and their overflowing basket. "When I had them," she said, pointing down at her children, "I couldn't find a comfortable position for the last two months outside of floating in a pool."
George nodded. "That's what it was. The baby was fighting him." He glared at his twin. "It was comfort, not something naughty or scandalous." He blushed again and headed back to the living section. "Be right back!" he called.
"Another naughty thought," Fred explained with a grin. "Xander does that to him a few times a day."
"Can they both hear thoughts?" one of the children asked.
"No, Xander can and he showed George how to be receptive. George can't really do it back at him."
"Oh. That's got to be nice. I bet they don't fight," the other child said, sounding polite and sincere.
"Not usually," Fred agreed. He rang them up and accepted the money. "It's a very special thing which comes from their marriage bond. It's only supposed to happen to one or two couples a century."
The mother nodded. "I heard about that. Something about crystals and a true bond." She smiled at him. "They must like it."
"Usually," Fred agreed. "They're cute together." He handed them their bagged items and smiled as they left. "So cute it's sickening some times," he muttered, looking back at the door separating the store from the house. "It's even his day in the lab."
Xander walked into Quality Quidditch Supplies whistling and swinging a bag. "Oh, ladies," he called. Alicia stuck her head out of the back and waved him back there where she was letting someone test. He kissed her on the cheek and handed over the bag. "For your next practice, sweetie. I had to guess at sizes but I'm usually okay enough at it." He smiled at the man landing in the testing area. "I'll let you get back to work." He kissed her on the cheek and whispered something, which made her blush, then left to go back to the school.
She looked inside the bag, then looked confused, but set it behind the counter while the man chose another broom to try out. He wouldn't be buying today, but he knew what he wanted. Too bad he wouldn't listen to her advice on the subject, but that was life. They didn't offer refunds after 48 hours. When she was finally alone, she pulled out the pieces of clothing, wondering at how people wore this stuff. When Katie came in late from her doctor's appointment, she handed over the one that would look best on her. Her best friend looked confused. "Xander said we were to wear it to practice next time and make all those pretty boys drool on their shoes."
Katie looked at the sports bra, then nodded. "I can see that. Doesn't Simone Malfoy-Weasley wear this stuff?"
"All the time. I caught her at a practice and all the guys admired her outfit for a moment, then got on with the game. It was like she was wearing normal robes to them."
"Then maybe it will help the guys. Besides, they look slightly naughty and the boys could use another good blush. It's good for the skin from what I hear, all that blood rushing up."
Alicia snickered. "I'm sure they'll appreciate the view. Blue or silver for me do you think?"
"Silver. Let Angelina wear the blue. It'd go best with her hair." She took her outfit into the back to try and came back out tugging here and there. "They're tight."
"I couldn't fit any on under this," Katie said firmly. She turned around. "How about it?"
"I think you need some adjustments made," Alicia said, coming over to help her into the back so she could fit the top properly for her friend. "There, how's that?"
"Better. Much more comfortable." Katie bent and flexed a bit. "You know, this isn't half bad. A bit strong on the sex appeal point, but very comfortable once it's finished pinching your bottom." The bell rang and Katie grabbed her robe, buttoning it up over top of the outfit. "Hello. How may we help you?"
The woman looked at the legs peeking out from under the robe. "No clean clothes, dear?" she asked with a smile.
"We're trying out new practice clothes for the fun league we joined," Alicia said as she came out of the back. "What do you think?"
The woman pursed her lips. "They're a bit tight."
"That's the idea. We've got to desensitize the boys to our charms so they calm down during games." Katie smiled at her. "What can we do for you today, ma'am?"
"I need a small repair done on my son's broom." She pulled it out and unshrunk it. "He bent it horribly when he ran into a tree. Can you fix it?"
Katie looked it over, then frowned. "It's got a cracked handle. I can try and fuse it, but it won't ever be the same broom it was." The mother sighed. "I'm not saying it to make you buy a new one either."
Alicia took it to look over. "Small bend, large crack. It might affect the balance a lot. It'll probably fly, but not be great for long distances or more than flying from point to point. No gaming with it."
The mother nodded, looking sad. "I told him time and again not to play around those trees but he never listens. How much to fix it? He'll have to prove he can respect the broom before I buy him a new one."
"Six to seven, depending on how stubborn the handle is," Alicia told her. The woman nodded and gladly paid five for now, waiting to pay the rest when the broom was finished. "Come back in three days?"
"That would be fine, or you could keep it through the weekend, he'll be grounded," she said with a smile, heading out to the main thoroughfare.
"I've been meaning to ask Ron if he'll show me how he transfigured wood without weakening it," Katie noted, going back to change into her normal clothes. "I feel slinky in that."
"Me too," Alicia agreed, carefully putting the broom up so they could work on it later.
George walked into the house and attacked Xander's mouth, kissing him as hard as he could. "You absolute tease," he moaned. "You made me want this all day long and I should spank you until you promise not to tease me like that again." He walked Xander back to the couch and pushed him onto it. He knew what Xander had wanted, and he was in the mood to be accommodating, as long as he got some soon. "Anyone under the age of consent, leave!" he shouted. The kids scrambled out of the living room, closing the doors behind them. Except for the one person who couldn't move fast enough and was stuck on the couch. He shoved Xander back onto Draco's lap, continuing to kiss and rub against him.
Draco stared down at them, looking shocked. They were doing that in front of him? The fucking teases! "Let me up before you take him," he requested. His answer was a moan from deep in Xander's chest. "Now!" he ordered.
George looked up at him. "Shut up." He flipped Xander over and finished stripping him, then took what was rightfully his. Xander clutched the arm of the couch and anything else he could reach, making begging noises. "You too, shut up. You teased me all day with pictures of you doing nasty things to me." He pulled out and pushed back in again. "You on your knees." Another thrust. "You sucking me." Another thrust and a few more groans, and a whimper. "You on your back tied to the bed and unable to do anything but take it." He slowly built up speed, rocking them and the couch. "I'll teach you not to tease, Xander. No more teasing when I'm in the shop and there are kids around! I had to release myself in the back. Twice!"
Xander came and went limp. "I'll have to remember that," he said smugly.
George smacked him on the ass and came. "I'll teach you yet," he groaned, falling across the limp back.
Draco looked down at them. "May I get up now? Please? I'd like to retreat to somewhere more sane and less sexual at the moment," he begged, his voice higher than usual.
George looked at him. "What?"
"Let me shift," Xander said, getting out of his way. Draco got up and waddled up the stairs as fast as he could. "I think he was hard," he said with a grin. He gave his mate a kiss. "Thank you for the lesson," he said smugly. "May I have some more?"
"Let me recover and I'll tie you to the bed in a few minutes," George promised. He looked around. "Didn't you have a meeting tonight?"
"Yes, and Albus said I have to get the notes off Snape and admit what kept me from attending," Xander said with a grin. "Think I should tell him everything?" George picked up a pillow and smacked him with it. "Yes, dear. I'll be delicate." He laid back down, getting comfortable for the cuddling stuff.
Xander hobbled into the dungeon the next morning. "Do you have anything for pain down here?" he asked.
"Is that what kept you last night?" Snape asked, getting up to get him some pain medicine.
"No, George wrecked my back last night while we had sex," Xander said honestly. Snape stopped with his hand in the cabinet and looked at him. "Really. George walked in and jumped me last night, we only got the kids out of the way before we went at it." Snape shook his head but he handed over the pain medicine. "As a matter of fact, Draco didn't quite make it out of the way," he said before drinking it. Snape choked and glared at him. "What? Like it was *my* fault."
"I'm sure you had something to do with it," Snape told him, sitting back down. "Has it helped your back?"
"A lot." Xander straightened up and stretched with a groan. "Thank you. Can I get the notes from last night off you?"
"You're herding the whole time, with everyone else backing you up throughout the hour." He smiled cruelly. "You will also be the one on train duty this year as we heard you say you were leaving for the holidays?"
Xander shrugged. "Probably. We haven't made any concrete plans yet. I was going to stay in town for at least a week though."
"Pity. You can always teleport back. It will be you and Weasley, plus Malfoy if he is in any shape to travel at that time."
"He's due at Christmas and can't teleport or apparate."
"We're sure he wants to deliver in the hospital so therefore it would be best for him to head that way, don't you think?"
"Probably," Xander agreed. He smiled. "That's fine, but you get to watch the children." Snape shrugged. "Cool. I can get my shopping done before coming back and not have to tell George what I got him." He smiled. "Anything else happen last night?"
"A few promises. Tara will continue to be the Headmistress in training, Albus reasserted his desire to retire within the next two years. It was said, after she left, that some...problems might occur." Xander looked skeptical. "Tara does have a taste for power, Xander, and it could become...uncomfortable for you when she first takes over. We were warned that she might try to intimidate some of the staff when she first takes over, but that she'll eventually settle down."
"I never noticed this before."
"I know, but I have. She has as well. She would agree with the warning if she knew about it. I was instructed to warn you because it was thought that she would come down more harshly on you since you're so close."
Xander tipped his head. "I'll try to remember that, Severus. If she does, I'll try to ignore it, but I won't put up with abuse. I've gotten over that need to be wanted. I won't even put up with it from my husband."
"I know, which is why the warning was so strong in your case. She could very well try to hurt you emotionally if the vision was correct."
"Vision," Snape agreed. "By her friend. Also by Mrs. Rosenberg-Wyndham-Price."
Snape laughed. "Yes, it is rather odd, but she was warned by someone who had visions. They are still watching you, you know."
"No, I didn't have a clue," Xander said honestly. "It's not like I fight anymore."
"Yes, but you are training one of theirs, and other fighters. It's in their best interest to make sure that you're not messing up, as they so kindly put it."
"Wonderful," Xander said dryly. "Thanks for the warning, and I'll keep it in mind. I promise not to harm her if she does start, but I won't put up with it, Severus. If it gets bad, I'll simply walk away." He waved and left the room, going to his advanced classroom to do a short work out. Draco was already in there and glared at him. "What?"
"Heard about the warnings. I didn't agree with it of course."
Xander sat down and looked at him. "I'm not so sure. I've seen her be forceful with the kids sometimes. If she starts that, then we'll see problems from her until she realizes better. If not," he shrugged. "Who knows. It's possible that she'll settle down quickly. If not, then I'm still not taking it." He grinned. "Of course, I'm taking you with us if you want. I wouldn't leave you here to suffer." He grabbed the handles of the machine behind him and pulled down.
"I set the weights for me," Draco told him.
"That's fine, it's not much heavier," Xander grunted.
Draco walked over and reset the pins, and Xander sighed in relief. "Stubborn." He shook his head, walking back to his treadmill.
"I was fine, but thank you."
"Do you use everyone like that?" Draco asked after a few minutes.
Xander grinned at him, a decidedly naughty look. "No, but we like you enough to let you watch." He pulled the weights down again, then let them drop with a groan. "Ow." He held his back. "That pain medicine wasn't strong enough."
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Draco assured him, coming over to pat him on the back. "Damn, you've got another cramp. Not even I get those.":
"George tied me to the bed for *hours*," Xander moaned. "I strained my back when he opened me up the second time."
Draco shook his head. "I heard you." He got Xander onto the floor and called up for some help from the experts. Madam Pomfrey hurried in, stretcher floating behind her. "He strained his back last night when George had his fun with him."
She smiled. "I've seen it before. Xander, have you taken anything?" He nodded, teeth gritted, mouth straining not to scream. "Try to relax, dear, it's not worse than childbirth." She loaded him onto the stretcher. "I'll send him down for his first class," she said cheerfully, taking him away. A few students looked upset. "He strained his back. It's fine, nothing serious. Just a cramp or two." She gave them reassuring smiles and brought him to a private cubicle. "What did you two do?" she teased as she used her wand to stop the cramp by freezing the muscles and forcing them to relax.
"The same as last time," he sighed, smiling at her. "Damn near anything we could think of."
"You two have to slow down, you won't lose him."
Xander put a hand on her arm. "It's a joy until mornings like this, and I can't be sure of that. You know that more than most, Poppy."
"I know, Xander, but you won't lose him. If you die, he'll join you on the non-physical planes and probably jump you then as well." He grinned and let her go, relaxing onto the bed. "Have you slept?"
"Nope," he said happily. "I took an endurance potion and then a pain potion from Snape." He grinned. "It was worth it."
"I'm sure it was," she agreed. "From the noises you two make when you're having normal sex in your classroom closet, I'm very sure it was fun for both of you." She ran her wand over him and her eyes went wide. "Xander!" He grinned. She swatted him fondly. "You behave. No more activity like that, it's dangerous." She bustled off, going to get him something for his back.
He laid there and smiled at the ceiling. "Yeah, but it was good," he told it.
The three women walked out of the back door at the Burrow and opened their robes. It was a bit chilly out at the moment, but not enough to deter them from this prank. The boys deserved it for all the things they had put them through in school. They walked out to the practice area and mounted their brooms, joining the men.
As one, the men looked at them and swallowed. Even George.
Katie smiled sweetly. "Not going through with our beloved leader's instructions?" she asked.
"Not a chance," George told her, still staring at the bountiful chests in front of him.
Oliver nudged him, making him stop drooling. "Remember, you're married, George. You gave up on women for Xander."
"Yeah, Xander," George agreed, then he landed and stalked into the house, where his husband was napping in the living room, pouncing him right there.
"George Weasley, get your mitts off that man in my sitting room," his mother yelled, clearly audible to the people outside. "Now, young man. I can still swat you like I did when you were five!"
"But, mum, did you see what he made those charming women wear?"
Molly sniffed. "I saw, and they look adorable. If you looked, it's your own fault. Now go practice before I have to swat you. Xander needs his rest. Poor boy."
"Yes, mum," George said, heading back out to rejoin his teammates, Harry, and Oliver. He flew up to join them. "We might have to get naked, boys."
Oliver and Harry shook their heads. "Not a chance, George," Harry assured him. "I get naked for no one."
"Not even for a backrub?" Angelina teased. Harry blushed and flew off, his broom out of control. "Oh, come back, I won't force it on you."
"Let him cool off first," Oliver said with a smile. "I thought you were picking on me."
"But you never said yes to our date," Angelina pointed out primly. "I moved on since you didn't seem interested."
He moved closer. "I have no idea what to do about you three. You're confusing and I don't usually deal with nice women."
The three women laughed. "Who said we're nice?" they asked somewhat in unison.
Fred looked at Oliver. "Maybe we should run?"
"Running would make them chase us," Oliver pointed out. "They're in heat, mate, running won't help us any." He smiled at Angelina. "Do you only want to be seen with me for your own reputation or for other reasons?"
She hit him on the good arm, making him wince. "If I only wanted to be on someone's arm, I could seduce Malfoy while he's vulnerable and be a rich wife. I like you for who you are," she assured him with a wink. "Always have." She flew off to rejoin her crew. "Come on, ladies, let's show them what we're made of."
"Hell yeah," Katie agreed, swooping down to grab the quaffle and taking off with it toward the goals.
Fred looked at Oliver. "Are you sure I can't run?"
"Best just to give in," Oliver told him. "They'll tire of this game soon enough."
George shook his head. "That's not a game. Xander gets that same look when he's in the mood to chase me around the couch. You're both screwed if you run, or even if you give in. Those are some hot women who want you. I'd go with it for now." He took off to help them practice.
"Run, Fred," Oliver suggested. "I'll be right behind you." Fred nodded and turned his broom around, but Katie snuck up and grabbed him, making him jump, which allowed her to pull him over to her broom.
"You can run, but we'll hunt you down for games," she promised Fred before landing to let him go. "Trust me, we're good at the hunt." She winked and went back to practice.
Fred shook his head. They were in so much trouble if those women weren't teasing. He grabbed his broom and rejoined the crowd. It was the only thing he could do.
Draco looked up as his bedroom door opened, smiling at the Headmaster. "Did you need something?"
"Something's been bothering me," he admitted. "It feels like something's reaching out across the thought streams and I remember what happened to your newest child."
Draco nodded. "We've got shields on her." Dumbledore frowned. "I can have her checked over if it'd make you feel better, but I can't feel anything wrong."
"If you wouldn't mind. Just to make sure, because otherwise we've got a young woman we haven't caught yet."
Draco stood up and patted his stomach. "Not a problem. I'll pop up to the colony and have them use me as a teaching example."
"I think I'll go with you, just in case," Dumbledore told him, stepping closer. Draco looked at him, giving him a cold look. "Is something wrong?"
"You can teleport yourself. I've seen you do it." A wand appeared before he could call his to him. "Fine. Who are you?"
"Can't you tell?" he sneered.
"No, the polyjuice is a bit strong still," Draco noted dryly. "You can't hurt her. I can get away from you."
"No one can apparate in the school."
"Bet me," Draco said with a sneer of his own. Then he disappeared before the man could curse him, landing in the potion's dungeon. He winced as a pain started in his stomach.
"Draco!" Raena shouted, coming over to make him sit down. "What happened? You know better than to do that!"
"Not Dumbledore," he groaned, collapsing in her arms.
"Shit," Iggy said, running in, his wife had summoned him. He put Draco onto the table and felt his stomach. "Raena, go find Snape, now. I don't care what he's doing, something nearly got Draco in the house." She nodded and ran off. "Draco, I'm really sorry for this, but we've got to get you to somewhere safer and with someone more qualified." He heard the groan and smiled. "Don't worry, I'm shielding the baby so she can't come out. You shifted her some when you teleported. Just stay still." He pulled his 'brother' into his arms and moved him closer, making sure his arms were directly over the baby so she couldn't shift farther. He felt the resistance. "No, let me. We're going to Helena and daddy. They'll protect you. I promise, just let me take you." The door slammed open and Snape stormed in. "Something tried to hurt him in the tower, he teleported, the baby's shifted, and he's fighting me. I can't move them safely."
"Knock him out," Raena said, reaching for a small vial. "One drop, against his lips."
"That's too strong for someone in his condition," Snape told her, taking the vial and diluting it to a quarter of the strength. He gently gave him a drop then watched as Iggy took off with him. "Did he say anything?"
"Not Dumbledore." She shrugged. "I don't know. I can't check the house over Xander's shields."
"He should be here soon. Can you block it off?"
"Builders and healers are two separate types," she said frantically. She ran her hands through her hair and went to move her potion off the fire and make it static. "Can we check on the Headmaster?"
"I've already sent someone to do that." He walked out, meeting up with a confused looking Black and Lupin in the hallway. "Dumbledore?" They nodded. "It may not be him. Check on him now. One of you find his room, the other his office. He tried to attack Mr. Malfoy." He stormed on, finding Ron trying to get into the office. "What's wrong?"
"That's not Albus. I remember him too well for that to be him. Let me the fuck up!" he shouted, trying to get the door open. "The password won't work!"
"Let me," Iggy said coldly, appearing with his wand. "Unlock!" he said, zapping the door with the strongest unlock spell the gryphons had ever created. The door swung open and the stairs started up. "Draco's baby had to be moved back into place. Daddy's headed up to the house. That's not Uncle Albus. I can tell. Melvin can tell. The magical aura doesn't lie." He pushed Ron out of the way and headed up but he was moved to the back. "Hey!"
"You're a healer, let the fighters handle it," Ron ordered, pounding on the second door. He gave up and kicked it in, catching it before it could close again. The man behind the desk looked up, appearing shocked. "Iggy, is that him?"
"No, it's not," Iggy said, looking the man over. "As a matter of fact, that's not anywhere near a pure magic user." He pulled something out of his pocket and stuck it in the guy's neck. "Fucker, you've now got ten minutes before your health becomes critical and you can't be saved." The fake Dumbledore's mouth opened. "The only two people who can save you are in this room and you had better start talking. People kill over Draco and Albus. You're the highest on the list."
Ron smirked at him. "Unless you give us someone higher that is."
The man stood up and wobbled and Iggy shoved him back into his seat. "I..." He looked at the cold faces. "The real Headmaster is in our custody. The baby has to die!" Ron pulled out his gun and pointed it at him. "No! No, I'll talk!" he begged. "Please, don't kill me."
"He's not even British," Iggy noted. He moved away and handed his mentor the dart he used. "Let him die, Severus. I have to go back and help Draco and check on the kids. Uncle Ron, I'm taking your extra weapon."
"Fine. The regular bullets are in the closet, top shelf."
"Thank you." Iggy ran down the stairs, sending himself back to the house. He felt his father downstairs and walked down, strapping on the gun. "That's not the Headmaster, it's someone else. Someone not British." Xander and George both noticed the gun. "I'm going back to Draco's side, with a quick stop off at the Burrow." George opened his mouth. "Don't argue. They need you here to protect the triplets, father. I am qualified enough for this and more than old enough." He disappeared before they could say anything, landing in the middle of the dining room. "Grandma! Grandfather!" He walked around the bottom floor, then headed outside. "Uncle Bill? Grandma? Grandfather?" He searched the magic fields and sighed. He could feel Maeve, but not Lucien, and she was very upset. "Maeve!" he yelled at the top of his voice. She came running. "What happened?"
"Bad people," she sobbed. "They take Grammies and Lucien!" She clung to his legs. "Need the daddy, they want the daddy!"
"Come on, we'll go to the colony and you can call daddy from there." He took her with him, landing in the main chamber. "Are my grandparents or Uncle Bill here?"
"Bill is," Delilah told him. She nodded at the weapon. "What is that?"
"A deadly weapon the muggles make. My Headmaster is missing, my acknowledged brother was threatened, and now they've got my grandparents. Watch my sister." He walked back to the back. "BILL!" Both of them looked out of the library at him. "Your parents are missing, as is Lucien, and anyone else who was there. So is Dumbledore." His uncle's face hardened. "Maeve is out front. Protect her. I've got Draco since the idiot said that his daughter was the reason for this." He walked into the healer's area and bent to touch Draco's flatter stomach. "The baby?" he asked.
"Healthy," Helena told him gently. "Two months early and healthy. We've called his doctor and he's on his way." She tipped his face up. "Go find him. I taught you how to talk to the unconscious, do it now, Ignatius," she said calmly. "That person tried to kill her, and may hurt your family."
Iggy nodded. "Maeve's here. Lucien's missing," he said quietly. "Guard her and my brother with your life." She nodded so he sent himself back to the tower, bowling into his father. "The Burrow was empty," he told them. "Maeve was the only one there and she's at the colony now. The baby's born." Xander opened his mouth. "No, I've got an option."
"He tried to kill himself, he's unconscious," George told him.
"Yay! I can deal with that." Iggy walked out, pulling on a robe as he went. His most imposing, most threatening looking robe. He wanted to appear as imposing as possible when he walked into the infirmary. "Let me pass, Poppy, I can get him to talk."
"The aurors are here," she told him.
"Yay! They've got my grandparents and Lucien! Let me pass!" She stepped out of his way and Iggy pushed a bed closer to the one the idiot was strapped to. "Is he dead?"
"Not yet," Snape told him. "I gave him the antidote."
"Any idea which country he's from?"
"Russia. He's here about the World Cup seekers."
Iggy looked at him. "They tried to kill Draco and his daughter over that?" he asked dryly. He hopped up to sit on the bed and got comfortable, then reached over and touched the man's head, using the thought streams to travel into his head. The man saw him and screamed, so he pulled his gun. "This can still hurt you. A psychic death will become a real one." He moved closer, sticking the gun against the mental guy's cock. "The same as a blast now will make sure nothing works ever again. Give me the truth and I'll let you live."
"You'll let me go?" the man begged.
"No, but I'll let you live and hand you to the nicer people. You fucked up, you came after my family. The only thing saving you is my desire to find my family. Give me what I want and the nice people will let you commit suicide if you want."
"I screwed this up so badly," the man sobbed, looking up at his captor. Iggy wasn't buying it. "Fine," he spat. "It was intentional. That man is a freak of nature and so are you." He spit at Iggy's feet.
Iggy fired at his feet, wounding his left one. "Keep going. You're just pissing me off more and I'm going to enjoy this." The man tried to back away but his foot wasn't working. "You thought I was kidding?" he asked with his coldest sneer. "You so very fucked up. You fucked with a gryphon-born's family. That's asking for death. Not only did you fuck with an acknowledged uncle, Harry, but you fucked with an acknowledged brother, Draco, and his daughter. Then you fucked with my mentor, my grandparents, and the cousins. Do you know how dumb that was?" The man shook his head. "Never heard of the gryphon-born?" The man shook his head. "We're the ones who filter the chaos magic. We're the ones who make it nice and shiny for stupid humans like you. We're also the ones who will probably destroy this plane some day because we're tired of you petty humans."
"And I thought I had a superiority complex," a female voice said from behind them. "Can I join in?"
"Agatha," Iggy said coldly. "Come to help?"
"He's trying to harm my father, that's *my* fun." She walked closer and the man flinched away from her, moving closer to Iggy. "I hate to tell you this, but he's more cruel. I'll hurt you until you beg and I get off from it, he'll hurt you and not stop because you hurt his family. Pick." Then she smiled at him.
"Or you can tell us what we want to know," Iggy pointed out. "Your choice of course."
"What are you!" the man demanded, backing away from them. A wall went up behind him. "Why can't I move!" He turned and thumped on it and both children laughed coldly. He turned and leaned against it. "They're safe, for now. The guy with the baby was just extra. We were going to take the kids anyway, but I got paid an extra fifty grand, American, to take him out and any of the family I could. My partners don't know and they won't do it."
"Where are they?" Agatha asked, cracking her knuckles.
"I can't tell you."
Iggy cocked the gun and pointed it at his cock again. "Now." The man blanched and swallowed, but he shook his head. "Suit yourself." His finger started to squeeze gently and the man screamed, covering himself and falling to his knees. "Last chance. I can not only harm you, but I can lock you up in here. All alone, forever."
"Aren't healers supposed to be nurturing?" Agatha asked him, smirking at him.
"Not when they bother our families." He kicked the man in the jaw. "Now!" he shouted.
"They're in Kent, in some old house. I don't know what else! I was supposed to meet them there!" he sobbed.
Iggy reached down and patted him on the head. "Good boy. Tell us the rest." The man looked up at him. "How were you finding them?"
"Portkey. My watch." He pointed at it. "It'll activate soon. Take it." Iggy nodded and accepted the watch from him. "It's set to go off at ten after three with five people. If it's only got me, or less than five of us, it'll activate five minutes later." Agatha nodded. "Please, spare me? I've got kids. I only did this to cancel out a debt."
"We'll see." Agatha looked at Iggy. "Go ahead and go, cousin. I'll have a talk with him. He won't be coming back with us." She shoved Iggy out and moved closer, manifesting a slim dagger and using it to tip the man's face up. "Now tell me the rest. Before I get *creative*." He swallowed and started to babble, anything to make her go away.
Iggy opened his eyes and took off the man's watch, looking at the time set on it. "Five people, two minutes. At least three other bad guys. Severus, my wand." He handed off the gun for a moment, then took it back and put the watch on. "Now," he ordered. Severus and his father George, and Bill stepped forward. "Daddy, no offense, but I don't want you there. You can't be mean and you can't be cruel."
Xander strode in, buckling on his own gunbelt. "Don't worry, he's staying here." He moved George out of the way. "How many?"
"Five, or we wait and go in five more minutes with less."
Xander looked at the head of the aurors, who stepped up. That made four. George gave his mate a little shove and stepped forward. "Sev, did you want to go instead? They do have Zach."
"Can you be calm?" Iggy asked.
"No, but I can harm them," Severus pointed out. George glared at him. "Your brother's going."
"And your son wasn't the target. My parents were." He grabbed on and winced as the portkey activated. He hadn't felt one that strong in years.
And away they went. They landed surrounded by people and Iggy fired off at one of them, starting the fight. Before they were done, the stupid wizards and single witch were very sorry, and the family was found locked in a small room, huddled together.
Iggy bowled into his grandmother, hugging her as hard as he could. "You're all right," he whispered.
"What are you doing here?" Arthur asked. He looked at the door as it opened, but Iggy already had his wand out and pointing at the person standing there. He sneered. "Daddy, it's the Americans again," he called.
"I'm afraid your father is a bit...out of it at the moment."
Iggy pulled the gun with his other hand. "Let my parents go, and the rest of the family, or you'll be sorry."
The man laughed. "Do you really think you can shoot me? You're a healer, boy, get used to it."
Iggy laughed bitterly. "I'm a gryphon-born, dolt, we're not like that." He fired at the man, wounding him in the thigh, a painful, and potentially deadly wound. "Where are they!"
"Ignatius!" Arthur ordered. "Go search for them."
"They're not here, I already did." He looked around. "Melvin, take them to the colony, now. Maeve is there. Draco is there. Bill was here." Arthur whimpered. "Now, Melvin!" Melvin nodded and gathered them, practicing a skill he hadn't perfected by any means. He left Lucien behind. "Baby boy, your daddy is fine and your sister is okay too," he assured him. "Even Maeve is all right. You hide and I'll take you if they can't come back." Someone moved closer to the door. "Under the bed," he whispered, cocking the gun at the body outside. "Oh, do come in," he called. The door opened and one of the born stood there. "Helping or not?"
"Helping, Iggy, always helping," Homer assured him. "We're missing one?"
"Lucien, this is Homer, I trust him because I can beat him up. All right?" Lucien nodded, still sniffling. "Take him to his sister, then get Simone and Denver to the colony now, Homer. And then find my fathers."
"George is unconscious in the living room. So is your uncle." He picked up Lucien. "I won't hurt him."
"I don't know who will and who won't," Iggy pointed out with a faint smile. "Now." Homer left and Iggy looked down at the man on the floor. "Answers, now," he ordered.
The man laughed, holding his leg. "You just gave your beloved nephew to one of us."
Iggy smirked down at him. "I can always find another of us." He squatted down. "Now then, tell me where my father is. Or else the next one is going up your ass." The man blinked at him. "That's right, my father taught me *lots* of things." The man shifted away and Iggy grabbed his injured leg, making him scream. "Now, stupid."
"We've taken him home," the man gasped. "He's ours."
"We'll see about that." Iggy stood up and checked the house, calling on Denver to come help him. Denver appeared with another born so he walked out to meet them. "The gunshot wound is our prisoner, he's got Xander. Homer had Lucien." Denver's face hardened. "If he's not at the colony, then he's fucked." He looked at the bodies on the floor. "Move them back to the colony, I'm going for daddy." He searched and found his father's signature easily, heading for it. He found himself in a secure room at Heathrow. "Move," he ordered. The men in suits jumped. "Hello. That's my father and he's a kidnaping victim."
The man on the far right, in front of the door, looked him over. "Prove it."
Iggy pulled his wand and shot the man with it, making him scream in pain. "That's my father and I want him back!" he demanded. The man nodded. "Are you with the Americans?"
"No, we took him from them because it looked odd and we didn't see any extraction orders," the man panted, standing back up. "What are you?"
"Pissed." Iggy slid his wand back into his pocket and bent to check his father. "Sedated, hard sedation. Put that back," he said, noticing his wand was now missing. "Before I call the rest of the family." It was slid back into his pocket and Iggy called out to anyone who could hear him. Someone tapped on the door and Iggy nodded for the agent to open it. Someone in a robe was standing there. "Mysteries, Unmentionables, or auror?" he asked.
"Unmentionables, Ignatius." He smiled and walked in, closing the door. "I'll deal with this. Get him to safety." He stopped the boy. "I'm fuckin' impressed, mate. Really fuckin' impressed."
Iggy swallowed. "I want a drink and a memory charm," he told him, then he picked up his father and smiled. "They saved him. Be nice to them, please." He disappeared, landing in the elder's cave. "He's heavy!" he yelled, bringing help running. Ron took Xander from him, and a gryphon took Xander from Ron, then Ron helped Iggy into the back. "Oh, shit," he said, turning away to get sick. "Sorry," he said between heaves.
"It's understandable, you're a gentle creature by nature," Severus assured him, looking him over. "Get rid of that weapon."
Iggy unhooked himself and blindly handed it off. "Ooohhhhh." He fell to his knees. "Can I forget now?"
"No, nephew, not even a memory charm will help that," Fred assured him, helping him stand up. "Come on, let's get you checked over. You did excellent." He led Iggy back, putting him beside his father's limp body.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "I'd like a report if I may?" he requested gently.
Iggy looked at him, his face still pale. "World Cup and the Americans."
"Ah. Yes, that does explain all this." Everyone else looked clueless. "The Americans hate losing Xander's skills and the Russian Mafia has decided to try and influence the World Cup games if I heard right." Everyone nodded and went back to what they had been doing. "Very well done, Ignatius. You may name your reward."
"A memory charm and my wife," he moaned, settling himself on the bed. "That's all I want right now. And possibly something to stop the nightmares I can feel building."
"We'll do what we can," Helena assured him, giving him a quick once over. "You're fine."
"I'm not leaving them."
"Then go to the next room and rest with your brother," she told him. "Your other father is in there, as is your new niece." Iggy nodded and forced himself to stand up, heading into the visitor's suite. He crawled in on Draco's other side, giving everyone on the bed a hug. "Did he die?"
"Neither of them, even the one Agatha had," George assured him, giving him an extra squeeze. He shifted so he was between Draco and Iggy, with his new 'granddaughter' in his arms. "Rest, Iggy, it's all right. We're here for you when they come with all the questions and the forms." Iggy laughed bitterly. "No?"
"Americans paid the assholes extra to take daddy," Iggy told him. "British agents had him at the airport. I already saw the Unmentionables there to do memory charms." He sighed as strong arms wrapped around him. "I hate hurting people, but it felt good, daddy."
"I know," Xander said as he joined them. He had been carried, but he was fine. "It'll be okay. We'll do a lot of talking. You'll get the support I needed when I staked Jesse so you don't end up like me." Draco looked at him. "He shot one of the people on the astral realm, and the one who had everyone else in the thigh. No one died."
"That's good," George agreed, smiling at Draco. "Feeling all right?"
"A bit hormonal still," Draco admitted, snuggling in to hold his daughter himself. "We'll work on it, Ignatius. No one will *ever* threaten this family again."
"Yes, big brother." Iggy yawned. "Please knock me out?"
"If you wish," Draco said, flicking some power his way. "We need to disappear for a few days to recuperate."
"We'll have to answer questions," George said with a yawn.
"That's what minions are for."
"You don't have minions anymore," Xander reminded him, but he was smiling. "A vacation sounds heavenly. That remaining month to the holiday break seems *real* long right now."
"We can definitely take tomorrow off," George agreed. "Possibly Monday as well."
"I'm sure that would be fine," Dumbledore said from the doorway. "This week will be hard on all of us." He grabbed his head. "Severus, I need something for my headache. Do you have anything on you?"
"I do," Severus agreed, going for his case. He pulled out a bottle and handed it over. "It was made fresh last week."
Dumbledore drank it and smiled. "Raspberry. Interesting." He nodded at them. "Take tomorrow off. Tara assured me that no one's the wiser at this moment." He walked away, closing the curtain behind him.
Severus looked down at them. "Your family is fine, I checked them over myself." Draco looked up at him. "As is your daughter. The aging spell didn't harm her any."
"Aging spell?" Xander asked.
"They aged her two weeks to make her a little more stable. Just after her birth to stabilize her lungs and heart. She's fine. Very strong and healthy." They nodded and settled in to nap. He left them alone to find his son and hug him as hard as he could. He couldn't bear the thought of losing him. He found him in Molly's arms and blatantly stole him. "Thank you," he told her, then he left to cuddle him in private, until his wife and William stalked him and joined in.
Ron walked up to Draco, waving the birth certificate. "You didn't have to do that," he said as he sat down on the foot of the bed.
Draco looked at him. "Do what?"
"Put the Weasley in her name. I can accept that you're her primary parent. As long as you keep me listed as the father, I'm happy enough with it." He grinned. "There's not enough Malfoys in the world to counteract all the Weasley ones. She should be yours since you're going to be doing most of the raising. I think it's fair that way."
Draco sat up with a small grunt of pain. "You really don't mind?" Ron shook his head. "Let me get dressed and we'll correct it immediately." He stopped then suddenly lunged and hugged Ron. "Thank you," he sniffled, pulling back. "I have no idea what's wrong with me but that was very nice of you."
"After-birth hormone swings?" Ron teased.
Draco nodded. "Most likely. Thankfully there's no stupid, sappy commercials on. They got me last time. Where's my robe?"
"The back of the chair, along with your pants," Ron told him, standing up. "Want me to bring Morgana with us?"
"If you wouldn't mind. I'll be right out."
"Sure." Ron picked up his daughter and smiled at her. "Want to go for a walk then? See Mistress Irma and her wonderful library?" He walked out, telling her about all the books, including the ones which screamed when you touched them. It was never too early to start making her like books, it was a good thing to be so smart. Draco joined them outside the tower and they walked slowly down to the library, Draco clutching the original birth certificate in his hand. Irma met them at the door, she was about to close up. "We need to change a few things on her registration," Ron told her.
Irma smiled and opened the doors, going to pull down the books. "Didn't like the name he chose?" she asked pleasantly.
Draco pulled over her official pen and scratched out the Weasley part of her name. "No, we had to fix that," he told her, handing it back. She frowned at him. "Ron agreed."
"I did," Ron agreed. "It's only fair, as long as I'm kept on as the father." Draco nodded. "Can you make it official for us?"
"You'll have to fill out another certificate and I'll simply cross this one out," she said, doing so and handing them a second birth certificate. "Make sure everything's right this time. I made a note that the baby was born under extraordinary circumstances so the change was allowed." She watched as Draco furiously scribbled on the new lines, then as Ron approved with a smile. "Thank you, gentlemen, and Morgana." The baby flailed a little bit. "Did you need anything else? Xander and George put a great many of their collection of children's books in here for general use."
"No, I think we've got enough for now," Ron said happily. "I'm going to read Quidditch Through the Ages to her tonight." Draco looked at him, trying hard not to smile. "Never too young to start that tradition either. Between us, she's got to at least be a chaser."
Draco touched the long limbs. "Keeper most likely. It fits in better with her future I think." He took his daughter back. "Thank you, Madam Pince."
"You're welcome, Professor Malfoy. Good night to the both of you." They waved before walking out, leaving her to laugh and shake her head in peace. Those two were so comical. That girl would need a definite female influence, a decent one of course. Perhaps she should step up and give them some advice on how to raise normal little girls. She checked the entry again then put the Book of Heritage up safely. Then she closed up again and went to dinner. Neither of them would be there of course, but it was a quiet night anyway with most of that family away for a short holiday.
Iggy walked into breakfast on Tuesday morning and yawned. He had been sedated all weekend and was still tired. He took his usual seat and Simone hugged him gently. "Thanks. Did we have homework due today?"
"Yes, but yours is done," Denver assured him. "It's in your bag, in the book for the class. Melvin and I did them all." Iggy smiled at him. "How is Morgana?"
"Napping peacefully in her father's arms the last time I saw her," Iggy admitted. He smiled at him. "She's one loud kid." They laughed. "Really. Much louder than Maeve and Lucien together." He leaned on the table. "We're strengthening the locks today while everyone is in class," he said quietly. "Homer was never caught. The born who went after him just took Lucien back from him." Simone looked pissed. "He's not coming back, but everyone's paranoid because of Morgana. So expect some jumpiness for the next few days." Someone sat beside him and he relaxed into her arms. "Morning, Raena."
"Good morning, my mate." She kissed him on the cheek. "Did the nightmares come back?"
"No, they didn't. I guess you kicked their asses." He smiled at her. "Thank you for helping me last night."
"Not a problem, you know I love walking into your head for cuddles." She kissed him on the cheek and took his hand to hold. "I just saw your sister, Ron had her and was showing her around Gryffindor tower." The other kids smiled. "Good morning, Melvin."
"Morning." He sat beside Simone. "I'm sorry, I tried to take Lucien."
"It's not your fault," Iggy assured him. "I would have had trouble taking that many people with me too." Melvin relaxed and smiled at them. "Did I hear right, were you talking to Uncle Bill about doing his old job?"
"I think it's groovy," Melvin agreed. "Travel, fun, a little bit of danger, but we can handle that. I'd rather be one of the ones who told you what the artifact was worth, like staying in the tent sort of job, but he didn't know any humans who did that sort of stuff. He said he'd ask for me." He grinned. "I think we'd do wonderfully there, with her talents and mine together."
"That's very true," Denver agreed. "You'd kick ass in that job as long as you got to stay together." Simone nodded too. "Have you seen Morgana? We only got a glimpse of her in father's arms."
"Oh, yeah, Ron showed me. Let me hold her even." He grinned at the disgruntled look. "Ask him. He's still got her and he just came in the back door."
Simone walked up to the dias and stole her sister, bringing her back to their table. "Now we'll get to hog her." She and Denver looked down at their sister, smiling in unison because she was so adorable. Bald, blue eyed. She looked almost exactly like Lucien, only she didn't have any hair. "Do you think she'll be one of the few blondes?"
"It'd be nice," Denver agreed. "There's not enough of us." He looked over as Ravena came in. "I want to know where her hair color came from."
"Uncle Charlie had the same color until he started spending all day in the sun," Simone pointed out. "It's in the pictures at Grandmother's." Ravena came over and looked over her shoulder. "Morgana, this is Ravena. She's the youngest sister of us older ones."
Ravena touched the soft, wrinkly hand. "Good morning, future queen of the family. Get used to Simone's touch, you'll be seeing a lot of her over the years as she helps train you." Simone beamed happily.
Draco walked in and stole his daughter, heading up to eat breakfast. "You can hold her later," he said at the disgruntled noises.
"Yeah, and I can hold her now," Xander said, stealing her. "I haven't gotten to hold her yet." He looked down at her and smiled. "You are so precious," he told her. She cooed at him. "Yes, you are. You are so adorable. I'm going to have to teach your father to shoot muggle to keep all the boys away from you."
"He hasn't done that already?" Tara asked with a grin.
"I refused to learn how to aim correctly," Draco told her. He took his daughter back. "You'll spoil her and give her a big head." Xander pouted. "I agree, she is adorable, but still, she doesn't need her ego stroked at this moment. Wait until she's having one of those unsure days." He settled her in his arms, starting to eat, when someone else decided to try and take her. "No, Lucien, you can't have her. Not until it's class time." His son pouted his most pitiful. "Not until class. Finish breakfast so we can go down there." Lucien ducked under the table and went to hug his cousins and siblings, then went back to eat with Maeve. She cuddled him like he was going to disappear, which was fine with him. He loved his Maeve. If only she had boy parts, he liked boy parts better than the girl parts he had found on her.
"Zachariah, would you like a cuddle?" Xander called. Zach pointed at his mother. "I know, your mommy gives good cuddles, but I'm in a cuddly mood if you would like one from me. I'll even let you steal jelly from my toast." He slid off her lap and walked over, sitting in his. "Thank you, Zachariah. You're very nice."
"You'll spoil him," Tara told him.
"He needs grandchildren," Ron agreed. Raena choked and looked at him. "What?" he asked innocently. "It will have to happen sometime."
"Ten years," Raena reminded him. "Have a few more, Uncle Ron." Ron glared at her. "I'm not having kids for ten more years, I'm not having the spell broken."
"Thank you," Iggy sighed, looking up. Denver nudged him. "What?" he asked innocently.
"I think the family's big enough for the moment," Raena agreed. Draco burst out laughing at something Zach had said. "Besides, in a few years, one of you will have children probably. It'll be soon enough."
"Maybe," Melvin agreed, getting up and heading back to his own table. He did look at his sweetheart, who was smiling in such a sappy way that he knew she agreed.
Draco looked at his favorite minion and smiled sweetly at her. "Will you do that for me?" he asked nicely. Something his father hadn't understood, being nice sometimes was more effective than the strongest threat or beating. She nodded eagerly. "You're sure you can handle that and not get into trouble?"
"I'm sure," she assured him. She bounced eagerly. "I really get to destroy them?"
"You can make them as miserable as you want, precious," he assured her, kissing her on the cheek. "The only thing you can't do is kill them. Let that be someone else's fun." She nodded. "Go out and have fun, precious." She walked out, heading to do his bidding.
He smiled and got comfortable until his daughter needed him again. It was good to have well- trained, intelligent minions. Not at all like the ones his father had kept. He could count on his to act on their own and not need constant monitoring to make sure they got the job done.
The Minister of Law Enforcement sat up as he read the small letter of warning. The name at the bottom made him wince, but he tore it off so no one else would know. She was his private source of information and no one needed to know about her. But if she was correct, there was a *big* problem and he had to do something about it. He got up and walked out, summoning all his Under-Ministers and the ones for the Unmentionables and Mysteries, newly redivided into separate departments. As soon as they were all gathered, he put the letter onto the table in front of them. "We have problems," he announced.
The letter was picked up and read over, then passed on. Each face that read it hardened. "What do we do about this?" the Unmentionables Under-Minister, Percy Weasley, asked.
The Head of Law Enforcement smiled at him. "First, we protect, then we infiltrate, then we stomp. Which would you like for your department?"
Percy smiled coldly. "I think I can protect the family nicely, even the fussier members. What about the prophecy that Tara was going to take over the school?" People looked clueless. "You weren't informed?" They all shook their heads. "It's the start of the changes. She'll only have it for a while, but Xander will be out of the way when it's necessary. Three months from now, she'll have to take over. After two weeks, the changes will occur." He stood up. "Did you need my people?"
"We have someone in there," the Mysteries person said, looking up at him. She smiled. "Do they even know you hold two positions?"
"No. They're more comfortable not knowing. Not even my father knows." He nodded at them. "Whatever help my department can give you, just yell my way." He walked out, going back to his small office in the archives. His assistant smiled at him. "Just a short meeting about my nephew's wife's papers. It seems someone thinks that some dolt will pick up something of hers and use it as a weapon."
His assistant nearly growled. "How very dumb of them," he said snidely. "What are they trying to do, start the next War of the Ancients?"
Percy shook his head. "No, they're acting on their prejudices and will try to do something stupid. It will be your job to go through all of her prior works and summarize them in a format the rest of us can understand. Search through the weakest and most specialized articles, find everything." His assistant nodded and went off to call Braun to get the entire list and where everything had been published. Percy smiled at the young man's efficiency. He had trained the boy well.
Molly smiled as Percy joined her for lunch, with a nice looking young woman. "Arabelle," she said happily, shaking her hand. "How nice to see you again. Are you joining us?"
"Yes, mother, and it's for a very good reason." His mother's face lit up. "Not that one," he said with a smile of his own.
"Not that I'd mind, but he'd never see me socially, no matter how often I suggested it," Arabella told her. "I'd love to date him."
"I'm sure he'll give in soon," Molly assured her, looking at her son. Percy raised an eyebrow. "You are a very nice woman and we all like you."
"Mother, you've only met her twice now," Percy pointed out. "You have no idea what she does within the Ministry even."
"I work with animals," Arabella told him, smiling at him. "Just the human ones."
"Are you an auror?" Molly asked, looking worried. She seemed so nice.
Arabella shook her head and leaned closer. "I'm over the Mysteries department," she said quietly. Molly gasped. She nodded. "I'm still very nice, but I do deal with human animals, Molly."
"I'm sure you do very well in your job," Molly agreed, patting her on the hand. "So why was lunch called, Percy?"
He leaned closer, then didn't say anything because the waitress was there. "We'll have the special and salads," he ordered.
"I'd like the fish," Molly corrected. "It's been so long since I've had any."
"Of course, mum, get whatever you want," Percy encouraged, giving her a smile of assurance. The waitress left. "We've recently gotten information that those horrible people down the alley have gotten hold of something that Raena theorized about, mum. A disease." She gasped.
"So of course, we wanted to warn you," Arabelle told her with a smile of her own. "We know that your house isn't the target, Arthur's position gives you some security in that area." Molly nodded, starting to press her lips together. "We're stopping them before they can do anything, but we had to tell you."
"Because of the grandchildren, mum," Percy finished. He slid over an envelope. "If anything serious like this ever happens, I want you to follow these instructions with as many of the *grandchildren* as possible." She opened her mouth. "Mum, I've given similar instructions to Bill and Charlie. Xander has his own plans for George, Fred, and Ron. Ginny will be protected by Draco and his children. We're all protected, all but you, dad, and the children. They're your only priority," he told her.
Molly nodded and tucked the envelope into her purse. "I'll follow them, Percy." She looked at Arabelle "Your doing, dear?"
She smiled. "Not at all. Percy made all the designs and the decisions. I merely helped him find the perfect spot." She patted Percy on the hand, making him blush at the praise. "Now all I need is to wear him down."
Arthur sat down and looked at them. "Percy, I heard something interesting today." His son looked shocked. Arthur laughed. "Oh, dear, not about your other job, son, I knew about that *months* ago." He patted Molly's hand. "Now, what's going on? All I heard was a new threat?"
"Those horrid people have decided to take something of Raena's and change it to use it against people," Arabelle told him. "We're working on it, Arthur."
He smiled at her. "Excellent news." He flagged down a waitress. "I'll have what my wife is."
She nodded and went to put in their order. "Yes, sir."
Arthur looked at them. "So, Arabelle McKinley, when are you going to capture my son and make him an honest man?"
She laughed. "I've tried, Arthur, I really have. He's resisting."
"Percy, quit fighting it, right now," Molly told him. He laughed. "I can make it an order, young man. I can even take your precious daughter and have her help in this matter." He stopped laughing. "Now, give her a kiss and make us all happy," she ordered.
Arabelle smiled and kissed Percy gently, making him shiver. "Did you like that, Percy?"
He licked his lips, then kissed her again. "We'll see, Arabelle. We'll have to wait for a quiet moment of course, but we will see."
She patted him on the thigh. "There's never a quiet moment, dear. Figure that out soon, I'm not very patient and I'll have my people hunt you down and bring you back to me in chains and begging for mercy." The older couple laughed. Percy nearly whimpered. "Or I could hunt you myself." He shifted away and she gave him a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, I'll only do it if you take too long, Percy. I can wait for a few weeks."
He nodded, stunned dumb. He had never been hunted like some prize before. He briefly wondered if this was how Xander felt when George hunted him down. Arthur smiled at him. "Father, do not encourage her. It's not good to date within the job."
"She's not under you, Percy, at least not at work," Molly told him. The waitress walking toward their table coughed. "Sorry, but he's resisting this very nice young woman, whom we all adore."
The waitress put down their dishes and left, simply nodding. She had thought arranged marriages were over with.
Xander looked up as his fire discharged someone he didn't know. "Yes?"
"Arabelle McKinley," she said, shaking his hand. "I'm the Under-Minister for the Mysteries department, Alexander Harris." He nodded and waved a hand at the couch so she sat down. "We need to have a short discussion. Is anyone else here?"
"Only the children," he said, pointing at the corner playpen where everyone was napping. "Is this serious?" She nodded. "Something I've done?"
"No, but it's important for you," she told him. She shifted closer. "Professor Harris, there is a move to destroy you going on. We know you've received death threats." He nodded. "We also know you did your duty and turned them over."
"That's only because I knew that I can't take them on alone," he admitted.
She smiled. "Good. That's one hurdle out of the way. There's going to be an attack on the colony you swear allegiance to." He shifted uncomfortably. "It will not happen, but it is in the planning stages. We know this much and know how to stop it. You will do nothing," she instructed. He opened his mouth and she shook her head. "Your elders are already aware; I sent someone, one of you, to talk to them about this. There is nothing you can do in this instance." She straightened up. "As a matter of fact, if certain visions come true, you won't even be in the country."
"Then why are you telling me?"
"Because the visions also said that if it was allowed to go on, your son would lose everything that's keeping him sane and alive." Xander sat up farther. "If you try to fight this, or he tries to work on this, you, him, and his wife will all be at the colony when the attack happens. Here, he can do some good. He can make the antidote just in case. There, his wife will end up ill and in stasis because the medicine is too powerful for her."
She shook her head, smiling. "One of the children at the colony broadcast. It's her gift and she just manifested. If you tell them, they'll worry."
Xander nodded quickly. "I understand. I won't tell them that those were real nightmares coming true."
"Thank you." She reached over and patted him on the arm. "I know this will be hard, but the only reason I'm warning you is because you will react if you don't know not to ahead of time."
"For Iggy, I'd kill you all," he told her.
She laughed. "I'm sure you would. Percy feels the same way." She stood up. "We're handling it. The odds of the attack actually happening are so very low it's nearly microscopic. Trust us to do our job. Most of us were trained by you anyway."
He looked her over, then slowly smiled. "You're the one that Percy blushes about."
"How very astute of you. How did you know?"
He stood up, then sniffed her. "He didn't remove it all." Then he headed over to check on the children while she left. "It's all right," he said when he noticed Maeve was awake. "It's all okay. She was telling me that the bad guys were caught and the naughtiness they were planning was stopped." His daughter nodded, giving him the most trusting look. "It'll be okay," he promised, picking her up to cuddle her. He hated being this helpless, but knowing that he'd lose too much was making it slowly not as bad. He couldn't lose his children, or make them unhappy in such magnitudes. It would be fine, she would make sure of it. He had sensed her truth and her desire to make sure it was stopped.
Now the only question was, would he tell George or not.
Xander found himself still unhappy, even a month later when he had the ritual duty to make sure every child who wanted to go left for the holidays and that all of them left with everything they wanted to leave with. In other words, he was using Hagrid's dogs to herd the children onto the train and enjoying every nip they got. The other teachers were running late so it was just him and the dogs. Fun. At least for the dogs. "Ten minutes!" he yelled. The kids started to run faster onto the train. Apparently he looked like he was pissed. All right then. He scowled at one of them and they made a puppy-whine noise. "Train," he suggested.
"I came to wish my friends well, Professor Harris," the boy whimpered. "Please don't give me detention!"
"Kid, I'm not going to give you detention unless you mess up something and it stops the train." He looked around, then at the conductor and shrugged. Still no other teachers. He wasn't doing the patrol this year. He whistled, bringing one of the dogs. "Go find the other teachers, girl. Bite them until they show up." The female took off, going to bite someone. Maybe even that nasty smelling dark one who brewed the nasty stuff that had made her throw up last week. She found them on the doorsteps and barked, then went for the dark, nasty one.
"Bite me and become a rug," Iggy promised. The dog whined at him. "What! I didn't brew it, I just held you while it was given to you. You can't bite the brewer either." The dog rolled over for belly scratches. "Yes, you're still a good girl and I love the pack," he assured her, scratching her gently. "I think daddy's pissed that you're not down there," he called into the school.
Snape, Ron, and Draco walked out, looking like some odd posse from the Old West with their robes flowing out behind them like odd trench coats. "We have half an hour," Draco said as he passed by him. "Get me something nice this year, Ignatius."
"Sure," Iggy called after him. "Have fun with the gropey ones." He gave the dog one last pet then let it run after them. He waved as the carriage took off, the dog chasing the wheels. He thought at his father, then shook his head, walking back inside. The headmaster was waiting on him. "Everyone's on."
Tara looked at her watch. "There's a half-hour left."
Iggy grinned. "Apparently the kids decided he was serious about them getting on today." He strolled away. "I'm off to rest before going Christmas shopping."
"You're not allowed," Tara called after him. He waved his wand and a paper came flying at her, landing at her feet. "A permission slip?"
"Yes," Dumbledore said with a smile. "His parents signed he and Raena out for some light shopping this afternoon. They'll be coming back tonight." Iggy waved as he disappeared into another hallway.
"Albus, this is irregular. We only give these to seventh years."
He patted her on the arm. "If your son could teleport around like Ignatius can, you would be able to sign him out as well. As is, you can sign him out to the town once the train is gone. I do allow that much." He left her alone.
"That's still not fair to the younger ones," she called after him.
He turned to look at her. "The younger children usually go home, and the ones who don't ask the older children to pick them up gifts. Besides, I've been known to personally escort some students down there for an hour if they can't go home. It makes up for many injustices." She grimaced but nodded. "Continue that trend, Tara. It's soothing to the students." He left, going up to his office to finish writing out instructions for her. He hoped that she didn't turn into a tyrant, but he could already see the beginnings of it.
Tara grimaced and read the permission slip. Why didn't her son get these privileges? He hadn't asked, but still. It was a clear-cut case of favoritism. She went to find her son and talk to him about going off-campus for the day. Adrian was in the library, of course, reading something old and dusty. "Adrian, did you want to go into town to buy presents? Ignatius and Raena are going."
Adrian lowered his book and looked at her. "Mother, calm down." He smiled as she sat. "Iggy and Raena are going to their special shopping area to not only buy presents, but to also buy herbs and other potiony things. Iggy was saying he only had one left to buy, hers, and she smiled and told him she was done but that she needed some components." His mother grimaced. "As for my own, I planned ahead and got everything my last trip into town. There's nothing I want from down there and nothing I really need." He patted her on the hand because he knew what this was about. "Calm down, mother. I get all the special privileges I want. Unless you can add ten points to whatever I get on my OWLs, I'm happy with what I have. Leave those two alone. They're eons beyond their ages in maturity and abilities. They deserve the right to get whatever they need and want, within reason of course, to make their lives easier."
"You're not jealous?" she asked.
He shook his head. "Not at all." He smiled. "I want to work with Iggy's uncle Percy when I get out, mum, what more do I need? We have the library, and Iggy's library, for me to study in. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't build the library that Iggy has."
"His isn't that big," she retorted.
"Mother, he has over a thousand books now," Adrian told her. She looked stunned. "And he carries most of them around him in that little case of his. He started collecting books when he was six, I can't match that, or the money that he has access to so I could start my own collection."
"I can buy you books," she pointed out dryly. "I do make a decent salary."
Adrian marked his place and closed the book, then turned to face her. "Mother, Iggy spent a hundred-twenty-six galleons on books a few months ago, during his last shopping trip. He bought nineteen books, including one for his mentor. I don't want to compete against Ignatius, mother, I respect him for the genius he is. He respects me for the brain I am. We both respect Raena because she's scary sometimes." She chuckled at that. "I can't match Iggy and I decided long ago that I didn't want to. I'm the best fully human student here. He's the top of the gryphon- borns here. It might as well be a separate hierarchy most of the time. The same as Agatha and Ryan's hierarchy is much different from the normal students. I am tops in the normal students and I like my standing."
She sighed. "Adrian, I don't want you to feel left behind or jealous, that's all."
He snorted, smiling serenely. "Of what? I have my kids who follow me and look up to me. I'm at the top of the charts for the future Head Boy."
"Iggy and Raena might be above you," she warned.
He snorted and shook his head. "I asked Raena if she wanted to be Head Girl and she laughed and said she didn't need the attention. It'd only cut down her time in the labs. Iggy walked up to join us and said the same thing. They don't want it. They don't want to be Prefects unless it's necessary to control the house. Let's face it, they don't need the attention, the praise, or the extra stress. He might need a space to practice with his new sword, and to help his father set up an emergency plan for the houses because our present one sucks and is slow, but otherwise he's satisfied with what he has. They won't kick him out for being the wacky genius he is, and I'll end up in a similar position some day. Don't fret so, mother. I'm satisfied with my lot, at long as I make Prefect."
She smiled and glanced around. "They have their own private room," she said quietly.
Adrian blushed. "Mother, they're married! They need a space outside the towers and his father's house to plan for things like snuggling."
"That's not why."
"They're still going to end up snuggling sometimes, they can walk into each other's mind. All of us know what they're doing, even if they did make a promise not to until he was sixteen."
"They still haven't," she assured him. "You don't have to keep up."
"Mother, I have no intention of finding a young man to mate with anytime in the near future, or even a girl if I suddenly found one attractive." She looked hurt. He laughed. "Mother, I'm bi. Get over it for me *before* I bring someone home to meet you and Severus." He smiled. "I was thinking about someone like Percy Weasley's assistant actually. A tad bit forceful but nice and very cute. He's smart, cute, and has a bit of a sense of humor. What's not to like?"
She shook her head. "Son, you don't like men, trust me."
"Mother, deal with it, I do like men. I like strong creatures. If Simone Malfoy-Weasley wasn't such a terror, I might have started to date her. Though we wouldn't fit very well I believe. She's much more into the physical things than I am." She shook her head, frowning at him. "Really. Is she here?" Tara nodded. "Simone?" Simone popped out of the other end of the library. "Would you please tell my mother that I like men who act like you, dear?"
She walked over, looking him over, then shrugged. "Adrian, I don't know you that well. I've seen you checking out my butt a few times, know that you're brilliant in a more normal way than my cousin, and have seen you looking at Iggy like he was a chocolate sundae." Adrian blushed and she looked at Tara. "I'd say he likes the strong, smart, silent type," she said with a shrug. Then she looked at the boy again. "Pity, I could use a mate here in school. At least until we graduate. You'd have to understand about my memberships," she said with a smile.
He stood up and kissed her, making her melt against him. "I don't mind if you go out whoring, dear, just don't bring anything back. I'm sure I'll learn a lot from you, and possibly even join you sometime."
"Deal," she agreed. She picked up his book and handed it to him. "Walk me back to help me find the book I'm looking for? Madam Pince *swears* it's back here and I can't find it."
"Of course, dear. Just until graduation?"
"I figure we'll end up in different countries afterward. I'm thinking about signing up to work with my Uncle Charlie if I don't get signed to a pro team," she told him as they walked. He found the book for her and she smiled at him. "Did you want to get touchy-feely?"
"Tonight?" he teased. She giggled. "Only if you'd like. I'm not against any of it and you have a lot to teach me I'm certain."
She nodded. "Yes, I do," she said with a slight smirk. "Steffan showed me how everything worked in a way that made me loose and content for the next three days."
"I noticed and I'm all for it," he agreed. "Every weekend or so?"
"Deal," she agreed. She walked him back to check out their books, then to take a stroll around the school in the snow. A beneficial arrangement for them both it seemed.
Severus walked into his room and stopped to look at the mess. "Were we robbed?" he called out, picking up some of the books on the floor to reshelve.
"My son is bi and has taken up with *Simone*!" Tara screamed from the bedroom. She slammed open the door, embedding the handle into the wall, and stormed out. "He propositioned her in front of me. An arrangement to have sex every once in a while and have someone to escort them around. He won't even protest her going to a whorehouse!" she screamed.
He patted her on the shoulder. "He's sensible then. She can teach him quite a lot, and will be supportive of his desire to be Head Boy or to find a boy of his own." She stepped away from him. "You didn't know?"
"He told you?"
"No, I noticed. It was fairly obvious. I caught him staring at Ignatius a few months back. And then at Raena, though Iggy growled at him for it. They came to an understanding I believe. You'd have to ask Ignatius about that part." He continued to pick up, wondering what was wrong with her. She would normally be much more calm. "What's really wrong, Tara?"
"My son won't be normal," she said, sitting down to watch him clean things up. "He's too smart for this stuff, Severus. He's not following his heart, he's making appointments for sex. He's treating her like a whore."
"He's not. It often happens that smart wizards such as our son pick a mate who can teach them how to deal with their true mate once they find them. In this case, Simone can teach him quite a lot about how to gently persuade a lover out of a fit, a tantrum, or even how to thrill them to no end when they're in the mood." He sat down beside her, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "It's a well-respected tradition that half of the couples currently in the school will break up after graduation because they're only together for convenience sake and because the other is someone that they can try things out on. I had one of my own when I was attending. Albus had a few of his from what I've heard. Men use these arrangements to teach us how to treat women or men. Parents are wonderful teachers, but you can't exactly sleep with them," he pointed out at the opening mouth. "With her, he'll find his way around a real relationship and she'll find someone to talk to when she's being sulky. They're well-suited on the intellectual level if nowhere else."
"Still, he's too young and he's using her," Tara said, still sulking.
He kissed the back of her hand, then put it back on her lap. "You think about it and I'll finish cleaning up." He let her curl up against his side and used his wand to clean up the last of the mess. He found a few broken figurines and handed them to her to fix. It was her fault after all.
Xander walked into the house and stopped, seeing his mate sitting there looking pissed. "What happened?" he asked. George glared at him. "Did Percy tell you?"
George stood up. "You didn't tell me!" he shouted.
Xander put down his bags and walked over to sit his mate down. "If we do anything about it, Raena and Iggy could both die. He won't last without her," he said quietly. George opened his mouth and Xander laid a finger over it. "No, listen. Do you remember the nightmares they had?" George nodded. "They were a broadcast vision by one of the kids at the colony." The fire flared up and he looked behind him with the classic 'oh, shit, busted' look. Fred walked out and shook his head. "You heard?"
"Percy came clean earlier, including about the problems if you fight," Fred told him. "How long have you known?"
"A month and a half," Xander admitted. He sat down. "I didn't want to hide it from you, but I thought it was necessary. I'm not happy about this," he said at George's glare. "I hate waiting around and being helpless."
"Percy said they were being taken down, whatever that means, this week," Fred told him. "That's the only reason we were allowed to know." He leaned on the back of the couch. "Percy's been very quiet recently and I had started to wonder why."
Xander shrugged. "He never said anything and I haven't asked. I see him every two weeks for lunch."
"You see him every two weeks?" George asked. Xander nodded. "You never told me that."
"You never asked, dear. I tell you every time I go to lunch with him and you never said anything."
"Fine, keep secrets," George said, starting to pout.
Xander shifted over, giving him a hug. "I didn't want to worry you. The woman who told me said we might not be here anyway."
"Where are you going?" Fred asked.
"There's a small vision about Tara becoming a tyrant if she takes over the school," Xander told him. "Apparently she's going to piss me off so much that I walk."
"If you do, you can have a part-time job with us," Fred offered. George nodded, giving him a hug. "At least until you find another job."
Xander grinned. "It's not a problem, we have money for a few months at least. At the worst, I can hire myself out to teach fighting to kids who desperately want to be aurors and can't get in."
George smiled. "Only if you want to sleep alone for a month."
"Thank you, Xander." George looked at Fred. "He can start working with us?"
"If it's a permanent thing, I could stand him having the lab for the three days we don't," Fred agreed. Xander beamed at him. "But the first time you get lost in there, I reserve the right to suspend you from the lab and keep you out of there."
"Yes, Fred. I'll take that, after we take a short vacation to relax and unwind."
"Of course," George agreed. He grinned. "Do you know that the girls showed up for our last practice in those tiny tops again? They're still trying to talk us into doing a semi-nude practice."
"Good. We'll do it next time," Xander agreed. Both twins stared at him. "What? I mean it. Both of you." He stood up. "I've got to put the presents up. You two play nicely." He grabbed the bags and headed up the stairs.
Fred looked at his twin. "Do you have anything bought for him yet?"
"Not a piece," George told him. "I'm going to Diagon tonight. Want to come with me?"
"If you'd like. I think I need to buy presents for the girls."
"Ladies, Fred, they're no longer girls. They don't even blush when you pinch them." He stood up. "Xander, I'm going present shopping for you."
"Pick up this," Xander called, sending one of the phoenix chicks down with a small piece of parchment.
"Where would I get this?" George called, frowning at the title of the book. "And for whom?"
"It's on hold but I didn't get to Diagon," Xander called down. "It's the son's present."
"I'm assuming it's the older one," George said dryly, showing the title off. Fred shook his head. "Money?"
"I dropped my wallet on the couch." Xander closed the door. "I'm wrapping. Don't come up."
"Fine," George called, finding the money pouch on the couch and taking it with him to the shopping area for normal wizards. Fred followed along behind him, gamely going to find the dusty books.
Draco walked into his study to meet the person standing in there. "Is there something you needed, Under-Minister McKinley?" he asked as he gracefully sat behind his desk.
"No, Mr. Malfoy, this is just a courtesy call." She smiled at him. "Try to leave the hard things to those of us more qualified." He laughed. "You may think that we don't know it was you who tipped us off, but it was rather obvious when your former girlfriend, turned assassin, gave the tip."
He waved a hand. "I only told her to handle it. I knew I could count on you to do it before I had to get my hands dirty." She looked stunned. "Do you think I would let those animals come near my family with their filthy plans or their filthy diseases?" She shook her head and he leaned forward. "I can assure you, there is nothing that will ever harm my family again. At least not while I'm alive or while my legacy lives on. I merely let you handle it this time as I was a tad bit incapacitated when I found out."
She nodded. "That's reasonable, but in the future come to me directly. I will handle anything that you need handled, within the bounds of the law. I won't become your minion, but I will gladly handle any similar problems."
He smiled. "Thank you. I would appreciate not having to kill anyone this week." He handed over a file. "You might want this as well then." She looked through it then stared at him in disgust. "You hadn't known?"
"No, but I'm putting a stop to it now," she promised. "Thank you for the valuable information, Mr. Malfoy. Have a good holiday season." She left, heading out to the lawn to apparate.
He smiled and got comfortable once he felt her leave the shields around the house. "It's nice when people do what you want them to do voluntarily. Not even a bit of a struggle, what a pleasant shock." His daughter made an unhappy noise and he summoned her over with his wand, settling her against his chest to hold. "Behave, Morgana. It's not that bad." She dirtied herself. "Or it might be." He forced himself to get up and change her. His father would shit if he knew he took such a personal hand in his children's upbringing, but he knew it was necessary so none of them grew up like he did. He could tolerate Simone's small love affair with the houses of ill repute, she was being subtle about it. She had even bought her own membership, he was so proud of her.
Morgana made happy sounds as he changed her. "Does that please you, little one?" She peed on him and he shook his head. "Fine, you may have a bath," he told her, taking her to get them both clean now.
It was Christmas and everyone had opened presents. They were all resting around watching holiday specials while waiting for lunch when the call came. The fire whooshed up and a head appeared in the fireplace. "Mr. Malfoy?" the man said.
Iggy lifted his head from his wife's lap and waved. "Hi, Director. Oliver's not here," he said sleepily.
The director of quidditch for Britain smiled at him. "I know, dear boy, but I need to talk to Mr. Malfoy this time. Is he there?"
"Uncle Draco, floo call," Iggy yelled. Xander woke up enough to toss a pillow at him. "No thanks, her lap is more than comfy enough," he said with a grin. The director laughed. "Oh, this is my lovely lifemate Raena. Raena, this is the nice guy who let me talk him into helping Uncle Oliver's shoulder." She waved and smiled. "Uncle Draco!"
"Make that noise again and I'm slaying something," George said grumpily from his seat resting against his mate's legs.
"I knew I'd get you sooner or later," Xander said with a sleepy grin. "Draco, it's a quidditch thing," he called. George pinched his leg, but he couldn't feel it. So he tried higher and had his hair stroked, soothing him back into his nap.
Draco came down the stairs, towel wrapped 'round his waist and Morgana safely in his arms. "What? We were bathing off the morning's excesses." He saw the head and pulled a chair over to sit down. "Is something wrong? Am I suspended again?"
The director laughed, though he was blatantly ignoring the spots where he could see up the towel. "No, Mr. Malfoy, you're not suspended at all. Your current coach told me he adores your new daughter's pictures and longs for your return because you seem to keep the other players in line." His smile brightened. "I'm here to offer you a chance to try out for the National Team. As you know, we've had a few...incidences over the last few months and now that you're back in shape you're one of the top players in the league."
"I'm not supposed to fly for another three weeks," Draco informed him.
"That would be fine. We're running a tryout game in four weeks if you'd like to attend. It will be on Potter's home pitch since his coach is over the seeker team. Would that be all right with you?"
"Fine. I can be there. I can only practice in the evenings you understand?"
"You'd be our backup seeker anyway, Mr. Malfoy, and I'm sure we can accommodate any problems in your schedule due to your teaching or your newest child. What's her name by the way?"
"Morgana Weals Malfoy."
"A wonderful and strong name. Hopefully she lives up to it." He smiled again. "Are you going to play the game too, little one?" She blew a spit bubble and cooed.
"We're trying our best," Draco assured him. "Send me an official notice of time and date so I can hand it in, I'll be there." The director nodded and left. "Well, that was a wonderful gift."
Xander looked at him from half-closed eyes. "If they attack you, we're stealing the children."
"If they attack him, we're sending in Simone," Raena corrected with a smile. Iggy raised his hand. "And you, dear, I wouldn't dream of leaving you behind. You can poison the dolts into submission." He smiled and rolled, snuggling into her stomach to return to his nap. "Uncle Draco, your towel is gaping."
He recovered himself and stood up. "I'm going back to my bath."
George snorted. "If the triplets haven't taken it over," he pointed out.
"Then I can shoo them out of it," Draco said as he stood up. Morgana chose that moment to get active, but a flick of a wand had her floating in mid air while her father caught himself. "Thank you, whoever did that." He took her back and went to chase the triplets out of his bubbles. Gwen gave him a pitiful look, but he managed to run her off anyway. The baby might have done something in the water and she didn't like that. She ran to get a washcloth and wash her face, then back to complain to her father.
"I'm sure she didn't, Gwen," Ron soothed in the hallway. He stuck his head in. "Good news?"
"I'm going to try out for first alternate for the World Cup team," Draco told him.
"Well," Ron said, beaming. "Wonderful news. I hope you get it, Draco. Can I steal her?" Morgana made a high-pitched squeal and Draco removed her from the tub before she could do anything in the water. Ron stole her, cuddling her close. "Come on, lovie. We'll get you dried off and redressed. You can play with the triplets." He took her back to their sitting area, letting Minnie 'help' him with the diapering. She was very good at holding squirming babies still.
Draco relaxed in the water, smiling to himself. It had been a wonderful week.
The wonderful weeks continued all the way to March: Draco made the team, he was the only one who tried out. Morgana continued to grow and not be *too* fussy. Everything was going well. Even Iggy and Raena's room was quietly kept a secret. Not even the finding of the golems in their beds and the others in the family finding out that they had a hidden room disturbed much. Simone pouted at Adrian, who pointed out that they needed one, if only to play with their philosopher's stone. He wasn't dumb enough to believe they had only created one, that wasn't like Iggy. Iggy liked to have backup plans, just like his father. So the day that Raena's ring crumbled brought a shock to all of them, especially the two people looking at it.
Iggy hopped up and ran out of Transfigurations, his wife right behind him, and he desperately called for Poppy to find the Headmaster. He had figured out long ago who had helped create that last philosopher's stone, otherwise he wouldn't have been holding any of it in his office. He found Dumbledore lying in the entryway and slid down to next to him, checking his pulse. Nothing. "POPPY!" he screamed. She came running up. "Do I start CPR or not?"
"He said not to," she ordered, pushing him back some to check him over. "He was fine this morning, I don't know what happened," she said, starting to cry. "Why today?"
"What's going on?" Remus Lupin asked as he joined them. He saw the man on the floor and gasped, but Raena held him up. "Albus?"
"He's gone, Remus." Poppy looked at him. "Get Tara now." Remus shook his head, finally allowed to fall to his knees. "Someone get her then."
Iggy nodded, standing up. "I'll go." He wiped off his face then bent down and touched his mentor and friend just once. "We'll miss you." He walked away, heading down to tell the bad news. He got to Tara's room and tapped on the door. One of the students opened it. "I need your Professor now, it's an announcement," he said quietly. Tara walked out and shut the door. He simply looked up at her and she broke out crying. "He just fell it seems. No warning. We knew because Raena's ring crumbled."
She nodded, patting him on the shoulder. "Go tell Sev, I'm canceling classes for the next three days in mourning. Tell him to head to the stairway and block the sight from everyone." He nodded and walked off. "Hurry up, Iggy, I don't want the kids to see this." He nodded, walking a little bit faster. She headed up to see for herself. She had to see for herself. The body was already covered. "What do we have to do?" she asked quietly. She looked at the teachers. "I'm canceling classes for three days in tribute. Give us enough time to shield the area or to move him before releasing yours." They nodded and left her there, they'd get their own times to say goodbye. Tara knelt down and touched the cool body. "How long?"
"Not more than ten minutes. I suspect that he's been taking a vial of elixir of life every now and then when he was feeling old. It would explain the sudden collapse." Poppy wiped off her face. "I've got to tell Minerva."
Tara looked up at her. "What else do we have to do?"
"Have Draco send out announcements and the like. He's done it before. I'll inform someone in the Ministry." She touched Tara on the shoulder. "It will be hard, but you'll do fine. We'll stand up for you." She hurried away to do what was necessary, passing Severus and Ignatius in the hallway. "Iggy, your wife headed down to your rooms," she said as she passed by them. "Go there, dear. She'll need you more."
"Yes, ma'am," Iggy said, turning and heading that way.
Severus knelt beside the body and checked it for himself. Then he let his wife crumble into his arms. "Give me a few moments to set up an illusion, then send the students back to their common rooms," he said quietly, forcing her to get up. "Go. You can cry later." She nodded, heading up to the office.
Severus looked up when he saw two ghosts standing there. "It's started?" he asked.
Godric Gryffindor smiled at him. "Don't worry, we'll bring him back. As soon as he's got a handle on everything." He reached into the body and pulled out a thin white strand. "Come along, Albus, we need to discuss the future with you," he said as they disappeared to wherever ghosts go when they want privacy.
Peeves floated down. "I won't cause no trouble this time," he promised, sniffling. "Please don't send me away."
Snape scowled at him. "That is entirely up to the new Headmistress," he said as he stood up, weaving an illusion around the body. "Leave for now. You can have your own time to grieve tonight." Peeves nodded, floating off but still looking despondent. Severus stepped in front of the illusionary wall as students walked toward the main staircase. "Hurry up," he growled, sending the younger ones running.
His own house's members gave him a funny look, but passed him by quietly. This was highly unusual; they only got sent back to the houses when bad things happened. What could it have been this time? The ones who had been in with Professor Harris assured a few of the younger ones that it wasn't an attack. The ones who had been with Professor Malfoy or Weasley agreed, if any of them were in classes teaching it couldn't have been an attack.
As soon as all the houses were in lock down, the other teachers came out to see for themselves. The illusion wall dropped and there was a small gasp. Xander was pulled against Ron's side. "What do we do now?" Ron asked quietly. "Do we give him a proper send off or let the kids view him for a few days?"
"We set up a viewing area," Sirius said calmly. "Someone get Hagrid to build a bier, we'll put him in the old Transfiguration classroom, the one that used to be his." Remus went out to get Hagrid and Sprout. "Have the children out there heard? Did they come in?" he asked when Severus looked clueless. The Potion's Master shook his head. "Then put back up the illusion until they're past."
Xander waved his wand and created a glowing wall. Everyone looked at him. "It's the best I can do!" he shouted, walking away.
Draco followed him, stopping him to comfort him. Those two had been close. "It's all right, that's a fine wall," he soothed, calming Xander down. He watched as the missing students were led inside and up the stairs. "We have duties to attend to," he said quietly.
Xander shook his head. "I can't do that." He walked away.
Draco went back to the gathering. "Xander's not going to be able to help at all for now," he announced. "Am I making the announcement through the Prophet as a Regent?" Severus nodded. "That's fine, let me call them now." He went to find the nearest floo, using the Headmaster's office. He tapped on the door and walked inside. Tara was sobbing on the desk. "It will be fine," he assured her. "He left you a letter. It's under Fawke's stand, in the drawer there." He bent to use the floo, summoning the secretary for the Board of Regents. "Dumbledore died," he said quietly. The secretary gasped. "Bring me everything for an announcement to be made and to transfer over to Tara." He cut the connection and stood up, getting the letter for her since she hadn't moved. "Tara, read it now," he told her. "There are things that he hid from you and things you have to deal with in the next few weeks." She looked up at him and he gave her a gentle hug. "Calm yourself. We'll handle the viewing and funeral arrangements. We'll bury him out on the property somewhere. I'm sure he knew it was going to happen." He left her alone.
Tara opened the wax seal for the letter and pulled it out, slumping down in the large chair to read it. She grimaced at the opening, then shook her head. "I'm not like that," she told the paper. It made another valid point and she had to concede that she was going to have problems. At least everything was laid out for the rest of the year. She could handle that much. The part about the newest Headmaster coming in, a foretold one, upset her, but she let it go. That would be up to Draco and his co-Regents. She cleaned herself up and walked back downstairs, meeting up with the current Minister of Magic. "We'll be doing a viewing where?" she asked her mate.
"In his old classroom. Sirius has already sent house elves to clean and prepare the room. Hagrid had built a bier during the war, we're waiting on him to bring it back up." He looked around. "Xander is still gone."
Tara nodded. "We won't see him until he's ready to be seen. He's like that." She looked around. "The other heads of houses went to talk to theirs?"
"Mr. Malfoy offered if I would stand guard over the body," Severus said, sounding so tired. "We'll handle it if you need to do anything for the school."
She shook her head. "He left instructions and had everything settled for this year. I won't have much to do until this summer." She cleared her throat. "Did anyone talk to Minerva yet?"
"No, we were waiting on you to do it," Poppy told her from the back of the crowd. "I tried to call her but she's not home."
"Then I'll go later," Tara said, straightening up. The doors opened and more Ministers and Under-Ministers came in. She looked at the Minister of Magic. "You hated him. Why are you here?"
He looked like he had been hit. "To pay my respects and talk to you about any changes you wanted to make, young lady."
Tara nodded. "I'm not ready for that yet. Give me until next week. You're welcome to stay the night, I'll have rooms made up for you all." She smiled slightly at Percy and his father. "Ron's probably still up at his house, or with the triplets. Xander's disappeared."
"He's at the store," Percy told her. "I stopped there first." He walked around the end of the body and handed over a small envelope. "He left this in our family's care for you."
"Is it the same as the one upstairs?"
Percy shook his head. "No, it's not. This one doesn't have to be read right now, but you will have to read it before you lose your temper. Those were the instructions he gave me." She nodded, tucking it into her pocket. He gave her a short hug. "It will be fine, Tara. I'm sure of it. He's at peace and able to float around and have fun with the students again. Just like he wanted to do." She nodded and he let her go into her husband's arms. "I'd like to see my son and the rest of the family if possible."
"Go ahead, I'll join you soon, son," Arthur told him, watching as Percy headed up to pick up his son first. Hagrid walked in and he got out of the way, helping arrange the body comfortably on the raised wood and velvet bed. "Did he give any instructions for his burial?" he asked.
"He's picked out a spot," Hagrid told him. "I know where it is. Showed it to me once or twice." He smiled sadly at Tara. "We'll move him now if it's all right with you. It's not right that he continue to lay on the floor."
"No, go ahead," she agreed, getting out of the way. The majority of the teachers followed the bier into the room it would stay in for a while, then they left to make their own calls of announcement to friends and family. The Ministers all stopped by to talk to Tara before they left, then headed back to London. The world didn't stop running because of this, even if it should.
Tara let her husband lead her down to their room and settle her into their bed, then he left to take care of his own grief in his own way. She pulled out the second letter and read it, shaking her head. He was so sure! But she wasn't like that. She couldn't be. She yawned and settled in to nap. Tonight would be time enough to have a private moment and grieve. Right that moment, she needed a nap, give her mind time to catch up with everything and figure out what to do without her body interfering.
Percy walked into the shop and saw the mourning ribbons spread around, especially around the picture of the beloved Headmaster. "Where is Xander?" he asked quietly.
"George knocked him out, he's in the nest with him," Fred told him. "Ron?"
"Clinging to the children. Maeve and William are on their way down with Ignatius and father." He walked into the back, going to talk to his younger brother. "George?" he called quietly.
Percy opened the door and smiled at him. "The children are on their way down," he said, walking in and shutting the door behind him. "Did you hear about what we know? The vision?"
"Only a little bit," George admitted. "Xander never told me more than she might piss him off."
Percy sat on the edge of the nest, looking down at him. "Tara's going to end up too thrilled with her power for a few weeks. It's an overreaction to having a lot of it suddenly. It's often seen by people in my position," he admitted. George nodded. "Your mate's an easy target because he won't fight back." George frowned. "She's going to start picking on him, trying to find her boundaries, and Xander will have to fight back eventually. When he does, I don't want you to be shocked if his first instinct is to take a sudden vacation. It was seen happening." George's frown only got worse, but he nodded. "If that happens, I need you to tell me immediately, and tell me if any of the children are going with you so we can cover for you."
"Why?" Fred asked from the doorway.
Percy looked back at him. "Because the current Minister of Magic doesn't like Xander very much, as you know, and thinks he can use Tara to get rid of the teachers he doesn't like. Namely Xander, Draco, and Snape. Plus Vector and Sinistra because they pissed him off greatly when he was attending." He smiled slightly. "It's stupidity on his part, but it was seen to happen. Father's already agreed that we'll cover for Xander. It can be a sudden emergency or whatever, but if he leaves, we need to know who he takes with him."
"We'd only take the younger ones," George pointed out calmly.
Percy smiled more brightly at him. "There's an equivalency test for those students who have to leave school due to illness or pregnancy, so they won't have to be placed among younger children. It's not often used, but it has been used in the past by prodigies who grew impatient with the structure of the schooling at that level. There are many people who wondered if Ignatius and Raena would be asking for the testing once they had sucked the knowledge from their mentor. Even Severus requested information on their behalf, saying it might be necessary at some time for them to leave sooner."
"With the exception of Transfiguration and Herbology, they could pass right now at the seventh year levels," Fred agreed.
"We can tutor them in that before the test," George agreed. "I'll ask him if he wants to."
"Make it an option, but don't force him. The more strict rules tend to allow geniuses enough leeway to find themselves before they go wild and stupid as adults," Percy pointed out.
"They'd still have rules, even if they were living on their own," George told him. Fred snorted. "They would. They're not ready to buy a house yet so would still be expected to live here or at the college. That would have rules of conduct as well."
"Yes, but they're very loose," Percy assured him. "Ignatius could get into any manner of trouble. Drinking, partying, not studying because he suddenly had the freedom to do his own schedule. They wouldn't be able to keep those two apart either. You'd end up a grandfather as soon as they got a wild hair up their arses and undid the anti-fertility charms."
"Good point," Fred agreed. "What else is going on?"
"The Minister of Magic is very upset with me as well," Percy admitted. "We never told him about the threat from those idiots. He wants to sit on their punishment boards himself, even though he believes like them. He just believes that they should have petitioned to make, or unmake, laws to suit the true path of humanity." He stood up and looked at both twins, and the sleeping man. "The funeral's in three days. Let him know that so he can choose when he wants to sneak back into the castle and sit beside the body to talk to it." He left them alone.
"For the head of the archives, he certainly does know a lot about that threat," George noted.
Fred nodded. "Dad let something slip about him not only doing that job." He closed the door and went back to the shop. One person was in there looking around. "Sorry, I had to check on my brother-in-law. We had to knock him out. He thought of Albus as his surrogate father."
"I'm sorry to hear that," she said, looking at the picture. "Any idea what happened?"
"Just that he suddenly collapsed," Fred told her, nodding Iggy inside. The boy walked in with the screaming children, heading to the back. "Are they all right?"
"They know. Ron told them and they're upset," Iggy called. He put both children in the nest with their parents, then gave his awake father a hug. "I'm heading to the bank, then to get something for Raena to calm her down. They know." He left from that spot, heading to Diagon, with a quick stop at the colony to tell them what was going on.
Tara waited until Xander had a good half-hour alone with the body before interrupting him. "You finally came back?"
Xander looked up at her. "I'm not in the mood for it, Tara." He levered himself up and gave the body one last look, then walked past her. "I'm heading downstairs to see your husband, then up to my house. I don't want company." He left her there, going down to the potion's classroom. He tapped gently, then walked in. "I need you to make me something."
Severus looked up, and he smiled a little bit. "You're ready to return?"
"I need you to make me an emotion suppresser for the funeral."
"There's no such thing, unfortunately. We could all use one tomorrow." A book was pulled out of Xander's pocket and put onto the desk, a page marked with a colored piece of parchment. He pulled it over and looked at the potion, then up at the other teacher. "This is too strong for even you, Xander."
Xander shook his head. "I can't go without it."
"Surely you can lean against the other members of your family."
Xander walked over and closed the door, locking it, then leaned against it. "You remember how the lightening made me able to touch thought streams?" he asked quietly. Snape leaned back and nodded. "It left me open. If I go tomorrow, I'll be open to all the grief. Everything will end up in my head and I'll end up breaking down."
"The potion is still too strong and fixing it would take too long, Xander. I can't make it for you. Neither can your son or daughter-in-law. If we had a month, possibly," he said at the sad expression. He stood up and walked over, stopping a few inches away. "If I knew how to make it and do it weakly enough for you, I would, Alexander."
Xander nodded. "I understand, but it's hard," he complained.
"I know it is," he agreed. "It's hard for many of us. I would appreciate having that potion myself tomorrow, but I cannot do it. Neither can anyone in this school."
Xander slumped a little. "Then you've got to promise to knock my ass out tomorrow after the funeral. Not a single dream and not a single thought for the rest of the day, not until after all the emotions are out of me."
"I can assure you of that. I'll be making a lot of that potion tomorrow anyway." Xander nodded and left him alone. "Your book?"
"Work on that one," Xander called back. "It'll be necessary sometime soon."
"Fine," he agreed, sitting down to read through it again. It was so strong, even too strong for a full-grown gryphon. What had this potion been made for originally? He looked at the title page and winced. Hypothetical potions. Like theory, some of the things in this book were crap, but if it was possible he would work on that potion. He could use some of it himself.
The students went back to class two days after the funeral, and no one looked like they had slept since classes had been let out. Xander walked into his class and looked around. "I know it sucks badly right now, but life has to go on or there's no meaning to it." He looked across the tired faces. "I know you were supposed to have a test today, but I don't feel like it either so I'll take questions instead." He sat on the desk and looked across the listless faces. "Unless you want the test?"
One girl raised her hand. "Are we having the test next class instead?"
He nodded. "I have to give it or it'll build up for finals. If I don't, you'd have sixteen categories on the final test." The kids winced. "Anything else?"
"Is this just five categories?" a boy in the back asked.
Xander shrugged. "I don't remember. What was on your last one? Tell me while I dig out the master." He turned and dug around, trying to find a copy of the test while the kids said different creatures they had been tested on. "That one I know is on this one," he said after someone said water demons. He found it and held it up. "This is your exam." He read it over. "Water demons are on here, Sybill." She shrugged. "It's got six categories because I only gave you half of one of them on the last exam. The farthest back is Grungin." The class nodded and wrote that down. "Oh, wait, Pyros are on this one." They wrote that down too. "Anything else?"
"Sir, what did you take before the funeral?" one boy asked. Iggy looked back at him and frowned, making the boy shift uncomfortably. "You looked like you were numb."
Xander chuckled bitterly. "Nothing. I was overloaded by the emotions running around." His son opened his mouth. "It's because of the lightening I got hit by. It opened me up to feeling emotions when I'm too stressed to block them out. The funeral about killed me as well."
Iggy coughed. "I had to sedate him that night," he said quietly. "It's not a common thing among us but it does happen."
"Does sitting in this room hurt you?"
Xander shook his head. "My shields are shaky but holding, Sybill. Don't fret so much. If you guys are giving me a headache, I'll send you away." She nodded, looking slightly happier. "Anything to do with the class?"
The door opened. "Xander, may I speak with you?" Tara asked.
"You guys figure out what you need to ask now." He walked out and closed the door behind him. "What?"
"You shouldn't have told them that."
"Tara, it's probably germane. I can almost guarantee that I'll have a day sometime soon when my shields fall and I'm fucked." He crossed his arms. "These kids won't attack me and it's not something that they're likely to remember for the future. In case you hadn't noticed, none of the kids I've trained, and have passed, have attacked the school or my family."
"Still. A teacher should be strong in front of their students," she pointed out, trying to be gentle. "They have enough problems."
"Tara, I'm human, the same as they are. We're all upset right now. It's good for them to see that they don't have to hide it. If you don't like it, yay. Now if you'll excuse me, I have my class to run." He walked inside and closed the door again. "Sorry about that. I'd offer to listen to any of you, but at the moment I don't have it in me. If you want to discuss your feelings on the Headmaster's death, build a group and start to work it out that way. Give me a week before you bring it to me."
The kids nodded, understanding that. He had been so upset he had left.
Tara walked into the Transfiguration classroom and stopped, looking at the two teachers, who weren't much happier than Xander had been. "You look tired," she noted, continuing up to walk up to the front of the classroom.
"We were friends with him for a long time," Sirius pointed out gently. "We won't be fine for a while, Tara."
"How are your classes?"
Remus shrugged. "Listless, like everyone else's. We're pushing through, but it's going to be a few weeks before things get back to normal."
"We've got to go on for the students, even if we feel like breaking down," Tara said gently.
Sirius glared at her. "I knew Albus for the last forty years. If I break down, I think I have the right to my emotions. Go away, before I get upset."
"Please, we're both still upset, Tara."
"Fine. My office is open if you want to talk to me. Or if you want to go through his books and things for a reminder. He said his entire estate was left to the school, with you two and Severus as administrators."
"I heard," Remus agreed, giving her a faint smile. "We'll deal with it this weekend. Thank you, Tara." A clear dismissal.
"I'll see you at supper." She left them alone, but walked out thinking that something had to be done to ease some of the grief floating like mud in an aura around the school. She decided to announce a weekend in town for the older kids, it might cheer them up a little bit. Now she had to find a new caretaker for the school. The substitute one had just quit on her when she had told him about a leak up by the infirmary. That's what she had meant to talk to Xander about, not to criticize him. She went back down there, waiting until the change bell had rung to talk to him. "I need you to call together the hiring committee to find a new caretaker," she said as she walked in.
Xander looked at her. "Your husband is over that, not me."
She gave him a 'get real' look. "I know who does most of it."
"Severus," he agreed, starting to frown. "I'll pass it on if you want. Anything else we need to do in the next week?"
"Not as far as I can tell. Did you want something from Albus' things? Some memento?"
"He left me his locket," Xander said, patting it. "His lawyer gave it to me yesterday."
"Oh. I hadn't heard anything was offered outside the bequeath to the school." She shrugged. "If you want to talk, I'm here."
"Thanks, Tara." She left and he groaned, settling into his chair and putting his feet up. He felt like shit and he knew it showed. He whistled, bringing Fawkes. "Lady, we've got to talk. Close the door." She flapped at the door until it closed, then joined him at the desk. "Did you want to stay with us? If not, I'll help you find a new home, so will Murphy." She cooed and leaned closer, nuzzling his neck. "Thanks, Fawkes, we love you too." He patted her gently, accepting her appreciation for taking her in. She was an orphan and it was the least he could do. His door opened and Severus strode in, not looking happy. "Your wife?"
He shook his head. "No, not that. A notice that Fawkes was to go to the Ministry. They want to see if she'll pick any of them for her next master," he sneered.
"Then you can tell them that she's chosen to stay with her mate and unmastered for a bit longer. Phoenixes are emotional and sensitive creatures and can't just be passed on like a locket or a book. You can tell the gun-wielding idiot I said so." Snape smiled cruelly at him. "By the way, your wife's already decided that I'm taking your place on the hiring committee. She thinks I run it."
"Only when you take over without permission," Snape told him, but he wasn't angry. "What position are we hiring for?"
"Caretaker. It was a spectacular fit."
"I'll call everyone together after supper." He reached over and patted Fawkes gently. "Wait for a bit, you have time to grieve. We won't force you to the Ministry at all." He left, going to write a suitable reply. He even asked one of the chicks to send it, Glinda was most happy to get out of the school for a bit and Simone wouldn't mind.
The Minister of Magic strode into the school, glaring around at the dingy stonework. "No one to clean?" he asked snidely.
Sirius, who was the only one there at the moment, looked around. "It's the same sort of clean it always was under Filch and before," he said with a shrug. He kept his expression neutral and somewhat bored. "Tara's in town to pick up a book she had ordered. What did you need?"
"To see that blasted bird. I want her."
"Phoenixes pick their own mates," Sirius said seriously. "She's chosen to stay with her mate and his family instead of tying herself to anyone at the moment. In another year, she might change her mind."
He laughed. "She's a bird! She doesn't feel emotions."
Sirius backed away from him. "I feel very sorry for you if you were heard by any of them." He could hear screaming upstairs and winced. "I'd run, sir. They will attack over the female head of their line." A group of chicks flew down the stairs, screaming abuse and clawing at the Minister of Magic. Sirius looked behind him. "Xander? Severus? Simone?" he called, hoping one of them heard him.
Raena walked down the stairs and glared at the current Minister. "Get off him, you don't know where he's been or what he's been exposed to. He might make you ill." The birds broke off, her own flying over to nuzzle her. "Phoenixes aren't just *birds*," she spat. "They're smarter than some humans who have attended here, especially some of the Slytherins from what I hear. Fawkes has made a decision, she's not leaving her mate. She's near nesting again and won't leave the school. If you want to talk to her and see if you can change her mind *after* the newest set of chicks are born, then you may do so. I'll take you to where she's sunning herself."
"Little girl, you're overstepping yourself," the Minister warned.
She chuckled evilly. "Oh, what will you do, kick me out?" she said snidely. "I don't need this school, nor do I need some petty, ignorant bureaucrat to try and push me around. If you want to push your weight around, do continue to try. I can leave this school and take my equivalencies tomorrow, and pass."
"Then what will you do, *girl*? You won't be working for the Ministry with that attitude or with a puny equivalency."
She snorted. "Why would I need to? Not only do I already have an acceptance to college, I also have a husband, a calling, and a whole lot of people who will throw a party because you've banned me from ever creating a healing potion for you." She looked at Sirius. "Ignatius wanted to know if you were still adamant that he do that stupid detention you assigned him because you haven't been laid recently. He's too tired to give a damn at the moment and offered to do it some other night."
"He'll do it Saturday night since he said he's not going to town," Sirius told her.
"Fine. We don't need anything and had nothing planned anyway." She gave the Minister a disdainful look. "No wonder you can't keep a familiar." She headed back up the stairs.
A few minutes later Anastasia walked down. "You'll have to excuse her, she's presently being frustrated by a potion she's having trouble translating from Ethiopian." She nodded at the Minister of Magic. "Did you need to see my father?"
"Why would I need to see your father?"
Sirius saw the fit brewing. "Anastasia Malfoy-Weasley, may I introduce you to the current Minister of Magic?"
"No, I already know him, as he should have remembered me." She sniffed disdainfully. "Fawkes took off with Murphy, I think they're off to talk to Uncle Charlie. Since none of the current chicks would adopt him, they want one down there to train with him so he's protected. Murphy does not like the fact that he works with dragons, considers it foolhardy for a human he likes to do such strange things." She nodded at Sirius. "Ignatius is presently sedated. He wasn't feeling well in the least."
"I'll allow him to serve his detention with me Saturday instead."
"Thank you, Professor Black. Minister." She nodded and left, going up to spread the news. That man was psychotic. Most of the chicks followed her back into the tower. They wouldn't continue to attack since their maternal originator was protected. "He's still here," she announced. "I told him that Fawkes and Murphy had went to Uncle Charlie."
Charlie smiled from his seat, not stopping the petting of Fawkes and Murphy. "Well, it's true," he said with a smile. He heard the stomping and got up, taking the adults up to the nest and shutting the door. "Fly off," he whispered, letting them go. They hurried out the window and he listened to the man throw a fit at Xander. He grimaced. That was not allowed! Xander was still very fragile and wouldn't put up with it. Sure enough, Xander's voice started to answer back, and it was quiet enlightening about what he *really* thought about the Minister. Hmm. Maybe a word to Percy or his father would be good. He snuck down once the yelling had stopped, making sure the idiot was gone. Draco waved him down. "All settled?"
"Yes, though it seems that your father might be retiring by force soon," Draco noted. "I'm working on it, but call and warn him."
Charlie went to the floo to call home. "Dad?" he said when the floo was answered by someone unfamiliar.
"No, Mr. Weasley, I work for your brother Percy. He's upstairs at the moment. Let me get him for you." His head disappeared and Arthur's appeared a few minutes later.
"Dad, you've got problems coming. Your boss tried to take Fawkes by force and didn't take well to being thwarted." Arthur nodded, starting to frown. "He's threatened to fire you."
"If he does, he does," Arthur said gently. "If he does, he's due for a fight, but I'll let him make the first move." He smiled sadly. "How is everyone taking it?"
Charlie looked behind him, then shook his head. "The dunderhead got in Xander's face and started to scream," he noted. "It wasn't pretty and I was upstairs."
"That's fine. Try to keep him calm, he doesn't need this stress. He'll start to cramp again if he gets too upset."
"Too late," Draco called. He helped Xander up and into the bathroom under the stairs. Then he came over to the fire. "I'm working on it, Arthur. He's picking on the wrong people."
"I'll floo Percy and warn him, but he doesn't have ground to legally fire me, Draco. If he does, I can sue the Ministry and make them reverse their decision. Or I can demand my retirement benefits. I've put in more than enough time for that." He looked behind him and grimaced. "I'll talk to you later, boys. Behave and help Xander for the next day or so." He cut the connection and turned to look at his boss. "You needed something?" he asked, staying pleasant.
"You're fired," the Minister said with a smirk.
Arthur shrugged. "If you do so, I will fight you, Maynard. You know you don't have a valid reason to fire me and I can contest it in the courts." The man's face turned purple. "I won't lie down for you to run over my family. I didn't do it for Asdar and I won't do it for you." He smiled. "If that's all you wanted, good day, Maynard. I'll see you Monday morning." The man stormed off, apparating somewhere else. He looked at the agent behind him. "Did you call my son?"
"Yes, sir. He got redfaced and huffed. He was not pleased."
Arthur smiled. "I'm sure he'll control his anger better than I am. Were I more physically able, I'd have beaten that man bloody." He walked into the kitchen. "Would you like a drink before we finish our meeting?"
"If it wouldn't be any trouble," the agent said, frowning. That man wasn't even angry, at least not externally. How did he do it? He would have to watch this one carefully. His orders were to protect Arthur Weasley whether or not he wanted to be protected, and he would do so. Even if it meant a change in leadership at the Ministry. Which would be welcomed by a lot of people.
Percy sat down across from his favorite way to leak information, passing over a small envelope. "Here you are, as promised," he said with a mean smile.
"If I may ask, why are you giving this to me now?" the reporter asked. "It's not like any of your family like us."
Percy laughed bitterly. "That man has come after my family for the last time. Not only did he demand, *demand*, to take control of Fawkes, even after she had made her decision to stay with her mate's family. He also got into a shouting match with my brother-in-law, then moved to fire my father because Xander didn't give in and roll over for him. He doesn't like Xander anyway because Xander can show him up on a shooting range. As can Ron, and Simone Malfoy- Weasley if I'm not mistaken."
The reporter looked shocked. "I thought Professor Harris said he wasn't that good."
"Wouldn't you have to stay below that man's radar?" Percy asked, putting down some money for lunch. "Eat while you read it, if you can. I'm going back to work now." He slid out of the booth in the muggle restaurant and picked up his takeout order, heading back to his office. His assistant gave him the look of death and he gamely went up to see his boss. "Yes, Minister?" he asked, setting down his lunch on his desk. "Did you need something?"
"Just to see if you're going around behind my back and trying to spread crap about me," he said dryly. "Are you, Weasley?"
Percy looked offended. "Why would I do that?" He sat down and opened his takeaway, smiling up at him. "I'm very satisfied with my current position."
The Minister slammed the door in Percy's assistant's face. "Cut the shit, I know where you were."
"Had me followed?" Percy asked, taking a bite of his pasta. He smiled up at him. "That's not a very wise idea. I don't like you bothering my family in the first place, and pissing me off means that you lose the support of my entire office. Even if you fire me because I corrected their budgetary problems when I was appointed and made sure that they got paid their worth." He took another bite. "I would recommend this restaurant for anyone. It's a delightful little place, even though it is muggle." He took another bite. "Anything else...sir?"
"You're fired," he said with a mean smirk.
"That's nice. So are you." Percy pulled something out of his desk and tossed it over. "Your predecessor gave me this to give to you if I ever found myself being threatened."
"Do you think anything can save you?" he asked, swiping the folder to look inside. He went pale, all the blood draining out of his face. "How did you get this!" he demanded.
"As I said, your predecessor gave it to me," Percy said calmly. "Give my family more shit and it's hitting the papers. I'm sure your wife will *adore* having her face splashed around because you handed her out like a party favor." He took another bite. "Good day, Minister."
"You'll pay! You and your bloody family!"
"Actually, the correct phrase is 'you meddling kids' from what Xander said," Percy corrected with a gentle smile. "Have fun today, sir. I expect that you're going to be answering many owls tomorrow." The Minister stormed out and Percy's assistant slid in. "He's leaving soon, so put anything for him on the back burner if we have something more important. Use your best judgement." He ate another bite. "This place really is darling. I eat there often." He smiled.
"What was that about, Percy?"
Percy waved his fork. "A small problem of him thinking he had me cowed because he's threatened my father and I with expulsion. He's wrong of course, but I'm sure he'll be even more upset with me tomorrow." He smiled again. "Go back to work unless you're heading out for lunch."
"I think I will. Should I pick sides?"
"Only if you wish to. I know he's your cousin's uncle, but I could care less about your connections. You're here because you do good work. No other reason." The assistant nodded and left, and Percy sighed. "I'll hate to train someone else to do his job." He dug into his side dishes, smiling in contentment. It wasn't often he had the time to run out for lunch these days. Maybe Ignatius would know someone who could be trained to take on the job of his assistant. He'd owl him as soon as he was done eating. He noticed the door opening and his brother walking in. "Up here, Fred, Bill," he called when he saw the second one. They trooped up. "Don't worry, father won't be retiring any time in the near future."
Fred closed the door. "You're being odd again," he stated. "Would you like to tell us why?"
Percy smirked. "I learned to be odd because of you and George, Fred. You should take it as a compliment. Taste this," he said, handing over his fork. "Delightful little muggle place to eat."
Fred tasted it and smiled. "I like that. Where is it?" Percy wrote down the address for him and Bill copied it.
"What do you have planned?" Bill asked. "I'd like in on it. He tried to force me to go back to Gringotts last week."
Percy chuckled. "I'm sure he's finished. Let's just say that he's now paranoid." He tapped the folder meaningfully. Bill snatched it and blushed, handing it back.
"What's in it?" Fred asked.
Bill patted him on the back. "You're too young for that, Fred. Trust me."
Percy nodded. "Let's simply say that he's managed to provide a very large weakness and people will find out about it." He put down his fork. "Do either of you know someone who might like to train as my assistant?"
"Tara's son," Bill said quickly. "He said he wants to work for you anyway."
"He's in the same year as our beloved niece and nephews?" Fred nodded, starting to get his suspicious look. "My assistant is tied to the Minister by blood and may have to stick up for him. I'd hate to have to replace him, but I will if I need to. A fifth year would be an excellent time to start the training. I'll have to pop up and see him before the end of school."
Fred moved closer. "You're not normal, Percy. You're acting like Xander. Tell us what's going on?"
Percy shook his head. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Did you get blown up again?" Bill snorted, trying not to laugh. "Really, this is me, Fred. I've been this way for a while now and you never noticed."
"It started last Christmas," Fred told him, starting to look pissed. "What happened?"
"He got a second job," Bill told him. Percy looked shocked. "Draco was told and I saw the note. Congrats on hiding it so long."
"Thank you," Percy said with a genuine smile. "Fred, I do have two jobs. I also head over the Unmentionables at the moment. They were having horrible internal troubles so I was sent over there to straighten them out. Since my workday here is light, it wasn't too much other stress."
"What about your heart?" Fred asked.
"Perfectly normal and it has been for a while now," Percy said with a smile for him. "Now who sounds like Xander?" he teased.
"Still, Percy, it's not healthy," Bill agreed. "This situation must be wrecking hell on your nerves at least."
Percy leaned back and put his feet up on the table next to his desk. "Working in the Ministry is always like this, boys. It really is like a great game of wizard's chess. I've managed to hold off being battered until this point and I'm not foreseeing a good pawn coming along anytime shortly. Relax, I'm fine. Concerned about Xander, but otherwise fine."
"I heard, George threw a tantrum," Fred told him with a bit of a smile. "Threw things and everything. Charlie had to calm him down enough to get him back into the house."
"He hasn't thrown one of those since he was five," Bill said in appreciation. "Did he strip naked and kick and scream on the floor again too?"
"Not this time. Charlie stopped it before he came to that. He's thinking about harming someone though."
Percy nodded. "As did I when I found out that man had threatened father." He smiled at the glares at the door. "It's handled, boys, trust me. If nothing else, there's going to be a problem that will keep him quiet. At the best, he'll have to retire, leaving father at the top of the list again."
"He won't take it," Bill pointed out.
Percy smiled. "Then that leaves me, or Arabelle, or Finnius." Both of them shuddered, Finnius Fermier was the textbook definition of slimy git and whoremonger. "None of us can turn down the nomination if we're voted into office. And we've already voted behind our *beloved* boss's back. Father is the next Minister of Magic." He picked back up his fork. "Did you need help planning nasty things to amuse and comfort Xander?"
"No," Bill said, smiling at him. "He's being cuddly and dark again. Brooding almost. Keeps trying to shake himself out of it by reminding himself he's not someone named Angel."
"Wasn't he a vampire?" Fred asked.
Percy nodded. "Buffy's former boyfriend and soulmate. Vampire with a soul," he told him. "He brooded a lot from what I understand. Tell Xander to come see me tonight. I want to talk to him and make him feel better."
"Sure thing, Perce," Bill agreed, smiling even more. If anyone could bring Xander out of this, it would be Percy. They were best friends, for whatever reason. He drug Fred out of there before Fred could say anything else. He was still stunned by the news of Percy's other job. But what a job he was doing! There had been a complete turnaround in attitude and the agents actually used manners when having to deal with people. If his brother could force that, he was good.
Percy looked up as Xander walked into his apartment, and simply opened his arms for a hug. Xander sank down into them and started to cry. He hadn't been able to do this with George because they were both too close to the deceased. "It's all right, Xander. I'm here for you."
Tananda came skipping out of her room and saw her favorite uncle not being happy, so she crawled into his lap to give him a hug. "It's okay to cry, it lets all the bad stuff out," she told him. "Grandma said so."
"Thank you, sweetie. Can I hog your father?"
"Sure." She got off his lap after one last squeeze. "Come see my dollies soon, I've gotten new ones." She left, going back to her room with her reward of a glass of milk.
Percy smiled at his friend. "See, even she knows what's healthy. You can stay for as long as you need, I know you need the rest."
Xander nodded, snuggling back into the welcoming arms. "Don't let George pick on me for this."
"If he does, he'll find himself the butt of every joke for the next month. He should know better than that." Xander gave him a weak smile. "Talk whenever you're ready, Xander. I'm going to read some more if you don't mind."
"No, go ahead, I don't mind." Xander closed his eyes, thinking about everything that was trying to get out. Whenever he was ready, it would all line up.
Xander looked up and nearly sighed. Tara was at his door again. He glared at her then looked back at the class. "Forgive me, but the Headmistress needs to see me *again*." He rolled his eyes. "Someone who's read the section finish this lecture." He walked out and slammed the door. "Tara, this is the third time this week that you've pulled me out of my classes. It's not like I don't have a lot of free time for you to pounce me during."
She scowled at him. "I was going to tell you that Fawkes was back and up in the office, but if you're going to get pissy about it."
"Fawkes came back last night, she's probably up taking one last look around the office. She was at breakfast if you had noticed."
"I saw, but I thought this was odd."
"Why? Because she's a bird? She's smarter than some of the idiots that get put into Slytherin. She does feel emotions and can cognitively deal with things. Let her grieve."
"Xander, I don't know why you're being bitchy, but it's got to stop."
"As noted earlier in this conversation, this is the third time you've pulled me out of my class this week, and it's only my third class this week, Headmistress. You're not here to lean on me for comfort and you're not here to do anything other than harass me. You made that clear last class. Now, was there anything of importance? My kids have a practical coming up and we're coving some of the demons for it now."
"No, go back to your class," she said, watching as he slipped back inside. What was wrong with him? She was being nice. She went to talk to her husband about it, but his door was locked and she couldn't get it open. He didn't have a window in it either, she would have to fix that.
Severus Snape watched his doorknob rattle then grimaced, deciding on a sudden change in lesson plans for his next class. "Everyone should be finished by now," he announced, walking back through the rows.
"We need five more minutes," Iggy told him, bending over the cauldron in front of him. He liked this one so he had done it again. He looked up at his mentor. "Did you want to move the classroom around or just fix it?"
"We'll have to shift everything for the next class to do their potion. We'll be laying the largest cauldron in the middle of the floor."
"Deal." Iggy looked around at the clueless people. "Everyone who's finished, pile your books on the measuring table. We've moving furniture."
Simone raised her hand and Snape looked down at her, only sneering slightly. "Sir, if you put your desk in front of the component cabinets and turn the desks in the other direction while moving them back, you can take advantage of all the alcoves and have the majority of the room free." She pulled over some parchment and made a quick drawing. "Like this, sir, and the students could still sit at most of the desks."
"Very well thought out," he agreed. Iggy glared at him. "Fine, five points," he agreed, walking away.
Simone looked at him. "I was satisfied without them."
"Yay. We could use them." Iggy finished his potion first and handed it over, then dropped his and his wife's books onto the measuring table, taking the drawing to start on the empty tables. The triangular design left the front half of the classroom open. He did move his mentor's desk to the back instead, making sure that none of the others touched his and the cabinet he moved out of the way was suitably settled before arranging it. Snape looked at him. "I remembered the alcove back there from when I hid in it that time. It's only fair that you get the biggest one, sir."
Snape nodded. "Indeed, it is. Move the student tables further out as well. We won't need that much room." Ignatius did so, with some help from the other students who had finished. Slowly the room was rearranged and the largest cauldron was floated out. Snape remade the fire pit for it and made sure it had enough clearance. "Very nicely done. Twenty points, Ignatius."
"Thank you, sir."
Raena walked back in and stopped to look around. "Did you need help with the communal potion? I can skip herbology, sir."
"You both may if you'd like." He looked at the open door. "Relock it, Ms. Tallias."
"Yes, sir." She relocked the door, stopping to look at it. "We have a window growing, sir."
"That woman," he muttered. "I'll remove it later. Glass around some of you students is an artery waiting to be sliced open." He watched as all the potions were put into the proper spot for grading, all but his niece's. "Where's yours?" he asked Emily.
"Sir, you took mine from me nearly an hour ago when I botched it. It exploded in the other classroom."
"Oh, yes," he said, looking her over. "We will be discussing that incident tonight. You should have been able to prevent that by now, even though your former education was substandard." She nodded, looking miserable. "You will be cleaning up the other room tonight as it was your mess." Iggy and Raena hugged in joy, it wasn't them. "You two, since you're so happy about cleaning, will be helping me scrub that cauldron tonight." He pointed at the one in the middle of the room.
"You want me to crawl in there again?" Iggy asked.
Snape glared at him. "We'll see. Someone might object if I cooked you."
"Very true," Simone agreed with a grin. "His father would come down here and bug you until you fixed him, gave up and ran away screaming, or possibly begged for forgiveness. Depending on his mood of course," she added when Snape looked at her.
He smirked. "Five points off for your unwanted opinion."
Iggy sighed. They needed those points, the house cup was so close to being theirs this year. Snape smirked at him. Raena nudged him. "We get to run the first years tomorrow," she reminded him with a smile. Snape whirled to look at her. "That was the plan, wasn't it, sir?"
"You can't give points."
"When a substitute is standing in for a teacher, planned or otherwise, they have the right to give and take away house points," Iggy quoted from the handbook. "They may also give detentions, report students for misconduct, and release them from classes due to troublemaking." He grinned. "I love the first years, they're doing so well."
"We'll see about that," Snape said, walking back to sit at his desk. "Where is my statuette?"
"In the drawer. I put it down there so it wouldn't break," Iggy told him. Snape pulled it out and put it back in its place. "Is this the configuration you wanted?"
"Yes. Dismissed." Everyone hurried to grab their books and leave. Snape considered the room, he might keep his desk back here. It would give him more access to threaten the dunderheads and dolts that inhabited his classes every few hours. Plus it got him away from the door. He noticed the window and flicked his wand at it, covering it up. Glass and exploding things was not a healthy combination.
Tara checked on Xander's path, smiling because he was coming to the Great Hall the front way. Apparently the breeze in the back halls was making him ache again, or so he was mumbling. She walked out to meet him, making sure the coast was clear long before he got there. She smiled at him. "Xander, did you need to talk to me about anything?"
"Tara," he sighed, shaking his head. "No, I'm fine. Why? Did you need to talk?"
"Me?" She grimaced. "I talk to Sev."
"And I talk to George and Percy. Why are you bothering me?"
"I was told to watch out for you."
He snorted. "I was told to watch out because of you, Tara." He stopped while a student scurried past. "Tara, you've done nothing but harass me for the last week. You've pulled me out of classes for no reason, you're undermining my authority as a teacher, and I'm tired of it. You're turning into Willow and it's got to stop."
"Take that back!" she said hotly.
"Bite me. I'm not in the mood for dealing with this. I've got enough crap on my own plate. Go whine to Severus." She stopped him from moving past. "You wanted to say something else?"
"Children," Severus said as he walked out of the Great Hall to join them. "Stop, now. The students can hear you."
"Bite you?" Tara asked.
"Yes, it's a Californiaism. Do you want me to put it into more British terms? I can do that." He cleared his throat and adopted an accent as close to Spike's as he could, then grabbed his butt cheek. "Take a swallow of this and choke."
She gasped and started to tear up. "How could you!"
"Easily. You've been stalking me all week and it's starting to wear thin, Tara." Xander moved closer and tipped her face up. "I'm not putting up with it. If you need me to be there for you, tell me. If not, I've got enough problems of my own at the moment and can't handle this harassment. Pick."
She straightened up and glared at him. "I don't need you, Xander Harris. Neither does this school."
"Fine, I quit." He turned and walked away. "I'll be back once I calm down to pack." He teleported away, going to find his mate.
Severus sighed. "Tara, you just upset the most calm person in the whole school." She turned and glared at him but he gave it back in equal measure. "That boy thought of Albus as a father figure. He's lost more than you or I had in him. Stop it, now. You *have* started down Ms. Rosenberg- Wyndham-Price's path and I do not like it any more than Alexander does. Choose, Tara, the power or your friends and me." He walked back inside.
She leaned against the wall, stunned beyond belief. She had only tried to be soothing and helpful, like the letter had said. To be there for them and watch out for them. Maybe it was supposed to be *watch out* instead of watch out? Were both men that unstable emotionally? If so, she'd have to help Severus. Xander was now past her influence. He wouldn't come back, even if she begged. Who would take over his classes? She sighed when she realized it would have to be her. She was the last one of them left. She went in to eat, at least she could put on a good face for the students. She saw Iggy and her rage started to boil again, he was laughing, but looking in her direction with such rage in his eyes. "Are you staying?" she asked him, not caring that everyone heard her.
"That depends on you, Headmistress. As you know, Raena and I are both able to test out of our last few years if we want to. We're acting like nothing much has changed, other than the figurehead of the school. The rest is up to you." Everyone around them backed away, a small breeze had started and they didn't know from which one it came.
Adrian stood up and turned his mother to face him. "Leave Ignatius alone, mother. He's got enough shit of his own to take on any additional from anybody. Even you," he said quietly, not wanting anyone else to know. "Calm down and then come back when you're rational. Most of us heard what Professor Harris said, and many of us will follow him. We like him."
She sobbed and walked out, going to break down. Her son didn't like her?
Adrian looked up at Snape, then at Simone, who shook her head and followed, with her sisters in tow. "What?"
Severus shook his head. "I'm not sure. She's been uptight for the last few days and has intentionally been pushing at people. Ignatius, were you wanting to leave this year?"
"No, Professor Snape, I have every intention of finishing my time here. Let's face it, I have more time to do what I want at the moment than I will when I formally start college." The older man nodded. "But so help me your wife's Goddess, I won't be pushed around and I won't be pissed off like she did to my father. We have other options, and can easily take them."
"Yes, you do, though I wish you would calm down and think rationally before taking any of them," Snape pointed out gently, for him.
Raena nodded. "I'm doing the rational thought at the moment. We're not leaving this year. There's only a month or so left."
"Thank you. Eat!" Snape ordered. Everyone sat down and started to eat again, talking about the extraordinary behavior going on around the school. Was this grief? Was it power corruption? Was the most liked professor in the whole school coming back? A few of his students wished he wouldn't for a while so they had more time to prepare for their last practical exam, but they didn't want to him to leave permanently.
Draco leaned over. "Severus, there's something else you should be aware of," he said quietly. The man looked at him. "Tara challenged me teaching because I'm a Regent. She's all but threatened to remove me as well. If she does, I'm going to fight back. I don't want you involved."
"She's getting bad advice from outside the school. The current Minister of Magic is pushing her to make changes and she refused up until now. They want us all gone."
"You have job security," Ron pointed out dryly. "You're her husband. What about the rest of us? This could close the school."
"I know. You will take Professor Harris' position on the hiring committee tonight."
"Yes, sir. Caretaker?" Snape nodded. "Has anyone asked Filch if he had a favorite?"
Snape smiled. "A wise idea. It's good to see that you've grown up since you attended." He turned back to his meal.
Draco looked at Ron. "Where is he?"
"He went to find George and George probably suggested a short vacation. I know he was planning one in case something happened and Xander left the school."
Draco nodded. He knew the vision's contents and knew what all this was about. "Hopefully this will be resolved soon." His daughters slunk back in and he looked at Simone, who walked up and whispered in his ear. "Don't worry, it's already taken care of." She nodded and went back to her seat, listlessly eating her dinner.
Xander stormed into the store and looked around. "George?"
"Back here," George called. His mate joined him and started to punch the wall. "Xander," he said, hurrying over to stop him. "You'll bring down the store, don't do that." He pulled Xander into his arms. "What happened?"
"Tars' turned. I don't know what's wrong with her," he said, starting to cry. "We just fought and she said I wasn't necessary." He sniffed. "I quit."
"Shh, we'll deal, Xander. Come sit." Xander shook his head, pulling away. "Do you want to take some time off?"
Xander looked around, then nodded slowly. "Yeah, I think so. Somewhere she can't find us and I don't have to look at her. I'm so close to destroying something. I said we'd pack this weekend."
"That's fine. Go pack a bag for the younger two and I'll get ours."
"You have a game this weekend."
"Simone can come down," Fred said from the doorway. "Anastasia just called. They were expelled."
George snorted. "I'm sure Draco will get them back in by the morning." He glanced around. "I'm glad I did laundry today. Can you handle it without us until Sunday?"
"Of course. Go somewhere warm, like a beach. Take the kids or not."
George looked toward the nursery, testing Xander's mind. "Maybe not. We might let mum watch them for a few days." Fred nodded and left him alone. "Xander, did you want to let mum watch the kids until we get back?"
"Fine. Call that nice place we stayed in Italy on the Riviera. It's not the season so it shouldn't be full. We'll bring William and Maeve with us."
"Yes, George." Xander went to call and his husband scrambled to get to the bank and do everything else. He was too tired to care. He got them booked in at the nice little inn and then called his buddy. "Percy, we're taking a few days off," he said, looking miserable. "I can't put up with Tara anymore. She's gotten so bad she just expelled all of Draco's kids for no reason. They've been good, really good, and she did it anyway."
"I'll handle things up there for you," Percy told him, giving him a smile. "When are you coming back?"
"Sunday. Simone can play in her Uncle's place at the game. Fred agreed to it." He sniffed. "We're taking the kids so Tananda doesn't need to come up Saturday unless she wants to."
"Ignatius as well?"
"No, he's back at the school and threatened to leave it behind." Xander smiled slightly. "Tara doesn't realize that the reason the potion's dungeon go remodeled last year was because someone gifted the school for his education." He sighed and waved, cutting off the connection. "They're expecting us tonight and we're in for a long floo ride if we're heading that way," he called, standing up.
"I think we can teleport part of the way," George said from the doorway. "Do you have the kids packed?" Xander nodded. "Then let me check the bags while you got to the bank and get us out three hundred galleons." Xander winced. "We're fine on money, and we'll need it." Xander nodded, heading to Mortal Alley since its branch was open. George went to check on the kids' bags, finding them expertly packed with the wrong stuff. He repacked them, keeping the outfits that he knew Xander liked to see them in. "Come on, children," he said, smiling down at them. "We're going on a little trip."
"Grandma's?" Maeve asked cheerfully.
"No, sweetheart, to the beach to play in the sand. You can see Grandma when we get back." The kids took his hands and helped bring the bags out to pile with theirs. Xander came back and they took off together, heading for as close to the western side of Italy as they could get. The clan they popped in on looked down at them and George stepped forward to explain that they were taking a sudden vacation in the area - it was necessary for Xander's mental health. The elders agreed that they could use their floo and smiled down at the children with them. Xander was asked a few things about his son and then they were let free.
Checking in was nearly as easy and as painless. It wasn't the tourist season yet so the inn was mostly empty. A suite was easily made available to them and the inn had babysitting services if they needed some time alone.
Tara walked into her office later that night and found a large piece of parchment sitting there. She picked it up to read it. "Reinstatement orders?" she snorted. "Who does he think he is?"
"He knows he's a Regent and you didn't have any reason to even give my children detention," Draco said from behind her. He was sitting in the window, looking out at the stars. She turned to look at him. "Headmistress, it has come to the board's attention that you're upsetting the students and teachers." He turned to face her, his face cold. "Doing so upsets the board. Many of them don't appreciate Professor Harris, but they don't want to have to replace him. They feel the same way about you as it happens. Though many of us do happen to feel a bit more strongly about you than we do Xander." He stood up and walked over, his dark robe silent in the dim light. "You are served with notice that the Board of Regents is doing an investigation of your start as Headmistress." He held up a finger when she opened her mouth. "We did the same for Albus, and had to correct some of his assumptions as well. You may be the Headmistress, but the running of this school ultimately comes from the Board of Regents because we can have you removed. We enjoyed Dumbledore in that position because he had reasons for fighting against us and the Ministry. You do not, at this point, have a clue what you are up against. It would be better if you took some time to figure out exactly who you're dealing with and who you're acting against. The board was not pleased when I went to them earlier about my children." He smiled. "It seems my mostly-Slytherin companions didn't like the fact that you had crippled Gryffindor's team as well as sent away the reason that this school has remained protected for the past sixteen years. There are rumors of another attack, mostly unconfirmed, and we know you can't hold off against anything. Much less encourage those of us who can to fight the way Xander could."
She laughed. "You're not scary, Draco."
He leaned down. "I'm not trying to be, Tara. I'm giving you the truth. If you continue on this path, the school will be shut down for a year, then restarted with a partially new staff. It will give the board the excuse to get rid of you, your husband, Ronald, Vector, Sinistra, and Hagrid." She gave a little gasp. "Do you understand the stakes you're playing with now, Headmistress? If you play in the power leagues, there is always a consequence to each decision. We've fixed this one for you, we won't do it again." He walked away. "My children have already been informed that they're staying." He closed the door gently behind him.
Tara looked at the official orders, then crumpled them up. It had been a spot decision and she would have reversed it in the morning. He didn't need to shove it in her face.
Draco set out the summoning spell, being as precise as he could. His two assistants were watching and rereading the spell to make sure they had it correct. The door slammed open. "You wanted something, Severus and Ron?" he asked without looking.
"What are you doing?" Snape asked as he walked in. Ron shut the door. He looked at the candles. "This looks more like my wife's art."
Draco looked at him. "You'll find that those of us who study theory carefully can find ways to make other versions of magic work for us." He looked at Ron. "You're taking the blue candle. Simone the red, Denver the green." They nodded and got into place. "Severus, you can summon if you want, or take the fourth point." He took the fourth point so Draco walked into the center of the circle, starting the short ceremony to summon one of the two ghosts to them.
Godric Gryffindor joined him. "You could have asked."
Draco shrugged. "We tried calling out for you, you didn't come." He pointed at the doorway. "One of you needs to have a discussion with the Headmistress before the Board closes the school." Severus inhaled sharply. "It's already been called for. Whatever change you wanted to make, do it now. I can't hold off the board forever."
Godric smiled and looked around. "Huh, two who shouldn't be mine. Snake's. One of my true ones. Good choices to get me."
"Or to get Salazar. He seems to watch over the family. You might want to mention to him that Xander quit earlier tonight because of the new Headmistress."
Godric looked sad. "We'll fix it, son of Snake. Hold on for a few more days."
"I can only get you until Monday. We have a full meeting then."
"That's more than enough. Albus has a good grasp of his new abilities as a ghost." He winked and left. "Get the club started," he called as he faded out.
"What club?" Simone called.
Draco smiled at her. "We'll figure that out later, dear. Cut the circle open."
"Yes, daddy." She opened it up and let him out, then blew out her candle, just like Tara had taught her to do. "Did we help?"
"Very much," Ron assured her. He smiled. "Your reinstatement papers were already handed in and I had a word with the house about the Headmistress being stunned dumb by grief. Go back to the house." She and Denver left. "And?" he asked Draco. "That was it?"
Draco smiled. "They're training Albus to be the newest ghost in the school," he told the two teachers. "A permanent Headmaster." Snape's eyes went wide. "You don't agree?"
"He'll hate us."
"He can travel wherever he wants by one of us taking a piece of the school. He can link himself to it and go wherever we go. We'll rotate through some interesting vacation spots."
Ron shook his head. "What's that about a club?"
Snape sighed. "It's the way to start a new house. It's happened a few times in the past but died off before the ten year mandatory cutoff date."
Draco smirked. "If a new house is to be formed, the students must pick a head and then form a club. They must show it is stable, rational, and reasonable, plus that they will be around and this is not just a deviation in a generation."
Ron beamed. "Because we've got twenty years of us, there's a steady base and we can find other students who the hat didn't want to put into a certain house."
"Exactly," Draco agreed. "By the time it's official, we may have you as a Assistant Headmaster, but it will have to happen someday. That and some of the school needs to be switched around a bit I think."
"Gee, a fun plan," Salazar said snidely as he faded into existence. "You could have tried asking."
"I did, you didn't hear me. I even tried in one of your libraries." Draco smirked at him. "Is he ready?"
"Nearly. This weekend. Make her send a peace offering to that boy."
Ron shook his head. "He won't come back without a very good reason. He doesn't do that."
"We'll see. He can't help but come back now."
Draco and Snape both shook their heads. "He won't come back," Snape agreed. "We've lost him. He's washed his hands of us and walked away."
"Then send a pebble of the school to him and I'll talk to him personally. I can usually make him see reason."
Draco smiled. "No, I think I'll go. I could use a few hours off. Where did they go?"
"Italy. I talked to Fred and he said they went to that little place on the beach Xander liked so much. He said it was calming and soothing to listen to the waves."
"Fine, I'll go tomorrow or the next day." Draco nodded at the head of his house. "You agree?"
"That the school could use some updating? Definitely. I wish I hadn't had to compromise on the original ideas, but a compromise suits no one really. The original plans are somewhere in one of my libraries."
"I'll set Ignatius to finding the rest of them," Snape told him, leaving them alone.
Ron looked at him. "Why do you like Xander?" The ghost laughed. "I know why we like him. Why do you? He's not one of yours and him being gryphon-born and strong doesn't explain it enough to me."
"It's that and more. I find him interesting and amusing. I also see him a lot like my younger brother was. He destroyed himself over his pride." He looked at Draco. "Learn that lesson, boy."
"I have. Xander taught it to me, even though he hasn't learned it himself yet."
"Good point." Salazar smiled. "Did he take the children? William and I need to have another talk. I caught his act with Zachariah and Lucien the other day." He sighed. "I wanted to watch Ignatius grow up. I'm sure he was a most interesting child once he got enough age to do normal things."
"He once helped moon a leaving feast," Ron told him. The ghost laughed. "If you asked, I'm sure you could look at his memories. It might cheer him up a bit."
"They're down in their room," Draco added. "Or look up Tara's son, Adrian."
Ron snapped his fingers. "I meant to find him. Percy wants to meet with him about his aspirations."
"Then lead me to this young man. I would like to see what sort of trouble occurred when children were allowed in. That was the first sign you know." Ron looked up at him. "It was. Children being raised in the school was the first sign of the impending change. William was the second. We were the third."
"You were the only one written down," Draco noted. "I'm off to see that boy." He walked away, going to find Raena and Ignatius to talk to them. It was up to him to set rules for them until Xander came back.
Ron nodded at the door. "Come on, I'll show you Adrian. Quite a pisser when he was younger. Got into nearly as much trouble as Iggy did." He led the way to the Ravenclaw tower, tapping gently on the portrait. The painting sniffed and put her nose up at his obvious state of not being one of them. The portrait opened and the top female Prefect looked at him. "Salazar wanted to talk to Adrian. Is he around?"
"His mother has him," she said dryly. She looked at the ghost, then at Ron. "Why does he want to talk to Adrian? He's one of us, not one of his."
Salazar smiled at her, making her shiver. "Because he has information I want at the moment. I'm not going to harm him, just talk to the boy." He floated off, going to find the boy's mother. Her glow was presently angry and purely white, and in her classroom. Not that hard to track. "I need to talk to you, boy," he said as he floated in. He smiled at Adrian, who looked stunned. "Nothing bad, but if you want to be an archivist, I want to see your qualifications while you help Ignatius finding the rest of my libraries. Come."
"I'm not done with him yet," Tara said angrily.
"Do shut up, woman. I don't answer to your mortal laws, nor do I think you're strong enough to trap me somewhere. I will bring him back and you can have him for the rest of his life, until he walks away from you screaming abuse at him." He pointed at the door. "Meet me in Professor Harris' classroom. It's comfortable." Adrian nodded and left, and the ghost stared her down, making her flinch. "Bad time of the month?" he asked. She glared. "Don't worry, you won't be holding this position too long. You'll be able to see your faults soon enough." He floated out, going to talk to the boy. If he had the proper spirit, he would assign him to help his favored children find the rest of his libraries and put them together in a decent manner. He floated into the classroom and smiled at the scared looking young man. "May I read your memories?"
"Will it hurt?"
"No, boy, it won't hurt but it will give me what I want to know. It's like a semi-possession. I'm not taking you over, simply inserting myself enough to read your memories."
"Simone said her possession didn't hurt so I guess it's fine."
"Yes, I saw hers." Salazar slipped into the boy, absorbing everything he had ever seen, done, and been around. The young version of Ignatius made him smile, and he left a small bit of information in return. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" he asked as he disengaged and left the boy's body. Adrian looked at him. "You and Ignatius, plus his wife though I want her planning everything, will find the rest of my libraries. If you come across the Ravenclaw or the secondary Hufflepuff, that's fine, but I want mine found entirely. I left information in there that will help you find them. Do you agree?"
Adrian grinned. "This will get me in with Percy Weasley for sure."
"He's already looking at you and wants to talk to you," Salazar told him. "Use this opportunity to prove how well you manage a library."
"Yes, sir, thank you, sir." He beamed and ran out, going to find Iggy. He tried the basement first, but he wasn't down there. He turned and was about to leave when he saw Iggy's spirit standing in front of him. "Illusion hopefully?"
Iggy nodded. "I'm in our hidden room, but I put up a trigger on the entry to the basement. What's up?"
"Salazar told me how to find the rest of his libraries. We're doing it together."
"Cooolll," Iggy breathed. "Want to get together tonight to plan or just start tomorrow?"
"The first sixteen are in fireplaces, like the ones in your tower. We'll start with those tomorrow since I'm done for the year as well."
"Deal. Get a house elf to clean the fireplaces so we can tell which ones have the decorated tiles. I think one of the ones in the potion's classroom might have one. Plus one up in the Headmaster's office, and I think I know of a few more. But get them all scrubbed and relaid with wood. Have the house elves write down which ones have the decorated tiles."
"Good thinking. I'll see you at breakfast?"
"Sure. I'll pop around and get us pastries. You have to have pastries for any adventure after all." He winked and disappeared.
Adrian hurried to the kitchens to find a willing house elf. One of the old ones agreed to help him and she knew where some of the others were because she had helped move books into them.
Iggy walked into the Charms classroom and smiled at the teacher. "Just a bit of screwing with your fireplace. Are you doing lifting charms?" Professor Flitwick nodded slowly. "Good. Excellent actually." Iggy lit the fire and pressed on the first decorated tile. A different one than upstairs, but that was fine. The fireplace swung open and the class gasped. "Salazar hid libraries all over the school. You'll be seeing Adrian and I doing a lot of this over the next few weeks." He counted the tiles. "Nine again. I wonder if he had a thing for that number." He drew a picture of the design on the tiles, then noted how many there were, going in to take a general survey of the contents. That went onto the form as well, then he started to move whole bookcases, a shield on the front and a lifting spell to move them out. They'd need the cases and this way the books weren't going to have to be resorted for a bit. He walked the first one out. "Put a shield on the front, like a wall charm, and then practice lifting out into the hallway. We've got other kids who're helping move them up to unused classrooms." He carved something on the side of the bookcase then made a note of it on his paper. "Go ahead," he encouraged. "There's thousands of books in here and you'll have to move stuff sometime in your life."
Professor Flitwick smiled. "A very good point. Yes, we can do something practical today. Do as he said. Use the light wall spell, like you did to block the other students from getting out of their desks a few weeks back. Then use the lifting charm to move the bookcases." The students obediently started to form groups, one to put on the wall charm, the next to move it. By the time that first section was cleared, everyone had moved at least one case and the room was still clear enough to go to the next one without worries. Professor Flitwick joined Iggy inside the library. "How many more of these are there?"
"Sixteen multi-room libraries like this one," Iggy said, looking at him. "Then another thirty hidden rooms plus the main library stash with his office. Draco and I get to uncover that ourselves with Snape's help."
"Wonderful news!" Flitwick said excitedly. "Where are we putting all these books?"
"In the new library that's being built this summer. Ravenclaw's library is somewhere near the top of the school. We found Hufflepuff's and Gryffindor's. But Salazar left a lot of books spread around. His main office is underground." He smiled and moved on as the class change bell rang. "What's your next group doing?"
"This I suppose," Flitwick told him. "This should be done in a day?"
"Oh, yeah," Iggy told him. "One day to do this entire complex should be more than enough. But if I find any snakes, I'm running. Adrian can come finish it or you can assign someone. I hate snakes."
"That's fine, Ignatius. You're doing a wonderful job so far. Very methodical." Iggy beamed. "I'd best get them started. Give me ten minutes before you float out anything else." He hurried out to tell the students what they would be doing for the day.
Down in the potion's dungeon, Adrian was getting some of the more sturdy fifth years to move things for him. He hadn't thought of the wall and lifting charms, but that was all right. This one wasn't books, this one was full of stones. Some gemstones, some regular stones, some marked with caution and hazard markings. Very interesting.
Simone looked at her brother. "I thought hauling books for Iggy was hard," she quipped.
Snape glared at her. "Don't worry, you can help set up the new library during your detention tonight. Ten points off, Ms. Malfoy-Weasley. Work, do not speak."
"You're a slavedriver, sir. All you need is a whip. Would you like mine?" she asked. He laughed. "I'm serious."
Snape patted her on the head. "I'm sure you are. Can you use it?"
"Very well," she agreed with a cruel smirk. "Daddy made sure of it." She lifted another small flat of rocks. "Why did he have these?"
"You can charm them to do things." Snape picked up one of the river stones when he noticed everyone was looking at him. "It's advanced magic of course. Most of you won't get to it. You can use a river stone to form an illusion spell."
"Like the ones at the joke store, sir?" one of the Slytherins asked.
Snape nodded. "Indeed. Professor Harris put a portal spell on some smooth river rocks and sent them to interesting places. That's how you see the images of the fish tank. A mirror spell on the window is the other half."
"If we could do that, would we make money?" another Slytherin asked.
Snape considered it, bouncing the rock in his hand. "I'd say you could for temporary events. Most people use illusion spells to create a picture like that. Professor Flitwick would have to teach you to do those charms himself in his advanced class."
"Thank you, sir. Move, Weasley," he sneered.
Simone kicked him on the ass, not dropping her stones at all. "Malfoy-Weasley, dolt. I'm very much my father's daughter. Just ask him." She carried out more of the stones, going to load them onto the larger pallet that would be lifted up to their new home.
Snape looked at his student. "She is every bit her father's daughter. Don't antagonize her. You'll lose."
"She's scary enough as is," one girl noted, and she was a Gryff. Snape smirked at her. "What? I have to live with her."
"Yes, and you still enjoy my reading materials, Sophie, so help not talk."
Snape nearly laughed. He could see her bossing around her future husband in the same manner some day. He almost felt sorry for whatever spouse she ended up with.
Tara looked down as Iggy and her son walked in. "Are you through with interrupting classes?" she asked.
Iggy shook his head. "No, ma'am. We've still got another ten multi-libraries to find and strip bare tomorrow and the next day. Then we have to find the hidden rooms. Salazar said so."
"And do you do everything a ghost says?" she asked snidely.
Iggy nodded, smirking coldly at her. "He's the one who convinced the generous donor to give the thousand galleon grant to update the potion's dungeon so our education wouldn't lag behind. Besides, his libraries hold some very lost works of literature and charms. At the very least, it will benefit the school. Being chosen was an honor."
Adrian nodded. "It was, Headmistress. Not only has he seen us for our innate intelligence, but he appreciates the fact that we like books and treat them with respect, not like some people." She nodded so he sat down. "Tomorrow's classrooms are the last room in the potion's dungeon, the lab for the Advanced Battling class, and the Headmistress office," he announced. "Anyone who would like to help during their free times, we'll be starting at the unfinished one then move up."
"I'm starting in my father's classroom," Iggy told them. "Feel free to come help move books and cases." He settled into his seat, then took over massaging Simone's shoulder. "Why didn't you use the lifting charm?"
"Because we had flat racks of rocks," she told him, smiling at him. "There was a really pretty ruby in one of the trays. About the same size as the stone that was in Raena's ring."
Raena held out her ring. "We cracked ours last night and put the chip in there."
"I still say it's too small and it looks funny," Iggy pointed out.
"Then make me a new one, dear," she said simply.
He smiled at her, winking when Denver looked at them. "What makes you think I don't have one started? I figured out how to manipulate the size and shape." Raena beamed at him. "Give me a week more and we'll fit the stone into the ring." She leaned across the table and kissed him on the cheek. "What about our hour this week?" he asked.
She sat back down and shrugged."I don't know. I was going to ask Severus. He's over that anyway, it should be his decision." She glanced at the head table but their mentor wasn't at dinner that night, and neither was Draco. "Just a few more months, Ignatius, and then you're mine."
He gave her his most silly grin. "I know. I'm counting hours."
Simone shook her head. "I think I'll stick with my membership and Adrian for a bit," she put in. Her brother choked, spraying his juice away from her. Otherwise she might have had to hurt him. "What?"
"You have a membership?" he whined.
She nodded. "I bought it myself. The very nice woman was impressed and agreed easily, after checking with father. Adrian might be going with me this weekend." She looked over and Adrian smiled at her. "He's suitable," she told her brother. "He understands me enough to be nice to be around."
"Adrian always was a wonderful people person," Iggy agreed. He smiled at his cousin. "I'm happy if you are, but I reserve the right to get in a few good blows if you break up in a bad way."
She patted him on the hand. "Don't worry, I'll leave you a little bit." She watched as Agatha stormed out of the room. "I wonder what that was about."
"Her father's here," Anastasia said, pointing at their cousin Ron's empty seat. "He probably sent for her. Are you filling in for Uncle George this weekend?"
Simone smiled and nodded. "As long as I'm not grounded. If I am, then I'm sneaking out. It's a wonderful opportunity. There's been a few professional players at the games because they're bored or are coaching." She ate a bite of her dinner.
"Simone, I'd like to speak to you," Tara said calmly.
Simone dropped her fork and walked up to the dias. "Yes, Headmistress? Did I do something wrong?"
"No, I heard your comment. You're filling in for your uncle this weekend?" Simone nodded. "George isn't coming back by then?"
"They're due back Sunday night or Monday sometime. Uncle Fred said it would take that long before Professor Harris could get control of himself again. Something about being emotionally destroyed I believe." She shrugged at Tara's hurt look. "My father's already agreed that I could play this one game. Uncle Fred could do it by himself, but why field a partial team if you don't have to. Mellie's due down there as well."
"I saw her permission slip, I haven't seen yours."
"My father left it in your box this morning before he left for the Regent's meeting, Headmistress. He said so."
"I'll check. You will not be allowed to go if your behavior slips, young lady."
Simone glared at her. "My behavior has been nearly perfect for the last year and a half, Headmistress. Not even Professor Snape has found much wrong with my behavior."
"I'll be checking with him," Tara told her. "Go back to your meal." Simone walked back and said something to her cousins. She saw Denver glare at her and mentally shrugged. They were children, they didn't hold anything remotely like power. They couldn't hurt her.
George intercepted the owl, taking the letter from it and giving it a tip. It flew off. George read the short note and snorted, writing out the quick reply of 'what part of leave us alone don't you understand' and sending it back by their new owl. Murphy and Fawkes had chosen it so it was now theirs. This was the second such note and he was tired of it. A larger owl flew down and landed on their table, but this one was familiar. "Purgi," he said, greeting it. It was a fussy creature and had to be greeted properly and with respect before it would give up any mail. "May I have the letter?"
Purgi handed over the letter then settled down while they read it. It had been a long flight. Slim fingers gently scratched his head so the world was working right and he was fine now. The slim fingers weren't as strong as usual, but he was still getting petted by something that understood long flights.
George opened the letter and shook his head. "Draco."
Xander shook his head, he didn't want to read it. "I'm going up to the monastery. Have fun yelling at him." He finished his water then pushed back his chair and walked away.
George frowned, rereading the letter. This was good news at least. Not something he was expecting. What changes? He felt a familiar presence cue in on his mind and waited patiently for his daughter-in-law. Instead, it was Draco himself. "Changes?"
Draco sat down in the empty seat. "The curse laid on the school by the first official headmaster," he told him. "That when all four founders came back together on school grounds, there would be some changes. The first is that Dumbledore is coming back soon, as the permanent headmaster." He ordered some breakfast from a passing waitress in flawlessly translated Italian. "The second is that you and your spouse are going to be asked to lord over a new prospective house for those who don't fit into the others. For now, it will have to be a club of sorts, until it's proved to be a stable necessity." His toast and jam was brought and he smiled at the waitress. "Where is Xander? I wanted to talk to him."
"He left for a local monastery. He was invited to come visit and he thought it'd be a neat place."
"Probably one of our alumni who wanted to hear some gossip about the school." Draco smiled at him. "Tara's about to aggravate her mate to the point where he kicks her out."
"Wonderful, just what we need, a crankier Potion's Master. How are the favorite ruling student couple?"
"Fine. They've been spending all their time uncovering all the hidden libraries for Salazar. He set Iggy and Adrian to find them. Raena is coordinating everything and doing the practical matters."
"She's good at that," George agreed, smiling at his 'stepson'. "Any other news?"
"Simone is playing for you today. Fred came up and grabbed her from breakfast before Tara could complain." He looked up, giving him a naughty smile. "Fred told her that her dark side was still attractive."
"That boy," George sighed, rolling his eyes. "I do wish the girls would work out which one of them gets him so he'd gave something else on his mind."
"I caught Bell eyeing him after the last game."
George nodded. "She does that, and then Alicia teases him and gives him hope. I'm about to demand one of them get off the pot and quit pissing with my twin."
Draco snorted, starting to laugh. "I can just see them. They'll give you this innocent look and say they didn't realize they were working him up, and won't you please forgive them?"
"They're not like that. Those girls are teasing and they know it. So do I. Though I think Angelina and Oliver will do nicely if he ever realizes she's not teasing. She needs someone a bit thrilling but steady to be there for her." He picked up his juice and drank some of it. "I hope this vacation will be good for us. Xander needed one. He's been wound so tightly nothing's getting done again."
"Now you know what he sees in you when you're stuck in the lab," Draco said wisely. He noticed a flash and looked around. "Did you see that?"
"I thought I saw a flash." Draco shook his head. "This is the same feeling that is found inside you when the lab's not going right and everything is hell."
"Then I'll try to be patient, but it's hard."
George swatted him, but he was smiling. "Don't you have class today?"
"No." He speared a piece of strawberry off George's plate and waved it around a bit. "Tara decided that a Regent can't teach, no matter what. She and the current Minister of Magic are about to come crashing down though. He *is* coming back."
"Good. Though I think he'd be a bit pissed."
"Hmm. Possibly." Draco ate the berry. "But we can make arrangements for Albus to travel with any of us. All we'll need is a piece of the school." He winked. "It will be fine. I promise. Even if I have to go in there and kill someone, we will get through this mess intact." He stole another berry and George pushed his plate closer. "Have you heard anything about that place which kept Xander hostage?"
"No. Percy mentioned it was in the papers."
"They're officially closed and are in talks to give settlements to injured families." George opened his mouth and inhaled a calming breath, then swatted at Draco. "What? Xander gave me permission to take them down, so I did. It took long enough, but they're out of business and all their patients have been sent elsewhere."
"He'll kill you if his treatment makes it into the papers."
"The judge has to authorize all announcements. He's not releasing names or conditions."
"He'll be happy enough with the place being shut down."
Draco reached over and patted him on the hand. "My will shall be done in this case. I'm enjoying it immensely." He stole another berry with a grin, and saw the flash again.
"That time I saw it," George said, looking around. He couldn't find the photographer, but he would get them.
"Leave it. What will anybody say? That we were teasing each other? I know you're taken and so does everyone else who matters."
"Have you heard from Ginny?"
"She's at a spa, taking a treatment. She'll be back on Monday and we'll be sitting down to discuss the business."
George patted him on the hand. "I know it's hard. What are you going to do if she's really changed."
Draco laughed bitterly. "Oh, I know she has. I'm not sure I can let myself be that open again. I'd almost rather bring some pretty women home and have them there to play with on a rotating basis." He paused then stole a grape. "I don't think I can take the tornado that Ginny represents. Even if she's better. I'm happy the way I am now, except for not having a full-time lover."
"You want someone to share things with, I've seen you start to turn to share something you just saw," George said gently.
Draco swallowed. "Perhaps. But a companion would be that way."
"But they might not be interested and would only be there for the money, stepson. You don't want that. You've insulated your children from it."
"You want me back with her?"
"Only if she's going to make you happy. Everyone deserves to be happy. Even the formerly evil bastard Draco Malfoy."
"Maybe. I'll have to see how much she's changed. It might be easier to find someone new, someone without the emotional baggage." He laughed bitterly. "My grandparents would both tell me to find some little seventh year princess and marry her, but keep Ginny on as a mistress."
"She might like that," George admitted. He smiled. "Or it could get you killed."
Draco snorted. "Thank you for your support, George. I'll be sure to tell her it was your idea when I propose it."
"What you need is a woman like mum. One who wants to take care of the house and your family, but that wants the secondary position. One who's willing to take second string to you and to let you make the hard decisions."
"I thought I had that in Ginny."
"You did," George agreed. "Then she went wrong. Is it something with women? Ginny, Tara, all of them around us have gone wrong at the first touch of power."
"Maybe it's us," Draco said miserably. "I introduced her to it."
"No, the big fluffy creatures did that. Not you." George patted him on the hand. "Want to grab the kids and go play on the beach?"
"Sure. I could use a few hours away." He looked up. "Xander went to a monastery?"
"He got a letter of invitation by one of us. I'm sure he'll be fine. It's not the Inquisition."
Xander looked at the nun answering the bell. "I was invited up for a chat?" he said, handing over his letter of invitation.
"Of course. The monsignor will meet you in the garden. This way please," she said in accented english, leading him back to a beautiful garden full of bushes, but not many flowers. "Wait here."
Xander sat down on the bench near the center and looked at all the plants.
"It's soothing," a male, accented voice said. Xander stood up as he approached. "Sit, my son, I don't need such courtesies. We're all part of God's family, from the plants to the both of us." He sat beside Xander.
Xander looked into his blue eyes and got lost. "How do you know me?"
"I've heard of you from some associates." He patted Xander on the knee. "Relax, I've done many of the same things, if for a more holy reason." The younger man in front of him relaxed. "I used to attend your school, and I wish that you had been around to teach us then. I might not have ended up here."
"Forgive the question, but you're a priest, and you're here. Why?"
The priest smiled. "Because I was called. The calling was so strong that I crossed back into the muggle world and followed it. Even when they made me break that which was most important to me."
"Your wand?" Xander asked pitifully.
"Yes, my son, my wand. It was a beautiful one as well."
Xander grinned. "I think we all see our wands as our personal beauty mark. I left mine back in my room."
"That was probably very wise. So tell me about what's going on now?"
"I can, but it might not be complete."
"I was wondering why you were here in the middle of the week. Taking a short vacation?"
"I quit. The new Headmistress and I got into it again." He started to feel that helpless feeling again and tried to shake it off, but the gentle touch to his hand calmed him. "Wow."
"I know how it is when a friend betrays you, Alexander. I've been there as well. If one hadn't turned his back on me, I wouldn't be here now. Tell me?"
"It's pitiful and I hate being pitiful."
"All of us have our low moments. Then you can tell me about the current year's teams." He smiled. "I would love to hear of them. I hear they're very good this year."
Xander started to smile again. "My son plays chaser with one of the most powerful teams in history. There are professional people who don't want to play against them...."
Ginny looked up at her hairdresser at the spa. "I need something so I can get my man back," she told her.
"Well, let's start with fixing this young woman's hair." She fingered the long red strands. "Really, dear, you're not eighteen. You shouldn't dress like it anymore." She measured it. "How about a bob?"
"I hated having those when I was younger, that's why I grew out princessly hair."
"Yes, but it doesn't suit you at all. Perhaps something shorter." She fixed it and Ginny didn't like it either by the look on her face. "Dearie, you can't keep it this long. Trying to keep your youth intact by having hair that doesn't suit you isn't for a woman of your means. Accept your age and wear it gracefully." She remeasured it. "How about to here? That's long enough to style any way you want, but practical for a woman on the go and simple enough to evoke memories of youth?"
"That's good," Ginny agreed.
The hairdresser turned her away from the mirror. She hated these women, the ones who refused to grow up. She was obviously a matron now, she should use her position to make herself comfortable, not wish for what she didn't have. Even if her present life sucked, she could afford to be here and that was at least something. Maybe she needed to pick up one of those little boy toys that you see now and again. No wedding ring, so maybe she had just lost one. Well, she would help the woman look her age, and look fabulous doing it.
Percy looked up as someone stormed into the archives, running up his stairs. He put his feet down and readied himself for whatever the trouble was. His assistant burst in the door, nearly crying. "What happened now?"
"The Minister of Magic is dead," he sobbed. He fell against his boss, putting his head on his leg. "His wife shot him during their divorce proceedings. She said she had been under the Imperious Curse on and off through her marriage and the judge didn't listen to her so she shot him with his own gun."
Percy patted him gently. "Is he dead?" The boy looked up at him. "Is he dead? It's important."
The assistant nodded. "He is, sir. He was pronounced dead at the scene and carried away to be made ready for his funeral."
"Thank you. You stay here and guard the office while you calm down. I'm going to talk to my father." He got free and went to find his father, who was gathered around with the other Ministers. "Father, did you hear?" Arthur grimaced but nodded. "Congratulations, it's yours."
"What?" Arthur shouted, drawing attention.
One of the other Ministers, Percy's own Arabelle, nodded. "We voted last month on who takes it next. It went to you almost unanimously. I voted for Percy of course," she said with a smile.
Arthur shook his head. "I don't want it."
"Tough. You can't very well quit with the last one barely dead now can you?" Percy told him.
Arthur glared at him. "I brought you into this world and I can take you out, Percy."
Percy smirked. "Only mum can say that, father. You didn't give birth to me." He clapped him on the back. "Does anyone want to offer a second suggestion?" They all shook their heads. "Then I suggest my father start some damage control procedures now instead of tomorrow." He and Arabelle pushed Arthur up to the office. The secretary greeted him with a lot of crying and offers to move anything he wanted moved, but they left him there to deal with it. "I remember being so stunned when I got my first Under-Minister," Percy told Arabelle as he walked her back down to her department. "Meet me for lunch?"
"Of course, Percy." She kissed him on the cheek and hurried inside.
He smiled all the way back to his office.
Tara looked up as she sent off the second letter of the day, this time with one of the chicks who had been sniffling pitifully in the entryway. Murphy or Fawkes would know what to do to soothe that one. She leaned back and checked the school, finding a few new things. A few more of the libraries seals had been broken. Someone was excited, something about building plans. She shrugged mentally, not knowing what that was about wasn't going to bother her. It was a beautiful day and her students would be working outside in it later on.
"Only if you find yourself again," an amused male voice said from the doorway.
Tara jumped and stared, stunned dumb by the ghost in front of her. "How? How?"
He smiled. "I usually start my first day of any new job by walking in the front door. Later on I might teleport or use a hidden passageway, but using the front door is best the first time," Dumbledore's ghost said gently. "Get out of my chair." She moved and let him sit down. "Thank you." He linked himself back into the spells on the school and frowned at her, a grandfatherly look of disapproval. "Didn't I tell you to watch out for him?"
"I did! He got huffy and snarky! Then he quit. I couldn't stop him."
"You were pushy, cranky, and trying to deal with," Dumbledore corrected in that same gentle tone of voice. "Even Severus started to swear at you if I heard right." She hung her head. "It will be fine, Tara. You can fix it. Start with Severus this afternoon. Xander will have to wait until he gets back."
"He won't come back, I've sent letters to him."
"He'll have to come back to pack, now won't he?" Albus pointed out. She nodded. "Find your husband and repair that relationship first. He can help you make Xander forgive you. Xander will listen to him and Draco."
"I messed up that relationship too," she said pitifully.
"I believe Professor Malfoy understands about sudden acquisitions of power, my dear. He'll forgive you as well I believe."
"But he's not supposed to be teaching," she protested.
He laughed. "Tara, I had my reasons for accepting him. Having him here has made things run much smoother. Not only did we gain another defender, and a future guardian, we gained an excellent teacher who will manipulate for our benefit." She nodded. "Go see Severus, it's almost time to change classes and this is his free period."
"Yes, Albus. Thank you. I wish I could hug you."
"That is only one of the many things I will miss about having a physical body. Go, now, young lady." She nodded and left, leaving him alone. He wanted to hit his head on the desk. Didn't that girl listen? He had left two letters warning her to treat Xander delicately. She was clearly out of practice at dealing with fragile people. He thought at his helpers and smiled when they agreed. One of them went to find the boy for him. Italy, how nice, and with a former student no less. Yes, that one would help him greatly as well. That boy had always been gentle and knowledgeable about human matters.
Gryffindor floated into the garden and smiled at his former Prefect. "Would you please tell him he has to come back soon? He's being summoned home." He saw the sleeping man, obviously he had cried himself to sleep again. "While you're at it, can you check for more taint? He was possessed for over sixteen years and I think Snake left some in there."
"It was useful I'm sure," the Monsignor told him. "I'll check him over before sending him back to his husband and then home." He bowed to the ghost. "Please, wander about if it pleases you."
"It has to be better than the moping my house is doing because he's gone," Gryffindor sighed. "How that boy got so much influence I'm not sure, but the students like him."
"He's very likeable. He cares about the students and they know this. Otherwise he wouldn't have continued to defend them after his first year at the school." Gryffindor winced. "You saw?"
"I delved into his memories and they were too painful to finish watching. I only got back five years." He shrugged. "Snake saw them all and apparently approved of him, even though he works for the light and accepts those not wholly wizardly." He faded out. "I'm going to check out that new nun."
"She's another like me," he called gently. "She will trap you." The ghost laughed and the priest smiled. "Xander, it's time to wake up now." Xander looked up at him. "You heard?"
"I don't think I can go back."
The priest helped him sit up then gave him a short hug. "You can because you're strong. Things have changed since you left I'm sure." He smiled. "Let me check you for more taint?"
"I'm fine, some of the hyena won't leave, ever. Salazar took out the hunting instincts but not the rest of it."
"Then we should fix that. You can't be happy that way."
"I am. It's useful to protect my family."
The priest smiled. "I understand, but it will taint your soul if it's not removed. If it's done now, at least you have time to fix the taint."
"I, um, don't believe in your ways, father."
"I know, my son, the same as I know you don't think of yourself as religious, but you do believe in a higher power. In this instance, the power will heal you through its messengers, strange though they may be. Salazar likes you?"
"He said he finds me worthy. I guess he thinks I'm neat because I'm gryphon-born."
"Possibly, or you could be very much like him in some ways. You never know." He stood up. "Come, take lunch with us and then I'll look at this remaining taint. You wouldn't be the first person I pulled some from."
"Possibly, though I lost count at five. I decided it wasn't worth keeping count anymore." He led the boy inside, taking him to eat with them, and talk with him some more. A very odd, but strong young man. One who deserved all the happiness he could get. He would like to meet his husband too, he seemed nice.
Draco looked up as the sand next to him started to dig in itself. "You could show yourself, this is a wizarding village," he noted.
The ghost got firmer. "I don't like you, kid."
Draco looked at Gryffindor. "The feeling's mutual. Is there news?"
George looked up from helping his children build a sand castle, and sighed. "More of them?"
"More what?" Maeve asked, smiling at the ghost. He told stories too, which was pretty cool in her book.
"More refugees from the school."
Gryffindor shook his head. "Not this time. I'll follow someone to a beach this summer. I'm here with good news. The changes have started. You're to reappear at the school tonight if possible, or tomorrow if not." Draco got up and headed off, going after the elusive beer so they could talk.
"We're not ready yet," George said, going back to playing with the children. William had moved closer to the surf and he motioned him back. "Now, you can't swim by yourself yet." William came back to his side and helped him pack the bucket they had brought with them to make another tower. "We'll be back when Xander's ready, not before."
"Unfortunately, that's not good enough this time, young man. He has a duty to perform and has to be back."
George dropped the toy shovel. "Another attack?" He saw the ghost's eyes following a couple of beautiful young women and sighed. "They're called bikinis and they're about sixty years old from what I understand."
"Well. Times have changed. If we wanted to wear that little, we wouldn't have worn anything."
George looked at the bikini-clad women, smiling when he noticed them looking back. Then he looked at the ghost. "I've seen women wearing less. William, if you move away again, I'm going to ground you to the room." The little boy shifted back beside him. "Maeve, no cuddling Lucien." She came scurrying back too, her new crab friend in her hands. "Put it down, you can't have it," he sighed. She let it go, sniffling as it scurried away as quickly as possible. "Fawkes and Murphy would eat it, dear, you don't want that, correct?" Maeve gave him a pitiful look. "You two just got a new owl, what more do you want?"
"Cuddly things, like Unclie Harry?" Maeve asked. Then she batted her big brown eyes and smiled cutely.
"We take care of it," William agreed. "Puppy?" he asked Maeve. She nodded happily.
"Ask your other father," George said with a grin of his own.
"You're mean to that boy," Gryffindor told him. George looked at him. "Dogs and Gryphons get along very well. The children would never get to play with it."
"We get two," Maeve suggested proudly. "One for daddy, one for us."
One of the bikini-clad women walked over, smiling at them. "You have such adorable children. Taking a vacation without their mother?"
"Their other father is visiting a friend at the local monastery," George told her. She giggled. "I was explaining to our incorporeal friend what you were wearing," he said, pointing at Gryffindor.
"Oh, hello, I hadn't seen you. Who are you?"
He swept off his hat. "Godric Gryffindor, founder of Hogwarts." She giggled again. "If I were still alive, I would have done my very best to woo you until you fell at my feet and begged me to stop."
She laughed. "In this day and age, I could be the one chasing." She winked and looked down at George again. "How old are they?"
"I'm nearly four," William told her.
"By four more months, William," George added, smiling at his son. "And this is Maeve, she's six months younger."
"They are so adorable." She patted them on the head. "Have a happy vacation. Maybe I'll see you around town?"
"Unfortunately, they're being recalled to work. The small tiff between his husband and one of his best friends is now over with and he has to fill young minds with visions of horrible creatures."
"My husband teaches demonology," George told her.
"Oh! A religious school?"
George nodded for the obvious muggle. "Yup. Some days." She waved and jogged back to her friends. "Were they witches?" he whispered.
"No, but they're very nice and that never stopped me before." He purred. "William, always try for the pretty ones, my boy."
George snorted, looking at his son. "Try for someone who understands you. It will make you much happier. Otherwise, you'll end up with horrible girlfriend stories like your other father."
"Oh, I believe the other one is a witch," Gryffindor said in appreciation as the witch walked up to them. "Hello, my dear."
"You're Godric Gryffindor?" she asked in a heavy Turkish accent. He nodded. "Why are you here?"
"My husband teaches at Hogwarts," George told her. "We have to get back."
"Ah. That's wonderful news. Is he one of *those* people?"
George smiled at her. "As are my children." She sniffed and walked away. "Bitch."
"Bad word," Maeve said, poking him on the arm. "No say bad words, Grandma soap mouth."
"I know, precious, she leaned how to do that on me." He patted her on the head. "She accepts muggles but not us?"
"The human mind is often odd that way," Godric agreed as he sat on the sand. "Show me what you're doing? I was very good with building plans."
"Is that why the school has so many unusable rooms?" George asked.
"No, that was Ravenclaw. She wanted there to be many small rooms where the students could sit and think or read. Your older son is very impressive. They've sorted out eight of Snake's libraries already and gotten them stored."
"Wonderful news. I'm sure we won't be seeing Iggy this summer then."
The ghost laughed. "I'm sure you will. He'll have his head in his wife's lap and his face in a book."
"Probably," Draco agreed as he rejoined them. "Are we heading back tonight?"
"Tomorrow. That way Simone can play today." He looked up at the sun, then at his stepson. "Why aren't you watching her?"
"I suggested that and she told me to come sit on the beach with you." He sipped at his beer.
"I have some?" William asked.
"No," George told him. "No beer, you're too young."
"We drank lots of beer in my day."
"You also had a lot of alcoholics," George pointed out. "There's a history of it in Xander's family so he doesn't hardly drink." He glanced around and saw the women talking to a police officer. "Draco, trouble."
"Not hardly," Draco told him. "Unless they've got it in for gays, you're not gryphon-born and it shows."
"The kids are and there was a burning in Rome last year."
Draco sighed. "I'll protect the children. My wand is on me."
"So's mine." George reached for it as the officer walked up to them. "Did you need something?" he asked pleasantly.
"Just wanting to know something." He smiled at the children. "The women over there said that you're doing illegal things on the beach. Are you?" He looked Draco. "That bottle would be one of them."
"I'll be done in another sip, it's hot out here," he noted, taking that last swallow. "Sorry about that. I couldn't have one for months." He handed off the bottle. "For recycling," he said with a faint smile.
The officer shook his head. "Sir, are these your children?"
"They're mine and my husband's," George told him. "They're either objecting to that or the fact that Xander teaches at Hogwarts."
"I understand. Thank you, sir." He stood up. "How is Ignatius, Mr. Weasley?"
"I use my full name," George said with a smile. "Harris-Weasley. And he's fine." He looked at Draco. "Wasn't he?"
"Happily finding hidden libraries in the school," Draco agreed. "Are you one of us?"
"No, sir, but my cousin is and she beat me until I saw sense. Have a nice day and no more open containers on the beach please." He tipped his hat and left.
"Well, that was a nice change," Draco noted. "No raving crowd of people trying to thrash us soundly."
The officer looked at him. "Had much trouble with that?"
"Not here. At home there's been a few moments of panic and the like," George told him.
"I'm sorry to hear that. You would think Britain is much more tolerant." He nodded and continued to walk away. He said something to the women and the witch started to rant something. Her friend said something and the cop responded, so she said something to her friend. Apparently something like George had noted because the witch screamed 'I can't believe you said something like that, you're not like them' and stormed off.
"Another fine day in the life," George sighed, upending the bucket. "Kids, why don't we go shower off the sand and have lunch?"
"Okay," they said, gathering up their toys. William had to dig a little bit to find Maeve's doll for her, but it was eventually found and shaken off. The whole family, and the ghost, tromped back to the inn. The desk manager slipped George a note when he checked for messages.
"What's that?" Draco asked, craning his neck as they walked up the stairs.
"A note about how the inn doesn't discriminate and that they're looking out for any trouble." George crumpled it up. "It sucks that they have to."
"Why they 'cum?" Maeve asked.
"Huh?" Draco asked.
She gave him her most attentive look. "'Cums suck, why they 'cum?"
"Oh, vacuums," Draco said, shaking his head. "No, it's not that sort of suck, dear." He let George open the door and followed him inside. His minor bout of shopping had been brought up here like he had requested. Very nice service, he'd have to remember this place.
To Part 7: