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A Growing Family

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CHAPTER 1

A Call From an Old Friend.

 

“Hello,” said Harry answering the phone after the 3rd ring.

There was a pause before a familiar female voice said, “Hi Harry, long time no see. How’ve you been?”

Now it was Harry’s turn to pause because he suddenly recognized the voice. He slowly replied, “Wow, Annastasia. I’ve been better. How have you been?”

Again, she paused before speaking, “I’m ok. I am going to be in Chicago on business and I was hoping that I might stop by tomorrow around dinner time, if that is alright? I will even bring dinner, how about Chinese?”

“Dinner, tomorrow night, that would be really great,” stammered Harry.

“Great, then it’s a date, so to speak. I’ll see you then. Bye,” she said, then hung up.

Harry sagged down onto one of his mismatched sofas still holding the phone and staring blankly at the fireplace. He cradled the phone and eased back on the couch wondering what was going on. “Wow, Annastasia Luccio,” he softly said out loud to nobody.

He had not seen or heard from her in almost 6 years except for the occasional council meetings or other business activities. It had been hard letting her go but after they found out that she had been under a mind-control spell by a rouge wizard and high-ranking records keeper within the White Council, Samuel Peabody. She had been pushed into getting close to Harry to attempt a way to keep him under control.

Harry had felt that he may have been in love with her and was hoping to have that “let’s take the next step” conversation with her just before discovering Peabody’s spell. They officially broke off their relationship and had tried to remain friends, but it was just to difficult because he still felt love for her and he was sure that had strong feelings for him.

He sat there thinking about her for a long time. Mouse came over and nuzzled his head under one of his hands and settled comfortably on his leg. Harry gently scratched his head and behind his ears while he thought. Mouse didn’t mind his distraction.

He remembered when she was Captain of the Wardens and she had been attacked by the Corpsetaker, who had switched bodies with her hoping to use it to get inside the White Council and kill as many of the Senior Council members and Wardens as she could. She didn’t count on Harry seeing her attack and switch bodies. They fought, and Harry had killed her while in Captain Luccio’s body leaving Annastasia with a new body.

Harry remembered that she was a calm and level-headed woman who understanding of situations from a very logical perspective, sometimes went against the approval of the Council. When he had first met her, she appeared as an older woman, approx. 60 or so years old, with gray hair. She had told him that she had been born sometime in the 1812, in Florence, Italy. When the entire Tuscany area was under occupation and rule of Napoleon’s army. She had also told him that was the same year that Florence Nightingale had been born, and that they were close friends during their teen years.

He remembered her telling him that the descendants of her family still lived in Italy, in Greece, and a few in Algeria. She had told him that she had no open contact with any of them and that none knew of her. However, she had a habit of secretly looking in on them every five or six years, just because, as well as to see if any of them might be a practitioner.

He remembered how she had proudly blushed when she insinuated that she was rather promiscuous in her younger days and had even admitted that she often modeled in the nude and that several were for well-known paintings and sculptures. Harry smiled remembering how embarrassed she had been after telling him.

He quickly stood up and told Mouse that he had a lot to do before she arrived. The first thing he needed was to talk to Toot Toot. Mouse gave a soft gruff sound along with a big doggy smile. He searched the kitchen for plate and cut a large piece of cake that Charity had sent over with Grasshopper and he dropped it on the plate. Mouse had grabbed his leash and was waiting at the door for Harry.

They made the rounds so Mouse could conduct his business and then went to the small clearing in the large corpse of trees behind the old house. Harry set the plate on the ground in the center of the clearing and he and Mouse stepped back, so they wouldn’t scare the little fairy. Harry cupped his hand to his mouth and softly spoke Toot Toot’s name into the light breeze and then they waited.

It didn’t take long before a small bright twinkle of lights came bobbing their way. As it came closer you could make out the body of a young man with sparkling eyes and bushy dandelion fluff-like hair. He was about 18 inches tall and had a large set of gossamer dragonfly wings fluttering behind him. He wore a pair of Army boots and fatigues from a G.I. Joe set that Harry had given him with the pistol belt and all the equipment hanging from it. He had a small cap gun on his hip that was still a bit too big for him and a small very real metal sword with a rubber handle. He was a fairy and couldn’t touch certain metals. Harry had gotten Charity Carpenter to make it for him along with a matching shield, but he wasn’t carrying it today.

Toot Toot landed next to the plate and eyed the cake hungrily. He walked around one way and then back the other way. He flew up and hovered over it closely and looking at every inch. This seemed like it would go one for ever so Harry cleared his throat and stepped out so Toot Toot could see him.

“Are you just going to look at it or are you going to eat it,” asked Harry?

“Yipes, I didn’t see you my Lord,” he excitedly replied, “Besides, you cannot be too careful when you find a piece of delicious looking cake just sitting in the forest all alone. You never know what kind of scoundrel many be trying to do you harm.” He said this while glancing sideways at Harry. Then he turned toward Harry and asked, “Is this truly for me? What do you ask of me my Lord?”

Just then Mouse stepped out around Harry and softly woofed at Toot Toot as in saying “Hello”. He wagged his tail as the fairy bowed slightly in his direction and tilted his hat. Which caused Mouse to happily woof again. Harry smiled because of all the fairy folks, he really liked Toot Toot the best. He was genuinely nice, helpful and friendly. He was also very loyal.

He then said, “I need for you to quickly get in touch with the Brownies that have been cleaning my home and ask them to come over tonight or whenever they normally come over and do an extra special job cleaning the place up.”

Toot Toot looked at Harry with a slightly nerves look and asked, “Is my Lord not happy with the quality of cleaning that they normally do?”

Harry was shocked that he would ask that, and he replied, “No, not at all. They do a great job. Truly I couldn’t be happier, but I am expecting a very special guest over tomorrow for dinner and was hoping that they could do and really special cleaning job. Maybe leaving some flowers or something to make the air smell fresh and clean. Does that make sense?”

Toot Toot seemed to understand and broke into a big smile and asked, “Do you have a date, Harry? Who is she?”

Harry was shocked and couldn’t keep a smile from his face. He quickly said, “NO, that’s not it. Why would you ask that? It’s not like I never have a date, besides it’s none of your business.” He stammered around and them said, “You going to get with the Brownies or do I have to take this cake and throw it in the trash.”

He started to reach for the plate when he heard a little high-pitched squeal as Toot Toot quickly jumped up on the cake and pulled his sword pointing it at Harry’s hand. Toot Toot shouted, “Don’t touch the cake, my Lord. I will be glad to talk to the Brownies for you and I will personally make sure they do an extra special job for you.”

Harry smiled at the fairy’s reaction and the asked, “Also, do you know of any of the wee folk that do carpentry and building? I need someone to straighten up my kitchen cabinets and make them look a little better then they are right now.”

Toot Toot had returned his sword to his belt and said, I know of a few Gnomes that do a little building now and then. I would be glad to talk to them but what would you give them for their work?”

Harry thought for a few seconds and then said, “I will give them a complete set of new building tools along with a couple of pizzas for each group for their hard work.”

Toot Toot looked up at Harry and asked, “Will that include me, my Lord?”

Harry smiled at him and said, “There will be one whole pizza just for you, my general. But all of this work must be done before sunup tomorrow morning. Can they do it?”

Toot Toot was excitedly jumping and fluttering around, “Yes, my Lord. They can do it and I will be right there with them to make sure they get it done on time and right, too.”

Harry stood up tall and laughed. He then said, “Okay, Toot the cake is yours but then you need to get started, all right?”

“Oh yes my Lord, right away, thank you,” and with that said he dove straight into the cake like a swarm of bees. The cake seemed to suddenly disappear, and the fairy lights shot into the sky and off to the east.”

While Toot Toot was busy with his tasks, Harry took Mouse back in the apartment and went to the barber to get a trim. His hair had grown a bit too long and he had not had time to get it cut and this seemed like the perfect time. He would also stop and get some beer and a few light snacks.

Harry had gotten his hair cut and then he stopped by the store and bought a new pair of jeans and a new dress shirt. He figured he was overdue to start wearing something nice. He then stopped by Mac’s and grabbed 2 cases of his newest special brew. Mac brewed his own ale and it was the very best thing that mortals were allowed to drink, along with a few immortals. So, while he was there he had a couple for himself along with a wonderful steak sandwich.

It was well after dark when harry returned home and when he opened his door he quickly noticed a few things. First, he noticed that he huge heavy steel door didn’t rub or drag but swung smoothly and quietly open and closed. He swung if back and forth a couple times in amazement. Second, he noticed that his house smelled very different. Instead of the closed in smoky musty smell, he smelled fresh cut wood and the smell after a rain shower with a light tough of Honeysuckle and Lavender.

As he was enjoying the delightful aroma, Mister his miniature mountain lion slammed into his lags as he entered the apartment. He almost tripped and fell and had to grab the door to steady himself. He put his packages on the counter and after another trip to the car for the rest, he shut the door and then muttered an incantation that lit the candles throughout his apartment, including the fireplace. That was when he noticed several more things that were concealed by the dark.

He noticed that his kitchen had been rebuilt. It now had an L-shape to it with cabinets above and below the counter which was a butcher block style. There was a new double sink with an old-fashioned pump to one side for pumping fresh water. His ice box had been replaced with a much larger and newer looking ice box that could hold twice as much as the old one. He also had a new large wood burning stove with oven for cooking. The kitchen floor had been raised about 6 inches allowing for a step down into the living room area and on the back side of his kitchen he found a small table with 2 chairs.

He then noticed that the food dishes for Mister and Mouse had been replaced and he felt a slight magic vibration when Mister tried to eat out of Muses bowl. He probed the dishes and found that a small magic force had been put on the dishes to keep anyone except the correct animal from eating out of the dish. He should have thought of that years ago.

He walked into his living room and noticed that the floor rugs had been removed and a new thick carpet had been installed, covering the entire floor. The rugs that he had hung on the wall had all been replaced with clean new rugs, most similar to the old ones and his Star Wars poster had been framed and rehung on the wall off to the side of the fireplace.

He noticed that the old beat up couches and the chair were gone, and he now had a new big sectional couch and oversized loveseat with a beautiful wooden coffee table in the center of the room. The coffee table lifted up to act like a table, so he could sit on the sofa and eat his dinner comfortably.

All of the piles of old candle wax were gone, and dozens of new candles had taken their place. The fireplace had been scrubbed clean as had the firepit which had been repainted. There was a fresh stack of wood was in the tinderbox. Harry couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Was this his apartment? It didn’t look like it. It smelled different, it looked different, but it still felt the same which made him very happy.

He started to wonder if they had gotten into his lab, so he hurried into his bedroom and was shocked. He found that his old single bed had been changed to a bigger and longer bed that he could lay down on completely. It took up the entire side of the room from wall to wall but looked great. The room had been cleaned the same as the rest of the apartment with new clean rugs on the walls and floor.

The area covering his trapdoor had been covered as well and seemed to almost hide the door. If he hadn’t known it was there he wouldn’t have noticed it. He lifted the trapdoor and looked into the basement as the candles lit and found that nothing had been touched or moved. They had not entered his lab, good.

It was then that he heard the strangest sound he had ever heard. It was a cross between a moan, a cry and a sob. He looked around for the source and stopped something in his bathroom. As he entered the bathroom he noticed that they had reworked it too. The cabinets and sink were new and clean as was the toilet. The old tub had been replaced with a new oversized soaker tub with shower attachments. This would have been the biggest shock to Harry if he hadn’t spotted the source of the strange sound.

Crouched in the corner, as if he was trying to hide was Mouse or at least it looked a little like Mouse. Harry finally got him to come out of the bathroom into the bedroom where he could see him better and had to struggle to suppress a huge smile. They had cleaned Mouse by not only washing him giant hairy body, but they had trimmed all of his hair almost completely down to his skin. He looked like he had been shaved. He looked great but so very different from before.

He stood there with a great sad look on his face looking like he was scared and embarrassed at the same time. Harry grabbed the big guy around the head and said, “Mouse, my friend, you look great. I can’t believe that this is what you really look like. You are beautiful.” He then lifted Mouse, as best as he could and gave him a huge Mouse-hug (not a bear hug around Mouse) and rubbed his face and ears briskly. After a moment Mouse seemed to brighten up and gave him a big doggy smile along with a couple of happy sounding barks. With Mouse was feeling better they went back into the living room where Harry sat down and just looked around the room at what had been done.

Just then he heard Mouse give a little woof and heard someone say, “Yes, I do like your new haircut. It makes you like years younger and a lot thinner.” Again, Mouse gave out a happy couple of woofs and hopped around in circles as Toot Toot settled down to sit in the chair across from Harry. He asked, “Are you pleased with the job they have done, my Lord?”

Harry smiled and said, “Toot, they did a fantastic job. I thought that I had entered the wrong apartment went I came in.”

Toot Toot quickly replied, “Oh no, my Lord. This is the correct house. There is no worry about that. I made sure that they didn’t move it anywhere.”

Harry was a little surprised but remembered that almost all fairies were very literal when they spoke. He said, “Well, thank you that was very smart of you. This is a great job, the best I have ever seen. I was so surprised at all they did.” He could see Toot beaming with happiness and said, “Because you and they did such a great job, I am doubling the pizzas for you all.”

Toot Toot couldn’t restrain himself as he zipped around and around flying up and down, looking ever so like a colorful shooting star. He was giggling and making strange but happy sounds. Harry had never seen anyone so happy. He asked where he needed to deliver the pizzas for the Brownies and the Gnomes. After Toot gave him the locations, he told Toot that he would have 2 pizzas delivered to the little clearing behind the house just for him.

Again, Toot flew around happy as could be before settling in the chair and asking Harry, “Can I bring someone over to eat pizza with me, my Lord?”

Harry looked surprised at him and said, Toot, these are your pizzas, if you want to share them that is up to you. I think it is a great idea, but it is your decision.” This seemed to make Toot even happier. So, while Toot buzzed around the room, he called to Pizza Express and ordered the pizzas. The gal on the phone didn’t understand why he wanted 8 pizzas delivered to 3 different places all out in or along the woods but since he was paying that was his business.

Toot Toot buzzed around playing with Mouse for a few minutes before flying away to get ready for his pizzas. Harry didn’t realize that it gotten that late, so he took a shower and was a little surprised to find the water was warmer than normal. He went to bed and quickly fell asleep dreaming of the last few times he and Annastasia had spent together.