Special Powers of Observation.
Nick walked into the unit, looking a bit confused. Everyone decided to leave him alone for a bit, figuring it was about his treatments, but that wasn't it. He found Greg in a lab, working on a picture of something. "Greg, do you have a few?"
"Sure," he said absently, staring through a magnifying lens. "I think that's a footprint there but I can't tell," he admitted, handing it over. "I think that's a bigger clue than the totally faked fingerprints we found at the scene."
Nick looked, then nodded. "That does look like a shoe print. Looks like someone kicked the wall. Did you have a better picture of it?"
"Yeah, but they're cracking down on the number of pictures we blow up." He grimaced a bit. "I'm about to make a donation to the department so they lay off us."
"If you want, just make it a quiet one. Don't even tell Griss." He turned and closed the door, looking at him again. "I've got a problem in your area." He looked down, then back at him again. "Your other area."
"Okay." He checked the table, then hopped up on it. "Tell me."
Nick glanced outside, then at him. "Remember the case with the little girl who was missing after all her family was killed?" Greg nodded quickly. "I, um, heard some stuff. It was like she was telling me her whole story. I could *hear* it."
"That's why you got so demanding and pushy."
Nick nodded. "Yeah. I *knew* she was alive. Just knew. That's...." He ran his hand through his hair. "It matched nearly perfectly with what she told me, man."
Greg nodded slower this time. "Okay." He considered it. "Have you ever had any visions? Even mild dreams that came true? Anything that seemed like deja vu?"
"Every once in a while," he admitted quietly. "Does it ...go away?"
Greg shook his head. "Nope." He grinned a bit. "That's actually my third or fourth area, though I did study it at school."
"They teach classes in hearing things?"
Greg snickered a bit. "No, but they do teach divinations. Hearing things that you shouldn't is actually Blair and Philip's speciality. I just get visions of things that'll end up hurting my family."
"Like those agents?" Nick asked. Greg nodded. "Nothing like this?"
"We each manifest a different way. I get mind splitting visions that give me an idea of the future. If you're hearing the victims...." He looked around, then at him. "Have you heard any other victims? Anyone dead?" Nick shook his head. "Anyone alive?"
Greg leaned forward and grabbed him by the shirt, pulling him forward. "What was it?"
"I thought I heard a missing kid tell me they were in a storm drain but they weren't and they didn't say anything."
"Okay. There's two things it could be. The girl could be like me, or something close, basically a telepath who had her gifts brought out under stress. She wouldn't be the first of us who had that happen." Nick blinked a few times and Greg grinned a bit. "No, there's no mansion in upper New York with a bunch of them. It happens now and then. More often among ethnic cultures. Again, Blair's area, not mine. Now, if it's *you* doing it, somehow tapping into them, it's either something about her or you've always had a touch of Sight about the victims. Alex, the lady I introduced Warrick to, has some of that and so does her boss."
"But it doesn't go away?"
"Nope," Greg said dryly. He grinned a bit. "That doesn't mean it'll come back out ever again. There's every chance it was something about *her* that brought it out."
Nick relaxed and nodded. "So what do I do?"
"Keep a diary. For now, note down all the irregularities. All the times you hear or feel something, even if it's just a hunch, a gut hit. Something that makes you twinge."
"I can do that. I already started that."
"Good. Now, keep it for a month. It'll take me that long to get a few of the books I need from Blair's stash in storage. I've got to write Simon to do that. Or I could get you in touch with Alex. There's ways, shielding techniques, that can help you. There's some training that'll help you distinguish between the real stuff and the stuff you want because it's emotional for you."
"A full month?" he asked.
Greg nodded. "A full month. With as many cases as we get here, that'll give us a good sample. If you don't want to, you can ignore it. Consider it a hunch, like a gut instinct." He shrugged. "It's up to you. No one and nothing says you can't ignore it."
"But what if it happens again?"
"It's not like you get visible, telling reactions. Yeah, you may get hit again, like you did with that young girl. We all have those cases according to Gris. You've got something to help a victim get justice, and that's special, but no one says *you* have to be special," he offered at the look of desperation he was getting. "As far as I'm concerned, you came in here to tell me to get 'Mil off your case and to make her quit nagging."
Nick shook his head. "I don't mind her nagging. It's kinda nice." Greg grinned a bit at that. "You're serious? It's that simple?"
"Unless you suddenly get a brain splitting vision or something else that lets someone know what's going on in your head. Who can tell why you suddenly get adamant?"
"Good point. I won't suddenly get ...visions or anything freaky, right?" Greg shook his head. "What if it's about her? That girl?"
"Then you're going to give me her name. I'm going to announce it to one of the better people now in Chicago so they can do a check. If, at the right time and at the right place, she manifests, she'll get a letter too."
"They can tell?"
"Yeah, they can tell. They can put wards around where she lives to catch anything accidental she does. It's usually brought out by emotional outbursts and panic. They'll keep a good eye on her and if it turns out she's not like me, then Alex and them will keep a good watch on her, in case she turns to Willow magic."
"Remember the redhead following Alex around my house whining?" Nick grimaced and nodded. "She's a Wiccan. A fairly strong one at that. Some of us with the gifts go that way instead of my way."
"Oh." He slumped a bit. "Can I warn her?"
"Not at all?"
"Nick, think about it. If someone came up to you and said 'you might be a witch', they'd either laugh, call the people with butterfly nets, or get really hopeful." Nick sighed and nodded at that. "So we don't want to bother them but we want to make sure everyone with a bit is picked up. I'm not sure how they do that across the country. I used to think something like a satellite to catch anything that surged out." Nick snickered a bit at that. "I'm not sure how, but they very rarely miss anyone unless they're covered up by stronger magic. Something like what kept Willow from finding a school."
"So, you'll tell the right people, she'll be found if she manifests or whatever, and she'll get a letter some day soon?"
"Around here it's twelve. Overseas it's eleven."
"So, a few years?" Greg nodded. "What about until then?"
"Until then, she'll be on the monitoring list. If something *really* horrible happens and she does something so outrageous that it makes media attention, someone will be sent to her to calm her down, handle it, adjust memories, things like that. Emilia's had to do that with a few kids over the summer vacation that've burst out with accidental magic."
"Oh." He looked a bit happier at that. "How soon can you contact them?"
Greg patted himself down. "Go get my phone from Hodges and give me her particulars. I can do it now." Nick smiled and went to do that.
Brass walked past the door, then backed up. "Taking a break?"
"No. Handling a small problem for Nick."
"Oh. Any good news?"
"I think that shoeprint on the wall is more significant than not, but I'll have to blow up that picture to get a good resolution."
"Fine. Let me know ASAP."
"Yes, sir," he said, shooting off a salute with a grin.
"Sloppy, kid. You need to work on that." Nick came back so he looked him over. "You getting better?"
"A lot. They think I'll get to miss my last treatment. I'm down to nearly no wrong cells."
"Good. Remember the sunscreen, Nick." He walked on, heading to go bother someone else.
Greg took the note Nick was writing out and looked up a number, getting a tired sounding voice. "Let me guess it's been a bad day?" he teased. "Nope. One of my coworkers thinks he found someone with potential gifts. Yeah. Sure, I can email it instead. Bad day?" He listened, then groaned, holding his head. "Man! What happened?" He shook his head quickly. "Sandburg's somewhere in Chicago, probably still with Kowalski, but I'm not sure what sort of shape he's in. If you can't, I might be able to swing some time to come out and sub, but not that much. Sure. Maybe by video or something? I work nights and...." Someone stared in the door of the lab. "Reporting something, boss." He went back to listening. "Sure. Yeah, let me know. No, I've got my cell back again. Sure, man. Thanks." He hung up. "The present master at Chicago knocked himself silly with a flying cauldron when he made a fairly complicated mistake." Nick snickered a bit. "It's not hard to do, but you'd think the guy would duck. He's got a backup but we're not sure what she's doing." He looked at Grissom. "Someone with potential. I need to email it to him."
"Sure, thanks, man." Nick grinned and walked out, heading back to his lab. He came back a minute later. "That diary? A full month?"
Greg nodded. "And I expect a lot of complaints about the stench of most sunscreens."
"Yes, sir." He went back to his lab.
Greg put it in his pocket after making a note on the top, then looked at their boss, motioning him closer. "Come look at this, I found a footprint on the wall and I think I can blow one up to rule out our not-right suspect."
Grissom came in to look, then up at him. "I saw that and it's iffy. It's a fairly typical dollar store sneaker print."
"Yeah, but our guy was worth money. Did he wear dollar store shoes?"
"Not that I know of," Grissom admitted. He looked at him, then where he was sitting, then back at him. Greg slid down with a grin. "Thank you. What else was that about?"
"Nick thinks he ran into a kid with potential. I called Chicago to put her on the watch lists but they're in the middle of problems. Their potion teacher knocked himself silly," he offered with a small grin. "I said I could teach during the days, probably by video lessons. I didn't think I could take off six weeks to deal with them while he had a concussion."
"No, you're about out of leave time," he agreed. "There was a magical explosion down on the strip, just past the old Mirage sign. We don't know what's going on but Penn called and said your wife is fine."
Greg flipped open his phone and called his overlord's secretary. "What happened to Emilia?" he asked. "No, this is Greg, dear. What happened to my wife?" He listened, then groaned. "Is it handled or not?" He whimpered. "Sure. Come see me when I get home. Thanks." He hung up. "Someone was dueling. I've got to make a magic nulling potion to turn him back into a human. The other one nearly died." He rubbed his forehead. "I hate people sometimes."
"You can always go hide in your house and make potions," Grissom reminded him dryly. "That way you won't have to deal with them."
"Yeah, but then I'd miss the fun and the soap opera qualities that we've got around here." He gathered his pictures together. "Who has the negative of that one?"
"Warrick. That's how I know it's a dollar store sneaker and that the vic doesn't wear them."
"Oh, good. So I'm duplicating again?"
"Yeah, but Ecklie is going to come to you soon and beg you to go into the lab. Our dayshift replacement just freaked out and had a panic attack. We think he's going to flunk his drug test." Greg groaned, shaking his head, hanging it a bit. "Your replacement is heading there so we need you back in the lab."
"Man!" he whined.
"Emilia liked you in the lab. She's been worried about you."
"She might be, but I want more, Griss!"
"I know, Greg, but for right now, we need you more in the lab. So head there. Go back to playing board games and that stuff."
"I can't. I don't have anyone willing to play with me." He walked off, heading to his locker to change and take a quick shower so he'd be clean for the lab. He had been outside a bit too often already. Hodges leaned out of his lab and he frowned at him. "Don't even say it."
"Say what? I was going to ask if I could have my phone back."
Greg held it up. "My phone."
"Ooops." He grinned a bit. "Have you seen mine?"
"No." He tossed it back. "You're paying for any overages this month."
"Thanks, Greg. I'll file for my new one tomorrow."
"Just answer it if it rings for me and take a message!"
"Fine. What's going on," he called as Greg walked off again.
"Oooh." He pulled back in and called his girlfriend again. Greg wouldn't mind. Much.
Ginny limped back into the school, frowning at the woman who came out to meet her. "Not one word," she warned.
"Fine," McGonagall said, giving her a short hug. "Are you all right?"
"I tripped on the walk up." She handed over a letter. "For you and Professor Snape. Where am I supposed to be?"
"Fine," she mumbled, heading that way. She had now found the downside to being a Valkyrie. Her horse went into heat and she hated it. She trudged that way, running into her favorite teacher. "I hate your family," she told him.
Professor Armwrench smiled and nodded. "It's a mutual distaste on my part. They haven't tried to understand me for centuries." He looked her over. "Need a warm bath?"
"I had one of those and thankfully my brother kept me from drinking from the fertility well." She headed past him, going to get her ankle fixed. Not that she wanted to, but it was keeping her out of potions. She was sure she'd end up in there, it was how her luck was going today. She ran into Professor Snape up there, giving him a dirty look. "Don't say it, I tripped." She looked at the nurse. "Professor McGonagall said to report to you before classes."
"You turned your ankle?" She nodded, hopping up to let her look at it. "It's not too bad."
"No, but I didn't want to complain to that woman. She had that scary look in her eyes again. That Harry and Ron took the flying car look."
"Well, your mother was here earlier, they had a bit of tea," the nurse offered with a slight smile. "She was demanding to know when your brother was coming back."
"Nice to know she cares that I disappeared again," Ginny said darkly. Snape glared at her. "Let me guess, I've got you next?"
"Oh, good. I missed you already," she said. "At least something's looking up."
"Your horse is in my classroom."
"Hey, yell at her. Apple's pretty damn smart, professor. If you want her out, tell her not me. She won't listen to me since I didn't have anything there for her to mate with. She had to come back here to jump the unicorn."
He raised an eyebrow. "Didn't you have fun?"
She stared at him for a minute before leaning forward to cover the nurse's ears. Then she got to glare at him. "I had sex straight through the last two weeks, Snape. I'm tired, my bum is sore, and I had to deal with Draco Bloody Malfoy trying to bugger me and Alex both. You tell me!" He snorted, looking amused at that. "Let's be bloody well thankful Ron kept me from drinking from the fertility well, as my older brother Bill suggested I should." He lost his good humor, looking a bit alarmed at that. "Now, I've got a pregnant horse to nurture and fuss over. I'm bloody well sore and tired. I turned my ankle on the hike up from the town since my horse decided she wanted to cuddle you instead of giving me a ride since I thoughtlessly went somewhere without a playmate for her, and I think we woke up an ancient God. Do you really think I had fun?"
"You...woke up an ancient God?"
"Yeah, Alex said to tell ya that the temple suddenly lit itself up the last time they went in there to work on stuff. Something about Cupid and Strife's honeymoon from what I got from the walls."
He shuddered. "Do you need a potion to remove any impediments to your future studies?"
She gave him her dirtiest look, which only got a small, evil smirk in return. "Hell no! I know my contraceptive charms!" Snape nodded once and left. She uncovered the nurse's ears, giving her a small shrug. "Sorry, didn't think you wanted polluted with that."
"No, that's all right," she assured her. "I didn't need to know those things. Did you tell Professor Armwrench?"
"Like Dumbledore, isn't he supposed to be omnipotent?" she asked dryly. "I'll tell Dawn and Luna. If he doesn't know, he'll hear them cooing over it."
Professor Armwrench stuck his head in. "You woke up *who*?"
"Not a bloody clue. Go find Bill and see who's possessing him this time. Remind him if he's gonna quit like mum wants him to, he'll end up with a real job and a baby within a year."
"I could never let one of mine suffer that way," he said grimly. "Where are they?"
"Still down there. Last I knew, Alex was whining to be let go so he could screw Draco into the altar so he started to become sane again. Can't you hear 'em?"
"I can. He keeps invoking me. He got the others free and is presently singing a lullaby." He frowned. "Behave while I'm gone."
"Yeah, sure we will," she said dryly, smirking a bit. "Because I'm *so* like that!"
"Fine. At least get your horse out of the potions classroom then. I'm sure he'll appreciate it and maybe even not take points."
"Apple's a smart girl. She goes where she wants, not where I want."
"Fine. Whatever. Just try to behave." He disappeared, landing in a clearing, looking at Bill Weasley as he appeared. "Well, you picked a different look this time," he noted dryly. "I'd have thought you'd have went for Potter since he looks more like you."
Bill scratched the back of his head and shrugged. "He was easier." He looked around, then back at him. "What's going on? First I get woken up by the smartass who sounds a lot like Ares, and then they keep whinin' about havin' sex ta clear the blond one's mind. Then they start making bad jokes and they're all yours?"
"My curse breakers. They're still invoking me."
Bill frowned. "Why're they yours?"
Loki shrugged. "There's not many of us who can get back here, Strife. As you've found out. What woke you up?"
"The smartass sounding one who sounds like Unc!" He frowned a bit as first one girl, then two more appeared, one holding a bow. "Uh-huh. Cute." He looked at the second girl. "You're cuter though," he said with a small leer.
"I think you'd find my consort would mind rather a lot," Luna offered dryly.
"What do I care about mortals?" he noted dryly.
Luna coughed and Ethan, Wesley, and Tara showed up. "They're my consorts, all but the girl. I've liked many things but I never had a thing for girls."
Tara looked at them. "Why am I here?"
"I don't know," Ginny noted. She looked at her teacher. "Since I felt his lifeline start to snap, I'm here to gather him so he can at least experience *some* fun after he's dead. Not that he's prone to fun now." She looked at her brother's body. "You do know you picked
the least fun of all of us, right? That Bill hasn't had fun in years? And no sex in decades?"
Bill's possessor shook their head. "You should hear him swear, young lady."
"Sorry if the truth hurts, but I know some fourth year Hufflepuffs that have more fun than he does, and more sex too." Luna nodded at that and the cloaked figure behind her giggled and nodded. "Then again, I'm sure he'll get some fun in Valhalla. Probably trying to dress the barmaid floosies and the like. It's not like he'll participate or get drunk like the rest of them do."
Professor Armwrench looked at her. "Didn't one of them try to dress you like them?"
"Yeah, and I smacked the idiot warrior on the head with a mead urn when he tried to pinch me too. He was not happy to interrupt his drinking to go take a real bath. Odin asked why I had broken the rules and I pointed out I took a vow of chastity and if he wanted to get so grabby, I'd do it again. He said I was supposed to be in my leathers, I told him I wanted the damn rule book so I could find out these things and so I could figure out how to punish the stupid sluts who tried this shit with the Valkyries. He was amused. Frigg was even more amused, Loki. You missed that part. I went off on some of the idiots up there. Then, when your daddy so very nicely sent me back to the kitchens to cook instead, I suggested to Frigg that maybe he needed some more entertainment in his life. Something like a shieldmate. It might make him happy again. She looked really confused until I told her that if he had one, she wouldn't be getting beer-breathed all the time. She found him six that night and let him pick." She leaned against his arm. "We figured you were rolling somewhere since she let Thor pick 'em for him."
Loki hugged his poor, deluded student. "I love you and yes, the whole class got a burst of energy."
"We were thankful we weren't in the Great Hall, or else an orgy might've started," Luna told him.
"You're much too young for orgies," Ethan and Wesley said together.
"Sorry, dears," she offered with a grin, flicking off her cloak so she could snuggle between them.
Bill looked at the girl. "I like that outfit. 'Dite would look so cool in that."
"Feel free to show me off," Luna said with a cheeky smirk. "Is she awake too? I wanted to ask her advice on something I'm trying."
"No love potions," Loki and Ginny said in unison.
"Sorry." She went back to snuggling into the warm arms. "Ginny, where's Apple?"
"Snuggling up to Professor Snape for special sugar treats. She's still mad that I went somewhere without a beast for her."
Loki looked at the girl, then shook his head. "I'm not going there."
"Yeah, me either. Though, with how Alex and Draco like it, I can't ride anyway." She sent a thought to her mare but got back an evil sounding snort in return. "Nope, she's still mad."
Loki shook his head. "I ...." He shivered and looked at his former buddy again. "Are you sure you want to stay awake?"
"No but I keep getting woken up." He pouted a bit. "I don't know why but every now and then I get woken up and everything's so wrong and odd. The last time there was all this pollution and nastiness and blank spots." He looked around. "There's still blank spots."
"Those are probably the schools of magic," Luna told him.
"Huh?" he asked, looking at her. "What schools of magic? Ya mean like Hecate's magic stuff? Like wands and crystals and dead things?"
"That too," she agreed. "Everyone here but my two stallions and Tara went to the same magical school. Loki teaches at it."
Bill looked at his buddy. "You teach?"
Loki smirked. "I teach sex ed and other practical life skills to the last year."
Strife burst out giggling, sparkles flying from all around him. "I wanna do that! You've got to get energy by the assload. And you've still got priests out wandering around getting into mischief."
"My curse breakers are my favorite toys," Loki agreed with a grin. "You ran into my high priests and two students, plus a veela consort."
"Ron used to wonder why Bill used to get into so much trouble," Ginny noted dryly. "Then he went to Egypt and suddenly it's gone."
"Not hardly," Loki assured her.
"Okay, but he doesn't get to have any fun while he's doing it."
"No, he hasn't had much fun," Loki admitted, putting an arm around her shoulders.
Bill's face scrunched up. "I didn't know that Phonecians had swear words for that subject." Ginny smirked a bit at him. "He's swearing about your clothes."
She flicked a hand and suddenly she was in her working outfit. Which made Bill's mouth drop open and a few of those swears come out. "As I said, if he dies, I'm gathering him. Battling a possessive God should be enough since he's a curse breaker and one of the higher ones. They all get to head to Valhalla."
Bill giggled. "Oh, man! He's goin' now! He wanted to know what your mother thought of that outfit."
Ginny snickered. "Not much she can do about the official uniform, now is there?" she asked dryly. She looked up at her favorite professor. "Did you get to design the outfits? I always wanted to know what man decided we could ride and not show our bums in six-inch leather skirts."
"Thor did it," he said dryly. "He's always considered himself a stud."
"Boring blond guy? A stud?" She snorted and shook her head. "You can't pay me enough to sleep with Thor. I'd sleep with Hel before I slept with Thor and I don't like girls." Loki and Strife both giggled at that. "Why don't you jump out of Bill and into a more fun body? Shit, go take over one of the twins. Tipsy might like that. Or their kids, they've got four, they can let you borrow one for a bit. I'm sure Joxer would love to host you."
"Joxer?" Strife asked his buddy. "He's alive?"
"He's an immortal like Professor Methos and yeah, he's in Tibet somewhere with Duncie Poo. They're angsting on each other. Jett said so." Loki smirked a bit evilly. "Tipsy Ramvette's oldest daughter was named after him. They saw the tv show." He moved forward to show off the images of that show. "They got you frightfully well, old friend."
"Oooh, pranksters," he moaned, shivering a bit. Then he tipped his head to the side. "You're right, Sprout, he said this is the most fun he's had in a few weeks, but I just gave him nasty thoughts. Now he's swearin' at me."
"Shit happens when you don't have fun in your life."
Strife nodded. "True. He's not one of mine anymore," he sighed, looking at Loki. "You really teach?"
"I really teach sex ed," he agreed smugly. "Half the boys and girls hit on me. Most of them bring me dirty ideas to see if they're possible....." He looked at Ginny and shook his head. "I can't even bend that way and I'm a God, dear."
"Oh, well," she sighed. "Can we do it on horseback?"
"Only if yours is in heat," Luna reminded her.
"That'll be after she has a little horned foal."
"Winged. Her father's horn won't come through."
"Pity. I think she'd look pretty with a horn and wings."
Loki shrugged. "Sorry, the magic is overriding. What'll you do if it's a male?"
"Protect him from the meaner snots up there?"
"Good idea," the cloaked girl noted. "Maybe you can find him someone within the school."
"It'll take him a century to grow up enough to choose a girl," Loki assured her. "If Ginny's still a Valkyrie at that time, she'll have first right of helping him." Ginny beamed at that. "Of course, by then, you might have driven Odin mad and he might have closed Valhalla." Strife snickered at that. "She really does. Frigg, Freya, and Hel all like her more."
"How did you meet Hel?" Ethan asked, looking confused.
"Odin was pissed at me and needed a messenger. He knew not to send males to Hel so he sent me. We had tea and it was really nice. She was very sweet to me, said I reminded her a lot of herself." She grinned a bit. "I like Hel. I'm going to visit her for Solstice this year." She grinned at Loki. "She said I could bring you too and she wouldn't tell your father."
He smirked a bit. "We'll see. I might have plans."
"Hey, if you want Bill, have him. I'm sure you'll treat him right, use plenty of lube, give him backrubs when his back goes from all the sex, and feed him appropriately so he's slow enough to catch easily for another round."
Strife giggled, leaning on his friend's shoulder. "That's why I teach sex ed," Loki said, patting him on the back and giving his favorite students a grin. They shared a look. "She's his little sister."
"What about the red-haired guy there?"
"That's his younger brother, just older than Ginny here."
"Oh." Strife pouted. "What about the dark haired guy?"
"Harry? He's not taken but he likes girls," Ginny told him. "He's always liked girls, he's just shy and can't figure out what to do with a girl. Is he still running from girls?" she asked Loki.
He nodded, patting her on the back. "He is. It's the mark of a future high priest of mine. Alex did the same bloody thing a few times," he sighed in pleasure. "Those Arabian princesses were very good to me." He suddenly glared at Luna. "Desist, Lovegood." She just smiled and snuggled deeper into Wesley's arms. "Her mental capabilities have been going downhill. Apparently her sanity comes directly shooting out of you two and she hasn't had any recent dosages. I'd fix that." He looked at the giggling cloaked person. "Cold?"
"Fairly," she admitted, pushing back her hood. "It's winter. Remember, I'm from a warm spot and it's not like I've got my man here to cuddle me. And I'd never cuddle you, you like boys and might take my Ron from me."
Bill stared at her, mouth open. "The Key," he said in awe, reaching over to touch her hair. "How're you human!"
"Monks. Glorificus came for me."
"Wow." He saw a small tingling of magic starting and frowned, shielding himself and the girls. A blonde woman appeared on the ground and Dawn groaned. "You know her?"
"Yeah, anti-sanity goddess. Can't you do something?" she asked Loki. She pulled out her dagger and handed it over. "You can borrow it."
Ethan leaned down and pulled something off her, starting to nibble it. "Hmm, she's rather tasty." He took another nibble..
"That's *so* disgusting," Dawn said dryly. "Can't you kill her?"
"Nope. She's a higher demon."
Dawn took back her dagger and gripped it tightly, moving closer. "There's no way you're taking me or Tara, bitch." Bill stopped her and took the dagger, shaking his head. He bound her and looked at Loki, who added to it. "What!"
"Don't, kid. It's not good for you," Bill said gently enough, clapping her on the back. He put the dagger back for her, then went back to his buddy's side. "You really handle the three of them?"
"For this year and next," Ginny said with a small smirk.
Loki looked down at her. "Next?"
"Next. It's not like I can make up all the shit I missed thanks to Apple."
"Point," he sighed. "Or maybe I could help?"
"You'd still have me," Dawn reminded him with a smile. "For four more years, Professor." Then she smiled her sweetest grin. "You can help me prepare to join Ron in the field."
Loki considered it, then moaned. "Fine, Ginny may stay next year as well." Luna bounced up and down. "You need sanity before you come back today and then we'll see."
"That's about what we've said as well," Ethan admitted. He patted Luna on the back, looking at the black leather vest-like halter top that barely cleared her breasts. Then at the tight leather pants. "Perhaps we should adjourn now since they obviously have it."
Wesley gave him an odd look. "No way in hell, Ethan."
"Fine," he grumbled, holding Luna closer. "Maybe we should take our precious little empress back to the school?"
"And traumatize her teachers?" Wesley suggested with a smirk. "Did not Professor Snape say he would do a banishing charm on you this time?"
"That means he'd have to catch me." They looked at the new twinkle forming into Professor Snape. "Well. This is interesting. Someone needs shields."
"I've got mine up, quit fussing, Ethan!" Dawn complained.
"Not you, it's us when we get together," Loki assured her. He looked at Snape, then pointed at Bill. "He's a bit possessed."
Snape looked at him, then rolled his eyes. "I had wondered why Draco and Alex's minds suddenly cut out then came back complaining. Are Potter and Weasley dead?" Dawn glared at him and he stepped back at that. He knew what she was capable of. "Sorry, Miss Summers."
"Oh, you will be. Remember, I've still got four years." He shuddered at that.
"Now, now, don't torture your family," Wesley chided gently, frowning at her. "Your sister would be most disappointed in you. Please, Gods, don't bring her here either." They all waited but Buffy didn't show up. Wesley smiled and relaxed. "Thank you."
"Hey, sometimes it works and sometimes it don't," Bill told him. He looked at Dawn, who was glaring at him now. "What?"
"You only bring bad guys?"
"Apparently this time. Last time we got together we got drunk and a bunch'a girls like the redhead here ended up strippin' for us."
"I heard about that," Ginny assured him. "Not gonna happen this time."
"Who is inside him?" Snape asked Wesley.
"Beside his natural instincts," Snape noted. Strife giggled and nodded. "Oh, no." He grinned bigger and nodded again. "They woke you up?"
"Yup. One'a the guys yellin' at the others sounded just like Unc and I know better'n ta not listen ta 'im."
"You're taking over more. Your accent's coming back," Loki noted. Odin appeared, looking very confused. "One of mine woke him, Father. He was hiding in Malgadesh."
"Ah." He nodded, smiling at Ginny, then looking around. "No horse?" She concentrated, sending her horse a very nasty thought about how she was making her look bad in front of Odin, again, and her horse sighed, appearing to nuzzle him. "There you are." He stroked her neck. "What's wrong, Apple?"
"She's mad because when she went into heat I got sent somewhere without anything for her. She's being a petty, pregnant bitch at the moment and sucking up to Professor Snape to make her treats."
"I see." He checked her over. "A very nice filly, Apple. Congratulations." She nuzzled him and he smiled. "Now, make up with your girl, dear. It's not her fault and no one said you had to go with her. I doubt they wanted that anywhere near the school, she might have scared people." Her horse sighed and came over to nuzzle her, getting the good pets she usually did.
"Better now?" Ginny asked her. She nodded, lipping her cheek. "Thanks, dear. Now, we've got to gather Bill when Strife there kills him. So we're going to stay for a bit." Apple nudged her. "No, I don't need to sit, dear. I can't sit yet." Apple seemed to snicker but left it at that. Odin looked at her. "They sent me to Alex Dumass and his current consort! You try sitting after two weeks of that!"
Odin frowned for a moment, then looked at Loki. "That dark haired bastard with the evil smirk and the really good bladework? Him?" He grinned and nodded. "Isn't he yours?"
"Which was why we sent Ginny to him when she went into heat. He's wenched his way around the world, twice, and we decided it'd be kinder not to put her with someone stupid, like Thor."
"Like I said before, you can't pay me enough to sleep with big, blond, and stupid."
"Ah." Odin nodded, smiling at Ginny. "Was it good?"
"I can hit you again," she retorted, staring him down, making him laugh. "Really."
Strife shivered. "Oooh, he just started mixing Greek and Egyptian swears."
"She was Thor's plan to drive the Allfather insane," Loki told him.
Strife looked at Ginny, then giggle. "I can see why."
Ginny pulled an arrow. "We can always gather him now."
"Nah, I'll leave him livin'," he promised with a grin. Ginny raised an eyebrow. "He's your big brother, isn't he?" She nodded, smirking a bit evilly herself. "Oooooh." His poor borrowed body wasn't going to be recovering anytime in the near future. He looked at Odin. "A guy who reminded me a lot of Unc woke me."
"That would be Alex Dumass," Loki assured him. Odin moaned. "He's assigned to Malgadesh, father, with his apprentices and Bill here. Why Strife didn't take over Ron I'm not sure. He would have had more fun."
"He wasn't as easy to slide into," Strife complained. "So, what else did I miss?"
"Um, a lot," Ginny told him. "It's the next millennium now, Lord Strife."
He grimaced. "No wonder I woke up with a bad taste in my mouth. The mead musta grown fur on my tongue." Loki snickered, nodding. "Or you did it?"
"I haven't been able to get down there, old friend. I'd gladly come visit if I could. But no, you missed some wars...." A new twinkle started and Odin captured this one, encasing him in a little ball. "Thank you, Father. We'd just gotten rid of him last year. If I hadn't been tied up, I might've stopped it sooner."
Odin looked at him. "You do things to warrant being tied up, son. What did you want me to do, reward you?"
"Isn't that his nature?" Ginny asked. "Along with his Godhood? Seriously, Allfather, you can't expect a chaos or mischief God to be *nice* and sweet and *delicate*."
"Hey, I am so!" Strife complained.
"Delicate? Not in that body," she snorted.
"No, in his original one he was," Loki admitted. "But she's right, father. I am a chaos God. Let's be thankful I'm less like Coyote." Odin shuddered at that. "I could easily be."
"You could," he admitted dryly, looking at Ginny. "Isn't it these sort of discussions that made me offer you a reserve spot?"
She smirked a bit. "I thought it was the teas with Hel personally, Allfather."
He raised an eyebrow then nodded. "True. I had forgotten about that." He shook his head quickly, looking at Strife. "How can we best help you, son?"
"*You're* my dad?" he demanded.
"Figure of speech, Strife. Otherwise you'd be a blond," Loki noted dryly.
"You're not," Dawn noted.
Odin looked at her. "Miss Summers. I was trying to ignore you." She smirked a bit and winked. He shivered. "We should end this extraordinary meeting before others get drawn in." Apple snorted and nodded, nudging Ginny, who made her a carrot. Her horse nudged her again so Odin created a sugar plum and she delicately took it from his hand. "They all like sweets when they're stuffed up, daughter."
Ginny nodded. "Sure. I'll remember that." She nibbled on the carrot herself, looking at Bill while she sucked on the end for a moment, then she knocked the arrow back, looking at him.
"Whoa!" Strife said, backing away, hands upraised.
Someone tapped Ginny on the back. "Can I have the arrow for a moment, dear? It'll help more if it's charmed," a smooth, soft, velvety voice said in her ear. She handed it back with a grin for the blond man standing there. He was tall, well built, and had pearl gray wings. He ran his hand over the arrow, making it glow for a moment, then handed it back. "There ya go. Shoot away."
She aimed and fired as soon as her brother's body took off running, getting him almost where she intended. "I've really got to learn how to bank shots," she complained as she walked over there to remove her arrow. Bill glared at her. "I was aiming for your bunghole, Bill. I figured you'd learn to like it like Alex did," she offered with a grin, stepping on him as she walked over him to return to the meeting area. The winged guy was gone. "Who was the hottie?"
"Bliss," Loki sighed. "He has such potential."
Ginny nodded. "Yeah, as every woman's wet fantasy," she agreed. "And I guess yours too?"
Loki smirked. "I like Strife, dear. I always have. He's simply...taken."
Odin looked at him. "You're odd, son. Hades?" He appeared, looking very confused. "Strife woke up. Take these prisoners since you've probably still got room." He handed over both bound prisoners. "Don't let them back out."
"Please don't let the blonde out," Tara said quietly.
He looked at her and nodded. Then he ran a hand across her head before glaring at the bound woman. He smiled at her. "You have no need to worry about her escaping."
Dawn walked over and made Glory look at her. "Just think, the next time I'd be useable, I'll be dead. Then no one gets my energy." She started to cry. So Dawn kicked her in the chest, breaking something. "For my sister." She walked over her to hug Tara. "Shh, she'll never have you, sweetheart. If she even thinks about showing up, you'll be calling me and I'm coming to kick her ass again." Tara nodded, calming herself down. When they looked, both Hades and his prisoners were gone. She smiled and walked her over to where her teacher was. "Tara, this is Professor Armwrench. He's *the* coolest teacher around."
Tara gave him a small smile. "Thank you for watching over our Dawnie."
"It's a pleasure to do so," he promised, shaking her hand. She 'eeped' as a redhead appeared, but Odin captured her and sent her off with Apple. Who came back a moment later to get a new treat. "Where did you send her?"
"To my wife. She can help Frig order the warriors around for a bit." He looked at Ginny. "Are you coming up for a visit? The herd stallions must see and sense her foal."
"Hel invited me for tea so she can come up after that."
"That's fine." He looked at his son. "If you come up, try to behave, even just a little bit?"
"You want me to suppress my nature and get another energy pregnancy?"
"No!" he said quickly. "No! Never again!" He shook his head and disappeared, taking Tara with him. She came back a few minutes later, blushing bright red.
"You okay?" Ginny asked. "I can smack any of the warriors for you."
"No, some blond guy just hit on me," she offered with a shy grin.
"Yeah, that's Thor. He usually needs to take a bath and wear mittens. He's got cold hands and keeps trying to warm them up by pinching bums," Ginny said, grinning a bit. She grinned at her teacher. "Adjourn the meeting so we can all go home?"
"Please," Snape noted. Two chaos Gods, a Valkyrie, one demon, one demon's consort, one wandless wizard, one wandless witch, him, and Odin were a bit too much for his sensitive system. He'd go home and drink dinner tonight he decided.
"Let's go home," Loki agreed. "Luna, wear that on the trip back, dear." She smiled and nodded, giving each of her men a kiss before heading off. He took Dawn with him so she wouldn't be left behind. Ginny got Bill and hauled him with her and Apple.
Minerva McGonagall looked at her students as they walked in. "What was going on?"
"Alex woke something and we had to deal with it," Ginny told her. "It was in Bill." She rode her horse up the stairs to the infirmary, handing him over then sliding off with a wince. "There ya go, big brother. Maybe now you'll have more fun in your life." She smirked and strolled off, heading to dinner. She was really hungry for some reason.
Bill started to glare, muttering swears under his breath as the nurse fixed the new hole in his buttcheek. She leaned down to kiss him on the cheek. "She's a valkyrie now, William, it could be much worse. She said most of them have dirtier minds."
"She's got a bad enough one," he complained. She smiled and handed him an ice mouse, letting him get up and head down to dinner as well. He glared at his sister as he walked in. "When did this happen!"
"Mum didn't tell you?"
"No! And Ron sent me away while you were down there! What the bloody hell is going on, Ginny!"
"I'm a Valkyrie," she said dryly. "One of Odin's daughters who goes to gather the fallen soldiers for Valhalla. And Loki's cursebreakers too. The best end up with them." He gaped, then shook his head and stomped off. "Mum knows, Bill, go talk to her. Sorry about the arrow, but it got him out of you!" she called after him. He slammed the Great Hall's doors and she giggled. "Well, looks like he's going to find a girl and become sane again."
Her tablemates looked at her like she was insane. Then they looked at the other two of the Unholy Trio and shuddered because they were happy and grinning too while wearing leather. They decided, en masse, that they didn't want to know.
Alex came out of the floo later that night, sore and aching, pouting a bit. His aunts all looked at him. "The site's on hold for two weeks while we let the Gods go back to sleep," he complained. He flopped down, pouting at Draco as he came out of the floo. "Did you remember to ship all the stuff back to the swamp before we came back?" He nodded, sliding into his lap to get a hug. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." He looked at the women. "Harry and Ron went to the Burrow. They'll be in tomorrow morning." Ron and Harry walked down the hall giggling. "Or not."
"What's going on?" Alex called.
"Bill got shot in the bum by Ginny," Ron said, grinning as he leaned into the room. "Mum's going insane so we're hiding here again. We heading down to the swamp tonight or tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow. I want a *real* bath," Harry complained. "How many more days before the kids come home?" he asked, leaning under Ron's arm.
"Two days, Harry," Aunt Cordy said, smiling back at them. "When are you leaving again?"
"Two days after Christmas," Ron said dryly. "We're restocking the site before then. Alex, I pulled up a guardian spirit." Alex nodded. "His first words were 'not again'?"
"Oh, him. That's fine. He's used to being called to sites. He won't set anything off," he offered with a small grin. "He's a former one of us who got stupid and died doing something really dumb."
Ron nodded. "Sure. At least he's not bored in his afterlife." He grinned. "I'm for a bath, mate. Aunt Cordy, can we have dinner in the bath tonight?"
"Sure, Ron," she agreed, getting up to fix them something to eat. She pinched his cheek. "You're turning into such a good curse breaker, dear."
"Thanks, Aunt Cordy. It's kinda neat. We woke up a God." He disappeared, running up the stairs.
"Ron, I'm taking the guest suite," Harry called as he walked more slowly. "You have our bath."
Alex kissed Draco. "Which one do you want?"
"Ours. With you."
"I thought we'd soak and then take a bath together, that way we don't make the tub really nasty."
"Point," he admitted. "I'll take the secondary guest suite?"
"Dad's usually in there and since Aunt Cordy's here I'm guessing he is."
"Your father's in Diagon," one of the other aunts offered. "He shouldn't be back for at least an hour. But go ahead and use the pregnant woman's rooms, Draco." He smiled and nodded, getting up to use the *good* tub.
Alex stood up with a stretch. "Thanks, Aunt Nadia. I'm off to soak too. If a goblin calls, I'll be available for stuff tomorrow." He headed up at a run. He liked his coming home baths. They were one of his favorite parts of the job. By the time he got up there, his bath was drawn, a house elf had a plate and pitcher waiting on him, and a book was on top of the tray as well. "Thanks, Me." He stripped off, handing her his clothes. "The rest of the packs should be in the swamp, we'll get 'em tomorrow for you." She nodded and disappeared as he sank into the water, hissing at the heat of it. "Oooh, nice," he moaned as he finished sinking in, just letting the sand soak out of his skin for now. He needed this.
Greg smiled as the train pulled into the station, nodding Lindsey over when she came off. "Hey, pumpkin. Where's your stuff?"
"I checked it." She walked him to the baggage claim. "Mom on assignment?"
"No. She's laid up with a broken foot." She looked at him. "She kinda fell during a night- time site. Broke three bones. She'll be laid up the whole vacation for you." Lindsey grinned at that. He pointed. "Trunk." She hefted it off, letting him carry it. "So, how was your first term?"
"Pretty good. Some of the girls there are just so cool," she offered with a smile, bouncing along beside him. "They don't mind I'm American and they like a bunch of the same stuff I do. It's been pretty good so far. Dawn was right, there's a hierarchy in the house but I'm staying out of it, which means I don't get into the petty politicking and stuff. I made friends in other houses as well, like you suggested, but I made plenty within my own house. We don't have the rivalry you guys do, but...." She stopped, staring at the guy standing in their way. "Overlord," she said with a smile, bowing a bit. "I promise I won't be naughty while I'm in on vacation."
He shrugged. "We don't have a Ministry. For all I care, practice away, Lindsey." He glared at Greg. "Where is my assistant?"
"'Mil's with Cat since she broke her foot. I had to make Cat a pain killer and I needed someone to watch her for a few hours to make sure she didn't have a reaction or get too stoned."
"Fine." He frowned a bit. "Did you drive?"
"No, I was going to pop over," he said dryly. "Of course I drove!"
Penn smiled. "Good, then you can drive her to the meeting tomorrow night so she can learn some of the other kids in town. Teller's niece is having her birthday party at the usual spot." He handed Lindsey an invitation. "All of us are invited. It's so we can snipe at each other about how bad the other kids are. Watch out for the niece and Maybrek. She's a snotty brat, kiddo."
"Sure. Thank you, Mr. Penn. I'd be honored to go."
"Good. Don't worry about your mom not being able to come. Just bring Greg."
"What if he's on call?"
"Then I'll beat Grissom in chess again and win him another night off." He grinned and went to gather the other kids he was here to pick up.
Greg grinned at her. "I'm off anyway. It happens about every year." He walked her out to his car, making the parking ticket disappear from his windshield and the system completely.
Lindsey smiled as she walked into the restaurant, handing over her invitation. "Hi," she said with a shy smile.
"No mother tonight?" Teller asked happily.
"She broke her foot. Greg got called on a case and Emilia said it's unfair of her to leave the kids with Mon since she can't chase after them." She shrugged. "She said I could handle it tonight and to beat the snot out of anyone who tried to make fun of me."
Teller laughed. "You'll do fine, Lindsey. Straight back, the pink door. She's got a thing for pink."
"Is she related to Dawn?"
"No. She doesn't squeal that way," he offered with a smile. "Go ahead." She nodded, heading that way. The doors opened for her and she was announced to the people in the reception line. "Am I late?" she offered.
"No," the girl promised, smiling at her. "I don't know you. No parents, Lindsey?"
"Mom's got a broken foot and Greg's on a case so Emilia's stuck with the kids." She handed over the present she had found with Emilia's help earlier today, which was why she knew it was mean to make her mother watch the kids. "Here, for you," she said happily.
"Thank you." She put it on the pile. "Go ahead and play. Where do you go? Andromeda?"
"Oooh." She smiled and looked around, then pointed. "There's two more of you here," she offered, pointing. "Over there by the punch."
She looked and nodded. "Yeah, two of our society cows." She grinned. "Thanks. Any cute guys?" They shared a giggle and a few were pointed out. "Cool! Maybe I'll see you when I'm hanging around with Greg. Later, birthday girl." She headed off to the dance floor. One of her classmates glared at her so she beamed. "Greg's out on a job."
"Doing what?" one sneered. The doors blew open and Lindsey glared when the rest screamed. "What is *he* doing here!"
Lindsey pulled her wand, pointing it at him. "Out! Now! I won't have you here! You're ruining a young lady's birthday party!" The man sneered. "Petrificus totallis!" The man tried to duck but she still cast a pretty wide beam. She got him and two others. "Oops." She walked over there to uncurse the kids, then stuck her head out of the room. "Um, Mr. Teller?" He came out of the kitchen. "Someone let in a bad guy. I just had to freeze the schmuck."
She let him in and he looked down at the body. "Very nice work, Lindsey. Very nicely done." He looked around, then grinned at her. "Got a few others?" She nodded. "Very well done. This guy's a dumb idiot. He took Emilia once to force Greg to duel him." He floated him up and out to the main restaurant, handing him over with a grin, then he went back to make sure the party got started right. "So, when are you getting your tattoos done as a Bane, Lindsey?"
She grinned. "Tipsy said I could when I graduated."
"I'm sure you'll make Greg and the rest of the Banes proud, dear." He hugged his niece when she came over. "Did you meet Lindsey?"
"In the receiving line, Uncle. You're really good."
"I took some lessons from some of Greg's friends. Philip was really cool about teaching me how to duel."
"Callahan?" someone asked, poking her on the arm. "You know Philip Callahan?"
"Yeah, he's a friend of my sponsor's. Greg went to school with him. So did Emilia. I've met lots of their friends. I've even gotten to babysit the next generation of Weasley pranksters a few times." The girls around them moaned. She beamed. "It's pretty cool. Joxer still hates clothes. Takes them off all the time in public if you're not careful."
Teller gave her a wink and went to check on the food tables. She had it well in hand and the other girls were adoring her now. Canada might even get a small membership boost from having her there. When Greg came in, he nodded at Lindsey, but let him mingle with the other parents.
"Dear, what *are* you wearing?" one mother demanded.
"Clothes, I tend to do that now and then," he noted dryly, grabbing some punch. "It's not like I can wear robes at the police station. Lab coats but not robes." She gasped and he smirked a bit, holding out his hand. "Greg Sanders."
"Oh, my. Nice to meet you, sir. Manatee Gillette."
He nodded politely. "Nice to meet you. I'd better find my kid. 'Scuse me." He looked around and found Lindsey dancing with a very nice looking young man, who was the son of one of the other potion masters in town. He walked over there, smiling at them. "Hi, Lindsey. Your mom extended your curfew until midnight." She smiled and nodded. "Bradley."
"Mr. Sanders," he said politely, shaking his hand. "You know this fair maiden?"
"Lindsey's mom is one of my coworkers at the police station. I'm sponsoring her."
"Well!" He smiled even more brightly. "No wonder you get to go somewhere so hard. Andromeda is so much easier."
"I started in Chicago but they had problems," Lindsey noted with a small smirk. She looked at Greg. "Go play. I'm behaving."
"I know you are. I'm trying to figure out why there's a hanging curse above this table."
"My mother. She only wanted me to talk to appropriate people tonight but I'm sure couldn't refuse me this lovely girl's company."
Greg looked at him. "No smarm, Brad. Where is the old cow?"
"Grazing," he noted, pointing at the food tables. "She and the others like her." He nodded, heading that way. "Sorry, my mother's like that sometimes. I almost went to Salem but I refused to take the gender reassignment potion."
She shook her head. "I'm so glad my family's reasonable." He grinned at that. "You don't mind that my mum's not one of us?" He shook his head. "Cool." She smiled at him. "Where is Andromeda?"
Dawn strolled into the house, wearing the clothes she had stopped to buy. Her aunt looked at the clock, then at her. "Alex said to take my holiday money shopping," she defended. She shrugged and grinned, holding out her arms. "What do you think? As good as Ginny's leathers?"
"They're very tight, dear," she replied. "You look so tiny in them."
"Really?" she asked with a grin. "Good! They're also a bit hard to get into." She strolled up the stairs, looking at Ron napping on their bed. She cleared her throat and he woke up, yawning as he looked at her. He ended up choking on the badly needed air. "You like? It's my sister's Christmas present to me." She turned to let him see them.
"Can you get out of them within the next five seconds?" She shook her head. "Then I hate 'em because you look hot enough for other guys to drool. Out of them, Dawn. I haven't had my cuddles," he said with a smug smirk. "Unless you had other plans?" She kicked the door shut and let him help her peel herself out of them.
Harry tried the doorknob, then sighed and went back downstairs. "Dawn's back," he announced. "Our room's locked." Alex and the aunts all giggled at that, nodding a bit. "Where's Draco?"
"His mother wanted to take him shopping," Alex said fondly. "So he got to do the Gringotts drop. He might still be doing paperwork." He shrugged and dug back into his sandwich. "Eat, Harry."
"Ron, food!" he yelled up the stairs.
"Bugger off!" Dawn yelled back. "He can eat more than me later!"
"More than I wanted to know," Harry complained before coming over to eat. "When are we doing presents?"
"Next week and then you're going to Chicago while Dawn and Ron go to LA."
"They're not heading home for the holidays?"
"Angel told Remus if he brought Sirius or Spike home, he'd skin him and hand him to a dog pound." He ate another bite. "I've already helped Spike send back an appropriate response. After all, Sev's got to do something with all the Pixie Lust Potion and I think Buffy's always looked good in purple."
Harry just stared at him, then moaned and shook his head. "Those poor vampires. I'll check with the Ministry later to see if Sirius can come home finally. They've been working on that for a while now."
Aunt Cordy handed him an envelope. "From the family barrister, Harry." She kissed him on the cheek. "He's a free man. We can easily accommodate Remus and Spike this year if you wanted."
"No, then we'd have to have Cordy, Tara, and Fred too," Alex reminded her. "That way no one would have to travel."
"It's not like we've got a full house this year."
He looked at her. Then at Aunt Nadia. "Nadia, what'll happen if we get Spike, Fred, Wes, Ethan, Cordy, Dawn, Ron, Harry, Draco, me, and a few notable others together?"
"An apocalypse?" she suggested. Aunt Cordy glared at her. "It would be. They'd destroy the house again. Then Alex wouldn't get to go back for the rebuilding."
"Point," she complained, rolling her eyes. "It can happen for a day or two."
"Fine, it's your sanity," Alex assured her. "I can always go work." He finished off his sandwich and stood up. "Speaking of which, I should probably check on the leeching potion." He headed back to their work area, going to do something that didn't include party favors, travel plans, decorations, or other annoying, cheerful subjects. His son came down about an hour later to escape as well. "What're they going over now?"
"How Dawn should have children once she's old enough," he said grimly. "I firmly refused to teach those heathens anything." He looked around, then came across the bridge over the moat to help. "What are you doing?"
"Leeching off the lock spell. It'll make the box non-magical but the artifact inside can be freed, then I'll reverse it."
Snape watched him work. "I had no idea this took such meticulous detail work."
"Sometimes, and sometimes it's all destruction and hell." He grinned at him as the box opened. "See?" He freed the box from the potion and took out the artifacts inside, checking them. Then he put everything back into the potion and reversed it. "It leeched off the artifacts for the locking spell," he complained, making a note of that.
His son only shook his head. Alex was insane sometimes. Truly certifiable. "You missed the meeting when you woke up Strife."
"No, I heard all about it from Armwrench," he said dryly. "For ten hours that night. Nasty nightmare images too. He was naked and Draco was sneering at him." Snape snickered a bit at that. "Fortunately I rolled over and went back to sleep when he was done. Apprentices are a good thing so you can sleep in," he offered with a wicked grin.
Snape nodded. "I've always thought that about Gryffindors and you did take two of the worst of them. I'm sure it's only fair since you were probably yelling at them when you woke him up." Alex nodded, making Snape snicker at the look on his face. "What had they done?"
"Harry had tried to shove Ron into the fertility fountain in retaliation for snoring so loud. Claimed it drowned out the sounds of me having sex."
"I find that impossible. Nothing is louder than you and your consort."
Alex grinned. "Thanks, that's the nicest compliment I've gotten all day."
Snape gave him a long stare. "The children in Slytherin are most pleased that they get to sleep this year."
"I can always come visit, Sev."
"Perhaps during exams," he noted dryly. He and his father shared an evil smirk then got down to work on the next item in line to be fixed/unlocked/freed.