Title: Building the House of Cards

Author/pseudonym: Voracity

Email address: bookwrecker@yahoo.com

Rating: ::Snorts and shrugs shoulders:: R? Maybe NC-17?

Pairings: yes, there are some.

Fandom: see notes

Status: Done! The end of this duo.

Other website: http://www.e-fic.com/~voracity/

Disclaimers: do you really think you've seen me on tv promoting it? Then I'm probably not the owner, I'm only having fun. As there are various owners this time, let me make it known that asking me for money is like squeezing blood from a stone - usually not a worthwhile waste of time.

Notes: Can we say AU Crossover? I knew you could. <G> I'm doing my usual 'take a favorite character and run' thing with this one, putting a bunch of my personal faves into the HP verse. You'll see, it'll be fun and rewarding. And maybe even funny. BTW, this happens after an AU fourth year in the HP verse.

Some casting notes: Scribe and D'Nalia have agreed to appear in here. Scribe is a wonderful woman named Emilia Dorekson. D'Nalia, in line with her heritage, is a woman named Tipsy Ramvette. You'll appreciate them, both women have so far.

Summary: The former students have banded together and picked a side. Theirs. How they arranged things so that everyone was in the perfect spot.

Warnings: my sense of humor? Sweaty men? My cats helping me type?

Greg Sanders was not having a good day. He had lost his wand yesterday and couldn't find it. He was out of three of the necessary chemicals he would need to do something with his alchemy set that wasn't turning lead to gold. His boss was breathing down his neck today over a sample that he had never seen but that apparently someone had signed his name on. Stupid day-shift assholes. And now he was facing down his master, who was here to tell him bad news. "What do you mean Emilia's missing," he near-whined. "She can't be missing. If there's still people having sex in England, she can't be out of the country!"

Severus Snape did not let his amusement show at that last remark. "We have no doubt she is still in the country but earlier today she did not answer a call from the Headmaster, there was no one at her house when someone went to check, and Alexander Dumass is missing as well, no one can find him either."

"She wouldn't go for him," Greg said instantly. "He might have saved her but she said so herself. She wants someone steady who can settle down." Snape groaned and shook his head, proving to Greg that his lack of understanding was from a lack of caffeine. "Sorry." He went to his little coffee maker in the corner and poured himself some, warming it in the microwave. It was yesterdays so it'd be nasty, but it was strong enough to even help his mind when it was running in circles. When it was done, he took a sip, blinking a few times. "I thought I made new stuff yesterday," he complained, glaring at the machine. He went back to his seat with the foul brew, looking at his master again. "Is there a chance one of them is stalking Potter?"

Snape considered it. "Dumass is his great-uncle or some such. It is possible, but Emilia would not be doing that."

"No, but she might be helping Draco with his thing, or more accurately their thing," Greg pointed out calmly. Snape seemed to relax and nodded, that made sense. "Can we ask the boy if he's seen her?"

"No. Not officially. Lucius is in a snit of epic proportions at the moment." He smirked at his student. "Drink more coffee, Sanders, you seem to need it."

"Hey, if Blair hadn't kept us up last night, I wouldn't be fuzzy now," Greg reminded him. "You're the one who wanted that practice run."

"Yes, I was," Snape agreed, smiling at him. "I'll go back to the house and wait for you. Can you get off tonight?"

"I still haven't found my wand, Sir, as soon as I do I'll try to call off." Snape nodded and apparated off. "I miss my wand," Greg sighed, going back to looking through the logs for that sample. He finally found it and took the sheet to his boss, ignoring the detective waiting in the hall outside the ballistics lab. "Grissom, I found it. I didn't log it in, day-shift did," he said, handing over the pertinent sheet.

Gill frowned. "Thank you, Greg. I'm sorry." He looked at the young man. "Any good news from your school?"

"Two of our better fighters are missing, though I think I might know where they could be," he admitted. "Have you seen my wand?"

"No, I'm sorry, I haven't. When was the last time you saw it?"

"I always carry it with me these days, just in case, but I can't seem to find it at all," he said, starting to frown. "I know I had it Tuesday, before I took Catherine out to dinner, but now I can't find it." He slumped a bit. "I'll find it eventually or hope someone can fit me with a new one," he said bitterly. "I may bug out early to save the department some money unless a case comes in. I haven't had anything in two days."

"I know. It would help the budget. Thank you, Greg."

"Welcome, big man." He walked out, heading back to his lab, ignoring the detective in the halls now outside Grissom's office.

Brass walked into Grissom's office and shut the door. "War?" he asked politely. Gil smiled at him and shook his head. "That's all about some game, right? Something medieval or something like that?"

"You'd have to ask Greg that, he only shared a little bit with me," Grissom told him honestly. Then he smiled. "Did you see the new necklace he got Catherine for her birthday?"

"I did, the jade looks good on her," Brass admitted. "Would she know?"

"Possibly," Grissom agreed. "I'd ask Greg though. He won't be upset."

"Sure. Thanks." He walked out, noticing Greg wasn't in his lab. He stepped around Warrick, who was reading as he walked, and looked in the lab again, and there was Greg, with a cup of coffee from the good shop up the street. There wasn't any way he could have gotten up there and back in that short amount of time, not even driving. He decided to catalog what he knew for now, he'd face the kid down somewhere that wasn't the police station later. Cops hated strange things and this was looking to take the record for the year.


Xander Harris, aka Alexander Dumass, looked up as something, or more precisely someone, screeched beside his table. He frowned at the woman standing there staring at him. He hadn't told her whom she was meeting for lunch. "Sit," he ordered, pointing at the chair. Petunia Dursley started to sneer. "Now, grand-niece, before I swat you." She sat, giving him a cold look. "Yes, I was deaged. That should have made it back to your level of the family," he said quietly, staring her down. "As did the news that you're treating your sister's son like shit." She flinched. "I will not have it, Petunia. This is not how our family operates and it never will be. Do you hear me?" he hissed. "I am the only person who can make your life wealthy. I am also the only person keeping the assholes from your street by putting extra protections on the house. Either treat your nephew like a real human being or I'm going to cut you out of the will and out of my protection." She opened her mouth. "Remember, Petunia, you are not the last of the line, Harry is. If I fall in battle, the will says all remaining members of the family right now. Even if he falls, it's up to his will where it goes and I believe he's stated that it goes to that nice redheaded family that actually gives a damn about him. Do you get me here?"

"Why should I care about some piffling little amount of money?" she asked stiffly. "You're both wrong and should be eliminated."

"I guess you don't want your share of approximately sixty million dollars then. That's fine, I'm sure Harry will spread it around to his friend Ron's family." Her eyes narrowed. "I can even write you a nice, official letter and have it sent to your husband, all about why you're not getting it now. So straighten up or I'm going to get angry, Petunia. Your son is alive today because I helped Harry. Your son is also fat. Very, very fat. The same as your husband is, no matter how you justify it to others." He sipped his tea. "Now, go think and see me again next week and we'll talk like the family we pretend to be. Until then, do not torment the boy, do not torture the boy, and do not lock him in his room again. Also, you might try feeding him for a change. It'd be a nice one. Otherwise, I'm going to buy the mortgage on your house and foreclose on it. For starters." She was shaking as she got up and left, going to tell her husband on him. Xander sipped his tea again, he had missed this stuff. This was why he hung out with Giles so often, because he had missed his homeland. He smiled as the real person he was there to see walked in, waving him over. It could only be Bill Weasley with that hair. "Bill!" he said happily, shaking his hand. "How is Egypt?"

Bill sat down, smiling at him. "Just wonderful. We've found three new tombs in the last six months," he said happily. "How are you doing with the age thing?"

"It sucks being eighteen," Xander admitted with a cocky grin. "But being eighteen and wealthy is pretty neat. I'm liking this part of it." Bill laughed and they started telling each other stories about the job.


Greg jogged down to get the door, frowning at the man on the other side of it. "Detective Brass. Is there a problem?" he asked as he let him in.

"Is this yours?" he asked, holding up Greg's wand. Greg took it and hugged it. "I thought so." He closed the door and looked at the boy.

"Where did you find it?"

"In Catherine's hair. She said you dropped it in her car. You left before she got in."

"Oh. Thanks." He grinned at him. "It's an heirloom of sorts, from my school days."

"So I gathered. Is the vanishing thing the same?" Greg's mouth opened. "I thought I was seeing things until your jaunt out to get coffee today, kid. I want the truth. I went to bat for you with IA. You owe me."

Greg held up a finger. "Give me one second to talk with my master and I'll be right back with the answers." He jogged up to the lab, where Snape was working. "I am so busted." Snape looked alarmed. "I got caught when I apparated around recently."

"Can you trust this man?"

"Yeah, Grissom does. He's not one to take bullshit, or someone like Blair, but I trust him."

"Then be prepared to obliviate him if he doesn't take it well. Not having a Ministry around here works in your favor this time. Make sure he can not tell," Snape reminded him.

Greg nodded and walked down more calmly. He twitched his wand, whispering under his breath, making sure Brass had caught him. He forestalled the question by turning the man to face the mirror. "I turned a park bench's leg into taffy to convince Grissom," he said simply.

"I have pink rabbit ears," Brass noted, touching them with trepidation. "How did you do that?" He looked at Greg. "Can you remove them?"

Greg grinned and twitched his wand again. "Finite Incantatum." The ears returned to normal and Brass felt them both to make sure. "That's what we've been hiding from everyone."

"So you're like a warlock or something?"

"Warlocks are oathbreakers," Greg said, tramping down his irritation. "Don't believe the Hollywood bs. It's not worth it most of the time. I'm a wizard."

"A wizard," Brass said flatly. Greg nodded. "The turban?"

"An older fashion statement but I've been missing my school days." He led him into the kitchen, putting on some coffee. "Yes, I can do magic."

"Not parlor tricks and things, actual changing the nature of things?" Greg looked at him and nodded so he sat down. "Why doesn't information like this get around?"

"Because we're a secretive community," Greg told him. "Plus there's the threat of prison in some communities, like where I went to school. The prisons there would even make you feel sorry for some of the offenders. We have things that feed on all the happiness you've ever felt guarding the prisoners and there's only one prison."

"Only one? How many are there like you?" He accepted the cup. "Sugar?" Greg floated it over with his wand, handing it off. "Thanks." He paused and looked at him. "This ...hocus-pocus. Do you do it in the lab?"

"Nope," Greg said, giving him a winning smile. "I promised myself I would do it the muggle way when I signed on. I have every respect for the system. I thought I was a normal guy until I was ten." He beamed. "Then I blew up the nasty, creepy lady that used to watch me when I walked past her house."

"As in exploded?"

"No, as in blimp," he assured him. "I haven't made anything explode since my second year in Potions."

"The creepy guy in black?"

"My Potion's master, the guy who trained me to be the geek I am."

Brass sipped his coffee, feeling a lot like the one time he had been exposed to blotter acid, but he wanted to know it all. "I heard you say something about a war."

"Like all communities, we've got our bad guys. Ours are just a little worse than the average serial killer. The main one, and his army of flunkies, see guys like you as about the same as roaches, and likes to stomp on you after some torture of varying degrees. Some of the good guys, like me, are working to fight him, again."

"Oh." He took another sip. Definitely an LSD exposure. "The gold?"

"I'm an alchemist."

"Oh." He blinked a few times. "That works?"

"If you're good," Greg said with a hint of modesty, all he could manage when talking about his art. "I'm the sanctuary."

"Why Scotland? Don't we have schools here?"

"We do, but the one I was supposed to go to kinda imploded under a massive power play. So Hogwarts accepted me. I was one of the exchange students over there. Sandburg was another."

"That explains him. I thought he was odd when I met him at that convention last year."

"Yeah, he's a great guy. One of my best friends." He grinned and shrugged. "Want some aspirin?"

"Yeah, please. And some Tums if you've got it."

"I've got Fruit Rolaids," he said, pulling those down as well. He heard a pop and went to investigate, finding Xander and Draco standing in his entryway. "Welcome. Is it getting worse?"

"Lucius went nuts," Xander told him. "Draco had to run for his life because he was locked in his room." He patted the boy's back, he was shaking badly.

"Shh, kid, let's get you settled into a nice room by Professor Snape." Draco looked up, eyes wide. "Yeah, he's here. Come on, I'll lead you right to him if you want."

"He's a friend of my father's."

"No, he's not. He knows what you are and how dangerous your father is to you," Greg promised. "Lucius attacked him because he was sticking up for you making your own choices." Draco shook his head. "I promise. There is no violence in my house. Got it?" Draco made a short whimpering noise and Greg pulled him closer, looking at Xander. "Can you help me with my boss? I had to tell him, he caught me apparating at work," he said quietly. "I'm answering questions and then I was going to give him the chance to be obliviated or not." He led Draco up the stairs, to the lab. "Professor, Dumass found him. He was running."

"Good," Snape said, looking at the boy. "Lucius has definitely gone too far this time." Draco looked stunned and he looked the boy over. "Life is not always what it seems," he noted. "Put him in that one bedroom, the one with the good tub. I'm sure he'll enjoy it."

Draco pulled away. "I want to hurt him, sir. I want to hurt my father badly."

"Then you'll have to train your gifts and make him beg," Severus told him simply. "In public." Draco looked hurt. "It will be enough to start his humiliation and things will go downhill from there for him. How is your mother?"

"I don't know, I didn't see her all summer," Draco said stiffly. "Father said she went on Holiday in Greece."

"I'll write her myself then. Go rest. We will find you a suitable tutor later." Draco nodded, accepting the order. Someone was in control, that's all he needed to know. Greg led him away, and Severus hung his head, shaking his sadly. "Lucius, you fool," he muttered. Someone tapped on the door, making him look at the compact muggle standing there. "What?" he demanded.

"I wanted to talk to you," Brass told him, walking in and partially shutting the door. "I'm a proof kinda guy, being a detective and all. Bunny ears are neat, but not proof."

Snape nodded. "That is reasonable and logical."

"You're a Vulcan?" Xander teased from the doorway. "Kid?"

"The bedroom next to mine. The next floor, third door from that end," he said, pointing. "Potter?"

"I scared the bitch watching him," Xander told him. "Money works that way sometimes." He winked and walked away, going to see if he could help.

Snape looked at the muggle. "What would it take to prove it to you? A simple transfiguration? A potion? Some fireworks?"

"A transformation of something else."

Snape nodded. "Very well." He looked at the door and turned it into a trellis of poison ivy. He gave the man a look. "Satisfied?"

Brass looked at it, taking out a set of gloves to put on so he could look it over. "It's real," he said finally, looking at him. It changed back as Greg walked past. "Is that normal?"

"No. But it is sometimes fun to confuse people. You do realize you cannot tell?"

"I figured as much," Brass admitted. "Are you going to do some brainwashing?"

Greg popped his head in. "If it'd make you feel better. I was going to offer, you know?" He beamed. "Nice work with the ivy. The kid's a wreck."

"You know how his father can be. I have no doubt he's been tormenting the boy if not actually torturing him."

"What can you do to help him?" Brass asked.

"Get him trained on how to use his innate gifts," Greg said. Brass raised an eyebrow. "Remember hearing about sirens?" Brass nodded. "Draco's basically got that sort of gift. His father wants him to use it to destroy the big bad guy we're all fighting so he can take his place."

Brass thought about it. "Ask Catherine to talk to him about how to handle that sort of thing. If anyone can handle tough customers and annoying men, it's her."

"That's a brilliant idea," Greg said happily. "Thanks, Detective. Want a ride back?"

"No, I drove. That disappearing stuff looks dangerous." He nodded at Snape. "Thank you. I won't tell and I may let you take the knowledge from me if I can't stop myself from thinking about it."

"Greg will be watching."

"Yeah, if you slip up and tell, I'm gonna have to deal with your memories, they'd make me," Greg told him. "Just a little though."

"Grissom knows?"

"I had to let him know. Every once in a while he comes and asks me a question that's been bothering him. Otherwise it's like I admitted I dye my hair." He smiled and waved, disappearing again, back to the changing room at the office. He ran into someone, Nick Stokes, and had to do a spot memory erasure, but then jogged out to beg and plead at Catherine's feet for her to help Draco. He waved at Grissom as he walked past. "I didn't come in to work, I came to ask for a favor," he said as he walked past his doorway.

"Did Brass give you that thing from school?" Catherine called.

Greg backtracked, walking in and hugging her. "He did, I had been wondering where I put it."

"You mean you were going nuts," Sarah told him.

"That too," he agreed. "Catherine, if I can borrow you for a suggestion?" he asked, pouting at her. "It's not even for me. It's for a kid with a problem."

"Sure." She followed him out into the hall and back to the changing room, where Nick was still looking confused, down at his shoes. "They're tied," she told him. He looked up, shaking his head, and walked out.

"He'll make a new spot memory, he caught me popping in," Greg admitted. She frowned at him. "I only did five seconds."

"Fine, but no more. Be more careful. Find a broom closet."

"I'm going to do that tomorrow," he promised. He sat her down and looked at her. "Have you heard of the myths of sirens?" She nodded. "I know a kid who has similar power, with a few complications. The first being that if he sleeps with someone, his powers are going to destroy him and that person. The second is that his father is anxious to use him to get around his boss to be the most evil in the land. The third is that it's newly awakened and he's fifteen."

She winced. "That is a problem. What did you need me for?"

"Draco, that's the kid's name, was a bit of a stud before. He's the richest, the cutest, and on and on," he told her, sitting beside her. "Now he can't touch anyone, he has to learn how to flirt and use his attractiveness as a weapon, and basically has to be able to charm people to do what he wants them to do. Plus, he's already a manipulative and mean little thing in his own right." She nodded, getting that much. "Who do you know who could train him to do things like that? I figured you knew some pretty mercenary girls in your day."

She patted him on the side of the face. "I'll pop over after work, Greg."

He hugged her. "That was more than I dared hope for. Thank you, Catherine. And ignore him if he goes 'pureblooded' on you. It's his daddy's influence and he's a bigger bitch than Sarah on the rag." He winked and left.

She stood up, shaking her head. "I don't know how I got myself into this," she mused, going back to the meeting.

Warrick Brown stuck his head around the lockers, looking at the place where they had been. "Huh?"


Catherine looked over the boy standing in front of her, well, being held in place actually. She looked at Greg. "I doubt he'd take the lessons."

"Why do I need lessons?" Draco asked archly.

"Because you're a snot-nosed shit and you need it," Xander told him. "Let's face it, your abilities call for flirting and encouraging without the follow-through. You like the after so much you ignore the basics and you probably can't flirt to save yours or anyone else's life." He turned and punched a wall violently, making Catherine flinch. "I want this to end, now," he muttered. "No more uptight asshole making the world dangerous. I finally get myself back in order and now I'm fighting again." He looked up. "Yo, a little consideration here?" he called.

Greg looked at Catherine and shook his head. "It's frustration. We thought we had gotten rid of this problem thirteen years ago but he came back from the dead." He grinned at Xander. "Anger management classes full?"

Xander glared at him. "I've spent the last three years fighting while being helpless on the Hellmouth and now I'm going from that to this. You tell me."

"So we work faster," Greg suggested. "Preemptive strikes and the like. I bet that's where Tip Top and Emilia are right now."

"I should be with them." Greg waved. "You're sure you can handle him?" Xander asked with a glance at Draco.

"I'm sure," Greg agreed. "If we need hand-to-hand or tactical training before you get back, I've got Nick within a two-hour fly and Blair's guys in a four-hour one."

"Thanks." He grinned. "I'll make someone scream your name tonight." He bowed to Catherine. "Such a beautiful woman shouldn't have to deal with the filth that is this war, but I thank you for making my life go smoother. I can't teach the kid how to flirt to save my life." He waved his wand and disappeared with a small 'pop'.

"Wow," Catherine said, looking at Greg. "What's his story?"

"He's very powerful but someone deaged him. This is his second time being eighteen and he wasn't known for his restraint the first time." He patted Draco on the back. "Learn from her and I'll try to convince someone to put on a show for you." Draco arched an eyebrow up. "It'll help and remember what Emilia told you." He walked away, going to call Blair and tell him to watch out for Dumass. The guy really did need to learn to put others needs before his own needs. Maybe Philip should talk to him, Blair was a bit of a slut sometimes. He decided to call Blair anyway, he wanted to meet his boyfriend and Draco presented the perfect opportunity.


Emilia, consort Veela who 'helped' half of the world's leaders to calm themselves and think clearly, was glowering at the field outside the window she was facing. "I don't know how we could do that, Tipsy. Broadcasting on such a wide range could have more repercussions. I could hit anybody nearby. We might even be the cause of incest," she said glumly.

"You can't control it to an area?" Tipsy 'Tip Top' Ramvette asked.

"Not really. If I flatten it out to touch a lot of people, it'll start to bleed outside any boundaries. That's why I usually focus on small groups at the most." She smiled, remembering her last small group, a political summit that was getting out of hand. She was brought out of her thoughts by a kick to the shin. "Sorry. Happier memories."

"I understand, but between the two of us, we can wreck a lot of plans for them. Just you alone could make the big dirtbag sorry he ever existed," she hissed, her lilt getting firmer with her agitation. "We can make sure no more innocent families have to go like Neville's."

Emilia nodded. "I want to help. I don't want to get innocents. It's not fair to them." She considered it. "I can work on my control," she decided. "Or I can finally choose a mate."

Tipsy looked startled. "Really?" Emilia nodded, sipping her wine. "Who?"

Emilia gave her a smug smile. "You really have to ask?"

"Greg," she whispered, smiling at her best friend. She nodded. "Really?"

"It's always been mutual, Tipsy, but I never could risk it before. This makes it worth the risk to both of us."

"I'm sure he'd be willing to go for it right this moment. Should we run to his house in Vegas and proposition him for you?"

Emilia blushed and shook her head. "In a few days, when we've got a plan worked out." She glanced around. "I don't feel right leaving with just a note. Draco might need me."

"I sent Draco one of my Ever-Usable Keys, the type that opens any lock. I'm sure he's gotten free by now. The same as I'm sure dear little Xander has found the poor thing and hidden him, probably with Greg."

Emilia smiled gently. "I can only hope so. His father was tormenting him by forcing him to watch people having sex and then offering Draco the chance to have one of them himself. No sixteen-year-old can withstand that."

"Hey, can we practice on Lucius? Maybe reactivate your cousin?"

"She'd kill me, but she's not home right now," Emilia noted. "What would he have 'encouraged' fun with? The house elves? The poor things would be traumatized."

"The poor things can apparate and not even he can stop them," Tipsy reminded her. She heard a throat clearing and looked over as their waiter came back to bother them. "Salads?" she suggested.

"I need meat, I'm a carnivorous being," Emilia purred, making the waiter blush. "Steak?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said, starting to pant. "And a salad for your friend?"

"One with chicken pieces."

"Yes, of course," he said, rushing into the back.

"Trying to make the check less?" Tipsy asked.

"Sometimes it just flows out. I was thinking about Greg and the poor boy was built like him when he was eighteen," Emilia said, smiling at her. "I always pay my checks." She blew a kiss. "Something exploding or other pranks?"

"I've got a few ideas planned." She glanced around again. "I've also packaged up my idea and patents file for those twins, just in case someone happens to me." Emilia nodded, looking sad. "You know we have to think that way again, at least until we can get Dumass to focus his anger on thatthing." She waved her hand. "Do you think Molly will mind?"

"No," Emilia said dryly. "I doubt that she'll mind her sons turning into you at all, dear. You know how she *loves* pranks." They shared a laugh, moving onto more pleasant subjects.


Greg walked into work, looking desolate. It had been two days and there hadn't been any news from the front lines. His boss caught his arm and walked him into his office, shutting them in. "Sorry, Grissom."

"What's wrong? Did something happen?"

"Only that the women I love more than anything is still missing. I'm pretty sure she's going to pull something spectacular as a diversion but no one can find her." He looked up at him, seeing the understanding look. "I want to be there."

"I know, and I'll sign the papers to give you a sabbatical if you want," Grissom reminded him.

"That leaves night-shift deeper in the hole," Greg sighed. He slumped down a little. "Why can't I just come up with something like a chemical nuke and toss it on a meeting, blowing them all up?"

"I don't know, why can't you?" he asked, sitting behind his desk. "Would that be ethical?"

"Is it ethical to let those bastards go around killing people for fun?"

"No. But could you live with yourself if you did something like that?" Greg gave him a helpless look and a shrug, making him feel bad for the kid. "War is hell, Greg, and you might have to do things that you don't want to do to make sure things go well for your side and make sure your girlfriend is protected."

Greg snorted. "If I could date her, we'd be married by now, Grissom. She's untouchable for a really good reason." He shifted, sitting up straighter. "You remember basic mythology and the Sirenic myths?" Grissom nodded, looking interested. "She can do that same thing, only she broadcasts lust. If she touches anyone before she's ready to take them on fully as a spouse, then she loses control and a lot of people get put in danger."

"I'm sorry, Greg."

He grinned. "It's okay. I understand why she does things. I even can live with it for a while longer, but I want to be one of the ones she uses at the very least." Grissom's eyebrow went up. "You might say she can feed off the lust she inspires. One of the best things she's ever done is pick a few people toperform for her now and again."

"Ah." He nodded. "Now I get it. It's technically not against the department rules unless you're doing it for money." He smiled. "I wish you luck capturing her permanently, Greg. Now, we've still got nothing to do so far today."

"Which means you might need to send someone home early, but on-call, to spare the budget," Greg put in. "I'm your man. I'm helping Emilia's cousin Draco train."

"What's he like?"

"Think Nick while he was a frat brother, only rich, blond, and three times as arrogant."

"Oooh," he said with a wince. "I'm sorry."

"It's all right. His dad's the cause of that and he's also one of the major problems in this fight. We're training him so his father can't use him. That's why I begged and pleaded Catherine to help me."

"Good. She would probably know someone who could help that poor boy a lot. How old is he?"

"Sixteen yesterday." Grissom shuddered. "And he knows what others touching him feels like so he's having to deprive himself that way now. It's not sitting well with him. He's more of a dick recently than usual." He stood up. "I'm going to play on my computer. Since I don't need the paycheck, I'm the logical choice unless someone complains about favoritism."

"True. If we have to, you and Sarah are heading home tonight." He smiled. "Have fun with the hormone bomb."

"Oh, yeah, great fun," Greg said, rolling his eyes. But he was smiling. "How's Brass doing? He showed up on my doorstep two days ago and I was forced to tell him."

"So far he doesn't seem abnormal. Did you feed him taffy too?"

"No, I gave him pink bunny ears," Greg said before heading to his lab.

Grissom shook with laughter, that was the funniest picture he had seen all year. Maybe he'd have someone do a manipulated photo of it for him.


Harry looked up as Ron popped into his room, then sprung up to hug his friend. "You came," he said happily.

"I did, and we're going back in about twenty minutes. Pack fast." Harry pulled out his trunk and packed as fast as he could, tossing things into the trunk like they were going to disappear. Which they might. He remembered his school books last, and then grabbed his broom in his free hand since it wouldn't fit without some shoving. "Good job," Ron said, checking his watch. Five minutes left. They sat on the trunk, Harry's broom across their laps. "How was it this summer?"

"It started out like usual, and then suddenly everything changed," Harry admitted. "Suddenly they're tip-toeing around me again like last summer." He grimaced. "I don't know why."

"I do," Ron said happily. "I'll tell you when we get home." He checked his watch and held out the portkey, a large flyer for some musical his father had liked. "Take it, we've only got a minute." The door opened and Harry's Uncle was standing there. "We're leaving," he promised. "Give us a moment."

"He can stay this year," Vernon said firmly.

"No," Harry said, "I can't." He felt the portkey activate and waved. "I'll write," he said before they disappeared, trunk and all. They landed at the Burrow without the trunk. "What happened?"

"I don't know," Ron admitted. "Mum, the trunk started with us and dropped out," he called, helping Harry off the floor. "At least you have your broom."

"Yeah," Harry agreed with a smile. He grinned at Molly and Arthur as they walked in. "Why would my trunk disappear?"

"It happens sometimes," Molly said, smiling and giving him a hug. "We'll call the department over lost things and see if it dropped in there."

"Was your vault key in there?" Ron asked. Harry shook his head, lifting out his necklace to show it hanging. "Then you can buy everything else again if you have to."

"I'll need to do most of that anyway," Harry sighed. "I'm growing again." He waved at Arthur. "Hi. Who threatened my Aunt and Uncle this time?"

"Your great-uncle, Harry. He had a talk with her about her inheritance I believe," Arthur said with a smile. "Have you seen Mr. Dumass or Ms. Dorekson?"

"No," Harry said slowly. "Why? Are they missing?"

"We think they're planning a private strike," Molly assured him. "They're certainly not really gone." She hustled the boys into the kitchen to feed them.

"Mum, his uncle said he should stay," Ron told her as he sat down. She looked stunned. "Whatever that talk was about, it was strong enough to scare him."

"Do you think there'll be a problem? Will they report you as a runaway?" Arthur asked as he joined them.

"Probably not," Harry admitted. "If so, can someone warn whatever Great-Uncle that is?"

"That would be Dumass," Molly said with a smile for the stunned young man. "Don't worry, he does understand. He's not exactly had a happy second childhood." She kissed him on the top of the head. "What type of sandwiches would you boys like?"

"Anything's fine, Mrs. Weasley," Harry told her, looking at Ron.

"Do we have any of the ham left?" Ron asked hopefully.

"Of course," she agreed, smiling at her youngest son. She bustled around to get them a snack, waiting until her husband had gone to look for Harry's trunk before she sat down across from them. "Harry, there's something I need to know. Did you ask anyone to pay us a stipend to take you in?"

Harry choked on his milk, shaking his head hard. "No!" he said quickly. "I mean, if you wanted, I could pay some rent or something, but I never asked anyone to."

She waved a hand, smiling at him. "There's no need. We're used to our children having friends over and you're no problem at all," she assured him. "I simply needed to know."

"Is that what was in that gold envelope?" Ron asked. Molly nodded. "Wow. Harry?"

Harry shrugged. "I never asked. What about Dumass?"

"I think it must be," she agreed, giving him a gentle smile. "The next time you see that dear man, you tell him off for us. We don't need it."

"No, but...." Harry started. Ron kicked him under the table. "Sorry," he said with a blush, looking at the table. "I guess he doesn't want me to be a strain for you, Mrs. Weasley. You do so much for me, even listening to me when I'm having nightmares." He looked up at her. "I feel like I should give you something in return for hiding me every summer too, even when you say it's not necessary, because I feel like a burden sometimes," he explained.

"That's all right," she sighed, giving him a pat on the arm. "You're less of a problem than my own boys are; you listen, dear." Harry laughed lightly, smiling at her. "You just tell that man it's not necessary."

Ron swallowed. "Mum, if what he threatened Harry's aunt with was some sort of inheritance, doesn't Harry have to make a will?"

Harry blushed brighter red. "I already have. My parents left me some money," he reminded Ron when he looked a little hurt. "Since this war is going on, I can't exactly expect to grow up and get married. I made it last year, leaving everything in your care for whatever expenses the war would need, including buying a house to shelter any resistence movement and things like that." Ron's eyes grew really big and he started to pant. "It's not tons, like the Malfoys have, but it's a lot and I don't want to see it go to them."

"That's wonderful, Harry. If something happens, we'll try to honor your memory and do our best to use it wisely," Molly said kindly. "Are you sure you didn't want Hermione to do that?"

"I figure Ron's going to asking her for advice and I made her the second on the list if something happened to Ron," Harry said honestly. "Though I did give Ron my broom if it survives me." Ron hit him on the arm, making him wince. "Sorry, Ron."

"You shouldn't have to think about things like that," Molly sighed sadly. "I wish this hadn't restarted."

"Amen," Harry agreed, smiling at her shocked look. "I hate it more than most, Mrs. Weasley. I have to hear the git now and again in my head."

"I had forgotten about that," she admitted, giving him a hesitant smile. "We'll work on that this year, Harry. I'll pounce the Headmaster myself about getting that fixed." She stood up and gave him a short hug. "You eat, you're a growing boy and you need it." She went off to check on her daughter, thinking sad thoughts that Harry would even have to consider paying her rent for letting him come over for a few weeks. Those muggles were enough to make her prejudice against them all.

Ron looked at his best friend. "Why me?"

"Because I figure you'll be on the leading edge if something happens to me," Harry said with a shrug. "I tell you everything I know and everything I do. Who better to take my place in the line?"

"Yeah, I guess," Ron said, looking at his plate. "Harry, if you die, there's every chance Hermione and I are going to be with you," he pointed out finally. "It's not like we'd leave you to fight alone. Even if you ordered us to."

"That's why I made your mother the next after that, your dad after her, and Ginny and Bill together after them," Harry said firmly. Ron looked astonished and Harry grinned. "I trust you guys. It's not like I'd give it to Snape."

Ron broke out in giggling snorts. "I can just see his face when he gets the letter," he said between laughs. "He'd die, Harry. Simply fall over at breakfast."

Harry beamed. "Maybe we should do that anyway? Save future generations his 'tender' teaching style?"

Ron fell over, laughing so hard he couldn't breathe. "Oh, do it," he gasped. "Please?"

Ginny walked in, frowning at Ron. "Did you finally snap? Can I have your room?"

Harry smiled. "We were discussing what would happen to my money if I go during a battle. We were talking about the possibility of Snape getting hold of my trust."

She shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut. "If you approach him, can I be there under your cloak?" she pleaded. "Just to take a picture of his face?"

"Sure," Harry agreed. "Though, as it stands, Ron is going to hold it in trust, then Hermione."

"Good." She straightened up. "Don't even think about doing that to me."

"Too late, but I put you in tandem with Bill," Harry assured her. "I even went to a lawyer and had it all drawn up. The goblins have my instructions."

"I don't want it," she complained.

"Yay. It's only if I and most of your family die."

"Fine," she said, stomping outside.

Molly walked back in. "You put her on it?"

Harry looked at her and nodded. "The list goes: Ron, Hermione, you, Mr. Weasley, then Ginny and Bill together."

"Oh, my," she said, looking so stunned as she leaned against the wall. "Dear, you didn't have to," she pointed out.

"Who else was I going to give it to? Snape?" he asked dryly, grinning at her.

She blinked a few times. "I think Severus might faint if that were suggested," she agreed, then shook her head. "What about Remus?"

"The lawyer I talked to said I couldn't do that because of the stupid anti-part-human laws," he said bitterly. "Otherwise he'd be between you and Hermione."

She walked over and gave him a crushing hug. "We'll do our best to stop this awfulness if something does happen to you," she whispered, cuddling him like she would her sons. "You can trust us not to be frivolous with it." She pulled back and kissed him on the temple. "Eat."

"Yes, Mrs. Weasley." He obligingly took a bite of his sandwich, making her smile. "Am I in Ron's room again?" She nodded. "Cool."

She laughed and went to make a few calls, to share this news about. When she found Dumass in the Headmaster's office, she walked through and smacked him gently. "We do not need it! Harry is like one of my own!" she said firmly.

Xander grabbed her hands and looked at her. "Do not make me pay you more," he warned. She frowned greater. "You're doing what his natural family should have done and raising a growing teenage boy is expensive, as you very well know since I know how much Bill must have cost you." He grinned. "It's making me feel good so if you protest I'll have to cry and whine and put ads in the paper saying you're mean for not letting me pay you for his share of the food bill."

"You sent more than that boy has eaten at my house in the whole time I've known him," Molly pointed out. "We don't need it."

"If you had taken him in as a foster child, we would have paid you," Dumbledore reminded her gently. "If only to cover the necessities so you didn't have to work so hard and you could devote more time to the boy, Molly. If you argue, you're going to hurt Harry's feelings. You know how sensitive he is."

"Yes, he agreed that he thinks he should be paying us rent or some such," she said angrily. "I want him taken away from those muggles, Albus. They've made him make a will!"

"Really?" Xander asked, letting her go free. She nodded, her lips pressed together. "Who did he leave everything to?"

"My son Ron and on down the family if Ron dies," she said bitterly. "I don't like it, Albus. The boy feels like he's being a bother and he knows he's not."

"He's a young man, Molly, and his Aunt has always made him feel like a house elf. Of course he feels that way," Xander said quietly. She looked at him and he shrugged. "I did threaten her to make sure she started treating him better."

"They complained and said they wanted to keep him," Molly said angrily. "You might want to have another talk with them."

"I'll do so tonight," Xander said with a friendly smile. "Relax. Harry and I both come from backgrounds where visitors were not encouraged. Let us at least pay for his room and board, that way you don't have to make your husband work harder to make ends meet. Trust me, I am a growing boy and I spent about sixty galleons this month alone on groceries." He could tell she was silently fuming. "Then consider it a way of making sure he can come over next summer," he suggested, trying to keep her calm. "An emergency bit to help in case the family is attacked or in case Harry's aunt and uncle get fussy next year." She relaxed slightly. "I wasn't trying to insult you and neither was Harry, but you do a lot for the boy and we're only trying to be fair to you. You are the only mother he knows, Mrs. Weasley. That makes you his foster mother and we're going to follow those guidelines for helping you with his upkeep."

"But surely you need it," she complained.

He laughed. "Mrs. Weasley, I was on salary for ten years before I stared on commission, the way Bill just did. I made ten percent of everything I found. I have a vault complex." She sat down suddenly. "I have no need of that much money and you need to be able to feed Harry. The boy is too small for his age due to chronic starvation, he's got some problems that only a *decent* parent can straighten out, and you're it right now. He trusts you. You're not taking advantage of him. We both want you to have it. As a matter of fact, I'm going to transfer some more funds into Harry's vault this afternoon to make sure he can buy this year's clothes."

"He's got a good sized account now," Dumbledore offered.

Xander looked at him. "Yay! This is my fun! Butt out!" He looked at Molly, who was smiling like she had caught him. "Okay, so I'm spoiling him, and by giving you money it allows you to spoil him for me. It's not like I think we'd really get along. For that matter, I'm not even sure the family house is still standing. There's so much I've got to check into. One of my former bosses was handling things for me as I found out earlier today."

She calmed herself. "Fine. I will accept it, but you will start sending reasonable amounts. There was no need to pay us that much for a few summer's worth of spoiling the boy with attention."

Xander shrugged. "I think it's worth it. A mother's love is priceless, especially when you've never had it."

She suddenly stood up and hugged him. "I'm sorry your second childhood wasn't as nice as your first, Alex. You are welcome at my house."

He patted her on the back. "That's okay. I'm relearning myself and I'm having bouts of roaming anger at the moment. I'd hate to have to blow up your garden." She smiled and patted him gently. "Just take care of Harry for me. I'll handle Petunia." She nodded. "Good. How is he?"

"He wasn't starved this time, which was amazing," Molly reported. She looked at Albus. "He's still seeing *him* in his head. We'll need to work on that."

Xander frowned. "Huh?"

"The curse that backfired tainted him, they're linked," Dumbledore said quietly.

Alex stood up and stared down the headmaster. "You will not use my nephew as a tool, Albus. I will not allow it. He is a young boy, not a trained warrior. If you want one of those, I am one of those and I have access to a Slayer and Rosenburg. Merlin knows we've fought so many battles we're seasoned veterans now. I won't let you use the kids, no matter how often they do it on their own."

"I wasn't planning on it," Dumbledore said gently. "Do calm down." The door slammed open and Snape walked in with Draco. "Ah! You're back." He looked at the boy. "How are you feeling?"

"Horrible," Draco said bitterly. "My father figured out who had me. He sent an owl."

Xander smirked at him. "Let Philip and I talk with your dear father," he snarled. "The man has been waiting too long to feel my foot up his ass again." He nodded at Molly. "Tell my nephew I said to be careful." He stormed out, going to do something about this. First though, he went to stop Petunia before she reported the boy to the police. Vernon's office was usually closed this time of day and he did so want to talk to his niece's husband. He apparated there, startling him so much he spilled his drink down his front. "Vernon Dursley," he said, crossing his arms. "The husband of my grand-niece Petunia. The reason my great-nephew is malnourished and underweight." The man blanched and started to stutter. "Save it," he snapped. The man shut up. "I will say this once. Harry is where I want him for right now. He will be staying with the Weasleys for the rest of this summer and whenever he wants. They are his real family as far as I'm concerned. You will never starve the boy and force him to write letters for food again." He glared at the door when he heard footsteps. "Remember this talk, Dursley. Harry is loved by many people, especially me now that I know he's still living."

"Where were you when he was dropped on our doorstep?" he sneered.

"Deaged. I'm only eighteen again and I doubt anyone wanted him to grow up in America with me." Vernon went pale. "Yes, we can do that. That's why I, who am supposed to be about seventy, am now eighteen. I'm the baby of the family in more ways than one. A menopause baby actually. Very blessed and very powerful. If I *ever* find proof that you're the reason Harry's so small, or the reason he needs glasses, or even if I find out you're the reason he aches most mornings when he wakes up, you will be seeing me again." He waved and was gone.

Vernon slumped down for a moment, then called his wife. "I don't like your relatives," he announced when she answered. "Yes, here! In my office, threatening me! Fine. No, let him be. I don't want more trouble right now. At least he's not under our feet." He hung up and went to open the door, glaring at the woman standing on the other side. "Who're you?" he demanded.

"Marcia Owlfeather, head engineer of Cyclops Oil," she said, holding out a hand. "Family problems?"

"My nephew," he said bitterly. "He lies and the rest of his family is believing him over our obvious care of him." He let her inside, arranging his thoughts so he wouldn't lose this sale. He must have misread the request for a meeting, he had thought he was meeting a man. Who would have thought a woman was an engineer?


Greg looked up as the familiar 'pop' noise heralded someone apparating in. They weren't in his office, where he had a target set up, they were out in the halls. He grabbed his wand and stuck his head out, pulling back when he saw their backs were turned to him. Black robes, silver masks. He took a deep breath, but he was shaking. Defense was not his area. "Think!" he hissed at himself. He started by lowering his blinds quietly, following it by moving into a shadowy corner. He couldn't apparate into Grissom's office, he was too rattled. He took another deep breath, peeking out to see them looking in his direction down the halls. He saw a few of his coworkers looking at them too. "Shit!" he decided. He waited until they had passed, then snuck out of his office, going around through the garage. There was a back hallway that connected there to the morgue. He made it around the loop and looked out, shaking his head when he saw the doctor starting toward the door. He waved at him to stay put, then glanced again. They were nearer to Grissom's office than he was. He had left a portkey in there in case anything happened. The doctor held up his emergency beeper and Greg shook his head quickly. That would just get some good cops dead quickly. He saw Nick Stokes enter the hall and winced. "No!" he groaned. Apparently it was loud enough, Nick heard him. He motioned for him to go hide, pointing behind him. Nick went into the next office, and Greg watched as the two Death Eaters walked down the hall, toward the break room.

He sprinted for Grissom's office, which was of course locked. The rattling of the knob alerted them and he took off running, hoping they'd follow him instead of going after his coworkers. He passed Brass. "Don't get in their way," he ordered as he ran past him. "Move them! Now!" He ran into the chest of one who apparated in front of him and ducked down, skidding around him and back into the lab area. He grabbed Nick as he passed, pushing both of them into a lab. "Don't go out there," he panted. He looked outside.

"Who are they?" Nick asked impatiently. "They look like some geeks playing role playing games."

Greg laughed bitterly. "I dare you to say that to their faces after they try to kill me," he told him. He noticed Warrick reaching for the phone. "Don't, they'll get anyone in their way. Just stay in here until I'm gone, they're gone, and Grissom can tell you what went on." He looked outside, they were right out there. "Calm down, Greg. Now is the time for calm. Now is the time to move. Now is the time to try and get out of the building so they can't hurt anyone else," he told himself, trying to calm down. He felt he could try an apparation, flinching when he noticed the doorknob heating up. "I'm going, we'll talk later. Hide, now," he ordered, straightening up and closing his eyes. He pictured the front hallway of the station and made it halfway there when he felt the hex coming his way. He ended the apparation and ducked out of the way, raising his wand. "I don't want to fight," he called. He ducked out and had to move his head quickly, they were marching up to hall toward him. He started a mirror going, something to deflect their spells back at them, and got ready to run again. This was not his area. "Why didn't I do better in Defense?" he groaned. He felt someone grab him and fought against him, kicking Brass before he realized who he was. "Sorry," he said when he was restrained and his wand was taken from his hand. "They're gone?"

"They disappeared, just like you do," Brass said quietly. He nodded at Grissom to let him go. "Who were they?"

"The bad guys," Greg said, going weak in the knees. He was helped into the break room and sat down, facing them. "They're the people I've been running from since the year I graduated. They want what I can do," he told Brass. "That little experiment I have in my lab."

Nick walked in with Catherine. "What was that?" he demanded. "It looked like geeks playing tag but Greg said they were trying to kill him."

"They've been trying since I graduated, Nick," Greg sighed, holding his head. "I thought I had eluded them."

"Could you buying the house have tipped them off?" Brass asked. "You've been visible recently."

"More likely Draco, the kid I'm helping train, was the trigger for that attack," Greg said, forcing himself to sit up. He noticed the doctor coming their way. "Grissom, can you explain? I really want a drink."

"Go home," he encouraged. Greg nodded and stood up. "Do you want someone to drive you? You're still shaking."

"I know, but I can do it. A long drive might help and I can get away from people," Greg pointed out. "They won't bother to stop for anyone standing in their way."

"Is that why you told me not to call someone?" the doctor asked from the doorway. Greg looked at him and nodded. "That's fine. How long will this last?"

Greg shrugged. "I don't know," he admitted. "All I know is that I need to get away from everyone, in case they come back for a second try." He walked out, getting all the way to his lab before another one appeared. He could tell by the body this one wasn't one of the flunkies. He wasn't that muscular and he was holding himself different. He stopped dead, staring at him. "Go away. You won't hurt my coworkers."

"How quaint, you stick up for them," the voice sneered.

"Lucius, how unnice to see you," Greg sneered back. "Leave, now. These people have weapons you can't stop. No matter what you can do." He felt his wand be handed to him and gripped it tightly. "Clear the halls," he ordered. "This is between us." He felt everyone back up, but he could tell Warrick was in a nearby office. He could hear him talking to Sarah. She would stay out of the way but Warrick might try to help him. "Go away, Lucius. Before I have to do something that will make us both sorry."

"I doubt you have it in you," he said, raising his wand. "The Great One wants you, Gregory, inferior though you are." Greg's glare got hotter and he laughed. "Does that bother you?"

"No. The fact that you're willing to give your son to a pedophile does though," Greg said dryly. He attacked, using the most common curse he could think of, actually the only one he could think of. "Engorgio!" Lucius ducked it and Greg ran again, wincing as he was caught by Warrick and put behind him. "Hide," he said, moving him out of the way. The curse that had been going to hit Warrick hit him instead, making him fall to the ground with a shriek of pain.

Philip Callahan appeared. "Lucius," he sneered. "You never did learn. You don't take on a single Bane, you take on all of us at once. I'd leave before the rest of us get here."

Lucius laughed. "Why? Are you going to fight me, you pathetic do-gooder?" He flicked his wand at him but a violent force knocked into his back, sending him sprawling to the ground.

"Never *EVER* touch one of us again," Tipsy shouted, kicking him. She hexed him, making him scream as his skin bubbled like acid had been poured on it. "Leave, Lucius, before the one of us who became an auror comes and arrests you." She let him go, watching as he disappeared.

"Someone help him," Sarah demanded, pointing at Greg.

Philip knelt beside him, carefully undoing the curse. Greg clutched to him. "Shh, it's all right, we heard," he whispered. "We're here. Tipsy and I have it and he's gone."

"My house," Greg groaned. "Snape, Draco."

Tipsy walked over and pulled Greg up to hug him. "I went there first, sweetie, it's all right," she promised. "They're heading back to the school and Emilia's heading to his side." He nodded, passing out in her arms. She looked at all the faces. "Damn it, why can't you guys stay out of fights? I hate erasing memories!"

"Some of us know some of it," Brass said as gently as he ever did. That made Philip look at him. "Tell me and I'll pass along the *official* version." Philip nodded, changing his clothes back to his habit.

"You're a priest," Grissom said, frowning. "I didn't even consider that might be an option."

Philip looked at him, then smiled. "You'd be Grissom?" he asked. He nodded, smirking. "Greg said a lot about you. Do you have an office?"

"Shouldn't he be going to the hospital?" Nick asked, Warrick nodding along with that suggestion.

"And tell them what? A pain curse hit him and he's having aftershocks?" Philip asked. Nick looked confused. "It's all right, I'll explain as much as I can to ya. Let me talk to everyone else first and then I'll answer questions."

"Right this way, Father," Grissom said, leading him to his office. He noticed the signs of tampering and hit himself on the forehead. "His portkey thing."

Philip nodded. "Most likely. Greg's not great at personal transportation." He followed them in and shut the door, telling them exactly what that had been, down to who Lucius was.


Greg was helped into the Headmaster's office and was allowed to fall into a chair and curl up. "He was attacked," Tipsy reported. Someone behind the door gasped and she looked at him. "Good, you did make it," she told Draco. "It was your father." She turned to look at the Headmaster again. "He'll need to be hidden."

"I have to go back, they need me," Greg told her. Everyone stared at him. "I'm the only person there who can do my job. It's only Lucius who's stupid enough to try and take me from the station." He forced himself to sit up. "I simply have to prove Lucius is an idiot and then move on with my life."

"That's nearly impossible," Snape said as he walked up the stairs. "He's even now ranting about you." He gave Greg an affectionate touch to the top of the head. "You'll have to hide."

"And I repeat, I'm the only one there who can do what I do," Greg said more firmly. "Without me, they're really short, backlogged, and people worse than Lucius will get away. I *have* to go back. I simply need to fix Lucius first." He looked around. "I thought you said Emilia was heading this way?"

"She, um, stopped off to deal with Lucius herself, I think," Tipsy admitted, grinning at him. "Something about making him sorry by making him screw a few house elves."

Greg burst out laughing, pulling her over to hold on like his sanity depended on it. "I love you guys," he assured her.

Blair bounced in. "I felt but I couldn't get out of the class fast enough. What happened?" He pulled Tipsy off Greg so he could get his own hug. "Did the blonde carpet muncher try for you again?" he asked in his most soothing Guide voice. Greg nodded, allowing himself to calm down. "Then we'll simply have to make Lucius very, very sorry," he promised, looking over at Draco. "You want to help, kid?"

"Do you think it's going to be that easy?" Draco asked in his most condescending voice. "No one gets close to my father, not even my mother and me."

"You'll soon find you can broadcast from a few feet away," Tipsy informed him stiffly. "Why don't we put Greg into a bed so he can take a collapse nap, then we'll figure out how best to use everybody."

"On it," Blair agreed, helping Greg up. "Where, Headmaster?"

"Slytherin," Snape said firmly. "The current password is Shrivelfig." Blair nodded and helped his friend, talking quietly to him as they walked. He looked at Draco as soon as they were out of range. "You're being childish," he reprimanded.

"You know my father," Draco countered calmly. "Not even I can get that close to him, not even if I go along with his schemes. He does not allow people into his personal space."

"Who said I wanna be that close to him?" Tipsy argued, frowning at the boy. "I don't really want to get beyond crossbow range, but I will if it means he stops."

"If that does happen," a calmer voice said as it walked up the stairs. "I think we can deal with the newest head of the house," Xander said, looking at Draco as soon as he walked in. "You called for a power booster?" he asked Tipsy, smiling at her. "It's like I've adopted you guys some days."

She giggled and hugged him. "We're usually pretty glad of it. Did you get everything settled?"

"The family house was torn down due to a fire sixteen years ago," he said with a shrug. "The insurance settlement was put into my vaults. Harry's *adoring* relatives are going to leave him the fuck alone until I say otherwise, under penalty of losing their house to me. Harry's bank account was beefed back up again and a large box of chocolates was sent to the boys so they could get hyper." He smiled at Snape. "I think Emilia may have headed there instead of here. I felt her leave the island."

"You're that tied in?" Draco asked.

Xander looked at him and nodded. "Yuppers." He beamed at the boy. "You're still a snot-nosed brat, Draco; try to impress people for once by being mature." He looked at the Headmaster again. "Is Greg all right? I've never seen Emilia that pissed. I only caught a glimpse of her face before she left."

"He's fine," Snape assured him. "Napping down in the house. I'm sure you can get in, you always did break the lock spells whenever you forgot the passwords." He looked at Draco. "Go settle in."

Xander coughed. "I can feel Emilia again. She must be on her way here. Draco, you can show her where they are." The boy nodded, leaving the adults alone. "Are you sure he can handle it?" he asked bluntly.

"No," Snape admitted, "but he needs the training anyway, before we do something drastic and force a spouse on him." He smiled cruelly and walked after his student, going to make sure he followed orders.

"As long as it's not Harry or Ron," Xander called after him.


Detective Brass looked up as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, putting down his small glass of whiskey. "Incoming," he said quietly, nodding at the hall and the figure in robes he could see coming their way.

Grissom stood up and went to the door, looking her over. "Greg's no longer here, he's on vacation," he said firmly.

She stopped to look at him, her head tipping off to the side. "He's marked you as a friend. Where is he?" Grissom gave her a look but didn't say anything. She gathered her energy around herself, starting to affect him. "Tell me where my pookie is or else," she warned.

"Chill," Catherine said from behind her. "Some people who seemed to like him a lot have him. Called themselves Banes?" She felt the energy dissipate. "Thank you." She held out her hand. "Catherine Willows."

"Emilia Dorekson."

"Greg mentioned you," Grissom admitted, shaking her hand as well. "Father Philip warned us that some of the people who showed up the first two times were stupid enough to try again."

She hugged him. "You're Grissom." He nodded, patting her awkwardly. "Good." She stormed off, making all the men in the building fall to their knees and start panting as the strong wave of lust washed over them. All but Grissom and Brass.

"Wow," Catherine said, looking at them. "You guys are strong. Even I felt that." She handed over a file. "For you." She left, going to lock herself in a lab away from every man in the precinct.

Grissom went back to his seat. "That's Greg's adored one," he told Brass.

"I noticed the pookie comment," he said, shaking his head to clear it. "Did she do what I thought she did?" Grissom nodded, finishing his drink. "Huh. He likes them stronger than he is?"

"They're old friends, they went to school together," Grissom said as he read the report.


Emilia stormed up to the Slytherin house door, pounding on it. "Let me the fuck in or no one's getting any in the UK tonight!" she called. Draco opened the door and pointed at the stairs. "Thank you, cousin." She stormed up there and kicked in Greg's door, startling him. "Twice?"

"Stupid idiots and then Lucius," Greg admitted, holding out his arms. "Can you at least hug me?"

She pulled something from her pocket and drank it quickly, then slid in next to him to hold him. "You can have more than that," she promised. "I liked Grissom, he seemed really nice and decent."

"He's a bit odd but we work well together," he said with a faint smile. "Wanna go back with me?"


"I have to go back soon."

"Then I'll finish making Lucius sorry." He rolled his head to look at her. "He was yelling at his wife for broadcasting when I left. Of course, he was buried up to the root in her at the time. She was protesting and reminded him she couldn't act against him. He stormed out after that and went to fuck a tree instead. Or that statue in the back yard, one of the two," she said lightly. "Narci and I had a short discussion. She tried to yell at me for doing that and I told her why I had. She shuddered and agreed she would back off. You're mine, Gregory, and no one, not even that one, may hurt you. Never again." He nodded, comforted by her words. "Hell, I'll even give up my toys for you."

"I won't make you do anything," he swore.

She kissed him gently. "Shut up." He smiled at her. "You rest, Greg, let me handle all this," she soothed, stroking his back. He nodded, settling in on her stomach to nap. "You're a wonderful wizard," she murmured, making him smile. "Lucius is going to be sorry he forgot his earlier lessons."

"Emilia, please don't get killed," he begged.

"I won't," she promised. She continued to whisper to him about what she wanted to do, sending him into a peaceful nap.


Xander looked around then at the boy pretending to be him. "Two days," he agreed, smiling at him. The boy needed to head home for a wedding and Xander wouldn't dare keep him. The boy hugged him and left, leaving him on that stupid hellmouth. At least the magic wasn't blinding him anymore. He did a small floating spell, smiling when it still worked with almost no interference. He looked to his left as a figure appeared, then on his right when another appeared. "Good evening, Father, Blair. What's up?"

"You adopted us?" Blair asked, smirking at him.

Xander shrugged. "I've got to hang with someone and I like you guys. Did you mind?"

"Nah," Philip said, walking closer. "But if you're one of us, you've got to be initiated." He smirked at Blair. "We'll have to fix that tonight."

"We will," Blair agreed, winking at Xander. He rolled up his sleeves to show off the marks. "Each of us have one of these, the one on our left arm touches the other's. The one on our right arm is a stiff proclamation of what we are." Xander nodded. "Are there any tattoo shops in town? We can lay in the spells tonight."

"It's an ancient power," Philip continued. "It feels dark but it's all in how you use it."

Xander touched Blair's marks, frowning when he felt the power. He stepped back, his wand in hand. "You're not Sandburg." He started to notice things. Blair was altogether too still. He wasn't moving at all. Philip was standing with a fighter's stance. "You're not the Banes," he said calmly, ready to fight.

Blair looked at Philip. "He caught on quick," he said snidely, canceling the illusion. "Ahh, poor boy is confused," he mocked. "Dumass, all little again."

Xander snorted. "You know nothing," he sneered, looking at the other one. "You too. Drop it so I know what I'm fighting." Philip dropped his illusion, becoming another minion. "Fun time?" he suggested, raising his wand.

"What is going on here?" Buffy said loudly. "Xander? That stake's pretty pitiful."

"Buffy, they're not vampires. Go away," he said calmly.

"Huh? Of course they're vampires, they're out here at this time of night," she countered, walking up beside him. "Why are they wearing nightgowns?"

"They're wizards," Xander sighed. He flicked his wand at her. "Leave, Buffy, go find Giles and bring him back here." She nodded, the compulsion working on her. He rolled his eyes. "Slayers," he said with a mean grin. They took a step back. "Come on, let's dance," he snarled, casting the first spell.

Buffy shook herself free, looking confused. She looked back at Xander and caught him casting something. "Maybe I do want Giles here," she decided, running off. Xander didn't do magic. There was something very wrong going on. She pounded on Giles' door, eyes wide when he opened it. "Xander's using a weak stake-looking thing to cast magic," she told him. "He tried to do a vampy compel thing to make me get you. He's in the park off Main."

"We'll figure out what is going on," Giles agreed, grabbing his jacket with his stake in it to follow her out.

Willow, who had been sitting on the couch, follow silently, frowning. "Why does Xander have a wand?" she muttered.

They came up on the fight and found one person on the ground, another fighting with Xander and losing. Xander shouted 'ha!' and "Bollocks Ascende!" making the man fall to his knees crying in pain. "Serves you right to take me on," Xander sneered.

Willow clapped, walking around the stunned duo. "Nice one. I didn't know sending someone's ...those back up would hurt like that, Xander." He grinned at her and brushed his hair off his sweaty forehead.

"Um, explanations?" Buffy asked, raising a hand.

"Yes, I believe we should all hear one," Giles said firmly, glaring at the boy. "Why are you using magic? You've never so much as dabbled with the dark arts before." He looked the boy over, seeing how he stood, how confident and assured he looked, and mentally sighed. "He's gone over fully," he announced. "Willow, bind him."

"No," Xander said, walking closer. He stopped just shy of five feet away from the Watcher. "I've been using magic longer than you've been alive, Giles."

"Xander, you're barely eighteen," Willow said gently, her face showing her sorrow. "Magic can warp you, it says so in the books. We'll help you refind yourself. Give me the wand."

Xander snapped. "Impedimentia!" he cast, sticking her in place. He held up his wand when Buffy moved closer. "All I did was stick her like a statue. It's easily fixed but she and you will listen, Buffy Summers. No, I am not the Xander Harris you knew. My name is Alexander Dumass."

"Didn't he write the Three Musketeers?" Buffy asked Giles. Giles frowned and nodded. "Stealing a new name too?"

Xander grinned his usual goofy grin. "He was a cousin, a squib, but a pretty nice guy to the family. We were both named after an uncle of ours. His name has one 's' and mine has two." He stroked his wand. "This is my wand. I'm a wizard, Buffy." Giles hissed. "Oh, shut up," he said dryly. Giles flinched. "My name is Alexander Dumass, top scholar in Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, also tops in Charms. I am also known as the Breaker or the Curse Breaker because that was my job before I was caught in a curse and deaged to the age of five and stuck here for my own protection." Willow made a protesting noise. He looked at her. "Sorry, Wills, but that playing in the sandbox in the park the day before school started was an implanted memory. Dumbledore messed in your head so I'd have someone to talk to." He looked back at Giles, ignoring Buffy for now. "I know very well you've heard of me, I found myself in one of your Chronicles, and the result of that fight."

"Is that true?" Buffy asked calmly.

Giles looked at the boy. "There is such an entry," he admitted. "This can't be him though."

"Why? Because I look different? That picture wasn't me, it was my brother-in-law, Laurence."

"Hold on, before we go any farther," Buffy started, trying to think. "You're different, Xander. You're not tripping over your feet, you're calm and not bouncing and you just fought. What gives?"

"What gave was the protection that was laid over me. Giles had a hand in keeping it over me," Xander said smoothly, glaring at him. "To put it like the people who helped me, it was like I was wearing a costume of myself. My body and my memories were fighting each other." He smiled at her. "I'm actually known for my sword-work, my dancing, and my whoring days," he said bluntly.

Giles shook his head. "This can't be. There are no charms to deage someone."

"No, but there are curses," someone said as they uncovered themselves, appearing out of nowhere it seemed.

"Father," Xander said, smiling at him. "I just fought someone who tried to look like you." He pointed at the last thug that he had knocked down. "Or was he trying to be Sandburg?" he said, thinking back. "I think he was trying to be Sandburg." He looked at him. "Where did you find an invisibility cloak? I've been looking for one most of my adult life!" he whined.

Philip grinned, patting him on the back. "In Vegas. It was the only one they had." He winked at him. "Unfreeze your friend and I'll let you use it to spy on Greg and Emilia."

"Good, they're together," he said, nodding his like of that arrangement. "Lucius?"

"Is presently having relations with a statue. Unfreeze Willow."

"Fine. I was only trying to protect myself." He unfroze her and moved the both of them out of her way. She reoriented and he put up a shield, stopping her spell to steal his wand. "That's why." He froze her again, this time with the leg locker hex. "Now that we've had that fun," he announced, looking at Buffy. "You look like you're confused," he said mildly.

"You're a priest," she told Philip. "You guys use magic?"

Philip gave her one of his nearly patented gentle smiles. "I'm the same as Xander is, Buffy, a wizard. To us, this is our fundamental nature, no matter what other calling we are given in life."

"To us, the magic is part of our being," Xander explained, hoping she would get it. "For Willow, it's like an external force she can wield. For us it's like our blood and our skin. That's why one of us will always beat one like Willow if we know what she is. We can sever her links to the magic and save ourselves a lot of trouble."

"Father," Giles said. "The Church allows this?"

"Who're you to question the Church?" Xander countered, getting between them. He could see the anger in Giles' eyes. "You who helped stick that stupid protection on me, the one that drew so many creatures here and nearly got me killed many times. You who helped Buffy see that we're all wrong," he spat. "I am not a freak, thank you, no matter what you think." Giles backed up a step. "I am a man, Giles, the same as you are. Only I'm slightly different because my body is in itself a power-point of immense possibilities."

"Whoa!" Buffy said, getting between them. "Speak to me, you can vent on him later. I'm the one you have to worry about. Like you said, you can deal with his magic, mine's a better ass kicking waiting to happen, Xander. Or are you something else?"

He looked down at her, looking sad. "I've been Xander since I was deaged," he said quietly. "I stood by you even though I knew it was my life at stake, with my abilities taken from me by selfish people. If you want to doubt, that's fine. I won't send the person filling in for me back." He turned and looked at Philip. "Want to get a pint?"

"The Broomstick's closed," Philip said gently. Xander shrugged. "Then we'll go have a few. You can tell me what those two wanted." He pulled his own wand, making Buffy and Giles both flinch. "Your surrogate, does he have an illusion?" Xander nodded, looking calm but angry. "Then we'll handle that. Head back to the school. I'll fix this."

"Watch out for Willow. She's been being a power user recently." He glared at Giles. "If you ever need me and not the person I sent to fill in, tell me." He waved his wand and disappeared, going to the house in Vegas to check on it first. He found someone sitting in the dark and looked at them. "Shit," he said suddenly. "Lucius, how unpleasant to see you." He gripped his wand tighter and his second one slipped into his other hand. "Get out. Greg didn't invite you in."

Lucius stood up. "Contrary to what you've been fighting I am not a vampire," Lucius said smoothly.

"Bet me," Xander snorted. "You suck like a dementor, that makes you a vampire in my book and makes you fair game to attack." He felt someone familiar popping in. "Out, Philip," he ordered. "Lucius and I need to have a talk." Philip disappeared, going for someone close by. It didn't have the feel of a long distance apparation. "Shall we?" he asked, bowing slightly to him.

Lucius sneered and raised his own wand. "I came to talk, not to fight."

"Pity, because I don't talk to ghouls or vampires. You have nothing I want to hear. Now leave or we'll dance."

"That's a lie, I've seen you talking to a few vampires," Lucius laughed and lowered his wand slightly. "My Master can give you power like you've only dreamed, Dumass. He can give you the power to rule a town like your new hometown."

"I have all the power I want, need, or desire," Xander countered. "He has nothing for me." Lucius smirked at him. "Listen, fuckwad, I've got the only key to the vault in Stonehenge. I don't need or want more power. I have at my fingertips all the power of the world whenever I want to use it." He backed up a step. "That's what this is about," he said calmly, understanding now. "I'm not opening it for him, Lucius. You can't make me. It has to be done by my own free will. No curses, no Imperious, nothing like that will allow it to open through me and you can't give me a good enough reason to open the vault so he can have Merlin's staff."

Lucius laughed again, longer this time. "Not even your precious nephew and the Weasleys?"

"If you've ever met my nephew, you'd know he was stronger than you and he'll protect the Weasleys to his death. If you haven't, I'll be happy to introduce you so you can see you're following the wrong party. He is much stronger than your bitchy and whiny ghoul can ever be," he sneered. "My nephew was given the will to reshape the world to fit himself and he has the power to do it. Why would he let you destroy that which helps him with his goals?"

"Your nephew, or should I say your son?" he asked with a smirk. "Is even now sleeping the sleep of the heavily bespelled. There is nothing you can do to save him, save giving my Master the staff." He stepped closer. "Or you could give it to me and my son in return for yours."

Xander kicked him in the stomach, then hexed him with a more ancient version of the Cruciatus, something he had learned from the tombs in Egypt. Lucius screamed, holding his body like it was coming apart. Xander leaned down to get into his face. "If you've hurt Harry, I'm taking your son as mine," he sneered. "Think what a veela of his nature can do in *my* hands," he sneered. He grabbed the man and apparated them back to The Three Broomsticks. "Madam Rosemerta!" he screamed. "Call an auror! Harry's under attack at the Weasleys!" She came running, as did her guest that night. He handed over Lucius after binding him, but without taking off the pain spell, then went to call the Headmaster. "Check the Burrow," he said in a deadly quiet voice. "Lucius seems to think that they're all under a sleep geas. He wants what I can free from under Stonehenge." He looked back at Lucius. "For acting against my family, I start the Rights of Reparation."

"NO!" Lucius shouted, struggling to get free. "You will not have him!" he said.

Xander kicked him in the back of the head. "Shut up, you whiny ponce!" Someone came through the fire and stopped him, making him glare at them instead. "Get off, Severus. Now." The arms around him were removed and he saw the man's fear, probably not something anyone saw in his eyes. "The man thinks he's hurt my family. How very wrong he is." He kicked Lucius again, this time in the nuts. "If my *nephew* is hurt, I'm taking everything of his. Harry is the last pure one in my line, it is legal by the standards of the wizarding laws." He flashed off, heading to the Burrow. Complete silence. "Hello?" he called. He heard movement and headed that way, meeting one of the boys in the hall, Percy he thought. "Wake everyone else up."

"Why?" he asked, looking like he was confused. He yawned. "It's the middle of the night, Mr. Dumass."

"Because Lucius Malfoy has decided that he's put a sleep spell on all of you. We need to know if it's happened and warn your family, then ward your house," Xander said calmly. Percy's eyes went wide and he headed for his parent's bedroom. He came out, shaking his head. "No, what, Weasley? Are they gone?" Percy nodded quickly, sliding down a wall to sit and whimper. "Get up! Now is not the time for that. Which rooms are occupied? Check them all! I'm getting help here now." He went to the fireplace and opened it, sending out to someone who could help. "Professor Methos, we've got a fucking bad situation. Potter may be missing. Lucius was sneering that he had them all under sleep geas." Methos slowly put down his beer, not saying anything when some slopped on his hand. "We need you now, sir."

"I'm coming," he said simply, cutting the connection.

Xander looked around as Percy came down, now dressed in a sweater and a pair of shoes along with his pajama bottoms. "Anyone?"

"Ginny," he said weakly. "She won't wake up."

"Then take her and go to the school. Go only to the school. Get someone to call in the rest of the Banes, they'll protect you all." Percy nodded, running back up the stairs. Xander paced, watching as the boy took his sister away. He took a deep breath, then lifted his head. "FUCK THEM!" he shouted. Someone clapped and he spun to look at Nick Boyle. "They're mostly gone. I found Percy awake and he found the daughter, who wouldn't wake. Everyone else is gone."

"Then we'll hunt," he said simply, shrugging. "Where was Lucius?"

"I left him with Madam Rosemerta and in a lot of pain." They apparated there, landing behind the auror. "Let him go for a minute," he ordered. The man flinched and backed away from him. "Lucius," he asked in his best 'nice and sweet' voice. "Where are they? Where did you take them?"

Lucius glared at him. "I'd rather kiss a dementor," he said coolly.

"You've already forfeited your son, do you want to forfeit the rest of your family?" Xander sneered, crossing his arms. "We can push for that as well." Nick looked at him. "Harry's my nephew, the last in my line," he said calmly. "They've got all the Weasleys but that girl and Percy."

"And Bill," Madam Rosemerta said. "He's asleep upstairs drunk." She spit on Lucius. "At least he won't use your son and give him to someone."

"I could have destroyed the Dark Lord," Lucius sneered. "You're keeping him in power, Dumass."

"No, I'm keeping you out of power, Malfoy," Xander said coldly, making him flinch. "Since I think you're the greater evil, why would I bother helping you? I can defeat the Dark Lord easier." He tilted his chin up. "Last chance."

Lucius grabbed the auror's wand and pointed it at himself. "Never. Avada Kedavra!" He fell over dead.

"Well, blast," the auror said, sounding disappointed. "We could have learned a lot from him." He glared at Xander. "You could have let us push him!"

"You can trap his spirit and make him do your bidding," Nick reminded him. "Do it that way." The auror blanched. "What? I work with the Legacy, I've seen six or seven of those recently. Get the asshole in charge to do that." He looked at Dumass. "What do you want to do?"

"Go find Bill, wake him up and get him up to the school. I'm going to see if I can find Harry."

"By yourself?"

"Yup." He started to move but Nick caught him so he looked at him. "What? I've been fighting a lot longer than you, Mr. Boyle."

"Yeah, but going by yourself is suicide. Let us help."

"I've already called in an older friend. He'll help," Xander assured him. "Guard the family, guard my new prize, and I'll see you later." He walked out into the night, disappearing to where he could feel another shining light of power. "Professor," he said, clasping hands with him. "We've got Ginny, Percy, and Bill, but he's drunk. Boyle's watching them. Lucius refused to tell me where they're being kept."

"We can do a blood calling," Methos pointed out, pulling a knife. "Give some." Xander took it and slit the side of his forearm, watching as it bled onto the small brass plate Methos had pulled out his pack. A piece of lodestone was dropped into it and it pointed to their right, South. "We'll go in fifty mile increments so we don't overshoot." Xander nodded and let him lead the way. He was much more calm at the moment. Xander would get to wear out his rage soon enough. No one touched his family.


Nick stormed into the school, looking around. Draco and Snape were standing there waiting on him. "We're in deep shit, Dumass is off his rocker."

"After being stuck on a hellmouth away from everything he considered important, I'm not surprised," Philip said as he walked down to join them. "What's going on?"

"Bill's being carted up soon. He was drinking with a few of his friends. The rest of the family's still MIA. He called Professor Methos."

"He's the best, Nick. He's been fighting for centuries. He understands this sort of anger," Philip pointed out. "Anything else?"

"Dumass is claiming Right of Reparation." He looked at Draco. "You for his great-nephew."

"That's not an even trade," Snape said quietly, looking at Draco.

"What Right of Reparation?" Draco asked.

Snape cleared his throat. "It is an older law. It allows wizards who have been badly wronged and who think they cannot get fair retribution any other way to take something of equal value from the person who wronged them. In most cases, it was used in cases of death." He looked at Nick. "Draco is a son, not a great-nephew."

"Dumass said Harry was the last of his line, maybe he's counting on that."

"Or possibly," Blair said as he popped his head around a corner, "there is a closer relationship there that we don't know about." He grinned and hopped down the stairs, stopping a few from the bottom so he could lean on the railing. "At least we know he won't hurt Draco and he'll keep him under control."

"I'm not going anywhere!" Draco said hotly.

"Kid, your father committed suicide tonight instead of being arrested," Nick said gently. "Dumass will protect you."

"I will not go with that nancy boy ponce!" Draco shouted.

Blair twitched a finger in his ear. "You even sound like that vampire that came for the reunion, Spike, wasn't it?"

Nick nodded. "He surprised me. One of us actually got turned?"

Snape smirked at them. "You think that's humorous, he came from the same town as Dumass and didn't know he was a wizard. Not only that, but the vampire has been neutralized so he has to help the Slayer there." He grabbed Draco before he could move. "There will be an arbitrator coming soon, you should get ready and calm yourself."

"Fuck calming myself!" he shouted. "You're selling me to him to make him shut up about my father! Let him tell the fucking world, see if I care!"

"At least he's not threatening you or anyone else," Snape pointed out delicately. Draco glared at him and stomped off. He rolled his eyes. "Teenagers," he said in disgust.

"This could be the best thing that ever happened to the kid," Blair said gently, patting him on the shoulder. "Just think, Dumass will make sure he's trained and he will have to protect him, even from Voldie." He winked and grinned. "Plus, I think they'd make a really cute couple." He finished coming down the last few steps. "Is Greg up yet? He and Emilia can shelter the kid and negotiate on his behalf."

"I'm wondering if his mother is still alive," Nick said quietly, glancing around. "Is there any way to check?"

Greg came running, running into Nick before he could stop. "Why was Draco sobbing?" he demanded.

"Dumass' nephew was taken, along with most of the Weasleys," Blair told him. "So Xander demanded the Right of Reparation."

"Huh? A son does not equal a great-nephew."

"No, but both boys are the ends of their lines," Snape pointed out, liking Nick's reasoning for now, unless Blair was correct in his assumption. "Are you up to going to see if his mother is alive?"

Greg nodded. "Sure. Let me finish getting dressed." He jogged off again, going to put on something different. If he had anything in that room. If not, he'd go in his work clothes, he was neat enough probably. When he was done, he went to where they could hear Draco crying, tapping gently. "Hey." Draco opened the door, giving him a hopeful look. "I'm going to get your mother. What's the floo?"

"Malfoy Manor, Main Hall," Draco said quietly, wiping his face off. "Is it real? Can he do that to me?"

Greg forced the boy to look up at him. "He can," he said quietly, "and he might, but he might also have your best interests at heart, Draco. Dumass won't put up with shit if you go by his reputation, but he also won't put up with you being helpless and undefended. He was a Slytherin like yourself for most of his life, until he was resorted, so he'll understand a lot more than most people you could have aligned yourself with. Plus, Dumass has money. A lot of money if what he was hinting was true." He messed the blond hair up further. "Being what you are means that you should be used to considering mates based on political and monetary power. Consider him."

"He's not pure," Draco said firmly.

"Actually, he is," Greg refuted. "He was James Potter's grandfather's brother. They were pure. Yes, it'd be different because you'd be the lesser party in any relationship, but you'd also be the pampered one. Xander seems to be a fusser, someone who likes to take care of others. All his lovers have said so." He gave him a hesitant smile. "You get cleaned up. He's out hunting down the Weasley family and his nephew." Draco blanched. "Do you know something that could help?"

"Most likely Father would have hidden them near the house. Somewhere he wouldn't have to travel very far to get to." He swallowed. "My mother's in danger."

"That's the other reason I'm going. You stay here and talk with Emilia. She's really good at calming hysterical people." Draco nodded, heading into the room Greg had been using, and he headed for the house floo. He found the pot of powder and tossed a handful in, walking in once it was green. "Malfoy Manor, Main Hall," he said firmly, closing his eyes. He spun off, landing with a thump a few seconds later. He opened his eyes and saw the person with the sword. "I am Gregory Sanders, personal apprentice to Professor Snape," he announced. The sword wavered. "Someone's called Reparation and Payment on Lucius. I need to speak to Narcissa."

The guard shook his head. "She's indisposed."

"Her son's about to be forfeited. I think she'll want to know. Besides, Lucius did something and Draco thinks the people are coming here to look for his latest victims." The guard blanched and ran off, so he found the pot of floo powder here. A stunning blonde woman walked in and he nodded. "Narcissa."

"Gregory. What's this about Lucius and his victims?" she asked calmly, but her hands were shaking.

"Lucius bespelled and kidnaped most of the Weasley clan and Harry Potter. His Great-Uncle's on his way to look for him. Draco thinks he's stashed them close by, and this would be the first logical place to rip apart." She nodded, closing her eyes and swallowing. "Sit, Narcissa. There's news that hasn't reached you yet." She let him help her to a seat and sit beside her. "Narci, Lucius committed suicide earlier so he wouldn't be arrested. He went after me, he went after Dumass like a dumbass. Dumass, in retaliation for his nephew being taken, called in the Rule of Reparation and demanded Draco." She shook her head slowly. He nodded. "They're both the ends of the line, Narci. We're pretty sure he means it. Your son needs you, not your cousin Emilia. I've been asked to bring you back to the school."

"Why would he do that? They're not equivalent," she whispered.

"There's two theories. The end of the lines theory, and Blair Sandburg's that he's not his great-uncle, but somewhat closer in line to him." She touched the scars on her forearms. "We knew it was necessary," he whispered, touching them with her. "We know what he did to you. Now Severus wants you there. I have the feeling he's going to protect you himself. Plus, you'll need to negotiate with Dumass. The guy's on a rip."

She stood up. "Let me get a few things."

"Narcissa, they could be here any moment."

She looked at him. "I'm already packed, I only have to gather my things and shrink them." She hurried off, going to do just that. She added in all the vault keys, her husband's will that she had rewritten for him, and the large family jewelry cases. They were shrunken down into her purse and then she left, taking her bodyguard with her. They flooed back to the school, meeting the Headmaster. She nodded at him. "My son needs me?"

"He does," he said gravely. "I have to ask; did you know, Narcissa Malfoy?"

"Not of this tragedy," she answered simply. "I only hear things after they happened." She looked over as her son was led in by Blair. "Son."

"Mother," he said, rushing over to hug her. "Don't let them."

"Hush," she ordered. "We will do whatever we can. For now, show me to your room, we'll stay together. I fear the house won't stand up to their anger." She let him lead her away, flinching when she walked through the Slytherin doorway.

"Mother, weren't you one?" Draco asked.

She shook her head, smiling sadly. "No, my son, I wasn't. I was a Gryffindor." He flinched and she patted him gently on the back. "There is much I have to let you in on now that he is gone." Draco nodded and led her up to his room, letting her settle onto his personal bed while he took one of the other ones.


Xander found the blockage for the cave, feeling it magically to find the cracks. "I found the way in," he announced. "Step back." He pulled his wand and concentrated on the crack. "Sever," he hissed. The rock split and fell to the side. He felt the force field and sighed. "This is really strong. Can you tell if it's built on their energy? I don't want to hurt them."

Methos gently moved the young man aside. "You're tired, let me help," he noted when the boy looked at him. He touched the shield and smiled, finding the release easily. The shield fell, and he could hear grumbling noises. "It was keyed to the sleep spell." He walked the boy back, looking at the family laid out on the stone slabs. "What did he want?"

"Merlin's staff." Methos looked at him. "I'm one of the few who can get it," he reminded the immortal Defense teacher. "It takes someone of mine or Bill Weasley's category and skill to open that tomb at all." He walked over to where Ron and Harry were lying curled up together, shaking Harry awake first. The boy blinked at him. "Good evening. Wouldn't you rather be in a bed?"

"I am," Harry complained.

"No, you're not," Methos assured him. "You're on a sacrificial stone. The person who put you here is dead." Arthur woke up and looked at him, then silently counted heads. "Bill, Ginny, and your son Percy are at the school and safe. Lucius is no more."

Arthur shook Molly, then went to wake everyone else. He smiled when Ron batted at his hands, but continued until his son woke up. He looked at Xander, then at Methos. "Why?"

Xander looked at him. "Merlin's Staff," he said simply.

"But it takes a curse breaker of great skill...." Harry started, trailing off when he realized who he was talking to. "Did you give it to him?"

Xander gave him a gentle smile. "No, Harry, I gave him pain and agony, a kick to the back of the head, and watched as he A-K'd himself so he wouldn't be arrested," Xander said quietly. "Now let's go back to the school." Everyone nodded and he let Methos lead the way. Once everyone was out, he tracked the image he could feel. There was a hidden chamber somewhere.

"Aren't you coming?" Ron asked from the entryway.

"I can feel something's off in here," Xander said absently, continuing. He had the wall but the exact spot was off. There was a separate trigger and moving part. He cast the charm to let him know which trigger it used and smiled, it was an older one. "Open," he hissed in Swedish. The door slid open and Ron gasped, walking over to look at the pile of things. "I think we've found the majority of the Malfoy treasures," he said dryly. "Plus three restricted magical artifacts. Arthur?" he called, bringing him running. "Maybe you should call someone. I'm not touching the Challis of the Damned for anyone."

Arthur looked at the silver goblet with emeralds studding the rim. "Ron, don't touch it," he warned, heading to call someone to get that thing. It was a forbidden artifact and had been stolen from the Ministry's vaults two years ago.

Ron nudged Xander. "Does that work pay well?" he asked.

Xander grinned at him. "You start off on regular salary, which sucks monkey butts, but if you get good enough you can request to be put on commission. The problem is that you'll have dry spells. Of course, I made about eighty billion over my career. I spent a lot of it too," he said with a grin. "You would not believe how much it costs to rent a prostitute in Cairo fifteen years ago. The Muslims do not like that trade in the least."

"Wow," Ron said, eyes bugging. "But Bill...."

"Bill's just went to commission status," Xander said, patting him on the back. "It's exciting work and you get to do a lot of traveling, especially if you're willing to do underwater stuff, that was just opening up as a field when I was deaged, but you'll never own more than three suitcases full of anything, excluding your official traveling supplies like your tent and your jeep. You'll want either a partner or a spouse before you go and make sure they want to do the same thing, or to keep a house without you for ten months out of the year. Otherwise, the goblins only like to screw you over a little bit, no worse than haggling for herbs."

Bill walked in, squinting a bit. "I hate the Suddenly Sober charm," he noted, smiling at Dumass. "It's a great thing you created, but it's hell on a body."

"That's what you get for drinking so hard," Xander said with a grin. "Ron wanted to know how I found this area."

"You get a feel for it," Bill assured him, patting him on the back. "Okay, I need my special gloves and a number of carrying cases." He looked at his father and the people that had come to get him. "I'm not touching that without having the proper equipment. I've already handled enough unholy nasties in my life."

"Wow," Ron said, still looking stunned. "Like every year?"

"You can ask him about it later," Arthur said, dragging his youngest son with him. "Come, Xander. I think you should probably escort the rest of us back to the school."

"Yeah, I probably should. Since Lucius stole my nephew, I declared reparation on him and stole Draco."

"Why?" Ron asked, looking confused. "Who'd want him?"

"You'd be surprised. The boy's a majorly hot thing," Xander offered. "He needs a personality adjustment, but I think six months with Buffy should cure that." He grinned suddenly. "I just torched most of my life in Sunnydale tonight," he admitted. "Two attackers and I used magic. Got caught by the Slayer and her Watcher." Arthur gave him a small smile and a pat on the back. "Hey, that means I only have to look at vampires if I want to," he said happily, bouncing down the halls. "Oh, beloved!" he called mockingly. Narcissa came out of Slytherin and put a hand in the middle of his chest to stop him. He kissed her on the cheek. "I'll make sure you're well-taken care of if they take the family's money for what I found hidden behind the Weasleys."

"What did you find?" Draco asked, still looking sick and disturbed.

"The Challis of the Damned for starters," Ron said enthusiastically. "Xander, do you think you and Bill could figure out if I'm cut out for that sort of thing?"

Xander messed his hair up. "Sure, Ron. I'd love to. Tomorrow?" Ron nodded, smiling happily. "Then go to bed. I'm guessing most of your family is in Gryffindor right now." Ron jogged away and he smiled at Narcissa. "I stunned him by finding your husband's hidey-hole without magic."

"I see." She pulled herself up. "My son is not equal to your great-nephew." He grimaced and her eyes lit up. "Really?"

Xander groaned. "Do not say that out loud. Do you know how many people would shit bricks if they found out? Besides, they are both the ends of the lines and I'm one of the few that can make sure your son's safe."

Methos walked up behind them. "If not, I can take him with me for a bit. There's nothing like living in Paris full time to make one feel puny and unnecessary to the world." Draco shuddered, clutching his mother's arm. "Or you, Narcissa, if you'd like to leave. I'll help you set yourself up there in a grand villa or in the city if you want."

She nodded. "I would like that," she agreed, looking at her son. Then she looked at Xander. "What would you plan on doing with him?"

"Well, first I'd knock down that arrogance to a tasteful level," Xander said dryly. "Six months on the Hellmouth should about do it. The current Slayer's a peach." He grinned. "I'd also make sure he finished school, got his training, and figured out what he wanted to be when he finishes growing up. I would not force myself on him, nor would I allow him to be corrupted and taken like you were." She inclined her head at that. "Finally, if Harry survives all this, I'd let him go once he was twenty-one if he wanted to." He looked at Draco. "If this does happen, you'll have your own bedroom and a personal house elf. You will not be permitted into my bedrooms unless I say so."

"Plural?" Methos asked with a sense of tolerant fondness.

Xander looked at him. "I don't have sex in my personal bed unless I plan on having that person for a very long time. All my dalliances happen in other rooms." He looked at Draco. "You'll find I'm reasonable, being two years older than you right now, but I won't put up with hysterics or anything like that."

Draco shook his head. "No. I won't go. I'll kill myself first." His mother slapped him, making him hang his head. "Mother," he pleaded.

She tipped his face up. "Draco, this may well be the best way to protect you from your father's friends. Do you want to take the Mark?" He shook his head quickly. "Then calm yourself." She looked at Xander. "We will answer you tomorrow." She led her son back into the house and firmly shut the door.

"I guess I'm going to my room tonight," Xander sighed, looking at Methos. "Do you have a bunking space?"

"Not really, but I'm sure I can find a bed," he said smoothly.

"Well, technically, the bed I'm heading to isn't mine, but it's roomy." Methos laughed and let himself be led. It had been a long time since anyone had touched him and he had heard wonderful things about that young man.


Snape stormed down to Xander's room and banged on the painting, making them open up. "Do stop that caterwauling," he demanded. "Some of us would appreciate being able to sleep tonight!"

Xander looked back at Methos, who was looking amused. "Who said it was us?" he snorted. "I have quiet sex, thank you. Besides, Methos isn't that loud either."

"Have you thought it might be your beloved apprentice," Methos suggested dryly. "His new woman is enough to make many a man wail."

Snape stormed off, going to quiet them down too. He found Draco whining in his sleep, acting like he was trying to reach someone. He found Emilia howling with pleasure and Greg threw a hex his way when he tried to get them to stop. He decided he should retreat for the moment, he could chastise them over breakfast.

"Gee, Greg, I didn't know you two were *that* close," Emilia teased when he pulled himself back up to face her for a kiss.

Greg shuddered. "If you allude to that again, I'm going to lose my lunch and my lust, Emilia. He's like my big brother!"

"Shh." She kissed him gently, making him smile. Then she rolled so she was on top of him, straddling his hips. "I'm sorry I gave you nasty thoughts, Greg. You're a wonderful wizard and more than man enough for me and three others like me."

"All I need is you," he promised, cuddling her tightly. "Now, when did you want to finish this? I'm willing to wait as long as you are before I plunge myself into you and formally make you mine."

She smiled, leaning down to kiss him on the tip of the nose. "I know you are, but if you don't break that last barrier soon I'm going to go insane," she whispered. He grinned and moved his fingers to touch her, making her wiggle. "Greg, I mean it."

He rolled them over, putting her under him. "However and whenever you want," he promised gently.

She smiled. "Now, Greg. Please?"

He laughed and licked her neck as he slowly slid into her. "Deep breath," he whispered. She took one and he finished it, making her squeal as he finished sinking into her. "How's that?"

"I like that," she admitted. "I'd like it more if you'd move a bit, just to let me get used to it."

He grinned. "All you ever have to do is ask." He pulled back so he could do this the right way. Severus was going to be pissed in the morning because he wasn't going to be getting any sleep.


Philip looked at Nick, who was still half-asleep, then at Professor Methos, who was nodding off. Then he looked at Xander, who was all but bouncing. "Nick, how's Derek?" he asked.

"Fine. Grumpy but fine. You pulled me out of bed and he hates that," he said with a slight grin. "How's your house and the translations?"

"Going well enough," Philip admitted with a faint smile. "I'm sorry I did that to you."

"Not a problem. I was needed here. I can always go shag Derek." He grinned and winked at Methos, who was looking their way. "Have you ever met my lover, Derek Rayne?"

"Once or twice," he admitted. "He's in possession of a few of my favorite things. We've had words about me getting them back." He sipped his coffee, something he had brought up so the house elves would be able to make it for him. He had forgotten how efficient those creatures could be. Maybe he'd try to talk one into coming back with him. He looked at Philip. "How are the books going?"

"Not well," Philip admitted. "Two of them are in some sort of code."

Xander leaned closer. "We used to have a code key lying around the Watcher's house," Xander admitted. "It was the DuLac Cross or something like that." Philip and Nick both winced. "Sorry, Spike found it for his Dru-pookie." He looked over as Harry and Ron came in talking to Ginny.

"What is the real story?" Nick whispered. "Blair thinks he's your kid."

Xander looked at him, looking amused. "Not even."

"Oh, come on, you like us. There's not many secrets between the Banes, Xander. It makes us weaker. Since you've all but adopted us and asked for admission, I'm sure you'd fit in."

Harry sat down across from Xander, giving him a hopeful smile. "Can you talk to Ron and me both about what you used to do? It sounds really neat."

"I can," Xander agreed, giving him a smile. "Relax, Harry, you've still got family. Not that I knew your father, but I did know your grandfather and about three generations of cousins."

"Cool," Ron said happily. "You guys had a big family?" Xander nodded. "What happened?"

"A plague," Xander said with a diffident shrug, though you could tell he was uneasy discussing it. "It got most of us. All but myself, one cousin, and Harry's grandmother in the entire family."

"I'm sorry," Harry whispered, looking at his plate. Xander forced his face up. "Can you tell me about some of the family? Dad wasn't much of a diary keeper."

"Sure," Xander said, softening up to the boy. He understood the boy's desire for a family. He had felt it himself when he was younger. "I've got my photo albums stored, Harry. It's mostly from my later life, but I have a few pictures of your grandmother and a few of your dad when he was younger. We'll look through them together." Harry nodded. "I wish the family house had survived. There was a three-hundred-foot hallway built specifically for the portraits."

"What happened to it?" Ron asked.

"It burned about sixteen years ago. Supposedly a lightening strike. The goblins didn't say anything else. Though one of them did let slip that something was going on at the house before that." He looked over as Greg and Emilia walked in, smiling at them. "They are adorable together. Even their hairs match very well. Hers is the color of the undertone in his." He smiled at Ron. "They've been waiting a long time and it's nice to see that sometimes things do work out all right."

Snape stomped over, glaring at him. "The Headmaster overheard you wondering about your house. He said to come talk to him after breakfast." He sneered at the boys. "I'm sure you can find something constructive to do."

"Bill said he'd talk to us about being a curse breaker," Ron told him, smiling happily. "It sounds pretty neat, don'tcha think?"

"I do not," Snape said firmly. "It sounds like a lot of traveling and many sweaty nights."

"Not if we can get Nick to teach the boys how to SCUBA dive," Xander put in, grinning at him. "Underwater explorations were just getting hot when I left."

"They're still hot," Ginny told him. "Bill was mentioning it when he was talking to his boss through the floo this morning." She looked at Ron. "He said I might even have what it takes."

"You're a girl," Ron snorted.

"The toughest curse breaker I've ever met was a girl," Xander told him, staring him down. "Not to mention most of the really powerful people I've ever met have been girls. Girls can kick guys' asses and get away with it. Especially sisters." Ginny giggled. "Never underestimate her, Ron."

"Sure," Ron said, frowning at his sister. "It's dangerous and sweaty."

"Yeah, and it's not here," Ginny pointed out.

"No fighting," Philip said, falling back on his experience as a teacher at a Catholic boarding school. "Eat." They nodded and pulled food onto their plates. "You too, Xander." He grinned but ate as well. "Thank you." He looked at Nick. "You as well. Derek would hurt me if I let you waste away."

"Yes, Father Philip," Nick said in a high falsetto, earning a kick under the table. "Ow!" he complained playfully.

"Remember, I will get you someday, I'm very patient that way," Philip pointed out, glaring at his best friend.

"Yes, dear," Nick said, blowing a kiss. "I'll behave before you have to tell Derek on me. He might have to spank me this time."

"I'll tell Sloan on you and make him spank you," Philip countered.

"Philip, I'm trying to eat here," Nick pointed out as he dropped his fork. "That was the most disgusting thought I've had in nearly a year."

Philip smiled. "Next time, behave."

"Yes, Philip," Nick agreed, doing his best to sound meek. "Please don't gross Sloan and me out by making him physically punish me."

"Fine, as long as you're a good boy, Nick," Philip said as he dug into his eggs.

Methos looked at Nick, noticing the naughty look he was giving Philip. Then the look Philip was giving Nick. He decided he didn't want to get between them. They might upset him and make him spill his coffee. He finished it and looked down at Xander, who grinned and winked at him. "Up for a spar?" he asked.

"I'm due to talk with the Headmaster and get my head bitten off," Xander told him. "This afternoon?"

"Perfect. We'll go in your practice space?"

"I'd rather go outside. I haven't used my foil in a long time," he sighed, sounding wistful.

"We can arrange that, but I'd prefer some heavier weapons training," Methos said delicately. Xander pulled his present weapon off his back and put it on the table. "Impressive," he agreed. "After lunch." He stood up, taking the coffee with him. "Potter, meet me after we spar to test you in Defense," he ordered as he walked past the boys. Harry stiffened but didn't say anything, earning him points in Methos' book.

"He's a really good teacher, but never take him for a morning class," Xander advised with a boyish grin. "He does not like mornings."

"Did he do any of yours?" Ginny asked.

He nodded. "He left at the end of my first year. The guy who tutored me through the rest of it died about twenty years ago." He looked at Philip. "Didn't the Prof. teach you guys for a bit after that happened?"

Nick swallowed his current bite of muffin. "We got him for about a half-year," he told the boys. "He's right, never have a morning class with him. We did and Philip and he nearly got into a few fist fights over it." Philip kicked him again. "You did," he said with a smirk. "You were pretty wild back then, Philip. I almost didn't recognize you when we met up again."

"I recognized you," Philip countered. "You were runnin' your mouth about a car engine." Nick laughed, leaning over to hug him. "Eat, you'll need it." He pulled back, smiling at the boys. "What are your plans for today?"

"We're going to talk to Xander and Bill about being a curse breaker, to see if it's feasible," Harry told him.

"Yeah, I'm figuring if we have to, we can contract out together as a pair," Ron added. Harry grinned at him. "We get on well and I already know you snore."

"*I* snore?" Harry asked.

Ginny giggled. "I see you've heard him too." Her big brother glared at her. "Oh, give it up. You snore worse than Bill does." Ron rolled his eyes and buttered his scone. "Philip, why did you become a priest? If that's not too personal?"

"I felt I was called," Philip said simply. "I was in my first year of languages at University and I woke up one morning knowing I was in the wrong area. I talked to my family's priest that weekend and he agreed, I make a good priest."

"I'm sure you do," Harry agreed, "but don't you feel...conflicted or anything?" he asked.

Philip gave him a smile. "Life is struggle, Harry. The fight to do the right thing. The fight to not take the easy path. The fight to get up some mornings when your life's gone wrong. The fight between my beliefs and my nature isn't that big. I made my choice once and I'll have to make it again some day, after the war is over with."

"Philip, if they force you out, Derek has always said you've got a place at the house," Nick said quietly. Philip gave him a smile and a pat on the hand. "Or you could ask to come back here and teach Runes. The present teacher was griping about dealing with students."

"I guess I could," Philip agreed, giving him another pat on the hand. "I'll set fire to that bridge when I'm ready to run across it, not before." Nick smiled. "For now, I want to go for a fly. I haven't flown in ages."

"Harry's got a firebolt," Ron told them.

"Well," Philip said, smiling at them. "That's a fast broom. Are you any good? Ron praised you to the skies when I asked him about the current teams during the reunion."

Harry blushed. "A lot of people say I'm very good, even better than my father," he admitted. "I manage to catch the snitch most times, unless I'm unconscious."

"Does that happen a lot?" Xander asked.

"Only from attacks and things like that," Ron told him. "Three or four times now."

Xander grimaced at Harry. "And I thought I was bad as a keeper."

Harry beamed. "We should play a pick-up game, Uncle Xander."

Xander grinned. "Sure. I'll need to find a broom, but I'm sure we can do that." He winked. "You're a neat kid, I like that in a relative." Harry chuckled, lightening up a lot. "Man, I've got to take you to Sunnydale with me once, if the stupid situation is over with. You and Buffy would probably either become best friends or hate each other on first contact." He grinned at Ron. "And I know you'd enjoy the place. There's so many hidden artifacts in town it could keep even me busy. I only found about seven hundred things in the last four years and that was in the cemeteries alone."

"Wow," Ron said, his mouth falling open. "Why are there so many things hidden there?"

"The Hellmouth covers a lot of things. You'd be surprised. Speaking of which, I should tell Bill about a few of them. I'd rather not have them lying around there where any neutered vamp can find them." He looked toward the door. "Think he's back yet?"

"He was snoring away on the couch, face down, when we walked past," Ginny told him. "What did you find last night that wore him out?"

"The Challis of the Damned," Xander said. Philip hissed and winced. "We didn't touch it," he assured him.

"What is that?" Ron asked. "I know it sounds nasty, but what does it do?"

"It is a way of attaining power," Xander told him. "I found it about fifty years ago, it likes to take itself around the world now and then." He sipped his tea. "The thing is the haven and home of an ensorcelled demon. The ritual goes: you hunt a lot of things to get about a gallon of blood, you dip the cup into it, you pray, you drink, you get the power. But the power is never quite what you want. If you ask to be really strong physically, it'll do that, but it'll make your bones so brittle you can't stand or take away some of your lung capacity. It always hobbles the user, but almost no one who's willing to do that cares because it's power that they want."

"With each use, it taints a bit more of your soul," Philip added. "After about three sips, you're all but doomed to damnation." He shrugged at the stunned looks. "Some people are willing to sell their souls for power."

"The interesting thing is that every now and then the thing decides to help someone who isn't like that," Xander added, smiling at Philip. "When I found it, it was in Houston, Texas, in the US. A woman had found it in her Church with a note saying it was filled with holy water for blessings. She took a sip of the holy water to bless herself and prayed for deliverance from her abusive husband. Later that night, he ran into a tree. There was slight evidence of another car on the road, just enough to make the insurance company believe it wasn't suicide so she got the money from his policy, but there wasn't enough evidence to prove that there was someone else there. Ever."

Philip nodded. "I heard about her. After it happened, she was asked for a telling of her tale by one of us. She told us all about it and the priest who took her statement suggested she find a new church and immediately confess and get rebaptized, just in case. She appears to be fine by all accounts and she's living with a good man now."

"Good," Xander said firmly. "I like it that she had a happy ending."

"Wow," Ron breathed. "I want to do things like that. Hang the money!"

Harry patted him on the back. "If we go together, it'll be easier. Maybe we'll have complementary skills and all that."

"Yeah, maybe," Ron agreed, grinning at him. "Plus, we could fly around whenever we wanted after work."

"Don't count on too much free time," Xander warned. "You spend a lot of hours looking at maps or underground in the Egypt branch. Even when I was freelancing, I still spent a lot of hours looking at maps."

"But it was worthwhile, right?" Ron asked, nearly pleading.

"Yeah, it was. I was uncovering things that had been lost for centuries, a lot of which I learned from. By the way, that's not really encouraged," he said with a smile. "People start looking at you like you're dangerous after a while."

Ginny cleared her throat and leaned closer. "Bill said at one point in time he had a lot of problems wrapping his mind around it, that he felt like he was stealing."

Xander smiled at her. "That is something that each breaker and finder has to figure out for themselves, Ginny. I got past it on the theory of rediscovering things. I found so many things that could be of use, including medicinal potions and charms that helped me do a lot of pretty neat things. Would the former owners mind? Yeah, but they've been dead for a really long time and whatever they wanted their religion said they brought it with them to their version of heaven. You'd have to ask Bill how he got past that."

"I didn't even consider that," Harry admitted, frowning at his glass. "Xander, was it hard?"

"For the first few months," Xander agreed, giving him a nudge under the table so the boy would look at him. "But then again, I was always given the hard assignments. My very first assignment was to finish breaking a tomb so we could get the last curse breaker's body out of there. He had gotten all the magical traps but not the physical ones and one had killed him. Nobody had been willing to go in there. You'll find curse breakers are a superstitious lot, and they swear worse than a whole navy fleet." Ron laughed at that. "Seriously though, if you've got skill and you've got the right mix of abilities, it's the best job in the world because nothing else will seem to satisfy you. Just remember, it's not all fun and games and you relax when you're back in your tent."

Harry nodded. "Thank you, Uncle Xander."

He grinned. "You're making me feel old, you could call me Xander."

"Okay." Harry shoveled food into his mouth. "The headmaster's gotten up, you should go talk to him while we bug Bill." Xander nodded, finishing his breakfast as only an eighteen-year-old male could - within seconds. He left them alone, heading up to talk to his former teacher.

Harry looked at Bill, then at Ginny. "Is Bill testing you?"

"He's shuffling me off to Charlie first," Ginny sighed. "He seems to think I'd do better there." She shrugged and brushed some of her hair off her cheek. "I guess he'd know but I'm not sure I want to work with dragons."

"Ah, but what about the other creatures, like unicorns?" Ron suggested.

Ginny stared him down. "I doubt that'll be available after a few years, Ron," she said dryly. He looked hurt. "I'm not two anymore. Pretty soon I'm going to find some boy that's not scared of you beating the crap out of him and find out what all the girls in your year and above rave about." She waved her hands around a bit. "And then it's not really an option. Though I probably wouldn't mind working with some of the more pretty creatures. I don't think I can handle the nasty parts though."

Philip looked down at her, giving her a smile. "I started out with a dual language/mythology track in University," he suggested. "It's a fairly bookish field but it's fun work if you can handle it. There's all sorts of creatures that we don't have any more."

She shook her head, giving him a naughty grin. "I couldn't stand studying that much more, Philip. Suggest it to Percy, he could use a real job, one that doesn't get the family pissed at him."

Philip smiled. "I'll do that. For bright students, there's always help available. Even from his boss if you ask nicely enough," he said, motioning toward Nick.

Nick nodded. "That's usually in the States, but I know a wizard over here in the same organization." Philip looked at him and he smirked. "Imagine my surprise when I faced down Derek and Sloan forced his way back into the conversation, waving a wand." Philip's mouth fell open and he wobbled a bit. "He went in the States. I checked with the records for the wizarding college at Oxford, he was admitted through them to the Anthropology program." Philip slumped to the floor and Nick grinned, crowing slightly. "I finally got him!" he said happily. "Damn, I'm going to have to tell Derek about this one." He beamed at the kids. "Aren't you supposed to be bugging your big brothers?" They nodded and hurried out, heading to the rooms Bill had told them to report to.

Ron looked around the familiar room, frowning at the guy sitting on the front of McGonagall's desk. "What's going on? Where are the tables?"

Bill grinned at him. "Come in, both of you." Harry stepped in as well. "I've hidden seventeen things around the room. Each one's made of something different, but simple things. We're going to see first if you have an affinity, that's one of the most helpful things for the job. It's not necessary or mandatory but it makes it easier and a lot more fun, almost like a game sometimes. Hunt away." He clicked a stop watch and picked up a clipboard.

Harry closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. He turned around, there was something behind him that was radiating. He frowned when he noticed the door was gone. The illusion was what had been making his back tingle, but there was something else around there. He frowned and touched the wall, knowing there were shelves there. He felt something slimy and pulled his hand back, noticing the blood. "Bill, something's bleeding," he said.

Bill wrote that down. "Pull it out, Harry, it's planned."

Harry pulled out the dead animal skin, tossing it away quickly. "Eww. Yuck." He wiped his hands off on his pants and watched Ron, who was frowning at the wall opposite him, feeling along it every few feet. "Ron, what's your thing feel like?"

"Like it wants me to find it," Ron said, starting to get angry. "Where is the stupid thing!"

"Staying calm is important. It's not always this easy," Bill warned. Ron turned to glare at him. "Keep looking, you were nearly there a while ago. Trace the feeling." Ron slumped and tracked back the way he had came, finally smiling and pulling out a coin. "Good job," he said, writing down the time. "Do either of you feel anything else?"

"The illusion's making me feel off," Harry told him. "Can we kill that part of it?"

"You'll learn to work with that distraction but sure," Bill said happily, letting down that part of the illusion. Harry immediately went to something behind him, lifting up a small box. "That's not mine, hand it here," he said, taking it to examine. "Huh." He wrote it down and handed it back. "Put it back where you found it. It's interesting but not a legitimate find." Harry nodded, putting it back in what he thought was the same spot. He couldn't see the shelf so he wasn't sure. He walked over to where Ron was looking, going to help him. Together they found a few pots and another artifact that wasn't one of Bill's, then they found a small gold urn. Bill clicked his stopwatch off and wrote down that last find. "Good job," he said happily, taking down the rest of the illusion. The boys could see where the things were, he had hidden them in plain sight behind the fake walls. They sat down in front of him, letting him tell them how they had done.

"It's really apparent that you've got similar finding abilities, but you've also got a few areas that work well together. Ron, you've always had a precious metal affinity. You used to find every dropped knut in the Burrow for mum." Ron chuckled, remembering those days. "Whereas I have a jewelry affinity. Harry, you've got a power affinity and an affinity for the dead and dying. Both of which are really needed." Harry straightened up, proud of himself. "It's not the best times ever, but they're not shabby. Based on these scores, and this is an informal test, you'd be put on at a level three when you graduated and did the year of training." They nodded. "Level three's barely make enough to live off of, but once you get some practice most level three's move up within a year." Both boys nodded. "There's only three obstacles I see. The goblins will want to give you a formal test and they do their best to screw everyone up. Ron, your temper's going to play against you heavily. Harry, your affinities are pretty rare and looked for, but you're going to have to learn about seventy new charms in that training year; that's going to count against both of you. The last problem is your lack of desire to study." He stared down at them. "I really do spend at least a month every year doing research." Both boys winced. "Your life, and your partner's life, depends on you getting everything perfect. Mapping, plans, all of it."

"But we might be able to do it?" Harry asked. "With some shaping up?"

"With some shaping up, some practice finding things, and with some hard work. There is a way around that, and I hate to say this, but I can't do it for you. Not because you're family but because you wouldn't be able to work with me full time, we'd end up killing each other quickly. If you can get someone to take you on as an apprentice, you'll still earn shit wages, but you'll get the spells and charms now to learn. They'll be responsible for everything you do and for paying your wages. It gets you past all that." He smiled at them. "You guys are good together. I have no doubt that both of you working together will rival my tally within a few years of work, especially if you find someone good to apprentice to."

Xander walked in and grinned. "I was eavesdropping."

Bill laughed. "I heard you walk up, Xander. You're still stomping. You've got to get out of that habit." He smiled at the boys before handing over the score sheet. "I think they'd be best with an apprenticeship. What about you?"

"I'm not sure I want to go back to work for them," Xander admitted, frowning at Ron. "Let me guess, you got frustrated?" Ron sighed and nodded, hanging his head. "It happens." He smiled at Bill. "Your big brother was one of my best apprentices ever. That's why he got my spot when I disappeared. They held my spot for him until he was ready." Ron perked up at that. "If I do decide to go back, I'm going in as a freelance contractor." Bill shuddered. "Trust me, I've got a part picked out that no one goes near." Bill looked interested. "You know I can't tell you, Bill. They'll force you to hand it over. Not that I think anyone would be that insane, but it might take a few deaths to get the point across."

"Wow," Harry said, looking at his great-uncle. "You're talking about...." He trailed off and nodded at Xander's body. Xander caught the look and nodded. "Really? You'd take us with you?"

"Definitely. You'd be mine each summer until you graduate and then you'd be my crew while we finished cleaning out the spot. I will warn you, Harry, the place is blinding."

"We'd have to take Malfoy, wouldn't we?" Ron asked bitterly.

Xander nodded. "Yuppers. I think a few months there might help him a lot." He grinned at the boys and winked. "Besides, it'll give you a chance to practice your defense before the fighting begins in earnest." Bill squeaked and covered his mouth. Xander grinned at him. "Who do they have who's that dumb?"

"There's about four of them," Bill told him. Then he burst out laughing. "I'm sure they'd get a kick out of it, but it's been declared off limits due to the danger of the area."

"Ah! But we also have some sunken wrecks off the coast," Xander offered. "Plus, no one hunts in America these days."

"True," Bill agreed, grinning at him. "Except for one guy in Florida. There's a few teams covering Central and South America, plus another two diving teams doing the islands. Hey, I'm all for it if you think you can protect them. If you let Ron get turned or eaten, you'll be seeing me in your nightmares."

"If Ron gets turned, I'll have him souled and we'll work from there with a two-shift crew," Xander said with a shrug and a grin.

"Why would I get turned?" Ron asked.

Bill was laughing and shaking his head. "You're so bad, Alex. I missed you all these years in Egypt. Bunch of bloody prigs I work with most of the time. I've even got a troll on my team to move the heavy stuff."

"Hey, you've got staff, feel lucky," Xander pointed out. "Think about what I made do with."

"You and me?"

"Usually just me. You were only my second apprentice and my first one bugged out after his first six months. Said he didn't want to die." He grinned at the boys and clapped them on the back. "If you want, I'll talk with Molly and have her negotiate a fair pay for you both." They looked at each other and then nodded. Then they nodded at him. "Good job. Let's go find her and Ginny. I think I heard her going 'eww' at the top of her lungs." They all followed him up to Gryffindor's tower, walking in to talk with Mrs. Weasley. "Hi," Xander said, arms around the boys' necks. "They want to come work for me."

Molly wet her lips and looked at Bill. "Are they any good?"

"Good enough, but I'd be wary of them going through the main program," Bill admitted. "Ron's temper and Harry's problems with the war would count against them. Plus, Xander's got an area staked out all to himself."

She grimaced as she turned back to him. "I know what you're thinking, but that area was declared off limits for a reason, Xander."

"Yeah, and I lived there for the last thirteen years, Mrs. Weasley. Who better to lead them down the garden path than one of the best there ever was? I even went and retook my test last week. I'm only down by ten minutes on my first one. Still well above passing with honors range. At my current level, I'd be put on first level with choice of assignments if I wanted to go back. Plus, you know I'd be safe. Between me, the Slayer, and her pet witches, we've got the Hellmouth sewn up. It's a third less dangerous now than it was when the Slayer showed up."

She grimaced as she looked at the boys. "Do you want this?"

Ron stepped forward to give her a hug. "It's dangerous, mum, but it's something I seem to be good at. Unlike most everything here at the school." He gave her a begging look. "At least let me go one summer to find out. Then Xander could tell me if I don't have it. I'd still have plenty of time to pick something else. Plus, Harry'd get to hang with his relatives for a while."

She looked at Xander. "I will want monthly owls, if not more often, about their progress and what they've been doing." He nodded quickly. "I will also want them taught all the pertinent safety precautions so they don't have to worry about being eaten."

"Deal," Xander agreed. "You draw up a fair contract and I'll sign them up as my apprentices. I'm going freelance so it's not a problem. I have the money to pay their salaries for a good few centuries."

She smiled slightly. "That's fine, Xander. I know you'll try to take care of them. Keep them away from the wild women Greg said were in America."

"He's a few hours away," Xander said with a grin. "We're in a small town, not a single wild woman or maenad around. As far as I know," he admitted with a naughty grin. "At least they've never come out and tried to get me yet."

"Which means there'll be some when you get back," Bill taunted, grinning at his former teacher. "I can't wait until I get back in the field. This cataloging crap is boring." He flopped down next to his mother. "I was right, Ron has a precious metal affinity. Harry's got a power and a dead thing one. Together they found a few things that weren't mine."

She laughed and hugged each boy. "I know you'll be careful, boys. I'd hate to have to punish you if you're not."

"Yes, mum."

"Yes, Mrs. Weasley."

She smiled at them. "Go play in the sun. We'll deal with the official things later." They grabbed Harry's broom and took off out the door. She looked at Xander. "Do you think they're good enough?"

Xander sat across from her. "I think they've got the raw skills. Whether or not they continue or if they make a good name for themselves will depend more on their luck and their drive. We'll be in an area that has almost no one in it, but that has a lot of stuff hidden around it. It'll also help with Harry's training for the upcoming war and help Ron learn how to not to jump into things." Ginny and Charlie came in. "How did she do?"

"She's a peach, but she doesn't like the nasty stuff," Charlie said with a grin.

"Every job has nasty stuff in it," Xander assured her. "I didn't tell the boys this, but I've had to dig my latrine more than I care for. Plus I've had to dig them deeper when I ate the wrong thing while they were filling up." She made a sickened face. "Doing what you like means that you don't mind the nasty stuff as much." He patted her on the hand. "Do you still want to be tested?"

She shook her head. "I want to deal with flying creatures. Not dragons, but the smaller ones."

"Fawkes came to help," Charlie said as he sat next to Bill. "She was nearly nuzzled to death by the poor dear. He's in a bad mood with his daddy today."

Ginny curled up next to Xander, letting him put an arm around her shoulders, much to the frowning of her brothers. "I think I'd like to do preservation at that level, mum. What do you think?"

"I think he'd better not be getting any ideas about helping break you in," Bill told her, glaring at Xander. "She's too young for that."

"I wasn't even going to consider it," Xander said with an easy grin. "She's mommy material, not play-worthy."

Bill lightened up. "Good." His mother looked at him. "You've taught her right, she's more for a relationship and he never dips in the same well twice."

"Good," Molly said firmly, smiling at Xander. "Don't try anything with Ron either."

He snorted. "I doubt it'd come to that but I'd never do anything to him, not unless he begged *really* hard. But thank you for not including Harry in that."

"You're related," Ginny pointed out.

"Yeah, but most people don't think I can control myself that well. Even my own mother used to get onto me about leaving my sisters alone, no matter how many times I had to remind her that I didn't like them." Ginny snorted. "Really," he said, nodding. "Everyone seems to think I'm indiscriminate. I'm not, though I do have low standards at the moment."

"That one you got caught with....he was low standards?" Charlie asked.

"No, he was more than worthy, a class 'a' list person. I'm talking more like the one I had to celebrate my new eighteenth birthday. Snape forced me to go into town to celebrate," he said with a look and a shrug. "I'm an active guy and she didn't keep up that well."

The twins came down the stairs from their rooms. "Who? Ms. Ramvette?" the one on the left asked.

Xander looked at them. "No, Tip Top and I had a lot of fun. I'm talking about the one in Hogsmeade." He grimaced. "I have to admit I was bad enough off to pay for it."

They shuddered, but Bill laughed. "Xander, you spent nearly twenty million dollars in your first life hiring people like that. Don't even whine."

Xander gave him a short, intense glare. "I'll have you know most of that went to bribes so I wasn't arrested. It's not exactly legal in Egypt and I didn't want to be killed."

"Good point," Molly said firmly.

Ginny looked up at him. "Did you ever want to settle down?"

He smiled at her. "I figured out when I was very young, about my second year, that anyone I settled down with would have to be able to keep up with me. I was strong, smart, and fast, not to mention skilled and dangerous," he said, tugging on some of her hair, making her giggle. "My mother used to worry about the same thing so I lost it one day and reminded her that only a veela would be able to keep up with me, that or a succubus. She looked at me for a few moments and announced she'd try to find me one. I asked if she meant the succubus, because that would have just set me up as the all time champ for bragging in my time. She frowned at me and tried to swat me with a towel. She called up the main council over Veelas and talked to them. They agreed that a match to me would be good for one of the more minor ones, so they sent one over to meet me, to see if we would like each other." He gave her a gentle squeeze. "I fell in love so hard I wouldn't let her out of my sight. When they wanted her back to talk to her and make sure I was the one she wanted, I tried to pack myself in her bags." Ginny gave the hand around her a squeeze. "We settled ourselves together, slowly finishing growing up together. She was an orphan and so very darling. A bit of a shrew now and again, but so very nice to me most of the time. She even tried to understand me now and then. She was all I wanted."

"Did she die in the plague?" Ginny asked quietly.

He shook his head, giving her another squeeze. "No, she died about eleven months before that. Where she was an orphan no one thought to send us any warnings about any family curses or anything like that. We managed to do the one thing that would make her lose control and for veela's that's very dangerous. They seem to burn from the inside out. We were here at school at the time and it was a sudden thing. She was fine one night and the next afternoon she started the fever. No one at their council answered any questions and then they tried to blame me for her death." Ginny shifted, giving him a hug. He stroked her hair. "We fought and I pointed out what they had done, so they left me alone." He looked at Molly. "I've never found anyone who wanted to get to know me the way she did and until I do, I won't settle for anything less. That's why I never take a dalliance into my own bedroom and why I never stay with anyone. I know what I'm looking for and when I find it, that person's not getting out of my sight, ever." He let Ginny go. "It's okay. We were happy while it lasted and it was a long time ago. I was about your brother Ron's age at the time."

She smiled at him. "I know you'll find her."

"So do I. She's where I got the gift of Sight from. She awakened mine and showed me that I would find one, someday. It's just going to be a while." He patted her on the head. "Now, you should be playing," he said firmly. "I'm the only person who's ever been young more than once." She laughed and went out to play. "Do not say it," he warned as he stood up. "I'm not actively looking for her by going through half the world's female population. I'm really not." He waved and walked out. "Going to spar with the Prof."

Molly clucked her tongue, frowning at the door. "That poor man." She looked at Bill. "Did you know that?"

"Not all of it," he assured her. "I still doubt it's Ginny."

His mother rolled her eyes. "That wasn't the point, Bill." She looked at the twins, who looked neatly groomed for once. "Where were you two off to?"

"Around," the one on the right told her, leading his brother out the door.

"Stay away from that woman!" Molly called after them. She didn't get an answer and was tempted to follow them, but she knew that a woman her age had more sense than to take up with two eighteen-year-old boys.

Charlie distracted her. "Mum, how did you want me to introduce Ginny to some people in the field she liked? Would you let her leave the country?"

Molly looked at him. "Ordinarily I'd say no, but with this fight restarting, I'm not sure I want her anywhere near home." He nodded. "If you could introduce her to some people, it might help her to solidify her choices a bit."

"Of course, mum. There's a wonderful aviary in Germany. I know one of the people up there, he was a year behind me. I'll write him and suggest he come down to recruit or talk Hagrid into giving a lecture or three." He grinned at her laugh. "He'd adore it and you know it, mum."

"Yes, I do," she agreed, smiling at him. "You and Bill both behave. It's nice that you've helped your siblings. Now if you could make Percy happy I'd be ever so pleased."

"Ron said Philip Callahan suggested a mythology study track at the University," Bill offered. "He's always been a book nerd, I'm sure he'd like it."

Molly pursed her lips. "Do not say such things about your brother. I happen to like the fact that he's studious."

"Sure, mum, whatever you say," Bill said quickly. "You might ask him about it though. He stopped going to take his Orders, but he probably knows enough about it to at least let him know what it's like."

She smiled and patted him on the knee. "I'll suggest it to Percy," she assured him, standing up so she could find her missing son.

Charlie looked at Bill. "Nice save," he congratulated. Bill grinned and winked.


Fred knocked on the plain wooden door, giving his brother an expectant glance. The tray he held was full of food. A tired woman opened the door, looking at them. "Ms. Ramvette, we brought you breakfast since you weren't down there with the rest of us," Fred told her.

George gave her his most winning smile. "May we feed you?"

She let them in, looking at their backs. "If you were older, I'd say this was a seduction attempt." She closed and locked the doors. "Or a really nasty prank."

George laughed. "No, no pranks."

"Not this time," Fred agreed, helping her into a chair and opening the tray to show her the food and drink on it. "After careful observation, we brought what we thought you might like."

She poured herself a cup of coffee and inhaled it. "That is nice. Thank you, boys." She smiled at them. "What do you two want?"

They fell to their knees in front of her. "We want you and your dirty mind," George told her.

"It matches so very well with our own."

She laughed. "You two aren't even legal adults yet."

"We turned eighteen last month," Fred assured her.

"Besides, you understand us," George put in. "Not too many people do that, or even try."

She sipped more of her coffee, looking at them. "Well, you're definitely cute," she admitted.

They rested their heads on her lap, smiling up at her.

"Definitely too cute," she agreed, and they laughed, sitting down to look at her. "You don't even know me."

"So date us," Fred said with a shrug. "We won't object to you finding out how odd we are."

"Plus, we're twins so you won't ever get ignored, even when we're working on something," George pointed out. A selling point in his mind since their last girlfriends had complained because they had ignored them. Plus they couldn't tell them apart.

She tweaked their noses. "I'll consider it today. Your mother's going to throw a fit."

"We're adults now, we can make our own choices," George said firmly.

"That's right, she can't do more than kick us out," Fred agreed. He grinned at her. "At least you know what it's like to be a twin and you understand our innate mischievous nature. Mum never even tries."

"We can still pull the old 'I'm him' trick on her and get away with it," George added. "You'd understand and enjoy all our quirks."

"Plus, our former girlfriends praised us to the skies for our caring nature, even though they didn't like pranks and couldn't really understand why spent so much time on them."

She smiled and ran her fingers through their hair. "I like you two, you are adorable," she sighed. "I'll think about it, boys." They nodded and cuddled up to her legs while she ate the breakfast they had brought. The snake popping up out of the juice glass made her laugh and she patted them both on the heads. "Good job," she praised. They smiled at her, winking. "Okay, fine. I like you guys. But I won't be crucified by your parents."

"That' fine. We'll tell Dad and Bill, they'll handle everyone else," George assured her.

"Did you see? Ron and Harry were closeted with Bill this morning for a test."

"Well," George said happily. "I'm sure the little guy would adore a job like that. He'd never *have* to wash and Harry would watch out for him quite a bit. Any other news?"

"Xander Dumass was in there at the end," Fred shared.

"My," George said, happier now. "Maybe an apprenticeship, like what Bill did?" Fred shrugged. "We'll have to ask the little tyke. Any news on Ginny?"

"She came out of her meeting with Charlie smiling happily. I guess she'll be doing something in his area."

"I doubt it'd be with dragons. Most female dragon handlers are tough little women," Tipsy put in. They looked at her. "I've met a few on vacation. They were all women that you'd look at and think 'dyke' immediately." They giggled. "Seriously. Nicest bunch of witches ever, but so very tough and demanding. Most of them were het as far as I remember."

Fred shook his head. "Ginny would never go for that."

"Maybe he'll talk her into working with prettier creatures. She'd like that," George suggested.

Fred nodded. "I like that idea."

"I heard Fawkes down the hall earlier, maybe she'll play with them," Tipsy put in.

"How did you get the name Tip Top?" Fred asked her.

George grinned as she groaned. "Yes, now we'll have to know. That groan said it was juicy."

She cleared her throat, blushing slightly. "I got it because I liked to have a few... fun times up in the attics. That's as much as I'm telling you."

"Oooh, you're that one?" George asked. She blushed even as she looked alarmed. "Professor Flitwick was telling one girl not to get your reputation when we were walking by them in the halls right before school ended," he reminded his twin.

Fred nodded. "I remember that. Something about an orgy up under the stars above the astronomy tower?" George nodded, he had heard about that too.

Tipsy laughed. "Yeah, there's a nice attic up there for doing all sorts of things. I used to go up there to prank though, my favorite spot was on the roof above the Hufflepuffs, they always seemed more awed by it than anything." They shared a laugh and she hugged them to her. "I like you guys."

They beamed. "That's good because we like you too," Fred assured her.

George nodded. "We even happen to like giving oral sex."

"Hey, then I really can't turn that down," she said with a grin. "A woman who finds men like that should chain them to their beds for life."

"As long as you give us bathroom breaks," Fred agreed, George nodding.

She stared at them, her mouth open. "Really?" The guys just grinned at her. "Hmm. I need more coffee to consider the implications of that statement." George poured her a new cup and Fred thoughtfully handed over the sugar and milk.


Brass joined Grissom on his lunch hour, sitting down beside him on the bench. He noticed the other inhabitant when it hooted at him. Then he looked at Grissom. "Is that an owl?"

Grissom nodded. "It is. It looks like a barn owl." He fed it a piece of meat. "I'm wondering why it's carrying a letter."

Brass looked and sure enough there was a roll of paper tied to its leg. "Greg?" he asked.

"Most likely. I think most of the odd things around the office are his fault anymore." He carefully reached over and the owl obligingly lifted the note so it could be taken. "Um, thank you," he said, handing over more lunch meat. It sat and watched as he opened it. "It is from Greg," he said, smiling. He laughed as he handed it over, reaching over to the owl again. It tipped its head slowly, letting him know where it wanted scratched. "You're very well trained and an excellent mail-bird," he told it.

Brass read the note saying that Greg was going to be gone for about another three days, just long enough to make sure all the 'bad guys' had been dealt with. The question made him laugh as well. "He's bringing her back?"

"She did seem very protective of him," Grissom reminded him.

"Grissom, why are you petting an owl?" Sarah asked as she and Warrick walked up behind the older pair.

"Because it brought a note," Brass said, giving her his best 'serious' look. She laughed and he shrugged. "I tried."

"It's very friendly," Grissom told her. He looked at them. "Problems?"

"Lunch," Warrick told him.

"Have fun."

"I'm going to try," Warrick said, smiling at him. "Any news from Greg?"

"He said he'd be back in about three days. That the main person who was behind his attack decided to commit suicide instead of being arrested and that the others are presently being plotted against," Brass told him. "He's going to try and bring his woman back as well."

"He's got a girlfriend?" Sarah asked. "He's always trying to date someone in the office."

"It's that woman, the one that came and sent most of the guys in the precinct to their knees, right?" Warrick asked. Grissom nodded. "They're together?"

"They've been waiting a long time because she had a condition," Grissom told them. "Let's not pressure Greg on her. If he wants to introduce you, I'm sure he will." The owl hooted. "Yes, you're a very good owl," he soothed, going back to petting it. It snatched some of his lunch meat for itself and seemed to grin at him. "Sure, have some." He looked at Brass. "We should probably mail Greg back."

"Tell him I said hi," Sarah said, walking away. "Maybe we should call someone to get that bird. One that friendly might get into trouble."

"I'm sure it's fine. It picks up our dinner scraps," Grissom called after her. She waved a hand. He looked at Warrick. "You're staring."

"You're being odder than usual," he pointed out. "Was the bird from Greg?"

Brass laughed. "Ask him to explain it when he gets back. It's how he sent the message that he'd be back in three days."

"Okay then." Warrick nodded. "I'm going to add this to 'things I didn't need to know about Greg's real life' and file it." He waved and walked away, heading to join Sarah for a buffet lunch at one of the resorts.

Brass looked at Grissom. "How thick is your file of 'I don't want to know'?"

"I find it really fascinating. Not only can they do things that we can't trace, they've lived a long time without being found out about and they've got whole laws and a criminal system that we don't know about." He finished stroking the owl. Brass handed him a pen and paper, so he wrote out a small note, tying it to the owl's legs. "Thank him for me and demand a lot of treats from him. Greg's very good with animals," he told it. It hooted and flew off into the night. "You don't find it fascinating?"

"I find it interesting," Brass admitted, "but not something I want to give too much thought to. If I think too much, I'll start to get angry that he can do this stuff and won't, because he's honest and sometimes it'd be easier."

"Very true. I wonder if they have lie detectors or if they use something else." Grissom stood up. "I'm going to go back to my desk. I don't know how long it takes an owl to fly all that way but I gave him my IM name so he can chat me if he needs anything."

"Fine," Brass agreed. "Don't waste your time though. We may be in the short end of the buildup and we'll need you focused on the crimes coming up."

"I still think it's going to be a robbery," Grissom said without turning as he walked away. "Probably at some resort."

"Yeah, me too," Brass admitted quietly. Not that he'd ever tell Grissom. Lulls like this were not natural and something big was going to happen. The last time this had happened, some major players had stopped all medium-level crime for three weeks so they could be covered when they pulled something. It had taken months to plow through all the evidence. He stood up and decided a drink sounded like a good thing. He was heading home but was on-call. He could afford one, if only he didn't have to think about mail being delivered by owls. Shouldn't wizards have a faster way of getting the mail delivered? Like by magic or something?


Greg looked over at his girlfriend and grinned. "Are you *sure* you want to go back to Vegas with me?"

"I'm sure," she sighed, for the fiftieth time. "I may not stay all the time, I do have duties to keep the world at peace, but I'll definitely be there." She kissed him on the cheek, making his eyes glaze over. "Besides, I want to meet your friends in a non-confrontational way this time. They sound nice for the most part."

He grinned, kissing her on the lips. "They are. Watch out for Sarah, she has this habit of testing people's limits when you first meet her."

She picked up his hand to hold. "I'm sure we'll get along fine. If it gets too bad, I'll call Tipsy in for a visit." He beamed.

Snape coughed from down the table. "No PDA. You should know better, Gregory."

"Yes, sir," Greg said, not releasing her hand. "We're all but married."

"I don't see a ring," Snape retorted. "Until I do, you may not kiss in the hallways."

"Yes, sir," Emilia sighed, giving him a pitiful look that brought most people to their knees. He snorted and went back to eating. "I forgot how tough he was," she told Greg.

He laughed and hugged her. "He is very tough," he agreed. "Very upstanding and upright." Snape glared at him and he grinned. "It's summer vacation, sir, loosen up."


Emilia grinned at him. "I'm going back to Vegas with him after Tipsy and I enact our plans."

"I'm sure you'll have fun. The town was rather boring to me, but I'm sure we have different ideas of a good time," Snape said dryly. Greg grinned at him. "Are you taking Draco with you to be trained?"

"I think he and Dumass are talking about him going back to the mouth of hell with him," Greg told him.

"Plus Ron and Harry," Emilia added. "He's taken them on as apprentices. I heard them crowing in the halls earlier on their way for a fly."

"Wow," Greg said, looking impressed. "I'm sure they're going to have one hell of a life with him."

"Yes, I'm sure he'll be able to keep them out of some of the trouble," Snape said dryly. "Though I'm equally sure that the three of them will draw trouble wherever they go."

"What about Draco?" Greg asked.

"They're in discussion right now. Dumbledore admitted that he had Dumass' house looted on the authority of a vision. I'm sure he handed over everything he had stolen." He sipped his tea. "He didn't seem happy when he left the office."

"I wouldn't be happy either," Emilia snorted. "First the man puts him on the most dangerous spot in the world. Then he steals from him. What next? We'll find Dumbledore has been using his vaults to finance the Order?"

Snape shook his head. "I can only hope not. I'm sure we'd need a new Headmaster if that was the case. I do not wish to serve under Minerva."

"Get Grissom to run it," Greg said happily. "He's a firm believer of hard work and lab work. Plus he only likes reasonable explanations for any phenomenon."

"I doubt that would be acceptable," Snape said dryly. He had liked Greg's boss when they had a short conversation that third day of his stay in Greg's house. The man was someone who thought the same way he did, even if he was a muggle. "With our luck, Fudge would try to nominate himself."

"Fudge needs to be taken out of the equation," Emilia pointed out. "Tipsy has a vision saying that it was going to get bad this year. Fudge doesn't believe Harry and he's going to work against him. Which means screwing the world here." She squeezed Greg's hand. "We've managed to counter some of it, but he'll still cause as many problems as he can."

"He was Lucius' lapdog for too long," Snape agreed. "We still haven't found a defense teacher."

"Professor Methos is here. Let's suggest it to him," Emilia offered. "He certainly knows the job."

"Yes, he would, wouldn't he," Snape agreed, smirking at her. "I could *respect* that man in that job." He stood up. "I believe I'll find the Headmaster and suggest that to him." He left them alone to cuddle in public without his presence. They didn't need a chaperone, he could tell Greg was serious about her.

She kissed him on the cheek. "I think he just said he approves of us." Greg nodded, his eyes wet. "Shh, he still adores you, he's simply giving you to me." He grinned and kissed her hard, making her moan. "Naughty, Greg, now I'll have to change clothes," she teased. He hurried her up the stairs to their rooms.

Snape found Dumbledore in his office, as usual. "Ms. Dorekson just had a thought," he put in.

"I heard. I've asked Professor Methos to fill in but he hasn't given me an answer yet," Dumbledore said, staring out the window. "I never heard, what was the result of the boys' meeting with Bill and Dumass?"

"From what I was told, Dumass has told them he'd take them on as apprentices," Snape said, making the old man look at him in with a mix of shock and horror. "He will be able to train them in all the necessary things in life, plus that would keep Potter safe."

"I see." He stared out the window again. "We cannot allow Harry to go to Sunnydale."

"I doubt that's your decision," Snape pointed out. Dumbledore looked at him, one eyebrow going up. "They'll soon be adults. Potter's relatives won't stand in his way, they'd probably welcome the chance to be rid of him. Weasley's family has agreed most likely, he did train Bill for a few years so they know he's good. Dumass would even help Harry learn his defense better."

"He'd have to. I won't lose Harry to some vampire."

"Then warn that one who showed up for the reunion to be on the watch for him," Snape said with a diffident shrug. "He'll be safe enough there if the boy is with him." He turned and left, going

to talk to Professor Methos himself. He saw a wretched looking woman wearing a pink sweater standing in the middle of the entry. "Who are you?" he demanded.

"I'm Professor Umbridge. I'm here to teach Defense in accordance with the newest Ministry decree." She pulled herself up. "Who are you to challenge me?"

"Severus Snape," he said coldly. "I'm sure we don't need you." She sniffed and tried to pull herself up straighter. "Headmaster!" he called. Dumbledore came walking down to join them a few minutes later. "Why wasn't the hiring committee told about this woman?"

"Because I had no idea about her myself." Dumbledore looked at her. "You are?"

"Dolores Umbridge."

"I see." He smiled. "I'm afraid we're in talks right now with a former teacher."

She laughed. "Remus Lupin cannot teach, it's against the species act," she said coldly.

"Not him, Professor Methos."

"He'd be dead by now," she said dismissively. "Even if he isn't, he's too old to teach."

Snape clapped his hands and a house elf appeared. "Summon Professor Methos to come here," he demanded.

"He practicing," the house elf said, covering her eyes.

"Tell him I said so, and to bring Mr. Dumass with him," Dumbledore ordered calmly. She nodded and disappeared, running down to get them from the lakeside.

Methos walked in a few minutes later, blotting his neck with a towel. "I must say, you're very good with all your weapons, Alex. I haven't had that good a workout since my last real fight."

"What can I say? I need it where I live," Xander said with a grin. He looked at Umbridge. "Who's the prig?"

Methos swatted at him. "Do not say such things to the woman's face. Did no one ever teach you manners?"

"Yeah, and then I lost them while dealing with vampires every night. You know, she reminds me a lot of one, only she sucks different things." He looked at the Headmaster. "You sent for us?"

"First, I want to talk to you about your plans for your apprentices."

"Butt out," Xander ordered. "I'll make sure Harry's well-taken care of. The boy is my relative after all." He looked at the woman, who gasped. "Yes, it's me, you stupid bint. In case you hadn't heard, I was deaged and Albus put me on the Hellmouth. Get over it. I've already talked to my great-nephew and we happen to get on well." He looked at Methos. "Weren't you saying something about the Ministry starting to butt in?"

Methos grimaced. "I was. Is that her?"

Dumbledore looked at him, sending him a pleading look. "She is the one the Ministry considers suitable to teach defense."

"Really?" Methos said dryly, looking her over. "What was the last thing you fought?"

"You do not need that sort of knowledge on a daily basis," she sniffed. "It is not acceptable for students to have that sort of knowledge. It breeds discontent and rebellion."

"Bullshit," Methos said bitterly. He looked at Dumbledore. "You need an answer?"

"There is no way you are who you say you are. Professor Methos taught the current headmaster. He was in his thirties then."

Methos ran his sword along his hand, and they all watched while it healed. "Some of us are special," he sneered. Xander patted him on the back and got out of the way. "You are not worthy to call yourself a teacher, much less a teacher of defense. In the upcoming war, people will have to be able to defend themselves."

"There is no war. That boy lied."

Xander glared at her. "Say it again," he encouraged, stroking his foil's blade as he took off the guard he had been using. "I'm sure we can prove you wrong."

She stood her ground. "Harry Potter lied, that is the decision of the Minister." She lifted her chin. "Not even you, if you are who you say you are, can refute it."

"Oh, let me," Emilia said as she joined them. She grabbed the woman's arm, making her shriek. "Shut up." The woman flinched and shut up. "We can prove it to you right now, if you'd like." She looked at Dumbledore. "Blair just called. Said there was a small attack happening in the village near St. Andrew's College."

"I'm going," Xander announced. "Methos?"

"I'll be right along," he agreed. Xander nodded and hurried out to the barrier so he could apparate to Blair's side. Methos looked at the woman. "Come if you don't believe."

"I see no reason for me to become involved. Minister Fudge said I am the new teacher."

"Only if the school can't find a suitable person."

"He is not human, he may not work."

"Prove it," Methos told her. Snape coughed. "I'm immortal. We are human as well, only self-healing." He sneered at her. "Shall we?" he suggested in his best 'cold' voice. She tried to pull away from the hand that had grabbed her, but he and Emilia walked the woman down the apparition barrier and she couldn't defeat their magic overwhelming hers. They dropped her at the edge of the fight and waded in, Emilia concentrating on bringing the combatants to their knees, Methos going into the old battle mindsets. He had decapitated two of the Death Eaters when he heard the shriek. "Oops," he told her corpse. He saw everyone else fall to the ground and looked over at Emilia, who was panting, and Philip, who was boosting her. "Nice job," he congratulated. "It appears we all need some battle planning and work." He looked at Dumass, who had just spit on a body. "Did he insult you?"

"He said the old geezer was going to have my son. I don't have a kid," he told the dead body. He walked over to where Blair was huddled, pulling him up. "You called?" he asked dryly.

"My wand's broken," Blair said, hugging him.

"Shh. We'll get you a new one," Xander promised. "How many did you take on?" He heard noises behind the door. "The towns people?" Blair nodded. "Good job," he praised. "Prof, he's got all the people in there and his wand's broken."

"Really?" Methos asked, walking over. He looked Blair over. "Good job," he praised. Blair grinned at him. "Philip, help him back to his house. I think I need to admit that I did wrong," he said, picking up a head with a very open mouth. "I'll be back at the school soon." Xander nodded, starting the cleanup process. He left as the aurors appeared, heading to the Ministry's main apparition point. He held up the head. "She tried to stop a battle between myself, Dumass, and a few others against some Death Eaters," he told the receptionist. The guy's eyes bugged and he gave him a special pass. "Thank you." He headed to Fudge's office, going to hand it back to him. He kicked in the door, making the man flinch. "I am Methos." The man's eyes bulged. "I am the former and renewed Professor of Defense at Hogwarts." Fudge whimpered. "I am immortal." He plopped the head in the middle of the desk. "She got between my blade and a Death Eater attacking a group of families," he said coldly.

Fudge looked at him. "There are no Death Eaters."

He laughed. "Really? Then why was there a reported attack in the United States on a Hogwart's alumni? Why did Lucius Malfoy go to attack the boy directly and Dumass start the Rights of Reparation? Why were there ten Death Eaters in the wizarding village up the road from St. Andrew's just now?" Fudge pulled over a trash can and was sick into it. "Do you feel better now that you have abased yourself in my presence?" he asked coolly. Fudge curled up in his chair. "Good. She tried to stop me from hitting one whose mask had come off. I can only believe she knew him." He patted the messy hair. "The rest of her body is there, you might call the aurors who appeared too late to stop it and tell them to bring it back for proper burial. By the way, Dumass and I agree, we do not like your machinations, nor the way you treat his great-nephew."

"You mean son," Fudge spat.

Methos laughed. "Actually, I meant Grandson, nothing closer." Fudge went pale. "Now then, do you really want to continue this pissing contest? You'll find Immortals are larger so therefore get more distance."

"No," Fudge said weakly. "Not at all, Professor. Thank you for filling in during this trying time."

Methos nodded. "You're welcome. I think I'll have a lot of fun helping Dumass teach Mr. Potter a few dirty tricks." He walked out, washing his hands off in the water fountain before leaving. He walked out of the schools' floo, nodding at the people waiting. "It's done. Fudge is going to back off. I will take the position."

Xander stepped forward. "Thank you." He smiled at Blair, who was sipping some tea. "We were going to help him get refitted. His last wand was a bit wobbly for him."

"It's the whole 'cop' thing. My wand was fitted for the free spirit I was, not the kidnaped person I became," Blair said quietly.

Methos nodded. "Good." He looked at Xander. "How did you primary negotiating session go?"

"Not great, but his mother's being reasonable. She wants me to pay her a dowry."

Methos snorted. "Do so. She has lost nearly everything in her life." He walked around them. "I'm for a shower."

"Care for a back scrubber?" Xander offered as he invited himself along. Methos gave him a smirk and he knew he was welcome to the position.

Blair pulled some floo powder out of the pot and went back to his house for a few minutes to call his Simon snuggly for some long-distance comforting.


The Banes had agreed that it was time to pull off their final plan for now, and then to go back to their normal lives to rearrange things. Emilia, Tipsy, and Xander had the final battle planed to within an inch of what might happen. They had it planned down to each and every person that might be there, including the boss or not. The people around them were giving them wary looks, all but Greg, who was supportive of whatever his girlfriend wanted. They'd be apparating back to Vegas that night. Ron, Harry, and Draco were sent ahead, Xander escorting them to the house he had found. He smiled when Buffy met them in the park. "Buffster, this is my great-nephew and forced hero, Harry Potter, his bestest buddy, Ron Weasley, and my payment for his father fucking up so badly, Draco Malfoy," he said, pointing at each. She nodded cordially, looking confused. "I'm going to train them in what I used to do for a living around here."

"Stumble and fall?" she asked, looking confused.

"No, I used to hunt magical artifacts so they'd be safely stored somewhere that vampires and demons couldn't get them and use them to taunt humanity," he said blandly.

"Well, shit," she said, glaring at him. "We could have used that talent!" She hit him on the arm, making him wince. "Is there a lot of call for that around here?"

Harry nodded. "This place is oozing so many levels of energy. There's the underlying ooze feeling, I'm guessing that's the Hellmouth?" Xander and Buffy both nodded, looking at him. Even Draco was looking astonished. "There's little bright spots of power playing in and around the ooze, plus there's a shining power that way," he said, pointing behind Buffy.

"That would be Willow," Buffy said dryly. "Try to stay away from her, she's having a bad month." Xander nodded quickly. "So, how long are we staying this summer?"

"Until school's about to start, the last week of August," Xander said, starting to walk away. "Come on, guys, let's get you to the house and settled in for the night." He watched as Harry walked off with a dreamy look on his face, right for a crypt-like monument. "Ron, gather him. We'll hunt when I get back."

"SHIT!" Harry yelled, running back. "Draco as a vampire!"

"Hi, Spike," Xander and Buffy called together. He walked out of his hiding spot, glaring at them.

"Well," Spike said, looking at the boys. "Vamp snacks?"

Xander hit him with a curse, making him howl as he lifted off the ground. "Shut up and do not touch my apprentices or I'll make the chip work on everything," he warned. Spike nodded so he was let down. "Good, now that we have that settled. Boys, this is Spike, he's a very dangerous vampire who was once a wizard, but he's been fixed. We do not taunt the vampire, he does mean things like pour blood in your cereal as you're eating in the mornings. Harry, what was drawing you?"

"Something inside the statue," Harry said, pointing at the lower third of it. "There's something there, and another something higher up. The first is a box, and there's some sort of heavier spot, but it seemed weaker, like what you said hidden holes were like. Then there's a bright spot that's just calling out to me in the top, but it seems solid around it." He looked at Xander. "Can I get them?"

"Sure," Xander agreed, walking him over to watch him trip the trigger to open it. It was found easily enough, it was a decorative push stone, the simplest of all triggers.

Harry carefully opened the door, blinking at the power radiating off it. "Wow." He reached for it but Xander stopped him by tapping on his head. "Sorry. Ron, did you pack the gloves or did I?" he called.

"I did," Ron called, digging them out. He brought over the lead woven dragsonshide gloves, watching as Harry brought the small crypt out. "What is that?"

Xander looked it over. "A really good reason to have the vault built," he said happily. "Spike, are you getting anything off it?" He looked over at the drooling vampire. "It contains a piece of the Original, the first vampire ever made," he instructed, pulling out a shrunken box to hold the thing. As soon as it was inside, he reshrunk the box and put it into his shielded pack. "Good job. Ron, can you find the top latch? It's an easier one and if I'm right this one should be calling out to you."

"Bill said I had to know something was missing before it tripped my skills," Ron reminded him, using Harry's open spot to boost himself up. Buffy came over and thoughtfully braced him. "Thanks," he said, grinning at her. She smiled back. "You're really strong for a girl."

"She's a Slayer, you nitwit," Spike snapped. "Dumass, you're going to be hunted for that."

"I'll be taking it back to Gringott's in the morning," Xander assured him. He nodded Draco over, sensing the vampires around them. "Buff, there's a pack of fledges coming this way." He looked at Ron, who was struggling, then at Draco, who had the most calculating look on his face. "Think you can find it?"

"It's the square spot. It doesn't match anything and it was obviously done after the rest of the statue," Draco told him. Xander smiled at him for it. "I don't need your praise," he said coldly.

Ron pushed and finally wiggled the square block, turning it fully halfway around. The door popped but didn't open.

"Try turning it back the other way," Harry suggested. "It looks like it might be like a safe dial." Ron nodded and did so, smiling as the thing cranked open with each turn. "Good job, Ron. What's up there?"

"A big heavy chest," he called down. He hopped backward to get back down. "I can't budge it and I can't find a spell on it."

"Let me," Buffy said. "Draco, right?" He nodded. "Give me a boost. You're taller than Ron." He pulled his wand and boosted her up, giving her a bored look. "Damn, you're handy. Can we borrow him for demonic research, Xander?"

"I think you and he would get along pretty well, Buffy. If he wants, I'll allow it," Xander agreed. He heard the scraping and winced. "Try not to damage it, we don't know if there's a reason for the chest around it."

"I'm trying," Buffy said, "but the redhead was right, it's heavy." She finally got it free and held it against her chest as she was lowered. "Thank you, Draco," she said with a smile. She handed it to Spike and went to attack the fledglings coming out of the woods. "Anyone want a fight?"

"I do," Spike called, handing Ron the box. Ron lurched under the weight of it but he didn't notice.

Xander looked at the box, smiling at him. "Nice find. Stolen jewels." He patted Ron on the back and checked the box for spells before putting a lightening spell on it. "There we are. Let's go. Buffy, we're going to the Patterson Estate," he called. She waved her stake. "Come on, guys, it's about a mile up the road and we don't have cabs in Sunnydale."

"Why couldn't we portkey?" Harry asked.

"Afraid of walking?" Draco sneered.

Xander looked at him. "It is a legitimate question, Draco," he said gently. "Even you don't want to walk." Draco flushed and looked away from him. "Portkeys don't work that well in town. You can portkey out or in, but don't expect to hit your intended target. The Hellmouth skews you about thirteen degrees toward it each time. For in-town traffic it's just too much math." The boys all nodded. "Come on, I'll show you where everything is in the way." He walked them up the street, pointing out the necessary spots. The Bronze. The coffeehouse. Giles' shop. The morgue. All the cemeteries on their path. The better clothing shops. Finally, they came to the front gate and he unlocked the magic padlock, letting them inside. He walked them up to the house, putting the padlock on the inside of the door, showing them how it was done. "Come on, let's check out the vault. We can do the research on what we've found tomorrow." He led them down to the basement and through a door, into an underground chamber with a small pond in the center. "That's been blessed by Philip," he told them. "It's holy water and no demon can swim up it." They all nodded, looking around. He unshrunk the box and put it on a wooden shelf, then took Ron's box and unlightened it, putting it on the floor. "There, that should do for tonight." He pulled the keys off the wall and handed them over, small crest rings. "Come on."

He showed them where the lock was and how to deal with it, then led them upstairs. Harry and Ron had adjoining rooms in a suite, with a sitting area between them and a tv. "I'll have the cable guy out as soon as I can." He grinned at them. "Did any of you think about having money I gave you changed to American?" They all shook their heads. "Then I'll show you LA tomorrow and the single goblin that works there. He can do that." He smiled and waved. "Night, guys, don't get me up before ten." He led Draco away, up to the next floor. "This is our personal floor," he told him, leading him to a suite at the end of the hall. "This is yours. It's shielded so even if you lose control it'll contain it." Draco looked at him, a bitter and cold look. "I'm being practical, Draco. I know more about your condition than you do. I dated a veela once, we were betrothed. That's why Emilia and your mother trusted you with me. There are two bedrooms, in case you happen to pick up toys like Emilia does." Draco nodded firmly. "I know you know the rules of your condition, but I will explain to you tomorrow how Emilia got around it." The boy nodded, firmer this time. "Good boy. Go pick a room and settle in. I made sure the beds were really fluffy and you've got a mound of pillows in case you wanted them. We'll talk tomorrow while the guys are starting their research."

"I can help with that," Draco said quietly.

Xander smiled. "I know you can, Draco. You're potentially a very big help to me with what you do know. It was a custom in the older days that the second and third sons of the elite went to do this sort of finding because they could identify more of the artifacts than anyone else, especially the jewelry and art." He patted the boy on the back. "We'll figure out what you can do to help tomorrow, that way you're not bored." Draco lifted his chin. "Trust me, I'm not going to let you languish and you'll be just as well trained as the other two by the time I let you go."

"You plan on it?" Draco asked bluntly. "You weren't talking that way."

Xander coughed, then gave him a sheepish look. "If Harry survives, you're free to go. That was always the deal. If not, I'll teach you what I know and we'll go into business together. That will still keep you out of public and malicious hands. Oh, and I forgot, don't try anything on Giles or Willow. They're non-wand using and it'll bounce off them. Buffy may or may not be immune, I don't know. Spike, he's pretty fair game, he was one of Emilia's toys." He grinned. "Anything else?"

"Do you have servants?"

"I was going to bring over a house elf, but I haven't found one yet," Xander admitted. "I have no doubt Buffy's going to be over by nine and messing up the kitchen, probably with Willow's help." He smiled at the boy. "Get settled in. We've got a few weeks to get to know each other before I let Methos watch over you three for me." He walked out, going to the other end of the hall. His suite was over there. It had seven bedrooms, one mini office for personal matters, one research room, and one great entertainment center ­ which he smiled at as he walked past it. "Definitely have to call the cable company tomorrow," he reminded himself. He called the Gringott's goblin who handled freelancers. "We just found a crypt with a piece of the first vampire," he told it. "Do you want to do a pick up or should I deliver it to you?"

The goblin looked at him. "Already?"

"I've had ten years to find most of the stuff in this place," he pointed out. "I'm going to save up the rest of the stuff to teach the boys how to research and where to research, but I'm not holding the dangerous ones for long. This is the Hellmouth."

The goblin frowned at him. "The Hellmouth is off limits to all official finders."

"It's a good thing I'm freelance then, huh?" Xander said dryly. "So, pick up or delivery?"

"Bring it over. You'll have to register your area since we don't have you on file."

"Fine," Xander agreed, closing the connection. He took a running leap at his bed and bounced a few times, grinning at his mural on his ceiling. "This is the life I've wanted," he promised himself.


Tipsy looked at her boys, smiling at them. "No, you can't come. You can wait on me, you can hold my idea file, but you cannot come. This is a battle, not where you want to test ideas." They pouted. "You can take care of me until I can teach you pranking for battles and wars, then we'll let you help." They relented, seeing how firm she was on that demand. "Good boys." She kissed them both. "Behave until I get back and don't blow up the house." They laughed and waved, watching her go.

Fred kept George so he couldn't follow. "She's right, we'll have to use different pranks for a battle situation."

"Then let's study. She's got oodles of books on pranking and jokes through the ages," George offered. "That way we can go next time." They headed to the library, her idea file not out of their hands as they read. They passed it back and forth between them to comfort themselves.

Tipsy met Emilia and Xander, who looked a little tired. "You up for this?" she demanded.

"I am. I just got up. The boys found a sarcophagus full of stolen jewelry and we've been researching the pieces to make sure they're free and clear." He kissed Emilia on the cheek. "I was wrong, he and Buffy get along great the way he is. He's pissed away a few nights by calling her name as he went off." He looked at the group of people they were watching. "Are we ready?"

"And willing," Methos said from behind them. He smirked at their disgusted looks. "I'm out of practice for this sort of battle. I have to know their weaknesses to teach my students how to exploit them." He waved a hand. "Shall we?"

"Two more minutes, they're waiting for someone else," Emilia said, but she did start to gather her powers to her, letting them leak to the group in front of her. Nothing too overt, just a subtle building so she could jack it up later quickly if she needed to. Finally one of the top Death Eaters appeared and they sighed in frustration, they had wanted the Big Guy. She looked at each of their compatriots and nodded, jacking up the feelings to a more noticeable level. The people started to pull on the collars of their robes, looking very uncomfortable.

Tipsy stepped back beside Methos. "Do you want smoke or flash?" she asked quietly.

"Both," he said smugly, sneaking forward. She threw both pranks at the same spot, which he seemed to pop out of. Everyone looked at him and he sneered at them. "Idiots, all of you," he said conversationally.

Xander's whoop of joy as he seemed to fall from the trees startled them but they were torn between lust and fighting, they were inefficient for the most part. A few people fought through their lust to really fight, but Tipsy was keeping them off balance by throwing things under their feet. A few snakes, which they had all been conditioned to not get near, a few suddenly appearing holes of void. A few more smoke and light bombs. Things that were guaranteed to unsettle them.

"What is going on here!" a deeper voice said as he appeared.

Everyone focused on him, especially Emilia. "Shit, he's too much snake," she hissed, bringing up her fundamental nature. She shifted form and he started to react, but it was Xander who was facing off with him.

"Look, it's the kiddie killer," he sneered. "Couldn't beat a yearling then and you can't beat a real wizard now. No wonder my great-nephew's not afraid of you."

"Don't you mean son?" Voldemort sneered.

"No, technically I'm his grandfather, not his father," he sneered back. Both women looked at him. "It was a moment of weakness," he admitted with a grin. He looked back at his opponent as he fell to his knees. "Gee, thanks, convenient positioning."

"I am immortal," Voldemort hissed. "You cannot kill me."

"Wrong, I am immortal, you're a wannabe," Methos said, cutting through a death eater in his way so he could walk over and face him down. Dumass faced off with the remaining fighters, most of them trying to rub off on him and lick his neck and boots. He sneered at the creature on the ground. "Do you shed?" he asked.

Voldemort forced his way to his feet. "You cannot beat me."

"Oh, but I've beaten worse than you. I beat the other Horsemen." Voldemort backed away from him. "Do you not realize who you're facing off with? I am Death!" he said hotly, following him.

"You died!" Voldemort shouted.

"Did I?" Methos asked snidely. "Do I look dead to you?" He pointed at the dead people they had caused. "They are dead. You are dead, and soon to be dead again. I am not dead and never have been." He sneered at him and raised his sword. "Shall we?"

"Oooh, can I get in a few blows for Harry?" Xander begged, bouncing up and down. "Please? So I can tell him I did more than sneer at him."

"Merlin, Dumass, I forgot the rumors that said you got hyper after a good fight," Tipsy said, frowning at him. "Go get laid!"

"Later," he said with a grin. He looked back at Voldemort, and at Methos as he flinched. "Ooh, can I distract that one?"

"Go for it," Methos ordered. He swung at Voldemort, making him run. He followed, intending to kill the shit so he could go back to his normal life. He refused to pull a Macleod and become a hero. The wizard disappeared on him but he didn't care, they would meet again. He walked back to the cleaning, noticing who was standing there. "Who called for the hero?" he asked.

Xander frowned at him. "Emilia said I can't kick his ass," he said in resignation. "She said he's protected."

"He must be with as many battles as he gets into." He gave Macleod a sardonic bow. "Who sent for you?"

"I was asked to come reign you in," Macleod told him, arms still crossed. "What are you doing?"

"These are bad guys who are killing families for shits and giggles," Xander said, talking down to him like he was two and couldn't possibly understand. "This is a war. You're not part of this."

"If Methos is, I can be," Macloed argued.

Xander looked at Methos. "Is he the guy you told me about?" Methos nodded, looking resigned. "Cool. I'm going to get laid. Have fun explaining this. Tipsy said she called the aurors to clean up after us. I'll see you tomorrow?" Methos nodded, giving him a faint smile. "Cool. Hey, Emilia, need a lift back to Vegas?"

"We both do," Tipsy told him. "Let me get the boys. We'll pop in on Greg tonight." Emilia nodded and they let Xander burn off some of his energy that way. The twins were dutifully gathered and they headed back to Vegas. Emilia looked at the woman standing in the middle of Greg's kitchen, but it was Tipsy who asked the important question. "Who are you?"

"Sarah Sidle, I work with Greg. I'm here to take care of his plants for him," she said, holding up the water pitcher she had been filling. "You are?"

"Xander Dumass, Emilia Dorekson, and Tipsy Ramvette with her betrothed," one of the twins introduced. Tipsy patted him on the head. "I think we can probably do the plants if you have something you'd rather be doing."

"No, that's okay. Is Greg coming?"

"Later tonight," Emilia told her. "Do you have Grissom's number? I have a message for him."

"Sure. It's in Greg's maroon address book," she said. "Or I've got it set on speed dial on my cell."

"That's okay," Xander assured her. "We'll look it up." He pointed at the stairs. "Bathrooms?" She nodded so he headed that way to get cleaned up. He needed to burn some energy and it was legal in this city. He came down the stairs a few minutes later and found the twins plotting her demise. "What happened?"

George looked at him. "She asked how old we were."

"She insinuated that Tipsy was molesting us," Fred finished.

"Fuck her then," Xander agreed. "Want my idea?" They smiled and nodded. "See, what you do is this," he said, bending down to whisper it to Fred.

Fred looked at George. "That is truly mean and nasty, and would suit her perfectly," he announced. "Plus, I'm sure Tipsy would know someone if Emilia didn't."

"Let's go," George agreed as they headed for Emilia. She would help them protect Tipsy from mean muggles.

Xander walked out whistling, his bank card in his hand. He hailed a cab and had them go to the nearest ATM then to the nicest brothel in town.


Sarah Sidel woke up in a hotel room, looking at the ceiling. This definitely wasn't her apartment, her apartment didn't have a mirror on the ceiling or a lumpy mattress. She noticed there was another person in the bed so turned her head to look at them. It turned out to be a young Asian male, the kind that looked like a girl in the right light. That's when something else hit her conscious mind, her left hand felt heavy. She pulled it up to look at it. "Oh. Damn."

That woke up her companion. He stretched like a cat and turned onto his side to look at her. "For a woman, you're very good," he said, stroking her back. "Thank you for letting me have this opportunity. I promise I'll do as much as I can stand until we can get everything taken care of and I find myself a decent man."

She opened her mouth a few times before sound came out. "Huh?"

He smiled. "You don't remember?" She shook her head. "It must have been the party your coworker threw you at the club." He kissed her cheek gently. "You really are man enough for me for now, but we'll have to get you some toys soon to use on me so I don't lose my tightness and abilities."

"Huh?" she asked again.

He laughed. "Don't worry, the rum will wear off soon." He checked his watch. "You should start getting ready for work, Mistress Sarah. You said you work night shift."

She nodded. "I do. You should come in with me so you can explain this to m...my boss," she pointed out. He smiled happily and nodded. "Good. Clothes?" she asked, having noticed she wasn't dressed.

"You had me fold them and put them in the closet for you, Sarah."

"Oh, okay. Do you want first or second shower?"

"You mean I can't take one with you?"

Sarah had to think fast. "Not until I'm sure what happened last night. I don't want to impose," she told him. He nodded, happy with that explanation. "How old are you?"

"Eighteen ten days ago," he said happily. "You saved me being deported."

"Good. I'm glad I could do that," Sarah said as she slid out from under the covers. She noticed there was a dragging sensation that hadn't been there before and looked down at her pelvic region, eyes going wide at the sight of the strap on. The obviously used strap on. She blinked a few times then took it off and hurried into the bathroom. She really needed Grissom's help with this.


Grissom looked up as the owl flew into his office, smiling at it. It was a different one this time, this one looked smaller and it was white instead of tawny brown. It landed in the middle of his desk and hooted happily. "Hello to you too," he told it. Someone came running with a net. "It's all right," he said, waving off the officer. "A friend of mine is training this one to take messages."

"A carrier owl?" Warrick asked as he slid past the tense officer with the net. "It's cute."

"Yes it is. Get me some lunch meat out of the fridge if you wouldn't mind." Warrick went to do that while Grissom read the message saying Greg was too tired to come in, he had been 'shagged' to death by his new wife earlier in the day. He smiled and handed the message to Warrick and Catherine as they came in. He let the owl eat the meat while he petted it, then it flew off, going back to its master supposedly.

"That's great news," Catherine said happily. "Is she the one who came to help him?" Grissom nodded. "Cool. I can't wait to meet her officially." She looked over as Sarah shrieked at Nick to get out of her way. "It sounds like someone's having a bit of trouble with the owl."

"I think she's got a different problem," Warrick said, nodding at the boy walking behind her.

Sarah walked in and looked at her coworkers. "Out," she pleaded. "Please?" They nodded, leaving her alone with the boss, and the detective following the noise.

Catherine stopped him. "Greg got married this morning, he'll be in tomorrow; he's pleading exhaustion."

"That's good news. Maybe he'll control her so she doesn't do that to all the men next time she comes to visit," Brass said dryly. "What's up with her?"

"I think she did the classic Vegas 'oops'," Catherine said smugly. She led Warrick away. "Was it just me or did the new husband seem a bit...gay?"

Warrick nodded. "More than most of the chorus boys on the strip," he agreed, smiling at Nick. "You gotta see this," he said happily. "Sarah came in with a boy in tow." They peeked toward Grissom's office, catching his eye. The boss frowned so they ducked back into the lab.

"Was he gay?" Nick asked.

"Very," Warrick said. "We were at a club last night hanging out and drinking. I remember seeing him and her dancing on the floor. Maybe I should have hunted her down?"

"Nah," Catherine said with a slightly naughty grin. "It'll only help her to be in a relationship for a while."

"From the looks of him, an annulment is out of the question," Nick pointed out. "He doesn't look comfortable sitting."

They shared a laugh. It was mean, but they were friends.


Greg led his wife into the CSI unit, smugly nodding at everyone. "Hi, all," he announced when he led her into the breakroom. "This is Emilia Sanders. My wife." Everyone smiled and nodded. "Nick, if you touch her like your eyes say, I'm going to kick your ass and stake you out in the dessert naked in front of a brothel," he warned, smirking at him. Nick shuddered and quit staring at her. "Thank you." He smiled at Grissom. "I think I need to adjust my forms."

"I have them in my office," Grissom assured him. "Emilia, welcome to the family. This is our night-shift crew. That's Catherine, Warrick, Sarah, and Nick." She waved at each of them, giving them a smile. "Detective Brass is around here somewhere. Greg, are you working tonight?"

"Do you have anything for me to do?"

"There's about seven sample sets that need run."

"Then I guess I can work for a little while and hold off my honeymoon," he said, looking at his wife, who gave him a patient smile and a nod. "Would you come get me in about three hours and we'll eat?" he suggested.

"Of course, Greg, I know how you are in the lab." He blushed. "The poor boy used to positively lock himself in the dungeons some nights." She patted him on the cheek. "You behave and catch some bad guys and I'll reward you later." He beamed so she kissed him. "Good boy, Greg." She winked at Catherine. "You'll be pleased to know that Draco is now someone else's problem. Mr. Dumass is looking out for him and he's very well trained since he used to date one of us." Catherine smiled at her. "Thank you for taking such good care of Greg for me." She waved and left them alone.

"Dungeon?" Nick asked.

"That's where our lab class was held. It had better ventilation," Greg said with a shrug. He looked at everyone. "Give me a moment to find my lab jacket and then you can pounce on me."

"Greg, before you go, there's a piece of news you may not have heard," Warrick told him. "Sarah got married the other day too." She groaned. "His name's Yun?" She nodded, blushing a bright red.

"That's great," Greg said, giving her a short hug. "I'm sure you'll like it as much as I do. I waited on Emilia for nearly forever but I finally got what I want." He skipped out, going to his lab.

Catherine came in first with a few vials. "I need these typed and done, but then I need them run through the system and against each other." He handed her a tray and put a note into it. "Thanks." She kissed him on the cheek. "You look happy."

"I am, I left the school with things well in hand and people I trust to be there for the kids. Emilia and I worked out a way for us to get back fairly quickly and it'll be fine. Do you like her?"

"I adore her, she seems very nice, Greg. When is the barbeque?"

He grinned. "Next week sometime. The kids are going back to school in about two weeks and Dumass said he'd bring them over to help us celebrate since their first finds were going to be heading back that day."

"What does he do?" Grissom asked as he walked in with a few samples of his own. Greg handed him a small plastic tray and he put them in there, labeling what tests he needed done and what case they were for.

"He's a treasure finder and a curse breaker. He does things like recover long-lost artifacts from tombs. He's working his hometown right now with Harry, Harry's best friend Ron, and Draco as his toy." He took the tray and made sure he had all the information. "Run a scan against the system?"

"If it wouldn't take too much time. I need mine by midnight."

"Sure thing, boss." He grinned at Catherine. "Can you help her go shopping, on me, this weekend? I want her to have something stunning to wear for the next great summit."

"What does she do?" Nick asked as he walked in with his own samples.

"She keeps them calm and centered," Greg told him. Nick looked confused.

"You know that leaking thing?" Grissom asked. Nick nodded, starting to sweat. "She does that at major meetings so fights don't break out."

"Oh." He looked at Greg. "That doesn't bother you?"

"Not a bit. We all have quirks, Nick." He took his tray of samples. "DNA?"

"Straight comparison," he agreed. He left to talk to Warrick, who was a voice of reason and sanity.

Warrick came in after everyone else had left. "Does she make you as happy as you thought?" Greg gave him the most goofy grin. "I'm happy for you, man."

"Do you know someone named Alex Moreau?" Greg asked. Warrick thought and then shook his head. "One of my friends works with her and her grandmother came from the same town as you said your grandmother had lived."

"What was her grandmother's name?" Warrick asked, sitting down to listen to this one. "Are you trying to fix me up?"

Greg nodded. "Definitely. Alex is a really nice lady. Nick says she's so lonely she's starting to turn cynical a little bit. Her Grandmother's name was Rose."

"Grandma Rose I remember," Warrick said, thinking back to the few summers he had spent with his grandmother. Grandma Rose had been a strange and mystical woman that the whole town had respected, but not many got close to. "I remember her," he admitted. "I remember she had a grown daughter and two granddaughters. I played with the granddaughters one summer so I may know her. What does she do?"

"She works with Nick at the Luna Foundation, doing lab and investigative work." He looked at his friend. "Basically what you do, only on some stranger things. They do some antique research, some paranormal stuff, and some public service stuff. It's a pretty intense job but Nick thought you two might hit it off from my description of you." He shrugged. "If you want, I can set you two up to meet soon. There's that conference coming up in Berkeley that you said you wanted to go to."

"Yeah, I wouldn't mind meeting her, see if she remembers me."

"Cool," Greg agreed, touching a spot on his arm. He burst out laughing. "Nick said she's throwing a fit right now about being dateless." He looked at Warrick. "When's your next day off?"

"What? You're going to fly me out there?" Greg nodded. "Um, that's not necessary."

"It is, she's a really nice woman," Greg assured him. "Besides, you could use more friends in the business and she's a good one to know. She's flown across country for friends in danger before."

"Fine," Warrick sighed, giving in. He did want to know if she was the same girl he used to play with. "I'm off this weekend."

"Good." Greg touched his arm again and smiled. "Nick's making you reservations and your ticket will be waiting on you Saturday afternoon." Warrick looked impressed. "I know, it's the married guy syndrome, I want everyone to be as happy as I am, but we think you two will hit it off."

"What's with the arm touching?"

"Oh." He rolled up his sleeves to show off his tattoos. "I'm linked with my friends through these. That's how they knew I needed help when we were attacked."

"I guess that's good. If it helps and all." He shrugged. "I'm not even pretending to understand most of it."

"To understand it, you'd have to ask Philip. He found them." He took his sample and put it in line to do, going back to Grissom's. "I'm open to questions if you want to ask."

"Nah, I'll wait. Grissom's more a questioner than I am."

"Okay, just remember, my office is open." He smiled at Brass came in. "You missed Emilia."

"I saw her last time," Brass said, nodding at Warrick. "You done with him?"

"Sure," Warrick said, ducking out to think about his upcoming date.

Brass closed the door. "How are you doing?"

"Pretty good," Greg said, starting that sample spinning. "We're pretty happy. Things are going well back at the school. We've got a firm foundation of people spread around to help and we've figured out how we long it takes us to get back there if something happens." He turned to look at the detective. "Is there a problem, Detective Brass?"

"Not many. There were a few questions about why those people were attacking you. I said you were working on a new process for doing labwork. They figured that it was probably something like that." Greg smiled. "Greg, I know you're honest, but don't you ever get tempted to use the old wand?"

"Every now and then, when I can't find anything, but I never would," Greg told him.

"Then you had nothing to do with Sarah's sudden marriage to the little gay guy?"

"Um," he said with a grin. "It wasn't me. It was one of us that pointed them together. We didn't do anything further. The pranksters actually tried to get her to stop and she wouldn't. The marriage was all her, Detective, honest. The boys only wanted to have her wake up with him."

"Really? Which ones did that?"

He grinned. "Do you remember the female that came with Philip?" He nodded. "That's Tipsy Ramvette. It was her and her new boys, twin pranksters who believe she is either a muse of naughtiness or a divine power. They really did try to stop her."

"I see." He frowned at the young man. "Don't tell her about that. Maintain your innocence."

"Don't I look innocent?" Greg asked.

Brass nodded. "That's your greatest strength. That and your new wife. When's the traditional barbeque?"

"Next weekend. I'm on duty this weekend and I just set Warrick up on a blind date with a girl he used to play with when he was little. She's one of my best friends best friends."

"Ah." He nodded. "Good job, don't try it with me."

"I'd never dream of it, sir, I don't know you well enough." He grinned. "Did the alarm for my house go off?"

"Yeah, just now. You don't have a way for it to tell you?"

"It's one of your systems, not mine," Greg said with a shrug. "Who was it?"

"That dark haired guy with three young boys carrying a lot of jewels."

"He said he was going to wait until next week," Greg pouted. "I wanted to see what they found."

"He said he's staying," Brass said with a shrug. "Wasn't the blond kid already there?"

"Yeah. Xander enacted an old law that gave him right of reparation for what Lucius tried to do to him and his family, which would be the dark-haired kid of that trio, and the redhead's whole family. He took the blond kid as payment in case something happened to Harry, plus to protect him. The kid's like my wife, Brass."

"Ah." He nodded. "And are they...together?"

"No. Xander said he wouldn't even suggest it."

"Good. That kid didn't look that old."

"He's barely legal in about half our states," Greg offered.

"Sixteen. A good age to get your life screwed with I guess." He shrugged. "As long as it's all legal and all that." He nodded at Greg's unused pot in the corner. "You haven't made anything recently?"

"No, I've been doing it at home," Greg said with a smile. "That way no one could walk in while I did it." He was looking at the door because Sarah had been about to walk in when Grissom had stopped her to talk to her. "Sir, if I can ask, how are you feeling?"

"This weird stuff isn't giving me headaches yet if that's what you want to know." Greg nodded. "Don't worry, every higher level detective gets to see their share of strange stuff, mine just happens to take the cake." He shrugged and left, letting Sarah in.

"Greg, I've got six or seven samples for you to run ASAP."

"Grissom's comes first, he's on a deadline," Greg told her firmly. "Put it next to Catherine's." She pulled down a tray and wrote out the instructions, putting it in place in the queue. "Are you and your guy happy?"

"Not really, but I can't seem to get out of it," she admitted. "You?"

"She was worth the wait," Greg said with a sappy smile. "More than worth the wait."

"I'm glad you're happy." She clapped him on the back. "I'd better get back to bug fingerprints."

"I'm sure they appreciate your dedication as much as I do," he told himself as soon as the door was shut.

The End.