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The Troll Incident

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Frank walked through the kitchen door, prodding a sulky young man before him. Everyone in the kitchen stopped to stare, and Frank clapped a hand down on his shoulder before he could try to make a break for it.

"You can sit," he ordered, taking in the scene in the kitchen. Pops stirred something in a pot on the stove...chili, by the scent, while Jamie sat on one of the counters with a face like thunder and Danny leaned in the doorway drinking a beer.

"Adopting strays, Dad?" Danny asked, watching the kid slump to the table and sulk his way to sitting. Something familiar about him, though.

"Avoiding an international incident, actually." The young man at the table spoke, raising his head enough to look Danny in the eye.

"Didn't know Harry Potter was in New York." Danny took another swig from his beer.

"No one was meant to," Harry grumbled. He liked the Reagans, had met most of them after Integration as part of an Auror delegation, but they never let anything go. And they were unpardonably nosy.

"It's hard to keep a low profile when you wake up the Central Park trolls," Frank commented drily as he hung up his coat and stowed his briefcase. "We'll be keeping an eye on him for the time being."

"It's not as if I meant to disturb them!" Harry protested hotly. "And I'm technically on holiday and no longer an Auror. I have never and will never need an--"

"Great," Danny rubbed a hand over his face, cutting off Potter's rant. "So we get two cranky Brats for the price of one."

"Shut up , Danny!" Jamie hissed, thumping his heel off the cabinets, while Harry stared in outrage.

"Simmer down, Jamie," Henry scolded. "I told you to sit quietly and think about how you'd like tonight to go."

"Danny star--" Jamie started.

"Do as Pops told you, Jamie." Frank pressed a hand to Harry's shoulder before crossing the kitchen to him, not letting him off the counter, but pulling him into a quick hug. "Rough day?"

Jamie nodded against his shoulder. "Everything was just...wrong."

"It'll get better, hmm?" Frank soothed. "You chill out for your Grandpa, and things will look a lot better by dinner."

"Okay," Jamie answered quietly.

"Good man." Frank patted his back and let go. "Danny, could you keep an eye on things in here?"

"Sure, Dad." Danny tried not to smile at Jamie's still-sulky expression and Potter slumped despondently at the table.

They'd heard...well, Harry Potter being kicked out of the Aurors for being a Sub made news even in the US. Especially in New York with their recruiting initiatives and the DSR in place.

"Thank you. I'll be down soon."

Danny watched him leave the kitchen, knew he'd go to say hi to Linda and the kids in the dining room, and probably stop to pick up a scotch from Erin in the living room. He crossed to the table, stopping to snag a beer from the fridge, and heeled a chair out. He sat across from Potter and slid the beer over to him. The kid looked like he needed a friendly face. And people looking out for him , not their Ministry or whatever.

"Oh, are the Subs actually allowed to drink?" Potter asked acerbically.

"I can take it away if you're gonna be an asshole, Potter." Danny shrugged. No skin off his nose. "You can think about how you want tonight to go, too, kid."

Harry's head snapped up at that, and he stared. "You know, I don't think anyone's actually spoken to me like that since…"

"You killed Voldemort?" Danny supplied.

"Er, no, actually. That really was a group effort." Harry took the beer and popped the top. "Possibly since Charlie Weasley went back to Romania?"

Henry turned from the pot on the stove. "When was this?"

"Um, five years ago?" Harry shrank into himself. He'd forgotten what two Tops Looking at one felt like.

"No one's bothered to tell you your behavior is lacking in the past five years?" Henry asked, incredulous.

"Pops, can Jamie have a beer and get down off the counter?" Danny interrupted before Pops could get going and gestured to Jamie with his beer since the kid seemed to have calmed down. Behold the power of Dad. He hoped it worked for the Potter kid--he was a good kid, even if he had six years on Jamie, and it blew that he didn't have anyone he could lean on.

"Are you going to behave yourself, Jamison?" Henry asked.

"Yes sir," Jamie answered, subdued. "M'sorry about today."

"It's alright, kiddo. You go and sit with your brother, hmm?" Henry clapped him on the shoulder as he slid off the counter.

"Thanks, Grandpa." Jamie murmured, going to collect his own beer before he slid into the seat next to Danny. "So, the trolls?"

"I really didn't mean to," Harry sighed. "Everyone's going to go berserk over that one."

"Your…" Jamie trailed off. Potter definitely wore a Classed Sub desg-band, but he didn't see Dom discs.

"Friends?" Harry supplied. "The Ministry wouldn't approve anyone I'd trust as a Top, and I didn't trust their choices. So, I'm supposed to be on holiday, and seeing how Integration works a few years down the line. Not, um, waking generally inert magical creatures."

"Eh, Dad'll probably calm 'em down," Danny waved off his worry, leaving Harry's lack of Top alone. For the moment. "It happens a couple times a year. And weird crap happens pretty regularly around here. Like when Jamie found out the sewer alligators were real."

"They were giant salamanders and you know it, Danny." Jamie elbowed him gently in the ribs.

"Or all the spirits the kid finds. We've got detectives trying to get him through a scene so they don't have to do the work."

"A Seer?" Harry asked. Jamie was away at University when he visited New York last. "Or, no, that wouldn't be quite right, would it?"

"Just, you know," Danny hooked his finger in Jamie's band and wiggled. "Sensitive."

Jamie let his head thump on the table. "Could you never use that word again? I get enough crap for it as it is. And it's not like other people can't see them, they just won't talk to them."

Harry wondered if he would have had, well, any siblings had his parents survived the war. He liked the Reagans, sulking Subs and annoying older siblings included. They were warm and inviting, Weasley-like, but also had the subtle bite of most Pureblood families. And he was fairly sure that Commissioner Reagan found the whole troll incident amusing. He wondered if his parents would have been like that, with him.

And oh, god, Draco was going to honestly lose his mind over him meeting the Reagans (again). He'd gone on and on about old Irish magical families and their history and their bloody legacy before Harry left. Again. It was bad enough the first time.

"At least you're not on about wrackspurts constantly, or nargles." Harry commented casually, stifling a laugh at the stares that got him.

"What?" Danny asked flatly.

"My friend Luna, she sees more than most, and she's come up with her own interpretations. Stunningly accurate, too," he chuckled.

"Dinner's about ready, Danny, if you could get the kids to set the table?" Henry interrupted.

"Yeah, Pops. I'll, uh, settle 'em down, too." He stood, twitching his head toward Harry.

"Good idea." Henry pulled stacks of bowls out of a cabinet before he turned to the oven. "Jamie, could you get the cornbread sliced?"

"Sure, Grandpa. You want it in a basket?" Jamie moved to help, used to the flow of putting dinner on the table.

"Grandma Rose's, kiddo. We have biscuits, too."

Harry watched them with a pang of longing for the cozy kitchen he'd created in Grimmauld Place. They used the dining room sometimes, but it was mostly a secondary study for anyone who needed more space. He cooked, usually, which got him a few strange looks since most wizards relied on their wives or pubs or takeaways for meals. He loved dinner time, with everyone gathering at the long kitchen table after a long day, or Flooing with dinner to Nev and Draco's quarters at Hogwarts. Hermione and Professor McGonagall joined them most times.

"Is there anything I can do, Mr. Reagan?" Harry asked.

"Help Jamie with the biscuits, son. Jamie, everything on the baking sheet. The boys had hockey practice today."

"Okay Grandpa." Jamie sliced the cooled cornbread carefully, transferring it to a napkin-lined basket before waving a hand over it. Steam rose over the basket.

"Wandless?" Harry went to help, taking the tray of what looked like scones...ah, American biscuits...to the counter.

"It's how we learned most things," Jamie shrugged, voice soft. "Father McMurray found it easier to teach us wandless and wordless first, since we'd all done accidental magic before."

"You didn't go to Ilvermorney?" Harry lowered his voice as well. Sulky or not at first meeting, he rather liked Jamie.

"God, no," Jamie laughed. "Mom and Dad would never have let us leave home at eleven. And if they tried, Grandpa and Grandma would've brought us right back. We probably wouldn't have lasted anyway...we were all kinds of trouble."

"They went to St. Brendan's, just like their Dad." Henry patted Jamie's shoulder in passing, paused, and did the same to Harry. "We wanted them all close. You boys get a move on. And Jamie?"

"Yeah, Grandpa?"

"Make sure the butter is soft, please. We don't want a repeat of Sunday." Henry popped the door open, taking the vat of chili with him.

"Sure thing, Pops." Jamie snickered, turning to Harry. "Jack, Danny and Linda's oldest, tried to slice into butter right out of the fridge and catapulted the whole thing off the table. We learned that when five adults try to stop a stick of butter in mid air using magic, it explodes."

Harry bit his lip at the mental image. Sirius would have loved that story, especially with a bit of embellishment. He'd have to remember it for Teddy and Victoire when he was home again.

"That sounds like quite the mess." Harry transferred biscuits from the baking sheet to the basket.

"You have no idea," Jamie grinned at him.

"Is everyone in your family always so...welcoming?" Harry asked suddenly. "I mean, I've met your father and brother before, at least, but for the rest of you I've just appeared in your home with no warning."

"Dad brought you home, which means you need a safe place," Jamie shrugged. "It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. He probably spun something about protective custody, or Garrett did, to get the reporters off your back. And it's how they'd want someone to deal with me, anyway."

"There was a man about this tall," Harry held a hand up. "Er, gray hair, reminded one of a furious hedgehog? Not, I think, with me. He kept going on about how I'd had a shock."

"That's Garrett." Jamie confirmed. "But I'd keep the furious hedgehog commentary to yourself?"

"Duly noted," Harry grinned. "Thanks."

He didn't have many Sub friends, and really not one who'd Classed the same. It was a different, but welcome, experience to have a shared worldview. Shared expectation? He wasn't quite sure what it was, but it was definitely freeing. His friends, no matter how they tried , couldn't see him as anything other than Harry Potter--powerful wizard, savior, the boy who lived again. They couldn't quite get to Harry Potter--Sub, Brat.

That no one here particularly cared that he'd helped to vanquish a dark lord...well, he loved it. He could still hear Frank Reagan's 'I don't care what you're allowed to get up to at home, here you follow the posted signs...and don't give me that look. Your luggage is being picked up and you're coming home with me where I can keep an eye on you.'  High-handed, yes, but he'd followed along meek as a lamb, his entire being overjoyed at finding someone else in charge, for once.

"Come on, before Grandpa comes looking."

Harry let himself be chivvied out of the kitchen and into the dining room. He paused in the doorway, Jamie nearly walking straight into his back, when the everyone at the table turned to look.

"Mr. Potter is joining us for a few days. I'm sure everyone knows what that means?" Frank cast a stern eye over his grandchildren.

"Yessir," all three answered together.

Jamie set the bread basket on the table and motioned to Harry to take the seat between him and his grandfather. It put him across from two young boys, but they weren't staring outright, and no one set their elbow in the butter, so Harry counted it as a win. In any case, Danny and Erin soon had a spirited discussion raging, much like Hermione and Draco, although minus the occasional wand-drawing. And everyone got drawn in here, even the children. There was no 'we'll continue this over port in the study, Granger' as Draco steered back from the esoteric. The Reagans just assumed you could keep up, and explained enough for the younger generation to, as well.

"But Mom, isn't it...libel is printed, right?" Nicky asked.

"Yes, libel is printed and slander is spoken. And it's both libelous and at least skirting the law to print anything untrue about a dependent Sub," Erin explained and absently crumbled cornbread into her chili.

"So why did they get away with it with Uncle Jamie?" Sean reached over Jack for another biscuit, freezing at Linda's cleared throat. "Um, please pass the biscuits, Jack?"

"Who says they got away with it, bud?" Jamie rescued the basket from disaster with a careful hand as Jack turned too sharply with it.

"The story got printed, right? We all saw it, and it implied the Grandpa and Uncle Danny let you 'run wild'. Or something. Mom wouldn't let me read the whole thing." Nicky gestured with her spoon as she spoke.

"I intervened in a fight while my partner and I were off-duty, and I wound up in the river." Jamie explained, blushing, for Harry. "The Post decided that meant I was somehow out of control. There was some pretty nasty innuendo regarding my partner."

"So, what happened, then? Because Mom wouldn't let Dad go down there and straighten them out?" Jack, face innocent, dropped his father in the hot seat.

"We have lawyers, Jack, and the DSR. And, here's the politics side of it: they're using me as a stand-in for all Subs in the NYPD. So when they write articles like that, it's less about me and more about their own prejudices," Jamie explained.

That drove the conversation into the waters of 'like Erin is prejudiced against cops who want a warrant' and 'just cops who want a warrant based on their gut, Danny', which Harry assumed could go on for hours.

"Mr. Potter? Psst, Mr. Potter," Sean hissed from across the table, failing miserably at subtlety.

"Hmm?" Harry kept one ear on the argument over American jurisprudence.

"Do you, um, do you really know Ginny Weasley ?" Sean asked breathlessly.

"Sean, are you prying?" Conversation stopped as Frank fixed his youngest grandchild with a Look.

"No, Grandpa?" Sean's eyes went impossibly wide.

"Grandpa, it's important!" Jack intervened before Sean could open his mouth and get himself in trouble. "It's Quidditch! "

Harry couldn't help it. He snorted back a laugh; they were so like him and Ron, or any Quidditch-obsessed kid at Hogwarts, that he just couldn't help the broad grin or the chuckle bubbling up.

"It's not prying when it's Quidditch ," he assured his host, mimicking Sean's wide-eyed innocence.

"See, Brat," he just heard Danny murmur to Linda.

"And of course I know Ginny. We played on the same team at Hogwarts, and her brother is my best friend." And if Gin was more best friend than Ron these days, he'd just leave that be.

"She's the best!" Jack enthused. "Dad did something so the tabletop Quidditch pitch Grandpa got us for Christmas shows the game being played when it's on the Wireless."

Harry blinked at Danny. That would require some extremely advanced spellwork. Maybe Draco was right to go all pink and squeaky (although it would have worked better on a younger model...men who looked astonishingly like Lucius doing that still looked odd to Harry).

"That's impressive spellwork. Do you remember what you did? I know some people who might be interested, especially for Muggleborn…"

"Grandpa said that's not a very nice word." Sean interrupted, shocked.

"We try not to...it unnecessarily highlights differences that don't really matter." Jamie explained gently. "Especially after Integration. No Muggle, no No-maj, nothing like that."

"Hermione would like that, I think. I will try to remember. We get used to using certain words...and that one is much nicer than several I heard at school." Harry willed the flush to leave his cheeks. "Anyone who grew up with television would enjoy the Quidditch pitch though."

"Dad said we weren't allowed to use half the words it took to get it to work," Sean reported.

"Thanks, kid." Danny reached around a snickering Linda and Jack to poke Sean. "Just drop your Dad in it."

"It was probably more like three-quarters of the words," Jack, face solemn but with mischief in his eyes, corrected his little brother.

"Daniel, for shame," Henry scolded, although he sounded more amused than anything.

"You know, for two kids who were asking about dessert, you seem pretty ready to rat out your dad," Frank hid a smile at the immediate protest.

"I'll uh, I'll see if I can remember what I did," Danny rubbed the back of his neck, cheeks pink.

"Anyway, was she always that good?" Sean took the conversation as tacit approval to ask questions.

"She practiced a lot, and mostly in secret. Her mother didn't like her playing." Still didn't, if the expression on Mrs. Weasley's face at Sunday dinner a few weeks ago was anything to go by.

"Mom isn't so sure because it's dangerous, and Uncle Jamie won't take the training charms off our brooms yet, even though we get to play hockey and football," Jack sighed. " And even though Uncle Jamie plays pickup with the rec center. Was it because it's dangerous?"

"And UK Wizarding society is a little old fashioned. Girls playing sports like that is newer for them." Harry explained, watching the Tops at the table. Frank and Henry, at least, seemed mostly content to referee occasionally.

"Because it wasn't around in 1435?" Nicky asked, all teenage snark and bite.

"Nicky!" Erin scolded. "Manners."

"It's a fair point," Jamie patted Nicky's arm, pacifying her before she could argue. "We grew up in a different way than British Wizards, you know? We had to hide in plain sight until Integration, and they removed themselves from the mainstream. It's just different cultural responses to the same stressors."

"You grew up in a house like all your classmates, with little obvious magic; the Weasleys have The Burrow, which is completely magical; and I grew up mostly in a cupboard in a completely non-magical house. Mrs. Weasley doesn't even realize how old-fashioned most Americans would find her. She had fits when Gin cut her hair off."

"And Drew Kearney, he's an exchange student, told everyone at lunch that the girls with short hair who want a career won't find husbands," Nicky sulked. "Like I'd even want one."

"I'll talk to your principal, honey. Again," Erin sighed.

"And don't think no one noticed you saying you grew up mostly in a cupboard." Frank pointed a biscuit at Harry.

"You mean that wasn't out over here?" Harry asked weakly. "No 'Boy Who Lived Lived Near Boot Shelf'?"

"That was a legitimate headline?" Jamie boggled at him. "We thought it was just tabloid crap."

"My, um, my Aunt and Uncle didn't much care for magic, and Professor Dumbledore wanted me raised out of the eye of the wizarding world." Harry fiddled with his napkin as he spoke. "They, um, moved me out of it after I got my Hogwarts letter since it was addressed to The Cupboard Under the Stairs."

"So you were eleven?" Linda's voice shook. Danny took her hand under the table. "They kept a kid in a cabinet like spare boots?"

The china rattled on the table.

"Lin, honey, calm down, huh?" Danny leaned over to whisper into her ear.

Jack and Sean shuffled closer to their mother, and Erin pulled Nicky's chair over so she could hug her daughter. And Harry felt it, that fierce, blazing force of maternal love. He'd felt it before, far below the school when he first saw Voldemort, and in a broken-down cemetery when his parents stood between him and death again. Only this time it wasn't an echo from his mother's sacrifice, it flowed through the room, encompassing even him. As if they'd taken one look at him and decided that he was one of theirs to defend as well. Because that's how it seemed to work with these people. Bonkers, the lot of them, but also deeply and fiercely protective.

"It wasn't ideal," Harry gentled his voice. "But it was the best they could do. I didn't know until later...well, there were options, but the whole thing was just a mess."

"What about Child and Family Services?" Erin asked, running a soothing hand over Nicky's short hair.

"Children are still viewed as property, by and large. There are limits, but unless it's blatantly obvious, it's swept under the rug. Hermione is...well, her reaction to hearing how some of our classmates were raised was rather terrifying. She's working on it." He didn't miss the looks traded among the Dom(me)s at the table.

"And Subs' rights?" Jack asked, leaning into Linda's side. "Because they actually exist here, now."

"We're working on that as well. The old guard is giving way to reformers like Hermione. It's an uphill battle, still." Harry managed a smile. "But we have good people teaching, and it is changing."

"And it's not like we don't have our own issues here." Danny reached around Linda to ruffle Jack's hair.

"What I'd like to know," Henry changed the subject firmly. "Is who wants dessert and how hockey practice went."

Harry took a deep breath, quirking a smile at Jamie when the younger man nudged him in the side. Apparently appalling nosiness ran in the family. But he still felt...safe, in some way, despite the questions. Was it what a home with strong Tops definitely in charge felt like? He didn't know...he hadn't ever had it that he could remember.

Harry sat back in his chair, content for the moment. He'd likely have a Howler waiting for him from Ron and Mrs. Weasley over the Troll Incident, and something from Gin--probably her laughing uproariously at the disaster that was his life--but for the first time, possibly ever, he felt safe. The Commissioner, clasping his shoulder warmly as he passed, Linda, Danny, Henry, and Erin stood between them and the world. The mind-bogglingly novel concept that he was in the 'to be protected' category gave him a warm glow.

And the promise of something sweet, well, that was simply a bonus.