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?"
"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.
Harry slipped down the stairs, avoiding the squeaky one at the last minute, and walked softly across the living room. He hadn't bothered with slippers, too used to wandering about in sock-feet indoors to even think of them upstairs, but he tugged his robe a little tighter. September wasn't exactly chilly, but the night (very early morning?) wasn't really warm, either. And his dreams...he swallowed hard and crept into the kitchen. It was warm there, and not just physically. He could feel it, how this kitchen was the center, the heart, of the house.
And nearly jumped out of his socks when he saw Linda already sitting at the table.
"Thought you could use some company."
Her voice was quiet, as soft with care as her eyes and welcoming smile.
"I, erm, thanks?" Harry rubbed the back of his neck, not entirely sure what to do with...this. Fifteen years of peace, and both Mrs. Weasley and Mrs...Cousin Narcissa interfering in his life, and he still had no idea what to do with softness.
"Want some hot chocolate? Pops leaves some every night...we're not such great sleepers."
And she was already moving toward the counter where a pot sat under stasis, letting him choose where to sit in privacy. So he could have his back to a wall, and no one had to move or shuffle around to accommodate him. He sat, feeling a little silly, but not so silly he'd refuse the choice, and felt something touch his leg.
He started, looking down, and just made out a pitch-black cat sitting near his leg, one paw raised politely. One of the kids or Jamie, maybe? In any case, he rather missed Crooksy, so he patted his lap in invitation. The cat jumped up lightly, stretched to butt its head under his chin, and settled, keeping itself carefully under the table. It seemed pretty content to let him scratch its ears, too, so he did that as Linda poured hot chocolate and brought it over.
"Thank you." His voice sounded scratchy and tired.
"Bad dreams?" Linda sat opposite him and wrapped her hands around her mug. It started to steam lightly again.
Harry started (again) and stared.
"We have three generations of Marines and cops under this roof, sweetheart. I know what bad dreams look like on a man like that." Linda gave him a gentle, patient sort of smile and waited.
"I, um, yeah. I don't sleep so well." It was the best he felt he could do.
"Wanna talk about it?"
"Not really?" Harry gave an apologetic smile. More of a grimace, really. "It's not anything I...some things are too…"
"I get it." Linda assured him. "You don't have to, and I won't pry. No one here will. But you'll have company if you want it. Like Jamie." She Looked at the table, right about where Jamie was on his lap. "You think I don't know what it feels like when you're in the room?"
The cat tried to meld with his legs at about the same time Frank strode into the kitchen. And how the man could stride like that in a terry cloth bathrobe Harry would like to know. In any case, he plucked the cat--Jamie--off Harry's lap by the scruff. Harry's hands almost reached convulsively for Jamie--Crooksy loathed being held like that--when Frank cupped a careful hand under his back paws and headed for the living room.
"He won't hurt him." Linda reached cross the table to pat his hand.
"It's just...he's very small as a cat." Harry felt a little ridiculous as he said it. Of course Frank would never hurt Jamie. Was the Reagan overprotectiveness rubbing off on him?
"Danny always said that was a defense mechanism, so no one would kill him when he misbehaved." Linda chuckled a little at that, shaking her head slightly. "He's always been...well, he got that choirboy face, you know? Drink your hot chocolate, honey, they'll be a few minutes."
Harry sipped automatically, and made note to never introduce Linda to Mrs. Weasley.
"Now, you're in New York for a while. What are your plans for later?"
"I'm going to be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts starting next September," Harry answered. "At Hogwarts."
"We don't know a lot about boarding schools, but I know Jamie's partner went to Ilvermorney and loved it. You excited?"
There was no doubt, no subtle suggestion that a Sub couldn't teach, couldn't control a classroom...but then again, Jamie was a cop. And it wasn't like his friends and Professor McGonagall ever sounded like that...but others. Traditionalists.
"It was my first real home," he found himself admitting. "It wasn't easy, at all, but I love it. And I love teaching Defense."
And he'd poured his magic into the very foundation during rebuilding, woven his love for the school into the stone and mortar, into the wards and the very fabric of the place.
"Then it'll be more like going home than a job, hmm? I've heard it's a hard class to teach, once you get past werewolves and the like. My grades were decent enough, but I can't imagine trying to teach it."
It was easy, Harry found, to talk to Linda in the dimly lit kitchen. To share, not because she pried and poked, but because she was interested. Because he was a person and she liked him.
"It can be hard, yes. Potions might be harder, what with the explosions. I taught it when I was fifteen, but that was in secret and I wasn't alone."
Although, he could do with less of That Look. Like she wanted to storm Wizarding England and knock heads together. Or maybe he could just stop letting things he wanted to keep to himself from pouring out of his mouth. Honestly.
"Why would a kid be teaching other kids?" She asked, warily.
"The Ministry sent an absolute horror to teach and oversee the school. The Headmaster couldn't find anyone suitable as the position was cursed, so the Ministry supplied the teacher and the text. Umbridge." He shuddered despite himself and rubbed over the scarred back of his hand.
Linda took his hand in hers and turned it to see the scarring.
"Blood quill?" It was more growl than question. "Someone used a blood quill in a school, on a child?"
"Er, yes?" Harry eyed the range hood nervously, as tendrils of Linda's magic danced like lightning on the metal, grounding themselves. "We were at the start of a war, and I was telling inconvenient truths. Loudly and whenever possible."
"What I know is that anyone who dared use that filth on any child would learn a thing or two about anatomy. And what it looks like turned inside out."
"She's in Azkaban, and won't ever get out," Harry patted Linda's hand gently. "She can't hurt anyone anymore. And at the time no one could risk going against the Ministry. We needed people inside. It was collateral damage."
"They put all that on a kid, and made you feel like you needed to teach other kids, too?"
Harry added Mrs. Malfoy (Cousin Narcissa...he had to remember that or she really might clobber him) to the list of people Linda couldn't meet. Ever. They were as different as night and day, but they shared that Look whenever Harry mentioned something from his past. Maybe it was a Mum thing? In any case, he thought the pair of them could probably cause a good bit of damage. Unlike Mrs. Weasley, whose protectiveness ran hot, theirs seemed...terrifyingly patient.
"So, um," Harry cleared his throat to stop his voice squeaking. "Do you know anyone I could talk to about Defense theory? I tried Ilvermorney, but they use the same curriculum as Hogwarts, and it's generations behind."
"I can introduce you to my boys' teachers, but you should ask Frank to introduce you to Father McMurray. He taught all the Reagan kids, and from what Danny's said is one of the best teachers they had." Linda let the conversation turn to less fraught subjects.
"The best defense against the Dark Arts is a good dose of common sense and excellent critical thinking skills." Jamie's voice carried ahead of him as he and Frank came back to the kitchen, Frank's arm wrapped around his shoulders.
Harry watched, a little warily, as Frank turned Jamie loose with a pat on the back. Jamie went to the counter and the hot chocolate while Frank turned his attention to him.
"He's not wrong. Are you okay?" Frank's eyes were soft, concerned, as he looked down.
"Just some bad dreams," Harry lifted his cup in a sort of salute. "Hot chocolate and conversation helps."
Harry slanted a glance at Jamie, catching him rubbing a cautious hand over his backside, and stared, blinking. Even with his shockingly bad eyesight, he could make out a red weal streaking up the back of Jamie's neck.
"Um, sir? Is his neck supposed to do that?" He pointed.
"Damnit!" Frank muttered, moving over to Jamie at the counter.
"Nice redirection," Linda grinned at him.
Harry felt himself freeze, even as part of his brain cataloged Frank catching Jamie by the collar and Jamie twisting and batting at him.
"I just noticed…"
"A chance to get the attention off you? Word to the wise, honey, Frank and Danny will notice it. They put patterns together for a living."
Linda patted his arm as he let his forehead thump down onto the table. He was so screwed.
Linda moved to help Frank. Jamie, at least, would listen to her. And maybe she could ask Danny to check in on Harry. He really was sweet, and she thought he might respond better to Danny's gruffness, at least at first. And maybe Jamie had the right idea. He was small enough in his Animagus form to be cuddly and nonthreatening, much to his chagrin. Harry could mope over hot chocolate while she and Frank handled Jamie.
"C'mere, Muppet, and let's see what's going on." She kept her voice pitched low and laid a gentle hand on Jamie's back. "Where's it itchy?"
"I'm okay, Linda, really!" Jamie protested, although he'd stopped wiggling. "M'fine! Dad, let go!"
He darted a concerned look at Harry, and the shoe dropped. Someone didn't like being 'coddled' in front of anyone. They wouldn't, usually, and never in front of the kids, but Harry was a fellow Sub...and he needed to see what a normal and healthy Top/Brat relationship looked like. And if Jamie wanted to keep it under his hat, then he should have cooperated in the first place.
"You're not okay, and you're going to cooperate with me and your dad. Got it?" Linda hardened her tone and swatted.
Jamie yelped, shooting her a wounded, sulky glare. He could grouch all he wanted, but he wasn't getting out of being checked out, and she wasn't putting up with outright rebellion. Especially not at three a.m. Especially not after the attitude he'd had all afternoon. And it wasn't like Harry had no idea what happened to naughty Subs in their family. He'd walked into the kitchen on a time out for Jamie.
"Yes'm," Jamie finally answered, losing the snotty tone.
"Thank you. Now, where are you itchy, Muppet?" Linda rubbed Jamie's back and encouraged him to lean against Frank.
"My neck and arms," he all-but-whispered, biting at his lip.
"Do you know what it might have been, Peanut?" Frank gentled his tone and dropped a kiss onto Jamie's hair. Jame leaned against him, hard.
"Eddie and I took the watch for the M.E.'s van so one of the rookies didn't have to. He was about to boot all over a crime scene. Our Captain sent our uniforms out for cleaning for us, but they should have been fine. We dropped them off with his PA, and she went through the tagging with me so it would be right." He let Linda check out the hives snaking up his forearms. "But it looks like it's anywhere my uniform shirt touched."
Linda made a noncommital noise and gestured. The junk drawer opened and a little tin swooped out to slap into her hand. Jamie made a face.
"Linda, do we really need that? It feels weird." He kept the whine that threatened at bay.
"Mmm, I know. Conover reformulated it. It's not the commercial stuff, honey." Linda opened the tin and let Jamie sniff it and poke at it to test the consistency. "I don't think she liked that stuff any more than you did.l
"That seems okay. And it smells better," Jamie allowed.
"We'll try it, and get some Benadryl into you, too." Frank smoothed Jamie's hair down. "Now, you want to share what's actually bothering you? Because I'm pretty sure it's not checking with me before you hit the kitchen or Linda checking you out."
Linda smoothed salve over Jamie's arms, hands gentle. She'd let Frank handle everything else. He was better at prying Jamie's worries out of him than even Danny. Danny's methods involved a lot of winding Jamie up until he blew his temper.
"I think Eddie might be pissed at me," Jamie admitted quietly. "We, um, we got Drop Leaved for two weeks, and Hendrickson was pretty grumpy about it?"
"Two weeks?" Frank asked.
"Because we haven't had leave for a while. It's been two quarterlies missed for me, and one for Eddie. There were too many people out sick in the winter, and then vacations over the summer. Hendrickson may have had something to say about our overtime?" Jamie's voice rose, nervousness evident. "And Eddie was pretty steamed."
"At you?" Frank tipped Jamie's chin up so Linda could get to the hives on his throat.
"I don't know. She isn't answering texts. Or wasn't, earlier. Grandpa took my phone away." Jamie let himself be moved. The salve wasn't even a little sticky, and it smelled sort of woodsy. Not the appalling floral of the commercial stuff.
"And you two are usually tethered, hmm?" Frank turned Jamie gently to let Linda get the back of his neck. Between her soft touch and his questions, Jamie had calmed right down.
"It's not like we're codependent," Jamie grumbled. "But she at least likes to send me pictures of the dogs she meets in her neighborhood, and what she ordered for dinner. She was probably just sleeping after we got off duty this morning."
"And how much did you actually sleep? Because Pops thought you got a full eight."
"Maybe not quite that?" Jamie tried. At least Harry didn't seem to be paying them any attention.
"Definitely not quite that, you grump." Linda wiped her hands on a paper towel and poked Jamie gently in the ribs. "Sit. I'll bring your hot chocolate and a Benadryl over."
Jamie did as he was told, slipping into a seat across from Harry. He reached across the table slowly and poked Harry's arm.
"You got Linda-ed?"
Harry picked up his head, propping his chin on his arm.
"How do you deal with four of them?" He asked, sounding a bit bleak even to his own ears.
"It's my normal?" Jamie shrugged. "And it's not like anyone hangs around just waiting for me to do something I'm not supposed to, you know? They all have lives, too."
"But there's four of them. " Harry insisted. "I can barely deal with one, and he doesn't live with me and he's somewhere around one hundred twenty."
Jamie bit his lip to stifle a giggle. "I grew up the only Sub in a family of Dommes and Tops. It's just what I'm used to. And if you keep going around cranked as high as you are, you're gonna find Tops coming out of the woodwork to check on you."
"What?" Harry boggled.
"It's like radar or something. I get myself worked up, and all of a sudden there's half the Doms in the precinct stopping by to squint at me. It's all based on emotional energy," Jamie poked Harry's arm again. "And you're putting out red flags all over the place. No wonder Dad brought you home with him."
"I don't know how to...no one's ever really…" Harry trailed off with a sigh. "Most of my friends are Neutral. Or at least they say they are. It's always been more of a Pureblood custom to designate in any way but Neutral. And I'm not exactly compatible with the ones who will."
"So, what, they just let you swing? Self-regulate?" Jamie wasn't so sure he liked Harry's friends, just based on that.
"I don't…" Harry sighed. "I'm not entirely sure what you mean?"
"Okay, I have issues with sleeping, sometimes, and perfectionism and the anxiety that goes with it. It all gets wrapped up together. I can deal with it myself, but I do it in a way that isn't healthy . So having Dad and Danny and Linda and Grandpa take some of that...it takes the pressure off me. I function better with their support. Like checking with Dad before I head for the kitchen if I can't get back to sleep. It lets him know I'm having trouble and he can help, instead of me sneaking around as a cat." Jamie made himself relax as he explained. "It makes them feel useful."
"Because you're all about making us feel useful," Linda teased as she set a mug down for Jamie. "You need a refill, Harry?"
"I think I'm good, thank you." Harry congratulated himself on not jumping at Linda's sudden appearance.
"I'm going to head back up, Jamie. I have an early day tomorrow. If I email Renzulli in the morning and have him check your locker, is that okay?" Frank stopped by Jamie's chair and smoothed a hand over his hair.
"You think this was some kind of prank?" Jamie held his arm up.
"Could be, but it doesn't hurt to check. Are you okay with that?" Frank let Jamie lean against him for a minute.
"Yeah, Dad. I'll give Eddie a heads up, too. Just in case."
"Hmm, maybe it's a good thing you're off for a bit." Frank bent to drop a kiss on Jamie's head. "Listen to Linda when she tells you to head up, and we'll let you know when you can get up in the morning."
"And if I need you, come find you," Jamie quirked a quick smile at him. "I will. Sleep well, Dad."
"You too, son. Harry, good night."
"Night, sir." Harry answered automatically as Frank left the kitchen. Watching and listening to them together gave him a lot to think about.
If anyone is wondering, the closest guess for Jamie is that he can turn into a Kellas Cat. And they call him Fog when he's a cat, because Joe thought "Fog comes in on little cat feet" was hilarious every time Jamie trotted into a room cat-shaped.
"Hey, wanna see something neat before we go for lunch?" Jamie leaned around the doorway as Harry finished up a letter home.
"Potentially," Harry replied cautiously. Long acquaintance with the Weasley twins left one wary of 'something neat'. "Is this something that will end in one or both of us being shouted at?"
"No, definitely not." Jamie answered, something in him holding back the 'only because dad doesn't yell'.
"Then yes. I've finished my letter." Harry stood, stretching to get the kinks out of his back. He had a feeling...well, Jamie looked a bit like he wasn't telling the whole truth. But...it'd been too long since anyone wanted to include him in a little harmless mischief.
"Great! We can take the Chevelle!" Jamie disappeared to clatter down stairs.
Harry followed, a bit more sedately, and snagged his shoes and jacket in the mudroom.
"Isn't apparition easier and faster?" he asked.
"Faster, yeah." Jamie toed into his sneakers, and pulled the first available jacket off a peg. "But driving is more fun."
"You think anyone would teach me?" Harry shouldered into his own jacket. "I never really had a chance to learn."
"I can. We'll check in with Dad though. I taught Nicky, and I'll probably wind up teaching Jack and Sean, eventually." Jamie led the way out to the car.
"Why you?" Harry did up his seatbelt after he slid into the passenger side.
"Only one with enough patience. And Danny's good, if you want nine hundred speeding tickets. He's used to driving as a cop." Jamie pulled out of the driveway. "We're going over to Prospect Park."
"And I'm going to guess that what we're doing there is a surprise?" Harry asked lightly.
"It's a good one." Jamie grinned, quick and a little sly.
Harry started. That wasn't a look he thought to associate with Jamie. His stomach tightened a bit. Had he fallen into a trap? He kept those thoughts to himself, following when Jamie exited the car.
"It's not far. Five minutes walking maybe?" Jamie assured him.
Harry kept his arm tensed so he could flick his wand into his hand if needed. His sense of foreboding flared as they cut across trails, headed for water. Jamie stopped a short way away from the shore and pointed.
"See the island? There's standing sto..." Jamie trailed off.
Harry looked over, nerves twanging. "Is that one meant to be knocked over?"
And then they heard it. The high, far off sounds of hunter's horn and braying hounds.
"Shit!" Jamie turned to him. "Can you sprint?"
A fair question for a wizard. "Why not apparate?"
"Don't know what'll be at the car. Can you?"
"Yes." Harry had heard a line of poetry once--"the horns of elfland faintly blowing"--but the idiot who wrote it had forgot to mention the absolute, eldritch horror of the sound.
"Good. Don't let go and don't look back. We get back to the car, then back to the house." Jamie ordered shortly, taking Harry's wrist in hand. "Go."
The horn and hounds sounded louder, closer, and Harry ran. He and Jamie were well matched in height, thankfully, with a similar stride. They made the car before the hounds sounded any closer, Jamie unlocking the passenger side only, diving in, and hauling Harry after him. Harry slammed the door and locked it, and Jamie gunned the engine, peeling away from the curb.
"Know how to text?" Jamie asked, clipped, hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel.
"I haven't lived under a rock, so yes." Harry snarked. "What the fuck was that?"
"Here." Jamie handed him a cell phone. "Text Dad. 911, Gabriel, Duck Island stones down, they're out."
"What are out?" Harry asked, again, as he texted what Jamie asked.
"The...I'll tell you later. Hang on."
Jamie drove like a man possessed. Harry's heart thudded uncomfortably in his chest, the sense of wrongness from the little island sticking with him. The drive, maybe five minutes or so there...had Jamie installed anything to warp space and time...went faster. Jamie pulled up to the curb and turned to him.
"When we get out, we sprint. We'll be okay in the house. Just, run."
"You are going to explain yourself. Soon." Harry favored him with a look that made Auror recruits whimper. Pity Jamie spent so much time with Danny.
"Yeah, yeah. Go. Now!"
Jamie burst out of the car, Harry following hot on his heels. They dashed up the front steps and around to the side door. Jamie had his key out and in the lock when Harry rocketed up behind him, opening the door to shove him into the kitchen before slamming the door behind them and locking it.
"I need to...the wards. Just don't...I'll explain in a few."
And the little bugger dashed off. Harry bit off the hope that Frank would give Jamie the smacking of his life for whatever misadventure he'd hauled him into. That was a dashed unsporting thought. And he needed to stop spending time around Draco after he'd blown through both Jeeves and Wooster and Lord Peter Wimsey novels.
Harry went to the living room and sidled up to the curtained window. He looked out, keeping his body flush with the wall. The wards kicked up several notches with enough power that Harry felt it in his teeth, and hell, he might give Jamie the smacking of his life. He shook his head and peeked out the window again. And jumped, stifling a shriek.
A pale, pointy-faced figure slammed into the window, grinning, showing a double row of sharp, jagged teeth. It looked like an overgrown pixie, minus the wings. He heard a humming rustle, something that sounded like ' blood of Connor, blood of Reilly, bring the lost home '. But it repeated, buzzing around and around, mixing with the baying hounds and the blowing horn.
Like hell was he doing nothing. But what? He had a wand and a head of steam and...on a thought, his clothing transfigured to flowing black robes. He headed for the front door. If it didn't work...well, he could shield, couldn't he? The wards extended onto the front stoop, and Harry steeled himself before he stepped out. Whatever those things were, they weren't menacing anyone in this house.
He slammed the door behind himself, putting all the attention on him, and drew himself up into his best Pureblood arsehole pose.
"Who dares disturb the Master of the Hallows?" he sneered.
Old blood old blood but not ours not wild not wild iron in his mind...but power raw power
Well, that was creepy. And apparently not his best move. He cast a shield, putting as much power into it as he could. It would at least hold off the circling things until he had a better plan.
The baying hounds sounded again, closer, and mixed with the howl of hunting wolves.
Harry wanted to know what the everloving fuck was wrong with New York City.
He breathed as calmly as he could, mind rocketing along, planning, until he remembered 'If you ever meet a wild elf, pet, call for a house elf. They'll bleed your magic dry.' But it couldn't be. They were extinct. Newt said they were.
"Kreacher!" Harry called, and if his voice came as more of a shriek he wasn't telling on himself. The elderly elf had warmed up to him after a long campaign of kindness, Newt Scamander, and Draco's pointed commentary on elves who couldn't hack it. Now, instead of being a nasty blood traitor, he was treated as more of a socially incompetent lost duckling.
He waited, heart pounding, nerves frayed by the endless baying and howling and rustling, chanting, old blood old blood not what we want but power power find the blood of connor the blood of reilly .
And jumped when Kreacher popped into existence next to him.
"What," Kreacher looked up at him with absolute disappointment writ large over his unfortunate features. "Is Naughty Master Harry getting himself into with nasty, nasty wild elves?"
"Oh Merlin, they're not extinct?" Harry breathed, hanging onto the stoop railing to keep himself upright.
"They is not ." Kreacher sighed. "At least Naughty Master Harry is being behind the wards. This time."
"Any ideas, Kreacher? Um, Theseus said that House Elves could--"
"Lord Scamander is being correct." Kreacher cut him off. "Kreacher is fixing this. Naughty Master Harry is staying here or he is being stuck here."
"I'll stay. I promise."
"Kreacher can only hope Naughty Master Harry is not being a heroic idiot."
And he walked forward.
"Kreacher is not having this! " He bellowed, as if someone had just sneezed in the cucumber sandwiches. "You is going back to The Between or Kreacher is binding you to his service!"
Bring the blood of connor the blood of reilly bring the lost home the lost home
"Kreacher is counting to three. One."
The wild elves stared at each other as if they hadn't quite expected that response.
Not yours not yours bring us ours
"You is threatening Kreacher's Grace! His Grace is not being threatened while Kreacher is here. Go. Two. Kreacher is not being funny."
Harry hadn't known Kreacher knew about humor. And he sounded exactly as he did when threatening people with no dessert if they didn't finish their spinach. Although, it was the first time Kreacher ever even remotely noticed his title. He should probably mark it on the calendar.
Two wolves skidded to a stop outside the wards. Just his luck.
"Thre--" Kreacher started.
The wild elves disappeared suddenly, along with the baying, horns, and rustling speech. Harry dropped his shield and staggered against the railing, knees going weak.
One wolf bumped shoulders with the other and took off down the street. The remaining wolf, bigger than any Harry had seen and as black as Fog, started forward, and flowed into Frank Reagan.
" Harry James Potter! "
His impressive bellow bounced off the houses, reverberating back in an endless scold. Frank made the front stoop in a few strides, mustache bristling, and turned Harry to push him inside. It wasn't until they stood in the foyer that he looked at Harry.
"What the hell did you think you were doing, young man?"
His worried, furious question didn't really have a good answer. Harry opened his mouth to attempt one when Jamie staggered past the sofa, white as a sheet. So he powered the wards then. Frank made a long arm and hauled Jamie close. Harry made a slight move to the stairs and found himself crushed in the same strong embrace as Jamie.
Harry had no frame of reference for handling paternal terror-hugs. He'd seen them before, after the final battle and as an Auror, but he had no relevant experience. He'd never been the one clutched close, as if he was something precious, before. He tried not to flail, and found himself unaccountably choked up as he clung on.
"Naughty Master Harry and Naughty Master Jamie is having a very busy afternoon." Kreacher spoke up from around their knees.
Harry hid his face in Frank's lapel and wondered if he could expire from sheer mortification.
"They is messing about with standing stones and nasty wild elves." Kreacher reported. "Wild elves who is wanting them both in The Between. They is not wanting them for tea parties, either."
Frank kept his touch gentle as he herded both boys to the sofa. He wanted them sitting before they fell over, both exhibiting some concerning symptoms.
"The House of Reagan owes you a debt of gratitude…" Frank started.
"Kreacher. As Head of the Family, I personally owe you a debt. Thank you for answering Harry's call." Frank crouched down to speak to the house elf.
"Kreacher is doing his job, Mister Reagan. Kreacher is proud to serve House Black. Even when Naughty Master Harry is being an idiot."
Harry put his head in his his hands. Could he live down the sheer embarrassment of his house elf treating him like a complete moron?
"Could you tell me about the wild elves, Kreacher? What are they?" Frank asked, voice grave.
"They were being house elves, once. We was all keeping the magic forests as they should be, and then the forests was dying. House elves bound to the old families to live, taking a little magic and taking care of wizards as payment. But nasty, nasty wild elves was running away to The Between. Was stealing magic, and heirs, and not giving in return. They is fearing House Elves now, because House Elves is able to bind them. They is smart to be scared." Kreacher's smile was not nice.
"We're capping the standing stones with Goblin made iron. It should keep them out, for good." Frank stood, knees cracking a bit.
"They is wanting your Naughty Master Jamie. You is guarding him?" Kreacher eyed him with a narrow-eyed stare.
"Yes, we are. And Harry." Frank assured him.
"Kreacher is knowing. Kreacher is checking for why, for you. Naughty Master Harry is behaving himself if he is smart. Kreacher is not having much hope, Mister Reagan. And Kreacher is going."
"Kreacher?" Harry sat straight as he could. "Thank you. Your great service to the Houses of Black and Reagan will be noted."
"Kreacher is being a loyal elf." But he puffed his chest out a bit. "Kreacher will be listening, Master Harry."
And he disappeared.
"Dad?" Jamie propped himself up as well as he could.
"Can you get yourself upstairs?" Frank asked.
"Yessir," Jamie answered, staring at his knees.
"Then wait for me in your room. I'm going to talk to Harry, and then you."
Well, thought Harry, that was that. Jamie fled as quickly as he could, making his way upstairs. Harry stood, still trembling a bit.
"Come with me." Frank guided Harry with a hand to his shoulder, getting him back into the study.
When Frank finally shut the door after them, Harry turned to him, arms crossed tightly over his middle.
"I'll arrange for alternate accommodations immediately," Harry's voice came whisper quiet.
"You will do no such thing, young man, because you are certainly not going to be in New York unsupervised. Not on my watch." Frank replied, stern and uncompromising. "You're staying where I can keep an eye on you."
"Then…" Harry trailed off, thoroughly confused.
"You are going to sit down and write out exactly what you were thinking, going up against an unknown assailant in unknown numbers." Frank steered him to the desk and pushed him gently into the chair. "And to be clear, the only reason you're not over my knee right now for reckless endangerment of yourself is that you stayed within the wards. If you'd left them, you'd be sleeping on your stomach tonight, rights over you be damned."
Harry gulped as a notebook and a fountain pen materialized on the desk.
"Yes, sir." He bowed his head.
"Get busy while I go talk to Jamie." Frank ordered.
"Sir, I...I don't know if Jamie was, um, in the driver's seat this morning, to be honest." Harry toyed with the pen.
"That's why I'll be talking to him first, son. We'll talk about your reasons in a little bit." Frank left on that note, nearly running into his father in the hall.
"Francis, what is going on?" Henry stopped to look him over.
"I'll explain later, Pop. Could you keep an eye on Harry for me? I need to have a chat with Jamie."
Henry winced. "Of course, Francis. They're both…"
"Magically exhausted, Pop, yeah. Harry's not going to last more than ten minutes. Could you…"
"Francis, as soon as he's asleep, he'll be on the couch. You can move him upstairs when you're done with Jamie." Henry patted his arm. "Get moving."
"Thanks, Pop. Nightcap tonight? And we're probably going to have everyone here, too." Frank warned.
"Nightcap tonight, Francis. I'll order pizza for dinner."
"Thanks, Pop." And Frank turned for the stairs to deal with whatever nonsense Jamie had landed himself in.
I know JK has said no wolf Animagi due to werewolves...but apparently no one told the Irish that. :-)
Frank stopped in the doorway to Jamie's room, watching for a moment. Jamie stood by the windows, one shoulder propped against the wall, his arms crossed tightly over his middle. He stared out at the backyard, scowl firmly in place.
"Jamie, son, were you hurt at all?" Frank kept his voice quiet and gentle, hoping to settle Jamie with a bit of conversation.
No answer. Jamie glared out the window.
So they'd crossed from relieved and apprehensive to self-loathing anger. Jamie would blow all minor mistakes out of proportion. Add that he'd propped himself against the wall instead of seeking comfort in the rocking chair, and Frank would bet he was in the midst of an epic tantrum based in shame, wanting to punish himself for making a mistake.
"Are you going to talk to me, or are you going to do your best to set the yard on fire with your brain?" Frank asked gently.
Still no reply, other than Jamie turning more toward the window, which meant he was trying to push for sterner consequences than he deserved. In any case, Frank wouldn't accept that kind of rudeness from his kid. He stepped into the room, tracing a runic combination on the door jamb to afford them some privacy. The general house privacy wards would keep anyone from overhearing, but he liked to add a bit more.
"Jamison, I asked you a question." Concern and warning both colored his voice.
Jamie didn't move or otherwise indicate that he'd heard, but he caught the brief, snotty face Jamie pulled at the window.
"Jamison Francis Xavier." Frank drew himself up, crossed his arms over his chest, and fixed his youngest with the sternest glare possible.
That got a reaction. Jamie whipped toward him, eyes wide and innocent, the same look he'd worn every single time he tried this. It never did him any good. Being angry with himself never excused poor manners, and Frank had little patience for blatant emotional manipulation, which was how he categorized both the ignoring and the feigned hurt innocence. But still, Jamie remained silent.
"If you don't want to talk to me, then I'm sure I can think of a few things to say to you."
His last warning went unheeded. Jamie flat out sneered at him before deliberately turning back to the window. And Jamie's face wasn't exactly made for sneering. Frank stifled a smile that wouldn't help the situation at all and crossed to Jamie. For his part, Jamie tried to keep up the mask of indifference. He failed, miserably, when Frank took him by the arm, turned him sideways, and swatted.
"If you're determined to be a contrary brat, then we'll do this the hard way." And he towed his boy over to the bed.
Frank sat, pulling Jamie to stand between his knees, and quickly got to work unbuttoning Jamie's jeans.
"Dad! I'll talk! I swear!" Panic unstuck Jamie's tongue as sneering indifference turned to wide-eyed dismay.
"You had your chance, young man. We'll try again in a few minutes. After you and I have a little chat about your appalling attitude." Frank whisked Jamie's jeans right down to his ankles. "Step out. You're not going to be needing those again today."
Jamie made a strangled noise and flushed pink but stepped out of his jeans. Frank folded them, setting them behind him on the bed, before he turned Jamie over his left thigh. Jamie wriggled, only settling when he patted his squirming bottom. Frank tugged his boxers south, and Jamie kicked a little at the sudden cool breeze.
"Now, what do you do when something happens and I ask you if you're okay?" He teamed the question with a couple of solid spanks.
"Talk!" Jamie yelped. "I talk to you about it!"
"Do you ignore me? Or for that matter, do you ignore anyone?" Frank set a steady pace, pinking up Jamie's fair skin.
"No! No, Dad." Jamie answered quickly, squirming against the rapidly mounting sting in his tail.
"And do you blame yourself for everything, spend time working yourself up, and then have a tantrum to try to get the response you think you deserve?" Frank caught Jamie before he could squirm straight off his lap, landing a pair of smacks across the back of each thigh. "And do you try to squirm away when you don't like that I know exactly what you were doing, Jamison Francis?"
"Ow! Dad! Ow!" Jamie protested, wiggling, as he was dumped right back across Frank's knee.
"Jamison." Frank warned, swatting steadily. He tucked Jamie closer, anchoring him with an arm across his back.
"No! I don't, Dad. I don't!" Jamie squirmed as much as he could. "And I won't! I swear it!"
"That's good to hear. Now, what do you say when you've been so rude?" Frank prompted.
"Sorry! I'm sorry, Dad!" Jamie's voice went soft, ashamed. "I really am," he sniffled.
"Thank you, peanut. Now we can discuss the rest of today." Frank kept Jamie exactly where he was.
"Did you want to, um, sit and talk?" Jamie propped himself up on his elbows and twisted, looking back over his shoulder.
"I am sitting, Jamie, and I think you're best right where I have you." Frank patted the back of Jamie's thigh.
Jamie groaned, dropping down to pillow his head in his arms. How had he forgotten? Every single time he tried, well, freezing Dad out or manipulating the situation, he wound up bare ass up over Dad's knee while they talked it out. Would he ever learn?
"You know, I had planned on us just talking for a minute before asking you to write out how today went," Frank commented, rubbing Jamie's back. He'd wanted Jamie calm and sitting, and preferably able to conk out in the middle of what he was doing.
Jamie thumped his toes off the floor, silently damning his temper. Usually, it ran hot, but when he was mad at himself he just kind of froze up and went all bratty.
"I get pretty steamed at myself sometimes, Jamie," Frank continued gently. "But I learned, well, let's just say you inherited some of your tricks from your old man. You want to tell me what happened today?"
"I was stupid. " Jamie growled his reply, thumping his toes on the floor again.
Frank sighed and swatted Jamie's bottom sharply. Jamie squeaked and squirmed at the sting.
"Want to try again?" he asked.
"I was!" Jamie protested. "I didn't even think that it was weird that I suddenly wanted to go check out the stones. I never want to! I'm not allowed to! And I pulled Harry into it, too! It was dumb! "
Frank answered that with a pair of swats at the base of each cheek.
"Do we call ourselves names, Jamison?" He swatted again.
"No! No, Dad!" Jamie pushed his toes against the floor.
"If Jack, or, no, we'll go with Harry. If he broke a rule because he was partially compelled to, would you call him stupid?" Frank kept his tone mild, hoping to calm some of the misery radiating from his youngest.
Jamie froze. He knew that tone, and he knew that question.
"Um, no?" His voice squeaked a little.
"So is this a case of Jamie applying overly stringent behavioral expectations to himself?" Frank watched as Jamie deflated, drooping over his knee with a gusty sigh.
Probably, Jamie thought, but did he really have to admit to it?
"Yessir," he muttered, mostly to his quilt.
"Thank you for being honest with me, Jamie." Frank rubbed a calming hand over Jamie's back. "Now, I think we have a few things to set straight."
Jamie made a face at the quilt, squealing when Dad smacked him sharply, right where he sat.
"Are you listening, or sulking at your quilt, Jamie?"
"Listening!" Jamie assured him. "I'm listening!"
"Good." Frank set a steady pace as he swatted, enough to leave Jamie's backside pink and stinging, but no more. "The only rule broken today, young man, was you staying away from the stones unless you have appropriate backup. Who is appropriate backup?"
"Someone who knows!" Jamie yelped. "Who knows that the Wild Ones know my name!"
"Did you tell Harry that?"
"No! No Dad!" Jamie squirmed, bottom stinging from the steady smacks.
"That's the only broken rule, Jamie. No more than that, and even that was mostly compelled. So, we'll finish here." Frank swatted twice more where Jamie would feel it sitting, and finished.
Jamie's back heaved against the urge to give in to tears.
"But I thought about telling him or calling Linda! I did!" Jamie protested as Dad helped him up and righted his shorts. By some minor miracle he hadn't kicked them off.
Frank stood and drew Jamie with him over to the rocking chair. He sat, pulling until Jamie curled up in his lap, and started to rock. Holding Jamie safe helped.
"And that shows a remarkable strength of character, peanut. They know your name, Jamie, and they called you. You resisted, and you brought someone with you. That's more than most could manage, son. You have got to give yourself a break." Frank tried not to lecture. Unrealistic expectations of oneself were an unfortunately frequent topic between them.
Jamie curled tightly into the safety of his dad's lap. He tried not to feel ridiculous--lap cuddles weren't rare, either with Dad or Danny, but he wasn't sure how he'd feel about Harry catching him at it.
"I'll try?" Jamie rubbed his cheek against the scratchy wool of Dad's vest. "You didn't change yet?"
"I needed to get two young men settled." Frank patted Jamie's hip. "And on that note, I'd like you to lay down before dinner."
"Mmm," Jamie agreed, yawning. "Sounds good."
He let himself be led back to his bed, and climbed under the covers when Dad held them up before tucking him in. He watched through half-lidded eyes as Dad pressed the rune combination on his footboard to resize and split the bed. His now slightly-wider-than-twin shifted toward the corner, leaving room for its twin a foot or so away. Dad shook a quilt out to cover the sheets and blankets, adding an extra pillow.
"Bring'n H'ry up?" he slurred through a jaw-cracking yawn.
"In a few minutes. I'll make sure you're warded for quiet, too, peanut. We'll let you know when to get up, okay?" Frank paused in the doorway, watching as Jamie dropped like a rock into a deep sleep.
He left the room, and only then leaned against the wall to pass a shaking hand over his face. Everything could have gone...no, he wouldn't let himself go down that road. He had two peacefully sleeping Brats safely under his roof, and they would stay that way. He started for the stairs, groaning as he realized he'd have to explain everything to Danny and Linda, as well.
Maybe Pop would make his coffee Irish?
Harry followed Jamie down the back stairs to the kitchen, fiddling with the clasps of his robe, resettling them across his chest. It didn't sit quite right over a tee. He'd grown used to British Wizarding fashion, the graceful layers of under robes and over robes. Jamie had dragged an oversized cardigan on over his T-shirt, but Harry couldn't quite get Cousin Cissa's scandalized side eye out of his head. The back hem trailed a bit on the steps, comfortingly familiar, even if everything else felt hideously foreign to him.
Jamie stepped into the kitchen, in search of someone, Harry supposed. He spotted Danny at the counter, doing something with a teapot and mugs. He turned as soon as the door swung open and crossed to them. Harry crossed his arms tightly against his middle as Danny hauled Jamie in for a strong hug...and flailed when Danny made a long arm and pulled him in, too.
"You two…" Danny trailed off to clear his throat. "You're gonna give me and Pop all kinds of gray hair, huh?"
"Not my fault." Jamie answered immediately.
Harry shifted awkwardly. What did one do with one's arms? It wasn't like...Weasley hugs (leaving out Mrs. Weasley) tended toward the very masculine back thumping, and no one else beside Hermione hugged him frequently. Like hugs from Dads, he had little frame of reference for a hug from an older brother. Hesitantly, he hugged back, letting Danny tuck him under his chin right next to Jamie.
"Not completely your fault, Squeak, but Jesus. And you."
Danny pushed him back to look him directly in the eye.
"You do not pull crap like that. Capisce?"
Harry nodded, confused as all hell, but clung anyway when Danny hauled him back in.
"I don't care whose you are, you pull that b.s. again and we're gonna have a talk about it. Standing out on the porch with just a shield? You have a death wish?" Danny scolded as he held them close.
"I was inside overpowered wards?" Harry put in, hesitant to argue back.
"Which brings me to you." Danny thumped the back of Jamie's head. "I hear you're plugging yourself straight into the wardstone again and I'm gonna cream you, forget about Pop. Am I understood?"
"Yes, Danny." Jamie answered meekly enough, but Harry caught a flicker of rolled eye.
"Good. We have company, so you two are gonna scoot into the living room and sit. I'll be right behind you. Got it?" Danny turned them loose after one last squeeze.
"Got it, Danny." Harry chorused with Jamie.
"And I mean sit. You both look like crap." Danny blew out a breath and rolled his neck. "Go on before you fall over."
"Yes, Danny." Jamie answered dutifully, snagging Harry by the wrist and tugging him out into the hall.
Harry almost ran into the back of him when he stopped short of the living room. Jamie turned, biting his lip.
Harry shrugged, "I'm not used to...this is...I...er. I don't even know."
"It's a lot when Dad and Danny both get going. And this might sound weird, but you don't feel okay. Not really." Jamie leaned against the closest wall, fiddling with the cuffs of his cardigan.
"I'm not used to being the one protected. Or anywhere close to it." Harry managed to get the words out. "Hermione's the only one at home...Charlie was, a bit, but we're really not compatible, and...I'm The Boy Who Lived Again to everyone else. Even Draco and Nev can't quite get there. But your Dad and Danny just...they don't care. I've faced the most dangerous wizards and witches in England, and they...they don't care. They see the Sub, the Brat, and I...it's the most amazing feeling in the --"
"Hey! I said go sit in the living room, not stand in the hall yammering. Was I unclear?" Danny's quiet scold cut through Harry's confession.
"No Danny. I was just--" Jamie started, stepping in front of Harry.
"No I was just, kid. Scoot, both of you. You're lucky my hands are full." Even carrying a full tray of teapot, cups, and saucers, Danny looked menacing in the dim light of the hall. The embroidered tea towel over his shoulder somehow enhanced the menace.
Jamie grabbed Harry's wrist again and towed him quickly into the living room.
Harry looked up sharply.
"Uncle Theseus?" was all he managed before he was engulfed in Theseus Scamander's arms.
At times, he'd cursed the day Charlie wrote to Uncle Newt to ask him to ask his brother to keep an eye out for Harry at his first Wizengamot session. But not now, not when Uncle Theseus cradled the back of his head in one hand, the other arm barring strongly across his back. For such an elderly wizard, he never felt frail, not like Dumbledore had. Even at 125, his arms were strong and his gait steady. He radiated a quiet, steady strength--everything would be fine.
Harry turned his face into the soft fabric of Uncle Theseus' robes and clung. He wasn't tall enough to rest his forehead on Theseus' shoulder, or tuck his face close to Theseus' neck, so he rested his ear close to Theseus' heart, the steady beat soothing to frazzled nerves. He didn't care that everyone was watching--distantly, he heard Danny set the tea tray down and the rattle of cups--he only cared that someone came for him. Just for him.
"Darling boy, we were so--your Uncle Newt is beside himself and Auntie Tina is ready to storm MACUSA again--you are uninjured?" He pushed Harry back slightly to peer down at him, brushing Harry's hair back.
"Yes, Uncle Theseus. I'm just a bit tired. I didn't mean to worry everyone." Harry heard his voice crack and twist, and nestled in to hide his face again.
In the background, he heard Danny mutter 'A bit tired, my ass. He's magically exhausted' while aggressively serving tea.
"Dear heart, I worry when Newt goes to Diagon Alley, you think I wouldn't worry about you, as well? Magical exhaustion is nothing to trifle with. Kreacher gave us what I'm sure was a highly editorialized version of events. Perhaps you and your young friend could further enlighten me?"
Despite being cuddled close, Harry felt the back of his neck prickle. He'd heard that specific tone rarely, but it always preceded a thorough scolding for Uncle Newt.
"I think context might be a longer story."
Harry startled as the Commissioner entered from his study. Uncle Theseus turned him loose, patting him toward the sofa, and claimed one of the armchairs. Harry wandered over to the sofa, not at all surprised when Danny pulled him down to sit next to him. Jamie had curled up on Danny's other side, tucked between him and the arm of the sofa. Frank passed a cup of tea to Theseus and took one for himself, sitting in the other armchair.
"Some of what happened today goes back, oh, I don't even know how far. I always thought it was just stories from my mother, but when Mary, my wife, told me a similar tale...well, it seems a bit more real," Frank began.
"There's nothing that would even hint at any of this in the histories." Theseus commented, sipping his tea. "Lovely tea, Detective Reagan. Thank you."
"That's because it wasn't talked about. Warnings were passed down on the maternal side. Women's stories don't always get written down. But, when Jamie was born, Mom and Mary both got a bit cagey." Frank stared down into his tea, swirling the cup.
"What about me?"Jamie asked, squirming to sit up.
"You resemble their sides of the family, Jamie. Even when you were a baby, your mother could see her family and Mom's so much more in you."
"Blood of Connor, blood of Reilly," Harry murmured.
"What was that, Harry?"
Harry looked up from his lap to Frank's stricken face.
"It's what they said 'blood of connor, blood of reilly, bring the lost one home'. That I was old blood but not theirs? That my power was raw, but not wild?"
"Dad?" Jamie slipped off the sofa and went to his father, dropping to his knees beside him. "What does that mean?"
Frank trailed his fingers through Jamie's hair. "There were stories," he stopped to clear his throat.
"There were stories your mother and my mother told, of doors standing open at the witching hour, one child missing from their bed, and laughter floating back on the breeze. A long time ago, the Wild Ones rode out, destroying any field and farm they could. They hated the earth tamed by iron. Almost every home had an iron horseshoe or cross over the door to keep Them out. Sometimes, though, They found a home left unprotected with only the women and children there. They raped the women, almost always leading to a child nine months later. And those women raised their children with iron in their minds. They taught them to bend the earth to their will, to ignore voices on the wind calling to them. But the Wild Ones never forgot. And when they can, now, they try to lure the lost children back to them."
Jamie leaned hard against his father's leg, worrying the fabric of his trousers between cold fingers.
"What did they mean 'old but not wild'?" he asked, breaking the silence.
"There's a little extra to your magic, Jamie. It's why you're good with animals and plants and why you had a bit more accidental magic than some." Frank carded his fingers through Jamie's hair.
"That doesn't answer what exactly went on today." Theseus cut in.
"I don't know how, but one of the standing stones was almost down. I think they were...I felt far away for part of the day, and then we wound up going to look at the stones." Jamie tried to explain.
"And when you returned home?" Theseus asked, voice gentle.
"I went to the wardstone in the basement to um, amp it up?" Jamie held up his hand, two runes burnt into the palm. "It doesn't hurt," he added quickly.
"And you, Harry?" Theseus turned to pin Harry with a Look.
"I couldn't just do nothing?" Harry tried, squirming under the scrutiny.
"Have we or have we not had this discussion several times?" Theseus' voice never lost its pleasant tone.
Harry swallowed, hard. "Erm, yes, but this seemed different? And Kreacher wound up saving the day?"
"I suppose I should be grateful you remembered, dove," Theseus sighed. "Your Uncle Newt will speak to you later. I think he has a few things he'd like to get across to you. And Miss Granger would like to remind you that you promised her you wouldn't die."
"I didn't think...I stayed within the wards?" Harry wondered if every Sub very suddenly regretted wanting a Dom in their life at some point. "And it's just magical exhaustion. Dealt with that practically every year from first to sixth. And...after."
That went over like a blast-ended skrewt at a tea party.
"Word to the wise, kid: magical exhaustion isn't normal. And it's serious. Linda's gonna check you two out later." Danny biffed him gently across the back of the head.
"Thank you for seeing to his health." Theseus answered.
"Linda, my wife, likes him, so we're keeping him healthy." Danny's lopsided grin took the sting out of his words. "Are you staying for dinner, Mr. Scamander?"
"Unfortunately, I have to be back in England shortly. It's quite late for me. I would appreciate an update, and a chance to visit at a less chaotic time?" Theseus rose, crossed to the sofa, and pressed a kiss to the crown of Harry's head. "And Harry, please promise me you'll behave? I don't know if any of us can take another middle of the night hysterical house elf."
"I'll try, Uncle Theseus. Thank you for coming."
"I will always come for you, Harry. Uncle Newt and Auntie Tina asked me to send their love, as well. And Miss Granger expects a letter when you're feeling up to it." Theseus cupped Harry's cheek briefly.
"I'll see you to the Floo, Mr. Scamander." Frank stood, hauling Jamie up with him and pointing him at the sofa. "You sit with your brother and Harry, peanut."
Jamie, cheeks pink, slunk to the sofa and curled up next to Danny again.
Theseus preceded Frank back toward the study, their voices a quiet murmur to the occupants of the living room. Hesitantly, Harry curled closer to Danny. Danny wrapped an arm around each of them and pulled them both close.
"So, is he your Top?" Danny asked.
"Not officially. He, erm, sort of keeps an eye on me? Charlie Weasley wrote to his younger brother asking him to ask Theseus to keep an eye out for me at my first Wizengamot session. He brought me home for lunch and told me to call him Uncle Theseus. He and Uncle Newt and Auntie Tina were friends with my grandparents." Harry explained. "I don't have anyone, officially."
"And the Scamanders are good to you?"
Harry bit down on a grin. Danny would never have made it in Slytherin.
"Yes, Danny. They're very good to me. And their grandson, Rolf, is married to one of my friends. They use my home and Scamander House as their bases--they travel a good deal--so I have Uncle Newt and Auntie Tina about frequently, as well."
Jamie reached across Danny and poked him, rolling his eyes at his older sibling's worry. Harry suppressed a snicker--Jamie, for all his Bambi-eyed innocence, would have done well in Slytherin. Probably they all would have been in Hufflepuff, but the thought of Snape having to cope with Reagans made him giggle.
"You two keep it up and I'm sending you back upstairs to sleep until dinner." Danny warned.
"But Danny, we're starving. " Jamie protested. "You wouldn't starve us, would you?"
"Fine," Danny muttered. "Sunroom sofa, now. You can watch TV and have a snack, but if you get rowdy, you get to explain to Linda."
"We'll be perfect!" Jamie promised fervently, slipping off the sofa and yanking Harry up as well. "And starving people need your hot chocolate and cinnamon toast."
Harry heard Danny mutter "gonna be the death of me" as Jamie towed him toward the sunroom.
"You know we should be dead right now?" Jamie asked, grinning conspiratorialy. "Like, Dad and Mr. Scamander should have just ended us."
Harry found himself grinning back. "I didn't already die only to be done in by an angry Top," he answered archly as they arranged themselves on the sofa. He couldn't think of anywhere he'd rather be at that exact moment.
3 minutes later
"And use a blanket, you're both freezing!" Danny called from the kitchen. "I'm not explaining pneumonia to Linda!"